Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mizrachi Music Pioneer Jo Amar Passes Away


B"H

Forget Michael Jackson, the world lost a REAL talent on Friday.

As Amar sang, in "Barcelona":

To you I brought the best of my song
accept this present
and remember the echo of my voice
like a souvernir of love


Here is Jo Amar singing one of his most famous pieces while in his prime.

May his family be comforted by Hashm.

M
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Mizrachi Music Pioneer Jo Amar Passes Away
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/Flash.aspx/167090
Reported: 23:59 PM - Jun/27/09


(IsraelNN.com)

World renowned Moroccan singer Jo Amar passed away in New York on Friday at age 79. Amar was an Israeli icon for the first decades of the state's existence, a favorite of the newly arrived Sephardic immigrants in the country.

Amar, who immigrated to Israel in 1956, pioneered the fusion sound of Israeli eastern "mizrachi" music, merging classical Jewish Sephardic and Arabic tunes with Western musical sensibilities . . . [MORE]

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ben-Ari Wages Campaign to Have Dorit Beinisch Removed From Judicial Selection Committee


B”H

I am hoping that Ben-Ari is successful where others have been defeated, but he shouldn't stop with trying to get Dorit Beinisch removed from the judicial selection committee--he should have her removed from the court entirely.

This horrible woman, Dorit Beinisch, is a perfect example of a member of the “elite” class of politicians who are promoted because they know “where the bodies are buried.” She made her reputation with deception and deceit.


She is an unqualified crony of Barak who was implicated in a very bad scandal to frame right-wing groups and indict innocent persons in order to cover up Rabin’s assassination. Since then, she has been on a one-woman crusade to destroy the settlement movement, Israel, and anything vaguely religious. She is consumed by power for power's sake.

She met secretly with the US Ambassador to Israel regarding the Hevron Peace House, and was asked by 20 MKs to disqualify herself from ruling on the case, but she did not. She supported Arabs every time, helped destroy Jewish claim to the Temple Mount, made the ruling that two women can be the parents of a child, disallowed spanking, allowed the sale of pork in Israel, and allowed the practice of holding, indefinitely, in a maximum security prisons, innocent young girls (ages 14 & 16) from Hevron, accused of throwing rocks, and now she is supposed to “rule” on the conversions of thousands of Jews.

Here is a “refresher” article that remind us all of the now-famous but forgotten "Raviv-Beinish" protocols—for which she took the hit for her higher-ups and gained the allegiance of men even more evil than she is to attain the position for which she aspired.

Here's the story that explains it all:

Court authorizes the publication of the "secret document" on IBA journalist & former GSS agent Raviv

M

Ben-Ari vs. Beinisch Over Religious Supreme Court Nominee
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/132075
by Maayana Miskin

(IsraelNN.com) MK Michael Ben-Ari (Ichud Leumi – National Union) has begun a campaign to get Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch removed from the Judges Selection Committee. Ben-Ari charges that Beinisch is biased against religious nominees.

The freshman MK is calling on his colleagues to sign a petition asking Beinisch to step down.

The initiative to remove Beinisch from the committee began, Ben-Ari explains, “following an aggressive, unprecedented campaign that began in the [Supreme Court] President's office, against the candidacy of four religious judges to the Supreme Court.” Beinisch's associates attacked certain candidates in particular, he said, chief among them judge Moshe Drori.

Sources identified as being "close to Beinisch" said the justice had received dozens of angry letters complaining about Drori's candidacy. “That's really amazing, Drori's candidacy was made public just a day ago, and president Beinisch has already received dozens of responses,” Ben-Ari replied sarcastically.

"Moreover, did Beinisch receive complaints against Drori alone? Were there no complaints against other judges, those who Justice Beinisch hopes to see succeed?” he asked.

Report Led to Complaints of Racism
According to the Hebrew-language daily Yediot Aharonot, many complaints were sent following a report in the paper accusing Drori of racism. The paper published selected quotes from a judgement in which Drori ruled in favor of a hareidi-religious man accused of attacking a female supermarket cashier of Ethiopian Jewish origin, and followed with statements from Ethiopian-Israeli activists accusing the judge of racism.

Boaz Kenig, the attorney who represented the hareidi-religious man in the case that led to accusations of racism, accused Yediot Aharonot of taking quotes out of context. “In order to understand the verdict you have to read the entire thing,” he insisted. “There isn't a trace of racism against the plaintiff – the opposite.”

Among those who criticized Drori following the publication of the Yediot Aharonot article was MK Shlomo Molla, who termed Drori “racist and evil.” [MORE]

Rabbi Angel on Parashat Korah

Dissent, yes; Rebellion, no
By Rabbi Marc D. Angel
http://www.jewishideas.org/angel-shabbat/dissent-yes-rebellion-no-thoughts-parashat-kor

Korah foments a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, and is depicted in Jewish history as an arch-villain and trouble-maker. The Pirkei Avot describes Korah's rebellion as having been conducted "shelo leshem shamayim", not for the sake of Heaven. Like many demagogues, Korah appeals to the masses and tries to turn them against the existing leadership. Korah argues: all the congregation is holy--why should power reside only in Moses and Aaron?

The reason the Torah and subsequent Jewish tradition vilifies Korah is because his goal was not to improve the situation of the Israelites or to serve God in a better way; rather, Korah was interested in gaining power for himself and his followers. It was a personal, egotistical move by Korah to unseat Moses--and put himself at the helm of the nation. He did not offer any particular plan or prove why he would be a superior leader; he simply appealed to the frustrations of the masses and ran a "negative campaign" against Moses.

Korah, then, is justifiably denigrated in Jewish tradition as having caused conflict not for the sake of Heaven, but for the sake of advancing himself.

Unfortunately, it has become fashionable in some circles to brand anyone with new ideas and "anti-establishment" views as a Korah. An egregious example of this tendency occurred not long ago when a respected Orthodox rabbi compared a rabbinic colleague to Korah, because that rabbi dared to criticize the authoritarianism that has taken over within the Orthodox community. By comparing the rabbi to Korah, the intent was to discredit that rabbi as a mean-spirited, egotistical and power hungry demagogue.

By calling an honest and fine rabbi "Korah", the respected rabbi not only sinned against that rabbi, but actively participates in the authoritarianism that seeks to quash all opposition, that wants to crush any new ideas, that wants to protect the establishment at all costs. How can an authoritarian, bureaucratic and corrupt system be changed unless people are willing to step forward and offer valid criticisms? Why should the "whistle blowers" be considered like Korah, when they are risking their own security and peace of mind by opposing the vested interests? The critics are not seeking to usurp power for themselves, and are not interested in egotistical gains. Rather, they are trying to alter a system that has grown self-righteous, imperious and perverse.

Let us criticize Korah and those like Korah. But let us not misuse Korah's name by applying it to good, honest and righteous people who are trying to improve our people and our service to God.

***The Angel for Shabbat column will not be appearing during the month of July. We wish our readers a good summer. Thanks for your continued support for the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, jewishideas.org

Engelhard Stands Up To Shout When Too Many Jews Bend To Kiss The Feet Of Obama


B"H

I could not have said this better (even though I wished I had said it as well!)

This is an column everyone should read. In it, Jack Engelhard exposes the shocking truth of how Obama's plan for Yesha so closely mirrors the plans of one of the most evil men in the world.

Thanks, Jack, for clarifying these points, for saying this so well, and for standing up and shouting when too many Jews are too bending down to kiss the feet of Obama.

Jack Engelhard's latest thriller, The Bathsheba Deadline, which centers on media deceit against America and Israel, is available in paperback at Amazon.

M

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Obama's 'Jewish Experts'
by Jack Engelhard
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/8867

Where have we heard this before?

