Sunday, December 22, 2013

I'm Going to Haifa to Celebrate the Holiday of Holidays

Shalom Yeladim:

I'm flying to Haifa to celebrate the Holiday of Holidays. This is the 20th year that Haifa is celebrating this event, which ALWAYS takes place during the month of December.

You might say that Haifa is the capital of Israel's northern region. It's a city with a very diverse population -- Jews, Arabs and Christians. The Holiday of Holidays celebrates Haifa's cultural diversity through lots of yummy street foods, entertaining street performances, and wonderful artwork displays.

Want to see what this celebration looks like? Click here and enjoy all the photos. It looks really cool. Want to join me next year?

Gotta fly.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Our Maccabi is Making a Hanukkah Slam Dunk

Shalom Yeladim:

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgivukkah celebration.  Now it's on to a slam dunk for the Maccabim at the White House.

I know that our Prime Minister tried doing a full court press in the Iran arena, but let's put politics aside and enjoy our 21st century Maccabi hero. Maybe you've read about him? His name is Omri Caspi. This is Omri when he played for Maccabi Tel Aviv back in 2005.

Today he's a big-time NBA star playing for the Houston Rockets, and guess what? President Obama has invited him to the White House to light a Hanukkah candle. I may be wrong, but I read that the lighting ceremony is going to be held this coming Thursday. Omri is real excited.  He says that it gives him a chance to represent Israel AND the entire Jewish community -- that means in the United States and Israel, and hey, all over the world! I am sooo proud and so is his mother Ilana, who is visiting him right now in Texas. Omri is such a good son, he's taking Mama with him to the White House. 

Like me, Omri is no fly-by-night.  This is his 5th year in the NBA -- and this is my 4th year writing this blog. 

See you soon Omri!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Even I'm Getting Ready for Thanksgivukkah!!!!

Shalom Yeladim:

I know you can't wait for this year's Hanukkah-Thanksgiving celebration. Even I'm invited to a Thanksgivukkah dinner! Can you believe? Yup 6,000 miles away and I'm going to be eating הודו for Hanukkah. Have your teachers told you that the word הודו has a double meaning? It's the word for turkey and it also means thanks, so this Hebrew word is going to have a special place in your joint celebration.

What else am I going to do? Watch Hanukkah shows like this one on TV, go to a Hanukkah play -- there are so many to see.......

And, I'm going to hear The Fountainheads sing about Hanukkah. I love them. They are sooo cool.

Boy, am I going to gobble up this holiday! BTW, for an added Israeli twist try this step-by-step recipe for cranberry jelly sufganiyot.

!חג חנוכה שמח

Hanukkah Poster Credit

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I'm Going to the Annual Olive Branch Festival So I Can Stock Up On Olive Oil For Hanukkah

Shalom Girls and Boys:

It's olive harvest time and Hanukkah is in the air. That's why I'm flying up North to the Annual Olive Branch Festival.  In between hiking -- O.K. flying -- and jeep tours, I'm going to learn how to pick and press olives.

Harvesting olives has been going on for thousands of years in the Land of Israel.  Have you ever seen an olive tree? They're kinda short and wide like this olive tree in the Galilee which is sooo old they call it ancient.

If you think the oil miracle we celebrate on Hanukkah was vegetable or soy oil, you're wrong.  It was olive oil, of course. That makes sense since olives are one of the seven species mentioned in the Bible. 

Olives are so rooted to our land that we even have a mountain called Mount of Olives because it once was covered with olive groves. And olive oil? It's about as Israeli as you can get. In fact, anything olive is -- olives, olive branches, olive colored army uniforms.  Have a look at our state emblem and this stamp from Israel's early years. 

Both have olive branches in their design, very much like the olive branch the dove brought back to Noah --  another Biblical connection!

Enough talk. Gotta go. I have to get to the Olive Branch Festival on time if I'm going to have enough olive oil for Hanukkah. I love lighting my Hanukkiah because olive oil is easily drawn into the wicks, creating a clear, bright light.  Do you see what I mean?

