Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sexual Harassment?

Things have gotten way out of hand. They really have!:
An indictment was filed Thursday against Jerusalem resident Shlomo Fuchs, 44, an ultra-Orthodox man who hurled sexist slurs at a female soldier on a public bus in the capital.

Police officials said Fuchs' behavior was unruly, and that he sexually harassed the soldier, Doron Matalon, by humiliating her and making sexual remarks.
What did he do? Apparently he called her a "prutza", which means a slut or a harlot. Not a very nice thing to do, but does this amount to sexual harassment?
The court also stated that sexual harassment does not only apply when the harasser demands something of sexual nature from the harassed, but also when the harassed is humiliated based on remarks relating to his or her sex. The judge ruled such was the case in this incident, since "there is no dispute that Fuchs spoke bluntly and shouted harsh and humiliating words at the soldier aboard the bus, calling her a 'slut' three times."

"I am not a sexual offender," Fuchs told his attorney afterwards. "If anything – she harassed me. I wanted to move away and she kept moving closer."

Fuchs' attorney claimed this was not a criminal offense. "We live in a free country. We're allowed to curse, it's part of the freedom of expression," he explained.

If the court does decide this is a sexual harassment case, said the attorney, then any man who calls a woman a "bitch" or other curse words would be considered a sexual offender.
I have to agree with Fuchs' attorney. It seems to me that this is all a product of the media-fed frenzy of incitement against the ultra-Orthodox: the police and the court are abusing their power to legally harass Fuchs.

Once again we can learn a lesson from this. First of all, I do not think that the Rambam or the Chafetz Chaim would approve of calling this soldier a prutza, even if she did not follow the etiquette of the mehadrin line. We really should be careful about what we say. Even our mundane speech should be something that is worth studying.

Secondly, what I quoted recently from chapter 20 of "The Path of the Just".

Let's hope that things will calm down soon.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Learning from the Beit Shemesh Zealots

The violent riots regarding the OROT National Religious school in Beit Shemesh gives us an opportunity to learn a few valuable lessons.

Our Rabbis taught us (Avot 1:6)

והוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות

which could translated as "judge every man favorably." If you see someone doing a certain act, which could be interpreted negatively or positively, we should judge the person in a positive light.

An alternative translation could be "judge the entire man favorably." You should not judge someone on the basis of an isolated act. Everyone has their ups and downs. The same guy that you saw doing something nasty may also have many good deeds to his credit. You have to see the whole picture. Keep this in mind as you view the following clip about the zealots in Beit Shemesh:

The clip presents those people in a very unfavorable light. However, imagine if a camera crew followed you around, with the explicit purpose of filming you doing something improper. Afterward, after editing, adding narration and subtitles, the clip was uploaded to YouTube. Would this be a true representation of who you really are? So it is with the zealots in Beit Shemesh: I am sure that they have many good deeds to their credit and that there are many positive things to learn from them.

With regards to the OROT school, and what the zealots are doing their fellow Jews in Beit Shemesh (spitting on them, calling them "shikse" etc.), I believe they are terribly mistaken. What is their error?

When one wants to improve his service of God beyond the letter of the law, one must be very careful that his actions do not cause him to be lax in other areas. Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto discusses this issue in his book, "The Path of the Just":
WHAT MUST Now be explained is the weighing of one's deeds in relation to the aforementioned standards of Saintliness. This is an extremely fundamental process and one which constitutes the most difficult operation in Saintliness because of the great subtlety it demands and because of its susceptibility to great inroads by the evil inclination. The weighing of Saintliness entails great danger because it is within the power of the evil inclination to draw many good things far from one, as if they were evil and to draw many sins near to him, as if they were great mitzvoth. The truth is that a man must fulfill three requirements in order to succeed in this "weighing." He must possess the most just of hearts, whose only inclination is to give pleasure to the Blessed One; he must submit his actions to the closest scrutiny and exert himself to perfect them in accordance with this end; and after all this, he must cast his lot with God, after which it may be said of him (Psalms 84:6,12), "Happy is the man whose strength is in You ... Goodness will not be lacking for those who walk in purity." if one of these conditions is not observed, he will not attain to Wholeness and he will be very apt to stumble and fall. That is, if his intention is not select and pure, or if he weakens in the analysis of his deeds so that his full potential is not brought to bear upon them, or, if after all .this, he does not put his trust in his Master, it will be very difficult for him not to fall. But if he correctly observes all three - purity of thought, analysis, and trust, he will walk securely in truth and no evil will befall him, as Channah said in her prophecy (I Samuel 2:9), "He will protect the feet of his Saints." And David also said (Psalms 37:28), "And He will not forsake his Saints; they will forever be protected."

What must be understood is that actions should not be judged for saintliness at first glance, but should be carefully observed and reflected upon so that it may be determined how far their results extend. For at times an action in itself may seem worthy of performance, but because its results are evil, one will be obliged to leave it; and if he does not, he will be adjudged a sinner rather than a Saint. The episode of Gedaliah ben Achikam (Jeremiah 40:13ff) provides a clear illustration of this fact. Because of his abundant Saintliness, which would not permit him to judge Yishmael adversely, or which would not permit him to receive slander, he said to Yochanan ben Kareach, "You are speaking falsely of Yishmael." What was the result? He died, the Jews were scattered, and their last hope was extinguished. And Scripture attributes to him the death of those men who were killed, as if he were the murderer, as indicated by the comment of our Sages of blessed memory upon the verse, (Jeremiah 41:9), "All of the corpses of the men who were killed through Gedaliah."

