Retivut? Get Riduvit!

Olim from Western countries get very upset when they find their home in Israel is beset with retivut. Often they are ready to pay any price to a shiputznik who promises to get rid of it. Or if they are renting an apartment, they may do their darnedest to break their lease and move. Are such dramatic reactions necessary? Actually, the answer is a qualified “no.” Retivut is generally not an unsolvable problem. There are a number of ways to prevent and/or clear up this issue.

What is retivut?

Retivut is a Hebrew word that is related to the adjective ratuv, meaning wet. It is sometimes used to describe its evil cousin, mold, which is more correctly called ovesh. However, retivut refers to dampness in walls or ceilings, or beneath the floor tiles, of a property. Signs that it may be present include:

  • Surfaces that are damp to the touch
  • Watermarks or discolored paint
  • Cracked, peeling or bubbling paint and plaster
  • A musty or other unpleasant odor
  • Dripping water
  • Mold or mildewMold

Where does it come from?

Dampness may come from a variety of sources inside or outside your building, such as:

  • A leak from a neighbor’s plumbing or balcony (in this case, the neighbor is responsible for repair)
  • A broken pipe – even a pinhole crack can cause a mini flood when water is rushing through the pipe at high pressure
  • Improper sealing of, or cracks in, your exterior walls which admit rainwater
  • Faultily installed windows causing condensation in cold weather
  • Poor insulation and/or ventilation
  • Other structural problems, such as poorly built windowsills that slant downward toward the window

Leak(1)

Before you buy or rent a home

When you are considering an apartment or house to buy or rent, check carefully for signs of retivut or potential sources of damp, as just described. Do not be shy about inspecting in depth for this serious problem. Concealing retivut from a potential property buyer is illegal in Israel, so it is important to ask the owner explicitly whether there is a retivut problem even if you do not find any indications.

Engineer inspection

When you are planning to buy, you may want to consider having the property inspected by a professional engineer. He or she should use a special device to test for dampness, as well as checking for structural issues. Be aware, however, that there are potential problems with using an engineer.

There have been cases of suspected collusion between engineers and potential sellers, so be sure that you are present every minute if you go ahead with an inspection.

The fact of having had an engineer check the property will tend to work to your disadvantage if retivut is later found in the property and you wish to sue the seller in small claims court for your repair expenses.

Engineers often include in their inspection reports a clause absolving them of any responsibility for problems, whether reported or not.

Preventing moisture build-up

Once you are already living in a house or apartment, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent moisture build-up:

  1. Air out the rooms by opening the windows daily for at least 15 minutes if at all possible.
  2. Install electric vents in high humidity areas such as in bathrooms and over stovetops. You may also use an electric dehumidifier or inexpensive humidity absorption pellets*.
  3. Do not keep the inside of windows covered with furniture or heavy drapes.
  4. Close the trisim (blinds) during heavy rainfalls.
  5. Use humidifiers sparingly.
  6. Wipe condensation off window frame and surrounding areas with old towels.
  7. If you need to line dry laundry indoors, put it in an airy part of your apartment.

condensation

Dealing with mold

If you notice mold forming, photograph or make a sketch of where it appears in case you eventually need to consult a professional to deal with it. Infants and small children, elderly people and anyone suffering from a respiratory problem like allergy or asthma should stay away from the moldy room. Scrub off the mold as soon as possible – before it spreads – with a strong bleach solution. Make sure the area is well ventilated while you are working, and wear rubber gloves, old clothes and preferably a protective face mask. Air the room thoroughly afterwards.

Once the mold is gone, try to track down and eliminate/minimize the source of the problem.

Using a retivut specialist

If the mold returns, you may want to contact a professional in resolving retivut problems. Because such a specialist does not require licensing, choose carefully; ask friends or community e-bulletin boards for “tried and true” recommendations, and stay away from anyone who recommends himself.  If the dampness is coming from outside the building, the professional will probably not be able to proceed until after a few weeks of warm weather have allowed the area to dry out. (As an alternative, if you have determined that the problem stems from inadequate sealing of your home’s exterior walls, at this point you can apply sealant to the outer walls yourself.)

Make sure that your resource person treats the source of the problem and not just the symptoms. Have him sign a contract detailing the exact procedures, materials and deadlines involved, with a guarantee on the job of at least one year (preferably longer) so that you can see how the work holds up next winter.

Good luck! Here’s hoping you stay dry and warm this winter!

