Monday, April 30, 2012

Great Israeli News Mistakes

There is currently a thread in, telling of how channel 10 has reported an urban legend - the kidnapping of a girl in Disney World, as fact, and is now trying to hide the fact. However, even more amusing are people who are arguing if this is one of the "greatest" mistakes the Israeli media has produced. Here are some of the other candidates: (btw I have no way of checking if these are true)



Yad Vashem Employee Attacks Israel

In an article about the International Criminal Court, A Yad Vashem Historian had this example of why the ICC was ineffective:

"It is essentially ineffective because the major powers are not members," said Yehuda Bauer, a historian and academic adviser to Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the Holocaust, in Jerusalem. "The whole issue of international law is problematic," he said. "The moment a country decides its interests are contrary to international law, they just ignore it."
He gave as an example Israel's policy of building settlements on occupied Arab land, which is "in so many words contrary to international law."

Read more here:

Really? you are a historian at Yad Vashem, and your one example of why international law isn't effective is the settlements? Syria, Kony, Cambodia, Sudan...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Michael Waltzer Gets It Right

"My Zionism is also a universal statism. I think that everybody who needs a state should have one, not only the Jews but also the Armenians, the Kurds, the Tibetans, the South Sudanese -- and the Palestinians. The modern state is the only effective agency for physical protection, economic management and welfare provision. What the most oppressed and impoverished people in the world today most need is a state of their own, a decent state acting on their behalf. I feel some hostility, therefore, toward people who want to "transcend" the state -- and I am especially hostile toward those who insist that the transcendence has to begin with the Jews."
Michael Walzer:

The State of Righteousness: Liberal Zionists Speak Out

Standing During The Yom Hazikaron Siren

I happened to be near the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem when the Yom Hazikaron siren sounded. I always enjoy seeing how everyone stops what they are doing and stands still. Rechov Azza in Jerusalem is a busy street, and so it was filled with drivers who stopped by the side of the road while the siren sounded. However, two cars did not stop, and received dirty looks. The first was evidently driven by an Arab - so it got dirty looks, but little else. The other car was driven by a Haredi looking woman. This car was not only stared at - a man jumped into the road ahead of it to try and stop it.  The driver had to veer to the right so she wouldn't run him over, she screamed something and continued to drive.

This reminded me of a joke I heard/read a few years ago. In Israel one third of the population stands still during the sirens, The Haredi third purposly keeps walking, and the final third is too busy taking out cameras to photograph the Haredim not standing still.

There is also this hilarious movie "Return Home Safely" by Yehudah Grovis, which humorously tries to show the Haredi feeling of being hounded during the siren. The actual movie starts at 1:50, but I suggest you watch it all!

Monday, April 23, 2012

IDF Donkey Mounted Rockets!

The Israeli State Archive has put on Youtube footage of the first and last IDF parades on Independance Day -

The First IDF Independence Day Parade:
Funnily enough the Jeeps that you see at around 2:10 are still being used by the IDF.  I also especially loved the Donkey- Mounted rockets you can see at around 2:30. Sadly at 3:00 the screen seems to go black.

 The last IDF Independence Day Parade:

 If you look at around 3:40 there is a really cute part where some youth movement is doing the Hora, and then some solo dancing.

Of course this being a religious blog, I can't help but comment that the Women's uniform seems awefully short in 1973...

Tiberias 1913

Just look how full the Kinneret was..

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Comparison: Non Believing Priests

Does this sound familiar?

Now what about religions? They, too, thrive on the goodness of people. For the past few years, Linda LaScola, a clinical social worker, qualitative researcher and psychotherapist, and I have been investigating the curious, sad phenomenon of closeted non-believing clergy - well-meaning, hard-working pastors who find they do not believe the creed of their denomination, but also find that they cannot just blow the whistle and abandon the pulpit. We knew that many churchgoers have lost whatever faith they had but continue their membership for social and psychological reasons, and surmised that there might be clergy who were similarly attached to their church. What is it like to be a non-believing pastor? We found some examples who were willing to tell us, and are now completing a second survey of volunteers.
We want to know, ultimately, how this happens, and how common it is. It is apparently not rare - nobody knows what percentage of clergy fall into this category, not surprisingly. Our first study reported on five pastors in different Protestant denominations, who were interviewed in depth and in strict confidence by LaScola. Because it was published electronically (on the website On Faith) and under the headline "Preachers who are not believers" (Evolutionary Psychology, volume eight, issue one), this first pilot study has received considerable attention and brought us a host of new volunteers for our ongoing research.
There are many paths into this predicament, we find, but a common thread runs through most of them: a certain sort of innocence and a powerful desire, not for social

