Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Oh, It’s a Happy Chanukah In Israaaael….

Oh, it’s a happy Chanukah in Israaaael
Menorahs make your heart so light!
When the day is gray and ordinary
Sufganityot* make the sun shine bright!
Oh, happiness is blooming all around here
The daffodils are smiling at the dove
When Chanukah comes to the land, you feel so grand
Your heart starts beating like a Big Brass Band
Oh, it’s a  happy Chanukah in Israaaael
No wonder that it’s Chanukah that we love! **

Celebrating the Jewish holidays in Israel is a very different experience than observing them in the States because here the whole country is celebrating with you. I’m not sure how long the WOW factor lasts after aliyah (it’s almost 1 ¼ years for us) – I hope it never goes away – but  I’m still amazed and delighted that what used to be for me a communal event is a national celebration here and I’m part of it!

Billboard Magazine's Chanukah Cover

Even Billboard Magazine gets into the Chanukah spirit!

Chanukah even ranks top in the Jerusalem Post’s Billboard Magazine; full of movie, TV, and entertainment listings, Chanukah gets the front cover and the magazine features a variety of Chanukah events taking place around the country. And, it’s the only holiday which takes front and center at this time of year!

Listening to the radio on the holidays (or any other time) also has that WOW factor, since now I don’t have to tune to one specific station and/or for a few specific limited hours during the day to listen to Jewish thoughts, ideals, and values. What a pleasure to turn on the radio and hear discussions about issues affecting the country as a Jewish country,  divrei Torah (words of Torah) about the upcoming parsha (weekly Torah portion), and callers trying to answer questions posed by the host about Chanukah. When I tuned in  last night people were calling  in their answers to questions such as

“What’s the reason why Chanukah is celebrated for eight rather than seven nights?  Since the jug of oil found with the Kohen Gadol‘s (High Priest) seal had enough oil to burn for one night then the miracle was only about the extra seven nights.” (See bottom of post for answer.)

What a pleasure!

This past Sunday evening I met a wonderful woman at the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum, Sharon Altshul, who takes pictures of what’s really happening in Jerusalem and posts them on her website The Real Jerusalem Streets. Despite what the mainstream media chooses to headline, there’s always a different picture that they haven’t shown you (usually on purpose) and she proudly tells the world (her readership spans the globe) about the other,  real story that is happening here.  This is what’s happening in Jerusalem around Chanukah time:

10 Signs that Chanukah is Coming

It can be spelled differently in English every year,
but the Chanukah season in Jerusalem is very consistent.
There are 10 sure signs that Chanukah is on its way.

1. The piles of sufganiot in all bakeries

begin to disappear at an astonishing rate.

2. Street decorations are up

Click here for  8 more signs that Chanukah is coming to Jerusalem.

Answer to question above – When we pour  water from one container into the next, all the water is transferred; however, when we pour oil from one container to the next there is always some that remains behind. So, even though the oil in the jug was enough to burn for one night, when it was poured into the Menorah some oil remained in the jug. Therefore, there was not enough oil in the Menorah for even one night. The fact that the Menorah stayed lit that first night was a miracle as well!

 * Sufganiyot – donuts cooked in oil
** with thanks to Stlyrics.com

Oh, It’s a Happy Chanukah In Israaaael….




Look who’s supporting our Lone Soldiers

Shortly after publishing my blog post Chayalim Bodidim – Lone Soldiers, three new posts supporting Lone Soldiers appeared on my radar.   1) Groopbuy is offering a 50% discount on tickets, ₪50 for ₪100 for tickets to a Gala Wine Event supporting the Lone … Continue reading

Soul Food

Do you think about your neshama, your soul? When you go about your daily work do you feel it? Does it talk to you? Does it want something more from you? Is there a real connection between you and G-d? Do you even really know yourself? Do you want to? Maybe, yes, sometimes, no, never…

When we made aliyah this past September, it was in part to find spirituality and greater meaning in our lives. Many young Israelis go to the Far East and join ashrams in their quest for greater life meaning; however, having read Meditation and the Bible by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan many years ago, as well as Inner Torah:Where Consciousness and Kedusha Meet, by Jerusalem clinician Miriam Millhauser, I knew that what I was looking for was in the Holy Land.

I took it as a sign when I came across a notice about a Jewish meditation retreat on the  Nefesh B’Nefesh Yahoo group, given by a Dr. Natan Ophir of the Jewish Meditation Institute Jerusalem (JMIJ) about a month after we got here. ‘Well,’ I said to myself, ‘enhanced spirituality and meaning in our lives is what we came to Israel looking for.  Let’s check it out.’ (Not knowing who Dr. Ophir was, I checked him out online first and discovered that he graduated from Yeshiva University, learned at Yeshiva Mercaz Harav Kook, received semicha (rabbinical ordination) from then Chief Rabbi of Israel R. Avraham Shapira, was campus rabbi at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from ’82-98, has an M.A. and Ph.d in Jewish philosophy, and has been teaching Jewish meditation since 1994. Okay, he’s frum (orthodox) and qualified.) We registered for the one day retreat.

It took place in Yerushalayim at the JMIJ Center, on the floor and cushions. Coffee and light refreshments were available beforehand which gave us an opportunity to meet the other participants as well. Some had previous experience with meditation, for others it was not their first retreat with Dr. Ophir, and some, like me, were hoping to experience it for the first time. Lunchtime saw us on the beautiful and blooming Sherover Promenade in the Peace Forest overlooking the Temple Mount where he introduced us to additional meditative practices.

