Group Chats – Level Israel

By Gabi Crouse

The reality of the WhatsApp group chat is as simple as “you can’t live with it and you can’t live without it”.

As a mother, you have no choice but to be involved in a group chat for your child’s class because you cannot afford to miss important information about goings-on. This misinformation may result in an inevitable melt down when your child is the only shmendrik in a coloured shirt when everyone else is wearing white. So to avoid such calamities or worse, we join the group chats. BUT, this is only the beginning… make no mistake, it’s a trap.

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Reality Bytes. As a mother, you have no choice but to be involved in a group chat.

Usually there is a group for the child’s grade with the teacher as a member and who is the one to send out any important information. However, there is another separate group just for the parents. It is more acceptable for the second type to have ‘chatter’ whereas the first group is meant for important notifications. This is not the case. It’s all too easy to pop out one quick message but when everyone gets going, before you blink, there are 47 new unread messages. One would think there is a crisis at the school only to discover that Moshe is having a birthday party, and everyone wishes him Mazaltov.

Moreover, this same child of yours probably does one or more extra murals and, of course, each activity MUST have a communal forum for information exchange. Gone are the good old days whereby your child came home with a letter pinned to the back of his or her shirt. I sometimes wonder if my children would actually be capable of relaying any information to me, then I fear that this simple skill might eventually disappear from humanity.

Some of things that are announced on these groups never cease to amaze me. Absolutely everything! Everything from school complaints to the weather, to the latest sale at the local grocery store, warnings of a strange dog running in the road and the all-time winning one was that so and so had found a worm in her rice! My great challenge is saying “who cares” in such a way that I don’t offend anyone!

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New Nursery Rhyme. This little finger goes to WhatsApp!

This is just groups pertaining to one child. Bli ayain Hara, I have four children. The traffic flow of messaging in my WhatsApp is multiplied by four! I may as well be an air traffic controller. These groups by the way, could prove to be a real game changer for people considering having more children. This influx of messaging happens on all the groups, all day long. It becomes a lot to deal with when you are trying to manage a stressful life juggling many things all day long. The truth is that a mother has a huge pile on her plate that never seems to clear  – much like the dishes in the kitchen sink. After one issue is sorted out, the next one reveals itself. This is most likely the reason the WhatsApp groups are so annoying – because they present the constant nagging cherry on top of a mountain of mental submissions.

What about the unwanted invitation to a group chat?

A friend of mine, Etana Hecht, has coined the term Whatsnapped. (Look it up on urban dictionary). This is where you are added to a group without your consent, and which you now find yourself serving a life sentence trapped within the wallpapers of the app. Exiting this group could label you a snob or stuck up. (Truthfully, I’m sure some would be jealous of the courage that would take). Leaving a group is scandalous and doing so may provoke questions and concerns and even the evil Lashon Hara!! This is not a road one wants to travel on, so we remain, like loyal participants, in the prison chat.

Let’s talk about the struggle IsRael! This, as an olah chadasha (new female immigrant to Israel), is the clincher! My WhatsApp incoming messages are all in a foreign language now – the writing is literally backwards! This is where ‘fast pace’ checks of instant messaging has become a thing of the past. And back and forth trips to google translate quadruple the time spent reading messages!

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Keeping In Touch. Let your fingers do the talking.

What once was a lovely ping on my phone indicating that someone, somewhere was thinking of me has now become trigger for anxiety, denial and the perpetual eyeball roll. Upon opening WhatsApp and seeing 57 unread messages no longer makes me happy. In fact, my stress levels shoot through the roof, my hands become clammy and my heart starts palpitating. And because of the Hebrew names and I have to consciously remind myself to check for which child (name in Hebrew letters / grade / extra mural activity (chug) the notification is intended. Furthermore, I think I’ll just mention at this point that the ‘google translation’ is a serious cause for trust issues. Sometimes when I see all the messages, I simply close the app, gently place the phone face down on the table and happily pretend I hadn’t seen anything. Out of sight, out of mind.

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Ping-headed. Being part of a parents’ WhatsApp group expect plenty of pings.

Based on a recent Facebook survey, I have put together a list of ‘code of conduct’ rules for group chat users:

  1. Any group created must have an official permission request before adding a person. A strict ‘no offence but no thank you’ is to be widely acceptable without judgement!
  2. All comments made must be beneficial to ALL members of the group, if not, Private message (PM) the person of interest.
  3. Please think 5 million times before you post anything at all. Then reconsider it once more. Should you ultimately decide to send a message, use minimal wording.
  4. We all know its cold out. This does not need to be a public statement on a group and if you haven’t yet put a jacket on your child in 8 degrees, no WhatsApp group message is going to make you a better mother.
  5. Birthday party invitations are always welcome, individual RSVP’s however are not. Please PM these.
  6. Unless you are handing out personal gift vouchers, we don’t care about the 20% sale at the local supermarket, and while we are on the subject, I really don’t know where to buy yellow plums this time of year.
  7. At all times, keep to the topic relevant to the group. I was so busy trying to scroll past ‘how to repair a broken zip’ that I missed the part about the money which needed to be handed in for the school trip.
  8. When your two year old gets hold of your phone and sends a cute voice note, just delete it.
  9. (Optional) Appoint a group birthday person to wish the birthday lady a onetime wish on behalf of everyone. We all have good wishes for you, what we don’t have is 7 hours to sift through all the heartfelt messages. (That is what Facebook is for).
  10. Finally, remember that we all love each other dearly but we do all run very busy lifestyles. We all agree that phone time should be kept to a minimum so that we can focus on more important things. So let’s try keep life as simple as possible for each other.

SEND.

 

 

 

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Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations aswell as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.

 

 

Be A Pebble Or Be A Flame

By Martine Maron Alperstein

Someone recently told me that you cannot change the world, that we need to learn that the world is not our problem, and we can’t fix the things that we can’t fix. All we can do is fix ourselves and help others. The rest will fall into place. No form of education will accomplish anything. The only way to make a difference is to lead by example.

Really?

Surely, I have a responsibility to try?

Even the minutest little pebble will cause a ripple when it hits the surface of the water. Even the tiniest of flames will illuminate the path when walking in total darkness.

The butterfly effect.

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Ripple Effect. Even the minutest little pebble will cause a ripple when it hits the surface of the water.

 

The  murder of 6 million Jews was not so long ago. Most of my generation have (or had) close relatives who were survivors, and family members that were not so fortunate to survive. Most of my generation have witnessed the sight of a tattooed arm at some stage, heard the horror stories firsthand, experienced the consequences of being raised in a home that was tormented by PTSD and the obsessions that resulted.

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Path Ahead. Even the tiniest of flames will illuminate the path when walking in total darkness.

And yet, we are once again living in a world that not only appears to be strife with anti-Semitism, but a world where anti-Semitism is widely accepted, and acts of hate and terror are becoming tolerated and a common event.

And I cannot just sit back and watch, while trying to be a better person and leading by example. I have a voice. I need to use it. And if I only get to influence one person, if I only enable one person to see the light and change their perspective, then I am proud to have used my voice.

