Friday, April 15, 2011

Passover, 4th Cup: To Coming Home, and Those Who Cannot

We raise this cup to a Jerusalem truly rebuilt, a Jerusalem truly shared, a Jerusalem of gates opened, of hearts mended, of exile ended.

We raise this cup to coming home, and to those who cannot.

We raise this cup to the freedom that comes of true shelter, a shelter where we share warmth and safety, ordeals and laughter, memory and hopes. The one place in this world where we are allowed to be, in every sense, ourselves.

We were homeless in Egypt. All of us. Even if every one of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us elders and deeply versed in knowledge of Torah, we would still need to feel something of what it is to be without a home, unable to return.

We raise this cup to coming home. We lift this cup to Gilad Shalit, and to all of those forbidden from their loved ones, imprisoned beyond our sight, beyond our imagination, in dark and bitter and unending exile.
We raise this cup to the home of the Lord and of all peoples, which is Jerusalem, this enlarged, three-dimensional view of the human heart, built of walls but also of gates.

We raise this cup to the opening of gates.
On this night we are commanded to share our home. On this night we are commanded to share. On this night we learn, as we once did as children, that sharing entails work and sacrifice and risk and compromise.

We learn, as we once did as children, that in sharing our home, no one gets everything, but everyone, every one, gets more than they had before.

We raise this cup to a Jerusalem truly rebuilt, a Jerusalem truly shared, a Jerusalem of gates opened, of hearts mended, of exile ended. We lift this cup to a Jerusalem which is for every one of us, a shared and therefore, at long last, a true home. -- Bradley Burston, Haaretz

Escaping the Box: 18 Minutes to Passover Freedom--Matzah Homemade


With just flour, water and a homemade "forkler," freedom
from commercial prepared matzah is attainable. (Edmon J. Rodman)
In every generation, the Haggadah tells us, the wise, the simple, the non-askers and even the baddies are obligated to see themselves as though they themselves actually had come out from Egypt. Unfortunately, the closest many of us come to this ideal is a stroll through the Passover aisle of our neighborhood supermarket.

Why does Passover have to come in a neatly packaged box with easy bake instructions?

This Passover, to heat up and personalize my leaving from Egypt, I decided to forego the usual rectangular shrink wrapped packages of the holiday’s mainstay, matzah. If our ancestors could prepare for their journey in one night by baking an unleavened quick bread, so could I. --  Edmon J. Rodman, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

The Kibbutz Turns 100




Israel's trailblazing kibbutzim continue to model democracy and mutual responsibility after 100 years of social experimentation. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel 21c

Click here to read the article.

First-ever Translation of Yiddish Cookbook Yields Old World Treasures, New World Advice

Bracha Beverly Weingrod, who translated
The Yiddish Family Cookbook, says the 1914 book is
"actually a very practical guide for today's young people."
(Aaron Weingrod)
When a rare volume of a 1914 cookbook written in Yiddish for American Jewish housewives came into the hands of Bracha Weingrod, the once popular but forgotten book began its long journey from dusty oblivion to celebrated translation.

The thick, worn copy of “Dos Familien Kokh-Bookh,” now newly translated by Weingrod as “The Yiddish Family Cookbook,” appears to be the only Yiddish cookbook now on the market. -- Dina Kraft, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Defense Department's Anti-Semitism Envoy

Hannah Rosenthal, center, during an international
Centropa teachers’ seminar at Terezin,
listening to Holocaust survivor Pavel Stransky, left.
Edward Serotta/Centropa

Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s anti-Semitism envoy, must defend Israel from delegitimization while confronting a growing wave of anti-Jewish rhetoric among European elites. -- Mark Tracy, Tablet

To read the article, click here.

Israel to Get Earthquake Alerts by Phone

Israelis are to get earthquake and tsunami alerts by mobile phone, television, radio, sirens, pagers, and even their desktop computers courtesy of eVigilo, an Israeli company that has developed an emergency alert platform, IADC (Integrated Alert Distribution Center).

eVigilo developed the IADC, which is operated by the Israeli Home Front Command, to give Israelis advance warning of missile and rocket attacks, but in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister, decided to include earthquake warnings, which are to be sent to the population seconds before an earthquake occurs.

