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Dec 31, 2008

A new anti-semitic blog

If you are interested in seeing a compilation of all the anti-semitic caricatures and comix, take a look at this new blog...

I feel bad sending this idiot traffic, but maybe someone wants to see what kind of anti-semitism is out there....

Pitcture of the Day (potd)

I came back to find a couple of people had emailed me the following picture...

I hope they don't kill out all the juice. I particularly enjoy orange juice, and it would be a shame if there was no more of that....

We're ba'aaack!

Sorry for the dearth of posts the past couple of days. We were away on vacation up north for a few days... Hopefully I will have some good stuff for you shortly.

Dec 30, 2008

Dec 29, 2008

Touring in Eretz Yisrael: Sifting back through time

After some recent press releases regarding spectacular finds of various types of coins in the rubble that was removed by the Waqf from Temple Mount, w decided the time had finally come. This is something we wanted to do for a while, but never got around to it. Yesterday my boys had off from school for Hanukkah, so it was the perfect opportunity.

After a pleasant morning of hanging out with the kids, we headed out to Jerusalem. We were going to help sift through dirt and rubble looking for artifacts from as far back as the days of the Temple.

The Waqf has been excavating and working in the caverns under Temple Mount, and have removed tons of soil and disposed of it, destroying Jewish artifacts in the process. The Antiquities Authority has commandeered [much of] the soil and removed it to the Tzurim Valley, which has since become a National Park, and has been sifting through it to find remnants of our history.

The sifting is open to the public (for a nominal fee), and we decided to go. Emek Tzurim is a bit difficult to find. You have to maneuver your way through the complex roads of East Jerusalem in the area between Har HaTzofim (by the Hebrew University Campus) and Har Hazeisim. The site is not well marked, but if you know what to look for, you will see the sign.
You park and walk down. They have made the whole area into a National Park and the grounds are beautiful with a stunning view of the valley and of East Jerusalem across the way.

At the bottom is the entrance to the site. After paying the nominal fee in the office, they have a guide giving explanations of what they do and how it works. We did it kind of backwards. You are supposed to make an appointment to come, but we did not know that and just showed up. We got lucky it was a quiet day, so they let us in anyway.

A staff member gives the explanation of the history, what they look for, what they have found in the past, and how to do the sifting.
The image below is a sample of the most recent and exciting find of some coins from the Temple era.
After that it is time to get to work. Everybody goes to a sifting station, mostly working in pairs. You take a bucket of rubble, pour it into the sifting station, and hose off the mud. You then sift through the rocks and rubble looking for artifacts.

The majority of the artifacts to be found in any given bucket consist of pottery. Some of the pottery is pretty worthless, but some of it can be identified as being from different time periods, and what type of item they came from. For example, we found some remnants of pottery from oil lamps.

Aside from pottery, they are interested in any pieces of metal or glass, pieces of mosaic, unusual stones such as marble, or pieces of columns or walls, pieces of bone, seashells (used in decoration and jewelry -I found one).

Here is a sample of what I found in one of my buckets of rubble. The largest percentage is pottery, but I found mosaic, glass, bone, scraps of metal and unusual stones.

The ultimate find is a coin or an arrowhead. In the short time we were there, two coins were found, and a piece of metal that might be from the tip of a spear based on its size and shape. They all have to go to labs to be cleaned up and analyzed before they can determine what they are and exactly when they are from.

My son found one of the coins. It is very interesting what they do. First of all, finding a coin is very exciting. When someone finds a coin, they call everyone over to look at it. Then they bag it, and write down all the details they have, including who found it. After they send it to the lab and get the information back, a process which takes about a month they said, they might put it in a museum, depending how important and rare of a coin it is, attributing the find to the person who found it. So my son might get his name on a display of a coin in the Israel Museum! Furthermore, when they get all the info back, they email the details of the find to the finder, so he knows the importance of what he found.

Then to conclude, they show a display case of thins they have found, and they describe how they identify items and what they are part of, and how they compare it to items from different time periods.
Overall it was very exciting, and it really made you feel like you bare connecting to the history. Especially on Hanukkah, to find pieces of oil lamps from the Temple times, was exciting. This is something we will probably go back and do again.

Only one way to influence the next government

There is only one way to stop Bibi Netanyahu from turning the next government, if it is tasked to form the next coalition, into another version of the outgoing government, and turning the Likud into just another Kadima.

That would be to vote Likud.

The only way to keep Bibi from doing what Sharon did is to make sure that the Likud is a strong right-wing party, as independant as it can be from the pressures of the smaller parties it aligns with.

The Ichud Leumi, Bayit Yehudi, Shas, UTJ and other religious and right-wing parties will not be able to protect Eretz Yisrael. The religious parties do not consider Eretz Yisrael to be a priority (they have shown that by either voting to give away parts in the past or by sitting in governments that did), and the right-wing parties have no influence on government.

Yes, if the Likud wins the upcoming elections, they might form a coalition government with the right-wing parties (if they do not go the route of a national unity government), but that will not give the right-wing parties any influence on wht actually happens. They will have no leverage against Netanyahu, and no way of stopping him from "pulling a Sharon".

If they threaten to pull out and topple Netanyahu's government, Bibi can always turn to Kadima and Labor, among others, to support a disastrous agreement.

The right-wing and religious parties will have no influence. The religious parties willremain highly sectoral, simply concerned about their small slice of the pie in the form of obtaining money for their people, and the right-wing parties will do nothing, as they have done nothing for the past 25 years.

On the other hand, if the Likud is a large list, getting upwards of 40 seats or more, the Eretz Yisrael loyalists in the high-30s of the list will get in. From within the Likud, and only from within the Likud, can Netanyahu be reigned in. The guys high up in the 30s, working together with the great guys lower down, can subvert the desire of Netanyau and his centrist gusy in the middle to "pull a Sharon".

That is the only way. Vote Likud and protect Eretz Yisrael.

Bet Shemesh can win!

Last night was the deadline for the various parties to submit their final lists of rosters for the Knesset.

Bet Shemesh now has a chance to have not one, but two MKs representing our fine city!

As a result of the [controversial] merger between Effie Eitam's Ach"i party with the Likud, the 39th spot on the Likud list was given to none other than Shalom Lerner.

Lerner at 39 along with Keti Sheetrit at the more realistic spot of #31 can give Bet Shemesh some serious government representation.

Right now the polls show the Likud dropping some seats, and who knows how the war will affect the political map - it looks like Ehud Barak will pick up some spots because of it, but likely to be at the expense of Kadima and not at that expense of the Likud. But there is still a lot of time, and the Likud could bounce back - if you even pay attention to polls anyway...

Add to that the decision of Baruch Marzel and Dov Wolpe to not run as a separate party under the name Eretz Yisrael She'Lanu (they are supporting Ichud Ha'Leumi), and perhaps some of the bleeding of votes will be halted...

Dec 28, 2008

Headline of the Day (hotd)

Spanish FM to Livni: Israel is using excessive force against Hamas
---------Israel Radio

Darn Tootin. It is about time. Let's get some of that deterrence factor back now. Make 'em scared to start up with us again.

Cherem now has a website

I did not get a picture of it, but there is a new cherem being plastered around town. This one though is a retaliatory cherem.

The "settler" organizations Matot Arim, Komemiyut, and Eretz Yisrael She'Lanu are running a cherem against the media for their support of a cherem against products made over the Green line.

It is a complicated cherem, and that is probably why it will not uscceed, but here goes, if I understand it correctly. they cannot hit the media directly, so they are analyzing the advertising in the largest newspapers, and calculating the top 10 companies and products advertised, each month. They then will post signs and information declaring the top ten of the month and that those products should be banned.

The idea is that if those companies/products get hit by a decrease in sales by 5-10% because of the cherem, the companies will advertise in these specific media outlets much less, thus hurting the specific targeted media.

