Thursday, April 3

'The air of the Holy Land makes one wise'

The afternoon sky over Tzfat, in northern Israel, as seen from neighboring Meron. Shot with my Samsung Galaxy Note 3, minor cropping and color tweaking in Snapspeed (Photo: Dave Bender: Compelling Israel-based Photography, All Rights Reserved 

Thursday, March 13

Irena Sendler - the Forgotten Holocaust Hero

As the years pass fewer living Holocaust survivors are able to bear witnesses to the atrocities that the Jews of the Nazi-occupied countries endured. A number of organizations, such as Yad Vashem, have been working feverishly to collect as many testimonies as possible as they make every effort to memorialize the victims.

In addition to remembering the victims such testimonies are also frequently used to honor Righteous Gentiles who risked their own lives to save Jews. Yad Vashem employs numerous archivists and uses the services of dozens of volunteers in their effort to obtain the testimonies and outrun the clock.

Sometimes the information comes unexpectedly. Such was the case regarding the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who was honored for her role in saving over 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto. Sendler received her honor as a Righteous Gentile in 1963 from Yad Vashem but her story was quickly forgotten. It was only in 1999, when a group of non-Jewish schoolgirls from Uniontown Kansas pursued a rumor, that the incredible story of Irena Sendler's bravery was publicized throughout the world.

Irena Sendler was working as a social worker for the Warsaw Department of Welfare when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. She became active with the Zagota underground which was active in assisting Jews who were trying to escape from Nazi persecution. Zagota members helped Jews find hiding places and obtain false papers which would enable them to blend into Polish society.  By 1940 Zagota had named Sendler as the head of its children's unit and she began to look for ways to help Jewish children escape from the Germans.

The Nazis built the Warsaw ghetto in 1940. Almost half a million people were enclosed in the ghetto without adequate food, shelter or medicine. Irena Sendler, in her capacity as a city social worker, obtained a pass that allowed her to freely enter and exit the ghetto. She tried to smuggle food into the ghetto but it was like a drop in a bucket and she quickly realized that, to make an impact, she would have to find another course of action.

Together with her Zagota comrades Sendler devised a plan to smuggle children out of the ghetto. She started with street children, sedating them and hiding them in toolboxes, luggage and in carts under barking dogs and garbage. Soon she began to approach parents. She asked these parents to allow her to try to save their children by taking them out of the ghetto.

In an interview that Sendler conducted in 2004 she recalled those conversations."I talked the mothers out of their children" she told her interviewers. "Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn't give me the child. Their first question was, 'What guarantee is there that the child will live?' I said, 'None. I don't even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today."

Some parents refused to allow Sendler to take their children, believing that the children should stay with their families. Others couldn't believe that the children would have a better chance of survival outside the ghetto, among Polish gentiles. But over the course of two years Sendler and other Zagota members smuggled over 2500 children out of the ghetto, hiding them in convents, orphanages and with sympathetic Polish families.

Irena Sendler carefully recorded the names of all of the children that she rescued. She placed the slips of tissue paper with the children's names and hiding places in glass jars which she buried in her garden.  Sendler hoped that, after the war, the children could be reunited with surviving family members or, at the very least, with the Jewish community.

In October 1943 the Gestapo arrested Sendler and sentenced her to be shot.  Zagota members were able to bribe a German guard and smuggle her out of the prison. Sendler remained in hiding until the end of the war.

In 1963 Yad VaShem honored Irena Sendler. After the awards ceremony she returned to Warsaw where her wartime activities were forgotten. When the Kansas students began to research Sendler's actions during the war, they were startled to uncover her story, realizing it had all been forgotten in the dustbin of history. Together with the funding from Jewish philanthropist Lowell Milken and the LMC they were able to publicize it to a worldwide audience. The project, Life in a Jar, honors Sendler's heroism and bravery and has evolved into a website, a book and a performance which has been seen by thousands of people throughout the world.

