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How to bring more Israel into your children's lives.
aking the whole family to Israel (at a mini-
mum cost of several thousand dollars) or
sending your children to a Jewish day
school for 12 years (a mere hundreds of
thousands of dollars) is not in everyone's budget. Nor
can everyone become involved in the synagogue — all
activities likely to help families feel closer to Israel.
Despite financial or time restraints, many Jewish par-
ents want to make a connection with Israel. They want
their children to love the state, to feel it is their history
and their home, to know that Israel is a central part of
their lives. The question is, how?
This month is a good time to start. Monday, April
26, is Yom HaAztmaut, Israel Independence Day.
Whether you're a parent with longstanding Zionist
involvement who is looking for new ideas to bolster
your support, or one just now considering ways to
help a child become interested in. the Israel, local
educators and parents offer some tips.
Stuart and Suzanne Gildenberg are the parents
of Melissa, Mitchell and Brenna, students at Hillel
Day School of Metropolitan Detroit. Suzanne
loves the Zionist education and connections her
children get at school — a commitment that also
pervades the family home.
When Melissa was bat mitzvah, the
Gildenbergs wanted to reinforce "our ties to
Israel, as well as honor our guests in a way we
thought was meaningful." So they made dona-
tions: to victims of terror in Israel, to the Israel
Defense Forces and to Magen David Adom, Israel
blood donation and ambulance service.
Melissa also lit a candle for the State of Israel dur-
ing her candlelighting service.
The family makes an effort to attend Zionist activi-
ties, both those communitywide and events at their
synagogue, Congregation Shaarey Zedek, and the
Gildenbergs like to plant trees in Israel.
On Tu b'Shevat, the parents plant trees in honor of
their children, and the children plant in honor of their
Or maybe your children want to start nice and simple
— with a Zionist connection that is literally at their
fingertips. Tami U. Elliot is Jewish family educator at
Adat Shalom Synagogue. She recommends the follow-
ing Web sites for families looking to learn more about
• Find out about life on a kibbutz
by visiting www. ardo m. co . il/desvegiyahel. htm
• Check out gifts made in Israel at wwwshopinis-
rael.corn and is raelsho p 1 . co m
• See Israeli art (also available for purchase) at:
Elliot also suggests baking a birthday cake for Israel
and decorating your home with handmade pictures of
the Kotel — the Western Wall, the city of Jerusalem,
and pictures of Israel you have found on the Internet.
"Remind your kids that when they say the Shema,
Tisrael' refers to the Jewish people and to their Jewish
homeland in Israel," she says.
Another idea is to read stories about Israel, old and
new: stories about our biblical heroes and their adven-
tures in the land are always popular.
There are also a number of children's stories about
Israel today, such as: Sammy Spider's First Trip to Israel:
A Book About the Five Senses by Sylvia A. Rouss (pre-
school-kindergarten), Snow in Jerusalem by Deborah
Da Costa (age 5-8), Count Your Way Through Israel by
James Haskins (4-8) Israel Fun for Little Hands by
Sally Springer (preschool), Israel ABCs: A Book About
the People and Place ofIsmel by Lawrence Schimel (4-
8), The Gang of Four: Nest of the Jerusalem Eagle by
Yaacov Peterseil (9-12), Jerusalem 3000: Kids Discover
the City of Gold! by Alan Paris (8-12), King Solomon 6-
the Queen of Sheba by Blu Greenberg (6-9), and Mli's
Jerusalem Scrapbook by Sylvia A. Rouss (4-8).
And yes, there are even video games with an Israeli
connection. Elliot recommends "Avner Travels in Time
— Judah & the Maccabees" (6-12). Check out this,
and more Jewish software, at www.jevvishsoftware.com
Gail Greenberg and Debbie Rosenberg, program
coordinators for JEFF (Jewish Experiences For
Families), a division of the Agency for Jewish
Education of Metropolitan Detroit, encourage families
to think food.
"Have an Israel night," Greenberg says. "Serve
favorite Israeli foods like falafel, hummus or Israeli-
made olives and pickles. While dining, listen to
Hebrew or Israeli songs with your children."
Greenberg and Rosenberg also suggest taking an
imaginary trip to Israel. "Set up a pretend El Al plane
in your living room," Greenberg says. "Pick out books,
posters, maps or postcards with pictures of Israel (good
resources are your synagogue, library, or a travel agent),
and explore the country with your children from your
Another idea: Learn to speak the language.
Greenberg says families should try some basic Hebrew
words or phrases. Use a children's Hebrew-English dic-
tionary and make a game of "renaming" things with
their Hebrew word. Try counting or singing the
One of the best ways to get to know a country is to
meet its citizens. If you and your family would like to
meet Israelis, call the Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Detroit's Israel and Overseas Department
to find families living locally.
Finally, Greenberg and Rosenberg recommend the
following Web sites: www.israelemb.org/kids/ (take a
virtual trip to Israel), zigzagworld.com/hebrewforme/
(interactive Hebrew games), wwvv.akhlah.com/ (gen-
eral Jewish knowledge) and
(games for children).
More ideas from JEFF:
• Learn about some of the differences between
the United States and Israel:
Capitals: Washington, D.C., Jerusalem
Mottos: "In God We Trust," "Never Again"
National Anthems: The Star Spangled Banne);
Hatikvah (The Hope)
National Holidays: The Fourth of July, Yom
National Bird: bald eagle, none (though some
say it is the "Construction Crane!")
National Flower: American Beauty Rose,
National Flag: Stars and Stripes, Star of David
National Monument: Statue of Liberty, Knesset
National Symbol: Liberty Bell, Magen David (Star
National Colors: red, white and blue; blue and white
National Currency: dollar, shekel
Memorials: Lincoln Memrial, Yad Vashem
• Play the Israeli version of Jacks, called Chamesh
Avanim (Five Stones)
What you need: Israeli Jacks or five small stones.
How to play: Keep one stone in your hand. Drop
the other four stones on the ground. Toss the single
stone in the air. While the stone is in the air, pick up
one stone from the ground, and try to catch the stone
in the air before it falls. Repeat this until all stones are
Continue the game by picking up two at a time,
then three, then four. Your turn ends if you let the
stone fall to the ground. You can add other steps, like
clapping your hands, slapping your knees, etc., before
picking up the stones.