Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Free Online Hagadda - Teachings of R' Soloveitchik

הגדה של פסח – עוד יוסף חי

Haggadah based on the Teachings of Harav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik Zatza"l

Collected and semi-edited by Rabbi Ari Kahn.

This is an unfinished work in progress, much of the material was collected from other students of the Rov, or from tapes of shiurim.

Perhaps one day this work will be completed, in the interim so people can learn the Torah of Morenu Harav Zatza"l. To see the hagadda for reading and printing, go to here:


If you have any comments or observations – please contact the editor, R' Ari Kahn at Adk1010@gmail.com

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

The Hagdadda Through Facebook

Or Read it all here.

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

Israeli Arab Knesset Member Wants Nuclear Iran

David Bedein and Samuel Sokol interviewed Fifth Columnist Member of Knesset Hanin Zoabi for the Philadelphia Bulletin. (Read it all here)...and now its on the JPost as well.

Newly elected to Knesset Zoabi thinks a nuclear Iran is a good idea to counter-balance Israel, calls Israel an "aggressor state", welcomes Iranian military support to Gaza, insists that Zionism is inherently racist, and wants to eliminate the Jewish and Zionist nature of Israel.
Interviewed in English twice in recent days - in her Knesset office and in a Jerusalem hotel - Zuabi, one of Balad's three MKs and the former director of the I'lam: Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel, said Iran's role in Palestinian affairs was "more useful" than that of regimes like Jordan and Egypt, in that Iran stood more firmly "against occupation than a lot of the Arab countries. This is our interest."

She said Egypt and Jordan were scared of a free and democratic Palestinian state.

Queried regarding Iran's quest to manufacture nuclear weapons, Zuabi stated that having Israel as the region's sole nuclear power was disadvantageous. "It would be more supporting me to have a counter-power to Israel," she said. "I need something to balance [Israel's] power." (Jpost)

In Chelm, they tell jokes about Israel.

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

Monday, March 30, 2009

IDF Prosecutor Closes Case on abuse in Gaza.

What started out as a roar, has died down to nothing.

After Haaretz reported (and opinioned) that IDF soldiers intentionally shot and killed innocent Gazan civilians, the IDF Chief Prosecutor opened an investigation into alleged war crimes.

The IDF Chief Prosecutor, Brigadier General Avi Mandelblit quickly determined that the "facts" presented by Haaretz, were totally unsubstantiated by any factual evidence whatsoever. (YNET)

This was blatantly obvious to me at the time, since the primary mission of Haaretz to is slander the Israel and the IDF, and with so many religious soldiers and officers, the IDF is a prime target.

Till the next time (probably tomorrow).

PS: Here's a good example from last week. See how Haaretz believes it's a crime against humanity for religious officers to avoid mixed swimming. The cultural elite of Israel's liberal left is so anti-religious that that they insist on forced melting pot secularization to the point that they believe letting religious soldiers NOT attend mixed swimming events is evil.

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

Engaged on an Egged Bus

And then an Israeli Cop stops them in the middle...

hat-tip: Staam! (with 2 A's)

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

Ghost Haunts Jewish House in London?

One of my daughters worries a lot.

You name it, she worries about it...

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, the Plague, Monsters under the bed, etc. This past Shabbat, one of the kids pulled out the weekly "Ask the Cellphone Rabbi" (SMS question and answers) list from a parsha [weekly Torah portion] sheet, and there was a question to the effect of "Do I need to be scared of spirits". The rabbi answered that he had never seen any, and regardless, there is a tradition that spirits don't abound or harm people in the Land of Israel.

Much to my daughter's horror, our oldest son snarkily interjected with a Talmudic story that if you put flour on the floor around your bed when you go to sleep, you'll see chicken tracks/footprints in the flour in the morning, which prove that demons danced around your bed at night.

(Note: a guaranteed fate worse than death is to start putting flour on the floor round your bed a week before Pesach...after the room has been cleaned)

Trying to calm my daughter, I told her that was probably from the "Talmud Bavli" -- the Babylonian Talmud, which was written outside of Israel. And besides, we have no reason to assume there are ghosts or demons lurking around...don't bother them, they won't bother you.

She forgot about the ghosts and we got back to eating lunch.

And then, the following appears exclusively in today's (Monday) Hebrew-Language Israeli newspaper Yisrael HaYom (Israel Today): "Ghost Found in Rabbi's House"

In one of the Jewish communities in London, a ghost is apparently haunting the home of a rabbi.

Two weeks ago, the rabbi turned to the RCE [J@TM: Rabbinical Council of Europe] for help expunging the home from the spirit haunting it. In a letter to the RCE the rabbi wrote that his friend was recently appointed rabbi of a different community in London and when he arrived for Shabbat and Holidays with his family [J@TM: I assume, till they move in permanently] he was given the home above the community synagogue to stay in. This home is where the community's previous rabbi used to live.

Someone closely involved in this episode told "Yisrael Hayom": "In the past few months, the new rabbi noticed a "strange presence" in the house, closed windows would suddenly open and at nights there would be knocks on doors and other weird sounds."

