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 army...now 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.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

וקשרתם לאות על ידך והיו לטטפת בין עיניך

As I wrote recently, last week I went with my son to order Tefilin - well today we picked them up (although it'll be another few months before he starts wearing them).
May he wear them in health for many many years.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What is “Kiddush HaShem”

Beyond BT has a great story which almost defines the term “Kiddush HaShem”…

Upper West Side Story: My True Jewish Story

July 23rd, 2009 - Guest Contributor

By Mr. Cohen

It was approximately 1985, and in the summertime, on a Saturday night, that I saw her. We were in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood. She looked very lost. People of various races and ages passed her by, indifferent to her plight. I, as a native of New York City, wanted to help her.

Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, had just finished, and I had not yet returned to the apartment of my host. She looked so lost, that I just had to offer my assistance. She told me her story. She was a black woman from South Africa, visiting New York City, and the only clue that she possessed as to her required destination was on a piece of paper that she showed me. She was never in New York City before and probably was never outside South Africa before either.

I did my best to figure out what her paper meant, and listened to her problem at length. Finally, I figured out where she had to go and helped her find a car service. But I did not want to leave a young lady alone on the dark streets of post-Shabbat Manhattan, so I waited with her on the street until her car arrived.

When her car was already in sight, she said to me: You must be a Jew.

Perplexed, I took note of the facts that I did not have a beard, had not used Hebrew or Yiddish words in my conversation, was not wearing Jewish clothes, and certainly had not made any mention of my Jewishness.

Curiously, I asked her: How did you know that I am a Jew?

Her response to my question has never stopped echoing in my ears: Because you were so kind to me.

Source: http://www.beyondbt.com/?p=1284

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Protesting Chilul Shabbat

With all the talk in recent weeks about riots or demonstrations to protect the Sanctity of Shabbat in Yerushalayim, I thought that I'd share this story from Simcha Raz's biography of Rav Kook "An Angel Among Men".

It seems that one Shabbat a group of people from Mea Sharim came to the Rav's house to ask him to join them in a protest against a cafe that was open on Shabbat.

Surprisingly, the Rav refrained from the Mitzva of throwing rocks or burning trash cans and approached the situation quite differently.....

Protesting Sabbath Desecration

R. Avraham Bik related this story:

One Friday night, early in the winter of 5693 (1932), a storm
raged through Jerusalem. Heavy rains soaked the ground, and a
fierce wind shook the trees in the courtyard of the yeshiva. When
the Sabbath prayers ended, the worshippers - mostly students of
the yeshiva - left the sanctuary. I, however, stayed behind. My
apartment was in the distant neighborhood of Nachalat Achim, so
I decided to wait for the rain to stop.

The Rav, whose custom was to make Kiddush at seven o'clock
[even when services ended earlier], roamed around the room that
housed his rabbinic court. Every once in a while, he went over to
the bookshelf and took out a volume. All of a sudden, I heard
footsteps and voices coming from the stairs leading up to the building.
I opened the door and saw dozens of young men from Me'ah She'arim
and Battei Hungarin [ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods], teeming at the

"A cafe owner is desecrating the Sabbath on King George St.,"
they shouted. "Let the Chief Rabbi come with us and protest, at
least. He must stop Sabbath desecration in the Holy City."

"Let him go!" they all shouted in unison. "He will not go!" they
countered in a loud, provocative voice. "He is the Rabbi of the
Zionists... He will not go!"

"What are you screaming about?" I chided. "Have you lost your
minds?" I was so infuriated that I was prepared to fight them. When

I closed the door, I saw the Rav standing in the auditorium with
his head bent low. Apparently, he heard the screams outside and
came to see what was going on. After standing there for a while,
he left the auditorium and went to his small study.

A half-hour later, the rain subsided, but thunder and lightening
still pierced the sky. I was about to leave when I heard the Rav
say to his wife in his husky voice, "I believe I saw a yeshiva student
here. Where is he?" I quickly ran over to the Rav and said, "Did
the Rav ask for me?" "Yes," he replied. "Can you please escort me
to that restaurant on King George St.? I want to see what this is
all about, if their cries are really valid."

"What is going on?" I thought to myself. "What did he originally
think? Beforehand, he did not want to go, and now he changed his
mind?" I helped him on with his overcoat, and we began walking
through the deserted streets of Jerusalem. When we reached our
destination, we found the restaurant bolted shut, so we simply turned
around and began walking back to the yeshiva. At one intersection,
we saw a man running in our direction. It was R. Aharon Teitelbaum,
a supporter of the yeshiva, accompanied by R. Shalom Natan Ra'anan,
who was in charge of the cafeteria.

