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Welcome our 2017-2018 Shinshinim, Noam Peretz and Ronny Yariv! They are both SO excited to be at Beth Emeth, Beth Tikvah, and Associated Danilack for the next 10 months! 

Right: Ronny Yariv. Left: Noam Peretz

D'var Israel

(almost) Every week, Ronny and Noam will be posting their weekly D'var Israel here for everyone to read! They will present their D'var Israel in synagogue every Shabbat morning towards the end of services, but if you cannot make it, you can read it here!

D'var Israel March 10

Boker Tov. Do you know what occurred around the globe just two days ago, on Thursday March 8th? We celebrated International Women’s Day, or in Hebrew יום האישה הבינלאומי. This awesome day is observed in Israel with different festivals, lectures, performances and more. For the 22nd annual women’s festival in Holon (Noam’s home city), many performances, art exhibits, written works and films were presented all around the city. Every year during the month of March there are dozens of different festivals held throughout the country that focus on female empowerment.

Why is there even a need for such a day in Israel in 2018? Just like the rest of the world, Israel is not exempt from wage discrepancies. Among all OECD countries, Israel placed 4th among the countries in which the wage differences between genders are the highest, at an average disparity of 21%. Unlike other countries where all citizens are not obligated to serve in the country’s army, Israel often experiences difficulties regarding gender equality within the IDF. Israel and North Korea are the only two countries in the world with a mandatory enlistment for both genders. In Israel, men serve a minimum of 2 years and 8 months and women serve a minimum of 2 years and 4 months. Today, 92% of the jobs in the army are open to both men and women, which is an increase from the past, however, it still is not 100%, which leaves room for improvement.

Did you know that Israel, having existed for only 21 years, was the 3rd country in the world to have a female Prime Minister, Golda Meir? And yet to this day, some religious parties in Israel’s government deny seats in the Knesset for women in their party. Furthermore, in some ultra- Orthodox areas in Jerusalem, there are special bus lines which are called “Mehadrin Lines”, where women are not allowed to sit in the front of the bus. In 2011 the Supreme Court stated that no one may be forced to switch their seat, however this phenomenon still occurs, which I find upsetting and unacceptable.

So there is still a long way to go, and in order to fight these phenomena that happen both around the world and specifically in Israel, I would like to share with you some stories of inspirational and influential women who fought for justice of all kinds and forms in Israel.

Adi Altshuler, born in 1986 in Israel, founded “Krembo Wings” = Knafa’im Shel Krembo, the first youth movement in the world that involves children with and without special needs. She also established the Zikaron BaSalon  "Remembrances in the Living Room" - gathering style programs on Yom HaShoah- Holocaust Remembrance Day, in which people from all around the country host Holocaust survivors who come to tell their stories in individuals’ homes. Alice Miller, was born in 1972 in South Africa, made Aliyah, and wanted to become a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. When her request was denied, she petitioned the Supreme Court. After a long battle, she was finally able to open the door so that all women can now serve in many jobs which were once only available to men. Adi Lustig, was born in 1990 in South Africa, made Aliyah and prevented the building of a huge governmental project smack in the middle of a very popular and beautiful beach in Israel. Stav Shaffir, was born in 1985 in Israel, and participated with a small group of leaders in the 2011 Israeli social justice protests. These were Israel's largest protests to date, which focused on affordable housing, public services, income inequality and democracy. Today, she is the youngest female Knesset Member in Israel, and she works towards governmental transparency, freedom of data and gay rights.

We wanted to give you these few examples of the many extraordinary Israeli women, who have each in their own way contributed to Israel’s progress toward equality and justice. There is also always more room to improve and to continue this crucial struggle. Because if they did it, WE CAN DO IT TOO.  

On this note I would also like to mention that on March 24th, right after the Chocolate Seder, Ronny and I are having a program about feminism in Israel today, if you found this Dvar Israel interesting- we would really appreciate to see you all there.

Shabbat Shalom.

D'var Israel March 3

Shabbat shalom! This week we celebrated the holiday of Purim, which is literally the holiday of joy. In Israel, this holiday is celebrated with crazy parties, dancing in the streets, huge carnivals and fairs, and the giving of Mishloach Manot. In Israel the best and most powerful part of celebrating Purim is seeing how so many people fulfill one of the greatest mitzvot of the holiday; by giving gifts and Mishloach Manot to people in need in our society. Every Purim, many organizations and voluntary associations in Israel donate thousands of packages of food and gifts to children fighting cancer, they donate to units in the army, to people with special needs to name just a few.

Ronny- In my school every year there is a huge box in front of the main office where people drop candy, food and Happy Purim greeting cards, which are all later donated to soldiers, children or families who need some help and uplifting to celebrate the holiday.

