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Monday, February 27, 2006

The Bukharan Are Coming!

100 of my former neighbors, including maybe even my barber, are making Aliyah! I took this photo a year ago.

Gal Beckerman of the Jerusalem Post, reports:

100 members of the Bukharan Jewish community of New York are making aliya with their rabbi this summer. If the 'pioneer' group succeeds, thousands more may follow.

As many as 60,000 Bukharan Jews live in Queens. 'If there is peace in Israel, 70 percent of Bukharans will leave here and go there,' said community leader Aron Aronov. 'No question.'

'Unity is the most important thing for us. As long as we go together we can help each other survive the bad days and rejoice with one another on the good days.' - Mark Akbashev, 29

A giant map of Israel covered the wall behind Rabbi Michael Borochov as he sat last week in his office at Beit Gavriel, a Bukharan-Jewish community center in Forest Hills, Queens. A thick blanket of snow covered the ground outside, but it was Israel that was on his mind, both as an inspiration and as a burdensome responsibility. He's going to be making aliya in July. And he's bringing 100 Bukharan Jews from his congregation with him.

The move was Borochov's idea, but it sheds light on a tightly knit community that is almost uniquely suited for this type of communal action. It's not out of character for the Bukharans, who survived as they did for over 2,000 years in an isolated enclave in Central Asia with intact traditional practices and values. The return to Israel always had a central place in their faith.

This has remained true in spite of the fact that the Bukharan Jewish community that lives in Queens - numbering between 50,000 and 60,000 - has settled into a relatively comfortable existence since first arriving in the late 1980s. There is evidence everywhere that they have made large swathes of Forest Hills and Rego Park their own. The commercial strip of 108th Street, known locally as "Bukharan Broadway," is filled with kosher restaurants like Shalom where the smell of cumin, paprika and grilled lamb waft out onto the sidewalk.

Large multi-story community centers and synagogues abound, including a new one to be dedicated in March and funded by the Bukharan Jewish philanthropist Lev Leviev, which will house the organization over which he presides, the Bukharan Jewish Congress.

The younger generation, usually the weakest link in any community's effort to keep tradition alive, has also made efforts to keep the community as tight as possible. One example has been, a Web site started by a group of young Bukharans that now has 950 registered members and has become a hub of information about cultural events, as well as as a place for young Bukharan Jews to meet each other.

SITTING IN his office and stroking his long, silky black beard, Michael Borochov said he is proud of his own contribution to the community's development, transforming within 10 years a 100-family congregation based in Lefrak City, a major housing project in Queens, into one that, he said, has over 800 families today. This project has been his "baby," he said, and one of the hardest decisions he has had to make was leaving it all behind.

"But I knew," said Borochov, "that the community needs to see the example of their rabbi going before them. Immigration is never easy. When we left the Soviet Union, it was out of fear, we were scared. But now everyone is comfortable. For everyone, leaving is a risk. I'll show them that I can take the risk also."

Borochov contacted Michael Landsberg, executive director of the Jewish Agency's Aliya Department in North America, eight months ago with the idea and the Jewish Agency quickly came into the community to meet with the interested families. So far, according to Landsberg, 28 families have said they want to sign up and 12 have begun the process of applying for aliya. Borochov is confident that out of these, at least 20 families will make up the first group of what he calls "pioneers." With an average of five people per family, he figures about 100 people will be coming with him.

Over the past half-year, Borochov has taken two groups of families on pilot trips to look for the city they would live in once in Israel. This past November they settled on Ramat Beit Shemesh, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Initially, Borochov said, the group had looked at settlements within the West Bank - more for economic than ideological reasons - but the tumultuous scenes during the disengagement from Gaza last August made many families wary of moving to towns they might eventually have to evacuate.

The Jewish Agency has promised both individual and collective aide to the group and another organization, Nefesh B'Nefesh, whose mission is to facilitate North American aliya, has pledged additional funds.

