Friday, January 30, 2009

Cartoon to make you smile this Shabbat

I think that Dry Bones makes a great point in his latest cartoon....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In the Inverse Universe of the BBC

As most readers are probably aware, Hamas Breached the "Ceasefire" today with an attack on a patrol that killed one soldier this morning.
The BBC's Headline:
Israel launches attacks in Gaza

Interesting style Guide - if Jews are attacked and they respond, it is clearly the Jews who are at fault for launching the attack.

No sign of bias here.

CBS Misses the Point

CBS' 60 Minutes has a very misleading segment on the "Settlers" in the "West bank"

The clip is available on Emes VEmuna. Honest Reporting also have a review of the clip.
You can view it on CBS' website here.

Anyway, it's a very poorly made clip, should you want to send a (polite) comment to CBS, you can do so through their Feedback Form Select 60 Minutes from the drop down menu and register your complaint)

Here is a copy of the comments that I just sent:
In Bob Simon's item on the West Bank, he does a very poor job of
portraying the complexity of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

He omits to mention key information, such as that Israel is not only
prepared to uproot settlers in exchange for peace, but that Israel
evicted over 5000 settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005. While failing to
mention this, he instead emphasizes a demonstration in 2006 regarding 9
families in Amona, implying that this event was Israel's only attempt to
evacuate settlers.

He also interviews Israelis who represent extremist views outside the
Israeli mainstream. Both Daniella Weiss and Meron Benvenisti have views
that are rejected by both the "Settler" and the "Mainstream" society.
Could he have not found any mainstream spokespeople to interview, such
as the official spokespeople for the Settler movement.

Simon also fails to provide any context. For example when discussing the
separation barrier, he fails to mention that since erecting the fence,
there has been an over 90% drop in terrorism from the West Bank, does he
not feel that this information is important for viewers trying to
understand the complexities of the issues at hand.

I think that it is very unfortunate that a respected program like 60
Minutes would give such a simplistic one-dimensional portrayal of one of
the most complex geo-political problems in the World.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Peace in our time

I was just forwarded an article Reprinted in the New Zealand Gisborne Herald by a self-proclaimed "Proud Self Hating Jews"

The article is full of idiotic statements by a Saxophone Player (who compares himself somewhat modestly to Jesus - who knew that Jesus could play the sax).

Anyway, he seems to have a world view based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and blames most of the worlds problems on Israel and the Jews, however my favourite line in the article is the following:
"The rockets [From Hamas] are almost a peaceful message to the Israelis telling them: 'In case you don't realise it yet, you are living on my stolen land'.
I guess we have achieved peace in our time, Hamas have showered us with over 6000 peaceful messages over the past 6 years, and recently Israel sent back a few peaceful messages of their own.

See - Peace was easy to achieve, all you had to do was redefine firing rockets as "peaceful".

Right, now that we've created peace in our time, let's solve World Hunger, where did I put my copy of Orwell's 1984.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

BeliefNet - What religion matches your belief

Rafi has a link to another survey which asks you a series of questions about your beliefs, and then lists how close you are to various religions.

What I found interesting is how close the survey matches the beliefs of Orthodox Judaism and Islam. I always thought that Islam as a belief system was much closer to (Orthodox) Judaism than Christianity or even Reformed Judaism.

I guess the survey results back me up on this - it puts my belief as 100% aligned with Orthodox Judaism, but 97% aligned with Islam, and 95% Reform Judaism.

No variations of Christianity came even close.
If you're at all interested, here are my full results - If you also try the quiz, feel free to post your results:

1. Orthodox Judaism (100%)
2. Islam (97%)
3. Reform Judaism (95%)
4. Sikhism (90%)
5. Baha'i Faith (84%)
6. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (65%)
7. Jainism (61%)
8. Liberal Quakers (60%)
9. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (57%)
10. Jehovah's Witness (54%)
11. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (53%)
12. Orthodox Quaker (52%)
13. Unitarian Universalism (48%)
14. Eastern Orthodox (48%)
15. Hinduism (48%)
16. Roman Catholic (48%)
17. Mahayana Buddhism (44%)
18. Seventh Day Adventist (44%)
19. Neo-Pagan (40%)
20. Scientology (35%)
21. Theravada Buddhism (34%)
22. New Age (30%)
23. New Thought (30%)
24. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (29%)
25. Secular Humanism (21%)
26. Taoism (17%)
27. Nontheist (15%)

The Muqata: Don't know who to vote for?

Take a look at this link posted by Jameel at the Muqata.

The Muqata: Don't know who to vote for?

It only takes a few minutes, there is a wizard that asks you a series of questions on your opinions on various Israeli policies and then compares your answers to the platforms of each of the parties running in the election.

I found the process very interesting, although I still don't know who to vote for... (have 19 days to decide...)

BTW - I couldn't get it to work on FireFox and had to open it in Internet Explorer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Response to my "proposal"

A reader on the New Zealand Jewish Email list sent a response to my last post.
He raises a number of very good points which I'd like to look at.

