Friday, February 26, 2010

Terror Trifecta Meeting in Damascus Saturday


This would be a really good time for Hashm to send a well-directed meteor into a certain Damascus meeting room.

If that is too obvious, a small earthquake, a flood, or just a simple ceiling collapse would do just as well.

Of course, if some government wished to save thousands of lives now rather than wait for the inevitable, a well-aimed cruise missile wouldn't hurt the cause of liberty and justice one bit.


Arab Islamist and terror chiefs called to Tehran for anti-Israel war planning
Exclusive Report February 25, 2010, 11:21 AM (GMT+02:00)

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has summoned all the terrorist groups Tehran sponsors - Islamist and radical Palestinian - for a broad gathering Saturday, Feb. 27, to finalize their roles in military operations against Israel in the event of a Middle East conflagration. This is reported by debkafile's Iranian and intelligence sources.

It will be the sequel to the preliminary discussions Ahmadinejad held with Syrian president Bashar Assad and heads of the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Hamas Thursday, Feb. 25, during a brief visit to Damascus.

The guests of honor at the Tehran parley will be Hamas leader politburo chief Khaled Meshaal and Hizballah deputy leader Naim Kassem.
The Lebanese Shiite group's secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah will not be there because he never leaves his Beirut bunker for fear Israeli assassins will catch up with him, especially since the high-profile Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed mysteriously in Dubai last month.

And Nasrallah is not alone; some of his fellow terror chiefs hesitate to show their faces outside their strongholds - even in friendly Tehran - since the Dubai police disclosed that three of the suspects in the Mabhouh killing, carriers of Australian passports, departed Dubai for Iran. They were said to have travelled by sea ferry to Bandar Abbas, central headquarters of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, before flying out of Tehran international airport to unknown Far East destinations.
The Arab terrorist chiefs infer that even the Iranian capital and Revolutionary Guards headquarters are no longer secure against penetration by the Hamas commander's assassins.
The Iranians have therefore decided that their official statement on the conference, due to end Monday, March 1, will name only a few of the participants; the presence of many other key figures will be kept secret

According to debkafile’s Iranian sources, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, assisted by a large team of aides, will lead the proceedings and steer them toward conclusions and decisions in line with Iran’s regional goals. The conference, called to pull together Iran and its allies' preparations for war with Israel, will be presented officially as an effort to reconcile the feuding Palestinian factions.

Few will find this believable, especially when Hamas attends the conference on its own, except for several radical Palestinian splinter groups, and representatives of the rival Fatah and Palestinian Authority were not invited.

Presidential bureau personnel have performed most of the staff work on planning and the roles assigned the various organizations in any conflict with Israeli and/or Israeli forces. Senior members of the Revolutionary Guards and other sections of Iran's armed forces will be recruited to chair discussion panels and subcommittees aided by specialists in guerrilla and terror warfare.

A New Hearing for Kol Ishah
By Michael Makovi

Michael Makovi is a member of the University Network of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. He studied at Machon Meir in Jerusalem for three years and in Yeshivat Hesder Petah Tikva during this academic year. He will be attending Bar-Ilan University this coming school year.


The topic of kol ishah, the halakhic prohibition on men from listening to a woman's singing voice, is obviously a matter of concern for religiously observant Jews. Yet, there are various interpretations as to what exactly constitutes the prohibition. The present essay aims to clarify the prohibition, demonstrating that it is far less restrictive than is commonly believed.

Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg ruled that it is permissible for a man to hear a recording of a female singer when the singer is not visible to the listener. Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin held similarly. Rabbis J. David Bleich and Haim David Halevi indicated that the use of electronics for the audio alone does not mitigate the prohibition; the listener must not be able to see the singer at all. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Haim David Halevi both ruled that electronic recordings mitigate the prohibition only if the listener has never once glimpsed the woman singer, and Rabbi Yosef applied this even after the woman singer is deceased. Going still further, Rabbi Yaakov Breish, Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, and Rabbi Binyamin Silber all ruled that even audio-only electronic recordings of women may not be listened to, with no mitigations or leniencies whatsoever. According to them, listening to a woman sing is simply prohibited. Rabbi Menashe Klein disagreed with Rabbis Breish, Wosner, and Silber, and argued that electronic records are not the woman's "real" voice, and that listening to recordings ought to be permitted. Even he, however, stated that it is "distasteful" to rely in practice on the leniency."[1]

All these recent authorities took it for granted that listening to women sing is categorically forbidden for men, and that only select and specific factors may mitigate this otherwise absolute prohibition. It is understandable, then, that so many Orthodox laymen assume that men listening to women sing is categorically forbidden. It is taken as almost axiomatic that kol ishah is strictly and absolutely forbidden; few if any compromises are brooked, and leniencies are offered reluctantly if at all.


However, the preceding understanding is in need of careful anaylsis. On three separate occasions in the Talmud (Berakhot 24a, Kidushin 70a, and Sota 48a), statements are made about the sexual (`erva -or peritzuta) nature of a woman's voice. The one which will concern us is the primary one, in Berakhot 24a, where we read,

"Shemuel said: The voice of a woman is nakedness ( kol b'isha `erva) as it says (Song of Songs 2:14) 'for your voice is sweet and your countenance comely.'"

This passage occurs during a discussion of reciting Shema in the presence of `erva. One might interpret Shemuel as continuing that discussion, or as beginning a new one about just what is `erva irrespective of Shema. As is apparent from the discussion, a woman's exposed handbreadth (tefah) is forbidden to be seen during Shema, while her little finger (etzba ketana) is forbidden to be gazed upon with sexual intent at all times. Thus, kol ishah must be like either of these two paradigms. There is a range of authorities on either side of this dispute, but the Rambam and Tur-Shulhan Arukh rule that kol ishah is a general prohibition, not linked to Shema. This is thus the practical halakha to be taken for granted in this essay. It is an undeniably clear principle that gazing upon a woman's little finger is prohibited only where there is sexual pleasure, as is shown in Avodah Zara 20a-b. If kol ishah is like a little finger, then the implications are obvious. (Also note that Shemuel says only kol, "voice", with no mention of singing per se.)

It was my friend Dowid Mosha who first pointed out to me that kol ishah's being a general prohibition is actually potentially a leniency, not a stricture. He quoted the Rambam, Hilkhot Issurei Biah 21:2, which says [2], "And he who looks at even the little finger of a woman to take pleasure in it is like one who looks at her private parts, and even to hear a voice of an erva or to see her hair is forbidden."

As Dowid then explained, "it is apparent that the focus is on the intent and the result. If an individual wishes to be aroused, is likely to be aroused, or is aroused inadvertently, then he or she must take the necessary measures to protect themselves." Rambam equates looking at a woman's etzba ketana, her little finger, with hearing the voice of a woman. And there is no prohibition of gazing at a woman's finger per se; the prohibition is only when one so gazes specifically for the sake of sexual pleasure.

Furthermore, Rambam speaks of scrutinizing (mistakel) her little finger (etzba ketana) with intent to take pleasure in it (v'nitkaven leihanot). He uses the word mistakel, which carries the implication of intense scrutiny, as opposed to the word ro'eh, which would imply simple ordinary sight. According to Rambam, the prohibition surrounding etzba ketana is that a man is forbidden to intensely scrutinize (mistakel) a woman's little finger with the express intention of deriving sexual pleasure thereby (v'nitkaven leihanot). Since Rambam links this discussion of etzba ketana with kol ishah, it seems apparent, as Dowid expressed, that kol ishah is likewise prohibited only when [MORE]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

US Senator Mort Zuckerman?


Well, if Mort Zuckerman handles a senate race like he handles business and his charitable work on behalf of Jewish causes, I think we will see the very first and very real Zionist in the US Senate.



Zuckerman Run Could Mark New Stage in Politic

While the U.S. Senate is full of Jews (13 at last count), it boasts no alumni of the world of Jewish politics. That could change. According to recent reports, billionaire real estate mogul Mortimer Zuckerman, a prominent Jewish communal figure and veteran of the Jewish political scene, is considering a run for Senate in New York.