The majority of families making up this initial group are young, the children of Bukharan immigrants who came to Queens when the Soviet Union fell. The list of jobs they have is varied, including a nurse, computer technician, and a barber. Now grown up and acculturated, they have come to the conclusion that America is not where they should be. They want to go to Israel, all for strongly Zionist reasons.

IN SOME families this has created conflict. Ronnie Vinnikov, the Jewish Agency's main emissary to New York's Russian Jewish community and someone who has worked closely with the Bukharan group, said that some members of the group have needed to go up against the wishes of their families in order to leave.

"Suddenly the parents are forced to wonder if they made a bad decision by bringing the kids here," Vinnikov said. "When the parents came to America it was for the good of the children; they thought they were bringing them to the best place. Now their children tell them no, this isn't the place for me."

Mark Akbashev, 29, a business manager and a student at Yeshiva University, will be leaving in the first group with his wife and two children. His parents and his wife's parents will be staying in Queens. Many people ask him why he would want to leave America where he has found success, he said. He answers simply that he is investing in his children's future by taking them to their land. His paternal grandfather, he notes, spent two years to get from Central Asia to Jerusalem just to gather some earth and bring it back. All he has to do, though, is take an 11-hour flight.

What finally helped Akbashev decide to make the move he had been contemplating for years was the idea of going as part of a group of families he has gotten to know through Borochov's congregation.

"Unity," Akbashev said, "is the most important thing for us. As long as we go together we can help each other survive the bad days and rejoice with one another on the good days."

This seems to be key to making this experiment work for the Bukharan Jews of New York. After all, the tool that Bukharans used to survive for so long, cut off from all other Jewish communities, was their sense of unity.

Ultimately, said Aron Aronov, the unofficial mayor of the Queens Bukharan Jews and a liaison to the Russian-speaking community for the New York Association for New Americans, that's what will help the summer's pioneers pull through.

An energetic man in his late 60s with bushy gray eyebrows who wears his plaid shirts buttoned up to the top, Aronov is trying single-handedly to keep Bukharan culture alive through a museum he has put together with his own money. Standing amidst multi-colored silks, paintings of bearded Bukharan rabbis, and rows of silver jewelry and golden yarmulkes, Aronov gave his verdict on whether a mass emigration of Bukharan Jews to Israel would be successful: "If there is peace in Israel, 70 percent of Bukharans will leave here and go there. No question."

Bukharan Jews are a fundamentally traditional people, Aronov said, calling his own community the "Jewish Taliban." If the Soviets couldn't stop them from being Jewish, America won't either, he said. And if they want to go to Israel, they will. The most important element is solidarity.

"Most Bukharans," Aronov said, "if you offered them all the money in the world and a palace in Finland, they would ask you only one question: Do any Bukharans live there?"

Full post and comments...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Kummunique - Kumah's Shabbat and Holiday Bulletin
Issue 20 "Parshat Mishpatim" 5766

Shalom! We are proud to present another issue of Kummunique.
This issue is filled with Aliyah and Eretz Yisrael inspiration - so enjoy!

In this issue you will find:

1. "We Came For The Food" by Anonymous
2. "Essay: Brooklyn's Not-One-Inch Crowd" by Hillel Halkin
3. "The Long Journey Home" Karin Kloosterman

Check it out at the KUMMUNIQUE HOME
Full post and comments...

Halkin Rejects Advice From American Jews, Who Have Rejected Israel

Though taking faulty demographic data for granted, pretending American Aliyah is a lost cause and making believe that the demographic woes of Israel will somehow go anywhere through withdrawal, "Letters To an American Jewish Friend" author Hillel Halkin rages at right-wingers in America who expect Israelis not to reject a land they, as American Jews, have already rejected by choosing America. You needn't have read him in the past to appreciate that he writes with a smile. Too good not to quote and link to:

...Well, I'll admit it. I don't particularly hate Arabs, even if I sometimes find myself wishing that they lived in another part of the world. I'll tell you whom I do hate, though. It's the Jews who want me to go on fighting Arabs forever while they cheer me on from their apartments in Brooklyn...

