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Free The Hostages! Bring Them Home!

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Jan 31, 2008

A country of speed readers!

I have a copy of the Winograd Report.

I have no idea how anybody could quote it and pick out lines from it and be experts in what it says just minutes or even hours after it was released yesterday. The darn thing is 617 pages long! That will take days, minimum, to read! How is it possible that moments after it was released yesterday, all the news sources and politicians were already quoting all the salient points???

Q&A - Shechita and Reincarnation

A Simple Jew asked for my thoughts on the subject..

Ice Cream on shabbos

This just came my way, and it is very important to post before we all miss it. International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day is upon us!

The first Shabbos in February is officially ICFBD!

This Shabbat, parshat Mishpatim, ICFB will be celebrated all over the world. The rules of this holiday are simple: eat ice cream for breakfast. In Israel it is generally celebrated with Kiddush after dovening.

This holiday was created in Rochester, New York, by a mother who wanted to cheer up her young children (Ruth and David Rappaport). ICFB is celebrated every year in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Chicago, NY, London, Sidney, Toronto, Moskow, Bombay, Paris, Rome, and Bet Shemesh to name just a few cities.

I have to see if I can convince my wife to do this....


A few flakes of snow began falling in RBS a few moments ago! The kids are hoping school will be canceled. That reminds me of this picture someone sent to me yesterday...

This picture was captioned - 20 centimeters of snow fell! School is canceled!

Jan 30, 2008

me and Marcell

When I came to Israel for yeshiva, there was a popular barber in Jerusalem. That would have been Marcell, and his barbershop was located on the Midrachov (pedestrian mall) of Ben-Yehuda street.

I went to him once. He was the most expensive barber in town. I think at the time he charged 40 NIS for a haircut. I could not understand why a haircut would cost so much. I remember when I sat down and he began my haircut, he wrapped me up and stuck my head in the sink and washed my hair (chafifa in Hebrew) before the haircut. That was the first time a barber had ever done that to me and I thought it was pretty weird.

I will add that it was also the last time a barber ever did that to me. But not because of the hairwash. I never went to expensive barbers. I always consider it a waste. Maybe if I had hair like a John Edwards or a Mitt Romney I would have considered it worthwhile..maybe. But my hair is more like Barak Obama (short and styleless), so it is a waste of money to pay for an expensive haircut that looks just like the haircut I got from the guy in yeshiva , and I was not going to pay just so the guy would wash my hair for me!

So I indulged myself just that once, and after that went to the yeshiva barber for my buzz.

When sitting in Marcell's shop, I was amazed by the pictures he had on the wall. He had pictures of various Prime Ministers, such as Yitzchak Rabin, Yitzchak Shamir and Menachem Begin, among other important people. One would wonder why these pictures would be hanging in a barbershop, but that answer was that all the important and famous people in Israel, including almost all the Prime Ministers and many other Ministers and Presidents got their hair cut by Marcell. I wondered if Yitzchak Rabin (the PM at the time) would walk in while I was there and sit down in the chair to get a haircut!

Who cares about all this nostalgia?

Yesterday evening I saw an article that Marcell, the barber of Jerusalem, has closed down his store. An era is gone. Marcell has retired.

Marcell is over 80 years old and has had his barber shop for 50 years. He cut the hair of Teddy Kollek, Yitzchak Navon, Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, Yitzchak Rabin, Yitzchak Shamir and many others.
Marcell talks a little about what he experienced - "Peres was always a perfectionist. He always went out tip-top. He is an elegant person, from his hair to his shoes. His hair always looked amazing - a hair never moves out of place." "teddy Kollek, he says, had very unkempt hair. he would not care about his appearance or ceremony. he was modest and his hair was longer and more unkempt than by others." Yitzchak Navon used to keep his hair in the borrow and save style (where someone with a bald top grows side hairs longer and sweeps them on top of his blad top). I felt it was professinoally inappropriate and I amde him cut his hair shorter and not hide his baldness.... Also Olmert, whose hair I cut many years, took my advice and stopped with the "borrow and save" hairstyle."

What about State secrets, with all these PMs and ministers sitting in his chair?

"There were many, but they all knew that by me everything stays in the safe.."

An era of haircutting is over...

Quote of the Day (qotd)

"We need to deal with Homosexuals and Lesbians the way we deal with Bird Flu"

MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas)

This was during an attempt yesterday to pass a bill banning any future Gay Pride Parade from taking place in Jerusalem.

NB. The bill passed the preliminary reading. It still needs to pass further readings for it to become law.

Can't complain (joke)

I just got this joke by email and wanted to share....

A Russian Jew wanted to emigrate to Israel. The local commissar calls him in for questioning and asks:

"Haven't we allowed you the right to worship in your Synagogue?"
"Can't complain."

"Haven't we let you live in peace with your fellow Jews?"
"Can't complain."

"Haven't we allowed you to travel freely within and beyond the village?"
"Can't complain."

"Haven't we allowed you to teach your children Torah?"
"Can't complain."

"Haven't we let you practice your profession?"
"Can't complain."

"Then why do you want to go to Israel?"
"There I can complain!"

The height of cynicism

A newspaper I read yesterday mentioned that the Kadima Party has drafted its best and most eloquent members for a public relations blitz in an attempt to pre-empt any harsh findings in the soon to be released Winograd Report. The newspaper mentioned it had seen an internal document with talking points that will be stressed by the various Kadima people who will be on the airwaves defending Olmert.

One of those talking points mentioned in the list was that the Interim Winograd Report had been very harsh, but had not listed names of people responsible, and therefore there was never any intention to cause heads to roll, rather to pressure them to repair the flaws in the system.

I just heard on the radio part of an interview from last night with Roni Bar-On. Bar-On is the Finance Minister. He is one of the stars of Kadima - he is very eloquent, he is very close to Olmert, he holds a senior ministry.

In the interview, which I only heard a part of, Bar-On used the talking point I mentioned above. He stressed greatly the idea that the Report had been harsh but no names were mentioned and clearly the intention was that Olmert should remain to repair the flaws in the system. He said, Taking responsibility does not necessarily mean resigning, as people claim it does. Taking responsibility means fixing what you broke.

This claim is the height of cynicism. the Winograd Report did not mention names so it means the intention was that people should not resign?

I remind you the Winograd Commission had every intention (so stated) to name names and declare responsibility, but Kadima and Olmert's people, and then representatives of the IDF all took the Winograd Commission to the Supreme Court a number of times in order to force delays and to disallow them from naming names. And now they are claiming that names were not mentioned so the intention was not to force resignations?

Jan 29, 2008

Stewart on Giulliani in Florida (video)

Quote of the Day (qotd)

"elections - and the profligate spending known as "election economics" that usually accompanies them - would cost the state tens of millions of shekels."

---- PM Ehud Olmert, when explaining, one of the reasons, why he opposes and refuses calling for early elections..

Funny, but spending extra tens of millions of shekels did not stop him from creating new ministries to have the largest and most inflated government Israel has ever had, just so he could reward his friends for their support and buy the support of others.... He can spend the money when it is to help him, but if it is not directly for him, he is against spending...

Rav Ariel on ascending Har Habayit

On Sunday, Rav Aviner published an article in the Makor Rishon newspaper detailing his views regarding Har Habayit (Temple Mount) and the reasons why it is prohibited for Jews to ascend it.
I can no longer find the article, so I will leave it out, but I will continue anyways, and later add rav Aviner's article when I find it.. (it seems to be missing from the website, as you can see if you follow the link above)

