Image from 1341 Frames of Love and War, a photo by Micha Bar-Am.
Photographer Micha Bar-Am, now 92, is considered perhaps the foremost visual chronicler of Israeli history. In 1341 Frames of Love and War, filmmaker Ran Tal creates what amounts to a family reminiscence among Bar-Am, his wife Orna and sons Barak and Nimrod, complete with snippy retorts and full-throated arguments. All of this is set against thousands of Bar-Am’s photos, creating a barrage to the senses of blown-up buses, dancing hippies, funerals and the scope of Israeli life captured in still photos. The family, whose voices make up the narration of the documentary, are seen only in the pictures.
Although Bar-Am was present to immortalize in images the Eichmann trial and the liberation of the Western Wall, his work is mostly of ordinary Israeli people and events, including war, which has been all too “ordinary” for the country and its people. The photos predictably begin in black-and-white – the first colour photo in the film appears during the 1967 war, perhaps not merely a sign of changing technology but also of the before and after times of the occupation.
A photo from the time – an image Bar-Am captured of a soldier praying at the newly liberated Kotel – is a prism through which Micha and Orna chronicle their own changing views of their country. The soldier had fashioned an ammunition belt into a makeshift prayer shawl. Orna explains how they loved the photo at first, apparently as a symbol of resistance and survival. After a few years, they came to detest it as a representation of the connection between religion and power. Now, in their later years, they are agnostic about the thing.
“That’s how it was then,” Orna says. “We don’t have to feel love or hate toward it. That’s how it was.”
Bar-Am acknowledges that he was a shy young man and the camera was an excuse to get closer to things, to understand people better. Through his eyes, and the immortality of his images, Israelis and others can perhaps view themselves and the world around them more closely.
The film is an intimate exploration into the work of a legendary craftsman and, through him, a snapshot into the past.
For the full film festival schedule, visit viff.org.
Mahla Finkleman, Canadian national manager of partnership and outreach for Masa Israel Journey (standing, fourth from the left), at Kits Beach in July with participants of the Shalom U’Lhitraot event. (photo from Masa Canada)
While the skies were closed for the first waves of the pandemic, with many organizations canceling their Israel trips, Masa Israel Journey saw an increase of almost 40% of North American students and young professionals traveling to Israel to partake in immersive four-to-10-month programs.
Since its establishment in 2004 by the Jewish Agency and the government of Israel, Masa has served more than 180,000 Jewish students and young professionals ages 16 to 35, from more than 60 countries. Offering experiences in gap, academic and career segments, Masa provides an unmediated and challenging journey into Israeli society, culture, politics and history, as well as access for global Jewry to Israeli businesses, social enterprises and academic institutions. Masa strengthens the Jewish leadership pipeline through the Impact and Leadership Centre, based in Jerusalem. When fellows return from Israel, they are ready to engage as active members in their community and many take on leadership roles.
Masa has regained a strong presence in Canada, with a new Canadian national manager of partnership and outreach, Mahla Finkleman, who sits within the Federation of Greater Toronto, and visits communities across the country. Since Finkleman started just over one year ago, Masa has sent more Canadians than ever before to Israel on programs.
This past summer, working from Vancouver, Finkleman partnered with the Community Kollel for a Shabbat dinner for Tu b’Av. Some 60 to 70 young professionals, including many Birthright alumni, gathered to learn about Masa opportunities and ways to get back to Israel for a meaningful experience, living like a local.
Earlier in the summer, in July, the first of three Shalom U’Lhitraot events took place, welcoming back Masa alumni from Israel and sending off others to Tel Aviv University, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF) and other programs.
A new condensed version of MITF is available now. MITF is an option for 21-to-35-year olds who have a bachelor’s or associate degree and whose mother tongue is English. Applications are due Nov. 1, with three city options to choose from: Rishon LeZion, Bat Yam and Ramle. The program, which costs $720 US, runs in 2023 from Jan. 5 to July 2, and is an exclusive partnership with Israel Experience.
Each city offers its own unique charm. In Bat Yam, you can take surf lessons and deep dive into the Israeli-Russian community. Rishon is Israel’s fourth largest city, with malls, parks, beaches and a zoo. And, in Ramle, an ancient city with mixed cultures and a rich history, the Pool of Arches is a top attraction, as is the Ramle market – additional perks are the spacious homes and a pool pass.
When I assess all the positive things that Jews have contributed to humanity, and contrast that with the treatment my people have undergone as recompense, I am at a loss.
Jews conceived a supreme being responsible for the creation of the material world. They also saw that this being insisted on moral laws to be obeyed by the humans He brought into being to be masters of the planet He had peopled. The Jews believed that this unitary deity, replacing the multiplicity of single-purpose idols and demigods, would reward the righteous who obeyed His laws with a future beyond the grave that all humans face. They also hoped these laws would make it easier for humans to live together in peace. The ideas were so powerful that, even though they were transmuted and altered through Christianity and Islam, they ultimately captured the hearts of millions and, today, billions.
In its early days, as they struggled for wider support, the Jewish followers of Jesus, and some of those they recruited, altered some of the tenets of Jewish observance and deified their leader. Further, the church established in Jesus’s name adopted the New Testament, which they established to replace the Hebrew Bible, containing the assertion, not borne out by available historical record, that his fellow Jews killed Jesus.
