Rabbi Matt Ponak is the new education director and assistant rabbi at Congregation Emanu-El. (photo from AJNews)
Going as far back as his days with Northwest Canada Region of B’nai Brith Youth Organization, Matt Ponak has had a passion for the spiritual aspects of Judaism, and now he is bringing that passion to Victoria.
Having impressed the congregation as an interim rabbi during Rabbi Harry Brechner’s sabbatical, Congregation Emanu-El announced in mid-May that Ponak would be joining them on a full-time basis as education director and assistant rabbi. Officially, his position began last month, following his graduation – with a master’s degree in Jewish studies – and his June 7 ordination from Hebrew College in Newton, Mass.
Ponak grew up in Calgary, where he attended Jewish day school at Calgary Jewish Academy, and was a member of Beth Tzedec and Temple B’nai Tikvah congregations. Through high school, he was an active member of B’nai Brith Youth Organization and attended Camp BB Riback as a staff member. His ties to Vancouver Island are also strong.
“I grew up in Calgary and spent many summers on the Island growing up,” he said. “My mother is from Port Alberni and I have many relatives in the area.”
Although his spiritual education led him to American schools and life, Ponak said he is looking forward to planting roots back in Canada, and making Victoria his new home. “I’m so excited about this because I get to return to Canada and to live in an incredible city with a community of warm, embracing, open-minded and dedicated people,” he said.
Before rabbinical school, Ponak earned a master’s in contemplative religions at Naropa University, a Buddhist-inspired institution in Boulder, Colo. He earned an undergraduate multidisciplinary degree with a minor in religious studies from the University of Calgary, and also has a certificate in spiritual entrepreneurship through the Glean Network, in association with Columbia University.
During rabbinical school, Ponak interned with the Asiyah Jewish Community in Somerville, Mass.; the Common Street Spiritual Centre in Natick, Mass.; Temple Emanuel in Andover, Mass.; and the One River Foundation with author Rabbi Rami Shapiro. He also served as a curator of the Spiritual Paths Institute, working on an interspiritual website for people of all backgrounds who want to explore their inner lives more deeply. He is one of the founders of Or Chadash, the men’s group at Hebrew College.
Ponak’s capstone project, “Torah for the New Age,” focused on translating and commenting on Jewish mystical texts relevant to contemporary spiritual seekers of all backgrounds. With supervision from Hebrew College rector Rabbi Arthur Green, Ponak translated and commented on 42 mystical texts and used digital design layouts to make them look like Talmud pages. “It was an absolute pleasure working with Rabbi Green,” said Ponak. “He is one of the leading voices for Jewish mystical theology, commentary and translations in our era.”
Ponak is a talented banjo player. He specializes in leading niggunim, wordless melodies from the Jewish mystical tradition. During his first year of rabbinical school, he released a banjo niggun album entitled Bridges of Song. He is also a practitioner of qigong and focusing, using movement and body-centred contemplation to guide people through inner constrictions and into the emerging stages of their journey.
“I am a teacher, musician and lover of life,” said Ponak. “I help spiritual seekers follow the call of their soul. I am passionate about bringing forth ancient Jewish wisdom to meet the needs of today.”
Founded in 1921, Hebrew College is committed to Jewish scholarship in a pluralistic, trans-denominational academic environment, while Congregation Emanu-El is an egalitarian Conservative Jewish synagogue. At 157 years old, Emanu-El is Canada’s oldest synagogue in continuous use, and has been designated a national historic site.
Daniel Moseris editor of AJNews, where a longer version of this article was originally published. For more Alberta Jewish news, visit albertajewishnews.com.
The winners of the 2017 King Abdullah II World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize with King Abdullah, centre, at Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman, Jordan. (photo from worldinterfaithharmonyweek.com)
On April 30, the leaders of the Calgary Interfaith Council were in Amman, Jordan, to receive the 2017 King Abdullah Award for World Interfaith Harmony’s first prize from the king himself.
