current events Archives - Yoni Tours

Wolf in Judean Desert

Wolf attacks in the Judean Desert

Posted by | current events, Nature, Uncategorized | No Comments

In the past couple of years there have been a number of incidents of wolves attacking people in various camp sites and outdoor areas across the Judean Desert.

These have occurred in the areas around Massada and Ein Gedi which have are visited by thousands of tourists and Israelis every year.

The attacks have almost always been attempts to capture small children, generally in dark areas and only a small distance from adults.

This is alarming because it appears that two things have happened- the wolves have lost their fear of humans and they have begun to view humans as an optional food source.

researchers feel that there are a few things that may have lead to this happening.

It is possible that wolves have started identifying people with food as a result of food not being stored properly or being left in nature.

Another possibility is that these aren’t purebred wolves but a mix of wolves and dogs which would account for them not being scared of humans.

You’re probably asking; is it safe to go out to the desert? how do I protect myself?

It is safe to go out hiking in the Desert although you need to make sure to clean up after yourself and store food in away that animals can’t get to it.

Stay close to children!  Especially after dark.

If you see wolves getting close to people contact the parks authority.

Tisha B’Av and being a proud Jew

Posted by | current events, History, Holidays, Jewish History | No Comments

On the Ninth day of the month of Av we have a day of mourning. On this day we fast, read the Megila of Eicha, and lamentations of different disasters that befell the Jewish people.

This day been observed for thousands of years. The date was picked due to the fact that both of the Jewish temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on this date.

The first Temple was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonian Empire, and the first Diaspora started. After 70 years, Jews were able to return to the land of Israel where they rebuilt the Temple and reinstated the Jewish Kingdom.

The second temple was Destroyed by the Roman Empire in the year 70 AD after 4 years of revolt by Jews against the Romans. This marked the beginning of the second Diaspora which we are still in today.

For thousands of years we have mourned the destruction of the Temple, and the dispersion of Jews from Israel.

Some people say that the Diaspora is over as most of the world’s Jews have returned to Israel and are in control of the land.

I believe that the Diaspora is a mindset that we are still stuck in.

This can be seen, for example, in many different policies that Israel adopts in regard to the Temple Mount.

Arabs can come and go as they please with no security checks. However, if someone Jewish wants to go up to the Temple Mount they can only at certain hours and only after a very thorough security check. Jews aren’t allowed to have anything or wear anything that ‘looks Jewish’ otherwise it will offend the Arabs. Israel doesn’t allow Jews to whisper prayers on the Temple Mount out of fear of how the Muslims would react.

After the terrorist attack on the Temple Mount last week in which Israeli Muslims smuggled guns onto the Temple Mount and killed two police officers, Israel placed metal detectors at the entrance and Muslims started to riot.

After a short period of time Israel gave in and removed the metal detectors, removing every form of Israeli control over what happens on the Temple Mount.

At the same time everyone has to go through metal detectors to get to the Kotel. The Kotel is not the holiest place for Jews, it just happens to be the closest that Jews can get to pray to the holiest place in Judaism which is the Temple mount.

I feel like all of this is result of the Diaspora mindset.

Every year I meet hundreds of young Jews from North America while guiding Birthright trips. Generally they come knowing that they are Jewish but little more than that.

After a week of learning about Judaism, Israel and Zionism they tell me that for the first time ever they are proud of being Jewish.  From many Israelis who join the trips I hear that they are proud of being Israeli but not very connected to the Jewish side.

Just like our ancestors had to spend 40 years in the desert to learn how to be a free people, I feel like we need to put work into being a people.

We need to build up on our Jewish pride and look for ways to bring all Jews together as opposed to separating into different sects.

When we can all exude pride in our heritage and religion and feel that we are unified, that will be a sign that the Diaspora is ending.

Foot print site in the Jordan valley

Archaeology, Altars, and our Footprints at Risk!

Posted by | Archaeology, current events, History, Uncategorized | No Comments

Thousands of years ago Joshua lead the children of Israel across the Jordan river. According to the book of Joshua they crossed the Jordan River parallel to the city of Jericho at a place called Gilgal. When they completed the crossing they made a ceremony with twelve large stones symbolizing the twelve tribes. From there they began the conquest of the promised land.

In this week’s Torah portion (Ki Tavo) we read of a blessing and a curse which will be given to the twelve tribes once they are in the promised land. In the book of Joshua this same curse and blessing is recorded as having been given.

