Friday, June 30, 2006

High Up In the IDF Is A Very Good Chess Player

Someone in the higher echelons of the IDF is a very good chess player. It is obvious to me that Olmert and Peretz are being advised on how to proceed by someone who has thought out the scenario ahead of time.

We are at war with an enemy that is not conventional, so our superior army cannot be used in the way it would be against a normal threat. If we had no morals, and could just go in and go after the terrorists without worrying about civilians, we would have won a long time ago. If the outside world treated us like any other country in the world, and stopped supporting the Arabs with money and endless positive propanganda spin, we would also have won a long time ago. What can you do? We're Jews and won't wage an uncivilized war (and I wouldn't want it any other way) and the powerful combination of the need for Arab oil and the deep roots of anti-Semitism will always make it harder for others, even America, to give us a fair shake.

When the terrorists decided to launch Kassam rockets at Sderot and Ashkelon, and attacked an army base in the Negev and kidnapped an Israeli soldier, they were acting on the assumption that it was a win/win situation for them. The anti-Israel propaganda spin means that the whole world conveniently skips over the initial aggression, and only focusses on the defensive reaction by us. So that when the IDF is finally pushed into taking action, and goes into Gaza, they win the propaganda war, which leads to more aid coming in. If the Israelis don't come in, but negotiate a prisoner swap, they also win - especially on the street where families want their sons, and sometimes daughters, out of jail.

There is no lose in this scenario, because the terrorists don't value the same things we do. If the IDF comes in and kills innocent civilians, which is basically inevitable when the terrorist hide behind them, the terrorists don't mourn - they rejoice. More good publicity. If the terrorists manage to kill IDF soldiers, even if the losses are way out of proportion to their own losses, than they also rejoice - not only because of the pride involved, but because they know that all of us in Israel mourn the loss of even one of our sons, and the left uses this pain as a way to pressure the government to refrain from action in the future.

So how do you proceed in this kind of a war? You figure out how to change it from win/win to lose. You figure out what the other side really values and you go after it.

The arrest of the Hamas "legislature" was a brilliant move. I have been reading a lot of complaints from right wingers moaning about the fact that these guys weren't assasinated right off, but I think this is short sighted. Turning these terrorists (elected officials or no) into just a stain on the pavement would have been very satisfying emotionally, but it would not have influenced the specific situation we are in now. We have a kidnapped soldier to worry about. Putting a substantial chunk of the Hamas government in jail changes the whole picture. Now Hamas has something to lose - their own political power. There already has been talk of Abbas taking over and setting up an "temporary emergency" government. We all know that this theoretical temporary government could become a permanent one, especially because both the United States and some in Israel see Abbas as a moderate. The people elected to the Hamas government are also not just ordinary citizens. They have families and connections which led them to their positions of power, and the money and jobs to give away that they have access to as politicians will be lost if they rot in jail.

Haaretz reports that these Hamas government members have been arrested for terrorist activity, and that the Attorney General has approved this in advance. This, of course, is just icing on the cake - to neutralize our own left wing's opposition to this move.

Right now the IDF is in Gaza - but there are no casualties. No bloody pictures of civilians dead - and no funerals of soldiers in Israel. The IAF is keeping the pressure on by bombing bridges and empty buildings, and taking out power stations. The buzzing of Assad's palace was also a clear message to him - that he has something to lose by supporting Mashaal. So far the terrorists haven't won anything.

Will the IDF have to go in anyway and kill terrorists and sustain losses? Will there inevitably be the bloody pictures? Will the IDF release these Hamas members in exchange for our soldier? I don't know, but at least, for this short span of time, a very good chess player has given Israel the chance to turn a losing scenario into one where we can possibly win.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

The teenager, Eliyahu Asheri, was killed shortly after he was kidnapped, and the IDF found his body last night buried in Ramallah.

I send my condolences to the family and hope G-d gives them comfort in this terrible time.

For those of you not familiar with Orthodox Judaism, it is customary to say when hearing of a death "Baruch Dayan HaEmet" which means Blessed is the True Judge (G-d). My understanding of this custom is to express, even in our sorrow, our belief that everything that happens is controlled from above, even tragedies.

There is also a very moving story told about Rabbi Aryeh Levin, a great tzaddik (righteous person) who was approached by a grieving widow who had prayed and said Psalms for her husband, and was heartbroken when her husband died anyway.