A founder of Boston Properties and the owner of a media portfolio that includes the New York Daily News and U.S. News & World Report, Zuckerman came to prominence in the Jewish community during a turbulent term as lay leader of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a powerful umbrella group on matters pertaining to Israel.

His possible Senate candidacy to replace upstate incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, was reported February 12 in The New York Times and has garnered a measured response from Jews in politics and from Jews in Jewish politics.

“He’s got a four in 10 shot,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a prominent New York political consultant.

“It’s not the craziest idea I ever heard.”

Zuckerman, 72, whose opinion columns and regular television appearances leave a long trail of unvarnished and, perhaps, politically inconvenient opinion, has not confirmed the story, and did not respond to a request for comment.

But according to a report in the New York Times, Zuckerman has approached former New York governor George Pataki and New York State Republican Chairman Edward Cox about a possible run.

While some sitting Jewish senators have strong ties to the Jewish community, none has held such a prominent leadership position in a policy-oriented Jewish organization.

The closest was New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who was a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel and, in the mid-1970s, chairman of the precursor organization to what is now known as the Jewish Federations of North America. Neither of those positions, however, is as policy focused or as prominent as the position that Zuckerman held.

“There are lots of people who have been very prominent in Jewish causes who have gone on to be big fundraisers or big donors to politicians,” said L. Sandy Maisel, a professor of government at Colby College, “but not who have run.”

A major philanthropist whose wealth Forbes pegged at $1.5 billion in 2009, Zuckerman came to prominence within the organized Jewish community amid rumors that he would be named to the top lay position at the Presidents Conference in late 1995.

That story was first written in a critical column in this newspaper by liberal commentator Leonard Fein, who called Zuckerman’s background in Jewish communal life negligible.

Fein wrote that Zuckerman was eligible for the position after becoming vice president of a little-known advocacy group called the America-Israel Friendship League just four months earlier, and that that organization had been only part of the Presidents Conference for half a year.

“Ross Perot, the outsider, had and has deeper roots in American politics than Mort Zuckerman does in Jewish politics,” Fein wrote.

Zuckerman’s name was then dropped from the list of probable candidates to lead the Presidents Conference after his 1996 marriage to Marla Prather, a non-Jew, according to a report in the Forward.

A spokesman for Zuckerman denied the story at the time.
Zuckerman split with Prather in 2000.

A year later, he was elected to lead the Presidents Conference over protests by six liberal Jewish groups, which were concerned that the right-of-center positions on Israel that he expressed in his U.S. News columns would be seen as official pronouncements of the Jewish community.

Huge Turkish Banner Depicts Peres Bowing to Erdogan With The Caption: “Erdogan, a leader whom the world bows down to"


Israel has no right to "turn a blind eye" to this incident when it is insulting not only Peres, not only Israel, but all of the Jewish nation.

It is an incredible diplomatic provocation that cannot and should not be ignored.

Erdogan is clearly displaying a tendency toward totalitarianism. First, he has arrested top military commanders in what he says is a "coup attempt" against him. Now, a huge banner depicting him as a larger-than life character (a la Sadam Hussein) has been unfurled.

What's next? I hate to entertain that thought.

Hopefully it doesn't involve the destruction of the Jewish community in Turkey.

Taking into account Erdrogan's latest moves, I am praying there is an Esther in his court because there most certainly is a Haman.

Peres depicted bowing to Erdogan
Israel shrugs off massive banner unfurled near Istanbul.

Israel is turning a blind eye to a huge poster showing President Shimon Peres seemingly bowing to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that was unfurled from a crane in an Istanbul suburb on Sunday.

Neither the President’s Residence nor the Foreign Minister would comment on the poster, which superimposed an image of a bowing Peres in front of Erdogan, over the caption “Erdogan, a leader whom the world bows down to.”

While at first glance this seemed to be Turkish retribution for the public hazing of Turkey’s ambassador to Israel in January, when Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon sat him on a lower chair and reprimanded him over an anti-Semitic television show broadcast in Turkey, the Turkish press reported that Erdogan’s office had the poster taken down before Erdogan appeared at the site to inaugurate a new road network.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the poster, with some diplomatic officials in Jerusalem saying it obviously came from the top, while others said it was quite possible that this was an independent act of protest that was not choreographed by the government.

One diplomatic official in Jerusalem termed the incident “scandalous,” saying that it demonstrated a great deal of disrespect both for Peres and for Israel.

Relations between Erdogan and Peres reached a nadir in January 2009, after Operation Cast Lead, when the two had an angry exchange at the World Economic Forum in Davos, with Erdogan at one point storming off the stage after telling Peres, “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.”

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais that was published Monday, Erdogan said that the Davos incident – which made him a hero in much of the Arab world – ushered in a newTurkish approach to foreign policy.

“That opened a new approach to foreign relations,” he said. “We have a philosophy of strength. It is a foreign policy with a backbone.”

Don't Forget! Fast of Esther TODAY!

Fast of Esther Paves Way for Purim
by Hillel Fendel

( Today, Thursday, is the pre-Purim Fast of Esther.

Purim occurs on Sunday this year – Monday in Jerusalem – and the pre-Purim Fast of Esther is advanced to Thursday; this is because neither Sabbath nor the day of Sabbath preparations are appropriate for fasting.

The fast commemorates Queen Esther’s fast before she dared to approach Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes, according to most indications) and plead for the rescinding, in whatever manner, of the royal decree initiated by the wicked viscount Haman mandating the destruction of the Jewish People.

Unlike other Rabbinic fasts in the Jewish calendar – Tisha B’Av, the Fast of Gedaliah, the Tenth of Tevet and the 17th of Tammuz – the Fast of Esther was not enacted for the purpose of mourning the Holy Temple’s destruction, but rather in memory of a specific fast that was held for a specific purpose.

For the above reason, and because it is not written specifically in Scriptures, the laws of this fast are more lenient than others: Not only are pregnant and nursing women exempt, but also others who feel weak. However, Jewish Law states that even one who may east should not eat more than is necessary, “but one who is healthy should not remove himself from the community, but should rather fast, and whoever takes part in the public’s sorrow, will merit sharing in the public’s consolation.”

The fast began in Jerusalem at dawn, 4:59 AM, and ends at 5:58 PM. In New York, where the sun rises and sets slightly later, it runs from 5:15 AM until 6:09 PM, and in Los Angeles, it’s from 5:12 AM until 6:10 PM. London, England: 5:15 AM until 6:06 PM, and Melbourne – 5:38 AM until 8:34 PM.

The fast usually ends after the joyous public reading of the Book of Esther (Megillat Esther) to mark the onset of Purim. However, this year the Megillah will be read in most places on Saturday night, after the Maariv prayer and before the Havdalah blessings, and Purim will end Sunday evening. In Jerusalem, because it was walled during the period of Joshua bin Nun, and in accordance with Rabbinic rulings based on Esther 9:18,19, Purim begins on Sunday night and ends Monday night.

In addition to the reading of the Book of Esther, the day’s special commandments also include the giving of charity to at least two poor people, sharing food portions (Mishloach Manot) with at least one person, a festive meal, and in general being happy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wow. Evidentally, Even Before Islam Existed, They Built A Mosque Called "Rachel's Tomb" And Another In The Tomb Of The Patriarchs


Just before Purim, and the foolish arabs led by their king-of-fools, Abbas, are trying to turn the world upside down. Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs are clearly Jewish sites, have always been Jewish sites, and will remain Jewish sites forever.

They are following typical behavior for arabs—if you want to destroy someone, destroy their religion first.

They have taken over hindu holy sites and made them into “mosques,” buddhist holy sites and made them into mosques, xtian holy sites and made them into mosques, and Jewish holy sites and made them into mosques. They think that, by converting these sites into mosques, they will make the site moslem, and they can deny access to those whom the site means the most.

The Temple Mount is Jewish, it is our Holy Temple. They put a mosque on top of it, and pray with their backsides to the Holy of Holies.

They took over whole sections of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which they should never have been allowed to do, and they won’t let us visit our own ancestors because, they claim, it is a “mosque.”

