Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hebrew isn't only difficult for Olim.

The local Arabs have many problems with it as well.

The best sign of all was in Beit Lechem...the last time I saw it was in 1995 before Israel created the BeitLechem bypass, bypass road. It was in English and said, "No Barking"

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Gaza Summer Camp

If you're a Palestinian child lucky enough to be living in the Gaza strip, this is probably going to be the best summer ever -- there are simply so many great summer camp programs to chose from!

YNET reports on some of them:

Hamas alone is currently conducting no less than 300 summer camps for tens of thousands of children, and the focus is on familiarizing kids with the Palestinian towns and cities destroyed in 1948, as well as instilling religious fervor in them. The camps also feature sports and military-type trainings such as crawling under barbed-wire.

Not to be outdone...

Islamic Jihad has also launched its own summer camps, offering some 10,000 children activities similar to those of Hamas. The kids study passages from the Koran and participate in quizzes on religious matters, with emphasis on the required commitment to political prisoners and Palestinian land. They also learn how to hold a Qassam rocket-launcher.

The geekier kids go to this camp:

The third organization conducting summer camps in the Gaza Strip is United Nations Relief Association (UNRA.) Fatah is abstaining from camp operation for the second year in a row, due to the limitations placed on the movement by Hamas, as well as its meager financial resources as a result of Hamas’ takeover.

Yet the report on the most alluring summer camp of all is reported on by Sky's Middle East Correspondent Emma Hurd. This veteran 4 -year-old summer camp is at an undisclosed location, and drills children for a full flat-out war and assault on Israel.

The recruits, some of whom are dwarfed by their AK-47 assault rifles, are taught how to carry out ambushes.

They are also made to do an obstacle course, crawling under barbed wire and leaping through hoops of fire while their instructors fire live bullets overhead. Hurd witnessed one training session in which a militant, dressed as a Jewish settler complete with yarmulke skull cap, was ambushed in his car. Gunmen pulled the "settler" from his vehicle and Hurd was told if this had been real he would have been killed.

She spoke to two 10-year-old recruits.

One of them, Mustafa, said he wanted to shoot down Israeli aircraft and blow up tanks.

The camp is run by a group called the Popular Resistance Committee, which said the next generation of Palestinians needed to know how to fight the Israeli "occupation".

The boys even "graduate" at the end of their training, receiving a certificate from the camp commander.

Reminds me of the two Palestinian women watching their kids play in the street. One turns to the other and wistfully says, "Kids, they blow up so fast these days."

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breaking News: Olmert Resigns! won't run in the Kadima primaries

Who says only bad things happen during the 3 week before Tisha B'Av?

8:10 PM, July 30, 2008: Olmert announces that he will leave office in 2 months!

What a disappointment....well, maybe not.

After a 14 minute surprise press conference, first Olmert drags it on saying how wonderful the government is, how everything in Israel is grand, how the police have been hounding him over investigations in which de did nothing wrong, and he has answers for everything.

Instead of outright resigning, he is only stepping down after the Kadima primaries.

Haaretz reports:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that he has decided not to contend in the Kadima primary and would resign as soon as the new party leader was chosen, due to the criminal investigation that have embroiled him in recent months.

Olmert made the announcement in a statement to the public from his official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening.

The prime minister has been under official criminal investigation in recent months over allegations of corruption in his former capacities as Jerusalem mayor and trade minister.

Political sources had expected Olmert to announce that he would not run in upcoming leadership contest in his Kadima party, scheduled for September 17. This decision in effect signals an end to Olmert's political career.

Olmert began the address by saying that despite having been beset by investigations during his tenure, he has improved the situation in Israel and continues to believe that peace is the most important track for the country.

The prime minister went on to say that as long as he was in power, he would work toward this goal of peace.

"I am proud to be the prime minister of a country that investigates its prime ministers," he said. "The prime minister is not above the law, but he is in no way beneath it."
[He may not be beneath the law, but he's certainly beneath contempt. -Lurker]

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

From the mailbag....

Seems I'm not the only one who got this.


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Attitude; The Oleh's Best Friend

Living in Israel is a challenge, and for immigrants, even more.

I could spend days and days pointing out the warts of Israeli society -- the number of problems and challenges are as countless as the grains of sand or stars in the sky.

The Israeli government is almost incomprehensible; is it stupidity, evil, corruption, hatred, apathy or blindness that decides and implements policy?

Just a quick and short roundup of a few issues of the day that demonstrate the point:

In an effort to earn more money for the government's coffers, Israel now charges a towing fee for cars damaged in terror attacks.
A family of new immigrants from the United States was startled to discover the new policy while trying to overcome the trauma of the first Jerusalem bulldozer attack.The family was ordered to pay for the towing of its damaged car from the attack scene; other residents faced similar demands.

The Aizenshtats moved to Israel from the US four years ago. On the day of the bulldozer attack they were driving in their car with their three children near the construction site where the terrorist came from.

The vehicle was towed away, and later the family was contacted by a government appraiser and asked to pay NIS 685 (roughly $200) for towing the car. "We were driving and suddenly saw the bulldozer charging at us," Rochelle Aizenshtat recounted. "We were in shock and we started screaming." One of the girls in the car sustained light wounds only, but the car was seriously damaged. (YNET)

Israel is facing it's worst water shortage ever.

