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Blog - It's all Greek to me!!!!

Blog - It's all Greek to me!!!!

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Life in Greece with a Jewish twist

On a long sabbatical

This blog has been taking some vacation, but feel free to read the old posts and get to know our life in Athens...

Hope to get around to posting more soon :) 

New Year for the Trees

 tree - writing.jpgWe are in the last line before the holiday of Tu bishvat, the new Year for the Trees, (here for greek) coming out this year Shabbat 15 Shvat – Friday evening January 29 and Saturday January 30, 2010.

 
Tomorrow evening we’re joining the international celebration of “One Shabbat, One world”. Tens of thousands of Jews from all across the globe are coming together to eat, drink, relax and celebrate a Shabbat dedicated to universal peace and harmony...  And we will participate from Athens!! Part of the meal will be dedicated to the Seder Tu Bishvat according to Kabbalah, eating various fruits, drinking different colored wine, and learning about their various symbolisms.
 
This is not all! Tu Bishvat is an excellent occasion for us to reflect on the environment, think about where we stand and what additional step we can do to help. Tu Bishvat is traditionally a time of planting trees, and we thought, especially after the devastation caused by the fire forests last summer, that it would be a great occasion to go and plant trees to reforest those areas.
 
Last but not least, we will visit the old age home Resteion, eat traditional fruits, and celebrate there Tu Bishavat as well!
 
Join us for one or all of the events!!! And have a great Tu Bishvat!!

Reaction or proaction?

There have been some really terrible news these last weeks…

On a world scale, the earthquake and human catastrophe in Haiti: the tragedy of so many lost lives, the magnitude of the devastation, the terrible images… The extent of the disaster is unfathomable…  No words to describe the horror... I think each person has been touched and has asked himself how he can help. Israel has sent a mobile hospital. Chabad is present in the Caribbean and is of course part of the relief effort. Visit their site to learn about their efforts and to donate online.
 
In the Jewish world, the synagogue of Hania, Crete has been the victim of 2 arson attacks in 11 days. Significant damage has been done to the library and the synagogue itself, many precious books and artifacts have been destroyed or ruined, and this very act of hatred is extremely disturbing to all of us in Greece, and abroad. The synagogue had been renovated in 1999, thanks to donations and to the untiring efforts of Mr. Stavroulakis. Please visit his blog to learn more about the synagogue, the work that needs to be done and donate to this significant cause.
 
On another level, these crimes need to be denounced and punished. All political leaders should come out with a clear condemnation of these anti-Semitic attacks, and make it known that such offenses will not be tolerated: they will be prosecuted, denounced and punished.  
 
All these actions are important. But they are only reactions.
 
What is crucial is to do “pro-action”. What I mean is not to wait for tragedies, for crises and for problems to act. This includes sending donations to third world countries to develop their infrastructure and their economy before terrible images of natural disasters hit the media and touch our hearts. Anti-Semitism issues should be tackled by education, communication and awareness even before such awful events happen.
 
This will truly mean being responsible citizens of the world and committed Jews , who work actively towards transforming the world into a peaceful and better place.

We're all in the same boat

France 141.jpg
The day of our flight back from Paris to Athens, it snowed. To the delight of the children, we woke up in a magical world covered in white. For them, snow meant playing outside, building a snowman and even shoveling (even Levi, 2 years old, tried to help!). For us, snow meant also a probable delay of our flight and difficult traffic.France 165.jpg
 
Thankfully, thanks to internet, we knew right away that our flight would be delayed 2 ½ hours. So we left my parents’ home later but still gave ourselves plenty of time to navigate the icy roads and the slow traffic. When we arrived to the airport, we learned that our flight will have some more delay. So the waiting started.
 
The most distressing part was that no final hour was given, so we were left wondering if our flight will actually leave or maybe get canceled. Eventually, our plane arrived, and we all boarded, only to wait some more… for some passengers that did not show up for boarding (their luggage had to be located and taken out). After this was cleared up, the plane started to move, to the applause of the passengers. Alas, it stopped, and we started waiting again, until the pilot announced that there was a technical problem (with the heating of the windows, if I understood correctly) and that we would have to disembark… Just imagine people’s reactions! Hungry and tired, most had been waiting from the morning in the airport, and here you had one more delay to cope with… To make a long story short, we finally boarded another plane, which left Paris with a 7 hour delay.
 
