Join the Neo-Zionist

  • Receive our Kummunique:
    unique and informative emails
    about events, articles, and info
    to keep you in touch.

Kumah Mascots

Kumah Awards


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

To Blog Or Not To Blog?


My name is Sean. I am writing a thesis on blogging around the world and I came upon your interesting site while researching. I would really appreciate it if you could answer any of the following questions; any response both long or short would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Why do you blog?

Y: Dear Sean - Shalom! Blog writing fills a niche that article writing cannot fulfill. Blogging tells the story of the daily life. Blogging can describe a fleeting feeling that is not necessarily your philosophy of life, but just a thought that occurred to you. In this way blogging is a companion to news sites because it gives a glimpse into the personal and the real life of a region or group of people...

How many people do you estimate read your blog?

About a thousand a day. Our movie, however, was seen by hundreds of thousands and went around the net virally.

Do you hope that your blog can influence people or accomplish something or do you just blog for the sake of writing?

Our blog is certainly geared to call on action. Our focus is Jewish immigration to Israel (in Hebrew: Aliyah). We are calling on American Jews to choose Israel as their home. However, we cannot just talk about the philosophy of Aliyah every day, or push our ideology every day. We understand that to make people fall in love with Israel we need to show them our perspective on the beauties of the country, and to get them involved in the nitty gritty of life here. We want to show them the supermarkets and the children. We also want to help defray the image of Israel that one sees in the news, which by the news' nature, is always bad.

We also try to bring our political/philosophical/religious outlook down to a people level. This means that someone can email me directly, or comment on the blog and have a discourse with a real person and not just an anonymous writer on CNN. We try to be very real and to share ourselves and our lives as much as we can so that people know that our message comes from the heart.

Do you know other people in your community who blog?

Sure. Like minded people get together and I cross-promote often. While we try to be a good blog, I do not feel any competitive aspect. Maybe another important point is that there is no money involved here. No ads, no employees, no salaries. So it's a labor of love and I think that readers sense that.

Do you get really supportive/negative feedback from your readers? Do you have any examples?

Check out this link. Feel free to write again Sean. All the best, Yishai

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Modern Exodus!

Click on the above photo to enlarge it - it is a happy maker. Also, speaking of Exodus, check out this Haaretz article about a modern Jewish hero, the captain of the Exodus:

'A Hero Who Did Not Seek Acts of Heroism'

On the way from Tel Aviv to the funeral yesterday in Kibbutz Sdot Yam of Yossi Harel, the legendary commander of illegal immigration ships, his friends sang Shaul Tchernichovky's evocative "Creed" to the mournful accompaniment of a harmonica. There seems to be no better song than this, declaring the poet's belief in the human spirit and the birth of a new, strong generation, to reflect Harel's life.

"Modest, a brave fighter and a hero who did not seek acts of heroism, because he understood the limitations of strength," is the way the writer Shaul Biber, a comrade from the Palmach days, described him.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak eulogized him as "a man who saw a window or a door in every wall, and an obstacle as an opportunity to be overcome."

President Shimon Peres said the biblical verse, "For with wise advice thou shalt make thy war; and in the multitude of counselors there is safety," suited him very much.

When Harel was only 28 years old, he had already commanded the major clandestine immigration operations which brought four ships from Europe to the shores of Palestine: Knesset Israel, Exodus, Atzmaut and Kibbutz Galuyot, bringing in 24,000 Jews, over one-third of all the illegal immigrants who came to the country between 1945 and 1948.

A veteran of the Palmach's naval force, the Palyam, recalled that in the hold of the Exodus was a 12-year-old girl, who would one day raise a son in Israel who would become commander of the navy and of the Southern Command. That girl was Fruma Galant, the mother of Major General Yoav Galant.

Ten years ago, Galant brought his mother to meet Harel, and yesterday he said he "was impressed by the power that radiated from him and the sympathy he showed. One can only look at his actions today in amazement."

Some 300 of Harel's friends and relatives gathered yesterday on the beach at Tel Aviv's Clandestine Immigration Park to remember him. Later, at the funeral in Sdot Yam, Mordechai Roseman, a leader of the immigrants aboard the Exodus, said, "We salute Yossi Harel, our commander."

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Straight to G-d

With Pesach having come to a close I’m now looking forward to a short vacation. The funny thing is, with a month off from yeshiva for the chag, technically I’ve already been on vacation for several weeks. Yet with all the excitement of Pesach and the different Chol Omed activities going on around the country last week, I find I actually need a vacation from my vacation.

Thank G-d, I was able to do a lot of traveling this past week, from one end of the country to the other. Bus rides to Beitar, bus rides to Hebron, bus rides to Tzfat, even an amazing two day Carlebach music festival at the Dead sea. I’m left feeling much more connected to Hashem after tapping into these holy places but I’m also left something else as well… exhausted! As I now look forward to a short visit to America to make the mandatory family visits and get some well earned relaxation, I realize this rest is from more than just running around all last week. In some ways, the hustle and bustle of Pesach and Chol Omed has been a microcosm of a larger life here in Israel.

This land is called “Eretz Yisrael”, and if you split up “Yisrael” in half you get “Eretz Yishar El” (The land straight to G-d). Through the name of the land itself we understand it’s nature, if you want to be taken straight to G-d this is the place to do it in. The thing is, G-d is indescribably powerful, and being much closer to Him can infuse a lot of energy into a person, place, or thing. Often this high-energy state of being is a very good thing, but one has to be careful to channel it in the right direction or else you can get burnt. It’s no coincidence that this land produces the gedolim-hador, rabbis of saintly stature able to take spirituality to the utter heights, as well as suicide bombers who grab hold of that same spiritual energy and are driven to take it to the utter depths. While speaking with my rabbi this weekend he was describing how last Shabbat he saw huge amounts of Greek Orthodox Christian tour groups walking around Jerusalem and bearing huge crosses no less, and he said he was very pleased about it. Not expecting to hear such a reaction I asked him why and he replied that the holiness of this land is now such that all the non-Jews of the world are vying to get a hold of it. Not only is it a sign that Hashem is really doing something special here, but also that now it has gotten to the point where it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the Jewish nation also wakes up to this fact as the non-Jews already have.

Life in America now seems like watching a movie… something that’s not quite real and at any moment someone may hit the stop button. Comparatively, life here is quite real, sometimes almost too real. When things are good they’re really good, but when they are bad they can be very stressful. Often you only get a split second to jump from great to horrible and back again, not being afforded a moment to catch your breath. I was speaking to a police officer here after a heated protest recently and commenting on it he told me, “You see, it’s not always so easy to be here.” To that I replied that I’d rather have a hard life in truth than to live an easy life in falsehood. Sometimes facing reality can be uncomfortable or worse downright painful. But it’s not our purpose to use this life we were given to sit back in a lazyboy and grow fat and weak, it’s our job to seek out the truth in this life. To do that the best, we must go “Yishar El”, straight to G-d, and this is the place to do it!

Labels: , , ,

Full post and comments...

Monday, April 28, 2008


The photo above was taken on the mountainside below my house. Some people hate pigs. I don't hate them, I just don't eat them or let them run around the sanctuary. These wild boars don't harm people, and are said to be dangerous only when cornered. I have had no problems with them. In fact, I love to see G-d's amazing creatures. I do think though that the Torah's repeated warnings against eating swine is due to the fact the hogs are common in Israel and the Lord wanted to give us a stern warning not to partake of pig flesh. However, as you can see in the Forward article below not everyone has heard His call for an embargo on the pork:

On Israel’s Only Jewish-Run Pig Farm, It’s The Swine That Bring Home the Bacon

I stood beside the road with a traveling backpack and a yarmulke, my arm extended, hitchhiking to the junction from Ramat Raziel to catch a bus home. I was singing “Lev Tahor,” a verse from Psalm 51 meaning “pure heart” that I’d been singing all Sabbath long. A car stopped, and a bearded man in a knit yarmulke picked me up. As I entered his car, he turned to me: “I’m Oren… So where you going?” Damn. I’d begun to hate this question, especially when asked by religious people. “Kibbutz Lahav,” I answered, expecting a gasp. Unfazed, he further inquired, “And what do you do there?” Again, I hesitated, this time with dread. “Uh, well… I work on their pig farm.”

