Sunday, December 13, 2009

The man who smuggled himself into Auschwitz

A few weeks ago, the BBC had a remarkable story of Denis Avey, a British POW held in Auschwitz who twice traded places with a Jewish Prisoner to witness first hand what was happening in the Death factory adjacent to his POW camp.

I find the story chilling, although at some level unbelievable. The concept of willing breaking into a concentration camp sounds too similar to the fictional book/movie “Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”, which presents a totally implausible view of life in a Concentration Camp.

The other element in the story, that he successfully smuggled goods to Jewish prisoners sounds too similar to the story of “The Girl With the Apple” which also turned out to be fiction.

I tried to find other sources that covered Denis Avey’s story, but so far I have only found links to the same BBC article. If the article is true, it serves as an important testament to the goodness that is possible in the midst of the worst evil imaginable.

Here are some extracts from the article:


When millions would have done anything to get out, one remarkable British soldier smuggled himself into Auschwitz to witness the horror so he could tell others the truth.

Denis Avey is a remarkable man by any measure. A courageous and determined soldier in World War II, he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in a camp connected to the Germans' largest concentration camp, Auschwitz.


He describes Auschwitz as "hell on earth" and says he would lie awake at night listening to the ramblings and screams of prisoners.

"It was pretty ghastly at night, you got this terrible stench," he says.

He talked to Jewish prisoners but says they rarely spoke of their previous life. Instead they were focused on the hell they were living and the work they were forced to do in factories outside the camp.

He says he would ask where people he'd met previously had gone and he would be told they'd "gone up the chimney".

"It was so impersonal. Auschwitz was evil, everything about it was wrong."

He also witnessed the brutality meted out to the prisoners, saying people were shot daily. He was determined to help, especially when he met Jewish prisoner Ernst Lobethall.


Mr Lobethall told him he had a sister Susana who had escaped to England as a child, on the eve of war. Back in his own camp, Mr Avey contacted her via a coded letter to his mother.

He arranged for cigarettes, chocolate and a letter from Susana to be sent to him and smuggled them to his friend. Cigarettes were more valuable than gold in the camp and he hoped he would be able to trade them for favours to ease his plight - and he was right.

Mr Lobethall traded two packs of Players cigarettes in return for getting his shoes resoled. It helped save his life when thousands perished or were murdered on the notorious death marches out of the camps in winter in 1945.


But before he died Mr Lobethall recorded his survival story on video for the Shoah Foundation, which video the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and witnesses. In it he spoke of his friendship with a British soldier in Auschwitz who he simply called "Ginger". It was Denis.

He also recalled how the cigarettes, chocolate and a letter from his sister in England were smuggled to him in the midst of war.

"It was like being given the Rockefeller Centre," he says in the video.

Mr Avey traded places twice and slept overnight in Auschwitz. He tried a third time but he was almost caught and the plan was aborted.

He suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when he came back from the war and has only recently been able to speak about what he did and what he saw.

He admits some may find it hard to believe and acknowledges it was "foolhardy".

"But that is how I was," he simply says.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

WARNING: Jewish produce

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, the UK has decided to single out Israeli manufactured products in the “West bank” so the consumers won’t accidentally by from Jews.

According to the article:

… according to guidelines put out by the department [British Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs], "Traders and retailers may wish to indicate whether the product originated from an Israeli settlement or from Palestinian producers. This could take the form, for example, of 'Produce of the West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)' or 'Produce of the West Bank (Palestinian produce)', as appropriate."

In addition, the guidelines said that "traders would be misleading consumers, and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT (including from the West Bank) as 'Produce of Israel'.

In other words, their could be two farmers growing tomatoes in adjacent fields. One of them of Jewish decent, the other not Jewish, and importers are encouraged to label each product differently so that consumers can decide whether to buy from Jews or not.

How would the British react if all imports from Northern Ireland were labelled as “Catholic'” or “Protestant”?

There were times in history when it was acceptable to place distinguishing marks on Jewish businesses, books, or products. I had thought that this type of behaviour was no longer acceptable in Western Countries, I was clearly wrong.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Of Minarets and Muezzins

Two interesting news stories about the relationship between State and Religion in Western countries.

The news stories are abuzz with the Swiss Referendum which voted to ban construction of new Minarets in Switzerland.

At the same time there is a law being drafted here in Israel by MK Aryeh Bibi (Kadima) which would limit the Muezzin, the pre-dawn call to prayer which disrupts the sleep of many people who live near a Mosque (including in many mixed cities like Jerusalem, Haifa, or Chevron where many Jewish residents are also woken with the 4:00 call to prayer).

I found the results of the Swiss referendum alarming. To me it is amazing that there could be a restriction on religious buildings in a Western Democracy – although Switzerland has a strange relationship with religious minorities. Shchita has been banned in Switzerland for a long time, and many Cantons prohibit religious cemeteries (the Jewish Cemetery in Geneva is on the French border, and technically in France, not Switzerland).

But even with the limits on religion in Switzerland, I still find this blanket ban puzzling. I could understand if there were specific building codes that Minarets have to confirm to, just as I am sure that there are building codes for Church bell towers or other structures.

But a blanket ban on all new minarets seems to be pure and simply hostility to all Muslims, and this is the essence of the Problem.

Yes there have been many horrific acts carried out in the name of Islam. According to radical Islam has carried out more than 14,000 deadly terror attacks since 9-11. I don’t think that any other religious or political group has carried out even close to that number. I’m still trying to find a list of recent Lutheran or Unitarian terrorist attacks, but I’m reasonably certain that it’s less than 14,000.

But if almost all recent terrorist attacks have been carried out in the name of Islam, it does not follow that all Muslims are terrorists. In fact the opposite is true, the vast majority of Muslims are as repulsed by this abuse and mis-use of religion as anyone. In fact moderate Muslims are probably more upset as it reflects badly on them and their community (is there an Islamic equivalent of “Chillul HaShem”?)

And that is the problem with the proposed ban in Switzerland. It does not differentiate between moderate Muslims and radical Islamists. In fact it does the opposite, it lumps them all together in one basket.

To quote Daniel Pipes, "militant Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution". if we want to identify potential terrorists, we can’t declare war on Islam, rather we should work with moderate Muslims to strengthen their influence within their own communities and at the same time try to identify and stop radical militant Islam.

Unfortunately the Swiss Referendum seems a giant step in the opposite direction.

If there is one silver lining in this vote, they have now clearly put the ball in the Muslim Community's court. The Muslim community can respond within the norms of democracy, to appeal the results in front of the courts, parliament, or in the media, or alternatively they can resort to violent protest.

Lets see what path the Muslim community adopt, and lets hope that their actions don’t prove that the ban was justified, or at least justifiable.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Is the really anti-Semitism out there?

I often get upset when people look for anti-Semitism in places where it doesn’t exist.

You can be critical of Israel without being anti-Semitic. A joke about the Holocaust or a Rabbi may be in bad taste, but that doesn’t make you anti-Semitic. If your religious belief tells you that all non-believers (including Jews) are Damned, that doesn’t make you an anti-Semite, even if you make a movie about your religious beliefs.

That said, I think that we have to acknowledge that real anti-Semitism exists. Look at the security around Jewish institutions around the world – in many places Synagogues, Jewish schools. and even residential Jewish neighbourhoods and  have armed guards, security cameras, and a whole array of other security measures.

In many parts of the World, law enforcement agencies recommend against wearing a Kipa in public or any other visible signs of being Jewish.

