Netanyahu visits Silicon Valley, signs Israel-California pro-business pact

Saying the future “belongs to those who innovate,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined Gov. Jerry Brown in Silicon Valley this week to sign an agreement intended to boost high-tech cooperation between Israel and California.

Both leaders said the greatest goal of the memorandum of understanding is to solve problems in the realms of water conservation, alternative energy and cybersecurity threats.

Signed March 5 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, the pact gives Israeli companies access to California’s Innovation Hub program, which is composed of 16 research clusters around the state.

Each iHub focuses on one or more different areas, such as high-tech, agribusiness, manufacturing, transportation or clean tech. The involved entities — such as technology incubators, universities and federal laboratories — provide a platform for startups, economic development organizations, business groups and venture capitalists.

Israel is first nation to sign this kind of agreement with California, and to be invited to work with the iHub network.

Israel already has strong economic ties with California. Tens of thousands of Israelis live in the region and work in the high-tech sector, while trade between the two tops $4 billion according to the governor’s office.

“What a wonderful furthering of the deep connections Israel has with America, and California in particular,” Brown said to 150 Israeli and American high-tech representatives, politicians and other dignitaries gathered for the signing.

Acknowledging what he called California’s “mega-drought,” Brown said the state has “a long way to go in water conservation, recycling and desalinization. Israel has demonstrated how efficient a country can be.”

Noted Netanyahu: “Israel does not have a water problem. How is that possible? Our rainfall has declined 50 percent from the days of our founding. Our population has grown 10 times, our GDP 70 times. Israel has no water problem because we are the No. 1 recycler of wastewater in the world — close to 90 percent — because we have drip irrigation, because we prevent leakage in our pipes and desalinate. California does not need to have a water problem. By working together we can overcome this.”

As for energy, Brown pointed out that California is the only state with a goal of achieving a third of its energy needs via renewable sources by 2020. He said the challenge would be storage of alternative energy for “when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. [Israel and California] have an interest in becoming energy independent, less dependent on fossil fuels. The way to go is renewable energy and storage.”

To cheers from the audience, Netanyahu also expressed his support for a proposed nonstop flight between San Francisco and Ben Gurion Airport. Currently none exists.

“I’ll put my people on this,” Netanyahu said. “If we can get this, there will be an explosion of inventiveness between the innovation nation and the innovation state. Let’s connect the two together. We’re going to do that with this agreement today.”

The signing took place shortly after news broke that Israel had seized a Gaza-bound shop said to be carrying dozens of Iranian missiles. After signing the pact, Netanyahu took to the podium once more to comment.

“What this reveals is the true face of Iran,” the prime minister said. “Iran is smiling, talking soft in the international forums, but it continues unabatedly its aggressive behavior in the Middle East and beyond. It’s sending the deadliest weapons to the most cruel terrorist groups and despots. This regime must not have nuclear weapons capability.”

He thanked Brown for California’s policy of divesting from Iran in its largest public pension funds and for investing in Israel.

Glenn Yago, an economist with the Milken Institute in Southern California, attended the signing and afterward called the pact “the beginning of a true global partnership.” He noted the two leaders’ goal to address the challenges of water, food, agriculture, health and security.

“This partnership with Israel has the potential to be exponentially impactful in terms of what it can produce,” Yago said. “It allows a scaling up. You can’t be a startup forever.”

During his short Bay Area visit, Netanyahu also met with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, a Jewish Ukrainian immigrant who sold his company to Facebook for $19 billion last month, and executives from Apple, Flextronics, LinkedIn and eBay. In addition to his morning stop at the museum, he also visited Apple headquarters in Cupertino and Stanford University.

The prime minister’s three-day California swing included two stops in Southern California.

On March 4, he attended a screening of “Israel: The Royal Tour” at Paramount Studios on March 4. The one-hour episode stars Netanyahu as he gives CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg a prime minister’s view of Israel from the Red Sea to Masada to Tel Aviv’s hopping nightlife.

This report is reprinted with permission by the j. weekly. It originally appeared at the

Lacrosse blooms in the desert

“Building a team for 2014 is the exciting part, but it’s all the other work that needs to get done …” William “Bill” Beroza’s voice trailed off as he imagined the hard road ahead. He’s referring to the next lacrosse world championship, which will take place in two years, and Beroza faces the daunting task of coaching and preparing an Israeli team for competition in a sport that doesn’t have much history in the Holy Land. But that doesn’t scare Beroza; sitting in a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Wilshire Boulevard recently, he seemed excited about the prospect of bringing the sport he loves to the state and people of Israel.

