Monday, November 10, 2014

Death of Innocence

The third Intifada has claimed another victim, a few minutes ago, the 20 year old soldier who was attacked in Tel Aviv earlier today succumbed to his injuries and returned his soul to his Maker, ה' יקום דמו

This young soldier was the son of one of my daughter's teachers.

When Yael went to bed a few hours ago, she asked whether her teacher Michal would be in school tomorrow, whether her son would be OK, how he was so badly hurt, and why did someone want to hurt him. She also said that she is afraid - maybe it could happen to her.

As a father, she thinks that I am supposed to have answers, that I should know why a young soldier was murdered today for being Jewish, or why a young woman from Tekoa was murdered, or families waiting at a train station, or passengers on a train or a bus, or teenagers on their way home from school are being murdered - all for the same crime - of being Jewish.

Instead of answers, I only have questions - how could we allow terrorists to walk freely in our county? How is it that our police and security forces can't restore security to the streets of Israel? Why is it that after all these years Eisav (and Yishma'el) still hates Ya'akov.

Now I need to decide how to break this news to my daughter, whether to take her to her teacher's Shiva, whether to tell her about the dozens of other attacks that are occurring on a daily basis. How do you explain that to a 11 year old girl?

May Hashem grant the courage and wisdom to our leaders and armed forces to find the way to stop this Intifada before it continues to grow, and to bring peace and quiet to this tiny beautiful land of ours.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Reflections on Bicycles, Yom Kippur, and Religious Coercion

One of the uniquely Israeli aspects of Yom Kippur is the association of bicycles with Yom Kippur.
While in other parts of the world, Jews associate Yom Kippur with prayer, fasting, long prayer services, and maybe repentance and atonement, in Israel many Israelis associate the day with bicycles.
(If you don't know what I'm talking about, go to YouTube and search for "bicycles Yom kippur").
There are several religious practices observed by almost all Jewish Israelis, for example, I would estimate that over 90% of Jewish Israelis do the following:
  • Place a Mezuza on their front door
  • Give their sons a Brit Mila
  • Attend some type of Passover Seder
  • Refrain from driving on Yom Kippur
There are probably rituals with almost universal observance in Israel, but the above sprung to mind. If you can think of others, please leave a comment.
Interesting that if you made a similar list of ritual practiced by Jews outside Israel, the first 3 items would probably be in the list, but not the last
One of the interesting things about these observances is that none of them are required by law - there is no law in Israel that you must place a mezuza on your door, or circumcise you son, or not drive on Yom Kippur - yet almost all Israelis do this for cultural, historic, or religious reasons.
In spite of regular complaints about "religious coercion", there is very little ritual that is mandated by law in Israel, the only examples I could think of are:
  • No public transport on Shabbat
  • Forbidden to display Chametz for sale during Pessach
  • All Jewish weddings must be conducted through the Rabbanut
(Again, if you can think of areas where religious observance is mandated by law, leave a comment).
What is interesting is that the legally-mandated ritual is less widely observed than the first list above. There are more Jewish Israelis that get married outside the Rabbanut than there are who drive on Yom Kippur.
To me, this is evidence that you cannot legislate religion. Israel is a Jewish country, and all Jewish Israelis will observe mitzvot that are meaningful or culturally significant to them; but you cannot force people to keep mitzvot. In fact, I would imagine that if the Knesset passed a law making it illegal to drive on Yom Kippur, the following year a number of people would make a point of driving, just to show that knesset has no business telling them how to be Jewish - and they would be right, miztva observance is between you and your Maker, not between you and your legislator.

G'mar Chatima Tova and Chag Sameach to all my readers

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

י-ה רבון עלם - G-d, Master of the World...

Suggestion for this Shabbat (I know it's only Wednesday)...

As our soldiers have returned to Gaza, where they will spend Shabbat in the most miserable of conditions, in honour of one of Gaza's most famous residents, maybe people should include "Kah Ribon" in their Friday Night Zmirot, even people (like my family), that don't always sing Zmirot on Shabbat.

Kah Ribon was written by Rabbi Israel b. Moses Najara, who lived in Gaza city in the 16th Century. At that time, Gaza hosted a vibrant Jewish Community, and Rabbi Najara wrote poetry there, and was buried there after his death in 1625. I don't know whether anything remains of the Jewish Cemetery of Gaza, but until recently there were remains of the ancient synagogues of Gaza (I don't know what remains since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip 9 years ago).

The first letter of the 5 verses in Kah Ribon spell the word ישראל - ISRAEL, which was Rabbi Najara's given name, but is also the name of our nation and our land.

The song is in Aramaic, a language they say is so holy, that even the angels don't understand it - a language which we use to communicate directly with the Master of all Worlds.

As the song says:

אֱלָ-הָא דִי לֵיהּ,     יְקַר וּרְבוּתָא
פְּרוֹק יַת עָנָךְ,    מִפּוּם אַרְיְוָתָא
וְאַפֵּיק יַת עַמֵּךְ,     מִגּוֹ גָּלוּתָא
עַמֵּךְ דִי בְחַרְתְּ,     מִכָּל אֻמַּיָּא

O God to whom belongs glory and power,
Save your sheep from the mouth of lions,
Take your people from the nation of their exile,
The people that you chose from all the nations.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Failing to Condemn Evil

Earlier today a New Zealand organization that represents Jews, Christians, and Muslim leaders came out with the following media release calling for peace:

NZ Jews, Christians, and Muslims United in Call for Peace
Wellington, 23 July 2014

Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders in Wellington issued a joint statement today regarding the current conflict in Gaza and Israel:

“We call upon all of the parties involved in the current conflict in Gaza and Israel to cease hostilities, and sit down at the negotiating table and do the hard work necessary to obtain a just and lasting peace. We urge all New Zealand Jews, Christians, and Muslims to pray for peace.”

