Seeds of Inspiration: Israel Forever Bloggers
The Israel Forever bloggers are a diverse group of writers from around the world. They provide us with a dynamic collection of personal perspectives, insights, and stories that inspire others to explore and strengthen their own personal connection to Israel.
Who planted those seeds in them and encouraged them to become an inspiration to you, our Virtual Citizens of Israel?
In honor of Tu B’Shevat, we asked them to share their seeds of inspiration.
Here’s what they had to say:
Rhonda booked her first trip to Israel, traveling by herself, determined to initiate conversations with Israelis in cafes and shops for a fuller portrait of the country than that provided by news outlets in the States. She left Israel knowing that, “it’s more complex here than anyone in the Diaspora can grasp from their living rooms” and that she was in love with the country and the people. She is trying to make a career change into a role where she can work full time on behalf of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
I would have to say that as far as inspiration goes, my figure would be Dr. Elana Heideman, PhD. Through the highs and lows of the news, the seasons and the holidays, Elana advances forward. I truly think that the website for Israel Forever is the best out there. The content is superb, the actual graphic design at a superior level, and most importantly it is inclusive. Everyone can find something there of interest and it is not superficial. I truly have no idea where she has the time and the energy to keep the site at the level she maintains it at. What is especially inspirational is the ideas she introduces all the time- I don't know the well she draws from, but she does.
Varda Epstein is a writer in love with Israel, a mother of 12, and a grandmother, too. When not battling the trolls, Varda is a parent education expert and writer at Kars4kids, a Guidestar gold medal charity.
Prof. Wisse is unafraid to speak the truth: that there is no Arab-Israel conflict, but an Arab war against the Jews. Her brown eyes flash brilliance as she lays out the facts that underscore each undeniable point. There is no doubt that with her words and facts, she proves the mischaracterization of the nature of the war we face as a people. I like her Jewish pride, her bravery, and shining intelligence. I see her as utterly Jewish, and a heroine to her people. I want to be her, with my head held high, always a lady, never resorting to insult, proud to be Jewish, and piercingly intelligent.
Judi Felber is a creative writer, editor, educator and development expert who made Aliyah with her family in 2006 at the start of the Second Lebanon War. Combining her strong communication and critical thinking skills with a deep love of Israel, Judi is a Communications Coordinator at Israel Forever.
Are you an American Jew or a Jewish American or an Israeli?" These types of questions were the kinds that my friends and I would discuss and debate at our BBYO Shabbatons. They, and other questions like these, helped me focus on who I was in the world as a Jew and who I wanted to become. So, if I was to choose who influenced me to be involved in Israel advocacy and activism, I would have to say my friends in BBYO, many of whom I am still in touch with.
Steve Linde is senior features editor at The Jerusalem Post. He served as editor-in-chief for five years from July 2011, after working as managing editor, news editor and night editor since he started at the newspaper in 1997. He previously worked as a radio broadcaster at Israel Radio’s English News. Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, Linde grew up in Durban, South Africa, and has graduate degrees in sociology and journalism, the latter from the University of California at Berkeley. Linde made aliya in 1988, served in the IDF Artillery Corps, and lives in Jerusalem.
The person who inspired me most in my life was my late mother, Roseve (Saacks) Linde, who died of a rare disease in her native South Africa on Tu Bishvat in 1988 at the age of 54. My mom said she and my dad had provided me and my sister, Debbie Sandler, with roots and wings, roots in Judaism and Zionism, and wings to fly into the future, which landed us both in Israel. A speech and drama teacher by profession, she worked as an aliya emissary in Durban and later as national organizer of the Union of Jewish Women in Johannesburg.
Rolene Marks is a passionate advocate for Israel and appears on radio, television and has been published in numerous global publications. Rolene is a member of the Media Team Israel, an advocacy body that fights media bias as well as Truth be Told.
I consider my greatest purpose in life to be of service to my country and the Jewish people. It is always my intention to leave people feeling motivated, strong and proud of who they are and where they come from. I draw my greatest inspiration from the generations who came before us. It is my belief that they hold us high on their shoulders and we can and must never forget that they were the pioneers, survivors, martyrs, teachers and nation builders. When I look at the generation that comes after me I am inspired again. I see hope, continuity, enthusiasm, youth and future trailblazers. It is the unseen link of generation to generation. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.
