Sunday, December 30, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
You see ... There's no real point to this blog. What I'm about to say is obvious beyond belief but sometimes just needs re-stating. I really have no need whatsoever to let these unavoidable moods keep me down (at least not for too long). I have the most amazing, warm, caring & loving wife, and an equally loving caring family. I have a good job, a roof over my head and food on my table every day. In essence, I have everything I need and want. In essence, happiness is the 'wealth' described in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers)
Who is wealthy? One who is happy with his portion
Ethics of Our Fathers, 4:1
Happy 30th Anniversary to my dear parents ... What a milestone ... Mazel Tov
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Despite no formal education, Zuma has risen through the ranks of the ANC after being active in the formative years of the struggle (He spent 10 years on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela after being arrested and convicted of wanting to overthrow the government). When Apartheid ended, he was one of the first ANC leaders to return from their exiles abroad and along with the ANC's rise to power in 1994, Zuma became the National Chairperson of the ANC. His career continued to skyrocket until he was finally elected the head of the ANC this past week (Dec 18, 2007).
Sounds impressive right? Well, it is until one looks at the corruption allegations levied against Zuma during the Schabir Shaik trial, or the famous rape charges in 2005. Those were made even more famous by Zuma's idiotic remarks that he took a shower to try to reduce his risk of infection. Although the court found him not guilty, the man who headed the National AIDS Council even had the 'audacity' to admit that he slept (raped?) an HIV positive girl with no condom ... Brilliant, eh? What a wonderful role model for the new South Africa ... It's a sad testament to what Mandela & the ANC fought for that such pathetic idiots will further push this once proud country into the ground. The 'New South Africa'? Oh please ...
A few classic Madame & Eve comics poking fun at this 'leader':
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Yehoram Gaon made a very good point on Reshet Bet on Friday afternoon. The famous singer said that the $7.5 billion raised for the Palestinian Authority last week will ensure we don't see peace for a few more generations. His reasoning? The last few decades have seen billions and billions of dollars pumped into the Palestinian cause and who sees most of the money? The top brass & the terrorist groups (& Suha Arafat obviously). His 'solution' for this problem is rather intelligent. The donations should be a 'promise' to build hospitals, schools and the like. In other words, use the money to develop the infrastructure of the territories. Granted, this won't happen and as with most donations to the Arab world, Arab leaders will get richer, terrorists will get better weapons, the poor will continue to be deprived and the hatred and blame will fall on Israel's shoulders.
As Talya & I walked home today from her grandmother, we walked by Natan Sharansky. Damn, he's short! On a more serious note, I wish honest human beings like him still had a say in our government.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
In a rather disappointing article, 40 colleagues rallied in support of Nizar Hassan, a Sapir University teacher who kicked out an IDF reservist from his classroom. Last month, Eyal Cohen, an intelligence officer in the reserves, was asked to leave Hassan's class after coming to it in his army uniform ... Hassan's reasoning? He does not teach soldiers, policemen and officers in uniform. When he refused, Hassan hurled negative comments at him and the IDF. Hassan, on a temporary contract warning him against mixing ideology and politics in his lessons, was rightfully suspended. However, 40 of his colleagues are now protesting to have him reinstated. Mind boggling eh? His supporters should be ashamed - throwing Cohen out of the class is a gross violation of academic freedom. Hassan has no right to decide who he teaches based on dress code - and he should be severely reprimanded and warned that any other outbursts will result in his termination.
And now the good ... Haaretz reports that the cabinet has approved a package of benefits for reservists. I think this is a good start to bolster and support a sector of our country which too often is taken for granted. Although Gabi Ashkenazi, the IDF Chief of Staff, reacted positively to the news, the reservists' organizations were unhappy with it overall. The chairman of the reserve soldiers forum, Aleh Minkowsky, was unhappy with what seems to be just a baby step, "All the cabinet decided was to set up a ministerial committee, which would present a plan to implement the benefits within 45 days." Ro'i Ron, the head of the Baltam reservists movement, also voiced disappointment, "We demand larger financial benefits, based on the average wages rather than minimum wages. Reservists must receive a meaningful compensation, like the one proposed in the bill submitted by the reservists. The cabinet's decision brings us no significant tidings." While I understand their frustration, Rome wasn't built in a day ... This is a positive step and it needs to be built upon.
Hanukkah is tonight ... So on that note, a piece about Hanukkah in the Soviet Gulag by Natan (Anatoli) Sharanksy.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Despite not making it to Euro 2008, Israel had a very solid qualifying run. A lot of quality youngsters were introduced and the team tied England with 23 points. That strong finished improved Israel's ranking and allowed us to get an 'easier' draw for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. UEFA's Group B will include Greece (Euro 2004 Champions), Israel, Switzerland (boooo!!!!), Moldova, Latvia & Luxembourg. I think this is the most favorable group we've had in decades and we should manage to qualify from this group. Looking forward to it! Come on Israel!
Friday, November 09, 2007
A quick snippet from the political world:
Minister of Infrastructure and former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) is the latest senior politician to admit that the 2005 Disengagement was a mistake.
Speaking in an interview with Radio L’lo Hafsaka, a regional radio station, Ben-Eliezer dropped the bombshell: "I admit and I confess that I was among those who strongly supported [former PM] Ariel Sharon [and the Disengagement]. Today I say, with my head held high, ‘We erred, we made a very big mistake.’”
Ben Eliezer did not say it was the withdrawal itself and abandonment of parts of the Land of Israel that was the problem, but rather the nature of the recipients of the territory. "Withdrawals can only work when the areas are handed over to responsible hands and rotted in agreements and international guarantees,” he explained. “Here we have a precedent - a territory we left turns into a base for terror - period."
