Thursday, March 30, 2006

Small Changes to Final Count in Israeli Elections

IDF radio has just announced that the final vote count has been completed (the soldiers vote and the disabled votes). There are a few changes - Kadima is up to 29, Likud is up to 12, and Meretz is up to 5. Shas went down to 12, and Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) went down to 11, and the Arab parties down to 9. This is significant for Bibi Netanyahu, in that he will be defacto the opposition leader, and the Likud is now the third largest party, instead of the fifth.

It may make it easier for Kadima to form a coalition, as they can theoretically make a government with Labor, Meretz, and the Retired People's party, and ignore the right wing/Ultra-orthodox parties completely.
Israel's Stock Market Nervous

The Israeli stock exchange reacted poorly to the election results, as this Jerusalem Post article points out. Looking at the results, the only thing that most people are sure of is that the newly elected government is going to have to spend a lot of money, and will probably roll back some of Netanyahu's financial reforms. This is worrying a lot of investors.

Those who voted Labor, Shas, and for the Pensioners, are looking forward eagerly for an increase in minimum wage, and increase in child benefits, and an increase in pensions. Those of us who voted for the Likud are looking forward with dread to higher taxes (which are extremely high already by American standards!), higher inflation, and higher unemployment - which has been decreasing steadily for the past year.

The Israeli mentality is one of big government, what I call the "magia li" syndrome ("I deserve this"). Everyone looks at everyone else's money, and there is resentment of the rich - which are, of course, people who make more money than you do. Noone regards themselves as rich - just middle class. There is always this mythical group of other people who make so much money, that it is logical to raise their taxes in order to pay for the social benefits that the poor deserve. The main problem with this thinking is that there are only a relative few who are genuinely rich - and even if you ask more from them (they are already paying 50% in income taxes already) it won't cover the expenses of the social programs. And, to be honest, the really rich always have ways to shelter their money anyway. So the middle class ends up paying more in taxes.

In addition, it is not just the poor who receive the money. Every family, regardless of income, receives a monthly child stipend. Personally I think this is a huge waste, but since the government takes so much in taxes, and everyone has this "magia li" attitude, the government can't even THINK of taking away this benefit from people who don't need it (and I am one of these people who don't need it). What is really tragic, is that those who are really poor, and honestly can't work, don't receive enough money to really help them. This includes the diasabled and the retirees.

I am very happy that the retirees won seven seats, and I sincerely hope they receive an increase in pensions, because they deserve it. But I am scared to death that Peretz will push forth his minimum wage increase, because I think businessnes will suffer and stop hiring, which will lead to more unemployment and more poverty. I also hope that Shas does not get an increase to the child allowances. If they really want to help the poor this way - fine. But stop wasting so much money giving it to everyone - and take the saved money and increase the allowances to those families who really need it.

The problem is, you can't get elected doing things like that. Just ask Bibi Netanyahu.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Glass is Both Half-full and Half-Empty

The election results have been published, and except for my overly optimistic prediction regarding the Likud, my predictions were pretty much on target (a lot better than the pollsters!).

As to who won - the picture is murky. Yes, Kadima won 28 seats, and is the largest party. But the headaches that Ehud Olmert will have putting together a coalition are significant. First, he needs to convince at least three other parties to join the government, and each will demand their due. In the case of Labor, and the Retired People's Party (yes, folks, we never heard of them before either - but they won a stunning 7 seats in the Knesset) and Shas, this will entail significant outlays of money for social programs (the stock market has already dropped today in reaction to this development).

In terms of dealing with security issues and the peace process, there are headaches also. Adding up the raw numbers, the left wing won 52 seats (that is if you consider Kadima to be left-wing). The right wing won 51 seats. The Retired People's Party are at this point neutral. This means that Olmert will have to sweeten the pot enough for at least one of the right wing parties to agree to his plan of "consolidation" - which is a pretty euphemism for kicking people out of their homes in one part of Judea and Samaria and putting them in another part of Judea and Samaria. Both Shas and UTJ have done this in the past in exchange for money for their programs, and may very well do so again, but the question is at what price.