There are no other religious groups that have this type of security. Mosques, Hindu temples, or Catholic churches do not require the type of security that we have around Jewish organizations.

But maybe we Jews are overly cautious, maybe the centuries of persecution, culminating in the Holocaust have made us paranoid.

This week the world is marking the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. It is important to remember that the only specific target in the Mumbai attacks that was selected during those attacks because of the type of location (as opposed to the number of people likely to be there) was the Chabad House.

And this has nothing to do with the “plight of the Palestinians” or “Israeli Atrocities”, it wasn’t an Israeli target that was selected, it was a Jewish Religious target, with no official links to Israel.

But what about hatred of other religious minorities? We are constantly hearing about “Islama-phobia”, especially since 9-11 when there was allegedly a lot of hatred expressed towards Islam.

Well the statistics don’t seem to show that. According to the recently published 2008 FBI Hate Crime Statics last year in the United States (arguably one of the safest countries to be visibly Jewish, outside of Israel) there were 1519 Hate Crimes based on Religion. 1013 of those incidents targeted Jews. I.e, two thirds of all religious motivated Hate Crimes were against Jews. (I’d be curious to know how many of those incidents were carried out by Muslims, but I digress…)

By contrast, there were 105 anti-Islam incidents reported. Sounds like “Islama-phobia” is not as serious as some people would have us believe.

There were more reported Hate Crimes against Jews than there were against gays, or all other religious groups together. The only group which was the victim of a higher number of Hate Crimes was the Black community (2876 reported incidents). Which is terrible, but remember that there are over 40 Million Blacks in the US, i.e., a community 6 times greater than the Jewish community experienced less than 3 times the number of reported incidents.

Clearly all Hate crime should be eliminated, but it looks like the Jewish community is not necessarily paranoid if it argued that Jews have been singularly targeted as victims.

Lets hope and pray that the 2009 statistics show a decrease of hate crimes against all minorities, but just in case, maybe Jews outside of Israel should get in touch with their local Aliya Shaliach.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Between Life and Death

We all know that Ariel Sharon has been in a Coma for almost four years. hovering between life and death and as far as anyone knows, he has little or no awareness of the world around him.

There have been many jokes about what would happen if he woke up, and earlier this year there were (mistaken) reports that he was becoming more responsive, but I don’t think that anyone believes that Sharon will ever again be able to interact fully with the world around him.

On a related topic, in the US there has been a lot of talk about end of life care and how it will be effected if Obama’s health proposal is passed into law. People have been tossing around terms like ‘Death Panels” and “Right to Die”.

Judaism has always regarded human life as supremely important, and regards even life in a Vegetative State important enough to safeguard. We are obligated to break Shabbat if it would allow us to extend the life of comatose patient for even a few minutes.

Have you ever stopped to think about what it must be like on the “other side”. Imagine if you lost full control of your body, unable to move of communicate, but fully conscious and aware of everything going on around you. Can you imagine a worse fate than lying there fully conscious while everyone assumed you were brain dead.

That is the situation that is being reported about Rom Houben. According to reports, for 23 years doctors assumed that Mr Houben was comatose and effectively brain-dead when in fact he was fully conscious, just without any control over his body. The reports say that for 23 years hey lay there, wanting to scream out, but unable to move.

According to the report, today he is able to communicate through a computer, and they have given him books to read via a screen over his bed.

May Mr Houben live many more years now that he has been restored to the world of the living.

Post Script: After I wrote this post, I saw the story in today's Jerusalem Post about Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Ya'acov Litzman insisting that doctors at Schneider Children's Medical Center follow the wishes of a patient's family and treat a lower-brain-dead baby girl like an ordinary living patient and give her antibiotics and other treatment.

The hospital is angry at the Rabbi for interfering with medical decisions.

I am no expert on the Halachic or medical issues surrounding brain-dead patients. I have no idea how the diagnosis of "lower-brain-dead" compares to "vegetative State" which was the mis-diagnosis that Mr Houben suffered with for 23 years, however I would have though that it is the responsibility of the hospital to respect the end-of-life wishes of a family, and it shouldn't take interference from a Deputy Minister to see that the family's wishes are followed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Protests for the sake of Protesting

I’m very happy that in spite of the Chilul HaShem in last week’s protests against Intel, the Intel management has agreed to find a compromise to the issue of Shabbat by reducing the Shabbat staff to a bear minimum and only employing non-Jews on Shabbat.

I’m not an expert on the laws of “Goy Shel Shabbat” and I don’t know the details of how the arrangement has been set up, but according to the Jerusalem Post, the agreement meets the approval of Rav Elyashiv, arguably the biggest posek in the Ashkenaz world today.

Apparently this agreement was already being worked out a week ago before the last Shabbat’s demonstration (although had not yet been put into practice) which shows that the demonstration was not only a massive Chilul HaShem but also unnecessary, it may have even been counter-productive. I can see that other companies may have responded to a demonstration like we saw last week by calling off any previous arrangements and Davka opening on Shabbat to prove that they wont be intimidated by thugs in black hats.

Fortunately Intel management acted very “grown up” and is moving ahead with the arrangement approved by Rav Elyashiv. So everyone’s happy – right? Wrong!

According to the same Jerusalem Post article, the Av Beit Din of the Eida Haredit Rabbi Tuvia Weiss does not approve of the deal and is calling for a demonstration anyway.

I am surprised that Rabbi Weiss regards himself as a bigger Posek than Rav Elyashiv, I guess he doesn’t believe in the concept of ‘Daas Torah”, or at least only accepts “Daas Torah” when it means causing trouble.

The article also didn’t say if Dayan Weiss had an alternative solution that would allow Intel to stay in business. Remember Intel is one of Israel’s biggest exporters and maintaining a plant in Jerusalem is a huge boost for the Nation’s capital. But these simple economics don’t seem to be of interest to Rabbi Weiss.

I sincerely hope that the Haredi community turns to rabbi Weiss and says “Enough is Enough” surely they would rather spend Shabbat at home with their families, than publicly go out to desecrate both Shabbat and Hashem’s name.

Lets hope that this week the capital really has a Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Support of Chilul Shabbat

Again the peace of Shabbat in Jerusalem was shattered by rioting by Haredi Zealots.

It is a tragic state of affairs that in the recent unrest in Jerusalem, my sympathies and support is with those who are Michalel Shabbat.

In the recent Intel riots, according to reports (which I had independently confirmed via a Haredi Jew who works for Intel), the Haredi demonstrators were not only responsible for a massive Chilul HaShem, but there was also mass Chilul Shabbat (breaking into the building, encouraging police and journalists to come out) and on top of it all, Chilul Kodesh as they broke into the Beit Knesset in Intel and threw Siddurim and Sifrei Kodesh on the floor, as well as destroying furniture.

I have always believed that as a religious Jew I have more in common with other religious Jews, than with Jews who are removed from Jewish Tradition. It is much easier to find a place to eat or daven or learn in any Haredi neighbourhood than it is in a predominately secular area.

However in recent events it seems that a segment of the Hardei community is as far removed from the Torah and Jewish Tradition as the most extreme secular.

Forcing police to break Shabbat in order to control a riot, or violating Shabbat through breaking property or throwing stones show that these people have very little understanding of what Shabbat is.

Destroying public property like garbage cans or traffic lights show that these people have no appreciation for the laws of Nezikin.

Screaming insults and throwing objects at other Jews shows that these people are severely lacking in Ahavat Yisrael.

And finally desecrating a Beit Knesset (which was in a different Intel building, NOT the one open on Shabbat) show that these people are severely lacking in their Ahavat HaShem.

