Saturday, December 18, 2010

See If You Can Catch Me On The Fly. I’m About To Slam Dunk.

Shalom Yeladim:
I know you’re going to think I’m stuck on Hanukkah. Last time I wrote about the Carmel Forest Fire that started on the third day of Hannukah. Now I’m going to tell you about the Maccabees. But this time I’m talking about the modern Maccabees – Maccabi Tel Aviv – Israel’s top basketball team. It’s a 5-time champion of the European Basketball league and it’s making a comeback. Several years have passed since the team won the league’s championship. Looks like this year it may be able to do it again. This past Thursday Maccabi won its eighth game in a row, meaning it definitely is going to be in the playoffs.

I bet you’re saying we have the NBA and that’s much more important. So here’s the thing: the coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv is an American, and not just any American.

His name is David Blatt and he’s an American who made Aliyah to live here even though many years ago he played college basketball at Princeton University and could have had a basketball career in the United States. Instead, he chose to play professional basketball in Israel. Eventually he went on to coaching, landing up with Maccabi Tel Aviv. That was around 10 years ago and boy was he good. So good that Russia asked him to coach two of their teams – which he did. And he’s so good, the New York Times wrote an article about him. But now he’s back with us. You can keep track of Maccabi by going to their website. Right now all of its European league games are played and televised in Israel on Thursday night. Go, go Maccabi!!!!

One more thing: I almost forgot to tell you that David Blatt is not the first American to make Aliyah to play basketball in Israel. One of the players who helped Maccabi Tel Aviv win its first ever European championship in 1977 was Tal Brody – an American Jewish basketball player who had been drafted by the NBA. At the end of the game he held the cup above his head and declared to all of Israel Anachanu ahl ha’mapah – “We’re on the Map!” Since then Tal Brody has become a national hero and that statement has become one of the favorite phrases used by Israelis.

One last thing: If we’re speaking about Israelis and basketball – do you know that one of our players (yes, he also played for Maccabi Tel Aviv) is now playing in the NBA? His name is Omri Caspi and he’s a 6 foot,9 inch forward for the Sacramento Kings.

I’ve got to get to the B-Ball court right now, shoot some hoops and show everyone how I can slam dunk. It’s easy for me to fly in the air. You never know who may want to draft me.
Did you hear that David?


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Help! We’re Fighting a Mega Fire.

Shalom Yeladim:
I don’t usually visit you every week, but we have an emergency over here in Israel and I feel that I HAVE to tell you about it.

The largest fire in Israel’s history started this past Thursday – a Mega Fire spread by strong wind. At its peak it was jumbo size…so big that it killed 41 people, destroyed huge parts of one of Israel’s most beautiful forests, and forced 15,000 people to leave their homes.

This horrible fire is still raging. They say it will take a week to completely put it out. It’s right outside the city of Haifa and I want you to see what it looks like. Israeli photographer Guy Shachar posted these photos.

The Prime Minister of Israel – Benjamin Netanyahu – asked the world to help us because we don’t have the fire fighting planes that you do in America. Twenty-three fire aircraft from around the world came to our aid. America, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Great Britain, Greece, Russia, Spain, and Turkey sent us planes and firefighting crews to help us put out the fire. Egypt and Jordan – our next door neighbors that are at peace with us – also sent aid. Even the Palestinian Authority pitched in with some fire fighting units. Now that’s a good sign! Let’s hope we can work together on other topics that everyone’s all fired up about.

Back to the fire. We won’t know how much damage has been done until it is totally put out. What we do know right now is that over 12,000 acres of land in the Carmel region have been destroyed. Hundreds of families have lost their homes and the Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, which helps breed and save endangered and extinct animals, was also was hit by the fire but thankfully all the animals were saved.

I’m reporting about the fire because you and us – we’re family, and family always helps each other out. We’re going to need a lot of help – whether it’s planting trees to reforest the Carmel Forest, raising money so that we can buy special fire fighting airplanes, or just helping people put their lives back together. Maybe you and your teachers can create a project to assist us.

This time helping Israel is really a burning issue.
Please write to me and tell me what you think you can do.
Todah Rabah…Zvuvi

Thursday, November 25, 2010

This Week I Took a Bus and the GOOD MANNERS POLICE Got On

Shalom Yeladim,

Yes, I know Hanukkah is only a few days away. And yes, I could tell you all about the wonderful Hanukkah events held for children in Israel – like the Festigal which is the best-ever musical event for kids held every year on Hanukkah. Or I could tell you about the Hanukkah programs that are going to be held at different museums and parks throughout the country. But I’m not.

