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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tu B'Av Aliyah

Jonny and Pinchas took a whole lot of photos at today's NBN Aliyah, but I got lucky, and I think I had a few good shots today.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

The Exile Today

After the evil king Jeroboam split off the kingdom of Israel with its ten tribes from the kingdom of Judea, he erected a wall and posted guards along all the roads leading to Jerusalem, to prevent his people from going up to the Holy City for the pilgrimage festivals, for he feared that such pilgrimages might undermine his authority. As a "substitute," he set up places of worship which were purely idolatrous, in Dan and Beth-el. Thus the division between the two kingdoms became a fait accompli and lasted for generations.

The last king of the kingdom of Israel, Hosea ben Elah, wished to heal the breach, and broke down the wall and removed all the guards from the roads leading to Jerusalem, thus allowing his people to make the pilgrimage again. This act took place on Tu B'Av.

Today a wall is being erected to seprate off Hebron, Shechem, Beit El, Shiloh, and Beit Lechem from the rest of the country. Today the Biblical heartland is being cut off and exiled, just as Jeroboam exiled Jerusalem. It is time to tear down the wall so that we may have a true Tu B'Av, reunited in love with our land, our people and our G-d.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007


On Erev Tisha B'Av, Kumah organized three buses of English-speaking folks on a trip to Kever Rachel. Why? Tisha B'Av is centered around Jerusalem and the Temple, but is also a day to mourn the exile - and no one cries more about the exile then Rachel Imeinu. We joined together with Rachel Imeinu in the prayer "Veshavu Banim Legvulam" - "May the Children Return to their Borders."


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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Germany: Home, Sweet Home

Recently, there were a number of articles discussing the dramatic increase in the number of Israelis applying for German citizenship.

Sharp rise in Israelis seeking German citizenship
- Yediot Achronot

'Sweet revenge,' say new Germans - Ha'aretz - (One of the most depressing articles I have read in quite some time.)

Below are some selected quotes from the articles:

* "The grandparents did not want to be German for obvious reasons. They taught their children that being German was a bad thing. But this is the first generation which thinks differently," said Katy Elmaliah, whose law firm in Tel Aviv helps young Israelis get German passports.


* "For my mother and my father the memories of the past are too hard. They would never want to be German but for me it is important that I can have a European passport," he said. "I have no problem being German."


* Holding her brand-new German passport, Avital Direktor, 29, of Azor, just had to laugh. "What a crazy world," she thought to herself. "Germany's soil is drenched with my family's blood, and in spite of it all, I got German citizenship. I see it as taking revenge on Hitler. Sweet revenge..."

"Now, I will be able to pass it on to my children," she added.

Avital said she is not surprised by the sharp rise in demand for German citizenship among Israelis. "Look at what's going on here. Ours is a land that devours its inhabitants. The obtuseness to the needy, the corruption. People are dying to get out of here..."

Avital hopes to study to be a sound technician in Germany. "Here, it's expensive like you wouldn't believe, but there, I'll get it practically free of charge. I had intended to study it in Israel, but I just can't afford it financially," she explained.

According to Avital, most of her friends supported her decision to apply for German citizenship. "They said they wished they could get a German passport, too, and asked me what I was still doing here in Israel."

All of the above makes the following story almost seem logical:

Berlin Jewish Center builds replica of Western Wall

”This is a symbolic part of making Berlin a central hub of Jewish life again,” the center’s executive director, Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
In light of the above, consider these verses from the book of Judges (2:10-11):
And in time, death overtook all that generation; and another generation came after them, having no knowledge of the Lord or of the things which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord...
Some things never change.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Words of Encouragement

Zechariyah Chapter 8

1. Then the word of the LORD of hosts came, saying,
2. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her.'
3. "Thus says the LORD, `I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.'
4. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age.
5. `And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.'
6. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, will it also be too difficult in My sight?' declares the LORD of hosts.
7. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west;
8. and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.'
9. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, to the end that the temple might be built.
10. `For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for animal; and for him who went out or came in there was no peace because of his enemies, and I set all men one against another.
11. `But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,' declares the LORD of hosts.
12. `For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things.
13. `It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.'
14. "For thus says the LORD of hosts, `Just as I purposed to do harm to you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,' says the LORD of hosts, `and I have not relented,
15. so I have again purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear!
16. `These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates.
17. `Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,' declares the LORD."
18. Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,
19. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace.'
20. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities.
21. `The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, "Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I will also go."
22. `So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.'
23. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.""'