With the ultimate success of the new church, Jews have faced millennia of murder, forced conversion, exclusion and persecution from Christianity’s adherents. And Islam followed suit in condemnation because Jews would not accept their version of the story Jews had been telling.
Out of this crucible of trial by fire and sword, hate and exclusion, remnants have survived over the centuries, since most Jews left their native lands. Treated as strangers everywhere they ended up, they maintained a culture that has bred individuals of extraordinary talent, wisdom and ingenuity out of all proportion to their numbers.
When Jews were at last liberated from the restrictions placed upon them by various rulers of various lands, the contribution that Jews began to make to the welfare of their communities exploded across the whole range of human activity. Yet, hatred of Jews, official and random, remains a fact of life nearly everywhere.
As a youngster, I grew up in Canada, in a time when there were places in which Jews could not buy property. There were jobs from which Jews were excluded. There were courses in university where enrolment of Jews was limited.
One of my childhood acquaintances, the product of a Jamaican father and a German mother, lived in similar circumstance to ourselves, in an area on the edge of being a slum. We often spoke of our aspirations for future advancement. He had a talent for drawing. If I had a talent for anything, it was not obvious.
Almost a lifetime later, we reengaged and had a number of debates. When I mentioned some of the contributions Jews had made to humanity, making particular reference to recent discoveries made by scientists in Israel, they appeared of little significance to him. He cautioned me about being too tribal, indicating that national origins were irrelevant. Then, he stated that the creation of Israel had been a world blunder.
The contributions being made in Israel dispute that point. That it exists at all is a miracle. The current rallying of nations around the world to support Ukraine was not in evidence when Israel confronted the armies of seven invading Arab countries, in addition to internal terrorism, at the time of its birth in 1948.
An arid country, Israel converts seawater to freshwater with solar power. That solar power fills much of its energy needs, as it lacks natural resources. It is a pioneer in agricultural techniques that it markets to the world to conserve water.
It commits one of the highest percentages of the national budget to research and development, funding medical and technological advances that are being used around the world. Its medical advances have enabled people who couldn’t, for whatever reason, to walk, to hear or to see. It used its entire population to identify the best methods for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
No emergency anywhere in the world lacks an Israeli team if their aid is welcome, and they are often the first on the scene to save lives. It has one of the highest patent applications per million people in the world.
And Israel is a haven for any Jew in distress around the world. Its initial Jewish population was 800,000. After almost 75 years, it is more than six million, in a country of more than nine million, most of the balance being Arabs with citizenship.
Yet, some, even many, consider all this a blunder! And, as Jews, we face challenges to our safety and survival wherever we are located.
The outsize contributions made by Jews in every field, out of all proportion to their numbers, is a matter of public record. The explanation for it is puzzling. My conclusion centres on the nature of the Jewish community in the diaspora and in the Israeli national consciousness.
Communities in the diaspora inherited their format, as dictated by religious authorities in ancient Israel. Each community was responsible for meeting the needs all its inhabitants, children’s education and care for the poor included. This was reenforced in the diaspora by hostile surroundings, with internal literacy and educational priorities being in stark contrast to what existed in environments around them.
Most importantly, I believe, was a sense of common destiny, each Jew knowingly accepting responsibility for the welfare of one’s fellows. I believe that, when Jews entered the wider world, this individual consciousness was transmuted into a drive to be of service to the public as a whole. And these feelings dictated the choice of careers and the values of Jewish entrepreneurs. The community priority on education did the rest in the pursuit of excellence.
The wrongs of the past, it seems, will not be righted. We must earn our satisfactions from our accomplishments.
Max Roytenbergis a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.
This past summer, Israel’s male youth goalball team won the European ParaYouth Games. (photo by Lilach Weiss)
Can you imagine a sporting event in which the audience sits in silence? Well, this is how goalball is played. Why? So that the visually challenged players can hear the bells inside the game ball.
And, speaking of the ball, it differs quite a bit from a soccer ball. In addition to having eight small holes in it – which allow the players to hear the two bells inside of it – the hard rubber ball is approximately 76 centimetres in circumference and weighs 1.25 kilograms. By contrast, a standard soccer ball has a circumference of 68 to 70 centimetres and weighs significantly less, between 400 and 450 grams.
To ensure fair competition, goalball participants must wear opaque eye shades. All international athletes must be legally blind, meaning they have less than 10% vision and are classified as B3 (partial sight), B2 (less sight than B2) or B1 (totally blind).
The goalball court has slightly raised markings so each player knows where their post is and the game is played indoors on a court measuring 18 metres long and nine metres wide, usually with short walls to help keep the ball inside. Again, this is different from soccer, which is played on a field that is 125 metres by 85 metres.
Each game is broken down into two 12-minute sessions with a three-minute break between the first and second halves. There are six players on a goalball team, with just three members playing at any one time.
Each goalball player has a specific job. The centre is the most responsible for defence, as they have the ability to support the left or right wing. The right winger defends the right-hand side of the goal and the left winger the left, but both are also main attacking players. The objective, as with most such games, is to score the most goals.
