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Monday, December 31, 2012

Jewish Assimilation Statistics/Anecdotes

I mentioned in my previous post the articles on kiruv in The Klal Perspectives Journal.

One of the conclusions that I reached after reading these essays is that the state of Jews in the United States is steadily getting worse. They are melting in the melting post at an increasing rate. As we start reading the book of Exodus this week, I cannot help but remember those Israelites who preferred to stay in Egypt and died during the plague of darkness. Here are a few quotes from the above mentioned Klal Perspectives Journal that illustrate the situation.

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky:

Currently, less than 70% of the students enrolled in our Yeshiva and seminary (Shapell’s/Darche Noam and Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya) have two Jewish parents. This number has been steadily dropping over the past few years.
Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald:
Contemporaneously with, and clearly related to, the rapid decline of the Conservative movement over the last two decades, it is my view that there has been a precipitous drop in the number of people becoming baalei teshuva in America. This decline is because Jewish youngsters today simply have no real connection to Judaism upon which to build. The vast majority of non-Orthodox Jewish youth now receive no religious education. Many have never been Bar or Bat Mitzvahed, and consequently, have little or no connection with Jewish life. As a result, fewer and fewer young people today respond to conventional outreach efforts. An invitation to a Friday night meal, a Purim party, a Learners Service, etc., is almost hollow and meaningless because virtually nothing Jewish resonates within them.
Lori Palatnik:
The “middle class” of Judaism is rapidly disappearing. Gone is the generation in which Jews generally married Jews (and if they didn’t, it was still shocking). The distinction between Jew and non-Jew is hardly acknowledged at all.

Today, in some cities (think Seattle, San Francisco, etc…), it is unusual to meet a couple who are not intermarried. My non-observant but proudly Jewish mother-in-law in Chicago tells me, “My friends and I no longer struggle with ‘should we go to the intermarriage of our children?’. Everyone goes. We do not want to lose our kids. Today we struggle with, ‘do we go the christening of our grandchildren?’”

Increasingly we see, either you are “in” – an educated committed Jew – or you are “out,” ignorant, gone from the Jewish ranks, intermarried, assimilated, apathetic. In my family, though raised as secular Jews, three out of four of us became observant. The fourth one got married in a church on Shabbos and is raising his kids as Christians.

This more or less confirms what I wrote a while back:
Interesting and sad: when I grew up in the 1960s, the rate of intermarriage among American Jews was around 10%. Today, it is about 50%!

The Jews that came to America at the beginning of the previous century were not always careful in mitzvah observance, but they were culturally Jewish. Their mother tongue was Yiddish and they would not even imagine marrying out. The next generation was also culturally Jewish, but Yiddish was a second language for them to be used when speaking to Bubbie and Zaide.

The third generation, that is to say mine, did not speak Yiddish. We were American through and through! Why shouldn't I marry a gentile? She eats bacon and we eat bacon. What's the big deal?

I have on many occasions hosted kids from "Birthright" at my Shabbat table. Many of these kids are the products of my peers that intermarried. The mother is Jewish and the father is not, or the other way around. They are very confused about their identity. How many of them will return, and how many will leave the Jewish nation forever?

The point of the story is that we really are a nation only through our Torah.

Torah really is amazing. It's too bad that so many never get the chance to see what it is all about.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kiruv Today

Through Cross-Currents I came across some very interesting articles on kiruv in The Klal Perspectives Journal. For one who became a ba'al teshuva about thirty years ago, I find the subject fascinating. Perhaps in a later post I will deal with some of these essays and/or the issues raised therein.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Antisemitism & The Latest Performance of Roger Waters

I've posted about this guy before. I do not think that he is an anti-Semite. He's just an ignoramus. Contrary to his lyrics, he really does need an education!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Tenth of Tevet is Coming Up

Something unusual happened to me last night. I attended my regular Gemara class. We are at the beginning of the chapter "Kol HaTadir" in the tractate "Zevachim" (Animal Sacrifices). The chapter, so far, deals with the order in which sacrifices are brought in the Temple: which sacrifices precede others, which elements of sacrifices receive precedence, etc.

As can be expected in such a lesson, the participants submerged themselves into the text. Questions were raised, explanations were offered, sometimes accepted and sometimes rejected. The learning was "as happy as it was on Mount Sinai", way back when the Jewish People received the Torah from God. This was not unusual at all. It happens all the time, all over the world. A group of Jews, after a hard day of work, sit down to learn Torah.

The Gemara asks, "Does the blood of the burnt offering or the blood of the guilt offering receive precedence?" I feel like I am in a dream. Here we are, in the Holy Temple. Which blood should be dashed round about against the altar first? As I ponder the question, I "wake up" from the dream. Ribono Shel Olam, the Temple is in ruins! Even if I knew the answer, the Temple does not exist! It's all "theory"! These are laws that I cannot fulfill! A feeling of deep sadness conquers my mind and body, pushing out the previous feeling of exhilaration acquired from the learning.

I gave voice to my thoughts. The rabbi was curious as to what part of the text made me think of that. One of the other participants asked, "We are already on folio 89B, and just now you thought of that?

The Temple is our prayers every day. But only rarely do I really feel the sadness that one should feel for the fact that the Temple still lay in ruins.

May it be God's will that the Temple be speedily rebuilt!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Post Channuka Post

May we merit to have a deep faith in God and His Torah, and may we merit to express this faith in our daily actions all year round.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner Has Been Vindicated!

This is the video that made a lot of noise here in Israel:

As you can see, our armed soldiers are running away from a stone-throwing mob. Why are the soldiers running away?

Soldiers serving in Judea and Samaria claimed that the army is "tying their hands" by issuing constrictive rules of engagement, and that "we must be given tools with which to respond to those who act out violently."

According to other soldiers, "We fall back because we aren't authorized to use the crowd-dispersal tools at our disposal, to avoid igniting the entire area and because there are cameras around."

All this brings some tough talk from our politicians:
Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai sent a letter to Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser requesting that the Security Cabinet discuss the matter. Yishai wrote, "The conclusion of these events without casualties is a miracle, but we must not count on this in the future."

Yishai added, "In my opinion, IDF troops must make maximal use of their weapons if they feel their lives are in danger, and they must know they will receive the utmost support and understanding from all the relevant bodies if that is what they have to do."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to the attack on the IDF soldiers, telling Israel Radio, "There is no way that Palestinian policemen can punch and slap soldiers and live to tell about it." Lieberman said that the IDF's current conduct is not keeping the peace but just incites violence. "When a soldier is surrounded by a raging mob and swinging Palestinian policemen, it's a provocation. The government and military brass need to back the troops."

Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz also commented on the video footage, saying, "The sight of IDF soldiers running away from stone throwers is detrimental to the IDF, its combat troops and to deterrence. We cannot accept images of fleeing soldiers."

I have no doubt that IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz's shameful treatment of Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner contributed quite a bit to the current situation where IDF commanders and soldiers are afraid of the cameras, and are unable to do their job. This is what I wrote back then:
Does Gantz realize how much encouragement he has given to the terror supporters? Does he realize how he has demoralized his troops?
Had the IDF and the Israeli government supported Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner back then, we would not be seeing soldiers fleeing from Arab mobs today.

Here is what Zvika Fogel, an IDF brigadier-general (res.) and former chief of staff, Southern Command, has to say:

Instead of trying to appease the cameras and the "foreign" journalists, it is preferable to inform any person with a rock in his hand or behaving violently that the IDF doesn't intend to employ the same means. The IDF will hurt whoever threatens its soldiers, citizens or borders, and will do so with the use of live fire, precise and several times more painful. The soldiers who protect us and allow us to live normal lives need to know they were sent to carry out an achievable, legal mission, and will receive backup for any act that doesn't deviate from the purity of arms, without regard to the purity of the camera.
Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner has been vindicated!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Nechemya Weberman and Moshe Katzav

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz posted on Cross Currents his thoughts about the Weberman case. Among other things he wrote:
Many centuries before the development of the current norms of behavioral transparency (which, for example, has made it common practice for a female nurse to accompany a male doctor who is examining a woman), our chazal (sages), in their infinite wisdom, created Hilchos Yichud, fulfilling their dictum in the opening words of Pirkei Avos (1:1), “Asu s’yog la’Torah (build a [protective] fence around the Torah).”

