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Monday, 20 October 2014

First Limmud Conference in Haifa

There may be English language sessions available at the first Limmud Educational Conference to be held in Haifa – so long as sufficient English speakers respond.


The programme will include a look at the Cairo Genizah and shared life between Arabs and Jews along with workshops, music, a Tenach (Bible) quiz, lectures – and even a wine tasting.

The event is on Tuesday 18 November at Bet Rutenburg, 77 Sedorot Hanassi, Haifa (4.00 -10.30 p.m.) with free car parking available about five minutes’ walk from the venue.

Proposed speakers and presenters include Rivka Lubitz, Professor Efraim Lev, Itai Yavin, Orit Rosenblit, Nurit Yacobson, Kobi Ayal, Amit Katz and Dubi ChanunLimmud.Galil

The entrance fee of 30 NIS (20 NIS for soldiers and students) includes a light supper.

Those interested in attending English language sessions should contact me on and I will forward the details to organiser, Rav Golan Ben-Chorin.

© Natalie Wood (20 October 2014)

'Operation Protective Edge' - from the Eagle’s Nest!

ESRA Karmiel-Misgav Branch members are to be treated to an eagle-eyed account of this summer’s war in Gaza by a leading  political and military analyst.

 Elliot.ChodoffMajor Elliot Chodoff (Res), who specialises in the Middle East conflict and the global war on terrorism, has presented and published papers in leading newspapers and magazines including the Washington Times, National Post of Canada, The National Interest, National Review, and Front Page Magazine, along with numerous online news outlets. 

Chodoff is the founder and senior editor of MidEast: On Target, an e-journal and newsletter. He teaches and lectures on the topics of the Middle East Conflict; Terrorism and Responses; Military Thought and Strategy; The Military Aspects of International Conflict; Arab-Israeli Relations; the Sociology of Modern Israel and the History of Zionism.

A graduate of the Ramaz School in New York and the IDF Home Front Command Senior Commanders Course, he  currently serves as the Population Officer of IDF Northern Command and is writing a PhD dissertation in International Relations at the University of Haifa on the deterrence of terrorist organisations. 


US-born, Major Chodoff moved to Israel in 1983 and is a founding member of Eshchar, a community village in the Galilee, from where he works  as a licensed tour guide, leading educational tours throughout Israel.

  • For details of  venue and  time, etc., please see: :

© Natalie Wood (20 October 2014)



Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Tale of the Gold-Plated Pee!

Festival LogoAs the boys from Dickens’s classic begged for more and  other actors offered their hands in love, those running  tourist services at this year’s Acco Festival in Israel picked visitors’ pockets via outlandish charges for use of the public conveniences.

Please don’t think that I’m one to bear a grudge. Do not imagine that I relish  my title as the meanest woman in  Galilee. But I was flamin’ furious to be charged 3 NIS – £0.49 - US $0.80 – for what must have been the costliest pee in my personal history.

The experience came courtesy of the Old Acre Development Company, a subsidiary of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, whose purpose, the website tells readers, is to develop “tourist infrastructure … high-quality public services and quality enterprise …”

The poor English translation from the Hebrew attempts to explain further that a sub-contractor is responsible for the facilities and that those producing the festival have no part in the management or collection of the accumulated funds for these services”.

Please, Sir. Dare I have a drink?

© Natalie Wood (14 October 2014)

Monday, 6 October 2014

Reading the Real Story …

Leaving Story AvenueThere is a determined congruity to the life of New Yorker Paul LaRosa.

So why have no previous reviews of the CBS News producer’s warm-hearted memoir* pointed to the irony of a kid from ‘Story Avenue’ in The Bronx going on to make writing his prize-winning life’s work? Surely –that’s the real story!

Too obvious? Oh, c’mon, do!  LaRosa’s alma mater was New York’s  Daily News,  which judging by today’s issue (Monday 06 October 2014)  is crammed with the sort of man-eats-dog stuff that continues to make it one of the most widely read tabloids on the planet.

Which reminds me: the newspaper’s previous building featured as the Daily Planet in the first two Superman movies  and its present premises still display the giant globe and meteorological instruments that  triggered the infant  LaRosa’s  dream of becoming a reporter.

But while my tone is flippant, I hold LaRosa in great respect.

After all, we had a shared beginning. While he is an Italian-American Catholic from a poor family and I was born into the British Anglo-Jewish middle-classes, we were both in the final generation of rookie journalists to be trained in hot metal before cold type technology became the norm and changed the industry for ever. Paul.LaRosa

We were also  the last to learn the trade at the ‘university of hard knocks’, before everything was glamorised and became a streamlined profession. But as LaRosa charts his rise and his meetings with celebrities like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (he also worked briefly with her daughter, Caroline) and Joe DiMaggio, it becomes clear that newsrooms are the same everywhere. The biggest hitters invariably have egos to match.