"Shabbat Shalom!" said R. Teitelbaum. "What happened, honorable
Rav?" The Rav responded with a Sabbath greeting of his own and
then resumed his trek home. R. Teitelbaum was quite perplexed
and still waiting to find out what happened, when the Rav suddenly
stopped and turned to me.

"How many people were in the courtyard?" he asked. "If I am not
mistaken, there were more than ten (a minyan). Correct?"

"There was certainly more than a minyan," I answered; "why, they
covered the entire staircase!"

The Rav grabbed R. Teitelbaum's hand and said: "How, then, did
they think that I would join them in their protest? Had I arrived
when the restaurant was still open, I would have been obligated to
warn the owner to close down. And had he not listened to me, I
would have caused him to desecrate the Sabbath in public, in front
of ten Jews. Now, however, this young man and I served only as

"But now," continued the Rav, "they will spread a rumor that Rav
Kook refused to protest Sabbath desecration."

"So be it!" said the Rav with an uplifted hand. "So be it! We are
accustomed to doing things discretely."

We accompanied the Rav to his house. At the door, R. Teitelbaum
whispered in my ear, "Tonight I realized that the Rav is greater
than we all think."

Source: “An Angel Among Men”, Rabbi Simcha Raz, Pages 304-305

Monday, July 20, 2009

What can you tell from a headline

There is a breaking story that after the destruction of a few isolated "Outposts" in Samaria there were Palestinian reports of fires set by "Settlers" damaging Palestinian farmland.

This is still a breaking story and many news sources have not (yet?) picked it up, however looking at some Web Sites that are covering it, a lot can be learned about the media bias just from the headline.

I don’t have any further information on the story, I have no idea how accurate the reports are (although if these were really arson attacks by Jews I find it extremely worrying). Right now I’m just comparing the way that the story is reported. Once further facts are known I may chip in with my own analysis

Your homework assignment is to Contrast and Compare the following headlines:

Israel National News (Arutz 7)
Police Raid Samaria Towns; Arabs Charge Jews with Arson

Jerusalem Post
West Bank fires feared to be settler acts of retaliation

Outposts demolished, Palestinian fields torched

Settlers attack Palestinians following outpost evacuation

Associated Press
Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian fields

A Fly In A Coffee Cup"

It’s not often that I see a joke that I have never seen before that describes the reality in our inverse universe as succinctly as the following that I received today from Jewish Joke du Jour.

"A Fly In A Coffee Cup"

What happens when a fly falls into a coffee cup?

The Italian - throws the cup and walks away in a fit of rage.

The Frenchman - takes out the fly, and drinks the coffee.

The Chinese - eats the fly and throws away the coffee.

The Russian - drinks the coffee with the fly, since it was extra with no charge.

The Israeli - sells the coffee to the Frenchman, the fly to the Chinese, buys himself a new cup of coffee and uses the extra money to invent a device that prevents flies from falling into coffee.

The Palestinian - blames the Israeli for the fly falling in his coffee, protests the act of aggression to the UN, takes a loan from the European Union to buy a new cup of coffee, uses the money to purchase explosives and then blows up the coffee house where the Italian, the Frenchman, the Chinese, and the Russian are all trying to explain to the Israeli that he should give away his cup of coffee to the Palestinian.

Copyright © 1995 - 2009 Jewish Joke du Jour.

All Rights reserved.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Anti-Israel Jews…

Is there something in the water this week?

Suddenly, just in time for Tesha B’Av there seems to be a large number of articles about Jewish anti-Israel activists.

I’m not talking about Zionists (or even post-Zionist) with different viewpoints from mine, I’m talking about people who are actively campaigning against Israel and identify themselves as Jews.

Today’s Jerusalem Post has an article about 4 self-proclaimed “Rabbis” of Neturei Karta visiting Hamas leaders in Gaza. (I actually posted a picture of them a few days ago.)

Then there was an article about Naomi Klein who is in Israel to promote the Hebrew and Arabic translations of her book calling for a boycott of Israel. I know that it seems strange to be in Israel promoting Israeli sales of a book written in Hebrew about Boycotting Israel. If you think that there is a problem with her logic, I guess that you don’t have what it takes to be an anti-Zionist Jew.

Finally there was an article about Germany bestowing their top award to Felicia Langer who is an Israeli “Human Rights” attorney who has dedicated her life to comparing Israel to Apartheid South Africa.

I know that there are many Jews out there who are against the State of Israel or anti-Zionist, but three articles in one morning’s newspaper is a bit stomach-turning.

I wonder if there are any other historical accounts of Jews turning against each other while we were under attack from foreign powers….

