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Jun 30, 2011

Life in Israel Newsletter Sent

The first edition of the Life in Israel newsletter is being sent out as I type this post! In it I give you a behind the scenes look at the splashiest post of the month, and a list of what I thought were the most popular posts of June. If you have not signed up yet, be sure to sign up and receive future newsletters.

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Kareem Contradicts Himself About Rabbi Lau's Liberation

About a month ago I linked to a story about an upcoming meetup between Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau (formerly chief rabbi fo Israel, currently chief rabbi of Tel Aviv) and former NBA basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The cause of the meeting is Kareem's father who had supposedly been among the soldiers who liberated Buchenwald, and Rabbi Lau himself as a young child.

It seems that there might have been inaccuracies in the story, and Kareem himself has changed his tune as to how his father was involved.

Rabbi Green has the details, and the discrepancy leaves one scratching his head:
(excerpt) Henry Abbott of ESPN.com linked to the story reported on my blog and asked Kareem, “I have heard this amazing tale about your dad and a boy he helped liberate from a concentration camp at the end of World War II. Would you mind recounting briefly the story of Rabbi Lau and your dad?”
Below is Kareem’s answer:
That story — people have gotten that all mixed up. There was a reporter in Israel who put my father into the tank battalion that liberated Dachau. My dad was a police officer in New York. One of the guys that he was a police officer with was in a tank battalion that liberated Dachau. Rabbi Lau was a boy in Buchenwald, which was also liberated by black troops, but it was a totally different group than the one that my dad’s friend was in. The group that helped liberate Buchenwald was the 183rd Combat Engineers, an all black unit.
To further illustrate the mix up, (perhaps due to the language barrier of the Israeli reporter?) Mr. Jabbar continued to clear the air swirling around this story by explaining that:
The reporter in Israel mixed all of the facts up, and got it all conflated. People were thinking my dad was a lieutenant in the 761st Tank Battalion. My dad was a lieutenant in the New York City Transit Police! And that’s how he got to know Smitty, who was one of the liberators of Dachau and other camps.
That said, he did express his great respect for the Rabbi when he mentioned that as early as 1997 he had met Rabbi Lau when he was in Israel. Indeed, Abdul-Jabbar remarked that, “I just wanted to say hi to him because he had a particular regard for the black Americans that were involved in his liberation!”
However, this recent claim of Mr. Jabbar goes contrary to what friends, acquaintances, and even published author and the former Dean of Yeshiva University High Schools of Los Angeles, Rabbi Dovid Landesman, had heard from Kareem himself!
A number of years ago, Kareem visited an Orthodox synagogue in Beverly Hills by the name of: Beth Jacob Congregation. Indeed, he addressed the audience and as Rabbi Landesman, (who ironically enough wrote a book entitled, There are no Basketball Courts in Heaven) recalled here:
He retold the story, mentioning that he had been amazed that Rabbi Lau a]had remembered his uncle’s name (after all these years) and b] gone to the trouble of making a reception to express his gratitude (towards Jabbar during his visit to Israel). He told the audience that it had been a life lesson on what it means to express thanks!
For more of the story, see Rabbi Green's article..

Newly Proposed Law About Sporting Events on Shabbos

A new law has been proposed in Knesset, that really should not be at all necessary. This issue should not require a new law being passed, and it should really have been standard practice in the Jewish State all along.

The newly proposed law, by MK Uri Ariel of the National Union party, would allow religious sportsmen, or any athlete that considers himself to be shomer shabbat to declare themselves as such and allow them to continue playing in the professional sports industry without being required to play on Shabbos.

Right now, almost all sporting events in Israel take place on Shabbos. That means someone religious, or even masorati - traditional who does not want to play on Shabbos, is stuck and cannot play professional sports. A number of times people have tried to petition the various leagues to change the situation to schedule most games for weekdays. The problem is not just for the athletes, but the fans as well suffer by not being able to watch games and attend games. the leagues have always rebuffed such efforts, claiming Saturday as people's only day off and the league would suffer if most games would be switched to weekdays.

As I said, this is something that should be basic. A person in the Jewish State should be able to say he keeps Shabbos and not have to make such a choice. I consider this law to be on that should be superfluous. Unfortunately it is not. I hate "religious laws" and I think they do more harm than good, as they create a lot of bad-will..

So, according to the proposed law, if it should pass, teams or athletes could declare themselves as shomrei shabbat, and the league would then not be allowed to schedule that team with any games on Shabbos. In international tournaments abroad, the league would have put forth its best efforts to try to get games scheduled on days other than Shabbos, for such athletes and teams who are shomer shabbat. (source: Ladaat)

As I said, I think this is a horrible law, and the content of it should really be standard practice anyway. Unfortunately it is not.

One way to avoid it, is by promoting a different law that would solve the problem in a different way. With the issue until now mainly being that teams were reluctant to schedule games on weekdays because of the availability of the fans, as people work and would not be able to come to games during the week, the idea of putting the "Sunday law", adopted recently by Silvan Shalom who has been working hard in recent months to drum up support for this law, into effect would solve this problem.

If Israel had a Western-style Sunday day off of work (it would require lengthening the weekday work-days by a bit to make up the lost hours), sporting events could take place on Sundays with no problem at all. That in addition to all the other benefits of creating a non-working-Sunday.

I say scrap this newly proposed law, as it should be unnecessary anyway. Instead promote a better law, a more positive (rather than negative) law of non-working-Sundays, and solve two problems for the price of one!

Jerusalem Light Festival (video)

Jerusalem Light Festival

Rav Lior Speaks About His Arrest (video)

Rav Dov Lior Speaks About His Arrest

Jerusalem (video)


Jun 29, 2011

Do Consumer Boycotts Work?