Rav Kook said that even the most secular Jew is still Holy. He may be mis-guided, but his intentions are Holy, which is why we see many worthy causes being lead be “Secular” Jews, they are looking for the Holiness in the Profane.

It seems like the leaders of these Hardedi riots are looking for the Profane in the Holiness.

It is time for the main stream Haredi community to publicly distance itself from these extremists.

Post Script: Upon re-reading my post, I guess that I should emphasize that I don't "support" Chillul Shabbat, as my first paragraph may have implied. I am 100% opposed to any form of Chilul Shabbat, and I hope that Intel are able to work with Rabbinic Authorities and maybe Machon Tzomet to find a solution to their Shabbat needs within the confines of Halacha.

What I was trying to say, that if there is anything worse than a company breaking Shabbat, it is the Haredi demonstrations which are not only a Chilul Shabbat, but also a Chilul HaShem. There are much better ways to encourage Shabbat observance in this country.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shuls in Modi'in

I've started marking Batei Knesset in Modi'in in Google Maps.

If you want to help me out and add any other shuls, feel free.

I am adding links to the map from my list of weekday minyanim in Modi'in.

This is an on-going project as Baruch Hashem we have had several new batei knesset in Modi'in over the past year, and several more should be opening within the coming months.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Relationship between Support for Israel and Freedom

The UN recently had a vote on the Goldstone Report, condemning Israel for ‘Human Rights Violations”.

The vote was exceptionally critical of Israel (even by UN Standards). There were 4 different responses a member of the security council could have to the vote:

  • Yes
  • No
  • Abstain
  • Absent

I thought that it would be interesting to compare the way each country voted with its Human Rights and Freedom track record.

With a simple web search I managed to find a list of Countries Ranked by Economic Freedom as well as a report by Freedom House which rates the level of freedom in all counties in the World.

What was interesting, the more free that a county was rated, the more likely it was to support Israel in the UN vote. All the countries that voted supported Israel and voted against the resolution “NO” were rated “Free”, almost all received the highest rating (1) for both "Political Rights” and “Civil Liberties”.

By contrast, the countries that voted against Israel (Yes) averaged 3.8 in both Political Rights and Civil Liberties.

Looks like you don’t have to be a non-free society to be critical of Israel at the UN, but it sure seems to help.

Here are the details, feel free to draw your own conclusion.

The following countries votes YES (Supported the bill against Israel):

Country Economic Freedom Political Rights Civil Liberties Freedom Rating
Argentina 52.3 2 2 Free
Bahrain 74.8 5 5 Partly Free
Bangladesh 47.5 4 4 Partly Free
Bolivia 53.6 3 3 Partly Free
Brazil 56.7 2 2 Free
Chile 78.3 1 1 Free
China 53.2 7 6 Not Free
Cuba 27.9 7 7 Not Free
Djibouti 51.3 5 5 Partly Free
Egypt 58.0 6 5 Not Free
Ghana 58.1 1 2 Free
India 54.4 2 3 Free
Indonesia 53.4 2 3 Free
Jordan 65.4 5 4 Partly Free
Mauritius 74.3 1 2 Free
Nicaragua 59.8 3 3 Partly Free
Nigeria 55.1 4 4 Partly Free
Pakistan 57.0 6 5 Not Free
Philippines 56.8 3 3 Partly Free
Qatar 65.8 6 5 Not Free
Russian Federation 50.8 6 5 Not Free
Saudi Arabia 64.3 7 6 Not Free
Senegal 56.3 2 3 Free
South Africa 63.8 2 2 Free
Zambia 56.6 3 4 Partly Free
Average: 57.82 3.8 3.76  

The following countries were ABSENT:

Country Economic Freedom Political Rights Civil Liberties Freedom Rating
Angola 47.0 6 5 Not Free
France 63.3 1 1 Free
Kyrgyzstan 61.8 5 4 Partly Free
Madagascar 62.2 4 3 Partly Free
United Kingdom 79.0 1 1 Free
Average: 62.66 3.4 2.8  

The following countries ABSTAINED:

Country Economic Freedom Political Rights Civil Liberties Freedom Rating
Belgium 72.1 1 1 Free
Bosnia-Herzegovina 53.1 3 2 Partly Free
Burkina Faso 59.5 5 3 Partly Free
Cameroon 53.0 6 6 Not Free
Gabon 55.0 6 4 Partly Free
Japan 72.8 1 2 Free
Mexico 65.8 3 3 Free
Norway 70.2 1 1 Free
Republic of Korea 68.1 1 2 Free
Slovenia 62.9 1 1 Free
Uruguay 69.1 1 1 Free
Average: 63.78 2.6 2.3  

The following countries voted NO (Supported Israel):

Country Economic Freedom Political Rights Civil Liberties Freedom Rating
Hungary 66.8 1 1 Free
Italy 61.4 1 1 Free
Netherlands 77.0 1 1 Free
Slovakia 69.4 1 1 Free
Ukraine 48.8 3 2 Free
United States 80.7 1 1 Free
Average: 67.35 1.33 1.17  

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Tribute To Ilan and Asaf Ramon

I.L. Peretz has a well known story "Drei Matones" ("Three Gifts") in which the soul of a departed Jew is requested to bring three gifts to the Creator of All Mankind.

The story is a very powerful tale and is good reading before we all face our own Judgement for the coming year in a few days, but I have my own sequel to Peretz’ story…

The Fourth Gift

Many years ago there was a Pious Jew who lived in Amsterdam who was also a talented Scribe. To show his devotion to HaShem, the scribe spent a year of his life working on a unique project, he wrote a Sefer Torah that was only 5 centimetres high, this Sefer Torah, although tiny was a true work of art, every letter was written clearly and with love.

As the years passed, the Sofer moved on to the World of Truth and the Sefer Torah remained as a treasured possession of the Jews in Amsterdam for many years.

As time moved on, the winds of war moved in from the East and the Army of Amalek arrived in Holland from Germany. As they rounded up the Jews each person took whatever belongings he could fit into a single bag as they were deported to an unknown destination.

The Chief Rabbi of Holland, Rabbi Simon Dasberg packed his Talit and Tefilin, and also took the tiny Torah with him on his unknown Journey, and managed to smuggle this Holy item with him as he entered the Kingdom of the Night, Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. While in the camp he kept the Sefer Torah hidden while his very soul was tortured by the worst evil that man has ever inflicted upon man.

While in the camp, Rabbi Dasberg met a young prisoner, Joachim Joseph, a young 12 year old boy. As Joachim approached his Bar Mitzva, the Rabbi decided that even in this Hell on Earth this Jewish child needs to celebrate his coming of age, and so it was that the older Rabbi and the young boy rose at 4:00 am every mornig to study from the Tiny Torah, and on the day of his Joachim’s Bar Mitzva all the inmates shared their meagre rations to celebrate a new adult in the Jewish Community.

That evening Rabbi Dasberg spoke to his student and presented him with the Torah and ordered him to survive and live to tell the tale. Soon thereafter, Rabbi Dasberg returned his pure soul to his Maker.

Joachim did survive and eventually made his way with the Tiny Torah to America where he became a successful scientist studying atmospheric physics. Joachim had students of his own, including an Astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who was about to become the first Israeli in space.

Ramon realized that while in the heavens, he was not only an Astronaut, but was also an ambassador of the Jewish Nation, and asked Professor Joseph if he could take the Tiny Torah with him to the Heavens. And so it was that this simple Torah, written so lovingly in Amsterdam was now broadcast around the globe in the hands of a true Israeli Hero.

