Saturday, December 31, 2005

Chanuka, Women, and a Book Review

Mirty commented last week about different aspects of Chanuka, and her mixed feelings about the religious war theme of Religious Jews fighting against the Hellenized Jews. Here's a different point that I had forgotten about -- it probably came from learning sanitized Chanuka history in yeshiva.

While studying the halachot of Chanuka with my daughter last week, we learned that women are also required to light Chanuka candles. I remembered the story of Yehudit, but totally forgot about the "other" part.

I'm not sure why it slipped my mind, but I looked it up in the Gemara to make sure....and Rashi says it very clearly.

The Gemara (Shabbat; 23A) states; Rav Yehoshua ben Levy says: Women are required [in the lighting] of Chanuka lights, for even they were part of the miracle [of being saved]
Rashi reminds us of the Greek edict, which can be summarized as the following:

According to ancient Jewish sources, during the period of Syrian rule, Syrian officers in Israel had the authority to rape all Jewish brides. The bride would be allowed to marry her husband only after submitting to the Syrian officer.
Or, as stated very clearly on an MSNBC article (Happy 4rth night of Armed Jews Week) from last year (and blogged about again this year):

During the years of Syrian tyranny, Syrian officers enjoyed the "droit du seigneur" -- the authority to deflower virgin Jewish brides on their wedding nights, before they could join their husbands. So some stories which Jewish families retell at Hanukkah, such as the Book of Judith, extol brave Jewish women who went to the tent of enemy officers who were expecting sex, but who instead met their deaths as the hands of lone Jewish women.
The halacha is that women are not supposed to work during the time that Chanuka candles are burning since a major part of the miracle of salvation from the Greeks was specifically for women.

It boggles the mind to wonder how this terrible custom occurred and how it was accepted within the Jewish community.

Was every Jewish wedding a cause for sadness and despair? Did Jews get married in secret? How did young Jewish husbands receive their brides after being molested? How many of those brides were impregnated that first time by Greek soldiers?

With these questions burning in my head, I recall a newly published book I read on my recent trip to the US a few weeks ago. "The Immortal" by Sy Polsky details the life of Joseph, a fictional Jewish physician/warrior at Beitar on the 8th of Av, the day before the final defeat of the Bar-Kochba rebellion by the Roman empire. Abandoning his comrades at arms, he deserts the city only to find himself attacked by Romans. Hanging between life and death, a mythical kabbalist offers Joseph the option of immortality -- with a catch. He must accompany the Jewish people into exile and in addition to bearing witness to the 9th of Av tragedies which would afflict the Jewish people for generations, the same day would mark personal calamities in his private life as well.

This 800 page book of historical fiction is a fascinating journey through Jewish life in the Middle East, Arabia, Spain, France, England, Germany and many parts of Europe from 135 c.e. at the fall of Beitar in Israel through the 1600's in the Netherlands. Joseph's travels take him through the ancient library of Alexandria, to the Parthian empire and the city of Nehardea where the Gemara was authored. Joseph meets and debates with the Amoraim; Shmuel, Rava, Rabba, Rav Ashi and Rabina.

It's far from easy for Joseph the Jew -- he doesn't age externally and survives terrible tragedies while witnessing the murder and abuse of his family, generation after generation. He goes off and on "the path" of religious Judaism throughout the entire book.

The historical stories are accurate and colorful, yet the book painfully recounts how many times the world has tried to eliminate the Jewish people. One amazing story that stood out in my mind was Joseph's leading one town's Jewish uprising during the Crusades -- one of the only Jewish revolts (if not the only one) recorded in the historical period of the Crusades. While there was no "Joseph" leading the actual revolt, it's historical fact that in 1349 the Jews in Regensburg revolted.

This is not a book for younger readers, and while there is quite a bit of violence and sex, it's definitely non-gratuitous and an important part of the story.

The Immortal is only the first book of a trilogy, and I was rather disappointed that I'll have to wait for parts 2 and 3 to be published.

While the specific questions I posed before about Chanuka and women aren't addressed by this book, the human element of tragedy is very clear and is profoundly and painfully described.

If you want a book to rekindle your fascination with Jewish history, this is it.

Chanuka Sameach.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Quality Time with my Daughter

I have 3 different postings I'm working on tonight:

1. Failure of the Settlement movement?
2. The real agenda of Israel's leftwing.
3. Muqata Mystique, part #2

Since its Chanuka and I'm on vacation, I couldn't bring myself to post #1. It's rather depressing, though candid and eye-opening. #2 is in response to something I read on DovBear's site yesterday. #3 is to compliment last week's Muqata Mystique posting #1.

So what did I do today? I spent some fantastic quality time with my oldest daughter as we went mountain biking to a nearby yishuv. In the eye of the political storm swirling around settlements, Israeli politics and security, we biked up and down the green hills of the Shomron. My daughter, the limber gymnast, who can totally bend over backwards and do incredible handstands was impressed that I wasn't out of breath at the top of the highest hill we went rode to.

We stopped to examine the archeological finds that date back to the first Temple period, we saw amazing homes we never knew existed in the Shomron, and we saw some interesting street signs which requested in the most sincere and polite way to refrain from driving down certain streets on shabbat.

In the calm of the storm, we had a wonderful bike ride, and we both agreed we needed to do it more often.

Yet the other posts from above are going to come back, and I have a feeling that life is going to start changing here alot quicker than anyone ever expected.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Be back soon...maybe tonight Muqata Time.

Chanuka Vacation, Muqata DIY projects and PIY (pay for it yourself) Construction project have kept me very busy the past few days.

Hope to be back soon this evening. Chanuka Sameach.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Monday, December 26, 2005

Erev Shabbat Creations - What the Godol Hador Never Addressed.

If you read the GodolHador blog, you'll see he's not the biggest believer in literal translation of the 6 days of creation. He'll massage the text into an evolutionary story spanning millions of years, and his bottom line is that the entire Story of Creation and the Flood, up to parashat Lech-Lecha are stories meant to teach us lessons in morality.

Yet, the GodolHador blog never addresses a critical issue which is also brought down in the mishna and relates to the story of Creation. What about the objects G-d created in those last 18 minutes before the world's first shabbat started at the end of the 6 day (or according to GodolHador, sixty million year) period?

We're all familiar with the erev shabbat 18 minutes -- when guys dash to the shower, set up the plata/blech for shabbat, set the shabbat clock, and do countless last minute things. Its a trying point for every marriage -- women light shabbat candles and for them everything calms down, while guys have to try and finish everything they were supposed to have done all day (or week?) in only 18 minutes.

And what did we forget this week? Oh right, getting to shul on time for mincha.

The mishna in Pirkei Avot (5:6) lists the last minute items:

Ten things were created on the eve of the [first] Shabbat at twilight:

The Mouth of the Earth
The Mouth of the Well
The Mouth of the Donkey
The Rainbow
The Manna
The Staff
The Shamir
The Written Characters
The Writing
The Tablets of the Law.
Others include the Demons, the Grave of Moshe, the Ram of our Fore-Father Abraham. Others say: also the Tongs made by tongs.

