Thursday, January 31, 2008

Undersea Cables Damaged, Cause Internet Outages Across Middle East


Hmmm. Interesting. The articles out there are completely vague about where, how, and when these undersea cables were damaged.

I always thought that those cables were very well protected--that it would take a lot to damage those cables.

You don't think they were damaged on purpose, do you?

Jan 30, 2008 23:00 | Updated Jan 30, 2008 23:05
Internet outages disrupt communication across ME
CAIRO, Egypt

Internet outages disrupted business and personal usage across a wide swathe of the Middle East on Wednesday after two undersea cables in the Mediterranean were damaged, government officials and Internet service providers said.

In Cairo, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said the cut of the international communications cables Flag and Seamewe 4 had led to a partial disruption of Internet services and other telecommunications across much of Egypt.

At the Egyptian stock market, IT department engineer Mahmoud Mansour said the disruptions did not affect the operations at the exchange.
Emergency teams were quickly trying to find alternative routes, including by satellites, to end the disruptions, said Minister Tariq Kamel. But service was still slow or nonexistent by Wednesday night.

A telecommunications expert at the Egyptian communications ministry, Rafaat Hindy, told The Associated Press that the government is "engaged in efforts to try and overcome the consequences of the problem" but cautioned that "solving this could take days."

US expert Eric Schoonover, senior research analyst at TeleGeography, a New York-based group that tracks submarine cables around the world, said the cables severed "account to 75 percent of the capacity connecting Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries to Europe.

It would take "a few days up to one week before submarine cable operators deploy ships to bring the cables up and fix the fault," Schoonover said, echoing gloomy predictions from engineers in Cairo.

Phone lines in Egypt still work, indicating "network operators in the area are rerouting traffic through emergency channels, including around India and back through Asia to the US and other threshold links that can bypass that particular bottleneck," Schoonover added.

Despite this being an international cable affecting many Gulf and Arab countries, Egyptian authorities said that being closest to it, they have responsibility coordinating with companies to fix this problem. "We are working as fast as we can," Hindy said.

Internet service also was disrupted in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf, which markets itself as a top Mideast business and luxury tourist hub. Both Internet service providers was affected and one was completely down in the morning. DU restored Internet service by the afternoon although browsing was very slow.

The other carrier, Etisalat, and DU said international telephone service was also affected by the cable break.

DU attributed the disruption to a fault in "two international cable systems" in the Mediterranean Sea but gave no details.

It was not clear what caused the damage to the cable.

Schoonover said there was a rumor that an illegally or improperly anchored ship caused the problem, but TeleGeography cannot verify this. Cables get damaged all the time but Schoonover believes this was the first time two undersea cables next to one another in a very thin route were cut at the same time.

An official who works in the customer care department of DU, who identified himself only as Hamed because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the cable cut took place between Alexandria, Egypt, and Palermo, Italy.

Although he was not in a position to describe the technical fault, Hamed said engineers contracted by DU were working to solve the problem. By early afternoon, the service was flooded with complaints and the ISP had found alternative routes but Hamed said "there is slowness while browsing on the Internet."

DU services Dubai media city, Internet City and Knowledge Village, which houses major university campuses.

The ISP also serves the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), including the Bourse, major malls, and big residential communities including the Palm Jumeira artificial island off Dubai's coast.

The deputy business editor of Khaleej Times newspaper said the overall trading volume was low at the DIFC due to a sharp drop of on-line trading.

"There was a drop in the trading activity," said Issac John, although he was not sure it was entirely due to the Internet problems.
Wednesday's trade volume amounted to nearly US$330 million, which is well short of closer to US$1 billion on a good day.

There was no total outage in Kuwait, but service was interrupted Tuesday and Wednesday. The Gulfnet International Company apologized in an e-mail Wednesday to its customers for the "degraded performance in Internet browsing," which it said was caused by a cable cut in the Mediterranean.

In Saudi Arabia, some users said Internet was functioning fine but others said it was slow or totally down.

A staffer at a Saudi ISP said that they were told that a cable rupture was the cause of the problem, which began early Wednesday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Calls to Saudi Telecom went unanswered Wednesday afternoon, the start of the weekend in Saudi Arabia.

Users in Bahrain and Qatar also complained of slow Internet.

Sports and the Orthodox Jewish Fan


I never used to understand or appreciate sports when I was younger, but my dear husband has taught me to love all types of sports. Why?

In this world of violence and oppression, war, greed, and nutty celebrity gossip, it is so nice to see a perfectly prepared field of sport, a team of young men or young women prepared for honest competition, and an opportunity to witness that there is some place in the world that plays by rules, that values fairness, and that esteems teamwork.

By: Joseph Schick

On Sunday night, many observant Jews will be among the hundreds of millions of people watching the Jets fan’s nightmare as the Giants play the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Many Orthodox Jews are sports fans, as is evident by the number of us at sporting events and the prevalence of kosher food stands and even minyanim (prayer groups) at numerous stadiums and arenas. Tamir Goodman’s high school basketball feats were closely watched by Orthodox Jews, who continued to follow him in college and in his professional play in Israel and now with the Maryland Nighthawks. Last season, one of the Internet’s most respected analysts of the New York Rangers was The Hockey Rabbi, a self-identified "Chassidic Jew who loves my family, G-d and the Rangers."

Clearly, sports, probably more than any other leisure activity (if watching the Mets collapse and decades of Jets futility can be called "leisure") is something that many observant Jews take an interest in. This includes many people who take halacha and Judaism very seriously.

Of course, we who are religiously observant believe – or should believe – that Judaism is the essential aspect of our lives. Is following sports an acceptable form of recreation? Are there positive aspects to being a sports fan? Is it bitul Torah (wasting time on a mundane matter), albeit perhaps in a benign form? Is it avodah zarah (idolatry)?

Rabbi Gil Student of Yashar Books and the Hirhurim blog once said that "movies are often halachically objectionable but at times they can have artistic value. Football is simply a bunch of men pummeling each other." Those of us who appreciate a perfectly executed slant pattern feel differently. Community leader Azriel Ganz wrote about baseball, "There is nothing like a beautiful night at the ball park, especially when you are with your kids." For those of us who are sports fans, that rings true. In light of that, how does sports fit into our lives as religious Jews?

As Dr. Jeffrey Gurock detailed in his book Judaism’s Encounter with American Sports, nearly all of the Orthodox Jewish world has come to the recognition that playing sports is beneficial, though there has been controversy about yeshivas and day schools fielding competitive sports teams.

If my own experience is any indication, however, the frum world is ambivalent about the idea of being a sports fan. When I was in third grade, my yeshiva suddenly banned the possession of baseball cards – a prohibition that I was soon surprised to learn was intended to also cover hockey, basketball and football cards. A year or two later, that same school took my class to a Harlem Globetrotters game at Madison Square Garden.

For many in the Orthodox world, devoting time to watching and following spectator sports is anathema. My high school menahel (dean) railed against sports, which he essentially saw as idolatry. One night in tenth grade I went with two friends to a Mets game. In those days, just catching the first glimpse of Shea Stadium from aboard the 7 train was a thrill for me. Exiting Shea after the Mets’ win was none other than our assistant secular studies principal – who during mornings was a 6th grade rebbe in my former yeshiva and who had taken his class to the game. He ordered us to be in his office the next afternoon. We may have broken school rules, but suffice to say that the idea that sports is an evil endeavor did not resonate with us – though I was impressed that our assistant principal took his 6th grade students to the game.

When the hype about Tamir Goodman was at its peak, Yishai Fleisher, writing in the YU Commentator, called sports a "mindless endeavor" that perpetuates "material and base values" and, referring to Jewish interest in sports, lamented that the "Greeks would have been proud." Last summer, Mr. Fleisher wrote with similar negativity toward the new (and now apparently defunct) Israel Baseball League, when he called the idea of baseball in Israel "Kosher Hellenism."

When the Philadelphia Phillies moved one of their minor league teams to Lakewood, New Jersey, all of the town’s leading rabbis signed a letter banning attendance at Lakewood BlueClaws games and directing the expulsion of any yeshiva student who was caught going to a game.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein stated that one should not attend a sporting event because of the prohibition of moshav letzim (gathering among the scornful).

