Jerusalem Community Theater, Hidden in Plain Sight

Jerusalem Community  Theater

Wait, what? There’s community theater in English in Jerusalem?

I found myself hanging out just on the very edge of a fascinating and beautiful community. One I didn’t even know existed. How did I find out? Well… I married an actress.

But if it weren’t for that, I may have never noticed it was there.

The community is thriving, with over ten companies and a wide variety of shows performed every year.

But like anything else in the world, there’s room for improvement. And certainly room for expansion.

Why Jerusalem Community Theater?

People get involved in Jerusalem’s community theater groups for all sorts of reasons. According to CB Davies, the founder of JET, “Some people were involved in theater at some point in their life and want to do it again. Some … love the show … and so want to be a part of that … [and] there are those who want to continue to do theater and use their skills.”

However, it’s the social aspect that intrigues me the most. According to Rivka Deray, JET’s Content Manager, “It’s an incredible way for people, especially new Olim [immigrants], to find a community and create a social circle in Jerusalem.” She adds that, “New people join all the time, and there are people who always welcome them in and make them feel at home.”

There are many great adjectives people use to describe this community. The community is welcoming, diverse, and extremely supportive. Davies says, “We’re very multicultural. People join from all parts of the world.” And Marty Weisel, founder of JET Venues and a member of JET’s content team, says, “The best thing about the community is the people … surrounding myself with friends who support me and care about me.”

Room for Improvement

But as with anything great, there’s always space to grow and develop. And there are those working tirelessly to take this hidden gem in Jerusalem and make it even better.

Some speak about taking the performances and bringing them to the next level of quality. Weisel says, “The productions given by the community are incredible, however … there is always room for improvement. There is so much talent in the community … and we need to find the way to raise the standards all the time.”

Davies wants to expand the community, a suggestion that means a lot to me personally. I love theater. And yet I lived in Jerusalem for over a year without even realizing there was community theater at all, let alone in English. Davies wants to see the theater community “marketing itself better, reaching out to bring more people into the community, giving more people a chance to perform or use their skills [and] training.”

Some ideas are simpler, just to add a little pizazz to what exists. Deray offered a novel suggestion. She would like to see annual award ceremonies to celebrate some of the most impressive accomplishments in the community.

Next-Level Integration

However, the most common sentiment was that despite everything amazing that’s happening, a certain level of unity is lacking. “I would love to see it better integrated,” says Deray. “I’d love if there was a more interconnected system where any company could receive supplies, funding, etc as needed.”

Davies would also like to see a stronger “connection between the different companies.” He states that “they all give something different to the community, but in the end we are all the same artistic community.”

They believe the community is made up of multiple disparate parts, each one great in its own way. However, when the groups can come together under one banner, the potential is limitless. The whole will be far greater than the sum of each of its parts.

JET (Jerusalem English Theater)

And that’s where JET comes in. JET (Jerusalem English Theater community) was created to foster unity, and give all of its members everything they could have ever hoped for. “JET’s goals are to create a single place for companies to lean on,” says Deray. “Whether that is by providing locations, or advertising for all upcoming performances and auditions, or helping companies coordinate show schedules to avoid event conflicts. We want our site to become the Google of Jerusalem community theater, where people who aren’t as familiar yet can go to one beautiful website and find out all they need to know about upcoming performances and how they can be a part.”

It would be “a website that brings all the community into one place”, according to Davies. Replete with “blog posts to let people see what happens behind the scenes, promote the community, and let people express themselves.”

And part of the greater overall vision is to not only have a website, but an actual physical location (JET Venues). “A space that is geared towards performing arts”, says Weisel. “By having classes and opportunities available all the time … actors can hone their craft … and do what [they] love all year round.” Davies sees JET Venues ultimately as “a place that the community can call home for its artistic endeavors. This hopefully will allow artists to emerge, create, and bring new material and stories to Jerusalem”

And, of course, for the overall benefit of the community, everyone would love to see more and more involvement from a wider array of people. “I would love to see the theater community circle expand ever greater,” says Deray, “becoming home to more and more people and talents.”

Jerusalem Community Theater… is a Potato Chip

Davies says about much of these changes and developments, “I think in a way it is happening already, but I’d like to see more of it.”

Jerusalem Community Theater is a gem, hidden in plain sight in Jerusalem. It’s growing and improving all the time. Nevertheless, some folk want and need more. And they’re working to make that a reality.

Ultimately, Jerusalem’s theater community is a joyous one. “The shows themselves are like potato chips”, says Deray. “Once you’ve experienced the incredible feeling of putting your all into a production, working with and getting close to friends, old and new, you just have to come back for more.”

Yup, a fantastic community. However, there are a handful of folk out there hoping the community sees days with more, even tastier chips.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Entertainment, Israel, opinion, 0 comments

Not the Game of Thrones I Remember

Game of Thrones

Warning: This article is loaded with Game of Thrones spoilers. Beware!

I love Game of Thrones. Yeah, I know, it’s me and the rest of the world. But it doesn’t change the fact that I love everything from the intense action to the riveting dialogue to the top notch acting.

But Game of Thrones, whereas I do love you… I just don’t like you sometimes.

I think it’s important to explore some elements about why I love the show… in order to understand why I’ve been disappointed so much lately.

Game of Thrones is Anti-Hollywood

I didn’t know anything about Game of Thrones when I began watching it. Then again, I come into almost everything I watch blind. But Hollywood consistently leaves me with little to keep me on the edge of my seat. The good guys win, some characters are untouchable, and the love interest will put cute smiles on all our faces. All wrapped up neatly by the end.

But Game of Thrones shocked me time and time again. I watched a child pushed out a window in the first episode and knew something was quite different about this show. And at the infamous Red Wedding, as I saw the “good guys” systematically and brutally decimated, in jaw dropping fashion, I knew I was hooked.

My emotions were entirely trapped in the show. And like in real life, I never knew what was coming next. And I’ve spent the last several years on the edge of my seat.

Game of Thrones, Surprisingly Unsafe

In conjunction with the element of surprise, I love the fact that no character is ever truly safe. We’ve seen our beloved decapitated. We’ve seen their pregnant wife stabbed in the belly. And we’ve spent seasons growing to adore certain characters, only to see the show yank on our emotional wellbeing and toss it to the trashcan. One moment we look at you with admiration; the next, you are permanently removed from our lives.

No one is invincible. Everyone can get everything taken away from them in a heartbeat. Even in an embarrassing and disrespectful manner. As un-Hollywood as it can get!

The Patient GoT

In addition, Game of Thrones is patient. If the most important thing needed to create a dramatic impact is time, then so be it.

My heart was pounding when Jon Snow and Sansa Stark were reunited. They said goodbye to each other in the first season, and not knowing anything about what the other had been through, saw each other again five seasons later. I felt chills when it happened. I have never known a show willing to wait even remotely that long to create a sensation so special.

We Love to Hate

Finally, many shows have great heroes. But no one has mastered the villain the way Game of Thrones has. It’s harder to understand why hate and anger are as important as love and respect. But it’s true. Yes, we all love Tyrion, Arya, and Daenerys. But we went to sleep at night dreaming of how Joffrey could finally be out of the picture. We were restless for weeks wanting to know if Ramsay Bolton would get what’s coming to him. And the Night King has cost many souls a night’s slumber.

Season 8, Episode 3…

I’m writing this post shortly after watching the epic third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. The episode was a masterpiece that kept the world breathing heavy for 90 minutes.

I loved it.

And I’m also terribly disappointed. All of the principles I mentioned before were ignored. Hollywood inserted its venom into the episode, and even though it was extremely entertaining, regretfully I believe ignoring what makes the show great, will ultimately make its ending quite forgettable.