I found this at the grocery store and this image is taken from http://goo.gl/tz9J4t

I found this at the grocery store and this image is taken from http://goo.gl/tz9J4t

* The humidity absorption pellets (מילוי סופג לחות ומונע עובש) are found in the cleaning products section of large grocery stores. Sold in a small dark blue cardboard box,  the pellets can be purchased together with a plastic holder (about NIS 26) or in a refill pack (about NIS 12). I have used them successfully to absorb dampness in small enclosed spaces such as in bathrooms or under sinks.

The TOP 50 things that Beer Sheva residents like about Beer Sheva…

Recently seen in the AngloBeerSheba yahoo group and too good not to share!

Special thanks to Sonya Davidson for compiling and distributing the list and to everyone who contributed their opinions!

We asked the community: What are the top things you like about Beer Sheva? Here are some of their answers:

…so proud that AACI’s own Miriam Green made the list at number 6 and our AACI library made the list at number 16 as well.

The TOP 50 things that Beer Sheva residents like about Beer Sheva…

1.   A sense of community, the best community in the country.

2.   Friendly, helpful people

3.   Terrific, closely- knit, supportive Anglo community

4.   The free mixing of people from all shades of Jewish observance

5.   Less expensive housing.

6.   Miriam Green at the AACI

7.    Ben-Gurion University and other excellent colleges.

8.   Extension courses at BGU

9.   Soroka Hospital

10.  The brand new Carasso Science Park situated the beautiful refurbished Ottoman era school for Bedouin children

11.  Art Galleries around town

12.  Our Municipal Zoological Garden

13.  The Air Force Museum – five minutes from Beer Sheva!

14.  The soon-to-opened Abraham’s Well

15.  The Turkish Railway Station with: a one-of-a-kind original # 70414 Engine, Tender, and 2 carriages!

16.  The AACI Library

17.  The Beer Sheva Sinfonietta

18.  The Light Opera Group of the Negev, where there is a place for you on stage.

19.  The Performing Arts Hall (משכן לאומנויות הבמה).

20.  The Cultural Hall (היכל התרבות).

21.  The Youth Center (מרכז הצעירים).

22.  The L&L Goodman Theatre and Acting School of the Negev

23.  World renowned dance companies including a Batsheva School and the Kamea Dance Company

24.  The Beer Sheva Chess club; home to more chess masters per capita than any other chess club in the world, and one of the best chess clubs for children anywhere.

25.  Society for the Preservation of Nature activities for kids

26.  Art Center for kids

27.  Almost no traffic jams

28.  Excellent transportation facilities both within the city and intercity – both buses and trains)

29.  Almost never have trouble finding a place to park

30.  Great weather!

31.   Seeing camels, sheep and goats on the way to work. Especially little baby camels, in the spring.

32.   Beautiful water fountains everywhere, sprouting like mushrooms

33.   Drier Air than in the Center, less humidity

34.   Close to dramatic desert scenery

35.   A growing Metropolitan area

36.   All government services available

37.   Numerous well-tended, green parks.

38.   The Fountain Park, where children can play and run in the water.

39.   Great shopping: BIG, One Plaza, 7 Avenue, the new Grand Canyon, mom and pop places, and strip malls.

40.   Wonderful Vegetable Market

41.   Beer Sheva is just the right size. Big enough to have theatres and shopping malls and sports facilities, but small enough to be able to get across town easily.

42.   Beer Sheva provides all of the services of a large metropolitan city, but the people haven’t lost their small town attitude.  You can still know all your neighbors, and if your kids act up, someone is going to tell you 🙂

43.  Less frantic and crowded than Tel Aviv or Jerusalem

44.  Everything is accessible; all shopping needs, all medical needs, and all educational needs all within a maximum of 30 minutes

45.  Our Mayor works diligently to make sure that Beer Sheva’s 30 year goals will be reached.  Yes, there is a 30-year plan for the city (even the National Government doesn’t have that…)

46.  Some of the best shawarma in Israel

47.  Good Rail and Bus connections to Ben-Gurion Airport (including all night), Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

48.   Beer Sheva is expected to be the next Silicon Valley for Israel, with many hi-tech companies migrating South.

49.   Our unique archaeological dig under the newly renovated Central Bus Station

50.   Maafiyat Reshonim bakery – a Beer Sheva based bakery that gives any other Israeli bakery – including Ne’eman and Angel – a run for their money!

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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

click here for map

tel: 08-643-3953 mgreen@aaci.org.il

Subscribe to the AACI Beer Sheva newsletter

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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.