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Melting Pot Calling the Kettle "Kike"

So I'm wondering - what do our contributors / readers make of this?

The Jewish Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Are some of the points he is making valid?

Is it not getting less and less easy to be both Jewish and American?

Isn't there a lot of similarity between the role of Jews in the US and the role of the Left in Israel, and doesn't it actually make sense that a country created, by and large, by a movement of Diaspora Jews would, in its initial incarnation, be overwhelmingly leftist? Does it not therefore make sense that nationalistic, belief-suffused American Jewish intellectuals could be a key group in shifting the nation onto the Right tracks?

Food for thought on a fast day.

PS: Caroline Glick says the Jewish Agency is out to take down Nefesh B'Nefesh. Apparently someone doesn't want religious olim.


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Monday, July 23, 2007

Memorial A Year Later

On this date 1 year ago, 3 Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hizbullah ambush. 1 of the 3 soldiers was an American whose dream was to serve in the IDF, and even cut short a family vacation back in his old home in Pennsylvania to join the army in last summer's war. Here are a few articles about Michael: JPost, YNet, a friend's memorial page, etc. I attended a memorial service at Har Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem this afternoon Yonatan Einhorn Z"L, but unfortunately had to leave before the one for Michael Levin Z"L started. Here are some pictures of Yonatan's memorial and Michael's grave:




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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lamenting the Exile - Tisha b'Av at Kever Rachel

Rachel's Children Reclamation Foundation (Evelyn Haies) and Kumah invite you to join us for a prayer vigil at Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb) on the 9th of Av at night.

Tisha B'Av is centered around Jerusalem and the Temple, but is also a day to mourn the exile - and no one cries more about the exile then Rachel Imeinu. Come join your tears with hers in the prayer "Veshavu Banim Legvulam" - "May the Children Return to their Borders."

When: Join our bus at 6:30PM on Monday the 23rd of July, Erev Tisha B'Av

Where: Binyanei Haumah - The International Convention Center across from the Central Bus Station

What to bring: Water, a hard boiled egg, a sandwich for pre-fast final food, Scroll of Eicha

How long: The bus will return to join up with the Women in Green march around the Old City walls. (around 9:30PM)

Cost: Free - we want you to come and give nachat to Rachel Imeinu.


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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Revenge of the Hajj Heat Rash

WARNING: The article you are about to read is not in any way related to sophisticated political analysis or higher spiritual thought. It's just darn funny.

Hajj Pilgrims Offered Relief From Chafed Thighs
July 16, 2007

RIYADH -- Help is being offered to Muslims afflicted by chafed thighs during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Gazette reported Saturday.

Worshipers at the annual event are to be offered "seamless trousers" for the first time to guard against chafing, the English language daily said.

The trousers are designed to be worn under the ihram, the loose-fitting white robe worn by Muslims undertaking the pilgrimage.

"Pilgrims often complain of sore thighs because of friction as a result of long walks. The trouser will protect the thighs," the paper said.

The pilgrimage, which is expected to next take place in December, is one of the five pillars of Islam that all able-bodied Muslims must undertake once in a lifetime if they have the means.

Nearly 2.4 million people flocked to holy sites in Saudi Arabia earlier this year to perform the Hajj, including more than 1.6 million from outside the kingdom.

In January 2006, 364 pilgrims were killed in a crush during the pilgrimage's stoning ritual.


Dear Ahmeds and Fatimas,

Shalom from Israel! Sorry about the shifshuf (but that's how it is in our crazy Middle East, right?). I'm so happy for you... seamless pants, that's great - and novel!

I found somemore info in our shared quest for a chafe-free lifestyle. Just hand over all Jewish captives, and you can have it.

Okay, you got me! I'll give it to you for free - like everything else:


Chafing often occurs on the inner thigh, groin area, armpits, nipples, etc. as a result of sweating, and friction from body parts rubbing together, or friction from clothing. The best treatment for chafing is prevention.

Stay hydrated - Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Among other things, staying well hydrated will help prevent chafing by allowing you to perspire freely. When you stop perspiring your sweat will form salt crystals on your body increasing friction.

Clothing - Select snug fitting (but not tight) clothing. Shorts or jog bras that are too tight or too loose will create friction and rubbing.

