Local organizations seek funds to help Israel

The following are some of the local organizations collecting donations to aid Israel in its time of crisis:

American Associates of the Haifa Foundation
Mailing Address: 287 South Robertson Blvd. ‘343
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Telephone: 323-913-7133

American Friends of Magen David Adom: Code Red Campaign
Web: www.afmda.org
Mailing Address: 5535 Balboa Blvd. Suite 114
Encino, CA 91316
Telephone: 800-323-2371,818-905-5099
E-mail: info@afmda.org

American Friends of Meir Panim: Relief Center in Israel
Web: www.meirpanim.org
Mailing Address: 5316 New Utrech Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11219
Telephone: 877-7-DONATE (877-736-6283)
E-mail: info@meirpanim.org

American Friends of Migdal Ohr
Web: www.migdalohrusa.org
Mailing Address: 1560 Broadway, Suite 510
New York, NY 10036Telephone: 212-397-3700

American Friends of Rambam Medical Center (Haifa)
Web: www.rambam.org.il
Mailing Address: Mr. Michael Stoler, President
C/O First American Title Insurance Company of New York
633 Third Avenue, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Telephone: 212-859-0675
188-87-RAMBAM (188-87-726226)
E-mail: mstoler@firstam.com

American Friends of SELAH – The Israel Crisis Management Center
Web: www.selah.org.il
Mailing Address: 25 West 45th Street, Suite 1405
New York, NY 10036
Telephone: 212-840-1514

American Jewish Committee: Israel Emergency Assistance Fund
Web: www.ajc.org
Mailing Address: Ms. Brenda Rudzin, American Jewish Committee
165 East 56th Street
New York, NY 10022.
Telephone: 310-282-8080 ext. 307
E-mail: mailings@ajc.org.

AMIT Kfar Batya
AMIT Kfar Blatt
Web: www.amitchildren.org
Mailing Address:1122 South Robertson Blvd. ‘9
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Telephone: 310-859-4885
800-989-AMIT (800-989-2648)

Bnai Zion Medical Center Foundation: Emergency Campaign
Telephone: 323-655-9128

Development Corporation for Israel/State of Israel Bonds
Web: www.israelbonds.com
Mailing Address: 1950 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 295
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Telephone: 310-996-3000
800-92-BONDS (800-92-26637)

EMUNAH Emergency Fund
Web: www.emunah.org
Mailing Address: Emunah of America
7 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10036
Telephone: 212-564-9045 ext. 303

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces: Soldiers’ Emergency Fund
Web: www.israelsoldiers.org
Mailing Address: 4640 Admiralty Way, Suite 406
Marina Del Ray, CA 90292
Telephone: 310-305-4063

Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans, Inc. (FIDV): Beit Halochem
Web: www.fidv.org
Mailing Address: 1133 Broadway, Suite 232
New York, NY 10010
Telephone: 212-689-3220
E-mail: info@fidv.org

Friends of Sheba Medical Center
Mailing Address: 9911 West Pico Blvd., Suite 1220
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Telephone: 310-843-0100
E-mail: ino@shebamed.org

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Web: www.hadassah.org
Mailing Address: June Walker, National President
50 West 58th Street
New York, NY 10019vTelephone: 866-229-2395

The Jewish Federation: Israel in Crisis
Web: www.JewishLA.org
Mailing Address: The Jewish Federation
Goldsmith Center
6505 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Telephone: 866-YOUR-FED (866-9687-333)

The Jewish Federation South Bay Council
Mailing Address: 23430 Hawthorne Blvd., Suite 120
Torrance, CA 90505

The Jewish Federation Valley Alliance
Mailing Address: Bernard Milken Community Campus
22622 Vanowen Street
West Hills, CA 91307

Jewish National Fund (JNF): Operation Security Blanket
Web: www.jnf.org
Telephone: Los Angeles: 323-964-1400
Valley: 818-704-5454
E-mail: Los Angeles: vyeoman@jnf.org
Valley: ddaniel@jnf.org

Ohr Torah Stone
Web: www.ohrtorahstone.org.il
Mailing Address: Aid for the Northerners
49 West 45th Street, Suite 701
New York, NY 10036
Telephone: 212-935-8672

Biblical Logotherapy

This week’s Torah portion discusses one of the most bizarre and indecipherable rituals in the Torah: parah aduma, which is the ritual of purifying a person who has come into contact with a dead body. During the ritual of parah aduma, the Kohen slaughters a red cow that has never born a yoke and then burns the carcass along with cedar, hyssop and a crimson substance until it has been reduced to ashes. The ashes are then mixed with water and sprinkled on the person who has come in contact with death, thus rendering him pure.

