Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Three of a Kind? 

Some people might think that this is a compromise, I think its another sign of haredit chutzpa.

And the JPost has a strange definition of "equal representation". I guess in their world 3=6.

"According to the compromise equal representation will be ensured for haredim and religious Zionists. A total of nine rabbinic judges will be elected, three from each camp. The Sephardi haredi Shas, the Ashkenazi haredi Aguda-Degel Hatorah and the National Religious Party will each choose three judges."

The real solution is to let the haredim have the corrupt chief rabbinate (oh, they have it already?) so we can get on with our lives.

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Agunah for Sale 

Bloghead has the Ha'aretz story on deal that Labor MK Haim Ramon has cut with R. Ovadia Yosef and R. Elyashiv to appoint only haredim to the six vacancies on the Rabbinic Court. For the most part, appointments to state religious functions are not that important, but in this case the Rabbinic Court deals with marriage and divorce, issues at the heart of women's rights in Israel.

Although Ramon's office has stated that his anger at the opposition to the hitnatkut of much of the religious-Zionist community is his main motivating factor (and an absurd one at that) one has to wonder what deals he has cut with the good rabbis in his sellout of Israeli women. What is Ramon getting for his selling out of the women? Is the Labor Party doing some forward planning for an attempt to form the next government? Have there been promises about who gets what vote and for how much?

One also has to wonder what Chief Rabbi Amar, whose wife and son have been indicted for beating up a 17 year old boy, is still doing on the committee to appoint new dayanim.

The religious-Zionists are very close to being completely de-legitimized by the very monster they created – the chief rabbinate. Maybe its time to disengage, not from the state, but from the very institution that was at one point, the pride of religious-Zionism. The time has come to create our own privatized religious court system dealing with conversions, marriage and divorce. Its time that our rabbis shed their inferiority complexes and made a stand in favor of their own constituents. Its time they took the high road for once and ended their association with the corruption that is at the heart of state sponsored religion. Maybe its time they made their final break with the dishonesty and cynicism that is at the heart of Israeli-haredi Judaism.

Our shuls, Yeshivot and other institutions will certainly loose a few million shekel, but we will be stronger for it.

Just ask the next agunah you meet.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Poll Results 

Instapundit has promising poll results from the "Arab Street". The question is what would the results be for the "Arab Government Office Building"?

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Manpulating Faith 

Yesterday evening I was at my son's high school listening to a presentation about their recent trip to Poland to see and learn about the Shoah. Some of participants spoke and there was a short film about the trip.

What was odd to me was that the one common theme running through most of the speeches as well as the music that accompanied the film was a praising of God. Sometimes, specifically the student that spoke, the theme changed a bit to thanking God that we are not in that situation.

But it seemed from the speeches of most adults in general and of the rabbis in particular that strengthening ones faith in God was one of the key goals of the trip. I am not denying that some survivors came through the Shoah with a stronger belief in God and none at all in people. I am not denying that it is possible to go through the trip to Poland and to come home believing that we can be saved only through God.

But, to take the Shoah and to make it a showcase for belief in God seems to me an attempt to deny the reality of the situation. Learning about the Shoah ought not to bring someone to despair (although it certainly can), but neither should it axiomatically bring someone to blind faith.

It seems dishonest to manipulate the students into seeing blind faith in God as the specific (only?) religious response to the Shoah. You would think that a trip of such import would bring the rabbis to discuss faith more in depth. You would think that on such a trip the students would rise to challenge faith and to force the rabbis and the others into facing all possibilities. You would think that the "ani ma'amin" would be put aside for just one evening.

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Cover Your Eyes 

Over the last few months I have noticed more and more young (Jr. High and High School) boys in beit knesset with a different type of practive for covering their eyes when reciting the Shema. Rather than actually cover their eyes, they bring their fingers and thumb to a point and press it strongly at the bridge of their nose, between their eyes. They close their eyes, but don't cover them.
Is it an attempt to seperate themselves from the ever ignorant older generation? An attempt to copy the practice of holy man they have seen? A mystical attempt to amass concentrative powers? Or is it just one of those things teenage boys do?

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Neve Tzedek 

One of the most interesting naighborhoods in Tel-Aviv is its oldest - Neve Tzedek. An interesting look and the nighborhood and some early Zionist history, in this JPost article.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Lag B'Omer in Kfar Saba 

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dirty Offer? 

We thought a few days ago, that Bank Leumi was coming clean, but maybe Leumi didn't come clean after all.

