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Feb 29, 2008

the bird is in custody (video)

Feb 28, 2008

Jameel and graves

Jameel is back from his unexplained disappearance.. he has yet to give a full accounting of his whereabouts, but the words; "Muqata", "Egypt", "PA", and "Gaza" were, supposedly, all overheard by the Shabak during routine wiretappins...
Jameel was traveling up north and had an unusual experience in the tziyun of Rav Yehuda Bar Ila'i...

The next government crisis?

I see the next government crisis looming..

Dan Bus Lines, operating in the Tel Aviv area, has announced that they are canceling the operation of certain lines on Shabbos (I think only after a certain hour). The decision was purely financial, as they say these lines are losing money because of not enough riders until after Shabbos. As far as I know, and as indicated from the various articles I have read, there was no external pressure (from haredim, for example) to force them to shut these lines. Furthermore, they are only shutting certain lines, not all lines, also indicating that it is because these specific lines were losing money, rather than because of external pressures.

So they canceled these bus lines for purely economical reasons. Supply and Demand.

The problem is that they hold a government license allowing them to operate in the form of public transportation. That means, they are not meant to run efficiently, rather they are obligated to provide a service, even if at times it is a losing venture. If they feel the need to cancel a line or change the way it operates, they are supposed to request such changes from the Ministry of Transportation, wait for a review and approval. Only then can they make such changes. In this case, they announced the cancellation without waiting for MOT approval.

Meretz and others are protesting the cancellation, considering it religious oppression even though there was none in this case.

While it is true that Dan must go through the proper channels in order to process the cancellation, protesting the idea of the cancellation seems futile to me, because they have the wrong reasons and are missing the boat.

The thing is, because Dan has not gone through the proper channels, the protest is already in the air. If Dan retracts the cancellation, even if only in order to process it properly, I can foresee the religious parties protesting (how can they not?) Dan being forced to run on Shabbos.

That would lead to a government crisis as Shas will likely threaten (again) to pull out of the government if Dan is forced to run on Shabbos, but legally they are not allowed to cancel it.

The government will have to either speed up the approval process for this request and make it fairly immediate, in order to avoid a crisis, or suffer through the crisis...

The only hope for avoiding needless crisis and unwarranted (in this case) religious backlash, is if Shas stays quiet and lets Dan retract (if it becomes necessary) the cancellation, without voicing protest, as long as Dan then processes it through the proper channels.

Basketball and Shabbos

Rocky Mountain Hebrew Academy is a Jewish Day School in which, according to info posted on its website, has a majority of its student body affiliated with Conservative Judaism (41%), next is Reform (29%),Traditional (17%) and the smallest group of orthodox (13%).

I was surprised to see those demographics after reading this article in Sports Illustrated...

The RHMA basketball team is one win away from qualifying for the regional championships. The only problem is that if they win their next game and qualify, the championship game is scheduled for a Saturday. RHMA has said they would not play if the game is not rescheduled to a different day.

If they refuse to play, they would not forfeit the game, but would forfeit their spot. A different team would be selected to play instead of them.

Different people and politicians have been petitioning the Colorado High School Activities Association to try to get them to reschedule the game. It is not a personal preference to not play that day, but due to religious belief. The Association has so far refused the requests.

The irony is that the reason they refuse to change the schedule is because they cannot schedule a game on Sunday due to religious reasons...

I do not know why these are the only two days to play basketball. There are 5 more days in the week to choose from...Play a different day!

I hope the school sticks to its guns and does not cave in. If they do, it will be a tremendous Kiddush Hashem.

Adventures in Eretz Yisrael: Sderot: Dodging the Kassam

The beleaguered city of Sderot. A living hell for the residents. They can't move away, they don't want to move away, and the government has practically ignored their situation with empty promises.

The government has not performed any military activity to defend and protect Sderot (and the surrounding villages). They have refused to fortify the buildings, until they have been forced into agreeing, and then they only agree to a partial fortification.

The government talks about helping them, but today the coalition government voted against a series of tax benefits for business in the Sderot area that have suffered from the security situation (the bill of tax benefits passed, against the wishes of the coalition heads, because the opposition parties pushed it and garnered up enough support from within the coalition to overcome the coalition position).

Last week 10,000 people from all over Israel flocked to Sderot in a show of solidarity. They went to make their weekly Shabbos purchases at the shops in Sderot, as a way of boosting the local business, rather than just giving charity, help their businesses during tough times.

A group of people where I work wanted to arrange such a group, from our office. We put it together and scheduled the trip for Wednesday. We would do (some of) our shopping in Sderot, specifically looking for the "Mom and Pop" stores, rather than the big supermarket chains.. Those who could not, or would not, come along, were askd if they wished to donate towards the people of Sderot. We arranged with a local organization called Afikim Ba'Negev that we would be coming to spend the evening shopping in Sderot and making a donation for the people of Sderot.

Plans went full steam ahead. Wednesday arrived and we had about 20 people ready to go to Sderot. The guy in charge of raising the money, arranged the company to give "matching funds". He raised about 11,000 NIS, meaning the donation would be about 22,000 NIS (I do not know the exact final amount).

So off we go. I had to go pick up my car, so I left seperately from the group. We made up at which junction I would meet them. I got there way ahead of them. As I was driving, the radio reports that in the past hour 15 Kassam rockets had been shot at Sderot. Some hit a factory injuring a few, some hit a University injuring a few and killing one. The situation looked bleak.

We meet up at the junction and pull into the adajacent shopping mall to figure out what to do considering the situation. Some of wanted to continue on to Sderot, others thought it was being foolhardy and there was no way to continue. The guy from the organization called us and said we should go home. "All the stores," he said, "are closed anyway, everyone is in the bomb shelters, streets are empty. There is no point in coming today. It has never been this bad. I have never told peopel to not come, but today I have to."

We wait a little bit to see if things calm down, as the IAF was striking targets in Gaza, so maybe they would stop shooting rockets. Things just heat up more. We keep getting reports of more Kassams falling in Sderot.

Some people decide to go home, but some of us wanted to continue to Sderot. We were so close, and we did not believe things were as hairy as the guy described. Some of those who wanted to go could not because of rides and arrangements, so only three of us continued onwards to Sderot.

We make it to Sderot and find a city that moves on. Cars were driving the streets, people were waiting at (reinforced) bus stops, the shopping center and other stores were open.

We are driving around and suddenly we hear the siren "Tzeva Adom (color red)". That means an incoming Kassam has been detected and we have 15 seconds to find shelter. We pulled over to the side of the road, nearly getting into an accident as other cars were also pulling over, and got out of the car. We crouched close to the ground next to a wall for protection. About 10 seconds later we hear a "BOOM" and feel a faint thud from somewhere not too far away. We wait a little bit longer in case there would be another, as often they shoot off two or three rockets one after the other. A few moments later we get back in the car and continue on our way.

We find a little shop open and decide to stop in. It was a nice little store that sold snacks and varieties of "tchachkes". We bought some candy and potato chips. I told the proprieter (Nissim) our story and he said, "Of course we are all open - we need to make a living!!" He thanked us for coming and after chatting for a few more minutes we moved on.

We saw some flashing lights in the distance and decided to see if that is where the Kassam had fallen. We drive up there and find some police cars. Right there is a small supermarket, so we park and go in.

We are looking around, collecting a few items to purchase when suddenly we hear the siren. The storekeeper also had the radio on and a walkie talkie, so we heard all sorts of noises from different places. He had a bomb shelter in the store (it doubled as his storage area) and he, his partner, and his 16 year old girl cashier ran quickly into the shelter screaming at us to get in.

I was the closest to the shelter and went right in with them. The other 2 guys were further back in the store and the owner was screaming at them to come to the shelter. One guy came right away and the other did not come. He must not have heard (I think he was ont he telephone). They started screamign at him and eventually he came in.

They were very frightened, especially the girl who was very shaken. They were talking about how they cannot take it anymore. All day they have been in and out of the shelter (40 Kassam rockets fell today in Sderot). He told us that a short while before, one of the last Kassams had fallen right behind the store.

We waited a bit and they decided they were closing the store for the night and going home. We paid for our stuff and went on our way.

We are driving around, looking for some place to get a Shwarma or Falafel or something, and we pick somebody up. He says he will tell us where to go, and he needs to go right nearby where we want to go. So we give him a ride and thanks us for coming and tell sus how crazy the day had been..

