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Nov 30, 2006

DIY candles

In Israel it is very common for people to light their menoras (in Israel we call them hanukia) with oil, usually of the olive variety, rather than with candles.

Lighting with olive oil is considered a more mehudar way of fulfilling the mitzva of Hanuka. The light is considered nicer, along with the more similar commemoration of the miracle which happened with olive oil and the menora in the Mikdash was lit daily with olive oil.

The problem with using olive oil is that it is very messy. You have to pur the oil into these little cups. You have to prepare the wicks. You have to soak the wicks a bit in oil so the flame will be a nice one. Basically it is a messy job. Oil is sure to spill and it is sure to get all over your hands, table and likely on your shirt as well.

A number of years ago a product came on the market. This product was meant to deal with the messiness of preparing the oil for the menora. This product is a set of 44 prefilled cups of olive oil with wicks already inserted in the cups. All you do is take out the appropriate number of cups per day, put them in the menora and you are ready to go. No mess. And the flame is beautiful because the wick has been soaking (for a long time) in the oil.

I always rejected using this product. It felt special to actually prepare the wicks myself rather (or have my kids do it). Like I was busying myself with doing the mitzva. I always figured there must be something better about doing it yourself rather than buying it pre-made.

But is it better? I do not know. The past couple of years I have not been so sure. It gets pretty messy. the flame is never as nice. It takes a few times attempting to light it before the flame catches decently. When lighting the menora I always say this is the last time we do this - next year we buy the prepared cups and forget this mess.

Thinking about it, I do not know what is better. Is there something to the thought that busying myself with the mitzva is better, even if it does not come out as nice? Maybe it is still considered nicer because I toiled towards the fulfillment of the mitzva?

Or maybe not. Maybe preparing the candles is not a mitzva at all and it does not matter whether you prepare it by hand or just go buy it already prepared. Maybe spending a bit more money so it comes out cleaner and nicer is better than being "cheap", saving the money, doing it myself and it not coming out as nice.

I am still not sure which way to go, but I am more open to buying it this year than I have been in the past, though still undecided.

question for other Israeli bloggers

I am thinking about putting advertising on this blog. That way I would be able to earn a little money for the time spent writing here. Much of that money (if any money is actually made from advertising on my site) would go towards improving the usability of this blog and improving features.

The question I pose to you is what blog advertising service have you found to be the most beneficial and efficient? I ask this of Israeli bloggers because most of the issues I blog about are Israeli in nature and therefore Israeli bloggers would know how the relevant advertising works and earns more so than general and even jewish bloggers (the ad services usually pair ads with topics of posts).

However, I would appreciate feedback from all of you, my readers. Would advertisements hurt your reading experience? Think of other blogs you read and think about whether the ads on those sites bother you, help you (find products and sites you did not know about and need or find useful) or none of the above (e.g. indifferent, don't notice, etc.)

Also, one more thing - if anybody has recommendations for a specific blog advertising service that you feel is better than the others (better ads, gives the blogger more control, earns more money, etc) let me know your thoughts. As well, if you kno of one I should stay away from, let me know.

Thanks in advance for your time and assistance.

You can either leave your suggestions in the comments, or email me directly at israeli.jew at gmail dot com

thoughts on the strike

The strike is over. The Labor Courts last night declared the strike must be ended immediately and that the workers must return to work.

I do not know which side is right in this case. I feel horrible about the poor employees who have not had their salaries paid in months, but it is not so clear the government is at fault for that.

Regardless of who is at fault, I think the strike was wrong. Maybe they should have held a more limited strike and it would have been more appropriate. Maybe shut down a few of the government offices that were involved in the problem.

It was wrong to shut down the airport and cause aggravation to travellers. People have lost lots of money because of the strike, along with lots of time and anxiety. They have had business trips delayed causing losses, vacations must be rescheduled effecting cancellation and rescheduling fees, etc. The one port of entry to Israel should be excluded from any strike. It should be made illegal for airport employees to strike.

The trains should not have been on strike. People just want to get to work and home. It took me 2 hours to get home from work last night. I had to take a bus to the bus station to get another bus that takes a circuitous route to my home. I had to pay extra (I already have a monthly ticket on the train) because of the strike. I had to find rides at times. I had to sit cramped in overcrowded buses because regular methods of transportation were not available. The trains have nothing to do with the issues of the strike.

The ports should not have been closed. Israel lost millions of shekels because of ports closed. No imports were let in and no exports were let out. The ports have nothing to do with the problems of the strike.

The kindergartens should not have been affected. The assistants had no reason to strike. By law with no assistant in the kindergarten, the teacher cannot open the clss, unless there is a voluntary replacement (who meets certain requirements). That means people had to stay home from work to take care of their kids who had no school, or alternatively take their kid to work with them if possible.

All the strikers did was lose support among the general public. People feel bad for them. people were saying that this strike was sort of justified. After a day of spending hours trying to figure out how to get to and from work in very uncomfortable and expensive methods, people changed their tunes. By the end of the day yesterday there was very little supprot for the unpaid workers. People were grumbling why they had to suffer like this and there was no reason for such a large strike.

I came to a revelation. If you want to lose your cause (marketing-wise) go on strike. it is the quickest way to lose support. You might get a short term victory because you hold someone over the barrel with few choices but in the long run you have lost. You hurt people who had nothing to do with the problem and lost all their support.

Nov 29, 2006

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part 7 (final video)

Brigitte Gabriel part 7 (FINAL)

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part6 (video)

Brigitte Gabriel part 6

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part5

Brigitte Gabriel part 5

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part4

Brigitte Gabriel part 4

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part3 (video)

Brigitte Gabriel part 3

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part 2 (video)

Brigitte Gabriel part 2

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel, part 1 (video)

Brigitte Gabriel Part 1

striking out

We all thought when Amir Peretz was appointed Defence Minister and not Finance Minister that the days of the general strikes were over and behind us. No more could Amir Peretz wreak havoc in order to flex his muscle as head of the Labor Union.

