Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fighting for the Soul of Beit Shemesh

There is an ongoing war in the Beit Shemesh/Ramat Beit Shemesh municipality, as the "Sirikim" (Ultra Orthodox Chareidi Extremists) have been targeting a national-religious girls elementary school "Orot Banot" which is at the edge of a religious neighborhood and at the edge of a Chareidi neighborhood. The "sikrikim" thugs have been spitting at the school girls (1rst graders!) and calling them all sorts of names: prutzot (sluts), zonot (whores), and more.

(map courtesy of Reb Akiva at MysticalPaths)

The following heartbreaking video report was broadcast last week, and has been subtitled into English by the Mom in Israel blogger. I highly suggest you find the time to watch it.

(updated video with slower subtitles)

Or, if you want an English language update (that's only 4 minutes long, here's another video update)

Tonight, there is going to be a demonstration outside the "Orot Banot" school in Beit Shemesh. While the initial organizers of the demonstration are from rights groups that I don't always see eye to eye with, I understand that many more mainstream organizations will be attending as well. I have even heard reports that moderate Chareidim plan on attending to express their outrage at the violence directed at the school children.

I will update this post a bit later with more thoughts on the issue -- and how its imperative for moderate Chareidim to vocally express their outrage at the behavior of the sikrikim.

95% of the Ramat Beit Shemesh Chareidi population are offended by the behavior of the sikrikim. Not actively expressing their disgust, no matter what the reason (the Gedolim didn't tell us to demonstrate, Chareidi politicians are taking care of it, the demonstration is too political, the demonstration will lead to Lashon Hara, etc.) are all excuses that are tantamount to "Shtika k'Hodaa" -- or silence is admission (agreement with the sikrikim).

Update on the Hafgana here.

Details: Starting at 6 PM is the big hafgana against violence and extremism. The hafgana will be on the street outside the OROT Banot girls school on Herzog Street in Beit Shemesh.

People will be going from all over the country -- be there and make a difference! Stand up and be heard and counted!

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Who Said This Nationalistic Statement?

Having grown up in the yeshiva educational system in the United States, I was a bit surprised that I had no clue who said the following:

The land which we have returned to, to inherit, is the legacy of our fathers, and no foreigner can have a part in it. Our enemies have stolen our legacy from us and have unjustly taken it, and now G-d has made our path successful, we have retaken our fathers' legacy and we have settled in it.

Who said this, in what context, and what party were they from?

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Way G-d Intended Jews to Live.

This isn't the first time I've seen such ideas articulated -- but this is the first time I've seen them so disconnected from traditional Judaism that views Israel as a central theme in the religion.

The following is a letter from a Jew living in the USA who can't fathom moving to Israel because its not nearly as spiritual as living in the United States, where she gets to keep 2 days of every holiday instead of 1. She addressed to letter to Shmuel Katz, and it was published in the 5tJt
“I recently read an article of yours in which you list reasons for making aliyah. While your reasons are quite compelling, there was one reason listed that our family always considers the one sad thing about making aliyah and that is the less yom tov days celebrated.

“While we look forward one day to live in Eretz Yisrael, during every yom tov that we celebrate in galut, we end up mentioning how if we would already be in Eretz, we would have a day less and we can’t imagine how hard it would be.

During Pesach, we cannot imagine only having one Seder. While we often enter the first Seder quite tired from all the preparation, we are always thrilled to know that we will have a second one the next night, which, after our yom tov naps, we enjoy even more.

“We cannot imagine Shavuot being one day. Our first day of Shavuot is spent half asleep, as the men (and sometimes the girls) have spent the whole night learning. We can’t imagine the loss of not having a second day when everyone is more awake to enjoy the yom tov meal and shiurim that take place that day.

We can’t imagine how the seriousness of Shemini Atzeret and the joyfulness of Simchat Torah have to be combined into just one day.

“Please do not be upset with me for my suggestion that perhaps your yom tov celebration is missing something if you conceive that less yom tov is a wonderful advantage.

“May all your yomim tovim be an inspiration and a source of spiritual growth and may we meet soon B’eretz HaKedoshah.
Shmuel Katz has a decent answer for her in his article. I just wonder if this woman would also be offended by billboards calling on yordim to move back to Israel.

Why would mashiach bother coming, when he can stay in Monsey and continue having 2 sedarim for Pesach (without kitniyot or gebruchts)

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Chanuka Special: Biblical Archeology Second Temple Artifact Found

In a rare Second Temple (Bayit Sheyni) period archeological find, Israel's Antiquities Authority announced today that a small, yet significant artifact was found as part of the City of David archeological dig.

The artifact apparently served as authorization that a particular item or food was considered ritually pure for use in the Temple. The item was found underneath the Robinson Arch, 15 meters North of the Southwest corner of the Temple Mount. The item was located in the layers of dirt which covered the foundations of the Western retaining wall of the Temple Mount -- which was the primary road during the second Temple period.

The excavated dirt was carefully sifted through by 3,500 volunteers, mostly Israeli high school students in the Emek Tzurim national park. The 2 cm artifact is made from tin, with the Aramaic words on it, "-daka" and "-leh" Daka in Aramaic means "pure" and "Leh" is part of G-d's name.

According to the directors of the Antiquities Authority, archeologists Dr. Eli Shukrun, and Professor Roni Reich from Haifa University, the words mean, "Holy to God." The artifact was a type of "bag check" for items brought to the Temple, ascertaining that it was holy and could be used.

The Mishna (Oral Torah) in Shekalim, Chapter 5, uses the word "Chotam" -- or signet seal. The Mishna lists 5 different types of signet seals, and this particular one is not listed -- thereby adding an additional historical fact not detailed in the Mishna. (sources)

Happy Chanuka!

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chol HaMoed Chanuka

The following poster appears on the Kiryat Bialik mall -- it is not a photoshop.

On the bright side, at least they have a clue of the concept of "chol hamoed" (and that Chanuka is pretty close to it from a practical point of view)

h/t: Gee a Moron

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shlissel (Key) Challah: The Loaf of Idolatry?

The Origins of the Non-Jewish Custom Of "Shlissel Challah" (Key Bread) “The Loaf of Idolatry?”