And just like that, I managed to overwhelm and confuse Oren, as well as myself, while simultaneously expressing the contradiction that pig farming in Israel played in my life for the two months I spent working at Kibbutz Lahav. Luckily, Oren was an open-minded man whose parting words to me were: “God put you on the pork farm for a reason.”

The kibbutz and its pigs sit comfortably in the northern Negev, just 30 minutes north of Beersheba, surrounded by the Lahav forest, Israel’s largest manmade woodlands. Pine trees, scattered acorns and orderly planted “wild” grasses and flowers seem somewhat out of place in the desert hills. The iconoclastic kibbutz similarly appears incongruous in a Jewish part of a Jewish country, next door to religious Kibbutz Shomeriya. As I learned over the course of two months, though, the kibbutz, just like the forest, fits into the complex web of Israeli and Jewish identity in more ways than one.

Toward the end of January, I moved onto Kibbutz Lahav in an effort to understand the phenomenon of pigs in Israel. While there are a number of similar farms in Israel, Kibbutz Lahav is unique because, as its slogan suggests, it is “the meat from the Kibbutz.” All the other pig breeders operate in a zone in the North dominated by Christian Arabs, the only place where raising pork is legal, according to a 1962 law. Kibbutz Lahav, a Jewish-run farm, proudly operates outside the legal zone.

Lahav’s pig breeding gained widespread notoriety because of its legal loophole, almost talmudic in its ingenuity, in which the kibbutz is exempt from the law and can rightfully raise pigs for research as a part of its Animal Research Institute. Thus, the kibbutz raises pigs for science and eats the excess, developing over the years a rather staggering excess. For many years the institute was no more than an ad hoc veterinarian research institute, which, on the scientific side, boasted little more than the successful splicing of an ibex with a goat.

“Israelis weren’t ready to pay more money for it,” said Dodik, a kibbutz elder whose last name I never learned, as was the case with most people on the kibbutz.

Today, as a result of the recent biotech boom, the institute is the center of Israel’s most spectacular medical advancements, where religious Jewish scientists are among the hundreds of researchers who use the pigs for innovative experimentation.

Despite the institute’s success, raising and processing pig meat is the main purpose of the farm, as the 10,000-plus animals suggest. Most workers commute from Beersheba each morning. Jewish immigrants from Argentina and Russian immigrants with little Jewish background make up the largest proportion of the 50-something workers. On any given morning, the workers are spread out among the 15 or so indoor buildings, administering antibiotics, slaughtering and butchering, inseminating sows and moving pigs to the fattening rooms from their weaning rooms.

Eshai, a proud Israeli-born pork eater — and self-proclaimed messiah (he was born on the Ninth of Av, the prophesied birthday of the future messiah) — was my supervisor for most of February. He seethed with a cynicism toward all things Jewish and traditional. I once asked him why nobody collects and sells pigs’ milk. He answered me, grinning: “Pigs’ milk isn’t kosher.”

One day after work, when changing out of my coveralls and knee-high boots, a new immigrant from Brazil, Yehoshua, was discussing his former religiosity with Marcos when he mentioned in passing that he still didn’t eat pork. “Me neither,” I interrupted their conversation, excited to discover I wasn’t alone. “I keep kosher.”

Then Marcos chimed in, in his equally broken Hebrew: “Yeah, neither do I.” And there we sat, three confused Jewish pig farmers, when Imat, the Palestinian Muslim pig farmer, who also didn’t eat pork, entered the room.

How can you spot a kosher pig farmer? We blended in — except for Yehoshua, who always wore facemasks in a last-ditch effort not to inhale or ingest the same air as the pigs, or the floating fecal dust. Early on I also donned a facemask, but unlike Yehoshua, who can hardly understand Hebrew or English, I got the jokes and insults, such as “Jewboy” and “rookie,” from the Sabras, not to mention Eshai’s looks, which implied “pansy.”

It was when I learned from co-workers that our manager doesn’t eat pork, and that his manager and the head of the entire pork operation has a pork-free home, that I first felt at home, comfortable as a kosher Jew on the kibbutz. Through such revelations I saw the pig-breeding center as home to the same neurotic Jewish traditionalism that courses through my veins.

Such contradictions shed light on the beautiful and confusing Jewish identity of Kibbutz Lahav and its pigs. On Friday night in the kibbutz dining room, there is a Sabbath display of candlesticks, a challah cover and a Kiddush cup. Kibbutzniks thus have the Sabbath on their minds as they eat their special meal of braised pork or ham on the ceremonial white Sabbath linens. During our celebratory barbecue just prior to Purim, management handed out mishloach manot, traditional Jewish gift baskets, to all the workers, with a note wishing everyone a “happy Purim.” Most workers ate the hamantaschen as dessert after the grilled pork spare ribs. One Thursday, while I was shopping in the kolbo — the kibbutz grocery store — a panicked woman ran behind me to speak to the cashier, urgently asking if she could leave a ham in the freezer and collect it tomorrow for Friday’s dinner. When she left with permission to do so, I turned to the cashier woman, smiled and asked her if the meat was “for Shabbat.” She nodded, and we both laughed.

According to Dodik, one of the kibbutz founders, Lahav embarked on pork production by chance. In 1952, the year of the kibbutz’s founding and a period of major food shortages in Israel, the struggling Lahav received a gift of one boar and two sows from a neighboring kibbutz. After a number of years, and thanks to the will of a few kibbutzniks, those pigs became the kibbutz’s financial linchpin. As kibbutzim have been failing and Lahav, in particular, has had trouble, the pigs have remained a stable revenue producer, an unlikely friend to a Zionist institution.

And even though most kibbutzniks no longer “work in the pigs,” the porcine influence on the kibbutz is nearly impossible to miss. Ten thousand-plus pigs howl throughout the night, along with the desert jackals. There’s a dreaded western wind here that brings with it the inescapable and potent scent of industrial hog waste that cannot possibly be ignored. In the dining room there is almost always a pork option. The kibbutzniks find no need for the silly euphemisms used by greater Israeli society, like “white meat” and “white steak.” Pork, or at least the right to raise it, serve it and eat it, is no doubt a point of pride at Lahav today, and part of the kibbutz’s national legacy.

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Aliyah or Assimilation?

Shalom and Happy Passover!

My family was very secular, so I was raised as a very secular Jew. I awakened as an adult and decided to make aliyah. I had a very hard time because I was unable to think of a way to make aliyah (our shaliach we had at the time was NOT very helpful). I finally went and found some proof (duh, if my father's military records would prove Jewishness, why wouldn't mine?). Right on my VA (Veterans administration) records it states "Jewish". If this record would work to prove I am Jewish if it was on my father's records (which I could not get because of privacy laws) it will have to prove it if it is on my records. I have been trying now for 11 years and finally got the idea to try my own records to see if it is on them and sure enough it is...

Any way, I am so tired of the complacency in my local community. We have a building but no services. I had to twist their arm and finally got them to hold a half hearted Shabbat service. (Their is not one scheduled again for the time being. They only use the building for funerals and a communal Passover Seder.) They all are afraid to even admit their Jews in public (this is the reason for lack of services I was told). They all want to just ride below the radar and not be noticed and stick out. This is the type of fear and apathy, etc. that allowed the holocaust to happen. If we were more willing to fight for our rights, etc., less of us would have been killed by the Nazis and their supporters. I want info about how I become a member and what your organizations stands for and does.


Labels: , , ,

Full post and comments...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"The Luckiest Jews in the World"

The following is a beautiful and revealing new essay written by Caroline Glick. In it she talks about her own Aliyah, the magic of Hebrew and the difficultly of leaving America. I urge you to read it to the end.

The Luckiest Jews In The World
I just published a collection of my essays in English. Each time I am asked if I am also releasing the volume in Hebrew I feel a pain deep inside me when I answer that no, right now, my publisher is only interested in an English edition. Indeed it is a shame because I wrote most of the essays in Hebrew as well.

Writing in Hebrew is a qualitatively different experience than writing in English. Hebrew is a more compact language than English. It has fewer words and the words it has are denser and more flexible than English words. A 1,200-word essay in Hebrew will be 1,800 words in English.