The council’s co-chairs – Rabbi Shaul Osadchey of Beth Tzedec Congregation, Debra Faulk of the Unitarian Church of Calgary and Imam Fayaz Tilley, a chaplain at the University of Calgary and board member of the Muslim Council of Calgary – were invited to attend the ceremony at the Royal Hashemite Palace. They were presented with the award by King Abdullah II. It included a cheque for $25,000 US to put toward their continuing work in Calgary.
Osadchey described the experience as “memorable, momentous, impactful.”
“The Calgary Interfaith Council (CIC) was reconstituted in February as part of the launch of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week program,” Osadchey told the Independent. “The CIC is now the amalgamated body of five or six other smaller interfaith organizations in Calgary. It was launched as the central voice of the interfaith community here, so we decided to première that with the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week.
“We organized a week of programs that highlighted interfaith cooperation and strength of the community. We did a program that began with an opening ceremony at city hall. The mayor had issued a proclamation for the city that designated the week of Feb. 1st to the 7th as UN World Interfaith Harmony Week in Calgary, and he personally came and spoke.”
They had 15 different religious communities involved in the festivities, which included interfaith breakfasts, a weekend open house, and people were welcomed into various congregations for workshops and tours. There were also two “build days,” where participants volunteered to build a house with Habitat for Humanity.
“We raised $15,000 for the Habitat project,” said Osadchey. “It was a program with depth.”
The Calgary Interfaith Council submitted what they did to the website that oversees the worldwide program of activities, said Osadchey. “There were over 1,000 events worldwide and we were selected as the outstanding program for 2017 and won first prize, the gold medal. What that meant was that they asked us to send three representatives to receive the award in Jordan, along with the second- and third-place winners – the second-place winners were from Bosnia and the third-place winners were from London, England. We were flown to Jordan and spent three days there.”
According to the prize’s press release, the International Forum Bosnia’s Centre for Interfaith Dialogue was honoured “for their efforts toward dialogue and cooperation among ethnic and religious groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina” and the London-based nonprofit PL84U Al Suffa for “providing meals and services to the homeless, elderly and others in need in an atmosphere of interfaith respect and cooperation.”
At the Sunday morning awards ceremony, both King Abdullah II and Prince Ghazi ibn Muhammad were in attendance, with the latter giving a talk. Osadchey was asked to give a three-minute speech on behalf of the winning delegation.
Osadchey was the first Jew and rabbi to be part of one of the award ceremonies. “They were very respectful, very interested and engaged in the conversation about Judaism and about the Jewish experience in the interfaith arena,” he said. “Both the king and the prince were pleased to have me as a delegate and acknowledged that the interfaith dimension of the program had taken a significant expansion by having Jews included.
“I was looking forward to being able to convey some comments to the king. I began by reciting the brachah [blessing] that is said when you’re in the presence of the king or head of state. I recited it to the king in Hebrew and then translated it into English. And my comments were about how religious literacy is a necessary component for creating interfaith harmony.
“I suggested to the king that the World Interfaith Harmony Initiative develop a youth component that would focus on religious literacy among the youth of the world. And, when I received the medal from him and we had a few moments to exchange some words, he asked me to follow up on that proposal, as did the prince.”
Osadchey said he is in the process of writing a proposal to create this youth component, and added that he is looking forward to running a youth interfaith harmony week in Calgary. He hopes that others will use his model and do likewise in their communities.
“I think it’s important that not only adult leaders engage in creating relationships, but that we begin developing those among the next generation,” he said. “If we can do that, then the road to true harmony will be a lot easier to create.”
Since the world interfaith award was created in 2010, said Osadchey, there have been two other Canadian cities that have won awards – Toronto and Halifax, both achieving third place in their respective years.
The Calgary Interfaith Council is hoping to inspire a national designation of Feb. 1-7 as World Interfaith Harmony Week across the country and to bring other Canadian cities and communities into the picture. They are starting with their home province, encouraging their leaders to issue a proclamation designating it throughout Alberta. “We’re pretty close to getting that done,” said Osadchey. “Then, we’ve got an MP that’s working in Ottawa to do the same.”
