Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yes, ChayeiSarah, We Are Religious Zionists

Chayei Sarah wrote a post yesterday criticizing the settler movement, and unwittingly furthered another myth. To give her credit, she made this mistake because she listened to a panel discussion by some Dati Leumi rabbis, and she read my post about the Bnei Akiva snif and the paintings by some of the groups.

The myth that she furthered is that we right wing settlers only care about holding on to the land, and that we should be called "right wing Zionists" and not "religious Zionists". It seems that she thinks, and unfortunately a lot of other people do too, that yishuv eretz Yisrael (settling the land of Israel) is the only mitzva that we care about. The Charedi community has sometimes chimed in with this myth too.

This myth makes me furious, not only because it is patently untrue, but because some, even in our own community, have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. (Righteous people are always guilty about not doing enough, even when they do a lot more than others. Since I am not a tzadeket myself, I don't feel this guilt, and can hopefully provide a reality check to my readers).

To set the record straight, (and it is absurd that I have to spell this out) we religious settlers educate our children in ALL of the mitzvot, not just the one about living in Israel. We teach them Torah, we teach them about chessed, we teach them about kashrut, we teach them about lashon hara, etc. We put these lessons into practice at home by living frum lives in general, and by giving tzedaka - not only to religious organizations but to other ones as well. The Bnei Akiva groups frequently come around (it seems every week) and collect money for cancer research, for juvenile diabetes, for Tal Chaim (soup kitchens in the Tel-Aviv area), for disabled kids, etc. Every year we have a matanot l'evyonim drive (gifts to the poor given on Purim) where the proceeds are distributed to needy families in the nearest city, to both religious and non-religious families alike. This is in addition to the 13 gemachim (free loan society for money and material goods) that we run just in our small community.

The teens in Bnei Akiva volunteer in other places where there are not enough madrichim (counselors), some of which are located in non-religious or mixed communities. Young people from our communities in Yesha went up north during the war and distributed games to the kids in bomb shelters. We hosted a group of kids from the north so they could get away from the shelters for a while.

The girls who do Sherut Leumi (national service) do so all over the country, and are just as likely to choose a place in Netivot as in another yishuv in Judea and Samaria. The boys who serve in the army fight to protect everyone, not just their families and friends back where they live.

These activities are so ingrained in our daily lives that we don't even notice them too much, and I never felt the need to write about them before in my blog.

There is a theory that the reason we lost Gush Katif was because the secular left-wing did not feel connected to the yishuvim there. Some claim that this was the fault of the settlers themselves, who spent too much time focussing on yishuv eretz yisrael, and did not spend their time educating the secular population in general. In addition, the settlers supposedly "rejected" the secular by living in exclusively religious communities. I disagree with this theory in many ways.

Where do I start? One, there are many reasons why we lost Gush Katif, and a good number of them relate to Arik Sharon and Manny Mazuz. Two, the reasons why the left wing secular community does not relate to the yishuvim are much more complicated than "simple ignorance". I do think that projects like panim el panim (face to face meetings) are valuable, but they are by no means a magic cure, and changing people's way of thinking takes years of education. Three, the secular community is by no means excluded from living in Judea and Samaria. In fact, they make up the majority of people living here - 60%. There are secular settlements, in addition to mixed secular and religious communities, where they are free to join. Just because there are exclusively religious communities does not mean that the chilonim have been rejected.

Yes, there is a need for reaching out, and some effort must be made to embrace the secular. But why does this have to be done by those of us living in Judea and Samaria? All in all we number (ken yirbu) 250,000 people - at least half of which are children! There are plenty of ways to be moser nefesh for klal yisrael. Some of us, unfortunately, have literally been moser nefesh - and the rest of us are doing quite a lot. Shouldn't the burden be shared by others?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Take My Husband, PLEASE!

[Please note: this post was written with both the approval and encouragement of my husband.]

Westbankpapa has unfortunately been laid off from his hi-tech job, and although he has had a good interview or two he is still signing up at the unemployment office, and spending a lot of time at home. (Readers who want details and have possible leads can email me). Since I work part-time from home our togetherness quotient has risen dramatically.

This state of affairs has its advantages - he has a lot of quality time with the kids, for example. But it also has its inevitable disadvantages. In our case it causes quite a lot of stress in one particular room of the house.

I am talking of course, about the kitchen.

You see, if men are from Mars and women are from Venus when it comes to communication, then there must be two different planets for those of us in the human race who are "foodies" and those who are not.

I'm not.

Don't get me wrong, I like eating (especially chocolate). But I am rather simple in my tastes and in my cooking skills (see previous post). Just to give you an example, my idea of a hi-tech kitchen gadget is a wooden spoon.

When I read a cookbook and find a recipe where it takes eight different steps just to preheat the oven, I turn the page. Westbankpapa views this kind of recipe as a personal challenge made by the author and he responds by picking up the gauntlet (or oven mitt, in this case).

What this means is that for a good portion of my day, every flat surface in my kitchen is completely covered with...stuff. I never knew there were so many different ways to cut up food or measure it. I never knew that the precise temperature could be measured with so many different gadgets. I never knew what an imposition it is just to make a cup of coffee (no, don't touch that....)