You can read it all here, or see the following key point from the research paper:

- Every year Jewish women, young and old, partake in the Ashkenazi1 custom to place a key (such as a door key to a home), inside the dough of a loaf of bread that they bake.2 This custom is known as shlissel challah—shlissel from the German language shlüssel (key) and challah or hallah from the Hebrew for bread.

- The baking of a key inside a bread is a non-Jewish custom which has its foundation in Christian, and possibly even earlier, pagan culture. At least one old Irish source tells how at times when a town was under attack, the men said, ―let our women-folk be instructed in the art of baking cakes containing keys.

- Keys were traditionally manufactured in the form of a cross, the traditional symbol of Christianity, a physical item all Christian commoners would posses in their home. On Easter, the Christian holiday which celebrates the idea of Jesus "rising" from the dead, they would bake the symbol of Jesus—the key shaped like a cross—into or onto a rising loaf.

- The modern Jewish custom of baking the symbolic shlissel challah, annually takes place on the shabbat immediately following the holiday of Pessah, when tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of religiously observant Jewish women11 practice this observance.

- In Christianity, baked goods associated with keys are commonly called "Easter breads," and in Europe they are also known as ‗Paschals,‘13 as the holiday of Easter in the East is known as "Pascha" or "Pascua." This is most likely the reason Christians often call Easter breads baked with keys Paschals.

- While the custom is said to be mentioned in the writings of Avraham Yehoshua Heshel (the ―Apter Rav‖ 1748-1825) and in the Ta’amei ha-Minhagim (1891), there is no one clear source for shlissel challah. And while people will say there is a passuq attributed to it, there is not. And, even if there were, a passuq that can be linked to the practice is not the same as a source. Micha Berger, founder of the AishDas Society, [orthodox] calls this type of logic "reverse engineering," it‘s like drawing a circle around an arrow in a tree, and subsequently declaring the arrow is a bullseye. The idea of baking shlissel challah is not from the Torah; it‘s not in the Tannaitic, Amoraitic, Savoraitic, Gaonic or Rishonic literature.

- Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim19 of Mesora.Org [orthodox] teaches that:

The Torah teaches that Hashem punishes the wicked, and rewards the righteous. It does not say that challah baking or any other activity will help address our needs…When the matriarchs were barren, they did not resort to segulas, but introspected and prayed…Nothing in Torah supports this concept of segula; Torah sources reject the idea of a segula…baking challas with brachos cannot help…segulas are useless, and violate the Torah prohibition of Nichush [good luck charms]. It does not matter if the charm is a rabbit‘s foot, a horseshoe, a challah, key or a red bendel. The practice assumes that forces exist, which do not, and it is idolatrous.
- On the far end of the scale, it can be said that shlissel challah observance is a nothing less than "the way of the Amorites." It is precisely this type of behavior and observance which Jews are supposed to separate themselves from, so it doesn't go on to influence our thoughts and deeds. Am Yisrael was not created to lose itself in such folklore, and Judaism without disciplined study is nothing but folklore. Judaism allows and encourages the use of our minds. It‘s never too late to realign our path with Torah sources, not blind faith practices which are trendy, in, or cool.

- Educated Jews should help to promote Torah sources to our friends and neighbors, not false practices which are of non-Jewish origin and have nothing to do with Judaism.

100 Amens to that!

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Maybe it's time to move to Israel?

Now's the time to move to Israel...before your kids start asking questions like "What tefillin does Santa wear?"

For the story on Santa wearing tefillin...its from here
Yakov Jacobson was doing pre-Chanukah mivzoim in Laguna Beach, CA, when he happened upon a familiar character who - he was surprised to find out - is a Jew! The man had never put on tefilin before, a 'Karkafta,' and Yakov helped him do the mitzvah for the first time in his life.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

What would Israel's Liberal Left Sacrifice for Peace?

Israel's liberal-left is constantly stating we need to make "sacrifices" for peace. At least stating "sacrifice" implies taking away something of value, of something near and dear to us...such as land. Netanyahu has gone farther and stated "painful" concessions...(meaning even more land, and uprooting Jewish communities).

The Palestinians don't only hate the Zionist entity of Israel because of "the occupation", but they also hate the secular aspects of Zionism. The original Zionist pioneers, men and women dancing the hora on a kibbutz (while wearing shorts) infuriated the religious sensibilities of Islam, and they viewed secular Zionism with disgust.

I wonder if Israel's liberal-left would be willing to make a sacrifice for peace, in that they would need to adopt a more modest-dress lifestyle, in public. Would this far-reaching attack on one's personal space be an acceptable "price for peace"?

Just a thought.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Great Reading

Here's some great links to read:

Everyone's heard about the YU's "The Beacon" scandal story -- even the JPost reported on it. For a very thoughtful take on the story, even comparing it to the parashat hashavua, I recommend you read R' Pruzanky's take on it.
"How do we discuss sensitive, delicate, even prurient matters? In fourth grade, we just skipped over the story of Yehuda and Tamar; that’s one approach. It doesn’t work well. How can you transmit values when the subject matter, or the application of those values, are taboo, and unmentionable? Granted, despite the anonymous author’s best efforts, the average commercial on television is more risqué and suggestive than this short story; and granted, I can see why the “Yeshiva” side of the YU ledger was offended.

But there is, unfortunately, a seamy corner of the Jewish world that we would do well not pretending that it does not exist. It exists – it exists because the culture is that decadent, and because young people looking for love, attention and respect often seek it in the wrong places and in the wrong activities – and they wind up without love or respect, although they do capture the attention, temporarily at least, of the exploiters and predators."