Quite an impressive list. I wonder what GH has to say about the mishna? Was that also a myth/moshol? The Holy Hyrax blogger even wondered what the Jews in the desert knew about Creation. Did they believe it? If according to GH the first 2 parshiyot of the Torah are myth/moshol, then is the mishna as well? I'll leave this for GH to answer, but I'm troubled by something else.

The problem with the mishna is that it forgot the 11th item. I know about the 11th item since I personally merited from its creation.

The following is a true story.

When I was learning in Yeshiva in Israel a few years ago (you may use myth/moshol interpretation for the words "few" and "years"), I used to hang out in the Jerusalem Geula neighborhood during Bein Hazmanim - yeshiva vacation time from Yom Kippur through Rosh Chodesh Heshvan. For entertainment, I used to go watch the charedi demonstrations against the Zionist Imperialists. I was only 17 at the time and I admit I was rather clueless, but it seemed like something worth watching.

At kikar shabbat, the main intersection in the Geula neighborhood, hundreds of charedi kids gathered to burn a huge garbage container and throw bottles at buses (I think they were plastic). My friend and I took pictures of everything going on -- as it was rather unbelievable for someone who grew up in North America to see such a bizarre demonstration.

At some point, a rather large chareidi man came over to my friend and I, and started yelling at us. The crowd quickly surrounded us as his screams grew louder.

"What are you doing taking pictures?!"
"It's assur! It's forbidden! Get out of here!"

As calmly as possible, we replied that we were just taking pictures (very stupid move), and we weren't bothering anyone. As the man continued to rant at us, the crowd also started yelling along with the man against us. At this point, my friend discretely handed me my camera, I shoved it into my pocket, and then...bolted through the crowd like a banshee.

To this day, I don't know why I didn't run down the street, but instead, I fatefully chose to run into the apartment building across the street. With my feet barely touching the floor, I scampered up 4 flights of stairs...and at the top was a single apartment. No door to the roof, no escape hatch, just a door to an apartment with a baby carriage next to it. I breathlessly banged on the door, but no one answered.

Suddenly, the click sound of a lightswitch illuminated the entire old hallway and stairwell.

Turning around, I found myself staring at hundreds of people (and the ranting man) who had raced up the stairs after me. They were shoved up against the black metal stair railing to maximum capacity, all waiting for the show to start.

The scary man snarled at me, shook the baby carriage, and then...the hall light timer went off, plunging us all into an eerie darkness.

A split second the later, the light was back on, and the scary man was bounding down the stairs with the crowd running after him.

What just happened?! Why were they running downstairs? I felt for my camera, and it was still secure in my pocket. Slowly going down the stairs, I emerged from the building a minute later and the crowd had dispersed. My friend apologized profusely and said he would pay for half.

"What are you talking about, pay for half of what?", I whispered.

"Your camera", he mumbled, feeling rather guilty that he had suggested going to the demonstration in the first place.

"It's right here in my pocket", I hissed back at him.

My friend's eyes looked as if he'd seen a ghost. He said, "That's impossible, look over there!"

On the ground were the shattered remains of a camera -- the identical brand and model as the camera in my pocket!

"The guy came out with the mob following him...he raised his hand in the air holding your camera...and then he smashed it against the sidewalk as the entire crowd cheered him on", said my disbelieving friend.

When the lights went out upstairs in the apartment building, the man apparently found an identical camera to my own in the babycarriage next to the top floor apartment. He smashed it outside to the delight of the mob.

That camera which saved my life, was the 11th item created on the Erev Shabbat of Creation.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Muqata Mystique - part 1

"You know what's so strange about this's so...normal!"

--Amshinover, reflecting on his shabbat at the Muqata.

Any place defined by Amshinover as "normal" is automatically suspect, but I found his comment to me this past week very telling.

It's very cold and rainy in Israel now. Jerusalem rain gusts horizontal from the wind, and the cold soaks through your clothes and shoes. You try but can't even avoid all the puddles, your damp socks cause your toes to grow colder. Even sitting on a crowded Egged city bus the cold lingers and the wet is everywhere. The warm falafel from the bus station or Ben-Yehuda doesn't really warm you up, it barely gives you enough energy to continue on your way.

Outside Jerusalem now, you trudge up the part asphalt, part gravel mud road -- the jeep tracks are filled with water. Despite your best efforts, the puddles and mud cake your shoes. After 10 minutes of the upwards climb, a dark fog envelops the hilltop. A handful of fixed trailer-caravans, a generator and a tent of IDF soldiers are barely visible through the mist, as you walk through the narrow paved path to the caravans at the edge of the hill. On a very clear day, you can see the tops of the smokestack's blinking red lights in Hadera and Ashdod, the skyscrapers of Tel-Aviv, Mt. Hermon to the north. Today its just rain and fog.

The caravan door opens into a crowded world of its own. Kids in every corner, a highchair and tray with a half eaten shnitzel smeared with kethcup, a wooden table with shaky legs and a few plastic chairs scattered around the tiny kitchen area. CDs on a rack on the wall, a bookcase of sefarim, a colorful ratty rug on the floor, and a couch covered with toys and laundry. An Uzi machine gun on top of the bookcase.

The sponga-rag by the front door wasn't successful in preventing the muddy footprints from walking almost everywhere. At least there's a heater blasting hot air into the livingroom area.

On the corner's narrow table sits a computer and DSL modem, a link to the rest of the world. The CD plays Jewish and Israeli music which is barely heard over the splatter of the rain on the thin roof overhead and the wind blowing in through the window frame.

Lab Rab mentioned to me last week that he viewed the Muqata as a ramshackle caravan on a hilltop outpost, so it got me thinking about how you view my reality.

How do you envision the Muqata?

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Amazing Chanuka Tiyul!

מזבח יהושע בן נון בהר עיבל

(Updated with some minor corrections)

As a service to bloggers in Israel this Chanuka, I'm posting a special Chanuka tiyul/tour offer which I received today.

The tiyul will be to Har Eval (Eval Mountain) on Sunday, the 7th day of Chanuka (Sunday Jan 1rst). What's so special about Har Eval? Has Jameel totally lost it for good? Where the heck is Har Eval, why would anyone go there, and it sounds mega scary...

Backing up - a bit of history. When Bnei Yisrael entered the land of Israel under the leadership of Yehoshua, one of the first commandments they were supposed to do was to go to Har Greizim and Har Eval. 6 tribes would stand on either mountain top, with the Levi'im in the valley below (Shechem), and they would read the brachot and klalot written in sefer Devarim. Yehoshua also built a mizbe'ach on Har Eval.

Many archeologist believe that the structure found on Har Eval in 1983 by archaeologist Adam Zertal is that of the mizbe'ach actually built by Yehoshua. The tiyul which is under the safety, security and auspices of the IDF will take people to the mizbe'ach on Har Eval.

In light of the current political climate, I can't say when we'll have another opportunity for such a great tiyul. If G-d forbid, this area is given to PA control, we can easily assume that this historic find will suffer the same sort of treatment as the shuls in Gush Katif and Kever Yosef.

For more information, please email me. I'm not organizing this and will NOT to post all the details for security reasons.

Chanuka Sameach!
Hat-tip to MM the kiwi for the corrections.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Just Jew it? Muqata Holiday Greetings.

Reading about Holiday parties in the USA and the trials and tribulations of dealing with the Winter Holiday season, I'm very thankful to be in Israel.