Getting to Know Us … An Interview with David London

David London at opening of AACI-Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center – March 2010

by Irv Cantor, Volunteer

What is management all about? Lorne Michaels, the producer of Saturday Night Live, summarized it well when he said, “The show does not go on because it’s ready. The show goes on because it’s 11:30.” Management makes sure commitments are met, expectations fulfilled. For David London, the commitment is not just on a brochure, it is in his heart. The following is a summary of an interview with David, in his office on November 25, 2013.

David, thank you for agreeing to this interview and for letting us give our blog readers a chance to get better acquainted with you.

For starters, how did you come to AACI? What were you doing beforehand?

I made aliyah with my family in 1991. Before then, I was the director for Young Judea in the southeastern United States. In those days, there was no such thing as having a job in Israel before you made aliyah, and people didn’t commute for work overseas while in Israel. My aliyah shaliach said you take the first job you can take, because they don’t really think you are here until you have a job. We moved to a merkaz klitah (absorption center), and in those days, there were barely pay phones, cell phones, and certainly no email.

Was aliyah something you and your wife had been thinking about for a while?

My wife and I had each spent our freshman year of college in Israel on separate programs. We did not know each other then, but we both loved Israel and wanted to come back.

When we eventually made aliyah, I went to ulpan, and my class was made up of all Ethiopians and me. So if I missed class, it was kind of obvious. I needed a job, a simple eight-to-four type of job. I saw a job advertised for AACI, the lowest level job, a kind of “gofer”. They liked my background and they hired me. I found a wonderful home at AACI, but to be honest, I could not afford to work there. I was offered a job at USY (United Synagogue Youth) to work for just six weeks in the summer. The pay was excellent and included a free plane ticket to America. So I approached AACI about leaving, and they proposed finding a replacement for the six week absence, but continuing at AACI for the rest of the time. And we were able to work that out. For the next two years I was given different coordinator roles. I used to joke that every time I wanted to leave they would promote me.

After some time, I became the National Program Coordinator. When AACI eliminated that position, I became the AACI Director in Haifa. Although we had a number of wonderful friends there, it was too city-ish for us and our kids. And that feeling also made us think about my leaving AACI. We moved to Beit Shemesh. When the Director positions in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem opened up, I decided to take the Tel Aviv position and was there for a number of years. Subsequently, I took on a co-administrator position for the entire organization in the National Office in Jerusalem.

In 1999, the Israeli economy was not doing well, and AACI was informed of a large cut in funding from the Jewish Agency. The high tech sector was doing well; I was offered a position at Intel, and I took it. They were specifically looking for people with no technical background. The idea was to bring in new thinking, to break out of the merubah (square) thinking typical of engineers. There were 14 of us, and we went through a six-month university-type training before being put in administrative positions. As good as the position and compensation were, I quickly realized it was not for me. I am a Zionist in my blood, in my DNA. I like helping the Jewish world. I was unhappy, but stayed there because of the poor economy, and I did some volunteering at AACI. Until one day in 2001, when I got a call from AACI about the Director position in Jerusalem. They thought I would not be interested, but I was very interested. I later became the Executive Director.

Let’s turn to something more current and more specific. Can you describe what a typical day is like for you?

A typical day for me usually starts in the office at 7:30. I boot up my computer and try to take advantage of that quiet time to plow through my email.

You know, in a global volunteer organization, you don’t work from eight to four. If you’re up at two in the morning, you will very likely find someone else immediately responding to your email or sending you messages.

My schedule is often filled with meetings, but I need to find time to do other work as well. Often meetings start the discussion about an issue, but it is the follow up work that resolves the matter. Most staff arrives around eight. Around 8:30 our front desk volunteers come in. They are lovely people, some of whom have been with us for over ten years. I always like to go out and say hello to the front desk volunteers.

A normal day ends around six.

Do you travel much? 

Executive Director of AACI

Executive Director of AACI

There are two levels – I try to visit the main branches at Netanya, Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv, but I would like to spend more time there. We can do much on the phone or by email, but it doesn’t replace being there.

I travel on some of the AACI tours. We are very proud of the AACI Kosher & Fun Travel program that we have developed. The program serves as a gateway to acquiring new members. Very often people come on the trip knowing little about AACI, but they make friends, have a great time, and learn about us on the trip and end up using our counseling services and enjoying our other programs after the trip.

