Turkey and Beans; thanks for what we have

Operation Pillar of Defense did more than force southern Israel to cancel school. It also forced the Southern Branch of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) – for which I volunteer – to cancel its annual Thanksgiving Dinner. For the past couple of years, AACI has joined up with Beer Sova – a local soup kitchen serving hundreds of Beer Sheva’s needy – to cook up a Thanksgiving meal that just about any American can be proud of. Being Canadian, it’s all lost on me, but it’s good fun, and the money raised is split between the two organizations.

This year, however, Thanksgiving landed right at the end of the week of bombs, and we had to postpone the dinner.

It was important to us to postpone and not to cancel because Beer Sova served meals to record amounts of people during the week of the war. They served the elderly who couldn’t leave their homes. They served people who lost income because of lost business, or closed businesses. They served children and mothers, Arabs and Jews. All who needed were given hot, nutritious meals, no questions asked.
AACI members were also disappointed at the postponement, and hoped we would have the dinner later. It seems people miss a taste of the old country, especially when it comes to turkey with all the trimmings.

After the war, we settled on a new date, which was last night. Several volunteers came to the kitchen of Beer Sova to prepare a three-course meal of soup, turkey and dessert.

Situated in an old run-down building in the town center, Beer Sova’s kitchen hosts industrial size ovens, stoves, and fridges. You can bathe a pony in one of their pots. (It’s even possible that someone had.) Clean and well-kept, the kitchen’s appearance clearly shows the hard work that goes on there regularly, almost entirely by volunteers, to feed and serve between 70-100 people daily in their dining room, and several 100 or so by home delivery. It also clearly shows how much they need donations to continue their holy work.

I got to the kitchen to help with the cooking a bit late. I used, as I always do, my daughter as an excuse for being late, but really, I just hate cooking. The kitchen was already a beehive of activity. I stood a minute and watched five wonderful women rush around the rooms looking, for all the world, like five whirlwinds that the Tasmanian devil from the Bugs Bunny cartoon makes (but without the grouchiness). ZOOM chop. ZOOM chop chop chop. ZOOM splash. MORE SALT! I NEED SOME SUGAR! ZOOM.

Tasmanian Devil

Within four hours these women (and one man who expertly checked and washed five lettuces [lettuci?] – but didn’t go rushing around) boiled up a witch’s cauldron of pumpkin soup, stuffed and cooked 6 turkeys, broiled 10 kilo of potatoes, made two gargantuan sweet potato pies, mixed up three humongous pots of three different salads, boiled up some cranberry sauce and apple compote, and baked four sets of brownies. I, meanwhile, stirred some beans. Expertly, I might add. I even added a bit of garlic.


Just over 40 people met later at the dining room of Beer Sova, which is separate from the kitchen. It was really a lovely dinner, complete with music and wine. Seeing as how I was an expert in bean stirring, I also decided I would give a short speech thanking people.
Here’s a copy – with illustrations, something those at the dinner didn’t get.

“Welcome everyone to our AACI/Beer Sova Thanksgiving dinner.

Beer Sova was established in 1999 by a group volunteers, to supply hot, nutritious, healthy meals for the needy in Beer Sheva and the surrounding area, and it was the first and remains the only kitchen preparing freshly cooked meals daily.

AACI encourages Aliyah of Americans and Canadians and assists its members to be absorbed into Israeli society and participate in the life of the Country.
AACI accepts everyone regardless of their religion or political opinions.
AACI is an a-political, a-religious organization.

But I’m not.

Last year at the AACI Thanksgiving dinner, someone told me that the Canadian Thanksgiving was actually established before the American Thanksgiving. I didn’t even know that there was a Canadian Thanksgiving, so I looked it up.

Indeed, Martin Frobisher established Thanksgiving in 1578 after returning safely home to Newfoundland after failing to find the Northwestern Passage through Canada to the Pacific Ocean.

