Join the Neo-Zionist

  • Receive our Kummunique:
    unique and informative emails
    about events, articles, and info
    to keep you in touch.

Kumah Mascots

Kumah Awards


Friday, January 29, 2010

Kumah's Amazing, Unbeatable, Crunchy Munchy Tu B'Shevat Seder

We offer for your Tu b'Shevat-dining pleasure, written with our own dirt-encrusted hands, the Totally Awesome Kumah Tu B'Shevat seder! May it help you dig deeper roots in the Land, and taller branches in the Heavens.

Labels: ,

Full post and comments...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Zionism, not Cynicism

Israel has lots challenges: We have two hostile Iranian outposts on our borders, not to mention Iran itself building a bomb with our name on it. When we fight to defend our citizenry we get the Goldstone Report. The world is trying to stop us from building in our capital. We have a hostage in Gaza and we are being asked to release murderers for his freedom. We have very few friends abroad, and inside Israel we are often divided.

It is not surprising that in such an atmosphere, some people succumb to cynicism. But just as the darkness seems to have the upper hand, suddenly there are bright moments that delight us, remind us what Israel is all about, and shoo away the cynicism. Aliya is just such a cynicism buster. Aliya shows us that Israel continues to attract Jews from all over the world to take part in the most exciting project of the Jewish people in two-thousand years...

However, two recent articles in the Jerusalem Post seem bent on putting a dark spin on aliya as well:

In an op-ed entitled "What American aliya?" (Dec. 16) Haviv Rettig Gur wrote :

...Aliya as a phenomenon, as a movement, as a national project, has come to an end. Some 3,000 American olim come to Israel every year from a community whose population is at least 4.2 million strong... for all intents and purposes, North American aliya is currently at zero.

Then, as a follow up (Dec. 29), Michael Hirsh wrote "American aliya - an exercise in futility" stating:

I ask the well-meaning people at NBN and the Jewish Agency: With which powers of persuasion do you believe you were endowed that will sway someone to whom Israel is an afterthought into leaving everything behind and becoming an oleh? Perhaps that explains the current rate of "success," one-10th of 1 percent.

What negativity! This year was the first time in a decade that there was a rise in the number of new immigrants to Israel: 16,200 compared with the previous year's 15,440. 2009 also saw the largest number of Jews (3,767) make aliyah from North America since 1983. Amazingly, with all of Israel's challenges, aliya is on an upward trajectory - so why knock it?

Nay-sayers won't tell you that North American aliya has already become an economic success for Israel. According to a recent Deloitte audit, the entire population of Nefesh B'Nefesh Olim (6,493 households) has generated government revenues of 989 million shekels while the estimated costs of bringing them were only NIS 528 million. Also, the estimated contribution of American aliya (between 2002 and 2008) to the Israeli tourism industry (parents and pals coming to visit olim) is calculated at NIS 347 million, which brings the net contribution of recent North American aliya to a jaw-dropping 808 million shekels!

And North American aliya is bound to keep growing because immigration has never been easier: Israel has finally gotten the bureaucratic process right through the advent of Nefesh B'Nefesh. At the same time, amazing Anglo communities like Modiin and Ramat Beit Shemesh have sprouted up, making absorption a walk in an ever-more-manicured park. And as though Providentially, just as Israel's bureaucratic and community infrastructure are in place, the economic climate in the US has made aliya more attractive then ever before. In fact, measurable interest in aliya has more then doubled since the onset of the global economic crisis.

The aliya cynics point to the paltry 3,000 Olim a year and conclude that North American aliya is a failure. But since when do we value people as merely numbers? If the dream of gathering in the Exiles is happening only 3000 people at a time is that worthless? When one greets new immigrants one sees the faces of children kissing the ground, the faces of elderly rabbis crying, the faces of El Al pilots glowing with pride. "Total failure"? More like total ecstasy!

In the late 70's there were only 3 million Jews in Israel, now we are approaching 6 million. We have doubled in the last 30 years! No other country can claim that. Yes, it's mainly due to Russian Aliya, and a relatively high birthrate. But the point is that Israel wants to grow, and every Jew counts. Therefore, we must tirelessly continue to push aliya from all parts of the globe - and with special focus on American Jewry, the last major bastion of the Diaspora.