Michael, my first reaction is that you are a very thoughtful person who undersells himself :)

Your suggestions strike as very much in the mould of "be the change that you want to see", in that much of what you suggest could be achieved by private persons on their own initiative.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, I like the concept of "be the change that you want to see", however I currently don't have the time, resources, connections, or political or managerial skills that would be required.
Also, I'm not convinced that my proposal is feasible, I'm hoping that this type of discussion will encourage others to at least explore other ways to approach the current issues, not necessarily my specific ideas.
You need freedom of movement to make your vision of co-operation a reality, yet you also note that checkpoints etc cannot be dismantled because this would be a "suicide pact." There will not be many takers for casual card games if checkpoints are more than a formality.
I agree that freedom of movement is important, but almost impossible to achieve in the current reality. I did suggest ways to improve the system of checkpoints, however this wont solve the problem.
The other possibility is to develop Educational and/or Industrial facilities between Jewish and Arab population areas, and give access to anyone who has passed a careful background check.
This is similar to what was tried in the Erez industrial zone between the Gaza Strip and Israel, the problem there was that there were not sufficient protections against terrorism (the zone was regularly closed when they found suicide bombers trying to use it as an entrance to Israel, or carried out attacks there). But even when it was working, it didn't build good relationship between Jews and Arabs, rather it was used but Israelis as a source of cheap labour. An Arab factory worker is unlikely to develop a friendly relationship with the Jewish factory owner.
Ideally an industrial (or educational) zone based on the Erez concept would be a place where Jews and Arabs can develop joint ventures as partners.
The peaceful, apparently federated jurisdictions you envisage need to start with trade in goods and services. Economic engagement is the precursor of other kinds of engagement. Eg, look at the current EU, which is now well on the way to becoming a federated Europe. Its roots lie in a free trade zone. See "freedom of movement".

These chicken-and-egg problems probably need 3rd-party intervention.
I don't think that we should use a third party to intervene. We have to learn to get along. If we can't sit down and do that on our own, I don't think a third party is going to help.
As a parent, one of the things I learned is that whenever an adult gets involved with a disagreement between the kids, it doesn't "solve" the problem, at the most it stops them physically hitting each other (until the adult is out of sight).
Everyone in New Zealand knows (or should know) that there is more to land ownership than market price or an arbitrated disposition. You say "right now there is a case before the Supreme court regarding land between Modi'in Alit and the a neighboring Arab Village. Instead of using that land to build hostilities and mistrust between the parties, why isn't the land used to build a high-tech university, and the Arabs claiming ownership compensated heavily h for their loss of land (i.e. buy it at well above the market value)."

It's good that you see that people object to the alienation of their land, but you need to take the next step to see why they will not accept other people, no matter how benevolent, dictating its use. No doubt you could spend my money better than I could, but I will resent you commandeering my bank account. You could probably landscape my back garden more attractively too, but I like it how it is and don't want you to chainsaw my scrub.

The disposition of formerly Arab land is fundamental. What you propose is _a_ neat solution but I fear it is unlikely to obtain "buy-in" from people who believe they already own it.

Could there be an analogue to the Waitangi Tribunal? That would be neat, but I can't see how that would happen at this point.

(Did this paragraph refer to Bilin?

The case of Bilin, is an excellent example of the root of the problem, and the opportunity to make things better.
Right now there is an land ownership dispute in the land between Bilin and Modi'in Illit.
I'm not an expert in the details of the case but it seems that a farmer in Bilin claims that the land is his and he has exclusive right to decide what happens there, and an Israeli representative claims that it is Government owned land and he is a squatter (or possibly it is his, but for security reasons, the land must be appropriated).
Let's say for argument's sake that the Bilin resident is correct and the land is his. The most optimistic outcome for him is that after many more years of violent protest (contrary to what's written on the web site that I linked to, the protests there have been very violent, recently a soldier lost his eye), and a long drawn out legal process, the supreme court will rule that the fence must be moved a few hundred meters and the land belongs to the Bilin resident.
In the mean time, it will be very difficult for him to farm his land, and even after he wins, it will be difficult to farm freely there as there will be a large army presence nearby, and the area will be known as a place of tension.
But at least the owner will be able to say that he was proved right in court, and if it has increased the ill-will between Jews and Arabs in the area, at least he won and they lost. (Of course there is a more likely possibility that the Supreme Court will rule against him).

My suggestion is to try to turn the area into an opportunity. That an investor should set up a meeting with the person claiming ownership of the land, together with the Mukhtar or village elders and say that they would like to make an offer of a high sum of money, and use the land to build an institution that would provide education and/or employment opportunities to both residents of Bilin as well as Modi'in Illit.
If the person claiming ownership agrees to the deal, great, a source of tension can be turned into a source of trust-building.
If he turns down the offer, the educational or industrial infrastructure can be built elsewhere - and the courts can decide whether the land is his or not - although hard to see how anyone would win in this outcome.
I think the really fundamental posers for you (or anyone trying to follow your vision) are how you a) succeed in conveying that they are acting in good faith, b) deal with challenges to your right to live somewhere where other people used to live and c) maintain the fortitude to overcome what are likely to be severe short-term setbacks.
Agreed that these are all problems but at some point someone is going to have to say that irrespective of past rights and wrongs, we either find ways to get on and build opportunities together, or we decide to fight it out in the courts and through violent protests.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Peace Plan

Note: There is a follow up to this post here

I'm not a politician or a person of influence, but whenever the question of what we should be doing in Gaza and Judea/Samaria comes up, people always say "so what would you do". Here's my attempt to answer this question.