This is getting uncomfortable.

A few days ago, George Mitchell once again expressed his position, and opposition, even to "natural growth" in Mitchell - top Middle East envoy along with Clinton - explained that the controversy centered on "the number of Jewish births."
Judea and Samaria. Both Mitchell and Hillary Clinton speak for themselves and for President Barack Obama, who's made this - Jewish life in the "settlements" - his priority above all other international disputes.

Even the language is disturbing. Mitchell - top Middle East envoy along with Clinton - explained that the controversy centered on "the number of Jewish births." Where have we heard this before? To my mind, as someone who was born under similar conditions, in France under Vichy, where Jews were kept within "restricted zones," this sounds too much like Verboten!

When I hear American diplomats, and Obama himself, count the number of children allotted per Jewish family, at the same time measuring Jewish growth by the inch, the images that come to mind, to my mind, are of an earlier time, though not so long ago, when the Third Reich confronted the "Jewish Problem" by way of the Nuremberg Laws and the Wannsee Conference.

I picture Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann. They, too, were Jewish Experts.

I hear echoes of "none is too many." That was the response from Canada's Mackenzie King's government on the question of how many Jews were to be allowed inside the country following the Holocaust. Those words still ring throughout Canada, especially among survivors, but how did "none is too many" become an American position so fast and furious?

On top of that, there's The New York Times' Blood Libel of the Day. Today, it's Tony Judt's turn for his "expertise."

I'm not saying that Mitchell and Clinton are Heydrich and Eichmann - but I am watching too many scenes that feature (in my imagination) long speeches amplified by radio, round-ups, sealed trains, enclosures, ghettos, quotas. This takes me back to all that and it is unpleasant. We were supposed to allow this never again.

The past has returned, as my eyes see it, and we're watching it unfold with diplomacy that's too familiar.

When our ship came in - into Philadelphia - we were greeted, but not with brotherly love, back in April 1944. This boat was the Serpa Pinto (one of the few Jewish refugee voyages that were successful) and, as my sister Sarah recalls in her memoirs, "The city arranged planks upon the docking area and had us under armed guards lest we step on American soil."

We were, paradoxically, en route to Canada. America wouldn't have us. (Finally and thankfully, yes.)

Here we go again - but now in Israel? None is too many?

Mitchell and Clinton, and certainly Obama - do they know the Jewish Experience and what it means to restrict Jews and place them into "zones"? I'm not talking politics and policy. That's too complicated for this trip. I'm talking about the sound, the roar of approval this brings to mind . . . [MORE]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rabbi Amar Finally Puts His Foot Down: "I am exercising my power... to personally choose panels of judges that will rule on conversion cases."

B"H

It's about dang time.

Rabbi Amar should have nipped this in the bud a long time ago. Rabbi Amar tried to assure converts that they were OK, that everything would be fine and their conversions would be safe--two months too late after Sherman's original decision--but after that, Rabbi Amar remained silent. Nothing much was said, and less was done.

Perhaps there was a lot done quietly and discretely, but that isn't what the public needed. The public needed to hear from Amar exactly what was being done, and those things needed to be clearly stated.

Instead of giving people reassurance, those who had converted and/or were anticipating conversion were plunged into greater and greater levels of fear as Sherman and his lackeys seemed to grow more powerful and more influential, and Rabbi Amar seemed to disappear into the wallpaper.

But that was Sherman attacking Rabbi Druckman, and I the rabbinate weren't willing to step up for Rabbi Druckman (even though I can't imagine a better person to stand up for--a true Zionist, a well educated Rabbi, and a leader in every respect).

Now, however, Sherman crossed the line. With is latest outrageous ruling, Sherman has attempted to undermine Rabbi Amar (who is in charge of conversion) and infer that all of Israel should follow the direction of one Lituanian Haredi Rabbi--Rabbi Avraham Elyashiv--on conversion, marriage, and divorce.

While I will defend the right of Rabbi Elyashiv to follow Jewish tradition his own way and teach is followers to follow it that way--I will also defend all other religious Jews who are following the traditions of their family and their community and their rabbis to live and teach in the way that feel is best.

Sherman's latest opinion not only undermines the position of the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, he undermines the position of any religious Jew who doesn't follow Rabbi Elyashiv. Sherman showed himself to be completely out of bounds and must have his position cancelled immediately, his opinions revoked, and his power annuled.

I am so happy Rabbi Amar is finally putting his foot down. I just wish he had done this a lot sooner. Now, there is a lot of repair that must be done for the damage Sherman has caused and the distrust he has sewn.

M
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Jun 25, 2009 23:03 | Updated Jun 26, 2009 0:00
Amar moves to bar controversial rabbinic judge from conversion cases
By MATTHEW WAGNER
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1245924932778&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


In a move that pits him against the haredi rabbinical establishment and endears him to thousands of converts to Judaism, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar issued a written order that effectively bars a controversial haredi rabbinical judge from adjudicating in conversion cases.

"Recently, conversion cases have become the focus of public scrutiny," wrote Amar in a letter to Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, administrative head of the Rabbinical Courts. "Groups have taken advantage of the controversy surrounding these cases to attempt to limit the jurisdiction of the Rabbinical Courts. As a result, I am exercising my power... to personally choose panels of judges that will rule on conversion cases."

Amar's directive would allow him to remove from a conversion case any judge - but it is seen as being directed, in particular, at Rabbi Avraham Sherman, a judge on the High Rabbinical Court who one week ago issued his second highly controversial halachic opinion on a divorce case involving a woman who converted to Judaism.

As in his previous ruling of more than a year ago, Sherman questioned not only the validity of the woman in the divorce case but also all contemporary Orthodox conversions - especially those performed by the National Conversion Authority, which is under Amar's supervision - and called to protect the purity of the Jewish people from "invasion" by gentiles undergoing "bogus" conversion ceremonies. In addition, Sherman declared that only the haredi rabbinical establishment was qualified to adjudicate on conversion matters; Sherman did not mention Amar as part of this "legitimate" rabbinical establishment.

In the wake of the publication of Sherman's opinion, Amar came under pressure to clarify his stand, said a senior source in the Rabbinical Court Administration.

"Rabbi Amar could not simply remain quiet any longer," said the source. "Sherman's opinion basically undermined Rabbi Amar's authority. He had to do something."

Amar's spokesman denied that the new directive was aimed against Sherman.

"Nowhere in the letter is Sherman mentioned," said the spokesman.

Amar's attempt, through his spokesman, to play down the sidelining of Sherman is in accordance with the non-confrontational style that has characterized his leadership style since he took office as chief rabbi more than five years ago.

However, a representative of the haredi rabbinical establishment rejected Amar's spokesman's attempts to sidestep a direct confrontation and vowed that Amar would be "punished" for coming out against Sherman.

Rabbi Nahum Eisenstein, who is closely aligned with Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, considered the preeminent halachic authority of Ashkenazi haredi Jewry, said in response: "If reports regarding Amar's letter are true, our rabbis will come out with a very serious reaction. Rabbi Amar has crossed a red line and he is directly undermining the halachic validity of conversions in Israel."

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Absorption Minister Sofa Landver on Wednesday, Amar reiterated his commitment to recognize all conversions performed by the Conversion Authority, according to Landver's spokesman.

Landver voiced her concern that Sherman's attack on the Conversion Authority would discourage potential converts from converting.

"No one will be willing to go through the trouble of converting if there is a real fear that, sometime down the road, the conversion will simply be annulled," she said.

According to data presented to Amar by Landver, there are 320,000 . . . [MORE]

A Stand-off, Not a Victory, in EU Shechita Decision


B”H

The European Jewish Congress released their comments about the new EU regulations regarding animal slaughter and the fact that the EU will not require pre-stunning of all animals.

