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Sunday, February 29, 2004

How effective is this fence?

Friday, February 27, 2004

The Aliyah Boat and The Mother of all Holy Days

Mmmmm, Aliyah boat.

But seriously, when are the kosher sushi artists of North America going to realize that there is a latent demand for battleships full of sushi - aircraft carriers of sushi - here in the Holiest of Lands. Talk about swords into plowshares.

Purim is coming.

I'm sure everybody realizes that we are amidst a Purim story of our own in these times.

I want to strongly recommend Yoram Hazony's book, The Dawn, to everybody - it is required pre-Purim reading.

Last, but not least, everybody's favorite Palestinian has quite the radio show. I encourage all to give a listen.

Good Purim! Good Purim!
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Anyone Know What Kind of Animal This Is?

They seem to be running some sort of kingdom up north in the ruins of 'Nimrod's Fortress,' in the shadow of Har Hermon - great piece of Israel right there.

Any information would be appreciated.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Hmmm, Dead Jews or Inconvenienced Arabs....It's a Tough One

Israel dismissed the assertions, saying the barrier was a necessary bulwark against suicide bombers and fell within the legal definition of self-defense. "Alongside the quality of life of Palestinians, we have to weigh the right to life for Israelis," Daniel Taub, an Israeli government legal adviser, said in an interview here. "And what we have to do is find the appropriate balance between the two."

Man, reading this kind of stuff in the history books, our kids are gonna demand to know how it was that we allowed our fellow Jews to sink to the 49th level of twisted priorities.

Miriam and I paid a little visit to the Apartheid Wall the other day. 'Apartheid' because it is the first official statement to the Arabs and the world that from here on in - the blood of Jews behind that wall is on sale - dirt cheap.

It is frustrating to be AS against the wall as the inconvenienced Jew killers but for a completely different reason. It almost seems like our clever PM guided the wall strait into the Hague to rally the troops behind a monstrously foolish - undemocratic implementation of what Oslo failed at: The Ethnic Cleansing of Jews from Judea and Samaria.

By the way, we noticed that there was already some digging next to the wall. All one really has to do is get a big ladder, dig with some other Shebab after school, or just toss your explosive vest right right over the fence to the newest Israeli-Arab Hamas recruit, to neutralize the stated effect of this 'Divider between Jew and Jew,' as Yishai calls it.
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Sunday, February 22, 2004

Made in Palestine

These boxes are scattered throughout the Machaneh Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem. Merchants take the plastic cartons of cherry tomatoes, strawberries or other produce and sell them to unsuspecting shoppers, perhaps even the occasional Likud MK who stops by this "Likud stronghold" on the eve of general elections.

I sent the following email to a popular email service helping Jerusalemites find anything and everything they are looking for. It was rejected. I turn to you, readers of the Kumah blog, to help restore the ideal of Jewish labor and holistic approach to the Jewish project.

Dear Hebrews,
It is very difficult to find restaurants, supermarkets and many other services that use Jewish labor rather than relying on cheaper, foreign or Arab workers. There are many that see 'Avoda Ivrit' as a primary method of social action. In addition to the ideological and security reasons (i.e. the roots of Zionism, our biblical forefathers, and such incidents as the poisoning plot by the Hamas cell working at Cafe Rimon), the economic situation and Jewish unemployment really make Jewish Labor the call of the hour.

I am therefore compiling a list (for my personal use, but also would be happy to share it with interested parties) of restaurants, grocers, and other miscellaneous services that are part of the 'Avoda Ivrit' movement, even unintentionally.

One final anecdote: My wife came back from Machane Yehuda with an empty crate of cherry tomatoes on which was written 'Made in Palestine' - now, not only does that alarm me for similar reasons as those that would preclude my purchase of a Volkswagen in the 1930's - It alarms because I happen to know from extensive research that none of the legal constraints present in the free world with regard to toxic pesticides exist in the P.A. It is documented (by PA and non-PA environmental groups) that 7 of the most toxic pesticides and insecticides outlawed in the U.S., Israel, and most everywhere else are in wide usage among PA farmers who then sell the produce, unmarked, within Israel.