However, aliya cynics do have a point when they tell us that American Jewry is entrenched. It is. But that is not a reason to give up on our Jewish family back in the old country. To the contrary - it is precisely now, when the wheels of North American aliya are finally turning, that we must redouble our efforts to encourage Western Jews to come home.


It is in this spirit that I present three positive ideas of how to help galvanize Western Jews to seriously consider aliya:

* Aliya Day. There are well known state holidays which are used as springboards for massive educational undertakings. Yom Haatzmaut is a national celebration, but it is also a day of award ceremonies, concerts, and gatherings. Yom Hazikaron has its cemetery memorials and the siren that so powerfully reminds us of the IDF's sacrifice. Yom Hashoah educates us about the horrors of the Holocaust.

The time has arrived to unveil a new state holiday called Aliyah Day. Aliyah Day will be celebrated in Israeli schools with children getting up and telling the tale of their family's aliya. On TV, the stories of the various communal and personal immigrations will be told. Prizes will be given out to aliya activists, absorption workers and immigrants who have made a difference in Israel. Each year a different community will be featured and celebrated.

Simultaneously, Aliya Day will be celebrated in all pro-Israel institutions in the Diaspora. There, the discussion will focus on the importance of aliya, and the centrality of Israel. Aliya Day will use the proven model of a State holiday to celebrate the fact that we are all immigrants, and put aliya back onto the national agenda.

* Aliya Rally. There is a powerful force in Israel which, so far, has been totally untapped. Western olim, immigrants to Israel, are typically the most vocal supporters of continued Western aliya. If you enter the home of an oleh and broach the topic, you will find that from Raanana to Kiryat Arba, Western olim are highly enthusiastic about aliya and would like to see Jewish emigration expedited. We should harness the great passion of these people, and give them a platform to be heard.

Many rallies are held in Israel every year, but most of these rallies are anti-something, like calling for an end to some government policy. However, the aliya rally is different – it is positive and reaches out to Diaspora Jews with love and encouragement.

In a large venue in Jerusalem, like Teddy Stadium or the Sultan's Pool, the rally will be a professional production, with musical acts and speeches by well known personalities. Participants taking part in the rally will hold up placards that read: "Come Home My Brother / Sister", or posters of an Israeli passport with the words "Your Name Here" on the front. From the stage and in the crowd, we will call on our fellow Jews to come home and be our neighbors. The rally will raise aliya consciousness amongst Western Jews, empower olim in Israel who feel strongly about aliya, rekindle love of the homeland in native Israelis, and show the world that Israel still calls on all her children to come home.

* Aliya Boat. For American Jews in the US, the occasional press article or video clip about American aliya fails to persuade them that aliya is the future. It's just something they can brush off. We need to change that – we need to make the movement of Western aliya so spectacular and evocative that world Jewry will not be able to ignore it.

Enter the Aliya Boat. Evoking the nostalgia of old-world Jewish immigration, the Aliya Boat, this generation's 'Exodus', will bring 3000 Olim to Israel in just one journey. A plush cruise liner, the Aliya boat will sail for two weeks from the northeastern coast of the U.S. to one of Israel's port cities. Throughout the journey, an Israeli naval ship will escort the Aliya Boat as both security and honor guard.

While on this 'cruise' the almost-new immigrants will be busy: they will begin their Hebrew training at the on-board ulpan, take care of governmental paper work, and begin preparation to deal with their new home and environment. On the boat, children won't be strapped into constrictive seats for hours; instead, they will be 'enrolled' in an Israeli gan. Elderly folks can rest and play shuffleboard. Adults will begin friendships that will last a lifetime.

The romantic retro-iconography of the Aliya Boat will make news for two weeks straight. Embedded reporters and a documentary crew will record the epic tale. In Israel, a massive confetti welcome will make the arrival of the Aliya Boat one of the most moving spectacles of our time. It will be just too awesome of an event to minimize, and it will force every Jew in the world to rethink his or her position onaliya.

Indeed, this is not the time for cynicism. It is a time for Zionism. It is a time to think big and act big. If you will it, it is no dream.


Labels: , , ,

Full post and comments...

