Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hillary Clinton is Stuck on Stupid

There she goes again:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned on Tuesday the Israeli decision to approve the construction of 1,100 new housing units in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood.

In a statement she released Clinton said that the decision is “an obstacle in the way to renew peace talks with the Palestinians.”

When will she ever learn?

Question of the Year

Is your tax rate that of a Jew, a janitor, or a Jewish janitor?

Shana Tova!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Stone Which the Builders Rejected Has Become the Chief Corner-stone

The savage murder of Asher Palmer and his one and a half year old son Yonatan made me recall something similar that happened to me about 22 years ago.

Near the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem where I lived back then was a beautiful mountain covered with Jerusalem pine trees. A winding road lead up to its pinnacle. I saw the mountain on an almost daily basis. I decided that one day I would take some time off from my daily routine and explore the tree clad mountain.

Finally the day arrived. I buckled my infant son in his baby car seat and we headed off to the mountain. As the my light blue Subaru DL climbed the winding road I enjoyed the scenery. Soon we approached the pinnacle. I noticed two Arab teenage boys walking along the road. They saw me and waved me forward, as if to say, "you are on the right path, continue." There was a sharp turn in the road. Suddenly, I saw a large shrub lying in the middle of the road, blocking my path. At the same moment a rock struck the window to my left. Fortunately for me, the window was slightly open, giving it a little bit of flexibility. The rock bounced off the window.

Realizing that I had entered an ambush, I continued driving straight ahead, in spite of the shrub that the Arabs had placed on the road. The shrub got caught under the car, and it got dragged along with us until I felt I was out of danger. Getting out of the car, I noticed that at least two rocks had hit the hood, denting and scratching it. Another rock had hit the car frame near the rear window, denting it. If it had hit the car an inch to the right, it probably would have smashed the window, wounding my infant son, God forbid!

It was a miracle! My son and I had survived a well planned terrorist attack, aimed at maiming and/or killing us. "O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever!"

The mountain that I mentioned is now a thriving Jerusalem neighborhood, Ramat Shlomo. (Yes that is the neighborhood that Hillary Clinton whined about.) The Arab terrorist shebab has been replaced with Torah scholars, Jewish homes, synagogues and Yeshivot.

"The stone which the builders rejected is become the chief corner-stone." Indeed!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Murder of Asher and Yonatan Palmer

I heard about this after the Sabbath was over. An incredible tragedy. I happen to know Asher personally. He was a truly fine young man. According to David Wilder, it seems that the Arabs have added a new method of murder to their terrorist arsenal:
However, lately, our enemies have begun using a new method in their continued attempts to kill Jews. Instead of standing on the side of the road and throwing a rock, they are heaving them from moving cars, coming at you from the opposite direction. They toss a rock out their window, in front of your car, just prior to passing you.

The impact is tremendous. The rock is flying at the speed at which the car was driving. When it impacts with the car moving in the other direction, the force is phenomenal.

I’ve been told of numerous such incidents in recent weeks, in the exact area where the ‘accident’ killing Asher and Yonatan Palmer occurred.

On Friday afternoon, this is exactly what happened. That’s why no one was seen fleeing on foot, because the rock was thrown from a moving vehicle. It hit the windshield, breaking it, hitting Asher in the face, causing him to lose control of the car. The rock was found in the wrecked car. A hole, the type of which caused by a thrown rock, was also identified in the windshield. Yet the police and army climbed up a very high tree, claiming that the ‘accident’ was Asher’s fault. They claimed that the rock entered the car as it flipped over in a rock-bed on the side of the road. All this in an effort to cover up the murder of two Jews by Arabs. According to my sources, the police have already concluded that the ‘accident’ was not an accident, that it was cold-blooded murder; the killing two Jews.

There are other details which have not yet been released, and I’m hesitant to fully publicize them for the moment. Some of Asher’s possessions seemed to be missing and have not yet been found at the scene of the crash. There are also signs of possible additional violence at the site. These details prove, without any doubt, that the accident was Arab terror.

The police, not yet weary of the additional pain they’ve already caused the Palmer family are continuing to torture them; they went to court to obtain an order allowing them to perform an autopsy on the two bodies. Jewish law, excluding unique circumstances, forbids autopsies. However all evidence, including examinations of the bodies, the car, and the scene of the attack are proof enough. Why continue to cause unnecessary suffering?!
Indeed, many have pointed out that the police and army acted irresponsibly.

May Asher's and Yonatan's family be comforted in the rebuilding of Zion.

תכלה שנה וקללותיה

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Who is the Real Obama?