We were wrong.

Today and for the foreseeable future there will be a general strike of the Labor Union in Israel. The impetus for the strike was the fact that many (I think 80) municipalities have not paid employees for many months, some as long as 12 months! There are some other issues as well, such as changes to some pension plans, but the main issue is the unpaid employees.

So all government offices are on strike and nobody can get services. The airport is shut down so nobody can come and go. The trains are on the blink so it is pure hell getting to and from work. Ports are closed so no imports and exports will be happening. Among many other basic needs and necessities that will be put on hold until the negotiations bear success.

At first I thought this strike was one of the most, if not the most, justified strikes in the history of the Labor Union. These poor employees have not been paid salaries in up to 12 months!! That is ridiculous and should nto happen. This is the only weapon available to them. Stop working. Make it uncomfortable for the people, and by extension the government.

I heard some guy on the radio today. He was being interviewed because he has not been paid his salary in 12 months. He has no money. He has used up all his savings that have been socked away for kids education and his retirement because he has no had a salary for the past 12 months. he needed that money for basic living expenses. He paid fees and fines for breaking savings plans. Every shekel counts, literally, for him and he never knows if he will be able to feed his kids the next meal.

It is a shonda that it has come to this.

Then I heard an interview with a government minister, Meir Sheetrit. I never liked him, even when he was part of the Likud Party, let alone now that he is in Kadima. However what said in the interview sounded sensible. He was being interviewed because last year he was Assistant Minister of Finance and is partially being blamed as the cause for the current strike.

They asked Sheetrit how it came to this and why the government is not paying the salaries. I did not understand everything he said because I am not completely clear and the interaction between municipal government and federal government, but here it is to the best of my understanding. He explained that the employees are not employees of the government. If the government comes in and bails them out now, it will set a bad precedent. He explained the deficit of the affected municipalities is above 14 billion shekels(!). The government does not have that kind of money to bail them out with. He asked why they woke up when it hit 14 billion and did not take care of it when it hit 1 billion . Where were the accountants who were being paid to deal with this all along. He therefore claims it is not the governments responsibility, nor should it be.

He added that the government had been in negotiations with the municipalities and offered to bail them out at times over the past few years with certain conditions, such as putting into place plans for recovery. These plans would include layoffs of employees not needed, cancellation of projects deemed extra, cancellation of departments that are considered wasteful and "fat", etc. among others. The municipalities, and the Labor Union, refused and therefore it has come to this.

Now I do not know who is right and who is wrong. I feel bad that the poor guy has not had a salary in 12 months and can barely put food on his table. I cannot even imagine what that would be like and what I would do if I was in his situation! I feel bad for the people trying to travel, be it for business, vacations, health issues, family simchas that they might now miss. All these people will likely lose lots of money due to rescheduling and cancellations. I feel bad for the people (like me) who just need to get to work in the morning and home in the evening who now have to go through delays of hours looking for alternate transportation and extra expenses incurred.

I do not know who is right, but I hope they negotiate an end to this strike quickly.

We did think of some creative solutions to the strike, or at least those aspects of it affecting us. One such solution included contacting Arkady Gaydamak and requesting he evacuate the residents of Bet Shemesh to Tel Aviv due to our extreme "traumatic" situation. He would hire buses for us and take us to Tel Aviv so we could go to work.

Another such solution was asking Gaydamak to purchase Israel Railways and get the trains running. At least that way he would gain the profits of the railway in addition to helping all the travellers.

Another solution suggested was have Gaydamak pay off all those salaries that have not been paid. This way he would be helping people in financial ruin and emotional distress and there would be no reason for the strike.

There were some others, some suggested on radio and some just in personal conversation, and they all involved Gaydamak coming to the rescue.

And that is really the pickle we are in. Nobody expects the government to actually do its job and take care of the people and provide us with safety and security, so Gaydamak comes in and fills the void, and then the government criticizes him for it.

Nov 28, 2006

monthly ascent

Today is the 7th of Kislev. That means it is time for the monthly ascent to Har Habayit. It is difficult to arrange going every month, but today I was able to wing it.

We had a small group of 4 from Bet Shemesh. A couple of our regulars went yesterday instead of today because of a scheduling conflict. The situation was quiet and calm. The police did not check every inch of our bodies for threatening prayer paraphanelia, as they have at times in the past. They did a cursory check and asked if we have any siddurim in our pockets or wallets and left it at that.

We went up. The guy who led us, did a phenomenal job connecting us with the upcoming holiday of Hannukah and it's relevance with various aspects of the mikdash and the menorah. It was a very inspiring visit. And we had the opportunity to daven (silently of course), and there are plenty of things to daven for right now (as always I guess); quiet and safety in Sderot, quiet up north, peace in Israel the return of Eldad Regev, Udi Goldwasser and Gilad Shalit, the return of the older MIA's - Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, Zvi Feldman, Guy Hever, Ron Arad, the freedom of Jonathan Pollard, the personal issues such as friends and relatives who are sick, parnassa, hatzlacha, happiness and success, etc.

If any of my pictures came out decent, I will try to add a coulpe of them later on...

Some interesting ideas:
1. While we were waiting for them to open the gate to go up to the Mount, we noticed on a post at the entrance to the Kotel a flyer telling people to keep their eyes open for Benny Sela (the escaped rapist) with his picture. I figure they put the notice up there because he might show up at the kotel in order to daven for his continued success in evading the police, so someone might spot him.