ואהבת לרעך כמוך   Ve’ahavta Le’raecha Kamocha

Love your neighbor as yourself.

What exactly does that mean?

What does it mean to love others as you would love yourself? How do we interpret this basis and foundation of Judaism, and of many other religions?

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“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Rabbi Akiva says: This is the great principal of the Torah. J.T. Nedarim 30b

Well, for me the answer is simple and is probably something you have heard many times before.  In order to be able to love your neighbor, your fellow Jew, your fellow Human Being, the residents of this world……YOU first need to love yourself. And to love yourself means to know yourself. And to know yourself means understanding your heritage, valuing your culture and treasuring your traditions. Loving yourself means being proud to be a Jew, to hold your head up high and stand fast in your meaningful traditions – traditions that connect you to your people of thousands of years. Once, and only once you know who you truly are, will you have the ability to love yourself, and fully love your neighbor.

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Jews do not bow down or kneel to anyone except the Almighty. We do not lower ourselves nor do we prostrate ourselves in front of any human being, any idol or any other set of customs and traditions. We are proud of our heritage. We stand by it. We uphold it. Always.

It’s from this position of pride, confidence, strength and respect that we have the power to help others, to educate, to make a difference in this world.

Take the time to practice your religion. And by this I am not asking you to become Sabbath observant, Kosher or follow the laws of family purity. I am asking you to learn and understand who you are and where you have come from, to stand proud and strong, to celebrate our traditions and to embrace the religious practice of loving yourself and then loving others.

And maybe, just maybe from this place of love and strength, we will be able to reach out and be that minute little pebble that makes gentle ripples or that tiniest of flames that illuminates a path in the darkness. And slowly, one person at a time, we can change perspectives, remove hatred, animosity and violent acts of terror in this world that we call home.

In the words of Shuli Rand and Amir Dadon:

והמסע הזה כבד וקצת גדול עליי
אני צריך לגדול מזה ודי

Hamasa haze kaved ve’ketsat gadol alie

Ani tsarich ligdol mezeh ve’die

This journey is heavy and a little too heavy for me

I need to grow from it, it’s enough

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facebook_1556193840564.jpgMartine Maron Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.

 

A Taste Of Tel Aviv

Israel’s Vibey City Also Vegan Capital of the World

By David. E. Kaplan

I recall some 25 years ago, the celebrated English novelist and former politician, Jeffrey Archer, addressing an ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association) public lecture at City Hall in Ra’anana. It was a riveting talk on his bestsellers interspersed with anecdotes and a revelation that he still had his sights on residing at “10 Downing Street”.

He had plenty of positive things to say about the Holy Land but concluded with one negative – its cuisine. “OMG where am I to go for dinner after this lecture. Your country may have plenty to offer, but good food is not one them!”

The audience laughed.

A quarter of a century ago, Archer was dead right.

Today he would be dead wrong!

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Affirming this transformation is none other than that esteemed writer’s country’s public service broadcaster – the BBC. Its ‘Good Food’  ranked Tel Aviv in the Top 10 Destinations For Foodies In 2020. Israel’s “City that never sleeps” came in seventh following  Galway in Ireland, Lyon in France, Los Cabos in Mexico, Holland, Malta and Marrakesh in Morocco.  In ranking Tel Aviv so highly, the BBC’s Good Food spotlighted the city’s well-deserved moniker as “the vegan capital of the world.”

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Vibey & Vegan. Tel Aviv has been designated the “Vegan capital of the world”.

 

Writes BBC Good Food:

With vegan dishes at the heart of Tel Aviv’s culinary tradition, it’s always been a great destination for lovers of plant-based food. Backed by vast agricultural land, this seaside city serves up veggies that often travel farm-to-fork in the same day. In recent years, Tel Aviv has upped its game to become the world’s self-designated vegan capital, with slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza. This young, LGBT-friendly beach buzzy city has boutique Bauhaus-style hotel hangouts with cool cocktail bars, and a burgeoning crop of cheffy restaurants, but the budget-eats steal the show. For stellar street food, there’s nothing like Tel Aviv’s hummus, falafel and shakshuka, served at hole-in-the-wall joints, street stands, and stalls lining local markets such as the sprawling Shuk Hacarmel. Just four-five hours’ flight from the UK, this is an exotic break that doesn’t require a long-haul schlep.”

BBC’s Good Food picked up on Israel being in the vanguard of healthy eating, focusing on what grows in the field rather than what dwells on it. For one Israeli company, Aleph Farms, its philosophy is that man’s eating experience should not be at the expense of the life of an animal. In October, Lay Of The Land published an article Israel leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World revealing this company served the world’s first lab-grown steak.

However, not only is Israel looking to ‘cultivate’ meat involving no slaughtering of animals but is catering to the ever-increasing appetite of VEGANS which was glowingly acknowledged by BBC Good Food. It highlighted that the country has in recent years “upped its game,” offering “slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza.”

Tel Aviv is home to at least 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens and hosts annual vegan festivals.

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Smooth Operator. Bana is one of Tel Aviv’s super-cool, new vegan-friendly restaurants (Bana)

Viva La Vegan

So, with 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens serving most of Israel’s 200,000 vegans, going meat-free isn’t only easy, it’s a chance to chew on the best chow in town.

As one food critic noted:

 “Thanks to the sun-kissed climate, high quality fruit and veg is never too far – you can see it in the colour, taste it in the flavour and smell it in the aroma of what’s on your plate.”

In Tel Aviv, “there is a real emphasis on freshness of produce,” says vegan restaurant owner Merav Barzilay. Though he founded Meshek Barzilay on an organic farm 15 years ago, he says it was an easy move to the city. Tel Aviv’s proximity to fresh vegetables “means a customer can eat a tomato the same day it was picked in the field”.

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Looks Good, Tastes Good, Is Good. A vegan burger at Meshek Barzilay in Tel Aviv (Meshek Barzilay)

For Tel Aviv’s green chefs, preparation for the day ahead, starts with a stroll through the kaleidoscope of colour and chaos  of its “shuks” (markets) selecting fresh produce.

“That’s the beauty of the marketplace – everyone is feeding each other,” says Cafe Kaymak’s Jo Cohen, one of the first vegetarian coffee shop owners in Tel Aviv. Sourcing for his multicultural kitchen from the nearby Carmel Market, “We draw from many different wells,” he says, “Turkey and Greece as well as Japan, Morocco, Tunisia and, of course, the Middle East.”  His signature vegan dish, galean mjadra, is a spicy hot-pot of lentils, paprika, almonds and berries cooked and presented on a bed of bulgur wheat and topped with salsa and tahini.

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By George! Nanuchka has a been a culinary institute in Tel Aviv for the last 20 years, it started as a Georgian restaurant and bar but during the last 5 years changed its skin and became fully vegan.

In the past seven years, the explosion of plant-based restaurants has transformed Israel’s population of just eight million into the largest vegan nation, per capita, in the world. Israel’s Tourism Ministry now promotes the country as a “vegan nation” – and Tel Aviv is at the heart of this culinary movement.