Friday, July 17, 2009

Toldot Aharon

The Jerusalem Post has a very good analysis of Toldot Aharon (AKA Toldos Aharon) which tries to explain why they have acted out of all proportion to the arrest of one of their members (other reports say that the arrested woman was a member on Neturei Karta which AFAIK is a break away from Toldot Aharon and is a separate movement).

For people who aren’t familiar with Tolodot Aharon, their blue and gold striped coats and white kipot are very distinctive (although similar clothing is worn by other “Yerushalmim”). Their central Beis Midrash is towards the end of Mea Sharim street, opposite Bretzlav, not far from the Ministry of Education. If you find yourself in the area on a Shabbat (after the present round of violence dies down) I’d highly recommend going there to see their Tisch. They also have wonderful Simchot Beit Shoeva on Succot and I was once there on the Shvi’i Pessach to see their re enactment of Kriyat Yam Suf.

In general, if you respect their wishes (no cameras even on weekdays, modest clothing, etc.) they are very welcoming to individuals.

The thing that always impressed me with Toldot Aharon is that they were at least consistent in their views. They reject Zionism and refuse to have anything to do with Zionist institutions. But that means that they don’t vote or have representation in the Knesset and I’m pretty sure that they refuse to accept money from the state. They may even have private generators for electricity so that they are not relying on the State Electric Company.

Anyway, this article from the Jerusalem Post was a very interesting read.

Background: When 'evil Zionism' touches insular Toldot Aharon, the outcome is explosive

The Eda Haredit is engaged in a battle for survival against what it sees as the forces of evil. Nothing else can explain the stone-throwing, the trash-bin-burning, the rioting and sheer intensity of rage that has rocked the capital over the past days.

And for the Toldot Aharon Hassidim, who considers the Munchausen's-by-proxy mother as one of their own, this is doubly true.

For Toldot Aharon - perhaps the most insular, well-organized and cohesive of the groups that make up the Eda Haredit - any type of intervention in its domestic affairs is tantamount to a total usurping of the community's belief system.

And when the intervention is perpetrated by representatives of the evil Zionist entity - police officers, social workers, employees of the Jerusalem Municipality - the effect is literally explosive.

That's why the hassidic sect, which was established in Jerusalem by its founder Rabbi Aharon Roth in 1928, has developed extensive social and cultural barriers to protect it from the bustling secularism of Jaffa Road and Rehov Ben-Yehuda, located less than a kilometer away.

Roth, who died in 1947, started the tradition, which continues to this day, that every male member of the sect signs a contract obligating him and his family to abide by the strict dictates of Toldot Aharon. Clothing, customs, even how the hassidim spend their spare time, is carefully regulated. Cohesion is as tight as super glue.

In contrast, the outside world - especially anything affiliated with Zionism - is described as dark and evil.

For a municipal social worker and police officers to enter the home of one of the hassidim is a desecration. But when the person arrested is a pregnant mother who is being forcibly separated from her children, nothing short of a world war is in order.

Shlomo Guzmen-Carmeli of Bar-Ilan University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology, who is an expert on the Toldot Aharon Hassidim and is the source for the information here about them, says that the current rioting is, for the hassidim, a way of defining "who we are."

"Members of Toldot Aharon do not see themselves first and foremost as individuals. Rather, they see themselves as one organic entity," said Guzmen-Carmeli.

"No one would ever think of involving outsiders in internal issues of the community, let alone representatives of the Zionist entity, which is perceived as an apostate body inimical to the sect's belief system.

"The present unrest is actually an opportunity to strengthen themselves against outside influences and it is also a warning; it's as if they are saying, 'Leave us alone.'"

source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1246443834123&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More on the Jerusalem Riots

All of the JBlogging world seems to be talking about the Jerusalem riots (including Life in IsraelThe Muqata, Emes Ve-Emunah, Gruntig – take a look at the video, and Dov Bear), so I thought that I should add some further reflections.

These points are related mainly to the recent riots of the child abuse case. Some of these points may apply to other riots, such as the Parking Lot demonstrations, however some are less relevant when talking about the Shabbat riots.

