Why does the Israeli flag look like it does?


Well, we all know the blue stripes on the State of Israel flag are intended to symbolize the stripes on a tallit, the traditional Jewish prayer shawl. The portrayal of a Star of David on the flag is a widely acknowledged symbol of the Jewish people and of Judaism.

However. this wasn’t always the case. Theodor Herzl wanted the flag to have more universal symbols: seven golden stars symbolizing the 7-hour working quota of the enlightened state-to-be, which would have advanced socialist legislations.

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The idea that blue and white should be the national colors of the Jewish people was voiced early on by Ludwig August von Frankl (1810–94), an Austrian Jewish poet. In his poem, “Judah’s Colours”, he writes:

When sublime feelings his heart fill, he is mantled in the colours of his country. He stands in prayer, wrapped in a sparkling robe of white.

The hems of the white robe are crowned with broad stripes of blue; Like the robe of the High Priest, adorned with bands of blue threads.

These are the colours of the beloved country, blue and white are the colours of Judah; White is the radiance of the priesthood, and blue, the splendors of the firmament.

In 1885, the agricultural village of Rishon LeZion used a blue and white flag designed by Israel Belkind and Fanny Abramovitch in a procession marking its third anniversary. In 1891, Michael Halperin, one of the founders of the agricultural village Nachalat Reuven flew a similar blue and white flag with a blue hexagram and the text “נס ציונה” (Nes Ziona, “a banner for Zion”: a reference to Jeremiah 4:6, later adopted as the modern name of the city).

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In 1897, the First Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland, to consider re-establishing a homeland for Jews in Palestine. Morris Harris, a member of New York Hovevei Zion, used his awning shop to design a suitable banner and decorations for the reception, and his mother Lena Harris sewed the flag. The flag was made with two blue stripes and a large blue Star of David in the center, the colors blue and white chosen from the design of the tallit. The flag was ten feet by six feet—in the same proportions as the flag of the United States—and became known as the Flag of Zion. It was accepted as the official Zionist flag at the Second Zionist Congress held in Switzerland in 1898, and the State of Israel later adopted the design as the official flag, upon declaration of Israel as an independent state in 1948.

The flag of Israel was adopted on October 28, 1948, five months after the establishment of the State of Israel.

Throughout the years different variations of the Israeli flag were commissioned, two of them are still in use today:

IDF Navy uses this variation:

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And the IDF Airforce use this one:

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The Ink Flag

The Ink Flag was a handmade Israeli flag raised during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War to mark the capture of Eilat.

On March 5, 1949, Israel launched Operation Uvda, the last military maneuver of the war. On March 10, the Israeli Defense Forces reached the shores of the Red Sea at Umm Rashrash, west of Aqaba in the area of biblical Elath, and captured it without a battle. The Negev Brigade and Golani Brigade took part in the operation. A makeshift flag created from a white sheet inscribed with ink was raised by Avraham Adan, company commander of the 8th Battalion of the Negev Brigade.

The improvised flag was made on the order of Negev Brigade commander Nahum Sarig, when it was discovered that the brigade did not have an Israeli flag on hand. The soldiers found a sheet, drew two ink stripes, and sewed on a Star of David torn off a first-aid kit.

In Eilat, a bronze sculpture by Israeli sculptor Bernard Reder commemorates the event. The photo of the raising of the Ink Flag, taken by the soldier Micha Perry, bears resemblance to the Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.

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Israeli songs and the meaning behind them


The Israeli culture has music intertwined in it wherever you look (or listen). Whether it is a happy occasion like a holiday or a sad occasion like Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day), Israel has an appropriate song for it. The joke is that you can tell what day it is in Israel according to the songs on the radio. Music is often used as a means to pass on a message, whether it is hidden or not, and Israeli music is no different. Here are some Israeli songs with a message you wouldn’t think existed and the stories behind them:

Chai (Alive) – Ofra Haza

The 1983 Eurovision (an annual international songwriting contest) was held in Munich, Germany. When Ehud Manor (an Israeli songwriter) heard about the contest, he wrote the Song Chai (which means alive) as defiance to the Germans. The song was sung in the Eurovision by Ofra Haza (a very famous Israeli singer who died in February 2000) and came in second place. The song mostly talks about how the Jewish people, and Israel are still alive.