At first, the Rabbi was concerned about asking his community about the phenomena worried they would assume he had gone mad. Yet when he carefully asked about the subject, other community members verified his suspicions and he was not the first to raise such complaints about the house. According to the rumors, it was the spirit of the first rabbi of the synagogue, who died 40 years ago."

The RCE went to Israel's Chief Rabbinate -- and the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, R' Shlomo Amar advised them to "read the "Chanukat Habayit prayer [J@TM: for entering a new home], and a "Tikun" [J@TM: Kabbalistic prayer for "corrections'"] on behalf of the dead, in memory of the Rabbi who used to live at the house.

An additional suggestion came from R' Yitzchak Batzri, one of Israel's noted Kabbalists of today, who asked to give him the name of the deceased rabbi so he could personally conduct a "Tikkun" prayer.

R' Batzri added that if the "Tikkun" did not work, it was a sign that the spirit haunting the house was that of someone else, and he would try again.

R' Morderchai Biton from the RCE told "Yisrael Hayom":

"Normally, our organization deals with communal issues, yet this issue is rather extraordinary. From our perspective, this issue was received with serious respect, and it is being dealt with by Rabbis who are experts in Kabbala. The answer has been given to the Rabbi who raised the issue"
Ynetnews just picked up this story as well (but I translated more of the article than they did).

Just don't tell my daughter about this. She worries more than enough.

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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

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

Revenge of the Seder Paraders

When my wife was growing up, Pesach cleaning was often always done to the tune of this "classic" album, The Seder Paraders (hear them all here) on a vinyl LP record.

Fast Forward to the 21rst century. Seems like the only motivation we can come up with for our teenagers to start seriously (helping) to clean is that if they DONT help, we'll download the Seder Paraders to their iPods.

Any other ideas?

(Oh yeah, now I know where Mrs. Balabusta got her name from).

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

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Tavor" rifle gaining popularity

The Israeli designed and manufactured "Tavor" assault rifle is continuing to make inroads within the IDF's infantry ground forces.

After the "Tavor" became the rifle of choice for the "Givati" and "Golani" brigades, the IDF Spokesman has confirmed that the "Nachal" Brigagde will be switching to this rifle during 2010.
“The Tavor is the rifle of the future for the Infantry Corps soldiers, and we are introducing it in the compulsory and reserve units by means of an ongoing process,” explains Maj. Dudu Artzi, the Head of the Rifle Department at the Ground Forces Weaponry Unit.

The Tavor, produced by Israel Weapon Industries, is shorter and more comfortable than the M-16.. The ground forces have expressed their satisfaction with the integration of the rifle in the Golani Brigade and report that the feedback from the soldiers is very positive.

Another advantage of the Tavor is the fact that it is an Israeli product, which strengthens the Israeli industry and lessens Israel’s dependence of foreign companies – the M-16 is produced by the American company, Colt. (IDF Spox)
I'm not complaining at all about my converted M16 to M4 rifle, but if offered a Tavor, I'd happily switch.

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

IAF Attacked Sudan during Cast Lead operation

Haaretz quotes CBS on one of the previously unknown operations in the IDF's Cast-lead Gaza offensive 3 months ago.

While the Prime Minister's office is refusing comment (as it should), that didn't stop past IAF commander Eitan Ben Eliyahu from heaping praise on the IAF.
The Israel Air Force carried out an attack last January against a convoy of trucks in Sudan carrying arms for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to the American network CBS.

According to the report, 39 people riding in 17 trucks were killed, while civilians in the area suffered injuries.

Official Israeli sources refused to confirm or deny on Wednesday any report of Israel's involvement in an air strike in Sudan.

However, Sudanese State Minister for Highways Mabrouk Mubarak Saleem was quoted in the Paris-based Sudan Tribune Web site as saying that a "major power bombed small trucks carrying arms, burning all of them."

The strike "killed Sudanese, Eritreans and Ethiopians, and injured others," Saleem added.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin broke the story. He says that Israeli intelligence learned of plans to move weapons through Sudan, north toward Egypt and then via the Sinai into the Gaza Strip.

According to Martin, Israel and the U.S. had signed an agreement for closer international efforts to block smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip.

During the final days of the Israeli offensive against Hamas, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her American counterpart Condoleezza Rice signed a security-intelligence memorandum on intensifying cooperation in a joint effort to block the smuggling of arms from Iran to Hamas via Sudan.

The Sudanese news site said the attack took place "in a desert area northwest of Port Sudan city, near Mount al-Sha'anun."

According to SudanTribune.com, the airstrike was an "embarrassment" to Sudan's government, and it discussed the matter with Egypt's government "to gather more information to formulate a response." (Read the rest here)

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

Labor is better than Kadima

Driving to work this morning, I heard MK [Likud] Dr. Yuval Steinetz on IDF (Galei Tzahal) radio, saying how Netanyahu wants as wide a coalition as possible, including Labor and Kadima.

I laughed out loud hearing this, as its so obviously a "spin" and has nothing to do with reality.

Both Labor and Likud despise the Kadima party. Their shared antagonism is based on individual issues, but its useful for these 2 parties to work towards a common goal -- the destruction of Kadima.

