Thursday, December 30, 2010

Anfield Remembers Avi Cohen z'l

Click here to watch the applause to honor the late Avi Cohen & Bill Jones.

One of the banners displayed:


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Avi Cohen z'l

After fighting for his life for 8 days, Avi Cohen z'l passed away this morning at the age of 54.

Cohen z'l was the 1st Israeli to play for Liverpool (and the top flight in England), who at the time were one of the best teams in Europe (if not the best).

Click here for Haaretz's write up.

Click here for King Kenny's (as well as others) tribute.

Click here for Avi Cohen, the Road Sign

Click here for Liverpool's plan to honor Avi Cohen against Wolves (29.12.2010 vs Wolves)

May his soul rest in peace, Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eli's Last Words

נדיה יקרתי, משפחתי היקרה, אני כותב אליכם מילים אחרונות אלה בתקווה שתישארו תמיד מאוחדים. אני מבקש מאשתי שתסלח לי, שתדאג לעצמה ושתעניק השכלה טובה לילדינו ... נדיה יקירתי, ראשית את להינשא שנית, למאן יהיה אב לילדינו, בנושא זה את חופשיה לגמרי. אני מבקשך לא להתאבל על העבר אלא לפנות אל העתיד. אני שולח לכם נשיקות ארונות. התפללו לעליית נשמתי.
שלכם, אלי

Syria likes to go on and on about how Israel isn't serious about peace, while they naturally are.

Syria should show how serious they are to Israel and the world by simply returning the bones of Eli Cohen z'l to Israel. Put all the pressure on Israel to re-start peace talks with Syria, while allowing his family to bury his remains under this tombstone:

Sadly, they'll never show anyone how desperate for peace talks they really are ...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yaakov and his sons

I liked this analysis by R' Yaakov Kamenetsky:

Jacob was like the sun and his sons were like stars. When the sun is out, stars are not visible, but when the sun sets, the stars take over the sky. So too, after Jacob's death, the tribal ancestors achieved greater importance, for the presence of their light in the increasing darkness of the Egyptian exile kept hope alive in their offspring. As long as Jews do not recognize the onset of exile, as long as they are conscious of their true roots, they are only in geographic, but not spiritual, exile.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Robbie & I

I was going through some old documents, and I found the first contribution I made to an article, albeit an internet footy article. The article was written by James Gill shortly after Liverpool had sold Robbie Fowler, a player I grew up idolizing. Though the link to the article is no longer available, here it that article (note to self: next time, alt + print screen):

Fans 'broken' at Fowler move
28 November 2001


Most readers have taken Robbie Fowler’s move from Liverpool to Leeds pretty badly.

Now that Fowler has agreed personal terms with Leeds, some of you couldn’t be more upset.

Ben Cambers took it particularly badly by revealing that he "will be going into mourning for a week.” I’m sure he’s not the only one.

Taylan took the move just as badly saying that Fowler's departure had “broken” him.

Taylan makes the point that Fowler was one of a few players to have come up through the ranks at Liverpool with most of the current squad brought in from elsewhere. He’ll now be cheering for the likes of Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

Shah Punit highlighted the fact that Fowler should not have been allowed to leave, due to the fact that Liverpool are out to win both the league and the Champions League.
One Liverpool fan was prepared to agree with the club, as Kevin Fried felt it was the best for both parties.

“Robbie's brilliance is unquestionable, but inconsistent in a rotation system.” That could well prove to be an excellent shout.

“I would've preferred seeing Robbie playing overseas because he is dangerous, he is a brilliant player, and if he clicks Leeds could become an even more dangerous team,” Kevin continued.

“Good luck Robbie, I'll support you 36 games a season from now on. It will be good to see a smile on your face again.”

Bill Westwood also feels the decision was right and has every faith that young Czech star Milan Baros will rise to the occasion at Anfield.

Bill describes Baros as “a superb footballer as Robbie was back in the good old days.” We shall see.

Leeds fans have also voiced their opinion. Gareth Rhodes of West Yorkshire couldn’t hide his delight.

“What an absolute steal – 26, still to hit his prime, World Cup on the way – I reckon he'll bag at least 25 this season.” If Gareth is right, the Premiership title could well go to Elland Road.

But, perhaps the most profound comment goes to Avram Piha, who says quite simply "Robbie quit Anfield because Liverpool quit on Robbie."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Joseph's punishment, Yehuda's reaction

What led Yehuda to confront Joseph when all the brothers shirked away?

One explanation I really liked is from Meshech Chochmah. At the end of Mikeitz, Yehuda realizes that Joseph's punishment for Benjamin is a result of a fabricated charge. Benjamin had just been branded a thief after being caught 'red handed' with Joseph's goblet. Why then does Joseph want a thief to be a servant in his own household? Yehuda realized that this was a forced predicament (as Sforno remarks in VaYigash 44:18), and this gave him the courage to approach Joseph and contest the punishment.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Hint in their Names

R' Hirsch comments that Joseph's choice of name for his two sons (Mikeitz 41:51-52) is proof of his loyalty to his origins and determination not to be a part of Egyptian culture. How so?

Joseph named his first son Manasseh because "God has made me forget" (כי נשני אלוקים). Akeidah comments that Joseph was expressing his gratefulness that God had allowed him to forget the hardships inflicted upon him due to his brothers' actions. He had made peace with the 'master plan,' which allowed him to forget any ill will he may have felt towards his brothers, and eventually open up Goshen to his them (protecting them from any Egyptian influence) once his dreams were fulfilled.

His second son is called Ephraim, for "God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering," (כי הפרני אלוקים בארץ עניי). Despite his dramatic ascent to being the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt, he still regarded Egypt as the land of his suffering. As Abarbanel notes, despite the greatness and splendor Joseph enjoyed as viceroy, he still saw himself as a stranger in Egypt and was 'suffering' as he was away from his father, his family & the Holy Land.

Despite the many obstacles Joseph faced that could have led him to turn his back on his family and home, he managed to make peace with his lot, forgive his brothers and stay loyal to the 'world' he belonged to.

(Ideas taken from The Stone Edition Chumash)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Siren

On the way to work from Nissim's Hanukkah bash, I was deeply engrossed in the latest Mossad book. As we crossed Yaffo, a loud siren started wailing. I have never heard one of these sirens this loudly before, and as I looked around, I saw quite a few people with startled looks on their faces. "Oh shit, is this war?," I thought for a second. Suddenly, a few people started saying it's a drill, and I, as well as other passengers, started returning to the pre-siren routine.

The siren left me a bit shaken. It just made me think about how it must have been on Yom Kippur 37 years ago when that siren was for real, and our country was trying to block a joint Syria-Egyptian attack. Thankfully, this was only a drill ... but I can't stop thinking that one day a siren will have me running home to grab my gear.

On a more happy note, חג אורים שמח to all my readers ... Happy Hanukkah.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Masapan ... The Tradition Continues

Masapan (aka Marzipan) is a traditional dessert for Sefardim (Jews of Spanish descent). While there is some dispute to the origin of the desert (be it Europe or the Middle East), there is no debate that this desert made from crushed almonds and sugar is delicious! Add it to the list of of other Sefardi dishes (like burmwelos or pastelis) I've finally learned how to make (with the help of my dad this time around). The final product wasn't bad at all (good reviews from all who tried it), but I look forward to improving it as my dad's is definitely better!. Photo evidence below:

The recipe (sorry for the blurry picture)

Stirring the boiling water and sugar mix, removing the 'scum'

Stirring in the almonds

Playing with the dough

Rolling the dough

The final product


Monday, November 22, 2010

Selling Joseph

Did the brothers ever realize the gravity of their sin when they sold Joseph?

Sforno comments that after their detainment in Egypt, the brothers examined their deeds to see why God had punished them. They do not display any remorse for the sale itself, "Indeed we are guilty concerning our brother inasmuch as we saw his heartfelt anguish when he pleaded with us and we paid no heed; that is why this anguish has come upon us," (Mikeitz 42:21). It seems that the brothers saw the sale as a harsh act, albeit the correct one.

How did the brothers rationalize this?

One interesting possibility is the brothers felt that Joseph wasn't a threat to them, but to their family's destiny. They were fully aware of the 'weeding out' process which had seen Ishmael and Esau 'removed' from the nation of Israel. The brothers saw that Joseph was bringing dissension to the family, which would put a dent in the mission of the Patriarchs. Hence, he was a danger that had to be dealt with.

