Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'm Reaching Out Because We're Both Asking the Same Question About Each Other's Country

Ever since the terrible news from Newtown I've been thinking about how I can reach out to you. Yesterday it hit me. After listening to people in Israel talk on the radio about what happened in Connecticut, I realized that we're asking the same question about each other's country: Is it safe?

For years I've been listening to this question about Israel. It always makes me laugh (and cry) when I hear tourists visiting Israel for the first time say: "Wow! It's so safe here! I thought I'd see a bomb go off at every street corner."

That's right. Living in Israel is safe and normal. Children are happy, happy, happy, totally safe walking the streets and playing in the parks on their own. It's true that every few years missiles start hitting our cities, targeting school children in schools as they did a month ago. I'm not trying to sugarcoat the dangers we face. Not at all. Children and parents get scared. Everyone does. But the whole country reaches out and helps the people who have been hurt. Our mental health specialists help get us through the rough times and we all hope our leaders find a way to stop the danger so that we can return to our normal, day-to-day routine. Because life must go on!

The point is, I saw the same thing last week. What happened in Newtown was frightening and it should never, ever happen again, anywhere! But it did -- and unfortunately has happened many times in the States -- but everyone in America reached out, the mental health specialists stepped in and now your leaders are looking for effective ways to control the purchase and use of guns.

Is it safe in America? Of course -- when guns are not in the picture and lawmakers put the right laws in place.
Is it safe in Israel? Of course -- when missiles are not shot and both sides truly talk about peace instead of paying lip service.

So let's get rid of all the loaded questions in both countries and pave the path to a safe, peaceful existence.
Wishing you (and us) only Shalom.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

From Hurricane Sandy to עמוד ענן

שלום ילדים

I've been debating with myself about how to talk to you about what's going on right now in Israel.

I know that many of you are still getting your chin above water after Hurricane Sandy.  Lots of you have houses that have been damaged or destroyed and I know that right now things are tough for you. I also know that many of you are helping out strangers that were hit by the hurricane, and I think that's great! כל הכבוד

Yup, you have a lot on your mind, but let me tell you: things aren't so great over here either. As opposed to a natural disaster, we have a man-made one -- rockets being shot by terrorists in Gaza to cities in Israel's southern and central regions. 

Of course we're fighting back and we're doing our best to beat the terrorists. 
What I want you to focus on is the name of the military campaign we are now waging. 
It's called עמוד ענן ("Amud Anan"), and many times our attacks and counter-attacks do look like this.

So why do I think the name עמוד ענן  -- Pillar of Cloud will interest you? Because I know you study the Bible. If you've read or are reading the book of Exodus, then you're familiar with god's Pillar of Cloud.  

Here's a reminder:

Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.
During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion.

True, this is a perfect tie-in with Passover -- but the holiday around the corner is Hanukkah. So think about this: just as the Maccabees had to fight for their independence, Israel today is once again fighting to keep its country safe and free. 

May we all have a quiet and peaceful month of Kislev.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

TALE OF A FOURTH GRADE SOMETHING: A Story of Cultural Diversity in Israel

Shalom Yeladim:

Have you read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume? It introduces you to one of my favorite characters -- Fudge. Now I have a Tale of a Fourth Grade Something to tell you. It stars a fourth grade girl in Rishon LeZion who recently told the city's mayor not to fudge the facts.

Yup! She taught the mayor and me a great lesson in cultural diversity, because Rishon LeZion is like the rest of Israel. It has Jews from all over the globe living there -- Americans, Ethiopians, British, Yemenites, Australians, Iraqis, Russians, Moroccans, and lots more.

Here's what happened. The Rishon LeZion municipality wanted to tell its residents about the activities in a community center located in the Neve Dekalim neighborhood, so they printed and distributed a booklet. The girl -- whose name I don't know since I guess she doesn't want it in the newspapers -- saw it and got upset because only fair-skinned children were in the photos. So, she sent the mayor a letter. Here's what she wrote:

The booklet for the Neve Dekalim Community Center has at least 25 children.  All the kids in the pictures are fair-skinned and that does not represent all the children in town. I think that dark-skinned kids reading this booklet might feel jealous. A dark-skinned child  might say: "I can't be part of this because I'm dark-skinned." Anyway, it's also obvious that many children in the Neve Dekalim neighborhood are not fair-skinned....I would be happy to see you change that in future booklets.

