Wednesday, April 29, 2009

But Is It Halachic?? An Analysis of the "Sherman Decision" P'sk Document Which Purportedly Overturns Thousands of Conversions


This wonderful article, by Rabbi Dr. Isaac Sassoon, appears on Rabbi Angel's very astute "Jewish Ideas/Ideals" website. I am a big fan of Rabbi Angel's work and what he is striving to do. It is an uphill battle, for sure, but Rabbi Angel doesn't seem to flag in his attention, his wit, or his strength in Torah.

This is the first analysis I have seen in English for the "Sherman Decision" P'sk which is said to overturn thousands of conversions by Rabbi Druckman and the Conversion Authority in Israel.

I, and thousands of others, are still waiting for Chief Rabbi Amar to decide, officially, what must be done with the P'sk, but, meanwhile, we have this analysis of the document.

I think it is important for anyone who is familiar with this case to spend some time reading what Rabbi Sassoon has to say. If you disagree with him, fine. But, at least, read what he has to say and prepare as beautiful a document in your rebuttal as he has presented in this analysis.

Really, not much is said in Rabbi Sassoon's analysis that I haven't heard before in the war of words thrust about on this issue in the comment sections of every newspaper article and blogpost available on this issue, but it is nice to see a well-respected Halachic authority like Rabbi Sassoon do the hard work to look up all the sources and present such a cohesive defense against the P'sk while, may I add, never stooping to mention names or attempt to discredit the Beit Din.

Rabbi Sassoon is, obviously, no hypocrite. He asserts that the Beit Din should not have attacked "the conversion authority rabbi" in a public way and discusses the halachic admonitions about such an action, all while never mentioning who was on the Beit Din, or who the conversion authority rabbi was.

This reflects not only the sensitive nature of the issue, but the high moral character of Rabbi Sassoon. He, in essence, walks the walk, but never talks the talk.

I am very impressed with this work and with Dr. Rabbi Sassoon. A very nice read.

Rabbi Dr. Isaac Sassoon is a faculty member at the Metivta of the Institute for Traditional Judaism. Among his publications is a Torah commentary, "Destination Torah."

By Rabbi Dr. Isaac Sassoon

The rabbis depict our forebears Abraham and Sarah spreading the knowledge of Hashem far and wide. Some formulations of this idea actually use the verb gayyer (=to convert).[2] Moreover, the Talmud ascribes to God, no less, the designation of the partriarchs as “those who first made Me known in the world” and to Israel the claim “we have made Thee known in the world”.[3] But why marshall texts to demonstrate the obvious: Torah and Talmud mostly[4] see Israel as having received the Torah that they might be its torch-bearers. Thus in rabbinic tradition welcoming gere sedeq (=righteous converts) into the covenant is deemed to be a misvah.[5] So giyyoor being a misvah giyyoor was sacrosanct. Or at least so we thought.

Then early last year news broke of men and women who had converted to Judaism under the auspices of respected Israeli rabbis and were now being declared gentiles. The initial perplexity that greeted the news turned into disbelief as reports began to speak of conversions anulled in the hundreds and thousands by Israel’s supreme rabbinic court. Eventually we managed to procure a copy of that court’s decision that allegedly set in motion the overturning of conversions. The following is the picture as it emerges from the pages of that document.

It all begins in Ashdod when a couple appears before the local rabbinic court seeking a divorce. The court informs the couple that it is impossible to get divorced unless one was first married. Jewish law, it explains, does not recognize marriage between a Jew and a gentile. And because the woman is a gentile, the court does not look upon them as husband and wife. Having lived in the belief that she was Jewish ever since her conversion many years prior, the woman is flabbergasted. She appeals to the supreme rabbinic court in Jerusalem. On February 2nd, 2008, that august body issues its reasoned pesaq in a 53 page document that essentially upholds the Ashdod ruling.

The Beth Din’s Pesaq of February 2008 (hereafter BDP) is problematic in at least three areas. First, it makes assertions that are inconsistent with the facts. For example, it states that all the posqeem (=halakhic decisors) throughout the generations have ruled conversion retroactively invalid if the convert fails to live up to his/her commitments. When we consult the posqeem - whether it be Rambam,[6] Tur,[7] or Shulhan Arukh[8] to mention three of the most eminent - we find them saying the exact opposite. Indeed, there seems to be only a single dissenting rishon, namely the author of Hagahot Mordecai.[9] Now in order to appreciate the Hagahot Mordecai’s position we need to recall the talmudic passage from which he claims to derive the idea of retroactively invalid giyyoor. The Mishnah at Yebamoth 24b reads:

  • A man who was alleged to have had relations with ... a non-Jewish woman and she later converted he shall not marry [the woman]. If, however, he married her they shall not be separated. If a man was alleged to have had relations with a married woman and she was subsequently divorced, then even if they went ahead and married they shall be separated.

The convert of this Mishnah is one whose motives for conversion cannot help but raise doubts. Nevertheless, in ruling that “if married they shall not be separated”, the Mishnah implies the conversion to be valid. But can this implication be correct when it would seem to contradict another tannaic source? That is what the Gemara wants to know, and it begins by citing the counter source.

Surely we have learnt in a Baraitha:

  • Whether it is a man who converts for the sake of a woman or a woman for the sake of a man; whether the person converts for the sake of the royal table or to be employed by Solomon - none of these are converts according to R. Nehemiah. For R. Nehemiah would say: those who convert for fear of lions; those who convert on the prompting of a dream; those who converted in the days of Mordecai and Esther - none of these are converts . . .

Inasmuch as he invalidates conversions undertaken for less than the purest motives, R. Nehemiah is irreconcilable with our Mishnah - or rather with the inference the Gemara had drawn from it. So ought that initial inference to be rejected? No, says the Gemara, because apropos of this very issue R. Yitzhak bar Shemuel bar Marta transmitted in the name of Rav that the law is KE-DIBRE HA-OMER (=according to the one who says) ‘They are all converts’ (Yeb. ibid.).

Now Rav (d. around 250) having bestraddled the tannaic and amoraic eras, is allowed to dispute a tanna[10] - a licence not granted other amoraim. However, it is not on the strength of his quasi-tannaic status that Rav rules here at Yeb. 24b, but rather does he side with the anonymous tanna who disagreed with R. Nehemiah and “says ‘They are all converts’”. Hence the Gemara’s original inference is vindicated; for though it places our Mishnah at odds with R. Nehemiah, it keeps it in line with the tanna cited and seconded by Rav. And it is the decision of Rav (which the Gemara identifies as consistent with the Mishnah) that post talmudic halakhists follow almost to a man. But as noted earlier, there is a dissenter: Hagahot Mordecai.

Although the Talmud rules there [at Yeb. 24b] that they are all full proselytes, we could say that it refers only to cases where we see them rectifying their ways even if their initial motive was marriage etc. ...[11] I prefer this interpretation to the alternative which would posit an amora [i.e. Rav] ruling not in accordance with the baraitha of R. Nehemiah. Moreover, the undisputed baraitha [cited Yeb. ibid.] that says no converts were accepted in the days of David and Solomon [for fear of ulterior motives] supports us.[12] What I have written here is my own opinion, not what I received from my teachers; and my understanding should not be relied upon.

One has to wonder whether Hagahot Mordecai had the words KE-DIBRE HA-OMER in his copy of the Talmud. Be that as may, there is nothing anomalous about a halakhist relying upon a variant reading of the Talmud. Similarly, halakhists will occasionally argue for following a da‘at yaheed (=minority opinion). However, what is so disconcerting about BDP is its insistence that the exceptional view of Hagahot Mordecai is shared by all posqeem throughout the generations.[13]

The second bone we have to pick with BDP is over its ad hominem slurs. Stooping to the level of personal attacks is usually a sign of desperation. How else to explain its ploy of declaring venerable members of named Israeli judiciaries to be resha‘eem? And classifying people resha‘eem is tantamount to impugning their credentials to act as witnesses - and by analogy also as judges.[14] The prohibition to accept the testimony of a rasha‘ is derived from Scripture, as explained by the Talmud and conveniently codified by Rambam:

  • “Resha‘eem [=unjust or guilty persons; felons] are disqualified from giving testimony as it says [Exod 23:1] ‘You shall not make common cause with a rasha‘ to be a witness of hamas. Tradition understands this scripture to be saying ‘Do not let a rasha‘ be a witness’.” (Yad, Edut 10:1)

Proclaiming a dayyan (= judge of a rabbinic court; plural: dayyaneem) a rasha‘ is a grave matter and one would expect to learn which court of law convicted him and on what count. Instead BDP arrogates to itself the authority of ruling fellow dayyaneem resha‘eem without even hearing the men’s defence. If that were not egregious enough, the primary charge it cites against the dayyaneem rests on the following circular reasoning. Conversion requires a beth din (see Yeb.46b). Since they are resha‘eem, their court is no court, and consequently the people they convert remain gentiles. The Torah pronounces a curse on anyone who leads a blind person astray (Deut 27:18 cf. Lev 19:14). In making the people they convert believe themselves to have become Jews when in fact they are still gentiles, they are guilty of the sin of leading the blind astray.[15] Hence such dayyaneem fall into the category of resha‘eem.