So, the future of Olmert's plan will probably come down to money - and how deep are the pockets of those who really want the plan to go through. Will the European Union give oodles of money to Israel to kick out settlers? Will the United States? They didn't this past summer when Israel carried out the disengagement - so why should they do so now? Can the Israeli taxpayer afford this? Maybe, maybe not. I certainly wouldn't want to be in the finance minister's shoes in the next year.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Like, You Know, Yourish Has a Great Post

You know, there is this blogger gal named Yourish, you know, and she has this really funny post on surfer dudes and the Israel Lobby. And, like, you know, it's worth it to check it out! You know?
Have You Voted Yet?

I have. I took my eleven year old with me. There were a few bored policeman at the entrance, only one of which returned my "good morning". Since there was no line I went in right away (and advantage of living in a small village!).

For those of you in America, or immigrants who have not voted in Israel yet, a short explanation. Despite the fact that Israel is a hi-tech powerhouse, the voting here is strictly third world. You present your teudat zehut (identity card) to one of four or five people sitting at a table and they cross your name off the list. (The group consists of people approved to be observers - and in our case usually include a left-winger from Tel-Aviv whose job it is to make sure that the voting, and the count, is done correctly) Then you receive an official blue envelope and walk to stand behind a blue cardboard screen. Behind the screen is a tray with a bunch of little slips of paper with one, two, or three Hebrew letters, and the name of the political party written on the bottom. (There is also a blank slip for those who want to protest). You choose one slip (if you make a mistake and put more than one in your vote is disqualified) and place it in the envelope and seal it. You then walk back to the table where you received the envelope, and place it in a box.

Third world certainly - but then again there are no problems with electric outages, "hanging chads", and other technical problems.

My son enjoyed putting the envelope in the box. I'm still surprised that he didn't announce to all present who I voted for! (Likud).

Nu, what about you?
Happy Birthday Westbankpappa!

Today is westbankpappa's birthday, and all of us in the westbank household wish him a good one. (We won't disclose the number of candles on the cake). In addition to voting, and cleaning a bit for Passover, we hope to have a bar-b-que.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Who Will Win Tomorrow - the Ostriches or the Guards?

A day before Israelis go to the polls, and the picture is murky. The latest statistics show that 28 seats are still up for grabs because of the large number of undecided voters, a number unprecedented in Israel.

Two articles in explain the apathy on the part of the average Israeli voter. Meir Sheetrit makes the statement that his new party Kadima "has no ideology"., which those of us on the right have been saying for months. Comprised of a group of politicians who did not succeed in their original parties, they started claiming that they are centrists, but quickly turned to the left, and now claim that they have no agenda - except for forcing settlers out of their homes. Inexplicably, they are leading in the polls. It seems that most people don't really care about them having no ideology - they want to "try a cenral party this time".

Naomi Ragen, also in, explains why this situation is so dangerous.

"The merchandise manufactured by Yossi Beilin - that is, reducing Israel to the '67 borders as a solution to all her problems - and which is currently the only thing being sold by Kadima, and Meretz, and Labor, will finally succeed in finishing off any chance we have to live in peace. And the day after the last settler is kicked out of his home and our enemies come to us with a long list of new territorial demands, the people will look up from their lattes in surprise and say: Really! We didn't expect this."

A lot depends on who makes the effort to vote tomorrow - the ostriches who don't see the dangers on the horizon and have their heads in the sand, or the guards - those who can see the dangers and are warning us about them.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Guess What I Found Out Through Havel-Haveilim....

Havel-Haveilim #63 is up at RChaimqoton's blog, and I had the pleasant surprise of seeing that Serach and Ezzie have had a baby girl! Mazel tov!! Her name is....go ahead, click here to find out and leave your good wishes if you haven' t already.
Mama Predicts the Election Results

I'm going to put down my predictions for the election results here, two days before the polls open. I obviously don't have any "insider information", but I read widely and I take the polls published in the papers with a grain of salt. The polls almost always lean left, because people with right wing views are less likely to answer questions over the telephone about their voting preferences, so that the samples are skewed from the beginning. This year it is even more difficult to predict results because of the large number of undecided voters, and those who don't plan to vote at all. Those who do decide at the last minute will, in my opinion, vote for either Likud or Yisrael Beitenu (Lieberman). There is also a big difference between answering a question on the telephone, and getting yourself out to vote. They are predicting rain for the entire country on Tuesday, so Kadima is getting nervous.

So here goes: Kadima 31, Likud 19, Labor 18, Yisrael Beitenu 14, Shas 11, Ichud HaLeumi 9, Arab parties 8, UTJ 6, Meretz 4.

