Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dust In My Teeth - A Photoblog

In this map, the pinkish area is northern Gaza. That will give you some idea where I was today. Not in Gaza, but in three places just outside of Gaza where our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers are stationed, either waiting to go into Gaza to fight for the safety of the Jewish people or having just returned, in order to rest before their next tour inside that hell hole.

I traveled with a convoy of six cars, filled with neighbors, relatives and a LOT of food and supplies. Those of you in Israel well know that so many people are doing exactly what the 16 of us did today. As one participant who has lived in Israel for decades told me, "It's like we can't do enough for our soldiers. Everyone just wants to give!"

This is our group at the beginning of the day, buying food, drinks and other supplies from a small grocery store in Beersheva.

The guy in the white shirt in the middle of the group was the manager of the grocery store. It was his idea to take the photo.
Cartons and bags of food and supplies we dropped off at the first location.
More food and supplies we dropped off.

In these cooler bags were 500 (!) sandwiches made for our soldiers.
While there were some quiet moments in the day, there were also plenty of tense and uncomfortable moments, moments when the reality of war became exceedingly pronounced.

At one point, we were blocked from proceeding to our destination, until one of our group members pulled some strings to get us passed the police blockade. While we were waiting, we parked in front of this communal bomb shelter which someone had taken the time to decorate.

At another point, our convoy was caught in the middle of nowhere, on a road so dusty it was a more than a little unsettling. 

Our unease was exacerbated by the many powerful booms we heard overhead. It was during these tense moments that I felt especially moved to recite some extra chapters of Tehillim. About this moment, my husband wrote, "Before we got to our second base, however, while idling in traffic waiting for the go-ahead to enter the base, we could hear loud booms and feel the thud of contact even while in our cars. When I asked a nearby security man what the noise was, he said it was Israeli planes striking at Gazan targets. It was real, it was unnerving, it was scary, and we had to decide as a group whether to continue ahead or turn around. Given that there were no sirens sounding, and understanding that our soldiers deal with much worse and we are here for them, we forged ahead."

Everywhere we traveled, we saw signs of thanks and praise for our soldiers. The country is unusually united in its support for this mission and for the need to eradicate the enemy who would like to see us utterly destroyed. For the Jewish people, this achdut, this unity, is very much a spiritual merit.

At one stop, to get from our cars to the soldiers, we we walked through something resembling sand, but softer and more airborne. This sand-like residue pervaded our clothes, shoes, hair and teeth. At this point in the day, it was also very, very hot. Nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It became exceedingly clear why the soldiers have been asking for baby wipes.

We marveled at how the men and women we saw there were able to tolerate the conditions. And then we remembered that, at this location, they were not actively fighting. It must have seemed like paradise.

We trekked through the silt to the soldiers. You don't want to know what kind of condition the Porta Potties were in.
Much of the landscape near Gaza is quite barren. This field was just a few yards away from what one soldier said was, "The end of the world." From here, we could see into Egypt.

We had the incredible good fortune to overhear a soldier mention that he was from Baltimore. Turns out that we know his family. He and his siblings went to the same school as our children attended.

A bit of watermelon whimsy in the midst of war.
I loved this country when I woke up this morning and I love it that much more now.
This is probably my favorite picture of the day. Soldiers post the notes of thanks they get, mostly drawn by children. Indeed, we are truly one people.
It's very difficult to overestimate what a privilege it was to do something, anything, no matter how small, for the men and women, all young enough to be my children, who are serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. One of our group members has already written about the emotions and the immense mutual gratitude that was expressed all day long. These pictures are meant to bring it home.

My husband said it best when he wrote, "Thank God we came home safely, and I pray that our soldiers defending the land and people of Israel be privileged to do the same."

