Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What happened at midnight?

The Ashkenazi Passover Haggadah ends with two Piyyuts (liturgical poems) written in Israel. The Piyyut is one of the three manifestation of the Israeli Midrash which include the Midrash itself, the Piyyut and the Targum, the Aramaic translations to the Bible.

The first piyyut "Az Rov Nissim", also known as "Vayehi Bachatzi Halayla" (and it came to pass on midnight) or "Karev Yom" (A day is coming) describes the miracles that happened to Israel at night.

It was written by Yannai, who lived in the late Byzantine period (5th-6th century). The Israeli tradition was to read the Torah over a three and a half year cycle. Yannai wrote hundreds of piyyuts: prayers for every shabbat in the cycle. These piyyuts are full of love for Israel, both the people and the land, and rebuttals of Christianity. Only a a couple survived in the Ashkenazi prayer service, but luckily many of his piyyuts were found in the Cairo Genizah, quite by chance.

The second piyyut, "Ometz Gevurotekha" (Your wondrous powers), describes the miracles that happened on Passover. It was written by Eleazar Ha-Kalir of Tiberias. Different researchers placed him anywhere from the 6th to 12th century. However in one recently discovered piyyut of his he describes the conquest of Israel by the Muslims in the early 7th century, which means he very probably witnessed these events. Ha-Kalir liked to use rare words and coin new ones, which make his piyyuts very hard to understand. Despite that, hundreds of his piyyuts made it into the Ashkenazi prayer service.

The two Haggadah piyyuts are available in English online (English translation of the Haggadah , pages 82-90)
Both piyyuts were originally part of the prayer service, and were added to the Haggadah at a later stage. Both reflect midrash, and in the case of Yannai, might even itself be a midrash, linking the miracles that happened at night to this very specific night of Passover. Both end with a wish for redemption.

These two piyyuts aren't as popular as other Haggadah songs (Chad Gadya, Echad Mi Yodea). They're generally chanted, and don't have a popular tune.

Yannai's piyyut was luckier in that regard: a melody was composed for the last stanza, which starts with "Karev Yom" (A day is coming), and it became a popular song on its own.

Banai singing Yannai:

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Israel's Supreme Court vs. Migron

On Sunday the judges, headed by Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, ruled that the outpost must be evacuated by August 1. The annulled compromise deal stated that the outpost's residents would voluntarily relocate to state-owned land situated on a nearby hill within three-and-a-half years. (ynet)
The correct response to the Supreme Court should be:
"He who raises his hand against my home – I shall cut off his hand."
After all, where else could we learn such moral ethics, but from another Supreme Court Justice, Mishael Heshin...who was worried that the democratic dictatorship judicial activism of the court might be reduced via Israel's legislative. (source)

Israel's government and the Migron settlers went through extraordinary lengths to reach an agreement, yet Peace Now is more interested in destroying than building, and the Supreme Court is not interested in the peaceful resolution (which was negotiated).

The Supreme Court has gone too far...

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Jewish mosque in the Jewish quarter

Visitors to the Old City of Jerusalem might ask themselves: What is a mosque doing in the synagogue complex in the center of the Jewish Quarter?

The Sidna Omar mosque is located right next to the Ramban and Hurva synagogues, two of the oldest synagogues in Jerusalem.

(Sidna Omar mosque next to the Hurva Synagogue)

The surprising answer, as it turns out, is that it was built by Jews. [The answer might be less surprising when we consider that most of our troubles are caused by in-fighting and Jews colluding with our enemies]

None other than the Bartneura (Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro), tells us the story of the mosque, in a letter he wrote shortly after arriving in Jerusalem in 1488 (Available online here, the translation is based on Brachae Slae's translation):
"In the synagogue courtyard, very close by, is a Moslem mosque. This site originally belonged to a Jew who converted to Islam as a result of a quarrel with his fellow Jews. When his mother saw that her sons had converted because of the vexation the Jews had caused him, she dedicated her home in the synagogue courtyard as a Moslem place of worship as an act of revenge upon the Jews. This is what has caused all the harm, destroyed the synagogue, and made the Jewish community suffer such a financial loss. Had the merciful Lrd not put it into the king's heart to take pity on the Jews, no Jews would remain in Jerusalem."
In this paragraph the Bartneura encapsulates the story of the Jewish community of Jerusalem in the 15th century. It was a difficult time for the Jews of Israel, but one also filled with great promise. The fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine empire, the wars by the Kingdom of Beta Israel against Christian Ethiopia, led many to believe that Redemption was near.