Anyone else care to put down their bets?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

For Those of You Who Think That It Can't Happen in America....

Check out BokertovBoulder's reaction to the Kennedy School "report" on the Jewish lobby. Her take is spot on - and raises some serious issues for the Jews in America.
The Fat Lady is Just Warming Up

"It ain't over till the fat lady sings" is probably one of my favorite expressions, and it fits the Israeli elections to a T. This is a country where we listen to the news on an hourly basis, because things change so quickly. On city buses where the radio is on, the crowd hushes at the start of the hour to hear if something new has occurred.

This year's elections are also very unusual in that there is both a tremendous number of undecided voters, and a huge number of voters who don't plan to vote at all. This means that despite the Kadima party's pronouncements to the contrary, it is far from being over.

An article in Haaretz spells out a scenario where the right can win big on Tuesday. I suspect that this has been published in the left leaning Haaretz in order to scare their readers out of suspected apathy, but I also sense that many are afraid of egg on their faces for being so smug until now.

IDF radio had their usual weekly poll results by Geocartigraphia (notorious for the mistakes that they have made in the past) and they show Kadima down to 34 seats, Labor up to 20, and the Likud up to 18. Avigdor Lieberman's party Yisrael Beitenu is up to 13, and is now thought to be the potential big winner in the elections (which Sophia Ron Moria predicted in the Makor Rishon newspaper months ago).

It is still open, folks, so that those of you who are contemplating staying home on Tuesday - don't. VOTE! Don't turn your back on the opportunity that is right in front of you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Calling All Bookworms

For as long as I can remember, I have loved reading books. The transformation from "mommy, read me a story" to "I can read them myself!" in first grade was nothing less than thrilling.

Both of my parents were voracious readers. My father's love was newspapers - politics and current events - and my mother's love was fiction. I remember going to the public library once every two weeks. I would pick out two books - and my mother would carry out a stack of ten.

My love has not diminished with the years. Even though I read newspapers and the internet for news political commentary and personal stories - I find that I need a daily dose of fiction to wind down at the end of the day. Life in Israel can be intense - so a shot of escapism on a regular basis is very important to me.

Living in my little village has a lot of advantages - but English books in the tiny library we have is not one of them. The English speakers on my yishuv regularly trade books, which we purchase in the used bookstore in the nearest city. Depending on others for books has one advantage - I read things that I would probably not pick up on my own. My first love is mysteries, but lately I've read both historical fiction and fantasy (Eye of the World).

Lately I've come across a used bookstore with a web site where you can order books online and have them delivered by mail (local postage!).

Sounds great, right? It would be, if I knew what to look for! I usually choose books by reading the first page. I ignore all of the blurbs on the cover, which are written by marketing people who only want to SELL. It is sort of like ignoring the used car salesman's pitch and just taking the car for a test drive. The problem with this method is that I can't do it virtually.

So this is where you come in, my dear blog readers. What books and authors do you recommend? I love good mysteries - my favorite authors are P.D. James and Elizabeth George, but I am also up for any good fiction, including historical fiction and fantasy.

Thank you in advance.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Police Used Excessive Force in Amona

The Knesset probe into the violence at Amona has published its preliminary findings. This article in covers the report well, and is titled Police Used Excessive Force in Amona.

The other Israeli web sites have similar articles, but with different headlines. The Jerusalem Post has a bland headline stating that the commission published its findings, without any more details. Haaretz places the blame, curiously, on the army in its headline of its article on the same topic.

The commission criticized everyone - the settlers, the police, and the politicians - so that everyone is both complaining and pleased at the findings. But the main thrust of the findings is that the police should not have used horses and batons, and that they were excessively violent. At least one web site gave the right emphasis in its headline.
Megillah Thoughts

Irina tagged me with this, and although Purim was a week ago I will give it a shot. Of course I remember being annoyed at the mothers who bring small children to the megillah reading, especially when they don't take them out when they start to make noise. As a matter of fact, after reading a bunch of blog posts on Purim, I wonder if there is a shul in the world where this doesn't occur!

What I remember thinking about also was the transformation that Esther made in the course of her time in the palace of Achashverosh. She entered it as a naive young woman, who didn't really get into the whole beauty contest thing - but ended up being chosen queen. Later, when Mordechai tells her that it is up to her to try to save her people, she shows a lot of "street smarts" in playing off Achashverosh's jealousy of Haman, to the point where she succeeds in getting him bumped off. Pretty sophisticated stuff. Esther must have learned a lot in the palace - but she kept true to herself as a Jewess by calling first and foremost for a fast and prayer, before she took personal action.