Although the press release REFERS to the situation correctly, it does not explicitly state the problem with the new regulation—which accounts for the fact that most Jewish Bloggers are hailing this as a victory, when it really isn’t.

The Jewish bloggers and the Jewish press are generally failing to mention that, by refusing to require that all animals are pre-stunned, the EU has not guaranteed the right of shechita in individual member states.

In fact, it struck me how sad it is that European Jews are so used to religious bias from the EU that they regard a vote to retain the status quo as a victory--especially when that status quo eliminates the right to Kosher slaughter in seven member states.

The Council Directive 93119/EEC states:

  • Member States retain the right to authorise religious slaughter without prestunning in their own territory. The Directive leaves the responsibility for the respect of religious slaughtering rules with the religious authority, but places the responsibility for the enforcement of its general legal requirements directive with the official veterinary authorities. It further requires that animals slaughtered in accordance with religious rites shall be spared any avoidable suffering, pain or excitement during all stages of the slaughter process, and that a mechanical form of restraint be used to prevent injury when the animal is killed.


In other words, the individual member states can still ban the process, and those member states who have outlawed it so far, are not required to allow shechita (i.e. In Latvia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Switzerland; there is no kosher slaughter of beef and lamb. Switzerland allows the slaughter of poultry, but that is not allowed in the other six nations who have banned Kosher slaughter.)

So, this isn’t REALLY a victory, it is more like standoff. Now, the “animal rights activists” (a.k.a. Xenophobes) will have to get their anti-Jewish legislation passed individually in each member state—which means a lot more work for Jewish groups working to secure the rights of Jews to follow G-d's Law.

We have to be vigilant or there will have to be a whole lot more Kosher Vegetarians in Europe because there won’t be any access to kosher meat.

M

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European Jewish Congress hails new EU regulation for 'shechita' or Jewish animal slaughter
by: Maud Swinnen Updated: 23/Jun/2009 18:11
http://www.ejpress.org/article/37493


BRUSSELS (EJP)---The European Jewish Congress, an umbrella organization for Jewish communities across Europe, hailed a new European regulation on animal slaughter agreed on Monday by the European Union Council of Ministers.

The new regulation recognises the validity of ‘shechita’ or Jewish animal slaughter according to religious methods and requires that kosher meat can be traded and sold freely in every EU member state.

“The European Jewish Congress is delighted that the new EU regulation ensures that communities in member states that kill animals for food according to humane Jewish law will be able to continue doing so,’ Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC) said.

He added: “This represents a victory for the Jewish community and religious minorities generally throughout the EU.”

But he said that “we must remain vigilant to ensure that individual governments do not seek to impose new requirements on religious slaughter“.

"The regulation specifically makes provision for the killing of animals for food by religious communities to be exempted from the requirement for pre-stunning, and it contains no discriminatory labeling requirements for meat slaughtered using the shechita method nor for post-cut stunning to be enforced,” explained Aba Dunner, executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis.

“Furthermore, no member state will be able to . . . [More]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sherman's Rabbinical Kangaroo Court Destroys Another Ger's Life and the Life of Their Children


B”H

When will people simply not take this any more? What the HECK is going on?? This is such Chillul Hashm that I can almost not bear to read another article about these vicious men.

I don’t have a Smicha, but I can tell that these black-hatted charlatans are ADDING TO TORAH, placing stumbling blocks before the rebbe-rabid lost-soul throngs of man worshipping Haredim, and violating a basic and very explicit tenet of Judaism: DO NOT AFFLICT THE GER.

They are making up their own religion as they go along, and it has NOTHING to do with Torah. Quoting from the article: “As opposed to the regular format of rabbinical court decisions, Rabbi Sherman did not settle for quotes from previous rabbinic rulings, but instead quoted extensively letters and opinions of the ultra-Orthodox rabbis he follows, who oppose the present Israeli system of conversions. “

Disgusting. These men have no shame, no humility, no humanity. The title of Dayan should be removed, immediately, from them. They should dress themselves in sackcloth and ashes and roam the streets pleading for forgiveness.

May Hashm judge them as they have been judged. May every hidden sin they have ever been guilty of, appear, like pox, upon the patina of their “holiness” and afflict them until they moment perform Teshuva! If they do not do Teshuva, may those they have harmed be present at the Heavenly Court to give testimony! So what if they have lived a life of religious piety—for that reason, they are held to a higher standard and they must rule not according to the pressure of politics but according to Halacha. They can twist things as they wish, but Hashm will see every contortion in their soul and judge them by it.

Sherman (notice the LACK of honorific title, Please!) will go down in Jewish history as second only to Korach in his insolence, smugness, and self-pride.

It is no accident that the information about this case is released this week. Every Parasha comes true in the time we are living. We can see it if we look.

Now, I am waiting for the earth to open up and swallow him and his followers. I see him questioning the wisdom of Moshe Rabbeinu, I see him spitting in the Face of G-d, and I see him assuming he has the right to fulfill a leadership role that undermines the Torah.

Please, someone hand Sherman an incense-pan! He might as well show himself for what he is.

M

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Last update - 07:42 23/06/2009
Rabbinical Court proves subservience to ultra-Orthodox
By Yair Ettinger
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1094888.html


A decision published on Monday by the High Rabbinical Court exposes how the state's official rabbinical courts view themselves as subject to the decisions of ultra-Orthodox rabbis and leaders of the Haredi public.

"All the Jewish people view them," referring to the ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the decision, "as appropriate and authorized to instruct the Jewish people, and all the Jewish people are subject to their decisions to do what they teach and not to stray from their teachings," wrote the rabbinical court in its ruling.

The ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel of dayanim (religious court judges) headed by Rabbi Avraham Sherman, who last year nullified all conversions performed by the state's religious conversion court system headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman. Sherman's ruling on conversions is now being considered by the High Court of Justice.

Yesterday's ruling came in another conversion case, of a couple from the Tel Aviv area. The decision, made a month and a half ago but only published yesterday, related to an appeal by the woman, who the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court ordered to be divorced from her husband, and that property matters in the case would only be heard at a later time. During the divorce proceedings doubts were raised as to whether the woman was actually Jewish, as she had converted before her marriage.

The High Rabbinical Court, the highest of the official state Jewish religious courts, decided to not recognize the woman's conversion - even though she had accepted Orthodox Jewish religious practice when she converted. There were also doubts as to the husband's Jewishness. Even though all these issues cast a doubt on whether halakha, Jewish religious law, requires the couple to divorce, the court decided to follow the strictest interpretations and force them to divorce.

At the same time, the couple and their children will be placed on the rabbinate's blacklist of those who have restrictions on who they may marry - which effectively prevents them from marrying in the future through the rabbinate.

Most halakhic decisors over the generations have ruled that religious courts ("batei din") do not have the authority to overrule other rabbinical courts, but Rabbi Sherman and the two other dayanim in the case, Rabbi Haggai Izrir and Rabbi Zion Algrabli, preferred the more conservative position of modern ultra-Orthodox decisors. That is the main innovation of the present decision, which relates to the important question of the source of the rabbinical courts' authority.

The 35-page judgment, with the words "The State of Israel" at the top of every page, gives a clear answer: . . . [MORE]

New Online Calendar Simplifies Taharat haMishpacha


B"H

I have yet to check this out, but I am both hopeful and skeptical about it.

Hopeful . . . because it would be really nice to be able to organize dates in a more efficient manner than making some small inconspicuous marks on a calendar that I hide in my dresser. I am also hopeful because the article states:

"Another appeal of the site is its ability to handle nuances and differences in custom, including Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Chabad and Modern Orthodox. Users can choose their preferred custom, and all calculations are automatically adjusted accordingly."