"Organizations representing Holocaust survivors have rejected Bank Leumi's offer to pay NIS 35 million immediately, as an advance on funds which belonged to Jews who perished during WWII, a reversal of the bank's former policy.

The bank's decision, which was published yesterday in Haaretz, represented "a media spin on the part of the bank, which is doing whatever it can so it doesn't have to return all the funds," said the the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, an umbrella group incorporating 28 organizations."

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The Nili Spy Ring 

Alan Mintz in a short interview with Hillel Halkin on the Nili spy ring, the town of Zichon Ya'akov and the first aliya.

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Buy Zionism 

An early draft of the Balfour Declaration is on sale at Sotheby's.
Minimum Price: $500,000.

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Statue Controversy 

A controversy over the placement of a statue of the Rambam in the main square in Tiberias, the city in which legend says he is buried.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005


The Jerusalem Post has a sympathetic article on a TA University archeologist made famous by his claim that Kings David and Solomon were not. But I would first read the Hazony article in Azure.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Running out of (self-righteous) Steam? 

Many thanks to a hard working reader of this blog.

From the JPost:

"The Protestant campaign of divestment, meant to punish Israel for its "occupation," is weakening.

The announcement by Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop M. Thomas Shaw – a staunch pro-Palestinian advocate – that he would oppose divestment efforts from within his church was the latest in a string of similar declarations by small member communities of America's large liberal-leaning churches.

Across the country, Protestants are reevaluating the wisdom, and even the justice, of the high-profile divestment campaign their leaders began a few years ago."

The wisdom and even the justice !!!!

Just anti-semitism, or just anti-semitism?

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Leumi Comes Clean? 

From Ha'aretz:

"Bank Leumi is prepared to pay some NIS 35 million as an advance on the funds of Jews who perished in the Holocaust, in a reversal of its former policy.

The bank said it was willing to pay the money immediately and without conditions. The sum constitutes the bank's basic liability, which was established by the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee in the report it published in January this year.

Bank officials say they are ready to pay this sum the moment they get an official request from the Knesset speaker, the Knesset or the cabinet. The bank's public relations chief Gideon Shor says the bank is willing to pay the money as humanitarian aid to Holocaust survivors or for any other public cause deemed fit by the official bodies that approach the bank."

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Rants and Raves, II 

The Israel Defense Forces is calling for new olim who are doctors to enlist for 18 months at an officer's salary in the IDF Medical Corp – call 03-737-9527 … The Israeli Ministry of Health is allowing hospitals to setup ethical committees to decide if parents can choose the gender of their child … The IDF is opening up its National Defense College to officers of foreign armies …Chabad bus advertisements encourage you to "write to the King Mashiach and see miracles happen" … Machon Rashbi in Bnei Brak, named after the tanna R. Shimon Bar Yochai, is offering for sale a drink that will help you find a partner, earn a good living, stay healthy and have powerfully performing sperm … The wife and son of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi were indicted for beating up a young haredi boy who was dating their daughter/sister …A thirteen year old Gazan, Anjad Abu Seedo gives sermons every Friday at 10am at the main Gaza city mosque. For directions, contact Hamas … Ma'ariv, one of Israel's most successful muckraking newspapers distributed bumper stickers in last Friday's issue stating "Where is the Shame?" … A lioness and her young daughter were recently transferred from the safari in Ramat Gan to the Haifa Zoo due to their failure to connect socially with the other lions. A second child will stay in the safari …Yellow shirts were banned in my daughter's all girls, religious, junior high-school … Bar-Ilan University is having a symposium "From Early Marriage to Extended Bachelorhood", tomorrow at the University.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Tamar Ross 

Miram of Bloghead reviews Tamar Ross's Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism in the Forward. Miram is a bit dissapointed in the ending of the book which I have just started to read. We will comment here sometime over the next few weeks.

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The Wild Side 

Ha'aretz has a facinating account of the recently indicted son of Sphardi Cheif Rabbi Amar and his trek from young haredi in Bnei Brak to 12 year old runaway, to 13 year old Beduin, to married resident of Gush Eztion villiage of Tekoa to ... criminal.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

YU, Old and New 

A very interesting look at YU, old and new, by R. Aharon Lichtenstien. I will quote here two of his last three paragraphs, but it is worth reading the whole thing (I was especially happy with his transliterations):

" 'Tho' much is taken, much abides,' proclaimed Tennyson's Ulysses. That is, in our case, self-evident. With respect to the quality and the scope of yirat shamayim and talmud Torah, internally, there is never enough. Externally, much greater momentum needs to be generated with regard to our involvement with the broader community. In mid-century, modernists envisioned themselves as encamped at the center of Orthodoxy, and revelled in the flattering thought that they were both leading and communally connected, while haredim were confined within their cloisters. However, in short order, and before Y.U. circles took true notice, the latter seized the initiative and Y.U. found itself in arrears. We certainly ought not begrudge the haredi world its accomplishments, but we need to do much more on this front. The attitude cited in the name of a prominent administrator to the effect, that Y.U. was an institution and not a movement, is, in the long run, both spiritually and institutionally negative. It is reflected in the mindset of some talmidim who equate moving west of New Jersey with exile to the Antipodes. We need to regain ground lost in hinukh and rabbanut, and to break fresh ground in addition.

