LifeLines - Newtown Hadassah's e-newsletter
September 2003

Welcome to the latest issue of LifeLines.
It's filled with local events, messages from Israel, news, and more.

To purchase beautiful New Year's cards,
please contact Barb Kaner, Ruth Kromash or Lisa Waksman.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year.

L'shana Tova,
Darcy Silvers, Editor


In this issue, you'll find:

* Upcoming Hadassah & community events
* Health-smart recipe
* News briefs
* Women's health checkup checklist
* Feature stories
* E-mail tip

Save these dates!

  Sunday, 9/7, 7-9 p.m.  Career Women's Network, "Networking Know-how"
  Leslie Rothberg's, Holland. Guest speaker: Ruth Shapira

  Tuesday, 9/9, noon  55 Plus Luncheon Meeting/Convention Update
  Shir Ami, Newtown.  Guest speaker: National board member Hanna Pollack


  Tuesday, 10/7, 6:30 p.m. Membership Celebration Dinner/Installation of Officers.
Somerton Springs Country Club

  Monday, 10/13   Newtown State Street Shopping Fundraiser

  Tuesday, 10/14, 1 p.m.  55 Plus Meeting, "Women's Health Rights"
  Shir Ami, Newtown. Guest speaker: Linda Hahn, Planned Parenthood


  Sunday, 11/9, 7 p.m.  Career Women's Network, "Financial Planning"

  Tuesday, 11/11, 1 p.m.  55 Plus Meeting/Book Review by Joy Pollack
  Shir Ami, Newtown  Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Morantz Cohen

  Sunday, 11/16, 10:45 a.m. departs Neshaminy Mall
Golda's Balcony Broadway Show


  Monday, 12/8   Chanukah Dinner/Auction, Pippo's Restaurant

  Tuesday, 12/9, 1 p.m.  55 Plus Meeting/Diabetes
  Shir Ami, Newtown  Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Representative


The following recipe was taken from the Hadassah Women's Health Eat Right for Life program kit R#745. This recipe, as others in the kit, tends to be fat-controlled in relation to the individual serving size. While a recipe may contain half a cup of oil or a stick of margarine or three eggs, remember that the recipe will feed many people so that the individual servings will contain minimal amounts of these ingredients.

Carrot Kugel
1/2 cup margarine (see note below)
3/4 cup brown sugar (use 1 cup if carrots aren't sweet)
2 eggs or 4 egg whites
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup hot water, or juice
4 cups carrots, shredded

Cream the margarine and sugar. Beat in eggs. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Dissolve the soda in the hot water. Add flour mixture alternately with the soda mixture to the creamed mixture. Mix in the carrots. Spoon into a greased 8"x12" baking dish greased with oil or cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Note: Part or all of the margarine may be replaced by applesauce to lower the fat content. The texture will be heavier but it will still taste great. Freezes well.



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free (pink window in the middle).

There is NOTHING to sign up for.
Corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits
to donate a mammogram in exchange for advertising.

At Camp Koby, Israeli kids beat back loss

by Joshua Mitnick
New York Jewish Week

By all appearances, Camp Koby seems like what you'd expect from the sleepaway camp experience. But all of the kids at the free 10-day camp have had their childhood marred by the loss of parents and siblings in terrorist attacks. Here, the personal nightmares of loss become a meeting point for the campers rather than a terrible secret to be concealed. As the Palestinian violence grinds on, the children here are part of a growing subset of Israelis who must figure out how to continue on after family members become the victims of terrorism.

"In Israel, the people continue but the grief is covered up," said Sherri Mandell, who helped her husband, Seth, found the camp as a memorial to their eldest son, Koby, after he was murdered by terrorists two years ago. From their grief came the realization that by creating communities of survivors, they could help others grapple with mourning. Ensuring that relatives of terror victims do not remain isolated became the Koby Mandell Foundation's mission. It also sponsors midyear retreats for children and adult women survivors.

Christopher Reeve:
Israel is at center of world research on paralysis

Excerpted from 

Calling Israel the "world center" for research on paralysis treatment, Christopher Reeve set off for his first visit to the country this summer.

Reeve learned about Israeli advancements in the field of stem cell research related to paralysis and spinal cord injuries. The theater and film actor who portrayed "Superman" suffered a horseback-riding accident in 1995 during an equestrian event which left him paralyzed from the neck down. He is the chairman of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which has distributed $45 million in research grants to neuroscientists throughout the world.