The resulting food is usually delicious, of course, although a bit on the gourmet side. The kids sometimes look at me with longing and ask, politely mind you, "Ima, you're going to make the spaghetti sauce next time, right?" when they find something in it that defies their imagination.

But this is just the beginning. The resulting questions that emerge after each cooking session ("honey, don't you think that the plates could be stored here in this cupboard", or "darling, I've thought of a better way to arrange the spices") have gotten on my nerves to the point where I have to clench my teeth just to respond civilly.

The scary part comes when I start imagining what will happen when he retires....

My prayers for parnassa have taken on a keener edge lately, and I sincerely wish him a hearty "b'hatzlacha" ("good luck") when he goes out the door to another interview!

But I'm hanging on the edge here folks... judging from the sounds he's now rearranging the medicine cabinet....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Easy Winter Dessert

I grew up in upstate New York, and besides enjoying the fall foliage, (which I miss to this day living here in Israel) I have fond memories of apple picking (which I did once in the Golan Heights).

For nostalgia's sake during the winter months, when I am tired of baking, I usually make this apple dessert as an alternative to cake.

Apple Dessert

10 medium sized apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup margerine

Grease pie pan. Cut apples and mix with cinnamon and sugar. Place in pan. Make topping and cover apples with it. Bake in medium oven for 45 minutes.

This is best served warm. For a dairy meal, a scoop of vanilla ice cream with it is a great treat.

If you have a recipe to share, why not send it on to Batya (shilohmuse at gmail dot com) for the Kosher Cooking Carnival?

Why Do Secular Israelis Hate the Orthodox?

If you have lived in Israel for more than a few months, you have no doubt noticed a troubling social problem. It seems that there is a significant number of secular Israelis who hate the Orthodox (if you doubt me, just read some of the talkbacks to articles featuring the Orthodox).

Having been born into a non-religious home, and becoming a ba'al teshuva myself, I have found this very perplexing, because I do not remember my parents feeling this way. In America it was live and let live in both directions. Why does it seem to be different in Israel?

Jerusalem Joe of TheIsraeliTikkunBlog shares with us a dream he had, and analyzes it in light of what he thinks is the main reason for this hate. I found it very interesting and enlightening reading.

Curious? Go on over and read.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Writing on the Wall

Every year those of us with children in Bnei Akiva (from fourth grade to12th) endure - um, I mean enjoy what is called Shabbat Irgun. This day sums up a month of work by the kids to get geared up for the year. They have "morale sessions" (basically singing at the top of their lungs about how great their group is), they prepare a skit for the Motzei Shabbat extravaganza, and they scrape off the paint, do a whitewash, and repaint their portion of the wall in the Bnei Akiva "snif" (clubhouse).

Each year the parents are invited in to see these walls. Each time I go I get a sense of what the kids are thinking about (or at least what their teenage advisors are thinking about).

Last November most of the paintings were colored black or orange, and referred to the destruction of Gush Katif and the hope that we will return there. Some of the more philosophical groups wrote about hope and despair and faith - with quotations from various sources.

This year there was a different feel. The war in Lebanon and in Gaza took precedence. Some groups had collages of religous soldiers painted on the wall. Some used military "accessories" to showcase each kid's name in the group - one group used the "kumta" - the beret, each one with a different child's name. My son's group used dogtags. It certainly was a queasy sight seeing my ten year old's name, with a number that he just made up (at least he didn't put his teudat zehut number, that would have been too much).

Another group painted the following slogan in their space:

"Shalom zeh hazman bein milchama l'milchama" - "Peace is the time between one war and another."

Sobering, yes.

At the same time, though, I found this slogan to be somewhat encouraging. Not because I love war, G-d forbid. The idea of my sons fighting scares me to death.

I found it comforting, though, that although these kids are only teenagers, they understand what it takes to live here in Israel. These are normal, happy adolescents, who worry about pimples and popularity just like others their age the world over. But at the same time they know that living in their homeland takes sacrifice, and they are willing to make it.

If everyone here in Israel saw things this clearly we would all be better off.

Smoothstone Does A Superb Job

Smoothstone (soon to appear on my blogroll) has done a superb job on Haveil-Havalim this week. I am always looking for new blogs to read, and guess what - I found some! I especially enjoyed reading Shifting the Paradigm.

Check them both out!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Which Country Has More Power - Israel or America?

Batya at Shiloh Musings has the answer - go on over and read it! Shiloh Musings: The Crucial Difference

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Terror, Inc.

[This post was "inspired" by a short piece I read in the newspaper on Friday about a 57 year old woman, mother of nine, who is the oldest suicide bomber on record in Israel. Sent by Hamas, she tried to blow herself up near some IDF soldiers in Gaza. Tipped off by intelligence, they threw a grenade at her and she exploded. Every time I thought of this I had a curious reaction. I would at first recoil in revulsion - and then I kept thinking of funny aspects to this story. Perhaps it is a defense mechanism. In any case, I kept asking myself how? why? And I came up with the following. Imagine the scene...]