R' Yitzchok Adlerstein over at Cross-Currents titles his post A Grand Theory of Halachic Everything. He reviews a fascinating article by Dr. Moshe Koppel, which I highly recommended, "Judaism as a First Language"
Judaism, in a way, is not that different from English—or any other language, for that matter. In fact, Judaism is a language of sorts; its internal dynamics, the manner in which it evolves, and the powers through which it is fashioned are all startlingly similar to those of the linguistic process. Now, one can treat this comparison as a mere intellectual exercise, an interesting metaphor at most, but I believe its potential implications are great and far-reaching. It can shed light on some of the problems that keep many contemporary Jews—myself included—up at night: If Judaism, as it is currently practiced in certain circles, has gone off the rails, how would we know? Is there some Archimedean point from which we could decide the matter? And, if this is indeed the case, is the founding of a Jewish state likely to get us back on track? The answers to these questions, I will attempt to show here, are all inextricably connected, and the key to finding them may perhaps lie in understanding Judaism as language.
And President Obama's Remarks at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism. (White House transcript)
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from her[President Obama's daughter, Malia] it’s that it never hurts to begin a speech by discussing the Torah portion. It doesn’t hurt.
That was cute.
In fact, I am proud to say that no U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours. None. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. It is a fact.
And that is a fact, you may not let anyone tell you otherwise. It IS A FACT.
Last year, when raging fires threatened Haifa, we dispatched fire-fighting planes to help put out the blaze. (Applause.)
Well, it wasn't dispatched by the US Government -- the Israeli government paid for the super tanker...whatever.
Thank you, God bless you, God bless the United States of America.
Amen. Had this been said by an Israeli Prime Minister, the media would be in an uproar over the religious intolerance of Israel's growing anti-democratic character.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Netanyahu vs. Advocates of Civil War

In perhaps one of the most important decisions in the past few weeks, Israeli PM Netanyahu has proven that he has the ability to make clear and decisive decisions, despite a cacophony of hatred from the ideological children of Ben-Gurion's decision to use deadly force against fellow Jews.

In 1948, Ben-Gurion ordered Yitzchak Rabin to open fire on the Irgun's Altalena ship carrying much needed weapons for the security of Israel, as it approached the shores of Tel-Aviv. Rabin then brutally ordered his troops to fire at the unarmed Jewish survivors swimming to shore, many of whom were Holocaust survivors. 19 Jews were murdered. Rabin never expressed any remorse for his actions -- in fact he relished in the murder, proudly saying in Washington DC when he was Israel's Ambassador to the USA, "we screwed them on the boat, and then we screwed them as they swam to shore." (source)

The proverbial artillery cannon which shot at the Altalena was named the "Holy Cannon"...and became a central theme in Ben-Gurion's legacy.

In response to the violence in the Shomron a few days, the ideological children of Ben-Gurion's "Holy Cannon" have called for shooting settlers.

"Too bad the IDF didn't arrest anyone; too bad they didn't shoot; too bad they didn't react." --MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) Wednesday, 14/12/2011

Where is he, the Holy Cannon, when we urgently need him? Where are those who claim to be the students of Ben-Gurion, and those who carry on his legacy? --Yossi Sarid Haaretz, Thursday, 15/12/2011

Defense Minister Ehud Barak Wednesday morning said the legal possibility of classifying the "hilltop youth" group of young radical settlers as a terrorist group, saying "as far as their behavior is concerned, there is no doubt that we are talking about terrorists." (JPost)

And why do Ehud Barak, Ben-Eliezer or Yossi Sarid never call the weekly violent protests by Israeli leftists and anarchists are Biyalin or Yaalin, in which over 110 IDF soldiers and border policemen have been wounded -- the work of "terrorists"... and they reserve the use of their holiest of canons, and reserve the use of deadly force, only at settlers?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's response:

He accepts the recommendations of the internal security minister and the justice minister for dealing with far-Right activists rioting in the West Bank -- that they be tried in military court, but rejected a recommendation to define the Hilltop Youth as a terror organization. (YNET)

Defining "Hilltop Youth" as a terror organization is ludicrous (there is no such organization called the "hilltop youth"), yet the statement is clear: Jewish ideological violence against Jews is not terrorism. Violence is wrong and should be punished to the full extent of the law, but it is not terrorism. You don't shoot to kill other Jews because that leads to a civil war.

Netanyahu learned one lesson right from Menachem Begin, who said there should never be a civil war in Israel.

Unfortunately, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak and MKs from the Labor party would be more than happy to mow down settlers with Ben-Gurion's "Holy Cannon."

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Settler Violence; Wrong, Damaging and Depressing

In response to the planned IDF demolition of a Shomron region outpost, "Ramat Gilad", dozens of Israeli teenagers broke into the nearby IDF Efrayaim Battalion HQ, puncturing tires on jeeps and lobbing paint-filled balloons at IDF jeeps. Earlier in the evening, a rock was thrown into the jeep of the Battalion commanding officer, Ran Kahana, which injured his deputy.

The above cartoon, by Shay Charka says it all. The teenagers who attacked the IDF fail to realize that they are first and foremost, hurting themselves. Their behavior is wrong and the violence is wrong. It damages our unity, it damages the IDF, and most depressing of all, gives our enemies reason to rejoice and point fingers at the violence and increases the likelihood of the destruction of Ramat Gilad.

The background: Ramat Gilad is a 10 year old, small community of about 10 families and 30 children located on a hilltop in the Shomron region -- on a clear day you can see from Hadera to Ashdod. The buildings of Tel-Aviv are clearly visible almost any day. The community was founded in memory of Gilad Zar, the security officer of the Shomron Regional Council, who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists -- shot at point blank range in 2001.

Gilad's father, Moshe Zar is a well-known and colorful character. Moshe is a longtime friend of former Israeli Prime Minister, Arik Sharon, when he served under him in the legendary "Unit 101." Moshe was wounded in the 1956 Sinai Campaign and lost his left eye as a result of his injuries. In 1983 he was attacked and stabbed by a group of Palestinians but survived.

Moshe purchased thousands of dunams of land in the Shomron from the local Arabs.

In 1982, Moshe Zar purchased 2 parcels of land from an Arab resident of Jinsafut. In response, the seller's neighbors beat him brutally. As a result, the seller refused to hand over the documents concerning the second parcel of land despite the fact that Moshe Zar had already paid for it in full.

He asked Moshe Zar not to back out of the deal and promised that he would not oppose cultivation of the parcel by Moshe Zar. This parcel has been cultivated by Moshe Zar since then, as evidenced by aerial photographs and by testimony of an Arab worker who plowed the land on behalf of Moshe Zar.

To this day no one else has ever claimed ownership of the land or contested the land's cultivation. No complaints were filed with the police, army or civil administration despite the fact that the area is clearly visible from Jinsafut.

In 2000, the largest Israeli flag ever created was unrolled on the hill, which then began being called Givat HaDegel. The flag was later burned by local Arabs.

