Melting 6th grade hearts

March 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, education, General, Israeliness, Life, Music 

sanrtaI’m not sure if the experience I had in my son’s sixth grade class on Friday would be typical in an American classroom, but I can safely say such a scene would not have taken place back when I was a sixth grader in Maine.

I was in the class instead of playing tennis on a balmy morning, because of an invitation Matan’s teacher sent to join a mid-morning lesson with the students. The subject was parents and children, and how both sides are now feeling the boundaries and habits that have been in place for 12 years beginning to stretch, fray and reshape themselves as puberty begins to rear its ugly head.

His class consists mostly of good students from decent families, pretty conventional without a lot of progressive thinking. Recess is dominated by soccer, and after hours taken up by computer games. Among the students are a couple of bright special needs pupils with social adaptability issues who have been mainstreamed into the class.
The lesson included breaking down into groups of three kids and three adults and reading classical Jewish texts about the subject of parents’ aspirations for their children not always jibing with what the child wants. This led into a lively discussion of the subject in which the teacher revealed what the pupils’ career hopes were, as written down in a previous lesson. There were plenty of hi-tech CEOs, doctors, models and actors as well as a lot of good-natured laughter and red faces among the kids.

When they got to Ran, one of the special needs students, the teacher said that nobody needed to guess what he was going to be. Evidently, he possessed a gifted voice and was enrolled in a music academy for opera singing for a number of years.

One of the kids yelled out, “Sing something for us” and it developed into a chant of “Ran, Ran Ran.”

A sweet looking blond-haired boy with delicate looks, Ran appeared painfully shy and tongue tied during the lesson, and had difficulty looking at people in the eye. However, when the teacher asked him if he’d like to sing, he shook his head yes, and stepped to the front of the class.

For the first time that hour, the room grew silent, as Ran began singing ac apella in the most angelic voice the traditional Neapolitan song “Santa Lucia.” Not a sound was made for three minutes and at least one pair of eyes had tears in them as he mesmerized the parents and kids alike. It was simply stunning.

At the conclusion, the classroom burst into applause and cheers and a smiling Ran sat down next to his beaming father.

On the way home, I asked Matan if the other kids, especially the macho soccer playing ones, made fun of Ran or picked on him. He said no, they were all thrilled at his talent and proud to be in class with him. I could say the same thing.

A Miss Israel to be proud of

miss israelHours after Israelity posted about the current IDF soldiers vying for the title of Miss Israel, the competition took place Wednesday night at the Haifa Congress Center and a surprise winner emerged – a former IDF officer Yityish (Titi) Aynaw. She’s made history by becoming the first Ethiopian-born Israeli to win a beauty pageant.

At a time when Ethiopian Israelis are making their mark in more and more realms of society – from up and coming acclaimed r&b singer Esther Rada to the first female Ethiopian MK, Pnina Tamano-Shata – it’s only fitting that the natural beauty of the Ethiopian community in Israel is recognized.

“It’s important to have a first (beauty) queen from the Ethiopian community. Israel has many ethnic groups and many colors, and it’s important to show it to the world,” Aynaw said during the competition in response to one of the judges’ questions.

She cited Martin Luther King as the historical presence that influenced her the most: “He fought for justice and equality, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here – to show that there are also good things in my community, which are not presented in the media.

“I see it as a mission to represent Israel’s different colors. There are not enough dark-skinned models in Israel. I hope to become a successful model thanks to the contest and create a change in the perception of dark-skinned models. I would be happy to be the first Ethiopian television host, an Israeli Tyra Banks.”

That lofty goal is a far cry from Aynaw’s beginning in the country, where she arrived at age 12. She admitted that it was a rocky absorption.

“I’m lucky to have had a friend, Noa, who befriended me from the start and helped me out. I didn’t study in a ulpan. I was thrown into the deep water and learned the best that way,” she told Ynet.

Less than 10 years later, Aynaw is now a role model, not only for other young Ethiopian Israelis, but for anyone facing adversity.

Foto Friday – Elyssa Frank’s Undercover Purim

Elyssa-Frank_MADEINISRAEL_PurimPhotographer Elyssa Frank is endlessly curious and always up for a challenge. Last week, she decided — with the enthusiasm characteristic of her MADEINISRAEL brand — to enter Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood and document the Purim celebrations going on in what appears, to most Israelis, to be a highly closed community.