Sir Martin Frobisher

The American Thanksgiving celebrates having survived a winter and near-starvation, but were able to produce a bountiful harvest and, therefore, show thanks with a big meal with lots of food – 43 years after Martin Frobisher gave thanks – in 1621. The Canadian Thanksgiving is one of homecoming and no food is actually involved; which is why the Canadian Thanksgiving has been more or less forgotten.

An American Thanksgiving

However, the Jewish Thanksgiving goes back even further than 1578. And it was from them that both the Canadians and Americans got the idea. And, as most things Jewish, it involves food.

A Jewish meal

During the times of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a person who survived a potentially dangerous situation – which in those days meant crossing the desert or sea, imprisonment, or illness – brought a Sacrificial Offering of Thanksgiving (korban todah) to the Temple, to show gratitude to G-d for saving him.

This sacrifice was different than others in that it had to be eaten by the person giving it on the same day. There was a great deal of food involved: The animal sacrificed – either a bull, a calf, a ram, a sheep, or a goat (each according to his ability) – 30 loaves of unleavened bread – a kind of matzah – and 10 loaves of regular bread – or challot.

This was a tremendous amount of food that had to be eaten in a very limited time. The person, therefore, would invite lots of people to come with him to eat of the sacrifice. The rabbis say that in this way the miracle of the person’s survival was publicized, his or her gratitude to G-d was made known to all, and G-d’s compassion and mercy was publicly proclaimed.

Today, we don’t have a Temple, or sacrifices. So instead, today, when we survive a potentially dangerous situation, we make a ‘seudat Hodaya’ a Meal of Thanks, where we invite a lot of people, and eat a lot of food.
In addition, say the sages it is right to give tzdaka – charity – in the amount of cost of the animal to be sacrificed – or in the amount of a meal.

And that is what we are doing here tonight – however inadvertently. We are gathered here in a group to give thanks for the things that we have. We have all donated money tonight to two organizations, AACI and Beer Sova.

We have a great deal to be thankful for tonight; our friends and family; a wonderful supportive community, for which I am grateful every day; a beautiful Land in which we have been blessed to make our home and which is populated by more heroes than I can count; the IAF and the IDF, and most of all G-d, for nudging those missiles just a bit and having most of them land in open areas. 176 missiles over the skies of Beer Sheva and there were no fatalities. This is a great miracle that needs to be acknowledged and publicized over and over again.

In addition, I would like to thank those that, with the help of G-d, organized this wonderful evening; the volunteers that cooked and set up; the go-between for AACI and Beer Sova, those at Beer Sova, especially those who helped with all the shopping, and most of all thanks to two superladies who planned and prepared the event from soup to nuts – except that there aren’t any nuts, but there’s cake.”

(names have been left out to protect those who only stirred the beans.)

It appeared that everyone had a good time and came out stuffed to the gills. We raised a small amount of money for both organizations – not nearly enough, but it’s a start.

The best part of the evening, however, was that the Canadian bean stirrer won the raffle – a stuffed turkey.

Now I don’t have to cook much for Shabbat. There’s something to be thankful for!!

AACI is the home for English Speakers in Israel with offices in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Haifa.

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center

Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall) Talpiot, Jerusalem

MAP of Jerusalem Location

Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.

(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.


Beer Sheva, past, present, and this summer!

UPDATE – A fun time was had by all. And we have photos to prove it!

Check them out! click on the link. Thanks to Matt Polani!

You are invited on Thursday, July 18th to experience Beer Sheva for yourself…

On Thursday, July 18 the Southern Region of AACI is hosting a gala Summer Picnic. We invite everyone across the country, new olim and vatikim, Israelis and non-Israelis, families and singles, to come and experience Beer Sheva, to glory in our past, to enjoy our modern beautiful present, and, in addition, to meet our wonderful community.