I think most of us can learn a lesson from this. I tag Jameel and JerusalemCop for this one.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spoonfeeding - and Starving, the Reporters

Daledamos has a great post about stringers, the local people that foreign reporters are dependent on when covering a story. He points out some of the problems inherent in the system, and how the reporter is basically spoonfed what the stringer wants him to hear, which affects how the news is covered both in Iraq and Israel.

I had an interesting experience with a reporter which confirms this, but from a different perspective.

A few years ago one of the members of our yishuv was killed in a terrorist attack. A foreign (English speaking) reporter covered the funeral, and requested an interview with the widow (during the seven day mourning period). Westbankpappa and I were requested to speak with him instead.

I checked out his credentials on the internet, and after seeing an example of the publication he worked for I thanked G-d that he wouldn't get near the grieving family. The publication he was representing was a small step up from the "National Enquirer" - you know, two-headed babies and Elvis sightings. Whatever information we would give him would be sensationalized beyond recognition. Pappa and I decided to be extemely careful in speaking to him.

The reporter showed up with an Arab driver (who stayed in the car) and an Israeli photographer. We gave him a standard shpiel introducing our settlement. Then he started to ask leading questions. He turned to me and asked if I was scared to live where I do.

If I had been a publicity hound, I could have lied and said that I had recurring nightmares. He would have lapped up every gory detail. If I had trusted him, I could have told him the truth, which is that most of the time I am not scared at all, but when I occasionally did feel frightened I turned to my faith in G-d to get me through it. He would then have had a field-day turning me into a religious fanatic. So I turned myself into a bit of a dumb brunette, and told him that I didn't feel scared at all.

He kept at this line of questioning - looking for something spicy for his story and receiving plain vanilla answers.

We started to walk around the yishuv, and at some point the photographer started a surprising monologue. The first thing he said was, "Don't worry, he doesn't understand what I am saying, he doesn't speak a word of Hebrew." I kept my dumb brunette smile on my face as the photographer continued.

"I'm not a right winger or a left winger, and to be honest with you I'm not sure if you guys should be living here. But I am sick to death of watching the reporters making you look like the bad guys and the Arabs look like angels. He is going to ask me to take pictures of the nicest house you have, and put it next to a picture of a poor Arab living in a shack. So that's why I'm going to screw up the pictures."

As the photographer predicted, the reporter pointed to a nice house with a well-kept garden and requested a shot.

While the photographers fiddled with his equipment, he explained to me how he was going to mess up the focus just enough so that the picture was unusable, but not enough so that it would be obvious. He also told me that he had a very lucrative job lined up after this one so he wasn't afraid of not getting another job with this guy. All the while I stood there as if he were just commenting on the beautiful weather we were having.

When it was time for good-byes we all said polite thank-you's, and the photographer gave us a heartfelt "b'hatzlacha" - loosely translated as "good luck to you".

Needless to say we weren't featured in his rag. My husband and I deliberately made ourselves and our settlement as boring as possible, and the photographer messed up the pictures. The reporter had no idea that he was being duped - partly because he didn't have a feel for the subject and didn't realize that we were being unnecessarily superficial. (On occasions when we have spoken to reporters who have a track record of being fair, we have been more forthcoming.) In the photographer's case, the reporter was duped simply because he couldn't speak the language.

In this case the reporter wasn't spoonfed - he was starved.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Even the Chocolate is Political, Part II

About two months ago I wrote about how everything is political in Israel, even the chocolate. Today I saw further proof of this.

Driving through Petach Tikvah today I was bombarded by campaign billboards. An unusual one caught my eye, and made me laugh out loud.

Elite makes a chocolate bar that has a plain red wrapper with a picture of a cow on it. This cow was featured prominently on the billboard on a red background, with the slogan (in Hebrew of course) "For a Sweeter Future". What made it even funnier was that in the left hand corner was a small white square of paper with the Hebrew letters Pay-Raish-Hey, which spell out the Hebrew word Para, which means cow. This was a brilliant take-off of the slips of paper that we use to vote. Every "normal" billboard has the same white square with the letters of the political party printed on it, in exactly that way.