Perach (Flower) – Yehuda Poliker

Perach was written by Tzuria Lahav after an Egyptian soldier shot a group of Israeli travelers in Ras Burqa, a beach resort area in the Sinai Peninsula. Seven travelers died, among them were four children. Tzuria’s own daughter died in a car accident a few years earlier. You will most likely hear this song during Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel.

Waltz lehagant vtzomeach (Waltz to protect nature) – Naomi Shemer

This very cheerful song, using a waltz rhythm, paints a pretty picture of Israeli nature in the midst of its blooming seas of green grass and colorful flowers everywhere. The song is very relaxed and makes you feel at ease. The key message from the song  is to take care of and keep nature as it is including not picking flowers or hurting animals. This song was written in the 1970’s after female IDF soldiers complained about sexual harassment in the army that goes unnoticed. Naomi Shemer said that it makes no sense to take such good care of nature and leaving our women on their own.

Abanibi – Yzhar Cohen

This song was originally written by Ehud Manor with Nurit Hirch for a children songs festival, but because they missed the deadline, they sent it to the pre-Eurovision contest. The song is written in the “Bet language” (B language) where you write the letter Beit before every letter in the word: Abanibi aboebev obotabach means – Ani Ohev Otach (I love you). Children used this language when they didn’t want their parents to understand them. The song won first place in the 1978 Eurovision contest in Paris.

Hope you enjoyed learning about the meaning behind the songs.

Until next time…

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Where did Tu B’Shvat come from?


We all know that Tu B’Shvat is the “Rosh Hashana of the trees” and we celebrate Israel’s nature by eating fruits from the land of Israel. But, why is it in the middle of Shvat? And why is Shvat even called Shvat?!

Well! I found the answer for you!

The origin of the word Shvat is from Acadian ŠABATU meaning to kill or to destroy, describing the end of the rainy season (the death of the rainy season).

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And why is it “Tu” meaning the middle of the month? That was decided by House of Hillel after an argument with House of Shamay. House of Shamay said that just like Rosh Hashana, it should be on the first day of Shvat. House Hillel said that on the first day of the month it is still the rainy season, and we need to wait two more weeks for it to stop raining. Also, House of Hillel claimed that you should celebrate Tu B’Shvat when it’s moonlit night like Sukkot or Passover. The final decision was made at the beginning of the eleventh century by the Rabbi Hai Gaon.

In the 16th century, wise men from Tzfat decided that you should eat fruits on Tu B’shvat, and you should try at least 30 different fruits.

In 1908, the Teachers Federation of Israel decided that Tu B’shvat will be a day in which students and teacher plant trees on Tu B’shvat, a costume that it still happening to this day.

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I hope you learned something new about Tu B’shvat.

Until next time…

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Witnesses in Uniforms


International Holocaust Memorial Day is on January 27th, 2018. I wanted to take this opportunity and tell you a little bit about Holocaust remembrance in Israel, and especially about a unique journey to Poland.

Every year hundreds of high schools around Israel send delegations of students to visit Poland, tour the camps and synagogues and see everything they have learned about, first hand. The first Poland Journey left on April 4th, 1965, there was a brief stop to the journeys after the six-day war but delegations were sent again starting 1983.

The most unique Poland journey there is in Israel is probably the one called “Witnesses in Uniforms” it is a journey offered by the Israeli armed forces for their officers. There is something special in sending officers and commanders wearing the Israeli uniforms to where so many Jews have been murdered. Joining the delegations on some occasions are members of grieving families that lost family members in the service of the armed forces.

The following pictures will show the meaning of it far better than I ever could.

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Until next time…

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Israeli hit TV show Fauda is back


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Good news! Fauda is back for Season 2! Here is everything you need to know about it!