Choose breathable, wicking fabrics .... Coolmax, Supplex, Polypro, etc are good choices. No cotton!

Clothing should have few seams, flat seams, and small flat stitching.

Do not wear untested clothing on a long walk and never wear unwashed new clothing.

Stay Dry - Use talcum powder or cornstarch to stay dry. (Gold Bond is highly recommended and can be found in most drug stores. Two Toms Blister shield is another good option.)

Lubricant - When you increase your mileage all other efforts may fail. It is time for real preventative. There are a variety of lubricants on the market. They are readily available at most running stores. Many people use petroleum jelly because it is inexpensive and easy to find. I don't really like the consistency, and find it doesn't stay on as well as many of the sports/running products.

Make your own lubricant - with this recipe I found on a couple of the running boards. Mix equal parts A & D ointment (diaper rash cream) and Vaseline (1 cup each). Then add vitamin E cream and Aloe Vera cream (1/4 cup each) to improve consistency and smell. (Mixture should be stiff, yet applicable.) It not only protects skin from chafing but can help heal the skin and also is helpful with blister prevention. Low cost and effective. Measurements do not have to be accurate.... this is not baking!

Treatment - The general treatment for chafing is to treat the area by washing with soap and cool to luke warm water. Then apply an antibacterial ointment or antiseptic spray, cover with a bandaid or sterile gauze. This works well, but I prefer A and D ointment. (Yes, the diaper rash ointment!!) It relieves pain and itch, promotes healing, and keeps the area lubricated so you can continue walking without discomfort. After this product was recommended to some fellow walkers it soon became known as "Magic A & D" it works so well.


I hope you guys have a super-awesome hajj this year, filled with all those cool tramplings and self-flagellatings that make you guys so fun.

Your Sister By The Same Mister,

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Eretz Yisrael - Where the Wild Things Are

Those of you making aliyah need to know something: Israel is not like any other place in the world, and not necessarily in a good sense.

It is the home of the Jewish people, and it is the home of the soul of the Jewish people. It where the Jewish people has reassembled after 77 generations of wandering the globe, after centuries of wearing peaked caps and yellow garb and having to walk in the gutter when a gentile walks by... of having a nickel rolled by them to see if they'll turn around, of being used by princes for controlling the rabble and being murdered - along with the princes - by the rabble when it revolted.

Some communities were small, some big, but any diaspora community is an incomplete unit, a lone cell or group of cells, not an organ, certainly not a complete body. Jews got used to being self-contained: for 1,800 or 1,900 years they had no king, no president, no one from their own community whom they had to defer to on temporal matters, except for the rabbi. Yes, they had to defer to the state, but that state was gentile, and any respect they had for it was always mixed with contempt.

Their habits, their traditions, their cultures, their identities, their ways of thinking, their music, their clothes, even the color of their skins changed over the generations, with each community going its separate way. You see this in our synagogues, where olive skinned, dark eyed Yemenites pray alongside pink-skinned, blond Ashkenazim, where the sons of Moroccan Jews wear dark European suits and the sons of German Jews wear oriental style needlework skullcaps.

A large part of the nation rebelled against the rabinnical authority and went its own separate way, discarding their parents' religion in favor of a new religion, invented by a Jew named Karl Marx. These Jews became the prophets of modern Leftism, whether in its pure Marxist-Leninist form or in the watered down version called socialism. It was davka this group that had the gumption, the daring, the political/organizational skills and the revolutionary spirit needed for a return to Eretz Yisrael and the refashioning of the fighting, farming Jew.

All of these streams came together against the backdrop of the worst instance of state-sponsored sadistic mass slaughter ever, the Holocaust. It was as if the remnant of the Jews had escaped Europe just before the door came down, Indiana Jones style, leaving all those who were not nimble enough to die agonizingly in the snake pit. And they, too, the remnant, were thrust directly into a bloody, never ending war with the savage Saracens of the East.

So the result is not just a melting pot. It is a somewhat crazy place, where streams that diverged hundreds, sometimes thousands of years ago meet again, mix again, collide and clash until one is found to be stronger and the other takes a back seat, or until they mix and are no longer distinguishable. Leftism is clashing with Judaism. Middle Eastern ways are clashing with European manners. Classical symphonies with the crying, rhythmic chords of Arab music. Some Ethiopian Jews strut about in dreadlocks while others sport peyos.