Postscript: Our mission today traveled under the banner of Project Socks. Many of our supplies were bought with funds from people living in Canada and the US. As long as our soldiers are fighting in Gaza, we will continue to raise money and bring supplies directly to their hands, as we did today. If you would like to contribute to the foundation that is funding Project Socks, please contact me using the contact form in the top of the right hand column or email rivkah at kotevet dot com and I'll make sure you get connected.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Is This Your First War?

A few days ago, I heard a story from a close friend who heard it from the wife of the man to whom it happened. This man spends his days learning Torah in Jerusalem and writing books of Torah commentary. Each time he finishes a manuscript, he goes to Bnei Brak to see Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, son of the Steipler Gaon and a major posek in the Haredi community, to get Rabbi Kanievsky's endorsement on his newest sefer. His newest manuscript is a commentary on the Book of Eicha (Lamentations) which we read on Tisha B'Av. According to the story, Rav Kanievsky told the man that this time, he cannot give an endorsement to the newly-produced manuscript.

Why not?

"Because we're not going to need it this year."

***Chills*** to think we won't have to mourn yet again this Tisha B'Av.

On Shabbat, I realized that what I'm feeling, if I divert my attention from the news, is guilt. My vigilance seems a necessary part of the war effort. A neighbor who heard my confession responded by asking, "Is this your first war?"

Indeed, this is my first war as an Israeli citizen.

People I love who live far away check in with me. How can I explain to them what I feel when I feel so very many things at once?

We stay close to home and basically feel safe all the way on the other side of the country from Gaza, but ordinary things like travel have become riskier and are not undertaken without thought. 

Even though everyone knew that sending in ground troops was going to cost Israeli lives, I worry and pray for the sons, daughters and husbands of friends and neighbors who are wearing an IDF uniform and standing strong for the rest of us. Israel is a very small country.

We lost 13 soldiers yesterday alone, and seeing the pictures of them with their families is so hard to take, because everything in Israel is so damn personal.

I read about so many amazing efforts, so much chesed, that the Jewish people are uniting to do for our soldiers and for the residents of the southern communities living under constant rocket fire. I feel such pride for my country and for my people.

I also feel a sense of  horror that is both new and ancient, to see how much of the world really, deeply hates us. Chicago. Paris. Vienna. London. Amsterdam, to name just a few places where this dark, hateful energy is being released into the world.

Anti-Israel rally in Paris on July 19 that turned violent

And last night, to celebrate our fallen soldiers, my Arab neighbors shot off fireworks for many hours, until well after midnight.

The crazy thing is, I so believe that this is a just and moral war, and in a million years, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. 

I anticipate redemption at every moment. I can think of little else. I work in spurts then return to the news. Jewish history is moving forward at a dramatic pace. Things are collapsing all over the world. Will it peak by Tisha B'Av? I can't say. But SOMETHING is happening. Eventually, this baby is going to be born. And it's getting ever closer.

I can plainly see how Hashem is making miracles. I remind myself how important it is not to get too caught up in the details of military strategy and news analysis. I understand that my job is to be patient and trust that Hashem is guiding us there. 

The untrained eye looking at a construction project or a surgical procedure sees chaos, sees mess. That's the stage we're in. But there's a purpose to this mess. It's constructive, not meaningless.

I am living in an altered state of consciousness, somehow feeling simultaneously in time and above time. It's hard for me to relate right now to friends who post pictures of their family vacations, summer barbeques, concerts and new cars. I'm obsessed with the news, filled to the brim with pride and love for my country, and infused with such a strong sense that we must, must, must be very careful not to get so caught up in the news commentaries that we lose sight of Who is truly fighting this battle. 

Ain od milvado.

I'll be honest. It's a disorienting set of feelings to have all at once.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Where is God in All This?

The truth is, I was warned not to write this post. I was warned that people will misunderstand. I was warned that they will skewer me in their comments.

I've been blogging since 2004. It's always delicious when people enjoy what I write and add supportive comments. But it's also important to blog when I have something to say that no one else is saying.