They attempted, time after time after time, to destroy Joseph’s Tomb, to make the access impossible, and to kill those who would visit—but it is still our Holy site, and we still visit. Next, don’t be surprised to see that they have built a “mosque” over the tomb site and proclaimed it a “moslem site.”

They are like bratty children who want their way and their way only, and when they don’t get it they stamp their feet, scream, and have a tantrum in the form of terrorist attacks.

We should begin calling their uprising the “Infantada” rather than the “intefada.”

Poor Abbas. He doesn’t want Jews to have their land or their holy sites—why? Because. That’s why.

“Their mine!” he screams as he has a tantrum in the street like a two-year-old would scream, claiming his older brother’s toys, toys purchased before he was even a gleam in his mother’s eye, are his.

What a fool.

Does he never tire of saying completely ridiculous things?

A lie is still a lie, Mr. Abbas. You are living a lie claiming you are part of a made-up people called the “Palestinians.” Now, your made up people are going to steal the things that you need to give yourself legitimacy?

I guess you can go ahead and try—but lying is lying and stealing is stealing.

Abbas Warns of ‘Holy War’ over Rachel’s Tomb
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

( Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas warns of a “holy war” over Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Muslims claim it is a 1,000-year-old mosque, although Islam - only 1,300 years old itself - began publicly claiming the site only 44 years ago. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accused Abbas of “hypocrisy.”

The Prime Minister announced earlier this week that the ancient tomb, located immediately south of Jerusalem, and the Patriarchs’ Cave (Me'arat HaMachpelah) in Hevron, are Jewish heritage sites that will be refurbished. Genesis Chapter 23 describes the purchase of the Patriarch's Cave by Abraham in order to bury his wife Sarah, and Genesis 35, 19 describes that Rachel "died and was buried on the road to Efrata which is Bethlehem...the sign of her grave stands until today."

The entire Muslim world has protested Israel’s initiative, and the United Nations has expressed “concerns.” Hizbullah, Iran, Egypt, Syria and Jordan warned that the move is a provocation, and Hamas outrightly called for violence. Abbas, visiting in Brussels, told the Belgian parliament in Brussels that the move is a “serious provocation which may lead to a religious war.”

The Second Intifada, also known as the Oslo War, broke out in 2000 after then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Leftist and Arab protestors have rioted the past two days in Hevron, where the Patriarch’s Cave is located, throwing rocks at soldiers, one of whom was lightly wounded.

Abbas turned to the European Union, which heavily finances the PA, and said that the EU "understands the real nature of this Israeli provocation."

The Iranian Foreign Ministry accused Israel on Tuesday of “annexing two religious sites of the Palestinians, the Sanctuary of Abraham (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi, referring to the Machpelah Cave) and Bilal Ibn Ribah mosque [Rachel's Tomb] in Bethlehem." Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said, "Unfortunately, [the] Zionists' decision rises from the regime's strategy for cleaning all the sanctities of the Muslims and Christians in the occupied Palestine to give them a Zionist identity."

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office charged Abbas with conducting a “deceitful campaign of lies and hypocrisy" by referring to Jewish sites as Moslem mosques. The Arab world’s claims follow a campaign the past several years to deny the existence of any Jewish history at the Temple Mount site, including the Western Wall (Kotel) in the Old City of Jerusalem.

"The State of Israel is committed to freedom of religion for worshippers of all faiths at the holy places and thus it acts in practice,” said the office of the Prime Minister. “Rachel's Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the over 3,500-year old resting places of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish People - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel - certainly deserve preservation and rehabilitation.”

Hevron community spokesman Noam Arnon noted that the Patriarchs' Cave “was a Jewish site thousands of years before Islam ever existed.”

Hizbullah said that Israel’s declaration that the tombs are Jewish heritage sites represents "arrogance” and “is yet another example of aggression against Muslim holy sites and an attack on the dignity of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.”

Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement: "This new Israeli position will only feed extremism, confrontations and violence, and it does not serve US efforts to revive peace.” Jordanian Minister of State for Media and Information Nabil Sharif said, “The Israeli policies that also seek to alter the historical and religious features on the ground in the occupied territories are rejected and are against international legitimacy principles.”

Jews had free access to Rachel's Tomb under the rule of the Ottoman Empire since the 19th century, and Muslim references to a mosque at the site began to appear publicly only in 1966. Muslim history refers to Rachel's as far back as the Quran, which recounts Rachel’s death and burial, as stated in the Bible.

The Oslo Accords interim agreement in 1995 states that security arrangements must “ensure free, unimpeded and secure access to the relevant Jewish holy sites.” The agreement also defined Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem and the Shalom Al Israel synagogue in Jericho as “Jewish holy sites.

The Sharon government surrendered daily access to Joseph’s Tomb (pictured) following Arab terrorist attacks, and Jews have been barred from the Jericho synagogue since the PA took over full control of Jericho. Knesset Member Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) this week led a group of Jews past blockades and visited the synagogue, until the IDF removed them.

The Oslo Agreement also states, “The Palestinian side shall respect academic freedom and rights… [and] shall ensure free access to archaeological sites, open to the public without discrimination."

Among the sites are synagogues in Samoa and Yatta, south of Hevron, which have been closed to Jewish visitors, with the exception of rare visits under heavy IDF guard. Also listed is the synagogue in Gaza City, where Jews are not allowed. The Sharon government expelled more than 9,000 Jews from the area in 2005, destroyed all Jewish communities there and turned the area over to the PA, now controlled by Hamas in Gaza.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Take Some Pride In The Olympics! Maybe There Aren't Israeli Medalists, but All the Medals are Israeli!


I can't tell you how proud I am to know that every medal handed out at this year's Winter Olympic Games was designed by an Israeli-Born artist who lives in Canada!

Also, according to one of the tech blogs I was reading, the metal for the medals was salvaged from old circuit boards. Very cool.

Meet J'lem-born Omer Arbel, designer of Olympic medals

Israeli-born Omer Arbel shares his thoughts on his creations

VANCOUVER – Many months before any athletic competition was held at the 2010 winter games, another contest was held to determine which artist would design the 882 medals give to the victors. The winner was Jerusalem-born designer Omer Arbel.

“It’s a great honor,” Arbel told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s something I don’t think will even happen again in my life.”

Arbel, an architect and industrial designer, sought to convey the great honor of winning an Olympic medal through his design proposal, submitted nearly two years ago.

His work generally focuses on making large-scale compositions and even mass-produced objects unique so that they are valued rather than seen as uniform and disposable. While Olympic medals hardly suffer for not being valued, it was important to Arbel that each one be individual and original in the context of a cohesive theme.

“Each athlete’s story is unique but each athlete is connected to each through a larger Olympic ideal,” he explained.

He also wanted the medals to evoke the emotional and personal aspects of the Olympic journey for each owner, and have a distinctive shape. He initially proposed a “locket” concept in which a two-pieced medal, held together by magnets, could be designed to hold a lucky charm or memento that the athlete connected with his victory.

“It speaks to the profound emotions associated with winning an Olympic medal,” he explained, pointing to the years of sacrifice, need for belief in one’s self and support from family and friends. “Often winning the Olympic medal is the culmination of that chapter of their life.”

Though the International Olympic Committee jurors eventually ruled out the locket idea due to cost and other constraints – Arbel diplomatically called it the most “layered” process he’d participated in – they supported the idea of each medal being unique and having a distinctive form, particularly one that related specifically to the Olympics’ location.

The finished product is an undulating surface that reflects the topography of the province of British Columbia. Super-imposed on it is a piece of artwork by local aboriginal artist Corinne Hunt, another finalist in the design competition. Each medal has a segment of her piece etched on it, so only by putting them all together could the full piece be rendered.

The medals, at 170 grams each, are among the heaviest in Olympic history. Though they have to follow certain guidelines that theInternational Olympic Committee lays out, they have some flexibility with dimensions.

According to Dan Mallett, the program manager of the Olympic and Paralympic medals project for the Royal Canadian Mint, athletes were surveyed about what dimensions they would prefer for theOlympic medals they hoped to receive.