People have to get used to obeying a common Jewish authority. They have to get used to having a temporal leader who is a Jew just like them. We can't all be our own prime ministers any more! We can't just get up and move to the next shtetl when the goyim get restless. We have to get used to having power - this is more difficult than one may think! We also have to get used to not blaming ourselves for everything, and not being able to "play the Jew" when things get rough. No amount of walking in the sewer will make the Arabs let go of their hatred for us!

Relations between men and women have to be refashioned. The Diaspora created a Woddy Allenish nebbish-Jew. Eretz Yisrael calls for a new type of Jewish man, and as a corollary, a new woman. But this is more easily said than done. The socialist farmer-fighters did well for a couple of generations, but they are rapidly becoming extinct. That generation turns out to be a problematic one, and it has left us with leaders who are fat, corrupt, and soul-less, or weaselly, fake-smiled, pseudocultured bureaucrats. Reinventing ourselves is painful, but necessary - again.

The world's attention is on us. People from Irkusk to Argentina, from Namibia to Nepal, know the names of our political parties and are familiar with the layouts and histories of tiny communities on both sides of our disputed "Green Line". They either worship our ancestors or blame us for the great upheavals the world is undergoing, or both. People here believe in God to the degree that they will go unarmed to pray at a tzaddik's grave in a city crawling with terrorist snakes, or they will hate those same unarmed praying Jews with a burning heart and see them as the source of all suffering and pestilence.

If you come out here, that is where you are coming to. If the world is but a stage, we are center stage, the lights are on us, the top critics are all there in the front row, all the channels are feeding the picture live, and we have to give a great biblical show that we haven't properly rehearsed for several thousand years, or have done nothing but rehearse for several thousand years. If you come here, know that you are entering the cauldron, that you are becoming an actor in the greatest drama of all. It won't be easy. You will find yourself screaming, crying, cursing and asking yourself what possessed you to join this insane asylum... and at the same time you will know - this is mine, it is my place, my language, my earth I am treading upon, for good, for bad, for ever.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Noah's Route, Your Route,"

"Armenia is gunning for its spot on the tourist map by marketing its religious attractions. The country's current slogan is "Noah's Route, Your Route," a nod to the belief that Mount Ararat is the place where Noah's Ark landed."

Now that's a way to promote a country, not with a push for gay tourism, and not by prostituting young girls for Maxim photo shoots. The time time has come to throw away the bikini-brand in favor of Holy-Land...

"Bikini-Brand or Holy Land?" By Yishai Fleisher

In a bid to "rebrand" Israel's unpopular world image, Tzipi Livni and the gang at the Foreign Ministry are about to embark on a massive PR campaign. Livni plans to paint Israel as a sexy modern country with beautiful beaches and a successful high-tech industry to boot. Livni believes that by embarking on this "nation branding" campaign, she can move Israel's perception away from war-torn and fanatical, to an image of the great Israeli dream - normalcy.

No doubt Israel does have something to offer those looking for beaches, night life, and technology. But as the focus of a public relations campaign, this direction is doomed for failure.

The Lubavicher Rebbe told a story to illustrate this point:

After the Six-Day War, France, unhappy with Israel's grand victory over the Arabs, stopped their sales of the Mirage fighter jets to Israel. Israel, in need of fighter jets, turned to the United States with a request to buy American jets.

The US sent a delegation to Israel and the Israelis wanted to impress the American group and promptly took them to what the Israeli's thought the American's would be most interested in. They took them to Tel-Aviv, to the playhouses, to the bars, to all the modernity that Israel could muster up at the time.

However, the delegation was nonplussed. They returned to America, gave a lukewarm report to Congress, and the sale did not go through. A few months went by and again the Israelis requested the sale of fighter jets. Again a delegation was formed and was flown to Israel. This time, however, the Israelis took the delegation to the Kotel, and to the Yeshivas of Mea Shearim where the Americans saw the old study benches that were brought over from Europe.

When the Americans returned home and testified in front of Congress they said: "We saw the Holy Land." The sale, of course, went through.

The point is so obvious, yet Israel's image makers cannot grasp it.

Israel's image strength is NOT in its limping normalcy. Nor can Israel ever compare to the US's flesh-pots, Amsterdam's night life, or the beaches of South America.

Israel's real image strength IS in its unparalleled link to the Bible. Have you ever seen the ecstasy of a person, Jew or Gentile, as he or she sees the Kotel for the first time? Is it a coincidence that both Jews and Gentiles cry when they arrive in Israel? Israel has emotional impact, not because of the beaches or the Hi-Tech, but rather because this place is the Spiritual Capital of the world.