Achmed, a middle manager in Terror, Inc., has had a very bad day. Murphy's law has dogged his every step, and the day wasn't over yet.

First, there was the mix up with the photographers. They were three hours late showing up at the fence, and Achmed had to babysit the ISM guys for all of that time. He kept telling them that there was to be no action until the cameras showed up - after all, the main point was to get pictures of Israeli soldiers firing at protestors - but they were very impatient. Then they drove him crazy about weapons (I don't CARE if the other guys took pictures with the AK-47s, you're NOT touching my gun!). Finally they just droned on and on about saving the environment.... At least he had a chance to straighten out that Reuters fellow (Next time, buddy, if you want to practice with the Photoshop software, do it on your time...)

After all this, he just wanted to go home to some peace and quiet and a hot meal. But, nooooo! Wife number one, Haditha, was going through "the change". His friends warned him about this, but he couldn't believe it was happening in his own home. His normally meek wife was going crazy. After picking a fight with him she had the nerve to say "Stifle, Achmed, stifle!"

The only bright spot in the whole day was when he got to his office late in the day. That pretty young clerk gave him the eye as she was going out of the door, making him wonder for the fifth time in the past few weeks if he shouldn't take on another wife. And, for the fifth time, he concluded that there were just too many mouths to feed for that.

Now he sat staring glumly at the recruitment report sitting on his desk. A bright new marketing guy did a survey and an analysis, and the figures were grim. It was getting harder and harder to recruit terrorists, and here were some of the answers why.

It seems that the smart ones were letting themselves get caught at the Israeli checkpoints. Three squares a day, a chance to finish the high school matriculation exams, and a great addition to your resume if you ever wanted to go into politics, made a stay in an Israeli prison a great option. The dumber ones, well, that was another story. The number of "work accidents" just kept rising.... There were talented ones who couldn't stand the idea of a few years behind bars. But just when they learned the ropes and hit their stride, the IDF would hunt them down and turn them into stains on the pavement...

The IDF was finding and destroying the labs too. It was a real blow when they found the explosive teddy bears...

He felt a headache coming on. The guys upstairs were putting a lot of pressure on him to make his quota. Where could he find some new blood?

Pacing the office, Achmed just couldn't concentrate. The day's events kept replaying in his mind. The guy droning on about recycling....first wife going through menopause....that cute clerk.....can't afford one more....must find new source for suicide bombers....

All at once an idea occurred to him. He couldn't believe it, if this worked out, all of his problems would be solved with one step!

He even thought of a great tag line for the advertisements..."Martyrdom. It's never too late."

Smiling happily Achmed dialed his home number.

"Haditha, I have a great idea. Let's invite the Imam home for tea tomorrow..."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Random Survey

I don't know about you, but our home e-mail address is constantly inundated by irrelevant (can you say "spam") e-mails. I was wondering if the number that I receive is normal or abnormal.

During a roughly 24 hour period we received 241 emails altogether. Some were from email lists that we signed up for (and I am regretting), a few were from people on my yishuv, and one or two were from friends. I would say that about 225 of them were complete garbage (how many ways can you describe the wonders of Viagra?)

Is this number normal, high or low?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How About Some Good News

I couldn't take the bad news anymore, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving I decided to look for some positive things to blog about. I came across this heartwarming article about the arrival of some of the Bnei Menashe here in Israel.

For those of you who don't know, this is a group of people who trace their ancestors back to the lost tribe of Menashe, who were exiled 27 centuries ago by the Assyrians. (Try to wrap your brain around that - 2700 years!) They have kept the laws of Shabbat, family purity, and circumcision, although they do need to convert to be considered Jews. They have had a very long road home, and we welcome them with open arms.

Would you believe that baseball is coming to Israel, and that an Israeli company has developed an organic tea that helps diabetics? This and other good news can be found on the Israel21C blog.

Although this is a family blog, I just couldn't resist including this article. You wouldn't believe what this couple is proposing everyone do in order to bring peace. (Brought to you by Victoria's secret....)Are we ready to synchronize our watches?

Kasamba has a very funny post (when isn't she funny?) about what Thanksgiving means to her, and I am sure most of us can relate to what she is thankful for.

Personally I am very grateful for a link I received from someone who calls herself Colorado Blue (a fellow LGF lizard). She basically confirmed that my blog is worth something, and is fulfilling the role that I envisioned. Here is what she said on a forum: "..the average West Bank Israeli is a decent human being. I think that [they, ed] should read this blog and aquaint themselves with this lady." "Unfortunately the characterizations of West Bank Jews are that they are all monsters interested in oppression and apartheid. That's patently ridiculous. And claiming that it is so is, ahem, bigoted."

Thank you Colorado Blue!

So Much Bad News - So Little Time

I have a love-hate relationship with the internet lately. I love reading my favorite blogs, and I hate reading the news.

