Esther Edel (right) has participated in the Run 4 Afikim twice. (photo from Esther Edel)
The annual Run 4 Afikim supports Afikim, a nonprofit organization in Israel that addresses child poverty. One of the participants in the run – for two consecutive years now – has been former Vancouverite Esther Edel.
Jerusalem-based Afikim was founded in 2008 by Israeli educator and child services administrator Moshe Lefkowitz. At the moment, Afikim staff helps 528 impoverished children in 14 learning centres throughout Israel, mainly in Jerusalem.
Afikim’s approach is to help parents as well, providing family counseling, while the children receive hot meals, tutoring, life skills training and emotional support. Currently, Afikim cannot keep up with the demand for its services, and Lefkowitz would like to see the number of students Afikim accepts increase by 80 this year.
One of the ways Afikim raises funds is the Run 4 Afikim. The website describes the event as a non-competitive relay from Jerusalem to Eilat, totaling 370 kilometres in 36 hours. Participants run in groups of three. Each group completes one leg of nine to 14 kilometres at a time and each runner ends up running multiple legs over the 36 hours. Participants must raise a minimum of $2,000 each to take part.
This year, the Run 4 Afikim began on Jan. 9 and ended on Jan. 11. The event raised more than $265,000, exceeding its goal of $250,000. One of the participants was Edel, who made aliyah in 1997.
“I had a strong religious Zionist education, which contributed to my moving to Israel.… My parents and sister still live in Vancouver. Unfortunately, I do not visit them as often as I would like,” shared Edel in an email interview with the Independent.
While Edel first participated in Run 4 Afikim last year, it wasn’t her first long-distance run.
“I’ve always been active, since I was little. Non-competitive sports and any outdoor activity are parts of my day-to-day life. I’ve participated in numerous 10-kilometre runs over the years. Most of them have been in Jerusalem, as parts of the annual Jerusalem Marathon, generally as fundraisers for different organizations.”
She was introduced to Afikim, she said, “via a good friend, Ruchie Schwartz, who already participated in the run. She had posted on Facebook the recap/promo video of the previous year’s run. When I watched it, I was moved by the passion of the participants and, even more so, by the cause that was driving them to raise funds and awareness for the Afikim Family Enrichment programs.”
The weekly programs include music, sports and other extracurricular activities. “While these types of pursuits are easily available for children from more privileged backgrounds,” explains the website, “Afikim’s children would have no access to them without this program. Like all facets of Afikim, extracurricular activities help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds.”
Edel wanted to participate in the Run 4 Afikim but had some doubts. “I was slightly hesitant, as I had taken a break from running for a bit and wasn’t sure if I would get back into it,” she said.
But those doubts were easily overcome. “I added a few runs to my weekly workout schedule, which I had not consistently been doing before I decided to participate,” she said.
To meet the $2,000 financial contribution requirement, she fundraised using email, connected with people on Facebook, contacted friends by other means and benefited from word of mouth.
“This year, there were eight groups and 32 segments divided between the groups,” she said about the run. “My team ran five segments, which approximately totaled 48 kilometres over 36 hours. Due to the timing of the segments, all the groups were functioning on very little sleep throughout the run. It’s mainly 36 hours where adrenaline and endurance get you through.”
Edel’s team schedule included, on the Wednesday evening, one run from the Jerusalem starting point, and three running segments on the Thursday, the first starting at 5:30 a.m., the second at 2:30 p.m. and the third at 10:45 p.m. “Friday morning, we started at 6 a.m. and most of the participants completed the final few kilometres to Eilat,” she said.
Edel added, “It’s important to note that it is purely volunteer-based, with the maximum effort to keep the overhead as low as possible.… Throughout the run, there are always one or two escorts, including trained paramedics, who also volunteer their time each year to drive the roadside escort.”
Edel also mentioned the lunch on the Thursday, which was “an organized activity, with all the runners and some of the Afikim children. This allowed us to connect with the Afikim kids and see firsthand how this run and fundraising affect these children.”
To learn more about Afikim’s work, visit afikim.org.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].
Waterfalls in the Golan Heights. (photo by Michael Davis courtesy Ashernet)
Water from the Golan Heights region’s streams, as well as melting snow from Mount Hermon, will eventually find their way into the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Unfortunately, even though precipitation has been plentiful this year, it will not be enough to refill completely the underground water resources or the Kinneret. Presently, the lake level stands at 213.58 metres below sea level, which is below the red line, one of three level measurements. When the lake falls below 214.87 metres below sea level, the pipes extracting the water from the lake are lower than the entry point of the pipes feeding the main pumping station of Israel’s water authority. When the water level in the lake is somewhere between the upper red line and the lower red line, lake water can be pumped to the country’s main fresh water pumping station for distribution along the Israel National Water Carrier. Fresh water is also sourced from the many natural aquifers that are found all over the country.
Students at the Bachar school in Even Yehuda, which educates for leadership and entrepreneurship, prepare to welcome a delegation of educators from developing countries, who came to learn how Israeli schools educate for entrepreneurship. (photo from Galit Zamler)
For Galit Zamler, a course that began as a volunteer position at one school has become a full-time job, with more and more schools picking up her program.
In 2009, when Zamler’s third child was in Grade 6, his school principal wanted to have an after-school activity. She brought representatives of a company that was not only expensive to hire, but would only present to outstanding students, and required at least 20 of them.