How can you beat the branding effect of the most widely read book in the world?! The Bible is the globe's all-time bestseller and Israel should capitalize on it. Israel's image makers, however, do everything in their power to distance Israel from this kind of image. Their world view is dissonant with Jewish history and religion, and therefore they do not see, nor want to see, the public relations benefit of Israel's Biblical/spiritual PR image. Moreover, they fail to see the Biblical Israel's economic potential.

Yet it is precisely by embracing and not blunting our image as the real-life successors of the Biblical past that we will create a winning PR campaign.

For example, in terms of tourism:

The festival of Sukkot should be mega-season for spiritual tourism. Sukkot is the holiday when world citizenry was traditionally invited to Jerusalem to take part in the celebrations, and this custom should be revived. While this trend has already begun, it needs to be bolstered. Instead of making flights outrageously expensive during the Sukkot season, Israel should charter flights to encourage a world-wide pilgrimage.

Hebron is the great burial place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs and the first capital of young King David. Hebron is a must-see for anyone seeking to connect with the roots of monotheism, yet Israel's image makers couldn't get themselves farther away from it. This special place should be transformed from a neglected and governmentally-rejected "fringe" town into a bona fide tourist site. Hebron could be a big winner if Israel would rebrand itself in Biblical terms.

The Old City of Jerusalem is a natural-habitat, authentic biblical experience. In order to further this atmosphere, the Old City should be made off-limits to car traffic on Shabbat. Tourists from Israel and abroad should be able to walk the stone lined streets of the Old City with complete freedom, into an atmosphere of transcendent calm and warmth. The Kotel, the Quarters, and the Old City's diverse communities, will all benefit by the creation of a unique cultural zone in the heart of the world's most special city.

In terms of Hasbara:

In our continuing struggle with the war on terror, Israel would do well to paint its story in a Biblical context. Today's Israel and yesteryear's Israel are the same -- the same nation, the same land, and the same problems. By providing such historical perspective, we can help people reframe the conflict in the Middle East. Suddenly Ahamedinajad's Iran is akin to Haman's Persia and Palestinian suicide-bombers are not unlike to the ancient Philistine guerilla attackers. Girded with Biblical perspective the world will root for Israel, just as they do when they read the Bible.

Another important aspect of a Biblical Hasbara perspective is Tikvah, hope.

The Bible is full of hope for the Jewish people and for Israel. In today's dreary climate we need to broadcast that message of positivity loud and clear.

In the long run:

We can create a successful image of Israel abroad, but we need to start by creating the right self-image within. Israel must learn to see itself as a light unto the world, and not just as a bastion of normalcy. Israel's 'light' includes a unique blend of medicine and technology, law and spirituality. Where else in the world can you find a country that is a world leader in microchip development, in-vitro fertilization, farming innovation, Talmudic law and Kabbalah?

A practical way to sow this image in the long-run is by creating mega-schools that would teach medicine, environmental sciences, and technology to the people of the world. Israel is already an internationally respected educator in a variety of fields including counter-terror, health, and agriculture. This role should be increased into all fields of Israeli and Jewish expertise. Israel should be seen as the world's educational destination, and while foreign students study here, they will learn to love Israel and will always be its greatest ambassadors. Indeed there are thousands of ways that a Biblical Israel can flourish once this way of thinking crystallizes in the minds of our leaders and our nation.

For the last 3000 years the Holy Land has been the pre-eminent destination for all mankind - travelers and conquerors all sought this piece of real-estate. Today, maybe more than ever before, Israel can quench the world's thirst for authenticity, spirituality, and purpose -- but it has to rise to the occasion. Let's not cheapen and degrade the image of Israel by Bikini-branding it. Let us market it for what it is: the most special place on the Earth -- the Holy Land.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

New Orleans Jewish Federation Offers Financial Incentives For Jews

From YNET: In an ambitious bid to bolster New Orleans' Jewish population following Hurricane Katrina, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans has announced a program of financial incentives to families who make their home in the city.

The incentives are modeled on the Nefesh B'Nefesh immigration to Israel scheme, which enables Jewish families to settle across Israel. "Young people who are looking for new opportunities but do not want to relocate as far as Israel would do well to look southwards to the Jewish community of New Orleans," a press release by the city's Jewish federation said.

