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Free The Hostages! Bring Them Home!

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Nov 30, 2007

A movie about the settlers (video)

This movie is a documentary made in England a few years ago about the settlers. It follows the Jewish side with Dov Shurin and the Arab side with Ali...

Nov 29, 2007

Shmitta: The unusual 7th year Esrog

The Esrog tree, also known as the Citron, has special sets of rules regarding shmitta. They did not apply this past sukkos, because the crops had all grown and were mostly picked in the 6th year of the cycle.

This coming sukkos, which is really in the 8th year of the cycle, is when the esrog will have shmitta issues.

Esrog is different than other fruit. There are different time periods for different fruits/vegetables as to when shmitta takes effect on them. There is grown a third, there is blossoming, there is harvesting, and more. Esrog has different charchteristics and therefore we are machmir using more than one category.

Right now I do not remember all the details, so I will not get into it. As sukkos gets closer, I will brush up on the matter and post more details.

We do have one exception. While this post is titled Shmitta: the Esrog, it is not really a shmitta post. It is really a political post.

The one exception is the political/media esrog.

The police this evening announced that they have recommended the case against the PM Ehud Olmert in the Bank Leumi corruption affair be dropped due to lack of evidence. This is the same cas ein which the police had previously said we have never had a case of such a high level of corruption ever before. This is the case in which the police until very recently have spoken about the great amounts of evidence they have collected. This is the case in which the police had said there would be no choice but to indict due to the serious evidence against the PM. Yet all of the sudden they are recommending against indictment due to a lack of evidence.

Obviously the Prime Minister's recent diplomatic moves, including his fire sale at Annapolis, has made an exceptionally fast growing and harvesting esrog.

The Esrog, as defined in israeli political terms, is when a politician is handled with special care and all scandals and corruption issues are ignored as he is coddled due to his left wing advances.

The esrog concept was created when Ariel Sharon was in office. He was involved in the Greek Island affair which is the premier example of high level corruption in recent Israeli history. yet everyone else who was onvolved in that case was brought down, while Ariel Sharon was given a free pass. This was because of his adopting left winf politics while destroying settlements and turning on those who brought him to power.

The media later admitted that they had created the Esrog concept for Sharon and had ignored all his issues in order to help advance those policies.

This case is highly reminiscent of the Greek Island affair. A very high level of corruption. The police were leanign to indict. Suddenly the PM makes a bold move with a new initiative, leaning much further to the left than ever before, and suddenly all remnants of the affair disappear. "Not enough evidence to indict". What a joke.

Anyway, so as the rules of shmitta go, now that the esrog has been grown and harvested all during the shmitta year, Olmert will need to be treated with k'dushas shviis. He can no longer be thrown away, he cannot be treated with less than special respect, etc.

So in this Esrog we have the exception. We have the 7th year esrog with k'dushas shviis.

Dov Shurin Purim concert (video)

This video is a few years old, but it just made it to Google Video... so here it is.. enjoy..

world's largest flag

A few days ago Israel unfurled the world's largest flag. It made it into the Guiness Book of World Records.

The event took place at Masada. Here is an ABC news clip of the event...

what do leaves have to do with women?

They put up a sign at work about a new shiur for women in "Judaism". The shiur is being given once a week at the beginning of the workday.

It is all very nice and good, but I have one question: why are all shiurim for women advertised with pictures of leaves all over the page? Is the shiur about trees? What do leaves have to do with women? (for example, the topic of this week's shiur was posted as "Love, jealousy and the story of Yosef". Under that was a nice pile of leaves. why?)

time to switch to bourbon

I always enjoy answering surveys on the telephone, though I rarely get the good political surveys. Tonight I answered a phone call and it was a survey. The questioner asked a wide range of questions, ranging from pension funds, to newspapers, to religion, to lotto and more.

one question in the middle that she asked was if I light Hannukah candles every day or just sometimes. I responded that I only light Hanukka candles every day of Hannuka, but not every day...she chuckled...

In other news, the city council of Edinburgh (that would be in Scotland) has announced they will be cancelling a contract with Mei Eden, an Israeli mineral water company based on the Golan Heights. They are cancelling the contract because Mei Eden is guilty of pillaging Syria's natural resources for profit...

In the talkbacks on the >Ynet article, people suggest boycotting Scotch as revenge. I cannot see that being successful. A Jew giving up scotch? Would never happen. Though I think all Jews should switch to bourbon anyways....

Nov 28, 2007


They do not call them "Shastitutes" for nothing...

every day, no matter what happens, they find a reason to stay glued to their government seats with great salaries and perks and refuse to stand by their previous statements, or what their constituents want...

Nov 27, 2007

pointless statement of the day

In anticipation of the Annapolis conference in which Ehud Olmert is expected to offer much of the Land of Israel to the lowest bidder, the Association of Rabbis for the People and Land of Israel (I have never before heard of this association, which means nothing) held a conference yesterday to come out with a joint decision and statement of position regarding what Olmert is expected to effect in Annapolis.

Rabbi Dov Lior said, according to Ynet, "We must cleanse the country of Arabs and resettle them in the countries where they came from, If this means we have to pay them, we will. Without doing so, we will never enjoy peace in our land."

This statement of his is coming under the usual criticism. He is a racist. He is guilty of incitement. he should be investigated. etc.

Statements put out by this and any other right wing organization can and will be largely ignored. They will only be used as fodder for accusing the right wing public of being racist. No statement they can ever put out will ever be taken seriously or considered seriously, and therefore such conferences and association are pretty much worthless.

I am not sure what the appropriate arena for right wing activism is. We have already seen the ineffectiveness of any and all groups to thwart or derail or even just draw away support for left wing policy. No amount or type of protest swayed Ariel Sharon, none will sway Olmert, and the general public continues to imbibe the press statements put out by Olmert's spin doctors and media advisers as of they were holy writ and everything else should be ignored.

The country has become one that is controlled by Public Relations experts and actual policy debate with content is abandoned. As a result we had Ehud Olmert putting out conflicting statements in the weeks leading up to Annapolis.

According to one Annapolis is just a simple meeting - nothing more than that and nothing will happen. Then he puts out a statement how this is the most exciting breakthrough in recent past giving us a true chance for peace.

Then he puts out statements how Ramon's plan to divide Jerusalem is just that - Ramon's plan; Ramon has no authority and his plan has not been accepted by the government and when Ramon talks about it he represents nobody but himself. Then he puts out a statement saying we can and should split Jerusalem for reasons x, y and z.

Then he puts out statements how Annapolis is really nothing big and nobody should be concerned, it is just a way to get talks going... etc.

Olmert gives out nothing of substance and no real information. He only says things his media people allow him to say considering how it will affect his standing in public opinion, world opinion, his image, his investigations, how coalition, etc.

Do we really have any idea what Olmert is planning to do in Annapolis? No, because he has put out so many conflicting statements we really have no idea. he probably does not even know. When it happens he will decide what is best and then he will tell us what he wants to tell us. And his media advisers will formulate exactly what needs to be said and how it should be said, and they will sell it based on their decision.

So right wing debate and trying to deal with the actual issues is pointless because the public buys what Olmert's media advisers sell them. After that anybody who wants to disagree is either an unrealistic right wing fanatic or somebody who is racist and borderline treasonous.

the de-haredization of a neighborhood

This is the "pashkevil" thrown around in Givat Shaul nowadays.

Givat Shaul is a neighborhood in Jerusalem. It is a Haredi neighborhood right by the entrance to the city. It borders on Kiryat Moshe which is mostly a National Religious neighborhood. At the top of the road continuing out of Givat Shaul is the famous Merkaz Ha'Rav (Kook) yeshiva, which is the premier yeshiva in the Dati Leumi world.

It seems that a number of families connected with Merkaz Ha'Rav have moved down into the Haredi neighborhood of Givat Shaul. The sign above condemns their attempts to make changes in the neighborhood and their attempts to muscle in. The sign asks if their public school system which has already become bankrupt of values and whose alumni have already abandoned all memories of Judaism, now they want to bring that to our neighborhood?

It also asks if their mixed educations which contains no Torah and no derech eretz and whose students have taken every "infection" from the Middle East, should be an example for our children?

