Monday, February 23, 2015

Farm-to-table events serve up a new kind of delicious in the Negev

Earth's Promise farm-to-table event
Photo: Earth's Promise
Attendees of a recent Earth's Promise farm-to-table event enjoy a fresh, locally sourced meal in Be'er Sheva.  
By Adam Ganson

It was a rainy evening in Be'er Sheva, an unusual and rare occurrence in Israel's south, and a steady downpour had fallen since the afternoon. Many people remain indoors during this type of weather, complaining of the cold and only interested in staying warm. Good thing, because a perfect indoor opportunity presented itself. Inside a finely decorated cafe, about 40 guests filed into the cozy interior as servers prepared for a unique evening, Earth's Promise "farm to table" event. 

"Farm to table" is a worldwide movement that's now making its way to Be'er Sheva. The purpose is to encourage people to make local and fresh food choices. Many restaurants have started sourcing their ingredients from nearby farms and charge a premium for a quality meal. 

Earth's Promise, a Jewish National Fund partner, promotes urban agriculture in the south of Israel in order to support sustainable growth in the Negev region. Earth's Promise recently teamed with local restaurants to promote the farm-to-table idea and provide interesting local food and urban-agriculture opportunities for residents in the south.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It started with a JNF blue box: My lifelong love affair with Israel

An early start: JNF staffer Abigail Fleishman and her blue box (far right) are pictured in a local newspaper photo
about Tu B'Shevat. 

By Abigail Leviss, JNF director of grants and foundations 

I grew up in Los Angeles down the street from my grandparents. Each Friday night, we'd walk to their house for Shabbat. My grandmother would make matzo ball soup, chicken, and her famous eggplant salad, and my grandfather would lead us in the kiddush. Just after we lit the candles, he'd grab coins out of his pockets and we'd each place one in my grandparents' JNF blue box. It was a light blue, tin box with a map of the state of Israel on it and a small keyhole on the bottom. "It's for the children in Israel," my grandfather would say. 

Israel was a constant topic of conversation in our family. "There is nothing more important than protecting Israel," I'd hear it over and over.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Are you a social-media star? Get sent to Israel and help make a difference!

Last year, Vivian Grossman, a member of the Jewish National Fund's national board of directors, had a vision. What if JNF were to convene a team of creative, committed, forward-thinking social-media professionals to help tell the stories of the many people JNF touches and accelerate the organization into the juggernaut for Israel it was meant to be? 

Photo: Anne Taillandier
In the summer of 2014, Social Media Executive Committee Member 
Alicia Yaffe gets up close with plants at a Be'er Sheva community garden 
farmed mostly by new Ethiopian immigrants. 
With the help of Abigail Leviss, JNF's director of grants and foundations, and the blessing of CEO Russell Robinson, the social-media executive committee was born.

The inaugural committee featured an incredible group of volunteers -- employees of Saatchi & Saatchi, R/GA Advertising, The Huffington Post, CNET, and a startup that represents major clients including the estates of Janis Joplin and Michael Jackson. The group traveled to Israel last summer, heading north to south and east to west to visit JNF partners and see firsthand how the JNF is making an impact in areas like infrastructure, water, historical preservation, tourism, and care for the disabled. Upon their return, the group began working closely with JNF professionals to increase the JNF's visibility and sharing social-media tips with the JNF-loving masses.  

Then we started hearing from all corners of the globe from people who wanted the chance to be on the committee. That opportunity is now open to everyone.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Triplets in uniform, one disabled: A story of hope and determination

Photo: Tzippy Avni
Tzippy Avni and her three daughters. 

Tzippy Avni of Eilat shared the following personal story with the Jewish National Fund in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness Monthan initiative to foster inclusion in Jewish communities worldwide.

Nineteen years ago, we had a beautiful set of triplets.
First May was born, and then Chen. Both weighed in at over 2 kilos (4.4 pounds), which enabled them to be released from the hospital within a few days. The last to be born was Shir, at a weight of 1.360 kilos (just under 3 pounds) that plunged to just 900 grams (less than 2 pounds) within four hours. Shir was so tiny that I would stroke her gently with my pinkie. From the first moment, I had this magnetic pull to her, a real telepathic connection. I feel her all the time, and she sees things in me that nobody else sees. It's a bond that is hard to explain.
Photo: Tzippy Avni
After a long period in the hospital, with innumerable tests and evaluations, they broke the news to us: "Your daughter is severely brain damaged. She has cerebral palsy and retardation. She will never walk and will be very handicapped her entire life. That’s the way it is."
"'Listen well,'" I said. "'This girl will run. This girl will sing. This girl will flourish and this girl will even go to the army.' They looked at me skeptically and said, 'Don’t be too optimistic.' I replied, 'I am her mother. I have no choice but to be optimistic. Wait and see what will come of this little girl.'"

Friday, January 30, 2015

Plant a tree, and win a trip to Israel

Photo: Eric Elkins
Plant a tree in Israel and win a chance to go there -- for free. 

Fancy a free to trip to Israel? 

In celebration of Tu BiShvat -- the Jewish New Year for trees, which will be celebrated on February 4 -- the Jewish National Fund is offering a chance to win a trip to Israel by planting a tree.
JNF has partnered with EL AL Airlines and the Carlton Hotel Tel Aviv for an exciting online raffle. When you plant a tree through between January 26, 2015 at 12 a.m. ET and February 4, 2015 at 11:59:59 p.m. ET, you will be entered to win two free round-trip tickets to Israel, courtesy of EL AL Airlines, and a free two-night stay at the luxury Carlton Tel Aviv, breakfast included. Ten runners-up will win a free JNF E-Z Tree account, which allows you to purchase trees at a discount. 
"I was so grateful for this wonderful experience," said last year's winner, Susan Mair of Sarasota, Fla. "Israel always brings out deep feelings in my heart, and I am amazed at the ingenuity of the Israelis to overcome all obstacles." 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Caravan for Democracy: Affecting change -- in hearts and minds

As you may have read on our blog, the JNF-sponsored Caravan for Democracy trip enables college students of all faiths to see, taste, and explore Israel firsthand. Here, a couple more participants of the recent 10-day mission recount their feelings upon seeing the Gaza border town of Sderot and encountering the magic of the Old City of Jerusalem for the first time. These students are an inspiration!

Witnessing 'defiant perseverance' 
By Sara David, Flagler College

We heard how civilians drive with their radios off and seat belts unbuckled to make every second count, and how parents must choose which of their children to grab during the 15 seconds they have to find shelter in case of an attack. Hearing these accounts poignantly humanized the strikes and casualties I had previously only known as numbers and statistics. 

Fortunately [the day we visited Sderot], there were no missile strikes and we did not hear any alarms. Instead, we heard the sound of construction as new commercial and residential buildings went up all around us in the distance. Despite the constant threat of an attack, the residents of Sderot are working to further develop and populate the area in defiant perseverance and Zionist spirit.

Photo: Will Baxley
In Sderot, Caravan for Democracy participants view drawings by kindergarten students that reflect rockets and the desire for peace so they can play with their Palestinian neighbors.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Making nature accessible to all: Hear LOTEM on Voice of Israel radio!

Israel has the only ecological farm in the world that's fully accessible to the disabled, and it belongs to JNF partner LOTEM: Making Nature Accessible.

Alisa Bodner of LOTEM tells Voice of Israel's Judy Lash Balint how her organization is enabling tens of thousands of Israelis and visitors with special needs to enjoy the wonders of Israeli nature. Click HERE to listen!

A LOTEM group makes olive oil using an accessible olive press.