  • First and foremost it is important to emphasize again that there is never any justification for the massive Chillul HaShem, destruction of property, disregard for the law (and disregard for “Daas Torah”) and most importantly the threat to human life.
    These demonstrations are immoral, illegal, against Torah and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. This is irrespective of whether the woman in the child abuse case is innocent or guilty, or whether she has been deliberately mistreated because of her religious lifestyle.
  • It is important to remember that the rioters do not represent the Charedi community, or even the Mea Sharim. They don’t even represent the Eida Charedit which has come out against the riots.
    The rioters seem to be mainly younger people who are out looking for trouble and don’t really need an excuse. Such people can be found in any community – there have been many acts of vandalism by young adults in Modi’in, or look at what goes on at university campuses where young people are making bad judgements all the time.
    The situation is worse here as many of the rioters are American Yeshiva students living here without parental supervision and their schools seem unable (or unwilling) to provide the supervision and discipline that they require,.
    What is worrying in this case is that the Charedi community hasn’t been vocal enough in it’s condemnation of these events (and a few individuals have even tried to justify it).
    I hope that the rioters are arrested quickly and made to pay for their damages. I would also hope that they are expelled from their Yeshivot and reprimanded within their own community.
  • I think that this episode has exposed the lie of “Daas Torah”. When I was in Yeshiva I found the concept of “Daas Torah” very attractive – that ultimately almost everything that we do should be influenced by Halacha and that there are people with enough Torah knowledge to guide us based on clear Halachic guidelines.
    Lately I’ve realised that such a concept does not really exist. Almost all statements made in the name of the “Gedolim” were not really said by them, or at least not initiated by them (they may have signed on to a call by someone else).
    In this particular case it has gone even further, According to the “Daas Torah Blog” Rav Sternbuch, head of the Eida Charedit came out strongly against the riots, but didn’t bother publishing his opinion as he realises that nobody listens to him anyway.
    To me this is the final proof that what is being sold as “Daas Torah” has no connection whatsoever with what “The Gedolim” think or say – it is just a group of extremists who enjoy making trouble.
    I think one of the biggest problems facing the Torah-observant community today (and that includes the Religious Zionist community) is a lack of strong leadership.
  • As I said, the rioters don’t represent the Charedi community. It is important that we all tone down our language and attitude. I have heard and read many comments describing the situation as a war between the “Charredim” and the “Zionists” (look at the language used in comments on the Jerusalem Post or any of the blogs listed above). This is not a war, nor should it mark the beginning of one. This is just a case of some naughty children without sufficient supervision of guidance. Yes there is a serious problem, but talk of fighting each other will make the situation worse, not better.
    The perpetrators should be arrested and punished, the Charedi world should not be seen as the enemy, sor should they regard the police of “The Zionists” as their. This is particularly true in this period leading up to Tesha B’Av. (We have enough problems with Jews cooperating with our real enemies, but that’s for a separate post)

I hope and pray that the police are able to work together with community leaders to quickly put an end to this terrible situation, and hopefully this will serve as a wake up call for the Yeshivot and community leaders to increase supervision and leadership of their followers and teach them that זה לא דרכה של תורה, this isn’t the way of Torah

Shabbat Shalom, and I mean may this Shabbat really see Shalom/Peace in Jerusalem

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How can I explain this to my son?

אי”ה my eldest will become Bar Mitzva in a few months and today we went together to Yerushalayim to order his Tfilin.

What should have been a very memorable occasion was overshadowed by the scenes that we saw on Strauss Street, Bar Ilan Street, Kikar Shabbat and generally in the whole Mea Sharim / Geula area.

Baruch Hashem we didn’t witness any violence or rioting, it seems like we were there after the midday demonstration, and left before the violence started up again. What we did see was overturned trash cans on fire, remains of destroyed trash cans, the stench of burning plastic, and a very strong police presence. My son was visibly nervous, and was keen to get out of the area as quickly as possible, which was good advise as it seems that things got out of hand less than an hour after we left the area (we listened to reports of the riot on the radio on the way home).

The hardest thing for me was how to explain these events to my son. I’m a big believer in trying to understand and accept other viewpoints. Years ago when I worked with non Religious or Reform teenage tour groups I went out of my way to make sure that Charedi Judaism was presented in a positive light (no small feat given that many of these kids had a strong prejudice against Orthodoxy). But in this case I just can’t see any positive spin to put on things.

In case you missed the background, the riots were triggered by the arrest of a woman who (allegedly) has a psychological condition which lead her to severely abuse her 2 year old child, to the point of almost starving him to death. The reports are chilling -  for a parent to hurt her child in this manner goes against human nature.

The Yomim Norai’m, are just around the corner. After we blow the Shofar we try to appeal to HaShem with the clearest imagery of mercy and compassion:

היום הרת עולם היום יעמיד במשפט כל יצורי עולם אם כבנים אם כעבדים. אם כבנים רחמנו כרחם אב על בנים …

Today is the birthday of the world; today all mankind is judged whether as children or as servants. If as children, have mercy on us as a father has mercy on his children.

For a mother to deliberately hurt her own child is simply a perversion of nature.

But what is even worse than this perversion of nature is the response of the Charedi community. I spoke to a Ger Chasid in a bookstore and asked him why there are riots. He explained that even if the charges against this woman are true, she needs counselling, not to be thrown in prison.