The town of Afula for example has created a park with a man-made lake that has been filled 4 times so far, wasting tens of thousands of cubic meters of fresh drinking water, due to the poor planning and construction of the lake which allowed the water to leak out.

The Jordan river is so low in places, that the rafting/kayaking businesses are on the verge of stopping activity. A commission has been established to examine how we got into such a mess.
The future commission is to be tasked with investigating the failures that led the various Israeli governments to disregard dozens of reports and recommendations drafted by professional committees formed throughout the years and compiling a series of short and long-term recommendations that would ensure that Israel's water supply would remain intact. (YNET)
After 3 years since the Disengagement, most of the evicted families are still unemployed, in temporary housing, and without permanent housing plans.

Over the past few days, the former Gaza inhabitants discovered their belongings, mostly Holy Scriptures and additional materials that were packed at the various community synagogues and stored at a Ministry of Religious Affairs’ warehouse at Moshav Givati near Ashdod, have been severely damaged. Some of the Judaica was completely ruined and some was cast on the floor covered in mold and dust.
The SELA Administration for Assistance to Settlers from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria referred Tucker and his friends to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which referred them to the person in charge of storage. He referred them to the storehouse on Kibbutz Givati, which was leased out to hold the contents of evacuated Gaza community synagogues. (read the whole sordid, sad run-around story here on YNET)
The State Comptroller Committee approved yesterday the establishment of an investigative committee to look into the appalling treatment of 2005's Gaza evacuees. The State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss was quoted as saying that this was a grave problem for which "a solution must be found, and it is possible that the appropriate way to do this is through an investigative committee."

Of course, there are people such as MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) that voted for the Disengagement who believe it was so successful that such an investigation is unwarranted and politically motivated.

MK Vilan said that the establishment of this committee constitutes "cheap populism". He added: "it pains me that instead of remaining outside of the political discussion, the state comptroller has taken a stance that will have long-term political consequences." (JPost)

So what's a person to do?

Israel is not a rose garden, yet. Till that happens, the best way to deal with life here on a daily basis when confronting the frustration of dealing with so many problems is attitude.

Yes, coming to Israel with lots of money helps. (I didn't...I came with a few hundred dollars, but then again, I was single).

Coming to Israel with a job lined up helps. (Coming to Israel with a skillset that is wanted in the marketplace really helps)

Coming to Israel with family members living here helps.

Knowing Hebrew before moving here helps.

But the #1 trait to bring with you is a positive attitude -- that you are here to make a difference, here to build the country, here to raise a family and be part of the community, and here, because it's home.

Old-time blogger Chayyei Sarah has a great post in honor of her 5 year aliyanniversary on her absorption and the 5 stages of acclimation to Israel (Euphoria, Panic, Depression, Adaption, and Acculturation).

CS writes, "But the pot of gold at the end of the absorption rainbow is . . ." (stage 5).

Life here can be difficult and scary. Building a home was difficult, taking out a mortgage was scary, the first time I showed up at the bakum (the IDF absorption center), I was in a panic when told I was about to serve 18 months (married, with 3 kids, with a job and mortgage, 18 months sounded a bit too long...but till I found someone who agreed with me, I had many butterflies in my stomach).

Yet just as life in general can be scary here, the same applies everywhere and not only here.

There is annoying beauracracy in the rest of the world. In fact, getting an Israeli passport is now easier than getting an American one in the United States. Israel has improved by light-years in terms of telecommunications. When it used to take 9 years to get a residential phone line, one can get hooked up to a phone, complete with ADSL internet in days. Customer service is now a concept in Israel that never used to exist. Look at Israel in the 1970s and 80s -- and compare the standard of living. Cellphones, food-quality and diversity, housing, tourism, the list is enormous.

So while the government may be a bunch of crooks, or even cruel hearted and corrupted, overall things have improved.

The choice to make is this; are you going to have a positive attitude and approach every problem as a challenge? Are you going to view the absorption process with a smile? Are you going to make the best of a difficult situation because we have no real alternative home?

Fixing the problems (or trying to) is the best possible solution -- so that Israel will be a better place for our children, and the olim that follow us.

CS wrote: A friend of mine said "I'm upset because I don't feel the holiness as much as I used to." I answered: "You don't notice it as much because you've become part of it." Yet, once in a while, one still can step back and appreciate it. I live in Israel.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Greener Israel

A "Greener Israel" guest post by "A" (till I'm allowed to provide other information).

I am one of those people who don't practice what they preach. I believe in preserving the environment, consider myself green, and try to recycle. However, in reality I have a huge a carbon footprint: I have 5 children (while visiting in the States I have been told on several occasions that it was very selfish to have so many children because it strains natural resources), live in a Settlement outside the city and commute to work, have a big house , eat meat etc… I have been trying to find ways of reducing my carbon footprint/ease my conscience. To this end I went to a presentation by a company called SolarPower that manufactures a grid connected solar power system based on PV panels.

In the beginning of July, Israel passed a resolution requiring the Electric Company to buy back any solar energy produced by consumers at home. We pay ~ 0.5 NIS per KWH and the Electric Company has to buy it back for ~2 NIS per KWH. It sounds fantastic, but don't go running to get your checkbook so fast. The simple math that the SolarPower representative did was that the units pay for themselves in 10 years. Since the panels are under warranty for 20 year, you get 10 years of profit. However, what they only mention quickly and hope you won't hear it is that the transformer only is under a 10 year warranty. The transformer is expensive and delicate so figure you will need a new one in 10 years. All in all, I think over a 20 year time period we will break even if we invest in this now.

