Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why Judah and not Joseph?

Before he dies in Parashat Vayechi, Jacob blesses his twelve sons. He blesses Judah with "The scepter shall not depart from" him (Bereishit, 49/10), essentially providing his fourth son's descendants with the responsibility of providing Israel a sovereign ruler.

Knowing Jacob's relationship with his all his sons, how come Jacob doesn't bless Joseph with the honor of being leader of the nation?

Abarbanel explains this by quoting part of Jacob's blessing to Joseph, "They embittered him and became antagonists; The arrow-tongued men hated him," (49/23). Joseph couldn't have been a leader because he provoked jealousy in people (the famous example being the brothers, and one can also assume the jealousy created with the ' young Hebrew Slave's' ascendancy in Egyptian political life caused). This was never the case with Judah, who enjoyed undisputed popularity.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I thought my last blog would be the last for 2009, but alas, I wanted to share what I heard today with my three (or is it four?) readers.

I've joined a footy team that competes in the Anglo League in Israel. Each team is allowed to have 2 Israelis on the pitch, and I was giving one of our Israelis a ride to the game from Jerusalem. As we discussed each other, Rannie started talking about his impressive football background - at least for an Israeli! He came up through the ranks of the Beitar youth system, playing the game with current Beitar stars like Aviram Bruchian & Barak Yitzchaki. As he started to detail aspects of their games, I asked him why he wasn't with them on the pitch every weekend at Teddy. His answer startled me, "I joined the army." So I prodded more, "You're telling me you could have played professionally but you gave it up to do 3 years in the army?" His reply filled me with admiration, "I was offered a professional contract. I thought about it and decided that I live in Israel and I'd serve the country the full 3 years in a combat unit."

Here's a guy who's given his whole life to achieving a dream - and when the day comes for making the dream a reality, he turns it down for the IDF. Unreal. What a role model ...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gilad, Beit Yaakov Boycotts and more

I'm torn about Gilad Shalit and his potential return home. After years of campaigning by Gilad's parents, Aviva & Noam, it seems that we're on the verge of a 1 for 1000 deal that will bring him home.

As we edge closer to the potential agreement, an interesting debate has heated up - whether or not Israel is making the right decision in pursuing this exchange. Oddly enough, I understand both sides and see no wrong in either side's points.

Those against the hostage exchange are worried that some of the ~1000 soon to be free Palestinians will commit terrorist attacks that will end the lives of tens of Israelis. They think that the success of this deal will promote more Palestinians attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

Those in favor want Gilad home at all costs, relating to the plight of Gilad's parents (& family & friends) - who have been without their son for 3+ years. They also acknowledge how important it is for a 'country of soldiers' to know that we do our best to never leave our boys behind enemy lines.

Where do I stand? I'm against the deal. I think the negatives far outweigh the positives. I still wouldn't say that to Gilad's parents - nor do I feel that any of their actions to return their boy have been wrong.


Haaretz had a story today about a handful of Ashkenazi students not attending Beit Yaakov due to the high court ruling that the school must integrate Mizrachi students:

The Education Ministry on Wednesday threatened to prosecute parents of students in a West Bank settlement school under the mandatory education law, unless the students returned to their classrooms.

The Ashkenazi students of the ultra-Orthodox Beit Yaakov girls' school in Immanuel stayed home on Wednesday, yet again, as part of an organized protest against the decision by the Education Ministry and High Court to end the segregation between Sephardi and Ashkenazi students

In August, the court ruled that Beit Yaakov and the Independent Education Center have "infringed on the Sephardi students' right to equality" by segregating them from their Ashkenazi peers. It also scolded the Education Ministry for not using "all the means available to prevent discrimination."

"The court and media don't understand that this is another world," a mother who is keeping her daughter out of school said. "The Hasidic program was created because of a different religious outlook. Only pure children attend it."

"The Mizrahi students' families don't belong with the other families,"another parent said. "They have a television at home while the [Ashkenazim] speak Yiddish. The Mizrahi girls have a bad influence on our girls. No court will change anything," he added. "It's better for everyone to have separate study programs. This way each student keeps his identity - just like you wouldn't play Mizrahi and classical music on the same radio show," another resident said.

The school has 215 students from first to eighth grade, 35 percent of whom are Sephardi.

"It's a disgrace to this place, the ministry must intervene to stop the segregation once and for all," the father of one Mizrahi student said. "The Ashkenazis think they're more intelligent than we are, but what really bugs them is our skin color."

I think these righteous, elitist & racist Ashkenazim should boycott more than the school. Why not also incorporate those Mizrachi/Sefardi 'bad incluence' Rabbis like Rambam, Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel, Hillel, Shammai etc into their boycott. I mean, you wouldn't want to hurt your kids' "identity."

And people wonder why I still harp about how this country handled the Mizrachi aliyot in the 1950s ...


Interesting piece by Carlo Strenger of Haaretz after Jimmy Carter's 'apology' for his tough stance on Israel.


Courtesy of Jewlicious:

Every Friday, protesters have been gathering [in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem] lately to protest the expulsion last August of two families from their apartments after the Israel Supreme Court ruled that the land upon which their homes were built belonged to the Sephardi Jewish community. The evacuated houses were built in the 1950s by the UNWRA in order to house Arab refugees who had fled from West Jerusalem during the 1948 war. In 1967, when Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan and reunited the city, the Palestinian families were permitted to stay on as tenants. Disputing the validity of the ownership of the land, they stopped paying rent. This led to the events that preceded the protests. As you can see, the bulk of the protesters are Jewish and Israeli. What really stood out though was at around 3:19 of the video [already edited in clip below].

One of the middle aged Palestinian women started chanting what sounds like the following: “Falasteene Bladna, al-Yahud klabna” – that would translate into “Palestine is our country! The Jews are our dogs!” – which is kind of odd – I mean the people walking by her in handcuffs were the aforementioned “Jew Dogs” who had been arrested whilst protesting in favor of the Palestinians. Maybe that’s why she was shushed? I mean am I hearing this right?


"I would like to point out one permanent assignment that is entrusted to each of us, old and young, men and women, educated and ignorant, as a group and as individuals; this assignment is the defense of our people's honor.

All too easily we allow this honor to be impinged. So far have we become used to humiliation, that in a simple curse we no longer find insult, and just say to ourselves: 'thank you for only swearing at us – after all you could also have beaten us!' Everywhere, even in public places, our ears pick up vulgar outbursts against our people, and we pretend that we did not hear them, and console ourselves that 'they did not mean us'.

This is a lie: It is always aimed at us, and we must respond. We must end this abuse of ourselves, at all costs. And it is very easy. They spit in our faces without fear, 'in passing', for no reason – not because our insulters are blessed with courage and want to pick a fight with us, but because this pleasure is so cheap for them: they will spit at us and go on their way, and nothing will happen.

We must accustom them to the thought that from now on this pleasure will come at a hefty cost. A new commandment must enter our hearts: that even where there is only one Jew, the word 'Zhid' must not be heard without response. Wise people will come and try to dissuade us: 'You are weak – what can you do?' But it is not our purpose to win in every single incident. Our objective – to create about us the belief that a slur on our national feelings is no longer what it once was, a small diversion free of cost – but will rather, with an absolute certainty and a mathematical precision, result in a sharp and unpleasant confrontation

It is the hour to prove what we truly are: A proud people, or filthy scum whose only calling is to be trodden upon."

Ze'ev Jabotinsky, What are we to do?, published 1905


There's a good chance this will be my last post of 2009. So to those celebrating, Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Joseph's Dreams

At the beginning of Parashat VaYeishev, Joseph had two dreams (Lines 37:55 & 37:9). Both of the dreams are revealed to his family - the first one only to his brothers, who now "hate him even more" (37:8, the hatred was originally inspired by Jacob's favoritism) due the dream's content, and the second to Jacob and his brothers, which results in a scolding from Jacob and feelings of jealousy from his brothers. Joseph surely knew that revealing these dreams could only further strain his relationship with his brothers, and yet he still did. Why?

