Sunday, October 30, 2005

Prophetic Words...

This past Shabbat Parshat Breishit, the 1st Parsha of the Torah was read. On the very 1st word of the Torah, "Breishit" ("In the Beginning"), Rashi - Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (February 22, 1040 – July 17, 1105), the unequaled Biblical commentator, asks the following famous question:
R. Yitzchak said: The Torah should have begun with [the verse] "This month shall be [your first month]," it being the first precept that the Israelites were commanded. Then why does it [the Torah] begin with "In the beginning"? This is because [of the concept contained in the verse,] "He declared the power of His works to His people in order to give to them the inheritance of nations." Thus, should the nations of the world say to Israel, "You are robbers, for you have taken by force the lands of the Seven Nations," they [Israel] will say to them: "All the earth belongs to G-d. He created it and gave it to whomever He saw fit. It was His will to give it to them and it was His will to take it from them and give it to us."

Anyone reading this Rashi can appreciate how appropriate his words are today, where not a moment goes by that the Jewish People and State of Israel are forced to justify their right to the Land of Israel.

However, consider that Rashi wrote these words at some point before the year 1100. From the year 1100 until 1948, a period of nearly 850 years, this Rashi made almost no sense.

Can you imagine a Jewish father teaching this Rashi to his son in the midst of the Crusades, the Inquisition, pogroms, persecutions and the Holocaust. For 850 years, the conversation might have gone something like this:
Father: So, Rashi is teaching us that the reason that the Torah starts with the story of creation (even though the Torah is not meant to be learned as merely a story book), and not the 1st commandment that the Jewish People were commanded in, of sanctifying the new moon, is because one day the nations of the world are going to say, "You are robbers, for you have taken by force the lands of the Seven Nations"...

Son: Abba (father), what in the world is Rashi talking about?

Father: What do you mean?

Son: Well, Abba, here we are, living in Exile for the last thousand+ years, under daily persecutions, living in a ghetto, and you're telling me that one day the Jewish People are going to be able to move to Israel, a place where we will not be a minority but sovereign, and that the nations of the world are going to call us thieves?

Come on...

Father: I know it sounds too fantastic to believe, but son, we must continue to pray to Hashem, 3 times a day in the direction of Jerusalem, and the day will come when Hashem will finally answer our prayers, and return the Jewish People to the Land of Israel.

You're just going to have to trust me on this one...

Son: OK, Abba... Can I go outside and play now?

Father: Sure, but do me a favor and play inside today. You know, after what happened last night, it might be safer, until things calm down.

Son: Oh... alright.

Look how far the Jewish People have come. With all of the challenges that the Jewish people face today, we must put htings in their proper perspective. It is only in the last century that we have merited to truly appreciate these prophetic words of Rashi, and just as these words of Rashi have come true, so too will all of the other prophecies of the Torah will come true...

May it be speedily, in our days!

Those Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones...

Nov. 4th marks the 10 year anniversary of the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. Carmi Gillon, head of the Shin Bet (Israel's Security Services - the body that is directly responsible for the security of the prime minister) at the time of the assassination, was recently interviewed by Yediot Achronot and had this to say (as reported by Ha'aretz):
Yigal Amir is smiling because he knows he won. The fact that he is alive - that is a security failure ... the result of an operational breakdown that [bodyguards] didn't shoot him like a dog, like any other revolting terrorist.

Interestingly enough, the interviewer failed to ask Gillon who should have been held responsible for the "security failure" and "operational breakdown". Would it not be logical to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the head of the organization meant to protect the prime minister, namely Carmi Gillon?

Let's take a look at the life of Carmi Gillon since that fateful night and judge for yourself if the punishment has fit the crime:

* Gillon, after resigning from the Shin Bet, was appointed by Shimon Peres, the man who became Prime minister in the wake of the assassination, as the Director of the Peres Center for Peace.

* Shimon Peres names Gillon as Israel's Ambassador to Denmark.

* Carmi Gillon is elected Mayor of Mevasseret Zion.

Whoever said that crime (or criminal negligence) doesn't pay has never met Carmi Gillon (or his good friend, Shimon Peres).

One might expect Gillon to have kinder words for Yigal Amir, considering all that Gillon has been able to accomplish on the back of Amir. While Amir rots, Gillon lives the high life.
"Zion will be redeemed through justice, and its captives through righteousness" (Isaiah 1:27)

We're not quite there yet.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Proper Response to Terror - Part 2

My friend and neighbor, Mike, gave me an honest critique of my original post, The Proper Response to Terror, stating that I sounded like a typical right-wing politician, strong on rhetoric and little on concrete details.

After discussing the issue with Mike, I decided to put together a short list of practical steps that Israel can be taking today to fight terror and strengthen the State of Israel (In no particular order):

1) Dismantle the "Palestinian Authority" and its institutions.

2) Allow the IDF to wipe out the existing terror infrastructure and arrest / eliminate all known terrorists and organizations.

3) (Mike): As the "Palestinians" seek to drive the Jews from the Land of Israel, in response to any terror attack, Israel should: A) Expand existing Jewish communities in Yesha, B) Annex parts of Yesha, C) Begin building new Jewish communities in Yesha.

He argues that this would be a policy that the majority of Israelis would support.

(I also believe that allowing Jews to pray on the Temple Mount should be included on this list).

4) Stop building the "Security Fence" - if we are so convinced that this is the way to go, build a fence around "Palestinian cities, and let them out when they are good.

5) (Mike): Take all terrorists who Israel arrests and lock them in Gaza. Eliminate all crossings from Gaza into Israel.

6) Israel should legislate the use of the death penalty against terrorists with Jewish blood on their hands (or who attempted to have Jewish blood on their hands). This will eliminate any future prisoner exchanges.

7) Instead of investing in early warning systems and fortified roofs to protect against Qassam rockets and mortar fire, Israel should adopt a policy that it will bomb ANY location from where rockets and mortars are shot into Israel. I believe that after a while, the "innocent Palestinians" will tire of allowing rockets to be fired from their homes.

8) Create an Arab Emigration Fund to encourage Arabs who no longer wish to remain in Israel (including Yesha) to find an alternative permanent address.

9) Israel will begin destroying illegal Arab building throughout Israel (including Yesha).

The list goes on and on, but I think that this is a good start.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

American Aliyah and Cupid's Arrow: A Match Made in Heaven or A Recipe for Disaster?

I have been following with great interest the debate that has been raging over: Is Religious Zionism Destructive For Orthodox Singles? by Passionate Life. I strongly recommend reading the post in its entirety, as well as all of the comments and responses that it has generated.

There is so much that I would like to respond to of what Passionate Life wrote, but I will limit my response to two ideas that were raised:
If someone believes they can only have happiness in Israel and they would be unhappy here, then of course what else can they do but move to Israel.

My main point is how did they get that burning desire in the first place. When there is an indoctrination such as that a Jew MUST live in Israel, do the teachers and proponents realize the damage that is being done to the single population by splintering it? (Taken from Passionate Life's response to this post)

From these words, one might get the impression that Jewish educators were committing a heinous crime by educating their students to live in Israel. As if to say that the yearning of every Jew, both as an individual and as part of the greater Jewish People to return to Israel is something foreign to Judaism (as opposed to part of its very essence). This must truly be an upsidedown world, if those who remain true to the heritage and traditions of the Jewish People, who really mean it when they pray to Return to Zion, are labeled as the guilty party, while those who willingly choose to remain in Exile are portrayed as the innocent victims of Aliyah fanatics.
Singles should be encouraged to state:

“I would love to live in Israel but I won’t allow that one issue to get in the way if in most other ways we are compatible.”

Can we all agree on that statement? (Taken from comment to original post)

No, we can't all agree on that statement. At least, I can't agree with it.

Living in Israel is not just another issue that might appear on someone's checklist of what they are looking for in a prospective spouse. A person who says that they want to live in Israel is not merely saying that they would prefer to live in one location instead of another (for instance, someone insisting that they will only live in Brooklyn or Toronto), but of someone making a statement that they can't live a complete live as a Jew without being in the center of the Jewish world, of Jewish history and of the Jewish future, namely, the Land of Israel.