2. On the note of Benny Sela, someone on the Mount mentioned his name (I do not remember in reference to what). At the time I criticized him and said his name should not be mentioned up here. The Rav leading us pointed out that there is good to everything. he said, benny Sela has succeeded in unifying the whole nation in an issue of sexual sins, something which has seriously been lacking here recently. He compared it to Mr. ben Drusai.
Who was Mr. ben Drusai? In hilchot shabbat we find the concept of how cooked a food must be to be considered cooked and the minimum level is called the amount of the food of ben Drusai. ben Drusai was a thief who had to eat on the run often and did not have time to let his food cook completely. This thief is famous for having a halacha named for him. Something good came out of ben Drusai - there was a measurable amount of cooking to quantify the halacha.
the Rav suggested something similar in regards to Benny Sela - he succeeded in bringing the whole nation back together on the issue of sexual indecency. Some good might have come out of the whole Benny Sela affair.

3. There is always a debate as to whether it is preferable to walk on the Mount barefoot or if non-leather shoes are just as good as barefoot. it is clear non-leather shoes are acceptable, the question is if barefoot is better. Personally, I prefer barefoot. The problem is that in the winter, the stone floor of Har Habayit is like a block of ice and after walking barefoot in the early morning on the cold floor of Har Habayit, it feels like you might lose a toe to frostbite, along with all sorts of other pains from the pebbles and the general pain of a frozen foot. My compromise is to wear socks (only when it is really cold) - while they do not do much, they take off just enough of the bite to make it bearable. In addition to reminding me of the holiness of the place, it reminds me of the fact that the Kohanim had to be barefoot on the cold floor of the mikdash and one goal was that it kept them awake and fresh. In the mikdash itself, (non-leather) shoes would not be allowed.
Someone else there took off his non-leather shoes (after having asked me why I was barefoot) to walk barefoot. After a few minutes, he could not take the cold and put his shoes back on. He later commented how cold it was and that he could not take it and asked how I was able to stand it.
My answer to him was based on a Tosafot I learned recently in daf yomi. There is a discussion whether a woman whose mikva night falls out on Tisha B'Av should dip on Tisha B'Av or delay to the next day. This discussion is not relevant nwadays because women nowadays do not dip on the correct time and therefore would not dip on Tisha B'Av regardless. This is only relevant to the days past when dips were very strictly done on the correct day, with no extra chumros or takkanos pushing off tevila, which we do as standard nowadays.
Tosafot, in support of the opinion that holds the dipping should be pushed off to the next day uses to following argument. He says that the bet Hamikdash is worth giving up one mikva night a year. Meaning, to commemorate the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash and respect its holiness, one day a year to not dip on time for that sake alone is worth it.
Based on that I said, the holiness of the Bet Hamikdash is worth my suffering on the cold floor for 45 minutes. If we can give up the mitzva of dipping on time for the sake of the Bet Hamikdash, I can walk 45 minutes barefoot for the honor of the Bet Hamikdash.

Nov 27, 2006

Jewish geography

Ever wonder who started Jewish Geography? How it began?

I think I found the first instance of Jewish Geography. In Parshat Va'Yetzei (this weeks portion of Torah reading) we find Yaakov running away from his home to avoid Esau's wrath, and to find for himself a wife. Yaakov finds his way to a well outside of Haran and sees a bunch of sheperds. In 29:3 he asks them where they are from. They respond that they come from Haran. Yaakov says, "Hey! I have an uncle in Haran!! You guys knows Lavan my uncle??!!" They said yes.

There you have it. The first documented case of Jewish Geography that started a great tradition to be kept in all Jewish gatherings for all future generations.

Nov 26, 2006

being honored

The shul I learn daf yomi in has decided to honor my daf yomi shiur in their upcoming annual dinner. My shiur has been meeting every day for the past 7 years in this shul and we are almost going to finish shas together. This shiur is one of the longest lasting shiurim in all of Ramat Bet Shemesh, and very possibly the longest. In addition, most daf yomi shiurim consist of 2-3 regular members while we have the largest daf yomi shiur weighing in at 10 regulars (and up to 18 people if all the sort of regulars show up on the same night).

If any shiur deserves to be honored, it is this one and its members who come every single night after work, and even more so the wives who send their husbands to learn or at least let their husbands go learn and forgo that time at night that could be spent doing things together, or otherwise.

The thing I find funny about it is why do I deserve to be honored just because I learn one hour a day. I should be learning much more than that and while the commitment of coming every day and learning for an hour or so is something to be proud of, I am not so sure it is something to be honored for.

Hopefully it will be an impetus for other people to commit more time to learning and have a positive effect on people.

cake!

The owner of the company I work for gets a mazel tov. His daughter got engaged a few days ago. Last night they had the engagement party. Today he brought in the leftover cakes that had not been eaten at the party. They were a wide variety of very fancy cheesecakes.

What I want to know is if these were the cakes the guests did not eat, what were the cakes they did eat!?!

Nov 24, 2006

History of the Middle East

This is a video clip shown on CNN explaining the history of the Middle East


Nov 23, 2006

learnign during the break

I have used this platform a number of times to criticize the yeshiva community for their actions, methods, style, etc. Sometimes I did not do so intentionally but what I wrote led to comments containing such criticisms (often by my older brother Shaya, but not always).

That being the case, it is time to do something different. It is time to heap some praise on them.

Last night I was in Yerushalayim for a shiur on shechita/treifos. Our group met in a small beis medrash in the vicinity of the great Mir Yeshiva in Mea Shearim/Beis Yisroel.

We met at about 7:15 pm until almost 9:00 pm. These hours are not standard hours for a yeshiva to be in session. It is dinner time. Kollel men generally go home then for the night (maybe they learnin a night kollel maybe not). The yeshiva bachurim will have some time off for rest and dinner and come back to learn night seder later.

There was a great kol torah, sounds of torah, coming out from the windows of the Mir Yeshiva. there was no let up. While many boys left for their break, many stayed to learn a little longer giving up some of their break. Many ate dinner quickly and went right back to learn.