We were in the midst of hosting sheva brachot when the unspeakable news broke. I saw it first and had to alert the rest of our guests. I did so in a tearful voice, broken with shock. A moment later, every single guest was on a smartphone, scanning the news for details.

Like many of you, two days later, I've now read hundreds of blog posts, op-eds, Facebook posts, tweets and news stories about the most recent tragedies to befall the Jewish people - the murders of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, may God avenge their blood.

Since I live in the politically right-wing world, most of what I've seen is some version of the sentiment, "Enough is enough! Let's take some action." The range of suggested actions includes expelling all Arabs from Israel, killing all Hamas operatives in Israeli custody, leveling and retaking Gaza, annexing all of Judea and Samaria and establishing new settlements.

Believe me, I understand the frustration. I understand the rage. I understand the need to channel the "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" sentiment. 

But where, I ask, is God in all this? In the volcano, in the avalanche, of words that have been published in the last 48 hours, who's asking about the bigger picture? About the role of God? About why we're even in this awful, untenable, harrowing situation to begin with?

In 2006, Rabbi Yechiel Weitzman published a book called The Ishmaelite Exile. Sadly, the book is currently out of print. Last night, seeking spiritual comfort, I pulled my cherished copy off the shelf and began reading it again, for the thousandth time.

The book is 250 pages long. In it, Rabbi Weitzman makes many points, all based on classical Torah sources, that help me process what has befallen our nation and our people. With great trepidation, I would like to summarize the way I understand his first 85 pages.

In the year 5600 (1840 CE), a great power came into the world. According to the Zohar, this year corresponded to the six hundredth year of the sixth millennium. Rabbi Weitzman writes, "This year was meant to be a year in which the gates of heaven would open and the wisdom of Torah would spread throughout the world. But, to our misfortune, the wisdom was seized by others." (p. 66)

The undeniable scientific and technological advancements of the mid-19th century left us with a legacy. Today, we live in a world of
כֹּחִי וְעֹצֶם יָדִי עָשָׂה לִי אֶת הַחַיִל הַזֶּה 
My strength and the might of my hand has accumulated this wealth for me. (Devarim 8:17)

In Rabbi Weitzman's words, "[s]ubstituting belief in human endeavor as opposed to faith in Divine providence leads to destruction." (p. 65) He calls this, "...the final flaw of faith that will occur before the coming of Moshiach, a serious illness of the spirit where man believes in nothing but his own prowess."  (p. 69)

The Yishmaelim, the Arabs, inflamed by the infected theology of Islam, are here to teach us a lesson in humility, in emuna. "This plan, whereby Ishmael serves as a physician of sorts to heal us of our lack of faith, appears in our ancient sources." (p. 71)

We are meant to understand that our own strength is insufficient. There is simply no military, economic, political, diplomatic, human solution to the nightmare in which we find ourselves. We will be rescued by God when we admit that this is quite beyond us. That only God can save us. That whatever else we do, we must cry out in prayer. We must believe in God.

God crafted this exact set of circumstances in order to restore our emuna. And He put the knowledge of this plan into the world more than 3000 years ago, when King David wrote these words about the Yishmaelim.

אֲנִי שָׁלוֹם וְכִי אֲדַבֵּר הֵמָּה לַמִּלְחָמָה
I am peace, but when I speak, they are for war. (Tehillim 120:7)

There is so much more meat in Rabbi Weitzman's wonderful book. Why were the Yishmaelim in particular hired to do this job? Why is the "Ishmaelite Exile" considered the most severe of all the exiles through which the Jewish people have suffered? What is the Yishmaeli claim to the Land of Israel? Why did they rise and how will the Yishmaelim fall at the End of Days?  How are the trials of Am Yisrael preparation for the End of Days? Rabbi Weitzman addresses all of these questions and many more.

If there is any way for you to find a copy and read it, I urge you to do so. Because if you're anything like me, a spiritual perspective to guide us during these difficult days is a most welcome balm for the soul.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Three Ladies, Three Lattes

This new book, written as a chronicle of 16 months of meetings among three women in Israel, makes for compelling reading.