These laws were not developed for teens-at-risk. They were meant to protect everyone from the ferocious power that the Yetzer Ho’ra unleashes in these arenas. In fact, a governing principle of these halachos is “Ain apitropis l’arayos,” loosely translated to mean that there no exceptions whatsoever in their application regardless of the individual’s standing or piety.

Does the fact that Weberman violated Hilchos Yichud mean that he is guilty of the unspeakable crimes he is accused of? Not necessarily. But it does mean that he totally has lost his cheskas kashrus (presumption of innocence).

Since the trial began, countless people have asked, “What is to stop people from making such allegations against any of us?” The answer is responsible, Torah-true behavior, 24/7. If one lives his life in accordance with the letter and spirit of Hilchos Yichud, it is almost inconceivable that any allegation would gain traction, since the accuser will be unable to prove venue and opportunity.

This reminded me of what I wrote about the Katzav case a while back:
Let's assume for the sake of argument that Moshe Katzav is innocent. Katzav could have avoided this mess if he had kept the laws of yichud and negiah. With regards to negiah, apparently Moshe Katzav admits that he sometimes hugged female members of his staff. If he had acted in accordance to Jewish law with regards to these matters any attempt to slander him would have been immediately written off.

I know a God fearing doctor who will not perform bodily examinations on any of his patients unless a member of his staff is in the room with him. This is in order to avoid any claims of improper conduct on his part. Where I work, even the so-called secular Jews know that you don't hug or even shake hands with a religious member of the opposite sex.

I hope the case will lead to a strengthening of modesty in the workplace and in general.

Both cases teach us the importance of being strict with regard to rabbinical injunctions in general and yichud in particular. Chazal rock!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Rep. Michele Bachmann Goes to Bat for Beit El and the State of Israel

Great Speech!

Thomas Friedman Strikes Again

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Here's a quote from good (?) old Thomas Friedman in the New York Times:
I am stunned at what I see here politically. On the right, in the Likud Party, the old leadership that was at least connected with the world, spoke English and respected Israel’s Supreme Court, is being swept aside in the latest primary by a rising group of far-right settler-activists who are convinced — thanks, in part, to the wall and dome — that Palestinians are no threat anymore and that no one can roll back the 350,000 Jews living in the West Bank. The far-right group running Israel today is so arrogant, and so indifferent to U.S. concerns, that it announced plans to build a huge block of settlements in the heart of the West Bank — in retaliation for the U.N. vote giving Palestinians observer status — even though the U.S. did everything possible to block that vote and the settlements would sever any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.
Well, I am stunned when a journalist who has done absolutely nothing of note for the Jewish People, calls the elected leaders of Israel, many of whom have put their lives on the line during service in the IDF, "arrogant".

What's more, Tom thinks that "the U.S. did everything possible to block that vote". Well Tom, there are others that think differently, others that are actually knowledgable on the subject. Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton had this to say:

Bolton said the Obama administration should have followed the model set by former President George H.W. Bush, and then-Secretary of State James Baker, 20 years ago in blocking a similar initiative to upgrade the Palestine Liberation Organization’s status from an “entity” to a “non-member state,” the same status held by the Vatican.

“We’ve been through this before. We did this 20 years ago and defeated the Palestinians,” Bolton said, according to a transcript provided by Newsmax.

“And this is how we did it. Secretary of State Jim Baker issued a statement saying he would recommend to the president that the United States make no further contributions, voluntary or assessed, to any international organization which makes any change in the PLO’s status as an observer organization.”

“If the administration had simply done what Jim Baker did 20 years ago, this thing would have been deader than a doornail,” Bolton added.

I think that what John Bolton said is quite logical. The UN is funded largely by the United States. If Obama really wanted to prevent the vote, he could have done so. Thomas Friedman, as usual, is off the mark.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Difference Between Naftali Bennett and Tzippi Livni

This video tells it all:

Natalia Nariman: Another Sad Case of Intermarriage

Who remembers the story of Natalia Nariman?
A 58-year-old man set fire to his girlfriend as she sat in their car, murdering her, according to an indictment filed in the Nazareth District Court on Thursday.

Nashad Basul, originally from Reina, is also charged with false imprisonment for allegedly forcing the victim, Natalia Nariman, to remain locked inside their Upper Nazareth apartment for years.

According to the indictment, Nariman met Basul in 1993 after she made aliya from Uzbekistan. She converted to Islam, and the couple lived in Upper Nazareth with their baby daughter and Nariman’s son from a previous relationship.

Basul refused to let Nariman leave the house, according to the indictment. He also allegedly ordered Nariman not to speak with other men, and slapped her.

Tension began to grow between the couple, the indictment alleges, as Nariman expressed her desire to work outside the home and swapped her traditional Muslim dress for Western clothing.

Eventually, Basul plotted to murder Nariman, the indictment alleges. Basul allegedly took Nariman to a hotel in Afula where he gave her alcohol to drink.

In the early morning of September 10, as the couple was driving home, Basul is said to have left the car, leaving Nariman strapped into the passenger seat.

Basul allegedly set fire to Nariman as she sat in the car, then left the scene.

Firefighters later discovered Nariman’s partly charred remains in the passenger seat.

HaKol Yehudi reports that Nashad Basul was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his crime. He also has to pay 250,000 NIS in damages to Nariman's family. Why was he sentenced to only 16 years in prison? Because the prosecution made a plea bargain with the accused, convicting him of manslaughter and not murder. The Kol Yehudi article includes another interesting detail: Basul was already a married man with children when he met Nariman. He led a doulbe life, with one wife in Raina and one wife, Nariman, in Upper Nazareth.

This case received very little coverage in the press. I wonder why!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

How Aly Raisman Influenced a Jewish Student

It is amazing what an 18 year old Olympic gold medalist can do. In this essay a Jewish student from Texas tells us how Aly Raisman influenced him:
The familiar beat of the Jewish song ‘Hava Nagila’ and the claps of the audience fill the arena. She takes one big breath and starts her last tumbling run, finishing with a sky-high leap as the crowd erupts with excitement. Seconds later, her score is displayed and the commentators announce that Alexandra Raisman, one of the five American gymnasts that won the gold medal the 2012 Olympics in London, has individually won gold on the floor exercise.

After the Olympics ended I was struck with disappointment, however, even with the games over, Raisman motivated me for the rest of the summer. Instead of spending all day at the pool or hanging out with my friends I spent more time studying and improving my overall fitness.

What originally drew me to Aly was her dedication to gymnastics. There have been times where my dedication has faltered and I have debated not showing up to dance practice and sleeping in a little later or hanging out with my friends during lunch instead of attending a club meeting. However, when I think about how hard Raisman works and how many hours she puts into her routines, I rejoice at the fact that I only have to attend school and do homework.

I am Jewish just like Raisman, this was the initial reason that I took interest in her as a role model. I am inspired by how she manages to integrate her Jewish heritage in everything she does and how rock solid her dedication and pride is to her religion. When people ask me why there are eight days of Chanukah or why I am fasting on Yom Kippur, I take pride in answering these questions, informing people about my religion and myself. And being a part of a religion, a way of life that makes me stand out. Because of Aly and her dedication to her religion, I started to attend synagogue more and more this year in order to get in touch with my religion and heritage even more.

Aly was the team captain of the gymnastics team that won gold. Because of that I immediately knew that I wanted to try out for a leader role in my school’s dance team. The night before the audition, I practiced my routine over and over again envisioning Aly’s gold medal winning. I know for a fact that Aly was one of the reasons I made Lieutenant on the team. During practices I assist in running practices and choreographing parts of the routines, trying my best to lead my team to glory like Raisman did. Aly motivated me to become more than just someone who attends the practices but someone who leads the practices.

Although I have never met Aly, her actions and her qualities have influenced me in more ways than people who I actually have met. But her going to the Olympics is like me going to college, it takes quite a bit of work but the rewards that come out of it are endless. I intend to make my college experience and the rest of my life golden like Aly Raisman.

Maybe I should stop blogging and start working on my cartwheels?

Bad News From the United States of America

Such a shame:
Jonathan Pollard was hospitalized after he collapsed in his jail cell during the weekend. His wife, Esther, was informed of this Saturday. His condition is not known.

Pollard began his 28th year in jail two weeks ago.

He has been suffering from intense pain in the past few weeks but it is not known if his collapse is connected to the pains.

Pollard is serving a life sentence for illegally passing on the classified material to a friendly country. He is suffering from poor health and in early 2012 was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

Two days after United States President Barack Obama was reelected, former minister Rafi Eitan called for Obama to release Pollard.