These are my own ideas, they are not represented by any political party or movement in Israel. I'm sure that there are many many issues that I haven't considered, and if you have any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms. please feel free to leave a comment or email me.

This is a very rough first draft that I wrote in a single sitting, if I get feedback or additional ideas, I may expand these ideas (and fix the spelling and grammar), or maybe not. Right now I'm trying to put down my first draft in writing to see if it looks as interesting on paper as it does in my head.

The Problem

In a nutshell, the problem is that Jews and Arabs share a tiny peace of land and have to learn to live together.

The reality is that there are no quick or simple solutions to this problem. If anyone says they have a solution for "Peace Now" or we have a "Small window of opportunity to create a new Middle East", they are probably mistaken. To solve this problem will not be quick or easy, it will take decades or generations for Jews and Arabs to break down the mistrust and hatred and learn to live together.

Currently in Israel, there is very little interaction between Jews and Arabs, and the amount of interaction over the past few years is getting less and less.

In my opinion, the solutions that have been proposed until now are part of the problem. The Oslo Accord started a process to separate the two populations, making it almost impossible for Jews and Arabs to interact.
The terrorism that followed Oslo and the counter-terrorism measures that followed lead to further alienation between the two peoples.

Similarly, solutions on the far right (such as "Transfer") are another way of increasing the problem; instead of looking at how we can get along with each other, this solution is an attempt at how we can separate or disengage from one another, this can only lead to additional hatred.

I think that we have to realize that government negotiators locked in secret discussions deciding exactly where a border should or not be drawn is not going to get us to love one another, rather it encourages extremist positions. Especially as the negotiators believe that a compromise will have to be reached somewhere between the two opinions. This encourages each party to go to the bargaining table to adopt as extremist opinion as possible so that the compromise will be closer to their actual demands. For example, if in reality a Palestinian negotiator would be prepared to accept 90% of Judea/Samaria, if that's his opening position he's unlikely to get anything close to that. Rather he should be clear that he wont accept anything less that 120% as well as a right of return and be adamant that he wont settle for less. That's the way business is done in a middle-Eastern market.

The solution

The solution is to leave the political process for now, and instead work on mutual understanding at the personal level. It will take many years to get back to the level of personal interaction that existed before the Oslo accords, and decades beyond that to reach levels of trust that would make real peace even a possibility.
However, if we really do learn to trust and live with one another, the exact nature of the political solution, whether it's an independent state, semi-autonomous regions, full annexation with citizenship of the Palestinian minority, or another solution will be immaterial.

Border disputes between the US and Canada don't lead to mistrust or hostilities, they just sit down and work out a solution. I don't really think that the Jews and Arabs will have the level of understanding the Americans and Canadians have, but we should at least be working in that direction.

A Note About Gaza

Before I go on, I should say that I think we are too late to ever create peace with Gaza. The withdrawal by Israelis in 2005 and the subsequent takeover by Hamas was the nail in the coffin of ever learning to live together.
It is possible that if in a generation or two we do have real peace with the Palestinians in Judea/Samaria, maybe the Gazans will be more open to living with us, but I fear that this is no longer possible in the next 30 years.
In the mean time, we should pursue a different solution which I don't want to go into, maybe Daniel Pipes' Egyptian solution, or a UN imposed solution, or a solution imposed by the threat of serious Israeli retaliation to any attacks - but none of these "solutions" are "Peace", they are at the most a lull in hostilities. This essay is addressing Judea and Samaria, where I believe that if we start moving in the right direction, peace is possible down the road. Maybe our children or grandchildren will live to see it.

Building Interaction

The basis of my concept is to build interaction between Jews and Arabs where they interact with each other on a personal level as equals or partners.
Right now, almost the only Arabs I see on a day-to-day basis are construction workers or menial labourers. It is almost inconceivable that I would have an Arab doctor, lawyer accountant, business partner, or close friend. It just doesn't happen to ordinary Israelis. This is the type of interaction we have to build.
There are a few organizations working in this direction, such as the "Peace Orchestra", but these organizations are a drop in the bucket.

Interaction has to be built simultaneously at a variety of levels, for example:
  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Business
I'm sure that there are other areas that could be added to this list.
These interactions would lead to more personal contact, which would lead to more trust and understanding on a personal level which would lead to the chance for us to really get along.
If a businessman in Modi'in has a business partner in Ramallah (a fifteen minute drive), there is no way that either party would want a border between the two offices. Unless of course it was an open border where they could travel freely between the two countries without fear.

Right now, any Jew going into Ramallah will almost certainly be killed, possibly lynched by an Arab mob, not exactly conducive to building a business relationship.


The key to building understanding must start with education.
One of the biggest failings of the Oslo accord was that there was no attempt to enforce the clauses about education.
I was teaching in an Israeli public school when the accords were signed. The classes were all given projects where they drew "peace" showing Jews and Arabs arm and arm, drew Israeli and Palestinian flags etc.
Unfortunately, at the same time, when the PLO took over the Palestinian school system, they replaced the Israeli textbooks with old Jordanian texts which literally wiped Israel off their maps. Haifa, Acco, and Jaffa were all listed as Parts of Palestine, and Jews and Jewish history were no where to be seen.