This is a mechanical difference. But there are deeper distinctions as well. One level beyond the mechanics is the multiple meanings of Hebrew words. The density of meaning in Hebrew is a writer’s dream. Nearly anyone can imbue a seemingly simple sentence with multiple, generally complementary meanings simply by choosing a specific verb, verb form, noun or adjective. These double, triple and even quadruple meanings of one word are a source of unbounded joy for a writer. To take just one example, the Hebrew word “shevet” means returning and it also means sitting. And it is also a homonym for club – as in billy club – and for tribe...

In 2005, the IDF named the operation expelling the Israeli residents of Gaza and Northern Samaria “Shevet Achim,” or returning or sitting with brothers. But it also sounded like it was making a distinction between tribesmen and brothers. And it also sounded like “clubbing brothers.”

As this one example demonstrates, one joyful consequence of the unique density of the Hebrew language is that satirical irony comes easily to even the most dour and unpoetic writers.

For a Jew, knowing, speaking and writing Hebrew is an intimate experience. This is particularly so for those of us whose mother tongue is not Hebrew – because as the secrets of the language slowly reveal themselves to us we feel we are discovering ourselves.

Hebrew encapsulates the entirety of the Jewish story. Modern Hebrew in particular is an eclectic amalgamation of classical Hebrew, Yiddishisms, and expressions from the Sephardic Diaspora experience. Greek, Roman, Aramaic, Turkish, Arabic and English expressions meld seamlessly into the stream of words. It is not simply that it is the language of the Bible. Hebrew is also an expression of the unique culture of a small, proud, often besieged, often conquered and permeable people.

Its power to explain that cultural experience and that historical baggage is something that often leaves a newly initiated member of the Hebrew-speaking world gasping in a mixture of disbelief and relief. It is unbelievable that a language can be so immediately and unselfconsciously expressive of feelings that have traversed millennia. Understanding its power as a tool of expressing the Jewish condition is one of the most gratifying discoveries a Jew can make.

But the experience of speaking in Hebrew and of living in Hebrew is incomplete when it is not experienced in Israel. It is one thing to pray in a synagogue in Hebrew or even to speak regular Hebrew outside of Israel. The former is a spiritual duty and a communal experience. The latter is a social or educational experience. But speaking Hebrew in Israel is a complete experience. Hebrew localizes the Jewishness, Judaism and Jews. It anchors us to the Land of Israel. Taken together, the Hebrew language and the Land of Israel stabilize a tradition and make the Jewish people whole.

I write all of this as a means of explaining why a Jew in the Diaspora, particularly the United States, would want to live in Israel. Leaving America is difficult on several levels. In my own experience, it involved physically separating from my entire family. It also involved cutting myself off from my language – English – and immersing myself completely in a tongue I had yet to master. Beyond that, it meant leaving a country that had done only good for me and for the generations of my family who fled to America from the pogroms in Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century.

As someone who loves me told me 17 years ago as I packed my bags for an unknowable future, “People don’t emigrate away from America. They beg to come to its shores.”

But would it be right to characterize leaving America as an act of ingratitude? Do Jews have to reject America in order to go to Israel? No, we don’t.

Coming to Israel is not rejecting America. It is embracing a choice to become whole in a way that life outside of Israel cannot provide. That doesn’t mean life cannot be fulfilling for a Jew outside of Israel. Millions of Jews can attest to the fact. It certainly doesn’t mean that life in Israel is easier or safer or more lucrative than life is elsewhere.

Israel is a troublesome, hard, often irritating place. It is a young country that belongs to an ancient, eternal people who are all imperfect. Some Israelis, particularly those who today occupy the seats of power, are weak and irresponsible and often corrupt and self-serving.

Israelis have quick fuses. Among other things, this distinctively Israeli rush to anger makes being stuck in rush hour traffic a bit like dancing a waltz in the middle of a shooting range. Then too, service is not a concept that most Israelis – particularly in service professions – are even vaguely familiar with.

Beyond the general fallibility of Israelis, there are the wars and the hatred and the terror that make up so much of life in Israel. Being surrounded by enemies and living in the midst of jihad-crazed Arab states is like sitting on the edge of a volcano. And rather than acknowledge the danger and contend with it, Israelis – frustratingly and dangerously – more often than not blame one another for the heat while ignoring its source.

Yet once a Jew catches the Zionist bug, none of that is important. Once a Jew allows himself or herself to feel the pull of our heritage, of our language and our land, the frustration, danger and hardship of living in Israel seems like second nature – as natural as breathing in and out.

I recently moved to a home on the edge of a valley filled with forests and carpeted by wildflowers. Every day I hike for an hour or two along the trails below. A few days ago, as I walked late at night, I considered the dark and silent hills surrounding me and felt safe. They were liberated in 1948.

As I stood for a moment, I thought to myself, “These hills have already been conquered for you, by people better than yourself. Now it is your job to keep them safe for the next generation. And it will be the next generation’s responsibility to keep them safe for the following one.”

The thought filled me with a sense of privilege and peace.

People ask me all the time why I insist on living in Israel. Usually I just shrug my shoulders and smile. I, a woman who makes my living from words, find myself speechless when challenged with this simple question.

I spend several months a year away from Israel working. But every time I go away on a long trip, inevitably after three weeks or so, I begin to feel incomplete. I start to long for the smells of Israel. My ears ache to hear Hebrew all around me. I want to go back so I can walk down the streets on Friday afternoons and smile at perfect strangers as we bid each other Shabbat Shalom.

Why do I live in Israel? Because Israel lives in me, as it lives in all Jews. It is who we are. And those of us lucky enough to recognize this truth and embrace it in all its fullness and depth are the luckiest Jews in the world.

Labels: , , , ,

Full post and comments...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Priestly Blessing - Jerusalem 5768

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Valid Sale

As I sit munching another crunchy sheet of Jewish flatbread, I can't help but recall all the effort it's taken to get to this point. True, I didn't have to tie the deity of my taskmasters to my bedpost or tread lightly through towering walls of sea water this year, but I did undergo a certain degree of suffering and hard work in order to sit at my plastic-draped table this Pesach.

Usually, my husband and I sell any chametz to non-Jews through our local Rabbi, Rav Zalman Melamed. However, we missed the deadline this year, leaving us with a nasty pile of wheat-infused products with which to deal even after Rav Melamed had conducted the sale of Beit El's chametz through the non-Jew of his choice.

Frantic to unload our medicines, perfumes, and wheat-kissed soaps and shampoos on a gentile willing to buy, we started making some calls. One friend mentioned that he had sold his chametz online - through

We were nervous to conduct this kind of transaction in such a seemingly non-legal sense. After all, if the sale isn't actual and is only symbolic, you are still the owner of chametz during the time in which it is forbidden according to Torah law, and you are therefore not really observing the commandment to rid your home of leaven.

Yet when I arrived at the website of Chabad, I saw that the amazing Jewish outreach organization was taking the sale quite seriously, and that I could once again rely on that enthusiastic and committed group to navigate me through the holiday with confidence and halachic certainty.

On behalf of my husband, myself, and my daughter, I completed the online form, which delegated power to sell my chametz to a Chabad rabbi named Yosef Landa after confirming my location for the holiday, address, contact information, and providing me with a space to specify the exact location of any chametz and how the purchaser could collect his purchases. I subsequently received a receipt of sale, ensuring me that my chametz would be sold to a gentile around noon on Friday, and suggesting that if the gentile were amenable, Chabad would purchase back the chametz for me after the holiday and I could begin using it by 10pm after Pesach ends.

Chabad, what would we do without you? Your knack for enabling Jews to perform mitzvahs never ceases to amaze and gratify me. Whether on the streets of New York, or in my living room in Beit El, you are still the greatest. Thank you!

Labels: ,

Full post and comments...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Searching for Chometz

Some ideas on how to "enhance the search" (Audio)
Chag Sameach!

Labels: , , , ,

Full post and comments...

This Might Help...

Bush, Carter, and Intelligent Design

Yishai, Shalom,

I enjoyed your explanation of George W. Bush visiting Massada, not to identify with the Jews, but with the Romans.
Also, you referred to the Philistines as Bush's proxy warriors. That's exactly the point, without American financial and political backing for the Philistines, there would be no terrorism.