Game of Thrones, Predictably Safe

What do I mean? There was nothing surprising about the episode. Nothing at all. It was a pure Hollywood delight. Yes, some characters who we have gotten to know for several years now perished. But every last one of them was expendable.

Does anyone really care if Theon Greyjoy finally met his Creator? Or if Beric Dondarrion will not be around for the next three episodes? Frankly, I don’t. Yes, they’re significant in the show, but they’re really not our heroes, nor are they characters of consequence.

But they all die amazing, heroic deaths. No one was slaughtered with their guard down or in some incredibly unexpected way. Everyone died like a champion. Even little adorable Lyanna Mormont took out a giant as she met her fate.

But what about Jon Snow and Daenerys and Tyrion? Completely and totally untouchable. For eight seasons, we haven’t seen Daenerys touch a single weapon. And now, just when it’s convenient, she’s a master killer of the Night King’s army. When we know the good guys are going to win, and the heroes cannot be harmed, Game of Thrones ceases to be Game of Thrones. We’re not kept on the edge of our seats. We can calmly watch knowing everything will be OK.

A Path Already Traveled

Game of Thrones seems to be taking a path already traveled, returning from a multi-season adventure where we never knew what to expect. It’s a world where Theon Greyjoy can die but Arya Stark cannot. A world where Theon gets to die a heroic death, as a great and valiant warrior.

We’re no longer waiting for a buildup to a great moment. And we’re watching as villains are dying like flies. The dreaded Night King, who poured fear into our hearts for years, whose spear took a dragon right out of the air, can be conquered by a single knife wound from a young girl.

GoT, What Will Be?

I miss the days of not knowing what will be. The days where heroes and villains had ambiguities. When plot and depth of character intrigued us, rather than being pulled in by just action and excitement.

Television has progressively become more and more disappointing. Few shows can capture my attention for more than a few seasons. Game of Thrones, you have been my shining light in a dark, dark cave. You’ve got three episodes left. Please don’t disappoint.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Entertainment, opinion, 0 comments

In a Stranger’s Grave

In a Stranger's Grave

Last year, Jerusalem’s community theater group Theater and Theology put on a remarkable play. The show tackled the issue of how a religion deals with an ever changing world. Off the Derech Dolorosa was not only a pleasure to watch… I’d definitely give it two thumbs as a fantastic play to propose after.

And this year, they’re back to tackle an extremely divisive and potentially painful issue: The retroactive cancellation of Jewish conversions.

The Conversion Crisis

There are some crazy and complex things that happen in Israel’s religious community. Sometimes they’re amusing. Sometimes downright heartbreaking. And sometimes so perplexing, they feel impossible to wrap one’s head around.

In Israel, there are assorted issues surrounding conversion to Judaism that are complex talking points in our community. Small and enormous travesties abound. These issues inspired Miriam Metzinger to tackle them in her play, In a Stranger’s Grave.

“I … was re-reading Sophocles’ Antigone,” Metzinger said, “about Oedpus’ daughter Antigone who was not allowed by the king … to bury one of her brothers because [he] felt this burial would cause a kind of moral pollution. I immediately thought about a story I had read in the newspaper about someone whose body was denied burial … because the conversion was not recognized in Israel … The issues in Antigone … are still … current many centuries later.”

One of the show’s stars, Avital Macales, said, “Before getting to know this play, I had not heard that something like this could happen. I found it quite shocking when I finally heard about it. And I look forward to hearing the scholars speak after each performance and finding out what they think about the matter.”

Shocking Awareness

Personally, I was stunned as well. I’ve been studying Judaism for quite some time now. And despite my many reasons to be wary of the actions of Israel’s Rabbanut, initially I thought the play was addressing either a non-issue, or an extremely obscure topic.

After all, in Jewish law, a Jew never stops being a Jew. Even if one wants to, the DNA sticks to you like super glue. Neither casting off your beliefs nor renouncing your connection to the Jewish people, will have any impact whatsoever. And, of course, when one converts to Judaism, there is no difference. A Jew is a Jew. And once you’re a part of the tribe, there’s no going back. No matter what happens.

In a Stranger’s Grave

Sadly, I was wrong. In a Stranger’s Grave is based on real stories. True events that challenged the lives of real people, with real feelings. Tragedies that hurt people, and caused long-lasting impact.

Macales plays Esther Gottlieb, in her words “a 23-year-old woman who grew up in an Anglo Yeshivish environment in Jerusalem to a loving mother (a convert) and father, and one sister, Chana, with whom she is very close. [They] unfortunately suffered the loss of their father and, six years later, their mother.”

The story centers on the Rabbinic reaction to Esther’s mother’s conversion and the issue of whether or not the conversion can be retroactively invalidated. “The different reactions of the family and community members to the crisis highlight current conflicting values in the Jewish and Israeli world,” according to Yael Valier, the show’s director and the founder of Theater and Theology.

Macales describes Esther as “strong, opinionated, idealistic, and [someone who] looks truth straight in the eye”. Thus she is the perfect character to stare right in the face of a complex issue that can easily be misconstrued as black and white. She’s also a delight for Macales to play, seeing as she pours on the sarcasm, whereas her portrayer offstage likes to “keep all [her] real-life sarcasm bottled up inside”.

A True and Present Danger to Israel and the Jewish people

Valier describes this conversion disaster as “a fraught subject that is reaching crisis proportions in Israel”. But how can it be that something so complex and damaging is simultaneously obscure and ignored? Valier says, “the people affected don’t talk about it because by their very nature, conversion problems are kept quiet.” This topic, and others like it, is a true and present danger to Israel and the Jewish people. “It can [happen], it does [happen], and we should be aware.”

Miriam Metzinger wrote In a Stranger’s Grave to address an issue that needs to be discussed. Yael Valier and Theater and Theology produced In a Stranger’s Grave to make sure the word gets spread. But it’s up to the rest of us–those who care deeply about our country and people–to make sure issues like these are not swept under the rug.

I’ve said it many times before: We could be doing better.

What is Theater and Theology?

There are many community theater companies in Jerusalem. However, this group is different. One of the novelties of the Theater and Theology experience is the speakers. There is a scheduled talk after each performance, a scholar who addresses the play’s subjects. The scholars approach the issues from a number of different perspectives. Some noted speakers include Rabbanit Shani Taragin and Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo.

The fascinating subjects are all meant to get you thinking. They spur conversation and open up doors for discussing topics we’re not always comfortable talking about. All of these fantastic scholars help us delve just a little deeper into subjects we care about immensely; however, we sometimes don’t know exactly how to collect our thoughts and feelings about them.

In a nutshell, Valier says that Theater and Theology “brings fascinating, current angles on philosophical questions to theater goers, and it takes scholars out of the lecture hall and into the theater. For me, that’s heaven.”

You can click here to learn more about Theater and Theology and to buy tickets for In a Stranger’s Grave. And keep your eyes wide open for more interesting productions in the future. Miriam Metzinger has upcoming dramas and comedies in the works. And Jerusalem’s theater community is a hidden gem in Jerusalem, with a lot more to come.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, judaism, 0 comments

Five Crappy Things about Israel that Need to Change… Yesterday

Crap

OK, I’m a cynic. I get that.

But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong about everything. Nor does it mean my country gets a free pass on me pointing out its garbage.

A lot of people here treat Israel as if it’s a utopia, void of any major issues. People brag left and right about Israel’s accomplishments and constantly regard simple moments of humans acting like humans as “only in Israel” moments.