The story of the mosque and synagogue starts in the early 15th century. At the turn of the century the Jews of Jerusalem built a new synagogue, to be used for both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities. They of course had to pay off the Mamaluk rules to allow them to build it. The Ashkenazi community also bought a courtyard in that area.

Around the time the Ottomans conquered Constantinople (1453), the Jews of Jerusalem were forced to pay a great sum of money, convert to Islam or risk expulsion.

The story was written down by Rabbi Avraham Halevi Parnas, an emissary from Jerusalem to Europe [See Kovetz Al Yad 5, p45-50]. The letter he carried tells, in a manner very reminiscent of the Purim story, how the communities of Israel had to pay 100,000 gold florins to pay off the Mamaluk rulers. In Jerusalem they paid 10,000 gold florins, and the community had to sell off almost everything they had: hundreds of books and Torah scrolls, silver and gold Torah ornaments, as well as community-owned land. For the rest, they had to borrow at high interest.

The Bartenura, who was very critical of the way the community elders sold off all that was holy, explains that the Sultan, needing money for his wars, had demanded money from everybody in his kingdom, Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Jews of Egypt had also been forced to pay thousands of florins.

In any case, for years afterwards the Jerusalem community struggled to pay off remaining debts and additional taxes, which led to financial difficulties for all members. The wealthy and scholarly fled the city.

(Left: Sidna Ali mosque, Right: entrance to Ramban Synagogue)

In the early 1470s, a house inside the synagogue complex collapsed. The Muslims wanted to add its yard to the mosque. The case came to the Muslim courts, where the judges denied the request.

“But,” added the Muslim plaintiffs, “the synagogue is new, and should not even exist according to Muslim law.”

The courts continued to investigate, and the issue went all the way up to Sultan Kait Bey. The Jews had to admit that the courtyard had been bought 70-80 years earlier. One of the plaintiffs didn’t wait for a verdict. Inciting fellow Muslims to act, a mob destroyed the synagogue.

Kait Bey got upset and issued an edict that the synagogue should be rebuilt, and the attackers punished.

When the courts finally ruled on the matter, the Jews were forced to pay hefty fines, and, of course, the (re)-building expenses. Once again the Jews had to borrow at high interest, and the financial burden increased.

As if all that wasn’t enough, earthquakes, plagues and drought afflicted the residents of Israel throughout the century.
When the Bartnerua came to Jerusalem in 1488, the community, a fraction of what it was earlier that century, still owed 1000 gold florins.

The Bartenura managed to renegotiate the tax burden, attract people to Jerusalem, re-open a yeshivah, and take the first steps to rejuvenate the community.

[This post is based mainly on "For the Sake Of Jerusalem" (Aharon Bier, translated by Brachae Slae), and "The history of Eretz Israel Under the Mamaluk and Ottoman Rule (1260-1804)" (Ben-Zvi Institute)]

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thank you, Arik Sharon

by Lurker

The catastrophic effects of Israel's hare-brained "Disengagement"/expulsion from Gaza continue to expand geometrically, and to rain down upon our heads (both literally and figuratively).

Not only did it empower Hamas to take over Gaza and turn life for over a million Israelis into an unending nightmare – it has also managed to destabilize the entire Sinai peninsula, which is rapidly turning into a massive, anarchic terror state on our southern border that will dwarf the Gaza Strip:

Why the IDF felt it had to strike at Zuhair al-Qaissi

"The 25,000-square-mile peninsula, ruled by Israel from 1967 to 1982, is in the midst of fundamental change. Religion is on the rise among the avowedly Muslim but traditionally impious Bedouin, and the rule of law, ever since the Arab Spring, is on the wane. Ehud Yaari argued in a recent paper for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that these two phenomena, coupled with Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza — which Israel hoped would lead to greater Egyptian involvement — have facilitated the unprecedented spread of Hamas political and religious ideology among the Bedouin tribes of the Sinai.

Yaari, an editorial board member of The Times of Israel and commentator for Channel 2 News, quoted a Bedouin blogger, Ashraf al-Anani, who depicted the effects of the withdrawal as 'a fireball [that] started rolling into the peninsula.'"

[Read the rest here.]

