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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Yom Yerushalayim- Come Join Us!!

You and your friends are cordially invited:
Yom Yerushalayim Celebration @ Beit HaRav Kook (next to Ticho House) in Jerusalem! Join the Kumah chevrah, yeshiva students and new olim for a song-filled Tefillah Chagigit & Musical Hallel led by R' Shlomo Katz this Monday at 8:30am. Divrei Torah, great music, & free breakfast too! Marking 41 years since the open miracles of the Six Day War!

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kumah Kall 2 - At The Grottos

Trivia Game and New Birthright/Masa Aliyah Grants

In honor of Israel's 60th Birthday Enhanced NBN Grants are available for Birthright and Masa Alumni Who Make Aliyah in 2008. Read about it here.

Tell all your Birthright and Masa friends about the trivia game and the grant! And make Aliyah together!

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Sunday, May 25, 2008


"I will remember My covenant with Jacob and even My covenant with Isaac, and even My covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the Land." (Vayikra 26;42)

In this week's parsha there is a long list of ultra-scary curses that G-d vows to bring upon us if we neglect His Torah. At the end of these awful passages promising exile comes a verse that is meant to give us solace. G-d promises to bring us back from the Exile in the merit of the forefathers and the merit of the Land. But why would G-d include in His list of the Patriarchs a special mention of the Land of Israel? Why did He not include other mitzvot He might remember, like: 'I will remember Jacob and his Tefillin, Issac and his Tzitit, and Abraham and his Etrog'?

In this iPod generation it is easy to believe that the world is here for our convenience. Everything is quick, easy and on demand. Through this attitude we may come to the false conclusion that the Land of Israel is our own little iLand, a personalized tool for our use. We may begin to treat the Land as merely a Cheftza, that is, a religious object like tefillin, tzitit, and etrog to be used and then put away when done, or even disposed of when it wears out...

This utilitarian thinking is actually a wide-reaching phenomenon. For example: Secular Post-Zionism is the belief that a few years ago we needed a safe haven from persecution and therefore we created a Jewish state; but now that we are well-off and safe from persecution we can scrap the state - it's boring, and anyway we can simply live in peace and harmony in the US, a very nice place indeed. We have used up the Land of Israel and now it's time to move on, to SKIP to the next song, to throw away this paper cup.

Religious Post-Zionism, that is, Orthodox Jewry outside of Israel, is just as utilitarian. Says the religious post-Zionist: "Sure there are Mitzvot connected to the Land of Israel and that's why I come to Israel now and then. It's there for my religious convenience. Now I would like to hit a button on my iLand and play the Israel song for a ten-day trip. On the trip I will pray at the Kotel, give some charity to the needy, and walk around Jerusalem like I own the place. When I'm satiated in my religious observance, I hit STOP on the iLand and I go back HOME."

These attitudes are reasonable symptoms of mistaken initial assumptions. In this week's Torah portion, Hashem tells us that the Land of Israel is not just a mitzvah or religious tool. The Torah equates the Land to the Forefathers and tells us that G-d's particular remembrance for the Land is amongst the merits that will yank us out of the Exile. But what is this merit? Why does G-d remember the Land?

When G-d created the world, he created the Land of Israel as a special entity – a land that has feelings and a personality, a land that is sensitive to how she is treated, and sensitive to how her inhabitants behave!

"And you, I will scatter among the nations, I will unsheathe the sword after you; your land will be desolate and your cities will be a ruin. Then the land will be appeased for its sabbaticals during all the years of its desolation, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land will rest and it will appease for its sabbaticals. All the years of its desolation it will rest, whatever it did not rest during your sabbaticals when you dwelled upon her." (Vayikra 26, 33-35)

If we Jews are bad, the Land will evict us, if we Jews don't keep the Sabbaths including the Shmittah year, the Land will vomit us out. However, when we call out to G-d from the Exile, the merit of the Land, this entity which loves the Jewish people, this special being that only flourishes when the Jewish people are with her, helps convince G-d that indeed it is time to bring us home.

Once we understand that the Land has her own personality and that she has a relationship with Hashem, we become much more careful as to how we treat her. We will not litter our Land because it offends her, we do not speak ill of the Land because it hurts her feelings. Moreover, once we comprehend that our Land is our unique friend and partner, we stop treating the Land as some personal i-device that we turn on and off at our whim. Instead, we embrace her, we cultivate her, we protect her, and we honor her. Our Forefathers knew that the Land of Israel is a gift; let us also not take her for granted.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Live Arutz-7 Feed from Meron!

Click here to watch!

Or read about it here (hebrew).

Plus here are photos from two years ago when I was there.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The hot new summer style: Israel Bashing

For those who wish to think that there will always be a safe Jew-friendly alternative to living in Israel in the form of America, perhaps you would be interested in what was slated to hit clothing store racks this season. Clothing supplier Urban Outfitters was, until caving to a slew of angry complaints, carrying a t-shirt from graphic designer FreshJive of palestinian youths wearing Arafat style scarfs, armed with machine guns and boasting the line “Victimized” (because an individual armed with an assault rifle is ever the classic image of a victim). The shirt also featured a few other images including a palestinian flag. Not only is this hot little number machine washable but it sells for the cool price of $9.99!

As disgusting as this propaganda cloaked in the guise of fashion may be, it's not even the first time Urban Outfitters has made such a move. They have previously marketed scarves akin to the arab neck-piece made famous by Yassar Arafat, grandfather of the modern terrorist movement (may his name be wiped out), as has been pointed out by Little Green Footballs.

While I was in college Urban Outfitters was known as a pretty trendy and popular store on my campus. This glorification of terrorism via t-shirts has precedent with the “Che Guevara” t-shirt featuring the face of said communist thug made popular by Rage Against the Machine. Historically ignorant youth all over America rushed out to stores to buy one and thus turned Che into an anti-hero icon of the modern day want-to-be counterculture that American junior high through college age students somehow think they are reviving. It appears marketers are attempting to take advantage of American youth and do the same with palestinian terrorists, in the oh so ideological name of higher profits.

What's really disturbing about this is that it isn't some rhetoric spewing out of a fringe group or even the ivory-tower intellectual elites of the academic world. This is a mainstream company that, while having pushed controversial items in the past, is more well known for selling designer jeans than for making political statements. Often Jews perceive our biggest threats in the west as coming from loud-mouthed bigots who choose to use their freedom of speech to demonize us in the public square. I'm more afraid of a society that seems to love us on the surface, but dig a little deeper and there is anti-Israel sentiment (and the anti-Semitism that comes with it) slowly but surely making it's way into the POPULAR attitudes. It can start with fashion trends manipulating people to buy into a cause they probably don't even know that much about. Before you know it, it becomes an accepted thing in their mind and now when the issues are brought up in a debate they've already made up their mind before they've even done any research. Things such as these may just seem like a piece of cotton in the small picture, but in the big picture they are chinks in the armor of the Jewish Americans' cherished status of being an “accepted people.'' The thing about small chinks in the armor is that they aren't so noticeable, but when you add enough of them up together over time, the armor ends up failing to protect you against a major blow.