Someone who says that they want to live in Israel is saying that they want to take an active role in shaping the destiny of the Jewish People. They are saying that they want all future generations who will come from them to be born and raised in the one true home that he Jewish People have. Someone who insists upon living in Israel is saying that they want to leave the Exile and take part in bringing the redemption of the Jewish People closer.

This person, who truly wants to make Israel their home, can not possibly be satisfied by finding a nice guy / girl and settling down in Teaneck or the Five Towns. There will always be a gaping void in the heart of this person, they will be living a life full of potential unfulfilled, of an essence that is being forcibly locked in the closet.

I do not doubt that it is difficult for singles today, and the frustration only grows with artificial barriers that only separate potential Jewish couples instead of creating them. However, Aliyah is not on the same level as someone who will only go out with someone who uses a white tablecloth on Shabbat, or even, as someone who will only go out with someone who is willing to learn in Kollel...

According to the Talmud, living in Israel is one of a very short list of Mitzvot that are equivalent to all the other Mitzvot in the Torah combined. Aliyah is not some type of whim or personal fancy, but something that each and every Jew should be aspiring towards - whether in the short or long-term.
You might ask, why shouldn’t I consider moving to Israel as well? For myself, and I know for many other men and women, the notion of moving away from friends and family, our shiurim and rabbis, from our hard fought and well established careers and livelihoods, from our community and chesed involvements, and most of all not being able to see our darling nephews and nieces grow and blossom, is counterproductive to the kind of lives we seek.

For those who share this outlook, the issue is not of Jewish educators teaching their students to make Aliyah, but that they haven't been taught this message themselves.

True, there may be particular circumstances that prevent the individual Jew from making Aliyah (and this should be discussed with ah halachic authority - preferably one who lives in Israel or recognizes the centrality of living in Israel), but let us not mistake those exceptions to the rule with Jews who have grown complacent and comfortable in the American Exile, and let us not place the blame of the singles crisis at the feet of those who still have the courage and idealism to follow their hearts and take an active role in fulfilling the destiny of the Jewish People - in the Land of Israel.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Strangers at Home

This morning, I happened to find myself in the lobby of the Inbal Hotel, located in the heart of Jerusalem, which happened to be filled to capacity with primarily American Jews who were visiting Israel for the Succot holiday.

Today was an interesting day here in Israel, as for those of us who live in Israel, it was Isru Chag (the day after the holiday), while for Jews who do not live in Israel (whether they happened to be in Israel or anywhere else in the world) today was Simchat Torah - since Jews who don't live in Israel must keep Yom Tov Sheini shel Goluyot - the 2nd day of Yom Tov for those who reside in the Exile - [perhaps as a reminder that they are not celebrating the holidays where they are meant to be observed).

I wondered to myself if any of these Jews, found themselves feeling a little bit uncomfortable during their holiday prayers this morning. After all, among the prayers that were recited were:
And You gave us, Hashem our God, with love, appointed festivals for gladness, Festivals and times for joy, this day of the Shmini Atzeret Festival, the time of our gladness, a holy convocation, a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt.

If I'm not mistaken, the appointed day for Shmini Atzeret was yesterday...
But because of our sins we have been exiled from our land and sent far from our soil... Our Father, Our King,... Draw our scattered ones near, from among the nations, and bring in our dispersions from the ends of the earth. Bring us to Zion, Your City, in glad song, and to Jerusalem, home of Your Sanctuary, in eternal joy...

I can't help but feel a bit of sadness towards these Jews, who, although they are celebrating the holiday right in the heart of Jerusalem, are unable to open their eyes and recognize that the Jewish people have come home, and that all of their prayers are telling them that they should do likewise...

Among the many things that the Jewish people must pray for these days, let us find room in our prayers for our fellow Jews still living in Exile, that they should find the strength to open their eyes and their hearts, and may Hashem bless them with the understanding to recognize that all of their prayers can be answered in an instant, if only they truly want it.

Next Year in Jerusalem (on a permanent basis, for the entire Jewish People)!

The Proper Response to Terror

5 more Jews have been murdered and scores wounded in yet another terror attack upon the Jewish State. In this instance, the suicide bomber was released from an Israeli prison just over a month ago.

Let us understand, once and for all, how it is that we should and should not be responding to terror:

1) A security fence is not the answer to terrorism, as it fails to fight terror while returning Israel to, in the words of Abba Eban, Auschwitz borders.

2) Temporary roadblocks and checkpoints are not the answer to terror.

3) Bombing open fields is not the answer to terror.

4) Fortifying roofs against rocket and mortar attack, and developing early warning systems is not the answer to terror.

5) Building tunnels and bypass roads is not the answer to terror.

6) Disengaging and retreating from Jewish land and handing it over to our enemies is not the answer to terror.

7) Providing our enemies with weapons and releasing terrorists from prison is not the answer to terror.

As I made clear in a recent post, the "Palestinians" seek nothing less than the destruction of the Jewish State and Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the Land of Israel. As such, it is time to call a spade a spade, and recognize that the "Palestinians" are our enemy, and the PLO / PA is the head of the snake and must be crushed.

One doesn't make peace with enemies; one fights their enemies until they capitulate.

There was Arab terror against the Jews before the establishment of the State of Israel, and there was Arab terror against Jews before there were ever any "occupied territories". There was Arab terror against Jews before the "peace process", and there has been Arab terror against Jews since the "peace process. There has been Arab terror against Jews before "Disengagement" and there has been Arab terror against Israel since "Disengagement".

Until the "Palestinians" and the rest of the Arab world are prepared to accept a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, then we must view them as our enemies. So long as the "Palestinians" and the Arab world continue to incite their masses (and particularly their children) to hate the Jewish State and People, they will be treated as our enemies. Anyone who is prepared to accept a Jewish State in the Land of Israel can live together with us in peace, anyone who is unable to accept these terms is better off finding someplace else to live.

The time has come to act decisively against our enemies, as only this will provide, in the long-term, the Jewish State with true peace and security.

True, the world will raise a fuss. The world has always cried out anytime Jews have stood up to defend themselves and their rights. The world has always been prepared to offer flowery eulogies over weak and dead Jews. I prefer the former over the latter, for it means that the Jewish People are alive, proud and free.

If we are not prepared to stand up and fight for our rights, for our security, for a true, just and lasting peace - one that where the Jewish People will be able to live as proud Jews in the State of Israel throughout the Land of Israel, then we have no future here in the Land of Israel, and we should do everyone a favor and pack our bags now.

I do not doubt for a moment that following this course of action will be difficult in the short term, but I do not believe it will be any more difficult than the pain and hardships involved in burying yet more dead Jews, murdered for comitting the crime of living as proud Jews in the Jewish State in the Land of Israel.

Rockets in the Yard...

Once again, Sderot has fallen victim to yet another barrage of Qassam rockets. Since the beginning of the recent Arab terror war unleashed upon Israel, thousands upon thousands of rockets have been fired into Israel, with little to no response by the IDF.

For a moment, imagine that you a resident of Sderot.

You hear the early warning siren sound, warning you of the impending rocket attack only seconds away. The first thought that goes through your mind is your family - are they safe? You then try to find a place to cower down, and pray that the rocket will not land near you.




Thankfully, you're still alive. Through nothing short of a miracle of G-d, there have been few casualties and fatalities from these rocket attacks. However, when you go outside your home, you notice that a Qassam rocket has landed in your driveway, or perhaps your yard - destroying your garden.

An attack of this sort is reported in the following manner (as reported in the Jerusaelm Post):
There were no reports of damage or casualties from the rocket attack on the southern Israeli town.

The response of the IDF to such attacks:
An IDF aircraft fired at least one missile at an open field in the northern Gaza Strip early Wednesday. In addition, several sonic booms caused by Israeli warplanes were heard in Gaza City during the night.

Now, ask yourself this question, still imagining that you were a resident of Sderot:

Would you consider a rocket landing in your yard, or in a park near your home, even if it caused no structural damage or caused fatalities to be of no consequence? Or, would you expect that the army do everything in its power to ensure that regardless of where these rockets fell, that the army would put a stop to it, once and for all?

Would you be satisfied with the army for bombing open fields, or creating sonic booms over the towns from where the rockets originated?

Now, imagine how you would feel after thousands of such attacks.

