Shabbat Candlelighting 8:29 p.m.                                             Friday, August 5, 2011/5 Av 5771

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JCC Maccabi Games Held for First Time in Israel
The JCC Maccabi Games are a highlight of summer for many youth across North America, offering teens a chance to travel to various cities to compete in sport and socialize with each other. Our community hosted the games in 2006. Israel hosted for the first time this summer, and our partnership region in the Upper Galilee Panhandle was home to much of the activity. Nineteen youth from the Lower Mainland participated in the Israeli games. The boys’ soccer team won the silver medal.

JCCGV executive director Rick Nelson reported that the opening ceremony was amazing - colourful, meaningful and something our kids had never seen. Through the sports competitions, the arts workshops and evening programs, the participants impacted the people and communities of Northern Israel and were deeply impacted in return. Rabbi Nissim Malka, mayor of Kiryat Shemona, said the town had never seen anything like it. After a jam-packed week of competing, creating and having fun, the teens showed their appreciation to the towns that hosted them. Our kids repaired and painted several schools and kindergartens, and left a physical memory of our time there.

Catch Moishe House on CBC
Our new young adult initiative, Moishe House, was profiled yesterday on a CBC radio interview with resident Boruch Huberman. Moishe House is a new community rsource – an east side home where four young adults are living and creating peer-led programs for young adults. Boruch did a great job explaining what what it is all about.

Minister Tim Uppal Visits Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre
Yesterday morning I was pleased to join the leadership of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre in welcoming Canada’s Minister of State, Tim Uppal. Minister Uppal shared news of the recent federal legislation to create a Holocaust memorial in Ottawa, a significant development as Canada is the last allied country to have such a memorial in its capitol city. Notably, the legislation was approved unanimously on the day the minority government fell last spring. A national planning committee will be convened to develop the concept and implementation plan for the memorial.

Born in BC, Minister Uppal now represents a riding in Edmonton. As a new member of parliament he had the opportunity a few years ago to visit Israel under the auspices of the Canada-Israel Committee, which provided him a deep understanding of the impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish people, and the importance of Israel as a democratic society that shares many values with Canada. It was quite remarkable to hear this soft-spoken member of the Sikh community relate his own experience in Israel, and his wife’s experience as a youth participating in the March of the Living program, which led him to introduce the legislation in parliament for the memorial.

Social Protest Takes Wing in Israel
The biggest news out of Israel this week had nothing to do with the peace process or the exchange of attacks and gunfire over the Gaza and Lebanese borders. The news had to do with the dramatic outpouring of social protest across Israel over the challenges that middle and lower income families are facing to make ends meet. Started by a single woman who set up a tent in central Tel Aviv, the protests have grown to the point where tent cities have sprouted up across the country, including in Kiryat Shemona, in our partnership region.

As described by Yossi Tanuri, director general of United Israel Appeal Federation Canada:

The protest tents are a part of a continuum of demonstrations against the inefficiency of the government. Recent protests also include demonstrations by mothers complaining about the prices of kindergartens and the cost of raising children, protests that fuel is overpriced, doctors striking for higher wages, and a boycott of cottage cheese suppliers after the price of this product rose sharply.

The protesters are comprised of mostly educated, middle-class men and women ranging in age from 21-40, most of who have served or are serving in the army, and who pay taxes. It is their feeling that they contribute the most to the state and yet receive the least.

They are protesting the ineptness of the State’s economic and social policy. While direct taxes, which are designed to put the tax burden on the shoulders of the wealthy are among the lowest in Western countries, indirect taxes aimed primarily at the middle class are the highest. The young look at the West and recognize that their buying power is much weaker than that of their Western peers and understand the simple truth – “we make less and pay a lot more.”

This protest is authentic. It’s not left or right, Jew or Arab, nor is it made up completely of spoiled Tel-Aviv’ians. This protest is the last chance for us to keep a substantial part of the younger generation in the country, to strengthen the backbone of economic and state security.

My only footnote to Yossi’s comments is that it is striking to note that through these protests, Israel is demonstrating the strength of its democracy. The demonstrations are peaceful but will inevitably effect political change. In the meantime, the army is not mowing people down in the streets, as is happening today in several of Israel’s neighbouring countries.

Parashat Devarim

This week’s parasha begins the reading of the final book of the Torah – Deuteronomy. The Hebrew word, d’varim, is taken from its beginning: “these are the words”. The parasha is a recounting of the exodus, during which Moses dwells on the faithlessness of the Israelites along the way. The Etz Chayim commentary highlights the Midrash that notes that d’varim sounds similar to d’vorim, the Hebrew word for bees. The implication is that Moses’ criticisms of the Israelites are like the stings of bees. They hurt the listeners, but lead to the death of the bee. Moses dies at the end of Deuteronomy, having delivered his criticisms, but also having prepared his people to enter the Land of Israel. The commentary notes that we should appraise the validity of criticism not only on its merits, but also on its effect on the critic.

The people of the modern State of Israel are engaged in deep criticism today of their own government. They do so with pain, with their own years of sacrifice and effort to build, protect and sustain the State. May this exercise of their great collective voice lead to an Israeli society in which all its citizens can sustain their stake and investment in a brighter future.

Shabbat Shalom!

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