These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are passed over the Jordan: Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin and. these shall stand upon mount Eval for the curse: Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.; Devarim 27:12-13

Adam Zartal- an Israeli archaeologist found the site on mount Eval where this blessing was given.

In1989 a number of ancient archaeological sites were discovered in the Jordan valley. The most intriguing of them are the five ‘foot print sites’. These sites are dated to the 12-13th century B.C., which aligns itself with the period of the conquest.

foot print site

foot print site

Incredibly when viewed from above they have an uncanny resemblance to the sole of a shoe or a foot print. Hence being called ‘foot print sites’ (אתר כף הרגל )

The conquest of the land of Israel was completed over a period of many. It started with the city of Jericho followed by the Ai followed by other cities in the Jordan Valley.

Adam Zartal believed that these were ceremonial cites due to their shape and the presence of an alter at the center of each of them. He also drew a connection between these sites and ‘Gilgal’ ,which is mentioned multiple times in the bible, as they are made of conjoined circles.

He believed that the foot shape of the sites signifies that the children of Israel making a statement that they had taken ownership over the land.

The above-mentioned curse and blessing was given at one of these foot print sites which is located at mt. Eval which is close to the Palestinian city of Nablus (Shchem).

Shchem and Mt. Eival

Shchem and Mt. Eival

These incredible archaeological and historical sites are in the mountains of the Jordan valley, The majority of which is Palestinian controlled territories. This area has little supervision, legislation and/or enforcement over the well being of archaeological sites.

Many decisions pertaining to building of infrastructure made by the Israeli military administration in the areas of Judea, Samaria and the Jordan valley are influenced by strategic, or sometimes monetary decisions while failing to take into account possible damage to archaeological site. The decisions or making them less accessible to Israeli citizens.

Unfortunately the Israeli military administration recently made such a decision with regards to one of these foot print sites. They have given permission to the Palestinian authority to build a garbage dump beside this archaeological and historical treasure.

I highly recommend learning more about these sites and getting out to see them if you can.
Further more If you are concerned about the protection of these and other precious archaeological sites you can write to The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT) at Cogatspokesman@gmail.com with your concerns about the foot print archaeological site located at Rimonim!

Meteor Shower in the Negev Desert

Posted by | current events, Gems of Israel, Hikes, Nature | No Comments

With its dark skies, wide open spaces and deep valleys the Negev Desert is known as the place to go for stargazing. The desert brings two major factors to the table when it comes to dark skies;

The first factor is light pollution. The few and far between built up areas bring light pollution to a minimum.

The second and possibly the more important factor is the small amount of humidity in the air. The lack of humidity provides clearer skies. these two aspects make the Negev the optimum location for star gazing.

Over the years, hundreds of youth groups have hiked through the valleys of the Negev at night in order to spend time stargazing.

In and around the Ramon crater there are dozens of locations which are beckoning for stargazers and photographers alike.

At Khan HaShayarot and the Ramon Crater there are guided star gazing activities and they can be organized year round.

In the clarity and darkness of the night skies in the Negev, The naked eye can see a number of planets, the milky way, and a plethora of constellations.

In order to make the star gazing experience complete I suggest looking at a moon calendar, plan to be out on a night when the moon sets early and or is not a full moon.

All of this is true on a regular night. from time to time there are meteor showers!

Every year the Perseids Meteor Shower happens over the skies of Israel.

During the shower myriads of people head to the desert in order to see the meteors in all their glory!

This year the meteor shower will be on the dates of 11,12 and 13 of august. The shower will be at its strongest on the night of the 12th.

There are going to be organized star gazing events throughout the desert. But nothing beats going out to the desert as a family or with a guide!

Enjoy!!

Yom Yerushalayim- Jerusalem Day

Posted by | current events, History, Jewish History, Uncategorized | No Comments

It is Jerusalem day!

One of the more interesting holidays of the Israeli calendar. You are probably asking yourself- Why does Jerusalem get a day which receives nationwide recognition? And what exactly is Jerusalem day commemorating?

It is a day which is the result of thousands of years Jewish yearning, along with a sprinkling of relatively recent trauma from the War of Independence.

For thousands of years Jews worldwide have always prayed towards Jerusalem. During the times of the Diasporas Jews have always yearned to return to the city of Jerusalem and more specifically to Mt. Moria, the location of the destroyed Jewish temples. It was only natural that when the Jewish State of Israel would be declared that Jerusalem would be its center and capital.

During the War of Independence the Jerusalem area saw some of the most fierce fighting. The old city of Jerusalem with all of its holy sites was held under siege for over six months!!