(Ideas taken from The Stone Edition Chumash)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

United we must stand

My latest article in Kaminando y Avlando, the Sephardi Hebrew Congregation of Cape Town's monthly publication:


The more I study Israel’s history, the more I am disappointed and infuriated by the constant strife we’ve created for ourselves, amongst ourselves. Be it the clashes between the religious and the secular, or between the political right and the political left, or the Ashkenazim and the Mizrachim, we always seem to create harmful rifts within our nation. Although this is not a recent phenomenon, it’s something that continually needs to be addressed as it’s as dangerous an enemy to the Jewish people as terrorism and assimilation are.

Although they only refer to strife amongst family units, the first few parshiyot of the Torah teach about the destructive consequences of strife and the necessity to eliminate it. In Bereshit When Cain’s sacrifice to Hashem wasn’t accepted and Abel’s was, Cain became extremely jealous of his brother. The resulting strife led Cain to ‘rise up’ and kill his brother. Within a few parshiyot of this tragic story, the Torah teaches us how we must handle strife. In Lech Leca, Avram’s shepherds rebuke Lot’s shepherds for allowing their herds to graze on other people’s pastures (Rashi). Avram, unlike Cain, approaches his nephew and tries to stop the conflict from causing further turmoil, “Please let there be no more strife between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are kinsmen,” (13:8). Although Avram eventually allows Lot and his herds to move to more fertile grounds, his actions teach us an important lesson. When faced with strife, even due to legitimate reasons, one must find a way to discuss the problem, make peace and coexist. Friction, be it between brothers, amongst a family or within our nation, will almost always lead to negative consequences. Hence, one must approach it and look for a peaceful resolution to end the conflict, unless of course no such option is available. (An example from the Torah being the sale of Joseph in Va’Yeishev – see Sforno’s commentary.) Rashi sums it up nicely when, during his commentary on Parashat Noach, he asks which generation’s sin was greater, the generation of the flood, which did not plan a rebellion against Hashem, or the generation of the Dispersion (Tower of Babel), which did? His answer is the former, as the generation was comprised of robbers who quarreled with each other and were completely destroyed in the flood, while the latter dwelt harmoniously together, and hence were spared despite their blasphemies. Surely this demonstrates how dangerous strife is and how great unity is! 4:1-16, we learn about the tragic story of Cain and Abel.

In the years leading up to and in the aftermath of the creation of the State, Israel twice was on the verge of Civil War. In late 1944, the Jewish Agency and the Haganah were convinced that Menachem Begin’s Irgun (aka Etz”l) were eager to take over the leadership of the Yishuv. The tension between the two organizations reached a boiling point in 1945 when Eliyahu Hakim and Eliyahu Bet-Zuri (members of the Stern Gang) assassinated Lord Moyne in Cairo. After the assassination of Lord Moyne, who was responsible for implementing the White Paper (the document that kept thousands of desperate Jews from immigrating to the British Mandate during World War II), the Jewish Agency implemented the “Hunting Season” (the Season for short), during which the Haganah actively worked with the British police to capture Irgun and Stern Gang members. Did the Irgun respond with violence as their brothers betrayed them to the British? No, their response had already been outlined in their famous pamphlet in 1944:

“Yes, the dread of the loyal Jew is understandable. Are we to witness our children raising their hands or aiming their weapons against one another? What will they do, those persecuted people against whom the terrible edicts are directed? How will they defend themselves? ...These are grave questions, and we feel it our duty - on our own behalf and on behalf of the Irgun Zvai Le'umi in Eretz Israel - to provide an answer. And this is our answer: you may stay calm, loyal Jews; there will be no fraternal strife in this country...”

The Season gradually came to a halt due to massive public pressure, but only after almost one thousand Jews were handed over to the British. Am Yisrael almost allowed jealousy and lack of trust to cause itself tremendous damage. Unfortunately, the lessons of those dark days were not learned and the country was placed in a similarly frightening situation within a few years.

Shortly after Israel’s Declaration of Independence, a ship carrying almost 1,000 Irgun members and large quantities of ammunition made its way to Israel from France. The Altalena was given permission by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s prime minister, to land the ship as long as it was done quickly. The cooperation quickly soured when Begin requested that most of the weapons go to the IDF’s newly incorporated Irgun battalions, a move Ben-Gurion thought would reinforce the false notion of ‘an army within an army.’ Ben-Gurion refused to accept Begin’s reasoning and the boat left its original docking area of Kfar Vitkin, and proceeded to Tel Aviv, where Ben-Gurion had the IDF concentrate large forces on the beach. The ship was shelled, and it caught fire. With chaos on board, many jumped overboard and were met by rafts of concerned Israelis. Jewish fire still continued to strafe the deck of the ship despite the captain waving the white flag (In ‘The Revolt,’ Menachem Begin writes how the fire was continually aimed at him – was it an assassination attempt?) Many of the Irgun fighters who swam towards the beach were greeted with grenades. By the end of the tragic day, sixteen Irgun members and 3 IDF soldiers were dead. Instead of allowing this horrifying event to rip the country apart and take away focus from defeating the invading Arab armies, Begin made the famous ‘Speech of Tears,’ which highlighted the necessity of finding a solution to strife, even after such a tragedy:

“We shall continue to love the people of Israel, and we shall continue to fight for the people of Israel...Help me to persuade my people that it is forbidden for brother to raise a hand against brother, that it is forbidden that a Hebrew weapon be used against Hebrew fighters.”

In late 1967, Ben-Gurion remarked that had he then known Begin as he did now, the face of history would have been different.

There are obviously many more examples than those presented; the message however is clear enough. We can be our own worst enemies, or we can do our best to find common ground and make peace amongst ourselves despite our differences. The key here is not just to overcome the strife, which every relationship – be it on a small family scale or large national scale – has, but to build unity amongst our people. There’s a famous midrash that says that G-d would forgive Am Yisrael if its people practiced idolatry in unity. A sin of that magnitude, entered into on the national level, can be forgiven if the whole nation commits the sin together. Think about that. How powerful and important must unity (אחדות) be? In fact, if we look at one of our most important daily prayers, the Shema, we’ll see unity again being stressed. In the Shema, we say ‘Shema Yisrael’ – Hear O’ Israel. The ‘hear’ should be written ‘Shimu’ – listen in the plural – as it’s addressing the people of Israel. However it is written as a singular. In the daily reaffirmation of our faith, we are acknowledging the importance of being a united nation. Our continuous ability to hurt ourselves was highlighted, ironically enough, by Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president who was in office during the Yom Kippur War (1973) and then proceeded to sign a peace treaty with Begin and Israel (1979). When asked how one can destroy Israel, he answered smartly, “Leave them alone in peace for 25 years.” Sadat’s negative advice should be taken by us as an important lesson – unless we continually work on strengthening and unifying Am Yisrael, we are setting ourselves up for unnecessary tragedies.

** How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity (Pslam 133:1) **

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sayeret Matkal in Entebbe

Last week, I finished Iddo Netanyahu's latest book סיירת מטכ"ל באנטבה (Book's title in English: Sayeret Matkal in Entebbe). The first part of the book goes into great detail about the planning, drills and execution of the operation. What sets this book apart from other books I've read is that instead of telling the story of Entebbe through the author's eyes, the story is told through in-depth interviews with all the soldiers who participated in the greatest hostage rescue operation of our time. The reader gets an in depth understanding of all the details from the day of the kidnapping to the 'made for the big screen' rescue operation. After writing "Yoni's Last Battle," what was Iddo's reasoning for yet another book about the operation?

Within a month of the operation, Muki Betser - who was 2nd in command during the operation - started mudding Yoni Netanyahu's role in planning and executing the operation before he was killed. Interview after interview given by Muki have shown him as the leading man in this operation, from its start to the exhilarating finale. With his lies sadly becoming the 'facts' even the IDF presents in their official report on the raid (not to mention Muki's book, "Secret Soldier: The True Life Story of Israel's greatest Commando"), Iddo's book tries to set the record straight. His method is simple and devastating: it takes Muki's testimonies (from August 1976 till 2003, including excerpts from his book), and shows how Muki constantly tweaks his testimonies, always contradicting his original report (Given a few days after the raid) and the testimonies of the soldiers who ran side by side with him on Uganda's soil.

Below are a few of the lies Muki has passed as facts over the years ... followed by the truth (in bold):

- Muki was instrumental in the operation's planning. From the moment Yoni returned from the Sinai on Wednesday (29.6.1976), he was the key figure in planning the operation. Muki confirms this in his original testimony after the operation. Muki had little, if anything, to do with any of the planning (some of his testimony clearly show this, be it not knowing the reason for using the Mercedes or when the soldier counts for the vehicles were altered)

- Muki requested to be at the head of his unit when storming the terminal, something he states he had to demand from Yoni. This is the norm in the IDF - commanders lead. There was most likely no request ...

