Lag Baomer 5773

Lag B'omer 5773

Dear Friends of Makom Bagalil,

Today is the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, a day whose original significance in the calendar has no clear explanation, but which is observed in Israel primarily by generating large quantities of greenhouse gases.

Thousands of people dance around bonfires lit to commemorate the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived in the Roman period but who is associated in the folk tradition with medieval Kabbalah. And thousands of others build bonfires to commemorate the field conditions experienced by the Jews who joined Bar Kochba's failed rebellion against Rome in 132.

The fires of faith and of nationalism burn brightly today. We don't want to be a wet blanket on a popular happy day... But actually, maybe what the world needs is more wet blankets, to protect us from the flames.

We'll stick with our image of ourselves as a candle, quietly, modestly trying to radiate the light of understanding and cooperation. Sometime it feels like the bonfires drown out our light. But Lag B'omer will be over and we'll still be here.

Thanks for your interest and support!

Best wishes.

Rabbi Marc J. Rosenstein, director

Circus to save the world

Just after Pesach, a delegation from the Galilee Circus spent a week in Holland, working in partnership with Circus Poehaa - teaching, learning, and performing for a variety of audiences. This exchange was sponsored by the Anna Lindh Foundation (based in Alexandria, Egypt). For example, here they are doing an impromptu show in frigid weather at a community center in Arnheim.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Rosenstein was invited to participate in the Anna Lindh Forum in Marseille, where his presentation of the circus was received with enthusiasm by representatives of NGOs working to strengthen democracy and intercultural learning and dialogue, from countries in Europe and around the Mediterranean. We hope the connections created there will enable us to expand our partnerships beyond the US and Europe - to youth circuses in the Middle East as well.

Here's a video of highlights from our final joint show in Holland:

Dugrinet in the community

Dugrinet, our Hebrew-Arabic website, has been sponsoring real-life (not virtual) programs dealing with current issues. Most recently, we co-sponsored an evening with Kolech, the Orthodox feminist organization, on pre-nuptial agreements. Due to the fact that the Orthodox rabbinate determines marital law for all Jews in Israel, and due to the assymetry in gender status in traditional marriage, the problem of agunot, women who are not free to remarry, is a painful social problem here. One possible solution is a type of pre-nuptial agreement that helps to equalize the power of the partners in the event of a divorce dispute. A panel consisting of an Orthodox rabbi, a lawyer, and a leader of Kolech presented different aspects of the issue - and we heard testimony of real-life dilemmas - leading to a thoughtful and interesting discussion among quite a heterogeneous gathering.

Though Dugrinet is in Arabic and Hebrew, its goal, as seen from the above description, is not only to foster Arab-Jewish cooperation and dialogue, but to create a platform for shared learning and action for all the citizens of the Galilee.

Dugrinet is only bilingual, so far, but we are posting a monthly blog in English, containing highlights and summaries of current content. Comments and inquiries welcome.

Coming up

Perhaps the best way to get a sense of what we do is just to peruse our program schedule; here is a listing for the coming month:

May 3 - Dugrinet program on issues of unionization

May 5 - Lecture on Book of Ruth, senior citizens' center

May 6 - Galilee Circus performance for Beth Tefilo (Baltimore) students

May 7 - Neighbors encounter and circus workshop for participants in international dance academy at Kibbutz Gaaton

May 8 - Galilee Circus - performance for the general public

May 10 - Mobile Beit Midrash - The Omer period and its meanings: historical echoes in the Galilee

May 16 - New Jersey Solomon Schechter students (''Neshama''): Neighbors encounter, circus performance

May 17 - Circus performance at Bet Jallah, for ''Humans without Borders'' event.

May 21 - Neighbors seminar for college group from Cincinnati; Circus performance for Montreal camp directors.

May 22 - Circus performance for birthright groups

May 27 - Preparatory Neighbors seminar for Israeli staff of summer youth program ''Chetz Vakeshet''

May 28 - Neighbors seminar for Brooklyn student group

May 31 - ''Festivalimud'' public study day on Judaism and social justice, in partnership with a number of local and national organizations, at ORT Braude College in Karmiel

Be a partner

About 40% of our income comes from our projects - from seminars, lectures, circus performances, and creation of educational materials; we are engaged in a constant effort to increase this activity. If your organization is planning a trip and would like to participate in one of our programs, we'd be happy to help in the planning and make a proposal.

And 60% comes from contributions - most of them by individual supporters who share our vision of what needs to be done here to make this a sustainable society. We welcome your support large or small, for general operations for for specific projects. We acknowledge gifts in honor of persons or events - bar/bat mitzvah honorees receive a photo collage of the Galilee Circus. We also are happy to provide packets of our Chava Alberstein note cards to donors.

Questions or special requests - mail us at For instructions for contributing by check or on-line, click here.

Another way to partner with us is to volunteer here, long- or short-term. We have had a number of great experiences with volunteers; if you're interested, let us know.

What we do

Galilee Circus - 70 kids ages 6-18, half of them Arabs and half of them Jews, who meet to learn and perform circus arts - together.

Pluralistic Bet Midrash - Courses, lectures, festivals, study tours, bringing Jewish texts to bear on current issues.

Dugrinet - a Hebrew-Arabic website serving as a magazine and a platform for shared social action for all the residents of the Galilee

Neighbors - facilitated, structured educational encounters between Jews and Arabs.

Educational tourism - programs providing an authentic cncounter with the people and places of the Galilee.

Educational consulting - curriculum writing, teacher training, support for informal programming in schools.



For useful background information on Arab-Jewish relations in the Galilee, click here.

And for our teacher-inservice curriculum on teaching Israel, published by ''Makom,'' click here.

Galilee Diary

Rabbi Rosenstein's weekly ''Galilee Diary'' on life in the Galilee is available on-line. A selection of entries from the first eight years of the Diary has been published in book form, and is available from the URJ Press.

Scholar in Residence
Contact us if you are interested in Rabbi Rosenstein speaking in your community during the High Holy Day season this year