Sunday, December 30, 2012

Childish Hell, Childish Religion

The Economist has this to write about Hell:

Hell hardly hurts any more. In everyday parlance (“What the hell are you doing?”), it is merely a bark, not a place. As a place, it is anywhere nasty: the London Underground in summer, the worst bits of Lower Manhattan, department stores at sales time, a publisher’s party. Philosophically, Jean-Paul Sartre has encouraged the idea that Hell is other people. Theologically, even the Vatican now defines Hell as a state of exile from the love of God. The devils and pitchforks, the brimstone clouds and wailing souls, have been cleared away, rather as a mad aunt might be shut up in the attic.

 After explaining how differnet religions still have their purists who believe in a literal, pitchfork holding demon hell, the Economist comments:

Hell’s democratisation seems to have begun in Judaism, with both Isaiah and Ezekiel arguing that it did not seem right that good and bad alike should go to Sheol. The wicked, surely, should have deeper and sharper punishment. God should deal with them as they deserved—especially since, in life, they had usually prospered from their wickedness, whereas the virtuous, like Job, had been struck with disasters and covered with sore boils. The Essenes, a more extreme sect, injected the idea of eternity into it, as well as storms and dungeons. Just as man has always made God in his own image, so he projected his own notions of fairness on to the world to come; and ended up with a real horror story.

I haven't actually thought of Hell (with a capital H) for a few years. I think I lost my conception of hell as a physical place early in my teens, replaced with a conception of hell as a place where the soul suffers  and then later as a place of shame.

I don't think I've had a conversation with anyone who believes in a physical hell for many years. I take this as an encouraging sign that most of us do not believe in the religion of our youth.

The Problematic Use Of B'Tselem Statistics

For the purpose of an academic paper I'm writing, I needed to find out how many Jewish terrorist attacks against Palestinians there have been. Statistics about the Arab-Israeli conflict are notoriously hard to come by, and endlessly debated. However, the common method has evolved to cite B'Tselems statistics. As such I went to the B'Tselem statistics page found the following summary (the list is up to operation Cast Lead):

The Fatalities' data can be shown either by the date of the event in which they were hurt or by the date of their death. Since some of the fatalities died of their injuries days, weeks and sometimes months after they were hurt, choosing the view affects the distribution of data.
Data by the date of event, 29.9.2000-26.12.2008
Occupied Territories
Gaza StripWest BankTotal
Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces
Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians
Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians
Israeli security force personnel killed by Palestinians
Foreign citizens killed by Palestinians
Foreign citizens killed by Israeli security forces
Palestinians killed by Palestinians
Palestinians executed by the Palestinian Authority
Palestinians executed by the Hamas Government

I then clicked on "Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians" where there is a description of how each person died. Here are two of the descriptions from 2008:

Mahmoud Khalil 'Abd al-Fatah Sabarneh
20 year-old resident of Beit Ummar, Hebron district, killed on 24.01.2008 in Kfar Ezyon, Bethlehem district. Additional information: Killed by gunfire of teachers in a yeshiva after he entered the yeshiva area with another armed person and stabbed the instructors.

Muhammad Fathi Yunes Sabarneh
21 year-old resident of Beit Ummar, Hebron district, killed on 24.01.2008 in Kfar Ezyon, Bethlehem district. Additional information: Killed by gunfire of teachers in a yeshiva after he entered the yeshiva area with another armed person and stabbed the instructors.
In other words - Palestinians killed by Israeli Civilians includes those Palestinians that were committing terrorist acts at the time.  When you think about it, the title is clear enough - it is counting people killed by civilians, and not civilians killed. However, I highly doubt anyone would realize that the list includes terrorists, unless he goes and examines the cases. Additionally, for some reason, B'tselem does not count Israeli deaths in the same manner. It clearly separates between Israeli soldiers and civilians killed.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Second Worst Singing of Hatikvah By A Politician Award

Wow, I didn't think I'd get to give two of these out day after day..

This version was released by Balad "in an animated clip showing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and several nationalist MKs singing Hatikva in to a Middle Eastern tune."

