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ShinShinim

Welcome our 2018-2019 ShinShinim, Omri and Yael! They are both SO excited to be at Beth Emeth, Beth Tikvah, and Associated Danilack for the next 10 months! 

D'var Israel

(almost) Every week, Omri and/or Yael 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 November 3

This time it was different. This time I was here. This time I am away from my home, and my family. This time it's not a bus or a mall or a train station. This time it was a synagogue. This time they came into our home. Our house of prayer, our holy place, our safe place. This time it was different.

Four years ago there was a terror attack in a synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. It was terrible news for everyone. Photos of tallitot and Torah books covered in blood. But Israelis know how to move on quickly, sometimes too quickly, and the next day something else was covered in the newspapers. Sadly, that's how the Israeli mindset is; because that’s how it has to be - otherwise no one would be able to get out of bed in the morning. Even though both the Pittsburgh and Jerusalem attacks happened in a synagogue, the tragedy that occurred this past Shabbat at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh was very different.

In Israel, almost all acts of terror are perpetrated against Israeli society, which is made up mostly of Jews. No matter if its a synagogue or a cafe, anti-Israeli acts of terrorism in Israel are based upon a different kind of hate toward the Jewish people than the anti-Semitic hate that fueled last Shabbat’s mass murder in the diaspora. In Israel it is the freedom fighter mentality bent on removing the oppressors that makes that suicide bomber go into a crowded café. But what we saw last Shabbat was different. The Pittsburgh shooter based his hatred of Jews on one of the ideals that we as a people hold dear; Tikkun Olam and caring for others. His twisted sense of outrage bubbled over because the Jewish community at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh were committed to bringing Muslims refugees to the United States. He blamed the Jewish refugee organization HIAS and tweeted right before his massacre: "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people, I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. I'm going in”. Sadly, this is a hate that we know well.

In Israel it is different. The hate is different but the resolve that we as a people must harness after the tragedy passes, that is very much the same. In Israel, you have no choice to move on and be strong. In Israel, after something happens you say “I was there just two weeks ago” and have this feeling of being saved even though you were not even close to the location when the attack took place. In Israel after a terror attack happens the media is filled with terrifying photos and videos. But eventually that moment passes and the day after, everyone and everything goes back to normal. Because we have no other choice. Because if we don’t they win. So this morning, we pray that Jews around the world will be a little bit Israeli and channel that inner strength. In times like these, we must stand tall and strong in face of terrorism and hate. We have to continue our lives and show those who try to harm us that we are stronger than them. Our strength lies in the unity of our people, when we show the world that we are not afraid and that we will not cower in the face of Antisemitism. This Shabbat and every Shabbat going forward, we need to be proud of who we are and let no one stop us from being a unified global Jewish community. Shabbat Shalom.

D'var Israel October 13

Omri: The year is 1986, mid-October. The Israeli Air Force, or IAF, begins a mission in central Lebanon to hit terrorist targets. One flight navigator of the air force did not come back from that mission.He was not killed, he was taken as a prisoner of the local Lebanese movement “Amal”. This flight navigator is Ron Arad.

This name might be familiar to you. The Israeli soldier that was taken and never given back. His body still remains in an unknown location according to the IDF. We don’t know how he died, what country or countries he was taken to, and what his experience as a captive was like. Not knowing from what he died, in which Arab countries he was taken to, and what kind of torture he has been or not been through.

For me personally, this topic comes up annually at about this time of year. The scouts tribe that I was a part of is called “Shevet Arad”, named in memory of Ron Arad. And every year I would teach my campers about the lost navigator, about his life and his likely cruel death. We would discuss the best ways to remember him, and we also discussed how, as a nation, we must try our very best to not let the same scenario happen again. So today, as Shinshinim in Toronto, we are continuing this tradition to show you different aspects and points of view about this mystery that was never solved.