The team area is the first defence section, which starts from the goal line. In this area, defenders are allowed to block and control the ball to stop it from entering the goal.
The landing area starts at the end of the defence line. In this section, the attacking player can move around to take a shot at the opposing goal. The neutral areas are safe zones that provide space for defending teams to hear the ball coming towards them.
Here is how the game is played in a few situations. When the defending team blocks the ball, thus preventing a goal, the game continues. When the ball is blocked and then crosses the sideline, the play is restarted by the team that blocked the ball. When the ball is thrown over the sideline, the other team restarts the game.
Players protect the goal on their hands and knees. Unlike in soccer, the ball is not kicked, it is thrown from either a standing position underarm, or rolled. To reduce the sound and make it difficult for the opponents, players try to release the ball close to the floor. They can also make the ball quieter by spinning it. The team is given a foul if their player doesn’t throw the ball within 10 seconds of touching it.
Blind soccer, another sport played by visually challenged players, differs from goalball in several ways. For instance, while players in both games wear eye covers, players in blind soccer chase the ball in an upright position. Blind soccer halves are longer, at 20 or 25 minutes, and, in blind soccer, each team has five players on the pitch at any time, four outfield players who are visually impaired and a goalkeeper – who need not be visually challenged.
Israeli goalball coach Raz Shoham said most of the injuries in the game come from over-use of the body and not from being hit by the ball. In Israel, players’ free time is limited by the fact that almost all of them work or study.
Before each practice, there is a 40-minute warmup session in which players exercise their torso, hands and legs. Practices are held on Thursdays and Fridays in four locations: Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Afula. Men and boys practise mostly in Afula, while the women practise mostly in Jerusalem. Practice times are a function of when the sports auditorium is available.
Traveling can sometimes be an issue. Shoham explained that a strong player showed up at the team’s summer camp and wanted to continue playing after the summer ended, but there was a problem getting her from her village to practices. On the other hand, sometimes players leave the sport for a stretch of time and then return. Take Orel, who started playing while still in elementary school, left for a few years and now, at the age of 15, is a key player on the male youth team.
According to Shoham, goalball players range in age. At the moment, the oldest person who comes out to play is a 65-year-old grandmother. Currently, on the official playing teams, the oldest player is 35. The official team players get a few thousand shekels for playing, but it is not like regular soccer, in which team members frequently earn high salaries.
Israeli goalball players are expected to attend some 25 practices a month. And there have been good results from the hard work. Just this past summer, Israel’s male youth goalball team – players Asad Mahamid, Doron Hodeda, Shai Avni, Ariel Alfasi and Orel Ybarkan – won the European ParaYouth Games.
Coach Snir Cohen knew before the tournament that he had good players, but said he just didn’t know how good. His goal is developing this youth team into a strong adult team.
Nineteen-year-old player Lihi Ben David, who plays left wing, spoke with the Independent about her recent training experience in Brazil. The cost of the trip was largely covered by the Israel Sports Association for the Disabled (ISAD). The Israeli and Brazilian players conversed in English. She said it was refreshing to learn about a different culture. The hard part for Ben David, who is an observant Jew, was playing during the nine mourning days of the Hebrew month of Av.
Deborah Rubin Fields is an Israel-based features writer. She is also the author of Take a Peek Inside: A Child’s Guide to Radiology Exams, published in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
במדינת ישראל הבירוקרטיה חוגגת ומקשה על החיים. לאחר מותי אמי, אחי ואני נדרשנו לטפל בצוואתה ובצוואה של אבא, ולוודא שהיא בוצעה כהלכה. אחי וחמשת ילדיו ואני יורשים את דירת ההורים בתל אביב, ואילו הכסף שהיה מונח בחשבון הבנק של ההורים יחולק בין אחי וביני. כביכול צוואה פשוטה אך לאור הבירוקרטיה הישראלית הכל הפך למסובך
להלן מספר דוגמאות שיבהירו את הבעיות שבדרך