The painful truth: Most of Israel's great, revered political and military leaders – from the "elder statesman" Shimon Peres to the vaunted Ariel Sharon – are actually a bunch of hopeless morons who understand squat about the region in which we live. The very fact that the State of Israel still exists is thanks to a whole lot of sheer luck and/or divine providence (use your ideology to take your pick). But one thing is certain: Our continued survival here is not because of our benighted leaders, but in spite of them.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ancient Palestinian coins

Shortly after the Palestinian Authority was established, I was browsing the PA website when I discovered a section entitled "Ancient Palestinian Coins". Intrigued, I checked it out. What coins could they possibly claim to be Palestinian?

As it turns out, the coins not only weren't "Palestinian" as such, they weren't "Ancient" either. In fact, some of them weren't 'Coins', but rather 'banknotes'. Because the only money in known history to say "Palestine" was produced by the British Mandate, back when both Jews and Arabs were considered "Palestinians".

In Hebrew the coins said "Palestine (Land of Israel)".

Palestinian Media Watch reports that the Palestinians are still looking for those ancient Palestinian coins.
A Judean Shekel coin from the year 66 CE, the first year of the Jewish rebellion against Rome, was sold for $1.1 million this past week at an auction in New York. The words in Hebrew "Shekel of Israel [Year] 1" are printed on the front of the coin, and "Jerusalem the holy" appears on the back. [New York Post, March 10, 2012]

The official Palestinian Authority daily in writing about the auction described the Hebrew coin from the Second Temple period as an "ancient Palestinian coin" and as being part of the "Palestinian cultural tradition."

left: "Shekel of Israel", golden cup from the vessels of the Temple
right: "Jerusalem, the Holy", branch with three pomegranates

I'm sure that when the PA gets around to minting their own coins, they'll use these examples of ancient Palestinian tradition as their prototypes. Because nothing says "Palestinian" like Jews fighting for their homeland, rejecting Latin and Greek influence, and making their own Hebrew coins depicting images from the Jewish Temple.

Who knows, maybe the next step will be to adopt Hatikva as the Palestinian national anthem. After all, what other song really embodies the Palestinian age-old quest for freedom in their own homeland?

For more on the collection of "Ancient Palestinian Coins":

See here for more articles about our history in Israel.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Those Damn Zionists (alert!)

10:57 Update from COGAT (IDF)

Evacuation of 15- year-old boy who was injured in the Gaza Strip
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Spokesman announces that earlier today (Tuesday), 13.3.12, a 15-year-old boy was taken to hospital in Israel after he was injured yesterday morning in the Jabalya, in the Gaza Strip. He was taken to Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot.

The evacuation took place after contacts between the Coordination and Liaison Administration at Erez Crossing and Health Ministry representatives. The boy’s injury is related to the death of another boy of 15 who initially claimed that he was wounded by IDF forces. However, this claim was denied yesterday by the IDF spokesman who noted that the IDF was not operating in this area.

(thanks: Challa Hu Akbar!)

9:15 PM A 15 year old Palestinian teenager from Gaza has been transported to Israel for emergency medical treatment in an Israeli hospital. (Update: Kaplan Hospital in Rechovot)

The Arab teenager was seriously injured while preparing to launch a Palestinian Qassam rocket at Israeli civilians in Southern Israel, when the rocket suddenly malfunctioned and exploded.

The explosion took place in the Shuja'iyya district of Gaza city.

Source: Walla News

Photo Illustration: Palestinians in Gaza prepare to shoot Qassam rockets at Israeli civilians in southern Israel.

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Israel Moving to 7 digit ZIP-codes

Israel's Postal Service announced today on their website, that on December 5th, 2012 (21rst of Kislev) -- that Israel will be moving to a 7 digit ZIP code instead of the current 5 digit system.

A ZIP-code in Hebrew is מיקוד mikud.

The switch to 7 digits is supposed to help improve postal service delivery.

You can find out what your new ZIP code will be using their ZIP-code converter page, here

(I actually remember the stamp on the right...but not the one below...)

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Gaza Rocket Range Map for Israelis (now in English)

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Courage Under Fire

Numerous people sent me a blog post which has been reverberating around the internet -- its title translated into English; "One who believes isn't afraid" The article is about a trip to a wedding last night in Southern Israel, and how the wedding took place, under Gazan rocket fire.
....the scene was just as it would be at any other wedding in Israel.