Seeing the value of educating kids about entrepreneurship, Zamler – who has an MBA and has co-founded two businesses – told the principal that she would do such a presentation at no charge, as long as her son could be one of the participants. A month later, Zamler was teaching her first group of 12 children. She knew she was onto something great after she had sent the students’ parents notes about what was being taught, and the parents responded with thank you letters.
Word spread and, after volunteering for six years, Zamler turned her volunteer work into a full-time career. Now, 10 years into it, she said, “At the beginning of the course, I’d count each one of them, but now there are a lot of schools and there’s awareness of the need to teach entrepreneurship. I don’t need to go and try to convince anyone. They are going out looking for it.”
One of the first things Zamler teaches is that there are different kinds of entrepreneurs. It is not strictly about entrepreneurs of technology or inventions, and it is not just about opening a business. Students are taught that, to succeed, one must stand out from others – be creative and make their initiative unique.
“Then, they raise ideas and learn that there are no bad ideas,” said Zamler. “Each idea can be good and that’s how we do it. Being critical will prevent others from raising ideas. It’s very important that the class be open-minded and let everyone, whatever their idea, say it aloud and learn to explain it. Sometimes, what they have in their head is not clear to the others. They learn to stand in front of the class and explain their ideas.
“It’s not that every idea is great,” she clarified. “It’s just that we won’t criticize ideas. We ask questions to understand, and we discuss what difficulties we see in ideas – things like, how much it will cost, who will need it, to take a good look at it.
“Sometimes, this makes the student drop an idea, because they understand it can’t be implemented…. For example, there was a student who said she wanted every student to have a cupboard in the class to put their books into. The kids asked where she would put them, with very little space. And, she realized it couldn’t be done.”
Once all the ideas are shared with the class, students start to determine which ones they like the most and come up with business plans – tackling the process like a cake recipe, considering which ingredients they will need to bring their concepts to life. This includes the physical elements, as well as how to make their business unique, part of which involves seeking advice from experts in various fields to see if any changes might be needed.
Only then do the students try to implement their project, which can sometimes be as simple as composing a letter to the municipality.
“I have a school that wanted to have a gym,” said Zamler. “But, the school is small and there’s no place. So, they wrote a letter. The municipality sent an expert to explain why it can’t be done, but gave them money to buy equipment for activities they can move from place to place; using it outside and bringing it back inside as needed. And, they were satisfied with this.”
The curriculum is offered to grades 2 through 9 in Israel and it is funded in part by the government, as principals are allowed some leeway to allocate funds as they see fit within a list of external programs pre-approved by the Ministry of Education.
“Sometimes, they teach it as a science class,” said Zamler. “Other times, it is categorized as a life skills lesson in the curriculum … and, when the school principal thinks it’s important, he or she finds a way.”
Zamler – and other parents – consider the entrepreneurship course a great addition to what is being taught in school, as it will help in practically every aspect of life.
“I think, sometimes, it’s the parents that bring the program to the schools, because they know that children learn something useful for life … not just the ordinary curriculum,” which includes things that may not “help them when they grow up, as things change so quickly,” said Zamler.
Even armed with this entrepreneurial knowledge, Zamler acknowledged that the overwhelming majority of students – 90% to 95% – will end up as employees. But, she is hoping they will be leader employees.
“I was an employee with entrepreneur skills, and that’s what helped me go from the bottom up to management,” she said. “Being an entrepreneur in an organization means that you think big, you do more than you are told. Those are the kinds of workers we need in the workforce.”
While Zamler has not yet conducted follow-up studies on the students who have taken the program, other countries are taking note and looking for ways to implement the program in their own schools.
“The foreign office brings delegations to Israel twice a year and takes them to a school that educates for entrepreneurship,” said Zamler. “And what we see is that, instead of students who don’t like to go to school, we see students who are really enjoying their time in school, because they have choices.
“The army is also looking for these kinds of students…. If they don’t have these kinds of skills – persistence, creativity, and working on team goals – the army doesn’t want them. We know it helps them in the future, in the army and, I think, the workforce.”
The Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach was the first school outside of Israel to implement the program. Also, a company from Hong Kong has purchased the licence to bring the program there.
“They do amazing things there and they’re opening more and more classes,” Zamler said of Hong Kong. “But, there, it is an after-school activity, because it’s hard to bring it into the public school curriculum.”
Zamler has created an online training program for both students and teachers wanting to bring entrepreneurship into their school. For more information, visit tomorrowsuccess.com.