The pashkevil closes cynically and hurtfully "Go to Chomesh and Gush Katif and leave us, residents of Givat Shaul, alone." It is a hurtful statement because they are suggesting that the dedication to the land is what caused their failures (true or perceived) in the notes within the letter, i.e. regarding the failure to educate their children and keep them on the path of Torah.

Many neighborhoods in Jerusalem and other places have been "haredized". A few haredim move in to a secular or national religious neighborhood, often because of cheaper real estate prices. Life moves on and over time slowly but surely more and more haredim trickle into the neighborhood. Eventually they reach a sizeable minority and they start making their requests. They want a shul of their own. They want a school of their own. They want a certain road closed on shabbos. They want the local swimming pool to have more hours of separate swimming. Etc.

Eventually they become the majority because other people do not want to live with them and move away. Once they are the majority, they take control and nobody can stop them. They generally then are not quite as accommodating to the other people who are now in the minority. They will make the local pool only separate swimming and refuse requests to kep a few hours of mixed. they will close more roads, or the whole neighborhood, for shabbos. they will take over the school buildings and shuls.

A haredi neighborhood being taken over by others is actually pretty rare, as it generally happens the other way.

Now that it is happening to them, they cannot take it. They put up rude and hurtful signs like the one above. If such arguments were used against them in other neighborhoods, they would fight back saying they paid for their apartments just like everybody else. they have rights like everybody else. It is a democracy and they can live wherever they want.

It is when they feel threatened that the truth comes out... Let's see how they respond when the arguments are made to them....

Jonathan Rosenblum wrote an article in his column this past week questioning the methods used when taking over a neighborhood by Haredim. He gives examples of how they slowly take control claiming rights when they are the minority and then refuse to provide those same rights and considerations to others once they are the majority. Part of it is based in an element of "religious coercion".

But considering the methods used, Rosenblum suggests, it is no wonder that there are other situations in which the Haredi requests are rejected by the local populace, as they know what it will eventually lead to.

Rosenblum says he does not know the answer to the question if these methods are appropriate or even desired. He adds that our actions should however take into consideration the effect they will have on the impression left and the influence upon the non-religious public. He quotes the Hazon Ish who held that nowadays the rule of "Moridin V'ain Ma'alin" (you can throw a heretic into a pit to die and not remove him if you already find him there) does not apply nowadays in a time of Hashem's presence being hidden. By implementing such halacha, the Hazon Ish says, we would cause more damage than good as it will be perceived as an act of cruelty. The goal of the law in that case was to protect the wall of mitzva fealty, but nowadays it would just cause more breaches.

Similarly, the Hazon Ish held that we are allowed to call up to the Torah people who openly desecrate shabbos, despite the halacha saying otherwise. He explained that the purpose in rejecting these people and not allowing them to be called to the Torah was to protect shabbos and be a sort of rebuke that would urge them to keep shabbos, as they would feel as if they are out of the community, beyond the pale as it may be. Nowadays where the desecrators are the majority, rejecting them will not be perceived in the way it was meant to be, rather would only cause more hatred.

So, when the Haredim take over a neighborhood using methods that are at best questionable and at worst against halacha, against morality and against social norms, they should not be surprised when those methods are used against them.

But even worse is when they feel they have everything coming to them, then they feel they have the right to act like this in other neighborhoods but they reject those that try to move into their own neighborhoods, as happened in the letter at the top of this post.

Nov 26, 2007

The Matrix revolution

Matrix has revolutionized the haredi workforce.

They have set up centers in various Haredi cities in order to allow the Haredim, the wives that is, to enter the workforce. They have created unique conditions in order to allow for the special needs of the Haredi women. They have unusual hours, such as the workday concluding at 2 pm so the women can get home in time for their kids arrival from school (among other things). They take women who have absolutely no experience or higher education and train them from a to z and give them a profession.

In exchange for this, the pay is considered very low.

Yet, despite the low pay, they employ hundreds of such women in each of various centers in Haredi cities, such as Beitar and Modiin Ilit/Kiryat Sefer. The reason is because these women would not go out to the general workforce to look for jobs. They are concerned about working in an appropriate environment. They do not want to work with secular people, they do not want to work in a place where their tzniyut might be compromised, they do not want to work in a place where their needs are not understood and they might have a hard time leaving early to get the kids or taking off when sometimes necessary. Matrix has filled a void for these women and provided them with everything they need to go out to work and provide for their husbands learning in Kollel, along with training them.

Some people complain about the low pay. As far as I am concerned, they have unusual conditions, they are trained (they forget that if not for Matrix, if they wanted a job they would have to go pay tens of thousands of shekels to go learn how to program or whatever else they do) and there is of course the issue of supply and demand. If they felt they deserve more, they should ask for it and if they are willing to either look for other jobs at higher pay or not work at all for such low pay, maybe Matrix would feel pressed to increase the salaries. As it is, because of all their special needs being provided and accounted for, I do not consider them underpaid, even if the actual salary is below market level (which it is).

That is the background.

Now for the juicy story.

There are occasionally rumors of uncomfortable situations, such as "flirting" between the managers and some of the women, other tzniyus problems. Recently, a woman in one of these Haredi work centers (the one in Kiryat Sefer), left her family and religion. She is rumored to have had an affair with one of the managers/lecturers.

There are calls for Matrix to change their system. People are blaming Matrix for creating and being responsible for a situation in which families are destroyed.

It is not Matrix's fault. True, maybe there is room for improvement. Maybe certain improvements can be implemented (maybe hire more female managers and instrcutors where possible, maybe more religious managers and instructors where possible, etc.) to minimize the risk of coming into contact with the outside world even more, and whatever can be done, should be done. Every family destroyed is a disaster. If a family can be saved from a tragedy like this, it should be.

However, Matrix should not be blamed or faulted and punished for this, even if there is room for improvement.

People, even Haredi women, are human. There will always be a certain percentage that will buck the system as soon as they are exposed to the outside world. That is the risk of keeping people locked up their whole lives - as soon as you open the door and let them out, even just a bit, they get overwhelmed and change everything.

If someone feels it is not for them and that they would not be able to withstand the risk, they should not take such a job. If they are so concerned about the finances of the home, but reluctant to send a specific prone wife into the risk, then they should either continue to live in poverty or maybe the husband should consider going to work in that case, so as to protect the family spiritually.

Matrix is a company that is doing what it can to provide for the needs of a specific community. Of course, it is financially worthwhile for them to do so otherwise they would not do it. The problem is a human problem. There will always, everywhere, be women (I only say women because that is the specific case under discussion, but it applies to men as well) that will succumb to external pressures and temptations. The fact that it has hardly happened and this case is the exception actually speaks well for the system Matrix has put into place. There is only so much protection they can put in place. Once you are in the outside world, there are temptations. You have to be strong enough to withstand them, or find other solutions.

Nov 25, 2007

Haveil Havalaim #142 is up

at Soccer Dad... check it out for your weekly roundup of the jblogosphere...

the Annapolis earthquake

Last week there were two earthquakes in Israel. One was a small one, listed at about a 3.0 on the Richter scale, while the second was stronger registering a 4.2. These happened in the Dead Sea region, with the shocks being felt as far as Jerusalem.

This past Friday night was another earthquake registering at 4.1 on the Richter Scale. The epicenter was in the center of the country, just outside of Ramle. In Bet Shemesh we felt it. By "we" I mean the general public. I slept right through it. My wife told em about it in the morning when I got up. So, it turns out I really can sleep through even an earthquake!

The Sadigura Rebbe has said that the cause of these recent earthquakes is the government discussing giving away parts of Eretz Yisrael. He said these are the times of Mashiach and we must all repent.

In other Annapolis news, the police came under heavy pressure to delay their announcement of a decision regarding the possible indictment of Olmert. It was scheduled to be announced today, but they delayed it now because of Annapolis.

And in other Annapolis news, remember Ami Ayalon? The guy who ran for leadership of the Labor party under the banner of his refusing to sit in olmert's government and calling for its dismantlement? Remember him - the guy who said he would never take the position of Minister without Portfolio because it is a waste of public money and has no purpose, then he went ahead and took exactly that position?

