No, these aren’t illegal child laborers making Matzah in some underground sweatshop. It’s a bunch of kids making Matzah in an underground Chabad House in Efrat.
Posts Tagged ‘Chabad House’
It was the next best thing to the Pony Express, and an outright miracle that appeared out of nowhere. Last week four Israelis died and at least a dozen others were injured; but at least 250 Israelis were saved and hundreds of others as well, because a group was resourceful.
Seizing a ‘window of opportunity’ when it came galloping by, a group of Israelis huddled in a tiny wooden shack – a tea house in the mountain pass of Thorong La — over writing a call for help in Hebrew as a Himalayan blizzard raged outside.
“There are Israelis trapped in the tea shop at the pass,” wrote Rotem Snir. “Lives are in danger. Help us. Thank you.”
A Nepali porter took their note and rode out on horseback into the storm, hoping to reach the camp they described passing on their way up the mountain. They themselves were stuck at 18,000 feet above sea level, and for the remainder of the storm would remain there – a decision that saved their lives.
The porter, meanwhile, found three Israeli hikers and delivered the note.
Upon reading it, they immediately contacted the Israeli Embassy in Kathmandu.
The local Chabad House was transformed into a command center. The Kathmandu Chabad House sees hundreds – make that thousands – of Israeli backpackers every year; it’s the traditional pit stop on the way up or down the Himalayas. It’s also the venue for the biggest seder in the world – at the top of the world – one where the supplies literally have to be brought in on horseback.
Rabbi Yechezkel Lifshiftz, Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Kathmandu and head of the Chabad House, responded to the flood of emails from worried parents and constantly updated a Google spreadsheet with data on Israelis who were out in the storm.
Israeli volunteers helped work the phones and exchange information with the Israeli Embassy.
More than 400 Israelis were on the “watch and pray” list, coded by trekking agency.
By Monday, search teams were wrapping up operations, and at the Kathmandu Chabad House, an Israeli psychotherapist was scheduled to lead a group session. The bulletin board showed that medical care was available from Israeli doctors.
Those who stayed in the teahouse discovered how miraculous it was that they had managed to reach shelter when they did.
One of the group, Jacob Megreli, 24, told the Wall Street Journal that he and another man rescued an Israeli buried in snow that rose higher than his head. Only the tips of his upraised hands showed above the sparkling white trail, tipping off the searchers. After that, he told the New York-based newspaper, his group found at least one body every 20 minutes along the trail.
Of the hundreds who made it to safety that Monday in the storm, 200 to 250 were Israelis, according to embassy figures. Hundreds more were from other nations. Nepali villagers, mountain guides and helicopter pilots worked tirelessly to rescue whoever they could.
By Wednesday, when the storm cleared out, 33 people had lost their lives, according to Nepal’s Home Ministry. Four were Israeli.
Had it not been for the miracle of a tiny wooden teahouse, a piece of notebook paper and a Sherpa pony express, who knows how many more …
The VISA credit card company in Israel last week noted that one of its clients withdrew cash from Nepal after the disaster that killed several Israeli trekkers and called the hiker’s father to tell him his son was safe.
The father in this case is yours truly. The trekker is one of our sons, whose trip to India and Nepal was delayed for a week because he was busy shooting at terrorists from his tank as a reserve soldier serving in the Protective Edge campaign against Hamas.
Our son called on the morning before Yom Kippur to say he was leaving India after the fast and traveling to Nepal.
He routinely calls just before Shabbat or a holiday from a Chabad House, where there usually is mobile phone reception and where he joins hordes of other Israelis for Shabbat.
I was writing and listening to the radio last Wednesday morning, several hours before the Shemini AtZereth-Simchat Torah holiday began in Israel, when I heard on the radio that three one or more Israeli reportedly were killed in an avalanche in Nepal.
My first thought was that our son was okay. I don’t know why but I was not too worried. Just to be even calmer, I called my contacts at the Foreign Ministry.
The ministry knew no more than I knew – unconfirmed reports from foreign news agencies, and we agreed to update each other as we gathered information.
Within a minute, our son called from Nepal to wish us Chag Samayach – a happy holiday.
He did not mention the avalanche, but as soon as I asked him about it, he revealed that he was near the area and that there were missing Israelis who went on a hike out of the tourist agency with which he also is registered .