Noam- In my city of Holon, every Purim we have this huge carnival, called Adloyada which is basically a parade that involves whoever wants to join. People with special needs make huge sculptures, many dance studios do special routines for the festival and youth movements march for fun and spread the joy and ruach throughout the city.   

But Purim is not all that Israelis celebrate during the month of Adar. In Israel during the month of Adar is a day called Yom HaMa’asim Hatovim ,“Good Deeds Day” is celebrated annually. This day was initiated in 2007 by the Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arison. The purpose of this day is to raise social awareness and the values of charity and giving to others. It consists of different activities throughout the country and opportunities to help many organizations with their projects.  When this day started in 2007, there were seven thousand volunteers from one country- Israel. Last year, marking its 10th year anniversary, there were a million and a half volunteers who participated from 93 countries around the world. An annual almost global day, dedicated to good actions of kindness and charity.

In my high school we have an annual good deeds fair, that has a huge variety of stations that encourage everyone to come and take part of doing good.  I think that an event like this is the perfect example of how powerful joining a community can be when everyone gets together to just do good.

When most of us think of Israel, we think of this perfect country; with no hunger, poverty, youth addiction issues, homophobia, racism and other social issues. Yet, these problems happen in Israel as well, just like in Toronto or the rest of the world. Sometimes it’s hard to think about Israel in this way, and we think that if you love Israel, you have to love also the things that require improvement. That is why many social organization are needed to fight these issues.

These organizations improve our society in small yet essential steps.

Every year in my youth movement “Maccabi Tzair” we hold a huge activity day with all of our kids and campers, where we walk around the center of the town, handout stickers, T-shirts and flyers and hold a large fundraiser event. The beautiful thing about that, I believe, is that we encourage every camper, even from the age of 9, to participate and understand the meaning of such a day.

Canadians are not strangers to the concept of giving and celebrating either. And I was happy to see that the spirit of Purim that I know from back home is alive and well here in Toronto. I enjoyed celebrating Purim in your community, and experiencing the holiday in some different ways, and I hope that we were able to bring some of the values of joy and giving from Purim in Israel as well.

Shabbat Shalom

D'var Israel Shabbat Across North America

Shabbat shalom everyone,

As you may or may not know, Ronny and I get together every week to write our Dvar Israel so that we are able deliver it to you. This week we were stuck. Sometimes it’s just too hard to think of relevant ideas. So we started talking and realized that we still had yet to address the elephant in the room, something so basic that is a part of our Israeli identity. Namely our relation with Arabs and the Israeli Muslims. As much as we aspire to be involved with our community and to be social leaders, frankly, both of us are a bit hypocritical. We are stuck in our own bubble, like most Israelis. All of our friends are Jewish, wealthy, and educated. Our best friends are not Arabs, refugees or Ultra Orthodox. We simply aren’t fully aware of the different lives around us. Is there even an Israeli in Israel who is fully affiliated with all of these groups? The way we see it, most Israelis including ourselves, stick to what they know and who they know. They live their lives and generally only interact regularly with the people who are like them. Even in the army, which is the ultimate Israeli melting pot, there are separate units for Orthodox, for Druze etc. Unlike Toronto, where in your law firm or tech company you can have people from many different ethnicities, races, religions and backgrounds; this is something that is a little more hard to find (however not impossible) in Israel.

Regardless of our good will to live a heterogeneous life, that is usually not our reality. One of the more popular and beloved TV shows in Israel is “Avoda Aravit” or in English, “Arab Labor” which shows the daily life of a funny Arab-Israeli family. Most of the show is in Arabic with Hebrew subtitles. We personally love this show, although we barely know an Arab person personally and our Arabic knowledge is very minimal. Dancing Arabs, is an Israeli film which tells the story of an Israeli-Palestinian teenager who moves to Jerusalem to study at an elite Jewish high school. There he meets a Jewish student and falls in love with her. We ask ourselves, what are the realistic chances of us, as Jewish Israelis from Jewish cities, falling in love with someone who is not Jewish?

Sayed Kashua is an Israeli Arab author and journalist born in Tira, Israel, to Muslim parents of Palestinian descent. In 1990, he was accepted to a boarding school in Jerusalem, the Israel Arts and Science Academy. In 2004, Kashua won the Prime Minister's prize for literature. Avoda Aravit is a satirical sitcom written by Kashua and aired on Israel's Channel 2. The show won the Award for Best Television Series at the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2013. “Dancing Arabs” is a 2014 Israeli drama film based on Sayed Kashua's book.
He is known for his books and humorous columns in the Haaretz newspaper. Using a humorous, tongue-in-cheek style, his pieces address the problems faced by Arabs in Israel.
Food for thought, no? Shabbat Shalom.

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