- On the way to the terminal, Muki states that the two Ugandan troops that approached the Mercedes should not have been killed, but bypassed as per the original plan. The drills for the operation included two 'guards', an addition made by Yoni. In the drills, as per various soldiers' testimonies, the guards were always shot at. They had to be killed - had they been left alive or even bypassed, their fire may have killed/injured the troops before they got to the terminal (which was still 150-200 meters away). Some soldiers remember the Ugandan troops cocking their guns - a sign that 'bypassing them' as Muki had requested in the car would probably have had tragic consequences.

- Yoni was at the back of the Mercedes and the orders came from Muki. No soldier interviewed remembers Yoni anywhere but the front of the Mercedes and giving all the orders.

- On the way to the control tower, Muki killed two Ugandans - emptying his clip in the process. The lag this caused as the soldiers waited behind the tower did not delay the storming of the terminal. There is no evidence from the soldiers that Muki actually killed any Ugandan soldiers. That he fired, no one denies. That he stopped and delayed the storming of the terminal, no one denies (including himself). That Yoni screamed at him to advance (a few soldiers mention him screaming, "מוקי קדימה" - "Muki Advance"), no one denies. That Yoni overtook Muki and other soldiers followed suit, no one denies (including Muki). Muki's stalling could have cost many lives (soldiers and hostages) were it not for Yoni's actions. There is testimony from two soldiers who said Muki explained on the plane ride home that his gun had jammed, and that he had not bought a 'double clip,' which was a requirement for the operation, and that forced his 'lengthy' (a matter of seconds) stop.

- Muki missed his entrance (1st of the 4) due to faulty intelligence. Muki, and other soldiers, report that they got updated photos of the terminal (courtesy of the Mossad) in Sharm El Sheikh where they had time to review them. Muki claims the door was sealed shut - it wasn't. The door was just closed and Muki never attempted to open it, instead running to the next entrance.

- Muki entered the main hall side by side with Amir Ofer and Amnon Peled, and had a hand in killing 3 (at times, he claims all 4) of the terrorists in the main terminal. By the time Muki had entered the hall AFTER Amir and Amnon, 3 of the 4 terrorists had been shot and their guns kicked away. Muki, it seems, confirmed the kill on 2 of them. Amos Goren, as per Muki's original testimony, killed the 4th terrorist while entering the main entrance with Muki. Muki did shoot when he entered the hall, but unlike most of his testimonies, his bullets hit lifeless or incapacitated terrorists.

- Muki, in his book, claims that all four aforementioned soldier shot Jean-Jacques Maimoni as he jumped up to celebrate the Israeli arrival. The 3 other soldiers never mention firing at Maimoni, only Muki does. It is important to note that Muki's actions were 100% correct, he had to react and couldn't take a chance that Maimoni was an armed terrorist. That doesn't mean he needs to 'share the blame' of killing the hostage with the other soldiers in the room.

Iddo's work is impeccable. Any reader can not help but be angered by Muki's muddying of the truth and continuous attacks on his dead commander's actions (I only touched on this briefly with the two Ugandan guards). In order to show how this is sadly the norm with Muki, Iddo brings Muki's testimony on various operations:

- Operation Spring of Youth

Muki's unit, which included Yoni under his command, stormed one of the rooms. Muki entered the room at the same time as Zvi Livna and they both killed the terrorist. While Muki was SUPPOSED to storm the room first, it was Zvi who entered the room first and shot the terrorist. Muki confirmed the kill.

- Yom Kippur War

a) 40 Syrian commandos ambushed a group of Sayeret Matkal soldiers. Muki and Yoni led both their squads in storming the Syrian position, killing all 40 commandos. After they were ambushed, Yoni organized his squad under heavy fire and stormed the Syrian position. Muki and his squad provided critical cover fire and the Syrian threat was neutralized.

b) When Yossi Ben Hanan's squadron of tanks was obliterated by Syrian forces within Syrian territory, Muki talked with Yanush Ben Gal and volunteered to lead a squad to rescue Ben Hanan and another survivor. Yoni, as per Yanush's testimony, volunteered Sayeret Matkal for the dangerous rescue operation. He led it successfully and as per Ben Hanan's testimony, was the one giving out the orders throughout the operation.

There is a re-occuring theme here ... Muki volunteers & initiates operations, planning them to perfection and then carries them out flawlessly while others make mistakes that contribute to endangering the mission's success. Yoni, his commander, is a lethargic and disinterested figure, always being 'led' by Muki. It's sad that Muki's testimonies have been accepted as 'truth,' so much so that the few revealed parts of the official IDF report on Entebbe (printed by Haaretz in the early 1990s) follow his stories and hence, are completely inconsistent* with the testimonies of the soldiers who were there! One can only hope that the truth can outlast the many lies of Muki, and that Yoni's essential role in planning and executing this mission will not be taken away from him. This book is a must read for anyone interested in the truth about Operation Entebbe.

* Due to the many holes Muki's 'facts' created, even Dan Shomron got in on the lies. Shomron claimed to have provided Sayeret Matkal on the Thursday night (30.6.1976) with a detailed plan on the storming of the old terminal. This is a pure lie, not even supported by any of Muki's forever changing testimonies. Shomron did present Sayeret Matkal with a plan of storming the old terminal, but it was just another line in the list of potential operations (For example, landing rubber rafts on Lake Victoria) Shomron wanted the Unit to look into.

Click here for a Ynet article about Muki's falsification of history.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Yoni Netanyahu - The Real Story

For those of you who speak Hebrew, click here for a fantastic one hour documentary about Yoni Netanyahu z'l, the Sayeret Matkal commander who fell during Operation Entebbe.

יהי זכרו ברוך

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Hamas admits what Goldstone couldn't

In a recent article from Haaretz (Another source is here, a UAE English newspaper.), Hamas's Interior Minister Fathi Hamad admitted that during the first day of Operation Cast Lead, 250 Hamas fighters were killed:

Hamas confirmed for the first time on Monday that between 200 and 300 members of the organization's military wing were killed during Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip at the end of 2008, Israel Radio reported.

Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 in efforts to curb missile fire from the Palestinian territory into Israel's southern communities. Immediately following the operation, Hamas reported that less than 50 of its men had been killed.

Hamas' Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, who was confirmed the figures in an interview with the London-based Arabic language daily Al-Hayat, said that the so-called "police officers" who were killed during the first day of the operation were actually 250 Hamas fighters, and that 150 additional "security personnel" were also killed.

Israel Radio indicated that these figures were consistent with the numbers initially reported by the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit immediately following the operation, which Hamas denied.

So why is this important? Firstly, it shows Israel's strike on the 1st day of the War was legitimate. There was obviously an extremely accurate intelligence update that Israel couldnt' pass up on. Secondly, rewind to Richard Goldstone's UN report:

417. Except for the statements of the police spokesperson, the Israel Government has presented no other basis on which a presumption can be made against the overall civilian nature of the police in Gaza. It is true that the police and the security forces created by Hamas in Gaza may have their origins in the Executive Force. However, while the Mission would not rule out the possibility that there might be individuals in the police force who retain their links to the armed groups, it believes that the assertion on the part of the Government of Israel that “an overwhelming majority of the police forces were also members of the Hamas military wing or activists of Hamas or other terrorist organizations” appears to be an overstatement that has led to prejudicial presumptions against the nature of the police force that may not be justified.

I guess this is yet another reason why the Honorable Judge backed off the report, "If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven." Definitely Goldstoned.

Yoni during Yom Kippur War

Here's an eye witness account from the major battle between Sayeret Matkal & Syrian Commandos during the Yom Kippur War (1973). The testimony is from an interview in 1976 with Shai Avital, an officer from Sayeret Matkal:

איתרנו ניחתה של כוחות קומנדו סוריים על יד נאפח, וקיבלנו ידיעה, שלמעשה אנחנו הכוח האחרון שמגן על המקום. נסענו במהירות למקום האיתור. עמדנו על הכביש וחיפשנו את האויב, ופתאום נפתחה עלינו אש סורית חזקה, שבה נהרג קצין אחד שלנו (גדעון אבידב). הם תפסו אותנו בצורה הנוחה ביותר בשבילם - כאשר הם מאחורי מחסות ואנחנו גלויים בשטח. בנקודה זו צריך היה שיימצא אדם שיתחיל לתת הוראות ברורות; אחרת יכול היה להיות שם מצב עגום ביותר. לא היה הרבה ירי אחר מכת אש הזאת, והיתה מעין רגש, שחיכית שמישהו יעשה משהו. אני אישית זוכר שאז התחלתי לפחוד. פחדתי מאוד. מה שראיתי אז היא תמונה שאזכור במשך חיי: פתאום ראיתי את יוני מתרומם בשקט גמור, כאילו לא התחולל שם דבר. בתנואות ידיים סימן לאנשים שיקומו איתו. כולם שכבו מאחורי מחסות והוא התחיל להתקדם כאילו שיחק בתרגיל אש. הוא הלך זקוף, חילק פקודות לימין ושמאל. אני זוכר את המחשבה שלי אז בתור חייל שלו: לכל הרוחות, אם הוא עושה את זה - אז אני לא מוותר! קמתי והתחלתי להילחם

Talk about being 'calm under fire'.