Some Thoughts About Shlomo Eisner

  • There is simply no way anyone can defend hitting a protester in the face when he isn't acting violently.
  • Yes, there is a differnce between pushing a guy, and hitting him in the face with the butt of your rifle.
  • Why is the Dati-Leumi public rallying around Eisner?
  • Wasn't the Dati-Leumi public the one that was outraged when soldiers were beating Dati-Leumi protesters at Amona?
  • Why wasn't the general public as outraged when soldiers were beating Dati-Leumi protesters at Amona?
  • Why did the story "break" only on Sunday night (the day of the Flytilla), when it happened on Friday?
  • Will Eisner now go the way of Effi Eitam ("break their bones") and become a Dati-Leumi politician?

The Ethics Of Yeshivah Enrollment

I had an interesting conversation on Shabbat with an old acquaintance who now works in Yeshivah targeting  targeting non-Israelis coming for their post Highschool year of learning. The conversation was about the ethics (or lack of) that he is encountering around recruiting students to the yeshiva.  Last year there was a mini scandal as it was revealed that a recruiter for a yeshivah had offered generous bribes to schools that would send his yeshiva students.  Partly as a reaction to this story a group of yeshivot and school principals recently got together to discuss some ethical questions around the yeshiva recruitment process. These are some (but not all) of the topics that were discussed: 

  • From the yeshiva side, there was a call to give all yeshivot an equal chance to address their students. Apparently some schools set dates when yeshivot could come to speak to students. However certain yeshivot were invited to give shiurim to those students - thereby giving another chance to promote their yeshivah.  
  • Additionally there was a call for all yeshivot to announce a single date by which students would have to decide to which yeshiva they wish to go. This was to stop some yeshivot from setting very early cut off dates - thereby forcing the students to decide on their yeshiva before they had heard whether they were accepted to other yeshivot. 
  • In a similar manner - no giving discounts to people who decide by a certain date.
  • There was some discussing what recruiters can tell students about other yeshivot. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Karite, A Rabbi and An Arab Walk Into A Courtroom...

No, this isn't a joke, but an accurate description of a recent court case. (תל"פ 39006-04-11 כהן ואח' נ'/
הרבנות הראשית) (summarized here)  The story is that a Butcher shop in Ramla received a Hechsher from the Karaite movement. The Rabbinate gave them a fine - claiming that they were misleading the Jewish community into thinking the place was  kosher. The butcher shop, and the Karaite movement went to court, where the case was brought before an Arab judge, who accepted their appeal, and claimed that the Karaites were unfairly fined without being given a hearing beforehand, or notification that the Rabbinate had changed its policy.

On appeal, the case was overturned and returned to the lower court for a hearing.

I'll add my two cents - I'm sure both the Karaites and the Rabbinate are right. The Rabbinate is correct that the Hechser from the Karaite movement will mislead Jews, who probably have no idea what a Karaite is. The Karaites are right that the Hechsher isn't really misrepresenting anything. Furthermore, the fact that people are ignorant is not the Karaite's fault.

Only in Israel.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Smallest Penus I Ever Circumcised"

The title of this post was what a famous Israeli Mohel supposedly tweeted today... I'm sure the parents were thrilled to share this information with the rest of the nation. They were probably just as thrilled to read the Ynet article - where the Mohel stressed again and again how small it was...

Monday, April 16, 2012

More Flytilla Abuse of The English Language

Spotted this at LifeInIsrael

Those annoying Hypoerites...

Its sad to say but I'm sure that all those French activists are really shaking their head at Israeli illiteracy.

What is truly embarrassing about the Flytilla

Readers of this blog have hopefully resigned themselves to enjoying quality content while ignoring  my numerous typos and unintentional mangling of the English language. I've been living in Israel for over two thirds of my life, and sadly it shows.

