Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ode to Jack, the Bishop of Bullfrog

For those of you who haven't been following, Jack has been having a fascinating email exchange with a Nigerian spammer in his hopes to raise his wealth index.

Unfortunately for Jack, the spammer's promises of massive wealth never materialized, even though he did get some great blog material out of it. Jack even posted a picture of himself on his blog.

To comfort Jack, at today's daily Muqata writer's meeting after shul, we sat around drinking a lechayim to the coming month of Adar, and churned out the following ditty for him. The "SH" in the song is pronounced as "Shhhh..." as in, "Shhhh", don't tell anyone about this rediculous, Adar induced song.

Got a wacked email last week, made me cough up my drink
even came out my nose...it was COLA.
C-O-L-A Cola

The email promised me weath and loads of cash
I asked him his name, and in a Nigerian way he said, "Shola"
SH O L A, Shola, lo lo lo Shola.

I'm not the world's most law-a-bidin' guy,
but that email he sent seemed to me a crime,
Oh my Shola, lo lo lo Shola, lo lo lo Shola

Well, I'm not dumb but I can't understand
he sends such junk, 'spects us to BELIEVE his spam
Oh my Shola, lo lo lo Shola, lo lo lo Shola

Well, we emailed and partied and blogged all night,
under the glare of monitor light,
He tried once more by email, so slop-py
He said, "Hey Jack, just take a chance with me?"
Well, "I'm not the world's most clueless guy,
so I gave him the number of the F-B-I.
No way I could fall for Shola
lo lo lo Shola

Put on my royal green robe, and looked like a frog
Even outted myself on my blog, made us ROFL with glee
Sent it to him, then he ignored me.

Well that's the way that I want it to stay.
A great story, about a spammer called Shola.
Sh Lo lo lo Shola.

Didn't get no cash, didn't even see any green
But that blog-pic of Jack made us all scream
'cept for Shola. Sh Lo lo lo Shola. Sh lo lo Shola.

Well, this story started just a week ago,
Never made money from a spammer before
Shola smiled and said "its just spam"
he said, "Hey Jack, I'm still your biggest fan"
Well I'm not the world's most masculine man,
but Shola too weird even for a blog fan.
And he's Shola.
Sh lo lo Shola. Sh lo lo Shola.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Spooky Nighttime Funeral in Jerusalem

Last night, I attended the funeral of a relative. Unlike the rest of the world, funerals in Israel take place during the day and at night, since kavod hamet (respect for the deceased) requires that the deceased be buried as quickly as possible, even if it requires a funeral at night.

Although I’ve been in Israel for a while and gone to many nighttime funerals, there’s still something very eerie about going to cemeteries after dark. Maybe it’s having watched too many horror movies as a kid, or the midnight showing of Silence of the Lambs …in any event, it's rather creepy.

Before I get to the scary part of this posting, I’m reminded of a true story from my wife’s family. My wife’s cousin worked for the chevra kadisha in an Israeli town…and dug graves. It’s honest, respectable work even if it’s not for everyone.

One day on his way to work, he forgot his lunch at home. When his wife noticed he had forgotten his lunch, she sent it to the cemetery with their 9 year old son. Arriving at the cemetery, the young boy started walking around, calling out “Abba, Abba, where are you?” as he peered into empty graves around the cemetery.

A group of mourners saw this surrealistic scene and were moved to tears…what could be sadder and heart-wrenching than a young boy walking around a cemetery, calling out for his (obviously deceased) father…”Abba, Abba, where are you?

To their shock and horror, a hand suddenly popped out of an open grave and started waving, “Shlomie! Shlomie! I’m over here!!(yes, this is a true story)

Anyway, going back to last night…it’s pitch black…and we’re all milling around waiting for the funeral to start.

My cousin’s husband comes over to me, and we quietly say hi to each other.

We haven’t seen each other for a while, and it’s always nice to meet up with friends and relatives, even though it’s a bit awkward at unfortunate events like funerals.

Then the spooky part comes…

He quietly says, “Hey, you know people…right?”

I whisper back, “I guess…”

He whispers to me, “Do you know who Jameel at the Muqata is…you know…the blogger?


Getting Blog ID’d… at a nighttime FUNERAL…in the middle of a dark Jerusalem cemetery?!?!


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Galilee Tiyul...

Sorry I was away the past few days, but I was spending some quality time with my oldest daughter.

Continuing in the best of The Muqata's tradition of bringing you the latest and greatest sights of Eretz Yisrael, I accompanied my daughter and her class yesterday on a tiyul to the Lower Galilee region, right below The Gilboa Mountain range. Geographically (geologically?), the Gilboa mountains are northern part of the Shomron Mountain range.

They always need parents to join these trips as medics or armed escorts... My wife and daughter convinced me on Thursday that I should really make an extra effort to go. After all, its much more important than blogging...right?

Hiking through Israel during the late winter offers a wonderful view of nature and springtime's blooming of kalaniyot and other flowers. Nachal Yitzpor is a gently sloping, rock and wildflower filled valley that's a perfect hike for 4rth graders.

Everyone had a great time on the tiyul...till it started raining and everything got real slppery.

We somehow managed to get ourselves back to the road, and we entertained ourslves on the bus ride back telling scary stories. My daughter and her class had a great time despite the rain...

Enjoy the pictures and get ready for Rosh Chodesh Adar... (tonight)

The JBlogosphere is about to experience a new peak of craziness -- Watch this space tomorrow!

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Funny Media Leftists -- The Joke's on them this time.

The vast majority of Israeli entertainers fall to the left side of the political spectrum...which means that the media/entertainment industry's portrayal of Right Wing Jews, Settlers, and Religious Jews are often stereotyped to the point of nastiness.

It's common to see audiences laughing at settlers and religious characters on Israeli TV "entertainment" shows, as they are commonly depicted with an underlying anger that's very unsettling.

I can get laughed at for the sake of good natured humor (Mrs. @ The Muqata: I'm getting better, don't you think? I could laugh at myself for the way I was portrayed in our community Purim plays last year ;-)

I'ts good to see that once in a while, the media entertainment industry gets hit back and held responsible for their actions. Last year, when Hevron activist Noam Federman was being held in administrative detention, a pair of Israeli crass jokers, "Shai and Dror" called up Federman's 12 year old daughter and harassed her on air, and proceeded to tease her, to laugh at her name and denounce her father...all in the name of their "funny" radio show.

(Federman was later released with no charges brought against him, and he even sued the State and won for false imprisonment).

Federman then sued Shai and Dror for harassment, and settled out of court for NIS 22,625.

Federman said in response that "the time has come for journalists to learn that there are limits that must not be crossed. There is a limit to everything, and those who cross the line should be forced to pay out of their own pockets." "I would like to thank them for paying for my daughter's wedding," he added.

Tel Aviv Radio General Manager Eva Madjiboj said in response: "We have claimed all along that we caused no damage whatsoever to Noam Federman or his family. We continue to believe this." "For practical reasons alone, and in order to spare his 14-year-old daughter from the trauma of cross-examination on the witness stand, we decided to go easy on her and to close the case with a symbolic payout," she added.

Its unfortunate that Tel Aviv radio's Eva Madjiboj still sees no problem in harassing 12 year old girls (as long as they are right wing and religious), and her empathy to prevent Federman's daughter from having to testify is pathetic.

Even her comments contradict themselves; "we caused no damage whatsoever to Noam Federman or his family"...so why would it be "traumatic" for Federman's daughter to be cross examined?

Are you a religious or right wing comedian? Let us know - we'll pay for you to make aliya to help offset the drek we currently have...

