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