Others have offered different perspectives about spectator sports than that of Rav Moshe. For example, according to Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld, Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg holds that attendance at a sporting event can be permissible. Further, as Dr. Gurock and others have pointed out, Mesivta Tiferes Jerusalem, the yeshiva Rav Moshe headed, participated in competitive sporting events that included spectators. That would indicate that Rav Moshe did not believe attendance at all sporting events falls within moshav letzim.

In the opinion of Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet, baseball, in contrast to the many debased aspects of American culture imported by Israel, would be a positive American introduction. Perhaps, accordingly, those who believe moshav letzim applies to attendance at sporting events would make a distinction between spending a summer afternoon watching the Petach Tikva Pioneers play the Modi’in Miracle – as two busloads of us did last summer on an excursion arranged by the Orthodox Union’s Israel office – and what they find objectionable about professional sporting events generally.

Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, a longtime leader of the rabbinate who led the growth of Atlanta’s Orthodox community, was invited by a congregant to attend a Braves World Series game in 1995 and recalled: "I hesitated, because there are many more important things to do with one’s time. But the sports juices of my youth began to stir within me."

In the 8th inning, a foul ball headed Rabbi Feldman’s way and, he remembered, "suddenly I am eighteen years old again, and instinctively I find myself on my feet. I leap from the ground, reach backward for the ball, and feel the satisfying slap into my outstretched palm. I clutch it and tumble down into the row of seats behind me, where a dozen hands and arms break my fall."

The crowd cheered Rabbi Feldman, as did people in his shul and community, and indeed around the world, as it became evident that even in his Jerusalem neighborhood, Rabbi Feldman’s catching a ball during the World Series had become a renowned event.

Yet Rabbi Feldman could not help but be concerned that in his Jerusalem neighborhood, where "ball games are for the vulgar," people will "wonder how it can be that the selfsame person can say the Shema with tallit over his head, listen attentively to the rav’s divrei Torah, never talk during davening – and then go to the USA and attend sporting events and catch baseballs on television?"

In a 1996 article in the Torah u’Maddah Journal, Rabbi Mayer Schiller recalled sitting with a "Rosh Yeshiva who waxed rhapsodic over Ebbets Field," yet "felt obligated to declare those wondrous memories of his youth ‘shtusim’ [nonsense]."

Rabbi Schiller argued that to the contrary, "knowledge, beauty and experience of a non-explicitly sacred nature is good (provided that it is no way sinful)" because they too are creations of God. Later, Rabbi Schiller explained that "the article put forth my belief that non-prohibited aspects of the beriah [creation] were given to us by God to bring us joy, and uplift and insight and that all three must make us better ovdei Hashem [servants of God]."

Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer took issue with Rabbi Schiller’s inclusion of spectator sports as among experiences with religious value and meaning, particularly given that many high school students have come to idolize athletes in a manner that is antithetical to Judaism. In response, Rabbi Schiller agreed with this concern, but disagreed that it means that being a sports fan is inherently antithetical to Judaism.

Later, Rabbi Bechhofer explained that while avid sports fans can be found in various Orthodox groups, the adulation of athletes is a particular problem in the Modern Orthodox world, in which, he said, "kids have very few, if any, role models or heroes that are exemplars of Avodas Hashem [service of God], Torah and Yiras Shomayim [fear of heaven]."

Rabbi Bechhofer’s concerns are certainly well placed. But as Rabbi Rakeffet recently said, "over the years my knowledge of baseball made hundreds of kids into bnei Torah ... you have no idea the effect it has on younger students when the rebbe knows baseball… In the kid’s mind, who can be like the rebbe? He’s from a different generation. Suddenly the rebbe opens his mouth to talk baseball and he’s one of the kids. Now he can teach Torah."

Perhaps more realistic than hoping that students stop watching sports is for their rabbis to relate to them (possibly, but not necessarily or exclusively, via sports) so that they become role models who exemplify Avodas Hashem, Torah and Yiras Shomayim.

Similarly, as Azriel Ganz wrote, while ideally "fathers and sons could talk in learning, that is not often the case, nor are the sons always interested." Instead, he said, "sports is one of the few areas where fathers and sons can relate all through their teenaged years. Even if your kids think you are from Mars, they have derech eretz [respect] for a father who can discuss sports intelligently and who cares enough to take them to ballgames." That derech eretz can, even if not immediately, lead teenagers to respect the path of Torah if it is followed by their father.

When I spoke with him last week, Tamir Goodman emphasized that one must be a Jew both in shul and at the game, and a religious Jew’s actions must be in furtherance of Avodas Hashem. Taking pains to emphasize that he is not a rabbi, was not offering a halachic opinion, and has no interest in controversy, Goodman noted that not everyone has the ability or stamina to learn Torah all day, that God "created us with a need for recreation," and that if a person sets time for prayer and Torah study (as he does each morning beginning at 5:50), and acts at a game in a manner that is a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God), his behavior is laudable.

Unquestionably, the proper balance and perspective must be maintained. Sports certainly cannot take precedence over, or interfere with, one’s religious obligations.

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who leads a Conservative synagogue in Potomac, Maryland, told his congregants in a Rosh Hashanah sermon that "parents who would never dream of missing a kickoff or the final seconds of a Redskins game don’t give a second thought to coming to services late, or leaving early." This criticism is applicable to some Orthodox Jewish sports fans too, and while none of us is perfect, that is clearly the wrong approach for an observant Jew, and the wrong message for a parent to send to a child.

A few months ago at MTA (Yeshiva University’s high school), Rabbis Bechhofer and Schiller renewed their discussion about sports, considering whether sports could play a role in Avodas Hashem. Rabbi Bechhofer agreed that listening to Beethoven or reading fine literature is of value, but contrasted attending a classical music concert among a "refined" audience with going to a sporting event attended by a different kind of crowd.

While acknowledging that Rabbi Bechhofer’s concerns are well-founded and that interest in sports can be excessive, Rabbi Schiller argued that watching and appreciating the "exquisite talent" of great players like Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan is a way to appreciate God’s creations and gifts, and to thereby be led to Torah. Those who are not sports fans, he argued, are "tone deaf" in their inability to understand the value and meaning of sports for those who are fans.

In a recent interview with the YU Commentator, Rabbi Daniel Rapp recognized that spectator sports may "have a place in terms of relaxation" and as a permissible diversion. However, while noting that attending movies often has halachic implications, Rabbi Rapp believed that "a movie can have the potential to effect spiritual growth," while sports probably could not.

But this need not be the case. A fictional movie can hardly offer the real life lessons presented by sports. The present status of Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens demonstrates that while cheaters often unfairly prosper, there can be severe consequences to improper behavior. Those of us who enjoyed watching Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry display their immense God-given gifts for the 1980’s Mets teams saw how quickly and destructively everything can be lost and one’s abilities can be wasted.

On a more positive note, Cal Ripken’s streak of playing in 2,632 consecutive games, even when he was injured or fatigued, is surely a lesson for observant Jews who sometimes feel tempted to take a break from the rigorous requirements of a halachic life. Many who knew and still know nothing about hockey find inspiration in the improbable gold medal victory of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team.

While I was in beis medrash (post high-school yeshiva), a rebbe overheard me and another student in an animated discussion that did not relate to Gemara. We told him we had been discussing Jim Abbott, who the day before had pitched a no-hitter. "Nu, so nobody ever threw a no-hitter before?" our rebbe responded. We explained that Abbott did not have a right hand, making his no-hitter particularly significant. When the rebbe realized we were serious, he could not help but exclaim, "That’s incredible!" and emphasize that this shows that with hard work, obstacles people face can be overcome.

* * *

The thoughts presented in this article are hardly intended to be comprehensive, let alone in any way conclusive. I hope others more competent to offer an analysis based upon halacha and hashkafa will submit their own considerations of this subject.

Joseph Schick looks forward to one day witnessing a New York Jets Super Bowl victory. In the meantime, he writes The Zionist Conspiracy blog
( and can be contacted at

Parashat Mishpatim: A Constitution for Israel

By Daniel Pinner

“And He said to Moshe: ‘Ascend to Hashem – you and Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; bow down from afar. But only Moshe shall approach Hashem; they shall not approach, neither shall the nation ascend with him’. Moshe came and related to the nation all the words of Hashem and all the judgements, and the entire nation responded with a single voice, saying: ‘All the words that Hashem has spoken, we will do’… Moshe and Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended” (Exodus 24:1-9).