Our picnic will take place from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM in the large public park in the Heh neighborhood and will feature clowns, balloons, crafts for the kids, jumping castles, cotton candy, great music, and other surprises!. In addition, we are planning a small crafts fair of Negev art.

When you plan your summer vacation, plan on spending Thursday, July 18 in Beer Sheva. We look forward to having you!

For more information, contact me at reesagstone@gmail.com.

Years ago, when my husband and I were dating and things became serious, he told me that if we were to get married, we’d have to move from Jerusalem – where we were then living – to either Haifa in the north, or Beer Sheva in the south. He wouldn’t be able to make a good enough living to support a family as an engineer in the center of the country, but both north and south had excellent potential. This was back in the dark ages, when Google wasn’t even a glint in Larry Page’s and Sergey Brin’s eyes (and quite possibly Messrs Page and Brin might have been only slightly more than a glint in their fathers’ eyes), so I could only make an informative decision by asking around.

Not exactly scientific.

Nonetheless, somehow and for reasons that totally escape me today, we decided on Beer Sheva. My to-be husband sent out a bunch of resumes, got a few job offers, and three weeks after we were married, we moved to a dusty, quiet, and very hot town. I spent much of that moving day hiding my tears from my new husband. He never suspected that I had hoped and hoped that something would happen and we wouldn’t have to move to this hole in the middle of the desert.

Beer Sheva 1917

Beer Sheva 1917

I knew absolutely nobody in the city. I had visited only once before, years before, on a trip to the Negev. (I vaguely remembered walking back to the hostel and being accosted by Beer Sheva’s best, what was then called pushtakim or punks.) The weather was dreadful. The streets were covered in donkey poop. Dust covered everything. Truly, I didn’t want to be there.

30 hours after we first arrived in Beer Sheva, Shabbat also arrived. We went to shul, and almost immediately, everything began to change. I met warm, welcoming, and gracious people who invited us over for Shabbat meals, and offered to take us around and show us the town.

So, when my husband started working, and before I found work (three weeks later) I was not quite as traumatized as I had been and I took the opportunity to walk around town. At that time, Beer Sheva was still small enough that you could walk just about anywhere. It was then that the magic of Beer Sheva began to percolate into my bones.

In the 28 years that have passed since that fateful decision and my first tearful days in Beer Sheva, much has changed here. The city has grown from a large town of 60,000 to a big city of 205,000. The University has grown from less than 5000 students to over 18,000. And, unlike in 1985, there are now more shopping malls than sheep in the city. As a matter of fact, months can go by before I see a sheep or donkey. (In 1985, the Bedouin lady who rode her donkey down my street nodded to me daily.)

Yet, the magic has never worn off. Indeed, the city, to me, has become ever more entrancing. Here are some facts that few are aware of:

1. Beer Sheva is not just one of the oldest cities in the world, it is also the first Jewish city in history. 4000 years before Tel Aviv was built, Avraham Avinu planted the first Tamarisk Tree (Eitz Eshel) here, thereby establishing a Jewish city in the south part of the Land of Israel. All three of our forefathers lived here, giving the city the nickname Ir HaAvot – city of the Fathers. Today, at the edge of the old city, is ‘Be’er Avraham’, which claims to house the original well that was dug by Abraham. Of course, it isn’t the well, just a well; one of hundreds that were dug in the area over the millennia. A few years ago, Be’er Avraham was closed to the public and refurbished. It opens this summer as a museum of the history of Beer Sheva since the time of Abraham.

Beer Avraham

Beer Avraham

A Tamarisk tree is on the municipal flag and the trees can still be found around town.

Beer Sheva flag

Beer Sheva flag

Tamarisk tree

Tamarisk tree

2. Beer Sheva has some of the most comprehensive Byzantine ruins in the world. The Byzantines settled in the area to ward off attacks by the Nabateans, who controlled the spice route from Gaza to Arabia. Recently, an entire town was unveiled during the construction of the new bus station, and the ruins can be seen under the floor of the new station. I would venture to say that Beer Sheva is the only city in the world with a Byzantine city under its bus station on view through a glass floor.