Except for the part during the chuppah when they had to stop for a few minutes because the Iron Dome was intercepting a rocket, and the huge WHOOOSHH sound made it impossible to hear the ketubah. Except for when, before the toasts, the brother of the chatan read out a list of "what to do if" scenarios and explained where all the closest shelters were. Except for the part where the Code Red alarm sounded twice during dancing, and half the wedding party vanished.
The author then contemplates the "fear factor" versus the "importance of being at the wedding, and not letting the terrorists win." I suggest you read her article to get a better understanding of what we're going through here, and why we continue living here even under seemingly insane conditions. Blog post is here -- "They call me Shev"

I can easily connect to her post, since on a personal level I made aliya/moved to Israel on the eve of the First Iraq War, when Iraqi scud missiles pummeled the country, and American "Patriot" anti-missile batteries attempted to keep Israel safer.

I moved here fully knowing that Israel was about to be at war, yet couldn't fathom being anywhere else.

Years later under the current conditions, I still can't imagine living anywhere else.

My oldest son is currently studying in his pre-IDF yeshiva in Southern Israel, and he has less than 10 seconds to get to bomb shelter from the time a siren goes off. Yet he had absolutely no qualms about going back to his yeshiva this Sunday, knowing full well that Southern Israel was under attack. Eyes wide open, he is fully aware of his surroundings, yet cannot imagine NOT being anywhere else.

Now is not the time to run away, it is the time for the country to stand strong -- not simply to send a message to the Palestinian terrorists who want us to run away, but for ourselves and to remind us why we're here. Standing strong and together reenforces our conviction that this IS our country, our land, our national homeland -- where we belong as a nation.

And we're not leaving.

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The Case of the Drunk Muslim

Not many history books were written in this land in the past 2000 years. Our history in this period is pieced together from Halachik writings, accounts of pilgrims and travelers, personal letters and government reports.

The two stories I bring below are very similar, though they come from different sources and different time periods, and they give us insight into the day-to-day difficulties of living here in previous centuries. Because sometimes, you could find yourself being charged for murder, just for selling wine.

The first story is from the Mamaluk period. In a letter written to his father in 1488, the Bartneura (Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro) had one good thing to say about Israel. People here are G-d fearing. Even the "evil and sinful" leaders of the Jewish community in Jerusalem, of whom he was very critical, would hurry to prayer and to do other commandments between man and G-d.

Here you won't find a Muslim who curses G-d, like the Christians in Europe do. The Bartneura points out this is the only thing that keeps this land from complete anarchy, since the Muslims have no order and no justice, and the courts do whatever they please. To illustrate his point he brings the following story:

A Muslim got so angry with his mother that he "slaughtered her like a sheep". When he was brought to court, he claimed he had been drunk.

Who makes wine? Only the Jews and Christians do, so obviously they were to blame. The Jews were fined 6 gold florines, the Christians 12 gold florines, and the Muslim got off scot-free.

If they had such laws in Europe, says the Bartenura, they would eat each other alive.

Renewing the tradition. Vineyards in the Shomron mountains.
The second story is from the Ottoman period, and shows that things didn't change much in the previous 250 years. This story appears in a responsa by Rabbi Nissim Chaim Moshe Mizrachi, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem in 1745-1749 (Admat Kodesh 1 Choshen Mishpat 72). The story is a bit convoluted, so bear with me.

Two Muslims fought in the market and one killed the other. The killer's family said in his defense that he had been drunk and had no idea what he was doing. The judge started investigating whether he had been drunk, and who sold him the wine.

Feyge was an Ashkenazi Jew living in Jerusalem. That in itself wasn't such a simple thing in those days. Twenty five years earlier all Ashkenazi Jews were run out of town after the community was unable to pay its debts. The Ashekenazi Jews left in Jerusalem all lived "undercover", pretending to be Sephardi Jews.

As it happened, Feyge, like other Jewish women in town, made a living by selling wine. And as it happened, one of the court officers had showed up at her house for several days with a big bottle, telling her he had been sent by the head of the Jewish community, and demanding she give him free rose-water. When she refused he threatened he'll get his revenge.

Finding this a good opportunity, the court officer went to Feyge's house and demanded money or he will finger her as the woman who sold wine to the murderer. Feyge had no choice and paid him off.

However, somebody reported Feyge anyway, and the city governor sent his people to get her. They didn't find her because Feyge went into hiding. The governor then turned to the head of the Jewish community and told him to find the woman, since he wants to hang her. As was usual at the time, this was just an invitation for negotiations, and the two settled on a sum of bribe money for Feyge's life. The Jewish leader, who did not himself have such a huge sum, then went looking for Feyge to get the money, but he couldn't find her either.