...It would be bad enough if it were just a question of morality - which of course it is. I can violently disagree with a fellow Israeli on matters of public policy while respecting his right to his opinion, because I know that, regardless of who is right and who is wrong, we will both have to bear the consequences of whatever this country does. For a Jew to sit on the sidelines and give strident advice, however, when the consequences of taking it have to be borne entirely by other Jews, is vile. What kind of person urges risks on the members of his family while refusing to run any of them himself?...

...The left-wing American Jew, in urging Israel to withdraw from all the territories, is counseling it to take a course of action that would alleviate its demographic problem. While he himself is not willing to immigrate here, or to call upon others Jews to do so, he at least is saying to Israelis: "Take my advice and you will not need immigrants, because by withdrawing to the 1967 borders you will have struck a viable population balance between Jews and Arabs and will be able to do without me."

But the right-wing American Jew is doing the opposite. As a territorial maximalist who opposes any withdrawal from the territories, he is counseling Israel to pursue a path that will make its demographic problem frighteningly acute. If his advice were followed, the only thing that could possibly save us from demographic disaster (although the prospects would not be bright then, either) would be the massive immigration of Jews from the Diaspora - which, given the current distribution of Diaspora Jewry, could only mean a massive immigration from the United States.

And yet our right-wing friend does not want to immigrate to Israel - he likes living in Brooklyn! He wants to be there while telling us here to adopt policies that will put an end to Israel as a Jewish state unless millions of Jews move here - millions of Jews for whom he has not the slightest intention of setting an example.

Imagine a country that is at war. Imagine someone who constantly criticizes the way it is fighting that war. Imagine that he mocks it for not fighting aggressively enough, for not fighting ruthlessly enough, for holding its army back. Imagine that he is constantly griping that the army itself is afraid to take casualties, that it is fighting too defensively, that it should be throwing more soldiers into battle. Imagine that he proclaims that it must never retreat and that anything short of total victory is disgraceful surrender. And now imagine that he is? a draft dodger, hiding from that war under his bed.

That's our American super-Jew. And now you'll have to excuse me. I've just gotten another e-mail....

click here for full article

UPDATE: First two Talkbalks on Jpost:

Hate is a strong word, Hillel
Scott - USA
02/17/2006 18:57

Thank you Hillel, for admitting that you hate us, that "right wing" (I think you mean to say, Orthodox) American Jew. In your next column, perhaps you can talk about how you also hate Orthodox Israeli Jews, just to bring your personality full circle for the reader. The fact is that North American aliyah is on the rise, and it's almost all comprised of the group you so hate. (That must really aggravate you.) And North American aliyah is uniquely based on ideology - love of the Land, love of the Jew, and love of our Jewish faith - what I suspect you really hate about us. And yes, we have bled with you and for you, and we and our children will continue to do so in ever increasing numbers. Because we love Israel and aspire to be there. If you don't, get out and make more room for us. At least stop lying about us.

Jordan Frankel - Canada
02/17/2006 20:35

Halkin is so very, very astute in pointing out the hypocracies of many in the diaspora. This matter has become one that is so dear to my heart, that I impatiently await my move to Israel in just over a year.
Full post and comments...

Play Ball!

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
- George F. Will

Last week here in Jerusalem, we dodged a blizzard, though we still got lots of rain, hail and chilly temps. This week has started out the extreme opposite. Beautiful clear blue skies with a warm sun beating down. Perfect baseball weather! Or softball more accurately. Yep - in yet another sign of an increasing American presence in Israel I was delighted to hear the crack of the baseball bat and the hollers of outfielders "calling the catch" as I made my way home past Gan Soccer. Too bad I didn't have my good camera on me at the time. Took these shots with the emergency one.

Perhaps one day they will rename it Gan Baseball?

And the only clouds to appear came at sundown. Here's my view of today's sunset over Bayit Vegan in the distance.

(Cross Posted at Point of Pinchas)
Full post and comments...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Because man is a tree of the field. Photos.