Between 1948 and 1951, more than 121,000 Jews were smuggled out of Iraq in operations Ezra and Nehemia. Many of those who came to Israel settled in the town of Or Yehuda, some 10 kilometres southeast of Tel Aviv. In 1988, Or Yehuda’s mayor, Mordechai Ben-Porat, who was himself born in Iraq, was instrumental in creating in the town the Museum of Babylonian Jewry. Together with six other founding members, the museum was built to tell the story of the Jews in Iraq, up until the aliyah following the establishment of the state of Israel. The museum has become the largest centre in the world for documenting, researching, collecting and preserving the spiritual treasures of Babylonian Jewry. (photo by Ashernet)
The landmark synagogue before being
dynamited by Jordan’s Arab Legion in 1948. (photo from Wikipedia)
A cornerstone laying ceremony was held May 29,
2014, for the rebuilding of the Old City of Jerusalem’s Tiferet Yisrael
Synagogue, which was dedicated in 1872 and dynamited by Jordan’s Arab Legion in
Speaking nearly five years ago, then-Jerusalem
mayor Nir Barkat declared, “Today we lay the cornerstone of one of the
important symbols of the Jewish community in Jerusalem. The municipality
attaches great importance to the preservation and restoration of heritage sites
in Jerusalem, and we will continue to maintain the heritage of Israel in this
Citing Lamentations 5:21, Uri Ariel, housing
minister at the time, added, “We have triumphed in the laying of yet another
building block in the development of Jerusalem, a symbolic point in the vision
that continues to come true before our eyes: ‘Renew our days as of old.’”
The two politicians symbolically placed a stone
salvaged from the ruined building, and construction was supposed to take three
years, according to the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the
Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem Ltd. (JQDC), a public company under
the auspices of the Ministry of Construction and Housing.
Fast forward to Dec. 31, 2018, and the exercise
was repeated, this time with the participation of Jerusalem minister Zeev
Elkin, construction minister Yoav Galant, deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman
and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon. But, this time, according to the JQDC, much of
the project’s NIS 50 million (approximately $18 million Cdn) budget has been
secured, in part thanks to anonymous overseas donors. With the Israel
Antiquities Authority’s salvage dig of the Second Temple period site headed by
Oren Gutfeld completed, work can now begin in earnest.
Fundraising to purchase the land for the
Tiferet Yisrael, also known as the Nisan Bak shul, was initiated in 1839 by
Rabbi Israel Friedman of Ruzhyn, Ukraine, (1797-1850) and his disciple Rabbi
Nisan Bak, also spelled Beck (1815-1889). While der Heiliger Ruzhiner
(Holy Ruzhyner), as his Chassidim called him, purchased the hilltop in 1843,
the mystic didn’t live to see construction begin.
His ambitious plans in Jerusalem reflected his
grandiose lifestyle in Sadhora, Bukovina, in Galicia’s Carpathian Mountains,
pronounced Sadagóra in Yiddish. There, he lived in a palace with splendid
furnishings, rode in a silver-handled carriage drawn by four white horses and,
with an entourage, dressed like a nobleman, wore a golden skullcap and clothing
with solid gold buttons, and was attended by servants in livery. This unusual
manner was accepted and even praised by many of his contemporaries, who
believed the Ruzhiner was elevating God’s glory through himself, the tzadik
(righteous one), and that the splendour was intended to express the derekh
hamalkhut (way of kingship) in the worship of God.
In one incident, described in David Assaf’s The
Regal Way: The Life and Times of Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin (Stanford
University Press, 2002), the Ruzhiner’s Chassidim noticed that, notwithstanding
that their rebbe was wearing golden boots, he was leaving bloody footprints in
the snow. Only then did they realize that the gold was only a show and his
shoes had no soles. Indeed, he was walking barefoot in the snow.
Rabbis Friedman and Bak were motivated by a
desire to foil Czar Nicholas I’s ambitions to build a Russian Orthodox
monastery on the strategic site overlooking Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Bak
consulted with architect Martin Ivanovich Eppinger. (Eppinger also planned the
Russian Compound, the 68,000-square-metre fortress-like complex erected by the
Imperial Russian Orthodox Palestine Society west of the Jaffa Gate and outside
the Old City, after the czar was outmanoeuvred by the Chassidim.)
Bak, who both designed the massive synagogue
and served as its contractor, spent more than a decade fundraising and six
years building it. Inaugurated on Aug. 19, 1872, he named the three-storey
landmark in honour of his deceased rebbe.
According to a perhaps apocryphal story, the
quick-witted Bak was able to complete the ornate synagogue thanks to a donation
from Kaiser Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary. In 1869, while visiting Jerusalem
en route to dedicate the Suez Canal, the emperor asked his subjects who came
from Sadhora in the remote Austrian province of Bukovina why their synagogue
had no roof. (In 1842, having spent two years in Russian prisons on charges of
complicity in the murder of two Jewish informers, Rabbi Friedman fled to
Sadhora and reestablished his resplendent court.)
Seizing the moment, Bak replied, “Your majesty,
the synagogue has doffed its hat in your honour.” The kaiser, understanding the
royal fundraising pitch, responded, “How much will it cost me to have the
synagogue replace its hat?” and donated 1,000 francs to complete Tiferet
Yisrael’s dome, which was thereafter referred to by locals as “Franz Joseph’s
Tamar Hayardeni, in “The Kaiser’s Cap”
(published in Segula magazine last year), wrote that, while the kaiser
made a donation, the dome was in fact completed with funds provided by Rabbi
Israel of Ruzhyn’s son, Rabbi Avrohom Yaakov of Sadhora (1820-1883).
In the winter and spring of 1948, the dome
served as a key Haganah military position and lookout point for the Jewish
Quarter’s outgunned defenders.