The commentators offer a few reasons ... Here are a few from The Stone Edition Torah:

- He was still young (17) and not aware/mature enough to understand that his actions would inflame them (Sforno)
- He hoped his brothers would realize his fate was Divinely decreed and would stop disliking him (Chizkuni)
- He hoped his brothers would realize he was destined to play a pivotal role in their futures and would realize that hating him was unwise (Or HaChaim)
- He understood his dreams were prophecies, and a prophet is forbidden to conceal what he must reveal to others (Vilna Gaon)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Another Hateful Elitist

Two days ago, I spent some time talking with one of my wife's friends. Her father's family had moved to Israel from Iraq, and on arrival, were 'gassed' because of the diseases they may have had. What would follow for her family, and far too many of the approximately one million immigrants from the Arab world, was disgraceful - and it would continue the established precedent of how us Israelis would treat our own, be it Mizrachim or Russians or Haredim (Ultra Orthodox Jews) or 'Settlers'.

Now why am I bothering with this introduction? This morning while eating breakfast, I read Yossi Sarid's latest hateful article in Ha'aretz, "I have no brother." What infuriated me about the article was not that Sarid listed some disgraceful instances (though there are two that need further information for the reader, but that information is not giving for obvious reasons) of Settler behavior, but that he proceeded to generalize them all in his wrap up, "If settlers are our brothers, I have no brother. " All settlers Yossi? All of them commit these acts that you rightly abhor and believe that it's ok? Surely a man of your intelligence is better than that ... Who am I kidding, right?

It's Yossi's kind of attitude that has ripped our country apart time after time, from before the country's birth to the present. The sad and ironic thing is it's been hateful, elitist hypocrites like Sarid from day one who have caused these unnecessary 'brotherly confrontations'. It started essentially with the Season, where Jewish fighters were betrayed to the British by their 'brothers', the Haganah. It would continue during the 1948 Independence Day War, where Ben Gurion ordered the Altalena to be destroyed as she was on Tel Aviv's shoreline. 25 Jews died that day, and as some Holocaust survivors swam to the shore from the burning ship, grenades were thrown on them under one Yitzchak Rabin's watch, "If the Irgun are our brothers, I have no brother." It continued in the 1950s with the disgraceful treatment of Mizrachi Jewry. From gas showers to the ma'abarot to non-stop discrimination, their struggle to become a vital part of Israeli society was a long and arduous one. But I guess, "If the Mizrachim are our brothers, I have no brother," right Yossi? I mean all these crimes were committed by people who thought along your lines. The examples sadly go on and on.

Sarid raises some disturbing points in his article - but the fact is they highlight the acts of the minority. That he can generalize the whole settler community, much like that Shalom Achshav motto - "A Settler is not my Brother," is disgraceful. Would he be ok if all Jews were generalized, like he has just done with the Settlers, based on the actions of a few? Nope, he would probably call it Anti-Semitism ... The sad thing is that we are a fractured society, one where statements like Sarid's, are far too common. "All Haredim ..." (because of the minority which burns trash cans, or throws stones on Shabbat, or bothers the non-religious because they want to park their cars in Mamila), or "All left wingers ..." (because of comments such as Yossi's, or the growing rates of them who refuse to serve in combat units, or those that go abroad to slam Israel), or "All right wingers ..." (because of classless posters showing Obama as a Nazi, or because some shout slogans like 'Death to Arabs', or because of physical abuse of Arabs) are hateful, stupid and do nothing but harm the fragile 'internal peace' of Israel. Reading Sarid's hate filled rhetoric reminds me of what Anwar Sadat said after signing the peace treaty with Israel, "How do you destroy Israel? Leave them in peace for 25 years and they'll take care of it themselves" ...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Ariel Sharon's Dream

On Tuesday morning's 8-9 AM show on IDF radio with Niv Raskin, the personal secretary of 6 Israeli prime ministers was interviewed. She is now retired, and she served for 25 years as personal secretary for PMs Shamir, Rabin, Netanyahu, Peres, Barak, and Sharon.

She was asked all sorts of questions, but the most interesting one was, "What was the most intimate story shared with you by one of the Prime Ministers?"

Without missing a beat, she immediately answered, "Ariel Sharon's dream."

The interviewer asked for more details, and she stated as follows:

"Two days before the Disengagement, Sharon had a dream.

He was next to a deep well, hanging over it by a rope.

Hanging over it, dangling.

And then the rope snapped.

And then he woke up.

He was very disturbed by the dream, and it bothered him alot"

Credit to Muqata

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rabbi Hirsch on the Mother's Grief

I really liked this insight by Rabbi Hirsch, taken from Twerksi's Positive Parenting:

Commenting on the verse in Proverbs, "A wise son gladdens a father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother" (10:1), Rabbi Hirsch states:

It is interesting that joy from a successful son is foretold here to the father, while sorrow from an unsuccessful son is linked with the mother. We believe this may be based on the following consideration: No matter how much a father does for his child, it cannot be compared to the sacrifices and privations of a mother. For her, months and years of suffering and renunciation set in from the very beginning of the child's existence. By the time the father directs his personal attention to the child's development, the mother has already devoted years of constant care to his physical, spiritual, and moral growth. It follows that if the child turns out to be well-brought up, and the parents are fortunate enough to find joy in a wise and successful son, the father has won a big prize - in return for a comparatively low stake. If, on the other hand, the child becomes an inept, foolish person, then who can fathom the grief of his mother? She is forced to admit that she has wasted years of anxious days and sleepless nights, that she has spent the best part of her physical strength and mental energy, and all of this for what result? - a foolish son.

Rabbi Hirsch continues with a quote from Proverbs, "What, my son? And what, son of my womb? And what, son of my vows?" (31:2)

Thus begins a mother's admonition to her son, the king. A true mother has been preparing her thoughts fro the spiritual future of her child while he was yet in her womb; her solemn vows accompany his entrance into the world. He is the son of her womb and the son of her vows. A mother's thoughts and emotions during the time that she bears and suckles her child are not without effect. The saying "to imbibe something with one's mother's milk" is no empty phrase. That is the time when the seed is planted for the child's qualities of character, for gentleness or violence, for modesty or sensuality, for a conduct of nobility or vulgarity. This seed is planted within her child by his mother's thoughts while he is still physically connected with her. After that it is his mother's example which shows his awakening soul the ideas that he should follow - truth, decency, purity, or their opposites! Showing her child the right way takes intelligence and firm resolve on the part of a mother, for the success of his future behavior depends on her teaching him the first requirement: to control his own will.

The father's teachings are of great importance, but just as the value of a finished product made by the finest craftsmen depends on the material he was given to work with - gold, silver, tin - the child produced by the father's education cannot be better than the substance provided by the mother; i.e., the basic traits of love, trust, consideration, reverence, and patience.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Musings After a Visit to Yad Vashem

I haven't been to the Yad Vashem (Holocaust memorial) museum in Jerusalem since I went as a soldier in February 2004.

I tend to stay away from Holocaust films, unless they're movies with plots like those of Defiance or Escape from Sobibor.

I don't know if my attitude is that of the minority or majority of Jewry today.

I know what happened during the Holocaust - and have been haunted by it since I stepped foot in Dachau as a 10 year old. I still will read books about survivors, or when possible, listen to them speak in person

... But I'm tired. I'm tired of the pain and anger I feel when I 'see' that reality. A reality where the world turned its back on the Jews - be it the Yanks, the Brits, the Catholic Church, or humanity bar the 'The Righteous Among The Nations' - and left us at the mercy of the Nazi war machine. The reality I live in is so different obviously - and that's why I struggle with that reality so much.