* Leaving Story Avenue - My journey from the projects to the front page is available from

© Natalie Wood (06 October 2014)

Saturday, 4 October 2014

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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

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Monday, 29 September 2014

The Life and Death of a Lone Wolf

Steven.SotloffThe Jewish world is very small. In Israel where there have been seven full-scale wars and innumerable ‘armed conflicts’ since  the state was established in 1948, everyone  knows at least one family bereaved by war; one person who has died slowly from their wounds – often after many years of great suffering  – or someone who  somehow lives a full life despite having sustained appalling injuries.

The Jewish world is tiny. The first time many Jews saw Steven Joel Sotloff’s name, they knew instinctively that despite his appearance, the foreign correspondent kidnapped by ISIS was Jewish.

Then came the U.S. freelancer’s dreadful end.

Yeah, said my husband’s first cousin. She had once dated his dad, Arthur.

That’s right, echoed The Jewish Journal’s Danielle Berrin. They had grown up together in Miami where they attended the Temple Beth Am day school and much later, corresponded on Facebook when they discovered they had both become journalists.

Sure, announced all the other news outlets once the self-imposed embargo was lifted, Sotloff had dual American-Israeli nationality and his grandparents had been Holocaust survivors. Then one of my own friends confirmed she had met him while he was  studying as a lone immigrant at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) in Herzliya during the early 2000s.

So how a man in such a position managed to hide his background and his faith, yet pray regularly  and even fast on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – simply beggars belief.

If the story is not  make-believe, perhaps Sotloff would have said his faith supported him; that heaven was on his side.  But his luck ran out. He was hoodwinked at a fake checkpoint, then captured and ‘sold’ to ISIS by Syrian rebels. Then, as the world now knows, following a year of incarceration, he was slaughtered most vilely, just like his non-Jewish colleague, James Foley and another infamously executed Jewish correspondent, Daniel Pearl.

But the three men had yet more in common. It was not simply that they were well-educated westerners in the Judeo-Christian tradition, imbued with a peculiar gift for gathering and interpreting news.

Foreign correspondents and investigative reporters share many traits. They are resourceful but restless. They dislike being desk-bound and loathe routine. Their search for the truth of a story is  also their way of escaping the drudgery of ordinary life.

But where many correspondents who are posted abroad  prefer to work in packs based at central hotels, people like Sotloff are lone wolves. I don’t believe he could have been the ‘gentle soul’ described by his mother, Shirley. But neither,  I suggest, was he an adrenalin-crazed  ‘war junkie’. He simply  loved doing what he did and like adventurers in the classic mould,  he felt compelled to follow a story simply because it ‘was there’.

It appears there was always one more lead to chase and it was the last one which caused him trouble. I don’t agree that the Obama Administration was responsible for Sotloff’s plight and his family must surely realise that he went about his  self-imposed work acutely aware of all the possible consequences.

I’m unclear why some hostages, including Sotloff, agree to read   statements written by their captors when they know their death is inevitable.

Sotloff was video recorded next  to a masked figure, addressing President Obama thus: “You've spent billions of US taxpayers' dollars and we have lost thousands of our troops in our previous fighting against the Islamic State, so where is the people's interest in reigniting this war?” He surely knew the words would be dismissed as empty rhetoric.

While I salute the life of one modern hero, I want us all to remember  another, less celebrated hostage who was  murdered  in 2004  after being kidnapped by Islamist militants in Iraq. Fabrizio Quattrocchi 

Italian security officer, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who had begun working life as a baker, was forced to dig his own grave and then kneel beside it wearing a hood while his captors prepared to film his killing.

But he defied them, attempted to pull off the hood and as he yelled, "I'll show you how an Italian dies!" he was shot in the back of his neck. 

It has been pointed out that if other hostages were to react like this, it would prevent terrorists from publicising beheadings and their  campaign would begin to falter.

Where I believe people like Sotloff fail is that they commit the cardinal sin in journalism  by becoming the story rather than simply its narrator.  While it’s natural for grieving families to lash out at convenient targets, they should be made aware of how other people’s lives are endangered in any attempt to rescue their loved ones.


I offer Sotloff’s family and all Jewish readers my best wishes for the Jewish New Year of 5775.

Mark.Ulyseas_thumb4This piece first appeared in the October 2014 edition of Live Encounters magazine ( edited by Mark Ulyseas, a faithful supporter of Israel and all matters Jewish.


© Natalie Wood (29 September 2014)

Friday, 26 September 2014

PerfectlyWritePoetry: Beach Picnic at Sunset

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