Children were recruited for the battle for
Tiferet Yisrael. Some as young as 9 built defence positions. The “older” ones –
12 or so – carried messages, food, weapons and ammunition. Some were killed,
including Grazia (Yaffa) Haroush, 16, and Nissim Gini, 9, who was the youngest
fallen fighter in the War of Independence. Like the others who fell in the
defence of the Jewish Quarter and were buried there, his remains were exhumed
after 1967 and reinterred on the Mount of Olives.
Badly damaged by heavy shelling, the synagogue
was blown up by Jordanian sappers on May 21, 1948. A few days later, following
the neighbourhood’s surrender on May 25, the nearby Hurva Synagogue – the main
sanctuary of Jerusalem’s mitnagdim (anti-Chassidic Ashkenazi followers
of the Vilna Gaon) – met the same fate.
With the rebuilding of the Hurva completed by
the JQDC in 2010, Tiferet Yisrael became the last major Old City synagogue
destroyed in 1948 not rebuilt.
Hurva is a stone-clad, concrete and steel
facsimile of its original structure, updated to today’s building code and
equipped with an elevator. The same is planned for Tiferet Yisrael.
The reconstruction of faux historic synagogues
has not been without critics. Writing in the Forward in 2007 as the
Hurva was rising, historian Gavriel Rosenfeld, co-editor of Beyond Berlin:
Twelve German Cities Confront the Nazi Past (University of Michigan Press,
2008), noted the manifold links between architecture, politics and memory.
“The reconstruction of the Hurva seems to
reflect an emotional longing to undo the past. It has long been recognized that
efforts to restore ruins reflect a desire to forget the painful memories that
they elicit. Calls to rebuild the World Trade Centre towers as they were before
the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks represent a clear (if unrealized) instance of this
yearning. And the recently completed reconstruction of Dresden’s famous
Frauenkirche – long a heap of rubble after being flattened by Allied bombers in
February 1945 – represents a notable example of translating this impulse into reality.
“And yet, the reconstruction project is
problematic, for in seeking to undo the verdict of the past, the project will
end up denying it. Denial is inherent in the restoration of ruins, as is
frequently shown by the arguments used to justify such projects. In Dresden,
for example, many supporters of the Frauenkirche’s restoration portrayed
themselves as the innocent inhabitants of a city that was unjustly bombed in
1945, thereby obscuring the city’s longtime support for the Nazi regime and its
war of aggression during the years of the Third Reich. Similarly, the physical
appearance of the restored Frauenkirche – despite its incorporation of some of
the original church’s visibly scorched stones – has effectively eliminated the
signs of the war that its ruin once vividly evoked.
“In the case of the Hurva,” writes Rosenfeld,
“the situation is somewhat different. If many Germans in Dresden emphasized
their status as victims to justify rebuilding their ruined church, the Israeli
campaign to reconstruct the Hurva will do precisely the opposite – namely,
obscure traces of their victimization. As long as the Hurva stood as a hulking
ruin, after all, it served as a reminder of Israeli suffering at the hands of
the Jordanians. [Mayor Teddy] Kollek said as much in 1991, when he noted: ‘It
is difficult to impress upon the world the degree of destruction the Jordanian
authorities visited upon synagogues in the Old City…. The Hurva remnants are
the clearest evidence we have today of that.’ Indeed, as a ruin, the Hurva served
the same kind of function as sites such as Masada and Yad Vashem – which, by
highlighting the tragedies of the Jewish past, helped to confirm the Israeli
state as the chief guarantor of the Jewish people’s future.
“At the same time, however, it seems the
Hurva’s existence as a ruin conflicted with the state of Israel’s Zionist
master narrative: the idea that, ultimately, heroic achievement triumphs over
helplessness. In fact, in the end, it may be the project’s ability to confirm
the national desire to control its own destiny that best explains its appeal.
Israel faces many intractable problems that make present-day life uncertain.
But, in the realm of architecture, Israelis can indulge in the illusion that
they can at least control and manipulate the past. In this sense, the Hurva’s
reconstruction may express deeper escapist fantasies in an unpredictable
Rosenfeld’s theorizing about architectural
authenticity made little impression on the JQDC chair, Moti Rinkov. Indeed the
JQDC, together with the Ben-Zvi Institute, recently published High Upon High,
in which 12 historians trace Tiferet Yisrael’s history. Rinkov noted at the
second cornerstone ceremony: “The renovation and restoration of the Tiferet
Yisrael Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter is one of the most important and
exciting projects I’ve taken part in. Rebuilding the synagogue is, in fact,
raising the Israeli flag in the Jewish Quarter. It’s truly a work where they’re
restoring the crown to its former glory and restoring glory to the Jewish
The rebuilt Tiferet Yisrael, together with the
Hurva, will engage Jerusalem’s skyline not as authentic landmarks but, as
Rosenfeld noted, “postmodern simulacrum.”
The other Tiferes Yisroel
In 1953, Rabbi Mordechai Shlomo Friedman, the
Boyaner Rebbe of New York, laid foundations for a new Ruzhiner Torah centre in
west Jerusalem to replace the destroyed Tiferet Yisrael. Located on the western
end of Malkhei Yisrael Street between the current Central Bus Station and
Geula, the downtown of the Charedi city, the Ruzhiner yeshivah, Mesivta Tiferes
Yisroel, was inaugurated in 1957 with the support of all of the Chassidic
rebbes descended from Friedman, who was the first and only Ruzhiner Rebbe.
