The diary of Ruth Kalka, which she kept while interned in the Czestochowa ghetto and escaping the Nazis between 1942-1945, was unveiled at the event


(26 January 2017 – Jerusalem) Today, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, hosted members of the international diplomatic community at an event marking the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Ambassadors and representatives from over 50 countries attended the event, including France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, the United States, Canada and Russia.


"This day of commemoration and the memory of the victims of the Holocaust is fraught with significance," remarked Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We are fulfilling our obligation never to forget and to keep in mind that every victim had a story, a family, a childhood, a future cut short, and as you go through these halls at Yad Vashem you see these individual stories."


Following the Prime Minister's remarks, Director of Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research Dr. Iael Nidam Orvieto spoke to the diplomats present. "Our mission and message are now more crucial than ever. Today, destructive evil, including vicious antisemitism, reappears in various contexts and ideologies. These ideologies deny human rights and dignity. Many of their supporters target Jews and Israel as the particular objects of their hatred. Together with partners and associates worldwide, Yad Vashem teaches researchers and educators – thousands yearly, from dozens of nations, including nations represented here today - to draw contemporary insights from the annals of the Shoah."  


Orvieto presented a diary kept by Ruth Kalka (née Brzoska) during the Shoah. Ruth and Mayer Kalka were married in Czestochowa, Poland, in 1942. Following the deportation of their extended families to Treblinka, Ruth and Mayer decided to escape from the ghetto. For two years they hid from the Nazis, running between the forest and various places of refuge until liberation in 1945. Throughout this time, Ruth kept a diary in a small notebook encased in metal. Most of the diary consists of names, dates and key events. After the war, Ruth rewrote her memoirs in detail in another notebook. Dr. Orvieto concluded her presentation with the words of Ruth Kalka who wrote after witnessing and barely escaping the murder of six of her friends by the Nazis, "They wanted so much to live. Now they lie in the forest, their blood washed away by the warm rain. We remain alive. But for what? For whom?"


In October 1945, Ruth and Mayer went to Bad Reichenhall, a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany, where their son Jacob was born. In 1949, they immigrated to Israel, where Ruth gave birth to Hadassa. The diary was recently donated to Yad Vashem by their children during a collection day of the Yad Vashem "Gathering the Fragments" campaign, which seeks Holocaust-era artifacts, documents and photographs currently held by private citizens in order to properly preserve them for prosperity. 


In addition to remarks offered by Netanyahu and Orvieto, the diplomats toured the Yad Vashem exhibition, "Stars Without a Heaven," which depicts different aspects of children's lives during the Holocaust.

Members of Yad Vashem's leadership are also participating in several other events around the world marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Yad Vashem Director-General Dorit Novak participated today in a roundtable discussion on the topic "Educating for a Better Future: The Role of Historical Sites and Museums in Holocaust Education" at the UNESCO conference in Paris.


Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, was established in 1953. Located in Jerusalem, it is dedicated to Holocaust commemoration, documentation, research and education.



Photo Captions & Credits:


     Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses members of the international diplomatic corps at Yad Vashem (Photo Credit: Isaac Harari/Yad Vashem)


    Diplomats tour the Yad Vashem exhibition, "Stars Without a Heaven," which depicts different aspects of children's lives during the Holocaust (Photo Credit: Isaac Harari/Yad Vashem)







Opening Ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day begins at 20:00 Tonight


"Everything is Forbidden to Us, and Yet We do Everything":

The Struggle to Maintain the Human Spirit during the Holocaust is the central theme for this year's commemoration ceremonies and events


(04 May 2016 – Jerusalem) The official Opening Ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day will take place on Wednesday, 4 May 2016 at 20:00, in Warsaw Ghetto Square, Yad Vashem, Mount of Remembrance, Jerusalem.  


Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will both deliver remarks. Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, will kindle the Memorial Torch. Zahava Roth will speak on behalf ofthe survivors.

During the ceremony, Holocaust survivors will light six torches. First torch: Sara Kain, second torch: Robert Tamashof, third torch: Jehosua Hesel Fried, fourth torch: Joseph Labi, fifth torch: Chaim Grosbein, sixth torch: Lonia Rozenhoch. During the ceremony, short videos about each of the torchlighters will be shown, produced and directed by Shlomo Hazan. These videos will be available on the Yad Vashem website in the section dedicated to Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The ceremony will include the traditional memorial service including the recitation of a chapter from Psalms by The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau. The Rishon LeZion, Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef will recite the Kaddish and Cantor Israel Parnes will recite El Maleh Rahamim, the Jewish prayer for the souls of the martyrs. Participants in the ceremony will include singer Kobi Aflalo and the IDF Paratroopers’ Honor Guard. Narrative pieces: Actress Netta Garti. The evening’s MC will beDanny Cushmaro.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on television on Channels 1, 2, 10 and 33, on Channel 9 in Russian, and on the news website Walla, as well as on radio on Kol Israel and Galei Zahal. It will last about 75 minutes.