Wine barrels at the Shiloh Winery. 250 years later,
some people still equate Jewish wine making with murder

"Don't worry," said the governor's men. "We know other women who sell wine, we'll get the money for you."

The 'bribe-collectors' showed up at the women's houses and demanded they give them money, otherwise they'll inform on the authorities that woman sold the wine which led to the murder.

The money was collected, Feyge's life was spared, and everybody was happy.

Except for the fact that fifty four women sued Feyge to get their money back. Poor Feyge's defense was as follows: You know that murderer never entered my house. I lost money due to bad luck, and you lost money due to bad luck. It happens. The Chief Rabbi agreed with her and ruled in her favor.

Life was difficult, but the Jews in these stories don't come out smelling all rosy either. The Bartneura was impressed that people here were G-d fearing, but as he himself points out, fearing G-d doesn't make one a mensch.

See here for more articles about our history in Israel.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

UN Employee Wages Media War Against Israel

Since Friday afternoon, Israel has been targeted by over 150 rockets from Gaza. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system has been working well at about a 90% hit-rate, which has kept serious rocket strikes to a minimum.

The Palestinians have been waging the war through their most effective weapon they have -- lying, and using the media to spread their lies. Fake Imagery is one of their fortes.

So...Palestinians have been using this photo everywhere on facebook and twitter to accuse Israel of "war atrocities"

The photo is from 2006, and the girl died in an accident!

So who started the campaign to smear Israel? Honest Reporting has the scoop:

Our guest post from the IDF revealed how a photo, allegedly depicting the results of Israeli air strikes in Gaza in recent days, have been proven false.

The offending photo was originally tweeted by Khulood Badawi.

Khulood Badawi happens to work for the OCHA – the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs where, according to a UN Contact List, she works as an Information and Media Coordinator.

A Google search reveals that Badawi has a history of activism in a range of pro-Palestinian non-governmental organizations, some of them radical and politicized. While this background may not in itself disqualify her from a career with the UN, it is absolutely unacceptable that a UN employee working specifically on dissemination of information to the media and public tweets malicious and false information to libel Israel.
Read it all at Honest Reporting.

More examples of Palestinian Fauxtography at the IDF Spokesman's Blog.

PS: Want full time war coverage? Let me know in the comments...

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Nuclear Duck

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The Purim Women's Segregation Prayer

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Groggers

Just came across these guys. Very amusing set of Jewish music videos.

Matisyahu move over.

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A Tiberias Purim: The story of a Sheik, a Pasha and a Rabbi

Some Jewish communities celebrate their own special Purim days, marking the day when the community was saved from those who wished them harm. Tiberias has two such Purim days, celebrating an event that took place in the early 18th century.

The cast of this particular Purim story:

In the role of King Ahasuerus - Sheik Daher el-Omar, one of the most benevolent rulers under the Ottomans. El-Omar was a Bedouin whose family came to Israel in the late 17th or early 18th century. He conquered the Galilee in the years 1720-1730, getting official Ottoman recognition of his rule ex post facto. Realizing that safe roads, thriving commerce and enterprising people were a sure-fire recipe for increased tax revenue, he invited various groups, including Jews, to come to the Galilee. During his 50 year reign he managed to conquer all of Israel, save for Jerusalem, making him the only Arab to rule the land in the past millennium.

In the role of Mordechai, Rabbi Hayyim Abulafia. Born in Hebron, his family later moved to Jerusalem. In the early 1700s he served as Chief Rabbi of Safed and would often visit the ruins of Tiberias, to pray by the holy graves. He served as Rabbi of Izmir in Turkey for close to 20 years before coming back to reestablish the Jewish community of Tiberias.

In the role of Haman - the evil Governor of Damascus, Sulayman Pasha al-Azm.

And, last but not least, in the role of the Narrator, Rabbi Yaakov Berav, son-in-law of Rabbi Abulafia and a descendent of the more famous Rabbi Yaakov Berav (the First). Rabbi Berav recorded the events in his book Zimrat Ha-aretz (available online at HebrewBooks). An English summary of Rabbi Berav's account appears in "The Goodly Heritage" by Abraham Yaari.

Sadly, there was no Esther in this story. But the good news is that we didn't need intermarriage to save us either.