Kadima was born out of Arik Sharon's refusal to accept the democratic decision of the Likud membership's rejection of the "Disengagement." Sharon brought the Disengagement to a vote of the entire membership, not only the "Central Committee", and promised to adhere to their decision. Sharon blatantly ignored the vote's outcome, "Disengaged" from Gaza, formed the Kadima party, and bolted from the Likud, taking many Likud leaders with him, including Olmert, Livni, HaNegbi, Mofaz, Hischenson, and others. Absent of ideology and created as a "centrist" party, many disenfranchised Likud voters moved towards the Kadima party.

From the Left, Kadima also drew from the Labor party, including Peres, Itzik, Ramon, and Labor party voters have also moved in the direction of Kadima, shrinking the Labor party.

So while Steinetz may issues spins that the Likud wants a government with Livni, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Prior to the election, Dr. Benny Begin gave an interview on the radio (also IDF radio) urging people to vote Likud. He said if you feel you must vote for a party to the left of the Likud, he suggested "voting for a party with a well founded ideology". MK Shellly Yechimovitch [Labor] spoke right after Begin on the same program, where I have never heard nicer things from her about the Likud. She echoed Begin's comments, "if you vote for a party to the right of Labor, please don't vote Kadima, but for a serious party, like the Likud."

Today, MK Tzippy Hotebelli said "Kadima is the ultimate expression of opportunism. One should never forget their responsibility for the Disengagement, the second war in Lebanon, and the [political and strategic] failures of the Cast Lead operation which did not end as it should have."

Note: Yet another rocket was launched from Gaza at Israel around 11:40 AM this morning towards the Sdot Negev region. No damage or injuries were reported.

While I'm not thrilled about Labor joining the government, I'd be much more disgusted if Kadima had joined.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Oh Nuts. Whatchya gonna buy for Pesach?

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Wednesday, April 8
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Thursday, April 9 - Sunday April 12 (Passover Weekend)
Orders for Passover items will ship out Monday, April 13. Other orders will ship out beginning Friday, April 17.

Monday, April 13 - Tuesday, April 14 (Chol HaMoed)
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Wednesday, April 15 - Thursday, April 16
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Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

News Roundup, March 25th

You can't make up the news - real life is so much more entertaining.

1. Over the years, the Muqata blog has followed all sorts of interesting items sold on ebay -- including the joke offer of the entire Israeli city of Petach Tikva.

However, a synagogue in Givat Shmuel (near Bnei Brak) is now seriously offering for bids on ebay the privilege to name their shul after the highest bidder, starting at $600,000.

2. Its only 2 weeks away from Birkat HaChama -- the special blessing recited only once in 28 years after the cosmic cycle of the (symbolic) approximate location of the sun at the time of creation. The NY Times even wrote about it back in April 1897...(hat-tip, R' Tzvi and DovBear).

Click here for the whole article.

3. Speaking of Birkat HaChama -- for those interested, while it does occur on Erev Pesach this coming year, and Erev Pesach is always a crazy, busy day -- a group of people are arranging the recital of Birkat HaChama on Har Habayit -- the Temple Mount (after ritual purification in a mikva, of course).

Unique Experience -- Erev Pesach and Birkat HaChama on Har Habayit (Temple Mount). Going up on Wednesday, 14th of Nissam at 7:30 AM.

+ [Bus and cars] Leaving from the Mikva in Kiryat Arba/Hevron at 4:45 AM.
+ "Vatikin" (Early Morning Prayers) at the Kotel/Western Wall.

+ "Siyum" (Finishing a tractate of Talmud), breaking the "Fast of the First Born", and food before going to the Temple Mount.
+ "Birkat HaChama" according to the custom of Rav Goren.

Mandatory: One must go to the mikva before going to Har Habayit. One must not go to the Temple Mount with leather shoes. One must come with identification.

For more details and registration:
Yitzchak: 054-411-5809
Assaf: 02-996-3020
Gershon: 02-996-1430.
(If you do plan on going, please let me know -- I'd be happy to get a first hand description of your experience...it's too difficult for me on Erev Pesach to go back and forth to Jerusalem...)

4. Has it really been 3 years since I wrote this? Its all about the differences between men and women (Mars and Venus) about how they approach Pesach cleaning.

Worth a read
-- nothing has changed since then either, except I've started doing Pesach shopping.

That's all for now.

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

Is the Red-Dead a Dead-End?

One of the ideas touted out by those searching for Peace in our Time is the Red-Dead plan.

The idea is to redirect part of the water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea via a water canal or pipe.

The concepts driving this is that the cooperation on this plan would help create peace. The second is that it would help create hydroelectric energy and desalinated water for the region, and the third is that it would refill the Dead Sea.

Dead Sea elevation levels

Of course this plan has some major drawbacks, and let's discuss them (from last to first).

While true it would (probably) refill the Dead Sea, at first glance there is a much higher chance of regional ecological/environmental damage (assuming you want to keep the ecology the same as it is today) from water coming from the Red Sea than if you instead brought in the water from the Mediterranean.