Wouldn't you know it? The mayor found out that the photos were taken from an image bank. Now he's going to put together a photo archive representing all the city's children. He told the newspapers:

"The girl is right. I am happy she took the initiative and acted on this. She gave us a new perspective. Thanks to her insightful remark we will now make changes. I urge her and others to keep drawing our attention to such issues."

You gotta admit. This is A Tale of a Fourth Grade Something!

Photo Credit 1

Photo Credit 2

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Extreme Weather in Israel. Duh!?! It Does Happen!

Shalom Yeladim:

I'm flying in to bring you some needed sunshine as you hunker down and get ready for the "perfect storm." Whew...sounds like it's going to be awesome, as in the original definition of the word.

Sorry, I can't bring you our warm sun rays, but I can bring you sunshines of smiles by giving you this Extreme Weather in Israel quiz. Ready?

1. How long did the recent drought in Israel last?

2. When did it end?

3. At the end of that period a man made disaster was made infinitely worse because of the extremely dry climate. What was that disaster?

4. Israel recently experienced extreme snowfall with the largest snowstorm in two decades. When was that?

5. What was the highest temperature ever recorded in Israel? When and where?

6. What was the lowest temperature ever recorded in Israel? When and where?

7. What was the highest wind gust ever recorded in Israel? When and where?

8. What kind of extreme weather do Israeli meteorologists predict over the next decade?

Scroll down for the answers. But first, I hope this Tel Aviv sunset will bring a smile to your face.

Keep safe, warm and dry. Sip on some hot chocolate while you read the answers.

1. Five years
2. December 2010
3. Carmel Forest fire
4. December 2010 (ironic, no?)
5, 129º F, June 1942, at Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi
6. 7º F, February 1950, in the Beit Netofah Valley
7. 99 mph, January 1974, in Jerusalem
8. Read all about it

Tel Aviv sunset photo credit

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Holy Cow! Our Cattle Waste is Powering 6,000 Homes!

Shalom Yeladim:

The holidays are over and now it's back to business as usual. Business as usual???? In Israel, it's always business as unusual.

You know that we Israelis don't like being cowed into doing anything. So, going at our own pace we developed a way to gain the highest milk yield from our Holstein cows.

Now we've come up with another cow "technique" and all I can say is mooo over environmentalists. We've set up a new biogas conversion facility in a moshav  -- agricultural village -- located in our southern region. It's aim is to turn livestock waste -- and I bet those Holstein cows have a lot -- into electricity. At the end of the day its output is set to be 4 megawatts of electricity.  That's enough to power 6,000 homes!

You know what I have to say about that? Holy cow!

Photo credit

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Guess Who's the Artist Behind the New Masorti Movement Simhat Torah Flag?

Shalom Yeladim:

I'm so excited! Take a look at the new Masorti Movement Simhat Torah flag.

 I love it! Not only because it puts girls and boys, men and women on an equal footing -- and there's a lot of footwork on Simhat Torah -- but also because of something else. And that else is the artist who made the flag -- Ksenia Topaz. I am the cutest, shovavi fly around thanks to Ksenia. Tami created me and the whole idea of my book -- and Ksenia? She gave me my look.  Yup! Ksenia, the same artist who created this flag, illustrated my book Zvuvi's Israel

I can't wait for the Hakafot. I'm going to spread the buzz.

חג שמח

P.S. Can you name the historical figures on the right side of the flag? What else makes this flag unique? Write and tell me.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

To Bee or Not to Bee this Rosh Hashanah

Shalom Yeladim:
I know that I'm a fly but I'm as busy as a bee this pre-Rosh Hashanah season. I've decided that I want to find out where the honey is in this Land of Milk & Honey.

Do you know that the term honey appears 55 times in the Bible? That's a lot of beeswax to mind, so I started my journey by making a bee-line to Dvorat Hatavor in the Lower Galilee.

There I met Yigal Ben-Zeev, a fearless bee farmer. Yigal took me to his apiary and showed me around.

He's been breeding bees and making honey products with fingertip ease since 1982. According to Yigal, honey is the best antibiotic, and of course, the world's first sweetener. I couldn't help lick my lips when I saw the honey from the bees up close. It made me make another Bee line -- straight to the supermarket to look at all the honey products and hope I don't get stuck in some type of a jam.

It was a jam all right -- a mental jam. There were so many honey products made from different kinds of fruit. Date honey was the biggie. So I said to myself, Zvuvi, time to go back to the Bible and find out what's going on. Sure enough, the honey from the land of Milk and Honey is primarily from dates and figs! Actual bee honey is only mentioned twice --  in a story about Samson in the Book of Judges and in another story about Jonathan in the Book of Samuel.