Hey, if I franchise MuqataMart (tm) ATM pizzas in the US, maybe I would have enough to do my own entertainment shows here.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Thinking About Aliya...

Thought about Aliya lately?

AirTime and Veev are thinking about it very seriously.

The Frum Female Struggle thinks about Israel all the time.

The Must Gum Addict from the Five Towns dreams about Israel...and thats a good step in the right direction.

BEC from New York states it clearly in her profile: "I miss eretz israel. Not a day goes by that i am not reminded--either by the way the light shines in that early morning where everything seems pink or in the afternoon where everything is bathed in an orange glow, or right before a storm when the sky turns dark, the world brightens, the colours are heightened and i know that i am almost there, and i hear the wisps and sighs of jerusalem calling, calling, and i can almost touch her."

Phish has already opened his Aliya file with the shaliach.

Thought about Aliya today? Blogged about Aliya? Let us know...we'll proudly post it here.

We'll be cheering for you on this side...and waiting patiently.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Amir Peretz's Ingleesh.

Amir Peretz. My kids know him as "the bad guy with the mustache."

Why is he a "bad guy" -- well for starters, he's personally responsible for the terrible labor union strikes we've had around the country for the past 10 years.

When he wants a strike, he goes for the jugular -- schools, preschools, government offices, social security, electric company, Bezeq, Airport, Mail...just to name a few.

He's now head of the Labor Party. Problem is, his English isn't up to par.

Fine, that's an understatement - his English is so lame, that my spoken Chinese is better than his English. (Many trips to Hong Kong did wonders for my spoken Chinese...but I'd have to brush up on it a bit before returning)

Here's a video clip reminder of Amir Peretz trying to read an English-transliterated-into- Hebrew speech.

Then I got these bumper stickers for him today.

Scary to think he's the chairman of the Labor party, err, "The Work" Party.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Is that a Pizza in your ATM, or are you just happy to see me?

While the J-Blogosphere may be experiencing a thoughtful pause or temporary slowdown as noted by Jack, MCA, Shifra, Mirty and many others...the Israeli high tech establishment is hard at work dreaming up the latest and greatest technologies.

From the country that brought the world, ICQ and Firewalls...Israeli technologists continue to dazzle the world. Today's latest invention is:

The Pizza ATM.

Photo Courtesy of YNET, Yariv Katz.

When getting a pizza 24x7 is your top priority, and your local pizza haunt is closed...what do you do?

Microwave pizza just doesn't do it.

You don't want to be "bisari/felishiks" at 7 AM, so nuke-a-burgers are out as well. (Back in college, I wrote a song, "Waking up fleishiks in the morning...")

Israeli Scientists have solved all your problems -- and the Pizza ATM is the latest and greatest invention out of the Holy Land.

The first pizza vending machine was installed last week in the Visa-CAL building in Givatayim, near Tel Aviv. The cost of a machine pizza is about 30 percent lower than a store-bought equivalent.

Once the transaction is approved, the machine springs into action. The pizza drops to a heating element inside the machine; some three minutes later, out it comes, piping hot and all boxed up, "just like from the shop."

There are about 25,000 vending machines in Israel, selling everything from French fries to alcoholic cocktails to more traditional candy bars and soft drinks an average of one machine for every 200 Israelis.

With the advent of the pizza ATM, I'm sure we can expect many other ATM's in the future:

Challah for Shabbat ATM
Chulent ATM
Chicken Soup ATM
Chinese Food ATM
Fast Foot ATM (hotdogs, burgers and fries)

The possibilities are endless...

And of course, the Muqata is also hard at work dreaming up more excitement for the JBlogosphere...DovBear's "Hall of Fame" awards and the JIBs are nothing compared to what we're working on.

Blogger Reality Checklist:

Met Ifyouwillit near work.
Met Steg for lunch @ work.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

The Pentium Bug Revisited -- Intel in Gaza.

Remember the Pentium Bug? Intel had an obscure floating point math problem with their Pentium chip, and they totally mishandled the public/customer relations spin -- similar to Dick Cheney's handling of the press after last week's shooting, or Coke-Cola's mishandling of the awful tasting New Coke vs. Old Coke/Coke Classic fiasco in the late 80's.

Why Intel has decided to bother with this hot potato is beyond me.

Investing cash in a Gaza technology park? And this is after last year's mystery disappeareance of seven hundred million dollars from the Palestinian Authority budget?

Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor company, announced on Monday that it plans to set up a technological center in Gaza aimed at providing Palestinians with training in the technological information field.

The project is estimated at USD 1 million, and the staff will be comprised mainly of Palestinians.

ANERA Director Peter Gubser said he believes that despite the difficult security situation in Gaza, Intel’s willingness to invest there will encourage other American corporations to follow suit.

Other American Corporations? Winchester Firearms? Olin Chemical? Raytheon?

Perhaps an infusion of technology is exactly what Gaza's budding Qassam rocket industry needs.

Then again, in 1993 after the "Jericho and Gaza First" Olso accords were signed, Intel donated office furniture to the Palestinian Authority in Jericho.

Its a shame Intel's making the same mistakes again...you would have thought they learned the first time around.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Monday, February 20, 2006

How the movie ended...

Two Moons; A tormented husband has to choose.

Before you read the ending of the movie described here yesterday, I wanted to mention that Maaleh is the only religious film school in Israel. As the study of performing arts pushes the envelope of artistic creativity and expression, it's even more complex attempting to weave it together with Orthodox halachik observance.

The Maaleh School of Television, Film and the Arts Jerusalem

In the coming weeks I hope to review other Maaleh movies on my blog; every movie directed by students at Maaleh is an expression of Israeli life, a different shining facet of the challenges and complexities we face on a daily basis. Strikingly, many Maaleh films painfully touch upon core life issues which halacha, hashkafa, family life and politics sometimes don't always adequately prepare us for.
Yesterday's movie, "One Too Many," was directed by Maaleh Graduate (2005) Shaiya Bernstein.

And now...the ending.

After a scene of the husband promising the Nurse (second wife) that he would divorce his first wife, he returns to the hospital where his first wife is starting to pack. Gently he hands her a rose and announces his decision.

He wants to stay with his first wife, and divorce the second one.

Just as final point, Rabbeinu Gershom was responsible for the current famous edicts concerning marriage and polygamy (not to mention, the prohibition of reading someone's mail without permission)

It is indeed true that, by virtue of an edict promulgated by the 11th century authority, Rabbenu Gershom, no religious divorce may be effected without the consent of the wife and hence a wife may prevent the remarriage of her estranged husband if she refuses to accept a get.

Since the disintegration of the marriage is attributable to abandonment by the wife, and since it is she who refuses to accept a divorce, it would, in the absence of a biblical prohibition against polygamy, be inequitable to bar the husband from taking another wife by reason of rabbinic legislation.

However, the edict of Rabbenu Gershom does require that a minimum of at least one hundred scholars domiciled in at least three different countries or, according to some authorities, three different jurisdictions, certify that dispensation for a second marriage is factually justified.

Source: FactBites (didn't see this on Hihurim...)

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Horrible Predicament - Moztei Shabbat Movie

Last night, my wife and I went to see a screening of 3 short films directed by students at the Maaleh Religious Film school. Following is one of them.

The movie opens with the wedding pictures of a young, religious, Israeli couple. They could be anyone you know; happiness radiating from the Kalla's face...the Chatan and Kalla posed together, looking at each other with that faraway look of planning a lifetime together.

Then the "beep beep" of a hospital vital-signs monitor.

The camera slowly pans back and you see the unconscious bride in a hospital bed, with her husband quietly holding her hand.

