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Aug 31, 2006

The Sandman

Here we have a fascinating story of intrigue, crime, love, and betrayal.

I just have two questions:

1. How did the Rabbi happen to have a sack full of the special sand available just like that?

2. Did it work? Did she step on it and go back to her husband?

What does "elite" mean?

My wife told me last night about a new school opening up in the neighborhood. It is a new girl’s elementary school in the Bais Yaakov style. The guy opening the school already has a successful high school for girls and has decided to branch out to elementary school.

The unique thing about this school is that it is being declared as a school for the daughters of the “elite” families and registration is by invitation only. If you get the call you are welcome to bring your daughter to register.

I laughed when I heard this. Creating such a school with the stated objective is the funniest thing I heard all week. I do not expect to get a call from them, and I told my wife that if she does get a call from them to tell them we do not associate with those people. They are not good enough for us.

“Elite” schools around the world are generally considered elite because of something unique to them. The uniqueness is generally some sort of high academic level that places them above the ordinary institutions of average learning. Sometimes eliteness is fabricated there as well and could be a catchword for “we only accept wealthy students” or the like, but often it truly is a higher level of academic instruction.

When schools open in the haredi system for elite families, it has nothing to do with the academic level. Rather, it has to do with superficial criteria. Somebody decided that he does not want his or her child to mix with families of lesser frumkeit and therefore opens up a school. They will then advertise that registration is open only to the best Kollel families. The education is no different. It is just a matter of keeping the school pure with no working parents.

The even funnier thing about it is the randomness of who they decide is elite and based on what criteria. Being a Kollel family is only the general criteria. If you wish to go to such a school, you must go through a rigorous filtering process. The process includes (but is not limited to); davening in a shul they approve of, having protexia (or to translate: connections with influence), money sometimes works, a conection with an extreme Rabbi. What you actually do in real life is less important. The eliteness is based purely on appearance.

For example, in the haredi world having internet access is eschewed. In the schools I send my kids to we had to get a special dispensation and approval because we have internet access (just owning a computer is an issue even without internet). We have friends who “got the call” to come register for the new school despite the fact that they have internet access and the father shows up in Kollel every now and then (when he is not busy dealing with his investments and business dealings on the internet). Why did they get the call? Because they daven in the most extreme shul in the neighborhood and are connected to the most extreme Rabbi in the neighborhood. Does it matter that they do not tell the Rabbi when they do things he would not approve of (that I know about – I am not just assuming they do these things)? Of course not, just because of their relationship with him they are considered elite.

I have another friend who already sends his children to such schools (the new one is not the first of this genre). This is so despite the fact that they openly advertise that the school is only for the children of avreichim (people in kollel). Needless to say, the father in the family works for a living and does not learn in kollel. The school teaches in Yiddish, yet the parents do not speak a word of Yiddish. How did they get their kid in? Because they are connected to Rabbi x and daven in shul y.

So what makes these schools “elite”? What makes the families that send to those schools better than the average family?

upcoming interview

Basil's Blog features weekly interviews with different bloggers. I have signed up to be interviewed (you can too by clicking http://basilsblog.net/?page_id=2052 - there is an email link to request to be interviewed).

My interview is currently expected to happen in mid September or so.. Basil's system is that readers can submit questions for specific bloggers. The more questions the blogger gets directed to him, the further up the schedule his interview is moved..

So if you have any questions you want to hear my answers to, send an email to
basil.interviews@gmail.com with the subject line saying "Questions for Rafi G (Life in Israel)" (this is very important, so the questions get directed to me rather than a different interviewee).

I promise to try to answer all questions to the best of my ability!!!

So start sending your questions already...

(this post will stay at the top for a while, so to see new posts, scroll down a bit)

Aug 30, 2006

Yet another video of the soldiers from Lebanon war

Another video from Olah Chadasha at IsraelRules (a.k.a. Greetings from the French Hill in my blogroll)

footage from a unit in battle in Lebanon


I removed the video from the site. I think most people who read my blog have already seen it by now, and it has become an annoyance as it starts playing every time you load this site. If you would like to see it, feel free to browse over to Live from an Israeli Bunker (can be found in my blogroll). That is where I got it and he still has it up (as of last time I checked)....


HatTip to Live from an Israeli Bunker, via On the Face blogs.

For a brief explanation of the video, I quote, ""Itai Anghel accompanied regiment 931 of the Nahal Brigade (infantry) to a battle that took place on the night of August 6-7 in Houleh, a Hezbollah-controlled village in Lebanon that is about 3 kilometres north of the border with Israel. Anghel documents the fierce battle that took place using a camera equipped with a night vision lens.With the exception of the officers - Avi Dahan and Biche - all the soldiers are reservists in their 20's and 30's who did their three-year mandatory army service (ages 18-21) in the unit; in other words, they are civilians who responded to emergency call up notices."

Aug 28, 2006

Ron Arad - a TV actor?

Ron Arad (or his image at least) was featured today in a trailer promo on Lebanese TV for an upcoming program. What the program will be about has not been made clear (at least to us Israelis), but I suspect it will be about how the Hezbollah and other groups over the years have hurt the Zionists and captured soldiers.

The image and footage used in the promo was supposedly footage and images os Ron that have never before been made public or seen by anybody (outside of those who created the images). They have not yet been dated, but it is clear they are from a later time than previously released images of him. We just do not know yet if they are recent pictures or from a number of years ago. It is clear that somebody there knows of his fate and his location.

I suspect that Iran and Syria via Hezbollah and Lebanon are playing psychological warfare with us by bringing up Ron Arad. They are letting us know what can happen to the abducted soldiers if we are not forthcoming in the current negotiations (or lack thereof, depending which of the conflicting reports you believe.

Regardless, I had an idea it would come to this. Immediately after the capture of Gilad Shalit from the Gaza border by Hamas terrorists, there were debates whether to neghotiate for his release, along with conflicting reports whether such negotiations were taking place. Different government ministers weighed in whether they support negotiations or not.

On July 6th I wrote a post entitled "Negotiate a Deal". In this post I "predicted" (despite my being against negotiations - which was an issue I was misunderstood on and subsequently criticized about) that it would clearly come to a situation where we would be negotiating for Shalit's release with the potential release of hundreds and thousands of prisoners.

We have now arrived at the point where we are negotiating for the release of our soldiers. Yet we are playing our weak hand. We went to war with the stated goal of releasing the soldiers. We stopped the war without having achieved their release. We agreed to a ceasefire which does not gaurantee their release. All we have are statements made by Ehud Olmert every so often that he gaurantees they will be freed. All this is a weak hand.

We are now relegated to the fact that the only way we will achieve the release of the soldiers is via negotiations. And now the Lebanese are waving Ron Arad in our face. Is he alive? I do not know. Is he being held somewhere so we can negotiate for him? I don't know.

But if instead of going to a war the politicians were not willing to fight whole-heartedly and then having to negotiate anyway we would have taken the strong hand from the start (for example using the negotiation points I suggested), Hezbollah would not be able to play these mind games with us. And I think the situation would have already been resolved.

softball fall season is here!

The above is a partial team picture from the last game of last season. We take the picture at a game and whoever showed up to the game ends up in the official team picture. So we only had 9 guys in our picture from last season.

The start of fall season was just announced. It will be starting unusually early next week. It generally starts after Sukkot..

Unfortunately, it looks as though I will not be able to play much this season, if at all. I am dealing with a possible meniscal tear in my knee. Physical therapy has not helped strengthen the knee. I have taken an xray and am going back to the doctor for another look and further consultation.

