Monday, April 27, 2009

Bad Marketing Decsions

In China, it is apparently common practice to fake brand manes or even countries of origin on the packaging to make the product more appealing.

This was why Chinese orange growers decided to copy the branding on one of the most popular oranges in the far east - "Jaffa Sweetie - Made in Israel".
Only problem was their choice of export market - Iran.
For some reason, marketing oranges as "Made in Israel" is not a great marketing decision when exporting to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

This story from the BBC:

Israeli oranges' faked in China
By Andre Vornic
BBC News

One of the oranges allegedly found in Iran (photo from the Iranian news agency Mehr)
Photos from Tehran showed fruit marked "Israel"

A twist has emerged in the story of Israeli citrus fruit reportedly sold in Iran in defiance of a ban on commercial dealings between the two enemy states.

It has now been revealed the fruit, a type of orange-grapefruit hybrid marketed as Jaffa Sweetie, were not Israeli in the first place.

The Sweeties were brought to Iran from China, where faking the origin of goods is a common practice.

The discovery of apparent Israeli origin caused a stir in Iran.

Outrage followed, distribution centres stocking the fruit were sealed and accusations were traded.

Such is the infamy of dealing with Israel that an Iranian official went so far as to accuse the opposition of a "citrus plot".

However, Tal Amit, the general manager of Israel's Citrus Marketing Board, told the BBC the fruit had not originated in his country.

Prestigious fruit

"First of all, it's a bit annoying that somebody is using our brand name and registered trademark without our permission," he said.

Chinese boxes allegedly containing Israeli oranges found in Iran (photo from the Iranian news agency Mehr)
The fruit was packed in boxes marked "Origin China"

"Apart from this, I would like very much the Iranian people to eat Israeli fruit straight from the origin and not via China.

"But the politics is not allowing us to do any commercial relations with Tehran at the moment while back 30 to 40 years ago, Tehran was a superb market for our fruit."

The genuine Israeli Sweetie is primarily exported to the Far East's richest markets, Japan and South Korea.

That could explain the prestige of the fruit in the eyes of Chinese exporters and the temptation to counterfeit it.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Song for Yom Hazikaron - The Ballad for the Medic

In Honour of Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) which begins tomorrow night, I'd like to share the following song which I believe is based on a true story (if anyone knows in which war the story occured or other details, please leave a comment).

by Dan Almagor and Effi Netzer

They slowly advanced. Everything was calm.
Against the river, with the reeds rustling
suddenly a lightning bolt roared,
and one [person] yelled out: [I'm] wounded!
I'm coming - the medic replied to him.
We went over a mine! the wounded yelled,
I'm here, by your side - the medic replied to him.

A hail of fire is coming down,
a heavy fragmentary hail,
across the river, to the murmuring reeds
Leave me here - the wounded requested,
leave the non-sense
- the medic then answered him.
Save yourself - the wounded requested.
I'm staying with you - the medic answered him.

And the two remained alone,
and the field was open.
And the two remained alone,
exposed to the fire.
We are [about to] perish
- the wounded then muttered,
hold me well
- the medic answered him.
You were wounded too
- the wounded them muttered
never mind, it's not too bad
- the medic answered him.

The fire is very heavy! It's very hard to move.
Just don't despair, just don't despair,
I'll always remember you
- the wounded then pledged.
Just don't fall - the medic then muttered.
I'm yours till the day you die
- the wounded then pledged.
Today's the day I die
- the medic answered him.

Suddenly a dust cloud, suddenly the wind rose,
and a shaddow over the ground,
it approached loudly.
We're saved! They're coming!
- the wounded then whimpered,
but he did not hear a word out of the medic.
My brother, my very brother!
- the wounded then whimpered.
Across the river, the reeds are rustling,
my brother, my very brother
my brother, my very brother
my brother!!!

בלדה לחובש
ביצוע: יהורם גאון
מילים: דן אלמגור
לחן: אפי נצר

הם התקדמו לאט. הכל היה רגוע.
מנגד הנהר וגומא מרשרש
פתאום רעם ברק, אחד צעק: פצוע!
אני כבר בא- ענה לו החובש.
עלינו על מוקש! - צעק אז הפצוע,
אני כאן, לצידך - ענה לו החובש.

ברד של אש ניתך, ברד כבד קטוע,
מעבר לנהר, לגומא הרוחש.
הַשאירו אותי כאן - ביקש אז הפצוע,
עזוב שטויות - ענה אז החובש.
תציל את עצמך - ביקש אז הפצוע.
אני נשאר איתך - ענה לו החובש.

והם נותרו שניהם, והשדה פתוח.
והם נותרו שניהם, והם גלויים לאש.
אנחנו אבודים - מילמל אז הפצוע,
אחוז בי טוב - ענה לו החובש.
נפצעת גם אתה - מילמל אז הפצוע
עזוב, זה לא נורא - ענה לו החובש.