You know what, that just isn't good enough.

It is absurd for Israel to invest money in coal and oil from abroad when we have 330 days of sunshine. Much of this money likely winds up with terrorists as well. We should use the model created in the US to give people an incentive to use solar power. Anyone who buys a solar power system should get a discount in income tax. That way the system would pay for itself in 5 years and the average (read selfish) consumer would have a big financial incentive to buy it.

Jameel adds:

Unfortunately, Israel has a long way to go in terms of encouraging responsible greener policy. For example, I can get a leased hybrid car from work instead of my gasoline-only one -- and this would be much better for the environment. However, since the taxable-benefit class level of the car is above my current one, I would have to pay extra for the "privilege" of lowering the damage to the environment. While I am willing to do my part, if the government makes it more difficult for consumers to be environmentally-friendly I'm not willing to spend even more.

Reminds me of when I purchased a car 12 years ago (full price, not on oleh discount rights) -- I made sure to buy ABS brakes and airbags. Those additional security/safety features were considered "luxury" add ons, and contributed to an even higher tax price on the car! It took time, and now those "luxuries" aren't taxed any more.

And then there's the current water shortage, but that's a topic for another post.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Monday, July 28, 2008

Morris Talansky vs. Israel's Security

Denied the option of a ruling in NY -- if Morris "the laundry man" Talansky wants to sue the ImageSat company, he'll have to submit the case to an Israeli court.

Talansky, part owner of ImageSat tried to sue the other shareholder companies (Elbit and Israel Aircraft) for refusing to sell ImageSat imagery to Iran's ally Venezuela. Despite the fact the Israel's defense ministry was against the deal with Venezuela (due to the impact on Israel's security), Israel's "friend" Morris Talansky tried his best to push the deal forward.
The ruling is also good news for the Israeli government, which took the unusual step of officially requesting that the lawsuit be brought under Israel's jurisdiction. It had expressed concern that American procedures do not provide enough secrecy for information that might be related to national security.

The Venezuela deal at issue in the ImageSat suit may be at least tangentially related to a corruption investigation that is threatening to topple Prime Minister Olmert of Israel. One of the American plaintiffs in the case, Morris Talansky, was questioned this week over whether he received any favors from Mr. Olmert in return for giving him about $150,000 in cash over a 15-year period.

Mr. Talansky's connection to Mr. Olmert has not been an issue in the ImageSat lawsuit so far. But Israeli newspapers have suggested that Mr. Olmert made a phone call to an Israeli diplomat in Venezuela asking him to facilitate the deal between Venezuela and ImageSat — despite the alleged opposition of the Israeli defense ministry. (NY Sun)
Then again, doing anything to aid Ehud Olmert is also against Israel's security.

At least Talansky's consistent.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Reserved for Family: Shabbat

Kudos to blog-friend Jacob Richman for scanning-in this newspaper-giveaway from this past Friday's Yediot Achronot newspaper, sponsored by the supermarket chain SuperSol and the Yediot newspaper.

The message: Shabbat is Reserved for family.

Talk, Laugh and Eat together. The one day of the week that you can sit with the family and reconnect. Friday Night: Reserved for the Family.

On the flip side of the flier is Friday Night's kiddush, including a small footnote to "please treat this flier with the necessary respect" (as it has kiddush printed on it, and they even ensured that G-d's name isn't spelled out on it).

Jacob wrote to me saying,
"On Friday afternoons, I buy several newspapers including Hebrew ones. Every so often, the Hebrew newspapers include a special insert.

If we get a new Israeli president there will be a picture of him; if a sports team or sports individual wins a championship there may be a picture of him / her; before Passover you can find a free Hagaddah; and before Israel Independence Day there is a large flag folded inside the paper.

This past Friday (July 25), there was a small glossy, two-sided flyer in the Yediot Achronot newspaper.

After close to 24 years in Israel, I still find nice surprises in the most unexpected places."

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Stop worrying about Obama

Guest post by Lurker:

My good friend JoeSettler has taken Democratic US Presidential candidate Barack Obama to task for his blatantly one-sided positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. And he is quite correct in pointing out that Obama is "bad for the Jews". There's no question about it, and I certainly don't plan on voting for him. So I'm not here to defend Obama. But I do want to dispel the naïve notion that he's any different from the alternative.

Too much attention has been focused of late on Obama's expected policies toward Israel, without giving commensurate attention to the expected policies of his Republican opponent, John McCain -- or the current policies of George W. Bush. To many people are laboring under the entirely mistaken impression that the Republicans are looking out for Israel's interests, and will continue to do so in a McCain Administration; whereas an Obama Administration, by contrast, would be an unmitigated disaster for Israel. As JoeSettler put it, "God forbid this man becomes President".

With all due respect, this is overly melodramatic and quite misleading. It implies that Obama is substantively different from McCain or Bush regarding Israel -- and that's just plain wrong.

Is Obama "bad for the Jews"? Yes. Does he plan to pressure Israel into dismantling settlements and returning to the '67 borders? Yes. Does he promote the creation of a new terror state in Yesha? Yes.