He directs us to Shwarma place that would be open in the main shopping area, and we drop him off. We go in and look around a bit, buying some small things. We find the shwarma place and sit down to eat. This is the happening place, as people come and go, some sit, some are chatting, some are eating..

We eat our shwarma and decide it is time to go home. we drive through the city and as we are leaving the city, the intersection just out of the city is blocked by about 20 young men (upper teens probably) burning tires in the middle of the street, blocking traffic, in protest of the indifference of the government. The police basically let them get out their frustrations, as there are not too many cars anyway in that corner of the world, and cars could really go around it after waiting a few minutes. One of the guys saw someone he knows, who was a volunteer in Sderot with an social welfare organization. They chatted a few minutes and then we were off. Back up to Ashkelon and then home.

While we did not, could not, make a big difference, we made our little moral contribution to the people of Sderot. We did what we could, and hopefully we will reschedule the trip with the original group for sometime next week or in two weeks.

My pictures were no good, so if the pics I get tomorrow from the other guys are good, I will post a few...

Feb 27, 2008

Raid on Entebbe commander died (video)

Dan Shomron was a former IDF Chief of Staff. He was also,as an officer, in charge of the Entebbe Operation to release the hostages in Uganda.
Dan Shomron died yesterday. To commemorate him, I am posting this video review of the Raid on Entebbe...

Going to Sderot!

Today I will be going with a group of people from work to Sderot. We will be showing our solidarity with them, and, even more importantly, doing some of our Shabbos shopping in their stores, as a way of supporting businesses that have been hit hard by the situation.

If I can, I will try to bring a laptop so I can "live blog from Sderot" if I will be able to locate a wireless Internet connection...

Feb 26, 2008

Headline of the Day (hotd)

11:51 Report: Jews are richest religious group in U.S., poll finds (Haaretz)

I guess that is what we get for trusting in God.

(this could potentially open up a great debate on faith/trust and reward/punishment)

How can you not? (video)

Wanna cry? Watch this news report about the child injured in Sderot yesterday from a Kassam Rocket. Good news is that the doctors successfully saved the child's arm...

baby born on bus..

We have all heard the story of the baby who was born on an airplane and was awarded free flights for life.
I have no idea if it ever actually happened and if it did if the kid really got free flights for life.

I, and I knows others have, have plotted in my mind numerous times how to get my wife on board a flight in the last stages of pregnancy, the point they generally do not let women fly, to try to qualify for the free flights forever prize.

The newspaper yesterday reported a story that happened on the Metropolin bus line traveling from tel Arad to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva. Shortly before the bus was due to arrive at the final bus stop, the bus driver Gil Arieli heard moaning from the back of the bus. After taking a look, he realized a woman was in the late stages of labor.

Arieli pulled the bus over and told everyone to get off. He moved the woman and her husband to the back of the bus and prepared to deliver the baby.

The husband refused to allow him to do anything and then Arieli pulled out ahis EMT volunteer card from MDA. He has been a volunteer for over 30 years. The husband calmed down and let him get to work.

Arieli delivered the baby girl on the bus with nothing more than rubber gloves as equipment, according to the article.

A team from MDA arrived on the scene to remove her and her baby to the hospital. Arieli said this was his 9th delivery as a volunteer for MDA.

The Executive Director of the Metropolin Bus Company sent a letter to the mother wishing her well. In the letter he informed her that the child will have free transportation on their bus lines for the rest of her life.

Now the bus company just needs to stay in business long enough for the kid to enjoy that... (a lot of these small bus companies open and close all the time)

Feb 25, 2008

Problem Solving 101


If I go to the Israel Railways website and check the train schedules for the details of the trip between Bet Shemesh and Tel Aviv (Merkaz), I would get the results that the train departs from Bet Shemesh at, for example, 7:27 am and arrives in Tel Aviv (Merkaz) at 8:12 am. A 45 minutes ride.

The train used to run on the schedule of 7:46 from BS and arriving in TA at 8:31. The train was almost always on time, and at worst it would be a minute or two late. They changed the schedule to the current schedule and have since suffered tremendous delays.

When they fist changed the schedule, we only arrived in Tel Aviv Merkaz at about 8:35 on average (remember that according to the schedule we should be arriving at 8:12). It took a few months, but now the situation is much better and our average time of arrival in TA Merkaz is about 8:23 or so. Still unacceptably late, but better than it was.

The cause for delays is generally a spot between Bet Shemesh and Ramle that has only one set of train tracks. That means that before getting to that point, the train has to wait a few minutes for the train traveling in the opposite direction to finish that section. If the trains are not synced well, the wait could be anywhere from 3 minutes to 15 minutes, and sometimes in more than one spot.

So the situation has improved but is still not good. The people running the Railways Authority (or whatever they call themselves) have decided that the delays are still a problem and it looks bad for them that this route is consistently arriving past its deadline. They have committed themselves to resolving the problems of this route.

And now the moment you have all been waiting for - the resolution. After much brainstorming and committee work and many sleepless nights drinking coffee trying to find a solution, one has finally been found. U'Va L'Tziyon Go'el!!

They just announced that they are making some more changes to the route, one of which is changing the times. An astute friend and reader noticed that the train will now (starting March 15) leave Bet Shemesh at 7:23 and arrive in Tel Aviv Merkaz at 8:13.

Get it?

Instead of figuring out what is the cause of the delays and making it more efficient by getting rid of the source of the delays, they have decided to build the delay into the travel schedule of the train. They advanced the time of departure by 4 minutes, they extended the arrival time by another minute, adding a total of 5 minutes to the schedule. Now they expect the train to arrive on time! (I wonder if they will now adhere to the schedule or if the arrivals in TA will still be late)

There you have today's lesson in problem solving...

this human chain does not hold a candle to the first one

Israel is expecting something like 40,000 Hamasnik Palestinians to march today toward Israel in a human chain and attempt to break through the border with Israel. This is expected to happen despite Israeli warnings against it. As a matter of fact, I just heard on the radio a few minutes ago that the Defense Minister said that "the marchers should know that whoever gets close to the fence will not return alive".

The first thing I thought of is that Israel is good at ignoring these things. In the pre-disengagement days, the Israeli right was doing everything it could to thwart the disengagement plans, including some interesting non-violent protests. One of those was the human chain stretching from Gaza (Gush Katif) to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It included 100,000 people holding hands (my two hands were included) to make the chain. Ariel Sharon simply ignored it and did not allow it to influence anything (like the Likud referendum that he had lost).

So Israel was able too ignore a 100,000 person strong human chain involved in non-violent protest, but will not ignore this 40,000 person strong human chain.

The difference is clear. This march today, if it happens and Hamas tries to call Israel's bluff, is not non-violent. Even if they do not shoot at Israeli troops, any attempt at breaching the border is automatically violent with hostile intentions. Last time they breached the Israeli border, it was to shoot at Israeli troops and kidnap Gilad Shalit. So a Hamas breach of the Israeli border should be deemed as being violent and I hope the Defense Minister was not just bluffing with what he said above.

The only thing that concerns me is that if Israel is not bluffing, and if Hamas does not back down, Israel will shoot and kill Palestinians, possibly a lot of them. Hamas will likely mix among their terrorists a lot of civilians including women and children.

Israel will be condemned in the world for shooting at "non-violent" protestors and civilians. They will have forced Israel's hand and started the war in Gaza, which is likely what this will lead to, that Israel has been delaying and trying to avoid for months.

Maybe, if we are lucky, it will rain hard today, harder than the light drizzles expected, and the marchers will delay it for another day or maybe it will even fizzle out...

Feb 24, 2008

the newest cherem - maybe


There might be a new cherem cropping up.
Supposedly, there is now a cherem declared against shopping in the Shefa Shuk supermarket.

The reason why I say "supposedly" is because I have not seen the actual letter (a.k.a. pashkevil) declaring the cherem with the Rabbis signed on it. It was not in the Haredi press this past week. I have only seen it in one source, which would be today's newspaper "Yisrael HaYom" which is not typically the paper of choice used by the Haredi leadership to spread its news. Even on the Internet forums that discuss these issues, all the discussion is based on this one article and nobody has produced the original pashkevil. So I am suspicious as to the authenticity of the ban at this point.