האש כבדה, כבדה! קשה, קשה לנוע.
רק לא להתייאש, רק לא להתייאש,
אזכור אותך תמיד - נשבע אז הפצוע.
רק לא ליפול - מילמל אז החובש.
שלך עד יום מותך - נשבע אז הפצוע.
היום הוא יום מותי - ענה לו החובש.

פתאום ענן אבק, פתאום עלתה הרוח,
וצל על הקרקע, והוא קרב, רועש.
ניצלנו! הם באים! - ייבב אז הפצוע,
אך לא שמע מילה מן החובש.
אחי, אחי שלי! - ייבב אז הפצוע.
מעבר לנהר הגומא מרשרש,
אחי, אחי שלי
אחי, אחי שלי

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Keep your Laws off my body

A common argument of the "Pro-Choice" (AKA Pro-Abortion) lobby is that Government has no business interfering with the reproductive choices of women.

There are many problems with the argument (mainly it seems to ignore the rights of the unborn baby), but if the Pro-choice Lobby is sincere in their belief that government should keep out of people's personal lives, especially with regards to reproduction, than I would expect the Pro-Choice camp to be up in arms against the Call in Australia to limit families to one child (similar to the laws in the Chinese dictatorship)

OK - Pro Choice camp, now is your opportunity to show a commitment to your belief, even if it doesn't involve killing unborn babies.


Call for one-child policy in Australia
Australia should consider having a one-child policy to protect the planet, an environmental lobby group says.

Sustainable Population Australia says slashing the world's population is the only way to avoid "environmental suicide".

National president Sandra Kanck wants Australia's population of almost 22 million reduced to seven million to tackle climate change.

And restricting each couple to one baby, as China does, is "one way of assisting to reduce the population".

"It's something we need to throw into the mix," the former Democrats parliamentarian told AAP.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Kudos to McCully and the Labour Party

I was delighted to read that new Zealand has joined the free World in boycotting the Durban Israel Hate-fest.
NZ won't attend racism conference

Labour and the Greens are at odds with the Government over its decision to boycott this week's United Nations conference on racism.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully confirmed today New Zealand would not take part, joining other countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, Israel and Germany.

The Geneva conference is in trouble because of intense sensitivity around Israel and Arab states – the last UN meeting called to condemn racism ended in chaos when Muslim delegates tried to insert language into a declaration defining Zionism as racist.


Mr McCully said New Zealand would not attend because he was not satisfied the wording of the draft declaration would prevent the conference from "descending into the same kind of rancorous and unproductive debate that took place in 2001".

"I was determined that New Zealand's participation in the review conference would be on the basis of a draft outcome document that did not endorse the 2001 declaration, and which responsibly and productively addressed racism."

Labour's associate foreign affairs spokesman, Grant Robertson, said it was unfortunate the Government had allowed "rhetoric around Israel" to override important issues about racism.

"In multilateral discussions there will be things said that we find unpalatable but it is vital that we are at the table to ensure that New Zealand's opposition to racism in any form is expressed at the highest levels," he said.

"Mr McCully needs to be careful that New Zealand continues to adopt an independent and principled approach to foreign affairs."

The Green Party's foreign affairs spokesman, Keith Locke, said the Government's decision was "an unacceptable insult" to the UN at a time when former prime minister Helen Clark was taking up an important position at the world body.

"The fact that we won't agree with all the speeches at the conference is hardly a reason to withdraw," he said.


This is a refreshing change from the stance of the previous New Zealand administration.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Birkat HaChama in Modi'in

Below is a video of Birkat HaChama in Modi'in.

There was a big crowd - I don't know how many thousand people attended, but the crowd exceeded expectations - they ran out of printed sheets with the Nussach.

The sheets that they printed included both an "Ashkenaz" and "Sfardi" Nussach. Both of which were different from the printed texts that I linked to in earlier posts.

BTW - Shecheyanu was recited by both Rabbanim HaRashim, but they emphasized that they were wearing new clothes for the Shecheyanu.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

First to Bless The Sun

This morning my father attended what I believe was the first public recitation of Birkat hachama in 28 years.

About 30 people were in shul in Wellington New Zealand this morning for Birkat HaChama.

Here is my father's account of the event:
Amazing service this morning, over 30 people turned up for the siyum for the fast of the first born and the blessing of the sun afterwards. Some of them were Jewish. (or rather some were not, including the astronomer who gave the talk on Birkat HaHamah).
There is an article on the Dominion about the event celebrated once every 28 years, with a photo of Haim Dovrat. He is brilliant at promoting Judaism in Wellington. He should be writing the book on how to build a community.
Here's how it was reported in the Dominion Post:

Sun gets birthday blessing

By KELLY BURNS - The Dominion Post
Last updated 09:32 08/04/2009

Kiwi Jews were the first in the world to give the Sun a birthday blessing in a one-in-28-year ceremony this morning.