That's why I disagree with pundits who talk about our enemies as the Islamofascists. I agree that the Ishmaelites enjoy terrorizing Jews, but they quickly lose motivation and money, and start fighting among themselves. Thus, I see the Philistines more as Edom's dobermans. They don't want to do the avodah shechora, let the Arabs do that for them. That means, the American gov't is Israel's enemy ! American Jews, you are accomplices to the crime. Come home to Israel....

As for Carter's visit to the Hamas leader, I think it's supposed to change the scale. Did you ever make a graph in Excel. Let's say you're making a graph of appeasement of terrorists by different leaders. Olmert would get a 40%, Livni would get a 45%, then comes Carter and gets a 100%. He completely changes the scale. Olmert's and Livni's bars are dwarfed by that of Carter and now take up only half of the screen. Now they can condemn Carter for appeasing terrorists and pretend to be Hawks, while they continue to sell out Israel. Now Condy Rice can supply a whole shipload of weapons to the "moderate" Abu Mazen. Thanks, Jimmy.

As for Tibi, have you ever seen Gypsies in Europe ? Here's how they work, a couple of gypsies put on a show and sing or juggle, whatever, and the third gypsy goes around the crowd and picks people's pockets. Tibi is a diversion. He makes a lot of noise and Eli Yishai and Avigdor Lieberman can pretend to be right wing by condemning him and pass laws making it a crime for Arab MK's to betray the state -- these laws have no meaning because the judicial system will ignore them -- and then while everyone is staring at Tibi's antics, Olmert and Livni "pick our pockets" and give away the land of Israel.


Intelligent Design:
I'm reading "Not by Chance" by Dr. Lee Spetner, an Oleh to Israel. He demolishes all of Richard Dawkin's arguments in the Blind Watchmaker. I read that book by Dawkins years ago and was convinced that evolution could work. I was conned ! Dawkins makes a lot of unsupported assumptions. Spetner shows mathematically that it can't work.

And you know what, "they" know it doesn't work. That's why Stephen Jay Gould suddenly came up with a theory about 20 years ago that evolution must have happened in rapid surges every million years or so, but that doesn't work either. They know it doesn't work and they keep on teaching it, just like they keep on teaching Biblical criticism even though Prof. Cassuto disproved it in the 30's. They can't let people believe that Hashem created the world or that Hashem wrote the Torah.

One example: they tell us that bacteria evolve when they become resistant to antibiotics. The bacteria do evolve, but they LOSE information. The antibiotic used to fit into the bacteria, like a key into a lock, so there arose a mutation which damaged the receptor (the lock) so the key won't fit in. But the bacteria needs that receptor for something else, so it get messed up a little, it will not work as well, and lost genetic information.

You can't evolve from a cell to a human being by losing information, just like you can't get rich by losing money and making it up on volume. Humans are more complex than cells so you have to gain information.

kol tuv,

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Visiting Joseph

A few weeks ago, I boarded a bus at Yitzhar, which when completely overloaded, headed to Shchem for a visit to the destroyed compound that is the Tomb of Joseph. The 30 minutes I spent there gave me a spiritual high that is still with me weeks later. When I first got there, I felt like crying at seeing the burnt remains of this holy site, one of only three which Scripture tells us was bought by our forefathers in the Land of Israel. Seeing the destroyed structure is bad enough, but there is even more pain at the realization that the state of the Tomb of Joseph is also a clear sign that the Jewish State has receded, and that to a degree, Israel is being overpowered by the Philistines of today...

Powerful prayers could be heard from the other worshipers, and I joined them as well. But a funny and unexpected thing happened. All around the compound I was sad and brokenhearted, but when I finally touched my head to the headstone of the tomb I started laughing! I had to hide my laughter so that others would not think I was nuts! Why did I laugh? Because I just had a feeling well up in mY soul that nothing, nothing, could hurt Joseph or stop the destiny of the Jewish/world project. It was just the clearest sense that Joseph was WAY above any superficial destruction and it made me laughingly happy. Eretz Yisrael is acquired through hardships and is seems that we were chosen to deal with the issues of a fledgling Jewish State and her enemies. Just as Joseph was sold into slavery but then was brought high, so too he will rise again, and with him all of Israel.

Here is a link to the pictures I took on the trip.

Below is a nice article from AFP (usually quite anti-Semitic) about our trip:
Hardline Jews Make Night Pilgrimages To West Bank Tomb

NABLUS, West Bank (AFP) — Headlights pierce the misty night as the armored bus packed with hardline Jews winds down the road from a hilltop settlement into the heart of the Palestinian town of Nablus.

Their destination is the burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph, a pilgrimage site that has become a grim symbol of the region's intractable conflict.

Nearly 100 men wearing black hats or skullcaps and clutching prayer books huddle in the bus, some reading prayers by the light of mobile phones.

"This is a path of devotion for God. I have gone this way dozens of times and will continue doing it," says Benjamin Makhleb, a 23-year-old member of the Hassidic Breslav movement who had come from Jerusalem.

The tense silence that grips this cloak-and-dagger mission gives way to raptured singing and praying as the two buses pass through the checkpoint at the entrance to Nablus, under heavy military escort.

It is just past 2 am.

"This is the cradle of our existence as a Jewish people. Joseph's Tomb is part of every Jew and it is shameful to see us having to sneak in here like thieves in the night," says 23-year-old Nathan Azur.

"It saddens and angers me to see this," says the bearded student from a town near Tel Aviv.

Everyone makes the journey for religious reasons, but for many extreme right-wing Israelis it is also an affirmation of what they see as the Jews' right to control and govern their sacred sites in the Holy Land.

They reject the Israeli government's peace talks with the Palestinians, whose goal is to create an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip -- which would mean evacuating dozens of Jewish settlements and removing Israeli army presence from most of the occupied land .

Escorted by two armored jeeps at each end, the small convoy heads slowly through the deserted, derelict streets of this town of 150,000.

The Palestinian Authority deployed 600 policemen in Nablus after Middle East peace talks resumed in November, but they are not allowed to operate after midnight when only the Israeli army patrols the city.

Palestinian security officials told AFP they are not involved in coordinating the visits to the tomb of Joseph, the 11th son of Jacob. And one local Palestinian security official warned that these the visits could spark new trouble.

"This place has already seen a lot of violence and death, and allowing the settlers to enter Nablus and visit this site could cause more violence," said the official, who requested to remain unnamed.

A small synagogue built on the site following Israel's occupation of the West Bank in 1967 was ransacked and destroyed by Palestinians shortly after the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000. Several Israeli soldiers and Palestinian were killed in fighting at this site.

In another incident, hundreds of Jewish settlers and Breslav Hassidim defied an Israeli ban on entering Palestinian cities in order to visit the tomb, at great personal risk under cover of darkness.

After the army had to rescue several of them, the military agreed to organise regular, guarded visits with help from local Jewish settler groups.

These days the visits are "done in full coordination with the army, after appropriate preparations and in view of the conditions that allow the prayers to be carried out under the army's surveillance," the army said in a statement.

Nahman Weiss, 19, however, says he has visited this tomb and many other holy sites across the West Bank hundreds of times in recent years, often travelling with friends and without informing the army.

The risk involved is a test of his devotion to God, he says.

"Going through this is hard and sometimes dangerous, but this is the only happiness. We trust God," he says. Like other men on the bus, Weiss sports the earlocks, white skullcap and black overcoat of his Hassidic sect.

As fervent believers file silently out of the bus in front of the abandoned tomb, dozens of heavily armed soldiers fan out across the area.

Two neon lamps illuminate the limestone structure as the stench of urine and rubbish mingles with the cold night air. The stairs leading to the small domed shrine are covered with litter and dirt.

Women in headscarves get off a second bus and head to the tomb as the men enter a side room where they immediately break into rapturous prayers.

In the centre of the main chamber a ring of stones encircles the presumed grave where an Ottoman-era tombstone was destroyed in 2003.

A huge hole in the demolished dome opens out to the starry sky, and the walls are still black from the blaze that badly damaged the structure.

Young women prostrate themselves upon the grave, whispering prayers for good luck, health and strength. Others read quietly from prayer books.

After a few minutes the men enter and take the women's place in the main room. Some sink into deep meditation, swaying back and forth. Others break into loud singing in praise of God and Joseph.

Some rub their faces with dirt from the ground and the walls of the site.

"This is a source of strength and good fortune," says Ohad Ben-Ela, a 20-year-old settler from Yitzhar, his face black with soot and earth.