It was also such incorrectly weighed Saintliness in the incident of Bar Kamtza (Gittin 56a) that was responsible for the destruction of the Temple: "The Rabbis thought to sacrifice the animal. R. Zechariah ben Avkulos said to them, `They will say that animals with imperfections may be sacrificed upon the altar.' The Rabbis thought to kill him [Bar Kamtza]. R. Zachariah ben Avkulos said to them, `They will say that one who causes an imperfection in sacrificial animals should be killed.' While all this was going on, the evildoer slandered the Jews to the emperor, who came and destroyed Jerusalem." It was to this that R. Yochanan was referring when he said, "The humility of R. Zechariah destroyed our Temple, consumed our Sanctuary and exiled us among the nations."

We see, then, that one should not decide upon the saintliness of a deed on the basis of surface appearances, but should view it from every angle that human intelligence can be brought to bear upon it, until he can truthfully determine the better course - performance or abandonment.

In their pursuit of modesty, the zealots violated several Torah precepts: Insulting others(Ona'at Devarim), harming people and property, and desecrating God's name to name a few. They "rebuked" their fellow Jews, in an uncivilized and violent manner. The fact that they yell and terrorize little girls is especially revolting. Even if the girls are not dressed properly, it is the parents' duty to educate their children, and not the duty of the zealots. If the zealots were to put aside their emotions and to weigh their deeds according to the ways of Torah, I think that they would agree with me. However, when emotion rules, Torah precepts are often forgotten.

This reminds me of something I saw many years ago in Me'ah She'arim. Apparently a woman who was not dressed according to the standards of Jewish Law walked down the street. I did not notice her. All of a sudden, a wannabe zealot ran down the street after her all the time yelling "prutza, prutza" (harlot, harlot).

I could not help but wonder: If she is a harlot, why is he running after her?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Hanukkah Song By John Lennon?

The Fire in Beit Oren Gave Birth to a Synagogue

This week's parsha sheet from Chabad has an interesting story - so interesting that I thought it was worthwhile to translate it into English:
It happened several days after the fire in the Carmel forest, exactly one year ago, where 44 people lost their lives and tens of houses were burnt down. A group of Jews from New Jersey visited Beit Oren, with the willingness to help rehabilitate the village.

Moti Dagon (53), one of the veteran members of the village and a professional tour guide tells us: "At the meeting the members of the delegation asked: 'What do you need? How can we contribute in order to start the rehabilitation?' The head of the village committee answered, 'We don't have a Torah scroll.' The others present agreed with him. The village exists 70 years, and there was never a synagogue or Torah scroll in it. Why didn't they request $10,000? That's hard for me to explain. It's astonishing."

Several months later one of the heads of the New Jersey congregations phoned the committee head. "Do you remember us from the visit?" he asked. "After much effort we succeeded in acquiring for you a Torah scroll that is 100 years old and we will send it to you soon", he said.

There was great excitement among the residents, but it was not complete, since they did not have a synagogue. "We asked ourselves: What good is a Torah scroll without a synagogue?" Dagon tells us. It did not take long before there was a surprising turn about. "A few days after we received the tidings one of the veteran members of the village, Mrs. Berta Ben-Chaim passed away. In her will she requested that a synagogue be opened in her home. The hand of Divine Providence was amazing - within a short time we received a Torah Scroll and a synagogue."

It was a festive day in the village when the synagogue was inaugurated and the Torah scroll was placed inside of it. "Everyone here cried in emotion", Dagon describes. "The event symbolized a new flowering, a new age. Now there are set prayers in the synagogue, mainly on the Sabbath, but perhaps that will expand in the future."

Dagon lives close to the synagogue. "In addition to the set prayers, the very presence of the synagogue in the village is heartwarming. It is something that we did not have, and now we understand how much it was lacking."

Even now, a year afterwards, the job of repairing and rehabilitating is still not over. "The government did not help us as much as they promised", protests Dagon. And as he speaks about the damage, he returns to that black night in the village. "We saw the fire approaching quickly. We did not appreciate its intensity. When the fire got close, it was too late. We tried to take our whatever was possible from the house. Everyone here fled, only we (a group of six residents - CX) stayed.

For hours we ran between the houses and extinguished the sparks - which saved many houses. In spite of the fire Dagon thinks that we must look forward: "Luckily, I did not lose my home, but my son's home went up in flames and there is nothing left of it. It is not simple to lose a home, but the people are continuing forward and are not stuck in the past."

Dagon says that when he lights the first Hanukkah candle, this week on Tuesday, he will say the words "sheAsa Nissim La'Avoteinu" (who performed miracles for our ancestors) with great intention. "A great miracle happened here. We lost our homes but we received a new life. There was a great danger to life here, but thank God nobody from the village was harmed."
Nice story, isn't it?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dvar Torah For Parashat VaYeishev

In this week's Torah portion Ya'akov sends Yosef on a special mission:
12 And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem. 13 And Israel said unto Joseph: 'Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them.' And he said to him: 'Here am I.' 14 And he said to him: 'Go now, see whether it is well with thy brethren, and well with the flock; and bring me back word.' So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying: 'What seekest thou?' 16 And he said: 'I seek my brethren. Tell me, I pray thee, where they are feeding the flock.' 17 And the man said: 'They are departed hence; for I heard them say: Let us go to Dothan.'
Rashi comments on the words, "They are departed hence":
They have caused themselves to depart from brotherhood.
After reading the news this week, I feel that we have departed from brotherhood. I seek my brethren! I seek my brethren who strive to build up the land of Israel and not to destroy it. I seek my brethren that will not judge me by whether I have a beard or not. I seek my brethren that will not judge me by the color of my head covering or the lack of one. I seek my brethren that understand that the Israeli Defense Force is not a tool to be used for partisan gains. I seek my brethren who are not gung ho for a civil war. I see my brethren who do not incite. I seek my brethren that would never dream of harming our soldiers or damaging our army in any way.

