Thursday, October 27, 2011

150 New Immigrants!

About 150 olim (new immigrants) who landed at Ben Gurion Airport on Monday night and came on special flights organized by the Jewish Agency, received on Tuesday their Israeli identity cards.
Most of the olim came from various countries in Europe such as France, Britain, Italy and Belgium, and a number also came from South Africa. They will live in cities and kibbutzim throughout Israel, including Eilat, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Netanya.
The identity cards were given to the olim as part of a special “red carpet” ceremony organized by the Jewish Agency. About 50 of the olim from Britain and South Africa came to an area near the Western Wall where they received their ID cards in a short and moving ceremony.
Original story here:  Becoming Israeli

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Neot Kedumim- Biblical Nature Reserve

The wonderful, glorious season of Sukkot is now over. What a marvelous bracha (blessing) to be able to celebrate in Israel! And so close to Jerusalem! There is an excitement that is contagious,even to those who may not build a sukkah. The children are out of school~ this year since the day before Yom Kippur~ which made for an extra long hag More time to celebrate... and to enjoy. In Jerusalem there were numerous events every day. The 2 Spies are not 'crowd' people so we limited our excursions to the open house at the Jerusalem fire house (more on that later) We did however, go outside of Jerusalem to a Biblical nature reserve called 'Neot Kedumim'.  This marvelous park is great in any season, but for Sukkot they really go all out. There were crafts for the children, plays and music. But the main attraction are the various types of sukkot that are built out of natural products. The children (and adults) who are knowledgeable have a great time challenging each other as to which of the sukkot are 'kosher' and which are not. Let's see if you know!
#1 What you cannot see is the grape vine growing on the left front~ which makes this particular sukkah~ Kosher or not?

#2 This sukkah covered in palm branches was about 3 stories high!

#3 The children really enjoyed this 'mini-version of a sukkah. Just their size!
#4 Another favorite... Army tent style. 'Kosher' or not?
#5 Obviously everyone's favorite~ a tree 'house' sukkah!  Lots' of fun here (Hint this IS kosher... sometimes... when?)
#6 Sukkah with an extra cover.

#7 Triangle sukkah
Etrogim growing on the tree
We highly recommend Neot Kedumim to you the next time you are near Jerusalem. It makes for a pleasnat, peaceful day.  You may even want to plant a tree! Check out their website:Neot Kedumim

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Esta Lefton has Come Home

Original article

At 90 years of age, Esta Lefton has returned to Israel to finish out her days. The 2 Spies are encouraged that she has come home.  May G-d give her many more days to enjoy the Land of Milk & Honey.

Esta Lefton has lived a full life.

A former nurse for the Allied forces in Egypt and Italy during World War II, educator, businesswoman, poet and artist, Lefton moved to Jerusalem with her family as a child, spent her adult life in London, and has now returned a final time to remain with her loved ones.

Born Esta Gutman on November 12, 1920, in a small town in Poland called Zolkiewka, near Lublin, Lefton is one of six children, including four brothers and a sister. Her father worked as a leather merchant, while her mother cared for the children.

The town Lefton grew up in was half Jewish and half Christian, and according to her, devoid of significant anti-Semitism until the year 1935.

Lefton said her family’s religious life first changed significantly when she was nine and her eldest brother, Yitzhak, was studying as a rabbinical student in Warsaw.

There, she said, he developed a strong interest in Zionism that transformed her entire family.

“We realized that there was another group within the Jewish people who thought differently, not only about religion, but about Palestine,” Lefton said.

Upon discovering that many Jews within Warsaw embraced Zionism, her brother began studying the concept in secrecy because the rabbinical school he attended did not believe in Zionist ideology, considering it a Christian ideal.

“The rabbis believed that they must wait for ‘mashiach’ to come, not in creating a Jewish state in Israel,” Lefton said.

However, her brother’s enthusiasm for building a state in Palestine only grew. “My brother used to have to hide his books about Zionism when he was at rabbinical school for fear of being expelled,” she said.

His passion soon captured the imagination of their Orthodox father, who shortly thereafter became the leader of a Zionist movement in their town, and embraced secularism.