We slowly learn that the Kalla has been comatose for 4 years, and her husband visits her daily. His life has spiraled downwards into a depressing routine of knowing his wife will never wake up as her prognosis is no chance of recovery.

Befriended by a kind nurse, the husband slowly starts rebuilding his life; studying for college entrance exams, getting things back in order, and slowly but surely the inevitable happens.

They fall in love...and want to marry.

The young man obtains the necessary 100 signatures of Rabbis to allow for a Jewish man to halachikally be married to two women simultaneously. Such circumstances are usually extreme, and in the movie even the Chief Rabbi of Israel has signed.

Kneeling by her bedside, the young man informs his comatose wife that he is marrying someone else -- to rebuild his life since he cannot continue living as the husband of a comatose wife. He says he would do the same for her and expect her to do the the same if their roles were reversed.

Overlooking Jerusalem, the wedding ceremony starts -- the Kalla, the Chatan, the Chuppa. As he slides the ring onto his new wife's finger, we see the comatose wife's ring finger suddenly twitch as she lays in her hospital bed.

The wedding guests sing, "Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim -- If I Forget Thee, Jerusaelm," and the Chatan lifts up his foot...and brings it down crushing a glass...the comatose wife's eyes shoot open as her vital-sign monitors all frantically start beeping to life.

The doctors cannot believe she has woken up -- a medical miracle.

Our on-screen husband finds himself in a horribly awkward predicament.

His first wife has awoken, and wants to return to their normal married life.

His second wife wants him to consummate their marriage and for him to divorce his first wife.

The miserable husband now has to make the hardest decision of his life.

What do you think happened? What should he have done? What should his wives have done?

Based on a true story.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Why Olmert is Scared of Hates Hamas.

As I've written previously, it wasn't a big deal to me that Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian election. In fact, I went so far (too far?) as claiming that I wasn't convinced it was a bad thing for the Palestinians themselves, and that Hamas could possibly be a better leadership alternative for the corrupt and immoral Fatah/Arafat/Abbas ruled PA.

The Israeli government has been publicly posturing that Hamas is BAD. Israel announced today that Israel will be suspending partial payments to a Hamas dominated Palestinian Authority, halting Palestinian traffic between Gaza and the West Bank, and a few other restrictions.

Olmert said:

"I am submitting a detailed resolution on taking steps against the Hamas-led Authority; Israel will not compromise with terror and will keep fighting it with full force"

"This morning I am submitting a detailed resolution on taking steps against the Hamas-led Authority. We have already declared a halt in fund transfers," Olmert said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. He added that a new situation of a "terrorist authority" has been created, which Israel cannot accept.

In case you had any doubts, this is just Olmert/Quadima election posturing. Life continues on in Israel, with business as usual for Palestinian Laborers to come into Israel, despite any elevated terror threat.

So, what makes Olmert so mad at Hamas? Are they really so much worse for Israel? Is it that they are Religious Moslems? Their lack of tolerance towards Israel? (Not that Fatah is any more tolerant, they just play the game slightly better)

The Jerusalem Post has the real answer today:

Hamas is planning to prevent the casino in Jericho from ever opening again soon after it forms the new Palestinian Authority cabinet, sources close to the Islamic movement said over the weekend.

Owned by Casinos Austria, the casino was shut shortly after the beginning of the intifada in September 2000. For years it was regarded as one of the prominent symbols of corruption in the PA because some of the money went into the bank accounts of senior PA leaders.

"They can only dream of reopening this damned place," a source close to Hamas told The Jerusalem Post. "We'll never allow the casino to operate."

Another source said he did not rule out the possibility that the casino would be turned into a mosque. "I've heard from top Hamas officials that this will be one of the first things that they will do when they take over the Palestinian Authority," the source said. "I don't think many Palestinians will be unhappy to see the casino wiped off the face of the earth."

And here's a great last paragraph:

PA Attorney-General Ahmed Mughni revealed last week that an investigation was under way to determine the fate of $700 million that went missing from the PA budget. He said at least 25 top officials had been named as chief suspects.

Now, for those of you just joining politics in Israel, the following is required reading:
  1. The Jericho Casino: Why the IDF Chief of Staff was Fired.
    According to a source close to the Palestinian Authority, Ya'alon's fierce opposition to relinquishing IDF security control over Jericho at this time and Mofaz' and apparently Sharon's displeasure with Yaalon's warnings, may also lead directly to the doors of the Jericho Casino and back to some senior offices in Israel.
  2. Sharon's [and Olmert's] attorney under fire for 'running' Israel's foreign policy
    Weisglass has also become the leading adviser of acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Officials said Weisglass recruited support for Olmert from President George Bush and Ms. Rice. They said Olmert would be invited to the White House in February as part of the administration's support for Olmert's election as prime minister.
    Parliamentarians have pointed to Weisglass's continued professional involvement with projects in the Palestinian Authority, including the Austrian-owned casino in the West Bank town of Jericho.
  3. Cyril Kern, redux, Wednesday, January 04, 2006
    Last night's revelation by Channel Ten that the police have admitted to a court that they have reason to suspect Ariel Sharon and his sons accepted and kept some $3 million in bribes from Martin Schlaff and his brother, via Cyril Kern, reopened the Kern affair, but it is much too soon to determine if the renewed scandal involving the premier will have an impact on the elections.
    A temporary casino is promptly [to be] built by Dahlan in a highly secured area adjacent the former Gush Katif.

The Muqata adds: This casino company is the exact same company that owns and operates the Jericho casino, which Olmert is also allegedly connected to, also via his lawyer and confidante, Dov Weisglass.

In any normal Western democracy, it would be unheard of for the prime minister and his head of staff/chief attorney to be blatantly connected to a foreign owned and operated Casino -- when their own country's foreign policy is directly intertwined with the casino's profit and loss balance sheet...or even something as mundane as the disengagement from Gush Katif?

No wonder Olmert (and Qadima) hate Hamas.

It's pretty obvious when you add it all up.

Its just a shame you had to read it here at the Muqata, instead of anyone else daring to say it out loud.

Hattip: JoeSettler

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Suspicious Nasty Graffiti...and Osama

A few days ago, someone sprayed graffiti on a mosque in the West Bank village of Nabi Alias (located only 1 kilometer from "Checkpoint Eliyahu").

The graffiti read, "Mohammed is a Pig"

As we have witnessed in the past few weeks, its depressingly obvious what the reaction was bound to be. Support for Hamas has been growing over the past few years in this small town, and it should be a surprise to no one that a full scale riot ensued.

It's important to note that graffiti on mosques is not something blasphemous in and of itself -- I took these pictures of Hamas graffiti on the wall of the other mosque in Nabi Alias. Scary stuff.

As anger was directed towards Israeli civilian vehicular traffic, rocks were thrown at Israeli cars, tires were burned in the streets, and the IDF and Civil Authority officers came to the village to calm things down. High ranking IDF officers personally cleaned the graffiti off the wall, and it took till the rest of the day for the rage to subside.

Along the road, 5 people were hurt by rocks, many cars were damaged, 3 Palestinians were shot in the legs by the IDF, and it was a rather crazy day for everyone.

What honestly surprised me was, "who did this?" This particular area of the Shomron is rather calmer then the "Gav HaHar" section of the Shomron, and it seemed very out of character that someone would vandalize a mosque this way. I could imagine a particularly hot headed settler doing this near Chawara, but not so much in Nabi Alias.

Which got me thinking; what was the outcome of this graffiti?

1. Outraged Palestinians stoned cars, people were hurt, anger vented at IDF
2. IDF upset at alleged settler who did this.
3. IDF cleans off the mosque. (Though the PA never cleaned off Kever Yosef after it was destroyed, or even bothered defending the shuls in Gush Katif)
4. Israel sees that crazy alleged settlers attempted to inflame Arab hatred.