I really hope sales of chocolate go up - the advertising people deserve it for their creativity here.
Post Purim Plethora of Posts

In other words, Havel-Havelim #62 is up at ShilohMusings. Check it out.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust

Coincidentally, two bloggers that I read have both written lately about unsung heroes of the Holocaust - little-known people who resisted the Nazis.

Irina of the Ignoble Experiment writes about The White Rose, a group of students in Munich who resisted the fascist regime in Germany in a non-violent way. They unfortunately were caught and executed by the Gestapo.

Neo-neocon posts about an Algerian born Muslim in France who led a group that rescued Jews. He was the rector (the shamash?) of a mosque in Paris and used it as a hiding place.

It seems that dark times bring out both the worst, and the best, in people.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An Old Fashioned Purim

Yesterday we celebrated Purim (and in Jerusalem they are celebrating today) the same way we Jews have been celebrating for thousands of years - hearing the book of Esther, giving gifts of food to friends and charity to the poor, and eating and drinking to our hearts content.

Some Jews in Israel "celebrated" Purim in a different way. They did what the Jews did on the very first Purim in history - they took up arms to defend their people.

The IDF soldiers who took part in the siege of the Jericho prison and the capture of the killers of Rechavam Ze'evi z'l (sometimes known by his nickname Gandhi) were in essence re-enacting the scene that occurred thousands of years ago in the kingdom of Persia.

Unlike other holidays that commemorate miracles that G-d did for the Jewish people, Purim is a holiday which in essence celebrates a very simple thing - which unfortunately has been too rare in our long history - the fact that the Jews could take up arms and defend themselves. At the end of the book of Esther it records that the king sent out letters to all parts of his kingdom giving the Jews permission to kill their enemies. G-d didn't wipe out the enemies of the Jews with a plague or a miracle like the one at the Reed Sea. The Jews of the time simply did what most nations take for granted - they killed their enemies before they themselves were killed.

The IDF soldiers were given permission yesterday to perform a mission - surround the prison and capture the terrorists - and if they couldn't capture them alive then they were instructed to bulldoze the building and kill them if necessary. A straightforward mission, which they performed to perfection, but unfortunately in this day and age of political turmoil and mixed messages, a very rare one.

Hopefully these soldiers got today off, and could "celebrate" a second time.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Who Really Believes in Democracy?

Much is made in this country about the seeming conflict that the religious have between Jewish law and democracy. In truth, we have some grave doubts about the democratic system as it stands now in Israel, due to the fact that there is no system of checks and balances in place. Despite this, the religious in general, and the Dati Leumi (national religious) in particular, are proving that we do believe in the electoral system in the clearest way possible - by taking an active part in it.

A poll was taken this past week by Maagar Mochot, under the direction of Professor Yitzchak Katz. He polled young people, aged 18-32, about whether or not they planned to vote. The numbers are shocking - only 17% of this group are sure that they will vote. This statistic does not bode well for the political system as a whole.

When you look at the numbers by sub-group, though, another interesting fact comes to light. The highest percentage of those who said they were planning to vote (probably or definitely) were from the national religious camp, at 61%. The next highest group was the Arab sector at 59%, and the third was the Ultra-Orthodox at 41%. Those who consider themselves traditional came in at 39%, and the last group, the secular, came in at 37%.

The volunteer group called "Moving Right" (Zazim Yemina), interviewed here in Haaretz, is another example of the belief in democracy in action. This is the group in charge of the grass-roots movement of knocking on doors and campaigning by telephone which is impressing, and worrying, the left wing in Israel. It seems that Ehud Olmert has what to worry about, and that the election campaign is far from over.

This is not to say that everything is rosy. Most of us in the Dati Leumi camp are very pessimistic about what will happen in the next few years, and many of us, if not all, fear that we will be forced to move away from the communities that we love dearly. But we haven't given up - not by a long shot. Until there is a better system, we will work with the one we have.

For those of you who are always looking for new recipes, check out the Kosher Cooking Carnival, started by Batya of Shilo Musings and hosted this time at Serandez.

For those of you who are always looking for good Jewish blogs, check out Jack's excellent Havel-Haveilim number 61.

My only question is, who is Roger Maris? (I admit, I get an "F" in sports knowledge!)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Guard Duty...

The residents of our yishuv (settlement) are responsible for doing the evening and night shift of guard duty (the few soldiers stationed by us do the daytime shift). Three shifts a night - 365 days a year - including Shabbat and holidays of course (protecting lives takes precedence over the laws of the Sabbath).

