Monday, December 21, 2009

Do You Know That We Read The Same Books?

Shalom Yeladim:
“Mah Korei”? That’s the Hebrew saying for “What’s Going On?” If you separate the words and translate each, the word “Mah” means “what” and the word “Korei” has two meanings: “happening” and “reading”. It just so happens that the books we all read are exactly what I want to talk to you about today. I bet you didn’t realize that even though we live oceans apart we still read many of the same books, or have the same books read to us. Take a look at the examples I’ve found. There’s The Cat in the Hat; and The Giving Tree; and Once Upon a Potty. So now I have a question for you: If all three of these books can be read in English AND in Hebrew, which one do you think was originally written in Hebrew and first printed in Israel? I’m going to give you five seconds to think and give me an answer.
Tick tock…1. Tick tock…2. Tick tock…3. Tick tock…4. Tick tock…5.
And the answer is…Once Upon a Potty.
Its Hebrew title – “Seer Ha’Seerim” – is a great play on words. A “Seer” is a potty and “Seerim” are many potties. But the wordplay here deals with King Solomon’s famous poem: “Shir Ha’Shirim”. The word “Shir” means poem, and “Shirim” are many poems. Speaking of poems, a LOT of Israeli children’s books are written in rhyme. That’s because we take the time to think like a King who writes poems one can sing. Which is why I’m going to say “bye” from your favorite fly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Want You to See How Some People in Jerusalem Light Their Hanukkiah

Have you ever met an Israeli who arrives early? Late, yes. But early? Never. Well here I am. I know I’m supposed to be visiting you next week, but I just couldn’t control myself. You see, yesterday evening I decided to take a leisurely fly-by at sundown. My destination was Me’ah She’arim – an ultra-orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem. Friends told me that the people living there have the most unbelievable Hanukkah candle lighting custom. While the rest of us light our Hanukkiah next to a window facing the street, they light their Hanukkiot outside their house, on the left hand side of the front door! The reason they do this is the same one you light yours near a window – to visually remind everybody about the miracle of the oil. The only difference is that if you light the Hanukkiah outside, you have to protect the candles from the wind, rain and maybe even snow. That’s why the people in Me’ah She’arim have special glass cases for their Hannukiot. I took a picture of the Hanukkiot lit by one family. Aren’t they neat – and don’t the lit candles look beautiful? They remind me of lanterns. Hey, that’s a great idea: Hanukkiah lanterns. Maybe you can make one as a class project? If not this year, maybe next. By the way, don’t forget to look at the wall of the building. It’s made out of Jerusalem stone. All the buildings in Jerusalem have outer walls like this – it’s the city’s trademark.
Oops. Just looked at my watch. It’s time to fly. I have to get my Hanukkiah ready for tonight. Hmmm…which city should I go to this time?
Hanukkah Sameach…Zvuvi

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Dreidel is Different than Yours

Shalom Yeladim:

What’s the difference between an Israeli dreidel and an American dreidel?
I’m going to count to five. If you don’t know by the time I reach the number five…I guess I’ll have to tell you.
4…I’m waiting…
5…I couldn’t hear anything over here in Israel. Did anybody give the right answer? You want me to tell you?????
All right, all right.
You see the first row of dreidel letters? Those are the ones you know: the letters Nune, Gimmel, Hey, Shin. They stand for “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham”. That means a big miracle happened there. You say “there” because the miracle of the little oil found in a teeny jug occurred in Israel, which for you is far away. But we live here, in Israel, where the miracle actually happened. So our dreidel doesn’t have the letter Shin. It has the letter Peh – like the one in the next picture. It stands for the word “Poh” – which means “here” in Hebrew. We say “Nes Gadol Hayah Poh” – a big miracle happened here. And it did! The story of the Hanukkah miracle began in the city of Modi’in, birthplace of Judah Macabee – and I’m in a rush to get there. I want to take part in the annual Hanukkah torch relay race that starts in Modi’in and ends at the Western Wall…and I’m going to win. There isn’t a runner in this country who can move as fast as I can.
Wait a minute…what about you? What do you think about holding your own Hanukkah relay race in your gym? Let me know if you do and make sure the winners each get a sufganiyah. That’s Hebrew for jelly doughnut, which is the favorite Hanukkah food in Israel. Doesn’t the picture above make your mouth water? Umm…I can smell the aroma of freshly baked sufganiyot…I land on one and lick the jelly. it good…and…OH MY! I’ve got to fly. I want to be the first one at the race.
See you.
Chag Hanukkah Sameach…Zvuvi

Saturday, November 21, 2009

We Just Celebrated the Sigd Holiday

Shalom Yeladim:

I bet you never heard of Sigd, but in Israel it’s been a national holiday for the past two years. It’s a holiday that began in Ethiopia and was brought to Israel by the Beta Israel –Ethiopian Jews who live in our country. Some people believe that the Beta Israel Jews are descendants of King Solomon and the beautiful Queen of Sheba. Wow!