Immediately after proclaiming the Ten Commandments, when Israel was still on a spiritual high, G-d launched the nation onto its eternal course. Significantly, this did not involve lofty philosophical ideas or mystical secrets, but practical halacha, the nitty-gritty of day-to-day life. Our Parashah begins with 42 mitzvot bein adam la-chavero (between man and his fellow-man) from Exodus 21:1-23:9; then proceeds to 10 mitzvot bein adam la-Makom (between man and G-d) from 23:10-33.

And then, after all these commandments, comes the command to establish Israel’s Supreme Court, the institution that would later be called the Sanhedrin, which consisted of between three and seventy-one judges, depending on what case was being judged. Several months later, G-d would reiterate this command: “Hashem said to Moshe: ‘Gather for me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be from the elders of the nation and its officers. Take them to the Tent of Meeting, for them to present themselves there with you. I will descend, and I will speak with you there; and I will magnify part of the spirit that is upon you, and I will place it upon them, so that they will carry, with you, the burden of the nation, so you shall not carry it alone’” (Numbers 11:16-17).

1,400 years later, Rabbi Dosa ben Horkanus – one of the great sages of the Talmud – would give an insight as to why the Torah does not tell us the names of the seventy elders: “When [the Torah] says, ‘Moshe and Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended,’ why were the names of the seventy elders not specified? – To teach that every single triumvirate that has ever arisen as a court to judge Israel are like Moshe’s court” (Rosh ha-Shanah 2:9).

The Rambam gives clear guidelines as to who sits on the Sanhedrin – whether the Small Sanhedrin of 23 judges, or the Complete Sanhedrin of 71 judges: “Only wise and discerning men, distinguished by their wisdom in Torah and tremendous knowledge, who also know other subjects such as medicine, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, black magic, witchcraft, the idiocies of idolatry and the like, so that they will have the knowledge necessary to judge them” (Laws of Sanhedrin 2:1).

And some more criteria: “No one who is old and advanced in years can be appointed to any Sanhedrin, neither can a eunuch, because there is cruelty in them; nor someone who has no children, so that [the judges] will be compassionate” (ibid. 2:3).

Such are the criteria of the men who are judges on the Sanhedrin.

The complete Sanhedrin of 71 judges is called the Sanhedrin Gedolah (“the Great Sanhedrin”) or the Sanhedrin Mallei (“the Complete Sanhedrin”). It is interesting to note that the word mallei (“full, complete”) is spelt mem, lammed, alef; the gematria of mem is 40, the gematria of lammed is 30, and the gematria of alef is 1, for a total of 71; the very word mallei already indicates the number of judges on the complete Sanhedrin.

And it goes far deeper than that: the mem is written in the form of a kaf and a vav joined to each other; the lammed has the form of a kaf with a vav atop of it; and the alef has the form of a diagonal vav with a yud adjoined on each side. The gematria of kaf is 20; the gematria of vav is 6; and the gematria of yud is 10. So each of the three letters (mem, lammed, alef) hints at an “inner gematria” of 26 – the gematria of G-d’s Name yud-heh-vav-heh, the Name that connotes His attribute of compassion.

The greater the court, the greater is the justice that it is enjoined to enforce; but also, the greater the court, the greater is the damage that it can potentially cause. The highest court of all, the Complete Sanhedrin, must perforce be infused with the attribute of compassion, even while imposing justice. Anyone who is even potentially devoid of compassion must never be allowed to judge; and anyone who is not guided by the Torah’s wisdom can also never be allowed to judge. The clearest commentary on the wisdom of the Sages in decreeing this can be found not in the pages of the Talmud or of the Mishneh Torah, but in the courts in Israel of today and in the headlines of tomorrow.


Jewish group to build 200 new housing units in East Jerusalem


It is good to see that some astute use of money has succeeded where the stupidity of "peace agreements" has failed. It is time to get these squatters off our land, reclaim what is rightfully ours, without regret or the need for explanation, and move on to reclaiming every other square inch of greater Israel.

It is not the relinquishing of our ancestral lands that will bring peace--it is the reclamation of those lands. Let's begin with reclaiming Gaza, then truly reclaiming Samaria and Judea.

Next, we should move on to reclaiming those lands Hashm promised us which have been kept from us by the 70 nations.

Last update - 10:03 31/01/2008
By Meron Rapoport, Haaretz Correspondent

The Yemin Yehuda non-profit association has begun building 200 housing units in the Shimon Hatzaddik compound, in the heart of East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarra neighborhood. In the process, the organization intends to demolish the homes of dozens of Palestinian families who live there.

This neighborhood is in a strategic location: If Yemin Yehuda completes its plan, it will cut the Old City off from the Palestinian neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem.

MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), who supports building the new neighborhood, says it is designed to create a Jewish continuum surrounding the Old City, where there currently is a massive Palestinian majority.
Elon says this can be done by declaring open areas to be national parks and placing state property back-to-back with lands under Jewish ownership.

"Building Jewish neighborhoods next to open areas will prevent invasion and illegal construction by Palestinians who live near the Old City," says Elon.

The new neighborhood is slated to cover 18 dunams next to the tomb of Shimon Hatzaddik. According to the plan submitted to the Jerusalem municipal planning commission, Palestinian buildings must be demolished to make room for 200 housing units.

The plan states that open areas will become residential, and that the construction density in the area will be increased to include five- and six-story buildings, which will require changing the Municipal Construction Plan.

Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack, who heads the local commission, says he is not familiar with the new plan, but that he seeks to "advance any construction plan, be it by Jews or Arabs."

Pollack noted that contrary to reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had ordered a halt to construction in East Jerusalem, the municipality has not been informed of any such restrictions.

In 2004, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski sought Housing Ministry permission to build a Jewish neighborhood adjacent to the Simon Hatzaddik tomb, "in order to strengthen the connection between the Jewish neighborhoods" in East Jerusalem.

Currently, about 40 Palestinian families live in the area, which is very close to the American Colony Hotel, one of the most important centers of Palestinian and international activity in East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the American Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz already has purchased the nearby Shepherd's Hotel, and wants to build several dozen housing units there for Jews.

Furthermore, about two months ago, Haaretz reported that the Israel Lands Administration had leased the Ateret Cohanim organization a large area known as Kerem Hamufti, opposite Shepherd's Hotel.

The Jewish continuum

Connecting all these dots could create a significant Jewish continuum and cut Sheikh Jarra and the Old City off from the Palestinian neighborhoods to the north.

A Jewish neighborhood had existed at the Shimon Hatzaddik compound until 1948, when the Jewish inhabitants fled during the war. The area was settled by Palestinians fleeing from West Jerusalem.

After the Six-Day War, the Sephardic Community Committee and the Ashkenazi Community Committee initiated proceedings to claim the area, on the grounds that it had belonged to them since the 19th century.

About 30 years ago, some of the Palestinian families agreed to start paying rent to the two organizations.

A few years ago, the Nahalat Shimon association received the rights from the two organizations. It is initiating the construction of the new neighborhood.

The Palestinian residents, represented by attorney Salah Abu Hussein, argued that the land belongs to a Palestinian who lives in Jerusalem.

The Supreme Court rejected the Palestinian's ownership claim two years ago, but refused to state who does own the land.

Abu Hussein says the Palestinian residents have been paying rent for decades under an agreement that grants them ownership after 30 years.

Meir Margalit of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions says the new plan is very dangerous because it aims to thwart any chance of a future agreement based on the division of Jerusalem.

The Sad Example of Shas, who think Sephardim come from Lithuania


This is no surprise to the Sephardim who keep their traditions.

We already know that the “black hats” who call themselves Sephardim may have the same blood in their veins that we do, but they do not keep the ways of their forefathers. This is not their fault, entirely, but they must rediscover their roots and begin working to right what has happened to them.

They are the remnants of Sephardim from Arab countries who, when they reached Israel, were shuttled into the schools of black-hat Ashkenazim and, as a result, lost their traditions, their pride, and, to some respect, their minds. They became the same as those who were teaching them, and they never discovered their true roots—or even tried to.

This is happening all over the world, right now, unfortunately.

Sephardim are losing their way because we have no schools to send our children which teach our traditions.