Wish me luck in becoming the best olive picker and presser around.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Have a Tikun Olam Project Idea for You

Shalom Girls and Boys:

I just read an article about how much Israel is doing for Syrian children wounded in their horrible war.

I know that Syria is far away from you. And, yes, it's a country that is our enemy. But its children aren't enemies, and the doctors in Israel understand that.

Right now the Rebecca Sief Hospital in Safed -- a famous Kabbalistic city in Israel's northern region -- is treating more than 150 Syrian patients! Many of them are children just like you, but unlike you they are victims of life threatening events. One eight year-old girl had her right leg shattered by a mortar attack. Now she's being treated at the Rebecca Sief hospital and a month ago she took her first steps. Can you imagine? Learning how to walk again at age 8!

This little girl is one of dozens of children being helped by Israel. Israel is providing aid very quietly, but sometimes word does get out. All the medical treatments cost a lot of money but the hospital is giving it to the Syrian patients for free. So here's my idea for a Tikkun Olam project. How about saving your allowance for one month and sending it to the Rebecca Sief Hospital? It's your way of helping Israel lend a helping hand. If you don't want to send money, toys would be just as good.

With Hanukkah and Thanksgiving just weeks away, you can say Thank You in a different way.


Photo Credit

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Puff...Puff...I'm Getting in Shape for the Hanukkah Relay Race

Sh-aaa-lom Yeh--la--dim:

Wow I'm out of shape! All this wing flapping exercise for the Hanuukah relay race is taking the wind out of me -- and that's not good, 'cause wind is supposed to speed me up.

I know, I think that the Hanukkah torch relay race which begins in modern Modi'in (the ancient Maccabees' home town)

and ends at 

The Western/Wailing Wall

is only for people, but hey -- we flies have a life too! And with all the eating and feasting we've just done for the holidays (not to mention every Shabbat), it doesn't hurt to burn off some calories.

The first Hanukkah torch relay race in Israel took place in 1948 -- the same year Israel became an independent country. I just found this article, so you can read all about it.

Today, Jewish communities all over the world are creating their own Hanukkah relay races. For example, Jews living in the the Czech Republic did it last year. They had fun being Maccabee runners and I'm sure you will too. Personally, I think you should hold this race. Not only is it fun and a good way to stay in shape, but ordinarily the usual menu for Hanukkah is a few doughnuts and latkes. But this year you guys in America have a doubleheader with Hanukkah and Thanksgiving falling on the same day. You know what that means! Another eat as much as you can feast. 

Instead of getting hot and bothered about how much weight you're going to gain, get fired up about being a Maccabee runner. 

Hope your team wins.
Almost forgot. Here's a Hanukkah trivia quiz you can take while you're resting in-between races.
Good Luck! בהצלחה 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Druze School in Israel is #1

Shalom Yeladim:

I'm off to Beit Jann -- a Druze village in the Galilee. The Druze are a non-Moslem, religious minority in Israel that

speak Arabic and serve in the Israeli Army. Most interesting of all, though, is the really special Beit Jann high school: if you ask the students how much they love their school, the answer is -- "A Lot!"

Can you imagine!!!! I even know why.

Here's the story. In the past, this high school was nothing to write home about.  They had a high drop-out rate and one of the lowest matriculation rates. That means only a tiny number of students took the tests needed to go to college. 

But this year -- they're #1! That's right: they have the highest rate in the whole country. How did that happen? The teachers decided they were not going to give up on any student. They even tracked down the drop-outs and convinced them to return to school. I know I'm going to sound like Barak Obama, but what did they tell the students? Yes, you can! And they did, thanks to a new upbeat atmosphere, a program developed by Yeholot (which mean capabilities) to bridge the gaps, and a lot of hard work by the students. 

It didn't happen overnight.  It took the school four years to reach an amazing 100% graduation rate. But you know what I like the best? Something that can be done in all schools, starting from 1st grade. The school wants the parents to believe in their children so the principal and teachers constantly call the parents to tell them about their children's achievements! You heard right. Parents aren't only called in to school to hear the usual complaints. And you know what? It worked!!!! The parents are proud and the students love their school. As one girl puts it: "Until I came here I never met teachers who looked out for the students."