In the small beis medrash we met in, there were young men and kollel guys learning (during their break) with no let up, totally devoted and dedicated to the cause.

Kol hakavod!

Nov 22, 2006

coincedence?

My shechita learning restarted tonight after a long break due to a number of reasons. We finally got our group back together to begin finishing the material.

One of the topics we learned about tonight was injuries to the animals spinal cord. Considering my learning session was taking place at the exact same time my brother was having surgery on his spinal cord in Chicago due to an injury in a traffic accident, I find it difficult to consider this a coincidence.

My brother is an atheist, or at least he says he is. When I spoke to him right before his surgery I did not ask him if he would want me to daven for him. He probably would have said "no but if it will make you feel better go ahead." In his blog he has written about what he considers the false belief that prayers really help sick people. He has quoted studies that show there is no correlation between the health and recovery of a sick person and the amount of prayers or lack thereof offered on the sick persons behalf.

So I do not really know if he would have wanted me to bother praying for him. Or maybe the old adage, "There are no atheists in a foxhole" applied and he would have. I do not know. When he comes out of recovery (which he is in right now from what I hear) maybe I will ask him.

But we davened for him and we learned in his merit. All my kids told their classes about it and their classes took a break to say tehillim for his successful surgery. We learned our daf yomi in his merit tonight. And I learned Torah about spinal cord injuries while his spinal cord was under the knife.

Refuah Shleimah. I hope it helped, even a bit.

refuah shleima

My brother is about to go under the knife for surgery on his spinal cord. Pretty heavy duty surgery.
If you can have him in your prayers/thoughts/etc... it would be appreciated by us all..

Daniel Uri ben Etel Sarah

Nov 21, 2006

MIA Zach Baumel new information

This is an absolutely amazing update and brings renewed hope and optimism about Zachary Baumel as well as about the status of ther other MIA's...

Nov 20, 2006

segregation in the cemetary

Rav Druckman, a leading Rav of the National Religious, has caused a stir. He is quoted as having said that Ashkenazim should request to be buried in Sefardic cemetaries. He says that the immigration from Russia has brought a high percentage of non-Jews to Israel and if one gets buried in an ashkenazic cemetary, he is at reasonable risk of being buried next to a non-Jew, which is considered no good in Jewish tradition.

It is ironic, because the sefardim have bene complaining for years that ashkenazim do not allow sefardic kids into ashkenazic schools and at best they let a few in with a quota. After all these years of Ashkenazi racism against Sefardim, suddenly they want to be buried next to Sefardim because their "Jewishness" is more pure and untainted.

Why would sefardim let ashkenazim in though? They might be at risk of letting non-Jews be buried amongst them!

What an irony? Ashkenazim won't let living sefardim into their schools but will clamor to be buried with them. Sefardim clamor to get into their schools but will not allow them to be buried with them!
I love it.

Sharon wakes up...

I saw this on an Israeli forum board. Somebody anonymously wrote this piece. I have translated it to English for you.

If Arik (Sharon) would wake up today....

It is a rainy night and we are at Tel Hashomer Hospital. Only one assistant is around, named Shmiel. He is on night duty tonight in the room of "sleeping" former PM Sharon.

Everybody, but Sharon himself, knows he is no longer the Prime Minister of Israel. Shmiel is sitting peeling an apple and G the Shaba"k agent is nodding off.

Suddenly, all the machines start to beep. The PM is waking up!

Sharon says, "I haven't slept like that for a long time! Get me [Reuven] Adler, I have some ideas for a new direction."

Shmiel says, "Good morning, sir. How do you feel?"

Sharon answers, "I am dying of hunger. Where am I?"

The shabak agent continues to sleep while Shmiel explains to Sharon what had happened to him.

Sharon does not take him seriously and says, "So tonight you fooled with the PM, eh Shmiel?"

Shmiel says, "Sorry sir but you are really no longer the PM."

After a few minutes Sharon asks, "So who replaced me?"

Shmiel answers, "Ehud Olmert."

Sharon reacts, "Olmert? That Jerusalemite putz? What will happen if war breaks out, he does not know how to run the army! At least Shaul [Mofaz] is still there!"

Shmiel answers, "Mofaz is the Minister of Transportation."

"So who is the Defence Minister?"

Shmiel says, "Peretz."

"That old man is still alive?!" asks Sharon in wonderment.

Shmiel whispers trembling, "not Peres, Peretz. Amir Peretz."

"What? Are you crazy? I close my eyes for a minute and you guys let a labor leader take over the defence of the country?! Not all the factories in Dimona are the same. Does he know that? Listen, get Omri here right away. He will fix everything."

"Sorry sir, Omri is on his way to jail."

"Jail?? for that shtus? I do not believe it. So get me my lawyer quickly. Get Klagsbald."

Shmiel responds, Klagsbald is on his way to jail."

Sharon calms down and says, "I knew I could count on Klagsbald. he will get Omri out of it."

Shmiel corrects him and says, "No, sir. Klagsbald is also on his way to jail. He was driving and not paying attention and caused an accident unintentionally running over and killing a young woman and her son."

Sharon said, "So bring me [Avigdor] Yitzchaki. He always knows how to fix these situations."

"Sorry, sir. Yitzchaki is under his own investigation for tax fraud. He fixed things too much this time."

"Can't be. I know Yitzchaki. They must be framing him. So get me the Head of Police."

"Sorry, sir, but Karadi is in investigation."

"Of course he is. He is the head of police. I am sure he is in the middle of a number of investigations!"

"No, sir. Thi sis an investigation against him!"

Sharon takes a deep breath. It can't be. The whole justice system has been ruined! We must get them out of this. Get me the minister of Internal Security, Tzachi [Hanegbi]."

"Sir, Hanegbi has been indicted for fraud, bribery and job fixing.He is not a minister anymore."