Hopefully I will not need surgery, but if the xray shows it is a meniscal tear as he suspects, from what I have found on the Internet it looks like arthoscopic surgery is the only solution (since physical therapy and some other solutions like wraps have already been tried and have not helped)...

Aug 27, 2006

Reformat the Presidency

President Moshe Katzav. When he narrowly defeated Shimon Peres in the elections for the Presidency of Israel nearly 7 years ago, people were ecstatic. Some people were simply ecstatic because they always like to see Shimon Peres lose an election he expects to win. Many were ecstatic simply because a Sephardic Jew won the presidency. They saw this as a turning point in Israeli society.

President Moshe Katzav. He is now under investigation for horrible crimes that include sexual molestation, possible rape, and accepting bribery for criminal pardons. It is hard to imagine he actually committed these crimes against women (I do not including the last one – anybody can take a bribe). While I am not saying I do not believe the claims, I am saying I have no opinion and therefore give him the benefit of the doubt until the investigation indicates one way or the other, and the police either serve him with an indictment or drop the case.

It is hard to believe because there has been no indication of anything of the sort of things that are claimed against him until now. President Moshe Katzav has been a very low key person and representative of Israel. He has stayed out of trouble (until now). He has not blown off his mouth, as did some of his predecessors, most notably Ezer Weizman. He has refrained from politicizing the presidency. While he has not had an exciting term as President, he had kept the position honorable.

Should he resign? I do not think so. Right now it is just an investigation. The woman has made a claim. She has to prove he did it. We cannot force officials to resign just because someone accuses them of something. If that were the case, anytime someone did not like a politician they would accuse them of a crime. The accusation would eventually go away but in the meantime the politician would have been forced to resign.

I think it would be worthy of him to take a temporary leave, so as not to hinder the investigation. Regardless of whether it is true or not, he right now cannot function as President with such claims over his head. He is taking a vacation this week and maybe that is good enough. I do not know if the vacation was already planned or if he scheduled it because of the investigation.

Now to talk about the presidency and not the person holding the position.

It is not really a surprise that the presidency is now afflicted with such scandal. The president of Israel is elected in a purely political fashion, despite the fact that the position is meant to be apolitical. The president is meant to unite the people. He is meant to represent Israel to the Jews in the Diaspora and to the nations of the world. He is there to fight anti-semitism and fight around the world for the rights of all Jews. He is meant to, “represent national values and norms that are not politically controversial” (excerpted from the website of the President). The election is not open to the public. Rather, the president is elected by an absolute majority in the Knesset. After weeks of campaigning and dealing among the Knesset members the winner of 61 or more Knesset votes in the election takes the position of President.

Generally, at least with the last few presidents, the parties have selected their candidate for presidency by looking among their own ranks for a politician whose career seems to be going nowhere. They look for a politician who for some reason they feel deserves better than what they got, should have advanced further than they did. Somebody who they think can somehow be non-controversial and serve honorably. After all the candidates are announced, it is mostly political dealing among parties that gets one guy elected over the other.

In my mind, the system is flawed. How can we expect politicians to suddenly be apolitical? How can we expect people who have spent their whole lives fighting in politics to suddenly be able to keep their mouths shut on political issues? To the credit of the Presidency, some presidents have served Israel honorably and faithfully. Other presidents were hated because of, what people considered, abusing the office to further political goals.

How can we take a Likudnik or a Labornik and expect him to be apolitical and scandal-free? We can just look around at the political scene today and see how many politicians are under investigation and realize the pool we are picking the president from is contaminated. Of course there are many politicians who are serving the country faithfully and honestly, but look how many are not.

If the position is meant to be non-political, we need to take the politics out of the position.

First, the election of the president should not have anything to do with the Knesset. It should either be controlled by some sort of committee (also not a good idea) or it should be open to the general public. Having political parties wheel and deal to get their guy elected is no way to keep politics out of the position. Give the power to the people.

Second, the candidates should not be selected by the political parties. The candidates should be selected by the people or by philanthropic organizations or put their own candidacies forth.

Third, and most important, the candidate should not be selected from the Knesset. We should not turn to a Member of Knesset and expect him to be apolitical and scandal-free and suddenly to represent all of Israel when until now he represented a narrow sector. We should look for the most moral and ethical people. We should look for people who have worked for the betterment of the Jewish Nation. We should look for people who have not been involved in politics. We should look for philosophers, engineers, doctors, rabbis, heads of humanitarian organizations, or wherever else we can find the highest caliber people. Wherever else we can find the most moral and ethical people. That is the type of person who needs to be running for the election of President of Israel.

If we keep taking our presidents from the same pot of people we have been taking until now, we will continue ending up with these types of situations. It is a no-brainer.

If the position is meant to be non-political, we need to take the politics out of the position.

HH #84

Head over to Batya at Shiloh Musings to read this week's edition of Haveil Havalim.. Another job well done....

Aug 24, 2006

Will it make a difference?

Israel’s government is in a fragile state right now. Because of all the scandals and the problems the way the war was managed, we seem to be nearing the end of the current government. People do not want Olmert to continue in his position, nor Peretz.

While people make mistakes and you could just say they made some bad decisions and there is no need to resign, that is not the case here. The mistakes were phenomenal. They were not mistakes that I claim were made just because I would have liked to see him make a different decision. They are mistakes that are obvious to all, and they were made because those in power were not capable of making the correct decisions. Therefore the current leadership needs to step down. If they do not, eventually they will be brought down, either by their own internal problems or by the eventual Commission of Inquiry.

But will it make a difference?

I am not convinced that it will. Yes, these guys have to go so it should happen whether it makes a difference or not. But we should be aware that our problems will not be solved by whoever will be victorious in the next set of elections which are looming. We may not have these exact problems, but we will have problems.

The past few governments have been extremely unstable (with the exception of Ariel Sharon’s government). As soon as they did something others in their coalition did not like, they were brought down. There is no reason to expect anything different for the near future. The leaders of all those governments were not strong leaders and they were limited in their options and handcuffed by their own personalities.

The problem really lies with our electoral system. Israel’s government is a parliamentary system. I do not know how it is different than other parliamentary systems, such as England, but it must be. The government of England does not fall every 2-3 years and require new elections, while Israel’s does (and this time it looks like it will be even sooner). Why is it different, I do not know, but it is.

The government is fractured by many small parties. The parties present a list of their candidates and people vote for the party of their choice, generally based on party platform, but also based on the personalities of the candidates in each list. As many votes as each party pulls in will make the final count of how many reps it sends to the Knesset, and how much weight it has in negotiations for the coalition, thus allowing each party to achieve more or less of its stated goals.

There are a lot of parties that run in the elections. With a minimum threshold that needs to be passed to get into the Knesset, we have ended up with a few medium sized parties (Likud, Labor, and now Kadima – by medium size I am not relating to the phenomenon that occurred in the last elections, because I think Likud will regain some of its status and return to being a medium size party) and a bunch of fairly small parties. The small parties end up wielding disproportional amounts of power and that brings about instability in the government. If the PM then steps on someone’s toes, his coalition is threatened.

We have also experienced parties turning their backs on their voters and pushing platforms that are even the exact opposite of what they promised during the elections, yet still claiming they had the mandate from the people who voted for them! That along with the personalities in the government that people are upset with, due to many of them being involved in various levels of investigation, indictment and just general bad press, puts our government in a bad situation.