Shortly after the murder of Gilad Zar in 2001, Ramat Gilad was founded. The first two caravans plus a double caravan for a Bet Knesset were placed with the approval of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his advisor for settlement affairs, Yossi Vardi.

In 2003, a plan for 185 units on the slopes of Ramat Gilad was approved by the Housing Ministry. The plan received all the necessary approvals except for that of the Defense Minister, for whose approval we've been waiting for eight years.

In 2004 "Peace Now" petitioned the court to require the government to destroy Jewish settlements that were built on private Arab land. Moshe Zar was not invited to the proceedings. No one else claimed ownership. No Arab has any claim on the land.

The only complaint that has been presented to the Supreme Court, for Jews living on a hilltop in the Shomron is from "Peace Now." As a result of the petition, the government committed itself to destroying Ramat Gilad by the end of 2011.

MK and Government Minister Benny Begin recently visited the hilltop to discuss its fate with Moshe Zar.

Moshe Zar, has stated that he agreed to negotiate with the State after being assured that no hasty demolitions would take place during negotiations. "During the negotiation we weren’t informed what would be demolished, when we suddenly heard about demolition forces on their way to Ramat Gilad contrary to the promises made. Then, the Defense Ministry claimed untruthfully they knew nothing of the forces approaching Ramat Gilad." (INN)

Who gains from this violence? Peace Now and Ehud Barak gain from the settler violence, as it makes it far simpler to destroy Ramat Gilad.

The tiny minority of violent settlers fell right into a perfectly laid trap...and have made it far more difficult for the rest of us.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Supreme Court Representation: The Danger to Israel's Democracy

Almost everyone is jumping on the bandwagon these days, saying that the evil MKs that comprise the (elected) government in Israel are doing their best to destroy the "Democratic Character" of Israel.

What has enraged them the most by far, is the proposal to allow the people of Israel, via their elected officials to actually decide who will comprise the makeup of the Supreme Court, rather than giving exclusive veto power to the existing Supreme Court justices.

In effect, the Supreme Court today ensures there is no representation of "the people" on the court, rather they decide in their own exclusive, infinite wisdom who may join them in ruling over Israel.

I suggest you view the following short (2 minute) video, which is captioned into English, for a clear, concise explanation of why democracy is allegedly endangered by letting the people of Israel have a say who should be on the Supreme Court.

If you don't like the video, and do believe that Israel's Democracy is truly in danger by allowing the Supreme Court justices to be actually representative of the people of Israel -- you are in good company. I'm sure you'll enjoy this unbiased article (written by an Israeli) on the same subject at Al-Jazeerah's Cross-Cultural Understanding section, entitled: Zionist Terrorists in the Knesset Threaten Remains of Democracy in Israel.

hat-tip: RRW

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The Ad that Won't Offend American Jews

Also referred to as the Magen David (David’s Shield) or the Six Point Star, the Star of David bears various religious and cultural meanings in addition to its traditional association with Judaism. Historically, the star has been used as a symbol in Islam, Christianity and Judaism alike. Made up of two superimposed equilateral triangles, the six points of the star point in all directions, symmetry and balance. Thus, the star exemplifies an equilibrium existing within ourselves and our surrounding universe.

Whether you are looking for an ornament to top a Christmas tree, Hanukkah bush, or a tree that has a different meaning to your family, the Star of David tree topper is a perfect symbol and gift for your home or that of a loved one. (ad site)

Many proud American Jews were extremely upset by the "return home" ads that Israel has been running which targets expat Israelis. Some bloggers found the ads, "...as a whole are disgusting. They insult the intelligence of Israeli citizens, while also assailing the character of American Jews." Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic stated that, "I don't think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads." The bottom line from Goldberg is this:

Don't imply, directly or otherwise, "that America is no place for a proper Jew, [the idea] that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik"

Days later, PM Netanytahu capitulated to the pressure and ordered that the ad campaign be shelved immediately.

Some intelligent thoughts on why this ad campaign is not the embodiment of Satan:

David Hazony's "Dissenting Opinion on 'Aba-Gate'"
Yishai Fleischer's "Dear American Jews"
Chana Rivka Poupko's "Dear Mr. Goldberg, That's Right. America IS No Place For A Proper Jew"
Laura Ben-David's Ad campaign to bring Israelis back is right on-target

However, I'm sure that none of those who were extremely offended by Israel's message to it's expats to return home, will be offended in the slightest by the ad campaign shown above at the top of this post, now catching steam all over the USA...reported by the JPost.
NEW YORK – Two Jewish-born entrepreneurs are a somewhat unlikely source for some equally unlikely holiday hits: the Hanukkah Tree Topper and Star of David Tree Topper.

Those looking to top their Christmas trees with a Jewish star can find such ornaments online, and between evangelical Christians and people in interfaith relationships, the tree toppers are selling like hot cross buns.

Morri and Marina Chowaiki have sold “thousands” of their Hanukkah Tree Toppers, a Star of David “menorahment” intended to be placed on top of a Christmas tree.

Morri Chowaiki was raised Jewish in Los Angeles, and Marina was raised in Melbourne, Australia, by a German Jewish mother and Greek Orthodox father. While Marina grew up celebrating Christmas, Morri did not. The couple decided to decorate their home for Christmas in 2005, and trimmed their Christmas tree with blue and silver decorations, including dreidels, as a tribute to both their faiths.

“She decorated a tree and put a five-pointed star on top,” Morri recalled.

“I asked with a bit of a chuckle, ‘Couldn’t you put a Jewish star on it?’ She said she couldn’t find one. I said I would, and I couldn’t. That’s how the idea was born.”

He filed for a patent for his six-sided silver Star of David and started selling it on Amazon in 2009. Since then, he says, his Hanukkah Tree Topper has become the site’s No. 1 selling tree topper, as well as its No. 1 selling Hanukka item.

The Hanukkah Tree Topper is also now sold on SkyMall, the in-flight shopping service, as well as online at Home Depot and Sears. Thousands of units have been sold in the US, Canada, the UK, Austria, Ireland, Australia and Mexico.
For some strange reason, these Xmas-tree/Chanuka-bush Mogen Dovid tree toppers aren't selling like hotcakes in Israel. I guess we're just not as enlightened.