“It wasn’t easy for Orthodox families to do that, but we did,” Lefton said.

In 1933 Yitzhak moved to Palestine, where he served with the Jerusalem Police, and later became the Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, back in Poland, Lefton said that in 1935 tensions began to mount against Jews, and in 1936, at the age of 16, along with the remainder of her immediate family, she moved to Jerusalem, under the British Mandate.

In Jerusalem her father was forced to take whatever manual-labor jobs he could muster to make ends meet. Meanwhile, Lefton and her siblings attended school, where the teenager developed a life-long love for poetry and painting that continues to this day.

However, it would not be long before world strife found its way to Lefton’s new life.

In August of 1939, while walking home, she said a student from a nearby German school who was influenced by Adolf Hitler’s rhetoric, detonated a bomb in central Jerusalem, seriously injuring Lefton and 13 others.

She sustained very serious shrapnel wounds and was immediately rushed to Hadassah Hospital, where she remained for several months.

The scars from her wounds remain visible to this day.

While convalescing in the hospital, Lefton wrote one of her first poems about the horrific experience:

My life just 18 years old
spent in happiness with my family and friends,
growing up, engaged in studying,
eager and happy for learning and working.

One August evening warm and calm
my life was shattered by a bomb.

I grew old.
I was on the way home
to see my dear mother
when fire struck me,
grilled my flesh.

There were not tears
but mother on my lips.

I sunk into oblivion
then to death.

For a time I was there
somewhere in a new land.

One day I was awake – old,
old. No more a child.

After concluding a grueling regimen of physical therapy to recover from her most serious injuries, Lefton joined the British Army in 1942 as a nurse in Palestine.

She subsequently worked at a British hospital in Suez for roughly one year, where she cared for soldiers in the Allied forces, and then was transferred to a hospital in a small town in Central Italy, where she worked with trauma patients. While there, she also assisted as an interpreter in Polish, German, Hebrew and English.

Lefton was stationed in Italy until the war’s conclusion, where she helped care for thousands of refugees, the multitude of whom she said were severely traumatized both physically and emotionally by the barbarity of the Nazis.

In August of 1946, Lefton concluded her service in Italy and returned to Palestine, where she worked at a psychiatric hospital, and later as a dental assistant.

Lefton, who longed to travel, soon moved to London, where she found work as a nurse at the London Jewish Hospital in the East End. A little over a year later she met her future husband, Alec Lefton, and married at age 26.

Over the years, Lefton raised her two daughters, worked in early childhood education, and later opened her own antique shop, which she ran into her 80s.

At the age of 90 she said she felt compelled to return to Israel.

Asked what prompted her to return, Lefton, who is still quite vibrant for her years, said she wanted to be buried with her parents, nearby her brothers and sister’s cemetery.

Among her impressive portfolio of poems, perhaps the most telling and moving of her sentiments is entitled “Jerusalem.”

My heart is in the East – Jerusalem.
I live across the sea in the West.
How can I fulfill my longings, emotions when my brain is in two parts.
I am a captive, a prisoner of my own body.
I seek you in North, West, South – my eyes and heart always turn East.
I weep, dream to taste you, hold you, Jerusalem.
I stand by my parents’ graves, bow in respect.
I carry pieces of a broken heart and place them on their graves.
I grieve for their love.
My heart is bound up with you, Jerusalem.
My feet treading foreign land
waiting for my heart and mind
to join as if in marriage
to rejoice with music in my heart
to live and die in

Lefton said she could not imagine concluding her life any place else.

“I have returned to my home,” she said.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Days of Awe

 The Days of Awe..... After hearing the shofar of Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShana) we continue to seek to hear the voice of our G-d. Now is the time to allow our hearts to be searched~ to make a fearless accounting~ and to be called into agreement with what the Heavens speak. How have I spent my time? On what did I spend my money? How much thought did I give my words?  Where have I gone my own way? In what ways have I cheated my fellow man? How have I dimmed the Light of the Holy One through my daily ways? In  which deeds did I promote myself and draw attention to my 'strengths' rather than seek to be a reflection of the Almighty? Counting the ways in which I have fallen short of His Glory, I seek forgiveness~ of G-d and of my neighbors.