Think about it...

And while considering how you might feel being in such a circumstance, think about how you would want the army to respond to such attacks to ensure that you, your family and your property remain safe, and that you are able to live a normal life.

The True Crime of Collective Punishment

20,000 people are suffering under the burden of collective punishment. These people are suffering for actions that were not committed by them. These 20,000 people, as a result of this collective punishment, have been forced to live in fear, having their daily routine and peace of mind dramatically altered - for the worse.

The most troubling aspect of it all, is that the world remains silent in the face of this crime. There are no human rights organizations championing the rights of these 20,000 innocent people.

Why is it that the world doesn’t care, and that no liberal, progressive & humanist types can be found to raise the banner of the suffering of these 20,000 innocent civilians?

Well... simply put, it's because these 20,000 people are the Jewish residents of Sderot, an Israeli city that has been barraged with thousands of Qassam rocket and mortars over the last few years.

In response to the latest assault of Qassam rockets fired upon Jewish cities by Arab terrorists, the IDF, in addition to bombing open fields had also closed the Karni and Erez border crossings, barring the entry of "Palestinians" into Israel.

Today, the crossings are being re-opened.


YNET reports:
The Karni and Erez crossings, which were shut down following the Qassam rocket fire, will soon be reopened so as not to harm the Palestinians’ daily routine.

Why is it that collective punishment can only refer to non-Jews?

Why is it that the fact that 20,000 Jews are forced to live in fear of the next rocket and mortar barrage - because the Israeli government is not prepared to take the steps needed to end the attacks once and for all - seemingly have no rights, neither in the eyes of the Israeli government or in the yes of the rest of the world?

Why is it that the rights of these 20,000 Jewish citizens of the State of Israel do not take priority over those living in Gaza?

Why is it, that in order to "not harm the Palestinian daily routine" 20,000+ Jews must suffer, both as far as their personal security and property are concerned, as well as the added insult of shame and disgrace that comes from their own government valuing the lives of her enemies more than the lives and rights of her own citizens?!?

Monday, October 24, 2005

The PLO / PA, Hamas and the Destruction of Israel - A Refresher

There has been much talk of late, as to whether Hamas should be allowed to participate in the upcoming "Palestinian" "elections".

Hamas, after all, is a terrorist organization responsible for the murder of thousands of Jews and the wounding of tens of thousands.
The Hamas Covenant, written in 1988, states that the organization's goal is to "raise the banner of God over every inch of Palestine," i.e. to eliminate the State of Israel (and any secular Palestinian state which may be established), and to replace it with an Islamic Republic.

Yet, as out of place as it might seem for Hamas to participate in these "elections", a closer look at the Palestinian National Charter (Adopted by the Palestine National Council, July 1-17, 1968) as found TODAY on the official website of the "Palestinian National Authority" will show that Hamas would fit right in (Hamas and the "Palestinian Authority" may disagree on how to dot the i's and cross the t's, but their ultimate goal and vision is the same):
Article 2: Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit. (Ze'ev: That would include all of present day Israel, as well as Jordan).

Article 9: Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. Thus it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it...

Article 10: Commando action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war. This requires its escalation, comprehensiveness, and the mobilization of all the Palestinian popular and educational efforts and their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution...

Article 15: The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine... It must, particularly in the phase of the armed Palestinian revolution, offer and furnish the Palestinian people with all possible help, and material and human support, and make available to them the means and opportunities that will enable them to continue to carry out their leading role in the armed revolution, until they liberate their homeland.

Article 20: The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.

Article 22: Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress.

I do not know how anyone, after reading this, who posseses even a modicum of sanity, could believe that it is truly possible to make peace, or even even co-exist with such "people".

Wake up!!!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sifting Through Jewish History...

Today, I was privileged to be able to take part in bringing Jewish history to life. I took part in the Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation. (For a complete history of this important operation, click here).
In November 1999, the Islamic Wakf carried out an illegal construction project on the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site. The unsupervised digging caused irreparable damage to the important site, as well as to untold priceless artifacts contained in rubble removed during the construction and dumped clandestinely in the Kidron Valley.

Though the archaeological remains were no longer in their original contexts, they held enormous potential to shed light on the undocumented human history of the Temple Mount, as systematic archaeological excavation or scientific study have never taken place there. The mounds of dirt in the Kidron Valley therefore contained the only available data from the Temple Mount to which modern archaeologists have ever had access.

During the illegal excavations and dumping on and from the Temple Mount, the police and the government Antiquities Authority refused to interfere, citing concerns of violence by Muslims who deny that Temples ever stood on the Temple Mount. Tzachi Zweig, then an archaeology student, called a press conference to publicize the extent of the archaeological havoc being perpetrated. Zweig caused a stir in the media by displaying an assortment of artifacts that he had easily scooped out of the piles...

Because such a sensitive excavation of material had never before taken place, and because the material had been purposely mixed with garbage and other matter, Zweig and Barkai had a difficult time estimating how much time the excavation would take. Despite six months of work, to date only 15% of the rubble has been examined.

Recently, a disccovery of epic proportions was uncovered through this operation.

To see pictures from my visit to the Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation, click here.

For anyone who is interested in taking part in this important project (ideal for groups / individuals, tourists / Israelis alike), volunteers are needed and are welcome for long or short term volunteering on a daily basis. The project is taking place near the Mount of Olives, and is open from 9:00am to 4:00pm.

If you are interested, feel free to e-mail me (, and I will put you in touch with someone who can give you more detailed info.

Just Like the Good Ol' Days...

Today is a special day.

What makes today so special?

Well... simply because it's Sunday.

In Israel, there is generally speaking, no such thing as Sunday; there is only Yom Rishon.

What's the difference?

Growing up in America, Sunday was always the day to relax, go on trips, to get various things done around the house, go shopping...

In Israel, Yom Rishon is a regular workday. This leads to the development of a number of issues:

1) People who are Shomer Shabbat have no real day to do "Sunday type" things, as even those who don't work on Friday are spending the day preparing for Shabbat.

2) Those who are not Sabbath Observant are put in a position where they have no choice but to do "Sunday type" activities on Shabbat.

3) As such, this forces stores and other places of recreation to remain open on Shabbat and puts many Jews in a situation where they feel compelled to work on the Sabbath in order to make a living.

4) Tension is created between religious and secular as to the character of the State on the Sabbath. The religious, by and large, want public places (such as movie theaters and shopping malls), as well as public transportation to be closed on Shabbat, as well as having streets that run through religious neighborhoods closed to traffic.

On the flip side, many secular Jews feel that this is their only day to go out, and that the religious need to be sensitive to that.

All in all, a little bit of Sunday in Israel could go a long way to easing some of the tension that exists here.

The party Yisrael B'Aliyah headed by Natan Sharansky put the idea of bringing Sunday to Israel on its platform, but the party didn't go anywhere...

While I don't see the concept of Sunday being brought to Israel anytime soon, I am going to do my best to enjoy this Sunday to the fullest.

Can anyone say Football!!! Let's Go Giants!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Hey, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime... For Arab Terror Victims?

Yediot Achronot Reports:
The Jewish Agency is expected to grant on Sunday some NIS 100,000 (about USD 22,000) to the families of those killed in the terror attack in Shfaram last August, which was carried out by Jewish soldier Natan Zada.

Agency officials said this marks the first time the fund is supporting victims of Jewish terror.

Can anyone explain to me the basis for such a decision? It is one thing for the Government of the State of Israel to decide to grant assistance or funding to these Arabs, but what is the basis for the (almost solely Jewish funded) Jewish Agency to do so?

Here is the official mission of the Jewish Agency, can anyone find where giving funds earmarked for Jewish use to Arabs fits in? (I can't):

The Jewish Agency - The Global Partnership of the Jewish People with Israel

We are committed to assuring the future of the Jewish people with a strong Israel at its center, through:

Immigration to Israel
Jewish-Zionist Education
Partnership with and for Israel

Your annual campaign dollars enable the Jewish Agency for Israel to impact the lives of millions of Jews around the world. Our partnership brings Jews home from the four corners of the earth, giving them hope for a better future in the State of Israel.