As is well known, Ramon’s mission never returned to Earth. The Space Shuttle disintegrated as it re-entered Earth’s Atmosphere.

No remains of the Torah were ever found. Maybe it was caught by one of the Holy Angels who placed this gift beneath the Divine Throne, together with the Three Gifts.

This week a new soul arrived to the Heavenly Beit Midrash. Asaf, the son of Ilan was called back to the World of Truth.

Maybe this Rosh HaShanah, as the departed pray in the Heavenly Beit Midrash they will read from the Tiny Torah as they give Shlishi to Asaf ben Ilan

תהי נשמתו צרורה בצרור החיים

May His Soul Be Bound in the Bonds of Eternal Life

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are there Hedgehogs in Baba Batra

People learning Daf Yomi recently started Baba Batra and have spent the past few days discussing how fences between properties should be built, who is responsible for the upkeep etc.

Well it looks like Dan Antopolski, the prize winner for the funniest joke of this year's Edinburgh Fringe had Baba Batra in mind when he came up with this prize-winning zinger:

"Hedgehogs - why can't they just share the hedge?"

Don’t let the facts get in the way

I was just forwarded a link to a site by a “young New Zealander” where he tries to give perspective to global events.

I haven’t gone through every page on his site, but his article on the history of the “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” seems poorly researched and written. His terminology and use of language looks like it comes directly from a Palestinian propaganda style book and he manages to make significant historical errors in almost every single paragraph, quite an accomplishment.

In the interest of fairness, I though I’d point out some of his most glaring errors.

Conflicting British Promises

During WWI, Britain supported independence from Turkish rule for the mainly Arab population of Palestine, who had lived in the area for thousands of years. To gain Jewish favour, Britain also supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

False: In the 1800s the area was vary sparsely populated. Although there was a small Arab community going back to the 7th Century (hardly “thousands of years”), the vast majority of the Arab population came in search of better economic opportunities at the end of the 1800s or early 20th Century.
The only population that had been in the land for "thousands of years" was the relatively small Jewish population that can trace itself back to Biblical Times.

Awarded Palestine at the end of WWI, Britain saw how conflicting its promises were: Jews began moving to Palestine, clashing with locals who believed in their own dreams of independence.

The Holocaust

After WWII, the world saw the full horror of the Holocaust and became sympathetic to the establishment of a Jewish homeland. Sadly it was the Palestinians who had to suffer for Europe’s guilt.

False: Firstly it wasn’t “European guilt”, The Arab community (particularly Haj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem who was a guest of Hitler in Berlin for the duration of the war) supported the Nazis and were also partially responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust.
Secondly, the State of Israel was one of many states created after WWII with the breakup of the British Empire. The movement to create an Independent Jewish country pre-dates any attempts to create an Arab State in the area or the Holocaust and was not a result the Holocaust.

Britain’s control of Palestine became a burden. Violence increased between Jews and Palestinians. Jewish terrorist groups attacked the British – most infamously blowing up their headquarters at the King David Hotel.

False: It is true that "Violence increased between Jews and Arabs", but the violence was almost all in one direction - Arabs attacking Jews. There were Jewish military groups (Hagana, Palmach, Lechi), but they were almost exclusively for self defence. The Lechi/Stern Gang which did take the offensive on occasion could not be defined as "Terrorism" as they attacked only British Military establishments (The King David Hotel housed British HQ). Also interesting that the author failed to mention the Arab riots of 1929 and 1936-39 which were terrorist attacks against (mainly Jewish) civilians.

In 1947 Britain asked the United Nations (UN) to make a decision on the future of Palestine. The UN voted to split Palestine in half – into separate Jewish and Arab states.

Birth of Israel

On May 14 1948, Jewish leaders announced the birth of Israel. The next day surrounding Arab countries declared war on them. After a year of fighting, Israel defeated the Arab-alliance and secured its survival.

Palestinians who lived within Israel’s borders were forced to leave. If they refused, they were beaten or simply murdered. Over 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes. Today they and their descendents still live in terrible conditions in refugee camps.

False: The Palestinians were not "Forced to Leave", many Arabs stayed and are now full equal citizens of the State of Israel. There were very few (if any) examples of Arabs who refused to leave being "beaten", certainly not murdered, in fact many Jewish leaders begged the Arabs not to leave and explicitly offered them equal rights and a called for peace in the declaration of independence.
Many Arabs did flee, but this was mainly in response to fear generated by Arab propaganda which tried to demonize the Jews by exaggerating, or creating false accounts of Jewish attacks against Arabs.

Six-Day War and Occupation

In 1967, Israel initiated the Six-Day War with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. By its end, Israel had taken control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – the only land the Palestinians had left since Israel’s creation.

False on 2 accounts: Firstly the Israelis did not initiate the 6 Day war, it began when Egypt violated the cease-fire agreement and positioned tanks on the border and broadcast that they intended to destroy the State of Israel.
Secondly the Gaza Strip and West Bank were not "the only land the Palestinians had left”, they were occupied (or in the case of the West Bank, annexed) by Egypt and Jordan, and there had never been any talk of allocating this land to the Palestinians.

Today the West Bank remains under Israeli occupation. Successive Israeli governments have funded the building of Jewish villages and towns (settlements) on occupied Palestinian land. Now there are over 300,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

These settlements violate Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, which states that ‘the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’

False: Firstly Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions does not apply to the West Bank and Gaza as they were not never part of a sovereign nation (they were previously occupied by Egypt and Jordan), however Israel has voluntarily applied the Geneva Conventions to these territories. Article 49 refers to forcible transfer of populations, allowing citizens to voluntarily build homes in disputed areas is not covered by Article 49.

In 1968, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242, which called for Israel to end its occupation of the territories captured after the Six-Day War. 40 years later this still hasn’t happened. The honoring of Resolution 242 remains central to any Palestinian vision of peace.

False: Resolution 242 does not obligate Israel "to end its occupation of the territories", at the time the resolution was passed there was a debate whether the article should include all "The Territories" and the final wording refers only to part of (not all of “the”) Territories. Israel fulfilled its obligation in the 1980s when it withdrew from over 90% of the territory when the Sinai was returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 Peace Agreement.
Since then Israel has voluntarily withdrawn from the entire Gaza strip and has offered over 90% of the West Bank. Far more than was required by Resolution 242.

First Intifada (Uprising)

The growth of Jewish settlements on their land caused the Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to rise up in violence against both the Israeli military and Jewish settlers between 1987 and 1993.

Nightly television images of Palestinian youths hurling stones at Israeli tanks created a global awareness of the Palestinian cause.

A Flawed Peace: The Oslo Accords

In 1993 the Oslo Accords peace agreement was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). Under the agreement, Israel would return the Gaza Strip to Palestinian control. The West Bank would be split into zones, with over 60% remaining under Israeli occupation.

In return for the Gaza Strip, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was expected to ‘control his people’ and end attacks against Israelis: an equation known as ‘land for peace.’ This would prove difficult as the majority of Palestinians viewed Oslo as a betrayal because it allowed the Israelis to escape the legal obligation of UN Resolution 242.

False: The Oslo Process did not define the final border arrangements, but it was generally understood the almost all of the territory would be given to the Palestinians and in fact the Palestinians were eventually offered 97% of the West Bank and 100% of Gaza.
In exchange for this territory Yasser Arafat had to do more than ‘control his people’, rather he had to actively stop violence, end incitement, and educate his people for peace.
Had he fulfilled his obligation to stop incitement and prepared his people to live in peace it is almost certain that there would be a Palestinian State today.