I'm happy to keep it that way.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Taliban Burqa Women Raise the Bar: Concealing the Human Form

Hyper-modest, Hyper-Orthodox Taliban Burqa-clad Jewish women in the Mea-Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem have raised the bar on their attempts to hide themselves when going out in public.

MyNet/Yediot Yerushalayim reports that a new trend is emerging in which the Burqa women place a cylinder on their heads beneath their burqa, to further conceal their human form. (see photo below of the Burqa woman on the left)

Taliban Burqa Jewish Women
MyNet Reports:

According to a source, close to the group of Burqa women, "the more stringent of the women decided that the burqa veil is not enough, because it still shows the shape of the face. The solution found is a tube that they wear over their heads under the veil so you can not identify the shape of their face."

Israel's Ultra-Orthodox rabbis and even the most stringent in the Orthodox community have came out against Burqas. "We warn the wives and daughters of Israel, that they should not be drawn into this. These customs spell doom and destruction, G-d forbid," reads the letter issued. "This is a group of women who have uprooted "Daas Torah" from Israel -- their behavior is against the Torah and is uprooting Jewish education and Torah from Israel. They are endangering the health of their offspring, as well as placing them in danger and the fear of death".

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Breaking: Explosion Rocks Iranian city of Isfahan, home to key nuclear facility

7:29 PM Update Channel 10 Israel TV reports of another huge explosion in Ishfahan -- this time in a Shahab-4 Ballistic missile facility.

Iran: Keep up the good work!

Reported by FARS (Iranian News Agency) and others...first reports emerged at 6:15 PM, Israel time.

A explosion rocked the western Iranian city of Isfahan on Monday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, adding that the blast was heard in several parts of the city.

The reported incident occurred about two weeks after Gen. Hasan Tehrani Moghaddam was killed together with 20 other Guard members Nov. 12 at a military site outside Bidganeh village, 40 kilometers southwest of Tehran. (Haaretz)

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) updates us on nuclear facilities in Esfahan, Iran:

The Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Esfahan contains process lines to convert yellowcake into uranium oxide, uranium metal, and uranium hexafluoride. It began operations in June 2006.

According to information provided to the IAEA, Iran carried out most of its experiments in uranium conversion between 1981 and 1993 at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) and at other facilities at Esfahan. In 1991, Iran contracted to purchase a turn-key, industrial scale conversion facility from China. This contract was eventually canceled as a result of US pressure, but Iran retained the design information and built the plant on its own. Construction of the UCF began in the late 1990s.

Iran declared that it began construction of the UCF without building and testing a pilot scale plant. After extensive analysis, the IAEA accepted this declaration.

The UCF consists of several conversion lines, including the line for the conversion of yellowcake to UF6. The annual production capacity of the UCF is 200 tonnes of uranium in the form of UF6. The UF6 iis slated for the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz. The UCF is also able to convert yellowcake, LEU and depleted uranium into UO2 and depleted uranium metal. Iran has told the IAEA indicates that they plan to build conversion lines for the production of natural and enriched (19.7%) uranium metal for research reactors, and natural UO2 for use in the heavy water reactor. Suspicions remain that the line to produce 19.7% uranium metal was originally intended to produce HEU metal for nuclear weapons.

Fuel Fabrication Laboratory (FFL)

In 1985, Iran began operating a Fuel Fabrication Laboratory (FFL) at Esfahan that it commissioned from a foreign supplier. Iran informed the IAEA of the FFL in 1993 and provided design information in 1998. It is still in operation. According to the IAEA, the FFL is suitable for producing small amounts of fuel pellets.

Uranium Chemistry Laboratory (UCL)

In the early 1980s, Iran commissioned from a foreign supplier the construction at a Uranium Chemistry Laboratory (UCL). According to the IAEA, in 1998, Iran declared that UCL had been closed down since 1987.

Zirconium Production Plant (ZPP)
Iran has built a Zirconium Production Plant which, when completed, will be able to produce 10 tonnes of zirconium tubing per year for nucler fuel cladding. Construction started in 2004. The ZPP, according to Iranian officials, will be able to produce zirconium sponge, zirconium alloy strip and bar, magnesium, hafnium, 99.99 percent pure magnesium, zirconium alloys, titanium and titanium alloys, and can do ferrous and non-ferrous metal casting.

Lastly, YNET (coincidentally) reported the following today:
The IDF intelligence community on Monday commented on the explosion in a military base in Tehran two weeks ago, which killed one of Iran's missile project heads.

"The blast in the site where surface-to-surface missiles were developed can delay or bring to a complete halt the production of the missiles at that site," said head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence Research Section Department Brigadier General Itai baron at a briefing in the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"However," Baron cautioned, "It must be emphasized that Iran has other development sites other than the one that was destroyed." (more here)
Here's to more "accidents" -- L'Chaim!

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Israel's Attorney General: Nothing wrong with Bibi in SS uniform

Everyone knows that one of the key events of incitement that led to Prime Minister Rabin's assassination was the infamous poster of Rabin in an "SS" Nazi uniform. I was even present at the demonstration in Zion Square when they were being handed out -- and the orchestrator of the hand-out was Shabak agent provocateur, Avishai Raviv.

Granted, that was many years ago, and since then, we've all been educated that words and posters kill. We're reminded annually that had the national-religious camp demonstrated their dislike of the government's politics in a more civil way, everything would be different today.

Reminding us that there's nothing wrong for a center-right wing Prime Minister of Israel to be photo-montaged into a similar SS Nazi uniform, a left wing blogger created such a display this past summer.
MK Ophir Akunis (Likud) filed a police complaint Tuesday morning against a blog that published photomontages depicting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a Nazi SS uniform. The Likud's Legal Adviser, Attorney Avi HaLevi, accompanied Akunis to the police station and also signed the complaint.

The blog is named HaOtzer HaEzrachi ("The Civilian Curfew"). It went offline Monday after the press discovered the photos, and news of their existence began to circulate.

The blog featured a demand that Netanyahu and members of his government be put on trial. It showed a caption that read "The Main Suspect: Binyamin Netanyahu," and beneath it three photomontage pictures that show Netanyahu in Nazi uniform. At least one of the pictures also has Netanyahu giving a Nazi salute.

Akunis and HaLevi noted that the bloggers identify themselves as citizens of Israel who represent "the heart of the Israeli protest against the policies of the capitalist-piggish Netanyahu government" and refuse to talk to Netanyahu.