"Cherem" is a hot word. It makes people think of big boycotts. It brings out debates for and against as if there is something extremely significant about it. In reality all this is is a consumer ban on a supermarket chain because a certain public does not like a certain policy. Consumer bans happen all the time all over the world. I think consumer bans are legitimate and the Haredi public has a right to avoid buying in Shefa Shuk as an attempt to get the owner to change his policy. Of course, the owner has the right to say he is not interested and tell them to go fly a kite. Then it is a matter of who has more staying power and if the Haredi public has adequate alternatives.

The ban is against buying from the Shefa Shuk Supermarket chain. Shefa Shuk is a chain of supermarkets that specializes in catering to the needs of the haredi/religious public. All items sold within are of mehadrin kashrus, prices are (supposedly) cheaper than the general market, more buying in bulk (but nothing like in a Sam's Club), etc. The reason for the ban is that the owner of Shefa Shuk, Dudi Weissman, also owns the Blue Square Co. which runs a chain of stores called AM:PM. These stores are open on Shabbos, and specifically there is one in Tel Aviv right next to a shul that is open on Shabbos.

A representative approached the management with a request to shut the store on Shabbos. When he refused, they contacted the Committee for Shabbos observance or something like it, who brought the issue to Rav Elyashiv. Rav Elyashiv agreed that Shefa Shuk should be banned unless the owner complies and closes AM:PM on Shabbos. There is no reason the Haredi public should continue shopping in Shefa Shuk while they also run a chain of stores that is open on Shabbos.

I am still looking for a copy of the original pashkevil and letter that was signed, or for another source. Until I do see it, I am skeptical as to the authenticity of such a cherem, even though it is very plausible.

In the meantime, I am watching with interest to see how this develops and who folds first...

sorry - I meant to post this. I normally would not post a scan of a newspaper article, but because I cannot yet find any original letter, this is all I've got at this point...

Shopping in Sderot (video)

On Friday, thousands of people from all over Israel flocked to Sderot to show solidarity with the residents. More than just showing up, they chose to make their shabbos purchases, enjoy the coffee shops, and eat in restaurants in Sderot as a way of helping them financially, considering the local businesses have been suffering tremendously from the situation.

Personally I did not go. I hate dealing with traffic jams, I hate standing in long lines in stores, I hate going places when everybody else goes, and, perhaps most importantly, I did not want to miss my Friday basketball game (the only exercise I get!).

I like to go places and do things when others are not doing them. For example, I arranged a small group to go to Sderot when nobody else was going. So we did not make the national news, but we went and helped on our small level. I am trying to arrange a group from work to go maybe later this week, and also trying to arrange my shiur to go again, maybe next week. Without the headlines, and without the crowds.

From everything I have heard and read, the visit on Friday was a wonderful event (except for the traffic jams) and was a resounding "success".

Here are a couple of videos from the visit:


and:

Monopoly and Jerusalem - a new twist

If you thought the Monopoly fiasco by Hasbro has been resolved, think again..

They came up with a creative solution to the controversy - they took all the countries off the game and the voting. That way Jerusalem was not alone in being "countryless".

But now Hasbro has announced that they have signed a deal with Universal Studios to make a movie based on the Monopoly game. They will also be making movies based on Candy Land, Battleship, and Ouija games.

If they mention Jerusalem or any other city outside of the United States at all in the movie, they had better not mention any country name or I am going to call for protests and will start opening Facebook groups in protest! :-)

Haveil Havalim #155

Jack has posted HH #155. he seems to be tired.

Feb 21, 2008

discrimination against Haredim


According to Chabad OnLine, MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) revealed the above, secret, letter in the Knesset Committee for Education.

The letter is from the Ministry of Education to the Administrators of Institutions of Training for Haredi Education. The letter says, "As per the instructions of Ms. Ofra Bartov, the Senior Assistant responsible for salary agreements in the Finance Ministry, the group agreement regarding salaries that was signed on January 10, 2008 regarding implementation of Stage 1 of the education reform does not apply to educational institutions and training institutions in the Haredi Educational System.

Therefore, the agreed increase of 4.5% will not be paid to the teachers staff in your system.

The advance payment that was transferred to you in January for the above mentioned increase, will be deducted from February payments."

The background to this is an agreement that was agreed upon between the Ministry of Education and University Professors. the letter says that the decision is that it applies only to the University Professors, but not to those in the Haredi system.

The problem with this is the legal status of the Haredi educators and institutions. According to the law, as per Gafni's research, the Haredi institutions are given the same exact status as the secular and national Religious institutions.

in the Committees discussion, when Gafni pulled out the letter, nobody had an answer, either from the Finance Minsitry or from the Education Ministry, as to why Haredi institutions are suddenly being excluded from the agreement.

According to BaKehilla, supposedly people in the Finance Ministry had even approached Gafni in advance of the meeting and requested that he not expose the letter. They had promised that if he does not expose the letter, they would re-evaluate the decision.

Gafni obviously chose to expose it despite the promise (which probably would have gotten nothing), and now it has been leaked out to the public. So we can all see how the Haredi system is discriminated against, seemingly with no basis.

breaking into Shchem in the middle of the night (video)

the following is a video posted on the Yesha Shelanu website that has been making the rounds. It is a video of some Breslavers sneaking into Shchem in the middle of the night to pray by Kever Yosef.

צילום אתר יש"ע שלנו

Feb 20, 2008

Hasbro removed Israel from World Monopoly!!!

Today I created my first Facebook group.

Let me tell you the story.

As you all probably know, this has been all over the Jewish and Israeli news sites and many bloggers have written about it, Hasbro has been running a competitive voting site to allow us, the general public, to vote for different cities to decide which of them will get their name included in the new "World Monopoly" game being created.

People got very excited to see that Jerusalem was on the list of cities to be included in the voting process. It was not just Jerusalem being nominated, but Hasbro used the full name "Jerusalem, Israel". Even the United States of America, Israel's great friend across the Atlantic, still considers Jerusalem disputed territory and refuses to use "Jerusalem, Israel" on official documents, and only use "Jerusalem" so as not to be seen as taking sides in a dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

So people got excited that this game that will probably sell millions of copies worldwide is going to give Israel the recognition of "Jerusalem, Israel". So a campaign was pushed urging people to go to the World Monopoly site to vote for Jerusalem, Israel.

"Jerusalem, Israel" was doing very well in the voting. Suddenly, Hasbro removed the ", Israel" from the Jerusalem. I do not know why, but some group probably protested that Hasbro is taking sides in a conflict and Hasbro probably bowed to pressure. It was not unexpected. I told my wife a long time ago that they will probably remove the ", Israel" to put on the game. They cannot afford not to, and why would Hasbro want to be in a position where they look like they are taking sides in politics, when no country uses the ", Israel" (even though removing it is also taking a side, but that is besides the point).

People noticed the change today and went into a tizzy. The forums and local email lists were flooded with people complaining and rallying the troops to email protest letters to Hasbro insisting the ", Israel" tag gets put back on the ballot.

Then a friend of mine created a group on Facebook calling on Hasbro to put Israel back on the World Monopoly Board.

When I received the invitation to the group, I thought of the idea of creating a Facebook group of my own. So I did. And I called it "Monopoly board saying "Jerusalem, Israel"? Who cares???" - because really - will it change your life or my life or anyone's life if Hasbro uses the ", Israel" or not? Did anyone really expect them to go through with it and use the full name like that? Will Hasbro "taking sides" help us resolve the conflict and foster peace between us and the Palestinians? Will ", Israel" have any affect on anything?

Sure, it is a shame, but why does anyone really care so much about it?

Oh yeah - my group will be doing nothing. I just started it for the fun of it. But if you feel like "Who gives a hoot" and you have a Facebook account, feel free to stop in and join the group...

Quote of the Day (qotd)

This is actually a couple of days old, but I feel like posting it anyways...

"It is actually the biggest armed robbery in the history of the 20th century."

---former MK, Azmi Bishara, about Israel

This reminds me of the first Rashi in Chumash that says, "Now for what reason did He commence with “In the beginning?” Because of [the verse] “The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations” (Ps. 111:6). For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” they will reply, "The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us."
Who would have thought that such a claim, exactly as defined by Rashi, would actually ever be made in this day and age?? Azmi Bishara reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun, and that claim is as real today as it ever was.
To counter that, we need to internalize the belief in the answer, "
"The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us." so that we have the strength to respond in kind.

Shas achieves recovering budget cuts to yeshivas

If there is one benefit to Shas staying in the government, it is that they are able to squeeze all sorts of concessions out of the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. This is exactly the type of politics that Israel had worked hard the past 5 years to get rid of, led by Shinui under Ariel Sharon's government, where the religious parties hold the government by the cojones because of coalition problems and then would squeeze more and more money out of them in exchange for not leaving the coalition.