OK, that's good. It sounds a lot more sensitive than the local mikvah lady who can't seem to understand my custom any more than I would be able to understand hers.


Skeptical . . . because I worry that there won't be enough built-in "worst case scenario" issues--like when you have given birth, are nursing the baby, and everything is mixed up (What? AAAAAGAIN???? Nooooooooo!!!).

I think this application is a bit more complex and carefully conceived (no pun intended! LOL) than the more simple applications I have seen before (like the iPhone App.--which is pretty darn cool). The article says it took the author of the website over four years to develop the algorithm for the calendar (which, according to my understanding of Taharat haMishpacha, would be record time!)

But technology isn't for all eventualities, sadly, and the advice of a trusted rabbi is essential sometimes
(and SO embarrassing).

M

P.S. I just looked at the site. Nope. Not for me. I know the article says "Sephardic"--but it just isn't there. I see "Chabad" and "Yeshiva University." I do not see "Sephardic." Also, if you don't know all the Hebrew terminology for stuff, it isn't a great place to go. However, if you happen to be main-stream Ashkenazi--it's probably a really great resource.
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Family purity observance goes high tech
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3734320,00.html

New website developed by ultra-Orthodox MIT graduate helps women calculate dates, times and patterns of family purity

Ynetnews
Published: 06.22.09, 11:54 / Israel Jewish Scene

A new website recently launched in the United States aims to help millions of married Jewish women observe the complex laws of family purity.

On the web-based solution called MikvahCalendar.com, users are guided through the process of inputting information and the confidential site’s calendar takes over from there, tracking and calculating dates, times and patterns, generating email and text message reminders, and facilitating anonymous “Ask the Rabbi” help via email.

Founder and co-creator Rebetzen Rivkah Bloom, who holds a masters degree in computer science from MIT, says she was inspired by women approaching her for help with the mathematics of the laws of purity. "Women needed help with the family purity calculations and because women today are internet and computer savvy they asked me to develop a program to help them do it on their own," said Bloom.

Working with a colleague from MIT, the Mikvah Calendar program took Bloom four years to develop. But it’s taking off fast now that it’s open for business. Tens of thousands of women from around the world have already visited MikvahCalendar.com in its first month online. [MORE]

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Our world may be a giant hologram


B"H

OK, a really weird article, but I couldn't help myself. It really does have to do with Israel Jewish News. The "Israel" part of of the story is that one of the major theories present here is from the work of an Israeli scientist Jacob Bekenstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

I'll get to the Jewish part in a minute.

Essentially, scientists were looking for proof that our three-dimensional universe might actually be simply a hologram of a physical process occurring in a two-dimensional universe. They found evidence this occurs--accidentaly--while they where trying to investigate some other aspect of the universe.

Why is that important? Well, this discovery might help explain dimensionality and how some processes, like the formation and disappearance of black holes, might occur.

But, more interestingly for me, I like to look at how science is always reconfirming what our Torah and our Talmud has already said. Many of the things which scientists scoffed at, who dismissed as "fictional" and "fantastic" in the Torah, are turning out to be true representations of how the universe works.

For example, "String theory," the idea that all things in the universe are connected and logically and mathematically interrelated was already universally understood by people of faith all over the world. We know that there is One Creator who conceived and built the universe, not a random connection of individual elments. We know that everything we do affects every other thing in the universe, this is why life is so important, and why the way we behave and interact with the world must be carefully considered every moment of our lives. Each of us has an indelible effect upon everything in the universe. Wow.

The theories of evolution also follow Torah's outline--each phase of the process of creation in science following the same recipe that G-d outlines in Bereshit. This is something which has always stood out, for me, when contemplating the Divine Authorship of Torah. It is simply not possible for a mortal author without an understanding of the great diversity of life and without advanced scientific instruments to understand how one life-form is related to another in such depth. This would only be understood by G-d. (I highly recommend the book Genesis and the Big Bang if you want to understand how science and Torah are interrelated in relation to Creation. It is a great read!)

Things which are seemingly simple in the creation of the universe in Bereshit take on a whole new dimension as scientists discover new knowledge of the universe. For example, in the Creation, G-d seperates divides the darkness from the light. One might understand this simply as the division between day and night, one may also see it is a division between dark matter and visible matter in the universe.

So, how do I think this newest theory relates to Torah? Well, most religious Jews believe G-d created Torah first, then the universe was designed according to Torah. So, the universe, which is three dimensional, has it's source in the two dimensional Torah.

Hmmm. I guess this "holographic universe" idea it is another example of science "discovering" something that people of faith have always taken for granted.

Interesting, no?

M
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Our world may be a giant hologram
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126911.300-our-world-may-be-a-giant-hologram.html?full=true

DRIVING through the countryside south of Hanover, it would be easy to miss the GEO600 experiment. From the outside, it doesn't look much: in the corner of a field stands an assortment of boxy temporary buildings, from which two long trenches emerge, at a right angle to each other, covered with corrugated iron. Underneath the metal sheets, however, lies a detector that stretches for 600 metres.

For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves - ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.

For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.

If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

The idea that we live in a hologram probably sounds absurd, but it is a natural extension of our best understanding of black holes, and something with a pretty firm theoretical footing. It has also been surprisingly helpful for physicists wrestling with theories of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.

The holograms you find on credit cards and banknotes are etched on two-dimensional plastic films. When light bounces off them, it recreates the appearance of a 3D image. In the 1990s physicists Leonard Susskind and Nobel prizewinner Gerard 't Hooft suggested that the same principle might apply to the universe as a whole. Our everyday experience might itself be a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface.

The "holographic principle" challenges our sensibilities. It seems hard to believe that you woke up, brushed your teeth and are reading this article because of something happening on the boundary of the universe. No one knows what it would mean for us if we really do live in a hologram, yet theorists have good reasons to believe that many aspects of the holographic principle are true.

Susskind and 't Hooft's remarkable idea was motivated by ground-breaking work on black holes by Jacob Bekenstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and Stephen Hawking at the University of Cambridge. In the mid-1970s, Hawking showed that black holes are in fact not entirely "black" but instead slowly emit radiation, which causes them to evaporate and eventually disappear. This poses a puzzle, because Hawking radiation does not convey any information about the interior of a black hole. When the black hole has gone, all the information about the star that collapsed to form the black hole has vanished, which contradicts the widely affirmed principle that information cannot be destroyed. This is known as the black hole information paradox.

Bekenstein's work provided an important clue in resolving the paradox. He discovered that a black hole's entropy - which is synonymous with its information content - is proportional to the surface area of its event horizon. This is the theoretical surface that cloaks the black hole and marks the point of no return for infalling matter or light. Theorists have since shown that microscopic quantum ripples at the event horizon can encode the information inside the black hole, so there is no mysterious information loss as the black hole evaporates.

Crucially, this provides a deep physical insight: the 3D information about a precursor star can be completely encoded in the 2D horizon of the subsequent black hole - not unlike the 3D image of an object being encoded in a 2D hologram. Susskind and 't Hooft extended the insight to the universe as a whole on the basis that the cosmos has a horizon too - the boundary from beyond which light has not had time to reach us in the 13.7-billion-year lifespan of the universe. What's more, work by several string theorists, most notably Juan Maldacena at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, has confirmed that the idea is on the right track. He showed that the physics inside a hypothetical universe with five dimensions and shaped like a Pringle is the same as the physics taking place on the four-dimensional boundary. [MORE]

Friday, June 19, 2009

New Facebook Application Identifies People's Identities, Even "In the Wild," Using Constantly Evolving Artificial Intellegence. Scary Stuff.