Soon is the Day we go before our King~ for Him to forgive and cleanse us and determine our path. No matter what our coming year holds, we can walk into it with a new assurance that The Creator of the Universe is still on His throne and He is walking with us each step of every day. His love encircles us. His strength rains down on us. There will be no surprises to Him. We can trust that. We can go in confidence knowing that He is already present in our next moment, actively awaiting us in our tomorrow. 

~May you be written and sealed for a good year~

This video is taken from the prayers of this season 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Land of Milk and Honey: Prophecy Fulfilled

KIBBUTZ KETURA - In the Bible, God promises the Jewish people a land flowing with milk and honey. And while the depiction is seen as a sign of abundance, it's also literal.
"In fact, milk and honey is critical. It's used 20 times in scripture," explained Moshe Kempinsky, an author and co-owner of Israel's Shorashim Biblical Shop.
But when the Jewish people returned from 2,000 years in exile, they found a barren, desert land.
"God says, 'I'm going to do something miraculous,'" Kempinsky added. "'I'm going to create a land that even though those climate issues don't call for it, it's going to be a land that's going to be filled with dates and honey, and also with milk so that you know that... nothing in this land comes here except when it's from Me.'"
God's Abundance
It appears God has delivered on that promise. Despite the heat, humidity and limited resources, Israeli cow produces more milk per year than cows in the United States, European Union, and Australia.
Ronen Gal manages operations for the dairy at Kibbutz Yotvata, the largest milking facility of its kind in the country.
"We're considered leaders in the production of milk in the world," he said. "The milk production in Israel is very clever. It's very high tech."
What about the honey? Most believe during biblical times, honey probably came from date trees.
Botanist Dr. Elaine Solowey emigrated from the U.S. and settled not far from Yotvata on Kibbutz Ketura in 1974.
"I started out here as the head of the orchard branch and of course that was kind of funny because at that time we didn't have any orchards," Solowey recalled.
"In the first few years I was responsible for planting them and the first orchard I planted was the date orchard... which is the main agricultural branch of the Kibbutz," she said
There are tens of thousands of acres of date trees in Israel. Soloway planted some 3,000 of them.
Each tree produces about 350 pounds of dates a year.
Soloway even managed to sprout a 2,000-year-old date seed found by archaeologists years ago at Massada. Nicknamed "Methusela," the tree is now 5 years old.
World-Renowned Produce
Dates and palms were important in the scriptures, and those from this area were known throughout the ancient world.
"The Romans had nothing nice to say about the Jews except that they had good dates," Solowey said. "Their emperors actually used to order Judean dates to eat."
Today, Israel's dates are still famous throughout the world. Israel exports some 12,000 tons of dates each year to 20 countries.
Soloway has now moved beyond dates to grow life in the desert.
"I'm looking for trees that love to live in the desert, that rejoice to live in the desert. Not the ones I have to keep on life support," she joked.
"The biblical trees, if they grew here in the old days, why shouldn't they grow here now?" Solowey added.
"We re-introduced frankincense and myrrh, which had probably been introduced at the time of King Solomon," she continued.
"According to what we can tell from folk tales and from the Bible, there was already an incense and medicinal tree being cultivated here called the Balm of Gilead," she said.
The frankincense and myrrh brought to Jesus were probably in crystal form. According to Kempinsky, the revival of trees in the land is the first sign of redemption.
Prophecy Fulfilled
According to Kempinsky, the revival of trees in the land is the first sign of redemption.
"Ezekiel 36 says, 'Mountains shoot forth your branches, give forth your fruit because my children are coming home,'" he explained. "That's an unusual thing for God to tell a tree. That's what He created a tree to do."
"Except God is saying in Leviticus, 'It's going to be a desolate land when I kick you out … but watch when I bring my people back home. The land is going to come forth with blossoms and trees and fruits.'" Kempinsky added.
So to Kempinsky, every date that's eaten and every glass of milk we drink here is like prophecy being fulfilled.