Monday, October 06, 2008
The team was formed in 1936 by David Horn, the local chief of Beitar, the Revisionist Zionist youth movement. The youth movement was named after Joseph Trumpledor; it is an acronym for Brit Trumpledor (Covenant of Trumpledor). Joseph Trumpledor became a symbol of heroic Jewish self-defense when he died defending the Galilean village of Tel Hai. He famously uttered "Never mind, it is good to die for our country" in his last breath. This fighting spirit pervades Teddy Stadium during Beitar Yerushalaim soccer games.
On game days one is alerted by afternoon time that Beitar will be playing that evening as the streets and buses become increasingly crowded with fans sporting the team's yellow and black scarves. Earlier this year, I boarded a bus at Hebrew University and sat with a friend of mine, clad in black and yellow, who was en route to a Beitar game. As we wound our way through Jerusalem's streets I asked him about his loyalty to the Jerusalem soccer team, given the fact that he is from Haifa. My secular Haifa friend who is a member of the left-wing Meretz party told me that when he was a teenager he decided to be a Beitar Yerushalaim fan, despite its distance from his home and its reputation as being politically right-wing, because of his love for Jerusalem. I was moved by his devotion to our capital city, which defies logical explanation.
Last week I finally attended my first Beitar Yerushalaim game. I joined a friend and a colleague of mine who took his "Sports and Zionism" class to view the Zionist athletes in action. We chose to buy tickets in the section where the crazy fans sit, akin to the bleachers section at Yankee Stadium. It was an enlivening and wild experience. One of the most popular Beitar Yerushalaim chants calls upon G-d: "We are believers, the sons of believers. We have no one to rely on, except for our Father in Heaven." After watching the fans shout this tune with such fervor, one gets the sense that soccer, Beitar Yerushalaim soccer, has become their religion.
(Beitar fans waving the team scarf)
("We are believers, sons of believers...")
(Johnny- my student, me, crazy Beitar fans)
(Yael, me, Joanna- my student)
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I watched the President's speech at the Knesset on television this afternoon. I am often amazed by a seeming dichotomy between the president's statements on "good" and "evil"- dealing with terrorist states- on the one hand, and his actions in attempting to broker a peace accord with the Palestinians, on the other. His speech today shone with a sense of moral and political clarity. The President said: "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before," referring to the Nazi's. And yet, President Bush has said that he hopes, during his current stay, to "shore up the faltering negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinians.
Six days ago, I received an e-mail from a good friend, Yehuda, who lives in Boston. I knew he would be coming to Israel for a visit this week, as he was to participate in the President's Conference. In the e-mail, Yehuda informed me that he had been invited by the White House to an exclusive party at the Israel Museum Thursday night and would be bringing me as his guest. I was obviously delighted; and immediately amused by Yehuda's inimitable way with words: "get out your sunday finest," he instructed me, "we'll be throwing back a few beers with the prez."
Indeed, I put on my "sunday finest" and got myself gussied up for what I was hoping would be a tete-a-tete with the president. Security was so thick that all of the guests had to first undergo a security check at a parking lot several minutes away, before boarding a shuttle to the Israel Museum. I met up with Yehuda and his father, the former United States ambassador to Israel. We boarded the shuttle bus, sitting a few rows behind Rupert Murdoch, and a few rows in front of MK Ophir Pines-Paz.
The party took place on the veranda overlooking Jerusalem. The views were magnificent and the party was elegant, although the brisk Jerusalem night air sent shivers down my spine. The food was definitely the most delicious food I have eaten in this country. Waiters streamed out of the kitchen with platters of fillet steak, short ribs, seviche, carpaccio, spring chicken, mushroom cigars, and other fine delicacies. Yehuda and I spent most of the first hour and a half stuffing our bellies with food while people-watching, as the party was attended by the who's-who of the Jewish world. At one point, I helped Ron Silver with his tea cup. Occasionally we found Yehuda's father, and were introduced to someone interesting.
After about an hour and a half, the President and several Israeli and American dignitaries and diplomats entered the veranda. I stood next to Tzipi Livni as President Bush addressed the crowd. Following his brief remarks, the President slowly made his way toward his awaiting limousine. There was a barrier, and Secret Service men, blocking me from the front, VIP group of people whom the President was greeting personally on his way out.
I tried once to edge my way into the front section, but was physically turned back by the Secret Service guard. Finally, when the guard was distracted, a few moments before the President had departed, I sneaked forward and squeezed through the gaggle of VIP's. I thrust my hand forward and shook the President's hand. The people who had greeted the President before me congratulated him on his speech and remarked about his trip to Israel. As the President shook my hand, I said: "Mr. President, mazal tov on Jenna's wedding!" Tickled, he looked me in the eye and responded: "Thank you! It was such a wonderful day!"