I believe that we have to develop a curriculum for both Jewish and Arab students that includes the following:

  • Language: Arabic and Hebrew (and English) should be compulsory at a high level at all schools. Currently Israeli and Palestinian kids are literally unable to speak to each other as they often lack a common language.

  • History: Both Jews and Arabs have a long history in this land. All schools should visit and learn about King David brining the Capital to Jerusalem, Solomon building the Temple, as well as more recent Jewish History, visiting Har Herzl and Atlit, and Gush Etzion.
    At the same time, all kids (Jewish and Arab) should visit historically significant sites to the Arab community, maybe even including Arab villages that were destroyed or abandoned in 1948. This is part of our shared history, we can't ignore half of it.

  • Personal Interaction: This is by far the most difficult but I believe the most important. We need to set up sports leagues, choirs, hiking clubs, debating teams that include both Jewish and Arab participants.
  • Higher Education: This is crucial, we need to build high-level freely accessible schools for Jewish and Arab students.
    For example, right now there is a case before the Supreme court regarding land between Modi'in Alit and the a neighbouring Arab Village (Bilin). Instead of using that land to build hostilities and mistrust between the parties, why isn't the land used to build a high-tech university, and the Arabs claiming ownership compensated heavily the for their loss of land (i.e. buy it at well above the market value).
    This school would be open to and give an opportunity to both the Haredi Jews of Modi'in Alit as well as the Arabs living n the area.
    To be successful, the school would have to by of a very high standard of education, maybe some of the top academics in the World who are so outspoken on the Palestinian cause could be encouraged to come and actually work toward coexistence.
    There could also be a synergy between the needs of the Haredi and Islamic community, e.g., separation of the sexes and arrangements for time for prayer.
    I'm sure that there are donors who would be happy to have their name associated with a school that builds coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Hopefully this would allow the school to be heavily subsidized to give an opportunity to all.
    The school would have to be 100% free of violence and extremism. All students would have to have careful background checks to show that they have no affiliation with any radical groups. This would allow students to learn in an environment free of threats or fear, and encourage local Arabs to distance themselves from radical groups as it would cost them the opportunity to advance academically and financially.


An outcome of the higher education schools I mentioned above could be joint Jewish-Arab business ventures.
I'm sure that we could find a venture capitalist or donor that would subsidize hi-tech startups on the condition that the management team includes both Israelis and Palestinians.
As I said above, if a business has offices in Janin as well as Kfar Saba, the last thing that employees of either office would want is a closed border between the 2 offices.

Health Care

When our baby, Amichai, was born 3 months ago, one of things that impressed me was the number of Arabic speaking male nurses in the Surgery recovery room.
This type of interaction needs to be encouraged.
Also, if we invested heavily in health care in Judea and Samaria, building world-class state of the art hospitals staffed by both Jewish and Arab doctors, and catering to both Jewish and Arab patients, it would encourage the type of mutual interaction necessary to building peace.


Unfortunately today the only interaction many (most?) Jews and Arabs have with each other is through the barrel of a gun. The only Arabic phrase that many Israelis know (myself included) is "Stop, Stop or I'll shoot" - hardly a good icebreaker in a friendly game of cards.
This interaction is unfortunately necessary. Right now Israel cannot dismantle the checkpoints or disarm, that would be a suicide pact.
What we can do is try to diminish the hostilities in these interactions (as much as that is possible). For example, the check points are necessary and have saved hundreds of lives, however instead of manning the checkpoints by 20 year old recruits, why don't they sub-contract the manning of the check point to specially trained Arabic-Speaking mature Jewish Israelis who can treat the Arabs with as much respect and assistance is possible, without compromising security.
They could have electronic passes (maybe palm scan similar to at some airports), for Arabs that need to regularly cross and have the required permits.
They should increase communication -for example if there is a security alert and a check point is closed, make an electronic sign or a website with clear information available such as who is able to cross and who they should contact in case of special circumstances.
The checkpoints should also all have Arabic speaking medical professionals who are able to assess the seriousness of all emergency cases that are brought to the checkpoint.

In conclusion

As I said, Peace Now, or even peace within 10 years is not possible. However, if we introduced some of the recommendations above, or other similar ideas, I believe that within a generation we could have a population that are really interested in making peace and living together.
If Israelis are able to travel freely and securely in Ramallah, and citizens of Ramallah have equal access to Israeli universities and hospitals, exactly who rules Ramallah, whether it is Israel, the PA, the UN, or a Bi-National state would be of secondary importance.

I'm very keen to hear all the problems with my plan, and I know that there are many - please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Yet Another Letter to the Editor


I know that not everyone wants to see every letter I send to the New Zealand media, but seeing my own letters on line is a good way for me to save them, and hopefully these letters will inspire otters to respond to anti_Israel bias in local papers.

This is my latest letter written in response to a letter by John Minto who is a known anti-Israel radical.
His column is not yet available on line, if I find it, I'll post a link.

I was amazed by the gross misrepresentation of basic facts in John Minto's column published on January 13.