The Jews of America have apparently dealt with this in a reasonable fashion. It appears that enough angry emails and/or phonecalls were made that Urban Outfitters has taken the item off their website. While this is indeed a great temporary solution it remains only that- temporary. The fact that a major clothing distributer feels comfortable enough braving potential criticism and pushing an item like this to see how people take it could be a sign that things are slowly but surely changing for the American Jew. If such a gradual and cloaked change is underway, once it picks up enough speed it will have no need to hide itself anymore and by then all the store boycotts and angry letters in the world won't help to stop it.

So my suggestion to the Zionist of American persuasion who wants to make a much larger impact against those that wish to destroy the Zionist dream is this- combat them by actually living out that dream! Come back home! Every single Jew that moves to the land of Israel to connect to Hashem and make their life here does more for for the positive than a million ridiculous t-shirts could ever do for the other side. After all, the only thing better than not wearing a pro-arab terror shirt is not wearing it in Israel!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Audio: A Talk With Jon Voight

Malkah and I had the opportunity to speak with Academy Award winning actor Jon Voight on our show. Jon was in Israel for the state’s 60th anniversary festivities. While here, Voight joined Chabad-Lubavitch in welcoming children evacuated from the devastated Chernobyl region of the Former Soviet Union to Israel. He also toured Sderot and strengthened the people there.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Israel: Home of the Hawaiian Shirt?

Below is an actual posting to one of the Israel community lists, of which I am a member:
Shalom List!

My wife had wanted to buy me more wool suits before we left Cleveland, but after to hearing from a few trusted sources we learned that most men don't wear suits.

I suggested Hawaiian Shirts as a more climate appropriate alternative. We heard from two trusted sources - one who mentioned in his blog that he wears shorts and Hawaiian Shirts when he shops on Erev Shabbat, and the other who stated "Well, Hawaiian shirts ... I don't know... Israel is extremely informal, but that just ain't right!"

I would like to get a few more guys to weigh in on this topic. Are Hawaiian Shirts appropriate attire in Israel? If they are what would be the borders of acceptance?
Should I stock up on Hawaiian Shirts or are they available locally? What are the Israeli climate appropriate alternatives to Hawaiian Shirts?

Todah v'Shavua Tov!


In short, you could probably get a way with it Michael. Just stay out of Me'ah Shearim. Personally, I like to wear mine on Purim.

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Envy in the Diaspora

The following is an excellent JPOST article by David Forman:

Here I am in sunny California, in the dreamlike town of Santa Barbara. I was invited to participate in the Jewish community's celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary. As I was introduced to the crowd, a loud roar greeted me. While I would have liked to believe that the extended applause was for me, I knew better - it was for the Jewish state, which I had the honor to represent.

I gazed out at the mass of people - like me, the vast majority being the oldest of the baby-boomer generation. I could not help but wonder: What is it about Israel that pulled at the heartstrings of these 60-somethings? Why would they want to assume the headaches of Israel, and the need to defend it from the onslaught of the ultra-liberal members of the local community, many of whom were affiliated with the California university system, that included the Santa Barbara campus - a hotbed, like its sister school, Berkeley, of virulent anti-Israel activism?

With Israel mercilessly and oftentimes unfairly attacked because of its continued occupation of the West Bank, one would think that Jews abroad would lower their Israel profile.

So, why such an impressive turnout to fete Israel? Jealousy.

LET ME explain. A while ago, I attended my 40th high-school reunion. The night before the main event, 15 of the Jewish members of the class gathered together. In the course of our conversations, I learned that most of my childhood friends had amassed wealth I will never approximate, live in homes so big my entire apartment would fit into their living rooms, had traveled the world, visiting places I only read about, and were engaged in important work that significantly impacted people's lives.

And yet all of them, by their own admission, were jealous of me by virtue of the fact that I live in Israel.

As children of the '60s, we were social activists - civil rights, anti-Vietnam, Soviet Jewry. More important than feeling a moral compulsion to create a new social order or espousing liberal slogans was translating our social concerns into action - being carted off to prison demonstrating against segregation in Selma, Alabama, Oxford, Mississippi and Little Rock, Arkansas; blocking entrances to army recruitment centers; and chaining ourselves to the gate of the Russian embassy.

As the activist '60s gave way to the mellow '70s and the reactionary '80s, concomitantly with the natural aging process that saw us become grandparents in the '90s, the rigor of youthful activism diminished. My friends felt a measure of guilt for their lack of involvement today, but also felt a vicarious satisfaction in knowing that their classmate in Israel was still carrying a torch of social concern. It mattered little what side of the political spectrum I was on. The fact of my engagement made them envious.

Throughout their lives they believed that to be socially involved was a central moral value, but as they grew older, they felt they had failed to fulfill their ethical obligation to remain active and pass that value on to their children. They mused about what it would be like to live in a country like Israel, where social commitment seemed to be a national trait. They wished that the requirement to serve in the army or do national service was something their kids had experienced.

I might add that of the 15 participants in our pre-reunion get together, only 13 were still married to the same person. Even though most of my friends were married to non-Jews, their sentimental attachment to Judaism was such that they preferred their children to marry Jews, as is natural in Israel, but not the case for almost all of their kids.

They rightfully believed that there is less of a generation gap in Israel, and that parents and children here share a commonality of experiences that binds them closer to one another. Virtually all the children from their blended families lived nowhere near them, unlike the normal family configuration in Israel, where kids live in a small radius of their parents and each other - another reason for my classmates' envy.

I expected my friends to ply me with questions about the occupation, Gaza, settlements, Hizbullah and Hamas, along with terrorism, war and the threat of a nuclear confrontation with Iran. Not that they were disinterested in such weighty matters or did not have their criticisms of Israel, but surprisingly that was not their focus when we talked, although they admired Israelis' resilience in the face of danger and their ability to be leaders in the fields of literature, art, medicine, technology and science.

Most interesting of all was that they were envious of the excitement that descends upon Israel, with the greatest amount of envy being directed to our living in sealed rooms during the Gulf War (the kind of excitement we could live without). They saw my life in Israel as being far more adventurous than theirs in America; as one classmate longingly put it: "You do not live a boring life."