Lacrosse is a contact sport played by both men and women. The national sport of Canada, it has long been popular in the American Northeast. In classic field lacrosse, teams of 10 players square off, with attackers trying to score by bypassing the opposing team’s defenders to reach the goal using their distinct, netted lacrosse sticks. And though the sport has developed a reputation as an upscale sport of elites because of all the gear involved, in reality it’s cheaper to play than football and hockey.

Beroza, who is Jewish, grew up in Hempstead, Long Island. His skills as a lacrosse goalie took him to Roanoke College in 1973, and then to Team USA, where he played in the world championships and helped the United States defeat Australia for the world title in 1982. They also led to him being inducted into both the lacrosse and Jewish Sports halls of fame. So when Scott Neiss, a then-24-year-old lacrosse enthusiast decided to make it his mission to bring lacrosse to Israel after visiting the country on a Birthright trip, Neiss knew just where to turn.

“Scott … called me up and said, ‘If we have a team that gets a chance to play in the World Championships in 2014, would you coach?’ ” Beroza remembered. “I said, ‘Scott, how are we going to get a team?’ ” And so, the process began. “It wasn’t just a quick, whimsical thing,” Beroza said.

Finding players, for one, had its challenges. Beroza and Neiss organized some games in Israel to check out the local talent. “There were a handful of people that actually were Israeli-born who played in the games,” Beroza said. “Then there were some people who were American-born who’d moved to Israel, made aliyah.”

In the age of YouTube and Google, some of the Israeli talent had gotten their skills in unorthodox ways. “Ironically, a couple of players, one in particular … actually went on the Internet and started learning how to play lacrosse,” Beroza quipped, laughing. “He got a stick on his own, ordered it through a mail-order catalog.” Although the player had never been in an actual lacrosse game before, his skills impressed Beroza and his staff.

Then there were the Americans in Israel. “One of the goalies, Ben Levine … he’s from Pennsylvania, he lives there, runs a hotel there, but he’s a goalie and is now an Israeli citizen,” Beroza said. It was from such diverse origins that Israel lacrosse drew its initial talent.

The inaugural Jerusalem versus Tel Aviv game, pitting Israel’s only teams — both created by Israel Lacrosse — against each other, took place at the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem on Aug. 13, 2011. Beroza and Neiss expected a modest crowd, but to their surprise, as many as 400 people showed up to watch what turned into an exciting game that was decided in the final seconds. And though Beroza’s Tel Aviv squad lost to the Jerusalem home team, he was more than happy with the result. 

But a couple of games in Jerusalem were hardly the apex of Neiss’ and Beroza’s ambitious plans. Jerusalem was great, but they wanted Europe, and then the world. But to do that, they’d need money and supplies, which was where Larry Turkheimer, Beroza’s childhood friend, came in. Turkheimer had played the sport in college at the traditional lacrosse powerhouse the University of North Carolina, and he now runs a successful marketing business in Los Angeles. When Beroza asked him to help out with fundraising, Turkheimer leapt into action.

Turkheimer is bullish on the prospects for lacrosse in Israel. “Being over there, you see there’s a lot of great athletes, and now you’ve just got to get a stick in their hands, and then the sport will grow.” But to do that, they need help from the Jewish community in America. “Our biggest challenge right now is to find a way to fundraise, and to get to the right people to help us put money in the bank for Israeli lacrosse, because the sport is recognized in Israel, but is not supported by the Israeli sports foundation.”

Beroza is also aware that it’s going to take some big American donors for their cause to really move forward. “We can either get a dollar at a time, or a million from five people,” Beroza said. “There are teams everywhere that are starting that face the same challenges we are.”

Beroza is in it for the long run, though. “It’s not going to be something that’s going to happen in a year or two or three, it’s going to take 10 years; it’s going to take 15 years, 20 years — you know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

To that end, Beroza and Turkheimer are building bridges in the United States, scouting for funds — and even for players, as American Jews are eligible to play for them — and jokingly musing about convincing a professional lacrosse player like Mitch Belisle to convert, so he can play for the team. 

Turkheimer, for one, definitely sees a light at the end of the tunnel. “When I came from the East Coast to Los Angeles, there was no youth lacrosse at all. Six years ago, when youth lacrosse started, there were 30 kids who came out here in West L.A. And today, the West L.A. lacrosse league has over 600 kids playing.”

