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After two years, the Israeli coalition fell apart. In Israel, when the coalition falls apart, we have elections for the Knesset, our Parliament. There are supposed to be elections every four years, but since the beginning of the State, there seems to have been more times where we have early elections than having a government that stays in power for the full four years.

The Knesset

The Knesset has 120 members. This is the same number as the “Large Assembly” that governed Israel at the time of the Temples. It was called in Hebrew the Knesset Hagdola – which is where the name Knessset comes from.

The Government

Israel works on a coalition government system made up of political parties. A group of parties join together to form a coalition. In order for the coalition to work, it must have at least 61 members, a simple majority.

Elections

Every citizen over 18 can vote, including the Israeli Arabs. You vote for a party and then the number of people who voted is divided by 120. For every 1/120 of the voters, there is one Knesset seat. However, to avoid too many small parties, there is a minimum amount that a party needs to have to get seats, which equals around 2 seats. It changes from election to election.

Each party has a list of 120 people who will get into the Knesset according to their place in the list. If a party gets 20 seats, the first 20 get in. If they get 2, only the first 2 get in. So for each party there are a different amount of seats that have a chance to get in, depending on its popularity.

Once the seats are determined, the President, appoints the leader of the party with the best chance to form a coalition, usually the party with the most seats, to try and form a coalition. If he succeeds, we have a government. If not, the President can appoint someone else to try.

The president is a a more ceremonial position but he does have powers, including appointing who can form the government. He is voted into office by the Knesset every 7 years and can only serve one term.

Changes over time

For many years there were 2 main parties, one left wing and one right wing and smaller parties that incuded the religious parties and the Arab parties. The big parties would get 30-50 seats each leaving the formation of a coalition easier and the main power in the big parties.

Today there are major right wing and left wing parties but they get around 20-30 seats each and therefore the coalition is harder to form and the other parties have more power. That is one of the reasons that the government fell apart after 2 years.

The current coalition is more right wing.

It will be interesting to see what will happen after this election. Right now the candidates are spending more time putting down the other side than saying what they will do. But that is typical politics.

I'll keep you posted as the elections get closer.

A New Way to Learn English

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I haven't updated this blog for a few months. I have been busy with other things.

I started working at the Jerusalem Post Lite Talk program.

Some of you may have heard the Jerusalem Post. It was once the main English Newspaper in Israel.

Over the years they have branched out to a lot more. They still have the English Newspaper, but they have added a line of Easy English newspapers for people who want to learn English.

There is the regular Jerusalem Post Lite, with articles in three different levels that are marked accordingly. There is the Kosher English, a special easy English newspaper for the ultra religious sect. All the articles are approved by rabbis to make sure the content is “Kosher”. It also has 3 level of articles.

In both newspapers, hard words are translated and transliterated.

They also have newspapers for children to learn English.

The newest addition, as far as I know is the Lite Talk program. It is a few years old.

They discovered that people who are learning English have trouble talking. There are many programs in Israel to learn English.

What is unique about Lite Talk is that it is individual lessons on the phone, any time you want between 7am and 10pm. It is 15 or 30 minute lessons. Because it is individual, you can go at your own pace, talk about what you need to learn, and do it anytime and anywhere you like. It has become very popular and recently they hired new teachers, one of them was me.

I am enjoying the new job. I like talking to people and meeting new people, so as long as I help them improve their English, I am getting paid to do what I like to do.

The offices are in Tel Aviv but they will be opening soon is Jerusalem.

If you know any English speakers who are looking for a job, they always need more people.

If you know Israelis living in English speaking countries who want to improve their English, they also call people overseas.

They also have a Hebrew Talk program for people who want to improve their Hebrew.

Before I started working for them, I didn't know the extent of the programs they have.

For more information about any of the above contact me here.

 

Now that I have gotten used to working and am getting back to other things, I am planning on writing here once a week again.

Next time I will update you on what is happening with the elections that are coming up in March.