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Future: Shai Agassi, Denmark, and soon Israel

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rabbi Amar's Letter and Prayer for Rain in the Land of Israel

Or click here to get see the letter at this link at this link

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...


Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar called on all capable to fast and pray this Thursday in hope that God will bring an end to the drought that has depleted Israel's water sources and struck a blow to local agriculture.

"Because of our sins the water situation is in a serious state," wrote Amar in a notice that was sent out Monday to rabbis, synagogues and other religious functionaries across the nation.

"Our duty in this situation is to scrutinize and examine our actions and bring ourselves close to God with all our hearts. We must must be repentant with broken hearts and anyone who is able should fast, if not a whole day at least a half day."

Amar said that if there were ten men fasting a Torah scroll should be read and during the recitation of the Amida prayer the Anenu prayer should be added like any public fast day.

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Kotel on Twitter

And check out my interview with Alon Nir, the young student entrepreneur who brings your prayers to the Western Wall via Twitter!

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Look for the Shofar Guy

Friday, January 01, 2010

Intel and the Hareidim

In today's Jerusalem Post Magazine you can read my new article called "Balancing Modernity and Sanity". Below is the longer original version:

Regress standing against progress. That is the gut-conclusion we reach when shown the images of black-clad ultra-Orthodox Jews standing as a monolithic angry mob out to protest at the shiny Jerusalem offices of the mega-successful microchip maker Intel.

At issue is Intel's Jerusalem factory and its continuing work hours on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath - a day Biblically set aside for rest.

Intel represents progress for the world: running with the slogan "Intel Inside" or the newer and bolder ad campaign: "Intel - sponsors of tomorrow", this cutting-edge international company powers global computing as 80% of the world computers run Intel chips.

Intel also means progress for Israel: Intel creates much-needed, well-paying jobs for people in Israel and helps boost the whole country's economy. In 2008 Intel directly employed 6500 Israelis, with a few thousand more working as subcontractors. Last year, Intel was Israel's leading exporter - sending out products worth more than $1.3 billion. This year that figure will double.

And if that is not good enough, Intel took it one step further and has built research and development offices and a chip factory in Jerusalem. The capital of Israel needs both economic and political support and Intel provides it. In economic terms, Jerusalem is one of Israel's poorest cities and the new mayor, Nir Barkat, himself a high-tech mogul, is trying hard to attract big business and job opportunities to Jerusalem. Success with Intel will pave the way for others to come. Politically, Israel's enemies try to isolate and divide Jerusalem and they loathe the fact that a major international high-tech company helps Israeli Jerusalem flourish.

All this leads to one simple conclusion: Intel is good for Israel. So why are Hareidi Jews so against it? Why are they attacking a great Jerusalem institution, forcing it to consider leaving the capital in favor of calmer pastures?

Some observers claim that it's all political, that the Hareidim want a show of power to counteract the new non-observant mayor, and that they are afraid of a secular trend taking root in Jerusalem. Others claim that it's all about the money, with the ultra-Orthodox wanting kickbacks from Intel. Yet others believe that the protesters are simply against progress. Evidenced by their out-of-date appearance and their ascetic (non-internet) lifestyle, maybe these protesters are fighting modernity itself.

To understand the side of the Hareidim, we need to step back and analyze this dispassionately. What did the protesters demand? Did they call to get Intel out of Jerusalem? Did they hold signs railing against globalization? Did the Hareidim call for a boycott against Intel or rail against the general ethos of the communications revolution? No. It was one simple message: Do it, push the envelope six days a week, but please, just not on Shabbat.

If the Hareidim did not look the way they do, this could have been perceived as a liberal protest: workers demanding more free time from their employers, or city citizens calling on a company to give the environment a break for one day. However, because Shabbat is religiously mandated, it never seems to fit liberal criteria, though the message may be liberal indeed. The overt religious look of the protesters, coupled with the branding that we have been taught to associate with them, automatically locks out any debate as to whether the ultra-Orthodox position may fit perfectly with progressive sensibilities.

In a new acclaimed book entitled "The Tyranny of Email: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox", author John Freeman describes the modern information-saturated lifestyle and the implications of our linked-in lives. Freeman reports that new surveys, like AOL's 2008 Email Addiction Poll, show an email-crazed world. 60% of respondents report checking their email on the toilet, 62% respond to email on vacation, and 67% answered that they check their email in bed in their pajamas.