As daylight broke, Jews around the country recited prayers to celebrate their belief that Earth was created 5769 years ago.

Wellington Rabbi Chaim Dovrat said it was a ''restaging of the heavens as they were at the beginning of time''.

According to the Talmud, the central book of laws and traditions of Judaism, once every 28 years the Sun returns to its precise position in the sky - at the same time and day of the week as the moment of its creation.

The Sun rose at 6.24am today, but Rabbi Dovrat led the rare blessing from the Webb St synagogue at 7.45am.
About 40 people, ranging in age from 5 to 77 and including non-Jews, were at the synagogue for the celebration. "It was surprisingly beautiful morning. My wife said I must surely have a good connection with God, because it was suppose to be cloudy and rainy but at 7.45am the sun was so clear."

He said it was a special celebration as the 7500 Jews in New Zealand would be the first in the world to give the blessing of the Sun. "It's a rare occasion, something you only get to do once or twice in your life."

After the blessing in Hebrew and English there was wine; "Then it was, see you in 28 years," Rabbi Dovrat joked.

For only the third time in history, the blessing falls on the eve of Passover, Pesach, a celebrated holiday in the Jewish calendar.


Birkat Hachama - or blessing of the Sun - happens every 28 years as Judaism believes the Sun returns to its time and place at creation.

Today is the 206th cycle of the Sun aligning with its position when created
by God.

Jews believe the Earth was created 5769 years ago and the Sun was made on Wednesday, the fourth day of creation.

Today, at the first rays of sunshine, Jews went outside, faced east and recited prayers in Hebrew and English and psalms.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Birkat haChama Explained

For people still trying to understand what brikat Hachama is all about,Oorah put together a great explanatory video:

(hat tip: GRUNTIG)

Mechirat Chametz

Like many people I am bothered by the concept of selling one's chametz.

Don't get me wrong, I DO sell my chametz, and although we try to finish as much chametz as possible before Pessach, to destroy what we don't manage to eat would be Ba'al Tashchit.

This year I learned that here in Modi'in the local Rabbanut conducts its own sale, instead of selling through the Chief Rabbanut which is done in many other cities. This made feel somewhat better as it is someone I know (Rabbi Lau) organizing the sale on a smaller scale than the Rabbanut HaRashit, which somehow makes it feel more "real" to me.

My biggest problem with selling Chametz is that for many people the whole thing is a farce or a source of ridicule, and worse there are people who may sign a sale of chametz form, but do not regard their produce as sold - what is the status of such produce? Is the sale still valid even if the seller shows that he still regards the produce as his? Does the chametz have the status of "Chametz Sheavar Alav Pessach"

What if a store selles the same Chametz more than once (have you ever seen a store with a Tudat Mechirat Chametz from both the Rabbanut and the Badatz), surely this indicates that the store keeper didn't take at least one of the sales seriously.

Or take for example the following common scenerio in Israel:
Before Pessach a store sells its chametz and covers all chmetz shelves with plastic or paper, yet some customers (either deliberately or accidentally) reach behind the paper and place chmetz products in their basket.
At checkout, the worker may or may not know that the products are chametz, but one way or another the product is scanned and paid for by the customer.

As far as I can tell one of 2 things have happened:

Either the store never took the sale seriously, only sold the documents to keep those Rabbis happy, and it's hard to argue that there ever was an effective Mechirat Chamtz.
If this is the case, I don't understand how it could be permissible to buy any Chametz products from that store after Pessach.

Alternatively, the store really regards that the produce belongs to the non-Jew, but is selling products that do not belong to them.
In this case, isn't the store keeper a thief - stealing chametz from a non-Jew and selling it for profit without even notifying the owner of the produce. Why would you want to do any business with such a person?

If you think that there is another way to interpret the scenario of a store selling Chametz that it already "sold", please leave a comment.

Anyway, the good news is that according to the Jerusalem Post, this year for the first time the Rabbanut is providing all stores that sold their chametz a special add-on to their scanner which will prevent Chametz products from being sold.
It's worth reading the article at the Jerusalem Post Site, just to see the comments; however if you have the Jerusalem Post site blocked on your computer (which makes you smarter than me), here is the article:

Rabbinate first: Pessah barcode blockers
Apr. 2, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

The Chief Rabbinate has harnessed the power of technology in its battle against hametz (bread and other leavened goods) this Pessah and will distribute special "barcode blocker" devices to stores for the duration of the holiday at its own expense.

The devices will contain a list of all the barcodes linked with hametz products and will not allow automated cash registers to sell those items during the holiday.