So, when we have new elections in a few months or whenever, the next government formed will have its own set of problems, just as the last 6 or so have had.

How can we solve the problem? How can we improve the government so we do not have this instability?

I believe that the electoral method has to be changed. But it needs to be changed completely, not halfway like they tried a few years ago.

A few years ago some politicians came up with the idea that the system was unstable and they needed to implement direct elections. They decided to do it in stages and they left most of the system in place while only making the election of the Prime minister by direct election. In other words, a voter would make 2 selections in his vote. He would select one of two or three candidates for Prime Minister and he would select a party for Knesset. It was thought this would make the PM less beholden to the influence of the smaller parties, as he was voted in directly by the people.

In truth it was found that the situation became less stable. The PMs became more controlled by the small parties, because the small parties were given more power by the people. For example, people who wanted Netanyahu to be PM did not need to vote for Likud. They could vote for Netanyahu and Shas, or Netanyahu and Shinui or Barak and Aguda, or Peres and Moledet, whatever combination they felt like voting for.

We need to change the system to a style of direct elections. Every single Member of Knesset needs to be directly elected by the people. If an MK from Shas, or Likud, or Aguda, or Shinui, or Labor or any party represents a certain area, he will work for the benefits and interests of all members of the area within his representation. The parties need to field candidates around the country each representing a certain area or some sort of division. If the voters like a certain candidate’s personality and platform, they will vote for him. He will then be beholden to the voters and have to show progress and success or they will not vote him back in office in the next elections.

No more of being involved in scandals. No more flip-flopping on your position. If you do not keep your word, you will not keep your seat.

We need direct elections. The power needs to be in the hands of the people, not in the hands of the parties.

Until then, we are just looking at more of the same.

Aug 23, 2006

Just like in America!

There is a very common marketing ploy used here by companies who want their product to be instantly successful. I am not sure if it actually works, as I did not speak with any marketing experts about it, but regardless, if you walk down the street you will see many products advertised as "k'mo b'america!" or "Just like in America".

I remember when RC was introduced to Israel. The marketing ploy was, "The cola that turned America on its head!". Having grown up in America I do not remember RC being a major change in culture or tradition. People generally tend to prefer Coke or Pepsi, unless they are looking for a cheaper drink, which would lead them to RC.

Just open your local advertising brochure that gets stuffed in your mailbox on a weekly basis. Flip through it and you will see many products advertised as "Just like in America". People seem to be under the impression that everything American is top quality, and if they tap into that, whether it is true or not, they can dupe the public into buying their product or service.

Why am I talking about this?

I work in Ramat Gan. I usually do not have the good fortune to be able to walk around the neighborhood where I work. I pretty much go from the train to work taking the shortest and quickest path, and back from work to the train. Occassionally I have to take the short walk to our factory and sometimes I go out to buy a falafel or shwarma for lunch.

Another "feature" of this neighborhood, other than its tall office buildings and a hub of business, is the seediness of prostitution at night. Rumor has it that this neighborhood is loaded up with prostitutes at night. Walking around, one can easily find the brothels and strip joints. There is one right across from the factory and some others a bit further down. It is a shockign juxtaposition seeing the classiness of the business activity by day and having that smut within the same area.

Today I had to go to the factory. As I was leaving the factory I got stopped by one of the local Chabad missionaries. He knows me by face, as he gets around alot trying to put tefillin on people. he is the typical Chabad missionary. Nice, friendly and pushy. Anyway, he stops me in my tracks. He tells me he has to run into the building across the street to put tefillin on somebody he had promised. It will just take a couple of minutes.

What did he want from me? He was parked illegaly. He said they are very quick to tow cars and if you even leave the car for a minute you will likely come back and not find it where you left it. He wanted me to watch the car for him for a few minutes. It took me a minute to register what he wanted. The hood of the car was open, as if he was waiting for a mechanic. He promised me again it would just take 3 minutes. All I had to do was sit in the car and he would be right back.

I felt kind of guilty considering he was asking me to do this so he could go put tefillin on somebody who, he said, was waiting for him. I said ok, but really only a few minutes because I do not have time - I have to go back to work. He promised me again and ran off.

As I am sitting there in his hit car, I am wondering what would I do if the cops show up. He did not leave the car keys in so if they tell me to move the car, it would not be pretty. I am sitting there lookign around and right across the street is one of the aforementioned places of ill repute.

Out of boredom and nothing else to do I was reading the sign. Among all the offers and services they provide, one thing struck me. They were advertising their services with the slogan, "Just like in America!".

To be honest, I have never been inside one of these places, neither in the US of A nor in Israel. I have no idea, other than from my wild imagination and having watched too many movies and read too many books, what goes on inside these places. But I am curious what they meant by Just like in America!.

Are American Women of the Night providing service differently than those in Israel? Are they indicating that they use anglo women? Have they trained the Arab, Russian, East Asian and Romanian women who seemingly work for them to somehow act American?

I have no idea what the sign meant. It just seemed wildly out of place.

The Nach Nachs are everywhere!!!

AP put up this picture (which DA sent me the link to)...

with this caption...

20 de agosto de 2006, 20h18
Lebanese Ali Hassan Issa reacts after he came to inspect his relatives' house and found Hebrew writing on the walls, in the town of Maroun al-Ras, southern Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2006. Hebrew writing on the walls reads, right, "I will pursue my enemies and will succeed," and left "Na Nah Naham Nahaman" referring to Nahaman from Uman_ a place in Russia_ a sentence that a group of Ultra Orthodox Jews use as a mantra. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Aug 22, 2006

Another bumper sticker

(HatTip: JoeSettler)

Nothing needs to be added

On Being Yourself

The sh*t is hitting the fan

Today (along with the past 3 or so days) has been an interesting day in the Israeli political scene.

  1. The police just raided the Presidents residence as part of the ongoing investigation into sexual assault charges, which have recently been bumped up to rape charges.
  2. The calls for Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz (and Dan Halutz but less so) to resign have increased. The media have been almost completely calling for the end of the careers of these people for the past few days, increasingly so as time goes on.
  3. The calls and momentum for a State Inquiry into the Lebanon 2 war/conflict  have been increasing. The greatest of which came last night from a group of a few hundred reservists protesting outside the PMO. They are upset with being ripped out of their homes, lives and responsibilities to be sent out as cannon fodder with improper equipment, unclear orders, orders that were constantly changing, not enough training before sent into the field, lacking food supplies in battle, etc. They claim a simple investigation, such as that Olmert and Peretz are pushing for, will not have the "teeth" to find out all the issues nor to force implementation of the conclusions and findings. A State Inquiry is more serious and has more "teeth".
  4. Every day new stories from the war are publicized from reservists which show how poorly and negligently they were treated.
  5. The Israeli message boards and forums are exploding with calls for Olmert to resign before he destroys the country and its morale any more.
  6. The home front is upset. Olmert went touring some of the northern cities and towns that were hit by katyushas and was met with extremely harsh criticism. People wanted to know where he wa suntil yesterday. They wanted to know why he ignored their plight until nearly the end of the war. They did not evacuate the infirm until nearly the third week. Why did they have to sit in bomb shelters for so long? How will they recover their businesses? Why should they have been forced to rely on private donations (blessed as they are), such as from Arkady Gaidemak who spent nearly 15 million dollars of his own money to provide shelter for a few thousand refugees from the north - why did the government not do anything? Why are those private donors being forced to pay all costs of government participation in such shelter (such as ambulatory expenses, police expenses, etc.) after having absorbed all the rest of the expenses? and many other questions. Olmert had no answer other than to say it is time to look forward and he will not participate in self-flagellation. Needless to say, people in the north are not happy.
  7. Various government ministers are shooting off their mouths in all sorts of directions. The day after Olmert criticized Syria as the cause of most of the conflict, Avi Dichter, the Minister of Internal Security, spoke up about offering the whole Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace. That was after Amir Peretz made similar statements and then backtracked. Whether you believe in such a position or not, it was clearly embarassing for Olmert to have a senior minister from his own party make such a statement right after he criticized Syria. It is thought that Dichter and others already smell Olmerts blood and are positioning themselves for the fight to lead the Kadima party. 
  8. The coalition is starting to crumble. MKs from the Labor party today voted against the governments position on budget cuts for the purpose of rehabbing the north. They, led by Olmerts nemesis Avishai Braverman, refused to cut budgets from people in the Negev in order to find money for the north. They claim there is money in other places that can be used for this purpose. The vote did not pass for the second time in as many attempts and Kadima is furious that Labor has become an unreliable partner. Avigdor Yitzchaki, "CEO" of Kadima and head of the coalition has threatened to throw Labor out on the street and re-enter new coalition negotiations. The days of the coalitions are clearly numbered.
  9. Haim Ramon, a senior minister in Kadima and a close friend of Olmert, resigned Sunday due to an indictement for indecent assault. He might survive the indictement because according to the reports it is basically her word against his, though police consider her word credible, but this spells more trouble for Olmert and Kadima.