There are, however, internal issues (although, in a sense, outreach, too, is an internal issue) as well. Progress in the bet midrash has been purchased at a price - not, to my mind, inevitable, but real, nonetheless. Concentration has been accompanied by constriction. In part, it has manifested itself in insularity - the unwillingness or inability to imbibe from the reservoirs of Arnold's conception of culture, "the best that has been thought and said in the world," as constituting the hokhmah which can be found bagoyim, on the one hand, and obtuseness to many of the concerns, pragmatic and spiritual, which beset the Jewish and general world, on the other. In this connection, I am afraid we are witness to an erosion in religious Zionist fervor - admittedly, characteristic of American Orthodoxy, as a whole, but especially disturbing at a Torah center. In a very different vein, constriction is, concomitantly, occasionally reflected in intolerance bordering on demonization, with regard to spiritual opposition. And, contrary to the Rav's legacy, it is manifested in the benign neglect with which many regard the learning of Tanakh and mahshavah. In part, constriction finds expression in superficial and simplistic personality, in the inability to recognize the complexity of thought and experience, and even in the difficulty of some to cope with life and to make meaningful decisions. And there are some who find the Y.U. atmosphere to be disheartening - not quite depressing, but neither conducive to ivdu et Hashem b'simhah."

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Conflicting Personalities 

First, I would like to note the wonderful job the editors of the YU student newspaper "Commentator" did in their history of YU series. Many if not most of the articles were interesting and informative and not just nostalgic. It gave a great picture of YU throughout its 75 or so years. Kol HaKavod!

A short while ago we spoke about R. Yitz Greenberg's article in the series discussing YU in the '60's. Apparently, the article provoked much controversy and animosity. Hirhurim has links in this post to the original article, a response by R. Lichtenstein, and R. Greenberg's rejoinder. In addition, there is response by Hillel Goldberg who conducted the original Greenberg interview in the 1960's and R. Greenberg's response to that.

Maybe it is my naiveté, but the animosity in these letters is quite astounding. I don't know R. Greenberg personally - although I was a Bnei Akiva madrich to one of his daughters – and I understand that his views are on the fringe of modern Orthodoxy, but I didn't realize the personal nature of the disagreement. These letters are interesting but disappointing, too. Hirhurim suggests just reading Goldberg's letter to get a few facts of history, and to avoid the unpleasantness of the tones of the letters. He is right to a certain extent, but I think that would give a skewed view of things.

You need to read all of the letters in order to see that there not so much disagreement as to what happened. Much of the differences have to do with the perspective of ht authors and I would guess, the 40 years that have elapsed. What there is, is a longstanding personal and theological conflict that unfortunately has spilled over onto the pages of a student newspaper.

As we have stated in the past, these arguments over Judaism in general and modern-Orthodoxy in particular are part of the dynamic of modern Orthodoxy and Religious-Zionsim. Let's hope they never end. Let's also hope that we, at least, as Hirhurim as alluded, can keep the personalities out of it.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

No Status, No Marriage, No Divorce 

Ha'aretz reports:

"More than 280,000 Israeli citizens cannot marry or divorce in Israel because they do not belong to a legally recognized religious group, according to figures presented yesterday to the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee."

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Four Paintings 

Talya Halkin on four paintings commemorating the Holocaust at London's Tate Museum.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Free Food! 

Who said Tel-Aviv is not a Jewish city?

The FREE 10th annual Tel-Aviv Food Festival will take place from May29-June 2 at Ganei Yehoshua - starting time each day is 6pm.

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Newsweek and Religion 

There have been a lot of interesting comments (for exampleת the WSJ and Instapundit) being written on the Newsweek scandal where they falsely reported that the US Military flushed a Koran down the toilet at Guantanamo as a pressure tactic against captured terrorists.