Herb Keinon wrote an excellent article about Obama's latest speech. He makes a number of points that I really identify with. Here are some highlights from the article:
It took some 34 months, but on Wednesday at the UN Israel finally heard the speech it wanted to hear from US President Barack Obama.

Gone were so many elements of previous Obama speeches on the Middle East that rankled so many Israelis, and left a taste in many people's mouths that here was a president who simply did not get us; who did not understand our history, our daily reality, or our fears.

Gone was any reference to the settlements. Not in this speech were his words from Cairo in June 2009 that did so much to knock the diplomatic process off kilter: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.

This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

Gone were veiled comparisons between the Palestinian struggle and the US civil rights movement, as was done in his Cairo speech when, during his discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama said, “For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.”

Gone too were infuriating hints that the Jewish people’s link to Israel was the result of its tragic history, not because Israel is the cradle of the Jewish people.

Gone too was the striving after perfect balance, talking about the Holocaust in one breath, and then saying in the very next, “On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.” No, this was a speech of an entirely different tone and tenor.
There is a lot more over there at jpost. So what caused this radical change from Obama's infamous Cairo speech? Towards the end Keinon writes:
Cynics will argue that Obama doesn’t mean it, that he is just mouthing the words – pandering to the Jews, worried about reelection, recalibrating his message after a Democrat was roundly defeated by a Republican in a heavily Jewish congressional district that the Republicans have not represented in nearly 90 years.

No one can read into his heart, but the words – at this time, at that forum, in the matter in which they were expressed – do matter.
For sure. Only Obama and perhaps the people close to him know if his change of tone is a result of political expediency or inner conviction. I do not see myself as a cynic, however, my gut feeling is that the real Obama is the one we saw and heard at the Cairo speech. The spectre of seeing a Democrat get a damn good whacking in New York’s ninth congressional district probably played a role in the change in rhetoric. Of course, there are those that feel differently:
But yesterday, Koch seemed overjoyed to be back in the Democratic fold, thanks to Obama’s unflinchingly strong UN speech in support of Israel.

“I told the president the speech was magnificent,” said Koch, who met Obama at a White House-sponsored UN reception at the New York Public Library Wednesday night.

Koch, who had even threatened to campaign against the president, was invited to the reception by the White House.

“The president is on the right track! It was wonderful,” Koch said. Last month, I would not approve. This week, I’m ecstatic!”

In his UN speech, Obama said, “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.”

As for his very public recent spat with Obama, Koch said, “I’m not looking back. I’m looking forward.

“I have no regrets in saying, ‘Thank you, Mr. President, for standing up magnificently for Israel.’ ”

Koch now says it’s “very possible that I will be campaigning for President Obama’s re-election.” He stumped for Obama in Florida in 2008.
If the election results in New York’s ninth congressional district are what caused Obama's rhetorical about-face, "Come, behold the works of the LORD, who hath made desolations in the earth"(Psalms 46:9)! This all started with good old Anthony Weiner! Who thought that in the end, the Weiner scandal would bring the Obama administration closer to Israel?

Friday, September 16, 2011

More on Secular Coercion in the IDF

This post is a follow-up to what I wrote here.

In this week's issue of BeSheva the scandalous expulsion of cadets from an IDF officer's course is dealt with from many different angles.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed agrees with me that the commander(s) that expelled the cadets should be punished (Update: Rabbi Melamed's remarks are now available in English):

לאחר האירוע המצער והמשפיל של הדחת ארבעה צוערים מקורס קצינים, ודרישה מחמישה אחרים להתנצל על כך שיצאו בעת שירת נשים, התיקון הנדרש הוא תביעה נחרצת להדחתו של מח"ט בה"ד 1 אל"מ ערן ניב, והדחתו של המג"ד סא"ל עוזי קליגר.

ידוע שמפקד שנכנס לעימותים מיותרים עם פקודיו הוא מפקד גרוע, וכל בר דעת מבין שהם הגיעו כאן לעימות מיותר. הנושא אינו רק זכותם של החיילים להיות נאמנים למצפונם הדתי. מדובר בכבוד למסורת ישראל. לא את הצוערים הדתיים בלבד המפקדים הללו ביזו, אלא את מורשת ישראל, את הסבים והסבתות שלהם עצמם, שבמשך כל הגלויות שמרו תורה ומצוות במסירות נפש. ורק בזכותם, נכדיהם ערן ניב ועוזי קליגר נולדו בישראל והגיעו לתפקידם הנוכחי בצה"ל. אנשים כאלה לא ראויים להיות מפקדים בצבא ישראלי.