What a school! 


Sunday, September 15, 2013

I'm Celebrating Sukkot with the Children of B'nei Menashe

Shalom Yeladim:

I want to introduce you to my new friends.
These boys belong to a community called B'nei Menashe. The people of this community say they are descendants of the tribe of Menashe which was sent into exile more than 27 centuries ago by the Assyrian Empire. In other words, the B'nei Menashe claim they are one of the lost 10 tribes!

Do you know what the words B'nei Menashe -- בני מנשה --  mean?
That's right, the sons and daughters of Menashe.

Let's go back to the time of the Bible. Who was Menashe?
He was one of Joseph's two sons. The other son was Ephraim. Many fathers bless their sons on Friday night by reciting the blessing
ישמחה אלוקים כאפריים ומנשה -- May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.

Why this blessing?
Because Jacob blessed his two grandsons instead of their father Joseph. He wanted them to become role models for all Jews.
Here's an interesting thought: Their mother was Egyptian. Now, that's something to discuss!

Where do today's  B'nei Menashe come from?
North East India. Somewhere between Mynamar and Bangladesh is a piece of land where the Bnei Menashe have been living a Jewish way of life. Their customs and beliefs are very similar to the Biblical Children of Israel. 

So awesome, that when an Israeli organization called Shavei Yisrael found about them and discovered that the B'nei Menashe want to return to live in the Jewish homeland, the organization's director -- Michael Freund -- travelled to India to meet them.  Sure enough, he discovered that they celebrate Sukkot just like the rest of us. Maybe that's when he decided he would do everything to help bring this community back to Israel?!

So far, Shavei Yisrael has brought 2000 members of the B'nei Menashe to Israel. That's how I met my new friends. Close to 7,000 are still waiting back in India. I'm looking forward to meeting ALL of them, AND I'm looking forward to meeting other long lost Jews brought over by Shavei Israel.

You gotta admit: you and I, we belong to an interesting nation.

Chag Sameach!!!!

Photo Credit

Thursday, August 29, 2013

To BEE or Not to BEE?

I'll stick to being a fly, but I still hope you have a honey of a year.



Sunday, August 4, 2013

Help Me Turn the Elephant Soap Opera at Israel's Safari Park into a Children's Story

Shalom Yeladim:

Mah Nishma? What's Up? I hope you're enjoying your summer vacation. I'm back in Israel after a long stay in the States and I'm buzzing around here, there and everywhere in my beautiful country.

Today I went to the Ramat Gan Safari and flew into a strange family affair. First all the zookeepers were wishing La Belle -- a female Asian elephant -- Mazal Tov because she is now the proud Mama of a 200 pound baby girl. Before I knew it, these same zookeepers were saying Oy Vey because Grandma decided to do what Mama should be doing -- nurse the baby!

Here's the dilemma they have: On the one hand, they would prefer that the baby bond with Mama, the way it's supposed to. On the other hand, La Belle is a first time Mama who needs a little guidance from her own mother.  The zookeepers think that may be the reason Grandma is doing so much mothering, and if it is, they don't want to start a family fight. But it gets more complicated. Are you ready for this? Grandma is also pregnant and the fact that she can nurse may be a sign that she's getting ready to give birth!

The zookeepers say it's a real soap opera. I say it has all the makings of a children's picture book. It just needs a good author to flesh out the story and come up with a happy ending.

That's why I'm turning to you. You're on vacation and I bet you're looking for something different to do. This is your chance to put on your author's cap. Read all about the elephant dilemma at the Safari. Make sure you watch the video as well.  It will give you a feeling of being right there.

You can also use this photo for inspiration.

Send me your story and I'll put the best one up on my blog.

Happy writing!