Eitan, who recruited Pollard and served as his handler, apologized to the United States for his role in the affair. Pollard gave Israel classified American documents relating to Middle East security.

“I’m responsible in the matter,” Eitan told Reshet Bet. “I apologized, and I apologize again and say, ‘Please, send Pollard home.’”

Eitan has previously said that U.S. intelligence services are using Pollard to take revenge on Israel.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Unity!

So far, so good!:
Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) and the National Union-Tekuma factions officially merged Thursday and will run as a joint list for the 19th Knesset.

According to an agreement between Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and National Union- Tekuma leader Knesset Member Uri Ariel, Bennet will head the joint list, which will continue to be called Habayit Hayehudi, followed by Arieli. Bennett will also be the party's senior minister should it join the next coalition, the deal states.

The first 15 spots on the list will be filled by nine representatives of Habayit Hayehudi and six Tekuma members.

The party's line-up ahead of the general elections in January is as follows:

1. Naftali Bennett

2. Uri Ariel

3. Nissan Slomiansky

4. Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Dahan (former director general of the rabbinical courts)

5. Ayelet Shaked (founder of "My Israel")

6. MK Uri Orbach

7. Zevulun Kalfa (kibbutzim representative)

8. Avi Wurtzman (deputy mayor of Beersheba)

9. Mordechai Yogev (deputy head of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council)

10. Orit Strook (head of the Yesha Human Rights organization)

11. Yonatan Shetbun

12. Shuli Mualem (vice president, Organization of IDF Widows and Orphans)

13. Rabbi Hillel Horwitz

14. Jeremy Gimpel

15. Nachi Eyal

I'll probably vote for this party.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tifferet Yisrael Synagogue to be Rebuilt

This is great news! Now that the Hurva has been rebuilt, the time has come for the Old City's main Hasidic synagogue:
The Jerusalem Municipality awarded initial approval to a plan to rebuild the iconic Tifereth Israel synagogue in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter, a magnificent domed synagogue from the 19th century which was destroyed in the 1948 War of Independence.

The project will recreate the three-story-tall synagogue as well as the iconic dome on the top, with only minor changes to the original, such as the introduction of an elevator to make the building more accessible. On Tuesday, the municipality’s Local Planning and Building Committee approved the plan for the next step of the process, where it must receive the approval of the Interior Ministry. An anonymous donor who has been active in previous rebuilding projects in the Old City donated nearly NIS 50 million needed for reconstruction, said Shlomi Attias, the Old City project manager for The Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem Ltd. (JQDC). The JQDC is a public company under the auspices of the Ministry of Construction and Housing. The synagogue is located just a few hundred meters from the Western Wall Plaza, in the same plaza as the Hurva.

Ashkenazi hassidim bought the land for Tifereth Israel Synagogue in 1843, though the building wasn’t inaugurated until 1872. The synagogue is also known as the Nissan Bek synagogue, after its founder. The prominent white dome on top of the building was informally known as “Franz Joseph’s cap,” after the Austrian emperor who visited Jerusalem in 1869. On a tour of Jewish sites, Franz Joseph inquired as to why the unfinished synagogue had no dome, to which one quick-thinking rabbi replied, ''Your majesty the Emperor, the synagogue has doffed its hat for you!'' The emperor donated the sum needed to finish the roof.

During the Independence War in 1948, the building was used as a Haganah defense position, similar to the nearby Hurva synagogue. Arab League forces demolished the synagogue with explosives at 1 a.m. on May 21, just a few days before the Hurva met the same fate. Following the Six Day War, the city decided to leave the ruins of the synagogue as they were. “The municipality sees great importance in preserving and rebuilding Jerusalem’s heritage sites,” Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement released by his office. “The Tifereth Israel synagogue was a symbol of the Jewish “Yishuv” (settlement) in Jerusalem and we are proud to bring it back and rebuild it anew.”

The redemptions comes little by little!

Where's the Coverage?

Yesterday I posted the amazing story of Yael Matzpun, the Israeli mother from Sde Avraham who bravely thwarted a terrorist attack. I mentioned that the story has been completely ignored, as far as I can tell, by foreign media outlets.

Here in Israel, the story was given wide coverage. English reports were available at Arutz 7, Ynetnews and Israel Hayom. Ha'aretz also reported the attack, whitewashing it in their English version.

I am still wondering why this story did not receive more coverage. My theory is that the mainstream media (MSM) is intentionally covering up the story for the following reasons.

1) It shows an Arab violations of the ceasefire, something that Clinton and Obama would like to sweep under the rug. The MSM is only too willing to cooperate.

2) It justifies the IDF's previous policy of preventing Arabs from Gaza from approaching the border fence.

3) It portrays the Arabs as ruthless savages and not as innocent victims, something that totally goes against the agenda of most major news outlets.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Israeli Woman Thwarts Arab Terrorist From Gaza

This story, as far as I can tell, has been completely ignored by the large media outlets outside of Israel:
An Israeli mother in the small agricultural community of Sde Avraham managed to fight off an armed terrorist on Monday, saving herself and her young children from murder, Maariv/nrg reports.

Yael Matzpun was sleeping in a room with her four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son when she was awoken by heavy footsteps in the hall. She knew that her husband, an IDF officer, was not due at home.

“Suddenly I saw a terrorist in a kefiyyeh [head scarf] standing opposite me,” she told Maariv. “I decided that if I didn’t fight, he would murder me and my four children, there would be a massacre like in Itamar, where the Fogels and three of their children were murdered in their home.”

The terrorist turned on the light and said something in Arabic, she recalled. He had a knife in one hand and a metal pipe in the other. Suddenly he lunged at Yael, stabbing her in the face and shoulder.

What the terrorist did not know is that Yael is an athlete trained in Krav Maga, Israeli military hand-to-hand combat. She used her skills to drive him back and into the bathroom, and locked him in. At the same time, she pushed her young children to safety.

Once the terrorist was locked away, she called for help. IDF forces arrived only to see the terrorist escaping through a bathroom window. They gave chase and attempted to arrest him, but were forced to open fire when he refused to drop his weapons. The terrorist was killed.

“The terrorist fell into the wrong woman’s hands, from his point of view,” Yael’s father said. “Even when she was a young girl, she would hug me like a vice… After she learned Krav Maga she was always able to take down thugs.”

Sde Avraham is located in southern Israel, several kilometers from the Gaza security barrier.

And yes, the terrorist did come from Gaza:
Though the attempted murder of a resident of Moshav Sde Avraham by an infiltrator from the Gaza Strip on Monday morning remains under investigation by the IDF and Israel Police, new details have emerged about the incident that could have very easily ended in far more bloodshed.

On his way to Moshav Sde Avraham, the attacker somehow managed to cut through the electric security fence on the border with Gaza, and make his way by foot several kilometers to the Eshkol Region security fence and finally the fence of Sde Avraham, all without being detected.

I think that the IDF has to go back to the rules of engagement that existed prior to "Pillar of Cloud". They must prevent Arabs from Gaza from approaching the fence.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I Told You So!

This just in:
Israelis who were opposed to the Oslo Accords and the Gaza disengagement have once again been vindicated, said Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, Rav of the town of Har Bracha and the Rosh Yeshiva of the Har Bracha Yeshiva – and they must continually remind their fellow Israelis of how right they were. In this case, he writes in his weekly column in Besheva, Arutz Sheva's weekly magazine, the need to educate Israelis about the dangers of surrendering land to Arabs takes precedence over what many consider to be the breach of courtesy by those who say “we told you so.”
Fine! Here is something that I wrote way back in January, '05:
Soldiers will continue to die when the Arab ingrates blow themselves up at the border crossings which were set up for their economic benefit. Israeli towns and villiages near Gaza will become the victim of PA police snipers. The Islamofascists will continue to target Israeli civilians with homemade missiles and probably with more sophisticated ones that will be smuggled accross the Egyptian border under the Egyptian army's watchful eyes.
I told you so!

Update:A translation of Rav Melamed's full article is here. Please take the time to read it. I particularly liked the following:

It is generally believed that religious people are less realistic, because they rely more on their faith than on an objective analysis of reality, whereas people lacking faith are able to analyze a situation objectively, and as a result, their short-term assessments are more accurate.

Yet here we have a situation where precisely those who are faithful to Torah, the nation, and the land assess the situation accurately, whereas the unbelievers are mistaken in their delusions and false hopes – which repeatedly blow-up in all our faces.