The bloggers compare the Prime Minister to a drunk who has cruelly murdered a loved one. In such a case, they ask their readers, "would you try to create a 'solution' or would you consider continuing to live with the same vile murderer?"

Netanyahu is labeled "the main suspect" and the bloggers demand that he and his ministers be brought to a "field trial" and call on the public to take action in this direction. (INN)
Today, MK Ofir Akunis shared on his Facebook page that he was informed that a photo montage of Netanyahu in an SS uniform is not "criminal incitement" and his complaint will be shelved. He announced that Shai Niztan has ordered the police to close their investigation into the blog which created the photo montage of Netanyahu in an SS uniform. (also reported in Hebrew, here)

Interestingly enough, I found the following in Haaretz's archives from 2005.
The Jerusalem Police have foiled plans by right-wing extremists to distribute posters with pictures of Yitzhak Rabin in an SS uniform to coincide with the 10th anniversary of his assassination, the police said yesterday.

One suspect, a 15-year-old boy, was arrested Saturday night on suspicion of planning to distribute the posters, which police say violate the laws against incitement and slander.

The posters bear the slogan "rejoice in the downfall of the wicked" and say they are being distributed in honor of the anniversary of the death of "a hater of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, may his name be erased."

Yesterday, the boy was remanded for two days by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, and police are searching for a second minor whom they also suspect of involvement in the affair. (Haaretz)
Note that 2 minors were remanded for two days due to posters with Rabin in an SS uniform...due to "incitement"...(against a person who was already dead).

Please do NOT go and look at the Haaretz link above, which contains the infamous photo-montage of Rabin in an SS uniform (for information purposes only). If you do, I'm afraid that Shai Niztan would have me and this blog investigated for incitement and we would be shut down for good. Therefore, please do NOT go there, please do NOT even think of Rabin in an SS uniform, since that is incitement.

PM Netanyahu in an SS uniform is freedom of speech and is the epitome of our democracy.

Bonus question: What do you think would happen had the photo montage been of someone else instead of PM Netanyau...like Attorney General Shai Niztan, for example?

Legal Disclaimer: The posting the above photo of PM Netanyahu is for informative purposes only, and I do not condone the photo montage. The "bonus question" above is not meant as a suggestion for anyone to actually go ahead and try it, because that would obviously be incitement. Please do not create any photo montages of anyone. Thank you.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Israel ranked #7 in World's Life Expectancy...US is #25

Need yet another reason to move to the Jewish State?

Israel is now ranked at #7 in life expectancy, coming at at 83.5 life expectancy years...with the USA lagging far behind at #25, with an expectancy of 80.6 years. (source)

I doubt the study took in account the stats of immigrants, who probably have higher blood pressure -- as a result of dealing with Israel's bureaucracy and idiosyncrasies. (Even though Israeli bureaucracy and customer service is far better than ever, and improving daily).

To your health! Labriyut (or Livriyut) -- to 120!

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Israel's Contingency Plan - An Alternative to the Palestinian Authority

Exposé: Israel's Plan to Replace the Palestinian Authority
(translation from Makor Rishon by Jameel @ The Muqata Blog)

By Ariel Kahane, Makor Rishon Newspaper: The first exposure of Israel's contingency plan to replace the Palestinian Authority.

Under this plan, supported by some of the government's ministers, Israel will establish an autonomy or Arab autonomous regions in Judea and Samaria, in response to unilateral moves by the PA which breach existing agreements.

Possibilities [of breaching agreements] include [the PA] setting up a joint government with Hamas, or returning to the track of unilateral declaration, as threatened by the PA in September.

The linchpin of the plan is based on Hebron's Sheikh Mukhtar Abu-Khader al-Jabri, who had long challenged the PA and even controls security forces. In recent years, al-Jabari cultivated his contacts with Israeli officials, including settlers. In this context, three months ago, he participated in a secret meeting in Tel Aviv which discussed the possibility of alternative forces that could replace the PA. The meeting was held at the home of former minister Rafi Eitan, who has longstanding ties with al-Jabari clan and other independent forces in Judea and Samaria. Also in attendance were Cabinet Minister Yisrael Katz, a representative of the General Security Service, historians, experts in Palestinian society and figures close to al-Jabari.

At the meeting, Al-Jabri presented details of his worldview that rejects the establishment of a Palestinian State -- he outlined his support for the establishment of an autonomous region which would rely on the State of Israel, and would be free of terrorism. He clarified that he, his staff and especially the Palestinian population are interested in improving their financial situation which greatly deteriorated due to PA policy. As an example, he noted that the PA completely destroyed the Hebron-area marble industry, many of whom made ​​their living from it in the Hebron mountain area, by taxing marble exports. He clarified that in addition to him, there are other area leaders that support his approach against the PA, if they knew that Israel would agree to cooperate with them. "I am not your collaborator. I am not Antoine Lahad or Bashir Gemayel, but I need to know if we act together, you will agree to recognize us and cooperate." To this end he asked that Israel will agree to issue identity cards to him and the rest of the population.

At this stage of the meeting, he passed the ball to the Minister Katz, who is considered close to Netanyahu. Those present at the meeting imply that Katz was represented Netanyahu's position. Katz made ​​it clear that he would not in any way grant Israeli citizenship to residents because it contradicts the basis of the Zionist idea. However, he noted that in the event that the PA violated the agreements, Israel would be liberated from them. And so "if there will be a unilateral move, we will evaluate recognizing them."

Later in the session, other aspects of the idea were discussed. 'Makor Rishon' learned that details about the meeting were transferred to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the GSS and the National Security Council. A senior official in Jerusalem revealed that at one point the idea started to wane under heavy pressure and explicit threats by PA to al-Jabari. With the process slowdown at United Nations [of unilateral statehood], options for alternatives are now off the table. However, the developments over the last days which show a serious effort by Abu Mazen to establish a joint government with Hamas, raises anew the need to examine alternatives to the PA. "If Abbas goes to Hamas, we can definitely establish an autonomy," the senior official said.

Minister Katz yesterday confirmed the information and expressed support for the idea. He said that "if there is a change in the current situation and the PA will break the dishes, I'll lead an Israeli initiative to recognize the autonomy of this kind. This seems a correct and realistic response."