This strange ritual, which in some aspects seems almost pagan, can be interpreted and understood metaphorically as a cathartic, therapeutic process, one meant to help a mourner overcome grief. Each physical step in the parah aduma ritual also works as a symbol that taps into the subconscious, intangible experience of death.

To begin the ritual, the first requirement is the red cow.

The living red cow embodies an abstraction: literally and symbolically. The cow stands in for the life force vanquished; it represents vitality, procreation and energy, as does its red color, a color associated with blood, the medium of life. Because the cow has never born a yoke, its death is untimely — it has not yet contributed to or affected the world. The parallel for a person would be a death that occurs without fulfilling one’s goals and or realizing one’s potential.

The substances burned with the cow also have symbolic meaning. In biblical times, cedar and hyssop stood for the two poles of the social gamut: the wealthiest and the poorest, the mightiest and the weakest. Turning all these elements to ashes suggests that no one can escape death. The burning of cedar and hyssop together with the parah aduma symbolizes utter destruction, the extermination of the entire gamut of existence. The cedar and hyssop also suggest that death is both a physical and a social phenomenon. This message assists the mourner in coming to terms with grief, indicating that along with the physical loss, there has been a loss of social bonds, of human connection. The symbolism of the parah aduma ritual reflects the complexity of the mourner’s feelings of loss. Through the ritual, the mourner’s need to grieve is acknowledged.

Grief can breed devastating results when not addressed appropriately. A mourner might question the purpose of his life and the worthiness of his actions; he can slip into the mode of thinking typified in phrases such as "My life is meaningless" and "I am nothing."

From there the road can be very short to suicidal tendencies and even to violent criminal acts against others, because the logical correlative to "I am nothing" is "you are nothing." Once life is meaningless, whatever damage a person causes to others is insignificant. In fact, such injury to others can, sadly, serve a cathartic purpose; as a person subjects another to anger and violence, he renders the other person as helpless and ineffective as he feels himself.

This negative disposition that results from death and loss is the reason for the mourner’s impurity for seven days. The impurity is a spiritual one that calls the mourner’s attention to the dangers, the precariousness, of his situation. But, simultaneously, the condition of impurity and separation allows the mourner an opportunity to express and experience his emotions and to heal.

On the third day of this healing process, the mourner is brought to the priest, and he returns on the seventh day for a second session. In the Torah’s description of these meetings between mourner and priest, a surprising but subtle linguistic shift occurs. The remainder of the red cow, which was initially referred to as "ashes" (efer in Hebrew), is now referred to as dust (afar in Hebrew). While only one letter has changed in the text, the symbolic meaning of the two words is completely different. The word "afar" in reference to death, transports us directly to the verse: "for you are dust and to dust you shall return." The word dust reminds the mourner that life is ephemeral and that death is inevitable. It also reminds him of the cycle of life: in the words of Rabbi Akiva, "Those living will die, those who were not born yet will be born."

Finally, the parah aduma ritual emphasizes and expands on this cyclical notion in a way clearly evident to ancient Israelites who lived in an agrarian society. While nothing can grow in ashes, dust can definitely serve as a fertile soil. A seed, buried in the dust, will resurrect as a plant.

Similarly, the mourner is encouraged to summon all his energy and to come back to life with energy and vitality. This concept is symbolized by the last step in the process, the pouring of fresh, living water, mayim hayyim, on the parah aduma’s dust. The positive power of life, contained in the water, will overcome the destructive power of death. Even though the loss that comes with a death will not be forgotten, life will be resumed with an emphasis on the positive experiences of the past and on the abundance and richness of the life we have lived and will live.

Haim Ovadia, rabbi of Kahal Joseph Congregation, can be reached at haimovadia@hotmail.com.

Dialing for Peace

In the past two years, a soundproof curtain has descended on
dialogue between individuals in Israel on the one hand and Gaza and the West
Bank on the other. Without the possibility of interchange, it is but a small
step to collective demonization of the other.

If Palestinians and Israelis are linked by anything, it
seems to be fear and mistrust.

Now a one-of-a-kind social experiment has stepped into the
void, attempting to pierce the soundproof curtain. Not between politicians. Not
between delegations. Not between professional groups. Not between celebrities.

With supreme — and perhaps naive — faith in the common man,
a local group has come up with a scheme to allow Palestinians and Israelis a
first step in one-to-one contact: giving them the opportunity to talk.