Last update - 11:14 31/01/2008
The Shas paradox
By Yair Ettinger

Two months ago, Shas leaders attempted to solve a crisis of the utmost delicacy: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's granddaughter was not accepted to a prestigious religious seminary for girls. Government ministers and other officials pleaded for the young girl's soul and poured out supplications before the heads of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community, Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv and Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman. The principal of the Ashkenazi institution in Jerusalem eventually surrendered, admitting the spiritual leader's 14-year-old granddaughter.

A generation has passed since Sephardim Shomrei Torah (Shas for short) was founded in Jerusalem as an answer to the exclusion of Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent) from ultra-Orthodox educational institutions. Since then, the movement has gained a great deal of momentum and has established Sephardic ultra-Orthodox educational institutions all around the country. However, the leadership left the Sephardic revolution to the masses. Members of the "elite" observe Sephardic rabbinical rulings, eat only products that bear the Shas "Beit Yosef" kosher seal, subscribe to the Yom Leyom newspaper and every few years slip the right vote in the ballot box. But they send their children to Ashkenazi religious schools.

The situation does not sit well with the party leadership. A senior member of the party, who agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity, says that the biggest paradox of the Shas movement is its class-based hierarchy - the fact that parents who do not number among "the princes" or whose children are not excellent students go around "frustrated, in tears, weeping and disgraced." Also grave are the political connections, he says, as exhibited by the story of Yosef's granddaughter.
According to the Shas source, the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox establishment is dependent on the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox establishment and the United Torah Judaism party: "In this way, the Ashkenazim keep us at ground-level. They create our dependency on them, especially among the Sephardic leadership."

Please shut the door

The Shas source's children are all being educated at well-regarded Ashkenazi-Lithuanian schools. This detail will not give him away, since all of the Shas leaders, ministers and Knesset members - including Yosef - send their children to the same schools.

The source: "The solution to this painful problem lies with the Ashkenazim. If they want to do right by us, they should make a sweeping decision not to accept any Sephardim, and it won't matter if the family's name is Yosef, Yishai or Deri. In that way, there will be no more social classes. Today they are taking all of our best children to Ashkenazi institutions and leaving us the mediocre ones. If the Ashkenazim wouldn't accept anyone, then there would no longer be social classes within the Sephardic public and the children would not be frustrated."

Isn't that your job? The job of the Shas leadership?

"If there is a hermetic closure of doors on the part of the Lithuanians, it will be perfect. No other way can work now, because Shas does not have the ability to go from family to family, with lists, and make all of them send their children to Sephardic institutions. There is no way of changing this from within."

Does Rabbi Yosef think this way too?

"The rabbi doesn't like this, but he has a conflict. What do you want? Do you want him to force his sons to send their children to Sephardic institutions? Just as he can't start a political party with his children alone, he also can't overhaul the education system only with them. So there are Torah scholars who are Sephardic at home, follow Sephardic rabbinic strictures and come into conflict with Ashkenazim - but when it comes to learning, they study at their institutions."

Rabbi Avraham Yosef, the rabbi of Holon and Ovadia Yosef's son, says his father "knows that a revolution doesn't happen in a single day. It trickles down. Thanks to it, even at Lithuanian yeshivas, a scholar has to study halakha and not just Gemara, as had been the custom. The current situation will resolve itself, ultimately."

During the season when hundreds of thousands of students register for religious schools, the voices of Sephardic parents claiming discrimination by Ashkenazi institutions are amplified. Such claims have already been brought before the courts, which have confirmed them, and other claims, are already in the pipeline. On the ground, hardly anything has changed - but the rhetoric is escalating.

In Shas circles, an anti-Lithuanian pamphlet, Meholot Hamanaiyim, has been circulating. The trigger for its publication is the rabbinical debate surrounding the sabbatical (fallow) year, which had Yosef and Elyashiv at loggerheads. However, much of the manual is devoted to accusations of racism in the Lithuanian public. Among other things, it tells of methods used to reduce the proportion of Sephardic students; for example, holding classes in Yiddish.

"Awaken, brethren, and sound a voice of great protest that will be heard from one end of the world to the other," exhorts the anonymous writer, "to inform men of generous spirit from among our brothers to pull back their hands from supporting those institutions until they accept more sons of Sepharadim."

These accusations are also stirring polemics within the Sephardic camp - the first signs of a revolt against the Shas leadership. "Ashkenazi racism does exist, but it does not cleanse Shas," says A., a yeshiva student from the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem. "How is it possible to complain of discrimination and at the same continue to knock on the Ashkenazi doors? We Sephardim must raise ourselves up and disengage ourselves entirely from dependence on the Ashkenazim. In this, the Shas leadership has failed."

These arguments are eliciting broad agreement in the Ashkenazi circles, and less so among the Sepharadim. A. is associated with a small group headed by Rabbi Avraham Zafrani, the head of a relatively obscure kollel (yeshiva for married men) in Jerusalem, which is trying to nurture that "authentic" Sephardic ultra-Orthodox education that prevailed prior to Shas' founding.

Zafrani refused to be interviewed for this report, on the grounds that the polemic should be conducted within the bounds of the ultra-Orthodox community. In an interview to the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Hai about a month ago, he said "this is a problem of the Sepharadim and not of the Ashkenazim. We aren't reading the map; we simply don't want to go out of Egypt."

The root of the Sephardic-Lithuanian connection was planted at the beginning of the 20th century. In "Shas: The Historical Depth," Dr. Ya'akov Lupu tells of a group of rabbis from yeshivas in Lithuania that in 1912 set out for Morocco to "save" members of the Jewish community at a time when the French Alliance network of schools was making inroads. The connection grew deeper after the founding of the State of Israel.

The institutional pyramid

One person who did not receive an Ashkenazi education is Yosef, who in his sermons frequently even condemns "the fruitless, in-depth studies" of Lithuanian yeshivas. He himself studied at the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem, which offered, among other things, the study of rabbinical law and Kabbala. However, nearly all of those who helped him establish Shas in the 1980s were educated in Ashkenazi yeshivas.

Religious Sephardic parents describe the ultra-Orthodox class system as such: The lofty ideal to which nearly every family aspires but which few achieve, is acceptance at an Ashkenazi-Lithuanian school. Anyone who isn't accepted turns to a Sephardic institution, whose instruction mirrors that of Lithuanian yeshivas - where Ashkenazi pronunciation, liturgy and melody are used. The third option is Sephardic ultra-Orthodox institutions that try to preserve the Sephardic method of learning and place special emphasis on the study of rabbinical law and Sephardic Hebrew. Shas' schools are considered suitable for people from outlying neighborhoods, from the bottom of the social pyramid.

This class structure does not necessarily reflect the quality of the studies, which are also considered to be excellent in some of the "lower" institutions. "The greater the natural rate of reproduction, the more excellent Sephardic educational institutions are opened," relates the Shas source. "Today there are tens of thousands of Sephardic families that aren't even trying to register their children in Sephardic institutions."

According to Rabbi Avraham Yosef, who sends his children to Ashkenazi schools, "today there are at least 10 Sephardic yeshivas that are just as good as Ashkenazi yeshivas, but they lack the PR of Ashkenazi yeshivas. They have a good reputation, and it is impossible to compete with this. How do you create a good reputation? Apparently this is something that the Sephardim haven't learned yet. The approach of the Sephardic rabbis has always been 'to walk humbly.'"

Yeshiva student A. is nostalgic for precisely that kind of yeshiva, like Porat Yosef and Talmud Torah Bnei Zion, Sephardic ultra-Orthodox institutions. Today, many of them no longer exist and others are fighting to survive.

"When I was a boy," recalls A., 30, "people weren't so carried away. Eighty to 90 percent sent their children to Sephardic schools from the outset. Today the vast majority tries to get accepted at Ashkenazi institutions and there is dearth of registration at the veteran schools for young boys. A parent who himself attended a Sephardic ultra-Orthodox school prefers to send his son to an Ashkenazi institution, or at least 'becomes more Ashkenazi.' This revolution occurred over the past 15 years."

"The imitations aren't succeeding," said Zafrani in his interview with Kol Hai. "Sephardic institutions must be different. The Hasidim don't resemble the Lithuanians either in the ways they study and pray. The slang also needs to be more Sephardic-kabbalistic, like it has always been, but we so much want to resemble [them]." The problem, according to him, begins with self-confidence: "It is necessary to heal, it is necessary to invest in one expert psychologist who will treat everyone."