Governor's house

Governor’s house

Beer Sheva boasts the largest number of Ottoman-era buildings in Israel. From the Governors House, to an early 20th century Mosque, to a school for the children of Bedouin Sheiks, to the train station (complete with an early 19th century train that traveled from Constantinople to Cairo – better known as the Orient Express), and other assorted residences and structures, these unique buildings have recently been restored and reopened to the public—each for a different purpose. The school is now a science museum, the Governor’s House is an art museum. The Mosque houses the history of Beer Sheva from Ottoman times to the present. Other buildings have become restaurants, shops, and art galleries.

Turkish Railway Station

Turkish Railway Station for the Orient Express

After the Ottomans, came the British Mandate, and dozens of Mandate-era buildings dot the city. The most magical (to me) of the remnants of the Mandate, however, is the British War Cemetery. Set off of what is today a busy thoroughfare, the cemetery is an oasis of quiet and, ironically, one of the most peaceful and green areas in the city. Buried here are the soldiers of the Commonwealth (mostly Australians and New Zealanders) who died in the Battle for Beer Sheva, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Beersheba_(1917) led by General Edmund Allenby. Just down the street from the cemetery, is a small park dedicated to Allenby’s memory. It was the first park built in the city, just after the war.

Allenby Park

Allenby Park

British War Cemetery

British War Cemetery

Moving along in historical architecture is the “Brutalism” style adopted in the new city shortly after the War of Independence. Searching for a way to quickly house the refugees from Northern Africa after independence, Israeli architectures settled on Brutalism, which is not nearly as harsh as the name. Like Tel Aviv is known for its Bauhaus buildings, Beer Sheva is now known for its Brutalism. http://www.haaretz.com/culture/be-er-sheva-the-capital-of-brutalism.premium-1.501982
But if Brutalism doesn’t do it for you (it doesn’t for me to tell the truth), the glorious fountains that our mayor has scattered all around the city more than make up for it.

3. If history, archeology, and architecture aren’t your thing, there’s always shopping. The Grand Kanyon (pun hopefully intended) Shopping Mall opened its doors last month. The largest and greenest mall in the country, it has three floors for shopping and one for eating. It takes half a day just to walk around it. This mall is, of course, in addition to the other dozen or so shopping malls in the city, some of them, really, really nice. There isn’t anything you can’t buy here.
4000 years worth of history, unique architecture, museums and art galleries, fountains, and shopping are all found here in the Capital of the Negev. And I haven’t even mentioned Beer Sheva’s famous ice cream!

Beer Sheva's famous ice cream

Beer Sheva’s famous ice cream

On Thursday, July 18 the Southern Region of AACI is hosting a gala Summer Picnic. We invite everyone across the country, new olim and vatikim, Israelis and non-Israelis, families and singles, to come and experience Beer Sheva, to glory in our past, to enjoy our modern beautiful present, and, in addition, to meet our wonderful community.

Our picnic will take place from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM in the large public park in the Heh neighborhood and will feature clowns, balloons, crafts for the kids, jumping castles, cotton candy, great music, and other surprises!. In addition, we are planning a small crafts fair of Negev art.

When you plan your summer vacation, plan on spending Thursday, July 18 in Beer Sheva. We look forward to having you!

For more information, contact me at reesagstone@gmail.com.

We welcome you to be in touch with our Southern Branch office in Beer Sheva:

Miriam Green, Southern Branch Counselor AACI–Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel Matnas Yud-Aleph, 11 Mordechai Namir St., Beer Sheva tel: 08-643-3953 mgreen@aaci.org.il

Subscribe to the AACI Beer Sheva newsletter

For more information about the Southern Branch in Beer Sheva click here.