And so, as I looked out at the crowd, I recalled my reunion and realized that with all the monumental challenges we Israelis face, we lead an enviable life. In acknowledgement and appreciation of this simple fact, throngs of people filled the public square to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Be afraid, be very afraid... NOT!

While browsing the fine literary selection of the magazine rack at the airport recently, my eyes were snagged immediately by an interesting cover of that week's issue of the Atlantic. It featured a twisted merging of the Israeli and palestinian flags (above) and read, “Is Israel Finished?” While covering a plethora of issues that Israel is facing, the theme that tied it all together was a big problem Olmert has been facing lately. What is this problem that has beset our beloved prime minister (the good Lord has yet to grant us a “sarcasm” font)? It's not incredibly low popularity ratings, and it's not the fact that he's under numerous investigations, heck it's not even that he has been charged with the duty of running a country when he apparently hasn't the faintest clue how to. No, Olmert's big problem is that after Israeli author David Grossman sadly lost one of his sons in the war with Hezbollah, Olmert in turn lost his support.

Article author Jefferey Goldberg seems to think this is a problem because the pace of the nation is apparently set by what the novelists write in their books. While I'm sure they are entertaining, I've never personally read one of Grossman's works, or even heard of him before reading this article, for that matter. There does happen to be a book that DOES shape my opinions on this country though- it's called the Torah and it's author goes by the pen name of G-d. The fact that Mr. Goldberg, for the purposes of his article at least, puts more emphasis on one author and not the other is a telling sign of a problem I see with the people who on the one hand are invested in Israel emotionally, residentially, or otherwise yet don't have Hashem guiding them.

Goldberg's article is riddled with fear. He cites fear that Israel isn't safe; fear that the arabs under Israeli jurisdiction will soon outnumber the Jews, and fear that the very existence of the state is in danger. He says that Olmert feels things would be better for him if he could only get Grossman back on his side. Grossman himself feels things would be better for Israel if we could make more concessions to the palestinians and express more love to them. Never mind the fact that Grossman giving his haskama to Olmert wouldn't change all the mistakes he's made and magically turn him into an actual leader. And also never mind that people who have been raised by every element of their society since childhood to believe we are descendants of pigs and apes who have stolen their land and whose murder guarantees them a spot in paradise will most likely not be satisfied with some land concessions, especially seeing as such strategies have historically and utterly failed time and time again.

But that's the problem with those who don't recognize Hashem. If you don't believe G-d will help you then you turn to everyone other than G-d for help instead. Everyone from novelists to your embittered enemies with a seething blood lust against you. The thing is, most people, no matter how stupidly they may act, aren't truly and utterly stupid. Deep down people know that there is no salvation in novelists, and there is no salvation in enemies. And that's where their fear comes from. For, from deep within comes a voice of reason which screams out that these false gods will offer no protection and there's nothing like a good voice of reason to keep you up at night. But there is hope. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov famously taught, “Know that the whole world is a very narrow bridge, but the main thing is not to be afraid.” That's because with the knowledge that G-d supports you, there truly is nothing to fear in this world.

Furthermore, the Torah itself says in Psalm 81, “Listen, My nation, and I will attest to you; oh Israel, if you would but listen to Me. There shall be no strange god within you, nor shall you bow down to an alien god. I am Hashem, your G-d, who elevated you from the land of Egypt, open wide your mouth and I will fill it. But My people did not heed My voice and Israel did not desire Me. So I let them follow their heart's fantasies, they follow their own counsels. If only My people would heed Me, if Israel would walk in My ways. In an instant I would subdue their foes, and against their tormentors turn My hand.” Strange how things written thousands of years ago can be so applicable today eh? We, as the nation of Israel have a clear promise from G-d that He will love and protect us, and we have no need to rely on fake leaders, intellectual armchair diplomats or the mercy of those sworn to destroy us. It's about time we stopped being afraid, and started putting our trust where we will get actual results. If not, Israel may as well be “finally finished”, G-d forbid.

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The Real Sinai

Here is my new Torah article on INN:

"Hashem spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai saying: Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When you come into the Land that I give you, the Land shall observe a Sabbath rest for HaShem."

This Torah portion has everything to do with the Land of Israel, and yet its commandments and directions are clearly marked as being given at Mount Sinai. Why does the Torah make this unusual stress on the place where these commandments are given? Moreover, aren't all the commandments from Mount Sinai? What makes these commandments different?

HaShem wrote the Torah, created the world, created man and created man's psychology. He knows that we, Am Yisrael, have a tendency to forget Eretz Yisrael, to settle in the Exile and make it our home. Even today, after the miracle rebirth of Israel, we often hear observant, Torah-true Jews saying that they cannot find the right community in Israel, they cannot make a living, or cannot get married here. It is not unusual to hear observant Jews say they can live a fuller Jewish life in the Diaspora.

Behar's introduction, and its specific naming of Mount Sinai, is written to address this classic Jewish psychological weakness. Know this, the Torah tells us, the commandments of Eretz Yisrael, Shmittah, Yovel, walled cities, selling of land, these are at the heart of the revelation at Mount Sinai. This is Torah MiSinai. You are not allowed to push these commandments aside, to the edges of your consciousness. If you claim to be a Torah-true Jew, then know that this is Torah, the Torah that was given at Sinai to Moshe Rabbeinu.

Moreover, if you do find yourself in the bitter Exile, keep these commandments close to your heart, learn them, love them and yearn for the day that HaShem will return you. When He does return you, you will be prepared to implement these laws and live your Torah-true life in the Land which He swore to give to our forefathers.

Alas, today, when living in Israel has never been easier, when Torah institutions abound, when Yerushalayim is being built, there are still "Torah-true" Jews who make excuses and claim that they can live a more "Torah lifestyle" in Passaic, Monsey, Teaneck or LA. Comes our Torah portion and tells us: You want Torah from Sinai? This is Torah from Sinai: Shmittah, Yovel, walled cities, selling of land - this is at the heart of Torat Moshe MiSinai. Live it or lose it.


Parshat Behar also issues a challenge to Jews in Israel today. While we Jews have achieved a modern state with a governing body, an army, an education system, and health care, we are not satisfied or complacent. Indeed, we pray and act everyday to make the arms of the state more in line with the Torah's will. We have alternative political parties, we have special army units and we have Torah education - all these try to reshape the state in G-d's image. Moreover, we yearn for the Temple to stand in Jerusalem, with a righteous Sanhedrin adjudicating the nation.

Yet when is the last time you heard a push for Torah economics?

