I know you're going to chuckle and think yeah, yeah when I say Jews have been trailblazers from the word go, but think about it. Long before environmental protection topped the world agenda it was an issue embedded in the bible; long before the “mosaic society” became part-and-parcel of 21st century life, Jews were a multi-cultural people by virtue of the diaspora. Then seventy years ago, a Jewish state with an entrepreneurial spirit was born embracing both. By the end of its first decade the country had become a collage of cultures, its scientists exploring ways to harness solar power and create technology for maximizing limited water resources.
What does this have to do with Kar-Ben? A lot, because Kar-Ben focused on these topics over the past decade, keeping up with the hot headlines – and I'm proud to say that I was a part of it. In 2007 Kar-Ben asked me to write the book Passover Around the World. Two years later they followed up with a similar request for Hanukkah and together we gave birth to Hanukkah Around the World. Ten years ago, after a careful read of the bible, I suggested a book on the bible and environmental protection, and in 2011 Green Bible Stories for Children came out.
Happily, I've discovered that these three books have become perennials. The proof came this year when Hebrew College – located in Newton, MA – approached me about doing two presentations around these books for their annual conference at the end of this October. The theme of this year's 4-day summit is “Israel's Multiple Dimensions”; my books fit perfectly, because living in Israel I used the country as my research laboratory for all three.
As my talk “DiverCity: Multi-Cultural is Part of the Israeli DNA” shows, Israel is an open-lab like an open-museum. When former Kar-Ben publisher and editor Judye Groner first approached me about writing Passover Around the World I realized immediately that researching this book would be easy and fun. On my block alone in the city of Petach Tikva I had neighbors from England, France, Belgium, Portugal, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia and India. Then I thought about various friends scattered throughout Israel – Americans who had married Jews from Iran, Morocco and Italy. The biggest smile crossed my face when I thought about the swimming pool and health club I belonged to. Listening to the Iraqi vibers – housewives – in the locker room was a weekly sociological study. Even some of my swimming “buddies” hailed from a host of countries. It got to the point that I placed a pad and pen in a plastic bag inside my swim bag, ready for use in the middle of a lap if need be.
Oh the results! The riches I picked up! Two books emerged and even a 5-year blog on all Jewish holiday customs from all over the world. At the same time, with bible study and lectures an integral part of Israeli culture – and I stress the word culture as opposed to religion – I was on my way to brewing up another book idea that led to Green Bible Stories for Children. I discovered that Israel's entrepreneurial spirit is very Jewish indeed. Here's a little teaser – try to figure out the source for each: Abraham was the first herder to understand sustainability. Way before Israel developed solar panels Joshua was harnessing the sun's power. In fact, Joshua was an all-around green guy. He also understood the power of noise pollution. Finally, was it really a miracle when Moses changed brackish water into sweet water by throwing some branches into a brook? Not at all! Green Bible Stories for Children retells nine bible stories with a green peg plus it has a potpourri section of another nine ecology episodes. I'd say that's a biblical blueprint for environmental protection, which is what my second talk at Hebrew college is all about.
So is Kar-Ben following the Jewish trailblazing spirit? You bet!
Born in the United States, now lives in Israel. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and an M.A. in Communications from Boston University. She is one of Israel's leading English language copywriters. Her children's books include Tasty Bible Stories, Keeping the Promise, Passover Around the World, Hanukkah Around the World and Zvuvi’s Israel. She lives in Kfar Saba, Israel. Discover all of Tami's books at www.karben.com.