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Israel Jazz Dinner

l’shana tova

Found and lost

I’m not sure that you all know, but the majority of Israeli’s after their military service usually would go to travel the world for a few months.
The hotspots are usually south and Central America, Thailand and India area, some would go to Europe or North America, but the common thing between all of them is that it is usually a place where it is cheap to live so you could spend as much time traveling as you can.
You get to meet new people, visit beautiful places and basically collect experiences, it is called the “big trip”.
Every parent knows that if it wasn’t enough for the past 2-3 years to have sleepless nights while their kid is in the military he is expecting a few more months now, while sometimes it is even harder because they are so far away, there is no internet connection sometimes, they go on long treks (Hikes), sometimes for weeks.
That leads me to the story that I don’t think was heard enough in the global Jewish media.
I believe you all heard about the earthquake in Nepal and the area, as I said, the far east is a place where a lot of Israelis go after their military service, means that the last week there was a lot of panic in a lot of Israeli families and friends knowing their loved ones might got hurt.
Even I, personally knew some of them. I followed to news updates at least 3 times a day and saw how the reports were pretty positive, telling how the number of Israelis who haven’t made contact went down every few hours or so, which feels like a big rock from your heart is falling and you feel better and better, and so it was from around 1,012 Israelis missing, to the hundreds, then to tens, then to 7, 3, and then 1.
This entire time, people share on Facebook and the media posts with names and lists, photos and requests by friends and families and even from people who travel and survived,”if someone heard, please let us know”, and so it went through Facebook and the media, a lot of people could release a sigh of relief.
Except from one family.
Or Asraf, that name is now known for everyone in Israel, he was the last Israeli who wasn’t found then.
During his military service, Or Asraf served in the IAF’s Sayaret Shaldag commando unit and in Egoz, a unit in the Golani Briagde. He took part in Operation Protective Edge, and was moderately wounded in fighting in the Saja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza City. He left the army following his recovery and had gone traveling in the Far East with members of his unit, The Chief Of Staff in the IDF praised Or for his Military service and contribution.
Or’s mother had been photographed standing at the airport holding a banner asking Israelis returning from the country for information about her son.
Everyone engaged whether on Facebook, publicity, money, everything they could.
His friends from the special unit “Egoz” decided they are flying with his father Patrick to India to find him and bring him home. “The objective was clear: We are bringing Or home,” Patrick said. “When we arrived in the area, we realized the task would be extremely complex if even possible at all. The area had suffered a terrible earthquake. It looked like an atomic bomb had been dropped. It was a ravine that was inescapable on both sides. The area was simply destroyed.”
During the searches for Or, Patrick and the team encountered trekkers who had survived the quake. “We never lost hope for one moment, because people had come out alive even five days later,” he said.
He said that his son’s body had been found just 100 meters from an area from where he could have been rescued.
“When it caught him, it happened in a split second and he had no chance,” said Patrick. “This is a dangerous place with falling stones, but we wanted to bring Or home no matter what.”
“It is symbolic that his friends in the unit, who stand here with me, acted out of camaraderie and even as they endangered their own lives,” he said. “I am proud of the State of Israel that sent a rescue team and more, when bigger countries did not even send one rescuer.”
Personally I think it’s amazing how thousands were found and were saved from this horror, although we did lost one kid, when we could’ve lost more, but we all hurt as if we lost them all, this shows the significant of every person in Israel to others, he became everyone’s kid, we all hurt his death as if we knew him. Thousands attended his funeral in Israel.
The Israeli delegation to India included 260 members which is the largest out of all the countries, the delegation includes doctors that opened a field hospital to treat the wounded (Nepalese mostly) , delivered 3 babies, made operations that saved lives, and also search and rescue teams.
This is not the first or 5th time Israel had done such and amazing thing.
The earthquake that reached 7.8 on the Richter scale was the worst seen in Nepal for over 80 years. The death toll currently stands at over 7,500. More than 100 teams from abroad and some 131,000 Nepali soldiers are working to save lives and find the bodies of the deceased. With each passing day since the earthquake, the chances of finding survivors among the wreckage move closer to zero.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of people in the capitol of Kathmandu are still staying in public parks. Some lost their homes and others are afraid to return to their houses out of concern that an aftershock could strike and completely destroy what’s left of the buildings.
Another story that wasn’t on the news enough this week was about Tal Nachum, a young Israeli girl who was also in her “big trip” in Mexico and got killed in a horrible car accident when a bus hit her car.
The “big trip” is one of the most amazing things we do and we get so much out of it, it is unfortunate that sometimes, some of us, will not come back.