This time I’m going to look at the buses that many kids take to get to these events and the new Good Manners Police that gets on these buses to make sure everyone behaves. This new squad is called the Mishtarbus and they just began patrolling the buses a few weeks ago. The name Mishtarbus comes from two words. The word mishtara means police, and the word bus…well I don’t have to tell you what that means.

Several college students from a Tel Aviv college started the Mishtarbus. The reason they did is because Israelis are not exactly known to be the most polite people. Helpful yes, but polite? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh…we’re still learning. But something even worse has happened. Respecting old people is a very important rule in the Jewish tradition and it used to be especially important in Israel. Over the last five years a lot of that respect got lost, especially on the buses. Maybe it’s because everyone is too busy playing games on their hand-held computer gadgets or listening to their MP3s and iPods? Whatever the reason is, the young people in Israel don’t exactly show their best side when riding buses.

Now the Mishtarbus is going to change that. They’ve started out in Tel Aviv, getting on heavily travelled buses. They don’t look like regular police. Their “uniform” is pants and a T-shirt that says Mishtarbus in Hebrew. If they see a Senior Citizen standing, they tap the shoulder of someone much younger, asking them to please get up and give the Senior a seat. Fighting noise pollution inside buses is another one of their goals. If a mobile ringtone is loud they ask you to please lower it. If you’re talking OUT LOUD on your mobile they ask you to please end your conversation. If your friend is sitting in the row across from you and you lean over, bothering the passenger next to you, and start chattering away, they immediately put a stop to that, using the word please, of course, because that’s also a word Israeli youngsters have to learn.

It’s unbelievable! I don’t know if I’m going to recognize riding on a bus anymore. But you know what? It’s about time! Buses are public places and we have to learn to respect everyone – especially the elderly! After all, we’re a Jewish state and part of being Jewish means just that.

So, this Hanukkah I’m looking forward to taking the bus to the Festigal and all the other fun activities.

Hanukkah Sameach…Zvuvi

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I’m Going to Take a Spin on Israel’s Largest Dreidel

Shalom Yeladim:

I’m flying to Caesarea, the ancient Israeli city named for Julius Caesar. It’s one of the coolest cities in Israel. Cool – because it’s a really old port city with a fresh sea breeze, and cool because of all the unbelievable statues, palace ruins, hippodrome and Roman amphitheater that archaeologists have found.

But that’s not why I’m flying there this time. I’m going for another cool reason. I’m going to take a spin on Israel’s largest dreidel. After all, Hanukkah is just 2 ½ weeks away and I have to get in shape for all the dreidel playing. By the way, do you know the difference between your dreidel and ours? Your dreidel has the letters Nune, Gimmel, Hey and Shin for Neis Gadol Hayah Sham, meaning “a big miracle happened there”. Our dreidel doesn’t have a shin. It has a peh. Because you gotta admit that Neis Gadol Hayah Poh – “a big miracle happened here”.

But let’s get back to this huge, gigantic, unbelievably tall dreidel. It’s 18 feet high and it stands – when it’s not spinning – right next to the Caesarea train station. I know, I know, you’re going to ask why I don’t take the train. But I’m a fly. Remember? And flies have to fly. Which is why I can go all the way high on top of the dreidel.

This dreidel was made by a dreidel artist. Yup, his name is Eran Grebler and all he does is make dreidels. Well, almost. He also makes Hannukiot. But Hanukkah is his thing, and his “Dreidel House” is also located in Caeserea. I’m going to make that my second stop. Everything spins there…the potters wheel where the dreidels are formed…the finished dreidels all around, even other Hanukkah spin-off products.

Speaking of spin-off products for Hanukkah gifts – what about me and my book? You gotta admit, I’m so hyper I make your head spin. But hey, I’m the funnest fly around (OK, OK, funniest). You can buy my book at Kar-Ben’s online book store, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders. Or you can ask your local Judaica store.
Gotta spin…Zvuvi

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yes, we talk the talk. But we also we walk the walk. Me? I fly the fly.

Shalom Yeladim:

I’m going to teach you a Hebrew saying using the word holech – which means “walk."

Ani holech al zeh is a favorite phrase which means I’m going to go for it.

There’s a reason I want you to know this. We just held our first national walk day – and believe me, it got a lot of people thinking and more important, walking. I’m going to walk you through “why”. Up until 10 years ago you hardly ever saw a fat kid in Israel. We were a nation that lived outdoors. Kids walked back and forth to school. When they finished their homework their mothers said: “Go outside and play. Be back in time for dinner.” We gladly obeyed orders and played soccer, shot some hoops, climbed trees, did a lot of bike riding and got rid of a lot of energy. By the time supper rolled around we had a healthy appetite that never made us gain weight.