But all of these things are equally true of the Bush Administration! For all the nonsensical rhetoric coming from some GOP Jews about Bush being good for Israel, this is complete and utter nonsense, borne of hopeless cognitive dissonance. Have we forgotten Annapolis? Bush and Condi have been castigating Israel even for daring to build inside of Jerusalem -- something no previous administration has ever done. There is no substantive difference between Bush's existing mideast policy, and the policy that Obama is talking about. The only reason people pretend that any difference exists is election politics, coupled with partisan political blindness. See Caroline Glick's excellent column on this point, appropriately titled "The Obama-Bush presidency".

And for those who are unfamiliar with John McCain's positions on the mideast: His policies would be exactly the same as well. Anyone who thinks otherwise has either not been paying attention to the statements McCain has made over the past few years, or has simply chosen to pretend that McCain didn't make them. Note also that McCain has named the infamous James "F**k the Jews" Baker as his top candidate to spearhead his mideast policy. Does anyone really imagine that this could be good for Israel?!

More importantly, people need to understand this: US pressure on Israel is very highly overrated. No Israeli government ever made a territorial concession because they were "forced to" by the United States. And in the past generation, this has become even more true: The Oslo Accords were the brainchild of Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin. When they were holding (illegal) negotiotions with the PLO in Norway for 11 months, the Clinton Administration didn't even know about it: In the summer of 1993, Oslo I was sprung on Clinton and Albright as a done deal. Likewise, when Sharon hatched his unilateral "Disengagement" Plan in 2004, the Bush Administration was actually opposed to it. Only after Sharon dispatched his personal advisor, Dov Weisglas, to Washington over a dozen times, did Bush, Powell, and Condi finally come to accept it -- and even then, they steadfastly refused Sharon's requests to subsidize the Disengagement in any way.

Has there been US pressure? Yes, in some cases. Carter pressured Begin at Camp David, and Begin gave in (partially). Clinton pressured Bibi at Wye, and Bibi capitulated. But understanding this psychological pressure as though it were a gun held to the PM's head is foolish and wrong. A strong-willed, principled leader can stand up to such pressure. And our biggest problem has nothing to do with outside pressure anyway: Most of our leaders are already frothing at the mouth to give Yesha away, of their own free will! So who cares whether the US President is also in favor or not?

The responsibility for protecting Israel's interests lies with Israel, and nobody else. That's a basic truth that Israelis -- of all political stripes -- need to internalize.

That said, it's worth noting that historically, when an ally of the US stakes out certain red lines in their foreign policy, and holds firm to them steadfastly, then the US tends to respect that position. A good example of this is Turkey, which has consistently opposed the creation of a Kurdish state, even outside of its own borders. It is widely expected that an independent Kurdistan would be a loyal US ally, and therefore a valuable asset in the mideast. In spite of this, the Bush Administration passed up the opportunity to allow the formation of such a state in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, in deference to the demands of the Turks. If Israel had the fortitude and self-respect to stand firm on its own red lines the way Turkey does, instead of capitulating under pressure (or even without pressure), she would likely find the US far more inclined to respect those lines -- regardless of who is in the White House.

Let's stop worrying so much about Obama, and focus instead on cleaning up our own house.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Reading Obama's Personal Mail to G-d

In a new low for Israel's newspapers, Maariv published the note that Sen. Obama placed into the Western Wall, the "Kotel" -- a private message between himself and G-d.

On the bright side, the Yediot Achronot newspaper didn't print the note because they valued Obama's privacy...yet Maariv had to "run with scoop" against all etiquette, norms of privacy, and basic decency.

The note has since been picked up everywhere and published in the NY Post as well, so there's no real issue in it not appearing here on the blog.

"Lord - Protect my family and me," reads the note published in the Maariv daily. "Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."

The paper's decision to make the note public drew fire. The rabbi in charge of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitz, said publishing the note intruded in Obama's relationship with God.

"The notes placed between the stones of the Western Wall are between a person and his maker. It is forbidden to read them or make any use of them," he told Army Radio. The publication "damages the Western Wall and damages the personal, deep part of every one of us that we keep to ourselves," he said. (NY Post)

However, the following scenario ran around my head this morning.

What if...

...the note said the following:
Bless and protect the State of Israel and its inhabitants, spread the wings of peace and security throughout the land so that all may live in harmony with one another. May the words of Your prophet come true, "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."
Or, if you're a not an Obama supporter...
Bless and protect the Palestinian people from Israeli aggression. Grant them sovereignty over Jerusalem and their land so that this oppressed nation can thrive among their brothers in the Middle East...
What if? Let's say that this was the message that appeared in the note that was offered to Maariv. (Or maybe, Yated Neeman or HaModia or Mishpacha).

Do you think that seeing such a message (either of the above) would be important enough, or urgent enough, to bypass Obama's privacy and should be printed and publicized?

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Haveil Havalim #175 — Through the Eyes of Frume Sarah

It is time for your morning news. Check out: Haveil Havalim #175 — Through the Eyes of Frume Sarah

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


I have thus far refrained from really discussing the US Presidential election beyond a comment here or there.

I didn’t care when he backtracked on his AIPAC remarks, I expected that, but Obama came to my country and said made some rather offensive remarks, so now the gloves are coming off.

In his interview he was asked...

To read the complete post, please go to JoeSettler.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Ungh. Kitat Konenut New York

When my friend JoeSettler called me up on Friday afternoon to tell me about this, I thought he was joking.