The Government of Israel, clearly feels the same way. It appears that Israel feels that living in a Hebrew speaking country, is sufficient an excuse to produce some toe-turning, jaw dropping, head slapping legal documents.

Would it really have been too much to ask for someone at the Ministry of Interior to ask an English speaker to proof read this document?

What is a Passpot exactly? cant? and please what is the nine tens of april (sic)?


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Some Humor Is Immortal

I learned something reading the Seforim Blog today..those medieval Jews were kind of sexist..

Setting aside the issue of what marror is, another custom related to marror can be found in both printed and manuscript haggadot. In the Prague, 1526, the first illustrated printedhaggadah, there is a picture of a man pointing at his wife with the legend, “there is a custom that a man points to his wife when mentioning marror based upon the verse Ecclesiastes 7:26 “Now I find woman more bitter than death.”

 Yosef Heinemann the scholar of Jewish liturgy was appalled when he came across this. In his autobiography, he claims that there is no basis whatsoever for this “custom.” Heinemann is wrong.[5] If you look at the Brother to the Rylands Haggadah you can see that it shows this custom. As does the Washington Haggadah.

However it seems, that this sexist humor did not go without reply...
Returning to the gesturing at one’s wife at marror, in the Hiluq and Biluq Haggadah this custom takes on a somewhat more humorous dialogue with the wife no longer passive but instead returns the compliment. In that haggadah it includes speech balloons and they record the following: The husband states “touching marror I must recall that this one, too is bitter [as gall].” To which the wife replies, “It is you [my husband] is one of the causes of bitterness as well.” 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What Are Those Bird-Heads Doing?

The Birds Head hagaddah is probably one of the most famous ancient Haggadot. It is described by the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine:

The Birds' Head Haggadah, the oldest surviving Ashkenazi illuminated manuscript (S. German, c. 1300), derives its name from the birdlike human figures illustrated in the manuscript's margins. This motif is apparently related to the biblical (Second Commandment) prohibition against creating graven images. In the Birds' Head Haggadah, discovered by Jewish art historian Bezalel Narkiss in 1946, the realistic human figure is avoided by providing it with the head and beak of a bird, but also by distorting or hiding it — with helmets, bulbous noses, and blank faces.
Some of the pictures are really interesting (even without the birdshead element) - look at this picture for example:

 You can see that women were part of the making team, wore head coverings (though short shirts) and that one of the men is without any head covering. Also they appear to be holding an intrument that looks like a fork - presumably to make holes in the Matzah (forks not being around for a few centuries yet).

People have long speculated about the choice of drawing everyone as Birdheads. In a recent column in the Jewish Review of Books, Michel Stein (Who also just published a book The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination) analyses some of the drawings:

In the Birds' Head Haggadah, almost all adult male Jews, including Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, the Israelite elders, and the leader of the Seder, are depicted as wearing the Judenhut. But there are three instances in which individuals with griffin heads are shown bareheaded. The first two are pictures of Joseph and the Israelite slaves. Rabbinic tradition is very careful to represent Joseph as remaining a tzaddik—a Jewish saint—even while working for Pharaoh. Similarly, the Israelites are understood to have remained uncompromisingly traditional, even while enslaved in Egypt—refusing to change their language, their clothing, or their Hebrew names. Given that the midrash explicitly affirms that the Jews continued to wear their distinctive clothing, the denial of the Jewish hat to these figures seems strange.
In fact, I believe this depiction to be a deliberate critique of the rabbinic tradition growing out of the actual experience of medieval Jews in Ashkenaz. One figure of medieval Jewish life was the Jew who worked in the royal court, or for local princelings, in some capacity. Although these individuals often played a key role in the safety and well being of their communities, their everyday lives at court placed inevitable strains on religious observance, as well as raising suspicions among fellow Jews regarding their true loyalties. I suspect that the image of Joseph and the slaves as Jews without hats is evidence of a real-world skepticism that, rabbinic assurances notwithstanding, Jews could ever have remained fully observant at court.