Ben-Eliezer joins the long list (see the list in the article link) of doves who strongly supported the Disengagement and now realize what a mistake it was. Forget the fact that Hamas and their 'army' now control Gaza and continually bombard Israel's Negev towns with rockets (This is something we will suffer from until we launch a major offensive into Gaza, as many on both sides of the Israeli political spectrum are calling for - Ben-Eliezer included). Let's talk about now and Olmert's push to give up more land for 'peace' with a partner who's notable accomplishments include a thesis on the Holocaust 'myth' and the planning/financing of the 1972 Olympic Massacre, as well as the Ma'alot school butchering. Yah, let's follow the Left and chase 'peace' at any price! We can regret it later ... That will make it much better.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
I'm getting pretty down nowadays about the internal state of this country. Forget the regular border heat but why on earth does every day bring more news of stabbings, rapes, corruption and government scandals? Maybe I'm wrong, but I really feel that this is a new 'disease' for the country ... This isn't how Israel once was. It's just depressing honestly. Maybe I should follow Seth's routine and just not bother reading the newspapers anymore ...
On another note, wouldn't it be nice if we had a prime minister who valued the importance of education for the Israeli youth?
I started working out this week at IDT's gym. I haven't worked out since I was in Uni (2002) when I used to work out almost 5 times a week with Gary or Brian. The reason for the return to this routine is my friend's plan to start a Jerusalem rugby team. He's asked me to play, so I've decided to start getting into shape and give it a go. This will not be easy as I know very little of the game and I have a long, I stress long, way to get into shape but I look forward to the challenge on both fronts ...
It's trivia time .... Why did Menacham Begin z'l always call the IDF 'צבא ישראל' and not 'צבא הגנה לישראל'?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
A year has passed but First Lieutenant M. has not forgotten the Second Lebanon War or his visit to Migdal Ohr.
"I remember the two weeks of near face-to-face combat, the confused orders and insufficient combat gear, the intense hunger, physical and emotional exhaustion and toughest of all, the self-imposed silence and disassociation with our surroundings. 'Now is not the right time to complain, but when it is over,' we thought to ourselves, 'when the air raid sirens stop and we are out of these fatigues, we can talk and the truth will be known.'"
When the news came that we were receiving a day off, our hearts soared. We suffered so much stress and hardship. Where would we go? How should we take full advantage of this gift?
Rumors begin to circulate that we were going to some school in Migdal Ha'Emek. "This must be a joke! Who ordered ten busses to bring us to some yeshiva with some Rabbi who is just going to try and brainwash us?"
Then a few of the guys remembered. "Rabbi Grossman, that's the Disco Rabbi right? The guys all give him great respect." But what do they know? He is still some rabbi.
Tired and emotionally drained, we got off the busses and stood face to face with an old-world looking Jew, complete with a white beard, side locks and long jacket. "So here it comes," I thought, "the push to put on tefillin or to say prayers together. Some day off."
"Boys," the rabbi's words thundered, "I suggest that first thing you do is take a dip in the pool and freshen up. In the meantime, we will make you something to eat."
In amazing simplicity Rabbi Grossman heard in passing that the brigade was looking for a home for a day, and he immediately volunteered his campus. "What's the problem? 600 soldiers? They should all come, of course we have room!"
With the echoes of war from the battlefield still in our ears, it seemed like a mirage or hallucination. Soft music came from everywhere and flowing water and greenery surrounded us. Within minutes the tables were set with cold refreshing watermelon, cakes, and beverages, followed by cheeses, fresh vegetables, and soft rolls.
Then we heard, "Out of the pool, get dressed and eat something." We saw piles of new undergarments. 600 new undershirts and underwear appeared as if out of nowhere, laid out on tables for our choosing.
Rabbi Grossman sat with us and laughed, "Have a good time boys! Have a great time! This evening, I will put on the most spectacular performance you have ever seen."
I am not a religious person by any means, but I can't help but envision the first Jew, Avraham, standing and personally serving his guests perfectly naturally and without the slightest hint of condescension. He respected each individual and cared for all their needs. Like Avraham, Rabbi Grossman saw in this an obvious act of kindness, a mission of a mitzvah that had fallen into his hands. As the evening continued we learned quickly that this was the essence of who Rabbi Grossman is and what he is all about. He loves everyone and accepts everyone as they are with all his heart and soul.
"Tell me friends," Rabbi Grossman said, "I heard you are lacking different pieces of equipment. Do me a favor. Here is a pencil and paper, just write down everything you are missing and leave the paper on the table."
That night, we enjoyed the entertainment and afterwards, slept in soft beds and air-conditioned rooms. Like in a fairytale, we awoke in the morning and could not believe our eyes. Mounds of gear which we so desperately needed had arrived at Migdal Ohr. Attached was a small note from Rabbi Grossman, "To my dear solders, from all my heart!"
Rabbi Grossman had personally raised over $60,000 worth of equipment from friends literally overnight! The essential equipment included ceramic bulletproof vests, helmets, canteens, knee pads, backpack water canteens, night vision goggles, toothbrushes, socks and more.
A few months before the war began Rabbi Grossman had been offered a new Torah scroll for the main Midgal Ohr study hall by a generous friend of his in France. For some reason Rabbi Grossman requested to postpone the event until an unspecified later date. Rabbi Grossman immediately made arrangements and in an early evening ceremony, we participated in the completion of writing the Torah. While the scroll was carefully laid on the table next to a special pen and ink, Rabbi Grossman addressed the soldiers.
"My holy ones! I am going to bestow upon you the merit of a holy mitzvah, which can be considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Each one of you will complete a letter in the Torah scroll. While you are executing this holy task, each one of you should pray the prayer of his heart and request from God that the merit of the letter he has completed will protect him in battle. Holy sparks will emanate from these sacred letters and disperse around you, creating a protective shield which will keep you safe and bring you home safely."
Those moments were the most exciting and emotional ones of my life. Shaking from the intensity of the immeasurable experience, still not believing, we held the edges of the Torah scroll while we felt our hearts beat rapidly. There was complete silence all around. One after the other, we dipped the quill in the ink and completed a letter in the Torah scroll.
