Sunday, December 16, 2018

Dutch ‘Noah’s Ark’ To Set Sail for Israel and Israeli's (including me) heading for Poland Tourist Areas

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Appreciate others

Make others feel appreciated. You can even write a little note and give it to them to brighten their day. Jump at opportunities to encourage others. This also has the side benefit of giving you a more positive outlook on life!

Love Yehuda Lave

Brothers' Reunion

I'm within a few weeks of turning 49. Having been raised in a non-observant Jewish environment, I only began my Jewish education a year ago and am planning to have my bar mitzvah 37 years late. What is the applicable Torah portion for my celebration?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:


Mazal Tov! Planning your celebration on the week of the Torah portion you were born in, and the week that you became Bar Mitzvah in 37 years ago is extremely powerful, since your Torah portion, Vayigash, is all about reunions.

Parshat Vayigash is the climax of the story of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery while he was still young. For 22 years they remained separated. During that time, the brothers felt great remorse for their actions. A famine also spread causing life to become even more bitter.

Ironically in Egypt, Joseph went from being a slave to the Egyptian prime minister. Since Joseph was a prophet, he was able to discern that a famine was coming; he therefore stored food away in Egypt to eat during the years of famine. Soon, the brothers were forced to come to Egypt to look for food. The Egyptian they solicited was none other than Joseph!

Parshat Vayigash is the story of how these brothers reunite. The brothers didn't recognize Joseph when they asked him for food, because he looked and spoke like an Egyptian. Joseph also didn't reveal his identity right away, fearing that his brothers had not changed since they had sold him into slavery.

However, when Joseph saw that the brothers had regretted selling him into slavery, "Joseph could not restrain himself... He cried so loud that all of Egypt and Pharaoh's household heard. Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?' But his brothers could not answer him because they were disconcerted before him." (Genesis 45:1-3)

The great rabbi, the Chofetz Chaim explained that when Joseph said, "I am Joseph," God's master plan became clear to the brothers. They had no more questions. Everything that had happened for the last 22 years fell into perspective. So too, in a future time God will reveal Himself and announce, "I am the Almighty!" The veil will be lifted from our eyes and we will comprehend everything that transpired throughout history.

So you see, this Torah portion is not only a reunion between brothers, but also a reunion between each brother and God, as they recognized the truth of all that occurred while they were separated.

So too, with you. Your celebration will be a reunion to affirm your relationship with God and the Jewish people.

Despite tensions over the Holocaust, Israeli tourism in Poland is booming By Cnaan Liphshiz

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Shopping was the last thing on Sarah Hirsch's mind this summer when she boarded a flight from Tel Aviv to this capital city.

It started out as a Holocaust pilgrimage. Hirsch, 67, flew to Warsaw in August with her husband, Naftali, and a friend to see where her older brother was murdered at the age of 3, along with three of her grandparents and all of her uncles and cousins.

"I told myself I would do nothing but study and mourn," Hirsch, who was born shortly after World War II in what today is Romania, told JTA after touring the Auschwitz death camp. "It would be an in-and-out," she said of her and her husband's first visit to Poland.

Hirsch, a retired lawyer, also was antagonized after Poland passed a law early this year outlawing rhetoric that blames the nation for any Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust. She fears it will whitewash some Poles' crimes amid the genocide — as do many other critics of that legislation, which triggered a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Poland.

But like a growing number of Israeli tourists who have discovered Poland's charms, Hirsch said her experiences on the ground softened her attitude.

"It developed into giving myself the opportunity to enjoy also the good things," including shopping, she said. "I saw a young generation here that had no part in the Holocaust trying to build a normal, democratic country with many, many beautiful things despite its singularly tragic history."

Despite tensions over how to speak about and approach the Holocaust, tourism from Israel to Poland and vice versa is dramatically increasing, official figures show.

Traffic from Israel to Poland last year skyrocketed to a record 250,000 arrivals, a 79 percent increase from the previous year's 139,000, according to Israel's ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari. That followed a 40 percent rise in 2016 over 2015, according to the Polish Tourism Ministry.

Israel has also gained popularity among Polish tourists, with almost 100,000 arrivals in 2017 — a 64 percent increase over the previous year. And in the first 10 months of 2018, that figure jumped to 123,000 tourists from Poland, Israel's Tourism Ministry told JTA.

LOT, Poland's national airline, added 12 weekly flights last year to the seven it already had from Warsaw to Tel Aviv. The expansion created direct flights from Israel to Gdansk, Poznan, Lublin and Wroclaw, with a Krakow direct flight on track for next year, LOT spokesman Adrian Kubicki told JTA. He said the company is registering no change in traffic following the diplomatic crisis over the Holocaust law.