All of that has changed. We’re not all heavy, but there sure is a difference in our size. Now our parents drive us back and forth to school. When we finish our homework we don’t step outside of our bedroom – unless of course it’s to watch TV. During non-TV time we’re glued to our computers, playing games, chatting through Facebook. You know the routine. It’s just like yours. And you know what? Our parents are doing a lot of the same things. Which means they’re not so thin either.

I guess people at the Health Ministry looked around and said "enough is enough! We’ve got to do something." So they made this past Wednesday Israel Walk Day. The radio commercial made everybody feel guilty. It used a man’s voice and went like this: Exercise? I do it almost every day. I almost do it on Sunday, almost on Monday, almost on Tuesday, almost on Wednesday, almost on Thursday, almost on Friday, and on Saturday? I rest, of course! That’s why this Wednesday all of Israel is going to walk at 6 p.m.

Me? I burn up my calories flying. So I flew from place to place to hear everyone’s reaction to the radio spot. And the one response I heard most of the time? Ani holech al zeh. How about you?
See you… Zvuvi

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bet You Can’t Cats Me

Shalom Yeladim:
You know that cats love catching flies. I know that cats love catching flies. Then why am I going near them? Because Israel is now the home of international cat shows. We just held one in Ra’anana and it was just like a fashion show – it even had its own cat walk!
On October 23rd, Haifa will host the Royal Cat Club International Cat Show.
Cat shows in Israel??? Up until five years ago there were too many stray cats on the streets. The Ministry of Environmental Protection had to step in to help solve the problem. Today, we still have stray cats, but we also have a new phenomenon: supermodel cats with long sleek legs, knockout bodies and enticing eyes. We’ve got pure-breds, rare breeds, you name it.

How did all of this happen? It has to do with the Russian Olim – immigrants from Russia, now living in Israel. They love domesticated dogs and they are also crazy about aristocats. What a lineup they have: Golden Persians, Scottish Straight Hair, Cornish Rex, Russian Blue, Siamese, you name it. The one I like the best? Canadian Sphynx. They are the cutest because they are hairless, wrinkly and pink.

I bet you think I like the Sphynx cat because the Egyptian Sphinx is one of our neighbors. That’s part of it, but not the whole reason. They’re just like me. A Sphynx cat is extroverted, has LOTS of energy, and is very intelligent, curious and affectionate.
Hey Sphynxie…over here…it’s me Zvuvi. Let’s play Cat and Fly.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Chagim were lots of fun. Now it's back to school.

Shalom Yeladim:
It’s me Zvuvi, and this time I’m with my cousin Zehava. We’re sharing with each other what we did over the Sukkot vacation. So many tiyulim – that’s Hebrew for trips (day trips, weekend trips, you name it). We went sailing, trekking in national parks, did some bike riding up north, date picking down south, saw lots of plays and performances for children and went Sukkah hopping whenever we could. You see, we’ve been on vacation since September 21st! Who says that “school” isn’t fun? We ended the summer vacation with the first day of school on September 1st, then BINGO, it was erev Rosh Hashana, then Rosh Hashana, erev Yom Kippur and Yom Kippur followed by Sukkot, Hol Hamoed, and finally Shmini Atzeret together with Simchat Torah (BTW – we celebrate both on one day). And now you know what it is in Israel? It’s Acharei Ha’Chagim – which means after the holidays. In fact, if you wanted to get anything done this past month, everyone would have told you “Acharei Ha’Chagim” – which is the entire country’s way of saying you have to wait until after the holidays. So, if it’s Acharei Ha’Chagim and school is about to start again, do you know what that means? It means that this time there’s no playing around. School is going to be for learning, learning and more learning with a little fun in between. Acharei Ha’Chagim is a nice way of saying it’s time to be serious and get work done. Now let’s see --- how many more weeks until Hanukkah? One…two…three…Oof, Zehava just told me to get real and pack my school bag. Gotta go.Le’Hitraot…Zvuvi

Monday, September 13, 2010

We’ve Moved Our Clock Back One Hour. Why?

