Friday, July 24, 2015

Bustling Mahane Yehuda shuk slows down to welcome wheelchair users

Photo: LOTEM - Making Nature Accessible

By Alana Kessler

Nature is everywhere. Depending on where one lives, the landscape may differ, but the outdoors and all it provides is available to anyone. But although nature is available to all, it is not accessible to all. For people with intellectual or physical disabilities, activities such as exploring a neighborhood, going on a hike, and even smelling fresh flowers become a challenge, and for some, might not even be an option. 

LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible makes limitations disappear by adapting nature programs for individuals with special needs in an appropriate and engaging way.

I started volunteering with LOTEM this winter, and since my first visit to a weekly nature club for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities, I have been inspired and amazed by all LOTEM does. Holding true to its mission of "making nature accessible," LOTEM provides school programs inside and outside the classroom, clubs, day trips, special events, and much more. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

A window into a top-secret bullet factory – and the Israeli spirit of determination

Photo: Anne Taillandier
The Ayalon Institute Museum reconstructs the incredible story of the clandestine munitions factory near Rehovot where young workers manufactured more than 2 million bullets between 1945 and 1948. 

By Leslie Katz 

Usually you learn about history from books or see it unfold on the big screen. Occasionally, if you're very, very lucky, you meet history in person.

That's what happened last Thursday, when my travel companions in Israel and I met Shlomo Hillel, a 92-year-old Iraqi-born Israeli who played a remarkable and dramatic role in the establishment of Israel.

Hillel was among the young Hebrew scouts who worked at a clandestine underground Haganah munitions factory from 1945-1948. To do so, they climbed through a narrow hole in the ground, down a steep spiral staircase, to spend 10-hour days in a hot, air-choked machine shop shaping metal into bullets to be used in the fight for Jewish independence. The 45 factory workers produced more than 2 million 9-millimeter machine gun bullets overall, ammunition considered key to the early fight for statehood. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Visiting Aleh Negev, a 'remarkable oasis of dignity' for the disabled

Aleh Negev's therapy pool. 

By Julie Kravetz

I have been fortunate to visit Israel four different times. Each visit, I have felt great joy, respect, and awe for all that has been accomplished by this dynamic, vibrant, extraordinary nation.

On this particular visit, during a JNF solidarity mission, I had the honor and privilege of experiencing the village of Aleh Negev. 

This facility, established by Didi and Doron Almog, was created to provide high-level medical and rehabilitative aid to severely disabled adults and children in need of complex care. Didi and Doron recognized that Israel had not yet established a plan to organize care for aging, neurologically impaired children beyond the age of 18, and this created a great vacuum for parents needing critical services. The need for care does not recognize birthdays.

Upon arriving, it quickly became clear that Aleh Negev is a remarkable oasis of dignity, humanity and community in the desert, and it is flourishing with commitment and love.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A promenade to memorialize three teenage boys murdered by Hamas

To memorialize Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrah -- three Israeli teenage boys who were kidnapped in the West Bank and murdered by Hamas terrorists last year -- and to enhance the quality of life in the area by making the Gush Etzion cluster of Jewish settlements safer and more secure, JNF is collaborating with the Gush Etzion Regional Council and the Gush Etzion Foundation to build a local promenade in memory of the boys who lost their lives. 

The three were awaiting a ride home from their yeshivas at a Gush Etzion bus stop when they were abducted in June of 2014, sparking the global campaign #BringBackOurBoys. People from many backgrounds and nations came together to call for the boys' release. Tragically, their bodies were discovered two weeks later

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Judaism lost and found: One 'loud and proud' student's story

Current Alexander Muss High School in Israel student Hannah Brier (pictured above) shares some very personal thoughts from campus in Hod HaSharon.

It’s hard being the only practicing Jew in a school of 1,200. It’s hard missing school dances and sports games and rehearsals because they are always scheduled on Jewish holidays. It's hard spending every day with people who just don’t understand your religion isn't a joke.

I lost my Judaism. 

Walking down the hallway sophomore year I could see diversity almost everywhere: different skin colors, different ages, different personalities, and a few different religions. Why in such a diverse place is it so hard for people to understand my religion and me?

As I was Skyping with my friends back home, someone asked if I felt "more Jewish now that I'm in Israel." I laughed. That's it. I just laughed and continued on to a new topic. That was the wrong response. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

This Israeli jewelry features fragments of Hamas rockets

A rocket shard shaped like the state of Israel adorns this "Israel Rocket Necklace."

By Leslie Katz 

The rockets that fell on Israel last summer would, to most Israelis, represent nothing but chaos and destruction. Yedidya and Shiran Harush look at the twisted metal and see those things. But they also see strength, resolve, even beauty.
The husband and wife team has collected shards of rockets that rained on their community – Halutza in the remote northwest Negev desert on Israel's borders with Gaza and Egypt -- and crafted them into stylish necklaces, the kind you might find in a high-end boutique.

The rocket jewelry "symbolizes love versus hate and create versus destroy," says Yedidya Harush, the Jewish National Fund's liaison to Halutza, which was founded in 2005 by Israelis evacuated from their homes during Israel's disengagement from Gaza that year. "It means that they tried to destroy us but we create."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Shavuot special recipe straight from Jerusalem: Tomato basil tart

Chef Tali Friedman shares her story and a yummy tart recipe, perfect for the holiday of Shavuot. 

In the heart of Mahane Yehuda, a bustling open-air market in Jerusalem, chef Tali Friedman has an atelier (French for studio) from which she runs culinary tours.

A culinary tour with Friedman starts off in Israel’s biggest market, engaging with some of the market’s 450 vendors and tasting the delicious flavors the market has to offer. Once the ingredients have been purchased, she takes you up to her atelier, where everyone -- even the participants -- roll up their sleeves and cook. At the end, they sit down for a lovely meal.