Ethiopia is a country in Africa. The Beta Israel community always dreamed of making Israel their home. After thousands of years, Israel is finally their country the same way it’s mine. I’m so happy and proud. That’s why I took a picture of some of my Beta Israel friends. I also took a picture of part of the Sigd celebration.

So what is the Sigd holiday all about? It takes place 50 days after Yom Kippur and it celebrates the Jews accepting the Torah on Mt. Sinai as their way of life. Sigd is cool because it’s like other Jewish holidays that start with a fast and end with a feast. We Jews know how to fast and we know how to cook! Look at the Fast of Esther which ends with a Purim feast. And what about Passover? We have the fast of the first born followed by the Seder. There’s another connection between Passover and Sigd. Passover is all about how we left Egypt and made it to the land of Canaan. In between, we were given the Torah. Towards the end of the Seder what do we say? “Le Shana Ha’ba’a B’Yerushalayim” – “Next Year in Jerusalem.” For thousands of years, on Sigd, the Beta Israel gathered on mountaintops outside their Ethiopian villages to pray for their return to Jerusalem…and look where they are today and where they have the big Sigd celebration. In Jerusalem!

I thought about taking you to Jerusalem, but I’m making a detour to Petach Tikva – a city in the center of Israel where they celebrated Sigd in their schools. Make sure you click on the video clip to see what they did. At the end you’ll see kids dressed up in Ethiopian costumes and doing a special dance with streamers. I learned how to do the dance. It’s simple. Look at the steps. Come on… dance with me!

Chag Sameach…Zvuvi

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Why Do Israelis Like Porcupines & Sabra Fruits?

Shalom Yeladim:
I’m on my way to visit the animal hospital at the Ramat Gan Safari.I want to thank them for taking care of three cute porcupine babies that some nice animal lovers brought to the hospital because they were so teeny tiny, and had lost their way from their parents. The kind people that found them understood that these orphaned baby porcupines needed a warm home and someone to teach them how to survive. The zookeepers and veterinarians at the Safari hospital did just that for three months. They were recently put back in their natural surroundings because the Safari people felt the porcupines were ready to be on their own.
All the newspapers covered the story and it got me thinking…thinking about the Israeli version of Sesame Street and one of its main characters – “Keepee” (“Keepod” is porcupine in Hebrew). You can see a picture of “Keepee” on top of the porcupines. See any resemblance? “Keepee” is a giant porcupine and is Israel’s equivalent to Big Bird. That’s right, there is no Big Bird on Rechov Sumsum – Sesame Street in Hebrew. Israelis are very nice and caring, but Big Bird was just a little too gentle for them. The Israeli Sesame Street producers felt that Israeli boys and girls needed a character that’s like the country’s sabra fruit – prickly on the outside – just like in the picture next to “Keepee” – and warm and wonderful on the inside. That’s why everyone in Israel is called a Sabra…and that’s why they created “Keepee”. Ouch, his hair is long and spiky! But boy is he a sweetie deep down.
Hey, sounds like me. I’m a Sabra. My tentacles are not soft to the touch. With all my buzzing around I’m not exactly the softest being, but hey, aren’t I the nicest fly you’ve ever met?
WHOA! I got to go. I have to contact the Sesame Street people and ask them if they’d like me to appear on the show. I’m a natural!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Israelis Dig Sandals

Hey, Shalom:
I’m on my way to Lod, a small city near Ben-Gurion Airport. In Biblical times it was called Lydda. Now it’s in the news because of the beautiful mosaic floor that Israeli archaeologists have discovered and the sandal footprint next to it. I put a picture of the dig above so you can see the mosaic. Isn’t it beautiful? And check out the sandal footprint on top of it. That’s why I want to buzz by Lod. It’s still hot in Israel and we’re still wearing sandals. I want to see if our sandals look anything like the print on the mosaic.