Yesterday, Rav Yisrael Ariel published a response to Rav Aviner refuting each of Rav Aviner's claims and points and calling upon Rav Aviner to retract what he said. This is what Rav Ariel writes...
Rav Shlomo Aviner titles his article from Sunday in Makor Rishon "Do not touch the Mount or its edge". The Rav comes out prohibiting ascending Temple Mount and he adds, "There is no mitzva among the 613 Mitzvos of the Torah to ascend Temple Mount".
The Rav uses the verse in this past week's parsha that says "Guard yourself from ascending the mount (Mt. Sinai in the verse) or from touching it for whomever touches it shall surely die" - that is a timely warning.
The Rav recounts the various gedolei yisrael and gedolei Yerushalayim, among them Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook zt"l and Rav Goren zt"l who prohibited ascending Temple Mount.
It is amazing that a halachic article by a Rav, coming to annul the obligation to build the Temple in our day, is written without sources from Chaza"l. Because Temple Mount and the Temple consist of a third of all the mitzvos in the Torah, that is about 200 mitzvos, one should wonder how, with the stroke of a pen, one can just wipe away 200 mitzvos, and that is without even bringing a serious source.
First we will deal with the facts mentioned in his article: The Rav claims that Rav Goren zt"l prohibited ascending the Mount. The facts are different. Rav Goren publicized a complete sefer called "Har Habayit" that completely deals with the appropriate method of entering Temple Mount in our days. In the introduction to the book, Rav Goren dedicates 10 pages to describing the military seminary that he set up on the Mount. he further describes the prayers he led on Temple Mount including the reading of the Torah. In the book it describes the battle he had with the Defense Minister and the whole government about having prayers and a permanent place on the Temple Mount. Rav Goren established a permanent synagogue int eh Temple Mount complex, that exists even today. Rav Goren held minyanim regularly on 9 Av and Yom Kippur and prayed there regularly until the last day of his life. the synagogue continues to function today in the same format using the special prayers to be said upon Temple Mount, as brought in the gemara and Rambam, and as established by Rav Goren zt"l. The Rav (Goren) held conferences of Rabbonim and caused made much ruckus about Temple Mount and what happens there. Whoever knew Rav Goren knows that one of the things that shortened his life was the deteriorating situation on Temple Mount. And now Rav Aviner tells us something new that Rav Goren prohibited (!!!) ascending the Mount...
Rav Aviner further writes that "Maybe you will say: we do not go up because of holiness, rather in order to "conquer" - that is not how we conquer the Mount! We conquer it with effecting the Divine Presence in the place."
Since Rav Aviner quotes many times "Our Rabbi Rav Zvi yehuda Kook zt"l" who prohibited ascending, we should get down to the facts: Rav Kook and Rav David Cohen the Nazir both went up to Temple Mount together on the day it was recaptured on 28 Iyar in 1967. The both spoke and decided they are going in as a function of "conquering"!
While they were walking on the Mount they met the Chief Rabbis of Israel;Rav Unterman and Rav Nissim. When Rav Kook arrived home, he decalred "I went up to Temple Mount from the halachik point of "conquering"!. The Nazir made the same declaration (in an interview with the newspaper HaTzofeh 26 av 1967. I also have testimony from Rav Menachem Cohen who witnesses the Rabbonim entering Temple Mount. The author of this article [Rav Ariel himself] is also a first-hand witness to some of the above events.)
Now is the place to wonder: Rav Kook went in himself with his own feet onto Temple Mount as a "conquerer", yet Rav Aviner argues with "Our Rabbi" and says "This is not how we conquer Temple Mount.. rather we conquer the Mount with effecting Divine Presence!". Whose opinion should we accept - the opinion of "Our Rabbi" Rav Kook, or the opinion of his student [Rav Aviner]??
Maybe you will say Rav Aviner brings a proof from the Great Rabbi the Rambam who said that Temple Mount we do not conquer with weapons, as we do Eretz Yisrael, rather Temple Mount we conquer by effecting the Divine Presence (Rambam in Hil' beis HaBechira 6:17). We will turn to one of the only sources Rav Aviner uses in his article and read what he writes - this is the actual text of the Rambam there "the holiness of the Temple and Jerusalem because of the Divine Presence never fades". Where does it say that we do not conquer Temple Mount with weapons? See how he drafts the great Rabbi the Rambam for his fight against conquering Temple Mount, using a source that does not contain anything relevant to the topic!

I should point out that the Rambam describes in a very detailed fashion how he ascended Temple Mount - "the Great and Holy House" on 6 Cheshvan, and how he made the day of his ascension to a day of celebration for the rest of his life. It seems from his words that he did not wait for the Divine Presence to return, but went on a special trip to Temple Mount in order to daven there and to do what he could minimally do during its state of destruction.

There is place to expand on this further, but it seems to me that due to the responsibility of "fear and honor of the Temple" we are obligated to not dig it in for the sake of digging it in.

It should be asked: If we do not conquer the Temple Mount with weapons, but with Divine Presence, why did Judah Maccabee fight a very bloody war , with few against many, in order to reconquer Temple Mount and the Temple? How did he not think of the concept that seems so simple that we should conquer it with "kindness and love ", in the words of Rav Aviner? Why do we sing for over two thousand years on Hannukah about "the might and the battles" and why do we point out the "holy priests"? We have a Rav who claims that is a lll a mistake, as we do not conquer and build the Temple with weapons, but "with undemanding love the Temple will be rebuilt". Who here is mistaken?

The title of the article is a concentration of his whole methodology: how to disconnect from the Temple. I should point out about the title that in the past the same verse was used against people who made aliya to the Land of Israel. See the book of Rav Yisrael TaShma "knesset Chachmei Ashkenaz" where he brings a drasha that was commonly accepted in the days of the Baalei Tosafos among groups who disconnected themselves from eretz Yisrael, and they would say "Guard yourself from going up to the Mount [of the Land of Israel] and from touching its edge {an admonition to not force the end of times] -for whomever shall touch the Mount shall die [from too much holiness of the land], for he shall be stoned [whoever goes to Israel] or shall be smitten [because one cannot keep the difficult commandments that are dependent upon the Land], at the time of Yovel [only upon the blast of the shofar of the Messiah] will they go up to the Mount [then we will go to the Land of Israel].
So we have a rehashing of the same misuse of the verse, this time for the Temple Mount - and that is being done within the Holy Jerusalem!

The phrase of Rav Aviner is already common by us " Regarding Temple matters - we are Satmar!" Therefore he troubled himself to mention the phrase from the ay after the giving of the Torah, lest we forget God forbid, a third of the 613 commandments and we might go build the Temple.

According to rav Aviner's opinion, how will the Temple be rebuilt? he has the winning formula of "Undemanding love, longing, and Divine Presence" for rebuilding the Temple.

And we simply thought that the Torah writes otherwise (Shmos 25:8) "Make for Me a Temple and I will dwell within". Meaning, first fulfill one of the 613 commandments that are relevant to the Temple Mount and Temple and build it, and only then will the Divine Presence rest there.

Int eh words of Chazal it is described that the Divine presence did not rest on the Temple immediately after it was built.. only after Moshe and Aharon made a special supplication did the jews merit to have the Shechina rest in their handiwork (of the mishkan).

This is how Rashi describes it (Vayikra 9:23): the entire 7 days (of training) they constructed and deconstructed the structure daily, yet the Presence did not come. the people were complaining to Moshe that all the work they did the Shechina should come!. Meaning even after all teh donations of gold and silver from the jews and the great work invested in the mishkan and the vessels, even then it was still not promised to Israel that the shechina would rest there, and Moshe had to daven that the shechina should come down on their work.

And now Rav Aviner teaches us something new "Hashem builds jerusalem" - when the mitzvos reach a certain number and quantity, suddenly the temple will be built! Meaning, there is no more mitzva to build the Temple in our days, there is no need to donate gold and silver, there is no need to build the Temple! Just with undemanding love, with performing mitzvos, with longing, the Divine Presence will come on its own and the mikdash will be built and the Shechina will rest on it!

We will also say to Rav Shlomo Aviner HaKohen While you admonish us and recommend to us that we should be satisfied with simply longing for the Temple, we will also fulfill the commandment of rebuke and we will say "retract what you said!"

The Windy Country

A lot right now is reminiscent of Chicago. Chicago is the Windy City. That title was bestowed upon Chicago for two reasons.

The first reason was the weather itself. The weather here is stormy, the wind is pounding, it has been raining, snow is due around most of the country imminently and in some places is already falling hard.

The second reason Chicago is known as the Windy City is because of its famously corrupt, or at least questionable, politics. These days are the stormiest politics Israel has ever known, with the release tomorrow of the Winograd Report. Everything, except the snow storm, is taking second stage right now to Olmert's corruption and to what the Winograd Commission will say about him tomorrow, and what the fallout will or will not be...

Life here is never boring!

Jan 28, 2008

Where there is smoke, there is a bathroom attendant!

An incident recently took place in Hebron between an Israeli Magavnik (IDF border police) and an Arab janitor that nearly created a diplomatic outcry.

First, some background...

The building of the Me'arat Ha'Machpelah is a large structure made up up of various rooms and chambers. Among the various rooms are three rooms each containing a set of "grave markers/headstones" for one of the couples of the Patriarchs/Matriarchs. That means there is a room called "Ulam Avraham" or "Abraham's hall" containing the markers for the graves of Abraham and Sarah. There is a chamber called "Ulam Yitzchak" containing the markers of the graves of Yitzchak and Rivka. There is a chamber called "Ulam Yaakov" containing the markers for the graves of Yaakov and Leah.