A bystander would have seen a breathtaking scene of incredible elation and spiritual exuberance. The world seemed as if shrouded in silence. The strings of our hearts felt strummed and the tears flowed freely down our cheeks.
After the completion of the Torah, the ceremony continued. Leading the procession was a decorated car with multi-colored lights strung all over it and with a crown of lights spinning around on its roof. Following the car, bearers of a decorated canopy marched while people danced around it. Under the canopy, others held the Torah scroll, which was clothed in white and crimson with a silver crown at its top.
600 soldiers and thousands of the town residents marched and danced in the procession, a loudspeaker accompanying them, playing traditional Jewish music.
As the ceremony came to a close Rabbi Grossman approached every soldier and kissed him while placing a half-shekel coin in his hand and said "Messengers of a mitzvah are not harmed." Rabbi Grossman concluded, "When you return, God willing, healthy and unharmed, you will fulfill this mission I am placing upon you, and you will donate this money to charity."
A moment before they returned to Lebanon Rabbi Grossman told us, "In the merit that you said Shema and put on tefillin, wrote a letter in the Torah, and are messengers of a mitzvah, I promise you, that you will all return safe and sound. None of you will be wounded or killed."
Rabbi Grossman told the soldiers that the first place they must come back to -- before they go home -- is Migdal Ohr. "We will thank God together and from there we will say goodbye," he said. "Think of this as an emergency call-up. Do you accept?" the Rabbi asked and the commanding officer replied in the affirmative.
The night came. Twelve busses made their way atop the Galilee Mountains. Heavy darkness engulfed us, yet behind, in the growing distance, a bright flame pierced the night sky. In the midst of war and violence, we found love and unending human compassion at Migdal Ohr in the welcoming arms of Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman.
Two weeks later around midnight, Rabbi Grossman received a phone call. "Rabbi, your blessing has come true!" exclaimed the commander over the phone. "Everyone is safe and we are on our way to you. We will be there by two in the morning." Rabbi Grossman immediately contacted the kitchen staff and asked them to prepare a meal while he worked to organize a band.
At 2:30 a.m. the soldiers disembarked from the busses, each one carrying 60 kilo of equipment on his back. The band started playing music and the soldiers approached Rabbi Grossman, each one lovingly received with a hug and a kiss. This continued for two hours. "I felt as I had never felt before," recalls Rabbi Grossman. "Each one told me his personal miracle."
After the warm reception, the soldiers recited a prayer of thanksgiving said by someone whose life has been saved, and together with Rabbi Grossman, they sang and danced until daybreak. "To this day," says Rabbi Grossman, "we maintain contact with each soldier and have
become one family."
Rabbi Grossman is a recipient of the "Award of Recognition" for his Actions on Behalf of Soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces and the Second Lebanon War.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
I really had a good time during this 'long' four day trip. It was great to meet up with my cousins (Joc and Simone), and also catch up with some friends from Israel. I also had the pleasure of catching up with a good mate from Carmel College who I hadn't seen since 1994. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, we had re-kindled our friendship and after seeing photos I had posted on the site, he recognized me at a restaurant and we laughed about years gone by with his expecting wife. Besides that, I enjoyed being back in the London office and talking face to face with people I work with on a daily basis.
London's IDT office has many Saffers (An affectionate name for South Africans living in London) and I was always discussing the upcoming Rugby World Cup final (South Africa vs England on Saturday night) with them. I will be watching the game with fellow South Africans, hoping that our Boks bring back the title we last won in 1995.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Saturday, October 06, 2007
The above image sent shock waves throughout the world. In the photo, Jamal Al-Dura cradles his 12 year old son, Muhammad Al-Dura, as blood thirsty Israeli soldiers fired to kill the two. That's at least what Talal Abu-Rahma, the cameraman, and France 2 wanted us to believe. Soon after the footage was shown however, questions (see below) started swirling around the supposed murder. On September 30th 2007, seven years after the horrific lie that provoked unseen bloodshed, Israel finally denied responsibility:
"The creation of the myth of Muhammad al-Dura has caused great damage to the State of Israel. This is an explicit blood libel against the state. And just as blood libels in the old days have led to pogroms, this one has also caused damage and dozens of dead. It turns out that the events could not have occurred as they were described by the network's reporter Charles Enderlin, since they contradict the laws of physics… Furthermore, it was not even possible to hit them (the boy and his father) in the place they were hiding according to the report."
Government Press Office director Daniel Seaman
1. In a documentary on Germany's ARD Channel, Esther Shapiro interviewed Abu-Rahma. Rahma changed his stories regarding the bullet recovery, before claiming, "We have some secrets for ourselves ... We cannot give anything ... everything" (See the interviews in the clip below). Furthermore, Shapiro discovered that before ballistics could be done on the bullet holes behind the Al-Duras, the wall was destroyed.
2. France 2's footage only showed 59 seconds of 27 minutes of raw footage. During these long 59 seconds, Muhammad's death is not shown. The question must be asked, why only 59 seconds? In October 2004, three senior French journalists (Daniel Leconte, a former France 2 employee, Dennis Jeambar, the editor-in-chief of L'Express, and Luc Rosenzweig, a former editor-in-chief of Le Monde) viewed the 27 minutes of footage. Both Jeambar and Leconte said the scene didn't seem staged, but the 'agony' described by France 2 TV reporter Charles Enderlin did not exist. They both also noted that throughout the 27 minutes of footage, there was no scene of Muhammad's death.
4. The aforementioned Leconte would go even further in another interview, where he bluntly said, "The only ones who could hit the child were the Palestinians from their position. If they had been Israeli bullets, they would be very strange bullets because they would have needed to go around the corner"
5. On CBS's renowned '60 minutes', Yosef Duriel concurred with Leconte's views: "Al-Dura's death was staged with the aim of producing an image which would become a symbol and besmirch Israel's reputation around the world. Actors in the staged incident included Palestinian gunmen, a French television cameraman (who received "production instructions"), and the father Jamal al Dura ("who apparently didn't understand that the act would end in the murder of his son"). Duriel mentioned that the father can be seen gesturing to the photographer in the film."
