Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A letter to the Editor

One of the organizations that I am involved with is a group called Kiwis for Balanced Reporting on the Mid-East.

One of the things that this organization does is monitor the New Zealand press, and alerts members to cases of extreme bias or inaccuracy.
Well last week the Herald on Sunday (an Auckland Weekend Paper) published one of the worst diatribes against Israel I've ever seen in a New Zealand paper (and that's quite an accomplishment).
Take a look for yourself

The author is a well known radical left politician in New Zealand, you can read all about him in Wikipedia.

I submitted a letter to the editor, very hard to relate to such an article with a 200 word limit, but here's my best attempt:


Matt McCarten’s column printed January 27 is so full of exaggerations, lies, and outrageous comparisons, that it is hard to see how anyone with even a minimal understanding of events in the Middle East could take Mr. McCarten seriously.

Since Israel ended the occupation of Gaza over two years ago, the Hamas leadership been involved in what Mr. McCarten describes as “causing a nuisance”.

“Nuisance” is a very mild word to describe over 4000 missiles fired at civilian population centres, including homes, schools, and synagogues.

One of the targets of these missiles has been the electrical power plant in the Israeli city of Ashkelon. This power plant has been providing the Gaza Strip with a large percentage of its electric power.

After the number of daily missiles rose to more than fifty, Israel decided to react by reducing the amount of power provided to Gaza by the power plant that was the target of the attacks.

Mr. McCarten’s conclusion was that this slight reduction of power is on par with Nazi planned genocide during WWII. Mr. McCarten’s extreme prejudice seems to have clouded his common sense or sense of proportion.

So, what do you think?

Avraham Fried in today's Daf

Everyone seems to be talking about the snow in Jerusalem (and Chevron) or the Winograd Committee (which I have very little faith in, if Olmert had an ounce of dignity, he would have resigned 2 years ago, if he doesn't, he'll find a way to weasel out of this one)

However, before tomorrow's Daf, I wanted to share these words of wisdom from נדרים מ"א ע"א
The words were turned into a popular song by Yossi Green, sung by Avraham Fied on his disk Chazak! You can listen to the beginning of the song here, note that he rearranged the words slightly. The words, as they appear in the Gemara are here:

במערבא אמרי

דדא ביה כולא ביה

דלא דא ביה מה ביה

דא קני מה חסר

דא לא קני מה קני

Hebrew free translation (from Rabbi Shteinzaltz):

בארץ ישראל היו אומרים:

שזו הדעת, בו – הכל בו

שאין זה בו – מה יש בו

את זו קנה, וזה לא קנה – מה קנה?

And in English (from Kollel Iyun Hadaf):

In Eretz Yisrael they said:

If one has knowledge, he has everything.

If one lacks knowledge, what does he have?

If he acquires knowledge, he has everything.

If he does not acquire knowledge, he does acquire anything.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Prayer in Schools

On of the recent news items that has really baffled me has been the Kerfuffle over prayer in State High schools in this beloved country of ours.

In case you're smarter than me and don't follow the local Israeli media, a few weeks ago a group of students at a non-religious high school in Ramat Gan complained that they were not allowed to daven Mincha on school property. This ban was supported not only by the school principal, but by the Mayor of Ramat Gan.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would be bothered by a group of students that want to pray in their own time. If they wanted to set up a different quiet activity during recess like a chess club, reading group, meditation circle, or whatever, do you really think that the mayor would take the time to make a fool of himself by opposing it.

Finally our great and noble (and militant anti-religious) Minister of Education, Yael Tamir, got involved, and today published a ruling. Her conclusion - that schools have to allow "any" type of prayer, however if there is no suitable location on the school campus, an alternative venue must be found within a 10 minute walk.

Well - how is it possible that there are schools that have no available space, no empty classrooms, or corner of a schoolyard where a small group of students can gather, in their own time to daven?

There were other times and places where Jewish Prayer was limited or banned, how tragic that this could happen here in the Jewish State - is this really what we waited 2000 years for?

And even more tragic - how can we sleep at night when someone like minister Yael Tamir is responsible for the education of hundreds of thousands of Jewish children?

Before I close for the evening - 2 happier notes -
  • The much-awaited snow finally started falling in Jersalem, (see Aish's Window on the Wall), may the snow and rain continue to fall and be a Bracha to our beloved country.
  • Radio Kol Chai reported this morning that in response to teh Kassamim in Sderot, a group of Sofrim have volunteered their services to check and replace Mezuzot in that city (which is by itself good news). The amazing part of the story is that 70% of the Mezuzot were found to be Kosher, or even "Kosher L'Mahadrin" - I wish that our holy city of Modi'in had such a pass rate with mezuzot.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Survivors' Talmud

I haven't been very consistent at this blogging thing, but I just read an article that I had to share with my dedicated readers....

The Jerusalem Post just had an article on the thirst for Sifrei Kodesh in the DP camp that was set up in the Dachau Concentration camp after liberation. It's a very moving read (take a look for yourself).

One of the things that I found fascinating was the following:

The survivors prevailed upon the American authorities, with the assistance of the Joint Distribution Committee, to publish several Talmud tractates for use in the DP camps. The title page was illustrated by an image of a wagon loaded with bodies for the crematoria, along with a rising sun over Jerusalem, and the phrase: "They almost wiped me out, but I did not abandon your commandments."
I had to see this for myself, so with the help of the Internet, I managed to track down an image of the "US Army Talmud", the first edition of the Talmud ever printed by a government.

It makes a fascinating story, you should read the following accounts of this amazing edition of the Talmud:
And here is the first page of Missechet Brachot from that edition of the Talmud, just as the Jerusalem Post described it:

The text is as follows:

משעבוג לגאולה מאפאלה לאור גדול

מסכת ברכות


תלמוד בבלי

יצא לאור ע"י ועד אגדות הרבנים
באזור האמריקאי באשקנז
בסיוע שלטון הצבא דארצות הברית והדזונט בגרמני'


שנת חמשת אלפים ושבע מאות ותשע לב"ע

Rough translation:

From Oppression to Redemption, from Darkness to a Great Light

Tractate Brachot from the Babylonian Talmud

Published by the Council of Rabbis

In the American district of Ashkenzaz [Germany]

With the assistance of the leadership of the United States Army and the Joint in Germany


The year five thousand, seven hundred and nine since the Creation of the World [1949]