The markers do not contain graves within or beneath. They are simply markers. The actual graves are beneath the building in a cave and, as far as I know, have no relevance to the markers.

Ulam Yitzchak is the largest of the chambers. By a lot. Ulam Avraham and Ulam Yaakov are fairly small, and they are really only useable (as prayer rooms) because of the connecting hallways.

The Me'ara was divided up between the Israelis and the Arabs to avoid hostility between the two groups. The Jews get the smaller Ulamot of Avraham and Yaakov while the Arabs get the larger Ulam Yitzchak. The agreement does stipulate that 11 days per year, on holidays, the Jews have open access to Ulam Yitzchak as well.

Enough background, now for the excitement.

Maariv reports on the story that the soldier was bored while guarding the site. He decided to have a good time and as he was passing an Arab janitor, he decided to pull a fast one on the janitor. He said to the janitor that the head of the Waqf in charge of the Me'ara had decided to sell the me'ara to the Jews.

The janitor flipped out and ran to the higher committee of the Waqf and told them that the one in charge of the me'ara had sold it to the Jews. The committee did not check out the info, but accepted it at face value. They sent a quick letter of protest to the Palestinian Authority who, in turn, also did not bother checking out the information but sent a complaint to the Israeli government via the Prime Minister's Office.

The PMO checked out the story with the security services in Hebron and responded to the Waqf and the PA that no such transaction had been made and there is no intention to conduct any such transaction. the local Waqf swore to the committee that they would never relinquish their rights to Ulam Yitzchak.

The upper committee decided not to let it slide, as "Where there is smoke, there is fire" so there must be some truth to the story. They fired the local Waqf head. In addition, the assitant Waqf was removed from his post and reassigned as a regular employee with the job of cleaning the bathrooms in the me'ara!!!!

The commander of the IDF unit in hebron decided to investigate the story and found out what happened. The soldier was surprised to hear what a ruckus his little joke had caused.

I love this story.

how did it get there??

I was helping my daughter to some research for a project about Ireland. She wanted something special about Ireland - something like an unusual landscape, such as a waterfall, etc. While looking around for an idea, I thought of the Blarney Stone.

To remind you, the Blarney Stone is a stone block set in the Blarney Castle in Ireland. Legend has it that the Blarney Stone has special powers and someone who kisses the Stone will be endowed with special powers of gab and flattery.

That sounded interesting, so I began to look for details of the Blarney Stone. It turns out that there is even a Jewish connection, maybe.

The big question is where the Blarney Stone came from and how it got these powers.

The proprietors of the Blarney Castle have publicized a number of possible sources according to the local legend.

Some of those sources are (not all - some sources have nothing to do with Judaism, so I am not mentioning them):
  1. The Blarney Stone was originally the stone that Yaakov put under his head to sleep upon and had the dream of the ladder with the angels... the stone, according to the legend, was later brought to Ireland by Jeremiah the Prophet (he spent time in Ireland?)
  2. The Blarney Stone was originally the stone that Moshe struck with his staff in the desert to bring forth water for the Jews to drink on their trip to Israel. (how did it get to Ireland?)
  3. the Blarney Stone was the Stone of Ezel behind which David hid upon the advice of Yehonatan when he was running away from King Saul. According to this legend, the stone would have been brought back to Ireland during the Crusades. (how did they know which stone in Israel to bring to Ireland?)..
There you have it. The Jewish background of the Blarney Stone. You learn something new every day!

very exciting forecast

This may not excite those of you reading this in the USA. You are probably sick of this already. here in Israel it is pretty unusual, so everybody is excited and looking forward to it...

Tuesday's forecast:

and Wednesday's forecast:

Jan 27, 2008

Supreme Court on mehadrin bus lines

I just found the court declaration regarding the hearing that took place against the Mehadrin bus service provided by Egged.

If you want to see the original, and you can make your way through the Hebrew, you can see it here..

I will summarize what it says for those of you who can't make it through the Hebrew...

It goes through the claims and the responses. The Court then proceeds with a list of questions and what needs to be done for the further processing of the hearing:

1. The court sees nothing wrong with the concept itself of a mehadrin bus for the Haredi community. The court understands that this was not a point of contention. Because the arrangements were not organized in a normative fashion, it created a number of problems. The courts will define a normative practice, because there has been lack of one, such as where such lines should be created, alternate forms of transportation for people who do not want to travel on a mehadrin line, proper signage on the outside of the bus so people will know it is defined as a mehadrin bus and proper signage within the bus with instructions for appropriate behavior and the voluntary nature of the arrangement, involvement of the driver in enforcement of the rules - when he will or will not get involved in disputes among the passengers, issues of pricing, a form of supervision and method of dealing with complaints, Rabbinic position (from the Haredi community) on the appropriate behavior, and more.

2. It reviews when some of the legal history of the issue and says the initial allowance for to include proper signage, no involvement by the driver, totally voluntary arrangement by the passengers, and that it would be a "test" situation.

3. A lot has happened since the first line went into effect in 1999 and now there are 30 lines that run by mehadrin guidelines, 23 inter-city and 7 local lines. They are not in accordance with the guidelines of the Langental Committee recommendations, in the sense of appropriate attire, no mention of the voluntary aspect of the arrangement, no signs or clarity on appropriate behavior or other, the involvement of the driver is cloudy and unclear, no supervision.

4. Nothing has been reported by the Ministry of Transportation about the Langental Com. recommendations.

5. In order to allow the functioning of the lines in a way that will not harm anybody in any way a new forum should be created that will review the situation and the events that have taken place and will make recommendations regarding these issues.

6. The MOT needs to create such a forum ASAP to allow the proper functioning. We raised this before the attorney of the state and he did not reject it.

7. We request a response from the state within 30 days regarding the creation of such a forum. Those petitioning the issue will then have a further 21 days to respond. The decision will be made then.

Haveil Havalim #151 is up - PSD

Check out Haveil Havalim #151 - the first of the post Soccer Dad era... Jack is the host and he is looking for volunteers to host future editions....

Jan 26, 2008

Reporter gets what coming! (video)

Sorry - this video has nothing to do with Jews or Israel, but it is so funny I could not pass it up...

Jan 24, 2008

RBS Haredim against the new shopping complex

RBS has been in the news and in my blog a lot this week, and I now close out the week with yet another RBS posting...They go from one event right into the next.. they must stay awake at night trying to figure out what next to do..

The above sign is the latest sign plastered around RBS.

The city has planned a maar to be built in the area for a long time. A maar is "Merkaz Ironi Roshi" and is a large complex including a mall, municipal buildings, possibly a university branch campus, possibly a small hospital/emergency room/birthing center, sports complex, entertainment (theater? bowling? pool hall?) and more.

The Haredi community has always been against the plans for the maar. They are afraid it will bring in many more people from outside the community and will harm the atmosphere of tznius.

The construction of the maar has been delayed for many years, partially due to the opposition against it. The above sign says that the Ministry of Housing has published tenders for various projects of the maar.It asks how can we stand by quietly while the city harms the chinuch of our children. It questions the need for the maar, as it was planned for when the community was originally intended to be secular and now that it is religious/haredi there is no need for it any longer and why should we suffer from it. It calls on the city to stop and says we will stop the plans to destroy our neighborhood and we want our minimal, legitimate rights.

And people complain about Israeli bureaucracy???

Today I spent the day at the US Embassy.

Two recent articles in the press, one at Ha'aretz and one at YeshivaWorld News, detailed some of the inconveniences of going to the Embassy. Now you can read about it first-hand.

We had to register our baby with the Embassy for a Birth Abroad to get a US birth certificate and passport. The Embassy changed their system a little while ago.

It used to be you showed up between 8:30 and 13:00, took a number and waited for your turn. You filled out some forms, showed some documents and went on your way. I remember going to the embassy and being out of there after less than half an hour, having taken care of everything very quickly.

It seems that was either too efficient or they thought they could improve a system that was ok. You now cannot walk in to the embassy and get your services taken care of. You have to make an appointment on their website. We made an appointment the week after our baby was born, and we were able to get an appointment for 3 months later (today). The news has reported that the backlog is now up to 6 months and they stopped making appointments for beyond 6 months.

