Rosh HaShana – a few days to go

Rosh HaShana The Day of Judgement

In less than a week we will all start a new year, a sweet year that G-d willing will bring a lot of blessings upon the Jewish nation. For many people, (the pagan) New Year isn’t associated with anything positive, many people come out from this celebration with a hangover and some vague memories of promises (New Year resolutions) that they never intend to keep anyway. Unfortunately it is not only non-Jews that are celebrating this day, but also plenty of Jews, both non-religious and religious. For me it would be so much more logical to start the New Year with reflecting over what I did last year and try to improve myself during the New Year. The major reason is that we, the Jewish people, is a people of moral and ethics that you will not find in any other religion. The pagan New Year is more the opposite, people have to drink themselves so drunk to repress what they did during the past year.

Rosh HaShana in Galut

Rosh HaShana in Israel and Rosh HaShana in the diaspora are not celebrated in the same manner. The prayers in the Orthodox communities is probably similar to the prayer services in the Holy Land, Israel. So what is so different? The way people behave – outside Israel religious Jews often worry as much about what clothes to wear in shul to impress on others as how to connect with G-d. Rosh HaShana is a social gathering and prayers are often secondary. I believe that much of it depends on that many Jews in Galut don’t understand the meaning of the prayers. That is also one of the main reasons why many times you have Chazanut in major orthodox communities. The Chazan is the messenger for the whole congregation. The congregants are connecting to G-d through his beautiful tunes and songs.

Rosh HaShana in Israel

In Israel, in general the way we connect to G-d is not through expensive clothing, it is through the holy language, Hebrew. We connect with G-d with our words – each and every one of us. For sure you will find Rosh HaShana prayers in Israel with chazanut and choirs just like in Galut, but not in the same way. Even if someone doesn’t know Hebrew so well, living in Israel G-d understands his prayers without any interference. Here in Israel we have a straight connection to G-d, something that Jews outside the holy boarders of Israel miss. In the same way, especially in small G-d-fearing communities in Judea and Samaria we don’t need to dress up fancy. G-d accepts our honest prayers in a white shirt outside our pants and sandals on our feet. We are every day fulfilling G-d’s commandments to the Jewish people. We are living in the land and settling the Promised Land in the highest way possible.

So, I wish you all a good, sweet and healthy New Year. May we all reflect over what we did in the past and try to improve ourselves for the future.

More than a 300 % raise in Aliya from France

Thousands of Jews from France decide to go on Aliya

The last war against terrorism has had very good side effects for Aliya during the summer. The greater numbers of Jews immigrating to Israel during the first 6 months in 2014 came from France. More than 2500 French Jews left the growing anti-Semitism and danger behind them and moved to the one and only land for the Jewish People, Israel. This is a raise of more than 300 % since last year when “only” 812 Jews from France made Aliya during the first six months. In total we hope that more than 5000 Jews from France will make the right decision and go on Aliya during 2014.

 

French Jews waiting to go on Aliya during the summer 2014 (Photo credit: Erez Lichtfeld)

French Jews waiting to go on Aliya during the summer 2014
(Photo credit: Erez Lichtfeld)

France is not the only European country that has seen the Aliya numbers climbing. Many countries in Europe have felt the growing Anti-Semitism and the inhabitants there prefer to take out the Jewish life insurance (i.e. move to Israel) before it is too late. But in many countries, especially my native country of Sweden, the Jews prefer to stay and not make a lot of noise. One of the reasons is that they are very assimilated, so to leave Sweden for safety reasons is not an options, since many of them have intermarried or are tied to non-Jews in a way that it is hard to break away.

Peaceful Muslim anti-Semitic demonstration in Paris

Peaceful Muslim anti-Semitic demonstration in Paris

In France the story is a bit different. As many of us know, Islam and Muslims have caused a lot of trouble to the Jewish population in France for decades. This is actually long before the last defense war against Hamas in Gaza. Who has forgotten 2012 when a gunman shot dead a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse? Or when Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, a French citizen who previously spent time in Syria training with jihadist militants, killed visitors at the Jewish Museum in Brussels? Not all attacks have a deadly outcome. Also On June 14, two men holding an AK-47 and a handgun reportedly approached a Paris synagogue and aimed their guns at passersby and pretended they were going to open fire and on June 4, two Jewish teenagers, ages 14 and 15, told French police that they narrowly escaped attack by four men, including one wielding an ax. Even before the war against Hamas in it was reported that 140 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in the first three months of 2014 in France, a 40 percent increase from the same period last year — something not seen in any other Western European country.