I’m not sure what the correct action for the law enforcement agencies should be. Clearly this woman needs both counselling and to be separated from her children, however there is no evidence that the way she has been treated would have been any different if she was not Charedi. Her religious outlook seems to have nothing to do with her crime, nor the way that she has been treated by the authorities.

But for arguments sake, lets say that she is 100% innocent and the whole episode is a setup to make the Charedim look bad. How does that justify hundreds of thousands of shekels of damage; putting hundreds of lives in danger; teaching young children to act like wild animals; threatening municipal workers and police.

None of these actions are justified or justifiable in any way shape or form.

I even heard Rav Eichler earlier this evening on Radio Kol Chai describing the “Zionists” as conquerors of Jerusalem, similar to the Roman conquerors of many years ago – that the situation is out-and-out war of the Zionist-conquerors against G-d fearing Jews.

As I said, how am I supposed to explain this to my son? I have made a lot of effort to educate my kids to believe that “Ailu V’ailu Divrei Elokim Chaim”; that the Charedi community shares values and ideals with the Religious Zionist community, and that we Religious Zionists have a lot that we can learn from our Charedi brothers.

I get very upset with my kids if they make any negative comments about any segment of Klal Yisrael, particularly people who have dedicated their life to preserving our Holy Torah.

Unfortunately I fear that any attempts to educate my son to regard the Charedi world as an example that we can learn from have been undone by the terrible Chilul HaShem we witnessed today.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Shabbat vs. Eretz Yisrael

While at times I have been critical of the Charedi community and particularly the lack of strong leadership, I have also had many issues with the (lack of) leadership in the Religious Zionist community.

In particular, I think that many prominent rabbis in the Religious Zionist world have put an emphasis on the Land (specifically “Yesha”) at the expense of other Mitzvot.

One of the worst examples I have seen is a report in today’s Jerusalem Post claiming that Rabbi Dov Lior permitted the use of cell phones on Shabbat to prevent the destruction of Jewish Communities.

I haven’t seen details of his Psak, and I am pretty certain that the Jerusalem Post article is inaccurate or at least misleading (the way it describes the Heter makes no sense, I can’t believe that Rav Lior really means that you can use a regular cell phone if you see a D9 Tractor on the highway), however there have been similar Halachic rulings in the past (for example, allowing non-Jews to continue construction in Arial over Shabbat), which I think is a worrying trend within the Religious Zionist community.

Extracts of the Jerusalem Post article below. If anyone has any additional background information, please leave a comment or email me.

Rabbi Dov Lior: Phones may be used on Shabbat to stop IDF evacuations

Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior has given permission to the residents of West Bank settlements to use their phones on Shabbat to report "suspicious IDF movements," according to settlement activists.

A message being circulated by Efrat-Gush Etzion-Kiryat Arba Hevron Action Committees warned settlers to remain vigilant, stating: "In light of the threat of destruction of outposts, the public is asked to stay alert and report any suspicious movement of troops."

One of the country's most prominent Zionist rabbis, Lior is no stranger to controversy. During 2005's disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Lior called on all his former students to defy their commanders and refuse to take part in the "expulsion" of Jews. Earlier this year, he also said in an interview that it is forbidden for Jews to hire or rent property in Israel to Arabs.

source: http://www.jpost.com/

Follow Up: Reuters Trys to explain the ad, I still don't get it

Reuters has an article about the "outrage" over the Cellcom ad.

Sorry, I still don't see why people are upset.
Evidently it's not a lot of people. According to the Reuters article a whopping 218 people joined the Facebook group.

By Faceboook standards that sounds like a dismal failure...

Again, if anyone got offended by the ad or thinks it racist, please leave a comment.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Are cellcom ads racist?

Jameel @ The Muqata has an interesting post about a recent Cellcom Ad depicting "the fence".
I often try to understand the perspective of people I disagree with, but in this case I watched the ad and I'm still scratching my head as to what anyone finds objectionable?

I know that some people like protesting for the sake of protesting, but surely there are much more offensive ads that you could protest against if you were so inclined.

Does ANYONE understand what the objection is?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bibi plays his hand well

I’ve got to hand it to Bibi – in spite of the very difficult political hand that he’s been dealt, I think he’s played his cards very well.

His latest move, to invite Abbas for Peace Talks without pre-conditions was brilliant. It is pretty clear that the PA is not interested in striking a deal with Israel, they are probably working on the assumption that the longer they wait the more pressure Obama will put on Israel to make concessions – i.e., the Palestinians believe that they can get everything they want (settlement freeze, American financial support and military training, removal of checkpoints etc) without having to take even minimal steps in return.

By inviting them to direct talks, Bibi is clearly putting the ball in their court. If they refuse to hold talks (which is likely), Bibi can rightly say that he is doing everything he can to strike a deal, but there seems to be no one to talk to on the other side.