Second Intifada (Uprising)

Between Oslo’s signing in 1993 and 2000, the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank grew from 80,000 to 150,000. This proved to the Palestinians that Oslo was a sham.

Oslo collapsed at the Camp David talks in 2000. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak refused to abandon the illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, and Arafat refused the portion of land Israel deemed fit to give back.

False: Far from refusing to abandon Jewish Settlements, Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians almost 100% of the Occupied Territories with only minor border adjustments. It is unclear why Arafat refused this offer, but is seems that he was unwilling or unable to agree to an end of the Conflict

Disheartened by political attempts to gain independence, Palestinians turned again to violence. Both sides routinely committed atrocities, and most of the victims were innocent civilians.

False: Both Sides did not "routinely committed atrocities". The only side that deliberately and regularly attacked civilians were the Palestinians. There are zero cases of the Israeli Army deliberately targeting civilians.

Gaza and Hamas

In 2005, the Israeli Government removed all Jewish settlements and military presence inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas (an Islamic party with a history of violence towards Israelis) gained control of the Gaza Strip, after a landslide victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections. Israel responded by closing down Gaza’s borders, causing mass unemployment and suffering.

Palestinian armed groups began firing rockets into southern Israel. In December 2008 Israel responded by heavily bombing the Gaza Strip, before invading on the ground. The conflict ended on 18 January 2009.

Human rights groups have accused Israel of committing war crimes during the invasion. Accusations include the bombing of hospitals and schools, and the shooting of civilians carrying white flags.

False: Although certain "Human rights groups" have accused Israel of these actions. All actions have been investigated and proven to be false.
For example, A Greek Telethon raised money to Rebuild a Palestinian Christian Hospital that was allegedly destroyed by Israel. The only problem was that the hospital never existed (source). Similarly cases of "civilians carrying white flags" turned out to be armed combatants violating the Rules of Law by hiding behind white flags or the Red Cross symbol (for example see here)

The Arab Peace Initiative

The Arab Peace Initiative offers the best chance of lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The initiative proposes establishing ‘normal’ (peaceful and respectful) relations between the entire Arab region and Israel. In exchange, Israel would completely withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories.

The immediate hope for the plan is not good – both Hamas and the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reject it.

False: The “Arab Peace Initiative” not only calls on Israel to withdraw from the “Occupied Territories”, but calls for the end of Israel as a Jewish State by allowing unrestricted Palestinian migration to Israel “referred to as “The Right of Return”). It does not accept Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign Jewish State.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hilchot Tshuva Chapter 1, Halacha 5

Sorry that I missed a few days, although it's 5 Elul and I'm up to Halacha 5, so I'm still on target.

This Halacha deals with the Scapegoat that was a central part of the Yom Kippur service in the Temple.

הִלְכּוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה פֵּרֶק א, הלכה ה

שָׂעִיר הַמִּשְׁתַּלֵּחַ--לְפִי שְׁהוּא כַּפָּרָה לְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל, כּוֹהֵן גָּדוֹל מִתְוַדֶּה עָלָיו עַל לְשׁוֹן כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל: שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "וְהִתְוַדָּה עָלָיו אֶת-כָּל-עֲו‍ֹנֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל" (ויקרא טז,כא).

Hilchot Tshuva, Chapter 1, Halacha 5

The “Scapegoat” – as it serves as an atonement for all the Jewish people, the Cohen Gadol confesses over it using a language for all Israel, as it is written: “And he shall confess over it for all the sins of the Children of Israel” (Vayikra 15:21)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hilchot Tshuva, Chapter 1, Halacha 4

Moving right along, Rambam continues with the concept that the essence of Tshuva is “Confession”, and atonement for sin can only be granted if you verbalise the nature of the sin. He also introduces the concept of abandoning the sin. Interesting to note that he didn’t start off with the concept of abandoning the sin before beginning the Tshuva process (compare to Sharei Tshuva)

הִלְכּוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה פֵּרֶק א, הלכה ד

וְכֵן כָּל מְחֻיְּבֵי מִיתוֹת בֵּית דִּין, וּמְחֻיְּבֵי מַלְקוּת--אֵין מִתְכַּפֵּר לָהֶם בְּמִיתָתָם אוֹ בִּלְקִיָּתָם, עַד שֶׁיַּעֲשׂוּ תְּשׁוּבָה וְיִתְוַדּוּ. וְכֵן הַחוֹבֵל בַּחֲבֵרוֹ אוֹ הַמַּזִּיק מָמוֹנוֹ--אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁשִּׁלַּם לוֹ מַה שְׁהוּא חַיָּב לוֹ--אֵין מִתְכַּפֵּר לוֹ, עַד שֶׁיִּתְוַדֶּה וְיָשׁוּב מִלַּעֲשׂוֹת כְּזֶה לְעוֹלָם: שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "מִכָּל-חַטֹּאת הָאָדָם" (במדבר ה,ו).

Hilchot Tshuva, Chapter 1, Halacha 4

And similarly, anyone who deserves death from a Beit Din, or deserves lashes – the lashes or death do not grant atonement, unless he did tshuva and confessed. Similarly, if one injured his fellow or caused him financial damage – even though he paid him what he owes him, he does not not receive atonement unless he confesses, and accepts not to do the action again, ever, as it is written: “From every sin of man” (Bamidbar 5:6).

Hilchot Tshuva, Chapter 1, Halacha 3

OK, I'm experimenting with a new look for these Halachot which will hopefully make it easier to read.

הִלְכּוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה פֵּרֶק א

ג וְכֵן בַּעֲלֵי חַטָּאוֹת וַאֲשָׁמוֹת--בְּעֵת שֶׁמְּבִיאִין קָרְבְּנוֹתֵיהֶם עַל שִׁגְגָתָן אוֹ עַל זְדוֹנָן, אֵין מִתְכַּפֵּר לָהֶן בְּקָרְבָּנָם, עַד שֶׁיַּעֲשׂוּ תְּשׁוּבָה, וְיִתְוַדּוּ וִדּוּי דְּבָרִים: שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "וְהִתְוַדָּה--אֲשֶׁר חָטָא, עָלֶיהָ” ויקרא ה,ה

Hilchot Tshuva, Chapter 1

And similarly, someone who brings a Chatat (sin offering) or Asham (guilt offering) – at the time that they bring their sacrifice, whether for an inadvertent sin or a deliberate sin, they are not atoned with the sacrifice unless they do Tshuva. And they must confess with a verbal confession as it is written “And they will confess that which they sinned” (Vayikra 5:5)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hilchot Tshuva, Chapter 1, Halacha 2

Chodesh Tov, here’s my second instalment of Rambam’s Hilchot Tshuva:

הלכות תשובה פרק א

ב כֵּיצַד מִתְוַדֶּה--אוֹמֵר אָנָּא ה' חָטָאתִי עָוִיתִי פָּשַׁעְתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ, וְעָשִׂיתִי כָּךְ וְכָּךְ, וַהֲרֵי נִחַמְתִּי וּבֹשְׁתִּי בְּמַעֲשַׂי, וּלְעוֹלָם אֵינִי חוֹזֵר לְדָבָר זֶה. זֶה הוּא עִיקָרוֹ שֶׁלַּוִּדּוּי; וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה לְהִתְוַדּוֹת וּלְהַאֲרִיךְ בְּעִנְיָן זֶה, הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח.

