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!
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