Feel free to circulate this call and may see a revival of Hebrew living.
B'ahavat Yisrael,
Ezra HaLevi
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Sunday, February 15, 2004

Kumah's shabbaton

For all of you who are unfortunate enough to find yourselves in the Exile right now, we lucky Israelis are blanketed with snow. It is absolutely beautiful - and fun!

Apart from this bit of news, I wanted to tell you all about our Kumah shabbaton here in Beit El on Tu B'Shevat. I never cooked for 25 people before, and I won't lie - there were times where I thought I'd go mental. But at some point all the chickens were cut up, the cabbages fried, the potatoes mashed, and the kilos of fruits, nuts and other delicacies were laid out.

Due to my culinary responsibilities, I unfortunately missed the tree planting, which many people said was their favorite part of the shabbaton, something really meaningful and Zionistic. Our guests planted olive and oak trees at the Beit El winery, where they were treated to free bottles of wine, and free sips there in the spot. There's a little olive tree waiting for me to plant him - I hope he hasn't frozen in all this snow!

The good people of Beit El really came through for me on Tu B'Shevat. Having never met me, they put up our guests in their homes and had (I hope) a good time with them. Ezra, who had to emergency cancel on us because of a nasty illness (thank G-d, he's better now), still came through with a really nice Tu B'Shevat Hagaddah which we all enjoyed during the seder.

We had all kinds of Jews. Religious, not so religious, pre-crawling, pre-AARP, hippie types, "sensible shoes" types, but the most amazing thing was that everyone really listened to each other. There were a few times that we went around the table, each describing a favorite moment in Israel, or something that's better in Israel than it is any other place on earth, and no one interrupted or sort of zoned out. Everyone listened, internalized, laughed together. Twenty-five Olim, English speakers who'd come to make a home here in this tiny Middle Eastern inhertiance, were building a community at the table. I was totally impressed and having a great time. Let's not forget that there are four cups of wine at the seder. Ah, social lubricant.

The next day, we took a STELLAR tour of Beit El, guided by Baruch Gordon, director of the Arutz 7 english website and "bunker" participant at Yamit. He showed us a lot, including an ancient wine press. He told us many stories about the famous Yaakov "Ketzele" Katz who founded Beit El. Ketzele, is a hero of the 73 war whose life was saved by Ariel Sharon when he was shot in battle. Mr. Katz is a major figure here, often seen walking with bright, strong eyes, and a cane his war injuries made necessary.

After our tour, we came back for Seudah Shlishit - the third and last meal of Shabbat. We had a guest speaker - Ketzele! Our guests were fairly riveted as Ketzele imbued them with the great message of the people who live out here - there's no stopping us from growing and living and thriving. When Hashem wants to bring us back to the land, there's no Arab terrorist, and no misguided Jewish leader who can stop us!

Shabbat over, Havdalah beautifully sung, half our guests hit the road. The other half came to our house for coffee and cake, playing tarbukas and guitars, and chatting over their weekend experiences. Walking the last guest to the bus stop and eating pocketsful of garinim (sunflower seeds), we said goodbye to another adventure and hello to the friendships of new immigrants, eagerly awaiting the arrival of thousands more.
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Friday, February 13, 2004

A Poem by Steve Berer

Anthem to the Modern Khalutzim*
* Hebrew for "pioneers"
Dedicated to Ehud Luz

Remember what you're doing, and where you've come from,
You who have made a home on holy ground.
Yours is the era of prophecy's return!
Don't you know you are each Heads of Thousands,
The new Sanhedrin, creating sacred time,
While the nations stand back, disbelieving and confused.
Their time is marked by hours on a face,
Their days by distant and faint calls to prayer.
But every one of you is Priestess and Prophet
Absorbed in the Divine Moment that others only read of.
You are the authors of the newest book of Torah,
Creating it with your biceps and with your other worldly hearing.

You in the yeshivahs, it is for you to learn:
There is more to this Earth than your soiled vision of it.
And you without a rabbi, for you to learn:
There is more to Heaven than your cloudy vision of it.
And you on the right, it is for you to learn:
There is more safety in compassion than in any conquering.
And you on the left, for you to learn:
There is more peace in strength than in any treaty.