Additional charges bandied about by BDP include: 1) forgery, 2) heresy and 3) brazenly disparaging Torah. The forgery charge alleges that the rasha‘ judge signed conversion certificates presided over by dayyaneem other than himself. Now these types of certificates begin with the formulaic opening be-mothab telatha ka-hada (= the three of us sat in judgment etc.) - because it is the same three judges who form the converting beth din that also go on to sign the certificate. Needless to say, a judge who did not personally sit on the court cannot lawfully put his name to such a document. But that, alleges BDP, is precisely what the ‘delinquent’ dayyan went and did. If true, nobody would dispute the impropriety of such behavior. However, the Talmud lays down a principle sheluho shel adam ke-motho.[16] Of course misvot she-begufo i.e. duties that demand personal involvement cannot be deputized; and signing a document that claims its signatories were party to the transaction described in that document is surely such a duty. Yet it is conceivable that a senior judge might, albeit mistakenly, think of his trusted juniors as emissaries. Furthermore, unlike a bill of divorce or even a marriage contract, a giyyoor certificate has no halakhic function whatsoever. It is granted merely to serve the convert as ready proof in the future when facing bureaucracies and the like. All in all then, the forgery indictment seems a stretch.

The heresy charge (levelled originally by the Ashdod court but cited approvingly by BDP) is even more baffling. The actual term used is epiqoros - which in popular parlance is generic for heretic. The Talmud, however, defines the epithet more narrowly. The tenth chapter of Mishnah Sanhedrin[17] lists reprobates who forfeit their share in the world to come. One of them is the epiqoros. And it is in the course of expounding the Mishnah that the Gemara records the following definitions:

  • Rav and R. Haninah both say he [the epiqoros] is somebody who insults a Torah scholar. R. Yohanan and R. Yehoshua b. Levi say he is somebody who insults his fellow in the presence of a Torah scholar. Now those who classify the epiqoros as somebody who insults his fellow in the presence of a Torah scholar, the one who insults the scholar himself they classify as megalleh paneem ba-torah shelo ka-halakhah (= a brazen disparager of Torah). But for those who define epiqoros as one who insults the scholar himself, what kind of person is the megalleh paneem ba-torah? He is somebody like Manasseh son of Hezekiah[18] (San. 99b).

Since BDP does not elaborate, one cannot be sure which definition of epiqoros it has in mind. On reflection, though, it is probably the vernacular meaning since it would be rich beyond belief for BDP to accuse another of disparaging a Torah scholar! More substantively, what is the point of BDP branding the dayyan of its disfavor an epiqoros?

It will be recalled that, based on Exodus 23:1, resha‘eem are disqualified from giving testimony. Besides rasha‘, Exodus 23:1 contains another operative word: hamas.[19] The Talmud (San. 27a) records a dispute between Abayye and Rava as to whether or not hamas modifies rasha‘. Rava holds that the word hamas modifies rasha‘; hence anti-social behavior is prerequisite for witness disqualification. For Abayye, on the other hand, even non-hamas wrongdoing (e.g. ritual delinquency that is a matter between a person and God), is sufficient to lose a witness his credibility. Thus Abbaye would disqualify not only a mumar le-te’avon[20] but also a mumar le-hakh‘ees. But even according to Abbaye a person is disqualified to testify by virtue of wrong action. Yes; wrong action, not unorthodox thought. Yet Rambam, writes:

  • “Informers and epiqorseen ... [21] the Sages had no need to name in their list of people unfit to give evidence because they listed only Jewish miscreants. But such rebellious infidels are worse than idolaters...” (Yad Edut 11:10)

There is nothing odd about the inclusion of informers because their guilt yesh bo ma‘aseh (=involves action)[22] and is consequently ascertainable (and where appropriate punishable) by a human tribunal. But the appearance of heretics, whose fate the Mishnah leaves to divine judgment, is striking.[23] Nevertheless, by means of an ingenious a fortiori argument of Rambam’s own devising, heresy is made a crime for courts to discover and to act upon - in this case invalidating the testimony of such that are found to be heretics.

By dragging in heretics Rambam breaks new ground. Magistrates on the watch for heresy are a far cry from the Talmud’s standards of objectivity, and, what is more, seem dangerously close to the murky realm of inquisitions and thought police. So the question is, Why would Rambam have introduced this drastic innovation? We know it was not conformity to the Talmud that impelled him, because the Talmud never mentions heretics in connection with testimony. Moreover, as we saw, Rambam makes no secret of the fact that heretics transpired as a result of his own extrapolation. Something other than the Talmud, then, must have impelled Rambam to bring up heretics. In any event, once epiqorseen are blacklisted and Rambam’s ruling is adopted by later codes, declaring someone an epiqoros immediately impugns his eligibility to testify or to adjudicate. Hence, in levelling its heresy charge, BDP aims to undermine the authority of its targeted beth din.

The related aspersion megalleh paneem ba-torah shelo ka-halakhah (again, borrowed and endorsed by BDP p.4) is meant to inculpate the dayyan in question with insulting scholars (rather than imitating Manasseh - see San. 99b cited above).[24] If you ask ‘which scholars? What insult?’ BDP has its answer pat. We have already met BDP’s assertion that ‘all the posqeem throughout the generations have ruled conversion retroactively invalid if the convert fails to live up to his/her commitments’. That being BDP’s premise, it follows as night follows day, that to flout such a unanimous ruling of halakhists down the ages is nothing short of brazen effrontery.

Finally, BDP’s gravest imputation of all: the ‘rogue’ beth din failed to elicit qabbalat misvot[25] from those it purported to convert. Now qabbalat misvot is an integral component of giyyoor and in the opinion of many posqeem it is also a sine qua non. That any beth din could skip qabbalat misvot seems incredible. Yet that is what happened according to the allegation repeated over and over in BDP.[26]


What are we supposed to make of this document and its extraordinary contentions? Manifestly the 53 page screed is animated by more than sober halakhic logic; dare one say by something akin to polemical zeal? But whereas the written word has a life of its own and must be judged on its merits, people should always be given the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, because of the imperative to judge men charitably,[27] one wants to try and extenuate that zeal. Clues within BDP suggest that recent tendencies towards a politicization of giyyoor may have raised its authors’ hackles.[28]

For there is no denying the attempt in certain quarters to fuse the ideas of nationality and divinity in a manner redolent of the old Baalism. What follows is an example of this phenomenon.

From the Rambam’s words we learn that candidates for conversion must express their wish to join, simultaneously, both the people of Israel and its Torah. ‘Entering the covenant’ [in Rambam’s formulation, Issure Bi‘ah 13:4] refers to the congregation of Israel that consists of children of the covenant. ‘Taking shelter under the Shekhinah’s wings’ [Rambam’s formulation ibid.] means living as a member of the Jewish religion ... The requirement to express this twofold identification with the Jewish nation as well as with its God and Torah, was learnt by our sages of blessed memory from Ruth the Moabitess. When seeking to impress her mother-in-law Naomi of her [Ruth’s] spiritual and practical preparedness to cast her lot with Judaism, Ruth speaks the words “... Your people is my people and your God is my God”. The equal emphasis on the people and its God as the objects of [the convert’s] adoptive identity clearly demonstrates that the religion and the nationhood are a single indivisible entity in Judaism ... Clearly, then, already in such an early era [as Ruth’s], conversion was conceived of as a procedure simultaneously both religious and national, whose elements are inseperable.” (Mi Hu Yehudi? by Avner Shaki, vol. 2 Jerusalem 1978 p. 343).

Shaki’s enunciation of the nation-divinity amalgam would not merit citation were it not that he invokes Scripture, Sages and Maimonides in support. But seeing that he does, it behooves us to examine these sources’ alleged espousal of ‘Shakian dualism’. Ruth’s “Your people” we shall consider shortly. As for the unsubstantiated claim that the sages deduced from Ruth “a twofold identification with the Jewish nation as well as with its God and Torah” we are unable to comment upon, since no source is indicated.[29] Rambam certainly mentions covenant: “Similarly throughout the generations, when a non-Jew wishes to enter the covenant and take shelter under the Shekhinah’s wings...”. The only question is whether Rambam was using the phrase ‘entering the covenant’ as shorthand for joining the polity of the children of the covenant. Rambam’s classic commentators refer us to a baraitha in Keritot that mandates all subsequent conversions to reenact, as it were, the conversion leading up to the Sinai/Horeb covenant.[30]

Ribbi [Judah the Partriach] says as with your forefathers so with [proselytes] throughout your generations. Just as your forefathers did not enter into the [Sinaitic] covenant except through circumcision, immersion and propitiation by means of blood [sacrifice] neither shall they enter the covenant except through circumcision, immersion and propitiation by means of blood [sacrifice] (Ker. 9a).

The covenant Rambam alludes to is the very one under discussion in Keritot; which, in turn, is the Torah’s covenant mediated by Moses between God and the people who were to become the covenantal community. In other words, the pledge made at Sinai as understood by tradition was to God rather than to a group of human beings. Hence, the proselyte’s entering into the covenant, modelled on the Sinai prototype, is about the neophyte’s commitment to God rather than to a group that Shaki calls ‘children of the covenant’.

Needless to say, among Jews who take their faith seriously, equating a person’s political choices with his/her choice to ‘enter under the shekhinah’s wings’ must seem to border on the sacriligious. Without belittling one iota tribal and national allegiances, they are surely of a different order from the plighting of one’s troth to Hashem. Moreover, the Talmud categorically forbids associating the Name of Heaven with anything else.[31] Hence the extreme unease that attempts such as Shaki’s to politicize giyyoor engender in the bosom of many a Torah-oriented Jew who ponders Scriptures such as 2Kgs 17:26-28.

It was reported to the king of Assyria saying ‘The peoples that you deported and settled in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land and he sent among them lions that are devouring them because they know not the law of the god of the land’. The king of Assyria gave orders that one of the priests who had been deported from there should be sent back in order to teach them the law of the god of the land. So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came back and dwelt in Bethel and taught them how to fear Hashem.