Excerpt from סיירת מטכ"ל באנטבה

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Nabil Sha'ath, the current chief of international relations for Fatah, penned a piece in Haaretz today. I was actually interested in seeing what he had to say but I stopped reading after the opening paragraph:

Let us be clear: Palestinians long ago recognized Israel and its right to exist in peace and security. Twenty-two years ago, to be precise. The peace process that began 17 years ago has repeatedly reaffirmed Palestinian recognition of Israel and its right to exist over 78 percent of our historic homeland.

I didn't realize Hamas, the 'winner' of the first Gaza elections and a prominent player in Palestinian politics, recognized Israel. Care to remind me why their charter still talks about the destruction of Israel? Shouldn't that have been removed if we were 'recognized'? And though Mr. Sha'ath claims that this happened 21 years ago, how come the PA (who Sha'ath represents) openly promotes teaching that cities like Haifa, Akko and Yaffo are 'Palestinian cities'? Shouldn't those be 'Israeli' if you want to recognize us? There are many examples like these two but the point is obvious.

I think the Palestinians, and Israelis, need to be a tad bit more honest with each other. Neither side really recognizes the other - and won't do until a deal is ironed out. Now that deal may change this reality, it may not. Until then though, what's the point of these 'games' (to quote Sha'ath)?

Lastly, I always thought 'historic Palestine' included Jordan ... I guess that part of the dream is officially over.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Yitzchak Rabin, 15 years later

Fifteen years ago (Hebrew date), Yitzchak Rabin z'l was assassinated.

I believe that a memorial service to acknowledge the man and his legacy is essential. He is, and always will be, an important figure in our history, be it for his role as a soldier, a peace maker, a Chief of Staff or a Prime Minister. Attempts to forget the man, even those pushed by his own party, should be frowned upon and rejected.

I think it's imperative however that the memorial of Rabin be devoid of politics. Far too often, Rabin's memorial is used by Israel's left as a stage to bash and incite against the Right and religious Jews. There's a reason why so many people feel that this day shouldn't be 'observed'. In it's current format, I'm one of them. I will take a few minutes over the next 24 hours to remember the man, and remember the horrific crime supposedly only committed by one man. But attend an official memorial? Nope - sorry, I don't need to be told 'I' killed Rabin because of my political leanings or the kippah on my head.

Rabin's death was a tragedy for the Jewish people. Yes I know Rabin was a part of many incidents we wish we could forget (The Altalena, being forced - his own words to the New York Times' William Safire, in '92 - into Oslo, or not having time, as his daughter said, to stop the process). But still, his murder was a horrific catastrophe. We should never have allowed ourselves to reach a point where there was such hatred brewing that a crime of this magnitude could have happened.

I would suggest that the Left uses this day (as it currently seems to be 'theirs') as a rallying call to Israel. A rallying call not for political agendas or anti-religious statements, but a rallying call to Am Yisrael to heed the dangers of internal strife (I will write a longer piece about this in the coming weeks). A rallying call to building bridges amongst ourselves and unifying our fractured nation.

What a Feeling

I dropped Nissim off at gan today. After a few words with the ganenet, I gave Nissim a kiss and started walking out. I turned around just to see if he was ok, he smiled at me and said, 'Bye Abba!' Talk about the perfect way to start the journey to work!

Below is the first photo we snapped after his first haircut:


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pre Shabbat Read, IV

Haven't done this in a long time ... So here goes!

* Let's start with a laugh. Imagine going shopping dressed as a robber ... Laughs a plenty.

* Some amazing photos from the rescue of the Chilean miners, who were underground for over two months.

* Bibi 'predicted' this kind of mine collapse some 23 years ago ... How about he now predicts peace too?

* Ari Shavit on recognition.

* An interesting take on the 'Loyalty Oath' by Shlomo Avineri

* Howard Jacobson wins Man Booker Prize with his book, 'The Finkler Question'.

* An Arab Israeli serving in the IDF? And an officer? Interesting story about Hisham Abu Varia.

* Last but not least, well done to the Texas Rangers for finally winning a playoff series. They beat the Rays in 5 and start the ALCS tomorrow night against the Yanks. Let's go Rangers!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Yossi's Injury

The Israeli FA confirmed today that Yossi Benayoun will be out for months, possibly the whole season, after rupturing his Achilles tendon. The news has rocked the Israeli national team, with two critical games this upcoming week against Croatia and Greece in Group F qualifications for Euro 2012. Yossi Benayoun has been Israel's best player for the past half decade. His goals have led Israel to solid showings in the last few campaigns, but never to the major tournaments fans have hoped to see Israel perform in. Things look pretty bleak, eh?

While this is obviously not the best way to start preparations for the two biggest games of the campaign, but I think that this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The national team has too often relied solely on Yossi for important breaks in games. Players always seemed to want to feed Yossi the ball, it always had to go through him. As Eduardo, the Brazilian born Croatian striker, commented earlier this week, "We hope Yossi can play. If we stop him, we beat Israel." So what I'm hoping for is that with Yossi on the sidelines for the next few games, the other players step out of his shadow and make Israel a far harder team to play against. With the likes of Rafaelov, Shechter & Vermut, Israel may actually have the attacking talent needed to surprise.

The next two games, as I mentioned earlier, are against our main rivals in the group: Croatia and Greece. I'm cautiously optimistic. Here's hoping.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

מלבוש מלכים

להלן (ג, כא) כתוב: ,'ויעש ה' אלקים לאדם ולאשתו כתנות עור וילבישם'. מובא בזוהר הקדוש (בראשית לו, ב) כי קודם החטא היו לבושים כמלאכים, היינו מלובשים בכותנות אור, אולם לאחר החטא היו הכותנות שניתנו להם עשויות מעור

התיבה ה-25 בתורה, היא "אור" - 'ויהו אור'. ה"אור" הזה נסתלק מהאדם אחר החטא, והפך ל'עור'. הענין רמוז בפסוק שלפנינו: 'ויאמר לו איכה', ופירושו: אי כ"ה? - היכן ה'אור', שהוא מספר כה' למניין תיבות התורה הקדושה

This is taken from פניני הבן איש חי.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

בעל החוב

A nice story for עשרת ימי תשובה (The Ten Days of Repentance), taken from אלה הם מועדי:

משל נפלא בעניין התשובה אמר רבי ישראל מאיר הכהן מראדין בעל ה"חפץ חיים"

בכפר קטן חי חנווני שהתפרנס מחנות קטנה שסיפקה את צרכיהם המועטים של בני הכפר

נוהג היה החנווני לנסוע מידי פעם אל העיירה הסמוכה, שם היה סר אל חנותו של סוחר סיטונאי ממנו היה לוקח סחורה כל צרכו. פעמים היה משלם מיד בעד הסחורה ופעם היה הסיטונאי נותן לו בהקפה ורושם בפנקסו את סך החוב

לימים התדלדלו עסקיו של החנווני וקרה שנשאר חייב לסיטואני סכום כסף גדול. בבושתו מפניו חדל החנווני בקר בחנותו של הסיטאוני, ואף אם אירע והיה פוגש אותו ברחוב היה משתמט מפניו וממהר ללכת לכיון אחר

פעם אחת פגש הסיטונאי את החנווני ברחוב, ובטרם הספיק הלה לנוס קרא לו הסיטונאי בקול: מה לך? האם גרמתי לך כל רע שאתה נמלט מפני כמפני אויב? אודה על האמת - אמר החנווני - בוש ונכלם אני מפניך כי חובתו עלו למעלה ראש ואין ביכולתי לשלם לך

אדרבה - אמר הסיטונאי - דווקא משום כך עליך להיפגש עמי. נשוחח על חובך ונתייעץ ביחד באיזה אופן יהיה אפשר להתחיל עוד פעם לסחור עמך לתת לך שוב סחורה בהקפה, וכן תשלם קמעא קמעא גם על חובות העבר כדרך שנהוג בין הסוחרים

לברוח ממני אין זו דרך

כן הוא גם הנמשל - אמר "חפץ חיים" - כך ביכול, פונה הקב"ה לישראל ואומר להם: אמת הדבר ששקעתם החטא ועוון, אולם אין זה הדרך "לברוח" מפני, אדרבה, שובו בתשובה, עשו מצוות ועסקו בתורה ובתוך כך אמחל לכם על כל עוונותיכם

"לברוח"אין זו דרך

Apologies for any spelling errors - I typed it out from the book and am too tired to make sure everything is ok! :)

On that note, I ask for forgiveness for any sins I've committed against my family & friends. May we all have a meaningful Yom Kippur, and may we all be inscribed in the book of life, happiness and good health.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A New Year, A New Blog

A friend of mine from England has started a blog I think will be worth a-following. Though I disagree with him on many issues, we have many interesting debates as you'd expect to have between a Wondering Jew (me!) and a Pakistani Muslim.

