Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yom Ha Shoah

Last year on Holocaust Memorial Day, I was very fresh in this amazing Country. I didn’t really know what to expect when the siren went off to memorialize the 6,000,000 (notice all the zeros?) Jews that had fallen to torture, death, and ashes, in the Nazi Germany Holocaust. I remember wondering what it would be like a few days before, knowing that the whole Country would stop what they were doing and stand in place, looking out over the survivors and their descendants, which were also standing… and looking. Ironically enough, I spent that first minute or so looking out across the factory of Germans where I work.

Tomorrow I expect that it will be about the same, although with a few minor differences. Things like, the old man that used to work next to me, who one day decided to tell me about how he was drafted into the German army during WWII when he was seventeen. It was towards the end of the war and, evidently, the Germans were just throwing people at the front line. This old man, I think his name was Johannes, was beckoned by the French and American Army soldiers that were fighting the Germans to run across to the side of the Allies. This old man told me that he threw down his weapon and ran. He made it and then spent some time in an American prisoner of war camp. Johannes died this year. He was very old and when he came in to work was barely able to do it. I helped him when I could, but knew that his days must be numbered. He was excited to find out that I was American and that is why, I think, that he confided in me about his past. Even the Germans at the factory didn’t know about this. Maybe he felt guilty and waited his whole life to get this little secret off his chest. I don’t know and I guess, never really will.

I have also changed. I have matured into a different sort of person as well. I think that is the biggest change from last years Yom Ha Shoah for me. I remember being so amazed last year at a whole Country full of aging victims of the Holocaust. That was over 60 years ago now and many of these victims have been quietly moving to the next world. Last year I saw a few elderly people with a blurry little number that had been tattooed on there forearms. I haven’t seen any for a while though.

The World is changing. People are starting to forget, either by accident or on purpose because of the difficulty in facing these demons. Let’s not let this happen. Modern day Israel was built on the ashes of the 6 million. This tragedy of inhuman scale can happen again at any time. We need to remember…


be well everyone and blessings from The Holy Land.

Friday, April 18, 2008


In my mind, freedom is a matter of being able to choose. We are presented on daily basis choices to make and, Baruch Hashem, we are free to choose from them. When G-D created Adam, he gave him free will. Our sages tell us that this was in order for us to accomplish the Mitvote (G-D’s commandments) by loving Hashem. We were given the freedom to choose, or not to choose, to express our love for The Creator. When Adam chose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he chose to identify with his body and ego, as opposed to what his identity truly was, his soul. He became ashamed and hid from G-D because his identity was now naked. He no longer wore the body as clothing for his identity and needed clothing to cover his nakedness. This choice that Adam made descended a fog over our perceptions of the world around us which has affected our decisions throughout human history.

When the Jews left Mitzraim (Egypt) 4/5th’s were left behind. These Israelites had the freedom to choose to stay or to leave. The majority of them chose to stay in Mitzraim for the needs of their bodies. With the plagues they were shown by G-D that only he controlled the Universe and they were still afraid to venture into the desert on faith alone. They chose to be slaves to the physical by not choosing to be with the Jewish People or with Hashem.

Recently I went to Sderote with an organization that a friend of mine is involved with (link to the website is http://www.bahavatyisrael.org.il/ ) to help deliver Passover food to needy families. I was truly amazed at the ability of these people to live under constant terrorist missile attacks. There were no sirens, thank G-D, while I was there but the following morning they went off while katushas pounded into the Western Negev. I kept remembering the faces of these people that must have been hunkered down, whether they were religious or not, praying to Hashem that their children and community were all safe. These people are the true Israelites. They are the children of those that left Mitzraim with the kind of faith in Hashem that we should all have.

To be a Jew is to be two things for me. The first is to love and to believe with all my might and soul in Hashem and that I am here for that purpose. The second is to identify and to empathize with Jews from all over the world. These are the people that have endured on faith alone for over 3,000 years. Maybe there was a mistranslation to English because for some reason the Jews are called the chosen people, when in reality, Jews are the people that continue to exert there freedom of choice by choosing G-D, day in and day out.

Chag Sumeach Kulam

Friday, April 11, 2008

Yes, another pele-phone be’mechona hakvisa story.

About a month ago, I got sick. It was not fun, starting with vomiting and ending with explosive diarrhea. I stayed home from work for a few days and towards the end of this stint answered my cell phone. Since I was home I wasn’t wearing my fancy new phone holder on my belt and when I finished the call, had no choice but to put the phone in my pocket… where I forgot about it. Then, about ten minutes later, was shocked to realize that I had had an accident… you know.