Yad Vashem has a special webpage dedicated to Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, including information about the events and ceremonies as well as relevant educational materials

Yad Vashem will be closed to the public as of 12:00 noon on Wednesday, 4 May. It will re-open on Thursday, 5 May at 11:00. The Holocaust History Museum will be open to the public from 09:00 on Thursday 5 May. Throughout Holocaust Remembrance Day, 5 May, special guided tours and behind-the-scenes gatherings will be open to the public. The events will take place in Hebrew and are free of charge. The full listing and times are available on

Yad Vashem continues to calls on the public to fill out Pages of Testimony to commemorate the names of Jews murdered during the Holocaust. Volunteers are available to help Holocaust survivors fill out Pages of Testimony.  For more information, please call: +972-2-6443111. Yad Vashem is also continuing the Gathering the Fragments campaign in an effort to rescue Holocaust-related documents, artifacts, photographs and art. To donate material to Yad Vashem, please call +972-2-644 3888. Additionally, the Testimony Section of the Yad Vashem's Archives Division is continuing to interview and document video testimony of survivors. Yad Vashem staff can visit survivors in their homes and videotape their testimony. For more information or to schedule a session, please call +972-6443131 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Jewish Holidays – September/October 2015


Several Jewish holidays – some of which are full legal holidays in Israel – will take place this year between 13 September and 5 October. The Government Press Office would like to provide the following brief summary.


Preparations for the Jewish New Year

The period preceding the Jewish New Year is marked by special penitential prayers, recited before the regular morning prayers, and the blowing of the ram’s horn (shofar in Hebrew) after the morning prayer service. Jews of North African and Middle Eastern origin began to recite these special prayers on 17 August; Jews of European origin began to recite them on 6 September. These special prayers are said daily (except on the New Year holiday itself and the Sabbath) until the day before Yom Kippur (22 October).


Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah (the two-day Jewish new year), the observance of which is mandated by Leviticus 23:23-25, will begin at sunset on Sunday, 13 September and conclude at nightfall on Tuesday, 15 September. Both days are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings.


The centerpiece of the Rosh Hashanah service is the blowing of the shofar during morning prayers. (The shofar is not sounded on the Sabbath should either of the two days fall on Saturday.) Both days are full public holidays and, as on the Sabbath, there will be no public transportation or newspapers. In addition, many businesses, museums and other institutions, which are normally open on the Sabbath, will be closed over the holiday. The GPO will be closed on Sunday-Tuesday, 13-15 September.


Rosh Hashanah is also characterized by two special customs. The first is the eating of apple slices dipped in honey, symbolizing the hope that the coming year will be “sweet.” The second involves going to a natural source of flowing water (such as an ocean, river, or spring), reading a selection of scriptural verses and casting pieces of bread into the water – to symbolize the “casting off” of the previous year’s sins; this practice derives from Micah 7:19 (“…and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”) This ceremony takes place on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (or on the second, if the first day falls on the Sabbath).


The Period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

The ten days between New Year and Yom Kippur (inclusive) are known as “The Ten Days of Repentance”. Jewish tradition maintains that this is a time of judgment when all people and nations are called to account for their deeds of the past year, and when their particular fates for the coming year are decided.


The day after the New Year holiday is a day of fasting known as the Fast of Gedaliah, and commemorates the murder of Gedaliah, the Jewish governor of Judea, who was appointed by the Babylonians after they captured Jerusalem in 586 BCE; the episode is recounted in II Kings 25:22-25. When the day after Rosh Hashanah is a Saturday, the fast is postponed by one day. The fast will extend from sunrise on Wednesday, 16 September until nightfall the same day. Special scriptural readings are recited, but the day is not a public holiday.


A single Sabbath, known as the “Sabbath of Repentance”, always occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This Sabbath (19 September this year) is marked by a special reading from Hosea 14:2-10, beginning with, “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.”


Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur (Hebrew for “The Day of Atonement”) begins at sunset on Tuesday, 22 September, and concludes at nightfall on Wednesday, 23 September. Its observance is mandated by Leviticus 16:29-31 and 23:27-32. The holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur is the day on which, according to Jewish tradition, our fates for the coming year are sealed. Synagogue services – centering on the penitential prayers – will continue for most of the day and include special scriptural readings (including the Book of Jonah in the afternoon). Memorial prayers for the deceased, said four times a year, are recited on Yom Kippur. At nightfall, the shofar is sounded once to mark the end of Yom Kippur.


Yom Kippur is a full public holiday in Israel and almost all establishments (including the GPO, on Tuesday-Wednesday, 22-23 September) will be closed. There will be no radio or television broadcasts. Since Yom Kippur is a day of introspection, completely separate from the normal course of daily life – the physical aspects of our lives are sublimated while we concentrate on our spiritual concerns – the day is marked by a full (sunset to nightfall) fast. The wearing of leather, the use of cosmetics, bathing and marital relations are likewise forbidden.



The seven-day Sukkot festival, mandated by Leviticus 23:34-35 and 23:39-43, begins at sunset on Sunday, 27 September and concludes at nightfall on Sunday, 4 October. The first day, from sunset on Sunday, 27 September, until nightfall on Monday, 28 September, is a full public holiday. All seven days of the holiday are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings – includingthe Book of Ecclesiastes, which is read on Saturday, 3 October. Sukkot is a joyful, family oriented holiday, which follows – and provides a contrast to – the somber, introspective and private character of Yom Kippur. Many businesses and institutions will either close or operate on a reduced basis. The GPO will be closed from Sunday, 27 September, through Monday, 5 October, and will reopen on Tuesday, 6 October.


