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Israel Observations 

July 16, 2017

“The inherent qualities the Palmach sought to in still in each recruit were starting to take shape – stamina, stoic outlook, tolerance of pain, selflessness, courage, humility, and a soldier’s honour as opposed to a fool’s pride.” -HaPalmach: The Fighters Who Gave Us Israel

Torah Parsha (Portion) Matot-Massei in a Nutshell from

Moses conveys the laws governing the annulment of vows to the heads of the tribes of Israel. War is waged against Midian for their role in plotting the moral destruction of Israel, and the Torah gives a detailed account of the war spoils and how they were allocated amongst the people, the warriors, the Levites and the high priest. 

The tribes of Reuben and Gad (later joined by half of the tribe of Manasseh) ask for the lands east of the Jordan as their portion in the Promised Land, these being prime pastureland for their cattle. Moses is initially angered by the request, but subsequently agrees on the condition that they first join, and lead, in Israel’s conquest of the lands west of the Jordan.

The forty-two journeys and encampments of Israel are listed, from the Exodus to their encampment on the plains of Moab across the river from the land of Canaan. The boundaries of the Promised Land are given, and cities of refuge are designated as havens and places of exile for inadvertent murderers. The daughters of Tzelafchad marry within their own tribe of Manasseh, so that the estate which they inherit from their father should not pass to the province of another tribe.

Well, I hope I am not going to bore you, but for my Blog, I am going to share some of my observations from my recent trip to Israel. Some of brief quirky points and others may be more detailed.

I know it is not always possible, but it is truly special to share a family Simcha (Jews often use Simcha in its capacity as a Hebrew and Yiddish noun meaning festive occasion) with family. With all the crap in the world, sharing good times and being together is so important.

Noticed a new fashion trend, so many men wear shoes and no socks, even with suits. Yip… Often their pants are rolled up, maybe to show a bit of skin…

I was surprised at how many people smoke in Israel. I just say why???

Sitting on the beach, it struck me, not that I could not swim due to an abundance of jellyfish and the purple jellyfish flags, but that most people on the beach were Jewish. People who had originated from all parts of the world and all with such different backgrounds have come together to make a new home.

Besides some of the drivers, I honestly felt totally safe always. Walking around on Shabbos was such a treat seeing so many people out and about and feeling the spirit of Shabbos.

IMG_4556Israel has been shaped by the legacy of various people and ‘organisations’ (for want of a better word). It was a privilege to go to museums honouring their legacies. One of our trip highlights was visiting the Palmach Museum[i] in Tel Aviv. What stood out for me was the values of the Palmach. These values are not only applicable to the Palmach, but to us all:

  • Dedication
  • Friendships
  • Sacrifice

IMG_4662The other was a visit to the Menachem Begin[ii] heritage centre in Jerusalem. Begin epitomises what a leader should be, with a focus on what his job was and not on his own gains. Begin never strayed from his core values and principals throughout his years in politics. His core values as a leader were based on a human being’s basic needs and what he learnt from Ze’ev Jabotinsky[iii] before coming to Israel. These being:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Health
  • Education

Peace is the beauty of life, the sunshine, a child’s smile, a mother’s love, a father’s love…. all these things and more, and more” – Begin

This is slightly off the topic, but I thought I would share as I thought about it on a walk-in Ashdod. I have always been a fan of Lance Armstrong. Recently he started a Podcast called the Forward Podcast. I think the basis of the name is that in life you must move forward and he is trying to do this by doing a podcast. Israel epitomises the spirit of moving forward. Just look at the development going on… To date, he has not wanted to talk much about cycling in his Podcast and has focussed on his guests. In the book, “Peak Performance” that I have previously mentioned, the authors talk about how by giving back you can renew your interest/ avoid burnout in a sport or interest in art. They give some examples. I am sure that by doing his Podcast, Lance has reinvigorated his love for cycle racing and has started a daily TDF podcast called Stages, with insights and tips, which I have really enjoyed. Another athlete who did the same was the swimmer Anthony Ervin


who tied for Gold in the 2000 Olympics, he then went off the rails only to renew his interest after giving swim lessons to young kids and then went onto win a Gold at the Rio Olympics, 16 years after Sydney. Why I am mentioning Anthony is that he is in Israel for the Maccabi Games, I noticed a picture of him with one of my swimming buddies, Debbie Hilton Silver, who is also competing and set her own PB’s to get a few medals, and his autobiography ‘Chasing Water[iv]‘ which is brilliant.