זאת גם התנהגות שמבטאת חוסר אחריות לאומית. בזמן שהכול יודעים עד כמה חשוב שהציבור החרדי ישתלב בצבא, הם מודיעים קבל עולם, ובתמיכת הרמטכ"ל ושר הביטחון, שהצבא החליט לבזות את הציבור הדתי והחרדי שנאמן למסורת ישראל.

תקדימים מהעבר

בתמוז תשס"ד נתגלעה בעיה בבה"ד 1: המח"ט גל הירש יצר מצב שבו לא ניתן היה לקיים תפילות שחרית במניין. הצוערים הרגישו מאוימים ולא העזו להתלונן. פניתי מעל טור זה לנציגי הציבור הדתיים והחרדיים, אבל התגובה היתה רפה. שנתיים אח"כ, בעת מלחמת לבנון, התברר שתת אלוף גל הירש היה אחד מהאשמים המרכזיים במחדל שגרם לשחיקה קשה בכוח ההרתעה של ישראל ולמותם של חיילים רבים.

וכך היה הרב גורן זצ"ל אומר: מפקד בצה"ל שאינו מכבד את קודשי ישראל, גם לא יצליח במלחמה. לכן כאשר מצא מג"ד שנהג שלא כשורה כלפי חיילים דתיים, לא הסכים לקבל התנצלויות אלא תבע את סילוקו של המג"ד מהצבא. רק בדרך זו ניתן לדאוג שהפקודות הנוגעות לקודשי ישראל יישמרו כהלכה.

Rabbi Melamed also has some keen observations on the role of the Army Chief Rabbi and the religious political leadership:


לצערנו הרב הצבאי הראשי, עם כל מעלותיו הידועות, לא רלוונטי לסוגיה הזו. הוא ממונה על ידי שר הביטחון והרמטכ"ל, וקרוב להניח שאם יפסוק בניגוד לדעתם ייזרק מהצבא. לכן בכל עת שמדובר בהתנגשות שכזו, אין לעמדתו משקל. רק לאחר שיעמוד על הפרק דיון שבו עמדת הרב הצבאי תהיה בניגוד לעמדת שר הביטחון והרמטכ"ל, ולמרות הלחצים הרבצ"ר לא ישנה את דעתו ובכל זאת לא יודח מתפקידו, אז נדע שהוא אכן פוסק באופן עצמאי. ללא זאת, סמכותו כפוסק הלכה מוטלת בספק. אמנם עדיין יש לו תפקיד חשוב כמנהל ענייני הדת בצבא, אבל לא כפוסק.

מנהיגי הציבור הדתי

אם מנהיגי הציבור הדתי מתפלאים מדוע הציבור הדתי הגדול אינו בוחר במפלגות הדתיות, הם יכולים להתבונן בסיפור הזה ובדומיו ולהבין את התשובה. קשה להעלות על הדעת שמקרה דומה יקרה לאנשים מהשמאל. שום מפקד לא היה מעלה בדעתו לכפות על אנשי מר"ץ, שמספרם קטן בהרבה, לעשות דבר שמנוגד את מצפונם, שלא בהקשר ביטחוני מהדרגה העליונה. הדוגמא המקבילה היא אולי מצב שבו מזמינים את הרב אמנון יצחק לתת דרשה בבה"ד 1 על חזרה בתשובה, ומספר צוערים שמאלנים היו יוצאים, והמג"ד והמח"ט היו מדיחים אותם מקורס קצינים. אתם יכולים לתאר לעצמכם מה היו עושים נציגיהם בכנסת, ולנסות להעריך תוך כמה זמן היו קצינים אלו ננזפים ומוצאים את עצמם מחוץ לצבא.

זה מה שצריכים לעשות כעת מנהיגי הציבור הדתי והחרדי, לתבוע את סילוקם מהצבא. לא פחות. וגם אם הדבר יארך זמן, לא לנוח ולא לשקוט עד שהם יודחו. לפעמים חייבים לנקוט עמדה נחרצת, למען ישמעו וייראו ולא יזידון עוד. נחמה פורתא יש לנו מהצוערים האמיצים שנהגו כהלכה, ולצערנו נעזבו לנפשם לבד במערכה.

Yair Shapira, in his weekly legal column, outlines and bemoans the decline of the Military Rabbinate.

Yedidya Meir tells us about his own experiences with the IDF bureaucracy.

There is a lot more in the printed edition.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Elul: The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

Elul is a time of introspection, a time when things long forgotten are remembered. As the month progresses and we approach the new year, I remembered something that I saw on television many years ago. I even found it on YouTube:

A very special verse comes to mind: "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (Proverbs 16:32).