A quick description of Mea Shearim, courtesy of Wikipedia: “Today, Mea Shearim remains an insulated neighborhood in the heart of Jerusalem. With its overwhelmingly Haredi population, the streets retain the flavor of an East European shtetl. Life revolves around strict adherence to Jewish law, prayer, and the study of Jewish texts. Traditions in dress may include black frock coats and black or fur-trimmed hats for men (although there are many other clothing styles, depending on the religious sub-group to which they belong), and long-sleeved, modest clothing for women. In some groups, the women wear thick black stockings all year long, including summer. Married women wear a variety of headcoverings, from wigs to headscarves. The men have beards and some grow long sidecurls, called peyos… “Modesty” posters in Hebrew and English are hung at every entrance to Mea Shearim. When visiting the neighborhood, women and girls are asked to wear what is deemed to be modest dress…”

Dressed in a high-necked white bridal gown, fright wig and glam sunglasses — so as to fit in with the revelers — Frank wandered down the main drag of this ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, taking pictures on the sly…

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And found costume and color everywhere…

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Later in the day, Frank crossed tracks and entered the frenzy of Purim in downtown Jerusalem. One of this year’s most topical costumes for men: the half-IDF soldier, half-yeshiva boy “Share the Burden” [of army service] look.

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At dusk, it was time to attend a Machane Yehuda street party.

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That lasted well into the Jerusalem night!

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Israeli beauty, brains and brawn

February 27, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, Entertainment, General, Israeliness, Life, Pop Culture 

The IDF candidates for Miss Israel. (B'Machaneh)

The IDF candidates for Miss Israel. (B’Machaneh)

We all know about how Israeli women are making their mark in the army in combat units and breaking down gender barriers across the social spectrum.

So here’s an old-fashioned twist on the ‘new Israeli women’ courtesy of the IDF monthly magazine B’Machane.

Six of the 20 young ladies vying for the title of Miss Israel and the chance to represent the country in the Miss Universe pageant later this year are currently IDF soldiers, with specialties like paratrooper instructor, Air Force operator, squad instructor or logistics specialist.

The magazine interviewed the women about their feelings on serving in the army at the same time as serving themselves up on plate of media glare wearing skimpy clothes to boot.

“I have a feeling that a lot of the models join the competition because they want to represent their country,” said Sg. Gaya Shukun. “Now that I’m in the army, I have a better insight into the real Israel. I see how badly we’re portrayed in the international arena, and as an IDF soldier, I feel a responsibility to better explain what really happens here.”

That combination of brawn, beauty and brains is the special ingredient that makes Israeli women the most attractive in the world. You have a problem with that? I’ll send these beauties after you.

Stones roll at the Western Wall

A photoshopped image of The Rolling Stones announcing their shows in Israel.

A photoshopped image of The Rolling Stones announcing their shows in Israel.

People will believe what they want to believe. Especially on Purim.

The Jewish Press, not especially known for their humor, published a piece for the holiday announcing that The Rolling Stones had booked two shows for Israel on Yom Haatzmaut in April to help the country celebrate its 65th birthday.

Perhaps because their version doesn’t go overboard and reads like a staid news story at the beginning, focusing on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) groups opposing the shows, some people thought that it might actually be a real news item. Especially anxiety-provoking was the line that the two shows – in Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem and in Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv, were already sold out.

Evidently discerning readers didn’t get to the part later in the story – where some tongue in cheek humor revealed itself.

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood will all arrive in Jerusalem on Thursday, ahead of their opening concert, to meet President Shimon Peres who says he’s been a stoner for ages.

“When ‘Get Off of My Cloud’ came out, Dayan brought me the single from London,” Peres said. “We played it for hours in the office until Paula Ben Gurion threatened to throw us out.”

David Ben Gurion’s wife, Paula, was a Kinks fan.

Despite that giveaway (Paula Ben Gurion really loved The Yardbirds, not The Kinks), messages on Facebook and Twitter began proliferating announcing the imminent arrival of The Stones. I received at least three messages from musically savvy friends asking if I could help them get tickets.

Alas, it was a good Purim joke, and if The Stones do make their maiden voyage to Israel, it’s unlikely that The Jewish Press will scoop everyone else with it. But let’s thank them for providing us with some hope, and a little levity, on this festive Purim day.

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