Who stood to lose the most? The settlers.

Who stood to gain the most? Those who want to portray the settlers as bad.

Before you say, "stop with the stupid conspiracy theories" -- just ponder this one thought.

The Shomron settler communities adjacent to Nabi Alias are relatively quiet and don't do this sort of thing. They are ALSO not included in Kadima's plan to remain under Israel's control (read: Future Victims of the Planned Disengagements). So, when you want to convince Israelis that these are the "bad" settlers who need to be evicted, what could be more convenient?

Food for thought...that's it.

Oh, and if anyone has connections to the CIA, next door to the mosque is a curious sign advertising Osama's garage. (also in Nabi Alias)

There. I've outted Osama.

All you need to do is contact the CIA and collect your reward.

Give me whatever percentage you feel like.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

What are they Wearing at the Muqata?

With camera in hand, I took pictures of the different t-shirts/sweatshirts that the kids were wearing around the house. I think today's wardrobe was alot calmer.

Without Fear, Amona 5766

They opened my head

Nov 2002 - Paratrooper Nachal Brigade. Kibbutz/Moshav Group.

We will return and rebuild you. (Gush Katif)

Old project shirt.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

OffTopic: When Olympic Silver Shines Brightest.

This is soooo off topic.

My kids called me over yesterday evening to watch with them on TV a quick roundup of the Winter Olympics Couples Figure skating.

To be honest, I didn't even know the Olympics were starting till I saw the modified Google logo the other day. It's not that I'm disconnected from the world, but I have so much going on in my own selfish little universe, that the Olympics could have been on another planet.

Growing up, I loved the winter Olympic games; skiing, bobsledding, and ice-hockey were great fun to watch. Those I could do; I'm a pretty decent skier, I could sled down a hill, helplessly bailing out at the end into a snow bank...but I was never much of an ice-skater.

Hockey for me is strictly a Saturday Night sneaker-only sport...and exclusively for the over 30 crowd so we don't kill ourselves.

I could roller-skate, but NEVER ice-skate.

Yet there was always something about the poetry-in-motion of couple's figure skating that had me captivated. I was surprised that my kids called me over to watch it, as they had never expressed any interests in it before...they had seen the promo for it, and said I had to watch it with them.

First the Russian couple; they were favorites to win the Gold. Impressive. Kids liked it, all the whirling and majesty on the ice.

Then came the Chinese couple...Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao. They were guaranteed the Silver Medal by their previous standings, yet to snatch the Gold from the Russians would require something spectacular. If they failed in their attempt, they would lose all hope for a medal.

So they start their skating routine, and my kids said - "keep watching, keep watching" and then it came...they attempt the spectacular -- an unprecedented throw quad salchow (whatever a salchow is). He threw her in the air as she attempted to turn 4 times and land gracefully.

We all cringed in pain as the graceful landing turned into a catastrophic wipe out, with legs splayed split on the ice and the obvious agony on the skater's face. My daughter the gymnast gasped, "Ow! That must have really hurt!" and we thought it was all over for the Chinese team.

Her partner quickly picked her up and tried to help her continue skating, but her pain was unbearable. Partly dragged, part limping, partly skating off to the side with the support of her partner, they took a quick breather and shockingly returned to the ice within minutes to continue.

From where do people get such physical strength, to exert themselves beyond the normal limits of human endurance?

Is this the same quality in a soldier running in a "masa kumta", the 70 kilometer run to obtain a coveted IDF infantry beret? Exhaustion overwhelms the body with every muscle straining and yet, there are those who grab the front handle of the stretcher (with a soldier on it) and urge everyone to keep running, keep going, keep going towards the finish, even though they have been running for hours and hours.

Or the marathon runner who has hit "the wall" yet keeps going to complete the race?

We watched in awe as the Chinese team continued their performance, including difficult twists and turns -- with the injured skater alternating between her good and hurt leg. Attempting to smile and ignore the previous fall, she graciously skated with a passion and flair of an Olympic skater.

It would be melodramatic to say we held our breath while waiting for the judges to announce the score...but we were honestly thrilled for them when the annoucement was made.

Their Silver Medal shone brightest for us.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Omri Sharon is off to jail, and other news items

Convicted Criminal, MK Omri Sharon was sentenced today to 9 months in prison for the crimes of fictitious registration of corporate documents (used to boost the total of contributions past legal limits), lying under oath and violations of the election code.

Punishing the children for the sins of their parents?

Next on Qadima's list is Ehud Olmert. Everything the media didn't want you to know about him, is here.

And talking about what the media doesn't want you to know, the rocket attacks keep on coming. This rocket attack narrowly missed the fuel tanks for the Ashkelon power plant. Could it possibly be the disengagement was a mistake, and the media would rather you didn't know too much?

Coming on the heels of the above rocket attack, Qadima wants more and more disengagements. The Palestinian terror organizations have their own plans as they announce that a 'massive new war' against Israel is in the planning, consisting of more suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Jewish communities. They are calling it the third intifada...less sleep for me on Friday nights?

In the last 10 days Israeli forces intercepted 12 potential suicide bombers and have stopped several dozen bombings the past few months, prompting fears of "a new and worrisome wave of terror," said Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's Shin Bet security services.

Not only doesn't the media want you to know everything, but the polling companies are misreporting the facts as well. (Thanks Chardal, I didn't have time to translate what you did)

Everything is one huge misrepresentation?

Where do we go from here?

Omri's off to jail, Qadima wants more disengagements, the Palestinians weren't quite happy with the first one, so they keep aiming at Israel's power plant (and keep getting closer)...and to top it off, the terror groups announce a third intifada is being prepared.

Maybe we should take a good look at where we are now, and re-evaluate our strategy?

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Haveil Havalim #57 is up!

Great roundup by AbbaGav in this week's Haveil Havalim, edition #57.

The JIB's are over. Kudos to the winners -- specifically those friends of the Muqata: Hihurim, DovBear, Jewlicious, Dry Bones, Cahan's in Israel, Lazer Beams, Treppenwitz, and special muqata-guest blogger who almost got the gold...The Artist formerly know as the Purple Parrot who is going slightly mad.

Thanks to the JPost and Dave from Israellicool -- maybe we'll figure out a way next year to properly balance behemoth blogs against the smaller ones. (no, I'm NOT bitter ;-)

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Important Message from Israeli Bloggers

Many Israeli bloggers have been contacting me that they can't access blogger in order to post. The problem is ISP-based -- and one of the major Zionist Imperialist service providers, Netvision, is having problems...

Thank G-d that my ISP, MuqataNet has no such issues...we place Quality of Service at the top of our list. You won't see the following type of customer service that our Israeli competition has...at MuqataNet we emphasize that the customer is #1.

So, if you see that the bloggers from Israel seem a bit quiet today, its not because they have nothing to say, but because of technical issues.


This has been a public service announcement...if any Israeli blogger wants their message sent to the world, I'll gladly post it here...well...er...maybe not any message. This isn't going to be some sort of Richie's Pizza type message board.

And, see this video if you haven't already.
Who said this blog was too serious, all the time?

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Monday, February 13, 2006

Tu Bishvat - Blooming of the Land.

It's Tu BiShvat today!

Tu BiShvat, the 15th day of the month of "Shvat" is the "new year" for trees -- all sorts of Jewish laws that pertain to the fruits of trees are connected to today.

I'm even eating fresh dates from the Jordan Valley as I type this.

The famous children's song in Hebrew, "Hashkediya Porachat -- The Almond Tree is Blooming, Tu Bishvat is here" never really connected to me as a kid growing up in the United States.