Sounds complicated to me. Also, if I have to follow every month to see which products are currently under boycott, it is extremely unrealistic (for me, and probably for many others)...

More info can be found on the cherem website. Acually, that is the best part of the whole issue - there is now a website declaring cherems. It is just a shame the haredim did not get the domain and idea first, as they would put this website to much heavier use.

Joining the war

I just took a taxi and when I got in, the cabbie was listening to the news about the war, as pretty much everyone is right now.

The cabbie groaned and said "war".

I said back to him "Actually, there has been a war for a while. Just now we finally joined it."

(I think it sounds better in the original Hebrew of the conversation rather than in English)

He cracked up, as he said he loved the line and would use it.

show them the door

I heard some guy on the radio last night. he was some sort of spokesperson for the Israeli-Arab community. I don't remember his name. He was releasing a statement about all the rioting by Arabs around Israel against the military attacks by the IDF in Gaza.

He said that "we are all part of the Palestinian nation, and we protest the Israeli massacre against our brothers".

We did not hear them protest the rocket attacks on their Israeli brothers at any time in the past 7 years. Clearly they see themselves as Palestinians and not as Israelis, and their loyalties lay with Palestine and not with Israel.
I think it is time someone should show them the door to Gaza, and kick them right through that door.

The prediction that didn't happen was right

A lot of people were quoting a lot of various rabbonim in the recent months claiming predictions of a war that would be starting during Hanukkah. The most popular one that spread was that quoting Rav Chaim Kanievsky, though it also spread in the names of various other great rabbis. They all denied it, when asked directly if the words attributed to them were actually said by them, and some said to never believe anything said in their names.

So, according to the denials, they did not predict or foretell a war in kislev or Hanukkah time.

So what now?

The war that was not predicted for Hanukkah happened (began) on Hanukkah. The war that was not predicted for Kislev happened in Kislev (albeit the last day of Kislev).

Is it pure chance? Or did one of, or all of, those rabbonim really say it would happen, and only later deny it so it would not be publicized and create some sort of chillul hashem? Did everyone who made up those stories just happen to make them up to happen on a certain date and they just happened to guess correctly in advance?

Dec 25, 2008

you have not seen child abuse until you've seen this..

If you though teacher-student child abuse was bad and unpoliced by us, you have to see this news item....

16:49 Egyptian teacher gets six years prison for beating student to death (DPA)

Some interesting dreidel renditions (video)

Kenny Ellis...

Not Hanukkah song, but Don McLean sings about a dreidel..

Dec 24, 2008

Shame 'em and run 'em out of town!

I wonder if something like this would work as a way of getting the hooligans to stop their violent behavior. What they do is more public, so I would guess not.

A divorced Jacksonville woman said her former church has threatened to "go public with her sins" and tell the congregation about her sexual relationship with her new boyfriend.
Rebecca Hancock said harassment from Grace Community Church in Mandarin over her sex life caused her to leave, but she said that didn't put an end to the problem. She said she received a letter from the church's elders telling her the church plans to make her personal life very public.
"I'm basically run out. I'm the church harlot," Hancock said.
Also, once you start publicizing people's sins, it will then be used against all sorts of people doing things wrong that is nobodies business, leading to a communal disaster. Probably better not to start using this method...

Heeb-style Hanukkah music (video)

Heeb-style Hanukkah music

I vote "No"

I am against a military ground action in Gaza.

Don't get me wrong. They deserve to be destroyed and Gaza should be wiped off the map, the sooner the better, because of all they have done, between Gilad Shalit and the rocktes on southern Israel.

But I am against a ground operation at this point in time.

I feel the government will not let the army win, even if they do decide to send them in. They will tie the army's hands behind its back with unrealistic rules. The army is not prepared for what they will do, and will not know how to deal with what they encounter. Sending in the ground troops now is killing young Israeli men for no reason. Just so the government can satisfy and to relieve some public pressure from themselves is not a good reason to send Israeli troops to the slaughter.

I have no problem with an air attack, even though we already know that air attacks alone cannot win a war. All we need is some helicopters and planes flying over Gaza and dropping bombs and rockets. Just bomb them non-stop until they are cowed, or until Gaza has been flattened - whichever comes first. Show them we will not take it sitting down any more, but no ground op because there is no need to make it into an actual war that we will not win.

And I have no problem with the fact that that will put a lot of Palestinian civilians in harms way. They can leave if they are so worried, and they have supported Hamas and the rocket attacks on Israel, so I do not consider them innocent civilians.

So, send in the planes, and even the commandos, but not the infantry.

making a statement

If I was in her shoes, I would just declare myself as religious and not wanting to go to the army, and get my exemption. But then again, I am a wimp.

Yiska Federman, the daughter of Noam Federman, is due to enlist in the army. Instead of serving or getting her exemption because she is religious, she has decided to announce she refuses to serve because of ideological reasons - "The Army is not my Army!"

Federman knows she will pay a price for this, but as she says, "Until now, only leftists have refused service for reasons of outlook. Now there will be from the right as well. I will not serve in the army, nor in Sherut Leumi, for a state that chases Jews out of Eretz Yisrael and acts against halacha."

(source: NRG)

a new segulah?

While this is not quite as strange as the emails Jameel wrote about, it is still pretty strange. The following email was sent to the local community email list...

Has anybody ever heard of such a segulah?

I need someone that has an Almond tree in their back yard that
strangers cant get to... Do you have one?

I want to hang over Tu Bishvat name of people on it that need Zivugim.

If you are willing to do this chessed, please call...



Dec 23, 2008

Bush pardons an important historical figure

While Jonathan Pollard has yet to receive the commutation of sentence from President George Bush that many of us are hoping for, an interesting pardon was given today.

President Bush pardoned Charles Winters, a man who died 25 years ago. He served 18 months in prison for smuggling weapons to Jews in Palestine in the late 1940s when they were trying to form the State of Israel.

According to the Machal Virtual Museum, "Charlie Winters, 38, a Miami businessman, sold Haganah supporters three World War II B-17s that he had been using to haul fruit and vegetables from Puerto Rico. These would become the only three heavy bombers in the Israeli Air Force. Winters, a Christian, was convicted of violating the Neutrality Act and sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison. He was the only American actually jailed for defying the embargo. After his death in 1984, his remains were transferred to Israel for burial in the ancient Templars Cemetery in Jerusalem."

Some Hanukkah music (video)

Some Hanukkah songs for the 3rd night...

(this one has girls in the choir, but I could not make out their voices)

Joke of the Day (jotd)

Rav Ovadiah Yosef has had a conundrum to deal with.

Ever since Aryeh Deri announced that as soon as his period of "moral turpitude" is completed he will return to politics, Shas has felt threatened. Deri is the former charismatic chairman of Shas that brought it to heights never again achieved since his departure.

On the one hand, it will not be simple to put Deri back in his former position, as others have moved up the ranks, and the position is not available. On the other hand, Deri could potentially harm Shas if he starts or joins a competing party.

Rav Ovadiah Yosef said to Deri in a recent conversation, "You need to be the Chief Rabbi of Israel". (source: NRG)

This is the Joke of the Day because even though Deri has rabbinical ordination (from Rav Yosef), he has never served in a rabbinical position. Just the fact that he learned in kollel until he joined politics, and then learned in kollel again while sitting in jail for a couple of years, does not make him worthy of the job of Chief Rabbi of Israel, nor that of Chief Rabbi of any city leading up to the higher position. To send Deri to the Chief Rabbinate simply to avoid a conflict in Shas seems to me to be the ultimate joke.

A Post-Election Update from Tov

A Guest Post from Tov - Bet Shemesh

Now that we are a month after the elections and the new Mayor and Moatzah has taken over, we wanted to give you an update from TOV.

