Last summer, on my 40th birthday, two significant things happened. I started studying Zohar, and I found out I’d been nominated for an award. I didn’t realise at the time how connected these things were.

The news about the award came out of the blue. I got an email from the charity Wizo, telling me I had been nominated for an award called Commitment to Israel, and that I had been shortlisted as one of three finalists.

A month later Wizo told me I had won. They presented me with the award at a posh gala dinner in London and told me I’d be getting a free trip to Israel as part of the prize.

1468578_10152039661406136_1299541342_n

I was excited at the prospect of another Israel trip, and I felt so happy and proud to win the award. Then, my ego got to work. I had won an award. I was an award winner. How thrillingly important I must be!

When they took me to Israel, all that came crashing down. In a really good way.

We visited Wizo projects, starting with the Rainbow House in Haifa. For over 40 years the House has helped women from less privileged backgrounds to help themselves launch careers as beauticians.

Two women in particular, an Ethiopian called Goodei Abar and a Holocaust survivor called Ruth Galiliee, blew me away with their stories. Not just the stories. Their smiles made me cry.

rg

Then we went to the WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim School, which is a therapeutic haven for children who suffer from behavioral or emotional problems. This magnificent institution saves and enhances the lives of vulnerable kids.

We met the project’s manager, Yossi Saragossi, a magnificent man with the wisdom of an elder, the spring (and hair) of a youth, and the love of an angel. He’s a dude, and he’s fifth from the left in this photo.

ys

And so to Jerusalem, to Wizo’s flagship project, the Rebecca Sief Center for the Family. This phenomenal institution serves thousands of people in a variety of ways including day care for hundreds of toddlers and children, skills training for teenagers, and support for victims of domestic violence.

As we were shown around the building, a group of children smiled at us as they sang and danced to a Purim tune.

The volunteers and staff who run these projects are the ones who show commitment to Israel. I was humbled in the presence of the shiny, smiley faces of these beautiful beacons. They kept repeating the same message: to give is to receive.

Here is the connection. Two of the messages I keep taking from my Zohar study are how vital it is to deflate your ego, and that to give is to receive. How fitting that on the same day I had begun studying Zohar, I received an email about an award that would ultimately whisk me to Israel where my ego would be battered and where I would see, over and over, that to give is to receive. That was the real prize.

And then, having visited these projects, where the Zohar lessons were brought to life, I went to Tzfat, the home of Kabbalah, for the first time. And I felt reborn that day.

So life didn’t so much begin at 40 for me – it restarted. Thank you Wizo. Thank you Israel. Hugs and admiration to you all.

You can find out more about Wizo UK here. The World Wizo website is here.

There are 9 comments in response to this post. Add your comment.




Some invitations are an easy ‘yes’. This was one.

invite

I was front row and centre of the public gallery as the Knesset descended into very entertaining chaos in front of David Cameron.

Some United Torah Judaism MKs walked out, other MKs heckled Bibi and each other. One was led away. Bibi visibly fumed, Cameron tried to keep a straight face, and I sat watching with a broad grin on mine. Two of the things I enjoy about Israel are the informality and the love of vigorous debate. I was having a lovely little time. Former Israeli PM Ehud Barak was sitting near us in the gallery. Natasha Kaplinsky was there, n’all.

I went to visit the resting place of my favourite Israeli leader, Menachem Begin. He rests on the Mount of Olives. I left two stones on his grave, one from me and one from OvG reader Simone, who asked in a recent comment for me to do that. Here’s to ya, MB.

begin2

We dined at the lovely Eucalyptus Restaurant. This oasis of charm and quirk is just a stroll away from the Jaffa Gate. Its biblical menu includes such wonders as ‘Jacob & Esau’s
 biblical red lentil stew’ and ‘Hubeza
warm salad prepared in the style of the siege on Jerusalem’.

The restaurant’s finest asset is its head chef, Moshe Basson. He is prepared in the style of knockout charisma. I had a lovely chat with him about Kabbalah, and he even set us an inter-course task involving food and Gematria.

He asked me to join him in the centre of the restaurant to pray over the main dish.

pray

And to present it to the restaurant.

present

What a day and night it had been in Jerusalem. Then we went back to Herzliya. I sat on the coach dreaming of the following day, when I would visit the holy city, Tzfat.

There are 4 comments in response to this post. Add your comment.




This is a guest post from Laurie Rappeport

Chas’s recent visit to Safed, my hometown, prompted me to write and share a little bit about my town. I’ve lived in Safed for almost 30 years and worked as the coordinator of the Tourist Information Center here for 13 years. Sharing information about Safed is a passion of mine and I’m pleased to be able to expand on Chas’s article (and great photos).