"I am looking forward to visiting Israel to learn more about their cutting-edge paralysis research as well as their approaches to addressing the quality of life of those living with paralysis," said Reeve. "Israel is the center of some of the world's leading research related to paralysis. There are many new therapies in the pipeline as well as care strategies being employed that may also benefit millions of people around the world living with paralysis. This includes therapies derived from stem cell research."

(Editor's note: Hadassah has long supported the provision of quality health care, and believes that to reach that goal innovative medical and biotechnological research, including Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) and stem cell research, must be pursued.)Reeve is a strong supporter of stem cell research, which some experts believe may unlock a way of reversing the often-debilitating effects of spinal injuries. He believes a cure for paralysis is close at hand.

Reeve also planned to meet Israelis who have suffered similar injuries to him, including Ethiopian immigrant Elad Wass. Wass was a victim of a suicide bombing in Netanya in May. The shrapnel that entered
Wassa's abdomen left him paralyzed from the waist down. Wassa expressed a wish to meet the actor in a letter, saying that Reeve provided him with "hope and inspiration."

Whitney Houston calls Israel 'home'
from Israel21c.orgPop singer Whitney Houston, who Rolling Stone magazine dubbed "one of the greatest voices of the 20th century," spent a week this summer on a high-profile tour of Jewish and Christian holy sites in Israel with her daughter and husband, singer Bobby Brown.

Houston spent the week touring every corner of the country, including a visit with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. Houston said that she had come to Israel both for a "spiritual retreat" and to gather inspiration for a Christmas album she plans on recording soon.

The main purpose of the couples' trip was to visit to the Hebrew Israelite community, known as the Black Hebrews in the southern town of Dimona. The community of 2,000 African-Americans, whose members have converted to Judaism, has lived in Dimona since the early 1970s. They are controversial because of their practice of polygamy, and Israel has hesitated to give them permanent resident status. Nonetheless, over the decades, many community members have integrated into Israeli society, and their musical performances are particularly popular.

Houston's mother, the veteran soul singer, Cissy Houston, as well as Whitney's godmother, Aretha Franklin, are friends of community member Asiel Ben Yisrael from his earlier days in Chicago. Ben Yisrael has been working on this visit for over two years and met in the United States with mutual friends of his and the singer's family.

About a month ago, Houston's personal manager came to Israel and stayed with Hebrew Israelites in Dimona. She remained in the south for two weeks and felt that "Israel is a safe place" and recommended that Whitney and her family visit.

"You have to understand, black-skinned people always dream of visiting the Holy Land," says Yeda'a Bat Yisrael told the newspaper Ha'aretz. "We're Jews and she's Christian, but the holiness of Israel is common to different religions. Whitney came to Israel on a journey of spiritual purification and to visit the holy sites and we're glad that she's coming with her children. It's important they see the places they've read about over the years."

Bat Yisrael said that she hoped the Houston visit would encourage other Americans to visit Israel as well.

Before leaving the country, Houston told reporters that she was going to build a house in Dimona, as she planned on visiting Israel frequently in the future. Meeting with Dimona Mayor Gabi Laloush, Houston said they would go back to the U.S. and encourage Americans to visit Israel.

From 'Chicago' to Tel Aviv:
Richard Gere's peace mission

by Ellis Shuman
One week after pop star Whitney Houston's highly publicized "spiritual retreat" in Israel, actor Richard Gere arrived in the country on a "visit to promote peace."
Gere, the 54-year-old star of hit films including "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Pretty Woman" and "Chicago," asked that the media not cover his three-day visit to Israel. But the Israeli press was full of reports of
his arrival on an El Al airliner at Ben-Gurion International Airport and his lodgings in the royal suite at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, which had previously hosted the Dalai Lama, Gere's spiritual mentor.
Gere visited Israel as the guest of Spirit of Peace, the Israeli
chapter of the International Peacemaking Community - a global, multi-
faith peace organization. In recent years, Gere has made frequent
visits around the world to promote peace, conciliation and the
restoration of Tibetan rights.

Gere was scheduled to meet with former foreign minister Shimon
Peres and to visit the Palestinian Authority. The Jerusalem
reported that Gere also planned to fly to Iraq.

UNESCO designates Tel Aviv
a World Heritage Site

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has designated the "White City architecture" of Tel Aviv as one of 24 new World Heritage Sites. UNESCO now recognizes 754 world sites it describes as being of "outstanding universal value."