Parshat Behar is a Torah portion dedicated to Torah economics: the Shmittah cycle bids us to leave the land fallow every seventh year, the Yovel heralds freedom for the Hebrew bondsman and a return of sold land to its original owners, while the prohibition to loan with interest protects the destitute.

The Torah has an economic system in mind for Jewish life in Israel; yet, our economic system today is not much different from those of other countries. The Torah's economic laws are a secret insight as to how to make it here in the land and yet we barely use them. We must establish Torah institutes that will study and unravel what Torah economics means in the modern age.

The closer we follow HaShem's economic vision, the more we will merit to live here with His blessing.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Welcome to The Happiest Place On Earth!

Guess what? Israel is the happiest place in the world! So concludes noted Asia Times Online columnist Spengler after compiling the number of suicides in counties against their fertility rates, arguing that those choosing to create life and avoid death must be happy. And not only does Israel score higher than everyone else, she scores leaps and bounds higher, simply blowing away the competition.

It this fantastic article Spengler explains why this is so. And in a nutshell it's about Jews keeping the Torah together as a nation. He explains how we declare in the Aleinu prayer "G-d did not make us like the nations of other lands, and did not make us the same as other families of the Earth. G-d did not place us in the same situations as others, and our destiny is not the same as anyone else's."

On her 60th birthday Israel remains a nation UNLIKE any other. And that is precisely the secret of her happiness.

The articles is below and I have bolded important portions.

Hat Tip: DQ

Why Israel is the world's happiest country
By Spengler

Envy surrounds no country on Earth like the state of Israel, and with good reason: by objective measures, Israel is the happiest nation on Earth at the 60th anniversary of its founding. It is one of the wealthiest, freest and best-educated; and it enjoys a higher life expectancy than Germany or the Netherlands. But most remarkable is that Israelis appear to love life and hate death more than any other nation. If history is made not by rational design but by the demands of the human heart, as I argued last week , the light heart of the Israelis in face of continuous danger is a singularity worthy of a closer look.

Can it be a coincidence that this most ancient of nations [1], and the only nation persuaded that it was summoned into history for God's service, consists of individuals who appear to love life more than any other people? As a simple index of life-preference, I plot the fertility rate versus the suicide rate of 35 industrial countries, that is, the proportion of people who choose to create new life against the proportion who choose to destroy their own. Israel stands alone, positioned in the upper-left-hand-quadrant, or life-loving, portion of the chart [2]. Those who believe in Israel's divine election might see a special grace reflected in its love of life.

In a world given over to morbidity, the state of Israel still teaches the world love of life, not in the trivial sense of joie de vivre, but rather as a solemn celebration of life. In another location, I argued, "It's easy for the Jews to talk about delighting in life. They are quite sure that they are eternal, while other peoples tremble at the prospect impending extinction. It is not their individual lives that the Jews find so pleasant, but rather the notion of a covenantal life that proceeds uninterrupted through the generations." Still, it is remarkable to observe by what wide a margin the Israelis win the global happiness sweepstakes.

Nations go extinct, I have argued in the past, because the individuals who comprise these nations choose collectively to die out. Once freedom replaces the fixed habits of traditional society, people who do not like their own lives do not trouble to have children. Not the sword of conquerors, but the indigestible sourdough of everyday life threatens the life of the nations, now dying out at a rate without precedent in recorded history.

Israel is surrounded by neighbors willing to kill themselves in order to destroy it. "As much as you love life, we love death," Muslim clerics teach; the same formula is found in a Palestinian textbook for second graders. Apart from the fact that the Arabs are among the least free, least educated, and (apart from the oil states) poorest peoples in the world, they also are the unhappiest, even in their wealthiest kingdoms.

The contrast of Israeli happiness and Arab despondency is what makes peace an elusive goal in the region. It cannot be attributed to material conditions of life. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia ranks 171st on an international quality of life index, below Rwanda. Israel is tied with Singapore on this index, although it should be observed that Israel ranks a runaway first on my life-preference index, whereas Singapore comes in dead last.

Even less can we blame unhappiness on experience, for no nation has suffered more than the Jews in living memory, nor has a better excuse to be miserable. Arabs did not invent suicide attacks, but they have produced a population pool willing to die in order to inflict damage greater than any in history. One cannot help but conclude that Muslim clerics do not exaggerate when they express contempt for life.

Israel's love of life, moreover, is more than an ethnic characteristic. Those who know Jewish life through the eccentric lens of Jewish-American novelists such as Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, or the films of Woody Allen, imagine the Jews to be an angst-ridden race of neurotics. Secular Jews in America are no more fertile than their Gentile peers, and by all indications quite as miserable.

For one thing, Israelis are far more religious than American Jews. Two-thirds of Israelis believe in God, although only a quarter observe their religion strictly. Even Israelis averse to religion evince a different kind of secularism than we find in the secular West. They speak the language of the Bible and undergo 12 years of Bible studies in state elementary and secondary schools.

Faith in God's enduring love for a people that believes it was summoned for his purposes out of a slave rabble must be part of the explanation. The most religious Israelis make the most babies. Ultra-Orthodox families produce nine children on average. That should be no surprise, for people of faith are more fertile than secular people, as I showed in a statistical comparison across countries.

Traditional and modern societies have radically different population profiles, for traditional women have little choice but to spend their lives pregnant in traditional society. In the modern world, where fertility reflects choice rather than compulsion, the choice to raise children expresses love of life. The high birthrate in Arab countries still bound by tradition does not stand comparison to Israeli fertility, by far the highest in the modern world.

The faith of Israelis is unique. Jews sailed to Palestine as an act of faith, to build a state against enormous odds and in the face of hostile encirclement, joking, "You don't have to be crazy to be a Zionist, but it helps." In 1903 Theodor Herzl, the Zionist movement's secular founder, secured British support for a Jewish state in Uganda, but his movement shouted him down, for nothing short of the return to Zion of Biblical prophecy would requite it. In place of a modern language the Jewish settlers revived Hebrew, a liturgical language only since the 4th century BC, in a feat of linguistic volition without precedent. It may be that faith burns brighter in Israel because Israel was founded by a leap of faith.

Two old Jewish jokes illustrate the Israeli frame of mind.

Two elderly Jewish ladies are sitting on a park bench in St Petersburg, Florida. "Mrs Levy," asks the first, "what do you hear from your son Isaac in Detroit?" "It's just awful," Mrs Levy replies. "His wife died a year ago and left him with two little girls. Now he's lost his job as an accountant with an auto-parts company, and his health insurance will lapse in a few weeks. With the real estate market the way it is, he can't even sell his house. And the baby has come down with leukemia and needs expensive treatment. He's beside himself, and doesn't know what to do. But does he write a beautiful Hebrew letter - it's a pleasure to read."

