Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I just watched this video of the "protest" that went on in Beit-Shemesh yesterday. The background is slightly murky (I suggest reading the Life In Israel blog for a fuller background) but seems to be a bunch of Haredi extremists who are not allowing a Religious-Zionist girl school to open in proximity to a Haredi neighborhood.

This video is amazing for the view of RZ – Haredi community relations that it offers. In the first few minutes of the video the RZ are singing Hatikvah – the national anthem as a protest song. The meaning is clear – we are part of the state of Israel and you are not. The next song confused me a little. They were singing "אחינו כל בית ישראל" lit All of Israel are brothers – traditionally a song that is meant to imply unity across the nation. The song so confused me that originally I thought it must be the Haredim who are singing it. However it was only in the second half of the song that I understood – the song continues by asking god to have mercy on all of Israel living in "darkness" – the protesters were referring to the Haredim as living in darkness. What a twist! Next we got the crowd screaming loudly the most hateful name used by Israeli society at large to degrade the Haredim – Parasites.

Monday, August 29, 2011

And A Non PC Map..

The Israeli Blog Keshel has put up this map. This is what you get if you search for Rosh Hayin in google maps (In Hebrew) - the circled area is marked "An Area mostly filled with Beduin". I was slightly skeptical, so I did the search myself, and confirmed it. I have no idea who sold the map to google maps, but I'm sure they will be a little less amused.

The Least PC Warning Ever?

I spent the day at Keftuzbah - a small theme park for toddlers. While there I was amused by this warning on one of the rides - which both my wife and I at first sight thought that it meant "No Haredim Allowed"

One can also ask, why the "adult" is wearing a hat, but the "fat man" isn't.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Haredi Love Of The Army Analogy

This short piece was aired on Channel 2 news on Motzei Shabbat. In truth there is little new here - The news channel asks the Haredim how they think the public is going to continue supporting them - and they never get an answer. When asked how they explain the fact that the Rambam urges people to work - they can only offer a really silly answer. The second part of the piece is more sympathetic to the Haredi community.

 However this is a good illustration of another phenomenon I've noticed - The Haredi love of styling themselves as an army unit. It seems that whenever the Haredi communitiy in Israel attempts any type of

How To Not Do A Publicity Stunt

Last week there was an ongoing drama in Israel regarding the deportation of an illegal Philippine immigrant and her 4 year old child. Foremost in her defence was no other then Mrs Netanyahu, who even posed for this picture with the soon to be deported little girl:

However over the weekend, Ben Dror Yemini published this unbelievably stupid admission from one of the Likud's advisers:
"שינוי המדיניות שהובלנו לגבי שרה נתניהו, הוכיח את עצמו במלואו בשבוע האחרון בפרשת הילדה אופק, שהיתה מועמדת לגירוש. לראשונה בכל תולדותיה כרעיית ראש הממשלה  קיבלה שרה נתניהו תקשורת אוהדת ויחס של קונצנזוס מקיר לקיר - אפילו בכלי תקשורת שהיו ידועים בעוינותה כלפיה. לכן לא רק  שלא נגרם נזק, נהפוך הוא".
The change of policy which we have led for sarah Netanyah, proved itself this weekend in the case of the child Ofek who was a candidate for deportation. For the first time in all her years as the Prime Minister's wife, Sarah Netanyahu received a favorable media profile and was a national consensus even in traditionally hostile media.
So here is a small tip for Mrs. Netanyahu. If you are going to exploit a four year old illegal immigrant as a publicity stunt, at the very least have the sense not to gloat over it.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Appalling Pictures Of Damage Caused By U.S Earthquake Yesterday

HT: The Daily What, which run this picture with this caption: "Appalling Aftermath of the Day: The earthquake devastation in D.C. is almost too much to bear"

Debunking A Hanukah Myth -

The Blog "עברית וחיות אחרות" has an interesting post debunking a common Yeshivah myth. There is a genuine question why Hanukah is not mentioned at all in the Mishnah. The Yeshivah myth is that the common answer given in the academia ascribes to Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi a sinister motive - Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi is a descendant of David Hamelch and as such resented that the Hasmonean dynasty. As such Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi decided not to mention the Hanukah at all - so he would not have to mention the rival dynasty.