After lengthily discussions and negotiations with Mayor Abutbol, TOV has decided (for the time being) to be in the opposition in the Moatzah.

Just some background on the process.
The Moatzah is made of of 17 members. The Mayor must form a colation of a majority of members who will support his initiatives. Members of the collation usually receive responsibilities for certain areas of the government in return for their support. However, coalition members must vote with the Mayor and can NOT speak out publicly against the Mayor or his policies.

As the newest, and smallest party in town, TOV was not offered anything realistic that would help us promote our main agenda's of helping youth at risk, cleaning up the parks and streets, and creating a neighborhood environment where everyone feels comfortable living. We were also, as you can imagine, up against other coalition members who were not too happy to include TOV in the coalition.
Therefore, it has been decided that TOV will remain in the opposition. This will give us the opportunity to speak out against positions and issues that we feel are important to the community and as members of the opposition we also received seats on many of the important "Vaadot" (committees) where most of the decisions get made. The Vaadot that TOV will be on include

* ועדת ביקורת
* ועדה לקידום מעמד הילד וקידום הנוער החרדי
* ועדת משנה לתכנון ובניה
* תמיכות
* הקצאות
* כח אדם
* בטחון
* ונציג מקצועי מטעם תנועת טוב בחברה הכלכלית

On a more practical note, we have met with the Mayor regarding the incidents in Ramah Bet a few weeks ago, and he has assured us that he will be dealing with it very seriously.

Thank you,

Chanukah Sameach,

TOV Bet Shemesh

Sign of the Day (sotd)

Somebody climbed up to the billboard and defaced Ehud Barak's political ad in which he is declared "Not Sympathetic. A Leader". The graffiti master added "Not Normal"

crazed lunatic settler or satirist

Marzel sent a letter to the Tehnion requesting an interview for a position as Professor of Mathematics.

In the letter he wrote (source: NRG),
"It is true that I have no experience or understanding in math, and this is not a subject in which I excelled at during my studies in school. However, professor Hershkovitz became the head of a political party [Bayit Yehudi] that will have to contend with serious issues and problems, such as the fight for the Land of Israel, fighting against the enemy, serious political battles, etc. and he has no experience or understanding in that realm. So there is no reason why I cannot be instated as Professor of Mathematics.

Even if I fail in my teaching mathematics, it will definitely hurt less, and be less influential, than the upcoming failures of professor Hershkovitz in the public realm.

I will be happy to present my credentials for inspection to a panel of rabbis plumbers and carpenters.."

Baruch Marzel is not just a "crazed lunatic settler". He also has a sense of humor. Who would've thunk it???

Saved twice, by the same person (video)

Dec 22, 2008

Interesting "psak" by Rav Aviner: who were the Macabbees?

Rav Aviner has a service where people send him questions by SMS, and he answers them. Some of the Q&A also gets published in the alonei shabbat.

A recent one was about Hanukkah. The petitioner asked what type of people the Macabbees were - what group would they be affiliated with today? Would they be Haredi or National Zionist?

Rav Aviner responded that clearly they were National Zionists. They were talmidei chachamim and yirei shamayim, yet they also fought and defended Eretz Yisrael.
(Source: Ynet)

hanukkah or chanukkah? (video)

Dec 21, 2008

Chumra of the Month - a losing submission

A recent incident in Yerushalayim has made bids for winning the Chumra of the Month award. In my opinion it comes up short, and will not be declared COTM.

A store in the Haredi neighborhood of Jerusalem, Ramot 04, has declared itself, upon the urging of the local neighborhood rav who is affiliated with the Eida Hareidis and Vizhnitz (not sure how exactly that combo works out in one person) Rav Mendel Fuchs, a mehadrin store.

Mehadrin does not necessarily limit itself in meaning to the limitation of carrying only products bearing a mehadrin kashrut certification. They are mehadrin because they have instituted separate checkout lanes for men and for women.

In addition, Rav Fuchs encourages people to do the bulk of their shopping early in the week rather than late in the week. This would relieve some of the high level of traffic in the store that makes the separate lines necessary.

I wonder what it was that caused it. Were there so many people that there was a lot of jostling with men and women bumping up against each other? The stores I shop at are pretty busy on Thursdays and Fridays and I have never had the "opportunity" to be jostled up against female shoppers. Maybe that store is busier than the stores in my neighborhood?
Did they just use the opportunity to look at each other? How would separate lines prevent that? They can still look at each other.

Anyway, in my opinion this chumra loses its bid for Chumra of the Month. It loses because it is too little and too late. The Gerrer Chassidim are really the pioneers of everything separate. The Gerrers pioneered the separate seating in buses, they generally do not even walk with their wives in the street, they also have had, for years already, small supermarkets in any neighborhood in which they live in significant numbers where the shopping in not just separate lines, but separate hours, and even separate days.

So this little supermarket just comes up a bit too short for the Chumra of the Month.

The submissions for next months winner of Chumra of the Month are starting to come in. As the issue of tzniyus is always a popular one for COTM, we so far have submissions for separate cities (e.g. all men will move to Modiin Ilit and all women to Kiryat Sefer), and submissions for separate countries.
One submitter tried to submit something that had to be rejected, as it did not just make something up out of thin air, but actually contravened the Torah. The submitter wanted to suggest banning marriage between man and woman and only allow "separate marriage" {ve'hamyvin yavin}...

An edible moneora. really.

You just can't beat this Hanukka menora....
A 15-foot-high Hanukkah menorah made of kosher salami? That's what you get from a Jewish deli with a sense of humor, if not tradition.

David's East Side Deli in Palm Beach Gardens will hold a public ceremony to light the salami spectacle at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, the first night of Hanukkah.

"It's going to be an unbelievable sight to see," said Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui of Chabad of Palm Beach. "Head to toe salami, baby!"

Chabad runs the establishment, 4580 PGA Blvd. Call 561-691-9293 or go to www.DavidsEastSideDeli.com.

The salami will be wrapped around a thin metal frame, topped with lettuce and bread, the rabbi said. Guests will be treated to free food and Hanukkah music.

If all goes well, David's may try to get the salami menorah into Guinness World Records next year.

They really should also be smearing mustard all over it. The only thing better than this would be a menora made of steak.

If it gets hot, I would be sure to stay away from the menora. It will start to smell after two or three days, and when it gets hot it'll be really bad. I wonder if they will replace the deli meats with fresh meat every day or two....

Joke of the Day (jotd) - for Hanukka

A Jewish blond goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Chanukah cards. She says to the clerk, "May I have 50 Hanukkah stamps?"

The clerk says, "What denomination?"

The blonde says, "God help us. Has it come to this? Give me 15 Orthodox, 15 Conservative and 20 Reform".

finally fighting back in RBS B

The community is fighting back. This is the first step - really just a warning shot - in the community's response to the pogrom against innocent girls walking through the neighborhood last week Friday night when they were attacked by some kannoim and the one who could not get away was beaten mercilessly until she could escape to the haven some neighbors/witnesses provided for her.

The pashkevil above was distributed and hung around Bet Shemesh, concentrated in the area of the pogrom/lynching (RBS B). It is a warning shot as it contains the initials of those who perpetrated the attack. It is letting them know that their identities are known.

If they keep it up, they will next be outed completely and then further steps will be taken that will ramp up the communal pressure on them to shape up or ship out. Once their identities will be known by all, who knows what some people might do on their own, along with the ability for some people within their community themselves to be able to pressure them to not behave like they live in Sodom.

Dec 20, 2008

two forms of innocence

People under investigation almost always claim their innocence.

There are basically two ways to do so:
  1. Claim that you are actually innocent and the facts as presented are incorrect
  2. Claim innocence on a technical basis - evidence that was illegally collect, etc.