בנק הפועלים ששם להורי יש את החשבון קיבל את כל החתימות של הילדים של אחי, של אחי ושלי. כיוון שאני גר מחוץ לישראל, עדיין לא ידוע לנו האם אם בנק הפועלים יבקש ממני גם אישור מהקונסוליה הישראלית, בנוסף לזה שהבאתי עורך דין ונוטריון בוונקובר. כיוון הליך הבדיקה של הבנק עלול להימשך שבועות ארוכים, החלטתי לטוס לסן פרנסיסקו כדי להשיג אישור של הקונסוליה הישראלית שם של חתימתי. אם הבנק אכן יבקש אישור זה בעוד מספר שבועות המסמכים יהיו כבר אז בידי אחי (לאחר שאשלח אותם אליו בדואר אקספרס)
חשבון נאמנות עורכי הדין של שני הצדדים בנוגע למכירת הדירה בתל אביב, אמור להיפתח בבנק לאומי. אחי קיבל מידע כי גם בנק לאומי יעלה דרישות כמו בנק הפועלים בנוגע לחתימות שלי. בנק לאומי בשלב מוקדם זה עדיין לא ביקש דבר ואחי לא מעוניין לעורר את המתים. צריך לקוות שעד מועד נסיעתי בתוך מספר ימים, נדע היכן אנו עומדים מול בנק זה. אם גם הם יבקשו אישור על חתימתי אוכל להביא אותו מהקונסוליה בסן פרנסיסקו, בדומה לאישור המיועד לבנק הפועלים. אם בנק לאומי לא יעדכן אותנו עד יום נסיעתי תהיה לנו בעייה קשה
עורכי הדין של רוכשי הדירה דורשים כמו שני הבנקים, שכל שבעת היורשים ימלאו טפסים ויחתמו עליהם במסגרת העברת מסמכים לטאבו. אני אמור לקבל מסמך כזה מאחי עד ערב הנסיעה, ואז אקח גם אותו לקונסוליה הישראלית בסן פרנסיסקו לקבל את האישור שלהם
עבור אלה שגרים בקנדה, השגת חתימות על מסמכים משפטיים שיוכרו במדינות אחרות מאוד מסובכת. זאת כיוון שקנדה לא חתומה על אמנת האג משנת אלף תשע מאות שישים ואחת. לכן בידי עומדות שתי אפשרויות. הראשונה – להחתים עורך דין ונוטריון מקומי על הטפסים. לאחר מכן לשלוח את הטפסים שלו לאישור ממשלת בריטיש קולומביה שנמצאי בעיר ויקטוריה. ולאחר מכן עלי לקבל גם את האישור של הקונסוליה הישראלית בטורונטו
לחילופין אני יכול לגשת ישירות לקונסוליה הישראלית בקנדה. תחילה חשבתי שעדיף לי לטוס שוב לישראל, להגיע לבנקים ומשרדי עורכי הדין השונים, לחתום על כל המסמכים הנדרשים ולגמור הכל מול הפקידים הקטנים, בתוך חמש דקות. אך כיוון שזה יקר בטירוף ואין לי יותר כוח לטוס כל כך הרבה שעות, מדובר בפעם השלישית השנה, חשבתי תחילה לטוס לקונסוליה הישראלית בטורונטו. בגלל מגפת הקוביד, הקונסוליה בטורונטו לא מספקת בימים אלה שירותים לישראלים בונקובר. בסוף מצאתי רעיון טוב וזול יותר – הקונסוליה הישראלית בסן פרנסיסקו. הקונסוליה בסן פרנסיסקו, גם היא בגלל מגפתי הקוביד, לא מספקת בימים אלה שירותים לישראלים בסיאטל הסמוכה לוונקובר. לכן אני טס לסן פרנסיסקו. קבעתי כבר פגישה בקונסוליה הישראלית שם, ויש לי גם הזדמנות הזדמנות ראשונה לבקר לראשונה בעיר היפה הזו. מי היה מאמין שצוואה כה פשוטה אשר כוללת דירה אחת וחשבון בנק אחד תהפוך למסע בירוקרטי בלתי סביר, בלתי הגיוני ואף לא אנושי. חבל שבישראל זה קורה
Gili Yalo performs in Vancouver on Sept. 24 for a Chutzpah! Plus event. (photo from Chutzpah!)
Israeli singer-songwriter Gili Yalo returns to Vancouver for a Chutzpah! Plus concert on Sept. 24. It’s his first time back in the city since 2015, when he was part of the band Zvuloon Dub System. Yalo said he can’t wait – “the last time at the Chutzpah! Festival was wonderful!” he told the Independent.
In 2015, Zvuloon Dub was touring the United States and other countries. “Part of the tour was the Chutzpah! Festival,” said Yalo, “and we finished the tour in Montego Bay, Jamaica, performing in the legendary festival SumFest. After being part of Zvuloon Dub for seven years, I felt that it was the right time and the right spot to start something new. I came back to Tel Aviv and started working on new songs for my solo career.”
Yalo’s eponymous first solo album, released in 2017, was very well-received and he followed it up in 2019 with the EP Made in Amharica, on which he collaborated with Dallas-based musicians in Niles City Sound, a studio in Fort Worth. He has released several singles and has played on stages and in festivals around the world.
But, even though he has been a singer his whole life and performing almost as long – including in children’s choirs and during his time in the Israel Defence Forces – Yalo resisted making music a career. Among his alternate endeavours was being a club owner.
“I opened the club for Israeli Ethiopian people, who didn’t feel safe to stand in line at Israeli clubs; back then we got a lot of refusal just because of the colour of our skin,” he explained. “At the club, there were two floors, one of R&B and reggae/dancehall music, the other one was Ethiopian music. It really affected me because I have heard and learned lots of Ethiopian music.
“After several years of running the club, I felt that I needed to do something different in my life … and I told myself, you don’t want to regret not trying to achieve your biggest dream, and I decided that I had to try and overcome my fears. It was natural for me to make a fusion of Ethiopian music and Western music such as jazz, funk, R&B and reggae, because that was my life between home and the outside.”
Born in Ethiopia, Yalo was 4 or 5 years old when he and his family fled to escape famine in 1984. Traveling by foot, it took them about two months to walk from the Gondar region, in northern Ethiopia, to refugee camps in Sudan, where they stayed for several months, until being airlifted to Israel as part of Operation Moses.