Nothing surprising in this phenomenon, explains Sharon Berger in the Forward:

“Unless you have been living under a rock you will probably already know that Israel has become the leading vegan country in the world, with 5.2% of the population eschewing all animal goods in their daily diet. This number has more than doubled since only 2010 when 2.6% of the population was vegan or vegetarian.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Israeli staples naturally includes a large amount of vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes already, including hummus and falafel, the country’s best-known dishes.

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Culinary Unveiling. In colorful Levinsky Market in South Tel Aviv, OPA is the highly curated work of vegan chef extraordinaire Shirel Berger. Working exclusively with produce from a farm 40 minutes north of the city, Berger creates understated Mediterranean-style dishes such as squash with maple-smoked pumpkin relish, jalapeño and lemon; and guava with macadamia milk, sourdough crumbs and betel leaves. (Photo by Tommer Halperin)

“The fresh produce is top quality and the Mediterranean diet has lots of flavours in its naturally vegan dishes,” says Ruthie Rousso, a Tel Aviv-based food historian and critic. “The Israeli diet is based on the meze (the little salads you eat before the meal). So giving up on meat is not the biggest sacrifice.”

Inbal Baum, a former attorney and founder of Delicious Israel, a company that offers culinary tours, sees veganism’s popularity as a natural evolution of Israelis’ relationship with the land.

“Veganism makes so much sense historically in the Israeli diet because eating from the land has always been significant,” she explains. “Eating vegetables was a way of survival. We don’t call it ‘farm to table’ here, but this style of local-produce-based eating is how my grandfather was able to live when he arrived at the kibbutz back in the 1930s – they ate what they grew.”

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Fresh At Frishman. Anastasia at Frishman St 54, Tel Aviv-Yafo.

Times They Are A-Changin’

You must know that change is about when even ‘the one and only’ shawarma – that Middle Eastern sliced-meat sandwich beloved by all the world over – is being popularised in its vegan form – most notably at Sultana, a completely vegan eatery in Tel Aviv.

Sultana uses ‘forest mushrooms that have a texture reminiscent of chicken’ and promises to be ‘the original shawarma experience, only 100 percent vegan. Chef Harel Zakaim is bent on changing the rules of the game regarding everything we knew about vegetarian-vegan shawarmas.

Weighing in on why veganism is so increasingly popular in Israel,

Israeli-based international promoter of vegan culture, Ori Shavit, believes there are a number of unique reasons why Israelis are leading this global trend. Over and above the sensitivity to animals, she adds “the country is very young and still evolving so people here are less attached to traditional eating and are used to trying new things, love innovations and  not scared to making changes in their diet.”

Shavit points out that when in 2013 Domino’s Pizza launched its first vegan pizza with non-dairy cheese, it was ‘pioneering’ and “only now just becoming available in other countries.” Israel is also the first country outside of the USA to offer Ben and Jerry’s VEGEN ice cream flavours. “As Israel has a relatively small population,” writes Shavit,  “it’s interesting that these two major international chains both chose to launch their dairy-free products in the holy land.”

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Going Green. Pizza goes vegan at The Green Cat, Tel Aviv. Photo: courtesy

Interesting but not surprising.

With Israel in the vanguard of the global vegan trend, it was little wonder that the Holy Land came in the BBC’s Good Food Top 10.

It’s indicative of who we are and how we would want to live.

“No matter where you live,” says Shavit, “the greatest effect an individual can have on the world starts on his or her plate — so no wonder that people who understand that will try to make a better choice for their food.”

Bon Appétit!

 

*Feature Picture: From The Field To The Fork. Each day, Tel Aviv’s top vegan chefs shop  for fresh produce at the ‘shuks’ like the famous Carmel Market

Seven Things I’ve Learnt In Seven months

By Gabi Crouse

Arriving in the Holy land from South Africa in early April of 2019 was surreal – my long awaited dream come true. We were floating somewhere between holiday vibes, newbies and tourists for a while until the dust settled and slowly, we began the descend back down to earth.

To go into detail about the emotional rollercoaster from our arrival to this point is another article in itself – entitled “the all you could feel Aliya buffet”. There is great learning and hardship, to say the least and potential is forever being reached and stretched. The struggle, as they say, is real. But for some, myself included, humour is the metaphorical sugar to help the medicine go down. A policy to live by is when all else fails – laugh! On that note, I would like to share with you some key observations I have about my new life in the holy land.

  1. Every Israeli owns a cat. Not every Israeli is aware of such ownership, in fact, the likelihood of the  situation is that every cat owns an Israeli. These cats are so well fed by the begrudging Jewish mama (who complains all the way to put the bowl of leftovers out) that the odd mouse or rat strolls around on its back feet, chest out and inspects the would-be left over’s from the cats!

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    Looking to be PUR’ified. Time out at the Western Wall, one of Israel’s over two million cats, who enjoy public generosity and warm Israeli atmosphere.
  2. Not all Israelis working at kupot (check-out counters) are limited to only the Hebrew language.  Some of them do speak English but will only let you in on that bit of information after you’ve said something untoward whilst believing you’re safely hidden behind a language barrier.
  3. The Mazgan (Air conditioner) becomes a sacred part of your structure. The reason for this is that when the moment of its inevitable hum begins, all people (including children) thank the good Lord above, perhaps likened to an informal prayer of techiat hametim (resurrection of the dead).
  4. All roads, when traveling on foot are uphill. This is a phenomenon which, I recon, affects olim chadashim (new immigrants) in particular and can be taken metaphorically as well as literally. Meaning that if you walk uphill to a store, enter the store and then leave again, the very same store which was once at the top of the hill is now magically at the bottom of the hill and the walk home with all your purchased items is now uphill again. You have to live here to believe it.
  5. Your level of emuna (faith) is at its peak when traveling by bus. The very fact that we get on another bus, or a connecting bus after just having survived countless near death experiences is the testimonial of truth to my statement.

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    Ride To Revelations. Life in Israel is best revealed as a passenger on a bus.
  6. The Hebrew language is one big exception to the rule. Every time I think I finally have an idea of how all the tenses are used, out pops the exception to the rule. It is this very inhibiting reality which makes me think they keep changing it to keep me on my toes!

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    Language Of Love. Even if struggling with the Hebrew language, no difficulty in recognising the Ahava (Love) sculpture at the Jerusalem Israel Museum.

The last thing is something that is not easy to explain but I’ll try my best.

  1. Nothing is urgent but everything is urgent to Israelis. Meaning that there is casual approach to getting things done in Israel – everything takes time. Registering processes that could take one or two days drag on for two weeks. Everyone seems to be okay with this for the most part. But on the other hand, G-d help anyone who is slightly obstructed on the road which affects traffic flow – the line of cars instantly becomes a symphony of impatience as if every driver is racing against the clock to save the world.

I would like to add one more lesson which I think is the most valuable to any potential oleh. I have learnt to embrace whatever it is that comes your way and understanding the following:

We haven’t ‘made Aliyah’ – we make Aliyah. It is not something we did, it is something we do every day in all the challenges we face. But as long as we don’t mind walking up the hill all the time, we are good to go and G-d willing everything will be alright. 

