Israel

Today is our last day in Israel, and we are making sure to enjoy every minute! We had our last gigantic hotel breakfast at Hotel Yearim, loaded the buses and headed off to Har Herzl, Israel’s military cemetery in Jerusalem. Our three soldiers wore their uniforms as per protocol. We started our tour of the cemetery by learning about the branches of the military and the various uniforms.

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Original article published on The Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Post Children’s Articles.

The New York Knicks hosted Maccabi Tel Aviv at Madison Square Garden. The game helped raise funds to keep the Tower of Light shining bright for children in need.

Sport brings the world together. Whether it is the Olympic Games, the World Cup or even just a group of friends watching the game, sport has the incredible power to make everyone stop, drop their political, ideological, social or any other agendas and just enjoy the symphony of skill that is played out before their eyes. The cherry on top is when the fans come together not only for the spectacle, but to do a good deed as well.

Late in 2009, Madison Square Garden in New York City was packed on a Sunday afternoon for a most unusual basketball game. 14,600 fans came out for a pre-season exhibition game featuring the home team, The New York Knicks of the NBA and special guests Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, of the Euroleague. The Garden crowd was split between Knicks fans, wearing white, orange and blue and Maccabi Tel Aviv fans, dressed in yellow and blue. Thousands of people of all ages and from all walks of life came out to show support for an organization in Israel called Migdal Ohr (Tower of Light), the largest orphanage in the world.

Fourteen year old Ben, a New York City native clad in his David Lee jersey, is a Knicks season ticket holder. He and his father Gil came out to see the game and his favorite Knicks players, David Lee and Danillo Gallinari, before the actual season began. I think the Knicks are going to win, said Ben, who also noted, European basketball is rougher and slower than American basketball.

Twenty-something Mendy Fuchs, a student in a Brooklyn Yeshiva, was wearing his yellow Maccabi Tel Aviv shirt and sitting in a section of Israeli and American yeshiva students, all of whom were dressed in yellow to support the Israeli team. Maccabi Tel Aviv will win! screamed Mendy.

Since the event was a benefit to raise money for Migdal Ohr, the game was anything but typical! Boys and men with kippot and women with covered hair were everywhere. Bobby Alter and his five kids, from Englewood, New Jersey, came out to show support for Migdal Ohr. What they do for children is amazing. It is unfortunate how the children start out, but with the help of Migal Ohr they thrive and give back to the Land of Israel, Bobby said amongst the screaming fans.

During the game, the scoreboard showed video footage of Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, founder of Migdal Ohr and recipient of the 2004 Israel Prize, embracing former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and being praised by current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The scoreboard also invited fans to the upcoming Jewish Heritage Night at MSG. Madison Square Garden seems to be sprouting a true Jewish neshoma (soul) these days. It was a pleasure to see.

Meanwhile, the concession stands had special boxed lunches for sale. The chicken and avocado wrap, the knishes as well as the two other deli sandwiches were provided by a kosher restaurant known as Noah™s Ark. The boxes said, Packaged exclusively for The Rematch, a reference to the fact that this was the second time Maccabi Tel Aviv played the Knicks. The Knicks beat Maccabi 112-85 on Oct. 11, 2007, before the largest crowd ever in attendance at an MSG exhibition game.

The Maccabi players, in yellow shorts and blue practice jerseys, took the court first for shooting practice. The players were tired from their long flight from Israel the previous day. Giant starting forward D™or Fischer, who stands at 6 feet 11 inches (2.11m), is a strong defensive player who joined Maccabi after playing college basketball in the States and pro basketball for Poland, Germany and Belgium. Fischer was looking forward to the game. It is going to be a challenge, but playing an NBA team can only make you better and give you confidence against other European league teams, he said between shots.

Raviv Limonad, a 6.3 (1.9m) tall point guard said it was meragesh(emotional) and madhim (amazing) to be playing in the world famous Madison Square Garden. He pointed out that there are different rules in the NBA and in the European league. For one, according to NBA rules, quarters are two minutes longer than European quarters, and three points in the NBA are awarded for shots from further out than in the European league.