B"H

This is probably going to be the number one facebook app. in about 2.1 seconds.


OK, call me paranoid, but even if this technology is meant for "fun" and "social" applications, it still has the ominous ability to identify people very quickly, and it will probably be able to pick people out "in the wild" in a very short time because it uses artificial intelligence.


So, let's say that someone takes my picture at a pro-Israel rally, feeds it into "friend finder," and finds out who I am, cross-references my address, and shows up at my house to do a little graffiti work, or, worse, brings a gun.


What if they cross reference to find my kids' facebook pages and their friends facebook pages and target a whole community by just seeing one of us?


Scary.


My kids are always teasing me, telling me I am way too worried about "random" things in the world like security applications, nanotechnology, and arab terror.
They can tease all they want.

I've lived a few years longer, and I know the world is not the safe place I have raised them to believe it is.


This sounds like the best-friend application of freedom-fighter and terrorist alike.

Sure, it would allow someone who was groped on the subway to identify the attacker, but it could also allow an attacker to identify a victim!


I think the world is just getting a bit too small for me.


Onstar in my car was scary enough--this stuff is terrifying!


M


-----
Who's that on Facebook? Ask Friend Finder

By David Shamah
June 16, 2009
http://www.israel21c.org/bin/en.jsp?enDispWho=Articles^l2594&enPage=BlankPage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=object&enVersion=0&enZone=Culture&



It can be tricky trying to figure out who everyone is in your Facebook photo albums, but now an Israeli company has come up with a solution - a unique face recognition analysis technology that can analyze and identify people in your online photos, and even connect you with them on the web.

Developed by Face.com, the Friend Finder application is designed for the millions of Facebook users who paste their pictures on the social networking site. Since the site was first founded, users have uploaded more than 15 billion pictures on the website, and a massive 60 percent of all photos on the web can be found on Facebook pages.

"In the first month of our alpha test, we scanned some 400 million photos, identifying about 700,000 people, with users confirming the identities of about 150,000 people," says Gil Hirsch Face.com's CEO and co-founder. "Based on the number of people we had in the test, that works out to an astounding average of 101,000 in the extended social network - ie, you, your friends, and their friends. The chances that you're in some of these photos and don't even know it are very high - thus the instant popularity of Friend Finder," he tells ISRAEL21c.

Hirsch decided to work initially with Facebook because it was a good place to get started, but the technology goes far beyond identifying friends you don't know.

"Until now, nearly all photo recognition applications and technologies have been developed for the security industry - for example, a camera would compare the face of a visitor to a secure facility against a database. But photos taken by consumers and uploaded to internet sites are much more problematic," says Hirsch. "The photos are usually very poor quality, with shadows, red-eye, and all the other disadvantages."

Face recognition 'in the wild'
Face recognition technology for security purposes was designed to work in optimum lighting and atmospheric conditions - after all, the entrances to secure facilities are well lit, and the visitor has to look straight ahead, as per the security guard's instructions.

That technology, says Hirsch, worked very poorly with photos "in the wild," and the company realized it would have to start from scratch.

"Without getting too technical, our technology looks at information that is already known - photos in your Facebook account, for example - and compares them with elements of other photos with unknown elements. Our algorithms compare the photos, and Friend Finder makes an educated guess on the identity of a person. The user is then asked to confirm, and a tag is attached to the identified person, with that photo now added to the recognition database," he says. [MORE]

Rabbi Angel on Shelah Lekha


Make Up Your Own Mind
By Rabbi Marc D. Angel
http://www.jewishideas.org/angel-shabbat/make-your-own-mind-thoughts-parashat-shelah-le


Moses appointed the top leader of each tribe to spy out the promised land. When they completed their mission, ten of the twelve spies told the Israelites that the natives of the land were mighty giants, that the Israelites would be unable to conquer them. The people lost heart, mourning their dismal fate.

Caleb and Joshua were the two spies who spoke words of encouragement, assuring the Israelites that the land was good and that they would surely succeed in their march into it. But the people listened to the ten spies. Morale sank. God's anger rose: He punished the people by telling them that their generation had proven unworthy to enter the land. They would remain in the wilderness for 40 years. Their children would then enter the land. Caleb and Joshua were rewarded for their faithfulness, by being promised that they would survive the wilderness experience and would be privileged to enter the land.

Why did the ten spies bring back a negative report, even when they had God's assurance that He would lead the Israelites into the land? And why did the Israelites accept their report, rather than relying on Caleb and Joshua? Why didn't the Israelites themselves trust God's promises to them?

Some time ago, I read an article that discussed a phenomenon known as "informational cascade". Researchers found that people tend to suspend their own judgment when they hear an opinion espoused by a group of people or by an authority figure. Once they hear such an opinion, they are far more likely to go along with it--even if they think or know that it is wrong. An authoritative person or a group of people say something; those who hear are likely to accept it; and they in turn pass on this (mis)information to others. The result is an informational cascade, where mistaken ideas and false "facts" are spread throughout society.

Why don't people think for themselves? If they believe that something is wrong, why do they accept it anyway? Why do they pass on the mistaken information to others? Researchers have found that people tend to conform; they are ready to doubt their own judgment and defer to authorities or groups. Researchers found that public opinion changed, depending on who was first to voice an opinion. If the first was an authority figure or a group of people, it was more likely that the rest of the group would go along.

In the case of the spies, an inner dynamic must have occurred in which the negative view came to prevail. The ten spies--being authorities and a group--spoke first to the Israelites, before Caleb and Joshua spoke. This generated an informational cascade. People stopped thinking for themselves; they spread the negative information and mood to others. It was a cascade.

The 16th century rabbinic sage, Rabbi David Ibn Abi Zimra (born in Spain, and then lived in Egypt and Safed), explained a rabbinic teaching that the highest ranking judge should not give his decision first, because others would be reluctant to argue with him. Rabbinic tradition demanded that the greater judges withhold their opinions until the lesser ones have had their say. In this way, all opinions can be evaluated fairly, without intimidation. Our ancient sages well understood the power of "informational cascade" and took steps to prevent this from happening.

The upshot of this discussion is: we all need to think for ourselves. We need to avoid being caught up in an informational cascade. We must not abandon our reason and our judgment just because an "authority" or an "in-group" expresses an opinion. If the spies had known this, they would not have brought back a bad report. If the Israelites had known this, they wouldn't have had to spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness. We need to think carefully, evaluate the data honestly: and then make up our own minds.

***Please visit jewishideas.org, the website of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. We'd like to have your comments on the current blog entry, dealing with the salaries of top executives in Jewish not-for-profit institutions.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Modest Swim Suits Gaining Popularity

B"H

Do you have any idea how many years I have been swimming in the same black lycra skirt and polyester top?

Do you know how many times I have heard, "Ma'am . . . we don't allow street clothes in the pool area."

UGH. What a pain.

I kept thinking to myself: "Wow. Someone, somewhere, who is a LOT more confident with a sewing machine than I am, needs to design something modest I can swim in.
"

Well, they did it, and they aren't just modest--they are also really cute!

M

Modest swim suits, when less skin is better
http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-06-18-modest-suits_N.htm

JERUSALEM — Devora, an Orthodox Jewish woman, never felt comfortable in the sleek, revealing bathing suits sold at the stores she frequented in her native France or in her adopted Israel.

While she ordinarily wears fashionable skirts that fall below the knee and blouses that extend to her wrists, Devora, 31, was unable to find a swimsuit consistent with her Orthodox lifestyle.

Her standards of religious modesty extend not only to her wardrobe but also to sharing her full name, lest it draw attention to her and her family.