The Jewish Agency is primarily funded by and works in partnership with the global Jewish community through the United Jewish Communities of North America, Keren Hayesod-UIA, the Spirit of Israel, and the U.S. Federal Government.

Through Partnership 2000 and other innovative partnership programs, the Jewish Agency works with its partners around the world to build Israel ’s periphery and empower weaker populations, while forging close relations among Jews around the world.

Another question that begs to be asked is why are there no Arab countries that are prepared to provide assistance to "Arab victims of terror"? Could it be that their funds are currently tied up in providing funds to the families of terrorists and Jihad against Israel?

(Hat Tip: Faith in Nathan)

Friday, October 21, 2005

You Know It's Sukkot in Jerusalem Because...

Courtesy of Judy Lash Bailint - Jerusalem Diaries

You Know It's Sukkot in Jerusalem Because...

1. You can't get on a bus without being poked in the rear a dozen times with someone's stray lulav.

2. The sweet smell of etrogim in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda (Yehuda Market) is overpowering. Huge crowds descend on the parking lot near the market to vie for the best lulav and etrog.

3. An enterprising bookstore is offering "Machzor rentals" for tourists who inadvertently left their holiday prayer books at home.

4. You've never seen such gaudy sukkah decorations in your life---unless you've been to Wal-Mart on Xmas eve. Kiosks manned by bearded Haredim in Meah Shearim are selling gold, green and red tinsel hangings---exact replicas of Xmas decorations in the Old Country.

5. Huge piles of schach (palm fronds for the roof of the sukkah) cover major city squares, and citizens are invited to take as much as they need for free.

6. The usual throngs are expected at the Western Wall for the thrice yearly observance of the ancient ritual of Birkat Cohanim--Blessing by the Priests--that takes place during the intermediate days.

7. Hotels report almost 100 percent occupancy as Israelis join foreign tourists in celebrating the weeklong holiday.

8. Sukkot of every size and description can be seen on balconies, rooftops and in courtyards in every neighborhood of the city. Every kosher restaurant in town has one and boasts bigger and better holiday specials to entice customers.

9. Since the entire week of Sukkot is a national holiday you'll have a tough time deciding which festival/event to take part in. There's the first ever Festival of Israeli Comedy in Kiryat Shmona; the New Age Bereishit Festival at Dugit beach; The Tamar music and arts fest at the Dead Sea; Acco's acclaimed Fringe Theater Festival and a revival of the Carlebach Festival at Mevo Modi'in, to name just a few.

10. Touring the country is another favorite Sukkot activity and every political group is promoting trips to "See For Yourself." Hevron is a perennial favorite for Chol Hamoed (intermediate festival days) with a special opening of the Isaac Hall in the Cave of the Patriarchs that's normally off-limits to Jewish visitors.

11. Not to be left out are those Christian friends of Israel--the International Christian Embassy will bring 5,000 members from 80 nations (including China and Russia this year) to attend the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration. Opening ceremonies this year will take place in the majestic Sultan's Pool outdoor space just below the walls of the Old City.

The Christian contingent will also take part in the Jerusalem March, another annual Sukkot event, dressed in costume of their countries of origin.

Organizers claim that the Christian event will pump $15 million into the local economy, taking up 15,000 hotel room nights during their stay.

12. Another prominent group of tourists set to arrive are refugees from the young frum singles scene who make an annual migration to Jerusalem from the Upper West Side for Sukkot. Discreet meetings of earnest, well-scrubbed, modestly dressed twenty-something’s take place in all the major hotel lobbies.

13. And speaking of refugees--spare a thought for those 1,700 families expelled from their homes in Gush Katif in August. Most of them have still not been rehoused nor received the promised compensation, and are trying to maintain some semblance of family life in hotel rooms and dormitories all over the country. This year they won't need to be reminded of one of the essential messages of the Sukkot holiday--the flimsiness of our physical existence and our reliance on God for sustenance and shelter.

May we all experience the true joy of Sukkot and merit to see the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Meme 7... Don't Ask...

When Ezzie initially "tagged" me to do this Meme 7 (you'll see what it is in a second), I rolled my eyes. The next reaction I had was that there was no way I would put something like this up on my blog. That was followed by my spending the next few nights discussing with my wife what my answers would be if I would do this Meme 7 thing - which, of course, I wouldn't.

Well, it's Succot, we're supposed to be happy, and since this will certainly be a more light-hearted post than the average fare around here, I figure, what the heck.

7 Things I can Do:

1) Write
2) Speak in public
3) Come up with a Dvar Torah for any occasion that deals with the theme of Aliyah
4) Make a really good chulent
5) Check e-mail / blog stats anywhere between 5 - 15 times a day
6) Read - I do it often...
7) Direct almost any conversation twards one that focuses on Israel and / or the future of the Jewish People

Things I Can't Do:

1) Math
2) Eat Mushrooms
3) Consider living outside of Israel
4) Speak in grammatically correct Hebrew
5) Raise my voice (in anger)
6) Pass up buying books / sefarim that I am interested in...
7) Hide the books / sefarim from my wife

7 Things I Hope To Do In My Life:

1) Meme 7 - Oh, wait, I guess I can cross that off the list...
2) Visit the Beit Hamikdash
3) Witness the coming of Mashiach
4) Witness the complete ingathering of the Exiles
5) Write a book
6) Raise children who will express a love for Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael, as well as serve as an inspiration and a source of pride to the Jewish People
7) Become a better Jew and fulfill the potential that I know is within me...
7-A) Be a better husband

7 Things I Say Often:

1) I love you
2) I'm Sorry
3) I'll be off in 5 minutes
4) Just one more minute
5) Ok, I'm leaving the office...
6) Ok, Ok, I'm really leaving the office...
7) Have you ever thought about living in Israel?

People I'd like to infect with this meme:

* Jameel of The Muqata
* Tovya of Zion Report
* Natan of Faith in Nathan
* ****Cosmic X****
* Elder of Ziyon

To Boldly Go Where No Jew Has Gone Before...

In a recent post I discussed the sorry state of affairs that currently exists today on the Temple Mount.

Miriam of Bloghead just put up a link to a video taken by someone who was able to gain access to many of the areas that are off-limits to Jews today on the Temple Mount. The video, featured exclusively on the Yediot Achronot website, includes Solomon’s Stables, al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock.
Ron Peled, 34, a computer professional who shot the video, says “to walk here, to roam under the Temple Mount, the site of the Temple my forefathers longed for, is the realization of a dream.”

Peled, a former tour guide, is well aware of the immense significance of the rare images of sites that are normally only open to Muslim worshippers.

“As a Jew who likes archaeology and history, I think the value of those images is enormous,” he said. “Even though the sentence ‘Temple Mount is in our hands’ (made famous during the Six-Days War) is inaccurate these days, this video puts it in our hands for a few minutes. Yet whoever wasn’t there cannot quite grasp it.”

So true.

Miriam of Bloghead offers a good analysis of the video, which I strongly recommend reading.

What's the Big Deal About Archeological Findings Anyway?

In the latest issue of the journal Azure, David Hazony has an article entitled "Facts Underground" which discusses the ramifications of the recent discoveries in the City of David that go a long way towards proving the existence of the Davidic monarchy and the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish People as a thriving center in the Land of Israel.

The NY Times reported on the potential signifigance of the find as follows:
The find will also be used in the broad political battle over Jerusalem - whether the Jews have their origins here and thus have some special hold on the place, or whether, as many Palestinians have said, including the late Yasir Arafat, the idea of a Jewish origin in Jerusalem is a myth used to justify conquest and occupation.

Before I go any further, I want to state that for the last year, I have been a supporter (financially) of Amutat El Ad - the organization that is responsible for restoring the City of David to its former glory - by moving in Jewish families, by ensuring that all those who want to learn about the history of biblical Jerusalem are able to do so, and by continuing to excavate the area, so that discoveries like the one in the article above can remove any doubt of the authenticity of our claim to this holy city.

Yet, at the same time, a part of me is asking, what's the big deal that archeologists may have discovered King David's Palace? How is it going to change the way we relate to Jerusalem?

1st, is the State of Israel going to say, now that this has been uncovered that there is nothing to talk about in Jerusalem - that the Arab nations of the world can go take a hike and stop holding their breath, because all of Jerusalem will remain in Jewish control?