Which brings me to today. I went with my wife, parents and nonna (Italian for grandmother) to Yad Vashem. It was extremely difficult - as always. I gritted my teeth and held back tears most of the time. My people. My nation. My brothers. My sisters. Annihilated for being Jews. Tertiated.

I burst out in tears in one of the last exhibits - that displaying the many stories of the aforementioned 'Righteous Among The Nations' (for these stories - see here) - when I read the following quote (paraphrased as I didn't write it down), "I know that when I stand in front of God I won't be asked like Cain why I remained silent when my brother's blood was screaming from the ground." In one of the darkest periods in human history, there were flashes of light. Light that saved thousands of human beings who's only crime was being Jewish.

After leaving Yad Vashem with the expected mixed emotions of sadness and anger, I thought to myself how lucky we are to have Israel. We can rely on ourselves ... not on the hope that other nations will protect us.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Was Clinton smoking ... again?

Who said this:

We view the permanent solution in the framework of [the] State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev -- as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.

B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.

C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the "Green Line," prior to the Six Day War.

D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif

Here's a hint, it's the man Clinton referred to when he said that "within three years we would have had a comprehensive agreement for peace in the Middle East" had he still be alive.

Still struggling?


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Home is where the Happiness is

The following is a story from Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski's book, Positive Parenting:

In Cracow, there stands a synagogue known as 'The Synagogue of Itzik the son of Reb Yekale.' The story goes that Itzki was a peasant who had a recurring dream. Again and again he dreamed that under a particular bridge in Prague there lay buried a huge treasure, which would belong to anyone who unearthed it. At first Itzik dismissed the dream as absurdity, but after numerous repetitions he began to take it more seriously. Yet the whole thing was so preposterous. How could Itzik, who did not have two copper coins to rub together, get to Prague? But the obsession gave him no rest, and although his wife told him to get the crazy idea out of his head, he decided once and for all that he must go to Prague and find the treasure. So, one day, he took some meager provisions and set out for Prague.

When Itzik was fortunate enough to hitch a ride on a passing wagon, he rode. Otherwise, he hiked.

After many weeks, Itzik arrived at Prague, and sought out the bridge he had envisioned in his dream. But alas, there were always police patrolling the area, and there was no way he could begin to dig.

Day after Day, he loitered around the bridge, hoping that perhaps there would be a break in the patrol, and he would be able to dig for the treasure. Finally one of the police patrols approached him. "Why are you constantly loitering around this area day after day?" the policeman asked. "What is it that you want here?"

Itzik saw no other way than to simply tell the truth. He related his dream to the policeman, and also the weeks of travail until he came to Prague from his humble village near Cracow.

The policeman howled with laughter. "You fool!" he said. "And because of a silly dream, too. I have been dreaming that in a tiny village near Cracow, there is a little hut that belongs to a peasant named Itzik the son of Reb Yekale, and that under the floor of that hut there lays buried an immense treasure."

The story goes that Itzik immediately returned home from Prague, and upon digging up the earthen floor of his hut, discovered an immense treasure. The Synagogue of Itzik the son of Reb Yekale's was built with part of this fortune.

Many people look for wealth elsewhere. They search for wealth of all kings, but especially for the greatest wealth of all: happiness. They think that it is to be found elsewhere, and they expend enormous energies to search it out. Little do they know that the happiness they seek lies right within themselves. No need to travel long distances or to work in foreign territories. It is there at one's fingertips, right within one's self. One only has to believe this and to look within.


An interesting quiz from CiF Watch, Comment is Free or Stormfront?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

... and on the Bus, Part III

The bus was packed today. There was little room to stand and every stop resulted in people being pushed slightly to the side so that passengers could get on and off the bus. On one stop, one old man made his way through and as he exited the bus, a religious 30 year old looking man shouted him, "Are you an idiot? Don't push me." I looked at him in disbelief - was he honestly calling the white haired man an idiot for trying to get off the bus? The ~30 year old man proceeded to explain his reasoning in a cellphone conversation, "The man waited till the last second to get up [knowing how buses stop here in Israel, can you honestly blame him?], and then pushed by me and almost made me drop my phone." Yes, that is definitely a reason to call an old man a tembel. I think one can tell the path society is taking by how it treats its elders ... It's a sad testament not only for Israeli society, but for society in general, how today's elders are afforded less and less respect ...


October was an interesting month. Talya & Nissim spent 10 days abroad in Geneva & Paris. It was the first time I was 'home alone' since I got married. I found myself saddened by the empty house I returned to every day, and found myself appreciating my wife even more considering the fact she annually has to deal with 30+ days while I'm miluim (Reserve Duty).

Ironically enough, within a few days after my wife & kid returned, I was off to London for business - my first trip there in two years. It was great to see old faces, and meet new ones, but the highlight of the trip was watching Liverpool play Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. I've been a Liverpool fan since the mid '80s and I've always wanted to see them live. The last opportunity I had was unfortunately canceled by the Lebanon War, but this time I didn't miss out on the game. Though we lost 2-1 (despite a cracking goal from Emiliano Insua), it was just an amazing experience and I really look forward to getting to the Holy Grail of footy stadiums (at least for a Liverpool fan!), Anfield, in the next few years.


An interesting piece from Der Spiegel about Israel's operation to destroy a Syrian nuclear site.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gold ... Stoned

The moment that the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council decided to push a report about the Gaza war, I expected what Israelis have come to expect from any UN deliberation on Israel. Bias? You bet. False allegations? You bet. Barely a few pages on the 'other side'? You bet. I was just rather disappointed that the man leading the charade was Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew. The report has been out for a while now, and while I've read bits of it, I decided to wait before I posted anything on it. So here are my thoughts (& I won't go into any inaccuracies I've found within the report itself):

1) The moment the war ended, I thought Israel made a serious mistake by not conducting her OWN investigation of the Gaza war. Mistakes were obviously made, and we needed an internal investigation into the matter to ensure that our army did fight in an ethical a way as possible. Where we didn't, we could push changes within the IDF to ensure the mistakes were not repeated. By waiting, and then allowing the UN to get their own report done without any interaction from us, we've forced ourselves into a corner where instead of improving the army's rules of engagement, we're stuck defending allegations, many of which are hyped up.

2) While Goldstone was in Gaza, I wondered if there was any pressure applied to the mission by Hamas. Well, Goldstone admits there were always around him in Ma'an on September 6th, "There were also problems in collecting information in Gaza, he said, explaining that Hamas-allied security forces accompanied his 15-member team during their five-day working visit to Gaza last week, potentially inhibiting the ability of witnesses to speak freely, according to AP." A few days later however, he decided to change his tune, "'Hamas didn't follow us at all,' much less 'at every stage" of the visit.'" Surely he knows what really happened. Why two different stories?

3) I think Yaacov Lozowick makes an excellent point in his blog, "The moment they allowed themselves to make statements about Israel's intentions, as against Israel's actions, they demonstrated their biases and intellectual shoddiness." How can Goldstone, or any member of that team, write about Israel's intentions without a single testimony from an Israeli?

4) I think Goldstone, himself, has woken up to what a biased report he's written. In a few moments of honesty to the Forward, Goldstone admits to many issues with the report, "We had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven." Alan Dershowitz has written an interesting piece about Goldstone seemingly backing away from the report.

5) I think the UN endorsement of this report will sadly bury any potential peace process opportunities for the next year (or perhaps longer).

6) Does anyone else wonder why a UN commission of inquiry is not being set up investigate war crimes by NATO nations fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Cherubim

"And having driven out the man, He stationed at the east of the Garden of Eden the Cherubim and the flame of the ever-turning sword, to guard the way of the Tree of Life"
Genesis 3:24

This is the first time in the Torah that the term 'Cherubim' is mentioned. Here they mean destructive angels, whose job is to prevent man from re-entering the garden.

However, when mentioned later in the Torah, the definition of the same term switches to sacred, angel-like children.

Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky makes an interesting analysis based on the above, "Here they are destructive, and there they represent the life-giving powers of the Torah. This alludes to the paramount importance of education. Children can become holy or destructive, depending on how they are reared."


An interesting piece in the Jerusalem Post about Isabelle Fhima

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm anti-UN, anyone else interested? :)

I just received this e-mail and I am not interested in this. So if anyone else is, just follow the steps*.

You have been choosen by the U.N Foundation to receive a Grant Donation of €850,000.00 EUR (Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand Euro). Your Qualification Numbers are G-999-747 and UZ-900-77.

Contact Robin Steven ( with name, address and country for claim.

* I hope none of my loyal fan base takes this e-mail seriously

Monday, September 28, 2009

Binyamin and the Temple

The sages ask why the Temple was built on Binyamin's land allotment.

Sifre explains that this was for 3 reasons*:

(1) He was the only brother who was born in the Holy Land
(2) He had no part in the sin of selling Joseph
(3) He had the zecut (privilege) of comforting Jacob in his old age

R' Hirsch sums it up nicely, Benyamin was "the one whose remembrance, entirely free from the slightest breath of any opposing thought, corresponded to the virtues that the site of the Temple was dedicated to foster."

* Another reason not mentioned by Sifre is that Benyamin never bowed to Esau (He wasn't born yet).

Post Yom Kippur Thoughts

There's a lot you can learn from watching the elderly at Shul (Synagogue). I watched an old man walk in today. The distance he covered in 5 minutes, I normally cover in 10 seconds. Nissim, my neighbor during the day said, "He's 95, or closing in on 100." As the man reached his chair, another man got up and helped him get his talit (prayer shawl) on. This man's age? "He's past 70, a great grandfather already." As the Musaf service ended, another man got up and took the 95 year old's talit off, folded it away, and put it in its bag. This youngster just "turned 80 the past year". In this day and age, it's nice to see people display such fantastic manners in 'respecting the elderly' - I just wish I could say I see it often amongst people my age, or younger than me ...


Just before El Nora Alila, Nissim leaned over and told me, "I still get chills when I think of how we sang this back in '73." By the time Israelis were singing this song in 1973, most men under the age of 45 had already left their synagogues and made their way towards their bases, or the fronts, due to the Yom Kippur war.


After the fast finished, we went home to have a bite. The same food recipe - roskas, feta, tomatoes, olive oil & za'atar - and of course, pepitada. This year, I thought I prepared the drink perfectly and thoroughly enjoyed. What made me happier, or gave me great nachas as the Ashkenazim say, was how much Nissim enjoyed it!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thoughts for Rosh Ha'Shanna

I thought I'd share an interesting story from Rav Abraham Twerski's The Enemy Within:

One Succot there was a dearth of etrogim, and there was only one etrog in the entire community. Everyone said the berachah for the etrog, and when the Hallel was recited, the etrog and lulav were given to the Chafetz Chaim that he might perform the traditional waving of the four species. The Chafetz Chaim refused to accept them, since it might arouse envy and resentment among other scholars. "Waving the four species is only a custom. Having envy and resentment is a much more serious Scriptural transgression," (Atareh LaMelech p.123).

The underlying message of the story is strong, and rather necessary in Israel today ... and on that note, I wish everyone:

A peaceful & happy New Year, one filled with health and good blessing.

שנה טובה ומתוקה ... שתזכה לשנים רבות עם הרבה בריאות וברכות טובות

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Life through their Eyes

With the rise of the BNP, more and more people are becoming aware of how Islamophobia is growing at a startling pace in England. I think it's critical that one is aware of others' difficulties and problems, especially if he suffers from the similar difficulties under a different 'mask'. So, I asked 6 friends - all British Muslims between the ages of 18-35 - about what they've faced as Muslims in England, their home, and what kind of future they see.

Opinion 1:

The state of Muslims in the UK is one that constantly under scrutiny. The rise of the BNP in recent elections was an eye-opener to many. A damning indication of people losing patience it would appear.

The reality is most Muslims in the UK just want a quiet life, one where they are able to enjoy simple aspects and privileges afforded by being a British citizen whilst practicing their religion. Most of us don't want special allowances to be made for us, we aren't offended by Nativity plays, flags of different nations, Christmas or any other aspect of 'British life' (whatever that is). But unfortunately there's always someone somewhere who sees themselves as being fit to speak on behalf of Muslims as a whole, this voice seems often to be one of demand and anger; that's the voice that Joe Public always seems to hear, after all one loud shout is always louder than a thousand whispers of condemnation. The British public sees the Muslims as 'Other', people who want to dress in a 'foreign' manner, who want to change laws and age old traditions to accommodate them. Who can then blame them for wanting Muslims out of 'their' country?

For Muslims like myself, our own shortcomings as a community are far more disappointing than the ignorance of the average member of the British public who isn't able or willing to look past the headline. Why is it that we seem to constantly fuel the animosity towards ourselves? Instead of displaying the humbleness and wisdom that we as Muslims *should* have? Instead we have ill-informed Muslims looking to fight wars that simply aren't there.

Where it will all end, I don't know. The policies of the BNP should be a sobering reminder of how good we all have it here in the UK, the rights that *every* UK citizen is equally afforded shouldn't be taken for granted. If only I knew how to get this message across to my Muslim brothers and sisters in the UK.

Opinion 2:

So the pseudo-liberalism of europe has been exposed. Leopold Weiss said this of Europe and it's relationship with other races/creeds/religions mainly Islam.

“The traumatic experience of the Crusades gave Europe its cultural awareness and its unity; but this same experience was destined henceforth also to provide the false color in which Islam was to appear to Western eyes. Not simply because the Crusades meant war and bloodshed. So many wars have been waged between nations and subsequently forgotten, and so many animosities which in their time seemed ineradicable have later turned into friendships. The damage caused by the Crusades was not restricted to a clash of weapons: it was, first and foremost, an intellectual damage – the poisoning of the Western mind against the Muslim world through a deliberate misrepresentation of the teachings and ideals of Islam. For, if the call for a crusade was to maintain its validity, the Prophet of the Muslims had, of necessity, to be stamped as the Anti-Christ and his religion depicted in the most lurid terms as a fount of immorality and perversion. It was at the time of the Crusades that the ludicrous notion that Islam was a religion of crude sensualism and brutal violence, of an observance of ritual instead of a purification of the heart, entered the Western mind and remained there; and it was then that the name of the Prophet Muhammad – the same Muhammad who had insisted that his own followers respect the prophets of other religions – was contemptuously transformed by Europeans into ‘Mahound.’ The age when the spirit of independent inquiry could raise its head was as yet far distant in Europe; it was easy for the powers-that-were to sow the dark seeds of hatred for a religion and civilization that was so different from the religion and civilization of the West. Thus it was no accident that the fiery Chanson de Roland, which describes the legendary victory of Christendom over the Muslim ‘heathen’ in southern France, was composed not at the time of those battles but three centuries later – to wit, shortly before the First Crusade – immediately to become a kind of ‘national anthem’ of Europe; and it is no accident, either, that this warlike epic marks the beginning of a European literature, as distinct from the earlier, localized literatures: for hostility toward Islam stood over the cradle of European civilization.

“It would seem an irony of history that the age-old Western resentment against Islam, which was religious in origin, should still persist subconsciously at a time when religion has lost most of its hold on the imagination of Western man. This, however, is not really surprising. We know that a person may completely lose the religious beliefs imparted to him in his childhood while, nevertheless, some particular emotion connected with those beliefs remains, irrationally, in force throughout his later life –

“‘ – and this,’ I concluded, ‘is precisely what happened to that collective personality, Western civilization. The shadow of the Crusades hovers over the West to this day; and all its reactions toward Islam and the Muslim world bear distinct traces of that die-hard ghost…

Pre-buscent Europe is up in arms again. When we march against the BNP and EDL(English defence league) outside Harrow mosque, you (the reader reading this) will think one of two things:
1. Go on boy!
2. You deserved to be protested against, Islam is a religion of hate and you haven't exactly done yourself any favours.