 

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Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations aswell as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.

Refusing to ‘Cave’ In

Aussie Rocker Nick Cave UpSTAGES BDS

By David E. Kaplan

Good on ya Nick!”

No matter the opposing odds and tough terrain, Aussies charge ahead. They did it over a 100 years ago in 1917 in Beersheba in helping to boot the Ottoman Turks out of Palestine and they will be doing it again in July 2020 when Australian singer/songwriter Nick Cave and his band, The Bad Seeds, will be returning to Tel Aviv.

“Bad Seeds” is a misnomer if ever there was one. We need more of these ‘seeds’!

And may they flourish.

The show will take place at Bloomfield Stadium, as part of a world tour promoting Cave’s album Ghosteen, which deals in part with the tragic death of his 15-year-old son in 2015; after a fall from a cliff.

When he takes to the stage in Tel Aviv – he will again be giving the finger to BDS.

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Pulsating Performance. Nick Cave captivated his Tel Aviv audience Sunday night, November 19 2017. (Courtesy Orit Pnini)

When last appearing in Israel to a packed Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv in 2017, Cave defied pressure from the BDS movement and said he came to Israel  “not despite of” but “because of BDS.”

What did he mean?

Calling  a press conference, the rocker said “After a lot of thought and consideration, I rang up my people and said, ‘We’re doing a European tour and Israel.’ Because it suddenly became very important to make a stand against those people who are trying to shut down musicians; to bully musicians, to censor musicians, and to silence musicians.”

He went on to say that he “loves Israel,” and that he wanted to take “a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians.” He concluded by inferring the BDS Movement’s strategy is backfiring.

So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”

On his website last year, Cave slammed ongoing efforts to impose a boycott on Israel, calling them “cowardly and shameful.”

And this is not to say that he is a supporter of the government of Israel. He is clearly not.

“I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies. I am aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population, and wish, with all people of good conscience, that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution, one that involves enormous political will on both sides of the equation.”

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Dare To Dream. The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv

This kind of balanced understanding is a far cry from the venomous position of Roger Waters the most visibly public advocate and roving ambassador of BDS that openly promotes – not the “Two State Solution”  – but the dissolution of the state of Israel.  Cave would have none of it from the Pink Floyd cofounder  with his giant-size inflated pig-shaped balloons emblazoned with a Star of David alongside fascist symbols customarily released during concerts.

If his ancestors took on the Ottoman Turks over a 100 years earlier, Roger Waters  and hid BDS cohorts prove they are no match for this principled rocker.

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A Night Where the Stars Appeared In Heaven and Earth. Madonna performing at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

Cave Connecting

Prior to his 2017 concert, Cave had previously performed in Israel ’93, ’95 and ’98 and enjoys reflecting that  when “we came to Israel 20 years ago or so, did a couple tours of Israel, I felt a huge connection. Not just ‘people-talk’ of loving a country, but I just felt on some sort of level, a connection that I can’t actually really describe.”

“At the end of the day,” explained Cave in Tel Aviv in 2017, ‘there are two reasons  why I’m here: one is that I love Israel and I love Israeli people, and two is to make a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians. So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”

Waters can remain at the ‘Dark Side of his Moon’ as there has been no letup of artists touring Israel from pop queen Jennifer Lopez, to the 2019 Eurovision Song Competition  held in Tel Aviv.

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Go Figure. Stunning J-lo at Tel Aviv beach in August 2019.

In keeping with the lyrics of Rhianna who has performed numerous times in Israel:’:

Don’t Stop The Music

 

 

 

*Feature picture: Australian musician and writer Nick Cave has elaborated on his stance regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. https://www.irishtimes.com/ (Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images).

When Sports Wins

By Rolene Marks

This week I have been thinking a lot especially about sports. It could be because I am still feeling the high many of us, including ex-pat South Africans are feeling after watching the Springboks (South Africa’s national rugby team) serve England’s team a thumping to win the Rugby World Cup.

It wasn’t just rugby that won that day, it was a nation. The Springboks proved that it is possible to rise above your circumstances, your race, religion and past prejudices and that, coupled with tenacity and a will to win, delivered one of the greatest moments in sports. It was more than the speeches from coach, Erasmus and team captain, Siya Kolisi – the guys in green and gold played for unity. They played for hope. And they delivered.

We know that South Africa is fraught with problems and that winning a global sports championship will not provide an instant fix, but they proved what could be accomplished when you pull together and focus on the greater good. Growing up during the Apartheid years in South Africa, where rugby was emblematic of the regime, it was inconceivable that the Springboks would be a team of players from all races, with a black captain. I don’t think there was a dry eye across South Africa (well, save for a few spoil sports – pun intended – who see unity as anathema) or for many who knew we were witnessing history. The late human rights icon, Nelson Mandela, recognized the role that sports could play in healing and reconciliation. The Springbok win took many back to the day in 1995 when Madiba weaved his magic and mistrust and old hatreds seemed forgotten.

The Springbok win got me thinking a lot about the power of sports in healing conflict in other parts of the world.

Sport plays an important role in trying to heal rifts in the Middle East as well. While sometimes respect and sportsman – like behavior is a casualty and some pay a heavy price for their efforts to be conciliatory, there is no doubt that whether it is facing off on the soccer pitch or wrestling on the mat, people are brought together for the common goal – winning.

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The power of sports to bring people together has also been recognized by entities like BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanction) who will try every trick in the book to try and scupper any attempts for normalization between Israelis – and anyone else. Their belief that boycotts, be they culture or sports, will force Israel to change policies they see as racist.

Their latest pet project of hate is trying to encourage a boycott of the sports apparel company, Puma, who sponsor the Israeli soccer/football team.

This has backfired spectacularly.  The Team is a microcosm of Israeli society, including Bedouin, Circassian, Muslim and Jewish players and nobody is interested in BDS’s divisive tactics. Needless to say, the boycott failed miserably.

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At the same time BDS were whining about boycotts, Brazil and Israel were planning a match to be played in Haifa. The Shalom game, a friendly match between Brazil and Israel was played on the 29th of October, 2019. This was billed as a celebration of “Football, Peace and Fraternity” and featured legends Ronaldinho, Kaka, Rivaldo, Batu, and other major Brazilian team players who have won the World Cup and visited the Jewish State to promote the message of peace and brotherhood. Ronaldinho took to his social media to speak about how happy he was to be in Israel and faced a barrage of hatred. It didn’t bother him at all – the message of brotherhood and peace is greater than hate.

Some have not fared as well.

This lesson was learnt the hard way by Iranian Judoka, Saeid Mollaei who was instructed not only to lose his match with Israeli counterpart, Sagi Muki, but said that even his family were threatened should he face off against his rival. Mollaei was afraid to return home after exposing and criticizing his government’s pressure on him to deliberately lose and avoid a potential bout against an Israeli opponent.

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Moallei fled to Berlin after the championships, where he had been hoping to secure a place at the 2020 Olympic Games. He was recently granted asylum.