When we built our home in Israel, we planted 2 Almond trees in front of our home. Every year, give or take a few days from Tu Bishvat, the trees bloom a wonderful pink and white burst of color that stops even the most cynical of people.

Its amazing that every year, right on schedule, the Almond trees bloom in tandem with Tu Bishvat.

Almond Tree near the Muqata

Almond Tree Near Shiloh

Almond Tree in the middle of Chawara.

One of my favorite Tu Bishvat songs is based on the writings of Rabi Nachman from Breslev; the song of grass, Shirat Haasavim
רבי נחמן מברסלב היה אומר: דע כי כל רועה ורועה יש לו ניגון מיוחד
לפי העשבים ולפי המקום שהוא רועה שם
כי כל עשב ועשב יש לו שירה
ומשירת העשבים נעשה ניגון של רועה
הלוואי והייתי זוכה לשמוע את כל השירות והתשבחות של העשבים
איך כל עשב ועשב אומר שירה לה' יתברך
בלי תהייה ובלי שום מחשבות זרות
ואינם מצפים לשום גמול
כמה יפה ונאה ששומעים את השירה שלהם
וטוב מאוד ביניהם לעבוד את האלוהים ביראה
תיכף כשאדם מתעורר להשתוקק בארץ ישראל
אזי כפי התעוררותו ותשוקתו
נמשכת עליו האורה מקדושת ארץ ישראל
(ליקוטי שיחות, רבי נחמן מברסלב)

Naomi Shemer played with the words and added music.

For More on Tu Bishvat, with lots of lyrics to songs, see here:


So while all you on the US Eastern Seaboard are trying to get yourselves out of the snow, we're enjoying Tu Bishvat. Save some snow for us...we may get some on Wednesday...and my kids would KILL for it!

Pics from the snow in the US: http://www.col.org.il/show_news.asp?17563

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Friday Night - Midnight @ the Muqata

This past Friday night, I went to bed around 10 PM. All the kids were asleep...for a change, and I crawled under the covers to go to sleep.

Blissfull sleep.

I could sleep for hours snuggled under a warm blanket. Granted, I can fall asleep standing up if need be or contorted into a pretzel in an economy airline seat. If there weren't pressing matters of responsibility, I could sleep for a week.

I'm deep in my sleep...when my motorola radio starts beeping at me at 12:04 AM.

"Jameel, Jameel, this is the "moked" (command center)..."

(Our IDF counter-terror unit is on call 24x7.)

Rolling out of bed, I see my beeper is buzzing as well, and I see that the IDF has spotted suspicious characters in the wadi below our settlement.

Throwing on my clothes -- my dark Shabbat pants are the quickest to put on, a dark blue sweatshirt, yesterday's socks, shoes, blue kippa (instead of my white Shabbat one)...I grab my pistol, walkie talkie, cellphone, beeper and I'm about to run out of my bedroom when my wife asks from her sleep what's going on. I tell her what my beeper said and run downstairs.

I used to get wistful about running out of the house; some write how they say good bye to their wives knowing they may not return. I think I'm past that; probably since its the middle of the night, and I have way too much on my mind.

Calling my command counterpart, he says he's on his way out to his car, and we agree I'll send out the beeper message to everyone, grab the first person I can from our unit, and start a patrol.

I just made a phone call on Shabbat.

Actually, it was already my second one, since I had spoken previously to the moked. I call the beeper company (third phone call) and send out a message that will also wake up a couple dozen people from their Friday night shabbat sleep.

Throwing on my bulletproof vest, I grab my M16, helmet, Vietnam-era army radio, signal flares, and mega flash-light -- I lug all this to my car. The car is ready before shabbat, to minimize "chilul Shabbat" (desecration of the Shabbat) -- the strobe light is already connected, the headlights will go on automatically when I start the car, the radio is off...and I start the car. Orange lights flashing, I pick up my friend from our unit, and we speed off towards the perimeter.

As I'm driving, my friend is talking on my car's motorola radio. Who's on-line, who is awake, who can be a lookout, who's available...and they reply one at a time. I admonish my friend that he needs to acknowledge each person who calls in, so they know we heard them. He says its Shabbat and we need to minimize chilul Shabbat...before I can reply we see part of the fence is slightly bent. I slow down, and notice the mud on the other side is untouched...no footprints or ladder marks anywhere -- must be an old "bend" in the fence.

Continuing to drive, I turn to my friend and say, "What's your problem with acknowledging someone on the radio on Shabbat -- he needs to know we heard him." My friend apologizes; he thought I meant to say "thank you" for calling in, not "acknowledgement", and he agrees with me.

1:35 AM

The Moked lets us know the army has called off the search. Its not crucial for me to know why they called everything off -- since its Shabbat. I send out a beeper message that all's clear, and drive my car back home. Shlep everything out of the car, make sure everything is ready in case I need to go out again. Quietly unlocking the door to my house, I put everything away and trudge upstairs, and flop down in bed.

Some people think I'm crazy for volunteering -- just as some think its crazy to live in a settlement...or even in Israel.

I do get alot of satisfaction from personally protecting my family and my yishuv...even if it's strange to drive on shabbat and talk on the phone...and even if it means less sleep.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Thursday, February 09, 2006

TIPH TIFF -- How the Palestinians shot themselves in the foot. Again.

After Dr. Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Arabs worshippers in Me'arat HaMachpelah 12 years ago in Hevron, the international community was up in arms.

They demanded international protection for Hevron's Arab population from the Jewish settlers. Israel compromised, and allowed an observer presence through the formation of TIPH, The Temporary International Presence in Hevron. (Israelis pronounce it, TIPA)

The Jews in Hevron never really liked this organization that much; they viewed TIPH as subjective, with a clear bias learning towards the Arabs. As much as the Hevron Jewish community tried to show TIPH that they should look at both sides of the issue of coexistance in Hevron, they always got the feeling of residual hostility from TIPH.

Fast Forward to yesterday.

The infamous Denmark cartoon incident apparently inflamed pan-Islamic passion so much, that Hevron's Arab community turned its anger towards......TIPH !!

Does that makes any sense whatsoever?

YNETNEWS reports:

Some 300 Palestinians attacked the TIPH building, throwing stones, smashing windows and trying to set the building on fire in protest over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad wearing a bomb-like turban first published in Denmark and later reprinted in newspapers across Europe.

Sixty unarmed mission members were in the building at the time, said Gunhild Forselv, a spokeswoman for TIPH, which serves as a buffer between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the volatile city.

The mission'shead decided to leave the West Bank city despite apologies by Palestinian Authority officials and guarantees to boost police presence around the building.

The mission announced that all its 73 members, outraged by the destruction caused to the building, will be leaving Hebron in the coming few hours.

What the heck were they thinking?

The Hevron Jewish community sent a farewell letter to TIPH as a result, wishing them well, with best of luck in the future.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Snow @ Amona.

Hat-tip: Oren from Ofra.

It didn't quite snow at the Muqata this morning, but it did hail...covering our lawn in white. For about 5 minutes.

The younger kids danced around the house in glee and then grabbed plastic cups to go outside and collect some of the white stuff. The hail quickly turned back to rain, and the hail disappeared as quickly as it came.

My 5 year old daughter was so disappointed that she couldn't get any hail/snow into her cup, that the tears started rolling down her cheeks. I explained to her that it must be really disappointing not get something you want very badly, and she nodded with a sad look.

I told her that maybe if we did a hail-dance, it would hail again...or maybe we could even try a snow dance, since she knows we have a tried and true rain dance. Just the thought of it made her smile, and she got ready to go off to gan.

What the kids don't know is that its not really a rain dance, but a "get the kids to smile and laugh" dance.