We have to restore the feeling of brotherhood within the nation. Our sages have taught us over and over again that this is the key to redemption.

Unity does not mean uniformity! There is room for differences of opinion and differences in style. The main thing is to stress what unifies us and not what divides us.

I seek my brethren! Are they seeking me?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Nehemiah Perlman to Receive 770,000 NIS in Damages From the IDF

In an out of court settlement, the IDF will pay 770,000 NIS in damages to Kedumim resident Nehemiah Perlman. What did the IDF do to merit paying such a large settlement?

Some background first:
Oct 19, 2000 - Rabbi Binyamin Herling, 64, of Kedumim, was killed when Fatah members and Palestinian security forces opened fire on a group of Israeli men, women, and children on a trip at Mount Ebal near Nablus.
The hikers were pinned down by terrorist fire for more than five hours before the IDF rescued them, well, at least most of them. Here is a time line of the attack:
11:00 a.m.

The tour bus, carrying 36 passengers from Yerushalayim, Haifa, Kfar Saba, Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, Yitzhar and Peduel leaves Kedumim. The IDF's senior commander in the area has approved the trip on three different occasions-the first time, two weeks before the outing; the second time, three days before the outing; and the final confirmation, on the morning of the outing. Major (Res.) Nechemia Perlman, a resident of Kedumim who has led dozens of similar outings to the same site, is the guide. A military escort consisting of two vehicles carrying a total of six soldiers accompanies the bus. The bus reaches its destination a few minutes later. Seven passengers stay with the bus, while the other 29 follow their guide, Perlman, and begin the hike toward the ruins of ancient Shechem and Yehoshua Ben Nun's altar. Two soldiers remain in the parking lot to guard the bus and the military vehicles, while the other four follow the group. The area is completely deserted. There are no Arab houses in sight.

12:30 p.m.

Six hikers get tired and decide to stop for a rest and wait where they are until the main group, consisting of 23 people, visits the ruins and the altar. Two soldiers stay with them, while the remaining two soldiers-a medic and a soldier carrying a field radio-follow the main group.

12:45 p.m.

The group descends the slope leading to the archaeological site. Several hundred yards below them they can see the last houses of the Askar Palestinian refugee camp, located on the northeastern edge of modern-day Shechem. Suddenly members of the group hear bullets whizzing by, followed a split second later by the noise of semi-automatic gunfire. A soldier screams, "Take cover!" and each member of the group runs in a different direction and throws himself behind the first boulder he can find. Meanwhile, the two soldiers run forward a few yards while firing their weapons in an effort to provide covering fire for the civilians. They take up parallel positions approximately 20 meters, or 60 feet, away from one another and continue firing. Eliezer Mizrahi, once a member of the IDF's elite Golani unit, and today a resident of Yitzhar, runs to the left of the two soldiers, takes cover behind a boulder, and begins firing his M-16. Another member of the group, Michael Chernin, who is on 24-hour leave from the parachutist unit in which he serves, cocks his weapon and takes up a firing position approximately 10 meters to the right of the two soldiers. Rabbi Herling, carrying an Uzi submachine gun, runs alongside him and joins Chernin behind the boulder. The group is thus divided into two-the two soldiers and three civilians forward at the firing line, and the rest of the men, women and children hiding behind a large boulder a few yards behind. According to Mizrahi, "In the first five minutes they shot at us in long bursts using Kalashnikov semi-automatic weapons, and it was not very effective. Those of us on the firing line instructed the men, women and children hiding in back of the boulder behind us to try to make their way to the top of the hill and reach the other side, which would have put them out of danger. "They began crawling up the hill while those of us on the firing line returned fire. Since the attackers were some 200 meters away, Rabbi Herling's Uzi would have been ineffective, so he held his fire and saved his ammunition in case they would close in on us."

12:50 p.m.

Some members of the group manage to advance about 10 meters up the hill, but then the intensity of the fire increases. They hear the ominous barking of Zero Point Five heavy machine guns capable of penetrating armor. The huge bullets impact heavily on the rocks all around them and shatter them. Sniper fire then joins in, and suddenly no one is able to make a move without a bullet whizzing by. The group is pinned down. The noise of the Zero Point Five machine guns can be heard all the way to Alon Moreh, approximately two kilometers, or 1-1/2 miles, east of the group.

1 p.m.

Michael Lev, one of the six hikers who stopped to rest, contacts the IDF by means of his cellular phone and reports the incident while the sounds of shooting are heard in the background. "We're taking care of it," he is told. Immediately, the field radio at the firing line comes to life. The guide, Perlman, who also happens to be the senior officer at the scene, describes the situation and asks for helicopters to get the women and children out.

1:30 p.m.

Half an hour after alerting the army, the situation gets worse-the group, still pinned down by sniper and heavy machine gun fire, is unable to return fire. Meanwhile, pairs of black-robed Tanzim fighters begin advancing up the hill toward the group in an effort to outflank the firing line. Lev, who had contacted the IDF a half hour earlier, calls Arutz 7 radio station and is patched through to a talk show in progress. Shocked citizens throughout Israel listen with disbelief to his live report and hear the sound of shooting in the background. "Please send help!" he pleads in a broken voice.