International Judo Federation has suspended Iran indefinitely for the regimes’ discriminatory treatment of Israel.

Sport has the unique ability to unite and inspire and improve the prospects of tolerance and brotherhood.

It doesn’t matter what kind of sport it is or what level, when unity and tolerance trumps conflict, this is the ultimate championship. Just ask Siya Kolisi.

Two Faiths, One Direction

By Sarah Ansbacher

I saw him from across the road, his eyes darting towards the entrance to the Aden Jewish heritage museum in Tel-Aviv . I could tell he was thinking about coming in for a visit even before he stubbed out the cigarette he was smoking; and crossed the street.

From his unhurried gait he didn’t appear like a tourist, but neither did he look like a local. He greeted me in accented English – Australian, as it turned out to be.  He told me that he is posted here for a year, working for an international organization. But I could tell his origins weren’t from Australia, as he confirmed, while I answered his questions about the history of the Jewish community in the region of Aden and Yemen; and he told me his family was from around that region.

“From Yemen?”,  I asked.

“Nearby. My father is from Sudan and my mother from Egypt.”, he replied.

He grew up in Australia. One foot in the west, the other in the east – retaining something of the heritage and Islamic faith of his family, and speaking both English and Arabic. But he also surprised me with a few sentences in Hebrew which he’d learnt at university in Melbourne.

I took him around the museum, telling him about the exhibits. And I pointed out a couple of pictures that I thought would be of particular interest.

“That was the synagogue in Port Said, Egypt. There was once a large community there, many of whom came originally from Aden.”

‘What happened to them, did they eventually integrate into the rest of the population?’ he asked.

‘No,’ I whispered. ‘They were all forced to leave in 1956 – along with most of the Jews living in Egypt.’

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The “Ohel Moshe” synagogue inaugurated in 1911 in Port Said Egypt (Photo courtesy: Dr. Rudolf Agstner, Vienna – Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive)

The shock was evident on his face. And so he came to learn something of the history of the vanished communities all around the Middle East.

As we continued, he asked if he, as a Muslim, was allowed to visit a shul (synagogue). In all his time in Israel, he hasn’t yet done so. I told him of course he could and took him up to visit ours. He donned a kippa, and he gazed around in wonder, admiring everything. I explained the  various features to him. For example, that the person who leads the services faces the same direction as the community.

‘Just like in a mosque,’ he replied.

The reason why you won’t find any depictions of our prophets or pictures of Rabbis there.

‘Just like in a mosque,’ he said.

We talked about how the problem isn’t all the different religions, but those who come and turn it to their advantage – and as something to use against others. There was no dispute, just agreement.

I pointed out the Aron Kodesh (the ark in a synagogue that contains the Torah scrolls) and explained to him, ‘Every synagogue around the whole world faces in the direction of Jerusalem. Just like every mosque faces Mecca.’

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Aron Kodesh – the ark in a synagogue that contains the Torah scrolls facing toward Jerusalem

‘I never knew that,’ he replied.

He gazed up at the stained glass windows and to my surprise he then said a Hebrew phrase about God. Contemplating, we stood in silence for a few moments. Two people from different worlds, backgrounds, religions but who pray to the same God.

We stood there, facing Jerusalem.

 

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Sarah Ansbacher is a writer and storyteller. She also works at the Aden Jewish Heritage Museum in Tel Aviv.
*Feature picture: Two faiths, one prayer: Muslims and Jews come together to pray. (Photo:Jewish Journal)

Salivating On The Sidewalk

A ‘Melting Pot’ of where east meets west, discover Tel -Aviv’s ‘Top 10’ ranked Street Food Scene

By David E. Kaplan

With a reputation as “the  city that never sleeps” Tel Aviv provides a plethora of time to eat!

In a recent survey conducted by CEOWORLD – a business magazine and news site for CEOs, CFOs, senior executives, and business leaders – Tel Aviv nabbed seventh slot in a list of The World’s 50 Best Cities For Street Food-Obsessed Travelers.

Looking at the best cities for travelers who love street food, the data for its Street Food Index 2019 drew from a survey conducted over three months – mid-July to mid-September  – of 92,000 business travelers and 1,400 corporate travel agents in 86 countries.

Preceding Tel Aviv’s 7th’s lot was Singapore which took the top spot, followed by Bangkok, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai and Rome.

The familiar proverb “When in Rome…” apples as much to Tel Aviv, so when in the coastal town ranked by Time Out as the N0. 1 city in the Middle East with “a notorious reputation as a wild non-stop city with a great nightlife and music scene”, tuck into its unique street cuisine.

 Despite the availability today in Tel Aviv-Jaffa of cuisine from all over the world, what remains most popular is its signature ‘street food” that is definitively local and an ‘appetizing’ introduction into Israeli culture.

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Letting Loose In Levinsky. Like these young folk, the Levinsky Market is the perfect place to refuel your body and soul.

After exploring antiquities to art galleries and still have an ‘appetite’ for more, where better to sink your teeth deeper into Israeli culture, then trying its cuisine, and where better to take your first bite than on Tel Aviv’s bustling, pulsating streets.

Blaming the weather for all manner of things is fashionable the world over. Less so in Israel!

It may be that our tasty, popular street food is indebted to Israel’s perennial sunny and warm weather. The fact that one can walk outside and eat outdoors, has created an easy laidback cuisine that gels with the Israel temperament – open, candid and ‘catering’ for loud and boisterous conversation.

Most countries have some indigenous street food, so what’s Israel’s most popular and where best to look?

 Some Like It Hot!

The one indisputable street food that has developed into a national dish is falafel. These are balls made of hummus and spices and fried in deep oil.

It is usually served in a fresh pita (round pocket bread) with a variety of salads, tahina (paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds) and pickles, and if you enjoy fiery hot sauce then you must add skhug (a hot green or red Yemenite chili sauce). Folk with more sensitive palates might dismiss this relish more suitable for gas tanks than gullets, but for most seasoned falafel eaters, it’s a vital component.

“You don’t eat a hot dog without mustard. Same as falafel – you add skhug,” says Avi from Ramat Gan, who the writer met tucking into his falafel in pita at Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa. “This is one of my favorite places for falafel and Shawarma,” says Avi. His wife Ruti was tucking into a shawarma, but without the skhug. “Not for me,” she says, with Avi adding, “she’s hot enough already!”

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Passport To Pleasure. Young visitors from the USA on the Taglit Birthright programme get a literal taste of Israel enjoying falafel in pita. (Photo by Justin Dinowitz)

If in the typically Israeli family of street-food, falafel is the favourite son, then its favourite daughter is shawarma. It comprises cuts of meat (usually turkey, but originally shawarma was made of mutton) which is packed into a pita or laffa (a large Iraqi pitta, which one fills and rolls like a huge taco), with salads and French fries. And if you are wondering why the French  fries, it’s a case of mid-east meets west.