They’ve been ignoring Israel’s problems for so long, sometimes I think people have learned to meditate themselves into a place where they can rest and relax treating all of the problems as if they’re distant memories of Israel’s past.

But they’re not. Israel has real issues. And no excuse for not working tirelessly to fix all of them. Or at least improve upon them.

This post is about five of those problems. They should be far better by now. We can do better. Much better.

1) Housing Crap

If you want to live in a city in Israel, it’s going to cost you. Big time.

So why do we do it?

Well, in some of the more remote areas, getting around without a vehicle is borderline impossible. But getting around with a vehicle is expensive, stressful, and extremely time consuming.

The city is where most of the stores are, all necessities, and any semblance of a social life. And outlying areas are by no means designed for single people in any way.

But city rent is high with low value for your dollar. The “system” places renters at the mercy of the owners. And you have minutes to grab a desired home before someone else snatches it up.

And whereas rent is outrageous, purchasing is downright impossible for most people. The prices are mind-blowingly high, and the percentage needed for a down payment makes me throw up in my mouth.

In the end, there really are only a few choices: 1. Leave the major cities, with all the hardships that comes along. 2. Rent in a city, and deal with almost inevitable poverty. 3. Or come to the country rich.

2) Customer Service Crap

We’ve gotten to the point where if a waiter smiles at us, we are ecstatic, we brag to everyone we know that things are really turning around here, and put a post on Facebook exclaiming that we experienced an “only in Israel” moment.

Fact is, the norm is to be barked at by customer service representatives, ignored by clerks, and generally made to feel like we’re unwanted in any store or restaurant we enter.

We Americans are confused, knowing full well that any establishment could make considerably more profit just by being a whole lot nicer. However, I genuinely feel this is just not of interest to the average Joe on the street here. If we were to explain that being pleasant and helpful would generate 20% more revenue, they would say, “No thanks. Keep your money. I enjoy being unpleasant and no amount of money is worth changing that!”

But we’re all at fault here. We tolerate it. We’ve done a poor job letting the country know we’re not coming back if you treat us like garbage. And, sadly, they’ve done a pretty decent job preventing us from letting the world know how we feel.

3) Smoking Crap

Israelis smoke. They smoke constantly and in every nook and cranny they could find.

Often I’m standing somewhere minding my own business, and someone will just wander up next to me and light up a cigarette.

At moments like that I wish I could just secrete some nasty odor that wafts in their direction. “My goodness, that’s vile,” they might exclaim. And I could turn toward them and say, with all of my masterful sarcasm, “I’m sorry. Does this smell irritate you? Is it bothersome? I simply had no idea that when doing something disgusting next to a perfect stranger, the possibility exists I might be causing them a disturbance.”

In all seriousness, how is this still a thing? Israel brags left and right about being ranked the 10th healthiest in the world. And we are all aware of the financial struggles that are rampant here. Yet, our society is riddled with this lung-piercing, overpriced nonsense that harms the population, and fills the air with stink and the streets with litter.

I often ask people to stop smoking in areas they’re not allowed. Sometimes right next to a sign! Nothing is enforced, and no one seems to care.

The time has come to rein in this nonsense.

4) Political Crap

I’ve been watching Israel’s political scene for a while now. It seems like every time I vote there is something different about the system. We didn’t get it right the last time around, let’s have another go.

The only thing that ever seems to stay the same: Paper ballots.

I feel like I’m voting for class president.

Anyhow, when the recent elections ended, I felt something in the society I don’t believe I’ve felt before: Mass apathy and exhaustion with the way things are and will seemingly always be.

Ultimately, that’s what these elections represented. The guy who’s been around forever against the guy who has nothing to offer but not being the other guy. There are 20,000 parties, but ultimately only really two viewpoints: Left and right. There are thousands of ignored issues and unheard voices. And there is inherent pandering to anyone who holds any amount of political power.

All you need is a few seats in the government, and boom, you get everything you want just so the top dog can build a coalition and stay in power.

And everything just stays the same. We become complacent. We had a burst of hope dashed by the reality that things are very unlikely to get better anytime soon.

I don’t know what system would be better. Maybe term limits would help. Perhaps better checks and balances for the Prime Minister. More representation for smaller parties. An overhaul of the current system. Who knows? But once again, we can do better.

5) Religious Crap

And each time around, it seems there is no greater beneficiary to the faults in our political process than the ultra-religious, who seek to impose their will on the entire society.

No doubt about it, Israel is a fantastic place to be a religious Jew. The freedom to practice is unmatched. Kosher restaurants abound. There are many aspects of a religious lifestyle that you could keep by accident here!

But religion is supposed to elevate people, not create anger and resentment. Judaism and its leaders are supposed to be something that unifies us, not something that brings hatred and divisiveness.

There are many ways to be a great Jew. An endless search for control and power is not one of them. Separation of Church and State is a tried and true system of many a well-functioning democracy. It certainly wouldn’t hurt if it wormed its way over here. At least to some extent.

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Israel has a lot going for it. And it’s nowhere near the worst place to live. But there’s a lot of crap. Loads of crap. And the first step in fixing a problem, is admitting it’s there.

Let’s own up to our crap, put it all out on the table, and start making our homeland the place it could and should be.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, politics, religion, 0 comments

Leaping for ALYN

ALYN Hospital

Another year… another leap from an airplane.

My son and I are once again jumping from a plane, for an absolutely fantastic cause. We would love it if you could contribute. Every dollar counts.

ALYN Hospital is Incredible

So first, why should you donate to ALYN Hospital?

ALYN is the only rehabilitation hospital for kids and teens in Israel. If children are involved in a car accident, hurt in an act of terror, or suffer some other trauma leaving them with serious injuries that impact their ability to lead independent lives, ALYN is likely their best hope.

ALYN Hospital will create a unique plan for each child depending on what they need, which often involves a variety of therapies and equipment. A child may receive any number of different therapies, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, pet therapy, and gardening therapy.

Everyone is pulled from every direction as to where to donate their hard-earned money. Personally, I prefer to give to a cause that everyone can agree upon. No politics, no biases. Just making the world a better place.

Children’s rehabilitation hospital?

No brainer.

Skydiving to Glory

I love participating in fundraisers. I love seeking new and exciting adventures. And I love any and all excuse to have quality time with my amazing son.

In addition, I’ve been plagued with a slew of injuries lately that have made more traditional fundraisers (like races) difficult if not impossible for me. So when I heard about the possibility of combining all of this together, I jumped at the opportunity (pun very painfully intended).

My son and I participated last year and are ecstatic to do so again. This is the fourth consecutive year for this unique style of fundraiser. And I’m hoping we’ll be diving for many years to come.

Skydiving was nothing like what I was expecting.

My top three observations after jump number one:

Pushed out a Plane

1) You don’t really jump out of a plane. It’s more like getting nudged out of one, or “tumbling out of a plane”, in the words of Julie Zola, a program participant. Or in another participant, Dana Adler’s, words, “listen to the instructor, trust in them and LET GO! You are not in control and sometimes that’s a great thing.”

In fact, there’s something truly liberating about having minimal control over what happens next. If you’re up against your fears, you’re facing them head on. And you will conquer them. Dana says, “Once you’re up in that plane, there’s no going back. This mirrors what the parents of the children in ALYN go through once they enter the doors of [the] hospital and… have no choice but to be strong.”

Learnin’ to Fly

2) Skydiving doesn’t feel like falling. More like floating or soaring. Or in the words of Dana Adler, it’s “the feeling of flying and being weightless, seeing the world from an entirely different perspective.” Julie describes it as “serenity filled with adrenaline… Once the parachute deploys, it is incredibly peaceful.”