2:15 p.m.

The first IDF unit arrives on the scene a full hour and a half after the shooting begins. One of the reasons for the delay is the circuitous route the unit takes to get to the scene of the battle-under strict orders not to violate any signed agreements with the Palestinians, the unit commander makes sure to stay within Israeli-controlled territory, thus lengthening the journey by some 30 minutes. However, not only the commander is to blame. The order to move came only an hour after the initial report was received. Meanwhile, five members of the group pinned down on the slope manage to reach the top of the hill and rejoin the two soldiers and six hikers. There they discover the reason why the two soldiers have not fired their weapons-located some 800 meters from the attackers, they are too far to take aim effectively. One of the two soldiers borrows a pair of binoculars from one of the five survivors and starts shooting, but with poor results.

2:30 p.m.

Perlman reaches the top of the hill. The IDF troops that have arrived on the scene are standing by waiting for orders. Perlman screams at them to do something. They say they have orders not to proceed until they receive further instructions. Using his cellular phone, Perlman contacts the area's IDF commanding officer and demands that something be done immediately. The IDF unit receives the long-awaited order to open fire. An officer and three soldiers crest the hill and advance a few steps down the slope before a barrage of bullets forces them to retreat and take cover behind the hill. Two attack helicopters arrive and hover over the area.

3:00 p.m.

Palestinian gunfire intensifies, and the soldiers and citizens still in the firing line are unable to raise their heads. From the top of the hill, Perlman, and the others, spot three Palestinians clad in black moving quickly up the hill toward those in the firing line. They shoot at the figures, but miss their targets. The three Palestinians outflank the firing line and begin shooting from the right at Rabbi Herling and Chernin. Chernin is hit first-a bullet ricochets against his elbow and the left side of his chest. Mizrahi and the medic try to reach him, but accurate sniper fire prevents them from moving away from their position. Minutes later Rabbi Herling is hit. The bullet enters near his left hip and exits through his right shoulder. Three others are wounded: Barak Chalaf and Shmuel Ben Yehuda of Kedumim, and Yossi Friel of Yerushalayim.

3:30 p.m.

Ambulances, jeeps and half-trucks arrive. The hikers behind the rocks are taken to the ambulances while the jeeps and half-tracks, unable to descend the steep slope, look for a different route to enter the battlefield. IDF snipers begin shooting at the Palestinians, but from a difficult angle. The helicopters are still hovering overhead.

4 p.m.

At long last an elite recon unit arrives by helicopter, but it takes them no less than half an hour to get organized and ready to mobilize. Meanwhile, four wounded Israelis are bleeding on the slope below alongside the murdered Rabbi Herling. Those on the firing line are running out of ammunition and check their fire. The helicopter pilot overhead notifies the commanding officer in charge of the operation that he has been circling overhead for almost two hours and has not been called upon to fire. "You are not using me," he says over the radio to the officer. Those on the firing line release a color-smoke bomb, thinking the reason for the delay is that their position is unclear. Immediately their position is peppered with bullets.

4:15 p.m.

After warning the Palestinian residents of the area to evacuate the houses from where the attackers are firing, the attack helicopters shoot-but not in the direction of the attackers. Rather, they shoot warning shots at an empty field nearby.

4:30 p.m.

The IDF notifies the media that all the wounded have been evacuated. In reality, the situation has remained unchanged. Four Israelis are slowly bleeding to death in the field of battle, and the army personnel on top of the hill have done nothing. The helicopters have not shot a single shot at the attackers, who continue to shoot enthusiastically. Several Arabs take a few potshots at one of the helicopters with their Kalashnikovs. The pilot reports this and is ordered to leave the area. Mizrahi and the others at the firing line receive a message: "We'll take you out under the cover of darkness. Wait a little longer." As if they had a choice.

5:00 p.m.

Four kilometers away from the battle zone, the IDF mobilizes a few tanks and armored personnel carriers for the benefit of the media cameras. They come nowhere near the battle. Residents of the area, finally waking up to the fact that the IDF is being held back, organize a rescue unit including reserve soldiers and medics and start running toward the slope, determined to save the soldiers and civilians trapped below.

5:15 p.m.

Mizrahi calls the IDF once again from his cellular phone. "This is Mizrahi reporting that I am alone here with two soldiers and two wounded, Rabbi Herling's condition is still unknown, we are located 50 meters from the path."

6:30 P.M.

Nightfall. The Palestinians, lacking night vision gear, are unable to continue firing effectively. Under the cover of darkness a team of medics reaches the firing line and transports the dead and the wounded. As the survivors are being evacuated, the sounds of wild cheering and celebration can be heard drifting over the dark, bloody mountain from the refugee camp below.
The IDF set up an inquiry commission which included General Yoram Yair and Brigadier Generals Yoav Galant and Elazar Stern. The inquiry commission placed much of the responsibility for the death of Rabbi Herling on Nehemiah Perlman's shoulders, saying that he misled the army with regards to the hike.

However, there were several problems with the inquiry. First of all their mandate was to investigate the army, and not to find civilians that may have some kind of liability for what happened. Secondly, they did not notify Perlman of their intention to place the blame on him. Usually in such a case the person is given a hearing to see the evidence against him and to defend himself.

After years of unsuccessfully trying to clear his name through dialog with the army, he decided to sue the army and General Yoram Yair personally. As I mentioned, they settled out of court.