The widow asked Rav Aryeh Levin "What happened to all of my tears and the chapter after chapter of Psalms that I said?" He responded that G-d gathers every tear and cherishes it, and when a terrible decree is looming over the heads of the Jewish people, the tears come and wash away the decree and nullify it. The tears that we shed are a source of salvation.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pray For Our Kidnapped Boys

Following Olehchadasha's example, who is calling for a prayer chain via our blogs, I am putting an English translation of a Psalm here. Those of us who try to say a few chapters of Psalms a day say a prayer afterwards, which includes the following:

"...When Hashem returns the captivity of His nation, Jacob will exult, Israel will rejoice. ..the salvation of the righteous is from Hashem, their might in times of distress. Hashem helped them and caused them to escape, He will cause them to escape from the wicked and He will save them, for they took refuge in Him..."

(G-d willing this will happen here too.)

Psalm 46 (translation from Artscroll Tehillim)

For the Conductor, by the sons of Korach, on the Alamos, a song. G-d is for us a refuge and strength, a help in distress, very accessible. Therefore, we shall not be afraid when the earth is transformed, and at mountains' collapse in the heart of the seas; when its waters rage and are muddied, mountains quake in His majesty, Selah. A river - its streams will gladden the City of G-d, the most sacred of the dwellings of the Most High. G-d is in its midst, it shall not falter, G-d will help it towards morning. Nations are in turmoil, kingdoms totter; He has raised His voice, the earth dissolves. Hashem, Master of Legions, is with us, a stronghold for us is the G-d of Jacob, Selah. Go and see the works of Hashem, Who has wrought devastation in the land. He makes cessation of wars to the end of the earth; the bow will He break, and cut the spear, chariots He will burn in fire. Desist! And know that I am G-d; I shall be exalted among the nations, I shall be exalted upon the earth. Hashem Master of Legions is with us, a stronghold for us is the G-d of Jacob, Selah.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cliff Notes From the Kvetchy Blogger

[Disclosure: I freely admit that I wrote the following post out of 100% unadulterated jealousy that gossipy/slandering blogs are much more popular than mine.]

Tired of writing meaningful posts? Spending too much time researching facts? Annoyed at the need for introspection, the careful choice of words, the self-discipline to not generalize about others? Depressed about how all of this effort garners you just a handful of regular readers, and a few tepid comments?

I have the perfect answer for you - secret, undercover agents have sold me the "Cliff Notes" from everyone's favorite, the ever popular Kvetchy Blogger. Yes, you've read correctly, the formula for giving your anemic readership the virtual viagra it needs to reach new heights on your sitemeter is right here. Just download the following and choose from the options given, and presto! the surefire way to attract new readers.

I Hate *%#@^

I really hate (choose one of the following) (black hat Jews/secular Jews/liberal Jews/conservative Jews/Jewish settlers/Jewish bloggers).

They think they are SOOOOO PERFECT!

Well, I am here to tell you that they AREN'T.

I heard from (choose one of the following) (my psychotic neighbor/the investigative report in the National Enquirer/an annonymous e-mail/a note slipped under my cell door) that (fill in choice from above) really HATE (choose one of the following) (black hat Jews/secular Jews/liberal Jews/conservative Jews/Jewish settlers/Jewish bloggers).

They are such HYPOCRITES!

*Whew* I feel much better now! How about you?

Yes, folks that's it! Fast and easy. Try it today, and enjoy comments on your blog like these:

Dear Kvetchy Blogger,

Wow! I also hate *%#@^. I always feel so much better after reading your blog that I've called my doctor and cancelled my psychotherapy sessions. Thanks, you've changed my life...



This country would be a hell of a lot better off with another million bloggers like you. I also hate *%#@^, and after I finish my six-pack I'm getting my shotgun and hunting some down...


Dear Kvetchy (I can call you Kvetchy, right?),

I love a man who can blog so well! There is something so macho about it... My phone number is 555-1234. Maybe we can get together and you can show me some of your blogging tips?


Dear Mr. Kvetchy Blogger,

I must confess, your blog has been an inspiration. I also hate *%#@^, and think they are a danger to the very foundations of our freedom in this country. You have convinced me that I, and the rest of the intellectual elite, have to act. I am calling my lawyer today and bringing a lawsuit....

With admiration,
Professor Ivory Tower

Yo KB!

You da bomb! You rock my world! You go girl!

What's my name again?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Soccerdad Makes Me Proud To Be A Blogger

Soccerdad has a regular feature on his blog which is absolutely heartwarming, and makes me proud to be a blogger.