Not only that, but there has been advertised in the frum press (Hamodia, for example) of a gmach that someone started for giving out embassy appointments. Some people make an appointment and then cancel. Or they make too many and realize later. So instead of canceling, they transfer the appointment to the gmach who can give them out to people who need them for quick emergency appointments. Supposedly they now have stopped the transfer of appointments, because, according to Ha'aretz, they found some people were booking a lot of appointments and scalping them!

So our appointment was today for 10:45am. They recommend that you give yourself enough time to arrive half an hour before the appointment to go through security (half an hour to go through security!).

We get there and are immediately told you can no longer take anything in except for yourselves and the documents you need. Nothing else. If you have a baby with you, you can take in the stroller and diaper bag as well. They send you to a little company that opened up next door that will store your stuff for you for a modest fee while you are in the embassy.

After emptying our pockets and everything we had into the storage company, we go through ridiculous amounts of security, as if it was possible to sneak something in between one guard and the next after we were already in the Embassy complex.

We finally get in and see a total balagan in the waiting room. Appointments mean practically nothing. Parents could not bring stuff in to keep their kids busy, so kids are getting restless, and parents are getting testy. People are congregating around the windows of the clerks hoping to sneak in between appointments and maybe be able to get in before being called up. People are being called up more than an hour and a half after the time of their appointment. It was wild.

They only called us about an hour and 45 minutes after our scheduled time. After you take care of your documentation with the clerk, you go to a different window to pay. Then you wait some more for the US Consul to call you to review the paperwork and sign off on it. We had to wait another hour and a quarter until the Consul called us.

Officially the policy is that anybody who comes 20 minutes late loses their appointment. People came very late and they were not told to leave. They also let in some people without appointments and some people who claimed emergencies. Another thing to be aware of if you are planning to visit the embassy is that you need an appointment for each item that needs to be taken care of. There was a guy there who brought 8 kids with him to register for passports. Each one needed an appointment, but he did not realize that. he had only made one appointment. They refused to let him process the full 8, as he only had one appointment.

We only got out of the Embassy after 2 pm...

Also, they used to let you apply for a Social Security number at the same time as applying for the Birth Abroad. Now you cannot apply for Social Security until you actually have the Birth Certificate in hand, which can take a few weeks. Which means we have to go back again.....

And people complain about Israeli bureaucracy??? I have never seen anything this bad in any of the many government offices I have been in...

Jan 23, 2008

Shas protests the real offense to Judaism

Shas has today protested a very serious offense. They posted on their website an article written by one of their Rabbonim (I was alerted to it by an article in this morning's newspaper) protesting the behavior of a new Israeli television show.

Israel's Channel 10 recently developed an Israeli version of the reality show "Survivor". In Hebrew it is called "Hisardut" which means, "Survivor". It seems to be a bit of a hit based on what I have read, but the show itself does not interest me and I have never seen it.

The issue under protest is that the contestants who are stuck on some island (I always doubt whether these things, even though they are called "reality tv" are actually real -are they really on an island somewhere? they are probably on some set in the south where it is sunny) have no regular food to eat. In order to survive, they eat anything they get their hands on - from bugs to snakes to crabs to worms to milk from the stomach of wild jungle animals.

Shas protests the public support given to activities that go against Judaism. The writer even compares it to Survivor in the US which, he says, had some Jewish contestants on the show. When they found out they would need to eat these types of creatures, they resigned from the show (is this true? I have no idea).

The best paragraph of the article, which I will translate here, is: "In other words, we are talking about people who for wealth and money are willing to sacrifice one of the most basic concepts that has made Judaism unique through all the generations and to corrupt the minds of thousands of simple Jews without them even knowing."

Right... remind me why Shas has not yet left the government despite Olmert and Livni publicly announcing that Jerusalem is under negotiation? So far they have held out for a ministry (money), and now they are waiting for increased budgets (more money), etc.. A basic tenet of Judaism - Jerusalem - is being given away under our noses, because some people are trying to amass money..

They find, once again, the important things to protest..

Haredim appropriate school building in RBS

I just got word, both locally and then someone emailed me about it, about the latest attack in RBS. Tuvia Stern is old news. I would guess the MKs I emailed did not read my letter, and even if they did they have not yet made any statements on the issue, nor have they reigned in their local BS/RBS representatives and have not told them to stop supporting the radicals.

The latest attack comes in the form of power. One of the local representatives of Degel Ha'Torah has, under orders and pressure from Rabbi Perlstein, decided to make a move. Remember the article I posted a few days ago about a local RBS school, Ko Tomar, coming under sudden criticism for their curriculum? Well, now the fight has escalated.

The Degel rep in charge of the Haredi education system in the BS municipality, has approved the transfer of a building to be used by Mrs. Perlstein's high school/seminary. Very nice? Nothing wrong with that? Doing his job helping the local organizations get school buildings?

Think again!

He has taken a school building that was slated and previously promised and planned for Ko Tomar and he has approved giving it instead to Mrs. Perlstein's school.

Ko Tomar is a school that has been around far longer than Mrs. Perlstein's school, they have many more students, and they have been promised a building. Now the radicals (different radicals than those involved in the beatings) win again. They pressure the local rep and are given control of a building slated for a different school.

This rep happens to be a yes-man for Rabbi Perlstein. All of his appointments were pushed by Rabbi perlstein. When the local Bais Yaakov first started a Vaad Horim (parents committee), he was put on it as Rabbi perlstein's representative. At the time he did not even have a daughter in the school (he now does - she was not yet even born back then). Rabbi Perlstein sent him as his man to be the Degel rep and every other issue that comes up in the neighborhood, Rabbi Perlstein sends him as the rep.

Give the Perlsteins a school building. I have no problem with that. But do not do so by taking it away from others.

Jan 22, 2008

Hava Negilla fruit basket (videos)

Some more Texas style Hava Nagila..

Hava Negilla at the Meshugga Beach Party...

Here is a kooky edition using musical hands...

Hava Negilla at the Royal Albert Hall..

and finally Hava Negilla on ice by Evegeni Plushenko..

Tu B'Shvat irony

Today is Tu B'Shvat, the day celebrating the New Year for the trees, and the day celebrating the fruits of Eretz Yisrael with the custom of eating fruits of Eretz Yisrael.

I find it ironic that much of the fruit being bought in the market to be eaten on Tu B'Shvat, as Tu B'Shvat fruit, much of it being dried fruit, is imported from Turkey or Italy. Look on the package that you brought home from the supermarket. See if the fruit comes from Eretz Yisrael or not.

There is nothing wrong with it, and you should all enjoy your fruit. I just find it ironic that we celebrate fruit of the Land of Israel by importing much of the fruit from foreign lands.

Now back to our regular programming....

Jan 21, 2008

BS beating in the press

and the story has finally made it to the national media...

The letter I sent to Haredi MKs about Bet Shemesh violence

The following is a letter I wrote and emailed to the Haredi Members of Knesset, Rabbis Meir Porush, Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman.

Feel free to copy and paste or write your own and send letters to them demanding they find a way to get involved.... Their email addresses are:

Shalom U'Vracha!
I live in Bet Shemesh. To be precise I live in Ramat Bet Shemesh A. I have lived here for nearly 9 years and even though there have been some issues in RBS A over the years, overall I must say it is a wonderful neighborhood and community.

RBS B has a community of kannoim that came from yerushalayim. They have spent their time making life miserable for all the residents of bet Shemesh, but especially for the residents of Ramat bet Shemesh both and A and B, but especially B. They have been violent, they have been abusive, they have been hostile, they have been provocative.

They moved into a city with a very mixed and diverse population and have been attempting, violently, to impose their ways on the rest of the residents. Their lifestyle is legitimate and I do not wish to deny them the right to live with their own Rabbonim with their own preferences. I do oppose their desire to force the rest of the community to live by their standards. Their standard claim of "We paid good money for our apartments and we deserve to live by our beliefs" holds no water. I also paid good money for my apartment. My neighbor paid good money for his apartment. The neighbor of the kannoi paid good money for his apartment.

We moved to a city that has diversity and most residents from varying backgrounds live together peacefully. The kannoim also moved to a city, bet Shemesh, that is diverse. they are welcome here like anybody else. Yet they choose to not live peacefully side by side with the rest of us. They choose to impose their lifestyle on the rest of us. I firmly reject that. If they cannot live peacefully with us, they should have moved to a place that only has their type of people.

That being said, I wonder why we have yet to hear from the Haredi leadership denouncing these people and their methods. The Rabbonim are quiet and the politicians are quiet. You find all sorts of benign and insignificant issues to be concerned about, yet the lifestyles of thousands of baalei batim and bnei torah that are being destroyed on a daily basis seems to give you no reason to speak out.