Osadchey returned from Jordan full of hope and was impressed by the respect, interest and welcoming response of the Jordanian people he encountered. Nonetheless, he thought that, while interfaith activity might take place among the upper echelons of Jordanian society, he suspected that the general population is likely not as open or accepting. “That would have to do with probably lower levels of literacy, education, just in general,” he said.
He added, “The fact that their neighbour is Israel – and even though they have a fairly good relationship with Israel – it is still tinged with the Palestinian issue as well. I don’t think the ‘man on the street’ really cares about interfaith relationships in Jordan, but the leadership and the king certainly are trying to push the country more toward an acceptance of that.”
In Jordan, dialogue is mainly with the Christian world and does not seem to have any links with the Jewish world, but Osadchey is hopeful it may happen as a consequence of his visit.
“We’ll see how that takes place, but they’re reaching out,” he said. “The fact that the king of Jordan is the one responsible for this initiative…. They are trying to project a different image internationally.
“It’s really been very positive…. It’s had a positive effect on the Calgary community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, seeing this as a great recognition of our efforts in the interfaith community. It’s garnered a lot of recognition locally and spurred people to get more involved in our program, so that’s been a really positive benefit.”
On March 13, members of Calgary’s Muslim community visited Congregation Beth Tzedec. Jewish community members had visited Green Dome Mosque the week prior. The events were part of the Our House is Your House program. (photo from Shaul Osadchey)
After a 2014 clash between Palestinian and Israeli supporters on the grounds of Calgary City Hall that ended violently, Imam Syed Soharwardy of Green Dome Mosque reached out to local rabbis and Jewish community leaders, and Rabbi Shaul Osadchey of Beth Tzedec responded by inviting Jewish and Muslim leaders to his synagogue for discussions.
The discussions helped make the next demonstrations peaceful. They also helped transform the general relationship between the Muslim and Jewish communities, which led to two unity events held this past March.
“From that conversation, we made a commitment to meet again and continue the conversation,” said Osadchey. “We continued to meet at Beth Tzedec monthly and, within about two months, we decided to form the Calgary Jewish Muslim Council.”
That council has been meeting for almost two years, discussing various issues that affect both communities. Through this, the rabbi proposed the concept of Our House is Your House, the program that hosted the recent unity events. The program’s purpose is to bring together lay members of the communities for table conversations – not for lectures about religion, but simply to come together to explore mutual commonalities.
On March 6, about 50 Jewish community members made their way to Green Dome Mosque in northeast Calgary for the first of two consecutive Sunday events, the second of which took place at Beth Tzedec.
“We had a very inspiring program in which the clergy spoke at the beginning and then a lot of people were then invited to ask questions and express how they felt about doing these kinds of programs and getting to know each other,” said Osadchey. “We had refreshments and people visited with each other. It was quite a significant day.”
According to Osadchey, those who attended were impressed, finding the imams forthright in explaining how they felt the use of certain quotes from the Quran, such as, “you shouldn’t make friends with Jews or Christians,” were often used out of context and not in the true spirit of Islam.
The plan is to expand Our House is Your House with the program My House is Your House, matching people up for dinners in community members’ homes. There is also another program, funded by a Beth Tzedec member, that will see Jewish and Muslim teens (15- to 16-year-olds) engage in philanthropy.
“We’ll have six to eight Jewish youth and six to eight Muslim youth meet for six sessions, alternating between the mosque and the synagogue,” said Osadchey. “They will focus on learning about charity in each other’s traditions. They’ll identify common values, and then will go through a process of selecting and then allocating funds that have been donated to organizations in Calgary that they think reflect the values that they’ve articulated. So, it’s going to be an opportunity for the teens to get together and build a relationship, and do something constructive and positive to influence the community.”
