Lil Israeli farm zoo at Kibbutz Tzora.

Checked out a new kids’ attraction in our area today: the Eretz Yehuda farm-zoo at Kibbutz Tzora (about 5 seconds outside Beit Shemesh/Big Center).

Fun fact: Kibbutz Tzora is also where they make Teperberg wine. Mmmm.

It’s a nice place to spend up to two hours with small kids. You can pet the roaming goats, prance with roaming deer, hee haw with the donkey, chase chickens, and see a few native Israeli animals like foxes and hyrax (senior year YOF Tanach class, anyone?).

There’s also a ‘gymboree’ area with old farm tractors and makeshift car rides.

It’s 25 shekels for kids and 15 for adults and open every day but Shabbat.

Updated volunteer info for helping African refugees in Israel.

I don’t live in Southern Tel Aviv. I  haven’t witnessed or heard personal stories about recent local violence associated with Sudanese and other African refugees/migrants who have made their way to Israel. So in that sense, it’s not a personal thing for me.

What becomes quite personal though, are the facts and stories behind how a lot of these men, women and children get to the border of Israel at the risk of everything. Where they’ve come from. Displacement, pain, threats, poverty, torture, rape, loss.

The biggest thing is the displacement. The homelessness. The fact that it seems worthwhile to risk everything in every step of the way to make it to the Israeli border and get in. Knowing that once you cross that border, you won’t be shot on demand. You have a chance to live through the next 15 minutes, the next hour, the next day, the next year.

Yes, it’s complicated. Israel is a tiny country. Absorbing half a million African refugees – with more inevitably on the way – is just not practical. The Israeli government needs to work with global partners to figure out what should be done with these displaced people.

Doesn’t that sound hauntingly familiar?

How dare ANY Jew ANYwhere make a hateful, inciteful, racist, unwelcome remark about a refugee from death, destruction, squalor and terror?

How dare we make life any more miserable for these Displaced Persons in our midst?

How dare we forget what we looked like – penniless, starving, sick, lifeless – only 70 years ago?

There is no excuse for the disgusting comments that have come from government officials’ mouths in recent weeks. Again, it sounds hauntingly familiar. The government should be working constructively with the global community to find a resolution to this refugee crisis.

We, on the ground, can also start at being merely kind to a demographic that could use some kindness.

For most of us in Israel, it’s probably not a close-to-home issue; I’m also one of those living way outside Tel Aviv and a lot of the other cities affected by incoming refugee populations. I do think at the very least, we can practice understanding and kindness as best we can. And if even that’s too hard, doing some introspection to understand why one is unable to curb racist, hypocritical sentiment in the face of familiar territory might be a good start.

For those among us who want to help on the ground – meaningful ways that might make this transitional period of the refugees’ lives that much easier – I’ve added updated info below.

Consider the idea that you might have a life skill or service to impart – learning to speak or read English, teaching some kind of trade, babysitting and playing with the children of refugees, etc.

ARDC Israel
Phone: +972 3 639 1416
Fax: +972 3 639 1415
Location: The office is in the Tel Aviv central bus station.

In addition, the organization runs a women’s shelter and other shelters in South Tel Aviv.

The Refugees’ Rights Forum
Listing of relevant organizations, facts and articles. Includes info in Tigrinya and Amharic. Includes a hotline for migrant workers.

Money donations can be made here.

Food donations:

In order to help reduce the immediate and daily trials and tribulations of many of the refugees and asylum seekers, we collect food donations (closed packages only) at our offices.

Food donations can be brought to the office any day from Sunday through Thursday, from 11:00 AM to 16:00 PM.

The Refugee Voice
A grassroots newspaper created and run by African asylum seekers along with Israelis in Israel.

Association of Civil Rights in Israel
There are offices in Jerusalem and Haifa as well as Tel Aviv, which might have info about local volunteering needs.

Refugee Right Clinic
Legal clinic run by lawyers and students from Tel Aviv University, providing “free legal aid to dozens of asylum seekers and refugees every year in a variety of issues. In addition, the Clinic advocates the implementation of a fair asylum policy in Israel.”
Contact Adv. Anat Ben-Dor: +972-54-8255264

Other info
If you know of others, please leave them in the comments. If you feel strongly about this issue, whichever way you lean, go ahead and leave your perspective in the comments, too. I think it’s important we actively discuss it across the country and worldwide. This is not just an Israeli issue, but a global issue.

Thank you to @sharagrif for providing the info she has gathered from personal volunteer experience.

How Etgar Keret began his writing career [VIDEO]

As I’m not shy to have already said a few times, I’m a huge fan of Etgar Keret.

His use of slang, the length of his stories, and the depths he goes to make you feel at once like your heart has been stepped on while giving you a good laugh…

Here’s the video from the Israel Presidents Conference where Keret talks about his introduction to writing. I really enjoyed this panel on what makes Israeli artists tick, possibly the most out of any other I went to at the conference last week.

It’s not the first time I heard Keret’s story but it puts the same smile on my face every time I hear it. Especially in his lovable accented English.