Tiberias. Digital ID: 80442. New York Public Library
Tiberias, Fenn & Brandard, 1881

Our story begins way, way back, close to 270 years ago. The year was 1738, and Daher el-Omar was a rising star. Hearing that Rabbi Abulafia, who was already in his eighties, wanted to come home, he wrote the Rabbi and asked him to "Come and inherit Tiberias, the land of your fathers". The Sheik wasn't speaking figuratively, for Rabbi Abulafia's grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Abulafia, was the Chief Rabbi of Tiberias before its destruction.

When Rabbi Abulafia arrived in Tiberias, in 1740, the Sheik dressed him like royalty, and offered him whatever his heart desires. The Rabbi took him up on his offer, and Daher el-Omar built the Jews houses and courtyards and the most beautiful synagogue in all the land, and that's besides the bathhouse and shops and roads and the fields he had planted.

El-Omar fought the (other) Bedouins and made it possible to travel safely on the roads. Alone! with Money! The Land was as peaceful as in the days of Solomon. And yet, far away, trouble was brewing. In Istanbul, the Ottoman Sultan was getting reports of el-Omar's conquests and independence, and ordered the Governor of Damascus, Sulayman Pasha, to take care of the young upstart.

On August 11, 1742 (22 Av), Rabbi Abulafia received warning from the Jews in Damascus that Sulayman Pasha was going to attack and destroy Tiberias. The Rabbi warned the Sheikh, but el-Omar was sure the Pasha was just huffing and puffing and wanted to be paid off. After all, if the Sultan was involved then surely the Jews of Istanbul would have warned the Rabbi. Besides, el-Omar was under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Sidon, and he paid his dues to the Sultan. There was nothing to worry about.

The Jews of Damascus, worried about their brethren in Tiberias, continued to update the Rabbi, but despite repeated warnings, the Sheikh was sure nothing was going to happen, and did not prepare for war.

Enter Sulayman Pasha, stage right, setting up camp outside town.

The Jews were terrified and wanted to leave to Safed or Akko, where they had been promised safety by the Governor.

Rabbi Abulafia refused to hear of it. He would not leave the Holy City and the beautiful synagogue after all the trouble he had put into it. He did not want his community to become moneyless refugees. If the Jews left, it would shame the Sheik, and it will cause hatred and enmity for generations to come. If we leave, he reasoned, everybody will say 'what's the point of bringing the Jews here? Not only are they not fighters, they flee and spread fear'. The roads are dangerous now and the journey difficult, and the aged Rabbi was too old for the trip. G-d has given us the strength to rebuild Tiberias, he said. He did not do so in order to destroy us.

The next day the Jews went to the graves of Rabbi Hiyya and his sons, and of Rav Huna, and of Rav Hamnuna the Elder, and prayed and wept and sounded the shofar.

On Shabbat, August 28 (9 Elul), Sulyman Pasha started the attack. Immediately killing 14 of his own people with a wayward cannonball. There was much rejoicing in Tiberias. But the Governor was not deterred, that evening he started shelling the city with different types of cannons. Rabbi Berav notes that forty of the bigger cannonballs conquered a big city. The Pasha fired more than 200 such cannonballs at Tiberias, and the city withstood the attack. The Pasha also fired 1500 smaller cannonballs at the city.

Most fell into the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The rest exploded in mid-air, bounced harmlessly off the roofs or whizzed between the people walking in the streets. No house was destroyed, not one man was killed, even the animals and birds were spared. Though the people had a lot of flammable materials on the rooftops, the attacks didn't start a fire. A few of the cannonballs fell in the Rabbi's courtyard and were later kept in the Rabbi's house as evidence of the mercies of G-d.

While the shelling was going on, the Jews kept going to the synagogue, and on Shabbat, Rabbi Abulafia encouraged them: the Pasha is not fighting the people of Tiberias, he said. He's fighting G-d. G-d will save us, and will save the rest of the people of Tiberias as well.

Tiberias, looking towards Herm... Digital ID: 83004. New York Public Library
Tiberias, David Roberts, 1842-1849

The High Holidays came and went, and then Sukkot, and the Jews celebrated Simchat Beit HaShoeivah every night with joy and song, but one thing was missing: except for the Lulav, they had none of the Arba Minim. Every day they hoped, "G-d will make us a miracle tomorrow", but the days passed, and the last day, Hoshana Raba was upon them, and no Arba Minim.

Throughout all this, Sheik el-Omar kept sending the Pasha gifts and trying to make peace. And miracle of miracles, one of those peace parties was sent out on Hoshana Raba. One of the Jews from the Governor's camp used the opportunity and brought in the missing Arba Minim. The Jews were so ecstatic about being able to fulfill the commandant, they cried tears of joy as they made the blessings.