The explanation for this is that they are no less religiously committed – to a form of idol worship. Their god is called ‘Peace Now’ or ‘human rights’. This is exactly the sin of idolatry – taking one value and worshipping it, without giving consideration to balance with other values.

In contrast, Jewish faith is careful to state that God is exalted above all definition, for He is beyond all values, and all of them are included within Him. God desired to grant merit to Israel, and gave them Torah and mitzvoth with the aim of teaching them to balance values. The leftists, who are alienated from their Jewish heritage, are searching for a god who will give hope and meaning to their lives. Many of them previously believed in communism, and embittered the lives of many people. Today, they believe in ‘Peace Now’, and bring all these troubles upon us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

2012 - The Tomorrow's Borders of Israel - Mr. Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennet, the leader of the Jewish Home party, seems to be one of the up and coming politicians here in Israel. Here he presents his plan for Israel's future borders:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Avishai Edre'i: The IDF Spokesman's Arabic Speaker

During the current, "Pillar of Cloud" or "Pillar of Defense" operation, the IDF has been making excellent use of the social media: On YouTube there are videos documenting Hamas war crimes (such storing and launching missiles from civilian areas). Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts are letting the world know what is really going on here, in spite of the attempts of certain media outlets to obfuscate the truth.

One Facebook page that is quite interesting, even if you do not understand Arabic, is the page of Avishai Edre'i (or Avichay Adraee). Avishai grew up in Haifa and speaks Arabic fluently. He is the IDF's spokesman in Arab media, appearing among other places on Al Jazeera.

His page seems to be quite popular among Arabs. Hundreds of comments are left on almost every post (although some of them are obviously spambots). Using the translation tools of Bing or Google, even someone who does not understand Arabic can usually get a pretty good idea of the content of the comments. For the most part, the picture is not pretty: swastikas, curses and threats of violence, many times in the name of Allah, are the order of the day. As I said, it is not a pretty sight, but it does reflect a lot about the mindset of our neighbors.

For more of the same you can also check out Avishai's Twitter account.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The National Union's Knesset List

In spite of the war, Israel continues to prepare for the upcoming elections. The National Union, or should I say what is left of it (the Tekuma faction), selected its candidates:
After previously voting to place MK Uri Ariel at the head of the National Union party, members of the Tekuma Central Committee chose the party’s list for the upcoming Knesset elections on Sunday evening.

Ariel is followed in the number two and three spots by Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, former director-general of the rabbinical court system and Zevulun Calfa, former chairman of the Gush Katif Residents' Council. Orit Strook, chairwoman of the Yesha Human Rights organization, was placed in the fourth spot, and Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, one of the leaders of the Hevron Jewish community, was placed in the fifth spot. Rounding out the top six is Nachi Eyal, Director-General of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel.

MK Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz, who stood at the helm of the party in the 18th Knesset, was not placed on the list. Three weeks ago Katz asked the central committee to place him in the seventh spot on the list.

Ariel told Arutz Sheva before the vote, "This evening, we will choose our representatives for the next Knesset and with this list, we will sit with Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett and seal the final unification."

This list is almost as revolutionary as that of the Jewish Home: they are running without "Ketzaleh", and they have placed a woman, Orit Strook, high up on the list. This list also has oriental Jews, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan and Zevulun Calfa, high up on the list, something that was lacking in the Jewish Home list. (Personally, I do not think that "eidah" of a particular candidate matters, but not everybody thinks like I do.)

What is left now is to somehow bring back MKs Michael Ben-Ari and Arye Eldad, and to merge with the Jewish Home list.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Baffled in Sderot: By Moshe Feiglin

I received another thought provoking piece from Moshe Feiglin in the mail:
2 Kislev, 5773 Nov. 16, '12

Translated from the Makor Rishon newspaper

What is the solution for the constant missile attacks in southern Israel? Those who have a solution are the same people who warned against signing the Oslo Accords, in the first place. These people continue to be sidelined. Clearly, the Oslo advocates have no intention of giving up the profits and perks of the "peace industry" that they have created.

Those profits are not necessarily monetary. Our current president enjoys his position because of the peace industry. He has also become a wealthy man thanks to "peace", but that is only a small part of the problem. The peace industry advocates are senior media personalities, well-connected industrialists and politicians who climbed the political ladder with alacrity once they realized on which side their bread was buttered.

Most seriously, the peace industry also includes a thick swath of senior IDF officers who understood that their path to progress was paved with Oslo and who erased the concept of victory from their lexicon. In Oslo we surrendered the belief in the justice of our cause, exchanging it for pragmatism. He who surrenders the belief that he is just is incapable of winning.

On Tuesday of this week, I was at a campaign rally in Sderot. "I would like to ask what some of you may see as a strange question," I said to the audience in the packed hall. "In the war that is raging right now (this was before the major fighting began on Wednesday) between us and the Gazans, who is right?"

The hall fell silent. The audience looked uncomfortable and curious.

"They are right," one woman said.

"We are right," said another.

Most of the audience just looked baffled.

"Look at what is happening ", I continued. "Even here in Sderot, we cannot get a clear answer to the most fundamental of questions. So who is right?"

An endless stream of commentators, security experts and politicians visit Sderot. One advocates targeted assassinations, the other conquest, one says we should talk and the other says we should disengage. When all is said and done, it is clear to all that not one of them has gotten to the root of the real problem and is still incapable – after 12 years of Sderot being on the receiving end of incoming missiles – of relieving the misery of the residents of southern Israel.

Sderot's problem is not military in nature. Clearly, we are stronger than they are. The reason that we cannot deal with murderous attacks on our citizens is not military – it is spiritual. We have lost our belief in the justice of our cause. A mistake of this proportion cannot be rectified with shortcuts. We must return to the point at which we strayed from the path. That point is Oslo. It is there that we declared that this land is not our land. It is there that we recognized the rights of a different sovereign on our country's heartland. It is there that we lost the legitimacy for our existence in Sderot and as a result, the ability to fight against an enemy who does believe in the justice of his cause.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Pillar of Cloud" and What Not

1) Interesting: the Hebrew name for the present military campaign is "Amud Anan" which means "Pillar of Cloud". The IDF Spokesman preferred to translate this into English as "Pillar of Defense". Any guesses why?

2) The Elder of Ziyon is doing a good job documenting the lies of Hamas.

3) The Muqata is live-blogging the war.

4) Aussie Dave points out the bias in the BBC's DNA.

5) I would like to personally thank President Obama for his support, even though he probably does not read this blog.

6) Daled Amos tells us who Ahmed Jaabri really was.

7) Rabbi Pruzansky, who rocked the jblogosphere last week with The Decline and Fall of the American Empire, teaches us a thing or two about the Jewish vote.

8) In addition to its many sins, Hamas is also responsible for a lot of "Bittul Torah". Rabbi Lau is encouraging his students to strenghten our Torah study at this time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A New Kind of "Jewish Home" (part II)

Last week I wrote about the Jewish Home (HaBayit HaYehudi) party's election of a new chairman. Among other things I mentioned:
The pundits are noting that this is a changing of the guard. The younger generation of religious zionists, full of energy and internet savvy, have taken over the steering wheel. However, more important than the change of personnel is the change of vision. Bennett wants to change the "Jewish Home" from a sectorial party that worries about issues that affect the national religious public to a party with a much broader appeal and scope. Part of that vision is bringing Ayelet Shaked, his secular female cofounder of "My Israel" into the Jewish Home party.
Yesterday the party held primaries to elect the rest of the list for the upcoming elections. The results of the elections further reflect the changing of the guard:
1) Naftali Bennet
2) former MK Nissan Slomianski
3) Ayelet Shaked
4) MK Uri Orbach
5) Avi Wortzman
6) Motti Yogev
7) Yoni Shetbon
8) Shuli Muallem
9) Jeremy Gimpel
10) Rabbi Rachamim Nisimi
This is an absolute revolution, no questions about it! There is a lot of new blood here! I am amazed that Ayelet Shaked, a secular woman, received such a high position on the list. It will be interesting to see how this new and rejuvinated version of the National Religious Party will fare in the upcoming elections.

Some Thought Provoking Links

Adelson, Raisman in top 5 on Forward 50 list of influential Jewish Americans: Not that these lists mean too much, but is an 18 year old gymnast really one of the most influential Jews in America?

From disengagement to terrorism: Nadav Shragri reminds us how we got to where we are today.

