Month: April 2019

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.

***

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.

***

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