But of course if the water is filtered and desalinated in both cases, than that won't matter and the damage is unlikely, so that is a moot argument.

(Where do they dump the brine?)

And of course there is the real estate issue, that this will turn the Red-Dead Canal into a hotel and real estate zone. It will bring development into the region.

Personally I'm not against that, and that wouldn't happen with a Med-Dead Canal.

But only if you are one of those anti-development environmentalists can this be seen as a bad thing. So that argument in moot in my book too.

Of course, on whose side of the canal would the hotels and real estate development be? Would Israel get any development from it?

If you look at the map, the entire canal is deep within Jordanian territory, there is no real estate advantages to Israel that I can see. (Will Jordan change their law and allow Yitzchak Tshuva, a Jew, to own land in Jordan?)

In terms of hydroelectric energy and desalination, both plans should have a benefit, but I suspect that generating electricity from a 1250 foot elevation drop-off from the closer Mediterranean (80 kilometer) would be much cheaper than the 200 kilometer trip from the Red Sea.

In terms of net electrical production, the Med-Dead would produce more electricity and cheaper (remember desalination and transport costs) than the Red-Dead.

In terms of desalinated water, if Israel is to get any of it, it is much easier (closer) and cheaper to get it transported to our water system from the Med than from the Red, where it would have to be transported back up the incline to Jerusalem and central Israel.

In short, in terms of net energy generation, and water for Israel, the Red-Dead makes absolutely no sense at all, while the Med-Dead makes all the sense.

But now last but not least is the Peace factor.

There are two groups pushing this, the developers and the True Believers.

The idea for this post came up because there is concern that Egypt may scuttle their natural gas sales to Israel.

And if you look at it, there are almost no real (large-scale) joint projects between Israel and it's neighbors with who we have peace treaties (well, we already unilaterally supply a tremendous amount of water to Jordan).

And the projects we do have are always under threat of Arab withdrawal and boycott.

Do we really need yet another project dependent on their good will and political dispositions when we can do this independently, create self-sufficiency, and not be constantly under threat? (Unless that is the goal of the True Believers).

Have any of those other projects brought or helped maintain peace? I'm hard-pressed to say yes (besides US military aid to Egypt, which has its own major set of problems).

In terms of developers, I am sure they will make tremendous amounts of money, just like the Jericho casino did until the PA decided that murder was more important than money.

But regardless, the developers will continue to push this, using "peace" as the emotional motivator (and to get UN and other donor countries money to build it and their expense), though everyone involved knows ultimately its just about the dollars.

In terms of the True Believers, I suspect it is only Peres and Co. that are pushing for it for that reason.

After all, there are no real benefits to Israel that couldn't be had more cheaply, quickly, and profitably by a Med-Dead Canal instead.

In fact, (besides elevating the Dead Sea) in terms of water and electricity there is no benefit to Israel at all - except for "Peace", and we already have a shaky, useless peace treaty with Jordan - this project won't strengthen that.

Personally, I'm not even sure how this project will bring peace as after all, as it all occurs in Arab territory.

In fact, I don't think Israel is even needed to make it happen. Would it relieve long-term water issues for Jordan? For sure, but again, they don't need Israel for that.

So where's the peace dividend?

And finally, as I'm writing this I realize that the Red-Med may actually be counterproductive to Peace.

One idea touted is that there will be a war in the future due to lack of water resources in the region, and this will resolve that pressure.

But at the moment, Israel supplies Jordan with a tremendous amount of water.

Imagine if we no longer had to. Would Jordan continue to need to be semi-cordial with us now that they no longer need us? Or would they revert back to their natural state of undisguised enmity?

Now imagine if instead of yet another peace plan that makes Israel dependent on our neighbors, a peace plan that makes our neighbors more dependent on being nice to us.

If Israel were to build the Med-Dead plan (or the less practical Med-Kinneret plan), and then used that system to sell even more (needed) water to the Jordanians - wouldn't that make much more sense and peace more likely by simply requiring them to continue to be peaceful (nonbelligerent) to us for their own continued benefit, whether they liked it or not?

There would even still be cooperation, but this time Israel benefits too, for real.

Conclusions: Red-Dead - Dead End.

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Open News Thread - March 24, 2009

Lots of news happening in Israel today. We will be dedicating this post to all the news that you need to know from Israel today.

Latest updates on top.

11:30 PM Overheard in the Likud corridors: In order to be a government minister, one needs to move over to Labor.

Many Likud MKs afraid to speak out loud in order to not lose their dwindling chance at a ministerial position.

7:53 PM Labor votes to join Bibi-led coalition. Barak promises to be opposing force within the government.

5:25 PM Impressive gallery of photos from Um Al Fahm today.

4:17 PM Qassam rocket launched from Gaza -- lands just south of Ashkelon. No injuries, no damage.

11:41 AM
Photos from the march today. Interesting sign reads "Racism = Violence" yet the only violence came from the Arab and Leftists who pelted the police with rocks, not from the demonstrators who only marched, carrying Israeli flags through sovereign Israeli territory for 10 minutes.