When the dress she typically wore over her bathing suit got wet, "it became heavy, unwieldy, clingy and transparent. I felt incredibly self-conscious, even while swimming during women-only hours," she said of the segregated swimming that's available at some Israeli pools and beaches.

A year ago, Devora heard about a modest-swimwear line called Sea Secret. Designed in Israel by two French-born Orthodox Jews in consultation with a respected rabbi, the company's below-the-arm, below-the-knee swim-dresses adhere to the strict Orthodox Jewish dress code.

"I bought a swim-dress just before going on vacation last year and found it elegant, comfortable and modest," she said. "Wearing it, I felt like a role model for my young daughter and comfortable around my young son. Other women saw it and asked where I'd purchased it. I loved it so much I ended up selling the company's swimwear."

Modest-minded women around the world are now enjoying a similar sense of new-found freedom, thanks to the recent emergence of several lines of modest swimwear in the U.S., the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Although statistics on this niche market are hard to come by, online testimonials — with actual photos of satisfied customers in their swimsuits — and chat-room discussions and blog posts lend credence to manufacturers' claims that the phenomenon is growing.

Even more, women can now be seen actually wearing the suits on local beaches.
[More]

When Aliyah Bullies Attack


By Michelle Nevada


Well, I’m back after trying to cool off my temper. I was just so angry in the past week that I didn’t think it was really fair of me to write anything.

One would think I was primarily ticked off with Bibi’s speech, and even though it probably SHOULD have been the reason I was upset, it was not. Instead, I was upset about the very small issue of comments made at the end of an article I had published in Arutz7 (Israel National News) last week.

Is my skin so thin that I would get upset about people disagreeing with my opinion? Am I so sensitive that I can’t take a few negative comments?

No.

Actually, the idea of someone disagreeing with what I say is the point of publishing an opinion piece, isn’t it? So why am I so upset? Because the comments weren’t disagreeing with my opinion. In fact, they didn’t even ENGAGE my opinion. Instead, they attacked me for HAVING an opinion.

Apparently, according to the dozen or so commentators that attacked me (and who attacked the one reader who attempted to argue in my favor): I am supposed to just keep my mouth shut if I don’t live in Israel. And it isn’t just this article. Every article I have written for the past eight years has been attacked at least once in the same fashion, and I know from my correspondence with other pro-Israel columnists that I am not alone. They attack everyone who isn’t living in Israel, no matter what they say or how they say it.

These commentators are what I call “The Aliyah Bullies.” The Aliyah Bullies think that I am stupid. They think that I can’t possibly understand anything because I am not breathing the air of Israel on a daily basis. The Aliyah Bullies believe there is no excuse for living anywhere but Israel, and that the litmus test of Zionism is aliyah. If you don’t live in Israel, you are no Zionist and you certainly have no right to speak for or about Israel.

I know that it is important to move to Israel. I am aware that it is an important mitzvah, and I praise those who are able to attain it. Meanwhile, however, I am here for reasons that are none of your business and, yes, they are important reasons.

Do these Aliyah Bullies think that these attacks --when they know NOTHING about me, my family, my job, or my life--are going to help me make aliyah? Do they think that I will say to myself, in a moment of epiphany, “Wow! Israeliperson1234 says I should be living in Israel. I better buy a suitcase and run, not walk, to my closest Israel Consulate office today!”?

Seriously, It’s not going to happen like that.

So, while I am waiting for the day when I can make aliyah, should I just shut up and not care about Israel? The Alliyah Bullies seem to suggest I should just disconnect--stop going to rallies, stop writing, and stop caring. Now, I ask them, “If I were to do this, do you think that new state of being would bring me closer or further away from the goal of making aliyah?”

I think I am doing the correct thing in caring about Israel, advocating for Israel, and commenting upon what is going on in Israel. In fact, I may even believe that I am proficient at understanding and communicating a certain Pro-Israel understanding of issues to others who may want to advocate for Israel, but who do not always have the right words, or enough facts, to do so.

Love of Israel is the reason I have been writing for A7 all these years, the reason I went to Yesha with Betar/ZOA, the reason I have raised my sons as Zionists and sent them to Israel. There are hundreds of programs across the world set up to train and encourage those in Galut to involve themselves in Pro-Israel activism, and I always believed it was my duty to do whatever possible to counteract the daily malicious anti-Israel attacks I see in all branches of the media, in my schools and colleges, and on my computer.

I know my last article wasn’t about supporting Israel, it was about an internal Israeli matter, and that is why the commentators felt that they could attack me for having an opinion. They argued that, unless I live in Israel, I have no right to discuss internal Israeli matters. I disagree.

Israel is not like the other nations. An Israeli has no other nation but Israel; but all the other Jews in the world have two nations: the nation they live in, and Israel. Israel belongs to me just as much as it belongs to any other Jew in the world—Israeli or not. If those commentators were, indeed, Zionists, they would understand this point.

I will not be silent. I will keep writing. I will insist that Israel is my home and that I should have an opinion about every aspect of it, whether the Aliyah Bullies like it or not. Israel does not belong to them, Judaism does not belong to them, and, when it comes time for me to make aliyah, I will remember Israel is the inheritance of every Jew, not just the few who share the blessing of living in The Land.

For now, I will calm down and take pride in the fact that, no matter what the Aliyah Bullies say in the comments about this article, they will finally be engaging the subject.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Full Translated Text of PM Benyamin Netanyahu's Speech (Nothing More. I'll Comment Tomorrow!)


Prime Minister's Speech at the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University
http://www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/PMSpeaks/speechbarilan140609.htm


Youtube of Speech with Translation From BBC World News

Click Here For Full Text in Hebrew

Honored guests, citizens of Israel.

Peace has always been our people’s most ardent desire. Our prophets gave the world the vision of peace, we greet one another with wishes of peace, and our prayers conclude with the word peace.

We are gathered this evening in an institution named for two pioneers of peace, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and we share in their vision.

Two and half months ago, I took the oath of office as the Prime Minister of Israel. I pledged to establish a national unity government – and I did. I believed and I still believe that unity was essential for us now more than ever as we face three immense challenges – the Iranian threat, the economic crisis, and the advancement of peace.

The Iranian threat looms large before us, as was further demonstrated yesterday. The greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons. I discussed this issue with President Obama during my recent visit to Washington, and I will raise it again in my meetings next week with European leaders. For years, I have been working tirelessly to forge an international alliance to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Confronting a global economic crisis, the government acted swiftly to stabilize Israel’s economy. We passed a two year budget in the government – and the Knesset will soon approve it.

And the third challenge, so exceedingly important, is the advancement of peace. I also spoke about this with President Obama, and I fully support the idea of a regional peace that he is leading.

I share the President’s desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region. To this end, I met with President Mubarak in Egypt, and King Abdullah in Jordan, to elicit the support of these leaders in expanding the circle of peace in our region.

I turn to all Arab leaders tonight and I say: “Let us meet. Let us speak of peace and let us make peace. I am ready to meet with you at any time. I am willing to go to Damascus, to Riyadh, to Beirut, to any place- including Jerusalem.
I call on the Arab countries to cooperate with the Palestinians and with us to advance an economic peace. An economic peace is not a substitute for a political peace, but an important element to achieving it. Together, we can undertake projects to overcome the scarcities of our region, like water desalination or to maximize its advantages, like developing solar energy, or laying gas and petroleum lines, and transportation links between Asia, Africa and Europe.

The economic success of the Gulf States has impressed us all and it has impressed me. I call on the talented entrepreneurs of the Arab world to come and invest here and to assist the Palestinians – and us – in spurring the economy.