There is no way to undo the damage that Enderlin and Abu-Rahma did with their lies. The lives that were lost on both sides due to the furor this caused will never be restored. However, a few steps are being taken against the two starting with Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, which is demanding that the Israeli press credentials of the pair be revoked. France 2's reputation and integrity was challenged by Philippe Karsenty, who called the original broadcast a fake. Although France 2 successfully sued Karsenty for libel (despite the public prosecutor recommending the court rule in his favor), the French judges in the case requested France 2 finally show the withheld 27 minute broadcast. Hopefully when the broadcast is screened next month, more of the truth will be revealed.
For more on the staging of Al-Dura's murder:
"The al-Dura incident wasn't the only media report to inflame passions against Israel in recent years, but it was the one with the highest profile. Moreover, if, as Karsenty and others have claimed persuasively, the al-Dura incident is part of the insidious trend in which Western media outlets allow themselves to be manipulated by dishonest and politically motivated sources, then France 2 must be held accountable."
Natan Sharansky, Jerusalem Post
Friday, October 05, 2007
As we had Talya's mother's car, the wife & I decided we'd do an early shopping run this morning. As we both buckled in, the engine failed to start. We got out of the car and I started signalling drivers to stop so that I could ask them if they had cables and if they did, if they could help us re-start the car. A few disinterested drivers pretended not tos ee me, and a few others like us, had no cables. One did but was rushing home to his wife and baby - we didn't want him to stop. A few minutes later, a driver stopped for us. Reversing his car on a one way street, he was soon honked at by a Yemenite driver, "It's a one way street achi (Hebrew for 'my brother')." He responded, "I know, but I want to help them with their car." Within a few moments, both men were helping us. After the cables were connected, Talya tried with no success to start the car. By this time, a few cars approached our roadblock and suprisingly, no honking! One of the drives even popped out of his car to talk to his good friend, the driver who had originally stopped for us. The Yemenite man then decided to try his luck with the car and jumped in. Within moments, it started and he smiled, "You see, all it needed was a Yemenite's touch." With the car's battery re-charged, both men returned to their cars and proceeded on their ways with wishes of 'Shabbat Shalom'. At least there are still some 'good people along the way'.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Since I made aliyah, I have only eaten pastelicos twice - and both times were when I was in the US on vacation (2005 for the High Holidays and 2007 for my engagement party). So, this year I decided to ask the new Mrs. Piha to continue my family's traditions and help me make Pastelicos ... And here are a few pics from how the adventure went:
The menu used:
Making the Dough:
Rolling the dough into balls:
Making the 'cups':
Ready to go to the oven:
Now granted, they don't look like my mom's but this was our first time making them! With time, and perhaps watching Mom or Auntie Monica making them, I'm sure we'll improve their looks! It isn't plastic surgery after all ... As for how good they taste, well, you'll have to ask me after Shabbat ...
Until then, Shanna Tova u'Metooka!
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Gov`t source: Israel plans to release 100 Fatah prisoners for Ramadan
By The Associated Press
Israel intends to release from prison 100 members of Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction as part of U.S.-backed efforts to bolster him, an Israeli government source said on Tuesday
and in another world, I'd dream of reading ....
German Source: Hezbollah plans to release 2 Israeli soldiers for Rosh Ha'Shannah
By The Associated Press
Hezbollah intends to release from captivity 2 members of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima faction as part of U.S.-backed efforts to bolster him, a German government source said on Tuesday
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
"Yes, but our leader was killed"
A very good 6 part documentary about the Entebbe Raid:
Monday, August 27, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The bus ride home today gave me a lot of time to think. Having a family is something that Talya & I very much want - and these kind of stories scare me, no one is immune from the possibility. It takes millions of processes in order to bring a healthy child to this world - one thing goes wrong, and the pregnancy is in jeopardy. Who's in control? I think some people want to think that we're in control of our destiny. Many actually manage to convince themselves that they are in fact in control. When it comes down to it, I think we're all very well aware that we're not ...
Monday, August 13, 2007
I spent Shabbat lunch with Talya's mother and younger siblings. Avi, the latest addition to the IDF's Nachal brigade, bought along two army friends. One, a 22 year old religious Jew from Cleveland, had studied with Avi in the Gush and was now volunteering for the army before returning to the States before his aliyah. The other, a 25 year old secular Jew from Indiana, had become extremely involved in Israel activism during his tenure at Indiana University before deciding Israel was the only place for him. Talking to him reminded me a lot of my time at Binghamton and it made me feel good (sheesh, I have been here a long time if I'm saying this!) to see the next generation of Zionists staking their claim to our joint dream and future.
Monday, August 06, 2007
This past week has been unreal. I don't have any words to do justice to the wedding - it was quite simply a fantastic event and celebration of our love for each other. The week of food and quality family time was wonderful and I can honestly say it has been one of the best weeks of my life. As things settle down, Talya and I are beginning to take the first baby steps of our joint adventure here in Israel. I am looking forward to it ...
Monday, July 30, 2007
It's been a rather difficult last week, the emotions have been on high and all the final planning have tired me out. However, with it all basically done and in the hands of my good old 'rents and future-in-laws, I'm relaxing at home awaiting the wedding.
It's been fantastic to see my family this past weekend - the happiness and warmth of celebrating a simcha all together has been wonderful. It was nice to spend some time with my father and mother talking about life and the upcoming challenges that await Talya and I. When I left them yesterday, it was as if I was starting to write the newest lines in my adventure.
De falto ke'noseya Marie, Simone, Thalia, Francois, Simon & Daniel.
Seeing my two living grandparents this weekend was great as always but it also saddened me to think that Nonnou and Granny aren't here to be with me. They were such incredible parts of my family's life and development and while I know I won't see them tonight, I know they'll be there watching over their grandson.