Many budgets for the religious public were cut as a result of Shinui's efforts. Some were superfluous and corrupt to begin with, so that was highly praised in the general public, but cuts were also made to all sorts of funding and programs that were vital and necessary to the religious community.

Shas has been using its influence, especially recently since its influence has increased, to recover some of those lost budgets and programs. Recently they recovered the Ministry of Religious Affairs. That was actually a worthy cut at the time because it was simply a bottomless pit used mostly for providing jobs for cronies and was rife with mismanagement and corruption. Shas got it back in a limited form, with responsibility only for some basic services, such as running the mikvas and City Rabbis (I do not remember the exact list), so it might have some cronyism nvolved, but it has the potential for good, such as ensuring payments to mikva ladies and religious workers (city rabbis, kashrus supervisers and the like) who have suffered in recent years with great delays in their salaries.

Overall, I would not say these things are good enough to make it worth staying in the Olmert government coalition which has its goal as dividing Jerusalem and throwing more jews out of their homes with the hope of peace guaranteed by an unreliable peace partner, but so be it. At least some good is coming out of their staying in the coalition.

The latest report was in today's newspaper (I do nto have a link - it was in the old fashioned type of newspaper - I have not yet seen a report of this online). Shas has extracted from Olmert the return of another budget that had been cut. This is one of the funding programs that Shinui had gotten cut. The government provides a budgetary payment, on a monthly basis, to all yeshivas for their students. This used to include all students, and I remember when I was in yeshiva we had to provide copies of our passports and (entry) visas for the yeshiva to apply for the funding.

Shinui had succeeded, at the time, in excluding foreign students from this budget allowance. This was a big hit for the yeshivas, as thousands of foreign yeshiva students study in yeshivas in Israel and the loss of that funding was a serious blow to the yeshivas.

Shas has extracted a promise from Olmert, and it has attained government approval, to renew this funding for foreign students as part of the budget. This will ease, a bit, the financial hardship the yeshivas have been suffering due to all the budget cuts, and more recently due to the decline of the value of the dollar.

Profiles in Judaism: Egged bus driver

The Egged bus line 948 runs from Jerusalem to Bet She'an in the north. According to the Egged website describing the line, it has 55 stops along the route This line runs twice a day and travels through the Shomron and some dangerous areas. It uses an armored (a.k.a. bullet-proof) bus due to the danger of some of the areas it travels through.

Todays newspaper had a story about the bus driver of this line.. (my translation)

The commuters on the bus are mostly soldiers serving on army bases in the Northern Shomron and residents of the area.

Yesterday, Avi Ivgi, the driver of the bus, relatedthat right before he left the bus station in Jerusalemthe father of a soldier came and "pleaded with tears" if I could give over a package to his son on an army base in the area (of the route).

The son's serves in the Duchifat unit whose army base is not on the route of the bus, but Avi was not deterred. "When I got near the base, I detoured from the main road, a traveling distance of 2 minutes, and I gave the package to the guard at the gate (of the base)".

The driver has developed a very warm relationship with his passengers. "I feel as if I am a father driving his children. Everyone knows everyone. There are soldiers who I drive from the day the are drafted until the day they are released from the army. The relationship obligates me."

"This is the only bus line in the area, and if I do not show flexibility, soldiers can get stuck for long periods of time." Avi Ivgi relates, "A little while ago I waited 10 minutes for a soldier who called me and asked me to wait for her to arrive, so she could go on her vacation 9from the army). I got the approval (from Egged and the other passengers I guess) and we all waited for her for 10 minutes. I have no problem detouring from my route and going up to the gate of an army base to pick up a soldier who did not have enough time to make it to the bus-stop."

Despite the dangers, Avi refuses to give up the bus line and switch to a different line. "the dangers, like shootings and stone throwing, are minor compared to the service I can provide to all these soldiers."

Feb 19, 2008

Last chance..

Last call to enter the sweepstakes for $10,000.... Drawing is Thursday night, and Wednesday is it for buying tickets....

370 million dollars!!!

If you have been wondering why gasoline prices in the US have been so high, I think you might be about to get your answer.

According to the reports, some prince in Saudi Arabia, where they control most of the oil in the world, has just purchased the first private jumbojet. The purchase cost him 160 million Euros. That is something like $235 million dollars. And if that is not enough, he has decided to refurbish it to make it luxurious. the total cost will end up in the range of 250 million Euros (about 370 million dollars).

You can go read about all the luxurious amenities he is having installed in the airplane. The most frivolous of them all, in my opinion, is the 30 million Euros being spent on painting the outside of the plane in gold leafing...

So when you are pumping your gas at the station and paying over $3 per gallon, you now know where that money is going...

My brother

אחי. My Brother.

The term "My brother" is used very frequently around Israel, especially between people who do not know each other's names. It is also used as a term of endearment. It does not matter religious, not religious, right wing, left wing, any other wing. People greet each other saying, "Shalom Achi" and the like. "My brother, can you give me directions to Allenby Street?", "My brother, do you need help with your bags?". It kind of gives a feeling of small town, old country camaraderie.

Effie Eitam and Rav Yitzchak Levi have formed a new political party to run in the next elections for Knesset. They have called the party "Achi" "My brother - for we are all brothers", and it is a play on words, because spelled in Hebrew it is an acronym - אח"י - ארץ, חברה, יהדות - Land, Society and Judaism.

They are looking to unite all the various factions in the right wing under their new umbrella party. Their aim is to draw in the Mafdal (NRP), Ichud Leumi, and some of the smaller parties. I have seen their advertisements a lot recently.

Since Effi Eitam has left the army and joined the political scene in Israel, he has formed and reformed numerous parties. he only joined Israeli politics in 2002 and he has been part of 3 parties already.

I guess he is dynamic, and maybe that is a good thing. But I look at it as he first joined NRP, as its head. Then he left it, with Rav Levi, because of the Disengagement and formed a new party called Mifleget Tzionut Datit Leumit Mitkhadeshet. That went nowhere quickly so he merged it into the Ichud Leumi party and brokered a working relationship between Ichud and NRP. And now he has created Achi, and is trying to get the other parties to merge with his.

While some might say he is dynamic and willing to try new things until he finds the right formula, I see it as lack of stability. he has failed, in his 6 years in Israeli politics, to show dominant leadership. He has led NRP, and left it. he has been of the leaders of Ichud, and has now left it. While he is admired as a leader, and while he is a capable politician standing on his ideals and accomplishing in knesset, he has failed to dominate and show himself as The Leader.

He has also failed to rally those beneath him and others in the right wing spectrum of Israeli politics. Sure, may will join his new party, but that is more likely to be because the other parties have been fairly incapable and useless than because of his own great leadership skills. He is simply another politician. That being the case, I see this as a lack of stability, rather than political dynamism.

I predict this will be another failed project. I even question whether they will succeed in passing the minimum threshold for getting into the Knesset...

temperatures below freezing

-------------------------------------paid ad----------------------------------------------
The meteorologists have been predicting The Storm of the Century for Israel for today and tomorrow. They have said it would snow like never before, possibly hitting even the Tel Aviv area. While the storm was delayed, it has finally started. How much snow will actually fall remains to be seen. They have lowered their expectations and it looks like it will be a decent storm, but not as severe as originally thought.

The cold has finally hit and it is at about freezing temperatures right now and will continue dropping... As I came back from my shiur tonight and noticed the extreme drop in temperature from 2 hours prior when I had left home, I thought of Warm the Needy.

While we go from heated home, to heated car to heated office, etc. and hardly feel the few days the weather gets really bad, there are plenty of people out there who sit in their apartments and shiver because they cannot afford heaters, or the electricity to run them.

Warm the Needy is doing great work keeping the needy of Jerusalem warm, and it is days like these where the temperatures get really extreme that his people need the most help... Consider helping keep the needy warm.

------------------------------------end of ad------------------------------------------

Feb 18, 2008

By the Rivers of Babylon (video)

Gad Elbaz singing "By the Rivers of Babylon"..

local RBS Tzedaka: Lema'an Achai: a primer

This introduction to Lema'an Achai was written by Lema'an Achai and sent to me upon my request. Comments are, as usual, open. I encourage your comments and especially if you have any questions as to Lemaan Achai policy or methods - someone from Lemaan Achai will be following the comments and has made himself available to answer any questions....