Do consumer boycotts work? Sometimes they do and sometimes they do not. I don't know what it depends on, perhaps it is simply dependent on which side of the fight has a stronger will, who blinks first, who calls the other's bluff.

the "cottage cheese boycott" that has been going on in Israel for the past 2 weeks or so is finally seeing some movement. After about 100,000 signed on to the Facebook page that detailed the boycott, and the manufacturers began seeing a drop in sales, they finally realized the people were serious this time. The question remains if they think the people are boycotting just the cottage cheese or will they really see, and not just say, that the cottage cheese has become the symbol for the generally rising consumer prices, especially of many basic dairy products.

Today Tnuva announced that they are slashing the price of cottage cheese by 12.5%, and the price to the consumer will be 5.9 NIS per container.

The consumer boycott worked.

or did it?

Tnuva only cut the price of cottage cheese. Are they hoping the people will be happy with that and then from now it will be back to business as usual? Do they realize that cottage cheese was only symbolic and the people want the prices of many other products cut as well/ Will the people accept this price cut and go back to buying or will they hold out for more broad price cuts?

Demands have been made by the people running the consumer boycott about which other dairy products need to have their prices lowered and to what level. The question is if the people will hold out and if the manufacturing companies will take them seriously.

Quote Of The Day

Quote Of The Day

Judaism is not the property of any political party. Everything possible must be done in order to separate religion from politics.

  -- Mekubal, Rav Yoshiyahu Pinto of Ashdod

Rav Pinto is quoted as saying this in a meeting with Tzippi Livni yesterday

Interesting Psak: Michel Michal

As is the common custom nowadays of naming babies after relatives or great people who have died, a number of babies have already been named after Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz who was buried just yesterday.

Yesterday morning an interesting shailoh was asked of Rav Chaim Kanievsky by a father who was going to be having a bris for his baby boy and naming him a little bit later on in the morning.

The father went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky after davening and asked if it is ok to name the baby "Michel Yehudah", considering he already has a daughter named "Michal"? Is it the same name or different?

Rav Kanievsky responded that there is no problem with it, and he can name the baby Michel Yehudah, as the names Michel and Michal are different names. (source: Bechadrei)

Why Can't A Rabbi Respond To The Police Summons?

There is a lot that can be discussed regarding the arrest of Rav Dov Lior yesterday. There are many aspects to the incident worth discussing, such as; the State's clamping down on halachic discussion, Rav Lior only wrote approbation to book and is not the actual author, why is this such an issue, freedom of speech, incitement, who is above the law, and more. I only want to talk about one point from this whole situation. That is, why could Rav Lior not go in for questioning.

I am not saying Rav Lior should have been arrested, not even saying he should have been called in for questioning (he should not have been), and it looks like the State was looking to pick a fight (I dont know if they were or were not, but it looks like they were).

After all is said and done, whether right or wrong, Rav Lior was called in for questioning by the police and he refused  to go. He did say, to his credit, that he would answer questions if they came to him, so he was not turning it into an anti-State issue, but he did refuse to respond to the police summons.

So I was thinking about this and I could not come up with a satisfying understanding of how this works. Why is it that a rabbi, and Rav Lior is not just any rabbi so I am not asking about him specifically but because of him, thinks that he doesn't have to go to the police to respond to a summons. I don't think rabbis think they are above the law, rather there is some organic respect that must be afforded to the bearer of the title that would excuse them from such "common" things.

So what is it about the title "rabbi" that makes people think they are excused? If a person was old, frail and infirm, I could understand asking the police to come to that person's house to ask the questions rather than making him go to the police. But just because the person bears the title "rabbi", why can he not show up to the police station? 

I bear the title rabbi before my name, though nobody uses it except for my mother (hi, Mom), so if the police should call me in for questioning about something, could I create a ruckus and refuse to go? What kind "rabbi" can do this? any rabbi? a teacher? a rosh yeshiva? a city rabbi? a shul rabbi? Who has to respond and go to the police, and for whom is it considered disrespectful?

Running The NYC Marathon For Gilad Shalit

Somebody is planning on running the New York City Marathon for Gilad Shalit this coming November. By "for Gilad shalit" he means he is trying to raise awareness of Gilad Shalit's plight.

He created a Facebook page for the event:
Gilad Shalit is a 24 year old Israeli. While most Israelis his age are completing university degrees, traveling the world or starting families, Gilad is being held in captivity by Hamas somewhere in the Gaza Strip. Five years ago, while serving in the Israeli Army, Gilad was captured after Palestinian militants infiltrated his army base on the border of Israel and Gaza. He has not been heard from or seen since.

Gilad's family has been working tirelessly to try and secure his freedom. Numerous world leaders have called for Gilad to be freed as soon as possible, to no avail. At times, it seemed that negotiations between Israel and Hamas were close to resulting in the freeing of Gilad, only to fall apart again.

In an effort to help the Shalit family RAISE GLOBAL AWARENESS about the plight of their son and brother, we are running the 2011 NYC Marathon in honor of Gilad Shalit with the message that Gilad's captivity has last far too long and it is time for our voices to be heard in helping return him to Israel.

Even if you cant be there on race day, you can still "attend" this event and HELP US BY joining our campaign as well as SHARING THIS EVENT with your friends.

For those of you running in the 2011 NYC Marathon, we are hoping for a critical mass of runners to join in and "Run for Gilad."

Everyone else - please start spreading the word and join us on race day - your cheers will get us to the finish line!

For runners who want to run with us on race day, or if you have any questions, comments, feedback, please contact 26forgilad@gmail.com.

***IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This is not about raising money, only awareness, which is far more important. Additionally, and without having to be said, we hope that he is out of prison long before the marathon takes place.***
anything that can be done to raise awareness is great.

You Ask- PM Netanyahu Answers! (video)

You Ask- PM Netanyahu Answers!

PM Benjamin Netanyahu invites people, and he explicitly invites people from Arab countries, to send him questions and he will respond..