Should Abbas surprise everyone and show up for Peace talks, Bibi can say that they can discuss anything they want as soon as they meet their Road Map obligations (disarm terrorists, stop incitement against Israel etc.)

There is almost no way that Abbas has the will or the ability to meet these obligations, but showing up at talks with Israel would highlight how poorly he’s met his own obligations.

In the mean time, as long as it is Israel that is calling for peace talks and the Palestinians who are rejecting it, hopefully the State Department and the Obama administration (not to mention the Europeans) will take some of the pressure off Israel and put it back on the Palestinians.

I doubt that his move will really soften the stance of the current US administration, but it’s probably the best option that Bibi has right now.


From time-to-time Dov Bear has a posting called Peek-a-Jew where visibly Jewish people (e.g., with kipot) show up in unexpected places.

I think that this picture takes the cake. It's a shot of the US "team" arriving in Cairo for the Pro-Palestinian Viva Palestina! conference.

If you look carefully, you'll see that one of the representatives forgot to put on his regulation blue T-Shirt and "Peace Scarf", and even looks a little bit Jewish.

Yes, it's non other than the world (in)famous self-proclaimed "Rabbi" Yisroel Dovid Weiss.
No idea who the guy with the cigar is, could it be that a "Peace loving", anti-Zionist Jew needs a bodyguard in Cairo?

If you want to hear his speech, Gruntig has all the gory details (warning vomit-inducing).

Are there Jewish Palestinians?

Rafi, over in Life in Israel has a fascinating video which traces alleged Jewish ancestry in today's Palestinian populuation.

It's an interesting thought and something that I'd never come across before. My understanding was that the vast majority of "Palestinians" migrated to Israel over the past 150 years from Syria or other neighbouring countries.

The video claims that there is a high percentage of local Palestinians who actually have Jewish traditions and practices and may in fact be Jewish, having converted to Islam in the past 200 years.

There are many problems with the video - for example, they show Palestinians doing things like laying Tfilin, Praying from a Sefer Thilim, or having a Mezuza secretly in their homes, however the artefacts shown are clearly not handed down from previous generations (as the video implies), as it is new-looking tfilin, and the Tehilim is a Tanya-Tehilim handed out by Chabad at bus stations.
A more logical explanation (if the whole story is not fabricated) is that these Palestinians have adopted Jewish customs recently for superstitious reasons. I've often seen Arabs do things like Kiss mezuzot or act respectfully around Jewish ritual as a type of "good luck charm".

Other "proofs" of Jewish ancestry see less convincing, they found a Beduin tribe where they circumcise the boys on the 7th day and light candles at grave sites, both of which are similar to Jewish practices. But if that is all that remains of their Jewish practices, it is a big leap to conclude that these people are really Jewish.

The most compelling argument was common DNA between Ashkenazi Jews and local Palestinians, however there wasn't enough background to know how compelling this argument is - for example, do other Arabs share the same DNA, what are the odds that this DNA stems back to a few Jews who came generations earlier and married into the local Arab population.

Overall I found the documentary very interesting, I am yet to be convinced that the local Arabs are really descendants of Bar Kochba, however it is certainly food-for-thought.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Parking Lots on Shabbat

I’ve been meaning to write about the Shabbat Parking Lot affair for some time now, here are a collection of thoughts:

  • It goes without saying that the violent demonstrations in recent weeks have been a terrible Chilul Shabbat and Chilul HaShem and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. It is hard to imagine that the organizers of these demonstrations was really concerned about Chilul Shabbat, it seems that it is more of a political power play between the Eida Charadit and other forces in the Charedi community.
  • It was very encouraging to see the Rabbi Harowitz’s stand against these demonstrations, but I couldn’t help wondering where were the public comments from the Charedi leadership in Israel. Why could there not have been a public statement from Rav Elyshiv, Rav Sheinberg, or the Gerer Rebbe condemning the terrible public Chilul Shabbat caused by these demonstrations.
  • It is somewhat encouraging to see that this week there was an organized peaceful demonstration by those opposed to the parking lot including Tehillim and other Tfillot. This is the Torah-true approach to expressing one’s anger over events. I hope that this method of demonstration will replace the terrible destructive events that have taken place on Shabbat (and during the week). (although i fear that this is wishful thinking)

My own feelings about the parking lot (not that they are relevant) is that I think that the mayor did the correct thing by addressing a potentially dangerous situation (cars parked illegally around the Old City) and tried to find a solution which minimized Chilul Shabbat (free parking operated by a non-Jew).