Remember him? Well, now he met with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in an attempt to convince him to not alow Shas to pull out of the government even if things in Annapolis go against his wishes. He called on Shas, even if Lieberman pulls his party out, to "show responsibility, stay in the government and support a diplomatic process that is essential to the existence of the state of Israel."

So, he ran on the platform of Olmert's government being corrupt and he would never sit in it. He then reneged on that promise, ok. Maybe he had reason to (good salary perhaps, for the cynics) . But now he has the chutzpah to campaign on its behalf and work to keeping it alive? At best he can justify his own taking the position but still that does not justify his campaigning on the governments behalf as if it is the responsible position.

Shmitta: flowers

Buying flowers during shmitta year is a big issue.

I am not going to write about the details, because I do not really understand it. It is a bit complicated on what exactly it is relevant.

I use this year as a good excuse to not buy flowers, which I almost never buy anyways. I do not believe in buying dead flowers that sit on your table and rot and begin to smell after 2 or 3 days. It seems to me like a big waste of money. So I usually end up buying flowers about once every two or three years or so for some occasion.. This year I have a good excuse to get out of it, by blaming it on Shmitta.

The general issue is that flowers are affected by shmitta like vegetables. They cannot be planted or taken care of. They cannot be picked or sold.Exactly what is and is not allowed depends if they are flowers for smell or beauty with no smell or other types (which confuses me so I cannot get into those details).

I will just say that my brother came for shabbos this week and brought us a bouquet of flowers. This was our first bouquet since shmitta began. When my wife opened them up to put them in a vase, she noticed that they had a hechsher on them saying they were free of any shmitta issurim.

So if you are going to buy flowers, make sure you buy them with a hechsher!

Shmitta: where do the veggies really come from?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Yevul Nochri (Arab produce) being used as the most popular method of avoiding kedushas shviis vegetables and as a solution for eating veggies throughout the shmitta year, even after the issur of sefichin begins.

One of the problems I mentioned with yevul nochri is that you never really know where the vegetables are coming from. While most of them might actually be Arab produce, there is a minority of such produce that originated as Jewish produce and was sold through the Arabs as a way of getting these veggies onto the market. So if you buy Arab produce, you might actually be buying Jewish produce without realizing it.

In this week's Mishpacha newspaper (Hebrew), there was a report of another, albeit similar, problem with Yevul Nochri. The hechsher organizations are finding this problem, yet are saying they are not responsible for it and have not (yet) presented any solutions.

The problem is this; There are many areas in Israel whose halachic status in regards to shmitta is in question and under debate. Is the halachic border of Holiness of the Land over here or 2 kilometers further west or east or north, etc. There are many opinions on the matter, many of them are in the "Arava" region. The Arava has sections that halachically do not have kedusha and growing crops in those areas has been a solution (albeit limited). However, there are many debates as to the exact borders and some might hold this border is halachic and therefore produce grown in that area is ok for shmitta, while others might say that is still halachic Israel and problematic for shmitta.

There are large parcels of land that remain a safek if they are Eretz Yisrael, even land going into parts of Jordan.

The basic accepted opinion has generally been that if the Hazon Ish who defines what he considers the actual halachic borders. Though other opinions still argue.

It has been found, that the farmers/marketers/wholesalers have been marking produce grown in questionable areas as being produce from "abroad" (and thereby being free of any shmitta issues).

They have found that many veggies grown in these questionable areas, are being sold as Yevul Chu"l (veggies from abroad), despite their really coming from areas that might actually be Eretz Yisrael and if they are grown by Jews in these areas (as they often are), that would make these veggies prohibited from being eaten.

It turns out that the fruit and veggie guy is basically deciding halacha for you and telling you you can eat something that there is a good chance is assur.

One proposed solution is to mark every item (veggies) in the store with the exact location it came from, rather than the general term of "chu"l" and letting the consumer decide (with the psak of his own rav if necessary) whether he considers that location as part of kedushas Israel or not.

The problem with this is that it is up to the veggie guy to make the signs and mark his produce and not the hechsher. they have no control over that. So far they have not marked the veggies so specifically noting the actual source of the veggies.

So, if you eat Yevul Nochri, do you actually know that your veggies are shmitta free? Do you know if they are even allowed to be eaten?

Maybe you can still say it is a minority of produce and not something to be concerned about (it is battul b'rov maybe). I do not know, but it still seems yevul nochri is problematic.

I still do not know what I am going to do once the Otzar Beis Din on vegetables stops because of sefichin (within the next couple of weeks)... So far I have bought almost exclusively OBD (and 6th year where possible) produce. In about 2 weeks, this will become a big issue for me and many others.

Jewish moving company.. (video)

This is not a new video and I have seen it before, but I stumbled across it again and still find it funny, so I am sharing it with you....

Nov 22, 2007

bank robbery in broad daylight

In light of my recent post about bank robberies, there have been a couple more bank robberies this week. I think a Postal bank got hit, yesterday a Bank Beinleumi got hit, both for small amounts.

The big hit was yesterday in the Netanya branch of Bank Hapoalim. The robbers got away with 2.5 million shekels (it does not sound as much when it is said in dollars - about $650,000).

They are describing the hit as having gone down like this: they suspect the robbers went into the bank before closing the night before, but never left. Maybe they hid out in a bathroom or an empty office until the bank was closed. They slept somewhere in the bank overnight. In the morning when the employees arrived to open the bank, the robbers grabbed them and forced them to open the safe and give them the money. In the process they shot a security guard and injured him. They then made their way out and escaped in a waiting Fiat with the loot.

I figure they will be caught pretty quickly.

1. They can check the surveillance cameras from the evening before to see who entered but did not leave (if that is really how they got in).
2. It is a small country and not too many places to hide sudden wealth.
3. However else police track down bank robbers, with their contacts, leads and informants.

As they say, they rob banks because that is where the money is...

interesting psak from Rav Elyashiv

Somebody's mother died last week. As the funeral concluded at the funeral home in Jerusalem (Shamgar) the procession began towards the Mt. of Olives (Har Ha'Zeisim). Rav Noibert who was present due to his being close with the family asked the driver of the hevra kadisha what route he would be using to get to Har Ha'Zeisim.

The driver described the route, which included a tunnel. Rav Noibert said that that route is problematic because as the van carrying the body goes through the tunnel, there might be a kohein in the tunnel driving (in another car). The hevra kadisha van would then be causing the kohein to become tamei (without his even knowing about it).

The driver at the time had no choice to divert from his route and had to go through the tunnel anyway, despite Rav Noibert's objection.

The kicker of the story is, that when the van actually got to the tunnel he had to drive through,, it turned out the tunnel was closed for roadworks and he had to go via an alternate route.

This was looked at as being Heaven sent because Rav Noibert had just paskened that the tunnel should be avoided.

Afterwards, the hevra kadisha asked Rav Elyashiv his stance on using the tunnel road. Rav Elyashiv concurred with Rav Noibert's psak and added that they should never use the tunnel, even if by using an alternate road (that is longer) it would cause them to do the funeral past sunset (a very big issue according to the custom of Jerusalem).

I wonder if Rav Elyashiv would tell kohanim to not use tunnel roads because there might be hevra kadisha vans going through at the same time (hevra kadisha vans affiliated with other hevra kadishas not under Rav Elyashiv's authority).

I would suspect not because a kohein probably does not need to be concerned about a dead body in the tunnel, as it is rare. A hevra kadisha would have to be concerned of a kohein because it is fairly common.

Nov 21, 2007

We will not have cows, but computers...

Looking for a place (in Israel) to live? Not really happy with the overcrowded cities, but don't want to move to a failing kibbutz or a Moshav? Afraid to move to the settlements?

Then this new city/kibbutz/moshav might be for you. A "Start Up Kibbutz" or a "Hi-Tech Moshav".

It is unclear what it will be, because they are not yet sure. They are negotiating with the Israel Lands Authority for tracts of land and then will begin the design and actual planning. TheMarker today has an article and interview (in Hebrew) with Amir Gal-Or, the founder of the idea and the engine behind the project, and the director of the Infinity Fund, about the new place.

Basically it will be, if it works out and gets off the ground, a kibbutz in the Southern sector of Israel. But this will not be a kibbutz like any other kibbutz. This will be a place for the best minds in Israel to live. A place where the technological entrepreneurs will gather along with all those who work with them (lawyers in the industry, accountants, teachers, etc..).