Israel is located on the Syrian-African rift, and destructive earthquakes have been common throughout the country's history. Seismologists are worried that the region could be hit at any time by an extremely strong and devastating quake. Israel has advanced technologies already in place allowing for the early detection of earthquakes. -- Israel 21c

[ Editor's note:   an earthquake shook Israel Friday, April 1. Quake's epicenter was apparently near Crete, and tremors were felt in Cairo. No initial reports of injuries followed quake.]

To read the complete article, click here.

Israel Signs Agreements of Cooperation with the WHO and UNAIDS


Israel Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar
and Dr Paul De Lay, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme
sign UNAIDS agreement
(Photo: UNAIDS)

Wednesday, 13 April 2011, for the first time, Israel signed an Agreement of Cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO). The agreement represents an enhancement of Israel’s relationship with the organization and is one of the measures of the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s initiative to participate in the challenges facing global development, especially in the developing countries of Africa and other global regions.

Within the framework of the agreement, several joint teams from Israel’s health authorities, Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) and relevant departments of the WHO will be established. The teams will be active in the following fields: emergency medicine, water and sanitation, mother and child health and food safety.

Israel also signed on Wednesday a cooperation agreement with UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. Established in 1994 by a resolution of the UN Economic and Social Council and launched in January 1996, UNAIDS is involved in various aspects of HIV/AIDS - including awareness and infection prevention, medication, elimination of prejudice and international social assistance. Prior to this agreement, in cooperation with UNAIDS, MASHAV organized training courses on various aspects of the issue for public health and welfare representatives  from developing countries in Africa and Central Asia. The signing of Israel’s first agreement of cooperation with UNAIDS will enhance Israel’s relationship with the organization.

Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva, will sign both agreements on behalf of MASHAV. The signing will be attended by Professor Alex Leventhal on behalf of the Israeli Ministry of Health and by Ron Adam, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Through Women of the Haggadah, Deepening the Seder Experience

What woman has changed your life? My toddler intuited his answer when he said to me, “Thank you ima for making me.”

That’s right folks, mothers, hands down, have probably had the single biggest impact on our lives. Giving birth to children is probably one of the most courageous things that women can do (do you know how much that hurts!) Beyond the physical drama, there’s the courage to bring life into our uncertain world. Even in places of dire political and social unrest, women continue to have children and, in that very act, they prophesize hope for better days.

It’s a story familiar to Jews as it is precisely the story about birth, and more specifically, the birth of a Jewish nation, that we celebrate each Passover.

The birth images and references of the Passover story are uncanny. -- Dasee Berkowitz, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

A Night of Watching for Shalit

Gilad Shalit will be getting a visitor next Monday night — Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah). In the comfort of our own homes, the rest of us can and should remember this Fifth Son — wise and able to ask but unable to be heard. At the seder on this night of memory, with its promises of Redemption, it would be appropriate to remember Shalit, a slave awaiting a miracle all his own. -- New York Jewish Week

To read the complete article, click here.

Op-Ed: Proposed Dutch Ban on Ritual Slaughter Is Unfair, Ill-Advised

Abraham Foxman
Animal rights or Jewish rites? That is the question this week before the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, as it considers a bill that effectively would prohibit shechitah, the Jewish ritual slaughter of animals.

According to the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, in 1674 the first Ashkenazi Jew who settled in The Hague was a kosher butcher. Well over three centuries later the Dutch parliament, seated in The Hague, may soon send all the kosher butchers packing.

The minuscule Party for the Animals has introduced a bill to ban animal slaughter without prior stunning. While the proposal is in the spirit of defending animal rights and does not represent any anti-Jewish intent, the brunt would be borne by the Dutch Jewish community of nearly 50,000 people. -- Abraham H. Foxman, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Israeli Imaging Tool Takes Surprises Out of Plastic Surgery

Invention of an Israeli academic trio will let patients see exactly what they will look like after a cosmetic procedure.
A patient undergoes reconstructive surgery
(Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons)
It must be true that two heads are better than one: Identical twin scientists in Israel have pioneered novel software that will give plastic surgery candidates an anatomically accurate "after" picture in three dimensions.

Once commercialized through a company they're forming with their former PhD adviser, the imaging software will be a vast improvement over the standard 2D before-and-after images of past procedures. When patients base their expectations on snapshots of others, they often don't get a realistic understanding of how they would appear after undergoing a similar operation. -- Avigayil Kadesh, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read the complete article, click here.