Another initiative between the communities involved the Soup Sisters, an organization that was started by two Beth Tzedec women and has grown to include chapters in many Canadian cities, as well as one in Los Angeles. (See jewishindependent.ca/soup-ladled-with-love.)
“They make soup that is then donated to abused women in shelters and other facilities,” said Osadchey. Wanting to do a soup project for Syrian refugees, “the women came to me and asked how to get halal meat. I sent an email to several imams, asking them if they knew anyone who’d be willing to donate 86 kilograms of halal meat. Within an hour or two, I got a response from an imam saying he has the name of an individual able and happy to do that and that he’s expecting my call. Again, things are working in ways that we’re able to accomplish wonderful goals to help people in the community.”
Soharwardy, who initiated the Jewish-Muslim unity talks, is also the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Association of Canada. He is a Sunni Muslim who follows the Sufi tradition.
“About three months ago, Rabbi [Osadchey] and I were chatting,” said Soharwardy. “He said, ‘Let’s do something grassroots instead of a rabbi and an imam talking. Let’s involve our families, women, children, everybody.
“I think this was the first time in the history of, at least Canada, that such a large group from the Jewish community came to the mosque. They had a dialogue, they had food … we sat together for an informal discussion…. That inspired so many Muslims. It removed misunderstanding. People realized, Jewish people are not our enemies, we have so much in common.”
About 80 or 90 members of the Muslim community went to Beth Tzedec on March 13, he said. “We sat down, we saw the Torah, we heard three rabbis there. We were so amazed. I was happy to see we have so much in common. I’m so happy and I’m still, in my mind, still in that synagogue, listening to this rabbi and the way he was performing. I can’t call him anything except a person of faith, and his Jewish faith is very close to my faith. It’s just an amazing feeling. I don’t understand why we are enemies. I don’t think we are enemies.”
Soharwardy can hardly wait for the next step of inviting some new Jewish friends to his house to share food and conversation.
“I think, at the family level, we should start engaging ourselves,” he said. “That will build the relationship among adults as well as children … so our children will get the understanding that we are not enemies, we don’t hate each other. We are normal humans, Canadians, and neighbors.”
Osadchey added, “We recognize there’s still a lot of work to be done in both communities. There’s a lot of suspicion, a lot of stereotype and misinformation that exists in our communities about the other. To further break that down really takes people-to-people contact.
“There’s a lot of anxiety and a lot of cynicism and doubt about whether these efforts are really viable,” he continued. “I think the more that we’ve done together as two communities, the more the message is emerging that, yes, this is worth doing. We’re not under any illusion that we are going to change events in the Middle East, but we are creating an alternative model that will have a ripple effect beyond Calgary, that will say to people, having good relationships and learning about each other and respecting each other is definitely possible and desirable.
“We’re doing it with people in the Jewish community and Muslim community. We all have relatives in the Middle East. We have relatives elsewhere, too. So, to be able to model what we are doing and let people know about this will put the seed of change elsewhere … so that it goes beyond our local efforts.”
During mock weddings, participants learn about Jewish and Sikh rituals. (photo from Shaul Osadchey)
While Judaism is the main focus of any synagogue, and many stop there, that is not the case with Calgary’s Beth Tzedec Congregation. They have decided to take their Jewish engagement into the wider world and have hired scholars from other faiths to teach them about those faiths.
“There are a great number of religious traditions that are present in the community,” said the synagogue’s Rabbi Shaul Osadchey. “How do we learn about other people? How do we engage in conversation and interfaith relationships with people unless we know something about them? That’s the challenge.
“In thinking about that, which is fundamentally an issue of how we make Jews more religiously literate about other religions, the challenge is to do that in a way that people will come out and actually participate in the learning.”
Osadchey knew that if he left it to others to start the process, he’d be able to count participants on one hand – out of the 600 families that are a part of the synagogue.