There are different opinions about what is considered the worst shift to get, but arguably the night of Purim is way up there on the list. A few years ago westbankpapa was assigned the 11:00pm to 2:00am shift.

For those of you who are not familiar with Purim, it is a joyous holiday requiring, in addition to the hearing of the Book of Esther read in the synagogue, the giving of charity to the poor and gifts of food to friends, and the eating of a festive meal. In addition most communities have a big party on the night of Purim which includes food, alcoholic drinks and dancing (men and women separately, in our case). There are usually skits performed, and many take this opportunity to dress in costumes - the more outlandish the better. Purim is also the one day of the Jewish year where it is not only permitted, but actually recommended to get drunk.

In our community the party is usually called for 10:00pm, which means that people start coming at 10:30 and things don't get really started until about 11:00. Pappa's guard duty meant that he was going to miss all of the fun (or so he thought).

Pappa went to the butka (guard duty booth) and the first hour went pretty quietly - while th party for the yishuv slowly warmed up. Then an army jeep pulled up to the gate and stopped, and an officer came over to talk to pappa. It turns out that two 17 year olds from our settlement, after fully getting into the spirit of Purim by imbibing copious amounts of alcohol, had decided to take the injunction to wipe out Amalek a bit too "locally", and had started to walk towards the nearest Arab village to "look for trouble". Luckily for all concerned, the IDF patrol jeep found them first, and they were now passed out in the back. The officer needed to report the incident to the Ravshatz (the person on each yishuv who is in charge of security), so he asked pappa to bring him to the gate.

Purim is the one time of year when even serious people "let go" a bit. Some people take it even further, and dress in wild costumes and drink to their hearts content. The Ravshatz is in this second category. Pappa clung to the hope that it wouldn't be that bad.

He hoped in vain.

After first finding him, it took a good five minutes of explanations for pappa to make himself understood. When the situation finally became clear, they slowly made their way to the gate.

Pappa found himself in the delightfully absurd position of escorting the Ravshatz of the yishuv "three sheets to the wind", swaying dangerously, and dressed as - a belly dancer.

A very ugly belly dancer.

Pappa said afterwards the he didn't know which was funnier, the look on the IDF officer's face as they approached, who kept staring with morbid fascination at a very hairy midriff - or the comical attempts of the Ravshatz himself to quickly sober up.

It turned out not to be such a bad shift after all.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different

I just realised that my blog posts lately are WAY too serious for the week before Purim, so I'll send you here for some fun.

It's the Muppet Personality Test. I came out as Scooter. What about you?
Getting Past the Labels

Israpundit has a good post which explores the issue of moderate Islam. I found it thought provoking.
Left Wing Activist Defends Teens at Amona Probe

Anat Roth, a left wing activist here in Israel testified yesterday at the Knesset's probe into the violence at Amona. She is conducting a study for the non-partisan Israeli Democracy Institute in Judea and Samaria, and not only was she present at Amona, but she was beaten by policemen herself.

She describes the instructions given to the group of teenage girls she was with here in the article in They were told to sit down and resist passively by linking arms with each other, and were not to use violence. She relates how the girls were shaking with fear when the police came up onto the roof and started beating them with batons. She also reported that the police shouted threats and obscenities, and were the ones that threw rocks at the protesters, and not the other way around.

Roth is by no means in favor of the settlements in Judea and Samaria. In an interview on IDF radio she explained that not only has she worked with Labor party Knesset members Vilnai and Mitzna, but she is also a signatory on the Geneva Accords.

Her eyewitness testimony deflects some of the criticism that the probe is primarily a way for the right wing to bash the government.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Want to Laugh?

Get over to Jameel's place for all of your favorite Jewish bloggers, who have been "Purimified" for your reading pleasure.

Put your drink down first.
Media Gets an "F" From the Public

Haaretz has an article this morning about a poll taken. No, not the usual poll on how many seats each party will receive in the next election - a poll regarding the media's coverage of the campaign.

The media is failing miserably. According to the poll, 62% of the public is unhappy with the media's coverage. 31.7% of the public would like to receive information about the party's and the candidates positions and plans, but only 9.6% of the public think that the media was providing such information.