While both, assuming they are proven, or at least strong enough claims to put enough doubt into the prosecutors claims, will potentially be able to declare the accused to be innocent, they are very different methods, and leave different imprints on the case.

A prime example of this is my good 'ol governor from Illinois Rod Blagojevich. He finally spoke out about the corruption charges against him. His response is that he is innocent. Perhaps he has more to say that he is holding back, but so far all he has said in his brief press conference is that his innocence is based on the fact that the wiretapping was illegal.

While perhaps legally, if true, that can get him off the hook, that is still a far cry from saying "the truth is with me". He is still goign to be corrupt, and he was still trying to sell the seat of the Senate and all the other charges against him, they just won't be able to get him on it because of the way they obtained the evidence.

And in the public eye, his reputation has already been ruined. Such a declaration of innocence, one where it is not shown that he did nto actually do it, but only shows that the evidence was obtained illegaly, is not goign to be enough to win back the public's trust.

Dec 19, 2008

Reverse Discrimination - or not?

The definition of "Reverse Discrimination" is: Discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, especially when resulting from policies established to correct discrimination against members of a minority or disadvantaged group. (from Answers.com)

"Affirmative Action", on the other hand, refers to policies that take gender, race, or ethnicity into account in an attempt to promote equal opportunity.(from Wikipedia.com)

In a parliamentary discussion on the topic of applying Reverse Discrimination and increasing the employment of Arabs in the public sector, the discussion turned to including the Haredi public in the "Reverse Discrimination program".
Attorney General Manny Mazuz spoke out against including the haredi public in the program. His reasoning makes sense according to the definition of reverse discrimination. He said that the reason why haredim are under-represented in the public sector is not because of a bias against hiring Haredim. Proof is that there are some haredim working in the public sector. Any reason for their under-representation is for other reasons (i.e. they do not want to work, they do nto want to work in the public sector, etc.).

Based on that, Mazuz opposes including haredim in the RD program, while he does include the Arab sector because he says they are under-represented because of bias and racism.

While on the concept of Reverse Discrimination itself Mazuz might be correct, or I should say it is at least debatable what the reason for haredi under-representation is, their is perhaps another consideration that should be considered. That is, does the government wish to encourage the haredi public to join the workforce?

The government, and the public, talks like it does. There is frequent criticism that the haredim do not work, and do not share the burden with everyone else. The government should find ways to encourage haredim who are willing to work to go out and apply for jobs. Even if they have not been unduly discriminated against (and who is to say that Mazuz is correct, even if that is not the reason for most of the haredi public not working), the government should include haredim in their preferential hiring program as a way of encouraging them to join the workforce.

It might not be called "reverse discrimination", rather it would be called"affirmative action".

Dec 18, 2008

The Donald calls Madoff a sleazebag

The Donald weighs in on the Madoff scandal... He gave an interview on the topic to CNN. He calls Madoff a sleazebag and says that he was a Svengali for the rich people.

Trump blames the victims greed for how they could invest so much with 1 person. Just because they believed they would get higher returns, and [some of them] were wealthy already with plenty of cash, but were greedy and mortgaged their homes so they could get even more. Now many have lost even 100% of what they had, and now have to sell their homes and belongings just to live.

Read the interview. It is very interesting.

There is nothing good that can be said about what Madoff did. Every day we hear about more and more organizations, many of them charities, that have lost tens of millions of dollars with Madoff. Trump is right. He is a sleazebag. But if he could get away with it for so long, how can anybody now trust the SEC and anybody else with protecting investors money from such fraud?

This is not just a scam he was able to get away with for 6 months... he pulled this off for 15 years! Under the noses of the SEC!

praying for rain

We are all aware of the drastic situation we find ourselves in regarding the water level and the fact that we have had a drought for the past few years. Israel's water supplier is even considering to begin cutbacks on water supply to homes intermittently due to the water shortage.

One of the shuls I daven in started saying the prayer for rain a couple of weeks ago. But that was the only shul I have been in that has done so.

I just saw in the Eida Haredis' weekly newsletter of this week an announcement that the Beis Din of the Eida has paskened that people should begin saying the prayer for rain because of the shortage.

23 years and 15 months

An employee in a US nuclear facility was just convicted the other day to 15 months of prison (two counts, but to be served at the same time). For stealing nuclear secrets and passing them to an enemy country. An enemy country that is flagrantly in the process of developing nuclear weapons against the directives of the US while suffering sanctions from the US. Iran. One of the countries in the Axis of Evil.

And all he got is 15 months.

I think the 23 years Jonathan Pollard has served, with no end in sight, has been far more than adequate, when compared with other instances of spying for foreign countries.

The Israeli Air Force and my daughter

and in a perfect continuation from my last post about the Neturei Karta flyer, yesterday my 8th grade daughter received the following brochure in the mail...

It was from the Israeli Air Force inviting my daughter to apply for the Air Force Academy (High School)...

I wonder if she received it because she is such a good student, or if they justs end this out to all 8th graders around the country....

dead Jews and live Arabs

The Neturei Karta is sending out the following flyer.

It declares that even if the Arabs would murder and slaughter all the Jews, chas v'shalom, even then we would be obligated by the Torah to prefer their rule and the State should be abolished, as Zionism is a defilement like there was never before....

Gotta love their Ahavas Yisrael!

Dec 17, 2008

The parts or the whole - which is greater?

It seems nobody in politics can get along.

UTJ confirmed today that they, Degel and Agudah, are considering the possibility of running on seperate tickets. That would be including all ramifications of such a move. Meaning, they would be 2 seperate parties in all respects - seperate representation in the Knesset, with each getting their reps spots on various committees, seperate tickets, etc. It seems they just can't get along and can't overcome the differences.
Will the parts be worth more than the whole or less remains to be seen.

And in other news, the National Zionist parties are duking it out with each other. What was meant to be the all-encompassing NZ party - Bayit Yehudi, or the Jewish Home, has been crumbling ever since the moment it was formed, with all the infighting of the various factions and personalities. Ichud Leumi is threatening to break off.
HaTikva, who never joined the union, is duking it out with them for the same voters. They are calling Bayit Yehudi a party like Kadima but with a kipa, becauseof the moderate leader that was chosen for Bayit Yehudi. Many personalities in the NZ leadership are disturbed by the fact that the leader, Daniel Hershkovitz, is fairly moderate and has promoted co-existence with the Arabs.

It looks like they will do pretty lousy in the elections unless they get their act together quickly. They will go from a party with 9 seats currently, between the factions, to probably something like 4 or 5 unified, as everybody is upset at them for various reasons.
They are an example of the parts being worth more than the whole.

Can't people just get along? Are the differences between them so great? And if yes, why insist on running together anyway?

Rabbi Horowitz is available

Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, of Project Y.E.S. and Yeshivas Darchei Noam, has found that many people, sometimes in desperate situations, have tried to get hold of him for advice and help. Because of his busy schedule, often it is difficult to get hold of him, having to traverse one's way through an array of secretaries and answering machines.

Rabbi Horowitz has been experimenting with a new method of having a dedicated line for an hour a day in which you can call him directly - that only he will answer. No need to go through machines and messages.

See here for details...

Dec 16, 2008

PAI, not pie or pi

A Guest Post by Shimon A

Recent local elections in Israel have seen the "Tov" party gaining a seat in both Beitar and Beit Shemesh. Tov's aim is to represent the working Charedi. There has been talk that what we are seeing is the beginning of the reestablishment of the Poalei Agudat Yisrael Party (PAI).

If you have only arrived in Israel or were born in the past 20 years or so, then when you hear "Poalei Agudat Yisrael" the first thing that probably comes to mind is the Bank that goes by that name. However, PAI is one of the original political parties that was around before the establishment of the State of Israel. Who were they and could they really be making a comeback?