Shalom Yeladim, Morim & Morot:
I bet you didn’t know that we’ve already changed our clock. What??? you ask. Doesn’t daylight savings time end at the end of October? No way…not if you live in Israel. We have a fast day coming up – in fact you do too – Yom Kippur. The thing is we want to make sure it goes by fast. Like fast as a fly? Well, not quite. But that’s why this past Saturday night we turned our clocks back one hour. That way we start the fast an hour earlier and then the next day it feels like it’s going to end sooner. You could kinda say that it’s psychological! I keep on telling you we’re a fun country. Aren’t you glad you have us? And to make it even more fun, the city of Givatayim, which is right next door to Tel Aviv, decided to have its own time zone. That’s right. Some Givatayim residents decided not to turn back the clock. What???!!! Does that mean if I buzz on up from Tel Aviv, where it’s 8 a.m. it’s going to be 9 in the morning in Givatayim, which is literally a hop, skip and a fly from Tel Aviv??? And then, when I leave Givatayim and make a fly line to B’nei Brak – which is literally on a street next door – it’s going to be 8 a.m. again?? I mean is this fun or what??? You have to fly over here and see what it’s like. But oh, oh – you may not be able to land. The airport workers went on strike yesterday morning and with all these time zones I’m not exactly sure what time that was. Oy! That’s Yiddish for OMG!
BUT...they've ended the strike. Instead they're talking about work sanctions. So now we’ve got a lot to clock: how many hours for each sanction and how long our 25-hour Yom Kippur fast will take.
Are you as confused as I am? I’m certainly not going to tick off the minutes while I’m fasting on Yom Kippur, but I will try to play Beat the Clock.
Have an easy fast…Zvuvi

Saturday, September 4, 2010

It’s Almost Rosh Hashanah and I’m Having a Honey of a Time

Shalom Yeladim:
To bee or not to bee? Isn’t that the perfect question for Rosh Hashanah – especially if you’re an insect? Being Jewish – and Israeli, I’ll answer that question with another question: To fly or not to fly?
Am I confusing you? Selicha – forgive me – which is another important part of Rosh Hashanah. If I’ve done anything to get you upset, I ask forgiveness. But getting back to my question about confusing you, here’s my answer. I’ve decided yes, I’m going to fly – this time to some of Israel’s bee farms. Do you know that Israel has 500 honey farmers? These farmers maintain 90,000 hives, producing 8 million pounds of honey! But here’s the thing. Honey production isn’t new to Israel. After all, our country – yours and mine because it’s the Jewish state – is often called The Land of Milk and Honey. And with good reason. Israeli archaeologists have found the first real evidence of bee hives in the Biblical city of Tel Rehov located in the Jordan Valley, close to the city of Beit Shean.
So let’s get going with my mini-bee hive tour.
Our first stop is Kibbutz Shamir, located in the Upper Galilee. Natural springs and wild flowers surround the kibbutz apiary (that’s a fancy term for bee farm). I just love the clean, clear mountain air.
Next, I’m going to fly to Olam Ha’Devorah – Bee World – a family run farm found in Binyamina, a small town in the center of Israel, close to Zichron Ya’acov. I like going there because I get to make my own honey. It’s kinda sticky and for a fly that could be a fly-by-night affair – which is why I visit during the day. I know, I know. You’ve had enough of my puns, so let’s head over to Lynn Bee Farms in Moshav Kfar Bilu. The reason I go there is because besides the honey, the Moshav also produces natural and organic foods. Mm, mm. It’s also in the direction of my last stop – the Kibbutz Yad Mordechai apiary – one of the oldest apiaries in the modern State of Israel, with 4,000 hives scattered all over Israel.
Am I having a honey of a time or what???
Have a sweet year…Zvuvi

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Boy, Did I Do A Lot Do In Eilat!

Shalom Yeladim, Morot ve'Morim:
Times flies when you’re having fun and I’ve had the most fabulous, fly-full vacation this summer. In fact I just returned from Eilat. WHAT!!!! Eilat???? Isn’t it sizzling, burning hot there? And didn’t Israel just have one of the worst heat waves in its history? Yes, that is all true. But it’s hot and dry in Eilat (10% humidity!), and there’s so much water all around to cool off in, that you hardly feel the heat.

In fact – get ready for this – Eilat is the favorite summer vacation spot for Israelis, especially families. So much to do – like swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Reef. I did that and the dolphins snorted me out of their nostrils. When they did, I flew all the way over to the Marine Park Underwater Observatory to see colorful fish, sea turtles and sharks. Oooooh. Scary! Those sharks made me wonder what’s it’s like to snorkel in the Red Sea. So I did that as well. No sharks there. What a relief! All I could think of was how Moses split this sea in half so he and the Children of Israel could cross it. I still can’t figure it out. I know, I know, he had help from a higher source. But, hey -- I can fly pretty high too! Up in the sky, the wind swept me over to the Kings City theme park where a lot of fun-filled activities helped me journey into the past – I mean the real past, like thousands of years ago. You’ve got it. I met Moses, Pharaoh, King David and King Solomon. I played Bet You Can’t Catch Me with each one and you know who won – ZVUVI!!! I am king of the high flyers.

So, I’m flying high, feeling great about myself and thinking of different ways I can drive teachers crazy when school starts September 1st. After all, I’m more than a zvuv – fly. I’m a shovav – a cutie on the wild side. You gotta love me!