"Even if it is the right thing to do, to establish authentic Sephardic institutions, it is still too early," responds the Shas source. "You can't start producing an automobile according to a certain model and also decide that the steering wheel will be on the right and not on the left. First you have to know how to create institutions of your own, then introduce a suitable style. It could be that, at first, it will be necessary to educate the youth to suckle from the Lithuanians' sharpness."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Halakhic conversion of non-religious candidates


Rabbi Angel is fighting an uphill battle against the nuts who have taken over religious Judaism, but he has some great scholarship, a stellar reputation, and a strong sense of moral outrage--so he may just get the momentum to bring some rational though back into the Rabbinate.

This is one of the wonderful essays from his site, written by Professor Zvi Zohar, which points out the obvious answer to the question of all those secular Russians who need to convert.

Conversion of non-religious candidates is not a less-than-halachic answer, and it could prevent a lot of intermarriage and other problems in Israel.

By Prof. Zvi Zohar of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University

The Shulhan Arukh, composed by rabbi Joseph Caro in the 16th century, is a canonical code of Jewish Law. In this work, rabbi Caro writes that a ceremony of Giyyur (=‘conversion') is valid only if it includes Qabbalat Mitzvot. Rabbi Caro does not explain what this phrase means. The so-called "conversion crisis" results from the attempt to pressure all rabbis to adopt a specific interpretation of this requirement, i.e., to agree that Qabbalat Mitzvot means a whole-hearted commitment by the Ger (="convert" =‘proselyte') to fully observe all of the Mitzvot (commandments). On this view, if a person applying for giyyur intends to be a secular Jew, or even a ‘traditional' Jew who observes many (but not all) commandments, that person cannot be allowed to undergo a giyyur ceremony, because Qabbalat Mitzvot is lacking. This position has been strongly supported by ultra-orthodox haredi rabbis as the one-and-only correct interpretation of Qabbalat Mitzvot.

In fact, the meaning of this phrase in the context of Giyyur was not agreed upon during the 1000 years before rabbi Caro employed it, and was not agreed upon afterwards. As did many rabbis before them, leading Sephardic rabbis in the 20th century held other interpretations of this phrase. In the following text, the views of three such great Sephardic rabbis are discussed. In their view, Qabbalat Mitzvot means an acknowledgement by the Ger, that after they become a Jew they will be liable before G-d (as are all Jews) for their actions: if they sin, they may incur Divine punishment, while performance of mitzvot will earn merit and reward. According to this view, a valid halakhic giyyur is fully possible for persons who do not intend to subsequently follow a religious lifestyle.

The following is an excerpt from chapter 12 of a book entitled Transforming Identity, forthcoming in late 2007 from Continuum press. Written by Avi Sagi and Zvi Zohar (both are professors at Bar Ilan University), it has been characterized thus by rabbi Irving ‘Yitz' Greenberg:

This book is a tour de force, a rare combination of comprehensive scholarship, insight, fresh thinking and wisdom. This is by far, the best book on this topic in the English language.

Qabbalat Mitzvot as recognition of liability

According to this position, the content of a proselyte's declaration with regard to commandments does not relate to performance. Rather, she is required to acknowledge that as a Jewess, she will be subject to the halakhic system, and therefore be liable for the consequences of her future commissions and omissions. One scholar who holds this view is Rabbi Raphael Aaron b. Simeon,[1] who writes as follows:

The judges immersing the proselyte must be three... and they must immerse him in the daytime. While he is in the water, they notify him again about some of the more lenient and some of the harsher commandments. And it is our wont to ask him these questions briefly, after informing him of some of the lenient and harsher commandments, as he stands in the water:

- Are you are entering the religion of Israel wholeheartedly? And he says 'yes.'

- Is it the case that you have no ulterior motive, and you are undergoing giyyur only for the sake of Heaven? - 'Yes.'

- Do you willingly accept punishment for transgressing the lenient and harsher commandments we have explained to you when you accepted the religion of Israel? - 'Yes.'
... And he fully immerses before the judges. Once he has immersed and come up, he is like a Jew in every respect.[2]

This detailed dialogue between the court and the proselyte was composed by Rabbi Ben Shimon, and to the best of our knowledge it is the first time that such a detailed format is presented in halakhic literature. The proselyte is questioned with regard to his general attitude toward the Jewish religion, his motivation, and his acceptance of the negative consequences that might result from obligation to the commandments. He is not questioned as to whether he intends to observe the commandments and abide by them. Moreover, despite the unprecedented detail in this text by Rabbi Ben Shimon, he does not require subjective religious intent on the proselyte's part. When explaining the policy of the Egyptian rabbinate with regard to the giyyur of Gentile women living with Jewish partners, he writes that although the women's motivation is not religious:

We overlook this and accept them... and this is what we do in such cases. We make a condition and explain to the woman proselyte that her intention must be that even if her husband does not wish to marry her after this, and abandons her, she voluntarily accepts the religion, and that the reason for her giyyur is not contingent upon her [interest in] marriage to him. And she says 'yes'. And although we know what is in her heart, we are not very meticulous.[3]

Rabbi Ben Shimon is clearly not pleased with the significant discrepancy between the proselyte's declaration and her inner intention. However, he holds that the validity of her giyyur is not thereby impaired, as long as her verbal pronouncements conform to halakhic requirements and she accepts her liability for punishment if she transgresses any commandment.

Another scholar who identifies acceptance of commandments in the same way is Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uzziel.[4] He begins his discussion of this issue by noting that the Talmud holds that most proselytes will not observe the commandments after their giyyur. This is the assumption underlying the dictum: 'Proselytes are as hard for Israel [to endure] as a sore',[5] as understood by Rashi and Maimonides.[6] Uzziel therefore states:

Although we know that most proselytes do not observe the commandments after circumcision and immersion; nevertheless, they [the rabbis] did not refrain from accepting them because of that. Rather, they inform them about some of the harsher commandments, namely, the punishment for transgressing them, so that 'So that if he wants to withdraw - he can withdraw.' But if they do not withdraw, they are accepted, and each proselyte will be responsible for his [future] sin[s], and the people of Israel are not liable for his behaviour. All we have said, then, makes the following absolutely clear: if a proselyte has accepted the commandments and their punishment, then, even when it is known he will not observe them, he should be accepted after being notified about the lenient and harsher commandments, their reward and punishment.[7]

According to Rabbi Uzziel, the requirement that a proselyte should accept the commandments does not mean that he is required to commit himself to observe them. Rather, it means that he recognizes that after becoming a Jew, he will be under the jurisdiction of the halakhic system. Therefore, he alone will bear responsibility for the consequences of non-compliance. The proselyte's assumption of responsibility for the consequences of his giyyur enables the court to accept him without hesitation, even if the court has good reason to assume that after becoming a Jew he will not observe the commandments. This leads Rabbi Uzziel to conclude:

It follows, that according to Torah, we are allowed and commanded to accept male and female proselytes even when we know that they will not observe all the commandments... and if they do not observe the commandments, they will bear their sin and we are not liable. [8]

This view is also advocated by Rabbi Moshe HaCohen,[9] who writes concerning the possibility of accepting proselytes who would subsequently follow a secular lifestyle in Israel. He writes that prima facie it seems:

quite simple that he should not be accepted for giyyur, [because] the explicit halakhah in Bekhorot (30b) is: 'A proselyte who agrees to take upon himself all matters of Torah, excepting one thing, should not be accepted.'[10]

Yet, a detailed analysis of the meaning of the 'acceptance of the commandments' required from a proselyte led HaCohen to conclude that his prima facie analysis was incorrect, because:

[A]ccepting the commandments does not mean that he must commit himself to observe all the commandments. Rather, it means that he accepts all the commandments of the Torah in the sense that, if he transgresses, he will be liable for such punishment as he deserves... And if so, we do not care if at the time he accepts the commandments he intends to transgress a particular commandment and accept the punishment. This is not considered a flaw in his acceptance of the commandments.[11]

According to HaCohen, then, proselytes are required to acknowledge that after giyyur, the Torah's framework of reward and punishment will apply to them as it does to all Jews. Whoever agrees to this completely fulfils the halakhic requirement of acceptance of the commandments, even if in fact they subsequently fail to observe the commandments, and even if the court knew at the time of giyyur that they would act in such a manner.