There are layers to this joke, but the relevant one here is that bad news is softened if written in the language of the Bible, which to Jews always conveys hope.

The second joke involves the American businessman who emigrated to Israel shortly after its founding. On his arrival, he orders a telephone, and waits for weeks without a response. At length he applies in person to the telephone company, and is shown into the office of an official who explains that there is a two-year waiting list, and no way to jump the queue. "Do you mean there is no hope?," the American asks. "It is forbidden for a Jew to say there is no hope!," thunders the official. "No chance, maybe." Hope transcends probability.

If faith makes the Israelis happy, then why are the Arabs, whose observance of Islam seems so much stricter, so miserable? Islam offers its adherents not love - for Allah does not reveal Himself in love after the fashion of YHWH - but rather success. "The Islamic world cannot endure without confidence in victory, that to 'come to prayer' is the same thing as to 'come to success'. Humiliation - the perception that the ummah cannot reward those who submit to it - is beyond its capacity to endure," I argued in another location. Islam, or "submission", does not understand faith - trust in a loving God even when His actions appear incomprehensible - in the manner of Jews and Christians. Because the whim of Allah controls every event from the orbit of each electron to the outcome of battles, Muslims know only success or failure at each moment in time.

The military, economic and cultural failures of Islamic societies are intolerable in Muslim eyes; Jewish success is an abomination, for in the view of Muslims it is the due of the faithful, to be coveted and seized from the usurpers at the first opportunity. It is not to much of a stretch to assert that Israel's love of live, its happiness in faith, is precisely the characteristic that makes a regional peace impossible to achieve. The usurpation of the happiness that Muslims believe is due to them is sufficient cause to kill one's self in order to take happiness away from the Jewish enemy. If Israel's opponents fail to ruin Israel's happiness, there is at least a spark of hope that they may decide to choose happiness for themselves.

Why are none of the Christian nations as happy as Israel? Few of the European nations can be termed "Christian" at all. Poland, the last European country with a high rate of attendance at Mass (at about 45%), nonetheless shows a fertility rate of only 1.27, one of Europe's lowest, and a suicide rate of 16 per 100,000. Europe's faith always wavered between adherence to Christianity as a universal religion and ethnic idolatry under a Christian veneer. European nationalism nudged Christianity to the margin during the 19th century, and the disastrous world wars of the past century left Europeans with confidence neither in Christianity nor in their own nationhood.

Only in pockets of the American population does one find birth rates comparable to Israel's, for example among evangelical Christians. There is no direct way to compare the happiness of American Christians and Israelis, but the tumultuous and Protean character of American religion is not as congenial to personal satisfaction. My suspicion is that Israel's happiness is entirely unique.

It is fashionable these days to speculate about the end of Israel, and Israel's strategic position presents scant cause for optimism, as I contended recently. Israel's future depends on the Israelis. During 2,000 years of exile, Jews remained Jews despite forceful and often violent efforts to make them into Christians or Muslims. One has to suppose that they did not abandon Judaism because they liked being Jewish. With utmost sincerity, the Jews prayed thrice daily, "It is our duty to praise the Master of all, to acclaim the greatness of the One who forms all creation, for God did not make us like the nations of other lands, and did not make us the same as other families of the Earth. God did not place us in the same situations as others, and our destiny is not the same as anyone else's."

If the Israelis are the happiest country on Earth, as the numbers indicate, it seems possible that they will do what is required to keep their country, despite the odds against them. I do not know whether they will succeed. If Israel fails, however, the rest of the world will lose a unique gauge of the human capacity for happiness as well as faith. I cannot conceive of a sadder event.


[1] There are many ancient nations, eg, the Basques, but no other that speaks the same language as it did more than 3,000 years ago, occupies more or less the same territory, and, most important, maintains a continuous literary record of its history, which is to say an interrupted national consciousness.

[2] The countries shown in the chart are:

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Useful Site of the Day

The site Shipping Consolidators provides info and price comparison for shipping to Israel and a host of other Aliyah info like telling you which appliances to bring, if and how to bring a car over to Israel, and army issues. The site also features an updated Aliyah news blog, and a Israel pictures section as well. If you're looking for Aliyah tachlis check out this site.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yet One More Reason Passaic Is Better Than Israel

Shalom Yishai,

Once again as is my want, I found myself on Sunday at another chasuna in Lakewood, NJ trying to inspire the few Jews I spoke to about the importance of living in the Land and at least making them have to justify why it is "okay" for them to be living here. I must say, that as I continue to listen to your show and others at INR, I am getting better at articulating the case for aliya.

But an argument came up from a BT that I wasn't sure how to answer convincingly. It goes as follows: Why should I make aliya when here in Passaic I have a great job, a nice house, I am growing in learning and ruchnious with my morning in night sedarim, etc. Who knows what will be if I move there. Furthermore, as both my brothers already made aliya, who will take care of my ageing parents? That would be selfish of me. Ever hear of Kibud Av v'aim? He went on to further say (in a nice way) you Zionists only focus on one mitzvah which is a machlochus rishonim if it is even a mitzvah! If I move there, I know my shalom bayis will suffer, my parnossa will suffer, and my learning will suffer. So any gain from living in the land will be outweighed by the augmes nefesh from being there. Lastly, we are supposed to wait for Moshiach! (I have yet to find a source for this last "proof".)

In anycase, I do think he made some good points, namely: Why should someone who is growing in Torah and mitzvos, who is happy with the schools, community, etc., who has a decent parnossa make aliya? Why should he risk throwing that all away? We have plenty of aliya failures in the New York area who made aliya with starry eyed idealism only to have it crushed by the realities of the "harshness" of life on adamas ha kodesh...In my own reading of Eim Habanim Semeichah R' Teichtal seem to intimate that the call for aliya is to those Jews who are suffering in the gulus not those that are thriving...



Shalom Yisroel,

Thanks for your letter. Please listen to my 7 minute audio response by clicking ))))HERE((((


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Monday, May 12, 2008

Understanding and Action

The following wonderful article from the OU's Jewish Action Magazine is entitled: "A Love Story in Anticipation of a Happy Ending" and was written by my friend and colleague Rabbi Hillel Fendel and I think it sums it all up pretty well:

“Skittering over the hilltops, jumping between the mountains” (Song of Songs 2:8). In sight for a moment, out of view for two, and once again back into range. How aptly the relationship depicted in Song of Songs between God and Israel describes that between the Jewish people of today—so clearly longing for Redemption and for Israel’s material and spiritual success—and the modern State of Israel.