The purpose of this post is to learn about Lemaan Achai. Do not use it as a springboard to attacking or accusing other organizations. If you have a criticism of Lema'an Achai you are welcome to say it in the comments (and hopefully someone "in the know" will be there to respond and explain), but please do so respectfully.


This can be very beneficial to everybody. Lemaan Achai, I have found, is always open. I have found them open to questions at all times. I have asked various people within lemaan achai, over the years, about their policies, methods, issues, etc. they are always willing to diiscus what they do with anybody. you can call them, email them, walk into their offices, etc. but if you do not want to do that but still have questions, you can feel free to ask them in the comments of this post...

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PROBABLY THE BEST CHESED ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD!

They have not seen anything like it in London, a Jewish community founded in the time of William the Conqueror in 1066. In younger cities & Jewish communities, like New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, they do not yet have an equivalent organization. And even in Eretz Yisrael, it's a one-of-a-kind.

Ten years ago, Ramat Bet Shemesh was another tract of open and beautiful countryside, south of Bet Shemesh, situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Today, that hill is a bustling thriving community, with 20,000 people, almost entirely being Torah observant.

Along with the establishment of the community, a unique chesed organization developed.

Rav Chaim Soloveichik, son of the Torah luminary Rav Aahron Soloveichik, and Mr David Morris who established and ran Yad Leyedid in Jerusalem, set up a new organization "Lema'an Achai" - "for the sake of our brothers" (Tehilim 122) - in Ramat Bet Shemesh, with an ancient and yet innovative concept they termed "Smart Chesed".

Taking their lead from the Rambam's highest form of tzedaka – to help someone in such a way that they will not require tzedaka, Lema'an Achai has developed a unique three stage program:-

1. Support

Direct Aid – food aid, assistance with critical bills, and many other programs aimed at helping families through their crisis.

2. Solutions

Professional Services & Rehabilitation – Social services, financial & legal counseling, employment assistance, psychological therapy, citizens rights advice & advocacy. These and other programs are aimed at solving problems, helping families out of their crisis.

3. Prevention

Community Programs – Serious Illness Support, Interest Free Loans Fund, Home Finances Seminars, The ShemeShop Thrift Store, and other programs aim to get to problems before crisis drives a family into needing intervention – crisis prevention.

Today, Lema'an Achai runs over 25 community programs, involving over 200 volunteers, coordinated by a core professional staff, including five in-house social workers, and it operates from a small & modest office/converted apartment.

Recent Achievements

By the nature of what Lema'an Achai does, most of the organization's achievements cannot be publicly reported. So these are just some highlights of Lema'an Achai's achievements over the past twelve months that can be reported.

* FIVE THOUSAND Four Hundred & Ninety Three Hours of support & counseling by Lema'an Achai in-house professional team of Social Workers
* Six Hundred & Sixteen Hours of Psychiatric/Psychological Therapy
* EIGHT THOUSAND Free Dental Treatments - over Five Thousand for Kids
* Seven Hundred and Six Hours of Professional After-School Teaching for Kids at Risk
* Sixty Families received Advocacy Services (a new service established in 2007) - 45 of these have had their cases successfully resolved, so far
* Forty Families Received Intensive Financial Counseling - saving thousands of shekels for each family.
* Over One Hundred and Sixty Families (over one THOUSAND people) received Regular, Reliable Food Stamps - so no-one goes hungry.
* A further One THOUSAND nine hundred & twenty food supplementary packages were delivered (including our unique Shmita-Friendly Aid Packages!!)

* FIFTEEN THOUSAND items of second hand clothes sold at Lema'an Achai's ShemeShop thrift store.

Perhaps most impressive is that Forty-Six Families (29%) no longer required Lema'an Achai's assistance, during 2007. Of these, Twenty-Seven Families (17%) achieved their independence in 2007 directly due to Lema'an Achai.

Other amazing Lema'an Achai achievements over the past 12 months include:-

* Lema'an Achai's joint Social Services Program with The Gush Katif Settlers Council played a critical role in obtaining FIVE HUNDRED MILLION (half a billion!) NIS of additional aid for Gush Katif Evacuees, as a supplement to the Evacuation & Compensation Law, in June 2007.

* Lema'an Achai received The Bet Shemesh Prize & Recognition during 2007, for its Leadership Role in hosting & aiding over one THOUSAND refugees from the Second Lebanon War of 2006.

* Lema'an Achai was multiply cited, as part of a whole chapter focusing on Bet Shemesh (the only city to merit this), by the Ben Gurion University National Report on the Response of the Non-Profit Sector during the Second Lebanon War (the non-Government equivalent of the Winograd Report), published in 2007.

* Lema'an Achai established its First Branch Office, located in Migdal Hamayim, servicing Bet Shemesh, Givat Sharet and Migdal Hamayim (in memory of Emma and Simon Wang z"l).

* The Municipality of Bet Shemesh Granted Lema'an Achai a Two Dunam Building Site, on Prime Real Estate on Nachal Dolev, RBS.

Transparency & Accountability

Money:
Lema'an Achai's volunteer Board of Directors are democratically elected annually. The Board includes Rabbonim, a CPA, a CEO of another successful charity, a member of the City Council, and community activists. The Board meets at least monthly, sets policy and oversees the activities of the professional staff.

Lema'an Achai's accounts are externally audited by a CPA and also undergo scrutiny by both the Ministry of the Interior and, being Section 46 Approved for Tax Deductible donations, the Ministry of Finance. US Friends of Lema’an Achai is IRS Approved.

Lema'an Achai has also developed an administrative system which keeps immaculate accounts and tracks where all money goes and what man-hours are used for.

During 2007, Lema'an Achai was chosen for a random and rigorous (every piece of paper & every transaction over the past six years!) top-to-toe organizational audit by the Charities Commission, which Lema’an Achai passed "with flying colors".

Lema'an Achai's financial support is almost entirely from local private donors. Over one-thousand five-hundred families regularly donate to Lema'an Achai. Those who know us best, trust us with their tzedaka funds.

Services:
Lema'an Achai is "color blind", and helps all who need their assistance, regardless of race, gender or level of religiosity. The sole criteria for assistance are objective and professional, closely following the Israeli Government's Poverty Definitions.

Lema'an Achai has cooperative hand-in-glove working relationships with around forty other local, national and international charities and orgnizations.

Lema’an Achai is Approved by the Wurtzweiller School of Social Work (Yeshiva University) to train and supervise social work interns here in RBS.

The two Lema’an Achai Free Dental Clinics are Approved by the Israeli Ministry of Health.

Lema'an Achai's remarkable activities have been extensively reported in the Israeli media, such as the Channel 2 TV, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, HaModia, Connections Magazine, Voices Magazine, and local Bet Shemesh media.

Lema'an Achai has ambitious plans and commitments to help more people, even better, during the coming months and years.

Halacha
Lema'an Achai has enthusiastic support from across the local communities, including from leading community rabbis. Lema'an Achai stringently follows the halachik directives and guidance of their founder & possek, Rav Chaim Soloveichik; other community rabbonim are regularly consulted. Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal, the Executive Director of the organization has over 17 years experience as a director of Ahavas Yisrael, Baltimore’s leading Tzedaka & Chesed Organization.

All this, taken together, is the envy of every major Jewish center around the world; right here in Ramat Bet Shemesh, Lema'an Achai is "probably the best community chessed organization in the World".

What You Can Do To Help

In order to do continue our work, Lema’an Achai needs the support of everyone who is in the fortunate position to be able to give. To give your time & energy, and to give your tzedaka.

Each time Lema’an Achai says YES, to a new call for help, it costs the organization over $5000/a.

That $5000 buys over $25,000 in delivered services! And, what is more important, you’re buying a Cure, not a Band Aid. It’s the greatest deal in the world of chesed.

To date, we have never had to say NO to anyone in need, due to lack of funding. That’s an amazing record.

However, over the past months, our revenues have been severely hit by the falling dollar (many of our donors give in dollars) and by increasingly competitive other worthy charities. The limited ‘tzedaka’ cake in RBS is being sliced into thinner and thinner slices.

It’s an amazing zchus to have probably the world’s best community chesed organization, right here in RBS – please join in that zchus by donating as much as you possibly can, right now.

So that tomorrow morning, when a family calls desperate for our unique Smart Chessed, to achieve their independence again, Lema’an Achai won’t have to say No.