Another Kassam rocket attack killed someone from Sderot yesterday. Yaakov Yaacobov died last night in the hospital after sustaining wounds from the rocket which fell on the chicken packing plant where he worked. Hear that world, a citizen, 43 years of age, is working in a factory to put bread on the table for his family, and is killed just like that! Meanwhile, our joke of a Defense Minister and our Prime Minister are not talking to each other. It is a regular soap opera here in Israel. It would be funny if people weren't dying.

Things are not much better up north in Lebanon. The anti-Syrian minister Gemayeel, a Christian, was murdered in Beirut. Civil war is looming, which means very bad tidings for Israel.

It is just a matter of time before we are involved in another full scale war here. The only question is on how many fronts at once? I guess three - up north, in Gaza, and from far away in Iran. I just hope that someone is taking this seriously and preparing for it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Every Week it Gets Better

Haveil-Havalim that is. Gail has it on Crossingtherubicon3. Go on over and check it out.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Only in Israel - The Roundup

For my one year blogiversary I treated myself to one of my favorite things - "only in Israel" stories. Not only do I enjoy reading them, but even though not all of them are positive, in general they give me chizuk (strength) for the inevitable times when living in Israel is not a bed of roses.

I am presenting them in no particular order, just as I received them.

First to respond was Yaakov at Aliyahblog. First of all, the entire blog is a great resource for anyone who has made aliyah. He has a special section for just these kind of stories. Here are a few favorites.

This is not exactly a "blue light special" (remember Kmart?) but it is a great find in the supermarket just the same. This post shows that lessons in good middot (character traits) can be found in the most unlikely places. Trusting other Jews can be felt clearly in this great story.

Batya tells of a very beautiful way to tell when winter is here.

Purpleparrot has a "rated R" only in Israel story, where she tells about her encounter with a creep and the nice man who helped her get over it.

Ezzie shares with us two of his stories - and in both he takes off his kipa.

Bec tells us about how hachnassat orchim (hospitality) helped her decide to come back to Israel.

A past visit to Israel inspires Soccerdad's story about how he was taken for a ride.

MominIsrael tells about her encounter with a person with the classic Israeli "rosh katan" (literally small head - someone who can't think for themselves).

Rafi from LifeinIsrael has an interesting story about what the hospital guard was really worried about, and another about what is not allowed to be made in Israel.

Aliyah06 at BakaDiary has a disturbing story about reserved seats in shul - I know that this doesn't happen only in Israel, but unfortunately sometimes does. (Move to a yishuv - we don't treat people like that where we live!)

EmahS has some nice short stories, including a funny shopping experience.

Esseragaroth describes his unusual footwear problems, and some of the stereotypes that come along with it.

Last but not least, I received this only in Israel story in an email from someone who calls himself SabbaShimon, which only proves that, in Israel at least, rules are made to be broken:

"This could only've happened in Israel:
At the time I was inducted into Tsahal (Nov. '82) Raful had instigated a new rule-- due to communication problems in Lebanon, all new immigrants, regardless of their Hebrew skills, would henceforth be required to do a three month stint at a camp in Haifa, combining military "conditioning" with Hebrew learning. After the first three weeks I could see that this wasn't going to work for me, so I decided to see what I could do to get out and join the tank basic training that I had wanted from the start. Long story short, I hitchhiked on a Friday to Afula instead of home to Merom Golan, spent the night there, and on Shabbat morning hitched a ride to Raful's moshav. I ended up sharing breakfast with him, his wife, and daughter, in all spending about two hours in his home, all the while explaining to him why it would be more beneficial to my Hebrew if I were able to be in a group of Israelis at basic training, rather than a bunch of immigrants from all over, who, as soon as they would step out of the classroom would revert to their mother tongue amongst each other. He made no promises (it was his new rule, after all). After continuing on to the kibbutz for Saturday night, I returned to camp in Haifa early Sunday morning to find the whole camp on it's toes, having received a hand written note from the chief-of-staff to immediately send one private Shimon Russo to the tank corps' basic training that had just commenced at Nitzanim. Later I learned that his office sent a note stating that that would be the first and last time that the camp in Haifa (Stella Maris)would ever allow that to happen.Can you imagine even being able to get close to the Chief-of-Staff in America, let alone being invited in for breakfast, and then him agreeing to a one-of in contradiction to his own orders? There is much more to this story, but that's it in a nutshell."

Chodesh Tov everybody!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Greatest Hits...At Jack's

Jack put out a call last week for your favorite posts. His roundup is here, and I must say that I enjoyed them all. Some were thought provoking and sad at the same time, like Irina's post and Sara's poem. Some were just thought provoking, like Psychotoddlers. And I really liked SeraphicSecret's nostalgic look back at his childhood reading material.

Go on over and read - and submit some of yours too. I think Jack will be doing another round soon.

They Send Their Children to Blow Themselves Up - But They Protect The Ammunition With Their Lives

This is mind boggling. Every time I read about what is going on in Gaza I am continually surprised and disgusted. This Haaretz article reports about an abandoned IDF raid on a house in Gaza. They warned the resident of the place to leave, and were planning to hit it - because it is known as a weapons storage facility. Someone "called out the troops" as it were - and groups of Palestinian civilians (also terrorists? hard to tell) came to protect the house.

