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We're having a blast at ROI Summit 2009 - great energy, great people and more greatness to come. I lack the adjectives to describe (apparently). Check out this video (and stay tuned to Youtube.com/ROI120 for all the latest professional and amateur videos from the Summit. Do you see anyone you know?
When you think about three years, you might think of it as something that just flew by ("ohmigawd, I can't believe that three years ago we were freshmen!") or a serious chunk of time ("ohmigawd, I can't believe you guys have been together three years and still aren't engaged!").
However you think of three years, whether it's slow or fast, it's likely a drop in the bucket compared to how it must feel to spend three years in captivity, away from your family, in enemy territory, unsure if each new sunrise brings new beginnings or the same old feeling that it's all over, that that day will be your last.
Gilad Shalit has been gone for three years. He was kidnapped first, before Ehud Goldvasser and Eldad Regev - both of them were returned in boxes (I was here in Israel for that last year, and it was gut-wrenching to watch it on television).
I've been meaning to post about this for days, ever since I started seeing that tent every day. If you live or work in Jerusalem, right near that major intersection of Keren Hayesod, Agron, Azza, and King George Street, you know the tent I mean - with a few volunteers staffing it at all times, ready to hand you information about Gilad. I pass it every day on my way to work at the CLI office, where I've been working on ROI Summit for the last several weeks. There are days that I look at the people in the tent and say "boker tov," but beyond that, I don't engage - what are they going to tell me? I'm already on their side. There are mornings when I think about hopping over to a coffee shop and bringing them coffee or some other beverages. But usually, I walk by, think about the captive soldier, and get to work.
Of course, there are also online commemorations of sorts underway: change your Facebook status to "Free Gilad Now!"; change your Twitter profile picture to a picture of Gilad Shalit, retweet this story about redeeming captives, etc. Which of the six "Free Gilad" groups will you join on FB? Do you have to join all of them? After a certain amount of time, can you leave those groups, or does that constitute the abandonment of the issue?
I understand where the motivation comes from - why they sit there, devoted despite the lack of progress; why people think it's meaningful to join a group or change a profile picture in protest, because it's a way to express their indignation at the situation. But to whom are they expressing themselves? Is Hamas monitoring our Facebook FriendFeed, trying to see if enough people are troubled by Shalit's kidnapping?
I've found such gestures, sitting-in or logging in for activism, to be just that - kind of like carpooling to social activism...going with the flow, because other people are, because it's easy and convenient, not because it makes a difference.
Does this online activism make a difference? To whom? And how can we engage in vocalizing our distress in a way that makes an impact and treats Gilad, his family and supporters with respect? What could we do that would be more meaningful?
On a third anniversary, in the country that cares most about Gilad's health and well-being, I ask myself these questions, and search for a meaningful way to effect change. Your ideas and opinions, as always, are welcome.
For a long time, I've railed against the prohibition on women singing - I mean, what were the rabbis afraid would happen if women started singing in public?
But now I think I know. I think they were afraid of Eishet Chayil singing "V'Haer Eineinu."
A cursory look at their YouTube portfolio reveals that the trio of women, who subtitle themselves as רכב הדאנס יהודי (which may translate to the Jewish Dance Vehicle, or something more colloquial in Hebrew), are Revital Grinberg, Yael Shahar and Mor Lehiani.
The earrings alone are enough to inspire a rabbinic prohibition, let alone the skinny DJ in the back jumping around, let alone, well...everything.
And of course, I say this all knowing full well that in two weeks, I'm going to end up buying their music in that awesome music store at Ben Gurion Airport.
Thank you, Engadget, for a story about Israel that doesn't focus on the conflict in the Middle East. (Oh man, did I just ruin it?) This time, Israel is in the spotlight for creating a hybrid solar power plant with many mirrors that heat air that powers a turbine, or something.
Obviously, I have no idea how this works or what it does. Read the article, and I'm not sure you will either. Maybe the article's author knows. But I can tell you one thing - they've got the photo all wrong: there's no way the Israelis are hiring Mel Gibson to watch this for them.*
*Yes, people. I realize it's Photoshopped. But thanks.