Like a train wreck makes for compelling viewing.

The three authors. Pamela Peled, Tzippi Sha-ked, and Danit Shemesh all grew up outside of Israel and made aliyah.

Pam is the bare-armed, profoundly Jewishly-identified, traditional but not strictly religious voice. Her Jewish identity is so deep, it just wouldn't be correct to call her secular. Hers is, without a doubt, the loudest voice in the book.

Danit is an interesting mix of an American, ba'alat teshuva, Haredi woman.

And Tzippi, who convened this group, is the Hardal/Dati Leumi representative. Ironically, when I attended the book launch event, Tzippi was wearing a sheitel and Danit a mitpachat, which I initially found disorienting.

The book compels, even as it repels. Not to put too fine a point on it, Pam sees and says nothing nice about Haredim and thinks they will be the ruin of Israel. Danit thinks the ideal solution is to let each group do what it's best at. So she claims Torah for her community and offers Religious Zionism to the Dati Leumi world. The secular, according to Danit, can rule the domains of work and army service.

This is a sad, sad book. Reading it is like being a voyeur, like watching someone else's domestic dispute.
DH has a derech eretz strategy for talking with people with whom we disagree. Saying, "I see your point," goes a long way toward making the conversation more civil, even if we never agree. Sadly, Danit never answers Pam's multiple and forcefully expressed objections to the way the Haredi lifestyle impinges on the rest of us. Danit's comments turn around the central point that, having looked at other options, the Haredi life is the best choice for her. Only Tzippi, perpetually caught in between two warring sisters, acknowledges others' points.
I liked all three women. I admire their individual and collective bravery. Each makes points with which I agree and statements with which I disagree. And it's clear that, against all odds. they genuinely like one another.

At the conclusion of the book though, it feels that nothing was accomplished. No one is kinder to, or more accepting of, Other.

At the book launch, Tzippi told me her goal is to carry this conversation into the broader Israeli society through cyberspace. I told her I didn't think that was a realistic goal. In cyberspace, the conversation will deteriorate in a nanosecond. If three women who genuinely like each other and met face-to-face for 16 months couldn't reach a rapprochement, what chance do strangers have?

Tzippi's goal is a noble one. And I don't know what the answer is.

Read the book yourself. Then at least you and I can sigh together.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Unconscious Jewish Misogyny

For weeks now, I've been trying to come to a place of peace regarding a sensitive issue that erupted close to home. I've been racking my brain, trying to understand how an otherwise relatively progressive community can accept what appears to me to be a reactionary position. And I'm trying to find a way to judge all parties favorably.

The fundamentals of the backstory are quite simple. The issue concerns whether or not women may be invited to teach Torah to a mixed audience on the night of Shavuot. One rabbi ruled that she may, but only in the first time slot of the all-night learning. One rabbi ruled that she may not teach in the shul itself but may teach in an auxiliary location.

In both cases, we have to appreciate that neither rabbi ruled that a woman teaching Torah to both men and women is forbidden according to Jewish law. If that were the case, they would not permit it at all. So we have to look more closely at the conditions imposed. 

Women are permitted to teach, but only at a certain time, or only in a certain location. Why might that be?

In both cases, the reason given was the same. These time and place restrictions were placed upon women teaching Torah because a man might not want to listen to a shiur given by a woman, even though it is halachically permissible. (In fact, shiurim are taught in this community by women at other times of the year.)

Take away all the rhetoric and you're left with this central point: the "right" of a man whose personal standard is to avoid attending shiurim taught by women is the most single important consideration for the night of Shavuot.

How so? In the first case, a woman is permitted to teach, but only in the first time slot. The rationale? This way, a man who does not want to hear or see a woman giving a shiur may come to the all-night learning sessions an hour later, after she has finished. 

