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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Kumah Event in NY!

Interested in Israel?
Thinking about Aliyah?

Find out how to prepare practically,
emotionally and spiritually for this important step in life.

Come hear words of inspiration from
one of the foremost figures on the Aliyah scene:

Rabbi Shalom Gold

Speaking on:
Jewish History As It Unfolds In Our Times
Aliya --- The Challenge facing American Orthodoxy Today

Rabbi Gold is the Founder of Ner Israel Yeshiva College in Toronto, and was the Rabbi of Congregation Bnai Torah in Toronto. He then served as the Rabbi of the Young Israel of West Hempstead, until making Aliyah about 20 years ago. He is currently the Rabbi of Kehillat Zichron Yosef in Har Nof, Jerusalem (affiliated with the Young Israel movement), and holds the position as Dean of the Jerusalem College for Adults.

Where? Yeshiva University
215 Lexington Ave @ 33rd Street
When? Tuesday, May 4th 8:00 p.m.

This event is being sponsored by
The Israel Aliyah Center (
The YU Israel Club

For more information, please email ben at kumah dot org

Here is the flyer for the event. Please print it out and post it in your shul and/or school!
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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Israel - the only place where Jews are proud to live in trailer homes !!!

This is the view
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In Gush Katif
Inside a greenhouse
A small girl
Uniquely innocent
Stood up and asked
And all the commanders
And all the soldiers
And all the big leaders
And all the wise men
Stood pale-faced
And no answer was found
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Monday, April 26, 2004


We Keep Growing

As Israel was mourning her dead today, it was nice to see the flip side of the coin from the JPost:
In the past year 144,000 babies were born in Israel. while 21,000 people immigrated to the country. Of the new immigrants, 11,000 came from the former Soviet Union, 2,600 from Ethiopia, 1,800 from France, 1,600 from the United States and 1,200 from Argentina.

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Happy Birthday, Israel

Happy Birthday Israel! This is my first Yom HaAtzmaut here in the land, and I'm thrilled to be here. Yishai and I are taking a big group to Gush Katif this year.

For all the worries and all the struggles and all the enemies, there's a musky flower, a shadowy hillside, a backalley falafel joint to cherish here in the Land. 56 years young, beautiful Israel, we are so proud of you. We will keep tilling your soil, filling your libraries and singing out our love for you. And you, our Mother, our Child, you just keep growing, growing, growing.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Considering Disengagement

Reuven Koret at Israel Insider has a great article up at his site: Disengaging from delusion. He asks what we will get in return for this "disengagement":
If our reward would be never needing to send our soldiers to defend us or having our citizens never again die in terrorist attacks, or (remember when people talked about that?) true peace - that price may be worth considering. But of course no one is expecting or promising this.

On the contrary, we can expect to get more of the same, with less ability to defend ourselves, with transportation routes, army facilities and defensive positions in enemy hands. And we can expect the Israeli weakness at the top that led to this inexplicable cave-in to invite only more terrorism and diplomatic pressure.

That's what happened after Ehud Barak fled from Lebanon. Now southern Lebanon is lined with hundreds of missiles, some capable of bearing chemical warheads, which for the first time put Haifa and points south in range.

No one disputes that Gaza and northern Samaria will become armed camps, refuges of terrorists and repositories of weapons. Except Israel will have waived its ability and right to re-enter and clean up these terror nests in any significant way.

If there was a chance that this is the final price we will be expected to pay to achieve de facto or de jure annexation of Gush Etzion, Gush Ariel, the Jordan Valley, Jewish Hebron, the Jerusalem envelope - that at least would be a calculation that reasonable people could evaluate for its costs and benefits.

I think the key point is that it may be possible that some form of evacuation of Jewish communities in Israel may be justified, as part of a larger package that would bring us the greatest good. But, that's not what is up for vote.