"So get me the Justice Minister. Who did Olmert appoint?"

"Haim Ramon"

"So get him here!"

"Sorry sir. I can't. He has been indicted and is on trial for misconduct."

"What? So get me the president. That is still Katzav, right?"

"sorry sir, but Katzav is under investigation as well, formisconduct and wiretapping."

"So get me the Chief of Staff, Boogie [Moshe Ayalon]. Sorry I mean Halutz, right?"

" Sir, he got into some trouble in the Lebanon War. Nothing criminal. he sold some stocks. He will soon be giving testimony to an investigative committee."

"Halutz?? he was a young Piper pilot during the Lebanon War!"

"Sir, that would be the second Lebanon War, while you were sleeping. We... how should I say? lost the war but the PM said we should be patient, victory is coming."

Sharon looked around his room. "What is your name and what is your position?"

"Shmiel, sir. I am a hospital attendant."

"Ok, Shmiel. Do not tell anyone about this conversation."

"You can count on me, sir."

"I am going back to sleep."

Gaydamak

Arkadi Gaydamak is an Israeli billionaire. he made his money in Russia and lives between Russia and Israel, most of the time I think in Israel.

Gaydamak has been a "player" for a number of years, since he came on the scene in Israel. He became very popular when he saved the Jerusalem basketball team from bankrupcy and bought them and the popular Beitar Yerushalayim soccer (football) team.

He has also been in and out of various investigations for taxes and whatever other stuff they are trying to catch him for.

During Lebanon War part 2 he was one of the main people/organizations who stepped up to the plate and saved the residents of northern Israel. He paid out of his own pockets millions of dollars to relocate hundreds of people to a tent city he built for them to get out of the war zone for a bit to calm their nerves.

He came under criticism after the war by the government. It looked bad that Olmert and Peretz did nothing to assist the residents in the war zone and were content with letting a million residents live in bomb shelters for a month. It looked worse when Gaydamak came along and filled their void and paid generously to give the residents some respite.

Gaydamak is under fire again. He responded to requests from residents of Sderot to give them some respite. As we all know, the residents of Sderot have been under fire from Kassams for 6 years now, but the past year has been extremely difficult for them as the amount of Kassams has increased tremendously.

The residents of Sderot felt abandoned by the government (similar to Lebanon II) and petitioned Gaydamak to relocate them temporarily, as they just could not deal with it anymore. The government refuses to put in a special protective measures (like fortifying the school building, for example), and has had no success in eradicating the actual problem or even minimizing it, so they turned to Gaydamak.

Gaydamak responded positively and paid for buses to take many residents to Eilat for the weekend. He paid for hundreds of rooms on hotels so the residents of Sderot could enjoy some respite from the pressures they have been living through. He has now agreed to do it again for more residents of Sderot and is paying for another 300 rooms for a few days.

The government (i,e, Olmert and Peretz) have been very critical of Gaydamak's latest philanthropic moves. They say that it looks bad to relocate the residents of Sderot and it looks like we are giving in, etc. They have a point.

However, I see nothing wrong with giving these people a well-deserved vacation for a couple of days after all they have bene through. I find it to be a bigger problem that the government is not living up to its responsibility and eradicating the problem, so they will not need to take advantage of such generosity.

It is supposed that the real issue is that Olmert and Peretz are worried that Gaydamak is planning to get into politics. Nobody knows if it is true or not but there are such rumors. They are worried he is becoming very popular because of his generosity and is, in effect, buying his way into power and will replace them. They feel him breathing down their necks.

I think they should say thank you to Gaydamak and get their own offices in order.

My question is: how the heck did Gaydamak get 300 rooms booked at the drop of the hat. Were all these hotel rooms empty until he picked up the phone?

Nov 19, 2006

tooth

I just cracked my tooth. Eating a Mentos. What a waste of a tooth. What a waste of a Mentos (I did not even put it into a bottle of Diet Coke!).

Nov 17, 2006

Post of the day

This is a direct quote from a post to our local neighborhood email list.

"My husband mistakenly purchase adult diaper instead of baby diapers. I opened the package and pulled one out before realizing. They are free for the taking."

I am curious where her husband was shopping that he could purchase adult diapers by mistake when looking for baby diapers. I did not realize they sell them in the local supermarket. Or maybe that is what the size "super jumbo" really meant... (no offense intended to anybody who requires the use of adult diapers)

Nov 16, 2006

Netanyahu's GA speech

Watch Netanyahu's drasha at the 2006 General Assembly in Los Angeles from the other day..

light reading

I have had a very light blogging week. I apologize to all you readers who have gotten accustomed to more frequent posts and better material.
I have had a very busy week at work and very tired week of evenings at home, leaving not much time and ability for blogging well. Hpefully next week I will get back to a normal schedule..

Nov 15, 2006

toilets and Torah

Did you ever think a toilet could be the basis for a debate about God and the validity of the Torah? No?
Well guess again!!

(HatTip: somebody who does not want his/her name mentioned )

Nov 14, 2006

a great imagination

PM Olmert has a great imagination. Either that or he thinks the general populace is stupid and he can "spin" them with flashy, bombastic statements and ignore reality.

I just recieved a press release from the White House Press Secretary regarding the joint statement to the press made by President Bush and PM Olmert. In it Olmert praises Bush by saying, "we are very much impressed and encouraged by the stability which the great operation of America in Iraq brought to the Middle East".

I am not sure what stability he is referring to. Lebanon is collapsing, there has been a war/conflict between Lebanon and Israel, the PA is in tatters, Iraq is seeing tens of deaths a day from suicide bombs (aside from military related), Iran is on the brink of nuclear capabilities and has been threatening the US and Israel.

So I wish he would explain how the stability is manifested.