However, his six sons and grandsons founded their own dynasties, collectively
known as the “House of Ruzhin.” These dynasties, which follow many of the
traditions of the Ruzhiner Rebbe, are Bohush, Boyan, Chortkov, Husiatyn,
Sadigura and Shtefanest. The founders of the Vizhnitz, Skver and Vasloi
Chassidic dynasties were related to the Ruzhiner Rebbe through his daughters.
A grand synagogue built adjacent to the new
Ruzhiner yeshivah also bears the name Tiferes Yisroel. The current Boyaner
Rebbe, Nachum Dov Brayer, leads his disciples from there. The design of the
synagogue includes a large white dome, reminiscent of the original Tiferet
Yisrael destroyed in 1948 and now being rebuilt.
An experimental date palm orchard in the southern Arava Valley, where water consumption and response to salinity is monitored. Based on data measured in these lysimeters, local farmers are advised on recommended quantities of irrigation water daily. (photo from Zehava Yehuda)
“Growing up in Israel, I have been aware of the
water problem [since] quite early in my childhood,” said Dr. Zehava Yehuda.
“When I graduated, however, the country was still relying mostly on rain. We
could still expect rain-blessed years, and the Sea of Galilee to overflow
Over the last two decades, however, only once
has there been a year with enough rain to allow for the opening of the Degania
Dam, which regulates water levels in the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret) and the
lower Jordan River.
Yehuda spoke on Nov. 27 at a Winnipeg Friends
of Israel event at the city’s Temple Shalom. She recently moved to Winnipeg
with her family and is currently working at the local Jewish National Fund
office as program and communications coordinator, while searching for a
“I graduated from the Hebrew University,
faculty of agriculture, department of soil and water, worked on iron uptake in
plants, and did post-doctoral studies on phytoremediation of soils contaminated
with heavy metals,” said Yehuda. “Phytoremediation is the use of hyper-accumulator
plants that tolerate and are able to absorb high concentrations of specific
“I worked as a lab manager and associate
researcher at the HU, and as a soil and water researcher at the Centre for
Agricultural Water Use Efficiency Research, Southern Arava Research and
Development Experimental Station, Yotveta.”
According to Yehuda, soil and water are
fundamental resources affecting all forms of life, food security and ecosystem
Israeli water authorities have been streamlined
to funnel through one office to simplify management and five large-scale
desalination plants have been built, she said. Desalinated water now accounts
for about 85% of domestic urban water. However, the plants were built late in
“Israel is facing a five-year drought that is
depleting the country’s most important bodies of water and deteriorating their
quality,” said Yehuda. “Israel had not foreseen a sequence of arid years like
“The cumulative deficit in Israel’s renewable
water resources before the current rain season amounts to approximately two
billion cubic metres – an amount equal to the annual consumption of the entire
“There are many reasons for the current water
situation,” she said. “First, Israel is situated in an arid region, where 60%
of the county is desert. Meanwhile, population growth and standard of living
have grown significantly.
“This not only has dramatically increased water
consumption, but it has also aggravated the load on the coastal aquifer, one of
the three major water resources in the country. Israel has also committed by
peace treaties to transfer about 85 MCM [million cubic metres] to Jordan and
the Palestinians … and, in fact, it transfers much more.
“Most of the water consumption in the world is
used for irrigation. Israel has been recycling water for agriculture for
decades. About 90% of fresh water is reused.
“Since the invention of drip irrigation in
Israel, efforts have been directed to improving drippers, irrigation regimes
and understanding plants’ actual water consumption to efficiently use water in
Further to this, Israel focused on innovative
technologies to turn an older, expensive desalination solution into a more
practical one, by improving the membranes that remove the salt and reducing the
energy needed to run the plants.
“As of today, about 40% of drinking water in
Israel is supplied as desalinated seawater, and this percentage is expected to
grow even more,” said Yehuda.
Because the membranes also strip the water of
other essential nutrients, she said Israel’s water authorities have been
supplementing the desalinated water with, for example, “magnesium, a mineral
critical for proper heart functioning, among other functions,” but it is
expensive to do so and “[a]dding it to all desalinated water would
significantly raise its cost.”
Another concern with desalination is that the
brine (removed salt) is being returned to the sea, and the ecological
implications for the sea are not fully known.
“With all this desalinated water available,
both the population and the Israeli authorities wrongly assumed that Israel had
solved her water problems, and that saving water was no longer a necessity,”
said Yehuda. “The authorities have since changed their position back to the
need to save water.”
Plans have recently been approved to build more
desalination plants to better meet the growing need for water during the dry
months and to redirect unused desalinated water during the winter months to the
Sea of Galilee; in a sense, using the lake as a reservoir.
“The current crisis has led to the realization
that a comprehensive master plan for policy and for institutional and
operational changes is required to stabilize the situation, and to improve
Israel’s water balance with a long-term perspective,” said Yehuda.
“Despite the fact that water pumping from the
Kinneret was massively reduced, I do not expect water levels to return to what
they were 15 years ago when Lake Kinneret – Israel’s biggest fresh water source
– and underground aquifers were full. Hopefully, resources will not continue to
Yehuda provided a rundown of the different
water-related experiments with which she has been involved, including an
experimental date palm orchard in the southern Arava Valley, where water
consumption and response to salinity is monitored. Based on the data collected,
local farmers are advised on recommended quantities of irrigation water daily.