I request that you and your partners in the Haredi parties find a way to speak out against this phenomenon and against these people. I request to see you get involved in trying to find solutions to the conflict. When a makolet owned by a Haredi man in Lod was recently under fire, you ran to Lod to stand up for him. Why do we not see you in Bet Shemesh standing up for thousands of your voters?

You might respond that these people do not, generally, vote in elections. they have nothing to do with Degel Ha'Torah or Agudas Yisrael and you have no sway over them. Therefore your speaking out is a waste of time. There is no way you can get involved, as they reject your authority, you will say.

I remind you that in bet Shemesh there is a local party running under the banner of "Gimmel" made up of members of Degel and Aguda. These representatives, of your parties, have very publicly been announcing recently, on numerous occasions, in the local press, all the assistance they have been giving to the members of that community. Assistance that comprises funding, land for their institutions, future consideration in political arrangements, and more.

That means that not only have you not spoken out against these people and their actions, not only have you not fulfilled the basic responsibility of leadership and gotten involved in trying to find ways to protect your electorate and residents of Haredi neighborhoods, but you also have been providing them with assistance.

if you do not have it in you to speak out against them, at least stop helping them.

I do also wish to point out that in Bet Shemesh this is an election year. Municipal elections are coming up in about 10 months. A lot of your natural voters are disturbed by this and disenfranchised by the assistance provided by "gimmel" to these people and the lack of involvement by your people against these people. I think it would be prudent (putting it lightly), if you wish to have people voting for your local Bet Shemesh party along with voting for your party in future national elections, to speak out against the thugs who attack your constituents and get involved in finding solutions. Otherwise your voters will look to others for solutions and Gimmel will only have the kannoim to turn to, and we know they do not vote in the elections.

With blessings,
Raphael Gxxxxxxxx

Quote of the Day (qotd)

"As far as I'm concerned, all the residents of Gaza can walk and have no fuel for their cars, because they have a murderous terrorist regime that doesn't allow people in the south of Israel to live in peace"
----Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister Israel

I remember when I was a teenager after I got my driver's license. i wanted to take out my father's car for something and he did not want to give it to me. He told em to walk, but I insisted on taking the car. He then said, "What did God give you two feet for?" To which I promptly responded, "One for the gas pedal and the other for the brakes" (not true but it was a good retort, and we had an automatic car not a stick shift so there was no clutch to use in the retort).

Needless to say, I did not get the car at the time.

Good for you Olmert. Let 'em walk! They shut off their own power station anyway. We did not shut their electricity. They are simply blaming us for something they did. It is about time we made them suffer a bit for their actions.

I heard on the radio this morning an interview with a former minister in the Palestinian Authority government. They asked him about the situation in Gaza and Sderot. While he completely blamed Israel for the crisis, the interviewer pointed out that if the rocket attacks would stop, Israel would open the borders, stop killing their militants, allow passage, business, etc.

He did not care. he said all that should be available regardless of whether they are shooting rockets or not. Israel is evil because of the crisis they are causing and there is no reason the people of Gaza should suffer. When the interviewer asked him if he would recommend to his friends in Gaza that they halt the rocket attacks on Israel he gave a convoluted answer explaining that all this should be done irrelevant to rocket attacks. One thing I noticed is that he avoided saying that he would recommend they stop the rocket attacks.

So let them walk! That is what God gave them two feet for anyway!

Haredi man beaten in Bet Shemesh last night

Tuvia Stern, whom I do not know personally, is a man who has had the courage to stand up to the Haredi terrorists of Bet Shemesh. He is a Haredi fellow who lives in the neighborhood of the hooligans and has had enough. He has on many occassions fought back against them using similar tactics to the ones used by the terrorists themselves in their terrorizing of the Bet Shemesh citizens.

Stern has put up "pashkevilim" publicizing terrorists and their activities. Stern has, supposedly, reported some of them to the authorities. He has physically fought with the hooligans. He has pulled down some of their signs. He was involved in the recent counter-protest against the RBS B hooligans/terrorists. He does not put up with their baloney.

The terrorists could not take that someone is finally fighting them on their own turf using their own means. He must have been making a dent in their activities, because they made it personal. They recently attacked him publicly with the following signs and advertisements in local publications... You can click on the two images to enlarge and read all they claim he has done. They intend it to show how bad of a person he is, but in the eyes of most Bet Shemesh residents I suspect it only increases his honor.

I guess that was not enough because last night they decided the teach him a lesson. A group of these hooligan/terrorists attacked him outside of his house. They beat him up and they smashed his car windows. Below you can see pictures of the ambulances that came to treat him and take him to the hospital, along with his smashed up car (not a clear picture), and of him talking to the medics and the police. Hopefully he was identifying the perps and the police will bring them into custody soon.

This situation has gotten way out of control. They take the law into their own hands, they harass people with a different outlook on life, they try to chase everyone else away, they try to appoint their own rabbonim as leaders of neighborhoods that are populated mostly by other people. It is an outrage and we need more people like Tuvia Stern who are willing to stand up to them.

Jan 20, 2008

2 links

The end of an era has arrived. Soccer Dad is taking down his shingle.. He is hosting Haveil Havalim #150 and then transferring management of HH to Jack...

There is an interesting discussion going on at A Mother in Israel about the 7 incarcerated girls (now down to 3) who have refused to recognize the authority of the State...

remember the two murdered hikers (video)

Dovid Rubin and Achikam Amichai were two young men on a hike through the Hebron hills. They were gunned down a couple of weeks ago by Palestinian policemen, who at one time would have been called terrorists, but now we have armed them and called them policemen.

The following presentation was created to memorialize the two young men...

Bais Yaakov schools bucking the system

In this week's local rag, there was an article about a call from the Rabbonim, from local all the way up to Rabbis Elyashiv and Shteinman, regarding Bais Yaakov schools for girls that have begun to introduce more secular education into the curriculum and some that prepare the students to take the Bagrut exams from the Ministry of Education.

The Rabbis are decrying the situation as Bais Yaakov schools are part of the haredi school system which rejects participation in the Bagrut exams, along with rejecting any supervision of the curriculum by the Ministry of Education. An excerpt from the letter published in the name of Rav Elyashiv says, "There is no place for studies in Bais Yaakov that lead to the exams of the bagrut,as there is an inherent contradiction in the education of Bais Yaakov that aspires to yiras shamayaim (fear of heaven) and the educational system that leads to the bagrut exams."

The contradiction uses a nuance of the difference between the Hebrew words "chinuch" and "haskalah". They both mean "education", but the nuances of each are different. "Chinuch" refers to education in the sense of upbringing and nurturing, while "haskala" refers to education in the sense of scholarliness, learnedness, enlightenment, etc.

Bais Yaakov, the Rabbis say, educates in the form of training and upbringing, while the general education system is educating using the "haskala" system. The bagrut which is based on the haskala system, is inappropriate, nay - contradictory, for the Bais Yaakov system to be teaching.

The Rabbonim expressed wonder that any school bearing the name "Bais Yaakov" can offer studies towards bagrut exams. They said "Bais Yaakov it isn't! Either have a Bais Yaakov or have studies for bagrut, but don't call it a Bais Yaakov if you have studies for bagrut".

Clearly the Israeli system of Bais Yaakov schools is more "Haredi" or more conservative and old-style than in other places. But this statement that it is either Bais Yaakov or bagrut is extremely bombastic. There are Bais Yaakov schools all around the world, including in Israel, that offer more modern forms of education, more secular studies in their curriculum, that cater to more "modern" communities that still want to have the Bais Yaakov education but need it adjusted to their realities.

Bais Yaakov schools have never been is rigid in their classification. They have been controlled by local administration wherever they are opened. I assume there must be some criteria by which one can determine whether hsi school should be called Bais Yaakov or whether there is absolutely no connection between Bais Yaakov and his school. Also there must be some criteria by which the organization accepts a school within its fold and allows it to use the Bais Yaakov name. The fact that there is such a wide range of styles within the Bais Yaakov system proves to me that the above statement is simply not true, though they may wish it to be.

Maybe they are simply attempting to change policy within the Bais Yaakov system, but until now policy has clearly been to allow a certain amount of liberty to the local administration to decide curriculum.