That was an eye opener!

Wait a minute, I said to myself. Didn't archaeologists discover an ancient apiary in Beit Sha'an a few years ago, proving that we Israelites were master beekeepers?

I flew to the ancient ruins to have a look.

I flew and flew, and flew until I finally found Tel Rehov, home to the earliest apiary found so far. I listened to the buzz of what the archaeologists were saying and you're not going to believe this!!! The bees that are native to Israel are Syrian bees but the bees the Israelites bred were imported Turkish bees. Why? Because the Syrian bees were too aggressive and they couldn't get them under control. Now, I don't want to start in with politics, but doesn't that sound just a bit like today's buzz from Syria?

I think I better stop here. Things are getting too sticky.
Have a sweet year!

Beit Sha'an photo credit 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I'm Joining the Matkot March

Yeladim -- girls and boys -- it is HOT, HOT, HOT!!!

What to do? Go to the beach of course! Swim, snorkel and play Matkot.

From the sandy shores of Rosh  Hanikra...

all the way down to Ashkelon's beach and harbor...

kids are marching to the beach to play Matkot.

Ping, ping, ping. That's the sound everyone associates with Israeli beaches. A small black ball  whacked back and forth by wood paddles. It's kinda like ping pong, kinda like paddle ball and it's all ours -- Israel's national sport Made in Israel. Aside from being a great way to exercise, it's a win-win game. You got it -- nobody loses! You miss the ball? Pick it up and start all over. Want to see? Meet the people who've made Matkot such a special sport.

Have a ball!!!!

Rosh Hanikra photo credit
Ashkelon Photo credit
Kids Matkot photo credit

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Mosaic That Will Knock Your Socks Off

Shalom Yeladim:

You know that I'm spending this summer on a nature tour of Israel. That doesn't mean I don't take time out for art. Sometimes it goes hand-in-hand, especially when it comes to mosaics. We are a land of rare mosaics often  unearthed by archaeologists.

Have a look at this one.

It was found in Tzippori -- a small city sitting on a hill in the Lower Galilee.

Take a look at another mosaic. This one was discovered in the city of Lod, which is not far from Ben Gurion Airport.

You get the picture? Mosaics are part of our landscape. They don't always have to be ancient and they're not always dug up by archaeologists. The city of Netanya just created the world's largest sock mosaic. Sounds unbelievable, but have a look and think twice about throwing away socks with holes.
Hmm....a sock mosaic. That could make for a good summer activity!
Have fun!

Tziporri mosaic photo credit

Lod mosaic photo credit

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Different Kind of Animal Hospital at the Ramat Gan Safari

Shalom Yeladim:

Yesterday I reported about fish flavored popsicles for animals at the Ramat Gan Safari. I buzzed over for a few licks and to my surprise I found out that this Safari is a very caring place. Around two years ago they opened up a special hospital for injured wild animals and treat close to 2,000 creatures every year.

Who knew??? I just found out and it makes me really happy. Read this article. If you're an animal lover, you'll be hopping on the next plane to Israel. The hospital is so overcrowded they're thinking of opening a new wing.

Hm...I could make a pun about wing and flies....but I won't.

Le'Hitraot at the Safari....Zvuvi

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Latest Heat Wave News HOT off the Radio

Yeladim, we're having a heat wave -- an Israeli style heat wave --  and I've got HOT news for you that's really COOL. Makes sense, since everyone wants to stay cool right now. Anyway, it was just reported on the radio -- as in 5 minutes ago -- that the Ramat Gan Safari  is preparing special popsicles for its animals. I think I heard that they're even going to make fish flavored popsicles!!! I've got to fly over there right now because we flies can't resist fish. And hey, I'm hot too!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Let's Go Kayaking on the Jordan River

Yeladim -- kids -- it's hot out! That's why I'm making Kibbutz Kfar Blum the next stop on my nature tour.  This kibbutz is in the upper Galilee, so it's going to be cooler there than the center of Israel.

I'd call Kfar Blum an action packed vacation spot in the middle of a lot of nature. The best thing I like about Kfar Blum is going kayaking on the Jordan River.

Hmmm....I see a bunch of kayaks over there.

What's that? You'd like to see what kayaking on the river is like before you get in? No prob. Watch this clip. It's got kayaking and a lot of other cool, action packed activities -- all at Kfar Blum.