Now what Beroza needs is a good showing at the European Championships with his fledgling team, “to put us on the front page instead of the second page.” In a country where lacrosse is as foreign as cricket is to most Americans, exposure is the surefire way to get kids with a stick in their hands. And that’s the future.

Science and Zionism Bloom Side by Side in the Desert

“It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel shall be tested,” David Ben-Gurion once famously said. Israel’s first prime minister was a passionate advocate of developing the sparsely populated and barren southern desert into a thriving center of learning, technology, culture and innovation. Three decades after his death, a university named in his honor is carrying out his vision. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), with campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sde Boker and Eilat, has as its central mission the goal of developing the Negev by attracting bright scholars to the region, conducting world-class research, promoting industry and agriculture in the desert, improving education, investing in the surrounding immigrant communities, and pioneering green technology and arid zone research.

To highlight the university’s recent advances and contributions to Israel and the world, the American Associates of Ben-Gurion University hosted a symposium and dinner on April 11 at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel. The evening, titled “David Ben-Gurion’s Vision in Los Angeles: Science, the Negev and Israel’s Future,” drew more than 150 attendees, including former Jewish Federation head John Fishel and his wife Karen, and local philanthropists Ruth Flinkman, Larry Field, Yitzhak Parviz, Pouran Nazarian and Dr. Gabriel Rubanenko.

Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Jacob Dayan greeted the audience, acknowledging the somber date — Yom HaShoah — and connecting it with the importance of supporting Israel and the mission of BGU as a response to current existential threats. “People constantly ask why Israel is not responding to the threat of Iran. Every new house we build in the Negev is a response to Iran. Every innovation, every new technology and advancement is a response. We chose not to be victims anymore, but heroes. We are sending the message that we are here, we’re going to stay, and we’re going to prevail.”
“The Negev is the future of Israel,” said Rivka Carmi, president of BGU and the first female president of an Israeli university, in a recorded video message. “The Israeli government knows this … the students know this … the country knows this. The Negev is where the pioneering spirit of Israel still thrives.”

Three prominent BGU professors shared their work during the symposium. Dr. Tuvia Friling, a scholar of Israeli history, Zionism and the Holocaust, gave a brief overview of David Ben-Gurion’s historical significance in “Propelling and Living the Zionist Dream.” Dr. Alon Monsonego’s research focuses on neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases, and his presentation was on “Developing a Vaccine for Alzheimer’s Disease and Novel Treatments for the Sick Brain.” He demonstrated how he and his BGU colleagues and students are pioneering new strategies to reverse the damage of Alzheimer’s.
Professor David Faiman, a leading authority on solar energy, spoke of his work developing solar-power-generated electricity at a fraction of the cost of other existing technologies. The head of Israel’s National Solar Energy Center, Faiman illustrated in a detailed business model the feasibility and sustainability of duplicating this system (already in operation at Kibbutz Yavne in Israel) for use around the world.

The evening’s moderator, Judge Leon S. Kaplan, described Faiman’s work as a literal “light onto nations,” which is an oft-used biblical phrase that Ben-Gurion University strives to embody.

Rare Quality

Being one of the top international best sellers of all time is not an easy spot to maintain, taking into account changing cultures, societies and times. But the Bible possesses this rare quality, which has enabled generation after generation of readers to identify with its heroes and messages and find in it answers, refuge and remedy.

There was, however, the issue of adaptation to different needs and literary tastes that affected the interpretation of the Bible throughout the ages. One of the most common and influential is the tendency of the late Second Temple period sages to unearth the mysteries of the anonymous characters of the Bible, which seems to have alienated some of that era’s synagogue-goers, who measured Torah reading or the sermon against the tragedies and comedies played in the adjacent Greek theater and demanded the same level of interest and entertainment. (High school students who had to read “Beowulf” were complaining about how they wish they could have watched the recent movie as an alternative to the archaic, boring text.)

One element that fascinated the ancient Jewish theater aficionados was the wealth of details and history attached to each character, which is so often missing in the laconic, terse language of the Torah. The rabbis responded to the trend by identifying the anonymous protagonists, usually tying them to other characters, who are mentioned by name. Such is the case of the leaders of the civil rebellion against Moses — Dathan and Abiram — whom the rabbis identified as the two Israelites confronted by Moses on the second day he ventured from the royal palace to see his brethren’s tribulations.