“We Make A Difference” JOIN THE FAMILY! Hours: Sunday, Monday, Thursday 9-1!

Preparing for an emergency

Special Guest Post by our own David London, Executive Director. And this time, I can safely say that the opinions expressed in this guest post DO reflect the opinions and policies of the AACI, The Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, serving English speakers from countries all over the world for over 60 years who have decided to make Israel their home!

And now, without further ado, a few words from David London, as it appeared in the Jerusalem Post. http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=292969

As we know, life in Israel can be fraught with challenges. That is why AACI has been caring for and supporting Israel’s English-speaking community for over 60 years. In today’s Jerusalem Post (page 7), you will see the first in a series of articles reprinting the latest AACI Emergency Handbook.

Making aliyah, living in Israel and being part of Israeli society is, for most of us, the ultimate expression of our Zionism and Judaism. We should be proud that we have made our homes here and have raised our children here.

We live in a vibrant and vital society where life is never boring.

I made aliyah 22 years ago with my wife and year-old son – immediately after the Gulf War. Over the years three additional children – two boys and one girl (in that order) – were added to our family.

My oldest is finishing his third year of compulsory military service and the others are on the way to serving; thus, one of my children will be serving in the IDF for the next 10 years.

After over 20 years of living in Israel and having worked intensively on the production of the AACI Emergency Handbook in English, I should have been well prepared when the sirens went off in Jerusalem and its environs for the first time last Friday evening. However, I initially froze, like everyone else. Then, after that initial fright, I immediately took action and found a safer location and immediately gathered the frightened and skeptical around me.

Only after we heard the explosions of the Grads did everyone understand that this war was also on our doorsteps.

When I returned home and calmed down my family, my wife complained to me that everyone else had an Emergency Handbook but the family of the director of AACI did not. Obviously, it was because I was focused on getting the handbooks mailed out to all the members of the AACI family, country-wide.

For those who are not members I encourage you to join. However, we have made a free on-line edition that you can find at the websites of the AACI or The Jerusalem Post.

New immigrants always ask when they will become real Israelis. My answer (as well as that of AACI) is that “aliyah never stops.” No matter when you made aliya or how long you have been here, we will always be olim (immigrants) even if we speak perfect Hebrew. I know that when dealing with major issues such as health, finances or, in this case, security I prefer my information in English.

Even when the issue is not life-threatening, many of us prefer their information in English.

For over 60 years AACI has been providing information in English. Information is power, and AACI works hard to provide the latest and most up-to-date information in every area – health, housing, schooling and higher education, employment, military service, finances, tax reporting requirements, voting in Israel and abroad. This material is gathered by AACI’s amazing professional aliyah, klitah and employment counselors, assisted by volunteer experts. We are proud that we offer our services in all of Israel’s major cities; Beersheba, Haifa, Netanya, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

You will find our branches filled with a small, dedicated and professional staff and thousands of wonderful volunteers.

Our volunteers are great and they are there to help no matter your gender, religious or political beliefs or where you live. We believe that the English-speaking community deserves an address to turn to. That place is AACI.

In times of national emergency or just everyday living, AACI is your home and provides that safety net when things don’t go right. I encourage all of you to join AACI and be part of our community.

Our hope and prayers are that you will only read AACI’s Emergency Handbook as anecdotal material and never have to put the recommendations into actual use. May the whole house of Israel return to a somewhat quieter existence, and may the next big lights we see be in our homes during Hanukka.


sample page:

Download the handbook at http://www.aaci.org.il/articlenav.php?id=394

Editor’s note:  Do you have an Israeli Army story — or other personal story of life in Israel — that you would like to share with us? We are always interested in stories that will inform, uplift and inspire our readers. Of course, we reserve the sole right to publish or not, and to edit before publishing. Please submit your story, preferably including (non-copyright) photos as well, to bjacobson@aaci.org.ilLooking forward to hearing from you!

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.