BTW, as far as I know only one Israeli news outlet (NRG) has covered this story!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Dvar Torah For Parashat VaYishlach

Last week's Torah portion ends with Ya'akov's confrontation with the master swindler, his father-in-law Lavan. In this week's portion Yaakov faces another dangerous confrontation, this time with his brother Eisav. As he gets ready for this encounter the Torah tells us the following:

וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת-שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו, וְאֶת-אַחַד עָשָׂר, יְלָדָיו; וַיַּעֲבֹר, אֵת מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק. וַיִּקָּחֵם--וַיַּעֲבִרֵם, אֶת-הַנָּחַל; וַיַּעֲבֵר, אֶת-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ

How are we to understand the verb וַיַּעֲבִרֵם , the causative of the root ayin-beit-reish,"to pass"? The JPS translation reads as follows:
And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven children, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had.
This translation fits in well with Nachmanides' understanding of the verse:
ויעבר את אשר לו, בצווי, כי חזר וציווה שיעברו לפניו ונשאר הוא אחריהם
And he transfered that which he had, by command, for he returned and commanded that they should pass before him and he remained behind them.
Rashi, however, interprets the verse according to the Midrash in Bereshit Rabbah:

את אשר לו - הבהמות והמטלטלין, עשה עצמו כגשר, נוטל מכאן ומניח כאן
that which he had - the livestock and the chattels. He made himself as a bridge, taking from here (one side of the stream) and placing here (on the other side of the stream).
In other words, Ya'akov personally, with his own hands, transferred all of his numerous possessions from one side of the Jabbok (Yabbok) to the other. Why would Ya'akov do such a thing? The Torah tells us that Ya'akov had
"... large flocks, and maid-servants and men-servants...".
Why would Ya'akov do all the work by himself when he had others who could have lent a hand?

Rav Teichtal, in his book Eim HaBanim Semeichah, tells us that the Midrash is coming to teach us something beyond the plain meaning of the verse. Ya'akov made himself like a bridge. A bridge has two "feet", one on each side of the river. Ya'akov figuratively had one foot in the exile, and one foot in the land of Israel. That is to say, his heart and head were in the land of Israel even when he was outside of the Holy Land. The fact that Ya'akov never forgot the land of Israel is what enabled him to save his possessions from falling into the hands of the wicked Eisav. Rav Teichtal, writing in the midst of the Holocaust, bemoans his generation which was so firmly entrenched in Europe and in many cases felt at home there. They forgot where their home really was, in the land of Israel. In the end, millions of them were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. The hard-earned possessions of European Jewry fell into the hands of Eisav.

Ya'akov, who never forgot where he really belonged, made it to the land of Israel, complete in body, Torah and worldly possessions (see Rashi on Genesis 33:18). May all the Jews living outside of the land of Israel realize that they are not as American as apple pie or as English as the Queen. May they follow Ya'akov Avinu's example. May they learn to always have (at least) one leg in the land of Israel.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Season's Greetings

Great clip:

Update: Ouch! The truth hurts! The Israeli Absorption Ministry received orders from above to remove the video from YouTube:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu personally intervened over the weekend to halt an ad campaign aimed at Israeli yordim (former Israelis) living in the United States encouraging them to consider returning to Israel. The campaign was cancelled after Israelis living in the U.S. and American Jews complained that the campaign was “insulting and hurtful.”

The campaign, consisting of several clips that were posted on Youtube and spread via e-mail and social media that highlighted the dangers of assimilation for Jews and especially Israelis living in the U.S. In one of the clips, a child of an Israeli couple living in the U.S. tells her grandparents who ask in a video chat what holiday is coming up, that she will be celebrating Christmas.
You can take down the video, but making the problem go away will be a little more difficult.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

I'm With You Highland Park!

What's new on the banks of the old Raritan?:

The central New Jersey community of Highland Park was targeted Tuesday night in a series of anti-Semitic attacks on at least five Jewish-owned establishments.

Vandals hurled bricks through the plate glass windows of a kosher restaurant, a kosher pizza shop, two Judaica stores, and a Jewish-owned hardware store.

At least three other Jewish-owned establishments in nearby New Brunswick were also similarly attacked, including the Rutgers Chabad House, the Rutgers Hillel and an Israeli-owned falafel eatery.

The destruction took place on the anniversary of the 1947 United Nations Partition Vote to create the Jewish State in Palestine.

A report published by the Algemeiner Journal quoted "Facebook rumors" relating two separate incidents in which a local individual made anti-Semitic remarks and threatened to launch a new Kristallnacht -- a reference to the 1938 "night of broken glass" pogrom in which thousands of Jewish stores and synagogues were destroyed and that launched the Nazi Holocaust in Germany.

It is not clear whether the two incidents were related, nor is it clear whether all the attacks were perpetrated by the same vandal or vandals.

The newspaper pointed out that Highland Park has recently elected an Orthodox Jewish man as its mayor.

Local police said in a statement detectives were "actively investigating these incidents and are in contact with and coordinating efforts with other law enforcement agencies that may be able to expedite the investigation."

However, police cautioned that it was "too soon to reach a conclusion" as to the nature of the crimes.

"We would also like to briefly address the fear that these are acts motivated by anti-Semitism or that these are bias crimes," the statement said. "The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office has been notified, but it is too soon to reach a conclusion.

“All of our officers are aware of the sensitivity of this situation and we will make every effort with patrols and surveillance to keep everyone safe. We would like to encourage you to communicate with your congregants and urge them to avoid speculation which could lead to unnecessary anxiety."

Hang in there Yidden...or better yet, make Aliyah!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who Defeated The Arabs?

I read an interesting story about Rabbi Benny Eisner that I thought was worth sharing with the English speaking world.