How to Donate: http://lemaanachai.org/donate.asp

Mail a check to: 40/7 Nahal Lachish, Ramat Bet Shemesh, 99093, Israel.

Give By Phone 24/6 : 02 99999.33

Personal Invitation: Seeing is believing, and as part of our policy of transparency and accountability, we invite you to book an appointment and to see for yourself the amazing work of Lema’an Achai.

Call Rav Avrohom Leventhal on 9991553, Ext 5, for a personal appointment.

Feb 17, 2008

Haveil Havalim #154

HH 154 is up at Esser Agoroth....

remembering Michael Jordan's greatest All Star game (video)

Today is the NBA All Star game. I no longer follow the sport much (I keep an eye on the progress of the Bulls), but the timing brings back memories of an earlier day.

It is the 20th anniversary of what might have been the greatest NBA All Star game ever. It was the breakout game of a young Michael Jordan. He had an opportunity to break the record of most points scored in an All Star game, 42 as held by Wilt Chamberlain, but chose not to pulling back at 40. He dominated the game, and if you look at the starting lineup of who played in that most of them qualify for the "best ever" team (players like Bird, Magic, Hakeem, The Mailman, etc..). And a young Michael Jordan dominated.

Here are the highlights...

You might be a winner!!!

I remember as a kid we would get fairly often (I do not remember if it was weekly or monthly) these envelopes in the mail saying "You might be a winner...". All you had to do was open the envelope and mail off some selection of stamps. We used to sit around with the stamps thinking we were actually going to win something. We would select stamps containing different prizes. They offered pretty much everything including the kitchen sink as prizes. Needless to say, despite having mailed back our selection of prizes numerous times, we never won anything. It might just have been my luck, as I rarely win prizes in raffles...

My shul is having a sweepstakes. I am telling you this because it is a great opportunity. The money is tzedaka and it will be going towards the building of the shul. It is tax deductible. And you have decent odds of winning.

I was actually hesitant to post this because if any of you buy tickets to enter the sweepstakes, it ruins my odds of winning. But the shul needs the money and no matter how the odds are in my favor I probably would not win anyways, so I might as well offer you the chance to win the pot.

The shul is offering a $10,000 prize. The drawing is happening this week - Thursday night at about 10:30 pm Israel time. Tickets to enter the sweepstakes must be bought by Wednesday. Tickets cost $100 per entry (I think it is limited to 2 entries per household).

If you think this is a good opportunity to possibly win $10,000 while giving charity to a shul in Israel, send an email to sweepstakes@btya.org . Let them know you wish to participate and they will give you the details.. (you can pay by check, credit card or cash). You only have a couple days left as no entries will be accepted after Wednesday..

Oh yeah, and tell them that Rafi sent you (not that I get anything from it... just they should know I tried a little)...

Good luck, but I hope I win, not you.

15 seconds in Sderot (video)

The residents of Sderot have 15 seconds to find shelter when they hear the warning of an incoming Kassam rocket. It will have taken you longer than that to read these three typed lines, than the amount of time they have to find a safe hiding place....



and..

selling the name of your baby

Somebody emailed to me the following image... it shows how desperate and urgent the financial situation among many has become. The image is a scan from the Yated Ne'eman newspaper, from the "Classified" section...

For those of you who do not understand, someone is advertising that they are a young couple of Bnei Torah who just had a baby born and are looking to sell the honor of Sandek (godfather of sorts) and the rights to naming the baby... call... (number is smudged out, so if you are interested I apologize, but that is how I received it..)... So either they have so many kids that they can't think of any more names to use, or they are so desperate and in such a poor financial situation that they have decided to sell the name of their baby..

I remember when it was in the news that people sold their names to corporations. It was mostly during the big Internet bubble, before the big crash. Even though it showed how people are crazy, at least that was done willingly, not out of desperation.

Feb 15, 2008

Quote of the Day (qotd)

"Despite the fact that the Lebanese nation has lost a great commander – there are hundreds of thousands, even millions more Haj Radwan's (Mugniyah's nickname) who possess the same courage and resolve to join the struggle against the occupiers, the terrorists and the uncultured."

-------Ahmadinejad

We are more than happy to have millions more follow in Mugniyah's footsteps in being blown to smithereens. Let them enjoy their virgins all together in their heaven, the way he is enjoying them right now. it will be our pleasure to help these millions follow in his footsteps...

Feb 14, 2008

attackers of Stern arrested in RBS!

The news is reporting that last night, in the middle of the night, whilst all was silent, the police raided RBS B and arrested three men who were, allegedly, involved of the beating of Tuvya Stern (and destroying his property) two weeks ago.
2 were let go on bail, and one is being held in the jail of the Russian Compound in Jerusalem (there is more damning evidence against the third one, so he is being held in the meantime).

Kol Hakavod to the police for arresting them. Generally these things tend to lead to greater riots by the community over there. As a matter of fact, someone on the RBS email list has already posted that some rocks have been thrown into the road (might be unconnected, but I doubt it). While it is fairly quiet now, that could change in an instant....

Rav Chaim Kanievsky on Sderot

Mishpacha newspaper reported this past week on an interesting conversation between Rav Yissachar meir and Rav Chaim Kanievsky.

Rav Yissachar Meir is a Rosh yeshiva in the south of Israel. He opened a new Yeshiva in Sderot this year. Rav Yissachar Meir has been ill and spent some time recuperating by a relative in Bnei Braq. Rav Chaim Kanievsky went to visit him recently during this period of recuperation.

Rav Meir described to Rav Kanievsky the difficulty of being in Sderot during this time, with the Kassam rockets falling on them. He described the story of a student in the yeshiva who was miraculously unharmed during a Kassam attack.

Rav Meir also described how the yeshiva had many avreichim come to the Sderot to learn in the yeshiva. But when the Kassam rocket attacks intensified, many of them stopped coming because of the danger.

Rav Kanievsky said that the avreichim should return to the yeshiva and gave Rav Meir a bracha that the merit of studying Torah in Sderot should protect them and the whole city from danger.

Rav Meir recalled that when Israel, under Golda Meir, decided to establish Sderot, Golda Meir said that Sderot she is reserving for secular residents and Netivot would be established for religious residents. Golda Meir said, "Where the kippa rules, there will be stagnation".

Rav Kanievsky responded with a story from Poland. He said that in Poland there was a city that was under heavy fire during the war. Upon investigation it was revealed that when the city had been established the authorities had prevented religious Jews from living there.

The implication is that Sderot is under fire because when it was established the State of Israel designated it for secular residents only and did not allow religious people to move there.

In case you did not see it or do not recall it, my daf yomi shiur went to Sderot about 8 months ago to learn and show support to the people of Sderot.

guest post on Adar and firecrackers

The following is a guest post by an anonymous reader. He asked me to post it and because the topic is important and it is well written, I am putting it up.
Any reader who wants to post here, is welcome to send me an email with an article for review. If I like it (not that I have to agree with it, just like it - important topic, well written, etc), I am open to posting it for you.. israeli.jew at gmail dot com

With all the excitement of two Adars and according to some marbin be'simchah already (so signed the Chatam Sofer in a teshuvah), unfortunately we seem to be headed for two months of marbin be'firecrackers.

The parents who are makfir their kids and let them go outside and set them off should know clearly that they endanger their own kids and others as well. Firecrackers cause a sudden loud noise and is a maaseh hezek like being tokea be'oznai chaveiro. They give people a fright and alarm kids making them sometime hysterical, and have been known to cause pregnant women to miscarry.

Who are these parents going to ask mechilah from when their child set off a firecracker and woke up a sleeping child who can not get back to sleep as he is so pertified from the noise, thus causing havoc for the family who may suffer the next day as a result. Or someone who is carrying an expensive breakable object and because of the shock drops it and it breaks. Or if one causes a fire like happened in Bnei Brak last year destroying a warehouse with invaluable irreplacable Chassidic manuscripts inside.

Parents who abandon their kids to the street with firecrackers will be chayav me'dina d'shamayim as being indirectly culpable for all the results of their children's actions - meaning that although beis din can not punish them (although it may force them to do something if it knows their identity), there is a teviah on them min ha'shamayim, and since the chait is bein odom le'chaveiro which can only be fully atoned for by asking mechilah from the affected party, and the latter's identity is unknown, they will live with their aveirah ad me'ah ve'esrim and afterwards ad olam.