As I mentioned this explanation is always ascribed to the academia- because it sounds like a kefirah to claim that Rabbi Yehudah acted out of such low motives. However, the aforementioned blog has revealed that the source of this explanation is...The Hatam Sofer (founder of the Ultra Orthodoxy):

וכך מובא בספר טעמי המנהגים ומקורי הדינים מאת הרב אברהם יצחק שפרלינג מלבוב – ספר חרדי למהדרין שהודפס על ידי חוגי הקנאים בגליציה:
טעם שנס חנוכה לא נזכר כלל במשנה, לפי שרבינו הקדוש מסדר המשנה  היה מזרע דוד המלך ע״ה, ונס חנוכה נעשה ע״י בית החשמונאים שתפסו המלוכה ולא היו מזרע דוד, וזה הרע לרבינו הקדוש. ובכתבו המשנה ע״פ רוח הקודש, נשמט הנס מחיבורו (בשם הגאון הקדוש בעל חת״ס זצוק״ל) [שפרלינג, אברהם יצחק. טעמי המנהגים,"עניני חנוכה", עמוד שס"ה, סימן תתמ"ז] 

Marrying While Still In Yeshivah

I've long had a strong position on the question of whether young Dati-Leumi boys should marry during their years of Yeshivah study. I strongly believe that marrying while in Hesder Yeshivah is a bad idea, and bad for marriages.

My belief is based on my own observations and anecdotes from friends. Basically my position is that one's life style and beliefs in yeshivah are not a good indication for your future life. People change dramatically when they leave yeshivah and go to university, and even the best of us see a dramatic change in our religious observance.

The normal dating age for Israeli Yeshivah boys is 22-23 – basically when they return from army service. What I've seen happen time and time again is that these boys marry relatively frummy girls – who think they are marrying a Yeshivish type of guy. However a year or two down the line, when the husband in no longer surrounded 24/7 by religious study and religious men, they are shocked to discover that these boys are not really as frum as they would like. This is often a disastrous recipe for young married couples.

This is why I've always advised young boys in Yeshivah not to get married until after they have finished a year or two outside of the framework.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Another Creative Alarm Clock

I posted a few weeks ago about the money shredding alarm clock. Now there is a new Iphone app called Snooze that lets you donate 25 cents to charity each time you use the snooze feature on your alarm clock. At least you will be able to tell your boss that you were late for a good reason!

HT: חורים ברשת

Creative Business Card

This is supposedly a business card for a Mohel in Turkey - don't click if you are the type who gets offended easily.

HT: חורים ברשת

Like Looking In The Mirror

I found this article at Realclearreligion.org and despite being a christian article about modesty, I was  immediately struck by how similar this discussion was - clearly issues of modesty were the same regardless of other differences :

Once a month for 12 school years, I watched my female classmates forced to line up in the hallway, one straight line of girls kneeling. As they waited, a teacher would walk by and measure the distance between the floor and the hem of their skirts, then the distance between the lowest point on their blouse and their clavicles. If the distances were too great, they were sent home or forced to wear the school’s official “ugly sweater,” my school’s version of the scarlet letter A.
I had three sisters. I watched all of them kneel in that line. And I have witnessed firsthand how my church’s modesty laws have affected various aspects of their lives, from insecurity, to parenting, to how they interact with other women with different modesty ideals.
Our ideas about modesty are mostly Puritanically American. No, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that, but we must remember that our “modesty” is far more a cultural standard than it is a spiritual one. In a society with a history of making sure that women’s parts were things not to be talked about but rather covered up (for the sake of the male’s eyes/integrity!), is it any wonder our culture has grown into one that worships breasts and bodies as only sexual objects?
Our rules surrounding modesty have longstanding effects for some people. When I was doing research for the book I wrote about sex, I interviewed numerous married Christian women who confessed that sexual intimacy with their husbands was a struggle. They’d been told all their lives that it was a sin to be sexy. And turning that “rule” off when in the bedroom with their husbands was, for some, impossible. Many felt guilty for “feeling sexual.” And I think that’s sad.
The undertone of our definition of “modesty” is shame. Whether the words are ever said aloud or not, how we Christians talk about modesty makes many women feel insecure or shameful about their bodies.