Hilchot Tshuva, Chapter 1

2 How should one confess? Say “Please HaShem, I have sinned, I have transgressed, I have been bad before You, and I did such and such, and now I regret it and I am embarrassed by my actions, and I will never return to this thing”. This is the essence of confession, and anyone who increases the confession and expands this thing, this is praiseworthy.

Hilchot Tshuva, Chapter 1, Halacha 1

Every year during Elul I try to work through a Tshuva text (often Rabeinu Yona’s Sharei Tshuva), but due to other distractions normally fail to make significant progress.

This year I thought that I’d try something a little different. Every day from now until Yom Kippur I will try to (bli Neder) post and translate a Halacha from Rambam’s Hilchot Tshuva.

I’m doing this primarily for myself. Hopefully the act of typing a translation will help me internalize the halacha, although I hope that it is also of benefit to others.

The translation is my own. I am not a language scholar or professional translator so I apologize for any inaccuracies in the translation. If you notice an error, please feel free to leave a comment.

So without further ado, here is Rambam’s Hilchot Tshuva:

הלכות תשובה

מצות עשה אחת, והיא שישוב החוטא מחטאו לפני ה', ויתוודה
וביאור מצוה זו ועיקרים הנגררים עימה בגללה, בפרקים אלו

The Laws or Tshuva (Repentance)

One positive Mitzva, and that is to return from a sin which you sinned before HaShem and to confess.
An explanation of this Mitzva, its principles, parameters, and what is included will be discussed in these chapters.

הלכות תשובה פרק א

א כָּל הַמִּצְווֹת שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה, בֵּין עֲשֵׂה בֵּין לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה--אִם עָבַר אָדָם עַל אַחַת מֵהֶן, בֵּין בְּזָדוֹן בֵּין בִּשְׁגָגָה--כְּשֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה וְיָשׁוּב מֵחֶטְאוֹ, חַיָּב לְהִתְוַדּוֹת לִפְנֵי הָאֵ-ל בָּרוּךְ הוּא: שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "אִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה כִּי יַעֲשׂוּ מִכָּל-חַטֹּאת הָאָדָם . . . וְהִתְוַדּוּ, אֶת-חַטָּאתָם אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ" (במדבר ה,ו-ז), זֶה וִדּוּי דְּבָרִים. וּוִדּוּי זֶה מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה.

Hilchot Tshuva, Chapter 1

1 For all the Mitzvot in the Torah, whether positive or negative – if a person transgressed one of them, whether deliberately or inadvertently - he should do Tshuva and return from the sin. He is obligated to confess before G-d, Blessed is he as it is written: “If a man or woman if you transgress any sins of man … you should confess the sin which you did” (Numbers 5, 6-7). This is verbal confession. This confession is a positive commandment.

אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם יודְעֵי תְּרוּעָה

Just in time for Elul, this clip from Stephen Colbert where among other things he tries to blow a Shofar (at th 5:00 Minute mark)

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag- German Campaign, Russian Dogs & Flying Rabbis
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Protests

Hat Tip: Dov Bear

Lipa in Disneyland

I’ve started learning Medilat Ester with my oldest daughter. There is a widely understood opinion that the decree against the Jews of Persia was not that they abandoned the Torah, but rather that they were too immersed in the non-Jewish world.

I guess that would be kinda analogous to this:

Note – I’m a big fan of Lipa, and took my kids to Disneyland a number of years ago and had a wonderful time, yet to go there for Yom Tov (even Chol Hamoed), seems somehow not right (maybe I’m just jealous that I can’t afford it)

Suggestion – if you have the budget to have a memorable Succot, why not come to Israel, we have more to offer than a talking sheretz with big ears.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The New Fatah Congress - a mixed bag

Barry Rubin has an excellent analysis of the Fatah Congress Election Results.
He points out that the new congress includes some moderates, some hardliners, and almost everything in between.

I would highly recommend his column, which can be summarized in the following extract:

On balance, I would say it [The Fatah Congress] is slightly more moderate than its predecessor but the difference should not be exaggerated. For example, there are at least four members of the 18 who are capable of leading a war on Israel. Another four--including Fatah's probable future leaders--are extremely hardline. At the same time, though, there are also a number of individuals who have many Israeli contacts and who can pick up a phone and call or be called by counterparts.

There are a wide range of views from hardline to relatively dovish. Nevertheless, this is neither a group that will make peace with Israel nor one which will ally with Hamas. In other words, this is a group which Israel can work with on status quo issues but not on a comprehensive agreement.
What I though was interesting was the way it was covered in the media, looking at the following headlines you would think that these publications were all covering different events:
Now the next question is, will the new council FINALLY update the Palestinian Charter as they promised to do in the original Oslo agreement in the early 90s (don't hold your breath)

Monday, August 10, 2009

What Planet is Orly Taitz Esq From?

I’ve been watching the Nirther Movement lately, it makes for good entertainment.

I recently saw Orly Taitz Esq’s spectacular performance on MSNBC is you missed it, it makes for great entertainment. and makes us very proud to have someone as well spoken as Ms Taitz (Esq) as an Israeli citizen.

Firstly, to me it is amazing that someone with as many talents as Orly is not taken more seriously. She not only is a hot-shot lawyer, but according to CNN in her free time she is both a dentist AND a Real Estate Agent. Makes you wonder how she has time to keep on top of her appearances.

However, after seeing some of her videos, it seemed clear to me that there are many questions around her birth – it seems unlikely that such a multi-talented person was really born on Plant Earth.

It is already pretty much understood that the Hawaiian Birth Certificate of President Obama was a fake produced by the US Government to hide his real identity. It is also now clear that the Kenyan Birth Certificate presented by Orly Taitz Esq was a fake based on an Australian Birth Certificate.

The only question is, where was Obama really born, and is it the same Planet as Orly Taitz Esq?

The answer to the first question is Easy, Obama was born in a Biolab-Hatchery in Nevada.

As for Orly Taitz Esq? Is it possible that she is from the same planet as the Plant Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors? Her resemblance in looks (not to mention tasteful dress) to Audrey I is uncanny….

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Muqata: Israel from Space

The Muqata has an amazing photo of Israel as seen from the International Space Station.

What was amazing to me was how visible Modi'in is in the picture, a clear bright spot between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Shariah and Halacha

In a recent column by Daniel Pipes, in the Canadian National Post he addresses the question of why he is opposed to legal recognition of Shariah Law, but has no opposition to recognition of Halacha.

There are many differences between Shariah and Halacha, and an argument could be made for legal recognition of one and not the other, for example it is possible that people (particularly women) are coerced into using Shariah courts against their will and receive unfair treatment there. However from a legal perspective I have trouble understanding why Canadian Courts should limit the power of Shariah courts to adjudicate cases between Muslims (or others) who choose this as a court of arbitration, in the same way that a Beit Din is accepted as a court of arbitration for those who voluntarily choose to use it.

I think that the particular examples that Daniel Pipes raises are not good examples of the difference between the way Jews and Muslims treat their religious legal system (I’m only quoting one of the two examples here):

Those of us who argue against Shariah are sometimes asked why Islamic law poses a problem when modern Western societies long ago accommodated Halakha, or Jewish law. In fact, this was one of the main talking points of those who argued that Shariah should become an accepted part of dispute resolution in Ontario in 2005.

The answer is easy: a fundamental difference separates the two. Islam is a missionizing religion, Judaism is not. Islamists aspire to apply Islamic law to everyone, while observant Jews seek only to live by Jewish law themselves.