Or as Gal-Or puts it, "We will not have a cow barn in the center of the kibbutz, rather an advanced media center. We will not have cows, but computers, video screens and advanced communications equipment. By us, in the communal dining room, we will create and not eat."

Last I heard, even people in the hi-tech industry need to eat, so I am not sure what he meant by that last part. But it must be great to live on a kibbutz and not have to hope the house they allocate you is not placed downwind of the cow barn!

"In the center of the kibbutz will be an advanced technological center that will allow you to feel as if you are in new York. It will have a video conference with the highest quality communications system. There will be tens of screens and channels.."

Gal-Or concludes the interview by saying that the old method of establishing communities - kibbutzim and settlements - is behind us. people do not do that anymore. He wants to energize a renewal of establishing settlements, but on the basis of our brains. "This will be a settlement of brains."

Judaica across America

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NJOP is still running their contest called Judaica across America. They are looking for entries of images of your old Judaica with the story of their history. The Grand Prize is a trip for two to Israel (the contest is only open for people residing in the US).

This kiddush cup is a sample of a submission. They started a blog highlighting some of the entries. There are some fascinating stories behind some beautiful Judaica.

So get out your digital camera and take a picture of your inherited spice box or haggada or of the menora that survived the Spanish Inquisition or whatever and send it in... Who knows - you might be a chapter in our history and you might even make it to Israel!

IDF takes out Qassam rocket launchers (video)

Today the army released a video depicting the method used to take down a Qassem rocket launcher.

In the video can be seen rocktes being set up and prepared for launching at Israel. The IDF shoots some sort of missile at them but they manage to disperse and stay safe. After the smoke clears they come back to finish setting up the launchers. The IDF then destroys some of the launchers. The mission is not perfect as one launcher avoids destruction and managed to send off its Qassam to Sderot.

For Jerusalem is above everything. (video)

The One Jerusalem organization, headed by Natan Sharansky, has begun a new campaign to keep Jerusalem united.

I heard about it this evening in an ad on the radio, and now I checked out the website for details.

Remember the orange campaign and the counter blue campaign? When protesting against the impending disengagement, the relevant leadership decided to color the campaign orange. Orange ribbons were handed out all over the country to raise awareness of the situation. The pro-disengagement leadership ran a counter campaign handing out blue and white ribbons.

One Jerusalem is beginning a campaign now to hand out to people and have displayed gold ribbons for Jerusalem. The inspiration for the color choice is Naomi Shemer's song, "Jerusalem of Gold".

Below is the video attached to the campaign, describing the need to keep Jerusalem untied and the dangers of splitting it.

Nov 20, 2007

One child's wishes

Today, November 20, is Universal Children's Day, which is a day meant to be a day of activities promoting the welfare of children, along with being a day of understanding and fraternity between children.

In the newspaper today there was some article with a bunch of boring statistics about children. In addition, more interesting, was 2 op-eds written by children.

One was written by a ten year old from Sderot. She spoke about her wishes for a peaceful life with no Qassam rockets. She asked why everyone else deserves a normal life, and we are concerned with the children of Gaza not having their lives disrupted (by stopping flow of electricity and gas for example I assume she meant) and children all around the world have their rights to normali situations protected. Yet regarding Sderot nobody cares and they have no normal schedules, yada yada yada.

The second piece was written by a 13 year old girl from Hertzliya. She starts off describing her life. Clearly her family is from the upper class of society in Israel. She talks about getting a good free education including (she says) private tutors through university. She says her rights include a weekly allowance along with extracurricular activities.

She says from a very young age she always went to a lot of concerts. She hears a lot of classical music and goes to concerts and her parents host concerts in their home. She goes to the opera a lot and to meuseums. She travels with her parents abroad fairly frequently, including a recent trip to the United States.

She is asked about her feelings on what the children of Sderot live through. She expressed dismay over their situation and said they deserve to live in peace and security and not to have to wake up to air raid sirens.

When asked about her dreams, her response was startling. She said her mother is a lawyer and her father is a medical scientist. They get home form work late frequently. Her father travels abroad often and she often does not see him at all. Her dream is that they would be together more, that they should have conversations around the dinner table, especially on shabbat.

She continues, "we never had a shabbat dinner with candle-lighting, not even once. At least 5 times a week I eat pizza in the mall with friends. I wish we would be more of a family. With parents that had more time for their children."

Her parents give her whatever she wants. She is cultured from a young age with all the culture of high society. She is clearly from a wealthy family because the average middle class family cannot afford to provide her with everything she describes having at her whim. Yet all that she has, all she wishes for is to have a more connected family. She wants better relationships with her parents.

I wonder if she would give up all her creature comforts to get her wishes..but she has all that money and no satisfaction. And even more surprising to me is that she wishes for a classical shabbos dinner...

Achmed the Dead Terrorist (funny video)

Nov 19, 2007

Israel Football season has begun

The Israel Football League season has begun. This is not the standard flag football league that has been here for a while. This is full blown tackle football. The league has four teams and they just played their first games...Here is a review of the first football games...

Field Goal! (video)

This is a very unusual occurrence. The ball hits the goalpoast, bounces down and hits the extension of the bottom of the goalpost and then bounces out. After a call and then a review and then another call, it was ruled kosher...

The Giving Tree

The political situation reminds me of the old book "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. In The Giving Tree, the boy befriends a tree and the tree provides the boy with all his needs. Fruit, shade, vines to swing on, branches, etc. The tree gives the boy everything he asks for. The tree even allows the boy to cut it down so he can have wood to build a boat.

Here we have a government giving the Palestinians everything they want and ask for and Israel asks for nothing in return. And anything the Palestinians promised to give Israel has been ignored and forgotten.

I have no problem with the government negotiating and giving away land and releasing prisoners and receiving security and other things in return. I should preface that and say that theoretically I have no problem with it. I think this specific government has no legitimacy due to its corruption and its failures, so this government has no right to do so.

I might not want it, as I believe all the Land belongs to us, but I understand it and accept the fact that to resolve the conflict we will need to negotiate and give away land in order to receive security. I also do not believe we have a reliable and trustworthy partner, so I believe that the only way such negotiations are acceptable and I would be resolved to them is if we did have a reliable partner. As long as our "partner" is using the negotiations as a tool to destroy us and not to live peacefully with us side by side, then I will still not be resolved to the situation.

Back to the situation, we have already given the Palestinians plenty of land. Some of it unilaterally while destroying Jewish families and homes in the process, and some of it under agreement. We have released many prisoners, some as part of negotiations and some as goodwill.

We keep doing things for the Palestinians and getting nothing in return.

Qassam rockets still rain down daily on Israeli cities. A soldier has been kidnapped and no contact with him has been allowed, even for humanitarian purposes (yes a tape was released of him but there was never any confirmation as to the timeframe of the tape). Terror reigns (we have not had suicide attacks because the Israeli security stops them, not because the PA security stops them). We hardly ever are allowed to go to holy sites in Arab areas. The PA textbooks in their schools still ignore the existence of Israel and the desire for the destruction of Israel is still taught. Palestinian militias have never been disarmed.

Basically we are the giving tree for the Palestinans.

Now we are going to Annapolis which will be opening up a new page in our negotiations with the Palestinians. And instead of making the PA keep and fulfill all the promises they have made until now but never fulfilled, and instead of saying you want x, y or z, let's negotiate and let your demands be part of the negotiations, we offer all that in advance.

Olmert has now announced a freeze in settlement building, even on natural growth expansion. Israel announced it is going to free 500 more prisoners as a gesture before Annapolis.

I see no reason why these should not be deferred to negotiations. Israel should say, you want settlement freeze? let's negotiate. Why do we accept that as a precondition?

Israel is The Giving Tree. The question is are we going to keep giving even until we allow the Palestinians to cut us down to a stump?

Nov 18, 2007

Facebook as a political venue

I am not a big Facebook user. I basically registered with Facebook after a bunch of people told me I should. Since it is free (that shows I am Jewish whether or not I like cholent) I registered. However I have never become a major Facebook user. I am not really sure what it is for, other than for picking up girls, which is something that is not for me.