“Lots of the songs that I’m writing are talking about identity, journey and integration into society, so I think all of it came from the experience of making aliyah and the difficulty in the process,” Yalo told the Independent.
There are many things that Yalo would still like to accomplish, but, right now, he said, “I especially want to share music.” He wants to write good songs, collaborate “with musicians that I appreciate, and take my music to a place that it can inspire lots of people.”
Playing in Vancouver with Yalo will be Nadav Peled (guitar), Dor Heled (keys), Billy Aukstik (trumpet), Eran Fink (drums) and Geoffrey Muller (bass).
About coming to the city, Yalo said, “I want to say that Vancouver is one of the best places in the world. I’ve seen so many places thanks to music and, if it wasn’t so far away from my family, I would definitely consider living there.”
JNF Pacific region executive director Michael Sachs, left, in a meeting at Aviv House for autistic adults in Israel. (photo from JNF-PR)
Three Israeli projects supported by the Pacific region of the Jewish National Fund of Canada are advancing well, according to Michael Sachs.
Sachs, executive director of JNF Pacific region, visited the initiatives July 7-18. He was joined on the Israel trip by local JNF supporters Lisa and Mike Averbach. The trio surveyed projects in Rishon LeZion, in Jerusalem and at Nir Galim, a moshav near Ashdod.
The project in Rishon LeZion, south of Tel Aviv, is a women’s shelter that has faced challenges in reaching completion. In collaboration with the Israeli group No2Violence, the facility was supported by two Negev dinners in 2016 – one in Vancouver, honouring Shirley Barnett, and one in Winnipeg, honouring Peter Leipsic.
The shelter is envisioned to welcome 10 to 12 families and provide victims of domestic violence with a safe environment where they can access therapy, secure income and new housing.
Emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence is gravely lacking in Israel, where it is estimated that 65% to 70% of women and children escaping domestic abuse cannot access alternative housing due to lack of availability.
“I wanted to go and see with my eyes, with my feet on the ground, how it’s progressing,” said Sachs of the project. “Finally, shovels have started going into the ground and the foundation has been laid. This project, it had been stalled for multiple reasons, COVID included, but I wanted to go and see the progress because we have a commitment that we make to our donors in our community to fulfil the project no matter what.”
One of the things that impressed Sachs most about the shelter is that it is adjacent to a community centre.
“For women and children who are in crisis, the ability to have a community centre, a place to go, a place for their kids to go, is extremely important, on top of just the safe haven,” he said.
Last year’s Negev campaign in the Pacific region raised funds for ALUT, the Israeli Society for Autistic Children, to renovate Aviv House, or Beit Aviv, in Jerusalem. This “home for life” for autistic adults was established in 1992 and is home to about 14 residents who require assistance in aspects of everyday life.
The building, more than 50 years old, was not wheelchair accessible and had infrastructural challenges. “It needed a lot of work,” said Sachs. The project, championed by honorary project co-chairs Penny Sprackman and David Goldman, saw a new roof put on the building, new bathrooms and doorways, among other upgrades.
Autism has co-morbidities and one of the residents at Aviv House has what is described as the most complex case of epilepsy in the state of Israel.
“This individual had not been able to have a real, proper shower until the renovation,” said Sachs. The renovated facility allows an assistant to accompany the resident in the new shower. “That’s just one example of how it made a difference,” he said. “The effect that we are having on the life of these individuals is immense.”
The ALUT project was especially meaningful for Sachs, he said, because it was the first initiative that took place after he became regional executive director, in April 2021. The fact that it also raised autism awareness in Canada was a bonus, he added.
A third project that Sachs and the Averbachs visited was Beit Haedut, the Testimony House Museum, on Moshav Nir Galim. The museum, located in a community founded by survivors of the Holocaust, focuses on the lives survivors made in the state of Israel.
This project is the focus of the current Pacific region Negev campaign and will involve an especially meaningful Vancouver component. In an interactive space, Vancouverite Marie Doduck, a child survivor of the Holocaust, will present virtually to visitors about her life. She will be the only English-language presenter in the virtual space, meaning that every Anglo visitor to the museum will “meet” her and hear her testimony.
Sachs has heard the question before: Why a Holocaust education centre so close to Yad Vashem, the world’s foremost education, commemoration and research centre on the topic?
“My answer is, why not?” he replied. “Why not have more places teaching people about the Holocaust, the tragedy that happened? It’s our responsibility to make sure that more and more of these centres are supported and able to function and teach a population that is starting to forget. It’s not that because you have one, you can’t have the other.”
The quality of the museum is also significant, he said: “It is a Holocaust centre that, in my eyes, punches above its weight class.”
Being close to Ashdod, where many cruise ships arrive, and near the Negev Desert, the location is also easily accessible for visitors.
Sachs hand-delivered Doduck’s recorded testimony to the museum. He credited the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for its assistance in making the technically complex project possible.
Returning from his first trip to Israel as JNF Pacific region executive director, Sachs was rejuvenated.