I say this to the people who say the latter. It seems to me as person from the inside of religion that is constantly maligned as much mine, that nobody cares to listen. There is a stigma a editorial of sorts that has to be sung from the same hymn sheet.

We protest against extremism and terror. Oh yes we do, and in large numbers. We publicise it and not one media outlet wants to cover it. Yet, when one of our mouth frothing crazy Muslims decides to say death to UK soldiers in Luton (okay there were 10 of em!), the whole world and their cameras are there to show how Muslims are a bunch backward cousin marrying untidy beardy peoples.

When we protest outside Harrow mosque against the right wing BNP, we won't stand by idly if they attack us - we won't hold back like ghandi, we will attack.

We will attack because we came to Europe because our Muslim countries are corrupt, autocratic and oppressives regimes. We came to Europe because after the Holocaust we thought Europe had a higher moral authority, we thought Europe wouldn't allow this to happen again.

Sadly it has. We are in tough place where we fight our own (the terrorists) and we fight the surrogate homeland (Europe). Whose side do we take?

Opinion 3:

Unfortunately (or fortunately) to be honest, I haven't come across much (apart from some comments by people at work) ... probably because people don't realise at once that I'm Muslim so they don't react in a completely hateful way. There'll always be anti-religious sentiment that follows us all everywhere but that hasn't increased in my personal life. The main thing that has changed is the way press portrays Muslims, ie. anything bad done by a Muslim will be portrayed as due to them being Muslim regardless of the fact that other non-Muslims have done the same act. Its the same as people relating suicide bombing to Muslims ignoring that this act was and is also carried out by Tamils in Asia. Now its all blamed on Islam. People forget that Islam forbids suicide in any form and also forbids the killing of unarmed people and innocents.

Opinion 4:

English society in general is slowly moving forward into a multi cultural future. I personally feel that if children are educated in other cultures and religions it would help them understand and integrate with people from different walks of life. My main issue is with ignorant people with a complete lack of understanding or willing to accept or adapt to welcome other cultures, this ignorance is my main worry going forward. I personally feel that if people are unwilling to accept other cultures we will never achieve a harmonious multi cultural society in England. The rise of the BNP is something very worrying and again shows an ignorant side to some members of society, I feel that if these are the kind of people we wish to put in power then it reflects alot on the intelligence of society. I personally don't feel the BNP will ever get much further than where they are but people didn't think they would get this far and they have so it is something i'm intrigued to see going forward. From a British Muslim point of view I don't feel that British Muslims do enough to integrate with society, they don't try to fit in and understand other cultures as well as explaining their culture to others, this here is a stumbling block to achieve harmony. I personally have never suffered any hatred but the fact that i'm different to other people has caused me issues. I personally think times will evolve and it will improve given time. I feel a bit of understanding and willing from all parties will help England going forward.

Opinion 5:

Islam is the second largest religion in the UK, it does however fall way behind in terms of numbers to the number of Christians. There are currently about 2.4 million Muslims living in the UK making up just 3% of the population. It’s amazing then how much press this small minority receive. Some good, but much of it negative.

As I write I am reminded today is the 11th of September a fateful day not just in American history but world history. The attack on the Towers were, according to the official version of the story, done in the name of Islam. This lead to a fear and resentment to those who associate themselves with the faith. Muslims around the world were feeling the strain and tension especially here in Britain.

The main accusations thrown at Muslims by most people after 9/11 and also 7/7 was they didn’t come out and condemn the actions, they didn’t come out and join allegiance with the west, that their apparent lack of voice regarding this somehow lead to them colluding with the actions of the terrorists. This was and is the main accusation as most people rightfully understood Islam is not a religion of terrorism, but people needed to vent frustrations and anger and so ‘moderate’ Muslims were asked to answer some telling questions.

I mentioned 9/11, 7/7 and the questioning of ‘moderate’ Muslims as they are the spark that lit the Islamophobic fire in the UK, and other parts of the western world. The aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7 lead to a number of attacks on Muslims and Muslims places of worships. An Afghan Taxi driver was left paralysed and there were countless reports of women who had their hijabs ripped of, some of these stories and also the story regarding the death of a Muslim man kicked to death by a groups of white youths while shouting ‘Taliban, Taliban’ did not reach the nation press. These incidents tend to be classed as ‘racist’ by the police rather than ‘Islamophobic’ and so tend to go unreported, this means the figures for ‘Islamophobic’ incidents are not accurate when presented to the public.

The point here being the press do and will report what they wish, the number of deaths and incidents of Islamophobic activity are not reported, and the number of Muslim voices who condemn terrorism and other barbaric acts done in the name of Islam are not given the time they deserve. There are voices in the mosques and among the Muslim communities, of British Muslims who condemn such actions but the voices that receive the news lines are those of the likes of hardliners from organisations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, or the random Muslims who shout and scream at MP’s.

Researchers in Warwick University have been noticing a changing trend regarding how Muslims are portrayed in the UK. They report that headlines in the red top newspapers have moved away from calling Islam a religion of terror and death, but have now moved towards claiming Muslims are unable to live in the UK, and being Muslim and British are two things that do not go hand in hand.

This changing trend and claims that Muslims wish to have Shariah Law in the UK for all citizens, and the apparent Islamification of Britain has given ammunition to the likes of the BNP. The BNP have used these claims to justify their policies and gain large numbers of votes and a seat in Europe.

More recently in UK is the emergence of the English Defense League, a group set up to highlight the apparent Islamification of the country, in reality it is a group of football hooligans and racists. The planned protests and marches have brought out counter protests and marches and have lead to a number of arrests from both sides.
This reminds me again of 2001, but this time the summer of 2001 where there were running battles in Burnley, Bradford and Oldham between mainly Asian youths and Far Right groups. The reality being as journalist reported it is a group of young men excited for a fight.

Most people don’t know or understand very little about Islam, those who are racist and preach Islamophobic violence would preach anti-Semitism, or racism against Blacks and Asians. Those who are against such groups then hit back, not with wisdom and words but with fists and feet, the vicious circle continues and leads to a deep dislike of the ‘other’ groups involved.

The majority of Muslims in Britain like the country we live in, like the freedom and opportunities afforded to us in the west, like the sense of belonging we have in the country. The majority of us will seek counsel and guidance of matters relating to Shariah Law when we require from Imams and scholars but do not believe Shariah law should be implemented on all the citizens of the UK.

The majority of British Muslims speak out against terrorism whether is it done in the name of Islam or otherwise and will continue to do so.

Opinion 6:

At the time of the terrorist attacks I really didn’t think much would change until I boarded an over-ground train with a back pack, when a man who was just about to step onto the train took one look at me and stepped back off. Since then I’ve noticed an ever growing wave of fear, anger and ultimately hate toward my people expressed in protests and throughout the media. It’s impossible not to want to explain one’s beliefs when writing such text, however it is simple to highlight that there is such a huge level of ignorance in government and of those who claim to be learned people when talking of Islamic beliefs on TV, radio and online. I fear that this will stem into protests towards the existence of mosques within society in the coming years, and ultimately can see some right wing groups aiming to drive Muslims out of small towns and cities. I pray that this doesn’t happen but for many it is hard not to associate the word terrorism from Islam. Due to the fact that terrorists try to justify their actions by the words of Allah it isn’t hard to see why these associations are made. However, what is shown to the masses hardly ever distances these actions from the true principles of Islam, again stemming from the limited knowledge of Islam shown by reporters. As a Muslim, I can’t help but feel that I could be in danger if I cross the path of the wrong person, simply based on my name or my looks and I believe the only way to correct such a growing polarisation between Muslims and non Muslims is to show non Muslims more signs of Muslims being kind, gentle people since at present they only see a negative image of us pretty much everywhere.