A megaphone calls everyone back to the buses, sparking a burst of loud singing inside the tomb as the pilgrims make the most out of the 30-minute visit. Back on the bus, some excitedly exchange impressions, others are exhausted by the intense late-night experience.

Someone uses the vehicle's PA system to urge everyone to return to the tomb, with or without the army, in order to assert their claim over the site.

"We must continue pressing the army to conquer this place from our enemies," the pilgrim said. "We must not cave in to dictates by an army that operates as a UN force between Jews and Arabs."

Back in the settlement of Yitzhar, overlooking Nablus, two more buses are ready to depart as the others return. A total of seven busloads of pilgrims will visit Joseph's Tomb before dawn.

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sorry Zeyde, but I'm a slave to my leather bucket seats!

This weekend marks the beginning of the Pesach holiday, the time of which G-d freed us from our slavery in Egypt. The exodus from Egypt was not just a one-time occurrence, but rather something that replays itself out in every generation. As such it’s important that we recognize how Pesach is occurring now in our times. Who is Pharaoh? Where/what is Egypt? How are we enslaved and what must we do if we want to free ourselves?More than any other available option of countries around today, without a doubt I would say America is the Egypt of our times. Boasting the largest population of Jews outside of Israel, America keeps our brethren trapped within it’s borders and keeps them from re-uniting with the homeland of their fathers much as ancient Egypt did thousands of years ago.

But hold on a minute here, hasn’t slavery been outlawed in America since the civil war you say? And hasn’t America traditionally been “good to the Jews?” True, this slavery may not come in the form of whippings and beatings, or building pyramids. It does, however, come in the form of an addiction to yearly vacation, a bigger swimming pool in the back yard, more trips to the hair salon, or driving the latest German import. So who is Pharaoh? I’ll give you a hint- he’s small, green, fits in your wallet, and has the face of George Washington.

Egypt was the lone world superpower of its time, America is the world’s lone superpower today. During the great famine, the starving masses flocked to Egypt. In our time masses of those seeking the American dream of ending their famine of not being rich flock, some even braving the journey by sea on death-trap rafts just to get their fair crack at it. And just as there were no guards on Egypt’s borders to keep people in, so too in America you are free to leave whenever you choose and yet very few are actually packing their bags.

The number one excuse I hear from people as to why they cannot or will not leave America for Israel is, “While I’d love to live in Israel, the money factor is just too big for me.” For many it’s debt. The more they try and climb their way out the deeper they seem to fall in. A friend once told me that this economic labyrinth from which people can’t seem to escape is not original to our times but actually comes from Egypt. Apparently Pharaoh would promise people the good life, offering them a great house in a nice neighborhood, maybe a sturdy horse or donkey too, and all for free! Sort of… these things were all offered on credit, to be paid back later but people were fooled into the illusion that they were somehow getting something for nothing, failing to see how their debts would come back to haunt them later. Sound familiar?

For those who are keeping their heads above water, their monetary excuse is that they wouldn’t be able to afford the same lifestyle in Israel that they now have in America. Excuse me but since when is an easy and comfortable life necessarily a fulfilling one? How many celebrities do you see that have much more money, toys, vacations, etc. then you will ever have and yet they are so unhappy they end up killing themselves? Besides, while you sit comfortably in your big house in America think about your ancestors who would have given everything in their lives to be able to come live in the land of Israel. Not only do we now have a state that enables us to do so but you can even get hooked up with a free plane ride over here and a welcome basket of government benefits and money (read: You get paid to move to Israel)! Be honest with yourself for one minute and imagine if your zeyde came back from the grave to ask you why you’re still in America. Just try to think of a persuasive way to tell him that you’d rather have a nice BMW with heated leather bucket seats then to live in the land he only saw in his most beautiful dreams.

So for all our brothers and sisters who are still in America, this year when you do your Pesach seder, instead of just paying lip service why don’t you actually put some serious thought into the freedom from slavery that it represents. How about freeing yourself from the Egyptian slavery of that dollar in your wallet and finally making the move home to be with the rest of us? After all… it’s no coincidence that the dollar has a pyramid on it!

Labels: , , ,

Full post and comments...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Run Home Jews, Run Home

Below is a cute article about a reform rabbi who is altering his diet before running the marathon in Boston to fit the requirements of Pesach. There are also other Jews in the article who have decided that eating chametz in preparation for the Marathon trumps Pesach concerns. The article seems to have some elements of Kidush Hashem by showing the devotion of Jews to Pesach, and some elements of Chilul Hashem by showing how some Jews are willing to throw away tradition of 3000 years in order to run 30 miles in Boston.

However, the truth is that once again our focus is lead astray by a mis-framing of the entire issue...

The real issue is that Jews, with their tremendous spiritual and activist energy, are spending it all on unimportant things. The Jews in this article feel proud that they can run a marathon on a stomach full of Matzah. They thing it is some kind of religious sacrifice and athletic sacrifice all at once. But they are wrong. The whole purpose of the Jewish religion is to serve G-d and not to run marathons on foreign soil. On Pesach, instead of running a marathon on a stomach full of matzah, these Jews should consider packing up their house and preparing for Aliyah on a stomach full of matzah. Then they too can relive the Exodus from Egyptian materialism and bondage.

In general, American Jews find "important" issues to take part in or debate vigorously. The Orthodox deal with things like the endless Eruv construction debates, mini-bugs in water, and blood-drawing during ritual circumcision. The Reform-Conservative care about Darfur and running marathons in Boston. All of these have one thing in common: they are excuses not to deal with the central issue of our time and that is building the nation of Israel through the advent of the Jewish State. By making themselves feel as though they are involved in important issues, or by deluding themselves with the belief that American Jewry somehow helps Israel, American Jews quietly create an atmosphere where their existence is never challenged. Sadly, the fact remains, that the Jewish State is waiting for the last naglah (load) of Jews to come home so that we can move forward. They are holding up the show.

Hey Jew, your home is not America! You don't need to run a useless marathon around Boston! Run home Jew, run home!


"Is It Kosher? Jewish Marathon Runners Balance Passover With Prep For Boston"

BOSTON - Jonah Pesner is looking ahead to his crucial carb-loading, fuel-up meal on the night before running his first Boston Marathon. On the menu: matzoh.

It’s not the usual choice for marathoners loading up on carbohydrates to drive their run, but Pesner, a rabbi, has limited options.

Passover begins just two days before the April 21 marathon, and the holiday’s strict dietary rules mean Jewish runners can’t eat bread and pasta, the normal staples in the days before the big race.

Besides matzoh, which is unleavened bread, Pesner plans to pound down foods such as potatoes during a rare "carb-load seder" the night before the race.

Pesner never considered breaking the dietary rules for the sake of the race, which he is running with his wife for an autism charity.

"For me, running the marathon is a very spiritual quest," he said.

The marathon is always held on Patriots [team stats] Day, a state holiday that falls the third Monday in April, and often comes within the weeklong Passover holiday.

Marathon organizers try to be sensitive to religious concerns, but major changes to suit various religions aren’t practical, said Marc Chalufour, spokesman for the Boston Athletic Association, the marathon’s organizer.

"You’ve got 25,000 runners and you obviously want to be sensitive to the needs of all of them," Chalufour said. "But you can’t make a change to accommodate some of the runners at the expense of the majority."

The dietary restrictions for Passover forbid eating leavened foods, such as bread, cake, beer or pasta, which have yeast or other fermented grain products.

The prohibition is traced to the roots of the holiday, which marks when God sent an angel to kill first-born Egyptian sons, but spared the houses of the Israelites. Soon after, Pharaoh freed the Jews, who fled in such a hurry that the dough they took didn’t have enough time to rise.

Jews usually hold a Passover seder, a meal with religious rituals, in their homes on the first two nights of the holiday, which is usually observed for eight days.

The level of observance varies. An Orthodox Jew, for instance, does not work or drive on the first two and the last two days of Passover, so he or she would not run a marathon on those days.

It’s not an issue for Pesner, whose liberal Reform branch generally suggests followers hold a seder on just the first day of the holiday, though the dietary rules are observed the entire week.

Pesner, 39, acknowledges he has questions about the effects of his diet on his race. Matzoh is known to have a binding effect on the digestive tract.

