Happy Making

LA’s Celebrate Israel Festival Rewind

main_israelfestivalYom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s independence day, is my favorite holiday and the inspiration for the best thing that happens in Los Angeles all year long: the Celebrate Israel Festival! Annually, the Israeli American Council (IAC) teams with other Jewish organizations and sponsors to throw a massive celebration of all things Israel.

This year, 20,000 (!) people came together to celebrate Israel. The organizers’ creativity never ceases to amaze. Camels and carnivals and gaga, oh my! Feel free to vicariously attend through me.

“The Celebrate Israel Walk” kicked off the day. So many people came out to sing and dance down LA’s streets, clothed in blue-and-white wear and Israeli flags.

walk for israel 2014Never one to pass up an opportunity to dress in themed attire, especially when it comes to Israel, my friend Miri and I expertly demonstrate Israel Swag Style.

israel swag
Get the look! (Clockwise) Miri giddily grabs “I Heart Israel” sunglasses and bracelets, and plenty of flags to wave and share. I glamorize with blue and white eye makeup.
(**Important: Go heavy on the blue and silver glitter. You’ll know you’re wearing enough when a trail of sparkles follows you wherever you go and sticks to everyone you hug.)
Miri and I show off our “I Heart Israel” temporary tattoos…totally kosher!

Rinat, the star of a popular Israeli children’s show, performed to an enthusiastic group of yeladim (kiddos).

Rinat performsHuge roller coasters and moon bounces, tons of carnival games and artists, Jewish organizations representing the whole of Jewish life, Israeli food and ice cream, drum circles, Israeli scouts, arts and crafts, and sooooo much more. I spent the entire day in the sunshine exploring and celebrating Israel.

(Clockwise) An airshow just for us(!); Gaga, a popular Israeli game
you might remember from summer camp; a camel contentedly smiling between rides;
a sea salt box replaced your ordinary sandbox to teach kids about the Dead Sea;
and the Moroccan tent provided a shady place to rest.

For the grand finale, The Idan Raichel Project performed. Famous for fusing all the sounds of Israel, thousands danced and waved Israeli flags, creating a blue-and-white sea for as far as the eye could see.

The Idan Raichel Project. The last time I saw Idan, he had dreadlocks and the band was performing in the desert somewhere in Israel. It was an epic setting for his earthy music.

Big kudos to all the organizers, some of whom I know and who inspire me with their enormous generosity and true love for Israel. What a gorgeous day! The best! I’m bustin’ with Jewish love and pride.

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♪ ♫ Note-able: Moshav

I wouldn’t be the first to discuss music’s power to lift and transport, but Judaism goes further, saying that music actually has the ability to transcend and elevate the ordinary to holy. That’s a mighty big claim, but I intuitively sense its truth.


The Moshav Band exemplifies this concept for me. I love them. I have for years. Some bands you get bored with, not these guys. They sing from their souls, their melodies blend modern with ancient and inspire without preaching.  They’re just authenticity and love, they are.

From the first day I started this blog, I knew I would spotlight Moshav at some point. I have no affiliation with them—I’m just so appreciative of their work, how could I keep my mouth shut? Religious or secular, Hebrew speaking or not, great music is great music.

So, when I saw they’d launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their next two albums, I figured the time had come.

Let me introduce you to these guys with my 5 favorite Moshav tunes:

    1. Higher and Higher
    2. Return Again
    3. Chicki Boom Boom
    4. Abba Shimon
    5. Eliyahu Hanavi

Narrowing it down wasn’t easy.

If you feel elevated after listening, elevate them. Being the generous one feels good. Special music like theirs isn’t everywhere.

Personally speaking, their music can change my mood. Guaranteed. If I’m in a bad mood, I feel better. If I feel disconnected, I get reconnected. And if I already feel great, my gratitude is given voice as I sing along with them. That’s mind over matter, that’s transcendence, that’s the power of music, that’s what Judaism was talking about.