Young Woman Viciously Assaulted in Mugging Attempt: Business as usual in Crown Heights?

the Theft of 48 Million NIS isnt the worst part: Rafi's thoughts on Kehillas HaMasmidim

Monday, November 12, 2012

Can Reform Judaism Get Its Mojo Back?

In "Jewish Ideas Daily", Evan Moffic asks, "Can Reform Judaism Get Its Mojo Back?"  A wise question may be half an answer. However, what can we say about a question whose very premise is false?  Mojo shmojo! It is impossible for Reform Judaism to get its mojo back, because it is something that it never had.  Reform Judaism is, and always has been, a shallow movement for shallow thinkers.  Essays will be penned, studies will be commisioned, but the search for Reform Judaism's non-existent mojo will lead to nowhere.

Rabbi Meir Kahane z"l accurately described this lack of mojo in his famous essay, "What Makes Bernie Run?"    I've quoted the essay before, and I will quote it again, for it is still relevant today:
And who else made Bernie run away from Judaism? Who else made Bernie what he is and is not? The massive, gaudy mausoleums that dot the landscape of every Jewish suburb. The temples. The temples whose senior rabbi is the caterer. The temples that perform human sacrifice rites each Sabbath morning and they call them, The Bar Mitzvah.

The Bar Mitzvah, that is not the beginning of a Jew but his end, his spiritual death. The Bar Mitzvah- that culmination of an empty, vapid, childish, shallow Jewish "education," taught by men and women whose ignorance and lack of Jewish content makes them superb vehicles for the "education" they pass on. The Bar Mitzvah, that obscene cult of ostentatiousness, the ultimate in Jewish status seeking, the competitive drive to bankrupt that pathetic and hapless "father of the Bar Mitzvah." The Bar Mitzvah where the young lamb babbles the words he neither understands nor cares to, to the accompanying nachas, pride, of beaming women and men who would not know a correct word from a mistake, whose ignorance is sublime and whose disgusting display of conspicuous vulgarity sends G-d fleeing from the mausoleum in wrath... 

The Bar Mitzvah whose necessary "religious" interlude long ago was subordinated to the piece-de-resistance of the entire immorality play - the "reception." The sickening waste of money and degrading of Judaism, where materialism runs amok in the guise of religion, where drunks and half-dressed women dance and give praise to the L-rd, with African dance, American tunes, and universal abomination. The Bar Mitzvah where the assimilationists, ignoramuses and despoilers of Judaism, beam with patronizing pleasure as the decrepit grandmother- Bubby- is resurrected from her nursing home or Miami Beach condominium and trotted out to light a candle to the applause of the go-go girls and dirty comedians waiting to do their act. 

The temple, where man thinks up G-d rather than admit that He made him. The temples, where the Jew can create any kind of religion that he cares to and call it Judaism. The temple, where things too difficult are junked and where from the Board of Directors shall come forth Torah and the voice of the L-rd from the approving Sisterhood membership. The temple, run by men whose ignorance of Judaism is exceeded only by their arrogant insistence on saluting it. The temple, where Bernie visits "G-d" and meets "Judaism" and flees from it in horror. The temples: they created Bernie, they made Bernie run.
Rabbi Kahane's description of the "Temple", written way back in 1975, was painfully accurate. There was absolutely no mojo there in those Temples, so it is a waste of time to look for it.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Whose Watchdog are They?: By Moshe Feiglin

I received this in the mail from Manhigut Yehudit.  Moshe Feiglin tells us about an interview that he gave to a young journalist.  You can learn a lot about Israeli journalists from this exchange:
24 Cheshvan, 5773
Nov. 9, '12

Translated from the Makor Rishon newspaper


It is morning and my car glides down the mountains of the Shomron into the smog of greater Tel Aviv. Another crazy day of running for the primaries is about to begin. My cell phone rings. A young, determined voice is on the other end.


"Shalom, this is so and so from the news website, ynet."


"Shalom."


"I am writing an article about donations to the candidates in the primaries. I wanted you to confirm a certain fact. "


"Go ahead."


"I see that you received a donation from a woman by the name of Nitzah Kahane."


"OK."


"Is it true that Nitzah Kahane is the daughter in law of the late Rabbi Kahane?"


Maybe I hadn't yet completely awakened. Perhaps I was suffering from lack of sleep and loads of pressure during the campaign - but that question peeled a thick layer of politically correct right off my psyche.


"Oh," I answered the young reporter. "You probably want to show your readers that women support Feiglin."


"No", the man dryly answered.


"No? Then perhaps you would like to show your readers that a woman donating to Moshe Feiglin's campaign is also an academician whose scientific articles are published in the most prestigious journals in the world. "


"No," the young voice answered.


"Oh," I continued. "Perhaps your scoop is that a woman who is a famous academician, a mother of ten, grandmother of fifteen, who manages to synthesize running a beautiful family, a glorious academic career and is involved in the community and Israeli society in an unprecedented manner donated to Moshe Feiglin?"


"No," the reporter stood his ground.


"And after you hear all of this? Don't you feel just a wee bit loathsome?" I asked with disdain.


"No".


"OK," I finished the conversation. "I authorize that Professor Nitzah Kahane is the daughter in law of Rabbi Meir Kahane, may G-d avenge his blood, who was murdered 22 years ago in the US."


"Thank you," said the young voice in a professional tone. "That is all I needed."

 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

We Will Soon Know: Who is the Real Obama?

A little over a year ago it seemed that President Obama's rhetoric towards Israel underwent a significant transformation, as I mentioned in my post, Who is the Real Obama? As I mentioned back then, the cause of this change of heart was not clear. I wrote:
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.
What's certain is that a lot has happened in the last four years. Obama won this election, barely. Gone is the messianic fervor that we saw the last time around. The man who won a Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing at all has been quietly and not so quietly ordering the "targetted killing" of those who he perceives as being enemies of the United States. The economy is still a wreck. One cannot help but get the feeling that the American electorate was more afraid of Mitt Romney's Mormon underwear than it was excited about Barack Obama.

Since he took office, Mr. Obama has been repeatedly humiliated by the Arabs. His friendly overtures towards the Muslim world were seen as a sign of weakness throughout the Middle East, and produced absolutely no flexibility on the part of the Arabs. Instead, they hardenned their positions, thinking that they have a friend and sympathizer in the White House. Not only that, Arab mobs attacked United States Embassies in their countries with impunity. One has to hope that the murder of an ambassador and three other Americans in Lybia, the "Arab Spring" and the turmoil in Syria have taught the President a thing or two about the Middle East, Islam and Arabs. Call it a wake up call from the muezzin.

Soon we will see the real Obama. After all, he does not have to worry about reelection anymore. Will it be the man who sat in Reverend Wright's church for twenty years and rubbed shoulders with the filthy liar Edward Said? Or will it be an older and wiser Obama a man that learned something in the past four years?

Time will tell.

Update: Yaak is such a genius!

A New Kind of "Jewish Home"

I saw a long line of people outside of "Beit Ross" on Najara Street last night. I recognized a lot of the faces: local members of the National Religious public. They were waiting patiently to cast their vote for the leader of the "Jewish Home" party.

Now, the day after, the votes are in:
The new chairman of the Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett, made a victory speech shortly after midnight on Tuesday night. With all the ballots counted, Bennett defeated his rival, MK Zevulun Orlev, with a majority of 67%.
Now that is a landslide!

The pundits are noting that this is a changing of the guard. The younger generation of religious zionists, full of energy and internet savvy, have taken over the steering wheel. However, more important than the change of personnel is the change of vision. Bennett wants to change the "Jewish Home" from a sectorial party that worries about issues that affect the national religious public to a party with a much broader appeal and scope. Part of that vision is bringing Ayelet Shaked, his secular female cofounder of "My Israel" into the Jewish Home party.

Not everybody is happy with this turn of events. I mentioned in a previous post the problem of voting for a secluar candidate. On the other hand, the "Chardali" people did not seem to have much of a problem joining forces with the secular Arye Eldad in the previous elections in the framework of the "National Union".

It will be interesting to see the list that will be chosen next week's primaries. Even more interesting will be the joint list of the "Jewish Home" and the "National Union".

In the meantime I saw this opinion piece by Meir Indor. It is definitely food for thought. Update: A very interesting interview of Ayelet Shaked. It's hard not to like the lady.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Secret of Making a Living after Making Aliya

A very good post from my friend Tzvi Fishman:
A lot of people say they can’t come on aliyah because they don’t know how they will make a living. The issue of aliyah and livelihood is a legitimate concern.
Read the rest!

