Friday, April 22, 2016

In the JNF Kitchen: Margot's scrumptious date Passover charoset

Passover charoset with dates

Margot Alfie, a JNF board member in Atlanta and personal chef extraordinaire, will be celebrating her 26th Passover in the United States this year.

Alfie's grandparents emigrated from Syria to Mexico at the beginning of the 1900s. "My parents and I were born in Mexico. Therefore we are Mexican, Syrian, and also Jewish," she says. "Growing up in a Middle Eastern Mexican home, I developed a very unique culinary taste. Sometimes we had a Syrian meal, sometimes a Mexican meal, but sometimes we had an absolutely delicious fusion of the two."

Margot has graciously shared with us her special Passover charoset recipe, made with dates and sweet red wine. Charoset is a non-negotiable part of the Passover seder, symbolizing the mortar used by slaves in Egypt. In Ashkenazi tradition, it's most often made with apples. But for Alfie, charoset isn't charoset if it's not made with dates, the ubiquitous fruit of the Middle East.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Saluting Doron Almog, military hero and champion for the disabled, for Israel Prize win

Major General (Res.) Doron Almog at Aleh Negev. 

Major General (Res.) Doron Almog, one of the heroes of the famous Operation Entebbe and founder of Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran, a Jewish National Fund partner and world-class rehabilitative village for the disabled in southern Israel, has been awarded the 2016 Israel Prize for lifetime achievement and exceptional contribution to the nation. 

The annual prize is awarded to Israeli citizens or organizations that have displayed excellence in the fields of the humanities, social sciences, and Jewish studies; the natural and exact sciences; culture, arts, communication; and sports. 

"JNF is proud to be a disabilities and special-needs program partner with Doron Almog," said Russell F. Robinson, JNF's chief executive officer. "His amazing accomplishment of building Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran has made an incredible difference in countless lives, and we salute his efforts, dreams, vision, and enduring commitment. His brilliant and compassionate spirit defines the people of Israel."

Friday, April 15, 2016

In the JNF Kitchen: Osi's Passover Iraqi chicken

It's hard to believe, but Passover is just a week away! We hope to spice up your Seder with some new ideas for creative cooking. Osi's chicken recipe below can be made with rice or substituted with quinoa for those who follow Ashkenazic traditions. Whichever you choose, Osi's chicken is sure to bring some Moroccan flavor to your table, straight from Israel's Negev. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Morning prayers and soldiers with special needs: In Israel, running a marathon like no other

The author, Sami Groff, runs the race with Tehilla and Amit, soldiers with Special in Uniform. 

By Sami Groff

The Jerusalem Marathon last month was like no other race I've participated in. It was uniquely "Israel," with competitors praying the morning tefillot together in the parking garage with their tallitot hanging over their spandex running gear before heading out to the start line. It was competitive, with serious runners arriving from all over Israel and around the world to compete.  

It was fun, with bands playing music, spectators cheering, and the mayor of Jerusalem making appearances at the start line and finish line (and seemingly everywhere in between). It was sentimental, with beautiful views of old and new Jerusalem. It was challenging, with hills (i.e. mountains) that laughed in the face of all my miles of flat Long Island training.

And it was emotionally intense. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Catch and release: Bird-banding in Yerucham brings unexpected joy

A recently banded bird at the Hoopoe Center of Ornithology and Ecology, just moments before its release. 

By Bob Weiss 

During last month's $1 Billion Roadmap mission to Israel, JNF's Yerucham Task Force got to sample how much fun it can be to actually play around town. First, we had rental bikes delivered to the new Desert Iris Hotel in the southern desert town. Then, our special guest partner, Ido Eisikovits from Green Horizons, tried to keep up as the task force, properly helmeted of course, rode downhill through town and into Yerucham Lake Park.

At the bottom of the hill, we were greeted by Yoram Zvik, manager of the Hoopoe, the Yerucham Center of Ornithology and Ecology, who runs a bird-banding and education program in the park. The Yerucham Lake, located in the middle of the park, is formed by a dam to capture seasonal runoff. Although its level fluctuates quite a bit during the year, there is always open water, making it easy to spot in the Negev as tens of thousands of birds pass over on their way between Africa and Europe. Yerucham is one of the best places in Israel to easily watch the parade.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Moved and awe-inspired witnessing Israelis with special needs

Alan Wolk of the JNF's Task Force on Disabilities chats with a girl at LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible, where
accessible trails make it possible for hikers in wheelchairs to enjoy nature. 

By Alan Wolk

The afterglow of my recent trip to Israel as part of JNF's Task Force on Disabilities has not faded, even after all these weeks. I thought I had an idea of what JNF did to help people with disabilities integrate into society, but seeing it firsthand opened my eyes to just how much JNF does to ensure no one feels left out and that as many as possible get the quality care they need. I see so much opportunity for each of JNF’s partners under the disabilities and special-needs banner to do more for the people of Israel. 

I will never forget the $1 Billion Roadtrip Mission earlier this month and what it meant to me personally. I just wish my parents could be around to see what JNF is doing. They would be amazed and so proud of my commitment to this organization. You see, my older brother Phillip was profoundly disabled. Seventy years ago, there were not many options available to improve his quality of life. He passed away in 2004 at just 60 years old, having lived most of his life in a care facility. JNF's commitment to the disabled and world-class facilities like Aleh Negev might have made a difference for Phillip and my family.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spending spring break doing community service in Israel was 'magical'

JNF's Alternative Spring Break program gives young adults, ages 18-30, a chance to spend a week doing community service in Israel. Here, one recent participant shares her experience. 

By Jessica Peden

For many, spring break is a week of relaxation. To some, it means a lot of partying. This spring break, I joined 50 other college students who decided to do something a little different. We set off to Israel to volunteer.

The first night we ate dinner at Kibbutz Shomrat, our new home for the majority of the week, and played some ice breakers. We made a giant circle on the lawn and sat and shmoozed, giving us time to get to know one another before the week of hard work began. 

Each day that followed was filled with incredible new experiences. Every time we got to our new location, we were assigned our task, and it often felt too big a project for us to accomplish in such a short amount of time. I, for one, am not someone who normally works outside and I was given a saw and told to start sawing away. It took me a good minute to figure out what exactly I was doing but once I did, I was really good at it!