Another example is his war-mongering. Right before he left for his trip to the US, PM Olmert announced a "warning" to Iran in which he pretty much threatened Iran that Israel would "make Iran pay dearly if it continues the nuclear program" and "Iran must start to fear", and other similar statements.

I am not sure who he thinks he is kidding. Our army is reeling with resignations and investigations. Just last night Peres admitted to the press that Israel lost all its deterrence capabilities in the last war. We are supposedly preparing for the next war, yet the army is purging itself of all the current leadership and it will take time to train new leaders and prepare for future conflicts.

Is Ehud Olmert really in a position to threaten people? Does he think that Iran, Hezbollah and the PA do not read about the chaos happening within the Israeli army?

Or does he just think that if he makes a bombastic statement, his own people will be satisfied and think he is on top of things.

PM Olmert, the master of political spin.

Nov 13, 2006

MK Gafni is a zionist?

Haaretz has an interview with MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) about his role in the Knesset and his stance on some issues regarding religion and the state.
It is a very enlightening interview. I particularly was interested in reading what he says in response to a question about whether UTJ can be considered a Zionist party, as I have written before about such issues in the haredi community.

Gafni responds, "I do not know the definition of a Zionist party or a Zionist. I am an Israeli. I was born in Israel. I love the country and I love to travel in it. I constantly pray for its safety. I am a patriot. I have almost never traveled abroad. Every time the prime minister talks about inviting all the Zionist parties to join the coalition, we are on the list."

He goes on to discuss many issues such as religious men in the army (he supports it supposedly for anybody who is not learning), Supreme Court, the Constitution, government, the gay parade, and more..

Well worth reading.

Nov 12, 2006

a new twist to an old tale

There is a famous story told over. I have heard it a number of times involving the Steipler (Rav Yisrael Yaakov Kanievsky) Gaon, but I am sure it has been told over using various names. Who it was with is not important, so here is the story.

A man came to the Steipler (or [insert name of your favorite miracle working Rabbi here]) looking for a bracha for his daughter to get married. He tells the Steipler that she is older and has had a difficult time finding her soul mate.

The Steipler asked him if he had ever made a kiddush celebrating her birth when she was younger. The man answered he had not. For various reasons he had delayed the kiddush and then just did not feel it important enough to make after so long.

The Steipler told him that the purpose of the kiddush is so that many people will come offering their brachos on behalf of the girl. It is those brachos that help her succeed later in life, specifically in finding a shidduch. he said that because the young woman was lacking all those brachos that is why it is difficult for her to find her bashert. He said to make a kiddush for her, despite her older age (I would guess it was in the mid to upper 20s but do not know) and she would find hatzlacha.

The story goes that he made a kiddush for hisolder daughter and winthin the year she was married.

Why do I relate this story?

I just heard the same story with a new twist. Or maybe the new twist makes it into a different story.

A friend of mine just told me that this Friday night he made a shalom zachor. The funny thing about this is he did not have a child. He is a 42 year old guy, not married, and no kids, but he made a shalom zachor.

I asked him, "What are you talking about?"

He said he asked a Rav (I think the Vesloi Rebbe) what to do to improve his brain power (he is a bit slow up top, (not meant as an insult just some background info for the story) in some areas and he knows it. He is always on the prowl for methods to improve his mind so he can learn better (more background: he became a baal teshuva a few years ago and has no background in learning torah but wants to be able to understand better what he learns).

So, he asked the Vesloi Rebbe what he could do to better understand. The Rebbe asked him if his parents had ever mad e for him a shalom zachor. He called his mother and asked. She said no they did not. They were not religious and only did the main things (bris for example) but not a shalom zachor.

He told the Rebbe that he had never had a shalom zachor. The rebbe told him that he should make for himself a shalom zachor and he will see improvement in his learning and understanding.
I would guess this is because when a fetus prepares to leave the womb, the midrashim say that the malach that had taught the baby torah in the womb touches the lip of the baby to cause him/her to forget what it had learned. The shalom zachor (one of the reasons at least) is a form of mourning for the Torah that was lost upon leaving the womb. If no shalom zachor is held, I would venture to guess, the persons mind is not open to retrieving that ability to learn Torah.

So this Friday night my 42 year old friend made for himself a shalom zachor in the Vesloi Beis Medrash in Tel Aviv. Mazel tov.

Nov 9, 2006

shooting yourself in the foot

I guess my blogation was short-lived...

The Haredi public, or some of them, has been rioting in protest over the upcoming Gay Pride Parade. The Haredi public in Israel is very misunderstood. We all judge them based on what we would do (I guess we judge everybody in relation to ourselves) in a similar situation and often we find their decisions and actions coming up short by our judgement.

Now I am not being an apologist for the Haredi public nor am I excusing them. I am against their violent tactics as much as the next guy. However it is important to try to understand where someone is coming from and what the other guy is thinking when judging them and trying to debate/discuss with them.

There are some people who think the Haredi public compare themselves to Pinchas who killed Zimri, a prince of Israel in the desert for a lewd act done in public with a Midianite girl, and was subsequently rewarded for restoring the honor of Israel and God with his zealous act. They them go on to either praise the Haredim for such zealotry on behalf of God or find a way to criticize them for their zealotry. Usually the criticism comes in the form of, "violence is wrong" or "Pinchas was a great man and they are not on his level."

The criticism is incorrect because the violent act is wrong. The halacha is that we would not tell a person to do such an act (because it is wrong) but kanaim pogin bo (a zealot will attack). Everybody criticized Pinchas for what he did, but then Hashem spoke up and blessed Pinchas with the special blessing of peace and kehuna. Hashem had to confirm for everybody that what Pinchas did was bold and ultimately correct and with pure intention.

These people might not be pure or doing it with pure intention, but that is not what we can know. And yes, we have a right to criticize them for it just like the nation criticized Pinchas until Hashem confirmed his integrity. Later in hindsight and retrospect we might see and understand that what they did was correct, or not.