Center Yaniv Green also appreciated the historical significance of playing in MSG and knew it was going to be tough against the Knicks. He was right.

Following the exchange of gifts by Knicks and Maccabi players, the singing of Hatikvah by Beat Achon, a male acapella group and then The Star Spangled Banner, Maccabi got out to an early lead, which they held only briefly (2-0, then 4-0). At half time, the Knicks were up, 56- 35. The Knicks won 106-91, though several Maccabi players performed very well. Alan Anderson, who played briefly for the NBA Charlotte Bobcats, scored 20 points, and D or Fischer scored 19 points and had 16 rebounds.

The excitement in the stands, on the scoreboard, during half time and on the sidelines was just as impressive as the action on the court. Fans enthusiastically chanted Mac-Ca- Bee! The announcer welcomed former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and other dignitaries in attendance. Fans had an opportunity to cheer for their favorite song in Choose Your Tune. It was no big surprise that the Black Eyed Peas song, I Gotta Feeling, with their Mazel Tov lyrics won the crowd over. Rabbi Grossman came on the court during halftime, wearing his black hat, long black coat, and sporting a very long beard. He led the crowd in the chanting of Shema Yisrael and the singing of Am Yisrael Chai. Finally, Onlysimchas.com sponsored the t-shirt toss into the crowd.

Though Maccabi Tel Aviv did not come away victorious, the State of Israel was proudly represented. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed the game and most importantly, the incredible work of the Migdal Ohr organization was highlighted and given further support by the Jewish and wider communities. It really does pay to be a good sport.

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Original Article Published On The Washington Jewish Week

Doron Ben-Atar is difficult to place in a neat category. The former Macabi Tel Aviv basketball player was born in Israel, chairs the history department at Fordham University in New York, is a member of the school’s Middle East Studies and Women’s Studies programs and is working on his third play.

His Peace Warriors will premier July 10 at the Capital Fringe Festival in the District. The festival presents one-act plays, comedies, dramas, musicals, dance, puppetry, improvisation, clowns, hip-hop, jazz, poetry, mime and more through July 26.

Ben-Atar, of New Haven, Conn., describes Peace Warriors as “a dramatic exploration of the fashion of taking anti-Israel positions among the American intellectual elite.” In the play, four academics and one teenage girl “flaunt their peace activism. A visit from an old family friend sparks rivalries and hidden affairs.”

Ben-Atar wrote Peace Warriors “because we are living through a worrisome dramatic rise in global anti-Semitism. Leading the charge is the intellectual elite who are demonizing Israel and delegitimizing its existence.”

He reports on the situation on college campuses where professors “teach students that Israel is the new Nazi state, and that terrorism against Jewish targets in Israel and around the globe is a justifiable anti-colonial act of resistance,” and where Israeli academics are subject to boycotts and harassment.

Perhaps ironically, Ben-Atar is himself a member of “the peace camp” in Israel and is opposed to what he calls “the occupation” and “settlement policy.”

“But the conversation about this subject is reduced to a vile shrill,” reports Ben-Atar. “Settlers are the most demonized group in the world. Not to acknowledge their humanity and the life they live — that they live in constant threat — is not fair.”

He feels it is ironic that members of the peace camp know more Palestinians than “settlers,” whom they imagine are “beastly violent fascist fanatics.”

A call from the Hillel director at Yale University, requesting that Ben-Atar house a troupe of coexistence actresses, inspired the play. Ben-Atar recalls, “The Israeli Arab refused to stay at our house because she hated the Israeli activist and could not bear to be in the same house with her.”

Director Michael Behar notes, “This show is about coexistence, not only with others whose views may different, but with many elements in our own
person.”