We see so much good and beauty in Israel as it skitters before us over the hilltops—and then we recall its many shortcomings and problems as its glory falls out of view behind the mountains. True, we know it will soon come into view again—and maybe this time even forever! But when we look at the horizon and see nothing but the fleeting image of what could be, it is hard to remain encouraged. Perhaps all that’s missing is to view the mountainside from the proper angle?

Some decades ago, when I first arrived in Bayit Vegan, a neighborhood in Jerusalem, for high school, it seemed as if all was right with the country. A sense of confidence prevailed: The Kotel was ours, and work was underway to build a plaza in front of it. The War of Attrition was behind us, and whatever terror attacks there were—and there were—were faced with unity and a sense of justice in our national cause. The ba’al teshuvah movement was going strong, and new yeshivot seemed to be opening everywhere (though at a snail’s pace compared to the current frenzied rate). The ingathering of the exiles was proceeding apace, and the economy was growing. While it was difficult to get a phone line for a private apartment, the number of months one needed to wait seemed to be gradually dropping to single digits.

And now, several months before Israel’s sixtieth birthday, has everything turned upside down? Must we feel, as the introduction to this series of articles implies, that all of our accomplishments amount to nil? Must we feel that then we had a sense of unity, but today we don’t, that then we had confidence and direction, but today we don’t? Yes, we all know the many terrific problems we currently face, but must we assume that our national history has gone into reverse?

Am Yisrael is always advancing along the road toward Redemption, and especially so during the past 120 years. For more than 1,800 years we had been waiting patiently for the Divine call “Return, My children, to your borders!” It came finally, unmistakably, in the late 1800s, when Jews not only began arriving in the Land of Israel in large numbers, but were also self-supporting!

As the great visionary Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever wrote in 1890 after a visit to the Land:

Can anyone not see the finger of God in all that has befallen us? .... It has been now six years that towns and villages and wells and flocks have arisen from the dust; the fields are full of grain, and grapes and vines cover the hills. Fourteen colonies have been founded during this period, and 3,000 of our brothers are working there. Before, the holy ways were filled with thorns and thistles, and people could barely walk here and traveled only by covered wagon—but now, we travel from Yaffo to Jerusalem, Hebron, Petach Tikvah, Rishon LeTzion, Mikveh Yisrael, Zichron Yaakov—and all on a straight path, the “king’s way,” in a carriage drawn by three horses. And Jerusalem, so desolate before, is now as fresh as in its youth; outside the walls of old Jerusalem, we see straight and beautiful streets lined by hundreds of houses, soon to be thousands; and all the European countries are trying to buy a portion of the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Is all this not a sign and wonder that Hashem has remembered His people and His Land, and that all that He wrought was for our good, to bring us up to the heights of Mt. Zion?

Over a century later, can there be any doubt that the process of Redemption has only intensified? When commemorating sixty years of statehood, we must not look myopically at the past few years, but rather at the entire picture—beginning with the Exile, and extending through the centuries of darkness, wandering and persecutions to the gradual return of the Jewish people to their home—exactly as was predicted by our prophets and sages.

Though for many years it was hard to see how this process was developing, in our generation we are fully confident that our ascent towards complete national Redemption has started—and that we ourselves are playing an active role in moving the process along. As Rabbi Eli Sadan, the head of the first mechinah (pre-army yeshivah program) in Israel, wrote in a recent pamphlet:

The front line of great rabbis of the past generations—Rabbi Yosef Karo, the Gaon of Vilna, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook and many others—told us: “Holy flock, the time of your redemption has arrived!” They marked the way for us—yet astonishingly, it was very hard for the Jewish people to accept the ruling [that the period of forced exile was ending and the time to return to the Land of Israel had come]. This was chiefly because it was truly a hard thing to do—to adopt a national lifestyle of politics, army, economy, and the like, and all in the old/new garb of the traditional sanctity and purity of Israel. How difficult! But “kol dodi dofek, my beloved is calling,” and “et l'chenenah ki va moed, the time has come to favor the Land”; the nation, in the depths of its soul, began to awaken; the Master of the Universe dropped the walls and opened before us the gates of Eretz Yisrael.…The time had come.

Even if the religious public hesitated, Rabbi Sadan continued, the non-religious Jews were unable to wait any longer. Creating facts on the ground, they burst forward. Tradition states that the coming of the Mashiach will take place in a similar manner—Mashiach “Ben Partzi” is destined to come from Peretz, the one who paratz, burst forth, into the world before his twin brother.

Ever since those early years of modern Zionism, Israel has continued to be on the ascendancy, with more Torah, more religiosity, more hi-tech and scientific inventions, more production of agriculture, more development of cities and towns—and more growth in the Jewish population.

Everyone is familiar with the fantastic rate of growth and construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. But what about the rest of the country? Take, for example, sleepy old Afula. When I lived there some twenty years ago, I would take my bicycle for weekly rounds around the outskirts of the city to check that the eruv was functional. Today, given Afula’s tremendous growth, the former “outskirts” are in the middle of town, while the current outskirts are blocks and blocks away in each direction.

Could any Jew who experienced the Holocaust sixty-five years ago have dared to entertain such a scenario? When commemorating sixty years of statehood, we must not look myopically at the past few years, but rather at the entire picture.Never in the last 1,930 years have the Jewish people, on a national scale, had it so good!

But, of course, there is the other side of the coin. If everything is so great, why does everything feel so bad? The problems in Israel are many and great. With a total lack of confidence in the necessity of listing them at all, here they are: Corruption in the government, poor quality of education, discord about our national goals, a growing non-Jewish population, growing socio-economic gaps, increased estrangement from Judaism and the Land of Israel, lack of inspired leadership, apathy regarding the fate of Jerusalem and uncertainty regarding the nation’s future and violent crime.

So what do we do? Give up? Throw in the towel? Say it was a good try but better luck next time, see you again in a couple of centuries? The very fact that we can entertain this question is an absurdity. Can you imagine the French or the Brazilians ever “giving up” and leaving their country? Is there any nation that would actually consider the option of calling for a “do-over”?

Moreover, it’s an incredible chutzpah when Jews living chutz la’Aretz criticize Israelis and their political leaders and assert that because of their mistakes, they will be staying in the Diaspora. Such sentiments are often found in talkbacks to Internet news reports on Israel.

History has decreed that our prophets’ Divine messages are coming true before our eyes; we can either jump on the bandwagon or get left behind. But to claim membership in a nation that has taken the path of revival while at the same time choosing to remain exiled is untenable in the long run.