The Governor continued plotting and trying various tricks to breach or break down the city walls. Every time the people thought this was their end, but the miracles continued. Every attempt was repulsed by Daher el-Omar and his people, to the surprise of the Pasha, who really didn't expect a Bedouin to be this smart.

The Governor thought he could dig trenches down to the foundations of the walls and blow them up, but after five days of hard work, they discovered they weren't digging straight. It has to be Jew voodoo, said the Pasha's engineer, the Jews' Rabbi must have cast a spell on us. What shall we do?, asked the Pasha. Simple, fight Jew voodoo with Jews. And indeed, ten Jews were brought in from Safed - secretly, so that the Rabbi would not cast a spell on them too - and forced to dig the trenches. Surprisingly, this did not make the trenches any straighter.

And on Shabbat, November 20 (4 Kislev), after 83 days of siege, the Pasha was finally forced to give up, since he had to escort the pilgrims to Mecca. The siege was lifted. It was only then that the Jews of Tiberias learned that for the past three months, while they were under siege, Safed had been hit by the plague. The siege had been a blessing! Looking back at the chain of events, they realized that everything had been stacked against them, making their victory that much more miraculous, that surely it had all been G-d's work. Sorrow turned to gladness, and mourning into a good day (Esther 9, 22).

Rabbi Abulafia said Ha'Gomel in the plural for everybody, and they said the Hallel, and with the Rabbi's blessing they decided to make the 4th of Kislev a day of joy and celebration, a Purim, for generations to come.

Once the Governor of Damascus returned home, he was greeted with ridicule by his people. He had all the might and technology of the Ottoman empire on his side and still he couldn't beat one poorly-prepared Bedouin. And so Sulyman Pasha resolved to attack Tiberias again, and this time he will not return before he has destroyed the city, even if it will take all his money to do so.

Meanwhile, the Sheik asked various messengers to speak with the Sultan on his behalf, but the Jews of Istanbul sent a message through Damascus, explaining that nobody dared speak up. The Sultan had made up his mind and was arming Sulyman Pasha.

When the people heard this, they were terrified. Rabbi Abulafia told them: Whoever wants to, can leave, and whoever doesn't, can stay with us, do not fear for G-d is with us. Most of the people of Tiberias fled, but some remained to honor their Rabbi. Rabbi Abulafia was so certain they had nothing to fear, that he did not even prepare supplies for the coming siege.

The Pasha was much more prepared this time. He gathered an even bigger army and more weapons, and set out again for battle. Shabbat Eve, August 12, 1743 (3 Elul), he reached the village of Lubya (Kibbutz Lavi), two hours walk from Tiberias. The people of Tiberias were already mourning the calamity that will soon befall them.

On Shabbat Eve the Rabbi's son would read the Haftara portion by the table, and that week the Haftara was from Isaiah: "I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou art afraid of man that shall die" (Isaiah 51, 12), and the Rabbi told his family: Do not fear, listen to what G-d is telling us. The next day in the synagogue his sermon centered around the verse from the weekly Torah portion of Shoftim "For the LORD your God is He that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you" (Deuteronomy 20, 4). Do not fear a man who shall die, the Rabbi promised the people, for the Pasha will not get to Tiberias, and will not put up siege against us.

On Sunday a messenger came to town and said that the Pasha had been stricken with a serious illness. At first the people thought this was a trick, but that Wednesday more messengers came and reported that the Pasha had died the previous day, that all the weapons had already been taken to Akko, and that the Pasha's body was on its way to Damascus.

Once again, there was much rejoicing. That Shabbat the Rabbi spoke of the great miracle that had happened to them, that was even bigger than the first, and the people accepted upon themselves to celebrate the 7th of Elul, the day the Pasha died, for generations to come.

Rabbi Yaakov Berav ends his story: "So may all your enemies perish, L-rd. May you show us the great Redemption with the coming of our Messiah speedily in our days. Amen, may it be the will of G-d."

See here for more articles about our history in Israel.

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Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Fanat in the Hat and other Purim Stories

Purim 2012
The Fanat in the Hat and Other Stories
Eli D. Clark
(with apologies to Dr. Seuss)


I sat there with Sally.
We sat on the bus.
We sat there together.
No one made a fuss.

Then who came aboard?
The Fanat in the Hat!
And he said to us,
“How can you sit like that?

“You know it is wrong
To sit next to each other.”
I said, “She’s my sister,
And I am her brother.”