One time Rav Benny arrived at one of the veteran ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem (Ge'ula or Me'ah She'arim) with an Israeli flag flying from his automobile. Suddenly he noticed that a "holy flock" of local youth was congregating around his car. He got out of the car and asked them, "Tell me, who defeated the Canaanite kings, Joshua or the Holy One, blessed be He?"

The answered him, "For sure, the Holy One, blessed be He!"

He continued to ask, "And who defeated the Greeks, the Hasmoneans or the Holy One, blessed be He?"

They answered, "For sure, the Holy One, blessed be He!"

In the end he asked, "And who defeated the Arabs, the IDF or the Holy One, blessed be He?"

That question confused them a bit!

Monday, November 21, 2011

גדול יום הגשמים

אמר ר' אבהו גדול יום הגשמים מתחיית המתים דאילו תחיית המתים לצדיקים ואילו גשמים בין לצדיקים בין לרשעים ופליגא דרב יוסף דאמר רב יוסף מתוך שהיא שקולה כתחיית המתים קבעוה בתחיית המתים אמר רב יהודה גדול יום הגשמים כיום שניתנה בו תורה שנא' (דברים לב, ב) יערף כמטר לקחי ואין לקח אלא תורה שנא' (משלי ד, ב) כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם תורתי אל תעזובו רבא אמר יותר מיום שניתנה בו תורה שנאמר יערף כמטר לקחי מי נתלה במי הוי אומר קטן נתלה בגדול

אמר רב אושעיא גדול יום הגשמים שאפי' ישועה פרה ורבה בו שנאמר תפתח ארץ ויפרו ישע אמר רבי תנחום בר חנילאי אין הגשמים יורדים אלא א"כ נמחלו עונותיהן של ישראל שנאמר (תהלים פה, ב) רצית ה' ארצך שבת שבות יעקב נשאת עון עמך כסית כל חטאתם סלה

ואמר רבי יצחק גדול יום הגשמים שאפילו פרוטה שבכיס מתברכת בו שנאמר (דברים כח, יב) לתת מטר ארצך בעתו ולברך את כל מעשה ידיך

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Rabbi Meir Kahane Memorial

Tuesday the 18th of Chesvan 21 years since the murder of the holy leader of Israel

Rabbi Meir David Kahane (my God avenge his blood)

Today everybody knows:

Rabbi Kahane was right!

The ascent to his grave on Har HaMenuchot at 4 PM.

The Central Memorial Gathering

Will take place on Tuesday the 18th of Chesvan (15.11.11) at 6:00PM

at the Heichal David Hall

14 Oholiav St. Jerusalem, near the Central Bus Station

With the participation of

MK Dr. Michael Ben Ari

Family, rabbis, and public officials

Those interested in holding a memorial where they live please call 02-5823540
Hope to be there!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I'm Learning "Eim HaBanim Semeichah" - Again

I'm busy learning the book Eim HaBanim Semeichah by Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal zt"l hy"d.

I think this is the third time around! Yeah, I really like the book. It is a must read for anyone wanting a true Torah outlook regarding the land of Israel. Here is a little of what Rabbi Berel Wein has to say about the book:
There is an enormously powerful book about the Holocaust, Orthodox Jewry, the Land of Israel, Zionism, Jewish unity and hatred and the Messianic Era, that has been in circulation for the past number of decades. Written in difficult and scholarly rabbinic Hebrew, it is called "Eim Habanim Semeichah" (The Mother of the Children is Happy), a phrase taken from Psalm 113. The author is Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, a noted scholar, author of three volumes of responsa, and rabbi in pre-World War II Slovakia and Hungary. Rabbi Teichtal was murdered by the Germans during the forced evacuation of Jewish and Ukrainian prisoners from Auschwitz to the Mathausen concentration camp, at the end of January, 1945. He was barely sixty years old at the time of his death.
What if you can't read "difficult and scholarly rabbinic Hebrew"? Well, you really should make an effort to learn. In the meantime the book has been translated to English, not once but twice! Rabbi Wein read the English translations and you can read his review of them.

One of the translations is available on-line at Tsel Harim web site. Not only that, Rabbi Spolter of Yad Binyamin has put up a series of lessons on the book on his blog.

The only thing left to do is learn!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rabbi Benny Eisner zt"l

To my great dismay Rabbi Benny Eisner passed away this Sabbath.

Here's a little bit about Rav Benny:
Rav Binyamin Eisner, affectionately known as “Rav Benny” is Rav and mentor to thousands of talmidim throughout Eretz Yisrael and the United States. Friends and talmidim have been captivated by the initial greeting of “Shalom, ani Benny”, his infectious smile, his passion for Torat Eretz Yisrael, and the warmth of his wife and children. Today, Rav Benny and his family reside in Abu Tor. Rav Benny’s daily shiurim in Yeshivat Torat Shraga, Yeshivat Morasha, Eli and Ateret Kohanim continue to inspire hundreds of talmidim in Eretz Yisrael to this day!

Rav Benny was born in Har Hatzofim in Yerushalayim, attended elementary school in Tel Aviv, and spent his High School years in Kibbutz Yavneh. Following High School the Rav was inducted into the army and fought in the 1967 war. Rav Benny was part of a small brigade of officers with aging rifles and a short supply of bullets looking uphill at opposition tanks. Miraculously, the tanks fled and soon after the brigade recaptured the sacred area of Kever Rachel. Upon realization of the land they had reclaimed, Rav Benny exclaimed, “Rachel Rachel you can stop crying…your children have returned”.