Two irreconcilable voices speak to us in these verses. The first is the voice of paganism whose gods are territorial, each presiding over his/her national borders. Then in verse 28 we hear the Torah’s voice, that instead of the idolatrous ‘god of the land’, speaks of fearing Hashem. A closely related pagan concept to the territorial, is the national god that is essentially an apotheosis of a people and its collective identity and aspirations. Naomi recognizes the nation-god nexus of Moabite religion when she says to Ruth ‘Behold your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods’ (Ruth 1:15). Perhaps Ruth was projecting some such Moabite territorial theology onto Hashem when she responded ‘Your people shall be my people and your God my God’ (v. 16).[32]

But even if one shares BDP’s dismay at the way politics has come to invade and dilute giyyoor (and other aspects of religion), it is quite another proposition to condone the methodology it employs to counter the lamentable trend (assuming such trends to be BDP’s driving gripe). Besides, even a cause worthy in the abstract, has to yield if it leads to real people suffering. This was the way of our Sages who opened a back-door for gereem gerureem when conventional giyyoor was inapplicable.[33] They even offered a halfway conversion whereby a person attained the status of ger toshav (as distinct from ger sedeq). Ger toshav is not a mere synonym for Noahide. No. The ger toshav formally forswore idolatry and accepted faith in Hashem and belief in revelation.[34] Withal, never did the Sages say let idolaters stew in their idolatry. Today, when the ger toshav option has fallen into desuetude, extra vigilance is called for. Not so much in order to catch and keep out ‘rotten apples’ (though that too), but to ensure that no seeker after Hashem is left out in the cold.

[1] See Job 31:32, and especially its midrashic interpretations (e.g. Exod. Rab. 19:4).

[2] See, for example, Targum Yonathan to Gen 12:5.

[3] Men.53a.

[4] The word ‘mostly’ is used advisedly because some - notably priests whose status was inherited - seem to have conceived of Jewishness as also being hereditary. The Talmud suggests that there were priests who looked askance upon both converts and conversion (see Mihnah Rosh Hash. 1:7; Yom. 71b et al).

[5] Yeb. 47b.

[6] Issure Bi‘ah 13:17.

[7] Yore De‘ah 268 end.

[8] Yore De‘ah 268:12.

[9] The author of the glosses known as Hagahot Mordecai remains elusive. R. Hayim Yoseph Daveed Azulai (HYDA d.1806) surmizes that he lived a century or so after R. Mordecai b. Hillel ha-Kohen (d. 1298) whose work he glossates.

[10] See Erub. 50b, Ket. 8a, Git. 38b, San. 83b.

[11] These words of the Hagahot imply that if the convert’s subsequent behavior does not exhibit “rectitude of ways”, then the conversion is retroactively null and void.

[12] Since it does not address the be-de‘abad (=post factum) situation, it is unclear how the David-Solomon baraitha supports R. Nehemia. On the contrary, had the David-Solomon baraitha emanated from the school of R. Nehemiah we know how it would have been worded. For at Yeb. 76a-b we learn the reason converts were not accepted in the halcyon days of David and his son “because their motive is likely to have been the royal table”. And conversion undertaken with an eye on the royal board is invalidated by R. Nehemia even be-de‘abad : “whether the person converts for the sake of the royal table or to be employed by Solomon - none of these are converts”.

[13] More than a century ago when R. Yitzhak Schmelkes chose to follow the Hagahot Mordecai he did not dissimulate his own predilection for the tentative proposal of Hagahot Mordecai. Rather did R. Schmelkes opt for full disclosure: “Although he [Hagahot Mordecai] wrote that his understanding was not to be relied on, we rely upon his understanding” (Beth Yitzhak vol. Yore De‘ah responsum 100 [p.86]).

[14] Actually a judge’s moral qualifications are spelled out in the Torah (see Exod 18:21; Deut 1:13, 16:18). Nevertheless for a ruling to be anulled on grounds of the judge’s unfitness, there would have to be evidence of resha‘ .

[15] BDP devotes five pages (7-12) to lifne ivver (= the sin of misleading the blind).

[16] Literally ‘one’s proxy is like oneself’. As a legal concept it means that a person can appoint a shaliah (=proxy) to deputize on his/her behalf in carrying out non-personal duties. The Talmud provides numerous examples such as priests offering sacrifices on behalf of the laity; tithing; effecting betrothal by conveying the medium of betrothal from a man to his destined bride; most familiar, perhaps, is the shaliah sibboor or precentor who recites the prayers on behalf of the congregation (see Qid. 41b-42a et al.).

[17] In many editions it appears as the eleventh chapter.

[18] Described earlier on San. 99b as a man who would use his sermons to mock Torah: Did Moses have nothing better to write than ‘Lotan’s sister was Timna’ (Gen 36:22)? or ‘Timna was a concubine to Eliphaz’ (Gen 36:12)? or ‘Reuben went in harvest time and found mandrakes’ (Gen 30:14)?

[19] Hamas is often translated violence. Rabbinic sources render some occurrences of hamas ‘robbery’ or ‘armed robbery’ (see Targums and Rashi to Gen 6:13). At San. 27a the rasha‘ of hamas is defined as someone who in the act of transgressing misvot causes material harm also to fellow humans - which definition embraces also venal folks who will do anything for lucre.

[20] Literally ‘a renegade out of expediency [or for pleasure]’ e.g. a person who eats non-kosher food because it is cheaper than kosher (see Rashi San. 27a s.v. h”g mumar okhel nevelot le-te’avon).

[21] In many printed editions the text continues “and mumars”. Others omit mumars (see Lehem Mishneh ad loc.). The editio princeps (Rome 1480) instead of mumars has “sectarians (minin) and apostates (meshumadin).

[22] Or at least treacherous speech. While some reckon speech as ‘action’, according to all tannaim wrong thought is outside the purview of the courts (see San. 65a-b et al).

[23] Especially when we recall Rambam’s own definitions of epiqorseen as persons guilty not of wrong speech but of heterodox opinions (even if they happen to verbalize those opinions). “There are three that are called epiqorseen: 1) the person who denies prophecy and the possibility of knowledge reaching the human heart from the Creator; 2) one who denies the prophecy of Moses our teacher; 3) one who says the Creator has no knowledge of the affairs of man. Each of these is an epiqoros” (Yad, Teshubah 3:8 and see Kesef Mishneh’s comment ad loc.).

[24] Both the long form megalleh paneem ba-torah shelo ka-halakhah and the short megalleh paneem ba-torah occur at San. 99b and are used there interchangeably, as we saw. At Avot 3:11 most MSS have the short form whereas printed editions typically the long. Incidentally, the dispute over the definition of megalleh paneem seems not to have been resolved; hardly surprising seeing that there are no ramifications for earthly bate din. Thus Rashi explains the megalleh paneem of Avot with reference to Manasseh, while Rambam identifies the megalleh as one who brazenly and ostentatiously defies Torah.

[25] Literally: acceptance of misvot. The requirement for the prospective ger to express his/her acceptance after being apprised of the liabilities as well as the privileges inherent in Judaism is laid down in the baraitha.“They acquaint him with some of the easier misvot and some of the heavier misvot; they acquaint him with the sin of [neglecting] to leave behind for the poor fallen or forgotten sheaves or the ‘corner’ and of [neglecting] to give the tithe of the poor. Furthermore... they say to him ‘hitherto if you ate suet you were not liable for kareth; if you desecrated the Sabbath you were not liable for seqilah but henceforth you will be liable’... And just as they acquaint him with the punishments for [breaking] misvot similarly do they acquaint him with their [the misvot’s] rewards. They say to him ‘Know that the world-to-come is reserved for the righteous, but Israel at present is unable to receive (le-qabbel) either great good or great travail’. They do not burden him with more [words] or with stringencies. If he ACCEPTS, he is circumcised forthwith...” (Yeb. 47a-b).

[26] “The woman bringing the appeal did not accept observance of misvot” (p.1); “qabbalat misvot did not occur in the case of the appellant” (p.3); “an additional transgression is their declaring a non-Jew who did not accept to observe the misvot of Hashem’s Torah... to be a Jew” (p.7) etc.

[27] Avot 1:6.

[28] E.g. “The conversion of [a certain] deaf-mute will not bring her to a state of misvah observance... The only possible consequence of the conversion would be a social one - something that neither constitutes conversion nor bestows any zekhut (=spiritual advantage)...” ( p.19); “There is certainly no misvah upon a beth din or any other Israelite to make efforts to bring non-Jews into the Israelite fold [sic] - a fortiori when the person’s only attachment will be of a national kind and not an attachment to the God of Israel and the Torah of Israel.” (p.20); “Despite what was said, national or social goals must not be recognized ... they see themselves belonging to the Jewish people only in the national-social sense without any inward religious connection ...” (p.21) etc.

[29] If anything, the Talmud would seem to invest Ruth’s ostensibly national ‘Your people' clause with religious significance. “She [Naomi] said to her ...‘We have 613 commandments’. She [Ruth] replied ‘Your people is my people...’” (Yeb. 47b).

[30] Rabbinic sources typically consider the Hebrews to have had the status of Noahides prior to the giving of the Torah (see, for example, Rashi at San. 82a “It was prior to Sinai that Moses had married Jethro’s daughter, all at that time having the status of Noahides. When the Torah was given they all, she [Jethro’s daughter] as well as proselytes of the mixed multitude included, entered into full misvah-hood”).

[31] Suk. 45b, San. 63a.

[32] Boaz, while applauding both, separates her commitment to God (Ruth 2:12) from her national and familial loyalties (v. 11). Moreover, the distinctive phrase la-hasot tahat kenafaim (taking refuge or shelter under wings) Scripture uses exclusively of the relationship between an individual and Hashem (cf. Ps 36:8, 57:2, 91:4).

[33] See Yeb. 79a, Avod Zar. 3b, 24a; Yerushalmi Qid. 65c, San. 23d.