Givot Olam: Our Main Pride - Shabbat Observance (video)

Givot Olam: Our Main Pride - Shabbat Observance

Shomer Shabbat Gas Exploration...

Jun 28, 2011

Defending The Wishes Of Rav Lefkowitz ztl

My son came back a little while ago from the levaya of Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz zt"l in Bnei Braq. His yeshiva, like many yeshivas, got a bus and took the boys to the levaya to show respect to one of the great roshei yeshiva of our generation and escort him to burial.

My son told me about the sheer masses of people, the number of buses from different yeshivas, who came to pay their respects.

However, I like the more human touches to such events, rather than just the bland, albeit impressive, reports of what happened. Interestingly, my son told me that only his two sons eulogized him, as per his wishes, and then only briefly with minimal praise.

Another interesting point he said is that according to his wishes, the only people allowed to be pallbearers, to help carry the body, were men over the age of 30, and they had to have gone to the mikve before the funeral. He told me that his friend was near the body at some point as it was being carried. The friend saw someone let go of the meeta, the stretcher upon which the body rests, so he maneuvered his way in to grab hold and have the  zchus of helping carry the rosh yeshivas body. As soon as he got hold of it, people started screaming, hitting and pushing him away, as his grabbing hold was against the wishes of the rosh yeshiva. he immediately let go as he was pushed aside.

Picture of The Day

Picture of The Day

a view of the crowd at Rav Lefkowitz's funeral today in Bnei Braq

IDF Spokesman In Arabic On the Need To Stop The Flotilla (video)

IDF Spokesman In Arabic On the Need To Stop The Flotilla

Man building full-scale Noah's ark (video)

Man building full-scale Noah's ark

Members Of The Tribe (video)

Members Of The Tribe

Jun 27, 2011

Picture Of The Day

Picture of the Day

This is really an image of the PFLP - the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as a terror cell was exposed while planning to abduct a soldier.

It took me a moment to realize what the picture was, and at first it reminded me of the following picture of a guy playing the didgeridoo from a post over 5 years ago:

Interesting Posts #277

1. Do Israelis Need Long Weekends?

2. The 20 Percent Difference: What Schools Can Learn From Google

3. The Corruption of The Rabbinate

4. Tuition vs The Dentist

5. A Parent Considering Public School

6. Put-Up or Shut-Up Time For Those Struggling To Pay Tuition

7. KAJ Choir Is Back With A Couple Of Beautiful Pieces Celebrating A Member's 100th Birthday

New Park In RBS Looks Like It Has Not Been Cleaned Since It Was Inaugurated

I had my first opportunity to take my little kids to the newest park in RBS on Nahal Arugot. The park was designed very nicely, with landscaping around the rocks and grassy areas and a small section, perhaps too small but that is another story, of park equipment.

The park on Nahal Arugot was just opened about a month ago, and unfortunately it looks like it has not been cleaned, and that nobody has come to maintain it in any way, since day one.

The areas for flowers and bushes are quickly being overtaken by the weeds, along with the garbage strewn about.

the whole park area, where the play equipment is, the grassy areas, the areas for planting, are all strewn with garbage. I get that it is windy and garbage gets blown around, and I get that parents need to be careful about throwing things in the garbage and not just tossing things to the ground, and that kids need to be taught to throw things out, but the city has to be cleaning the park regularly as well.

The two garbage cans I saw were completely filled, and overflowing.

There was absolutely not a drop of shade in the whole park, and with a little forethought, or even afterthought, they could have put in some structures or tarps that would give some shade over the equipment and benches, and make it more pleasant for parents and kids looking to enjoy the park. 

The one good thing, besides for the general potential of it being a really nice park, was that the water fountains worked nicely, which is fairly unusual.

These are a few pictures I snapped with my cellphone to show just a few of the spots. Ironically enough, shortly after I took these pictures, a friend of mine who is a city councilman came by with a nice big camera and snapped a few pictures of his own. I asked him what's happening, and he told me that they are inaugurating a new park in old Bet Shemesh this afternoon and everything is beautiful and clean. he told me that he will be handing out pictures to the journalists there to show that while the park in BS is beautiful, in RBS they put in a new park and have left it to simply deteriorate ever since.

I posted a few of these pictures to the Facebook page of iryat Bet Shemesh, and anybody using Facebook can feel free to go comment and flood them with requests to clean up the parks, along with the city in general.

Somebody put together this petition for BS/RBS people to join in requesting the city add more shading to the parks.. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/helpusshadeourparks/

Womans Lucks Out And Takes Top Two Prizes In Lottery Drawing

Talk about luck.

This 60-year-old woman, mother of 7 and grandma of 18 from Central Israel, played the lottery this past week and won. She did not just win, but she won both the first prize and the second prize. Her total winnings amounted to 36 million NIS.

She said her husband usually buys the lotto tickets and they usually win nothing at all. She decided she would give it a shot, testing her hand at it, and it paid off. her first lotto ticket and she won the top two prizes, including the double-pot.

They plan to use their new money to help their children buy apartments.

I don't buy lottery tickets often, but I did this past week. And I won 37 NIS. After having spent something like 46 NIS on the ticket. That is the kind of luck I have. Actually it was pretty good because generally when I buy a ticket I win nothing..

Hamas Hunger Strike

Is the hunger strike that Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails have threatened to hold supposed to scare anyone?

If they starve themselves to death, we won't need to feel guilty about stopping them from getting their university degrees while in prison, from taking away their smart phones and internet connections that allow them to be in regular contact with their families and friends on the outside, and the various other luxuries these prisoners have been given beyond the benefits normal prisoners enjoy.

Then again, the Hamas prisoners seemingly could not give up even their breakfast on just the first day of the hunger strike.. They won't lose even 5 pounds, or 5 kilo, at this rate. Maybe Israel should offer them free membership to a fitness center to knock off some of that extra weight..