Our son reassured me that although he was “close but far” from the disaster, explaining that he was at a low level in the Himalayas while the trekkers caught in the landslide were much higher.
After trading information with the Foreign Ministry, which was happy to hear our son was safe, I went back to writing about the tragedy, the ISIS and whatever other horrid news there was.
The phone rang again, and after I picked it up and said “Shalom,” the voice on the other stated, “Are you Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, father of “E—“?
“Nu?” I asked.
“I am calling from VISA,” he said, “and I just wanted to let you know, in case “E’’’ has not been in contact with you, that we know he is safe because we noticed he withdrew money from Nepal today.”
I was overwhelmed.
Can you imagine an American credit card company calling Joe Blow’s father in East Podunk to tell him not to worry about the Blow family’s son because it knew he withdrew some money from his credit card, so everything must be all right?
I asked the VISA representative, “Who decided to call me?”
He answered that it was a management decision when an inspection of withdrawals revealed that one of their clients withdrew money from Nepal two days after the tragedy, when the names of missing and dead Israeli trekkers still were not known.
I and hundreds of thousands of other Israelis routinely damn the credit companies for being legal “thieves,” renewing credit cards that require monthly payment but without informing the client after a year of free service, or for providing misleading information on conditions for using a credit card, or simply sending a credit card in the mail.
That is what happened last week when my wife received a credit card without asking for it. It was another gimmick to tempt people into making unnecessary purchases.
According to a report published Tuesday in the Hebrew-language daily Maariv, veteran Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor plans to resign in the near future.
If the report is true, Palmor’s resignation will be the latest in a series of flights by seasoned professionals from the office that is the face of the State of Israel, representing this country to the world. Palmor, 53, speaks numerous languages and has worked at the ministry for 28 years, serving as a deputy spokesperson since the mid-1990s and as official spokesperson since 2008.
Among the others who left over the past several years are: Lior Weintraub, chief of staff at the Washington bureau; Yaki Dayan, head of the Los Angeles office; Ran Curiel, vice-director at the European office; Ilan Maor, Israel’s envoy to Shanghai; and Amos Nidai, former ambassador to Beijing. Each allegedly left “for his own reasons,” according to the Foreign Ministry.
But it is no secret that relations between ministry employees and “upper management” have been strained at best. Over the past year they carried out a worldwide strike – an unheard-of move by envoys and people at the foreign ministry – due to a long-unresolved contract dispute with the Finance Ministry over wages and benefits.
Palmor was left to explain that to the media, including having to face the unenviable task of dealing with the fallout over holiday supplies not reaching the famed Nepal Chabad House in time for its annual Passover Seder in the Himalayas due to the strike.
Further complicating the picture are the reduced numbers in the ministry’s lower echelons due to the wage and benefits dispute, which has meant there are fewer younger officials to rely upon.
There is also a great deal of confusion about exactly who represents this country to the world. The establishment in 2006 of the prime minister’s National Information Directorate alienated many at the foreign ministry; at that time, the ministry already was contending with the issue of its releases simultaneously arriving in editors’ boxes with those of the Government Press Office, those of the IDF, the Defense Ministry, and those of the Prime Minister’s Office – not to mention releases from the spokespersons of individual politicians and members of Knesset.
It has never been clear to most journalists exactly who, precisely, represents the views of the State of Israel as a specific, sole entity. If as a journalist one calls the prime minister’s office to ask that question, the answer often depends upon the question itself – “exactly what is this about?”
One cannot ever get a straight answer to a straight question in the State of Israel, as a journalist – and this may be the greatest problem for this country’s public relations, if not perhaps the impetus behind the exodus of the foreign ministry’s senior staff.
More than 400 people sang their way through the Haggadah on the first night of Passover at the first seder held this year at the Chabad House of Bangkok, Thailand.
Dozens of children ascended special stage set up in the hall where the seder was held in order to sing the traditional “Ma Nishtana” – the Four Questions that launch the story explaining the reason for the celebration of Passover.
For those with slim budgets, the Chabad of Bangkok website stated clearly that everyone was welcome regardless of ability to pay. “Please contact the Rabbi in confidence if the charge is beyond your means,” the statement on Chabad’s “JewishThailand.com” site advised. “‘All who are hungry may come and eat’ is the theme of Passover and it will be our pleasure to host you regardless of financial ability.”
A seder for the second night was made available with the Kantor Family according to the announcement, sponsored by the Jewish Association of Thailand. “No charge but please RSVP,” the notice read.