I told you, you're gonna wanna do this.

Do I go kayaking in my book? You bet. Go to page 19. Where there's something to buzz about, I'm there.

Kayak photo credit

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I'm Rocking with Rock Rabbits at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

Shalom all. It's me again, flying to the next stop on my Israel nature tour.
Today I'm going to take you to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve -- one of the most beautiful places in Israel.

I love the waterfalls. It's so much fun buzzing in and out of them. Hey, let's face it -- it's hot over here.

You could say that Ein Gedi is one cool hot place. It's a hot hiking spot. And cool? There are so many cool animals roaming around. Right now I'm rocking with some rock rabbits.

Aren't they the cutest? Try to find out why some people think they may be related to the elephant. I'm not kidding!

These rabbits -- also called Hyrax -- have a long family history over here, going all the way back to Biblical times.

Now that's pretty cool! Want to see them and other animals in action? Watch this Youtube clip and tell me where you think it was filmed.

You see why I love this part of Israel? You've gotta come and see it for yourself.
What's that? You can't make it this year. All right, all right. Do the next best thing. Go to pages 24-25 in my book Zvuvi's Israel and start planning your trip for next summer now.


Ein Gedi photo credit

Rock Rabbits photo credit

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I'm Taking You to the Ramon Crater

Shalom Girls & Boys:

Summer is on its way. Some of you may be coming to Israel on a family trip. Others may be staying home or going to a summer camp. Regardless of where you'll be I've decided to show you some of Israel's really cool places,  starting with the Ramon Crater -- the largest crater in the entire world that was not caused by a meteorite collision but by a steady water erosion of the rock!

Makhtesh Ramon -- as it's called in Hebrew -- is one of Israel's HOT spots. Yup, any way you slice it, it's hot. Hot temperatures. Hot, breathtaking views. It's our equivalent of the Grand Canyon and home to really cool animals that live in the wild -- like these Nubian Ibex.

 Want to see how close they come to visitors? Want to see the dry desert beauty of the crater? Watch this clip and come on down. Can't come this year? You can find the Ramon Crater in my book Zvuvi's Israel. It's on page 29. I love the illustrations, but honestly, you've got to see it for yourself.

Le'Hitratot at Makhtesh Ramon...Zvuvi

Ibex photo credit

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Latest Israeli Scoop on Doggie Poop

Shalom Girls & Guys:
It's me again. I know that two times in one day can be too much, but I just had to share this latest Israeli invention with you -- especially in this dog-eat-dog world and especially since it's a real scoop for tracking down the owner of messy, unwanted doggy poop.
How do you do that? I've decided to let you read an article appearing in today's Ha'aretz. It's definitely something we can wag our tail about!
That' the latest buzz from Zvuvi.

Looks Like We Have Our Own Turtle Beach

Shalom Girls & Boys:

I just got a tzav to got to Palmachim Beach.
Hey! I'm pretty impressed with the pun I just made.
On the one hand, the word tzav in Hebrew means command -- as in the commands an army soldier follows.
On the other hand, a tzav looks like this: 
This is no ordinary tzav. It's a huge sea turtle and the big news this weekend is that the Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center just released a turtle they took care of back into the sea. Want to see?

That's why I got a tzav to see the tzav. Get it???

In all seriousness, it's pretty amazing that we have a rehabilitation center just for sea turtles. I just googled it and found out that they're looking for volunteers. I'm still too young but maybe I can sart practicing with tzavi -- my pet turtle -- even if he does find me annoying! He hates it when I bounce up and down on his shell. I'm just trying to be friendly!

I'm on my way. First to Palmachim Beach, then to tzavi.


Sea turtle photo credit 

Friday, May 25, 2012

How Do We Celebrate Shavuot in Israel?

Shalom Girls & Boys:

I have to be quick because Shabbat is about an hour away and right when Shabbat ends, Shavuot begins. Which is why I'm buzzing by. I want you to see how we celebrate Shavuot in Israel and I just found this wonderful "photo album." It has pictures of every which way we celebrate -- from Samaritans on Mount Girizim, to Hassidim harvesting wheat, to children on a kibbutz.

What do we eat? All kinds of dairy dishes.

I'd love to chat, but I've got to fly. Hope that doesn't cheese you off.

Cheers...I mean cheese!
Have a Shabbat Shalom & Chag Sameach...Zvuvi

Sunday, May 6, 2012

This Shavuot You Can Help Save Our 400 Endangered Flower Species

Shalom Girls & Boys:

I love this time of the year. The sweet smell of flowers is everywhere.