“The athletes basically wanted heavy metals. They felt that was more worthy of their effort,” he said.

The public is also concerned about whether it’s a substantial medal, often focusing on the value of the precious metal and whether they’re solid gold. They’re not.

The gold metal is gold-plated over silver, metals worth $500. The sterling silver metal is worth $250 and the copper – used in place of bronze to give it a more distinctive, less yellow, color – comes to a mere $50.

But Mallett stresses that the value of each medallion must take into account the many hours of labor and creative costs, pushing their cost up to $4-5,000 a piece. Though he adds that truly, “They’re priceless.”

Mallett was instrumental in making the medals available to the viewing public for the first time in Olympic history, aiming to heighten viewers’ connection to the competitions they are watching.

“If you know something about the medal that’s going around the neck of your athlete, I think you’ll appreciate it more and you’ll appreciate the experience more,” he said, adding that he hopes seeing the medals on display will also inspire future athletes.

His efforts have been rewarded by an overwhelming response as thousands of visitors line up for as much as four hours each day to see the medals and hold them in their own hands. (Among the most frequent reactions are amazement over their heft and shape.)

Some 6,000 people a day have visited the temporary Royal Mint outpost in downtown Vancouver, and most seem to think the wait to touch the medals was worth it. They also get treated to other displays on the mint’s output, gold holdings and global reach – the mint coins money for 74 other countries, including Israel.

When it comes to Arbel’s own Israel connection, he said he considered his roots important but in no way defining of his work.

“[Hebrew] is my first language. When I dream, that’s the language that my dreams are,” said Arbel, who moved to Canada with his parents at age 13. But he added that his work “transcends language and place.”

While being Israeli “is a big part of my background and identity,” he stressed, “I’m a combination of many different things, one of which is Israeli.”

And for the athletes who wear his medals, there is no distinction on the basis of their national origin – they are instead distinguished by the engraved name of their sport and the etched fragment of Hunt’s artwork.

“It’s pretty powerful to see them,” Arbel said of watching his creation handed out at medal ceremonies. “It’s pretty powerful to see them around people’s necks.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

50 pro-Secular Military Leaders in Turkey Jailed for Allegedly Planning Coup against Erdogan's Government


This is an extremely important story. Turkey has been Israel's alli and friend for years and years--mostly because they had a secular government that valued the trade, tourism, and diplomatic ties that Israel offered to the Turkish nation.

When Erdogan took over, he tried to assure the Turkish people that nothing would change, that he wasn't intent upon upsetting Turkey's historically successful secular system, and that he could keep politics and religion separate.

But, as the weeks turned to months and the months turned to years, Erdogan moved further and further away from the idea of a secular Turkey and closer and closer to Islamic rule. When the Gaza offensive occurred, Erdogan played upon the emotions of the moment to grab as much power as possible. He began an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish campaign--and lost Israeli's friendship and her tourists.

Turkey has maintained its secular role in the middle east mostly because of the strong secular army, which has always been the biggest and most powerful political force in Turkey.

It appears that the army has chafed under Erdogan's rule, and, if this report is true, may have been planning to turn things around. If the report is not true, it may be even worse--it may signal a round of politically motivated show trials so that Erdogan can capture even more power for the Islamic cause.

No matter what happened or didn't happen, this is not good news. It is a dangerous turn in the rocky road that has been Turkish-Israeli relations for the past few years.


About 50 Turkish commanders held over coup plot

Military men allegedly planned to blow up mosques in order to trigger a military takeover and overthrow Erdogan gov't
22/02/2010 19:44

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish police detained about 50 military commanders Monday for allegedly planning to blow up mosques in order to trigger a military takeover and overthrow the Islamic-rooted government.

The nationwide sweep highlighted the ongoing struggle between the secular establishment and the Islamic-oriented government — and left many wondering if the military no longer called the shots in a nation accustomed to viewing it as the pillar of the secular state.

The detention of 49 senior military officers, according to CNN-Turk television — including members of the elite class known as "Pashas," a title of respect harking back to Ottoman times — proved, at the very least, that such officials are no longer untouchable.

Turkey's secular military has ousted four governments since 1960, demonstrating its influence and place of power since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk created the republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc on Monday expressed regret over the 1961 hanging by coup leaders of a prime minister and two of his ministers. But he said that those days are over and thatTurkey now was going through a normalization process.

"We could not even dream about things that we see happening now," Arinc told CNN-Turk television Monday. "Things will get better when those who were never accountable for their deeds begin to account for them."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declined to comment Monday on the raids, saying they had been carried out on prosecutors' orders.

"It would not be appropriate for me to talk about an issue that is already handled by the judiciary," Erdogan said during a visit to Madrid.

Police teams raided the suspects' homes in eight cities on Monday.

The military's image had already been tarnished by allegations it was secretly planning to depose Erdogan's elected government for undermining secularism in this predominantly Muslim country.

The commanders detained Monday are reportedly accused of seeking to plant bombs at mosques to stir chaos at home to pave the way for a coup. They are also accused of allegedly conspiring to plan shooting down aTurkish warplane to trigger armed conflict with Greece in a bid to destabilize the Turkish government. The military strongly denied the allegations.

On Sunday, Erdogan said his government was preserving the rule of law, and had not given "a chance to those who tried to fly a course for Turkey outside law."

Several high-ranking members of Turkey's military were among those detained, including ex-deputy chief Gen. Ergin Saygun, former Air Force chief Gen. Ibrahim Firtina and Navy Chief Adm. Ozden Ornek. Several other senior admirals and generals were also among the suspects.

So far, prosecutors have charged more than 400 people in the case, including soldiers, academics, journalists and politicians.

No one has yet been convicted.

The detentions Monday followed the gathering of wiretap evidence and the discovery of secret weapons caches — revelations that dealt a blow to the military's credibility.

Erdogan also has dramatically curtailed the military's power, under EU pressure, and reinforced civilian rule while bolstering democratic institutions.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Knesset Bill Demands Recognition for Jews Refugees from Arab Countries in Any Future Negotiations


Any one of the great unwashed who wishes to bring the "plight" of the "palestinian people" to me needs to first educate themselves in the most basic historical facts of the modern state of Israel's existence.

When they complain that the "poor palestinian people" were displaced and live in UN refugee camps, I have to ask "Have you considered why those people are still living in refugee camps?"

The answer does not lie with Israel. The arab refugee camps are in existence because the arab people refused to help those "refugees."

The Jewish people who were forced from their homes in arab lands were stripped of their money, their land, and all but the clothes on their backs (850,000 of them!), but they were absorbed by the new state of Israel--despite Israeli's lack of money.

Millions of dollars of "assistance" has poured in from the international community to help the "poor palestinian people," but very little of that money has come from arab leaders. Also, that money has not found its way to improving the lives of those living in the UN refugee camps.

Why? Because it is politically beneficial for the arabs to keep these people poor and displaced in order to hurt Israel and to continue collecting funds for their "rehabilitation."

Tell me, did Arafat die a poor man? Does Abbas live in a modest home?

They are like the fake beggar on the street who wears rags and drags bedraggled children around by day, and, by night, returns the starving child to its hovel and sleeps between silk sheets on a king-sized bed in their mansion by the sea.

Israel did the right thing with their displaced people. The arabs did not. So, who is to blame for the "poor palestinian people" who are, after more than 50 years, living in camps? Arabs.

The fact that Israel went out of its way to place Jews expelled from Arab lands does not change the fact that arab countries still owe those Jews compensation for their property, their possessions, and their businesses.

When it comes to "compensation" and the "right of return," do you think Arab countries would want to accept all their Jewish refugees back? Do you think they will want to compensate the thousands upon thousands of Jews who were stripped of their possessions and their livelihood?

Not likely. They want to be rewarded for destroying historic Jewish communities, benefiting from the wealth of those Jewish citizens, and treating their own people like pawns. Meanwhile, they want Israel to suffer for being responsible.

Have you ever wondered by Israel has arab citizens, but historic Jewish communities like Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have no or relatively few Jewish citizens left?