And it works every time.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Checkpoint Eliyahu: Crossing the Green Line.

For the sake of completeness, this is the followup to Morning Travels part #1

Blogger isn't working well, so I wasn't able to upload more pictures than there are now. I'll try later to update this with more.

There are many possible routes for me to get to work every morning – yet the most depressing by far is via Checkpoint Eliyahu. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it – no one’s ever heard of this border crossing since the sign was only put up a few weeks ago; everyone else calls it “Machsom HaPeirot” (The Fruit Barricade Checkpoint).

The HaPeirot name is purely historical since there isn’t any fruit anywhere near the checkpoint, but long ago, 15 years in the past, there used to be an intersection at the edge of Kalkilya and Kfar Sava where Jews and Arabs sold fresh fruit and vegetables in an open air marketplace. Flowers, trees, plants and produce -- there was lots to buy in that market. Those days seem SO long ago...

Those were the days before Oslo, before the peace process, before the current Intifada, when there were no checkpoints at all between Israel and the Shomron.

At the “Fruit Intersection” Arabs and Jews flowed freely back and forth through Kalkilya and Kfar Sava and I would often buy there fruit and flowers for Shabbat. It was a hustle bustle of cooperation and coexistence, that while it may not have been utopian, it worked well, and everyone seemed to get along. Terror was at a low point in 1991, the old intifada had gone away, and life was pretty decent.

Since Oslo started, one of the first things the government did was re-demarcate the Green Line by dotting all the roads with checkpoints. While Israel’s policy had been since 1967 to remove all semblances of the Green Line, the Labor government decided to recreate it. That’s how the Fruit Intersection changed to the Fruit Checkpoint. Same place, the fruit vendors were still there, but traffic jams now started every morning…not only for Palestinians, but for Jews as well. You could get stuck at the checkpoint for 30 minutes in an annoying traffic jam as the soldiers checked cars.

When the first signs of a major PA-led Intifada erupted in 1996 (when the Kotel Tunnel was opened), the first shots were fired from Israeli-provided-rifles to the PA, and Jewish cars were being targeted from Kalkilya, just spitting distance from the road. Those were the end of the fruit market days. Walls of dirt and rock were placed up along the side of the road facing Kalkilya (an ecological nightmare), the last vestiges of coexistence disappeared, and the entire area from the road adjacent to Kalkilya was bulldozed away and cleared to give the IDF a better view of terror threats emanating from Kalkilya.

Last year, the "security" fence came from the North, plunging into the Shomron -- with heavy machines cutting into the mountains, carving out security roads, and putting up miles and miles of electronic fence. Moving the green line eastwards, the fence was about 5 kilometers east of the original Fruit junction. Since people need to go through the fence in an orderly method, the Fruit Checkpoint was built.

Don’t be mistaken, this was not just a checkpoint but a border crossing, so that if and when someone decided to hermitically seal the “security fence”, a huge yellow gate could be shut across the road, totally disconnecting the east side of the green line from pre-67 Israel.

On the other side of the road is the “pillbox” and lanes of traffic going westwards. No one cares about the eastbound traffic, except for the police checking from time to time for stolen cars, or during this past summer, when they prevented right wing demonstrators from trying to get to the Northern Shomron communities. The pillbox is a grey concrete cylinder that overlooks the entire checkpoint, presumably so the soldiers up above keep watch of things going. The word pillbox is also historical, going back to the British...and I don't have the time to google for it. Know why? Drop a comment.

The traffic approaching from the East splits into 3 lanes – Palestinian cars with permission to enter pre-67 Israel, Israeli cars who don’t live in the Shomron (Israeli Arabs and Jews alike), and then, the special “easy pass” lane for those who live in the Shomron, (via special high tech identification methods)

This sign announces who is allowed to go through the “Authorized Vehicle Lane” and it’s interesting that although the caption of the sign says that only Israelies are allowed through the checkpoint lane -- but if you read further down, you see that it includes anyone who could POSSIBLY be an Israeli, by the right of return.

Olmert announced yesterday that the Kadima party plans on keeping 3 settlement blocs and everything else will follow the path of Gush Katif: Unilateral disengagement, the destruction of Jewish communities, and Israel’s retreat from lands that overlook the entire Coastal Plain. The Muqata is not in any of those 3 planned blocs…and to tell you the truth, I’m still trying to digest that fact…

The rest of my ride to work was uneventful, till I got stopped by a herd of goats crossing the road.

All sorts of annoying reasons can cause traffic to stop these days, but I’m always happy to let a herd of goats stop traffic for a minute or two – it gives you a short breather from the frantic pace of life in modern Israel to reconnect to the more biblical and ancient side of the land.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Insane Islamic Hatred

About 10 years ago, an Israeli woman, Tatiana Suskind drew up a crude flyer of a pig wearing a keffiya and put it up on a wall in Hevron. She was sentenced to 2 years in jail for incitement.

Yet, you've got to wonder why the Danish Cartoon vs. Islam story has gone ballistic.

Check out these pictures from an Islamic rally in London...they left me speechless.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Jewish Videos for the Soul. And then some.

This is a very serious video put out by Avot U'Banim about the importance of learning with your kids. Taking a sobby story and turning it into a video, the message is still clear and powerful (albeit, still sobby.) Couldn't find it anywhere on the web, so I uploaded it myself -- see it here
Hattip: My sister in law, J.

After everything we've seen about extravagant Bar Mitzvas, this video should definitely win an award. While it probably cost the kid's parents a few extra Shekels, the upside is that as opposed to a lavish party which only the invited get to enjoy, this video is available for everyone to see. From all of us at the Muqata, We wish Ethan a very very happy BarMitzva.
Hattip: Litvshe

Warning: The following video clip is totally politically incorrect. As the Muqata's favorite holy book, JoeSettler sent us this, "It's in the Koran." To tell you the truth, I don't have streaming media access, and I only heard part of it being played over the phone. Yet, Naomi Ragen sent it out to her list, so it can't be that bad...I hope.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Monday, February 06, 2006

Demonstration Dayreams

Photo courtesy of JoeSettler, my demonstration co-attender of many years. Note, this picture is not of my son...or me.

Last night along with over 100,000 people, I attended the hafgana (demonstration) at Kikar Zion in Jerusalem, where we protested against the Israeli government-sanctioned police brutality towards the Amona protestors last week.

My three oldest kids wanted to attend, but due to logistical issues of getting them from the Muqata, Yeshiva, and the like, only my 11 year old son made it to Jerusalem.

Squeezing my hand tightly, my son and I snaked through the packed streets of Kikar Zion, listening to the speakers drone on and on. Hardly anyone really listens to them anyway – you go to be a number, one little extra added space to a sea of people. The ideological teenagers go for the same reason they were at Amona. The less committed go for the social scene; imagine seeing 100,000 of your closest friends from school, camp, your neighborhood and those you met on every vacation you ever took.

No matter how many people show up, you always see familiar faces…my son even found his best friend there. While I saw the requisite number of friends, it bothered me that the median age had dropped significantly since I started going to these hafganot. OK, so I’m getting older, but I was still there -- maybe just because I’m young at heart. But where were all the tens of thousands of people my age – they only decided to send their kids?