Back to Lance. He describes that bike racing is a few things. I loved his analogy:

  • Running a marathon
  • Playing a game of chess
  • Driving a NASCAR (I suppose a bit of bumper bashing?)
  • Running for president

Back to Lance again. When asked several years ago, why I was a fan of Lance (I was trying to get him to come speak in Australia at a school function, before the doping scandal). I mentioned that his values tied in with the values of the school. These being:

  • Love of the land – our Love for Israel Yahadut (Judaism) and Tziyonut (Zionism), and his for Austin Texas. Lance recently visited Israel and has not stopped raving about his trip.
  • Charity and kindness – he started, the Livestrong[v] Foundation, one of the biggest IMG_4796 2cancer research charities ever set up. In Israel, I am constantly amazed by how much has been given to Israel from Diaspora Jews and what Israelis do to help each other, even in the poorest of poor areas.
  • Life-long, independent learners who pursue excellence and strive to achieve their potential – reading Lance’s books and Johann Bruyneel’s book you could see how much work and training went into being a champion. (I think that even with the use of drugs, he did up the ante on training and race preparation) People often said that Jan Ulrich was the most talented cyclist of the time, but he did not get the same results (and was also caught for doping offences). Just walking around in Israel, I am constantly amazed at how much has been achieved in Israel in its 60 years as an independent state. How the founding Zionists built such a strong and vibrant ‘first-ish‘ world country. Us as individuals need to strive to learn more about, Israel, our religion and much more to grow.

Both Loren’s sister and a friend mentioned that with all the arguing, bickering, bureaucracy and Israel’s constant threats, things do get done. She said that she felt that they get value for their rates and taxes with a well-maintained city and great facilities for young and old.

How can I not mention the food? There is nothing like an Israeli breakfast. Not to mention everything else I had to try, including some very good #LovecraftBeer.

I am currently reading Nike founder, Phil Knight’s autobiography. “Shoe Dog”. I loved this extract regarding Phil’s 1st employee’s views on running “…. Johnson believed that runners are G-d’s chosen, that running, done right, in the correct spirit and with the proper form, is a mystical exercise, no less than meditation or prayer, and thus he felt called to help runners reach their nirvana….”

On the topic of hard work and dedication, I would like to mention one of my running buddies, Len Bryer who won an age group gold in the Maccabi half marathon inIMG_4734 Jerusalem. I have watched how methodical Len has been in his training and how hard he has trained over the last year to achieve this in very tough conditions. The race was run at night to avoid the heat, but I am sure it was over 30 when they started, the course was hilly and very slippery running on the cobbles through the old city. Besides Len’s training he was the Maccabi track and field manager, so he also had to worry about the rest of his team. Also, well done to Daniel Bierenkrant on his brilliant time.

Another Quote from Phil Knight “inspiration, he learned, can come from quotidian[vi] things. Things you might eat. Or find lying around the house

I come to Jerusalem. There, the sky is blue and memory becomes clear.” –  Menachem Begin

A high point for me of a trip to Jerusalem is visiting the Kotel. I especially like to go and Daven there and often took a morning walk (or jog) to Daven there. On the way, back to my hotel, I noticed an oldish Haredi man walking fast. Not wanting to be outdone I caught up to him and made a nice friendly comment. We got into a conversation that was very special. He gave me hope and encouragement with his ‘Chizuk’, smile and sincerity. He asked personal questions and glowed with discussing my responses. It was an experience with lessons that will not be forgotten. The next day I bumped into him again. It is these “Israel” experiences that are so inspiring, but so hard to describe.

IMG_4813Watching the light show at the Jaffa Gate and on walls of the old city, depicting the celebrations of Israel regaining control of Jerusalem 50 years ago, I said to Loren with pride, “what would Jerusalem look like if this had not occurred…” 


Loren and I hummed and hard about going to Yad Vashem, but decided a short visit was important. I said that I wanted to see the train carriage display in the beautiful Jerusalem forest on Mt Herzl. The carriage is in mid-air with a railway track that ends… I think that this epitomises us Jews, who at times have had no way forward and nowhere to go, but have somehow found a way through persecution and hardship to move forward and build a thriving country. A country that we can be proud to call our HOME.









[vi] Quotidian – means ordinary or very common.


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One Comment
  1. Mom permalink

    Wow Ian, even if I wasn’t so passionate about Israel I’d feel passionate after reading your blog, well done. I soo identified with so much you said. I want to know more about the man you chatted to to and from the Wall.We truly are blessed to have our own country to feel so much part of and to feel so proud of all it’s achieved against all odds! Xxx

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