My friend Michelle Citrin performed at Birthright Israel's Mega-Event on Hof Tzuk in Tel Aviv last week, and I was honored to be there. Since I don't have a video camera, here are some 30-second clips that give you a taste of the excitement. First two clips are of Michelle's original song, "Someday" (off her upcoming album, stay tuned), and the third - after the jump - is of Michelle singing "Lu Yehi/Let It Be" with Israeli pop star and Mega-Event host Michael Harpaz.
But the Fundermentalist already has an idea what it's going to be, because he got a tip from UJC chairman Joe Kanfer: "It is very likely that when it is all said and done, we will be called the Jewish Federations of North America."
The UJC says its name isn't working, as few of the federations it represents have attached the letters to their own names. The organization has been involved in a yearlong marketing research initiative costing more than $1 million.
The lack of uniformity of name at times has made it difficult for donors to find a federation from state to state. The idea is to convey that the federations are all part of one system.
For those of you who are not as steeped in Jewish communal life as some people are, here are some of the basics.
On the local level, each Jewish community has a federation: an agency that allocates funding to various community initiatives, organizations and agencies (e.g., the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services). These are called federations.
On the national (and really, North American) level, there's the UJC (United Jewish Communities) which is like the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek, except it's a Federation of federations (and not of planets).
Confused? Maybe the new name will help.
Or maybe - although this is totally unauthorized - you should pick the next name for UJC. Check out what they do here, and leave your suggestions at the sound of you clicking the comment links.
The following anecdote is an expanded version of a note I typed in English-transliterated Hebrew on my BlackBerry last summer. I offer it up this year as an example of the local flavor that one gets in Israel, and in honor of my imminent trip back to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
It's one of the stickiest days of summer, and people are in a mood. The sherut (shared taxi) is a van with seats so threadbare that the springs feel like they're screwing themselves into your legs just above your knees. After the 13th or so passenger boards, the driver's still standing around waiting for something. The natives are getting restless. I'm in the back, in the row of five seats across, over the wheels, which are creating a heat of their own. After a clamor, the driver finally enables the "air conditioning."
The guy in the middle of the back row, a Safed-kabbalist type in flowing white linen, fans himself unsuccessfully and yells at the driver.
"Nahag! Hamazgan hazeh al hapanim!" (Driver! This air conditioner sucks!)
Turning to the guy next to him (and between him and me), kabbalist narrows his eyes, and growls at his neighbor. "Don't lean on me, brother," he commands.
"What?" The dude next to him, confused, wasn't leaning on anyone. Sure he was visibly overheating, rivers of sweat running down his cheek and staining his clothing a damper version of its original hue. Things were a little packed, but he wasn't leaning.
"I said," he said, leaning over into his neighbor's lap as he enunciated, "don't lean on me. I know it's crowded. But there's nowhere to lean. You're leaning on me, brother. And I'm not leaning on you, so don't lean on me."
"Where do you want me to go?" asked the exasperated neighbor. "Should I go out the window? These aren't even windows. Just go with it. The air conditioner is on."
"The air conditioner? It's not an air conditioner. It's a fan," he says with the authority of an airconditionerologist. "It's not an air conditioner." He pauses mid-anger, realizing, perhaps that the emotion is misdirected. He recalibrates. "Nahag (Driver)! This sucks! Your air conditioner sucks."
The driver, either legally deaf or selectively so, remains unperturbed, silent, doesn't say a word. How else to deal with a job like driving 12 people in a van between cities as different as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?
Look for more adventures in Israeli transportation this summer...
Stand Up for Israel and the Koby Mandell Foundation is proud to announce that the Comedy for Koby June 2009 Tour will kick off June 3rd. Presenting Jeff Ross (left), David Crowe, AJ Jamal and Stand Up For Israel's founder (and friend of Esther, although that's not how he got the gig) Avi Liberman (below), the tour will again offer Israeli audiences access to some of the North American comedy scene's best-known performers. (Read about the comics here.)
The June Tour will feature shows in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Raanana, Beit Shemesh, Modiin and Efrat. Proceeds from ticket sales go to support the Koby Mandell Foundation, working on behalf of families of victims of terror.