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November 25, 2015 / 13 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘family’

Desperately Craving Normal

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Note: This article was written on Friday, December 7th, 2012.

Normal is that status where life just is. Normal is when you don’t hear sirens in your head, listen for ambulances, imagine the phone ringing. When your country is at war, when your son is a soldier, when you have friends and family living in areas where rockets are falling, you crave normal to a level that I doubt most normal people can understand.


There are so many things that aren’t normal about life here. Having a pile of gas masks in a corner of the room isn’t normal. Buying 12 bottles of water to take to your son’s unit isn’t normal and when you end up not delivering them so they are in your house – normal would be to drink them. Not normal is to take six of them and put them in a room that has been specially built to withstand missiles and explosions.

No, having a bomb shelter in your home isn’t normal either.

Normal is a day like today – and they come so rarely here. The sun is shining. The sweet challah dough is rising on the counter. I made a blueberry pie and soon I’ll be making a spinach/broccoli casserole and a carrot casserole. That’s normal. The soup is boiling on the stove and the house is filled with the scent of that and the finished chicken cooling on the table.


Tonight my daughter and her husband and baby will be staying over – Elie and Lauren will come over, along with Lauren’s cousin, who is a soldier. Technically, he’s a lone soldier because his parents live in the States, but he’s got Lauren, who is as close as any sister could be; he’s got an adopted family near Jerusalem, another nearer to the center of the company.

Davidi is home this weekend, though right now he’s taking a shift on the ambulance squad. Chanukah is coming Saturday night – we’ll light the first candle.

I’ll make the potato pancakes my mother-in-law taught me to make. We’ll sit around and talk and be a family and somewhere in all that normal, I’ll push away the thought that we have to work so hard to reach normal, it just isn’t normal.

Aliza told me that when the siren went off, she cried. The children went running to shelter and she was frightened. I don’t remember what we were talking about, why she mentioned it but we all have this poison inside ourselves that we have to release.

On Sunday, I’m going with a group of women to Netivot. It’s a closed group from all over Israel and we share our mornings and our thoughts and meet a few times a year. I missed the last meeting, decided I really wanted to go to this one and so we are stealing a day and traveling to Netivot, so close to Gaza. There, we’ll go shopping to help the local community.

I don’t know what I’ll buy – I don’t usually go shopping on Sundays…I’ll find something. I’ll go there to that beautiful city and I’ll buy something and most of all, I’ll crave normal. I won’t listen for a siren or an announcement that there’s an incoming missile.

It’s too soon, anyway. The Arabs still have what to get from this short period of quiet. They are sitting back and letting the world condemn Israel for whatever the latest complaint is about. That’s okay – that’s kind of normal too. What would a week be without some nation somewhere finding fault in what we do – ignoring all that others do?

Syria is about to fire chemical weapons at its own people; Egypt is hounding demonstrators in the street. There is unease in so many places – perhaps, perhaps I’m wrong and Israel is the most normal country in the world.

At least we find islands of peace each week; at least we find ways to simulate normal. Yes, I have a bomb shelter in my house – but it’s also got a bed in there and an extra freezer, some bookshelves, tons of books. It looks like a normal room – it’s even painted pink. The only sign that it isn’t a normal room comes from the door as you enter, and the second metal window outside.

I haven’t managed to open the metal yet. Elie and his father quickly ran to slam it closed when the first siren went off and it has been closed since then. Maybe I’ll know normal is back when one of us opens those metal shutters?

Tonight, I’ll light the Shabbat candles; tomorrow we’ll begin lighting the Chanukah candles. I guess that is the normal that is Israel.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

US President Barack Obama Issues a Statement for Hanukkah

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

President Barack Obama’s statement for Hanukkah:

Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah around the world.

This Hanukkah season we remember the powerful story of the Maccabees who rose up to liberate their people from oppression. Upon discovering the desecration of their Temple, the believers found only enough oil to light the lamp for one night. And yet it lasted for eight.

Hanukkah is a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but it is also an opportunity for people of all faiths to recognize the common aspirations we share. This holiday season, let us give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, and remain mindful of those who are suffering. And let us reaffirm our commitment to building a better, more complete world for all.

From our family to the Jewish Community around the world, Chag Sameach.

Rama Burshtein: A Window Into Her World

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

“Fill the Void” is the title of Rama Burshtein’s film that played to critical acclaim at the recent Toronto International Film Festival and earned seven Ophir Awards — the Israeli Oscars — including one for best film and best director, and has become Israel’s entry into the 2012 Oscars’ foreign language category.

What is this film that has generated so much professional interest?