Ron left behind a wife and a baby daughter 32 years ago. Because Ron was never determined dead, Tamy, his wife, cannot get remarried to someone else, according to Jewish marriage law. This is an example of how sometimes, Jewish law in Israel can interfere in a person’s rights. Ron’s wife isn’t alone in her fight to bring back her husband.

The entire Arad family felt hurt and abandoned by leaders at the time. Israeli soldiers should always come back home, many felt. Why is this soldier different?

Up until 2008, Israel and the Hezbollah terror organization had 5 different exchange deals but none of them included Ron Arad.

Yael: My grandfather served in the IAF at the same air force base that Ron Arad served in, as an F4 (Phantom) navigator. My grandparents lived with my mother at Ramat David Air Force Base while Ron Arad flew on F4 aircraft that my grandfather supported at the same base. When Ron Arad was captured in Lebanon, my grandparents, along with my mother and her siblings had already left the base, and went to Fort Worth Texas. They heard about his captivity while they lived in Texas.

Gilad Shalit is another Israeli soldier. He was taken by Hamas during a mission in 2006.

This name may be more familiar to you.

Gilad was taken hostage by Hamas for 5 years until his release in October 2011.

October - the same month that Ron Arad was captured 25 years before.

Israel agreed that part of the deal for freeing Shalit was that 1000 Palestinian prisoners would be released back home.

This kind of compromise was never publicly discussed while trying to negotiate Ron Arad’s release.

There are many differences between Ron Arad and Gilad Shalit. One of the most prominent differences has to be the way Israel handled each of their situations.

One year before the capture of Ron Arad, there was a "jirabil deal' in which the defense minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, succumbed to social pressure from the public and by parents of the three soldiers captured by the "Front for the Liberation of Palestine". Israelreleased 1,150 security prisoners. among them murderers and terrorists.

Because of this deal and because of Israel's fear of losing its deterrent against the enemy states, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin chose not to make those same decisions to free Ron Arad. There have been stories that I heard from my grandfather about secret missions to rescue him - but none were successful.

Omri: In 2011, a memoir of letters that Ron had written during his imprisonment were publicly published. Some quotes from those letters that Ron wrote include: “I promise you at least these following things, I will be back. A year or two? Never again, I will never leave you again, Even if I need to stop flying. We will have a warm and loving home. Yuval my daughter, just don’t forget me.”

The best thing we all can do is to remember Ron Arad’s story and legacy. A story that to some of us seems bizarre and mysterious, to some frustrating, and to some, a hope that a lesson has been learned here. Maybe Gilad Shalit is that lesson. That no matter what the cost, our soldiers need to come home. Some of us may disagree on this, but when the Israeli society is as engaged as it was during the Shalit release - That is the power of a strong society who fights together.

Shabbat Shalom

Dvar Israel September 22, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom kippur are days full of different emotions and deep self observation…

We are here to tell you guys a bit about the way we celebrate the holidays and about our family traditions on Rosh hashanah and yom kippur in Israel. When I wake up on the morning of Rosh HaShanah, the first thing I smell is honey and cinnamon from my mother's cakes and the sound of my little sister singing the new song she learned in her kindergarten class. Rosh HaShanah for me is 50 honey cakes. Yes yes, you heard right 50! My grandmother has a tradition of making 50 honey cakes and giving them out to her neighbors, family and friends. Rosh HaShanah for me is when all of my family gets together eating brisket while bickering about Israeli politics all while my little cousins put on a show for the rest of the family.

I love Rosh HaShanah, in fact, I love all the holidays. I love the big family dinners, even though I literally see all of my family every day, since they all live close by.  It's still so nice to spend the holidays together and to have that special holy feeling in the air. But the time that makes me feel most Israeli has to be Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, everything is shut down in Israel. No shops are open, no one works, there is no public transportation and no flights in or out of Israel. On Yom Kippur in my moshav, there is a different kind of silence. Not like the one that there usually is, since I literally live in the middle of nowhere. It's a holy silence that I can't really explain. You can feel a sense of community. Everybody is riding their bikes or walking to the synagogue, there are tables open in the middle of the street with board games and cards. There are teenagers sitting around the tables laughing and playing card games and all the little kids are running around playing hide and seek.