When Moses approached the attacker, asking him why he was beating his fellow Israelite, the man angrily responded: “Who appointed you a judge? Are you planning to kill me as you did the Egyptian?”

This identification of the quarreling Israelites with Dathan and Abiram undoubtedly adds an element of continuity and familiarity to the story. We almost expect to see those two at every hot spot, as the rabbis in the midrash most certainly did. But it is problematic for several reasons.

First, when God tells Moses to return to Egypt, He says that all those who sought to harm him are dead. If that includes Dathan and Abiram, how come they surface later during the Korach dispute? Moreover, in the quarrel story, only one is defined as a wicked person, while the other seems to be innocent, and if they are indeed Dathan and Abiram, both are wicked. Lastly, naming these two defies the intention of the Torah, which chose to leave them anonymous because their names are not essential to the narrative.

The answer to these questions is that the rabbis took the liberty, as playwrights, to introduce high drama and a sense of continuity and familiarity to the biblical text. Undoubtedly, they based their interpretation of the original text on the fact that in both cases, those who confronted Moses used words derived from the Hebrew root S.R.R., which means authority or rulership, and that they accused Moses of seeking to rule and dominate them, replacing one rogue regime with another.

Nothing could have offended Moses more, being sincere and genuinely concerned about his brethren’s suffering as he was. Moses could have stayed in the palace and enjoyed royal privileges, but he chose to commiserate with his brothers and, indeed, tried to save one of them by killing the Egyptian taskmaster.

When his altruism was faced with such doubt and accusation, he abandoned his plans altogether and fled to the desert, which was to become his fortress of solitude until God forced him to resume his mission and his role of a leader.

As the curtain draws, the audience of that ancient biblical play, in the new rabbinical rendition, can identify with the characters. Moses is the hero, the leader who once and again is being confronted with the machinations of those who seek power for themselves by casting doubt on the purity of his motives. The rabbinical narrator ties together loose ends and connects Moses’ response to the first confrontation (i.e., running away to the desert) with his response to the last one, in which he is in a position he cannot quit — leading the whole nation.

After attending services during the rabbinical times and hearing the rabbi dramatizing these fateful encounters, it’s not difficult to imagine congregants on their way home considering how this drama played out every so often in their lives and how they would rise to the occasion themselves if challenged by those who embodied Dathan and Abiram.

Haim Ovadia is rabbi of Kahal Joseph Congregation, a Sephardic congregation in West Los Angeles. He can be reached at

Pesach, Matzah, Maror and Massage


Thanks to an increasing number of spas offering Passover packages, a Pesach getaway doesn’t necessarily have to lead to weight gain. There is no shortage of luxury resorts where you can nourish your spirituality, pamper your psyche and get a workout. In fact, several highly rated wellness centers are hosting seders this year for the first time, including the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Here is a sampling of top spas where you can escape kosher l’Pesach style. Although Passover doesn’t begin until Saturday night, April 23, these packages accommodate religious travelers by including Shabbat the night before.

All pricing is per person, double occupancy, plus tax and gratuities and most programs offer a third-in-the-room price as well as children’s pricing. To experience a massage or another treatment during your stay, schedule it well in advance by contacting spas directly at the earliest date possible. Otherwise, by the time you arrive, the choicest appointments will most likely be taken. The same is true for any spa visit — year-round or at Passover.

Back to the Desert

The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa (” target=”_blank”>

By the Sea

The spa and fitness and wellness center at The Mauna Lani Hotel & Bungalows Resort & Spa (” target=”_blank”>

Packages are also available at the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa in San Diego (, starting at $3,000; the Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa (” target=”_blank”> features 12 tennis courts, two PGA-rated championship golf courses and two swimming pools. Its Passover package includes access to whirlpools, steam rooms and more. The spa’s menu of additional-fee treatments includes a wide array of spa services.

Prices begin at $3,000, plus 25 percent tax and tips. The early-bird special features 12.5 percent tax and tips for bookings through mid-February. The cost includes three gourmet glatt kosher, cholov yisroel meals daily, a 24-hour tea room, shiurim and entertainment for kids and adults. Children’s programs draw kids 12 and under and teens 13 and up. Contact Moshe Wein at Kosher Travels Unlimited (800) 832-6676 or visit ” target=”_blank”> features an expansive pool and lawn area, three clay tennis courts and free shuttle boat service to St. Mark’s Square and the city of Doges. Windsurfing, horseback riding and golf are all nearby. The scholar-in-residence is Rabbi Laibl Wolf and the cantor is Shimon Farkas. Prices start at $3,110 per person, double occupancy plus 24 percent tax and tips, and includes all meals, which are glatt kosher, cholov yisroel Italian cuisine, as well as the 24-hour tea room, entertainment, kids’ day camp and more.