What was interesting is that sharing the same discomfort and annoyance made all the passengers feel close one to each other. People were complaining together, joking together, sharing stories of other delays etc. It reminded me of my year of teaching in Paris, where I would take the train every morning at the same time. Eventually, I started recognizing some faces, who took the same train at the same hour… But nobody spoke, nobody as much as cracked a smile… It seems that the attitude de rigueur was making a long face… ;-) Until there were some strikes of the trains personnel, and suddenly, the ice melted. As we were all being squashed in one of the rare trains circulating, everybody was cursing the train company together :), everybody was speaking and laughing together… In the hot wagon, with all the people begin on top of each other for lack of space, people were imaging new slogans for the SNCF (French Railway Company): “SNCF guarantees you a warm atmosphere on board!” or” “The SNCF brings people closer!”.
 
And indeed, it seems that there is nothing as a shared inconvenience (or even worse, a tragedy G-d forbid) to bring people closer. But why wait for these disagreements to be friendly and warm to each other? We have to realize we are all in the same boat from the very beginning, and that a smile and a good word will not take away from us, on the contrary!
 
So let’s be friendly and welcoming to each other, and our ride in this world will be much more pleasant!

 

7 things I brought back from France

France 050.jpgWe just came back from 10 days in France spent with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and it was absolutely amazing. Besides a full program of outings and fun activities for the children, we just enjoyed schmoozing, laughing and relaxing together…

In brief and in no particular order, here is what I took away from this trip:

1)  Family is the best! Never forget to keep your priorities straight: Your loved ones should come before anything else, and you should make it a point to spend time with them!

2) Kids are expected to misbehave sometimes… it’s okay for them to sometimes be cranky, noisy, angry and moody. Expecting those moments will help you to (relatively :) ) keep your calm and not let this ruin the outing/ activity of the day.

3) Time flies! Enjoy the moment! Kids will not be kids forever… (upon seeing how my nephews/nieces grew so much since I last saw them).

4) Kids just enjoy the simplest activity and it is not always necessary to bring them to Disneyland… (even if they did enjoy it!). Simple arts and crafts and ball games in the yard with the cousins made them perfectly happy.

5) I have to enjoy the mild winter of Athens. Paris was freezing… I had forgotten what cold means. Sometimes, you need to step away in order to enjoy the things you got used to.

6) There is nothing like mommy’s food :) . Anything cooked with love is delicious :) .

7) It’s possible to make pancakes with whole wheat and brown sugar, and even without sugar at all. But of course, you still eat them with chocolate syrup :).

That’s up for now… I will tell you our return flight adventure in the next post.

"Sharing Light" 2009

2007_December_183.jpg2 years ago, Mendel had this daring idea: distribute Chanukah candles to all Jews in Athens, going from house to house and making sure each family has the opportunity to celebrate and bring joy and light into their homes. We were already distributing candles to many people in the past years, but Mendel wanted to take this to a whole new dimension.
Equipped with colorful candle boxes and a nice brochure with the blessings and a message for the holiday, we went from neighborhood to neighborhood, sometimes meeting friends or acquaintances, sometimes new people, and receiving (mostly) very positive reactions! People were thrilled to receive the candles. One evening, it was late already, and we weren’t sure if to ring the bell. We decided to give it a try and left the candles there. The next day, T. called Mendel all excited: “How did you know? The very same morning, I told my wife I don’ know where to get candles from, and in the evening, you bring them to our door!”
The project was not easy to realize, we spent days and days in the car with maps, with the GPS, which proved not to be always reliable. One time we were in Lykavettos, a very hilly area, and the GPS authoritative voice tells us: “Turn left”… unto some stairs!!! We continued and she urged us: “Turn left NOW!” and after we passed it we heard the dreaded: “You are now off track!”. That was quite funny, actually!
2007_December_188.jpgThe picture you see here is of my loyal companion to the northern routes, Levi Yitschak, who was then too young to be left for long periods…  (Our dear friend Riki took care of the Southern suburbs, may she be blessed, what dedication!)
We realized though that it was too much for us. Athens is huge, there is a lot of traffic, and if we truly wanted to reach everyone, we had to get more volunteers to participate in the project. Last year already, more volunteers helped us reach many more homes, but this year, the project “sharing light” is taking off in a bigger and more organized way. There are now 48 volunteers distributing candles in their area, discovering many people from the community leaving not far from them. One volunteer even found that a friend he had lost touch with lived around the corner from him!  
What is great about this project, I feel, even more than the joy and the light that are being added to the world, is the feeling of community that is created, the connections that are made, and in general the feeling that all together, step by step, we make a difference and transform this world into a better place.
And isn’t that the very message of Chanukah?!
(Check out Jewtube for cute clips about Chanukah, I will be adding more during the whole week, so check again to see the new stuff!)