Pitching In The Promised Land

I just came across this book, Pitching in the Promised Land: A Story of the First and Only Season in the Israel Baseball League, and it looks very interesting.

The league, when it existed, was a lot of fun, and it is really a shame it was not successful enough to continue. I am looking forward to getting the book and reading an insiders version of what went down.

Matisyahu: Jerusalem, Live in Jerusalem (video)

Matisyahu: Jerusalem, Live in Jerusalem

Matisyahu performed last week at The President's Conference in Jerusalem, and then he gave one concert in Jerusalem....

Allen West: "Palestine does NOT deserve a STATE." (video)

Allen West: "Palestine does NOT deserve a STATE."

Jun 26, 2011

Interesting Posts #276

1. The big talk of the week was the half-shabbos article

2. The Blame Game

3. The Ship That Marked The Birth Of A Unified Nation

4. 770 In Mitzpeh Ramon

5. The Inventor of The Segulah Ring

6. Should We Go To The Best Doctor?

7. Minhag Ashkenaz - Where Is The Uniformity?

Throw The Jew Down The Well, Started In England, Not Khazakistan

Jewish skeletons have recently been discovered in an ancient well in the town of Norwich in England. The skeletons date back to the 12th or 13th centuries.

From the BBC:
The remains of 17 bodies found at the bottom of a medieval well in England could have been victims of persecution, new evidence has suggested.

The most likely explanation is that those down the well were Jewish and were probably murdered or forced to commit suicide, according to scientists who used a combination of DNA analysis, carbon dating and bone chemical studies in their investigation.

The skeletons date back to the 12th or 13th Centuries at a time when Jewish people were facing persecution throughout Europe.

They were discovered in 2004 during an excavation of a site in the centre of Norwich, ahead of construction of the Chapelfield Shopping Centre. The remains were put into storage and have only recently been the subject of investigation.

Seven skeletons were successfully tested and five of them had a DNA sequence suggesting they were likely to be members of a single Jewish family.

DNA expert Dr Ian Barnes, who carried out the tests, said: "This is a really unusual situation for us. This is a unique set of data that we have been able to get for these individuals.

"I am not aware that this has been done before - that we have been able to pin them down to this level of specificity of the ethnic group that they seem to come from."

'Ethnic cleansing'
The team has been led by forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black, of the University of Dundee's Centre for Anthropology and Human Identification.

History Cold Case: The Bodies in the Well will be on BBC Two at 2100 BST on Thursday 23 June 2011
Professor Sue Black, Dr Xanthe Mallett and Professor Caroline Wilkinson will delve deeper into the mystery and attempt to recreate the faces of those found in the well

Professor Black, who went to the Balkans following the Kosovo war - where her job was to piece together the bodies of massacred Kosovan Albanians - said this discovery had changed the direction of the whole investigation.

Regarding the nature of the discovery, Professor Black said: "We are possibly talking about persecution. We are possibly talking about ethnic cleansing and this all brings to mind the scenario that we dealt with during the Balkan War crimes."

Eleven of the 17 skeletons were those of children aged between two and 15. The remaining six were adult men and women.

"In terms of the brutality of the ethnic cleansing, it was thought women and children quite frankly weren't worth wasting the bullets on," added Professor Black.

"Pregnant women were bayoneted because that way you got rid of a woman because that wasn't important and you got rid of the next generation because you didn't want them to survive. So I know what sort of pattern I am looking for."

Cushioned fall
Pictures taken at the time of excavation suggested the bodies were thrown down the well together, head first.

A close examination of the adult bones showed fractures caused by the impact of hitting the bottom of the well. But the same damage was not seen on the children's bones, suggesting they were thrown in after the adults who cushioned the fall of their bodies.

The team had earlier considered the possibility of death by disease but the bone examination also showed no evidence of diseases such as leprosy or tuberculosis.

Giles Emery, the archaeologist who led the original excavation, said at first he thought it might have been a plague burial, but carbon dating had shown that to be impossible as the plague came much later.

And historians pointed out that even during times of plague when mass graves were used, bodies were buried in an ordered way with respect and religious rites.

Norwich had been home to a thriving Jewish community since 1135 and many lived near the well site. But there are records of persecution of Jews in medieval England including in Norwich (see fact box).

Sophie Cabot, an archaeologist and expert on Norwich's Jewish history, said the Jewish people had been invited to England by the King to lend money because at the time, the Christian interpretation of the bible did not allow Christians to lend money and charge interest. It was regarded as a sin.

So cash finance for big projects came from the Jewish community and some became very wealthy - which in turn, caused friction.

"There is a resentment of the fact that Jews are making money... and they are doing it in a way that doesn't involve physical labour, things that are necessarily recognised as work... like people feel about bankers now," said Ms Cabot.

The findings of the investigation represented a sad day for Norwich.

Ms Cabot added: "It changes the story of what we know about the community. We don't know everything about the community but what we do know is changed by this."
I am not sure what this tells us, other than that there was plenty of anti-semitism back then. Considering that Norwich was the location of the first known blood libel against the Jews, somewhere around the same time period from which these bones are dated (perhaps the bones are slightly older, perhaps they are slightly newer), this does not seem to be much of a revelation.

I guess this where Borat got the song "Throw The Jew Down the Well" from...

The Boycotting of Shakira

It seems that after Shakira participated in The President's Conference last week in Jerusalem, speaking primarily about the importance of education, there have been calls in Egypt to ban her upcoming performance.

Shakira is scheduled to perform in Egypt at the end of November, but that is now in doubt as the pressure is increasing both on the interim government, and on the producers of the event, to boycott Shakira, who is Colombian and of Lebanese descent, and to cancel her concert.

And I thought we have peace with Egypt...