Every Monday he has what he calls "Military Monday" where he writes about the positive things the American military is doing where they are stationed. Nice stories and beautiful pictures - just the kind of thing the drive-by media completely ignores.

Want a lift? Check out some good news here.
Abbagav Really Gets Around

Abbagav has done a great job hosting Havel-havalim this week. And he really gets around...check out his wonderful pictures!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Support Us Even When We Don't Bleed

Last week's incidents where IDF attempts to assasinate terrorists resulted in civilian deaths caused a number of reactions. The anti-Israel press had a field day of course. Those in charge of international public relations complained that it was hard to make a dent in the negative pr. And even pro-Israel bloggers, reacting to the incidents, groaned that they couldn't stand the headlines and kvetched about how uncomfortable they made them.

The unspoken but natural continuation of these complaints is the thought, just under the surface that "it would be so much easier if there were pictures of dead Jews to offset the ones of Arabs..."

The fact that G-d has been performing miracles lately for the people of Sderot, Ashkelon, and the western Negev and keeping the kassams from hitting human targets, seems to be met with frustration instead of profound gratitude and a fervent prayer that things will continue this way.

The fact that the IDF uses its intelligence and skills to kill terrorists before they attack is cheered - but seemingly only if their operation is conducted with 100% precision, and that the Jewish lives thus saved are null and void if civilians are mistakenly killed in the process.

This attitude makes me angry on many different levels, and points to a skewed perception that affects how people relate to Israel and to our very right to exist in this part of the world.

The history of the state of Israel is tied too closely to the Holocaust. It is as if the right of the Jews to live in Israel was established when the concentration camps were liberated, and that we "paid" for this priviledge with six million dead. It ignores the ancient history of the promise of G-d to the Jews that this land is ours, and it ignores the modern history of thousands of proud and idealistic Jews who worked hard to create a thriving country. We didn't "pay" for Israel with our dead, we paid for it the old-fashioned way - with cold hard cash. It started with Jews who gave charity to the Keren Kayemet in order to pay for land, and it continued with those who built cities and made the desert bloom, and it continues to this day. Believing that the Holocaust was the justification for the State of Israel sets up a sort of macabre installment plan, where Israel is only supported as long as we produce dead Jews.

This fundamental flaw in attitude is shared by too many Jews, both in the Diaspora and in Israel, and it colors how people react to current events such as those of last week.

It causes many, when confronted with the injustice of the one-sided portrayal of the anti-Israel media, to "forget" what is cropped out of the picture. In the case of Sderot, this is the hundreds of kassams that were launched against the civilians in this city. After all, this thinking continues, noone was killed there recently. Without a body, Israel seemingly loses its right to defend itself.

Anti-Semites will hate us no matter what we do. Those who know very little about the Middle East conflict, and depend solely on short sound bytes from the media, automatically reduce complex issues to "whoever is the underdog is right", as if whoever has the highest number of dead wins.

Those who educate themselves about the issues, and those who profess to be pro-Israel and have a stake in what happens here owe it to us to have the maturity to see the bigger picture, and to reject the simplistic assumption that the only time one can comfortably support Israel is when she bleeds.

We here in Israel have the right to be happy and safe. We have the right to a strong army which defends us properly, even if it means that sometimes civilians on the other side are hurt. In short, we don't have to be victims. A family in Sderot doesn't have to grieve in order for you not to feel guilty.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The IAF is Always Learning

This past week three different targeted assasination attempts in Gaza included civilian casualties. This unfortunate and regrettable fact is of course being used by various forces in order to pressure the IAF to stop this type of operation.

Whether or not you agree with this, I found in very interesting to see how the Israel Air Force has reacted to these type of incidents, and to see just how much they have learned.

Yaakov Katz has a good analysis here in the Jerusalem Post, where he details how the IAF is developing more accurate munitions, and how they try to learn from the mistakes of the past.

What I personally find much more interesting, though, is how they have learned to deal with the local press. I have read the articles in all of the English web sites, and I listened to two separate interviews on IDF radio of pilots who have done targeted assasinations.

Both pilots were interviewed by female, left leaning reporters. They both were asked, over and over, how the pilots felt about killing civilians. Both pilots spoke calmly and clearly, and basically said the same thing: "We feel badly about civilian casualties, but we know that we take every precaution humanly possible to avoid them, and if we stop our operations altogether it means civilians on our side will be hurt or killed."