You read correctly - they were willing to risk their lives in order to save the ammunition held inside.

I can almost accept how a teenager or young adult, who has undergone brainwashing to believe that committing suicide will bring him glory and rewards in heaven, will strap a bomb belt and blow himself up. Almost.

But groups of people (supposedly civilians) risking their lives to save a house full of ammunition?

Meanwhile, Kassams are still falling this morning in the western Negev and Sderot - at least one man has been injured. And the UN has decided to focus on the sins "committed" by Israel, while completely ignoring the Kassams aimed continuously at civilians.

Did I say mind boggling?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Don't Be The Last On Your Block To....

Don't be the last on your block to send me an "only in Israel" story for my roundup. Deadline is Sunday evening (Monday morning my time).

And while you are at it, why don't you send in your favorite post to Jack. He is compiling a greatest hits post - why not join in?

You can always take the time to send in a kosher recipe to Batya for the Kosher Cooking Carnival...

Did I mention that Gail at CrossingtheRubicon3 is hosting the next Haveil-Havalim? She wants your posts too...

The People of Sderot Have Had It Up to Here

[As I am writing this post the radio is on in the background. Another Red Dawn warning is being broadcast in Sderot. My children are going out the door to school, not worried that they might be killed on the way. I can't say the same for those in the south.]

The people of Sderot have had it up to here with the empty promises of politicians. The IDF have refused to go in to Gaza in a major operation in response to the killing of Faina Slutzker yesterday by a Kassam rocket, so the parents have decided to strike the schools and are refusing to send their children this morning. (Read the article and weep - Peretz has even refused to continue the artillery fire. Fear of the world's reaction is stronger than fear of a Jewish woman or child being killed).

Most of the schools do not have the adequate protection they need from the rockets. The Red Dawn alarm system gives them at most a 20 second warning when a rocket falls. A kindergarden teacher asked on the radio this morning, "tell me, if I have a classroom of 30 tiny kids, how do I use those 20 seconds?" The parents union has turned to Arkady Gydamak (wealthy businessman) for financial help in evacuating the children from Sderot, even if it is just for a short vacation.

The whole situation is infuriating. When I made aliyah I didn't think I was moving to a country in which the leaders shrug their shoulders when their citizens are indiscriminately killed. The oft-heard excuse, very popular today, is that ground operations can't completely stop the rockets. I KNOW THAT. BUT IF YOU DON'T DO ANYTING THEN THE KASSAM ROCKETS CONTINUE FALLING ANYWAY. And, more importantly, the terrorists learn that you are weak and have lost your will to fight. Which leads them to continue killing. There is no choice in this part of the world between peace and war. There is a choice between small operations that reduce the power of the terrorists or large wars that do the same thing. Not acting at all is not a choice.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What Will The World Say When We Die?

Another barrage of rockets fell in Sderot this morning - and this time the miracles ran out. A woman has been killed, another person is in critical condition, and others are wounded lightly. This does not include the many who are suffering from shock.

We all know how apesh*t the world went when the IDF fired, by mistake, and killed Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun while targeting terrorists. What will the reaction be to a Jewish woman killed by Kassam rockets deliberately aimed at civilians?

Enraged? Hysterical? Upset? Concerned?

I doubt it.

Come on world, prove me wrong.

Update: 10:00am Israel time: Another barrage of rockets fell in Sderot. A psychologist who works there came on to IDF radio to report that there is a severe shortage of psychologists to help with the trauma that everyone is experiencing. The shortage is not just for today's short term need - but is long term also. She says that professionals are afraid to go to Sderot to work because of the security situation. She is describing some of the difficulties - there are babies whose first words are "BOOM". There are children who can't concentrate in school. There are adults who are experiencing marital problems due to the stress.

These are some of the things that need to be considered when deciding whether to go into Gaza again. Our people are in danger - not only physically.

Update 5:30 pm Israel time: More rockets fall near Ashkelon as Fatima Slutzker, the woman killed this morning, was laid to rest.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hypersensitive to Hyraxes

There is a weekly newsletter put out in my settlement every Thursday evening. The front page contains a dvar Torah. The back page contains the times for the various prayer services and Torah lectures for the coming week, announcements of births, engagements, weddings, and unfortunately deaths. Upcoming cultural activities are announced here too, and small advertisements are published.

That leaves the middle two pages. Here is where individuals in the community will write things of interest to them - occasionally an "interview" with a new family, sometimes a book review, and more often than not, an opinion piece about current events.

These opinion pieces (and the inevitable responses) can sometimes be a bit (ahem) pointed. During the time before the disengagement there were heated exchanges on the controversial issue of refusing army orders, and everyone had a different opinion about the form of protests that were needed.

Then again, sometimes these pages contain letters about more local issues, some serious and some less so. These two weeks had an exchange of letters that I personally found extremely funny.

It seems that our yishuv has been overrun by a very pesky gang. No, not a human one, a four legged one. Living in the rocky hills of Samaria we are surrounded by the wonders of nature in the form of all kinds of creatures - from slugs and snails, to scorpions and snakes, and even to what is called in Hebrew "shfanei selah". After extensive research on the internet I finally found out what these are called in English - hyrax.