The Beginning Of Rebellion In Shas?

I saw these signs pasted up around Tel Aviv today, and I am told they are up in many places around the country.

These signs were put up in light of the announcement the other day of Aryeh Deri's return to politics and his intention to head a political party.

I figure like this:
If they were put up by Aryeh Deri supporters from outside of Shas, they would not want him to head the Shas party, but a new independent party. It makes sense, to me, that these are supporters of Aryeh Deri from within Shas. And that they are saying "the majority determines and not the rav" that looks like the beginning of a rebellion...

of course another option is that Aryeh Deri put them up himself and perhaps he himself wants to be head of the Shas party..

Interesting Psak: Flash Mobs

Rav Baruch Efrati was asked on Moreshet whether women could make a flash mob. They want to make abd video a flash mob in honor of the upcoming graduation from Ulpana. The mob would be just women, and the question is if there is a problem of tznius and if it is allowed.

Rav Efrati answered that in general dancing in the public domain is not a halachic problem. We see in Chazal many instances where it occurred, and it was part of the normal joy of life. However, when it is women dancing, they have to be extra careful as men should not be watching them, and definitely not dance with them.

Rav Efrati then added that he recommends arranging the dance at an event that is just women, such as in a womens institution, or at a conference in honor of Sherut Leumi, or a certain womens event that is coming up soon at Binyanei HaUma.

Rav Efrati paskened " You cannot dance in a place where there are men, or with men. Even if you are dressed modestly. Especially because this type of dance event draws extra attention from the people in the area."

Female Flash Mobs are out..

Jaabari and his Gilad Shalit Toy (video)

Jaabari and his Gilad Shalit Toy

Another sick image of the Arabs holding on to Gilad Shalit at all costs..this following the recently produced images of Gilad Shalit as a middle-aged man still being held, and after recent images of a "Gilad Shalit bride"...

Jun 25, 2011

Havdalah with the Orthodox Jewish communtiy in Putti, Uganda (video)

Havdalah with the Orthodox Jewish communtiy in Putti, Uganda

Hattip to Jewish Humor Central who has the story behind the video:
Just in case you didn't know (and we didn't know either until today) there are Orthodox Jews in Uganda.

They call themselves the Abayudaya of Kahal Kadosh She'erit Yisrael (remnants of Israel). They are a group of 129 adults and children who want to achieve a formal Orthodox conversion and to emigrate to Israel.

How this community came to be is a fascinating story that began around 1917, when Semei Kakungulu, who ruled Uganda as a "warrior and governor", studied the Tanach and was determined to adopt an observance that was similar to those of B'nei Yisrael - The Jewish People. Formally Kakungulu was practicing a Malakite faith, a mixture of Judaism and Christianity that nowadays could be referred to as "Messianic Judaism".

However Kakungulu discarded the Christian elements of his faith after coming across a verse in Isaiah (56: 1-8) which stated that Gentiles who unite and choose to observe the Mitzvah of Hashem would be accounted a blessing. Kakungulu decided to adopt and practice only the Mitzvot (laws) written in the Tanach - the "Old Testament" - Chumash. Being very ambitious with his new unique faith, Kakungulu, his family and all his followers circumcised all their foreskins and resolved to observe the mitzvah of Brit Milah from that day onwards, a practice carried on up to this day.

You can read the whole history of this community on their website, which includes photos, videos, testimonials from visitors, and a list of their projects which include building a mikveh, starting a chicken farm, growing coffee, recording and marketing a CD of their music, and sending a member of the community to a Yeshiva in America to be trained as a rabbi.

We wish you Shabbat Shalom, and after you watch and listen to the Abuyadaya singing the Havdalah ceremony at the conclusion of Shabbat, Shavua Tov. Enjoy!

Jun 24, 2011

Headline Of The Day

Headline Of The Day

Hamas: Israel's decision to toughen prison conditions violates international law

-- Haaretz, JPost, etc.

teapot? kettle? hello?

Montreal's quirky DJ, with a Jewish soul (video)

Montreal's quirky DJ, with a Jewish soul

Pictures in Your Heart, by Yaakov Klein (video)

Pictures in Your Heart

A very inspiring and moving song called "Pictures in Your Heart" The tune and lyrics were written by Yaakov Klein, a 16 year old boy in Yeshiva of FarRockaway, and sung by him as well. It is far beyond the average abilities of a 16 year old. There is an email at the end of the video if you wish to contact him for comments or other purposes.

I enjoyed the description of the video written by Yaakov Klein himself, about how it is "far beyond the average abilities of a 16 year old". Good for him. No shortage of self-confidence there...

Jun 23, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Quote Of The Day

I would have no problem if [Aryeh Deri] would join the Balad or Kadima parties. We are talking about a very dangerous leftist! the haredim don't really know him!

  -- MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari on the announcement of Aryeh Deri's return to politics and his intention to head a political party

Another Jewish Jordan Coming To Play In Israel

Really? Must every Jewish basketball player that is professional quality be called the "Jewish Jordan"? Is there a shortage of nicknames for Jewish basketball players?

From Ynet:
Former Duke Blue Devils basketball champion Jon Scheyer has signed a two year deal to play in Israel for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

As reported on Sportando, “Big signing for Maccabi Tel Aviv who landed former Duke star Jon Scheyer for the next two years. The guard went undrafted in 2010 and has been staying without a team for long time.

"In February he signed for Rio Grande Valley Vipers in NBDL averaging 13.1ppg with 4rpg and 4apg. In his last season at Duke he won the NCAA title averaging 18.2ppg, 3.6rpg and 4.9apg.”

Scheyer, a 6 ft 5 in shooting guard, had led his high school team to an Illinois state basketball championship as a high school All American and the 2009-10 Blue Devils to a 2010 NCAA Basketball Championship as a college All-American.