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Happy Making: Israeli Brainy Games

brainygames_joyishGame nights are one of my favorite ways to spend an evening with friends. I have awesome memories of loud nights of Pictionary and Celebrity, where my competitive streak has led my team to glorious victory…or spectacular moping.

However, as kids have come to dominate my cohort’s time, game nights have grown less frequent. Still, I’m always up for a good game of Rummikub, Backgammon or Master Mind, three of my faves that don’t require a crowd. Imagine my delight this week when I learned, completely per chance, that all three have Israeli or Jewish roots! Now I love them even more.

Turns out…

RUMMIKUB was invented by Ephraim Hertzano, a Romanian-born Jew, who emigrated to Mandate Palestine in the early 1930s. Ergo, he was a Zionist. Be still my beating heart. I have fond memories of sitting around my grandparents’ table, playing this game with their wooden set from Israel. Intensely concentrating, I’d try to concoct an incredibly disruptive move that would flip the table upside-down! (My grandfather would usually do it first though.)

Fun fact: There are 3 versions of the game—American, Sabra (Israeli) and International. Modern Rummikub sets only include the Sabra rules, and Rummikub remains Israel’s #1 export game.

When visiting my parents, I inevitably end up sitting across from my mom playing MASTER MIND. I don’t recommend you go up against her. She puts me to shame every time by breaking the code within 3 or 4 tries! And I’m not talking about the cheesy 4-hole version of the game; we only play Master Mind Deluxe in my house.

Fun fact: Mordecai Meirowitz, an Israeli postmaster and telecommunications expert invented the modern game in 1970.

Great BACKGAMMON skills impress me. I’ve played  SHESH BESH (the Israeli name for the game) on dates and judged the guy based on his skills. Does this make me a bad person? What can I say, I like big brains.

Fun fact: Backgammon is one of the oldest board games for two players in history. Called Nard before acquiring its modern names, it was first referenced in…the Talmud!

These are timeless brainy games—that’s what I love about them. They’re mind sharpening and gimmick free: no batteries, buzzers, graphics or props (which, by the way, make them super Shabbat friendly too). Winning requires logic, strategy and a whiff of luck.

Wrapping up, I dedicate this post to my bold brother who launched his first business this week! He’s one of those brilliant freaks who solves puzzles in a blink, and cracks Rubik’s cubes in under 2 minutes behind his back. Brain-bending games are his thing. So having hand-picked the best new adds to today’s market, he’s sharing his finds. Feel free to visit his site, DR’s Toy Chest and wish him Mazal Tov!

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Happy Making: Talking Dogs

Dog_Kelev_Joyish“It’s a great mitzvah to always be happy.” Rabbi Nachman’s deep and (deceptively) simple words give me the perfect excuse to share happy-making finds like this ridiculous app that animates your pets and has made. my. week.

See, I have this quirk/problem/tic where I talk to and for every animal I see. This habit began innocently at home with humans. Before my baby brother learned to talk, I’d talk for him. He’d grunt, I’d translate, “He wants this. He needs that.”

In time, my brother began speaking for himself, and my penchant needed a new outlet; and found one in anthropomorphizing (yes, there’s a word for this), meaning speaking for animals…all animals, but in my case, especially dog animals. For some reason I understand them more than any other four-legged friend.

What is it about a wet nose that melts my heart? Maybe it’s that dogs themselves are hearts, hearts with feet. And that opinion doesn’t belong to me alone.

The word ‘dog’ in Hebrew is Kelev כלב (KEH-lev). Looking more closely, we see:

“Keh” = כ = “like a”
“Lev” = לב = “heart”

Then “Kelev” כלב literally translates to “like a heart!” How apropos.

Examples like this got me hooked on Hebrew. The language isn’t just a language. It contains secrets and lessons; the words themselves point to and reflect the subject’s core essence.

Below, I’ve shared my Feivel Flapjack and Rocky dog voices with you. They come from the heart.


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