Spotting JoeSettler, the 3 of us continued walking around, till we decided to get a bite to eat. Maneuvering through the crowd, we ended up at Apple Pizza off the King George pedestrian mall. And that’s when the daydreaming started…as I was transported back 20 years in time…

Apple Pizza hadn’t yet opened during my first year in Yeshiva; there was only one place for yeshiva and sem students, one year programmers, and tourists to get decent pizza and hang out -- the semi-mythical Richie’s Pizza on King George. Their pizza wasn’t amazing; the crust was flat and the cheese wasn’t really mozerella, but at the time it was the closest thing to homestyle American pizza. But it wasn’t only the pizza that brought everyone to Richie’s pizza. Back then, cell-phones were a dream that hadn’t been invented yet, payphones were sparse, and news traveled a lot slower. The easy going desert pace in Israel back then bares almost no similarity to the high-tech, hyper connected Israel of today.

Calling oversees in those days from a payphone meant dropping “asimonim” – little round phone tokens into the payphone and calling the international operator somewhere in Tel Aviv. If you were lucky enough to get through, you would tell her the number you wanted to call (collect, of course) and she would call you back with the connection. As soon as she hung up, you would pray with all your might that:

1) The number she was calling would answer.
2) The operator would call you back and not decide to take a falafel break
3) The person standing on line behind you, also waiting for the payphone wouldn’t try to kick you off the line
4) The phone would still work well enough to receive the call from the operator
5) The phone wouldn’t ring with someone other than the international operator.

Lots of things could go wrong…and they often did. It’s not surprising how religious we all became after a year or two in Israel – it wasn’t the yeshiva, it was from the spiritual experience of successfully calling oversees on the payphone.

Yet what made Richie’s pizza so special was the huge cork message board that covered the wall opposite the counter. A patchwork of folded over notes, napkins, and random papers, it was a modern tribute of the notes-stuffed Kotel, except instead of messages to G-d, this message board was the epitome of modern communications in Israel. With no easy way to contact anyone, you would leave a message on this board with the recipient’s name on it, and when they got around to it, they would pick up their message from the cork board, and maybe leave one as a reply.

With many parents having no way to contact their kids in Israel, they would call Richie’s pizza in Jerusalem and leave messages to be written down onto notes and then tacked to the message board. This service alone made it worthwhile for parents to give their kids extra pizza money – since it was the easiest and surest way of getting a message across the ocean.

The other main attraction at the time was the grand opening of Carvel ice cream across the street, at the bottom right of the Shalom Tower. Thursday or Saturday nights we would wait on line for over an hour to get that cool and smooth, soft ice cream. Waiting on line was half the fun, as guys and girls hung out on line, laughing away the evenings...with not a worry or care in the world. Where else would people wait on line for over an hour, in stormy cold winter weather, for ice cream?

Strolling around the center of town, I would meet friends from all around Israel; Yeshivot, Seminaries, University, Bnei Akiva Hachshara…and some friends who volunteered for the IDF…

And then, dragging me out of my daydream, my son asks me for more pizza.

It’s so odd that my children are not far from that age when they’ll be hanging out at the same places I did.

We hang around the hafgana a bit longer, buy some t-shirts and sweatshirts, and head for home.

And the daydream still lingers in my head.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Want to Play Jewish GeBlography?

DePerplexing the J-Blogosphere, A Moreh Nevuchim?

Last week a book fell off the shelf at home -- picking it up, it was a copy of the Yeshiva College Student Directory from 1993, "The Guide to the Perplexed". I don't know why it beckoned me to read it, but I'm sure glad I did.

For those of you who attended Yeshiva College or Stern College from 1984 onwards, "The Guide" is an integral part of college student life at Yeshiva Univesity. Containing a wealth of information from minyanim, library hours, the street and avenue numbering system of Manhattan, to where to go on a decent date for under $10 -- this student guide includes the name of every YC/Stern undergraduate student, their home address, dorm room and phone number.

If you weren't in the guide, you didn't exist.

I saw the names of friends I hadn't thought about it years...names and numbers scribbled in that brought back a wave of memories. Some reminded me what a character I was back then.

Who could have known about Jameel in the late 80s?

Why did I have the phone number written in for the "PLO Mission to the United Nations"?
Actually, that was pretty funny. I called them up and told them I was a Political Science PhD student at Columbia, and my thesis was on the viability of a Palestinian State -- and wanted to know if they could send me any source information. I gave them my YU dorm address with my name spelled backwards, and they sent me boxes and boxes of Intifada magazine and loads of other rather scary stuff. Better I should have it, than someone else...but I digress.

Jewish GeBlography:

What blew me away was the number of bloggers that I now know around the JBlogosphere that were listed back then. I felt like I had come upon a relic high school yearbook, which coincidentally contained a large number of bloggers...almost all of them anonymous to the real world. I was there too...(not in the 93 edition, though)...and wondered how many of today's bloggers appeared in a Guide in some shape or form.

Going back even further, I found bloggers who are public with their identities and noticed that some of us were even on the same dorm floor at the same time.

Hardly a day goes by without some new blog coming my way; mostly anonymous, with a few tantalizing, revealing details thrown in. The majority of us hide behind silly monikers and catchy blog names -- we wonder once in a while what would happen if…people knew who we really were...

Ever see “Conspiracy Theory” will Mel Gibson? This poor, tormented conspiracy theorist has an apartment chock full of filing cabinets of every conspiracy theory known to man. When the black helicopters finally come after him, he has his contingency plan; one touch of a button and the entire contents of his precious library are instantly incinerated.

Same thing in “Enemy of State” with Gene Hackman. The ex-spook who knows it all with the bug proof lab in a warehouse also has a self destruct sequence -- if his anonymity is ever compromised.

Do you ever wonder what would happen if you woke up and everyone knew who you were? That your mask of anonymity would be ripped from your face…what would you do?

Would you hit the “Remove Blog” button in your blogger, permanently removing hours, days, maybe even months of your existence, your finest creativity, your favorite posts?

It’s not really backed up anywhere…

So on a daily basis, we shrink our world; some of us talk by email, by IM, at work, in person, speak on the phone and hang out in real life, some meet in real life.

Granted, some of the bloggers I know have decent reasons to keep their anonymity, and I'm still, for the most part, just an anonymous Bernie/Jameel living somewhere in a Yishuv north of Jerusalem.

Yet...I can't out myself to the world.

The word מבוכה -- similar to the same root מורה נבוכים doesn't only mean perplexed. It also means quandary, sheepishness, tizzy, tumult, turmoil, bafflement and bedazzlement.

All good words to describe anonymity...or wanting to remain anonymous in the JBlogosphere.

And as a side note: The past week has shown a marked increase of people's comments that could divulge my identity. You know who I am? Great. Drop me an email. However, I'd rather if you didn't post comments that could "out" me. Thanks.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Amona – Next Steps.

Friday Morning, 9:15 AM – Ra’anana. Not wanting to get into a rut and become a one-issue blog, I need to come to some sort of closure on this issue, so I can move to on other blog-worthy topics…lets hope I succeed with this posting. (And now, Sunday morning, I’m rereading this and realize this issue isn’t going away so quickly…but I still have many other topics of interest to blog about)

I’m currently sitting in a dental office in Ra’anana as my son is getting some dental work done – so I’m banging away at my laptop. My son was rather scared of this particular treatment, and even though I told him that it would barely hurt, he doesn’t really believe me. We agreed that if it does in fact hurt, he gets to choose my next blog topic -- he told me he enjoyed reading about himself in my blog last week. I hope he doesn’t choose something embarrassing…actually, I hope it doesn’t hurt him at all, so he doesn’t have chose a topic. He’s lying in the chair, with dental equipment all over is mouth, and he’s listening to songs via his brand new Bar Mitzva present iPod..

Having no clue what I’m typing about, or that I’m Jameel, or even why I’m typing in the first place, the dentist is talking to me while he works on my son’s teeth. After a bit of Jewish Geography, (and I’m not making this up, since it sounds too crazy to be true), he just brought up the topic of Amona. Here I am, trying to blog about Amona, and my son’s dentist brings up the subject. I just keep talking and typing, and thankfully, my son deosn’t seem too traumatized by this procedure.