Dave Moskovitz, Jewish Co-Chair, Wellington Council of Christians and Jews
Jenny Chalmers, Christian Co-Chair, Wellington Council of Christians and Jews
Sultan Eusoff, CEO, Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand 
On the surface, this media release sounds like a wonderful thing, what could be better than Jews, Christians, and Muslims calling for peace.

The first problem is that it is totally meaningless. It does not suggest any realistic solutions to the problem, Hamas have made it clear that they have no desire to sit and negotiate over a "just and lasting peace", and even if they did - there would be no reason for Israel to trust or believe them as Hamas has stated repeatedly that they intend to keep fighting until every Jew is Dead.

But besides being a meaningless statement, there is a bigger problem, a council of religious representatives organizations, who should be moral examples for their adherents, seem unable or unwilling to recognize evil when it is staring them in the face.

Hamas is an evil organization. It is founded on hatred, preaches hatred, rejoices when children are killed, and does everything in its power to kill as many people as possible. And proudly states that. This is pure evil.
To make this evil even worse, they do it in their name of their religion.
You don't hav eto take my word for the fact that Hamas is evil. It is clearly visible in statements and videos released by Hamas and their supporters, and is stated explicitly in the Hamas charter.

When religious leaders, such as the council of Christians, Muslims, and Jews are confronted with evil in the name of religion, they should be the first ones to stand up and say that this evil is a perversion of their religious teachings and they totally condemn it.

When Jews do horrible things, such as the savages that murdered an Arab teenager 2 weeks ago, the entire Jewish world, right wing, left wing, religious, and secular expressed revulsion. They made it clear that these individuals in no way represented Judaism, or Jewish teaching, and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The Israeli authorities quickly apprehended them, and they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Now we have an organization that is firing rockets from schools, hospitals, and heavily populated civilian buildings. The stated purpose of these rocket attacks is to kill as many people as possible, and the celebrate when anyone is killed. And they claim that this is what their religion teaches.

I would have expected the Muslim representatives in the council of Christians, Muslims, and Jews to be the first to stand up and say - this is not Islam! Islam is a religion of Peace that totally rejects killing innocent people.

If they are unable to stand up and say that, if they are unable to tell the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, then general statements about how we should all pray for peace are not only meaningless, they show a moral vacuum.

And before anyone starts leaving comments about how the Israelis have killed civilians, gunned down children playing, kill children for pleasure then use their blood for Matza, crucified Jesus, and are plotting to take over the world, and are responsible for Global warming, please show me an example of when Israel deliberately killed innocent civilians, or rejoiced at the death of civilians. If you can find me such an example, from and Israeli source, I will be the first to condemn it, as should all Jews, including the Jewish representatives on the interfaith body.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Daddy Come Home

This is not a new video, however it seems to be relevant far too often, including right now.

I have several neighbors who have been called up in the past few days, and left their kids and wife to hope and pray that their Daddy will come home soon...

May the Holy One guard and protect all our soldiers and bring them home safely to their families, once they have successfully freed Israel and the Palestinians of the thugs who currently control Gaza.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Don't uproot what has been planted

As our soldiers are heading back into the Gaza Strip, now is a good time to remember the Jewish Communities of Gush Katif and the Northern Gaza Strip.

In 2005, when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, we left behind the infrastructure of 21 beautiful communities.
Although the people were evicted from their homes, and their houses were bulldozed, the roads and some infrastructure was left intact, including the wonderful horticulture business which produced vegetables and flowers which were exported all over Europe.

We handed over a man-made Paradise to the people of Gaza. What did they do with these beautiful communities? Using the Satellite View in Google Maps, you can see what is left of these communities - take a look at the links below to see the desolate wasteland dotted with roads and empty greenhouses in what was once some of the most beautiful communities in Israel.

Bnei Atzmon 
Gan Or
Ganei Tal
Kerem Atzmona
Kfar Darom 
Kfar Yam
Netzer Hazani 
Neve Dekalim 
Pe'at Sadeh
Rafiah Yam
Shirat HaYam
Tel Katifa
Elei Sinai 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Baruch Dayan Haemet

ברוך דיין האמת

More soldiers died today defending our land.

When the land offensive started, we knew that there was a high chance that some of our precious sons (and daughters) would not come home, but at least they know that they died in a just cause - if there ever was a just, ethical war - this is it.

May G-d grant our army strength to continue in their mission and guard and protect them from all further harm. And may He grant the wisdom and courage in our leaders to continue to do what's right, and to finish this operation so that the citizens of Israel are no longer under threat of a murderous terrorist regime.

We should keep our thoughts and prayers with our soldiers.

There is a new web site that tells you how many days, hours and minutes Israel has been "Rocket Free"

As of this writing, Israel has been "Rocket Free" for just over half an hour. I hope that by the end of this operation, we will measure the time that Israel has been rocket free in years, not minutes.

There were many times in History when Jewish Blood ran freely, and no one lifted a finger to help us - that period of history is over.

Friday, July 18, 2014

How do you say "Chutzpa" in British?

This has got to be one of the most disgusting videos I have ever seen (waning, may cause nausea or vomiting)

For people unaware, Britain has been involved in the wars in Afghanistan (about 20,000 Civilian deaths) and Iraq (only about 5000 civilian deaths) yet neither Afghanistan nor Iraq has fired a single rocket at London, not even a tiny Gad B at Leeds. The citizens of Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, and all other British towns and cities have not experienced a single rocket (well not since WWII), they don't have air raid sirens, bomb shelters, or traumatized children anywhere in the UK - yet Britain has been involved in many military campaigns throughout the world.

The British army has never called the enemy to say exactly where they will bomb, doesn't drop warning leaflets or put its soldiers at risk to protect enemy civilians.

Yet members of the British Parliament have the Chutzpa to stand up and lecture Israel about international Law and Human Rights.
Is it only a breach of International Law if Israel is involved? Why have these parliamentarians singles out the Jewish State for criticism? Do they think that Jews have less right to defend themselves than other people?