PAI was set up in Poland in the 1920's, as the trade union of Agudat Yisrael (originally called Poalei Emunei Yisrael) and participated in certain elections, such as the Jewish Community Council. An attempt at that time to set up some branches in Eretz Yisrael did not last for any length of time.

Binyamin Mintz (Yad Binyamin is named after him) with some other people, reestablished PAI in 1933 in Eretz Yisrael. Mintz was was the type of person that they don't make anymore. He was born in Łódź in the Russian Empire (nowadays part of Poland) and studied at the Gerer Beis Medrash. He made aliya in 1925 and worked in construction (yes, Jews did that kind of thing once upon a time) and he set up a printing press. Initially, PAI was part of Agudat Yisrael and would follow the instructions of the Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah, but their somewhat more Zionistic outlook was a cause of tension and friction between the two.

The founding of Kibutz Chafetz Chaim in 1944, typically shows the Charedi, but also Zionistic approach of PAI. The Kibutz was set up on JNF land with the full cooperation of the Zionist establishment. The members served in the Hagana. The Rav of the Kibbutz, Rabbi Kalman Kahana, was a close talmid of the Chazon Ish and, therefore, Shmita was strictly observed, unlike the Poel Hamizrachi kibutzim, that relied on the Heter Mechira. But this did not stop Kahana from being a member of the pre-state Yishuv government and even signing Israel's Declaration of Independence.

PAI had 3 representatives, including Binyamin Mintz and Rabbi Kalman Kahana in the first Knesset. PAI ran together with all the other religious parties on a joint list called the United Religious Front. The united list altogether received 16 seats and was seen to be a success, but this unity has not been repeated since.

Over the next 3 decades PAI would sometimes run on its own and sometimes with Agudat Yisrael. With issues like voting in favour of the Sherut leumi bill, the relationship between the two was always stormy. The most PAI ever received was 3 seats, which was enough for Mintz to serve as Minister for Postal Services and Kahana as Deputy Education Minister.

PAI gradually declined as it started to lose its constituents. By the 1977 election, PAI only manged to win one seat. On the one hand, the working Charedi became somewhat of a rare breed and on the other hand, there was a move to the right religiously, by the National-Religious. Yeshivat Sha'alvim, which was founded by the kibbutz of that name, was the flagship of the PAI movement. However, being a Yeshivat Hesder, it became clearly associated with the more religious or torani part of the National-Religious. Nowadays, many of the graduates of Sha'alvim are very prominent in the communities in Yehuda and Shomron and cannot really be told apart from graduates of other top National-Religious yeshivot.

A last attempt to keep PAI going was made in 1984. The Mafdal had split over support for the Camp David agreement and Meitzad, the breakaway party, ran on a joint list with PAI (now headed by Avraham Verdiger) called Morasha. The party received 2 seats, but fizzled out when Rav Chaim Druckman of Meitzad rejoined the Mafdal. PAI ran again in the 1988 election with Agudat Yisrael and Avraham Verdiger was reelected. His moment of fame came in 1990 when Peres did his "stinking maneuver", brought down Shamir's National Unity Government and attempted to form his own with the support of Shas and Agudat Yisrael. However, Verdiger, even though he was part of the Agudat Yisrael list, refused to go along with it and Peres failed in his attempt to form a government.

Since then, not much has been heard of PAI. Yes, they do exist on paper. There are still 14 settlements that are part of the movement and PAI still has some shares in the Poalei Agudat Yisrael Bank, owned mainly by the First International Bank of Israel. I guess you can call all this a shadow of its former self.

So back to my original question. Will PAI make a comeback? There have been some recent changes in the Charedi world. There are a lot more Chareidim in the workforce nowadays. The Charedi college in Kiryat Ono, where students study business management and law is becoming popular. Unfortunately, these Chareidim seem to find it hard to get their children accepted to good Talmudei Torah because they have left the Yeshiva benches. The Tov party which ran in the local elections in Beitar and Beit Shemesh appealed to this constituency. And what do you know, one of the people behind this party is Chanoch Verdiger, the son of PAI's Avraham Verdiger.

President Bush annual Hanukka event (video)

Despite all the entertaining moments President Bush has provided on a regular basis over the past 8 years, there has never before been a president who has been so publicly friendly and warm to the Jewish people.
President Bush hosted his annual Hanukkah event in the White House yesterday. Even though it is not Hanukka yet, I do not think there is any greater manifestation of pirsumei nisa than lighting the menora in a public ceremony in the White House with the President of the United States.

At this years event, Bush honored the grandsons of President Truman and Prime Minister Ben Gurion with lighting the Truman Menora that had been presented by Ben Gurion to Truman after Truman recognized the State of Israel.

I was duly impressed with Ben Gurion's grandson who, when making the bracha upon the lighting of the menora, knew to not use Hashem's name because it is not yet Hanukka.

The Kol Zimra choir provided the musical entertainment again, and did a fabulous job!

recycle old computer parts? reconsider...

Hillel, in a brand new blog called "I Life World", writes an interesting post about recycling old computers, and the dangers involved....

It is all up to Hamas

I find it slightly amusing that the discussion in our media and government is all about whether or not Hamas will want to renew the truce agreement when it finishes its life on Friday. It is a big debate, with most professionals holding the opinion that Hamas will not want to renew the agreement.

What is their obligation in the agreement? to not shoot rockets at us.

They have been shooting at us non-stop practically the whole time. When the agreement was first signed there was a period of relative quiet for a few weeks, with just a couple of rockets fired, but the past few weeks have seen tens of rockets raining down on the Gaza border communities (even as far as Ashqelon).

So it is amusing to discuss whether or not they will renew the agreement, when they are not even keeping the agreement while it is in place.

I guess the big decision Hamas is in the process of making is whether they will officially allow Israel the right to retaliate. If they sign an agreement, then Israel will not be allowed to retaliate when Hamas breaks their end of the agreement. If they do not sign, then Israel will be allowed officially to retaliate (not that they will, but they will have the right to)

Dec 15, 2008

SNl roasts Rod Blogojavich (video)

Enjoy this SNL roast of Illinois governor Rod Blogajovich...

Guests at the Muqata

Looks like Jameel is going to be having some guests over the next few days.....

Interesting Psak from Rav Elyashiv: Kipa over Tzitzis

Ladaat.net is reporting that the Israeli kiruv organization "Hidabrut", which specializes in kiruv via broadcasting shows about Judaism via a television station, went on a recent "Gedolim tour" visiting various gedolim to ask shailos and to describe their work and gain encouragement and support.

When they went to Rav Elyashiv they asked a shailoh about people in various, even advanced, stages of returning to religious Judaism, They asked when these people sometimes come to a stage where they want to take on one more thing, either to wear a kipa or to wear tzitzis, and they are not sure which to encourage as "the next step".

The question is based on the fact that the mitzva of tztitzis is a mitzva in the Torah, while kipa is not. on the other hand, the kipa is a much more prominent, and public, symbol of one's affiliation to Judaism, and the seforim say it brings one to fear of God.

So which is preferable?

Rav Elyashiv answered that despite the fact that tzitzis is a mitzva in the Torah and the kipa is not, the kipa is still preferable as as next step, if only one is going to be done at a time. The reason is because it arouses fera of God, it will encourage and enable the person wearing it to perform all the mitzvos sooner than if he would take on the mitzva of tzitzis. Specifically, according to the quotes from Rav Elyashiv, the nature of the Jew for many generations has been to wear a kipa. That will make him feel much more emotionally connected to Judaism than tzitzis will, and will effect his keeping all the mitzvos [more than tzitzis would].

Headline of the Day (hotd)

Umm al-Fahm: Man waving Israeli flag detained


Here we have a country with pride. Now it is illegal to wave an Israeli flag. Umm al-Fahm is not in the middle of the Palestinian territories. It is a city in Israel. .

violence in Bet Shemesh on the upswing

There has been an increase in violence again in bet Shemesh, with a couple of recent incidents. That leads to the following guest post - Menachem wrote it better than I could, so I asked him if I could guest post it....