I think there’s a different mentality when you are an Israeli or when Israel is in the center of your heart which people often say to me. Very often English speakers from the US, Britain Australia etc. join an AACI trip and see the power of this kind of mindset, that we’re all very proud about being Jewish and Israeli. That it is in our DNA; that it is not just going on a trip, it is going on a Zionistic trip. We don’t go around waving an Israeli flag, but we are proud of who we are, we have made a decision. And it is also wonderful because we are a heterogeneous group with various levels of religious observance. What ties us together is that we want to have a carefree travel experience with English-speakers as leaders, companions, and tour guides.

More generally, AACI is an excellent meeting ground for the religious and the secular and everything in between to come together. And I like that. Focusing on what we have in common is amazing. In Israel, where so much is categorized and separated, our goal is to bring people together and to look at a person as a human being.

What skill sets do you have that you value the most for your effectiveness in your job?

I strive to make meaningful connections with people. In my job, I have to talk to different people about different ongoing issues, I have to plan programs and sometimes accompany them. I think the modern world requires multi-tasking and this is one of my strengths.

Was there a specific event or experience over the last few months that was especially rewarding?

I’ve held many positions at AACI, but the one position I never held, and the one I really wanted to have, was to be an Aliyah and Klitah counselor. To have the opportunity to help someone who is going through a difficult period; that is what it is all about. Everything we are doing to help with klitah (absorption) and help olim feel at home is well and good, but to help with a specific problem “hands-on” is truly rewarding and something I do not get to do too often. Every now and then I get to help an individual, and when that happens, I cannot tell you how good I feel.

Is there any part of the job you would describe as fun?

It’s fun for me when I see projects or events come together successfully. When I participate on a trip, when the trip ends and people had a good time, then I can look back on the trip as having been fun. During the trip, before the event, the work is very hard. But when we achieve the success, then all the work transforms to having been fun.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The toughest part is the financial end. We are blessed to have access to an amazing amount of ingenuity, talent and hard work both from our staff and our fabulous volunteers. But ultimately, it takes money to keep the doors open and to continue to meet the needs of our members. It is always hard to ask for donations, but that is something we must continue to do, every day.

It is a very difficult financial world; it is hard to get donations. I am not always good at it, and it is a challenge to ask for personal donations, solicitations, trying to figure out what will inspire a person to involve themselves with AACI and open their wallet so that our programs continue to serve everyone because we care about everyone. We don’t run campaigns for specific causes or groups, which sometimes seem more attractive to sponsors. Our goals and programs are important to thousands of English speakers every day, and we have to deliver a strong message that will compel people to act.

Can you describe the mission of AACI, in just a few words?

AACI represents the interests of English-speakers in Israel, with a tremendous responsibility of representing our entire community, and being many things to many people. We are part of this great mission of bringing all Jews home to Israel. And we know that aliyah never stops! It’s not just about making aliyah; it is about making Israel our home! And that requires the ongoing support and friendship that AACI is famous for providing. It is crucial to help olim during those initial weeks, months and years, and yet still be here when circumstances change. Help, information and friendship can still be needed years later.

You said before that funding is one of your biggest challenges. How is AACI funded?

At one time we used to receive a million dollars from the Jewish Agency. Now we receive nothing from the Agency. We have a budget of about $1.2 or $1.3 million. We are not a large non-profit. We receive about ten percent of our income from donations. We receive about 50 percent from all of our programs, including our travel program. The rest comes from advertising and some special programs.

Let’s turn 180 degrees and get personal. What are your hobbies?

London family photo

I’ve always loved cars. I own only one car now, but I used to do some repairs on cars and love reading about them. It’s a tough topic for living in Israel – I have not owned a new car since making aliyah.

To be honest, I don’t have time to invest in a serious hobby. I have four children, the oldest was recently married. The oldest is 23 and the youngest 14. My involvement with my family is non-stop. What I really need to do is join a gym.

Let’s consider the path you did not take. If you could go back to school now, what would you study?

My wife says I am a frustrated social worker. I love boxing, and when I was young I did some amateur boxing. But I was too slow to go far with that. And I do not have a good voice, so being a rock and roll star was not a possibility (laughing).

I would like to turn from the past and look to the future. What broad goals do you have for AACI? What is your vision, five years from now, ten years?

We provide service to the English-speaking community, and I think we can be much more. The medical area is a whole area that we can address. I am very proud of taking on the Shira Pransky Project whose purpose is to provide information, at this stage; to translate all materials related to medical services. We have the potential to do much more than medical services, but we are focusing on that first because, we would all agree, people should not misunderstand their rights in such a critical area. The project is going to translate all information currently in Hebrew. Our community often does not know its rights. Even Israelis, who know Hebrew fluently, often do not know their rights and benefits. So a web site has been developed called Kol zchut (Rights) that has that information, all in one place.