Mr. Minto is very sloppy in his research. For example he claims to quote Israel's founding Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, attributing to him words like "we need to harm them [The Arab population]".

The quotes that Mr. Minto uses are repeated on many anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate sites on the Internet, however David Ben Gurion never said these words. Quite the contrary in fact, all Israeli leaders, including David Ben Gurion, have been very clear that they desire to live in peace together with Palestinians.

David Ben Gurion stated this explicitly in Israel's founding document, the Declaration of Independence:
“WE APPEAL - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship”

Instead of promoting hate and mis-truths, Palestinian supporters should take up the offer of every Israeli leader, including the current government, to put down their ambitions to annihilate Israel and work to build peace for future generations.


Michael Sedley

Gaza, Ashdod and Ashkalon

Before we abandoned Gaza 3 years ago, it should have realized that the fate of Gaza is linked to Ashdod and Ashkelon.

We didn't need Kassamim to tell us that, the Navi Zephaniah said it 3000 years ago (anyone know where Ekron is today?):
צפניה ב', ד
כִּי עַזָּה עֲזוּבָה תִהְיֶה, וְאַשְׁקְלוֹן לִשְׁמָמָה; אַשְׁדּוֹד, בַּצָּהֳרַיִם יְגָרְשׁוּהָ, וְעֶקְרוֹן, תֵּעָקֵר
Zephaniah 2:4
For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation; they shall drive out Ashdod at the noonday, and Ekron shall be rooted up.

Letter to the World - Sorry if we upset you

Monday, January 12, 2009

At what age should you become politically active?

Here is a letter that my eleven year old son just faxed to theWhite House (on his own initiative, with my support)

So what have you done today to help Jonathan Pollard?

Dear Mr. President Bush,

My name is Yehoshua (Joshua) Sedley. I’m eleven years old and live in Modiin, Israel. I like what you have been doing for Israel and that you have been such a good president.

I’m writing this letter to ask you to please free Mr. Jonathan Pollard.

Thanks a lot, Yehoshua Sedley


Cagle has an interesting collection of cartoons on Israel, it's worth taking a look.

I think that this is my favourite, by Theo Moudakis

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Another Letter to the Editor

Here is a letter that I just sent to the Sunday Star Times in New Zealand in response to a photo they published of an Anti-Israel rally in Auckland.

Bli neder I'll let you know if it gets published or there is any response.

The photo you published of the Anti Israel protest in Auckland highlights exactly the source of the problem in the Middle East.

While Israelis all over the world yearn for, pray for, and demonstrate for peace, the Palestinian supporters protest for the complete destruction of Israel, or as it is worded in the banner displayed in the photo "Free Palestine from the Zionist Occupation". Given that the Israeli occupation of Gaza ended in 2005, the only "Zionist Occupation" is what the rest of the world refers to simply as "Israel".

As soon as the Palestinians and their supporters stop their calls for the destruction of Israel, and instead join with Israelis in calls for peace and coexistence there is no limit to what can be accomplished by Jews and Arab Palestinians living side by side.

Unfortunately, if the demonstrators in the photo are typical of Palestinian supports, it is no wonder that Israel’s repeated peace offers have been unsuccessful.


Michael Sedley

Life in Israel: Kosher? Just water please (video)

Love this short video from Rafi at Life in Israel.

Life in Israel: Kosher? Just water please (video)

As he says: it'd be funny if it wasn't true.

Sorta like the famous old joke:
After a good and long life the Satmar Rebbe was called to the World of Truth.
In his Honour, the Malachei Hashareit prepared a banquet, the likes of which hadn't been seen for a long time. They escort the Rebbe to the head of the table where a seat is waiting for him between Moshe Rabeinu and Avraham Aveinu.
After sitting down, the rebbe discreetly calls over a waiter and asks what Hashgacha is on the banquet. The waiter assures him the Hakadosh Bauch Hu in His Glory Personally supervised the meal.
"What about the meat" asked the Rebbe.
Again he was assured that HaShem watched the shchita and Personally made sure that there were no Sfeikot.
"And the Vegetables - were they checked for bugs? Shmitta? Orla?"
Again he was assured that HaShem was personally involved in every step in the production of the food.
The Rebbe seemed satisfied, but asked if he could possibly have a glass of tea in a disposable cup....
- sigh -

Hamas in Nach Yomi

I'm a bit behind in the Nach Yomi project (Ok I'm a lot behind), but I found the second passuk of Habakkuk an apt description of the Israeli policy for the past 8 years (i.e., ask Hamas nicely to stop the missiles, and if they don't stop - we should ask again).
Sometime Tfilla without action doesn't seem to be too effective....

Habakkuk 1:2
עַד-אָנָה ה' שִׁוַּעְתִּי, וְלֹא תִשְׁמָע: אֶזְעַק אֵלֶיךָ חָמָס, וְלֹא תוֹשִׁיעַ
How long, HASHEM, shall I cry, and You wont listen? I cry out unto you Hamas, and you didn't listen

The Radical left shows its immorality

One of the very few journalists to be critical of Israel's defensive action in Gaza is fellow Modi'in Resident, Larry Derfner (I still regularly ready him in the hope that one day he'll make a rational argument, it's yet to happen...).

