Monday, December 31, 2007

The Kassam Hair Style

Shimon Bouskila, also known as Shupan, grew up in Sderot and has been a hairstylist for twenty-three years. Five years ago, a Kassam rocket landed right in front of his barbershop, breaking the glass windows and causing damage to his shop. He was the first person to see the Kassam and as soon as he laid eyes on the rocket, the idea came to him –the “Kassam hair-due”.

Free of charge, anyone can get Shupan’s specialty. He said besides the time he did the hair-due for a local model, one person asked him to give him “the Kassam” for a costume in celebration of the Jewish holiday Purim (customary to dress up for this holiday).

Shupan doesn’t stop with the Kassams. He can also fashion your hair into a Menorah and a Shofar, the trumpet-like biblical instrument made form a ram’s horn. Shupan also did a promotional hair-due for the German based hair product company, Wella. The Sderot hairstylist uses Israeli supermodels to show off his specialties, with Miri Boadana pictured with the Menorah.

Shupan is also the personal barber of former Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Every three to four weeks, Shupan gives Mr. Peretz a hair cut at the Knesset member’s home. Amir Peretz’s daughter is also featured in a picture of nine girls with hair shaped like candles, standing in a formation forming a Menorah.

In 1995, Shupan won an international hairstylist tournament in Europe, the last year of such a competition. Shupan is the father of two teenage daughters and one son, who works in New York as a hairstylist and aspires to open a barbershop just like his father.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

David Beckham in Sderot

After the presentation with the WUJS (talked about it in prior entry), I saw some kids outside the cinema playing soccer (futbol). I've never really enjoyed the sport, you know, it's for Europeans. That withstanding, I still joined on in and played a little.

I got in the action, starting kicking the ball around. Then I proposed an idea to the kids. Let's play a game. And of course the 11 year olds were like, hell ya we want to play a game.

This was the game.

I was the goalie. Each player (11 year old kid) got three penalty shots on me in goal. Whoever made the most - obviously - would be the winner.

In 3rd grade, I was the best goalie in the Macabee League (Jewish league in L.A.) - or so I like to think. So I brought my "A" game - 110 percent baby.

I shut Shaked (one of the kids) down - 0 for 3 - sorry buddy. But the other two kids, they got one goal on me. I was just being nice though.

After the game, we just played with the ball for a while. Then I told em' I had to go. The kids asked me, "So are you coming back tomorrow?" I responded, "Same time?" In some rambled Hebrew I didn't really understand, I think they said - "Alright, your on!"

So during the presentation before I played soccer with the kids, people were arguing on what should be done to help Sderot. Many simply blamed the Israeli Government for not stopping the rocket fire, not protecting the city and calling on the government to act now to fix everything - not really offering any real solutions to what we, as caring students, could do to help.

To me, it's simple - what we as human beings, not just Israelis and diaspora Jewry, need to do.

First, spread awareness about what's going on in Sderot.

Second, just come here and hang out with the people, play with the kids. Show them we care.

So tomorrow at 5 PM, I got a soccer play date outside the Cinema.

Blue Label's on Me

Today the Sderot Media Center did a presentation for 120 students from around the world on a trip to Israel with thel World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) - great networking opportunity if you know what I mean.

We started at the police station and ended up at the Sderot Cinema to watch important videos and hear from important speakers on the situation in Sderot. We heard from Tal, one resturaunt-bar owner in the town.

She retold the story of when a Qassam landed thirty feet outside of her eatery, while she and her cook were preparing the grub an hour before opening. Someone in the audience asked:

"So what did you do right after the Qassam fell?"
Tal responded, "Drank a cup of Whiskey - relaxed - and then opened the resturaunt on time - with the broken windows and all".

Someone else asked why she opened a resturaunt-bar in Sderot. The eatery owner said people here in Sderot also have lives; they like to eat, drink, go out on dates, do things you guys do.

It's true. Why shouldn't Sderot have a bar? If the people here can go out and have a drink an hour after a Qassam lands just thirty feet from the bar, they deserve unlimited alchohol. Blue Label is on me - go ahead Sderot, drink away.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I'm a Mensch!

Check this article out. Mentioned by the editor of the Jewish Journal - top ten mensch in L.A! Pretty sweet honor right?

Click Here:

Brave + mensch = ?

By Rob Eshman, Editor-in-Chief

Three years ago, we were sitting around our offices dreaming up an end-of-the-year issue, inundated with examples from other magazines: The Ten Best Movies, The Ten Richest Angelenos, The Ten Most Powerful Hollywood Players, The Ten Top Restaurants, The Ten Hottest Bars and et cetera.

Since these lists are both celebration and statement, we decided we wanted to promote something a little different. What if a list championed a Jewish value, not people, things or bars (not that there's anything wrong with them....)?