Event attendee Carina Blumgrund said, “We all
know that Israel is at the forefront of developing smart resources to irrigate,
and that they had done drip systems and are always trying to research how to be
proactive, like taking advantage of the heat to have off-season production and
export to Europe … but we don’t really know about the details…. It was
really interesting hearing about current issues. I had no idea about water
levels…. And I didn’t know about the treaties, about sharing with neighbours.”
and Honey Distillery was established in 2012. (photo by Dave Gordon)
The Milk and Honey Distillery’s first
three-year-old batch of whisky is about to be officially tapped, to appear in
150 locations across Israel, as well as the Netherlands, Belgium and
Luxembourg. And plans are in the works to bring the product to North America.
Current output is estimated at about a million bottles.
Milk and Honey’s founders sought to piggyback
on what appears to be a trend of people wanting to try certain drinks from
places that are not typically known for making them.
“Whisky consumption is seeing a big shift
happening all over the world now,” Milk and Honey chief executive officer Eitan
Attir told the Independent.
For decades, four countries have ruled the
whisky industry – Ireland, Scotland, United States and Canada. But many
customers are seeking uniqueness.
“It’s what we call a ‘new world’ whisky,” said
Attir. “So, now you can find more and more countries, that never had a history
of whisky, doing it.”
Proof of Israel’s new world whisky popularity was
evident even before the first ounce of Milk and Honey’s product was officially
available. In 2017, the distillery filled 391 bottles with its initial
three-year-old whisky single malt. Head distiller Tomer Goren created the batch
in his workshop, and it was aged in the distillery.
Bottles numbered 1 through 100 were sold on the
Whisky Auctioneer website and more than 30,000 people bid on the bottles. The
“number one” bottle was bought for $3,000 US and number two, about $2,500 US.
The rest were sold for about $750 US each. Stock sold out in three months.
“That was a huge surprise, not only
business-wise, but also the attention it got,” Attir said. Several media took
notice: the New York Times, Boston Herald, CNBC and NBC, among others.
Fast forward a year to 2018, and the company’s
“triple cask” – a combination of previously red wine, bourbon and Islay
barreled whisky – won best in show and second place at Whisky Life Tel Aviv.
Its competitors were 15-, 18- and 20-year-old beverages from many different popular
How Milk and Honey got there was as much a
blend of perfect ingredients as a premier blended whisky.
In 2012, the company was started by Gal Kalkshtein, Milk and Honey’s owner, and five friends, all previously in the Israeli tech and startup industry. With their million-dollar investment, the friends turned a former bakery into a distillery in 2014. (For more on the distillery, see jewishindependent.ca/israels-first-whisky-distillery.)
“We were the first ones here, so there really
was no one to ask about how to build a distillery. So, they traveled all around
Scotland and studied a lot,” said Gal Levin, manager of the visitor centre, who
oversees business development.
Then came the parts: a tailor-made whisky pot
still and a vintage still, each constructed in accordance with Scottish
coppersmith tradition. The wash drum was found online, on a German website – it
was sitting in a barn in Romania (Transylvania, to be exact).
“The guys traveled all the way there to see it
and buy it,” said Levin. “They weren’t sure it was going to work. They bought
it, brought it here, and fixed it. We still don’t know who made it and for
what. It’s mysterious. It’s working, and that’s the most important thing.”
During renovations, they began tinkering with
what recipes to use. In 2013, they hired two professionals. One was Scottish
master distiller Dr. James Swan, who guided the company on research and
development. His experience included advising distilleries and brands all over
the world, from Jim Beam to Chivas. As well, he had expertise in aging and
distilling in other hot climates, like Taiwan and India.
The second person hired was Goren, who was
studying for his master’s distiller degree in Scotland. (He is also a judge at
international whisky competitions.)
“We chose to adopt very strict regulations of
the Scottish method, that allows us to connect with the Scottish tradition, and
also so our whisky will be considered ‘whisky’ in many places around the
world,” said Levin.
Whisky, by definition, is made with four
ingredients: malted barley, yeast, water and the barrel. Milk and Honey
maintains the tradition, with no added ingredients. Barrel selection included
casks previously used for bourbon, a collection of new oak barrels, and former
wine barrels (all kosher).
“We are aging for a minimum of three years
before we call the product ‘whisky.’ That’s an important rule. Of course, in
Scotland, the whisky is called ‘scotch.’ We don’t do that,” said Levin.
As an added plus, Israel’s climate allows for
relatively quicker fermentation, up to two and a half times faster than that of
Scotland, according to Milk and Honey. That means an Israeli three-year bottle
might taste like a six-year bottle from the Highlands.
And Milk and Honey doesn’t only make whisky –
they also produce gin and a liqueur.
The gin is spiced with and inspired by Israeli
ingredients. The Levantine gin, for example, contains za’atar, orange slices,
lemon peels, black pepper, cinnamon, chamomile and lemon verbena. The Roots
liqueur has typical Holy Land flavourings: almond, savory, coriander, jasmine,
tarragon, thyme and cardamom.
With all of this deliciousness, that’s
something to say “l’chaim” to!
Dave Gordonis a Toronto-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in more than 100 publications around the world.