A little late, but click here to see a very special Tu B'Shvat photo essay I compiled of Israel's trees and their stories.
Full post and comments...

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Kummunique - Kumah's Shabbat and Holiday Bulletin
Issue 19 "Parshat Yitro" 5766

Shalom! We are proud to present another issue of Kummunique.
This issue is filled with Aliyah and Eretz Yisrael inspiration - so enjoy!

In this issue you will find:

1. "The 4-in-1 Marriage Contract" by Malkah Fleisher
2. "Jewish Seeds Planted at Cave of the Patriarchs" by Alex Traiman
3. "Spreading a 'Neo'-Zionist Message" by Ruben Brosbe
4. "Arrivals: From the Berkshires to Moshav Aderet" by Rena Sherbill

Check it out at the KUMMUNIQUE HOME
Full post and comments...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Awesome Photos of Kumah's Tu B'Shvat in Chevron (Hebron)

Kumah, Arutz Sheva, and the Hevron community, teamed up for a wonderful day of planting, praying, and prancing. The Hevron Community had received permission to plant in an area adjacent to the Cave of the Partriarchs (Ma'arat HaMachpela). And Kumah was there to join them! Besides planting trees in Hevron the trip also included an English tour of the Jewish community, lunch, and prayer at Ma'arat HaMachpela along with a surpise treat at the end. If you couldn't be there here's what you missed:

As planned we left from Yerushalayim around 9:30...

Yishai asked the group how many were recent olim...

And almost everyone raised their hand!

We picked up our tour guide for the day - Hebron spokesperson and expert, David Wilder!

First he showed us some of the excavations done recently. This staircase likely lead to the original gates of hebron (now covered by the street) - where the Torah says Avraham purchased Ma'arot Hamachpelah! Right on that spot!

But some things in history never change - like our enemies.

David brought the group to see the most amazing view of the Holy city.

In the center is Ma'arot Hamachpelah - burial place of our Fathers and Mothers. You can see how it is a valley compared with the rest of the city.

We also visited Kever Yishai and Rus. (Kumah helped clean it up at a past event.)

Then off to the Hadassah House. There's a museum in there along with a school...

And it was a regular school day.

In the stunning museum we learned all about history of Chevron.

From biblical times...

Till modern times.

Next we stopped by the "Avraham Avinu Synagogue" and learned how it got its name.

Several hundred years ago, on Yom Kippur the synagogue found itself a man short for the service. Unexpectedly an old man appeared and become "the tenth man." After Yom Kippur he vanished only to appear in a dream explaining he had been Avraham Avinu himself!

And what's a Kumah trip without a great lunch?

And of course we got to pray at Ma'arot Hamachpelah. David explained to us exactly where the actual cave is located (something I myself had long wondered about.)

Off to plant trees!!! We met up with the local Chevron IDF Army unit...

And heard divrie Torah. Just like these trees are now bare and will soon be full of fruit so will all of Eretz Yisrael that was once bare be flourishing! This is already happening!

We planted the Seven Spices. (Four are pictured here - three were in another spot.)

Including pomegranates.


Date Palms. (Listed as Honey in the Torah.)

And of course, Grapevines!

We also planted some beautiful flowers!

Afterwards we had our very own Tu B'Shevat seder! See that gigantic Esrog. Yishai named him Yitzchok. See, yesterday Yishai's wife Malkah put the Esrog on the kitchen table along with a knife and was just about to cut some slices when Yishai came to the rescue. So that's why he was named Yitzchok. In any case - he was at the Seder because Yishai explained we are supposed to daven for a nice Esrog today. We did. (We then ate Yitzchok.)

And of course every Tu B'Shevat seder needs wine. Our's came from the Bet El Winery.

To top it all off as a surprise treat we got to visit Israeli Artist Boruch Nachshon!

You can view some of his works by clicking here.

And Yishai picked up a painting he ordered. Does he look excited?

It's hard to belive we packed this all into a one trip. But we did and we all had an amazing time. Best Tu B'Shvat ever!!!