Just recently there was a very similar article in YNET (if someone could find it for me, I'd be grateful) of how religious Jews often find their wedding night to be quite a traumatic experience - where they suddenly go from "even looking at a woman's little finger) is a sin, to marital relations overnight.  The continuation of the article is also worth noting:

While we probably don’t want to admit this, the Church is guilty of the same sin as the porn industry: we objectify women.
Sure, it’s different—but how different? The focus is the same–a woman’s body, her breasts. By helping create and maintain a culture that has made a woman’s body taboo, an object not to be looked at, we’ve helped create and maintain a culture’s interest, curiosity and lust for looking at it. Sadly, both sides miss the mark on what is truly modest.
Most modesty teaching sets young girls up to begin objectifying themselves. It creates a platform in their lives where “being objectified”–whether its by our culture or the Church–is seen as normal, even expected.
If we’re going to offer our daughters lessons about modesty (and I think we should, despite it being a difficult topic to discuss), the conversation shouldn’t come laced with the clause “because we want to serve our Christian brothers!” This reiterates shame and reinforces the idea that men are only interested in a woman’s body. The reason for modesty shouldn’t only be respect for Christian brothers—a lesson that, however subtle, again casts the female as “not quite equal” to man. The reason for modesty should be self-respect.
Maybe we hate conversations about modesty. But let’s have one anyway.
Modesty as a form of self respect is a theme I would like to see promoted. Discussions on modesty often boil down to a simplistic justification of GIRLS dressing modestly so naughty BOYS will not be led astray. While that argument certainly has a core of truth, it is only one side of a complex issue. Modesty is about one's self image - defining yourself in a non sexual manner. Sadly that aspect of the issue is often overlooked.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Daylight Saving Time and The Middle East

I'm writing this at roughly 22:47 Sunday evening. Supposedly a cease fire was meant to go into effect between Israel and the Hamas in Gaza at 21:00. However there have been some 6 mortars or rockets fired since 21:00. Channel 2 has suggested that this might be because in the Gaza strip Daylight savings time is not in effect - causing a one hour delay between Gaza and the surrounding Israeli towns.

This wouldn't be the first time that daylight savings time has affected Israel-Palestine relations.

"On September 3, 1999, Palestinian bomb makers connected a timer to thirty pounds of explosives, setting it to go off September 5th at 6:30 P.M. On September 5th, terrorists Ibrahim Salah and Krayem Nazal took delivery of the bomb package, got in a Fiat and drove to Jerusalem to place it on the 6:30 P.M. bus. Salah looked at his watch. It read 5:25 P.M. Thinking they had an hour to kill, they parked and sat in the car to wait for the bus. Five minutes later their car exploded. It seems that both the bomb makers and terrorists had forgotten that Israel falls-back from daylight savings time earlier than the rest of the world."

And Another Weird Question

Continuing on the last post, last week I posted about the "bad taste" of the adverts for the new book of interviews between Harav Chaim Sabato and Harav Lichtenstein:

However, what stood out was the banner at the top of the ad "The most important book of Jewish Thought since Harav Soloveitchik". I could understand the banner if it was a quote from someone reviewing the book. However as an anonymous banner it does seem a little pretentious

I was amused to see that someone asked the same question from the Rabbies at Kipa. The question was answered by Harav Baruch Efrati, who also stated his view that this banner was placed by the publisher without the knowledge of either rabbi.

Adopted Siblings Marrying

Kipa has this question and answer:

תוכן השאלה:שלום כבו הרב.
ברצוני לשאול האם מותר לילד מאומץ שאימצו אותו עוד כשהיה קטן להתחתן עם אחותו שההורים שלה אימצו אותו?
תוכן התשובה:שלום וברכה

מצד ההלכה הדבר אינו אסור

The question is whether adopted siblings can marry. Rabbi Cherlow who answered the question in just five words stated "From the Halachic perspective it isn't forbidden".  Assuming that this isn't just a random theoretical question, there are two points that really scream out:
a.       This is not the type of question that should be asked online. This is clearly a question where all those concerned should go for a nice long chat with a rabbi who knows them.
b.      Stating that something isn't forbidden Halachically is a far cry from saying it is completely ok.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rabba = Female Rabbi.

 Jweekly has this interesting article about the rise of the term "Rabba" to describe a female rabbi.

Stern-Kaufman, who was ordained by the pluralistic Academy of Jewish Religion in Riverdale, N.Y., became just the second woman in the United States to be given the title rabba. She followed the lead of Rabba Sara Hurwitz of the Orthodox Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.

She did find, though, that it was a hot topic in Israel. She noted that the Academy of Hebrew Language in Israel accepted in 2010 the word rabba as part of the Hebrew language.