In the clip, Lieberman explains that he was the one who proposed a law requiring citizens to pledge allegiance to the state of Israel in order to be eligible for an ID card. He then announces that he has now become convinced that the tune of Hatikva – Israel's national anthem – should be changed so that Arabs feel comfortable singing it as well.

Worst Singing Of Hatikvah By A Politician Award

This is probably the only time I'll get to give the award, but this is truly terrible:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nice Jewish Guys 2013 Calendar

Yated Ne'eman Publishes The Wrong Picture

File this under the amusing/giggle worthy.

Yated Ne'eman, the foremost daily Haredi paper in Israel, published a recipe for a real "Italian Pizza". Haredim it would seem enjoy a pizza like the rest of us. The problem? the picture illustrating the recipe was a pizza with pepperoni on top. Not Kosher. Not even Mostly Kosher.

Yated Ne'eman famously has an extremly strict censor, making sure their readers are not exposed to anything that may offend Haredi sensibilites. However, they explained that their censor "simply didn't know it was pizza with pepperoni. The Haredi public is not exposed to this kind of food, and didn't realize it was a picture of unkosher food."

Hat Tip: ICE

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Little Known Jewish Dragons (Part II)

This is a continuation of my examination started in the previous post, of some of the less known dragons in the Jewish tradition.

Our next dragon, also from the apocrypha appears in a story normally called "The book of Bel and the Dragon", which is a supposed continuation to the book of Daniel. The book, has come to us in two different translations - Greek and Theodotian, though the differences are not great.

The first few verses (which I will omit) tell of how Daniel proves to King Cyrus that "Bel" the god worshiped in Babylon is false. The King admits that Bel - an idol - is a false God, but insists a dragon worshiped in Babylon is a true deity:

1:23 And in that same place there was a great dragon, which they of Babylon worshipped.
1:24 And the king said unto Daniel, Wilt thou also say that this is of brass? lo, he liveth, he eateth and drinketh; thou canst not say that he is no living god: therefore worship him.
1:25 Then said Daniel unto the king, I will worship the Lord my God: for he is the living God.
1:26 But give me leave, O king, and I shall slay this dragon without sword or staff. The king said, I give thee leave.
1:27 Then Daniel took pitch, and fat, and hair, and did seethe them together, and made lumps thereof: this he put in the dragon’s mouth, and so the dragon burst in sunder : and Daniel said, Lo, these are the gods ye worship.

Is this a fire breathing dragon? the use of pitch and fat would seem to me to suggest it. I assume that the dragon bursts because the fat and pitch catch fire, though this conjunction is not in the text.
The story also exists in the Midrash -

 מדרש בראשית רבה סח, יג: "והנה מלאכי אלהים", זה דניאל, "עולים ויורדים בו", שעלה והוציא את בלעו מתוך פיו. הדא הוא דכתיב: (ירמיה נא) "ופקדתי על בל בבבל והוצאתי את בלעו מפיו". שהיה לו תנין אחד לנבוכדנצר, והיה בולע כל מה שהיו משליכין לפניו. א"ל נבוכדנצר לדניאל, כמה כחו גדול, שבולע כל מה שמשליכין לפניו. אמר לו דניאל: תן לי רשות ואני מתישו. נתן רשות. מה עשה? נטל תבן והטמין לתוכו מסמרים, השליך לפניו, ונקבו מסמרים את בני מעיו. הדא הוא דכתיב: "והוצאתי את בלעו מפיו". 

In this version the monster is a Crocodile (תנין) and not a dragon, though possibly they are one and the same in early Hebrew. Daniel kills the beast not with Pitch and Fat, but with straw filled with nails.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Little Known Jewish Dragons (Part I)

After enjoying "The Hobbit" I started thinking of the Jewish tradition of dragons. In the coming week, I'm hoping to examine some of the lesser known Jewish sources dealing with dragons, especially from the Apocrypha. I'm no Natan Slifkin, and my knowledge of these issues is very casual, and meant mostly as "Whoa, dragons, cool". 