I prayed this morning at the kotel (Western Wall) and had the extreme honor of being blessed by Ha'Rav Mordechai Eliyahu at his house.
Until the next entry, I'm out ... It's time to get ready and enjoy.
עוד ישמע בערי יהודה ובחוצות ירושלים קול ששון וקול שמחה קול חתן וקול כלה
Saturday, July 14, 2007
If I could go back three and a half years to when I was drafted, I would make all the same choices, even if I got hit again, because I'm proud to serve my country. I'm proud to defend it.
I was totally broken. All I did was lie in bed and watch TV with everyone around me sad and feeling bad for me and I kept thinking, 'I'm never going to stand up and pee again, I'm never going to make love with my girlfriend, I'm never going to run ever again. I cried for about an hour, which is extremely rare for me, and I looked at myself and realized this was the lowest point of my life. From then on, I decided it could only get better, and I started doing the best I could to get better.
It's important to say that it is possible for [someone like me] to live an amazing life and be as happy as everyone else. Everything in the world is relative, and not being able to walk is not the worst thing.
All my life I've wanted to be a combat soldier. We live in a country where the reality isn't easy. We're fighting for our existence, and I can't say someone else is going to do my work for me. I have to go out and do my part for this country, it's my responsibility, but it's also my privilege
Avshalom (Ashi) Erez
I was talking with Elad, and we remembered that in basic training we had said we were willing to take a bullet for each other, and so that night I told him I was still willing to take a bullet for him. More people joined our conversation, including Ya'ar, and we talked about the brotherhood and friendship you can only find in the army, and then a few hours later, I got shot, and they got shot trying to save me, and Ya'ar was killed. Later, when I was in intensive care in the hospital and couldn't speak, Elad came to visit me in his wheelchair, and I wrote to him asking if he remembered that conversation, and he started crying. The only thing that kills me is that he took a bullet for me - if I could, I would take all the gunshot wounds my friends got while trying to save me on myself. Because that bond, that friendship means everything to me. It makes it all worth it
Thursday, July 12, 2007
As an Israeli Liverpool fan, I'm excited to see how Benayoun will perform. Benayoun, who has continually proven his worth on every level he's played on, will now train and play with the most gifted squad he's been on to date. Time will tell whether he rises to the challenge or not ... Yalla Yossi!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Monday, July 09, 2007
Along with the wedding chores, Tals and I were also apartment hunting throughout Jerusalem. The rather unfriendly real estate market (high demand & costs) made the search rather difficult, but Tals really managed to find some fantastic apartments and we eventually settled on one a few minutes away from her grandmother. The new place has a really nice lounge, a small closed balcony (which we've made into a computer room), two medium sized rooms and the other 'basic' rooms. I moved in two weeks ago and have been setting things up even though I'm sure once the lady moves in after the wedding, everything will be adjusted! :) Leaving the old apartment on Kibbutz Galuyout has been both sad and exciting. It has been home since December 2005, the first 'steady' home I've had in Israel since I was a kid living in Ra'anana. However, leaving it ushers in a new chapter in my life and I'm eagerly awaiting it.
Oh well – that’s about it for now. Until next time, over n’ out.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Hassan al-Bazam, a 20 year old bodyguard for Ismail Haniyeh, talked in a recent Jerusalem Post article about his kidnapping and subsequent torturing by Fatah loyalists. He commented after luckily escaping with his life:
These people are real murderers, even the Jews did not do such cruel things to us.
The violence, which seems to be at a lull currently, has pushed many foreign nationals and injured Palestinians into Israel. One of the articles in today's Haaretz talked to some of the injured Palestinians. Shadi, a 23-year-old policemen, expressed his remorse for his voting decision:
I wanted to shoot myself for voting Hamas
While Zecharia Alrai, a 39 year old Fatah commander in the elite Force 17, blasted Hamas and their ideals:
That's not Islam. That's evil and hypocrisy. How ironic that Israel is rescuing us from our Muslim 'brothers'
Last but not least, today's reactions from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas seemed to usher in a new era in this never ending conflict:
There is no dialogue with those murderous terrorists
And the world wonders why Israel refused from the get go to talk to Hamas ...
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Now at first I thought it was just a terrible artistic job, but I've recently seen the light. The reason why this logo needs to be dropped is presented quite simply by some paranoid loon:
Yup, I think I'll actually let you guys come up with the words to describe this ...
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
When the lid is afraid of the pot
By Amir Oren
The year 2007 does not only include the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War; it also contains the 30th anniversary of Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem. Israel's most glorious military achievement, the defeat of three states and the occupation of major segments of their territory, is set against an even greater diplomatic achievement, breaking through the wall of Arab hostility. In both cases, the enthusiasm gradually turned to disappointment and the promise held out by the short-term results never came to fruition.
The view that Egypt is a moderate, peace-seeking country is an optical illusion. Cairo, which purchased its ticket to Washington through Jerusalem, is once again not thrilled to be part of the camp affiliated with the Americans. The Egyptian people, who are not eager to get involved directly in a war, are instead encouraging war from the sidelines.
Israel's awakening from the illusion of Egyptian influence over the Palestinians has been taking place for seven straight years, from the Camp David summit in 2000 to the anarchy on the Egypt-Gaza border under Hamas rule. Even during its 19 years of military rule over the Gaza Strip, Egypt was more concerned about Palestine than the Palestinians. Contrary to the Hashemite Kingdom, which annexed the West Bank and undertook a process of "Jordanizing" the Palestinians, Egypt avoided adding the refugees from Jaffa and the residents of Khan Yunis to its own tens of millions of poor. In the prisoner exchange that followed the Six-Day War, the Israel Defense Forces released thousands of soldiers who served in the Palestinian brigades of the Egyptian army and sought to transfer them to the western bank of the Suez Canal. But Egypt refused to accept the released Palestinians and demanded that they be returned to the Gaza Strip.