In the context of "internal Palestinian unity", there is a significant meeting in Cairo taking place today between PA Chairman and Fatah member, Mahmoud Abbas, and the head of Hamas, Khaled Meshal. Abbas would like to establish a joint government with Hamas, but is under heavy pressure by the Americans and Europeans. European Union Ambassador to Israel, Andrew Standley, stressed yesterday that the EU "stands with its full weight on the demand that Hamas will fulfill the Quartet's conditions" (recognizing Israel, abandoning terrorism and recognition of agreements between Israel and the PA). He made it clear that any other publication [of an alternative EU policy] is a "fabrication", as he put it. At the same time the U.S. gave Abbas a clear threat that if he establishes a unified government with Hamas, he would lose the budgetary and political support of Washington. This was made very clear to him yesterday by deputy U.S. secretary of state, William Burns.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made it clear yesterday that "if a Hamas and Fatah unity government is established, and it does not sharply and clearly, without reservations or vague statement, agree to the Quartet's conditions -- Israel will not recognize it, nor conduct any dialogue nor transfer it one shekel." Lieberman said that "PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is trying to place lots of pressure on the international community - so that Israel will transfer money to the PA and at the same time he is working energetically to establish a government with Hamas -- which does not recognize the requirements of the international community to stop terror and respect the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians, and continues to call for Israel's destruction. Israel will not transfer funds to those interested in its destruction, and if Abu-Mazan wants to be a partner of Hamas, it is clear that he is not a partner for peace."

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The hypocrisy of it all.

The Left are going nuts. Their latest mantra is “The Right is trying to Rule”. I’m not making that up. It’s really being said in the interviews.

While the Left are upset at the various laws and bills that are being passed, they are apparently even more upset that the elected Right is actually fulfilling the mandate given to them by the people.

Suddenly the Rules of Democracy and the Rule of Law are less important.

Now we’re being told that the majority needs to respect the wishes of the minority and not trample on them. (A true statement, but why is it only now that we here this from them).


Tell that to the former residents of Gush Katif, when the Left were saying the exact opposite of what they are saying now – that the minority must respect the will of the majority.

And let’s consider what laws the Left are so upset about.

1)A law that will limit how much money a foreign government (that right foreign government, not private donor) can filter into Israel to effect political change in our county.

2)A law that will align the Judicial election process with other democratic countries and limit the very undemocratic process where the Judiciary picks its own replacement members.

3)A law that will typically require some connection between a petitioner and the petition when petitioning the High Court. As well as requiring the petitioner to reveal to the court if they are receiving foreign funding for their activities.

Nothing here is undemocratic.

But what it does do, is limit the Left and foreign governments from using non-democratic means to override the will of the people.

I don’t like the phrase that a democracy needs to pass laws to protect itself. On the other hand, a democracy doesn’t need to allow itself to be undermined and overthrown either in the name of freedom and democracy.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

The Lord vs. the iPad

Post removed due to clarification from Rabbi Sacks' Office.

Chief Rabbi: I admire Jobs and Apple and use my iPad daily (more here)

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Are you part of the 99% trying to destroy civilization?

It’s like the world’s gone insane. Let’s ignore Egypt and Tunisia where there are real problems. I’m talking about these protests in the first world. Whether it’s the Students for Socialism here in Israel tenting it out all summer demanding that working taxpayers give them free housing; the Israeli Medical Residents in their two-faced war with the government; or the Communist wannabes attacking Wall Street demanding that capitalism and democracy be shut down unless (what exactly?).

It even reminds me of ISM tactics (which might explain the Anti-Semitism coming through too in a lot of these protests).

But there’s something funny here. Step back a second and take a look again. You’ll probably getting that feeling of déjà vu watching all these protest movements.

The rhetoric is the same. The claims of no central leadership is the same. The ambiguous yet anarchistic demands are the same. The theatrics, the antics and the tactics are the same: the drums, the human mics, the face masks, the tents.

The attempts to create crises are the same.

Sure, it’s easy to say that Social Media makes these protests spontaneous and it’s all part of the Facebook generation. But that’s not true. Facebook and Twitter are being used as the tools to make them seem spontaneous, but it hasn’t created this. These protests in no way feel spontaneous. They're organized. Undeniably very well organized.

There's a lot of money being spent to organize these protests.

So why are the people pulling the strings and behind the scenes trying to destroy modern civilization, capitalism and democracy, and dragging us down to anarchy, socialism, or worse?

Sometimes I think it’s just the nature of the Left to want to destroy things, to destabilize things, to constantly want to redistribute other people’s things.

On the other hand, perhaps there are those who expect to see profit (of one kind or another) from the chaos, and they’re taking advantage of the toolish/foolish nature of the Left to make that happen.

I don't know, but it's something worth contemplating.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Israel's Rabbinate, Religious Coercion, Weddings and Tzohar

Last week, Israel's "Tzohar" organization announced they were going to stop marrying Israelis because Israel's rabbinate wasn't providing them with marriage certificates.

Tzohar is an organization of Orthodox rabbis who perform Jewish marriage ceremonies according to Halacha, but in a manner than non-religious Israelis can appreciate, and without feeling that an archaic ceremony is being imposed on them. Many Israelis request "one stop shopping" at Tzohar, without any interaction with the State of Israel rabbinic authority, so that Tzohar handles marriage registration and the actual wedding ceremony.

Having personally gotten married in Israel, I was shocked at the insensitivity of the official "rabbinate" clerks who processed our request. I always thought that had I not been religious to begin with, I would have become vehemently anti-religious as a result of the process. Tzohar came about offer a friendlier, less bureaucratic, less imposing alternative.

Rabbi Riskin from Efrat wrote the following op-ed piece in the JPOST. I highly recommend you read it.

Has the Chief Rabbinate outlived its usefulness?

By SHLOMO RISKIN 11/12/2011 23:26

There is a profound distinction between the national and religious covenants: citizens of a nation-state are bound by laws promulgated by the legislative, judiciary bodies of that polity.

A number of weeks ago I read with great anguish that the renowned author Yoram Kaniuk wished to remain a citizen of Israel, but was resigning as a member of the Jewish religion. Two days after that a couple came to see me, requesting that I marry them in a religious ceremony, but insisting that their wedding not be officially registered within the Israeli rabbinic establishment.