Sunday, May 30, 2010

America has the Golden Retriever, the French have Poodles & We have the Canaan Dog

Shalom Yeladim:
It’s me Zvuvi – the national fly of Israel. Today I want you to meet the national dog of Israel – the Canaan dog - a beautiful, proud guard dog. Canaan dog has been around for a VERY LONG time. So long that archaeologists have found the remains of dogs in two ancient caves. It makes sense that these dogs are called Canaan because that’s the original name of the Land of Israel. A few weeks ago while I was flying around, I heard some people talk about a newspaper article written on the Canaan dog. Actually, it was written about the lady who set up the first guard dog unit for Israel’s army. Her name was Dr. Rudolphina Menzel. She moved here ten years before our War of Independence and came up with the idea of using the Canaan dog to protect the areas where the Jews lived. The Haganah – which was the Jewish army back then – heard about her and asked her to help them build an army unit using these dogs. Thanks to her, to this day the Israel Defense Force has a special, elite unit for training dogs.

You want to know what’s so good about the Canaan dog? Aside from being beautiful, it has a strong survival instinct. It reacts quickly to danger and barks right away when it sees or senses a stranger. It’s very smart and learns quickly. It is also good with children it knows. You know what that means? The Canaan dog is the perfect family guard dog. Today, the Shaar Hagay Kennels outside of Jerusalem continues Dr. Menzel’s work of breeding Canaan dogs. You can virtually visit them right now. Tell them Zvuvi sent you. And guess what? You don’t have to go to Israel to get a Canaan dog. There’s a Canaan Dog Club of America.

I’ve got to go. NOW! A Canaan dog is furiously wagging its tail at me. All I did was buzz by to check if it could see me. O.K., O.K., so I jumped on its nose a few times. That doesn’t mean it has to bark so loudly.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

We Just Celebrated Jerusalem Day

Shalom Yeladim:
I just had a “wail” of a time in Jerusalem, celebrating Jerusalem Day. Jerusalem is our capital city. It’s been our capital for a VERY long time – ever since King David ruled over the Kingdom of Israel. That’s why Jerusalem is also called the City of David. In fact, you won’t believe this, but legend has it that Jerusalem has 70 names!!! I guess that’s because it’s the most important city for the Jewish people. Hey, don’t we say “Next Year in Jerusalem” every Passover? That proves how important this city is for us. So when it became divided in 1948 – during our War of Independence – we were determined to make it whole again. Which is exactly what we did in 1967. We fought our famous 6-Day War, recaptured the part of Jerusalem that was taken away from us, and turned it into a united capital city. Ever since then we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day. In my book – Zvuvi’s Israel –Jerusalem is the first city that I visit. I have a special treat for you. I am going to take you on my book tour of Jerusalem right now.
Have a good, and make sure you read all three pages…Zvuvi

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rain on Lag B’Omer!!!!

Shalom Yeladim:
The weather is getting weird – for you and for us. I heard that America had a snowstorm in the northeast in late April. Now Israel is getting rain on Lag B’Omer! Remember in my Purim blog I asked the rain not to go away? Looks like someone was listening. But hey, on Lag B’Omer? That’s raining on my bonfire! And that’s raining on the parade of all the Israeli kids – mainly boys – who have been using shopping carts to collect huge wood planks for the past two months. I’m not kidding. You see the picture of the shopping carts with the wood in them? That’s what kids all over Israel have been pushing and wheeling to their favorite secret storage spots where they hide the wood. Lag B’Omer is their holiday. There are medurot – bonfires – all over Israel. Even pre-schools and kindergartens invite parents to a group medura. If you’re flying to Israel and landing on Log B’Omer night, it can be pretty scary to look down from on high. The country looks like it’s in flames. But don’t worry, the El Al pilots usually warn passengers ahead of time. The problem with Lag B’Omer is that the air pollution level really jumps for a few hours, and all the smoke is not good for kids with asthma. So I guess the rain is a blessing in disguise because the pollution won’t be that bad this year.
My favorite bonfire site is on the beach. Since Israel is a Mediterranean country, we have a long coastline for setting up bonfires. Listening to the combination of the burning, crackling wood and the crashing of the waves really lights my fire. And no. I am not a fire fly. But I am all fired up about roasting some marshmallows.
Be’tay’ahvon…Hearty appetite...Zvuvi
Pssst…I almost forgot to tell you. There’s no school on Lag B’omer day. If there would be, I’d fire off a complaint!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Israel Independence Day is My Kind of Yummy Holiday