That the dragon was a potent symbol for Jews is undeniable. Perhaps the clearest sign that dragon were a widely used symbol comes from the apocryphal additions to the book of Esther. The additions to Esther begin with Moredchai dreaming a puzzling dream,  foretelling the story:

[2] In the second year of the reign of Artaxerxes the Great, on the first day of Nisan, Mordecai the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, had a dream.
[3] He was a Jew, dwelling in the city of Susa, a great man, serving in the court of the king.
[4] He was one of the captives whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had brought from Jerusalem with Jeconiah king of Judea. And this was his dream:
[5] Behold, noise and confusion, thunders and earthquake, tumult upon the earth!
[6] And behold, two great dragons came forward, both ready to fight, and they roared terribly.
[7] And at their roaring every nation prepared for war, to fight against the nation of the righteous.
[8] And behold, a day of darkness and gloom, tribulation and distress, affliction and great tumult upon the earth!
[9] And the whole righteous nation was troubled; they feared the evils that threatened them, and were ready to perish.
[10] Then they cried to God; and from their cry, as though from a tiny spring, there came a great river, with abundant water;
[11] light came, and the sun rose, and the lowly were exalted and consumed those held in honor. 

Two dragons are fighting, while the world is brought into a great distress.  We are not offered much of a description of the dragons, so it is impossible to understand whether "dragon" = flying lizard spewing fire, or just a generic word for monster. The dream itself is solved in a later chapter:

And Mordecai said, "These things have come from God.
[2] For I remember the dream that I had concerning these matters, and none of them has failed to be fulfilled.
[3] The tiny spring which became a river, and there was light and the sun and abundant water -- the river is Esther, whom the king married and made queen.
[4] The two dragons are Haman and myself. 
[5] The nations are those that gathered to destroy the name of the Jews. 

The author clearly saw dragons as creatures of great power, though they don't really do much in this narrative. The dream as an addition to the book of Esther, seems to be intent on adding "God's" influence into the biblical narrative.

Hopefully, some future dragons will be slightly more active.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Short Review Of "The Hobbit" Movie

I've always had a special soft spot for Tolkein's Hobbits. My father gave me The Hobbit to read when I was ten or eleven years old, and I happened to be sick that day. I liked the book so much that I pretended to be sick for the next two days so that I could finish the book. Unfortunately I had to get out of bed to go to the library to find "The Lord of the Rings", otherwise I might have had to be sick for the next month.

I purposely didn't read any of the reviews before going to see the movie, though I understand that they have been less than glowing. The most common of complaints appears to be Peter Jackson's decision to take a modest 300 page book and turn it into three movies. This makes it equivalent in length to Lord of the Rings - three books with a total of 1500+- pages. Famously C.S Lewis (of Narnia fame) when reading Lord of the Rings stated "Not another Fu***** Elf". Though this quote, isn't true, it does capture what one feels when watching the movie. In every single scene the merry band of dwarfs and Bilbo are running from something - Orcs, Goblins, Trolls and even Elves. In fact, in one scene, Jackson cuts from them being chased by Goblins (and miraculously fighting 30 to 1 odds) to being chased by Orcs (and miraculously fighting 30 to 1 odds).  Additionally every scene is either set to a sunset or to a sunrise, or has the main characters standing on a breathtaking outcrop of rock thousands of feet in the air above a huge chasm. We get it, New Zealand is the most stunning place on Earth, but Jackson is over doing it.

Despite it all, the movie is great entertainment. True to the book, the movie is much lighter in tone than Lord of the Rings. The movie is saturated with comic relief, especially with Bilbo himself who never fails to deliver a quick one liner. The special effects are breathtaking, and the 3D works well throughout the movie. Despite the faults mentioned above, "The Hobbit" is fantasy escapism at its best. If the next two movies are comparable, I'll forgive Jackson his decision to stretch the book into a trilogy.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Israelis are Searching for on Google

Ha'aretz reports on a recently published list by Google of the top searches from Israel. The list is divided into seperate categories (culture, news etc..). However, I'd like to focus on just one part of the list...the top searches in "How TO":

1. איך לעשות כסף
2. איך להוציא גימלים
3. איך עושים ילדים
4. איך למשוך אישה
5. איך לבנות אפליקציה
6. איך מתנשקים צרפתית
7. איך להתגרש נכון
8. איך להשתזף נכון
9. איך להפסיק לעשן
10. איך להיות מקובלת

Quick translation:

1. How to make money,
2. How to get "sick days" in the army,
3. How to make kids..
4. How to attract a woman
5. How to make an APP
6. How to French Kiss,
7. How to get a good divorce,
8. How to get a good Suntan,
9. How to stop smoking,
10. How to be accepted.