Rain: A Prize-Winning Poem

Mazal tov! Mazal tov!

AACI staffer Miriam Green, our counselor in the South Chapter (Beer Sheva),  just won a prize at JewishStoryWriting.com for her lovely poem, “Rain.” This is an evocative picture of an important aspect of life in Israel — our dependence on the  winter rains to supply us with water for the year.

We are pleased to share Miriam’s poem with you.


by Miriam Green

No, it doesn’t rain here
in the summer, I tell the tourist.
She is dazzled, expectant
on her first visit to the land,
her carefree American eyes
unconnected to God.
I want to explain how the year is split
between Succot and Passover;
how after a dry, hot season,
our prayers change in the autumn
supplicating He who makes the wind blow and the rains fall,
mashiv haruach u’morid hageshem;
how if it rains before then, it’s as if God, the master,
throws a glass of wine in the face of his servant;
how the land needs our prayers to survive;
how our toilets have two flush buttons
to minimize water use for small loads;
how, between lathering and rinsing,
we shiver under the shower with the water off;

shower like a soldier from http://www.eco-novice.com/2012/03/world-water-day-2012.html
photo courtesy Davey C while in Iraq

how the rain descends without warning,
drenching our hair, clothes, shoes;
how rare black irises bloom on the sand dunes near Netanya,
and flash floods form in the wadis;
how there are winter days where all you wear is a t-shirt;
how, sometimes, it snows in Jerusalem,
and if the eruv falls, they announce it on television;
how we dress in layers
because it’s colder inside the houses than out in the sun;
how, when it’s time, our prayers change
in the spring to morid hatal asking for dew.
NOTE: An eruv is a halachic boundary around homes and communities, often made of wires tied to poles, that allows carrying of items on the Jewish Sabbath.

Meet Beer Sheva’s veteran “green” activist

AACI Beer Sheva’s veteran “green” activist, Ethelea (a.k.a. Leah) Katzenell, tells about environmental action in the capital of the Negev:

When I arrived in Beer Sheva in 1972 on the day before my 22nd birthday, I was young, energetic and in love with the pristine desert surroundings. It was so different from the American commercialism, superficiality, soot and smog, and I decided to strike my roots in the desert soil of this small, newly forming academic town. By September, I’d rented a tiny ground-floor apartment in Shekhunah Aleph, which, at that time, had no paved sidewalks or streetlights and little greenery. However, the daily desert winds did blow around the trash carelessly discarded by inconsiderate people so that many undeveloped spots were littered like garbage dumps. So in the fall of 1972, I prepared a stock of large bags, a batch of colorful bow-tie ribbons on safety pins and a small gift package. I then called out all my neighbors to join me in a one-hour clean-up campaign – offering the one who picked up the most trash a prize. It was a fun event for adults and children which called their attention to the need to keep things clean. This may have been the first community clean-up campaign held in Israel!

By the late 1970s, as an active AACI Southern Branch Board member, I was one of a group of volunteers, along with Joan Avigur, Ahuvah Mitbah and others, who tried to get paper recycling started in Beer Sheva. We convinced the Israeli paper company to put out paper collection bins, but often they were set on fire—and finally the Fire department vetoed the public recycling of paper. Only secure bins remained in certain institutions, like at AACI and at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Library (where I work).

In the early 1980s, we placed recycling boxes for spent batteries in all the photo shops, post offices and, of course, in the B.G.U. Library – which are periodically collected by the postal service and taken out to Ramat Hovav for proper handling – to prevent their poisonous acid from seeping into and polluting the soil and the water supply.

Through AACI, we also lobbied to prevent smoking in public places and for the passage of the national law prohibiting this (finally passed in 1983). Remember that secondhand smoke is no less of a killer than smoking yourself! Again, we persevered and succeeded.