"What makes the designation of Tel Aviv so unprecedented," says Rami Levi, tourism ambassador of Israel to North and South America, "is that almost every other UNESCO World Heritage Site is either a natural wonder, or hundreds or thousands of years old. Designating Tel Aviv is one of the few UNESCO recognitions of a 20th century phenomenon - and it makes us very proud."


Tel Aviv, founded as a garden suburb of the ancient Mediterranean port of Jaffa in 1909, quickly bloomed into the commercial, entertainment and cultural capital of the Land of Israel. Today, while Jerusalem is Israel's capital and has the largest population of any single municipality in Israel, Tel Aviv remains Israel's "New York," heart of Israel's largest urban conglomeration that is home to almost 3 million Israelis.


And it is Tel Aviv's uniqueness as home to more "Bauhaus" or "International Style" architecture than any city in the world that has earned it UNESCO's seal of approval. During the 1920s and 1930s, as German-Jewish architects at the heart of the "Bauhaus" or "International Style" movement left Germany for what was then "Palestine," Tel Aviv - literally overnight - adopted their style as a route to defining the character of the new "Jewish" city burgeoning on the Mediterranean. By the mid-1930s it was the only city on earth being built entirely in the "International Style" - its simple concrete curves, boxy shapes, small windows set in large walls, glass-brick towers and sweeping terraces all washed with white. Viewed from the air, Tel Aviv appeared as a vision of startling white, hence the appellation, "White City."


"The creation of the city of Tel Aviv is one of the greatest symbols and successes of the Zionist Movement," Levi observed, "so for UNESCO - a body affiliated with the organization that once passed an odious resolution equating Zionism with racisim (the resolution was subsequently overturned) -- to recognize the specialness of Tel Aviv, is particularly sweet." 


The 'White City' today

Almost every "Bauhaus" or "International Style" building in Tel Aviv is an architectural landmark. One of the loveliest "White City" restorations is that of the former Esther movie-theater in Dizengoff Circle, reborn as the "boutique" Cinema Hotel, that retains the sweeping staircases, tall windows and curving balconies of its former identity, plus dozens of architectural and design details that recall its heritage.    


When you go

Architectural walking tours can be arranged by hotel concierges. There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel: the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem; Masada; the Old City of Akko; and Tel Aviv's "White City."

For more information on travel to Israel, visit or

World's Largest Solar Power Station

Plans for the world's largest solar power station, to be built in the Negev, are underway. Israel has been a leading force in worldwide development of solar technology yet, until now, has not utilized this knowledge for its own needs. The primary obstacle has been price.

Producing electricity with solar energy resently costs 1.5 times more than using coal or petrochemicals. However, alternatives to solar energy both pollute the environment and encourage dependence on Arab oil. The project has sparked intense interest from American environmentalists, and broadens the possibilities for sources of clean energy.

The solar station will supply 100 megawatts of power initially, growing to 500 megawatts, or 5% of the country's current generating capacity. Dr. David Faiman, director of the Solar Energy Center, claims that in theory, solar energy plants could generate all of Israel's power on 225 Kilometers of suitable land. For details, visit


Women: Stay Healthy at Any Age
Checklist for Your Next Checkup
Screening Tests: What You Need and When

Screening tests, such as mammograms and Pap smears, can find diseases early when they are easier to treat. Some women need certain screening tests earlier, or more often, than others. Talk to your doctor about which of the tests listed below are right for you, when you should have them, and how often.

The Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research Task Force has made the following recommendations, based on scientific evidence, about which screening tests you should have.

Should You Take Medicines to Prevent Disease?

What Else Can You Do To Stay Healthy?

Don't Smoke. But if you do smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting. You can take medicine and get counseling to help you quit. Make a plan and set a quit date. Tell your family, friends, and co-workers you are quitting. Ask for their support. If you are pregnant and smoke, quitting now will help you and your baby.

Eat a Healthy Diet. Eat a variety of foods, including fruit, vegetables, animal or vegetable protein (such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, or tempeh) and grains (such as rice). Limit the amount of saturated fat you eat.

Be Physically Active. Walk, dance, ride a bike, rake leaves, or do any other physical activity you enjoy. Start small and work up to a total of 20-30 minutes most days of the week.

Stay at a Healthy Weight. Balance the number of calories you eat with the number you burn off by your activities. Remember to watch portion sizes. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about what or how much to eat.

Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation. If you drink alcohol, one drink a day is safe for women, unless you are pregnant. If you are pregnant, you should avoid alcohol. Since researchers don't know how much alcohol will harm a fetus, it's best not to drink any alcohol while you are pregnant.

A standard drink is one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Screening Test Checklist

Take this checklist with you to your doctor's office and fill it out when you have had any of the tests listed below. Talk to your doctor about when you should have these tests next, and note the month and year in the right-hand column.

Also, talk to your doctor about which of the other tests listed below you should have in the future, and when you need them.

  The last time I had the following screening test was:
I should schedule my next test for:
Pap smear    
Blood pressure    
Colorectal cancer    

(Editor's note: Hadassah's Healthy Women, Healthy Lives program serves as the umbrella for the entire Women's Health program. This comprehensive program focues on exercise, nutrition, prevention and early detection of diseases that affect women, and patient/doctor communication.)



It's 'Crystal' clear -
peace project more than just an act

excerpted from

It's a Wednesday night in Jerusalem and the mood in the Khan Theater courtyard is one of excitement blended with melancholy, as theater students mingle with their friends and family in the Ottoman Turkish caravan-like theater's open-air quadrant.

Anticipation is high, as this night will see the results of three student seminars from the Billy Crystal Workshops - Peace Through the Performing Arts project which is part of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Department of Theater Studies.

However, less than an hour prior to this gathering, news of a suicide bombing in the heart of the capital has put a damper on the celebrations.

After welcoming everyone to the event, Shai Bar-Yaacov, academic advisor and director of the Billy Crystal Project, duly notes the contrast between the general political situation - and the fact that the purpose of their gathering is to see is a group of both Arabs and Jews creating together in a peaceful manner.

When Billy Crystal, the American actor, initiated his namesake project in 1999, his goal to foster social, cultural, and artistic understanding between Arabs and Jews through the use of drama techniques was conventional. Numerous undertakings promoting co-existence were cropping up in reaction to the general feeling that peace was just around the corner.

The situation today is very different.

"The Billy Crystal Project is trying to do something that seems pointless in the reality in which we are but it is something essential," says Bar-Yaacov. Just trying to do something helps overcome feelings of pointlessness."

Five workshops took place under the auspices of the Billy Crystal Project this year. One was devoted to a classic Arabic text; a seminar centered around Jewish-Arab collaborations; a political workshop delved into Brecht's world; a street theater class lightly touched on conflict between people, and the project's principal session: "Theater as a Mediation Tool" workshop focused on Jewish-Arab relations.

Co-ordinators and participants are under no illusions that their play, Searching for Understanding on the Planet Jupiter/Justice (the Hebrew word for the planet Jupiter, tzedek, is the same word as for justice) will change how society views co-existence between the two warring peoples.

Ten Jewish and six Arab students took part in this year's "Theater as a Mediation Tool" workshop run in collaboration with the Khan Theater. In total, 100 students took part in the five workshops. Bar Yaacov hopes to see 120 to 150 next year. "The number is not the crucial issue but rather a better balance between Arabs and Jews is what is hoped for," he says, noting that all together less than a third of the five workshops' participants were Arab.

Did you say 'Bark' mitzvah?
Many Jews are using a new ceremony called a Bark Mitzvah
to transform Fido from member of the family to member of the tribe

by Rachel Zuckerman
excerpted from

Burberry raincoats, designer biscuits, health insurance and therapy just aren't enough for some canines. Enter the "Bark Mitzvah." Yes, the Bark Mitzvah. It's cropping up independently in pet stores, homes and even synagogues around the country.

Larry Roth, co-owner of the Doggie Do and PussyCat Too Animal Salon in New York's Murray Hill neighborhood, has played no small part in this trend. Having hosted about 30 Bark Mitzvahs over the past 13 years, he's become something of an expert on the matter. So is this a rite of passage?

For most people, he says, the Bark Mitzvah is "an excuse to have a party." During a typical Doggie Do Bark Mitzvah, Roth said, the dog of honor feasts on bone-shaped dog "cake"; a nod to the Jewish state appears in the blue-and-white frosting. Felt toys in the shape of menorahs and dreidels abound, but the Bark Mitzvah dog is expected to play nice and share them with the other dogs attending while their owners toast one another, saying, "Mazel tov." For those worried that their dog won't look the part, the salon sells a selection of accoutrements for the occasion, including dog prayer shawls and yarmulkes tailored to fit over dog ears. And yes, they come in small, medium, and large.