In the second case, where a woman is not permitted to teach in the shul at all, but only in an auxiliary location, a man who wishes to avoid hearing or seeing a woman teach Torah can easily do so by staying in the shul and avoiding the upper floor. The shul itself remains femalerein.

Again, in the event that there is a man who prefers not to listen to a woman teach Torah, his "right" to a learning environment free of women teachers trumps all other concerns. This is the ruling, despite the fact that there are simultaneous shiurim being taught in multiple locations in the neighborhood, affording everyone the ability to switch among locations to attend the shiurim they most wish to attend.

It makes the gender of the teacher's body, rather than her level of scholarship, or her skill in transmitting Torah, the most important criterion. 

It makes the dignity of women scholars less important than the "right" of a man to avoid what is halachically permissible, if his personal preference dictates otherwise. 

Lacking the correctly gendered body, these conditions make it impossible for any woman, regardless of her level of Torah scholarship, even Nechama Leibowitz a"h, the revered teacher who passed away in 1997 after a lifetime of renewing a love of the Bible for many thousands of men and women, to be issued a dignified, unconditional invitation to teach in these locations on Shavuot night.
Admittedly, there are communities where it's unheard of for women to teach to a mixed audience. And there are women teachers who would consider doing so immodest. I am not speaking here of these communities, nor am I addressing myself to women who hold this perspective.

It is my contention that the rabbis who made these rulings are neither fools nor intentionally misogynist. Rather, they are operating from a deep, wholly unconscious place of male-centered Judaism. Such a mindset is rampant in halachic thinking. Witness these three textual examples, out of dozens, if not hundreds, that reinforce the categorization of woman as other.

Women, slaves and minors are exempt... - Mishnah Brachot 3:3
Women, slaves and minors – are excluded... - Mishnah Brachot 7:2
Women, slaves and children are not obligated... - Mishnah Sukkot 2:8 (see also Sukkah 28b)

Alas, the male-centered, unconscious Jewish misogyny is a fact of life in the not-yet redeemed world in which we live. This unconsciousness causes otherwise decent men to build shuls where women have to walk past dumpsters to enter the building through a side or back door while men walk through the main entrance. It causes otherwise honorable men to speak and write as if all Jews are men. It causes otherwise virtuous men to behave as if they own every Sefer Torah and have the power to decide if and when a woman may see it, kiss it, hold it or dance with it on Simchat Torah

And it causes rabbis to prioritize the "right" of men to not attend a shiur taught by a woman over the dignity of women scholars and Torah teachers in the community.

Like the portion of an iceberg submerged underwater, it may well be wholly unconscious.

It offends nonetheless.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Playing Hooky in Jerusalem: A Photo Blog

I spend a lot of (too much) time in my home office. So when DH had a chance to go to Jerusalem on Thursday to eat sushi with a friend who had a coupon for a new sushi place in the shuk, I went along, even though I don't like sushi. Sometimes, it's all about the chavaya - the experience.

We sat at an outdoor table right near the Iraqui shuk. Across from us was some kind of club house for old Israeli men. Inside, there was a bit of friendly gambling going on. Outside, sitting in mismatched chairs that had seen brighter days, was a cavalcade of retired Israelis. The setting was, ahem... quite the opposite of glamorous.  Tucked away in a hidden corner of the shuk where tourists don't venture, it was like looking at a scene in Israel, circa 1955. A most humble setting, an aura of bonhomie and an afternoon of pleasant diversions.

Peek inside the door to see where the games were being played.

Around the corner, we saw more old men, this time playing Shesh Beish. Or what we used to call backgammon in the Old Country.

Two chayalot - female Israeli soldiers, enjoying lunch (and technology) off the beaten path in the shuk.

I cringed at this t-shirt that was for sale, but ultimately had to laugh at it. It says, "I don't need Google. My wife knows everything!"  
A classic Jerusalem alleyway with the requisite image of a random religious man.

If you're into cooking Asian food, this store on Agrippas probably has all the ingredients you'll need.