This, then, is both the challenge and the solution: aliyah. It’s not just for those who live outside Israel (immigration) but also for those who already live here. The word aliyah comes from the root word aleh, which either means to “go up” or to “raise up.” Those who live here should be continually trying to raise the quality of Israeli life on all planes. Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael is necessary, for the sake of both the individual and the nation. We need Jews here, and they need to be here. The Jewish nation suffers when her children are not home, and the children suffer when they are cut off from their source.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the more people move to Israel in order to help solve our collective problems, the faster those problems will be solved. Decades ago, some religious leaders did not encourage aliyah for fear that the State would not be religious. Ironically, this almost guaranteed that the State would be irreligious.

There are those today who mock the religious leaders of previous decades for taking this road, yet they themselves take a similar approach today. However, there’s a difference. Back then, it was “spiritual” problems that kept some Jews away. Today, it is “political” problems. “First get rid of your government,” they say, or “your bureaucracy or [fill in the blank] and then I’ll consider coming.” (Insert small dose of healthy skepticism here).

Let us not make the same errors again. No more “I-told-you-so’s” after the fact. Instead of once again finding the perfect excuse to remain in the Diaspora, let us jump into the fray with real-time fixes. Let us be a part of the solution, not the problem.

And those who live here in Israel must also make aliyah. We must be constantly on the lookout, as more and more people already are, for ways to alleviate the problems that are closest to our hearts. We must be constantly on the alert to radiate to others that life in Israel, in the long-range, is not only good but is getting better.

And more: As we increasingly hear our rabbis—and our children—say, let us grab the chance to establish a society predicated on Torah values. Let us forge ahead to become a strong presence and influence in the army, in the courts, in the media. Let us combine purity and on-the-ground action to build our national home in Eretz Yisrael. Let us raise a generation imbued with dedication and even sacrifice. Let us be like the early pioneers, but with the added great ambition to live a life of sanctity in accordance with the Torah of Israel.

Let us not be fooled by what appears to be thriving Jewish life in the United States. The center and the heart of Jewish life is here in Israel. Taking active part in the enterprise that is Israel is the challenge of our times and is an opportunity that no one must miss. After sixty years, it’s way past time to come home.


Rabbi Fendel has been the senior news editor of Arutz Sheva Israel National News since 1995. He studied in Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav for five years and started Yeshivat Mevaseret Zion for international students. He is the author of One Thing I Ask (Jerusalem, 1995) and has lived in Beit El with his wife Bina and their eight children since 1992.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Update from chutz-la'artetz: It's enough to make a lazy man cry

I'm a lazy person. Well, I like to call myself relaxed but my mother, she says it's laziness. I'm not all that into things like working out, I think one of the best things about dressing in black in white is that I never have to pick out what I'm going to wear, and I recently switched dorm rooms in the yeshiva citing having to go walk a shorter distance to the beit midrash for davening in the morning as one of the key points of the move. About a week ago I stepped off a plane from Tel Aviv to Newark and I got hit by a really emotional moment. It was the first time in months I walked through a doorway without a mezuzah on it and I almost started to cry. But... now after about a week in chutz-la'aretz with my emotions having calmed down, it's now become else entirely that almost has me in tears- all the extra hustle and bustle my poor lazy rear-end has to go through.

In Israel, especially in cities like Jerusalem there is a shul on every corner. To find a minyan you literally don't have to walk more than ten minutes. Heck, if your really gutsy you can try and just grab ten guys off the street and daven on the corner of King George and Ben Yehuda, which several friends of mine and I have done so don't think I'm exaggerating! Now I find myself lost in a strange land where I sometimes have to sit in traffic for 40 minutes do daven with a minyan. Before I had to decide between which of eight kosher pizza places to eat at. Now I'm faced with choices lie getting pizza or not eating because there's only one kosher restaurant in town and that's all they serve.

Now perhaps if you live in Monsey, Boro Park, or LA then you don't feel my pain. For the rest of you “out of towners” there might be those who cite the fact that in the old days we had to deal with pogroms and inquisitions and feel we should be overjoyed these are the biggest problems one should have to face as a Jew in America today. But I know in my heart of hearts that there are those out there who are like me, those who dream of something better. There are those who strive for a more happy and carefree life of not having to worry where your next kosher steak is going to come from. To you, my brothers and sisters, I say no more! We're the few, the proud, the lazy, and we deserve to live in a country where you don't have to sit next to a non-Jew on the the bus happily chowing down on some fresh McDonalds while you look on with longing eyes! Pack your bags now, come home, and take comfort in the fact that if you want a chalav-yisroel candy bar all you need do is get off your chair and walk to the corner store!

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Declaring Independence - On Israel's 60th Birthday

On this, the holy occasion of the 60th birthday of the Modern State of Israel, I want to share with you how truly happpy I am, with all my heart, to be living in the State of Israel today. So many good Jews have fallen prey to the cynicism and dysphoria sown by lost souls and destroyers, causing them to reject and slander the State of the Jews, decrying its birth and publicly deploring it.

I reject this attitude and practice, now and forever. I declare that the Ehud Olmerts, Dorit Beinisches, and Yisroel Dovid Weisses of this world will NOT steal this state from me, nor will they rape me of my love, joy, and hope for the future of this incredible, flourishing project. I'll be damned if I will budge one inch in ceding my country or my spirit to them, or to those who join them in their practice of shaming, violating, and quashing the Jewish people on their soil.

I declare Independence, on behalf of all the good, sweet, hard-working Jews of Israel, from the mind-control of repression, injustice, and lies perpetrated by a small group of oligarchs, and vow that I will make it my life's mission to establish the Jewish people, proudly, eternally, as a "free nation in our Land". Free to embrace our identity, to love one another, to work together, to seek justice, to serve G-d without shame or inhibition. This is MY country, and if I have to fight my own small War of Independence everyday for the rest of my life, that is what I will do.

At this time, 60 years ago, after a global attempt to annhilate them utterly, the Jewish people struggled with the last breath left in their body to wrest life from the clutches of a cruel world. Some of those whose lives were built on hardship and dreams for the future survived the camps to die on the battlefield. They did not give in to the mighty evil which had battled them for so long, in so many permutations, but rather declared their independence from fear and faced their destiny boldly and simply, fighting for the establishment of a small, precious Jewish State.

Because of these, and so many who have lived and died for the nation of Israel in the last 60 years, as well as the last 600 and before, we are here on our holy soil today. Let us not give any more power to the forces of gloom and doubt, but rather take up the torch of our fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers who carried Hashem's promise to the Jewish people deep in their hearts. Damn those who place obstacles in our path, cloud our minds, and darken our hearts. Declare your Independence today, and let's pray that together, we will live to celebrate the destruction of our enemies and the defeat of evil forces within and without. Let's pray that together, we will celebrate the 100th birthday of the Modern State of Israel on the Holy Land of Israel, the glory of the world, the rightful inheritance of our people.