Sukkot is characterized by two main practices. Jews are enjoined to build, take all of their meals in, and (if possible) sleep in, temporary huts topped with thatch or palm fronds during the festival. These huts (sukkot in Hebrew) commemorate the temporary, portable dwellings in which the Jewish people lived during their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness that followed their liberation from slavery in Egypt. The second main Sukkot observance is the special bouquet – consisting of a closed palm frond, a citron, a myrtle branch and a willow branch – that is held during morning prayers on each of the seven days (except the Sabbath); its origins derive from Leviticus 23:40, many traditional explanations of its symbolism have been cited.


Shemini Atzeret (Simhat Torah)

The Shemini Atzeret (literally “The Eighth Day of Assembly” in Hebrew) holiday immediately follows the last day of Sukkot, beginning at sunset on Sunday, 4 October and concluding at nightfall on Monday, 5 October. Its observance is mandated by Leviticus 23:36. It is a full public holiday. (Even though it follows the seven-day Sukkot festival and is often considered part of Sukkot, it is, in fact, a separate holiday. The special bouquet is not used and the obligation to sit in the sukkot no longer applies.) The day’s prayer services include the memorial prayers for the deceased, as well as the prayer for plentiful rainfall during the coming winter.


Shemini Atzeret, however, centers around its special scriptural readings. On Shemini Atzeret, the yearly cycle of Torah (the first five books of the Bible, i.e. Genesis to Deuteronomy, one section of which is read on each Sabbath during the year) readings is both completed and begun anew. This event is accompanied by dancing and singing, sometimes continuing for several hours; in religious neighborhoods, these celebrations often spill out into the streets. Thus, the holiday is also referred to as Simhat Torah (“Rejoicing of the Torah” in Hebrew).


 Photo by: Moshe Milner, GPO







 On 5 October , millions of Christians united across denominational, cultural, and political differences as part of The Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem (DPPJ) to intercede for the city God calls His own and to invoke God's blessing, purposes, and provision upon all of Jerusalem's people. From over 175 nations, believers gathered to pray in their worship services, in their homes, in regional gatherings, on the prayer app Instapray, and on a 24 Hour Prayer Conference Call.

Broadcast by GOD TV to over 200 nations, Christians and Jews were also able to participate in the special Jerusalem DPPJ Celebration - hosted by Eagles' Wings Founder / Executive Director Rev. Dr. Robert Stearns - at the beautiful Haas Promenade overlooking the city. Ambassador Michael Oren, the keynote speaker, was joined by religious leaders from the Jewish and Christian communities as well as members of the Knesset which included: Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin - Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Mr. Akiva Tor - Head of Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Director of the Galilee Center for Studies in Jewish Christian Relations, Bishop Canon Andrew White of St George's Church in Iraq, and many others. Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu also sent a personal letter to the gathering expressing his appreciation on behalf of himself and all the citizens of Israel, for all who were praying for Jerusalem's peace. 



 Photo Rev. Canon Andrew White the "Vicar of Baghdad"

The Rev. Canon Andrew White, nicknamed in recent weeks as The "Vicar of Baghdad," pastors the only Anglican Church in Iraq whose members have either been martyred or driven away by ISIS. He was visibly moved, as were those in the audience, when he shared: "We are in the midst of the most horrendous slaughter against Christians in Iraq. The first people who stood with us was not The Church, but the Jews. The first people who stood with us were our Jewish brothers and sisters, who came to us and said: We have been there. We have known the horrors of The Shoah. We will not leave you. Thank you Israel." 



Photo : Frmr. Ambassador Michael Oren

Former Ambassador Oren shared what a tough summer it had been for the people of Israel and said in response to months of world condemnation: "To those who would deny Jews the right to live in their ancient homeland, we say that it is not only anti-Zionist but also anti-Christian. We say this because Jesus - who was born in Bethlehem, baptized near Jericho, and lived in Judea - would today be an "illegal settler" by their definition... And to any church that would remain silent in the face of Palestinian denial that the temple ever existed, it is not only denying The Temple but also denying The Gospel because it is denying the very place where Jesus taught."



Photo : Robert Stearns declaring Jeruslem is to be a "house of prayer for all nations."

This multi-national, multi-denominational global prayer movement was started in 2002 and is co-chaired by Evangelical Christian leaders Rev. Dr. Robert Stearns, Dr. Jack W. Hayford, and Dr. Paul Cedar. Rev. Stearns took the opportunity to remind those gathered, of the call that brought them together. "This day is a day of prayer, in the very city whose ultimate calling is to be a 'House of Prayer' for all nations. True prayer believes for the impossible. We must gather and believe today that swords can be beaten into plowshares, that the Lion can lay down with the Lamb, that mercy can triumph over judgment, and that together a spiritual solution can be found to these current problems that manifest politically. Prayer is not a recitation of how bad things are, but of how good things can become."

Christians participating in the DPPJ observances not only pray for Jerusalem, but also add practical action to their intercession. This year a check of $15,000 was presented by Robert Stearns from the DPPJ offerings to support two Feeding Centers in Israel, which feed both the Arab and Jewish poor in Jerusalem and Tiberias.