Wednesday, March 12

Gaza Terrorists Are Trying To Kill My Israeli Daughter Tonight

As of Thursday night, they're still trying.
After our fun day in Jerusalem after her night in a bomb shelter at Kibbutz Holit alongside Gaza, daughter Pria bussed her way back this evening. 
Meanwhile, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza made, and then broke, their own self-declared “cease fire” with Israel and fired at least five Kassam rockets at the Jewish State, in addition to the some 70 fired over the last 24-hours.
When I alerted her via WhatsApp of the incoming rockets, my “smart” phone’s terribly politically correct autocorrect function dutifully emended “Kassams” to - wait for it… “lambs.”
No, no - srsly. I’m not kidding.
Oh, how you just fuc*n slay, autocorrect. How you just fuc*n slay.
So, let the media record note that, as of Thursday evening, at least five Palestinians were wounded by falling lambs that bleated their way short of their Jewish Israeli targets, Pria Reut Bender among them.
You just cannot make this sh*t up.
...and you wonder why we drink on Purim. 
Captions and comments are welcome.
Original post:
Spoke with daughter Pria this cold and rainy Wednesday evening. She's currently working post nat'l service at Holit, a small farming community alongside Gaza. She's huddled overnight in their bomb shelter with others as the steel rain (some 90 rockets slamming into southern Israel, so far). The shelter also happens to be their pub, which is a somewhat comforting thought for her, ironically speaking...

But seriously, Palestinian terrorists in the neighboring Gaza Strip are trying their best to kill her, and any other indiscriminate Israelis, that happen to be within rocket range this evening.

The Israeli Air Force and ground forces are striking close to 30 rocket launching areas in response as this goes to post, so, while there are, as yet, no accurate casualty reports among the Palestinians, no doubt, much fanfare and international reporting will note many dead and wounded buildings and big smoking holes in Gaza by dawn.
"The entire operation," according to Israel National News, "which was launched at 10 pm Wednesday Israel time, was quick - and deadly. The IDF announcement stating that the operation focused on the 29 targets also noted just 45 minutes after the fact that all IAF pilots had returned safely to base after completing their mission.
"IDF tanks fired at terror targets from the border earlier Wednesday, after Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon warned that the barrage would not go unnoticed. Of the three targets eliminated, two were in southern Gaza and one was in the North." 
"'We will not ignore the barrage of rocket fire tonight,' Ya'alon stated. 'We will not allow Islamic Jihad or any other entity in the Gaza Strip to disrupt the lives of Israeli citizens.'"
Over two dozen Israelis have been killed, and thousands of others have been wounded over the past decade, both physically and psychologically by, what are, by any normative standard, international war crimes of intentionally targeting civilians. 
So far, as of Wednesday evening, no Israelis have been physically harmed in the barrage. However, millions in southern Israel are truly under direct threat, as can be seen in the rocket range graphic, and this Israeli father is just wondering, along with so many others, what our government leaders plan to do about it.

Two Israeli school boys, residents of Kibbutz Nir Oz near the Gaza Strip, as they and a dog examine pockmarks on a kindergarten's reinforced security wall from a Kassam rocket attack in 2012 against their small farming community (Photo: Dave Bender, All Rights Reserved). 
So I reiterate: Over two dozen Israelis have been killed, and thousands of others are wounded, both physically and psychologically by, what are, by any normative standard, international war crimes intentionally targeting civilians.
So far, as of Wednesday evening, no Israelis have been physically harmed in the barrage. However, millions in southern Israel are truly under direct threat, as can be seen in the rocket range graphic, and this Israeli father is just wondering, along with so many others, what our government leaders plan to do about it.
(All Photo: Dave Bender: All Rights Reserved)
Here's a feature article I wrote about the experience of living this way:

Thursday, March 6

'Sandy Safed sunset'

'Sandy Safed sunset'

A receding dust storm in northern Israel pales the disk of a twilight sun over Mt. Meron, silhouetted by trees in nearby Safed at Shot on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and gently edited in Snapspeed (Photo:, All Rights Reserved). 