“People aren’t going to initiate that,” said Osadchey. “People are intimidated going into other people’s houses of worship. They don’t find the time to do this on their own. The thought was, then, sanction it and bring it into the synagogue … making it ‘kosher’ in the sense that it’s acceptable for us to do. Secondly, it will be much more effective, because people will be much more comfortable coming into a familiar environment to learn about others.”
Osadchey was able to find someone in his congregation willing to support the cause, leading to the creation of the Lil Faider Interfaith Scholar in Residence Program.
“The idea was to allocate $10,000 a year for five years and pick five religions we wanted to examine, and invite a scholar or religious leader from the chosen tradition to be on our staff and teach within the synagogue for about 10 months (not over the summer).
“The first year, 2013-2014, we selected Sikhs. I thought that would be a good starting point because we know very little about Sikhs. They have a fairly significant amount of people in the Calgary community. Approximately 20,000 Sikhs live here, which is at least twice the size of the Jewish community, and they are very visible and yet kind of mysterious to us, we don’t know much about them.”
In his High Holiday sermon that launched the program, Osadchey invited attendees to learn about Sikhism. “All we know about them is they work at the airport, they
drive taxis and they wear a turban,” said Osadchey to congregants. “People kind of chuckled, and said, ‘Yeah, yeah. I know that.’ The point was, what do you know beyond that? The answer was relatively nothing. That’s not enough to engage people in conversation let alone collaborate in community activities.”
The synagogue hired Dr. Harjot Singh, a medical doctor and leader in the Sikh community. She presented lectures, followed by some experiential activities. One program was called Turban and Tefillin.
“That was pretty amazing, because it was a way in which we explored what the meaning of religious apparel is in our respective traditions,” said Osadchey. “The fact that we both cover our heads and wear identifiable religious objects was a starting point. During this program, all the Jewish participants were shown how to put on a turban and each of us was wrapped in one.
“We see turbans, but we don’t see them unwrapped … and now [we] understand how complicated it is for the novice to actually do that. Even though it only takes them three to five minutes to do, it’s quite an art. It was really quite wonderful to be wearing this turban and get a feel for what it’s like. Then, we wrapped them in a tefillin and they got an idea of what that was as a religious object.”
The congregation was invited into a gurdwara, the Sikh house of worship, and experienced a service. Then, they joined everyone in the langar, or common kitchen, where people can eat for free. Lastly, they finished the year off with a mock Sikh wedding and a mock Jewish wedding, for which they put up a chuppah, and presented the wedding rituals, acting them out and taking note of the similar and different rituals.
In 2014-2015, the synagogue focused on aspects of First Nations spirituality, inviting Casey Eagle Speaker and another teacher to give lessons on their culture.
“The year ended with a sweat lodge we went to, for us exclusively,” said Osadchey. “Afterwards, we sat around and passed the peace pipe together. People really learned a lot from that, as native spirituality is an oral tradition mainly. These are customs passed on and taught – sundance, sweat lodges and so forth – but they also have a very interesting perspective about the creator, nature and the role of people in terms of building community and families. That was quite eye-opening.”
This year, with all the new connections the synagogue has made with the Muslim community, they decided to focus on Islam.
“We didn’t start with Islam and we didn’t start with Christianity, because people probably would have said, ‘Oh, I know everything I need to know about Christianity, so I’m not going to show up,’” said Osadchey. But it was time to get to Islam, he said. “The next two years are going to be Hinduism and Buddhism.”
For Islam, the congregation selected Imam Syed Hadi Hasan of the Shia branch of Islam, who has a long history of interfaith work.
“What we did, however, was to respond to some of the naysayers and the skeptics by inviting a Jewish rabbi/scholar from L.A. after the imam had given about three lectures, and then we had Dr. Reuven Firestone come and speak,” said Osadchey. “He’s written books on Islam for Jews, about what Jews should know about Islam and what Muslims should know about Judaism. He’s very active in Muslim-Jewish dialogue. He came up and gave us a weekend of four lectures on different aspects of Islam and how we approach it. We invited our Islamic friends to come and many did. And, they were very impressed by his scholarship and knowledge of the Koran and so forth.”