In Huts, Cathedrals, and on their Mobile Phones

Additionally, millions participated by praying in their churches, homes, and special services throughout the day, from cities to rural villages, from huts to mansions, and from cathedrals to underground churches in China and seven Muslim countries. Hispanic evangelical leader the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President CEO of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, oversees more than 500,000 Latin churches globally and he is just one of over 1,300 global leaders endorsing DPPJ. Pastor Daniel Ouma in Tanzania reported that his church has had 24 hour prayer for Jerusalem since September 1st and that by the end of the day on October 5th, 1,650 Christians in his church had fasted and prayed.

Throughout the 24 hours of October 5, believers from around the world also prayed together through an internet "virtual prayer room" created by the 24-Hour DPPJ Prayer Conference Call ( Callers representing the U.S. were joined by believers from many nations, including Kenya, Africa, Australia, Canada, Germany, and others. The total was 81,543 minutes combined minutes of prayer, which is the equivalent to one person praying non-stop for 56 days or almost two months of continual prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem.

New to 2014 was the addition of social media, with global believers joining one another in prayer for the peace of Jerusalem through the world's leading prayer app, Instapray. As soon as one person would release their prayer for Jerusalem, within minutes a multitude of others from places like India, the US, UK, Mexico, Australia, Ghana, South Korea, and even Saudi Arabia, sent back messages saying that they too had prayed with them. Of course if you multiply this scenario for each person praying for Jerusalem via Instapray on Oct. 5th, the number of prayers released around the world were amazing. There were 17,000 "Likes" for #DPPJ from Instapray members within hours!





  Photo  Robert Stearns leads worship for DPPJ 2014


Photos Silvia Golan 





Shavuot , one of Judaism's three pilgrimage festivals (along with Passover and Sukkot), will take place this year between sunset Tuesday, June 3, and nightfall on Wednesday, June 4. The Government Press Office would like to offer the following as a brief summary:

Shavuot marks the giving of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy; Judaism's most basic scripture) at Mt. Sinai, seven weeks after the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. Indeed, Shavuot literally means "weeks" and is celebrated exactly seven weeks after the first day of Passover, which marks the exodus itself.

The celebration of Shavuot is specified in Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10. On Tuesday night, June 3, after festive evening prayers and a festive meal, many people will follow the custom of staying awake all night and studying religious texts, and then saying morning prayers at the earliest permitted time – thus expressing the enthusiasm of the Jewish people to receive the Torah. Most synagogues and yeshivot will organize special classes and lectures throughout the night of Shavuot. In Jerusalem, there is a widespread custom of going to the Western Wall () – which will be exceptionally crowded – for Shavuot morning (Wednesday) prayers, often accompanied by dancing and singing.

The Shavuot morning prayers are marked by special hymns and scriptural readings, including the Book of Ruth (). Special memorial prayers for the departed are also said. Some communities maintain the custom of decorating their synagogues with green plants and flowers; this is in keeping with traditions that Mt. Sinai was a green mountain and that Shavuot is a day of judgment for fruit trees. On Shavuot, some hold the custom of eating dairy dishes; there are many explanations for this custom.

In ancient times, Shavuot marked the end of the barley harvest, and the beginning of the wheat harvest. Jewish farmers brought their first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 26:1-11), where special offerings were brought (Numbers 28:26-31). In honor of Shavuot's status as the "Day of First Fruits" and the "Harvest Festival" (as it is referred to in Numbers 28:26 and Exodus 23:16, respectively), many kibbutzim and moshavim also organize special celebrations revolving around these themes, including ceremonies in which new produce from the kibbutz or moshav is highlighted.

Shavuot is a legal holiday. There will be no public transportation; schools, shops and offices will be closed; and newspapers will not be published. The GPO will be closed on Tuesday-Wednesday, June 3-4, and will reopen on Thursday morning, June 5.

Shavuot in Film

Following are clips from ten films (courtesy of the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive; ) that depict the various ways in which Shavuot has been celebrated:

Jerusalem Online 21/93 (1993) – Rabbi David Hartman speaks about the spiritual significance of Shavuot (from 4:48 min.) ()

Sofer Stam (1981) – An in depth look at the work of the Torah Scribe, in French. ()

Israel Journey (1950s) - An extremely rare close up view of an ancient 1800 year old Torah Scroll belonging to the Zinati family of Pekiin. They are the only Jewish family acclaimed never to have left the Land of Israel (from 11:55 min.) ()

Palestine in Song and Dance (1931) – Ceremony celebrating the bringing of first fruits for kindergarten and school children in Tel Aviv (from the beginning of the film). ()

Hadassim: A Children's Village (1950s) – Film documenting life on a youth village in the Sharon region. Scenes of the bringing first fruit ceremony from 12:21 min. ()

First Steps (1953) – Film summarizing Israel's achievements on its fifth anniversary. Ends with a first fruits parade (from 26:53 min.) ()

Youth at the Crossroads (1980s) – Film about centers for youth in distress, including a first fruits parade (from 15:32 min.) ()