I check my Facebook page once or twice a day. Generally that is after I get an email saying I have a message from somebody or somebody's Zombie attacked me and I laid the smack down on them (clearly this is the best part of Facebook so far in my opinion).

But now it looks like Facebook is becoming the new frontier for political activity. Some Israeli politicians have recognized the popularity of Facebook and have registered themselves as users and started political groups. They recognize this as a method of contact and communication with the younger electorate and are embracing it. So far, I know of two MKs that have already registered and both are now on my Friends list...that is along with another non-MK politician that has been using Facebook for a while already.

I registered these two new users as friends even though I am not supporters of theirs (one is from Labor and one is from Yisrael Beiteinu) because they have taken the first step and I find it to be an intriguing new venue for the communication of ideas and politics. So what if I do not agree with them on some of their issues? This is a way they can suggest ideas, and I and others can argue or suggest other ideas. Hopefully the link between the politicians and the people will become tighter and the politicians will be more aware of the various ideas and concerns among the various sectors of the people.

I hope this trend becomes popular and more of the MKs register and embrace the new methods of communication. And hopefully they will register and not just use it to pick up girls like most people do or let their pages stagnate with no activity, rather they should sell their thoughts and policies to the public via the new medium.

And anyway it's free, so why not?

Haveil Havalim #141 is trying to save Israel!

it is up at Yid With Lid. and mazel tov to him as well...

some news items you might have missed

1. A group of Arab MKs have announced that they are drafting a document declaring their rejection of Israel as a Jewish state.

I am not really sure how a rejection like that works. The took some sort of oath when they joined the Israeli government. Do they have the ability to reject it while at the same time serving in its government?By definition, they must accept Israel and the Jewish state simply by their participation in its governance.


"Israel" and "Jewish State" go hand in hand from the inception of the State. If you serve in the governance, and take an oath to uphold its laws and be faithful to the State, by definition you accept it. How can you then reject it? If they had any integrity and really rejected the State, should they not resign their seats? And if not, should they not be thrown out of the Knesset, for serving in bad faith or something?

2. The fight between the Justice Minister and the Supreme Court is continuing and even heating up. JM Friedmann wants to impose new reforms on the court. The court feels threatened and rejects the unilateral reforms. It has turned into a real fight.

While I have no opinion on the specific reforms, as I do not understand them or what the ramifications of these reforms are, I always enjoy a good fight. The Supreme Court had it coming. They are an elite group and the selection of justices for the bench are conducted not by any publicly elected body or committee, rather by the justices themselves. They have been accused of being separate from the people and overstepping their boundaries considering everything to be within its purview and authority. Friedmann has been looking for ways to limit the courts power.

I particularly enjoyed this quote from Aharon Barak, the retired former President of the Supreme Court in which he says, "The way to do this is by instigating public debate, and promoting the reforms in the spirit of our legal culture. It is possible that the High Court has gone too far in extending its jurisdiction, although I beg to differ. But this needs to be debated rather than imposed from above by the legislature. This is wrong."

I like that - he says there must be public debate on the issue. Maybe the court has taken too much power, but that power should not just be taken away. There should be a public debate. Hmmmmm, when the court took the power, did they hold public debates? Did the courts ever embrace public debate on the issues relating to the court? Not that I remember. Public debate was always rejected as being incitement and anti-democratic. Now that their heads are seriously on the chopping block, public debate seems to be a good fallback...

3. The middle and high school teachers strike trudges on. It has been running for over a month and there is no end in sight. Friday looked good when Olmert publicly discussed the issue for the first time saying he supports serious wage increases for the teachers. That optimism that statement brought was quickly dashed when the representative of the teachers union went to meet with Olmert to discuss Olmert's proposal and Olmert refused to meet with him.

Last night the teachers and their supporters held a large rally in Tel Aviv with "tens of thousands" in attendance showing their support. Knowing these teachers, they probably took roll call...

4. This past week yet another criminal investigation was opened up into Ehud Olmert. This one for illegal campaign funding... Somehow he still manages to hold on to his seat... This is more of a critique on those who sit in his government for them letting the most corrupt politician Israel ever had as PM to continue negotiate away unhindered.

5. Meir Sheetrit, the Interior Minister and a leading member of the Kadima party, has announced that the municipality of Sderot is in his sights..

Sheetrit has ordered an investigation into the affairs of the municipality, claiming it is run with corruption. The mayor of Sderot, Eli Moyal, has been under investigation and relieved himself of his duties for four months to allow the investigation to run its course. This past week he came back to work due to no progress in the investigation. Now this new investigation was announced with no specific details. It is probably just because Moyal has been so outspoken against the government and the lack of protection provided to the city of Sderot and its residents.

Supposedly in a recent visit to Sderot, Sheetrit met with local activists of the Kadima party and at the time promised them that he intended to disband the municipal government and appoint a new one. Clearly he intends to put "yes men" in power who will not criticize the government so much. We will see how this one plays out...

And if Sheetrit is really so worried about corruption and bad governance, he should be figuring out how to replace the leaders of Kadima who have all been indicted, under , multiple investigations, convicted and yet are still allowed to run the show. Work on disbanding them before you go attack the already beleaguered city of Sderot.


Nov 15, 2007

slice of Kahane history (video)

My friend asked me to upload this for him. It is Rav Kahane confronting left wing activists at Beth El in Newton in 1985... a small slice of history... (my friends brother is in the video)

Nov 14, 2007

Haredi revenge

The city of Beitar, a.k.a. The City of Torah in the Judean Hills, is a haredi settlement in the Gush Etzion area. Beitar's population is comprised of the whole spectrum of Haredi Jewry. They have got sfardim, litvish, and almost all the different hassidic groups. Beitar is generally a quiet city and has really developed nicely over the years.

Recently Beitar went through municipal elections. The election season in Beitar was unusually vociferous, for what is normally such a quiet harmonious city. The factions fought with each other. Rabbonim were involved. Dinei Torah were involved.

Very briefly, to explain, the Haredi political parties in the Knesset generally run together under the name UTJ (United Torah Judaism). The haredi bloc is made up of Degel (the Litvishe party) and Agudah (the Hassidic party). How they figure out party placement and divide up the jobs is done by roation. The rotation always includes not just the reps in the Knesset, but also municipal reps in haredi cities.

The Haredi parties see no need for battles for mayor that turn ugly. It is better to submit a joint candidate agreed on in advance. So, for example, they might say that in Bnei Brak this election we will submit a Litvishe candidate while in the next election the candidate will be Hassidic. And at the same time they might say that in the city of Modiin Ilit this time will be Hassidic and next time will be Litvishe. This is true whether it is in a Haredi city and doing so let's them avoid elections altogether, such as in Beitar or Modiin Ilit (for example) or if it is in a mixed city (such as Jerusalem) and allows them to present a joint candidate supported by all (or most of at least) haredim to run against a different candidate.

However they negotiate the various cities and agree on candidates in advance does not really matter, the fact is they come to agreements, and obviously part of the agreement is that the other side will accept the candidacy and not submit their own candidate separately.

Agreements are nice and can cause a quieter simpler campaign where each group overall attains its goals. The problem is when one of the sides feels they are being manipulated or abused and feel the agreement is not being kept by the other side. That is when it gets noisy and unpleasant.

And it happens often.

Beitar had a mayor named Yitzchak Pindros. he has done a phenomenal job over the past 5 years since he became the mayor. Everybody, from all the groups, love him and nobody felt slighted by him. he really did a good job according to everybody.

the problem is that 5 years ago he was elected to the position of Mayor of Beitar by a deal. Part of the deal was that he would serve his one term and then the Hassidic party would get the next candidate. In the interim, the Hassidic party would get the assistant mayor position and when the Hassidic guy takes over the Litvishe will get the assistant position (if they want it).

It does not matter how good a job he has done over the past 5 years. A deal is a deal. The Hassidim decided they wanted to run their own candidate and not accept Pindros for a second term. After all, a deal is a deal and an agreement must be honored (a position I agree with).

The Litvishe party claimed that the deal is null and void for technical reasons (based on something the hassidic guy had said well before election season about his intentions (or should I say lack of) of running for the position of mayor).