Mostly though, the scandal shows how the western press in general still has no clue what religion is, let alone what it means to people. They have almost no understanding of fundamentalists and they have absolutely no understanding of believers who are not fundamentalists. Like too many people these days, everything is looked upon through the eyes of politics and ideology without recognizing that billions of people in the world have beliefs that transcend both politics and ideology.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Rant and Rave 

Various key intersections were blocked yesterday by a group of wayward youth working on the instructions of cowardly manipulators…. A classmate of my second son was sentenced to two weeks in prison for burning tires on a road a few weeks or months ago…. I regretfully participated in an email exchange where an American Jew from California referred to the IDF as the "Islamic Defense Forces" and then went on to ask about my son in the army, if he will "defend Jews of Gush Katif or just follow the orders to deport them by force?"…. The foreign minister's wife was instrumental in the (probable) firing of Israel's ambassador to the US because his aid neglected to arrange a photo-op with Madonna … The ambassador's wife was accused of verbally abusing the domestic staff … A YU ordained rabbi wrote that he thought it funny that people consider Yom Ha'atzmaut a religious holiday and was stunned when an acquaintance wished him a "chag sameach" … Although the literature bagrut (matriculation) for the state-religious school system has Agnon, it doesn't include Bialik … A good friend who just got back from a visit to the US said that American Jews have it too good …In order to prevent the entry of terrorists to the US local embassies can't print passports for US citizens… Kfar Saba has what is supposed to be a wonderful brass and wind festival every year, but it's always during sefirat ha'omer… Haifa University is having a symposium on the demographics of Israel … Over 90% of the abortion requests reviewed by Israeli hospital ethics committees are approved…

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Nothing of Interest? 

Is it just me or have the Jewish/Israeli newspapers published almost nothing of interest over the last few weeks?

Good thing we have the Jewish blogosphere.

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On France 

Commentary has made available David Pryce Jones' article "Jews, Arabs and French Diplomacy", a must read if you are to understand the impossibility of Israel as an (old) Europe country.

"The resounding slogan of “liberty, equality, fraternity,” leaves no room for racism in the French state, in theory. In practice, over the two centuries since that slogan was coined, rulers of France have tried with varying success to fit two peoples—Arabs and Jews—into their grand design for the French nation and for its standing in the world. Today, as long-held but misconceived ambitions collide, racism with its hates and fears increasingly plagues France, calling into question the relationship that the country’s Arab and Jewish minorities have with each other, that each has with the state, and that the state has with Arab nations on the one hand and with Israel on the other."

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Friday, May 13, 2005

Parshat Hashavua 

Haim Sabato on this week's parsha. Translated.

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A New Star 

After assigning a few pages of Hegel to read, a history professor of mine told the class not to feel stupid if we didn't understand a word of what he wrote, since German philosophers can't write. If you have tried, as I have on numerous occasions, to read the "Star of Redemption" by Franz Rosenzweig, only to be left without a clue as to why he was considered a genius, there is a new translation of The Star by Barbara Galli.

It is reviewed in the Forward and hopefully, it will be as readable as the reviewer claims. Then we can see with our own eyes what all the fuss is about.

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Although the Israeli-haredi practice of flag buring and the hanging of black flags on Yom Ha'atzmaut is old hat already, the fact that it happened in the brand new, government subsidized neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh makes one feel pity for a community whose leaders have led it to accept complete dependency as part of thier 'derech chayim'.

A lack of decency is so sad to see.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Scenes from Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), Kfar Saba 

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Unmarked Graves Posted by Hello

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21 Gun Salute Posted by Hello

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End of the Ceremony Posted by Hello

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

As per tradition, the Artillery Corp is readying the Kfar Saba military cemetary for Yom Hazikaron. Posted by Hello

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Cemetary for refugees from Tel-Aviv: In 1917 the Turkish authorities expelled the Jewish residents of Tel-Aviv Yaffo. Many of the refugees reached Kfar Saba where they slept in close quarters and drank from a polluted well. Because of the hunger and filth that resulted, most of the refugees died and were buried in nameless graves in Kfar Saba. Later, this was turned into the military cemetery of the town. Posted by Hello

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Hasidei Umot Ha'olam? 

I guess this could be from Chelm.

The story of how a Lituanian named Sarunas Jasikevicius (Sharas) and two African-Americans named Derrick Sharp and Anthony Parker helped bring the messiah to the Jewish people.

Read about Macabbi Tel-Aviv's championship and how it will bring the 'moshiach' and possibly even cause the ressurection.

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Where are the Wise Men? 

I found this in the middle of an otherwise boring article:

"Former residents of Chelm, perhaps the most famous town in Jewish folklore, are trying to buy the building that housed the yeshiva study hall from a local entrepreneur, to turn it into a museum."