Asian Elephants Photo Credit

Monday, May 13, 2013

You, Me, Israel and Jewish American Heritage Month

Shalom girls and boys,

I just found out that May is Jewish American Heritage Month. That's pretty cool for me because right now I'm in America (I flew in and landed in January) and pretty soon I'm going to be making my way back. Before I do, I'm going to the National Museum of American Jewish History  in Philadelphia. The buzz I've heard is that it's awesome! I can't wait to find out what Jews have done in and for America since the time of the American Revolution.

But here's the thing. I bet you didn't know that American Jews played an important part in helping us over in Israel establish a Jewish homeland. I'm talking about men and women your grandparents' age, who live in the United States, are proud Americans AND proud Jews. Hey, isn't that what connects us?!

So get this.  Do you know that the Israel Air Force is one of the world's top air forces?

Well, it was started by a group of American Jewish pilots who wanted to make sure that all Jews have a land they can call their own. Have a look at this short film. Maybe one of these men is related to you?

Isn't that one unbelievable story? How about finding more stories on American Jews who lived in America but helped Israel? Maybe you can start by asking around in your family. If you discover some good stories let me know. I'd love to post them.


Spitfire photo credit
Plane formation photo credit

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Celebrate Shavuot by Pretending You're on a Kibbutz

Shalom Yeladim:

Getting ready for Shavuot? Learning about it in school? Then I'm sure you know that one of the names this holiday has is חג הביכורים -- holiday of the first fruits.

When the State of Israel came into being, Shavuot quickly became the favorite kibbutz holiday. Back then, kibbutzim -- collective agricultural communities -- were the source of Israel's luscious fruits and vegetables. Even though times have changed, Shavuot is still a special agricultural celebration on the kibbutz. Girls continue the tradition of wearing crowns made out of flowers (floral garlands). Here's an example. Look at it carefully and see if you can make one just like it.
Special decorations are created to remind everyone of farming life. And there's dancing...kibbutz style!

The celebration starts with a parade. What do I mean? Watch this. Every possible farming job on the kibbutz is represented. Am I giving you ideas on how make this year's Shavuot celebration a little bit different? Hope so.

I'll leave you with a YouTube clip of the Givatron -- my favorite kibbutz choir. They sing several songs, so get ready and have a חג שמח.

Fruits Photo Credit
Garland Photo Credit
Kibbutz dance photo credit

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Win a Free Book: Take this Yom Ha'Atzmaut Quiz

Hey Girls & Boys:
This year I'm celebrating Israel Independence Day with a Yom Ha'Atzmaut quiz. The first one to send me all the correct answers will win a free, autographed copy of Zvuvi's Israel
Good luck -- בהצלחה !

1. Who was the father of modern Zionism?
    a. Chaim Weizmann  b. Theodor Herzl  c. Edmond Rothschild
2. Which city in Israel is named after him?
     a. Kfar Weizmann  b. Tel Mond  c. Herzliya
3. In what year was Israel established?
     a. 1967   b. 1948   c. 1898
4. What is the name of Israel's capital city?
     a. Tel Aviv  b. Jerusalem  c. Modiin
5. Who was Israel's first Prime Minister?
     a. Moshe Sharett  b. Yitzhak Rabin   c. David Ben-Gurion
6. The Israeli flag is designed to resemble:
     a. King David's shield  b. the Tallit -- prayer shawl  c. Emblem of the Maccabees
7. What is the name of Israel's national anthem?
     a. Hatikva   b. Shir Ha'Maalot    c. Jerusalem of Gold
8. Who was Israel's only female Prime Minister?
     a. Henrietta Szold  b. Golda Meir  c. Rahel Ben-Zvi
9. Where did she grow up?
     a. Warsaw, Poland   b. Kibbutz Alpha   c. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
10. The first kibbutz in Israel was:
     a. Kibbutz Alpha   b. Kibbutz Degania Alef   c. Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch
11. The national bird of Israel is:
     a. Falcon   b. Sandpiper  c. Hoopoe
12. What is the national currency of Israel?
     a. Lira   b. Shekel   c. Agorah  d. Dollar
13. What was invented in Israel?
    a. cellphones  b. texting  c. USB flash drive  d. all three
14. What are the two official languages of Israel?
    a. Hebrew & English   b. Hebrew & Arabic   c. Hebrew & Russian  d. Israel has no "official" language
15. Israel has the lowest point on earth. Where is it?
    a. Gulf of Eilat   b. Ramon Crater   c. Dead Sea  d. Sea of Galilee

Whew...I think that's enough! Remember, the first class/school/person to send me the correct answers wins a free, autographed copy of Zvuvi's Israel. Don't forget to include your address.