At Chanukah time, the synagogue invited three imams to share their thoughts on religious freedom and join in the lighting of the chanukiyah, along with the rabbis. At the end, they all held up letters that spelled the phrase, “We refuse to be enemies.”
Osadchey said, “It was a powerful moment and brought Chanukah and the whole meaning of respect into a much different perspective.”
This March, the synagogue initiated the program Our House is Your House, which will be profiled in a future issue of the Independent.
Although Christianity is not one of the religions studied in the first five years of the program, the synagogue hopes to continue with a sixth year focused on Christianity. The program so far has been beneficial.
“It has given people permission to go out into the community and do things in a way they may have been hesitant to do before,” said Osadchey. “They have more confidence that they have the knowledge and the literacy to engage people.”
The scholars, too, gained much from the experience. “I was thrilled and amazed at that request and immediately accepted it,” said Hasan. “And I did my best to teach about Islam and answer all the questions from the participants of the five sessions I was part of.
“In the first session, participants were not very comfortable…. They were friendly, but they were a little bit formal in the beginning … but, gradually, we developed a friendship.”
Hasan is planning to bring Judaism into his mosque in a similar fashion, calling Beth Tzedec’s method “perfect and brilliant.”
He said, “We will be inviting Rabbi Osadchey for probably three to four sessions and he will be introducing Judaism…. When we are ignorant, when we don’t know each other, definitely, we have a lot of misconceptions. We are going to bring knowledge and awareness, and show that we are almost the same. We all work for the welfare of humanity and the universe. In this sense, we all are the same. In doing these programs, we are promoting peaceful coexistence and we are bringing harmony and unity within our communities.”
Speaker, who is a member of the Blood Tribe, which is part of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Alberta, echoed Hasan’s feelings, mentioning he found the experience very valuable.
“I enjoyed the hospitality and the openness that the people had,” said Speaker. “The congregation was very open in mind, body and spirit, very open to listening, to understanding who we are as a people, as indigenous people, and about the concerns or issues prevalent in society. They showed me a hunger to learn and to create an understanding, rather than just knowing.
“In our culture, we share openly to create an understanding and come together as human beings, rather than being separated by race, creed, color and religion. Those don’t work. We’ve seen the conflict that those create.
“They shared with me. They felt safe. They didn’t feel threatened. It felt more like family and how we do … the openness of sharing and expressing kindness, generosity and acceptance of each other was something they really came to be accustomed to. And, our style of ceremony, going into prayer and stuff like that, it’s so heart-warming.”
אמזון מבצעת ניסויים סודיים במזל”טים בקנדה. (צילום: amazon.com)
הונאת הפונזי הגדולה של קנדה: 3,000 משקיעים איבדו קרוב ל-300 מיליון דולר
פרטי פרשת הונאת הפונזי הגדולה ביותר בתולדות קנדה נחשפים בימים אלה, במהלך משפט פלילי נגד שני אזרחים מקלגרי. גרי סורנסון (71) ומילו ברוסט (61), נאשמים שהונו כ-3,000 משקיעים בסכום שנאמד בקרוב ל-400 מיליון דולר. מקורות הכספים של המשקיעים באו מחסכונותיהם, כספים שהקציבו לטובת הפנסיה ואף מהון עצמי של בתיהם.
המשפט שנחשב לאחד מהארוכים בהיסטוריה הפלילית של העיר הקלגרי, נפתח ב-2009, וכאמור הוא עדיין מתנהל בימים אלה. בבית המשפט הוצגו למעלה ממאה אלף של דפים של מסמכים וקלטות שמע. לאחרונה אחד עשר חברי המושבעים הרשיעו את סורנסון וברוסט, בשלושה סעיפי אישום. הם הואשמו בשני סעיפים אישום של זיוף וסעיף אחד של הלבנת כספים. התביעה מבקשת להטיל על השנים את העונש המירבי שנקבע בחוק, שעומד של 14 שנים בכלא. פסק דינם של שני הנוכלים צפוי להתפרסם בקרוב.