"It's mostly Reform and Conservative Jews who come here to celebrate a rite of passage for their dog," Roth says. "Some people celebrate it after the dog has lived 13 human years, and some people do it after 13 dog years."

Some religious institutions, like Temple Kehillat Chaim, a Reform temple in Atlanta, use the term "Bark Mitzvah" in jest - and to raise money. Last spring, the synagogue sponsored a "Bark Mitzvah Day" fundraiser. For the event, some 60 dogs competed in a dog-show spin-off. "Most Jewish" was one of the competition's eight categories.

While most Bark Mitzvahs are organized with tongue firmly in cheek, Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Santa Monica, Calif., sees a spiritual component that goes beyond dog biscuits shaped as Stars of David. He has performed eight Bark Mitzvahs in the past 15 years.

For Comess-Daniels, Bark Mitzvahs are about the spiritual connection some humans feel for their animals, not about a relationship between their dogs and G-d - regardless of all the linguistic palindrome jokes. (What's dog spelled backward?)

"I run a fun event," the rabbi says. "People are bringing their pets into the spiritual parts of their lives and expressing it in a Jewish, communal way."

To maintain a boundary of sorts, he says, "we perform Bark Mitzvahs around Purim, because it's a time when we make fun of ourselves, and I felt it was more appropriate to do it in that context."

All of Beth Shir Shalom's Bark Mitzvahs are held in the parking lot, to avoid any "accidents" in the sanctuary. The events are usually oriented toward a family's youngest members, which might account for some of the sillier aspects of the ritual - howling on behalf of the dog, for example.

Israeli teen wins gold at Special Olympics
excerpted from

As Shachar Gdalizon stood on the winner's podium in Dublin, Ireland last month with a gold medal hanging proudly on her neck, her parents Ruti and Eitan didn't know whether to laugh or cry. So they did both.

Shachar, an 18-year-old with Down's syndrome, won the 100-meter freestyle swimming competition in the Special Olympics for her age range. She followed that victory with a silver medal finish in the 50-meter freestyle, returning triumphantly from Ireland to Israel to great fanfare and acclaim.

The Special Olympics are held once every four years, for athletes with either physical or mental handicaps. The 2003 Olympics in Dublin this year was a major event, attracting an especially high level of international attention, with 80,000 viewers attending the gala opening ceremony at which U2 performed. The Israeli delegation grabbed headlines early on this year after some of the athletes from Arab countries refused to compete against them.

Bringing Israel pride in such a situation made Gdalizon's victory particularly sweet.

No less so the fact that her accomplishment capped the long, difficult and inspiring story of her life, which her parents have devoted themselves to and documented in detail, hoping that Shachar's struggles and accomplishments might inspire and support other Down?s syndrome children and their parents.

Over the past two years, she had honed her swimming skills under the tutelage of coach Ahmed Natour, who taught her to be patient, pace herself in her race and to always believe in herself and her ability to succeed and win.

But her training in persistence and endurance began long before she became an athlete.

Like most parents who learn that their new baby has special needs, a swimming championship was the last thing that the Gdalizons could have imagined when she was young. Born after a difficult and complicated labor, Shachar came out of the womb tinted purple. Soon afterwards, her condition was identified: Down's Syndrome.

Her doctor asked her parents a question that they found astounding, "Will you want to take her home?"

The idea that they would abandon a child with special needs was incomprehensible to them. Her mother, Ruti said, "We were children of the '70s looking for meaning and purpose in life. When she was born, I realized, here is the meaning that I've been looking for all along. Here is something to dedicate myself to."

Though she had been born on a kibbutz in the north of the country, Ruti had left it when she was younger, but returned there to raise her daughter, at the request of the members.

"They said we had to come live there, they told us that they felt that growing up with someone like Shachar would make the other kibbutz children better human beings."

Shachar went to school with all of the other kibbutz children, forgoing special education for full mainstreaming. It wasn't easy for her, and often lonely, but her parents are convinced that she could never have achieved what she has without that important socializing experience.

She truly thrived when she discovered swimming. The swimming pool became the place where she could deal with her frustrations, and more importantly, discover success and accomplishment.

Two years ago, she was discovered by the Israeli Special Olympics committee, and for the eight months before the games in June, trained intensively with Natour and her teammates at a special camp away from home.