Have a great week

Julie

 

Subtle Changes Happening in Israel

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I read once that you can tell what is happening around you by the ads. This Shabbat I noticed a few ads in the brochures we picked up at the synagogue that caught my eye. They point out things that are happening that I was glad to see.

Four ads that especially interested me.

The Shash Project 

A usb drive for students that study the Talmud, with the Talmud itself and other information that will help the students, all digitized and searchable. What interested me was the fact that this is a change in how the Talmud will be learned because it makes it easier to find relevant information. It's bringing Talmud study into the digital age. The project is connected to Bar Ilan University.

Daily Rambam

Rambam is a Jewish scholar from the middle ages who wrote not only about Jewish subjects but also secular subjects like health, agriculture and philosophy. His outlook, in my opinion is much more all encompassing than other approaching. I see the fact that there is a movement to learn him and connect with him, as something that can be attractive to more types of Jews than the more religious who learn the more popular “Daily Page of Talmud”. I see it as a way to open up the Jewish sources to the people.

"The String Bridge"

A weekend aimed at bridging the gap between the different sectors in Judaism. It is said that the Temple was distroyed because of hate and prejudice between Jews. I also see in Israel today a lot of division between different sects of the Ultra religious, between the Ultra and modern relligious and the religious and non-religous. Anything that helps to close this gap, in my opinion is to be seen as a positive approach.

"Going in Her Way"

An evening dedicated to a new book by a religious women that talks about women's place in Judiasm and changes in the synagouge culture. She will be interviewed by a non religious member of the press. I see this as a change that is slowly but surely happening in the religious world. This isn't the first time I have seen something like this. After Simchat Torah there was an article about synagouges that consider themselves religious who let women dance with the Torah and read from it. I am glad to see these changes happening.

Changes in Approach

In general, what all these ads show me, is that there are changes happening to bring orthodox Judiasm into the modern world, whether it is connected to their approach to technology or to women. There are also projects to close the gap between the different groups so there will be more understanding and acceptance. Both of these trends are related and I am happy every time I see evidence of them.

I will keep you posted as I see more of them. The changes are slow and sometimes not apparent, but they are happening. As we say in Hebrew: “Let them multiply”

To make sure you get the next update, sign up for the blog and you will receive emails when I update it.

I also have a facebook page that I add additional information to.

Have a great week.

Julie

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I knew that the Druze are Arabs that fight in the Israeli Defense Forces along side of the Jews. I knew that they are loyal Israeli citizens and that they live in villages in the North of Israel. I knew that they also have villages in the Golan Heights.

Until last week, I didn't know much more about them.

Visit to a Druze Village and Holy Place

Last week, I went on a day trip with the pensioners of Mikorot, the water company, where my boyfriend had worked until his retirement. Another pensioner of the company is a Druze Sheik. He was our host for the day in both his village Daliyat al-Karmel near Haifa and Nabi Shu'ayb, their most important religious site near Tiberias. What I write here is based on what we were told by the Druze themselves.

Druze and Israel

The Druze policy is that they are faithful to the government they live under. Therefore the Druze in Israel are faithful to Israel. Those in Syria or Lebanon are faithful to those countries. However, in Israel it goes beyond that since the support for the Jewish State started even before the State was created. During the British Mandate the Druze community decided to side with the Jews. The other Arabs were against this decision but they stood by it. Even today they have tension and problems with the other Arabs in Israel because of their pro-Israeli stand and the fact that they serve in the Army.

Druze on the Golan Heights

The Druze on the Golan Heights are in a difficult position. Since Israel has in the past given back territories, they feel that it may also give back the Golan Heights. If they do, the Syrians would most likely punish them if they show support to Israel. Therefore they have to be careful.

Daliyat al-Karmel

Daliyat al-Karmel is the largest and most southern of the Druze villages. It consists mainly of houses and I noticed that most of them used the same bottle shaped pillars on the porches, painted in a variety of colors

.