The whole thing became very messy and turned into a big fight. Each side brought the other to beis din. Each side went and got signatures from rabbonim supporting their position. It got loud and messy and anyone who followed it (I only followed it peripherally) was shocked out how quiet, united Beitar had turned so messy and divided.

In the end the Hassidic party candidate (named Meir Rubinstein) beat Pindros in the election and things have now quieted down.

The sfardim have a very big presence in Beitar. Shas took the position in the elections supporting the Hassidic candidate, which definitely helped Rubinstein win.

This past week we have witnessed the beginning of Haredi political revenge.

The Litvishe party (Degel) took a big hit by losing such a loud election in such an important Haredi city. the pundits are talking about how the model run by the Hassidim in Beitar might be used in upcoming elections in other Haredi and mixed cities and the Hassidim may wrest control of the Haredi political balance from the Litvishe.

Degel is scared and angry. Not only are they angry at the Hassidim, but they are angry at Shas. Tensions were already high between Degel and Shas due to recent budgetary spats and an inflammatory political cartoon published in the Yated newspaper (associated with Degel). Now that Shas has supported Aguda (the Hassidim) to bring down Degel, tensions are even higher.

Moshe Gafni is an MK in the UTJ party. He is from the Degel faction of UTJ and is an important person in Degel (obviously).

The sfardim often complain they they are held back from studying in Litvishe schools and yeshivas. They get upset that the schools make quotas limiting acceptance of sfardim to 2 boys per class (or whatever the quota may be).

Often a sfardi parent trying to get his kid into a litvishe school will end up using protexia (connections) to get the kid in. If he has no personal protexia, he might go to the Degel offices and plead with them to assist him. Until now, the Degel offices treated everyone equally and assisted sfardim in getting into schools just like they assisted people form their own public.

Since the Beitar elections have passed their has been reported a new phenomenon in which Sfardim are turned away from receiving assistance from Degel or they are at best told that they can help but only later. They are given lower priority and have to wait behind other requests.

Moshe Gafni was asked why this is so and what changed. His response was that every political party is given a budget for the purpose of community affairs. It is called "staying in touch with the electorate". Degel, as all other parties do, use much of this budget for the purpose of helping its constituents. Degel does this in the form of helping people get their kids into schools, neighborhood issues, among other things.

Shas is a much larger party than Degel and receives a budget for this purpose 8 times that of the budget Degel receives. It makes no sense, Gafni says, for Degel to be using its paltry budegt to help voters of Shas. It always has in the past without saying anything, because they always were willing to help anybody who approached them. However in light of what happened in Beitar where we (Degel) see that Shas does not return the favor and goes instead to help the Hassidim, we see no reason we have to use up our budget on Shas voters. Let them go to Shas for assistance, or let them go to the Hassidim.

I happen to agree with that thought. Why should Degel use its budget to help people who vote for other parties? Why should Degel use its budget to help people who in return do not help them? By helping these people Degel is really neglecting its own voters, as it has less budget money available for them and less time for them.

Also, I always thought that the sfardim should be proud of their own schools and build them up to be better or at least equal in quality to the Litvishe schools. There is no reason they should feel as if they have to grovel to get into a litvishe school. It is not like the Litvishe schools are so great anyway, so the sfardim have no reason to feel second class.

A large part of the sfardi renewal in Shas was "ha'chazarat atarah l'yoshna" - returning the crown to its former glory. Are they returning the crown to its glory by begging ashkenazim to let them study in their schools?

Because that is where the money is...

Willie Sutton was a famous bankrobber for about 30 years between 1920 and about 1952. His career included knocking over about 00 banks and three prison escapes. There is a famous phrase attributed to Sutton. Supposedly he was asked by a reporter why he robbed banks. His answer, according to the legend, was "Because that is where the money is."

This is really urban legend because later in his life he wrote an autobiography (partly ghostwritten) in which he denied ever having said that phrase... and a reporter probably made it up...

Regardless of the urban legend and real source of the phrase, it still lives on and is associated with Sutton.

Tonight I heard on the news about someone who had tried to rob a branch of a bank about a month ago had been caught. (He had been caught right away, but th police just now allowed the media to release the info).

Maybe 60 - 80 - 100 years ago robbing banks and getting away with it was fairly easy. The country (America) was wide open. There was no instant communication to send out pictures and alerts, there were no video surveillance systems and hi-tech security... So if someone wanted to rob a bank, and planned it well, maybe he could make his escape and get away with it, at least for a number of years until it eventually caught up with him.

But nowadays? Why would anybody rob a bank nowadays? I doubt there was a single bank robber (in Western countries) in the past 20 - 30 years that got away with it. They all get caught. the level of surveillance and security make it impossible. And if somehow you successfully broke into the bank and got away, your capture is quick in coming. The police email your image to all neighboring states. They stop flights or at least pass your image around airports and bus depots and every other form of transportation. Television flashes your image wherever they want to show it.

People simply do not get away with bank robberies anymore. Not only that, but the banks do not even hold that much money on site like they used to.

Is it really worth it? Why, nowadays, do robbers rob banks? Sutton's (supposed) answer does not work...

Nov 13, 2007

suing the WAQF update

I just received this letter with an update as to the status of the lawsuit I participating in as a plaintiff in the criminal case against the WAQF for destroying archaeological and historical Jewish relics on Temple Mount:


Thank you once again for agreeing to serve as a plaintiff/prosecutor in the Shurat HaDin criminal case against the WAQF (Islamic Trust) over the Temple Mount destruction.
More than 160 other plaintiff/prosecutors have joined the case.

The law suit alleges that Islamic officials have engaged in the deliberate destruction of ancient Jewish relics on the Temple Mount. As you are aware, in recent months the WAQF has accelerated its efforts at destroying all evidence of Jewish ownership of the Temple Mount and has brought in bulldozers and heavy digging equipment to carry out "renovations". Israeli archaeologists who have sifted through the discarded earth were shocked to have discovered a great number of Jewish artifacts brutally trashed by the bulldozers. A wall from the outer courtyard of the Second Temple is believed to have been completely pulverized.

The criminal case was filed in the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday 1.11.2007. This private criminal action is the first of its kind in Israeli legal history and utilizes a seldom applied section of the criminal code. If convicted, the WAQF officials face years in prison.
The court papers contend that the recent destruction is part of a four decade long campaign by the WAQF to eradicate all evidence of the historical Jewish connection and claim to the Temple Mount.

We will keep updating you on all future developments in the case.

Thank you for your important involvement !

Sincerely yours,

Haggit Grubshtein, esq.
Shurat hadin - Israel law center.

Attached was a copy of the document with the claim that was filed in the court. When I have time I will see if it is interesting enough to post here and if it is I will translate it and post it.

this is a man with integrity

I am translating (not word for word, but most of it) a letter that was printed as an ad in the Hebrew Yated Ne'eman newspaper recently. The letter ad was placed by a man who is a sofer - a religious scribe - who feels he has wronged his clients inadvertently.

This is an announcement for people buying [tefillin, mezuzos, etc.] in Israel and abroad:

For many years I have written Sta"m [acronym for sefer torah, tefillin and mezuzos] on parchment with no hechsher. I have no found out that all these parchments were invalid because of halachik problems due to the merchant having been caught receiving from trucks filled with parchments from Arabs. There are more than half a million parchment factories [worldwide] owned by non-Jews and sofrim purchase from them 80% cheaper. There was already an issur from the Merkaz Sta"m in Poland in 1935 that was signed by 86 gedolim to write on parchment with no hechsher.

I, a simple person, believed in and relied upon my teacher and the merchant. As well, when I received my certification to write, nobody told me the parchment had to have a hechsher. When I sold items, the buyers never requested to see a hechsher. So I have stumbled.

I asked my Rav and he paskened that in order to fulfill my obligations towards heaven, I must return the money to all those who bought from me. They relied on me and bought from me paying for tefillin and mezuzos that were kosher l'mehadrin.

(the Rav told me as well that according to halacha merchants have no reliability unless they have a hechsher. He also said that if I do not return the money to my clients, and they do not go out and buy new tefillin/mezuzos because they do not have money to do so, and he continues to don the tefillin that I sold him for the rest of his life, and then gives it to his kids, grandkids, etc. I will be responsible for all those years of him and his kids who inherit it not putting on tefillin, theft, deception, invalid blessings, etc [he goes on to list a whole bunch of other things as well and quotes sources].

