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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reb. Nosson Zvi Finkel’s love for his students

I have some photographs  taken just six weeks ago that I treasure.

During that morning, my husband and I visited the cheder kindergarten where our grandson learns and, together with his parents and teachers, we had celebrated his 3rd birthday.

A 3rd birthday is special for a Jewish boy, because it marks the beginning of his education and also is the first time a boy gets his hair cut. The other boys in his class sang to little Yaacov and they all danced together, cake and goodies were handed out. Then my son-in-law took him off to visit his Rosh Yeshiva to cut the first locks of hair from our grandson’s head and to give him a ‘bracha’a blessing.

How could I have known when my daughter later came to show me the photos of Reb Nosson Zvi Finkel ZT”L, the Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, and my son-in-law’s Rosh Yeshiva, cutting my 3 year old grandson’s hair, that just a few weeks later he would no longer be amongst us.

I knew that Reb Nosson Zvi suffered from a very severe form of Parkinson’s disease. His decision not to take any medication in case it affected his memory and caused him to forget anything he had ever learnt, meant that he was wracked constantly by a shaking body.
All who had been privileged to watch him give a shiur,  attested to the extreme difficulty he had controlling his limbs, but it didn’t stop him giving countless shiurim sometimes sitting on his hands to stop them from interfering with his delivery.

And he was known to almost never refuse a request to officiate at a student’s wedding, be sandek at a Brit Mila ( the one who holds the baby) or to cut the hair of a 3 year old at his first hair-cut.
How was it possible, I asked my son-in-law, for someone whose limbs were so uncontrollable to agree to perform these tasks which must have been so difficult for him?

My sons-in-law’s answer gave an inkling of the greatness of this amazing man.
If he exerted tremendous strength he could control his limbs for a few seconds, but the exertion was exhausting for him. Yet for his students and their families  he was always prepared to go not just the extra mile, but what must have been for him the extra thousand miles.

Reb Nosson Zvi’s love for his students, and he had thousands of them, was legendry. No other Rosh Yeshiva, it was said, had so many private learning sessions with his students on top of his grueling schedule of shiurim. Anyone who asked to learn with him was almost guaranteed a time slot in his packed daily schedule.

How many of us have ever faced the 24/7 difficulties, challenges and debilitating pain that Reb Nosson Zvi lived with, and accepted them silently with such superhuman love for our fellow Jews?

Knowing what he was prepared to go through to bring happiness to his students and their families, even at such cost to himself, is an inspiration to all of us who sometimes find life a little challenging.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Did you ever wonder what happened to the thousands  of families  who were expelled from Gush Katif?

Six years ago, the  government ripped thousands of families from their own homes in order to bring ‘peace’ to Gaza.
They believed, or so they told  us, that if we gave the Arabs all of Gaza, including the section that was populated by Jewish families and farmers , the Arabs would love us and would live in peace with us happily ever after.
So thousands of people who had built up home and communities, businesses and farms  with their bare hands with the blessing of the government, were torn from their homes and dumped onto buses to be taken ………..somewhere.
And where are they now?
You would be forgiven for assuming that of course they are all happily settled in some new settlement or farm, or living in towns around the country.
Unfortunately this is very far from the truth. Many are still in the same ‘caravans’ or  flimsy 'cardboard houses' that they were given six years ago, together with worthless promises of  compensation to rebuild wherever they wanted.

Two years ago I wrote this article about Rachel Saperstein, one of the strongest advocates for the group. Early on in the campaign she set up a special fund called Operation Dignity to help ease the financial burden for those left homeless and jobless.

Last week I received  the message below  from her. She and many others from the former settlement of Neve Dekalim, are now  being hit continually by the missiles from Gaza – that very same Gaza they  left five years ago in order to achieve peace with the Arabs who are now attacking us all day after day.

by Rachel Saperstein, Nitzan/Neve Dekalim

"Do you know the fellow who works in the pizza shop?" a friend asked.

"Of course" I answered.

"Well" my friend continued, "he's ordering a mobile security room. It's costing them quite a bit of money but they have no choice. It's impossible to run with five small children, especially in the middle of the night, into the sewer pipe shelter. He says his kids are terrified. They're wetting their beds, clinging to him and his wife, and afraid to go to sleep at night. 'What will happen if you can't get all of us into the pipe on time?' his oldest kid asked."
We only have ten seconds from the sound of the siren to get into the concrete sewer pipe in our cul de sac. Hence the mobile shelters. Last week, with the sirens wailing, I watched grandparents running into the sewer pipe clutching their grandchildren wrapped in blankets. An infant was held by her pregnant mom.

"Where are they going to put the security room?" I asked my friend.

"They'll cut out parts of the plasterboard wall in the children's room and attach the shelter to it. If there's a night of heavy bombardment they'll put mattresses on the floor and the kids will go to sleep directly from the bath."

Bath time is always frightening. One always wonders if the siren will wail while one is all soaped up. "At least I'll die clean" my husband says.

Last Sunday morning we had the first real experience of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. The sound was horrific. Pieces of shrapnel from the exploded missile fell close to a nearby housing area. Is Iron Dome a blessing or a curse? Over fifty missiles have been fired at our western Negev area. Only two or three were intercepted by Iron Dome.

As you can see,  they are very far from resettled.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


It was  so great  to finally meet up again with my old ‘real’ friend and current ‘e-friend’ Ros Adam.
We haven’t seen each other since we were teenagers, and I’m not going to tell  you how long ago that was (but it’s  not far off half a century !) but we’ve been in email contact for the last  3 years since we reconnected over a book project Ros was editing for our hometown, Leicester.

Our get-together was short and sweet as Ros was on her first visit to Israel( you can read all about  it on her blog )and only had a week to site-see. Next time I hope we’ll be able to spend longer together.

Living in Israel, we’ve had many reunions with  long lost friends . It’s a rare Jewish soul that doesn’t find its way here at some point.
Many teenagers, take a year off  between school and college and visit Israel for a year. Some volunteer on a kibbutz  or come to learn the language and some girls come to study in a religious seminar and boys to spend a year in yeshiva.
During their stay, there are always those ‘out’ Shabbatot’, when the kids are expected to make their own arrangements for Shabbat and go and stay with someone.
This is how we’ve come to meet many of our friends’ children. Our address and phone number have obviously been entered into their electronic address book for just such an occurrence and  we’re happy to host them and their friends who may not have a full address book to choose from.

It’s all part of the enjoyment and privilege of living in Israel.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Thank G'd it's been a wonderful start to the Jewish New Year.
Our youngest daughter got engaged, we have been blessed with a new grandson, we had a first Bar Mitzvah of the next generation..............and of course

Gilad Shalit came home.

Although we all prayed with all our hearts that he should come home safely to his family, I  know that I never really believed that we'd see him alive again.
Thank G'd I was wrong.

First photos of Gilad after his release from 5 years incarceration in a prison in Gaza .
We pray that we and all of our People should continue to hear only good news throughout the coming year.