Israelis love wearing sandals. It’s been part of our fashion for thousands of years. Hey, didn’t Moses wear sandals? And what do you think the Children of Israel had on their feet when they entered Canaan? Sandals, of course!

Wait…wait. I’ve got a great idea. How about if I give you a simple Hebrew lesson. Guess what the word for sandals is in Hebrew. Come on…give a guess.... O.K. I’ll tell you – sandalim, and one sandal is called a sandahl.
Since the sandal footprint was found in an archaeological dig, I want you to learn the word for archaeology. It’s archaeologia.
And the word for mosaic? You can say psifas or mosaica. Do you believe it??? Looks like learning Hebrew is not that hard after all. By the way, did you know that the word “alphabet” comes from the first two letters in Hebrew: aleph and bet?

I hope you enjoyed your Hebrew lesson. Now I want to ask you another question: Do you know what a mosaic is? If you don’t, let me explain. It’s a picture or design made out of small pieces of colored tiles, stones or glass. The one found in Lod is the largest mosaic in all of Israel.
Want to try to make a mosaic of your own? I found this simple project.

Teh’henu - that’s “Enjoy” in Hebrew. See you in two weeks…Zvuvi

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I’m Going To Kibbutz Kfar Blum So I Can Learn How To Save Rain Water

Hi, Mah Nishma – that’s Hebrew for “What’s up?”
It’s me, Zvuvi, and I’ll tell you what’s going on with me. In fact, I’m going to take you with me. I’m on my way up north, to Kibbutz Kfar Blum. I took a picture of it, so you can see what it looks like. I go to Kfar Blum a lot because it’s a real cool place. I bounce up and down on people’s shoulders when they go kayaking and rafting there. Sometimes I trail along on nature hikes, and when I want to really close my eyes and relax, I go to the music festival held there every year. But all of that is not why I am going up there now. Here’s the thing: At the end of the Sukkoth holiday, Jews around the world start saying the prayer for rain in Israel. That’s very important for us since it only rains in Israel from October to April. The past three years have been very hard for us in Israel because it hardly rained at all. We had a drought, so we’re really praying for lots of rain this year – and we’re learning how to make the most of the little rain that falls. That’s why I’m flying to Kfar Blum. I’m going to its elementary school to see the new rainwater collection system they just installed on the roofs of all the classrooms. Since Kfar Blum is a kibbutz, the students call the system a “water tank farm.” It can hold 1,500 gallons of water dripping from a 2800 sq. ft. roof. They’ve also placed a sediment tank next to the water tanks to collect the dirt from the water. The students are going to monitor the water gauge on each tank and tell the principal how much water they are saving.

I bet you want to know what they plan on doing with the water. They’re going to recycle it by using it in the school’s bathrooms.

What are you doing to save water in your home and school? Write to me and let me know. Maybe I can share your ideas with kids over here.

Hey – a few raindrops are beginning to fall.
Gotta run…I mean fly.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I’m Getting Ready for the Sukkot-Simhat Torah Vacation

Shalom Boys & Girls: It’s me again – Zvuvi – and this time my cousin Zehava has come along for the ride.

Have I told you that Israel is a country made for kids? The best time to prove that is during the holidays. Take the Sukkot/Simhat Torah vacation, which is about to begin. There is no school for 10 whole days!!! -- starting from the day before Sukkoth and continuing through the day after Simhat Torah, because that’s Isru Chag – the carry-over day after the holiday, and school is still out. Sukkot is one of the most fun times of the year. Here’s a sneak preview so you’ll understand why.

Since Sukkot is one of the three festivals during which we should all go up to Jerusalem, I’m going to start with Israel’s capital city. Whew…what a schedule! Sooo many activities in all the museums, including puppet theater shows, scavenger hunts, arts & crafts workshops -- you name it, they’re doing it. There’s more besides museums. This year I’m going to zip by The Red Bull Festival in Sachar Park because there’s going to be a Flying Car Competition. Hey – I fly too! Maybe I can compete. I’m also going to buzz over to Ghepetto’s Woodworking Workshop held every day during Hol Hamoed in one of Jerusalem’s colleges. Uh, oh. It says kids must be accompanied by an adult. I have to tell my mother about that. She loves bird watching, so I’ll make a deal with her. I’ll join her on a family hike or a night safari held by the Jerusalem Bird Observatory if she takes me to Ghepetto.