The Other Coast

New for 2005 is the Passover program at San Juan’s Caribe Hilton (” target=”_blank”>, starting at $3,370; the Wyndham Miami Beach Resort (” target=”_blank”>

Lisa Alcalay Klug, a former staff writer for the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times, writes for The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times and other publications.


The Real Scoop Behind Ice Cream

“Ice cream was something my husband and I were hooked on,” said Vicki Grossman, talking from New York Scoop in Woodland Hills, her newly opened modern reincarnation of an old-fashioned ice parlor. “It was something of a ritual — we would take the family to Carvel at least once a week.”

That ritual, and others like it — such as serving ice cream for desert or eating it straight out of the carton with a spoon — have made ice cream one of the most popular foodstuffs in America today. No better time to celebrate that fact now, with July being National Ice Cream Month, designated by former President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Ice cream has something of an illustrious history in the United States: George Washington spent $200 on it in the summer of 1790, according to records kept by a New York merchant; Thomas Jefferson used an 18-step recipe to make his own; and Dolly Madison served it at her husband James’ second inauguration in 1812.

In the last century, with the advent of commercial refrigeration, motorized churns and packing machines, ice cream changed from being a luxury item to a common food product. Today, the ice cream industry is worth some $20 billion in the United States and is enjoyed in 90 percent of American households.

That enjoyment is due, in some part, to Jews. While Jews did not invent ice cream — although the International Dairy Food Association claims that King Solomon enjoyed iced drinks during harvest time — in this country many Jews made themselves invaluable to the ice cream industry in other ways. It was Jews — Rose and Reuben Mattus of Häagen Dazs — who introduced America to super-premium ice cream, which is ice cream that has less air beaten into it, resulting in a creamier, richer product. It was also Jews — Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s — who started throwing interesting things into their ice cream, like crushed toffee bars and pretzels, which changed the ice cream experience from being smooth and delicious to being chunky and daring.

If you are looking for Jewish ways to celebrate National Ice Cream Month other than eating copious amounts of ice cream, start by reading the newly published “The Emperor of Ice Cream: The True Story of Häagen Daaz, A Love Story,” by Rose Vessel Mattus (The Wordsmithy). It’s the story of how two Jewish immigrants came to the Bronx, fell in love, got married, produced ice cream, staved off gangsters and made money. In between full-page glamour shots of Rose, Reuben (or Rufky as she called him) and their children, the book contains some interesting tidbits. The thick creamy Häagen Dazs that we know today was the result of a factory accident, when the air injection pump broke. Rather than tossing what was possibly a spoiled run, the Mattuses tasted it and found that, with less air, the product tasted superior to any ice cream that was on the market.

The book also clears up the mystery of how Häagen Dazs got it name.

“‘I think maybe a Danish name,’ [Reuben] said suddenly…. ‘They’re nice people you know. Good people. They tried hard to save Jews during the war, ferried them to safety ahead of the Nazis…. Everyone likes the Danes.'”

The Mattuses chose Häagen Dazs as the name because it was a Danish sounding inversion of Duncan Hines, a company they liked.

If reading doesn’t strike your fancy, but you want to do something more unique than simply eating ice cream from the supermarket or from a chain store, you can head down to Munchies in Pico-Robertson. The kosher candy store makes its own pareve and dairy full-fat ice cream, and also serves a nonfat ice cream called Flavor Burst, a vanilla soft-serve striped with one of 10 different flavors, such as cheesecake or wild cherry.

“Everyone is selling the same thing, so we try to be innovative and different,” said Gagy Shagalov, one of Munchies proprietors.

And for Valley folks, there is New York Scoop, which aims to give consumers a taste of the ice cream parlors of yore. It serves regular and low-carb kosher ice cream, as well as Italian ices and gelato, frozen hot chocolate and old-style favorites like egg creams, banana splits and sundaes.

“I’m definitely eating more ice cream now that I opened this store,” Grossman said. “I try to keep it moderate, but not a day goes by without ice cream.”