Having accomplished this, in the 1990s we moved on to coordinate an arrangement between the regional plastics company, “Aviv Plastics,” and the Beer Sheva Municipality, whereby the company set out collection bins all over the city for people to dispose of their used (non-refundable) plastic items. The company collected these bottles regularly at its own expense and recycled the plastic, transforming it into outdoor furniture like inexpensive park benches and electric poles (green, durable and waterproof) for use in public areas. This arrangement also helped the city fulfill its mandatory annual recycling quota. By law, all Israeli cities are obliged to recycle a certain percentage of municipal waste. In addition, if we do NOT bury all those voluminous bottles and containers in the local landfill, the landfill can accommodate our garbage for ten years more.

I’m among the founders of Earth’s Promise (at: http://earthspromise.org/), whose mission is: “To improve and safeguard the quality of Israel’s environment by creating replicable grassroots models of sustainable urban development.” We have created a large, successful community garden at the Kalisher Absorption Center, which now serves as a model for both urban agriculture and intergenerational community action. We have also established a citywide network of composters and offer ecological training courses.

By the year 2000, my pet project was finding practical/artistic uses for recycled pastel-colored plastic fruit/vegetable bags. I tried to convince the local colleges that teach art teachers and all the community centers that offer handicrafts classes to instigate special courses in “Recycling Art” or “The Art of Recycling,” which would include the creative reuse of clean plastic bags as raffia material, for the crocheting of colorful, flexible, durable, waterproof sunhats and handbags, or the forming of game balls, etc. Plastic bags are terrible for the environment, because all petroleum-based products give off toxic fumes when burned and aren’t biodegradable when buried.

As a longtime member of local, regional and national “green” organizations, ranging from “Amutat Beer Sheva Yeruka” and “Negev Bar-Kayama” to “Adam, Teva ve-Din” and “Greenpeace Israel,” I sit on the Municipal Environment Committee as a delegate for the citizenry. I have attended many meetings between the third sector and leaders of Israeli industry as part of a campaign to promote transparency, “responsible care,” environmental awareness and cooperation across the board – to achieve win-win scenarios for the economy and the environment.

In 2005, I instigated a project to identify environmental problems in all 15 residential neighborhoods in the city. I “drafted” and trained 50 volunteers, showing them what to look for in the public domain (e.g. rusty objects, exposed wiring, standing water, potholes in sidewalks & roads, etc.) and how to effectively report such things to the Municipality for repairs. I also asked them to share what they’d learned with others, especially their children.

Now Beer Sheva is among those few cities in Israel at the forefront of “green” action. The city has agreed to participate in a national trial – to separate liquid and solid wastes in the homes. The city is promoting the “green” education of the public and is currently implementing a special citywide program for the recycling of: plastic, paper, cardboard, batteries, used clothing, electronic parts, CDs — setting out dedicated bins in all the neighborhoods. My latest, personal project is to get glass recycling into the program as well. Wish me luck!

All in all, it’s lovely living in Beer Sheva, especially as the city becomes cleaner and more beautiful every day – eternal urban oasis.

“My Oasis in Beersheba”

by Ethelea Katzenell

To awaken to the lovely sound
Of birds in morning song,
To the touch of light,
Warm sun on my cheek.
To rise in tranquility
And gladly face the day.
The cool morning breeze
Blowing the past behind me.
My home, my private garden,
Sanctuary, safe haven, Eden.

AACI Aliyah Conversations – Ideas for Finding Employment or Starting a New Business

About AACI in Beer Sheva

Thanks to Miriam Green for providing material from a past meeting of Southern Chapter Olim in Beer Sheva.

Here are some resources and out-of-the-box ideas  to assist olim in starting new businesses and in networking to find employment.



AACI Employment Resource Centers

The Employment Resource Centers at AACI’s national office in Jerusalem and the Central Branch office in Tel Aviv enable job seekers to consult AACI’s library of resource information; use a computer, fax, phone and printer for the job search; and/or schedule a personal appointment with a vocational counselor for resume and job hunting advice. The center also maintains bulletin boards listing courses, job opportunities, announcements, etc.