Why despair that the way is so dangerous and troubled?
Then it would not take giants like you to smooth it.
Remember the Priestess, Rahel(1), who prophesied:
"You, Ya'akov, is it impossible to roll
"The stone away from the mouth of the well?"
And Brenner(2) with a chisel, who carved in stone:
"You must increase realism and holiness in the world."

You, khalutzim, you holy Zion makers
You are the messianic builders of the way.
And as you are arising the nations descend,
Grown smaller in their emptiness and self-despising.
They raise their voices and their pagan souls are heard:
They are cursing you as their way of cursing God!

You, Israel, you already are rolling
The stone away from the mouth of the well.
The water is sweet and so are your blessings!

1. Rahel Bluwstein, quoted in E. Luz's article "Spiritual and
Anti-Spiritual Trends in Zionism."
2. Y.H. Brenner, quoted in Luz, as above.
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Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Fast Track

Today has been declared to be a fast day by the Yesha Council of Rabbis. From the JPost article:
"In light of the threats to the communities in Gush Katif and outposts throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza," the rabbis wrote, "all people who are capable are requested to fast to annul the evil decree and save the entire Nation of Israel wherever they may be."

Quoting from Maimonides, the rabbis noted that Jewish law states that "it is customary to fast as a result of trouble which comes upon the community until there is mercy from the heavens."

The rabbis added that those unable to fast should "increase their prayers" and recite Psalm 83.

I am going to go out on a limb, and suggest not participating in this fast. Israel is not Russia, Sharon is not the czar, and his proposals are not "evil decrees." Israel is our country, which we built to be our eternal homeland, and we don't counter bad policy proposals by reciting Psalm 83. The Psalm says, "Ki hinei oy'vecha yehemayun, um'san'echa nas'u rosh" - Your enemies make a tumult, and they who hate You have lifted their head. This is not talking about the Jewish prime minister of the Jewish state.

Here are some suggestions of what you can do instead:

If you live in Israel:

  • Find out about a political or activist group which you can become involved with.
  • Go visit a community in Yesha which you've never been to. Ask for a tour.
  • Make plans to ascend Har Habayit. Instead of Psalm 83, say Psalm 122: "L'maan beit Hashem Elokeinu avaksha tov lach."

If you live in the Exile:

  • Take one step towards your aliyah. Find out about your profession in Israel, call the Jewish Agency, or just think about where you'd like to live. Wear a pin that says, "I'M MAKING ALIYAH!" and explain it to anyone who asks. Start thinking about your next vacation to Israel.
  • Buy an Israeli newspaper. If you can, buy a Hebrew one. Read it, and feel like you're a part of it.
  • Find an Israeli charity and write a check.

I found this article on Maariv, with beautiful pictures and descriptions of all the communities in Gaza. It's well worth the read. If you don't read Hebrew, look at the pictures.

Finally, read some Tanach. Read the book of Nechemia, or the book of Zecharia, or the second perek of Yishayahu. Plan to read more. Feel yourself connect to the past, as you envision the future.

We are living in a different world from the one we lived in 60 years ago, and we need to act and think that way. Good things will happen when, with God's help, we take an active role in making them so.
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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Kumah Tu B'Shvat Shabbaton Info

Here is the schedule for the Shabbaton:

1a. 12:00 Take the 170 Egged bus to Beit El.
1b. The bus leaves from the third floor of the Central Bus Station (Tachana Merkazit) in Jerusalem.
1c. Get off in Beit El around 1hour later - ask to get off at the Yeshiva stop. I will be there to greet you. (There is also a bus at 1:30, 2:15, 3:00 - but if you take these you may miss the next event. I rather you take the 2:15 bus if you plan to be late.)
2. 1:00 Drop off stuff in the Moadon - our central place.
3. 1:30 Go planting olive trees in the mountains of Zion.
4. 3:30 - return to Moadon and take stuff to your assigned families (Prepare for Shabbat, shower, etc.)
5. 4:45 Meet at prayer hall for Carlebach style Friday night prayer
6. Go to the Friday night meal at the Moadon - our Seder Tu B'Shvat
7. After meal - go to your respective houses for Shabbat sleep.
8. Morning prayer - go with your family (probably 8:00 AM)
9. Eat lunch with your family after prayer.
10. 1:30 Meet back at the Moadon a our scenic guided tour.
11. 4:00 Mincha - The afternoon prayer
12. 4:30 We eat the Seudah Shlishit - the Third Meal together - hear our special guest speaker!
13. 6:00 Pray Maariv - the night prayer.
14. 6:30 Say goodbye, or stay for Bonfire (weather permitting)
15. 9:00 Shalom Shalom, we all go home, hope you had a nice time.