Two very recent examples from the United Kingdom demonstrate the innate imperialism of Islamic law.

The first concerns Queens Care Centre, an old-age home and day-care provider for the elderly in the coal town of Maltby, 40 miles east of Manchester. At present, according to the Daily Telegraph, not one of its 37 staff or 40 residents is Muslim. Although the home's management asserts a respect for its residents' "religious and cultural beliefs," QCC's owner since 1994, Zulfikar Ali Khan, on his own decided this year to switch the home's meat purchases to a halal butcher.

Queried about his decision, Khan, lamely replied he ordered halal meat for the sake of (nonexistent) Muslim staff. Then he backtracked: "We will be ordering all types of meat" and went so far as to agree that religious beliefs should not be imposed on others. His retreat did not convince one former QCC staffer, who suspected that Khan "intended to serve only halal meat at the home but has had to think again because of the row."


[B]oth Islam and Judaism abominate the flesh of pigs, so this prohibition offers a direct and revealing comparison of the two religions. Simply put, Jews accept that non-Jews eat pork but Muslims take offense and try to impede pork consumption. That, in brief, explains why Western accommodations to Halakha have no relevance for dealing with Shariah. And why Shariah as public policy must be opposed.


I agree with Pipes that forcing Halal meat on non-Muslim residents in a nursing home is a silly decision, although I’m not sure what the legal issue is here – shouldn’t the owner or manager of a nursing home have the right to serve whatever food they think is appropriate?

The problem seems to be the way in which it was done, that there wasn’t discussion or warning before a radical change in diet for the residents (although it seems that the decision was reversed within a week).

Pipes is correct that Halacha does not require non-Jews to eat only kosher food, however there could be several reasons why a Jewish owner of a non-Jewish nursing home could decide to serve only kosher food:

  • He may be trying to attract Jewish clients to expand his business.
  • He may be trying to support local kosher suppliers to help bring down the cost of kosher meat for the Jewish community
  • He may have found a way to reduce costs by brining in Kosher food (e.g., he has access to a wholesale kosher meat distributor)
  • There is a religious prohibition for Jews to Benefit from (not just eat) non-kosher food (specifically meat and milk products cooked together). The owner may feel that if his business (the nursing home) is making a profit based on the non-kosher food offered to clients, he personally is transgressing the prohibition of benefiting from milk-meat products.
  • He may believe (mistakenly) that a kosher diet is more healthy and would benefit all residents, even non-Jews.

To me Khan’s decision (which he later backtracked on) to offer only Halal meat was a bad decision, if he had stuck to the decisions, consumers (residents) would have to decide whether to stay in the nursing home or leave. That’s how the free market works (although I realize that the decision to leave a nursing home is often complex).

However I don’t think that issue would have been different if he had imposed a vegetarian, organic, or any other type of special diet.

If he had been Catholic and decided to put a crucifix in each room, in spite of the fact that were no Catholic residents, would this have been any different?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tu B’Av

Happy Tu B’Av everyone.

Tu B’Av is the anniversary of the date that Debbie and I got engaged – so happy Tu B’Av Debbie, my true Eishet Chayil – 15 years since we got engaged, and here we are 5 kids later and you are still a wonderful wife and mother.

2 years ago my brother wrote a very interesting Post on Tu B'Av which I thought I’d summarize for you.

The Mishna in Ta’anit (4:6) lists 5 events that happened on the 9th of Av:

  1. The spies sent by Moses to report on Eretz Yisrael returned and gave a negative report.
  2. The First Temple was destroyed
  3. The Second Temple was destroyed
  4. Betar was destroyed, marking the end of the Bar Kochba rebellion
  5. The Temple mount was ploughed over

The Talmud (Ta’anit 30b) lists 5 things that happened on the 15th of Av:

  1. The ban for orphaned girls to marry outside their tribe was lifted
  2. The punishment of the spies ended and the Jews stopped dying in the Desert
  3. The tribe of Benyamin was welcomed back into Klal Yisrael and permitted to marry with other tribes
  4. The road blocks preventing Jews from brining wood to the Beit Hamikdash were lifted
  5. The dead of Betar were buried

These is a certain parallel between the events of 9 Av and 15 Av:

9 Av 15 Av

The spies sent by Moses to report on Eretz Yisrael returned and gave a negative report.

The punishment of the spies ended and the Jews stopped dying in the Desert

The First Temple was destroyed

The tribe of Benyamin was welcomed back into Klal Yisrael and permitted to marry with other tribes

The Second Temple was destroyed

The ban for orphaned girls to marry outside their tribe was lifted

Betar was destroyed, marking the end of the Bar Kochba rebellion

The dead of Betar were buried

The Temple mount was ploughed over

The road blocks preventing Jews from brining wood to the Beit Hamikdash were lifted

Rabbi Sedley explains this connection as follows:

Obviously numbers 1 and 4 match. Number 5 is intuitive - Ploughing the Temple Mount was intended as a clear sign that Jerusalem would never be central to Jews again. There was to be no chance of rebuilding or reviving it. Removing the blocks that Yeravam had set up showed that Jerusalem was once again the centre of things, and that everyone would be able to go there.

Numbers 2 and 3 seem to go together, because both are the destruction of the Temple, and both are allowing marriages between tribes.

The first Temple was destroyed because of murder, idol worship and sexual immorality. The tribe of Binyanim were banned from marrying anyone because of the incident recorded at the end of Shoftim - Pilegesh b'Givah, which involved idolatry, sexual immorality and brutal murder.

The Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. As I wrote here Tisha B'Av Quotes, the Netziv explains that the main sin was that everyone felt that their way of serving G-d was the only correct way. Everyone had their group with their own views on life, and anyone who disagreed with them (even though they were equally 'religous' was considered an apikoros. The tribes originally thought it was forbidden for them to marry each other. Each tribe had to maintain tribal purity. Since each tribe had their own way of serving G-d, based on where they stood at Sinai and surrounding the Mishkan, it stands to reason that they also felt their way was the only true way of serving G-d, which was why they could not intermarry. Allowing 'mixed marriages' (nothing to do with Noah Feldman) broke down the barriers and allowed for ahavat chinam.

Source: Rabbi Sedley

Happy Tu B’Av to all. May we all soon merit to see a time when we know true Ahavat Chinam and the Beit HaMikdash will again be the center of our personal and national identity.

Other interesting Tu B'Av Posts:

ביאת כולכם

Today another Nefesh B’Nefesf flight arrived in Israel, and we’d like to welcome all these new Israelis who are fulfilling a dream of generations.

For those readers who have not yet made Aliya, please stop for a minute to think what your great-grandparents (or their grandparents) would have given for the opportunity to live in Eretz Yisrael. 75 years ago who would have dreamed that Aliya would be as easy as booking a ticket on an airline and driving to the airport.

We are certainly living in historic times; a few years ago Israel surpassed the US as the World’s biggest Jewish community. This is the first time since the destruction of the 1st beit HaMikkdash that the world's biggest Jewish community as been in Eretz Yisrael.

According to Bibi at the airport today, we are rapidly approaching another milestone – Bibi said that very soon the majority of the Jewish people in the world will be in Eretz Yisrael:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed a planeload of olim on Tuesday at Ben Gurion Airport, telling them "we're close to a tipping point."

According to the prime minister, "for the first time in 2,000 years, there are going to be more Jews in Israel than outside it."