Monday, November 05, 2012

A Torah-True View on Homosexuality

This letter from Rabbi Aharon Feldman is the most concise and precise exposition on the subject that I have ever seen. Here it is in its entirety:
Dear _____,

I received your letter a few days ago and was very pained by the anguish you have undergone for so many years because of your homosexuality and which is especially tortuous to you now that you have become a baal teshuvah. You have asked me for a Torah view on your problem. I hasten to answer you with the hope that what I write you will help you in some way.

I believe that the course you have taken is correct: you must refuse to deny your nature as a homosexual while at the same time refuse to deny your Jewishness. There is no contradiction between the two if they are viewed in their proper perspective.Judaism looks negatively at homosexual activity, but not at the homosexual nature. Whatever the source of this nature, whether it is genetic or acquired (the Torah does not express any view on the matter), is immaterial. This nature in no way diminishes or affects the Jewishness of a homosexual. He is as beloved in God’s eyes as any other Jew, and is as responsible as any Jew in all the mitzvos. He is obligated to achieve life’s goals by directing his life towards spiritual growth, sanctity and perfection of his character—no less than is any other Jew. He will merit the same share in the world to come which every Jew merits, minimally by being the descendant of Avraham Avinu and maximally by totally devoting his life towards the service of God.

Past homosexual activity has no bearing on one’s Jewishness. Although it is a serious sin, all humans by nature have spiritual shortcomings and this is why teshuva was given to them. Teshuva has the capacity to return a person to a state even higher that which he had before the sin.Accordingly, a Jewish homosexual has to make a commitment to embark on a course where he will ultimately rid himself of homosexual activity. It is not necessary that he change his sexual orientation (if this is at all possible), but that he cease this activity. It is obvious that for many people this will be difficult, and will have to be accomplished over a period of time. But it must be done and it can be done.

Family and children are important in Jewish society but one who does not have these need not feel that he is not a full-fledged member of the community. The verse in Isaiah 58, which is read by Jews all over the world on every public fast-day, is addressed to the homosexual: Let not the saris (who is physically unable to have children) say `I am a dried up tree.’ For so saith G-d to the sarisim who keep my Sabbath, who choose what I desire, and who keep my covenant: I shall make them in My house and within My walls a monument, a shrine, superior to sons and daughters. I shall render their (lit., his) name everlasting, one which will never be forgotten.

Can a homosexual be expected to live as a celibate? I believe a Jewish homosexual can accomplish this if he decides that the Jewish people is his “wife and children.” It is possible to do this if he throws his every spare moment into devotion to the welfare of his people. There are many areas where he can do this.

Because he does not have a family, a homosexual can make serious contributions to Judaism which others cannot. For example, bringing Judaism to smaller communities where there are no facilities for raising a Jewish family. I know of a case where a rabbi successfully inspired the Jews of an entire city for over forty years because, for various reasons, he never married. Since there were no religious schools in town, the rabbis who had held his pulpit before him all moved away when their children had to start going to school. But this rabbi, because he had no family, stayed on and had a major impact on the entire city.

Activities involving much travel, such as fundraising, a vital aspect of Jewish survival, is best accomplished by someone who is not tied down to a family. I know of a homosexual who helped establish several important institutions through his fundraising and is grateful for the sexual orientation which freed him to make this contribution.

Even within one’s community devotion to public causes can be more easily done by someone who has no family obligations. Several individuals whom I know became respected, active members of their communities during their lifetimes even though it was well known that they had no interest in marriage.

It is no accident that homosexuals are generally more sensitive to the needs of others and to matters of the spirit (viz., the high percentage in the arts) than the rest of the population. This is because their function in society is meant to be one where their family is the Jewish people. Their sensitivity is an emotional tool which they were granted for devoting themselves to, and empathizing with, others.

Devotion of one’s life to others is generally not considered an option in our modern world since fulfillment of one’s own desires and appetites is considered the major goal of life. This has caused the homosexual community to publicly flaunt their homosexual activity, as if to say to the rest of the world, “See, we can have just as much fun as you!” This is an understandable response to a culture which believes that without sexual satisfaction life is a failure. But this belief is both a total falsehood as well as a perversion of the nature of humanity.

The fact is that neither homosexual or heterosexual activity has the capacity to grant happiness to humans, as even a cursory glance at our unhappy world will demonstrate. The only activity which can give us happiness is striving towards reaching the true goals of life. Life is not meant to be an arena for material satisfaction. It is to be used to carry out G-d’s will by coming closer to Him and serving Him by keeping His commandments.

Sexual activity, by which the family unit can be built, is only one of the activities with which a man can serve God. But someone who does not have this capacity still has a whole life and unlimited opportunities to serve God.

I have written at the outset that it is important for you to come to terms with your homosexuality. But to do so it is vital to change your orientation away from the manner in which Western culture views life and and instead see sexuality in its proper perspective.

How does Judaism look at the reason for someone having been born or turned into a homosexual? Life is meant to be a set of challenges by which we continuously grow spiritually. Any physical defect curtails the enjoyment of life, but, on the other hand, meeting the challenge inherent in such a defect can be the greatest source of joy and accomplishment. Challenges are what life is all about, and homosexuality is one of these challenges.

It is difficult for us to understand why certain people were given certain shortcomings as their challenge in life and other were not. We cannot fathom God’s ways but we can be sure that there is a beneficence behind these handicaps. When these shortcomings are met they will grant us a greater satisfaction from our lives and a deeper devotion to G-d than if we were not given them.

A homosexual has an admitted defect, namely that he cannot have a family, but one which need not hamper his development into the human which G-d would want him to be. When the challenge of the shortcoming is met, the reward will be that much greater.

I will add that I do not think that it is necessary for you to give up on the hope of someday having a family. The ways of Providence are manifold. For example, I was personally involved in a case of a woman who knowingly married a homosexual man in order to help him overcome his condition. They subsequently had a large family. It was only because they were both deeply religious Jews that they were successful. There is reason to hope that with your acceptance of living a life in the service of G-d, your problem as well will be overcome. Nothing is impossible if we merit Divine assistance; “Can the hand of G-d ever be inadequate?”

I hope that the ideas I have expressed here will be of help to you. In your struggle towards reaching the goals of your life, remember that you are not unique: all of humanity is engaged in the same struggle. You were just given a different set of circumstances within which to operate.

With my heartfelt blessings for your welfare and for your true success, I remain

Very truly yours,
Aharon Feldman

Sunday, November 04, 2012

"Kiruv" and its Effects on Har Nof

I saw a very interesting letter on the "Har Nof" list. The author of the letter bemoans the behavior of some of the yeshiva and seminary students in the Har Nof neighborhood. On the one hand, he is all for kiruv, understanding its importance to the Jewish People. On the other hand, he is distressed about the effect that these students are having on his community, which is overwhelmingly ultra-Orthodox:
This is an open, general letter of concern, penned to *all local seminary/yeshiva students.*

I am writing on behalf of a number of our fellow residents of Har Nof, regarding the apparent degeneration of standards pertaining to the talmidim and talmidot based in Har Nof.

As we all know, it is a tremendous 'zechus' for Jewish youngsters to be able to strengthen their identities as proud and knowledgeable Jews, here in Eretz Yisrael.

However, this zechus and privilege simply *cannot* come at the expense of established residents, who are striving to fulfil more long-term dreams and aspirations.

The long-established 'Shaulzon Shuffle' has been an unfortunate landmark of Har Nof since as long as I can remember (I've been here 5 years). Yet, the general disregard for locals' spiritual sensitivities has perhaps sunk to far lower levels than 'Friday night intermingling' in recent times.

It is more than understood that young boys and girls do indeed need an outlet- regular opportunities to vent excess energy, as it were.

However, we wish to make this point absolutely, unequivocally clear: The venting of this energy cannot equal the religious and material suffering of the same people who happily provide you with meals every Shabbos and Yom Tov, as well as spare beds for your friends as and when they are needed.

At no point should the wanton excess glorified by Western culture come to find a safe haven here in Yerushalayim. Here, I refer to the growing tendency of seminary girls (more so than Yeshiva bochurim I might add) to congregate in local parks, behaving boisterously (if that terminology can even be used with reference to girls!) until the small hours of the morning.