All this along with other issues on the table, such as Tzachi Hangbis indictement, an investigation into Olmerts bribery affair and more, are all threatening the stability of the current government.

Where will it all lead to? Looks like elections are on the horizon.. though I think unless something really dramatic happens, such as an indictement of Olmert for bribery or Iran attacks, a State INquiry forces his resignation or anything dramatic like that, I think Olmert has the staying power to survive this for a few more months. He will take a low profile and try to wait it out and focus on other things. He has always been a master of spin and will find a way to make this go away for a while. But he will only be able to hold it off for a bit.  Sooner or later though we will be having new elections.

Aug 21, 2006

latest bumper sticker

Israelis love their bumper stickers. We print out new stickers poking fun at the latest situations faster than a speeding bullet. Somebody sent me pictures of a whole bunch of new ones today. I am posting the one I thought was the best from the bunch...

Aug 18, 2006

Who is this man?

As we drove past Herzliya yesterday evening, we passed the depiction of Theodore Herzl they have outside the city (picture below). As we drove by, I asked my kids if they know who it is..

My daughter right away screamed out, "I know!! Matisyahu!"

Third time's a charm!

We went yesterday up to a branch of Nahal Alexander to a section called Gesher Ha'Tzavim (Turtle Bridge). Supposedly you can see very large soft shell water turtles swimming around, and if you bring food they even come out of the water to eat.

We have been there on two previous occassions to see these turtles, but we never got them to come out. We have been hearing rumors that because of pollution they have been ddecreasing in numbers and maybe there are so few left that we just don't see them.

We figured we would try again. We went yesterday. We go out on the platform over the water to watch and we start throwing some bread in the water. It takes a moment, but all of the sudden we start seeing a bunch of nasty looking catfish (I think)and some small turtles attacking every crumb of bread we throw in. It was pretty cool and there were tons of them.

Eventually the big boys showed up. Only a few of them came, but we were not there for very long and by the time they showed up we did not have that much bread left..

It was very exciting to see the big turtles. They look wierd (not really much like regular small turtles).

Here is a picture of one..

The kids wanted to grab one and take it home, but I thought that if I reached out to grab this monster he would bite my arm off!! (and this was the smaller of the three we saw!)

Aug 17, 2006

Aug 15, 2006

Did he have nothing better to do at the time?

Haaretz is now reporting that 3 hours after Eldad Regev and Udi Goldwasser were abducted by Hezbollah on the northern border, which led to the outbreak of conflict (it was never given the status of war by Olmert), IDF Chief of Staff went into a bank to sell his investment portfolio worth about $30,000.
While the politicians and military people were meeting deciding how to respond, Halutz took the time to go to his bank and sell his stocks.

This raises some questions. Halutz's response only deals with one aspect of it. Was he trading stocks based on knowledge of the possible breakout of war? Insider trading of sorts? Obviously war means the market goes down because of instability. Halutz's response dealt with this issue by saying that he has to deal with his portfolio like any other citizen and it had nothing to do with the war. Is he telling the truth? I have no idea, and I do not really care. Insider trading, while worrisome, is not what bothers me.

What bothers me is the issue that was not directly raised, and completely ignored by Dan Halutz. The issue being - did IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz have nothing better to do 3 hours after the soldiers were abducted as Israel is deciding whether or not to go to war. How did he have the time and presence of mind to worry about his portfolio?

Was the military situation the most pressing thing on Dan Halutz's mind, as he is about to bring Israel to war with Hezbollah/Lebanon? Did Dan Halutz's distractions affect his decision making?


Amos Harel has written in analysis piece in Haaretz in which he says Halutz will have to resign, when he finishes bringing the troops home..

To quote the most interesting paragraph, "But from the point of view of the infantry and tank troops, deep in the mud, with supply lines that sometimes are slow in delivering the goods, things look differently. At noon, on July 12, when brigade commander Colonel Chen Livni and his soldiers were trying to rescue the bodies of four soldiers from the burned remains of a tank near the site of Hezbollah's raid, the chief of staff was talking with his bank. Did the reservists who were rushed to the north under emergency orders (and some did not return) have time for similar arrangements?"

and here the State Comptroller is considering changing the law to include many other public officials in the law not allowing them to manage their own finances (due to conflict of interest). Currently the law only includes the PM and other ministers. He wants it to include all senior officials.

trip to America

This week I am on vacation from work. Due to the situation in the north, it was impossible to go to the "zimmer" (summer cottage), as we usually do, so we decided to stay home and do day trips in the area.

Well, yesterday we went to the USA on the day trip. Actually that would be the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv (we had to renew passports and register the baby as an American), but that has the status of U.S. territory, doesn't it? Regardless, the kids thought it was cool to go to the USA like that.. They will be telling their friends they went to America in the summer...

Aug 14, 2006

Sporadic posting (and commenting) this week

I apologize to all my dear readers. I am on vacation this week. Because my schedule is different and changing minute by minute, I may not post as often or on the schedule I generally do, nor will I be commenting on your sites much this week..

I will try to post on my site and comment on yours when I am able to. I hope we all have a quiet week.

Aug 13, 2006

Olmert the worst ever?

It looks like PM Olmert will be remembered by history as the worst Prime Minister Israel ever had, if nothing changes.

PM Olmert has agreed to the Ceasefire proposed by the UNited Nations in Resolution 1701. I read the text of the resolution. I do not understand why Israel agreed to accept it. The only reason I can assume was world pressure, specifically I am sure the U.S.A quietly told Plmert that they have had enough of his pathetic performance in the free world's fight against terrorism and he should stop embarassing them as a poor version of an ally. Bush or Condi probably told him quietly that he should accept the deal or else.

The resolution does not address Israel's reasons for going to war. The resolution does not mention at all the return of Israel's captive soldiers. Not a word. It bases the future of Southern Lebanon on the previous resolution (I think 1559 but the number slipped my mind suddenly), which never was implemented by Lebanon prior to this conflict and there is no reason to assume it will be implemented now.