It is obvious to me that the reporters are looking for another Dan Halutz moment. Halutz was interviewed after bombing the apartment building where a Hamas leader was killed, and asked how he felt about the civilians killed then too. The reporter repeated the question, and when he was asked again what he felt when he dropped the bomb, he retorted that he felt a small movement under his seat when the bomb fell. (Sort of the Israeli version of "you are stuck on stupid"). The left went wild at this, and even tried to get him thrown out of the Air Force by going to the Surpeme Court. It is particularly galling to them that he is now the IDF Chief of Staff.

The IAF was also careful to emphasize that if they cannot use this type of operation, then their only other alternative is to plan a major ground offensive, which means moving in troops to the northern part of Gaza. Less than a year after the disengagement, this would be an admission of failure for those who pushed it so hard, and both the left and the IAF knows this.A subtle, but persuasive, way of telling the media to tone it down.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Next Time Someone Starts to Justify Suicide Bombings....

The next time someone starts to justify suicide bombings and other terrorist actions, send them to this website. The x-ray project is a stunning portrayal of the real effects of suicide bombings on human beings, done in a unique way.

Hat tip: Solomonia.
The Victims Are Individuals - Let's Remember Them

I read about this on Abbagav's blog yesterday, and I think it is a wonderful idea. Blogger Dcroe came up with the idea of memorializing the victims of 9/11 by asking bloggers to write about one individual who was killed, and posting this on September 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center. His only request is to write about the person, and not dwell on the terrorists themselves.

I left a comment on his blog, and have been assigned a person to write about. Right now he has just 10% of the 2995 additional bloggers that he needs for the project. I urge whoever has a blog to volunteer, and spread the word.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Two in One Week

Wow, this must be a record. For the second time in less than a week there is an article in Haaretz that I can agree with. Bradley Burston has listed ten reasons why he thinks that the disengagement from Gush Katif has "saved" the settler movement.

He makes a number of very good points about how Israeli public opinion has changed due to the aftermath of last summer. As a matter of fact, I agree with his whole list. My only problem is the assumption that he makes that the viewpoints of most Israelis has an impact on governmental decisions. I think one Peace Now macher has more power than ten average Israelis - because of the way the media is tilted toward the left. The politicians pay more attention to how to get elected again than they do to what the people really want, and if it is easier to get media support by spouting the left's agenda, then that is what they do. And the politicians who are straight, and just vote according to their idealogy, are too often perceived by the Israeli public as being "weak".

We need someone who is both clean of corruption, committed to the right wing path, and tough as nails.

Monday, June 19, 2006

What Goes Around Comes Around

The Jerusalem Post has an article this morning titled "Population Swap Goes Mainstream". It refers to the idea of taking away the Israeli citizenship of Arabs living in population centers surrounded by a majority of Jewish citizens, and transfering them to the Palestinian Authority. This fits in with the idea of the separation of the populations, which promoters of the security barrier believe in. First proposed by so called "right wing fanatics" and made even more popular by Avigdor Lieberman's party, the title refers to the fact that the idea is being discussed for the first time at an academic conference.

First, I have to say that I disagree with this idea, and I think it is wrong to change someone's citizenship solely based on the demographics of where he lives. But on the other hand, I also thought that it was wrong to force someone out of his home based on the demographics, which is what happened last summer in Gush Katif.

I also think the the security barrier is wrong, and I have been vehemently opposed to it from the beginning. There really won't be a "separation" between the populations, because there are already hundreds of thousands of Arabs already living in pre-67 Israel, and I think that the very idea of separation of populations is racist and wrong. If the point is to protect Israelis from terrorists, then you have to go to where the terrorists are and capture them. Putting up a dumb wall will only slow them down, not stop them, and meanwhile you are hurting hundreds of thousands of innocent people - both Arab and Jew.

But it is interesting to see how much this racist idea of separation of populations is really catching on in Israel, and if I were a left-winger I would be in a cold sweat right now. What goes around comes around eventually. The proponents of the disengagement used numbers on a piece of paper in order to justify expelling Jews from their homes, even though they lived there legally. Now more and more people are talking about the idea of using numbers on a piece of paper in order to change citizenship. Since they are not talking about expelling Arabs, I can see how some people would see this as an acceptable thing to do. After all, you are solving that horrible demographic problem.
New Host for Havel-Havelim

Blueenclave is a first time host for Havel-Havelim and has done a great job. Please take a look.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

How Did They Answer the Young People?

Sometimes the weekly Torah portion that we read every Sabbath morning is rather obscure, and we need the Rabbinical commentaries in order to understand it. Sometimes the plain text fairly leaps off the page, and the relevance to today is crystal clear. Yesterday's reading, Shlach (Numbers chapters 13-15) was in the second category.