The World Cup dream is over ... again.

Israel's 1-0 defeat at the hands of Latvia on Saturday night left me bitterly disappointed as the team had now been assured of not participating in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. What left me so disappointed was that we had been given a relatively easy group and the players at manager Dror Kashtan's disposal were good enough to take Israel to their first World Cup since 1970. Ok, we failed ... badly ... but I'd like to focus on how Israel can make a better run at the next international tournament, Euro 2012. Instead of focusing on how Israel can become a better footballing nation long term (better infrastructure, emphasis on fitness etc), I'll look at the things Israel can change now to allow herself to become a far more capable team.

Manager - I don't like Dror Kashtan. His defensive tactics, unlike Avraham Grant's, failed to get results against the 'Big Boys' (0-2-1 against Switzerland & Greece so far) or even the 'Minnows' (0-1-1 against Latvia). Saturday night highlighted his deficiencies - In a game Kashtan had to win, he started with two defensive midfielders (Gal Alberman & Biram Kayal) and a striker who has been on the bench the whole year in the Belgian league (Omer Golan). I think the next manager has to be Eyal Berkovic. I know, he has no experience on this level (neither did Van Basten, Klinsmann or Bilic) but he's innovative, respected by his peers and understands football. He also very much believes in giving in-form youngsters a chance - something Kashtan failed to do with the likes of Eliran Atar and Mohamed Gadir. If the results don't improve, at least the product on the pitch will!

Goalkeepers - Despite both being prone to mental lapses, Dudu Awate & Nir Davidovitch are both very capable keepers. Kashtan made no mistakes with picking these two. They will probably be the first & second choice keepers for the next 3-5 years. Hopefully by then, we'll have a replacement ready.

Defenders - The backline is solid. Both Tal Ben Haim and Avi Strool are capable central defenders, with experience in Euorpe. They've been very effective when playing together. The right back position essentially belongs to Eyal Meshumar. He's a capable, efficient player who so far has done little wrong with the opportunities he's been afforded. The left back slot belongs to Dedi Ben-Dayan, the Israeli John Arne Riise. Much like Meshumar, he's not a bad defender - and even chips in with a few goals.

Midfielders - The first name on the teamsheet belongs to Yossi Benayoun. Although he's had a very average campaign by his standards, he's still Israel's best player. What Israel must strive for is to ensure he's not the only creative option relied upon. Future squads must include players like Mohammed Gadir (Haifa's 17 year old RW), Eyal Golassa (Haifa's 18 year old attacking CM) & Guy Assulin (Barcelona's 18 year old midfield starlet) on the bench, or even getting significant minutes in friendlies. The team must start giving these kids a chance - there's a reason they're holding their own against European competition. I would also continue with 2 defensive midfielders (but a different formation ... see below), and the two best currently available are Gal Alberman & Biram Kayal. I would give the right wing slot to Beitar's Aviram Bruchian. The 24 year old is one of the most talented players in Israel and I believe he can perform at this level.

Strikers - Elyaniv Barda has become one of the best strikers in Belgium - he deserves to be a starter. He should be partnered by Ben Sahar, the ex-Chelsea striker who now plays for Espanyol. These two give Israel the best chance to see goals from the front two. The one to watch however is Eliran Atar, Bnei Yehuda's 23 year old gem. If he can stay focused on football, and continue to improve, he has a chance to be one of the best strikers Israel's has ever produced.

The team I would play in the next competitive fixture is below:


--Meshumar-------Ben Haim---------Strool---------Ben Dayan--




GK: Davidovitch
Def: Dekel Keinan
Def: Yoav Ziv
Mid: Tamir Cohen
Mid: Yaniv Katan
ST: Mohammed Gadir / Eyal Golassa / Guy Assulin
ST: Eliran Atar

Monday, September 07, 2009

Arik on Jewishness II

Here's my latest for the Sephardic Hebrew Congregation of Cape Town's monthly publication, Kaminando y Avlando:


This past week I finished reading Warrior, the autobiography of Ariel ‘Arik’ Sharon, one of Israel’s most controversial military and political figures. For those who read the book, there’s no doubting the man’s dedication to and love for his country, but it was the following three-paragraph excerpt that really stood out to me (bold formatting by me):

“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 means 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.”

Never have truer words been spoken by the man. Sharon realized that due to Israel’s remarkable escape act in 1948 and the general positive media surrounding the country, Israelis came to be differentiated from Jews. The Jews were a weak, struggling people who were easily pushed around and exterminated throughout Europe and the Arab world. These Israelis on the other hand were a tough people, fighting for their ideals and surviving against all odds. What separated them? In Sharon’s eyes … Nothing. Unfortunately, the Israel of today is very much struggling with the ‘divide’ Sharon describes – Jew v. Israeli.

Israel’s creation took away our identity as a minority, as a victim of persecution with no homeland. Combine that new reality with the necessity to ‘erase’ the weakness of the ‘Old Jew’ in order to survive, we Israelis became ‘normal,’ or ‘Hebrew-Speaking Goyim’ as the famous phrase goes. I am not saying, G-d forbid, that secular Israelis are goyim, or don’t have a strong Jewish identity – but the successful formation (and survival) of Israel had the unintended effect of making us a normal people, one whose identity wasn’t defined by our Jewishness. We could violate the laws of Shabbat or Kashrut and be in the complete majority, ah, yes – we’re normal. Ironically, that’s exactly why we viewed the non Jews’ normalcy in such a positive light – without the persecution, outsider status and religion, we Jews are just like any other human being in France, or South Africa, or Brazil, or Japan.

The ideology of secular Zionism, the dominant stream of Zionism, unintentionally pushed a reality which deprived Israel’s citizens a chance to strengthen their Jewishness, and develop their identity through it. Sadly, a purely secular Jew in Israel today struggles to identify as a ‘Jew’ because his ‘Jewishness’ has, as Arik mentioned already in the 1960s, been lost. A good friend of mine recently mentioned a conference he attended years ago where Eshkol Nevo and Jonathan Safran Foer were two of the panelists. Both secular Jewish novelists were asked what is Jewish about their writing. Foer, the New Yorker, explained that his books are largely about loss – and the ramifications of it – which is a distinctly Jewish experience. His books have largely focused on the Holocaust and the Jewish experience in Europe before the war. Nevo, the Israeli, struggled to answer the question and eventually answered that what is Jewish about his books is that they’re written in Hebrew. And that, in essence, is the problem we’re facing today.

Perhaps we, as well as our brothers and sisters throughout the world, should learn from Sharon’s harsh assessment in the last quoted paragraph: We must understand that our identity and connection to the land only comes from our Jewishness. Let us not forget that, as the last sentence says so eloquently, we are Jews above everything else – and that's what should unite and guide us through good and bad times not only here in Israel, but anywhere.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Myth Busters I

During August's reserve stint, two soldiers and I were talking about our frustration with successive Israeli governments and their handling of kidnapped or injured soldiers. As we were around the Nablus area, the October 2000 incident at Joseph's Tomb came up. During fierce fighting after an attack on the Border Police contingent at Jopseh's Tomb, a few soldiers sustained injuries. With Palestinian security forces preventing any 'non-forceful' Israeli incursion (As per Oslo Accords), Ehud Barak wavered. No rescue mission was sent in order to avoid further escalation and civilian casaulties. Five hours later, Madhat Yusuf died due to heavy blood loss - He was the only soldier to die defending Joseph's Tomb that day.

The Myth:

"If it was a Jewish soldier and not Madhat Yusuf, a Druze soldier, bleeding to death in Joseph's Tomb in 2000, the Israeli Army would have sent in troops to rescue him"

The Truth:

The myth above is what Walid, a Druze from the same village as Yusuf, claimed was the reason our forces didn't enter Joseph's Tomb for the necessary rescue mission. To be honest, it's something that always crossed my mind - did the fact that Yusuf was Druze play any part in our government's decision?