If so, then why not apply that same logic to the Temple Mount, or places throughout Judea and Samaria where there is irrefutable proof to the existence of the Jewish People, as is described throughout the Bible and Prophets?

2nd, what if they wouldn't have discovered this palace - would that mean that our claim to Jerusalem is not 100% solid? Must we prove our right to the land through archeological excavations? If we believe that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People, then what does it matter if we can prove it archeologically or not?

Don't mistake what I am saying here as implying that I am against excavations which link us to our past. I believe that these excavations can go a long way to helping every Jew to feel a direct link to his ancestors that walked through the Land of Israel during the time of the Bible, and that is an amazing thing. However, I do not believe that these excavations will help Israel justify its claim to the Land of Israel in the eyes of the world.

3rd, I do not see the Arabs relinquishing their claims to the Land of Israel, in general, and to Jerusalem, in particular, because of this discovery or any other that has been made, or that will be made in the future. What is essential is for us to believe fully in our right to the Land of Israel, whether archeological evidence exists to support our claim or not. I believe that discoveries such as the one at the City of David should not be presented in the light of "Now, we have proof that there were Jews in Jerusalem", rather our attitude should be one of, "Once again, we see that the words of the Bible and Prophets are true, and how fortunate are we to have merited to bring them to life".

As is the case with the discovery of David's Palace in the City of David, Israel has shown a willingness to dig and reconnect with her past by bringing the truth to the surface (literally), for all to see. The question that remains is will she have the courage to act upon what she has unearthed?

With Friends Like These...

These are not easy words to write, but they must be written and acted upon - the sooner the better.

The United States is no friend of Israel's. Yes, there may be common interests between the two countries, but do not believe for a moment that the United States ever has anything but its very own interests at heart, and if they happen to conflict with what happens to be in the best interests of Israel, well... that's life. (That is not to say that there aren't Americans who care deeply for the well-being of Israel).

Batya, over at BlogFree lists some of the more recent examples of how "Israel's best friend" isn't quite that. IMRA exposes how the CIA has been involved in training "Palestinian" terrorsits, and this website gives as thorough a documentation of the issue as anyone could ever need.

It is abundantly clear of the double standard that the world, but the US in particular holds Israel to. Yet, I can't really blame the US for doing so. If I was giving someone $3 Billion+ every single year, I would want to have a pretty big say in that person's life too.

If Israel is to have the freedom to pursue policies that are in her own best interest, then it must act now to stop its dependency on US Foreign and Military Aid.

Yes, it will be hard at first, but I have no doubt that over the course of a decade or so, Israel will be able to rebound and have the freedom to act in its own best interests.

I am not saying that Israel should not ally itself with the US, but it should be a partnership of equals, and not one of dependency. I believe that in the long run, this will not only serve Israel's best interests, but those of the US, as well.

I do not believe, that if Israel had the ability to enact and enforce policies that were in the best interests of the Jewish State of Israel that we would find ourselves in the situation which we currently find ourselves in.

I admit that I am not qualified to come up with the exact way of how to wean ourselves off of the aid, but that does not mean that it isn't possible. Thank G-d, one thing that the State of Israel and the Jewish People are not lacking are strong Jewish minds, and I do not doubt that if we put our heads together that we could come up with a manageable solution.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Blogs About "Nothing" vs. Blogs About "Something"

In one of those cheesy women's magazines that my wife reads occasionally, there happened to be an article about blogging. The article stated that this blog gets 6,000 hits a day!!!

Considering that it will take me about 4 months to reach 6,000 hits, I assumed that this person must be blogging about something amazing. know what happens when you assume...

I just don't get it. What I blog about has to be of at least equal value as to what this person blogs about, and yet I don't get anywhere near the hits!?!

Perhaps, the success of that blog is similar to the success of the show Seinfeld - namely that it was a show about nothing, and that seemed to appeal to people. I guess most people are interested in reading about nothing than a blog about something...

Succot: What's There Really To Be Happy About?

Rabbi Natan Lopes Cardozo, in his book, "Thoughts to Ponder", as a question that strikes at the very essence of the holiday of Succot:
Perplexing, however is the fact that the festival of Succot is considered to be the highlight of joy and happiness. Speaking specifically about Succot, the Torah states: "And you shall be happy on your festival" (Devarim 16:!4). This means that we should experience the most exalted form of happiness at a time when we have to dwell in structure which is far from being secure!

In fact, Jewish law makes it abundantly clear that the Succah must be built in such a way that it is not able to stand up against a strong wind, that its roof must be leaking when it starts to rain, and that it must contain more shadow than sunlight.

These conditions should, in theory, make us feel distressed since the Succah seems to represent the vulnerability of man. So why command us to be joyful, precisely at a time when one is confronted with all that can go wrong in life?

However, Jewish law holds a great surprise. It stipulates that the Succah's interior should reflect a most optimistic lifestyle. Its frail walls should be decorated with beautiful art... Its leaking roof, made from leaves or reeds, should be made to look attractive by hanging colorful fruit from it. One is required to bring one's best furniture into the Succah... One should eat from the most beautiful plates... Meals should be more elaborate than usual... All this seems to reflect a feeling that this world is a most pleasant place made for our enjoyment and recreation.

So why sit in a weather-beaten hut?

Rabbi Cardozo answers this question by making a distinction between the exterior walls of the Succah and the interior of the Succah, and it is from this basis that I would like to suggest my own answer to the question.

The Vilna Ga'on says that there are two Mitzvot that a Jew is able to fulfill with his entire body: 1) The Mitzvah of sitting / living in a Succah, and 2) The Mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel.

It is from here that we see the strong connection that exists between the holiday of Succot and the Land of Israel, and I believe that it is this connection that can help us to answer the original question.

Generally speaking, when one reads a newspaper, listens to the radio or watches the news on TV, what one hears about Israel is less than positive and can give one good reason to despair over the future of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. This feeling of despondency could lead a Jew who currently is not living in Israel to reject the notion of him visiting Israel, let alone considering living there. For the Jew in Israel, it can cause despair, that all hope is lost, and that the future is going to be bleak.

More often than not, the external face of Israel is not pretty. There is the Arab - Israeli conflict, the religious - secular conflict, the economy, and corruption... Yet, when one is able to look past the exterior, and look within, when sees a totally different picture.

Israel today (and Jerusalem, in particular) has become the world center for Torah study. Israel is on the verge of becoming the largest Jewish community in the world, where in a few short years, the majority of the Jewish People will be living in the Land of Israel - something which has not happened since the period of the 1st Temple. Israel is one of the only Jewish communities in the entire world today that has a positive growth rate. It seems that not a day goes by where we hear of another new breakthrough or development in the field of medicine, technology or the environment that has come out of Israel. Just this past week, an Israeli professor (a Religious Zionist) from the Hebrew University was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics (which follows last years Israeli Nobel Prize winners for their work in chemistry). The list goes on and on...

The reason why the holiday of Succot is referred to as "our time of happiness" is specifically because it forces us to look past the exterior, and to look within. Both Israel and the Succah, at first glance, don't inspire a feeling of confidence and security, but when one gets a closer look, one realizes that there is much to be seen that lies just beneath the surface, and once one is able to reveal the inner beauty he sees that there is much to be thankful for, and many reasons to express happiness... in spite of all of the challenges that we may be facing.

May we all be blseed, this Succot, to be able to find the good that exists within all of our lives, both on the individual level and the national level, and may we merit to have this feeling of happiness carry over into the rest of the year.

Racism in the Jewish State?

I recently came across the following 'internal message' from an educational organization, to all of its teachers that is based in Israel. (I have removed any direct references to the educational organization and its teachers).

It is important to keep in mind, that one can see from the message below how powerful a tool / weapon education can be; how it can be wielded to further particular interests and ideologies. It can be used for both worthy and for less worthy ends. I will leave it to the reader to determine what is happening in this particular instance.
An Awkward Situation – Racism

Dear Teachers,

Yesterday, I was at our Karmiel **** (learning center) in Israel. ****, who is an **** teacher and part-time secretary there, told me that there had been a nasty situation where, after an **** demo, one parent said that she didn't want the children "to learn two new languages only English". She meant when asked that she didn't want Arabic-speaking infants in the group.