He continues:
 The third instance of hatless griffin-headed Jews is one I would have missed if it weren't for another one of my children. When he was about 10, my son Misha and I were looking at the elegant 1965 facsimile of the Birds' Head Haggadah. Seeing that Pharaoh and his soldiers, who are shown pursuing the departing Israelites, are depicted with blank human heads, he remarked that "all the mitzrim (Egyptians) have normal faces, and all the Bnei Yisrael (Jews) have birds' faces." Smug, in what I supposed was my superior art-historical expertise, I replied, "Look again, Misha—and this time more carefully—do all the mitzrim really have normal faces? Can you spot the two who don't?" The child did not miss a beat. "Abba," he burst out, "anybody can tell that those guys are Datan and Aviram!" In response to my puzzled look, he explained, "The nogshim (Jewish taskmasters)! See? One of them has a whip and the other has a club, so they have to be Datan and Aviram!"

Epstein takes this point a little far - as a " a recognition on the part of Ashkenazic patrons and their artists that rabbinic tradition might have "protested too much" about the piety of some biblical figures." You could just as easily argue that this is just a way of showing that not all the Jews left Egypt (though they do seem to have weapons - implying that they are part of the army). 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Does Rav Ovadia Have A Facebook Page?

Well, I'm sure Harav Ovadia Yosef aka Gdo'l Hador, and Meran does not have a personal facebook page. However there is a facebook page for Rav Ovadia  with a surprising 10,000+ "likes".  There is also this Facebook page.

I am not surprised by the amount of "likes" he has received. However, I can't but cringe to see an important rabbi turned into a celebrity. The thoughts of "Liking" or not, great torah scholars is somewhat troubling and does not add any honor to the torah world.

I also equally amused to see that the ads on the side claim that the page is sponsored (בחסות) Shelly Yachimovitch and Danny Ayalon. Who knew?

Hat-Tip: Menachem Mendel

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Message From Above?

I liked this photo on the blog Keshel (Failure)

Diamonds Are For Virgins?

This story in The Atlantic has given me pause:

A now-obsolete law called the "Breach of Promise to Marry" once allowed women to sue men for breaking off an engagement. Back then, there was a high premium on women being virgins when they married -- or at least when they got engaged. Surveys from the 1940s show that roughly half of engaged couples reported being intimate before the big day. If the groom-to-be walked out after he and the bride-to-be had sex, that left her in a precarious position. From a social angle, she had been permanently "damaged." From an economic angle, she had lost her market value. So Breach of Promise to Marry was born.
But in the 1930s, states began striking down the "Breach of Promise to Marry" law. By 1945, 16 states representing nearly half of the nation's population had made Breach of Promise a historical relic. At the same time, the diamond engagement ring began its transformation from decorative to de rigueur. Legal scholar Margaret Brinig doesn't think that's a coincidence, and she has the math to prove it. Regressing the percent of people living in states without Breach of Promise against a handful of other variables -- including advertising, per capita income and the price of diamonds -- Brinig found that this legal change was actually the most significant factor in the rise of the diamond engagement ring. 

So did good religious folk start using engagment rings much later? (Leaving aside my assumption that religious people are less likely to have "eaten Matzah on the eve of Pesach")

This also has ramifications for a question that does occaisonly come up:
So, should a jilted bride give back the engagement ring? Today, the answer is often yes. But back when rings first came into vogue, part of the point was that she wouldn't. It was a security against a default on the engagement

Explaining Kitnyot To A Three Year Old

Ahh the joys of Pesach. I'm currently a guest at my parent's in law (A differnt kind of pleasure) who, not being Ashkenazic, enjoy all types of Kitnyot during Pesach. This isn't proving much of a problem, as they are being incredibly thoughtful and careful to satisfy Ashkenazic-Kitnyot-Bias.

 However, how does one explain to a three year old why she can't have any choclate milk, while her cousins can?

Is Israel A Flawed Democracy?

For an academic paper I had to create an index of the state of human rights each in each country. The obvious index is to use Freedom House's index. However there are a few other indexs which are less well known, but just as intersting. One such index is the Economist's Democracy Index - measuring the levels of democracy worldwide.

The economist divides all countries into four categories: Full democracies; Partial democracies; Hybrid regimes and Authoritarian. I was somewhat surprised to learn that Israel ranked as only a partial democracy. However it is in good company - France, Italy and Greece are also only flawed democracies.

What is a flawed democracy?