Actually, I’m happy the dentists did bring it up, since it demonstrates to me that people are thinking about Amona (without needing any prompting from me). I get the feeling he’s not really pro-Amona settlement, but he was outraged by the actions of the police…and that’s a good thing.

Of all the comments posted, I was bothered most by the growing divide between our people. If we no longer have any nationhood glue binding us so that we can say together, “We Are One”, I’m very worried for our future. The pictures and videos need to shock and outrage everyone to the point that we all take a step back, instead of it hardening everyone’s position. This evening in my yishuv, there’s going to be an open round table discussion between adults and teenagers about where we go from here. I know the teenagers will have lots to say, and their number one complaint will probably be, (as it was this summer), where are the adults? Where is the leadership? How is a group of a few thousand teenagers supposed to defend Amona from 5000 policemen, who don’t have a problem smashing their heads with batons and trampeling them with horses?

There are also many different types of people demonstrating at Amona. You had some, like Elchonon, who don’t have a problem of using violence against policemen who are violent against you. There are many, many others, who I am convinced are the majority who can’t bring themselves to do anything violent, and they sat on the floors of buildings slated for destruction – and they still got bashed over the head and brutally removed from the homes…many to the point requiring hospitalization.

Fast Forward to Sunday morning

There’s a big demonstration scheduled tonight (Sunday) at 18:30 at Kikar Zion, Jerusalem against last week’s brutal violence by the police. I’ll be there.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Amona Revisited

My description of Amona's destruction yesterday was pretty awful, till I watched it on TV last night and realized it was alot worse. The videoclips are buzzing all over the internet and it should be clear to all what happened yesterday.

As if I needed more proof, the following quote from an emergency room doctor at Hadassah hospital summed it up:

רופא אחר, העובד בחדר המיון בהדסה עין כרם, סיפר: "אני עובד 20 שנה במיון ולא ראיתי דבר כזה בחיי. מחבלים משכם מוציאים עם פחות אלימות ממה שראיתי היום. ראיתי נערים בני 14 ו-15 חבולים קשה, זה נס שאף אחד מהאנשים שאני טיפלתי בהם לא נפצע באופן יותר רציני"

"I have worked for over 20 years in the emergency room, and have never seen anything like this in my life. Terrorists from Shechem are brought in here with less trauma than what I saw today. I saw teenagers, between 14-15 years old, brought in with serious trauma, and its a miracle none of the people I treated were hurt even worse."

This morning I gave a lift to a bunch of hitchhikers to Jerusalem, including some teenagers from my yishuv who were in Amona yesterday.

In fact, dozens and dozens of our teenagers were present in Amona. These teenagers come from the finest of Israel's families, some of whom even made the ideological decision to move to Israel, and build their homes in the Shomron. Their parents are doctors, nurses, university professors, businessmen, homemakers -- honest and hard working families whose commitment to the settlement of the land of Israel is equally matched by their commitment to help Am Yisrael. Be it helping the needy, the sick, the elderly, or the disabled -- volunteering in Magen David Adom as EMTs, going to reserve duty in the IDF, volunteering in the Auxiliary Police, you will find these people on Israel's front lines, 24 x 7, every day of the year.

And who are these teenagers? Are these the wild "hilltop youth" we routinely see maligned by the press?

I can tell you that one of my hitchhikers today is a quiet, modest, religious teenager. She was there yesterday not out of hatred of Olmert. Not because she hates Arabs. Not because she hates the police. I didn't detect any hatred in her voice whatsoever.

All she had was a deep connection, a real passion for Eretz Yisrael, a love for our reclaimed land -- and a desire to continue settling it. I can't imagine she was throwing rocks...but I can see her crying her eyes out, as the horses and soldiers and policemen brutally beat her friends who were trying to hold on to the land.

Her brother was hit over the head by a baton, kicked in the stomach by a horse. Our neighbor's daughter needed stitches on her head. She went on and on telling me how the protestors were beaten, taken to a large tent, and treated by MDA medics before transport to Israel's hospitals.

It was surrealistic to see the police, soldiers and protestors all lugging each other on stretchers to the triage point...while 10 seconds earlier they were on opposite sides of the fence.

Today's Yediot Acharanot daily newspaper's front page was an aerial view of the confrontation in Amona. The headlines screamed out "Maachaz Ha'Sin'a" -- "The Outpost of Hatred"

Ehud Olmert (via his advisors) jumped into the fray as well, saying that "The Radical Right Wing is the Jewish Hamas"

The problem from yesterday is that Israel's government and media are intentionally marginalizing the Right Wing; The Right Wing is the source of hatred (Yediot) and The Right is a Jewish Hamas (Olmert).

If the government and media think that Israel can afford another Altelena incident to further political agendas, they are gravely mistaken.

Israel cannot afford it and neither can the Jewish people.

Israel's government must first and foremost start acting responsibly towards its citizens. Alienation and targeting of its own citizens instead of meaningful dialogue will be Olmert's undoing. All attempts to heavy-hand the settlers will bring about more tension and strife...and if Olmert can't realize this, he's not fit to be prime minister.

So where do we go from here? What are the answers? What does the rightwing need to do on their part?

In the past 24 hours, I've heard everything you an imagine. And worse.

What do you think?

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Amona. It hurts so bad. (Updated)

As I write this, the events at Amona are taking place 30 minutes from me. I don't feel like watching it on TV, and I already have a sinking feeling in my stomach, that I know exactly what's happening there.

I just found the following quote from Israel's Channel 2 TV reporter, Roni Daniel -- he's on the scene as I type.

He's not a fan of the right, or the settlers...but this is what he had to say about the police violence:

"השוטרים מכים מכות רצופות את המתנחלים , המהלומות מיותרות הם מכים רק כדי לפרוק זעם אין בכך כל צורך זה מיותר. יש צורך לבחון את התנהלות המשטרה על הגגות . האלימות כאן מיותרת "

"The police are violently hitting the settlers, with extreme brutality. The blows are totally unnecessary, and they are striking them just to blow off steam. There is no reason for it at all; its superfluous. The police's activity on the rooftops needs to be examined. All the violence here is needless."

MK Effi Eitam was wounded by the police....he's on his way for a CT now at Hadassah hospital.

MK Arye Eldad's arm was broken by the police...and he fainted.

MDA reports close to 200 settlers wounded...There are reports that a policeman is wounded as well.

Protestor thrown out of window by Police.

I'm not going to write about Amona's housing...or whether or not Jews have a right to build in Israel...or if the settlers are right or wrong...or if the police are doing what they need to do or not.

UPDATED with more horrible pictures.

I will write, that Ehud Olmert and the Israeli government have succeeded in bringing about this terrible situation to its current state. They wanted violence, they want the world to see our pain, they wanted this Chilul Hashem for all to see.

And it hurts so bad.

UPDATED: I wrote this into a comment, and then decided it should be here as well.

The tragedy of the situation is the demonization of the settlers and the movement to settle the land.

This isn't a game of improving one's quality of life, owning a bigger home or ruling over another people.

The Jews of Amona and their supporters are motivated exclusively by a deep passion and love for Eretz Yisrael.

Their entire ideology and way of life is being targeted by the Israeli government and media as the enemy of the state.

Its tragic that Olmert is alienating one of Israel's most dedicated population segments.

Instead of learning from this summer, he's exacerbating the issues and rallying the media and people of Israel against their own brothers.

And that hurts the most.

NB: I'm not posting the Manila posting today...it's all done. Hopefully tomorrow.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

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