Just like the arabs claim our Holy Mount and pray with their backsides to the Holy of Holies, they make a display of their blatant lies, but no one ever sees it!

Wake up! Take your rose-colored Dhimmi glasses off, and see what is before you!


Israel vies to bring Mideast Jewish refugees into talks


New bill to seek compensation for eastern Jews and cement their narrative as an integral part of any future peace negotiations.

Israeli lawmakers are seeking a law that will make compensation for Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries after 1948 an integral part of any future peace negotiations.

Lawmakers put together a bill demanding compensation on behalf of current Jewish Israeli citizens, who were expelled from Arab countries after Israel was established in 1948, leaving behind a significant amount of valuable property.

Originally submitted almost a year ago to the Knesset, the bill passed its first hearing two weeks ago. Now various interest groups are pushing the bill with the Knesset’s 120 members before it is subjected to a second and third hearing next week.

The bill was sponsored by MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) and follows a resolution passed in the US House of Representatives in 2008, calling for refugee recognition to be extended to Jews and Christians similar to that extended to Palestinians in the course of Middle East peace talks.

“I think the term ‘compensation’ is too limited a term,” former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler told The Media Line.

Cotler, a vocal advocate of the campaign, was one of several international representatives at the Knesset conference discussing the bill, organized by MK Nissim Ze’ev on Monday.

“We’re not just speaking about financial compensation or indemnification,” Cotler said. “We’re talking about justice for Jews from Arab countries. This speaks to the question of, among other things, rectifying the justice and peace narrative of the last 62 years where the question of Jews from Arab countries has not been part of the narrative.”

“There have been more than 160 UN resolutions on the matter of refugees,” he continued. “All 160 dealt with Palestinian refugees only. I’m not saying they shouldn’t address Palestinian refugees, but I’m saying there’s no justice and no truth if it does not also address the plight of Jews seeking justice from Arab countries.”

According to the international advocacy group, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), some 850,000 Jews were displaced from Arab countries after the State of Israel was established. These include Jews from Syria, Trans-Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

Speaker of the Knesset Rubi Rivlin (Likud Party) said the issue was an important counterweight to Palestinian claims for a right of return to homes from which they were expelled or had to leave in 1948, and which are now part of Israel.

“The Arab peace initiative, based on the Saudi initiative, has a clause that calls for a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue,” Rivlin said at the conference. “Israel is opposed to the right of return… we have to make an appeal today, to say that there is no room for bringing up the Palestinian right of return without the Jewish refugee issue being resolved. This has to be heard in the political discourse in Israel and in the international community.”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D – NY), who supported the congressional resolution and attended Monday’s conference, said there was hypocrisy in the way the international community dealt with the Palestinian refugee community.

“The Arabs today, as they have done for 50 years, use the Palestinian refugee population as political pawns,” Engel said. “They want them to live in misery. They want them to suffer and then to blame the Jews. The fact of the matter is that the blame lies right at the foot of the Arab states, be it Saudi Arabia or Jordan or Egypt or any of those countries that have lots of petro-dollars and they don’t even spend a shekel to help their refugees.”

Monday’s conference was marked by heated arguments from members of the audience, which included Jews who were expelled from Arab countries in the years following the establishment of the state.

Gila Naftali, an Egyptian born Jew who was expelled with her family in 1956 when she was eight years old, said there has been a systematic marginalization of eastern Jews. She was almost banished from the auditorium by security when she lashed out at MK Danny Ayalon that “You don’t know what it’s like to be kicked out of your country within 24 hours.”

Ayalon, a proponent of the bill whose father left his belongings behind in Algeria to come to the fledgling country in 1948, shook Naftali’s hand on his way out, in a gesture of reconciliation.

The government came under criticism from Jews expelled from Arab states, who feel these initiatives are too little and too late. Others have questioned how the compensation, if acquired, will be allocated.

“I don’t just want compensation,” Naftali later told The Media Line. “Everybody will get the compensation. I want money for this building that was in our family for four generations,” she said, brandishing a sepia photograph of her former Cairo home.

Stanley Urman, executive director of JJAC said he was aware of these sentiments.

“I feel for their plight and their pain,” he told The Media Line. “We, the Jewish people and the State of Israel, must take responsibility for not being successful enough in bringing this to the world’s attention.”

The fact that the US has already passed a resolution to this effect could serve to impact any future negotiations.

“They have sway,” Urman said, in reference to the US brokers. “Whether they bring this up in a forceful manner is yet to be seen. The US is a member of the Quartet and all seminal Middle East issues are going through the Quartet, so the US certainly would be our voice at that table.”

The Israeli bill stipulates that “The state of Israel will not sign, directly or by proxy, any agreement or treaty with a country or authority dealing with a political settlement in the Middle East without ensuring the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries according to the UN’s refugee treaty.”

“In any discussion where the Palestinian refugee issue is brought up in the framework of peace negotiations in the Middle East,” it continues, “the Israeli government will bring up the issue of compensation for loss of property and giving equal status to Arab refugees who left their property after the state was established and to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.”

Ze’ev stressed that Iran was also included in the bill, even though it was not defined as an Arab country.

Levana Zamir, chairman of the international organization of Egyptian Jews said she welcomed the initiative.

“Finally, after 62 years, the Knesset is accepting a law that recognizes our rights,” she told The Media Line. “I’m just sad that my father didn’t have the privilege of seeing this. He fought for this and after he passed away I took the matter into my hands. As Jews from Egypt we should be very happy because there’s a peace agreement with Egypt, so once there’s a law, we should start demanding money.”

Zvi Gabai, who represents Jews from Iraq, said it was a shame this was not done sooner.

“In the meantime,” he said, “the Palestinians and spin doctors have exploited the Palestinian refugee matter and presented it as though the Palestinian refugees were the only issue and that there were no Jewish refugees , without presenting two sides of the coin – that there were not only the Palestinians who suffered but also Jews from Arab countries who suffered and lost property, without bringing this matter to a decision, there will be no justice.”

The Palestinian Return Centre, a London-based organization defending the rights of Palestinian refugees with the aim of resettling them in their original homes, said it was not farfetched to believe that Jews would get compensation, but stressed that it was wrong to draw parallels between the two refugee populations.

“The Jews who were kicked out of Arab countries have found a place to live,” a spokesperson for the organization told The Media. “They have found luxury, work, good housing and a government. But the Palestinians have found nothing. They are not allowed to work in 70 professions in Lebanon. They’re not allowed to travel. They don’t have passports or basic freedoms and they’re being bombed in Gaza’s camps.”

“There is no parallel in the suffering,” the spokesperson continued. “The Palestinian suffered double what the Jews in the Arab countries suffered…. The [Arabs] have enough money and enough political will to solve the problem with Israel, but the problem is with Israel. If Israel is willing to conduct peace on the basis of giving rights to the Palestinians, I guess the Arabs would compensate the Jews, if that happened.”

NYT Offers On-Line Israeli Food Course. Really?


Well, well, well. It appears that the New York Times is waking up to the idea that Israel is a cosmopolitan place that deserves more attention than just hate hits!

Or, perhaps the New York Times has finally woken up to the fact that a lot of their readership is Jewish, and Jews of any stripe—liberal, conservative, orthodox, reform, black, white, middle-eastern—are, for the most part, in love with Israel?

I am truly amazed that eh NYT has finally discovered that Israel is more than a subject of hit-pieces by their bastion of arab-loving fools they call “reporters.”

Nice job, NYT.

Maybe gastronomic diplomacy has a future . . .

NY Times presents: Israeli cuisine course
Prestigious newspaper's online university introduces course on emerging Israeli cuisine in its study program,7340,L-3850942,00.html
Sarit Sardas-Trotino

As part of an online project orchestrated by the New York Times, web surfers will now be able to educate themselves on the principles of the new emerging Israeli cuisine.

The New York Times Knowledge Network commissions journalists and academics from around the world to give paid online courses for the public on a variety of topics such as art, law, politics and science. The idea of introducing an Israeli culinary course was initiated by the Israeli Consulate in New York and constitutes the first culinary course in the newspaper's online university program.