Anyone notice a pattern? first you make kids, then you attracts a woman, followed by french kissing, a divorce, a new suntan, stop smoking and finally you look to be accepted for who you are..

I also love that soldiers looking for sick days is the second most popular "how to" search. Only in Israel. 

Nice Picture of a Wild Hyena In The Golan

This picture was supposedly taken recently in the Golan. I just liked the picture..

Kate Middelton, Religious Fashion Star?

Who would have guessed?

Millions of women worldwide, who follow every single garment worn by the duchess of Cambridge, are being joined by the religious Jewish women in Israel and abroad, who have finally found the perfect fashion model: A real, beautiful princess who happens to wear suits and dresses that would be warmly welcomed in any synagogue.

The author is also a strong candidate for one of the most politically incorrect questions..

Middleton is very thin. Isn't it difficult for religious women, who have given birth quite a few times, to imitate her appearance?

"Each woman makes the required adjustments according to her own figure." 

Religious People Functioning In A Secular World?

Steve Fuller, reviews Robert Wuthnow's "The God Problem: Expressing Faith and Being Reasonable":
The key finding is that people of faith understand exactly how their beliefs differ from those not of faith and can justify them in quite sophisticated ways, although typically without learned theological reference. Perhaps that refusal to invoke any academic authority for their beliefs contributes to the appearance of believers as naive or uninformed. But most of Wuthnow's accounts also suggest that people of faith really "mean" what they believe, and that secular people may believe something similar but talk about it differently. In the end, what is the difference between a believer's "openness to God" and a non-believer's "openness to the evidence"? The answer lies in judgement calls and how they are justified - but not the view that there are standards that transcend the mundanely human.
What may well be this book's most disturbing feature is a subterranean sense that one need not believe what one knows. Religious believers know how the secular world works, yet they openly reject its principles without compromising their ability to function within it. For example, contrary to popular secular opinion, an increasing number of religious believers around the world are moving into scientific fields, especially medicine and engineering. They learn the received wisdom of the scientific establishment about, say, evolutionary biology without necessarily having it affect their worldview. Given the strong division of labour in science, in which professionals are required to justify their findings only in terms of ongoing research in their fields, the strategy works perfectly well, escaping the muckrakers' gaze because science publishes only what can be defended, not what is believed
There is much to be said about religious people whose lives - at least on the surface - seem to ignore their beliefs (if not actually refute them).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

When Did Esav Leave?

I noticed this week a small problem in the Parasha. If you were to read the end of the parasha (chapter 36) you would assume that Esav left Canaan, after Jacob returned:

ו  וַיִּקַּח עֵשָׂו אֶת-נָשָׁיו וְאֶת-בָּנָיו וְאֶת-בְּנֹתָיו, וְאֶת-כָּל-נַפְשׁוֹת בֵּיתוֹ, וְאֶת-מִקְנֵהוּ וְאֶת-כָּל-בְּהֶמְתּוֹ וְאֵת כָּל-קִנְיָנוֹ, אֲשֶׁר רָכַשׁ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן; וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל-אֶרֶץ, מִפְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב אָחִיו.6 And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the souls of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his possessions, which he had gathered in the land of Canaan; and went into a land away from his brother Jacob.
ז  כִּי-הָיָה רְכוּשָׁם רָב, מִשֶּׁבֶת יַחְדָּו; וְלֹא יָכְלָה אֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵיהֶם, לָשֵׂאת אֹתָם--מִפְּנֵי, מִקְנֵיהֶם.7 For their substance was too great for them to dwell together; and the land of their sojournings could not bear them because of their cattle.
ח  וַיֵּשֶׁב עֵשָׂו בְּהַר שֵׂעִיר, עֵשָׂו הוּא אֱדוֹם.8 And Esau dwelt in the mountain-land of Seir--Esau is Edom.