On almost a dozen occasions this zman alone, my wife & baby have been rudely awoken by such incidents- often fuelled by alcohol- as girls sing/shout/scream at the top of their lungs, apparently unaware that it is almost Alos Hashachar.

We understand and appreciate that many girls will find it necessary to visit Ben Yehuda, have fun, and generally relax a bit from their weekly studies. Yet, at no point should Ben Yehuda street be replicated here in Har Nof. Point in hand: as I type this plea, a small glance out of my window reveals two wonderful sights: to my left, a young male & female sitting on a bench, openly kissing. To my right, a group of quite intoxicated females who are apparently her friends are, cursing loudly. cheering and calling her name. Sorry: two just started urinating against a parked car. I am not exaggerating one iota.

In five years here in Har Nof, I have never, ever witnessed such decadence, and yet it is now an occurrence which is unfortunately repeating itself far too often in parks throughout Har Nof.

Therefore, to the honoured and esteemed teachers and Rabbonim of these Seminaries, I say: The religious scruples and standards of your students are frankly none of my business. Where they happen to be 'holding' is a matter between themselves and their Creator. Any yet, neither are *my* religious scruples and standards any of *yours* or *theirs.*

I state as a fact that the vast majority of Har Nof's residents are 'holding' at a point where they do not want to see (nor for their kids to see) scantily-clad girls cavorting, half drunk, through the streets of our neighbourhood. They do not want to see these girls' boyfriends, nor what they and their boyfriend think of eachother.

A point to consider: I, as well as most of my friends, gladly and willingly host any number of seminary girls, if and when we are asked- both to sleep and to eat. We do not question their levels of observance, nor knowledge, we simply accept the request from assistance which comes from *you*- their teachers and Rabbonim- unquestioningly.

If this one-sided flow of chessed is to continue, it is neither unreasonable nor unjustified that we ask of you one thing in return:

To ensure that just as we bend over backwards to make your students' lives comfortable, you make at least a minimal effort to make *ours* comfortable: by emphasising to them that Har Nof is *not* Ben Yehuda, nor is it a giant nightclub. It is a wonderful and welcoming sechuna, filled with incredible people who have so much to give.

It is high time you gave something in return.

Yours with the utmost sincerity,
What do you think?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Beware of Predators!

In this week's Torah portion, Vayeira, we learn a little bit about the evil of the people of Sodom:
1 And the two angels came to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom; and Lot saw them, and rose up to meet them; and he fell down on his face to the earth; 2 and he said: 'Behold now, my lords, turn aside, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your way.' And they said: 'Nay; but we will abide in the broad place all night.' 3 And he urged them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. 4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both young and old, all the people from every quarter. 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him: 'Where are the men that came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.' 6 And Lot went out unto them to the door, and shut the door after him. 7 And he said: 'I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters that have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes; only unto these men do nothing; forasmuch as they are come under the shadow of my roof.' 9 And they said: 'Stand back.' And they said: 'This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs play the judge; now will we deal worse with thee, than with them.' And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and drew near to break the door.
Rashi explains that they wanted to "know" the men, i.e. homosexual relations.

It is a fact of life: there are predators! These people prey on the weak and unsuspecting. They ruin the lives of others in order to satisfy their awkward desires.

I do not agree with everything in the following clip. However, the main message is absolutely true:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Thoughts From Jerusalem

I've been living here in Israel for a long time. Not only that, it has been a long time since I have even visited the United States, where I was born, reared and raised. I usually feel just about 100% Israeli.

However, when I read about the what Hurricane Sandy has wrought on New York and New Jersey, the lives lost and the damage inflicted, I feel American again. Those are my old friends and neighbors, their homes and businesses who are now suffering. Those are the landscapes of my youth which have been battered by the wind and covered with sea and rain water. Yes, my heart bleeds.

On the other hand, one cannot help but feel the awesomeness of God: A full moon, high tide, a hurricane from the East and a cold front from from the West. Some may say that it was all a coincidence. I do not believe it.

Why this had to happen I do not know. I am sure that God has His reasons. I am not God's accountant. He really does not need one.

King David was also moved by the weather as it reflected the power of the God of Israel:
1 Hallelujah; {N}
for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is comely.
2 The LORD doth build up Jerusalem, He gathereth together the dispersed of Israel;
3 Who healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.
4 He counteth the number of the stars; He giveth them all their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.
6 The LORD upholdeth the humble; He bringeth the wicked down to the ground.
7 Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving, sing praises upon the harp unto our God;
8 Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, {N} who maketh the mountains to spring with grass.
9 He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.
10 He delighteth not in the strength of the horse; He taketh no pleasure in the legs of a man.
11 The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that wait for His mercy.
12 Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.
13 For He hath made strong the bars of thy gates; He hath blessed thy children within thee.
14 He maketh thy borders peace; He giveth thee in plenty the fat of wheat.
15 He sendeth out His commandment upon earth; His word runneth very swiftly.
16 He giveth snow like wool; He scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes.
17 He casteth forth His ice like crumbs; who can stand before His cold?
18 He sendeth forth His word, and melteth them; He causeth His wind to blow, and the waters flow.
19 He declareth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances unto Israel.
20 He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for His ordinances, they have not known them. {N} Hallelujah.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Who Will Ascend God's Mountain?

Ha'aretz has an interesting article about those who ascend the Temple Mount. It does contains a few libelous slurs against politicians from the Israeli Right("members who are extreme in their xenophobia, such as MK Michael Ben Ari") ,as well as a little bit of pseudo-intellectual humbug, which, unfortunately, is to be expected from that media outlet. Excluding that, the author Shani Littman did a really good job.

Personally, I do not ascend the Temple Mount, since I was instructed not to by the late Rabbi Avaraham Shapira zt"l. However, I support the right of those who follow other rabbis and take the proper halachic measures to do so.

To give you a taste of the article, here is a question that the author asked Arnon Segal and his answer:
What is the Temple meant to do?

“It is the heart of Judaism. Numerically, one-third of the 613 commandments are not fulfilled today because of the absence of a Temple. The Temple is the Jewish public sphere that we lost. I want a transnational Judaism, which will encompass all the commandments. The rabbis will not confine themselves solely to the synagogue. A Sanhedrin is needed. That is an inspirational institution. People would come there and be impressed by the light that exists in Judaism. The Jews are one religion, not a collection of sects. A temple is something that is built together.”
Read the rest.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Corries are Back!

Cindy and Craig Corrie, the parents of the infamous Rachel Corrie, seem to love Israel. After losing their frivolous lawsuit against the Israeli Ministry of Defense, they are back for another visit! According to this web site, this time around they are coming in honor of the olive harvest:
The delegation focuses on the Palestinian olive harvest which takes place each autumn. The olive harvest is an occasion of particular cultural and economic importance for Palestinian communities and a time when tensions between Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents of the West Bank run high.
As a veteran Israeli I feel obligated to offer a little bit of friendly advice for Craig and Cindy. After all, they are in a foreign county and they do not understand our language and customs.

1) If you reach an intersection and the traffic light is red, do not cross the street. Wait for the light to turn green, look both ways to make sure that there are no cars coming and then, only then, cross the street with caution.

2) If you see a fenced off area with a sign that says, "DANGER CONSTRUCTION, do not jump the fence.

3) Do not try to block moving vehicles, be they tractors, trucks, automobiles or motorcycles.

4) Do not enter closed military zones.

By the way, for those of you who do not know, the Corries hail from Olympia, Washington, an area whose Native American inhabitants were decimated by white settlers in the 19th century.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

HH Blurb!

Esser Agaroth: Haveil Havalim #382: The Dual Elections Edition

The Seventh of Marcheshvan

Today is the day we that start to request rain in the silent prayer, at least here in the land of Israel. Although the rainy season officially begins on Shemini Atzeret, when we start to say "Mashiv HaRuach U'Morid HaGeshem", we waited until now so that all the American Jewish tourists Babylonian Jews could return safely to their dwellings in America Babylon without being rained upon.

Perhaps this is a good time to look back at the holiday season that was. Here are a few observations:

1) You get out of it what you put into it. If you made an effort to get up early in Elul to say Selichot, if you devoted time to really reflect on your deeds, if you made an effort to change, if you fulfilled the mitzvot of Sukkot properly, I have no doubt that you were spiritually uplifted.

2) I had the opportunity do daven in the rebuilt Churva synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was really special. They have an interesting custom of not saying "Baruch Hu U'Varuch Shmo" during the repetition of the silent prayer. This I was told, was in keeping with the custom of the Gaon of Vilna. There is a certain atmosphere of splendor and honor that gave me a slight idea of what it might be like to daven in the Temple, may it speedily be rebuilt!