So next time, don't miss out - be there too!

More Photos of the trip can be found at Point of Pinchas by clicking here.
Full post and comments...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Aliyah Revolution Hits the Jerusalem Post

Jerusalem Post Reports:

"Despite the right-wing, messianic message of Aliyah Revolution, or perhaps because of it, Kumah's video continues to spread, generating controversy particularly on Jewish blogs and sites."

Read the cover story here.
Full post and comments...

Obsessive Jews and Israeli Flag Chocolates

Ittay wrote (at 4:49PM, Feb 10th 2006)

You write, "The only way we can lose this struggle, or fail to deliver the goods to our children's generation, is by throwing up our hands and choosing the
irrelevance of Jewish exile."

Living within the pre-67 borders is not exile. Ezra, you clearly have a deep love for the land of Israel. Why not direct your energies into building halachic communities for religious and secular Jews in Tel Aviv and Herzeliya. Create new settlements that embody a unity of purpose rather than an obsession with land.

I respond:

Ittay -

I am sorry that you mis-read my words. I was not calling the parts of the Land of Israel won in our War of Independence "the exile." I was referring to America. I was saying that self-exiling oneself from the Land altogether (in this case by moving to America) rendered one irrelevant in terms of the Jewish Project and the national collective obligations laid out in our Document from Mount Sinai.

You have succeeded in bringing up a very important point, though.

I am talking about staying in all parts and any parts of the Land of Israel (hey, you can even live in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria or the Sinai and I won't say you are choosing the "irrelevance of Exile." I am talking about fighting for justice, even if 250,000 Jews are forcibly transferred into the coastal plane from the Biblical heartland of our homeland due to the mass-cliche you seem to have bought into, urging the Jewish people to get over its "obsession" with land.

I don't know, man, is it really me who suffers from an obsession here? Our people have a state smaller than New Jersey and are being convinced by their state-run media to shrink it down to the size of Delaware so we can all huddle together in the warmth of the television image of the US President offering our (now comatose) Prime Minister Israeli flag-shaped chocolates and promising to defend us from Iran, which is another way of saying "don't defend yourselves."

It seems to me that many of our people indeed have an obsession with land, which involves the belief that transferring ownership of it to a hostile Arab world will somehow allow us to have more "normal" lives on this planet, even as Hamas sweeps the elections and the most dangerous regional force goes nuclear as the world looks on and yawns.

Come to think of it, I suppose a people that sits gets together three times a day to pray, meditate and declare publicly their intention to return to this place, for 2,000 years, reciting verses about the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple after every bit of bread they consume, is by its nature a bit obsessed with the controversial real estate between the Nile and the Euphrates.

I will now answer your broader question regarding building a model community on land won 19 years earlier than the land I currently live on was won (albeit this land was home to Jews just twenty years earlier, before they were killed, with their wives and kids sent to Herzliya ahead of the battle) in order to focus on what is really important: unity.

It happens to be that small communities of ideological and caring Jews who understand the power of Jewish unity continue to be built in Herzeliya as well as Tel Aviv ? such things exist already on various scales, but city-life is a whole different ball game. What we at Sde Boaz are doing is creating a community of people with different backgrounds and religious ideals who have come together with a reason and a purpose: to build the Land of Israel and let those out there with an internet connection or a couple spare hours to come and visit, know that there are still Jews - from all walks of life, wearing all sorts of clothes, head-coverings or facial hair - who care about building, who do not aspire to normality but to living up to the grand charge that is our task, and to building strong stone foundations for the Jewish people here to replace the rotting ones that are crumbling faster than many of us imagined when we decided to join our people here in the Land.

Unity is useless if the apex of that unity is mediocrity and passivity. Unity happens when one fraction of the nation stops imposing its dream on the other half. You don't want Judea and Samaria? You don't want the Temple Mount? Don't go there. Why do you want to take that away from the part of your people who cares? Can you still utter that same "maybe it will work" that cost us thousands of dead since that sentiment allowed Oslo to happen? Is it really about hating reserve duty? Is it about sending your child to be a soldier? What if you knew those things would not change with a withdrawal?