For a sum of $145 students can take part in a three-part historical and cultural journey through the evolution of Israeli cuisine from ancient times until the present day. The course will address the unique confluence of cultures in Israeli cuisine, and will introduce, for example, couscous cooking methods and the recent gastronomical trends in Tel Aviv.

"This study program is part of a growing interest that the world and especially the US has been showing recently in our cuisine," says chief editor of Al Hashulchan (“On the Table") magazine Janna Gur who constructed the course.

"Sometimes I visit culinary schools in the US and at first the young chefs don't understand why they need to learn about the food in this faraway place called Israel. I explain to them that Israel is a fascinating case where one can observe in real time how a cuisine is born."

Gur also explained that Israeli cuisine is the result of the fusion of over 60 cultures. "We have a synthesis of flavors – chopped liver and Kneidlach have been mixed in with Mediterranean flavors together with local ingredients and international seasoning," she said.

'Israel a vegetarian heaven'

According to Gur, the Israeli cuisine has undergone tremendous changes over the last thee decades. "Our cuisine is very relevant for the present day since most of it is based on vegetables and vegetarianism is the new bon ton.

"Did you know that Israelis are the only people to eat vegetable salad in the morning? Indians consider Israel a vegetarian heaven."

Students of the online course will also get a chance to view Israeli star chef Haim Cohen prepare a meal based on signature Israeli dishes. "I'm glad that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is promoting the country through food. Maybe if people saw we have this type of culture their hostility towards us would be diminished," he said.

Cohen also noted, "Israeli food is also based on the Arab cuisine. If we can't achieve comprehensive peace, at least we can have culinary co-existence."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yasmin Levy's "Old and Sad" Songs in Ladino Selling Out Venues in Europe and United States

WARNING TO MY RELIGIOUS READERS: The song links in this post lead to Youtube videos of Yasmin Levy singing. They are not necessarily tzniut. Please exercise caution.

Interview: Yasmin Levy
Yasmin Levy is selling out venues in Europe and in demand in the States. Not bad considering the Israeli singer specialises in religious songs in a near-dead language
By Nicola Christie

Yasmin Levy says her songs are old and sad — “all my songs would be sad if my audience would let me get away with it”

‘I’m not mainstream,” says Yasmin Levy, sitting down with a coffee in a West Hampstead café, her local hang-out when staying in London. She is about to go on the road for a UK tour that takes in a different city every night — with a day of rest for Shabbat. Levy is in demand — a 700-seat venue in Paris recently sold out within days; US promoters are clamouring for her.

“OK,” she concedes, “so I’m not niche now.”

At the age of 34, and with a new — her fourth — album called Sentir under her belt, Levy has hit the big time. Not only are her audiences up, her music is getting ecstatic reviews from the critics.

It is not bad for an artist who was once told that her music, “a Jewish thing that nobody will get”, would receive an audience of, at most, 127. “I replied to my manager that I would find 128!” she laughs.


Born: Jerusalem, December 1975. Father Yitzhak Levy was a pioneer researcher into Ladino music

Career: Debut album Romance & Yasmin released in 2000. Four other releases, including last year’s Sentir

What she says: In combining the Ladino songs of Sephardi Jews with Spanish flamenco she believes she is attempting “musical reconciliation of history”

Levy’s debut album, Romance & Yasmin, earned her a BBC World Music Award nomination in 2005; it was followed with La Juderia and Mano Suave. All three releases were sung in Ladino — the name given to the now-almost extinct group of languages spoken by Sephardi Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and dispersed around the Mediterranean.

With fashionable Spanish producer Javier Limón on board for Sentir, Levy has now exceeded even her own expectations of how far her music could go. “You have to remember these songs were never meant for the stage,” she explains, “they were for the synagogue, and definitely not for a female singer!”

Limón does for Levy what Mark Ronson did for Amy Winehouse. “I had dreamed with working with him for eight years,” says Levy. “Finally it happened and I moved to Madrid for two months to make the album with him. I sat down and said I want to lose the ‘oriental’ sound with this one and do flamenco. He said: ‘Stop. Let’s keep you the way you are.’” The result is a sound that is fresh and light, particularly considering the loaded history the songs carry with them; the music of a people trapped in ghettos and exile. “I wanted to get away from the heavy, reverential sound,” says Levy. “I know these songs are old and sad — all of my songs would be sad if I could get away with it! — but to find an audience for them today, I need to make them live again.”

Levy had never planned to be a Ladino singer. “I was asked by the Ladino authority, in Israel, whether I would consider making a Ladino album and I thought, why not?” she recalls.

Her father was the renowned musicologist Yitzhak Levy, famous for his painstaking collection of Ladino songs. He visited elderly people all over Israel, whose roots were Ladino, to record their voices and their songs, and sing them himself. He was also appointed head of the Ladino department of Israel’s national radio station. Yitzhak died when his daughter Yasmin, the youngest of five, was just one year old. She has now made it her mission to keep his work alive.

“Since that first album I have not been able to leave the Ladino songbook. And I don’t think I ever will,” she says. “The Sephardi songs are much bigger than me. Because it is an endangered language, the only live and kicking thing that will remain will be those songs. It has become a mission for me. I have tried singing in other languages — Hebrew, for instance — but it’s not the same. I mean, I go and buy milk in Hebrew.”

It is an irony that had her father lived, Levy may not have become the singer she is today. “I am sure I would not be. It was never encouraged, as a profession, in our house,” she says. “You know how it is, the Jewish state of mind — Jewish children are to be lawyers, engineers, professionals. Also, I was so in awe of my parents’ voices — my mother’s is like an angel — I would not dare join them.”

Now her father metaphorically joins her on stage every night. “These songs are a way to be with my father. I don’t remember him but I sing with him, every single night. I live his life.” Through the miracles of modern technology, she even recorded a duet with him on Sentir — a song called Una Pastora. “I never thought I would be able to do that. It is very scary,” she says.

Astonishingly, it was only at the age of 17 that Levy discovered her voice. “It was because of a friend of my mother’s. I was visiting her in Spain, before I went to do my Israeli army service, and she asked me to record a Sephardic song for an album she was doing. And that was the start.”

It is not strange to hear that her home of Jerusalem, where her mother, brothers and sisters still live, provides her with huge inspiration. The fact that she hails from the Golden City is the first thing she tells her audience when she gets on stage.

“Jerusalem is my being,” she says. “My mum says we are Jerusalem stone. Jerusalem is my dreams, my hopes, my music, my life — a stranger could never understand. I sing about longing for Jerusalem and I really do, whenever I am away from it.”

It is also a city that has taught her to watch her back, be expectant of attack, though she can cite only one instance where she has felt threatened at an international performance — when the word “Yahud”, Jew in Arabic, was shouted out from the crowd.

She talks about the music scene in Israel — one that is flourishing, Levy says — though she is not in touch with it herself, preferring the songs of chazans or the music of old stars like the flamenco singer Antonio Molina, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday to the funk and pop of young Israeli musicians. She is not the only one to dip into the cantorial songbook. “All of Israel is starting to look for its roots now. People have a hunger for these songs. A lot of famous Israeli singers are recording them now.”

At the end of every one of her albums, Levy closes with a song of prayer; in Sentir, it is Yigdal. In it, she thanks God for her voice and her music. But does she feel that what she does is so powerful, something that can help to ease the conflict in her country?

“No, I am not so innocent to think that a musician can bring about peace in a country with such deep divides. Although there was the time when an Iranian man, in his twenties, sent an email to his mum after he had been to my concert, saying his life would never be the same because he had seen an Israeli woman sharing love and he had only seen Israelis through hate. I do think that music brings about harmony, a way to meet and to see a person differently,”

For Levy herself, it offers the one place that she is truly free. “On the stage, making music, I am protected, by my voice. I am in another world, I can go crazy, I can truly be myself.”

Yasmin Levy’s ‘Sentir’ tour reaches the Cadogan Hall in London on February 24. Tel: 020 7730 4500.