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Street Aroma. GPS in Israel – follow your nose. (Photo by Jonathan Kramer)

One of the most popular ethnic eateries in Jaffa, Dr. Shakshuka takes its name from the dish Shakshuka, which is a pan-fried casserole of poached eggs and spicy tomato sauce, the restaurant’s most popular dish.  Dr. Shakshuka’s many versions of this dish emanate from Libya and have solidly cemented a reputation in Jaffa over three family generations in the business.

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Tasty & Tangy. Shakshuka meaning “mixture” in Berber languages, is a North African dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce with vegetables.

Believing they are “specialists” in this cuisine, explains the “Dr” in the restaurant’s name. But there’s much more here to enjoy: Tripoli-style couscous with mafrum (potato stuffed with ground meat, served with stewed beef and vegetable soup); stuffed vegetables; kishke (North African-style intestine stuffed with meat and rice); grilled lamb patties; and fresh grilled or fried fish. Main courses come with a spread of fresh pita and eight Middle Eastern salads.

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Inside Story. Off the sidewalk in Jaffa you enter the alluring world of the famed Dr. Shakshuka.

Best Kept Secret

While hummus, falafel, and even shawarma, are well-known outside the Middle East, sabich – described by one food critic as “the ultimate Israeli street food” – remains one of the country’s best-kept secrets.

Sabich is a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, tahina, and vegetable salad, while some versions contain boiled-potatoes as well. Pickled cucumbers, chopped parsley, and onions seasoned with purple sumac are usually added, as well as the sauces skhug or amba.

While making sabich may seem simple enough, true lovers of it say that preparing it “just right” is an art form that few truly master. One, who according to Tel Aviv folklore has earned this title of ‘master’, is Oved Daniel, referred to as the “Diego Maradona of Sabich”. Like the revered Argentinean who dominated football in his day, Oved, has been dominating Israel’s sabich scene from his little corner on Sirkin Street in Givatayim, adjacent to Tel Aviv, for nearly three decades. Customers are reputed to flock there from all over the country. Tel Avivians now no longer have to make the trek as Oved subsequently opened a branch in Tel Aviv on Karlebach Street.

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Sabich ‘Say No More’. While falafel enjoys all the street food fame, its lesser known cousin – sabich – is not far behind. It is a glorious synergy between pita bread, egg, eggplant, vegetable salad, with humus tahini and amba.

Oved reveals that “People eat here from all over the world, and many ask about opening branches in the States. I tell ’em, “Forget it, it can’t be done!” They won’t be able to find the right ingredients and importing them will impair the quality.”

Oved offers a sound solution to their problem – Visit Israel often

While some might assert that hummus and falafel are essentially Arab dishes ‘adopted’ by Israelis, sabich is unarguably a local Israeli concoction. The core ingredients can be found in the traditional Shabbat-breakfast of Iraqi Jews, but the idea of putting them into a pita and eating them as a sandwich is purely Israeli. Apparently, the credit for this culinary achievement rests with one Sabich Halabi, an Iraqi immigrant who opened what is believed to be the first sabich stand in Ramat Gan in 1961.

One central quality sabich eatery is on the corner of Dizengoff Street and Frieshman Street simply called – Sabich Frishman. It is reputed to be the first place that locals recommend, and as one food critic wrote:

 “If lines and smell give any hint of quality, it’s hardly a surprise why.”

While many of these street food eateries are referred as “hole-in-the wall” establishments, one must not be put off – this is part of their charm, and often the less attractive on the outside, might be a cover-up for the best food in town. This is typical of Tel Aviv cuisine deception.

Another top Sabich establishment that comes highly recommended is Sabich Tchernichovsky whose food one food critic described, “rivals my grandmother’s.”

Could you ask for a better endorsement?

He continues:

“From the moment you walk in, you know you’re in good hands. Despite the ever-existent line, the employees take their time constructing each and every sabich.  Each ingredient is layered artfully in the perfect pita, providing the ideal combination of flavours in every bite.  The delicious eggplant is thin and crispy, packing a flavourful kick with its unique and unidentifiable seasoning.  It combines well with the soft creaminess of the boiled egg and pickled flavor of the amba.”  There is also the option of ordering your sabich with a cheese that “is both gentle and tart, balancing the smoky eggplant and flavourful egg yolk.”

Yemen On The Yarkon

Included in the long list of tantalizing Israeli delights, dishes necessitating salivating overseas visitors to board a plane is Jachnun, described as “heavenly Yemen pastry.”

While Jachnun is available at eateries across Tel Aviv, you may want to enjoy it in an absolutely authentic setting – its Yemenite Quarter.

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Yemenite Jachnun

A charming, twisting enclave of cobblestone streets, low-slung buildings and some of the best home cooking, Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter   – also known as  “Kerem HaTeimanim” or as locals call it “The Kerem” –  is one of the world’s last thriving communities of Yemenite Jews.

Described poignantly; as well as poetically by Debra Kamin in Fodor’sTravel as “a community with a stopped clock…. where stout grandmothers stir rich, cartilage-thick soups and gossiping neighbors gather in courtyards under the hush of flowering pink mulberry trees,” where better that to savor Yemenite cuisine and in particular Jachnun.

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Take A Jaunt For Jachnun. For authentic Yemenite street food cuisine venture to the colourful neighbourhood of Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter.

Left in a slow oven overnight, Jachnun  is prepared from dough  which is rolled out thinly, brushed with shortening (traditionally, clarified butter or samneh), and rolled up, similar to puff pastry.  turns a dark amber colour and has a slightly sweet taste. It is traditionally served with a crushed/grated tomato dip, hard boiled eggs, and the traditional hot sauce Zhug. The dough used for Jachnun is the same as that used for the Yemini flatbread – malawach.

Another delight, malawach resembles a thick pancake  consisting of thin layers of puff pastry brushed with oil and cooked flat in a frying pan.  It is traditionally served with hard-boiled eggs, Zhug – of course – and a crushed or grated tomato dip. For those who prefer a sweet taste, it is frequently served with honey.

A staple of  Yemenite Jews in Israel, it has become a favourite “Street Food” for all Israelis irrespective of background or ethnic origin.

 Best GPS – Your Nose!

No serious ‘explorer’ of Israeli street food can avoid a visit to Abulafia in Jaffa. It’s almost ‘universal’ popularity is best expressed by an overseas patron sounding more like a frequent ‘pilgrim’:

Here are your directions. (1) Board plane for Tel Aviv, (2) Clear immigration and customs, (3) Ask taxi driver to take you to Abulafia. You could tell him that it is in Jaffa, but he already knows.”

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Pastries For Peace. One blogger wrote that the iconic bakery ‘Abulafia’ in Jaffa “owned by an Israeli-Arab family and staffed by Jews, Christians, and Moslems, is a place where people of all religions both literally and metaphorically break bread together every day.”

Open 24-hours a day, this street-side bakery has been located at the same corner in Jaffa just south of the Jaffa clock tower since 1879, and there are always crowds ordering at the counter. It’s hard to walk past without stopping to order, the smells draw you in, and “once hooked, you’re an addict,” said one customer from Holon who was buying to take home a huge supply of fresh and flavored pitot, bagels, sambusak (stuffed pastry with mushrooms, egg and different cheeses), and a variety of sweet confectionary. “Was it for a party?” I curiously inquire.