[34] “The person who accepts them [the seven misvot] is called a ger toshav; but the acceptance must be solemnized in the presence of three haberim [that constitute a beth din]. Whoever accepts the seven misvot and is careful to keep them behold he is of the pious among the nations and has a share in the world-to-come. That is provided he accepts them and does them because Hashem commanded them in the Torah...” (Yad, Melakim 8:10-11; cf. Issure Bi‘ah 14:7).

Ilan Halimi was Murdered BECAUSE he Was a Jew. France Wimps Out and Holds Trial Behind Closed Doors.


I hope that France will not turn to their overused and fake excuse that “it wasn’t because he was Jewish” to let these lower-than-dirt murderers to walk away with a slap on the wrist. Obviously, they attacked Ilan Halimi BECAUSE he was a Jew. The gang leader clearly stated that they singled him out because his family is Jewish.

They tortured him because he was Jewish.

Just wait. The French government is already setting up their release of these killers with almost no time served. They will allow a thousand excuses for how a young Jewish man was lured, tortured, and killed--and they will end up blaming the victim for the crime of being Jewish in France.

They are holding the trial behind closed doors because two of the defendants are “minors”?

Who cares if they are “minors”?

They were adult enough to kill.

They were adult enough to torture and to watch torture.

They were adult enough to dispose of this young man by the side of the road as if he were nothing but trash.

Every one of these murderers deserve death themselves.

May they live their entire lives behind bars, miserable and alone.

Show them the same mercy they showed Ilan: none.

Killers of French Jew on Trial Behind Closed Doors
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu


A French court is holding a closed-door trial for the gang of 28 alleged torturers and murderers of 23-year-old-Ilan Halimi in 2006 because two of the defendants are minors. The case has raised the specter of increasing anti-Semitism in France, with the defense attorneys arguing that the leader of the “Gang of Barbarians” may not have kidnapped and murdered Halimi simply because he was Jewish.

Investigators concluded that Halimi was singled out after the gang leader, 29-year-old Yousef Fofana, assumed his family was wealthy because he was Jewish. Fofana is a French citizen from the Ivory Coast, where he had fled after the crime and was arrested and extradited.

The brutal murder haunted France after it was revealed that Halimi was tortured for three weeks before his naked, stabbed and repeatedly burned body was dumped on the side of a road. He was found handcuffed. His family buried him in Israel, where his mother wrote in a book that the murderers “never will be able to hurt him anymore.”

Ruth Halimi, addressing the murderers, wrote in her book about her ordeal, “I took him away from here because one day you will be free and you would have been able to come and spit on his tomb.” Anti-Semitism, including violent attacks on Jews and desecration of graves, has risen sharply throughout the entire world, and French Jews have reacted with an increase in immigration to Israel (aliyah).

French law allows trials of juveniles to be conducted in public in certain cases. “A public trial would have helped better understand the criminal machine, to make parents and teenagers reflect. It’s the law of silence that killed her son; it would be unbearable for the trial to remain silent," according to Halimi’s lawyer.

Investigators of the crime discovered that Halimi had been the victim of taunts prior to the kidnapping. His sister Anne-Laure related that gang members called him "Osama” and that during ransom negotiations with his family, they sang verses from the Koran over the telephone.

The kidnappers lured their victim by using a young Jewish woman with whom he worked as a phone salesman. She told several friends about the kidnapping, but no one informed the police. The father of one of the gang members also told his son to remain quiet after they discussed the crime.

The kidnappers eventually demanded $1 million in ransom but apparently decided to end the grisly episode by killing him.

Fofana allegedly had previously tried to kidnap Jews for money. His “Gang of Barbarians” included blacks, Arabs and Portuguese and French whites.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Aboriginal Rights to Israel
By Allen Z. Hertz ·

For over sixty years, there has been a bitter dispute over the unwillingness of most Muslims and Arabs to accept the legitimacy and permanence of Israel as an independent Jewish State in the Middle East. In this connection, Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have denied that the Jews are a People within the context of the modern political and legal doctrine of the self-determination of Peoples. However, there is an enormous body of archaeological and historical evidence demonstrating that the Jewish People -- like the Greek People or the Han Chinese People -- is among the oldest of the world's Peoples.

Thus, it is well known that the Jewish People has more than 3,500 years of continuous history, with a subjective-objective national identity that, in each century, has kept a link to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. For example, the Jewish Bible, the Christian Gospels and the Koran all specifically testify to the connection between the Jewish People and its historic homeland.

Like other Peoples, the Jewish People has a right to self-determination. Though the self-determination of the Arab People is expressed via twenty-one Arab countries, Israel is the sole expression of the self-determination of the Jewish People, which of all extant Peoples, has the strongest claim to be considered aboriginal to the territory west of the Jordan River.

Thus, the Jewish People is aboriginal to Israel in the same way that, in Canada, certain First Nations are deemed aboriginal to their ancestral lands. And, it is noteworthy that the Supreme Court of Canada has decided that, where aboriginals maintain their historical connection with the land, aboriginal title can survive both sovereignty changes and influx of new populations resulting from foreign conquest.

In this regard, it is essential to recognize that the Middle East has always had a significant Jewish population, including some Jews who, in each century, continued to live west of the Jordan River. Today, many of the sons and daughters of these Middle Eastern Jews are citizens of Israel, where they have been joined by Jews from many other countries. Though some Western thinkers are now uncomfortable with the idea of a nation-State as the homeland of a particular People, that is no reason to target Israel, because the overwhelming majority of modern States are the homeland of a particular People, e.g., Japan, Italy, or the twenty-one countries of the Arab League.

Israel and thirty-odd modern countries are all successor States of the Muslim Ottoman Empire which for four hundred years (1516-1920) was the principal Power in the Near and Middle East. Apart from the ruling Turks, the Ottoman population was composed of several large ethnic groups, including Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, Arabs and Jews. For centuries, these Jews lived in large numbers in a variety of Ottoman venues -- including Constantinople, Salonika, Cairo, Alexandria, Damascus, Aleppo, Mosul, Baghdad, Basra, Tiberias, Hebron, Safed, Jaffa and Jerusalem.

In late October 1914, the Ottoman Empire opted to enter the First World War to fight against the United Kingdom and its Allies. As the fortunes of war began to favour the British Army, the United Kingdom Government addressed the question of what to do with the multi-national Ottoman lands both in the light of current British interests and the nineteenth-century liberal doctrine of the self-determination of Peoples. In this regard, the father of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, in his 1896 manifesto The Jewish State, had already proclaimed that Jews, though living in many different places around the globe, constitute one People for the purpose of self-determination.

In October 1917, the British Cabinet adopted, as a declared war aim, the creation of an entirely new country called “Palestine” to serve as “a national home for the Jewish People.” This was done to help realize the Jewish People’s self-determination on its ancestral lands; to shore up Jewish support for the Allied war effort in revolutionary Russia and the USA; and to help the British better cover the eastern flank of the Suez Canal, which was then the crucial gateway to British India. The intention to create this Jewish-National-Home Palestine was announced to the world in the November 1917 Balfour Declaration.

As Great Britain worked to defeat the Ottoman Turks, the world also began to learn about the national claims of the Arab People. Here recall the wartime exploits of Lawrence of Arabia and the Hashemite Prince Feisal ibn Hussein, both of whom were present at the 1919-1920 Paris Peace Conference. There, a powerful international searchlight was trained on the self-determination of Peoples, including the claims of the Arab People.

However, no one there had ever heard anything about a distinct Palestinian Arab People. Had there then been such a distinct Palestinian Arab People, Prince Feisal, USA President Woodrow Wilson, France’s Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and others would have known about it. This assessment is confirmed by extensive local testimony and petitions collected, in 1919, by the USA King-Crane Commission which told President Wilson that Arabs around the Jordan River specifically rejected any plan to create a new country called Palestine. To the contrary, local Arabs then enthusiastically sought creation of a new, unitary Arab State matching the then Ottoman Province of Syria, which for centuries had included modern Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.

The 1919-1920 Paris Peace Conference was concerned with the task of accommodating the political interests of the victorious Allied and Associated Powers with the claims to self-determination of well-known Peoples which had long histories of national self-affirmation and bitter suffering under foreign oppression. Thus, considered were difficult and entangled issues touching the self-determination of such famous Peoples as the Chinese, the Poles, the Germans, the Finns, the Letts, the Latvians, the Estonians, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Serbs, the Slovenes, the Croats, the Italians, the Hungarians, the Romanians, the Bulgarians, the Greeks, the Turks, the Kurds, the Armenians, the Arabs and the Jews. In this larger context, just one decision among many was creation of an entirely new country called “Palestine” as “a national home for the Jewish People”.

The international decision to establish “a national home for the Jewish People” was the sole rationale for the 1922 creation of Jewish-National-Home Palestine which, under the aegis of the League of Nations, was administered by the British until May 1948, when Israel declared independence. Decision-makers at the 1919-1920 Paris Peace Conference knew that Jewish-National-Home Palestine would initially lack a Jewish majority population. However, the international decision to create Palestine “as a national home for the Jewish People” was made not so much on the basis of local demographics, but in recognition of the Jewish People’s aboriginal title and continuing links to the land around the Jordan River, as well as with regard to broader considerations of demography, history, politics and social justice that were both global and Middle Eastern. Thus, there was a conscious choice to refer -- not just to the 85,000 Jews then living locally -- but also to the past, present and future of 14 million Jews worldwide, including the one million Jews then living in the Near and Middle East.

Failure to create Jewish-National-Home Palestine would have meant denying the Jewish People a share in the partition of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire, where Jews had lived for centuries, including some west of the Jordan River. Failure to create Jewish-National-Home Palestine would also have meant that the Arab People would have received almost the whole of the Ottoman inheritance. That result would have been unacceptable to David Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson and their peers, because they clearly understood that the claim to self-determination of the Jewish People was no less compelling than that of the Arab People.

