Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What is Chanukah? A reminder that light can transform darkness

Yossi Kahana lights the menorah.
By Yossi Kahana, director, JNF Task Force on Disabilities

Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime "festival of lights," celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers, and fried foods. Chanukah begins on the eve of Kislev 25 and continues for eight days. This year, the holiday runs from December 22-30.

What we are celebrating again?
In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in G‑d. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G‑d.

When they sought to light the Temple's Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Sirens strengthen resolve of JNF missions in Israel: 'We are here 24/7'

Children from the Eshkol region staying in a bomb shelter all day.
By Eric Narrow

This week, Israel woke to the unexpected sounds of sirens, from Be'er Sheva all the way to Tel Aviv, with early-morning commuters pulling off to the side of the road, school canceled, and parents told to stay home with their children, all before 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning.  

By the afternoon, as the sun hung low across the sparkling Mediterranean sea, local residents and tourists could be seen lounging on the beach, eating lunch along the many restaurants that line Tel Aviv's beach promenade, and getting ready for the next day. Within a matter of hours, life for most had seemed to return to a level of normalcy, all while the southern region of Israel continued to bear the brunt of the violence from Gaza.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Stand strong with Israel: On family trip, rocket sirens a sobering sound

By Steven London

Greetings from Tel Aviv. For the past 10 days, my wife Paula and I have been taking five  family members on a tour of Israel. We have been here many times, but several of our family members have never been and two of them were last here 45 years ago.  The purpose of our visit is sharing our passion for Israel. We wanted our family to feel our connection to Israel, to see the wonder of this place, and to appreciate what it's like to live here today.

Starting in Jerusalem, we took our family through ancient and modern times, with visits to Masada, Sfat, and Caesarea, and visits to the Golan Heights, the port of Haifa, to Atlit (the British Detention Center) and the Ayalon Institute (the bullet factory). Our travels ended in Tel Aviv, a vibrant, modern, and metropolitan city with beautiful beaches, world famous corporate R&D facilities, art and culture, and tourists and business people from throughout the world. My brother-in-law, who went to school here 45 years ago, couldn’t believe his eyes.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Brave, resilient Israelis in embattled Gaza Envelope give us strength

JNF CEO Russell Robinson with a Sderot resident whose car is riddled with holes. 

By Russell Robinson

As I'm packing to go to Israel to meet with five different Jewish National Fund-USA missions consisting of over 200 participants, my phone's tzevah-adom (red alert) app suddenly starts blaring "Red Alert! Red Alert!" Immediately, I check to see if it's one missile or more. It's more. I watch as one missile after another is launched from Gaza into the Israeli communities surrounding the border.

Our Israeli friends who live in the GazaEnvelope describe life there as 99 percent heaven and 1 percent hell. The 1 percent hell was beginning again, as it has from the day Israel withdrew from 100 percent of the territory in Gaza.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The power of experiential education in Israel: 'Involve me and I’ll learn'

By Amanda Feder

From a young age, I knew I wanted to become a teacher. I have a passion for learning and long to see and know as much as possible. As a student, I learned best when I was involved in the lessons: The more engaged and hands-on the experience, the better the chances of retaining what was being taught. 

When I became a teacher, I carried that mentality with me into my classroom, and I aim to make learning as experiential as possible for my students.

Growing up, I attended Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland, and Israel was a core component of my daily life. Whether it was studying the Torah, listening to Israeli folk music, or learning about the country's vibrant history, my love for Israel has always been with me. 

I visited Israel a few times throughout elementary and high school, and with each visit I saw firsthand what I was taught in school -- Israel became my classroom.

It wasn't until I was finishing high school that I experienced Israel in a way that would completely transform my life. At my school, seniors graduate in February and spend what would typically be the last semester of high school living in Israel. My class attended Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI-JNF), and it showed me what an entire school built on experiential learning looked like.

Friday, October 18, 2019

I'm proud to mentor the next generation of leaders to stand tall for Israel

By Laura Salzer

Life has an interesting way of showing us what we find important. Little did I know my son's decision to move to Israel, volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces, and become an Israeli citizen in 2014 would have such a drastic impact on my own life.

Lauren Salzer
Until that point, I thought I knew a lot about Israel. I was taught about the country in religious school and visited and read about Israel over the years. Then, I joined Jewish National Fund, and my eyes were opened to all the innovative projects the organization spearheads for all Israelis. 

I learned about the real Israel, the people, the land, the history, and our future. For me, being a part of JNF has felt like working toward a master’s degree in Israel studies: It's such a transformative and fulfilling learning experience -- one I feel compelled to tell others about and encourage to take on themselves.

I am a strong advocate for education. It is vital to know our collective history so that in the future we can continue to protect and develop the land of Israel. As a member of JNF's Women for Israel, I am able to support, educate, and mentor the next generation about the importance of Zionism and Israel.

Friday, October 4, 2019

At JNF conference, student has a powerful revelation about Judaism

The author, pictured top right.
By Ruby Rosenthal

In many ways, Judaism has a moral compass built in. After attending Hebrew school for six years, and five subsequent years assisting as a madricha, or youth leader, I've realized there's a common theme that permeates my religion: Judaism is about giving.

Growing up, our Hebrew school classes began with a tzedakah box. I remember it very clearly as being blue and green and featuring the state of Israel prominently on the front. As students, we'd often shake it, trying to see how much was inside by listening to the clang of the money against its tin walls. 

Every week, we were instructed to bring in a few coins or dollar bills to slip through the slit of the box, and later, we'd sing a song to explain why we weren't saving the cash for ourselves: "Tzedakah, tzedakah, we do what we can / To help other people and our fellow man / With quarters and nickels and dimes -- pennies too! / Tzedakah, tzedakah it's the best we can do."