Shalom Yeladim:
Look at the picture of the meats grilling. That’s how we do barbecues in Israel. Another two days is Yom Ha’atzmaut and I’m going to have a flylicious time. Yum, yum. I’m already licking my lips just thinking about all the mahngles – barbecues – that are going to dot the public parks and beaches. Families, friends, you name it, take their travelling grills, fan the coals until they’re hot, then place all types of meats on the grill. Mm, Mm do I love the smell. I can smell a barbecue miles away and there are miles and miles of them on Israel Independence Day. You can imagine how many miles I log in on that day, jumping from one grill to the other. I’ll admit that not everyone is happy to see me. They greet me with open swatting arms, but I’m too fast for them to catch.
So what kinds of meat do we grill? Just like the United States, Israel is a melting pot. That means we have people living here who originated from all over the world, and we melt or blend together into one big pot, or country. Which brings me back to the grilling. We LOVE grilling Kabab – a type of roasted meat that comes from Turkey. We also adore Shishlik – a Central Asian way of roasting cubes of lamb on a stick with pieces of onion, pepper and tomatoes threaded in between the cubes. We lick our lips over American Beef Hotdogs – although most Israeli hotdogs are made from chicken. Do you believe!!! Speaking of chicken – we grill that too, and of course, steaks.
No Israeli barbecue is complete without pita breads, hummus, tehina and different types of salads.
Just talking about all of this food is making me drool. I’ve got to fly and get myself ready. I know that most people wouldn’t hurt a fly, but on Yom Ha’Atzmaut there’s a lot of flying off the handle when I come buzzing around.
Beh Tai’Avon. Hearty Appetite…Zvuvi

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The First Kibbutz Just Celebrated Its 100th Birthday!

Shalom Yeladim:
Kibbutz Degania Alef – the first kibbutz ever – just celebrated its 100th birthday. Wow – that’s a lot of years! For us, the kibbutzim are like the Wild West for you. Your pioneers went out West in covered wagons and fought the Indians to settle your land. Our pioneers fought deadly raids by Arabs and deadly mosquitoes spreading malaria. They had no farming experience at all, but that didn’t stop them. They came to Israel to work the land and turn it into a Garden of Eden. You see the black and white picture above of people from way back when standing next to a building. They were some of the pioneers who founded Kibbutz Degania Alef near Lake Kinneret. Back then a kibbutz was a communal farm which made its living from agriculture. They grew all sorts of fruits and vegetables, raised chickens, turkeys and cows. No one was paid for the work. The income went to the kibbutz so that everyone could continue living there. These farms grew into beautiful communities, where everything was shared – even eating together and taking care of the children. Look at the other black & white photos I’ve posted above. There’s one of an original kibbutz dining hall. And, take a look at the second picture. A bunch of children are getting ready for bed. You won’t believe it, but many kibbutzim (not Degania Alef) had the children living together, visiting their parents during the day.

All of that has changed, as you can see from the colored photo with the Hebrew sign. That’s the way Kibbutz Degania Alef looks today. The kibbutzim no longer rely on agriculture for making money. Most have advanced industries dealing in just about everything – from fancy eyeglass lenses to wet wipes. Several even operate beautiful hotels located on kibbutzim, with lots of fun-filled activities for kids. Every adult earns his or her own salary. Children live with their parents, and families eat together, each in its own home. Still, the original kibbutz concept plays a very special role in Israel’s history. There is even a Kibbutz folk singing troupe called “The Gevatron”. I’d like you to listen to some of their songs. They are SOOO popular that two years ago on Yom Ha’Atzmaut – Israel Independence Day – they performed with an Israeli Rap singer. See for yourself and get ready for this year’s Israel Independence Day Celebration in your school.
Tehenu. Enjoy…Zvuvi

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Know I’m Energetic, but on Passover I’m Full of Beans!

It’s that time of the year again. We’re all thinking about Passover and the family getting together for the Seder. I know I am. School is already out. Everyone’s cleaning their house and all the mothers are planning their menus for the Seder night. Yes, I didn’t say nights. That’s because we only celebrate one Seder night and if you think I’m pretty bouncy now, wait till you see me at the Passover Seder. I’m full of energy. “No way,” you say, “Zvuvi can’t be more energetic than he already is.” Well, I am. I’m a virtual jumping bean and I’m going to spill the beans about why. I’m what they call in Israel a “Mizrachi.” That means my family comes from Middle Eastern countries. A lot of Israelis have their roots in Morocco, Iraq, Syria and other countries in Israel’s neighborhood. So do Israeli flies. My mother’s family comes from Turkey and my father’s family comes from where the Passover story took place – Egypt. We Mizrachi folks (people & flies) believe that it’s O.K. to eat legumes on Passover. That means kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, peanuts, even rice and all other yummy kinds of legumes are part of our Passover menu. “No way,” you say again, “that’s a lot of hot air!”
No it’s not. Well, O.K., maybe hot air and beans go together, but honestly, I’m telling you the truth. Our rabbis don’t agree with the Ashkenazic rabbis who centuries ago said lentils are a “no-no” for the Passover diet because they resemble leavened food when they swell up. That’s why when Israelis do their Passover shopping they have to look carefully at the ingredients on all the packaging. Some foods will say Ocheli Kitniyot: “For Legume Eaters”.
You know what’s happening now? Don’t groan – more and more Ashkenazim are asking themselves “to bean or not to bean – that is the question!”