He pointed at Sally,
“Go back there to sit.
If you stay in front,
I think I will spit.

“I do NOT want to see you
Go out or come in.
Your elbows are showing
And making men sin.”

“I paid for my seat
Just like you,” Sally cried.
“I can sit where I want!
It’s for me to decide!”

“Where do YOU think you are?
This is not Tel Aviv.”
The Fanat in the Hat said,
“Sit in back or you leave.”

“Now do as I say,
You loose woman, you.”
Then out from behind
Came Thug One and Thug Two.

They had beards, they had hats,
And they wore black and white.
Their fingers were curled
Into fists that were tight.

They were big, they were mean,
And they blocked our way.
They did NOT look like men
Who learn Torah all day.

They screamed at poor Sally.
“Prutzoh!” they shouted.
“We will take care of you.”
And we did not doubt it.

We looked up to heaven.
We looked left and right.
Should we try to run
Or stand up and fight?

We needed a plan,
A way to escape,
Before those two Thugs
Squashed us both like a grape.

Then Thug One and Thug Two
Shouted, “Oy! Help us please!”
The Fanat in the Hat
Just fell to his knees.

What made them shake
And what made them yelp?
What made those bullies
Cry out for help?

We looked and we saw
A giant black cat,
Walking erect
In a red and white hat.

The Cat in the Hat
Looked the Thugs in the eye.
“These things need to stop.
And I’ll tell you why.

“Scaring young women
Is not a good game.
Worse, it is causing
A Hillul Ha-Shem.

“Here is a new game
To play,” said the cat.
“The game is called boxing.
Are you good at that?”

The Thugs said, “We box.
When we finish with you,
You will lie on your back
For a week or for two.”

The cat pulled a box out
And opened the top.
We heard a big VOOM
That made everything stop.

The Fanat in the Hat
And the Thugs in their beards
Were sucked into the box.
They all disappeared.

The cat closed the lid
And sealed it with glue.
“Goodbye,” said the cat,
“And good riddance to you.”

The cat said to us,
“You can sit as before.
Those three nuts will not
Bother you any more.”

“Oh, they will,” Sally said,
“For good or for bad.
Those men in your box
Are my brothers and Dad.”


Her gown is brown.
Brown makes us frown.
The brown gown must leave town.
If she wears black,
She can come back.

Ate non-stop.
Drank some pop.
Ate a giant lollipop.
And a pound of lemon drops.
My Pop took a strop
And gave me a clop.

My date is late.
I wait and wait.
The cake is great.
Oh, how I ate!
I am overweight.

Do not drink
From the sink.
The water has bugs, I think.

The Western Wall
Is open to all,
Short and tall,
Except for a woman with gall
in a prayer shawl.

We hear the shiur
From Rabbi Greer.
The shiur is clear.
After shiur
I drink a beer
And fall on my rear.

She will not get
Her get yet, I bet.
She first must offset
Her ex-husband’s debt.

See Fred.
See the redhead.
A pretty co-ed.
She is pre-med.
Very well-read.
Also well-bred.
Now they are wed.
Her pretty redhead
Has a sheitel instead.
Fred feels misled.

If you pay
In cash today,
I save tax. What do you say?
Hooray, hooray!
Sorry, I cannot stay.
It is time for me to pray.


Do you eat green cheese and ham?
I do not eat them, Sham-I-am.

Would you eat if no one saw?
I could not, would not break the law.

Would you eat them with O-U,
If the rabbi ate them too?
Would you eat them on a plate
After a 6 hour wait?

I do not eat green cheese and ham.
I do not eat them, Sham-I-am.

If a Jew turned on the gas?
If the dish was made of glass?
What if I would serve it cold
To kids below 13 years old?

We cannot eat green cheese and ham.
It’s in the Torah, Sham-I-am.

If the cheese is neufchâtel
Made from Cholov Yisroel?
If the workers making it
Come from the Chief Rabbinate?

I must not eat green cheese and ham.
I must not eat them, Sham-I-am.

But THIS ham is just a sham,
Made of soy, said Sham-I-am.

Then it is not really ham,
I will try them, Sham-I-am.
Say, I like green cheese and ham!
I do, I like them, Sham-I-am!

Tell me, please, cooked soya bean –
What is done to make it green?

What I do, said Sham-I-am,
Is add some peas and one fresh clam!

Copyright © 2012 by Eli D. Clark
All Rights Reserved

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