Thus was born The Mensch List -- a roster that, humans being human, is far more difficult to crack than one tabulating power or wealth or even cool.

But this year, after we made the list, I -- in the spirit of some holiday -- checked it twice. And there are four people missing.

These are people I've come across in 2007 who didn't make this list but who deserve some special notice of their own. That's because they are not only mensches, they are also remarkably courageous.

Funny that the Yiddish adjectives that mean "strong" and "brave" never made the jump into the modern Jewish vernacular. Somehow, schnorrer and shmendrick and ferklempt remained near and dear to our tongues, but mutik and bahartst are no more a part of our lives than Benny Leonard or Kingfish Levinsky. When great Jewish prizefighters like these went down for the count, so did the words their fans used to praise them. That leaves shtarker. But shtarker has baggage that mensch doesn't begin to carry.

I'm no Yiddishist, but to my ears, the word has always been said with a wink, the speaker already knowing that strength and health, no matter how abundant, are fleeting. To this day, when I drop my son off at a teen party, my last words aren't "Be a shtarker!" but "Be a mensch."

So I don't know what neologism will suffice for someone who is both extraordinarily brave and a mensch to boot. What word describes those Jews and non-Jews who risk their lives to stand up for the things we all believe in? This year, I found four, and I suppose their names will suffice:

Benji Davis and David Landau

These two young men packed up this year and left their comfortable lives in Los Angeles and moved to Sderot, the beleaguered Israeli town under near-constant bombardment by Qassam rockets launched by Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

Davis is a college student from Beverly Hills volunteering at an elementary school in Sderot -- there is a charmingly awkward YouTube video of him trying to folkdance with his young charges -- and at the Sderot Media Center, which tries to raise awareness of what Israelis within the Green Line are faced with every day.

"Sderot's residents deserve protection," Davis writes on his blog, "Sderot's children deserve some sense of normalcy. Sderot deserves our help.

"We can protect Sderot from the terrorists -- it's up to you."

Landau is 19. When I asked his father, Fred, why his son moved -- of all places -- to within two miles of Gaza, he said, very matter-of-factly, without a hint of boastfulness, "Because he's a Zionist." Many of Sderot's own residents have moved away, the Israeli government has for a year now struggled to come up with a response to the Qassams, Jews from Tel Aviv to Tarzana have gone about their normal lives, but Davis and Landau have chosen to risk their lives to remind us that, no, not all is milk and honey.

They're on my list.

--The article continues with some other menches...but that's good enough.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Important Presentation on Sderot

The 9th Day of Channuka

Here are pictures from the house hit by a Qassam rocket two weeks ago. All of the pictures show different Jewish Symbols, that in some miraculous way, survived the attack.

Here is an excerpt of Noam Bedein's, director of the Sderot Media Center, report of the attack.

When the Chabad Rabbi of Sderot, Chaim Pizen, viewed the damage on Mount Sinai Street in Sderot the day after the eight day holiday of Chanukah finished, he remarked, “The Miracles that we are seeing in Sderot have revealed themselves more clearly than the miracles we witnessed on Mount Sinai itself”...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

O' Canada!

Yesterday, I went to Cherna Rosenberg's house for lunch and stuff. Cherna, who lived in Israel from 1964-1984, returned from Canada to Israel in January 2006, to Sderot of all places. Yes, Cherna made Aliyah to a town safer than any gated community in the San Fernando Valley.

Cherna's grub was phenominal - I'm still stuffed! The conversation, however, was even better.

She delighted me with her candor, humor and passion. Cherna did move to Sderot so, umm, the new immigrant's got a little personality to say the least. Cherna, in her sixties, is my kind of lady- she says what's on her mind, always.

Even being the crazy Zionist that she is, her second husband of thirty years comes from the Druze population in Israel. To most people, that might seem odd, but to Cherna - it was an obvious choice. The dude loved Israel and served in the IDF - a zionist at heart- perfect match.

Her house, like many others in Sderot, is not protected from Qassam rockets. If you don't have protection, they say you should go to a room without windows to protect yourself from the shrapnal. But all of the rooms in Cherna's cute house have windows. Uh-oh.

Cherna moved to Sderot to lives two doors down from her daughter and grandkids. She made it seem so matter of fact she moved to Sderot - to her, if given the opportunity, wouldn't anyone pick up and move to be neighbors with their child and grandchildren?

For most people, it would probably depend on whether rockets were falling from the sky on a daily basis. That being the status quo in Sderot, I'd say it's not the norm to retire in Sderot. But when you got the passion and belief of Cherna Rosenberg, it's a no brainer.

Video of Qassam attack taken on my camera

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Stop Rocketing the Beer Factories, Idiots!

Yesterday was my first day back in Sderot since the Qassam attack on Thursday. I convinced my good friend David Lawrence Abraham to come down with me; I wanted to give him a tour – my first one!