The Paris decision-makers strongly believed that they had also done justice to the claims of the Arab People whom they had freed from 400 years of Turkish rule and helped on the road to independence via the creation or recognition of almost a dozen new Arab States on territory that had formerly belonged to the Ottoman sultan.

Moreover, the decision to create Jewish-National-Home Palestine did not result in the displacement of any Arabs. To the contrary, from 1922 until 1948, the Arab population of Jewish-National-Home Palestine almost tripled, while the Jewish population multiplied eight times. The later problem of Arab refugees (about 736,000) from Jewish-National-Home Palestine and Jewish refugees (about 850,000) from Arab countries only emerged from May 1948, when local Arabs allied with several neighbouring Arab States to launch a war to exterminate the Jews living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Like the Greek People or the Han Chinese People, the Jewish People has kept the same name and subjective-objective national identity, in each and every century, since ancient times. By contrast, the first steps towards a distinct, subjective-objective Palestinian Arab identity were taken only after the international community had already created a new country called “Palestine” to serve as “a national home for the Jewish People”. Thus, the continuing subjective-objective national identity of the Jewish People and the creation of Jewish-National-Home Palestine were both preconditions for the subsequent evolution of a distinct, subjective-objective Palestinian Arab identity. This logical sequence reminds us that the history of Jewish-National-Home Palestine (1922-1948) and the factual existence of modern Israel are only explicable because the subjective-objective national identity of the Jewish People, and its continuous link to the lands west of the Jordan River, precede by around 3,500 years the formation of a distinct, subjective-objective Palestinian Arab identity and any articulated Palestinian Arab claim to a hypothetical Palestinian Arab State that has, in fact, never existed.

Thus, deep into the 20th century, Arab leaders themselves failed to recognize the right to self-determination of a distinct Palestinian Arab People. For example, as principal Arab leader at the 1919-1920 Paris Peace Conference, Prince Feisal specifically accepted the plan to create Palestine as “a national home for the Jewish People” and his father, the Hashemite King of the Hedjaz (later part of Saudi Arabia) was party to the 1920 Sevres Treaty that explicitly stipulated that the newly-created Palestine would be “a national home for the Jewish People.”

And, decades later, the governments of Egypt and Jordan showed how little regard they had for the self-determination of a distinct Palestinian Arab People; first, by rejecting the 1947 UN plan to partition Jewish-National-Home Palestine into two new independent States, the one Jewish and the other Arab; and second, by themselves failing to create a new Palestinian Arab State, between 1949 and 1967, when Egypt held the Gaza Strip and Jordan administered East-Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Such analysis does not deny the current existence of a distinct Palestinian Arab People; nor does it claim that such a Palestinian Arab People is today without rights. Rather, the conclusion is that there are rights on all sides, and that there should be a peaceful process that respectfully reconciles the rights of the Palestinian Arab People with the prior rights of the Jewish People.
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Now living in South China, Allen Z. Hertz was formerly a senior advisor in the Privy Council Office serving Canada's Prime Minister and the federal cabinet. Earlier he taught history and law at universities in New York, Montreal, Toronto and Hong Kong. Allen was born in Montreal, where he studied history and languages at McGill University. He later did graduate work in European and Ottoman history at Columbia University and subsequently earned law degrees from Cambridge University and the University of Toronto. His daughters Tamar and Robyn live in Montreal.

Monday, April 27, 2009

When the Lone Survivor is a Torah. An Amazing Story of a Holocaust Horror and the Beauty of Rememberence from Charleston


What is so amazing about this story is not just the story itself, but the way in which it is written. It is carefully laid out, beautifully detailed, and very respectfully rendered.

I am thoroughly impressed with this reporter's ability to convey this story so beautifully and so succinctly.

This is great journalism. A very talented writer with a really cool story to tell.



Lost and found: The story of the Vengrov Torah

By Adam Parker (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Monday, April 27, 2009

In late 1939, Nazis marched into the Polish village of Vengrov, east of Warsaw, forced the large Jewish population into its magnificent synagogue in the center of town, locked the doors and set fire to the building.

In so doing, the Nazis succeeded in wiping out all the Jews of Vengrov, who had lived there since the mid-1500s. The Jews perished in the conflagration. But Judaism was not destroyed.

For there was a sole survivor.

The Torah.

In the Orthodox Jewish tradition, the Torah is equated with a person, said Rabbi Ari Sytner of Charleston's Brith Sholom Beth Israel Synagogue. Its Hebrew characters are like the human soul, imbued with life by God through the sanctified act of the scribe.

If a Torah is destroyed, its letters ascend to heaven, and the parchment scroll must be buried in the earth. If a Torah is damaged, it is rendered unusable until, like a sick person, it is restored to health.

Nearly 70 years after the Jews of Vengrov were obliterated, a Torah from the synagogue was discovered by a pair of travelers. The battered scroll was rescued and adopted by Sytner's congregation where it will find a new home after restoration.

The story of the Vengrov Torah is an adventure for the ages and an opportunity to give a voice to those who were silenced.

Five or six years ago, two young women traveling through Eastern Europe on a Jewish tour were approached by two men who invited them to see something extraordinary, according to Rabbi Menachem Youlus, a scribe who runs Save a Torah Inc., located in Rockville, Md.

"Now, young, unmarried Orthodox women do not go with men they don't know," Youlus said. "But their curiosity got the best of them."

They followed the men into the basement of a monastery outside Kiev, today part of Ukraine. They stood mesmerized, for stored in this cellar were more than 200 Torah scrolls and other Jewish artifacts, carefully catalogued and labeled. It was a treasure trove that pre-dated World War II.

The two travelers did what any Orthodox Jewish women would do under the circumstances, Youlus said. They pulled out their camera-equipped mobile phones and took pictures of the find — 5,000 pictures between them, which they promptly transmitted to Youlus, crashing his server.

Before long, the rabbi had arranged for the young archaeologists to send the files to a special Web site so he could begin to assess the nature of the discovery. It was obvious, even from images on a computer screen, that action was called for. Youlus, accompanied by four other scribes, boarded a flight for Kiev.

What had happened? The Vengrov tragedy offers a clue.
On the Web

Before the Nazis set fire to the great synagogue, two monks sneaked in to carry away the Torah. Somehow, the sacred scroll found its way to the monastery near Kiev where it was hidden, along with other Torahs rescued from the Germans.

Over several visits, Youlus and his small team scrutinized the musty, damaged scrolls, determining which could be salvaged. So far, they have rescued 30 from the monastery (for a price), including the Vengrov Torah.

The nonprofit Save a Torah enterprise so far has saved more than 1,100, Youlus said. Most have been repaired and "resettled" among Jewish congregations in Europe, Africa, Israel, the United States, even China and Japan.

Identifying their origins can be tricky, requiring intense detective work, Youlus said. Parchments are studied for clues. The calligraphy is examined. The scribes try to determine what type of ink was used or what method employed in cutting the parchment.

Restoring a Torah to health is not easy, Youlus said.

"A Torah is either perfect or it's not kosher," he said. If it's not kosher it cannot be used.

Each scroll has 304,805 letters on 62 panels consisting of three to five columns of text. Every Hebrew character must be examined and restored, one by one, by a licensed scribe who carefully and repeatedly retraces the shape with a quill pen. Any mistake, however slight, can transform a living document into a broken relic that must be buried forever.

"It takes a while to go through," Youlus said.

Once a Torah is restored, a new home is found for it.

Five years ago, Youlus was in Charleston working on a Torah dedicated to David J. Radinsky, who retired as rabbi of Brith Sholom Beth Israel in 2004. He told Sytner and others about his organization Save a Torah.

Many in the synagogue's congregation have Polish origins, like the Vengrov Torah. Many of its families have been affected by the Holocaust. When Pincus Kolender, a beloved member of BSBI and an Auschwitz survivor, died on April 31 last year, Charleston's Jewish community lost an important link to a previous generation and to a wellspring of memories.

"When Pincus died, it was an eye-opener," Sytner said. "What are we in Charleston passing on to the next generation?"

So the members of BSBI decided to sponsor the restoration of the Vengrov Torah and adopt it as their own. President Stanley Baker suggested setting up a special Torah fund and asked Herb Rosner to oversee the effort. A steering committee was formed. Sytner and the congregation produced a Web site, video and brochure to promote the fundraising project.
Rabbi Menachem Youlus of “Save a Torah” uses a variety of special tools to when reapplying Hebrew characters to damaged Torah scrolls.

Lori Hoch Stiefel

Rabbi Menachem Youlus of “Save a Torah” uses a variety of special tools to when reapplying Hebrew characters to damaged Torah scrolls.

Donors can chose to fund various physical components of the Torah — its crown, breastplate, cover, pointer — or parts of the text itself, from whole books down to an individual letter.

Rosner said the synagogue will tour the state with its Torah, offering people in other communities the opportunity to become sponsors. Anyone who funds the restoration of a letter can draw the character himself, Rosner said. To ensure its done correctly, donors will fill in an outline made by Yourus or Sytner, who is training to become a scribe for this purpose.

Sytner compared the Torah restoration project to a person emerging from a coma. It's a rebirth at once educational and celebratory, he said.

"It allows us to tell the story of the Holocaust" and rejoice in knowing that a sacred Torah held and read by generations past — and generations murdered — will once again be touched by bar mitzvah boys and kissed by worshippers in the 21st century. It is a great victory, Sytner said.

"Other marauding armies killed a lot of people, but the Germans wanted to destroy Judaism, not just Jews," he said. "People were just a part of it."

But thanks to the rescue of the Vengrov Torah, the life of a Polish village can be conjured up again, and a Jewish community in Charleston can rekindle some of what was lost, Sytner said.

The Torah, which contains the five books of Moses, is Judaism's most sacred text, providing the legal and ethical basis for the religion.