These animals reside in the rocky crevices in the mountains, are very social beings, and are in general not agressive. They run away and hide in the rocks at the first sign of danger. There is only one problem with them - they are vegetarians. Aggressively vegetarian. It seems that every garden in our yishuv has turned into their own personal restaurant.

One family posted a letter complaining (rightly) that they are so unafraid of us ("yefei nefesh" that we are - slang for bleeding hearts) that packs of them have been sighted running down the street! I have been witness to this myself. This family also claimed that there is a skin disease that has been found in a number of children here that may be carried by the hyraxes. Therefore this family was looking for others to complain with them to the municipal authority and have them exterminated.

The next week another family, well known for their love of nature and animals, wrote a response. They made the point that the disease in question is carried by flies and not by hyraxes, and that the main reason why this other family complained was because of the damage to their garden, and not the health threat. The simple solution is to put up a high fence or own a dog. (Eue d'Fido seems to put them off).

I personally totally agree with the second family - although in truth I haven't suffered from their attacks of the munchies. Our garden is behind a stone fence and we used to have a dog in the yard - whose olfactory presence is apparently still sensed.

On the other hand, I couldn't help but fantasize about a possible solution to the problem, even a cruel one. I imagined a cottage industry sprouting up, where we capture and export these creatures to Far Eastern countries where their taste in "unusual meats" is well known. Perhaps a clever marketing person could spread rumors that this delicacy is the ancient Middle Eastern version of the blue pill....

Just a flight of fancy guys! I don't want any hate mail....

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Very Special Blog

I came across the blog Beyond Teshuva through Ezzie of Serandez. Here is a place where those of us who have come back to observant Judaism can read posts from others who have travelled the same way. Their "About Us" description says it all: "Beyond Teshuva is focussed on providing ideas, connection, and support for Baalei Teshuva in their continuing quest of learning, growing, and giving."

I became religious over twenty-five years ago, but I enjoy reading the posts for a number of reasons. Either they bring back memories - both good and bad - or they deal with issues that are still relevant to me today.

I sent my post "Following the Letter of the Law" to the blog administrator and was pleased to hear that they wanted to post it. It appears today, under a different title.

This blog is a highly recommended source for chizuk and further study.

Another Great Roundup

Soccerdad has another great roundup of posts from the Jewish blogosphere. Go on over to the 93rd edition of Haveil-Havalim and sample....

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Only in Israel - Strawberry Fields Edition

(This is my humble example of an "only in Israel" story that I want to link to next week to celebrate my one year blogiversary.)

Israel excels in both its agricultural produce and its hi-tech industries. What is surprising is in what close proximity these two industries are to each other.

Westbankpapa learned this personally when he took a slightly different route home from work one day. Not two minutes from his job in a hi-tech industrial area he came upon a field of beautiful ripe strawberries.

The owner (presumably) had set up a stand to sell them fresh from the fields, and when my husband found out that they were organically grown, he decided to buy some as a treat for Shabbos. There were two prices - one for the almost perfectly shaped large berries, and a slightly lower one for the smaller and slightly mushed up ones (yes, that is a technical term!). Westbankpapa chose the better ones and paid the price gladly.

As he was turning to leave, the seller, who was not wearing a kipa (skullcap) quickly scooped up some strawberries from the cheaper boxes and put them in a bag, and handed them to my surprised husband.

"What is this?" he asked. "These are for you to take truma and maaser from" he answered. (Truma and maaser refers to the portion of the produce set aside for the Kohanim (priests) in the Temple. When the Temple stood in Jerusalem it was a religious obligation to set aside a portion of the produce and bring it to the priests. Now, even though the Temple does not stand, we still keep the laws of truma and maaser as "practice" for when the Temple will be rebuilt. Religious Jews do this when buying from a place where the Rabbanut does not do it for us).

My husband told him that he would have taken from the box that he had bought. The seller wouldn't hear of it, and refused to take payment for the small amount in the bag.

Only in Israel - would a non-religious person know about truma and maaser. And only in Israel would we have to take them in the first place!

Needless to say my husband went back to this field almost every week, until strawberry season was over.

Yaakov from aliyahblog has already sent me some "only in Israel" posts to link to, aliyah06 (Bakadiary) and Ezzie from Serandez have promised, and I am waiting for the rest of you....

Deadline is next week, November 19th.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Just Some Quick Blog Business

I am off today to my workshop (see post below) so this will just be a quick reminder about my call for posts. On Rosh Chodesh Kislev (November 21) I will celebrate my one year blogiversary. I wanted to post links to "only in Israel stories". If you want to participate, just send me your link by November 19th.

G-d willing I will post my own next week to get the ball rolling.

A heartfelt wish for a Shabbat Shalom to all of you!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


L'havdil literally means "to separate" in Hebrew. The ritual ceremony separating between the Sabbath and the rest of the week is called havdala.

"L'havdil" (sometimes magnified with the additional "elef havdalos" - "one thousand differences") is used as a phrase by religious Jews to make a verbal transition from two completely different topics, usually when one is about mundane things and the other is about holy ones.