However you want to describe it, skydiving does not have the expected terrifying feeling of plummeting to your doom. It’s not actually scary at all. Partcipant Dani Schijveschuurder says, “Any feelings of fear, is your brain playing mind-games. The actual jump is far less scary!”

No, it’s not a terrible fall at all. In many ways, slipping off your chair is far scarier. Skydiving is a serene and peaceful flying through the sky.

Done. What’s Next?

3) Dani says the skydiving experience is followed by “the irrational realization that it’s addictive and you just need to do it again. And again. And again!” I completely understand where she is coming from. However, when it ended for me, for sure I was excited to do it again. But something else interesting happened. All I wanted to do was find the next big thrill.

I don’t even know what to try. Jumping from higher up, bungee jumping, cliff diving. It’s quite a while before the intensity calms down, even just a little. Before that happens, all you want to do is find the next big challenge. You can’t wait to see what life brings you next.

ALYN Skydiving Fundraiser

It’s true, skydiving for me was a dream come true. I’d been wanting to jump literally for decades. The right opportunity just never came around.

For my son it was a right of passage. We’ve done a whole lot of really interesting activities together, from shooting to trying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu together. I was there when he bravely faced his first roller coaster at Dutch Wonderland. And I was there when he first jumped out of an airplane.

He’s come a long way. And we’ve come a long way together.

But some life lessons are more important than others. I need to raise my children to be kind. I need to raise my children to treat the needs of other people as paramount.

So I’m beyond ecstatic that not only are we doing something super special together. But we are doing so for an amazing cause.

The impression is powerful. And I hope the impact stays with him for a long time to come.

As Julie says, “My favorite thing about this fundraiser is that I think we all have a tendency to take for granted that we are able to walk and do things that others do not have the ability to do. This fundraiser raises awareness that there are people who deserve a chance to live a life without disabilities.”

ALYN: What Can I Do?

So… you can’t join us for the jump. What else can you do for ALYN Hospital?

Come visit and learn more about the unique work of ALYN. Join their projects, which are all based on pushing a participant past his or her comfort zone. The children treated at the hospital must do so every single day.

And, of course, you can contribute to our campaign.

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A warm thank you to Yarden Frankl for helping me with compiling all the necessary information for this post.

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, personal story, 0 comments

Five Life Lessons I Learned from Being a UFC Fan

UFC

I’ve been a huge fan of Mixed Martial Arts for several years now. I watched UFC fights live in the States weekly, and I follow the sport like a soap opera to this day.

For the uninitiated or those who haven’t been updated, despite your possible perception of UFC as unregulated cock fighting, the sport is beautiful, exciting, graceful, and sometimes even educational.

As an avid fan, I wanted to share five life lessons I’ve gained from countless hours of watching these athletes perform:

1) The Most Dangerous UFC Fighter

Who’s the scariest fighter out there? Who’s the person who should make all opponents quiver with terror? Is it the muscle-bound behemoth or the one with the fiery death stare?

No, it’s the one who looks like he’s walking around in his own living room.

In a world where every split second counts, where the slightest mistake could mean getting knocked out in an instant, you can never afford to tense up. The moment you are nervous, you are done.

So the scariest fighter is the one who doesn’t crack under pressure. The lights, cameras, and fans don’t phase them. They just move around the ring like it’s an ordinary day, relaxing on their porch with a beer.

Who performs better in life when they’re nervous or agitated? The secret to success is finding out how to be comfortable in your own environment and circumstances, no matter what they are. You will perform at your best, and you will be ready for whatever life throws your way.

2) You Win or You Learn

This is a common refrain for many fighters, especially those who have a very good outlook on fighting and the world.

Sometimes a fighter walks into the ring, and he knocks his opponent out in a matter of seconds. There’s no time to think. There’s no perspective. Everything happened in a flash.

In the excitement, the winner will jump on the cage. He’ll scream in joy. He’ll go ahead and hug his coaches and family members.

But what happens tomorrow?

Yes, there’s joy and motivation. There’s an increased confidence and momentum on the fighter’s side.

But where does he go from here? What did he learn about himself that he could bring to the gym? Or the next fight? The answer: Not very much.

The fighter who is dragged around the ring, peppered with jabs and kicked repeatedly in the leg, humbled for 15 minutes, that fighter gets to go home with a game plan. That fighter knows the next several months are about figuring out what to do differently going forward.

So, you win or you learn. If you win, fantastic. Enjoy life’s victories. But what happens when things don’t go your way? If you’re smart, you will turn it into the ultimate learning experience.

3) Everyone Loves a Graceful Loser

There are fighters who achieve massive but temporary popularity. And there are fighters who achieve lasting fame and fortune.

I think one of the biggest keys to being in the second category is how you handle the times when you lose.

You of course have your mega-stars, like Ronda Rousey. When she was mauling her opponents in 30 seconds or less, the world was her oyster. Everyone adored her. She was on top of the world, and it looked like her spotlight would never wane, not for a minute.

But when she suffered her first losses, and she shunned the media, and basically disappeared from the public eye, everyone progressively realized we were dealing with a sore loser, and everything she had built up over time dissipated.

Some complain they really won the fight. Or the referee made a mistake. Bitching and moaning begets boos and disrespect.

But those fighters who reach ultimate fame, and humbly congratulate the victor, they win over our hearts. They thank their incredible coaching staff and tell the fans they’ll be back in the very near future to put on some more amazing shows.

You want everyone around you to love you? Have a great attitude no matter what happens. Everyone wants to be around people like that!

4) Just Keep in There!

Sometimes fighter endurance shocks and amazes me. You’ll find people who can do uncanny things, and they’re still going strong long after most people would have long passed out from exhaustion.

You don’t necessarily have to be the best or the most talented fighter. Sometimes it’s enough to have the greater stamina, or perhaps just the greater heart. And when that moment comes when your opponent falters ever so slightly due to fatigue, with perfect precision and a little technique, the fight is now yours.

Of course we all wish to be the best at what we do. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to be blessed with talents galore to accomplish everything we want in life. But sometimes the harder worker wins. Sometimes pushing just a little longer than the competition is exactly the edge needed to eke out a victory in this world.

Stay in there a little longer than the “opponent”, and seeing your hand raised can be a reality.

5) UFC: It’s All a Game

I remember my time in the Israeli Army all too well. I was miserable all the time. For my first month, day in, day out, all I wanted was for things to end.

I loathed my commanding officers. I did not enjoy or feel any value to a straight month of being yelled at and treated like garbage. And when it was all over, I felt a residual anger still lingering on me.

But I watched something fascinating happen. When everything ended, the recruits and the commanding officers in an instant became buddies. I watched with awe as all the tension melted away.

Like nothing!

UFC vs IDF

It took me a while until I realized something important. I was a new immigrant to Israel and I didn’t understand how things worked here. Essentially basic training for non-combat soldiers was somewhere between a game and theater. A bunch of 19 year olds are acting angry and tough, and a whole slew of 18 year olds spend a month pretending like they are intimidated.

And li’l ole me wasn’t in on the game.

I feel a similar effect when I watch some of the best UFC fights. Two intense, powerful individuals trash talk one another for weeks leading up to the fight, then do everything in their power to knock one another out for 15 minutes. Then the final buzzer goes off, and they hug like they’re the best of friends.

Whatever was going on before doesn’t linger. Yes, there was intensity. That was then and this is now. In the bigger picture, the fight was just a fight. It doesn’t follow into real life afterwards. It was all just a game.

And it really is all just a game.