The Rabbinate gave food sellers until Thursday afternoon to either agree to install the barcode blockers or temporarily lose their kashrut certification.

"Selling hametz can't become a farce [on Pessah]," Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger told Army Radio.

If buyers are not told that they may be buying hametz, the businesses will have their certifications revoked for the duration of the holiday.

Buyers who do not keep kosher for Pessah object to the Rabbinate's policy.

"It's a bit annoying when they take over your supermarket in central Tel Aviv," an angry customer told Army Radio.

In the past, people could buy hametz from stores who declare that their business is kosher for Pessah, with leavened items separated from kosher-for-Pessah products simply by the shelves being covered by nylon sheets.

"You just reach out your hand and take stuff from under the nylons," a customer said. "The supermarket doesn't really take products off the shelves - so I just took something, paid for it and there you have it."

The Rami Levi supermarket network has already decided to acquiesce to the Rabbinate's demand; the AM:PM and Mega chains said they were adhering to Pessah kashrut laws in any case and the Supersol network said it maintained good relations with the Health Ministry all yearlong.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1238562890657&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Great Punchline

One of my favorite email publications is "Best of the Web Today" by James Taranto, published by the Wall Street Journal. It takes a light-hearted look at key issues in the news with a strong conservative tongue firmly in their cheek.
I loved the punch line that they had at the end of the following article (think about it for a second)

West Bank Robbery
"An Israeli and a group of Palestinians last week set aside their differences in order to carry out an armed bank robbery, Palestinian police said," Agence France-Presse reports:

The heist at a bank in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Tuesday (local time) was carried out by six armed gunmen who made off with some $US30,000 . . . according to security officials.
Palestinian police Colonel Adnan al-Damiri says police arrested two Palestinians who confessed they carried out the robbery with three Palestinians living in Israel and an Israeli Jew.
The Israeli "was the mastermind of the operation and he also took part in it," before fleeing back to Israel, Mr Damiri said.

So let's see if we have this straight: An Israeli made a deal to cooperate with Arab crooks who were looking to loot the Palestinian territories.

Didn't he learn anything from the Oslo accords?

Birkat haChama on Erev Pessach

Twice over the past few days I heard prominent respected Rabbis on the radio talk about how meaningful it was that Birkat HaChama falls out this year on Erev Pessach, and how this is only the third time in history that this has happened. They both went on to say that the first time was the year of Yetziat Mitzrayim and was followed by our redemption from Egypt, the second time was in the days of Ester and Mordechai and was followed by the redemption which we celebrate on Purim, and finally we are again seeing Birkat HaChama on Erev pessach - who knows what lies ahead....

It's a very exciting thought, at least it would be - if it was true.
The last time that Birkat hachama fell on Erev Pessach was 5685 (1925) - there are people alive who still remember that event.
Historically Birkat has fallen on Erev Pessach several times, including the following years:
  • 4369 (609)

  • 4453 (693)

  • 5069 (1309)

  • 5685 (1925)

  • 5769 (2009)

So although not common, Birkat HaChama has fallen on Erev Pessach far more than 3 times.

What's more, Yetziat Metzrayim is normally calculated as having been in 2448, however there was no Birkat Hachama that year, Birkat Hachama would have been 2437 and then again in 2465.
Similarly Purim was in 3405, hover the nearest Birkot Hachama would have been 3389 and 3417.

The Rabbis that I heard on the Radio are clearly basing their comments on the Kadosh Elyon who brings down the concept that Birkat Hachama will only occur three times in history on Erev Pessach, and the final time will be before the Redemption. I don't understand the message that the Kadosh Elyon was trying to portray, but it is clearly not a history or astrology lesson, as his claims don't make sense in a historic framework.
Why these Rabbis would repeat this claim on the radio as if it were historically accurate is beyond me, but maybe they have a deeper message that I missed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Text for Birkat HaChama

Rabbi Yisroel Yosef Cyprys just left a comment with a link to his excellent one-page PDF file with the text for the Birkat HaChama (AKA Birkas HaHama) ceremony. This is the full text in English and Hebrew including the actual Bracha in Transliteration (Hebrew with English letters).

It is available here:

He also has a very good "how to" page with clear explanations of the customs and laws in accordance with Chabad minhagim.

Rabbi Cyprys text is somewhat shorter than the PDF file put together by

Interestingly, Rabbi Cyprys' Printout includes the Shecheyanu Bracha, the Printout from Kehillaton doesn't. Whether Shecheyanu should be recited is a machloket, and you should consult your own minhag or halachic authoity.
(for a discussion of this issue, see The Rebbetzin's Husband.)

Finally, if you want to see what what the "Blessing the Sun" ceremony looked like 28 years ago, Gruntig has a video of Birkas hachamah with Viznitzer Rebbe and with the Lubavitcher Rebbe זצ"ל.