I couldn't help but think of this phrase when I heard about when and where the Gay "Pride" parade was scheduled.

You see, I will be in Jerusalem this coming Friday through Shabbat. No, not to protest, and definitely not to parade! I work part time as one of the balaniyot (attendants) of the mikvah in my yishuv. I will be in Jerusalem for a weekend workshop held once every two years for mikvah ladies who work in the settlements of the Shomron. (For a beautiful explanation of the ritual of mikvah immersion, see here.)

We get together for these workshops to learn from Rabbis and other mikvah ladies about what new issues have come up that affect our work. Medical advances and cosmetic procedures are always cropping up that require new halachic (Jewish law) rulings. At past conventions I have learned the newest abridged version of CPR, I have learned about tips on how to calm new brides who are using the mikvah for the first time, and I have learned about the responsibilities of a mikvah lady if she sees that one of her clients has been physically abused by her husband (which thank G-d I have never had to deal with).

Another reason that we get together is to share stories with other women who share the same work. If I am confronted with a delicate situation, or I am particularly moved emotionally by something that I have encountered, I have no other source of help or outlet for my feelings than these other women. I cannot speak to my friends, and especially not to my husband, about the things I deal with in my job, because of the need to protect the privacy of the women who use the mikvah.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think that it highlights one of the most central aspects of the Orthodox view on intimacy. My job as a mikvah attendant is really only a tangential part of the web of laws regarding marital relations, but even in this small area the ideas of modesty and discretion are paramount. One of the crucial tenets of my job is that I must be discreet. When there is a halachic question and I speak to the Rav of my yishuv, I give him the details, without giving any hint as to the identity of the woman in question. The fact that women use the mikvah at night is to protect their privacy. We even have the luxury, in our small community, of scheduling the women in such a way so that they avoid bumping into each other coming in or out.

Orthodox Jews are very careful (or should be) when discussing the topic of marital relations. We are careful never to be crude in our language and some things are never spoken about in mixed company. I think that many adults, of all faiths and religious levels, can see that this is one way of treating this part of life with the dignity it deserves.

Compare this, l'havdil, to the very idea of the Gay "Pride" Parade. Here you have a group of people, some if not all clad in outlandish costumes, who want to walk down the street and announce their sexual proclivities. Then add the fact that they want to specifically do this in a city which is considered holy by all three major religions.

I personally find this highly offensive, as do many others. (And yes, I would find it just as offensive if it were heterosexuals doing the parading). The fact that a small minority are taking this sense of affront to violent extremes has caused quite a lot of attention to be paid to them, and has opened the way for many bloggers to write indignant posts about the violence, while ignoring the main issue. Some have even, ironically, claimed that those who are against the parade just hate people who they find objectionable, and then use this excuse to enumerate the reasons why they personally hate the Charedim! You can't have it both ways folks - either you judge individuals on their merits alone and not because they are part of a group or you don't - black coats and hats are not an exception!

There has been a call for a non-violent protest to take part at the same time as the parade. Unfortunately, due to the law of physics, I will not be there because I can't be in two places at once.

So, I won't be protesting. Or better yet, I will be - in a circuitous way. I'll be learning ways to help add kedusha (holiness) to the very beautiful gift of intimacy that G-d has given to us.

No matter what, l'havdil, is going on outside.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Equal Pay for Equal Work - And Equal Dangers reports this morning that a women's terror cell has been busted. The IDF arrested six women working for Islamic Jihad who were primarily involved in transfering funds.

They said that they received $100 for each money transfer they accomplished. (Is that the going rate or are they being shortchanged? Maybe Shelly Ichimovitz can look into this....)

In addition, a female suicide bomber blew herself up near soldiers in the Gaza strip. She died, one soldier was hurt slightly. I don't think this is what Betty Friedan had in mind.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Don't We Know Their Stories?

I grew up in a city in upstate New York where there was a small Jewish community. Of these Jews, I would say at least 90% (if not more) were of Ashkenazi descent. I knew of only two families that were not - one originally from Egypt, and one originally from Morocco.

The Egyptian family (I was so small that I don't recall family names) were the only other Jews in the huge apartment complex in which we lived. Whenever my mother would bump into the father of the family, he would make a point of gently laying his hand on my cheek and complimenting my mother on her "beautiful Jewish children". An adult reading this may think that this was just a charming way to flatter my mother, but the my inner childhood radar picked up that he was completely sincere - and his shining eyes proved it.

As a teenager becoming observant, I started to attend the synagogue on a regular basis, and I became aware of the very nice man who read the Torah every Shabbat with a very distinctive melody. His wife was the only other woman who covered her hair (besides the Rabbi's wife, of course) and she did it with a plain scarf (instead of a wig). I remember my mother telling me their story - that they escaped from Morrocco, where they had been wealthy Jews, with only the clothes on their backs. Although they were not observant before, their family's miraculous escape unharmed from the Arabs who were killing other Jews, prompted them to become religious. They lived very modestly in America, but they were very grateful for their lives and their religious freedom.