Speaking to a terminal full of olim from the United States and Canada, who came with Nefesh B'Nefesh on the organization's 38th chartered aliya flight since the first one in July 2002, Netanyahu noted that Israel's Jewish population was nearing the six million mark.

It is hard to gauge the number of Jews in the Diaspora. In the largest community - the Untied States - the only effective tool is a telephone poll. Nevertheless, Diaspora Jewry is usually estimated at between six and seven million, though some demographers and scholars consider this a low figure.

Source: Jerusalem Post

The concept of the majority (or possibly all) of the Jewish people living in Eretz Yisrael is a Halachic concept known as “ביאת כולכם”.

According to some opinions, various mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael, such as Truma, Challah, or Shmitta which are D’rabanan today will become D’oraita when we have fulfilled the requirement of ביאת כולכם

For example in Hilchot Truma (1:26) RamBaM says the following:

כו] התרומה בזמן הזה, ואפילו במקום שהחזיקו עולי בבל, ואפילו בימי עזרא--אינה מן התורה, אלא מדבריהם: שאין לך תרומה של תורה אלא בארץ ישראל, ובזמן שיהיו כל ישראל שם, שנאמר "כי תבואו" (ויקרא כה,ב), ביאת כולכם כשהיו בירושה ראשונה וכמו שהן עתידין לחזור בירושה שלישית; לא כשהיו בירושה שנייה שהייתה בימי עזרא, שהייתה ביאת מקצתן--ולפיכך לא חייבה אותן מן התורה. וכן ייראה לי שהוא הדין במעשרות, שאין חייבין בהן בזמן הזה אלא מדבריהם כתרומה

[26] Truma in these days, even in the places that were conquered by the “Olei Bavel”, and even in the days of Ezra, is not a Torah obligation, rather it is Rabbinic. Because the Torah obligation of Truma only applies in Eretz Yisrael at a time when all of the Jewish people are there, as it is written “When you will come” (Lev. 25:2), …

(RaMBaM also seems to say that we require the restoration of Yoval and for the tribes to return to the inheritance in order for these Mitzvot to become De’oraita, but that is a separate discussion)

According to many authorities, (probably including the RamBaM), “ביאת כולכם” does not require all of the Jewish people to be in Etetz Yisrael, just a majority. For example, Sefer HaChinuch in Mitzva 385 says the following with regard to the Mitzva of Challah:

ונוהגת בזכרים ונקבות, בארץ ישראל בלבד מדאורייתא, שנאמר באכלכם מלחם הארץ. ודוקא בזמן שכל ישראל שם, כלומר רובם, שנאמר "בבואכם

[The Mitzvah of Challah] applies to men and women as a Torah obligation only in Eretz Yisrael, as it is written “When you eat from the Bread of the Land”. And specifically at a time when all of the Jewish people are living there; that is to say The Majority of them, as it is written “when you come”…

If we are in fact about to fulfill the Halachic definition of “Biat Kulchem”, there may be many Halchic implications (for example would we still be able to rely on the Heter Mechira or other leniencies).

I’m not a Halachic or demographic expert, however the fact that the Jewish people may be approaching a status that we have not achieved for well over 2000 years is very exciting and hopefully another step in fulfilling our Destiny.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Respect for Holy Texts

Years ago (or so I am told) Hashomer Hatzair, the Socialist-Zionist Youth Movement used to have a pe’ula (activity) where they would discuss with the kids how the Tanach (Bible) has little or no meaning to them as they were not in any way religious.

They would then produce a box of matches and a Tanach and ask the kids to burn the Tanach. The kids would always instinctively refuse to desecrate a Holy Text in this way, which would lead to the real theme of the activity which was that even though they define themselves as non (or anti) Religious, The Tanach is still an important historical and cultural text which deserves our respect.

I’d be curious to know whether it would still be possible to run such an activity with the youth of Israel today. I fear that today’s youth may have lost even minimal respect for the Tanach (or other sacred texts).

Sadly this seams to be the case in Scotland (and I assume other countries) where an exhibit, proposed by the Metropolitan Community Church, designed to "reclaim the Bible as a sacred text" backfired.

Art Show Encourages People to Deface the Bible, Write Obscenities

A publicly funded exhibition is encouraging people to deface the Bible in the name of art — and visitors have responded with abuse and obscenity.

The show includes a video of a woman ripping pages from the Bible and stuffing them into her bra, knickers and mouth.

The open Bible is a central part of 'Made in God’s Image,' an exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow. By the book is a container of pens and a notice saying: “If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it.”

The exhibit, Untitled 2009, was proposed by the Metropolitan Community Church, which said that the idea was to reclaim the Bible as a sacred text. But to the horror of many Christians, including the community church, visitors have daubed its pages with comments such as “This is all sexist pish, so disregard it all.” A contributor wrote on the first page of Genesis: “I am Bi, Female & Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this.”

The Church of Scotland expressed concern, the Roman Catholic Church called the exhibit infantile, and a Christian lawyers’ group said that the exhibition was symptomatic of a broken and lawless society.

The exhibition has been created by the artists Anthony Schrag and David Malone, in association with organizations representing gay Christians and Muslims. Mr Schrag, the gallery’s artist in residence, said that he did not believe in God, but that his research for the show had underlined his respect for people of faith.

The community church, which celebrates “racial, cultural, linguistic, sexual, gender and theological diversity,” had suggested the “interactive” Bible and pens and Mr Schrag, 34, said he had been intrigued.

Source: Fox News
Further information: The Times of London

Monday, July 27, 2009

Unbelievable: How low can we go

Following on the heals of my post last week about anti-Israel Jews, The Muqata has this article about a Tel Aviv Nightclub that refuses entry to IDF Soldiers
The popular "Rogatka" (slingshot) nightclub in Tel Aviv is refusing entry to IDF soldiers in uniform.
IDF Uniforms are associated with oppression and genocide, and the IDF's violence is the reason for all violence in Israel, explained the club's workers.

The ground rules of the club are clear: Naturalism, Pluralism, and no IDF uniforms -- anyone can visit the club on Yitzchak Sadeh street in Tel-Aviv, with any clothing style, except for IDF uniforms.

Two IDF combat soldiers who visited the club last week were forbidden entry. They were told they could switch to civilian clothes and come in, but it was forbidden to wear uniforms inside.

"It's nothing personal, but ideological. Your uniforms symbolize genocide and violence." they were told by club employees and guests.

One of the soldiers took off his IDF issued shirt, but his Unit's t-shirt didn't pass muster either...and they were told to leave.

IDF radio sent a solider from an elite unit to validate the claims. As soon as he sat down at the bar, employees came over to him and demanded that he leave.

"Your shirt symbolizes sh&^ and disgust," he was told, "and as soon as I see your shirt, it hurts me. So before I hurt you, I'm asking you to leave."

The elite combat solider replied, "I kill myself to protect you and you're throwing me out?"

Their response: "They pay you half of what you deserve. You aren't killing yourself. They are taking advantage of you, and you're a slave to the leave." (source, translated from IDF radio via rotter)
I feel bad for the people in Tel Aviv that have to put with up with this leftist garbage on a daily basis...and even worse for the IDF soldiers who wanted to visit the nightclub.

The faster the nightclub owners leave Israel, the better for everyone. Go somewhere peaceful, like Gaza.
I tend to agree with Jameel @ the Muqata that if these people can not respect our soldiers protecting all of us, they are welcome to go to Gaza, or back to Russia.

If the IDF is looking for draft-dodgers, they should look into the owners and regular patrons of the Rogatka.