Ben-Atar’s first play, Behave Yourself Quietly, based on the book he co-wrote with his mother, Roma Nutkiewicz Ben-Atar, about her experience at Auschwitz, was performed for one night in 2007 in New Haven. Ben-Atar’s next play is set at an old age home and looks at the question of “who are the real children?”

Another Jewish-themed show in the festival is Jay Nachman’s I’m Not Oedipus, a comedy about death, full of themes of religion, sex and rock ‘n’ roll. Publicity for the show by Nachman, public relations manager at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, describes it as “[a] cheery little tale about the death of the performer’s mother, laced with themes of religion, sex, loss, and rock & roll. The perfect show for anyone who has, or has ever had, a mother.”

Peace Warriors will be shown at Warehouse-Mainstage in the District on July 10 at 6pm, July 12 at 11am, July 23 at 9pm and July 25 at 1pm I’m Not Oedipus will be at the DC Arts Center on July 10 and July 11 at 9:15pm. All tickets are $15 (plus a one-time purchase of a $5 Fringe button) and can be purchased at http://www.capitalfringe.org or by calling 866-811-4111.

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“During the summer, the entire Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England learned about Israel in our Jewish Studies class, we wrote and performed a play about “The Case of the Missing Water,” and we enjoyed getting to know 40 plus members of the mishlochot (Israeli delegation). We were also sad to learn of deaths of Israeli soldiers during the War in Lebanon. We were a little worried that the trip wouldnt take place, but we had faith. Some parents even handed me deposit checks DURING the war! The trip was a dream come true. This was my third Tikvah Ramah Israel Trip, and the 10th trip to Israel in the history of the Tikvah Program. We enjoyed seeing places of historical significance, davening in so many different placesthe Kotel, outside of our guest houses in the Negev and Galil, and at Reform and Orthodox synagogues, purchasing souvenirs for ourselves and friends, and supporting the Israeli economy. But, most of all, we enjoyed seeing our many Israeli friends. Our group was like a magnet, and the Israelis were like iron filingsdrawn to us everywhere we went. I am pleased that our campers and program alumni (age range: 17-31) felt comfortable in Israel and will return to their homes, schools and communities as great shlichim and hasbara members for Israel.

Who

Members of the Tikvah Program of Camp Ramah in New England

When

Dec. 20, 2006 – January 3, 2007

Highlights

  • Working in the toy factory, with therapeutic dogs and in the gardens at Kishorit Village (near Karmiel) for adults with special needs.
  • Meals in homes of Ramah Israeli Staff Members: Lunch in Haifa with Tomer Nachshon and dinners in the Beit Shemesh home of the Benstein family and in the Moshav Emunim home of the Tzivoni Family.
  • Making spice sachets, writing with a reed and special ink, meeting a sofer, and making zatar spice at Neot Kedumim.
  • Seeing the Chagall Windows, then giving presents to Israeli Jewish and Arab children in the Pediatrics Unit at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital
  • Seeing every possible weather pattern from sun in the Galilee, to rain and fog in the Golan Heights, to rain while on Masada and swimming in the Dead Sea.
  • Buying fruit, nuts and rugelach in the bustling Machane Yehudah market on a Friday afternoon (for a Camp Ramah oneg Shabbat)
  • Seeing ibex, deer, and hyrax at Ein Gedi, a fox in the Negev on the way to camel riding at Beertoyim, and two wolves in the Negev near Kibbutz Mashabe Sadeh.
  • Petting and feeding llamas and alpacas at Mitzpeh Ramon.
  • Sitting in actual Israeli planes at the Israel Air Force Museum in Beersheva.

Participants

Jason Belkin
Howard Blas (Group Leader)
Elisheva and Hannah Blas
Adam Brand
David Dalnekoff
Max Davidson (Chaperone)
Benji Garbowit
Jeremy Jacobson
Eric Levine
Gideon Pianko
Aaron Rudolph
Emily Sowalsky (Chaperone)
Marie Strazulla
Ortal Winterstein
Jacob Yellin

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