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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Demonstration Without Comprehension

The Hareidim*, in Israel as well as the United States apparently, have no understanding of the proposed new law drafting the Ultra-Orthodox into the IDF (Israeli Defense Force). In their thinking, it will mean a cancellation of Torah study and a secularization of their bochurim*. They seem to forget, ignore--or are totally ignorant of--the current system which includes what is know as "Hesder Yeshivot," which combine Yeshiva Torah and Talmud learning with service in the IDF. But that system was for the Dati Leumi - the "National Religious" Israelis, or the "Modern Orthodox." It wasn't for the so-called "Ultra-Orthodox," who learned Torah full-time, excluding army service and even working for a living.

The way it stood until now was that the Hareidim were exempt from military service until the expiration of the Tal Law. This exemption dated back almost to the founding of the State of Israel, when then Defense Minister David Ben Gurion adopted the military draft deferment for full-time Yeshiva students. The reasoning, originally--with a total only of several hundred deferments nation-wide, was to preserve the Torah study that had sustained the continuity of Jewish tradition and the "soul" of the Jewish people over the centuries. This was especially crucial after the Holocaust, which decimated the Yeshivot* and Torah scholars of Europe.
Ben Gurion probably did not envision the increase in the draft-deferred Torah-learning population to be as high as 61,000 by the year 2010.  In 1998, the decision on student deferment of Supreme Court President Aharon Barak was explained thus:
The original reason for the arrangement was the destruction of the yeshivas in Europe during the Holocaust and the wish to prevent the closing of yeshivas in Israel due to their students being drafted to the army. Today this objective no longer exists. The yeshivas are flourishing in Israel, and there is no serious worry that the draft of yeshiva students, according to any arrangement, would bring about the disappearance of this [yeshiva] institution.
This unofficial deferment was signed into law in 2002 and became known as The Tal Law, named after former Justice Tzvi Tal who headed the Tal Commission. This temporary law provided legislated military exemptions for full-time Yeshiva students who studied Torah instead of going into the job force.  The constitutionality of The Tal Law was challenged in 2006, and it expired in July, 2012.

On Sunday, March 2nd, hundreds of thousands of Ultra-Orthodox Jews massed in protest of their draft eligibility in Jerusalem, effectively sealing off the Northern entrance into the city. Many carried placards stating that they would 'never submit to a Knesset* bill which would increase the numbers of Ultra-Orthodox youth serving in the IDF.'  Yet, they live in the state of Israel, receive the benefits of citizenship including government child subsidies.  I have a problem with this: if you live in a country, and reap the benefits of being a citizen of that country, you have to serve your government in some way, either by military or some other national service, as do the religious young women of the Dati-Leumi demographic, who volunteer in hospitals, schools, or work with special-needs children and the like--instead of military service which is mandatory for women as well as men. Most of the Ultra-Orthodox do none of that**.

And then, thousands of the Ultra-Orthodox rallied in Manhattan on Sunday, March the 9th.

Reprinted below is a pointed article by Yori Yanover, a journalist, first published in The Jewish Press before it was summarily removed and he was fired for writing it.  Read it in full, below (with full permission by the author).  And if you are so inclined, like his Facebook page.