It tells of Moshe sending twelve spies to Canaan (later to be Eretz Yisrael) to check out the place and bring back a report. All twelve saw the same things, but their interpretation of what they saw was different. Ten out of twelve said that although the land was very fertile, the people there were giants and that they would never be able to beat them and conquer the land (despite G-d's assurances otherwise). Calev and Yehoshua were the only ones who said that they should "go up" (where we get the word aliyah from) and that they would be able to defeat the people, and they emphasized the land "was very good".

Some of Bnei Yisrael listened to the "majority" and began complaining and crying. According to the medrashim, (Rabbinical interpretations) the women agreed with Calev and Yehoshua, and had faith that things would be all right.

In the end G-d punished the naysayers. The ten spies who brought back a bad report were killed immediately, and all of Bnei Yisrael were to wander in the desert for forty years - until all of the men who complained would die off. The women, and those under the age of 20, and Calev and Yehoshua would survive and go into what would be Eretz Yisrael.

There are so many lessons to learn from this Torah portion - the most obvious of course is the fact that faith, or lack of it, in G-d colors your perspective of reality and has far-reaching consequences.

But I have some other questions that I probably won't find answers to about the aftermath of this parsha (Torah portion). When Bnei Yisrael were wandering in the desert for the next 38 years, how did they answer the questions posed to them by their young people (which can be asked today also)?

Questions like how was it that some of the spies (a majority, no less) came to the wrong conclusion, when Calev and Yehoshua didn't?

Why did the women have faith, but most of the men didn't?

And, more poignantly, why is it that we have to suffer for the lack of faith of others?

Painful questions - unclear answers.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

IDF Protects its Own - Despite Supreme Court Rulings

It is a rare day when an article in Haaretz perks me up - but today is one of them. In a piece this morning the author tells about how eight months ago the Supreme Court ruled against what they called "neighbor procedures". This was a way for the IDF to try to get a wanted fugitive to surrender, by using a neighbor to approach the person. This way the fugitive would not just shoot whoever came to the door, assuming he was an IDF soldier, and additionally the soldiers could get information about what was happening in the apartment so they could know how to proceed.

When discussing the case, the IDF warned that banning the procedure would unnecessarily endanger soldiers' lives. The court banned it anyway, despite expert testimony by Senior General Staff officers.

The IDF changed its tactics - but happily they found a way to proceed without endangering the soldiers. You've heard of the expression, it you can't go in through the door, try the window? Well, in this case it is if you can't go in through the door, try the wall... Now when they need to apprehend a fugitive holed up in a house, they shoot warning shots first, and if he doesn't give himself up, they start to bulldoze the house.

According to the article, "both the army and human rights groups, who closely follow developments in the territories, agree that the risk to the lives of Palestinian civilians is greater today. Furthermore, the new procedures result in more extensive damage to Palestinian homes."

In an understatement, the article also has the following quote, "the court's decision reflects a certain dislocation from the operational realities in the territories, and that the moral argument accepted by the court has resulted in grave danger to the lives of Palestinian citizens and their property."

Knee-jerk liberalism causes more harm than good, and the arrogance of the so called "elite" in the court who ignore other points of view in order to push through its own worldview can result in their hurting the very people they supposedly want to protect.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

When Other Bloggers Say It Better

Sometimes I don't have the strength to write a post on the daily stuff happening in Israel, and I am always glad to find other bloggers who do, and do it well.

Daledamos writes about the targeted killing that happened yesterday here, with the appropriate title stating, "you'd think there was a war going on".

Oceanguy has a roundup called "Pallywood Digest". Definitely worth a look.

Israelmatzav reports that there are a lot of left wingers here from America who love to go to Schem (Nablus) to hang out.

Crossingtherubicon has a stunning post about the Consequences of Pacifism - which should be required reading by both Americans and Israelis alike.

And although this post is not about Israel, I think that it is a great feature that everyone should read. Soccerdad writes about brave American soldiers in his weekly Military Monday. I think his idea to make it into a carnival is also spot on.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Quick - Let's Give Them More Territory Before They Kill Each Other Off

It is a good thing that I believe that G-d is ultimately in charge of the world, because if I didn't I would despair over the future of my country.