AACI Employment Counselors

AACI Counselors utilize their resources to assist, network, and provide ongoing support during the job search process. Call our Tel Aviv office at 03-696-0389 for an appointment with Counselor Helen Har Tal; she has hours in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Vocational and guidance counseling regarding employment includes:

  • Developing and identifying appropriate contacts for networking and employment purposes
  • Confirming licensing requirements, exam dates, training courses, etc.
  • Offering individualized resume guidance
  • Researching and updating information sheets

AACI Business Mentoring Project

AACI is pleased to invite established professionals and business people to participate in a project of the Council of Olim Associations to mentor potential olim in their fields of business. For more info, click here.

AACI and the Koret Foundation (KIEDF)  — $70,000 Small Business Loan Program

AACI is pleased to be in partnership with the Koret Foundation’s Israel Economic Development Fund (KIEDF) and to have established a small business loan program for AACI’s members.

www.kiedf.org or http://kiedf.org/home/index.html (English)  and



Two widely used Internet sites in English for job hunting are http://www.jobs-israel.com/ and www.israemploy.net and www.jobnet.co.il  is in Hebrew.


The Israel Small and Medium Enterprises Authority (ISMEA) is engaged in establishing and supporting the operation of Small Business Development Centers (MATI Centers, from the  Hebrew acronym) in several Israeli cities. MATI Centers act as a one-stop-shop for the business owner or entrepreneur, by providing them a package of services for their own benefit and successful business performance. For more information, click here. Another site is www.asakim.org.il/.






Learning Hebrew is a necessity for all jobs that olim pursue. While we “sell” our English skills, we must also learn rudimentary Hebrew. To better our speaking skills, AACI has created an Information Sheet on websites and books that may offer additional assistance to olim in ulpan or those wishing to continue studying on their own. While the AACI Southern Branch does not run any ulpanim, we do have information on private Hebrew teachers and on other ulpan programs running in the city.
AACI Jerusalem (02)566-1181 has an on-site ulpan, Ulpan La-Inyan. (editor’s note: Ulpan La-Inyan also has classes in Tel-Aviv, Raanana, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Tzfat, and Efrat. click here to go to the website.


Whereas most new olim do not have families in Israel, there are other resources that can be used to make connections and find “protektzia.” For more than 60 years, AACI has been fostering connections with olim across the country. Let AACI become your “family!” Many of our more established members are eager to assist newcomers in similar fields of expertise.

  • Use your contacts in your country of origin to connect with other olim and Israelis in Israel;
  • Parlay your skills into other, perhaps parallel, employment options;
  • Network! Tell everyone you meet  — Anglo, Sabra or other — that you are looking for a job and what your skills are. Hand out a card that lists your skills. The most unlikely person might be the one who makes a connection for you;
  • Work U.S. hours in Israel (8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. Israel time) or work U.S. night hours;
  • Commute to Tel Aviv and other central points (fast trains are on their way between Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva);
  • Volunteer using your employable skills to assist you in learning Hebrew, filling your time with charity and mitzvot, and creating contacts among the city’s Israeli population;
  • Keep your spirits up by imagining your days as tiyulim (outings) to new places and opportunities;
  • Keep your spirits up by giving thanks on a daily basis for being in this wonderful, quirky, warm homeland of ours.


We are limited only by our imaginations. Olim have successfully found jobs throughout the country. There are olim in city government, in private businesses, non-profits, organizations supporting the development of the Negev or self-employed. There are professors and librarians, chemists and scientists, nurses, doctors, dentists, social workers, engineers, lawyers, teachers, translators, writers and even accountants.

In our conversations, we must foster and listen to the advice of other olim, both chadashim (new) and vatikim (veteran). We never know who may offer a suggestion that will be the key to our parnassah (livelihood) in Israel.