I missed my Good News Friday post last Friday because I ran out of time before Shabbat. This Friday will be the second day of Rosh Hashana so I won’t be posting a good news installment then either. So I decided to bring you some good news today to close the year before we head into 5778.
Let’s start with a huge public relations success for Israel in London – and a great #BDSFail while we’re at it 😈 15,000 people attended the largest-ever Israeli cultural festival in Europe:
JNS.org – The largest-ever Israeli cultural event in Europe, TLV in LDN, attracted some 15,000 people to the five-day event to celebrate Israeli culture and diversity in London.
The Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, the British Jewish community and the British Embassy in Israel hosted the event Sept. 7 – 11.
Some of Israel’s top female singers, including Ethiopian-Israeli Ester Rada, performed for hundreds of locals during Sunday’s celebration, under the theme “Woman in Power,” at the historic Roundhouse Music Hall in London.
“We came from Tel Aviv to bring you love,” said Rada, as she opened the evening before a soul music performance from Maximilian Blumin.
Israeli-Arab singer Mira Awad also performed and sang in English, Hebrew and Arabic, with Yemenite-Israeli trio A-WA concluding the three-hour show with their performance.
The festival saw some 15,000 Londoners revel in Israeli culture, fashion and cuisine. Locals enjoyed culinary workshops provided by Israeli master chefs, as well as performances from an eclectic group of 120 Israeli vocalists, and an LGBT party over the weekend.
The haters can’t help hating – but they were overcome by Israeli desserts! 😀
The festival encountered some opposition, and saw some anti-Israel BDS protestors demonstrate at the event. An unusual scene unfolded when Israeli Chef Shaul Ben Aderet handed out sweets to the protestors, which had originally been prepared for festival attendees.
Watch the pathetic protestors who are only worried that the desserts are Israeli, heaven forbid!
The importance of this festival should not be understated:
“Recently, thousands of Londoners have had the chance to experience Israeli culture, something which we can and should be proud of, especially in places where individuals try to portray in a bad light,” said Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Gilad Erdan, who initiated the festival in collaboration with the British Jewish community.
Kol hakavod to all the organizers of this wonderful festival, from Minister Gilad Erdan to the British Jewish community. May we see many more of these joyful festivals in the year to come.
One country, or rather one nation with (hopefully) a country in the making, is the Kurds, and their support for Israel is extraordinary. This is a sign of respect and thanks for the support that they receive from Israel for their desire for a country of their own. We have just seen the amazing spectacle of Israeli flags flying at Kurdish independence rallies: as Seth Franzman reports in the JPost:
In recent weeks Israel flags appeared frequently among the sea of Kurdish flags at pro-independence rallies across Europe and in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. In Cologne in late August and then Geneva and Oslo, Israel flags were waved proudly by attendees. On September 16 the blue and white appeared at rallies in Brussels, Hamburg and Stockholm. The unprecedented embrace of the Israeli flag comes amidst Israel’s support for Kurdish rights and historic connections between the two nations.
The rallies are in response to an independence referendum planned by the Kurdistan Regional Government for September 25. Announced in June, the Kurdistan parliament in the autonomous region in northern Iraq approved it on September 15. Since September 5 the Kurdistan region and diaspora communities have been holding increasingly large rallies in support of the nation’s hopes for independence. This has been more than 100 years in the making, say many Kurds. The Kurdish people live in Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq, divided by the colonial borders set down after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. In Iraq they have enjoyed autonomy since the 1990s. After three years of war against ISIS the local government thinks it is time to show the world that the people want independence.
The international community’s response has been tepid. On September 15 the White House released a statement saying the United States does not support the intention to hold a referendum. Other members of the international coalition fighting ISIS, who have been working with the Kurds and the Iraqi government, have also pressured the KRG to postpone. Israel is the only country to openly back Kurdish aspirations. “Israel supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on September 13. Speaking at the ICT’s World Counter-Terrorism summit on September 11, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said, “Israel and countries in the West have a major interest in the establishment of the state of Kurdistan.”
While Israeli flags never appear in the Middle East unless they are being desecrated, Israeli flags are often also banned from rallies in Europe because they are seen as inflammatory:
Even across Europe and the West, Israeli flags are often a point of controversy, banned from events or the recipient of ire at anti-Israel protests.
Yet the Kurds have no problem with Israel. On the contrary they appreciate our support.
As the referendum date nears, there is a growing presence of Israeli flags and a feeling that the West has not stood by Kurdish democratic desires and demands for the same freedoms and referendums that have been held in Western states such as the Scottish referendum or Brexit. So far the flags have not engendered much controversy. Historically in Arab nationalist circles, Kurdistan was accused of being a “second Israel.” Ofra Bengio noted in a 2014 article for Middle East Quarterly that as early as 1966 Iraqi defense minister Abd al-Aziz al-Uqayli used this accusation. Given the long history of accusations against Kurds, it seems the visibility of the Israeli flag represents the maturation of decades of cultivation of this unique relationship.
The fear is that trouble will erupt after they hold their independence referendum, which looks likely to pass. Let us all support the Kurds and their demand for independence. They are a much more worthy nation to have a state of their own than any of our neighbours, in particular the invented Palestinian nation. I wish them luck and success in their endeavour.
