Monday, April 23, 2007


There is no way to describe the pain and difficulty that envelops Israelis as Memorial Day descends with a minute long siren. For a country still struggling after 59 years to find some peace and quiet, this day is a solemn reminder to the heavy price we've paid in order to 'be a free nation in our land.'

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.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Being Jewish by Yair Nitzani

A funny satire of the '3 types' of Jews in Israel:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

כוורת - נתתי לה חיי

Kaveret, one our greatest bands, was the first Israeli band to put some humor in their songs. Here is one of their classics, I Gave Her My Life:

... those were the days ...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Holocaust Memorial Day

As the day ushers in the pensive thoughts of a time when my people were tertiated, I leave you with Mark Twain's elegant assessment of a small people's remarkable tale of survival throughout time:

If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.

His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendour; then faded to dream-stuff and passed away: the Greeks and the Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.

The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

[The above was written by Mark Twain and first published in HARPER'S magazine, September 1887.]


The following link allows you to look through the Yad Vashem databases for your family members who died during the Holocaust.


It is very disappointing that during this day, a large segment of Israel's Jewish population refuses to acknowledge the one minute long siren in remembrance of the 6,000,000 Jews who perished in the holocaust. Instead of standing silently in honor of our nation, the ultra orthodox carry on as they do during Memorial day (for our fallen soldiers). For a people who claim to 'practice' our faith, perhaps a quick lesson in 'sinat chinam' (free hatred) and its role in the destruction of the Second Temple should show them why their actions are so harmful to this country and her fragile unity. One of the reasons the ultra orthodox do not stand for the siren is due to the fact that it is not a religious ritual. However, should this really take precedence over 'shalom bayit' (peace within the home)? Why they'd rather infuriate a large majority of this country who sees this as a complete lack of respect is beyond me.

Jews of Arabic/Spanish descent (Mizrachi/Sephardi) have different customs from Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi). During kadish, Sephardim can sit while Ashkenazim will stand. However, halacha (Jewish law) stipulates that in another congregation, one must stand/sit depending on the congregation's traditions out of respect. Perhaps the ultra-orthodox should take a step back and remember, that unity amongst the Jewish people is extremely important for our survival and their behavior continually hurts it. And as they're members of our congregation (Israel), they should respect the ways the congregation and how it goes about remembering the holocaust, or our fallen. Is that too much to ask of our brothers?


Friday, April 13, 2007

The Greatest Final Ever

As Liverpool could very well be on the exact same path (Chelsea in the semi-finals, and if we win, Milan in the finals) they took on their amazing run to #5 in Istanbul, I thought it would be nice to re-live that amazing night on May 25th, 2005. It's a night no Liverpool fan will ever forget. A night which produced an insurmountable deficit, a night which produced one of the greatest renditions of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and a night which gave us six historical minutes. Enjoy:

Let's make it #6 in Athens

Thursday, April 12, 2007

רוצה מצוות

For those who understand Hebrew, a funny song about religious Jews in Israel ...

Arik on 'Jewishness'

I started talking about the pioneers of Petach Tikva, the first Zionist settlement. Who were these very earliest pioneers? They were the most orthodox Jews from Jerusalem wearing 'shtreimels,' the dark fur hats of the Middle Ages. After Petach Tikvah came Hibat Zion in the 1880s, also settled by orthodox Jews during the First Aliyah. The Second Aliyah immigrants who arrived prior to World War One were inspired by the social movements fermenting in Europe and especially by the Russian Revolution of 1905. But beneath the veneer they too were yeshiva 'buchers' - students who had received their education in the Jewish religious schools of Eastern Europe. After World War One came the Third Aliyah - our parents. And that was a generation of true rebels. But for all their revolutionary fire, they knew in their bones what it mean to be Jewish. They knew their culture, they spoke Hebrew. If I had mastered the richness of this language as my father did, I would be exceptionally proud. So that was a generation of rebels, but rebels with deep roots in Judaism.

The problem started with our generation. Because we were the sons and daughters of rebels, we had no Judaism in our upbringing whatsoever. The result was that our generation in a way lost its roots, the first to have done so. What did we know about Jewish wisdom? What did we know about Jewish contributions to the world or about the Jewish presence here in Israel? Very little. Were we taught to be proud that we were Jews, descendants of those Jews who through the ages had fought to the death for their beliefs? No, we were not taught these things. Instead, with our generation there was an attempt to create not Jews but New Israeli Men and Women. In the process we were disconnected from those earlier generations whose Jewishness was inscribed in their hearts.