What about after the Great Retreat, when I move next door to you and your kids. What happens, when in your hopefully liberal society, kids start to come home wanting to learn more about the authentic parts of Judaism you dismiss with clich?'s like "fundamentalism" and "extremism"? Will you suggest I move elsewhere? I would be careful what you ask for, because if the Jews of Judea and Samaria are forced into "exile" - never thought to call any part of Israel exile, but I have to admit that those forced out of their homes in Gaza certainly feel exiled - they will gather the sparks wherever they go and elevate that "exile" as well.

It may very be what the Master of the World has planned for us, in order to bring our people around. That, however is not up to us to plan and the Jewish blood that would flow due to such a retreat is not ours to gamble with. Justice. Justice shall you pursue, my friend.

Injustice is not the opposite of Justice, lazy "pragmatism" is.

Looking forward to Sde Boaz Bet and Gimmel in Tel Aviv and Herzliya,
Full post and comments...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Pssst! Got Any Blue Threads?

Got an email asking about my Tekhelet 'dealer':

Shalom Ezra,
BG tells me that you are a holy man who knows how to get holy strings. I aspire to obtain techelet and to find someone who can tie that there aforementioned techlet to my beged katan, Rambam-style. Do you know someone who can help me?

I responded:

The man you want is Assaf Stein (02 997 2269). He lives at the foot of the mountain of Amona and is the greatest Tekhelet dealer I've known. May I recommend Rambam/Teimani, not only due to the reliability of the mesorah (tradition), but because you will never again spend your days tightening your knots instead of building the Land of Israel or any other redemption hastening endeavor you may be engaged in.

Enjoy your blue threads. May they remind you that our sea and the Creator's throne are the same color as your threads. You wear the team's colors. You are neither a blood nor a cryp, a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fan, you ain't even Katom or Kachol (orange or blue, for the color war your people fought instead of a Chanukah-type battle). You are a member of the team.

Welcome. May you enjoy your first recitation of the words our Teacher and Prophet Moshe was told, face to face with the Master of the World:

"Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them to make tzitzit for the corner of their garments, throughout the generations, and they are to place on each of the tzitzit a thread of Tekhelet. And it shall be Tzitzit for you, that you may see it and remember all the mitzvot of HaShem and perform them."

Or you can click here and do it all online.
Full post and comments...

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Kummunique - Kumah's Shabbat and Holiday Bulletin
Issue 18 "Parshat Beshalach" 5766

Shalom! We are proud to present another issue of Kummunique.
This issue is filled with Aliyah and Eretz Yisrael inspiration - so enjoy!

In this issue you will find:

1. "Happy Tu B'Shevat!" by Malkah Fleisher
2. "Aliyah, Post-Amona" by Ezra Halevi
3. "I Just Don't Understand" by Go´el Jasper.

Check it out at the KUMMUNIQUE HOME

Great explanation of Tu B'Shvat
Great Tu B'Shvat Seder
Full post and comments...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Aliyah, Post-Amona

A friend I grew up with in Albany, New York (who happens to have founded K'Cholmim) wrote the following in response to what some have been calling a good old-fashioned 'pogrom' in Amona. He wrote it in the talkback section of an article posting live pictures as the battle in Amona raged:

"...After wasting so much time and energy to try and better a state that I thought was "reishit smichat geulatenu" [the beginning of the flowering of our redemption -ed.] I now understand that good and evil can not mix, that this State is truly evil (this is hardly the first example, just one of the more shocking). Though I will continue to identify as a member of the Jewish People, I can no longer side with the "Israelis." This is an evil state and an evil society, and I will not volunteer to continue to be a part of it.

"Goodbye Israel. You broke my heart."

I shed a tear after reading it, and after seeing emails from others, some who have not even finished their Aliyah paperwork, talking about reconsidering, realized that although I have been in news-writing mode for the past few years, I must return to my former writing style to address this issue.