Omer Dancing at Ramat Yohanan (1950s) – On the eve of Shavuot, Jews finish counting the Omer (), which began on Passover. This film beautifully illustrates the bringing of the "omer", a measure of barley which was offered in the Temple. This ceremony was adapted by agricultural settlements in modern Israel. ()

Songs of Israel: Harvest in the Galilee (1952) – Shavuot is also called the Harvest Festival because it occurs during the wheat harvest season in Israel. This film shows scenes of reapers singing while working in the fields (from 11:48 min.) ()

This Is the Land (1935) – Depicts renewed settlement in the Land of Israel. The last scenes of the film, wonderfully illustrate the abundant harvest and climaxes in a group of young pioneers dancing in the fields to celebrate a successful harvest (from 53:43 min.) ()">


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Educators and Historians to participate in events in Paris, London, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, Ghana, Cape Town, Geneva, Vienna, Auschwitz and Jerusalem


New exhibitions and educational material uploaded to

(January 26, 2014 - Jerusalem) From Jerusalem to Paris, Ghana to Singapore, Yad Vashem educators, researchers and historians will be traveling throughout the world on Monday, January 27, for various events, lectures, seminars and ceremonies commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

Among the events to be held on International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem are a presentation of a Certificate of Recognition by UNESCO (26.1) marking the inclusion of the Pages of Testimony Memorial Collection in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. On Monday, January 27, the annual ceremony will be held in the Hall of Remembrance and Yad Vashem Auditorium commemorating the deportation of Italian Jews during the Shoah.  Also on Monday,  James Rawley, the United Nations DeputySpecial Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, along with heads of various UN agencies in Israelwill participate in memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, and visit the "I Am My Brother's Keeper – 50 Years of Honoring Righteous Among the Nations” exhibition.  Media who wish to cover the memorial ceremony should arrive in the Hall of Remembrance by 14:15.

On the Web

A great deal of new material is available on Yad Vashem’s website, including special new mini-sites, as well as new exhibitions, material for educators and more.  The Shoah new permanent exhibition in block 27, curated by Yad Vashem, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum mini-site is now available in German and Spanish.  Among the new exhibitions is an in-depth look at the Valley of Communities, featuring rare footage of prewar Jewish life in Europe, testimonies, photos and information about the destruction of various communities, and a new Holocaust Education Video Toolbox featuring short presentation from experts on a variety of issues including teaching the Holocaust, everyday life in the Warsaw Ghetto and basic information about the Holocaust, as well as special new exhibition exploring the Yad Vashem artifacts collection A special new app has been launched with resources related to International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 


On Sunday, January 26, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev and Chief Historian Prof. Dina Porat will speak at the Israeli government cabinet meeting marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Monday evening, in cooperation with the Yad Vashem Visual Center, Claude Lanzmann's new film "The Last of the Unjust" will premiere in 12 cities across Israel with the director attending the premiere at the Jerusalem Theatre.


On January 27, Shalev will be joining the Israeli delegation of some 60Members of Knesset, 6 ministers and 24 Holocaust survivors, guiding them through the New Permanent Exhibition SHOAH, curated by Yad Vashem, in Block 27 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. He will then address the joint Israeli-Polish parliamentary “Reflections on Auschwitz: Remembering the past, looking to the future.”  

Elsewhere in Europe

Dr. Eyal Kaminka, Director of the International School for Holocaust Studies of Yad Vashem will lead a panel discussion, in Paris, on pedagogical research in Holocaust education at a conference sponsored by UNESCO. In Vienna, the United Nations Information Service will host the exhibition of the 16 top submissions of the "Keeping the Memory Alive – Journeys through the Holocaust" International Poster Design Competition. The competition, coordinated by Yad Vashem, has proven to be an effective vehicle for Holocaust remembrance and will take place in cooperation with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), London Jewish Cultural Centre, United Kingdom, European Shoah Legacy Institute, Czech Republic, 2014 Canadian IHRA Chairmanship and the Holocaust and UN Outreach Programme, and at the UN Commission of Human Rights in Geneva with Professor Dan Michman, Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research.  In Liechtenstein Yad Vashem’s traveling exhibition: "With Me Here are Six Million Accusers - The Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem” will open at the National Museum of Liechtenstein.  Dr. David Silberklang, Senior Historian at the International Institute for Holocaust Research and Editor-in-Chief of Yad Vashem Studies will present a number of talks in London.    As part of Yad Vashem’s goal to gather all Holocaust related material and make it available to the public, Yad Vashem recently signed an agreement with San Marino that will allow Yad Vashem to copy material related to the Holocaust period in San Marino. In addition, Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies experts are meeting with educators in a number of countries.

Asia & Africa

Lectures and ceremonies will also be held in cooperation with the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam with Dr. Joel Zisenwine, Director of the Deportation Database Project; in Ghana with Nannie Beckman of the Righteous Among the Nations Department; in South Africa with Dr. Robert Rozett, Director of the Yad Vashem Libraries.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953. Located in Jerusalem, it is dedicated to Holocaust remembrance, documentation, research and


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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tu[1] Bishvat and our hope for a better future

Dear friends,

In a few hours we will begin the celebration of Tu Bishvat, the 15th of the month of Shvat which establishes the "New Year of Trees". The celebration has a distinctly national theme: the renewal of natural life in the Land of Israel, which is the birthplace of the Jewish State - the State that marks the beginning of the redemption of our People.