For those of you who don’t know what Fauda is, here is a short summary (and seriously – watch it on Netflix!  I promise a weekend full of fun.)

First aired in 2015 in Israel, Fauda (meaning “Chaos” in Arabic) stars one of its creators Lior Raz as Doron, a member of mista’arevim who portrays Israel’s Arabic-speaking counterterrorism unit and its work. The men and women are specifically trained to operate undercover in enemy territory in order to assassinate or capture accused terrorists. The show’s first season (streaming on Netflix since March) had Doron coming out of retirement to hunt down Abu Ahmad, a Hamas militant he thought he had killed years ago. The second season, returning to Israeli TV this month and Netflix in 2018, explores internal Palestinian rivalries and ISIS recruitment in the region.

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A war is, by definition, messy and complex; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is beyond that—deeply layered mayhem that Fauda, a production of the tiny Israeli TV industry, has done a superb job of humanizing. “Arabs tell us it’s an Arab show, right-wingers tell us it’s a right-wing show, leftists a left-wing show,” says Lior Raz, one of Fauda’s co-creators. “We worried the reaction would be just the opposite.” Not only Fauda has helped everyone relate to at least one character on the show, it has also affected Israelis to learn more Arabic and more and more Israeli teenagers learn Arabic in high school.

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Following its success in Israel, Fauda was purchased by Netflix and is aired in 190 countries around the world. Lior Raz has been touring the US talking about the making of the show and his experience during his IDF service. Some of you may recall hearing him talk at the FIDF Gala this past November, where he also told us that Netflix ordered two more original shows! one is called “Hit and run” about a CIA and a Mossad agent working together to catch one of the world’s most wanted terrorist, the other doesn’t have a name yet but it’s in the work – and when Netflix and Fauda creators are involved – who are we to worry?

Fauda Season 2 aired in Israel on December 31 for a perfect New Year’s Eve treat and brings another heavy dose of action and nail-biting tension. This season features many of the characters from the first season, including Nurit (Rona-Lee Shim’on), Naor (Tsahi Halevi), Herzel (Doron Ben-David), Eli (Yaakov Zada Daniel), Avihai (Boaz Konforty), Gaby (Itzik Cohen), Mickey (Yuval Segal), and Gali (Neta Garty). The permanent cast will be joined by new characters; among them: Firas Nassar who will star as the new villain and a member of ISIS, the enemy at the center of this season instead of Hamas. In Fauda Season 2, the main character’s past returns to haunt him as he is forced to return to the unit to fight against his new enemy, played by Nassar.

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Do you want to learn more about the conflict? Improve your Hebrew and maybe catch a few phrases in Arabic? Watch Fauda on Netflix and join the fun!

Until next time…

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Winter is here…


Even in Israel and no one wants to be out in the cold.

So here is a list of winter activities you can do indoors (and ok, maybe some outdoors, it’s still Israel) and stay nice a toasty.

Canada Center – built by the Jewish community in Canada in 1995, this northern center is a vacation and sports resort that has different kinds of activities for groups, couples and individuals. There are an indoor swimming pool and an Ice skating rink, hot tubs and baby pools. You can also bowl in their bowling alley, watch a 7-D movie and jump the trampolines in their I-jump center.

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If you are willing to endure the cold and want to get some skiing done – You should definitely visit the Mount Hermon.

At 6692 ft above sea level Mount Hermon has 27 miles of ski routs around the mountain, there are 11 cable cars and elevators to be used by visitors. Mount Hermon has a ski school and ski shop to buy everything you need. Visitors can enjoy a variety of other recreational activities; snow sledding for children, alpine coaster (mountain sleds), a ride by chair lift to the top station and snow games. In addition, visitors can visit local stores to purchase winter clothes and ski equipment, and dine at the various buffets, including a kosher one.

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Not interested in winter activities but still want to do something fun? Why don’t you try one of the hundreds of Escape rooms in Israel? With different themes and different difficulty levels everyone can find an escape room to enjoy (and in most cases, you can have it adapted to English.