I would like to return to the issue of a very divided Israel. Unfortunately, it even penetrates into chesed organizations that do not want to help people who are not like the people in the organization. By having a platform at AACI that services everyone, it enables people to come together. When I was working with Young Judea in the United States, we always talked about the idea of doogma eesheet (personal example). We wanted to set the example of people pushing together toward a common goal.

Let me give you an amazing example. AACI had a trip to Russia around the time when the changes in that country were coming to a close. There was no Chabad or kosher food in those days. People could bring their own food, eat the provided food or eat vegetarian. I was Director of the Jerusalem branch at the time that several of these trips took place. The Board received a complaint from a group of members threatening to resign because AACI was sponsoring non-kosher trips. The Board took a vote that demonstrated the compassion and empathy that we had for each other. All non-Orthodox Board members voted to cancel the trip. All Orthodox Board members voted to have the trip. I was sitting there in amazement. I was so impressed with the mutual respect shown and the ability to think and feel outside the usual boxed-in categories.

Glassman center frontage 270 tallLast question: What do you want your AACI legacy to be?

When I leave I want to be remembered for making AACI an interesting place and a welcoming place that accepts everyone. I will be proud of having brought us back from a financial crisis to a position of greater strength. Finally, the move from our old Jerusalem facility to our new one here, filled with bustling activity, has been a significant improvement. All of these things were done with the assistance of remarkable workers and volunteers. They turned visions into realities, and I am confident we will continue on this path in the future.

David, thank you for your time and for sharing so much with the AACI membership and all of our readers.

AACI is the home for English Speakers in Israel with offices in

Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel AvivBeer 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
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.

Exotic Jewish Communities – Part 3 – Indian Jewish Communities

Thanks once again to Jack Cohen for his summary of this interesting lecture, part 3 of a series taking place in Netanya. Thanks also to Gabriella Licsko, our guest lecturer, who was kind enough to review Jack’s summary (and the previous ones) and approve it.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 1.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2.

Thanks to guest poster, Jack Cohen from the Netanya branch of AACI. This is from his blog, Isblog.

This lecture series with Gabriella Licsko continues in Netanya with Exotic Jewry:  Communities and Lost Tribes on Dec 8.

Call 09-8330950 or visit http://www.netanyaaaci.org.il/PDF_files/Lecture%20Series%20-Exotic%20Jewry%202013.pdf

Scroll down for information and details about upcoming lecture series in November, “Let’s Surf on the Map!” and in December, “Jerusalem of Gold, Jerusalem of Colors” at the AACI – Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center in Jerusalem.

Indian Jewish communities

In the third of her series on “Exotic Jewish communities,” Gabriella Licsko spoke about the Indian Jewish communities, namely the Cochin Jews, the Bnei Israel, the Baghdadi Jews and the Bnei Menashe. Note that all of these groups are quite distinct and have separate histories and origins. Except for the Bnei Menashe, they all shared the characteristics of being very Indian, but also being pro-British, and distinctly middle class.

The Cochin Jews are the oldest group, their origins are supposed to go back to the Temple period about 2,500 years ago. They probably came from the Arabian peninsula to trade, since the area of Cochin is on the west coast of the State of Kerala in south west India. There was never any anti-Semitism in India and yet the number of Cochin Jews has always remained small. An early King gave them a copper scroll that is one of the oldest existing that guarantees them permanent safety in Cochin. There were three distinct groups of Cochin Jews, the earliest were dark skinned and were called the “Black Jews.” The second group came later, after the expulsion from Spain via Persia, and were called the “Paradesi” or “White Jews” and the third group was called the “Mechshurarim” or “freed” because they were originally slaves of the Paradesi and many of them converted to Judaism. These three groups were not allowed to inter-marry with each other.

Because of their connections first to the Dutch and then to the British, the Cochin Jews felt that they would lose their economic and political status when India became independent and most of them (ca. 5,000) moved to Israel in the 1950s. Although the Cochin Jews were recognised as Jews by the Rabbinate (except for the Mechshurarim who had to re-convert), they still had a hard time immigrating to Israel. Some of them suffered from the disease of elephantiasis, and it took a while before the health authorities in Israel would agree that it was not contagious and would let them immigrate. Also, over time many of them had apparently converted to a form of early Christianity known as St. Thomas Christianity that was perhaps influenced by their Judaism. Many of the Cochin Jews moved together to moshav Nevatim in the Negev and you can still see their small museum and authentic synagogue (as well as the original one in the Israel museum) and you can have a good Indian meal there. Another Cochin settlement close to Beit Shemesh is called Mesilat Zion.