10 important facts about Chanukah

1. Get ready! Chanukah begins this year at nightfall of Friday December 11. The Chanukah candles are lit before the Shabbat candles. In Athens, the Candle lighting time is 16:44. On Saturday they are lit after Shabbat goes out at 17:44.
2. A great selection of Jewish presents, Chanukah articles and Judaica is available at the Bazar of the Resteion, this Sunday December 6, from 10:30 to 17:30, where we will have a stand (Directions to the Resteion). (We will also have a stand at the school Bazar on Sunday, December 13). See you there, and remember that all proceeds do to charitable causes!
3. These very days, 48 volunteers are distributing Chanukiya and candles to all Jewish households of Athens! The project “sharing light” is received with great enthusiasm and this is the occasion to congratulate and thank all the volunteers. There are still a few areas to cover so if you wish to participate in the project “sharing light” and distribute candles in your area, please contact us!
4. Chanukah, celebrated this year for the 2,147th time, commemorates the miracle of the victory of the few against the many, as well as the miracle of the oil that lasted for 8 days. To read more about the story of Chanukah, click here . Chanukah is the occasion to pay attention to the small miracles surrounding us!
5. Since the miracle happened with oil, the tradition is to eat fried foods such as potato latkes and/or deep-fried doughnuts known as sufganiyot. Click here for some great recipes. Warning: May result in extra weight. 
6. Chanukah means dedication in Hebrew. Following the Maccabees' victory over the Syrians Hellenists, they reclaimed the Holy Temple and rededicated it to the service of G-d. Chanukah is also related to the word “Chinuch” – education. Did you know that you have more than 40 parenting articles (in Greek) in our website? (click here for many more in English)
7. It takes 44 candles, including the shamash to properly celebrate all the nights of Chanukah. If you need candles, please, don’t hesitate to contact us!
8. Playing dreidel (sevivon) is a nice Chanukah tradition. Under the rule of Antiochus, Torah study was forbidden so it was studied in secret. If an official came along, Jewish children would quickly pull out these toys and appear to just be playing. The letters nun, gimmel, hay and shin stand for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, "A great miracle happened there." In Israel, the shin is substituted with a Pei, making it Nes Gadol Hayah Po, "A great miracle happened here." Click here for more questions and answers Greek and English .
9. Chanukah is a time of games, of joy, of family and friends gathering. Get into the spirit with this fun crossword made by Elias Messinas.
10. Don’t forget to send Chanukah greeting cards to your friends and family!

1 year later: we remember Mumbai

moshe_hotzberg hanukah.jpgOne year has passed since the Mumbai terror attacks… We all remember vividly the hours of anguish and worry, the hours spent saying Tehilim (Psalms) praying on behalf of the hostages, the hours checking the news and hoping for a miracle…

Unfortunately, Gabi (29) and Rivky (28) Holtzberg were murdered brutally, as well as their guests, Norma Shvartzblat Rabinovitch, Yocheved Orpaz, Reb Bentzion Chroman and Rav Arye Leibish Teitelbaum. Hashem Yikom Damam, may G-d avenge them.

There was still a spark of light amidst the darkness: Sandra, the Indian nanny, managed heroically to save the 2 year son of the Holtzbergs, Moishele, and to flee the Chabad House.

