Jerusalem — When a group of Birthright Israel students entered the Herzl Museum on Mount Herzl earlier this month, they knew next to nothing about Theodor Herzl, the man who galvanized his fellow Jews to dream about, and work toward, the establishment of a Jewish country.
An hour later the students emerged with a greater understanding of how and why Israel was established, and amazed that a totally secular Jew with no prior yearning toward Zion could become the world’s most outspoken advocate for a secure Jewish homeland.
Moshav Mevo Modi’im — Looks can be deceiving, and that is definitely the case at this semi-rural community known as Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s moshav.
When, over Sukkot, my husband and I brought our second graders to the moshav, halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, my first thought was “this looks kind of dumpy.”
Given the moshav’s popularity with music lovers and those seeking Shabbat hospitality, I was expecting the huge green lawns and tidy houses of a well-heeled kibbutz.
KIbbutz Lotan, Israel — Just north of Eilat’s mega-resort sprawl lies one of Israel’s most physically stunning regions. With a landscape of stark red and brown mountain cliffs, the Arava rift valley straddles the length of the border with Jordan all the way up to the Dead Sea.
Jerusalem — The bride and groom, in their 20s, ordered a wedding cake adorned with their image, but unbeknownst to them it arrived on their wedding day featuring an image of an elderly couple with the words, “Mazal tov Bubbe and Zeide on your 60th Wedding Anniversary.”
Had their wedding planner, Shani Falik-Roth, not caught the mistake in time, the guests would have been slicing into grandma and grandpa.
Jerusalem — For more years than he cares to remember, Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch and his movement, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, have been pressing Israel’s Interior Ministry to comply with the law.
But that law, which requires the ministry to accept and register as Jews immigrants who have converted to Judaism abroad, repeatedly has faced a harsh political reality:
Settlers defiant in face of Netanyahu’s 10-month construction freeze.
Elkana, West Bank — Jewish settlers are embarking on a campaign of civil disobedience, court cases and lobbying to counter a new government policy to curb settlement activity for 10 months as a peace process gesture.
Backed by the settler leadership, residents blocked building inspectors from the military Civil Administration at the entrance of some towns on Tuesday after showing no resistance on Monday.
Shvut Rachel, West Bank — When Yaakov Teitel first applied to join this West Bank settlement about a decade ago, the American Jewish immigrant passed the admissions committee with flying colors.
The bachelor computer technician impressed Shvut Rachel’s leaders as a “mensch” with a love of the Land of Israel who was looking to settle down and start a family, said committee member Rabbi Baruch Barron.
A long-awaited agreement between America’s centrist Orthodox rabbinical group and Israel’s chief rabbinate on standards for conversion to Judaism remains fragile and may still be scuttled. Even the leading players involved contradict each other as they dispute the exclusive right to certify rabbis as fit to perform conversions in the U.S.
For centuries, women have had to go to the only authorities available, male rabbis, when questions arise about perhaps the most intimate of issues — their sex lives.
But now, for the first time, there is a female Orthodox legal expert on American soil trained to respond to issues such as mikveh, a woman’s monthly cycle and couples’ fertility/infertility problems — issues that many rabbis’ wives’ have dealt with, on a more informal basis, in the past.
Repairing A House Divided
Called too pluralistic by the right and too Jewish by the left, Rabbi Mordechai Gafni carries on his crusade to get the secular and religious talking to one another.