My first emotion was anger. Anger at the Israelis-by-lack-of-Green-Card who have hijacked this mighty nation toward the path of national assimilation, demoralizing and physically beating down good member of the tribe along the way. Then came pain - pain that a good man, who laid it all on the line for the Land of Israel is now saying, "We are grasshoppers in their eyes and are but grasshoppers in our own eyes," - just like ten of the twelve spies sent by Moses to scout out the land before our people first left exile for the Promised Land.

The pain and anger subside quickly though, once I acknowledge the part of the glass that is so full: There is an Aliyah Revolution afoot, like it or not. The rise of Nefesh b'Nefesh, with planeloads of olim-by-choice, are not due to any economic boom or enlightened government here in the Jewish State during these years since the collapse of the Oslo Accords and the launch of the Temple Mount War (merely translating the Arabic 'Al-Aksa Intifada') ? but due to a conscious return Home by people who know it is time. This Aliyah does not consist only of activists, nor does it consist largely of settler-types like myself. It contains within it suburbanites, Hassidim, good ol' American Jewish hippies together with PhD students, kids straight out of high school who join the IDF instead of some fraternity, and a whole bunch of hipsters who are just way too cool for the Exile. This Aliyah is not about escaping some outside force (economic hardship, Jew-hatred) that can change at some future point - it is about Israel simply being the place for the Jew who wants to do Jewish in the 5766.

Everybody is on their way home to Zion and everybody is needed here (even if you want to see a reenactment of the Six Day War with an armed Hamas PA and nuclear Iran). For a moment though, I am just going to address my homies - if you will. Those Jews who are tuned-in, but are considering dropping out (of the Jewish Project), due to seemingly insurmountable odds.

I for one, don't see Ehud Olmert, some consistently-wrong polling agencies and a state-controlled press to be 'insurmountable,' but that's just me.

I don't know what the events in Amona looked like to those who were not there, but if they weakened your resolve that this is the place to be, then the bloodied heads of teenage activists and the brutal order-followers with the batons distracted you from the panoramic shot of what went on there. What I saw on the beautiful mountain of Amona, where Abraham stood and was shown all of the Land of Israel by the Most High, was a glimpse of the Land of Israel. It was the glimpse that we American Olim, (we American ascenders, literally) saw for a moment, or longer, that initially brought us to consider staying here and making it our home, leaving perfectly excellent lives in the Exile.

Through the blood and smoke, I saw dedicated youth, some having dragged the adults in their personal sphere of influence along. When I say 'youth' I mean to include post-army grads and entire families - families who expected Amona to be a festival of democratic carry-me-away-gently protest, like back in the days of 'Nam or the Civil Rights Movement. Oh wait - back then people also had to submit to police violence in order to stand up for justice! Every generation has its challenges.

You know who those people were? Those parents who took off from work to risk a broken bone? Those kids who are no longer dazzled by the uniform the order-follower who comes to tell them a Jew has no right to the Land of Israel was wearing? Olim. A majority of the protestors were olim or the children of immigrants - and I was not surprised.

Every Diaspora community brought with it some key ingredient from the Exile to modern day Israel - a spark, if you will - that enriches and drives the Jewish Project being played out in the Land of Israel.

We American olim - immigrants-by-choice from the pinnacle of western civilization, bring with us the willingness to stand up for justice, no matter how impractical 'The Man' tells us that justice is - until justice prevails, and injustice crumbles. We bring with us the knowledge that the statement my friend wrote - that "good and evil cannot mix" - is merely an excuse to sit on the sidelines and allow evil to be perpetrated until good just drops from the sky - which would defeat the entire purpose of our creation.

We bring with us from the fleshpots not only liberal arts educations, imbuing us with the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Jewish brother Abbie Hoffman, but the cultural Torah of twin-souls and mass Aliyah-enthusiast Rabbis Shlomo Carlebach and Meir Kahane, who taught American Jewry, each in his own way, what Love of Israel was all about.