Eyal, the third participant in this conversation, quickly interjected as we discussed this myth, "That's just not true. I was with the Border Police then and I remember watching it while on base. Yusuf was not the only person injured there. There were two other soldiers who were in a bad way." Walid looked on as Eyal continued, "The boys in the Border Police units who were waiting to enter the Tomb and rescue the soldiers couldn't care less what religion the injured were. They just wanted to rescue their friends. The government just wasted time, and in the end, made a pathetic, disgraceful and disastrous decision."

Fact is, Eyal was right. Yusuf is the only soldier one 'knows' from this event because he was tragically the only one to die. The other soldiers injured in the fire fights with Palestinian security forces that day are seemingly not mentioned because they luckily survived. Yusuf's death was a tragedy that should have been prevented - but it was more due to an inept and cowardly government, than a racist one.

Madhat Yusuf, may his memory be blessed

The Key to Life

Kual este el riko? El ke se alegra kon su parte ...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Checking the Point

Ah, an IDF checkpoint. This is the only chance many of us get to interact with our neighbors, the Palestinians. For all the news we hear about life at the checkpoints, no one really stresses the fact that no soldier is taught the 'proper way' to act with the pedestrians and/or drivers - you learn by being there. The only tips we get are how to lessen the chances of any Palestinian attack being successful (for example, where to stand and how to approach a vehicle). Oh, and the oft repeated saying, "Respect and suspect," (כבדהו וחשדהו). Now why am I bothering with this brief introduction? As I mentioned in my last post, I struggle at times when I'm at the checkpoints. I am fully aware of the positives and negatives of checkpoints, and try to approach each Palestinian with the same respect I'd approach any human being. And so, I'd like to share one event which I think highlights the tough situation we face as soldiers.

It was panning out to be a typical relaxing (just don't tell my wife I said that!) day in miluim when word got out that a soldier had been kidnapped. With this, every checkpoint in the West Bank was essentially shut down as each car that passed was thoroughly checked, passengers included. Until this moment, the checkpoint my battalion was manning was a quick one for those using it - But now, due to the searches, there were two to three hour delays for everyone. By the time some of us got down there as back-up, the current checkpoint crew had been there for almost 8 hours. Most of the shift had been in the boiling hot sun and one could see the wear & tear on the lads. Add this to the agitated and frustrated Palestinians, something was bound to happen eventually.

After checking one taxi, T. motioned him to proceed. The driver, unaware T. spoke fluent Arabic, proceed to mutter something derogatory as he drove by. As soon as he heard it, T. quickly motioned the taxi to pull over. All the occupants were asked to exit the car, and T. started an even more thorough check than the previous one. Each passenger was frisked and all the IDs were taken for a check with the base. The taxi driver started getting angry, "Where is the officer? I want to speak to an officer." "I am the officer," T. muttered and motioned him to go back to where he was previously standing. The taxi driver refused and as he got closer to T., T. pushed him back. I watched on, finger on the trigger, and told one of the passengers to calm him down, "Tell him to shut up so you guys can go home. The more he talks, the longer he'll keep you here." Two of them nodded, and pulled the taxi cab driver back. He was still fuming and as T. turned his back, he screamed, "Give me the IDs, I am only a taxi driver. Where is your officer?" T. ignored the driver and proceeded to pass the ID information through the walkie talkie. As he waited for an answer, he asked the driver and his passengers to get back into the car and wait. The driver refused to move, "No, I'm staying here - I want the IDs." T. was getting angry, "Get into the car now." The driver approached him, and T. pushed him back, and as he stumbled backwards, T. kicked the driver on his side.

As the driver retreated to the car with his passengers, I approahced T., "You can't do that man. There's no need for that. Just let him sit outside if he continues being an idiot, there's no need to kick him." Another soldier came up to him, and reprimanded him, "That's totally unnecessary," and stormed off. The taxi driver started banging the side of his door, "I am just a taxi driver." He was furious, and I realized the situation needed defusing and quick. I approached the taxi and spoke to the passenger, "Tell him to shut up. Seriously, he needs to be quiet and you will all go home. I'll see to it." The passengers, who had not spoken or made any aggressive movements throughout the ordeal, again tried to calm him down. But he continued to slam the car's side through the open window. Ten minutes later, T. came over with the IDs and passed them over to one of the passengers. The taxi sped off. "He was being a maniak and got too close to me," T. explained to me. "I know, I saw, but there was no need for that," I said realizing we both had to get back to the 'job'.

As I discussed the episode with a friend a day later, he asked, "Why didn't you report him?" I had no answer, I thought my reproach was enough. Later that day, I asked the soldier who had also reprimanded him if we were wrong to not complain about the unnecessary use of force in this instance. He replied, "You saw his reaction after he had calmed down. He sat down on the side the rest of the shift and didn't move. He knows he screwed up. I also don't believe that's the mentality of our soldiers in this battalion. We don't 'work' that way and this was a one off." As I listened, I realized he was right. In the heat of the moment, T. made an error in judgment - he took advantage of his power in in the wrong way and unnecessarily hit a man, in the process embarrassing him in front of his clients (This is why I think he got so angry afterward).

As I look back on the incident, I think it could obviously have been handled far better - T. should have just let them sit in the taxi for a longer time than intended after the driver's behavior. We have a difficult job, but we must always try and keep our calm and cool, even in trying times. There are some instances when physical contact is unavoidable and even necessary, but with T. this was definitely not the case. Throughout this reserve stint, this was the only incident of its kind in 3 weeks at this checkpoint. That I highlight it is due to the fact it bothered me greatly - and I hope those involved learned enough from it to ensure it's not repeated again.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hi, I'm back! :)

After a long stint in reserve duty around the Nablus area, I'm finally home. While I'm hoping to write two longer pieces about it soon, here are a few highlights since the last post:

* One of our assignments was to guard a base on Har Gerizim, which overlooks the city of Nablus. The view was absolutely stunning, especially during sunrise and sunset. I only wish I had had a camera with me so that I could share some of the views of the city, her bustling center and Joseph's Tomb.

* One of the lads in the unit writes a Torah scroll once a year. Thanks to him, I accomplished the mitzvah (Hebrew for commandment) of writing a letter in a Torah scroll.

* Despite the fact I support the need for the checkpoints, I struggle with the difficulties they impose on the Palestinian population - be it the canine checks (There is a religious probelm with dogs), or the delays for ID checks. I still do the job - but try to be as respectful and understanding as possible.

* On Wednesday, we had Israeli visitors. Naturally, I feared the worst. So I was pleasantly surprised when I was approached with cake, some cold drinks, a flag and a thank you note. An Israeli group (the name escapes me) goes around the Territories' checkpoints showing solidarity with the soldiers. It's nice to know people can understand and show unity with us - considering the difficulty (for many reasons obviously) of the job at hand.

* A day later, we had a visit from the lovely ladies of Machsom Watch. When we saw them approaching, I went up to them with another soldier and explained to them that they were not to cross a rather visible line, but could stay here and observe what we were doing. As I turned my back to leave, I asked them to just be honest about what the wrote. One of the ladies then responded, "Does the fact you're wearing a kippah and I'm not wearing a mitpachat (Hebrew for a head covering, which ironically she was halachically ok due to her rather funny looking hat!) give you the right to say that?" Before I had a chance to get into a proper conversation with the woman, my friend pulled me away and said good bye. Had I had a chance to respond properly, I would have made a comment about how the group's 'good intentions' (Despite some of the unnecessary agitations they force on both soldiers and Palestinians, I do believe they want to improve the way soldiers handle the checkpoint duty) shouldn't be mingled with hypocritical anti-religious sentiments.