Arad Lerner

It’s past my deadline, but of course, I mean it’s never easy to say goodbye.
August 16th is a date that will be forever engraved in my memory, it’s the day I came to Mobile for the first time and started this huge and amazing experience, and it will be my last day in Mobile as well.
365 days, a whole year, in which I got to meet so many wonderful people, go inside their homes and kitchens and hopefully their hearts.
A whole year where I became a part of a family and felt so welcomed into it as well, in every other community I’ve been to I always felt that I like it better in my community.
It became my home, by all means.
The first time I noticed it, was when I was driving my car back from somewhere, I was driving on the bridge across the river, and just had this feeling that I’m safe now, or when you are on Airport Blvd. you just feel you’re home now, and you feel calmer.
Before joining the I.D.F I had some worries, I just felt like I want to be done with it already and start my life, I was always rushing to the next thing, the next chapter.
One night I had a conversation about it with someone very dear to me, he said “you keep trying the skip to the end, the end is known, enjoy the way”.
His words echo in my mind till this day and I truly try to live by that.
This past year is one of the most significant experiences I had in my life.
This place and you people will forever be in my heart and mind.
One of my favorite quotes is in Hebrew so I’ll translate:
“ A successful journey never ends, the miles do, but the time stays engraved in you, becomes a part of you, at the end of the journey I don’t feel as if I won, but grateful, like the road has passed through me and not like I’ve past through the road”.
I hope the meaning didn’t got lost in translation, I’m so happy our roads crossed.
Unfortunately it feels like a lot of the times conversations with people got cut in middle because of one reason or another. I would like to apologize for that and let you know that I would love to hear from you if you have any more questions or things you want to talk about with me, this is why I’m here!
So we have till the last week of May, and if not you can always email me to Aradlerner@gmail.com

Shalom Y’all.

Springtime in Israel

“A lot of Joy, Spring has come,
Passover is coming.”

This is a phrase from a very famous song in Hebrew. Of course, in Hebrew those lines rhyme: “Simcha raba, simcha raba, aviv hageea, pesach ba”.
Springtime in Israel is one of the most beautiful times. The grass is green; the flowers are flourishing; and the amazing weather brings out families to take advantage of vacations from work and school, to go for a nice hike, and to travel to places all over Israel. My family did this for many years. The age difference between me and my sister is the same as that between my 2 cousins, so we always enjoyed each other’s company.
Another sign that spring has come is all the grocery stores filled with advertising that includes flowers. And don’t forget the fancy soda bottles in a special large edition for a happy Passover, huge matzah packages, and Israeli chocolate spread (the best snack you can have. Some claim it is good only because you can have it once a year, kind of like Girl Scout cookies).
In past years the family seder has been shortened more and more every year, since we all wanted to get to the food. Our parents always tried to fool their kids to go look for Eliyahu Hanavee (that guy to whom we leave a glass of wine). Having an uncle named ELI of course made it even more real for us. We were always LOOKING FOR UNCLE ELI. Of course, we always came back empty-handed, but under the table there were presents waiting for all of us. In my family you didn’t have to find the afikoman in order to win. Everybody won!
Let us not forgot that this month includes 2 other very important holidays for ISRAEL and for Jews around the world. There’s the Memorial Day for soldiers who have lost their lives protecting the only Jewish state, and Independence Day of the Jewish state.
Let us not forget that without those soldiers who defended and fought (and those who are still defending) for Israel’s independence and existence, we would have no Jerusalem to go to, and of course no Haifa, Tel Aviv, Eilat etc.
We Jews, and of course those of any religion, are welcome, as well as those who have no other place to go, or those who no longer feel safe where they are, or those who no longer feel they belong.
On a different note, I will finish with a joke that my uncle David tells EVERY YEAR: “All the Jewish holidays are the same: they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat!

Shalom Y’all!


Reita Franco Memorial Film

Our first “Reita Franco Memorial Film” was on Sunday, January 18th at Ahavas Chesed Synagogue. This tribute to Reita is not only for what she accomplished for the festival, but for her spirit and friendship. Right from the beginning, Reita was involved with the Mobile Jewish Film Festival where she was almost single-handedly responsible for the financial well-being of our Jewish Film Festival.
She is greatly missed. For that reason, we will be designating one film each year as the “Reita Franco Memorial Film” which is underwritten by the Maisel and Bronstein families.
This year we began our tribute with a brunch at the Fort Conde Inn for our larger donors and Reita’s three sons and families invited to meet our special guest, Nancy Spielberg, producer of the film “Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force”.

Chanukah in Israel

Shalom ya’ll.

This month I would like to tell you a little bit about Chanukah in Israel. The atmosphere is set pretty early (like Christmas is here in the United States). You see soofganiyot, the Chanukah donuts, round pastries (that indicates how you are going to look if you keep eating them) filled with jelly and covered with sugar, every place you go. The temptation is huge, and it is definitely worth it. Of course, in the past few years the soofganiyot have been upgraded and there are all sorts of fillings and toppings.
You can see all the symbols in stores, in commercials, and on packages. You name it. You will see the candles, hanukiya (it is not a menorah- a menorah has 7 branches including the shamash and a hanukiah has 9 including the shamash), the gold coins, the dreidel (sevivon), and cans of oil.
Usually sales use the magic number 8 for the 8 days of the holiday, the 8 days of the miracle during which the oil burned.
You receive invitations to light candles at night at your friends’ houses, and, of course, food is always involved-soofganiyot and levivot (sort of pancakes). Everyone sings songs around the candles and a fun atmosphere is everywhere.
As a kid I really enjoyed Chanukah, not just because of the presents I got and the great sweet food, but because the entire family would go to my grandma’s house and have dinner and light the candles and sing together. And, of course, we had great fun mixing the words of the songs and laughing about it. And every year we would make up new, funny words to the songs.
Chanukah is also the holiday of kids’ shows. The greatest of all would be the “FESTIGAL” which is a musical that changes its theme every year. Always the coolest kids perform it. When I was about 10 years old my aunt who had no kids at the time took all of the little kids in the family to see this show, and I had such a great time! And now that she has kids of her own, all the cousins that she took as kids have promised to pay her back and go with her kids to see the festigal. Hopefully next year at this time I can make it happen.
Until then I would like to wish ya’ll “Chanukah sameach” – Happy Chanukah.
I am so grateful that the Mobile Area Jewish Federation brought me here to Mobile!
Shalom Ya’ll!