Today’s a new day. Let it go. Move on and stop holding on to yesterday’s problems.

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 0 comments

Can Macrobiotics Save a Life? (Guest Post)

Macrobiotics

I am proud to present another guest post, this time from my wonderful mother-in-law, Klara LeVine.

***

My friend died last night. Cancer took her life.

But what kind of a friend was I?

Over the years she had expressed interest in the foods I had shared with her. And she has enjoyed them. So why was I not sharing with her so much more?

We knew she had cancer. And we know of many wonderful healing stories where doctors had given up; but when the people turned to macrobiotics, they realized their doctors did not know everything. They didn’t know that food really is medicine.

Macrobiotics Can Help!

I know regret is a very common feeling after someone has died. The awful feeling that we could have done something but didn’t.  And I look around me and know there are so many more who are suffering. But for some deep reason I don’t go shouting from the rooftops, “Practice macrobiotics people. It can bring you to health!”

I know people will argue logics. “Look at your teachers who died from cancer,” they will say.  And I know people are very strongly attached to their foods and don’t see them as causing their diseases. I also know if I go to a wedding or even a Shabbos meal, even with people who say they eat healthy, meat will probably be the mainstay of the meal.

So I give up before I even try. I half-heartedly tell people to give it a try, almost expecting them to laugh at the thought of giving up the foods they love, the foods for which they don’t see the connection to how they make them feel.

The Macrobiotic Example

Maybe the best teachers are those who indeed were sick and experienced the healing macrobiotics brought. I do not wish that upon myself or anyone.  Maybe I just need to keep bettering my own practice until I can be a great example.

But I will never be perfect. None of us are.

In Judaism we believe if we save one life, it’s as if we saved a world. We are our brother’s keepers. Can we all help each other to be even better in our practices? And can we let the world know of this wonderful tool, not keep it to ourselves?

Can we save even just one life?

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in guest post, 0 comments

The Great Family Merger: Five Guiding Principles

Family

I’m a bit worried. Not terribly. But a bit.

I don’t doubt my parenting skills. And I certainly don’t doubt the person I married. Quite the opposite, in fact. I couldn’t imagine someone more qualified to take this journey with me and seamlessly become a part of my family.

However, I’ve heard stories galore about what happens when new parents come into the picture.

And I think I would be naive to assume everything will go smoothly without any deep thought and extremely hard work.

I don’t presume to have all the answers. Nor do I assume that anyone does, since every situation is different. And I’ve been around the block too many times to think for a moment that things can’t go wrong even if I do everything “correctly”.

Nevertheless, I’m going to work every day to have the life and family I dream of. And I will guide myself by these five principles:

1) Never Stop Loving

Maybe it’s obvious. Or maybe too hard for some out there. What happens when a child is angry and says horrible things? What happens when they get to a level where their difficulties start interfering with the quality of your relationship?

Do you separate a little? Do you give up? Is it possible to just place your focus on your new relationship and pull away from the children?

The answer is no. The answer is never!

Just keep saying “I love you”. Say it often, say it proudly. And mean it every single time.

These little ones need the reassurance that you aren’t going anywhere, and you will be there for them every step of the way. For all of their needs. For all of the imminent craziness in their life. Forever.

2) Emphasize the Three Different Family Relationships

The family used to be just you and them. There was no need to highlight that relationship. It was there day in and day out. Of course you would always be around. For certain you would have lots of fun and excitement together.

But now there’s another relationship in the picture. You wish to be with your significant other, and it’s encroaching upon this beautiful parent-child relationship you’ve developed. There needs to be a healthy separation, where your children know when you need privacy. But they need to always know their time with you is super special as well. And will always be so.

But then there’s the next level. Those precious moments when you’re all together. When you’re an odd, modern family. And it’s beautiful synergy. Personally, there’s nothing in the world I want more!

And who knows, at some point maybe they’ll have a relationship completely independent of you. Sounds like a dream come true!

3) Focus on Quality Family Time

By the time any day comes to an end, it’s so easy to have spent the whole time hyper-focused on the practical blah we all love so dearly. Washing dishes, taking out the trash, walking the pooch, paying the bills.

Sometimes it feels like a small miracle if we get anything done that’s not just pragmatic day-to-day chores and responsibilities. For certain there is nothing wrong with being productive. There’s nothing wrong with finishing a day knowing you’ve gotten a whole lot done.

But we all know the truth. We don’t want to end our lives thinking we worked a lot, but our family is a mess. And we don’t want to go the grave thinking our kids might despise us… but at least the trash got taken out.

We need to take control of the day and make sure that the entire household knows that every minute spent having fun together is infinitely more important than the little its and bits of items you successfully managed to cross off your to-do list.

4) Recognize that Fears and Other Feelings are Real

It’s so easy to sit back and confidently explain the logical fallacies in other people’s feelings and emotions.

And yet, never in the history of the world (outside of Hollywood) has this ever been effective.

We all do it. We do it often. Still, we get upset when others do it to us… but it never makes us learn. We just generate further pain or pour lighter fluid on already existing hurts.

Why? Because when you logically try and eliminate someone’s hurt, it’s as if you’re telling them their feelings are not legitimate. You’re telling them they are not allowed to feel what they are feeling.

It is every person’s God-given right to feel. Your emotions are the most personal thing you possess. And no one in the world can deny you your feelings.

So what do you do when your loved ones express their fears and concerns? Sometimes it’s enough just to be there for them. To listen. To understand. And for God’s sake, this is what hugs were invented for!

But never, ever tell someone they can’t feel what they’re feeling, or imply it in any way.

The damage is far worse than any “help” you might be giving.

5) When in Doubt, Don’t Hesitate to Ask

A great relationship with your kiddos starts with great communication. If you are open to their thoughts and ideas, and they feel safe letting you know their feelings, it should be natural to ask them how they are holding up through all the changes.

Give them all the room in the world to let you know if something is upsetting to them. Let them emote. Let them get it all out of their system.

And listen. Listen! Don’t interrupt them. Don’t argue. For God’s sake, make sure they know that you are making a concerted effort to truly understand and appreciate everything they are saying.

And when all the smoke clears, let them know that your love for them hasn’t lessened in the slightest, that they still remain the center of your existence, and seek assistance from them to find out what happens next. They know what they want and need. If any real problem has arisen, there is an intelligent solution right around the corner, and it’s in their hearts and minds. You just need to pull it out of there.

Ask, listen, work toward solutions, and follow through. The stakes are way high. This is your time to shine as a person and a parent.

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, parenting, 2 comments

iBurningMan: My 2018 Burning Man Adventure (Guest Post)

Please enjoy another guest post from my Kansas buddy, Sara Nicole Glass, telling all about her adventures at Burning Man.

***

The first time I rolled up to Burning Man in 2013, fresh off the festival circuit, I arrived at 6AM. After being on the road for three days and in line for 10 hours, it got real. I jumped out of my car and the first thing I did was say to a stranger, “I really like your necklace.” Shyly, just trying to drum up conversation. He looked at me and said, “Ugh fine. Take it.” And he handed me the necklace, exasperated. Two strangers offered me some chocolates, I politely declined, and then promptly hopped on my bike and rode towards “The Man” like I was supposed to.

The first thing I encountered? A scene of people, full blown working out with barbells and equipment in front of these giant BELIEVE letters, as the sun was rising; I knew this wasn’t just a party or an experience to be taken lightly. This was evolution in motion.