חג שמח

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I Have an Idea for Your Yom Hashoah Commemoration

שלום ילדים, הורים ומורים

It's me, Zvuvi.

I'm buzzing by because I just thought of a great program idea for your Yom Hashoa commemoration. It sorta hit me when I saw the picture of President Obama at Yad Vashem. There's an Eternal Flame shining behind him. Then today, I started thinking about the torch lighting ceremony that is held every Yom Hashoah at Yad Vashem. Six memorial torches are lit by six Holocaust survivors or their relatives, in honor of the six million Jews who were cruelly murdered during the Holocaust. Each one has a story, and I bet that each of you has a relative (close or distant) with a Holocaust story.

So here's my idea: between now and next Monday research everything about your relative with a Holocaust history. Write it up.  Better yet, print it out, frame it or put it on a stand -- you decide. Then, at your Yom Hashoa commemoration stand it up on a display table and light a Holocaust memorial candle.

If there's nothing special going on in your school, then do it at home. It's a sad but golden opportunity to connect with your past. We take it very seriously in Israel and I hope you will too.


Photo credit

Sunday, March 24, 2013

President Obama is Back, Just in Time for His White House Seder

Shalom Girls & Boys:

I'm Israel that is.

You guessed it -- I was that fly on the wall in Air Force 1 en route to Jordan.  It was delayed because of a sandstorm, so I decided to wing it and take a chance.  I flew in like barak -- lightning -- just as the door was about to close, because I wanted to be right near Barak's ear.  

There I was, me and the Prez as he checked off some of the places he saw in Israel: Mount Herzl, Yitzhak Rabin's Grave & Yad Va'Shem.

This got me thinking: is he going to make a connection between these three places and the Passover story at his White House Seder? 

Here's my take on how these three landmarks tie in with Passover.

1. Mount Herzl has a museum all about Israel's founding father -- Theodor Herzl. Even though Abraham is the founding father of the Jewish nation, let's face it -- round 2 belongs to Moses and he was a lot like Herzl. Because he witnessed a terrible wrongdoing happen to a Jew, he decided to bring the Jews back to the Promised Land.  Sound familiar? Isn't that how Moses got started?

2. Yitzhak Rabin was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel and a military hero who fought in Israel's War of Independence. Yes, I know, Moses didn't fight any wars on a battlefield -- that was left to Joshua. Still, he waged the first battle and the most important one -- releasing the Jews from Pharaoh's slavery. 

3. Yad Va'shem is the world's central Holocaust memorial dedicated to the 6 million Jews who died, and like Moses, they never made it to the Promised Land.

So what do you think? It's beginning to feel a lot like Passover? I'm too pressed for time to fly all the way to the White House and make it back here in Israel in time for the Seder, so can any of you pass this on to President Obama? Tell him it's Zvuvi's commentary on why his trip was different from all other trips.

חג שמח


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Israel's Adloyada Purim Parade is Like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Shalom Yeladim:

I want to give you a sneak preview of Purim in Israel. Every year the city of Holon holds the country's largest Purim Adloyada Parade. It's a major attraction with lots of floats. You could say it's our version of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Adloyada parade was first held in Tel Aviv in 1912. The name Adloyada comes from the Rabbinic ruling that on Purim people should party so hard until they can't tell the difference -- Ad Lo Yada -- between Haman and Mordechai.

Parades are held all over Israel, but Holon's is the best!

These are just a few examples of the parade's floats. Click here to see more. I once read that the floats are made at Holon's Design Museum and I wouldn't be surprised. It is the coolest place!

Even cars get into the act!

And, of course, kids! But I'm kinda wondering why they're dressed up as candles!

