Friday, December 6, 2013
It was on Masada that a small garrison of Jewish rebels held out against the Roman conquest in the year 73 CE. Three years after the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, Eleazar Ben Ya'ir and some 960 others of the Sicarii Zealots resisted the siege of Roman governor Flavius Silva and the mighty Tenth Legion of the most powerful army on earth.
Rather than allow themselves to be captured and taken off into slavery in the far reaches of the Roman Empire, the Zealots decided that it was better to die at their own hands as free men. After listening to an impassioned speech by Ben Ya'ir, the Zealots drew lots and then took their own lives.
This makes for an amazing story, something that still resonates in Israel today when new army recruits swear in with the vow, "Masada will never fall again". But how much of the Masada story is actually true?
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Let’s start with the facts. In 2004, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed a “Disengagement plan” that would see the country unilaterally relinquish control over the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank in recognition that “there exists no Palestinian partner with whom to advance peacefully toward a settlement.” There were 9,000 Israeli residents living in 21 civilian Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip at the time. In August 2005, Israeli soldiers evicted these settlers and a month later, the last IDF troops withdrew from Gaza.
The Settler opens as soldiers are evicting the Dakar family, long-time Gush Katif residents and agricultural pioneers in their community. The scene is traumatic – a family of ordinary citizens who didn’t break any laws is being forcefully pulled out of their home – yet it is a scene that most Israelis avoided seeing, or thinking about. This harrowing experience leads Sarah Dakar, the family’s oldest daughter, to reevaluate everything she has held dear about Israel and its values.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
According to tradition, the oil used in the Temple's re-dedication was only supposed to last one day, but miraculously lasted for eight days instead. From this miracle, holiday customs and traditions developed celebrating both the festive lights and the oil itself.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
My wife and I signed up for a four-session touring course on "Minorities in the Old City of Jerusalem" and the first visit was to the Christian Quarter, to learn about the role the Catholics play in the Holy City. The tour had been organized by Zmane Eshkol, the leading operator of leisure studies in Israel, and our guide for the day is Esther Sa'ad.
Friday, November 22, 2013
I have always had problems connecting with Facebook's interface, and in fact, many of my 'friends' seem a lot less active these days. Either that or I just never see their posts because of Facebook's incomprehensible algorithms. I never set up a Facebook author page, deciding instead to use Twitter as my primary promotion platform, and as a way of connecting with other writers.
You have to relate to Twitter with an understanding of what you can get out of it. Most of my followers are fellow writers, so I never shout out "Buy my book" in my tweets. I have sold a few books directly thru Twitter, but I think I could count these sales on two hands. So, why is Twitter important to me?
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Although the stories of Who Will Die Last barely fill 150 pages, one shouldn't attempt to finish them in one sitting. Each story has to be digested by itself; each one lingers pleasantly after completion. Some of the stories, barely a page or two long, are just right at that length, while others introduce us to characters we wish to know further and situations that we wish would last longer.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
My wife and I signed up for a three-part visit to the markets of Tel Aviv, with a focus on the special tastes and foods available. The course is run by Zmane Eshkol, the leading operator of leisure studies in Israel, and our guide for the day is the very knowledgeable Or Rein.
The tour starts at the iconic Shalom Tower, once the highest skyscraper in the entire Middle East. Let's step inside for a little bit of history about Tel Aviv's origins, and then we'll begin tasting the special foods that Tel Aviv has to offer.