In another Responsum, Rabbi HaCohen describes a fundamental problematic posed by the secular reality of Israeli society:

Many Jews married Gentile women after the Second World War and have fathered sons and daughters with them. According to the law, the children's status follows that of their Gentile mother [i.e. they are not Jewish]. When they come to Israel, the husband brings the children [to the court] for giyyur, sometimes with their mother and sometimes on their own. The trouble is that they reside in places in which the people do not observe the tradition: they eat forbidden foods and desecrate the Sabbath and the holidays. It is clear that after giyyur they will behave similarly to the Jews among whom they live, since it is almost impossible for them to be observant. [12]

Rabbi HaCohen explains that his interpretation of acceptance of the commandments as recognition of liability provides the grounds enabling giyyur in secular Israeli reality.[13]


[1] Chief Rabbi of Cairo, 1891-1921 (died in 1929).

[2] Rabbi Raphael Aharon Ben Shimon, Nehar Mitsrayim (Alexandria, Farag Hayyim Mizrahi, 1908), p. 113a.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Born in Jerusalem in 1880, he was Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Eretz Israel from 1939 until his death in 1953.

[5] Yevamot 47b.

[6] For Rashi see Yevamot ibid., s.v. de-amar mar. For Maimonides see Hilkhot Issurei Biah 13:18.

[7] B.-Z. H. Uzziel, Mishpatei Uzziel (2nd edition, Jerusalem, 1950), Yoreh De'ah, Vol. 1, # 58, p. 205.

[8] B.-Z. H. Uzziel, Mishpatei Uzziel, Even ha-‘Ezer, # 20; Piskei Uzziel B'shelot Hazman (Jerusalem, Mossad HaRav Kook, 1977), # 68.

[9] Jerba 1906 - Israel, 1966. A leading rabbi in the community of Jerba, he immigrated to Israel in the 1950s and served as a dayyan (judge) in the rabbinical court of Tiberias.

[10] M. Hacohen, Responsa Ve-Heshiv Moshe (Jerusalem, 1968), Yoreh De'ah, #50.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., # 51.

[13] Rabbi HaCohen's position is further explicated in ch. 4 of Transforming Identity.

Olmert Escapes by the skin of his teeth as Winograd blames others


OK, so the man who decided only to fight to tie and not to fight to win, the man who allowed himself to be duped by Hamas as they used civilian buildings to launch attackes, the man who was so intent on destroying the homes of law abiding Israeli citizens that he co-0pted the IDF and trained to attack their own people rather than attack an enemy is found to be innocent of any wrong-doing?

Remember, he appointed this man:

as the defense minister, even though he had no experience (even with binoculars!), because Olmert wanted someone who was willing to destroy the homes of Jews more than he wanted to protect the country.

Winograd's report was held up for almost a year--and you wonder why?

It was being edited, my friends.



Winograd Report: Grave Errors, Lack of Strategy

by Ezra HaLevi
( The final report of the Winograd Committee examining the government's performance in the Second Lebanon War was delivered to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday evening. Winograd then read aloud its conclusions at a press conference in Jerusalem's Binyanei HaUmah Conference Center. The 500-page report (click here for full report - in Hebrew ) found "serious faults and defects in the decision making processes in both the political and the military levels and the interface between them" in the course of the Second Lebanon War.

"Israel entered a prolonged war, which it initiated, that ended without a clear victory militarily."
The report summed up the war with the phrase "a great missed opportunity" and laid the blame "mostly with the military." It continued, however, by saying, "Partially responsible was the weakness projected by the political echelon." Report Summary

  • The army was cited for a lack of organization of ground forces and failure to request the call-up of the reserves for a ground invasion until the first week of August.
  • Failures began before the war, the report said. The decision to go to war was made without strategy.
  • The report includes no personal recommendations against any of the players in the war's decision making process. "It should be emphasized that the fact that we avoided laying personal blame does not mean that there was no such blame," the commission stated. "Even when we placed responsibility on one framework or another, or one echelon or another, this does not mean that the blame rested solely with the people at the top of that echelon."
  • The report sees the United Nations' Resolution 1701 - the ceasefire - as an accomplishment.
  • Contrary to the recent focus of reservists' criticism, the report said that the final ground operation was "practically a necessity." It said that although its goals were legitimate, it was not conducted properly and therefore did not contribute anything positive.
  • There were severe failures in the defense of the home front. "Hizbullah rocket fire on the Israeli home front continued throughout the war and the IDF failed to provide an effective response. Daily life was disrupted, residents left their homes and entered bomb shelters...These results had far-reaching consequences for us and our enemies."
  • The report cites positive aspects of the conduct of the Second Lebanon War, in addition to criticism of it. The accomplishments cited were, first and foremost, the volunteer spirit of the reservists who were called up for the war, and the heroism exhibited by individual soldiers.
  • The Air Force had impressive accomplishments.

Conclusion Winograd summed up his 30-minute oral summary of his commission's report on the Second Lebanon War with a statement that Israel "cannot survive in this region unless the people within it and outside it believe that it has political leadership, military capabilities and social strength that will enable it to prevent their enemies from realizing their goals – even by force."

This basic truth, the committee states, is common to all political approaches.
"Attempts to reach peace or an agreement must come from a place of military might and of ability and willingness to fight for the country, its values and residents," the committee stated.

"This has deep ramifications, well beyond the Second Lebanon War," it said.

Olmert's Response

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office released statements leading up to the Committee's press conference saying that Olmert is "relieved" and believes the report spares him the harsh criticism many expected, particularly regarding the final offensive of the war.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert released a short reaction to the report Wednesday evening. Olmert's statement said that he has faith "in the IDF, in its commanders, in its soldiers and abilities." The statement did not include any reaction to the criticism leveled at Olmert in the report, but said that he was treating it "with full seriousness," just as he had treated the interim report.

Cabinet Secretary Oved Yechezkel told Army Radio shortly after the press conference that Olmert has no plans to step down. "The prime minister and the government take responsibility and will make the required rectifications," Yechezkel said. "Taking responsibility means staying on the job to fix and improve - continuing to lead the way forward."

IDF Response
IDF officials are noting that the army has not waited until the publication of the report to take action to correct its mistakes in the war. More than 70 committees were appointed within the IDF to examine various aspects and make recommendations that are already being implemented. Those recommendations match those reached by Winograd, for the most part.

Nevertheless, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has appointed a special team to read the Winograd Commission's report on the Second Lebanon War and to come up with conclusions and recommendations. The crew includes the IDF Spokesman, the Chief Military Attorney and three members of the General Staff.

The Winograd Committee The Winograd Committee was appointed and hand-picked by Prime Minister Olmert as a compromise response to demands for a State Commission of Inquiry, which would have had more authority to investigate and use its results in court proceedings.

The committee was headed by retired Justice Eliyahu Winograd. The other committee members were Prof. Ruth Gavison, Prof. Yehezkel Dror, and retired IDF Major-Generals Menachem Einan and Chaim Nadel.
The Movement for Quality Government (MQG) maintained that an independent inquiry was necessary, and was joined in its demand by IDF reservists, including senior officers who accused the government and General Staff of behaving irresponsibly.

The groups announced in response to the prime minster's decision to put retired Judge Eliyahu Winograd at the head of the commission of inquiry that "Only a commission of inquiry headed by a judge with legal jurisdiction appointed by the president of the Supreme Court, not by the prime minister, is the solution."



In the world of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" about evil newsworld, it is amazing how many logical summersaults they will do to report bad things about Israel, even when the truth is staring them in the face.



January 30, 2008 -- Call it the Bogus Blackout.

Hamas legislators in the Palestinian parliament worked in staged darkness at least twice this week to convince the rest of the world that they were suffering as a result of Israeli power cuts.

The lawmakers invited photographers to snap them - hard at work at their candle-lit desks in the Gaza City building - where they claimed they were forced to squint in the dark because an Israeli blockade had turned off their electricity.

But Palestinian reporters pointed out the obvious: It was daytime.

And anyone who looks out the curtained windows and saw the sunshine would realize it.