By: Yori Yanover Published: March 10th, 2014

                                  Photo Credit: You Tube

They flooded downtown Manhattan with the anti-draft for Haredim message: everybody else is welcome to get themselves killed. What was even more astonishing was their honesty regarding the bankruptcy of their entire school of faith and study. For the record, I believe the new Shaked-Lapid-Bennett draft law is by far worse than the one it came to replace, the Tal Law. Most importantly, because the Tal Law was getting results, without the idiotic, needless, divisive rancor generated by the new legislation. Killing the Tal Law, or, rather, issuing an edict that it had to be replaced by something that worked faster, was the parting poisonous gift of Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, protégé of that beacon of light unto the nations, Chief Justice Aharon (evil genius) Barak.
Since then we’ve seen one demonstration of a few hundred thousand Haredim against the new law in Jerusalem (but not a single day’s work was lost!), and yesterday, in downtown Manhattan, another 50 thousand Haredim marched to condemn the evil decree.I went on the website to check out the rally, because I expected them to bring the authentic stuff. I wasn’t disappointed, even though they just lifted the AP story without attribution: “We’re all united against military service for religious men in Israel because it doesn’t allow for religious learning,” said Peggy Blier, an interior designer from Brooklyn. “The Israeli government is looking to destroy religious society and make the country into a secular melting pot.”
Every single point made by Peggy Blier is a blatant lie. Of course the law allows for religious learning, it merely suggests that at some point—way past the age non-Haredim serve, and for half the time that normal Israelis give freely of their lives—”religious Jews in Israel” should participate in caring for the security of their country, or, if that’s too much, serve the equivalent time in vital organizations inside their own communities for their own neighbors.
That, according to Peggy Blier, is a conspiracy on the part of the Israeli government to destroy religious society.
Shmuel Gruis, 18, a rabbinical student from Phoenix studying at a Long Island yeshiva, said, “These kids, a lot of them don’t know how to hold a gun. They don’t know what physical warfare is.”
Are you kidding me? Have you ever been to a Shabbes demonstration? Those kids can throw a rock at police like born Palestinians.
“Their whole world and their whole lifestyle is peace and love and in doing mitzvahs,” he said.
OK, who can argue with that description of Haredi behavior? I’m sure non-Haredi women walking the streets of Beit Shemesh or boarding the bus in B’nei B’rak would attest to that pure goodness.
Some of the Hebrew prayers were led by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, a spiritual head of the Satmars living in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. If the IDF only enlisted the Satmar folks who ever participated in the clashes with the Satmar followers of the other spiritual head of Satmar, they could forge a most brutal and violent commando unit that would put to shame even the late Lee Marvin’s Dirty Dozen (and those included Telly Savalas and Trini Lopez).
Next Verena Dobnik, the AP reporter giving news content for free to Vosizneias, interviewed Yitz Farkas, a member of the Brooklyn-based True Torah Jews organization (step aside, all you False Torah Jews), who informed her that “The problem is, anyone who goes into the Israeli military becomes secular, and that would erase our whole tradition.”
I always enjoy that one. See, you and I are pretty sure the Haredi costume is just that – a costume, underneath which hides a regular Joe, with desires, even lusts, like you and me. The only thing that keeps Joe Haredi from going apecrackers is not the Torah he has learned and integrated into his personality as a shield against evil—it’s the long bekkesh, the velvet yarmulke and the shterimel. Take those away, and Joe Haredi will become a beast overnight.

That, essentially, is the main argument being advanced by the deans of Haredi yeshivas: We have no trust in the Torah we’ve taught our students. we know better. This is why the only means we have of keeping them in line are extreme social pressure and intimidation. You take those away and Joe will spring the trap and become a normal man, availing himself freely of the gifts of a modern society. We can’t afford that. If we do, as Yitz Farkas put it so eloquently, “that would erase our whole tradition.”

The word Haredim is based on Isaiah 66:5: “Hear the word of God, you that tremble at His word.” The “you that tremble” part in Hebrew is “Haharedim el dvaro.” Meaning that there’s urgency on your part to fulfill His word impeccably. It’s not about fear but about devotion.

But the post-Holocaust Haredi world is all about fear. Fear of new things. Fear of books. Fear of voices. And above all, fear that the education a young man receives during his 20 years in a Haredi yeshiva is worthless, because as soon as he encounters the outside world, those 20 years would vanish, melt away like Cholov Yisroel butter on a skillet.

What an astonishing degree of honesty regarding the bankruptcy of an entire school of faith and study.

You know, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was once asked how come he’s not afraid that his Shluchim, the emissaries he was sending out into the farthest and darkest corners of the Earth wouldn’t be tainted by the unholy stuff that surely awaits them there. He responded by citing the laws of kashering-cleansing a vessel in preparation for Passover: k’bol’o ken polto—the way the vessel absorbed the substance so it would let go of it. Meaning that, had the emissary remained clean in body and spirit during his training years, he has nothing to fear “out there.”

I miss him very much. This year marks the 20th anniversary of his passing, and his absence today is felt more than ever before. He would have devoted a segment of a Shabbat farbrengen to the draft bill, and it would have set the whole thing straight: these guys are right on this and wrong on that and vice versa. now go and behave like dignified yidden and stop attacking one another.

What a strange, low-key ending to a piece that began as an exhilarated attack on Haredi IDF bashing. I guess I got tired of it. We’re not going to change the Haredi leadership’s position, we just have to rejoice in a merciful God who made them, like the rest of us, biodegradable. 