How Kosher Is Your Starbucks?

When Starbucks was just a coffee shop, it was easy for Jewish customers to order a latte without worrying whether it was kosher.
(Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune)
But Starbucks isn’t a place just for coffee anymore. In some stores, you can now get a turkey and Swiss sandwich or a chicken panini along with your cup of joe. And that, according to kosher experts, is a problem.

The Chicago Rabbinical Council issued a statement on its website last week warning that unless a particular Starbucks store is kosher certified, consumers should be careful about what they order to drink. -- Tribune 

To read the complete article, click here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From Oranges to Artichokes, Chocolate and Olives, Using Seder Plate as a Call to Action

A piece of rotten lettuce and a dollar bill
are some of the items the Progressive Jewish Alliance
suggests placing on the seder plate. (Progressive Jewish Alliance)


Passover, which commemorates the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery, has a political message at its heart. So it’s not surprising that the seder – especially the seder plate -- has been pressed into the service of all kinds of freedoms. -- Sue Fishkoff, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Wasserman Schultz Brings Jewish Identity to Top Party Role

Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s first day as a sophomore in the U.S. House of Representatives, on Jan. 8, 2007, was marked by a number of extraordinary achievements for a woman barely out of her first term.

Named to the Democratic caucus leadership. Named to the all-powerful Appropriations Committee. Named as a major fundraiser -- $17 million -- for the party’s breakthrough 2006 election. Named by a tabloid as one of the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill.

Yet dominating her victory party were blow-ups of headlines from Jewish newspapers: Wasserman Schultz had led the passage of the act establishing Jewish American Heritage Month.

President Obama last week named Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), 44, to the most powerful party position, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Even before she has formally assumed the job, the question of her Jewish identity has stirred speculation. -- Ron Kampeas, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Brooklyn Jew Played Key Role for Pope John Paul II

Gilbert Levine with Pope John Paul II in an undated photo. (Courtesy of Wiley PR)
When hundreds of thousands of people converge on the Vatican for the beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1, a Brooklyn-born Jewish orchestra conductor will have an honored place among them.

Gilbert Levine, whose grandparents emigrated from Poland and whose mother-in-law was a survivor of Auschwitz, is a distinguished conductor who has performed with leading orchestras in North America, Europe and Israel.

For 17 years Levine enjoyed a unique, and unlikely,- relationship with the Polish-born John Paul, one that led him in 1994 to become the first American Jew to be granted a papal knighthood. Levine says it also played a role in his deciding to become more involved in his own Judaism; he now attends an Orthodox synagogue.

The connection between the pontiff and the maestro had much to do with the fostering of Jewish-Catholic relations that was a cornerstone of John Paul's papacy. But it had little to do with formal meetings or dialogue sessions. -- Ruth Ellen Gruber, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Conservatives Taking Kashrut Challenge Up a Notch

Rabbi Jason Miller of Kosher Michigan re-koshers the kitchen
at the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization's
Bittker Center in Holly, Mich. (Kosher Michigan)
The Conservative movement’s ethical kosher initiative may not have been intended as a wedge into the Orthodox monopoly over kosher supervision. But the planned rollout this summer of the Conservative-backed seal of ethical kosher production, the Magen Tzedek, coincides with an increase in the number of Conservative rabbis acting as kosher supervisors. -- Sue Fishkoff, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Poets among New Faces on Israeli Banknotes

Leah Goldberg.
Photo by: Courtesy Gnazit archive and Yair Landau
Israel's government approved the famous personalities who will appear on a new series of shekel banknotes.

The approval of the list Sunday, which includes some of Israel's most beloved national poets, comes after the list was finalized last month by the Bank of Israel following more than a year of heated debate.

The personalities who will grace the new notes are Rachel the Poetess on the 20 shekel note, Shaul Tchernichovsky on the 50 shekel note, Leah Goldberg on the 100 shekel note and Natan Alterman on the 200 shekel note.

Rachel, who died in 1931, is a leading poet in modern Hebrew whose works have been set to music. Tchernichovsky was a two-time winner of the Bialik Prize for Literature.

