Jerusalem notes: Start-ups with a heart

Rochel Sylvetsky,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Rochel Sylvetsky
Rochel Sylvetsky is Senior Consultant to Arutz Sheva's English site and serves as op-ed and Judaism editor. She is a former Chairperson of Emunah Israel (1991-96), CEO/Director of Kfar Hanoar Hadati Youth Village, member of the Emek Zevulun Regional Council and the Religious Education Council of Israel's Education Ministry. She has degrees in Mathematics and Jewish Education.

I went to my Kupat Cholim Klalit (Health Service) Medical Center several days before Yom Kippur and was prescribed an urgent medication. The doctor explained that I had to drink 10 or more glasses of liquid a day while taking it or my kidneys could be damaged irreparably.

That's fine, my rabbi said, telling me to drink "leshiurim" – an amount of liquid that is a bit less than the average shot glass (shiur) and can be drunk every 9 minutes on the fast (there are varied opinions on the gap between drinks) . Not only is it not considered breaking the fast if medically prescribed, he said, it is actually a mitzvah to drink if a doctor says it is necessary.  

There is even a prayer in which the person involved expresses the hope that the following year he will fast without medical issues.

That's what the rabbi said. It didn't help me. Just the thought of drinking was enough to make my eyes fill with tears. Worse, the thought of having to get up from my seat in shul every ten or twenty minutes to go somewhere where I could not be seen, pour a thimbleful of liquid from a bottle and then return was really depressing.

That is, until the nurse who did my blood tests – I have no idea if she is observant -  said: "I see on the computer you are taking these pills. Do you want shiurim?"

"What does wanting have to do with it?" I asked sadly.

Smiling, she handed me a box filled with small packets of liquid, looking exactly like mini exemplars of the frozen ices children enjoy in the summer, each less than a shiur, each with a hechsher on it. Pre-packed "shiurim."

Unbelievable! All I did on Yom Kippur was bring a bagful of packets to shul, take one out every ten minutes or so, covering it with my hand so no one would notice, lean over the bag, tear or bite off the top corner of the packet to open it, squeeze the contents into my mouth and swallow– all this took about five seconds. No one in shul noticed except the persons sitting on my left and right to whom I explained the situation.

                                    Shiurim packets                                                              INN:RS

Thank G-d for Israel.

Where, but in a Jewish state, would anyone manufacture something like this and hand it out at no cost in a nationwide, non-religious health service?  Where else would anyone care that much about the halakha and also about the sick person's convenience and embarrassment?

A start-up with a Jewish heart – one that will make no one's fortune because it is a product of the kindness that money cannot buy.

 If that hasn't sent you straight to the Aliyah office, here's another uniquely Israeli Sukkot Jewish heart start-up:

Sleeping in the sukkah is the norm for men in Israel , so Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Karem built dorming sukkahs this year with cots for those who normally sleep in the sukkah and want to stay in the hospital over the holiday to be near their loved ones, especially since they cannot use the phone on those days. There have always been sukkahs at Israel's hospitals for visitors' meals, but for sleeping?

So  nu? Are you at the Aliyah office yet?

Do you know, did you notice, if you came for the holidays, that:

  • Egged buses flash neon Shana Tova wishes in the space above the driver that normally just shows their final destination. Towards Sukkot that changes to Chag Sameach..
  • The stores are packed for days before each holiday in every neighborhood – religious, non-observant, mixed, upscale, downscale, north, south and center
  • The Machane Yehuda (and every other) shuk is a madhouse before each holiday
  • And every food store competes for the lowest honey prices.
  • Ashkenazim, like me, in the markets are trying hopelessly to identify the symbolic foods for the nights of Rosh Hashana. There seems to be an endless number of them according to the Yerushalmi custom – like the Sephardic custom – and they have been adopted by many Ashkenazim, including my family (I just cannot remember which is which).
  • There is an eerie quiet on Yom Kippur. No transportation from erev Yom Kippur till after the fast, silence in the normally bustling streets.
  • There is little fresh produce at the beginning of Chol Hamoed, probably because the IDF closure prevents Arab drivers from transporting vegetables and everyone else is not working.
  • Almost everyone is on vacation during Chol Hamoed and the traffic is impossible, but  no one stays home.
  • There are wonderful things to do, all planned especially for the national vacation days of Chol Hamoed.  From balloon exhibitions to Torah lectures, festivals and an IDF special program, museum exhibits – something for every family's taste, all over the country. Radio, newspapers, social media are filled with suggestions for enjoying the holiday.
  • The festive atmosphere is palpable before Sukkot if you go to the many areas where the Four Species are sold – more accurately, hawked – and sukkahs – prefab or from scratch – are for sale. Don't try to find parking.
  • Tens of thousands stream to the kotel for a mass Birkat Kohanim, Priestly blessing, on Chol Hamoed. Hoshana Rabba is just as crowded. The air is filled with holiness.

Nu?  What's keeping you in galut (exile)?

You can choose your Simchat Beit Hashoeva every night.. Simchat Beit Hashoeva dancing at Merkaz Harav Yeshiva can be seen on a screen outside the building for the crowds who cannot possibly fit into the packed yeshiva, where VIP and MKs join the rabbis and students in dance.  This year, along with all the candidates for the approaching Jerusalem elections, rabbis danced with torches in memory of those juggled by Torah sages at the Beit Hamikdash celebrations.

Hakafot Shniot are the place to be after havdala on Shmini Atzeret, the last day of the holiday. They take the place of the second day celebrated in the Diaspora – but since the holiday is over for Israelis, there are bands and the music is heard all over the country, from north to south, from Kfar Chabad to Rabin Square.

Yes the best-selling book "Start-up Nation" shows how the innovative minds of Israelis have made the tiny Jewish state an international leader in the world of hi-tech, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, the sciences and more.

But not every idea that makes Israel special is international. Some don't even make it to the local media.  An entire genre of innovation and creativity has emerged that focuses on Torah observance in the Jewish state Sometimes you have to need it to find out about it and sometimes it is staring right at you. Either way, it succeeds in making your heart leap and your throat catch.

And that brings us to a unique Israeli non-start–up, but you have to live here (nu?)  to realize that during this entire season no new project can be begun. Forget the new shelving or having the doors you purchased installed. The ubiquitous response is "acharei hachagim" – after the holidays!  Did I mention that this is the Jewish state and the whole country is on vacation? That includes workmen. Good for a laugh – or a sigh because once the holidays are over, you have to wait your turn.

So come live here already – just don't make aliyah over the High Holydays unless you want to put up those shelves by yourself! Or maybe you know how to put up mine?