Well guess what - Jews have thousands of years experience being the target of hostile enemies who say openly that they want us dead. For 2000 years we have sat quietly while we were massacred across Europe, including several times in England. We got tired of being the world's punching bag. If someone attacks us, they can now expect us to stand up an defend ourselves. And if that is offensive to members of Her Majesty's Government, well personally - I couldn't care less.

And by the way - one of the honorable MPs described Gaza as the "World's Biggest Prison" I just checked a map - the British Isles seem like a much bigger Prison (By "prison" I assume you mean "Independent territory surrounded by sea or a border") , the Government in Westminster may not be as ruthless as the Hamas Government is Gaza, and although they both seem to lack moral clarity, Hamas are still much worse - however I am prepared to bet that the food is better in the Gazan prison, and they get free health care from Israel which is surely better than the British health system, so I guess all is not lost.

(BTW - while writing this post, the radio announced a least 10 "Code Red" alerts, I'll post a video of the British parliament condemning that as soon as it is available -but don't hold your breath)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What Should Israel's End Game be?

The news this morning is abuzz with talk of a cease fire which was supposed to have taken place 3 hours ago (and counting). Israel accepted the 12 hour cease fire; Hamas, true to their word, didn't - and have continued to fire rockets at Israeli towns.

Now that Israel has given Hamas an opportunity to finish the current round of fighting, assuming that they don't stop firing, Israel should make it very clear what it plans to do after the 12 hours are up, and that is to undo the damage caused to Israel's security situation by the Withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

I'm not sure whether long term Israel should have stayed in Gaza or not (Gush Katif had some of the most beautiful towns and beaches that I've seen anywhere in this country), but I am sure that the time and manner in which we withdrew from Gaza in 2005 sent a loud and clear message to the Palestinians that violence and terrorism works, and if they increase terrorism and rockets, not to mention kidnappings, there will only be further concessions from Israel.

To undo the damage from the Gaza Withdrawal, Israel must announce that at the end of the 12 hour cease fire, Israel will reconquer the Gaza Strip and reinstate a full occupation of the territory.
Israel should state that it has no intention to permanently occupy the Gaza Strip, and will not rebuild civilian institutions, however the army will retain full control of the territory until we have complete quiet for a period of 2 years.

Hamas can choose when Israel ends the occupation; it will be 2 years after the last rocket is fired into Israel. At the end of the 2 years of quiet, Israel will start a gradual withdrawal, the timing of which will depend on whether there is an agreement with the Palestinian leadership (which would mean a quick, smooth withdrawal), or the withdrawal is unilateral, which would mean that it would be in stages, and after each stage to wait a period to confirm that quiet is maintained before continuing to the next phase.

This would give Hamas complete control over when and how Israel withdraws from Gaza, and an incentive to stop rocket fire.

While the IDF are in Gaza, they should make sure every effort to prevent attacks against both our civilians and soldiers. This would include a full presence along the Philadelphi corridor to stop arms smuggling from Egypt, complete control over land and sea ports to inspect all imports, and dividing the Gaza strip into three separate areas. Each area should be governed by separate rules based on how quiet it is - for example, if there are a lot of attacks coming out of the North of Gaza Strip, there may need to be curfews or limit of travel within that area. If the Southern Gaza strip is quieter, we should encourage and assist them in rebuilding infrastructure in that area.

During the hopefully short term re-occupation of the Gaza Strip, Israel should see what it can do to improve the quality of life and economy of Gaza. For example, Israel could build a military hospital, which could also serve civilian needs for the local population, maybe even including a medical school to train new Gazan doctors, so Palestinians do not need to travel to Israel for medical care.
If the Southern Gaza Strip is quiet, maybe bring in some of the experts who designed the greenhouses in Gush Katif to reestablish them under Gazan ownership so that the Gazans can grow flowers and vegetables which could be exported to Israel instead of rockets.

Would the idea work - no idea, but unless Israel articulates a detailed plan how to stop Hamas from attacking our civilians, even after the current round of fighting is finished, we will still have regular attacks against towns in the south and a repeat of this war in another 12-24 months, like a bad movie being played over and over again.

Lets find a way to stop this movie and bring quiet to the citizens of Sderot as well has Khan Yunis

Monday, July 7, 2014

I fully agree with and endorse the open letter of condemnation posted on the Elder of Zion blog.

We unequivocally condemn the horrific murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. It was unjustifiable under any circumstances. The killing was reprehensible and we hope that the criminals who did this sickening act are found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Israel is a country run by the rule of law. There are reports that Jews have been arrested for this crime. If a trial finds that Jews are indeed guilty of this unconscionable killing, our condemnation is redoubled. The idea that Jews could do such an act fills us with shame and horror.

The people who murdered Mohammed do not represent us in any way. It is not enough to dissociate ourselves from the dreadful act; we must also ensure that crimes like this are never repeated.

Just as the appalling murders of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar do not in any way justify the hideous murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, neither does Khdeir's murder justify the violence, terrorism, destruction and incitement we have seen over the past few days against Israelis and Jews.

We hope and pray that everyone, Arab and Jew, lives in peace and security in the region.


Between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Compare and Contrast

The media has been filled in recent days by the response to the horrific murders of "our Boys" (Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal הי"ד) and the subsequent equally horrific murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir.  The response to these two acts of barbarianism is a good opportunity to compare values in Jewish and Arab society.

So with flashbacks to 6th form English, here is my essay on "Compare and Contrast the response to murders in the Holy land"

Murder of Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali

What Happened: Three teenagers were kidnapped and murdered on their way home from school.

The Perpetrators: Members of Hamas.

Why were they killed: Because they were Jewish.

Response of the Palestinian Leadership:  Palestinian Authority issued a belated condemnation, Hamas denied responsibility but said that they supported the action.

Response of the Palestinian People: Wide spread celebration including handing out candies in the street and the infamous 3-fingered salute. Large number of rockets fired at civilian targets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Anti-Semitic cartoons in the PA-controlled Palestinian press.