Of course, not everything sold in Jerusalem is quite kosher.
Israel's equivalent of the "Be Right Back" sign on a locked store front.
We bumped into an open-air flea market where, it became pretty obvious, junk is still junk anywhere in the world. 

Although I did snag a handful of old Israeli telephone tokens (asimonim) and learned that they are decorated on the back with a replica of an old phone dial. How many of you knew that?

What is it with old Israeli men sitting on the street?

They're everywhere, in the most random places.
Here's a picture of some Arab women sitting on a bench, waiting for the Light Rail, under the flag of the Jerusalem municipality. Yeah, definitely an apartheid country.
And everywhere you look...

Israeli flags.
It was an altogether satisfying afternoon playing hooky in Jerusalem.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Still, I Am Grateful

Many of us, when we first come to Israel, fall in love hard. We're like newlyweds who are still in the purest stage of love. Our heads are in the clouds and we just cannot believe we actually live in Israel. We notice everything. And everything is just so wonderful here!

Then, after a time, we get knocked around a little. We get cheated. Or stuck in a bad rental apartment. Or money starts to run out. Or we can't get something as simple as X or Y or Z done in this crazy county. Or we miss our loved ones. Or we actually calculate what a bowl of onion soup in an average restaurant in Israel costs in dollars. Or we still can't communicate well enough in Hebrew. Or we realize that we have chosen to live in a very, very complicated country in a very, very stressed-out region of the world. Or. Or. Or.

And we start to feel a little like this guy ---->

Today, DH and I were driving into Jerusalem and, without warning, I was smitten all over again. We're somewhere between our third and fourth aliyahversary. It's just an ordinary Thursday. And yet. And yet. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of how many things here are so precious to me. I asked DH if he also sometimes feels this way. And in under five minutes, we came up with a list of things we love, so much, about this country.

My computer sits on a desk right near a window that faces the street. Some evenings, as I work, I hear a man pacing in front of the shul across the street shouting, "Ma'ariv! Ma'ariv!"

When we drive into town to meet friends or run some errands, the sign that says "Bruchim HaBaim. Welcome to Jerusalem." still gives me chills.

There's a kelim mikvah right outside the housewares store.

On the way to do our grocery shopping, we drive past dozens of empty, densely-packed sand dunes. On my way to buy bread and cucumbers, I easily imagine Avraham and Sarah walking across these same hills.

On Shabbat mornings, around 10 AM, there is a Bedouin shepherd, a young teenage boy, who brings his flock near the edge of my community. He sits on a rock while his sheep graze in the grass and stubble that lies outside our fence. And I watch them as I pray.

The radio announcer tells people what parsha we will read in shul this Shabbat. And very early in the mornings, at the beginning of the broadcast day, he says Shema.

Directly across the street from my apartment, there are two shuls and a paper/bottle/old clothes recycling station. And on Fridays, there is a flower seller there. And erev Sukkot, someone sells lulavim at the same spot.

The streets one neighborhood away are named for Biblical instruments. In another neighborhood in another town, the streets are named for stones on the Choshen Mishpat. Our streets and our cities are named for Jewish ideas, Jewish personalities, Jewish history.

Every time I travel on one of the 66 buses a day that link my home to Jerusalem, I feel very acutely that I am part of the miracle of the Ingathering of the Exiles. I didn't just move to a new place. I am part of the fulfillment of an ancient Biblical prophecy.

Relatively often, I'll meet someone who doesn't yet live in Israel, or who is in process, but who isn't yet a Jew. I'll understand their longing. I don't know by what merit I was born a Jew. Or by what merit Hashem picked me to come live in His Holy Land. But I am just so grateful.