Flawed democracies: These countries also have free and fair elections and even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties will be respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.

Well, Israel certainly has problems in governance. A look at the breakdown of scores for specific criteria, shows that Israel's "flawed" status is due to a lowish scoring in civil liberties, and mediocre scores at political culture and government functioning.  Sadly the Economist does not give any details of its exact criticism for each country, so I'm still slightly unsure which civil liberties Israel is scoring so badly at.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sharei Mishpat - Shooting Their Students In The Foot?

Kiryat Ono is a Law School in Israel that is popular with the religious community. For a few weeks they have been publishing this ad in all the Shabbat leaflets. However, this ad has really troubled me. Would you hire Ms Ayelet Black, who the ad claims chose her law school because of the "Masrega" - a slang term referring to a group of religious girls who sit all day and knit kippot for boys. I would also say the same about the boy and girl who chose their Law School for the Beit Midrash - and not for academic excellence (which isn't even mentioned anywhere - apparently not being a critieria).

I'm hoping  that the people in this ad are not real students.

Wearing a "Tzniut" Armband

I spent Pessach in Petach Tikva. One of the things I notices were a few of the younger (15) kids in shul were wearing cloth bracelets that said "שמירת העיניים היא השמירה שלי" literally - Keeping my eyes modest is my protection. When I asked one of the kids, he told me that a rabbi in his yeshivah was making them wear the armband, after giving a Tzniut shiur.

I was both amused and somewhat repelled. At age 15, I'm fairly sure these kids really do need a good Tzniut shiur. On the other hand - wearing an armband would seem to be a constant reminder..which may actually backfire. At some point making such a big deal of the issue, serves only to bring it to the forefront of their minds.

I have yet to make up my mind, what I think of these armbands, though I'm sure my own children will not be wearing them at age 15.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Day Of Kippah Nakedness...

I arrived at work today, only to discover that I had no kippah (skullcap-Yamulka) . Asking around the office, the only "Spare" kippah that was found was a large black "American Haredi" velvet kippah. The feeling was very weird - I was incredibly self conscious to be wearing an item of clothing which associated me as a member of a social-religious group to which I don't belong. This is despite the fact that everyone in the office, was aware that this was not my real kippah.

Even funnier, it was the last day at work of the guy who had lent me the kippah. What this meant was that I had to walk home without a kippah. Its roughly a 20 min walk from my work to home. However in those twenty minutes I just kept bumping into people I knew. And everyone I met seemed to immediately look at my uncovered head and wonder why I was no longer wearing a kippah. Two people openly asked and seemed relieved when I explained. The rest, went home to gossip and wonder quietly. Or perhaps they didn't notice anything and I am only projecting....

Worst Hasbara Of The Day Award #3

Ynet does it again, with this oxymoronic subtitle:

Apartheid? Think again
Op-ed: Why is Israel considered racist for seeking to protect itself against hostile, murderous Arabs?Dan Calic
Published: 04.03.12, 00:47 / Israel Opinion
I guess that just writing Terrorists and not sounding racist, was too simple..

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Think Of This Next Time You Laugh About Chad Gadya

Chad Gadya has always struck me (and apparently some others) as quite weird.  In the Chida's responsa חיים שאל at mark #28 we find the following question (as always roughly translated - not a word for word translation):

One who was making fun of Chad Gadya that we say in Ashkenaz on the first night of Hag, and one of the guests jumped up and excommunicated him (Nidduy) - is his Nidduy proper? or did he act improperly and he himself is excommunicated?

Frightfully, the Chida seems to take quite a dim view of this heretic. After explaining how Chad Gadya is said by all of the Gedolim, and how by laughing about it, he is in fact making fun of all of them, the Chida pronounces that not only was the excommunication proper - he should also be fined. 

The Chida finishes by stating that there are many fine explanations for the meaning of Chad Gadya. He even states that some great man (who he doesn't name) has written a book with 10 explanations for Chad Gadya. I would have expected him at this point to share at least one explanation, but alas, he goes on to explain why  Chad Gadya is not diminished by not being recited by the Sefradic Jews. 

H/T: I was looking everywhere for this, and was about to give up. As a final attempt, I sent the question to  of On The Main Line, who managed to find it for me, in no time at all!