Newsletter : 4fax0813.txt
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Worlds Largest Mezuzah
It appears Jerusalem Judaica artist and scribe Avraham Hirsh Brashevsky, 33, has the
world's largest mezuzah. The mezuzah was presented at an international fair earlier this
week and was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. The mezuzah parchment scroll
measures 1.10 meters in length (1.2 yards) and weighs 3 kilograms (6.5 lbs). It's encased
in a wood, gold, and glass covering, giving an appearance some say of a vertical
'North American Aliyah Has Become a Reality'
"The wave of North American Aliyah has become a reality - and it's about time," Nefesh
b'Nefesh co-founder Rabbi Yehoshua Fass told a crowd of more than 200 North American olim
who had just stepped off the plane Wednesday.
Reciting the words of the blessing thanking God for bringing us momentous occasions,
Fass continued, "To all of you, our dear olim, we applaud you for your Aliyah, but we laud
you for becoming leaders - leaders in your families, leaders in your communities, leaders
in your federations and synagogues, for raising Aliyah-by-choice to the surface, preaching
it to all your friends and family and paving the way for them to follow. I want to bless
you all that [as it says in Psalm 126,] your lives, your reality here in Israel surpass
"I have a newsflash for you straight from the front page of Al-Jazeera," said Nefesh
b'Nefesh co-founder Tony Gelbart, "'A new wave of Jewish immigrants has arrived in Israel
as part of an Israeli campaign to settle Jews from around the world in Israel.' They
finally got one right," said Gelbart, over the cheers of those assembled.
Minister Natan Sharansky attended the ceremony to personally welcome the new olim as
they stepped off the plane. "It is very positive for every Israeli to come welcome new
immigrants to Israel - to see the excitement of coming to Israel through the eyes of
newcomers," Sharansky told Israel National Radio's live newscast at the scene. "We are not
supporting them, they are supporting us."
Sharansky, a former Russian refusenik and prisoner of Zion before finally being able to
make Aliyah himself, said the new immigrants from North America are more impressive than
he. "I had an easy task - I had to break the Iron curtain. They had a much more difficult
task - they had to break the golden curtain, overcome many obstacles, sometimes facing
opposition from their own parents."
First of the Spanish Hidden-Jews Arrives in Israel
Yaffa daCosta had tears in her eyes as she sang "Hatikva" (The Hope), Israel's national
anthem, after disembarking from an earlier chartered Nefesh b'Nefesh flight bringing her
and hundreds of others on Aliyah. "I've waited so long for this day," she told IsraelNN's
DaCosta is a member of the growing community of "Anousim" - descendents of Jews from
Spain and Portugal who are discovering that their ancestors were Jews forced to convert to
DaCosta's great-grandmother immigrated to the United States from the Azores, a colony
off the coast of Portugal. She lived in Texas and Oklahoma before she made Aliyah last
week and she says this is her final destination. DaCosta is interested in building, if not
settling permanently, in the Negev city of Be'er Sheva. "There is a prophecy in the book
of Ovadia that says the exiles of Sefard [Spain] will inherit the Negev," said daCosta.
"It also says in Psalm 126 that God will return us from our captivity like 'springs in the
Negev' - and that is exactly what is happening."
Though she left her growing community of crypto-Jews in Texas, daCosta, who runs the Crypto-Sephardic-Union (http://www.cryptounion.com), plans to continue lecturing and educating in Israel and around the world about the ongoing saga of the Spanish 'Crypto-Jews'. "Something is stirring people all over who have felt some sort of attraction and affinity toward Israel and Jewish culture to research their roots," said daCosta, who is often contacted by such people in order that she assist them in their investigation. "As far as I know, I am the first of the Anousim to come home to Israel with a 'certificate of return.'"
Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu authored a letter instructing that the
Anounsim be welcomed and absorbed back into the Jewish people after undergoing modified
(without the component of dissuasion usually applied to converts who do not have Jewish
ancestors) conversions back to Judaism according to Jewish law. DaCosta sees more and more
returnees to Judaism and Israel as word of the Crypto-Jewish story spreads. "I want to see
planeloads of Anousim returnees coming home to Israel," she said.
Got Shabbat? Want Some?
By Israel Faxx News Services
A Jerusalemite who fell in love with having 'Shabbat guests' at his table each week has
decided to branch out - and, together with dozens of host-families in his
central-Jerusalem neighborhood, launched JewishMeals.org.
Barak Hullman told Arutz-7's Ezra HaLevi how he came to undertake such an endeavor: "We
started hosting guests for Shabbat about seven years ago. I wanted to donate some money to
our synagogue, but I didn't have very much. Then, I had this idea that seemed crazy to me
at the time. I made a pledge to have 100 guests at our Shabbat table over the next year.