"Kitat Konenut New York" -- mimicks the counter terror units around Israel; from Northern Israel's border communties, to the settlement communities in Yehuda and Shormon on the West Bank, to the villages, kibbutzim and cities surrounding Gaza, even Modiin and Beit Shemesh have first response counter terror units which are trained and fully under the command of the IDF.

For some reason, this group in NY decided to form their own well-regulated militia which they called the "Kitat Konenut of New York".

The JPost wrote about the in their Friday edition.

Yonatan Stern, the "Sgan Mefaked Hakita" (deputy squad commander) of Kitat Konenut New York, insists his "paramilitary emergency armed response team" is no "group of vigilantes or a JDL [Jewish Defense League]."

"We do not carry out demonstrations or political activity of any kind as we have no political agenda. Our agenda is to protect Jews wherever and whenever necessary and by any means needed."

On Friday, the third session of the group's training camp will begin in the Catskills woodlands of upstate New York, on land belonging to a Jewish supporter of the organization. With tuition at $400, the group expects 15 participants and five instructors for the 10 days of training. Participation has doubled since the group began three years ago.

American Jews have "felt a false sense of security in the United States," Stern believes, "because historically there has been less anti-Semitism than in other countries. But there have been incidents - neo-Nazi terrorist attacks, Arab terrorist attacks. Jews have to be vigilant."

"The threat is not from the American people or government," he adds, but from "terrorist sleeper cells that want to target Jews. These people are very dangerous and the FBI issues warnings against them very often," he said, citing the FBI's warning, after the killing of Hizbullah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in February, that the Lebanese group might carry out terror attacks on Jewish communities.

"The average American is friendly to Jews, but we're worried about those individuals on the periphery of society," Stern says.

The group was founded in the summer of 2006 in response to the shooting attack at the Jewish federation of Seattle premises by local Muslim Naveed Haq.

"We realized there is a need for this kind of organization, and as Israeli combat veterans living in the US, we have the skills and ability to respond to this," Stern says

On their myspace group, they blurb:

"Kitat Konenut New York is a Religious-Zionist organization and we hold the ideology of the Bnei Akiva movement which is Torah Veavoda. Members of the Kita are well trained and well armed with the best gear and weapons available. All guns are 100% legal and in compliance with all federal, state and local laws."

Religious Zionism, Bnei Akiva, and Torah v'Avoda -- are about living in Israel, not playing vigiliante in New York's catskills under the banner of "saving Jewish lives."

I have alot more faith in the US Counter Terror Units, FBI, Rangers or Navy Seals before I would want these people showing up.

Grow up.

If you want to carry a rifle, move to Israel, join the IDF, and do it for real.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Kotel's Allure

What is Obama requesting from G-d?

There isn't a single visiting American politician and hopeful candidate that doesn't stop at the Western Wall to offer a prayer and photo-op in Jerusalem.

One could cynically look at this picture (or of any candidate) ...but there's a flip side.

The Navi/Prophet Zecharia (Chapter 14: 16) says:
והיה, כל-הנותר מכל-הגוים, הבאים, על-ירושלם; ועלו מדי שנה בשנה, להשתחות למלך יהוה צבאות, ולחג, את-חג הסכות.

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the G-d of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles (sukkot).

And it's going to get even better -- the nations of the world won't just be showing up for photo ops at the Kotel, but bringing korbanot at the Beit HaMikdash as well.

And while I'm on the topic of the kotel, Lurker suggested I recount the story of my friend, Ahmed.

Yes, I have a friend who's real name is Ahmed (as opposed to my name, Jameel).

He's Muslim, lives in London, and we're work colleagues. I first met him in London and we worked together on many projects, and he was most hospitable to me.

When he had to come for work to Israel, I returned the hospitality and took him around the Old City of Jerusalem. As this was in the days of the "new" intifada around 2002, I took my M16 with me as I showed him the different sections of the Old City.

He expressed a desire to pray on the mosque on the Temple Mount, so I took him as far as I was willing to walk -- and then told him he had to walk the rest from there by himself -- we would meet up again in 30 minutes.
He walked up the entrance, and was quickly stopped by the Waqf guards.

"What do you want?" they asked him.

Cheerfully, he replied, "I'm here to pray"

Suspiciously, pointing in my direction, they asked, "Who is that guy that brought you here?"

Ahmed laughed and replied, "Him? That's my good friend Jameel!"

Astonished, they asked, "Your good friend? He's carrying an M16!?"

He answered proudly, "Of course he has an M16, he's an IDF reserve soldier, he's part of his settlement's counter terror unit, and he lives in the Shomron."

The Waqf guards were so horrified and disgusted by my friend's reply that they sent him away, without letting him pray at all!

Dejected, he walked back to meet me, and I told him I would take him to the Kotel instead. Approaching the Kotel, he was instructed to put on one of those cardboard kippot, which he did.

Walking closer to the wall, the Chabad people jumped up to put tefillin on him.

I tried holding them back -- "No, No, Don't put tefillin on him!"

They didn't understand...."It's a mitzva!" they yelled back at me.

"He isn't JEWISH!" I interjected.

They stopped. "He certainly looks Jewish," they replied...
I have many more Ahmed and Jameel stories...maybe next week.