* I got home in the early evening today ... It was lovely to see wife and son. My wife ... well ... she's still the same gal I left behind almost a month ago but my boy ... well ... he's changed quite a bit, and is now waving, kneeling and even standing ... Sheesh, they do grow up fast.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Understanding Asim

As an active member of, I've had many interesting debates about a whole host of interesting subjects. The one I've found most challenging has been the Israeli-Arab political debate, one that tends to pit myself and other Israeli and/or Jewish posters against mostly British Muslims. One of these Muslims I've befriended is Asim, and as our 'relationship' has developed, so has our interest in each other's faith and 'take on the story'. One thing that always stood out to me was when Asim would bemoan the constant negative press showered on Islam. The positive stories were constantly missed, or sadly ignored.

Why am I bringing this up now? Ever since the Gaza War, I've become more active in debates with 'Progressive Zionists.' While they often highlight very troubling issues within Israeli society that need to be addressed, I find their need to only focus on the negative issues within our country very frustrating to deal with, especially when they admit to thriving "off chronicling the bad judgment of some of my fellow Jews." In Ethics of our Fathers 2:5, Hillel is quoted as saying, "Do not judge your fellow until you come to his place". I guess I can now finally understand, and relate to, what Asim was complaining about all this time.


A few tid bits from the reserve stint so far:

* I think the Palestinians have taken the lead over the Israelis in the 'World's Worst Drivers' sweepstakes. In the few days I've been with patrols, we've almost witnessed 10+ accidents due to horrific overtaking attempts. Thankfully, not one accident so far ...

* The one guy that really impresses me every time I see him for a reserve call up is a 64 year old. Yes, you read that right. While reservists 'retire' at age 42 (the current retirement age has now dropped to 40) from active reserve duty, this man has volunteered for the past 22 years (& counting) since his 'retirement'! To think a man who serves in my battalion was born in 1945, or fought during the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War, is just crazy. I don't even know what to call it ...

* It really isn't easy to leave your family behind for such a long time. I still look at Miluim as a privilege, but I still struggle with the idea that until I'm 40, I'll spend 30+ days a year away from my family. I guess that's the reality I've chosen -


My great uncle, Uncle Arthur, passed away today ... May his dear soul rest in peace ...


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pre Shabbat Read, III

* The Spanish Inquisition and Me.

* Anti-Semitism has doubled in England since last year.

* Aluf Benn writing in the NY Times about Obama's Silence.

* CNN reports on the passing of Britain's last World War I veteran.

* The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threaten Bruno.

* Death March, Tisha B'Av 1944.

* Jerusalem Post's write up on Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.

* Snake 'befriends' snack hamster.

* Will Pete Rose be allowed to take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame?

I'm off for the next month or so (green suiting) - until then, here's the latest pic of my lil boy ...


Friday, July 24, 2009

What's the 'Right' Choice?

This is from an e-mail I wrote a friend ...

I was reading through some of the Breaking the Silence testimonies and one thing struck me about the issues re: Rules of Engagement.

Before I get into that, I'll tell you that twice (so far) during my army service I was in a position to kill - both times my gut said no. Thankfully, I was right each time. And people who were just doing things that were highly suspicious were innocent civilians after all. But after the first event in particular, I really struggled with it. I was right, yes but what if I had been wrong? I would be dead ... That left me with a few difficult soul searching episodes but alas, long gone now thankfully.

That is a brief introduction to my issue - There are two issues here. IF innocent civilians that were in NO means suspicious, or were waving white flags (or whatever), were gunned down - the soldiers who did it should be in jail for a long time. There is no excuse there - unless there is something out of the ordinary that really is worrying the soldier (intelligence warning of a 'suicide bomber' on the way, a person was wearing heavy jacket - whatever). Now if there IS something out of the ordinary, I ask you to be brutally honest with me. If this was YOUR son and that was him in that situation, in a a war or in the middle of the operations, would YOU rather he has the attitude "Rather sit in jail than my parents sitting shiva (week long period of mourning, for more click on word) over me" or the opposite.

Would be very interested to see how you the reader responds ...

Pre Shabbat Read, II

* Interesting interview between Michael Oren & Jeffrey Goldberg (Courtesy of Zak S.)

* The UN did what?

* Post your note at the Kotel (Western Wall) through Twitter.

* Beitar saved.

* Mark Buehrle pitched the 18th perfect game in MLB history yesterday.

* Is Lonesome George a father? See the video here.

* Last but not least, can Gefile Fish be saved from extinction?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What about their Children?

In a discussion on Alex Stein's False Dichotomies, a poster (Gert) and I were discussing refugees. Gert assessed there were 4.3 million Palestinian refugees. I responded by showing the major 'issue' with that number. As per Wikipedia, a refugee is defined as:

The concept of a refugee was expanded by the Convention’s 1967 Protocol and by regional conventions in Africa and Latin America to include persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country.

In essence, this alone completely disproves Gert's assessment. Was he lying? Nope, he was using another valid law:

The major exception is the 4,300,000 Palestinian refugees under the authority of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), who are the only group to be granted refugee status to the descendants of refugees according to the above definition.

The reasons for the above are up to debate, but the reason I introduced this blog with the above introduction was that this discussion about 'the children' and 'the children's children' bought along this question from the aforementioned Gert:

Do you not think the descendants of Holocaust survivors are entitled to compensation for the loss of property of their parents/grandparents?

Tough question only because I'd never really given it much thought. Should I be given any compensation for what my grandparents and their families endured, or lost, during the 1933-1945 period? My answer is no. The scars I carry due to what my family went through, or my nation for that matter, are insignificant compared to the scars they carry (or carried) throughout their lives. I didn't have to live in that world, nor deal with what the aftermath of the Holocaust. We, the survivors' families, will always carry that sorrow, in one way or another, but what happened in Germany, or Poland, or Rhodes happened to our families, not us. The real trauma was theirs, not ours.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pre Shabbat Read, I

- A religious footy player who misses games on Shabbat? Yup, and it wasn't even in Israel! Meet the now retired South African defender Warren Lewis, who played for South African club Moroka Swallows.

- First successful test of the Arrow missile system.

- Some interesting theories came out this week about those evil Jews. One involved an extremist Hungarian website, which is convinced Israel is about to colonize Hungary with the transportation of three million Jews with US-Israeli citizenship to the country within the next two years. The other involves Hamas, who are now accusing Israel of shipping them chewing gum laced with aphrodisiac, to corrupt the young Gazans. What will they think of next ...

- Breaking the Silence's funding comes from ...

- After some of the worst rioting in Jerusalem in years, there is a tense quiet in the city.

- The 18th Maccabiah games started this past week in Israel. An interesting story about how the games affected NBA legend Dolph Schayes's Jewish identity.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Early Beginning of a Star

Below is Ofra Haza's phenomenal rendition of "שחרחורת", the Hebrew version of the Ladino song Morenica (For a version of this song, click here)

For more on one of Israel's greatest singers who sadly passed away in 2000, click here or here.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Introducing ...

I would like to introduce my blog readers (yes, all 3 of you) to a really cool new blog, NiPhoto:

The blog was started by Shay, a friend I've known (& sometimes even admired) since we met in Istanbul in 1989. He's an avid photographer and in his blog, he'll share photos, thoughts and well ... uuuuuh ... more photos?

Black Hat Zionists

Upon witnessing a Haredi man yelling at an Israel Police officer, Rabbi Shach quipped that the man must have become a Zionist. The man was surprised, “What are you talking about?” Rabbi Shach responded, “Would you have dared to yell at a police officer back in Poland?”

From here, courtesy of Dave Curwin

Monday, July 06, 2009

A Great Finnish

Sami Hyypia, one of the best defenders in Liverpool history, is moving on after a glorious 10 year career with Liverpool.

So long Sami ... YNWA.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009