Olmert has accepted the deal. At the same time, he is still sending more troops in to Lebanon. This is totally inexplicable. The resolution only goes into effect on Monday morning. I do not understand why. If we came to an agreement, why not make it immediate? But regardless, why send in more troops that will probably accomplish nothing because they only have 1 day left of fighting (or a few more days if Olmert waits for the international troops as he says he will). What can they accomplish in this short time span that they have not accomplished in the past 4 weeks?

Soldiers are still coming out of Lebanon talking about the confusion and lack of clarity in the orders. Commanders are not coordinated and multiple divisions fighting in the same area effect a situation in which nobody knows who they are fighting against. This means they have to be more cautious to ensure they are not shooting at Israeli troops, which makes everybody more prone to Hezbollah fighters. Soldiers are dying hand over fist in Lebanon right now for what seems like absolutely no purpose and no gain.

Olmert - it is time for you to bring our troops home. When they come home it will be time for you to go home.

Aug 11, 2006

very important article

There is a very important Opinion piece in Ha'aretz today written by Ari Shavit. Click here to read it..


I have been tagged by Neil from Modern Uberdox for this meme (a meme with no name!). This sould be a decent respite from posting solely abou tthe war....

So here goes...

Things I want to do before dying:
learn and read everything in my bookcases
earn or win a lot of money
help build the beis hamikdash hashlishi
see my kids enter society (as adults) in a healthy fashion and build their own families

Things I can not do:
hit a homerun (did it once, but it was an "in the park" homerun)
remember much of what I learn
guess the correct lottery numbers
slam dunk a basketball
conform just for the sake of conforming

Things I can do:
dishes (ok I was having a hard time thinking of something so I let Neils post influence me)
make a mean hummous and meat plate
a great bbq (though not as good as one of my brothers (Hi, Dan!)

What attracted me to my spouse:
Her witty mind
Her brains
Her great looks
(what else is there?)

Things I say most often:
No problem
Put the baby down!! (I have a 3 year old and 5 year old that like the baby)

Books that I am currently reading:
Cell by Stephen King
Collected Writings of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch
Dalet Amos by Rav Ari Enkin
My Life by Bill Clinton

Movies that I love:
I do not really remember movies, but here goes..
The Princess Bride
The Empire Strikes Back (really all the old Star Wars episodes, not the new ones)
Ferris Beuellers Day Off

I will tag Dot Co dot Il , Classmate Wearing Yarmulke and Sabra at Heart to continue this meme (if they are interested)..

Aug 10, 2006

Shay and Dror and Siniora

You can get the clip of shay and Dror (from Radio Tel Aviv) calling the PM of Lebanon here. Enjoy

Take control and win or stop the war now!

We are suffering from a serious problem. The leadership of the country is not running this war properly. I am not talking about military tactics. I have my theories on that as well, but not being a military man and am not privy to the intelligence, I am not qualified to give an assessment on that in an authoritative way (in anything other than civilian ranting and banter).

The government is run by a Prime Minister with no military experience. During quiet times, that might be great and he can focus properly on the economy and social structure of the country. The problem is we live in the Middle East and we are lucky when we go through short periods of quiet. The Defense Minister is run by someone with no military experience. He did not even want the job initially, as he ran on a social platform. Again, that might be great during peaceful times, as he could restructure the army without the biases of a general, but we live in the Middle East and always have the threat over our heads.

That is not it though. Ariel Sharon, love him or hate him, had control over his government. What he felt should be done he did and nobody could oppose him. He was a bit dictatorial in that sense. However, despite his overdoing it with the power, he had a sense of control over the situation and over the government he ran. There were no leaks from cabinet meetings he presided over. Ever. That is the way it was. He was in control. If you could not play by the rules, you were out.

PM Olmert has tried to emulate Sharon to a certain extent. He tries to portray himself as being in control and running the show. He spoke strongly after the elections while putting together the coalition about only parties supporting the realignment could join, for example. He could not get enough parties to form a government so he backtracked a bit and out together a hodgepodge government made up of parties that have different goals and agreements.
He has spoken up on many issues since he became PM, only to be forced to retract his words later.

PM Olmert is not in control of the situation. He has bought his government coalition with favors and budgets, but does not know how to control them. He does not know how to lead.

In today's newspaper there is an account detailed from a stormy session in the cabinet meeting that took place yesterday.
Shaul Mofaz said that Hezbollah must be attacked from north to south.

Peretz retorted and screamed at him saying who are you to talk? Where were you when Hezbollah spent 6 years rearming while you were Defense Minister!?

Mofaz responded, "Let's not get into that now, rather deal with the current problem."

Olmert steps into the fray and says, "the whole world is watching us right now. We must keep our calm."

The story alone does not bother me. What bothers me is that it is in the newspaper. The fact that it made it in means there is a leak. Somebody in the Cabinet has no qualms about leaving a meeting regarding national security in which important decisions are made and proceeds to leak the information to the media. Olmert has no control over the situation.

The past few days the media has been analyzing some unusual statements made by Olmert. he has declared recently a number of times how much he relies on the army and that he himself is not an expert in affairs of the army. The media has come to the conclusion that Olmert is already setting the stage and creating the spin for the post-war investigation into the governments handling of the war.

Israel loves commissions. After every little event that occurs, Israel establishes a great commission to analyze whether the situation was handled properly or not and who is responsible for what went wrong. The analysis is that Olmert is setting the stage for the investigation that will definitely take place later.

After the Yom Kippur war, Golda Meir responded to such a commission by saying that she was not a military expert and therefore had to rely on the army's recommendations. She was cleared of any guilt in mishandling the war in 1973. Olmert is setting the stage for a similar defense, the experts say.

This is another example of what I am talking about. If Olmert would concentrate on running the war properly, he might succeed. Instead he is expending his efforts and resources on what we call CYA (cover your a*s).

In last nights cabinet meeting they decided to expand the war and send in the ground troops to conquer Southern Lebanon to clear it from Hezbollah and create a buffer zone of sorts. has it happened yet? Have they sent in the troops? Not yet. Still waiting.

In the meantime we are suffering losses of 15 or so troops per day plus all the injured. In addition, despite the declarations of our great successes in destroying Hezbollahs capabilities, we are still having over 150 Katyusha rockets rain down on our heads every single day causing us tremendous damage to homes, businesses, the economy and worst of all to those injured and killed by the rockets.

Olmert has retained command and decision making capabilities since Day 1 of the war. he stated then that he does not want to send in troops on the ground until the Air Force has bombed the place enough to make it safer for the troops. Generals spoke up and set the Air Force cannot do the job alone, we must send ground troops. Olmert has delayed and we have been suffering the ramifications for 4 weeks with no end in sight.

The elderly and the infirm in the conflict zone have been ignored by the government, left to the donations and generosity of the generous nation. The government has not even officially declared this to be a war yet, thus leaving the businesses up north floundering (a status of war would provide government assistance to people and businesses on the front lines).

They send troops in with orders only to change their minds in mid-operation. Soldiers are complaining that orders are not clear and weaponry is outdated. Reservists are called up and then made to sit around for days before they are sent out on missions, not so they can be trained and briefed on upcoming missions but because there is nothing to do.

All of this, and more, indicates that the leadership is lacking. There does not seem to be anybody in position who can make the tough decisions that need to be made.