Shabbat Shalom!

hat-tip to Amshi for the pic.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Neutralizing Terrorists: Neccessary Morality

The following post was written jointly by Jameel and Lurker:

In the previous post, about the heroic civilians who killed terrorists in action on the streets of Jerusalem, DovBear asked a valid and important question:

M reached over or around armed policemen to shoot the terrorist. What do they police say about that? Why didn't they shoot themselves?

Ah, that is a million dollar question. In the IDF, we learn very clearly that one must neutralize terrorists in light of the bitter experiences of the past 17 years.

Terrorists rarely want to be captured these days, and fight to the end, including wearing bomb vests. They wait till the last possible second when there are soldiers, police, civilians around before triggering their explosion.

IDF counter-terror soldiers are constantly reminded and trained that terrorists must be shot at and neutralized and any movement can be deemed as a threat of detonating a bomb vest or grenade (all of these scenarios have happened, many times). The only way to positively ensure a terrorist's "neutralization" and our safety is when the terrorist is no longer alive; he is confirmed to be killed. For the sake of legality and publicity, the IDF does not use the term "confirmed kill" because it doesn't sound nice, but that's the bottom line.

Unfortunately what is extremely clear to the IDF, is lost on much of the Israeli police and their management. Just 2 weeks ago, former Jerusalem District Police Chief Mickey Levy* wrote an op-ed piece on YNET (see more on JoeSettler about this) decrying the immorality of "confirming the kill" of a terrorist in the field -- and his opinion is what has caused additional victims of terrorism.

The first bulldozer terrorist did his utmost best to squash and kill as many innocent victims while yelling Allahu Akbar. Civilians and policemen shot at him, and his bulldozer stopped moving. By this point, he had already flattened and overturned several vehicles and their passengers, killing one person and maiming several others. After a policeman then mounted the bulldozer, the terrorist regained consciousness and continued to drive, intent on killing more people. Instead of the policeman confirming that the terrorist was dead (properly neutralizing him), he instead attempted to fight manually to "subdue" him. During the policeman's manual struggle, the terrorist managed to continue operating the bulldozer, running over the car of Batsheva Unterman for a second time -- and this time flattening it. Unterman was apparently killed there and then. In addition, her baby son, who had been snatched out of the back seat by a passing pedestrian only seconds earlier, would have been killed as well. It was only at that point, as the bulldozer continued to threaten the safety of even more people, that "M" grabbed a gun from a security guard, reached around the policeman, and shot the terrorist 3 times in the head. That was what stopped the terrorist and the carnage.

In his article, former Police Chief Levy openly acknowledges that because the policeman opted not to shoot the terrorist, the terrorist "to my regret was able to hurt and kill another woman" [Unterman]. In spite of this, Levy insists that "the policeman could not have acted any other way". And here is the explanation he gives for this conclusion: "Had he shot the terrorist while he was unconscious, this could have been perceived as an immoral act. Yet we are a moral people, and in our Book of Books it says 'thou shalt not murder'." [See the footnote below for more information on Levy's moral values.]

This, then, is the thinking that governs the behavior of the Israel police -- straight from mouth of one of the highest ranking police officers in Israel. And this is the reason why the policeman did not shoot the terrorist himself.

[*] A bit of background info that sheds some light on who Mickey Levy is, and his humane, merciful values: There was a publicized case several years ago in which anti-government dissident Nadia Matar of the Women in Green was charged with assaulting a police officer. The officer in question was Mickey Levy, several years before he became the Jerusalem Police Commander. When Matar went to trial, the prosecution put Levy himself and seven other police officers on the stand, and they all testified to having witnessed Matar physically attacking Levy during the course of a violent demonstration at the Russian Compound. When the defense got its turn, they declined to call any witnessess, and instead produced a videotape of the incident in question shot by a Channel 2 cameraman. (Channel 2 had never aired the segment, and Matar had to get a subpeona in order to compel Channel 2 to produce the tape.) The tape clearly showed that the demonstration was completely peaceful, and that the demostrators were even standing on the sidewalk so as not to obstruct traffic. In spite of this, Levy is seen attacking the diminutive Matar without provocation in a most brutal manner, and then dragging her away in cuffs. It also showed that Matar never even raised a hand to him, neither before nor during Levy's assault. The judge immediately dismissed the charges and closed the case. Not one of the eight police officers was charged with perjury or even reprimanded, in spite of a complaint filed by Matar. And Levy, of course, got promoted up the ladder until he became the Jerusalem District Commander, and later the Israel Police Liason in the U.S.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Coincidence? Determination

You connect the dots.

1. Terror attack in Yeshiva Merkaz Harav -- who killed the terrorist? IDF officer on leave, David Shapira.

2. Bulldozer attack in Jaffa St, Jerusalem -- who killed the terrorist? IDF soldier on leave, "M" (he has requested that his name not be published). M is also the brother in law of David Shapira (listed above). Coincidence? Keep reading!

3. 21 days after the first bulldozer attack, there is a SECOND bulldozer attack in Jerusalem near the King David hotel. Who shoots the terrorist first? Civilian Grandfather Yakki Asa-el (also an IDF soldier in the reserves)

My good blogger friend, DoubleTapper just finished a conversation with the first bulldozer attack hero, "M" who was assigned to protect out settlement the past 2 weeks.