What about cell phone usage? We live with the obnoxious ring, the "I'm in a meeting right now" short answer, the constant focus-shattering distraction. In December 2008, the US's 270 million cell phone users wrote more than 110 billion text messages, an average of 407 text messages per user a month, double the number in the same month of 2007. U.S. teens (ages 13 to 17) had much higher levels of text messaging in 2008, sending and receiving an average of 1,742 text messages monthly. There are now about 4.1 billion cell phones in use world wide. The numbers just keep going up.

What about television consumption? According to Nielsen ratings for 2008, the average American older than 2 watched television for 151 hours per month - that's over 5 hours a day! Scientists tell us that when watching TV, our minds are less active then when we sleep, yet we imbibe hours of violent, oversexed, and plain dumb junk daily. And now with YouTube and free video on the iPhone, these trends are sure to grow.

We are living in an age of addiction, where the devices that were supposed to set us free are actually enslaving us. The more free from wires they become, the more tethered to them we are. This is not to say that the internet-empowered multimedia cellphone isn't great - it is - its just that we have a hard time turning it off. Modernity is beautiful, but we have not reached a healthy harmony with technology, and right now the machine seems to have the upper hand.

The modern world needs a powerful counterweight to correct the disharmony that has arrived along with the technological revolution. Envision our fast-paced society humming along with cars honking, cell phones ringing, wireless routers blinking, inboxes flooding, news media ticking along, and all the rest. Now imagine that we do that for six days a week, but on the seventh day we voluntarily rest. We turn off our cell phone, we unplug the TV (so that even that standby light goes out), we power down the computer so that it too can rest.

Imagine if we, as a society, took this seventh day concept a step further: all of us decide voluntarily to walk instead of drive for a day. Oooo, smell that fresh air! Cars are great, but one day without them makes us appreciate the sites that we usually zoom past, we take a break from road rage, and suddenly there is a quiet that has not been around for a hundred years. Smokers too could use Shabbat as an excuse to give their lungs a break, maybe even as a first step towards quitting. If branded right Shabbat could be seen as a day of environmental consciousness.

Jerusalem is the natural choice for the world's first city-wide Shabbat experiment. Visualize walking in the streets toward the Old City, no honking, no smog, no tension, a true serenity over the city of Shalom, peace. People the world over will flock to Jerusalem to take part in the unique cultural phenomenon of Shabbat and they will turn off their cell phones gladly.

But while in Jerusalem Shabbat is natural, in Tel Aviv Shabbat would be a revolution! Tel Aviv needs a break from its break-neck pace and would relish a day of back-to-basics. Tel-Avivians need some form of Shabbat more desperately then do Jerusalemites, an excuse for the exhaust-exhausted to sit in the park, to read a book, to commune with the spirit.

In the end hi-tech Intel and the old-school Hareidim must reach a compromise. Intel's Jerusalem factory has technical reasons why it cannot stop the production line even for one day, but Intel is savvy enough to come up with a technical fix. Similarly, the Hareidi rabbis, though stringent, know that Jewish law has built-in flexibilities which allow for creative solutions like those utilized in farms where cows need to be milked on Shabbat.

And just as Intel and the Hareidim should find a middle ground, so too our society needs to find a healthy balance between modernity and sanity. Never before have we been so inundated with information, so enticed by entertainment, and so constantly on the go. Indeed, we need Shabbat today more urgently then ever before.

To be sure, the Hareidi protests at Intel's Jerusalem plant have not conjured the attractive images of a beautiful world taking a day off from the grind. However, the Hareidim are not big into PR - they want to win a limited war for themselves, for their neighborhoods, and for Jerusalem - and they are playing protest politics which they see as effective. Neither does the press try to present the demands of the Hareidim in any positive light. However, we need not fall into the trap of externalities by throwing away an important idea just because it comes dressed in alien garb. Maybe it is we, the internet-crazed, the blue-tooth enabled, the ceaseless searchers for wi-fi, that need the Shabbat more than the Talmud-crazed, the sidelocks enabled, the ceaseless searchers for G-d.

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...