Together, we can develop industrial areas that will generate thousands of jobs and create tourist sites that will attract millions of visitors eager to walk in the footsteps of history – in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, around the walls of Jericho and the walls of Jerusalem, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee and the baptismal site of the Jordan.
There is an enormous potential for archeological tourism, if we can only learn to cooperate and to develop it.

I turn to you, our Palestinian neighbors, led by the Palestinian Authority, and I say: Let’s beginnegotiations immediately without preconditions.

Israel is obligated by its international commitments and expects all parties to keep their commitments.

We want to live with you in peace, as good neighbors. We want our children and your children to never again experience war: that parents, brothers and sisters will never again know the agony of losing loved ones in battle; that our children will be able to dream of a better future and realize that dream; and that together we will invest our energies in plowshares and pruning hooks, not swords and spears.

I know the face of war. I have experienced battle. I lost close friends, I lost a brother. I have seen the pain of bereaved families. I do not want war. No one in Israel wants war.

If we join hands and work together for peace, there is no limit to the development and prosperity we can achieve for our two peoples – in the economy, agriculture, trade, tourism and education - most importantly, in providing our youth a better world in which to live, a life full of tranquility, creativity, opportunity and hope.

If the advantages of peace are so evident, we must ask ourselves why peace remains so remote, even as our hand remains outstretched to peace? Why has this conflict continued for more than sixty years?

In order to bring an end to the conflict, we must give an honest and forthright answer to the question: What is the root of the conflict?

In his speech to the first Zionist Conference in Basel, the founder of the Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl, said about the Jewish national home “This idea is so big that we must speak of it only in the simplest terms.” Today, I will speak about the immense challenge of peace in the simplest words possible.

Even as we look toward the horizon, we must be firmly connected to reality, to the truth. And the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland.

In 1947, when the United Nations proposed the partition plan of a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the resolution. The Jewish community, by contrast, welcomed it by dancing and rejoicing.

The Arabs rejected any Jewish state, in any borders.

Those who think that the continued enmity toward Israel is a product of our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, is confusing cause and consequence.

The attacks against us began in the 1920s, escalated into a comprehensive attack in 1948 with the declaration of Israel’s independence, continued with the fedayeen attacks in the 1950s, and climaxed in 1967, on the eve of the six-day war, in an attempt to tighten a noose around the neck of the State of Israel.

All this occurred during the fifty years before a single Israeli soldier ever set foot in Judea and Samaria .

Fortunately, Egypt and Jordan left this circle of enmity. The signing of peace treaties have brought about an end to their claims against Israel, an end to the conflict. But to our regret, this is not the case with the Palestinians. The closer we get to an agreement with them, the further they retreat and raise demands that are inconsistent with a true desire to end the conflict.

Many good people have told us that withdrawal from territories is the key to peace with the Palestinians. Well, we withdrew. But the fact is that every withdrawal was met with massive waves of terror, by suicide bombers and thousands of missiles.

We tried to withdraw with an agreement and without an agreement. We tried a partial withdrawal and a full withdrawal. In 2000 and again last year, Israel proposed an almost total withdrawal in exchange for an end to the conflict, and twice our offers were rejected.

We evacuated every last inch of the Gaza strip, we uprooted tens of settlements and evicted thousands of Israelis from their homes, and in response, we received a hail of missiles on our cities, towns and children.

The claim that territorial withdrawals will bring peace with the Palestinians, or at least advance peace, has up till now not stood the test of reality.

In addition to this, Hamas in the south, like Hezbollah in the north, repeatedly proclaims their commitment to “liberate” the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Beersheba, Acre and Haifa.
Territorial withdrawals have not lessened the hatred, and to our regret, Palestinian moderates are not yet ready to say the simple words: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it will stay that way.

Achieving peace will require courage and candor from both sides, and not only from the Israeli side.

The Palestinian leadership must arise and say: “Enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land, and we are prepared to live beside you in true peace.”

I am yearning for that moment, for when Palestinian leaders say those words to our people and to their people, then a path will be opened to resolving all the problems between our peoples, no matter how complex they may be.

Therefore, a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
To vest this declaration with practical meaning, there must also be a clear understanding that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel’s borders. For it is clear that any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel’s continued existence as the state of the Jewish people.

The Palestinian refugee problem must be solved, and it can be solved, as we ourselves proved in a similar situation. Tiny Israel successfully absorbed tens of thousands of Jewish refugees who left their homes and belongings in Arab countries.

Therefore, justice and logic demand that the Palestinian refugee problem be solved outside Israel’s borders. On this point, there is a broad national consensus. I believe that with goodwill and international investment, this humanitarian problem can be permanently resolved.

So far I have spoken about the need for Palestinians to recognize our rights. In am moment, I will speak openly about our need to recognize their rights.

But let me first say that the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.

The right of the Jewish people to a state in the land of Israel does not derive from the catastrophes that have plagued our people. True, for 2000 years the Jewish people suffered expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, and massacres which culminated in a Holocaust - a suffering which has no parallel in human history.

There are those who say that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the state of Israel would never have been established. But I say that if the state of Israel would have been established earlier, the Holocaust would not have occured.

This tragic history of powerlessness explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.

But our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: this is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged.

As Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion proclaimed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence: “The Jewish people arose in the land of Israel and it was here that its spiritual, religious and political character was shaped. Here they attained their sovereignty, and here they bequeathed to the world their national and cultural treasures, and the most eternal of books.”

But we must also tell the truth in its entirety: within this homeland lives a large Palestinian community. We do not want to rule over them, we do not want to govern their lives, we do not want to impose either our flag or our culture on them.

In my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect. Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government. Neither will threaten the security or survival of the other.

These two realities – our connection to the land of Israel, and the Palestinian population living within it – have created deep divisions in Israeli society. But the truth is that we have much more that unites us than divides us.

I have come tonight to give expression to that unity, and to the principles of peace and security on which there is broad agreement within Israeli society. These are the principles that guide our policy.

This policy must take into account the international situation that has recently developed. We must recognize this reality and at the same time stand firmly on those principles essential for Israel.

I have already stressed the first principle – recognition. Palestinians must clearly and unambiguously recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is: demilitarization. The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel.

Without these two conditions, there is a real danger that an armed Palestinian state would emerge that would become another terrorist base against the Jewish state, such as the one in Gaza.

We don’t want Kassam rockets on Petach Tikva, Grad rockets on Tel Aviv, or missiles on Ben-Gurion airport. We want peace.

In order to achieve peace, we must ensure that Palestinians will not be able to import missiles into their territory, to field an army, to close their airspace to us, or to make pacts with the likes of Hezbollah and Iran. On this point as well, there is wide consensus within Israel.

It is impossible to expect us to agree in advance to the principle of a Palestinian state without assurances that this state will be demilitarized.

On a matter so critical to the existence of Israel, we must first have our security needs addressed.

Therefore, today we ask our friends in the international community, led by the United States, for what is critical to the security of Israel: Clear commitments that in a future peace agreement, the territory controlled by the Palestinians will be demilitarized: namely, without an army, without control of its airspace, and with effective security measures to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory – real monitoring, and not what occurs in Gaza today. And obviously, the Palestinians will not be able to forge military pacts.


Without this, sooner or later, these territories will become another Hamastan. And that we cannot accept.

I told President Obama when I was in Washington that if we could agree on the substance, then the terminology would not pose a problem.
And here is the substance that I now state clearly:

If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitirization and Israel’s security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state.

Regarding the remaining important issues that will be discussed as part of the final settlement, my positions are known: Israel needs defensible borders, and Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel with continued religious freedom for all faiths.

The territorial question will be discussed as part of the final peace agreement. In the meantime, we have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements.

But there is a need to enable the residents to live normal lives, to allow mothers and fathers to raise their children like families elsewhere. The settlers are neither the enemies of the people nor the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.