The background, at least in bet Shemesh, for the recent outcry by the Rabbis, seems to be a local Bais Yaakov high school. The school is called Ko Tomar and has been very successful. They started off a number of years ago catering to the community that wanted a good secular education as well as a Bais Yaakov style education for the religious studies. The school developed a very good reputation over time and has attracted girls from all over Bet Shemesh, along with from other cities who were attracted by the schools style. Ko Tomar prepared girls for the Bagrut exams and people who wanted Bais Yaakov but more liberal, more modern more secular education, would send there.

Ko Tomar also had the distinction that they were the only Bais Yaakov style high school for girls in Ramat Bet Shemesh. There is a Bais Yaakov in old Bet Shemesh that is considered extremely haredi and they have always been reluctant to accept girls from RBS claiming that RBS girls, even the most haredi of them, are too modern for their school overall. It took a lot of protexia for a parent to be able to get his daughter in there. So it was either Ko Tomar, the Haredi school in BS if you could get your daughter in, or having your daughter travel to Jerusalem every day for school. A couple of years ago a local Bais Yaakov high school was started by Mrs. Perlstein (the wife of Rabbi Perlstein).

Within the past couple of years there has been a phenomenon of Ko Tomar becoming more and more Haredi. The reason for this seems to be that more and more Bais Yaakov graduates are going there than were previously. Now that the Perlstein school is open, it has been even harder to get in to the BS school, as they do not want to step on Perlsteins toes and take girls from her domain. On the other hand, parents overwhelmingly seem unwilling to send their daughters to Perlstein's school. There are various theories why this is true, ranging from some who consider the school to be very poorly run and a weak education to those who want nothing to do with the Perlsteins.

The problem is that locally that leaves them only with the choice of Ko Tomar. So many Bais Yaakov families have been sending their daughters to Ko Tomar, when previously it likely would have been considered too modern. A result of this is naturally with all the Bais Yaakov graduates attending Ko Tomar, Ko Tomar has "frummed out" moving much more toward the general Haredi style, though they have not changed their curriculum from what I hear.

A result of this is that a new modern high school has been started this past year to cater to all the girls that Ko Tomar used to cater to. Those families now consider Ko Tomar too "black" and wanted a more modern education so they started a new high school, more in the fashion of the original Ko Tomar.

This background is all fine and dandy, but now that means that a Bais Yaakov school (Ko Tomar) that is taking a lot of Bais Yaakov school graduates is teaching a more modern curriculum and preparing for the Bagrut exams. So even though they flew under the radar previously, they have now been targeted as bucking the Bais Yaakov system.

What is the problem with bagrut exams anyway? Why is it such a big deal?

One reason given is the contradiction mentioned above in styles of education. Another, more serious reason the Rabbonim are disturbed about, is that any girl preparing to take the bagrut exams will desire to further her education at a later time, and may also desire to use her certification at a later time. She will then continue her education or look fro employment at places that are considered off limits to a Haredi girl. The gedolim look at this certification as a key to eventually attending university or seeking employment in the general workplace. If they would not offer bagrut, but only Bais Yaakov certification, the girls would be limited later to nly staying within the Bais Yaakov system, because no other system recognizes the certificates of Bais Yaakov.

So instead of educating the girls and letting the great education stand on its own, they are concerned that some girls might choose to go other ways. Is that how confident they are in the quality of their own system that they need to be so concerned? Instead of letting people choose for themselves how to live in the future, they prefer to limit the people because "they might make the wrong choice" which would be to choose a different system..

The Haredi system is a good system (with flaws like every system has flaws). They have nothing to be afraid of. Someone who wants to educate their children in the best Torah education available will choose Bais Yaakov. Adults should be considered mature enough to choose and be allowed to choose the daily nuances in their lives without being limited by such restrictions. A parent who does not the child to be exposed to this, will send to a different school. But why impose your way on parents who chose to send to a school that does offer the future options? Why do you not trust people to make the right choice? Why do you take away free will and impose only your will? Why are you so afraid of people comparing your system to other systems?

Jan 17, 2008

Are Jews like fois gra?

There is a new blog out there called.. The Way to No-Thing... he even compares Jews to fois gra... check it out...

Ruby Rivlin must read my blog!

Last May, 8 months ago, I wrote a post suggesting that the residents of Sderot and the surrounding areas build/buy Kassam rockets, financed either by the government or by private donations, and shoot them into Gaza. Every time a rocket is shot into Israel, we should be shooting similar rockets back, right into civilian areas. They should feel what our citizens are feeling and maybe them suffering in a similar fashion will urge them to stop the rocket attacks.

Yesterday, MK Ruby Rivlin, who was recently a serious candidate for the slot of President of Israel, and before that was Speaker of the Knesset, wrote an op-ed piece for the NRG website, affiliated with the Maariv newspaper. In his op-ed piece Rivlin calls for a similar solution to the one I suggested 8 months ago, albeit in a slightly more humanitarian fashion.

Rivlin says Israel, considering the situation we have come to, should assist Gaza financially in building bomb shelters. Simultaneously, Israel should establish artillery and rocket units of similar strength and capacity to the Kassem and Grad rockets being shot from Gaza into Israel.

Then every time they shoot rockets at Israel, we should shoot rockets immediately, one for one, at Gaza. Let them feel what we feel, precisely.

Shabbos segula, Shabbos shira

This shabbos is famously known as Shabbos Shira. This is because we read the Shiras Ha'Yam, the song of praise Israel sang after the splitting of the sea, in this week's Torah portion.

There is more happening this shabbos. It was a jam packed week and is a jam packed shabbos.

Not only do we read this week the Shiras Ha'Yam, but we also read the Parshas Ha'Man. That is the portion describing how Hashem began giving the manna to the Jews in the desert. This past Tuesday was considered a special day to read the portion of the Parshas Ha'Man and is, in tradition, considered a segula for one's livelihood.

In actuality, the portion is beneficial to be read every day, but Tuesday of Shabbos SHira is ocnsidered especially "seguladic".

The segula of it is that if you read it and consider what the real source of our sustenance is, from Hashem and not from our own efforts (though those are necessary), than Hashem will, hopefully, reward us with increased sustenance.

So on Tuesday we had the manna, on Shabbos we have the shira, and there is one more.

This shabbos there is the custom of feeding the birds with bread crumbs. The reason for this is two-fold, connected to the manna and connected to the shira.

One reason is because when Hashem first gave the manna, and on Friday the Jews were told to collect double portions as the manna would not fall on shabbos itself. When some decided to make trouble and put manna back out on Friday night so when everyone would wake up shabbos morning and see the manna outside they would think Moshe was wrong and it did fall on shabbos, the birds came to save the day. The birds came and ate the manna and the plot was foiled.

As thanks to them, this shabbos, on the portion of the giving of the manna, we put out bread for the birds.

The second connection is the birds speak in song. Song is considered the realm of birds. Ever hear the phrase "She sings like a bird"? So on this shabbos, when we use the tool of the birds, we sing the praise of Hashem for splitting the sea and saving us, we thank the birds for allowing us their tool, and we put out bread for them.

I remember growing up that we would put out the bread crumbs for the birds on shabbos. Only much later did I learn that many say that one should preferably put the bread out on Friday, as it is prohibited to feed wild birds on shabbos. One can only feed on shabbos pets that are in your own possession.

However, the custom still stands and some people say this is the exception. So some put the bread out on Friday, and some put the bread out on shabbos. If you wish to put out bread as per the custom and are unsure of what to do (Friday or shabbos), ask your local Rabbi for advice as to the best way of dealing with this custom.

Yossi the cabbie

Check out Rav Lazer Brody's blog, Lazer Beams, for a great story about Yossi the Cabbie...

And while you are at it, check out Neil's post on a lesson he learned in Walgrees about product placement

hitting back at the kannoim

The above is a sign that was placed as an advertisement in local (Bet Shemesh) newspapers.

I do not speak much Yiddish, mostly just a few words here and there, and I understand a few more. I do not understand the sign above. it is supposed to be a response to the zealots. The man pictured (named Moshe Friedman) is one of the leading zealots in Bet Shemesh. He is responsible, in one form or another, for many of the violent activities that we all read about in the media, or suffer from if you actually live in Bet Shemesh.

It seems these guys have been trying to appoint a certain Rav in a new neighborhood of Bet Shemesh. The neighborhood in question is the Heftziba neighborhood - the one where the builder went belly up because of misusing the money collected from his buyers.

Other locals are against the appointment of this specific Rav, yet the zealots/fanatics/crazies have made their own appointment and have been trying to force the other residents of the neighborhood to live by their rules.