The whole Jewish world was shaken. The answer to terror was clear: we would react with an increase of light, with even more efforts to spread goodness and kindness and change the world, one good action at a time. All of us, each in his or her corner of the world would carry on the legacy of Gabi and Rivky, who were known for their hospitality, their simplicity and their loving smile. One year later, 12318 Mitzvot (and counting) have been added in memory of the deceased. More than 500 babies have been named after the dedicated Shluchim and you can check the picture gallery here.

Today, Little Moishy will celebrate his 3rd birthday, and will get his first haircut. We all wish him Mazal Tov, and we promise to continue being at his side, and to always remember his dear parents.  

Check out this site dedicated to their legacy, with a video about their story (a must see), memories, pictures and more.

Shabbat with Shrek!

Shrek.jpgIn literature and movies, heroes are usually tall and strong and beautiful, their outer appearance supposedly reflecting their inner moral qualities. (Or maybe it’s just because people like to identify with this type of hero?).

Anyhow, this is not the case in the famous movie Shrek , where the hero is the antithesis of a Prince Charming: it’s a big green ogre that, despite its lack of physical appeal, charms Princess Fiona and us all viewers with his humor, wit and good heart.

No, I did not turn suddenly into a film critic. But I’m telling you about this movie because last Shabbat, we had the pleasure of hosting David Weiss, co-writer of Shrek 2 (as with all successful movies, Shrek 1 gave way to Shrek 2 and 3 and I hear Shrek 4 and 5 are on the way), who shared with us his amazing story.

Raised as a Reform Jew, David always felt something missing: spirituality, a connection to G-d. 30 years ago, Reform Judaism did not teach about G-d and G-dliness. It is a Christian friend that kindled a spark in David and led him to believe in G-d, and eventually to convert to Christianity. After all, that’s where he had found what he felt was missing in his life. Then, in Ireland, David discovered that there was much spirituality and a lot of depth in Judaism that he never knew about, and he started to learn more about his own heritage. This was the beginning of his journey back to Judaism, as David and his spouse grew in knowledge and observance.

David shared with us something interesting about Shrek 2. The directors had in mind to write the story of what happens AFTER the end of the story, after the prince and the princess find each other and get married. How does exactly look the “happily ever after”? In other words, they wanted to write the story of a real marriage, with the challenges, the problematic in-laws, the difference of expectations, the difficulties of communication. But why should people pay to see such a movie? After all, they have the same at home! :) That was already the job of the screen writers! They spiced up with humor and adventure what is basically the story a regular couple, which has to learn to accept and respect the other: Shrek has to cope with the hostile father-in-law, in a foreign environment with very different values of his own, all for the sake of his wife Fiona.

One moment is exemplary: the father-in-law invites Shrek for a hunting party (where he actually plans to have him killed – sorry spoilers!). Shrek is not at all excited by the outing, but the father-in-law uses the winning argument: “It will mean a lot to Fiona!”, and Shrek, sighing, sends a loving look to his sleeping wife and agrees. This is the secret of a happy marriage: respect what is important to your spouse. Even though you yourself don’t see the necessity, or the significance of something, if your spouse (or friend) cares for it, then respect it!

Recycling, Homeopathy and a Uniate monastery

Where in heavens can possibly 3 such different themes meet? At our Shabbat table, of course.

The Shabbat before this one, we had (as usual) a variety of interesting guests from different countries: UK, Israel, and the United States.

We had just landed from Israel the same morning, and in the evening, Hanna was complaining from an earache, probably due from the pressure of landing. By perfect Hashagacha pratit (Divine providence), one of our guests, Hadassa from Denver Colorado, who specializes in homeopathy, was able to advice me on how to soothe her and help avoid an ear infection.  

Amongst other interesting stories, Leon C. shared with us his experience as a child during the Holocaust. He was hidden, with 2 other children, in a Ukrainian monastery of the Uniate Church, an interesting branch which exists only on the border of Ukraine and Poland, follows the Eastern orthodox rite but accepts the authority of the Pope. The way Leon found back, many years after the war, the 2 other hidden children (one in Israel and one in Poland)  is a long story of amazing Divine providence.