Even before she was a swimming champion, Shachar was a role model. From when she was young, her parents became a lifeline for new parents of Down's Syndrome babies. Doctors from various hospitals would call them at any hour of the night and they would sit with the parents, show them pictures of their daughter and show them what Down's Syndrome children were capable of.

Taking it a step further, a documentary crew has been filming Shachar's development for the past 10 years. Her parents have painful footage of therapists telling them that she may never speak. Today she is articulate and intelligent.

"There are a lot of 'normal' people whose level of perception and sensitivity doesn't come near to Shachar's," her father said, adding that this isn't always easy. They have had to tackle her questions like "Why am I different, why did you make them this way? Can I get better? Will anyone ever love me?"

The first two questions may have been difficult to answer. The answer to the third - particularly after she brought such pride to her country and her family - was and remains an unequivocal "Yes."

(This article includes material translated from the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot)

Bob, bob, bobbing along...

by Joe Eskenazi

As Aaron Zeff bumped and skidded along the icy, frozen track at 90 mph, breaking his back in the process, a thought jolted through his head: "This is the sport for me."

"If you talk to a Jewish mother, she'll say I broke my back. But if you talk to a physician, they'll say I had a compression fracture of my T3 vertebrae, it'll heal in a couple of months and I'll be a little shorter, but it's just as good," says Zeff, 34, of last year's accident.

"Now I'm one-sixteenth of an inch shorter. But I don't qualify as a short, balding Jewish guy just yet."

He does qualify, however, as the pilot and co-founder of the Israeli bobsled team - yes, you read that right, the Israeli bobsled team. And don't even think about bringing up the Jamaican bobsled team, mon. The Israeli bobsledders have heard that one about a million times, and they've had enough. They aren't growing dreads, and they don't intend to be lovable losers.

"No, we want to divorce ourselves from that. They didn't do that well; they went to the Olympics and crashed. We're interested in being really competitive. And I think we are," says Dr. John Frank, 41, the team's brakeman and the former tight end on the San Francisco 49ers glory teams. "We're aiming for a legacy. Something respectable so Israel will [always] have a bobsled team in the Olympics. And we should."

The San Francisco pair's fascination with bobsledding began like anyone else's - by watching the Olympics on TV. They were simply enthralled by the spectacle of a gaggle of space-suited sledders hustling into a futuristic-looking fiberglass vehicle and roaring down a track in which the amount of time it takes to snap your fingers separates first from the back of the pack.

And, in case you're wondering, they're not the first Jews to venture into bobsledding territory. French bobsledder Philippe de Rothschild was one of a number of Jews to boycott the 1936 Olympics.

Their dream began to take shape into a tangible reality a few years back, when Zeff persuaded his buddy, Frank, to divert a few hours from a Canadian ski trip to visit a bobsled track in Calgary. They met New Zealand-born coach Ross Dominikovich, who took one look at the pair and felt he had a couple of naturals. Zeff, who used to fly F-4 Phantom jets for the United States Air Force, possessed the reflexes and mindset to be a dominant bobsled pilot. And Frank, a burly former football star, was still blessed with the brute strength necessary to push the sled from a standstill and serve as its brakeman.

"We looked at each other and started laughing," recalls Frank, now a plastic surgeon. But they didn't dismiss the idea. The two began plotting out necessary time and money commitments, and Zeff trekked to Israel to try and convince the nation's Olympic establishment to let a pair of Californians represent the country in the sport. As Frank puts it, his partner had to "beg, borrow, and steal" in order to obtain Israel's blessing. In addition to time, it will take money to get Israel into the Olympics and keep it there. Zeff estimates $500,000 will be needed over the next five years, but he covered one-fifth of that with a June fund-raiser.

Working with the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay, both tackled mounds of paperwork to become dual Israeli-American citizens, and have visited Israel numerous times. By winter of last year, Israel gave Zeff and Frank the green light, and the pair were in bobsled driver's school in Calgary.

For Zeff, grabbing the controls was not unlike his prior gig in the cockpit. He never crashed an F-4 Phantom, however. "You've been on roller coasters or on the centrifuge at the carnival when you're thrown up against the wall. If you can imagine, try driving something where you're thrown up against the wall and rattled, going through different lighting in and out of tunnels through the snow and wind," explains the real estate investor and parking lot owner.