It includes 613 commandments, or mitzvahs, applicable to all observant Jews, the last of which is — to write a Torah.

"It's the only time Jews believe you have the opportunity to go one-to-one with God," Yourus said. "Anything you say, he listens."

But who, besides the trained scribes, has the time or skill to write all 304,805 characters, and to do so without error, an enterprise that can take more than a year?

"The sages say that by filling in just one letter, it fulfills that commandment," Yourus said. "It really is an opportunity to connect with God in a way that's unfathomable."

Jordan Suggests War With Israel Unless Jerusalem Divided


This little punk has the gall to suggest war against Israel?

He sits here and smiles into the camera, and suggests that Israel will be attacked unless we divide Jerusalem?

What a bunch of BS!

So, I see, the arabs will promise us the world if we just divide Jerusalem, give over Judea and Samaria, and throw ourselves into the sea?

Very nice.

What will he do if we decide to take Greater Israel, as our G-d Given right?

What will he do then?

Jordanian King! Hah!

Britain made you, little man. Your “kingship” is as fake as your smile.

You know your own country is the guilty one for not taking the “poor palestinian refugees” you want our hearts to bleed over.
Jordan is the “other state” in the two state solution, and Israel should send every last one of these “dear palestinian people” to you.

Will you smile then?

Will you smile when the animals that call themselves “palestinians” turn on you with the fury of 60 years of exile from your country because you wanted to make them scapegoats?

I say, let’s do it. Let’s expel the arabs from Judea and Samaria and send the whole lot of them to Jordan.

Then let’s see how your “Hashemite Kingdom” flourishes!


Jordan: Israel Faces War If It Does not Agree to Arab Terms
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

( Israel faces all-out war within 18 months if it does not come to terms with the Arab world and allow the establishment of a new Palestinian Authority state with its capital in Jerusalem, according to Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

The Hashemite monarch also declared on America's Meet the Press television program Sunday that threats from Iran and Al Qaeda will fade away once Jerusalem is divided.

His position basically echoed the PA stand that its demands are a condition for peace and are not a matter for negotiation, despite diplomatic and media language about Israel and the PA each making concessions.

The king responded to virtually every question concerning the Middle East by pointing to Jerusalem. “In Arab and Muslim minds, the most emotional aspect is the Palestinian cause and that of Jerusalem. And from there leads all the other problems,” he argued.

When program host David Gregory asked if it’s not a “fantasy’ to think that the problem of Al Qaeda will disappear so easily, the Jordanian monarch answered, ”What -- what is Al Qaeda’s platform is -- is the plight of the Palestinians in Jerusalem under occupation.”

Gregory challenged him that the terrorist organization may not believe what it says, but King Abdullah II was unmoved. “You can’t really take them that seriously when the core issue, the major grievance in the Arab and Muslim world is solved,” he explained.

He followed the same track concerning Iran and “any crisis you want to talk about…. All roads lead back to Jerusalem.”

Any crisis you want to talk about…. All roads lead back to Jerusalem.

The king, who visited U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to the United States, was equally emphatic and simplistic concerning the Iranian nuclear threat, which worries the Arab world as well as Israel.

Asked by Gregory what is the best way for the U.S. to persuade Iran to retreat from its nuclear program, King Abdullah II responded, "Solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem.” Gregory asked, “That’s it?” and the king explained, "That allows us to then solve the Israeli-Arab-Muslim problem.”

He continued, “Let me go back to saying I think that the challenge we have here in America is connecting the dots. If you have an issue of the threat that Iran poses to Israel, which is what Netanyahu was saying, the best way of solving that problem is solving the core issue, which is the Palestinian problem and that of Jerusalem.

“There’s more of an incentive for the Iranians to continue down that path when there’s an argument that they want to use in front of their people that Palestinians are under occupation.

The Jordanian monarch held out the chance for Israel to make peace with 57 countries that do not recognize Israel today. “Look, Israel, if you solve the Palestinian problem, if you allow us to solve the problems of Jerusalem, we all want to have peace with you.”

He warned that if Israel does not deal with the Arab demands over Jerusalem within the next 18 months, “there will be another conflict between Israel and another protagonist. He charged that outside interference, meaning the U.S., is a requirement to force a peace agreement.

“America is providing a new image of what and how things should be done. And I think that the world has a belief in the president, a lot of faith in what he has to say. Obviously the pressure on the president is to deliver,” he added.

So Israel has to decide, does it want to make a relationship with 57 nations or does it want to stay Fortress Israel?

On the subject of human rights and allegations that Jordan served as a proxy jailer for the U.S. and used brutal methods of interrogation, the king denied all charges. “I went straight back to my director of intelligence at the time and I said, ‘Is there any foundation to this?” King Abdullah II answered. “And he said, categorically, no. So I’d like to think that my people were telling me the truth.”

Obama Wants US Support for Hamas. Seeks Change in Law.


I guess Obama thinks that making a deal with the devil will save mideast “peace”?

This is just plain stupid.

I’m starting to suspect that Obama is less interested in diplomatic discussion with these regimes and more interested in bolstering the arabs against Israel. I guess his “advisors,” Mitchell and Carter, have finally succeeded in convincing a president that, if Israel just disappears, there will be peace.

I guess Obama just isn’t sure how to deal with that one sticky issue: Jews. Hello? Mr. Obama? We are still here, we are still Jewish, and we still support Israel. Didn’t you get the memo?

Wait? You are unconvinced that Obama is against Israel? Well, let’s just do a tally, shall we?

OK, including this story:

  • Obama wants to change the law to financially support Hamas.
  • Obama approved an arms sale from Turkey to Lebanon.
  • Obama has made overtures to Hugo Chavez.
  • Obama has made overtures to Mamud Ahmadinejad.
  • Obama has promised the arabs a “palestinian” state.
  • Obama has blocked Israel from acting against Iranian Nukes.
  • Obama has refused to act against Iranian Nukes.
  • Obama has bowed to the Saudi King.
  • Obama admitted he is a Muslim.

I’ve probably left a few things out, but heck, that’s a dang good start for the destruction of Israel, don’t you think? I guess all those Jewish Obama supporters got exactly what they wanted: an arab president who hates Israel.

The question is: Next time, will those voters put Jerusalem above their highest desire?

If they do, we get rid of Obama’s undue influence in the midterm election and he loses the presidency in 2012.

If they don’t, he continues to destroy Israel and the US with the avid support of liberal Jews.

Report: US seeks to aid Hamas-backed gov't,7340,L-3707195,00.html

Obama administration asks Congress to change US law so as to enable allocation of funds to Palestinian unity government that includes terror organization. Move sparks outrage among Israel supporters

Published: 04.27.09, 09:20 / Israel News

The Obama administration is laying the groundwork for dialogue with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, the Los Angeles Times reported on Monday.

According to the LA Times, the administration has asked Congress to amend US law so as to enable continued financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority even if Hamas becomes part of a future unity government.

US law requires the PA to adhere to three conditions in order to be eligible for aid: Recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting past agreements. Hamas, as an organization, does not meet these conditions.

According to the proposed change, if the rival Palestinian factions reach a power-sharing agreement, the US would like to provide aid as long as the government members backed by Hamas meet the administration's criteria.

This new initiative, reported the LA Times, signals a break from the policy of the Bush administration, which opposed a unity government.

The move has already sparked anger among Israel supporters in Congress. Rep. Mark Steven Kirk told Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a House hearing last week that the administration's proposal is akin to agreeing to support a government that "only has a few Nazis in it."

Clinton, who is seeking support for the move that would enable the transfer of $840 million in aid funds to the Palestinians, assured Congress that no assistance would be given to Hamas or an entity controlled by Hamas.

She added that the US will not recognize a Palestinian unity government that does not meet the Quartet's criteria.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

David's Tomb To Go To Catholic Church? Jewish Holy Sites To Be Appropriated By Covetous Pope


My stomach clenched when I read this. Of course, many of us have known for years that the Catholic Church is covetous of this particular Jewish Holy Site, believing that it is the place where the “last supper” occurred.

So, I guess our government will wrap up another precious Holy Site with a bow and gift it to some other religious group because they want it, right? After all, we have SO MANY religious sites, who cares if we cast off a Temple Mount here and a Mt. Zion there, right?

After all, our secular government has no clue why these sites are important, anyway, so why not just give them away as some sort of ceremonial nick-nack? I’m sure Bibi is just bursting with the news that he has decided that Mt. Zion will be a nice little gift to offer the Nazi Pope. (Seriously, Bibi, other governments would just offer a bottle of wine. May I suggest a nice vat of Dead Sea Mud?)

I’m sure King David won’t mind that his tomb is in the hands of a bunch of Catholics, right?
You know, the same Catholic Church who committed mass murder, expulsion, torture, and forced conversion against Jews for over a thousand years?

You know, the same Catholic Church who burned Jews alive and helped invent the blood libel?
You know, the same Catholic Church who burned every copy of the Talmud and every other important Jewish book they could find, and even when the kept a few copies, wouldn't let us see them, and deny they exist?

You know, the same Catholic Church who has Holy objects looted from our Holy Temple, but won't give them back and deny they have them?

You know, the same Catholic Church who refused to tell us where the Jewish babies saved from the Holocaust have been sent, who raised them, and what their names are now?

You know, the same Catholic Church who just signed an agreement with the Arab league, the same people who want to proclaim Isabella a Saint.

The same Catholic Church that “rehabilitated” a holocaust denying bishop?

The same Catholic Church who has decided to reintroduce the prayer for the conversion of the Jews?
Yeah. That Catholic Church.

Oh, and, of course, the same Catholic Church who fashioned a pope from a former Nazi Youth (poor me, I didn't really want to be one but I couldn't keep myself from being a collaborator even though it was really the wrong thing to do because martyrdom is for OTHER people), and will send him in the robes of a holy person to tour our land.