Funeral for the terror victims from Toulouse, France 2012

Funeral for the terror victims from Toulouse, France 2012

In retrospect, I believe that those Jews who choose to do not respect their own life. But you don’t have to agree. Israel today has a growing economy and is not lacking anything for everyone to survive. For Jews from France you can find plenty of landsmen in many cities, especially Ashdod, Ashkelon and Netanya. So please if you are not one of the 2500 Jews already headed here this year, think once again about the future of you and your children and catch the next flight home to Israel before it is too late. You can survive without a baguette, cheese and wine every day. :)

Returning to Gush Katif

Neve Dekalim Girls’ High School from Gush Katif

During the latest war with Hamas in Gaza the possibility of maybe returning to Gush Katif was a dream for many Jews that lived there before the expulsion of all Jews in the summer of 2005. Sadly this never happened, but in the beginning of the school year nine years after this tragic chapter in Jewish history Neve Dekalim Girls’ High School retains its name and legacy as it settles into a new permanent campus in Nitzan half way between Ashdod and Ashkelon in Southern Israel.

Neve Dekalim Girls' High School

Neve Dekalim Girls’ High School

You can imagine the mixed feelings on September 1st when the doors opened to the permanent structure after been exiled for 9 years in Givat Washington. For some people this was a moment full of tears and tension. Many of the people attending the opening ceremony of the Neve Dekalim Girls’ High School had themselves been students there before the expulsion in 2005 and also now they felt that the reality had caught up with them and the fact that the expulsion is true and the future of the Neve Dekalim Girls’ High School is in Nitzan and not in Gush Katif that most of them dreamt about.

At least the school at last got their permanent place, unlike many of the former Jews living in the communities in Gaza, that still after nine years don’t have any permanent homes and/or jobs.

May we all pray that one day soon, the Neve Dekalim Girls’ High School will once again gain its glory and stand proudly in Neve Dekalim and that that the Jews and all their families that got expelled from Gush Katif will be able to move home again and once again fulfill G-d’s will and settle Gush Katif and the rest of Gaza again.

 

A personal wedding when Rabbi Ari Shvat’s daughter Shlomtzion got married

Shlomtzion, the daughter of Rabbi Ari Shvat’s, wedding

Last night we had the honor to take part in a very special wedding between a young and lovely couple from Kochav HaShachar. Shlomtzion Shvat got married to Tzuriel Bloch. Shlomtzion is the daughter of the famous Rabbi Ari and Tzvia Shvat that during the past 19 years have been my parental role models in Israel. I actually had my own room by them for many years and we can say that my home in Israel was by the Shvat family. I know Shlomztion since she was 3 years old, so I have been able to follow her most of her life. The same with Leah, my wife, she met Shlomtzion the first time at age 11. Tzuriel I have just met a few times before in Kochav HaShachar and he seems to be a very nice young man. I am sure he will become a great husband to Shlomtzion. Anyway, the wedding was very emotional, in one way it felt like “my little sister” just got married. The wedding was held at Kibbutz Tzora, just a few minutes from Beit Shemesh and about an hour’s drive from our home in Moshav Maon.

wedding Invitation

wedding Invitation

 

What is a wedding for me?

For me a wedding is much more than just some good food, nice music and the romantic atmosphere during the Kidushin and Sheva Brachot. A Jewish wedding is the beginning of a new future for the Jewish nation. This is to build and strengthen the Jewish foundation for the whole nation and especially when it is in the Holy Land. Every blessing goes straight up to Heaven and every part of the wedding ceremony is so true. This is proof that a new generation is born and will continue the success of the previous generation and I know that both Tzuriel and Shlomtzion come from very strong, warm, and Torah based homes with great love for the Land of Israel. With this strong background of important tools to build a great Jewish family I know that we have nothing to worry about, thank G-d.