Response of World Leaders: Mild commendation and calls on Israel for restraint.

Response of the Israeli Leadership: Condemnation of the act, and swift action to try to locate the kidnapped teenagers, which included a curfew on the areas where the perpetrators were believed to be hiding and the arrest of several hundred members of Hamas.

Response of the Israeli People: When the boys were reported missing: massive prayer rallies and calls to increase good deeds; When the boys were found dead: tears and massive attendance at the funerals. There were limited calls for revenge which were widely condemned by religious and political leaders. There were also demonstrations in favour of unity and peace with the Palestinian People.

Murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir

What Happened: A teenager was murdered on his way to morning prayers at a local mosque.

The Perpetrators: Unknown at this stage; one theory is that it is a revenge killing, other possibilities are that it was a family "honour-killing".

Why was he killed: Unknown at this stage

Response of the Palestinian Leadership: Immediate condemnation.

Response of the Palestinian People: Massive violent rioting across the country, including massive damage of property throughout Jerusalem, including attacks against people in Northern and Southern Jerusalem, the torching of a UN vehicle near Armon HaNatziv. Riots in the Galilee, and a large number of rockets fired at civilian targets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Anti-Semitic editorials in the PA-controlled Palestinian press, including Blood Libel (claims that the boy was murdered for use in Jewish religious ritual).

Response of World Leaders: Immediate strong commendation.

Response of the Israeli Leadership: Swift action to try to locate the perpetrators and strong condemnation of the murder. Public statements from political leaders across the spectrum condemning violence or calls for revenge.

Response of the Israeli People: Strong condemnation of the murder. and calls to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Public statements from religious leaders (including the Chief Rabbi) condemning violence or calls for revenge.

I'd also like to mention the murder of Omaima Jaradat

What Happened: A 16 year old Arab Girl was murdered by her uncle for "disgracing family honour".

The Perpetrators: The girl's uncle.

Why was she killed: "Disgracing family honour"

Response of the Palestinian Leadership: No public response - Arabs killing a female family member is not newsworthy.

Response of the Palestinian People: No public response - Arabs killing a female family member is not newsworthy.

Response of World Leaders: No public response - Arabs killing a female family member is not newsworthy.

Response of the Israeli Leadership: Police arrested the murderer, No public response.

Response of the Israeli People: Arabs killing a female family member is not newsworthy.

A Facebook friend of mine said that there is no difference between different types of killing, all mothers grieve the same. It may be true that all mothers grieve (although I'm not sure how mothers respond to an "honor-killing" of their children) - however there is a profound difference between how different cultures respond to grief (hint: massive destruction of public property and attacks against civilians is not supported or encouraged by all cultures).

Lets hope that Muhammad Abu Khdeir's murderer  is quickly brought to justice and we have a quieter week in this little country of ours.

Monday, June 30, 2014

16 Years and 16 Days

The past 16 days in our little country were 16 days like no other that I can remember.
For 16 days our entire country was united in prayer - there was no religious or secular, no right-wing or left-wing just a nation united in prayer, in hope, and in worry.

A nation glued to the news, hoping to hear the news that was never to come.

A nation that constantly had the the words בשרות טובות on our lips - a wish for good news that was never to come.
A nation that always had the names and images of the three boys on their lips, always wondering where were our boys, Naftali, Gil-ad, and Elad (הי"ד). A nation that spent a few extra minutes hugging their children before they set out in the morning and when they came home safely at the end of the day.

And then, on the 17th day, while the country was celebrating the end of the school year and start of Summer vacation, our small nation was shattered with the news that we all feared would come, but had tried to put out of our mind - that our three young boys will never come home from school, their plans for the Summer vacation, and for next year and beyond will never come to pass.

My youngest son is Amichai, - עמי-חי - My nation lives. He is 5 years old.
Tonight as I put Amichai to bed he looked at me and asked if it was true that our three boys were now in גן עדן - in the Garden of Eden? He stopped and thought about what he had just said, and then asked with a child's innocence - "does this mean that they will never grow old"?
Before going to sleep, he insisted on saying another chapter of Psalms - I said to him that we no longer need to say Psalms to bring the boys home - "I know" he said, "but can we say Psalms anyway for the boys' mothers, so that they know that we are still thinking of them and they won't be sad". So together Amichai and I recited Psalms 130 - שיר המעלות ממעמקים קראתיך ה - "A song of Ascent - out of the depths have I cried to You HaShem", words that even a child of 5 has said so many times over the past 2 weeks that he knew them by heart.

Master of the Universe - Your children have cried enough, please now is the time to wipe away our tears.....

המקום ינחם אתנו בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים ולא תוסיפו לדאבה עוד

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Three Yellow Ribbons


Tony Orlando calls on fans and supporters of Israel to tie three yellow ribbons in solidarity with our three boys.... I'm setting a flag with three ribbons as my Facebook profile picture.

Please G-d bring our boys home soon...


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Follow up on My App Idea - App For Drivers


As a follow up to my idea yesterday for an App to keep trempistim safe by checking up on them every ten minutes, there could be a parallel database of registered drivers prepared to pick up trempistim.

Drivers would not be able register themselves, they would have to be registered by a recognized authority such as the Katzin Bitachon of a yishuv, a community Rabbi, or local police station.
Once registered, drivers receive an identification code.

When a driver stops to pick up a trempist, the trempist would ask the driver for his code, the App then sends the trempist a photo of the registered driver, and confirms that the driver's phone is adjacent to the trempist's phone and it is safe to travel together. The App would then no longer need to send a check-up message every ten minutes.
An added benefit would be that the trempist would have details of the person who gave him a ride, for example if he left something in the car it would be easy for the driver and trempist to contact each other.

Another possible option would be to allow drivers to enter their destination when they set out on a journey. The App could notify them of a trempist in the area looking for a ride in the same direction. This would save trempistim needing to hold signs with their destination written and would save drivers stopping at every trempiada to ask if anyone is heading their way.