Anyway - his latest column showed clearly the immoral position of the radical left:
"But the Hashomer Hatza'ir kibbutzniks near Gaza who've been catching Kassams wanted the operation, and they apparently convinced Jumis [the nickname of party leader Haim Oron, himself a member of a kibbutz in the South] and that was that," said Meretz member Hillel Schenker, co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal.

Why should the Kibbutznik's who've been catching Kassams be the ones encouraging the operation. I thought that all Jews were responsible for one another, surely the socialists of Hashomer Hatzair should know that.
If defending the South of the country is correct, it is correct irrespective of which citizens are being bombed, if it's immoral, it's immoral even if it's my house that's being targeted.
If the only ones actively supporting the operation in Gaza are the ones directly in the line of fire, it shows that the entire organization is tragically mis-guided.
Why should the leadership of Hashomer Hatzair in other parts of the country react differently just because it's someone else's kibbutz that's being bombed.

And what did the kibbutzim in the south say when the kibbutzim in the North were being bombed.

If we as a country (or Hashomer Hatzair as a movement) really care about one another, it should be those outside the line of file screaming the loudest to protect their comrades under fire.

It seems that members of Hashomer Hatzair have forgotten what it means to be part of a nation, and can't think past the gate of their own kibbutz, and that is truly a tragedy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Netzarim Today

According to recent reports, Israeli tanks have reentered the former Jewish town of Netzarim.

I is important for us to remember that the current war is a direct result of the decision of the Government in Israel to throw Jews out of their homes and allow Hamas to take over and terrorize the Gaza Strip.

The song "Al kol Eleh" by Naomi Shemer was written after Israel evacuated Yamit. I always found the most powerful line to be "Don't uproot what has been planted"
Look at the before and after pictures of Netzarim, how could we have uprooted that which we had planted. (For additional pictures, see

I think that Naomi's song is more relevant today than ever...

Every bee that brings the honey
Needs a sting to be complete
And we all must learn to taste the bitter with the sweet.

Keep, oh Lord, the fire burning
Through the night and through the day
For the man who is returning
from so far away.

Don't uproot what has been planted
So our bounty may increase
Let our dearest wish be granted:
Bring us peace, oh bring us peace.

For the sake of all these things, Lord,
Let your mercy be complete
Bless the sting and bless the honey
Bless the bitter and the sweet.

Save the houses that we live in
The small fences and the wall
From the sudden war-like thunder
May you save them all.

Guard what little I’ve been given
Guard the hill my child might climb
Let the fruit that’s yet to ripen
Not be plucked before its time.


As the wind makes rustling night sounds
And a star falls in its arc
All my dreams and my desires
Form crystal shapes out of the dark.

Guard for me, oh Lord, these treasures
All my friends keep safe and strong,
Guard the stillness, guard the weeping,
And above all, guard this song.

For the sake of all these things...

על כל אלה
מילים ולחן: נעמי שמר

על הדבש ועל העוקץ,
על המר והמתוק,
על בתנו התינוקת
שמור אלי הטוב.

על האש המבוערת,
על המים הזכים,
על האיש השב הביתה
מן המרחקים.

על כל אלה, על כל אלה,
שמור נא לי אלי הטוב.
על הדבש ועל העוקץ,
על המר והמתוק.
אל נא תעקור נטוע,
אל תשכח את התקוה
השיבני ואשובה
אל הארץ הטובה.

שמור אלי על זה הבית,
על הגן, על החומה,
מיגון, מפחד פתע

שמור על המעט שיש לי,
על האור ועל הטף
על הפרי שלא הבשיל עוד

על כל אלה...

מרשרש אילן ברוח,
מרחוק נושר כוכב,
משאלות ליבי בחושך
נרשמות עכשיו.

אנא, שמור לי על כל אלה
ועל אהובי נפשי,
על השקט, על הבכי
ועל זה השיר.

על כל אלה..

Letter to Permanent Mission of New Zealand to the United Nations

Here is a letter that I just sent to New Zealand's representative to the UN.
If you're concerned about events in Gaza, you may want to send a similar letter to your UN representative.

I'll let you know if I receive any replies.
As always, please feel free to leave a comment.

To: H.E Rosemary Banks - Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of New Zealand to the United Nations

Your Excellency,

I read with dismay that the Jabalya School, run and funded by UNRWA, was used by terrorists to fire mortar shells against Israel and was being used as a refuge for Hamas operatives.

This use of a school as a military base is directly responsible for the deaths of civilians who were taking refuge (or being held hostage) together with armed militants in the school.

This is not the first time that United Nations facilities have been used by combatants to launch attacks against Israel, which is not only in breach of International law but puts the lives of innocent civilians at risk.

As a New Zealand citizen living in Israel, I hope that the New Zealand government has taken an active stand against this mis-use of United Nations infrastructure by Hamas terrorists , especially as the New Zealand Government has made regular donations to UNRWA.

Has the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the UN raised this issue with UNRWA or other UN bodies to ensure that in the future UN facilities do not serve as a safe haven for armed combatants ?

Yours sincerely,

Michael Sedley
Modi'in, Israel

Hon John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Hon Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Hon Wayne Mapp, Minister of Defence

Rt Hon Helen Clark, Opposition Spokesperson, Foreign Affairs

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ohh not not a Post about Chabad again

I wasn't planning on brining up the issue of Chabad again, but as I've said before I'm very saddened by the hijacking of Chabad by individuals with non-Jewish or even Heretical beliefs.

