Shirut Leumi, National Service in the Arab Sector

This year has seen a continued growth of National Service participation among Arab youths within their communities. Akko has been awarded for the exceptional services offered by it's Arab youths in their dedication to their community.

I can't think of anything more important to emphasize than this achievement. Many Israelis and foreign onlookers are quick to criticize the community service offered by youths within the Jewish sector.

"Why don't they do more for all the residents of the entire city?"

I have heard this question before. This question implies that a teen who works in a Jewish school has neglected the needs of the Arab sector. This question also shows that it is being asked by a person who doesn't see the larger picture, the scope of need within a city quite like Akko. It is layered and complex and certainly not as simple as if one population is being served than another must be neglected.

I have often wondered how people could believe that a single solution would possibly fit for an entire city and it's many needs. There is no such magical one-size fits all solution to societal distress. It takes many partners to care for an entire city and it's varied population.

The rising number of Arab youths concerned about their own communities and volunteering to better the situations of children and families in need is exemplary. Its scope of impact, creating safe afternoon options for 70 children 5 days a week, is a service this city is truly in need of.

See the full article in Hebrew here

YBA Virtual Gala is Here!

Actually... it's here.

We're building towards soemthing big to help kids in the city of Akko. We're saving money on the annual dinner budget and taking it to the Web! Join us, pass it on and most importantly...

Spread the Love; Ahavat Yisrael!

Top Secret Preview

Here's the big exciting project Yeshivot Bnei Akiva is letting me work on. This was filmed in a single hour all around Akko and with a plain digital camera. Using only free applications and open-source programs I'm attempting to build a new approach to the Annual Dinner. More details to follow.

The Hesder Obligation, a Plan for Crisis

Everyone knows that the best way to prepare for the worst is just that, plan for the worst.

Here in Akko, during the Second Lebanon War, many of the residents were left stranded in their homes for days and days and days on end. All normal life ceased. Stores were open sporadically, basic food staples were scarce and tensions ran extremely high as air raid sirens blared daily for hours on without much respite from this tense situation. For school children who had planned on a least a uneventful summer break, the war's toll was much more costly than the lost hours of childhood vacation.

During this war, as was true also during Operation Cast Lead, the citizens left in ther bomb shelters in fear of their lives were greatly aided by those who in the face of danger served their communities to the best of their abilities.

This great compassion and ability to serve others is a quality widely recognized in the many Hesder students across the nation. They learn, they serve, they are community leaders. We owe them a great deal for their dedication to Am Yisrael.

Israel's Civil Defense has recognized this natural resource and has created their own emergency plan for the "next case of all-out war, natural disasters, large IDF operations, and similar national emergencies." - Arutz Sheva

Nobody likes thinking of what the next crisis, disaster, operation or war will look like, what terrible form it will take or its toll on our citizens. The best way to save lives in a time of crisis is to be prepared.

Here's the original report.

From the Archives: Trouble in the Gan is good news.

(This was first written about a year ago but seemed applicable enough today)

When I began to inquire about what school would be like for my daughter, I heard this:

"Make sure she speaks Hebrew in the Gan. Kids can be so mean. They'll call her Russian."

The Israelis were clearly concerned that our background as Russian-American-Religious would be a constant hindrance to what we, in Israel, term the "Chevre."

Speaking mostly Russian, my child entered Gan. After a week she was transformed into a singing, conversing, Israeli child. To those concerned that her linguistic preferences might keep her on the out's in the schoolyard, a proud parental moment presented itself.

Returning home, I found my 3 year old looking slightly stormy. My husband explained that she was apprehended by her Gannenet. The Chevre were caught wetting toilet paper and tossing it at the wall. 5 children total.

Clearly unacceptable. I thought of her sitting in the "Meditation Corner" being disciplined for this foray off the track of playful impishness towards preschool monster, and yet, couldn't help but be proud of this tiny person's ability to triumph and become a true Israeli child.

The odds are against her.

Friends enjoy cheese on white bread, she eats peanut butter and jelly packed in reusable pouches. When they receive candy in class (and there is always candy), she has fruit. Other children bring baggies of goodies for their birthday, her birthday in Elul included over 20 handmade fairy-castle-glitter invites and two total attendees.

In review, she is a totally Israeli child, her 3 year old Chutzpah is proof. I'm the one a bit out of place. I'm the immigrant, not her.

Za'atar the key to Middle East Peace?

Although I knew of government actions to protect the relatively scarse supply of Zaatar in Israel (mostly the Galilee) ...

Did you know that wild Zaatar is being picked to near extinction? That illegal picking of the plant used as a dried spice and a healthful tea are punishable offenses? That Za'atar is so rare outside of Israel that Jordan and other Arab nations have created a substitute for *Za'atar made mostly of salt, parsley, and sesame?

Yes, Yes and Yes.
I see Za'atar from my home window and often can spot groups of women gathering it fresh from the fields. The price of actual Za'atar outside of Israel (and not a remix of Za'atar like flavors) can fetch a pretty penny.

True connoisseurs of Middle Eastern cuisine know the difference and the growers who deal in this plant can sell out their crops for years in advance to companies supplying what many consider the most basic of Israeli seasonings. Cheeses, breads, hummus, salads, veggies, pizzas and more all seem to be laden with Za'atar. I doubt there are very many Israelis who go a full day without encountering this aromatic mixture in some form or another.

How does this create world peace? How about a trade?

Normalized relations between nations and we'll start forking over this precious commodity.

See the second half of this article

*Za'atar itself is an actual plant -Hyssop from the bible- but has come to mean a more general combination of seasonings throughout the Middle East where it is either in short spply or unabtainable.