Guess who "M"s teacher was in high school?
Today's Hero, Yakki Asa-el.

What do they all have in common?
  • Law Abiding Citizens, licensed to carry weapons
  • Active IDF soldiers or in the IDF reserves
  • Nationalistic, Religiously-observant Jews
  • Determination - belief in our purpose of living in Eretz Yisrael.

The media and others may try to defame nationalistic, religious Jews all they want.

Yet at the end of the day, these Jews have been the ones to end the terror attacks without hesitation.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Breaking News: Tractor attack #2 in Jerusalem

Video: Killing the terrorist

(photos by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

3:02 PM Update: The heroic civilian who stopped the terrorist is Yakki Asa'el, aged 53, father of 8, grandfather of 6. A teacher and farmer by profession. IDF Company Commander (מפקד פלוגה) in the reserves. Settler from Susya (Har Hevron Hills area).

Haaretz Reports:
The copycat attack occurred on the corner of Keren Hayesdod and King David streets in dowtown Jerusalem, down the road from the hotel where U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama was to be staying later in the day.

"The bulldozer driver left a construction site, and hit two cars," a police spokesman said.

"A civilian who saw what was happening, shot him. The bulldozer continued on its way. A Border Police patrol... continued to shoot and the terrorist was killed," the spokesman said. "Another person was wounded."

An eyewitness said that the whole incident took place in less than a few minutes.

"[The driver] tried to lower the blade of the bulldozer onto the head of a pedestrian, but missed her by an inch. At first I thought it was an accident, but then he kept going in a zig zag down the slope of King David, overturned a car and hit a few cars. The whole thing happened very quickly.

"One car flipped over and others were crushed. I started running in the direction of the tractor. People regained their composure within seconds. A guy from Susya, near southern Mount Hebron, shot him in the head and a few minutes later a Border Police officer shot him as well," the witness added.

Update: Once again, civilians keep the streets of Jerusalem safer. The responsible person for shooting and killing the terrorist was a civilian. A Border policeman apparently also took part. There are 5 wounded, 2 of them in serious condition and one of the wounded is an infant. 2 cars and a bus were damaged by the tractor. The attack took place near the King David hotel.

I didn't go out for the call because it wasn't declared as an MCE (Mass Casualty Event -- אר"ן אירוע רב נפגעים) though the exact same circumstances led the event. (Friend called, said he heard increased chatter on the MDA/Hatzala radio system, and then I found a colleague in the next room who is a first responder for MDA in Jerusalem...)

A refuah shelaima to the wounded.

Breaking News: 2:13 PM Jerusalem.

Attempting to repeat their success in the last tractor attack, a terrorist has driven a tractor in a rampage in Jerusalem. As of this time, the terrorist has been killed and there are a few wounded on the scene being treated by MDA and Hatazala medical EMT volunteers.

More info soon.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Historic Ruling for Agunot

One issue that routinely raises consternation and despair within Orthodoxy is that of "Agunot" -- the "chained" wives, whose husbands refuse to grant them a "Get", a religious divorce. The lack of a "Get" prevents these women from remarrying, and there are known husbands around the world who refuse to free their wives. The reasons for their refusal range from attempts to force child custody settlements which favor the husband, extortion to pay less financial alimony which was guaranteed at the time of the religious marriage, gain shared assets or those of the wife, to petty revenge and attempts to cause additional pain to the wife.

While Orthodoxy attempts to grapple with this issue via pre-nuptial agreements, retroactive divorces signed at the time of marriage, and brute-force community pressure on the recalcitrant husband, the State of Israel's family court in Jerusalem issued a historic ruling yesterday which offers an additional solution to pressure the husband -- Judge Ben Zion Greenberger ruled that a husband who refused to give his wife a religious divorce for nine years will compensate her with NIS 550,000 (about $158,532.5), on top of whatever financial settlement they may reach regarding the divorce.

This legal decision is not a religious ruling, but from the State of Israel's secular Family Court.
The precedent was set in the case of an ultra-Orthodox woman who began the proceedings towards a divorce in 1998. The woman, who was physically abused by her husband and forced to flee her home with three children in tow, reached the High Rabbinical Court, where judges ruled the husband must give her a divorce.

But two years after this ruling the husband continued to refuse the divorce, and the woman appealed to the Family Court, demanding compensation for the distress her husband had caused her over the years, and for the denial of her right to marry again and go on with her life.

Prior to this precedent, courts had ruled that damages should be paid from the moment of the divorce's finalization, but the new ruling allows the wife to sue for damages for all the years in which her husband refused to give her a divorce, including the years her law suit spends pending in courts. (YNET)
In Israel, where marriage and divorce are religion-based and run by Israel's religious courts, its refreshing to see their sister civil-secular courts (big-brother courts?), pick up their slack and offer additional pressure on these miserable recalcitrant husbands that give Judaism and humanity a bad name.

It's unfortunate that it gets to this in the first place, and in the words of the woman''s attorney, "This is a huge step taken by the civil courts in order to compensate for the rabbinical courts' failure to solve divorce conflicts."

I wonder if Israel's civil courts would have helped with this issue even if there was total separation between religion and state.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

What About ALL Of Us?!

We just spent the last two hours watching [also known as crying while watching] the latest NBN flight arrive, including my sister and brother-in-law's best friends and neighbors from Baltimore. Apparently my nieces cried the whole Sunday night... but they'll be using their webcam to stay in touch all the time.