All I have to worry about for next week at work is the nightly chanuka lighting party -- with the following email reminder that just went around:

"The Sufganiot are Mehadrin and parve. The latkes are Rabbanut."

(click image for video)

Got this video from a friend about 3 minutes ago, and I don't understand what Aish is trying to say. That you're supposed to light a menora at a Christmas party? I certainly don't think I would.

Would YOU do that?

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Netanyahu Fails the Litmus Test of Democracy

Bibi Attempts to Bar Moshe Feiglin from Likud MK List.

For all MK Netanyahu's "American" style, flair and excellent command of the English language, he totally fails the Litmus test of Democracy, by attempting to bar Moshe Feiglin from running as an MK on the Likud party list for the upcoming Knesset election.

In a pathetic attempt to rid Feiglin from the Likud, Channel Two news reported this evening that Netanyahu would try to modify Likud party bylaws to prevent any person convicted of a crime in the past 10 years, from party membership -- specifically to oust Feiglin from running.

Feiglin was convicted of sedition against the State of Israel in 1997, for organizing the passive civil disobedience movement "Zo Artzeinu" which demonstrated against the Oslo accords in 1995. He served a 6 month community service sentence.

Feiglin's support exists not only in the settlement communities, but throughout all Israel, and received 9% of the vote in Netanya, 17% in Haifa, and was second place in Jerusalem.

As head of the Manhigut Yehudit faction within the Likud, Feiglin's platform, was based on 4 major planks: preserving Judea and Samaria, family values, education and court reform.

For Netanyahu to attempt to oust Feiglin is as big a failure in democracy, as it was for Sharon to ignore the 67% vote of the Likud membership against the Disengagement.

You may not agree with Feiglin or Manhigut Yehudit, but since 1997, Feiglin has done everything by the book. He registered for the party, did the grunt work of signing up thousands of paying Likud members, had 130 central committee members elected, and ran in the Likud leadership race receiving close to 13%. I guess Bibi would rather use the Labor/Mapai method of getting rid of his political opponents, instead of respecting the rules of fair play and democracy.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Hitchhikers from Hell

Hitchhiking (tremp-ing in pseudo Hebrew) in Israel is a relatively common way of getting around. It used to be even more acceptable when I was in yeshiva way back when, and there's been an overall decline in general. Except in one location -- Yesha (West Bank settlements).

Hitchhiking from the settlements is probably the #1 form of transportation, ahead of buses and private cars, since there are lots more people and teenagers than there are cars and buses.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I think I'm a relatively decent person, and try to help people when I can. The problem is that the Muqata is not the closest of places to Jerusalem, and many people love going to Jerusalem for a variety of reasons: Work, University, Sherut Leumi, Sunday morning soldiers returning to the IDF, meeting up with family and friends, parents returning from visiting their children, and just going to hang out in the Holy City.

Since I work in Jerusalem, I'm one of the instant favorites for my neighbors to call for "tremps". I've been doing this for years...and its getting more and more difficult by the day. Lets take this morning; I had 4 people who reserved in advance, and 2 more which I picked up at the "Trempiyada" (bus stop shelter) on my way out. Let's now hold this thought for a second.

As anyone who has been in a relationship knows, men and women are very different (but equal!). One interesting difference is the sense of smell. Women seem to have a very keen sense, and can detect all sorts of smells (good and bad), while men aren't as in tune and may not immediately notice the baby's diaper in the other room, or appreciate the fine aroma of a vegetable salad.

Switching back to this morning. Many times, I welcome a perfumed fragrance which enters the car, as even a male nose is capable of recognizing a pleasant scent. However, today my nose was assaulted by one of the worst smelling hitchhikers -- I can only assume they had never heard of soap, water and deodorant. The awful stench quickly engulfed (fogged up?) my van, as I felt myself turning green. I felt even worse for my female hitchhikers in the back who were probably suffering even more than me. (Now comes the fun part of living and driving in the West Bank.)

Had the Muqata been located in Beit Shemesh or Modiin, I would have just opened up the windows and let some fresh air circulate to make the trip bearable. Since the Muqata is located in an area where our Arab neighbors lob rocks at us from time to time, we have special plastic carbonite windows which are shatter resistant, and rocks usually bounce harmlessly off them.

Therefore, when driving to Jerusalem -- the windows are closed, and we stayed green for most of our hour long plus trip.

Is it worth being the "nice guy" when I get to work queasy and green?

Other fun points include:
  • I'm talking on my cellphone's speakerphone while driving. A hitchhiker also gets a call. I raise my voice so my coworkers can hear me on the phone. The hitchhiker yells even louder into his phone so he can be heard.
  • Calls at all hours of the night - "I hear you drive to Jerusalem every day, can you pick me up at my house tomorrow morning and give me a lift?" (We do have regular bus service!)
  • Hitchhikers who smoke. I usually stop the car and ask them to get out, regardless of the friendly Arab town I may be driving through. Even if they stop - they still stink.
  • Teenage Hitchhikers who vomit -- and then their parents call up to say "isn't that funny?"

Don't get me wrong - there are hitchhikers I have no problem taking at all, and even enjoy their company. But when I get a hitchhiker who talks my ear off with:

"You know, you left 20 minutes late today. If you would have left earlier like my son-in-law does every morning, you wouldn't be stuck in this annoying traffic like you are now. I hate getting stuck in traffic - what could be more annoying than being stuck in traffic on the way to work? Just think, if you wouldn't leave late like you do all the time, you wouldn't be stuck in this traffic jam..."

it can even try the patience of a seasoned road warrior.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Polls Confirm the Worst: Israeli Chocolate Consumption Lowest in Western World

After last night's Likud leadership election came to a close, with Netanyahu leading at 47%, Shalom at 33, and Moshe Feiglin at 15% (more than 3 times his previous showing), the real bad news has been confirmed by YNET. Israeli chocolate consumption has reached an all time low.

The CIA has reported that chocolate consumption per capita in Israel is among the lowest in the western world, totaling approximately 3 Kilograms (6.6 pounds) of chocolate per year.

The health benefits of chocolate are well known, and studies have found that a substance in cocoa helps the body process nitric oxide (NO), a compound critical for healthy blood flow and blood pressure. (Ariel Sharon should be reading this).

Another study showed that flavonols in cocoa prevent fat-like substances in the bloodstream from oxidizing and clogging the arteries, and make blood platelets less likely to stick together and cause clots. Other added bonuses exist as well.

Granted, there's no competition between fine British Chocolate such as Cadbury's and Israel's Elite chocolate, but for our own sake - please go out and eat some, today.

As you can see, its a bit of a slow news day; why don't you mention in the comments section that you dropped by to say hi. Its always more interesting to see comments from people and where they're from. Just think - you may win a shabbat invitation to the Muqata as well.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Monday, December 19, 2005

Amshinover's Shabbat at the Muqata

As many of you know, this past shabbat we were honored to host The Amshinover Blogger at the Muqata, and he good-naturedly waived his usual "Blogger in Residence" fee so our community could afford to meet him.

So far, countless people have emailed me asking for the "scoop" on his visit; Is he a real person? What color did he dye his hair? Is the tattoo real? Emails in Yiddish from Satmar & Brisker chassidim flooded my inbox asking for the Muqata to give him some extra special TLC.