Tuesday, December 24

Update: 'Snowmageddon' photo series in Israel's NatGeo!

Update: The 'Snowmageddon' photo series is now in Israel's NatGeo - check it out!

My photo series from the "100-year" snowstorm that battered northern and central Israel, and the region for several days in mid-December.

Mt. Meron framed by pines, as seen from Tzfat's 'Citadel,' 

the highest point in the city.

Friday, November 15

One Year Later: IDF Operation 'Pillar of Defense' to Halt Rockets From Gaza:

Post by Dave Bender:

One Year Later: IDF Operation 'Pillar of Defense'":

KIRYAT MALACHI, Israel , Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- In a violent instant on Thursday morning, a single Grad rocket from Gaza took three lives, wounded seven and plunged residents of one Israeli town into the explosive horror.
Photo: Israeli schoolchildren and a dog at Kibbutz Nir Oz inspect a kindergarten wall 
pockmarked by a Kassam rocket that slammed down nearby. 
(Photo and series: Dave Bender, All Rights Reserved) 

The long-range rocket, fired from Gaza, scored a direct hit on two apartments in the 4th-floor walk-up in Kiryat Malachi Thursday and killed 24-year-old Itzik Amsallem, 25-year-old Mira Scharf and 49-year-old Aharon Smadja.

"I cried all morning," Gila Yehezkeli, 19, a close friend of Sharf, told Xinhua. I grew up with her, she was like a sister to me."

"While, outside, pastoral fields stretched towards Gaza to the south, inside, a 30-centimeter-deep carpet of masonry rubble, shattered glass, children's toys, demolished furniture and household artifacts spread across the floor. Bookshelves and glass breakfronts full of bibles and other Jewish religious books, were ripped off walls, scattering ancient Hebrew texts among the rubble."

Full article:

Photo set:

Sunday, October 6

Religious Jews 'Hurrying to greet the Queen'

'Hurrying to greet the Queen' (Photo: Dave Bender: All Rights Reserved)
I spotted this group late Friday afternoon near the Mt. Cannan Merkaz Klita (immigrant absorption center), Tzfat, just as I was hurrying to get in my pre-Shabbat hill-blaster ride. (Photo: Dave Bender: All Rights Reserved) 

Come book a stay by us at:, and join me on my rides and you might get the next shot! 

Wednesday, July 31

'Israeli Citizens Wary of Peace Talks' (USA Today)

My latest, published in USA Today:

Dave Bender, Special for USA TODAY
4:23 p.m. EDT July 29, 2013

JERUSALEM -- After six decades of conflict, Israelis did not appear confident Monday that a resumption of direct negotiations over disputed territory will result in peace.

Israeli Border Police officer on guard near Palestinian Arabs during Muslim prayers held in Old City alleyway.
(Illustrative photo: Dave Bender, All Rights Reserved)
"I have very low expectations," said Rivkah Moriah, an American immigrant who lives with her family in the settlement of Efrat, south of Jerusalem.
Israeli and Palestinian teams arrived in Washington on Monday to end years of diplomatic stalemate and prepare for a new round of Mideast peace talks. 
The resumption of talks was preceded by a decision by Israel's Cabinet to free 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism. The release was part of an agreement brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to bring the sides back to the negotiating table.
Read more.

Monday, April 8

Israel and the Nationalist vs Universalist Holocaust

Powerful and disturbing:
"There are nice Jewish boys and girls who have read Anne Frank's diary, visited Auschwitz and come away anti-semities. Of course they don't of course call themselves that. They call themselves human rights activists, they board flotillas, they boycott Israeli products, smash Jewish store windows, hug terrorists and rationalize suicide bombers. And it's not entirely their fault. The lessons that they drew from their education is that the underdog is always right, that people in uniforms are bad and that you always have to stand up for minorities."
Read the rest.

   Israeli Air Force attack helicopter during a "nap-of-the-earth" approach run during live fire exercises at an artillery base in the south of the country (Photo: Dave Bender - All Rights Reserved)     


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