Arsen Ostrovsky is the Executive Director of The Israeli-Jewish Congress (IJC), as well as an international human rights lawyer, national security and foreign policy analyst. He writes for a number of major publications and speaks regularly on topics related to: Arab-Israeli conflict, Antisemitism, Middle East Foreign Policy and National Security, International Human Rights, Israeli – European relations and various issues relating to the Jewish community and public diplomacy. (Unless explicitly stated, all articles are written in his personal capacity)
My sense of Jewish identity, history and deep sense of Zionism is what inspires me the most to be an advocate for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. As I see the Israel and Jewish communities around the world increasingly under attack, I feel as Zionists we all have an obligation to stand up, be counted and act. I also firmly believe in the need to 'broaden the conversation' about Israel beyond just the prism of ‘the conflict’ with our neighbors to telling our story - which is one an ancient people returning home, of hope, inspiration and an unrivaled spirit of dynamism, innovation, culture and creativity. THAT is my Israel and that is what inspires me -
Inspired by the vision of Herzl, the leadership of Ben-Gurion and the courage of Begin.
Noémi Schlosser is an established Belgian theater actor, director, writer and producer who graduated under Ivo van Hove in 2001. In 2004 she founded the mixed media theater company Salomee Speelt and has been the artistic director ever since. She has performed plays internationally throughout Morocco, Europe and the USA with the support of both Flemish Government and European Union.
I am a theater person, I write, direct, produce. Since a young age, I have struggled heavily with depression. When I was 21, it hit me again. Hard. Earlier that year my boyfriend crashed in a car accident and I was battling with a disease that took me 8 years to beat. I took some time off and went to visit a friend on the island Lanzarote, it was around Pessach. I was preparing a show called "Moscow-New York" about Jewish emigration in the 1930s, the Gulag, the camps, the loss of humanity, and one of my recurring themes: people in extraordinary circumstances .
I sat, all wrapped up in a warm blanket, facing the sea about to start reading "If this is a man" Primo Levi's Holocaust testimony. I started with the introduction by Elie Wiesel. It said something I will paraphrase here : 'They can take everything away from you except who you are and how you think'.
This sentence saved my life then, and many times over the years. As a person, a woman and an artist this has given me the will to not give up and even more... It gave me the strength to follow my (artistic) dreams and missions. Even if that meant taking the hardest possible way to achieve it.
Tricia Schwitzer serves on both the World WIZO Executive and the Executive of Friends of WIZO. Prior to joining the executive, Tricia was the assistant editor of the WIZO Review. Special projects undertaken for World WIZO include Israel advocacy, social media marketing material and promotional writing.
Whenever I visit WIZO's many welfare projects and meet those in our care, I am so inspired by the success stories of those who, against all the odds, have turned obstacles into opportunities, just like the State of Israel itself. When I see little Israeli toddlers playing in the playground of our WIZO Day Care Centres, I feel a tug in my heart knowing that one day in the not too distant future they will don the uniform of Israel's Armed Forces in defence of the citizens of the State of Israel and they are proud to serve, just as we are proud to serve them. That fact alone is all the inspiration I need.
I believe that, now more than ever, Jews around the world must not be complacent about Israel. Our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora must look beyond local and international media bias to search out the truth, the spirit and the heart of Israel, and they should take an active part in advocating, supporting and promoting Israel - and they should look for creative and practical ways in which to engage others, non-Jews and Jews in order to amplify the voice that needs to make itself heard on every platform.
Romi Sussman heads the content writing department for a technology and digital consulting company. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she made Aliyah from Potomac, MD and is raising six boys in the hills of Gush Etzion. She frequently blogs about life in Israel and her experiences over the last decade.
We were inspired to make Aliyah, in large part, due to the participants of the Torah Mitzion Kollel. These Israeli families and young adults put their regular lives (and those of their children) on hold for a year or more to move to foreign locations and share their love of Israel. And it wasn't their words about Israel that inspired us; rather it was their personalities, enthusiasm, friendship and energy that captured our hearts and made us wonder if we were missing out on something greater than what we already had in our lives.