Thursday, March 31, 2011

8 Days

When I told the lads at the office that my wife & I were expecting our 2nd child, one statement by Zak (of Parasha Thoughts fame) stuck with me. He mentioned how unlike the time period before their first child was born, they didn't really have a chance to focus on, or prepare themselves for, the arrival of their second child. Before they knew it, nine months had come n' gone and they had another healthy, crying baby to deal with.

It stuck with me ...I realized I was in the same exact predicament. So I tried to talk about it more with the wife & son, and just think about it more than I was doing beforehand. "You're going to be a father to two children b'h," I would say to myself and then let the mixed emotions - the happiness, the worries, the excitement, the nerves etc - take over.

I honestly thought I was doing a good job ... and then I looked at my calender yesterday. 30th of March? That means the due date is 8 days away. 8 days alek. Where have the last 8.5 months gone? Damnit, I really need to remember how to breathe properly. Breathe. Breathe. I kid, I kid.

Yalla, bring it on ... A healthy wife & baby be'ezrat Hashem.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dig Deep

Parashat Shemini contains the exact halfway mark of all the words in the Torah. It occurs in 10:15:

ואת שעיר החטאת דרש דרש משה והנה שרף ויקצף על אלעזר ועל איתמר בני אהרון הנותרם לאמור

The two words דרש דרש are the halfway mark, and they translate to 'inquired insistently.' Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim comments in Degel Machane Ephraim that this teaches us that the entire Torah revolves around constant inquiry; one must never stop studying and seeking an ever deeper and broader understanding of the Torah.

(Ideas taken from The Stone Edition Chumash)

Yonah z'l

When I first started attending the Kurdi shul near my home, an old man (Yonah), who seemed to be suffering from Parkison's, always caught my eye. I never spoke to the man, just shook his hand a few times. What caught my eye was what I thought was his intense dedication when praying or saying kaddish. It was important to him, and it showed.

During the past few 18-24 months, he no longer came to shul. I found out from a friend that he was in hospital as his health was detereorating rapidly with advanced Parkinson's & Alzheimer's. He had been in a coma the last few months.

Purim, in Jerusalem, was this past Sunday night. My wife told me that Yonah's wife was getting ready for the megillah reading when her daughter and daughter-in-law came in and said they have to go to the hospital, her husband was about to pass away. Yonah's wife looked at them and said, "If I go, I won't hear the megillah. I need to hear the megillah." Her daughter and daughter-in-law left, and the second the megillah reading was finished, she left too.

Yonah z'l passed away that night. When my wife told me the story, I didn't know what to say - I understand both the 'sides' of this story. I didn't really respond to the story ... but I couldn't help but just be in awe.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Burnt Strength

The horrific murder of 5 members of the Fogel family in Itamar on March 11th really upset me. The parents (Udi & Ruth) and 3 (Yoav, 11, Elad 4 and Hadas, 3 months) of their 5 children were butchered while they slept by a knife wielding terrorist (or terrorists, no one really knows yet). What kind of hatred must it take to knife anyone, even your enemy's children? What astounded me more was the response to the murder by the family that was left behind.

Tamar Fogel, the 12 year old who walked into her home to find her butchered family, has been a ray of light to Israel. She commented on the tragic situation, "I will be strong and succeed in overcoming this. I understand the task that stands before me, and I will be a mother to my siblings." Days later, in an interview on Channel 2, Tamar showed the same maturity and resolve, "They want to break us, they won't succeed".

Another family member who made extremely powerful comments was Tamar's grandfather, the late Ruth Fogel's father. Rabbi Yehuda Ben Yishai was questioned by Estie Perez on the Voice of Israel radion station, "Where do you have the strength and restraint that you can talk now and strengthen us, without anger and without calling for vengeance – that is not in your voice? Where is the strength from?" R' Ben Yishai's response was incredible, "I have worked in education many years, and as an educator, I try to strengthen and teach people faith. I understand that I cannot be satisfied with words and that I also must implement the same principles on which I have educated others. This is a test of my faith." While R' Ben Yishai's quote is one of strength and determination, I can't help but think he's burnt inside. No parent should have to bury his children, or grandparent his grandchildren - it's just not natural. How can it not destroy one internally?

This past Shabbat, my mother-in-law mentioned how the twins went to the shiva house of R' Ben Yishai. She made some comment about the Rabbi, and I asked, "Is he the Rabbi of the French shul down the road?" She nodded, and I sat back in shock. I prayed at this man's Bet Knesset for over a year, and often discussed various subjects with him. I talk to him whenever I run into him in the street or in other synagogues in the area. I just wonder if I'll ever be able to look at him the same way ... Will he ever be the same man again?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Hamas Sets the Record Straight

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


Spreading Lies About Israel: For Once, Hamas Sets the Record Straight

The damage Judge Richard Goldstone caused with his biased UN report about the Gaza War was predicable. Despite the many issues with the report raised by many prominent voices, not to mention Goldstone himself (“If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven”), far too many people and countries accepted the report as factually accurate. In the past two months however, one organization has come forward, revealing Goldstone’s dishonesty on two major points in his report: The opening strike of the Gaza War in December 2008, and the total civilian death count. Who’s the honest organization defending Israel’s take on the war? Believe it or not, it’s the terrorist organization, Hamas.