My quandary is that I am not prolific enough a blogger to do justice to his visit. Mere words would do an injustice to this past shabbat, and will have to remain in the realm of "Torah She'Be'al Peh". It will remain a story passed down from generation to generation of a historic visit, one I doubt my children will ever forget.

Let's leave it at that - he's welcome back anytime.

A Feiglin Endorsement.

As Likud voters head for the polls to determine a new leader for the Likud, Moetzet Yesha has picked its head up out of the sand and told everyone to vote for Netanyahu.

Vaad Rabanei Yesha -- and Rav Dov Lior have told Likud voters they should vote for an Emuni candidate; Moshe Feiglin. Emuni doesn't mean "religious", but is based on the word Emuna, "Faith".

The hope being, that leaders who are strong in Faith, will not change their views and policies based on foreign pressure and domestic (modified) public opinion polls. They will remain true to the platform on which they were elected.

Pipe dreams maybe, but Israel was also built on a dream, and 100 years ago the very concept of a Jewish State was viewed as a bitter joke.

For more information on Moshe Feiglin and the Manhigut Yehudit faction within the Likud, please go here for an excellent posting on the WestBank Mama & Papa website.

PS: Shiloh Muse: This is an internal Likud posting, and not a call to arms for everyone to vote Likud...

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sapir, The Poll Girl.

Sunday Evening; 9:15 PM Muqata Time.

As everyone here in Israel is following the news of Ariel Sharon's CVA (stroke), I received a phone call from a public opinion polling company, "Market Watch" and I was questioned by a young woman named "Sapir".

We get phone calls like this every other day, but since almost all the kids are already in bed, I took the call.

It was your standard political polling questions in Israel; Disengagement; Pro or Con. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Till this zinger: What do you think of Noar HaGvaot (Hilltop Youth) -- are they:

1. The Best of Israel's Youth
2. A Serious Problem.

I politely asked Sapir to please restate the question, since I couldn't believe they were asking it. She repeated it to me, word for word.

I asked her if she had a good lawyer, since her question constitued incitement according to Israeli law, and she could find herself under arrest for asking such things.

She incredulously asked me what I was talking about, and how her innocent question was criminal in nature.

I told her that if she would swap the word "Arab" for "Hilltop", then it would be considered incitement to pose a question in Israel:

Are Arab Youth are a serious problem in Israel?

Suddenly she understood, and said she would bring up the question with her suprvisor.

Her next question was "Will Ariel Sharon, the next Prime Minister of Israel, try to carry out more Disengagements?"

I asked her if she had heard the news about Sharon's CVA. She thought I was kidding, and told her I was very serious.

She almost started crying on the phone.

I felt bad for her, as she finished the interview almost sobbing

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

CheckList(!) Revisted.

(as Steg would say)

Amshinover - √+ (This past shabbat, Amshinover visted the Muqata; will blog about it after I recover)
Chardal - √+
JoeSettler - √+*
IsraelPerspectives - √
GodolHador - √?
Litvshe - √*
Jewish Worker - √+*
Shiloh Musings - √*
Treppenwitz - √+*
Soccer Dad - √*
Zion Report - √~

Shamlessly lifting Steg's key:

√+ = have met in RL -- over a shabbat
√ = have met in RL
√* = met in RL before they had a blog.
√? = pretty sure met in RL, but no independent verification
√~ = communicated with by a pseudo RL medium, but no physical encounter (audio - not ASCII)

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Jewish Father of 5 children.

On Friday afternoon, a Jewish father of 5 children, from the town of Beit Chagai was murdered in a drive-by shooting attack by Palestinian Terrorists.
He was driving about 5 minutes north of his home in the Southern Hevron Hills.

Pictures courtesy of the Hevron website

Since this attack took place only hours before shabbat, it wasn't given the news treatment it deserves.

Hashem Yikom Damo.

Hypnotic Hypocrisy

One of the hardest arguments to defeat is one based on hypocrisy. The lie is so blatantly obvious yet it's hypnotic siren song captivates the minds and hearts of many well-intentioned people.

Take Mark Twain for example. Twain was an educated and astute person who besides writing Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, also wrote about his 1867 trip to Eretz Yisrael in his book "Innocents Abroad" He writes that biblical Yosef was "one of the truly great men of the Old Testament." We learn from Yosef of his nobility for not killing his brothers when he reveals to them that he is second in command in Egypt. So far, so good. Curiously he also writes:

Joseph is one of the truly great men of the Old Testament. And he was the noblest and the manliest, save Esau. Why shall we not say a good word for the princely Bedouin? The only crime that can be brought against him is that he was unfortunate. Why must every body praise Joseph's great-hearted generosity to his cruel brethren, without stint of fervent language, and fling only a reluctant bone of praise to Esau for his still sublimer generosity to the brother who had wronged him? Jacob took advantage of Esau's consuming hunger to rob him of his birthright and the great honor and consideration that belonged to the position; by treachery and falsehood he robbed him of his father's blessing; he made of him a stranger in his home, and a wanderer. Yet after twenty years had passed away and Jacob met Esau and fell at his feet quaking with fear and begging piteously to be spared the punishment he knew he deserved, what did that magnificent savage do? He fell upon his neck and embraced him!

How can it be that Mark Twain falls into the hypnotic trap of Esav, when its totally clear to Chazal of Esav's hypocrisy and evil? The Gemara in Bava Batra has some choice words for Esav:
אמר רבי יוחנן: חמש עבירות עבר אותו רשע באותו היום
בא על נערה מאורסה, והרג את הנפש, וכפר בעיקר, וכפר בתחיית המתים, ושט את הבכורה

Yet how is it that Twain and so many others bend over backwards to find a defense for this truly wicked person?

The hypnotic effect of hypocrisy causes good, decent people, with the best of intentions of tikun olam to mistakenly view the venom of our enemies as honey. Just as Esav was defended by Twain, many Jews today demand moral justice for the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael before compassion towards the Jews of Eretz Yisrael. Tikkun Olam is not about self flagellation and national suicide.

When Jewish bloggers write

The problem, I think, is this: Zionists of a certain age and generation think of the Arabs as cartoon villains, with greased mustaches and diabolical plans. To them, Palestinians are symbols, not people. And this tendency to simplify, to rob people of their humanity, cuts both ways: The IDF and Mossad, in their eyes, are flawless, and faultless, the just and glorious warriors.

...they are falling into the trap.

When upwards of 80% of a "people" can justify suicide bombing attacks against Jewish civilians it automatically robs a "people" of their humanity. To even suggest that they are cartooned villains shows a basic lack of understanding of what Israel faces today. The IDF is statistical model of the Jewish people in Israel -- and for the most part, they really are just and glorious warriors.

Ingleesh with Amir Peretz

If you don't understand the picture above, you must have missed Israel's Labor Party Chairman, Amir Peretz's attempt to read a prepared speech in English (which included Hebrew transliteration) from last month. See it here on the OneJerusalem website.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Sheitel, The Movie.

Having lunch yesterday in Jerusalem with Amshinover and Litvshe bent my mind a bit.

Click the sheitel pic for some Amshinover type blog-content.