However, there are various passages in the beginning of the Parasha that indicate that Esav left long before Jacob came. For example in chapter 32:

  וַיִּשְׁלַח יַעֲקֹב מַלְאָכִים לְפָנָיו, אֶל-עֵשָׂו אָחִיו, אַרְצָה שֵׂעִיר, שְׂדֵה אֱדוֹם.4 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the field of Edom.

Jacob when he is heading home, sends his messangers to Esav at Edom! In other words, Esav was no longer in Canaan when Jacob was heading home.

Very few of the classical commentators comment on this - Radak explains that Esav was in Edom, but had yet to settle there. Ibn-Ezra expalins that Edom is between Haran and Israel, and hence Jacob has to send the messangers to Esav. This explains why Jacob bothered to send messengers to Esav at all, but not why Esav had already left Canaan. Nahmanides (commentary on Gen. 36:6) explains  that initially Esau moved to Edom with only a few of his people, leaving most of his family in Canaan. Later, he returned to Canaan to meet Jacob, who was coming back from Laban's home, and only afterward did he take the rest of his family to Edom. Hazkoni (Gen. 36:6) similarly explains that until this point Esav lived in both places, and now he decided to give up any rights to Canaan. 

These explanations are all possible, though somewhat unsatisfactory. Harav Goren gives a different explanation. Esav left Canaan long before Jacob returned, because Esav truely believed his father's blessings would come true (evidenced by his cry of anguish). Since Esav had no wish to be ruled by his brother, he got up and left before Jacob came back. The problem with this explanation is that the Torah specifically says Esav left because the land could not bare them both. 

Quick Election Musings

  • Labor Party MK List - where have all the generals gone? Once upon a time Labor used to be the home of retired generals. Now it is the home of retired protesters.
  • Yesh Atid list - Harav Peron is a very interesting #2 on the list. I'm also intrigued that Ruth Calderon is on the list, though not in a realistic placing. The combination of the two, makes Yesh Atid  the most "Israeli-Jewish" culturally party.  Dov Lipman - the "Anglo" candidate is also not in a realistic position on the list.
  • Tzipi Livni "The Movement" - Amram Mitzna is a great person, who really should be in the Knesset. Its just ashame that he's after Tzipi Livni. There are also reports that Ben Dror Yemini might join her party, which would certainly make for an attractive list.
  • I noticed this a week or two ago, but was too busy to post about it. Mofaz launched his election campaign with the slogan "Bibi will endanger us" (ביבי יסבך אותנו). The campaign tried to brand Mofaz as the responsible adult. However, just a few weeks later, during operation Pillar of Defense, Bibi was the one who refused to order a ground attack, while Mofaz was the one championing it. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jewish Burqa Update - Kids Will Be Kids

Its been awhile since we addressed the ever frightning Jewish Burqa cult. The video below was supposedly filmed in the Jerusalem area, and shows a young girl who is happily skipping around, despite her Burqa:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Does Feiglin Actually Make A Difference?

In one word - no.

How will it affect Israel? Most of us couldn't name any other MK who was chosen 15th in their party list. The chances of him being given any ministerial job are somewhat lower than the chance that the Messiah himself will arrive on a white donkey and proclaim Bibi the one true king. The only problem is that from now on, we can  expect Israel Haters-Bashers-Well Meaning but naive people,  to quoting every racist or delusional utterance that  Feiglin makes, as representing Israel proper. This will be a Hasbara nightmare.

How will it affect the Likud? other political parties will now have a field day attacking the Likud. This will probably cost it a few mandates. Feiglin does not bring with him any voters. Those who voted for him in the primaries, do not actually vote Likud on election day. Furthermore, since he is in a fairly safe spot, there is no need for them to vote for the Likud to ensure that he will make it into the Knesset.