After two weeks of silence, a baby's cry is music!


It is amazing what we can be thankful for, isn’t it?

My mother used to say that I should bless the mess my children made because sick children don’t make a mess. Now, I will also bless their cries—because sick children can’t cry.

How can there be so much unhappiness in the world when we have so much to be thankful for?

Baby's Cry After Two Weeks: Music to His Mother's Ears
by Hillel Fendel

( A two-week-old baby finally “found his voice” and began crying – to the joy of his parents – after a rare operation in Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petach Tikvah.

The baby, from southern Israel, was born with a rare deformity in his vocal cords, causing not only difficulty in breathing, but an inability to cry or make any sound. He was able to breathe only via a small airway opening that remained unblocked by the vocal cords.

He was first diagnosed in Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva by Dr. Micha Aviram, head of the hospital’s Bronchoscopy Department, which performs procedures visualizing the inside of the airways for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. The baby was then transported to Schneider, where Dr. Yoram Stern, who directs the Airways and Voice Disease Service there, was able to perform a complex endoscopy operation to resurrect the vocal cords.

“The baby moved us all when he first began to cry after the operation,” Dr. Stern said. “It was very emotional to see the mother so happy from such a trivial thing as a baby crying. I am happy that we were able to solve the problem and restore the baby’s voice.”

Barkat Fights For Justice in Jerusalem Housing


Very little is being said about what a champion Barkat has been on this issue, and I would like to take a moment to bring this to everyone's attention.

Barkat, as the mayor of Jerusalem, has very little power regarding the High Court's orders against Beit Yehonatan, but he has a lot to say about the arab structures that have been built in the Silwan area of Jerusalem.

He has finally put his foot down on policies which discriminate against Jews and said, essentially: "If you want to tear down Jewish structures, fine--but I will also tear all the arab structures." Barkat is looking for something very strange in the Israeli Justice system: Justice.

For too long, those who made violent protest against judicial orders--i.e. the arabs, and, more recently, the Haredim--have swayed the courts decisions because the courts, in an effort to keep peace, have only ruled against those who would not cause civil unrest. The result of this policy is that there is one set of laws for trouble-makers, and one set of laws for those who show respect.

Unfortunately, the trouble makers are find out that it is worth their while to make more trouble, and those who had followed and respected the law before have learned a valuable lesson: if you respect the laws, you will be discriminated against.

Many groups have learned their lessons. Instead of just going along and letting the government have their way, every group from Gush Katif refugees to homosexuals have learned that the fear of violent protests is the only way to get the courts to rule in your favor. If the court fears the protests from your group more than the protests of another group, they will rule in favor of your group.

This, of course, is not justice--it is insanity! This policy has lead to an almost complete break-down of all civil law in Israel.

The courts must learn that one may not be compassionate to the cruel without being cruel to the compassionate. They must learn that showing favoritism out of fear or guilt is not justice. Justice must uphold the law evenly and resolutely, or it upholds nothing.

'One law for everyone'
17/02/2010 04:10

Knesset panel tours Beit Yehonatan as Barkat calls process of dealing with demolition orders for illegal structures flawed.

Members of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee paid a visit to Beit Yehonatan in Silwan on Tuesday morning, where they called for an end to the “non-implementation” of demolition orders against hundreds of illegally-built homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood and a halt to the “discriminatory manner” in which the State Attorney’s Office had pursued court orders against the seven-story, Jewish-owned structure.

“It’s discriminatory and it’s a finger in the eye of the Jewish presence here,” MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said of State Attorney Moshe Lador’s insistence that a court order to evacuate and seal the building be implemented immediately.

“There are hundreds of illegal buildings in Silwan, yet the insistence to deal only with Beit Yehonatan is part of an effort to make east Jerusalem ‘Judenrein.’ It’s a finger in the eye of the Jewish presence here,” he added.

Other MKs also present during the tour included MK Gideon Ezra (Kadima), who said that he wanted to see one law applied to all the buildings in the area.

Ezra, a former deputy-director of the General Security Service, also said that a large number of the residents of Silwan were “living there illegally” and had come from Hebron, Ramallah and other West Bank cities for financial reasons.

Interior Committee Chairman MK David Azoulay (Shas) told reporters that the large number of illegal buildings in the area was the result of “years of inaction” by the State Attorney’s Office and other relevant city bodies who had “dozed off on their watch.” “And such is simply unacceptable, in the country’s capital no less,” he added.

After the tour concluded, the Interior Affairs Committee convened at the Knesset where Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat presented municipality data showing some 20,000 illegal structures throughouteast Jerusalem and 657 in Silwan alone.

Barkat also told the committee that the process of dealing with demolition orders in east Jerusalem was “flawed” and that he hoped to come to an agreement with the residents of the neighborhood that would allow for building to be regulated in the area once and for all.

One of the ideas broached by Barkat during the committee meeting was the possibility of legalizing structures in Silwan up to four stories, which, according to the mayor, would retroactively legalize more than 90 percent of the illegally-built homes in the neighborhood.

“I want to create one law for everyone,” Barkat said. “And I have approached the state attorney [Moshe Lador] and asked for support in this matter. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten that support.

“The city’s legal system is not creative, and [Lador] has instructed me to begin carrying out demolition orders. I have stated that not only will I do this under protest, I will do it in a uniform manner.”

Barkat’s comments were seen as a further hint of his readiness to carry out dozens of demolitions in Silwan if Lador and city attorney Yossi Havilio – with whom the mayor has struggled over demolition orders and rezoning plans in east Jerusalem – continue to reject his plans.

The Post reported on Sunday that Barkat had instructed his staff to begin coordinating with police for the possibility of such demolitions taking place, although sources within the municipality have said that the mayor still hopes to find a constructive solution in Silwan and throughout east Jerusalem.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rabbi Angel on Parashat Yitro

The Shofar at Mt. Sinai Thoughts on Parashat Yitro, February 6, 2010
By Rabbi Angel

Created 02/03/2010 - 12:46pm

The great Hassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, taught: There are those who hear the Shofar on Rosh HaShana, and then continue to hear the Shofar every day of the year. But there are those, on an even higher level, who heard the Shofar at the Revelation at Mt. Sinai, and who continue to hear that Shofar every day of their lives.

People hear the Shofar on Rosh HaShana and are supposed to awaken from their spiritual slumber. The Shofar jars them, inspires them to re-evaluate their lives and improve themselves. Most people, though, do not carry the sound of the Shofar with them for too long a time--some have already forgotten about it by the time they return home for lunch! For those who are more spiritually sensitive, the sound of the Shofar continues to inspire them every day of the year. When they feel themselves falling into a spiritual rut, when they feel that they're losing their spiritual direction--they hear the Shofar within their minds. It challenges them to re-energize themselves, to refocus on their goals. The inner Shofar keeps them alert.

According to rabbinic tradition, the souls of all Jews and all who would convert to Judaism were present at the Revelation at Mt. Sinai. When God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, we all heard the sounds of the Shofar and we experienced the lightning and the thunder. The Shofar at Mt. Sinai was a call to us to become a holy nation, a righteous people, a light unto humanity. Most people forget about the sound of the Sinaitic Shofar--they become involved in the day to day struggles of life and don't hear that eternal Shofar calling to them. But there are spiritually gifted people who do hear that Shofar every day of their lives. The Shofar reminds them: God is calling, the teachings of the Torah are calling, be alert, be spiritually alive.

That inner Shofar shakes us from our slumber. It challenges to live in the context of God and Torah--to deepen ourselves religiously, to act with righteousness and courage. To hear that Sinaitic Shofar every day of our lives is a unique gift that imbues life with profundity and meaning.

When the Torah records the Ten Commandments, the verses are presented in the singular form. God addressed Himself to each Israelite individually. We are each supposed to hear God's voice as though it were addressed specifically and directly to us. It is a personal challenge and privilege.

Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev was teaching us that the sound of the Shofar also needs to be taken personally by each of us. We need to tune in to that inner Shofar, and carry it with us each day of our lives. We need to rise to that spiritual level in which our relationship with the Almighty is ever-present and ever-dynamic. The Sinaitic Shofar that we hear each day inspires us to do that which is right and that which is good in the eyes of God and humanity.

