Tel Aviv-learn by night

I started thinking about this post almost two weeks ago so although Shavuot is over, it is still on my mind.

It’s Erev Shavuot. On this night it is the custom to study till daylight. Some say it is a cabalistic tradition, maybe that’s the source for the reason we dress in white or it could be,to symbolize purity in preparation of getting the Torah.

I have an image in my head of kids at a kibbutz seated on a wagon singing about the new harvest. In Hebrew it’s called Bikurim which has the same root as the word for morning, “Boker”. I wonder if studying all night till sunrise is also connected to the custom on learning all night.

I am in Tel Aviv. It is Saturday; Shavuot starts tonight. When I grew up there was not much to do during Shabbat. Stores and restaurants were closed, but over the last 35 years things have changed. Movie theaters, restaurants, galleries are now open. But with all these changes there is  still a feeling of Shabbat as no one goes to work and the streets are less busy with traffic. The beaches are filled with families and the promenade looks like a track field full of walkers and bikers .You can also spot a chasid going to shul.

I met friends for lunch  and we chose to see a movie that came out  about the Settler Movement. I was astonished to discover how this movement, which started with a small group of thirty people, grew over the next 40 years to a staggering number of 400,000.  The Settler Movement which is a critical and important issue to the well being of the State of Israel began, we learn, with a forced agreement by a small group of religious people who chose to make a point and live in the West Bank right after it was occupied by the Israeli army in 1967.

This Agreement was signed by Shimon Peres of the Labor Movement. When Menahem Begin became prime minister in 1977, he issued, with the help of Arik Sharon, massive building approvalIMG_1117s to continue and develop the area.  It is an ideological movement but many who live in the West Bank do so for financial reasons. I have not  lived in Israel during this period so it was informative to me  and answered some questions and filled the gaps on some facts. I am not sure a solution can be found. It will have to be a compromise. There are 400,000 people living over the “Green Line” and I cannot imagine asking them to move to other parts of Israel, whether it be the North or South. I believe that we have to start by building trust between the Jews and Arabs who live side by side and enjoy the same sunrise and sunsets.  (an interview with the film director)

As the sun went down, we sat to eat the Shavuot meal of blintzes and cheese cake.

The Tel Aviv Municipality sponsored many “tikunim” or studies for the evening of Shavuot. I chose the one at the pluralistic congregation of Beit Daniel. The subject was: “What tomorrow will bring?”. It was 10 pm when I walked into the crowded sanctuary of the synagogue. I heard the author Yair Sachar talk about his book “The Third” about the building and destruction of the Third Temple. An imaginary tale of a contemporary building and destruction of the Temple using the belief in the return of the monarchy as a metaphor for a uprising by an army elitist commander unit. Well, I can not say it was a promising future but everyone is entitled to his opinion. The next lecture was by the author Yochi Brandes who talked about Rabbi Akiva.

She talked about her most recent novel, “Akiva’s Orchard,” Yochi Brandes spins a brilliant chapter out of the incident in Beni Brak, familiar from the Passover Haggadah, when five rabbis study ToIMG_1128rah all night until their students announce it’s time for the morning prayers. In Brandes’ take, the night is not about interpretative one-upsmanship, but rather is the very moment the bery format and content of the Peach Seder was determined. Shavuot is 49 days after we read the Haggadah. She raised the question of how Rabbi Akiva could emerge out of the Pardes (orchard) unharmed yet was part of the horrific decision of the Bar Kochba revolt. Yochi who comes from an orthodox upbringing has a gift of retailing biblical stories or creating bibliographies around the figures in Jewish history. It was a fascinating lecture and I am sure to read her books


It is now after midnight. The synagogue is still full; some are singing in the yard, some take a cup of tea or coffee. The night is not over. They are planning to stay until sunrise. I am going home to sleep.

Some say Tel Aviv is unlike any other place. Tonight I could see a glimpse of a future that can bring peace. Looking at the Torah from a cultural and not only religious perspective can unite us all.

I am back home. In today’s times there is an article about the denial of the” Rabanut” (the high rabbinical authority in Israel) to approve an orthodox conversion by an American rabbi. I ask myself is this where we are heading? Let us learn from Rabbi Akiva’s mistake and learn to sit together in harmony.





I am in the west and my heart is in the east

Thursday, July 31, I flew back home. It was hard to leave.

When I landed, I learned that a ceasefire will start Friday at 8am, but by the time I sit down to sum up my “adventures” this past week, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a tunnel creating a diversion and one Israeli soldier was kidnapped and two soldiers died.  All that ended the ceasefire which lasted maybe one hour.

Last Saturday another ceasefire was declared. Early morning while waiting for my friend to go for a walk it felt calm….

The streets are empty of cars, you can hear the birds. At 8am you can spot some people going to shul with their talitot on and some walk in their running shoes. It’s the 19th day since operation “Protective Edge” or in hebrew “Tzuk Eitan” started, and as a ceasefire was declared since 8am the optimist in me is looking forward to a quiet day, a true Shabbath.