Nicknamed the "Jewish Jordan", Scheyer will quickly become one of the most popular Maccabi players and their best chance of winning another EuroLeague Championship
I wish Jon Scheyer much success in his upcoming career, and hope he leads Maccabi Tel Aviv to many championship victories.

What other nicknames, besides "Jewish Jordan", can you come up with for him?

The Four-Legged Chicken Raises Rare Question In Mea Shearim

The Shulchan Aruch writes in hilchos treifos that if an animal has an extra leg it is a treifa, as there is a rule that anything extra is as if one of the originals was missing. if that limb or organ missing would make the animal a treifa, so with an extra one it is also a treifa. An extra leg therefore makes the animal into a treifa. the Shulchan Aruch qualifies that by saying this is only correct if the extra leg is connected in a certain way, at the top of the lower bone, the way a normal leg is connected. Without that specific connection, it would not be considered an extra leg and would be kosher.

The Rama adds that the leg must be in line with the other legs for it to be considered a leg and therefore a problem. Without that, the leg would not be a leg but would just be an appendage (that happens to look like a leg) and would be kosher.

When you learn shulchan aruch you learn about a lot of things that sound like they probably never happen, and are hardly relevant. Yet they still once in a while surprise us and come up in real life.

4-legged chicken
Yoelish Krause, of being the "operations officer" of the Eida fame, hosts a public session of schechting chickens in his courtyard once a week. Yesterday, as the shochtim were going through the chickens and slaughtering them, they pulled out one of the chickens only to find that it had four legs!

You can learn about such thigns as much as you want, but because of the rarity of ti actually happening, when it does happen you are not going to just look at it and make a quick decision, but will show it around, take it to different rabbonim, have it inspected and hear different opinions.

And that is what Krause did. He took it from kollel to kollel to display it and generate discussion on whether this chicken was kosher or treif. One of the kollels was that of Rav Yaakov Yosef who paskened that it is a treifa, though if after slaughtering it and opening it up it would be discovered that the leg is connected differently it would be kosher. Rav Tzvi Friedman on the other hand inspected it and said it is kosher as the legs are not connected in a way that would deem them as extra legs..
(sources: Kikar and Bechadrei)

Affirmative Action Costs A Lot Of Money

Affirmative Action costs a lot of money in Israel. The PMO (prime Minister's Office) in conjunction with the Authority For the Economic Development of the Arab sector has come up with a plan to encourage and bolster employment in the Arab sector.

That encouragement plays to the tune of paying 9000 NIS (as per meeting certain requirements) to employers who would hire Arab workers. (source: Israel Employment Service)

The program is meant to be used for employing academic Arabs (those with college degrees) who are unemployed.

This affirmative action is expensive.

In other news, not really related but I will make a connection anyway, a construction plan has been submitted to build 2500 homes, for Arabs, in East Jerusalem. The right-wing side of the coalition in Jerusalem is trying to hold up, and possibly thwart, the plans from being approved. They say it is poorly planned and politically dangerous. the location would give a contiguous slice of Arab neighborhoods that would eventually become a natural border and spot for the division of the country.

At the same time, the left-wing activists are trying to push it through and are criticizing Barkat for not doing enough to push it through. Even though the plan was sponsored by the City, he has not really gone out of his way to pressure his coalition members to vote for it and help it pass.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with building homes for Arabs. If we want to retain control of the land, and if we want to be in charge, and we want them to choose to stay under our rule and not PA rule, we have to build homes for Arabs just like we build for Jews. Granted, we need to build for Jews as well, which is something the government is not so good at doing right now in Jerusalem, but we also need to build for Arabs.

The irony though is that the left-wingers who criticize Barkat and Netanyahu every time a plan is announced to build homes for Jews in Jerusalem, and try to get the plans canceled, are jumping to push through a plan to build for Arabs. It seems they want us to pay for the land development and bureaucracy (even though according to the Haaretz article it is the landowners who will pay for the development and not the city, I am sure the city will have plenty of costs of its own once this gets under way), and then give that to the Arabs. According to the left-wing people they should not be allowing any construction in East Jerusalem until negotiations are concluded, at all, and if there is any for Arabs despite that, at least the PA should have to pay for it...

The Chosson Bolted Right After The Chuppa

It used to be that you would hear stories of sad and unfortunate, but crazy, wedding stories. Specifically of crazy circumstances or incidents that happened or were revealed under, or immediately after, the chuppa. And that would be the end of it as far as the public was concerned. After the initial splash, the initial revelation, the couple would go away quietly and either work out their issues or get a quick divorce.

Nowadays we sue.

Kikar is reporting about a wedding, a haredi wedding which is why Kikar is reporting on it, in Beer Sheva, in which immediately after the chuppa the chosson disappeared from the wedding hall and ran away.

As the chuppa concluded he told his kalla he needed to step out, wash his face and get air for a moment. When he didn't return after a bit, people started looking for him. They found his suit jacket thrown aside in the bathroom, but he was nowhere to be found.

For weeks she has been looking for him, unsuccessfully. She finally found him (I would like to know where he was hiding out, though the article does not say), only to be told that he ran away because he felt it was a mistake to marry her.

She is now suing him for 1 million shekels, due to the anguish and distress he caused her on her wedding day.

He should have just broken it off before the wedding, or gone through with it and then a quiet and quick divorce. I don't know if she will get a million shekels, as Israeli courts are notoriously not big into large awards for intangible damages, but it will cost him a pretty penny.

Just to add, while I am not sure why this story is so big, perhaps it is taking on the proportions of the dog stoning story as a human interest story, but this story is now running in Bechadrei, NRG and Srugim as well. It is not nearly as crazy as that dog story, so I doubt it will be picked up by the international news the way the dog story was, but locally it is making the rounds. I guess the news of Aryeh Deri returning to politics isn't big enough on it's own...