In the Diaspora and Israel, many Jewish families and communities include a Tu BiShvat Seder - similar to the Passover Seder, where they eat typical Israeli fruits and drink red and white wines. In Israel, there is an addition to this beautiful ritual: youth and families visit the forests of the country - which have the highest level of afforestation in the world. This establishes their contact with one of the most tangible contributions among our people and the God of Israel: the greening of the world He gave us as His inheritance.

The fruits we eat are divided into three basic categories:

* Fruits of the World of Creation (God's): fruits we can eat in full, i.e. figs.

* Fruits of the World of Creativity (humans): those we eat in majority, and plant their seeds for its reproduction - such as apples.

* Fruits of the World of Action: those we eat the content but their shells are discarded - i.e. nuts.

Tu Bishvat is both the celebration of the natural world, in its universality, and the particular relationship the Jewish People have with the Land that allows the totality of our Jewish identity. It is heaven, earth, man and God, all interrelated, and the People of Israel, Land of Israel, State of Israel and God of Israel, in their most basic connection.There is something beautiful in the message of our Sages of the choice of date for the celebration of this natural rebirth: the middle of winter in Israel. Common sense would say that this celebration should take place on the 1st of Nisan - the beginning of spring, a better date to celebrate the renewal of the natural cycle of the Land, "the New Year of Trees". Our Sages include an additional message to those we pointed out - the universal/ecological message and the national redemption of the Land of Israel. They teach us that after the winter cold and the "freezing" of nature that, after the strongest storms, the sun will reappear, and with it, recreate natural life once again. We celebrate Tu BiShvat in the winter as a hopeful assertion that much of the richest, most productive, more encouraging initiatives and actions are born precisely in difficult times of darkness and cold; that the world is recreated in its challenges, replicating and expanding past creations in the spring to come. We welcome the trees in winter, because we know that they will get through it - as we will - renewing their magic foliage in the future.

May we learn to celebrate the life of the world we live in, respect it and give it the knowledge we have for its best future.

May we be able to feel our deepest connection to the miracle of the Land of Israel and the State which was reborn in it.

And may we be able to see the light, heat and spring in the "winters" that life will likely bring to us.

Tu Bishvat Sameach!

Chazak ve'ematz!



Deputy Director-General & Director of Education

Maccabi World Union

Photo  provided by MWU




In the 15th century, when the Jews of Spain were expelled, those who settled in Zefat continued the traditional celebrations of Tu biShvat. The students of the famous kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria formulated the symbolic Tu biShvat Seder – prayers and readings centered around a meal. By eating fruit, our ancestors identified with their land. They added to the fruit, the drinking of wines and the singing of songs and compiled a new Tu BiShvat Haggadah Seder named Etz Pri Hadar- The Glorious [Citrus] Fruit Tree.

Tu Bishvat Seder Slideshow


This special slideshow takes you through the stages of the Tu Bishvat seder and incorporates songs, photos, videos, texts and interesting facts about the trees and fruits of Israel.

This slideshow was created by the Overseas section of the KKL-JNF Youth and Education Department, and is available in different languages, for use in communities, families and schools. It is an invaluable aid for teachers and informal education personnel. 

The Tu Bishvat festival is the essence of what KKL-JNF represents, and it expresses our strong connection as a People to the Land of Israel. 

We wish you an enjoyable and meaningful experience.

Chag Sameach!

The KKL-JNF Tu Bishvat Seder Slideshow

* The use of this presentation is allowed for private, home and educational activities only. It is not approved for commercial activities.


Tu Bishvat Seder Text


"May it be God's will that by the power vested in the blessing and eating of these fruits, and by contemplating the secrets of their roots, by which we will receive God's blessing, charity and abundance; may God make them grow and prosper throughout the year for goodness and blessings, for a good life and for peace." (Etz Pri Hadar).



Like the Passover seder, the Tu Bishvat seder has four cups of wine. Red and white wines are combined in varying shades of color; white symbolizing the potential for growth (winter), and red symbolizing full growth (summer). 

First Cup:   Kiddush is made with white wine, representing the snow on Mount Hermon and the cold winter season. 
Second Cup: ⅓ red wine, ⅔ white wine, representing the beginning of spring. 

Third Cup: ½white wine, ½ red wine, representing spring with half rainy days and half sunny days. 

Fourth Cup: All red wine, symbolizing the summer, the hot days that end the agricultural season.
THE FORMAL BLESSING OVER FRUIT: "Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha'Olam, Borei Pri Ha'Etz. - Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the Tree."

WHEAT – OR BREAD: "Rabbi Judah said, "An infant cannot say "father" and "mother" until it has tasted wheat (bread)."  We deduce that from the moment a child eats bread, he is considered to understand.  Thus wheat symbolizes knowledge itself. (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, 70b). 

BARLEY: "Rabbi Judah son of Simon commented that Boaz measured six measures of barley for Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 3:15). As his reward, Boaz was privileged to have six righteous men as descendants, namely, David, Hezekia, Josiah, Hanania, Mishael & Azaria, Daniel and the King Messiah, David" (Midrash Rabba, Ruth 7:2). 