In addition, the public feels that the media is biased against the Likud, is relatively fair to Labor, and favors Kadima. More than half think that the coverage has been supportive of Kadima, while only 10% think that it has been hostile. In contrast, 48% think it has been hostile to the Likud. Coverage of the Labor party was seen to be supportive by 32%, and hostile by 22%.

What is so frustrating about these statistics is that noone cares. The television media is state funded and monolithic in their political slant - so tv viewers do not have an alternative. In other words, the disappointed public cannot vote with their feet - there is no FoxNews here. The newspapers are privately owned, and there is some competition, but the only right wing newspaper, Makor Rishon, has too small a market share at this point to make a real impact (although it is growing all of the time).

This is why there is an intensive door-to-door campaign by the right wing parties now. We have to do it the hard way - bypassing the media to speak to voters personally, one phone call at a time.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A No-Show on March 28th Is A Vote for the Left

This past issue of the Nekuda magazine (only in Hebrew and unfortunately, not on-line) has an interesting article by Orly Goldkling on a hot topic in the right wing, Dati-Leumi (national religious) community right now - whether or not to vote on March 28th.

She interviews three people on the issue, who debate the various pros and cons. Yuval Unterman, one of those expelled from Gush Katif, and Oranit Etzer, a resident of Ofra who used to live in Amona, are both vociferously against participating in the upcoming elections. Tzur Erlich, a resident of Maale Michmas, and a writer and editor for Makor Rishon, argues in favor of voting.

Unterman and Etzer's arguments revolve around their belief that it is a lost cause, and that the next government will force Jews out of their homes in Judea and Samaria no matter what. Etzer believes that most of the politicians (if not all) are corrupt, and that most Israelis are no longer interested in truth or justice - they just want to be left alone. Unterman believes that the religious Zionists can do more outside of the government than in it, and that the religious politicians not only do not change the system for the better, but are themselves badly influenced by the system itself.

Erlich understands the bitterness and frustration expressed by both Unterman and Etzer, but counters their arguments.

According to Erlich, thinking that the cause is lost already is a grave mistake, and he points out that in other countries where Jews are a tiny minority, they use their right to vote as a way of influencing the government. Boycotting the entire process here in Israel will only add votes to the left. Like it or not, the more votes the left receives, the more justification they will have to carry out more withdrawals.

Erlich adds another point, that the Knesset is the only institution we have in Israel that is directly affected by the voters. (The courts and the media are self-regulated at this stage, and they ignore the viewpoints of those who they deem as "politically incorrect") It would be a shame to give up on the one place where we do have some influence.

I agree with Erlich's position, and I think that every vote for a party to the right of Kadima will help. Even if Kadima does very well in the elections, it still has to form a coalition with other parties. Every seat counts.

In addition, I believe that we must use every tool that G-d gives us to work with - including the right to vote.

For those of you who agree, and would like to take part in campaigning, Suzie Dym has a list of local coordinators who can give you specific tasks. Write to her at

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Havel-Havelim #60

Havel-Havalim #60 is up at Life-of-Rubin. (Does that mean it is over the hill?)

Go read, it is worth it.
"We Give Too Much Honor To Terrorists and Not Enough Honor to Their Victims"

The Jerusalem Post has piece today about the protest against the film Paradise Now which is up for an Oscar tonight. A press conference was sponsored by the group the Israel Project and featured only one speaker - Nonie Darwish, and Egyptian born woman whose father was killed by Israeli troops for terrorist activity, who frequently speaks out against terrorism. (more on Ms. Darwish here).

In addition to the press conference the Israel Group took out a full page ad in Variety with pictures of an Israeli bus and a teenager blown up by a suicide bomber.

Ms. Darwish is quoted as saying:

"There should be films about those Arabs who refuse to become jihadists. We give too much honor to terrorists and not enough honor to their victims. I look forward to the day that Hollywood honors a Palestinian film that advocates peace."

So would we all.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Haaretz Readers, Please Note Paragraph #12

Most of my readers are familiar with the left leaning media bias of the Haaretz newspaper/website. For those of you who may not be, please take a look at the following two articles, one published in the Jerusalem Post and one in today's Haaretz English website.

Haaretz's article here, titled "Israel Reneges on Committment to Reopen Karni Crossing to Aid", details Shaul Mofaz's decision not to open the Karni crossing today, with very little context provided as to why he came to make this decision.