My most favourable memory from the holidays is from my first Rosh Hashanah in Israel when me and my family moved back from the states. I had very mixed feelings about the transition, but the moment we knew Rosh Hashanah was coming, there was a festive feeling in the air that I never experienced before. I would remember the 9 year old Omri sitting with his mother in the kitchen, and listening to the Israeli radio my mother missed so much while we were away. All the songs about the new year that is yet to come, and all my fears of a new beginning that was to follow.

And each Rosh Hashanah since then, when me and my family sit together at the table, I remember all the little things that make me smile. I remember how I would always put lots of honey on a tiny piece of apple because fruits were not really my thing. And I remember how our pomegranate tree in the backyard would start blooming and growing tiny pomegranates, that’s when we knew the holiday season was right around the corner!

When Yom Kippur came, I remember looking down from my window, the whole neighborhood was out on bikes. I would run outside, go to the closest square where the whole town was sitting on the street, because during Yom Kippur all the vehicles rest as well, and the pedestrians take over the roads. Everyone was dressed in white, waiting to get inside the shul. I couldn’t wait to play my very important session of board game marathons with my friends. Of course after five rounds of monopoly all I wanted was to ride back home, taking as many street paths as I could to take in all the neighborhood sites and sounds and break the fast with tea and a chocolate.  

My small memories from many joyous New Years spent with family and friends created a feeling within me. A feeling that makes me smile at this time of the year; even this year when I am far from home and my family table in Israel.

We would like to finish by blessing you with a Shana Tova and Gmar Hatima Tova! May this year be one of joy, health, learning together and peace in the land that we love; our homeland Eretz Israel. Shabbat Shalom.

D'var Israel September 8

J.K Rowling once said "Great stories happen to those who can tell them"

I was told that every person has a story to tell. And at first I thought: Well of course but not all of them are interesting. And for a long time when people asked me “what’s my story”, I didn’t know what to say. I would find myself mentally going over my life summary in a nutshell, thinking of something important that might catch someone’s interest in any way, and saying to myself, well how much of a story can an 18 year old really have?
Way back in January of this year The UJA’s shinshinim program interviews proved me wrong when I got accepted to come and represent my country and tell my story about Israel, and what it is like to live as an Israeli.


So if I may, let me start over. Hi my name is Omri Aharonson, I am your new shinshin, and this is my story:
I was born in Petach Tikvah, Israel, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve got a bit of a North American accent. That’s because I was raised in Los Angeles until the age of 9, when my parents decided it was time to go back home, to Israel. Of course as a nine year old I only cared if the TV show SpongeBob Squarepants aired in Israel and once I found out that yes, it did, the transition really didn’t matter for me.
So we moved back to Israel, and I grew up as an Israeli in Caesarea, which is between Tel Aviv and Haifa, on the Mediterranean coast. Our family moved again and we have lived in Herzlyia ever since, which is just north of Tel Aviv. I have two older brothers, Roi and Eldar, who are now both at university after finishing their service at the IDF. While they are working on their degrees in computer science, my energies in the past few years, were focused more on the humanities section. Ever since I was in elementary school, I have been acting in a theatre group. Once I got to high school, I chose to major in theatre and biology. Quite the mix I would say. Another great gift I got from high school was participating in a special Diplomacy program in which we learned debating, met with different ambassadors, went with various delegations across Europe and gained knowledge of international affairs. On top of that, my daily afternoons would focus on my campers in the scouts program that I was a part of, and somewhere in between all of this I also spent time with family and friends. Oh and of course some SpongeBob here and there just for the nostalgia.


I will finish by saying that what I just told you is just the introduction, and I cannot wait to start my new chapter, here in Toronto, with all of you, sharing more of my Israeli story, and sharing Beth Emeth’s community’s story in Israel once our year here is done.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom!

Upcoming Programs

Fri, 14 December 2018 6 Tevet 5779