“Nope, I have a big family with healthy appetites.”

And while in Jaffa, one must try the local bourekas, a puffed pastry introduced mainly by Jewish Bulgarian immigrants. Its filling is either white cheese, potato or mushrooms. While it’s as easy to find bourekas in Israel as it is to track down falafel, however, just like snowflakes, no two are alike. And like the quest for the best falafel, shwarma or sabich, bourekas-makers have their “to-die-for” customers.

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On The Ball. Known as the “Diego Maradona of Sabich”, Oved Daniel serves his world famous sabich.

Bourikas Leon’ on Oleh Zion Street is the oldest Bulgarian bakery in Jaffa. The owner Avi Cohen is a third-generation Bulgarian in Israel and the bakery, named after his father, was started by his ‘Grandma Julie’ who arrived in 1948 “and was the first to make the phyllo pastry that people would come from all over Israel to buy. This was even before she went into the bourekas business.”

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Tastes Divine. Heavenly little parcels of dough crisped with hot oil or melted butter and stuffed with any number of delicious savory ingredients, Bourekas are nothing short of edible perfection. Like Italy’s calzone, Spain’s empanada and India’s samosa, these nutritious and filling pastries are the perfect portable snack while browsing through Tel Aviv’s shuks (markets).

Is bourekas still such a popular food today?

“Absolutely,” answers Avi. “Each year we have more and more new customers while still keeping our local, loyal customer base. It’s funny,” he says, “many of the young people who come today for a bourekas are the children of my father’s customers and the grandchildren of customers ‘Grandma Julie’ served.”

Street Wise

While street food is generally labeled ‘fast food’, and assumed unhealthy, this is not necessarily the case in Israel, where Israelis tend to eat more turkey than red meat, and always accompanied by mounds of fresh salad. It’s practically unheard of to have a meal in Israel – whether at a restaurant or a sidewalk eatery – without lots of salad.

This is why cities like Tel Aviv are vegetarian and vegan friendly.

Most people might not know but Tel Aviv is considered to be the world’s VEGAN capital! There are over 400 vegan-friendly places in Tel Aviv and new ones popping up every week or so  that “vegan-friendly” means at least 25% of menu items are plant-based.

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Hot Off The Pan. Offering fresh Bourik at Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market.

While the Tel Aviv’s ‘Street Food’ scene, cannot escape the big-name international chains such as the hamburger behemoths, they however, do not dominate the market. They may allure their customers by illuminating their presence with big, bright colorful lights; still, they are no match still for the small, unassuming sidewalk eateries attracting their loyal customers by offering quality, wholesome Israeli street cuisine.

People in Tel Aviv certainly love their side-walk food.

Join ’em!

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Shuk’ing Time. Enjoying food on the walk in Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel or Carmel Market. (Photo by Matthew Scott)

Dance Under Fire

The rhythms of life on the Israeli side of Gaza border

By David E. Kaplan

A planned dance performance on the Gazan border  reminds me of the Gulf War of 1991 when Iraq were raining Scud missiles down on Israel and maestro Zubin Mehta  raced back from New York to conduct concerts. “I had many obligations in New York that should have prevented me from coming, but I couldn’t imagine not being here,” he said at the time, while he was director of the New York Philharmonic.  He conducted full-house concerts keeping his gas mask nearly as close to him as his baton, “just in case!”

“Can you imagine,” he told this writer in an exclusive interview on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 2016 in Tel Aviv, “Scuds where dropping out of the sky, possibly with chemicals but this did not deter Israelis from wanting to hear classical music.”

It sent a powerful and poignant message not to the likes of Saddam Hussein – a waste of time – but to the people of Israel who were asserting, despite the dire situation, their grit and love of culture.

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In ‘Love Is Strong As Death’, the troupe also uses marching music evocative of the military to express national pride, the importance of serving in the army and how it ties with human desire for personal space. (Photo: Gal Dor)

Fast forward to the present and again that characteristic is being expressed by Liat Dror‘s Sderot-based dance company which is staging a performance on the Gazan border to express “our humanity” in the face of living under constant attack. “It’s my responsibility to put on a show even under rocket fire,” says a proud and defiant Liat, artistic director at the Sderot Adama Dance Company.

So, what is daily life like, living “Under Fire”?

Senior social work supervisor at Ben Gurion University in the Negev (BGU), Yehudit Spanglet is a  post-trauma specialist who established the Connections and Links Trauma Center, a mobile unit that frequently brings her to Sderot – a city under fire.

“Without question there are hundreds of people in Sderot and southern Israel who live in a state of continuous trauma. Not only from the rockets which fall, but also from the booms of the Iron Dome defense system; which thankfully intercepts most of the incoming rockets. The blasts which resound in the sky can continue to echo in a person’s ears long after the attack. Many victims of trauma live in fear, even during extended periods of ceasefire. Every time the siren wails and people have to run for cover, the trauma damage from previous attacks is reinforced.”

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Living On The Edge. A rocket fired from Gaza directly hit a factory in the industrial zone of the southern Israeli city of Sderot, causing it to catch on fire. The fire led to further explosions inside the factory. (Photo credit: Edit Israel/Flash90)

She cites a visit to Sderot when the city came under attack, and outside on a street, “a woman stood paralyzed, staring up at the sky. Her neck had frozen in fright when the warning siren sounded. Before she could reach a bomb shelter, the missiles of the Iron Dome exploded, seemingly over her head. Her husband didn’t want to take her to the hospital in Ashkelon, so we slowly walked her home with her head still gazing up toward heaven. When she was back in her house, after speaking with her for half an hour, her neck muscles loosened and finally her body relaxed.”

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From Sderot To Paris. Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal are the co-founders and directors of Sderot ADAMA Dance Center and the creative choreographers and managers of ADAMA Dance Company. They began dancing together at the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company workshop in Kibbutz Ga’aton. Their first original piece, “Two-Room Apartment,” won first place at the international “Biennale” choreography competition in Paris. They describe their choreographic style as a unique Israeli combination of movement, theater and contemporary dance.

Caught In Crossfire

In defiance of this situation of unrelenting danger for Israelis living near the Gaza border, a dance troupe from the Sderot Adama Dance Company will be staging a performance to emphasize what it is like to be caught in the crossfire – not only of aerial missiles but of “duty, humanity and the importance of the self.”

Liat and her partner Nir Ben Gal, say their new show titled “Love Is Strong as Death” will convey what it means to dance under rocket fire and create art under the thunderous sounds of air-raid sirens and the pounding booms of the missiles.

“Life near the Gaza Strip.” says Liat, “is constantly presenting us with difficult questions regarding the value of art when it’s not exhibited in a museum or safely appreciated in an air-conditioned theater hall.”

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Spicy Sderot. Adama dance company, under artistic directors Liat Dror & Nir Ben Gal launches “All’arrabbiata – a silent heart in a noisy world”. All’arrabbiata means ‘angry salsa’ in Italian. Says Liat, “Hot & spicy tomato with tangy onion salsa….The spiciness doesn’t dominate the overall flavor, but certainly makes itself felt.”