We have the ability to win this war. If we would not be so concerned with commissions and world opinion and other issues, we could finish this. Send the boys in and bring them home victorious.

But if you are not going to do that, if you are going to waver, then do not bother. We do not want a war that you will not let us win. We do not want to see our boys coming home in caskets. If that is part of the price to pay for winning a war thrust upon us, so be it. But if they are paying with their lives in a war we cannot win because the politicians do not want to make the decisions, that is unacceptable.

Let the IDF win. If you will not, if you insist on restricting them with indecision and no clarity, forget the whole thing. Bring the troops home. Make a deal for a ceasefire. Declare victory or not, it does not matter. We do not want to see our boys killed in a battle they cannot win.


Shay and Dror with PM Siniora

Last night I read in the newspaper about another Shay and Dror prank call (remember the last with the Lebanese Burger King??). Shay and Dror have a radio program on Radio Tel Aviv.

According to the article, they called the Prime Minister of Lebanon's office to try to get him on the air. They got through and asked for the PM claiming they were John from the PM's office of England. After getting passed through one or two people, the PM himself finally got on the line. They told him they were very touched by his emotional speech the other day in which he cried about the situation.
he asked who was on the phone and they said you are live with Shay and Dror on Radio Tel Aviv. He immediately hung up the phone.

I am looking for a clip of this. If I find one, I will post it here..

another video clip

video clips of war

Olah Chadasha sent me these two youtube clips she created. These should give you the best possible vantage point of what's been going on here. The international MSM has not done Israel the slightest bit of justice during this conflict. Now, you get to see it from the Israeliperspective. (Unless, of course, you live in Israel, then you can forget the aforementioned statement.) Thank you for taking the time to watch them


Thanks OC.

Fiddler on the Roof?

Check out this Japanese version of Fiddler on the roof...

Aug 9, 2006

B'Teavon! (bon apetite)

I have finally decided to write up a "recipe" of sorts for the Kosher Cooking Carnival (hosted by Sarah this week).

Mind you, I do not have a real name for this recipe. Also, buyer beware, I will not be putting any specific amounts (like 1 cup of this and 2 handfuls of that with a pinch of something else), as I do not cook that much and when I do, I just about never follow the specific amounts in recipes (unless I am trying something very complicated for the first time) and the food pretty much always comes out great despite my lack of discipline...

I first ate this food in a restaurant as an appetizer and enjoyed it so much I figured I would try to copy it at home. Last Friday I had just gone a whole week with no meat (due to the 9 days) and finally it was over. I was in the mood for something extra, rather than just the regular Friday night dinner. So, I made this dish which we served as an appetizer. Everybody loved it and licked their plates clean, so if you are daring enough to try it (even if it does not sound like it will be great), I think you will enjoy..

Anyways, here goes.........

1. a chunk of chopped meat (again, no specific amounts. Take however much you need for the amount of people who will be eating it). Make sure it is either fresh or defrosted.
2. frying pan
3. salt
4. pepper
5. garlic (powder or cloves chopped up)
6. some oregano if desired
7. hummous (I buy it in the store, but f you want to make your own, get a recipe)
8. olive oil
9. other oil for frying (or margarine or whatever you use to sautee things in)
10. parsley
11. stove
12. matches (if pilot light does not work so well like on our stove)
13. plate
14. spoon

Take frying pan and stick it on the stove on top of a flame (I do not know how high - however high it needs to be to heat up the stuff). Spill a little oil in. Dice onion and put it in hot pan on stove in oil. Throw spices (the salt, pepper, garlic and oregano (not parsley) on top of onion. Let onion sautee for a bit.

When onions are ready (you will know because they will smell really good), take the chopped meat and throw it into the pan. Let it cook until it is cooked. Make sure to shake it up every now and then. The meat in the pan with the onions and stuff should be crumbly and not clumpy.

Prepare plate. Take spoon and scoop hummous out of container. Slap it onto the plate and a big clump. Take spoon and with the back, using a circular motion, spread the hummous around the plate with the middle of the plate having a thin layer of hummous and the edges should be thick and circular along the edges of the plate (like how they serve hummous in a restaurant). Spill olive oil (not too much) into middle of hummous (in the thin flat part). If so desired, throw a little chopped parsley into olive oil.

Take meat/onion combo and pour it into the middle of the hummous on top of the olive oil.

Serve (better if served when meat is hot) and enjoy.

NOTE: This recipe serves x number of people. x will depend on how much hummous and meat you used.

Aug 7, 2006

Let the IDF win!

During the second Intifiada the slogan “T’nu L’Tzahal L’Natzeach” – Let the IDF win – became a very popular rallying cry. Protesters used it often when suggesting that the government was tying the hands of the army with politics and not allowing it to fight properly. It was a catchphrase used commonly in editorials, articles and by government ministers.

We are facing a similar problem today. The government has sent the army out to battle and wage a war against Hezbollah. The war started as a defensive one, but Israel quickly made it into an offensive battle. This was necessary because it was the only way to clear the southern part of Lebanon of Hezbollah and their stock of weaponry.

The army has been corrupted by politics ever since the disengagement of last year. Army generals and commanders who told their honest opinion of the disengagement when asked by the politicians, we released from the army. This created a situation in which the army commanders staying in position realized that to advance their careers they had to tell the government what they wanted to hear (this is not my assessment - this was widely known and written about many times in the past year in the press and former commanders have come forth more recently and spoken out about the process).

The army was used not to fight the enemy, as an army is meant to, rather it was used to achieve a political goal called the disengagement. They were used to fight against their own brothers and sisters and anybody who claimed it was against their morals and they could not do it was either released (in a good case) or put in jail (more common).

When an army is run by politicians (and by this I mean when the commanders making the decisions are making decisions based on politics), the army is not doing its job. It is setting itself up for failure. The army needs to prepare plans for the defense of the country and for whatever scenario might be imagined for defending and protecting the country. Then the politicians decide which plans to use, which to shelve, etc. When the army uses politics to make its decisions, it is not preparing properly for its own job and it is thereby placing people, either those they are supposed to be defending or those who are participating in the execution of the plans.

We are in a situation today where the government, led by two inexperienced politicians (Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert), is making serious decisions on how to wage the current war. The problem is they keep changing their minds. They are not allowing the IDF to win. They decided to flatten the land with an aerial assault prior to sending in the ground troops. They did this far too long, and Hezbollah had the opportunity to hide bunker down and retain their power and ability to shoot the Katyushas and other rockets.

It is not a matter of whether or not Israel will subdue Hezbollah. Eventually we will, regardless of all these problems. The problem is that we are not fighting an army or conquering land. A victory is not as clear cut as in the standard type of battle. In the type of war we are fighting, aside from achieving the sought out goals (in this case of getting back the captured soldiers and stopping the Katyushas), a sense of deterrence must be achieved in order to prevent future attacks.

PM Olmert has politicized this battle. He announced that victory will give momentum to the convergence plan. That was a stupid comment. It is clear that the current problems we are having are results of the previous disengagements (from Gaza and Lebanon). Olmert should be reassessing and trying to figure out how to improve the plan (if not scrap it completely). Instead he declared, in other words, that he is sending the boys out to fight with the goal of improving his status for a successful realignment. He is asking young men, many of whom are members of settlements slated for Olmert’s chopping block, to put their lives on the line so that they can go home afterwards and be thrown out of their own houses.