My Time in the Military

On November 14th 2012, Israel has decided to take action and respond to the terror attacks committed by Hamas towards Israel soldiers and civilians, operation “Pillar of defense” officially started with the killing of Ahmed Jabari, chief of the Gaza military wing of Hamas.

At that time I was still a soldier with only 4 months left to the service, I was the battalion medic, along with my paramedic we were the commanders of all the medics in our battalion.
I was told there is an urgent meeting of all the officers with the commander of the battalion, (the head chief of the battalion), on this meeting he told us about the recent developments in the situation and that we need to get everyone ready and head to the borders for the option we go into Gaza, this includes a lot of preparations but also what we have been training for for a long time.
My paramedic started to call the soldiers from reserves, when I started to prepare all the medics in the battalions and check the equipment and taking out things from storage.
I remember that this entire time I had a lot of thoughts going on in my mind, I guess they were worries mainly, for my family, my friends, my soldiers. I was trying to keep myself busy in order to repress those thoughts, after about 4 hours me and my paramedic met in order to see what progress we made, she was sobbing, crying, she just came back from another meeting which they showed the operation plan for our battalion, “we’re going to be like ducks in a fire range over there” she said. And I will never forget, that’s when it hit me and made me think that we might actually die there, I hugged her and told her everything is going to be fine and she has nothing to worry about even though I had no idea what’s going to happen over there, when I saw the plans later I thought the same.

At 4 am our “Hummerboulnce” military hummer that is converted to ambulance stopped in the middle of nowhere, outside the Gaza strip, we get off and after about a minute we hear a siren goes off from a distance, the deputy to the head commander of the battalion who was there with me tells me to run to some sort of trench next to me, this downhill some kind of trench is my safe place for the following week.

We started to set up everything and slowly more forces joined us and more vehicles, tanks and supplies came as well.
The operation was going on for a week, when every day we were told this is the day we go in, and then they postpone the command for another 12 or 24 hours. One week doesn’t sound that bad but it is a lot when you are out there, and food is bad, cigarettes running out and you have nothing to do. But lovely families took the chance and came to where we are and brought home cooked meals, people donated candies, snacks, cigarettes (unfortunately it is a big deal when you are a soldier), and we had long conversations with each other, got to know people better, everyone were willing to help me to bring food, and share everything you have with others, we built and dug better trenches and used our creative mind using supplies we had in order to make our life more convenient.
One thing never came out from my head, every time I was talking to one of our reserve soldiers I asked him what’s it like in there? What is it like In Gaza? And they all said the same thing. “You’re not going to come out the same way you came in”

Some of them meant mentally some of them meant physically, one thing I do know for sure today, this experience had changed me, a lot, even though I was just outside, I guess you don’t have to go into Gaza to change who you are.

Message from Jason

The Gaza War escalating in Israel affects us all. Many of us have friends and family living in harm’s way as the conflict rages on. Let’s please keep all Israelis in our thoughts and prayers.
My thoughts are with Anat, Yaron, Gila, Shir, Onn, Ravid, Boaz, Hadas, Arad and their families, as well as the daughters, husband and grandchild of Larry and Rickie Voit. I think of Rabbi Steve, Patricia Silverman at Yad Vashem and others from the Mobile area who were in Israel this past summer and how their lives have changed in those 17 days. Being so involved in the safety of my everyday routine, I find it sobering to think of the turmoil our friends face living so close to an organized group of people who want nothing less than our destruction.
Also, we can take a moment to pray for an end to the fighting, the safety of the IDF troops and an end to the hate.
Jason Solomon
President MAJF
Presented by: Dr. Jonathan Adelman, Professor of International Studies, University of Denver.
In several ways it is the worst of times for Israel – facing likely existential nuclear threat from Iran, constant rockets from Islamic fundamentalists and a possible threat from ISIS in Syria and Iraq. And yet Israel has emerged as a global hi-tech power, well integrated in the world economy, developing strong relations with Russia, China and, for the first time ever, gaining support from the Sunni Arab states. Which is it? Dr. Jonathan Adelman, editor, consultant in international affairs, and professor of International Studies at the University of Denver, will present a realistic, yet hopeful, view of Israel’s future in the world.
Come listen to Dr. Adelman speak at Bernheim Hall, on November 12, 2014, at 7PM. More Information