The dance company’s latest work  balances the situation of national pride and the need to personally defend one’s people – hence the inclusion of martial music in the musical score –  but also the human desire for personal space.

“This meeting between the two is very real in my everyday life in the studio,” reveals Liat. It began with her experiences serving in the IDF (Israel Defense Force) “and continued with the very difficult experience of being a parent to soldiers.”

She says the show tackles the real-life questions “of choosing love over war, of dealing with a complex reality and of accepting others – be it a spouse, a neighbour, or someone with opposing political views.”

She asserts that life in Sderot always highlights these questions and “keeps me on constant alert.”

While dance instructors anywhere else in the world might be concerned over issues of students facing personal problems or being ill, Dror is anxious:

Will we be able to rehearse? Will we get to finish that rehearsal or will the rocket sirens go off? After all, it’s my responsibility to put on a show even under rocket fire.”

She says the troupe uses recordings of “live music from past performances,” including “laughter from the audience, the creaking of the chairs and the sounds of breathing by those present.” To Liat, “it’s a form of correspondence, both with our past, and with its relevance to what’s going on right now in Israel, Sderot, or any place where the gaps are greater than the chance for peace.”

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Good Vibes. Zubin Mehta conducts a concert in 1977 at the opening ceremony of the “Good Fence” on the Israeli-Lebanese border. (photo by David Rubinger)

Music To Our Ears

When Israel was at war in Southern Lebanon in 1982, Zubin Mehta brought the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra a few kilometers across the border into a Lebanese tobacco field. “We erected a stage under a tent and played for a group of local Lebanese citizens.” After the concert, said Mehta, “the concertgoers rushed the stage to hug the musicians.”

Reflecting years later, “How I would love to see that sight again today,” said the Maestro, “of Arabs and Jews hugging each other. I’m a positive thinker. I know that day will come.”

 

 

* Featured Image: From ‘Love is strong as death’ (Photo: Gal Dor)

A Woman’s Right

By Rolene marks

Israa Ghrayeb was 21 years old.  Like most millennials, Israa was social media “obsessed” (to use the vernacular) but little did she know that the platforms so many of us take for granted every day to share the titbits of our lives that are envy inducing to our online communities, would lead to her death.

Israa’s only crime was that she dared meet a young Arab man in a restaurant and document it by sharing it to social media platform, Instagram.  Millions of people do this every day and while this meeting was innocent enough, it inspired the rage of the male members of her family to severely beat her. Israa did not meet a stranger that she did not know, she met the man she was intending to marry.

When the family found out, Ghrayeb’s brother, Ihab, allegedly beat and tortured her in their family home.

Trying to escape the violent blows inflicted on her, Israa then fell from the second-floor balcony of her parents’ home and was reported to have broken her spine.

Her brother, who is a Canadian resident, was apparently incensed by the video – saying it “dishonoured” the family by presenting herself with her husband-to-be ahead of the actual wedding, according to local media.  Her father had allegedly ordered her brother to beat her after family members witnessed the footage online.

After being admitted to hospital following the initial attack, Ghrayeb said she would not be able to work for the next two months as she waited for a spinal cord operation in a post on her Instagram account.

“I’m strong and I have the will to live – if I didn’t have this willpower, I would have died yesterday,” she said. “Don’t send me messages telling me to be strong, I am strong. May God be the judge of those who oppressed me and hurt me.”

After posting this message, her brother, along with other male relatives, reportedly brutally beat her in the hospital. Footage surfaced on social media of her screaming and begging for her life during the attack.

Israa succumbed to her wounds and passed away. Israa Ghrayeb became the latest horrific statistic in an “honour killing”.

Palestinians took to the street to protest Israa’s death and an end to honour killings.

Israa’s death is not isolated.

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#WeAreIsraa. Outrage follows 21-year-old Palestinian woman Israa Ghrayeb murdered by family members in suspected ‘Honour Killing’.

Honour killings are not a new phenomenon.  In fact, this heinous occurrence has been practiced from as early as Roman times and is prevalent today in North Africa and the Middle East but don’t think that western countries are exempt – incidents of honour killings have been reported in the UK, USA, Canada and others.

The term “honour killing” sounds like a really ridiculous paradox, after all there is absolutely no honour in killing anyone – how could there be? But the issue here isn’t really about honour but more about control over reproductive power. This being said it is not always sexual in nature or about controlling sexual behaviour but rather about fertility.

Say what?

Now I am scratching my head in confusion as much as you are but these horrendous events occur because in some communities that are patrilineal in nature, a woman’s right to govern her own reproductive freedom. In these societies, women are seen as reproductive factories not seductive sirens.

This makes this barbaric act a lot more complex than originally thought, but in most cases, honour killings occur because women in communities that adhere to strict religious doctrine are expected to toe the line and behave in accordance. In Pakistan for example, women’s right to life are conditional on their “obeying certain norms and traditions.”

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No More Violence. More women in Pakistan are demanding an end to gender-related violence.

Nighat Taufeeq of the Women’s Resource Center Shirkatgah in Lahore, Pakistan says: “It is an unholy alliance that works against women: the killers take pride in what they have done, the tribal leaders condone the act and protect the killers and the police connive the cover-up.”

Honour killings are seen as less serious than murder. Sounds like a contradiction but women are being killed for “infractions” ranging from dressing more western to adulterous affairs. This is becoming more and more common, especially in societies that adopt Islamic sharia law even though in centuries past, they have occurred in ancient Rome or medieval times. In some communities, where women are gaining economic power and adopting more customs, there are men that feel that they have to act out in some way, usually violent, to regain some control.

Women who have been raped are also seen as bringing “disgrace” to their families and it is shattering that they become victimized twice over. Should pregnancy result from this, the consequences are catastrophic.

Homosexuality is also seen as legitimate grounds for killing. The United Nations and other NGO’s are alarmed by this phenomenon and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees state that “claims made by LGBT persons often reveal exposure to physical and sexual violence, extended periods of detention, medical abuse, threat of execution and honour killing.”

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Horror Not Honour. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that perhaps as many as 5,000 women and girls a year are killed by members of their own families. Many women’s groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia suspect the victims are at least four times more.

So surely divorce or a court injunction against possible perpetrators would be the solution?

Sadly, this is usually a trigger for violence against women and for many; the feeling is that hope is lost.

What can be done, if anything, to stop honour killings or as they are called in some countries “crime of passion”?

The first step would be to be to really understand the “honour code” and learn from the lessons in history. For some cultures this practice is repugnant but in others it is acceptable “code”. One solution that has been discussed is “naming and shaming”. Another possibility is in communities where honour killings are seen as part of religious doctrine, to prove that this is not the correct interpretation of the Quran.

The battle to end honour killings is a long and arduous one but necessary. Perhaps the starting point is learning to respect life – not end it. That is the true shame and dishonor. The right to live in dignity and safety is a woman’s right.