New York Scoop is located at 200401 1/2 Ventura Boulevard, Woodland Hills. For more information call (818)708-5174 or see Munchies Sweet Emporium is located at 8859 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 777-0221.

Kids Page

Somewhere New

Are you traveling to new places this summer?
Maybe you’re exploring the desert like the Israelites are in this week’s Torah portion — Chukat. They’re getting closer and closer to Israel, but they have to pass through the lands of many different tribes.
Maybe you will be visiting Israel, too.
If you do, please write to us about your experiences there.

Divine Wedding

Years ago, my husband and I climbed the alleged Mount Sinai, the Perseus shower streaked the Egyptian night sky with shooting stars.

At the summit, as God pulled the sun up from the fragrant desert floor, Jonathan held up a ring and proposed.

It is written in Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), "Every day a voice goes forth from Sinai." That dawn, I heard the reverberation of a sacred voice in the words, "Would you be willing to spend you life with me…."

The revelation at Mount Sinai was a wedding. It was an eternal, loving joining between God and Israel. The story that we read is but a veil covering a radiance we must allow ourselves to know.

This Torah portion, Ki Tisa, begins with Moses taking a census. God chooses Betzalel to be the artisan of the Tabernacle. Moses climbs Mount Sinai, shrouded in mist and mystery, while the Israelites below build their golden idol. When Moses sees this he breaks the stone tablets and grinds up the golden calf, making the Israelites drink it. Moses ascends the mountain a second time. When he descends his face is so radiant he must wear a veil.

But when a light wind blows from the west, the mist is disturbed and we see the radiant face just beneath the veil of text.

Moses was the master alchemist. He climbed the mountain and hid in the cleft of the tzur (rock). He spoke with the philosopher’s stone face to face. He held the two tablets of prime matter in his hands. When he ground up the calf into a fine powder, stirred it into water and held it up into the air — a brilliant liquid shimmering with flakes of gold — he created a dizzyingly potent potion, a love potion, an elixir of life. A toast!

We drink of it. Our eyes are opened to see beneath the veil.

Ki Tisa is not about frenzied idol worship, but the detailed description of a spectacular wedding feast between God and the people Israel.

God the lover and Moses the beloved take a census of who shall be invited, and they make a long guest list. Betzalel is singled out to decorate the tent, arrange the flowers and adorn the feast.

Time passes and we find ourselves in the whirl of the banquet festivity. There is dancing and singing, and in the very center, what seems to be a golden calf, but it is the glittering pile of precious wedding gifts. High on the bima, under a chupah of cloud, God presents Moses with the marriage contract, our ketuba. One commentator points out that verse 31:18 which is translated, "When He finished (ke’challoto) speaking with him, He gave Moses the two tablets…" could also be read "As his bride (also ke’challoto) speaking with him." Some commentators understand Israel to be the groom and Torah the bride. Moses turns around in the chupah, and faces the guests. He lifts the contract for all to see and then smashes the glass beneath his foot, or breaks a plate as in the traditional tennaim (engagement) ceremony.

Now it is time for yichud, when husband and wife are alone together for the first time. In Exodus 33:12-23, we read excerpts from a conversation between God and Moses, sounding particularly romantic: "Pray let me know Your ways, that I may know You and continue in Your favor. You have truly gained My favor and I have singled you out by name. Oh let me behold Your presence! I will make all My goodness pass before you."

And God’s hand reaches out for Moses.

Moses comes down from the mountain blushing, a crimson glow in his cheeks. When he went in to the tent to meet our love, he removed his veil, so only God should see his glowing face, but when he left the tent, he lowered the veil.

When the potion wore off the children of Israel looked around them. Once again they were in the desert, long dragged-out footsteps stretching behind them. And they said to one another, "Love is in this place and we did not know it. What have we been doing all of this time? Where have we been? Is this the desert, or is it Gan Eden? Are we lost and alone, or are we this moment caught up in a fierce union with God? Are we wandering with sandals filled with dust, or are we soaring on eagle’s wings? Is it Purim or Yom Kippur?"

We look from one to the other and wonder what is the face beneath the face we wear every day? Sometimes the beauty of the other is as allusive as a sunray on the water. On Purim we celebrate the masquerade of living. Now, we discard the masks and unlid our eyes. We seek the radiant face beneath the veil.