Hamas was caught off guard by Israel’s surprise air strike on December 27, 2008, which was the beginning of a war aimed at stopping the relentless rocket fire aimed at the towns and kibbutzim of Southern Israel. This attack, which killed 250 to 300 Hamas operatives, per the Israeli version, was covered in Goldstone’s report as follows:

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.

Goldstone’s lie (bolded) has finally been exposed by an anti-Israeli source: Hamas's Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, who admitted that during the first day of Operation Cast Lead, 250 Hamas fighters were killed. Hamad, who 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. Goldstone’s twisted lies about this strike highlight a worrying trend within the report. It’s unfortunate that Goldstone’s lie was only revealed to most as a result of Hamad’s surprising honesty, and not through the IDF’s explanation of the strike.

Hamad continued to surprise by admitting that the civilian death count thrown around by many NGOs was grossly exaggerated. With the Gaza War’s conclusion, both Israeli and Palestinian NGOs began spreading the lie that the civilian death count in the war was 75%+ (for example, B’Tselem, an Israeli NGO, alleged that 75% of those killed were civilians, while PCHR, a Palestinian NGO, claimed 70-85% of the dead were civilians). Despite being confronted with a repeat of the ‘Jenin’ lie, the IDF acted slowly as they didn’t have all the information necessary to disprove the allegations. The damage was done: The anger on the streets, be it in Israel or outside of Israel, increased dramatically. Ambassadors were recalled. Countries berated Israel, and their courts threatened to charge Israeli leaders with war crimes. Israelis started to get concerned that their army had purposefully attacked civilians. However, one can only hope this damaged can begin to be repaired by Hamad’s interview with Al-Hayat. In this interview, Hamad acknowledged that 600 to 700 Hamas members were killed in the Gaza fighting – more than double the number of combatants published by the NGOs’ and Richard Goldstone’s unreliable version of events. 60%+ of the dead in the Gaza War were Hamas terrorists.

Israel, despite fighting in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, had managed to target terrorists with a reasonable level of success. Tragically, there were many civilians who lost their lives during the three weeks, but there were no “disproportionate” or “indiscriminate” Israeli attacks against the civilians of Gaza, as Goldstone alleged in his report.

Goldstone says that, since the report was published a few years ago, no one has actually challenged the ‘facts’ presented therein. Although this is yet another of Goldstone’s fabrications, perhaps the unlikely testimony from Hamad will be the final nail in the report’s coffin. Despite the unexpected ‘help’ from Hamas, the report has already caused tremendous damage to Israel internally and on the international stage. It is essential that Israel learn and internalize (yet again) the lesson that it will always be attacked - from within and without - with falsehoods. We do make our mistakes, and when we do, we need to acknowledge and learn from them. However, let's be entirely sure that the truth hasn't been deliberately ignored and swept under the rug in order to launch more disgraceful and hateful attacks on the Jewish State.


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

In the News

The Jewish Chronicle's latest article on the JC Olim League:

With the JC Olim season in Israel coming to a low key end in the league, the teams attention turns to the cup.

This week paired Jaffa against Jerusalem in a repeat of last weeks league game in Jerusalem,

After last week’s goal-fest between these two sides in the league, Jerusalem and Jaffa FC met at the quarter final stage. The game started brightly with both teams pushing forward looking for opportunities.

Jaffa’s first break of the game ended with a dubious penalty awarded that caught even the Jaffa players off guard. After furious Jerusalem protests abated, Nir Ha'Cohen gave the keeper little chance with a powerful strike.

With the momentum on their side, Jaffa pushed forward looking for another goal and were duly rewarded within a few minutes when Rani Madmon buried a tight angled shot over Jerusalem's keeper.

2-0 down, Jerusalem dug deep and starting creating chances to score. Their breakthrough came from a corner, when a headed clearance landed at David Moccata's feet. His long-range shot found its way into the top left corner.

Both teams continued to look for goals but the score remained 2-1 until the half time.

Jerusalem poured attackers forward in search of an equaliser at the beginning of the second half. A shot by David Zackon was calmly dealt with by Avram Piha, before Jaffa managed to increase their lead. A beautifully weighted free kick by Simon Berkley was nodded back across goal by Daniel Berkeley, leaving Madmon with a simple header.

Berkeley's presence on the pitch galvanised Jaffa, who had only last week seen their charsimatic Scottish talisman on crutches. Despite the goal, Jerusalem continued looking for a breakthrough and thought they had it on a corner, until Seth Freedman powerfully cleared the ball off the line.

Another excellent counter attack by Jerusalem put David Preston through, but his goal-bound shot was brilliantly parried around the post by Piha, preserving Jaffa's two-goal cushion.

Despite Jerusalem's non-stop onslaught, every danger was neutralised by Jaffa's new centre-back partnership of Nir Madmon and Rob Pearl. With Jerusalem committing more men forward, another clever pass by Berkeley found Ha'Cohen free, and Jaffa's right-winger ended the tie with a powerful low finish.

The 4-1 scoreline sees Jaffa progress to the semi finals, where they will be facing Modi'in AFC