In Natalie Portman One of the Worlds Most Important Jews?

Had a look at the entry "Jews" in Wikipedia. On the right hand side of the entry there are pictures of some famous Jews:

I'm not sure what the list represents. Surly these are not the most important Jews in history, nor even the most well known. Point in fact is that I had to look up who Emmy Noether actually was. I'm also somewhat dismayed that whatever anonymous contributor chose the list, only put in a single religious personality. 

Fixing Past Wrongs - Sephradic Jews And Spain

From the NYT -

Spain announced Thursday that it would grant automatic citizenship to Jews of Sephardic descent as a further gesture of reconciliation after their ancestors were expelled more than five centuries ago. Sephardic Jews already benefit from a preferential naturalization procedure that requires them to live in Spain for only two years before claiming citizenship, but the change means that Jews will have to present only a certificate confirming their ancestry to claim a Spanish passport.

Its not clear to me how anyone can present a certificate "confirming their ancestry". I can only assume that they do not have to prove their ancestors were exiled five centuries ago, nor the purity of their descent. Assuming that you only have to prove some non Ashkenazic blood - I'm happy my children will be able to pick up their fourth passports.

However, there is actually a more interesting aspect to this story. I'm all for fixing past wrongs, but surely there must be some limit. It is especially troubling as Sephradic Jews really have no lost longing for Spain, or any cultural connection with modern Spain. Citizenship should involve some connection to a society, and not an historical anecdote.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why the blogging has been slow

Simply put, I was called up for operation Pillar of Defense (עמוד ענן), and my phone got broken on the very first day of the operation.

Hopefully blogging will return to its normal rate in the coming few days. Until then, here are some of the pictures that I took while I was "In green"..

A yellow scorpion that I spotted seconds before I almost touched it with my hand.

 What is left of an Iranian rocket that was fired at one of the villages in Israel's south.

Sunrise over the base.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Quick Thought On Missile Hitting Tel-Aviv

Anyone who is rejoicing that finally also "yuppie" left wing Tel-Aviv is getting hit with missiles, is just proving how little Achdut/Ahavat Israel/Basic human sympathy/Common sense he has.

And no, Tel Aviv will not "get you" now.

Tweets From Pillar of Defense

I don't have much time to blog, but I did find these tweets funny:

 Oh no, all my 72 virgins are men!!!

Think I'm Scary? You Should Meet My Martyr-In-Law

Shiite happens 

 My Other Car Is An Explosive Filled Donkey

Monday, November 12, 2012

More On The Non Existent Anglo MK

Yesterday I asked the question "Why Don't We Have An Anglo MK". Today, Ellie Fischer addressed the same issue in his post at the Times of Israel "Don't Vote For The Anglo Candidate". His post is noteworthy for two reasons. The first is that he is almost certainly referring to me when he writes:

“Ah,” the skeptical and perhaps somewhat bigoted ‘mainstream’ Anglo voter objects, “Litzman is Haredi, and Haredim hardly represent the typical Anglo voter.”
This somewhat bigoted blogger has taken note, and will get his own back in the next sentence. The second reason why the article is noteworthy is that despite listing every possible "Anglo" MK since the inception of the state, Fischer misses the point completely. We want an Anglo MK, not an MK who is Anglo. None of the people that Fischer mentions (at the very least from the last 20 years) were exceptionally Anglo. In other words none of them thought of themselves as representing the Anglo community. I don't think any of them even spoke Hebrew with a strong Anglo accent.

Every other community has a "representative" in the Knesset, or at the very least MKs who proudly wear their social/ethnic association. Why are  Anglos the exception?

Demonstrating Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules For Good Writing

Elmore Leonard started out writing westerns, then turned his talents to crime fiction. One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, he’s written about two dozen novels, most of them bestsellers, such as GlitzGet Shorty,Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch.  Unlike most genre writers, however, Leonard is taken seriously by the literary crowd.
What’s Leonard’s secret to being both popular and respectable? Perhaps you’ll find some clues in his 10 tricks for good writing:  

1.  Never open a book with weather.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. 

The ten rules can be read here, for those of you who didn't appreciate my joke. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why We Don't Have An Anglo MK...