Jerusalem sculptor Israel Hadany’s modern interpretation of the First Nations beacon. (photo from Jerusalem Foundation)
The Inuit, Iñupiat, Kalaallit and Yupik peoples of the Arctic region of Canada, Greenland and Alaska built inukshuks with granite boulders to warn against danger, mark a hunting or fishing site, or stand as a direction marker. Like the traditional inuksuit erected in the treeless tundra, Jerusalem sculptor Israel Hadany’s modern interpretation of the First Nations beacon serves as a marker symbolizing friendship, family and hospitality, humankind’s responsibility toward one another.
On Oct. 17, Hadany’s four-metre-high limestone inukshuk sculpture was installed at the entrance to Canada House in downtown Jerusalem’s Musrara neighbourhood.
Hadany was the winner of a design competition celebrating 50 years of the reunification of Jerusalem, since the 1967 Six Day War. Toronto lawyer Lewis Mitz, president of the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada, initiated the challenge as part of a $4 million renovation of the Canada House community centre on Shivtei Yisrael Street, a location that is becoming increasingly popular with film and art students. Four other Israeli artists were invited to participate: David Gershoni, Ruslan Sergeev, Yisrael Rabinowitz and Ellia Shapiro. The competition jury that selected the winning design included representatives from the Jerusalem Municipality, the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Foundation and local residents.
“The inukshuk is a communication structure. Providing vital information for people to survive in the frozen Arctic; it isn’t merely a statue, rather an enchanted entity that guides man and seals his fate,” explained Hadany in a press release. “The sculpture tries to create a fascinating synthesis between the primordial and the innovative, between the formulated esthetics and magic.”
Inukshuk, he explained in his remarks at the unveiling of the sculpture, means “helper.”
The sculptor and environmental artist insisted his inukshuk be positioned alongside the street rather than in the courtyard of Beit Canada to increase its visibility. Initially reluctant to appropriate another culture’s symbol, Hadany came to understand that, rather than being decorative in the Western context of art, an inukshuk is “an information-giving object in the space. Emphasizing a religious space, directing people to where there is good fishing. It’s actually a language. It’s sculpture that creates a language in space.”
The judges wrote in their decision that Hadany’s proposal was a “classic sculpture that is suited to and connects with its environment. The artist presents an interpretation that respects the original without copying it. It is obvious that a great deal has been invested in planning and in the use of proportion, materials, light and shade.”
The sculpture was dedicated during the Jerusalem Foundation’s international conference in October in the Canada House garden. The playground around the inukshuk, which is still being landscaped, was a gift of the Joffe family of Calgary, Alta.
Dr. William and Ruth Ross (photo from Canadian Associates of Ben-Gurion University)
Dr. William Hy Ross tears up talking about the
motivation behind his philanthropic activities in Israel. Sitting behind a desk
in his room at the medical clinic he runs, over which hangs a watercolour
painting of the Mount of Olives, Ross said it is because of the grandparents he
never met, both of whom died in the Holocaust. “If we had a state back then,
that wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “I would have grandparents.”
Ross met with the Jewish Independent
last week to talk about the projects the Ross Foundation has undertaken in
Israel, projects aimed at lifting up the underprivileged on the fringes of
society there. He was accompanied by Sagie Shein, senior program manager of the
Jewish American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Shein has acted as
philanthropic advisor to Ross, and was recently made the fund manager of the
Ross Family Foundation, in which role, he told the JI, he identifies
projects that will achieve the foundation’s goals in Israel, whether through
JDC or otherwise.
Ross and Shein met after Rabbi Shmuel Birnham,
formerly of Congregation Har El, introduced Ross to Prof. Jack Habib of the
Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute in Jerusalem. Shein has now been working with the
Ross foundation for six years.
Ross is a surgeon and a clinical professor of
ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia. In 2012, he established
the Morris and Sarah Ross International Fellowship in Vitreo-Retinal Surgery,
which funds the training of ophthalmologists from Israel, including, so far, 12
Israeli Jews, three Israeli Muslims and three Israeli Christians.
Also in 2012, he and his wife, Ruth,
established the Ross Family Scholarship Program for Advanced Studies in the
Helping Professions, which funds education for nurses and social workers
serving in the underserved peripheral communities of Israel. Their
contributions have gone to select students at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) and
they have been recognized as founders of the university, in honour of their
contributions. The Ross Foundation appears on the walls of BGU’s Marcus Campus
in Be’er Sheva.
In 2016, the Ross Foundation
extended its activity to another initiative –
the Project for the Advancement of Employment for Ethiopian Immigrants, which
supports the education of engineers, web developers and others.
“Israel is a fantastic success story,” said
Ross. “You hear about the start-up companies, etc., but there is a whole fringe
society who doesn’t have any of those advantages.”
Ross spoke to the JI about the
particular importance of supporting Ethiopian Jewish immigrants in Israel.
“When they’re done serving in the army, they often end up in dead-end jobs,” he
said. “We are providing living expenses for them in a way that is a
game-changer, allowing them to get jobs as practical engineers and in other
Ross and Shein explained that, even when given
support to pay for education, many underprivileged Israelis cannot afford to
stop working and go to school full-time. The Ross Foundation’s initiatives give
recipients a stipend that allows them to stop working and complete a course of
education. The foundation is also supporting other communities facing
challenges in the workplace, like Arabs and Charedim.