This morning Haaretz has an article about Olmert's "plan B". It seems that the unilateral convergence plan is running into opposition all over, so this "brilliant" (not) government is going to pretend to follow the Road Map, and give up territory in Judea and Samaria to Abbas. They are trying desperately to ignore the fact that Abbas is not in charge anymore according to the Palestinian elections. And, to make it worse, they are just going to ignore Phase one of the Road Map plan, the one that says that the terrorist infrastructure has to be dismantled.

Well, guys, good luck. You had better hurry up, though, because the civil war between Fatah and Hamas is heating up. has the latest in the violence, with the fact that Fatah gunmen have torched the Hamas Ramallah office, in addition to kidnapping one of the Hamas "lawmakers". If things keep going on like this, pretty soon there won't be an Abbas to give anything to.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Aliyah Post Roundup - Part 2 The Bumps in the Road

Since I published the first roundup of posts about making aliyah, I received a number of others. It is interesting that these focus more on the bumps along the way...

Olahchadasha's saga has many twists and turns. Ladylight hit some bumps in the road, and sadly went back to America, although her children live in Israel, and she very much wants to return.

Mominisrael also had some difficulties, both on a personal level and a national level, but is happily still here.

Menacheminisrael asks a very incisive question, do you want to live in Israel or do you need to?

I enjoyed these posts very much, and hope you do too....

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Haveil-Havalim is Up

Scottage has a great roundup today - check out Haveil-Havalim #73.
Just Because You Are an American, Don't Count on Not Being Lynched

A Jewish American exchange student, Benjamin Fishbein, decided to "soak up the local culture" and went to Shchem (Nablus) to have coffee. He got a little more than he bargained for.

While sitting in a cafe he was kidnapped by masked gunmen, and a tape was made of him demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners, or otherwise he would be killed.

At some point someone got smart and strings were pulled, and he was released unharmed. I am sure that some deal was made somewhere, the details of which will probably never come out.

A NOTE TO FOREIGNERS (including naive Americans). Just because Arabs can shop and eat at cafes all over Israel without being harmed does not mean that Jews have the same privilege. We here in Israel don't forget the Israeli soldiers who wandered into Ramallah and were literally torn apart by a gang. You shouldn't forget either.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

And Speaking of Last August...

DryBones has a "golden oldie" cartoon on his blog today which can be applied to our situation today...and last August.

Check it out.
Bookweek in the Boonies

Ok, I could have come up with a nicer title than that for the post, but Shavua Sefer in our yishuv sounded very dull.

Anyway, I don't know what other yishuvim do for this week, but we have one afternoon where books are on sale in the community center, and all week long the library has special events geared for each age. Sometimes it is a simple story time, and sometimes there is book talk given by an author (for the teens and adults).

I tell my kids that I will buy them one book each, and if they want more they have to pay for it from their savings. One son likes the Chaim Walder series "Kids Speak Out", and even though he has read them over and over again, he wants to own them. So he picked out number four, and I gave in and bought the newest one, number five so that he would have the whole set. One son picked out the book about all of the miracles that happened in Gush Katif, and he paid for a set of machzorim (prayer books for the holidays, versus just for weekdays and Shabbat). He put out a substantial chunk of his savings for this - but he wants to be like his older teenage brother who has his own set too. Sort of like very positive peer pressure.

For the first time ever I picked out a Hebrew book. I usually don't read books in Hebrew (newspapers yes, books no) because I read for enjoyment. But I saw the book "Kissufim", a collection of essays on the difficult questions we all have about why the disengagement happened, and I couldn't resist. I plan on reading this during the three weeks (the mourning period commemorating the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem). I am always conflicted about what to read during this time, and I sometimes read something Holocaust related. This year the memories of last August will be sad enough to put me in the "proper mood" for this time.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Girl Has Caught the Bug

Irina from the Ignoble Experiment has come back from two weeks in Israel, and has caught the "I love Israel" bug. Her post made me cry, especially the line "Israel is MINE".

Go read and enjoy her post about her first time, but probably not last (G-d willing) in Israel.
Yoel Marcus and the Green Eyed Monster

If someone can be called "green with envy", Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus could arguably be mistaken for human astro-turf. In yesterday's web edition he wrote an editorial piece listing the reasons why Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau shouldn't be elected for president of Israel.

Read the editorial - if you have a strong heart and no ulcers, and you know that you will be able to control yourself and not smash your fist into the computer monitor. If you can't meet these criteria, I'll give you a summary.

There is the short version, the slightly longer version, and the real reason that Marcus thinks Lau is a bad pick.

The short version is that Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau is an Orthodox Jew. (I guess it is racist to judge people by their skin color but not by their religion....)