Well, I just stripped down to nothing, slammed the whole bundle in the washing machine, took a shower, changed clothes, and remembered my phone. Not again!!! I ran down the stairs, stopped the cycle, drained the washer, and eventually recovered my phone. It was a little wet but when I turned it on it worked. I dried it out and continued to use it. Whew… almost had to cash in on the stupid insurance thing I had to buy the last time to get a new phone, but the story isn’t over yet. You see, there is something called corrosion and when it gets into the electronics of a cell phone… see you later, alligator. And that is what did eventually happen. The phone made a flash of schizophrenic light across itself, before eventually freezing up for good.

I drove down to Hadera to get the phone fixed or replaced right after davening and cleaning the house for Shabbat. I knew exactly where to go and walked right in hoping that it wouldn’t be to long. I was able to conduct the whole conversation in Hebrew and felt like I understood everything that I needed to know, even the part about how the stupid insurance I had to buy didn’t actually cover if I lost the phone or if I had corroding problems. So, they charged me for a new phone. Now I was really getting pissed. I started to yell at the poor girl behind the counter (this is all in Hebrew by the way) and told her that if I threw my phone in the ground, stomped on it with my foot, and brought it to her in tiny pieces inside a plastic bag, that my insurance would cover it. I told her that all I wanted was to be happy with the phone and service and could she please see what she could do about getting the price down. She said she would see what she could do and left to speak with her manager.

When she returned she had a smile and said that she could knock the price down a-bit. It went from 152 shekels down to 144 shekels. Wow, at least it was something, I said. Ok, I gave her a nice smile, wished her Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sumeach and left to get my car. I pulled out of the lot and the guy at the gate took my parking pass that I had remembered to get validated, and promptly said that I went over the limit for Cellcom’s stamp and needed to pay 8 shekels. So…as far as I know, the time I spent haggling with the girl behind the counter was the time I went over for the parking.

On Yom Kippur we are told that the books are sealed as to how much money we will make in the coming year. I guess I was just not meant to have that 8 shekels, even though I tried hard to get it. Well, I did cause it to go from Celcom to the parking guy. Maybe that was what was really supposed to happen and if I really want to go mashugana about it, maybe that was why I got sick in the first place. Next time, maybe I will just drive by and give the guy 8 shekels and avoid all the hassle… well, then I would have missed all the fun wandering around the Hadera Shuk (open air market) practicing my Hebrew, almost getting ripped off for thirty shekels when I tried to buy a paper, and in the end, having this little blog to shoot out to all of you…

Shabbat Shalom Kulam.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Big Questions...

I was forwarded this list of questions to answer and thought I would slap them up on the blogsite. I learned some interesting things about how I think about things so, thanks... to whom it may concern.

1. Family background and why we choose to live in Israel.

Adele and I have been coming to Israel since our honeymoon over 20 years ago. We came for events such as a wedding, and most recently our son’s bar mitzvah. In addition to this, Adele lived in Israel for 4 years when she was in high school. We have always been Jews that have identified with coming HOME to Israel or Zionists if you prefer. We are spiritual people and being such, found that there was an undertone to normal life that seemed to drive us if we chose to let it. When we arrived for our son’s bar mitzvah, we felt that familiar feeling of, “we are HOME now” once again. That was really our last chance to listen… and we did. That’s why we live in Israel now.

2. Perceptions of violence before we moved.

We knew of just about every event that was reported before we moved to Israel. The Media Conglomerates seemed to just pump out major news events everyday of the week that somehow involved Israel. Now, you have to remember that the land of Israel is about the size of New Jersey, most likely has fewer natural resources, and before its United Nations declared statehood in 1948, was considered an arid desert in the south and a swamp in the north. This was a place that did not resemble the so called ‘milk and honey’ of the Bible. The modern day Israel has been built to be what it is today by the sweat and blood of Jews, all of which seemed to be listening to that inner voice. All this thought is relevant because this is the background noise with regards to the violence in the Middle East. I believe that what happens in Israel is relevant to the rest of the world and what happens outside of Israel. That is the only thing that makes any sense, considering the imbalance of the evening news’s story telling. The story isn’t the violence. There is violence everywhere in the world. The story is deeper then that.

