editor's Desk

As if to tell us that, in the words of Albert Camus, “in the midst of the winter I came to know that there was in me an invincible Summer”, TubiSh’vat comes at the time when in Israel, the winter rains are slacking and the trees start filling themselves with the sap of new life.

In Safed, in the sixteenth century, the mystics conceived the idea that on the 15th. of Sh’vat the Tree of Life, the tree of the Ten Sefirot, renews the flow of life in the universe.  Planting a tree on this date assumes special significance.  We are asserting our faith that the tree will sustain new life and that its fruits will feed and delight us.

The TubiSh’vat vegetarian seder celebrates the bounty of creation and brings us closer to the miracle of Creation. The fifteen fruits that we eat contain within them the seed of the new fruit, just as we welcome the new generation that will follow us and continue our work of repairing the world.

A story is told in the Talmud about Honi,  the Rainmaker:  He was also known as Honi the Circle Maker because, by drawing a circle and stepping inside of it, he would recite special prayers for rain.  Sometimes he would even argue with God during a drought, and the rains would come. He was very wise but, when he saw something that puzzled him he would ask questions to satisfy his thirst for knowledge.
One day, Honi the Circle Maker was walking on the road and saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked the man, "How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?"
The man replied, "Seventy years."
Honi then asked the man, "And do you think you will live another seventy years and eat the fruit of this tree?"
The man answered, "Perhaps not. However, when I was born into this world, I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees."

The idealistic settlers of what was then Palestine understood that planting trees and drying the marshes was a sure way to restore the land and bring it to the splendor of previous centuries.  Presently, Israel is the only country that has entered the 21st. century with an increased number of trees. Every TubiSh’vat the Israeli children plant trees, a practice that has extended to the Diaspora.

In Isaiah 65:21-22 we read ”They shall not build for others to dwell in, or plant for others to enjoy.  For the days of My people shall be as long as the days of a tree.

Let us honor the “giving trees” that give us nourishment, shade, a home for the birds that delight us with their singing and, mostly, unconditional friendship.

Martha E. Lichtenstein
Adar  5773

Hebrew University, Max Planck Society to build a new brain research center to serve as teaching, research facility in the field.

brain Photo: Wikicommons
A brain research center costing 3 million euro during its first five years of existence will be established by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Max Planck Society, an independent non-governmental and nonprofit association of German research institutes publicly funded by Germany’s federal and state governments.

It will be established on the the university’s Givat Ram campus in the capital, where the signing ceremony will be held on January 9. The two sides will fund it equally, and Hebrew University president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson and German Ambassador Andreas Michaelis will participate.

The new center will work in cooperation with the Edmond and Lilly Safra Center for Brain Sciences, which will soon start construction of a large teaching and research facility in the field.

It will be the ninth research center to be funded with German money outside the country and the first to specialize in brain research. The university said the facility is sure to bolster German-Israeli cooperation in the sciences.

Ben-Sasson said Tuesday that cooperative research with Germany is one of the most important and fruitful conducted here. It is hoped that the research will increase basic scientific understanding of genes, neurons and neural networks, and lead to improved treatment for destructive neurological diseases.

In Safed’s fabled synagogues, myth and reality intertwine

Beautiful houses of worship star in tales, centuries old, of wondrous miracles befalling devout rabbis and faithful congregations

One fateful day in 1837 the Avritch Rabbi brought all of his parishioners into their Safed synagogue. As they worshipped together he suddenly admonished them to run to the Ark, and just before a terrible earthquake shook the building, he cried out, “Hold onto the scrolls and you shall be saved!” Much of the synagogue collapsed in that quake; only the portion which held the Holy Scriptures remained intact.
Fact or fable? Like so many stories about Safed there may be some element of imagination involved. But no one can deny that the synagogue was destroyed — and the Torah scrolls were unharmed.
Anything written about mystical Safed, with its enchanting lanes and unique houses of worship is bound to be laced with folklore, tales of wondrous miracles, and fascinating historical tidbits. Like the story about how the Avritch Rabbi made it to Israel.
One day in the early 19th century, when the rabbi was still living in Europe, a messenger from Safed came to see him. “There is gold in the city’s alleyways,” said the messenger.

Space agency heads coming to Israel

Fourteen astronaut Ilan Ramon leaders of world's top space agencies to mark 10th anniversary of Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, death of first Israeli
A record number of 14 leaders of the world's most important space agencies will arrive in Israel this month to mark the 10th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and the death of the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon.
The officials confirmed their participation in the Seventh annual international Ilan Ramon Space Conference, initiated by the Israel Space Agency at the Science and Technology Ministry and the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, which will be held in Herzliya on January 29-30.
 The conference will also be attended by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who knew Ramon and has been in touch with his widow, Rona, since the disaster.
 "Ilan Ramon was a hero. We all cried when we found out about the disaster which killed his son, Asaf," Bolden said in an interview to YediothAhronoth in 2010.
"This year's conference has reached a very distinguished international level," says Rona Ramon. "It's gratifying seeing all the commemoration activities after 10 years."
According to Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israel Space Agency, "Our success in bringing 14 leaders of the world's top space agencies demonstrates the recognition in Israel's growing presence in the space field."