The package includes "moving grants, day school scholarships, loans and other benefits as part of its $500,000 Newcomer's Incentive Plan," the press statement added.

"Two years ago when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, the New Orleans community lost 30 percent of its Jewish members," the city's Jewish Federation said.

"Today, with rebuilding efforts well underway, the Jewish community is looking to recruit 1,000 new families over the next 5 years. Already, close to 200 new Jewish families have moved to the area and more than 50 have begun to inquire about incentives," the statement said, adding: "Now, with funding support from United Jewish Communities and a recent grant of $100,000 from the Los Angeles Federation, the local Federation has half a million dollars available for returnees and newcomers."

The Incentives Plan also contains a strong sell of New Orleans, which is described as being warmer than many US cities, "with a choice of nine synagogues, two JCCs, two day schools, two kosher restaurants and other facilities... It is also a city with soul, featuring jazz, Mardi Gras, great food traditions and a strong local culture."

"Young professionals say that they are moving to the city because they can sense the exciting opportunities which are open to them," the statement added.

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OK. Real Baseball in Israel

Perhaps as an offshoot of this IBL fever, or because of my long held desire to shout at kids to "stop picking the daisies," I have started a Baseball Club here in Bet El for 8-11 year-olds.

We had our first practice on Sunday Morning. Yishai came by to take some pictures.

It was great fun for all, but we could definitely use some equipment.

Here is an email I am currently circulating:


I have started a Baseball club for 8-11 year olds in Bet El for the first time in nearly a decade. I have a dozen kids to start. They don't know a stitch about baseball, but they are eager to learn and play. We had our first practice Sunday morning. We started with instruction on how to put on the mitt, and I proceeded to show them the four bases (concrete slabs). We are hitting off of a makeshift tee I created after rummaging through a nearby construction area.

Our primary need right now is mitts. I have seven gloves to work with including my own, and three of them are adult size (too big). I would really like for each boy to have a glove. We could also use 2-3 little league size bats. I would even like to get the kids each a tee shirt, and take them to a baseball game of the new professional IBL. We definitely do not have any helmets or catchers' gear.

We have decided to call our "team" the Bet El Bears, as two bears are involved in a story with the prophet Elisha in Bet El in the second book of Melachim.

We would greatly appreciate if an individual, group of individuals, or business could help in one of the following ways:

1) Send a check for $1500 / 6000NIS, and I will purchase the necessary equipment.

2) Purchase us new equipment, and send it.

3) Take a collection of used (but decent) equipment, and send it over.

4) Any combination of the above. I am willing to accept a few gloves here, and bat from there.

Our total equipment needs in order of priority:
1) 12-15 gloves (including 2-3 lefty mitts)
2) 2-4 little league bats
3) 12 balls
4) tee shirts
5) batting helmets
6) bases
7) catchers' gear (including mitt)

I really do appreciate your consideration into this matter. I can assure you our town, and our kids will really appreciate it. For more information, please feel free to email me at - re:Baseball.

With Blessings,


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Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Voice of the Revolution

Listen to Malkah's interview with Refael Yitzchak (pictured above). The audio is only 2 minutes and 30 seconds but its worth every moment.


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Friday, July 13, 2007

Two Years...

Today is my two year anniversary. Two years ago, today (secular date) I came home. So what's it like two years later? Well I feel at home, that's for sure. The Rechavia neighborhood now feels familiar to me. I know all the shortcuts that tourist will never know about. I know the Rambam was given a much nicer street than both the Rif and the Ramban. In fact I think it's the most beautiful street in all of Yerushalayim while Radak and Ramban remains my most favorite intersection. It's nice living somewhere where the streets are named after Rishonim. Every time I walk up my block I'm reminded of Shabbos Zemiros (the block nearby being named after an author of one.)

But what's even more amazing now is what I see when I visit America and see it now through the eyes of somebody who hass been living in the homeland for the past two years. I am even more amazed than ever at how American Jews could live their lives without giving any sincere consideration toward returning to their true home. I have often maintained there are legitimate reasons for postponing Aliyah (while there are also poor excuses) but I don't see how a truly Torah observant G-d fearing Jew can wake up each and every day without making some sort of effort to return to where we really belong. How such a Jew can live life fully content with the status quo as if living in chutz l'aretz was the ultimate destiny of the Jewish people is beyond me.