"It's not unlike flying a jet at low altitude. You have almost no peripheral vision and you have to always be one turn ahead. If you try to make a correction on the turn you're on, it's too late." In always staying one step ahead, piloting a bobsled is "like playing pool - but you're going 90 miles per hour, it's freezing and snowing, and the guy behind you is digging his spikes into your back."

Bobsledding's governing body has made the Olympics a more exclusive club than ever before. In order to compete in 2006, teams are now required to have been competing for at least four years. And while 45 teams traveled to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics, only 28 will be invited to Turin, Italy, in 2006, with up to two teams per country. Even though the top five bobsled nations will easily grab the first 10 slots, Zeff and Frank are confident they can crack the top 28.

When they're not training with Dominikovich in Calgary for several weeks at a time, both Zeff and Frank work themselves into game shape at local gyms. Frank, for his part, has bulked back up to his football weight of 225 pounds, after slimming down to "doctor weight" of around 200 or so pounds after he retired in 1989.

"We're coming into the sport ranked 41st, so it's unrealistic that we could vie for gold, silver or bronze. But we could put together a squad that'll be in the top 50 percent of the sport by the Olympics," says Zeff, who stands a stocky but athletic 5-foot-10 and weighs around 215 pounds.

In fact, at the Alberta Cup Championship in February, the Israelis took on Armenians, Brazilians and a Canadian team that competed in the 2002 Olympics. Zeff and Frank finished second in one heat, and won the other.

And, in a time when most organizations are downsizing, the two-man Israeli bobsled team has already lined up an alternate, Canadian-born David Greaves, and are looking to add another. Think you could fit the bill? Zeff and Frank are looking for a man who: Weighs at least 225 pounds, can sprint 30 meters in 4.1 seconds or less, can bench press 300 pounds and squat 450 pounds, and is an Israeli citizen or willing to become one. If you qualify, visit

(Editor's note: If you, your daughter or granddaughter want to be fixed up with a guy like that, that's another story altogether! Just keep your eye out for the bobsled with the Star of David emblazoned on its nose.)

Homeless in the Homeland

Milk and Honey Runs Dry for Israel's Jewish Poor

by Anya Kamenetz
excerpted from the Village Voice

In one of the stores lining Tel Aviv's Downtown Square, a pair of Miu Miu pumps adorned with raspberry and pink paillettes are half off at 900 New Israeli Shekels (about $215). Kikar Hamedina, as the "square" is called in Hebrew, is actually a circle, the largest, most elegant roundabout in the city. It's ringed with designer boutiques both foreign and Israeli - Gucci, Gaultier, Helmut Lang - and coffee bars peddling $5 iced cappuccinos; the center is adorned with flowering shrubs and a large fountain. And a shantytown.

About 50 men, women, and children with nowhere else to go live in the
Kikar Hamedina, which they have renamed with a large banner "Kikar
or Bread Square. They have been here almost a year. In July,
a municipal court temporarily blocked the city from evicting them, but a
Supreme Court ruling could give police the power to clear them out.

For now, their settlement consists of some camper buses; an outdoor
kitchen, under a tarp and powered by a gasoline generator; several tents
in various stages of repair; and some tables and chairs set in the
shade. Life-size effigies hang from the trees, bearing the legends in
Hebrew "Died of Hunger," "Died of Humiliation," and "Avtelei" (a play on
words meaning both "unemployment" and "father-hanging"). Tel Aviv
residents walk their dogs and shop for camisoles not 50 feet away,
scarcely glancing at the Kikar Halechem or its inhabitants.

Yisrael Tuitu, 38, a dignified-looking man with close-cropped hair and a
sweet expression, greets a visitor with a simple "I am the leader here."
Tuitu unpacks his long story of grievance and activism. Tuitu has been
charged not only with illegally occupying, but also with illegally renaming the square.

"I go to the army when I am 18, in 1983. When I am 19 and a half, in the
Golani, I have an accident. September 1984. I am in the hospital for 14
months. Leg, back, head." He pulls his eyelid down to show a scar, a
short row of healed stitches. Meanwhile, flies swarm around the table,
Tuitu's cell phone rings regularly, and a snaggletoothed old woman named
Valentina laments her fate on a bench two or three feet away. A man
named Mark occasionally supplies Tuitu with an English word.