The next line anyone?

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Monday, May 09, 2005


I don't even know what to say about the JPost's report on haredi reaction to the Rabbi Amar incident. I hope it is misreporting. I fear it isn't.

"The zealous administering of quick and violent justice by the Amar family in reaction to revelations of forbidden love will glorify Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar in the eyes of the haredi public, haredi sources said Sunday."

Read the whole article.

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Sharansky's New Gig 

Ever since he has come to Israel as a true Jewish hero, Natan Sharansky has had trouble finding a place for himself. Many of the Russian olim resented his celebrity, the left resented that he didn't identify his own civil rights story with that of the Palestinians, the religious didn't know what to do with this irreligious man and he wouldn't play the "central committee game" that the right loves so much.

Although we would have loved to have that out of step Jew be a guest blogger here, he turned down our gig to take a one at the Shalem Center (publishers of Azure). Although we would have given him part of the kitchen table to work on and the kids promised to give him at least an hour a day on the computer, his office space at Shalem is probably more conducive to his "researching and writing a book on Israel's role as the nation-state of the Jewish people". And it is closer to his home.

The government's loss is Shalem's gain. But Natan, if it doesn't work out ...

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

From Bad to Worse 

The period after Pesach is a strange one in Israel. Children of all age's wheel around semi-broken shopping carts in search of the perfect wood for Lag B'Omer bonfires, we all start to get ready for Yom Hashoah and right after that is Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut (Memorial Day and Independence Day). Similar to all things Jewish we go from up to down and back again – with the children in the middle. The Shabbat between Yom Hashoah and Yom HaZikaron/Yom Ha'atzmaut is always a bit strange.

Today, as I scan the news today I see a weekend where, instead of reflection and preparation for celebration, nearly all that is wrong with Israel occurred over the course of a few days. Eight more people were killed on the roads over Friday/Shabbat. After driving for all of ten minutes you have to thank God that the number was not double or triple that.

Corruption and violence ruled as the wife, daughter and son of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi were arrested for allegedly hiring two Arab youths to abuse and beat up the boyfriend of the daughter. The couple met over an internet chat – both are haredi so the reaction seems to be to … ban not only the internet, which is ruining the children, but computers, too. Whatever was left of the integrity of the Chief Rabbinate – and of the rabbis who put the current Chief Rabbis in their offices – has blown away with the dust of the last sharav.

Eight boys aged 13-17 were accused of gang raping a 14 year old girl over the course of a few months. These types of cases are not new, especially in the upper middle class communities (although I am not sure the community of Nesher is upper middle class) There is no wonder that it happens again and again since in past cases the parent's of the boys (the ones that are convicted) have a history of threatening the girl and of supporting the actions of their sons. The judges too, have all too often giving light sentences so as not to "ruin the future of the boys" for just one offence. And the rape victim?

The government sent – or was about to send- dismissal notices to 4,500 teachers but was willing to rescind some of the dismissals if the union accepts the Dovrat Commission educational reforms. No debate, no reasoning. I am sure there is justification for all of this, but there is no debate, no discussion – just threats. And of course the threats are two sided as the teachers union threatened to strike (understandably in this case, I guess). But then the candidate for the chairmanship of the Labor Party (and hence for Prime Minister) and current chairman of the Histadrut Amir Peretz, has gleefully offered to "shut down the country" by striking anything and everything. He is most proud of the fact that one phone call from his cell phone can cost the country 100 million shekel a day.

And to top it all off, there is supposed to be a meeting in Israel of what has to be the most anachronistic group in the world – the Socialist International. However, those who work for the Labor Party are threatening to shut down the prospective meeting if they don't get a raise. This may be the only good news of the day.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Three Short Films 

The Speilberg Movie Archive has made available three old short Holocaust movies via Israel MSN-Video (will only work with Explorer).

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A Few Years in the Life of H: A True Story 

This is the true story of a woman very close to me who escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto as a child and survived the war to come to Israel. It is not her whole story. She told it to me over a few days in December of 2004. Her father was a hero of the Ghetto who, along with Mordecai Aneleiwicz planned the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. She came to Israel as a young teen after the war, married and moved to the United States in 1960 where she raised four children. She currently lives in California and has fifteen grandchildren, eleven in the US and four in Israel.