"Israel is perceived as one of the safest and friendliest destinations in the Middle East right now," Kubicki said. "There's also centuries of cultural affinity that makes Polish people feel at home there."

At least 15 percent of the traffic from Israel to Poland in 2017 owed to organized educational trips about the Holocaust. Israel's Education Ministry arranges such trips for about 25,000 high school students annually, with the numbers rising steadily.

The crisis in relations with Israel — at the height of which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protested when his Polish counterpart appeared to say that some Jews collaborated with their Nazi killers – seems to have had a minimal effect on the traffic.

Shem Olam, a Holocaust museum near Hadera, Israel, said it would no longer include Poland on its small educational trips to Europe. Instead it sent 20 guides this year to Ukraine – a country where collaboration with the Nazis was far greater than in Poland, and which, along with several other Eastern European countries, also has recently passed laws limiting what can be said about such collaboration.

Israel and Poland, which is one of the Jewish state's staunchest advocates in the European Union, buried the hatchet earlier this year after Poland amended the legislation, effectively decriminalizing the prohibition on accusing Poland for Nazi crimes.

Naftali Hirsch, Sarah's husband, says he feels more welcome in Poland than in his native Hungary.

"Some Poles betrayed Jews during the Holocaust," said Naftali Hirsch, 70, who lost two siblings in the Holocaust. "But unlike Hungary, Romania and many other countries, this was not a collaborationist country. This was an occupied country, where the Nazis carried out systemic murder."

In Poland, the Nazis killed 3 million Polish Jews — half of the Jews killed in the Holocaust — as well as another 3 million non-Jewish Poles.

"I feel a kinship," said Nafatali Hirsch, a retired aviation professional. "When I say I'm Jewish here, there's empathy in people's eyes. When I do it in Hungary, there's often an icy silence."

But Sarah Hirsch said it bothered her that their guide at the Auschwitz museum "didn't say a word about collaboration by some Poles."

"Not many, perhaps, but we need to have this discussion," she said. "This country and society is ready for it, despite this law, which many Poles feel uncomfortable with."

The engine for growth in Israeli tourism in Poland, however, is not in its Holocaust-related sites. Rather it owes to Israelis who are drawn by the country's low costs, relative safety and rich Jewish heritage, according to Daniela Singler, an Israeli who has visited Poland 11 times last year.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arrives at the Council of the European Union in Brussels, March 22, 2018. Critics assailed his government's law outlawing certain speech about Holocaust history. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

'It's the perfect combination," she said during an interview on Israel's Channel 2 last year. "The living's cheap. You can get a luxury meal for $13. You stay at a top five-star hotel for less than you'd spend on a guesthouse in the Galilee."

Israel's El Al airlines, in its in-flight magazine earlier this year, crowned Warsaw as a "shopping paradise." The article does not mention any of the city's Jewish attractions, like the award-winning new Polin Jewish museum that opened in 2013, or what remains of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Some tourists from Israel skip these sites altogether.

"I'm not into the whole Holocaust thing, bro," one tourist, Adi Cohen from Petach Tikvah, said while browsing with his girlfriend at a mall.

And the Nożyk Synagogue, the only surviving prewar Jewish house of prayer in Warsaw?

"If I wanted to go to shul, I would've stayed in Petach Tikvah," he said. "I'm here to eat, drink and have fun."

The increase in tourism from Israel is affecting some Polish Jewish institutions.

Galil, one of Warsaw's best kosher restaurants, has had to move to a bigger space and triple its manpower over the past eight years, its manager, David Sosnckey, told JTA. It now employs three chefs who struggle to accommodate the ever-growing stream of patrons.

The restaurant, which serves a fusion menu of Middle Eastern and Eastern European foods with kosher certification from the highly strict Edah HaChareidis label, has had to move because "the neighbors at our previous location started complaining about the noise and traffic," he said.

Several new kosher or Israeli restaurants have opened over the past five years not only in Warsaw, but in cities as far west as Poznan and as far east as Lublin. In Warsaw, that included the Israeli kosher restaurant Bekef and Hummus Bar and the Mezze falafel eatery. In Krakow, in the southern part of the country, there was Hamsa, an Israeli restaurant with Turkish references.

Lublin's newest Israeli restaurant, Olive, is part of what is perhaps the most remarkable touristic endeavor undertaken in Poland in recent years targeting a Jewish clientele.