Goldberg, who died in 1970, was a poet, author, playwright, literary translator and researcher of Hebrew literature who translated "War and Peace" into Hebrew. Alterman, an author, playwright, poet and newspaper columnist who died in 1970, won the 1968 Israel Prize for Literature.

"In order to maintain the public's trust in the State's currency, the governor decided to replace the currency series with a new series which will include some of the world's most advanced security and identification markings in a bid to make counterfeiting more difficult," the Bank of Israel said in a statement. 

The current faces on Israeli currency are former Prime Minister Moshe Sharett on the 20 shekel note; S.Y. Agnon on the 50 shekel note; and former presidents Yitzhak Ben- Zvi and Zalman Shazar on the 100 shekel and 200 shekel notes. -- JTA

Breaking Matza with the Congresswoman: Geraldine Ferraro Remembered

“Tell the congresswomen not to come to Israel at this time,” the Foreign Ministry official announced to me in the spring of 1983. “The week of Passover is not convenient for us at the Ministry, and anyway, these are just habanot micongress [the girls from Congress]. “ Moreover, the official complained, the three, all Catholics, wanted to attend a seder. “Where will we find them a seder?”

His attitude went against my grain. I ignored his sexism, but I told him that if new members of Congress wanted to visit Israel, then they should be welcomed and assisted in every way possible. That reflected the spirit of my ten years in AIPAC’s Washington office and my opening of AIPAC’s Jerusalem office eight months earlier. “If the Ministry’s Guest Division won’t host them [as was the practice], then I’ll worry about their visit,” I assured him.

The three visitors were junior members of the House of Representatives: Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut who would go on to serve 17 years in the House, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland who served 10 years in the House and was elected to the Senate in 1988 (and still serves) , and Geraldine Ferraro of New York. -- Lenny Ben-David, NY Jewish Week


To read the complete article, click here.

Southern Israeli kids Getting Free Bieber Tickets


Some 700 children from southern Israeli communities that have been hit by rockets and missiles from Gaza were given free tickets to pop star Justin Bieber's concert.

The tickets for Thursday's show in Tel Aviv, as well as transportation, are a gift of The Schusterman Foundation-Israel, The Morningstar Foundation and ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators.

ROI approached The Schusterman Foundation to help cover the costs of the tickets, which were provided at a discount to help the Israeli children.

"I feel blessed to partner with The Morningstar Foundation to counter the din of missiles and mortars with the exuberance of rock music for these young Israelis,” Lynn Schusterman said in a news release.

Bieber arrived Monday in Israel and is scheduled to tour the country. The teen idol reportedly will visit Christian sites in the Galilee, the Dead Sea, Masada, Acre and Caesaria. He also reportedly is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

With ticket sales slower than expected, concert promoter Gadi Oron announced Sunday that a parent could enter the concert free with the purchase of two tickets for children at the regular price. Many Israeli parents have balked at sending their young teens alone to a major rock concert in the middle of Tel Aviv. -- JTA

New Book: Man who Arrested Anne Frank Served West German Intelligence

The man who arrested the family of Anne Frank in their Amsterdam hiding place 67 years ago worked for the West German intelligence agency for years, a new book has revealed.

SS Oberscharfuhrer Karl Josef Silberbauer, an Austrian-born Nazi, worked for the West German secret service, or BND, according to author Peter-Ferdinand Koch, whose new book, "Unmasked," documents the biographies of Nazi soldiers and SS members who ended up working as spies for the democratic state.

"It is outrageous and a disgrace to our country that the man who arrested Anne Frank and her family later worked for the BND, " Thomas Heppener, director of the Anne Frank Centre in Berlin, said in a statement Monday. The center is a partner to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

"I find it very regrettable that the BND has only been involved in the processing of its own history since 2010, thus providing cover to Nazi-era perpetrators," he added, while praising the work of Koch, a former editor at Der Spiegel magazine. Heppener urged the BND to speed up the release of more files on the Silberbauer case.

According to the Austrian daily Kurier, Silberbauer was in the Soviet occupation zone in Vienna after the war. He was imprisoned for 14 months but later released to the German authorities, who wanted to tap the former SS man as an intelligence officer. German and Austrian authorities used numerous former Wehrmacht soldiers and SS men as spies against the Soviet Union, Koch writes.

Koch reports that Silberbauer was a feared sadist. According to Haaretz, Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal located Silberbauer in October 1963. He was suspended from his job while an investigation was launched. Silberbauer died in 1972.