The response to that was the advertisement above, supposedly put out by local Ger Hassidim who oppose those fanatics and do not want to be dictated to.

It depicts the Friedman fellow as if he is the owner of a contact lens company. The bottom phrase of the ad says "A new outlook, a new life". I think that is what it says. If anyone can give a better translation of the yiddish phrase, please put it in the comments.

I am not sure how this "hits back at them". Is it because it makes it look like the Friedman guy works for a living, which would be disgraceful to him? is it suggesting that he obtain a new perspective and that will change his life?

I am not sure as to the nuance, and am looking for an explanation.

Dov Bear has some more details of who is who and how it is broken down.

Jan 16, 2008

Rabbi on Jay Leno show (video)

Avigdor Lieberman press conference (video)

Here is [part of] the press conference earlier today in which Avigdor Lieberman announced he is leaving the government coalition..

donate to kever Devorah Ha'Neviah

Information flyer: click on image to enlarge. Please make a donation to assist in the renovations of the kever. The reward for helping to renovate this kever is immeasurable.

For further information please see http://devorahhanevia.com

May HaShem reward your efforts in Olam Haba, amen.

who has left and who is left

So Avigdor Lieberman did not take Olmert's bribe of the raid in Gaza... Good for him. The government still stands, but it is now in a more precarious position. Any one party to leave the coalition now will force new elections as the government would no longer have a majority.

Lieberman's departure leaves the coalition with a majority of 67 MKs. If Labor should leave (as they have promised to do upon the release of the final Winograd Report scheduled for January 30), or if Shas should leave, the government will fall.

This gives both of those parties a tremendous hold on Olmert. Shas already squeezed out of Olmert the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and they are expected to begin trying to squeeze more budget money (child allowances, yeshiva allowances, etc...) from Olmert who now cannot let them leave the government. I do not know what Labor is going to try to squeeze out of Olmert, but there will be something, as Barak has indicated he really does not want to leave the government, though he might have to because of his previous promise.

Shas, for its part, says it will not accept negotiations regarding Jerusalem, and when they happen, Shas will be out of the government within minutes.

What is their response when questioned about the fact that such negotiations are already, openly, taking place? They say these negotiations are not serious. When the negotiations get serious, that is when they will leave.

Shmitta: what to plant on Tu B'Shvat (video)

It is a little early for this post, but I felt like posting now...

Tu B'Shvat is coming. Next week. Next Tuesday to be precise.

I was wondering how Tu B'Shvat would be celebrated this year, due to the "inconvenience" of it being a shmitta year. Tu B'Shvat is the new year for the trees and is generally celebrated by planting new trees. This year that obviously causes a problem, as we are not allowed to plant new trees. So I was wondering what would happen.

I saw this notice on an email list, and it seems to present a nice solution, at leats in the spirit of Tu B'Shvat..:

Join Young Israel's Tu B'Shvat Virtual Tree Planting Campaign

Planting Trees in Israel on Tu B'Shvat During a Shmittah Year? What is one to do???

National Council of Young Israel, Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel, and Yisrael Hatzair – the Young Israel Movement in Israel, are pleased to announce a unique Tu B'Shvat campaign for this special Shmittah year - during which we are prohibited from planting trees in Eretz Yisrael.

Young Israel's Tu B'Shvat Virtual Tree Planting Tzedaka Campaign will collect funds for forests and green areas to be planted in the communities populated by Gush Katif Evacuees – immediately after the Shmittah year.

To "plant" a tree online for $18 USD (NIS 72) go to www.youngisraelrabbis.org.il and click on the "Shmittah" logo (or go directly to https://co.clickandpledge.com/sp/d1/default.aspx?
wid=17716 )

Donations are considered tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law in the United States and Israel. USA (501 (c)3) Tax ID #03-0381957 (Young Israel Programs - CYIR). Israel (Article 46) Tax ID#580162691 (Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel).

We are also pleased to announce the compilation of a virtual sourcebook for synagogues and individuals to utilize in their celebrations of Tu B'Shvat. The virtual sourcebook is meant to encourage synagogues and communities in North America and Israel to pay special attention to one of the very important but often overlooked new year's celebrations on the Jewish calendar.

One does not have to be associated with "Young Israel" to benefit from the Virtual Sourcebook. It will be available for download for all – free of charge.

To download the Young Israel Tu B'Shvat Virtual Sourcebook, click the following link: www.youngisraelrabbis.org.il/vsbk.htm

Those who for one reason or another cannot download the sourcebook can order a hard copy for $10 USD (NIS 40 in Israel) by contacting Young Israel: US/Canada: 212.929.1525 ext. 100; Israel: 02.625.4983 ext. 100; email: 15shvat@youngisraelrabbis.org.il <mailto:15shvat%40youngisraelrabbis.org.il>

Tu B'Shvat Sameach from all of us at Young Israel!

Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel

58 King George Street, Suite 109, Jerusalem 94262 ISRAEL

Tel: 02-625-4983 Fax: 02-623-0275

Email: info@youngisraelrabbis.org.il

<mailto:info%40youngisraelrabbis.org.il> Web:


National Council of Young Israel

111 John Street, Suite 450, New York, New York 10038

Tel: 212-929-1525 Fax: 212-727-9526

Email: ncyi@youngisrael.org <mailto:ncyi%40youngisrael.org> Web:


Yisrael Hatzair - The Young Israel Movement in Israel

58 King George Street, Suite 106, Jerusalem 94262 ISRAEL

Tel: 02-623-1361 Fax: 02-623-1363 Email: young-il@zahav.net.il <mailto:young-il%40zahav.net.il>

Sounds like a good solution to me.....

And because I am posting about Tu B'Shvat's imminent arrival already now, I am also going to post some Tu B'Shvat related entertainment...

Here is the classical Tu B'Shvat song:

Tu B'Shvat has also taken on a celebratory atmosphere in general with all sorts of celebrations and parties happening around Israel. Here is a clip from the party-like atmosphere at the shouk og Mahane Yehudah in Jerusalem:

And here is a clip of Tu B'Shvat rap put out by the JNF. These are the guys responsible for planting almost all the trees in Israel...:

Jan 15, 2008

Whatever it takes to stay in power

Is Olmert extending his grip on the seat of the Prime Ministership by killing Palestinians?

Just yesterday Olmert announced that he still does not approve any incursion or action in Gaza.

Today Avigdor Lieberman was to meet (I think they are meeting now) with Olmert to discuss the government's diplomatic moves. Olmert and Livni are leading talks with the PA that include negotiations over the core issues of Jerusalem.

Yisrael Beiteinu, led by Avigdor Lieberman, has come out against these talks and announced that when the government begins talks on the "core issues" they will leave the coalition. Lieberman is against negotiating over the core issues, and especially right now - he says there are many things to be discussed before getting to the core issues, so to discuss them now is premature. He announced he would leave the government when such discussions take place.

These discussions are officially taking place now.

Lieberman, in anticipation of a possible announcement that he is leaving the government, is meeting with Olmert to clarify what is exactly being negotiated. Olmert is expected to try to convince Lieberman to stay in the coalition.

With Lieberman expected to announce his decision tonight, suddenly today Olmert approves an offensive in Gaza that has so far killed 17 Palestinians (as long as they continue shooting rockets at Israel, as long as they support a government of terror, as long as they continue to hold Gilad Shalit captive, I will say "phoot phoot phoot", "the more the merrier", "kein yirbu", etc.).

So has Olmert approved this attack in Gaza simply so he could come to Lieberman with something in his hand's? He can now say "Look at how I fight terror", so stay in the government. I will protect Israel's interests even though you are against these negotiations.

Is Olmert buying his stay in power on the blood of the Palestinians? hmmmm

This will, of course, be added to his purchase of power with the Shastitutes. Olmert created a new ministry, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, specifically to give to Shas so they would not abandon the government coalition. This was just approved yesterday.

Yitzchak Cohen, the MK from Shas who has been appointed the Minister of religious Affairs, claims that it was necessary to create the ministry just to give him the authority (that had been handled by him under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office until now) so he could ensure proper payments of salaries to the Rabbis and mikva attendants and others who have not been paid for months.

Why he could not use the responsibility he had as running the department when it was under the PMO with his management, and only now that it is his ministry, I do not know.

But Olmert bought Shas by giving themthis ministry and all the budgets and jobs that come with it.

So he has now bought an extension of power by bribing Shas, and killing Palestinians for Lieberman.

Whatever it takes.

upping the ante

Kosher cell phones.