Continue Reading

There are 3 comments in response to this post. Add your comment.




I’d no idea how gorgeous you are, Haifa. You took my breath away.

haifa

There are 7 comments in response to this post. Add your comment.




I’ve wanted to visit Tzfat for many years. Since I started reading Zohar in full nine months ago, I’ve grown keener on the idea. Tzfat has been the city of my dreams.

Yesterday, I went there. We drove through heavy rain towards Tzfat and as we drew near, the mystical city was shrouded in mist. It was mistical, too.

Then the mist lifted and, as we pulled up into the car park, the rain suddenly stopped. Finally, I was there.

photo3

I was enchanted by the magical, winding lanes of the city.

photo1

I had a fascinating chat with local artist David Friedman about his art, his life and also Zohar study and meditation techniques.

photo2

I also visited the Kabbalah Centre where I met Eyal Riess – a wonderful and friendly guy. He found the name of my blog very amusing, which is as it should be.

photo4

Then we got back into the car. The moment we did, it started to rain again. We drove to Peki’in, to visit the famous cave of Bar Yochai. According to legend, this cave is where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai hid from the Romans for 13 years. While he was there, it is said, he composed The Zohar. When we arrived, the rain stopped. Visiting the cave seemed magical to me – I felt reborn as I emerged.

photo6

Tzfat is mystical, magical and artistic. It’s so friendly, too. The mountain air is plentiful and refreshing. I recommend a visit. When I look back on mine, it seems like it was a beautiful dream. Have a happy weekend, everyone.

photo7

There are 12 comments in response to this post. Add your comment.




Today in Haifa I met three inspiring women at Wizo’s Rainbow centre.

On right is Goodei Abar. Growing up in Ethiopia, she was expected to marry as a child. Instead, she travelled to Israel at 12 years old. When she arrived, she held a pen for the first time. ‘Finally I could be a child,’ she said with a huge smile.

On the left is Amar Awad, a Christian Arab woman whose life was turned around by the Centre. It helped her start a business in the beauty industry. ‘This centre is like a family,’ she said.

In the middle with me is Ruth Galiliee. She survived the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen camps. She has volunteered in Israel for 34 years. We had a hug and she told me: ‘I don’t feel poor because I’ve got a big family, including 11 great-grandchildren. I hope to volunteer for many years to come.’

Beautiful people, beautiful Israel. The desert is blooming.

20140311-172514.jpg

There are 3 comments in response to this post. Add your comment.




I’m on my way to Israel. The trip was arranged by Wizo, as part of the prize for my Commitment to Israel award.

We’re going to see charity projects in Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa and Jerusalem. We’ll also hang out at a cable television station, go behind the scenes at El Al and tour the Knesset (the Israeli parliament).

I will visit Menachem Begin’s resting place and also spend time in the mystical city of Tzfat, the home of Kabbalah. I’ve often dreamt of visiting Tzfat. I’m so excited to actually go there. I’ll take my Zohar.

I’m going to eat at Dr Shakshuka, and I expect I’ll have an Aroma ice coffee at some point. Probably some Popping Candy Bamba, too. I’ll be staying in Herzliya.

I’ll update this blog when I can during the trip. I’ll be tweeting when I’m over there too. You can follow me at @AllThatChas.

This is my fifth visit to Israel, but it’s been three-and-a-half years since I was last there. Ayin letziyon tzofiyah.

7074625161_1c8afea6b1_z

There are 13 comments in response to this post. Add your comment.




Before The X Factor and even before Pop Idol, Simon Cowell made three fleeting appearances on our TV screens.

Here, we see him in super-confident and opinionated mood on Right To Reply in 1987. The highlights are his comment about ‘left-wing lunatics’, the way he really warms to his theme at 1:16, and, of course, his ‘t-shirt’.

Continue Reading

There is 1 comment in response to this post. Add your comment.




Would you like to see the trailer for a one-hour television show, in which Benjamin Netanyahu acts as tour guide for a visit to Israel?

Course you would, you cheeky minxes! Well, here it is…

There are 3 comments in response to this post. Add your comment.




Who said men cannot multi-task?

Barack Obama can. As well as managing the chaos and bloodshed created by America’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and sending drones to blow civilians to bits in Pakistan and Yemen, he still manages to find time to lecture Israel about “aggressive” settlement building in the West Bank.

What a guy.

There are 8 comments in response to this post. Add your comment.




© Copyright Chas Newkey-Burden. All Rights Reserved. Thanks to Chris Morris.