Are you planning a parade for Purim? Send me pics. I promise to post them.

Float 1 photo credit

Float 2 photo credit

Purim car photo credit

Float 3 photo credit

Kids photo credit

Monday, January 21, 2013

I'm in America, Watching the Inauguration, Tracking the Israeli Election

Shalom Girls & Boys:

You'll never guess where I am. I'm not in Jerusalem, not in Tel Aviv, not swimming in the Kinneret or trekking in the Negev. No, none of that. I'm right next door to Washington D.C.!!!

Can you believe??? I flew in yesterday and this place is just buzzing about the inauguration. I'm so excited! I've never seen a presidential inauguration before. And I'm thinking, wow, what a political time for me. Today I'm going to watch the inauguration and tomorrow I'm going to follow the Israeli elections.

Bet you didn't know that this is an election year for Israel. We're not as organized as you. We don't hold elections every four years. It's too complicated to explain. Let's just say elections are held when either the opposition succeeds in bringing down the government through a "no-confidence" vote, or when the government asks the Knesset to call for a new election.

The Israeli Knesset is our parliament. It is located in Jerusalem and it's where all of Israel's laws are passed. This is what the Knesset looks like.

Tomorrow Israelis are going to the polls to elect the members of the 19th Knesset. That means we've had 19 elections since the State was established in 1948. We don't have a president running the government.  We have a prime minister, the leader of the party who can combine enough parties to form a government (61 seats or more out of 120 Knesset seats).

Instead of talking politics -- which is the favorite pastime of every Israeli -- I'm going to give you a quick Hebrew lesson. The word כנסת -- Knesset -- means gathering. The root כנס is used in these words:
כנס -- conference
כניסה -- entrance
הכנסה -- to let somebody or something in, as in הכנסת אורחים -- welcoming of guests.

So, we're all waiting to welcome the new Knesset members. In the meantime, I'm taking my front row seat at the American Inauguration. BTW: I will be in the Washington area until the end of May, so if you have any questions about Israel, ask Zvuvi and I'll buzz back to you as soon as I can.

Knesset photo credit

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Tu B'Shvat Hebrew Lesson

עצים or אילנות?  

Shalom Boys & Girls, Moms & Dads & Teachers. I have a question for you:

Why is Tu B'Shvat called חג האילנות -- the holiday of trees -- when the commonly used Hebrew word for tree is עץ? Even the biblical word for tree is עץ, so why use the plural of the word אילן  to name this holiday?

Don't you think that's good question? I searched and searched until I found the answer. Here it is: Long before Eliezer Ben-Yehudah revived the Hebrew language, Biblical Hebrew was followed by another linguistic stage -- Talmudic Hebrew -- which incorporated Aramaic into the daily conversation. Have a look at the pages of the Talmud and even portions of the Passover Hagaddah and you will find a Hebrew dialect that sounds like it comes from a different planet. 

Connect the dots and you'll find out why Tu B'Shvat is called חג האילנות. To begin with, it is not a biblically-based holiday. It is first mentioned in the Mishnah in Tractate Rosh Hashanah as one of the four New Years on the Jewish calendar. So there we are, smack in the Aramaic period when the word עץ referred to wood. Therefore, since עץ was a material good, the members comprising Chazal -- the Jewish sages of the time -- were not going to use such a "common" word to name a holiday commemorating trees. Instead, they creatively combined two Aramaic words (one for tree and the other for wood) and created a new term for fruit trees -- אילן. Pluralize that and you get חג האילנות. Pretty cool!!!

Is the word אילן commonly used today in Israel? Only as the name for a boy. For girls, there's the name אילנה.

The word עץ is the big winner in Israel and here are some awesome Hebrew connections. We all know that trees symbolize strength. The Hebrew root for the word עץ is עצה. From that root we get the words עצה (advice), יעץ (to advise, give counsel) and לעצב (to give form or shape). As the New Year of Trees, Tu B'Shvat sure shapes the Jewish mindset because it's our way of celebrating the environment. 

חג שמח!