The Bnei Israel are a group of Jews who largely lived in and around Bombay (today’s Mumbai). They were a larger group, consisting of tens of thousands, all of whom were supposed to be descended from 7 Jewish couples who were shipwrecked 2100 years ago. Since they lost all their books, they gradually lost many Jewish customs and became less observant, although they continued to observe kashruth, say the “shema Israel,” perform brit milah and kept Shabbat. They were called “the Saturday oil pressers” by the local population. They became very Indian in their dress, the women wore saris, and they spoke the local language, Marathi. But, they were trusted by the British and many of them were drafted into the Indian Army and became officers and there was even a Jewish Mayor of Bombay named Nissim. They were quite westernized and many were Zionistic and when India became independent the same year as Israel, 1948, many left for Israel, although some went to Britain where life was easier for them. Most of the Rabbinut accepted them as Jews, but there was a problem of some extreme Orthodox Rabbis not accepting them, because they were concerned about possible inter-marriage in the past, but the whole problem was settled in 1964. They live mainly in the south, Dimona, Yeroham, and it is quite common to see women dressed in saris walking around in those towns, although the younger women now only wear these clothes on special occasions.

The Baghdadi Jews didn’t only come from Baghdad, but more generally they were a class of merchant Jews from Iraq, Syria, Aden and Persia, who moved to India for trade starting in 1730. Some of them were very wealthy and became more so in India. Their center was Bombay and the most famous family were the Sasoons, known as the Rothschilds of the East (Vidal was not a member of this family, but Siegfried was). These wealthy Jews supported the synagogues and schools of the community and ran a welfare system, so no Jew went hungry. They spread as far as Hong Kong and Shanghai, but preferred to be considered British, and many of them moved to Britain. Some Baghdadi Jews who went to Israel were treated like the rest of the poor Sephardim, since the Ashkenazi Jews who ran the Israeli system were ignorant of their background, education and standing.

The Bnei Menashe are a very distinct group who live in the tribal areas of NW India in Manipur and Mizoram. They claim to be descended from the tribe of Menashe, one of the lost tribes, which some believe but others doubt. They speak Mizo, a Tibetan-Burmese language and about 100 years ago were probably animist headhunters. They were converted to Christianity, and probably because of a tribal longing to return to their original homeland, the story of the Jews had a special resonance for them. In the 1920-30s they became more fervent and some of their rituals were thought to resemble those of the Jews. In 1951 their spiritual leader had a dream after which he decided that they were really Jews and from then they started to follow Judaism. In the 1980s an Israeli Rabbi named Avihail discovered them and thought they were one of the lost tribes and brought their case to Israel. In the 1990s with the help of Michael Freund of Shavei Israel they began to convert and finally were accepted to come to Israel. There are now several hundred of them mostly in Kiryat Arba who are very committed Jews, and about 8,000 remaining in India waiting for their aliyah. But, because India frowns upon their conversion in India some have had to go to Nepal to be converted. They do bring new meaning to the phrase “a rainbow nation” applied to Israel.

Gabriella Licsko is a lecturer on Jewish history and society focusing on different religious communities.  She leads tours of different neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and across the country, and is one of  AACI’s Scholar in Residence for our travel program.  Gabriella holds a bachelor’s degree in Culture Studies and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies and made aliyah from Hungary in 2007.

Gabriella Licsko is a lecturer on Jewish history and society focusing on different religious communities. She leads tours of different neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and across the country, and is one of AACI’s Scholar in Residence for our travel program. Gabriella holds a bachelor’s degree in Culture Studies and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies and made aliyah from Hungary in 2007.

UPCOMING LECTURE SERIES WITH SCHOLAR GABRIELLA LICSKO IN DECEMBER

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December:  “Jerusalem of Gold, Jerusalem of Colors”

Get to know more about the capital of the State of Israel.  Learn about the neighborhoods, both old and new, their history and society, the culture and population of different areas, the famous residents, institutions, schools and synagogues, social and demographical changes, real estate prices and new projects in town.

When: 

Wednesday, December 4th at 14:00

The OldCity, Yemin Moshe-Miskenot Sheananim, Musrara, Kfar David.

 Wednesday, December 11th at 14:00

Meah Shearim: Learn how a relatively modern religious neighborhood established by Polish and Lithuanian Jews in 1874, turned to be the symbol of extreme ultra-orthodoxy and anti-Zionism.