Ironically, the very next day I was informed by Rabbi David Stav of the religious Zionist Tzohar organization that the Ministry of Religious Affairs would no longer allow couples to choose Tzohar rabbis to marry them, but was rather insisting that a couple can only be married by the rabbis of the community in which they live.

What are the origins of an official religious establishment in Israel, and what is causing the negative feelings towards the Chief Rabbinate and its judiciary system? The frustrating conundrum of Israel, as well as the secret of our eternity, lies in our hybrid personality as both a nationality and a religion. Our status as a nation was formed in the Biblical covenant between the parts when Abraham, the first Hebrew, was guaranteed eternal seed and was granted the geographical borders of a national homeland. It was forged in the Biblical insistence that every human being is created in the Divine Image, thereby guaranteeing the inalienable rights of human freedom and human inviolability. Hence our national narrative enjoins us to re-experience our formative servitude in and freedom from totalitarian Egypt, so that our national mission has been informed with spreading the ideals of loving the stranger, compassionate righteousness, and moral justice throughout the world.

Our status as a religion was formed at the covenant of Sinai. This gave concrete expression to our national mission in the form of ethical, moral and ritual laws, which would hopefully shape a God-fearing, sacred nation and kingdom of priest-teachers. Hence, our Torah and our Hebrew calendar – replete with panoply of feast and fast days with both historical and spiritual significance – serve as national as well as religious expressions. This is what makes a simplistic separation between “synagogue and state” in Israel a near impossibility, but this is what also gave us our ability to survive and recreate our national status after almost 2000 years of exile.

Our national covenant kept alive the dream of our return to Zion despite the destruction of our Temples and our worldwide persecution; and our complex legal system provided our nation with boundaries even though we had no geographical area to call our own.

There is, however, a profound distinction between the national and religious covenants: the citizens of a nation-state are bound by laws promulgated by the legislative and judiciary bodies of that polity, to which they must comply as long as they are residents within that nation-state. Religious law, on the other hand, which its adherents believe has its origins in Divine Revelation and its legal system interpreted by religious legal authorities in every generation, is dependent for compliance upon the free choice of the individual. As my revered teacher, Rabbi J.B.

Soloveitchik, was wont to say, the term religious coercion is an oxymoron; no truly religious act for the sake of heaven can be legislated by legal force and still retain religious significance for the one who performs it.

I BELIEVE with all my heart and mind that the State of Israel ought to feature a Chief Rabbinate as an official and revered representative of Israel before world Jewry and before humanity – for all the historical and existential reasons relating to our miraculous survival for the past 4,000 years. According to recent surveys, fully two-thirds of Israeli Jewry consider themselves to be on the spectrum of “traditional” Judaism.

Most Israelis have profound respect for and even personal involvement in our time-honored rituals of life-cycle passages such as circumcision, marriage under a nuptial canopy, burial in the ground and shiva, and festive occasions such as Friday evening familial kiddush and meal, Passover Seder, Shavuot Torah study and Chanukah menorah lighting. I do not believe that most Israelis are ready to join Yoram Kaniuk in adopting the Jewish nation but resigning from the Jewish religion.

They are not yet ready to join Yoram Kaniuk, that is, but the establishment rabbinate is doing everything in its power to bring them to the brink of doing just that. Once upon a time even so-called secular Israelis were proud of chief rabbis, men like Rabbis A.Y. HaKohen Kook, Isaac Halevi Herzog and Shlomo Goren (all of blessed memory) because these rabbis were inclusive rather than exclusive; they sought to embrace every Jew and bring him or her closer to tradition. These mighty individuals looked to halachah to solve questions of personal status, not to complicate them.

At a time when an unfriendly and inflexible Chief Rabbinate and its courts of law are driving young couples to Cyprus so as not to get married “in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel,” thankfully the rabbis of the Tzohar organization have been finding user-friendly and welcoming halachic solutions to include them under the Jewish marriage canopy.

Now, in their infinite wisdom, the Chief Rabbinate and Ministry of Religious Affairs have closed yet another door (in addition to the doors of meaningful Jewish divorce and conversion) – the door of Jewish marriage – to a confused and disgruntled Israeli public. All “for the sake of heaven.”

I understand that the present controversy between Tzohar and the Ministry of Religious Affairs is on the road to resolution. But the general and underlying problem still remains in full force. Local religious councils are still setting up difficult roadblocks before well-meaning secular couples who have never heard of Tzohar but who want to be married by a rabbi – if it isn’t too much of a hassle to do so. The rabbinic courts remain extremely reluctant to force husbands to divorce their wives in accordance with halacha no matter the difficulties of their marital situations, and no matter how unreasonable the husband’s demands may be as his price for the giving the get.

Furthermore, close to 350,000 Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union – “Kanukian” Israelis under the right of return but not halachically Jewish – are still awaiting the establishment of user-friendly ulpanim and courts for conversion devoid of small-minded bureaucracy and whose conversions will not be nullified later on by one of the Chief Rabbis’ court judges.

Our sacred Talmud and the Responsa of Jewish law have loving solutions for the overwhelming majority of problems engendered by these situations; “It din” the law is flexible, but “let dayan,” many of the judges are not, as the Talmudic saying goes. Let us only pray that until the proper changes in the system are put into effect, a disgruntled Israeli populace will not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The story is told of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the famed tzaddik of Jerusalem, who once spotted a young soldier on a short furlough from the army. The rabbi knew the young man from the neighborhood in Geula, and so he crossed the street in order to extend his hand in greeting. “Shalom Aleichem,” said the venerable sage. “Please come to my home. I would very much like to drink tea with you and hear about your activities.”

The young soldier seemed uncomfortable.

“I don’t think it’s right for me to come visit you,” he said. “I don’t wear a kippa anymore.”

Rabbi Levin, in his black hat and black kaftan, smiled warmly at the young man and took his hand in his own.

“Don’t you see?,” he said, “I’m a very short man. I see you, but I cannot look up so high as to notice as to whether you are wearing a kippa. But I can see your heart – and your heart is big and kind, and that’s what counts.

You are also a soldier placing your life at risk for all of us in Israel. Please drink tea with me; your kippa is probably bigger than mine.”

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