Giving Thanks in Jerusalem

It is easy to forget about the Thanksgiving Holiday

when living in Israel.

Except for social media posts about the difficulty

of obtaining a whole turkey in a country

where so much turkey is consumed,

regular Israelis have no idea it is a holiday.

What is consuming everyone’s attention is that for

three days, arson-ignited forest fires are spreading,

forcing people from their homes,

with the latest fires raging in Haifa.

Thankfully,

I have not heard of any deaths,

but the destruction is massive.

Israel’s  working poor have a difficult time,

their basic monthly salaries are too low.

One set back with a sick family member

could tip the balance and set debts soaring,

causing families to lose their homes.

If you take the light rail train to the end of line

Pisgat Zev light rail trains street view

all the way to Pisgat Zev,

View street in Pisgat Zev

the northern Jerusalem neighborhood

with tens of thousands of residents

New construction in Pisgat Zev

you will see new construction projects underway.

Since it is further from the city center,

 rentals are more reasonably priced,

and therefore, it is home to some of Jerusalem’s poorest families.

This week I was inside several of their apartments:

religious, not religious, Ethiopian,

down-on-your-luck poverty does not discriminate.

an apartment in Pisgat Zev needing help

This kitchen with its wood trim looks lovely,

but it is a six-floor walk-up with no elevator,

makes it a lower rental property.

Israeli rentals, most often, do not come with appliances.

Oven in apartment that is broken

The oven was broken, and

 the tenant did not have money to buy a new one.

On the real Jerusalem streets,

not all is beautiful or perfect.

Thankfully, there are people trying to help.

as you will see at the end of this blog.

Meanwhile, if you have the time and money,

you could eat and drink every night in a different location.

Jerusalem winter festivals Hebrew signs

Hamshushalim in Jerusalem,

 special hotel deals and offers each December weekend,

has been going strong for years.

Open Restaurant is Jerusalem’s newest food festival.

From November 22-26,

tours, food, classes and more,

will be happening on the Jerusalem streets.

One event at the Hansen House has robots

serving as waiters for 3D printed food.

What a contrast to those struggling to get along.

There is so much to be thankful for every day.

This is first year in a long time,

I did not actively participate in a Thanksgiving Dinner for lone soldiers.

Hard to do it all, time is short,

I won’t keep you any longer today.

But if you are thankful for what you have,

consider helping those who are not so fortunate.

Here are links to three worthy organizations

I was involved with this week:

Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin

OneFamily

Give a Fridge Project 

Take a look and see what you can do

to make the world a better place.

Thanks from Jerusalem, Israel.

Charity, Saving a Life or Scam?

It’s that time of year again.

 Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, approaches, and it is time for 

tefilah, and teshuvah and zedakah:  prayer and repentance

charity

and appeals to give money for charity. 

Appeals are blasted on the radio, printed in the papers and sent by email.

Jerusalem photo

Small charity collection boxes and

charity boxes

large collection boxes line many Jerusalem, Israel streets.

charity box

Does 100% really go to Zedakah, to the poor? 

In The 7 habits of highly effective schnorrers

beggars, J Street

a friend discusses the sites of successful Jerusalem beggars 

beggar, Old City

from a business marketing perspective.

Techniques are varied,

beggar, Jerusalem street

from a casual stance using a loud-speaker to get attention, 

beggar

 to sitting passively, appearing down and out.

beggar woman, J street

And there is always the traditional plastic cup collection approach.

Israeli VAT, the value added tax, has gone up 1%, 

so already high prices are certain to rise as is the cost of living.

Money is tight for most everyone,

so how does one decide where to give one’s charity money?

bike riders, Alyin ride

Hundreds of riders do Wheels of Love to raise money for Alyn Hospital. 

biker, Jerusalem street

Then there is this bike rider who seems to regularly need money for 

bus fare to her daughter in Bet Shemesh or a few shekels to buy water.

A few hours after I saw her ride by,

beggar, J Street

 this young woman on the right with a small child slung over her shoulder, 

was approaching English speakers on King George Street

 asking for 35 shekel to get back to Haifa.

I recognized her from last year with the same story

and suggested she go to the synagogue for help.

I am always impressed how many people walking on Jerusalem, Israel 

streets will stop, take out money and give to those out-stretched hands.

What are true opportunities to help strangers or what are scams?

I wish I had an answer to the questions, what do you think?

As the year 5772 comes to an end,

it is time for the new year’s greeting to be back on the buses,

sign shana tova bus

Shanah tovah, Happy New Year. 

May 5773 be a prosperous and healthy one for all.

Erev Yom Kippur

Before Yom Kippur, whether late at night or before dawn,

one can attend special Selichot prayers all around Jerusalem.

It can be difficult to get to the Old City due to the huge numbers of people…

every night and all night long.


During the day, beside the usual crowds at the Kotel, the Western Wall,

there are bus loads of girls on school trips.

 This is a special time for tefilah,

prayer

and zedakah,

charity

and also for many, special Torah study and classes.

As Yom Kippur  begins, all regular traffic stops.

At least for one day a year, the signs,

  “Do not murder” on the road

and “Do not drink and drive” are obeyed.

And to end with a favorite sign, the erev Yom Kippur bus sign…

  Chatimah tovah

may all be sealed for a good year.