Another point I want to mention: The Israeli haredi, specifically yerushalmi but not limited to, believes, rightfully or wrongfully, that nothing in the religious sphere in Israel has ever been acheived without violence. They feel they have always had to fight for road closures in their neighborhoods, school independance and anything else using violence. Diplomacy never ever worked for them (so they say) and therefore they already have it ingrained in them that when something is so diametrically against their beliefs that they feel it needs to be defended against, they come with a predisposition that diplomacy is a waste of time and a recipe for failure and violent protest is the only method.

You can argue with the concept, but this is what they believe. I know it. I have been told it by yerushalmi people many times in my years in Israel.

Last point I want to make: The Haredi public has succeeded in shooting itself in the foot. I do not know what response they should have used, but clearly the response we all witnessed this week (in foresight) is wrong. The haredi public engendered a lot of goodwill and sympathy during the summer with their response to the Lebanon War. We all witnessed the great amount of chessed they performed on behalf of people in the North, we saw how they cancelled their vacations from yeshiva and kollel (for the most part), we saw how they spent time in prayer on behalf of the soldiers fighting and the residents in afflicted areas. People were impressed. It was all over the media.

They have wasted and lost that goodwill with their gestures of violence this past week. They have shot themselves in the foot.

Not only have they once again aroused the hatred of the average Israeli who now considers the average haredi man a violent thug who wants to impose his will on everybody else, but even worse has been accomplished. they have turned what would have been the legitimate protest of all sorts of people from all different communities: National Religious was (is) against the parade and has been vocal about it, but nobody hears from them anymore; Muslims and Christians were aginst it but nobody hears their protests anymore. All we hear about are the Haredim protesting it.

They have turned this into a battle of the haredi against the secular. They may or may not win the battle, but the war will be lost. The parade has picked up a lot of support from secular figures saying they would march with the parade just to oppose the haredi attempt to wrest control of Jerusalem from the secular. This has turned from a general popular protest against the parade into a battle against the haredim.

That is how the haredim shot themselves in the foot.

The National Religious leaders allowed the haredim to usurp control of this protest in another sign of their lack of leadership skills and loss of any methods of protest. We saw how their protests were worthless during the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif, because they could not lead a protest to win. The protest was for show, with the battle already lost in advance. That is what was going to happen for the parade as well, had the haredim not usurped it.

The one good thing about this is hopefully Hashem will look down and say at least they tried to defend the honor and holiness of Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael (whether He approves of the methods or not) and bestow us with His benevolence.

Nov 8, 2006

blogation

I do not feel like writing much. The main thing going on here right now is the upcoming gay parade and the protests against it. I have written enough about it (though I have more to write if I was interested) and do not want to write any more about it right now.
I could write about the Haredim, but I have bashed them enough in the past for the same thing they are doing now. Enough other people are writing about their protests and I have nothing to add.

Please bear with me while I keep the blog quiet over the next couple of days. If something rankles me enough that I want to write about I will, so feel free to check in, but right now I just do not feel like writing.

Nov 7, 2006

Quote of the day

No, it has nothing to do with the upcoming Gay Pride Parade, which is just about the only thing anybody in Israel is talking about right now...

"Kvish 10 is open to traffic. The only thing the police want to stress is that they feel the road is still unsafe to drive on and request that drivers please be very cautious and keep to the speed limit. "

This was a notice regarding disturbances (read: rioting) on a certain road in Bet Shemesh that has caused the road to be closed off by the police a number of times in the past few days. The police say they are doing all they can and only shut the road when they feel there is a danger to peoples safety. They remind the residents that the alternative road is open and available for use, so there is no pressing need to use the problematic road.

The funny part is that the police consider the alternate road unsafe so please keep to the speed limit. Does that mean on most roads we do not need to keep to the speed limit?

American Journalists in Israel

I just received the following email from the US Embassy in Israel. I figure it is improtant to publicize in case their are any American journalists reading this who might not have received the notice...

Warden Message The following message was sent today from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem:
The U.S. Consulate has received information that groups in the West Bank have plans to kidnap an American journalist in the West Bank and are actively looking for a target and an opportunity to do so. We urge all American journalists or foreign journalists associated with American media outlets to exercise additional caution when traveling in the West Bank.
Our concerns about travel to Gaza continue and we encourage journalists to avoid travel to Gaza. For the latest security information, Americans should regularly monitor the Department's web site at
http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and other Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays.)
Americans who remain in West Bank and the Gaza Strip are strongly encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov.
U.S. citizens who require emergency services may telephone the Consulate General in Jerusalem at (972) (2) 622-7250.

Nov 5, 2006

today's ruckus

There were actually a number of them today. There was the ongoing Haredi violence protesting the gay parade. There was the Haredi stoning of a few buses today in Beit Shemesh to protest the lack of a seperation between the sexes on the bus going through their neighborhood. There was the review of the Rabin rally that took place last night and the fallout of what is seen as the left-wing co-opting Rabin's "legacy" and memorial and excluding any religious and/or right wing.

And then there was Avigdor Lieberman making some statements about the Arabs in Israel. He basically said that Israel needs to get rid of the Arabs and compared the situation to the split of Cyprus between the Greeks and the Turks. He said while it might be difficult durng the process, the end result has been peaceful and successful and would like to replicate that here in Israel. He basically is in favor of a swap of sorts delineating the Arabs/Palestinians and the Israelis.

That created a ruckus. Everybody in the government with him criticized him and his statements and denounced it. Some called for him to be removed from government. Some called for Olmert to tell him off and bring him in line with government policy.