On may 28th 1948 the Jewish forces in the Jewish quarter of the old city were taken captive by the Jordanian Legion.

At the end of the war the new city of Jerusalem was in Israeli hands and the old city of Jerusalem was part of Jordan. The Jordanians destroyed all of the abandoned Synagogues in the old city and once again the Jewish holy sites were unreachable.

This remained the state of affairs until the six day war.

On the first morning of the war, June 5th 1967, Jordanian forces moved into the Israeli parts of Jerusalem. Israel retaliated with a massive counterattack and within three days the old city and eastern Jerusalem was in Israel’s hands.

These battles over a relatively small area cost Israel a quarter of all the casualties in the war.
The reunification of Jerusalem was on the Jewish date 28th of Iyar which is when Jerusalem day is celebrated.

The reunification of Jerusalem and freedom of movement to the holy places was, to many, the recognition of ancient prophecies promising a return to Jerusalem!

On this day there are a large number of festivals and ceremonies which include: a large parade, a dance with flags throughout the old city, concerts and much more!

Our unified Nation

Posted by | current events, Uncategorized | One Comment

There is an old joke which states the following: A man (let’s say Jim) is out sailing in the ocean when his ship starts to sink. He quickly jumps into the life raft and floats around for days. Suddenly he happens upon a tiny island and sees a few huts. Quickly he rows towards the island hoping that there will be fresh water and food in the village.
As he gets to the beach a skinny old man comes running yelling
‘You found me! I’m saved!’
Jim is taken aback and says to the man.’ I thought you were saving me- you’re from this village…’
The man looks back and says’ I’ve been stranded here alone for years.
‘Then what’s that village?’ Jim asked.
The old man replied ‘ I’m Jewish. The first thing that I did when I got here was build two synagogues’
‘Two synagogues?! Why two?’
The man replied ‘One that I go to, and one that I’ll never step foot in!

Israel in a colourful and complicated country. It has a very divided population. There are deep divisions in Israeli society as a result of politics, religion and numerous other reasons.

Every once in a while I find myself wondering what happened to the unity of our people and how we became so divided.
Unfortunately every couple of years there is a war. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had to change plans as a result of a war with Gaza or Lebanon. Of course these wars cause arguments as to whether or not they are justified and the politicians are divided between right and left wing.

Strangely at these times that you think would bring even more division the people are more united.
The other day I went to a hospital to visit a few of the soldiers who had been wounded. I was amazed by what I saw. There was a plethora of people who had come to visit soldiers and bring them gifts. There were right wing, left wing religious and non religious people.

All of them came with smiles and gifts in order to support our soldier. people brought bags with snacks, clothing, homemade cookies and even tablets to give out to our soldiers. A small thank you for protecting us and our country.
one of the moments that stood out the most was as I was waiting for a bus to get back home an old ultra-orthodox couple came over to me- The Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel are known for not serving in the military and not supporting soldiers – They were carrying gift packages and asked me ‘ where are the soldiers?’ I replied ‘Who are you looking for? Anyone in particular?’ The answer which warmed my heart was ‘The soldiers- it doesn’t matter who!’
I pointed out to them which building to go to.

As I got on the bus I smiled with the knowledge that the entire nation is a unified and a single family even if we don’t always show it.

We are all Mourning together

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It is 9:30 in the morning on July first 2014. As a Canadian I should be happy and celebrating.
My emotions on this day couldn’t be farther away. For more than 12 hours now I’ve barely been able to hold back tears.

On Friday June 13, while leading a Birthright tour, one of the madrichim with me told me about the kidnapping of 3 Jewish students in Gush Etzion. Right away, it threw me back to harder times that Israel has known. I really hoped that this story would end like Gilad Shalit’s and not the countless other kidnappings that we know too well.

Over the past two weeks the entire country hoped and prayed for the safety of Gil-Ad, Naftali and Eyal.
Last night, while having dinner with friends, we saw the news. Words can’t explain the deep feeling of loss and sorrow that I’ve felt since then.

I don’t know when I became such an emotional person. Maybe it’s because of past experiences that always stay with me, memories that surface when I feel this sort of loss. Maybe it’s because I’m a father. This morning when I walked my son to his playgroup, I couldn’t stop thinking of how hard it must be to lose the biggest treasure that a person can have.

Maybe it’s because I’m human.

Today is a sad day for the country of Israel and for the Jewish people. A reminder that nothing in life can be taken for granted.

A reminder that Israel and the Jewish people everywhere are united at times of need.

We are all mourning together

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