Yeah, Bibi, let's just give the Catholics the tomb of our greatest king, the Patriarch of the line of the Messiah, so that the Catholic Church can reinterpret our faith to match theirs and gain another foothold in our land.

Yeah, Bibi, let's just give away an important holy site because some group who doesn't want to pay their taxes decides that something is holy to them. That’s wonderful, don’t you think? Great.

I’m sure King David would really appreciate that.
I'm also sure King David would really enjoy the idea of throwing a major Yeshiva out on the street so the Catholics can redecorate with some nice "religious" art.

I just can’t wait to pray at the tomb of King David as we stare at a giant cross on the wall and replace the burial cloth with a giant jewel-encrusted "Jesus is Lord" artwork.

And, by the way, what about all the other xtians in the world? Do they want this site controlled by the Catholic Church? Seriously, the site is important to a whole bunch of different types of xtians, and I'm not sure how they would feel about Bibi just giving the site away to the Catholic Church.

When site is controlled by Jews, everyone can come, but when it is controlled by Moslems or a particular xtians sect, there are always big problems.
Let’s take, for example, the church where the J-guy was supposedly buried.

We have xtians there, feuding xtians. Monks who throw punches and fight, monks who refused to talk to one another, monks who haven’t moved a ladder for almost 200 years, and a church falling into ruin because no one can decide whose responsibility it is to fix things.

Wow. Sounds great. I'm sure King David would really love that too!

Just so everyone knows—if, by some miracle of G-d, I become a especially famous religious personality, please don’t allow some religion that came along a couple thousand years after my death to claim my tomb as some sort of holy place and take it over.

It’s really not what I want.

I doubt it is what King David would want either.


Israel’s Control of Mt. Zion in Danger
by Hillel Fendel

( Ten-year-long negotiations between Israel and the Vatican appear to be drawing to a close, with concerns rising that Israel will cede control of the building housing King David’s Tomb in Jerusalem.

The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission – a team of negotiators representing Israel and the Vatican – released an upbeat press release at the end of last week, speaking of "meaningful progress," "great cordiality," and a mutual commitment to reaching a final agreement "as soon as possible.”

Tellingly, a plenary meeting has been announced for this Thursday, April 30, at the Foreign Ministry. The meeting will be chaired by the two states’ deputy foreign ministers, Danny Ayalon and Monsignor Pietro Parolin. It is widely believed that the agreement will be signed then.

Church Demands Parts of Mt. Zion
The two states have been negotiating a treaty since March 1999 on matters having to do with Church-owned or Church-claimed property in Israel. Among the most significant issue under negotiations is the Vatican’s demand for the Last Supper room, located on the second floor of the ancient Mt. Zion building that also houses the tombs of Kings David, Solomon, and Hezekiah.

In addition, the Vatican is claiming areas around Lake Kinneret, as well as in Caesaria and Jerusalem.

Hints and implications in the Vatican and Catholic press have long indicated that the negotiations are expected to end successfully, from the Catholic vantage point, in time for Pope Benedict’s visit to Israel two weeks from now.

“This is a shame and a disgrace of unequalled proportions,” said Daisy J. Stern, M.D., who has been leading an information campaign on the topic. “Giving away these important areas has no Halakhic [Jewish legal] validity, of course, but signing it away will definitely make it very difficult to ever reclaim them.”

Mt. Zion - International Center for Catholics?
At present, since shortly after the Six-Day War in 1967, the Diaspora Yeshiva has run the Mt. Zion compound, on which it is located, and warns of the catastrophic implications for Israel and the Jewish People if the deal goes through.

The director of the yeshiva explained that if the Catholic Church receives control of the area, just a few hundred yards from the Temple Mount and adjacent to the Old City walls, it will turn it into "the international center for Catholics all around the world, and if the pope just gives the word, Christians will be flocking over here en masse."

"This is an enormous issue that is being pushed through without any public debate whatsoever," he said.

Vatican Signs Agreement with Arab League
Dr. Stern notes that though there had been reports that an agreement might be signed last week, “nothing happened – except that while they [the Vatican representatives] were talking with Israel, they signed an agreement with the Arab League. This is very worrisome. There are no details on the agreement with the Arab League, except that it aims to promote ‘peace, security and stability.’ Who knows what that really means? Are they dividing up the spoils of the future Vatican agreement with Israel – or perhaps they are preparing for the next Arab war with Israel? We don’t know.”

“This new agreement with the Arab League renders the Vatican, most gravely, an interested party in the Israeli-Arab dispute,” said Prof. Hillel Weiss of Bar Ilan University, who has been closely following the issue.

Of further concern is the fact that Israel is investing some 6 million shekels in improvements and renovations to various sites in preparation for the Papal visit. Work at the Last Supper room has been underway for some time.

Blueprint of an Agreement
A Foreign Ministry official confirmed in 2005 that a “blueprint of a possible agreement with the Vatican has been received.” The proposed contract, as Arutz-7 reported at the time, read as follows:

"The State of Israel hands over to the Holy See the use of the Cenacle [the room of the event known as the Last Supper, above King David's tomb - ed.], of the access path to it, and of the spaces adjacent to it... It is the Holy See's intention to inform the Bishops - and through them the world's Priests - that the Catholic Church has been given the use of the Cenacle, inviting them to visit the Holy Place together with their faithful... The Holy See hands over this use of the Cenacle to the Custody of the Holy Land [which acts on behalf of the Holy See]... [which] will keep the Cenacle open from 6 AM to 8 AM for the celebration of the Holy Mass... Official liturgical celebrations of non-Catholic Churches can take place only upon prior written permission by the Custody of the Holy Land."

The proposed agreement also stipulated that the Holy See will preserve the historic character of the site and keep it open to pilgrims and tourists, and that Israel will provide for the safety of the site. The Foreign Ministry official said at the time that “Israel is not prepared to relinquish its jurisdiction over this area.” The world will find out later this week whether this position is still valid.

Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein, who founded and still runs the Diaspora Yeshiva, officially known as Yeshiva Toras Yisrael, told Arutz-7 in the past that "according to their bible, the Land is to return to the Christians, and 144,000 Jews are to return to Mt. Zion. Their plan is for them to take control of the site, and then to announce that they are holding a mass reenactment of the Last Supper, with [all types of religious rituals], and to invite millions of Christians to come to Jerusalem and celebrate."

Rabbi Goldstein said that this means much tourism money for Israel, and that someone in the Israeli government is apparently very interested in making this happen.

The King David's Tomb complex, some 100,000 square feet, is "certainly one of the holiest spots in the Land of Israel," a yeshiva source said. "David, Solomon and others kings of Judea are said to be buried here. We've already given away the Temple Mount and the Machpelah Cave, except for here and there when we're allowed in; now they want to give Mt. Zion away as well? For thousands of years, this area was almost always totally closed off to Jews. G-d gave it back to us in 1948, but parts of it were still in range and sight of Jordanian snipers and were not in full use. After 1967, Rabbi Goldstein founded the Diaspora Yeshiva here - and it became an island of holiness, the first yeshiva for baalei teshuvah [newly religious] in Israel; we were there day and night learning Torah. Rabbi Goldstein was almost prophetic in establishing this yeshiva at that time at that spot; destiny from above intertwined him with Mt. Zion."

Dr. Stern and others are attempting to organize a public protest, beginning with an email and fax campaign to Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon, who will represent Israel at the Thursday meeting. The Director-General of the Foreign Ministry can be emailed at, and the fax number is 02-5303704 (from abroad, replace leading 0 with 972).

Pandemic Feared as Mexican Swine Flu Spreads. One Israeli Hospitalized.


One Israeli is hospitalized right now with the flu, but it is not clear whether it is the same swine flu that has affected Mexico and spread to the US and New Zealand.

This swine flu is bad news. First, because it is not just a swine flu. It is a mixture of avian, swine, and human flu viruses—which means that birds can carry it. Birds that are, right now, returning to the Northern US states after wintering in Mexico.

Also, this is the time when Mexican laborers flood the Southern States in order to get work picking crops, and flood the Northern states in order to help with Spring planting.

Also, the flu virus, which was not reported until now but showed up in late March and early April, may have been passed to thousands upon thousands of vacationing “Spring Break” students—not just the few students in Queens, but a LOT of students.

I find this virus interesting for a few reasons. First, it is hitting at a very unusual time. Second, it is a previously unknown virus which contains swine, bird, and human forms.

Third, it is especially virulent, and more deadly to healthy young people than it is to infants and elderly.

I know I am probably just paranoid, but if a terrorist wanted to send a biological weapon to the US but bypass any US controls, it would make sense to introduce that biological weapon in Mexico.

Mexico has an overburdened state medical system, a concentrated population base, and their heath department is chronically understaffed.

Once a biological agent is introduced into Mexican culture and established, then it is guaranteed to move into the US population, especially in the Spring.

Whether G-d or humanity has created this strain, it sounds especially dangerous and especially deadly. I am hoping that it can be contained and dealt with quickly, and that no more lives will be endangered by it.

Keep safe. No matter where you are in the world, this virus can spread to you. There is so much international travel and so much international movement that no corner of the world is immune from a pandemic.

Until our scientists can find a treatment/cure for this illness, remember to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds under warm water with soap every time you touch something someone else has touched, you are preparing food, or you are are in a situation where you need to assist children or elderly people.

Make sure you sanitize keyboards, phones, refrigerator handles, and computer mouse units at work and school with something that can kill viruses—like straight alcohol (which won’t harm your electronics); make sure your employer, school, or yeshiva encourages people to stay home if they are ill (no matter what!), and make sure that you are careful to wash your hands before eating (that includes washing your hands with soap and water if you touch the handles of a washing cup or the faucet handles at the washing cup sink! There are a lot of ill people touching the handles of that cup and faucet, and most cups and faucets haven’t been washed in a LOOOONG time. If you need to wash in public, use a disposable plastic cup and a layer of paper towels to turn on/off the faucet. It is a lot safer!)