One of Leon and Jean’s children, Dave is very involved with sustainable development. Jean told us about his amazing experience of spending one year without taking out his trash, and what lessons he learned. You can read more here. He is known as “Sustainable Dave” and there is a Disney character based on him!

His motto was very inspiring to me: “no one can do everything but everyone can do something”. Sometimes, we are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the task of living an eco-correct life and stop our non green habits of waste. But we need not to be discouraged, we need to start with something and know that even a little change has an effect of the planet’s well being, and that all individual efforts added one to another eventually make a tangible difference.

It’s actually the same with the Mitzvot. Sometimes, looking at the state of the world, filled with violence, poverty, corruption, we can get pessimistic and think that our good actions here in our little corner of the world have little effect. But no! if each person, in his/her corner, makes the effort of changing one thing, only one little thing, give a coin, give a hand, give a smile, light a candle,  we will really see the light overtaking the world!

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Do you like routine?

Some people cannot stand the routine, doing the same predictable activities day after day, having unsurprising days and weeks, they find it boring and unchallenging.

On the other hand, others thrive in their comfortable habits, they love knowing what to expect at any given time and are unsettled by changes and surprises…

The past month of Tishri was certainly not of a month of routine: every week there was another event or holiday, other activities to do, other sounds, other menus: we went from serious mood to joyful and even exuberant, we passed from the sweetness of the apple and honey to the crunchiness of “Kreplach” of Hoshana Raba not forgetting not eating at all on the fast of Yom Kippur. We heard the piercing sound of the Sofar, then the moving melodies of the Yom Kippur then the joyful songs of Simchat Torah. We also ate the holiday meals in various locations: Rosh Hashana dinner took place in the large hall of the Novotel Hotel, other holiday meals were more intimate in our home, Yom Kippur was spent in Chalkida, and Sukkot on the roof of our building in our cute Sukka (thanks Roni for your help in building it), with view to the Lykavettos and the Akropolis.

And we then suddenly find ourselves in the month of Cheshvan, devoid of Holidays, devoid of special events… back to routine in other words. After going to heights of spirituality, after experiencing intense closeness to G-d, to our traditions, we need to “readapt” to everyday life:   wake up to study, to work, to interact with our friends and colleagues without the inspiration we draw from the holidays etc…. wait, wait, what did I say? Without inspiration? That is exactly the point: we have to gather all the inspiration we got during the Holiday period and take it along with us during the whole year: Rosh Hashana gave us sweetness and commitment, Yom Kippur awoke in us G-d’s love and a determination to do good, Sukkot provided us with healthy doses and joy and optimism. And now? Laden with all those gifts, we have to lend in to the routine, open those gifts and start using them…

In any case, for us the month of Cheshvan did not bring any routine: we went to Israel for my sister-in-law’s wedding as well as the inauguration of a Sefer Torah in honor of my husband’s grandparents and brother. But we are now back, ready to find out how well we do with the routine…

Personally, I don’t like routine all that much but I must confess that I can’t remember such a thing by us, there is always something unexpected or new to occupy us J

My big fat Greek (kosher) wedding

We’re really now in middle of Rosh Hashana preparations (Shofar Factory, Community dinner, Art Calendar…) but I want to tell you about our latest huge project, dating from July: organize a entire kosher wedding, including a Henna party, a complete Shabbat and of course, the wedding dinner.

The bride’s parents are from France but they live in Greece for the last 30 years. So she grew up here and always dreamt of getting married in this beautiful country. The little problem? How to make it Kosher. There is no Kosher hall here or for that matter, a Kosher catering service handling this size of events. (We cater for smaller groups, and when we have big holiday events, we cooperate with the Novotel Hotel and kosherize their kitchen).

