Brussels Airlines and Save a Child’s Heart

I recently got the opportunity to film this short clip for Save a Child’s Heart in which Brussels Airlines donated 10 seats to  three children who need live saving heart surgery, along with 7 doctors and nurses who are coming to train with Save a Child’s Heart at Wolfson Hospital in Holon.  

Kol Ha Kavod to Brussels Airlines!


Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease and to create centers of competence in these countries. SACH is totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child’s nationality, religion, color, gender or financial situation.

Friends by Nature’s Women Empowerment for International Women’s Day

Glad to be able to assist Friends by Nature in editing this short clip of brick-breaking and Women’s Empowerment for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2013.

Check out their Brick Breaking skills here!

Friends by Nature – Community Empowerment runs programs for at-risk Ethiopian Israeli youth, providing them and their families with a sense of belonging and purpose, with their eyes to the future. The organization seeks to build and empower communities which operate a variety of programs and make them sustainable.

Can you serve the State of Israel without joining the army?

Meet Matan Nitsky, a colleague of mine at United Hatzalah of Israel where I currently work in Jerusalem.

I made this film on Matan back in October, on his ‘triple’ life.

A Yeshiva student in the morning, a Civil Service volunteer in the afternoon at United Hatzalah, and a father in the evening.

Matan’s stories continue to inspire me each time we briefly speak in the United Hatzalah storage room where he works.

He has been saving lives since he was a teenager.

He recently told me that he was at the Mercaz HaRav Massacre in Jerusalem in 2008 when the gunmen was still shooting. He was a volunteer at a nearby hospital when he heard the call and immediately went to the scene when it was still dangerous. Because it was around Purim time, the hospital was getting so many crank calls, some at the hospital started to ignore the calls. He knew this one was real and immediately went there. He was able to give the hospital a 5-6 minute warning to prepare for the victims arrival.

At the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva that evening, eight students were killed, eleven were wounded, and five of them placed in critical condition.

We all know without his 5-6 minute warning it could have changed the above numbers.

He still thinks often about that day.

Matan Nitsky should be praised for serving the country within his religious framework.

Please like United Hatzalah of Israel on Facebook.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Greetings to South Sudan”


I was really pleased to receive an email this morning from the JTA news service titled, “Jewish groups delivering aid to South Sudan” in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “This is a peace-seeking country and we would be pleased to cooperate with it in order to ensure its development and its prosperity. Greetings to South Sudan.”

If you have been following recent African news, you must have heard that South Sudan became an independent state on July 9, 2011 with its capital in Juba, following a vote for independence.

Per the article, IsraAID (The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid) is planning to send a long-term aid mission to help women, children and the elderly in the new country.

“As a small and relatively newborn country, Israel has gained experience in various factors of water, agriculture, post trauma, education, migration and others that would be valuable to the people of South Sudan who are now building their country,” said Shachar Zahavi, founding director of IsraAID. “It is our mission and Jewish commitment to reach out to our new friends in any way we can.”

Link to article:

As you know, I have been working with immigrant communities for the past few years,  and  have always been interested in global migration and how various refugee communities end up in places like…Israel!

What I have recently discovered since moving to Israel, is that Israel hosts about 33,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea, South Sudan, and Darfur.

As you can imagine, the situation is a very touchy one, in which the Israeli Government has not been too willing to grant refugee status to many of these asylum seekers, as they do not want to make Israel an attractive destination for long-term illegal migrant workers, although the journey for most through the Sinai Desert is quite a dangerous one and many of these refugees get taken into detention for at least one-month. However, if granted a conditional release document stating discharge from detention, asylum seekers at this time do get a 3-month, renewable visa in which they are allowed to work.

If you have ever visited Israel, and came on a bus to Tel Aviv’s central bus station, you most likely have seen these migrant communities.

I don’t want to express my opinion on whether I personally agree or disagree with Israel’s refugee policy, as I tend to focus on the human aspect of migration.