Here’s the symptoms of the flu, from the CDC:

  • What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
  • The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

Here is the webpage about the flu from WHO .


Israeli in hospital amid swine-flu fears
Apr. 26, 2009
judy siegel and ap , THE JERUSALEM POST /servlet/Satellite?cid=1239710785388&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Amid growing international fears over the spread of a deadly flu-like virus, 25 Israeli tourists returning from Mexico were examined on Sunday, and one of them, who has a fever, was being held at the Laniado Hospital in Netanya.

The 26-year-old man was being held in quarantine while medical staff waited for his test results.

The Health Ministry said over the weekend that health funds and hospitals should renew their awareness of swine flu.

The Ministry instructed doctors to take special notice of patients suffering from acute respiratory illnesses, who have a temperature higher than 38 degrees Celsius and who complain of coughing, throat aches, mucus or shortness of breath.

Anyone who develops such symptoms up to seven days after returning from Mexico or after being in close vicinity to a person diagnosed with swine flu is requested to seek medical treatment.

The Foreign Ministry decided not to issue a warning against traveling to Mexico, but recommended that any Israeli staying in Mexico or who intends to visit the country in the near future, read the instructions published by the Health Ministry and avoid crowded places.

Also Sunday, New Zealand's health minister said ten students who had just returned from Mexico have tested positive for influenza. He said the cases were "likely" to be swine flu.

Tony Ryall said there was "no guarantee" the students had swine flu, but that health officials were taking precautions.

The group from New Zealand's largest high school returned to the northern city of Auckland on Saturday on a flight from Los Angeles. Thirteen students and one teacher were unwell and one student had to be hospitalized, said Auckland Regional Public Health Services director Dr. Julia Peters.

Meanwhile in the UK, the BBC reported that test results of a British Airways crew member who was taken to a hospital after also developing such symptoms came out negative, meaning that he was not carrying the deadly virus.

At least 81 people have died from severe pneumonia caused by a flu-like illness in Mexico, according to the World Health Organization, which declared the virus a public health emergency of "pandemic potential."

Mexico has closed schools, museums, libraries and theaters in a bid to contain the outbreak, which may have sickened about 1,000 people there.

Some of those who died are confirmed to have a unique version of the A/H1N1 flu virus that is a combination of bird, pig and human viruses, WHO said.

US authorities said 11 people were infected with swine flu, and all recovered or are recovering and at least two were hospitalized.

"It would be prudent for health officials within countries to be alert to outbreaks of influenza-like illness or pneumonia, especially if these occur in months outside the usual peak influenza season," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in Geneva on Saturday.

"Another important signal is excess cases of severe or fatal flu-like illness in groups other than young children and the elderly, who are usually at highest risk during normal seasonal flu," she said, adding, "the situation is evolving quickly."

In Asia, Japan's biggest international airport stepped up health surveillance, while the Philippines said it may quarantine passengers with fevers who have been to Mexico. Health authorities in Thailand and Hong Kong said they were closely monitoring the situation.

China said anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms within two weeks of arriving in the country from swine-flu affected territories was required to report to authorities.

Australia's Department of Health and Aging urged anyone who had returned from Mexico with influenza-like symptoms since March to seek advice from their doctors.

Malaysia and other Asian nations said they were awaiting further advice from WHO.

At Tokyo's Narita airport - among the world's busiest with more than 96,000 people using it daily - officials installed a device at the arrival gate for flights from Mexico to measure the temperatures of passengers.

A Health Ministry official said the government will monitor conditions of people returning from Mexico with their consent.

Agriculture Minister Shigeru Ishiba appeared on TV to calm consumers, saying it was safe to eat pork.

"Whether it's domestic or imported pork, pork is sanitized when being shipped" to supermarkets, Ishiba told TV Asahi. "It's perfectly safe to eat pork."

Asia has grappled in recent years with the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has killed at least 257 people worldwide since late 2003, according to WHO. Nearly 45 percent of the global bird flu deaths have occurred in Indonesia, with 115 fatalities.

Swine fever is a respiratory disease in pigs caused by the Type A flu virus. It is more common at the end of the fall and during the winter, much as regular flu affects humans.

Ordinarily, swine flu does not affect humans, although a small number who participate in pig fairs or work in the pig-processing industry will come down with it.

This virus is a mix of human, pig and bird strains that prompted WHO to meet Saturday to consider declaring an international public health emergency - a step that could lead to travel advisories, trade restrictions and border closures.

Chan said the outbreak of this never-before-seen virus is a very serious situation and has "pandemic potential."

But she said it is still too early to tell if it would become a worldwide outbreak.

"The situation is evolving quickly," Chan said in a telephone news conference in Geneva. "A new disease is by definition poorly understood."

Scientists have warned for years about the potential for a pandemic from viruses that mix genetic material from humans and animals.

Another reason to worry is that authorities said the dead so far don't include vulnerable infants and elderly. The Spanish flu pandemic, which killed at least 40 million people worldwide in 1918-19, also first struck otherwise healthy young adults.

This swine flu and regular flu can have similar symptoms - mostly fever, cough and sore throat, though some of the US victims who recovered also experienced vomiting and diarrhea.

But unlike with regular flu, humans don't have natural immunity to a virus that includes animal genes - and new vaccines can take months to bring into use.

Experts at the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the nature of this outbreak may make containment impossible.

Already, more than 1,000 people have been infected in as many as 14 of Mexico's 32 states, according to daily newspaper El Universal. Tests show 20 people have died of the swine flu, and 48 other deaths were probably due to the same strain.

The CDC and Canadian health officials were studying samples sent from Mexico, and airports around the world were screening passengers from Mexico for symptoms of the new flu strain, saying they may quarantine passengers.

But CDC officials dismissed the idea of trying that in the United States, and some expert said it's too late to try to contain spread of the virus.

They noted there had been no direct contact between the cases in the San Diego and San Antonio areas, suggesting the virus had already spread from one geographic area through other undiagnosed people.

"Anything that would be about containing it right now would purely be a political move," said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota pandemic expert.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said his government only discovered the nature of the virus late Thursday, with the help of international laboratories.

"We are doing everything necessary," he said in a brief statement.

But the government had said for days that its growing flu caseload was nothing unusual, so the sudden turnaround angered many who wonder if Mexico missed an opportunity to contain the outbreak.

"Why did it break out, where did it break out? What's the magnitude of the problem?" pizzeria owner David Vasquez said while taking his family to a movie Friday night, despite warnings to stay out of theaters.

Beginning in late March, when the flu season usually starts to taper off, health officials began recording a spike in cases - three times the normal number.

On April 16, Assistant Health Secretary Mauricio Hernandez noted "an unusual transmission period" of regular, seasonal flu.

Starting two days later, health teams were sent to hospitals looking for patients with severe flu or pneumonia-like symptoms. They noticed something strange: The flu was killing people aged 20 to 40, though flu deaths are nearly always among either infants or the elderly.

On Wednesday, Hernandez said testing was being carried out in Mexican labs, and hospitals were alerted to watch out for cases. But testing at Mexican labs did not alert doctors to the new strain - even though US authorities had detected cases in California and Texas by April 19.

Mexico City Health Secretary Dr. Armando Ahued said it wasn't until mid-afternoon Thursday that authorities received a call "from the United States and Canada, the most important laboratories in the field, telling us this was a new virus."

"That was what led us to realize it wasn't a seasonal virus ... and take more serious preventative measures," federal Health Secretary Jose Cordova said.

Across Mexico's capital, residents reacted with fatalism and confusion, anger and mounting fear at the idea that their city may be ground zero for a global epidemic.

Authorities urged people to stay home if they feel sick and to avoid shaking hands or kissing people on the cheeks.

Outside Hospital Obregon in the capital's middle-class Roma district, a tired Dr. Roberto Ortiz, 59, leaned against an ambulance and sipped coffee Saturday on a break from an unusually busy shift.

"The people are scared," Ortiz said. "A person gets some flu symptoms or a child gets a fever and they think it is this swine flu and rush to the hospital."

He said none of the cases so far at the hospital had turned out to be swine flu.

Jose Donasiano Rosales, 69, got nervous on the subway and decided to get out one stop early.

"I felt I couldn't be there for even one more station," Donasiano said as he set up a rack to sell newspapers on a busy thoroughfare. "We're in danger of contagion. ... I'm worried."

The local Roman Catholic Church recommended that priests shorten Mass; place communion wafers in worshipers' hands, instead of their mouths; and ask parishioners to avoid kissing or shaking hands during the rite of peace. The Archdiocese also said Catholics could fulfill their Mass obligation by radio.

Ahued, the capital's health secretary, said Mexico City may not be the epicenter of the outbreak - and could be appearing to the brunt simply because it is home to the most sophisticated medical centers.

"The country's best health care facilities are concentrated in the city," he said. "All the cases here get reported, that's why the number is so high."

The same virus also sickened at least eight people in Texas and California, though there have been no deaths north of the border, puzzling experts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A "seed stock" genetically matched to the new swine flu virus has been created by the CDC, said Dr. Richard Besser, the agency's acting director. If the government decides vaccine production is necessary, manufacturers would need that stock to get started.

The CDC says two flu drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, seem effective against the new strain.

Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, said the company is prepared to immediately deploy a stockpile of the drug if requested. Both drugs must be taken early, within a few days of the onset of symptoms, to be most effective.

Mexico's Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said the country has enough Tamiflu to treat 1 million people - only one in 20 people in greater Mexico City alone - and that the medicine will be strictly controlled and handed out only by doctors.