There was recently a question sent to my former Rosh Yeshiva (Rabbi Brovender) on the Jerusalem Posts's Ask the Rabbi Column - and I thought that he gave a very clear answer, while avoiding the crux of the question ...

Q: Some people suggest in the name of well known Torah giants that the Torah rejects the notion of a deceased leader of the Jewish people being qualified to be the long awaited messiah.

They explain that fostering such a belief encourages some Jewish people to believe that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe could still be the messiah, even after his demise.

They also explain that this is not only a dangerous belief for young people, who are prone to be disappointed and abandon Orthodox practice.

Rather, there is no basis in the words of our sages obm, not in the Talmud, nor in Rabbinic writings that appeared later.

Regarding statements in the Talmud and rabbinic writing like Sdei Chemed, the concept of min hamasim is presented, these people suggest these is not meant to be understood literally.

Which view is valid?

A: The topic of the messiah appearing in our time in the guise of the previous Lubavitcher rebbe has become a serious matter in our time. Some are vehemently in favor (mostly hasidim) and some are opposed (some hasidim and many others). I take it that you feel you have to have a position and would like me to give some direction.

Although sympathetic to the enterprise of the Rabbe and in spite of the fact that I visited (yechidus) several times, I have never been part of the Habad movement. When this idea began to gain support from within I must admit that it left me cold. After all, the rebbe had many opportunities to announce his messianism which he only alluded to (according to some interpreters). The Rambam says that when the messiah comes we will all know. That seems reasonable to me. There is no doubt that the Jewish people (outside of Habad) do not know. The Rambam states further that we should try to avoid dwelling on the matter of the messiah since it is not really part of the information package that we received in our tradition.

I have thought about it and I have no way to connect to the notion that the rebbe who died some years ago continues to function as the messiah.

In spite of the rebbes obvious greatness, it seems to be another mistake that the Jews have made on this topic.

We continue to pray fo the coming of the messiah in our time.

MSNBC News Coverage

For the first time that I recall, a lot of foreign news coverage is at least attempting to show the realities behind the current war.

Take a look at this depiction of life in Sderot from MSNBC:

(hat tip: Gruntig!)

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Day the Teacher Stayed Home

Imagine the following scenario:

You are a teacher in a kindergarten. Like many of your friends, a co-teacher has a son in the army who has been called up to go into Gaza.

Your co-teacher takes the day off school to run some errands, probably a good distraction, after all it must be very stressful having a son directly in harm's way. On your co-teacher's day off, an army vehicle pulls up and three officers get out and ask to speak to your co-teacher.

Fearing the worst, you explain that the co-teacher is away for the day, but ask if there is a message that you can pass on. The officers say that they need to speak to your co-teacher and cannot give any information directly to you - they need to speak to her directly as soon as possible.

They leave the kindergarten and head to her at her house, but return an hour later, having still not been able to contact her.
By now there is no question why they need to speak to her. You manage to reach her on the phone and speak to her, knowing that shortly her whole world will be shattered, and head to her home to wait for her, together with the officers carrying the news that no one wants to hear.....

This is the story of Rachel Salamah, a co-work and friend of Dalia Emmanueloff whose son Dvir was the first casualty of the current war in Gaza.

You can read the sory on the Jerusalem Post.

Paula has more information about Dvir on her blog.

May HaShem have mercy on all our brothers, fathers, and sons currently protecting their homeland, and bring the home safely to their families.

Please stop and recite a perek Tehilim for their safe return.

תהילים פרק כ

א. לַמְנַצֵּחַ, מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד
ב. יַעַנְךָ ה', בְּיוֹם צָרָה; יְשַׂגֶּבְךָ, שֵׁם אֱלֹקי יַעֲקֹב
ג. יִשְׁלַח-עֶזְרְךָ מִקֹּדֶשׁ; וּמִצִּיּוֹן, יִסְעָדֶךָּ
ד. יִזְכֹּר כָּל-מִנְחֹתֶךָ; וְעוֹלָתְךָ יְדַשְּׁנֶה סֶלָה
ה. יִתֶּן-לְךָ כִלְבָבֶךָ; וְכָל-עֲצָתְךָ יְמַלֵּא.
ו. נְרַנְּנָה, בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ - וּבְשֵׁם-אֱלֹקינוּ נִדְגֹּל; יְמַלֵּא ה', כָּל-מִשְׁאֲלוֹתֶיךָ
ז. עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי - כִּי הוֹשִׁיעַ ה', יַעֲנֵהוּ, מִשְּׁמֵי עֲנֵהוּ, מִשְּׁמֵי קָדְשׁוֹ - בִּגְבֻרוֹת, יֵשַׁע יְמִינוֹ
ח. אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב, וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים; וַאֲנַחְנוּ, בְּשֵׁם-ה' אֱלֹקינוּ נַזְכִּיר
הֵמָּה, כָּרְעוּ וְנָפָלוּ; וַאֲנַחְנוּ קַּמְנוּ, וַנִּתְעוֹדָד
ה' הוֹשִׁיעָה הַמֶּלֶךְ, יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם-קָרְאֵנוּ

Sunday, January 4, 2009


As our soldiers entered Gaza over the past few hours, we should all spend a minute to stop and pray for or recite Tehillim on behalf of these young men (and their families waiting for them at home), as well for all the families under siege in the South.