In Karmiel, all our groups are multi-racial. It's great, and it's normal. The mother asked if they could have a "private group". **** hadn't given in to this mother, who left taking another 3 parents + children with her. This same mother contacted a different **** teacher who reacted the same way as ****.

I suggested that we offer the parent a private group if she can bring 7 or 8 children to sign up for a year, the price is the same. If there are 6 or under students, the parents will pay extra per month according to the size of the group.

My reasons for suggesting this are the following:

Commercial: it's a business.

Social Education: these kids and parents will meet other races in the LC while waiting for lessons, at the end of year party etc. It is important for social integration.

Emotional education: the children will meet the finer emotions in the content and music of ****. It will influence them and their parents to be more open, less fearful and happier.

English Education: the children will learn another language and open up to world culture and different ways of thinking.

I hope these parents will sign up and will relax to be more accepting and understanding. I don't see that anyone gains anything by rejecting them out-of-hand. I am hoping for a win-win situation.

A few thoughts:

Is this mother a racist for wanting her child, in the Jewish State of Israel, to only have Jewish students in their class?

Would it be considered racism to insist that a Jew only marry another Jew?

Perhaps the whole idea of a Jewish State can be considered racist by the standards of this educational organization?

After all, living in a multi-racial society is "great" and "normal". If only parents like the one mentioned above would be "less fearful", and more "understanding", then perhaps we could finally achieve peace.

Of course, that would mean throwing away all meaningful aspects of one's Jewish identity, both on the individual level, as well as national one, but, hey, it's better than being called a "racist", right?

As I see it, it seems like this mother could teach this educational organization a thing or two... about what it means to be Jewish, and what it means to live in a Jewish State.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Symbolism of the Succah

My friend, Yishai Fleisher, Co-Founder of KUMAH penned the following thoughts on the symbolism of the Succah a few years back, when we were both still living in America. I remember having the same thoughts about the message behind the Succah myself, which is perhaps why we're such good friends. Today, when both of us are blessed to have made Aliyah and find ourselves living in the Land of Israel, these words still ring true.

Without further ado...

During the holiday of Succot we leave our regular houses and apartments and dwell in desert huts for seven days. This commemorates the journeys of the Children of Israel in the Sinai, after the exodus from Egypt on their way to Israel. Three thousand years ago they too dwelled in "Succahs." The Succah itself is made of walls which are temporary and it has a roof made of sechach, that is, a loose array of reeds or branches through which the sun shines and the stars are meant to be seen. We eat inside the Succah, we sing songs, some of us sleep in the Succah, and we are all commanded to rejoice within it.

Today the Succah represents the galut, the spiritual desert, the exile. When we step out of our homes, here in America and in the other countries of the Diaspora, and move into our Succahs, we are reminded that our stay here in the exile is only temporary, that we have not yet reached the place of our ultimate physical and spiritual residence. Our homes in the Diaspora are nothing but a Succah, a limited and flimsy structure to tide us over until we can come home, to Israel.

To be sure, our Succah carries within its crude walls those values that we hold so dear. As with our cherished homes in the galut, we decorate our Succah with love and with care. Furthermore, we are thankful to the people and the lands that have hosted us with tolerance and respect. In fact, we are commanded to bring our non-Jewish neighbors into the Succah, to be hospitable to them, to bring them joy, to thank them. However, though our tenure in the exile is a testament to our enduring vitality, which does not mean that the galut is the end of the road for us. Just the opposite, our ideals and our people have survived in exile, precisely because we have existed in anticipation of a General Recall. The galut and the Succah are wonderful but transient and can never supplant our promise of Zion, and the permanent dwelling in Jerusalem that we have always prayed for.

So why do Israelis put up Succot? The answer lies in the Jewish tendency to forget where we came from, to forget what brought us here, to forget the dream. In Israel, the Succah serves to remind us that only not so long ago we Jews were dispersed all over the world, and that great cataclysms and great miracles brought us back from the exile to our ancient Homeland. When we leave our houses in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem in favor of a desert-hut, we are showing gratitude to the Almighty that we have been brought back from dispersion and that we have been finally been given the much-awaited task to build a permanent home in our Biblical abode. When we go to the Succah we humbly admit that we and our forefathers could have been amongst the ashes of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, but instead have been given the opportunity to build a life on our beautiful Land. In Israel, the Succah reminds us that many of our brethren are still in the galut and that we have much more to do if we are to realize our calling.

The Gaon from Vilna made an incredible observation. He said there are only two commandments that can be done with the whole body. The first is the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel and the second is the mitzva of dwelling in the Succah. This is no coincidence: the Succah is an embassy of Israel and is considered to be a part of Israel wherever one is. Within its confines the Jew is transported to "Eretz HaChaim" - the land of the living. Succot is a life-giving holiday because our life force and our strength come from Israel - the Succah gives us the opportunity to immerse our whole being within it. We cannot love the galut while we dwell in the Succah, we cannot be post-Zionist when we sit in the shade of the sechach. Cynicism is replaced with a sense of destiny when the simple and wholesome Succah surrounds us.

When we look up and peer through the slits in the schach, we see a sliver of blue sky or a shiny star in the heavens. The world is a mysterious place and we do not always have the ability to understand it all. Deep down inside we know that there is something peering back down at us from the heavens and through the cracks. Something is calling our people to return to the Land of Israel. This year, may it be His will that we will heed the voice which yearns for our return, and may we merit to sit under one Succah next year, in Jerusalem, in Zion, together with all of Israel.

The Misplaced Jewish Guilt Syndrome - (TMJGS, for short)

As could be expected, Ha'aretz was quick to express guilt collective Jewish guilt in the aftermath of yesterday's cold blooded murder of 3 Jewish youth by Arab terrorists.

No, it's not what you think.

Ha'aretz wasn't expressing remorse for advocating that Israel release terrorists from Israeli prisons, that Israel continue to retreat from Judea and Samaria, or that Israel continue to provide goodwill gestures towards the "Palestinians" such as easing up at the checkpoints and roadblocks - that led directly to yesterday's attack...

No, Ha'aretz has no problem with any of those things.

But, here is something that Ha'aretz expresses Jewish guilt over:
Analysis: The Palestinian population will pay the price

Even if Israel refrains from harsh reprisals for Sunday's lethal terror attack, there is no getting around the fact that the Palestinian population will suffer from the steps the Israel Defense Forces will take to prevent other such attacks, such as the erection of additional checkpoints. The IDF will also continue its large-scale arrest operations, which, to date, have nabbed some 700 terror suspects in the West Bank.

We have a sickness. It's called: The Misplaced Jewish Guilt Syndrome - (TMJGS, for short).

The Talmud teaches us (clearly referring to those stricken with TMJGS):
He who is merciful to the cruel is destined to be cruel to the merciful

The first, and most difficult, step is to recognize that we are afflicted with TMJGS. Once we are able to do that, we will be able to begin our long road to restoring our national health (and self-respect).

Israel's Predicatable (Non) Response

Israel has decided to respond to yesterday's unforgivable murder of 3 Jewish youth in Gush Etzion and the wounding of 5 others:

The Jerusalem Post reports:
In response, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz cut security contact with the Palestinians and ordered the IDF to reestablish the roadblocks it had removed over the past year and to reimpose controversial blockades on Palestinian cities, a security source said.

"We want the dialogue with the Palestinians to continue but we can't if the Palestinian Authority doesn't start taking significant and active steps against the terrorist organizations," Mofaz said Sunday evening.

I am not interested in dialogue with "Palestinians" - I am interested in those 3 Jews who were murdered still being alive. I am interested in the government of the State of Israel, once and for all, taking the steps needed to end the terror threat hanging over Israel. I am not interersted in having security contact with the "Palestinains', I am interested in our leadership standing up and calling a spade a spade - that the "Palestinians" seek the destruction of Israel, and acting against them accordingly.

The Jerusalem Post continues:
"The terrorists are trying to establish new rules," the official said. "They are trying to turn the focus on Judea and Samaria, and maintain a semblance of quiet in Gaza. But it won't work. Our policy is that there will be no geographical difference in our response to terror."