“Rabba is an up and coming title in Israel for liberal women rabbis,” Horn Prouser said. “Anyone I talked to in Israel said, ‘Oh yes, I know rabba so and so.’ ” 

Weirdly enough as a religious Jew in Israel, I've yet to come across a single Rabba. I'm fairly sure that if you were to ask the average Hebrew speaker what a female rabbi is called, he would answer "Rabbanit". I had a quick look at the website of the Acadamy of the Hebrew Language showed this explanation:

צורת הנקבה של רַב המשמשת זה דורות היא רַבָּנִית (בדומה לצורת הרבים 'רבנים'), אלא שמילה זו משמעותה 'אשת הרב', ואילו בימינו יש 'אישה-רב'. היו שסברו שכפי ש'מלכה' יכולה להיות אישה-מלך וגם אשת המלך, כך המילה 'רבנית' יכולה לשמש גם ל'אישה-רב'. אבל הפונים לא נחה דעתם מ'רבנית', ולכן הוצעה להם הצורה רַבָּה, שהיא גם צורת הנקבה של שם התואר רַב (כמו בצירוף 'תודה רבה'). נראה שהמילה רַבָּה כבר מצאה לה מהלכים בציבור כצורת הנקבה של רַב.
In other words, despite the fact that Rabbanit is the traditional term, people didn't like Rabbanit because its common usage is to identify the wife of a rabbi, rather then a female rabbi.  On the Hebrew wikipedia page for female rabbi, (based on this Haaretz article) there is a claim that the Academy had changed its mind due to pressure, and in the past insisted that Rabbanit is the correct word. The feminist religious movement Kolech קולך voted two years ago to adopt the term Rabba, over other suggestions. 

Regardless of the academic discussion a search on Google in Hebrew, was only able to find a single reference to a female rabbi as "rabba" - outside of articles discussing what a female rabbi should be called. This might be because the hebrew רבה is such a common word (Meaning "alot") and in its most common usage "תודה רבה".  However my own guess is that outside of trendy feminists  the term has yet to make much headway.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Only 3 Years Late.

Residents in Jerusalem often wondered what would come first, the messiah or the light rail system A.K.A the tram system. As of this morning the Jerusalem light rail system has finally started taking passengers, while the messiah is as of yet absent. This is actually an example of Israeli efficiency - only 3 years late, and hundreds of million shekels over-budget - with ongoing litigation surrounding the circumstances of the delay for another half a billion shekels.

The light rail system should have been greeted with open arms, however after the agonizing process the entire city of Jerusalem has had to suffer - including the digging up of the entire city center for 3 years, no one is really rejoicing. Add to this equation the fact that the light rail isn't fully functional - the "smart traffic lights" which are meant to give it priority over other vehicles are not working, and the frustration just grows.

There is another point of cynicism. It has been announced that for the first two weeks travel on the light train would be free. This has been explained as an opportunity for Jerusalem residents to get to know the train, and alternatively because until the traffic lights are fixed, travel time on the train is expected to be somewhat slower then walking. However the real reason for this generosity is that the new hi tech tickets that were meant to be used - don't work.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Worth A Read 18.08.11

As Long As It Is My God..

From the Jerusalem Post:

WASHINGTON - To some conservative Jews, Texas Gov. Rick Perry would make an excellent presidential candidate. He’s been to Israel more than any other candidate in the field and has said he loves it. And Perry creates jobs.
But other Jewish conservatives seeking the anti-Obama candidate look at the three-term governor and see something arresting: He believes he’s on a mission from God.
That last line really should have been "mission from Jesus". I think, though I'm willing to be convinced otherwise that as a whole we would not have a problem with anyone believing they are on a mission from God, so long as: they don't claim God actually spoke to them, and more importantly, it is the Jewish god giving out the missions, and not some other deity.

Why The Dati Leumi Public Isn't Part Of The Protests. Part 2

Three weeks ago I posted on why the Dati-Leumi public isn't joining the big protests for affordable housing, which has by now evolved into a demand for "Social justice". The protests have by now been ongoing for almost five weeks, and as of yet the DT public continues as a whole to be prominently absent from these protests. This is true despite some leading rabbies from the DT community having publicly called for the public to join the protests, and even to be central speakers at some of the large demonstrations. The question I posed on my previous post, still remains somewhat of a mystery - why isn't the religious Zionist public taking part? I would argue that all of my previous explanations still remain valid. Some of them have even strengthened - namely there is plenty of evidence that the protests are being funded by left-wing organizations and secondly the tone of the protests has already gone "anti-settlement".  However in conversations with some of my friends, I've heard some other theories that are noteworthy:

  • The Dati-Leumi public no longer believes in protests - this theory would have you believe that due to the failure of the mass demonstrations in opposition to the disengagement plan,  the DL public simply no longer believes in demonstrations as a useful means of protest. 
  • The Dati-Leumi public is just annoyed that someone stole "their" protests. In other words as a public the Religious Zionists have built up a conception that they are the only ones who really deal with social injustice. Finding another public (and the hated Tel-Aviv yuppie one at that) that is leading what they feel is "their" cause has led to the Dati -Leumi public looking for any excuse to criticize and not participate with the protests. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Worth a Read - London Riot Edition (Humor)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Speed Dating Ancient Jerusalem Style

Ap is reporting that to celebrate Tu Be'av A.k.a Jewish Valentine day, there was a session of speed dating at Zedekiah's Cave. Speed dating is when a group of guys and a group of girls meet for a series of short 7 minute dates. Typically the girls are places around the room, and the guys are each assigned a girl. Seven minutes later a bell rings, and everyone switches partners. At the end of the night each person is asked to list those who they would like to have a real date with, and if there are matches that couple is given each other's number.

I'm not sure why Zedekiah's Cave is considered an ideal location for speed dating. I can only guess that the low lighting and the mystique of being in a cave lead to a romantic atmosphere. Plus we all know that it is really just an ancient Masonic Temple..

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Protests In The Talmud

In the spirit of all the protests going on in Israel, Pshita, claims to have found the one case where a demonstration is mentioned in the Talmud:
תענית יח עמ' א
שפעם אחת נגזרה גזירה על ישראל שלא יעסקו בתורה ושלא ימולו את בניהם ושיחללו שבתות
מה עשה יהודה בן שמוע וחביריו הלכו ונטלו עצה ממטרוניתא אחת שכל גדולי רומי מצויין אצלה

אמרה להם עמדו והפגינו בלילה
הלכו והפגינו בלילה
Soncino surprised me by translating as follows:

For once it was decreed that the Jews should not occupy themselves with the study of the Torah nor circumcise their children and that they should desecrate the Sabbath. What did Judah b. Shammua’and his colleagues do? They went and took counsel with a Roman Matron with whom all the prominent Romans were wont to associate. She advised them, ‘Arise and raise an alarm by night’.They went and raised the alarm by night thus, ‘O ye heavens, are we not your brethren? Are we not the children of one Father? Are we not the children of one mother? Wherein are we different from every other nation and tongue that ye make harsh decrees against us?’ Thereupon the decrees were annulled and that day was declared a festive day!
How did we get from the hebrew מפגין to "raise the alarm?" Tosfot explain the word הפגינו as meaning "Crying out" so I guess soncino might have based his translation on tosfot. I've searched the internet for the source of the word "Hafgana", but have not found anyone having written about it. Is it possible that this talmudic story is the source for our modern usage of the term?

The Most Important Book Since Rav Soloveitchik?

Over the weekend I saw this ad in a few of the Shabbat Alonim (Leaflets). I'm actually excited about this new book - discussions between Harav Ahron Lichtenstein and Harav Haim Sabato - two prominent rabbanim, with whom I've had the pleasure of learning from. I am sure that Rav Sabato's unique writing style and proven writing ability will coupled with Rav Lichtenstein's sharp and deep thinking will make an excellent book. 

However, what stood out was the banner at the top of the ad "The most important book of Jewish Thought since Harav Soloveitchik". I could understand the banner if it was a quote from someone reviewing the book. However as an anonymous banner it does seem a little pretentious. I have no doubt neither rabbi saw or approved this banner - which only a non religious publishing house (Yediot) - would possible have used such an overblown banner. 

The Irritable Russian

Normally I only post Israeli "lawyer" letters or court decisions that were sent to me by my legal bretheren, and which I have some reason to believe are true. This one was just posted on an Israeli Blog Room404, so I can't vouch for its authenticity:

Paragraph 21 reads:
Needless to say that the son of my client is an irritable russian, that won't be averse to arriving at your offices and flipping over all your tables until you have fulfilled his wishes! You have been warned!

The classic Irritable Russian trick..