You could easily gameify it by giving drivers points every time they pick up a trempist.

Another feature of the app could be do store travel data, similar to Ways and provide trempistim useful information for example, the average time waiting for a tremp at a particular tzomet at that time of day, suggested routs if they will need more than one tremp to get home, and even information about the location of a register driver heading to their destination.

This would make tremping quicker and safer for both drivers and trempistim.

So that's my idea - anyone see any potential problems with it or way to improve it?
Anyone have the knowledge or resources to get it developed?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Idea for an App to keep Trempistim Safe


Since Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali went missing on Thursday night, there has been a debate on the safety of Tremping in Israel.

Since I first came to Israel over 25 years ago, one of the things that impressed me about Israeli society was the culture of tremping, the idea that we are all one big family and are all looking out for each other. When I was in Yeshiva in Efrat I regularly traveled by tremp, and now that I have my own car, whenever possible I pick up trempistim.

During the Oslo War when there were many tragic bus bombings, no one suggested that we should stop all buses in Israel, rather people said that we have to find ways to make buses safer. Similarly now, it has been encouraging that people are discussing ways to make tremping safer. Life in Israel is reporting that there is a new Moked for emergencies in Yehuda-Shomron (1208), I also saw a new app today with a panic button in case of emergency.

These solutions are important and all trempistim should be aware of them. The problem is that it is a safe assumption that if someone is abducted, one of the first things the captors would do would be to get rid of the trempist’s cell phone, possibly before they have a chance to place an emergency call.

Here is my idea for an app that would help keep trempistim safe. I am not a developer and have no idea what would be involved in creating such an app, if you have the ability to create the app, feel free to take my idea.

The app would work as follows -

Trempistim would register to use the app and select codes (as described below).

When a tempist sets out on a journey he (or she) logs in and says what Tzomet they are tremping from and where there destination is. When they get home safely, or get dropped off at a different tzomet closer to their destination, they log in with their new current location, or report that they arrived safely and log out.

From the time that the trempist logs onto the system, they receive a message every 10 minutes asking them how they are. Each time they get a message they have one minute to reply with a code that they set up for one of the following responses:

- I'm still waiting at the tzomet for a temp
- I'm safely in a tremp traveling towards my destination
- I am safely at my destination, please log me out

For each of these responses, if they enter a code one digit off, it sends an emergency signal.
If they don't respond within 1 minute the app automatically sends an emergency signal.

This means that an emergency signal would be sent out within 10 minutes of an abduction, even if the phone has been disposed of, but there would be no indication on the phone that a signal was sent

When an emergency signal is sounded, the app automatically contacts any other trempistim who were logged in from the same area, as well as contacting registered volunteers who are within a 5 km area of the trempist.

Volunteers would have to register in advance, but would include not only army vehicles and police, but the private security officers in each Yishuv, Hatzalah, ambulances, and other emergency services as well as volunteer citizens.

Volunteers in the area would initially be instructed to try to locate the phone. It is possible that the distress code was entered by mistake or the phone was accidentally dropped or broken which is why the trempist didn't respond. Volunteers would have an “all Clear” code that they can enter if they can confirm that all is well.

If the phone is found abandoned, or volunteers are unable to locate the phone within a few minutes, an urgent SOS goes out to all volunteers with detailed information - location, and personal details of the trempist including a photo. This would allow security personal to erect checkpoints within 20 minutes of a suspected abduction and put other volunteers on the lookout for suspicious behaviour.

This would hopefully avoid the fiasco that is being reported that there was a communication breakdown and it took several hours between the distress call and the army being made aware of the situation.

If anyone can see any obvious flaws in my idea or way to improve it, feel free to leave a comment. If anyone has the resources to develop such an app, I give full permission to use this idea for non-commercial purposes with the objective of keeping our people safe.

May the IDF with the help Hashem quickly bring back or boys.

Tfilla for our boys


The Rishon L'Tzion, former chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar composed the following prayer for the captured teenagers, may Hashem bring them home safe soon.