"It’s definitely a concern," Pesner said, chuckling.

Sandy Karpen, a real estate agent from Scottsdale, Ariz., said he and his wife, Sharon, are changing their tradition of attending seders the first two nights of Passover to accommodate their training. The second seder is the day before the race, and Karpen and his wife wanted to rest, rather than attend a seder on what is typically a long night.

Their rabbi from the Conservative Jewish tradition advised them that Jews may fulfill their obligation by observing only the first day, and said they could do the same.

The 17-time marathoner admits to some guilt about straying from his lifelong tradition, but has no regrets.

"I guess sometimes you’re looking for justification for what you’re doing," he said. "My rabbi said it was acceptable to do, and that was good enough for us."

Karpen, 49, and his wife ate fish and potatoes before their last long runs as sort of practice.

"The last thing you want to do is change your diet or change anything you’ve been doing throughout your cycle," he said. "You never want to experiment the day of the race."

Wayne Cohen, from Houston, figures that on the day before the marathon, he’ll have egg whites and fruit for breakfast, rather than pancakes, and salmon with potatoes for dinner, instead of a carb-filled pizza.

But Cohen, 51, has decided he’ll break Passover rules on the morning of the race, when he’s planning to eat oatmeal without water and likely some pieces of bagel. Cohen has run about two dozen marathons, and decided he doesn’t want to mess with his normal race day routine.

And he’s not feeling guilty about it.

"I’ve pretty much convinced myself I would be a hypocrite if I said it would," he added. "It’s not like I’ve been perfect in my religious beliefs.

"I’m beyond that," he said. "I’m not going to worry."

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tzfat Tzfat Rosh Hashanah!

Have you heard that catchy tune? Uman, Uman Rosh Hashanah! Uman, Uman Rosh Hashanah! No no, it’s not actually Rosh Hashanah and I’m not actually talking about Uman. But this last Sunday was Rosh Chodesh Nissan which, while not the main Jewish new year, is a minor new year and begins the calendar for all the holidays of the Jewish year. Rosh Chodesh Nissan also marks the birthday of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. The holy city of Tzfat is a stronghold for spirituality and Chassidus in Israel today, and especially for Breslov Chassidus. As such there are few places more fitting to spend this past Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh Nissan and a several friends of mine from yeshiva and I did just that.On the bus ride up from Jerusalem we met a guy who learns at Yeshivat Derech Hamelech, also in Jerusalem, and quickly hit it off. When we arrived at the room we were renting for the weekend we found that it was also being rented out by several other guys who learn at the Mir Yeshiva and we quickly became friends with them as well. Even though we ranged from Chassidish to Litvish, “black and white” to polo or t-shirts, everyone got along perfectly as though we had all been friends for several years. What’s more, this attitude was but a reflection of the greater mood throughout Tzfat’s old city.

Tzfat is truly a magical place and for those of you who haven’t been, or haven’t spent much time, I recommend you change that ASAP. Aside from all the amazing art galleries you can browse through, it also boasts the famous Arizal mikveh as well as the graves of such tzaddikim as the Arizal and Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch. Plus the fresh mountain air can’t be beat!

I wasn’t able to find a single person in low spirits during the whole weekend. It seemed like everyone had a smile on their faces and you never knew when you would walk around a corner and all of a sudden hear some mystical insight being given over. Even the man running the coffee stand in a t-shirt and jeans with no kippa on had a large poster of the Lubavitcher Rebbe next to his Yitzchak Rabin poster and offered holiday blessings. A local bookstore was offering a sale on all Breslov books in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday.

Friday night davening was a beautiful mix. Like our makeshift chevra of yeshiva guys, so too the shul we were at was a chullent of Chassidim, Misnagdim, Carlebachers, and basically anything else you could imagine all singing and dancing together passionately. Saturday night we had seuda shlishit at the Breslov yeshiva/kollel. I was treated to things like beautiful children with long flowing peos that didn’t look a day older than ten arguing over gemeras with each other and some incredibly beautiful niggunim being belted out by several hundred shtreimel wearing Chassidim. At the table we were at you would have taken one look at the people and not expected them to know a word outside of Yiddish, yet at least three men started talking to us in perfect English with clearly American-born accents. Though it was obvious my friends and I weren’t always religious, they could care less and were so happy to have us there as they eagerly asked questions to get to know us. I don’t know what was more refreshing, seeing charedi people breaking the mold we so often stereotype them with or seeing Americans that were able to leave behind everything in the States to come live a life tuned into an entirely different and spiritual frequency.

Basically the whole weekend was a birthday celebration Rebbe Nachman would have been proud of and one that I think the people of Tzfat should be proud of as well. I think we as a country and more importantly as a Jewish people should take an example from that kind of open Ahavat Yisrael without any judgment and service of HaShem with pure happiness.

Labels: , , , ,

Full post and comments...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Videos: Pesach, Our Past and Our Future...

First see this following AWESOME video - reenacting Pesach, which was posted on It's really worth a watch!

Note: In IE you may have to hit play again after the intro plays.
Or launch it in an external player.

Next, watch this video of the Temple Institute who recreated the way a korban pesach was actually done. It's important to view because it's obvious in the not so distance future, G-d willing, every Jew will have to partake in a Korban Pesach in the third Bies Hamikdash! (Warning: It IS very graphic!)

Labels: , , , ,

Full post and comments...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Do the Condi

If I had to pick an archnemesis, I would have to say it's Condoleezza Rice. She basically embodies almost everything I despise, and she has essentially aligned herself against me, my family, and my way of life for years, making her a good candidate for the status of archnemesis.

I think in the comic book version of our fight, she would try to stab me with her stilettos, then invoke her minions of devlish UN peacekeepers, who would try to defeat me by feeding me into the engine of Airforce 1. I, however, would quickly whip my headscarf in Condi's face, temporarily blinding her, then ensnare her in a web of thorny plants and those plastic kiddush cups that are left all over Meron after Lag b'Omer, and shove her down the mountain on which I live, where she would subsequently be eaten by wild boars, to the joy of the Jewish People and the salvation of Israel. The Jews of Judea and Samaria would then arise en masse, drive out the odious UN forces, and inherit their enormous fleet of white 4 by 4s.

However, when I see how diligently Condi is preparing for battle with me, I realize that it's going to be more like one of those Rocky IV situations. Dragoleeza, with her state of the art track, endless supply of steroids, and that cold killer look in her eyes, is all pedigree fighter-like while I, Malcky, will have to defeat her for the sake of justice and patriotism after several weeks of running through snow with tree trunks on my back, chopping wood, and wearing those gloves with no fingers, looking stoic as 80s band Survivor pumps me full of heart and determination.

Condi's militant fitness regimen has her at a distinct advantage - for now. With time and the benefit of her workout secrets, however, she will not remain invincible for long.
Condi's workout has inspired me to get more hardcore. While she THINKS she's going to be carving pieces out of Israel, what she's REALLY going to do is carve pieces off my butt. Let's go, Survivor. We've got work to do!

Two worlds collide
Rival nations
It's a primitive clash
Venting years of frustrations
Bravely we hope
Against all hope
There is so much at stake

Seems our freedom's up
Against the ropes
Does the crowd understand?
Is it East versus West
Or man against man
Can any nation stand alone?

In the burning Heart
Just about to burst
There's a quest for answers
An unquenchable thirst
In the darkest night
Rising like a spire
In the burning heart
The unmistakable fire
Full post and comments...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Charlton Heston Has Passed Away

The Ten Commandments is one of my favorite films to watch during the Pesach season. Makes me feel as though I too have made the Exodus from Egypt, and isn't that the real point? Charlton Heston sure made a good Moshe Rabeinu though, and it seems he was a man of character as well. Here is a nice eulogy for him by Doug Patton called Charlton Heston Made History

“Some people make headlines while others make history.” - Philip Elmer-DeWitt, American Writer and Editor

There are few of the old stars left in Hollywood, men who loved their country enough to show her the respect, service and loyalty she deserves. Charlton Heston was one of those stars.

Heston joined the military during World War II. After his discharge from the U.S. Army Air Corps, he went on to become one of the most famous actors of his generation.

Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille is said to have been struck by the muscular, 6-foot-3-inch Heston’s likeness to Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses. Heston’s portrayal of the Old Testament prophet in DeMille’s 1956 biblical epic, “The Ten Commandments,” etched his image upon the American consciousness.