Hoping that all parents will be masgiach on their kids and warn them of the extreme danger to themselves and others when setting off these cursed firecrackers

(Rafi: he does not even mention the danger of kids losing fingers or an eye, which we hear about pretty much every year by the end of Purim)

Feb 13, 2008

distorting reality with pictures

The picture on the right side is a real picture of that angle. The picture on the left is the picture on the banners and posters being used by the Ministry of Education as part of the announcements of celebrations for the upcoming 60th birthday of Israel.

The differences are clear. They added an abbey that does not exist in real life in between the Dome of the Rock and the Al Burak Mosque. Also, the Al Burak Mosque was moved to be closer to the Dome. If you want to see for yourself, go to the Old City and take a look, or you can look at pictures taken that appear on Google Images...

NRG reports that a member of the Jerusalem City Council has lodged a complaint with the Ministry and with the PMO that corrupting reality and using this picture to display Jerusalem as a more international city is damaging to Jerusalem's standing as the capital of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. He calls upon them to remove the corrupted banner and replace it with one that accurately depicts the reality.

Yehuda Glick, Director of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, has issued a statement as well. He says, "It is a shame that those that run the offices responsible for the education of our children don't learn history and are ashamed of the Jewish roots of Jerusalem. The Jewish Nation is the only nation that prays towards the place of our Temple and pine to its rebuilding. Attempts to distort this will not change history.
It is interesting to see if the Ministry will put out banners of the Supreme Court with the Vatican and Sharia Court beside it. Alternatively they can create a banner with Mt. Herzl with the graves of George Habash and Stalin upon it, with a note that it is for sensitivity to all the nations."

Glick concludes, "It would have been appropriate for the 60th year celebrations of the State of Israel that the Education Ministry would create a banner displaying Temple Mount with the Beis Hamikdash upon it. At the same time they should also work to unite the people around what is really holy to the Jewish People."

The Ministry of Education issued a response that "Pictures for the 60th year of the State include central symbols of the State of Israel. The picture will be distributed among all the schools - public, religious, minority... [blah blah blah]

Regarding the specific issue: In order to give a visual appearance of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, holy to three religions, a Jerusalem abbey was added to the image. It is simply an act of design meant to give over that concept (Jerusalem being holy to three religions)"

I think they should have kept the image as real. if it does not display the concept desired, find a different picture. Once you start distorting pictures and reality, there is no end. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. People looking at the picture will receive an unreal impression, and if that can be justified, than who is to stop people form distorting other images and passing them off as real, with the sole excuse being that one wants to posit a specific concept.

Real must remain real.

Regarding what Yehuda Glick said, I think that he meant (and if not, this is my opinion) that Israel should be using a real image and not distorting it. Once we have decided that we want to publicize a specific concept and therefore distort the image to fit that concept, we should distort it in a way that is Jewish and gives over what is holy to the Jews.

Those who do mitzvos, bad shall not befall them

Mishpacha newspaper this past week reported on a story of chessed saving from tzurres.

A young couple, living in Bnei brak who often go to yerushalayim for shabbos. Generally, when they go, they offer their empty apartment to be used by others who need apartments to host guests (for a simcha generally). Instead of the apartment sitting empty, they get to use it for chessed.

Recently they planned late in the week to go away for shabbos and decided they would not lend it out that shabbos. They did not have the time needed to set it up and make it available for guests.

Shortly before shabbos a neighbor approached them that they need the apartment desperately for guests. They agreed and made the effort and lent the apartment out.

That Friday night, the guest noticed a toothpick was stuck in the lock. He thought it was strange and looked around at the doors in the rest of the apartment building. three other doors also had toothpicks stuck in them. He realized it must have been put there as a sign (for which apartments are empty and can be burgled).

He removed all the toothpicks from the doors. Later that night, in the building next door, a number of apartments had been broken into and burgled.

The police found that the group of robbers find out about empty apartments and mark them so they would later know which to break into. They obviously had found out the couple was going away for shabbos but had not found out that they had lent the apartment to the neighbors.

Because they did a chessed, they were spared from being the victims of a burglary.

Feb 12, 2008

MK Ravitz confirms it is the askanim not the gedolim who decide what to do

MKs from UTJ Avraham Ravitz (Degel) and Yaakov Litzman (Aguda) do not get along that well. It is well known.

Ynet reports that Ravitz claims that Litzman is the reason they are not in the government, and the reason is because he was insulted when the position of Director of Treasury Committee was taken from him so now he will not talk to Olmert about it.

Ravitz claims if it was up to him he would dismantle UTJ and make a separate party for Degel. If it was up to him he would join the government depending on passing certain laws for the benefot of the Haredi educational system. "Litzman forces his opinion on the other party members and there is nothing they can do. He uses his Admor and does everything he says.."

UPDATED - Ravitz said, "Because the Rabbonim do not want to see argument (machloket), so they do what [Litzman] says.."

If you ever needed confirmation that the askanim run the show and tell the gedolim what to do or say, it just came from the askan's mouth...

askanim driving a Rav in RBS crazy to the point of resigning

Bet Shemesh insists on staying interesting and active. Here is the latest...

Rav Mordechai Goldstein is the Rav of the "Mishkenos Yaakov" neighborhood in RBS. I met him once and he seemed personable, and I am told he is a tremendous talmid chochom. He was brought in from Telshe Stone to be Rav of the Mishkenos Yaakov part of RBS.

Rav Goldstein has been one of the Rabbonim leading the fight for the appearance of the neighborhood. He spearheaded the battle in the Merkaz Mischari and he appointed (or maybe they were appointed with his approval) the committees who approach the businesses about tznius and hang signs, trying to get the Meuhedet Medical Clinic to operate as a mehadrin clinic (separate hours for men and women), fighting the building of the Ma'ar, involvement in children being accepted, or not, in schools, etc.

Rav Goldstein has been very vocal in the running of the area. So much so, that I have heard from a couple of people from Telshe Stone, and some from RBS who used to live in Telshe Stone, that they have a hard time believing this is the same man who used to live in Telshe Stone. They say that in Telshe Stone he was a "normal" Rav/Avreich. He was the voice of reason. he was a quiet guy not getting involved int he politics and extremism. They cannot believe that this, based on things he has said and issues he has pushed, is the same guy that used to be so "normal".

Rav Goldstein has had enough. It seems he cannot believe what he has gotten involved in either. He has threatened to resign his position as Rav of Mishkenos and move back to Telshe Stone. He does not want to be involved in all the politics that has been pushed on him.

Rav Goldstein called a meeting last week of the gabboim of the Litvishe shuls in his area. He told them that he has had enough and he does not want to be involved in that anymore. He moved to Bet Shemesh to be Rav and to have time to learn and he is not able to learn at all because all this other stuff is being pushed on him all the time. If they do not stop with all the peripheral issues and leave him in peace, he has threatened to resign and move back to Telshe Stone.

They met again this week. the set up a number of committees, each one would deal with different issues (of those listed above and others), freeing up Rav Goldstein from having to deal with them. In the case where a committee would have trouble forming an agreed upon opinion, they would go to the Rav for a decision on the issue.

Of the people I spoke to about this, some say this will be better because now there are normal people being involved in the issues, rather than just the extremists. Others think it will be worse because even though Rav Goldstein was running it, he was still not as bad as some of the extremists and they doubt whether the normal people on the committees will be able to withstand the extremists on the committees.

So the benefits remain to be seen and I do not know if Rav Goldstein removing himself from these issues will make the situation better or worse, but the future will definitely be interesting..

Oh yeah, as an aside, for the skeptics among you, this is another example where clearly the askanim are pushing the Rabbonim to do what they want. He has admitted so himself and has finally had enough of it.

learning only Gemara B'Iyun

A Simple Jew asked me about learning Gemara B'Iyun in place of learning Mussar....

What kind of shul is that?

I was in someone's office while she was on the phone.

She is arranging some sort of performance for her child's class and they are looking for an appropriate venue. They are looking at some different options and someone suggested they use the local shul.

She said (on the phone) that if it is in shul the girls will have to be upstairs or behind a mechitza and it won't work. This person is not religious. The person on the other side must have been saying that maybe the shul would allow it for the performance.

Her response was "a shul would not allow it. And if the shul allowed it, what kind of shul is that?"

(The other option was to use the Reform Temple in Tel Aviv which they did not want to do)

This is from a secular woman living in Tel Aviv - "What kind of shul is that?"