סורנסון וברוסט שיכנעו את המשקיעים שרובם מצפון אמריקה (בעיקר אמריקנים וקנדים), בשנים 1999 ועד 2008, לרכוש מניות של שלוש חברות השקעות לכריית זהב שבשליטתם. פעילות החברות התמקדה כביכול בהונדורס, ונצואלה, אקוודור, פרו, קנדה וארצות הברית.
את הכספים השקיעו השניים בחברות קש חסרות ערך עם שמות נוצצים. ובעיקר הם לקחו את הכספים ובזבזו אותם על חיי ראווה ונוחות, שכללו בין היתר: טיסות במטוסים פרטיים, מגורים בווילות מפוארות וארוחות יקרות. סורנסון וברוסט טוענים שהם נשארו חסרי כל, והמשטרה לא בדיוק מאמינה להם. בשלב זה חוקרי המשטרה מנסים לאתר לפחות חלק מהכסף שנעלם על ידי שני הנאשמים.
זה לא חלום אלה מציאות: אמזון מבצעת ניסויים סודיים במזל”טים בקנדה
ענקית המסחר האלקטרוני האמריקנית אמזון, מבצעת בימים אלה ניסויים עם מטוסים זעירים ללא טייסים (מזל”טים) להעברת חבילות, במחוז בריטיש קולומביה, קרוב לגבול עם מדינת וושינגטון בארצות הברית. מטה החברה של אמזון ממוקם בעיר סיאטל שבוושינגטון. באמזון מסרבים לחשוף את מיקומו המדויק של אתר הניסויים כדי למנוע מעקב מצד המתחרות הקשות, בהן גוגל ופדקס. גורמים שונים בקנדה ששמעו על דבר הניסויים של אמזון, הגיבו בספק וחשבו שמדובר בדבר בדיחה. אך באמזון השיבו בתגובה שמדובר בדבר אמיתי. הניסויים באתר הסודי כוללים הטסת מזל”טים בגובה של עד 150 מטר, ובמהירות של עד 80 קמ”ש. ניסויים סודיים דומים עם מזל”טים מתבצעים ע”י אמזון באחת מהמדינות של מערב אירופה.
אמזון המתינה למעלה משמונה חודשים לקבל את אישור רשות התעופה האמריקנית, לביצוע ניסויים עם מזל”טים בתוך ארה”ב. לאחר שהתייאשה מהאמריקנים החברה פנתה לרשות המקבילה הקנדית. ולהפתעה (או לא) קיבלה את אישור המיוחל בתוך שלושה שבועות, לביצוע ניסויים עם מזל”טים במשך שנה. קנדה נחשבת למדינה ידידותית להפעלת מזל”טים לשימושים מסחריים שונים. בשנה שעברה קנדה הנפיקה אישורים ל-1,672 מזל”טים מסחריים. ולעומת זאת ארה”ב הנפיקה אישורים רק 48 מזל”טים.
שרת התעופה של הממשלה הפדרלית של קנדה, ליסה רייט, אומרת שקנדה היא המובילה בעולם כיום בטכנולוגיית מזל”טים. היא מקווה שגופים דומים כמו אמזון ילכו בעיקבותיה ויפנו לקבל אישור לניסויים, בהם רשות הדואר הקנדית – קנדה פוסט.
אמזון הכריזה בסוף שנת 2013 על פרוייקט ‘פריים אייר’ להפעלת מזל”טים, שישלחו ללקוחות שלה בתוך כחצי שעה, חבילות במשקל של עד 2.3 ק”ג. אמזון מחפשת עתה בין היתר מהנדסים ישראלים שיעבדו בפרוייקט המעניין. עם מפרסום ‘פריים אייר’ לא מעט גורמים טענו שמדובר בפרויקט מסוכן, שיגרום לנזקים ברכוש ובנפש.