You can follow him at:

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Elders

On the bus to work today, I stood near an old man. Three younger people were sitting down next to him. After a few minutes, I told the man, "I'm sorry none of them have offered you their seat." "What can you do?" he responded, "That's how it is." After the next stop, a few people got off the bus and as he went to an open seat, he smiled at me and said, "Maybe He heard you."


On the bus ride home, I sat down reading my book about Entebbe. I glanced up and saw an old man by the door. I asked the girl sitting next to me to ask him if he wants to sit down. "I'm getting off at the next stop," he responded. I told the girl, "They always say that and remain standing until their stop." She wasn't so convinced and surely enough, within two stops he was off. She then asked me, "Does this mitzvah (respecting the elderly) only relate to Jews?" I responded, "No, it's important we treat everyone with respect. As Hillel said, the Torah stands on the principle of treating a person as one would want to be treated himself." My stop was next, she thanked me and said, "Shanna Tova."


So I wish my readers, friends & family a sweet, healthy, happy, peaceful & prosperous New Year. May we improve our abilities to respect our fellow man - be it a family member, a friend, a neighbor, an elderly person or a complete stranger. May we learn to be appreciative of the many blessings showered upon us daily. May we find peace in our private lives and on our holy land.

שנה טובה ומתוקה לכולם

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Mazal TovA

Happy to share that my lil sis, Tova, has got engaged to her boyfriend Diego!

I'm stoked for the two and look forward to celebrating the simcha with them next year in the good ole US of A.

En buena ora ... בשעה טובה

What Rav Ovadia said

This week started off with yet another Haaretz story slamming Gadol Ha'Dor Ha'Rav Ovadia Yosef for the following inflammatory comments:

"Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this world, God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians."

Before long, there was a condemnation from the US State Department:

We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace.

And the Palestinians, courtesy of Saeb Erekat, also complained to the world:

Is this how the Israeli government prepares its public for a peace agreement? While the PLO is ready to resume negotiations in seriousness and good faith, a member of the Israeli government is calling for our destruction. It is an insult to all our efforts to advance the negotiations process."

Even Rav Eliashiv made a comment:

There's no sense in aggravating the whole world

From the minute this hit the press, I was hoping something wasn't right. Yes, R' Ovadia has made inflammatory remarks in the past but he's also been deliberately mistranslated so many times (including the famous 'IDF soldiers died in Lebanon because they didn't keep mitzvot' line, which I was in attendance for, and was never uttered) that I was hoping there was an error.

Today, I finally found a clip of the speech. This is what R' Ovadia said:

אבו-מאזן וכל הרשעים האלה, שיאבדו מן העולם. יכה בהם הקדוש ברוך הוא מכת דבר, בהם ובפלסטינים האלה, רשעים צוררי ישראל

When I heard this, I realized straight away how R' Ovadia's words had been twisted. But first, the translation:

Abu-Mazen and all those evil doers, may they be lost from this world. May Hashem strike them down in a plague, them and those Palestinians, evil persecutors of Israel.

Going by what I heard and read, it seems that R' Ovadia has a (legitimate) gripe with Abu Mazen (despite how he portrays himself today, he still openly denies the Holocaust's severity and was a major financier & planner of terrorist attacks against Jews in Israel and abroad) and Palestinians who cause evil to Israel. The last part is key. R' Ovadia isn't calling for genocide towards the Palestinian nation, he's asking Hashem to strike down those in their nation who cause evil to Israel. I doubt R' Ovadia would have used the term 'those' if he had intended to include all the Palestinians in his statement ... He would have just said, "בהם ובפלסטינים" (them and the Palestinians, or like Haaretz twisted his comment originally).

For more into the context of the speech, see Veranen Yaakov, and for another take on the statement, see Yaakov Lozowick

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Three - Zero

So I'm 30 (well, 15 minutes away but still). I was discussing the topic with some friends in miluim this past week, and most of us came to agreement that this is the birthday that essentially ends younghood - it seems that from here on out the responsibilities of adulthood - families, profession, savings, etc. - only grow and grow in importance. Ah yes, one can still act the fool as I often do, but those issues will still be there demanding thought and action. So, why am I bothering to write this? Not sure to be honest. A part of me does actually feel like I'm ending a certain chapter in life, and yet another part has me saying, "Me stop being a kid? Nah, never." When I figure out which 'part' wins in the fight, I'll report back but until then a quick dvar torah:

Pirkei Avot (5:25) comments that the age of thirty is for "entering into full vigor," (בן שלושים לכח). Torah.Org has this to say: "Thirty is for strength. It the age at which a man's strength is at its peak -- both physically and emotionally. At that age, we see our lives ahead of us, and we feel up to its challenges. We can still solve the world's problems -- not to mention our own." Bring on the vigor baby!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

In Honor of the late Nissim Piha

My latest article in Kaminando y Avlando, the Sephardi Hebrew Congregation of Cape Town's monthly publication:


Nissim Piha, a devoted member of the Sephardi Hebrew Congregation of Cape Town, passed away ten years ago on September 21, 2000 (כ״א בְּאֱלוּל תש״ס). That Thursday was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I was relaxing in my college dorm room before a finance class when my mother called me. “Nonnou’s passed away,” she said sadly. I don’t remember what I said in response. For the next few minutes, I spoke to my dad. He wasn’t the pillar of strength he usually was – he was devastated, he was human. I remember the next few hours well – they were spent remembering with friends a man I looked up to, and expressing my emotions in a short poem I wrote while crying quietly in class. Despite my great sadness at his sudden passing, I don’t think I fully appreciated what my Nonnou, my father’s father, meant to me until I moved to Israel and began my own family.

The first line of Pirkei Avot speaks of Moshe receiving the Torah from Sinai, and then passing it on to Joshua, who passed it on to the Elders, who passed it on to the Prophets, who then passed it on to the men of the Great Assembly. Whenever we visited Cape Town when I was a boy, Nonnou always asked me to write out the first few lines of that mishna (as well as the Shema) for him. Back then, I would sit down and copy these words from his books only for the money I would get once finished. Now, whenever I read that line I realize what Nonnou was doing. He was passing on traditions, ensuring the seeds of understanding and appreciation for our faith were continually being planted and watered. I thank him for helping to instill in me the appreciation for and understanding of Judaism I have today.

I always admired Nonnou’s generosity. Whether with respect to family, friends, community or complete strangers, Nonnou was always generous with time and money. In an age where the ‘me first’ approach is so common, Nonnou showed by example that one can find a balance between taking care of one’s own interests and helping others. Another trait I really admired was Nonnou’s ability to be happy with his lot. There is a famous midrash that says that Hashem gives an individual exactly what he/she needs in his/her life. Despite the many difficult times he endured, during which it may have seemed that he needed more, Nonnou always managed to stay positive and be grateful for the good he had in his life. Not only do I admire Nonnou for these traits, they are qualities I try to bring to my own dealings with the world.

Ten years ago, our family and the Cape Town community lost a man I admired and respected deeply. As my wife and I raise the next Nissim Piha, I always find myself wishing the two could have interacted. That the love and warmth Nonnou displayed when I was around him could have just for a second been in the presence of his great grandson. My Dad once told me that Nonnou always used to say, “I’m a very rich man, for my children are my capital.” It’s a sentence I always find myself repeating, another wise lesson from Nonnou that I carry with me. I think in a person’s death, you can tell a lot about how that person lived. Nelson Mandela once said, "When we were born we cried and the people around us smiled. Live life so that when you die you are smiling and the people around you are crying." From the way Nonnou lived his life, I know he's smiling from up above.