10:48 AM Jewish marcher end march peacefully as expected. Arabs throw rocks at marchers. Police use tear gas and stun grenades to prevent escalation of Arab violence.

10:45 AM Intermittent blackouts throughout Gush Etzion.

10:12 AM Policeman stabbed by Palestinian in Tel Aviv yesterday while being apprehended in the middle of stealing a car. Second Palestinian escaped.

9:56 AM Rocks thrown at Israeli police at Uhm El-Fahm junction. Police arresting protesters. Situation looks like it is growing out of control.

9: 49 AM Likud and Ehud Barak's representatives in Labor sign Letter of Understanding for a coalition agreement.

Main points include (1) the Likud agreement to uphold international political treaties signed by the State of Israel (this intentionally vague wording leaves wiggle room as the PA is not an international recognized state), (2) illegal outposts will be dismantled according to law (this intentionally vague wording leaves wiggle room as the outposts can then be legalized).

This agreement will be brought to the Labor party committee for approval or rejection. Intense internal battle raging within the Labor party.

Other possible outcomes include Labor party split or Barak leaving Labor and being Defense Minister independent of any party.

9:47 AM At police request, the 100 Jewish marchers have been transferred from regular buses to armored, bullet proof buses due to escalated tensions and fears that Uhm El-Fahm residents will resort to extreme violence as they announced they would.

9:43 AM IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal) reports: Due to upcoming scheduled march of 100 demonstrators with Israeli flags led by National Union (Ichud Leumi) MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari in the town of Uhn El-Fahm (Wadi Ara area), Israel's police has over 3000 border policemen and Yassam troops in anti-riot gear to provide Marcher's safety.

At the Uhm El-Fahm junction (Road 65) hundreds of Arab and Leftist demonstrators are waving Palestinian flags and chanting anti-Israel rhetoric.

Hundreds of Arab school children are wear kafiyah masks covering their faces and brandishing rocks in preparation for the marchers arrival.

9:40 AM
At 10:00 AM today Jerusalem and surrounding areas will be testing the emergency sirens. Do Not Panic. The sirens will sound for one minute. In the event of a real emergency, the sirens will sound for more than a minute.

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

Monday, March 23, 2009

First Thought (Part 3)

JoeSettler here.

Shas just joined the coalitions. In continuation of seeing which earlier predictions came true, let's check how thinks are shaping up.

I said:
Religious Affairs: /Shas
They did:

Religious Affairs: /Shas

I said:
Interior Minister: Eli Yishai/Shas
They did:
Interior Minister: Eli Yishai/Shas

I said:
Building and Construction: Katzaleh/Ichud Leumi
They did:
Building and Construction: /Shas

I said:
Education: Hershowitz/Bayit Yehudi or Shas
They did:
Education: Not Shas (still open)

I said:
Communications: Ariel Attias/Shas
They did:
Communications: Not Shas (still open)

Some of the Positions/Predictions that are still open:
Finance: Bennie Begin/Likud
Deputy Prime Minister: Lieberman/Yisrael Beiteinu
Finance: Bennie Begin/Likud
Social Affairs: UTJ

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

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Allegations agaisnt IDF based on rumors, not fact.

Updated: In addition to my post below, the following YNET article appeared as well. There are probably thousands of furious IDF reserve soldiers who are disgusted by Haaretz's report, and the slander from an IDF NCO who wasn't even in Gaza (let alone seen battle).

"I don’t believe there were soldiers who were looking to kill (Palestinians) for no reason," said 21-year-old Givati Brigade soldier Assaf Danziger, who was lightly injured three days before the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead.

"What happened there was not enjoyable to anyone; we wanted it to end as soon as possible and tried to avoid contact with innocent civilians," he said.


A Paratroopers Brigade soldier who also participated in the war called the claims "nonsense". Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said "It is true that in war morality can be interpreted in many different ways, and there are always a few idiots who act inappropriately, but most of the soldiers represented Israel honorably and with a high degree of morality.

"For instance, on three separate occasions my company commander checked soldiers' bags for stolen goods. Those who stole the smallest things, like candy, were severely punished," he said.

"We were forbidden from sleeping in Palestinians' beds even when we had no alternate accommodations, and we didn’t touch any of their food even after we hadn't had enough to eat for two days."
Israel's most anti-Zionist Hebrew daily newspaper, Haaretz, let loose with a bombshell of an "exclusive expose" today about the IDF's actions during the "Cast Lead" operation in Gaza: IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement

Haaretz "reports:"

During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive.

The soldiers are graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon. Some of their statements made on Feb. 13 will appear Thursday and Friday in Haaretz. Dozens of graduates of the course who took part in the discussion fought in the Gaza operation.
The reporter goes on to beat his own drum in a separate "analysis" piece entitled, "Can Israel dismiss its own troops' stories from Gaza?"

The statements of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers from the Yitzhak Rabin preparatory course provide the first, uncensored look at what occurred in some of the combat units in Operation Cast Lead.

It seems that what soldiers have to say is actually the way things happened in the field, most of the time. And as usual, reality is completely different from the gentler version provided by the military commanders to the public and media during the operation and after.