Messy world. Angry, idolatrous world. Tired, hungry, sick and sorry world. But if we could lift the sooty, splattered veil….

This thing between God and Israel, it is not that we are in covenant. It is that we are in love. Every day a voice comes forth from Sinai and begs your answer, "Would you be willing to spend your life with Me?"


Zoë Klein is associate rabbi at Temple Isaiah.

A Desert High in Palm Springs

While nearby flatlands warm under perfect 60-degree winter weather, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway transports visitors to a pristine snow-covered forest. In just 10 minutes, this aerial tram carries passengers nearly 6,000 feet. The beautiful 14,000 acres of Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness area are among the most visit-worthy in this heavily tourist destination.

As you ride in the world’s largest rotating cars of the Aerial Tramway, the flora and fauna include everything one would see driving from the hot Sonora Desert of Mexico to the Transitional (alpine) Zone of Alaska. The highlights read like entries from a naturalist guide. From the main road nearest the tram, Highway 111, to the tram station, this green cienega, or Spanish marsh, nurtures cottonwood, sycamore, wild grape, mesquite and native Washingtonia filifera palm trees. Barrel cactus, cholla, prickly pear and yucca grow amid springtime wildflowers, including lupine, Canterbury bells and sunflowers.

Desert bighorn sheep, kit and gray foxes, bobcats, coyotes and ringtail raccoons also make their home here. As the tram climbs, wild apricot trees stand amid metamorphic rock, gneisses and schists. Deer and mountain lion roam among chaparral. And as the elevation rises, evergreens, firs and oaks thin as the peak approaches.

At the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, there are a host of trails — including a three-quarters of a mile loop through picturesque Long Valley, just behind the Mountain Station that introduces visitors to regional plants and animals. A much longer path, at 5.5 miles, leads to the peak of Mount San Jacinto, the second-tallest mountain in Southern California at 10,834 feet.

The ideal tram departure time is just before sunset. The reversible 80-passenger cars revolve slowly from within, making two rotations and offering spectacular views. One popular option: capping off the day with a drink in the Top of the Tram Restaurant and the Elevations Restaurant while admiring the city lights below.

Erected in 1963, nearly 30 years after its inception, the tramway was named an engineering “wonder of the world” for its ingenious use of helicopters in erecting four of five support towers; 23,000 flight missions were required to carry workers, supplies and materials for the towers and the Mountain Station.

During the summer, the mercury reaches well into the 100s in Palm Springs, but the mountain offers more than 54 miles of hiking trails, camping and guided nature walks, at almost 40 degrees cooler.

Another day, my father and I opted to hike closer to sea level at nearby Palm Canyons. This ancient home of the band of Cahuilla (Agua Caliente) Indians boasts palms that are 200 years old, many of them with the natural foliage skirts that are removed on commercial palms. These layers of dried branches encircle the trunk-like structure of these trees, which technically are massive grasses rather than trees.

We learned these facts and more by joining a guided tour with Rocky, a native Hawaiian who turned tribal ranger after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps and 10 volunteering with the San Bernadino Police Department as a rescue tracker. His desert survival skills make him a perfect guide. Rocky showed us all the edibles and how the native peoples prepared acorns, made their homes and harvested the sweet date palm fruit growing high overhead.

We wandered amid giant palms, verdant grasses and a warm, picturesque creek that smelled of sulfur due to a high mineral content. Rocky pointed out one tiny, creek-side impression where a native family would have once ground their acorns (five such mini-ditches appear in rocks throughout the canyon).

In contrast to our inspiring, mellow days of hiking, one evening we attended the raucous “Palm Springs Follies,” a Rockette-style music and dance of the 1930s and ’40s with performers old enough to have lived it. Amazingly youthful seniors age 56 to 86 strut their stuff in between international vaudeville acts from November through May.

Jewish impresario Riff Markowitz, a former television producer, serves as emcee for this three-hour extravaganza, leading the audience through a show peppered with Jewish jokes — even a few relating to travel.

At one point he turned his attention to the holiday of Thanksgiving, saying no Jews were aboard the Mayflower.

“Do you know why?” he asked. “There were no first-class seats.”

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is located at One Tramway
Road. The cost is about $20. Tramcars depart every half hour from 10 a.m. to 8
p.m. For more information, call (888) 515-TRAM or visit “> .