“Most people come back from Israel and they’re drained,” he said. “I came back with a newfound energy because, when you see the fingerprint JNF Canada has on the state of Israel and you see the efforts, the progress, the impact that our local community – our tiny little local community – is having on the ground there and for the people in Israel, it’s awe-inspiring. It really is. You come out of it and you are more energized than ever to continue to make a difference.”
Lance Davis, chief executive officer of JNF Canada, commended the Pacific region in a statement to the Independent.
“On behalf of JNF Canada, I am so proud that we have advanced two key projects for our organization, the Vancouver/Winnipeg women’s shelter and the renovation of the Aviv House supporting autistic individuals,” said Davis. “Thanks to the generosity of donors from the Pacific region, we are able to help build the facilities that will transform the lives of vulnerable Israelis in a profound manner. Our JNF supporters can take great pride in the fact that together we are building the foundation for Israel’s future.”
Due to COVID, JNF has not held a Negev Dinner in Vancouver since 2019, opting instead to run campaigns without the traditional gala event. Sachs hopes 2023 will see a return to normalcy.
“God willing, we’ll all be able to be back together next year for a wonderful and beautiful Negev Dinner with a wonderful honouree,” he said.
לפני חמש שנים קיבלתי אישור מהמנהלים הבכירים במקום העבודה שלי לעבור לעבוד מהבית. ארזתי את מעט החפצים שלי שהיו במשרד בדאון טאון ונקובר והעברתי אותם לביתי. חברת הובלה העבירה את הכל השאר, כולל: מחשב, שולחן למחשב עם שני מוניטורים, כיסא משרדי, מגירות על גלגלים ועוד.
לראשונה בחיי עבדתי מהבית בקביעות וזה מאוד מאוד מתאים לי. כמבקר החברה אני צריך שקט בסביבה, בזמן שאני עובד ובודק האם הכל נעשה בחברה כשורה. מכל מקום בגלל אופיי אני מעדיף תדיר לעבוד לבד, לא בקבוצות, לא בצוותים ולא עם אחרים. סוף סוף הגשמתי את רצוני ואני עובד מהבית וזאת עוד הרבה לפני מגפת הקוביד.
המשרד של החברה נמצא במרחק של פחות מחמש עשרה דקות הליכה מביתי, כך שאם אני צריך להגיע לפגישה או לדיון כלשהו, זה נמצא ממש קרוב אלי. ובעצם אני יכול ליהנות משני העולמות: לבצע את העבודה יומיומית שלי מהבית ולהגיע למשרד כשצריך.
אחרי הצבא עת גרתי בישראל: התחלתי לעבוד בדרך כלל במקומות עבודה שיותר קרובים לביתי בזמן שגרתי אז בירושלים. הדבר נמשך עת עברתי לתל אביב. גרתי במרכז העיר ומקום עבודתי תמיד היה במרחק הליכה קצר.
כשעברתי לוונקובר לפני שבעה עשרה וחצי שנים, במרבית הזמן אותו נוהג שלי נשמר. אני גר במרכז ומקום העבודה קרוב. במשך עשר השנים הראשונות כאן שכרתי דירה קטנה ברחוב בארקלי בווסט אנד בסמוך לסנטלי פארק. אחרי שבעה חודשים של חיפושים אחרי עבודה התחלתי לעבוד במחסן של חברה לאספקת תכשיטים. כל יום צעדתי למחסן במשך כ-45 דקות. את אותה דרך עשיתי בהליכה בחזרה לבית. לאחר מספר חודשים עברתי לחברה העוסקת בגבייה ותפקידי היה לחפש מידע ובעיקר מספרי טלפון של חייבים. (זאת, עקב התמחותי בחיפוש מידע ולאור העובדה ששימשתי עיתונאי בישראל במשך שנים רבות). כמובן שמיקומה של החברה היה בדאון טאון של ונקובר, ובמרחק של כעשרים דקות מביתי לכל היותר. עבדתי בחברת הגבייה למעלה משבע שנים ורק בשנה האחרונה שלי שם קרה שינוי מהותי. בגלל שינוי בבעלות בקרב בעלי המניות והעליה המהותית בשכר הדירה, החברה עזבה את הדאון טאון ועברה לעיר ברנבי הסמוכה לונקובר. המשרדים החדשים מוקמו בצפון ברנבי בסמוך לברנדווד מול. כיוון שאני לא מחזיק ברכב מאז שעברתי לוונקובר, נאלצתי כל יום לבזבז קרוב לשעה כדי להגיע לעבודה. הייתי נוהג ללכת ברגל עד תחנת הרכבת הקלה של סקייטריין, ברחוב בווררד. ומשם הייתי מגיע לתחנת הרכבת של ברנדווד מול בברנבי, והולך ברגל עוד מספר דקות עד למשרד.
זו הייתה השנה האחרונה שלי בחברת הגבייה. משם עברתי לעבוד בחברה המספקת הלוואות בסב-פריים למי שאינו יכול לקבל הלוואות מהבנק, בשל קרדיט גרוע. בחברה זאת אני עובד במשך למעלה משמונה השנים האחרונות ממש עד היום.
