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Israel Wine Bottle Challenge

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“Israel Needs Your Help”

Around the world anti-Semites are boycotting Israeli products. In Israel, rocket sirens disrupt work, negatively affecting businesses. Along the borders, soldiers continue to risk their life’s to fight terror and keep our land safe from those who wish to destroy us. Israel will survive this ordeal as it has with Gods help time and time again. Israel will be victorious. Israel will defeat her enemies. You ask, ‘what can you do?’ because you want to help. You can instantly make the path smother for those who fight and struggle.

Do you part to help.

1. Purchase a bottle of Israeli wine to use on Rosh Hashana.
2. Post a photo of the bottle, or you and the bottle together.
3. Nominate 3-5 people to take the challenge.

You have until September 24, 2014 to post a photo of the Israeli bottle of wine you are committing to drink on the Jewish New Year

Or else….

If you don’t buy a bottle of Israeli wine, you must give $18 to Tzedakah to one of the three following charities. We chose these charities because they are not as well known as some of the larger ones. The listed three charities are doing amazing work and every small contribution makes a noticeable difference.

LEKET Feed a Hungry Child

Serving as the country’s National Food Bank and largest food rescue network, Leket Israel works to alleviate the problem of nutritional insecurity amongst the growing numbers of Israel’s poor. In 2013, with the help of over 50,000 volunteers, Leket Israel rescued and distributed 25 million lbs of produce andperishable goods, 1 million prepared meals, and 1.1 million (8,000/school day) volunteer prepared sandwiches to underprivileged children. Food, that would have otherwise gone to waste, was redistributed to hundreds of nonprofit partners caring for the needy. Leket Israel offers nutrition education, capacity building, and food safety projects to further assist our partners.

ISRAEL FREE LOAN Assist an Israeli Business

Communities throughout the country have been under rocket attack. Most prevalent, this has hit home for small businesses in the south, which have been under constant fire, causing businesses to work only part-time or close for the time being. These small businesses serve as the sole source of livelihood for the families who own them. The donations we receive from you will enable us to respond quickly and help them. In addition, every donation to IFLA is leveraged, as it is recycled and results in a growing “helping value” over time.


Yashar LaChayal brings soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces what they need when they need it. Yashar LaChayal has developed relationships with IDF commanders around the country, and therefore they are quick to contact our representatives when their units or individual soldiers are in need of assistance. But we do not wait to hear from them! Yashar LaChayal representatives are on the move, visiting IDF bases throughout Israel, on the borders and in remote locations, to see what the actual needs of our soldiers are. Once we determine what is lacking, we set out to fill the gap.




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Idan Raichel: ANZAC Day, Memorial Day, and Yom HaZikaron

Idan Raichel: ANZAC Day, Memorial Day, and Yom HaZikaron

Today is ANZAC Day here in Australia.  This is the day when we honor the fallen soldiers who gave their lives defending the amazing country of Australia.  It is the Australian equivalent of the US Memorial Day, although in Australia the shops are closed (yes, even the major grocery stores), rather than having big sales.  People spend the day with family, visiting farms, having picnics, going to concerts.

Israeli soldiers stand on a sidewalk in front of a walk painted with the American flag

Israeli soldiers stand on a sidewalk in front of a walk painted with the American flag

With Yom HaZikaron just a few short weeks ago, my remembrance of our fallen Jewish soldiers is fresh in my mind.  In America, Memorial Day has sadly become commercialized.  Every store puts American flags on its advertisements… seemingly trying to convince you that American soldiers have died (and are still dying) for your right to buy an Italian leather couch, a new SUV.  Where is the true gratitude?

Even here in Australia, ANZAC Day is different from Yom HaZikaron.  True, in Australia, fallen soldiers seem truly to be honored.  I have seen graffiti painted on walls reminding us of ANZAC, reminding us of the lost soldiers.  When graffiti artists see this as the message they want to tag on walls, you know you have a country that honors its soldiers. The shops are closed in reverence. And yet, something is different.

I think the difference is that Yom HaZikaron is personal, for ALL of us.  I would venture to say that nearly every Jew in Israel knows or has known or met a soldier who died defending the country.  Thank G-d, given the number of attacks, the death toll is remarkably small.  G-d is with us, always.  Yet, it is a small country.  If one person from a moshav or a yishuv dies in combat, the entire town will feel the loss.