And the outside world saw this too. I remember back in the 1950s and '60s when I was traveling abroad I felt the desire by others to consider me not a Jew but as an Israeli, to draw the distinction. You are an Israeli, they seemed to say. They, those people over there with strange clothes and strange ways - they are Jews. And in a way it felt easy to be accepted like that. But it was also dangerous. It was a signal that we had lost our Jewishness. And I for one, even then, never believed we would really be able to survive here if we were nothing more than Israelis. For our attachment to the land of Israel, our identity with it, comes through out Jewishness. I am a Jew, I thought then, as I think now. That does not mean I am a religious man. I am not. When it comes to practicing Judaism, there is much I do not know. But I do know for certain that above everything I am a Jew and only afterwards an Israeli and the rest.

Arik Sharon

Never a truer word spoken by the man. The harsh assessment of the last paragraph is one we all need to heed: We must understand why we're here. We must understand that our future depends on realizing the path paved by the generations that came before us. Let us not forget that, as the last sentence says so eloquently, we are Jews above everything else - and that's what should unite us and guide us through good times and bad times in this country.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

'In Every Generation ...'

While there are many mitzvot (commandments) that one is obligated to fulfill during Passover, one of the ones that always challenges me is the requirement that 'in ever generation, a man is obligated to regard himself as though he personally had gone forth from Egypt.' Perhaps Ze'ev Magen's Personalizing History is a good 'starting point' in trying to relate to the difficulties and accomplishments that our people have felt then and now, as we've struggled and overcome the obstacles that have been placed in our paths:

See, you personally were born quite recently. You haven't existed, built, climbed, fallen, lost, won, wept, rejoiced, created, learned, argued, loved and struggled for thousands of years. Nevertheless, you, my friend, happen to have lucked out. You are a distinguished member of a nation which has done all those things, and more. You have special eyes, eyes that can see for miles and miles. If only you will it- enough to work at it- you can extend your arms and touch the eons and millenia, you can suck up the insights and bask in the glory and writhe in the pain and draw on the power emanating from every experience of your indomitable, indestructible, obstinately everlasting people.

This is not an ability acquired solely through learning or reading (although this is a major ingredient, I hasten to emphasize); it is first and foremost a function of connection, of belonging, of powerful love. If you reach out and grasp your people's hands - you were there. You participated in what they did in all places and at all times, you fought their battles, felt their feelings and learnt their lessons.

You tended flocks with Rachel and slaved in Potiphar's house with Joseph; you sang in the wilderness with Miriam and toppled the walls of Jericho with Joshua; you carried first fruits to the Temple Mount; and were mesmerized by Elijah on the slopes of Carmel; you brought the house down on the Philistines with Samson, fought the chariots of Hazor under Deborah, and danced before the ascending ark with David; you went into Exile with the prophet Jeremiah and hung your harp and wept by the rivers of Babylon; you defied the divinity of Nebuchadnezzar with the courage and cunning of Daniel, and vanquished the might of imperial Persia with the wisdom and beauty of Esther; and studied law and lore in the vineyards of Yavneh with Elazar ben Arakh and Bruria; you were with Judah the Macabbee at Modi'in, with the Zealots at Masada, with Akiba in the Roman torture chamber and with Bar Kochba at Betar; you devoted your life to Torah at the yeshivot in Babylon and philosophised by the Nile with the circle of Maimonides; you were crucified for refusing the cross in the Crusades, and were turned into ashes for stubbornness in the fires of the Inquisition; you were exiled from the shores of Spain by Isabella, and chased down and raped in the pogroms of the Ukraine by the hordes of Chielnicki; you went to Safed's fields to greet the Shabbat bride with the Ari, Isaac Luria and went into Galicia's huts to seek the ecstacy of the fervent Baal Shem Tov; you fled the Black Hundreds across Russia's plains, and were welcomed by the Statue of Liberty at the gates of Ellis Island; you filed into the gas chambers of Bergen Belsen, and were hurled into the flames at Mathausen and Sobibor; you parachuted into Hungary with Hannah Senesh, and fought back in Warsaw with Mordechai Anilweicz; you were shot with your family in the forests of Poland and dug a mass grave and perished there at Babi Yar; you revived your dead language, you resurrected your sapped strength, you returned to yourself and renewed the lapsed covenant, you arose like a lion and hewed out your freedom on the plains and the mountains of your old-new land.

Throughout all of this and so much more you were there with them - and they are here with you. This is the thrust of the Passover Hagaddah when it exhorts: "In every generation a person must see him / herself as if s/he personally left Egypt." This is the intention of the Talmud when it whispers - based upon a strongly suggestive Bible verse - that we were all present and accounted for at the foot of Mount Sinai in the desert, over three thousand years ago.

Chag Sameach to everyone .... חג שמח לכולם