So negotiations started with the various halls, the various banquet managers, until a solution was found: The Henne party would take place in Island, a famous venue south of Athens, and we would supervise the preparations of the food at Intercatering, their usual partner, including koshering the kitchens and providing them with all the kosher ingredients. A similar arrangement was made with the wedding hall, Vive Mar Coast, also right next to the sea. As for the desserts and patisseries, they would be prepared in the Sofitel Hotel. The Shabbat meals would be prepared by our catering service, and served in the Margie Hotel, also south of Athens.  Sounds complicated enough? J

We had countless meetings and back and forth emails and phone calls to organize all the preparations schedules and synchronize the arrival of the Kosher products. The bulk arrived from France and Israel, but some products were shipped in from the United States and others were taken directly from Greek factories doing special kosher productions.

We had to explain all the kosher rules and restrictions to the different chefs and cooks and waiters - for most of them it was very new and quite surprising. But they were amazingly understanding and cooperative!

All in all, it was many hours of work (the patisseries were done in night shift, for example) but the result was so rewarding: 4 days of festivities, where the tasty and elegant food matched the paradisiacal decors, enhancing the joyous atmosphere, with all guests coming from France, Morocco, Israel, Greece (and maybe elsewhere) singing, dancing and partying…

Difficult to say what was the most magical moment… The Moroccan songs during the Henna, with the bride wearing her great grandmother’s traditional velvet red dress? The lively songs and dances during the Shabbat dinner? Maybe the Chuppa ceremony, with the sunset background? Try to decide from the pictures J

 

So now we know! It IS possible to do a beautiful Kosher wedding in Greece!!!!

 

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Back!!! Summer vacation and fires

blog what i did holidays.jpg

This blog has gone on a very long vacation…

Time to get back to my keyboard and tell you some of our news here… and there are many.

First, the first entirely Kosher wedding in Athens since… the second world war probably!!! And what a wedding it was!!! Mazal tov to Sabrina and Gad, may you live happy together for many years… I will soon post a separate entry about this whole adventure, complete with pictures…

Second, I have to tell you about all the amazing and interesting guests that have visited us this summer… we had anywhere between 30 and 110 guests any given Shabbat: honeymooners, backpackers, students, families, retired people…  Several youngsters from Australia on their “euro-tour”, taking off for a few months and taking advantage of the fact that they are already in this part of the world, so far from their homeland, to do some serious touring… Many people from France, individuals or groups… it seems that there is a massive interest in Greece this year by French people, and I hope they enjoy it and tell their friends, so many more Frenchies come and visit us J. Many couples or families from Israel of course… I learned about the fascinating settlement of Tekoa, which is home to seculars as well as religious people of all kinds, which cohabitate in peace and harmony: what an example for a country where people of different communities and walks of life don’t know enough about one another and don’t interact enough with one another, creating barriers of intolerance and incomprehension that lead to hostility and hatred. Many North Americans too, including an amazing group of teenagers led by Rabbi and Aviva Tessler, from Potomac Mayland, who chose to spend their vacation combining volunteering work and traditional tourism: in Greece, they visited the old age home, the Jewish camp and helped in various ways. They then continued to Israel, where they did more volunteering and… relaxing J.

Every Shabbat was a magnificent experience of joy, unity, discovery and inspiration.

We took off for 3 days, visiting some dear friends in the nearby island of Aigina. What I will say will sound cliché, but this is exactly what I felt (I guess those clichés are based on real life!): far away from the noise and the trepidation of the city, in the midst of nature, surrounded only by the chirping of the birds and the stridulating of the insects, watching the endless rows of blooming pistachio trees against the clear blue sky (specialty of the island), one connects to his inner self and truly feels closer to G-d… You suddenly have time to just sit and relax (no internet, so no emails to check! yaaaay), to think about what’s important, to just be, not only DO, DO, DO… The visit was short but so invigorating, we promised ourselves to do it again.

athens-fires.jpgAnd then there were the fires in Attica….  Wildfires that destroyed 210 square km of forests, destroyed 60 houses and damaged another 150, displaced thousands of people…. Wildfires that wreaked havoc in the country and changed forever the region of Attica depriving it from a vital pool of oxygen… Wildfires that rose again the eternal questions of man’s responsibility towards nature, man’s recklessness, egoism and short vision, the authorities’ supposed responsibilities in preventing and dealing with this kind of disasters…

This set of picture shows you the extent of the catastrophe.