Changing the subject completely now, here is a wonderful, heart-warming story of generosity and kindness of spirit. In “a Bat Mitzvah from the heart” we read about a young American girl who preferred giving to the elderly rather than enjoying an opulent party for herself:
When Eva was 3-years-old, she took the cookie given to her at nursery school and broke it in half to share with her grandfather, who had brought her to school that day. “You didn’t get one,” she said. “Let’s make sure you have one.”
Since then, Eva has blossomed — and so has her love for seniors. In her New Jersey hometown, she spends much of her free time in local nursing homes and assisted living facilities, listening to the life stories of the senior residents. Eva seems to revel in their histories, their anecdotes, and their mere presence, says her mom, Heather. “Ever since a class trip to a senior center about four years ago, Eva has really connected with members of the older generation,” continues Heather, “so we help her foster that connection by maintaining the relationships.”
When the time came to plan her bat mitzvah, Eva forwent an opulent dance party with her friends, opting instead for a chesed-based, inclusive celebration with seniors… in Israel.
Eva’s family was apprehensive, at first, by the logistics of such an event: where would be the best place, how many people could they involve, and what kind of activity would work for the seniors? Then they thought of Melabev, a day center for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and where Eva’s great grandmother had been a client for many years.
Recalling one of the famous Paint Nights Eva and Heather attended as the craze swept America, and the fun they had that evening, Eva suggested it as her bat mitzvah activity. But would they find it in Israel?
The answer was a resounding YES! Heather found Nina, the owner of Paint Party Events Israel, and together with Dvora and Nina, Eva’s family hosted an inspiring, magical simcha for nearly 50 seniors.
The bat mitzvah started out with a sing-along for the group with more advanced dementia. “Most can’t speak, but their eyes lit up. New people, and especially kids, are an attraction around here,” Dvora explains.
Nancy, the activity manager for the group with more advanced dementia and a 13-year Melabev veteran, added, “Music is very therapeutic for our clients. It uses a different part of the brain than the part that forms words; the part that has deteriorated. People who have lost their capability to communicate via words can still sing a song; they often remember every single word, even if they’re normally non-verbal. And my seniors love to sing!” Eva’s grandmother played keyboard and everybody belted out melodies — from old-school Israeli folk to “You Are My Sunshine”. She even took requests! Afterwards, all the seniors with verbal skills gave a bracha to Eva.
“Everyone felt magnetic. Energized,” described Dvora. “They felt honored to be included. To be respected.”
The paint party followed, with both the beginning stage and middle-stage dementia groups, and succeeded beyond expectations. “It was remarkable,” declared Dvora. “There were people who never participate in art, who participated in this! Something about being part of a simcha, something about the youth being here. It looked like a party, it felt like a party, it was a party.”
Eva approached every single member of the party individually. They each gave her a bracha and she said something about them and their painting.
It was a powerful experience. Dvora explains, “When the younger generation not only acknowledges but also respects and includes the elderly in their life and their simcha, it generates tremendous joy and a real feeling of I’m still somebody.
“Our clients, at this event, were recognized. They were full fledged participants in the bat mitzvah. The simcha came to them. They were honored.”
Dvora continues, “The most telling result is that all these seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia… the were moved. It made an impression. They remember a special event with a special girl. They remember a feeling. They don’t remember her name or the balloons, but we couldn’t believe that they all retained an impression. There is a cognizance locked in there about it, and we are so proud of Eva for fostering that. We are grateful.”
This story has brought tears to my eyes. Eva is such a special girl, I wish we knew her full name so that we could thank her properly. Her act of chesed – loving-kindness – is extraordinary in one so young, and even in people of a more mature age. She is a shining example to all of us and a credit to her parents and her community. Kol hakavod too to Melabev and PaintPartyEvents who joined together with Eva and her family to make this wonderful party happen.
!מי כעמך ישראל – who is like unto Your people Israel!
And one more item on the subject of support in the community: The town of Karnei Shomron adopted a young couple from Brazil with no family, and with no means to make a wedding. The children of the town held craft and fun fairs to raise money, and the yeshiva boys made sure it was a joyous occasion. The local council provided the setting in their beautiful park, and the wedding took place this week:
Karnei Shomron’s mayor Igal Lahav wrote on his Facebook page (my translation):
The youngsters took upon themselves a task before Rosh Hashana to assist a young couple, new immigrants from Brazil.
Within a month the production was organized. The celebration is taking place now at Hapisga Park, with the help of the Karnei Shomron chapter of Bnei Akiva, dozens of youngsters and with the help of the local council.
Mazal tov and to the young couple and wishing a successful start to their new life. And to the youth – you are amazing, with a huge heart … and thank you for the privilege of being able to participate.
I echo Mayor Lahav’s congratulations to the young couple. May their lives be filled with joy and success. And I also echo his warm appreciation to the youngsters of Karnei Shomron – of whom I am proud to count my grandchildren, who eagerly took part in the fundraisers and joyfully attended the wedding yesterday. You can see one of them in one of the pictures 😉
Kol hakavod to every one who had a part to play in this important mitzvah.
May the coming year be filled with many more such celebrations!
For the moment I wish you all a continued good week. Stay tuned for my Shana Tova post tomorrow. 🙂