Remember, the cost is 50NIS per person. Bring yourself, some fruit or wine, and lets have a great time!

All The Best,
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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Kleiner's Speech

Michael Kleiner spoke at YU last night. I was there to hand out pins and articles, as usual. I was orignially going to speak, but it got late, so I left.

Kleiner made some interesting points, which I won't go into now. In general, he outlined his political plan: take the ten billion dollars that Israel is spending on the fence, and instead spend it on encouraging and financing Arab emigration from Israel. It's a reasonable policy - no one is forced to do anything, but they have the option. Why not?

However, let's look at the numbers. He claimed that in a poll, 37% of Arabs in Israel would leave if they had the finances. This means about 1.5 million people. The fence money divided among them would give about $6500 per person. The goal of this plan is to significantly change the demographic makeup of Israel.

Now, instead of spending $6500 per person to get Arabs to leave, why not spend $6500 per person to get Jews to come? Same demographic shift, no charge of "transfer," no chance of the money going to fund terrorism, and the biggest benefit of all - it continues the historic project of Zionism - the ingathering of the exiles, which is the very reason the State of Israel was created.

So, why didn't Kleiner think of this? Probably for the same reason that no one who comes to speak in New York talks about Aliyah: they've given up on us. Sharon still wants to bring a million more immigrants, but he talks about finding them in Russia, where many of these remaining "Jews" are not Jews at all. Why isn't anyone seriously talking about a million immigrants from the West? Furthermore, the only reason why we are talking about a major evacuation of the Jews in Gaza is that we assume we are done growing, and now is the time to close ranks. Immigration is no longer a major force in Israeli policy.

If we have come to the point where the State of Israel has given up on the majority of Am Yisrael which does not reside in Eretz Yisrael, then we have given up on Zionism, and the purpose of the Jewish State. And this is really the most "painful concession" of them all.
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Sharon says: "I am working on the assumption that in the future there will be no Jews in Gaza."

Maybe someday we'll have a prime minister that will work under the assumtion that in the future there will be no Jews in Exile?
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Sunday, February 01, 2004


The JPost reports that Hamas is announcing its intentions to kidnap soldiers in order to secure the release of their prisoners. We knew we were rewarding Hizbollah's kindapping policies, but maybe we didn't expect everyone else to get in on the action? Plus, the fact that we are willing to trade live prisoners for dead bodies means there isn't even an incentive for terrorists not to kill Israelis after the kidnap them.

I have been trying to figure out why we have lost our deterrent power, and I think it may be that we still think of ourselves as golus Jews - the weak Jews who are always subject to the whim of the host Gentiles. We tell the Gentiles that we would give them anything, if only they will live in peace with us, or return our prisoners. The only reason the surrounding Arabs do what they do is because they know our reaction. Somehow, we need to gain the upper hand.

For example: Israel is militarily much stronger than Syria, even if they do have WMD from Iraq. Why do we need to give them land in return for them promising not to attack us? Surely the Syrians fear an Israeli military strike. Why not offer peace with Syria on even terms: we won't attack you if you don't attack us? Why not pass a law in Knesset forbidding the return of any land captured in a defensive war? Then, Syria can't attack us without fearing that they will lose Lebanon, or Damascus. As it stands, they are already a terrorist state. But if they attack Israel and lose land, Israel will be pressured to give it back. So, Israel has more to lose in such a war. Let's turn the tables.

The Arabs know that if they kidnap an Israeli soldier, we will release many prisoners. Let's announce that we will only agree to even swaps for prisoners, we will not make any exchanges for bodies, and we will retaliate against any organization taking prisoners with offensive strikes. Somehow, we need to gain the upper hand, so that future negotiations will not lead to even more bloodshed.
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