Yad Lebanim

We visited the “Yad Lebanim” the center for fallen soldiers. There have been 401 fallen Druze soldiers in the Israeli Army, including before the State. There is a memorial for them next to the Yad Lebanim.

By the way, there are Yad Lebanim centers for fallen soldiers all over Israel. What is special about this one is that it is in a Druze Village. You can see the Israeli Defense Forces symbol on the wall.

The center has three main functions.

  1. It is a memorial for the fallen soldiers. 
  2. It supports the families of the fallen soldiers. They visit each family once a month to catch any problem they may have before it becomes a bigger problem.
  3. It prevents the spread of anti-Israel propaganda that comes from the surrounding Arab villages.

There is also a pre-army program with around 40 participants a year to get them ready for the army. One of the emphases of the program is to teach them values.

Jewish Druze Connection

There are two main reasons for the strong connection between the Druze and the Jews. One is that we are both minorities and therefore have a common understanding of what it means to be a minority.

Jethro

The other is their connection to Jethro, Moses' father in law, who is their most important prophet. Jethro was a man of honesty and believed in one God in an area where people were dishonest in business and believed in idols.

Nabi Shu'ayb, their most holy place is Jethro's shrine. Since we do not know where Moses is buried, his father in law's grave is the closest we will get to his. The connection between Moses and his father in law is also reflecting in the Torah. Jethro visited Moses in the desert after he left Egypt and helped him organize the camp. There is even a Torah Portion on his name.

The Druze religion

The Druze religion is based on a belief in one God, the 10 commandments, a future day of judgment and reincarnation. Other important ideas are respect for others and coexistence. They are the only group of Arabs who really want peace. They are also an example of Co-existance between the two people, Jews and Arabs. The religion was started in 1017 and after 1043, no one was allowed to enter it. You can be Druze only if you are born in the religion. There is no intermarriage. If you marry out, you are no longer Druze.

Respect for the Druze

The visit made me realize even more than I had in the past, how supportive the Druze community is and how their values match ours. We as a State need to give them the respect and honor that they deserve. They are true friends in a country that has few friends. And they act this way despite Arab pressure to be like the other Arabs.  A symbol of their connection to Israel is the flying of both the Israeli and Druze flags at Nabi Shu'ayb.

I came out of the trip with a renewed respect for this minority that lives among us.

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This is a post I did about the variety of Sukkot I saw last year.  They are back!!  If you have seen any other unusual Sukkot, tell me about them. 

Sukkot, Sukkot Everywhere, and in a variety of shapes and sizes

Over the week I have seen many different sukkot of all different kinds.  I want to share with you here some of them, in all different sizes and places.

Rooftops

balcony2

People who have roofs often will put the sukka there.  It’s like having a penthouse for a week.

Balconies

balconyAnd if you have a balcony it is the perfect place for a sukka, as long as there isn’t another balcony over it.

Parking Lots

parking lotI even saw Sukkot in parking lots, not one but two.  Wonder where they put all the cars that week? Maybe some of the neighbors went to visit friends in another part of the country.

All different sizes

big and smallThe sukkot come in all sizes, from small one family sukkot to sukkot that are big enough for all the extended family and friends.

Different building materials

wood and badMost of the sukkot I saw had the white material walls, with a variety of pictures on them, but you still see some that are made of wood or like the small one above with a wooden door.

Sukka Mobile

???????????????????And for those people who don’t have a sukka but want to experience one, here is a sukka mobile that travels around and lets people shake the lulav inside a sukka.  It is probably sponsored by Chabad, but I am not sure.

Synagogues

synogougeNot only do families have sukkot, also many synagogues and yeshivot build sukkot for the people who come to them.

Enjoy them while they last

Friday, all of these will go down.  The poles, boards, sheets and decorations will be stores and people will return to their houses.  It was nice and next year we will do it all over again.

I heard about a Jew in New York who built a sukka and the neighbors complained and took him to court for building an illegal building. The judge, who happened to be Jewish, gave him one week to take it down, enough time to celebrate the holiday.

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