Israeli soldiers guarding Kever Rochel in Bethlehem, both secular and charedi

Israeli soldiers guarding Kever Rochel in Bethlehem, both secular and charedi

Even more, we Jews are more than just a country, a nation.  We are a family.  If you found out that you had a cousin you’d never met who was just killed in combat, you would feel the loss.  Now I will never get to know him/her.  Blood ties run thick.  Family, at the core of our Jewish values, connects us.  And all of us Jews are family.  It is the reason we welcome traveling Jews to our Shabbos table every week, or the reason we let Jews without a place to sleep stay in our home.  We don’t need to know them.  They are family.  If your long lost uncle showed up at your door with nowhere to go, would you shut him out? Your cousin? Your brother or sister? Of course not!

And that is why on Yom HaZikaron, we feel the loss so deeply.  Wouldn’t it be beautiful if every person in every country could feel this way for the soldiers who have died defending them?  If we could all tap into that sensation that we are all of one family?  In the eyes of G-d, in the teachings of Judaism, every life – every life, not just Jewish lives – is sacred.  If one life is lost, it is a loss to the world, and a loss to each and every one of us.

In parting, I will leave you with this letter from famous Israeli musician Idan Raichel.  He speaks about his experience of Memorial Day versus Yom HaZikaron… and I hope that, on this ANZAC Day and every day of commemoration, his words will give us pause.

Hello, Its me, Idan,

writing this morning from Tel Aviv: Exactly a year ago, I was sitting with friends in Atlanta, Georgia, and telling them why, in Israel, stores and shopping malls don’t have Memorial Day sales.

I tried to explain to them how, unlike in America, Memorial Day is filled with such deep sorrow that it’s not a day for shopping trips or picnics in the park. I told them how every Memorial Day, my mother rides her bicycle from our house to the cemetery for fallen soldiers in Kfar Sava to visit the graves of two of her high school friends who never lived to be 21. She’s been making that trip every year for over 40 years.

I tried to explain to my friends in Atlanta about the minute of silence on Memorial Day eve, and the two minutes the next morning, during which the whole country stands still. They refuse to believe that an entire country completely freezes for a moment of remembrance − they try to imagine the sight, and to them it sounds like a scene from a movie.

I tried to explain to them how in just one moment as Memorial Day ends, like the moment that ends Shabbat and begins the new week, we transition from mourning to the happiest day of the year. We emerge from our great sadness, and while giving thanks to those who made it possible for us to be here, we begin Independence Day, and fireworks light up our beloved country.

I tried to explain how our great joy, a joy that doesn’t know left or right, rich or poor, native-born citizens or new immigrants, is about one thing − celebrating the fact that we are here. We are here in this crazy country of ours, where there’s always breaking news, where everything is tense and seems to be always teetering on the edge, but also where we have everything, old and new: Just a 15-minute drive away from the spot which housed the First Temple, built to praise God, where the Western Wall now stands, someone is filming the Big Brother reality TV show, complete with celebrity contestants.

We have sacred and secular here: We have old and new, Hebrew and Arabic, Russian and Amharic, Moroccan and Yemenite and more. In this country we live and celebrate independence, and democracy. We celebrate with old-fashioned sing-a-longs on kibbutzim, and trance parties in the desert. Happiness floods this country of ours, which after all is barely a dot on the world map, but makes a great deal of noise − as only we know how. Every Independence Day in Israel, throughout the country, everyone takes to the streets for celebrations that could hold their own against those of any country in the world.

I miss the days when I would go with my parents and siblings to the main square in Kfar Sava to join in the celebration. To my regret, but also to my great joy, I’ve been a performing musician from the age of 12 and since then, I’ve only experienced Independence Day from the other side − up on the big stage, facing a sea of people, tens of thousands in every city. In those huge crowds there are native Israelis together with new immigrants from every corner of the world. Big crowds weren’t something one used to see very often in the Middle East − not until the past two years.

On this Independence Day, I think about the people who have taken to the streets recently: in our country, in Egypt, in Syria, and many others. Millions of people who want not only to survive today, but to dream about what is possible tomorrow. People who are looking for new meaning in their independence, or trying to return independence to its original meaning.

Independence, and great hope.

Idan Raichel

Read more on Yom HaZikaron: A Prayer for Israeli Soldiers

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Parshas Achrei Mot-Kedoshim & Yom Hatzmaut: Celebrating Israel

Parshas Achrei Mot-Kedoshim & Yom Hatzmaut: Celebrating Israel


An Israeli flag flies on top of Masada, with the Dead Sea in the background

An Israeli flag flies on top of Masada, with the Dead Sea in the background

This week we’d like to wish a happy 65th birthday to someone near and dear to all our hearts: Israel. Yom Hatzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, fell this week, and although we could not be in Israel to celebrate it with her, we have all celebrated in our hearts.

The land of Israel is special and important to all of us as Jews. It is the land G-d told our forefather Abraham He would give to him and his descendants, us. And indeed He did, after our escape from Egypt and our wanderings in the desert. But unfortunately, Israel did not remain in Jewish hands for long. We were exiled from our homeland and scattered across the world.

Today, we have returned to the land of Israel. This tiny sliver of a country – just the size of New Jersey in the United States – is the place we have to call home. No matter what may happen to us in other parts of the world, Israel will always welcome us with open arms into her motherly hug.

We Jews have a special relationship with the land. We turn to face it when we pray and every time we pray, we remember how we long to return there. And indeed, Jews began returning to the land of Israel since just a century after the destruction of the Second Temple. Now, with the establishment of the State of Israel, it has become safer to return than ever before, and Jews have been flocking there by the hundreds of thousands.

In this week’s parsha, G-d prepares the Jewish people to enter the land of Israel. He admonishes the Jews not to behave like the Egyptians (who raised them) or like the Canaanites (who then inhabited the land of Israel). Instead, G-d expects the Jewish people to behave and act differently, better. He provides a guide for proper social interaction in the form of His Torah. By juxtaposing this commandment with commandments against things like bestiality, improper relationships, and idol worship, G-d is highlighting the differences between the Jews and the outside world.

In today’s society, unfortunately, not much has changed from the Egyptian and Canaanite societies of old. Instead of idols we worship money, and improper relationships are flaunted or even encouraged. It is our job as Jews to stand out and behave differently. Each and every one of us can be a light unto the world.

Shabbat shalom!

Read more on Parshas Kedoshim

Read more on What to Say to a Jewish Mourner on Yom Ha’atzmaut

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Parshas Vayeishev: If You Can’t Go to Israel, Make Israel Come to You

Parshas Vayeshev: If You Can’t Go to Israel, Make Israel Come to You

Unfortunately, we don’t all live in Israel.  Even many people who live in Israel travel outside of Israel.  Yet, I find myself missing Israel all the time.  One day we will make it back there; I hope we will even be able to live there.

One interesting thing I learned week was in a letter in the Igros Chazan Ish.  A bachur asked if he should go to Israel and if the Chazon Ish thought going to Israel was the best thing to do.  The Chazon Ish replied that it was best NOT to go to Israel.  The best thing to do, he explained, was to remain in Rusia.

This is somewhat baffling.  After all, I learned in seminary that it is much better to be in Eterz Yisroel than to be in hutzla aretz. It is best of all to live in Israel, unless for compelling reasons, like parnossa (livelihood) or your children’s education you must be elsewhere.  So what on earth is the Chazon Ish saying here?

Rabbi Eisemann gave an explanation: The Chazon Ish was writing this letter over a hundred years ago.  Times were different then.  Israel was not the flourishing Jewish community it is now; it was a barren and hostile land, where Jews struggled just to survive and eke out a living.  In Russia, however, the intellectual leaders of Judaism lived.  There you could sit and learn not only under the likes of the Chazon Ish, but also under the Chofetz Chaim and other great rabbis.  Sure, times might have been tough, but spiritually, Russian Jewry was very much alive.

You see, Israel is not just a physical place, it is a spiritual place, too.  And although we cannot create it as a physical place in some other land, like Africa or Australia, we can create it as a spiritual place no matter where we are.  In Russia, the Jews were working very hard to create Israel as a spiritual place there.  And they were succeeding.  That’s why the Chazon Ish didn’t want his students to leave.  Leaving the spiritual land of Israel just to live in the physical land of Israel simply didn’t make sense.

And in this week’s parsha, we see that Yosef has done exactly the same thing.  Here is a boy, 17 years old, and away from his family for the first time.  How lonely he must have been! But not only hat, he really had no hope of ever returning to the land of Israel.  How easy it would have been just to assimilate!  He could have given up his Jewish ways and become fully Egyptian.  Yet, he did not do this.  Instead, he created his own spiritual land of Israel within himself.  He followed the Torah *(yes, even though it had not yet been given) and stuck to it, even when it was very hard.  Whether he was in slavery or in prison or in Pharoah’s court, he stuck with it.

We can also create our own land of Israel within ourselves.  We can have our spiritual land of Israel wherever we go.  As Rabbi Ben and I travel, I like to think this is what we do.

Shabbat Shalom!

Read more on Parshas Vayeishev: Joseph, Dreams, and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

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Parshas Vayetzei: Praying for and in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem)

Parshas Vayetzei: Praying for and in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem)

Terrorist Rocket Range in Israel now includes Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

Terrorist Rocket Range in Israel now includes Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. (Taken from via

It’s not often you hear people getting excited about taking a trip to a war zone.  Usually if there’s a war on in a particular part of the world, people steer clear.  They’re trying to leave the area if they can, not get in.  And you can’t find airlines willing to take tourists to danger zones.  Yet, this week, I have seen several of my friends get very excited to be going to Israel.

Sadly, there is a war on in Israel.  Terrorists are flinging rockets and missiles at innocent civilians and they are now able to fire these rockets from Gaza as far as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  It is a dangerous time to be in Israel.  Yet, so many people (ourselves included) actually want to go there – war or no war.  Israel is a special, unique place.

Rabbi Ben davening (praying) at the Kotel, the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, in Jerusalem, Israel

Prayers said in Jerusalem are always heard by G-d.

In fact, Jerusalem features in this week’s parsha as a holy, special place.  Yaakov (Jacob) goes to sleep and dreams of a ladder with angels ascending and descending.  When he wakes up, he calls it a special, holy place.  It is described as the “Gate of Heaven.” Rabbi Weinreb of the OU points out that it is our obligation to pray for Jerusalem.  The Ramban on this week’s parsha notes that prayers uttered in Jerusalem are always heard.

In this time of war and tribulations it is especially important for us to pray for Jerusalem and all that it stands for, especially those of us who are in Jerusalem!  As our soldiers enter Gaza to protect our family (for we Jews are all family!) from terror, we must pray for them.  Rabbanim are asking Jews everywhere to recite tehillim (Psalms) 130, 121, 83, 20, 91, 143.

Please G-d let this coming week bring us all peace, safety, security, and MOSHIACH!

Shabbat Shalom.

Read more about Parshas Vayetzei: Jacob’s Ladder Teaches Us to Strive for Perfection

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Another Instance of Travel Opening Eyes: A British Muslim Changes His Mind About Israel

Another Instance of Travel Opening Eyes: A British Muslim Changes His Mind About Israel

I recently wrote about Nicky Larkin, the Irish filmmaker, who changed his views from being anti-Israel to being pro-Israel after he actually visited.  Travel, as I have pointed out so many times, has the power to open our eyes.

Here it is again, another story of the power of travel and its impact on the Jewish community: Kasim Hafeez is a British Muslim of Pakistani descent who grew to hate Israel as a result of the pressure of his community.  In college especially he was taught that Israel was constantly perpetrating brutalities against the Palestinians.  He and his friends used this to bully Jewish students on campus.

However, he changed his tune after a visit to Israel in 2007.  The same summer when Rabbi Ben and I first met and opened our eyes to one another, Mr. Hafeez opened his eyes to the reality of life in Israel.  His experience was overwhelmingly positive and debunked the lies and propaganda he’d been told.

Today, he is on the advisory board of Stand With Us, a pro-Israel advocacy group.  He travels and speaks to groups all over the world, especially on college campuses.

If you want to know the truth about Israel, or any other place in the world for that matter, visit it and open your eyes to its reality… before opening your mouth to speak about it!

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