"The army give me nothing. I have a wife and three daughters. We live in
the bus." He gestures to his camper, which is decorated with
anti-poverty slogans. He says the army eventually supplied him with a
pension of about $350 a month, but he needed so many operations on his
back that he couldn't keep a steady job. His wife was also sick and
often in the hospital. In time they divorced, and he feared he would
lose custody of the children. "I go to the TV, radio, paper and tell
them, why me in the street with three children?"

Tuitu's misfortunes coincided with a startling shift in Israel's
economic situation over the past two decades. Although the image
lingers, both at home and abroad, of a country with a strong socialist
legacy and a dedication to embracing and absorbing destitute Jewish
immigrants, the state welfare apparatus has begun to strain and buckle.
In June, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked Jewish charities in the U.S.
not to focus on images of Israeli poverty when making their appeals, for
fear it would hurt tourism and immigration. "One must not present the
state as a hunger-stricken state," Sharon said, according to UPI. "There
is poverty but there is no hunger."

State facts say otherwise. The split between rich and poor, once one of
the smallest among industrialized nations, widened rapidly in the 1980s;
a special report by the Knesset committee on social gaps in December
2002 found that the gross income per family in the top 10 percent is
more than 12 times higher than in the bottom 10 percent. Among developed
countries, that disparity is second only to the one in the United
States. The number of poor children in Israel rose by 50 percent over
the past 14 years, and the number of poor families went up by almost 30
percent; today, one in six families lives in poverty, including 25
percent of all children. In the first quarter of 2003, unemployment hit
a 10-year high of 10.8 percent.

The situation for Israel's poor has worsened even though social welfare
spending almost doubled over the past 20 years, to a staggering 54
percent of the budget. Several factors account for this. Thousands of
guest workers from Thailand and the Philippines were brought over in the
mid '90s to lessen the reliance on Palestinian agricultural, construction,
and home-health-care workers. The foreigners, employed by temp agencies like the giant Manpower, work 40 percent cheaper than Israelis. Nearly 80 percent of ultra-Orthodox men do not work, up from 50 percent in 1980; the "black-hat" communities are marked by high birthrates and a reliance on state subsidies. And, of course, Israel's perpetual state of war, which has intensified since the second intifada in September 2000, has had a variety of detrimental effects on the economy, the disappearance of tourism and the high cost of security and infrastructure in the territories being just two.

"The danger to Israel is not from Palestine, not from Hezbollah, not from Iran," he says. "It is from the people that don't have a way to live, don't have a house. And every day many people come to this situation." Beginning in the late '90s, Tuitu won the support of some far-left members of the Knesset for actions like pitching a tent in front of then prime minister Ehud Barak's offices for three months.

Tuitu persisted, holding a Passover seder for hungry people in 2000 and
2001 outside Sharon's offices. Then he took a more drastic step,
bringing his cause right to the heart of wealthy Tel Aviv.

This year in Jerusalem

Israel's economy, only five years ago blooming with tourism and high-tech
industry, is in its third year of recession. A few sobering facts and figures:

1. Poverty line in Israel: $934 a month for a family of four

2. Number of Israelis below that line: 1.2 million, or one in five

3. Percentage increase from 2001 to 2002 in number of poor children in
Israel: almost 50 percent

4. Number of poor children: 530,000, or 25 percent of all youths

5. Average monthly income for richest 10 percent of Israeli households:

6. Average for poorest 10 percent: $716

7. Factor by which the most wealthy are richer than the poorest: 12 times

8. Unemployment in first quarter of 2003: 10.8 percent

9. Rank of Israel's unemployment rate among industrialized nations: 2

10. Growth in number of Israelis receiving some form of government
payment from January to June 2003: 16.8 percent

11. Overall budget reduction planned for 2004: 4 percent

12. Current retirement age for women: 60

13. For men: 65

14. New retirement age proposed for both genders: 67

15. Percentage change in Israel's GDP from September 2000 to December
2002: minus 9 percent

16. Percentage change in Palestine's GDP, same period: minus 36 percent

17. Estimated unemployment in Arab Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza
Strip: 55-65 percent

18. Average monthly household income, as of 2001, in Palestine: 1,200

19. Average in Israel: 11,361 shekels

20. Percentage of people in Gaza living on less than $2 a day: 70

- Anya Kamenetz

1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 Jewish Telegraphic Agency; 2, 8, 9 Forward; 10, 19
Haaretz; 11, 12, 13, 14 New York Times; 15, 16 Globes Online; 17, 18, 20


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