It is interesting that King Solomon saw a similarity between spiritual and physical valor. Someone who is able to overcome his evil inclination is truly a hero. Our Rabbis saw this as being the utmost degree of heroism (Avot 4:1).

Who is not familiar with the "thrill of victory"? Almost everyone has seen the celebrations after a baseball team wins the World Series or a soccer team wins the World Cup. The thrill of victory in the spiritual realm is a bit different. A person doesn't open bottles of champagne every time he beats the Yetzer HaRa. It is a totally different feeling, a delicate inner happiness where one feels that he has improved himself, improved the world and has come closer to God. This is the ultimate victory.

And then there is the "agony of defeat". Here I think we get a little bit closer to the world of sport. You feel like a boxer that has just been knocked down on his back. You look up and you see the Yetzer HaRa standing over you, smiling. You wonder how you got into this fight. Didn't you know who was going to win? How did the Yetzer HaRa fool you, little by little, to enter into the ring. You are ashamed of yourself for falling for the same tricks, for letting emotion and desire rule over reason.

As the year heads towards its conclusion we examine our victories and defeats. We look to strengthen the good deeds, and to distance ourselves from the not so good ones. We regret our errors, confess them before God, and take upon ourselves not to be fooled again by the Yetzer.

May we merit to feel the thrill of victory, and may we be spared the agony of defeat!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Video Exposes UNRWA 'Right of Return' Summer Camp

I've written in the past about UNRWA and the negative role it plays here in the Middle East. Here we have a film that claims to show us what happens inside of UNRWA funded summer camps. Not surprising at all!

Read more about this here.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Secular Coercion in the IDF

Not too long ago I wrote how the IDF is increase ultra-Orthodox participation in the Israeli Army by creating special frameworks for them. Back then I wrote:
This is a simple solution that could have been implemented a long time ago: Create different frameworks within the army that do not contradict the Hareidi way of life i.e. do not force them to serve with women etc.
However, the IDF is a large organization that does not always act in a consistent way. Recently, four soldiers were kicked out of a course for the crime of keeping Jewish law:
Four members of an exclusive IDF cadets' course have been expelled from the course because they refused to be part of an audience where a group of women were singing. That the cadets were observing a principle of Jewish law and that the IDF has displayed understanding on the sensitivity of the subject in the past makes the incident all the more shocking, says Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of the Or Etzion Yeshiva and Director of the Bnei Akiva Yeshivot in Israel.

“The whole thing is unbelievable, expelling top members of the course because they did not want to hear a woman singing,” says Rabbi Druckman. “The event in question was not a ceremony for Independence Day or Holocaust Day, where it could be argued that a musical component would be in place. The event was a discussion on the lessons learned from Operating Cast Lead (the 2008 IDF operation in Gaza). What place does singing – by a man or woman – have in such an event?”

The four cadets were members of a group of nine that left the event on Monday night when a group of female singers got up to sing. According to Jewish law, men are not supposed to be present at live singing performances by individual women, in order not to dwell on sexual thoughts. While not widely observed in the secular world or even among many modern Orthodox Jews, many yeshiva students and Orthodox Israelis observe this principle as part of their efforts to achieve a higher level of closeness with G-d and the Torah; the nine cadets that left the room are graduates of post-high school institutions of rabbinic Jewish study, and take issues of Jewish law very seriously.

When they left the room, the commander of their unit went out of the room as well and demanded that they return to the performance. The cadets said that they were acting out of religious principles and that the practice was common, but the commander refused to accept their arguments, and continued to demand that they return to the performance – and if they continued to refuse, he charged, they would be brought up on charges. Meanwhile, the performance ended, and the soldiers returned to their seats.

On Tuesday, the matter was discussed by top IDF commanders and members of the IDF Chief Rabbinate, and it was decided that the cadets would be given an opportunity to apologize for leaving the performance. Five of the cadets took the deal, but the other four refused, saying they had nothing to apologize for – and on Wednesday, they were booted out of the course. Two of the cadets are members of the Nachal Hareidi unit, and one is the son of a prominent hareidi religious rabbi.

Rabbi Druckman said that, Jewish law aside, the idea of throwing a soldier out of a course for refusing to listen to music was ridiculous. “There are no orders in the army to listen to music, what if the soldier doesn't like music? You can be a great commander without liking music.” He added that the unit commander who pursued the matter was “someone with a silly opinion. I would not rely on his judgment as a commander. They asked to be excused from the event and were refused. I am waiting for someone to explain to me what connection music has to Operation Cast Lead.”
Nobody should have to apologize for observing Jewish law. This is a disgraceful example of secular coercion. The IDF cannot expect God fearing people to serve in the army on the one hand and force them to break Jewish law on the other. The commander that demanded that the cadets hear a woman singing against their will should be disciplined.