בחצי השנה הראשונה שלי: משרדי החברה היו ממוקמים במערב העיר (במקריות בקרוב למחסן התכשיטים בו עבדתי בעבר). לאחר מכן עברנו לשמחתי לדאון טאון, כך שהייתי צועד כיום יום כחמש עשרה דקות למשרד. לפני כשבע שנים עברתי לדירה משלי בצד השני של רחוב בארקלי, בסמוך לרחוב בווררד. שוב מדובר היה במרחק הליכה קצר של כחמש עשרה דקות מהבית למשרד. ולפיכך העיקרון שלי לעבוד קרוב לבית נמשך כמעט כל חיי בישראל וכן בקנדה.
כאמור לפני חמש שנים ממש שברתי את העיקרון של עצמי והתחלתי לעבוד מהבית. אני מקווה שזה ימשך לעד.
Team Canada’s 600-strong contingent marched into the opening ceremonies of the quadrennial Maccabiah Games July 14 at Jerusalem’s Teddy Coliseum. They were led by a trio of flagbearers – Toronto’s Molly Tissenbaum, a hockey goalie who has overcome serious health challenges to return to the ice, and Calgary twins Conaire and Nick Taub, volleyball players who are slated to enrol at the University of British Columbia in the fall. Canada sent the fourth largest team to the 21st “Jewish Olympics,” after Israel, the United States and Argentina.
The flag-bearing trio, their 600 teammates and about 10,000 others streamed into the stadium at the start of the largest-ever Maccabiah Games. Also on hand was an American visitor, President Joe Biden, who was the first U.S. leader to attend the event, flanked by Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
The trio of leaders appeared jubilant, and no doubt there is a natural bond between Biden and Lapid that neither shares with either the former U.S. president Donald Trump or the once and possibly future Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who had a legendary bromance together.
While athletes began their friendly skirmishing for medals, the politicians began skirmishing themselves, around issues more existential than soccer scores.
Whatever personal affinity Biden and Lapid might share is at least partly restrained by reality. Lapid took over from Naftali Bennett as a sort of caretaker during the election campaign. Whether he remains leader after the votes are counted in November looks, at this point, less than likely.
Far more importantly, the two leaders disagree on the approach to Iran’s nuclear threat.
“Words will not stop them, Mr. President,” Lapid told Biden in their joint public remarks. “Diplomacy will not stop them. The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that … if they continue to develop their nuclear program, the free world will use force. The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table.”
Biden has returned the United States to the Obama administration’s approach, aiming to revive the 2015 agreement between Iran and the West, which was supposed to slow that country’s march to nuclear capability. Trump withdrew the United States from the deal.
After Biden left Israel and headed to Saudi Arabia, words heated up dramatically Sunday. A top aide to the Iranian leader asserted that Iran already has the capability of creating a nuclear bomb but has chosen not to do so. In response, Aviv Kochavi, head of the Israel Defence Forces, responded with uninhibited forewarning.
“The IDF continues to prepare vigorously for an attack on Iran and must prepare for every development and every scenario,” Kochavi said, adding that, “preparing a military option against the Iranian nuclear program is a moral obligation and a national security order.” At the centre of the IDF’s preparations, he added, are “a variety of operational plans, the allocation of many resources, the acquisition of appropriate weapons, intelligence and training.”
Meanwhile, the inevitable moving pieces of Middle East politics continued shifting.
Biden walked a fine line, visually demonstrated by his choice to fist-bump rather than embrace the Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman, who has on his hands the blood of dismembered journalist, author and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, whose grisly murder at a Saudi consulate in Turkey shocked the world. Rumours of warming relations between Saudia Arabia and Israel – the rumours go from the opening of Saudi airspace to Israeli planes, to the full-on recognition of Israel – remain mostly that. Saudis reiterated the old orthodoxy that relations would never develop until there is a Palestinian state.
The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, is openly mooting returning to diplomatic relations with Iran after six years. The UAE has sided with the Saudis against Iran in the ongoing proxy war in Yemen, but the Emiratis are making noises about “deescalating” tensions.
Back in Israel, meanwhile, divergent approaches to issues foreign and domestic are very much on the front burner. With the diplomatic niceties of welcoming the leader of Israel’s most important ally now in the past, parties are holding their primaries to select their leaders and lists for the Nov. 1 vote – the fifth since April 2019 – and forming new partnerships that reshape the landscape in advance of the nitty-gritty campaigning to come.
Much closer in time, the Maccabiah Games close Tuesday, with final results expected to be more definitive than the national election, which will almost inevitably end up with weeks of negotiations leading to a tenuous coalition government.
Candance Kwinter, far right, and other members of a foreign delegation to Ethiopia, take in a synagogue service in Gondar. (photo from Candace Kwinter)
The latest airlift from the Horn of Africa is underway – and a Vancouver community leader was on the plane from Addis Ababa recently with 179 Ethiopian Jews making aliyah.
Candace Kwinter flew to Ethiopia at the end of May, where she met up with three other Canadians, a group from North and South America and a team of Israelis. In addition to being chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, Kwinter is on the board of the Jewish Agency for Israel and sits on numerous JAFI committees.
Pnina Tamano-Shata, Israel’s minister of immigrant absorption, who was born in Ethiopia in 1981 and is the first Ethiopian-Israeli cabinet minister, was also on the trip. So was Micah Feldman, author of the book On Wings of Eagles: The Secret Operation of the Ethiopian Exodus, who was able to contextualize what first-timers were witnessing.