Speaking of nature – and you’re right, I’m also a part of that – I love buzzing by all the special Sukkot events held at Israel’s National Parks.

Israel has over 60 national parks and nature reserves. I’m too much on the move to tell you about each, so check them out for yourself. The parks host all kinds of fun activities every Sukkot – from juggling to make-believe Nabatean markets as they existed thousands of years ago. There are even more nature activities in Israel’s forests. Every Succoth the Jewish National Fund becomes the Jewish National Fun with family hikes, meals, bicycle tours and more.
Many parents only work half a day each day of Hol Hamoed so that they can spend time with their children. Some even take the whole holiday off. That’s why there are periods during Sukkot when traffic can get bumper-to-bumper on Israel’s highways and by-ways. The distances in Israel are not that big, so families are out enjoying a different activity every day.

I haven’t even told you half of what goes in Israel during Sukkoth. There are fun events everywhere – in the southern desert region, in Tel Aviv and the cities surrounding it, and up north. Like I said, this was just a sneak peek. So bye for now.
Chag Sameach…Zvuvi

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fly with Zvuvi to “The Asking Tree”

Shalom Girls & Boys:
My name is Zvuvi. I’d like to be your guide to life in Israel for kids. I’ve already come out with a book – Zvuvi’s Israel – that takes you to fun places in Israel. Ask your teacher or librarian if s/he can show you a copy. You’ll see that I’m a “shovav” – that’s Hebrew for a fun-loving, mischievous boy. I really don’t get into trouble, I just like to always be on the move. That’s why the first thing I’m going to do in this blog is take you to the mall in Kiryat Ono -- a small city in the center of the country, right outside Tel Aviv.

“What? Another mall?” you’re asking. Yeah, I know. You’ve got plenty of malls in the United States. But I bet none of them has an “Asking Tree.” I just found out about it and it’s the only tree of its kind in Israel. It’s really neat. It’s a real citrus tree that’s gone bald. So the management of the mall transported it inside and painted it to look like a sculpture. Why is it called an “Asking Tree”? Here’s the buzz. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are when we pray for a good year. The “Asking Tree” lets boys and girls make specific requests for themselves and the country. A lady named Aviv is in charge of the “Asking Tree”. She told me that any kid who wants to ask a question is given a piece of recycled paper on which to write their request. The “leaf” is then hung on the tree.

You like that idea? I think it’s pretty cool. But the best thing of all is that at the end of the holiday season – that means after Simchat Torah – the Mayor of Kiryat Ono is going to collect all the note leaves and drive to Jerusalem, where he will present them to the secretary of the Knesset – Israel’s parliament. The members of the Knesset will read the questions and discuss among themselves what can be done about all the requests. Now, I’d like to be a fly on the wall in that room!

What about creating some type of “Asking Tree” in your school? Let me know if you do.

See you in 2 weeks.
Shana Tova…Zvuvi

Monday, September 14, 2009

Introducing Zvuvi's Israel Blog

I am about to start a second blog. Hopefully it will not be a fly-by-night affair even though its host will be my favorite fly – Zvuvi. Who is Zvuvi? He is the main character of my new book Zvuvi’s Israel.His name is derived from the Hebrew word “zvuv”, which means fly – as in maddening insect with wings. But Zvuvi is not out to bug you or your readers. He’s a mischievous, fun-loving fly who is the perfect Israel tour guide for kids. Aside from taking you to all of Israel’s fun and kid-friendly attractions beautifully illustrated in the book (yes, please go out and buy it), I’ve decided to expand his activities. After you introduce your students to the book Zvuvi’s Israel, please explain to them that Zvuvi is not a fly-by-night book. He is part of a bigger picture that will include a bi-weekly blog showing kids what life in Israel is like for children their age.

You are the reason that I am embarking on this new project. One of the common concerns that I heard from teachers, librarians and parents during my year in the States is that kids today have a hard time connecting to Israel. I want to help bridge that gap and I know that Zvuvi is the perfect partner to help me accomplish this task. Please don’t swat the blog off your screen. Get ready for the buzz. I'll be sending out the next blog real soon and then I'll be back with Zvuvi two weeks later. But you will always be on my radar. On alternate weeks I'll be updating you on interesting Jewish holiday customs posted in my other blog, Tami Lehman-Wilzig Kids Books.For now,
Le’Hitraot…Tami & Zvuvi