The promising idea of an exchange of territory involving Sinai, the Negev, Gaza and the West Bank might have had a chance of succeeding in the Sadat era, or at the height of the Oslo process, but has since fizzled. Egypt will not contribute a grain of sand, a drop of sweat, or a drop of blood in order to further peace. In the best-case scenario, it will continue treading water in the current impasse. The more realistic scenario is that after Hosni Mubarak, the repressed hostility will become open and active.
Ironically, the reason for this is democracy - not the American model (since efforts to instill that in Cairo failed exactly as they did in Damascus, Riyadh and every other Arab capital), but the popular version found in political cultures where an authoritarian and rigid regime refuses to relinquish its exclusivity and privileges, but also will not challenge public opinion unnecessarily. That the regime, or parts of it, has come to terms with Israel is a diplomatic fact that the Egyptian public cannot erase. However, this public has great power to keep the relationship cool, limited to air-conditioned rooms where diplomats meet.
Opinion polls show that Egypt - the largest Arab state, with the most advanced and powerful military - is also the most hostile to Israel, the United States and the West. This is not a matter of hairsplitting interpretation or passing trends: The data are unequivocal, and as frightening as a storm of religious fanaticism and prejudice.
Last month, the American House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs received the results of an international survey conducted by the University of Maryland. The survey examined public opinion in four Muslim countries: Morocco, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan. On every questions, Egypt led - in opposing an American presence in the Middle East, in supporting attacks against it (more than 93 percent), and in accusing the U.S. of aggression against Islam in its entirety, as opposed to just the fight against Al-Qaida, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Even those who expressed reservations about Al-Qaida's activities, particularly its targeting of civilians, supported the audacity of global jihad in confronting America and raising the flag of protecting "Muslim honor." Many doubt the American version of what happened on 9/11 and attribute what they saw with their own eyes, and what was described in tapes by Osama Bin Laden and his aides, to Hollywood special effects. Israel, of course, is derided as a collaborator and a protectorate.
The pot boiling under the regime is threatening - if it boils over - to throw the lid off, and with it, also the peace with Israel. The resulting security tensions will not immediately escalate or lead to a new war, a sixth war, between the two countries. But there will be no deeper, broader peace than the one that currently reigns on our southwestern border
I've long held the position that the 'Cold Peace' with Egypt would eventually lead to war. It just made sense. The Egyptian army has continually grown in numbers and quality thanks to Uncle Sam's wallet, which eagerly opened after the Cold Peace began. And their massive yearly military exercises in the Sinai? I highly doubt they're done because of a potential confrontation with Libya or Sudan.
Another worry is excellently summarized in this article, which also goes into great depth at the failure of this peace treaty to further a better relationship between the two nations:
The Israeli academic personality probably most friendly to Egypt, indeed a frequent apologist for Egyptian attitudes, wrote bluntly:
"Today the most dangerous impediment to relations between the two peoples is not, in my view, the absence of implementation of normalisation, as detailed in paragraph three of the Peace Treaty, nor in the absence of an Egyptian Ambassador in Israel, but in the unbridled incitement against Israel in the Egyptian press. "
He goes on: "Many journalists regard it as their national duty to serve as watch-dogs who protect Egyptian duty from any positive contact with Israelis. They denounce any connection in the cultural sphere as a cultural attack by Israel on the Egyptian personality. and any economic activity as domination of the Egyptian economy. Negative news from Israel is inflated to monstrous proportions, while positive moves are not published at all. Even a newspaper like El Ahram(1) permits itself to publish, for example, an article which tells readers that the Israeli soldiers in Lebanon operate ovens of "termination which they learnt to build from Nazis."(2)
1. Egypt's leading daily
2. Professor Shimon Shamir, (the head, until 1984, of the Israeli Cultural Institute in Cairo) in Yediot Ahronot 29 March, 1985.
Many will argue that a cold peace with Egypt is better than what we were enduring between the end of the Yom Kippur war and Anwar Sadat's famous visit to Jerusalem. However, looking at the radicalization of the country and the obvious advantages we've forfeited with this peace treaty, one cannot stop but be concerned about Israel and a potential confrontation with Egypt.
(Another mistake of this peace treaty was the destruction of the Jewish settlements in the Sinai. Here, for the first time, Jews willingly destroyed their settlements in an attempt to find a lasting, real peace. It set a dangerous precedent that is haunting us till this day. Its no wonder that Menachem Begin, according to one of his closest friends, spent the rest of his life regretting the treaty)
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
This coming Shabbat, the Torah portion , Shelach, that recalls the sin of the spies, is read. These were the 12 men that Moshe sent to scout out the Land of Israel before entering. When they returned, their reports were distorted and negative and caused a 40 year delay before the Children of Israel could enter.
Today despite the challenges that come with living in Israel, we are witness to all that is good and special about living here and it is in our ability to tell our family, friends and neighbors abroad what those things are.
Nefesh B'Nefesh is initiating a simple project this week called "12 to 12". We are asking every Oleh to compose a list of 12 great things you appreciate and love about living in Israel and email your message to 12 (or more) friends abroad.
If you send this out to your friends, please CC email@example.com when you send it out.
Please send out your letter before Friday June 8.
My list of 12 things I love about Israel:
1. The Kotel/Western Wall. No words needed here.
2. The language.
3. HaTikvah. A national anthem that actually speaks to your soul. Now imagine singing it with 40,000 Israelis at sporting events ...
4. The IDF. A proud Jewish army which protects our precious land.
5. The Food. Unparalleled range of foods from every corner of the world. From Ethiopian to Yemenite to Polish to French to Greek to Argentinian, you name it, it's here
6. Golan. The serene greenery of the North just speaks to my heart and soul.
7. Ben Gurion Airport. Strange choice I know ... But I love seeing it when I arrive back home after a vacation. As you walk on the ground which welcomed your aliyah dream years previous, you just smile and think, "home"
8. Israeli national team (Football/Soccer). We may not be the best team around, but I love rooting our boys on.
9. Menachem Begin Heritage Center. No better place to learn about our country's greatest leader than here.
10. Our History. Goes without saying really ...
12. Our Flag.
So now.... whats your top Twelve reasons for making aliyah?