The soldiers are not lying, for the simple reason that they have no reason to. If you read the transcript that will appear in Haaretz Friday, you will not find any judgment or boasting. This is what the soldiers, from their point of view, saw in Gaza. There is a continuity of testimony from different sectors that reflects a disturbing and depressing picture.
Now, I know plenty of soldiers who saw action in Gaza during the "Cast Lead" operation, and no one that I know saw anything remotely similar to what Haaretz described.

Fast forward to a few minutes ago. Channel 2 TV Army correspondent Roni Daniel stated at 6:30 PM this evening, that he personally tracked down one of the soldiers interviewed for the Haaretz article. Apparently the soldier's testimony to Haaretz wasn't based on anything he personally saw or witnessed, rather based on rumors and hearsay he heard (and the soldier wasn't even in Gaza!)

Truth is rarely important to Haaretz, as long as it can bash the IDF, Israel, settlers, religious Jews, or anyone not agreeing with them. As a result of their propaganda article, the entire planet picked up on their "expose" and the poison keeps propagating around the world...

Gaza-Krieg: Israels Soldaten berichten über wahlloses Töten FACTS - Ausland 12:08

Soldaten schockieren mit Aussagen über Gaza-Krieg N24.de - Politik 11:58

IDF killed civilians in Gaza under lax rules of engagement Guerrilla News Network - Headlines 11:53

Wahlloses Töten in Gaza ntv.de 11:52

Gaza-Krieg – Soldaten gestehen wahlloses Töten Die Welt Online 11:44

Israeli army orders investigation into unethical actions in Gaza Xinhua Online - Middle East 11:39

Soldados israelíes mataron a palestinos indefensos en Gaza, según militares Yahoo! Espana - Mundo 11:28

Los soldados israelíes mataron civiles en Gaza con órdenes "laxas" de combate Yahoo! Espana - Mundo 11:28

Soldados israelenses mataram palestinos indefensos em Gaza 19/03/2009 08:24 CorreioWeb - Mundo 11:25

- Exterior » Soldados israelenses mataram civis em Gaza sem representar ameaça, diz jornal Clica Brasilia - Ultimas Noticias 11:22

Israeli troops in Gaza fought under 'permissive rules of engagement' The Earth Times 11:09

Israel matou civis indiscriminadamente em Gaza, diz jornal Estado.com.br - Ultimas Noticias 11:00

UPDATE: Israelis Describe Wanton Killings Of Gaza Civilians Nasdaq - Global Markets 11:00

MK Tibi demands State commission of inquiry on Gaza offensive YnetNews 10:59

Soldados israelenses mataram civis indefesos em Gaza JB Online - Internacional

Israel: Soldaten bezeugen Kriegsverbrechen in Gaza ORF.at 10:54

Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian civilians in Gaza Xinhua Online - Home 10:43

IDF orders probe into allegations over Gaza war Ha'aretz 10:36

Journal describes Gaza killings The National - Middle East 10:33

Israelis describe wanton killings of Gaza civilians Middle East Online 10:32

Mark my words My prediction: this entire story will turn out to be a tempest in a teapot, but the damage caused to Israel and the IDF has already been inflicted by Haaretz.

I'm sure their investigative reporters are already figuring out how the IDF bakes matza with blood.

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

And now for something completely different

Its scary. The only time before my previous Agel post that I was rather shocked at the intensity of comments left on my blog (and hate mail) was the time I posted about "Fleeing Manilla" a few years back. Philipino Hackers threatened to hack my blog, and I decided it just wasn't worth it to keep the posts up (even if they were extremely entertaining).

So, before the Agel Fundies take over my blog completely, we're switching topics to something totally different.

Hmmm. Katzav indicted? Nothing new there.

Marzel and BenGvir going to march in Um El Fahm with an Israeli flag? I'll wait till I see it happen.

Ah, here we go...its not exactly MLM.

Gaza: Marry a Terrorist War Widow and Win 3000 US Dollars!
Hamas is offering a $3000 reward for any man willing to marry the widow of a "shahid" (a martyr), several Arab websites reported this week.

Hamas initiated the move in an attempt to lower the number of widowed women in the Gaza Strip who lost the spouses who provided for them and their children, and in order to ease their emotional grief and financial difficulties.

Hamas hopes that by encouraging men to wed these women, it will be providing them with stability and a better life.

According to the report, Hamas has set a number of terms that the grooms must meet in order to receive the money: The men must be able to provide for two women or more, be religiously devout and ethical. (ynet)
Stability? Better life? Don't they also encourage suicide bombers and promises of heaven?

I wonder if we could get Hamas hooked on Agel.

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Olim to widen the Pyramid base.

I couldn't resist.

With the comments that went up about Agel taking over the Anglo communities, I was wondering to myself (as apparently were others), where are they going to find enough Anglos to keep widening the pyramid base.

And then someone answered - Nefesh B'Nefesh.

It makes sense. NBN might like having sponsors for flights. Agel needs buyers, and everyone knows there's no bigger buyer than a new Oleh right off the plane.