Amazingly, it’s the story of an average family in a strictly religious, charedi, community in Tel Aviv. It focuses on the family’s 18 year-old-daughter Shira who is in the throws of her first attempts at arranged dating. In the process, unbeknownst to him, Shira spots her intended in the dairy section of the supermarket and a spark is ignited, setting off preparations for the wedding. Then tragedy strikes: Shira’s older sister Esther dies in childbirth, and the family, crushed by grief, delays the wedding. As Esther’s husband, Yochai, is encouraged to remarry a widow living in Belgium, Shira’s mother, desperate to keep her only grandchild in the country, pleads with Shira to marry Yochai instead, and become mother to her older sister’s child.

It is a moving but simple story whose uniqueness lies in that it is a film about charedi life directed by a charedi woman, exposing the true nature of that world for a secular audience. “I felt it was time to tell a story from within, and say something that comes from really living the life,” Rama Burshtein, member of the Tel Aviv charedi community, said. “That’s what I felt was important: to just tell a story that has no connection with the regular subjects that you deal with when you talk about the Orthodox world. People don’t know much about this world, so it’s not a question of celebration or criticism, it’s a window into this world.”

The film offers a rare glimpse into the Orthodox way of life, its customs and traditions, but also deals with the wider themes of relationships and family pressures.

Mrs. Burshtein, a native New Yorker who grew up in Tel Aviv, became religious

at age 25, shortly after graduating from Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel Film and Television School.

“I love this world, I chose it, I was not born in it,” she told reporters.

In preparation for the filming, she spoke with members of her own community – women who had married their sisters’ widowers – and found a surprising phenomenon: the marriages contracted for the sake of fulfilling religious and family obligations evolved into relationships of love.

“At the beginning of the research, it sounded like it was impossible to understand how it works,” Burshtein said. “And then at the end of it, it was like the natural thing to do, to marry within the family.”

With the backing of her rabbi, Ms.Burshtein began production in January 2011 in a tiny Tel Aviv apartment, not far from the home she shares with her husband and four children. Her three sons and daughter, all in their teens, are enthusiastic supporters of her work. On all occasions Rama takes time to express her thanks to them and to her loyal husband, a highly respected public figure in the charedi world.

By opening a window to the charedi world I believe Rama Burshtein, even without the predicted Academic Award, has done a great benefit for Jewish life in Israel which is in dire need in improvement.

The Story Of Chanukah: ‘I Think I Can’

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Chanukah is just about upon us and Jews across the planet are looking forward to family gatherings, delicious food (you can’t feel too guilty eating oily latkes and high carb donuts on the chag – hey, it’s practically a mitzvah to do so); giving and receiving gifts and in general celebrating our survival – our spiritual continuance as God-fearing Jews. (Our physical survival is an event we acknowledge on Purim.)

Chanukah commemorates two unlikely events – the triumph of the Jews over the Greeks and their pagan culture, and the lasting of a small jar of kosher oil – meant to burn in the Temple menorah just a day – for an extra seven days until more kosher oil could be produced.

Anyone betting on a rag-tag of Jews, led not by a trained warrior, but by a Kohen, a peaceful cleric, to defeat a vastly superior armed Greek forces would have been viewed as crazy.

So too, anyone betting the Temple oil would burn longer than 24 hours.

But, despite the mind-boggling odds of either event happening, the Jews were not deterred and went ahead with their plans. They had faith, both in themselves and in Hashem.

It is said that God helps those who helps themselves. But the person has to take the initiative, that first crucial step.

Many of us are familiar with the popular children’s story of the little engine that takes on an undertaking that bigger, stronger, more “qualified” engines refuse to accept. They are realistic in their refusal to attempt something they feel is extremely difficult, if not impossible to do. They are convinced they will fail, so why bother?

The little engine, however, despite the fact he was not designed to pull a large train, thinks he just might be able to do so. At the very least, he will attempt this formidable challenge. If he doesn’t try, then for sure he won’t succeed.

Fuelled by a positive attitude and great optimism, he is willing to give it his best shot – even if the laws of physics are not in his favour.

There is a life-enhancing lesson here that we should take to heart: Do not let the facts on the ground ever deter you from trying to reach a goal.

It might be amusing for some to discover (like I did) that this message of “going for it,” despite the “facts” staring you in the face, was often brought forth decades ago in the very popular science-fiction series, “Star Trek.” Frequently, the chief engineer of the spaceship exploring the galaxy would be ordered by the captain “to get us out of here.” Depending on the theme of the episode, the spaceship would be in imminent danger of being destroyed by an exploding asteroid; swallowed up by a space monster the size of a planet; about to be blown up to smithereens by alien forces or trapped forever in another dimension – unless it immediately went to warp speed and high-tailed it out of there.