What I do know from speaking to a few Southern Sudanese at their celebration of independence this past Sunday in Tel Aviv (strategically sponsored by the Telecom Company Orange), is that most do want to return home and probably will over the next year or so. I can assure that their long-term goal is not to jeopardize the make up of an Jewish State.

Nevertheless,whether or not the Jewish State is comfortable in accepting a growing refugee population, I was pleased to see that the Israeli government has reached out to  South Sudan and is proactively trying to help them build a nation.

Please watch my video on the situation of Congolese Refugees in Uganda for World Refugee Day. June 20th, 2011


Today, on the 20th of June, the world celebrates International Refugee Day, and this year, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the UN Refugee Convention.

There are 43 million uprooted people in the world. Every day, men, women and children are forced to flee their countries, leaving their homes behind them.

As you know if you have followed any of my blog posts over the last year on Cafe Avra, I spent 6 months before I came to Israel documenting refugee stories in Kenya and Uganda alongside the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Personally I probably have met over 200+ refugees throughout my time in Kenya/Uganda, which is just a tiny fraction. There are hundreds of thousands.

Above is a video I made for International Women’s Day just a few months ago (March 2011) on the situation of Congolese Refugees in Uganda that I must re-iterate on this World Refugee Day 2011.

As I repeatedly say through all my posts I have written on refugees, I encourage everyone to take a second to think about and try to understand why refugees have to flee their homes. the struggles they go through each day getting access to basic resources and why we need to leave our preconceived notions about refugees behind.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, today, as I have written about before,  rape is used as a weapon of war which forces many refugees into Uganda.

Life is very difficult and dangerous (in Uganda) in the refugee camps where UNHCR provides food and minor assistance, so many refugees leave and try their luck in the capital, Kampala, which is usually not much easier.  Kampala is where I met these Congolese Women.

The political conflict is extremely complicated, but the simple fact is that rebels control the regions of Eastern Congo which are home to various ‘conflict minerals’ used in our cellphones and computers–i.e.  the 3 “T’s….tin, tungsten, and tantalum (as well as gold).

For more detailed info do visit the Enough Project’s website, ( )


As I write I am not focusing on being overly liberal and granting refugee status or citizenship to every single refugee claim.

Israel happens to have 33,000 asylum seekers in which the considerations of granting asylum are far different then granting refugee status to the Congolese in Uganda. (This topic I will explore further at a later date.)

I am talking about the human level…trying to understand just for a moment what a refugee has went through before making an assessment on their current situation.


Like I said above, Israel also happens to have quite a dynamic asylum seeker population, who mostly live in the South of Tel Aviv. The refugee community is celebrating World Refugee Day this Friday, June 24th.

For those in Israel who want to attend:

Music | Protest | Solidarity Friday 24/06/2011, Tel Aviv Old Central Bus Station, starting at 12:00

Performances of Israelis and Africans*:
Bilaka (Congo), Alma Zohar, Sean Mongoza, Quami, Sinit (Eritrea), Special Jam, Vince (Nigeria), System Ali with Assaf Youth Club, Duop Lulone (South Sudan), DJ Ophir Tabul (Café Gibraltar)

Facebook Page:יום-הפליט-הבינלאומי-2011/212268022147426?sk=info


Always remember: “You are never given an obstacle you cannot overcome.” [Rebbe Nachman of Breslov]


As Shavuot approaches and we celebrate when the Torah was given to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai more than 3300 years ago, we also renew our acceptance of G‑d’s gift, and G‑d “re-gives” the Torah.

We must remember that this gift encompasses the blissful times and also the very difficult challenges we face.

As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov reminds us, we are never given a challenge that we don’t have the resources to handle. We must approach climbing the mountains ahead of us with faith, acceptance, strength. Although it is sometimes very painful, it is only once we get to the top of the mountain that we can truly be free!

I received a nice quote by email recently:

There is only one thing that can put you further ahead than success, and that is surviving failure.

When you are successful, you are whole and complete. That is wonderful, but you cannot break out beyond your own universe.

When you fail, you are broken. You look at the pieces of yourself lying on the ground and say, “This is worthless.”

Now you can escape. The shell is broken.

Chag Sameach!