So 'peace' talks in Washington are fast approaching. That means trouble, as it always does. Not surprising that the last two days have bought two shooting (1 2) attacks from Hamas militants. I am now curious to see how the PA acts (they did go on 'Arrest a Hamas Militant' spree yesterday) and if Hezbollah join in.


I spent the last three days up North on miluim. I have to say that the Golan is absolutely stunning, during the day and at night. I just wish the Israeli government would put even more of an emphasis on development there, and the Negev too for that matter, so that it would be more attractive to young couples.


Something about putting on the uniform definitely 'warps' you. How else can I explain eating a salami sandwich at 7am? That's not normal! :)


I hope to add a post later today that I wrote for Kaminando y Avlando about my late Nonnou, Nissim Piha. The 10th azkara (yahrzeit) of his passing was this past Tuesday (כא אלול).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Houston, we have a problem

And sadly, I'm not really sure there's a solution:

Indeed, a survey by the American Jewish Committee concluded that just 12 percent of American Jews strongly oppose intermarriage, and 56 percent would not be pained in the slightest by their child's intermarriage.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


A random post but I just want to say I truly appreciate the wonders of Skype. By using this brilliant technology (and no, I haven't just found out about it - I've been using it for years), I am able to 'share' my son with my family, despite them being thousands of kilometers away.
It's great to see how he interacts with my 'rents, Gramps, Tova (my sis), Sandy or Saba (Talya's dad). Such a privilege considering how it must have been like for my parents to try and share the experiences of Eitan, Tova & I growing up around the world (It probably was a call, or two, every few weeks, and pictures or videos even less frequently).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

חן בן של תמר

Yesterday, on the walk home from shacharit (Morning prayer), a friend of mine got a phone call. He got bad news, it was obvious by his reaction.

This morning, when hashcavot (prayer for the deceased) were being read, the name (חן בן של תמר, Chen the son of Tamar) he had been saying the past few years during the prayer for the sick had suddenly been added to the unfortunate list.

I asked him after shacharit what had happened. Shortly after his Bar Mitzvah, Chen felt tremendous head pain during a footy match. He told his dad and within days, devastating news was revealed. 3 years later, this 16.5 year old kid succumbed to cancer.

I didn't know Chen, nor do I know his family, but this news hit me hard. No warning, nothing. Stories like these really hurt me. We're fragile beings, and one day we're well, the next day we're gone. They're tragic reminders that we must enjoy the 'now' for we don't know what's coming from around the corner. It's sad that it takes this kind of alarm bell to help us realize the importance of appreciating one's family, health and lot. שלא נדע ...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The pathway to the study of Torah

"The pathway to the study of Torah is this, a morsel of bread with salt to eat, water to drink with measure, sleep on the ground, live a life of toil, but work diligently in the study of Torah. And if you do so, you will be happy and you will have a good life, as the psalmist said, 'Happy shalt thou be (in this world), and it should be well with thee (in the World to Come)."
Pirkei Avot, 6:4

The above is explained by the Ben Ish Chai (Taken from משל ונמשל) with the following parable:

Two donkeys were carrying loads. One donkey was struggling with an extremely heavy load of salt, while the other was carrying a large sponge, that was so light that he didn't feel any discomfort. The donkey carrying the sponge walked around merrily, running up the mountains and jumping over the hills. The donkey carrying the salt struggled as the salt was so heavy.

Due to the trail they had chosen, the donkeys had to cross a river. When the donkey carrying the salt entered the river, the salt started to melt. As the salt melted away, the donkey started to cross the river happily and peacefully with the emptying sack. When the donkey carrying the sponge entered the water, the sponge got heavier and heavier. So heavy was the sponge that the donkey's legs could no longer carry him, and he drowned.

The journey that the donkey carrying the salt took was for his benefit, because it gave him peace and serenity after the heaviness had melted away. The donkey carrying the sponge had an easy time at the beginning, not even feeling the weight, but when he entered the water - it led to too much toil. The donkey couldn't stand the labor, and that was the reason he died.

Instead of writing up the Ben Ish Chai's analysis about the parable, I think I'd like to sum it up as follows: One shouldn't be intimidated, or turned off, by the weight or difficulty of Torah study - it is for our benefit, both now and in the future.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Update: Making Peace with Change

I did more research after writing yesterday's blog post. I still wasn't really that at peace with my decision. I wanted to ensure I was doing the right thing for myself, and my family.

After a quick review, I found out (I'm not sure how I missed this yesterday) that Rav Yosef Karo (Maran Yosef) actually writes in the Shulchan Aruch about shavoah she'chal bo as the Jews of Rhodes, and Sefardim (not to be confused here with Mizrachim), practiced it.

That led me to the key question here: does Minhag Yerushulayim (Jerusalem custom; That of the Sfradim who lived here, as the Ashkenazi Jews that lived here had their own Minhag Yerushalayim) take precedence here (as it was in practice before Karo wrote the Shulchan Aruch) as I am a resident of the city. As I am not a permanent resident of the city (at least not yet, so this may be revisited in the future) and have a halachic backing for my minhag (custom), I do not feel the need, or obligation, to change it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Making Peace with Change

Every morning, one of the members of the shul where I attend shacharit (morning services) read a halacha (Jewish law), or two, from the Yalkut Yosef. This past Thursday morning, the halacha read essentially said a minhag (custom) I held during the first nine days of Av may be wrong. I won't go into depth about the minhag (eating meat until Shavoah she'chal bo) but after the service ended, I discussed with a few members of the community what I do, which was confirmed by a Rabbi who is well versed in the halachot of Rhodes, an island south of Turkey which was a home to a thriving small Sefardi (Judeo-Spanish) community before the Holocaust.

By the time the conversation had ended, I had decided I needed to do some research to ensure what I was doing was in fact ok. I e-mailed my dad to ask him if the Rabbi had a source, and also picked up Rabbi Dobrinsky's excellent A Treasury of Sephardic Laws and Customs. After going back and forth, I realized that I needed to change my minhag. When I told my dad this, he approved but made the following comment:

Unfortunately, the people who say that the tradition is untenable if there is no source are cementing the Holocaust’s work, because these communities’ written halachot were destroyed in the holocaust.

It hurt me to read that. I'm extremely proud of my roots, and do my best to adhere to customs that have been passed along for generations. It left me in a bind.

This morning after shacharit, I had a long discussion with Yossi, who reads the Torah every Shabbat morning. I told him why I was struggling with what to do. He made the point that since the minhag does in fact clash with the halacha, it's best I do change the minhag. However, he then stressed something that I was foolishly overlooking. I can still teach Nissim that this was done in Rhodes (even if we do not practice it in Israel) while actually teaching and observing with him the Rhodesli customs (with regards to food, nusach and music for example) that were passed on to me by my parents.

I hope that, like my father & mother with me, I'm successful in transmitting my enthusiasm, love and appreciation of these customs* to Nissim (and G-d willng, the other children that follow) so that he carriers them, like me, on his journeys.

* I'd just like to add that while these customs are important, they're 2nd fiddle to teaching Nissim to love his faith and be an active & respectful member of Am Yisrael.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Gilad Shalit

I don't even know where to begin this. Fact is, I really hope this boy sees his parents and home soon. He's been in solitary confinement for over four years, with no contact with the world he left behind on June 25th, 2006. He's probably endured mental hardships none of us will even come close to experiencing. And yet, what I'm seeing on TV with this march demanding his return doesn't sit with me well. Now don't get me wrong, if I was Gilad's father I'd probably be doing the same exact thing. But this still doesn't sit well with me.

Gilad cannot come back at any cost - especially if that price will include jailed terrorists who will continue to be active. If they kill again, are we willing to tell those newly bereaved parents that Gilad's life was worth more than the lives of their loved ones? Pidyun Shovyim is an important issue here, but I feel its importance is lessened in this situation as it increases the desire of our enemies to take hostages. If I was Noam or Aviva Shalit, I wouldn't care about the last paragraph I've written. As a father myself, I respect and understand that is their way is the only way the parents should be thinking. But as an Israeli with no 'family' attachment to Gilad, I cannot allow myself to think that way, or to expect my government to act that way.

As a soldier, I struggle with this 'what if' scenario all the time. I think however that once in uniform, our life becomes 'less important' than that of our civilian population, and hence, we shouldn't endanger it in any way. I'd never want to be in Shalit's position, but I'd rather not be the potential reason civilians die if I was. I'm sure it would be the opposite if I was sitting in the same room as Gilad is now, but this is where I stand without that horrific reality being a part of my decision making process.