“JDC empowers all Israelis as a social
innovation incubator, developing pioneering social services in conjunction with
the Israeli government, local municipalities, nonprofits and other partners to
lift the lives of Israel’s children at risk, elderly, unemployed, and people
with disabilities,” Michael Geller, JDC’s director of media relations, told the
Operating since 1914, JDC has provided “more
than $2 billion in social services and aid to date,” he said.
The JDC funds and organizes experimental
programs in the hope that the government will see their success and launch
“We’re looking to pilot programs that can be
adopted by the Israeli government,” Ross said.
“In 2020,” added Shein, “the foundation is
expected to further expand its activities to additional programs based on the
“Hy and Ruthie Ross really get Israel,” said
David Berson, executive director of Canadian Associates of BGU for British
Columbia and Alberta. “They speak the language of social impact and they lead
by example. I am so impressed and moved by their understanding of the human
equation for social change. Great training, proper guidance and supportive
accompaniment can lead to gainful employment.
“As a social worker who trained and worked in
Israel with some of her significant social challenges for two decades years, I
know that Hy and Ruthie really understand the most critical needs of Israel. It
is also an honour for me to be able to partner with JDC Israel, one of Israel’s
most noteworthy agencies of real social mobility and empowerment for Israel’s
most at-risk populations.”
Ross summed up the strong belief that drives
his philanthropy in Israel simply: “I believe every Jew has an obligation to
support Israel in some way.”
Matthew Gindinis a freelance journalist, writer and
lecturer. He is Pacific correspondent for the CJN, writes regularly for
the Forward, Tricycle and the Wisdom Daily, and has been
published in Sojourners, Religion Dispatches and elsewhere. He
can be found on Medium and Twitter.
Left to right: Inbal Krayes, Morris Kahn, Sylvan Adams and Dr. Ido Anteby at the Israel Aerospace Industries facility in Yehud, Israel. (photo from SpaceIL)
On Nov. 19, SpaceIL announced that Canadian billionaire and businessman Sylvan Adams, who brought the Giro d’Italia Big Start cycling race to Israel this year, joined the project to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon and contributed $5 million to the organization.
Adams announced his contribution as part of a special tour that took place at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) MBT Space facility in Yehud, where the spacecraft is being assembled. Also attending the tour were SpaceIL’s president Morris Kahn, SpaceIL chief executive officer Dr. Ido Anteby and other senior IAI officials, including IAI vice-president of space operations Inbal Krayes.
Adams, who was celebrating his 60th birthday, said at the event that “this contribution to strengthening the Israeli space program, and encouraging education for excellence and innovation among the younger generation in Israel, is the best gift I could have asked for.”
He added: “I believe that sending the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon will inspire Israeli schoolchildren to take up STEM studies and think about space exploration, and especially to believe that everything is possible.”
Since SpaceIL’s establishment in 2011, the mission of landing an Israeli spacecraft on the moon has become a national project embodying educational values. Adams joins a group of donors who have contributed to the project, including Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Sammy Sagol, Lynn Schusterman, Steven Grand and others.
Kahn, a businessman and philanthropist, took it upon himself to lead the project and bring it to its completion, donating $27 million and serving as the project’s president. He regards its completion as his personal mission.
“We are in the final stretch,” said Kahn, “and I believe that his [Adams] joining will help us raise the remaining money to complete our ambitious mission.”
“The teams of SpaceIL and IAI are making great progress in a series of tests and trials being carried out at IAI’s space facility,” Anteby said. “At the same time, we are stepping up activities to promote scientific and technological education in the state of Israel, ahead of launch.”
In October, SpaceIL and the Israeli Space Agency announced a collaboration with NASA that would enable SpaceIL to improve its ability to track and communicate with the spacecraft before, during and after landing on the moon.
IAI, which is the home of Israel’s space activity, has been a full partner in this project from its inception. Over the years, additional partners from Israel’s private sector, the Israeli government and from academia have joined as well. The most prominent among these are the Weizmann Institute of Science; Israel Space Agency; the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space; the Israeli telecom firm Bezeq, and others.
The same week of Adams’ donation, Ofir Akunis, Israel’s minister of science, technology and space, visited the IAI facility where the spacecraft is being built, after the ministry announced an additional NIS 7.5 million ($2.66 million Cdn) in support for the project.
“The moon mission is one of great national pride. There is a short time before the spacecraft’s launch, and I have no doubt all Israelis will feel great joy when the spacecraft blasts off,” Akunis said. “I am a great believer that the landing will be one of the highlights in the history of the state of Israel, and the educational activity we are doing around the mission sets the foundation for engineers who will work in the field of space and science in the next decade.”
SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the international Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. To win the first prize of $20 million, the participants were required to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon. The competition ended officially with no winner on March 31, when Google announced that it would no longer sponsor the competition.
After succeeding in raising the critical funds to continue its activity, SpaceIL announced that it was determined to continue on its mission and to launch its spacecraft, regardless of the competition. Concurrently, the nonprofit is continuing its efforts to raise the funds necessary to complete this mission.
SpaceIL aims to set in motion an “Apollo effect” in Israel: to encourage the next generation of Israeli children to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to change their perception of these subjects; to generate a sense of capability, and to allow them to dream big dreams even in a small country.