Monday, June 04, 2007
Sunday, June 03, 2007
It was nice to get to the base on Friday and start seeing familiar faces. I haven't seen any of the lads since October of last year, and it was obviously good to see them all doing well. What's strange about miluim and the friendships we all develop is that they stop after we finish the reserve stint. Life for each of us will obviously continue, but our friendships stop once we're out of uniform. The next call up arrives, and the paused friendships start blooming again, with non-stop chatter about recent news and the obvious friendly banter and laughs. Though unlike any other friendships I have, I enjoy the warmth and connection I share with these lads ... My brothers in arms.
The Pill Box
Most of us having seen these imposing structures across the landscape whenever we've been along the 'Green Line' or across it. Within it, 2-3 Israeli soldiers sit with various equipment making sure everything across the landscape is ok. I had the honor of sitting in one with Lior for 24 hours. Though the weather wasn't too kind, I had a really good time. The first few hours we caught up, chatting about our new jobs, aspirations about life in Jerusalem and the ladies in our lives. By the time we had done that, it was almost time for Shabbat. So picture two religious boys, one a Yeminite and one a Ladino Jew, welcoming in Shabbat singing ... Carlebach! Ha ha (Awaiting all the Ashkenazi jokes). Along with Carlebach, we sang some songs in the tunes from our homes and then ate the meal that was brought in from the base. The 24 hours passed rather quickly and despite the small surroundings of the area (Diameter of around 2.5 meters), we managed to comfortably eat, sleep and enjoy our guarding.
As many know, my favorite book is 'A Pslam in Jenin' which goes into the difficulties encountered by Israel in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield. One of my friends in my unit was in the 51 Battalion of Golani which fought in Jenin during the operation. I started discussing what he saw there and it's quite amazing how a (at the time) 21 year old dealt with his first taste of war. What I found interesting was how the fear we all endure evaporates once the first few bullets fly by. "Some bullets flew by my leg. There was no more time for fear after that, we were here to fight," he said, his face expressionless. He lost two friends during the operation, both covered in the aforementioned book. One of them, Shmuel Weiss, fell while pulling an injured friend from danger's way. "I saw them putting the blanket over his body. He saved that kid's (I forgot the name) life.The kid has yet to recover mentally from the event."
While those events have obviously left my friend scarred, he has no regrets about what he did there. "It was a war," he rightfully claims. But as he discussed killing and 'confirmation of the kill', it dawned on me on how much our kids are forced to see at such a young age. The responsibility on our soldiers is incredible, and yet time after time, they do what they have to do and do it well.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Sari Nusseibeh, the president of Al-Quds University, talks some sense:
“An international academic boycott of Israel, on pro-Palestinian grounds, is self-defeating: It would only succeed in weakening that strategically important bridge through which the state of war between Israelis and Palestinians could be ended and Palestinian rights could therefore be restored. Instead of burning that bridge, the international academy should do everything within its power to strengthen it.”
The reaction to the boycott:
Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdon Zvi Hefetz called the resolution offensive to the British Jewish community, saying that, "Its slanted phrasing reeks of ignorance."
Adrian Fronda, a senior mathematics lecturer who had joined the union solely to vote against the boycott, was less diplomatic. "I came here to oppose the prevalent anti-Semitism we see all around us here," he said.
Education Minister Yuli Tamir condemned the union's decision, saying she would address British Education Secretary Alan Johnson on the matter.
Please sign the following petition and forward to as many people as possible:
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I'm kinda torn on this. I am very proud to be an active reservist in a combat unit. It's something I think every Israeli should be honored to do - but this call up has come at a point in my life where I'm finalizing wedding plans and looking for a place to live. It's tough to say 'I come first' when I feel that the Israeli belief of yesta-year that 'Israel comes first' is the right and only way of thinking. While I know this wont be the last time where a stint in the reserves will interfere with important events in my life, I hope it's the last time I need to serve out so few days of my stint.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
The engagement party last Sunday was a blast. My mom spent hours making the wonderful ladino foods I had been craving, and with the helping hands of good friends, the event's menu was fantastic. I would have eaten more had I had more time, but the need to socialize with many people who won't be at the wedding took priority. It was nice to catch up obviously, and meet more of Talya's family. Many thanks to my parents for pulling off such a wonderful event.
Other than that, we spent a few hours in Nassau County watching a good friend graduate with a Masters from Adelphi (congrats Mr. Mora), a few hours in New York City acting like tourists and a lot of time with family and friends. Really enjoyed this brief vacation, and look forward to the next one in July! :)
With regards to being back home, Israel is not in a good state right now. Open Rocket Season on Sderot has resulted in the city becoming a ghost town, and to make matter worse, there's been very little action by our pathetic government. The citizens of the South and North cannot be target practice for our terrorist buddies. Just as suicide bombings were once deemed an 'unstoppable' form of warfare against our people until the army & country took steps to control it, I hope there are plans being set in motion to eradicate this form of warfare. On that note, How is Olmert still in power? Earth to the government officials not currently in Kadima, can you please help us?
On Wednesday, I'm off to miluim (army reserves) for a week of duty. Looking forward to seeing the lads. I hope to update the blog when I return b'h.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Some rare footage of the reunification of our precious capital:
Friday, May 11, 2007
Scott Simon of NPR reports on a rare recording of "Hatikva " from almost 62 years ago. If this doesn't give you goosebumps I don't know what will.
It was recorded by a British reporter on April 20, 1945 in Bergen-Belsen when the British army liberated the few thousand survivors in the concentration camp, half of which were Jewish, most of them at the extremes of their strength. It was recently discovered and apparently was loaned to NPR by the Smithsonian Institute.
The British priest organized prayers for Kabbalat Shabbat for the Jews. It was the first time after six years of war and after more than 10 years of persecution. With a lot of effort the Jews organized themselves and, knowing they were recorded, sang "Hatikva".