This reminds me of a short story told by Ephraim Kishon. Those of you who can read Hebrew will have a treat reading it here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Assyrians Among Us

Yesterday PaleoJudiaca reported on a new website dedicated to Assyrian rights.  Some of you might be shocked to discover the Assyrian nation is still with us, however I've actually known this for quite some time. When I was a young soldier manning a road block on the outskirts of Bethlem, I actually encountered quite a few people who had "Assyrian" as their nationality on their Israeli or Palestinian I.D. Being as curious then as I am now, I tried numerous times to start up conversations on the matter – but never really managed to go any further then "Sankhariv" was an Assyrian king. It took me a while to understand that from their perspective, if you are an Arab passing an Israeli roadblock, and some soldier starts questioning you on your nationality this is seldom a sign for good things to come.

According to this old Ha'aretz story there are actually 132 different nationalities that are recognized by the Israeli Home office. Among those recognized: Samarian and Tartar.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Couldn't Cross Examine The Dog.

I always knew there were some things that they didn't teach me in Law School. However I didn't think it was the legal use of dogs. The New York Times has a fascinating article about the use of therapy dogs in courts. Therapy dogs are used to comfort troubled witnesses such as rape victims during testimony. The problem seems to be that some of these dogs are so cute..the jury is being swayed by them.

But they say jurors are likely to conclude that the dog is helping victims expose the truth. “Every time she stroked the dog,” Mr. Martin said in an interview, “it sent an unconscious message to the jury that she was under stress because she was telling the truth.”
“There was no way for me to cross-examine the dog,” Mr. Martin added.
In written arguments, the defense lawyers claimed it was “prosecutorial misconduct” for the Dutchess County assistant district attorney handling the rape case, Kristine Hawlk, to arrange for Rosie to be taken into the courtroom. Cute as the dog was, the defense said, Rosie’s presence “infected the trial with such unfairness” that it constituted a violation of their client’s constitutional rights.

Napoleon and Tisha Be'av Myth

Napoleon is the star of one of the most famous Tisha Be'av stories, as told by Aish.com:

The story is told that Napoleon was walking through the streets of Paris one Tisha B'Av. As his entourage passed a synagogue he heard wailing and crying coming from within; he sent an aide to inquire as to what had happened. The aide returned and told Napoleon that the Jews were in mourning over the loss of their Temple.Napoleon was indignant! "How come I wasn't informed? When did this happen? Which Temple?"The aide responded, "They lost their Temple in Jerusalem on this date 1,700 years ago."Napoleon stood in silence and then said, "Certainly a people which has mourned the loss of their Temple for so long will survive to see it rebuilt!"

This story is so famous, I was sure it was true. However a furious Google search has yet to provide a source for this tale. I did however come across this very same question, posed to J. David Markham - President of the International Napoleonic Society and one of my favorite podcasters. The noted historian of Napoleon answered that he had never heard that story. You can draw your own conclusions.  

A similar discussion in Bechadrei Haredim lists many different versions of the same story. It does however add one unusual version of the story, which might even prove to be the origin.

 According to the book פרחי אהרון

:ספר פרחי אהרן (ניו יורק תשי"ד) : "נפוליון בא לווילנא בתשעה באב וראה שיושבים על הארץ, ותמה האם בזה יבנו את ארץ ישראל. הוא לא הבין כי אלו המתאבלים על חורבנה יזכו גם כן לבנותה."

 Roughly translated: Napoleon came to Vilna on Tisha Be'av and saw them sitting on the earth. He asked whether that would help to build the land of Israel. He didn't understand that those who mourn its destruction will live to see it rebuilt.

The same book has another interesting though somewhat unrelated Tisha Be'av story,
 כשהיינו בירושלים בשנת תרפ״ז, וזכינו בתשעת באב לעמוד ולהתפלל אצל ״כותל המערבי״ במקום המקדש, ראינו מים נוטפים מן הכותל ונשתוממנו
 מאד. המשכילים אמרו שזה בא מתור הזוועות שהיתה רעידת אדמת ביום
 ד אב׳ ומזת נפתח מעין של מים אצל הכותל״ אך ההחסידים והספרדים שאמרו
 קינות אצל הכותל התחילו לשיר ולרקוד׳ באמרם, הכותל בוכה׳ וישראל
 בוכים, והקב״ה בוכה׳ סימן טוב הוא שהקב״ה רוצת לגאול את בניו׳ כי
 איתא במדרש, בשעה שיעקב יושב ובוכה ויוסף יושב ובוכה׳ וישראל בוכים׳
 הקב״ה יושב ובורא אורו של משיח 

When I was in Jerusalem in 1927, and we were lucky to be on Tisha Be'av at the Western wall – the place of the temple, we saw water dripping from the wall and we were awed. The maskilim said it was because of the tremors of the earthquake on Daled Be'av and from that a streamlet of water opened in the kotel, however the Hasidim and the Sephradim who were saying "Laments" at the wall started dancing and singing saying "the wall is crying and Israel is crying and God is crying. It is a good sign that god want to redeem his sons, as is found in the midrash that when Jacob sits and cries, and Joseph sits and cries, and Yisrael cries, God sits and creates the light of the messiah.