H, came from a well to do Warsaw family. Her mother's father, SZ was a businessman who foresaw tragedy and invested in property in Florida and in Israel, but did not have the foresight to urge his entire family to flee Poland until it was too late. By 1939 it was obvious that things were to get worse before they got better. SZ then sent one son, F, and his wife E to Israel to see if it were possible to set up life their anew. The couple had one young daughter who they left in Europe while they searched the underdeveloped Land of Israel.

Suddenly, as September opened, the world was at war and communication from Poland was cut. The Nazi blitzkrieg started before F could get the message back to Poland that yes, Israel would be a fine place to move. Left behind was most of their family. E's uncle was a physician who was killed in the bombing at the start of the war. E's family had a large private lending library that was also destroyed in the early part of the war. Their daughter M was still in Poland. Somehow, they got her adopted by a family that managed to attain papers in order to leave Poland via Italy and she was reunited with her family. She married and has two children and lives in Tel-Aviv.

H's original home was on 5 Mila Street but once the war broke out they had to move to 5 Karmelitzka Street. H was smuggled out of the Ghetto in 1943, one month before the uprising that her father helped plan. Her father was killed in Pavyak, Getapo headquarters in the Ghetto and was buried in the Warsaw Jewish cemetery. In 1978, his granddaughter, H's daughter, on a trip to communist Eastern Europe to see the places of the Shoah, found his grave. There is now a Yar Zeit for H's father.

In 1943, H's father bribed a Wehrmacht officer to smuggle his daughter out of the ghetto. Their son, H's brother was just a baby and could not be saved. He was to be killed shortly thereafter with his mother. Dressed as German children on their way to school H was smuggled out and taken to a family friend who had a luggage store whose main customers were the wives of German officers. H quietly sat by a table and a Polish woman wearing a nun's habit came out and took her, ostensibly to a monastery.

She got into a taxi and told the driver to go to Mozovietska Street, to a beautiful apartment. A woman named Vascha Wojsk served H chicken soup and asked her to write a note that would be sent to her mother in the Ghetto. Before H was smuggled out her mother told her that she would have to write this note. She was instructed to "send regards to Zooka" if there was trouble and if all was fine, not to send regards. All seemed fine, so eleven year old H dutifully wrote the note without sending regards. This of course was the proof that was needed to complete the payment for saving the child.

After writing the note they got into a taxi and the woman told the driver to go to Alje Shovkha. H, all of seven recognized the address and asked the woman where they were going. She knew that this was Gestapo headquarters. H threatened the woman that if she was brought to the Gestapo she would tell them that the big nosed woman was also a Jew.

The woman was scared of young H and tried to get her to quiet down. Finally, she told the driver to go to Leshno 22 where a woman named Irena lived. This was not far from H's original home. Irena recognized H and agreed to take her in. She gave her delicacies – rolls, butter and sweet tea. Irena was a lapsed nun and showed compassion to H. However, she feared her neighbors who were close to Gestapo officers. H had to hide in a closet during the daytime only to come out for a short while at night.

H's family didn't know about the scam. So they paid the same Wehrmacht officer and woman more money so as to smuggle out H's young cousin. He was left on the steps of Gestapo headquarters but a Polish policeman noticed him and took him home. His wife didn't want to keep him, fearing for their lives. They gave him to a neighbor, known in the neighborhood as the "cat-woman" for she kept many cats. Once the cat-woman visited Irena and told her the story of H's cousin. H was listening in the closet and later told Irena that she thought that the boy was her cousin. The cousins were reunited and H took care of him until the end of the war.

H was also visited by a former business partner of her father who gave Irena a monthly stipend to help take care of H and her cousin.

After the Polish uprising of 1944-5 the Germans destroyed large swaths of Warsaw. Irena took H and her cousin to a small town of Wilcze Pietki. Sometime in 1945 the Russians liberated Poland and they returned to Warsaw. Jews were returning looking for friends and relatives. Irena searched for H's family even though all knew that her mother, father and young brother were killed. Irena found H's aunt E in a building that the family owned on Jebovska Street in the Praga section of Warsaw. E put H and her cousin in a children's home in Otwcek, near Warsaw for a short while. Sometime before Rosh Hashanah of 1945 E took her nephew and niece to an apartment in Waldenburg – in Silesia. They lived in an apartment there with some other people.

Fourteen year old H was not treated very well and decided to run away by the train which ran down May 1st Street in Waldenburg. Since she didn't have any money she was thrown off of the train. This was sometime in 1946 and a Russian-Jewish occupation soldier saw young H and took her to a "café" to get her a hot drink. He then took her to a friend who ran the Shomer Hatzair youth house in the town. It was a Friday. The person who ran the house was from Warsaw and his name was Benyik. He had known H's father. H, came from a religious home and wanted very much to fast on Yom Kippur. This show of religion was not allowed at the Shomer Hatzair and H and a friend were punished for fasting. She was eventually taken to another home in Ludwigsdorf. A woman named Nesha from Vilna, ran this children's home.