Anne Frank's father, Otto, the only one in the family to survive the war, reportedly believed the informant who revealed the family's hiding place deserved punishment more than Silberbauer, who was just following orders. -- JTA

Dutch Consider Banning Animal Slaughter

"Animal's well-being damaged"Photo: GPO
In one of Europe's first countries to allow Jews to practice their religion openly, unlikely alliance of animal rights party and xenophobic Freedom Party spearheading support for ban on ancient tradition. Jewish, Muslim groups protest bill. -- Associated Press via Ynetnews


To read the complete article, click here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

From the Hardwood to Halacha: An Orthodox Jew Leads Toledo to a Women's National Basketball Title

Nothing But Net: Naama Shafir led her team
with 40 points to win the Women’s NIT crown.
Courtesy of University of Toledo

Naama Shafir, a junior guard, poured in a career-high 40 points to lead the University of Toledo to victory in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship. She was crowned the basketball tournament’s MVP. And then she walked about two miles home.

Shafir, an Orthodox Jew from Israel, did not want to break the Sabbath.

The University of Toledo’s 76–68 triumph over the University of Southern California on April 2 marked a historic moment for Toledo — its first postseason championship in school history. The win also marked the climax of a historic season for Shafir, the first female Orthodox Jew to earn an NCAA scholarship and to play American women’s Division I basketball. -- By Elana Sztokman, Forward

To read the complete article, click here.

GoEco Brings "Voluntourists" to Israel

Want to help preserve Israel's wildlife, deserts or hiking trails? GoEco will match you with the eco-tourism site of your choice.

Volunteers from around the world come to Israel to take part in wildlife and desert conservation programs.
GoEco, an Israeli organization for "voluntourists" -- socially conscious tourists who want to contribute something to the community and environment in the places they visit - has made a business out one of the hottest trends in travel today.

In the past, volunteering in Israel meant spending time on a kibbutz. Today, eco-tourism projects are a bigger draw, and some are even kibbutz-based. GoEco matches volunteers with wildlife and desert conservation programs in locations like the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, Nazareth, and the Negev desert among many others.

"I hope that when people come to Israel with GoEco they learn that Israelis are not only focused on the political situation but they're also focused on sustaining the land that is so holy and dear to so many people," says the organization's volunteer coordinator, Carly Siegel. -- Viva Sarah Press, Israel 21c



College Student Plans Jerusalem’s First Homeless Shelter

Whether or not he wins a $50,000 jackpot toward his project, Dovid Levine is determined to put a roof over the heads of destitute Jerusalemites.
Dovid Levine’s idea is a Dell Social Innovation competition semifinalist.
Photo by Faith Baginsky, Bar-Ilan University












 Most of us walk right past homeless people on city streets, perhaps throwing a coin in their direction. Dovid Levine, a 20-year-old Israeli college student from New Jersey, did much more than that. Levine has drawn up plans for Jerusalem's first homeless shelter.

Matzav ("situation" and also an acronym for Merkaz l'Tzrachim Basisim, or Center for Basic Needs) was among the top 10 vote-getters in the initial round of the Dell Social Innovation Competition, an international search in collaboration with the University of Texas-Austin for innovative student ideas to solve a social or environmental problem.

At stake is a $50,000 jackpot for the winning team. Matzav's popularity earned it automatic placement among 100 semifinalists announced March 1.

"Our next step is to recruit the necessary support to help us create the required 30-page venture plan and promotional video for the competition, as well as meet with people and organizations to receive letters of approval," Levine tells ISRAEL21c. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel 21c

To read the complete article, click here.

Yes, They Can: Israeli Call Center Employs the Disabled

A unique business empowers people with a range of disabilities to succeed in the workplace that traditionally shunned them

Call Yachol (www.callyachol.co.il) is a one-of-a-kind Israeli call center employing 180 Jewish and Arab disabled adults. In Hebrew, the name means “Everyone Can.”

Psychologist Gil Winch, founder of the venture, says there is no reason for these employees’ mental or physical limitations to keep them from excelling on the job. But most have suffered from being shunned by mainstream employers and lack self-confidence in their potential. Up to 90 percent of severely disabled adults face chronic unemployment.