Wednesday, December 18th at 14:00

The most popular areas and neighborhoods in the city and the “Anglo colonies”

Wednesday, December 25th at 14:00

Lesser known and less central neighborhoods, their population changes and potentials, and Jerusalem real estate in the past and now.

Cost of series:  170 NIS / AACI members 150 NIS (Individual lectures 50 NIS each) Pre-registration with payment required.

 Gabriella Licsko is a lecturer on Jewish history and society focusing on different religious communities.  She leads tours of different neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and across the country, and is one of  AACI’s Scholar in Residence for our travel program.  Gabriella holds a bachelor’s degree in Culture Studies and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies and made aliyah from Hungary in 2007.

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
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.

 

Exotic Jewish Communities – Part 2 – Ethiopian Jews

Thanks once again to Jack Cohen for his summary of this interesting lecture, part 2 of a series taking place in Netanya. Thanks also to Gabriella Licsko, our guest lecturer, who was kind enough to review Jack’s summary (and the previous one) and approve it.

Click here for part 1.

Thanks to guest poster, Jack Cohen from the Netanya branch of AACI. This is from his blog, Isblog.

This lecture series with Gabriella Licsko continues in Netanya with Exotic Jewry:  Communities and Lost Tribes on Nov 3, Nov 17 and Dec 8.

Call 09-8330950 or visit http://www.netanyaaaci.org.il/PDF_files/Lecture%20Series%20-Exotic%20Jewry%202013.pdf

Scroll down for information and details about upcoming lecture series in November, “Let’s Surf on the Map!” and in December, “Jerusalem of Gold, Jerusalem of Colors” at the AACI – Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center in Jerusalem.

For her second lecture in the series on Exotic Jewish Communities, Gabrella Licsko spoke about the Ethiopian Jewish community.  There are about 120,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel and the largest concentration of them is in Netanya.  It is common to see them in our streets and working around the city.  But, the Ethiopian community has had a hard time adapting to Israel, perhaps more than most immigrant communities.

The origin of the Ethiopian Jews is shrouded in mystery.  The popular theory is that they are descended from the liaison between Kind David and the Queen of Sheba.  Sheba was not in Ethiopia itself but across the Red Sea in Yemen.  In biblical times and later it was a very verdant area often ruled by Queens.  The son of the Queen of Sheba was Menelek who is considered to be the founder of the royal line of Ethiopia descended from King David.  Much later they converted to Christianity.  Another theory is that the Ethiopian Jews are descended from the tribe of Dan.

Around the 15th century there is eyewitness testimony of a Jewish Kingdom in Ethiopia, and for several hundred years it was ruled by a Jewish dynasty.  But, wars between the Jewish and Christian kingdoms resulted in great destruction and finally the Christians won and reduced the Jews to penury.  Jews were only allowed to be farmers and petty artisans, they were driven out of the main cities and those who survived ended up in Gondar province in the north east and some in Tigre province.  They spoke Amharic, which is a southern semitic language, but their sacred texts were written in a special language called Geez, that only the priests (Kesim) could read.

Because of their remoteness and isolation from other Jewish communities, the Ethiopian Jews never developed Rabbinic Judaism, had no access to Ashkenazi and Sephardi texts and never celebrated Hanukkah, a later festival.  They do however celebrate a unique festival of Sigd, 50 days after Yom Kippur, when they pray as a community to be returned to Israel.  This day is now a holiday for them celebrated in Israel.

During the 18-19th century things became worse for the remaining Jews who were named Falasha, a derogatory term.  Many were forcibly converted to Christianity, forming a group called Falash Mura, or “impure people.”  The relationship between the Jews and the Falash Mura is complex, some Jews regarding them as brothers, and others looking down on them as traitors.

By the 19th century their numbers had declined drastically because of a general famine in Ethiopia and attempts were made to help them.  In the 1920s Rav Kook, Chief Rabbi of Palestine, wanted to arrange their aliyah, but unfortunately it did not happen then.  Later several individuals, mostly the educated children of senior Kesim, managed to reach Palestine and then Israel.  But, the very poor majority continued subsistence farming in Gondar through civil wars and political strife under Haile Selassi and the Marxist dictator Mengistu, both of whom would not allow them to leave.  In 1974 Rav Ovadia Yosef, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, agreed to accept them as Jews and this helped their aliyah, even though many Haredi Rabbis refused to accept them as Jews and still do.  In the 1980s many of them trekked across the desert to Sudan, although thousands died on the way.   In 1984 they were spirited out of Sudan secretly to Israel in operations Moses and King Solomon by El Al and with the help of the US.  But, eventually this route was closed and it only became possible for the rest to leave once the regime changed and wanted greater contact with the US.