Burning Man
-Burning Man 2013: Da Vinci’s Workshop-
A group of bodybuilders pumping iron at sunrise by this Believe sign.
Letters by: Laura Kimpton with Jeff Schomberg

Burning Man Unusual Art

This year (2018), the art was unlike anything I’d ever fathomed before. There was the iSheep, a roaming pack of sheep that would let you ride them if you were nice to them. If you didn’t ask consent, they were mean sheep, and would yell at you, so I am told. Could never find those buggers.

If you were lucky enough to find “The Pole”–a random lit up pole–and you were also lucky enough to know just the right way to shake your head, you would see the most incredible faces within the motion of your eyeballs. What!? Etipado, as it was called, is a mysterious strobing pole. It displays images captured from an antique camera; however, the secret to viewing them must be discovered.

Meanwhile, these poles were also amazing… and much easier to see. Made of 11,000 hanging LEDs in a volumetric field, these concentric pathways of light interpret movement and sound, and mimicked shadows in a visual form throughout. 

And More Art…

I found out the rainbow runway arches were actually demonstrating the speed of sound, and that art cars could actually hook up to the runway with a software that Robot Heart developed and play their set. Then the music that plays shows the wave frequencies that are displayed in lights down the whole row.

Then there was the polar bear, made out of white car hoods, advocating for polar bear environmental safety. “Singularity” was the house, in a birdcage, in a house, inside a birdcage inside a house, and it was burned in the name of dispelling depression and honoring those who have suffered. “Let U.S. Prey” was made out of pennies, nickels, and dimes. 27,000 coins to be exact, or so I heard.

Burning Man
-Let U.S. Prey by: Mr and Mrs Ferguson-
From: Alameda, CA

Burning Man, the Beautiful Train Wreck

Burning Man really is like a beautiful train wreck that you can’t stop watching, even though you know it might not end well. Maybe it’s not as big of a crash as expected, but worth watching nonetheless. Even those who have chosen not to return after “burning” for however many years, are still watching, because they know the magic of Black Rock City. This year, even Skirllex was amazing. You really never know with this place…

The drone light show from Amsterdam was an absolutely mind-blowing performative artwork at the interface between technology, science, and art. “Franchise Freedom” exposed the tension between individual freedom and safety in numbers, and was choreographed to music composed and played by Joep Beving. The patterned movements of the 600 drones apparently were based on the patterns of bird flights. I saw a hand beckoning the crowd to approach the Mayan Warrior…. Or perhaps I was just hallucinating?

At sunrise on Tuesday morning, some circus friends I know presented a performance art piece called “Strait No Chaser – The Great Strait Escape”. An escape artist was hanging upside down from a hot air balloon near the temple. And she succeeded!

Burning Man
-Strait No Chaser – The Great Strait Escape
By: LadyBEAST and GatorDox-
From: Oakland, CA

Burning Man, Freedom to Become Me

Over the past four years, this ridiculous city has taught me more about freedom and about who I never would’ve thought I would become. I’ve showered with total strangers (in a completely non-sexualized way) and felt so empowered afterwards. #carcuswash I’ve eaten ribs and salmon on top of a giant glowing pirate ship at five in the morning while the artist Crystal Method danced beside me. #pearlnecklace And I’ve had more synchronistic and unexpected magical experiences in the middle of nowhere in one week then I probably had in my whole life prior to Burning Man. #ttitd

There was a circus of light-up wheels that had traveled five desserts and was destined for Black Rock City. Every night, 15 volunteers committed four plus hours of their time to walk these wheels to the larger inner playa installation and danced in loincloths for onlookers. What a spectacle! I still don’t know what to call it.

That’s How You Get Your Name

Speaking of names, one day, while hanging at my camp (Pandora’s Lounge and Fix-It Shoppe bar), a woman came up to me. When I asked what her name was, she said she didn’t have a playa name. My co-bartender “Bish” said, as she poured the girl a drink, “Well Silverbell, it’ll come when you’re ready.” The girl and I looked at each other and I said, “That’s it! That’s your name!” She said she liked it, and then I reached down and pulled off the bracelet of silver bells I had just put on minutes earlier, which I hadn’t worn in years, and promptly handed her the bracelet, officially deeming her Silverbell. And that’s how they get you… before you know it, you’re covered in dust and loving it.

The Dust of Burning Man

Oh yes, I have fallen in love with the dust… just the smell of it turns me on. This strong, smooth and sultry salt bed dust gets into everything, and yet I still can’t get enough of it. It’s in the air you breathe and the food you eat. And it’s definitely in the places you sleep and play and worship and dance and s**t and cry and bathe… It becomes a part of you. It connects you to everything else; through the vibrations you can literally see the musical waves pulsating through a dust storm. In the morning light you can see the dust kicking up off of art car wheels as they roll five miles an hour across the playa, spiraling out into fractals; it’s really a sight for sore eyes. #goggles.

This dust reminds me of sugar, and every other white powder that’s worth indulging in. It serves a purpose and an important one at that. This dusty powder is a way of life; it is a medicine. And while it may not be the most logical, rational or economical “medicine” you’ve ever heard of, once you’ve tried this Kool-Aid, you’re going to want to go deeper. Down whichever rabbit hole you choose! There’s lots to explore. Even sober ones, it’s true.

The Burning Man Religious Experience

This year, I was biking Sunday pre-event, alone, across the playa under the stars, the first night of my 2018 adventure. I realized that I was laughing and crying and singing and dancing, sweating and breathing heavy, and jumping while riding my bike. All at once. And I couldn’t help but think, “This is the closest to a religious experience as anyone in this day and age will ever get.” In that moment I felt invincible and ecstatic, like I hadn’t felt since I was a little girl. I felt like my true self, finally coming into perfect alignment. How long can it last?

Two weeks later, in the throes of decompression and after-burn withdrawal, I still think that it’s worth every bit of energy and sacrifice, though a harder pill to swallow in my grumpy state. If you’ve never gone from hell to heaven and back again in two week’s time, it’s impossible to fathom the gravity of the circumstances. If you haven’t at least considered quitting your job and going to Burning Man, then this might not be for you.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. And I’ve lost 15 pounds! Burning Man is truly the pilgrimage of many lifetimes that I waited way too long to take. Black Rock City is forever etched onto my heart and pulses through my veins daily, calling me to return home as soon as possible. 360 days we must wait! But the burn doesn’t just stop there, you know… #opensesame

Burning Man Afterburn

One of the most important facets of deeming yourself a burner is taking these principles that you operate under out into the world, pre and post burn. Otherwise, what is the point? Many of us struggle with the dreaded “exclusiveness” and “waste of resources” dilemma.

Believe me, us burners are well aware of the discrepancies and issues within our community that are all over the news. “With all that money spent on a 747, we could have fed hundreds of starving children.” It is an absolutely valid argument that many of us within and outside the organization have voiced and battled with each other about, but it’s really not up for anyone to decide whether or not something is art.

The point is, we are out there, pushing the envelope in a very raw and real way. We build a community from scratch, and with that comes all kinds of pulses. The challenge with any community, and especially one of this force, is that you have the best of humanity, and also the worst of humanity, all under one roof. I do want to point out that “radically inclusive” does not mean you have to include the rapist or the thief; however, discovering who these people are is the hard part, as people are good at hiding in a crowd.

The Burning Man Utopia?

As you’ll see within any city, you’ll find just about everything you look for. Bars, yoga studios, dance parties, parades, restaurants, balloon rides, roller skating rinks, temples. You name it, it’s at Black Rock City. Funnily enough, this year and last year I had my megaphone stolen right out of my bag on burn night, when I wasn’t looking. It’s a small price to pay for a week of fulfilling magic, but still, it is a reality we are facing as a community. Just because you’re in a utopian society doesn’t mean you don’t still have to watch your back.