There was a decision that the children should go to Israel. Transportation was sparse and travel was not always legal. Few countries wanted additional Jewish refugees – especially children. From Ludwigdorf in Silesia, Nesha took the children and they started on foot to Czechoslavakia. H, one of the older ones was responsible for a group of younger children. Sometime in 1946 they arrived in Prague. They did not make the entire trip on foot but were able to manage rides on trucks and trains. These young children who had just survived the Shoah in homes, in forests, in convents now needed to travel, slowly, through Germany.

She found another relative who had survived the war by running away to and around Russia. He received a certificate to go to Israel and was able to take H with him. They left from Italy.

H made it to Israel in 1947 and met the family that managed to make it there before the war, F and his wife and daughter and other relatives. She lived in apartments on Dizengoff Street and on Benvenisti Street in the Florentine neighborhood – all in Tel-Aviv. The feelings towards H by the family were one of resentment. Many abused her and many cheated her. Almost none understood what she went through and what she was going through.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Yom Hashoah Liturgy 

In order to give Yom Hashoah v'Hagvurah some religious significance in our family, about 15 years ago we decided to create and recite a liturgy as we lit the ner zikaron (remembrance candle). We chose texts that were a bit difficult to understand and over the years we have added a bit, here and there. We wanted to create a Yom Hashoah liturgy for our family – one that would create interest and questions, sadness and hope.

Each Yom Hashoah night we light a candle and recite:The poems Death Fugue by Paul Celan and "A Load of Shoes", by Avraham Sutzkever. We read from the Tanach: Joel 2:15-17 and 4:9-21 and Psalm 13.

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Temple Mount 

My Obiter Dicta on his decision to ascend Har Habayit. Its a tougher decision than you would think.

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Mossad Harav Kook 

One of the great Israeli publishing houses is Mossad Harav Kook. They publish authoritative versions of the Talmudic commentaries of many of the rishonim (medieval commentators) and have produced a fabulous Tanach under the guidance of Breuer. Their Da'at Mikra commentary on the Tanach is a great and indespensible undertaking. They have even published the first English translation - a three volume Psalms. It takes you places that Art Scroll never heard of. Their Torat Haim mikraot gedolot is clearly printed.

If you are in Israel, you have until the end of the week to go to its Jerusalem offices at 1 Rechov Harav Maimon for their annual sale. Most books, individual or sets are half price. I went yesterday and nearly completed my Da'at Mikra set, picked up two volumes of the Sifre, the Goldschimidt Kinot for Tisha B'av and a two volume of the Maharal from Prague's writings: A small volume of piyutim and slichot of Rabbenu Gershom Meor Hagolah and a few other tidbits.

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Necessary Pressure 

Do we need a little Swiss Bank pressure on Bank Leumi?

From the JPost
"Dozens of Holocaust survivors demonstrated outside the headquarters of Bank Leumi on Tuesday, urging the Israeli bank to open its records about unclaimed assets of Holocaust victims and turn the money over to destitute survivors."

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Kibbutz Comeback? 

I think we spoke about this before, but the kibbutz is becoming a vehicle for returning Israelis:

"... 200 Israeli families in the United States and Canada ... are returning to live on a kibbutz because they have been attracted by its lifestyle."

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A Stretch? 

I know this is a stretch, but I think that Glenn Harlan Reynolds' (the indispensible InstaPundit) review in the Wall Street Journal of George Gilder's The Silicon Eye has much to say about the debates over Halakhah in today's world. Is Halakhah a neat and tidy rational exercise or a messy amalgam of decisions, circumstances, texts and human behavior? Is Halakhah akin to the dictates of big business or the vagaries of the market? Is it predictable or is the future vague and blurry?

"But after all, capitalism is about surprises. As the writer and engineer Samuel Florman noted years ago, those who argue that Big Business dictates consumer tastes and purchases through advertising and market power have to explain the Edsel. Products that look good flop all the time. Products that look weak succeed beyond all expectations. New technologies come out of nowhere to disrupt settled markets, even as other long-expected innovations either fail to materialize (the flying car I expected to have by now is still missing in action) or fail to catch on (people don't much want PicturePhones because you have to comb your hair before answering). When you combine the unpredictability of technology with the unpredictability of consumers, you wind up with an environment that is, well, really unpredictable. And the results are often fatal (to companies) and fortuitous (to consumers and society)."