As soon as we arrived into town, we headed directly to the police station. There we met these two young guys from New York (still a few years older than me), who just so happened to stop in Sderot (of all places) on their way to enjoying stuff, foreign to the western Negev, in Eilat.

I gave em’ a quick run down on Qassam rockets: what the different colors mean, their impact, how many are launched – all the good stuff. We go outside, and they ask me “so where should we go in Sderot, seems like a happening town” (it went something like that, they were pretty funny), and I’m like, “Yo, I’ll take you around, got a car?”

Knowing I needed to pick up my laundry and get a ride for David and I to Kibbutz Saad (where we were going for the afternoon), it was the perfect situation. Ari and Adam, the guys from New York, got a sick tour from the best tour guide in the Middle East, and David and I got hooked up with a ride.

After the police station, we headed over to the house severely damaged by a Qassam rocket nearly two weeks ago. It was really cool to see their reaction to what’s going on in Sderot; it showed there are people who care about this place.

But seriously, who stops in Sderot on their way to Eilat? Are you trying to ruin your day? It was awesome though, come back guys – beers are on me.

Something to note, one of the first things Ari and Adam said was, “Didn’t the terrorists hit the Carlesberg factory with a rocket – seriously, what the hell is wrong with them?” True that.

We then went to an outpost overlooking northern Gaza. Ari took his shirt off to prove to his friends he got “some rays” while in Israel, and I proceeded to explain them what’s going on in the happiest place on earth.

Where we were, you could see Beit Hanoun – the village from where the majority of Qassam rockets are launched on Israel – the Jebaliyeh refugee camp – a hotbed of pretty intense terrorist activity – and the home of the greatest economic center in the world – Gaza City!

If we went at a good time – between 6:30 and 9:00 AM – we may have seen one of those cute little terrorists launch a Qassam rocket. How sweet would have that been? Better than being on the news? Hmm, maybe I would have been on the news again (I got to get over myself).

I also showed them that there is a white, Israeli blimp flying over Gaza taking pictures of the area making sure no fishy activities are going down. Well – just things that are fishier than terrorists launching rockets on civilian populations, that’s not that bad. Here's a picture of Beit Hanoun - rockets are launched from here daily, yikes!

After doing the Gaza Strip, Ari, Adam, my boy D. Abraham and I went to Kibbutz Saad for lunch. Yesterday really rocked. Here's a picture of Ari, Adam and I with the Gaza Strip in the background.

Even after this past crazy week of CNN and “Hi Benji, I think I saw you on the news”, taking Ari, Adam and David around made me feel I’ve accomplished some good things over the last month. Showing these guys what’s going on in Sderot, and that more people need to know about this place, was one of the better things I’ve done while being in Sderot.

So I hope I run into some more people at the police station, but next time, maybe some cute girls instead. Seems like the best place to socialize in Sderot because if conversation ever gets awkward, you can just say, “Yo, don’t you like the coloring of the green and red rocket as opposed to yellow and red ones?” Those comments never get old…

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Spreading the Word About Sderot

The video taken on my camera of the Qassam attack has circulated all over the world the last few days. Numerous people wrote on my facebook wall, "I was just sitting around and then, wow, Benji Davis, you're on CNN". Yah, that was pretty cool.

But in all honesty, it's not important that I was on CNN, as long as my message was clear - there's a big problem in Sderot needing fixing.

The segment of my video of the Qassam attack was headlined on national Israeli news on Channel Two at six, eight and twelve o'clock. Here's the piece.

Also, at 9: 30 of the night of the attack, Channel Two called me and asked to come in for an interview during the 7:00 morning news. So, I didn't sleep that night, and took a 5:30 cab from Jerusalem (where I was at the time) to Herzliyeh (where the studios are). Yes, the interview was all in Hebrew - the billions of dollars my parents spent on my Jewish education did go somewhere after all.

Here's the link of my interview on Channel Two morning news. Click here(My interview starts at 7: 07 you'll figure it out). FYI - apple users might have trouble, good luck.

My video of the Qassam Attack is also featured on the Israel Foreign Ministry web site - click here - and by Newsblaze, a wire service for journalists across the globe - click here for Newzblaze story.

I'm telling you all this to show you the power of one raw video. This one-minute clip exemplifies the terror and trauma suffered by the people of Sderot on a daily basis. Please share it with your friends, family, everyone you know, so they can understand that the Jewish people are under siege in Sderot. It'll only take a minute.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I'm on CNN

Link of me talking about attack right after Qassam fell- on CNN.

CNN Link

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Account of Thursday's Attack

While volunteering with special needs kids on Thursday, "Tzevah Adom" sounded. Because it was during a repelling activity, I was hanging from the top of a tree when the alert sounded. So the dude in charge got me down as fast as he could. Then I took the safety thing off and ran into the shelter outside (pictured below), relieved I made it in time before the boom.