GRAPES: "Why is Israel compared to a grape vine?  Just as when its owner seeks to improve it, he uproots it and plants it elsewhere and then indeed it flourishes.  Similarly, when God intended to make Israel's fame known throughout the world, what did He do?  He uprooted them from Egypt, brought them into the wilderness, where they began to improve.  They received the Torah and their reputation spread throughout the world." (Midrash Rabba, Exodus 44:1).


FIGS: "Why was the Torah likened to a fig tree?  Because, while the fruit of most other tree – the olive, the vine and the date – is gathered all at once, that of the fig tee is gathered little by little.  It is the same with the Torah.  One gathers a little learning today and much tomorrow, for it cannot be learned in one year or in two years."  (Midrash Rabba, Numbers 21:15). 

POMEGRANATES: "Rabbi Meir found a pomegranate; he ate the fruit and threw away the peel.  This is to teach us to differentiate between the main thing and things of secondary importance." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Hagiga, 15b). 

OLIVES: "Why is Israel compared to an olive? To tell you that just as the olive produces its oil only after being pounded, so Israel returns to the right way only after suffering." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Menachot, 53b).

DATES: "Why is Israel compare to the date palm? There is no waste in any part of the date-palm.  The dates are eaten, the lulav branches are used for Hallel prayer, the dried branches are used for thatch, the fibres for rope, the leaves for sieves and the planed boards for roofing.  So it is with Israel that none is worthless in Israel. (Midrash Rabba, Genesis 41:1).
EAT LOTS OF FRUIT: It is the custom of some to eat 15 types of fruit on Tu BiShvat, while others eat of the Seven Species with which the Land of Israel is blessed.  It is the custom of many, however, to partake of fresh fruit, dried fruit, cooked and preserved fruits, to the number of fifty, while others partake of 100 types! (Rabbi Haim Flaji, The Appointed Festivals for All Living, 654b).

What do the trees of the field say?  "Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy! Before the Lord ... for He is come to judge the earth." (Psalms 96:12).
Recognizing that the Bedouin of the Negev need assistance, the government of Israel created a comprehensive policy aimed at improving their economic, social and living conditions, as well as resolving long-standing land issues. 
This new policy constitutes a major step forward towards integrating the Bedouin more fully into Israel's multicultural society, while still preserving their unique culture and heritage. 
The Bedouin in the Negev
The Bedouin in the Negev
Copyright: MFA free usage
The Bedouin in the Negev, numbering approximately 210,000, is one of many communities which comprise Israel's pluralistic society. Unfortunately, historically this community has been ranked low in socio-economic indicators.

Recognizing that the Bedouin of the Negev need assistance, the government of Israel created a comprehensive policy - called the Begin Plan - aimed at improving their economic, social and living conditions, as well as resolving long-standing land issues. 

To this end, Israel has allocated approximately 2.2 billion dollars (8 billion shekels), including over 330 million dollars (1.2 billion shekels) for specific economic and social development projects.

This January 2013 policy - named after then-minister Ze'ev Binyamin (Benny) Begin - is designed to solve a wide range of problems affecting the Bedouin population. Among the numerous initiatives that have begun or are planned are the expansion of technological and adult education, the development of industrial centers, the establishment of employment guidance centers, assistance in strengthening Bedouin local governments, improvements to the transportation system, centers of excellence for students and support for Bedouin women who wish to work or start businesses.

 Israel is working with the Bedouin community on all aspects of the Begin Plan. Indeed, the plan was developed through dialogue and in close coordination with the Bedouin: In an attempt to expand on the previous Prawer Plan, Minister Begin and his team met with thousands of Bedouin individuals and organizations during the development stage. As a result, Bedouin traditions and cultural sensitivities were taken into consideration, and a plan was formulated to reinforce the connection of the Bedouin to their culture and heritage.

Furthermore, contrary to some claims, Israel is not forcing a nomadic community to change its lifestyle. The Bedouin in the Negev, who moved to the area starting at the end of the 18th century, began settling down over a hundred years ago, long before the establishment of the State of Israel. By now, most Bedouin citizens live in permanent homes. 

Still, one of the major problems facing the Bedouin is housing.  Almost half of the Negev Bedouin (approximately 90,000) live in houses built illegally, many of them in shacks without basic services. Isolated encampments and other Bedouin homes may lack essential infrastructures, including sewage systems and electricity, and access to services such as educational and health facilities is limited.

There are solutions to this problem and to the many other difficulties facing the Bedouin. For example, under the Begin Plan, the government is giving every Bedouin family (or eligible individual) that needs it, a resident plot. These lands are being developed to include all the modern infrastructures and will be granted free of charge. Bedouin families can then build houses according to their own desires and traditions. Those that move will be offered their choice of joining rural, agricultural, communal, suburban or urban communities.

Most of the Bedouin citizens will remain in their current homes. 120,000 already live in one of the seven Bedouin urban centers or eleven recognized villages. Of the remaining 90,000 that live in encampments or communities that are not zoned, only 30,000 will have to move, most of them a short distance (a few kilometers at most). The other 60,000 will have their homes legalized under Israel's initiative, which will develop their communities and grant the residents property rights. 