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Our Flag

Listeners of my show asked how they can support Israel's 60th celebrations. I responded by saying that everyone should put out a flag of Israel - especially non-Jews! I also asked that people email me photos of the flag. Here are a couple of responses:


You asked for a flag of Israel flying in Oklahoma. You got it. I am in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Pronounced Chick-ah-shay. I would like to wish Israel a happy birthday. I listen you guys every day.

Letting you know we care.


Dear Yishai,

I'm HAPPY to submit pics of my support for Israel. My husband also helped put both flags up, side by side.

I dream of one day moving to Israel, but need prayers. Holding fast to the promises given to the Land of Israel and with faith that I may see Her become whole in every way as She was intended to be, I dream one day of moving to Israel.

I enjoy your shows and all the shows at Israel National Radio. Continue in that work. It's the only news I listen to. With LOVE and HOPE for Zion,


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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Jewish Astronaut Sends Well-Wishes

Jewish astronaut Garrett Reisman, who is currently aboard the STS-123 Space Shuttle, sent his well-wishes to President Shimon Peres Wednesday.

"From the crew of the International Space Station, I would like to send all of you my best wishes for the 60th Independence Day," Reisman wrote. "As the first Jewish crew member on the Space Station, this Independence Day is particularly important to me and I am very proud to be carrying a copy of the Independence Scroll on board the station." He added: "Whenever the space station is located over the state of Israel, I try to find a window, and it always manages to move me when I see Israel's familiar outline coming toward us from the horizon."

At the request of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon's widow, Rona Ramon, President Peres gave her a signed copy of the Declaration of Independence and an autographed Presidential banner, which she passed on to Reisman and which he took on board the shuttle. After completing a seven-week mission, Reisman will return to Earth this month as Mission Specialist 5 aboard STS-124.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Iyar 5768

The month of Iyar begins tonight (Tuesday)! (Today, Monday is also Rosh Chodesh.)

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 Iyar:

Plums (Japanese Round)

On 18 Iyar:


On 20 Iyar:


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

On 1 Iyar:


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.

On 15 Iyar:


Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Busted for Praying!

Shalom Yishai,

Freedom of religion in America? Only if you are muslim. Then they will install footbaths for you in airports. It's true that Jews are arrested on the Temple Mount for praying, but those who use it as an excuse not to make aliyah should read the stories below:

Praying passenger removed from flight. An Orthodox Jewish man, who wanted to travel to San Francisco by plane, left his seat and went to the back of the plane to pray before the Flight 9 to San Francisco took off. He didn’t follow the flight attendants’ advices to return to his seat. As a result, he was ejected from the flight....

Jewish man removed from airplane for praying.

Some fellow passengers are questioning why an Orthodox Jewish man was removed from an Air Canada Jazz flight in Montreal last week for praying. The man was a passenger on a Sept. 1 flight from Montreal to New York City when the incident happened.

Man arrested at a Rosh Hashanah prayer meeting.

A group of about 100 people in Central Florida claim they were harassed by deputies during a Rosh Hashanah prayer service that ended with an arrest. The group was celebrating the Jewish New Year at an off-campus house near the University of Central Florida Wednesday night when deputies were called to the house.

Jewish passenger saying morning prayers on Chicago train causes panic by putting on tefillin, which other passengers thought to be wires of explosive belt.

A Jewish passenger on a Chicago train was arrested after fellow passengers accused him of being a suicide bomber

City of Los Angeles sends inspectors to shut down "illegal" Kol Nidrei Tefillah

kol tuv,

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Gems of Israel

While I was working on my computer today, a man from the local city council came to install a beeper in my house. Though Beit El-proper has a loud speaker which makes important and emergency announcements for people in town, it is neither particularly easy to understand (it sounds a lot like Charlie Brown's teacher), nor is it powerful enough to reach the mountaintop neighborhood in which I live. This beeper will provide us with the ability to stay well informed when we need it most.

I struck up a conversation with the installer, asking this friendly man with a flowing white beard where he was from originally. I suspected he was from South America, recognizing his accent from numerous pleasant encounters with Jewish doctors from South America in my Israeli medical plan. I was right - he was born in Argentina. However, he said, his family was originally from Lebanon - his grandfather went down to South America to be the Chief Rabbi in the early 1900s. The Succat David yeshiva in Jerusalem was subsequently established in honor of this man's grandfather, who was a noted kabbalist in his time.

"You have some great roots!" I told my guest. "Baruch Hashem" he said, modestly. He then proceeded to explain the beeper device to me, how to check it, and how to know if the message was for an emergency or just for some important information.

How great is the nation of Israel! Even the seemingly ordinary Jew you encounter at your doorstep may have a close and personal connection to the secrets of the universe, to excellence, to nobility, to divinity. Surely this should remind us to judge the Jewish people and their fledgling country for the good - just scratch the surface, and you discover priceless gems wherever you look. Indeed, we should only feel optimistic about the future of these great people in the land of their fathers.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

No Pictures This Year

So I just returned Home last night. I didn’t fly El Al (that’s for another blog post) but I flew Israir – another airline of Israel. And so toward the end of the flight, last night, the pilot came on and announced that Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) was just starting and he would now shut off the entertainment system (the movies, video games, and much of the audio selection.) There was a large group of Christians on the flight (that’s for that other blog post too.) It struck me that all those Christians were eating Kosher meals (special glatt kosher meals, by the way, again another post someday) and observing Yom HaShoah, because guess what? They were flying on our airline. Not to compare anything to Yom HaShoah, but when a Jew has to wait extra long for a bus in New York City on December 25th is it because that Jew is in their country?

And when the siren sounded at 10 O’clock this morning I found myself standing in exactly the same spot I stood one year ago, a busy Jerusalem street. Last year I took pictures (Arutz-7 wanted some for a photo essay, and it is important to share with those that are not here,) but I felt just awful snapping photos then. But this year, would be different.

I also wondered what those Christians tourists felt when they saw everything stand still as motorists stood outside their cars. And what about those Birthrighters I saw in the airport coming to Israel for the first time. (That’s also for that other post.) On the very first day they arrive the siren is the very first thing they experience? What would it remind them?

It no doubt reminded all of them this morning as it reminded me, of way too many terrible, sad and haunting thoughts. But it also reminded me of one powerfully inspiring thought. Indeed, this is our country, our Home!

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