A Guest Post by Menachem

Below is an important letter about recent horrific events that occurred in Beit Shemesh. The young rabbi who wrote it has been at the forefront of trying to peacefully solve the issues between the Dati Leumi neighborhood in the Givat Shaaret neighborhood (Sheinfeld and Nofei Aviv) and our neighbors in Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet. He has met with their "Rav" and leader, set up lines of communication to deal with issues as they arise, and even arranged a project where the people in the DL neighborhood gave Shaloch Manot to our neighbors.

I'm giving you this background so that you'll understand that the person who wrote this letter is not given histrionics on this issue.

This is a very said time for us here in Beit Shemesh. You all have to realize that we are not dealing with some small insignificant fringe, the numbers below put the lie to that. We are dealing with a systemic problem in the Chareidi world that is spreading like a cancer. The more the chareidim make political advances like they did here in Beit Shemesh, the more they will be emboldened to behave in the manner described below.

If you consider yourself "chareidi" and this offends you, I'm sorry, but the massive silence on the part of the greater Chareidi community toward this behavior has made all chareidim accomplices to this terroristic activity.

This cancer must be eradicated. Preferably by isolating it and cutting it off from its source, but if that can't be done then more drastic means will be necessary. We are talking about nothing less than the heart and soul of Yiddishkeit.

We here in Beit Shemesh WILL react to this and we hope all good, decent Jews will join us.



Dear Friends,

I am sorry to report that there has been a recent surge in violent activity in the neighborhood.

1)Last Friday night some boys and girls were sitting together on the steps from Gad to Herzog and were confronted by some gold garbed hasidim. It was all verbal and related to "we don't do this in our neighborhood." But, of course, what is now verbal can quickly escalate to more as you will see in the next item.

2)This past Friday night things went to a much worse level. Three properly dressed girls were walking from Sheinfeld to RBS at around 9:30p.m. They were not making any kind of noise or drawing attention to themselves. After they past the bridge and began making their way up the hill they were confronted by many men - it began at like 20 and swelled to close to 50. The men were yelling that they should get out of their neighborhood. Two managed to run away but one was caught. They grabbed her, threw her to the ground, and kicked and beat her. A boy from our neighborhood was walking on the other side of the street and ran over to try to help. They beat him as well and he was told that if they saw him there again they "would kill him." Thank G-d, neither had to be hospitalized despite their bruises and scratches and thank G-d a chareidi family in the neighborhood called for them to run to them for shelter which they did.

I assume you are as enraged and as shaken as I am and we cannot remain quiet. The question becomes what to do. There are political options (I don't think it is a coincidence that these events happened on the heels of the new Mayor taking power and these people feeling they now can do as they please), police related options, press related options, and I am sure there are other ideas which some of you might have.

Dec 14, 2008

Shoes thrown at Pres. Bush (video)

I must say, President Bush has got really good reflexes!

no rain on this parade

Israel, led by our tough (on Jewish kids) Defense Minister Ehud Barak, should have bombed this parade to Kingdom Come. Every last participant should have been killed by our security forces.

Sorry, but that is what I think.

Gods spokespeople

One thing about Neturei Karta is that they have the ability to look at everything and anything in a completely different way than every other Jew in the world.

Chabad has become a fairly controversial organization. Mostly because of the "Meshichist" stream within it, and because of them even "non-Meshichists" are often suspect, and thereby fairly tainted.

One thing universally agreed upon by everyone, practically, is that despite the meshichists withion Chabad, and despite the issues that make people not like them for various reasons, they do amazing work around the world.

They send shlichim to every far flung country and city where they know a jew might go to travel or live. They open up their homes to strangers, no matter how religious or non-religious they might be, and give them a taste of home, provide kosher food, shabbos, a religious experience, whatever.

No matter how much criticism you throw at Chabad for other things, you will generally praise them on that.

Neturei Karta has found the reason for the Mumbai tragedy in the Chabad House. And they have blamed it on Chabad opening their homes and allowing "mechalelai shabbes" and "ochlei treifos" to sit and eat with "shomrei shabbos" and "ochleo kosher".

That along with the fact that Chabad works together with the Zionist entity.

Together, that is the recipe for a major terrorist attack killing everyone inside the Chabad House.

The one thing that the whole world praises Chabad for, no matter what they think of Chabad on any other issue, and Neturei Karta says in Gods name that that is the cause of terror and death.

It takes a special talent...

Dec 12, 2008

A cornucopia..

Another thing that I forgot to write in my previous post about the half-marathon is the first impression.

You walk into the grounds, to go sign in and it is like a festival, with sponsors booths, drinks, snacks, people milling about, people stretching, warming up, etc.

But you see people there in all sizes and shapes. Men, women, old, young, very old, skinny, fat, athletic builds, non-athletic builds, pretty much everything. You see all that and it is very motivating. I can do this. If that guy in the 70-99 age group category can be running 21km, I can as well. If that guy who looks like he is in much worse shape than me can do this, so can I.

Seeing the cornucopia of people who do this, despite the odds stacked against them, is very inspiring.

Also, there is a tendency to be familiar with your surroundings and think that they are what is basically normal all over the place. Suddenly you go to a place that is new, and you see well over a thousand people with other interests. All sorts of people. Religious, not religious, athletic, not athletic. And it is not just the marathon. There was also a bike race, and a "hand-bike" race with tens of people racing in them.

Life really consists of great variety, whether you see it on a normal basis or not. It is a mistake to think that what you see in your normal daily life is what is normal for everyone else and everywhere else.

Now I have a dillema for whom to vote

After today's victory of Bibi over Feiglin in successfully pushing him down to the 36th seat in the Likud list using some loophole in the rules of reserved seating, I now have a dillema.

On the one hand, I now consider Bibi Netanyahu a small-time politician for the way he has obsessively dealt with Feiglin winning a spot in the Likud list, and no longer want to vote Likud. If that is who is going to lead the country, and this is how he behaves, perhaps he does not deserve it, and is not fit for the job. He is more fit to be a party whip than to be prime minister.

On the other hand, if I want to get Feiglin in, Likud needs all the votes it can get, so that the 36th spot becomes realistic. Is Bibi hoping the Likud does not get 36 seats?

Also, who else is there to vote for? None of the other parties appeal to me, and the only problem with the Likud is Bibi Netanyahu and his behavior....

Dec 11, 2008

Today I ran the half marathon

What an experience. The atmosphere was electric. The excitement was almost tangible.

Today we ran our Bet She'an half-marathon. 21km. Our group was something like 30 runners from Bet Shemesh.

We got there and signed in, getting our pre-run packages including our numbers with tracking chips.

We got ready and then went out for a warm-up run. There were tons of people. I think they said 1300 had registered for this, but the results website (so far) only shows 1083.

I started near the front, because I did not want to be stuck in the back.

They give some instructions, letting us know where the water stands will be and some more details, and then he shoots the gun to start the race!

There was one section by the start where we turn left and run for a kilometer or so and then turn around and run the other direction. That is really the only opportunity to see the really fast runners, as they run by on the other side of the road.

The people in the front of the pack were a group of 5 or 6 Kenyans (or Nigerians - I really don't know), and they were already pretty decently ahead of everyone else... Those Kenyans ended up winning by a nice gap over the first "white guy"...

The race was pretty good. The track was pretty flat except for one section of uphill in the middle going through Bet She'an. The flat track was good because it meant you could really get a good rhythm going.

The weather was beautiful. That was good for us runners, but bad for Israel because we need rain. It was even a bit hot. There was one long open stretch where the wind was a bit strong and everyone was complaining afterwords that that had slowed them down.