***WANTED: Silver megaphone, small frame, connected to swell rainbow water bottle inside a hemp-laced carrying case. REWARD IF FOUND***

Every Burn has its Thorn

One night an obviously disheveled woman came into my camp. She asked if she could buy a drink, to which we explained to her there was no money used at Burning Man once you arrive. I asked her how she got there and she explained that her boyfriend had brought her. She had never heard of Burning Man. Nor had she ever heard of the ten principles, and she wasn’t sure where she was going to sleep that night, since her boyfriend had kicked her out and left her. She disappeared before I could get a ranger, after she realized she was most certainly out of her element. It was a tragic story and situation that really hurt my heart. But that’s what happens; you get all walks of life.

Burning Man, in the Eye of the Beholder

Every year the playa energy changes, physically, emotionally, spiritually. And weather-wise, of course. This year, the pulse was running hot, in my opinion. The virgin burners were prepared, the veterans seemed patient, lines were shorter than ever, and the flow was smooth. At least mostly, until Wednesday night. I could feel a very direct shift in attitude once the city went from the week-long committed artists and city builders to the weekend warriors, who just show up to party. It’s an interesting observation to attend to.

Still, it’s important to recognize that what you choose to pay attention to is what you will find at the burn. If you want to stay cranky at entitled assholes all week long, then that’s what you’ll see. I choose to focus on the art, music, and friendships that we build. The best part about Black Rock City is the intensity to which things happen. Time speeds up. Emotions are heightened. Strength gets stronger. Weaknesses become glaringly obvious. Anything you haven’t dealt with in your immediate forcefield will rear it’s little head and say, “You better check this right now or we’re gonna ruin your burn.” Happens every year, even to the best of us. The burn you want and the burn you need are never the same thing. Usually they balance each other out.

You Provide the Burn

They say “the playa provides” blah blah blah… I say, YOU provide. For yourself and for your community. Almost every time I indeed needed something, it was right there. All I had to do was voice my desire out loud. I came as self prepared as possible, and then went out of my way to help others, because that’s what you do with communal effort and civic responsibility. It’s a team effort, when it comes to building a city, running it, and then also tearing it down. It requires everyone’s help. If you don’t give, you won’t get. Everything is temporary here, and that’s part of the magic.

Burning Man
-Galaxia Temple 2018-
By the incredible Temple Crew

The Burning Man Temple

Speaking of magic, or the unexplainable, the Temple comes to mind. Never before in my four years of Burning Man have I felt a connection to the Temple. I would go, stop in, look around, and leave feeling sad for others and underwhelmed for myself. I didn’t get it. But everything changed this year.

This year I took my broken ass heart to the Temple and gave it away… By that I mean I took a paper flower for every man who has ever broken my heart and released it into the spiral abyss of the flame. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with this train of thought, as the Temple was filled with wedding dresses, old letters from ex lovers, and notes to abusive partners saying, “We will no longer stand for this treatment”, “F**k your narcissism”, and “F**k cancer”.

It was so powerful, you could feel the thickness of tension. And when it burned on Sunday night, I could also feel the release. The vortex was undeniable, and some of us swore that Larry was even there, in the dust. Check out this video of the dirt devil tornado that surprised us all towards the end of the temple burn. I learned that at Burning Man people call these tornados “ancestors”.

The Burning Man iRobot

Now I’d like to tell those who don’t know that the “theme” of Burning Man this year was iRobot, which didn’t please my tastebuds at all, initially. In response, I chose to moonlight as Dorothy, the Burning Man iRobot, who was created thanks to the Radicals Brining Back Ritual campaign, and she was sent to Burning Man to protest robots. Sponsored by the Anti Bot Coalition, the ABC didn’t end up having to protest in the end, when it seemed to be that the humans were a bigger part of the problem than the bots; however, I felt like my mission was a valid one. “Who are these robots, and why are they taking over my burn? I miss Radical Ritual…”

Burning Man
-Fractal the Turtle and The Nonsense Man and a Robot @ The Man 2018-

In the end, iRobot did turn out to have a very certain charm, and certainly put the tech folk to work. Thank you Silicon Valley. These are our hard-earned tax dollars at work here folks.

The Burn of Burning Man

Back to the tornados: As a lady who comes from the Land of Oz, I used to think tornados were terrifying; these ones are adorable. People chase them around, they carry dust and sparks and ashes with them sometimes. There truly is something for everyone at Burning Man, and these ancestors are for me. It was love at first sight.

As in love with this aspect of the burn as I was, there were others who chose never to attend the massive fires. For some, it’s too crowded. Others, too painful. And it’s my responsibly to accept that and support their decisions, as much as they don’t make sense to me. Everyone is there for a particular reason and season… No judgment. No blame. And no shame. As long as you’re participating as best as you can, then you are welcome

Pre-Burn and After-Burn

I chose to spend my pre-burn doing placement for my camp (Pandora’s Lounge and Fix-It Shoppe), working for the Artery (the art placement department, where we also do artist hospitality and give art tours for the mobility challenged), as well as performing several shows too, at center camp, theme camps, and beyond. Learning about the art and being able to share with others was invaluable. I sacrificed sleep for sunrises and moments with family that I will cherish forever.

I learned so much. Most of all, what I took away from this year’s burn was that all you can do is “Let it go”. Memories can live on, but the emotion and attachment to all things material and even surreal, we must let it go. And it felt real damn good to let s**t go. I had a lot of s**t and I feel 800 times lighter. I feel like myself again, and I am so grateful for all the souls I encountered who made sure to tell me that I was on track and in alignment. Thank you! You know who you are.

Burning Man
-In Every Lifetime I Will Find You, by: Michael Benisty, Love and Unity-
From: Brooklyn, NY

To Burn or Not to Burn?

I learned the first year I went, in 2013, not to come to something of this magnitude without your best friends around you. You’re going to want them there. And every year, I leave the burn thinking, “God, I totally have to bring my mom to this.” Maybe next year, ma?

Now, if you think you can’t make it to Burning Man, you know your options, right? First of all, set an intention to go, take off work, and try to get a ticket. Pay attention. See what happens. If it comes easy, then it’s a go. And if there’s resistance, listen! Next year will be better anyway!

Second mission: Find a regional, or start your own if you must, even if it’s in your backyard. Build something. Burn. It. Do something weird. Dress up. Go out. Start conversations. Be YOU.

Burners Without Borders

Third, check out Burners Without Borders, or just start researching the burn culture in general and see where it takes you. Pick a principle and dive in unpacking it. People make all sorts of sacrifices to attend a burn. I always say, “Some people choose football, some people play golf, some join a gym… I choose to burn.” It’s become a way of life, like having breakfast, or playing tennis. The sacrifices I’ve made are always outweighed by the benefits.

And every single day I think, “How can I turn the default world into a real life burn?” Maybe it already is… but one person can’t play this game alone. It takes a communal effort. If the world is your burn, what’s your next move? Be bold. No apologies. Go after what you believe in. And don’t ever let anybody tell you how to live your life. Especially burners, if it doesn’t jive with your soul.

Burning Man
-Taken at the Morris Burner Hostle in Reno, August, 2018-

The Evolution of Burning Man

Burning Man started as a social experiment, and continues to unfold and evolve at it’s own pace and stride. Sure, there are organizations and the organization itself, but nobody is in the captain’s chair saying, “This is who we are booking and this is the kind of art we are going to make.” Nope. That’s up to us. And that’s where we need to take the power and make it something we can be proud of. I’m talking about functional art. Art that serves a purpose and makes the city or world a better place.