If you want to understand the concept of Tfilla with proper Kavana, try to put yourself in the shoes of a soldier deployed over Shabbat on the border with Gaza - how do you think his Tefilla was, knowing that within a few hours he would be seeing the true evil of war face to face.

I imagine that the Tefilla was very different from a regular Shabbat morning.

Following is the Tfilla written by Rav Shmue Eliahu, approved by his father (May HaShem grant him a Refual Shleima)

יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלוקינו ואלוקי אבותינו שתרחם עלינו ועם כל תושבי הדרום.
הגן עלינו ברוב חסדך ופרוס עלינו סוכת שלומך.
חזק את ידי הלוחמים המגינים עלינו ומוסרים את נפשם למעננו.
שמור עליהם והגן עליהם מכל רע.
הפר עצת אויבינו ושונאינו "חרבם תבוא בליבם וקשתותם תשברנה".
ריבונו של עולם, תן בלב מנהיגנו חוכמה ועוז ותעצומות נפש להכרית את כל אויבינו, ותקויים בהם תפילת דוד המלך עליו השלום: "ארדוף אויבי ואשיגם ולא אשוב עד כלותם".
אמן. כן יהי רצון

English Translation
"May it be Your Will, L-rd our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, that You will have mercy on us and on all the residents of the south.

Protect us in the bounty of your kindness and spread out over us the shelter of Your peace.

Strengthen the arms of the fighting soldiers who protect us and give their souls for us.

Protect them and guard them from all misfortune.

Foil the plans of our haters and enemies; "Their swords shall plunge into their hearts and their bows shall break."

Sovereign of the Universe, give our leaders wisdom and courage and strength of heart to annihilate all of our enemies, and let the prayer of King David, may he rest in peace, come true regarding them: "I shall chase after my enemies and I shall catch up to them and I will not return until they are destroyed." Amen.

Letter to the New Zealand Herald

The New Zealand Herald posted an editorial calling for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State.

I just sent the following response, we'll see whether it gets published...
As a New Zealand citizen living in Israel, I read with horror an Editorial in the New Zealand Herald indirectly calling for my death.

The Editorial calls for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State, saying, "Change may require something as drastic as reconsideration of Israel's need of a Jewish majority, the reason for its resistance to a full Palestinian right of return."

If the Palestinian leadership is to be believed, when Palestinians have a majority in Israel and take over leadership, they would use their power to kill or expel all the Jewish residents.

In spite of the Herald’s claim that “Judaism was freely practised in the Islamic empire”, today there is only one country in the Middle East where Jews, Christians, and Muslims are free to practice their religion without fear or persecution, and that is Israel.

For the Herald to call for the destruction of the one free country in the region and the only Jewish state in the world shows a very limited understanding of the realities in the Middle East.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Scientists say that religion is good for you?

If you believe urban legends or opinions like those opposed to Rabbi Natan Slifkin's book, "Religion" and "Science" (AKA "The Atheist professor") are always at loggerheads with each other.

Turns out this is not really true, in fact some aspects of Science have very positive things to say about religion. Take for example the following extract from the New York Times:
[Michael McCullough] and a fellow psychologist at the University of Miami, Brian Willoughby, have reviewed eight decades of research and concluded that religious belief and piety promote self-control.

This sounded to me uncomfortably similar to the conclusion of the nuns who taught me in grade school, but Dr. McCullough has no evangelical motives. He confesses to not being much of a devotee himself. “When it comes to religion,” he said, “professionally, I’m a fan, but personally, I don’t get down on the field much.”

His professional interest arose from a desire to understand why religion evolved and why it seems to help so many people. Researchers around the world have repeatedly found that devoutly religious people tend to do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and be generally happier.
Source: New York Times
So there you have it, everyone seems to agree that "religious people tend to do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and be generally happier.", sounds like a good reason to get up in time for minyan to me.

Gentile Jokes

The following jokes were posted today on Jewish Joke du Jour!
The truth is that they are kinda old, and I've seen them before, but they still made me smile, so I thought that I'd share them with you.
If you enjoyed them, you can subscribe to the daily Jewish joke by sending a blank email to:


All we ever hear are Jewish jokes, so here are some
gentile jokes. Why is it that only Jews understand
the Gentile jokes?


A Gentile goes into a clothing store and says:
"This is a very fine jacket. How much is it?"

The salesman says: "It's $500."

The Gentile says, "OK, I'll take it."


Two Gentiles meet on the street.

The first one says, "You own your own business,
don't you? How's it going?"

The other Gentile says; "Just great! Thanks for asking!"


Two Gentile mothers meet on the street and start
talking about children.

Gentile mother 1 (said with pride): "My son is a

Gentile mother 2 (said with more pride): "My son is
a bus driver!"


A man calls his mother and says, "Mother, I know
you're expecting me for dinner this evening, but
something important has come up and I can't
make it."

His mother says: "OK."


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