Rabbi Ari and Tzvia Shvat with Shlomzion

Rabbi Ari and Tzvia Shvat with Shlomzion

Tzvia and Esti with the Chossen and Kallah

Tzvia and Esti with the Chossen and Kallah

The Chossen and Kallah under the Chuppah

The Chossen and Kallah under the Chuppah

 

A new home in Kochav HaShachar

For me the success of a community settlement is when children from the community marry each other. We can then see that the education and the ideology in the community is similar fpr everyone. I am not talking about the new and younger families that have taken on different approaches and ideologies, but among the older families. Unfortunately this is one thing that we miss in Maon where we live. What it depends on I don’t want to speculate in. Shlomtzion and Tzuriel, on the other hand, found each other in their own yishuv Kochav HaShachar, a very respected and religious community settlement. Both families have managed to educate their children in a direction that reflects the life of the community.

Leah and I wish them a long and happy life together and together build a new family in their beautiful community.

Mazal tov once again to Shlomtzion and Tzuriel together with the Bloch and Shvat families in Kochav HaShachar!

10 days of vacation in Sweden

A short vacation in Sweden

You may have wondered why no new posts have been available during the past 10 days. The answer is not so hard. My family and I took a short vacation in Sweden, a place both my wife and I grew up in, but haven’t been to for the past 3 years. Why travel to this country that is among the top anti-Semitic countries in the world? The only answer is our parents. They come and visit us in Israel every few months, but now they really wanted our kids to see their home in Sweden. For sure, to honour your parents is something big and important, but did we really want to expose our children to a Sweden today full of anti-Semitism and a place where you can’t show your Jewishness in public without being scared of what could happen? In the end we decided to take the chance, since it was very important to the parents.

Thank G-d the vacation actually turned out very nice. My parents live 2 minutes from the sea, so for the kids every day was fun. Even though it rained nearly every day, they wanted to play in the sea. The only day we took our children into Gothenburg, the town where I grew up, was when we needed to make new Swedish passports.

Sarah and David at the Sea by my parents home in Sweden

Sarah and David at the Sea by my parents home in Sweden

My wife and I spent some more time in Gothenburg to do some errands and I must say that I was scared, even though I walked around with a cap and my tzitzit deep down in my pants. When I grew up, down town Gothenburg was a beautiful place and a place where I wasn’t scared to walk around with a big Star of David or with a colourful kippa on my head. Today I feel much more afraid of walking around there than in any part of Israel, no matter if it is Hevron or what is called East Jerusalem. The Muslim influence is so great and the Jews have to hide their Jewishness to be sure to wake up alive the day after. But for sure by the coast where my parents live, life is nice. No open anti-Semitism and no demonstrations.

Thank G-d for living in Israel. Here we can walk around nearly everywhere as proud Jews. We don’t have to hide who we are. This phenomena is not only in Sweden, but in the whole world. When we moved to Israel we did it because we know that Israel is the only place for Jews to live, but today people are running away to Israel because they have no other choice.

 

The war against Hamas – Raise in new Lone Soldiers in Israel

The war against Hamas has inspired a new group of new immigrants

The current war against Hamas and other terror organizations has lightened the Zionist spark in many Jewish young souls around the globe. A lot of young adults have decided to leave behind their lives in the diaspora to come and live in Israel and enlist in the IDF to live for and defend the Jewish nation and the Jewish state from the enemies around us. These young adults have primarily been inspired by the lone soldiers that were sadly murdered by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Nissim Sean Carmeli hy”d and Max Steinberg hy”d. So next week, G-d willing, a special flight named the “Lone Soldiers’ Flight” will arrive in Israel in coordination and as a joint project with Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, together with the Friends of the IDF in the US, the Jewish Agency, the Israel Scouts Garin Tzabar and the Jewish National Fund. In all 109 new and highly motivated young adults in the age 18-23 will be on that flight. Most lone soldiers that arrive in Israel prefer to serve in combat units and the biggest demand is for Golani, Paratroopers, and elite units such as Shaldag, Duvdevan, Sayeret Matkal, and Shayetet 13, the elite naval commando unit of the Israeli Navy. Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption are positive that the latest war against Hamas in Gaza will also have a positive impact on Aliyah 2015.

American Lone Soldiers in the IDF

American Lone Soldiers in the IDF

We can here see a big difference between in general American Aliyah and immigration from Europe. The Jews from America mainly make Aliyah because of idealistically reasons to live here in comparison with European Jews, where the main part decide to leave Europe because of the life-threating anti-Semitic situation.

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