The damage was so great because of the very strong winds that made it impossible to fight and contain the fire. This made me think about the power of unity: when you have just a small match, blowing on it will extinguish it. But when you have a strong fire, blowing on it will only make it stronger. Similarly, if we are isolated and weak souls, a small blow can easily extinguish our passion, our inspiration. But if we stay together, strengthening one another, winds of adversity will not only not destroy us, but will make us stronger.

 

A unique experience in Greece

dolphins.jpgMost of the travelers to Greece that join us for the Shabbat meals have quite a traditional circuit: they spend a few days in Athens, and then head to the islands: Santoroni and Myknos being the most popular (and no, there are no synagogues or kosher facilities there), followed by Crete and Rhodes. Others visit the Peloponnesus or the North: the Meterora, the Zagoria villages, Thessaloniki. Some choose to do organized jeep tours, which sound like a lot of fun to me.

Yet some visitors decide to do something more unique: I remember Dorine who went to the island of Paros and participated in a painting course. David and Amy spent their time in Athens doing archeological excavations. Tony, one of our guests this week, will do a week of dolphin observation, joining the staff of a boat in the Ionian Sea, thus helping scientists understand and combat the main threats to them and their ecosystem. I did not even know there were dolphins there!  

This brings to my mind our very first guests in our apartment, 8 years ago: 2 young Israelis, having finished the mandatory army service, decided as many others to take off some time and travel the world. Yet unlike others, they decided to do something original: instead of trekking in the Far East or in South America, they decided to do a tour of Europe with a bicycle.

When they came to us, they were already quite suntanned, after all the hours spent outdoors on their bikes, and they were heading towards Patra, planning to cross with the ferry to Italy. They enjoyed so much the Shabbat meals that they took the addresses of other Chabad Houses all over Europe and planned their trip accordingly, each Shabbat in a different Chabad House!

When Mendel went to the annual Shluchim conference, he received regards from them from a few of his European colleagues.

As someone has told me… Join Chabad and tour the world! J

Banality of evil

Yom Hashoa, Remembrance Day for the Holocaust. In Greece, it was commemorated last Sunday in the Jewish cemetery of Nikaia, with speeches and the laying of wreaths. At the same time, a silent demonstration took place to request the criminalization of Holocaust denial in Greece and protest the Justice decision finding holocaust-denier Plevris, (author of “Jews: all the truth”, in which he who exposes his Nazi views) innocent of inciting racial hatred.

 I found Mr. Sakis Leon’s speech especially meaningful: he touched upon all the burning matters of today: Holocaust denial, rising anti-Semitism, threat from Iran…  In clear words, he brought out the uniqueness of the Holocaust, the fact that the entire state apparel was involved in the genocide, from the engineers building the crematoriums to the train drivers and the postal employees: somehow regular people, not particularly evil or psychopaths participated in the extermination of 6 million Jewish men, women and children. This became possible because of the propaganda demonizing Jews, slowly convincing people of a Jewish world conspiracy and at the same time turning Jews into sub-humans, closer to harmful insects than to people created in the image of G-d.

mayor carrer.jpgMr. Leon mentioned the unfortunately not enough people who did save the Jews during those tragic times. An amazing case happened in the island of Zakinthos: when the Germans asked the authorities for a list of the Jews of the island, they received a list with only 2 names: Mayor Carrer and Bishop Chrysostomos. In parallel, the islanders helped the Jews escape and hide in the mountain villages, thus saving all 275 Jews of Zakinthos. The courage of bishop christostomos.jpgMayor Carrer and Bishop Chrystostomos, as well as the cooperation of the locals, who did not betray their Jewish compatriots, was exemplary. Alas, it was also quite unique. Most people preferred to look in the other direction while Jews were being arrested and deported, not even talking about those who downright cooperated with the Nazis.  

As said Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing” .

In today’s Greece, where a party leader and member of the Parliament writes that “Jews smell blood”, where Justice found self proclaimed "Nazi, fascist, racist, anti-democrat, anti-Semite” Plevris non-guilty, where it becomes more and more accepted to demonize Israel and Jews, to believe in and propagate conspiracy theories, Mr. Leon clarified once more what the message of “never again” means: more vigilance, more education, more tolerance.

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