*Hareidim (variant spelling: Haredim, or Charedim): literally, the "trembling" ones, also referred to as "Ultra-Orthodox."
*Bochurim: young men learning Torah/Gemarra in a Torah institute of higher learning, called a Yeshiva or Beis Medrash
*Yeshivot: plural of "Yeshiva," an institute of higher Torah and Gemarra (Oral Law) learning.
*Knesset: the Israeli parliament

**There is a battalion of Hareidi soldiers in the IDF, which was formed in 1999. It originally had a total of 30 men, but by 2009 it had over a thousand.  It was formed to allow these Ultra-Orthodox men to serve in a unit where their religious values and convictions would not be compromised. This battalion is called Netzah Yehuda, or the 'Eternity of Judah.' They are among the bravest of the IDF.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Taking a Hiatus from Posting

To my loyal readers, thank you for continuing to read this blog, even if you do so only occasionally.  There is too much going on with my family now for me to have the peace of mind to write anything of substance.  I constantly read about the hatred of Europe for Israel, the rise of antisemitism world-wide, the genocide and anarchy in African countries, the terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, the upheaval in the Arab countries (so mis-named the "Arab Spring") and the recent government upheaval in Ukraine, just to mention a few world problems. And I also read about the evil perpetrated by some so-called 'religious' Jews (not to mention the evil perpetrated by non-Jews, in movie theatres and malls around the US) and I've grown weary and disheartened.

I can't concentrate enough to research anything, and I have to focus on my own family, who needs me.  Not that I can do anything.

So I probably will not be posting often. This is the first and last post of February, 2014. Tomorrow is March, and Adar II coming as well.  We will see what the new moon brings...

Shabbat shalom. 

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Monday, January 06, 2014

The Stark Murder: Who Was He?

You have probably heard of the notorious New York Post headline on the story of the horrible death of Menahem Stark, "Who Didn't Want Him Dead," which angered the Jewish community at its total insensitivity and accusations (I can think of at least several people: his wife, and his children, for starters).  No matter what he did, what white-collar crimes he might have committed, nothing justifies kidnapping, possibly torturing and murdering someone-nothing!

Here are a couple of perspectives on this tragedy. He is alleged to have been a slum landlord who didn't maintain his buildings nor care about his tenants. He also was a pillar of his Satmar Hassidic community, giving tzedakah (charity) freely and helping others.  Who was Menachem Stark? How should his death be viewed? How should his life...?

I am ashamed of his behavior, if what is said about him is true. He was not living what a Jewish life is supposed to be, no matter what 'sect' he belonged to.  But I am horrified at his death. Here is a fairly balanced story in The New York Times (not a paper I generally read because of its left-wing leanings), and in the Jewish Daily Forward, Jay Michaelson's take on judging Stark as a Jew, in life as well in death. From the Forward article:

Stark’s unethical behavior toward goyim, and the Haredi community’s dismissal of it, both reflect that community’s insider/outsider, us/them dichotomy that this newspaper has reported on countless times. Of course, not every Haredi person believes that goyim have no souls, or that it’s only permissible to save the life of a non-Jew on the Sabbath if another non-Jew is watching, or that it’s better to let a child molester abuse again rather than inform the secular authorities. But many do.

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Gratitude is a Virtue

Thank you to Paula for posting this short-but-so-important post.  Who helped the United States after Hurricane Sandy and the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma? Guess (hint: the world's scapegoat).

My mother always taught me that it is not only proper - but it is also never to late to say thank you to someone who has helped you. I got this email - I've seen it before, but then I thought to share it because what I assume is public knowledge, often isn't.
Read on, here....

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Breaking Down Barriers

My last post was definitely Pat Condell overload. I needed to get the venom out of my system, and he expressed it beautifully.

Tonight I am in a different mood, more loving, wanting to connect with people--and thanks to my friend K.S. on Facebook (and real life), I found this: a photographer bringing complete strangers in close proximity, as if they've known each other for years.  And because of this closeness and touching, something changes; a barrier is breached, a connection is made.  Maybe this is what humanity needs, to not be afraid to touch another human being, to connect with them. Maybe, just maybe, many of the problems we have today--alienated, angry people who hate--are due to lack of connecting emotionally, lack of love; creating a macro-sized attachment disorder.  Take a look; it was posted on UpWorthy.

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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Something For Everybody

Whatever your religion-Christian, Jewish or Muslim--or lack of, here's a kind word for everybody.  What would I do without Pat Condell to so eloquently express my rage?  (And the last one has special personal meaning for me).

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For 2014: Depression, Reality, and Positive Thinking

I searched for this report on NPR but couldn't find it. What's the reference? This morning--at least, I think it was this morning (I had one glass of wine last night), I heard on Morning Edition (at least, I think it was on Morning Edition. Same reason as above) to which I awaken every morning-because music would send me back to sleep-a very interesting report through my sleepy stupor.  It questioned the premise that positive thinking is best for a good life. Yes, you read that right.  It questioned whether people who are 'glass half full' people really see reality.  It questioned the premise that people who tend to be depressed, are not living in the real world.
 You know how psychological gurus, preachers,Chassidic and other spiritual leaders always emphasize the positive? They tell you to 'think positively,' 'don't be negative,' or 'depression is a sin?'  The question was asked, who is in touch with reality more, sad and depressed people, or happy/positive people?