Well, if that's the case, then I have no doubt that terror will flourish in Judea and Samaria, just as it did in Gaza, with minimal Israeli response (short of bombing open fields).
The official said that Israel would step up its arrests of terror suspects and renew targeted assassinations in the wake of Sunday's killings. These tactics were used in late September following the upsurge of violence from Gaza.

Why do all there arrests take place after Jews are murdered. If Israel knows where all these terrorists are, then arrest them before, and eliminate those who threaten the Jewish People and State before they can strike against us. All of these acts that come after the murderous attacks will not bring back a single Jewish life (and chances are, most of those arrested will be released eventually, anyway).

No amount of international opinion is worth the life of a single Jew. Israel must act in its own best interests, and if it chooses not to, then the blood of all Jews killed as a result is on their hands.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

What's a Jewish Life Worth?

Earlier this afternoon, 3 Jewish youth were murdered (and 5 more Jews were wounded) by Arab terrorists, as they waited at a pick-up point in Gush Etzion - south of Jerusalem), on their way home.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, affiliated with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' ruling Fatah movement, took responsibility for both of the attacks.

Israel's response?
David Baker, an official in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, denounced the shooting. "Israel removed roadblocks and made a number of humanitarian gestures to ease up on the Palestinians," he told The Associated Press. "It's unfortunate that the Palestinians have exploited these measures to carry out these murderous attacks."

Do you want to know what's really unfortunate?

That in the Jewish State of Israel the life of a "Palestinian" is worth more than the life of a Jew.

It is a known fact. Whenever Israel eases up on the checkpoints and roadblocks Jews die, and yet, time and again, Israel enacts such measures.

Why is it that the Israeli government cares more about providing humanitarian aid to the "Palestinians" than they do about the well-being of their own citizens?

Why is it that the Israeli government will almost assuredly not take any meaningful steps to ensure that such attacks not occur again in the future?

We have heard so much about how the checkpoints and roadblocks that Israel sets up represent forms of collective punishment against the entire "Palestinian" population, and as such, are not moral or just. Why is it that no one is concerned with the collective punishment that is imposed on the Jewish population of Israel when these checkpoints and roadblocks are not in place? Why is it OK for Jewish children to live in fear as they wait to be picked up?

I don't blame the "Palestinians". They believe that the land belongs to them, and they are willing to fight in order to liberate it. They have learned that terrorism pays, as is evident by the inaction of the government of Israel to respond in any meaningful fashion... so why not?

What's the excuse of the government of the State of Israel? Why are they unwilling to take the steps to allow Jews to live proudly and freely in their own Land?



Are there any proud Jews left in Israel who are prepared to stand up and lead this once proud nation?


The Failure of Secular Zionism - Part II: Look Who's Not Serving...

I recently posted about the failure of secular Zionism, as it relates to the sky-high crime rate in the State of Israel. I argued that this is a direct result of a lack of Jewish education and values in Israel, and that only by overhauling the education system and culture that Israel promotes can we hope for a change.

Well, if that post wasn't convincing enough, here's another.

In an article by Elyakim HaEtzni in Yediot Achronot we find the following (I strongly recommend reading the entire article):
Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz says the country must do some soul searching, and hopes the "Gaza pullout and the improved economic and security situations that will follow" will bring about a positive change.

But the ones leaving are not the poor and the elderly, but rather the young and ambitious. They are drawn by the allures of other countries, because the spiritual values that drew Jews to the Land of Israel are no longer enough to keep them here.

One must ask themselves the following question to truly understand what is happening here:

If one has a minimal connection (at best) to their Jewish identity and heritage, why should they stay in Israel and have to put up with the terror, the high taxes, corrupt government and army reserve duty? Why not go to a country where he won't have to worry about any of that?

The article continues:
Also this year, there has been a sharp rise in the number of youths avoiding military service. Overall, 12.5 percent of those legally required to serve were released for "psychological reasons."

Just as the émigrés, the shirkers do not come from the weaker sectors of society. Most are "good kids," and the IDF personnel branch is fully aware of the reason: "A loss of values in Israeli society. More and more soldiers are asking themselves 'what's in it (military service) for me,' rather than 'what can I contribute to the country.' "

Keep in mind here, that we are not talking about the Ultra-Orthodox not serving in the army, but the supposed best and brightest that the State of Israel has produced.

If the State of Israel can't rely on it's middle and upper class youth, then who can the State rely on to both defend it, as well as to lead it into the future? Those whom the State just expelled from their homes and those who identify with them?

Once again, as I see it, the only way to reverse this trend is to infuse the State of Israel with a Jewish identity that her youth will take pride in. An education system that will produce proud and knowledgeable Jews who will be willing to fight and contribute for the betterment of the State - the Jewish State.

Our greatest threat is not, and has never been the Arabs, but ourselves. We are the masters of our own fate and the controllers of our destiny. We merely must choose the path that we wish to follow. Do we wish to become a State like all others, and ultimately watch our best and brightest leave us for greener pastures, as Israel will always be a 2nd rate America in the material sense, or are we to be a Jewish State, a State with a sense of purpose and national mission, with a collective destiny for all her citizens?

The choice is ours, but as Rush said in the song Tom Sawyer:
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Everything I Ever Wanted To Know I learned From...


Yair Lapid (son of the anti-religious, Shinui party boss, Tommy Lapid), in his weekly Column in Yediot Achronot shares with us his list of New Year Resolutions.

Before getting to his list, he offers us an insight into the origin of the New Year Resolution:
Gentiles have a number of wonderful ideas to their credit, like landing on the moon for example or (for the sake of maintaining a certain level on this blog, I left out the rest of his sentence)...

Another of their good ideas is the list of New Year resolutions. Every time a New Year comes around (and for them it’s the first of January for some reason) the entire world from New York to New Zealand scribbles a note to themselves, on which they record the 10 things they want to achieve in the next year. The note is then inserted into a signed envelope and taped to the mirror where it threatens you all year.

You know, it's funny. For some reason I always thought that it was in fact the Jewish People who introduced to the world the concept of the New Year Resolution.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I actually thought that the source was from the Torah (Bible), where it spoke of how the 10th day of the month of Tishrei (Yom Kippur) was to be a day of atonement, fasting and repentance, and that this was in fact the source of doing an annual soul searching and coming up with resolutions as to how we would try to improve ourselves in the coming year.

Thanks, Yair, for clearing that one up for me. I can't even bear to imagine going on thinking that anything that we might do here in Israel actually has its roots in the Torah and Jewish tradition...

Trick Question...

What is the holiest site of the Jewish People?

Easy. No sweat.

Of course, everyone knows, the holiest site to the Jewish People is the Kotel (Western Wall), right?

Of course, that answer is incorrect, as the holiest site of the Jewish People is in fact the Temple Mount, of which the Western Wall is merely a supporting wall (and it is only from its connection to the Temple Mount that the Western Wall derives its sanctity). Yet, if one were to read today's Ha'aretz, he would come across the following:
In 1985, when the design of the newly opened Western Wall Tunnel excavated along a buried section of the wall was being debated among rabbis, archaeologists and architects, the main point of debate was how the place of the Temple would be presented during tours of the site. In those days, the chief rabbi of the Western Wall was Rabbi Yehuda Meir Getz, to whom kabbala was very significant. Twenty years on, another controversial figure, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, now holds the post, and the Temple is hardly mentioned in the visitor’s center adjacent to the tunnel, which runs beneath the present-day Muslim quarter of the Old City.

Discussion revolves these days around a more modest goal: bringing the Jewish public, especially the younger generation, to the Western Wall.

It has been found that a significant percentage of Jewish youth in Israel have a minimal connection with Jerusalem and the Western Wall, and as such, a new exhibit is being designed to reach out to this population:
For many young people today, the Western Wall serves as a backdrop to the Memorial Day ceremony they watch on television once a year," he says. "This presentation tries to reach young people in the language and tools of the 21st century, but with content that will make it clear to them that they are links in a magnificent chain that began in the days of the patriarch Abraham and continues to our time."

I think that the motivation behind this project is terrific, and long overdue, but if we are already investing the money, why not connect these Jewish youth to the real deal - the Temple Mount - where the two Holy Temples stood, where Abraham bound Isaac, the true focus of all of our prayers relating to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.