The question remains why is it this way? Why in 1948 after Israel independence was declared and permission for every Jew to return home granted (or did that happen in 1917) didn't the floodgates of Aliyah open? Was it too soon after the war? Were we too devastated after the horrors of the Shoah to realize the opportunity that G-d had presented us?

What about in 1967? After the world witnessed open miracles and Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in 2000 years! Certainly then the call for the Jews to return home was louder than ever. And the shofer has been sounded just as loudly ever since.

Every Frum Jew living in America has to ask himself if the true purpose of our nation here on earth is for every Jewish family to have a five car garage, a swimming pool, a manicured lawn, and a fireplace. For if acquisition of wealth is the Jewish People's purpose than certainly America is the Promised Land and we are living up to our mandate.

But when people say they can't earn a parnussa in Israel are they really saying they can't acquire wealth here? When did we forget the difference between earning a respectable living and getting rich. (Again I understand that there are circumstances where one can't even earn a livelihood and that is a valid heter not to make Aliyah.). But actually I’ll tell you on every trip to America more and more people come up to me and tell me they are making Aliyah. So the truth is maybe we didn't forget the difference at all...

NBN brought three flights of Olim to Israel this week. Perhaps we are starting to get it.

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Time to Stop Playing with Our Balls and Strikes

This debate about baseball in Israel has gone just about far enough. Perhaps we have become so insensed by the current state of affairs in Israel, or have been so numbed by a corrupt system that remains in power, that we have decided to turn our attention to an easier target: recreation and entertainment.

Recreation is good. Professional entertainment bad. Fine. Case and point. I like baseball, and just may see a game before this summer is out, because I still retain many habits from a former life in the United States, like surfing the internet past my bedtime.

But here at Kumah, we are supposed to be shining Israel in a positive light wherever possible, pointing out areas critical for the growth of this nation, and pushing American aliyah.

I am quite worried that this hit and run on America's pasttime now in Israel, runs counter to the goals of our organization.

American Jews love American sports. This phenomenon is a little difficult to understand, even for myself who to this day thinks of the ballpark anytime I smell a freshly cut lawn.

Moving to Israel is hard. Real hard. Don't let these Aliyah junkies tell you otherwise. Most American olim consciously and unconsciously look far and wide to seek out the comforts of the old country here in our new habitat. Whether it is Hellman's mayonaise or a trip to Ikea, these creature comforts help us feel at home in our elevated environs.

I am quite afraid that this battery on baseball--a familiar face to many olim who feel as if they have left many wonderful things behind to begin a better life--might make future olim uncomfortable.

I worry that potential olim, and others reading this blog may begin to think that we have struck out swinging. We don't need to attack anything and everything that runs counter to the religious ideal. We need religious and non-religious Jews who like baseball to come make Aliyah, and help strengthen our nation.

There are a lot of problems in Israel and within American Jewry. Baseball, for better or for worse, is not one of them.

Look at the coaches signs, there is a lot of work to do here. I think we should step up to the plate, and try to hit a home run on some serious issues in this country, before our society gets picked off trying to steal a base.

And I also think that for those of us who don't like professional sports--in a land where soccer goons riot, and a basketball team routinely wins the European championship--paying any additional mind to this baseball league is simply giving more attention to another business started in Israel with private American investment.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The case for Baseball in Israel

Recently Yishai presented seven reasons why baseball is essentially evil and why bringing it to Israel will harm the Jewish nation. Of course these reasons are all nothing more than pure nonsense. (If I'm being unnecessarily harsh it's to match the tone of the original article.)

Read on!

Yishai claims baseball will make Israelis get fat because they will only watch baseball and not play it. His proof is that "America is a country of overweight watchers, not healthy players." What Yishai is forgetting is that this is Israel and not America. Do Israelis watch soccer and not play it? Do Israelis watch basketball and not play it? Of course they play them! There are games going on 24 hours a day in Gan Saker. The culture of Israel is to be active and introducing another sport will only encourage more activity. The IBL started a baseball camp this summer with hundreds of Israeli kids learning the ins and outs of baseball.

The second ridiculous reason offered is that the players will get paid millions while the teachers get paid pennies. Once again I remind our readers we are talking about Israel and not America. Yossi Benayoun was Israelis highest paid player... I say was because, well, he wasn't making millions of dollars here and he wanted millions of dollars. To get it he had to leave Israel. Israel does that. She spits out just about anyone that wants only money. Israeli baseball players could never make anywhere near the money Major League players like A-Rod get simply because the teams would never be able to earn enough money. Today IBL players make a measly $1000 each - for the entire season.