Andy and I overlooking Jerusalem with Dr. Ophir (left)

Dr. Ophir started off by explaining the neuro-psychology of meditation – how to quiet the rational linguistic left side of the brain and focus on the intuitive creative inspirational right hemisphere to experience a place where thoughts are non-verbal. He explained what can make a meditation Jewish, such as a subtle meditative focusing on Biblical verses and short prayer formulas. One such example was Modeh Ani (I am filled with gratitude), the verse said upon rising in the morning. This was more than a gentle inner mental thinking of a particular word which made it Jewish; it was the meaning of what we are really thanking G-d for when we recite Modeh Ani – not just for returning our soul to our body – but for the Ani, that particular soul that makes us unique, with unique capabilities and purpose in this world. Hopefully, this deep contemplation will, over time, help one become more aware of their specific soul’s purpose and be able to better fulfill one’s unique mission in life.  The eating meditation which Dr. Ophir led was a focused mindfulness – reflecting on the morsel that we are about to eat including the smell, feel of the food on our lips and tongue, the benefit of the particular food – as well as reflecting slowly on the meaning of each word of the blessing – Baruch –blessed – Atah – you (in the singular) A-do- nai – my G-d (specific to me), Elo- he-nu  – Our G-d (which brings  G-d closer to us as our King)  Melech Haolam – King of the Universe – all encompassing, etc.  As I had never thought about the blessings in these terms, I found it very enlightening and helpful in becoming closer to G-d. Are we thanking G-d so that we can eat the food or eating the food so that we can thank G-d?

Jewish meditation encompasses a variety of techniques that were practiced, surprisingly, by the Rambam (Miamonides), Rav Hayyim Vital, Rav Kook, and the Admor of Piasecsno. Each practice achieves different ends. We read descriptions of  the Admor’s technique for quieting the mind and Rav Kook’s for listening to the song of the soul. Dr. Ophir tried to explain how each person can be taught to develop a tailor-made meditative practice best suited for his/her individual needs. Most important, however, was Dr. Ophir’s having us experience the actual meditative practices.   As we went around the room discussing our experiences after each meditation, I found interesting the vastly different experiences of each participant.

Meditation, much to my dismay, is not easy. Meditation is an exercise of the mind; just like physical exercise, the benefit comes from your commitment to doing the same thing day after day even though some days are better and more productive than others. I’m still working on the commitment part, but I’m sure that once I get there, the rewards will be profound. Neshama, please hang in there!


It’s so easy to be Jewish…

when you live in Israel.

Great things about living here:

  1. The sign at the entrance to Jerusalem which cites from Psalms: Omdot hayu ragleinu b’sha’arayich, Yerushalayim (our feet stood immobile, in the gates of Jerusalem).
  2. The shuk in Yerushalayim.
  3. The mini-shul (synagogue) in the shuk in Yerushalayim.
  4. Shuls located in malls in Israel.
  5. Plethora of suitable clothing including long skirts, hats, scarves and berets.
  6. Kippot (yarmulkas) sold everywhere.Buses that wish a Chag Sameach or G’mar Tov on the signs above the windshields.
  7. The sign on the rear view mirror of Egged bus drivers which reads: v’ahavta l’nahagcha kamocha – and you shall love your driver as yourself.
  8. Bus drivers wearing kippot.
  9. Living here.

What do you think is great about living in Israel? Please help me continue the list by Leaving A Comment so that I can include your thoughts on my Jewish in Israel List page.

An Epiphany about Pesach

Since epiphany also relates to a non-Jewish holiday or ideology, I thought I should define it first, so here it is from Wikipedia:

An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. The term is used in either a philosophical or literal sense to signify that the claimant has “found the last piece of the puzzle and now sees the whole picture,” or has new information or experience, often insignificant by itself, that illuminates a deeper or numinous foundational frame of reference.

Now my story:

About 2 weeks after we moved into our apartment in Rehovot, we were expecting our son, who did not make aliyah with us, “home” for the following Shabbat from his yeshiva in Yerushalyaim and he was bringing two friends with him.  As the bedroom they would be sleeping in was full of boxes which we either had to unpack or move around and we did not want them to have to sleep standing up, we devoted several days to doing what needed to be done. Among other things, this involved shuffling some furniture between rooms, cleaning out the ceiling crawl space in the back (and only) hall in the apartment in order to get some extra suitcases up there and out of the way, and general cleaning. Needless to say, the apartment was in a bit more disarray than before (as we had just moved most of a house into an apartment) and we also got a bit grungy in the process.

Still, we were happy to devote the time and energy to do this; we wanted everything to be ready for him so that he would feel comfortable. Having last seen him mid- September (was it only a  month ago?) when he joined us at my sister’s home for the first days of Sukkot, we were eagerly anticipating his arrival.

Somewhere in the middle of this process, when I thought about how anxious we were to see him and how happy we were to do all the moving and cleaning and straightening and getting grungy in anticipation, I had my great Epiphany: wouldn’t it be great if I could feel this  excited and anxious to be ready in anticipation of  Pesach (Passover). We greet the holiday but once a year, welcoming G-d into our homes, with the ability for the unique spiritual growth and nourishment available to us at this time. And what do we do? We squander the opportunity by complaining about all the work, the expense, how hard it is, and how we are too tired to enjoy the Seder.  And this is often all before we’ve even started! To be sure, Pesach does involve a bit more work and time than was necessary for us to prepare for our son’s arrival, but it was really our attitude that made all the difference.

Some things are easier epiphanized* than done, but I’m hoping I can maintain this perspective in March when I start my Pesach cleaning.

*Epiphanized – realized in a striking manner as through an epiphany (from Caryn’s dictionary of verbs that should be but aren’t).