Thursday, August 28, 2008

J'ai Quitte Mon Pays - Enrico Macias

The song mentioned in the title would bring tears to my Nonna Lea's (paternal grandmother's mom) eyes as it reminded her of the life she left behind in the Belgian Congo in 1960. Living in South Africa, she felt "deracinee" (displaced and without roots).

I remember hearing this, as well as other Macias classic, a lot as a kid. Although I struggle to understand all the words, I still love the songs and the memories they evoke (the long car rides in my Nonna's car for example).

Without further delay, the beautiful song by Enrico Macias (born Gaston Ghrenassia) about leaving one's country (He left Algeria in 1961 during the Algerian War of Independence).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Mandells

A really powerful & difficult clip about Sherry & Seth Mandell and their story HERE.

I'm now a licensed driver of ...

this baby:


One of the more interesting discussions I had during the past few days on reserve duty was with a 37 year old Ethiopian reservist. I've always been interested in the Ethiopian story, especially the immigration waves that brought them to Israel from 1984 (Operation Moses) to 1991/92 (Operation Solomon). He was one of the Ethiopians (approximately 15,000) who made the treacherous journey to Sudanese camps in the early 1980s, waiting for his chance to come home through the secret military airlifts. He described the camps as "hell" and says everyone who survived those few years before the Israeli airlift has no reason to ever doubt G-d's existence. One can only imagine the conditions he lived under in order to reach this country.

While his descriptions of the six day journey to Sudan astounded me, his various stories about racism within Israel infuriated me. I've long been bothered by the unnecessary & wrong troubles we've placed upon the Ethiopians, be it the inability to recognize their religious leaders or the blatant racism shown towards them. While things have improved due to various programs and their increasing integration into Israeli society (Just as it did with the Arab Jewish immigrants of the '50s, and the Russian immigration of the early to mid 90s), these stories serve as a reminder to how poor we are at accepting our own. The one story that really stood out was the refusal by a religious kindergarten to accept his daughter to their program - while at first he felt it was due to the fact he didn't wear a kippa (although he did observe Shabbat, the festivals and kashrut), he soon realized it was more likely due to his skin color. After various meetings with the city council, his daughter was accepted to the school.

While he holds no grudges against the country or those who have perpetrated these crimes against him, I still found it necessary to apologize to him. It just sickens me how a country which was 'built' for the Jewish people continually hates and hurts its own. Some will say it's the hazing process every new immigrant class deals with but to me, that is inexcusable. The damage we do to these people, while not permanent, will continue to be the barrier in our ability to reach internal peace. I've long held the opinion that Israel's survival rests far more on our ability to make internal peace as it's been a problem & hindrance throughout our history. When I hear stories like these, I realize how we've sadly forsaken the need to fix ourselves while looking for peace with our neighbors.


On the bus ride home tonight, three religious kids (between the ages of 3 to 5) saw a few Arab workers on the Mamila building site. They announced it in English, "Arabs!" and straight away made gun noises while aiming their finger guns at the three workers. The mother stood by smiling as I stood there shocked. Regardless of the fact our last three terrorists were Israeli Arabs, teaching kids such hatred is sickening and inexcusable. The majority of the Arab world does not need to be tarred with the same brush people tar the radical minority and their despicable actions. It's sad that any Jewish parent feels the need to take a page from the 'Hamas rule book' and brainwash kids with an attitude of hatred and the desire to kill.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beating Hitler

Watching my 6 day old nephew this past Thursday was quite an experience. I don't think I've ever just looked at a baby at such a young age, and admired the result of the amazing nine month life making process. Maybe it's because it's quite relevant to what is about to happen in my life b'h, or just because I'm a wee bit older than the last time I had the opportunity to appreciate the miracle of life. The world must be quite a place for a newborn, but at least he looked rather peaceful and content to be sleeping as the rest of the family celebrated during the Brit Yitzchak.

The next day was his Brit Milah. As he was passed along to Talya's safta (Hebrew for grandmother), she started to cry. Holding her 2nd great grandchild, her first great grandson, must have given this 86 year old Holocaust survivor a tremendous feeling of pride, joy and happiness. The kindness of a family from her village saved her during the Nazi occupation of Poland, and her mom's quick thinking saved her from danger when they returned to their now occupied home (This was all too common amongst the Polish population, with many Jews being killed by their homes' new occupants. For more, click here or here). She managed to start her life in Switzerland, raise two children, who in turn would give her the joy of eight grandchildren. Although I doubt it even crossed her mind at the moment, as I watched the tears stream down her face, I thought to myself, "This is how she beat Hitler."

The Baby's name? Yair Avraham (pictured below with his sister, Noa). His second name is that of safta's brother (May his memory be blessed), who died in the Holocaust ... but whose name Yair will carry from now on.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crying Wolf

This past week, Education Minister Yuli Tamir decided to remove Ze'ev Jabotinsky from a list of terms students are required to learn. A man who's brilliant mind led to the founding of the Irgun and Likud, a man who warned Polish Jewry that they 'were on the edge of a volcano' in 1938(His 'Evacuation Plan' for Polish Jewry, approved by 3 major Eastern European governments, was rejected by Polish Jewry and Chaim Weizmann) and a man who's vision became one of the main pillars within the Zionist movement is now being forcefully removed from the mind's of our students. This is just another black mark on the secular education system, which continues to resemble a 3rd world country's education system, and fails to teach our children properly about their country's past & heritage.

Perhaps one shouldn't be surprised. Yuli Tamir does come from the movement that betrayed its people during 'The Season', and even murdered them on the Altalena, a movement which proudly refused to bring Jabotinksy to be buried in Israel and regarded the Arab Jews/Sephardim as second class citizens ... A movement that was bound to take another step in defining this country based solely on its secular, liberal European vision.

They say in order to know where one's going, one has to know where s/he came from. It's no surprise that our leadership seems so lost and unable to make few, if any, positive strides internally or externally.

For anyone looking to learn more about Jabotinksy, the best book available is that of the late Shmuel Katz: Lone Wolf: a Biography of Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky.

And in closing, an interesting fact about the man the Left has long despised:

Jabotinsky was a complex personality, combining cynicism and idealism. He was convinced there was no way for the Jews to regain any part of Palestine without opposition from the Arabs, but he also believed that the Jewish state could be home to Arab citizens. In 1934 he wrote a draft constitution for the Jewish state which declared that the Arab minority would be on an equal footing with its Jewish counterpart "throughout all sectors of the country's public life." The two communities would share the state's duties, both military and civil service, and enjoy its prerogatives. Jabotinsky proposed that Hebrew and Arabic should enjoy equal rights and that "in every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership shall be offered to an Arab and vice versa".