Say the following plan was being proposed: Evacuate Netzarim and Kfar Darom, and the four towns slated for removal in Shomron. Build a security fence only around that area in Shomron, and separating Gush Katif from the rest of Gaza. Offer stipends to the evacuated Jews, and offer incentives to help settle them and other Jews in Hebron, Bet Lechem, or eastern Jerusalem. Annex all the remaining land. This will lower the number of Arabs included in this annexation by about 2.5 million. As for the areas from which we "disengaged," make it a real disengagement. No more supplying the residents with Israeli electricity, water, and employment. No travel in and out of those areas. Any Arab who does not want to live under Israeli rule can go to the "disengaged" areas - a free one-way ticket. Even though the idea of destroying Jewish communities in Israel is repulsive to me, I would probably support this plan.

However, that is not what is being proposed. Instead, over 8,000 Jews will be expelled from their home. The plan does not say if they will be compensated, or where they will go. The beautiful homes they once called their own will be taken over by terrorists. Those terrorists will be able to keep their jobs in Israel, commuting in and out of Israel every day. Israel will not be able to stop any further terrorist activity in Gaza; it will be off-limits to the IDF. But it will not be off limits to Hamas, Hizbollah, and Al-Qaeda. President Bush may have recognized that "facts have changed" regarding major Jewish areas of Yesha. But we are not planning on annexing them. Maybe we will try in a few years, but who will remember Bush's "recognition" at that point? In fact, the security fence will still exclude many tens of thousands of Jews. Instead of Homesh and Sa-nur, with only a few hundren residents, being the last of our destructions in Shomron, they will be the first, paving the way for the destruction of towns of thousands which are also beyond the fence: Beit El, Shiloh, Ofra.

The plan being presented is not a whole plan; it is a half a plan, and it's the half where we get screwed. Anyone voting on this plan needs to be asking the question: what are we getting in return, and what is the message we are sending? Anyone living in Israel who is not eligible to vote on this plan should take this opportunity to join the Likud party. Manhigut Yehudit has been trying for years to get believing Jews to join the Likud, in order to have a real voice in influencing the policiies of the state. They never imagined how on-target they would be: for better or for workse, the future of the state is up to the members of the Likud party. Go to the Manhigut Yehudit site here to get a Likud registration form. And of course, anyone not living in Israel: if you've been reading this blog, you know what to do.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Gush Katif on Yom HaAtzmaut

Dear Friends,

Thousands of people are heading to Gush Katif on Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). The communities there have a huge event planned and I thought we should join them as well. This is a good opportunity to celebrate with Gush Katif, to see beautiful Israel, and to show solidarity with this special place. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO GO!
I propose that we participate as an English speaking contingent made up of Kumah folks, new and veteran Olim, students and other assorted friends.

General Information: There will be buses to Gush Katif on Tuesday the Sixth of Iyar, 27th of April between 10:00am and 11:00am leaving from Binyanei Haumah (the International Convention Center) in Jerusalem across from the Tachan Merkazit (central bus station) and returning there at 7:30pm. The cost of the buses is 25 NIS round trip.

When will we meet: 10:20am, Tue 27th of April, at Binyanei Haumah - we will leave on one bus together at 10:45am.
What should I bring: 25NIS, some food (there will be concession stands in Gush Katif) and your good spirits.
Who is the contact person: Yishai Fleisher 050-356-263 - feel free to call.

Chag Sameach! I look forward to seeing you there.
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Monday, April 19, 2004

A tribute to a true Kumahite

"What we need to have in Israel today is not criticism of Gush Emunim what we need is JEWS! YOU! That's what we need! " -- Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu (Simon) Dolgin ZT'L in 1981

My very first blog and it's a sad one. Rabbi Dolgin of Ramat Eshkol passed away last night. He was a tremendous advocate for Aliyah and a true Bonah Yerushalayim , and he even had philosophical discussions about religion with Ben-Gurion.

But I don't mean for my first blog to be an obituary. Arutz-7 posted a brief one.