Because, despite it all, I so love my life here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Purim Photoblog with Rashi (Commentary)

Standard Purim costumes include princesses, clowns, cowboys and sports fans. But some Purim costumes need a bit of explanation. Here follow a handful of clever, creative, homemade costumes spotted this Purim that may need a little, ahem.. clarification.

waze is a combination GPS and social media app that was created in Israel and sold to Google for $966 million. Chana and Jeremy Staiman dressed as the waze logo.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Staiman
They even took the waze theme to the next level and included this sign with their mishloach manot. Since Jeremy owns a graphic design business, they really raised the bar beyond where we ordinary mortals can compete.

Lisa Cain's costume is punny. She's displaying a pair-o-ducks (paradox).

But wait! There's more! Here, she's wearing a shift (a loose-fitting dress) and a pair of dimes, representing a paradigm shift.

Dena Udren was pregnant this Purim, so she dressed as a shana m'uberet - a "pregnant year" which is how we refer to a leap year in Hebrew. When the Hebrew year is a shana m'uberet, a leap year, there are two months of Adar. She's wearing two of the kabbalistic/zodiac symbols for Pisces which goes with the Hebrew month of Adar.

Here, I'm wearing a Ki"POT" Barzel and an IDF t-shirt. In Israel, the Iron Dome, which intercepts and destroys short-range rockets, is called kipat barzel (כִּפַּת בַּרְזֶל). 

This one is... wait for it... a pop quiz.
Photo Credit: Laura Ben-David

Okay, this one had me scratching my head for a bit, but I think I got it. The caption is Gar'in Torani, which is a group of idealistic, young, Zionist, religious families and singles who move to a community together to try to strengthen the community's level of Jewish commitment. Gar'inim is also the Hebrew word for sunflower seeds. So this is a sunflower hat with sunflower seeds that look (to me) like a community of people. The tzitzit on either side is a symbol of the religious identification of the Gar'in Torani.

Thanks to Chaviva Braun for her commentary on my commentary. The picture is of her son who, together with his wife and 4 children, are part of the Gar'in Torani in Migdal haEmek.

Some costumes have an only-in-Israel political flavor. And in Israel, politics is generally bundled together with religion.

This one is a reference to the current culture war between those who serve in the Israeli Defense Forces and those who don't. In Hebrew, this concept of social equality is called shivyon b'netel. Instead of b'netel, his sign says, "The people seek equality "b'petel!" Petel is an Israeli brand of concentrated drink mix. Notice the two bottles he's carrying around his neck. The one on his left is dressed in an army uniform and the one on his right is dressed in a black hat and the black clothes associated with the Charedim who generally oppose serving in the IDF.

Photo credit: Avi Staiman

On a similar note, here's DH dressed as "Charedi Chaim from Yereeshalayim" who is completely against the idea of yeshiva students being drafted and required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. He's holding volumes of books that yeshiva students study and his signs say:
NO DRAFT (only beer)
No Uzis. No Floozies. Just me and my Chavruzees. 
(Uzis are submachine guns. Floozies is a tasteless reference to women and chavruzees are actually chavrusas or chavrutot which means partners with whom one studies Torah.)

When we delivered mishloach manot to a family with 2 year-old twins, they thought DH was Uncle Moishy.

This is the real Uncle Moishy.

One more on this same theme. This is Sandy Honigsberg dressed like someone opposed to service in the Israeli Defense Forces and in favor of continued government subsidies for yeshiva students. His sign says, "God is proclaiming, 'Death to Tzahal. Where is my money?'" Tzahal is an acronym for the Hebrew words Tzva Hahagana LeYisra'el which refers to the IDF.

Photo credit and photo identification: Yoni Kremer

This is our neighbor wearing an ironic t-shirt. It has very short sleeves and the words, "It is forbidden for Jewish women and girls to dress in immodest clothes," emblazoned across the chest.

Another neighbor is dressed as a member of Women of the Walla group of Jewish women who wear prayer shawls, pray and read from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. 

And just to end on a lighter note, here's my newly married daughter and her husband as Mario and Princess Peach.

Just kidding. Here they really are...

And because they are just so adorable, here they are again:

Hope you had a great Purim!