Cut & Post
Stony-faced and Silent
The heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising live again in a pantomime performance by six Israeli actors, members of the theater group Orto-Da. In the opening scene of “Avanim” (Stones), the actors, daubed in Dead Sea mud, create a tableau of Nathan Rappaport’s iconic bronze memorial sculpture in Warsaw.
Then, through movement and symbols—the swastika and the yellow star—they tell the story of the stones that frame the monument (left). Hitler meant to use the pieces of rock in a victory monument; instead, they memorialize Jewish heroes.
“In Germany, there was a shiver in the audience…that was released in wild applause,” says Avi Gibson Bar-El, cofounder of Orto-Da (www.or to-da.com). “Afterward, one father said, ‘Now I can talk to my son about what happened.’”
The group’s repertoire also includes “Meta-Rabin,” an homage to slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, but “Avanim” is the most acclaimed. The work has won prizes both in Israel and in Europe.
Perhaps that is because, Gibson Bar-El says, it was inspired by “a triumph of the spirit.”
Flights of Fancy
Soar up, up and away over Israel by helicopter, skimming the blue of the Mediterranean Sea, whizzing over Tel Aviv’s high rises, peering down at the ancient ruins of Caesarea (below) and the hills of the Galilee, all before swooping down into the rocky caverns of the Judean Desert for lunch. The Limocopter is at your service—for a fee. Prices range from $1,900 to $5,100.
Among the most popular itineraries is one that flies over the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and onto King Herod’s desert fortress, Masada. Mountain bikes, a catered meal and a tour guide can be waiting on the ground at an additional cost. The Limocopter seats up to six.
“You see things here from a different view,” says Yaron Eshkolot of Chim-Nir Airways, which runs the tours (www.limo copter.co.il). “Back on the ground you can only see part of the picture.”
But from up above, one can see most of the picture. A grand tour takes passengers over the Golan Heights in the north, down the Jordan River, south to Masada and finally over Jerusalem for a bird’s-eye view of 70 percent of the country. Chim-Nir Airways also offers several one-hour excursions over specific regions.
You Gotta Have Faith
A survey led by Professor Howard Litwin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Israel Gerontological Data Center has localized a known fact about religious belief to Judasim. Active practitioners of any creed on average live longer than people without religion; Litwin has shown that to be specifically so among Jews.
He studied 5,000 Israelis aged 60-plus over the course of seven years. He found that Jews who did not attend synagogue had a death rate 75 times higher than those who attended regularly. He offered several reasons for his findings, published in The European Journal of Aging:
- Faith could help seniors endure psychological pressures.
- Observant Jews walk to synagogue on Shabbat, promoting physical health.
- The synagogue serves as a supportive community and places continued value on seniors’ lives—e.g., involvement in the sisterhood, calls to the Torah and inclusion in minyans.
Remember the Sabbath Year and Keep It Holy
The Hebrew year 5768 ushered in at Rosh Hashana is a sabbatical year: Therefore, the mitzva of shmitta, allowing Jewish-owned fields in Israel to lie fallow every seventh year, is in effect for the entire year.
Observant Jews have been researching ways to obey the commandment while still consuming fresh produce. One group, Jerusalem-based Shomrei Shvi’it (www.shviit.com), has hit on a user-friendly approach to the mitzva. The organization facilitates purchases of small tracts of farmland in Israel that will sit dormant for all of 5768. The plots, near Ra’anana, measure “dalet amot,” four square cubits, and sell for $180.
“For the first time for many people, shmitta will no longer be a theoretical commandment…but will become an actual, practical, living mitzva,” said Simcha Margaliot, Shomrei Shvi’it project director.
Hot Bites: The Latest Kosher News
Ah, to bite into a crunchy stack of kosher mozzarella sticks at the mall or a hot dog at the airport. Entrepreneurs Doron Fetman and Alan Cohnen are working to make those culinary dreams come true.
Hot Nosh 24/6, their new kosher vending machines (www. koshervendingindustries.com; left)—in dairy and meat varieties and under the supervision of Kof-K—are now being installed at stadiums, hotels, casinos, hospitals, airports, universities and other locations nationwide. Two hundred should be in place by the end of the year. Prices range from $2.75 to $3.50 for a snack.
The machines not only thaw and warm frozen products in under 60 seconds, but crisp them by hitting them with a 40-mph jet of heat.
Fetman and Cohnen, Orthodox businessmen based in Rockland County, New York, say their children love the food. “They want a machine at home,” says Fetman.
Get Out and Stay Out
Jews who love the outdoors unite! In fact, they already have, thanks to Mosaic Outdoor Clubs of America (www.mosaicout door.org), the leading network of outdoor clubs for Jewish singles, couples and families.
“Mosaic offers a connection to nature and the outdoors that is naturally part of Judaism but often overlooked,” says Mosaic President Elisa Towbis of Boca Raton, Florida.
The first club was founded in 1988 in Colorado. Today, there are more than 25 chapters across the United States that organize monthly outings and take part in the annual international gathering held each Labor Day weekend.
This year’s event was held at Camp Ramah Darom in the mountains of Georgia. Adults from Toronto to Tuscaloosa took part in mountain biking, hiking, rappelling, canoeing and tubing. Some participants even went gem mining and found a ruby or two.
New Synagogue Belongs to Everyone
The opening earlier this year of Tallinn’s new synagogue—the first to be built in Estonia since 1885 and the only one functioning in that nation since 1944—is one more step in the continuing renewal of Jewish life in this picturesque former republic of the Soviet Union.
The goal is to bring Jews together, says Israeli-born Shmuel Kot (above), the 30-year-old chief and only rabbi in Estonia as well as the cantor and bar/bat mitzva teacher. Here, he explains, the oldest among some 3,000 Jews still hold Yiddishkeit dear, and the young are now free to study Hebrew, but the largest group—adults between 20 and 60—lost the traditions during almost 60 years of postwar Soviet repression.
“Therefore,” says Kot, “the synagogue is not Chabad, not Orthodox, not Reform, not whatever—just Jewish.” Significant, too, Estonia’s largely Lutheran general population has embraced the contemporary $2 million synagogue with pride, suggesting that its presence validates their nation as inclusive and open-minded.