See this On The Main Line response to this post.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Are Israelis Rude?

Well yes. No one who lives in Israel thinks otherwise. No one who has ever met an Israeli seems to think otherwise.

However do we really need a whole article in Le Monde over this matter?

"It’s been 30 years since the French pharmacist Joel Dreyfuss moved to the Holy City after his first 20 years in Strasbourg, in eastern France. He had quite a revealing experience when he was back last summer visiting the French Alsace region, and went out shopping. He found himself demanding something with an “I want…” like a true Israeli, and thus was denied his request by a local shopkeeper. He also got a good lecturing to: “Here Sir we say “hello”, “please”, “thank you” and “goodbye””. Joel Dreyfuss was stunned: “That’s when I realized how rude I had become!”
It may begin with the language itself. Linguists will explain that while both English and Hebrew (unlike French and other Latin languages) have no current distinction between the formal and informal “you,” English is technically missing the informal use of the word – and Hebrew has no formal “you.”This bears consequences: no social barriers, no signs of respect and no real popular notions of politeness and courtesy. In schools, teachers have given up: students don’t say hello, they do not ask permission to speak, or to rise from their chair. In fact, they copy their elders: in shops, most Israelis shout and shove people aside to cut their place in line.
The newly arrived European and Ashkenazi Jewish women get used to it: no one will hold the door for them, no one will let them go first, and people on the street

Tzadik Or Rasha?

Reverend Hugh Grimes was a Church of England minister in Austria during the second world war. After the German occupation of Austria, Reverend Grimes started baptizing Jews en-masse with the hopes that as Christians they would be allowed to leave. According to the BBC:

"You can actually fit the baptisms to the chronology of what was going on in Vienna. On the 23 July, the identity card was introduced with a "J" on it.
"On the day after that, 129 people were baptised here. The following day there were 229. I mean, the church itself only sits 125 people."
Before long, baptism queues were forming down the street outside Christ Church.
The reason for all this appears to be the hope that baptism certificates would help the city's increasingly persecuted Jews escape the country.

So is Reverend Grimes a Tzadik or a Rasha? both views are presented in the BBC piece. On the one hand are those who see the baptisms as a cynical use of the plight of the Jews, desperate to escape Nazi occupation:

But looking back, Jewish historian Professor David Cesarani of Royal Holloway, University of London, is appalled by what appears to him like a crass recruitment exercise of vulnerable people by a proselytising church.
"Any Christians who took advantage of the pressure on Jews to baptise them were doing just that. They were using leverage of the most terrible sort.
"There were many other ways that members of the Christian clergy could have helped Jews - offering hiding places, false papers and other kinds of assistance."

On the other hand are those stressing that the Reverend Grimes helped save the lives of those Jews, using the only means available to him. 

The question of whether he is a saint or a villain can only be determined by answering the question of what was the motive of Reverend Grimes. Was he primarily concerned with saving the Jews, or "saving" their soul. The BBC article certainly portrays him in a favorable light as does the write up in Wikipedia, which claims that 1800 Jews were saved through the baptisms.   

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Some Protest Quotes

The atmosphere is Tahrir Square protests meets Woodstock, meets last-year's-camping holiday in the South of France.


I asked a friend of mine why he was not protesting in a tent in Tel-Aviv, and he responded that with the rent he is paying for an apartment in the city, there is no chance he is willing to live in a tent.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Worth A Read 9.08.2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Weird Poll Results

There is something weird going on. Despite weeks in Israel where every single possible group is protesting something (Housing, Doctors, Mothers, Teachers, Dairy Farmers, Taxi Drivers) all of the recent polls are telling a similar story. The political party which is loosing its support isn't Likud but rather Kadima.

Globes - Kadima: 28 Likud: 27
Channel 2 : Kadima:14! Likud: 22 (this assumed that the organizers of the housing protest ran as a political party)
I also read somewhere that an internal Likud poll actually showed them getting stronger..