The slightly longer version is this: Marcus lists some pros and cons regarding Rabbi Lau's qualifications, including both facts and rumors, innuendo, and assumptions. The facts fall into the pro side, and the rest are in the con side. After listing Rav Lau's impressive accomplishments as Chief Rabbi of Netanya, Tel-Aviv, and all of Israel, his appointments as Rabbinic Court President (several times) and the fact that he was an Israel Prize Laureate, Marcus then compliments Rav Lau as being a first rate orator with a "fine pronunciation of Hebrew without a trace of Yiddish." (Yes, the man actually wrote that - as if it is a selling point that Rav Lau doesn't sound like those Jews who are right off the boat...)

For the cons, Marcus resorts to rumors and innuendo - reported in the press, of course. I quote, "All kinds of stories hit the airwaves about his hobnobbing with rich people, his love of money and his soft spot for pretty women." How does Marcus justify quoting these rumors? He points to the fact that Rav Lau didn't sue the newspapers for publishing them. That's it. No more solid proof needed.

Marcus then goes on to "prove" that Lau wold be a bad candidate for president by stating the following: "A rabbi for president of Israel is a dangerous proposition - politically, because as president he is liable to support opponents of withdrawl from the Land of Israel, and socially, because he is liable to turn his nose up at a million Russian immigrants and other pork and shrimp eating Israelis, and leave the hands of Israel's women, waiting to congratulate their president, dangling in the air."

One, Marcus assumes that Rav Lau will take sides in a politically controversial issue, something that most presidents in the past have avoided, including the present one, Moshe Katzav, who is also an Orthodox Jew. Two, he assumes that Rav Lau will discriminate against Russian immigrants and those who do not keep kosher, an assumption with absolutely no basis in fact. The last assumption is the only one with some truth to it, as Rav Lau does not shake women's hands. How does this last fact fit in with the previous rumor about Rav Lau's weakness for pretty women? According to Marcus the Rav became "careful" when he realized the he would be running for president, and stopped shaking women's hands. (I guess you have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool old Yoel....)

And now for the real reason why Marcus doesn't want Lau for president. Jealousy, plain and simple. Throughout the whole piece he harps constantly on how popular Rav Lau is. He keeps bumping into him at affairs of the rich and famous. Imagine that, an Orthodox Jew, with a black hat, no less, attending the same events as I do! Adding insult to injury is Rav Lau's bestselling book, and his tv show, and the fact that the elite are breaking down his door asking him to perform the weddings of their children. He even "attends all of the most important funerals, and can be found making condolence calls at the most elegant homes." (Yes, he really wrote that, as if an Orthodox rabbi should only make shiva calls to the poor who live in hovels...)

What is so sad and frustrating about this drivel masquerading as a serious opinion piece, is the fact that Rav Lau really is respected by so many people, both religious and secular alike. When I first came to Israel I learned Hebrew at the ulpan in the absorption center, and my teacher was an ultra-lefty. She taught us about the calendar in Israel and about Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the topic of Rav Lau came up, as he was a child who escaped the concentration camps. She only had praise for him, and spoke of him as one of the few people able to bridge the gaps between the religious and secular, because of the high esteem in which most people hold him. It is too bad that Marcus feels the need to besmirch Rav Lau's reputation because of how own personal weakness.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gifts of the Magi

As I wrote before in a previous post, I spent a few weeks in Israel during the Lebanon war volunteering, before wrapping up my time in Israel as a student.

One of the things that I did was package boxes of treats for the soldiers who were fighting up north. I took the bus to Yad L'Banim in Jerusalem, and even though I arrived relatively early in the morning the place was bustling with activity. I was directed to a large open room, where there were many volunteers already working.

Trucks from both large manufacturers and little makolets (mom and pop stores) kept pulling up and unloading boxes of non-perishable junk food. Inside the room, lining the walls, were more stacks of boxes and clear plastic bags with brand new sweat socks. At first I was puzzled, but after thinking for a few minutes I understood. With laundry facilities few and far between, and wearing those heavy boots in the summer heat, a pair of clean sweat socks would probably be considered a welcome luxury by a hot and sweaty soldier.

Private citizens were also arriving with their own gifts for the soldiers. Chabad Lubavitch guys came in with Shabbat candles and the tiniest sifrei Tehillim (books of Psalms) that I had ever seen. Women bearing foil pans with homemade goodies put in a frequent appearance. Teachers of kindergarten and grade school children brought stacks of drawings with personal (and usually lopsided) greetings to include in each box.