As soon as I entered I said, "I knew the Tzevah Adom was going to go off while I was up there", not thinking the Qassam was going to land near us. I smiled in relief, and began fixing my glasses as they appeared broken. Ten seconds later... the loudest boom of my life! I've never heard such a sound. It was crazy. How does the city endure these attacks everyday?

Kids were crying, I was worried for the children, teachers were making sure their students were okay. It was total mayhem. Eighteen people were treated for shock. You can't think or speak during these crazy times.

Anyway, the Qassam landed 50 feet outside the school in a pile of sand - right in between the school and a block of houses. The rocket also landed 20 feet to the right of a block of houses - wow, what a miracle - so close to a disaster.

I am constantly asked if I'm going to leave Sderot because of what happened. How could I leave Sderot after what happened? I need to stay to show the world the terror people live with daily here. This is what needs to be done.

As I've said earlier in my blog:

1) Sderot and the western Negev has been under rocket attack over seven years.
2) Since Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza two and a half years ago, over 2,000 rockets have been fired on the western Negev.
3) There are 78 bomb shelters all over the western Negev that need repairs of $15,000-$20,000.
4) There are 800 houses without any protection from the Qassams.
5) Only a third of the schools in Sderot are fully protected from the rocket threat.

Hopefully because of my experience today, someone may decide to open up their pocketbook to help the people, but most importantly, the children of Sderot.

I'm going to stay for the duration of my time in Israel. To me, the attack was one of the scariest days of my life. But to the rest of Sderot, it was just another day, another Qassam.

Download Videos of Qassam Attack

Below are the links to download videos taken on my camera during this mornings Qassam attack, which fell 50 feet outside the local Sderot elementary school I volunteer for.

Qassam Alert
During Attack
After Attack

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No Hudna Please

The ruling regime in Gaza, Hamas, wants to establish a "hudna" (truce) with Israel. Yet after the early "Tzevah Adom" warning this morning, I heard the boom of a Qassam rocket. Even though Hamas is not firing Qassams at Israel right now, they are facilitating the launching of Qassams by other terrorist organizations - most notably Palestinian Islamic Jihad - by giving them rockets.

And more importantly, Hamas launches mortal shells at army bases and communities in the western Negev daily. How do you expect to have a ceasefire when you can't even display one day of restraint?

Hamas has thousands of Qassams stored, ready to fire them at the western Negev as soon as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invades Gaza in its defensive mission to stop the rocket fire on its civillian communities. "Hudna"? Are you kidding me!

The only way to stop the daily Qassam fire is an IDF incursion into Gaza. But word on the street is (what I read in the news), IDF casualties would be higher than the 119 that died during the Second Lebanon War if it enters Gaza.

Another word on the street (something else I read in the new) is that Israel needs to continue with targeted killings of terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The Israel Air Force (IAF) recently killed 13 terrorists - mostly affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad -in air strikes. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad is claiming to get revenge, but after the targeted killings, things are more quiet then usual down here.

The terrorists want a truce to build up their capabilities against Israel. "Hudna" equals less terror now, but when the time comes, the terror will be much worse than we're seeing today.

The idea of a "Hudna" means halftime to the terrorists. Time to regroup and when you got a better game plan, then you attack with greater force. Israel needs to get em' while still ahead.

Have it My Way - Get a Job!

It's kind of nerve wrecking that it's been a few days since a rocket landed in Sderot.

You terrorists better not be planning something big. I really don't like you- get a job or something (Mickie D's builds careers!).
Sheesh. Or, have it your way (Burger King slogan).

Oh ya - Poverty? authoritarian regime (Hamas)? no civil rights? Ah - there aren't any job opportunities in Gaza.

For those older readers, remember when the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza - under Israeli rule - had the 4th largest growing economy in the world during the 1980's(Palestinian Media Watch)?

Then came the first Intifada in 1987and you know what, bye bye growing economy.

Twenty years later, the socio-economic state in the Gaza Strip has never been worse. Not even this guy (Alan Greenspan)
could help you.

I got some advice. Ditch the terrorism!

It'll do you some good.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's Raining, Water?

I walked into the kitchen this morning at 7:20 AM in my tennis garb to hear Stan say - "It rained". I go, "Water? From the sky?"

The first time it's rained in centuries (probably months) in the western Negev had to be the morning I planned on getting on the tennis court again, as the expectation for it to rain rockets has yet to come to fruition.

Last night, I bought tennis balls for my anticipated match with Stan- over $7 plus later (29 sheckles).They were the last can of tennis balls in all of Sderot. An hour later I saw a movie - just 5 bucks (20 sheckles).

Can you believe tennis balls cost more than a movie? Love this little town - except when rockets land two blocks away from me!