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

UCC Truths 

If you want to follow the divestment fight from an internal Christian source, go to UCC Truths (thanks to a good friend from the west coast - of the US, that is).

They have this quote on the site, from Alan Dershowitz:

"The president of Harvard University, in a speech delivered in Harvard's Memorial Church in 2002, included the singling out of Israel for divestment as the sort of 'actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect, if not in their intent.' The one-sided actions of the Presbyterian Church fit into this category."

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How Many Jews? 

Ha'aretz has an interesting, if speculative article on the history of Jewish demographics. It is hard to tell from the article how accurate it all is, but the timeline is interesting to follow. Ancient Jewish population peaked around the time of Jesus at about 4.5 million, dropping to only 1 million after that until the start of the 19th century. We peaked at over 16 million before the Shoah and have now, despite a drop in Diaspora Jewry, reached only 1920 levels.

True? Who knows. Interesting? Absolutely.

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Monday, May 02, 2005


On the one hand like in the post below we have serious Catholics willing to deal with Zionism on the most serious level and on the other hand we have "mainline" Protestant churches who need to practice their antisemitism to the fullest.

The JTA is reporting on a beginnings of a Jewish response. I don't think I practice reflexive anti-Christianity, but I don't see why we should treat these mainline Protestants other than we would treat any other anti-semites.

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A Catholic Thinks about Zionism 

To this day, Jews, especially religious Jews find it difficult to assign theological import to the Jewish return to Zion. Under most circumstances and with most peoples, the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 would have ended the practical opposition to Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel and would have forced all to reassess their theological opposition.

But of course that did not happen. With a narrow look at the sources and a "masoret" of ignoring history many of the even modern-Orthodox rabbis (let alone haredi ones) still find it difficult to say "reshit tzmichat geulateinu" (the beginning of the flowering of the redemption) without swallowing their words.

In a well written and well thought out argument in First Things, Gary Anderson of Notre Dame makes the case for a Christian (Catholic?) case not only for the practical acceptance of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, but for its theological significance to Christians:

"The return of the Jews to Israel has also posed a challenge to Christians. For ever since the days of Augustine, Israel’s landlessness was commonly thought to be a punishment for the death of Christ. Events of the previous century showed us where this type of thinking can lead. Happily, many thoughtful Christians have moved beyond this position. Certainly the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land—his walking the streets of the Jewish state and praying at the Western Wall—is a powerful expression of this. The question now is whether we can move from an attitude of toleration and acceptance to bold theological affirmation. Is the return to Zion part of God’s providential design and eternal promise to His people Israel? I believe that it is. Is Israel’s most recent return to this land final and permanent? No one can know for sure. That will depend, as Uriel Simon wisely argues, on the providential plan of our benevolent Creator and on the actions of Israel."

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Rav Shirlo and Rav Gilad 

There is a very interesting interview in Hebrew with two of the leading centrist religious-Zionist rabbis in Israel - Rav Yuval Sherlow and RavYehudah Gilad. R. Sherlow is at the hesder Yeshiva in Petach Tikva and R. Gilad is the rav of Kibbutz Lavi as well as in the Yeshivat Hakkibutz HaDati (Religious Kibbutz Movement) in Kibbutz Ma'ale Gilboa.

Highly Reccomended.

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Heavenly and Earthly Encounters 

Alan Mittleman has an interesting review of Irving Greenberg's attempt to come to terms with the State of Israel and the Jewish-Christian dialogue in his new book For The Sake Of Heaven And Earth: The New Encounter Between Judaism And Christianity.

Mittleman on Greenberg's theology, when ethics will do:

"What Greenberg offers is a theology of civility, but it is unclear that any such proposal can escape the relativism it claims to surmount. I would have thought that an ethic of civility alone would suffice. To live by an ethic of civility requires a respectful engagement with the other, whether as fellow person or as fellow citizen. Sometimes this might require the suspension of absolute claims for the sake of peace. Often it requires the commitment to discourse, persuasion, and rational intercourse in which absolute claims are not weakened but opened; one displays one’s humanity as a principled difference. This is a feature of civilized conduct inter homines. The absolute is not de-absolutized; it is held in tension with complex moral and political conditions of conduct. I would think that a strong but nonutopian ethic of civility is preferable to a problematic theology of reconciliation. But perhaps this scants heaven in favor of earth. Or, then again, perhaps Greenberg advances purely earthly goods in the name of heaven. Although his questions are more compelling than his answers, Greenberg deserves our gratitude for the important challenges he puts to us."

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