About every 4 kilometers there were tables on the side with people handing out bottles of water. Runners would drink a few "shloogs" from the bottle and toss the rest of it into the grass on the side of the road. The grass and trees got watered pretty nicely I guess, but it seemed like a waste of a lot of water. Maybe they should have used smaller bottles (but maybe some people need that much water...).

There were people along the course cheering on their friends and relatives, and some just cheering in general for all the runners. Also, some school teachers took out their little kids to cheer on the runners.

All that, along with running with so many people, really give the runner a boost of motivation and help keep you going.

I finished the race at 1:51:07 at an average pace of 5:15/km. According to the marathon website, I placed #687.
People asked me before the race what goal time I was shooting for. I responded I am shooting to finish, and not for any specific time. I am expecting however to finish at between 1:50 and 1:55 based on my training and previous runs. So it turned otu I was right on the mark, as I finished at 1:51:07.

It was a great experience, and now I have to finish getting ready for the full marathon in another month.


A Guest Post by Joshua Nathan

I often receive emails regarding the need to improve our midah of "ahavat yisrael".

When tragedies occur, we often feel the need to do something, to improve ourselves, to ensure that in some way the tragedies do not repeat themselves. The following note is my suggestion
for self-improvement.

I grew up in Detroit. Every summer we traveled to New York to visit my grandparents for a few weeks. My grandparents lived in Flatbush/Midwood. It was not the Flatbush that we know of today; there were few orthodox shuls, and it was a bit of a walk to get to shul.

My grandfather had a car, but chose to walk to shul during the week. I guess he recognized the many benefits of walking even back then! Whether walking to shul or to do errands, my grandparents always greeted people on the street, and the people in turn greeted them back as well. My grandparents did not know these people except for saying hello to them on the street. They understood that by saying hello, Gut Shabbos or Shabbat Shalom, one gives the person you are greeting a good feeling.

As religious people, we need to recognize the importance of greeting our fellow man. The Gemorah mentions that Rav Yochanon Ben Zakai was the first to greet everyone, even a stranger on the street. In halacha we see the importance of greeting someone. It is mentioned in the 2nd perek of Berochos that even if someone is in the middle of shema, there are cases when one is allowed to interrupt and greet or return the greeting.

I feel if people would begin to greet their neighbors and people they meet on the street, or at least respond when greeted by others, this would do wonders for our Ahavas Yisroel and getting along with people.


Running today with no computer

Today I am going to be up north for much of the day, with no access to a computer. I am up north because I am running my first half-marathon today.
Wish me luck.

I will have a guest-post from a friend posted for you a little later.

Dec 10, 2008

Interesting Psak from Rav Ezriel Auerbach: The Bike Brigade

The Hatzala organization has developed a unit of bike riders to respond to calls. This unit is very beneficial in some cities, some neighborhoods, where access by car is very difficult - narrow streets, alleyways, etc. This helps them respond even quicker in those areas.

They have now considered increasing the usage of the bike brigade. The biek brigade would respond to a higher percentage of the calls on shabbos, thus minimizing the use of cars.

They brought the bikes to the Rabbinic Committee of Hatzala to discuss the possibilities. Rav Ezriel Auerbach - the son for Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l and son-in-law of Rav Elyashiv and a gaon in his own right, approved of the use of the bike brigade, but warned them that it should be made clear to all the medics that in any situation where using the bike will provide the care not as fast as it would be provided by car, the bicke brigade should not be used and a car should be used.

So the Bike Brigade is a good solution for certain situations, but it is not a replacement for cars. In any situation where a car will provide faster care, the car should be used.

The 18 (video)

The following video was just released by a group calling themselves "The 18".

It is a bit cryptic, I guess to keep people interested, and it is unclear what 18 is, or what their goals are. Check out the website of The 18.

It takes chutzpah

How ironic is it that the Eida Haredis planned a hafgana for yesterday protesting the Education Ministry's increased involvement in the Haredi educational system, "forcing" the liba (core curriculum) upon it, and damaging the purity of the Haredi educational system, and then on the same day of the hafgana, results are released for the exams, national and international, of Israel's students.

What did the results show? That the average score of 8th grade children in mathematics was a 44 in israel. Among the lowest in the world. Science and technology tests averaged scores of 56.

So while the whole general educational system is failing, the Education Ministry still feels obligated to force its "successful" methods, curriculum and direction upon those who want to control their own education.

Don't get me wrong - the haredi system has plenty of failings, and I am not defending them.But when the general system is such a failure, it takes some special chutzpah to then try to force that system upon others.

Dec 9, 2008

Rabbi Grossman sings thanks for the survivors of terror in Mumbai India (video)

Yesterday, we had an interesting, and touching, ceremony in the office.

One of our peers spends a lot of time in India. He practically lives in the hotel there, and was there during the terrorist attack. He survived, thank God, and this week he returned to Israel. He was interviewed on Israel TV from India, and came back and shared his story with us in the office.

The owners of the company decided to make a "Seudas Hodaya" - thanksgiving meal - in his honor, for his survival and safe return.

He was in the hotel when he heard explosions and shooting. He hid out for some hours in a smoky stairwell with others, while they made their way down 19 flights of stairs barefoot to escape from the terrorists, who shot on sight anybody they came across.

Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, the rav of Migdal Ha'Emek and uncle of Mrs. Rivka Holzberg hy"d, came to participate. After lunch, there were some speeches.

One of the owners spoke about how we are all together in this and we all thank Hashem for his safe return. Eli shared some thoughts with us after having survived (he already had told the story dozens of times, and did not repeat it at this occasion) about how appreciative he is of everyone's good wishes, and how he realizes he has so many people who love him and were concerned for him.
Rav Grossman spoke about the appreciation we need to have, and the thanks we must say to Hashem for his survival. Rav Grossman said that he is known as "The Disco Rabbi", so he has to sing. He composed a song in thanks to Hashem for the survival of little Moishie Holzberg and the other survivors, and then he sang it for us.

If you want to hear Rav Grossman's whole speech, just a few minutes, here it is:

Survivor Eli Averbouch's thoughts and HaGomel can be seen:

After the ceremony, we all went to shake hands and try to get brachos from Rav grossman. Rav Grossman was chatting with some people and he pulled out the following note from his pocket and explained it to us.

The note is the text of something the Klausenberger Rebbe said 27 years ago. In the middle of a speech, he suddenly said something that was supposedly unrelated to what he had been talking about. he said, "Publicizing Gods presence in the world, is not just for Jews, but also for gentiles, that they should see that Jews pray and serve Hashem. There will be one Jew who will go to India, and in this place where there are millions of gentiles who worship idols, he will reveal Gods presence, and he will be killed, the whole nation will talk about him, and he will have sanctified Hashem's name as via him Hashem's presence will have been revealed to millions of gentiles."

That is enough to send chills down your spine...

Quote of the Day (qotd)

"The eagerness of those of Kadima and the extreme left to attack the [Likud] party has brought them to crazy and racist incitement. Kadima, whose leaders are up to their necks in serious criminal investigations and some of their members are Arabs who vote for anti-Zionist parties, have a difficult time understanding that love of the land and love of the people are not crimes."

------Likud MK Gilad Erdan

Feiglin and the Likud

Overall the candidates supported by Moshe Feiglin and Mnahigut Yehudit did fairly well. Shmuel Sackett did not make it in, and he worked very hard, so that is a shame, but MF hit as high as #20, despite all of Bibi's maneuvering to keep him out of any realistic spots.

So overall, the Feiglin group had a very successful primary.

I did not give a list of candidates I was supporting, because who cares who I say to vote for. I want you to vote for the candidates you believe in, not the candidates I believe in. Just get out there and vote. I mentioned a few names to explain why I felt they were good candidates and deserved to win their spots on the roster, but I did not give a full list of recommendations. Also, who am I to make any recommendations? Any of these guys need any such recommendation from me? Would my recommendation actually help anybody anyway? I doubt it.