Fifty-Two Frames: Gems/Stones

As my husband pointed out, I haven’t taken out my ‘good’ jewelry since the night of our wedding. Well, that just goes to show you… we probably don’t need contents insurance.

Cowboy Woody also has a very feminine facial structure. Ever notice that?

And why shouldn’t cowboys be allowed a soft moment?

Week 25: Gems/Stones

The Other Toy Story: When the kid’s away, a cowboy comes out to play.

#tomorrow12: Bloggers Q&A with Shimon Peres

I’m the one who videoed the entire Q&A session that President Shimon Peres gave us bloggers at the Israel Presidents Conference today.

Below is the whole uncut video, but below that are quotes from the topics discussed. (I’ll try and update when I splice it by topic.)

I was a bit disappointed the questions all seemed kind of obvious. Why didn’t anyone ask him what his funniest moment in Knesset was?

Here’s a quick review of the topics he was asked about:

  • Iran: “The real problem is… not that we don’t like the Iranians. The problem is the Iranian menace to the world. If they wouldn’t do it, I don’t think anyone would say a word against Iran.”
  • Lack of women in hi tech and government: “Men have to learn a little bit… I want to tell you, if you don’t mind, every woman is born like a mother. And every man passes away like a baby; he never matures. So better have a mother in management than a father in management… Every woman is a civilization in her own right.”
  • What would you ask from God?
  • Rocket-fire from Gaza: “What do they want? To run Gaza, or to run terror? We don’t want to see Gazan people suffer. The only ones who can make them suffer are the ones throwing rockets against us.”
  • Change in the government system: “The basic change of the system is not government, it’s the electoral system.”
  • Receiving the civilian honor by President Obama: “I felt that the real recipient of the prize was the Israeli people… I think this was a salute to Israel for showing that democracy can withstand shortages, difficulties, and walls, and never have a day of war postpone a day of freedom.”
  • On America: “As a student of history I think what is unique about America, is that it’s the only power in history that got its strengths not by taking, but by giving. American history is a history of generosity, and not a history of occupation.”
  • Future of Jewish people: “The Hebrew language is very impatient… what we have is two times: past and future. Everything either happened, or will happen. There’s nothing on the waiting list.”
  • Two-state solution; is time running out?: “You need patience in life… There are things that take time, setbacks, don’t lose your life. There is no better solution… than to have two states living in peace.”
  • Jonathan Pollard: “One thing I have authority… to forgive… I’m not above the courts. My consideration is not what’s written in books of law… but what is written in book of your heart. There are cases which are heartbreaking… so my consideration are purely humane.”
  • Syria’s inability to revolutionize: “A man that kills his own babies… is one of the most shocking things I’ve experienced in my life… is to see a small coffin and there is a baby who was killed, brutally… how can you stand it? But there is a dilemma on how to handle it…”
  • Birthday wishlist: “That all other people will have happy birthdays.”

Best of all, I got to shake his (88-year-old papery) hands and tell him what an inspiration he was. Don’t change, man. Don’t change.

Other Tomorrow 2012 coverage: 


#tomorrow12: Dr. Ruth on Sex of the Future.

Disclaimer: This post is about sex. As told by a German-American Jewish 4’7” Holocaust orphaned therapist with a famous and fabulous habit of giving advice. About sex.

I remember being a kid, staying up late with a little handheld radio to listen to learn  about love, relationships, and sex.

So it’s pretty cool that today I got to listen to Dr. Ruth live among the enormous crowd in the giant hall at the Israeli Presidents Conference (thankfully management realized the tiny 100-chair room they had planned on using for her talk would not suffice by maybe tenfold).

Here are a few notable parts from her talk, transcribed as best I could:

Dr. Ruth’s intro

I am sure that the future of sex is assured because all of you are here.

As you know, there is a midrash that explains why someoone like me at the age of 84 can still talk about sex from morning to night, because I’m Jewish, because for us Jews, sex has never been considered a sin, sex has always been a mitzvah between husband and wife. I don’t want you to just pick up someone from the conference… but I want you to promise, those of who you dont have signifcant other, I want you to start looking today. And those who of you who do, I want you to pretend tonight is Friday night, and use a new sex poistion, and then call me and tell me, bec maybe I’ll learn something new.

What Judaism teaches us about sex

What we do need is more research – we do have some data, but it’s not enough. For us Jews, not only that it’s a mitzvah on Friday night, it also is a prayer – Eshet Chayil – there is one sentence in that prayer that is the more sexually arousing than anything in the entire world. There are many women out there, but (the husband says to wife) “you are the very best” and in terms of sexual arousement, there is no better sentence than for him to say to her than “you are the very best” – and she should say that to him; let’s add that to the tradition.

Where we’ve come

What has changed in the US – not the questions about relationships, disappointments, finding someone, keep the spark. What has changed is the vocabulary. People ask me questions with much more explicit lanuage than in previous years.

Women have heard the message that the woman has to take the responsibility for her orgasm. This resulted in less women having sex satisfaction, and not sharing what they need from their partners. That language has changed.