The binational organization, Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved
Parents for Peace, is made up of about 400 Israeli and Palestinian parents,
whose children have been killed by the other side. Until now, its efforts have
been focused on using its members’ immense moral credibility to press leaders
for peace.

With their tragic credentials, hardly any door remains
closed to them. In addition to meetings and workshops among themselves, the
group has also conducted projects to raise public consciousness.

For example, it has filled Tel-Aviv’s biggest square with symbolic
coffins to represent the victims of both sides, as well as undertaking hunger
strikes in which each day another bereaved parent volunteered to fast.

With its new telephone project, Hello, Salaam! Hello,
Shalom! Hello, Peace! the parents group has initiated a program audacious in
scope, yet employing the simplest tool of communication available to almost
everybody: the telephone.

Although Israelis and Palestinians are now unable to meet in
person, telephone lines between them are as open as a conversation between two
girlfriends living in adjacent apartments. Often mobile phones even have the
same area codes.

But how would anybody from either side know whom to contact
within the sea of the other nationality?

Hello, Peace! has established an ingenious matrix for
telephone contact: an automated telephone system through which any individual
can, without charge, talk by phone to a member of the other side. It is a
grass-roots connection of the most basic and immediate kind.

Callers within Israel, the West Bank or Gaza dial 6364 from
any telephone. They then have the option of browsing through a list of messages
and names of individuals who have signed up as interested in receiving phone
calls — to date, 590 Israelis and 1,377 Palestinians are listed.

Participants can decide to whom to place a call, which is
done through the project’s system. Additionally, every caller may create a
personalized message box identifying himself and giving a short greeting, thus
enabling another caller to contact him. The data is further broken down by
gender and age, so that a caller can direct contacts.

When instituted in October 2002, the project was advertised
on billboards, the radio, the Israeli press and in the Arabic-language
newspaper, Al Quds. Since then, its existence has spread by word of mouth. To
date, more than 100,000 calls have been made, far exceeding the expectations of
its creators.

Edna, a 66-year-old Israeli living in Beersheba, has been
calling Hello, Peace! regularly. She very much would like to speak to another
woman, but has yet to find a Palestinian woman who speaks English or Hebrew,
and Edna’s Arabic is too rudimentary to have a real conversation.

However, Edna has established contact with two young men
with whom she speaks often. At first, Edna was hesitant to give her age but
decided that a 66-year-old on the line is a message in itself. Their
conversations are not limited to politics.

One man, previously injured in a car accident, told her that
he has been treated in the Beersheba hospital in the past. “If he comes again,”
Edna said, “I will definitely go to visit him.”

Last year 22-year-old Yaniv finished his Israeli army
service, serving in a combat unit. This winter he has been speaking on Hello,
Peace!  “I heard many — at least 10 — say they are against suicide bombers and
support peace,” Yaniv said. “It is important for us Israelis to know there are
Palestinians who feel this way. Because when we see all those pictures on the
TV, we think there are no normal people on the other side. And they feel
exactly the same way.”

Trying to get through to someone sometimes takes
determination and perseverance. The language barrier is frequently a stumbling
block. Often English is the lingua franca.

In the opinion of the project’s organizers, the language barrier
is symptomatic of the noncommunication of the two societies in general. Even
after there is a human being on the other end, it is not always easy to break
the ice with a stranger and exchange more than platitudes.

Ahmed from Hebron learned Hebrew during his many years
working in Israel as a building subcontractor, so he was able to freely express
himself to his Israeli counterpart. In fact, Ahmed has spoken with many
Israelis through Hello, Peace!, some of them several times. When he calls, he
gives only his first name, as is customary.

When asked if he thinks these calls can help and what
private individuals can actually accomplish by talking, Ahmed responded, “It is
true, I can do nothing. But Israelis can.”

“Israel is a democracy,” he continued. “Israel has all the
power on its side. The scales are not even. Israelis are the ones who can make
a choice.”

Ahmed has a message he wants to convey to Israelis: “To know
that we, too, deserve to live like human beings.”

When asked if he was working, Ahmed replied, “Not now. Now
the situation is terrible.”

Then further questioned about what he does instead, Ahmed
laughed and said, “I sit at home and watch television — and I talk on the

The Common Ground News Service, which supplied this story,
distributes articles to promote constructive perspectives and dialogue about
current Middle East issues.  

Helen Schary Motro is an American writer and lawyer living in Israel, who teaches at the Tel-Aviv University law school.