PM Benjamin Netanyahu Responds To You Tube Question Regarding Jonathan Pollard (video)

PM Benjamin Netanyahu Responds To You Tube Question Regarding Jonathan Pollard

Helfgot sings shehasholoim with neimah singers (originaly ger chupa song) (video)

Helfgot sings shehasholoim with neimah singers (originaly ger chupa song)

Chazzan Yitzchak Helfgot sings shehasholoim/ger chupa song with Neimah singers at St Johns Wood concert for Zichron Menachem!

Jun 22, 2011

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Has The Haredi Image Started Turning The Corner? (video)

Cellcom has recently run a series of ads using an emotional track - staying together with old friends, keeping in touch, etc. I remember the one that went viral with a scene of a nursery school teacher who was retiring her and all her "graduates" from her long career came to honor her. It did not really have anything to do with cellphones, except I guess the idea that cellphones allow you to keep in touch with old friends.

In Cellcom's latest advertisement, they are running a similar ad based on a haredi backdrop. The scene is a few secular looking guys entering a haredi neighborhood asking for directions. they make it to the wedding of their friend who is now a baal teshuva. They are just in time, as the chosson is feeling bad and scans the crowd for them, but he has to move it along. As he is about to break the glass he spots them coming in and is suddenly happy, as his good friends, even though they are from his "previous life" have finally arrived.

Again, nothing to do specifically with a cellphone, just the ability to stay in touch.

And, as the pashkevil website points out, it is nice to see haredim being used in advertising for something nice and non-threatening, rather than the usual ads based on a style of intimidation and threats. I remember the television ad where haredim were seen protesting, in an ad for a cable station. Pashkevil points out an ad for car windshields that showed haredim throwing stones, or the ad for kosher ketchup showing haredim protesting the sale of chametz on Pesach. It is nice that the haredi community can finally also be portrayed in images and media in a positive fashion, just like everybody else.

It might be a bit early to say the haredi image has turned the corner, but perhaps this is the glimmer of a new direction.

The Unnecessary Battle Against Chief of Staff Benny Gantz

This situation with the issue of the text of the yizkor memorial service in the IDF has really been blown way out of proportion.

The army made a decision in 1967 to change the text from "The People of Israel shall remember" to "God shall remember". It was done then by Rav Goren, if I am not mistaken, and one can accuse him of making the change out of personal or ideological interests, but nobody has changed it back since then. Since then, despite what the official books say, much leeway has been given and basically every army unit did what ti wanted.

Somebody asked the office of the Chief of Staff what the official rule is, and they checked the books and responded that the official text is "God shall remember". Since then everyone has been making a stink about how the army is prioritizing God over the people, how the army is "mit-chared" - going through a process of haredization (ironic in itself considering how little influence the haredim have on the army and the complaints about the haredim not serving).

As a result of the big stink, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has appointed a committee to investigate the matter and make a professional recommendation as to what the text should say. The committee is expected to recommend that the text combine both formulations into on that says "God and the people of Israel shall remember.."

The issue is not whether the army should mention God or not. The issue is whether the prayer is meant to call upon God to remember, like most memorial prayers, or if it was designed as a call to the people of Israel to remember the fallen.

Talk about an unnecessary fight. Gantz did not say all units must comply. He did not say he is going to send pakachim to check that all units are following the books. Gantz simply responded to a query, and gave the correct information, as per what is written as correct protocol in the IDF records. As far as he is concerned, units can continue saying each one according to its own tradition and not follow the official text. I wonder if a change is made because of this if they will force all units to comply, probably upsetting even more people...

Picture Of The Day

Picture Of The Day

Frum Farmer (video)

Frum Farmer

The Frum Farmer from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

Wings of Song (video)

Wings of Song

Wings of Song" with Violinist Miri Ben Ari, is a selected song from the highly anticipated album "New Sinai Sound" by Composer / lyricist Cecelia Margules.
The clip tells the story of a young boy who embarks on a journey involving different situations in life.
in the process, he discovers that his journey is a metaphor of the Jewish people's yearning for the Messiah.

Music by Cecelia Margules and Rami Yadid
Arranged and Produced By Rami Yadid
Lyrics by Cecelia Margules
Executive Producer Cecelia Margules

Director of Photography Mauricio Arenas
Directed by Danny Finkelman, sparks Productions.

Boy - Ari Raskin
Mother - Tzirel Raskin
Couple - Greg Posner and Alexis Hosea
Teen - David Nesher
Old Man - Roman Galinsky

Kol Achai Sings Star Spangled Banner At Shea Stadium (video)

Kol Achai Sings Star Spangled Banner At Shea Stadium

This video is a few years old, but these guys are great. I have some of their albums and their version of The Star Spangled Banner sounds like it could be right off their album...

Jun 21, 2011

Interesting Posts #275

1. Cherry Picking

2. Roll Over Menachem Begin

3. Aliyah - Everyone Has A Story

4. More Of the History Of The Segulah Rings and some sources about them

5. 10 Reasons To Love Being a Jewish Woman

6. Chadash Assur returns with a witty look at a municipal booklet - As If We Wouldn't Notice

7. Cottage Cheese On Our Minds

The Irony Of Eli Yishai And The Reform Movement

Minister of Interior Eli Yishai (Shas) has decided to put the listing of nationality, stating "Jew", back on the teudat zehut of Israeli citizens. Yishai says it is optional, and only people who want it listed will have it added.

The irony is that Yishai is the one who had it removed originally. He did so because he had to get around a decision by the Supreme Court that would have forced him to write "Jew" on the identity cards of converts that he personally, not really personally but according to the rabbonim he follows, does not accept as Jews. To avoid the problem, he removed the entire listing from the teudat zehut.