***Please feel free to share this Angel for Shabbat column with family and friends. Please support the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals in its work to foster a meaningful and engaging Orthodox Judaism.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why Are People Who Deny The Existance of Israel Appointed As Israeli Government Officials? (I'm Not Talking About Arabs!)


I was really impressed by this Jpost article. Most of the columnists see Haredim as an easy target for their poison pen essays, and attack them without understanding or caring.

This columnist, however, is very careful and sensitive in this well thought-out critique of the problems faced by Israel in allowing Haredi politicians unrestrained and dangerous control over areas which should not be part of their purview (such as the chief rabbinate), and have looked the other way in areas where the state should have some say (such as education).

Why would I say that the chief rabbinate position should not be the purview of Haredim? Because of the history of the Chief Rabbinate. When Israel decided to appoint the positions of Chief Rabbinate, the Haredim, who did not (and do not) recognize the modern state of Israel, refused to be a part of the process. They chose, instead, to appoint their own leaders to lead their own communities, and they ignored the Chief Rabbinate in deference to their own leadership.

However, in recent years, the Haredim have begun to become involved in the Chief Rabbinate position and municipal rabbinate positions as well. The problem with this is obvious: Haredim should not serve in a system which they do not recognize (i.e. The secular state of Israel). The Rabbinate positions are not RELIGIOUSLY appointed—they are GOVERNMENT appointed. To place people who do not recognize the state into those positions is ludicrous! (at, it seems to me, somewhat of a halachic pickle for those Haredim who take those positions).

Equally as bad, as the article so nicely explains, is the state of Israel has refused to become involved in the requirements of Haredi schools to teach secular subjects. Now, I know some of the problems inherit in the requirements to teach secular subjects—i.e. the problems with evolution, etc. But, what is the problem with teaching the children how to add and subtract, multiply and divide? What is the problem with physics and chemistry? Why can’t they learn some history and psychology? Won’t they need these things in order to survive in the world???

Yes, religious sensibilities must be respected, but come on! The state has an interest in the education of their citizens. No secular subjects should equal NO FUNDING.

The impending haredi implosion
Politicians consummated deals enabling the appointment of anti-Zionists

04/02/2010 11:16

Ongoing external threats have diverted us from confronting the burgeoning haredi crisis which is rapidly developing into a national disaster.

Haredim are an important component of our society. They represent an attractive contrast to the excessive pursuit of wealth that has become the hallmark of our hedonistic secular society. Family ties and the loving manner in which they provide for the needy in their ranks are models many of us could emulate.

But like other segments of society, many haredim have been corrupted by politics. Their inordinate success as one-dimensional political parties in leveraging state concessions for their members has intensified their natural inclination to isolate themselves.

This coincides with a dramatic natural growth due to their prolific birthrates (8.8 children per family) which in demographic terms assuredly benefits the country. However, whereas in the 1980s haredim comprised only 4 percent of the population, today they represent 10%, or about 700,000. Barring a drastic change in their birthrate, in less than two decades haredim could amount to 20% of Israel’s Jewish population.

Currently, 25% of all Jewish primary school-age children are enrolled in haredi institutions – double the proportion of 10 years ago. If this trend is maintained, 20 years from now, 40% of Jewish children will attend haredi schools, many of which do not celebrate Independence Day, recognize the flag, permit the singing of “Hatikva” and discourage their students from serving in the IDF.

To make matters worse, in a highly irresponsible political trade-off, the Olmert government consummated a deal to fully fund haredi schools with no obligation to incorporate any secular content. Aside from the obvious negative consequences, this arrangement virtually guarantees that many graduates will be doomed to a life of unemployment, grinding poverty and reliance on state welfare.

ALTHOUGH THE majority of haredi families live below the poverty line and rank among the lowest socioeconomic strata of society, many of their rabbis urge them to learn full time, despite the traditional religious approach which extols the virtue of earning a livelihood. As a consequence, at least 70% of the males refuse to take up employment even though some of their wives join the workforce to supplement their welfare income.

We are now rapidly reaching the point in which able-bodied haredim unwilling or unfit to join the workforce will comprise such a large proportion of society that the state welfare system will simply become unable to support them.

The other explosive issue is haredi exemption from army service, which has no religious justification and continues generating enormous resentment. Prime minister David Ben-Gurion granted the appeal by the Chazon Ish (Rabbi Avraham Karelitz) to exempt 400 yeshiva students from army service. Regrettably, he failed to impose a cap on future exemptions. Today, more than 55,000 state-subsidized yeshiva students avoid the draft. With the escalating proportion of haredim in the population, the resulting societal tensions will inevitably explode.

Another issue is the inclination of certain haredi rabbis to more stringently interpret the applications of Jewish ritual observance. Most Israelis were indifferent to this so long as it did not affect their personal lives. Many were even bemused with haredi proclamations that Shabbat elevators were prohibited, that Crocs were too comfortable to wear on fast days, or that kohanim should seal themselves into body bags when flying over Jewish cemeteries.

Nor is there an intractable problem with unrepresentative fringe haredi hooligans pelting stones or indulging in violent demonstrations. If the authorities would simply insist that the police vigorously enforce the law and the courts were to mete out a few jail sentences, such anti-social behavior from a minority of haredi extremists would disappear.

IT WAS only when haredim attempted to impose their lifestyle beyond their ranks that emotions began to run riot. Originally, the state religious framework remained under the aegis of moderate religious Zionist rabbis. With the surging power of haredi political parties, opportunistic politicians consummated shoddy political deals with them enabling the appointment of anti-Zionist and frequently incompetent rabbis to key state institutions and courts. Even the Chief Rabbinate, the former bastion of religious Zionism, was hijacked by haredim who appointed their puppets. Now they are exploiting these state instrumentalities to impose their standards on the nation.

Regrettably, attempts by enlightened religious Zionist groups like Beit Morasha, Tzohar and others to resolve these problems failed to contain the government-empowered haredi groups. Thus, fanatics like Rabbi Abraham Sherman were able to impose the most stringent halachic interpretations to deter potential converts. This was accompanied by scandalous accusations of fraudulent behavior directed against respected religious Zionist rabbis conducting conversions. It climaxed with the unprecedented retrospective annulment of conversions hitherto considered irreversible. Not surprisingly, in this xenophobic atmosphere, the number of conversions plummeted.

Further tensions emerged. The most severe was in relation to the implementation of the shmita, the biblical injunction requiring land owned by Jews to lie fallow every seven years. The haredi establishment attempted to overturn rabbinical edicts introduced 80 years ago to circumvent this obligation by the revered Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. Had the High Court not intervened it would have resulted in a financial catastrophe for the farming community.

There is a desperate need to reverse haredi control of state instrumentalities. More importantly, in view of the explosive impending economic and political implications of the growing haredi population on the workforce and the IDF, haredim must be integrated into the mainstream and obliged to work and serve in the army or participate in national service.

Some of the more astute leaders of the haredi community now recognize this and are attempting to preempt a future crisis by acting now. For example, the scholarly Shas MK Haim Amsalam created a furor when he courageously provided halachic grounds for rabbis to display leniency with non-Jewish IDF soldiers seeking to convert on the grounds that their military service in itself demonstrates a major commitment to the Jewish people.

Others recognize the necessity for a new work ethic, and encourage the training of young haredim for gainful employment in such institutions as Machon Lev. The government must divert some of the funds pouring into the coffers of yeshivot to finance colleges and institutions seeking to enable haredim to earn a livelihood.

It is also gratifying to observe that IDF national service haredi units are attracting larger numbers, but as of now represent a mere 3.5% of the 55,000 eligible yeshiva students.

We face a shrinking window of opportunity to act in these areas, and the government must devise a bipartisan means of overcoming haredi vetoes to introduce appropriate legislation to implement these objectives.

The challenge is to manage this matter expeditiously in a constructive and humane manner and minimize confrontation which could inflict great damage on the nation.