As a result of the above, I have sold my house and I am in the process of selling the houses of my seven children. The Rav told me to publicize this so people will know to not buy any Sta"m without a hechsher on the parchment, just as you would demand when buying a piece of meat.

Thank God now there are at least 10 parchment factories with a hechsher

Because I stumbled, I request from everyone to make others aware not to use parchment with no hechsher. That should be at least my partial kappara.

Anybody who bought from me should call me and I will return to them their money. And by that I will have saved my soul.

Signed by Asher Green sofer sta"m cellphone:0524025830

win a free trip to Israel

------------------Paid Advertisement----------------------
The National Jewish Outreach program is running a contest in which you can win 2 free tickets to Israel (the contest is only open to residents of the US).

The contest is called Judaica Across America and it is really pretty simple. All they want is for you to send them a picture of a piece of Judaica, any Judaica - a menorah, candlestick, mezuza case, torah scroll, tzitzis, shofar. whatever - and tell them the story behind this piece of Judaica.

NJOP will judge the various images and their stories and select the ten best, of which they will select the winner of the Grand Prize trip to Israel for 2.

The deadline is December 31, 2007 so get looking for that old set of candlesticks used in the basement of a house in Russia avoiding the KGB or your grandfather's tefillin that he smuggled into a concentration camp to use or the old bell your great uncle used to wake up the townsfolk for services in the shteibel. Take your pictures and write up the stories. You could be on your way to Israel, for free!

And when you get here, feel free to stop in by me and say hi...

Nov 12, 2007

no kissing in shul

Rav Ovadia Yosef wrote an interesting psak halacha this past week in one of the publications associated with Shas. I do not have the original article, but I saw it quoted in the Maariv newspaper and have an image of the article.

Rav Ovadia Yosef is well known for being a supporter of the idea that the sefardic customs following the Beit Yosef (Rav Yosef Karo) should be the predominant minhag of Eretz Yisrael. He explains that the sfardim were always the majority in Eretz Yisrael and anybody coming to the Land should drop his own customs that he has brought from foreign lands and adopt the prevailing custom, which should be the custom following the Beit Yosef.

Needless to say, everybody else disagrees. I have pretty much found that any Rabbi discussing whether it is ok or even preferable to change one's custom will always say it is ok or preferable to change your custom to the one that specific Rabbi follows, as that custom is accurate and sourced in early Jewish tradition while others came later, while changing away from that Rabbis custom is always wrong.

Maybe I am being too general, but in the various responsa I have seen on topics of people asking about changing their customs, that is pretty much what I have found.

Back to the psak - There is a Morrocan custom that after a person gets called up to the Torah in shul, he walks around and kisses and gets kissed (double cheek kisses) by the other congregants.

Rav Ovadia said that this custom of kissing and being kissed is wrong and should be stopped. He does say that the custom to kiss in shul the hand of one's father and the Rabbi and other people who one has an obligation to honor is worthy and proper. But to kiss other congregants, even just to kiss their hands and not their cheeks, is improper and the custom should be discontinued. Kissing the hand is a sign of honor and respect. because we are commanded to show honor to the Rabbi and our fathers (and certain other people), so kissing their hands in shul is allowed and is a mitzva. But to kiss other people in shul is improper and should not continue.

An unnamed Morrocan Rabbi is quoted as responding that the custom is worthy and should continue. He explains that when others kiss the person who had been called to the Torah, they are showing their love and respect for the Torah. This is in addition to creating an atmosphere of love and camaraderie among the congregants.

The opinion of the Morrocan Rabbi reminds me of an article I just recently read about the source for the custom of pointing at the Torah during hagbaa and some even kiss the finger. There were many suggestions as to the source of the custom and I will not go into it here (mostly because I do not remember the specifics offhand - I have a bad memory) and there were others who were against the custom explaining how it developed and how it is mistaken completely devoid from the original intention. Regardless, there were such opinions, similar to the one above, that because it is a sign of respect and honor for the Torah, therefore it is a good custom.

The article, by the way, says nothing about whether this is limited to the mens section of the shul or if one can go to the womens section as well for the kisses... :-)

Nov 11, 2007

eyeglasses on ebay

Sounds like it would probably be a good deal doesn't it? Not if they have a starting bid of $350,000 with $125 shipping fee....
But then again, they are not just any glasses.. they are the glasses worn by the Bobover Rebbe for over 20 years! Bidding is not restricted to people with the same prescription... so bid away!

Jack Bauer saving CTU in 1994 (video)

This is an "unaired pilot" of the hit show 24 from 1994. This would be how Jack Bauer would be saving the world using the technology back then...

news clip of bus attack in Bet Shemesh (video)

A couple of weeks ago there was an incident of a woman sitting in the wrong section of a Mehadrin bus from Bet Shemesh to Bnei Brak. The woman ended up in an altercation with the local extremists and she refused to switch seats and move to the back of the bus. After they beat her and a soldier who came to her assistance, they fled the scene and disappeared.

The story has made it beyond the local scene and was included in a writeup on Haredim and Bet Shemesh in the NY Times recently. It was discussed ad nauseum in the blog world (including here briefly), along with by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz and others.

Israel's channel 2 did a news clip on the incident and interviewed the woman who was involved, and the soldier as well. I had suggested, not knowing any differently, that maybe the woman did not want to move because she was elderly or not well.

It turns out she is a young woman and I see no reasonable reason for her to not have moved (other than maybe she was tired and hates the back of the bus which vibrates more and is hotter). She is wrong for alighting a Mehadrin bus that has rules of separate seating and sitting in the mens section.

It reminds me of a story that I witnessed once. There used to be a private van/bus service to Bnei Brak that was mehadrin, before Egged set up a mehadrin line. I used to travel regularly on this van because it was the quickest way for me to get to work (for a while, pre-train days). One time a couple gets on the bus and they sit together in the middle of the van. The driver (who was an Arab and did not really care) told him to move to the front and not sit with the women (he was making the other women clearly uncomfortable).

He started to scream that he wants to sit with his wife and nobody can stop him and there is nothing wrong with it. I happen to have been in agreement with his position however I felt that if he felt it to be so, he should go on the regular bus line. It is wrong of him, despite there being nothing wrong with it, to abuse the services provided and not follow the rules. You want to sit with your wife, do not ride the mehadrin line (assuming there is an alternative).

When he screamed the driver left him alone and nobody else really cared and the women who were uncomfortable left him alone and said nothing. So he stayed where he was. I said something to him afterwards that he is riding a private van service that has rules and despite his being generally right, he is using someone else's service and he should follow their rules. He brushed it off saying he had every right.

That being said, despite the fact that this girl is likely to be wrong and should have moved to the back or ridden a non-mehadrin line (assuming there is one), that gives the assaulters no right to have attacked her. They could have protested to Egged for not enforcing the rules. They shjould have found a different way of dealing with the issue.

Anyways, Channel 2 in Israel just ran a short piece interviewing some of those involved. It also touches on some of the larger issues and the "dati-leumi protest" that took place last week.

I am not going to translate it, but the Hebrew is not difficult.

Haveil Havalim #140

Welcome to the 140th edition of Haveil Havalim. I am calling this the potpourri edition because it is a mixture of a lot of different categories of posts. I decided not to separate them into categories as there is a lot of overlap. It is pretty much potluck.

There are some really great posts in this edition. When preparing this edition, I looked for posts that were not submitted. I have found a lot of new blogs in the process.

Most of these bloggers just do not know about HH yet so I took the liberty of submitting their posts myself. I asked some of them permission and some I did not. If I did not ask you permission and you did not want your post publicized, I apologize. If you let me know, I will remove it. The new blogs and the other blogs whose posts I pulled without them being submitted are all just mixed in, so you have to look through it and find the posts that look interesting to you. Don't just expect to see the usual lineup of bloggers.

This HH, in the process, has become much bigger than I originally planned or anticipated. I can't imagine anyone will have the time to read all or even most of the posts within. Peruse it. Pick out what looks interesting to you. And meet some new bloggers.