Much has been made of those Bedouin who will have to move. However, almost half of them (14,000-15,000) have settled illegally within the danger zone of the Ramat Hovav Toxic Waste Disposal Facility. Given the threat to their health, and even lives should there be an incident at the facility, the government of Israel has an obligation to relocate these families. 

The Begin Plan will also resolve land claims made by a number of Bedouin in the Negev, most of which have been in dispute for decades. Currently, there are 2,900 land claims regarding 587 square kilometers (227 sq. miles). Although these claims have no legal basis under Israeli law (and were not recognized under the previous Ottoman or British land law systems), Israel wants to resolve the issue. It will do so by adopting a compromise according to which all the Bedouin claimants will receive compensation in land and money equivalent to the full value of the land claimed. The Bedouin will no longer have to engage in lengthy court cases while the compensation process will be based on the principles of fairness, transparency and dialogue 

There have been attempts to deliberately attack the Begin Plan (which its distracters misname the Prawer Plan in order to associate it with an outdated proposal). Many of those acting in the international arena against Israel's plan for the Bedouin belong to the camp which seizes upon any opportunity to harm Israel's reputation. Others have purer motives, but have based their opposition on false information distributed by Israel's opponents. 

This opposition is unfortunate, particularly for the Bedouin who will benefit greatly from the Begin Plan. This new policy constitutes a major step forward towards integrating the Bedouin more fully into Israel's multicultural society, while still preserving their unique culture and heritage. 

Most importantly, the Begin Plan guarantees a better future for Bedouin children. No longer will they have to reside in isolated shacks without electricity or proper sewage. Now they will live closer to schools and will be able to walk home safely on sidewalks with streetlights, alongside paved roads. They will have easier access to health clinics and educational opportunities. Their parents will enjoy greater employment prospects, bettering the economic situation of the whole family. To oppose the Begin Plan is to oppose improving the lives of Bedouin children.

Photos Copyright MFA free usage

Driving along Road 40 in the Negev Desert, the main north-south road from the city of Beer Sheva about 90 minutes south of Tel Aviv, to Eilat, Israel’s window onto the Red Sea, and the expanse of rocky desert is mind-blowing. The Negev which cover over 50% of Israel’s total area is unexpectedly remote and barren considering the small size of Israel is roughly that of New Jersey. Yet what’s more surprising is what lies amid that landscape, and that is why we have selected The Negev as the best place to visit in Israel for 2013, and why Lonely Planet named it as one of their top 10 destinations for 2013.

Driving south from Tel Aviv, passing Beer Sheva towards the sleepy town of Mitzpe Ramon, and the landscape changes gradually from urban to agricultural, and then somewhat confusingly to desert, back to green, and then eventually to 100% desert. The Negev is confusing, and full of surprises!

Mitzpe Ramon is a community with the potential to be one of the worlds hottest tourist towns thanks to its unique setting on the cliffs of the mighty Ramon Crater – a geological wonder created by the work of water when this area was covers by ocean millions of years ago. The Ramon Crater is shaped like a heart, 40km in length and surrounded by dramatic cliffs. The crater has its own micro-climate and ecosystem with, considering the desert’s harshness, a huge range of plant and animal life including leopards. In fact it’s so rich In nature that it is forbidden to hike here alone after dark.

Perhaps it is the uniqueness of the Negev’s landscape combined with the inspiring resilience of those who call it home, and the Israeli ingenuity and creativity which means that this area of desert leads the world in so many ways. In contrast to the global trend, where desertification is increasing the proportion of land considered to be desert, Israeli efforts have rehabilitated parts of the Northern Negev for agricultural purposes (explaining the confusion encountered as you drive south) and meant that Israel is the only country to have less desert now than 100 years ago.

Agriculture in the Negev flourishes – drip irrigation was created here, as were crop species such as the cherry tomato which have become staples of the Western diet, whilst other crops are being grown here with success beyond even hospitable climates. Farmers from around the world come here to learn techniques, and agriculture is a surprisingly large part of the local economy. Recently this has stretched into boutique agricultural products such as wines, cheeses, quality oils and alcoholic beverages have been produced by a group of unique farms dubbed the Negev Wine Route, with touristic attraction. set up by the local regional council


Agriculture is just at the surface of what the Negev had to offer, however. History is rich – this is Israel after all, and a series of Nabatean cities are UNESCO World Heritage Sites – among these is Shivta, which was never destroyed throughout history. Likewise, culture is rich, and somewhat even more surprising villages such as Ezuz, a tiny remote community which draws many of Israel’s top musicians to perform, and the Adama Dance Company, a global troupe who relocated from Tel Aviv to the middle of the desert, and draw thousands of fans every fall for their international festival.

But the desert has active draws and that is perhaps what the Negev will become best known for. Expansive hiking trails, as across most of Israel, are accessible and well marked, however it’s the biking trails in the Negev which now stretch over 300km, which are even more interesting. ‘Normal’ desert experiences such as jeep rides and ATV rides, horseback riding, caving and rappelling, and sand surfing, just scratch the surface of what’s available here.

Mitzpe Ramon might today remain a sleepy town but that’s fast changing – two years ago it received both its first backpackers hostel and first luxury hotel, bringing a diverse spectrum of new visitors, and perhaps it will be they who in 20 years look back and say “I saw it before it was big”.


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