Contrast this to the way the Jerusalem Post treats the same information in its article titled "Mofaz Decides Not to Open Karni"- placing the necessary context in the first two paragraphs:

"Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided Wednesday night that the Karni goods crossing would be closed on Thursday, following the firing of five Kassam rockets at Israeli targets from the Gaza Strip during the day. An additional four Kassam rockets were fired at Israel Wednesday overnight, after the defense minister's decision.
Mofaz's decision marked a reversal of an army statement earlier in the day, which said that the Karni crossing would not be closed in order to allow crucial humanitarian aid to cross over into the Gaza Strip."

The Haaretz report has some further details, that unfortunately the Jerusalem Post does not. They conveniantly place this information way down in paragraph 12, though.

"Israeli officials have defended their closure of Karni as a security precaution against possible Palestinian attacks and said they offerred to reroute supplies to Gaza through another crossing, an offer the Palestinians declined."

In other words, the Israelis offerred a way to let the humanitarian aid in to Gaza, but not through this specific crossing, perhaps because they have specific intelligence information about this point - and the Palestinians are stubbornly refusing this option.

Too bad you have to read so far down to get this information.

Perhaps, in a more just world, the Haaretz article should be titled "Palestinians Refuse Compromise Deal on Border Opening".

(Hey, its Adar, stranger things have happened this month!)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

National Union Voters....

Please take a look at this post in TelChaiNation. If you agree with him (as I do) please make your voices heard.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Ethnic "Joke"

I've been reading a lot of blog posts lately that deal with how people have been exploring Judaism - either from the perspective of a non-Jew pursuing conversion or a born-Jew looking into increasing their observance.

I myself was born into a typical American assimilated family - our Jewish observance consisted of attending synagogue three times a year (twice on Rosh Hashana, once on Yom Kippur), lighting Chanukah candles, and holding the Passover seder. Otherwise we saw ourselves as more or less the same as everyone else.

I started to observe the mitzvot (the commandments) at the age of 17, but of course my exploring Orthodoxy started much earlier than that. It was a long process and involved a number of different events - but one stands out in my mind especially.

At 15 I attended a public high school, where the population consisted of about one quarter Jewish kids, but for some reason I found that almost all of my friends were non-Jews. One day we had an unexpected free period, so a bunch of us went to the library and hung out at a back table. The conversation meandered and people started telling jokes. One of the guys looked at me (the only Jew in the group) and asked permission to tell a joke about Jews. Being fifteen and wanting more than anything to belong, I of course assented. "How bad could it be?" I thought to myself - maybe something about big noses or being cheap - nothing I felt I couldn't handle. I didn't know what I was letting myself in for.

I have to explain at this point that I had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of Jewish history - both ancient or modern - and my grasp of what happened in World War II was rudimentary. Growing up in a middle-class household I was also protected from the knowledge, let alone the experience, of the cruelties of the outside world. So you will understand my reaction to the following "joke" that I was told now.

"How many Jews can you fit into a Volkswagon?"
"50, two in the passenger seats and 48 in the ashtray".

I reacted with neither laughter nor disgust - because I didn't understand the joke. I had never heard of the Holocaust and I had absolutely no idea what possible connection there could be between Jews and ashes.

The other kids wanted to move on quickly to another topic, but I wouldn't let them. I knew I had been insulted in some way, but not how, and I didn't want to let them get off the hook. I insisted that they explain this "joke".

In a scene of exquisite poetic justice, the kid who originally told the joke went on to explain to me the rudiments of the Holocaust, and the more he explained the more uncomfortable he became.

I sat there in stunned silence, trying to assimilate what he was telling me about Nazis, and cattle cars, and gas chambers and crematorium.

I was profoundly shocked on two levels. Obviously I was shocked at the information itself. But being a teenager, I was also shocked that people I counted as friends could tell a "joke" like that. I felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me - so much so that I couldn't even muster the reaction that most people have when hearing an ethnic slur about themselves - shrugging it off and pretending that it doesn't hurt, even when it does. This of course made my friends even more uncomfortable, and it was with an almost audible sigh of relief that they jumped up at the sound of the bell and hurried to their next class.

I stayed in the library and cut my next class. I don't remember if I had any coherent thoughts then - but I do remember coming away from that experience in the library with one overwhelming feeling. I couldn't pretend anymore that I was just like everyone else. Being Jewish meant being different. How this feeling led to my making various decisions down the road is of course a longer story - but there is no doubt in my mind that the journey started that day.