Happy Passover cooking!

P.S. Need an Afikomen idea? You can get a 10% discount on my book ZVUVI’S ISRAEL when you shop at Kar-Ben’s online store. Use the special code TAMI when you check out. This offer is available until April 20, 2010.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Mah Nishma Yeladim – What’s New Boys & Girls?
I’ll tell you what’s new in Israel – GESHEM – RAIN!!! Heavy, pouring rain like the one in the picture of the Israeli girl caught in the storm. I know, I know – rain goes back to the time of creation, but last year and the year before, and the year before that, we had practically no rainfall. The rain was so little, that drought conditions were declared. Farmers had a hard time growing their fruits and vegetables. Even worse – our sources of drinking water started to dry up. The water level of Lake Kinneret – the Sea of Galilee – which is pictured above and is our main source of drinking water – got so low that it went below the red line. We were in BIG trouble. Then this year rolled around, beginning with Rosh Hashana. Looks like the prayers for rain during the High Holidays must have really helped because lo-and-behold the skies opened up. We’ve had thunderstorms the likes of which we haven’t experienced in years, maybe decades. Lake Kinneret began to fill up again. Yay!! It rose almost five feet. That’s a lot – but it still doesn’t put us in a water comfort zone. And wouldn’t you know it – our last major thunderstorm fell around the Purim holiday. Everyone says the last rain of the year always falls on Purim. It poured on-and-off for three days. All the Purim parades and outdoor pageants had to be postponed until Shusan Purim – the day Jerusalem celebrates the holiday. Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem on that day because in Biblical times it was a city protected by a surrounding wall, just as the city of Shushan in the Purim story. Like clockwork, the sun came out on Shusan Purim and all the outdoor celebrations were held. But, you know what? Even though I have to put on a raincoat and boots, rain please don’t go away. Come again another day VERY SOON. I hope someone up there is listening. Help me get this message across. Join me in singing and dancing to the Israeli folk song "Mayim, Mayim”.

Looking forward to a few more wet days…Zvuvi

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut – Israel Independence Day – with Zvuvi

Shalom Yeladim:
I know you’re familiar with stuffed animals, but have you ever seen a stuffed insect? Well, here I am! My creator – Tami Lehman Wilzig – asked her artist friend Vivianne Reich to make a stuffed Zvuvi so that she and I can talk to you b’arba einayim – face-to-face. Tami has this fun idea of having the two of us help you celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut.
B’Emet – really! If you use Skype, you can book a live Q&A with Tami & me and we’ll answer all your questions about living in Israel, what it’s like for kids and where the fun places are to go. You can also ask Tami why she moved here and why she created me. It should be kaif -- lots of fun. Click here to find out how you can book a virtual visit with us.

Can’t wait to meet you.


P.S. I'll be back next week with a new post on rainfall in Israel.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I Have a Purim Costume Idea for You

Shalom Yeladim,
Mah Nishma? What’s new? Have you decided what to get dressed up as, for Purim? I thought about it a lot while I was traveling around the United States the past three weeks and I came up with a great idea. Let’s exchange identities. I’ll get dressed up as an American kid and you get dressed up as Zvuvi – Israel’s favorite fly. I already bought a baseball cap, a cool T-shirt and…you won’t believe this…I also bought a skateboard. I’ve learned how to do a frontside, a backside and a heelflip. I’m going to use these moves to glide my way to Holon on Purim day. Holon is a city right outside Tel Aviv and it’s a great place for kids. It has a Children’s Museum, a Mediatech and annual festivals, like the Yeme Zemer – Days of Singing. Best of all, every Purim it hosts a giant Purim parade called the 'ADLOYADA'. This special pageant is like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York. It has floats, jugglers, bands, dancing…and, well, you name it and it’s there. I took some pictures last year so you can see what I’m talking about. Come to think of it, maybe I should suggest that they have a Zvuvi float. What do you think? And what do you think about getting dressed up as me for Purim? Carefully look at my picture so you can figure out how to make a Zvuvi costume. If you do get dressed up as me, please send me a photo. I’ll be sure to post it on my next blog.
Can’t wait to hear from you.
Oh…and don’t forget – you can buy my book, ZVUVI’S ISRAEL and get a 10% discount when you shop at Kar-Ben’s online store. Use the special code TAMI when you check out. This offer is available until
April 20, 2010.