Rav Benny began developing a close relationship with Rav Tzvi Yehuda hakohen Kook zt”l during his army service. He yearned to find a yeshiva that embraced Limud Hatorah together with Ahavat Eretz Yisrael. He found this combination in Rav Kook, developed a close personal relationship, and became his personal driver to many important meetings. Rav Benny’s entire family enjoyed a close connection with Rav Kook which they all treasure to this day.

Soon after the war, Rav Benny met his wife, Sarah Ulman. With the encouragement of his wife Sarah, Rav Benny embarked on his first teaching position in Kibutz Yavneh followed by several years in Ohr Etzion in Merkaz Shapiro.

Having cultivated a following of Israeli talmidim, Rav Benny embraced American talmidim at Yeshivat Beit Midrash L’Torah and concurrently began teaching in Yeshiva L’Tze’irim Merkaz Harav.

In the early 1980s, the organization Shlach Et Ami – “Let my People Go” was established in the Eisner home. Avital Sharansky pining for the release of her beloved husband, Anatoly became close friends with the Eisner family and the families have remained friends ever since.

As the years went by the Eisner home was filled with talmidim – and their own children (3 boys and 8 girls). The dining room lights and kitchen oven stayed on until the early hours of the morning as talmidim dropped-in for a lesson on Rov Kook, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Kedusha – or simply a late night snack. Their home was a revolving door and an address for Torah, warmth and acceptance.

The talmidim’s love and devotion continue to this day. The Eisner continue to take part in the lives of their tamidim, regularly traveling to weddings, brisim, and r”l other life cycle events.

Rav Benny has been invited to speak and lecture in Batei Knesset and Yeshivot throughout Israel and the United States. Rav Benny has had the privilege and longevity to have students who are second generation talmidim, young men whose parents were students of Rav Benny.

Shortly after Pesach of 5771 (2011), Rav Benny faced a diagnosis and a new challenge – an ailment (and treatment) that challenge his physical strength.

Nonetheless, having seen his share of challenges, he is faithfully and whole-heartedly committed to rising above and continuing his holy work; living life, serving God, living in the Holy Land and inspiring and loving Jews wherever they may be.

Unfortunately, Rabbi Eisner is no longer with us. His soul has been freed of the shackles of earthly existence. He lives on in the minds and hearts of his students, friends, and family. Fortunately, some of the shiurim have been recorded:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Etrogrim After Sukkot

As we leave the month of Tishrei behind and head into the holiday-less month of Marcheshvan, I thought that a few pictures from Sukkot would help us keep that "Tishrei feeling", with all of its holiness, with all of its purity, for the rest of the year.

Near Jaffa Gate:

Pirchei Yerushalayim:

Armenian Quarter:

Jewish Quarter:

Churva Synagogue:

View of Temple Mount:

Lulavs and Etrogs:

Minchah by the Kotel:

Special Sukkah for taking the four species:

Next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is it Better to Kill a Terorist or Turn Him Over to the Police?

The shameful release of 1027 terrorists in return for Gilead Shalit is continuing to make waves. Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, one of the co-authors of "Torat HaMelech", came out with a not so surprising suggestion following the deal. I will quote jpost's mistranslation of part of what he wrote:
“When the state apparatus broadcasts in an unequivocal manner that there is almost no price to be paid for shedding Jewish blood, it is not clear if it’s a good idea to let the police take care of these issues,” the rabbi wrote.

“At the very least, if there is a window of opportunity in which you can claim selfdefense so that the [legal] framework won’t be overtly damaged, it is better to kill the terrorist and so raise the price of Jewish blood, which has been continually cheapened.”
Now the original Hebrew:

כאשר המערכת משדרת באופן חד וחלק שעל פגיעה ביהודים כמעט ואין מחיר (צאו וחישבו לבד תוך כמה שנים ישתחררו רוצחי משפחת פוגל..) – לא ברור אם טוב להשאיר למשטרה את הטיפול בדברים כאלה. אולי, לפחות כאשר נוצר חלון הזדמנות שבו אפשר לטעון להגנה עצמית וכך גם המערכת לא נפגעת כל כך, מוטב להרוג את המחבל וכך לייקר ולו במעט את דם ישראל שהולך ונעשה זול, למרבה החרפה
This is how jpost's translation should have been (omissions in bold) :
“When the state apparatus broadcasts in an unequivocal manner that there is almost no price to be paid for shedding Jewish blood (calculate by yourself within how many years the murderers of the Fogel family will be released) , it is not clear if it’s a good idea to let the police take care of these issues,” the rabbi wrote.

Perhaps, at the very least, if there is a window of opportunity in which you can claim selfdefense so that the [legal] framework won’t be overtly damaged, it is better to kill the terrorist and so raise, even a little bit, the price of Jewish blood, which has been continually cheapened, to our great disgrace.”

All of the omissions are a disgrace considering that jpost put Rabbi Elitzur's comments in quotation marks and did not paraphrase him. However, the omission of the word "perhaps" in the second paragraph simply distorts what the Rabbi wrote. The word "perhaps" adds an important nuance and makes jpost's headline ("Better to kill a terrorist than call the police") patently false.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Democracy Bites the Dust

The rabbis taught us that the redemption comes gradually. If the Jewish people were to be redeemed in a sudden fashion, it would be too much to handle. Imagine a person who was imprisoned for a long period of time in a dark cell. Immediately exposing him to bright light would be harmful to him.

One of the good things about the Shalit deal is that it causes to realize just how lame the current system of government is. However, going immediately from the ashes of the Holocaust to the restoration of David's Kingdom would have been too much for the Jewish people to bear. So, in the meantime we have this Knesset with Bibi and Tibi. I'm grateful that we have it but I am ready to move on to the next stage.

"afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall come trembling unto the LORD and to His goodness in the end of days.(Hosea Chapter 3) "

More Shoddy Journalism at "Ha'aretz"

I have blogged several times about translations from Hebrew to English that were not exactly perfect. The mistranslations that I blog about are usually unintentional. To err is human, and sometimes these errors are humorous. There is another type of translation that is more sinister: these are deliberate mistranslations, apparently done for political and/or economic reasons. A news organization that engages in such deliberate mistranslations is quite unprofessional, and that is an understatement. "Camera" is doing a fantastic job finding such translations at "Ha'aretz". Check out their latest post, Ha'aretz Lost in Translation, IX.

HH #335

The jblogosphere lives!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gilad Shalit Deal is a Criminal Mistake

Very bad news:
The Israeli cabinet voted late Tuesday night on the deal to release kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The vote came following a stormy meeting.

26 ministers supported the deal with only three – Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau, and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon – voting against the deal.
First of all, kudos to Avigdor Lieberman, Uzi Landau, and Moshe Ya'alon for opposing the deal.

What happened to all the other ministers? Are they unaware of the fact that terrorists from past "exchanges" have murdered again?:
The former IDF chief rabbi claimed that Palestinian terrorists released since the 90's have, over the years murdered over a thousand Israelis in a long line of terror attacks and the defense establishment is aware of the possibility that "within just a few months the Shalit deal might blow up in our face in certain terror attacks, there is no 'maybe' about it.

He added that this wasn't his stance; rather it was the opinion of professionals in the field – including some with a left-wing outlook that is "very far from his own"

As to the question of whether there would not be a huge blow to morale among the troops on the Israeli side when soldiers know that the IDF won't necessarily do everything to rescue them from captivity, Ronsky said: "Just the opposite. They don't want to be exchanged for terrorists; they want to be rescued through a military operation."
This is truly a mistake of criminal proportions.

I would write more about this but Sukkot is on the way. I would not be surprised if the timing of this decision was intentional: Most of the nation is busy preparing for the holidays and we do not have time to protest this folly.

May God save us from the stupidity of our leaders. Chag Sameach!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Monday, October 03, 2011

Larry Derfner Found Someone Willing to Publish His Drivel

Remember Larry Derfner? He's the guy that got fired from The Jerusalem Post because he wrote a blog post justifying the murder of Israelis by Arab terrorists. Well, he finally found someone who is willing to publish his drivel:

Wait a minute! Isn't Lebanon at war with Israel? Didn't the Lebanese fire thousands of rockets at Israeli civilian targets just a few years ago? I guess he finally found an publisher that agrees with his views!

Today's News

1) You can see the latest edition of Haveil Havalim here.

2) The latest wisdom from the Obama administration:
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Sunday that Israel is becoming increasingly isolated in the Middle East, The Associated Press reported.

Panetta added Israel must restart negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and work to restore relations with Egypt and Turkey.

Panetta made the comments as he was traveling to Israel, saying the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East makes it critical for the Israelis to find ways to communicate with other nations in the region in order to have stability.

“There’s not much question in my mind that they maintain that (military) edge,” AP quoted Panetta as having told reporters traveling with him. “But the question you have to ask: Is it enough to maintain a military edge if you’re isolating yourself in the diplomatic arena? Real security can only be achieved by both a strong diplomatic effort as well as a strong effort to project your military strength.”

He added that Israel risks eroding its own security if it does not reach out to its neighbors.
Where do they get these "geniuses" from?

Anyway, this is nothing new. Our sages already said that we are a sheep among seventy wolves.

3) The latest on the Arab Spring in Lybia:
Libyan Jewish exile David Gerbi returned from his long years in Italy this month believing the time had come to restore Jewish life in Tripoli.

He discovered just how wrong that assumption was, however, during an exchange with the country's new rulers, representatives of the National Transitional Council (NTC).

Gerbi, who fled to Italy with his family in 1967, went Monday to clean garbage from the main synagogue in the capital city, but was blocked from doing so.

He he was surprised by the move, he told the Associated Press, because he had been given permission to access the building from the local sheikh.

Nevertheless, men at the scene told him they had been warned that Gerbi would be attacked if he tried to clean the synagogue or restore it in any way.

Breaking down in tears, the bitterly disappointed Libyan exile told AP that the men told him to stop his efforts. He commented that Libya needs to decide whether it will be a “racist” country, or a “democratic” one.

Gerbi's colleague, Richard Peters, added that several men armed with assault rifles later were seen guarding the synagogue.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

What Do the Arabs Really Want?

It took a while, but I finally found out how to embed this important clip:

MK Danny Ayalon responds:
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon reacted Sunday to the statement by a senior Fatah man that exposes the organization's plan to destroy Israel in stages, while pretending to seek a peaceful compromise.

"As I have said on many occasions," said Ayalon, "here is further proof that the conflict is not about territory. The Palestinians have been offered a state repeatedly for several decades and have rejected each and every offer. This is less about the creation of a Palestinian state than it is about the destruction of the one Jewish State."

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.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Park Anava in Modi'in

I discovered a new park today: Park Anava in Modi'in. It is very nice! In Jerusalem we also have a few nice parks, but nothing like this, with a lake and boats to rent. Here are some pics for your enjoyment:

The place was full of black hatters..."Bein HaZmanim":

In addition to boats you could also float on the lake inside a huge ball (click on pic for enlargement):

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