Look at this wild tulip.

Isn't is beautiful!!!! Close your eyes and imagine what it smells like.

This tulip is one of the 2,400 flower varieties growing in our teeny tiny country. Most of them are grown by professional flower growers.  Still, there are 400 different kinds of wild flowers growing in Israel  that are in trouble. They're called endangered species.  We HAVE to protect them because they're part of what makes Israel so beautiful.

So, I started thinking about the flower side of Israel. One thought led to another. First I started thinking about the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens. Then I heard they have this cool idea of people and families adopting a flower species. Want to see the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens? Watch this  video.

Next thought -- Shavuot and how we use flowers and leaves to decorate our synagogues and homes.
So, I connected the dots and guess what I came up with?
A Zvuvi idea: How about you and me, and everybody collecting money from family, friends, schoolmates so that we can adopt an endangered Israeli flower species for Shavuot??!!

It's just a suggestion and it could be a great school project.  I even have a contact name at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens: Tal Setzmetzky. Or if you want, I found this site -- Friends of the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.

Think about it. While you do, have a look at some of our other wild flowers.

Power to the flower!

Tulip photo credit
Wild flowers Rosh Hanikra
Mt. Tabor Flowers Photo Credit

Sunday, April 22, 2012

We're One of the World's Happiest Countries! Happy Independence Day!

Shalom Girls & Boys:

I hope you're getting ready to celebrate Yom Ha'Atzmaut -- Israel Independence Day. Everybody over here is. Flags are flying -- like this one specially made for car windows.
What's more, people are smiling, and there's a lot to smile about. There has to be, otherwise why would the U.N. declare us the 14th happiest country in the world

I know you're asking "WHAAT! How can that be?" You're right, we're not exactly located in the best neighborhood, and let's face it the neighbors want us to move out. But we're not budging. Why we're not is the top reason we're so happy. We've done it. We've returned to the land of Israel and built one unbelievable country not only for us, but for all Jews around the world. 

That's one BIG reason to celebrate. Not just us, you too. I recently heard a Jewish mother in America say that now that her children are in their twenties, no longer in Day School and learning about Israel, Yom Ha'Atzmaut is not really important. HUH!!!???? I really gave it to her. Regardless of how old you are Yom Ha'Atzmaut should be important to you and every Jew around the world.  Why? Because it's good to know that all of us have each other and a wonderful country.

So that's my preach for the day, but that lady got me really upset.

According to the U.N. report, political freedom, people you can count on -- meaning strong friendships and loving family -- job security, good mental and physical health are all part of the happiness picture.  We've got oodles of most of that. Plus we have other reasons to be so happy and I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
Yom Ha'atzma'ut Sa'me'ach. Happy Israel Independence Day!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Israeli Arabs LOVE Eating Matza!

Shalom Girls & Boys:

Since Passover is just around the corner, I'm on my way to buy Matza and you'll never guess where.  Not at the supermarket.  Not at the local makolet -- grocery store. Not in the shuk -- outdoor market.
I'm buzzing by Jaffa (next to Tel Aviv), Umm el-Fahm (a city up north) and Nazareth (another city up north) where many Israeli Arabs live. You can't believe the amount of Matza they sell there.  In fact, if I don't rush it will be sold out.

Israeli Arabs say that nothing beats Matza. It's a delicacy they wait for once a year.  They love the taste. They love the texture. They eat it from the start of Passover to the end. Then they run out and buy some more.

Who would believe? Do we live in a crazy country or not?  Matza -- the bread of affliction symbolizing our flight to freedom from the Egyptians -- brings Arabs and Jews together??!! Well, not exactly. The fact is that not all Israeli Jews look forward to eating it. They kvetch that it doesn't fill them up like bread, has too many carbs and crumbles too quickly. You name it, there's a complaint, which is only fitting for this holiday since the Bible reports that once we were in the desert we proved that we were (and still are) a nation of kvetchers. And get this! Do you know what many of us in Tel Aviv look forward to on Passover? Actually, on the night Passover ends? We can't wait to go to Jaffa.

To be more exact -- we go to the Abulafia bakery to savor the taste of freshly baked pita bread and other baked goodies.

So I guess, the best way to an Israeli Jew and an Israeli Arab's heart is through the stomach. Passover is proof of the pudding -- Kosher for Passover pudding that is.

Chag Sameach...Zvuvi

Matza photo credit
Pita bread photo credit