I think that it is important that all Israelis feel a connection to Jerusalem, including those who live outside the city and are not Shomer Shabbat. If these Jews decide to spend their Shabbat in Jerusalem instead of a movie or at the beach, this is a positive thing.

I felt uncomfortable with the original proposal to open the municipal Safra parking lot as this parking lot is very close to Mea Sharim, which would disturb residents of that neighbourhood, and more importantly I think that public institutions (National bus company, airline, government institutions, municipalities etc), should publicy observe Shabbat, this is part of the Jewish character of the country.

The Karta parking lot is a better solution as it is further from the Charedi neighbourhoods, closer to the Old City, and is not part of the Municipality building.


There is one other issue that has bothered me. There was a terrible story of an ABC Reporter who claims that she was spat on when she took out her tape recorder to record he demonstrations on Shabbat.

This is a terrible Chilul HaShem and inexcusable behaviour. There is never a reason to spit at a person or treat her in this manner. Not Ever.

That said, I couldn’t help wondering about what type of training or assistance reporters get when they are posted to Israel. In spite of the fact that she was going to report on the Charedi Shabbat demonstrations, she didn’t have much clue of what she was getting herself into (other than to “dress conservatively”). She didn’t know the area at all and accidentally walked up the wrong street. She didn’t know that a tape recorder would be problematic at a demonstration against Chilul Shabbat, and she didn’t speak a word of Hebrew. Nor did she think that she should find someone to go with her who may have been able to give her a bit of insight into what was going on.

Basically, someone who has no knowledge about a situation felt authorised to report on it to a major news network like ABC. Is this the type of “in-depth” reporting that major news channels provide us with?

Unfortunately, when it comes to events in Israel, most cab-drivers would be far more qualified to report on local events than the hundred of journalists stationed in this country.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Should be in Politics

Once in a while I manage to make a good call in politics.

Last week Rafi said:

There are all sorts of rumors and assumptions about how the "rift" between the USA and Israel, or more specifically between Barak Obam and Benjamin Netanyahu, will play out in the coming weeks.
I do not make any assumptions as to what Obama's intentions are, nor about what Netanyahu is going to do.
I do, however, see 2 possible outcomes of all this.
1. Netanyahu will "mitkapel" - fold. It is not completely unrealistic to expect this. the pressure on him from the American government seems to be (if the media reports are to be trusted) enormous, and he has plenty of experience of folding and not implementing right-wing policy (which is what he is meant to represent) but left-wing policy.

2. the better outcome is that Netanyahu stands strong against US pressure and tells Obama to go take a hike. And instead of grovelling to find ways to throw bones to Obama to get him off our backs, he says "No more".

I predicted a third possibility:

… I think that the most probable outcome is neither of the options that you mentioned but somewhere in the middle - they will come up with a formula (e.g., finish construction that has already been started, or only construction in specific areas, or some other formula) which will allow both sides to claim that they didn't back down.

Today’s lead article in the Jerusalem Post:

Israel and the US are moving toward a compromise solution on the settlement issue that might allow both sides to claim "victory," The Jerusalem Post has learned.
According to senior government officials, under this type of solution, Israel would declare a moratorium of a few months on the settlement issue, possibly half a year, while the US would give Israel a green light to complete a still-to-be-determined number of housing units in the settlements that are in advanced stages of construction.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The PLO Charter

Joe Settler over at the Muqata has a great post on The PLO Charter (or more accurately, the PLO Charters), and how the original Charter in 1964 explicit rejected any claims to Judea, Samaria and Gaza, it was only in 1968, after these territories come under Israeli control did they suddenly decide that this was "historic Palestine".

The original charter was news to me - thanks Joe, learn something every day.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fire in Modi’in

The Jerusalem Post reported that on Motzei Shabbat there was an Arson attempt on the Conservative Synagogue in Modi’in.

According to the Jerusalem Post article, the police assessment is that attack was not ideologically motivated, but rather random vandalism by bored teenagers. The leaders of the congregation fear that this is not the case, but that the arson was a response to the sign recently erected identifying the building as a Conservative Congregation.

In either case, an attack on a place of worship is a terrible thing, and is a blow to the spirit of coexistence which makes Modi’in such a wonderful city.

Below is a letter that I just sent to the Rabbi of the Congregation.


As a citizen of Modi'in, I just wanted to express my shock on hearing about the arson attempt the the Masorti Congregation last Motzei Shabbat.

One of the big attractions of Modi'in to me and my family is the fact that this is a community made up of a full spectrum of religious and political outlooks. The attack on the synagogue was an attack on this coexistence which defines Modi'in.

There would be some comfort if the police assessment that this attack was not ideologically motivated proves correct, although any damage to a synagogue building is heart rendering.