As you can hear they sang the original version as it was written by Naftali Imber. Picturing them in the midst of the concentration camp singing after all they had been through renders this a very moving scenario.
Click on the link to hear the moving recording: http://genealogy.org.il/BergenBelsenHatikva.mp3
Courtesy of Sandy Disler
So many words could be used to describe this 'song'. But perhaps there are no real words to do it justice. Six years had left world Jewry on crutches, and yet despite that, they managed to sing a song. A song that would become the Israeli national anthem. A song whose title means hope. A hope that despite it all managed to burn within each and everyone of them. May we never lose that hope ...
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
2. Call it 'Ehud Olmert'
3. Save it to your Desktop.
4. Drag it to the Recycle Bin
5. Empty the Recycle Bin.
6. Your computer will ask you, "Are you sure you want to delete 'Ehud Olmert'?"
7. Firmly click 'yes'
8. Feel Better? So have an extra special day!
Next week, I'll give you the step-to-step guide for Amir Peretz.
courtesy of Alex Shindler
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
"The prime minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one," the report said. "He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs."
Olmert was also censured for failing to "adapt his plans once it became clear that the assumptions and expectations of Israel's actions were not realistic and were not materializing."
"All of these," the report said, "add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence."
The report continues with heavy criticism of Amir Peretz, the Defense Minister:
Peretz "did not have knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters. He also did not have good knowledge of the basic principles of using military force to achieve political goals."
Despite these deficiencies, the report states, "he made his decisions during this period without systemic consultations with experienced political and professional experts, including outside the security establishment."
In fact, the panel found, "his serving as minister of defense during the war impaired Israel's ability to respond well to its challenges."
The committee also blasted retired Chief of Staff Dan Halutz for his role in the debacle:
Dan Halutz, who was IDF chief of staff at the time, was criticized for entering the war "unprepared," and for failing to inform the cabinet of the true state of the IDF ahead of the ground operation.
According to the findings, the army and its chief of staff "were not prepared for the event of the abduction despite recurring alerts."
The panel also found that Halutz had failed to "present to the political leaders the internal debates within the IDF concerning the fit between the stated goals and the authorized modes of actions."
To sum it up, our government failed miserably. We elected a prime minister who had pushed his way up the Likkud and Kadima ladder by being Ariel Sharon's pet. We elected a prime minister with no real experience in the political arena (bar being mayor of Jerusalem). We elected a prime minister who in turn appointed a Defense Minister with no combat experience or understanding of military planning. We were quiet when our last Chief of Staff was fired for being opposed to the disengagement, and were again quiet with the political promotion of a pilot to the rank of Chief of Staff. With these inexperienced, cocky, selfish leaders, what were we really expecting?
This morning, Ehud Olmert vowed to remain in office despite calls for his resignation, "It would not be correct to resign, and I have no intention of resigning." I'm not sure what goes through this man's head but he has to go. The public approval of Olmert is the lowest any Israeli prime minister has ever had, with some polls sadly showing it at being less than 10%. His own party has already made noise about pushing him out of politics, while lawmakers across the political spectrum have called for him to resign. It would be best for Olmert to resign, and retire permanently from the public eye. He's done enough damage to this country's morale and security.
No matter when Olmert and Peretz do in fact resign(Halutz resigned 3 months ago), the tough part of this journey actually starts now. This country needs to implement the harsh lessons of last summer's war and re-build its morale. A good start was made with the appointment of Gabi Ashkenazi as the new Chief of Staff. The career soldier has already started making necessary changes to the way our standing army and reservist units work. The famous quote of yesta-year was 'עם בונה צבא בונה עם', which translates to the nation builds the army, which in turn builds the nation. Our army's failures this past summer severely dented our confidence and moral - Ashkenazi is hopefully the right man to repair that by making the necessary changes to our army.
That leaves us with the two government posts. Unfortunately, the only strong leader we really have is still lying in a coma. So that begs the question, who can take over once Olmert goes? I think our best bet is Benjamin 'Bibi' Netanyahu. I know he's made his mistakes and is unpopular for his financial reforms but he's been in this position before and we're crying out for an experienced and confident leader. He is probably the best option we have from a rather average pool of candidates. With regards to the defense minister spot, it MUST go to a man who has military experience. The two best candidates in my opinion are Moshe 'Bugi' Ya'alon, who was our last Chief of Staff before Dan Halutz and is now a member of the Likkud, or Shaul Mofaz, the last defense minister before Peretz.
Whatever happens next, let's hope our army and government are fully prepared for the challenges that await them both domestically and on our borders. The Second Lebanon War was a very difficult time in our short 59 year history, but it hopefully taught us the lessons we need to ensure a stronger and more vibrant Israel. The waiting game now begins, but one thing's for sure, all will be well ... יהיה בסדר
Monday, April 23, 2007
This past summer's war left us with more stories of bravery and camaraderie. Be it the heroism of Lieutenant Colonel Ro'ee Klein z"l or the commitment of Michael Levin z"l, our boys once again proudly stood up and were counted in the most trying of circumstances. But sadly, yet again, their blood helped irrigate the soils of this holy land. And so, as I listened to names and speeches during Ra'anana's memorial service, I wondered to myself how the families of our beloved fallen are looking at this. In our eyes, they're heroes, heroes who gave up their lives in order to let us fulfill ours. But what about their loved ones' eyes? Was it 'worth' leaving behind his parents to cry on his grave for years without end? Was it fair to leave his children to be raised without a loving, caring father? I don't have answers to these questions - it is not for me to judge or even try to really rationalize. But I do know however that these soldiers gave up their, as well as their families', happiness and future so that we could have ours. We are here, and will continue to be here, because of the sacrifices these brave souls have made. May the memory of our 22,305 fallen heroes be forever blessed.
Here are the faces of our fallen from the Second Lebanon War:
A highway in Israel during the 2 minute siren:
"We remember our fallen, on this day, and every day"
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.