Sharon's Qadima party loses 17% public support in one week.

As the number of job-hungry Israeli politicians line up behind Sharon's Qadima party, a recent poll has the party hacks very worried.

Within the span of one week, the fledgling party has dropped 17% in the public opinion polls from 41 Knesset seats to 34. If the trend keeps up, this party will asymptotically disappear by after Chanuka.

בימים ההם, בזמן הזה

Hat-tip: Arutz Sheva.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Slightly Unmasked: The Flag on the Muqata.

Inspired by yesterday's discussion on IsraelPerspective's blog, I decided to post a personal picture -- the flag on my house. From the day I built my home till this summer, there has always been a huge Israeli blue and white flag flying proudly off my home. The day the Jews were kicked out of Gush Katif was the day I put this flag up instead. Its still an Israeli flag, yet the colors are black and orange. (Halloween, all year round).

Many people may stare at this picture and think, "That Jameel is too nuts!", "Is he serious?", "What the heck is he trying to prove?"

I'm not sure at what point to take this flag down, and if & when to return the blue and white one. The stupidity of Sharon to use the IDF to forcibly evict the Jews from Gaza, and make the soldiers wear special vests and hats with Israeli flags on them as they dragged people from their homes makes it still too painful for me to put the old flag back up.

On my way to work this morning, I heard a new CD with the hauntingly soulful "theme song" from the Katif disengagement, "Teffila L'oni."

תהילים פרק קב
א תְּפִלָּה, לְעָנִי כִי-יַעֲטֹף -- וְלִפְנֵי ה', יִשְׁפֹּךְ שִׂיחוֹ
.ב ה', שִׁמְעָה תְפִלָּתִי; וְשַׁוְעָתִי, אֵלֶיךָ תָבוֹא
ג אַל-תַּסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ, מִמֶּנִּי -- בְּיוֹם צַר-לִי

This was sung by hundreds of girls in the main shul of Neve Dekalim minutes before they were forcibly evacuated. The scene was captured on video, and remains to this day one of the most difficult scenes of this past summer. Not the soldiers dragging people out of their home, not the protestors in the roof in Kfar Darom, not the Netzarim people carrying their shul's menora through the streets of Jerusalem.

Updated: The video can be downloaded here (Hat-tip: my wife - Thanks! :-)
The exact location in the video starts 12:18.

For me, the intense and sincere prayer of these young women, beseeching Hashem for mercy for Eretz Yisrael was more powerful a scene than anything else from this past summer. Hearing my daughter singing this last night even brought a lump to my throat.

Perhaps when more and more supporters of this past summer's expulsion also get a lump in their throats when seeing such a dramatic and sincere expression of love for our land, will I be able to put the blue and white flag back up...or take down the current one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Advocate for Israel...On my own terms.

The hardest aspect of blogging about daily life in the settlements of Israel, is not slandering Eretz Yisrael. The Zohar asks, how could the Israelite spies from the desert, who were such great leaders of Israel, speak such slander about the promised land?

The answer is frightening.

The Zohar writes that the spies realized that if Bnei Yisrael would cross the Jordan immediately after the spies' return from their mission (which was the correct game plan), then the Beit HaMikdash would be built and a king would be anointed. There would be no destruction of the Temples, no Exiles, No terrible periods of tragedy for the Jewish people -- rather we would have immediately entered the period of ultimate geula.

So what was the downside? The spies figured out that upon the anointment of a Jewish king, their leadership roles would disappear. In order to hang on to their political positions of power, they sacrificed the Jewish people for 38 more years in the desert, the destruction of 2 Temples, 2 periods of exile, and the deaths of countless Jews throughout the ages.

According to the midrash, not only did the spies make their announcement to all of Israel, but they went from tent to tent to personally spread their message of gloom and doom if Israel would enter the promised land of Eretz Yisrael.

To this day, we still see many of the same narrow-minded politicians advancing themselves at the expense of the Jewish State or the Jewish people. While there are those leaders who unselfishly dedicate their lives to further the Jewish people in their homeland, too many not only ignore the Klal, but even go so far as to attack them.

Though Israel today is wrought with problems, its imperative to go from house to house to mitaken the sins of the spies through the teaching of love for Israel. Israel is not only the political Zionist entity, which is getting more and more difficult daily for many Jews to identify with, but our national homeland which belongs to the entire Jewish people. Many of us have gone door to door in Israel talking about our love of the land, before and after the Disengagement. Many of us have even made extreme financial and personal sacrifices out of love of living in our land.

When I criticize many of the problems in our country today, it is out of love for Eretz Yisrael. Yet, when HaAretz blasts away at settlers, religious Jews, and any viewpoint they disagree with; are they really advocates for Israel? HaAretz is read around the world by many "Zionists", yet does it really advocate anything for Israel? Who's Israel? Which Israel?

Does my criticism of Israel mean that I'm advocating something else?

My Hakarat Hatov for the privilege of living in Israel is my primary reason for blogging, and connecting to others in the hope of bringing more and more Jews back home.

If you want to know more I'll be more than happy to help.

What happened in Bergenfield, NJ?

Update: Gas Main explosion at 30 Elm St.

13/12/2005 17:34 - Israel Standard Muqata Time.

Israel Radio is giving sketchy reports of an explosion at an apartment building complex in NJ.

Can someone please provide details?


Return of the Worms to Gush Katif

First of all, if you thought for a second that I was calling Arabs in Gaza, "worms", then you're a racist. No, its no a Tequila party either.

When Israel destroyed Gush Katif this summer, many of the greenhouses were moved by the Jewish residents to pre-67 Israel. What was left, was purchased on behalf of the Palestinians by a wealthy Jewish American at the behest of Shimon Peres to jumpstart Gaza's devastated economy. The rest is history and on the day Israel evacuated, the Palestinians came back and destroyed a lot of what was left.

Now comes an interesting report. The Palestinians are still trying to restart the once-successful bug-free Jewish produce business from the greenhouses. While Gush Katif lettuce has successfully restarted a lot of their business, and once again their fabulous produce is back in the stores, the Palestinians are running into trouble.

Apparently, Palestinian businessman haven't been successful in growing bug-free lettuce or other vegetables. Worse, the Palestinians greenhouse workers are complaining that their current salaries from their new management is a lot lower than their previous Jewish managers and Gush Katif ownership.

Somehow I doubt the Gush Katif farmers will be willing to offer consultations, no matter how much money offered.

Hat-tip: NK.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bless me, for I have sinned? A Meme Confessional.

Thanks Batya for the MEME confessional tag. Just what I needed after a long trip home.

Then again, I deserve it for tagging you last time.

I confess: I don't read all the comments on the Godol Hador's website...I've even skipped some posts as well.

I confess: I ate a whole box of entenmann's donuts last week, but that's only because there wasn't much to eat to begin with.

I confess: It doesn't say Jameel on my birth certificate.

I confess: I still need to start writing my son's upcoming Bar Mitzva drasha (and my own), but will probably procrastinate till the week before.

I confess: I'm embarrassed I didn't do the last iPod MEME -- even though I was tagged by 3 people. Mostly because my iPod hasn't be charged in months, the music on it isn't that compelling, and I don't listen to heterogeneous music as much as I used to.