A trickle of Jewish refugees has traveled from eastern Africa to Israel (and pre-state Palestine) since the 1930s, at least. From the beginning of the Ethiopian civil war, in 1974, through the catastrophic famine on the Horn of Africa in the early 1980s, rescue missions ramped up. Operation Moses, in 1984/85, brought about 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, primarily from refugee camps in Sudan. Operation Solomon, in 1991, brought more than 14,000 Ethiopians.
The current airlift, called Operation Tzur Israel (Rock of Israel), is expected to bring more than 2,000 olim over six months. The Ethiopian Airlines flight that Kwinter was on was the first of several. When this mission is complete, there will be an estimated 10,000 Jews left in Ethiopia.
The Jewish identity of the olim is, in some cases, contested. The Ethiopians have included Beta Israel, people who follow Jewish traditions that would be recognizable to most observant Jews worldwide. They also include Falash Mura, members of Beta Israel communities who, since the advent of Christian missionizing in the area, have been converted, sometimes forcibly.
The current project is entirely based on family reunification. Kwinter noted that, since the airlifts began 40 years ago, Ethiopian Jews have migrated primarily from the more rural Gondar area to cities, mostly the capital Addis Ababa. This migration has several corollaries, said Kwinter. Unlike the first olim of decades ago, these new Israelis are familiar with electricity and plumbing, although they may not have access to them at home. They may also have intermarried. So, while siblings who have been separated for decades are reunited, in some cases the nieces and nephews (and the Ethiopian spouses) may not be halachically Jewish. In these cases, they will undergo conversions.
Kwinter and the other foreign representatives flew to Gondar to see how Jews had lived for centuries and where some still reside.
“We went to an ancient synagogue, then we went to an ancient Jewish cemetery,” she said. “It’s very primitive, it’s nothing like we can imagine. It’s like they’re still living the way people did three, four or five hundred years ago.”
The villages, which have typically 100 or 200 Jews, were always located on rivers or streams, Kwinter said, “because they still believed in the mikvah. Women had menstrual tents, like from ancient days. In their time, they had to be put in their tents and they needed the freshwater to provide for these old rituals.”
The synagogue services were, at once, unlike anything Kwinter had seen before and yet entirely familiar. The dirt-floor synagogue was filled with several hundred men and women, sitting separately, the women all in white shawls, men wearing tallit and many laying tefillin.
Kwinter was saying Kaddish for her mother, who passed away just weeks before the trip, and she had no problem following the service.
Next door, a 10-foot-by-10-foot tin shack made up the Talmud Torah, with an open fire pit that served hundreds of meals to children and pregnant women in the community.
Although the transition facing these migrants will certainly not be easy, the latest newcomers have it smoother than some of the earlier ones, who fled during times of war and famine, many losing family members and being terrorized by thugs while walking across mountains to Sudanese refugee camps.
The delegation also met with Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Aleligne Admasu, who was born in Ethiopia and made aliyah in 1983.
The operation will cost about $10 million US and is funded by Jewish federations and JAFI. Once the olim arrive in Israel, they will receive the services offered to immigrants, including Hebrew-language ulpan. Unlike native-born Israelis, most of whom do their military service before university, Ethiopian-Israelis generally complete their schooling first to ensure language proficiency, Kwinter said.
There were 179 Ethiopians on Kwinter’s flight – one was held back after testing positive for COVID. Few Ethiopians have received the COVID vaccine and most of the olim will receive them on arrival, along with the sort of routine vaccines that Israelis and Canadians receive in childhood.
Time flew on the five-hour flight, Kwinter said.
“We had lots of things for the kids to do, like sticker books, candies and all that kind of thing,” she said. “We got to know them all, even though we didn’t speak the same language.”
Ethiopian-born Jewish Agency officials were on board to translate, if necessary, but it wasn’t necessary, Kwinter said.
“You didn’t need to translate,” she said. “The kids were crawling all over us. It was the best plane ride ever. For five hours, it felt like five minutes. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a flight attendant because I don’t know how they got up and down the aisles because it was chaotic. It wasn’t like a regular plane ride.”
When the plane landed, there was a major ceremony marking the beginning of the new operation, with plenty of media coverage. Then the Ethiopians were transported to another part of the airport, where their family members were waiting to be reunited, some of them having not seen one another in decades.
“The very elderly would kiss the ground,” said Kwinter. “Everybody got an Israeli flag, and there was lots of singing and dancing and music.… It was really quite remarkable.”
While the Ethiopians were on a life-altering journey, Kwinter’s travels were hectic in a different way. She was on a plane every day for seven days and, a couple of days after returning home, she tested positive for COVID, as did many of the Americans.
Reflecting on the experience, Kwinter is filled with gratitude.
“Thank God for Israel that we can do this,” she said. “Thank God for world Jewry. Thank God for federations that collect money, and we can save all these lives. I come from a family of survivors and my husband as well. If we didn’t have Israel, we wouldn’t be able to do this and we’d be living another Holocaust again, I believe, all over the world.”