I joined some other religious girls at a table and began working. Volunteers who were able to give just a few hours of their time would leave and be replaced by others, and filled boxes would be taken away and replaced by empty ones.

At one point in the afternoon, a man whose dress and demeanor could only be described as "salt of the earth" appeared at our table, and with a wheeze of exertion he plunked down a huge stack of magazines.

To put it delicately, these magazines were better known for their photographs of the female form than they were for their articles. One by one the religious girls at my table would glance at the stack, do a mental "whoops" and try valiantly to pretend we hadn't seen them. Another male volunteer, taking in our somewhat pink faces and the fact that we were studiously looking in every direction but one, put two and two together, and in typical Israeli "let it all hang out" style voiced his criticism loudly enough to be heard across the room. "Hishtagata! Yesh datiot po!!" ("Are you crazy! There are religious women here!")

The gentleman in question had the good grace to look embarassed, and heaved the offending magazines off the table and took them to another part of the room where only men were working, and where he hoped they would savor his donation with the appreciation it deserved.

All of this occurred before the war became politicized, and support for the soldiers was common across the board. Every "flavor" of Israeli citizen was represented, and although the nature of the gifts were different, they were all given from the heart.

Monday, June 05, 2006

More Aliyah Posts

I sent out a call for aliyah posts a few weeks ago to celebrate my own aliyah anniversary, and the resulting roundup is down below.

After I posted, I came across Oleh Chadasha's post (1st part). Lady-light of the Tikkun Olam blog asked permission to write also, and share her story. She made aliyah, went back to the States and wants very much to come back. I told her to write away and I would post it.

Anyone else who has been inspired by the other stories and wants to join in is welcome. Just let me know and I will post your links too.
Naches Comes In Little Packages

One of our sons went through a rite of passage this past Shabbat. No, this one didn't warrant invitations, photographers and a big party.

As a matter of fact, it went by with barely a flicker of an eyelash by the rest of the community, and my son himself didn't seem particularly excited.

But I noticed. This week was the first time that he led Pesukei D'zimra in the Shabbat services in the synagogue. (Boys younger than Bar Mitzvah age are alowed to lead this one). I made sure to get to shul at the start of prayers, instead of setting the table and organizing my house and getting there about twenty minutes into things, as I usually do. And at the end I made sure to give him a big kiss and a "Yasher Koach" (used nowadays as "great job".)

A smart mother takes her naches (loosely translated as pride at children's accomplishments) wherever she can get it, and sometimes it comes in little packages like this week.

My parents were not observant, but they were very "Jewish". At family gatherings a familiar phrase uttered at parting was "only at simchas" and "you should get a lot of naches from your kids." My mother (may she rest in peace) caught my teenage self rolling my eyes at the last phrase once. She said to me, "miss, you can roll your eyes now, but someday you will know exactly what we mean".

Now I know exactly what she meant. I most certainly do.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Go On Over To Jacks Place...

Jack has done his usual superb job with Havel-Havalim. There are a lot of great posts, and I especially found I'm Haaretz''s take on this issue to be thought provoking.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Making the Dream Come True

A few weeks ago I put out a call for posts on why people decided to make aliyah. I half expected a lot of the same stuff, and was surprised to see that, although there is some overlap in reasons why people make aliyah, each person's story really is unique.

Some decisions were a natural part of a process, like Batya's. In contrast, Rafi writes that his coming to Israel was almost coincidental (although we all know that there really are no coincidences).

Stillruleall describes how he made his decision because of the terrorist attacks he witnessed, and not despite them. Check out his story.

Bec describes her emotional attachment to Israel "you've never felt as at home anywhere as you do at that moment", but Moze explains the practical reasons, and even divides them into categories!

Sometimes it is the little things that make a difference. Snoopythegoon tells about how a simple melody made a huge impact on him, and Treppenwitz writes about how wonderful it is that his company acknowledges family milestones.

Emahs does the typical Jewish thing and answers a question with a question when she asks "why NOT make aliyah"? Abbagav does the atypical and says "it's a great place to visit AND I want to live there".

Purpleparrot explains how her path to Israel took some twists and turns, and that she almost became a settler, (we have to do something about that math requirement...) and I describe my turning point during the war in Lebanon, which down the road led me to become what she didn't.

And, of course, there is Jameel's story , including a very funny demonstration on how NOT to open a milk bag.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. Happy cheesecake everybody!

Update: While I was making my lasagna it seems that Jerusalemcop posted his two shekels - so don't forget to read his also...