We'd never had guests at our Shabbat table before, so for us, this was a serious
commitment. My wife and I were concerned how we would handle it, but then we realized it
was just two guests every week for almost a year."
Hullman, a father of three, said that he and his wife Noga now average 14 guests per
Shabbat. "I love to cook and we started really enjoying making large meals and having lots
of guests," said Hullman, sporting a contagious smile. "Come Sunday I'm always thinking of
Shabbat and which guests we can invite. Sometimes I go to an event and just invite
everyone I see."
"It's not always easy to find guests," confided Hullman. "A lot of people host guests
themselves or have friends they go to. I started thinking about where could I find more
guests and realized there must be hundreds or even thousands of tourists or new immigrants
here in Jerusalem that would love a warm place to go to for Shabbat meals."
In order to reach potential guests, even before their arrival in Israel, Hullman
decided to launch JewishMeals.org. "Not everyone knows whom to call or even wants to pick
up the phone to call to find a place for meals on Shabbat," said Hullman. "With our
website, there's no fear factor, you just fill out the form and I write back to you
The Hullmans don't plan on hosting all the guests that sign up each week on their own.
They are part of a vibrant community in the midst of Jerusalem's Nahlaot neighborhood.
Nahlaot is one of Jerusalem's oldest neighborhoods, tucked between the Mahane Yehuda Shuk
[market] and Sachar Park, just below Israel's High Court and the Knesset building. It is
home to Jews from all walks of life and of every religious persuasion. "There are many
people in this special neighborhood who want to fill their tables with guests," said
Hullman, "JewishMeals.org seeks to ensure that nobody has to spend Shabbat alone."
There are no advertisements on JewishMeals.org as, according to Hullman, "our only goal
is to become the place on the Internet for people to find meals on Shabbat and
Although JewishMeals.org currently only offers Shabbat meals in Nahlaot, Hullman has
big plans for the future. "We would eventually like the site to expand to every city where
there are Jews in the world," says Hullman, "so that a Jew anywhere on the planet could
come to JewishMeals.org and find a place for a traditional Shabbat meal wherever he
Newly-Wed Druze Woman Runs Off with Syrian Internet Lover
A young Druze woman from the north of Israel who vanished on her honeymoon in Antalya
had run off with a Syrian Arab she had been in touch with on the Internet, an
investigation by Turkish police and Interpol revealed this week.
Fida Ibrahim, 22, from the village of Majdal Shams, was seen Monday leaving the hotel
where she and her new husband had been staying accompanied by her Internet lover, who
lives in the United Kingdom.
A Druze lawmaker who has been following the affair said that the two had attempted to
cross the border from Turkey to Syria, but had been turned back. "At some point when her
husband was at the hotel, she went out and left with the one with whom she had been having
an affair for two or three months. Her husband is in complete shock and utterly
bewildered. Some of his family have flown over to calm him down," Whbee said.
Ibrahim's husband told police that she had disappeared on Monday after he had left her
alone in the hotel lobby. One of the couple's neighbors said that the woman had spoken to
her parents after the wedding Saturday night and had told them that she was feeling well
and enjoying the holiday.
The couple, members of the same extended family, were married last week and left Israel
on Sunday to celebrate their honeymoon in Turkey.
For Israeli Athletes, It's Time to Let the Games Begin
The most promising delegation of athletes in Israel's Olympic history will be standing
to the test against representatives from over 200 nations at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games
Since Israel began participating in the Olympic games in Helsinki in 1952, its athletes
have returned home with a total of four medals: two from Barcelona in 1992, when Yael Arad
took a silver and Oren Smadja, a bronze for judo; Gal Friedman's bronze for windsurfing in
Atlanta in 1996; and the bronze awarded Michael Kolganov for kayaking in Sydney in
Ephraim Zinger, Director-General of the Israeli Olympic Committee, expects Israel to
return home from this summer's Games with at least another two or three Olympic medals.
"We hope this will be the most decorated delegation yet," Zinger told ISRAEL21c. "This is
potentially the best ever Israeli Olympic team."
Zinger said that although the Athens delegation is four athletes smaller than the
40-member team Israel sent to Sydney, the team this summer is stronger. Israeli
competitors will participate in a record number of 14 individual sports - including
swimming, synchronized swimming, wrestling, judo, running, windsurfing, pole-vaulting and
When asked to name some of the most promising athletes on the roster, Zinger cited
three-time European judo champion Arik Ze'evi, who took the silver medal at this year's
world championship; Friedman, who after taking the bronze in Atlanta won the world
championships for windsurfing in 2002; Kolganov, who before taking the bronze at Sydney
won gold and silver medals for kayaking at the world and European championships in 1999
and 2000; and Alex Averbuch, gold medalist for high jump at the European Championship in
Belgium in 2000 and 2002 European pole-vault champ.