Feb 11, 2008

Hockey injury - cut carotid artery (video)

sorry, but this is just one of those clips I cannot stop myself fro putting up. This freak accident led to Zednick's carotid artery being cut by a skate...

one chumroh worth hundreds of inconveniences

There has been much discussion recently about the new "Open Skies" policy that is being put into place in Israel. Opening up the skies of Israel to allow full competition in the airline industry has been expected to make airline flights much cheaper than ever known before.

TheMarker Week recently conducted an interview with a number of Israeli executives in the airline industry in Europe. It seems that those who travel to Europe might not benefit from the expected reduction in prices. It is for a number of reasons, including fuel costs, flight schedules, licensing, European policies, etc.. you can read the article if it interests you (it does not interest me enough to translate it for you or to write down the details).

One piece of the interview particularly stood out.

They were discussing price of fuel and flight scheduling and how in Israel they are not allowed to make some sort of "last call for boarding" announcement for the passengers who are shopping in Duty Free. That causes them unusual delays while they wait for the stragglers.

And if they would decide to leave without the passenger who never showed up to the gate because he is wasting his time in Duty Free, they could not first take off without removing the guy's luggage from the plane. To do that can take a long time; to find the luggage and remove it from the plane.

The executive (Hershkowitz) said, "Unfortunately I have run into a much graver situation. Our plane was planning on taking off at 1:20 am, and at 1:40 the airport closes for takeoffs. A Gerrer Chasid needed to get on the plane with his son who was sitting in a wheelchair. He refused to allow the stewardess to assist getting the child into his seat from the wheelchair.

What could we do? I figured we would be delayed and would only be ready to leave after the takeoffs were already shut down. I called the head of the airport to ask for special permission to take off late. He responded, "What do you want from me? I should go to jail?"

The flight was grounded and only left 12 hours later"

I have 2 thoughts on this:

1. couldn't they find a male attendant to assist the chassid and his son? In the whole airplane and airport they could not find a male steward or even a fellow male passenger who would have been willing to help move the child? They had to insist on a stewardess against the wishes of the chassid? Maybe he was saying that they would have gotten a male to assist but it would have taken so long and the time window was so short (because the guy showed up at the last minute for boarding?) that whatever they would have done it would have caused the delay... It just seems unusual to me that they could not find a single male in close proximity to assist and allow the plane to leave on time.

2. The chassid's actions disturb me. Let's say there was no male available to assist. Was he right in his refusal to allow the stewardess to help?
On the one hand if it really bothered him and there was no other solution, he should have said he is not getting on the plane and they should have left without him. What right did he have to cause the hundreds of other passengers delays, which we all know causes scheduling problems, money outlays, and all sorts of other inconveniences. Maybe somebody missed a funeral or a simcha or a business meeting because of the delay caused. Maybe somebody was just inconvenienced. What right did he have to cause such a delay to so many other people?

On the other hand, maybe he should be commended for standing on principal. Gerrer Chassidim are famous for their strict adherence to tznius issues, treating chumrohs in tznius as "yeharog v'al yaavors" and why should he give up his guiding principle just because the airline officials cannot (or would not) find a male attendant to help them get on the plane? But does that level of adherence, in a chumroh nonetheless, allow him to cause the other passengers such delays and inconveniences?

Whichever way I look at it, it seems he was wrong for causing the delay to other passengers.

A further question is whether there was room for leniency in the situation. Personally I think that yes there was. The assistance provided by the stewardess would have required her to touch the child. That would hardly be considered "Chiba" - endearment, and would therefore be allowed. Even though they normally would not allow touching even without chiba, in such extenuating circumstances, with the potential tircha that would be caused to all the other passengers, I would think that such assistance could be provided.

But even if he chose to remain strict and adhere to his chumroh, what right did he have to allow it to affect everyone else on the plane, everyone waiting to receive the people from the plane in their final destinations, the delays to other planes in all the various airports as delays would invariably be caused due to the adjusted schedule, etc.?

I feel that he did not need to adhere to his chumroh in this case. The airline should have found a male assistant to deal with the situation. He should have showed up to the airport extra early with plenty of time to deal with his unique situation. He knew that his son needed special assistance, and he should have gotten there extra early to deal with it. However, being that he chose to keep his chumroh, and no male was quickly found, he should not have caused the 12 hour delay. He should have said relinquished his ticket and let them fly without him. Had he gotten to the airport early enough to deal with his special needs and requests, they might even have had enough time to remove his suitcases from the airplane.

By keeping his chumroh, he caused financial loss, time loss, and many other inconveniences to many people, directly and indirectly. Keeping chumrohs is fine. Keep as many as you want and as many as make you feel fulfilled. But not on other people's cheshbon.

artistic presentation of the Disengagement (video)

The Gush Katif Ulpana (girl's high school) has stirred up a lot of emotion on the NRG website (Hebrew) where it appeared. (There's a 20 second commericial at the beginning). They have performed this play a number of times and the leftists are pretty upset about it.

(HatTip to our resident Arab in the Shomron, Jameel, who I stole this from..)

Tznius Alert: there is no problem, that I can see, despite this being a girl's performance.there is some background music, but no singing, and no immodest dress.



I will add, and I wrote this in the talkback on the NRG website, that I find this to be a fairly accurate presentation of what happened minus the violence that took place. The only thing I see in this short clip that is not an accurate display of the Disengagement is when the "settler" girl falls down (pushed?), and the soldiers step forward, the soldier was careful to step over her. In real life during the disengagement, 9.9 times out of 10, the soldier would have stepped right on her back and crushed a couple of bones.

Rav Zaks tells an amazing story of the gedolim (video)

Feb 10, 2008

Avraham Fried in concert (video)

Avraham Fried gave a concert in NY this past Motzei Shabbos. Here is the clip courtesy of COL...

giving legitimacy to the hooligans

The hooligans in RBS B opened up a Kupa shel Tzdaka. Generally those who run the local Kupa have a lot of power, especially in these types of neighborhoods, because they control the money and the tone of the neighborhood.

In any case, some of the money from the Kupa went towards tznius signs (to intimidate the people of Sheinfeld), along with other signs protesting various breaches. They admitted as much to a number of people, because they were proud of what they did and they thought they would garner support for it.
Money given for a kupa shel tzdaka should be used to support the needy and not for these types of things. If they come asking for money, make sure to ask them what the money will be used for.

Rav Eidensohn, who heads the kupa of RBSA, spoke last Motzei Shabbos at the inaugural dinner of the hooligan kupa. (not last night's kupa shel Tzdaka dinner - this happened the week before) This gives them great legitimacy because he heads the Kupa of RBS A which does great work and already is a large organization with a great reputation.

When asked why he was going to be speaking there (someone present at the conversation told me) considering it gives legitimacy to the hooligans and they will use it to control their neighborhood even though they are a minority within it, he responded that he has to give them legitimacy because otherwise RBS will become too modern.

The Kupa of RBS A has nothing to do with this. They do not give money to the hooligans, they do not support them, they do not pay for the signs in RBS A or anything like it. The Kupa does great work.

I asked the Kupa about their policies. They do not give money outside of RBS A. They service the poor of RBS A only and act as a shliach to pass on the donations of residents to the poor of the neighborhood. As well, the Kupa does not support the signs or any of the other fights that happen. They are a tzedaka organization, not a business or organization with interests in other areas. The board members of the Kupa are all very busy and have no head for, and for sure no time for, narishkeit.

So, again, the Kupa shel Tzedaka of RBS A is not involved and does not get involved in these things. They do not support these people or their actions.

The question is why (some of) the people running it feel the need to legitimize the behavior going on in RBS B...

the latest from RBS B is from an email sent out on the Vo Violence in bet Shemesh email list. It described a story (not the same as the original story that happened a few weeks ago) where the "hooligans" were able to see into someone's window across the street in Sheinfeld and saw a large screen TV. Instead of putting up curtains or controlling yourself to not look in someone else's window, they went a different route. They also chose not to use the violent method. They went to a representative in Sheinfeld and told him about the problem. They all went to the guy and politely asked him to move his tv and adjust it so it is not visible from the window.

On the one hand it is very nice that they found a peaceful solution.

On the other hand, they are simply finding news ways to control the area to fit their desires. Instead of putting up curtains, they went into someone else's house and convinced him to alter his behavior for them.

So instead of knocking them down and telling them to live peacefully with others and do what they want in their own homes, they are being empowered and legitimized.

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