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Shawarma Republics are Burning

Sultan Knish coins a new concept: The Shawarma Republic. Definitely worth reading!

Torat HaMelech 10: Haifa University Stifles Freedom of Speech

This is amazing:
The University of Haifa announced on Wednesday its decision to postpone a conference booked for next week on the book Torat Hamelech (“The King’s Torah”) and featuring one of its authors, following pressure from numerous organizations on the school’s president, Prof. Aaron Ben-Ze’ev.

“The university is firmly opposed to the stances expressed in the book Torat Hamelech, and it is just because of that [that we think] the way to expose the depth to which these stances are distorted is to hold conferences that air these opinions, and not to hide them and pretend they do not exist,” a statement read.

“At the same time, after various organizations approached the university, the president of the University of Haifa has decided to postpone the conference, in order to examine the issue.”

Besides the usual array of academic researchers who would have been discussing the book, the conference – planned for Monday under the title “Torat Hamelech – Halacha, morality and the limits of the public discourse” – had one of the treatise’s authors, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, scheduled for a debate at the end of the day with Rabbi Ariel Finkelstein of Yeshivat Ahavat Yisrael in Netivot, who wrote a book, Derech Hamelech (“The Way of the King”), that countered Shapira’s thesis point-by-point. Shapira rarely speaks to the media, and never to the secular media.

Torat Hamelech, published in 2009, deals with the attitude of Jews toward gentiles in times of war, and states that under certain circumstances, noninvolved gentiles may be preemptively killed, including children. The authors of the book, as well as a group of rabbis who wrote rabbinic endorsements to it, were investigated by police on suspicion to incitement to racism and violence. No charges have been pressed so far.

One of the organizations that was instrumental in pressuring Ben-Ze’ev expressed satisfaction following the university’s decision.

“Brit Hoshech Legaresh is very pleased the event has been postponed, and we hope it will be canceled,” Dr. Gadi Gvariyahu said. Brit Hoshech Legaresh (Dispelling Darkness Alliance), representing 16 social and pluralistic groups and dedicated to fighting racism, was formed following Torat Hamelech’s publication in 2009.

“In the same way an imam preaching to kill Jews wouldn’t receive a platform, here too there is no need to give a platform to a rabbi who preaches to kill gentiles. Brit Hoshech Legaresh will continue to act to cancel any event taking place in honor of the book Torat Hamelech,” Gvariyahu said.

Shapira and his co-author, Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, had invited the same Brit Hoshech Legaresh to meet with them and discuss the book nearly two years ago, an invitation the organization ignored.

But others saw the conference’s postponement, and potential cancellation, as running counter to academia’s duty to explore, understand and debate issues, even controversial ones such as those in the book.

“I agree with the first part of the university’s statement, which is why I can’t understand the second part of it,” said Tomer Persico, a researcher at the contemporary religions program at Tel Aviv University. Persico, who on his Facebook page called the book “a manifest of dark and ugly racism,” was scheduled to deliver a talk on religious language and the borders of discourse in the public realm at the conference.

“Whoever cares about freedom of expression and academic freedom should be in favor of such a conference,” he said, commending the fact that Shapira had agreed to leave the security of his natural political and religious surroundings to hold the debate in “the lion’s den” of academia.

And while remaining totally opposed to the book and its message, Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avoda, a liberal Orthodox Zionist organization, expressed disappointment over the university’s decision. “It is very problematic to provide a platform for people with extreme opinions, and we oppose to doing so,” the organization’s head Shmuel Shattach said. “At the same time, in a place where nearly every person is given an opportunity to speak his mind and air his extreme opinions of every kind, there is room to hear Shapira as well. I wouldn’t fight for Shapira’s right to express his opinions from the outset, but in the name of freedom of expression, where the limits of pluralism are stretched to let everyone voice their stances – he should have that right too.”

Shattach added that his organization’s upcoming publication for youth will be dedicated to countering Torat Hamelech.

Shapira didn’t seem too flustered by the university’s cold shoulder.

“Anyone who wants to come and debate and hear about the book Torah Hamelech is invited to come to us,” Shapira, head of the Yitzhar yeshiva, was quoted as saying by the Hakol Hayehudi website Wednesday.

“If the lecturers and students would like, I’d be happy to give them a lecture on the topic.”
The behavior of Haifa U. is abhorrent and cowardly. I think a debate between the authors of Torat HaMelech and Derech HaMelech would be fascinating. I suggest that such a debate be held in a National Religious framework.
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