Yishai says he is bringing the listing back because he has been requested to by older holocaust survivors. Many have old identity cards that still list "JEW", and have been replacing them recently with new cards due to wear and tear. Upon seeing that "JEW" is no longer listed, they get upset, and have been petitioning him to have it returned.

Another item of irony is that when Yishai originally removed the listing, the Reform and Conservative movements were furious. They recognized it for what it was, a way of circumventing the listing of their converts as Jews. Now, with Yishai bringing the listing back, they are again furious, claiming the listing as a blow to pluralism and freedom. They are calling ti a strategic threat to the Jewish people.

First they Yishai did not want it, and now he does. First The Reform wanted it, and now they oppose it.

I wonder what Yishai will do the first time a Conservative or Reform convert wants his teudat zehut to say "JEW"... he got around it last time by removing the listing, what will he do next time?



(Hattip to Rabbi Green)

Collaborating With Those Who Think Israel Should Not Have Been Established

 A Guest Post By Dr. Harold Goldmeier

Israel’s friends and supporters often criticize her really lousy public relations. Since the flash win war of 1967, Israel has never been able to convey a persona of the peace seeking, charitable nation she really has been, nor the light unto the world she has always challenged herself to be.  Jews are among her most harsh critics giving aid and comfort to those who want the complete destruction of the Jewish State.
There has arisen a clear thinking, articulate, and a damn effective writer and speaker about Israel’s purpose on earth, and her role in the 21st century.  He is Daniel Gordis, and he has raised the bar for critics of Israel by declaring what I call THE GORDIS DOCTRINE. Gordis defined it with unshakeable clarity and in the simplest language at this year’s J-Street annual conference. 

J-Street is a self-described pro-Israel advocacy group that more often is sympathetic to Palestinian than Israeli positions on political and security matters. It collaborates with groups that want to boycott Israeli goods, have companies divest their holdings in Israeli companies, and delegitimize Israel in world forums thus isolating her and opening her to sanctions. Gordis lectured the attendees on the meaning and importance of Israel. He went on to make it clear unless you love Israel and are committed to the continued existence and the security of her people, we cannot give quarter to your ideas and will vigorously work against all these groups stand for.
Gordis is the man who penned that Israel is the place that “can make you cry.” Jews tolerate differences of opinion, because of our Talmudic background and Israel is a democracy.  We welcome argument and dissent with passion and heart.  It defines “the Big Tent” allusion.  One-state solution or two, a Jewish State or one man-one vote, a theocracy or secular democracy, original borders or new ones based on lands captured from invading countries, no nation has more issues and debates and debaters.
The Tent, simply put by Gordis, is no longer welcoming nor big enough for those who collaborate with people who believe Israel should never have been established and do not want her to exist as a Jewish state: he defines this doctrine to conference attendees and others:
“They are our enemies. It doesn’t matter if they are in Israel or outside, or if they                 are Jewish or not. If they are working to end Israel, or to end it as a Jewish and democratic State, then they are our enemies, plain and simple. There are enemies who cannot be loved or compromised into submission, and you need to recognize that. The Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement is a case in point. No one in their right mind doubts that BDS is opposed to Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish State. So why were they invited to (J-Street’s) annual conference? There need to be limits to those whom you’d welcome into your tent. YOU NEED TO SHOW US THAT YOU CARE ABOUT ISRAEL MORE THAN YOU CARE ABOUT DIALOGUE WITH ISRAEL’S ENEMIES (emphasis added).”
The safety of Israel’s citizens is more crucial than moral agendas he told J-Street.  That defines a national doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine made it clear to America’s enemies that any interference with countries in our hemisphere would be viewed as acts of aggression and America would defend her self-interests with armed force if necessary. President Truman took it to the next step. He warned the Soviets that we would come to the defense of free people (like Greece and Turkey) anywhere in the world threatened by armed or coercive forces from within or by outside totalitarian regimes.  President Eisenhower further refined this doctrine to use U. S. economic aid or military forces if a country so requested under threat from armed aggression. The Suez War gave it meaning and teeth. John Kennedy told the world his doctrine most eloquently when he said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Charles Krauthammer defined the Bush doctrine that gave the U.S. the right at any time to secure the safety of U.S. citizens from nations giving aid and comfort to terrorists, including the policy of preventive war, who harm the U.S. It justified the invasion of Afghanistan, drones flying into Pakistan, and the Seals violating sovereign territory to kill bin Laden.
Israel is no less justified than every other nation state in that it must protect the safety of its citizens from suicide bombers, rockets fired across her borders, warships transporting tons of arms and ammunitions to enemies who have sworn to drive Israel into the Sea, from armies of neighboring states that launch full scale invasion after invasion since 1948. No longer do we need to engage in dialogue with Jews and others who do not care if Israel lives or goes away, if the U.N. was right to vote her into existence along with Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, none of which were nation states.  Only Israel’s existence and purpose is unrecognized and unaccepted.  There is no talking to these people about solutions to peaceful coexistence unless they love Israel and for those principles for which she stands.

Dr. Harold Goldmeier Chicago, Ill. hgoldmeier@aol.com Dr. Goldmeier was a Chicago Public School 
teacher, a Research and Teaching Fellow at Harvard University earning a Doctorate in Education, and taught as an Assistant Professor at Tufts Medical School. He worked in government for three Governors, the U. S. Surgeon General, and in children and youth advocacy for nearly two decades. He recently sold his business after nearly three decades. He has been married more than forty years with children living in America and Israel, and a son who recently served with the Israel Defense Forces. He has published more than two-dozen articles in professional journals and popular magazines and newspapers.
Dr. Goldmeier is currently a writer, consultant to government agencies, and to small businesses on economic growth and marketing. His most recent articles appeared in The Jewish Press on terrorism, and in Haaretz of Israel and he writes a guest post for LifeinIsrael.blogspot.com., Open.Salon.com., and more.

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