Yossi Blak, left, and fellow travelers from Israel visiting Lublin's Hotel Ilan, Sept. 5, 2018. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

Operating since 2013, it opened as part of Hotel Ilan – a four-star establishment with 50 rooms. Its building used to house Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, a Hasidic university of unprecedented proportions that opened in 1930, cementing the city's status as a hub of Jewish learning and life in Eastern Europe.

Featuring dormitories for hundreds of students – a novelty among yeshivas at the time – it was gutted by the Nazis in 1939. They burned the establishment's books in 1940 in a fire that lasted 20 hours.

After the building was returned to the Jewish community of Poland, it was turned into a prestigious hotel. Today it serves a varied clientele ranging from Jewish pilgrims visiting graves of prominent rabbis to conference-goers who book Ilan for its spa and exotic in-house restaurant.

The imposing facade, a typical piece of 20th-century architecture with Baroque and Art Deco elements, features a fresh coat of light orange paint and a large sign in Hebrew bearing the former yeshiva's name and a biblical verse. Only inside, does the illusion of a living, breathing Talmudic institution give way to a boutique hotel design, complete with a bar and a sauna.

Another part of the building features a museum that is free to tour, even for non-guests. And there's a small functioning synagogue.

"This hotel, I couldn't care less about it," said one visitor, Yossi Blak, an Orthodox Jewish tourist from the Israeli city of Bnei Brak. Bound for the Ukrainian city of Uman for a Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage, Blak and his family passed by Lublin because the late Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, the leader of Blak's stream of haredi Judaism, used to attend Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin.

"In fact," Blak said, "I try to block out all this touristic noise, close my eyes and imagine the sound of 5,000 yeshiva students reciting and studying Torah. When they return to this hotel, I'll get a room."

Cnaan Liphshiz is based in the Netherlands, where he reports on Jewish life throughout Europe. Born in Israel, he previously worked as foreign news editor for Maariv and as a reporter for Haaretz

Yehuda's note--I'm going to Warsaw in August, because it was cheap on Wizz

Dutch 'Noah's Ark' To Set Sail for Israel

"This is a copy of God's ship. It only makes sense to take it to God's land," said boat builder Johan Huibers.

By: Mara Vigevani/TPS

A Dutch Christian businessman who built a life-sized replica of Noah's Ark has announced he hopes to sail the 95-foot-wide, 410-foot-long, and 75-foot-tall vessel to Israel.

The Noah's Ark replica was built by Johan Huibers during the years 2008 to 2013 together with other amateur carpenters.

The Ark has been floating along Holland's Maas River in the Dutch Bible Belt, a strip of land in the southern Netherlands with a high concentration of conservative Orthodox Calvinist Protestants.

Dubbed "Johan's Ark," it is open to the public in the Netherlands. It has five decks, is entirely constructed of Swedish pine wood and cost $5 million to construct. The ark is longer than a football field and can hold more than 5,000 people at once.


God's Land

In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency earlier this month, Huibers, who made a fortune building storage spaces, said he wants to take the ark to "God's land" as soon as he raises the approximately $1.3 million necessary for getting there.

"This is a copy of God's ship. It only makes sense to take it to God's land," he told JTA.

Huibers planned to sail it to Israel immediately after its completion, but the plan was postponed "due to the massive wildfires Israel was dealing with at the time," according to the Ark of Noah Foundation website.

According to the site, the ark was created for Christian educational purposes, focused on spreading the Gospel, and social outreach to the underprivileged.

Huibers, 60, has always been fascinated with navigation. At the age of 24, he firmed up his religious convictions, but the decision to build the ark came when he was 33, after he dreamt that a fierce storm-tide flooded the entire province of Noord-Holland, in the area where he grew up.

Huibers also has plans to sail the ark to Brazil and to several port cities in South, Central and North America.

A chorus of kitties

There's only one way to silence the herd. After plenty of awesome comments, I want to clarify a few things: These are my farm cats, not stray in any way. They live a happy life outside keeping mice out of my house and barns. Yes, they were fed more than that, I just didn't see any reason to tape their entire meal. I am not complaining about feeding them, I just recorded this because I thought this little ritual was funny and might bring a smile to a few people.

I Have a Chorus of Cats Singing at My Door Everyday


Farmer Corey Karmann has a gang of twelve kitties that live at the farm with him. They are very good at keeping the mice and rats at bay and stops them from overtaking the house and adjoining barns. For this Corey is eternally grateful.

He takes very good care of them and every evening when he returns from work the cats are on the porch waiting expectedly for their evening meal, that's when the chorus begins. He thought it would be fun to film them at the door demanding food, but don't worry folks, after filming, he gave them their proper bowls filled with their favorite food.

See you tomorrow

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

2850 Womble Road, Suite 100-619, San Diego
United States


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