Why not save time?

NBN already has Misrad Hapnim and Misrad Haklita representatives on the flight. Now they will add Agel agents, just to save time.

I should patent this.

(Apologies to NBN, but I couldn't write this without you, and to DannyBoy and anonymous for the idea).

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

Its a bird...its a plane...its A-jel

Is there anyone on the planet who doesn't want to "get rich quick" or "work smart, not hard" and "retire in only a few years"?

Chances are you'll be approached over the course of your lifetime by a representative of an "organization" that will use any of the above buzz phrases to entice you to join them in their venture to make you rich.

Unfortunately, they will get extremely offended if you refer to their business as a "pyramid scheme" and they will always reply, "Pyramid Schemes are illegal -- We're a Multi-Level-Marketing (MLM) Network Marketing Opportunity organization! (source)

Unless of course, you're trying to market the scheme to Homer Simpson, and in that case you would say:
Seminar speaker: "First, let me assure you that this is not one of those shady pyramid schemes you've been hearing about. No sir. Our model is the trapezoid scheme, guaranteed to give you an eight-hundred percent return...." (The Simpsons, Season 3, Episode 12)
Which brings us to one of the most "popular and exciting" Trapezoidal MLM Network Marketing Opportunity in Israel today -- "Agel"

The purists will tell you that "illegal pyramid schemes" are where no goods are exchanged, so the "Agel scheme" is not illegal. It may be unethical and immoral, but it's not illegal.

The question is, why does anyone need "Agel" which is sold exclusively through the Agel distribution network and not available in stores?

First, what is Agel? The simple answer: vitamins in "jell" form.

Marketing 101 teaches you the naming and branding is essential. No one will buy a product entitled, "Bitter Herb Monster-Sized Pills". You need s slick name, and "Agel" fits the bill. Going one step further, its classed by its marketeers as belonging to a made-up industry, "gelceuticals" (sounds strikingly similar to the serious industry known as "pharmaceuticals", doesn't it?)

In trying to convince us that Agel is a fantastic business opportunity, they will write things as follows:
"If you think that this is just another scam and don't believe gelceuticals will explode in the near future then don't invest... simple as that. But the truth is they will surpass all the pills, powder supplements, shakes, etc. If you like what you hear about the product, then perhaps you should do more research instead of saying "oh it's just another scheme or scam" you and I know that it's called ignorance.

Just like other pro-Agel people before me have written I challenge you to find out more about it, without saying "oh it looks like a pyramid structure it must be a scam".
And then, they drop statements from official looking press releases like this:
Predicted to be the next trillion dollar industry, AskMeWhyAgel.com Gelceuticals business opportunity is ground breaking in the marketplace by leading in an unequaled innovative revolution.
Yet ask yourself, why do we really need vitamins in jell form? Is this so much more useful than regular vitamins supplements? Is Agel a better solution than healthy eating?

No proof exists that gel technology is in any way better – in fact there is a greater danger of the product ingredients becoming unstable and breaking down.

If this product is so amazing, why aren't there over the counter versions of this amazing, revolutionary product, sold by other companies? (Readers, help me out here if I'm wrong...)

In Israel, this product is marketed as Kosher, and the Agel website points us to an OU kosher certification that expired a year and a half ago.

Again, its important to keep in mind that not every product with an OU on it is good for you, let alone healthy.

I found the following products that are also OU certified Kosher, yet I would advise you call your local poison control center if you accidentally ingested any of it.

A closer reading from the Agel website brings us some interesting points about their miracle product (starting with a clear statement on their advertising literature: "These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA" )

Should pregnant woman use Agel products?

There are some ingredients in Agel EXO that have been listed in some texts as not appropriate for pregnant women. Consequently, we recommend that pregnant women not consume EXO. If you are pregnant, prior to taking any vitamin, herbs, supplements, or over-the-counter medications, we recommend that you consult with your physician.

Can women take Agel products while breast-feeding?

We recommend that you review the ingredients in these products with your physician prior to using them while breast-feeding.

Should children use Agel MIN?

As a point of reference, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse vitamin supplementation in children under the age of 16, except for specific groups with chronic illnesses. Furthermore, the mineral needs of children are unclear.

Should children use Agel FIT?

We recommend consulting with your pediatrician about appropriate food supplementation and weight management regimens for children. As a general rule, we do not recommend diet aids for children, and we therefore do not recommend using Agel FIT in the pediatric population. We do advocate healthy eating habits and plenty of physical activity as a means for children to manage weight. To initiate an early habit of dependence on dieting aids in childhood may be sending the wrong message.

Why did my skin feel hot and appear slightly red with OHM? OHM contains B3 in the form of niacinamide. It can have a flushing reaction. Sometimes the skin temporarily feels hot and gets red and sometimes a rash appears, but then disappears after a while. It is not harmful, just a bit scary if never experienced before.

Can Agel products help some medical conditions? Nutritional supplements are for supplementing the diet. They are not for diagnosing, mitigating, preventing or curing any diseases. As GelDocs, it is out of the scope of our legal abilities to diagnose or make recommendations for the treatment of any disease or diagnosed medical condition.