Traffic annoyances and policy differences aside, it was truly exciting to meet the President. While I didn't get to "throw back a few beers with the prez," I am grateful to my friend Yehuda, and his sweet and generous father for inviting me to an unforgettable party with the president.
(President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush)
(Fmr U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Jerusalem Mayor Lupolianski, my friend, Yehuda)
(President Bush shaking my hand)
Monday, May 05, 2008
(Dad, Mom and I at the Dalton winery in northern galilee)
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
(becky, tal, assaf on top of mt. hermon)
(view of the golan)
(tal, becky, assaf in one piece at the end of the day)
(sunset in the golan)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Last night snow began falling around midnight and continued through the night. This morning Jerusalem looked beautiful, but there was little more than an inch or two of snow on the ground. Nevertheless, the city pretty much shut down. Apparently, we are not equipped to deal with snow in the Middle East. All schools and universities in Jerusalem closed down and the newcaster on the radio urged Jerusalemites to stay off the road.
My roomate and I ventured out of our cozy apartment this morning looking for adventure. We discovered that aside from a few restaurants and the grocery store, everything in our neighborhood was closed. The streets were mostly empty. At 3pm today there was a snowman-building competition in the park, with the mayor of the city serving as judge. All this served as a (minor) distraction to the announcement this evening of the final findings of the Winograd commision.
Here's hoping for more snow tomorrow!
(view from my bedroom window this morning)
(pedestrian braving the streets beneath my balcony)
(around the corner from my apartment, in full snow/slush gear)
...look around, leaves are brown now, and the sky is a hazy shade of winter...
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Perhaps most significantly, Jerusalem is of supreme importance to the Jewish people from a religious and Biblical perpspective. The Bible refers to Jerusalem by name over 700 times. Additionally, Rabbinic literature, the Talmud and Midrash, are brimming with references to Jerusalem. The Midrash tells us that the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple) was built in Jerusalem on the very site where Abraham bound Isaac. Yet another midrash locates the site of the Temple as the place where Hevel (Abel) built his mizbeiach (altar) to G-d. This was the first time a human attempted to connect with G-d following the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. King David declared Jerusalem the capital during his reign as monarch of the Jewish people. King Solomon took the political centralization of Jerusalem one step further by building the Temple and creating the spiritual-religious center for the Jewish people. To this day, wherever in the world a Jew may be, he turns in prayer toward Jerusalem.
The rabbis explain that there is a heavenly Jerusalem (Yerushalaim shel ma'alah) perched over the earthly Jerusalem (Yerushalaim shel matah). This idea is anchored in both Isaiah's, as well as Micha's, prophecy. In masechet Taanit 5a, Rabbi Yochanan is quoted as saying: "The Holy One blessed be He declared, ‘I shall not enter the heavenly Jerusalem until I can enter the earthly Jerusalem.'" The relationship between the 'upper' Jerusalem and the 'lower' Jerusalem is clear. We must constantly strive to make the Jerusalem in which we live, Yerushalaim shel Matah, worthy of G-d's presence in order to merit the union between the two Yerushalaim's, for the two are inextricably connected.
As the skies opened up on Tuesday, these thoughts invaded my mind. I gazed at the human chain hugging the towering Old City walls. I stood near Natan Sharansky as he was interviewed by several different news outlets. To stand next to such a hero, as he exercised his freedom of speech at the entrance to the Old City, was quite inspiring. Sharansky criticized President Bush for failing to implement the ideology he has repeatedly outlined regarding terrorist states, such as Hamas. Similar views were echoed by MK Yisrael Katz, Nir Barkat, opposition leader in the Jerusalem City Council, and Yechiel Leiter (former chief of staff to Netanyahu), who called Olmert to task for forgetting that eight years earlier- to the date- Olmert had pleaded with then President Clinton to keep Jerusalem united.
During the rally itself I stood next to a woman in her mid-sixties from Ma'aleh Adumim. Not a religious woman, she told me she had emigrated from Argentina as a teenage girl. When I asked her why, she responded: "Simply, Zionism." Zionism, she explained, guided her then, and is still the primary signpost for her to this day.
Walking home in the rain, through Yemin Moshe, I couldn't help but think of King David's relevant and poetic words from the book of Psalms: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." (Psalms 137)
(at the rally: a man blows a shofar)
(Natan Sharansky, MK Yisrael Katz, Yechiel Leiter)
(top picture: human chain wrapping around the Old City walls)