Source: Srugim

תפילה להצלתם של הבחורים החטופים
לִקְרֹא מִזְמוֹר שִיר לַמַעֲלוֹת אֶשָֹּא עֵינַי (קכ), וְשִיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת לְדָוִד לוּלֵי ה' שֶהָיָה לָנוּ (קכד):
מזמור ק"ל
שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת, מִמַּעֲמַקִּים קְרָאתִיךָ יְיָ. יְיָ שִׁמְעָה בְקוֹלִי, תִּהְיֶינָה אָזְנֶיךָ קַשֻּׁבוֹת, לְקוֹל תַּחֲנוּנָי. אִם עֲוֹנוֹת תִּשְׁמָר יָהּ, יְיָ מִי יַעֲמֹד. כִּי עִמְּךָ הַסְּלִיחָה, לְמַעַן תִּוָּרֵא. קִוִּיתִי יְיָ קִוְּתָה נַפְשִׁי, וְלִדְבָרוֹ הוֹחָלְתִּי. נַפְשִׁי לַיְיָ, מִשֹּׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר שֹׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר. יַחֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל יְיָ, כִּי עִם יְיָ הַחֶסֶד, וְהַרְבֵּה עִמּוֹ פְדוּת. וְהוּא יִפְדֶּה אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִכֹּל עֲוֹנוֹתָיו.
מזמור קכ"ד
שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת לְדָוִד, לוּלֵי יְיָ שֶׁהָיָה לָנוּ יֹאמַר נָא יִשְׂרָאֵל. לוּלֵי יְיָ שֶׁהָיָה לָנוּ בְּקוּם עָלֵינוּ אָדָם. אֲזַי חַיִּים בְּלָעוּנוּ בַּחֲרוֹת אַפָּם בָּנוּ. אֲזַי הַמַּיִם שְׁטָפוּנוּ נַחְלָה עָבַר עַל נַפְשֵׁנוּ. אֲזַי עָבַר עַל נַפְשֵׁנוּ הַמַּיִם הַזֵּידוֹנִים. בָּרוּךְ יְיָ שֶׁלֹּא נְתָנָנוּ טֶרֶף לְשִׁנֵּיהֶם. נַפְשֵׁנוּ כְּצִפּוֹר נִמְלְטָה מִפַּח יוֹקְשִׁים הַפַּח נִשְׁבָּר וַאֲנַחְנוּ נִמְלָטְנוּ. עֶזְרֵנוּ בְּשֵׁם יְיָ עֹשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְפָנֶיךָ יְיָ אֶ-לֹהֵינוּ וְאֱ-לֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶיַּעֲלוּ לְרָצוֹן מִזְמוֹרֵי תְּהִלִּים אֶלוּ שֶקָרָאנוּ הָיוֹם, כְּאִילוּ אֲמָרָם דָוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ עַבְדְךָ מְשִיחֶךָ ע"ה. וַעֲשֶֹה לְמַעַן שְמוֹתֶיךָ הַקְּדוֹשִים הַכְּתוּבִים בָּהֶם, וְהָרְמוּזִים וּמְצוֹרָפִים בָּהֶם, וּתְקַבֵּל ְּרַחֲמִים וּבְרָצוֹן אֶת תְּפִילָתֵנוּ וּבַקָּשָתֵינוּ, וְתָבֹא לְפָנֶיךָ תְּחִינָתֵנוּ, וְתָחוֹס וְתַחְמוֹל וּתְרַחֵם עַל
יעקב נפתלי בן רחל,
וגיל-עד מיכאל בן בת גלים
ואייל בן איריס תשורה
בכל מקום שהם נמצאים ותשיבם לחיק עמם ומולדתם ומשפחתם, ולא ישמע עוד שוב ושבר בארצנו, ותפר עצת אויבינו ושונאינו תזרם ורוח תשאם, וסערה תפיץ אותם, ולא תעשנה ידיהם תושיה. תפול עליהם אימתה ופחד, בגדול זרועך ידמו כאבן.
וקיים בנו מקרא שכתוב: כל כלי יוצר עליך לא יצלח וכל לשון תקום איתך למשפט תרשיעי זאת נחלת עבדי יי וצדקתם מאתי נאום יי. יי יחתו מריביו עליו בשמים ירעם, יי ידין אפסי ארץ ויתן עוז למלכו, וירם קרן משיחו.
מוֹצִיא אָסִירִים בַּכּוֹשָרוֹת, יַצִּילֵם מִשִּבְיַם, וְיוֹצִיאֵם מֵעַבְדוּת לְחֵירוּת, וּמִשִיעֲבּוּד לִגְאוּלָה, וּמֵאֲפֵילָה לְאוֹרָה, וְיִרְפָּאֵם רְפוּאָה שְלֵמָה, רְפוּאַת הַנֶּפֶש וּרְפוּאַת הַגּוּף, וְיְאַמְצֵם וְיְאַזְרֵם בְּשִמְחָה וּבְגִילָה, אַז יִתְחַזְּקוּ וְיִתְרַפְּאוּ וְהַיְתָה לָהֶם שִֹמְחַת עוֹלָם.
וּזְכוּת תְּפִלַּת רַבִּים וְצַעֲקָתַם וְנַאֲקָתַם, הַמַּעֲתִירִים בַּעֲדָם בְּכֹל אֲתָר וְאֲתָר, תַּעֲמוֹד לָהֶם לְמָגֵן וְצִינָה, וְיִקְרַע רוֹעַ גְּזַר דִּינָם, וְיִקַּרְאוּ לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרָךְ זְכוּיוֹתֵיהֶם וְכֹל אֲשֶר פָּעֲלוּ וְעָשֹוּ לְמַעַן עַמֵּנוּ וְנַחֲלָתֵנוּ. וְיִקְרַע גְּזַר דִּינָם בִּזְכוּת הַשֵּם הַקָּדוֹש הָרָמוּז בְּרָאשֵי תֵּיבוֹת קַבֵּל רִנַּת עָמֶךָ שַֹגְבֵנוּ טַהֲרֵנוּ נוֹרָא.

וִיְקַיֵּים בָּהֶם מִקְרָא שֶכָּתוּב: וּפְדוּיֵי יְיָ יְשוּבוּן וּבָאוּ צִיּוֹן בְּרִנָּה, וְשִֹמְחַת עוֹלָם עַל רֹאשָם, שָֹשוֹן וְשִֹמְחָה יַשִֹּיגוּ וְנָסוּ יָגוֹן וַאֲנָחָה. בִּמְהֵרָה בְּיָמֵינוּ. אָמֵן.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Peace Plan that Makes Sense?

5 Years ago I outlined my own vision of a Peace Plan between Israelis and Palestinians. Basically I suggested that any government negotiations centered around borders is doomed to fail as with any type of negotiation the sides are encouraged to take as hard-line position as possible.
I suggested that for the time being we should ignore the government-level negotiations, and instead concentrate on increasing personal connections between Israelis and Palestinians. If Israelis and Palestinians work together in fields like business, health care, and education, the details of if there is a border and where it is becomes less important - what becomes important is that Israelis and Palestinians have free access to each other's facilities and can interact without government interference.

Surprisingly, after I outlined my idea in a blog post in 2009, the Government didn't call me to help them rethink their relationship with the Palestinian Authority. Part of the reason that my plan is not realistic is that it forces people on both sides to abandon the arguments about who is right and who is wrong or arguing about perceived historical injustices, and instead think about how we can make the situation better for everyone.

Well, today I was pleased to see that I am not the only one who thinks that the way forward is by focusing on the personal level, not the government level. Dani Dayan just outlined a detailed Peace Proposal which has many elements of my dream, although he goes into much more detail (Summary of his plan here, more detailed version here). Similar to my plan he talks about Business, education, and health care, but he also addresses some other major issues like freedom of travel and replacing the army with a civil administration. He also talks about the role of the Palestinian Authority and important issues like access to Jewish Holy Sights, particularly Chevron, and of course a solution to the refugee problem.