Hebrew-language Passover seders were conducted in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ko Samui and Phuket.
Amid a terror threat, Jewish establishments in India have been instructed by police to tighten security in and around their businesses.
The call came following the interrogation of Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal by the National Investigation Agency in New Delhi, as well as in the wake of the Islamist attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
According to New Delhi Television (NDTV), Bhatkal told investigators that Jewish establishments in Mumbai have been surveyed by Indian Mujahideen members for possible terrorist strikes. The Islamist militant group reportedly was trying to seize Jewish hostages to trade them for terrorists, the Hindustan Times reported.
Indian police called on Jewish establishments to hire security guards, install security cameras and issue ID cards for admittance to the businesses, according to NDTV. They also have been instructed to not allow parking around their buildings.
There reportedly are 12 Jewish establishments in Mumbai, including four in the southern part of the city. One of the buildings, the Nariman Chabad House, was the site of a November 2008 terror attack in which six people were killed.
Following a nationwide alert issued ahead of Rosh Hashanah in early September, security was increased around the 20 Chabad houses in India, the Hindustan Times reported.
“This is the day of the beginning of your creation,” we read in our Yom Tov prayer books. According to Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah marks the day of the creation of Adam and Eve, and on that very day they proclaim God as King of the Universe.
And yet, as we know from the very first story in the book of Genesis, the glory of that day is short-lived. Within hours, Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Their eyes are opened. They become aware that they are naked and they are ashamed.
In a recent essay in a secular-oriented Jewish weekly, a woman describes a modern re-enactment of this tale. Her faith in God is shattered when she reads the book Cosmos and discovers a “mind-defying universe where distances are so vast that they are measured in light years.”
She is sorry to have read it because now she knows “God’s terrible secret, that this universe is large, and that He pounds out worlds like matzo balls, as many as He pleases, without so much as glancing at Earth.”
Though she had once felt close to God, she no longer knows how to integrate a personal God into her world.
“I tried to understand God,” she writes. “I mean, we humans have always wanted a God that is all-great and all-powerful, but not quite like that. Just enough so we could pretend He is a lot like us and we are enough like Him, and that the universe is not much larger than our minds.”
The god she had created in her own image has been shattered.
The loss of her innocence is not unlike the loss of innocence we all experience as we travel from childhood to adulthood. Once upon a time, we knew that our parents were all knowing and all powerful, that they loved us more than anything, and that we were perfect in their eyes. We knew good people were rewarded and bad people were punished so they would mend their ways. We knew God had created the world and that He listened to our prayers.
And then one day, sudden as a death, we lost our innocence. We learned that our parents were not perfect and neither were we; that truth, if it existed, would not be simple, but convoluted and twisted and complex. We no longer knew if we mattered in this unfathomable world, and how God could really know us or wish to do so.
Like Adam, like Eve, like countless people who have crossed this earth, we taste the fruit and are banished from Eden.
But that is not the end of the story. All of our history is a journey to find redemption and recapture what was lost.
We cannot remain childish in our understanding but we pursue always the wish to be childlike in our knowledge. While a simplistic faith cannot sustain us, we still seek a place where our faith is simple.
There is a chassidic tale of an ignorant shepherd boy who came to the synagogue and, unable to read the prayers, pierced the heaven with his heartfelt cries and whistles. We do not envy his ignorance. And yet no matter how sophisticated and subtle our understanding, we long to be able to utter a prayer as sincere as his shepherd’s call.
The true Jewish “coming of age story” is not about loss, but about search. The search for a teacher, for a mentor, for a deeper and stronger faith – one as sure and unquestioning as the faith of a child, and yet bold enough, brave enough, to heal our fragmented world.
Perhaps that is why the Jewish New Year begins in the fall. As the gold and glitter of summer dims and fades, as the days grow shorter and the leaves crumble, there is a death of innocence. And yet from amidst the death, new life springs forth.
The shofar is simple ram’s horn, an instrument without subtlety or gradation. The sound, say the chassidic masters, is like the call of a child. It is blown on Rosh Hashanah in a rhythmic sequence. First a tekiah – a long, simple cry. Then the shevarim, a broken call, with three shorter blasts. Then the teruah, with nine staccato sounds, like a sob. And finally a longer tekiah, which goes on and on with a slow exhaling of breath.