The Western Wall is great, don't get me wrong. But why settle for 2nd best, when you can have it all?

If the goal is to inspire Jewish youth in Israel today, then why not given them a vision, both of a glorious, royal past, and of what the future holds in store for the Jewish People... and it's all happening on the Temple Mount.

Same Ending... New Beginnings?

This time of year is always a bittersweet one for me. In a little over a week the Jewish People will once again celebrate the completion of the Torah, and the beginning of a new cycle.

How can one not get excited by the chance of getting to (re)acquaint oneself with the forefathers: Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, "the brothers"... the story of creation, the flood... all of the action and drama - hoping that perhaps this time around we won't make all of the same mistakes that we made the last time.

Yet, a part of me is sad.

In many ways, the weekly Torah portion is similar to a weekly installment of a hit TV show - like 24, for instance. I keep coming back each week to find out what's going to happen next. I want to see what the latest adventure / challenge / mishap the Jewish People are going to experience, and how Avraham / Yitzchak / Ya'akov / Joseph /Moshe will manage the work things our (more often than not) by the end of the Torah portion.

So, when we finally arrive at the end of the year (or season), unlike in a TV show, I already know two things, and both I find challenging to deal with.

1) Just as the Jewish people are finally going to enter the Land of Israel, after 40 years of wandering in the desert, the story abruptly ends. Want to know what happens next... well, then you have to go study the book of Prophets (on your own).

Unlike on TV, where the next season of a TV series is the continuing saga / storyline, here we only get reruns.

2) In the coming week's Torah portion we say goodbye to Moshe, the leader of the Jewish People, the one who took them out of slavery in Egypt, led them to Mount Sinai where they received the Torah, remained a pillar of strength as the Jewish People complained and stumbled their way through the wilderness, and ultimately led them to the gates of the Land of Israel.

How could one not get attached to Moshe. In many ways, Moshe is the type of leader that the Jewish People have lacked for so long, and one which we could sorely use today. For nearly 10 months of the year he is the guiding light of the Jewish People - past, present and future.

And now, after all that Moshe has done, we are asked to say goodbye.

To make matters all the more tragic, Moshe ultimately is refused entry into the Land of Israel due to an earlier mistake on his part, and he is only granted a view of the Land from the East Bank of the Jordan, courtesy of Hashem Himself, before he is laid to rest on Mount Nebo.

I have always struggled with the fact that Moshe was not granted access into Israel. How many people throughout the entire Jewish history wanted to enter the Land of Israel, if only for a fleeting moment, as much as Moshe?

How is it that someone like myself, as far as one can be from the lofty stature of Moshe, finds himself living in Israel, traveling to Jerusalem every single day, and yet Moshe was left on the outside looking in?

This should serve as food for thought for all members of the Jewish People. For those who choose to remain living outside of Israel, think about what Moshe, one of the greatest Jews ever, would have given to be able to enter the Land of Israel, while so many Jews to willingly remain living outside of Israel. For Jews who are fortunate enough to be living in the Land of Israel, extra effort must be made in order not to take this privilege for granted, as not all those who have prayed to merit living in the Land of Israel, orwho were of a higher spiritual caliber, have been granted the ability to do so.

It's a new year. A Fresh Start. Same old Story. New lessons to learn…

And hopefully live by.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Cities of Refuge(es) - A Closer Look - In Pictures

I spent this past Monday distributing Succot to the refugees of Gush Katif - sponsored by World Mizrachi. Over the course of the day I vested Nitzan, Ir Emunah (City of Faith), Yated and Ariel. In each of these places one sees different types of people, hears different stories, and sees first hand the different challenges that these Jews are facing.

To see pictures of the various cities of refuge(es), click here.

In Nitzan, where there are currently hundreds of refugee families, things seem to be the most settled. Families with less than 5 children are living in 60-meter "caravilot", and those with 5 children or more are living in 90-meter homes. There is construction all around, and one can see that a sense of community is beginning to take shape. These Jews are looking to move forward with their lives to the best of their ability, in spite of the government betraying and then abandoning them.

This is where a large percentage of the refugees currently can be found, and where more seem to be arriving everyday.

On the other hand, the Jews I spoke with here feel let down. Not just over being expelled from their homes, but from being abandoned by the government. Most people here are out of work, and they do not see that changing any time soon, and they believe that the government could care less, and is totally corrupted.

At Ir Emunah, one sees a different story. The refugees here are living in much more difficult conditions. Those that are lucky have small trailers to live in, and others are living in make shift tents and shacks. Ir Emunah is located within a giant (open) greenhouse type structure. Within this complex are communal bathrooms, showers and laundry machines. One can see piles upon piles of their belongings scattered throughout the complex, as they just have nowhere to put anything.

The Jews here, primarily from Atzmona, want to stay together as a community, and represent the ideological hardcore of the Gush Katif refugees. There is a lot of anger towards the government and the State. What the long term holds for these Jews is a mystery.

Yated, a stone throw away from the Egyptian border, as well as Gaza, is made up of a small group (26 families) of refugees from Atzmona who decided that Ir Emunah wasn't for them, and that they wanted to begin settling the Negev. Yated is to be a community based on agriculture, and they have hopes of establishing a pre-army academy, as well as an institution of higher Jewish learning for women. At Yated, one gets the sense that you are literally in the middle of nowhere. Lots of open land all around, and not many Jewish comunities in the immediate vicinity - which is why, I believe that these Jews are here. There's lots of open land for farming, and lots of open land that needs ot be filled with Jews.

We were told that these Jews from Atzmona who are now in Yated are the 1st Jews in quite some time to start a new agricultural community in the Negev. These are Jews who still have that pioneering spirit in them, and a love for the Land and People of Israel, an while they may be discouraged by what happened, they are moving forward.

As an aside, one of the refugees from Yated (orginally Atzmona) was telling us that he doesn't understand how there could be religious Zionists in America. He said, "If they're Zionists, they would be in Israel, and if they were religious they would be in Israel".

Different Jews. Different Places. Different Challenges. One Nation.

I think all of these Jews are looking to find a place they can call home once again, and to rebuild their lives. I don’t know if they will ever be able to trust the government and the State after what has happened to them. I hope that they will all be able to find what they are looking for, and that they will all be sealed for a year full of blessings from on High - they certainly could use some divine intervention, and are more than deserving of it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

From My Mouth to G-d's Ears...

Earlier today, I was called a prophet, in response to a previous post. At first, I thought that it was nonsense, but now I am not so sure...

Just the other day, I wrote a post suggesting that Prime Minster Sharon extend some goodwill gestures towards the Jews of Israel as opposed to the "Palestinians", and among them I included the following:
* Administrative detention will no longer be against Jews in the State of Israel, and all Jews currently being held under administrative detention will be brought to a fair and speedy trial (or released if there is no evidence).

Well, it looks like G-d was listening, because this just appeared in today's Ha'aretz:
Judge Moshe Drori of the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday ordered the state to pay far-right activist Noam Federman NIS 100,000 compensation for false arrest for alleged terrorist activity in recent years.

This is believed to be the first time in the history of the state that someone has been remunerated for administrative detention or house arrest.

Federman, a resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, was held in administrative detention for around eight months, and underwent many months of house arrest.

Hashem, if you're still listening... First off, I wanted to say thanks (I never doubted You for a second), and second, I was wondering if you could work on the following minor requests of mine (if You're not too busy):

* Bring all members of the Jewish People home to Israel.

* Bless the Jewish People with a true and lasting peace throughout the entire Land of Israel, in which they will be sovereign.

* Allow the Jewish People and the State of Israel to be totally self-sufficient and independent (from the nations of the world) so that they can pursue policies that are truly in the best interests of the Jewish People and State.

* Plant within the heart of every Jew the desire to want to (re)connect with their heritage and traditions, and to once again take pride in who they are, where they are going, and a desire to work towards fulfilling the collective destiny of the Jewish People.

* Rebuild the Beit HaMikdash. (As for what to do with the structures that currently occupy the Temple Mount I will leave to Your discretion).

* Bring Mashiach... NOW! (If possible...)

I think that's about it... I am sure that You are going to be inundated with prayers over the next couple of days, but if you could find some time to address these issues, I would really appreciate it - mine are really, really, really important... I think.

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