According to Frankie Sachs, Sports Editor for The Jerusalem Post, that shortlist can be
widened. "I think there are about eight participants who have real chances at winning a
medal," said Sachs, who added 2003 windsurfing world champion Lee Korsitz; male
windsailing duo Udi Gal and Gidi Kilger; female windsailing duo Vered Bouskila and Nike
Kornecki; world champion wrestler Gotcha Tsitsiashvili and 2003 world cup gold medalist
marksman Guy Starik, to the list of hopefuls.
"There are a ton of athletes on the team who are really at the top of their sport. If
they come to the competition focused and healthy, I think Israel could come away with more
than the two or three medals they're hoping for," said Sachs.
Sachs explained that although many more Israeli athletes qualified for the team by
International Olympic Committee standards, this year the Israeli Olympic Committee stuck
to the cream of the crop. "Israel could have doubled the size of its team if they would
have let in everyone who qualified by the international standard," said Sachs, who
estimated the team size could have included up to 70 competitors. "But, for the first time
Israel created its own selection requirements.
"This year, the Committee has a different objective," he said. "For a long time, the
objective was just to participate, to see and be seen. The team this summer marks the
first time that they have really prepared a delegation wherein no one is just coming along
for the ride. Everyone on the team has a talent to perform."
The wealth of talent that has been cultivated among Israel's athletes is no accident,
according to Zinger. He refuted the claim that the team is better because of the
participation of new immigrant populations to Israel. Although about half of the athletes
on the team were not born in Israel - 16 of the 36 members came to Israel from the former
Soviet Union, as did 12 of the 21 coaches - he said that most of the team learned their
skills in Israel.
"I don't think the team is better because we have athletes from other countries. Most
of the Israelis who were born abroad made aliyah when they were teenagers. So, most of
them did the bulk of their training here in Israel," said Zinger.
Sachs concurred with that assessment. "I don't think the issue is as relevant as it was
in the past, when Israel recruited athletes for the team and one to three years after the
games, they went back to their countries of origin," he said.
He explained that almost all of the athletes on the current team have been in Israel for
most of their adult lives and all of them have been in the country for at least the last
"Most of the athletes will themselves tell you that they are as Israeli as any other
Israeli and that they take offense to the suggestion that they are not Israeli or were
drafted to Israel for Olympic purposes," said Sachs.
But according to Kalganov's kayaking coach Alex Yermilov, who immigrated to Israel from
Ukraine in 1991, his country's origin does have something to do with expertise in
training. "We have a system and knowledge of sports," Yermilov told the New York Times.
"We have experience that has never existed here before, because this is still a young
Sachs suggested the reason why the team is potentially so good is timing - previously
promising players are now reaching the heights of their potential. "Several athletes who
showed a lot of potential at Sydney are now at the top of their sport," he said, using
Ze'evi as an example. "Ze'evi finished in fifth place at Sydney," explained Sachs. "Since
then, he has defended his title as European judo heavyweight champion for the last three
Sachs also anticipated that the Israeli athletes will have an edge over competitors due
to the comparable climate in Greece. "They are more familiar with the climactic
conditions," he said. "That factor alone could literally double their chances at
Interestingly, this year's Olympic team is comprised of 45% female athletes, an average
which Zinger says Israel is especially proud of. "They didn't make it because they are
female, but because they are very good," he said. "Still, compared to Western delegations,
it's a good number."
This team also marks the first time that Ethiopia-born Israelis have participated in
the Israeli delegation. Marathon runners Haile Satayin and Assaf Bimro, who has already
broken the national record and is ranked 20th in the world as a marathon runner, will be
competing in track and field events.
The Israeli team will, as it has since the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by
Palestinian terrorists in Munich in 1972, bring its own security team to Athens. "We are
always taking extra measures, in collaboration with the local government which is
responsible for the security and safety of athletes from all over the world," said Zinger.
"In a way, Israelis are targets. But, this time it is a little bit different than it used
to be. My feeling now is that we are not the only ones."
From beginning to end, Sachs said his hopes have never been so high. "But, just because
it is the most promising team, doesn't necessarily mean it will have the best results," he
cautioned, saying there is a lot more pressure at the Olympics than at any other sporting
event. "But, I am very optimistic. I think this will prove to be the best delegation
Israel ever sent to the Olympic Games."
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