Due to controversy about whether or not they are truly Jews there were bureaucratic hold-ups in their transfer to Israel and their acceptance under the “law of return.”  Finally most senior rabbis accepted them as Jews, allowing the Ministry of the Interior to recognize them.  The Falash Mura immigrated more recently and were also accepted, but they are required to convert.

Since they came from almost a stone-age background, they had no idea what things such as planes, toilets, elevators and TVs were.  Not only was it difficult for them to adapt to modern life in Israel, but they had to learn Hebrew and often how to read and write.  Also, since the men had been farmers there was not much they could do in Israel and often the wives, who were younger and more adaptable, became the bread winners, thus undermining their traditional family structure.   But, we should point out that this year’s Miss Israel is an Ethiopian girl from Netanya named Titi and there are now Ethiopian MKs and even one Ambassador.  The Ethiopian Jews are still adapting to Israel, and prejudice against them is gradually fading and in several generations it will probably be difficult to remember how hard it was for them to be absorbed here.

Gabriella Licsko is a lecturer on Jewish history and society focusing on different religious communities.  She leads tours of different neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and across the country, and is one of  AACI’s Scholar in Residence for our travel program.  Gabriella holds a bachelor’s degree in Culture Studies and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies and made aliyah from Hungary in 2007.

Gabriella Licsko is a lecturer on Jewish history and society focusing on different religious communities. She leads tours of different neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and across the country, and is one of AACI’s Scholar in Residence for our travel program. Gabriella holds a bachelor’s degree in Culture Studies and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies and made aliyah from Hungary in 2007.

UPCOMING LECTURE SERIES WITH SCHOLAR GABRIELLA LICSKO IN NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER

November:  Let’s Surf on the Map!

Join us for a new series about the Land of Israel, about the geography and society:  get to know the amazing geographic, social and cultural diversity of this Land, explore holy cities and the secular ones

 When:

Wednesday, November 6th at 14:00

The four holy cities: Hebron, Jerusalem, Tzfat and Tveria; past, present and future.

Wednesday, November 13th at 14:00

”If you want to be a mayor, go and build for yourself a city” Meir Dizengoff. Tel-Aviv and the center of Israel

Wednesday, November 20th at 14:00

“The South and the North will rise again! But how and when?”

Wednesday, November 27th at 15:30

Yehuda and Shomron and a crash course on Kibbutzim, Moshavim, Yishuvim, development towns and planned cities.

Cost of series:  170 NIS / AACI members 150 NIS (Individual lectures 50 NIS each) Pre-registration with payment required.

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December:  “Jerusalem of Gold, Jerusalem of Colors”

Get to know more about the capital of the State of Israel.  Learn about the neighborhoods, both old and new, their history and society, the culture and population of different areas, the famous residents, institutions, schools and synagogues, social and demographical changes, real estate prices and new projects in town.

When: 

Wednesday, December 4th at 14:00

The OldCity, Yemin Moshe-Miskenot Sheananim, Musrara, Kfar David.

 Wednesday, December 11th at 14:00

Meah Shearim: Learn how a relatively modern religious neighborhood established by Polish and Lithuanian Jews in 1874, turned to be the symbol of extreme ultra-orthodoxy and anti-Zionism.

Wednesday, December 18th at 14:00

The most popular areas and neighborhoods in the city and the “Anglo colonies”

Wednesday, December 25th at 14:00

Lesser known and less central neighborhoods, their population changes and potentials, and Jerusalem real estate in the past and now.

Cost of series:  170 NIS / AACI members 150 NIS (Individual lectures 50 NIS each) Pre-registration with payment required.

 Gabriella Licsko is a lecturer on Jewish history and society focusing on different religious communities.  She leads tours of different neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and across the country, and is one of  AACI’s Scholar in Residence for our travel program.  Gabriella holds a bachelor’s degree in Culture Studies and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies and made aliyah from Hungary in 2007.

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
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.

Live from Jerusalem! It’s Avraham Avinu!

So by now, if you are a member of AACI, you have received a letter in the mail. And if you receive our free enewsletter, or if you are like us on facebook, or follow us on twitter, then you may know that Avraham Avinu was recently sighted in our Jerusalem office in Talpiot.

Here are some highlights of his visit.

Please like and share the video. And of course, you can donate by clicking here.

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
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!