3) The Old City was packed with tourists from all over the world. BDS is a real big failure!

4) The Western Wall was packed with worshipers. The facilities available here have greatly improved over the years.

5) I was also in the City of David. That place has changed so much since in the almost three decades that I have been here. The more they dig there the more they reveal the ancient city of Jerusalem, much to the chagrin of the Arabs and the leftists. The City of David, like the Old City, was packed with tourists.

7) We are progressing towards full redemption, little by little. So I say to you Jews living abroad what Moses said to his father in law, " 'We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said: I will give it you; come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel.' "

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Rooting" for Aly Raisman

Aly Raisman continues to be a draw for Jewish community fundraising events. She was honored by WIZO, the Women's International Zionist Organization, for "her courage and commitment to the Jewish people after dedicating her extraordinary performance to the eleven Israeli athletes massacred 40 years ago at the Olympic Games in Munich."

7 news quotes her saying,
“Being Jewish and having accomplished that at the Olympics it means more than words can describe. It means so much to me.”
I am still "rooting" for Raisman.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Stranger Will Not Understand

I heard the following story the other day:

A gentile tourist from Germany was strolling down the streets of Jerusalem on the night after Simchat Torah. He heard loud music ringing out from one of the buildings. Curious, he made his way inside the building, which just happened to be a Yeshivah, and wandered about the corridors until he found the source of the music that he had heard. Inside a large room, which happened to be the Beit Midrash, a band was playing, and scores of Jewish men were dancing and singing joyously.

The curious tourist, bareheaded and sporting several tattoos, stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. He approached a bespectacled middle aged Jew who was standing on the side of the room and asked him, "What's going on here?"

"People are dancing," he answered him in an Israeli accent.

"I can see that people are dancing," the tourist answered, clearly frustrated from receiving such an obvious answer. "Why are they dancing?" he continued to inquire.

"Well, we just finished reading a book," the Israeli answered him.

The tourist from Germany was puzzled and coldly commented, "I've finished many books and never danced about it. What do you do when you stop dancing?"

"We start to read the book again," came the answer from the Jew. Then he added, "We've been reading this book for over three thousand years!"

"Well that sounds pretty boring!" the German declared.

The Israeli muttered to himself in Hebrew, "Zar Lo Yavin." (A stranger will not understand).

Hakafot Sheniyot in the Cave of the Patriarchs

Monday, September 24, 2012

Preparing for the Yom Kippur Fast

How should one prepare for the Yom Kippur fast?

First of all, one should know why he is fasting. It is important to understand that the fast is not a nuisance! It is a mitzvah, and this mitzvah facilitates all of the good that we will derive from this holy day. Personally, I am really looking forward to this chance to divorce myself from worldly matters and to concentrate on spiritual things.

I always tell anyone who is willing to listen that it is much more important to drink before the fast than to eat before the fast. Here is someone who agrees with me:
While a healthy adult can generally survive for weeks without food, dehydration can set in within a few days. It's no surprise then that most of the discomfort of fasting is caused by lack of water not the lack of food. To help reduce the effects of dehydration during a fast it is critical to properly hydrate beforehand.
Not eating for a day makes your stomach growl. Big deal! However, if you did not drink enough before the fast, do not be surprised if you get a nasty headache or worse! So drink!

G'mar Hatimah Tovah!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Asshur Will Not Save Us

I am sure I am not the only one to notice this. Take a look at the beginning of yesterday's Haftarah:
2 Return, O Israel, unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast stumbled in thine iniquity. 3 Take with you words, and return unto the LORD; say unto Him: 'Forgive all iniquity, and accept that which is good; so will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips. 4 Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we call any more the work of our hands our gods; for in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.'
Presently, there is an argument taking place in Israel. Some people here in Israel think that the IDF should act to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. Others say, "We can't go it alone. Only the United States has the military power to destroy Iran's nuclear ambitions."

I could not help but hear an echo of that argument in the Haftarah. The prospect of a nuclear Iran, plus the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood all over the Middle East, are certainly a cause for concern. When one sees rulers whose decrees are like those of Haman, it is impossible not to think of Teshuvah. Hosea is telling us what to say to God when we return to Him:
'Forgive all iniquity, and accept that which is good; so will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips. 4 Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we call any more the work of our hands our gods; for in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.'
"Asshur will not save us". I hear, "The Unites States of America will not save us. President Obama is busy engaging the Muslim world. Not only that, he cannot even defend his own embassies."

"We will not ride upon horses". I hear, "The IDF is not going to help us either."

Who can we rely upon? Our Father in Heaven!

Just a thought.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Now That I'm Done Laughing at the DNC's God/Jerusalem Debacle

Here are some serious thoughts that others had about that bizarre chain of events:

Government Ordained VS G-d Ordained :
You can try, but you just can not separate a nation from the Creator. And, if you do, it is always a losing proposition.

When the name of G-d was re-introduced back into the Democrat platform, the vote was booed by those who wanted no part of that. And, despite what was said, those who heard the vote knew that it was equal on both sides. Those for and against were in almost equal numbers! It was all about removing the competition.

Well, that is not the United States of even 20 years ago. Instead, it is a new mind set, a new people who have a completely different vision of what America should be.
G-d and Jerusalem:
The DNC rammed through the motion to reinstate G-d and Jerusalem being Israel's capital in their party's platform, notwithstanding the more-than-one-third of delegates who opposed the motion. It's good that they did so because had they not done so, I would have told them that I hope G-d does not remove Democrats from His platform.

Anyways, it was quite interesting that these 2 concepts - of Hashem and Yerushalayim - were constantly together. The 2008 platform had both together. Before the reinstatement, the Republicans complained about the absence of both of them - together. And they were both reinstated - together. As if Hashem and Yerushalayim were - and are - inseparable. And that would be correct.
Column One: God, Jerusalem and American foreign policy:
Significantly, rather than treat the deletions of God and Jerusalem as separate issues, the media and the Democrats themselves presented them as two sides of the same coin. When on Wednesday the party’s leadership decided to restore the language of the 2008 platform on God and Jerusalem – but not on Hamas, the so-called “right of return,” and Israel’s strategic significance to the US – they opted to do so in the same amendment.

The widespread perception of God and Jerusalem as related issues tells us something important about the American character. And it tells us something equally important about Obama and the party he leads.

Prof. Walter Russell Mead described Israel’s place in the American mindset last year. As he put it, “Israel matters in American politics like almost no other country on earth. Well beyond the American Jewish and the Protestant fundamentalist communities, the people and the story of Israel stir some of the deepest and most mysterious reaches of the American soul. The idea of Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism is profoundly tied to the idea of American exceptionalism. The belief that God favors and protects Israel is connected to the idea that God favors and protects America.”

Mead continued, “Being pro-Israel matters in American mass politics because the public mind believes at a deep level that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-America and pro-faith. Substantial numbers of voters believe that politicians who don’t ‘get’ Israel also don’t ‘get’ America and don’t ‘get’ God.”

By removing both God and Jerusalem from the platform, Obama and his fellow Democrats stirred the furies of that American soul at its foundations.
Delegates boo adding “God” and “Jerusalem” back to the Democratic platform:
“First of all, the Democrats are not booing God. They are not booing God here. They are booing the system that is obviously corrupt. This is the Barack Obama system. It really is. We’re going to put it out to a vote and let the people say what they want to say and we’re going to go around and we’re going to listen to your opinion. Then they’ll pole vault, they will go under the fence, they will jump over the fence, climb through the window, they will do whatever they have to do. They are going to do what they want to do,” Glenn said.

“This is one of the greatest signs ever. I love this. This is going to make you feel really good. They are terrified of you. They are absolutely terrified. Do you remember, how many times did we say, ‘Hey, don’t, don’t feel like you’re alone. You’re not alone. WE Surround Them.’ And we had to convince each other that there are more of us than them. They never believed that. They just keep going and doing exactly what ‑‑ and they just jam it down everybody’s throat. They’re no longer jamming it down your throat. They’re jamming it down their own people’s throat now. The good Democrats, they’re just jamming it down their throats. And they are afraid,” Glenn said.

“They expected their people to just go along. They didn’t. Half of them, the good common sense Democrats, half of them said, yes, put that back in. The other half, the militant half, said absolutely not,” Glenn explained.
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