Why did I suddenly think of these two families now? The wonders of the internet, of course. No, I did not come across their names. I came across a website called The Forgotten Refugees.

Who are the forgotten refugees? The Jews, of course. Whenever you hear about the Middle East conflict you hear about the Arab refugees who fled Israel in 1948. But you never hear about the Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries (and Iran) throughout the 20th century because of Arab persecution.Why is that? A very simple reason - we Jews take care of our own. You will not find three generations of Jews still living in abysmal conditions - because they have been absorbed by Israel, and in some cases America, and are living normal productive lives.

The web site is primarily about the documentary film of the same name, but includes a lot of information and links to other websites on the same topic. You can click on a map of Middle Eastern countries and learn about the history of the Jews in each place. I followed a link to a site titled JusticeForJews, and saw that the International Rights and Redress Campaign had a steering committee meeting in Jerusalem two weeks ago. There is a place to click to get a claims questionnaire for those who fled (available in English, Hebrew, Arabic, French, Spanish, and Italian) and I was surprised and pleased to see that there was legislation passed in Congress on May 23, 2006 on this topic.

The American Sephardi Federation is also listed as a link, and besides quite a lot of other fascinating things, has a traveling exhibit of pictures. They also provide a link to the claims questionnaire.
Haveil-Havalim And Some Brand New Games

Haveil-Havalim is being hosted this week by a blogger that is completely new to me, Yehuda at Jerusalem Games. His blog is mostly about board games for adults - thankfully not involving trivia. Go on over and enjoy!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Topics That I Won't Touch With a Ten Foot Pole

Each blogger has their own style and range of interests. Some write about personal stuff, some write about political stuff, and most of us combine the two.

I write about a lot of things, but there are some topics which I avoid like the plague. The controversy surrounding Yitzchak Rabin's murder is one of them.

This doesn't prevent me from linking to other bloggers who do, though. Carl of Israelmatzav has a good roundup of some of the questions surrounding Rabin's murder. Do you have an open mind?

Friday, November 03, 2006

You Can Run But You Can't Hide - Even In A Mosque

The IDF is continuing its intensive operation in Gaza, going after the terrorists there. Last night at least 60 of them tried to hide in a mosque in order to escape from the soldiers, thinking that it would provide a shelter for them. This of course did not prevent them from shooting from there at the soldiers. IDF snipers were able to shoot at least one of these terrorists. The IDF then called to the terrorists to surrender, and when they didn't, they started using bulldozers to destroy the surrounding buildings. After some time a ceiling in the mosque fell in, injuring the terrorists.

The IDF let ambulances in to evacuate the wounded and take them to hospitals. As of this writing (Friday, 7:15 am Israel time) the operation hasn't been halted.

UPDATE: Sunday am - According to this Ynetnews article it seems that many of the terrorists dressed up as women in order to escape, knowing that the IDF wouldn't shoot them.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What Do You Remember Today?

Today is the eleventh day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, and is the anniversary of a number of sad things.

The most widely known in the religious Jewish world is the yahrzeit (Yiddish for day of death) of Rachel Imeinu (our matriarch Rachel). Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, and was buried by Jacob in Beit Lechem. More on the ancient and modern history of Rachel's Tomb is found here. Jews have been making pilgrimages to pray at Rachel's Tomb for centuries - except for the years between 1948-1967, when the Jordanians refused to let Jews go there (as they did with the Western Wall during this period). It is considered to be the third holiest site for the Jews, after the Kotel (Western Wall) and Ma'arat HaMachpela (the tomb of the other matriarchs and patriarchs in Hebron).

Today is also the anniversary of Kristalnacht - probably one of the most famous pogroms ever, which happened in November 1938 in Germany and Austria. Nazi thugs broke the windows of Jewish businesses, synagogues were burned, and 30,000 Jews were arrested and transported to concentration camps. This was one of the first major horrors of the Holocaust.

Yitchak Rabin, the then Prime Minister, was killed eleven years ago today. Unfortunately, due to the political overtones of this event, I still don't feel comfortable writing about it. One thing is for sure, though. His death caused untold pain, both for his family and for others.

One day, a lot of tears.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

We Cannot Afford a Wimpy Defense Minister

Things are heating up in Gaza. The IDF went in last night to start a large operation there, the largest one since Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. So far they have killed four and wounded at least 11 other terrorists. The operation is said to be to prevent Kassam launchings (yes, they are still launching rockets at Sderot and the western Negev) and to uncover and destroy tunnels from Egypt, where the terrorists are smuggling huge amounts of weapons.

The only problem is that our wimpy Defense Minister is holding them back. The IDF has stated clearly that they want to permanently take over the Philadelphi route (a strip of territory at Gaza/Egyptian border), but Amir Peretz is balking. Peretz, a dove from the Labor Party, should never have been given the position. He is obviously not right for the job, as he proved during the Lebanon war this summer. The only reason he is there was to prevent him from having the Finance portfolio. With his background as Histadrut Union leader and the constant strikes that he called, it was thought that he would cause less damage running the army than running the country's budget.

Which just goes to show that even the lesser of two evils is evil enough.