My friend chose the route. We walked through Rothchild blvd to Neve Tzedek then the beach promenade. Usually by 9am the promenade would have been packed, but not this morning. We did see some surfers in the water and bike riders. We finished the loop through Dizengoff Street and Nordau Blvd. I decided to visit my cousin who just moved from the Arava (Negev Desert) to Michmoret, a yishuv by the sea. His son is in a special unit operating in Gaza. They haven’t seen him for six weeks. To the excitement of new home there is a layer of anxiety. We all hope for a safe return for all the soldiers.

The day is quiet, no rockets, who knows maybe this time the cease fire would hold..

In the afternoon I met a young man who spent the last 12 days in Israel as part of Taglit (Birthright). He was not fazed by the situation. He felt safe and traveling to Masada, the Western Wall and the Golan Heights gave him a sense of the country. He said that he was confident with his Jewish identity but now after the trip he connects to the country and plans to come back. That brought a ray of sunshine to know that the magic is here no matter how scary it might seem when reading the paper.

I heard that there was going to be a demonstration in Kikar Rabin this evening. The “Left ” were going to demand a ceasefire. I don’t believe we are ready for unconditional ceasefire, all the humanitarians ceasefires were kept by Israel and were broken by the Hamas who kept sending rockets towards Israel.

Arriving to Kikar Rabin we saw people holding signs that said Jews and Arabs don’t want to be enemies. But mostly people were talking to each other, you could hardly hear the speakers and no one around me knew who they were.


The municipality building was lit with the Star of David


There were police guarding the demonstration and on the other side of the Kikar the people on the “Right” were holding Israeli flags and contesting the left. The whole demonstration lasted 2 hours and it was over. On the news they said that there were clashes but I did not see any.

All week I felt the unity; unity in the government, unity among the people, no matter what one’s political orientation. It felt that the whole country is united against the evil Hamas. There is one mission we stand for and it is to make sure that the threat of the tunnels will be obliterated.

Shabbath is over, a rocket was shot towards Ashkelon. Officially there is a ceasefire but again it was broken.

I planned to take my mom on a retreat, away from constantly watching TV. There is a new hotel spa only 35 minutes from Tel Aviv so although rockets continue falling and fighting goes on in the south , life must go on.

Two days of pampering worked, my mom was able to relax.
Monday night at 2:30am there was an alert siren in Tel Aviv, at least we escaped that.


Wednesday morning I spend with Justin who works for JDC visiting an elderly center in Bat Yam. I was impressed at the activities . Bat Yam has a mostly elderly population and these days it’s important to make them feel safe.


Wednesday evening my friend invited me to a play by an Israeli playwright who is known for his macabre humor. The play’s name is “We all want to live”. Before the play started to a full theatre the main actor came out and gave us instructions of where to go if there will be a siren. A sobering reminder that although we are attending a cultural event we cannot forget what’s happening outside the theatre hall.

I am taking the 4pm El-AL flight back to the States. It was not easy to leave. I did not want to leave my family, and friends. I did not want to leave my country . Life goes on but you can sense the anxiety, you can sense the uncertainty. Reading the newspapers I felt like many other Israelis …. isolated. I felt that the world does not get it. The world does not understand.

I know that I am rambling. I know I am emotional.
I pray for Peace. I Pray for the end of the conflict. I pray that all the soldiers will be back.

Some statistics are in order, Operation Protective Edge is on it ‘s 26th day.

2,874 rockets shot towards Israel, Hamas claims to have 20,000 rockets.

It is not entirely clear how many tunnels there are but Israel estimates around 50

63 Israeli soldiers died since the beginning of the operation.

For more info check : , Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


TO LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Fort and more- Shabbath in Jodphur

This is the third post in the past 24 hours. I have so much to share so forgive me if it is too much and I hope you will enjoy the ride.
Being on a bus for 7 hours for the ride from Udaphur to Jodphur was not too bad, we watched a great movie called “outsourced”, stopped for Chai at a nice spa and soon after arrived at the blue city.

There are almost 2 million people living in this city. The Mehrangarth is a fort that towers over the city. From one side one can see the old city with it’s blue color buildings, they say its the color of kings, on the other side the new city spreads.
The fort was build form stone and the intricate work is unbelivable. The carving are made in stone but it gives the illusion of carving in wood. Once entering there are displays of miniature paintings, textiles and wall painting which are unbelievable in their intricacy.

I treated myself to an ayurvedic massage that started with half an hour oil pored over my head and ended with a 10 minutes steam. I came out rejuvenated and ready for Shabbath.








Shabbath at the Ranbanka Palace hotel started with mindfulness two and half hour meditation lead by Dina. We meditated to the מודה אני ושמע ישראל , we practice walking meditation and did an exercise with a partner asking each other- what do you really think multiple times, we continues after lunch and rest into a two hour yoga.
The combination of meditation-yoga-india worked after a week of intensive travel we all needed to recharge.