The Yisraeli newspaper has had a series of political cartoons recently in which are depicted expellees from Gaza living in caravans and out of boxes. The husband is putting on his army uniform and leaving the family to go join the war. The various cartoons in the series all show different scenarios, each portraying the same ironic situation; the husband leaving to protect other peoples home while the wife has no real home to sleep in. The husband says we cannot allow these people to be thrown out of their homes by Katyushas, while the wife sits there on her carton having been thrown out. The husband says when I come back from war I will help you pack for the next expulsion, etc..

The idea of these is that Olmert has created an ironic situation in which he is calling on people to go out and push an agenda they are totally against. Nay, they are fighting and risking their lives to bring closer the day when they will be thrown out of their own homes.

The natural result of this is that soldier sin such a position (or even if they themselves will not be thrown out of their homes but are against the disengagement) are now saying why should I fight in this war for that goal. Nobody has yet officially refused to fight (they have found ways to get out of it) but there are murmurings. If soldiers are distracted by such politics they cannot fight properly.

Yes, it is true Olmert apologized for his comments. That means nothing. Everybody already knows those are his goals and intentions. His apology was only because he should not have said it. Anybody who thinks he actually retracted his opinion is sticking his head in the sand like an ostrich and ignoring the obvious.

But this is not only about the disengagement/convergence/realignment.

Olmert has tied the hands of the army in other ways as well. He sends in the ground troops then he stops them. He allows leaks of information from cabinet meetings. He shows his indecisiveness.

You remember the friend of mine I wrote about last night whose son is in Lebanon? He also told me (aside from the story I wrote about) that his sons unit was specifically instructed not to fire upon the enemy at a certain point. I do not know details of the incident, but he was clear they had received orders from the government not to fire, not from army commanders who were concerned they would reveal their positions or be outflanked or whatever. The Prime Minister told them they should not engage the enemy.

Can you imagine this? The government sends troops into hostile territory and tells the soldiers they cannot shoot at the enemy!! They are tying the soldier’s hands behind their backs!! They are putting our soldiers at risk and not letting them fight properly.

Charles Kraughthammer writes in today’s Washington Post a scathing article against Olmert’s handling of this war. To quote just one part of it, “The United States has gone far out on a limb to allow Israel to win and for all this to happen. It has counted on Israel's ability to do the job. It has been disappointed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has provided unsteady and uncertain leadership. Foolishly relying on air power alone, he denied his generals the ground offensive they wanted, only to reverse himself later. He has allowed his war cabinet meetings to become fully public through the kind of leaks no serious wartime leadership would ever countenance. Divisive cabinet debates are broadcast to the world, as was Olmert's own complaint that "I'm tired. I didn't sleep at all last night" (Haaretz, July 28). Hardly the stuff to instill Churchillian confidence.

His search for victory on the cheap has jeopardized not just the Lebanon operation but America's confidence in Israel as well. That confidence -- and the relationship it reinforces -- is as important to Israel's survival as its own army. The tremulous Olmert seems not to have a clue.”

From here I call out to you - PM Olmert – Let the IDF win!!!

Aug 6, 2006

Mi K'Amcha Ysrael! 2 stories from lebanon

Mi K'Amcha, Yisrael!!

I will relate two stories. One I will be paraphrasing from a Hebrew newspaper (and using my free translation and paraphrasing). The second will be a story I heard tonight from my friend whose son is in Lebanon.

Both of these stories, details are fuzzy. I was not there. I am only relating what I read, and what I heard, and neither story has complete details. In both stories, the soldiers were not halachically required to act as they did. In fact, according the straight letter of the law it might even have been better if they had acted differently, but these stories reveal to us the burnign desire in soldiers even in the heat of battle to be concerned with their Jewishness.

1. This story was related as an interview with a soldier recuperating from a "superficial" facial injury in the hospital:
The unit was going out to lebanon on shabbos for a mission and asked Rav Levanon (Rosh yeshiva of elon moreh) about taking their tefillin with them. He said they should not take them with, unless they would be very distressed about not having the tefillin for the following days. Then, it might distract them in battle and it would be a sakkanah and if that is the case they should. Most in the unit did not want to rely on the heter to take the teffilin but 4 people (including the subject interviewed in the story named Aviad) insisted on taking theirs.

They went in and on Rosh Hodesh were in a large Arab house they had taken control of. Things were quiet so they had time to daven. They were all sharing the teffilin. Eventually shooting started and they took their positions. At some point in the battle, Aviad was injured.

The unit doctor came to deal with him and told him that a miracle had happened. He had been an inch from death - A Sager missile had been fired right next to him but he was saved, with only a superficial facial injury.

Injured and interviewed in the hospital, Aviad said he called Rav Levanon to tell him what had happened. Rav Levanon said it is clear he was saved by a miracle because of his hakpada regarding the teffilin. He quoted a gemara and said you were saved because you did not allow your head to be a "karkafta d'lo manah tefillin" - a head (skull) that does not place tefillin. Even though you had what to rely on, because you were extra careful with the mitzva, it saved you.

2. On shabbos my friend was very concerned about his son. He had not heard from him since Tuesday. It seems that when they go into Lebanon they are not allowed to carry their cellphones, lest the enemy be able to track their positions by the signal or tap into the cellular line and find out information or have the ability to track. Because this son was in Lebanon, Tuesday had been the last day they had had contact from him.

Tonight he told me that his son was given a day or two of rest. (He could not come home but was resting in the north with his unit). They would soon be going back in to Lebanon on another mission, but in the meantime he has heard from him and was calm.

He told me that his son and the unit had been in Lebanon (I forget which village). They had taken over an empty house and were using it as a command post. They had not eaten food in a day and a half. I do not know why no food was available, but he told me that they had eaten 1.5 days prior and had not had any food since then and had no rations. They only had water.

So they are in this Arab house. They could have raided the kitchen and taken the food. They (or at least some of them) did not want to eat the food. They were concerned it was not kosher. They did not want to eat even the rice because they would have to cook it in non-kosher pots.

They later found a few vegetables that held them over a bit, but they preferred to go hungry rather than eat non-kosher food. My friend told me it was unnecessary for him to refuse the food, but he was very proud of his son for having done so.

True, in both stories the soldiers did nto need to do do. You could even say they were foolish for acting like that (and I know some people who will comment exactly that). Specifically in the second case, the Rambam says that when going to battle against the enemy, one can eat whatever he finds, even pig. The commentaries state that it is not even referring to when the soldier is in need of food, because if no other food is available and he is desperate to eat, anybody would be able to eat non-kosher food to stay alive. In battle the Rambam means even if he just simply desires some food that he sees he can eat it.

One could then say this soldier was foolish and put himself and others in danger. If he does nto eat, he would not have enough energy and would possibly not be completely alert. A simple mistake could cause people to get hurt or killed.

I do not have the answer whether according to logic and/or the letter of the law they acted properly or not. I do not know all the details to say so, and I am not one to judge others. I would guess he felt he had it in him to go on without eating.

However, these stories show how much, even inthe heat of battle, they went out of their ways to do what they felt was right, with no leniencies.

Mi K'Amcha Yisrael!

Music clip - With Love from Israel

Click here to watch and listen

This is made up by different Jewish singers together (think, We are the World, sort of)

Aug 5, 2006

interviewed on IBC

Iraqi Bloggers Central blog has interviewed me in his series of interviews (he calls them In T Views) with Israeli bloggers..
Click here to read...