I do not understand what the big huff is all about. Just last week he was not part of the government coalition because of his beliefs that he mentioned today. he was brought into the government with everybody knowing exactly what he believes and what policy he wishes to push. Now they are shocked by his statements? Labor party members who voted to sit with him in government are shocked by what he said? Where were they last week when they voted to participate with him in goverance? What does Olmert mean when he said, "Avigdor speaks for nobody but himself"? After all, he is part of the ruling government? Does he really only speak for himself? Does the fact that Olmert brought him in to government not mean Olmert approves and validates of his opinions, at least on a certain level?

Even mroe than that though is this. Why is what he said so bad and reprehensible to these people? Did Ariel Sharon not carry out almost exactly what Lieberman advocates? Sharon's rallying cry was, "אנחנו כאן והם שם" "We will be here and they will be there". His whole idea was to separate Arab and Israeli and therefore uprooted more than 8000 Jews from their homes (what Lieberman proposes is actually more humane than what Sharon did. The 8000 residents of Gush Katif were uprooted and left to rot, the Arabs under Liebermans plan would be treated well and there would be land swaps and transferrence of homes). Sharon did that and had the support of all the people criticizing Lieberman. Why is his plan racist when Sharon's plan was honorable and worthy?

Was this government not formed on the exact same basis of more realignement and uprooting Jews from their homes? How can any member of this government or anybody else further left criticize Lieberman when they were planning to do the exact same thing?

obituary of interest

This is going around right now. Somebody dug up the NY Times obituary from 1933 of the death of the Chafetz Chaim. Click on the image to enlarge..

Nov 2, 2006

Kugel yerushalmi

This image (click on it to enlarge if you wish to read it in the original form) is a few weeks old, but I just saw it.... I will post a brief translation under the picture..


The sign calls upon the holy Jewish people to remove a stumbling block and not serve Kugel yerushalmi. The sign goes on and explains 5 problems with kugel yerushalmi that are the reasons for the ban.
1. the kugel is made from noodles that have the same shape as worms. Young children might get confused and actually eat worms thinking it is allowed.
2. Along with the kugel is generally served a pickle with pickle juice. The kugel is so hot it will inadvertantly "cook" the pickle juice, which is one of the 39 prohibitions on shabbos
3. The shape of the kugel has become similar to the shape of pizza (I guess because they cut the kugel into triangle shaped slices) which is the cause of many problems in the jewish house. (not sure what the problem with this is)
4. The noodles from which the kugel is made is made from flour. Flkour is known to be problematic and has been found to contain worms and if not sifted properly would be an aveirah to eat (actually 5 sins) (though bread would have the same problem)
5. The penetrating odor of the kugel wafts into the shul and can be a distraction during davening and cause people to lose focus on their prayers.
The sign is signed off by "Those who feel the pain of Yerushalayim, the Committee regarding Kugel yerushalmi"
It is obviously a joke poking fun at all the signs that go up around Jerusalem calling for bans of anything you can think of.
(HatTip: lizrael)

spaghetti-strap marketing

There has been a lot of talk in the press recently over the latest campaign to market Israel by the Ministry of Tourism.

The ministry (headed by Isaac "Boojie" (sp?) Herzog) has decided its new marketing campaign would focus on the beaches of Israel and the bikinis paraded there. No matter that there are beaches all over the world and are not unique to Israel. No matter that there are women in bikinis all around the world and not unique to Israel (though Jewish women in bikinis might be unique). No matter that Israel does have unique aspects to promote for tourism. They decided to go that route.

They have come under a lot of criticism. One major aspect of the criticism is a point I just mentioned. Shas wants the ministry to change the campaign to promote the uniqueness of Israel by marketing the Western Wall, the Cave of the Patriarchs, Rachels Tomb and many other holy sites around Israel.
I would add that aside from holy sites and graves, Israel is loaded with historical lsites, as just about every world ruler in history came through Israel with his armies. But the point is the same - Israel has unique aspects other than just beaches. Promote those.

Another point I would like to make is that there is currently a strike going on by the employees of Ben Gurion Airport, causing delays and great inconvenience of travellers. I ask, will tourists continue to come here just for the beaches when every few months they are subject to great hassles at the airport? They never know if they show up in Israel will they get their luggage or not. Will they have to stand for hours in the airport while flights out are delayed and rescheduled? If the only reason I was coming to Israel was for the great beaches, I would go elsewhere.
The government should make it illegal for Ben Gurion employees to strike and cause delays. The country cannot afford it.

The point I really wanted to get to though, is this, As part of the new marketing campaign, the Ministry of Tourism has made arrangements with Bar Rafaeli, Israel's top model and an internationally recognized and successful model, and she is making headlines dating leonardo Di Caprio, to be the face for the new campaign. I guess they think people will see her pretty face and figure if they come to Israel all the women in bikinis on the beach will look like her, and that they cannot resist.

This has come under some criticism. The point of the criticism on this is that Bar Rafaeli is a draft dodger. It seems that 3 years ago when she was called up for service, she refused to serve in the army. Her critics say that a draft dodger should not be the one representing Israel on the world stage.

I do not really think that is such a problem. People looking at her picture have no idea that she avoided her army service. They will not take that as an example and decide based on her success to be draft dodgers as well. Though I understand their point.

My problem with her is this. She is dating, very publicly, a goy. Everybody knows (I just found out the past few days when reading the newspapers) that she is dating Leonardo Di Caprio. If he is Jewish and I am mistaken please correct me and I will apologize, but as far as I know he is a gentile. And that she is dating him is much more public knowledge than the fact that she is a draft dodger.

I find it reprehensible that the person the Israeli government selected to represent it in a worldwide marketing campaign is someone who spends much of the year living abroad (for business reasons) and is very publicly dating a non-Jew. Find someone who can be more of a role model for our youth and our ideals.

Nov 1, 2006

New Mentos and Diet Coke video

The mad scientists from eepy.com are back with their latest experiment of mixing Mentos and Diet Coke. It looks like this experiment was a success. So far, their biggest and most complicated yet... enjoy


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