I would like instead to share a story about him as told to me by my grandfather who was his friend. After making Aliyah from Beverly Hills (a lesson for all comfortable Jews on its own) Rabbi Dolgin tried to get permission from the city to build a Beit HaKnesset in Ramat Eshkol, Jerusalem. Teddy Kolleck was the mayor at the time. Mayor Kolleck made things hard for the Rabbi as he wanted Ramat Eshkol to remain a totally non-dati neighborhood. After all was said and done he was only permitted to built his Congregation down a hill, way off the main road "Rachov Paran." Most people expected it would never survive down there. (The spot Rabbi Dolgin wanted became a Kupat Cholim instead.) Unfazed by all these hurtles he raised funds and built a large beautiful Beit HaKnesset , which was named after his old Beverly Hills one "Beit Yaakov." Afterwards, some S'fardic Jews who loved the Synagogue asked him if they can build one too- exactly the same building, that is - so he gladly shared the building plans. (I still find that amazing!) And today there are two beautiful identical Synagogues side by side: Ashkinaz and S'fardic, while preserving their respective traditions, together they stand in total Achdus.

The basement has became a mini - catering hall and because our friend Teddy had them build all the way down the hil,l the backyard leads right into a magnificent garden and park where weddings are held! It's called Calati and you may have been there!

If Rabbi Dolgin gave up because he didn't get the approval he wanted or because he didn't have funding a very special part of Yerushalayim would never have been built! If you're making Aliyah you have to make sure the red tape of the Israeli Government doesn't spoil your plans either! On a similar note the government might have their own ideas of where Jews should be living and praying-- but G-d has his own plans. "Hina Kel Yishuasi Eftach V'Lo Efchad, Ki Azi V'Zimras Kuh Hashem, V'yihe Li Lishuah!"

Rabbi Dolgan summed up the philosophy of Kumah: " Just come. We need Aliyah. We need aliyah in a sense that people will rise themselves. They'll elevate themselves! They'll lift themselves up! They'll grow! They'll be great! They'll be something that is insurmountable to the world and they will become a light to the world!"

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Contact Prime Minister Sharon!

Let Prime Minister Sharon know that we don't approve of his plans to give up on the Land of Israel, and the people who live in it!
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Thursday, April 15, 2004

Aliyah L'Regel II - Behar Yeraeh

We just came back from our aliyah l'regel - trip to Israel for Pesach. (Looks like there wasn't much blogging since I left.) Lots to write about - we did a bit of touring, visited friends and family (including a hike up to Yishai and Malkah's new home on a gorgeous hilltop!), and did some research for our future aliyah. There's lots to write about, and hopefully I will get to it all, with pictures.

But first, I want to write about the focal point of our aliyah l'regel - our visit to Har Habayit on the first day of chol hamoed. I got instructions on how to prepare and where to go from the Temple Institute. I felt a connection to Avraham Avinu when I woke up at the crack of dawn to go to the mikva to prepare for ascending the same mountain where Avraham was prepared to sacrifice his son. We walked from our hotel to the ramp next to the Kotel, which leads to the Mugrabi gate on to Har Habayit. After searching our bags, the guard asked if we have ever been there before. I told him no. He told us the rules: no praying, no tearing of clothing - just walking around. I asked if we could talk. He said sure, just none of "this," as he did a little "shukle."

We proceeded up the ramp, and entered the gate. We were standing where thousands of people would have come to celebrate the holiday some two thousand years ago. Besides for the usual holiday hustle and bustle, this was also the day that the korban haomer was brought - the grain offering which permitted the use of newly grown wheat, known as "chadash." I suppose it was a good day to go - visiting the place of our future Temple on a day associated with newness.

We were unsure of exactly where to go. A police officer told us we could walk all the way around, and in fact, there is a large area (less on the east and west sides) beyond where the website above says the azara (where we can't go) could have been. Along the way, we seemed to have been followed by police officers at times, and glanced at suspiciously by Arabs at other points. We saw some Muslims heading to prayer, others lounging about; in general, the atmosphere was very chilled and relaxed. There were tractors and other construction vehicles moving about the mountain. I was reminded of the Gemara's account of the razing of Har Habayit. Maybe they were building, maybe destroying, but either way, it probably wasn't "good for the Jews."