34 years later

My latest article in Kaminando y Avlando, the Sephardi Hebrew Congregation of Cape Town's monthly publication:


July 4th marked the 34th anniversary of the Entebbe Raid. Although four years have passed since I wrote this article for my blog, I think the point is still highly relevant in light of recent events in Israel and abroad.


Another 4th of July is fast approaching here in Israel. A day that should mean something not only in Israel, but also worldwide, will probably only be mentioned because of its significance in US history. Little will be made of the fact that it is the anniversary of one of history's most daring anti-terror rescue operations. Thirty years have passed, but this event can still play a major role in shaping the world's mentality in pursuing its inalienable rights. During such an uncertain stage in Israel's & the world's war on radical Islam's terror tactics, July 4th should be remembered for the actions of Israel's elite forces during Operation Thunderbolt, otherwise known as the Raid on Entebbe.

A brief overview of the event: Late June 1976, an Air France jet left Israel and landed in Athens, where two Germans and two Arabs boarded the plane and hijacked it. The plane arrived in Entebbe, Uganda, where the terrorists were joined by more Arabs and friendly Ugandan troops (by orders of the country's president, Idi Amin). The terrorists demanded the release of their imprisoned comrades throughout Europe and Israel. After a few days, all the non-Jews and non-Israelis are released and flown to Paris – an eerie reminder for Israel of the Holocaust and the selections. As the world remained predictably silent, Israel planned a daring mission while 'attempting to negotiate.' Late July 3rd, Sayeret Matkal (Israel's most elite unit), with other standout soldiers from various units, left Israel on a 4,000 km flight in an attempt to deal a death blow to terrorism.

On July 4th, Israel's forces did the impossible: they rescued all but 4 of the hostages (2 were killed by stray bullets at the terminal, 1 died of his wounds in a Nairobi hospital and Dora Bloch z"l was left behind in a Ugandan hospital, where she was murdered by Ugandan troops) and one soldier, the commander of Sayeret Matkal, Yonatan ‘Yoni’ Netanyahu z"l. Israel had once again stood up to terror, refusing to allow it to dictate her policies.

The significance and importance of such an accomplishment should be stressed in light of worldwide events in the last few years. Islamic terror has killed thousands of innocent civilians since 2000, and while their numbers, supporters and strength continue to grow, the world's reactions become more timid and appeasingly pathetic. When the US pursues actions (offensives against terror supporting Afghani & Iraqi regimes) that it deems necessary to protect its citizens, far too many countries refuse to react. When Spain suffered a devastating attack that killed 191 people, its reaction was to change prime minister (PM) and withdraw all its troops from Iraq. Wonder what the terrorists learned from that?! When Australia lost over 100 citizens in the attacks on Bali in 2002, the reaction was a few harsh words from PM John Howard and since then, very little else. After the first suicide bus bombing in London, England's reaction also left much to be desired. So as radical Muslim activity flourishes in Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, too little is being done to put obstacles in the terrorists' paths. The inability to preempt, or react, is only further strengthening the belief of the terrorists that one day they will win the war against us.

The rescue at Entebbe stresses the right and duty of any nation to defend its citizens. A day to honor the bravery and dedication of those soldiers would stress a vital point: A country should undertake whatever means it deems necessary to protect its citizens from the threats of terrorism, be it a preemptive strike or by reacting to attacks. A good example of the above are the events surrounding the World Trade Center towers: Bill Clinton should have reacted with force after the first attack in '93, and by that I don't mean bombing a medicine factory in Sudan, and George Bush should have started to act when all the warnings came in before the tragic events of September 11th unfolded.

The free world is in a vital phase in its war to eliminate radical Islam's terror tactics and allow a moderate and peaceful Islam to flourish. Any backtracking or hesitation, like we're seeing today with Israel with regards to Hamas for example, will only strengthen the terrorists' resolve to destroy the values most of us take for granted. By commemorating and highlighting the brave actions of the IDF on July 4th 1976, the world would be sending a clear and necessary message to the terror cells of the world: No action taken against the citizens of the free world will go unpunished.

Thursday, June 17, 2010



When the world's gone lost
We're gonna help you find the way
Too much drama in my eyes that I can't hide
When the world's gone lost
I don't plan to fall with it

Verse 1 (Ruff):
I'm on the wrong side of the map, activists with knifes got me trapped
Surrounded by hostility, trying not to react
Flotillas of hatred, ‫we're‬ caught in the matrix
I'm trying to survive, they're pulling the same tricks
This international hypocrisy won't get us far
One-sided media puts us behind bars
Nations with no minorities, judging ‫with no‬ authority
They're gonna tell me how to deal with what's in front of me
What about Sudan and North Korea? Could they care less?!
They wanna boycott us, they're gonna share less
We're lying on the fence for the rest of the world
Provide a buffer zone ‫while‬ overseas they get us sold
I know my people can be divided at times
Got too many opinions with too much shit on our minds
You can hate us now, we ain't gonna fight it
You're only making us stronger and more united

When the world's gone lost
We're gonna help you find the way
Too much drama in my eyes that I can't hide
When the world's gone lost
I don't plan to fall with it

Verse 2 (SHI 360):
‏But I‪'‬m already home and the media distorts your vision
‏Got blind followers here in full submission
‏Provocateurs,‬ they just wanna instigate
‏And create the image you love to hate
‏You can talk about humanitarian aid
‏Politically affiliated IHH
‏Guess who's more popular? Erodgan
‏Fuck left and right‪,‬ we should all stand as one
‏You really thought we were gonna let ‪'e‬m in?
‏When yesterday they tried to bring Karine A - was that aid or to arm Jihad?
‏Wanna talk about aid‪?‬ What about Gilad‪?‬
‏Because the horse is trojan, doors not open
‏I gotta do whatever to protect my home and
‏I‪'‬m a peace dealer, my flow killa
‏But no peace came at me on the flotilla

When the world's gone lost
We're gonna help you find the way
Too much drama in my eyes that I can't hide
When the world's gone lost
I don't plan to fall with it

עם ישראל חי

Lyrics: Guy "Ruff" Gabriel, Shai "SHI 360" Haddad
Music, production, mix and mastering: Avishay "Evish" Sapir

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ever Again

A must watch documentary. Please share this ...


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pilar Rahola

Two great speeches by Pilar Rahola, a Spanish left winger activist & former politician (courtesy of Portal of Ideas):

The first question, then, is why so many intelligent people, when talking about Israel, suddenly become idiots. The problem that those of us, who do not demonize Israel have, is that there exists no debate on the conflict. All that exists is the banner; there’s no exchange of ideas. We throw slogans at each other; we don’t have serious information, we suffer from the “burger journalism” syndrome, full of prejudices, propaganda and simplification. Intellectual thinkers and international journalists have given up on Israel. It doesn't exist exist. That is why, when someone tries to go beyond the “single thought” of criticizing Israel, he becomes suspect and unfaithful, and is immediately segregated. Why?

I’ve been trying to answer this question for years: why?

Why, of all the conflicts in the world only this one interests them?

Why is a tiny country which struggles to survive criminalized?

Why does manipulated information triumph so easily?

Why are all the people of Israel, reduced to a simple mass of murderous imperialists?

Why is there no Palestinian guilt?

Read the entire speech here.

I am not Jewish. Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not as anti Israeli as my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland, Israel. To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews, it is the duty of the non-Jews.

As a journalist it is my duty to search for the truth beyond prejudice, lies and manipulations. The truth about Israel is not told. As a person from the left who loves progress, I am obligated to defend liberty, culture, civic education for children, coexistence and the laws that the Tablets of the Covenant made into universal principles. Principles that Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. That is to say that as a non-Jew, journalist and lefty I have a triple moral duty with Israel, because if Israel is destroyed, liberty, modernity and culture will be destroyed too.

The struggle of Israel, even if the world doesn’t want to accept it, is the struggle of the world.

Read the entire speech here.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Psalm in Jenin

My latest article in Kaminando y Avlando, the Sephardi Hebrew Congregation of Cape Town's monthly publication:


When reading stories about the IDF in newspapers from around the world, I am usually left aghast by the image they paint of our soldiers. Gone are the days when our soldiers were looked upon in a positive light. Nowadays, if most newspapers (including some Israeli ones sadly) are to be believed, IDF soldiers are vicious, blood thirsty lunatics who actively seek to eradicate Palestinians. In the past decade, newspapers have inflamed the worldwide anti-Israel sentiment with stories like the Mohammad Al-Dura death (the 12-year-old boy was killed in cold blood on live TV by IDF troops. Months later it was proven that Israeli soldiers were not stationed in a position where they could possibly have shot the boy – he was killed by Palestinian fire); the Jenin ‘Massacre’ (too many newspapers printed the ‘500 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians’ lie, when in fact only 50 were killed, of which over 80% were terrorists); the organ harvesting article last year...the list goes on and on. Too few articles, or books for that matter, paint the truthful image of the IDF – an army, which despite mistakes, strives to ensure the Palestinian population it works around is protected from unnecessary confrontations even at the risk of its very own soldiers’ lives.

