This week, in contrast to previous weeks, I present you with a bumper-pack Good News Friday installment, chock-full of good news.
My first item comes from last week when we took part in a reunion Shabbat of British Olim, most of whom made aliya in the 1970s-80s, and all from a religious Zionist background. We had a fantastic time over a Shabbat full of reminiscences, looking at funny old photos, laughter, comparisons of aliya stories, and a competition over who had the worst (or best) Israeli bureaucracy story. I think my brother’s “getting 2 dishwashers through Israeli Customs” took the gold medal.
The tefillot (prayers) were wonderful, full of enthusiastic singing, as were the meals, and many old friendships were renewed and strengthened. We were also inspired by two very interesting talks: one by David Newman (of Ben Gurion University) who has a regular column in the Jerusalem Post and with whom I rarely agree on political opinions, and who surprised us with a very interesting insight into the British academic boycott of Israel (it is apparently nowhere near as bad as it is made out in the media) and one by Judge Philip Marcus on the biased Scotland Commission investigating Israel’s purported mistreatment of Palestinian children.
David Newman used his regular JPost column this week to write a beautiful article about our 30-year Aliya reunion:
A small group, some 20-plus couples, assembled for a Shabbat at a hotel in Netanya to revive memories and share experiences of having lived most of our adult lives in Israel. Being in our late fifties and early sixties, many are already thinking about impending retirement and beginning to make plans for that period.
Put together by veteran olim Larry and Judy Freedman, residents of Hashmonaim, the group came together from the width and breadth of the country.
From Kibbutz Bet Rimon in the north to Pardes Hanna to Petach Tikva and Hashmonaim in the center of the country, to Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and south to Metar in the Northern Negev.
The group remained largely, but not exclusively, homogeneous in its religious Zionist character, and it was clear that the common characteristics far outweighed the individual differences which have developed – be they in family lifestyles, political beliefs, or levels of religious practice – over the years.
Black-and-white photos of those years long gone, sharing youth movement experiences at summer camps in the UK, or hachshara experiences on kibbutzim in Israel, brought a great deal of laughter. Almost all of us had a lot more hair back then, smaller stomachs and – as we suddenly realized – were much younger at that time than most of our adult children are today.
The stories we regaled each other with, especially reliving the bureaucracies of our respective aliya experiences, were enough to create a script for an entire comedy series – and were it not for the fact that the stories were true, an outsider looking in would have put it all down to farfetched imagination.
Beyond the humor and the laughter, a number of common points were clear to all.
None of us, even for the slightest moment, regretted our decision to come and live in Israel. We did not have negative experiences growing up in the UK, and all of us – well educated with good professions – had the easy option to remain in the countries of our birth.
But the socialization of the youth movement in which we were active, and the desire to be part of a much greater Jewish experience, had spurred us on at the time, and 30-40 years down the road, had not dissipated in any way. On the contrary, we were all convinced that we had had the privilege of bringing up our own children in a more independent, open and self-confident society than the one in which we had grown up. Almost without exception, all of our children (and their children) lived in Israel, and have absolutely no intention to move elsewhere.
All of us would recommend, without any hesitation, to those acquaintances, friends and relatives in the UK to repeat our experience and to come live in Israel.
But the reason for our advice to come join us in Israel had little to do with the threats – real or perceived – that may exist among the Jewish communities of the free world. Our advice is based on our own positive experience, the feeling that, whatever we may think about Israeli politics, about the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, about the new threats emanating from Iran and elsewhere, Israel was – and remains – the place to be and to raise our families.
And, given the positive experience of our own lives and those of our children, we would strongly recommend that they come now, rather than wait for retirement when the experience is only half of what it is for people who create their entire adult lives here.
David has expressed my thoughts, and probably everyone else’s, perfectly. The positive experience of our aliya cannot be stressed strongly enough and should be promoted amongst Western Jews who do not feel a necessity to make aliya out of fear, escaping antisemitism and persecution.
My thanks go to Larry and Judy and all the organizers of the weekend and I look forward to the next one, hopefully a bit sooner than in 30 years time!
What better way to celebrate friendship and aliya with some good Israeli wine? Happily, the Decanter Awards have recognized several Israeli wines and awarded them medals. Amongst the winners is the Har Bracha winery with a bronze medal for its Cabernet Sauvignon Gold 2009, and a silver medal for its Petite Syrah 2011 wine.
This award is a double win since Har Bracha is a community (aka a settlement) in the Shomron region; thus it makes a great big Fail to the BDS movement.
Arutz Sheva has the story in Hebrew (h/t Zvi) from which I will translate an excerpt:
In the last few years there has been growing interest in growing grapes and building wineries in the communities of the Shomron Regional Council, along with communities in the Binyamin and Yehuda areas.The height, the climate, quality of the earth and the precipitation create wines of a quality that are becoming the best in Israel, even better than Golan Heights wines. In the Shomron Regional Council this great potential has been understood and much help is being granted to wine agriculturists in broadening and developing this endeavour in the region.
It should be noted that in the Shomron alone there are seven wineries: Tura winery in Rechelim; Har Bracha winery in Har Bracha; Porat Yosef winery in Yitzhar; Gat Shomron boutique winery in Karnei Shomron; Givat Arnon boutique winery in Itamar; the winery in Givat Tekuma in Yitzhar; and another boutique winery in Shaarei Tikva which concentrates on wine for export.
The Har Bracha winery was set up by Shira and Nir Lavi about 10 years ago after they discovered that the large grapes that they produced were in great demand by eh big national wineries. That was when they understood that they own the best grapes in the country and decided to set up a boutique winery of their won. since they began producing wine, the wine is snatched up even before marketing, and they produce about 30,000 bottles a year.
Kol hakavod to Har Bracha winery and all the other Israeli wineries who won awards at the Decanter Awards. Thank you too to Decanter for not allowing politics and BDS to interfere with recognizing great Israeli quality wines and giving awards where they are due.
A lechai’im would also be appropriate to mark how we shepped huge nachas (untranslatable Yiddish for deriving intense enjoyment from the children) from our granddaughters who performed in the Karnei Shomron school orchestras concert. The children in the orchestras are those who excel in their regular music lessons so we are extra-proud of their achievements.
Our elder granddaughter played the mandolin and her younger sister played the recorder.
Watch and enjoy!
At the risk of boring you, I will also post here a video of all the 5 schools’ orchestras playing a piece by Handel (I think. Correct me if I’m wrong). Apologies for the sound quality. It sounded beautiful in real life at close quarters.
(As an aside, I would also point out that one can see that not all the children are religious. Contrary to media rumours, not all settlers are religious ideologues. Settlers come from all segments of society).
Kol hakavod to all the children and their teachers, and the local council for encouraging this musical education for the children.
May you all shep nachas from your children and grandchildren, and drink a toast to them with Israeli wine!
Shabbat shalom everyone!