I confess: I don't know what the solution is to the current political mess in Israel.

I confess: I'm have liberal tendencies deep down.

I confess: I would be tickled pink to win a JIB award, though getting 300 hits a day would be even better.

I confess: Now I get to tag some people with this soul searching MEME, and it's not going to be pretty.

I tag the following:

The LabRab
The Purple Parrot Pub Brawler, formerly known as the artist
Tanisha @ TovahIvrit
Tovya @ Zion Report

Those not tagged for a variety of reasons:

  • Ze'ev at Israelperspectives and Ezzie are busy worrying about the JIB's so I won't bother them.
  • JoeSettler doesn't like silly MEME games.
  • AskShifra's out of town.
  • Chardal was nice enough to invite me for a meal; he doesn't deserve this cruelty.

Amshinover the Ringer.

As Amshi pointed out on his blog, he is on his way to Israel for a week.

I find it suspicious that Amshi happens to be coming over the very same day as the start of the JIB (Jewish & Israeli Blogger) 2005 awards nominations process (which also lasts a week).

Since Amshi is one of the JBlogosphere's most outrageous and colorful bloggers, I wonder if he's part of the JIB awards blue-ribbon panel of judges, or perhaps, he's coming to actually lobby on behalf of certain blogs.

Cast your votes. Why is Amshi really coming to Israel?

Maybe this time I'll snag him for a visit at the Muqata.

Blogging at 35,000 feet.

Ground Speed: 609 mph
Outside Air Temperature: -76 F
Distance to Destination: 3023 miles

Flying home to the Muqata has never been so entertaining as right now. With the new ELAL service of wireless internet, the in-flight movies have absolutely zero appeal. The book I'm reading will have to wait for next shabbat (and its a good book too). The ability to blog from high over the Atlantic ocean is definitely one of the major feats of mankind in the past decade.

Last week's nostalgic posting (perhaps too sappy in retrospect) was a great catalyst for thinking about the ever mutating blogosphere. I admit, I'm in awe of MCAryeh's Haveil Havalim blog roundup this week -- the number of sites and posts he quotes is simply astounding. His list is only a fraction of the JBlogosphere, and I'm sure there are plenty of bloggers who were depressed not seeing their blogs up in lights.

It reminds me of when I made aliya and what I knew about computers at the time. I knew ALOT about computer technology; hardware, software, digital logic, a bunch of development languages, mainframes, VAXes, Unix, X-windows, and the stone-age networks that were starting out. Of all the possible knowledge of the computer olam, I actually knew a significant percentage.

Keeping up with all the directions of computer science over the years has proven to be an impossible task. If I knew 20% of all computer knowledge back then, today I know maybe .01% I still try to keep up to date on the latest and greatest technologies and trends, but it all moves so quickly that I find it overwhelming to keep track of it all.

The Blogosphere is approaching that phase now. When I started my blog, I hard-coded a bunch of links into my template. That's way too old fashioned and impractical now -- you need a blogroll service to keep track of it all. You see the quality and quantity increase of Haveil Havalim over the past year, and you wonder who really has the time to really read everything?

I love to have compelling content on my blog, but I think the "competition" is spiraling out of control, giving me vertigo. Or that was the turbulence?

JoeSettler has an amazing link worth viewing of the new baby elephant born in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. If you're a jumping elephant Slifkin fan - this live video site will keep you busy for hours. (And watching it from the plane is even cooler). Joe even comments on his own blog, whether its right for animals to be pent up in zoos. I wonder what R' Slifkin would say?

Its great to be going home!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Blind Date

I was supposed to be in Southern California for Shabbat, but we got a reprieve on Thursday evening when it appeared that we'd finish up early and be able to get to LA before the horrendous highway 405 rush hour (which starts at 1 and ends way after shabbat starts).

Normally, I have plenty of time to arrange for places to eat for shabbat, but I don't like calling people last minute to invite myself over. Granted, in Israel we never have a problem with it, and we love company, but I feel awkward as a guest doing it to other people.

Let alone people I don't know.
A fellow blogger, who I never met in my life, invited me for a shabbat meal at the beginning of the week but I unfortunately had to turn him down since I didn't think I'd be in LA for shabbat. Yet, the email conversation we had was nice enough, his blogging was totally obvious to me that he was shomer shabbat, so I decided to ask him if I could for him for a meal.

My brother IM'd me on Friday that it sounded to him like a blind date. That was pretty funny, since I'm married for a while, and hadn't even thought about the concept of blind dates in ages.

Needless to say, we met in shul. I don't think I had the nervous butterflies in my stomach like the blind dates from years ago, but I'm sure we each had some minor apprehensions. After all, how "normal" could somebody be, if his name is Jameel, blogging from the Muqata? And who invites someone to a shabbat meal, named Jameel, site unseen?

His family was extremely gracious, and I hope that they enjoyed my company, as much as I did spending time with them. The meal was wonderful, the table Torah talk was fulfilling, and it was wonderful being in a family shabbat atmosphere.

Only a very small minority of bloggers say who they are up front, and the first bloggers that come to mind are Soccer Dad, Treppenwitz, and Serandez. Many crave their privacy, for a multitude of reasons -- freedom of blogging and expression which may be wild and unrestrained as an anonymous name, worry that exposure would harm a distant relative, worry that a close relative or neighbor might find out and not approve or the editorial content, worry that a co-worker or manager may find out.

For example, if DovBear were the son of a Rosh Yeshiva in Lakewood, it would be very understandable why he wants to keep his name out of lights. (DovBear: I apologize in advance, I really have no clue who you are.)

At the end of the day, I have a real sense of satisfaction having met a few bloggers in real life.

Those that I've met so far are very special people, and I feel privlidged to have met them.

Chardal, you're always welcome to come to the Muqata for shabbat, even last minute.

I had a great time!



Friday, December 09, 2005

RCI - Israel's Emergency Homeopathic Medical Services. (and other stories)

While the J-Blogosphere has written about the total boosha of Magen David Adom changing its logo (Zion report, Israel Perspectives, Treppenwitz, PreOccupied Territory, Israelly Cool, Smooth Stone and many others)to kowtow to the non-religious symbols of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, I haven't seen any op/ed pieces in any of Israel's printed or online newspapers that express the same outrage. Is it only us? Is it only the j-blogosphere that sees how pathetic the MDA is acting? Actually - I haven't even seen one j-blogger comment that its a good thing...and there's a wide spectrum of opinions out here.

I guess Israel's new emergency medical services will be homeopathic crystal based. I'll have to trade in my MDA jacket for one with a Red Crystal on it, and when G-d forbid I'm on the scene at an accident or terror attack - we'll have to use the new medical protocol:

Victim: moaning.

Jameel: Shalom Mr. Victim, I'll Jameel from Red Crystal of Israel's emergency response unit.

Victim: moans again.

Jameel; Don't worry - everything will be just fine. I've got my emergency homeopathic red crystal with me. If I wave it over you 3 times, I'll be able to restore your sacral energy to your body, and your body will heal itself.

Victim; still moaning.

Jameel: that's just sing John Lennon's "imagine" song to yourself, and everything will be fine. Have a nice day!