One book that does do our soldiers justice is Brett Goldberg’s A Psalm in Jenin, which places the reader side by side with the soldiers who fought in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. What the book does well is it leads the reader from the ‘difficulties’ of the soldiers’ civilian lives straight into the difficulties the same soldiers, be they the 20-year-old kids or the thirty-something reservists, faced as they went from one booby trapped house to another in the heart of Jenin. It’s a must-read book – one that will give anyone who hasn’t served in the army a far better understanding of the human beings who fight to protect the land of Israel, and the many struggles they face while fighting a few miles from their homes. One of the book’s most powerful chapters takes place when the soldiers commemorate Yom Ha’Zikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. During a break from fighting, a soldier organizes a ceremony during which he reads a letter by Gadi Ezra, who was tragically killed in Jenin:

My beloved Galit,

If this letter reaches you, it means that something has befallen me.

This morning I received word that the operation planned yesterday will take place, G-d willing. I told you that the operation had changed and that it was not what it was originally supposed to be – because I didn’t want you to worry you, my dearest. It was very hard for me not to tell you the truth, but I preferred to do so rather than to drive you crazy with worry. “One can tell a lie for Peace,” it is taught, and that also includes the peace of mind of the person that you love more than anything else on earth.

My beloved, I feel that on the one hand there is nothing that I would like more than to be with you, to love you, and to raise a family with you. But on the other hand, there is nothing that I want more than to go on this operation and deal such a great blow to the terrorists that they will never dare perpetrate another bombing or terror attack. That they will take into account that each time they commit an atrocity we will hit them in the most painful place possible and will be willing to pay the price. I am willing to be that price.

Do not be angry at me, my loved one, but in moments like this one must be guided by the greater good of the people of Israel, and one needs to deal a blow to evil as if one has no private life. As it is written, “In the armies of King David a conditional letter of divorce was granted before going off to war.”

My dearest, do not forget: everything is for the best, and if this is what the Master of the Universe has chosen, so be it. To us remains the task of accepting it all with love.

Everything the Lord does is for the best. Everything is for the best, even this. I promise you that I am in the most wonderful of places, without suffering, without regret. My only sorrow is for those who remain – for you, for my family, and for my friends.

Spread the good news, my dearest one. “Never despair, be only joyous.” That is what I ask of you even, if it is difficult.

I know that I can ask this of you, because I know well the joy and bliss that radiate from you naturally, those qualities with which I fell in love. They are what drew me to you when I first laid eyes upon you.

My dearest, my beloved. I love you and will always love you. Promise that you will continue onwards, and will not allow Sodom to triumph. You be the triumphant one. That is what must be.

I will love you to all eternities, and will always be yours.

The letter is often read during Yom Ha’Zikaron ceremonies nowadays. It’s painful evidence of the dedication and sacrifice our soldiers are willing to make to ensure this country eliminates the dangers facing her. Galit followed Gadi’s advice and ‘continued onwards,’ she got married and had four children.

Though I’ve always been a big fan of this book, it took on a whole new meaning since I joined my miluim (reserve duty) unit in 2006. On another one of those long guard duty stints, the topic of Jenin came up. By the time the conversation was over, I’d found out that a few of the soldiers in my unit were the Golani soldiers who fought in Jenin with Gadi Ezra and quite a few of the people mentioned in the book. During each stint, I discuss more of the book with them. They’re all my age, most of them married with kids and they still talk about those nights as if they happened yesterday - their fears, the long nights and close brushes with death, their friends, the blood and the funerals. The conversations normally end with a similar outcome, “It was hell, but we must continue on. It will be ok, יהיה טוב.” It’s as if Gadi’s words were engrained in all of them…

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Spies and their Sin

A few ideas about the sins that cost Moshe's generation a chance to conquer the land of Israel:

- Ramban focuses on the word אפס (translation: but, BaMidbar 13:28). If this was in fact a factual report, there was no need for a qualifier - stating facts was all that was required. 'But' was a contradiction to their first two sentences, that described the land so glowingly.

- Why was there a need to mention Amalek (BaMidbar 13:29)? Amalek was deliberately mentioned, despite not even being part of the land of Israel, in order to incite fear and doubt.

- Rav Twerski points out that the Spies' report highlighed their lack of belief in the mission at hand: "We were like grasshoppers ... and so we were in their eyes," (BaMidbar 13:33). So lacking in confidence were the Spies that they felt 'small' during the mission, and even anticipated how the residents of the land would view them. Hashem had taken Israel out of Egypt, but their feelings of weakness and inferiority due to the years of slavery had sadly accompanied them. This generation wouldn't have the privilege of conquering the land.

- לא נוכל לעלות (BaMidbar, 13:31) ... The Spies tried to convince the Nation of Israel that the task was not possible ("We cannot ascend"). The mass hysteria that followed on Tisha Be'Av ("the people wept that night," BaMidbar 14:1) has haunted us till this very day.

Dear Boss ...

People who do lots of work ... make lots of mistakes

People who do less work ... make less mistakes

People who do no work ... make no mistakes

People who make no mistakes ... gets promoted

That's why I spend most of my time sending e-mails & playing games at work I need a promotion


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back in London

While waiting for my flight to London on Sunday, I was looking at our plane when I saw none other than Ehud Olmert putting his bag in a shining Audi with his bodyguard watching. I wonder if our former Prime Minister enjoyed the Champions League final he watched in Madrid Saturday night.


So I’m back in London with IDT. I arrived late Sunday night and was rather startled by the English weather. No it wasn’t snow, or hail, or even a rainstorm. It was warm, t-shirt appropriate weather … at 11pm at night!


So I have a friend who was rather surprised that I was going abroad for almost two weeks, leaving my wife and 18 month old son alone. I do understand where he’s coming from. It’s not easy for me or my wife. It does however seem to be a necessary part of any professional’s routine if s/he intends to climb his/her way up the corporate ladder (or in another world, any eligible reservist in Israel who understands the importance of serving the country, and does so). It is something that deprived me of my father for many weeks as I grew up, and Talya of her dad too. I doubt they would have been able to give their families many of the luxuries they provided were it not for these sacrifices. The question in my mind then becomes how can one strike a balance between his commitments to his career and his family so he can satisfy his desires and be happy & satisfied in both fields.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pirkei Avot - Ethics of Our Fathers - Chapter 6, II

Pirkei Avot 6:11

כָּל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בָּעוֹלָמוֹ, לֹא בְרָאוֹ אֶלָּא לִכְבוֹדוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, כֹּל הַנִּקְרָא בִשְׁמִי וְלִכְבוֹדִי בְּרָאתִיו יְצַרְתִּיו אַף עֲשִׂיתִיו, וְאוֹמֵר יְהֹוָה יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד

All that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in this world, He created for His glory, as is said in Isaiah XLIII:7, "...every one that is called by My name; for I have created him for My glory. I have formed him; year, I have made him." And it is also said in Exodus XV:18, The Lord shall reign for ever and ever."

- The first line is saying that everything has been created for a purpose. We all have a role to play, a paint stroke in a master painting.

- The last mishna is a fitting end to Pirkei Avot. We've spent six weeks reading what great figures in Judaism have stressed in order to improve our attitudes, behavior and way of life. All these lessons are rather meaningless if they're not done for a reason. As we are on this planet for a reason (As the first bullet point states), if we don't ensure that our time here is used in order to enhance the greatness of our Creator, then what exactly is the point of our existence?

Another cycle is done ... It's been fun and challenging. Until next time ...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rivlin's comments on Jerusalem Day

Reuven Rivlin, Knesset Speaker, delivered a few interesting words during his speech in the special Knesset session commemorating this national holiday:

Jerusalem Day was created by law as a national holiday. And yet the nature of celebrations in Jerusalem and the identity of those dancing in the streets today teach us that the national holiday in its current form more resembles a sectorial holiday. To be honest, most of the main events in Jerusalem have long been held under the auspices of the religious public.

Rivlin is pointing out a problem that I've raised before on this blog. It's a worrying issue with the secular Zionism movement - a failure to stress Jewishness as an essential part of the Israeli identity, a failure that could have grave consequences for our future ... or as Arik Sharon put it:

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