Unity among us is essential and will help us achieve reconciliation with our neighbors. That reconciliation must already begin by altering existing realities. I believe that a strong Palestinian economy will strengthen peace.


If the Palestinians turn toward peace – in fighting terror, in strengthening governance and the rule of law, in educating their children for peace and in stopping incitement against Israel - we will do our part in making every effort to facilitate freedom of movement and access, and to enable them to develop their economy. All of this will help us advance a peace treaty between us.

Above all else, the Palestinians must decide between the path of peace and the path of Hamas. The Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas. Israel will not sit at the negotiating table with terrorists who seek their destruction.
Hamas will not even allow the Red Cross to visit our kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who has spent three years in captivity, cut off from his parents, his family and his people. We are committed to bringing him home, healthy and safe.

With a Palestinian leadership committed to peace, with the active participation of the Arab world, and the support of the United States and the international community, there is no reason why we cannot achieve a breakthrough to peace.

Our people have already proven that we can do the impossible. Over the past 61 years, while constantly defending our existence, we have performed wonders.

Our microchips are powering the world’s computers. Our medicines are treating diseases once considered incurable. Our drip irrigation is bringing arid lands back to life across the globe. And Israeli scientists are expanding the boundaries of human knowledge.

If only our neighbors would respond to our call – peace too will be in our reach.

I call on the leaders of the Arab world and on the Palestinian leadership, let us continue together on the path of Menahem Begin and Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein. Let us realize the vision of the prophet Isaiah, who in Jerusalem 2700 years ago said: “nations shall not lift up sword against nation, and they shall learn war no more.”

With God’s help, we will know no more war. We will know peace.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rabbi Angel on Parashat Beha'aloteha


Economic Downturn, Spiritual Upturn
By Rabbi Marc D. Angel
http://www.jewishideas.org/angel-shabbat/economic-downturn-spiritual-upturn-thoughts-pa

When Aaron the high priest is commanded to light the Menorah, the Torah uses the word "beha'aloteha"--when you kindle. The literal meaning of the word is: when you raise up (the lights). A homiletical meaning may be: when you light the Menorah, you yourself will be raised, you will feel better about yourself--stronger and happier. Aaron is being told that by kindling the lights of the Menorah, he not only brings light to the sanctuary and inspiration to the public: he actually improves himself.

This is an important message in the fulfillment of all mitzvoth. When we do the right thing, we not only serve God properly: we raise our own spirit and self-esteem. When we perform acts of kindness and goodness, we ourselves become better people. This principle applies to charitable giving. Jewish law teaches that even a person dependant on charity must also give charity, however little it may be. The very act of giving charity demonstrates a commitment to others, and also offers self-validation to the donor. It means: I can help someone, I am not merely a victim, I can play a role in improving the world.

The New York Times reported (June 10, 2009) that during the past year, charitable giving in the United States has dropped to the lowest level in five decades. All non-profit institutions (including the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals!) have felt the severe drop in philanthropic activity. People are giving much less than in the past due to the severe economic downturn. Some people contribute less because they are unemployed, are in debt, or fear that they may soon lose their jobs. Some people contribute less because they are earning less while their expenses continue to grow. There are also people who are doing fine economically, but are giving less anyway. They now have a good excuse for not giving: the economic downturn. Even though they're well off, they blame the economy for why they are giving less charity. They can point to the decline in the size of their stock portfolios as an indication that they too are suffering--even if their stock portfolios still hold substantial amounts.

During a period of economic downturn, it is all the more important that we maintain our charitable giving. This is vital for the wellbeing of the institutions that depend on us and the many individuals who rely on our generosity. When we make our contributions, we not only help needy individuals and worthy institutions: we validate our own selves; we demonstrate that we are active members of society and not passive victims; we feel better, stronger and happier. To be sure, we should give within our means; but we should not give less than our means.

Each of us can make contributions to our synagogues, our UJA-Federation networks, our local day schools and yeshivoth, our social service agencies, the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals... each of us can strengthen the institutions and causes we cherish, on whatever level we can afford. When we do so, we help make the world a better place--and we help raise our own spirit and self-esteem. Let us write our checks, make our online contributions: let us help raise the lights of idealism and Torah values. Although this is a time of economic downturn, it can and should be a time of spiritual upturn.

***The Angel for Shabbat column is presented as a service of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals (jewishideas.org). Please feel free to send copies of this column to your email contact lists, and to reproduce it for distribution in your synagogues.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Heros and Horror at the Holocaust Museum


B"H

There are heros in the world, and they usually take the shape of people who are just doing their job.

Stephen Tyrone Johns, the security guard at the Holocaust Museum, and the other unnamed guards who drew their weapons and stopped a crazed, paranoid, racist are heros.

A Facebook page in memorial to Stephen Tyrone Johns has been established. Please take a few minutes to read what he meant to those who were closest to him, and what he meant to those who will be forever thankful for his sacrifice and dedication to duty.

Without these heros, we would have had a much different story reported this morning. If Stephen Tyrone Johns and the other officers had not been there, the tragedy would have been compounded. They protected the visitors and staff of the museum, and they stopped the perpetrator in his tracks.


I have been told that there are as many as 2,500 people, on average, at the holocaust museum at any time during its open hours. Yesterday's crowd, like the crowd most days, was made up of a lot of school children touring the facility in groups--hundreds of kids on their eighth-grade trip from Massachusetts, 39 students from Minnesota for their eighth-grade trip, and 41 students and three chaperones from the Marona-Forsyth Middle School in Illinois are just a sample of the groups present, especially this time of year, at the museum.

Also, very close to the shooting, was Former Senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen who was just inside the door of the Holocaust Museum when the shooting took place, NBC News reported.

He was waiting for his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen, who has written and directed a one-act play that was to be performed at the Holocaust Museum Wednesday night. The performance is now being rescheduled for Thursday evening.
Also present were two women and their daughters from Adams County, PA. The women quickly hid their children, fearing they would be trampled by the escaping crowds.

Hundreds were waiting outside an auditorium to hear the first-hand account of a Holocaust survivor, and they were rushed into the room where they stayed for several hours, ironically, listening to the lecture while fearing for their lives.

These were all regular people doing regular things who became extraordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Each of the people who walked out of that museum yesterday afternoon owed their lives to the heroism of the security professionals at that building.

To the family of Steven Tyrone Johns, we mourn with you as he mourned with us. We embrace you. Nothing can replace this man. Every life is beautiful and precious. We know this. May G-d grant you peace.

M
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Holocaust Museum guard killed in shooting, gunman wounded
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-06-10-holocaust-museum-shooting_N.htm
By David Jackson and Steve Marshall, USA TODAY


WASHINGTON — A guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum died after being shot Wednesday in the crowded attraction and a gunman was seriously wounded in return fire, authorities said. The incident left panic-stricken visitors dashing for exits, witnesses said.

"Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns died heroically in the line of duty today," a late-afternoon museum statement said. "There are no words to express our grief and shock over these events.

"He served on the museum's security staff for six years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Officer Johns' family."

The museum will remain closed Thursday and flags flown at half-staff in honor of Johns, 39, of Temple Hills, Md., the statement said.

President Obama said he was "shocked and saddened ... this outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms."

Museum director Sara Bloomfield remembered Johns as "an outstanding colleague, a great friend who greeted us every day with a wonderful smile."

U.S. Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser said that about 12:50 p.m., a man, "armed with a long gun," entered the museum and fired at a security guard. Two other officers returned fire and wounded the gunman, according to museum spokesman Andy Hollinger.

"There were no threats" against the museum, said D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier. "The second he stepped into the building he began firing." Lanier said he was shooting a rifle. (more)