Sex and older lovers

We know that older people do need to be touched. The orgasmic response is not as intense. The erection is not as hard as it was. But if they spend their lives saying how terrible it is, that’s not worth living. But it is better to engage in sexual activity in mornings. For a woman it’s important to know that it’s not true that she needs the night – needs the stars to twinkle.

Wake up, have breakfast, take the phone off the hook, go back to bed and have good sex.

What President Shimon Peres has to say

President Shimon Peres said something this morning – I didn’t ask him about his sex life, I don’t ask personal questions – he said “in love and in peacemaking, you have to close your eyes.”

On Fifty Shades of Grey

God forbid you should know something I don’t know, so yes I read all three volumes of 50 Shades of Grey.

On what her late husband thought

“The shoemaker’s children don’t have shoes.”

Sex education in schools

We need more sex education in the schools. I’m old-school. I tell the teachers have a shoebox in the room, let the students put questions in the box, no names, and answer them.

Our rushed lives 

I tell couples, everyone has a rushed life. When you get home, drink a little wine. Not too much that she falls asleep and he can’t get an erection.

What not to say to men

Please women: don’t tell him that your last lover had a large penis. Size of penis has nothing to do with the sexual satisfaction… except if it’s a minuscule one.

What worries Dr. Ruth

Very worried in our day and age, talking about the future, about loneliness. And expectations – television has made a terrible problem. Read the Shades of Grey but know it’s fantasy. Know that when you watch, this guy doesn’t have an erection for an hour. The worrisome thing is the expectations. That we have because of the way all of us live.

How to look for sex properly

I want people to find somebody. I want people to participate it. Do something like take a course. Do something that when you go for home, you’ve done something for yourself. I want the women to start a conversation. It’s not the Victorian age. I want women to say, “can we go for coffee?” But I don’t want her to fall to pieces when he says, “I have to wash my hair tonight.” Inner assurance to say to yourself when he says no – he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

Our homework

All of you with partners – new position tonight! All of you with no partners, when I come back next year, all of you have partners!

Other Tomorrow 2012 coverage: 

#tomorrow12: Prof. Kahneman talks decision-making and coaching leadership.

Panel: Learning from Mistakes on the Way to Tomorrow

The following are notes from a talk by Professor Daniel Kahneman, winner of Nobel prize in Economic Science, known for his work in psychology of judgment.

It is not always easy to know if a mistake has been made. In the most important situations, it’s extremely difficult to know if a mistake has been made. We know about mistakes in simple tasks – when we’re driving, reading, spelling. There’s a specific way to do things, and in general we learn from these.

The world is an uncertain place. In most consequential situations… it’s impossible to tell in advance, it’s also impossible to tell after the fact. Decisions are gambles. A good decision – the best decision – could have bad outcomes. The bad ones could have good outcomes.

Political forcasting is like playing the stock market. The world is too complicated, making it hard to speak about mistakes when you live in a word like that. Where forecasting is impossible and uncertainty is reality… we intuitively tend to think that when the outcome was good, the decision was good, and vice versa. You can’t incur with such certainty that a bad decision was a mistake.

We judge by outcomes. A very severe problem. There are few worse things than hindsight; it perpetuates the illusion that the world is understandable.

What’s the alternative? Focusing on process. Decision making is an activity.

But there’s no quality-control in decision-making processes, and governments are decision-making factories. Yet factories need to have quality control, and it’s something we should have.

There’s a lot that we know about the errors people make. There is very little ongoing critique of decision-making.

In order to learn from decision-making, we should be keeping track – of the decisions, the deliberations. It is very difficult to achieve in organizations. There’s a big resistance in organizations; people in authority do not like anybody looking over their shoulder.

What could we have? A coach for leaders: the coach doesn’t play better than the athlete their coaching; but s/he can look objectively at the athlete and help them improve.

Leaders need to have confidence to take on such a coach, without waiting for the outcome itself to determine – or not determine, as previously said – whether a mistake was made.

Other Tomorrow 2012 coverage: 

#tomorrow12: Shimon Peres project for Israeli-Arab integration into hi tech.

In this week’s episode of That’s! So! Shimon! I am pleased to present a new initiative of Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers “which promotes the integration of Arab academics into the Israeli hi-tech industry through a coalition of leading hi-tech companies and NGOs in Israel.”

The project is called Ma’antech, and they are announcing its expansion today at the Israel Presidents Conference.

Our mission is to launch the natural integration of Arab employees into the Israeli high tech industry by supporting both candidates and employers throughout the entire recruitment process.

Over 22 Israel-based and Israeli companies have already gotten involved. Many of them aren’t shockers (and good for them as international entities). Some examples include Cisco, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, HP, Checkpoint, Amdocs, LivePerson… and more:

Of course, other companies are welcome to join the initiative with Ma’antech.

A few words from President Peres:

“Everybody is asking about my age. Whats the secret? Everyone can be as young as his dreams. Look at the future.”

Other Tomorrow 2012 coverage: