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ChanukahGiving: Showing Thanks To Our Modern Day Maccabees

ChanukahGiving: Showing Thanks To Our Modern Day Maccabees


The overlap of Chanukah and Thanksgiving has made major headlines this year, sparking celebratory campaigns for Thanksgivukkah and the Menurkey. While for some the emphasis is on the turkey, ChanukahGiving is focused on emphasizing the giving of thanks and its connection to the historical events surrounding the Chanukah miracle.

ChanukahGiving encourages Jews from all over the world to acknowledge and appreciate our modern day Maccabees: the fighters in the Israel Defense Forces. Among these brave young men and women are the Lone Soldiers, Diaspora Jews who selflessly serve to defend and protect our Jewish Nation. There is so much that can be learned from their commitment to Israel, and The Lone Soldier Project of The Israel Forever Foundation is determined to inspire an Israel connection in others around the world through their stories.

In honor of this special holiday, on Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 7.30 P.M. (Israel Time), more than 500 soldiers will be treated to a special evening of traditional Thanksgiving and Chanukah foods.

People from around the world will be able to virtually participate in this event by joining in for a special candle lighting ceremony that will be live-streamed on www.israelforever.org. Family and friends will be also be invited to say hello and share their messages of encouragement and support during the holiday season.

So as we celebrate the beautiful festival of lights, and commemorate the Maccabean resistance, please join us in giving the gift of thanks.

Happy ChanukahGiving everyone - let the giving begin!

For more information on joining this one-of-a-kind experience, come visit us at http://israelforever.org/programs/LoneSoldierProject/ChanukahGiving/
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A Temporary Dwelling: The Journey Toward The Land

Dr. Elana Heideman
The Israel Forever Foundation
There are only 2 mitzvot that we can do with our entire being, both body and soul: The mitzvah of building/dwelling the Sukkah, and the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel. (Vilna Gaon)
How meaningful it is to appreciate the union of these two mitzvot as Sukkot arrives in Israel.
When the Israelites left Egypt and traveled for forty years to the Land of Israel, they built tents to live in along the way. But in the period surrounding the harvest, temporary huts or booths - Sukkot סוכות - were built with the date and palm branches that signified the completion of the season. The distinction of living space was a reflection of their faith - as a celebration of the life-giving harvest infused with awareness of its Provider, generating true joy and thus making this one of our most festive holidays!
The tradition has been carried on for these thousands of years in keeping with the commandment “You shall dwell in Sukkot for seven days… so that your future generations shall know that I had the children of Israel live in Sukkot when I brought them out of Egypt….” (Leviticus 23:42-43).
The finale of the Chag Season, ending with Simchat Torah in honor of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, the sukkah is in its own way a symbol of peace: it is open to the elements of nature, to the heavens above and to our family and friends...
How wonderful if we can also ensure that this temporary dwelling is an open reflection of our connection to Israel?
Sukkot are built all over the world; But in Israel, it is a truly unique experience. You can enjoy the experience of spending time in your sukkah without the heat of the summer as the nights are cooled by the brisk fall air, as the breeze of this incredible land brushes your skin with such sweetness, such caress, it brings a smile to your face...knowing we are in the land our ancestors journeyed towards, the land in which we were destined to thrive as a people.
Within the modern day mosaic of this incredible country, Sukkot is felt on every corner - yet another part of Jewish life in the Jewish state that unites history, tradition, family and faith in a celebration of our freedom as a people on the ancestral land we have inherited. Here in Israel, there is certainly no need to stay confined to the backyard: nearly every restaurant in the country has a sukkah in which to eat, some even have a lulav and etrog on hand - It’s a beautiful sight to see soldiers, tourists, and locals filled with the joy of this special holiday! The country is (again) on vacation and there are more festivals than one might imagine to fill these days with meaning.
In so many ways, Sukkot offers us the opportunity to connect with the Land in which we were destined to thrive as a people. Every year, we take ourselves out of the comforts of our home to relive an experience that spans the generations and helps us connect with the memory of our ancestors and the journey they traveled to reach the land promised to the Children of Israel. So much meaning has been placed on these temporary dwellings, wherein families gather, guests are welcomed, and delicious dishes concocted to celebrate the abundance of the Land of Israel.
Many people grace the walls of their sukkot with the blessings, images of the species, and sometimes images of the Kotel. As you decorate your Sukkah this year, we invite you to adorn your dwelling with images of the Land that will help remind you of the journey - both ancient and modern - that the Jewish People have traveled to our ancestral homeland, to the place that we can all call home no matter where in the world we might live.
Select a special image that will help you celebrate that connection. Imagine driving the roads of the Judean Hills, or under the canopy of the date trees, wandering the streets of Jerusalem, or standing at the Kotel (The Western Wall) and shaking the Arbaa Minim (The Four Species) with thousands of other Jews...
Indeed, it was once said that "One should concentrate on being part of the entire people of Israel, with intense love and peace, until it may be considered as if all of Israel dwells together in one sukkah." While we may not all be together in the land to fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in the land, we can unite in our mitzvah of inspiring Israel by combining something temporary with something permanent: our commitment and belonging to Israel.

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There are only 2 mitzvot that we can do with our entire being, both body and soul: The mitzvah of building/dwelling the Sukkah, and the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel. (Vilna Gaon)
How meaningful it is to appreciate the union of these two mitzvot as Sukkot arrives in Israel.
When the Israelites left Egypt and traveled for forty years to the Land of Israel, they built tents to live in along the way. But in the period surrounding the harvest, temporary huts or booths - Sukkot סוכות - were built with the date and palm branches that signified the completion of the season. The distinction of living space was a reflection of their faith - as a celebration of the life-giving harvest infused with awareness of its Provider, generating true joy and thus making this one of our most festive holidays!
The tradition has been carried on for these thousands of years in keeping with the commandment “You shall dwell in Sukkot for seven days… so that your future generations shall know that I had the children of Israel live in Sukkot when I brought them out of Egypt….” (Leviticus 23:42-43).
The finale of the Chag Season, ending with Simchat Torah in honor of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, the sukkah is in its own way a symbol of peace: it is open to the elements of nature, to the heavens above and to our family and friends...
How wonderful if we can also ensure that this temporary dwelling is an open reflection of our connection to Israel?
Sukkot are built all over the world; But in Israel, it is a truly unique experience. You can enjoy the experience of spending time in your sukkah without the heat of the summer as the nights are cooled by the brisk fall air, as the breeze of this incredible land brushes your skin with such sweetness, such caress, it brings a smile to your face...knowing we are in the land our ancestors journeyed towards, the land in which we were destined to thrive as a people.
Within the modern day mosaic of this incredible country, Sukkot is felt on every corner - yet another part of Jewish life in the Jewish state that unites history, tradition, family and faith in a celebration of our freedom as a people on the ancestral land we have inherited. Here in Israel, there is certainly no need to stay confined to the backyard: nearly every restaurant in the country has a sukkah in which to eat, some even have a lulav and etrog on hand - It’s a beautiful sight to see soldiers, tourists, and locals filled with the joy of this special holiday! The country is (again) on vacation and there are more festivals than one might imagine to fill these days with meaning.
In so many ways, Sukkot offers us the opportunity to connect with the Land in which we were destined to thrive as a people. Every year, we take ourselves out of the comforts of our home to relive an experience that spans the generations and helps us connect with the memory of our ancestors and the journey they traveled to reach the land promised to the Children of Israel. So much meaning has been placed on these temporary dwellings, wherein families gather, guests are welcomed, and delicious dishes concocted to celebrate the abundance of the Land of Israel.
Many people grace the walls of their sukkot with the blessings, images of the species, and sometimes images of the Kotel. As you decorate your Sukkah this year, we invite you to adorn your dwelling with images of the Land that will help remind you of the journey - both ancient and modern - that the Jewish People have traveled to our ancestral homeland, to the place that we can all call home no matter where in the world we might live.
Select a special image that will help you celebrate that connection. Imagine driving the roads of the Judean Hills, or under the canopy of the date trees, wandering the streets of Jerusalem, or standing at the Kotel (The Western Wall) and shaking the Arbaa Minim (The Four Species) with thousands of other Jews...
Indeed, it was once said that "One should concentrate on being part of the entire people of Israel, with intense love and peace, until it may be considered as if all of Israel dwells together in one sukkah." While we may not all be together in the land to fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in the land, we can unite in our mitzvah of inspiring Israel by combining something temporary with something permanent: our commitment and belonging to Israel.
This year, add some Israel to your Sukkah! Visit us to download your favorite image to hang as a decoration and always be reminded of Israel as we celebrate this special holiday and the journey of ancestors to the land we can all call home.
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Finding Israel, Finding Roots In Your Rosh HaShanah

By Dr. Elana Heideman, The Israel Forever Foundation

Every year as Rosh HaShanah arrives, Jews around the world come together for their annual commemoration of the birth of the world. We contemplate how this year’s celebration will be different than the year before, who will join us at our chag table for our festive meal, who we’ll see in shul that we haven’t seen since... well, the last time we gathered as a community. We use this chag to honor our relationship with friends, family, our Jewish identity, and of course with God. We wish each other Chag Sameach and recite the same prayers, but often hope for a little something different in the coming year.

In Israel, the chagim (חגים) are a national celebration for religious and secular alike. The whole country becomes immersed in the spirit of renewal and of celebration, and schools, streets and homes are filled with the sights and sounds of the holiday. In addition to whatever religious observance one might practice in accordance with these days, there is an atmosphere of joy as we gather together with our loved ones and eat the delectable dishes - ripe with tradition, symbolism and of course flavor - that embody the bounty of our ancestral land.
Every different style of celebration in Israel in some way honors the deep biblical roots that remind us of our belonging to the land in which we are living. For Jews throughout the Diaspora, however, the emphasis of Rosh HaShanah is often devoid of this historical connection. There have even been articles and requests to eliminate references to Israel in their sermons or in family discussions on these holiest of days in the Jewish calendar, under the assumption that the only association possible is one of conflict and tension.
Indeed, the exact opposite is true. After thousands of years of living in exile, of praying for the return to Tzion, we should be reminded and should remind each other of the value of Israel and her meaningfulness in our lives every chance we get - as family, friends, as a community, bound together by our common connection to Israel in spite of the differences we may otherwise have.
This year we honor 5574 years since creation. Called the Feast of Trumpets in the Bible, the meaning of Rosh HaShanah implies a divine appointment, a time to meet with God. The liturgy and readings from the Torah serve as reminders of our mortality and personal responsibility we each bear for our behavior, and the shofar is intended to be a “wake up call” to the human conscience.
In the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we each endeavor a personal Cheshbon Nefesh, “accounting of our soul.” We reflect on whether our lives have lived up to the expectations we set the previous year at this time. We review our deeds and thoughts over the past year, searching for a connection between our daily lives, our faith, and how we can translate this into meaningful conclusions that we can carry into the new year.
Indeed, Rosh HaShanah is a time of reconnecting - with ourselves, with each other, and our identity as Jews.
So how can we afford NOT to include also a reflection of how our connection to our ancient homeland can be emphasized, celebrated, strengthened in our hearts, in our homes, with our family and friends?
Just as we strive to establish meaningful connections through our personal reflection and observance, this day of significance in the Jewish tradition should remind us of our origins as a people and our shared heritage in spite of being scattered across the four corners of the earth.
Don’t let the media overpower your relationship with our ancient home and the society and culture that are now thriving there.
Don’t let politics divide you from the rest of Am Yisrael.
Don’t let the often-distorted representations of the conflict or demonized versions of Israeli perspectives sway you against the one and only Jewish State in the world.
Wherever you may be in the world, there is a connection that is just right for you. It is our obligation as Jews to delve deeper and seek it out.
Let us all strive to be inspired and to Inspire Israel in others in the new year that lay ahead!!!
Wishing you all the sweetness of Israel and a blessing for a beautiful new year.
Chag Sameach v’ Shanah HaBaah U’Metukah!
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The Power Of The Kotel Stones

By David Wiseman, The Israel Forever Foundation 

My grandmother is a week shy of her 98th birthday. She is the last remaining of my four grandparents and unfortunately, she hasn’t been feeling well recently and is now in the hospital.

The moment I heard the news, I decided to visit the Kotel (The Western Wall), since I’m blessed to live only minutes away in Jerusalem. So, after work I headed down and was met by those massive stones.
So, after work I headed down and was met by those massive stones.
As I surveyed the scene, I saw people of all ages. There are no atheists in these foxholes and I must say that it is very hard to find one at the Kotel. Most feel the power of the stones and from there, emotions are let loose.
If tears could melt stone, the Kotel wouldn’t be standing.

If hopes and dreams could make them fly, there would be a wall floating around somewhere in space.
One paradox about the Kotel is the concept of time. It is governed by time – the time to pray three times a day. The thousands who visit it on Shabbat and even more during the Chagim.

On the other hand, it is timeless. For thousands of years it hasn’t just been a physical landmark, but an emotional one. My grandmother was born in 1915. Israel didn’t come into existence until she was 32 and she was only 51 when Jerusalem was reunified.

Thankfully, she has been to the Kotel, but there will come a time when her journey will come to an end, like all of us. I’ve realized though, that our connection to Israel, the Jewish people – this connection is timeless. We’ve been exiled and scattered and despite being stretched to the four corners of the world, our hearts, thoughts and prayers have always aimed towards Jerusalem.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Kotel many times and every time I am overwhelmed by a cocktail of emotions – excitement, joy and a sense of ease. Every time I leave it is with a sense of remorse.

Farewells are never easy – not to the Kotel and especially not to a grandparent. But with the upcoming Jewish New Year, my next prayer at the Kotel will be that my beloved grandmother will be granted a Sweet New Year and inscribed in the Book of Life.
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