I guess this just comes in step with Iran's call to Europe to move the State of the Jews back to where in belongs; in Europe. I assume the RCI shouldn't have a problem with that either; they'll get even more international recognition, and more funding.

Final News Roundup, since this blog will probably only return on Monday:

You can be Orange or Blue when it comes to the disengagement. This IAF pilot had his own problem, and blamed the disengagement for his need to look into the women's showers on his base. He gets an "A" for creativity.

This is scary: YNET reports that the CIA visited the bomb site of the terror attack this week as the Sharon shopping mall in Netanya. The CIA wanted to "to draw lessons that could prove helpful for American troops in Iraq." Again, regardless of your political viewpoint on the US war on Iraq, everyone agrees that the US army will leave Iraq at some point. Does this mean that Israel will eventually leave Netanya as well?

For a country who's mainstream media is obsessed with secularism, its very odd that almost every Israeli newspaper wrote about Rav Quaduri's recent hospitalization for "weakness". When it comes to Kabbala, even the Israeli secularists will hedge their bets and believe in Rav Quaddri...after all, it can't hurt? Refuah Shelayma.

That's it. Leaving for home motzei shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom from the Southern California Muqata in Exile.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

J-blogosphere Anthropologist - The Roarin' 60s

It suddenly hit me today that the roarin' 60's of the j-blogosphere passed me by. Talk about depression! If only I had started blogging earlier, I could have been privy to be part of the elite of the j-blogosphere. You know who they are; the ones with the in-jokes, the constant hyperlink pats on the back, the hidden sparkle in the eye you can feel from a comment, the myriad neural network of links between their sites. The ultimate "Friends" series of J-bloggers, 24 hours a day.

The names are all out there (in no real order of importance); Mirty, DovBear, GodolHador, Orthomom, AskShifra, Krum, Amshinover, Soccer Dad, Lamed Zayin, Gil, Biur Chametz, Mis-nagid, Little Wolf, AddeRabbi, Shanna, AirTime, Ren Reb - to name a few.

Going back into the archives of these sites, I was in shock and awe of the candor, raw energy, and total goofy fun that used to exist. Pinpointing the exact time is difficult, but the big-bang of the modern JBlogosphere was sometime in early 2005. I don't have an exact date, but then again -- I can't carbon date these blogs, and carbon dating isn't always accurate. I don't think there was a creationist timeline; On day one, the Blogger was created. Day two, the comments section, Day 3, uploadable pictures and the like. That's only a myth/mashal anyway. Was it intelligent design or evolution? Did the JBlogosphere evolve? Could it have?

Delving deeper into the archives of these sites, you can see a rebellious youthfulness in the posts, the comment wars, and the metaphorical high-fives and backslaps when something really clever or hilarious was posted. These were the roaring 60's of the Jblogosphere.

If I could be so bold as to determine a date for this end of an era, I would say it must have been circa the return of DovBear from his vacation in late July, after handing over the keys to his blog to a wonderfully eclectic group of bloggers. That was also the time the Disengagement in Israel started. It was also the time I started getting into blogging.

Could it have been me? Was my entry in the JBlogosphere the meteor that changed everything as we knew it? Where are the sparks, the zeal, the fun, the outrageous posts of that bygone era? Are we now in the shadow of the un-fun, conservative 80's of the JBlogosphere? As fun as it may look now, its only a glimmer of the original wackiness reminiscent of classic Saturday Night Live with John Belushi z'l and Dan Ackroyd.

Granted there's a new cast of characters, myself included among them, but after some serious archeological blogging, I've determined that we're only Jonny-come-latelies. We're not even a revival with Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscapo - we're not worthy! I can't imagine DovBear letting Ezzie guest blog on his site. Amshinover's absurdities have diminished. The GodolHador has come and gone, and come and gone, and has metamorphosed into something different, yet less than the original. Joe Settler is academic posts don't have the wit of Krum. Israel Perspectives wonders if he (and I) are too radical? Ask Shifra has mellowed from the wild days of discussing hot married Jewish women.

So where do we go from here? Do you think the golden age has come and gone? Is there any hope to recapture the early magic? I think everyone would agree that the fun and pizzaz has diminished. Its not as fun as it used to be. Its more serious now. Even the flame wars are devoid of passion.

Perhaps we are on the edge of a new era, which by standing on the shoulders of those veteran bloggers, with the proverbial graying hair, a new growth spurt of enthusiasm will reignite the feeling from 6 months ago. Or maybe its lost forever, as bloggers find other things to do, get blogged down in work, family, and hobbies that have more physical exercise than finger pushups on a keyboard.

If its the first, I hope I don't miss out this time.

If its the latter, I'll go back to my other hobbies and wistfully dream about what could have been, had I started blogging in February.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Criminals Flock to Sharon's Qadima party

Its a wonderful day for the Likud, as yet another corrupt criminal, Tzachi Hanegbi leaves the Likud to join Sharon's Qadima party. I'll never forget the pathetic advertisement from Tzachi in a Likud magazine directed towards Likud Central Committee members, in which he outright said the reason to vote for him was, "more jobim." For those in the know, "jobim" are the government and public job appointments given to Central Committee members by MKs. Granted, its done in every party in power in Israel, and the Labor party was even better at it than the Likud, yet Hanegbi brought this practice to a new low, by outright advertising it.

My big problem with the Likud is the 1000+ Trojan Horse members of the Central Committee who were hand picked by Sharon, to ensure his policies would pass in the committee. The past few votes passed by a razor thin majority, after Omri personally dragged members to vote by threatening their "jobbim" if they didn't come out to vote. So, in one of the strangest situations in Israeli history, the head of a party defects to form his own party, leaving over 1/3 of the central committee still in his grasp via remote control. When the primaries come in a few months, Sharon will try to choose Mofaz or Sharon as the proxy leader of the Likud. The other scenario is that he'll try to choose Moshe Feiglin to "tarnish" the Likud as "radical." I guess it's vogue to radicalize Moshe Feiglin, even though the Likud party's prospects have been rising (based on current polls) since Feiglin has officially announced his candidacy).

Even the WJC's failed troublemaker Isi Leibler's pathetic "analysis," attempts to marginalize Feiglin as a radical belonging on the fringe right. When corrupt people like Sharon share a common goal of marginalizing a legitimate candidate like Feiglin, with a misfit like Leibler, its no surprise that Leibler thinks Israel's headed towards Banana Republic status. Perhaps he should join Sharon at Qadima?

Update: Desipite the 10,000 kilometer distance between us, in a weird, almost psychic blog revalation, Ze'ev at Israel Perspectives and I came up with very similar blog postings about Hangebi and Sharon.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Chanuka: Israel's Winter Holiday Season

The alternative name for this post is
"Saba Sukkot is coming to town?"

(Click on the image for the Flash Movie)

One of the wonderful things about Israel is that come December, all the red, green and white tinsel of Christmas is for the most part, absent. Since I'm in California now for a week on business, I'm bombarded with Christmas culture everywhere; the trees in my hotel lobby, the street signs, the sales -- everything revolves around it. Most American Jewish schools match their vacations to the "seasonal" winter holiday, and its impossible to ignore this holiday unless you live in a ghetto with no TV, radio or newspapers, and you have no connection with the outside world.