Often the captain would tell the chief engineer that he had several minutes to repair the disabled warp drive. And the chief engineer, in a reproachful voice, would tell the captain that he needed at least a few minutes to do so – that he “couldn’t change the laws of physics.” But he would always try, and he always succeeded.

Of course this was television, and a happy ending was necessary for the show to continue. But the lesson to be gleaned here, as exemplified by the story of Chanukah, is that you can’t let pessimism stop you from taking on a difficult challenge, you can’t admit defeat before you even attempt what seems likely to be futile.

You may be faced with seemingly insurmountable odds: you are an older single; you have a physical handicap; you have learning disabilities; you have kids off the derech; you have severe shalom bayit issues, you have been out of work for a long time. There is no shortage of problems to tackle and goals to achieve. But it is crucial to make the effort to “fix” the situation.

Often multiple attempts to resolve your issues end in failure. You want to give up – no more putting yourself in an uncomfortable, even demeaning situation, like continuing to ask friend and casual acquaintance alike if they can think of a shidduch for you or a job. Or going for marital counselling- again, or for yet another invasive, costly fertility treatment.

Enlightened Reform Movement Equally Disappointed in Israel and the Palestinians

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

The term “Two states for two people” is beginning to emerge these days as a definition of the Jews of Israel and their recently related Jews of the United States. Yesterday we were treated to a story about an Upper West Side synagogue rejoicing in the upgrading of the Palestinian Liberation Organization to a UN member state, and today our brothers and sisters across the mighty ocean are joining with the rest of the so called “civilized nations” in condemning plans for Jews to build homes in their homeland.

Are we even related any more?

Here’s the press release as it appears on the URJ website:

Reform Movement Focuses on Follow Up To UN Vote Upgrading Palestinian Status

New Policy Statement: Condemns Palestinians for Unilateral UN Action; Calls for American Leadership; Opposes Immediate Punitive Responses; Calls on Israel to Halt Plans for Expansion in West Bank E1 area

In a new policy statement adopted by the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the nation’s largest Jewish denomination addressed the full array of issues flowing from the decision of the UN to upgrade the official status of the Palestinians.

The statement, adopted overwhelmingly after a full debate by more than 200 board members at yesterday’s meeting of the Union of Reform Judaism’s North American Board of Trustees, “Condemn[s] the Palestinian Authority for the unilateral decision to seek upgraded status at the United Nation as counterproductive to the cause of peace, and express[es] … deep concern to those countries that supported the upgraded status, and to those who abstained.”

The resolution, which is available here, was supported by the Zionist arms of the Reform Movement – ARZA and ARZA Canada. The Central Conference of American Rabbis fully endorsed the resolution today.

The resolution “Commend[s] the U.S. and Canada for their forceful and consistent efforts to prevent consideration of, and for their votes against, the General Assembly’s decision to upgrade the Palestinian’s status. It further urges the “United States and Canada to act assertively in facilitating a return to negotiations and to take other steps that would strengthen the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution.”

The URJ and the CCAR also reiterated longstanding concern about Israeli settlement building, and expressed opposition to the Israeli government’s plans to move forward with building in the critical E1 area. The resolutions note that “Settlements in E1—the area connecting Jerusalem to a city which is one of the larger Israeli settlements—would split the Ramallah region off from Bethlehem, effectively cutting the West Bank in two and making a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible.” It further said that “Building there makes progress toward peace far more challenging, and is difficult to reconcile with the Government of Israel’s stated commitment to a two-state solution. At the same time, we recognize that this week’s action–beginning the permitting process for new settlement–is only the first step in a long, and by no means inevitable, process.”

There you go, even handed, polite, very concerned. I wish all the other gentiles were this nice to us when they sold us down the river.

Because this certainly doesn’t read like something your brothers or sisters would write when you’re in the midst of being attacked by the entire world, practically.

The same URJ website features a fig leaf in the form of a fund raiser to support terror victims in Israel.:

We Stand With Israel

During this difficult time, we support the people of Israel

The Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel Terror Relief Fund is a vital way to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel at this critical time. Jewish Federations have committed up to $5 million to the Israel Terror Relief Fund for the immediate needs of the people of Israel, especially in the South, through both existing reserve funds and new contributions from Federations.

It’s nice to get a gift from America, and $5 million will go a long way towards repairing the billions in damage – assuming URJ doesn’t keep a cut to cover their “costs.” But they could keep their lovely money and instead behave like family.