"It was obvious that the whole thing was staged," one journalist told the Jerusalem Post.

"They had closed the curtains in the rooms to create the impression that Hamas leaders were also suffering as a result of the power stoppage."

Reuters, however, defended the photo.

"This is a legitimate picture of a photo opportunity covered by the world's media. Our caption described the scene accurately," said Reuters spokesman Ty Trippet.

Israel blocked fuel and other deliveries to the Gaza Strip earlier this month to pressure the Hamas-led government to crack down on terrorists who were firing homemade rockets on a daily basis across the border into southern Israel.

Under heavy international pressure, Israel relented and allowed fuel shipments.

Meanwhile, Hamas gunmen blew up a fence on Gaza's other border to allow Palestinians to buy goods in Egypt.

But Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas honcho, and legislators continued the candle-lit ploy.

One Palestinian journalist said he and his colleagues were told they had to wait a few minutes outside the Palestinian Legislative Council chambers so that the lawmakers could light their candles before the press was let in, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Meanwhile, traffic across the Gaza-Egypt border slowed to a trickle yesterday as security forces worked at sealing off breaches and cold, rainy weather discouraged travelers.

With Post Wire Services

Monday, January 28, 2008

Abbas Demands the Temple Mount


There is a very good reason why Abbas is demanding this, right now.

Abbas knows that Olmert cannot negotiate on Jerusalem without Shas pulling out and destroying the coalition. He also knows that the Temple Mount is non-negotiable. So, in order to insure that the “peace process” is completely derailed, and, for good measure, that Israel is at fault, Abbas is making this demand right here, right now.

The truth is that the arabs don’t want a state. If they have a state they have to be responsible for education, government, establishing and maintaining schools, healthcare, sanitation, etc. etc. etc. What a pain!

They want to fight a constant war of publicity (with an occasional riot and a few terrorist attacks thrown in for good measure), and march around complaining that they are victims-- while collecting the money of international organizations and governments that want to hear, more than anything, that Israel is evil, that Jews are wicked, and that Jews are “occupying” Israel.

The arabs have a good gig. They don’t want to spoil this success!

There is no better way to insure that the PA state will fail, and that they can continue on the status quo as top-notch professional Jew-haters, than to demand the Temple Mount and Jerusalem right now.


Abbas: No PA State Without Jerusalem

( Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that the PA would not establish a state without Jerusalem as a capital city. Abbas has demanded that Israel give the PA all areas of Jerusalem that fell under Jordanian control between 1948 and 1967, including the Old City and the Temple Mount.

Abbas made his statements during a meeting of approximately 400 Arab leaders in the Mukata compound in Ramallah. The leaders met “to promote the Arab nature of Jerusalem and to fight Israeli plotting.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that discussions over the status of Jerusalem would take place after negotiations on other “core issues,” such as the borders of a PA state. Shas party leaders say they will leave the coalition when Israel and the PA begin negotiating over Jerusalem.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

El-Al loses monopoly on direct destination flights


Thank G-d! It has been a terrible burden for many that the ticket prices to Israel are so out-of-line with the ticket prices anywhere else in the world.

It is always galling to me that one can fly to China cheaper than Israel.

Hopefully, this will be the beginning of some great fares, and a boost to tourism to help with the economy.

----- » Israel » Article
Jan 27, 2008 16:54 | Updated Jan 27, 2008 20:57

Israel's flagship carrier, El-Al, will no longer enjoy a monopoly on the country's air travel, according to a far reaching reform launched Sunday by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz (Kadima).
[No longer alone: An El Al...]

No longer alone: An El Al aircraft takes off at Ben Gurion.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski [file]

The first stage of the amendment will be El-Al's withdrawal from its long-standing monopoly on popular destinations. Simultaneously, there will be a substantial increase in government subsidies of security arrangements for other Israeli airlines. The move is estimated to cost approximately $80 million a year.

"After months and months of deliberations, we have finally reached an agreement with El Al canceling its exclusivity in the Israeli flight market", said Mofaz. "It's a true revolution for the local consumer; we expect ticket prices to drop rapidly".

The Transportation Ministry's chief executive, Gideon Siterman, added that the European Union supported the initiative and was in negotiations with Israel over renewing flight policies and agreements.

El Al said that the company had been acting in a competitive market ever since being privatized. "We expect the government to assist Israeli airlines to increase the number of direct-destination flights and to facilitate their communication with foreign authorities, to ensure that competition is run on a level ground", the company's statement said.

Yeshiva counselor who killed terrorists lives to tell the tale


I guess Ha'aretz worries about being sued if they call two men "terrorists," when all the poor arabs did was break into a Yeshiva with guns and knives and try to kill a group of counselors.

I know that what they did was a mistake.

After all, the two arabs found a group of armed counselors instead of a large number of young unarmed students. They didn't mean to attack the counselors . . . all they wanted to do was kill the students.

Now I understand why Ha'aretz called them "militants"!

Everyone at Ha'aretz already knows that the armed counselors were the "terrorists," right?

Last update - 13:03 27/01/2008
By Nadav Shragai

Elyakim Kovatch, a 10th-grade counselor at the Mekor Haim yeshiva in Kfar Etzion, says he does not remember the sound of shots from his gun, which killed the two terrorists who broke into the institution Thursday evening. "In my memory, the incident is like a silent movie," he said Friday.

Kovatch described the attack, which came after six counselors gathered at 9:30 P.M. for a meeting in the small room of the yeshiva's library, along with the principal of the boarding school, Shmueli Greenberg.

"About three quarters of an hour later, two figures entered the room. They looked like security guards. In the first few seconds they didn't look suspicious to us. Greenberg even managed to greet them with 'Good evening,' and then they came closer, to a distance of about two meters, pulled out knives and a handgun, and in Arabic-accented Hebrew said: 'Everyone stand back in a line.'
"At this stage, I still thought this was a joke. Only when I saw the counselor Rafael Singer draw a weapon, I got that it's real. The two terrorists jumped on Singer and stabbed him in the chest. I moved a little backward. It was all a matter of seconds. I loaded a clip in the gun, waited for there to be some distance between Singer and the terrorists, and shot one of them, who was wrestling with him," Kovatch said.

"The terrorist flew toward the door and was still twitching and trying to get up. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Shmueli fighting with the other terrorist. He grabbed the terrorist's hand, which was holding a gun. The terrorist tried to get loose. Again I got some distance between us and shot him too."

Another counselor in the room, Asa, said they did not realize immediately that the men were militants. "It took us several seconds to come to our senses and then some of the counselors jumped on them," he said.

When it was all over, the two terrorists "lay sprawled on the floor, bleeding, with knives in their hands," Kovatch added. "We didn't wait any longer. We fled outside - both the wounded and also those who were unhurt."

Kovatch, 24, from Jerusalem, began working at Mekor Haim a year ago. He is a graduate of the capital's Hakotel hesder yeshiva, and served as a combat soldier in the paratroops.

"In recent months the yeshiva's security director trained us for just these sorts of scenarios - abduction attempts, terrorist takeovers of buildings, and so on. These training sessions, the last of which took place two days before the terrorist incursion, helped us to handle it," Kovatch said. But, he said, "when the real thing happens, nothing is like what you worked on."

Kovatch played down his role. "The real miracle was that someone from above directed the terrorists to the library, where there were people trained to operate weapons, and not to the area nearby, where there were many pupils. Without the courage of Singer, Greenberg and the other counselors, we would not have finished the incident in this manner. It was everyone's heroism and initiative," he said.

After the event and on Friday morning the atmosphere at the yeshiva was festive. Pupils kept shaking their counselors' hands and thanking them. The yeshiva head, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, was welcomed with singing and dancing when he came there a few hours after the attack. Steinsaltz said he was proud that the counselors "did what had to be done with great wisdom and courage."

YAWN: Shas to mull leaving coalition tonight


Wake me when they decide, once again, to sacrifice Israel in the name of stipends for Yeshiva students, or control of the Religious Affairs Ministry, or for some fake insult to their masculinity or whatever they desperately cook up this time.