A former co-worker of mine is going next month (maybe Jameel will help him pack!), too. Actually, our whole lives, close family and friends have been taking that leap and making Aliyah... if you're from Cleveland, you know what I'm talking about. Hopefully soon my sister's family will be able to fulfill their dreams and make Aliyah.

...and then us, too. Hopefully soon...

Wherever I am, my HEART turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Monday, July 21, 2008

What about JoeSettler!!!!

Jameel is getting a round-trip ticket to the US (and back to Israel) courtesy of Nefesh B'Nefesh and WebAds so he can blog about the experience of the New Oleh family he will be hooked up with on the flight and then he goes to the First International Jewish Bloggers Convention - Hosted by Nefesh B'Nefesh and Powered by WebAds.


I hope they stick Jameel in cattle class, and the seats are too small, and the guy in front of him leans his seat all the way back, and the baby he is sitting next to doesn't stop crying, and security delays letting him on the plane because his name is Jameel and he lives in the Muqata and so he gets no overhead space, and that he regrets not telling me about this before hand so I could have tried to get on the flight too.

I registered to go to the convention, and smiley face or not, Jameel is going to get a piece of my mind.

Some people have all the luck.

Muqata RoundTripping: Israel, NYC, Israel

A few years back I had some cool ideas for livening up the JBlogosphere. I managed to implement a few; the Purim parody carnival or the Purim collaborative Purim Podcast, yet others never got off the drawing board (like the JBlogosphere Game Show idea, which I think is still a great idea, but don't have the time or advertising cash to make it happen yet).

And then...this opportunity drops into my lap. Not only is it completely in tandem with my blog's goals and aspirations of promoting the good things about Israel, love for the land, and a general feeling of connection -- but the idea spans many blogs and bloggers.

Nefesh b'Nefesh has offered to send me and other JBloggers to the US (and return back) on one of their aliya flights -- to accompany an oleh family and blog their experience before leaving, during the flight, and at the welcome-home reception at Ben-Gurion airport. In addition to helping share their personal aliya, there will be a JBlogger conference in Yerushalayim the next day.

I'm not listed yet on any conference panels...because I haven't yet figured out how to keep the yellow smiley face on my head for so long...

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

International Jewish Blogger Convention

That's right, there's going to be a Jewish International Bloggers Convention hosted by Nefesh B'Nefesh and we're going to be there.

So all you bloggers, register here.

This is so exciting!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Haveil Havalim #174 is Live

Esser Agaroth has done an exceptional job with Haveil Havalim #174. You can find it here.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Jerusalem Besieged - 17th of Tammuz

Till June 1967, the image of a besieged Jerusalem was not hard to visualize.

Though the Jews had been evicted from the city in 1948, the underlying commemoration of the fast of the 17th of Tammuz dovetailed with a captured and barren Yerushalayim.

Coils of barbed wire, occasional sniper fire, the Mandlebaum Gate, and the words of Yoram Gaon's song "From atop of Har HaTzofim" were the day to day reality.

מעל פסגת הר הצופים
אשתחוה לך אפיים
מעל פסגת הר הצופים
שלום לך ירושלים!
אלפי דורות חלמתי עלייך,
לראות, לזכות, באור פנייך!

ירושלים, ירושלים,
האירי פנייך לבנך!
ירושלים, ירושלים,
מחרבותייך אבנך!

That was only 40 years ago.

In the First Temple Era: The priests stopped offering the daily sacrifice on this day (Taanit 28b) due to the shortage of sheep during the siege and the next year 3184 (586 BCE), the walls of Jerusalem were breached after many months of siege by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces. In the Second Temple period, Titus breached the walls of Jerusalem in 3760 (70 CE) which led to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. (OU)

On the radio today (IDF Galei Zahal), a Rav was called up on-air to explain about the fast day today and he listed the different calamities that befell Israel on this day. The interviewer scoffed, "So, the 3 weeks is an unlucky time for us? Do you have any other recent calamities to recount?"

The Rabbi replied quietly, the second Lebanon War started on the 17th of Tammuz 2 years ago. That ended the conversation rather quickly.

Flashing back to "modern" Israel, I looked back at my posts from 2 years ago during the 2cnd Lebanon War. My first post of the war started here and you can see the whole month's index here. I should really go back and index all the posts from back then -- just glancing back at them gives me a very eerie feeling, especially with the burials of our soldiers last week.

May the coming 3 weeks be a time of redemption.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

At a loss for words

I can't properly express what needs to be said about what happened today.

Treppenwitz said it properly. Please read what he wrote.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday's Pictures

Finally, the real non-photo-shopped version of the Iranian "Lets try to bomb Israel" Missile Test from last week.

Who needs Atkins? Coming Soon to Israel...

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Obama to divide Jerusalem

See the original post at JoeSettler

While the focus of the JPost article is on how Obama backtracked on his "united Jerusalem" statement, and subsequently showed that he doesn't really understand what the residents of the region want, the JP missed the real point.

Obama is coming to Jerusalem next week in part of a whirlwind tour to create traffic jams in the city.

That's right. Another person who thinks that the path to getting Jewish support is by clogging up the Jewish capital.

Let me tell you something.

When Obama visits, the city will be divided. You won't be able to get from one half of the street to the other.

How annoying.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

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