I sincerely hope that the perpetrators are caught quickly, and the city continues as an example of mutual coexistence.


Michael Sedley

What values are we teaching our kids?

My eldest son just graduated Grade 6, finishing his primary school education. In a few months אי”ה he’ll be learning in the Yeshiva here in Modi’in.

Like most schools, his school marked the end of the year with a “Misibat Siyum” including a play that the kids put a lot of effort into it. I thought that overall the Misibat Siyim was done very well, not just in terms of the professionalism that went into the play, but the values that they were presenting.

The theme of the play was “Bshvil Yisrael” meaning both “In the Path of Israel”, and “For the sake of Israel”. The play revolved around a group of Olim Chadashim arriving from all over the world and exploring Israel together, seeing both the sites in the country and learning history or values at each stop.

They had scenes showing The Galil, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat, and they learnt about Zionism, cooperation, Chessed, and other values.

While watching the play, I was very impressed by how Israeli and Jewish values seemed to be a natural part of these kids life and schooling.

The only complaint or criticism of the play was that it went very late (especially for those of us who had small kids there).

In contrast, a parent from the Keshet State (non-religious) school in Modi’in just posted a message to the Modi'in list saying how disappointed she was with her son’s Misibat Siyum. She describes their end of year as follows:

I found the end of year show ("misibat sium") to be inappropriate for 12 year olds, with a theme to the dances and songs about romantic love. In one scene, one of the more developed girls wore an adult red dress and make-up, strutted by a ladder of 4 boys dressed as workers, and got whistled at until one of the boys jumped down to dance with her. In another, the kids danced to a song made of ICQ sounds. They mimed chatting with friends in the dance, but they were paired boy-girl; so instead of "friends getting together online", it looked like "online dating".
When I complained to the parents' committee, they said that I was making too much of it, that I was the only one who saw it this way, and that there must be something wrong with me if I saw it as inappropriate.

I'm not religious, and I didn't appreciate the personal remarks on my own style of dress or opinions on my psyche. But I don't think one has to be religious to feel that there is more to life at 12 or 13 than dating.

I wasn’t at the Keshet Misibat Siyum, and have no idea how accurate the above description is, but to me it seems that segments of our society are moving further and further away from any meaningful values at all -

I understand if a school is not religious and doesn’t want to emphasize Torah and Mitzvot in their value system, but are there no Jewish or Zionist values that these kids could be taught other than dating?

Is this lack of values really the fulfilment of the Zionist dream of the country’s founders?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

And the award for the world's worst actor goes to.... (Pollywood at it's Worst)

Sometimes I wonder about the gullibility of the radical media. Are they really oblivious to reality or are they trying to pull a fast one on us and assume that we readers wont ask too many questions.
Take a look at the video below posted on the Radical Left Huffington Post,

The columnist, Max Blumenthal describes the video as follows:

When the demonstrators mobilize non-violently to stop the wall's construction -- to demand that the rule of law be honored -- the Israeli army has responded with massive force, killing, maiming, and brutalizing them on a consistent basis.
Video of the Israeli army's shootings of Palestinians demonstrators are easily accessible through YouTube. ... [V]ideo of Yusuf Aqel Srur's body being rushed into a Red Crescent ambulance after an Israeli sniper killed him with a .22 round to the chest ... can be watched here at 2:50.

I'm not sure how long Blumenthal spent in You Tube looking for "Video's of Israeli Soldiers shooting demonstrator" but if this is the best that he could find, this is a pretty good defence of the Israeli Army's methods.

I'm not sure how Blumenthal defines "non-violent" demonstrations, but the beginning of the video Palestinians are clearly shown firing rocks at soldiers using sling shots. Far from "non violent", this is a potential lethal attack.
The Israel army responds by firing tear gas canisters which is a common method of breaking up violent demonstrations all over the world.

Not sure why Blumenthal assumes there was an Israeli sniper or a ".22"; never heard of a sniper firing tear gas cannisters .

There is no footage of anyone being hit, however there is "[V]ideo of Yusuf Aqel Srur's body being rushed into a Red Crescent ambulance".
The scene of the guy being rushed into the ambulance looks like a poorly rehearsed high-school production, they are roughly handling the "patient", no attempts to stop the bleeding, the "patient" doesn't look like he's in pain.
The guys with the Red Crescent vests look more like actors than paramedics, how come there are suddenly so many paramedics on hand, yet none of them seem to have any first aid training?
If I was the teacher in a drama class with such pathetic actors, I would resign at the despair. The fact that Blumenthal describes this as a real life event shows that he either is blind, hopelessly naive, or is just hoping that his readers will have enough anti-Israel bias to take his word for it without thinking.

So - is Blumenthal gullible, stupid, or just plain evil?