Winch implemented a parent-based management model where workers are given affection and have scheduled time for team fun. The unusual arrangement has garnered interest from people in several countries looking to replicate the idea.

Now based Rishon Lezion, future Call Yachol centers are planned for Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. -- Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Click on the image below to view video.


FM Liberman inaugurates Israeli Consulate in Munich

FM Liberman also attended the memorial ceremony for the Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics at the Olympic Village.

FM Liberman at the memorial ceremony for the Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics
(Photo: MFA)

Audit of 2010 shows anti-Jewish hatred continues to rise in Canada Human rights organization calls on federal candidates to react

The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada has released its most recent Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, an authoritative study of patterns of prejudice released each year in this country. In total, 1,306 incidents were reported to the League in 2010, representing a 3.3% increase over the 2009 data, and a more than four-fold increase over the past ten years.
“Incidents were reported across the country in synagogues, schools, playgrounds, on campus, at street rallies, sporting events, workplaces, even reaching people’s own homes,” said Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “This kind of hatred is infectious and insidious. It destroys the very fabric of Canada’s multicultural society, and those that would deny its gravity are part of the problem, not the solution.
“Antisemitic canards continue to gain traction with new technologies giving a modern twist to age-old anti-Jewish messaging. Cyber-bullying - in this case antisemitic - is just one of the newest threats to society.
"Society appears to be getting desensitized to anti-Jewish racism and, in response, we note an increasing tendency in our community to remain silent when targeted. This is the new challenge we have to overcome.
“With the federal election just round the corner, this is a prime time to call on all candidates to commit to the recommendations we have put forward, in order to demonstrate their commitment to the welfare of all communities in Canada today. -- B’nai Brith Canada

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Western Wall's Annual Clean

A man touches the stones
of the Western Wall in Jerusalem
before workers cleared notes
out of the cracks, April 6, 2011. Reuters
As masses of Jews begin intensive preparations for the upcoming Passover holiday, employees at Jerusalem's holy site, the Western Wall, have embarked on a spring cleaning of their own.

Western Wall workers have started to remove the thousands of notes left by visitors in the cracks of the wall - including U.S. President Barack Obama - filled with wishes and prayers.

The notes are removed using wooden sticks dipped in the mikveh, or ritual bath, supervised by the Western Wall's presiding clergyman, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. They will then be taken for burial, to make room for an upcoming year of written requests. -- Nadav Shragai, Haaretz

To view slide show of related images, click here.

Golan Heights Winery Takes Italian First Prize

For the first time, the grand prize at Italy's leading international wine competition has been awarded to an Israeli winery.

The Golan Heights Winery, founded in 1983 in Katzrin, beat out 3,720 wines from from more than 1,000  producers in 30 countries to take home the so-called "Wine World Cup" -- the Gran Vinitaly Special Award granted ahead of Italy's annual Vinitaly wine trade fair in Verona, one of Europe's top wine events, which opens Friday.

It was the first time that the grand prize was given to an Israeli wine-maker, although the Golan Heights Winery had already won Grand Gold Medals at Vinitaly in 2004 and 2006.

The 105-member jury included international wine experts and journalists.
The Golan Heights Winery's chief winemaker is Victor Schoenfeld, a graduate of the University of California at Davis.

The wines are marketed under the Yarden, Gamla and Golan labels. -- JTA

Could This Be the Biggest Find since the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Lines of inquiry: The metal tablets could change the understanding of the Christian Bible
For scholars of faith and history, it is a treasure trove too precious for price.

This ancient collection of 70 tiny books, their lead pages bound with wire, could unlock some of the secrets of the earliest days of Christianity.

Academics are divided as to their authenticity but say that if verified, they could prove as pivotal as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. -- Fiona Macrae, Mail Online (UK)

To read the complete article, click here.

Demand: Appoint Non-Orthodox IDF Rabbi

"Soldiers' needs unmet"
Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office
The Progressive Judaism and Masorti movements are demanding that the defense minister and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff appoint a Reform or Conservative military rabbi to provide religious services to non-Orthodox Jewish soldiers.

In a letter sent by leaders of the two moments to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, they claim that the current Military Rabbinate cannot or is not interested in providing the religious needs of soldiers with a different worldviews, and therefore the IDF must give them an alternative." -- Kobi Nahshoni, ynetnews