We came to Israel to build and are unfazed by physical destruction. We came from the permanent spiritual destruction be wreaked in the Exile and compared to that the demolition of a concrete structure is not an emotional hardship. Those in Amona left not with the feeling of defeat, but with the sense that they had stood up for justice, breathed the sweet air of revolution and were forced to pay a heavy price. The wounded all say they are ready to continue to pay it on behalf of the Jewish project and the Jewish destiny.

We need more people, though. I am not just talking about more people to stand up to face the police horses and clubs, but more people to be here, to play their role in improving and enriching all aspects of Jewish statehood and the rehabilitation of our nation after an extremely long and difficult journey through Exile. If you are alive in this generation and see something wrong with the State of the Jews, or even have the desire to turn it into the Jewish State ? then you are, as Stephen Gaskin once said, "God's eyes on the scene" ? and it is your responsibility to get a move on and get fixin'.

The wounds incurred in Amona will heal. The wounded in the hospital told each reporter the same thing: they don?t regret a thing and vow to return the next time. Israelis-by-choice are a growing force on every level, fixing our people's great sin of rejecting the Land the first time around by embracing the good and fixing the not-yet-awesome.

I am told Ehud Olmert has two sons who refused to serve in the IDF and a daughter who lives in Paris. Meanwhile, I have a brother moving here in less than two years and recognize at least one person every time Nefesh b'Nefesh brings a planeload of American revolutionaries (they call 'em olim) over.

Meanwhile, Israel is now the largest Jewish population center in the world, and will soon be home to the majority of the Jewish people. The Land of Israel where the game is being played and the only place where the Jewish Project can be carried out and implemented, in all its glory. Moreover, if you believe the Master of the World indeed gave us a blueprint for perfecting the world at Mount Sinai, then you must concede that the holy document makes it quite clear where this society must be built. If you don't buy that, but somehow have the secular Jewish urge to implement some sort of massive world-fixing project - forget Honduras, the cameras of the world are focused on Jerusalem, just waiting for someone to do something right here so it can be broadcast as an example to the rest of humanity.

And seriously, between the color-war and the school yard skirmishes (ok, even following the ocassional 'pogrom' called for by an unelected interim Prime Minister), life in the Promised Land remains rich and beautiful. You meet human gems on the streets each day and in the line at the supermarket. Spring has arrived early and everything is in bloom and, all the while, more and more Americans are packing their bags to make the move and American accents are heard in places like Afula, Jaffa and Beit She'an. At my home in Sde Boaz, where a house was demolished less than a month ago, trees are taking root in soil was evidently was not meant for a house, and a community has grown stronger. I planted a Carob tree yesterday before I went to work in Beit El (Home of the original Stairway to Heaven).

So please, as someone who was hit with a baton by an Israeli policeman in Amona, as someone who saw a house built laboriously by Jewish hands crushed under the bulldozers of the Jewish army, let me assure you that not only are the other 45 homes in Amona still standing, the community of Sde Boaz is still planting and growing and building.

The only way we can lose this struggle, or fail to deliver the goods to our children's generation, is by throwing up our hands and choosing the irrelevance of Jewish exile, replete with its struggles against Holocaust-forgetting and gentile-marrying, over the awesome task of moving the Jewish destiny forward using the puzzle pieces each and every one of us holds, which together constitute Jerusalem rebuilt.

With love and blessings from the Holy Land,
And with hopes that Israel does not lose one of its greatest Levites,

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Thursday, February 02, 2006


Kummunique - Kumah's Shabbat and Holiday Bulletin
Issue 17 "Parshat Bo" 5766

Shalom! We are proud to present another issue of Kummunique.
This issue is filled with Aliyah and Eretz Yisrael inspiration - so enjoy!

In this issue you will find:

1. "2,000-Year-Old Judean Date Seed Growing Successfully" by Ezra Halevi
2. "Aliyah: Conversations with Liel Liebovitz" from Jewlicious
3. "Hip-Hop Aliya" from Cafe Oleh

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