Aug 3, 2006

funeral of soldier Michael Levin hy"d

I went to the funeral of the chayal boded, Michael Levin hy"d today. I did not make my usual tisha b'av afternoon trip to the kotel. I felt going to the funeral and paying respects to a soldier who was all alone in Israel, who came back from a visit to the US just so he could participate in the war and do his part in protecting us, was appropriate.

The area on Har Herzl was packed with people. Most I am sure were like me, in other words people did not know him, but wanted to pay respects to such a gibor yisrael, who gave his life to protect us.

Overall, this was a very difficult 9 Av for Klal Yisrael...

These are a few pictures I took at the funeral.

Kina 23

UPDATED - after adjusting the text a number of times, this is the adjusted text that indicates what I actually said.

Tisha B’av 5766

In my shul we have a program which has become quite common among anglo communities in Israel. Instead of reading all the kinot published as was commonly done, we select a number of the kinnot to read (a lot of them, but not all of them). Before each kina one of the members will give a brief introduction to the kinna, an explanation, some words of inspiration, etc. The idea is that instead of mindlessly reading a bunck of kinnot that nobody understands, we say less but it is more infused with meaning and understanding.

I was asked to give the introduction to Kinna 23, entitled “V’Es Navvi”. Below I am posting what I plan (more or less to say as the introduction.

Kina 23

In 23 we will be lamenting the story of the children of R’ Yishmael Ben Elisha. The paytan relates the tragic story of how these 2 children, a son and a daughter were captured by separate captors. The captors were bragging to each other about the special beauty each one saw in his respective captive. They came up with a plan to have the two captives mate and they would share the offspring, which they assumed would be tremendously beautiful children.

The paytan goes on to describe how they were put together in a dark room and they stayed apart the whole night ashamed that this is what could come of the child of such a great man. By daybreak they each realized who the other was and they held each other and their nashamos left them together.

Truly a tragic story. Bit it is difficult, at least for me, to relate to a story of a kidnapping from about 2000 years ago and be moved to tears.

If one has a hard time relating to a story from so long ago and crying about it and simply reads it as a tragic story, there is no lack of similar stories from more modern times.

If you must, think about Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev who are being held by barbaric captors under who knows what type of conditions. Think of Ron Arad whose daughter never had the opportunity of knowing him because he has been held captive for so long. Think of all the other MIA’s who we have no idea of their whereabouts. Think of their parents who have no idea if their children are alive or dead or what kind of condition they are in. Think of the turmoil these people are going through.

If that is not enough, think of the holocaust. Think of the children who were snatched away from their parents. Think of the families that were separated and decimated and destroyed.

The ArtScroll explains that we are not crying specifically about the capturing of these young adults, rather we are crying about the hillul hashem. We are including this story in the kinnos because they were less concerned with their personal fate and more concerned with the hillul Hashem of their being forced to such degrading acts.

But if you have a hard time crying about a hillul Hashem that took place 2000 years ago, think of the hillul hashem that we have gone through daily, throughout history, since the destruction of the beis hamikdash. All Jews are princes and princesses and we all come from great yichus of Avraham Avinu. Yet the blood of jews, the children of Jews, have been left for hefker for the pillaging of the goyim. We have suffered throughout history bloog libels and progroms and holocausts. Killing and kidnappings. Even to this day.

Think again to the holocaust. Think of all the children who were given refuge and protection by the church, only to never be returned to their families, but to be raised as Christians.

Think of what is perhaps the most famous of uch stories, the story of Edgardo Mortara. Edgardo was a young 6 year old child in Italy in the mid-1800s. he fell ill and was on his deathbed. The families youngle Christian maidservant was concerned the child would die without ever having been saved and he would remained damned for eternity. So she baptised him, without telling the family. Edgardo eventually recovered from his illness, but it did not matter. The church found out about the baptism, and despite it being unauthorized and illegal, he had been baptized. They came and removed him from his parents care. After all, it was illegal for a Jew to raise a Christian child. No amount of pleading and fighting with the church and with the courts was able to bring Edgardo back home to his parents. he later went on and became a Catholic priest.

That is something everybody can relate to. If thinking of children being kidnapped 2000 years ago creating a hillul hashem does not move you to tears, think of the more modern instances of the same events, and that should move you.

As Jews we are all princes and princesses with the great yichus of being children of Abraham. Every tragedy that has befallen us is a tragedy but is also a hillul Hashem. If you cannot cry about the tragedy and hillul Hashem of 2000 years ago, it is all too easy to think about more recent tragedies and let those move you.

The paytan says, - woe Hashem has such decreed, he says and he fullfills his word. אוי כי זאת גזר אומר ועושה . If we do not let these kinnos move us to be inspired to improve our ways, Hashem has promised what will happen, and we should know that He fulfills His word.

Aug 2, 2006

A 9 Av must read!!!

I was planning on not posting or blogging until at least mid-day tomorrow when the level of mourning lessens. However Jameel contacted me and let me know that he had just posted a heavy duty post on his blog. I took a look and felt it important enough to change my mind and link to it.
Click on the link below and read it.

The Muqata جميل في المقاطعة: Woe Unto Israel - A Lament for Leadership

I am also now more motivated to write about a topic I was mostly trying to avoid. Maybe later tonight or maybe tomorrow... Right now I have to go finish preparing my speech for tomorrow morning..

Temple in ruins - 9 AV

(Pictures from the Temple Institute website)

Aug 1, 2006

put down the weapons?

I received by email this succint description of the 2 different sides of the Middle East conflict...

>Regardless of your feelings about the crisis between Israel and the
>Palestinians and Arab neighbors, the following two sentences clearly
>define the situation:
> If the Arabs put down their weapons today there would be no more
> If the Jews put down their weapons today there would be no more
> Israel

This months ascent

ברוך הבא בשם השם ברכנוכם מבית השם

This is what the Kohanim would say to greet the people coming to be Oleh Regel. It is not the regel (holiday) but today was the day for my groups monthly ascent.

We took the opportunity to contemplate and daven for the safety of Klal Yisrael and the soldiers putting themselves in danger to protect us, and for those civilians, our brothers and sisters, who live up north and by no fault of their own have become the front line.

The situation was quiet on Har Habayit. While the police kept a careful eye on us, it was pretty uneventful, which is fairly unusual for our visits to Har Habayit. The only near event was when the wakf rep tried to convince the police one of the guys in our group was davening. He was and we were, but it was being done silently – Avodah She’Balev. While they have found ways to prevent us from davening publicly, to the point of searching us carefully for any inciteful paraphanelia (e.g. a tefillas haderech in your wallet will be confiscated, do not say you were not warned!) before we go up, they have not yet found a way to control our thoughts. The policeman brushed off the wakf and said to leave us alone.

So, I will add a few pictures for your perusal…

are these the shualim (foxes) Rabbi Akiva was distressed about seeing running around the grounds of the former temple?

and the view from the other side of the wall…

Jameel in the Northern branch of the Muqata

Jameel somehow sneaked out and actually left The Muqata for a few days!! He spent a few days up north volunteering his paramedic services as a member of MDA/Hatzala.

Check out his post and his descriptions and pictures of his (sometimes) harrowing experiences and thoughts...

The Muqata جميل في المقاطعة: A Weekend in Northern Israel

Jews with Balls!!

Check out Shanah's post on the irony of how the world is falling apart around us yet CNN considers us on the brink of the apocalypse because of the Jews disproportional response to Lebanon...

ConservaJew: Jews with balls!

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