A few years later, Heston starred in “Ben-Hur,” a movie that stood for a generation as the most honored film in Hollywood history, receiving eleven Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor (Heston).

Both these movies dealt with great themes that stirred moviegoers to consider the nobility of their spiritual legacy. These two films stand as a testament, not only to the contribution of a great actor in a golden age of filmmaking, but also to the willingness of Hollywood to inspire us and to reinforce our faith, rather than degrade us and make us ashamed of our Judeo-Christian heritage, as does so much of today’s Hollywood fare.

Charlton Heston remains the enduring face of both these films, as well as many others, such as “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” a 1965 telling of the story of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling for Pope Julius II.

But Heston was much more than just a handsome face or even a great actor. He was an activist. Long before he became known for his passionate leadership of the National Rifle Association, and long before it was fashionable in Hollywood, he joined the cause of desegregation. When an Oklahoma movie theater refused to allow blacks to attend the premier his 1961 film, “El Cid,” Heston joined the picket line outside the theater. Heston also accompanied the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the 1963 Washington, D.C., civil rights march.

Back in 1960, Heston had been a supporter of John F. Kennedy for president; but by 1980, he had switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican and became an ardent supporter of his old Hollywood friend, Ronald Reagan. A consistent foe of racial discrimination, Heston spoke out against affirmative action. He even resigned from the Actors Equity Association because of the union’s refusal to allow a white actor to play a Eurasian role in the stage version of “Miss Saigon.” Heston called the action “obscenely racist.”

And in an era when most of Hollywood was refusing to criticize violence and obscenity in “the arts,” Heston rebuked Time Warner at a stockholders meeting for releasing a violent rap album featuring the song “Cop Killer.”

Heston’s five-year tenure as president of the National Rifle Association, from 1998 to 2003, gave the organization visibility it had never had before. Perhaps the most memorable moment of his presidency came at the 2000 NRA convention. The group was strongly opposing the presidential candidacy of then Vice President Al Gore, who favored restrictive gun control. At the convention, Heston was presented with a hand-made Brooks flintlock rifle. To the delight of the crowd, Heston held the weapon over his head and declared, “From my cold, dead hands, Mr. Gore!”

In 2003, diagnosed with Alzheimer ’s disease, Heston stepped down as NRA president. In a stunning example of the lack of class displayed by today’s Hollywood nitwits, actor George Clooney joked about Heston’s affliction, saying that Heston deserved whatever was said about him for his involvement with the NRA. Heston, always the gentleman, said he felt sorry for Clooney, since he had as much chance of developing Alzheimer’s as anyone else.

Charlton Heston was a culture warrior. He was unapologetically pro-life, pro-family and pro-American. He once characterized political correctness as “tyranny with manners.”

When this great man died last Saturday with his beloved wife of 64 years at his side, he was 84 years old.

Thank you, Charlton Heston, for making history, not just headlines. May you rest in peace.

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Mezuzah's In Space

NEW YORK - NASA’s Discovery space shuttle is set to undertake a six-month-long research mission on the international space station in May. Aside from the usual team of astronauts, however, this "kosher" shuttle will also be carrying some very precious cargo on board in the form of two unique mezuzahs.

Jewish-American astronaut Gregory Chamitoff, who will be part of the Discovery crew, will place the mezuzahs, designed by Israeli jeweler Laura Cowan, on the door post near his shuttle bunk. The astronaut noted that these mezuzahs will serve as a constant reminder of home, and give him a sense of Jewish identity.

These unique mezuzahs’ personal odyssey began some 10 years ago, when 37-year-old Cowan went to study jewelry design in London. Inspired by a film that she had seen dealing with space exploration, she began to design mezuzahs and other Judaica items shaped like the moon or a space shuttle. Cowan then returned home to Israel and began to sell these unique items in her Tel Aviv studio.

Several months ago, Cowan was contacted by Phil Hattis, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who asked her about the unique space-shuttle shaped mezuzahs that she designs.

“He asked me how much the mezuzahs weigh, and what they are made out of before he even inquired about the price,” said Cowan. “I later found out that he wanted to purchase a mezuzah as a gift for one of his students, Gregory Chamitoff, who would soon be embarking on a shuttle mission."

The mezuzah which Hattis purchased is a replica of the Apollo space shuttle that landed on the moon, complete with the windows which this famous shuttle had sported.

As it turns out, however, Chamitoff would not have to settle for this mezuzah alone. His close friend, Lisa Stone, also purchased a space-shuttle shaped mezuzah for him—this one more closely resembling recent models of NASA shuttles. Chamitoff was pleased to receive both mezuzahs, and even called Cowan to make sure that they are made of materials that can endure space travel.

“He didn’t want to have to leave behind either one of these mezuzahs,” Cowan enthusiastically stated. “He said that he would take them both to space and place him near his bunk to give him a sense of home as well as Jewish identity.”
Astronauts usually are allowed a very limited number of personal items on their missions, yet Chamitoff insisted on taking both mezuzahs with him on the six-month long mission. “They represent the two most important elements in his life: Space and the Jewish faith,” noted Cowan.

Cowan’s two mezuzahs will thus head out to space this May, adorning Chamitoff’s bunk aboard the shuttle. “I am very proud of the fact that a Judaica item that I designed is heading off into space,” said Cowan, “not only on a personal level but also as a Jew.”

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Woodmere Making Aliyah?

Perhaps the best model for North American Aliyah (or all Aliyah in general for that matter) is mass Aliyah. Making Aliyah as a community. Rabbi Riskin proved it could be done in 1983 when he founded Efrat by making Aliyah together with many of the congregants from his Lincoln Square Synagogue. Kumah has always be a strong promoter of mass Aliyah.

Well, today, Rabbi Shalom Rosner of Congregation Bais Ephraim Yitzchak in Woodmere New York, plans to follow in Rabbi Riskin’s footstep and will bring a whole community on Aliyah together. Nofei Hashemesh – located in Beit Shemesh in central Israel - is the name of this new community. You could read more about it on their website.

May this be the first on many new “Aliyah communities” to come!

Labels: , , , , ,

Full post and comments...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

An Awakening!

It's about 6 p.m. on May 14, 1948, and a friend and I are leaving a UNESCO conference here to catch the train back to Berkeley.

From the corner of our eyes we catch the newspaper headlines: “U.S. RECOGNIZES ISRAEL” screams the Examiner, in type usually reserved for the latest axe murder or Hollywood divorce.

Israel. We slowly formulate the name on our tongue, roll it around, test its flavor for the first time.

We buy up every paper on the newsstand -- the San Francisco Chronicle, the News, the Examiner and the Oakland Tribune -- an expenditure that would become a daily habit...

Each paper carries the identical releases from the wire services, but there is the hope that an editor or commentator might add a few more words about Israel, fill in background or analyze the situation.

We forget about catching the train and slowly walk down Market Street.

The all-night Newsreel Theatre flashes its attractions: LATEST PICTURES FROM PALESTINE -- SEE WHY THE JEWS ARE FIGHTING FOR THEIR COUNTRY.

The newsreels are quite old, something about the first Jewish settlements in the Negev. We applaud enthusiastically.

In the theater lobby, a teletype machine spews out the latest news flashes, “In a simple ceremony, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion …”

During the next weeks we become restless. We can’t concentrate on our work, are useless for our studies. When we aren’t squatting beside the radio, we are scanning the latest newspapers. When we aren’t writing letters to the editor, we are cabling our congressman to demand an immediate lifting of the U.S. arms embargo on Israel.

Slowly, at first unconsciously, our attitudes as Jews change.

We have never been ashamed of our Jewishness, but many of us were indifferent to it. Few of us belonged to a Zionist organization. Of course, we applauded the accomplishments of those in Palestine and perhaps gave a little money to help them.

But now we gradually begin to speak of this as our fight, our defense and -- perhaps -- our future.

I meet the shop foreman from an old summer job. What does he think of the Jews’ fight in Israel? A lifelong anti-Semite, he scratches his head, hesitates and admits reluctantly, “Christ, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

A friend, Jewish and anti-Zionist, assesses the new situation.