Here’s how it’s done in a family: when a relative is in pain – if you can’t support him outright, and that’s understandable – at least shut the bloody hell up. Don’t go preaching to people living in Ma’ale Adumim how much better off they would be once the trucks come to pick them up to make room for a contiguous Palestinian state. Shut up and let your family be.

US State Dep’t: Alan Gross Begins Fourth Year of Unjust Imprisonment

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department, released the following statement on Monday:

“Tomorrow Alan Gross will begin his fourth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba. He was arrested on December 3, 2009 and later given a 15-year prison sentence by Cuban authorities for simply facilitating communications between Cuba’s Jewish community and the rest of the world.

“Mr. Gross is a 63-year-old husband, father, and dedicated professional with a long history of providing assistance and support to underserved communities in more than 50 countries.

“Since his arrest, Mr. Gross has lost more than 100 pounds and suffers from severe degenerative arthritis that affects his mobility, and other health problems. His family is anxious to evaluate whether he is receiving appropriate medical treatment, something that can best be determined by having a doctor of his own choosing examine him.

“We continue to ask the Cuban Government to grant Alan Gross’s request to travel to the United States to visit his 90-year-old mother, Evelyn Gross, who is gravely ill. This is a humanitarian issue.

“The Cuban government should release Alan Gross and return him to his family, where he belongs.”

Israeli Court Allows Country’s Most Celebrated Gay Couple to Divorce

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

In a precedent decision, which will undoubtedly be considered good news for all Israeli same-sex couples, especially those who aren’t getting along so much any more, a family court in Ramat Gan allowed the couple Prof. Uzi Even and Dr. Amit Kama, both men, to divorce, Ynet reports.

In the ruling, first of its kind, the judge determined that the family court is “the natural forum, the proper forum in which to hear this kind of a divorce case, since the rabbinical court does not recognize same-sex marriages and views them as sinful.” The judge further ruled that the rabbinical court is too “foreign and artificial a forum” to discuss the issue of same-sex relations.

Prof. Even, 64, is a former Meretz MK, and head of the School of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University. Dr. Amit Kama, 44, is a professor of Communications at Emek Yizrael College. The two met 19 years ago, and since they live as a couple. Their struggles for the rights of same-sex couples received wide coverage in the local Media.

Even was the first openly gay man elected to the Knesset. The two have adopted Yossi, a 30-year-old man who had been living with them for almost 14 years. That adoption—although largely symbolic, given their son’s age—was also a ground breaking family cort case.

For the record, when Even and Kama met, almost two decades ago, homosexual relations were prohibited by law, and they could be subject to ten years in prison – although that was not very likely.

Now, having been the most celebrated Israeli gay couple, the two decided to go their separate ways (no idea which one of them broke the news to Yossi).

Professor Even said there was no legal way for him to turn from being married to being divorced. “This is an absurd situation and I fought it for three years,” he said. “I met someone else and I live with him. He is a foreign national and the Interior Ministry wants to deport him, which was hurting me, because I could not go on with my life without solving the problem of my divorce. They would not give him resident status, only a tourist visa, because I’m already married and there was no legal way for me to get a divorce.”

According to Even, when he approached the rabbinic court, which is in charge of marriages and divorces of Jewish residents, “it started a holy raucous. They refused to record our documents, receive the fee, schedule a meeting. They told us to wait. So we waited a few days. Finally I had enough and I took back the suit, and filed it instead with family court.”

Even suggests that the court’s decision could serve as a precedent not just for the gay community, but for the public at large. “Now we’ll wait and see if the Ministry of the Interior will endorse the decision. I’m doubtful that they will be enlightened about it.”

“Why are they having so much trouble changing my marital status? Why are they forcing me to remain married to someone I no longer live with?”

Even and Kama were married in Canada and their status was changed to married by the Israeli interior ministry. Their marriage hit the rocks back in 2009 and they’ve been living separately since. The two have signed a separation agreement which was accepted by family court in 2011. The couple then requested that the court recommend to the interior ministry to change their status from married to single.

The family court judge indeed recommended the status change, but the Ministry of the Interior refused to change the status based solely on the signed agreement, arguing they had to approach the rabbinical court. But the rabbinical court rejected their request for a ruling saying it did not have the legal framework within which to discuss it.

The family court judge who granted the couple the divorce wrote in his ruling that the various branches of the civil court are the natural forum for such a case, where there exists a long list of decisions determining the specific rights and obligations of same-sex couples.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israeli-court-allows-israels-most-celebrated-gay-couple-to-divorce/2012/12/03/

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