3. Have our perceptions of violence changed since we got to Israel.

Well, our perceptions have changed. We don’t watch the Israeli news because it is still hard to understand, so we rely on the internet and what we see happening around us. The internet is the same as it was in the States so I just check in occasionally. As far as what is happening around us goes… it is beautiful here. The communities are very nice and the people are even nicer, once you get past the gruff exteriors. We have made friends that will last a life time, regardless of where we live. There isn’t any violence that we can see here. We read about Sederot and the missile’s that daily land on it and just hope and pray for some sanity in the region. Sederot is only about 2 hours away from us and we live in the North so it is really a small country if you know what I mean. All in all, we feel a lot safer here from the violence in the world. The violence here is just magnified to the outside world for what ever reason. The Israeli security is the best in the world and a model for any other nation seeking security. We did arrive right before the 2nd Lebanon war and this seemed to temper us a bit. We had to spend some time in the bomb shelters and in the end, just went on with our lives.

4. How do we feel that peace can be achieved in the region?

Well, I have often wondered about this same thing. Is there an answer to that one? First of all, I think we need to look at the concept of peace. There are lots of levels of peace. Peace can be when we wake up in the morning before everyone else and watch the world around us wake up. Peace can be satisfaction of a completed transaction or a job well done. Peace can even be a ‘temporary’ cease fire. The word peace can be translated into so many different ideas that it really isn’t just one word. For instance, in the Arabic language and culture, the word peace means something closer to justice then to the western idea of what peace means, which seems to be something like a hot cup of coffee in a quite corner of the local Starbucks. So, when the politicians or news reporters are using the word peace, which is it? I think that this should really be the question to ask. What is peace? Before we all agree on what peace is, how can we even dream of getting it?

There is a lot more here and I don’t know if I can really even touch the surface of this. Maybe each of us needs to ask ourselves, “what is peace for me?” and then ask, “what is peace for them?” and only then ask, “what is peace for us?” even then, I think we will get too many answers to really do anything with them. In the end, it all seems to be up to G*D, if you believe in that sort of thing. On the other hand, if we all asked the same questions, maybe that would be the incentive to really come together! And then again, maybe that is what G*D is really all about anyways; coming together.

So, how do we bring peace to the region? I think that right after we ask ourselves the questions stated above, we should ponder the idea… why am I here, is there a god, what is the purpose of it all, and last but not least… who am I?

Hope this helped,
Shalom from the Holy Land,
D. Noll

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tikun shveelim and someone else’s garbage

Recently, Adele and I went on a hike to a very nice part of the Country up in the north. It was a long hike and we pretty much covered every topic we could think of while on the way up and back to the same castle that I had visited with the Beit El teeule a few weeks back called Monte Fiord. This was a castle that was built in a canyon instead of on top of a mountain because it was meant to be a kind of Fort Knox for the Crusaders about a thousand years ago. They needed money to conquer the Holy land and this is where they kept it because it was very well protected from invading Arab (pre Muslim) armies. It was very interesting but the most interesting thing turned out to be a little trail maintenance that we did along the way.

We decided to pick up garbage on our trip up to the top and among all the variety of trash we found ample amounts of plastic bags to deposit it all in. as we picked up the trash, I noticed that people were taking notice so I decided to make a show of it and found myself hovering over some little stash of chip wrappers until the approaching hikers would notice what I was doing. As these hikers got closer, I noticed that they were Arabs. They looked at me with what I thought were curious expressions. My mind went through all kinds of variations on what they must be thinking. They seemed to be a family and when the last of them where just about to reach me, the man at the back with his little boy spoke to me. He was really happy to see us cleaning the trail and wanted to impress upon his kid how great it is to do what we were doing.

This really caught me off guard because all we had ever heard was that the Arabs litter like mad. I had even seen it happen once when I rode my bike past a group of picnicking Arabs and upon my return I saw that all of their trash was right where they left it. Then I really was caught off guard when the Arab said that he could tell that we weren’t Israelis because they just dump their trash everywhere and that they were the real perpetrators. We politely said that we have seen everyone littering and that we all need to clean it up. He said goodbye and I couldn’t help notice that he started to scan the ground as we parted ways.

A little further up the trail, we overtook a young Israeli couple having a rest. They also noticed us picking up trash and were very impressed. They each got a bag and walked with us up the trail to the top. We all felt so great to take care of the trail and even happier to see that people were noticing. At the last hair pin turn that wound up to the top the Israeli guy said to me that the Arabs are to blame for so much litter. I kind of snickered and told him what the Arab guy had just said. He got a shocked expression that then relaxed as he said, “it must be the Haradim then,” (those are the guys with the black hats and everything).

In the end, I learned something valuable about human nature. It seems that when it comes to litter, it is always someone else’s garbage…