“Our people in Palestine have done more to eliminate anti-Semitism in the last six months of fighting than we were able to do in the previous 2,000 years of producing the greatest doctors, the greatest scientists and the greatest philosophers,” he says.

We sadly shake our heads at the immaturity of the human race and tune in to the next radio broadcast. “Forces of the Israeli army have taken enemy positions …”

We walk out of the room, our bodies a little straighter, our chins a few inches higher than before.

(This article was written in late May 1948, when Tom Tugend, then 22, was a student at the University of California, Berkeley. It was first printed in November 1948 in the Soldiers Bulletin, published in Israel for English-speaking volunteers in the War of Independence.) From JTA

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Nisan 5768

The month of Nisan begins this Sunday!

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

On 1 Nisan:


Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items already in Sefichim):

Butternut Squash
Cabbage (Red)*
Corn (Fresh)*
Medlar (Shesek)
Peas (in pod)*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Sweet Potatoes
Zucchini (Squash)*

Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefichaim Begin this month.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Cabbage (Red)
Corn (Fresh)
Peas in Pod
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Zucchini (Squash)

Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.

There are no items that require biur this month.

Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

Labels: , ,

Full post and comments...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Motherland

Recently, on a shopping trip in Jerusalem, I stopped by a Superpharm, Israel's largest drugstore chain. Being the kind of girl who used to meander through Duane Reade back in the day to see what our friends at Maybelline were thinking up, or if there had been any advances on the toothpaste front, I popped in, with an eye toward some Ahava products to give out in the Exile on my upcoming trip. Nothing says "Israel is WAY more awesome than America" more than a jar of scented sea salts or a packet of squooshy, nutritive mud.

As my 5 and a half month old daughter needs some early training in the shopping arts (get them while they're young, ladies), I took her along, pushing her eager, pudgy little body through the store in her stroller.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Israeli drugstores, they aren't the casual browsing experiences you recognize from the Diaspora. Israeli drugstores also contain WILDLY overpriced American and European cosmetics and their corresponding makeup counter ladies. These aggressive but friendly women are squeezed together in the middle of the store, guarding the really expensive makeup and perfume and concurrently trying to get you to wear it, making that the very, very last place in the store one wants to go. However, like an onion with so many layers, there is a second layer - the lamer European cosmetics and the Israeli stuff, like Ahava and Dr. Fischer. These articles are found in the aisles on either side of the main center aisle, and are serviced by only a few women, who are generally more relaxed, though equally as made up as their Estee Lauder-touting counterparts.

So I maneuvered my carriage through the tightly-stocked store, arriving finally at the Ahava section. At that point, my daughter started to cry, so I took her out of the carriage, and carried her with me as I looked through the products. That's when she saw us - I don't know her name, but you know her. She sports a big grin, powerfully highlighted hair heretofore unseen in her native Morocco, long acrylic nails and a snug cotton/lycra shirt not stamped with the Badatz seal of approval.

"[Gasp!]" I turned around quickly to see what could have gone wrong, who fell, who died, whose pants ripped up the back.

"Wai wai wai!!!! Aizeh metukah! Chamudah! Kapparah aleichem!! tfoo tfoo tfooo!" Translation: "Wow, wow, wow! What a sweetie! Cutie! ...[not translatable - if you want to understand, come live in Israel]"

She approached us with enthusiasm generally reserved for long lost relatives or the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. She asked if she could hold my baby, who, like a true Fleisher, was glowing from all the attention, and smiling a big toothless smile. So I agreed, inherently trusting most Moroccan women of any hair color. She started to play, to coo, to dance with my baby. She asked her name, which I told her, and she started talking and singing to the baby. I thought to myself "that's so sweet. Gosh, people are nice."

And then it happened. "Rachel!! Come over here! Did you see this baby?!" Rachel (not necessarily the actual name, but bear with me for purposes of the story) turned around, saw my daughter, and the same ecstatic greeting was repeated. Rachel skittered off to another aisle to alert the cell phone saleswomen, who turned the corner, saw my baby, and emitted a high pitched noise I have only heard from dog whistles and Russian women. The cell phone saleswoman, with high, scary heels, asked if SHE could hold the baby, which I acquiesced to. Then the first lady scurried over to the main cosmetics area to get the other cosmetics saleswomen, who arrived in a group of about 5, while the second lady went off to help a customer in the now service-free store.

At some point, I just kind of walked away, and found the Dead Sea creams and salts I was looking for, while my baby was celebrated and shared, passed from a Russian lady to a Yemenite, to another Moroccan, to a German. They squeezed her legs, pinched her cheeks, bounced her up and down and blessed her with a long life and good health. When I came back, the newcomers asked me her name, where we were from (good PR for Samaria!), and wished me lots of nachat (nachas for you in the Exile) from her, with glowing faces and real warmth. Some of them saw her and proposed shidduchim (marriage proposals) with their sons and grandsons. One by one, after wishing me a good day and a mazal tov, they returned to their work, pushing eye shadow and body creams to the Israeli masses.

Twenty minutes after arriving in the Ahava aisle, we left the store with our purchases. I put the baby back in her carriage, where she lay quietly gurgling to herself, fully satiated by all the love and admiration.

I thought about America, where "other people's children" are rarely handled, except by a licensed professional, and then frequently with some sort of supervision or bio hazard barrier for fear of someone being accused of or contracting something. I was gratified by the honest, effervescent love of these Jewish women for my baby, and for me by warrant of being her mother. Superpharm ladies, we love you, too.

Labels: , , ,

Full post and comments...

American, Israeli, or neither?

After spending the last four years dreaming about living in Israel I've now spent the last four months actually living out that dream. This is a place where many people come to "find themselves" and I too expected that to somewhat happen to myself. One thing I didn't consider though, is that in order to find yourself, maybe first you have to lose yourself a little bit. When most people talk about the difficulties of moving to Israel, they speak of learning Hebrew, living with the arabs, or trying to make a living. Not always do they speak of dealing with a new and not so clear identity. Though it should be obvious that coming to a place halfway across the world with a different economy, language and overall society should affect you and by being surrounded by it change you somewhat as a person, it’s something that could in the excitement of things be very easy to overlook.

Though for some it may be simple semantics I tend to think there is a certain importance to the labels we choose to apply, or not to apply, to ourselves and present to others. And while this is the land I plan on making my life in, I’m not so sure if somebody were to ask me, “What are you?” that “Israeli” would be the first word off of my lips. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a point of traveling to places such as the Mearat haMachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron and Rachel’s Tomb, which has tremendously increased my connection to this land. Also as my Hebrew improves to the point where I can proficiently order a baguette of schwarma or argue with cab drivers without having to resort to English I start to feel much more like a native. Yet despite this, Israeli society and the many different mentalities of the people here can often be a far cry from what you find back in “the old country.”

So if I’m not an Israeli then I guess I’m just an American in Israel right? Maybe not. While I have no ill will towards America and wish it the best of luck so long as that doesn’t conflict with Israel’s success, in general I feel somewhat detached from it. This is my home now and I care what goes on here, how high gas prices are or who won the Super-bowl back in the States doesn’t have much of an impact on my day-to-day life in Israel. More than that, often I’ll see a bus load of American college students here on a trip making fools of themselves or American tourists doing some of the behaviors that has earned the American tourist a stereotype status around the world and I cringe while I mutter to myself, “G-d, they’re acting so American!” But wait, aren’t I American too? Does the fact I live here and not there give me the opportunity to get on a high horse and think I’m now qualitatively different?

Recently a new idea has crept into my head. What if I don’t need to be either? What if I’m just a Jew who’s come back home and while figuring out what that means doesn’t need to check either box A or B. And as I look around this country I’m in I realize that is the very essence of Israel itself. This country is only several decades old, made up of people from virtually every place in the world. In many ways the country itself still hasn’t figured out who it is. And maybe what it could use is more people who aren’t so sure of who they are yet either. There is a big comfort in the safety of staying wherever you are and however you are. Let's not kid ourselves, to go to a new place often involves becoming somewhat of a new person, which can be pretty scary. But while change can be a scary thing, it often is the best thing that could ever happen to us. It's also only through change that we ever grow. And maybe as more of us come home and find out who we are on an individual level, the fact that we are doing it together in the land of Israel will help our country and people to ultimately find out who we are as a nation.

Labels: , , ,

Full post and comments...