On Thursday, January 31st at 9pm, PBS will air a special documentary entitled "Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope." This movie tells the remarkable true story of Colonel Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut, and the miniature Torah scroll he carried from the depths of Hell to the heights of Space.
On February 1st, 2003, the seven astronauts of NASA's Columbia Shuttle lost their lives. There have been so many stories told about their final mission, but there is still one more story to tell - not about tragedy, but about hope.

This story begins before Columbia, before the space age, during the Second World War. It was before dawn in a Nazi concentration camp, and a young boy was hiding what should have been a joyous ceremony - becoming a bar mitzvah. At the camp of Bergen-Belsen, a miniature torah scroll was given to this young boy. The scroll would survive the horrors of the Holocaust. This boy, Joachim "Yoya" Joseph would grow up to become Israel's lead scientist for the Columbia shuttle mission.

The PBS special follows the journey of this scroll into the hands of Ilan Ramon and finally up into space with the most diverse shuttle crew in history. The PBS documentary took more than seven years to complete, and includes rare drawings from the concentration camp made in secret by a camp inmate, and archival NASA footage of the astronauts as they prepared for their mission.

The special will also include interviews with President Shimon Peres, as well as the family of Ilan Ramon. Please see the PBS promo below, and we invite you to tune in on January 31st at 9pm (check your local listings) to see this amazing story being told for the first time.

A powerful letter!

Date: November 30, 2012 12:10:59 PM EST

Letter to British Foreign Secretary.

During the Gaza crisis last week, British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, warned Israel that if it sent troops into Gaza to confront Hamas, it risked losing the sympathy of the international community. On November 19th, a Jewish woman in Britain, Mindy Wiesenberg, sent the following letter to Mr. Hague, in response. The letter has been published in many newspapers, including the Times of Israel.

Dear Mr Hague :

You have stated that if Israel tries to defend its population through a ground offensive in Gaza ‘it risks losing the sympathy of the international community.’ Let me tell you something about the sympathy of the international community Mr Hague. My father was liberated from Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945, having lost his entire family but gaining the sympathy of the international community at the time. After 6 million Jews had been annihilated at the hands of the Nazi regime, the international community had plenty of sympathy for the Jewish people. There is always plenty of sympathy for victims. Israel doesn’t need the sympathy of the international community. What it needs is to defend its citizens.

When as a tiny country it gained its independence in 1948 it had to absorb 800,000 Jews who were thrown out of Arab lands in the Middle East, and it did so without fuss and with dignity giving them shelter and a place of security in which their children could grow up to become productive citizens. When Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria tried to destroy Israel in 1948 and again in 1967 they took in hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs, but did they give them dignity or shelter? No they left them to rot in refugee camps in order to maintain a symbol of grievance against Israel and use them as a political tool against the Jewish state. What has arisen in those camps is a complicated situation, but it is what has led to Gaza today.

So don’t lecture Israel on international sympathy Mr Hague. Not when Israel has just sent in 120 truck loads of food into Gaza to feed the Palestinian people there, because their own leadership is more interested in using its population as human shields, launching rockets \against Israel from within major civilian centres. Don’t lecture Israel on international sympathy Mr Hague. Not when Israel targets with as much military precision as it can, only terrorists and their bases, trying its utmost to prevent civilian casualties. Don’t lecture Israel on international sympathy Mr Hague. Not when the Palestinian media deliberately uses images of victims of the Syrian civil war and presents them as casualties in Gaza to gain international sympathy.

Go read your history books Mr Hague, go see that since the beginning of the twentieth century all the Arabs wanted to do was destroy Israel. Go look at the country of Israel now since the Jews have established a state there. Go read what advances in science, medicine, biotechnology, agriculture and high tech Israel has developed, and dedicated that knowledge to making the world a better place for humanity. Can you imagine any other country that after 60 years of continuously being under attack could have achieved so much.

So Mr Hague don’t lecture Israel on international sympathy. Israel will do whatever it takes to defend itself from outright attack on its citizens, whether it be from Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran or any other country or terrorist group that attacks it. And if it loses the sympathy of the international community so be it. We don’t need the international community’s sympathy. We don’t need another 6 million victims.

Yours sincerely


Our fundraising campaign for the renovation of our facilities at Beth Israel, marking, 50 uninterrupted years of Jewish life in Aruba is under way.

We thank our local members who have made generous donations for this purpose.

We are also grateful for the many Overseas Members that have made donations of symbolic bricks for the renovation.

You can join them too. You can contact us at jcommaruba@gmail.com to pledge your amount. We’ll be glad to contact you when we receive your mail.

Thanks very much in advance from all of us.

Celebrating 50 Years


On Sunday, February 24 at 7:00 PM, we will be celebrating Purim at Beth Israel,reading Megilat Esther with lots of noise at the mention of Haman, and then savoring delicious hamantaschen. You are invited!