There is very little in the plan that I can see anyone objecting to - but as I said before, extremists on both sides do not want a solution for Jews and Arabs to live together in peace, they want the other side to be publicly punished for perceived historical injustices.

It'll be very interesting to see if this peace proposal gains any traction, although I fear that that is wishful thinking.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Which is holier - Shabbat or Lag B'Omer?

Rafi over at Life in Israel recently had a post about the directions of the Rabbanut to postpone Lag B'Omer celebrations to Sunday afternoon, This is actually a suggestion he made all the way back in 2007 (Good call Rafi).

Last year the Rabbanut made the same suggestion, but as far as I could tell it was largely ignored, possibly partially because the decision was announced too late and people had already made plans. This year it seems that more people are making Medorot on Sunday afternoon / night, at least in Modi'in - all my kids had bonfires on Sunday, not Motzei Shabbat.

Not surprisingly, segments in the Haredi community have rejected this suggestion - claiming that they will not be Mechalel Shabbat, and if other people have to be Mechalel Shabbat to provide security and safety requirements in Meron, that is not their problem.

Rabbi Slifkin at Rationalist Judaism has an excellent post where he discusses this problem.

An anonymous commentator on Life in Israel ridiculed the whole idea - asking how Medorot on Motzei Shabbat would prevent people from keeping Shabbat who otherwise would have:
I'm curios who the Shabbos desecration is coming from? Religious people who know not to drive on Shabbos? Irreligious peeople who would otherwise keep the Shabbos the day before Lag B'Omer? Are there any studies that show that people who used to be Shabbos observers decide to abandon their beliefs to attend a bonfire?

Well - today Radio Kol Chai is reporting that a religious firefighter has been ordered by his superiors to travel to Meron on Shabbat - you can read the story here:

I have no idea how the issue will be resolved for this firefighter - will he get a heter to travel on Shabbat? Will he spend Shabbat in Meron away from his family? Will he simply defy the order, and if so will this cost him his job?

None of these options sound good - and whatever action this firefighter takes, I'm sure that there are many other firefighters who are religious or traditional and do not normally travel on  Shabbat, but will be pressured to this year.

So the short answer is that there are large forces within the religious community that believe that the relatively new minhag of bonfires on Lag B'Omer is more important than Shabbat. Curious to know if these people who aren't  bothered by other people being Mechalel Shabbat on their behalf are equally happy for businesses, buses, or car parks to operate on Shabbat - or do they only think that Jews should break Shabbat if it is for the benefit of the religious community.

By the way my brother has 2 interesting blog posts about the histor (or lack of history) of Lag B'Omer here and here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

"Undesirables" in Modi'in

Rabbi Eli Fisher posted a link on Facebook to a letter from Modi'in City Representative Avi Elbaz of "Ir Chofshit" complaining about "outsiders" using our Modi'in's parks during Pessach.

Apparently these "undesirables" (mainly from Kiryat Sefer) allowed their children to sit on the same grass and play on the same equipment and spend their money in the same concession stands as the innocent children of Modi'in.

How can we raise tolerant, liberal, enlightened, open-minded children if they are exposed to these backward "undesirables" who not only dress differently, but have different values and spend their vacation in parks built with public money instead of leaving the TV to entertain and raise their children.

I only hope that we take action to make sure that these backward people are kept out of the public sphere where they may influence our open minded children. Close the parks to them! Give them separate play equipment and water fountains! And make sure that they are denied access to public institutions like the army.
Oh wait ...

In other news, Jews all over the world are still practicing mourning customs during this time of year to remember Rabbi Akiva's students who did not respect each other.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Yom HaShoah - "What if there had been an Israel?"

One of the false claims you sometimes here is that the State of Israel was created in response to the Holocaust, the Daily Beast has an interesting column on that topic.

In fact the opposite is true, the Holocaust only happened because the State of Israel hadn't been created earlier in the Century.

With that in mind, I thought the following article from the Pittsburgh Press in 1919 very interesting. It talks about a Jewish state for 20,000,000 Jews, the approximate Jewish population before Hitler destroyed a third of our people. And talks about the proposed future borders of the state, borders that make today's "Greater Israel" proponents look like minimalists.
Also interesting that the it assumes that the Jewish state would be referred to as "Palestine", at that time the only people who identified themselves as "Palestinian" were the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael. The Arab Palestinian National Movement had not yet been invented.

Certainly a lot of food for thought in the article...

Room for 20,000,000 Jews in New Jewish State Formed in Palestine

International News Service Stall Correspondent.

London. Dec. 20.-There is room for 20.000.000 inhabitants in the new Jewish state being created in Palestine, according to Max Nordeau, famous French aviator, who is keenly interested in arousing interest of Jews in this project throughout the world.
  This is the hour before the dawn for the Jews, thanks to the English-speaking nations, declared Dr, Nordeau today. "For 1,000 years the Jews have looked for the coming or the Messiah and I feel that his coming is about near. I hope it will not prove a false Messiah.
  "The Jews are just beginning to realize what this Zionist movement really is. Zionism for the Jews is
their real salvation. The Jews of the world have assimilated the habits and customs of all nations. but they realise that Palestine is their real home. The masses of Jews hail this movement, and it there should be any deception it would be tragic. Those not wanting to go to Palestine may easily remain where they are and God bless them.
  “It is expected that a method will be devised of giving citizenship in the new state of Palestine to Jews who
do not wish to go there right away. A system of taxation has been proposed, also, by which Jews would
contribute to the support of the Palestine government whether they live there or not, it they secure citizenship papers.
  "There is going to be competition for space in Palestine. The boundaries of the new state probably will
be defined after the lines of the Bible. We do not anticipate a return of the whole Jewish people from the
outside world, but it is already known that the territory which the new state will possess between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates river, will hold 20,000,000 souls. The Bolsheviks and the Jews have severed their bonds and now hold nothing in common

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bread on the Seder Plate?