Personally I chose to support 2 categories of candidates:
  1. I supported the candidates directly supported by Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit.I felt it important for the bar on the right wing of the Likud to be strengthened, and by voting Feiglin and for his people, I felt that was the right way to do it.
  2. I supported the candidates who have stuck with the Likud through its hard times. not those who are tailing along and trying to get in because of the Likud's current popularity, or because of their big names. So I supported guys like Moshe Kachlon, Gidon Saar, Gilad Erdan, Ruby Rivlin (who I happened to meet at the Bet Shemesh polling station) and others. They needed my vote, and they deserved my vote. Most of them were supported by Feiglin as second tier choices. But for me they were also first tier choices.
I am very happy with the results. My candidates all pretty much did well, and the final list looks even more right wing (rather than centrist) than I expected.

Will Feiglin's success mean anything? I don't know. He will definitely not be appointed to a ministerial position by Netanyahu, considering their relationship.

If Bibi was smart, he would look at the list and see that the Likud voters have chosen a more right wing list than a center list, and he will run his government accordingly. He would also follow in Obama's footsteps and even appoint people he fought with and disagreed with to high positions, based on their qualifications, but also to "keep his enemies closer".

But he won't. He will keep Feiglin far, and demonize him at every opportunity. he will try to portray himself as centrist.

Feiglin in the end will be marginalized for the most part. The real benefit of having him in the Knesset will be that he strengthens the bar on the right side of the scale.

The people want the Likud to return to its right wing roots. this "centrist floating vote" everyone is trying to attract is a farce.

I was speaking to a friend the other day. He is a former Likud member. He told me, when I asked him if he supports Likud nowadays, that he no longer does. They have turned from the Likud way. He said he was originally in Beitar (the precursor to the Likud), and then Likud, but later stopped his involvement because of what they did.

I spoke to him again this morning and asked him what he thought about the primary results. he was very happy Feiglin succeeded, and guys like Benny Begin and boogie Yaalon succeeded. He is not religious, he is older, and he admires guys like Menachem Begin. he is not what people consider the typical "Feiglin supporter". So his response surprised me, as the first thing he said was that he was happy about was Feiglin's victory.

I said in surprise "You like Feiglin?" and he said yes. He explained "Feiglin is honest, and he is true to what the Likud used to be."

Great results overall

By now many of you already know, and don't need me to tell you, that it looks like the Likud has packed a great list for Knesset. The final positioning lists are not yet final, but it looks like most Likud primary voters chose to keep the imported leftists off the list (Uzi Dayan and Assaf Hefetz) - actually they are on the list, but in unrealistic spots - down by the 40s. Of course if the Likud wins 45-50 seats, they are in.

The veterans held off the star imports for the most part and won many of the top slots. Good guys who worked hard for the past 3 years during the hard times of the Likud were rewarded by the Likud voters. They deserve it and I applaud Gidon Saar, Gilad Erdan and Moshe Kachlon for their success last night.

Keti Shitreet from Bet Shemesh won spot #33 - the spot reserved for a representative from the Jerusalem regional district. Kol Hakavod to her. I don't expect much from her, as I do not consider her overly savvy. But she has workd hard to succeed in Bet Shemesh, and hopefully she will work hard in the Knesset, and hopefully that will help Bet Shemesh and Jerusalem and Israel. Her spot, #33 is at the edge of realistic as of now. Polls are right now giving the Likud 35 sets. Obviously that can, and will, change by the time elections come around. Hopefully it will change for the better, not the worse. To remind you, Ehud Olmert was only #33 on the Likud list, and he went on to become Prime Minister!

Kol Hakavod for what looks like a developing great list of Knesset members.

Definition of "Progress"

We went to vote tonight in the Likud primaries.

Let me describe what we call "progress" nowadays.

It used to be that voting used the very backwards system of walking into the polling station, showing your ID, getting an envelope, going behind a cardboard screen, selecting the appropriate piece of paper with your selected candidate's name on it, slipping it in the envelope, sealing the envelope, and dropping the envelope in a box.

Very backwards, yet I do not remember the process ever taking more than a few minutes.

That is besides the next stage of counting votes. They would then have to physically count paper ballots. They had to inspect envelopes to make sure they were not disqualified for any reason. etc.

We now live in 2008, and we have finally decided to get with the times. There is no reason to continue using the old backwards system of paper ballots, when computers do pretty much everything in our lives including making coffee. The time to move to a computerized election system has definitely arrived.

The Labor party tried it last week in their primaries, and the whole system crashed during the day. The primaries had to be redone manually a few days later.

The Likud tried it today, expecting better results. Well, it worked. Partially.

The systems did not crash. There were some technical glitches, but nothing that brought the system down. There was a problem with Bezeq in the morning where a tractor ripped a fiber optic line, bringing down communications for a couple of hours, but other than that, it was overall pretty smooth. From the computer aspect, that is.

The problem was that I waited two hours in line to vote. Remember the old fashioned method? The backwards one? Where it took upwards of 4 minutes? Ahhh, those were the days.....

The biggest problem I found was the lack of any organization. The actual voting was computerized, but nothing else was. You walk into the polling station and had no idea what to do. After a few minutes I saw a friend and he asked me if I had gone to get a number. There was no sign that you needed to, there was nobody at the door giving out numbers, no way for me to know I needed to get a number, other than a friend telling me. I made sure to tell people when I saw them walk in.

The numbers were little handwritten pieces of paper with a number on it. So anybody, technically, could have written themselves a number instead of using the much higher number received from the usher.

Then, you just sat around in this big room. Voting was on the other side of the room. It was just a noisy crowd of people talking to each other. Once in a while, one of the ushers would call out a number. Most people could not hear the number called, and had no idea that their spot had just been passed over.

We sat near the front so we could hear the numbers, and there was more space for our kids to spread out and run around a bit.

Eventually someone came in and got frustrated. He started taking over. he did not really do anything except make himself feel important. he got his number and then went over to the ushers and reorganized the room. He insisted it would be more efficient for the main section of the room to be blocked off from the people waiting. So he insisted on them moving tables to block off the area. Also the tables kind of forced the people to wait in a line. Once people got into this line, they all started screaming why it was not yet there turn. People were getting frustrated by the long wait. The line really did not matter, because everyone supposedly had a number. So there was no need for a line. But he waited on the other side of the table, so he must have felt important, as though he was one of the managers and not just a regular person.

My kids were not deterred by the tables and went right under them and continued to run around in the large open space. Eventually the "important" guy got upset that they were there. he started to tell us off for letting them run around over there. he said they are making noise and we should keep them on our side of the table. I told him off saying why should they stand here in the crowded space of a few inches when they can run around over there. They are not bothering anybody. he said they are making noise. I said "They are making noise?" I pointed to the crowd behind me and said "Listen to everybody screaming, and you are upset that these kids are making some noise! They are making the difference?"

After that he left us alone and my kids continued to run around.

Eventually the line started to move and we got to vote. For me it was quick, because I came with a list of numbers prepared for the candidates I was selecting. But if you did not come with a list prepared, and only knew the names of people you were going to vote for, I could see it taking a long time behind the voting booth.

You would then have to look at the poster, find the picture of the candidate you wanted to vote, find his number, and then select it on the computer (the computer screen only showed numbers for you to select, and only said the candidates name after you chose the number). It could potentially take a long time to match the names and numbers. You had to choose 15 candidates, after all.

The whole process, from the minute I walked in until the minute I left, took 2 hours and 15 minutes.

That is progress!

Dec 8, 2008

Rabbi Fleischer on Al Jazeera (video)

Rabbi Yishai Fleischer of Kumah.org was recently interviewed on Al Jazeera...

Part 1:

Part 2:

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