For instance, I’d like to see an art installation grant for a composting and decorative bathroom for deep playa that is burned at the end of the week (waste removed). Or maybe a water fill-up oasis in the middle of the dessert, with water goddesses reciting poetry, filling up your hearts and your drink vessels at once. I’m not sure if or when I’ll have the resources to do such activities, but it’s fun to fantasize.

(I haven’t even gotten started on the art car scene… To be continued!)

Burning Man: Where To?

City-wise, San Francisco and Reno are both already doing a stellar job of incorporating burner art and functions into their city, and so I challenge you to look around at your community and your city of choice. Where is the need? What are the needs? What are your resources? And how can we turn this s**t up a notch. Because the dial is going to keep moving, it’s just a matter of which direction.

Buckle up buttercup. 

And burn bright friends.

Check out ALL of the art at Burning Man here on the website

Burning Man
Until next year… MissCompact

-MissCompact, the Unicorn Barbie! “Put ‘er in your pocket”-

The Burn You Need

Yeah Burning Man 2018 dang came and went.
It’s been a good run, time and play well spent
The gate was on point and the greeters greeting blow for blow
With so many more virgins there was lots of room to grow
Watching the sunrise never gets cold
With your new best friends, but especially the old.
The dance floors were banging, the fires, oh so lit
“Hey can I borrow some self reliance a bit?”
I brought a band of newbies and they did just fine…
(except one of them) leaving no trace, most of the time.
We all get a bit sloppy sometimes, it’s true
but it’s our civic responsibility to take care of
all our moop.
So I’ll look after you, you look after me, too
as this cultural utopia blooms into an interfuse

That connects us to our art, our heart, also our dark
and is there no safer way to explore this part?
Surrounded by radical self whatever you call it
making it a point to give freely, no wallet.
It’s an exchange of wonder, magical by design empowerment…
Show me your tricks and I’ll show you mine, with consent.
Whatever intention you put into the effigy or temple
let it unfold, truth be told, baby steps, keep it simple
Usually the burn you want isn’t the thing you need,
but if you pay attention to the lessons and processing
With our reflections can grow what’s been unfurled
as we take these teachings from the burn into the real world.
So thanks for playing. Better luck next year’s turn.
And if you don’t mind, would y’all quit f**king my burn?

Burning Man
-Burning Man 2018 iRobot pre-Temple Burn #Pandora-


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Posted by jaffeworld in guest post, 0 comments

Israel Elections and Why I’m Afraid to Vote

Israel Elections

Israel’s elections are around the corner. I have a mixture of emotions ranging from indifference to sheer terror.

You see, this place can get a bit crazy, and your seemingly insignificant vote can mean so much more than most could imagine.

Growing up in the States, it’s easy to start thinking of elections as a joke. In the majority of States, you can know close to 100% who your State will choose well before election day comes around. It’s very easy to feel like your choice is insignificant.

In addition, even the biggest decisions will rarely land on your doorstep. Certainly not quickly. The closest thing I had in my lifetime was the government’s asinine decision to give fines to those of who choose not to have health insurance.

But I don’t live in the States anymore. And I’ve watched as the Prime Minister’s decisions can literally land in my backyard.

Israel Elections and Getting Kicked Out of my Home

Many years ago, I was living on a wonderful settlement called Karmei Tzur. The Prime Minister at the time, Ehud Barak, was engaged in vigorous peace negotiations with Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat. On the table was nearly 100% of the disputed territories within the country. And, of course, this included my very own home.

We moped around the settlement, knowing full well that we were literally a signature away from getting dragged from our homes by the military. And we were overjoyed when talks fell through. Not because our brethren decided it was unfair and cruel for us to leave, mind you. But because Arafat rejected the plan. He wanted more land.

But it was our own leader, elected by our fellow citizens, who was trying to cause us irreparable harm.

Israel Elections and a Shaken Conscious

And, frankly, there are limits to what my conscious could bear. Several years ago, I cast my vote and helped to choose the one to run this great nation. And that leader, Ariel Sharon, would later make the decision to aggressively remove thousands of Jewish people from their homes.

None of us thought it would actually happen.

But it did.

Yes, I’m aware that if I hadn’t cast my vote, Ariel Sharon would have been elected anyway. And of course none of us could have known that this would be the results of his reign in office.

But still.

I was a cog in the wheel. I would watch from afar as people–my people–were forcefully ripped away from everything they had built for decades. And then I would watch further as for the next several years everything that could possibly go wrong went worse than anyone could imagine.

The resettlement of the Gush Katif residents was handled abysmally. And Israel would be attacked repeatedly from areas formerly occupied by Israeli families.

Lamenting Gush Katif

Years ago I spent a Shabbat in one of the Gush Katif settlements. It was a lovely and moving experience. One that I know I will never have again. And it’s all because enough people, like me, voted in that election.

Instead of revisiting Kfar Darom, and walking around through its lovely Gan Hamitzvot, I watched the residents fighting with soldiers. I watched teens who were born in the community fighting with teens who were drafted into the military. They were all young and unaware, and probably still wake up in cold sweats thinking about that miserable week in Jewish History.

The Way to the Top: Crappy Predecessors

And Sharon should have never been elected in the first place. He was able to work his way up to the top of the political ladder solely based on the poor performance of his predecessor, Ehud Barak. Ehud Barak was infamous for an empty threat that empowered five years of relentless violence against the Israeli people, known as the Second Intifada. And he was also known for endless bombings of empty homes that seemed to accomplish nothing, except for perhaps emboldening and multiplying Israel’s enemies.

And how did such a skilled politician find his way into office? His predecessor had made decisions that left him without a political friend in the world, opening the door for just about any opposition to hop into his place. Who was Barak’s predecessor? None other than current Head of State, good ole Bibi Netanyahu.

And Netanyahu had set the stage for this clown to bumble his way through leading Israel by actions that would simultaneously alienate all of his constituents, while not garnering a shred of favor from his opponents. Very much not shrewd political maneuvering on Bibi’s part.

Israel Elections and Good Ole Netanyahu

That being said, I think Bibi learned a lot from his first go as Prime Minister. And perhaps that’s why he’s been able to sink his talons into the position for so long his second time around. In all honesty, I sort of like him as Prime Minister, and I think he’s done a better job than all his recent predecessors (including himself).

Why? It feels like under his leadership, things are never too hot or too cold. Israel continues to vigorously defend itself, yet we’re not on the front page of the popular media on a daily basis. Somehow or other, we’re almost boring in the world’s view. This is in stark contrast to years past where it felt to me like Israel was constantly hovering around the front of the paper, and never in a favorable manner. Netanyahu pisses people off, but rarely so much that they call for his immediate ousting from office.

And, of course, we’re still left wondering how to perceive his illegal and/or immoral actions. This is a question that brings shivers up my spine. I watched closely as half a nation forgave an adulterous Bill Clinton. Why? Because they were able to separate his actions in the sack from his actions in the Oval Office.

Should we have a higher standard in the Holy Land? Should we seek in the Israel elections a candidate we can respect in and out of the office?

And should we cling to the leader with whom we are familiar but discontent? Or should we take chances on a new situation with unknown but potentially catastrophic consequences?

Terrified of Israel Elections

These and so many other questions can confuse and hurt to no end.

So you are wondering if I’m voting in the upcoming Israel elections. My answer: I’m really not sure. If I don’t, it’s because I don’t feel like I have enough information to make a decision I can be proud of. And because I’m afraid of waking up the next morning terrified for what legitimate damage I might cause my nation.

I’m just not sure I can handle that again.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, opinion, personal story, 0 comments
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