(They do so well staying in the press that I have become suspicious that they haven’t hired a PA press-agent . . . )

Jan 26, 2008 23:24 | Updated Jan 27, 2008 12:07
Shas to mull leaving coalition tonight

Shas's Council of Torah Sages will convene at the home of party mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Jerusalem's Har Nor neighborhood on Sunday night to consider leaving Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition over the diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians.
[Shas chairman Eli Yishai. ]

Shas chairman Eli Yishai.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski

The council is not expected to authorize leaving the coalition at this stage, but the rabbis will likely decide to empower Yosef and Shas chairman Eli Yishai to leave the government when they see fit, without another meeting of the council.

Yishai will brief the rabbis about his meeting with Olmert last week and report what he hears from the Prime Minister's Office following Olmert's meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas earlier Sunday.

"The council meeting is a step on the way to leaving the coalition, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it will happen soon," a Shas official said Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will meet at her Jerusalem office with representatives of the bereaved families and reserve soldiers who have repeatedly called upon Olmert to quit. Livni asked the group not to bring with them any politicians connected to them such as Tafnit leader Uzi Dayan.

"There is no political significance to the meeting," Livni's spokesman Gil Messing said. "It's the right of everyone who paid a price for the war to meet with her face to face as one of the decision-makers of the war. But she won't meet any politicians or mediators."

National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is close to Labor chairman Ehud Barak, will also meet with the bereaved families and reserve soldiers Sunday.

The bereaved families and reserve soldiers are planning a mass rally outside the Knesset following the January 30 publication of the final Winograd Report. Author David Grossman, who lost his son Uri on the last day of the war, will be the event's featured speaker.

20 Years of Research Reveals: Jerusalem Belongs to Jews


Only in this twisted mixed up world where right is left and left is right, up is down and down is up would this headline qualify for anything less than Leno's "Headlines" schtick on "The Tonight Show."

This headline is right up there with "20 Years of research Reveals: The Pope is Catholic" or "20 Years of Research Reveals: Babies are Small Humans!"

But, because the very reality that we live in is under suspicion, we must state the obvious in a large headline.

The crazy thing about this?

No one will believe it.

by Hillel Fendel

( Jacques Gauthier, a non-Jewish Canadian lawyer who spent 20 years researching the legal status of Jerusalem, has concluded: "Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, by international law."

Gauthier has written a doctoral dissertation on the topic of Jerusalem and its legal history, based on international treaties and resolutions of the past 90 years. The dissertation runs some 1,300 pages, with 3,000 footnotes. Gauthier had to present his thesis to a world-famous Jewish historian and two leading international lawyers - the Jewish one of whom has represented the Palestinian Authority on numerous occasions.

Gauthier's main point, as summarized by Israpundit editor Ted Belman, is that a non-broken series of treaties and resolutions, as laid out by the San Remo Resolution, the League of Nations and the United Nations, gives the Jewish People title to the city of Jerusalem. The process began at San Remo, Italy, when the four Principal Allied Powers of World War I - Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan - agreed to create a Jewish national home in what is now the Land of Israel.

San Remo
The relevant resolution reads as follows: "The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust... the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, to a Mandatory [authority that] will be responsible for putting into effect the [Balfour] declaration... in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Gauthier notes that the San Remo treaty specifically notes that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" - but says nothing about any "political" rights of the Arabs living there.

The San Remo Resolution also bases itself on Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, which declares that it is a "a sacred trust of civilization" to provide for the well-being and development of colonies and territories whose inhabitants are "not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world." Specifically, a resolution was formulated to create a Mandate to form a Jewish national home in Palestine.

League of Nations
The League of Nations' resolution creating the Palestine Mandate, included the following significant clause: “Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country." No such recognition of Arab rights in Palestine was granted.

In 1945, the United Nations took over from the failed League of Nations - and assumed the latter's obligations. Article 80 of the UN Charter states: "Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed, in or of itself, to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties."

UN Partition Plan
However, in 1947, the General Assembly of the UN passed Resolution 181, known as the Partition Plan. It violated the League of Nations' Mandate for Palestine in that it granted political rights to the Arabs in western Palestine - yet, ironically, the Arabs worked to thwart the plan's passage, while the Jews applauded it.

Resolution 181 also provided for a Special regime for Jerusalem, with borders delineated in all four directions: The then-extant municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns up to Abu Dis in the east, Bethlehem in the south, Ein Karem and Motza in the west, and Shuafat in the north.

Referendum Scheduled for Jerusalem
The UN resolved that the City of Jerusalem shall be established as a separate entity under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations. The regime was to come into effect by October 1948, and was to remain in force for a period of ten years, unless the UN's Trusteeship Council decided otherwise. After the ten years, the residents of Jerusalem "shall be then free to express by means of a referendum their wishes as to possible modifications of regime of the City."

The resolution never took effect, because Jordan controlled eastern Jerusalem after the 1948 War of Independence and did not follow its provisions.

After 1967
After the Six Day War in 1967, Israel regained Jerusalem and other land west of Jordan. Gauthier notes that the UN Security Council then passed Resolution 242 authorizing Israel to remain in possession of all the land until it had “secure and recognized boundaries.” The resolution was notably silent on Jerusalem, and also referred to the "necessity for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem,” with no distinction made between Jewish and Arab refugees.

Given Jerusalem's strong Jewish majority, Gauthier concludes, Israel should be demanding that the long-delayed city referendum on the city's future be held as soon as possible. Not only should Israel be demanding that the referendum be held now, Jerusalem should be the first order of business. "Olmert is sloughing us off by saying [as he did before the Annapolis Conference two months ago], 'Jerusalem is not on the table yet,'" Gauthier concludes. "He should demand that the referendum take place before the balance of the land is negotiated. If the Arabs won’t agree to the referendum, there is nothing to talk about."

Barak's cruelty: doing in Hebron what he isn't willing to do in Gaza

The Jewish Community of Hebron
January 27, 2008

A week ago the Supreme Court ruled that the Jewish residents at Beit HaShalom could continue to live at least until April.

In view of this ruling, attorney Nadav HaEtzni, representing the building's residents, appealed for a second time to the Defense Minister requesting to allow the families living in the building to prepare for the upcoming winter storms. The request was necessary due to an injunction issued nine months ago by a military appeals panel, which on the one hand forbade expulsion of the building's residents from the site, but on the other hand, forbade any changes in the building, including any and all renovations. As a result of this injunction, the families live in extremely difficult conditions:

These include:
No windows
No full connection to electricity. One electric line running into the building does not supply enough electricity to heat the building.
The roof is leaky and cannot be sealed. Rain leaks into the family's apartments.

Attorney HaEtzni gave four reasons for his requests:
1. The upcoming extreme cold wave will be very hard on the families.
2. The families include many children and newborn infants. (One baby was born three months ago and another born last week!)
3. The Supreme Court ruling permits the families to remain in the building at least through April.
4. Oral agreements from local military commanders who view the requests as 'strictly humanitarian' and agree that they should be answered positively.

Despite the fact that the IDF accepts the requests as 'humanitarian,' the Defense minister thinks otherwise. In a letter issued which refuses the Hebron community's requests, he writes, 'the petitioners are not obligated to live in the building or to study Torah there during the 'cold wave.' To the contrary, their continued presence … is against the law because they live there without a permit.

The community will now have to wait for the decision of the military appeals panel, which will have to decide between the community request and the Defense Minister's position.

A Hebron spokesman issued the following statement: Windows, electricity and a sealed roof – these are too much for Ehud Barak to permit to Jews in Hebron. The entire world is up-in-arms when the State of Israel threatens to cut off electricity to murderers in Gaza who continue to shoot rockets into Israel. But nobody particularly cares if twenty families are forced to live in subhuman conditions in a building legally purchased in Hebron.

There are two types of corruption plaguing the present administration: criminal and moral. Ehud Barak's willingness to take pity on terrorists but refusing to show any sympathy for Hebron's Jewish men, women and children is about as morally corrupt as a politician can get. Our sages said, "he who has mercy on the cruel will finally be cruel to the merciful. Barak is fulfilling this saying to the utmost. However, Hebron's Jews will not be defeated by the wind, the rain, the snow or the cruelty of Ehud Barak and his cronies. We will continue to live in Beit HaShalom and this building will eventually be transformed into beautiful Jewish apartments in Hebron.


The Jewish Community of Hebron
POB 105 , Kiryat Arba-Hebron 90100
Tour Hebron: Tel 972-52-431-7055 or write:

The Hebron Fund
1760 Ocean Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11230

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