Cooking with Chocolate

I absolutely love preparing chocolate desserts for Passover, and now that chocolate is considered a health food, it will give you all the more reason to include it in your Passover recipes. Chocolate desserts are easy to make, and you can create a variety of non-dairy chocolate desserts for Passover that will bring pleasure to everyone.

Over the years, I have created new chocolate recipes for my family to enjoy at our Passover dessert table. They include Passover florentines covered with chocolate, a chocolate-glazed marble cake with a texture similar to pound cake, Passover “French toast” and a chocolate espresso soufflé, made without butter or cream. All of these recipes conform to the Passover food restrictions.

The Chocolate soufflé recipe is adapted from my cookbook “Master Chefs Cook Kosher” and was created by Chef Ken Frank on my TV show. Hot, it rises to the occasion, and when cold, it becomes a rich, dense chocolate cake.

An assortment of chocolate Passover desserts will add something special to your seder. I serve them year-round and often fill a box to take as a gift when invited out to dinner.

  • Ken’s Chocolate Espresso Soufflé
  • Unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine for coating the dishes
  • Granulated sugar for coating the dishes
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3 tbs. Passover powdered sugar*
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup freshly brewed espresso coffee, warm
  • 6 ounces Passover semisweet chocolate, melted and warm
  • Passover powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Coat six to eight (depending on the volume of beaten egg whites) 1/2-cup soufflé dishes evenly with margarine and dust with sugar. Set aside.

Whip the egg whites in a clean, dry mixing bowl until frothy. Add the powdered sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form.

Combine the egg yolks, espresso, and chocolate in another bowl and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, quickly fold the egg-yolk mixture into the egg-white mixture. Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dishes up to the rim without disturbing the sugar lining. Bake for 8 minutes, until cooked through and crisp on top. To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve at once. Serves 6 to 8.

*If Passover powdered sugar is not available, powder the same amounts of granulated sugar in a blender or food processor and add 1/2 tsp. potato starch.

Passover Chocolate Marble Cake With Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup matzah cake meal
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 cup apple juice, wine or water
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup strong hot coffee or water

Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Blend 3/4 cup of the sugar with the salt and oil. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift the potato starch and matzah-cake meal together. Add them to the egg-yolk mixture alternately with the apple juice, wine or water.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff enough to hold a peak. Fold the beaten egg whites into the egg-yolk mixture. Pour half of the batter into another bowl and reserve.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cocoa powder and coffee, and fold this mixture into the reserved batter. Pour the two batters alternately (about 1 cup at a time) into a 10-inch (ungreased) tube pan.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in it comes out dry. Remove the cake from the oven; immediately invert the pan and let it cool. Loosen the sides and center of the cake with a sharp knife and unmold it onto a cake plate. Drizzle the Chocolate Glaze over the cake, allowing it to run over the sides.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 8 ounces Passover nondairy semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade or apricot preserves
  • 1/2 cup espresso coffee, cooled

Place chocolate, marmalade and espresso in the top of a double boiler over simmering water (or melt in a microwave) and using a wire whisk, beat until smooth. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Passover Florentines (Farfel-nut Thins)

  • 1 cup matzah farfel
  • 1 tablespoon matzah cake meal
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter or pareve margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • Chocolate Glaze (see recipe, above)

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the matzah farfel, matzah cake meal, sugar and salt, and mix well. Pour the butter or margarine over the farfel mixture and blend until the sugar dissolves. Add the egg and vanilla or orange juice and blend. Mix in the almonds. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 10 to 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with foil and drop the farfel mixture in teaspoons onto the foil, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before lifting from the foil. Drizzle chocolate glaze over cookies. Makes about 8 dozen.

Passover “French Toast” with

Chocolate Sauce

  • 6 to 8 (1-inch thick) slices Passover Sponge Cake
  • 1/2 cup milk or orange juice
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel or orange peel
  • Unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine
  • Cinnamon-sugar (1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • to 1/4 cup sugar)
  • Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)

In a large, shallow bowl, combine the milk, eggs and lemon or orange peel and beat well. Soak the sponge cake slices in the milk mixture.

In a skillet, heat the butter. Fry the cake on both sides until brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Serve with Chocolate Sauce.

Chocolate Sauce

  • 8 ounces Passover semisweet chocolate cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry preserves, strained
  • 1/2 cup espresso coffee, cooled

Place chocolate, preserves and espresso in the top of a double boiler over simmering water (or melt in a microwave) and, using a wire whisk, beat until smooth. Makes about 2 cups.