Purim Sameach…Zvuvi

Saturday, January 16, 2010

We Won the Latest Battle in the Hummus War

Shalom Yeladim:
You won’t believe this – Lebanon has declared a “Hummus War” against us. If you’ve ever eaten hummus, you know it’s delicious. I love taking a dip in this mashed up mixture of chickpeas, olive oil, sesame paste, lemon juice and garlic. It’s not only healthy, it’s fun to eat because you don’t use a fork or a spoon. You scoop it up with pita bread. So why have the Lebanese declared a “Hummus War” on Israel? Here’s the scoop. It began a year-and-a-half ago when some Lebanese businessmen took Israel to court. They said that Israel was making and selling hummus as an Israeli food and because of that, Lebanon, the originator of hummus, is losing millions of business dollars. It’s true that hummus is eaten all across the Middle East and its popularity has spread (oh, I’m having fun with this) to Europe and the United States. But to say it was originally made in Lebanon???!!! That’s like saying the Egyptians can sue the world for making bread because rolls and bread loaves have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. But the Lebanese insisted and they went on to prepare a HUGE plate of hummus weighing over two tons. They told their fellow countrymen to “Come fight for your bite. You know you’re right.” They fought to have the largest bowl of hummus in the world by making a new Guiness World Record, and they won. But the victory proved to be an uphill battle because last week we slam dunked them. There’s an Israeli-Arab village near Jerusalem called Abu Gosh. In Israel, this town is known as the hummus capital and the owner of the most famous hummus restaurant was not bowled over by the Lebanese success. “We can do better than that,” he declared, “much better.” An Israeli telecommunications company gave the restaurant a satellite dish 20 feet in diameter to fill with hummus. A week ago Friday, people living in Abu Gosh and all over Israel came to the restaurant to make hummus with their own hands. All together they used 2.5 tons of chickpeas, 1.5 tons of sesame paste, hundreds of freshly squeezed lemons and a vat of crushed garlic. A Guinness official was present and at the end of the day Israel’s Abu Gosh Restaurant broke the Lebanese record with a new record breaking 4-ton hummus dip. So here’s what I have to say to the Lebanese: Stop the war and let’s make chickpeace.

Hey…that reminds me. Israel Independence Day is only a few months away. This year’s celebration falls on April 20th. To start the celebration early you can buy my book, ZVUVI’S ISRAEL and get a 10% discount when you shop at Kar-Ben’s online store. Use the special code TAMI when you check out. This offer is available until April 20, 2010.

Rega (that's Hebrew for wait a minute)'s another idea. Would you like to meet me around the time of Israel Independence Day? You can if you book a virtual Q&A with the Author. Visit Tami's website and go to the top right-hand banner that says "NEW" to find out how to do this.
You book the visit and I'll be there.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I’m as Fit as a Fly

Shalom Yeladim:
Did you have your swine flu vaccination? I brought you a sign showing how kids in Israel are learning about the swine flu. We’re part of the worldwide effort to get vaccinated. In fact, I just had my Khisun – that’s vaccination in Hebrew, against Shapat Khazirim – which means swine flu. When my turn came I hardly felt it, and now I’m as fit as a fly. You know it’s a good thing they don’t call it the “fly flu”. That would be really confusing. Speaking of which, I flew by Israel’s Ministry of Health this week and I heard some interesting news. Listen to this: as of January 1st – which means just a few days ago, all newborn babies in Israel will have their hearing checked for free within 48 hours after being born. Isn’t that unbelievable? There’s a reason why the Israeli government has decided to pay for this check-up. Doctors in Israel have found that 3 out of every 1000 kids have hearing problems. They’re determined to find out who has hearing difficulties as soon as possible. It turns out that hearing is the most important way to get babies to react when they’re very little. It’s our hearing that helps us learn how to speak and develop our brain power. Now that all babies will be tested, babies with hearing problems will have a hearing aid attached to their ear from the time they are one month old so that they will be able to develop like all the other babies.
I understand that people in England say “Hear, Hear!” when they like something and that Americans say “Let’s hear it for…”. I like the idea of a baby hearing test, don’t you? Let’s all say “Hear, Hear!” “Let’s hear it for the hearing doctors in Israel!”
I could be really punny and say “Le’HearTraot.” But I don’t want you to groan, so I’ll just say: Le’Hitraot. See you in 2 weeks.