It may be out of scope for the Agel website, but the marketeers of Agel have no problem recommending agel (with official testimonials) as the miracle drug that can cure, alleviate or help: eczema, osteo-arthritis, TMJ, sinus and migraine headaches, ADHD, high cholesterol, low blood sugar, chronic fatigue, backaches, autism, those suffering from quadruple bypass heart surgery, etc.

Sounds like a real miracle drug,vitamin supplement right? Except, there is absolutely zero scientific, clinical, medical documentation to back up any of these amazing claims.

Its a dubious product to say the least -- yet thousands of Israelis are now actively selling agel, specifically in the religious and Chareid sectors. Some of the higher ups on the pyramid are making very nice "salaries" as a result of the work being done by their underlings.

The problem with MLM and pyramid-structured schemes is that the bottom tiered people have no one available to sell on their behalf or even buy the product. There's no one left to make those at the bottom, "get rich."

The charismatic, dynamic and influential people at the "top" of the pyramid are the ones making the money, while the middle and lower tiered people end up doing the hard work as they try to convince their neighbors, friends, and family that Agel is the economic and health miracle to let them live the good life.

Unfortunately, Agel is not anything a family "needs", like other products sold by more reputable MLM companies such as Amway. Amway sells household goods that everyone needs; tissues, toilet paper, soap, etc. The only real selling point of Agel, is once you get past the mega hype of it being a "vitamin" -- the point of selling it is to get people to sell it on your behalf.

Agel salesmen routinely advertise it as a miracle solution for the health ailments of society (like the list I provided above), learning disabilities, and more.

In a country like Israel, where money is tight (and this was even before the global recession), I find it immoral for charismatic Agel salesmen to get guileful, impoverished victims to buy-in to the program with the siren song of financial independence and "easy money"

For every person making a lot of money in Agel, there are hundreds who don't.

To end off -- here's a educational video from the "King of Queens" about MLM companies, and why it's common sense to avoid them like the plague.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Underwear Tree

Location: The Amuka...[The Depths]...North-Central Galil, Israel. Green, green Israel. (The change in the Muqata's color today is because JoeIrishSettler's been drinking too much leftover Purim whiskey)

Many readers of the Muqata know that one of the topics I really enjoy blogging about is trips around Israel. While I may have not posted about these trips for a while, I have photographed many of them quite extensively over the past few years in the hope that I'd get around to eventually posting them.

Today's your lucky day, as we explore the mystery of...The Underwear Tree.

Located in the rolling hills of Northern Israel, you have to go off the beaten path for your quest of this holy tree.

These photos were taken by me last year, as we approached the grave site of the saintly rabbi, Yonatan Ben Uziel.

R' Yonatan ben Uziel, the greatest of the students of Hillel.

It was said that when R' Yonatan ben Uziel studied Torah, any bird that flew above his head would be burned up. Rashi explains that angles would hover above his head to hear his Torah study (thus the birds were incinerated by the angels), while Tosafot explains that his learning was intense like the fires at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given...)
Such a holy place. Completely separate entrances for men and women. (These separate entrances are relatively new...though the underwear tree might be a decent explanation why one might want different entrances)

Its a long, long way to the entrance...not a chance you might accidentally see a female.

You enter the building and behold. The grave marker of R' Yonatan ben Uziel.

Friendly signs adorn the walls, like this one, located on a beaker of burning oil:

"To the attention of all: This contraption is private property. Anyone lighting candles atop of it is guilty of theft. --The Owners"

And so...the time comes to leave the building. The excitement grows, as we see the ominous sign, heralding our arrival at the hallowed spot!

Esteemed Visitors

According to the halachik (Jewish law) rulings of Rabbis and Kabbalist mystics,
it is forbidden to hang scarves,
or clothes, or other items
on this tree, the gravesite,
or within the building of the gravesite.
There is no worth to it whatsoever...and it may even do harm [to you], G-d forbid.

--Site Management.

Yet that does nothing to stop women from adorning the tree with scarves, clothing or underwear -- they believe that hanging their clothes from this tree, will help them in their quest to find their shidduch, their life partner for marriage.

Don't believe me? How about the NY Times? Or the ancient bloggers of yore who discussed this issue years ago when it first made headlines?

The "Out of Step Jew" wrote about it. As did the Balabusta in Blue Jeans, Yo Yenta, and even Miriam from Bloghd (who moved up to the big leagues, and now blogs and reports for the Jewish Chronicle). DovBear weighed in as well back then in Dec 2005, which is the stone age of blogging...and he quoted the extremely venerable Mississippi Fred McDowel's "On the Main Line" blog on the same topic. [Updated]

And you thought I was kidding about this tree. It exists, and despite the dire warning sign, women still hang their clothes from this tree...hoping to meet their bashert, their partner for marriage.

(I should mention this to Laizy Shapiro as a plot idea for a srugim episode).

While the tree above is a totally Jewish in nature, there's also a Christian urban legend underwear tree near Laughlin, Arizona. Much less serious.

That's enough for now -- Tomorrow, I shall slay the agel dragon!


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

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