A recent study analyzing the penetration of kosher cell phones into the market found that among the Haredi consumer, they had achieved 60% penetration. I am not sure on the source of the numbers (how did they calculate the number of households and people considered Haredi for this study?), but they claim that 60% of Haredi people with cellphones have switched and are using the kosher cell phone rather than the regular phone.

To remind you, "kosher cell phone" is a type of phone that has every feature aside from regular phone calls disabled. There is no internet access, no emails, no sms, no camera, etc. Nothing but talk.

It seems that the success of the Haredi pressure to transferring to a kosher cell phone has encouraged them. They see the success and have now set their sites on increasing the percentage.

The Yated Ne'eman recently reported that an order has come from Rav Elyashiv to school administrators that schools in the Haredi school system should no longer accept any child whose parents use the regular cell phone and refuse to switch to the kosher model. By not switching to the kosher cell phone, "they have removed themselves from the Haredi society that has united in trying to abolish this plague [of regular cell phones]", and that should prevent them from joining our schools. Upon registration of children to schools, parents should be made to sign agreements that they do not use regular cell phones.

Jan 14, 2008

Today is the day - mehadrin bus court hearing

Actually I do not know if the decision will be today, but the court hearing for the status of the mehadrin bus lines is going to be today.

To remind you, after a number of instances in which violence was used to "enforce" the status of mehadrin buses, sometimes it was used even on non-mehadrin lines, a group of women led by Naomi Ragen and Miriam Shear filed suit to declare the mehadrin bus lines illegal as being discriminatory and promoting inequality among the sexes.

The hearing is set for today. I think they will come to a settlement of some sort, as the state will do everything in its power to not get involved in what many will call anti-religious activities, by canceling all mehadrin lines, which is really the only legal decision the courts can take.

If they get canceled, I will shed no tears. I have no problem with communities that so desire to establish such lines. The problem is when they over step their boundaries and try to force it on other people. They used violence and in the process shot themselves in the foot. So, they made their beds and now might have to end up sleeping in them.

We are waiting to see what the courts do...

Adventures in Eretz Yisrael: Central Shomron: Avarta - the hornet's nest

I remember growing up in Chicago what the cold was like. On the really cold days, and especially when it was really windy, the ice cold chill would rip right through your bones. It did not matter how many layers of clothing you were wearing. If you were caught outside on one of those really cold days, such as the 10 below zero days with it being 20 below with the windchill factor, or the coldest day I remember when it hit -40 and was something like -80 with the windchill factor (I just did a google search and found the coldest day in Chicago history to be January 20 1985 when it hit -27 and was -93 with the windchill factor), you would feel it like ice running through your veins. People would die of hypothermia and lose fingers and toes to frostbite.

For the first time I can remember in the 17+ years I have lived in Israel I felt that Chicago cold in Israel. This weekend, from Thursday night through Shabbos, and it will continue through about Tuesday (though not quite as bad), Israel experienced sub-zero temperatures. It was really cold.

And if you think it was really cold in Bet Shemesh or Jerusalem, you should have been out trekking through the hills of the Shomron with me on Thursday night!! That was really cold! The Shomron is always cold at night. It is a high area and gets windy and cold. But in these sub-zero temperatures, it was like the old days in Chicago with the wind ripping through your bones, no matter how bundled up you were!

So what was I doing in the hills of the Shomron in sub-zero weather?

That leads us to the review of my latest Adventure in Eretz Yisrael..

At about 8:30 PM on Thursday night, Jameel calls me up on the phone. Whenever Jameel calls, you know something is up. He tells me that he just got word they are opening the village of [I could not catch the name of the village], and this is a place they only open to Jews once a year. In this village are the grave sites of Elazar and Isamar, 2 of the sons of Aharon Ha'Kohen, and the gravesite of the 70 elders. The buses would be leaving from "Bat Shalosh" at about 12 am and there was no need to pre-register.

We went over the directions quickly, and hung up. I called Jameel about 10:15 to go over the directions again, as I am not as familiar with the roads of the Shomron as he is. He tells me that he probably would not be going, but we went over the directions again.

So I head out to the Shomron. The trip was pretty smooth. Driving through the Shomron at night is a bit spooky, if you are not familiar with the roads. You drive through some Arab villages that straddle the "highway". You know that if you make a wrong turn you will end up on the morning news as the victim of a lynching. The signs "could be better", the lighting of the roads "could be better".

So I pass the Tapuach Junction, and Bat Shalosh is supposed to be a minute or two after that. I see two hassidic men hitchhiking on the side of the road. I figured they are probably going to the same place I am going, so I pulled over and offered them a ride.

They look at me and ask, in pure ivris, "Ata Misnachel?" - are you a settler? I said I am not but do they need a ride. They ask where I am going and I said to Shchem, to the kevarim (I said shchem just because it is the general area, but these graves are not in shchem, rather in a neighboring village). Their eyes get real wide and they say, Really? You are going to Shchem??"

So I explained that I am going near Shchem to the graves of Elazar, etc. They said forget it. They are tryign to get into Shchem and go to Kever Yosef. I said that is not open tonight, but these other ones are. they said they know but are trying to get in anyways. I said goodbye as I am not going there. I only go when it is open and secured.

So I get to Bat Shalosh and board the bus.

I still had no idea where I was going, so I asked someone on the bus. He told me the name of the village, and said that tradition, as brought in the midrash and the shulchan aruch, is that this shabbos would be the yahrtzeit of the zkeinim (elders) that are buried there. I do not know if it is the yahrtzeit of all 70, or just some of them. I also do not know if all 70 are buried there or just some of them.

So after some minor delays, we are finally off in the armored bus to the village of Avarta. Avarta is a village on the outskirts of Shchem (or Nablus in English). When I later told my brother (the mercenary soldier) where I was, he knew of the village and said "that is part of Balata". According to the map below, it is not really part of Balata, but the borders of these villages sometimes are unclear and Avarta is next to Balata, so at least in spirit it is part of Balata, even if in terms of municipal services it might not be.

Balata is known to be a hornet's nest for terrorists, and Avarta is no different. I think even most terrorists are afraid to go there!

The bus brings us in to the village and we arrive at the grave marker of Isamar ben Aharon Ha'Kohen.

They handed out sheets that had special prayers that were written to be said by these graves. Eveyone davened, from the sheets, general tehillim, personal prayers... After I davened, I was snapping some photos. It was dark and I was just snapping without really looking for something specific. One funny resulting photograph is the one below where it looks like this one guy smashed his face into a cream pie which splattered all over the grave marker. In reality he had simply just positioned himself there, over some grafitti, to daven...

From there we were told that the site of the elders is a just a few minutes walk away. So we start to head out in that direction. The soldiers stop us asking us where we are going. When we tell them we are walking to the zkeinim, they say we have to wait and we cannot go anywhere on our own. So, despite the fact that they had already secured the whole area, they sent a patrol of soldiers further down the street to make sure it was still clear, and then they escorted us. BTW, the soldiers were heavily, and I mean heavily, armed.
The site of the zkeinim was next to a small Arab cemetery. Their site was a structure, not a marker. I guess they were buried underneath it somewhere. We went in to the structure, which contained 2 small rooms and everyone davened. It was nice and warm in there, compared to the freezing cold outside, so people were reluctant to leave this one.. The walls were covered in soot, probably from having been burned by the locals. The soot though must have been old because it was hard on the walls, and was not coming off.

As I made my way towards the front of the rooms, towards where people were davening, I noticed some people were taking turns to bend down near the floor to lean on the entrance to what seemed like a cave. I took my turn and davened there for a moment, assuming that cave must be where the zkeinim were buried. I also snapped a couple of shots... (it looks like some remnants of a beer bottle are in there if you enlarge the photo)When they cleared us out of that area, they sent us on our way to the last site - the site of Elazar ben Aharon Ha'Kohen. This site was on the other side of the village and they made us go by bus. It took some time for the bus to weave through the small roads of the village. The bus could only go so far and we had to continue by foot. It was an unusual situation - we had to walk up the side of a mountain in the pitch black (and still freezing cold). We literally had to climb up gripping to rocks in the field, as this was near the top of the hill.

After davening for a bit, I noticed some people with steaming hot plates of food. I went to see what was happening and saw that someone had brought a big pot of cholent to warm up the visitors! I have no idea how he got this big pot of cholent there, but he did. He put it on some stones and lit a fire to keep it hot. he dished out hundreds of plates of cholent and gave people the energy to continue on for a bit longer.

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