Vayikra 18:3 - "Bechukoteyehem Lo Teleichu" is the third reason that baseball is evil. Yishai claims that when Rashi writes "their stadiums" and "their theaters" he means sports not just Roman-fighting. But there is no basis for that claim and no source was cited to support it. Indeed the Romans were not known to have any non-violent public sports at all. There may be some modern day poskim that posken this way (though I am not aware of any) however I do know that Kehillat Ohr Shalom in RBS has arranged a group trip to a Blue Sox game where the Rabbi, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, shlita, has been invited to throw out the first ball. Seems at least he doesn't learn Rashi the way Yishai does.

Reason number four was an interesting one that was similar to number three. Namely that Baseball is not a "Jewish thing" because there are no rabbinic sources "lauding going to or watching professional sports." Well guess what? There are no rabbinic sources "lauding" listening to a radio show either! Or reading a web blog! Just because the gentiles do something doesn't inherently make it something evil. As for a rabbinic source see my response to number three. At least one Rabbi is bringing his congregation to a game.

Yishai fifth was that 60% of the players are goyim. I say so what? Just because they are goyim they are evil? I for one don't subscribe to that notion. There are very many good goyim in the world and the Torah even allows for goyim under the right circumstances to live in Israel - which by the way - none of the non-Jewish players are doing. That said the IBL has declared on the record their intention to have majority of the players be native Israelis. That's one of the reasons for the baseball summer camps - to get Israeli youngsters playing baseball so Israelis can enjoy watching the local talent.

The sixth reason Yishai gave is imbecilic. No, really! Baseball is bittul Torah? By that logic so is listening to the radio and eating. Forget sleeping! Yes, Yishai you were right when you wrote "we all need relaxation and entertainment" and an outing at a baseball game is just that - relaxation and entertainment in a nice clean kosher family atmosphere. Many - actually most - of the games actually coincide with all Yeshiva Gedolah's bein hazmanim. Ask any Rosh Yeshiva. It is a mitzvah to take a break from a rigid Torah learning schedule to help one feel refreshed and learn better when the new zman commences. That's why every Yeshiva in the world has a bein hazmanim. I could think of a lot worse ways bochrim could spend their bein hazmanim.

I didn't quite understand the seventh and final reason that baseball in Israel is evil. It was that since sports could be followed on cable television and on the Internet, "why bring this thing to Israel?" This I don’t get! Going out to a baseball game with the family is evil but bringing into the home the disgusting images that are featured on cable television, not to mention the Internet, are not a problem? Baseball is evil but the Internet is not? Sorry Yishai, but that is a very fat pitch!

We should be very thankful that the IBL has arrived in this young nation and we should give it our blessing and wish it much success. It will hopefully help the economy here and will make life in Israel more enjoyable for Israelis and for thousands of Olim that dreaded never again being able to ask Dad to take them out to the ballgame!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sins of Omission

""One long year has passed since IDF soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hamas and Hezbollah. Show the world we have not forgotten and will not forget them. Join us in demanding their immediate and unconditional release...""

Unfortunately though, it seems that the organizers of next week's rally for the MIA's at the UN have "forgotten" the rest of our missing soldiers...

In addition to praying daily for Gilad ben Aviva, Ehud ben Malka & Eldad ben Tova,
we won't stop davening for:
Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah (Katz)
Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam (Baumel)
Zvi ben Penina (Feldman)
Ron ben Batya (Arad)
Guy ben Rina (Hever)

Their families and all of Am Yisrael who await their return will not forget them (even if the Conference of Presidents has)

Rally @ The UN
Monday, July 16th, 2007
12:00 noon / Rain or Shine
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (1st Ave. and 47th St.)

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Anti-Semitism as Aliyah Tool?

The rest of the UK Channel 4 program on the rise of anti-Semitism Britain can be viewed here.

I always ask myself if in the end, anti-Semitism isn't the best pro-Aliyah tool out there. It's what brought the FSU's Jews here if I am not mistaken, and it certainly must be creating fertile ground for Kumah-type activities in Britain.

Of course, some Jews flee to Florida.


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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Aliyah Summer 2007 Begins: Photos Tell The Story