Now it is time to tip our hat to our to Soccer Dad. Soccer Dad is a heavy duty old time blogger. He is the founder of Haveil Havalim and it is due to his management and dedication to HH that we have this weekly roundup. So here is a shout out to you SD!!

And now on to the posts!

Dodgeblogium recommends a DVD saying Farewell Israel discussing the real intentions of Islam.

Barbara talks about the Islamofascists...

Friar Yid describes who his 3 Jewish role models would be...

DafNotes discusses did Yerushalmi women need more or less perfume....

Batya, a teacher, gives us her explanation and point of view of the teacher's strike in Israel which has kept high schools closed for nearly a month now...

Barry Rubin talks about the media and the resulting comedy club..

stillinshidduchim is not playing by the rules but also has no solution for her shidduch crisis

Hesh from Frum Satire put up a video rant... It is pretty funny so go check it out... and for some laughs check out his other posts as well...I can see you nodding in agreement already with a lot of what he writes...

flatbushgal wonders if she should be going to study in Israel and if people are honest about why they go...

DixieYid tells a great story about R' Chaim Shmuelevitz for shabbos....

Snapped Shot compares an Arab protest and a right-wing protest on basically the same issue and shows how the media is not fair and balanced...

Backspin shows how the Arab countries exploited their Jewish citizens and talks about the possibility of the Right of Return

the Rabbi Without a Cause has a cause right now and that would be that every shul should have a doctor....

The History News Network talks finances for the Palestinians and how they need change...

Ben Chorin talks about some supreme court issues, including the affect of the recent shmitta ruling...

The Wolf wants to know where we are going as a society...

Lubab No More listened to a tape from R' Orlofsky and found some things he said interesting. Being that I know R' Orlofsky personally and went to yeshiva with him (he was and is older than me though) I know R' Orlofsky as a straight talking, pulls no punches kind of guy...that is probably why Lubab found him interesting...

Miriam talks about some of her heroes...in honor of a belated Positive Blogging Week.

Mazel tov to Da Jew and Da Wife on their recent anniversary...

Joe Settler salutes the residents and government of Gaza... and I am giving Joe a second link here because of what he writes about the recent situation during a Beitar Yerushalayim soccer (football) match when some of the fans booed and chanted during the minute of silence for Rabin...

ProfK compares sorting socks to shidduchim...

Webgirl went through her mom's jewelery box (with her mom) and got some surprising pieces....
Rafi G (that would be me) wrote an amazing story about the daughters of Lot that Reb Moshe Feinstein had been involved in.

The Lion of Zion talks about the truth of the level of Israeli deterrence....

Gabriel Ironheart gives us his take on some of the various incidents of Haredi violence, including those in Bet Shemesh and the counter-protest by the Dati Leumi community...

Orthomom comments on a Jewish woman who was fired for taking off of work on Rosh Hashana - the company gave a reasonable excuse, but, she asks, would they have forced a Christian to come in on Christmas?

The Rubicon talks about Jewish Geneaology (not the game but actual geneaology) among Holocaust survivors and an Israeli radio program that helps people find lost relatives... I have heard this program on the radio occassionally and found it very interesting to hear some of these stories...

The Fiery Spirited Zionist shows how the IAEA has been protecting Iran...

Schvach Yid talks about kristallnacht, whose anniversary was November 9..

Seraphic Press reviews the new album, Rock of Sages, of Moshe Skier, a.k.a. PsychoToddler...

Treppenwitz gives in and discusses Yitzchak Rabin and Yigal Amir and has some things to say that will probably get him arrested because on this topic nobody really wants to discuss the truths, they just want the legend and myth.

HubsCubs has now met Bibi Netanyahu, always a memorable experience, for the third time. For some reason he thinks he deserves an ice cream for it...

Jameel gives us a frightening story describing some of what really happened during the riots in Pekiin last week and wonders why the media has covered it up..

Rabbi Wolpoe points us to the rules of psak....

Shmitta Rediscovered comments on the suggestion of a possible solution for the shmitta controversy..

Esser Agaroth talks about minor mishaps being part of daily life, even in the realm of security

The Big Felafel gives some funny examples of the language known as Hebrish..

Hirschel Tzig reviews a new book that he found interesting because it shows the human side of many of the gedolim... and it is published by ArtScroll!!

CosmicX goes over some more issues of the annual RabinFest..

Bad for Shidduchim describes some of the various shidduch euphemisms and explains what they really mean...

Baruch Who? discusses what Reuters could possibly mean when using the word "gesture" to caption an image...

A Simple Jew shows us what Esav must really have looked like!

Neil, the Modern Uberdox, has issues with going into a new supermarket and ends up talking about his options with Design Thinking..

Batya responds to Elliot Jager of the Jerusalem Post about his method of publishing op-eds..

Rebecca from Jewess comments on a shul's womens balcony...

Chayyei Sarah sent a letter to the NY Times about buying homes in Jerusalem

tnspr569 had a birthday this week and catches up with us after a short blogging break

Jewish Blogmeister lets us know about a new kosher restaurant opening up in town..

Sabra made some chicken soup for the onset of winter...

A lot of other bloggers discussed this topic as well, but Serandez brought the great article by Rabbi Horowitz on violence, specifically Haredi violence and how it should not be tolerated.

Mystical Paths has a wonderful story to describe davening...

The Israeli Satire Lab suggests a new police force to make sure Israelis continue to ignore reality in pursuit of peace...

Snoopy the Goon honors Eliezer Ben Yehuda on his recent yahrtzeit... yeah, that one - the guy who revived the Hebrew language...

A Mother in Israel wrote up a description of the various publications that get placed in her family's shul every shabbos and mentions some of the big issues of the day that they discuss... Also, congrats to MOI for her being a finalist in the international Weblog awards. She came out with a very respectable showing... Congrats to all the other jblogs who participated as well, including David von treppenwitz, Dry Bones, Random Thoughts, Israel Matzav and any others I might have missed...

Am Echad writes about how much the ongoing teachers strike has cost Israel so far... the numbers are staggering...

WestBankMama is feeling rebellious and displays it by ignoring the law that says you have to turn on your headlights... hope she stays safe..

It's Almost Supernatural thinks South Africa poses a great danger to Israel.. in the UN..

JammieWearingFool tells us about a concert that was supposed to happen at the site of a former Nazi death camp...

SoccerDad wants to know if the Arabs really want what Israel is,seemingly, ready to give them at Annapolis...

Here is Meryl Yourish's Bat Mitzvah speech... 3 to 5 thousand readers a day? wow!

The New Republic offers a humorous story of Menachem Begin and how he talked down the Pres of the Southern Baptist Convention...

Corner Point always wanted to break out of her box, until she learned the lesson one day that everybody has their box and need to grow within it...

Mottel made some dessert.. and chewed over some interesting facts

Daniel Saunders gives some background and commentary on the book of Yoel

Yisrael Medad writes about the left wing author who refused to shake Olmert's hand at a ceremony... and compares it to when a rightwinger refused...

Yisrael in his Arutz Sheva blog discusses the booing of Rabin at the soccer/football match this past week...

Carl in Jerusalem points out how the moderate Palestinian government in the West Bank (yes, the ones that were thrown out of Gaza during the takeover by the extremist Hamas terrorists) just transferred a lot of money to pay the salaries of Hamas officials.. Kind of makes you wonder if they really are not working together as they say.. and I am giving Carl an extra link because he has an important piece on the upcoming Annapolis conference in which he compares Condi Rice to Tom Brady - the quarterback of the New England Patriots..

Moshe in the Sin of the Expulsion Blog talks about Binyamin Ben Eliezer's recent statements declaring the Disengagement to be a complete mistake.

Come Running has a free ticket but does not know where to go...

Jack laments a bagel place that closed down...

Yid With Lid suggests that if Hitler were alive today he would likely sue Bin Laden for plagiarism....

Dixie Yid learned a lesson from an inconsiderate meshulach..

Likelihood of Success discusses British anti-semitism..

Elder of Ziyon points out that Hamas is just an inconvenient bump in the road and should not disturb the Annapolis conference....

The Shadchun has a funny joke about an 80 year old wife getting arrested for shoplifting...

And that's a wrap... I hope you all have a good week....

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