Ever wonder why of all the immigrant groups to Israel, only the Anglo one hasn't got any representation in the Knesset?

This week's Makor Rishon (9.11.12) (Not online) had a whole two page article on the subject. Its basic conclusion can be summed up in two points:

  • English Olim tend to integrate into Israeli society, and hence vote like "normal" Israelis.
  • English Olim tend to be well off and don't need any special lobbying. 
Both points are reasonable, though they are not really two separate points. Anglo olim are on average better off than the average - and hence do not have a problem assimilating.

 Makor Rishon estimates that there are between 100-300 thousand Anglos in Israel - or roughly enough for 10 MKs. Of the established parties, only Yisrael Beytenu (ישראל ביתנו) has an ongoing Anglo campaign, as well as a long running anglo candidate, who never quite manages to make it into the knesset.

In the upcoming elections several parties are trying to woo the Anglo vote. Yesh Atid has Dov Lipman, who made his name campaigning against the Haredi wackos in Ramat Beit Shemesh. I can guess that he is a bigger celebrity in Ramat Beit Shemesh than in the rest of the country where he is largely unknown.

 Habait Hayehudi is also having a bit of an Anglo renaissance, with - Jeremy Gimpel - a young Anglo candidate in its primaries. Gimpel appears to be slightly over estimating his own appeal. In the Makor Rishon article he is quoted as stating that 95% of Anglos know him, and that he is as famous in the Anglo community as Yair Lapid is in Israel. I happen to know who Jeremy is,  but I highly doubt that he is anywhere near as well known as he seems to believe.

Despite the raised profile of Anglos in the election, I've yet to hear of any specific Anglo concerns that the parties, or their anglo representatives are raising. I'm eager to hear from my readers what they would like their Anglo representatives should be doing on their behalf... 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quick Feminist, (Or Anti) Thought Of The Day

Looking at this weeks Parasha, I noticed a pattern.

Rivka can go to the well, and fill her bucket by herself -

טז  וְהַנַּעֲרָ, טֹבַת מַרְאֶה מְאֹד--בְּתוּלָה, וְאִישׁ לֹא יְדָעָהּ; וַתֵּרֶד הָעַיְנָה, וַתְּמַלֵּא כַדָּהּ וַתָּעַל.16 And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her; and she went down to the fountain, and filled her pitcher, and came up

Just one generation later, the roles are reversed:

י  וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָה יַעֲקֹב אֶת-רָחֵל, בַּת-לָבָן אֲחִי אִמּוֹ, וְאֶת-צֹאן לָבָן, אֲחִי אִמּוֹ; וַיִּגַּשׁ יַעֲקֹב, וַיָּגֶל אֶת-הָאֶבֶן מֵעַל פִּי הַבְּאֵר, וַיַּשְׁקְ, אֶת-צֹאן לָבָן אֲחִי אִמּוֹ.10 And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother.

Jacob not only opens the well, he also waters the flock. 

The reversal is permanent:

טז  וּלְכֹהֵן מִדְיָן, שֶׁבַע בָּנוֹת; וַתָּבֹאנָה וַתִּדְלֶנָה, וַתְּמַלֶּאנָה אֶת-הָרְהָטִים, לְהַשְׁקוֹת, צֹאן אֲבִיהֶן.16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock.
יז  וַיָּבֹאוּ הָרֹעִים, וַיְגָרְשׁוּם; וַיָּקָם מֹשֶׁה וַיּוֹשִׁעָן, וַיַּשְׁקְ אֶת-צֹאנָם.17 And the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
So...did Rivka teach her children, and from there all the rest of the generations, proper manners? or perhaps Rivka was the last great feminist, and after her its all male domination at the well?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Worst Religious Hasbara Of The Day

Apparently Shimshon Klein, a commander in the IDF in charge of recruiting Haredi soldeirs, gave this answer to a Haredi youth asking about the halachic problem, where female soldiers sing before a male audience:

"Its possible that the female soldier you see, has had a sex change operation"

It is clear this was meant both as a joke, and as a private comment. However, in making the headlines, Shimshon Klein is awarded our Worst Religious Hasbara Of The Day Award.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama Won, Welcome To Canada

Via: @RabbiYYS

Women, Havdalah, Wine, Beer and Body Hair

Observing the closing havdalah ritual in 14th-century Spain.
That's a big candle!
I was looking for the origin of the myth that women drinking Havdalah wine will grow either beards or mustaches. This was somewhat urgent, as my little 3 year daughter insists on drinking most of the grape juice I use every week.

This article by Ari Z. Zivotofsky (quite a name) entitled "Wine from Havdalah, Women and Beards" examines the issue in some depth. I recommend you read the entire article, though below I've collected some of the more interesting tidbits from the article:

The origin of women not drinking Havdalah wine (among other halachic reasons he explores):

The reason originally mentioned by the Shla6 is that because the
Eitz Hada’at, the tree of knowledge, was a grape vine7 from which
Chava squeezed wine in order to separate from man, a wish she was
granted via dam niddah, menstrual blood, she does not partake of
the havdalah (separation) wine.
Despite the widespread mention in later sources attesting to this
custom, it appears to be a custom of relatively recent vintage [Nice Pun!], with
the first written source being the early 17th century. The lack of a
written source does not preclude the possibility that a custom existed
but is simply not attested to in writing.

On the origin of the hair myth:
 The closest written source I have found is a cryptic remark in
the “hashmatot section” of Sefer Matamim (Rav Yitzchak Lipiyatz,
p. 242 in 5753 reprint, p. 144 in 1891 edition) where he explains
that it is because women do not have beards that they are prohibited
(!) from drinking the havdalah wine. He offers no explanation
for this seemingly bizarre connection. But one could imagine that
such a statement could easily lead others to conclude that if she did
drink it, she would grow a beard. However, despite the inclusion of
this statement in Sefer Matamim (originally published in 1891), it
does not seem to have been a widespread idea, and I have been unable
to find it recorded elsewhere.

A possible theory:

the Gemara asserts that drinking beer causes unwanted hair on females, and it was
girls who drank beer who required the use of the described methods
to remove the unwanted hair.

In Eastern Europe wine was a rarity. The Aruch HaShulchan
(OC 182:1) explains that despite the halachik obligation, they did
not bentch over wine simply because it was very expensive.21 According
to all opinions chamar medina may be used for havdalah
(MB 271:56). Because of the difficulty in obtaining wine, it is possible
that in Eastern Europe beer was the beverage commonly used. 
for havdalah and hence women were advised not to drink it because
beer, not the havdalah beverage, causes unwanted hair. This bubba
meise that was originally based on the specific beverage22 was eventually
ascribed to the ceremony, and the legend evolved that women
drinking the havdalah wine grow unwanted hair

Daily Show on Yesterday's US Elections

Don't miss this gem:

Appoint Mitt Romney As US Ambassador To Israel

Foreign Policy has an interesting list of suggestions, what Mitt Romney should do next:

Another outside-the-box idea for how a second-term Obama administration could make use of Romney. For all the talk of who-threw-whom under the bus, there aren't that many differences between the two men on substantive policy toward Israel. Both favor continuing heavy military aid to the Jewish state, both are committed -- at least in public -- to negotiating a two-state solutionfor the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and both favor a mix of sanctions and negotiations with Iran without ruling out the possibility of military action.
But tone and personal connections do matter in diplomacy. Obama and Netanyahu have had a frosty relationship from the start, while Romney and the Israeli prime minister are old friends who share more than a few allies and donors. Preventing a war in the Middle East in the next four years may require reigning in the hawkish Israeli leader, who looks like a lock for re-election. But such a message might be more effective if delivered by someone Netanyahu trusts.

I actually think this is a superb idea. Israelis both love Romney, and distrust Obama. Appointing Romney as the US Ambassador would in one sweep do much to calm twitchy Israeli nerves about the Obama administration.