Life in Israel has a link to an interesting interview with MK Ruth Calderon or Yesh Atid.

Ms Calderon is an interesting person with a strong connection to Judaism and Jewish sources. She made a name for herself in her maiden address to the Knesset when she gave a Talmud Class which showed her familiarity and respect for Jewish scholarship.

In the video, the guests on the talk show are discussing how they conduct a seder. Not surprisingly, Ms Calderon said that she has several haggadot that she uses during the seder and analyzes the text, however she also said that she has an Orange and often a piece of bread on the seder plate.

An orange on the Seder plate has long been a symbol of Jewish Feminism. She expended it to refer to support for single-sex families. I'm not sure why people think that the seder is the correct opportunity to promote the political cause of the week; there are "green Haggadot", "feminist Haggadot", "Pro-Plaestinian Haggadot", "Jews-for-Jesus Haggadot". You name the political or social cause, there is a haggada to make that the emphasis of the seder.
Many of these are important causes, but I never understood why we have to take a 3000 year old ceremony filled with meaning, and make it a ceremony about a different cause. If you want to make a ceremony to protest global warming - fine, an excellent idea - but if the only way you can do it is by hitching a ride on one the most powerful ceremonies held in Jewish households all over the world, you are cheapening both ceremonies.
The seder is filled with powerful themes such as liberty, nationhood, connection to family and Jewish tradition and Jewish history, and connection to the G-d who took us out of Egypt. If these themes don't speak to you, making the ceremony about a different unrelated social cause is insulting to both the seder, and to the social cause.

What was more worrying about Ms Calderon's seder is she said that she said that she includes bread on the Seder Plate to remind the participants of all those who are hungry and don't have food. What is upsetting about this, besides the obvious halachic problems, is that one of the themes of the Seder and Matza itself is "Bread of Affliction" - all those who are hungry are invited to join the Seder. One of the important preparations of Pessach is "Kimcha D'Pesscha" - providing food for the needy to make sure that no one is hungry on Seder night.
Instead of emphasizing these points that are already explicitly in the Haggada and Jewish practice, Ms Calderon decided to invent a new practice that is deliberately against traditional Jewish practice. There is a lack of humility in the statement that even though we have a tradition that has been handed down for 3000 years, and was filled with meaning to Jewish families throughout history and in all corners of our exile, yet she can rewrite it to make it better, not by adding a commentary or discussion to thy existing scholarship, but by openly defying the tradition. I would have expected more respect from for someone with so much knowledge and understanding of Jewish tradition and scholarship.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Happy Tu B'Shvat - The darkness before the Dawn

Years ago I heard a thought based on Rav Kook that Galut can be compared to Winter. The darkness of winter finishes in the Spring - Nissan, the month of redemption.
However, a month before Pessach, as the flowers start to blossom we celebrate Purim. The redemption of Purim is related to Pessach, immediately after Purim we not only start cleaning and learning hilchot Pessach, but the partial redemption of Purim helps us prepare for the complete redemption that is just around the corner.

A month before Purim (or in a leap year 2 months before Purim), at the darkest point of the Winter if people are sensitive to their surroundings they will notice that the nights start getting shorter, each day has more light than the day before, and the Almond tree suddenly bursts in to bloom - as if to say that even though you can't see it, the end of the long Winter that we have suffered through is just around the corner.

Tu Bshvat is a time to look ahead, to look at the Almond tree and realize that the best is still to come.

The Ben Ish Chai, composed a Prayer to be said on Tu Bshvat for a beautiful Etrog. As if to say that we should not only look forward to the redemption 3 months from now, but we can look forward to Succot - when our eterog should be complete without any blemish, there should be no external thorns to hurt us, and and we can all sit in Peace in the Succat Shalom that we have been promised.

Happy Tu B'shvat to all.

תפילה על האתרוג

תפילה על אתרוג נאה שתיקן רבינו יוסף חיים מבגדד – ה"בן איש חי" זיע"א

יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו שתברך כל אילנות האתרוג, להוציא פירותיהם בעתם ויוציאו אתרוגים טובים יפים ומהודרים ונקיים מכל מום ולא יעלה בהם חזזית ויהיו שלמים ולא יהיה בהם שום חסרון ואפילו עקיצת הקוץ ויהיו מצויים לנו ולכל ישראל אחינו בכל מקום שהם, לקיים בה מצות נטילה עם הלולב בחג הסוכות שיבוא עלינו לחיים טובים ולשלום כאשר צויתנו בתורתך ע"י משה עבדך ולקחתם לכם  ביום הראשון פרי עץ הדר וכפות תמרים וענף עץ עבות וערבי נחל.

ויהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו שתעזרנו ותסייענו לקיים מצוה זו של נטילת לולב והדס וערבה ואתרוג כתיקונה בזמנה בחג הסוכות שיבא עלינו לחיים טובים ולשלום בשמחה ובטוב לב ותזמין לנו אתרוג יפה ומהודר ושלם וכשר כהלכתו.

ויהי רצון מלפני ה' אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו שתברך כל מיני האילנות ויוציאו פירותיהם בריבוי שמנים וטובים ותברך כל הגפנים שיוציא ענבים הרבה שמנים טובים כדי שיהיה היין היוצא מהם מצוי לרוב לכל עמך ישראל לקיים בו מצות קידוש ומצות הבדלה בשבתות וימים טובים ויתקיים בנו ובכל ישראל אחינו מקרא שכתב "לך אכול בשמחה לחמך ושתה בלב טוב יינך כי כבר רצה אלוקים את מעשיך" באתי לגני אחותי כלה אריתי מורי עם בשמי, אכלתי יערי עם דבשי שתיתי ייני עם חלבי אכלו רעים שתו ושכרו דודים יהיו לרצון אמרי פי והגיון לבי לפניך ה' צורי וגואלי.