Curiously, many charedi and religious kids in Israel recognize Santa Claus, but not as the Christian toy delivery person, but as "Saba Sukkot." Saba Sukkot adorns many sukka decoration packages of wonderful glittering decorations and blinking lights that are sold in Jerusalem's pre-sukkot markets of Geula and Mea Shearim. These kids have no clue that we're using Christmas lights and tree decorations for the sukka, and that's certainly no big deal.

While Christmas awareness in Israel is growing (we have in our yishuv a few non-Jewish Israeli families from Russia, who have trees in their homes), its still a pleasure not having the in-your-face Christmas season everywhere. I'm thrilled that my kids only know of one holiday season in the winter-time, and its full of Chanukiyot, Sufganiyot, and a message of renewal to Judaism.

Update: This one is also pretty good (from last year). Just click on the candles, and try to avoid clicking on the silly casino links.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Jameel at passport control.

People routinely ask me how someone with the name "Jameel Rashid" can come and go so easily though passport control in Israel. Here's a videoclip to show you that it's not so difficult as people may think. The Hebrew is pretty simple to follow.

The US doesn't allow racial profiling, so its never an issue...they smile and say have a nice day, while they drag off the 80 year old woman next to me.

(And the good news is, my luggage has been found!)


Trying to sleep off my jetlag in California, I hear a beeping noise, and SMS messages start to suddenly clog my cellphone waking me from a not so pleasant sleep. Bleary eyed, I fumbled for my glasses and try to read the messages:

"Breaking News"
"Reported Explosion at Netanya Mall"
"MDA Reports of injuries"
"Unconfirmed reports of dead"
"MDA has evacuated over 30 wounded so far"

The picture starts to clear in my head that there's been another terror attack at home.

There's a feeling of total helplessness being so far away in California, and not being able to do anything. Just hearing difficult news. In Israel, I know exactly where the mall is - I've been there before, driven by it before.

Its very different I guess hearing about a terrorist attack in Israel, from so far away. In Israel I would have received within a minute on my MDA beeper that a mass casualty event had been declared. The IDF would have sent out a similar msg, from its standpoint. About a minute after the SMS message comes from an online news service.

If I'm anywhere near there, I drop everything and get there as fast as possible to help. If I'm not there, I call my wife to make sure she was nowhere near the attack.

For those with a strong stomach, go here and here to see lots of pictures from today's attack. Warning - its not for the queasy.

The name of the mall where the attack took place in Netanya is called "Sharon."

Lessons from Yitzchak: Why flying to Chutz La'aretz is bad.

This past shabbat I read in more than 3 different parsha sheets that the reason Yitzchak was not allowed to leave Eretz Yisrael during the famine, was because he was born in Eretz Yisrael, and inherently had more holiness. In fact, Hashem told him to go to Grar of the Plishtim (Gaza) instead of leaving Eretz Yisrael...meaning Gaza is part of EY...but that's not my point at all.

Rather, temporarily leaving Israel, even for good reasons (like smachot, and work) is still a bad idea.

I left Israel on motzei shabbat on a business trip. We landed in took 75 minutes for our luggage (business colleague and mine) to arrive. Took another 15 minutes to get the Carnet (document for transporting commercial tax free goods) signed by JFK customs officials. Did I mention it was snowing? Its been in the 70's in Israel the past 2 weeks, and I was caught a bit unprepared for the freezing weather. Transferred out luggage. Took train to terminal 9. RAN like crazy to get stuck in security (after all, with a name like Jameel)...panted my way up the escalator to the gate, and as we ran straight to the gate, the ticket person grinned and yelled at me - " made it" (with 1 minute to spare).

Got on the plane, door closed behind us...and then we were stuck on the plane for 4 hours without takeoff...because of the snow. Leaving 4 hours later, I was frozen. When we arrived in LA, our luggage apparently had other plans.
Just called AA lost luggage computerized interactive voice recognition system...and "my luggage has not yet been located...have a nice day."

I'm starving...and there's no Kosher restaurants here. Be back soon.

UPDATE: Baruch Hashem for Ralph's supermarket...and entenmann's donuts. That should keep me till I find some real food.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Jameel is (temporarily) leaving the Greater Los Angeles

Business Travel is a necessary evil in the world of high-tech. When I made aliya from the US, I had never been west of Chicago or south of Virginia. Starting to work at a high tech company in Israel, I found myself flying all over the USA...and the world. I visited states I had only read about in the encyclopedia. New Mexico for example. At the time, there was no kosher food in Albuquerque, so I called a Kosher Deli I knew from New Jersey and asked if they would deliver sandwiches in dry ice by Fedex. The conversation went like this:

Jameel; Hi, this is Jameel, I'd like to you know if you ship sandwiches?

Deli; Sure, we ship everywhere in the continental United States.

Jameel; Great! I'd like 4 cornbeef sandwiches.

Deli: No problem. Where do you want them shipped?

Jameel; I'm staying at a Residence Inn in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Deli; Um, I'm sorry, we have a problem with that.

Jameel: Why? What's wrong?

Deli; As I told you before, we only ship within the United States.

Jameel: what's the problem?

Deli: Well, you said you're in Mexico...and that's a different country.

Jameel: I'm sorry, I'm in New Mexico...not Mexico.

Deli: Sir, I don't care if its New Mexico, or Old Mexico, we only ship to the United States, and not out of the country.

Jameel: New Mexico is one of the 50 States.

Deli: No its not. we only ship within the United States.

Jameel: Can I speak to your manager please?

Deli: I am the manager!

Jameel: I'll make you a deal. Call FEDEX. If they are willing to ship to New Mexico as part of the United States, then will you send it.

Deli: OK...I'll do that much for you. You're a real idiot though for wasting my time. Since the customer is always right, I'll call up for you.

I got the food 3 days later.

Bottom Line; I'm going to the Greater Los Angeles area for a week. Limited Speaking Engagements. Contact me for more info.

Friday Night Mayhem at the Muqata

Friday nights are always a problem in my settlement. We have dozens and dozens of teenagers who roam the streets of our neighborhood to socialize, congregate, and just do the "teenage" hang out thing. They are all great kids, and there's nothing inappropriate about their behavior at all...except the noise. With such large groups of kids, its impossible to get any Shabbat sleep till midnight when the kids wander back to their homes. It seems like I was a teenager only yesterday, but when the noise level is so loud that it keeps neighbors awake, we have a problem.

Our neighborhood email list often discusses this issue, with all sorts of creative solutions. The most obvious is for parents to discuss the issue with their kids. One neighbor wanted to set their water sprinklers to automatically start on Friday night, in the direction of the street, to get rid of the noise. Yet another neighbor wanted to walk his ultra scary dogs out to the areas where the noisy kids hang out.

I always empathised with the people who couldn't sleep through the noise, even though I personally can sleep standing up oblivious to any cacophony arond me.

However, a high tech solution has been found to solve our problems! Better than the red-dawn incoming missile warning system. Better than the Arrow anti-scud missile system. Even better than the water sprinklers.

Someone sent me this today by email:
Rowdies buzz off as the Mosquito bites. (The anti teenager solution)

The device, called the Mosquito ("It's small and annoying," Mr Stapleton said), emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that he claims can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they cannot stand it and go away.

Read more about this great device here

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