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Until next time…

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Changes in the Dead Sea


Ahhh the Dead Sea.  We all know it, love it or hate it.  It’s one of the world’s wonders, and probably a stop for every person who is visiting Israel.  But, what do we really know about it?  Only that it is salty and the lowest point on Earth?  Here are some facts about the Dead Sea and some changes that have happened to it over the years.

The Dead Sea is not a Sea at all.  It is actually a Salt Lake bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel to the west. The Dead Sea is the fourth most salty water body on Earth (the first one being Don Juan Pond in Victoria Land in Antarctica) with a salt concentration of 34.2%, which is ten times saltier than the Mediterranean Sea.

 

The water level in the Dead Sea have been decreasing starting in the middle of the 20th century, mostly due to the wide use of the water from the water sources that are draining into the Dead Sea, the main one being the Jordan River, and the draining of water from the lake to the steaming pools in the south part of it.

 

Receding shore lines

The Dead Sea has 2 parts.  The northern one, which has an average depth of 656 feet, is the part of the Dead Sea where you probably visited and floated around in. The second part is the southern  part, which has an average depth of 32 feet, therefore it has dried quickly and now it is being used for the production of potash (a variety of mined and manufactured salts that contain potassium in water-soluble form). Draining water to the southern pools is the main reason that the northern part is drying.

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Southern pools

The decreasing levels of the Dead Sea have created a decrease in the size of the lake by 35%. The change in water levels and size have created irreversible changes to the northern part of the lake. It has created sinkholes all around the Dead Sea, receding shores, damage to infrastructure and the natural reserve around it.

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Now that you know a little more about the Dead Sea, you know that you have to go see it! When you are there enjoy floating in this world wonder, enjoy the Dead Sea mud on your skin and most importantly – clean up after yourself so that other people can enjoy it as well.

Until next time

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Purple tomatoes?! NO WAY!!!


Everyone who knows me knows that my favorite color is purple and that I can’t have a meal without a freshly cut salad, that is why I am happy to inform that Israeli researches have created a purple tomato! Yes, it is for real – soon enough our salads will have red-violet tomatoes along side the red tomatoes and green crunchy cucumbers.

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Why do we need purple tomatoes you ask? Well we don’t but there is a very good reason we should have them. Scientists discovered the pigments made by beets can help boost other veggies resistance to disease and mold, and increase their nutritional value. Weizmann Inst. Of science has opened the way to numerous potential uses of betalains – the highly nutritious red-violet and yellow pigments made by beets.

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Click here for the full article from nocamels.com

Until next time…

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An Israeli University that is branching out!


A few weeks ago, I told you about the Israeli University that opened a campus in New York. Today, that same university opened a new campus in another country on the other side of the planet! In China!

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The Technion, Israel’s version of MIT opened a campus in Guangdong Province in order to promote healthy collaborations between Israel, Hong Kong and China. The work on the campus started when philanthropist Lee Kah Shing approached the Technion to build a full branch of the Technion in Hong Kong.

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Two years after their first meeting, the Hong Kong branch of the Technion opened its gates to 200 students who have already started in September. The million square foot campus has 13 buildings, 29 classrooms, 14 teaching labs and 55 research labs and is ready to have 3,000 students study on campus in the first decade.

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The majors offered to students are Chemical Engineering, Bio-Technology,  Food Engineering and Material Engineering. Soon, advanced degrees in science and engineering will also be offered.

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A degree from this campus will be acknowledged by the Israel Higher Education committee so if you ever want to study in Israel and Asia – this is your chance! 😊

Until next time…

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Happy Hanukkah!


Hello everyone!

I hope you enjoyed the first night of Hanukkah and ate lots of delicious sufganiyot!

Today I’m not going to write a lot – I just wanted you to enjoy a little Hanukkah spirit.

In case you didn’t know what Hanukkah is about, or just want to laugh a little here is Mayim Bialik explaining Hannukah.

And for the Hamilton fans here are the Maccabeats and their take on Hamilton and Hanukkah

Until next time…

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