What does this mean? My understanding is that Kadima was always a "swing" vote. As such it is especially vulnerable to having their voters go somewhere else. Additionally it would seem that the public has yet to decide that the Likkud Government is to blame for the current crisis.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Its Official: May Israel Remember

Ynet is reporting that the army has decided that the official "Yizkor" text should read “The Nation of Israel will remember its sons and daughters," and not “May G-d remember His sons and daughters”. You can read the background Here. 

The real surprise here is that just about everyone was expecting them to reach a compromise text, where both Israel and God appear. This lack of a compromise could be interpreted in several different ways:

1. The religious establishment really didn't care that much about the issue. This is highly likely, since in the months of following this story I never once saw any religious writer argue the matter passionately.

2. This could be a counter reaction to the perceived rise of religious influence in the army. 

3. Alternatively, this might be a symptom of the relative weakness of the current Head of the IDF Rabbanut, compared to his  charismatic predecessor. There is a strong faction in the army which feels the rabbanut has to be "put back in its place" after its emerging strength under the former Chief Rabbi.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Christopher Robin A Yeshivah Bachur?

I just saw this picture from the new Winnie The Pooh Movie, and my first reaction was "Why does Christopher Robin" look like he is  a Yeshivah Bachur?

Of course a closer look shows that he isn't wearing a Yarmulke, but just a schoolboy hat. Perhaps it is little Haredi boys who look like British schoolchildren and not the other way around?

The Legend of the Ten Martyers

PaleoJudaica has this version of the story of ten martyrs, from Hekhalot Rabbati:

 TheHekhalot Rabbati has a rather different and, in a macabre way, more cheerful account of the story. In this rendering, the evil Roman emperor who persecuted the sages is (the non-existent) Lupinus Caesar. When he set out on his program of persecution at the behest of Sammael, the evil angel of Rome, God inflicted various torments on the emperor and Rome. Undeterred, Lupinus Caesar persevered in his efforts to kill the ten sages, so God gave Lupinus' appearance to one of the sages, R. Hananiah ben Tardion, who then spent six months masquerading as the emperor and executing thousands of the leaders of the army.
Meanwhile, God altered Lupinus's appearance to be identical to another of the ten, whereupon he was tortured to death by his own Roman minions, then resurrected in the form of yet another of the ten, whom the Romans then killed, and so on until Lupinus had been slaughtered as each of the ten sages (who themselves were at home, safe and sound). Then he was sent off to his well-deserved eternal torment in the flames of Gehinnom.
You can read the story here, in a handout for my 2008 SBL paper which contains a draft translation of the relevant passage (§§107-120) from my forthcoming translation of the Hekhalot literature.

I'll admit to never having heard this version of events, which sounds like a much more interesting version then the one we are familiar with. I didn't post the translation itself, as I have some doubts as to whether it would infringe on his copyright.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Speculation in Bad Taste

Ben Dror Yamini has a long article today regarding the "Housing" protest. Amongst other critiques he writes:
אחת ממנהיגות המחאה היא סתיו שפיר. בתקשורת היא הפכה לדוברת המרכזית. סתיו מקפידה לשדר נופת צופים של מחאה חברתית. הפרופיל הפוליטי המלא מוסווה. הסוואה עם סיבות. 

אלא שבראיון לתקשורת הזרה היא לא התאפקה: "החשש הגדול שלנו כרגע הוא שנתניהו, מתוך פחד ממה שקורה, יפתח במלחמה". האג'נדה האנטי-ציונית קפצה לה החוצה. זו שוב ישראל המרושעת, שהמנהיג הזדוני שלה ישפוך דם חפים מפשע, ערבים ויהודים, כדי להשתיק את ההמונים. תעשיית השקרים במיטבה. 
Roughly translated:
One of the leaders of the protest is Stav Shafir. The media portrays her as a main speaker for the protest. Staf is careful to project a honey sweet face of a social protest. Her full political profile remains hidden – with good reason. However when giving an interview to the foreign media she couldn't resist and said "Our biggest fear at the moment is that Netanyahu, out of fear of what is happening, will start a war. Her anti-zionist agenda popped out. Again Israel is portrayed as evil, who's evil leader will spill the blood of the innocents, Arabs and Jews, just to silence the masses. This is the industry of lies at its best.
Another Israeli Blogger " Mabed Tamlilim" has taken Ben-Dror  to task for this criticism. He accuses Ben-Dror of labeling his opponents as "Anti-Zionistic" as a means of shutting them up, and trying to suppress their legitimate protests. He also adds that he agrees with Mrs. Shafir – he really is worried that Netanyahu might start a war.