The experience of being there was powerful, yet surprisingly mundane as well. I thought I would be overwhelmed by the experience of being in the holiest place in the world. But, as my wife pointed out, if there were thousands of Jews with animals there, it would have also been more like a social scene that a holy experience as well. But maybe that's OK - the mitzva of aliyah l'regel really doesn't call for private devotion - it's more of a call to bring everyone together to where it all began, to the center of our religious life. And of course, it has to be disconcerting to arrive at the physical center of our religion and to find yourself a stranger in what seems like someone else's house.

I feel like I'm rambling a little - just trying to get out my thoughts. So I'll stop now. But, the one lesson I took from this experience is how important it is for everyone to visit. Har Habayit is no longer the exclusive purview of the "crazies" - Jews of all types are starting to go. Many hesder yeshivas are organizing trips there. And even if you don't pray, even if it just seems like a stroll in the park (and an Arab park at that), it is vitally important that you go, and go again. It makes a strong yet subtle statement to everyone, from the police, to the government, to the Wakf, to the world, and to yourself, that this place is important to us, and we won't let go of it. Just like no one goes to Israel and doesn't go to the Kotel, no one should go to Israel and miss a visit to Har Habayit.

In my preparations for the trip, I found it very difficult to find any useful information. Several people I emailed, including the Temple Institute, didn't respond. I couldn't find any maps or instructions or summaries of laws on the web. I couldn't find anyone giving tours. The only information I found was the link above, and it is not very detailed, and it is only in Hebrew. If we are going to make visiting Har Habayit mainstream, it needs to be easier. I am going to try to put together more information on the web about it, including translating the page above. Anyone with useful information (shiurim, tours, contacts, maps, etc) should please contact me at ben at kumah dot org. I will hopefully get the beginings of a web site up before shavuot. Check back on this blog for more details.

UPDATE: Here is a slideshow from our visit to Har Habayit.
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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Aliyah L'Regel

Pesach is only a few days away, and my wife and I are preparing for our first aliyah l'regel together: the ascent to Jerusalem to celebrate the three major holidays of the Jewish calender. As we've been making the arrangements, I've noticed a strange trend when we tell people we are going. People actually ask us why we're going. I've heard this from Americans and Israelis, religious and not. Some people guess - are you going to family? Friends? Is it a pilot trip? Some people have even asked, why Pesach?

My standard answer has been: Last year, at the end of the seder, we said, "Leshana habaa b'Yerushalayim" - next year in Jerusalem. So this year, we'll be in Jerusalem. We'll be continuting the millenia-old practice of families going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the holidays. We will be visiting friends and relatives during the chag, but we will have the seder together in Jerusalem, awaiting the day when we will be able to return again, and eat the korban pesach together with our friends and family.

Everyone seems to understand my answer, but no one seems to have thought about it. But aliyah l'regel is just one of the many opportunities to fulfill mitzvot that were not available to us until quite recently. The Rambam defines the mitzva of simchat yom tov - joy on the holiday - specifically as being in Jerusalem and eating the korban chagiga. We can't eat the sacrifice, but we can be in Jerusalem. So, despite all the financial disincentives offered by the airlines and hotels, we will be spending our first Pesach together in the holy city.

We actually only booked our hotel a few days ago. I called several hotels, and not one told me they were booked. And yet, they all seemed to have jacked up thier prices to double or more of their regular prices. I wonder if we can't be doing a better job of enabling more people to participate in the aliyah l'regel, and to do so more often. Here is an Eshel article called "Three Times a Year," proposing a way to encourage aliyah l'regel. Please read it, spread it around, and let me know your thoughts.

Chag Kasher V'sameach,
L'shana Habaa B'Yerushalayim!
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