Well, it turns out that scientists discovered that people who are depressed are seeing the real world more truthfully than people who are everything-is-coming-up-roses do. That really hit a chord with me.

I read the news about natural disasters, many caused by immense climate change due to human trashing of the environment, terrorism world-wide, the rise of antisemitism globally, the vilification of Israel no matter what it does, as well as blaming it for the Arab-Israel conflict, the mass shootings of children in schools and of people in general in U.S. malls, personal problems in one's own family, etc.- how can one not be depressed?

Then there are those people whose chemical makeup is different; they look at everything as if it is all for the good; that it's from a "Higher Power", and thus meant to be.  That we have no control over these events in the world, just over ourselves, and we need to act accordingly to better it, at least, our little corner of it.  I wish I could be like that.  But I'm not.  My makeup is different.  I see the evil, the rot, the pain in the micro and macro, and I feel as if the world is heading for the end. That's it.

True, the report did say that happy-go-lucky people, when faced with an important decision, a serious choice to make, do okay if they step out of their la-la land and face reality for the time it takes for them to make the correct decision, whether it be about a partner in life, a job, a business venture--whatever.  If they face reality, e.g., their personal abilities, for that period of time, then they can make the right choice.  But what struck me was that for the most part, it is the depressed people who are seeing the world the way it really is. It reminds me of the movie The Matrix, which depicted exactly that: human beings were living in a fake reality. The real world (which they were prevented from seeing) was that they were not in control at all, and were subjects of an evil force.

I used to blog about goodness, and being positive, and the importance of faith--as well as about the bad stuff going on in the world.  I'm at the point where the bad stuff has overshadowed everything. Here's only one small example: Kerry going back to the Middle East to get Israel to make ridiculous concessions and 'stop the settlements' and other garbage to advance the 'peace talks' while the Arabs continue lobbing rockets into Israel and their snipers continue murdering people and their radical youth continue hurling death-rocks at Israelis in their cars and their manifesto still does not recognize Israel as a Jewish State and their pre-schoolers are being educated to murder Jews and be martyrs?

Wait, I got another one: how about we Jews? What is it about those so-called Ultra-Ortrhodox (Hareidim) who sexually abuse boys in their classes or whom they mentor, who defraud the government, or who verbally, emotionally, mentally and even physically attack women and girls for not being 'modest' enough to their standards? I'm not allowed to say anything negative about us, am I? In case you are not aware, the title of this group, "Hareidim," means "G-d fearing." Now, many say it's only a small group of radicals (I guess Islamists aren't' the only crazies. The difference is, our radicals target our own). But the Hareidi leaders look the other way. Nobody wants to get out there and publicly condemn the actions perpetrated by the fanatic element among them.

Folks, something has gone very, very wrong.  It's insanity on wheels.We're on the slippery slope to oblivion.

And I think that in this light, "mitzvah gedola le-hiyot be-simcha" type people are living in a fake world.  And those who grovel at the feet of the Diversity god (read: all cultures being equal; see Arab murderers, above), should listen once in a while to Pat Condell. Happy 2014.

*mitzvah gedolah le-hiyot be-simcha: 'it's a great commandment/good deed to be happy [at all times].'

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Post of the Year, and Some Memories...

It's funny. Just before the real New Year starts - the real New Year for me being Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year - we're not in the habit of going around joking with our friends, saying: 'ok, I'll talk to you next year.' We say this just to be 'cute,' as if it's going to be a whole year before we speak to them again, when we know we're going to in two days, or a week.  Just the number of the year will have changed.

It's an excuse to party, to go out with friends or family and do something, anything--often something crazy, that we'll regret in the morning, as they say. On New Year's when I was a child, I'd go upstairs to my "best friend's" apartment, directly above ours (my best friend was an Episcopalian girl named Laura. We used to communicate by banging out various codes on the heater pipe in the bathroom). There we'd eat snacks and drink sodas, play games, and wait until the stroke of midnight, when we'd wear party hats and blow party blowers, scream out the window while banging on pots and pans with metal utensils. My family didn't do anything, and I was a very lonely little girl. I thought the way my friend and I celebrated it was fun.

New Year's is an excuse to get drunk (I actually had a glass of red wine about half an hour ago, and it was very nice. Don't worry. I made a brachah.).
I wanted another glass of wine just a bit ago, but I don't know how to open the bottle, and Kesser just doesn't make it for anything but kiddush, so I didn't have my second.  The last of the great drinkers, am I...

I decided to stay home tonight, and watch a movie in bed, under warm blankets-my favorite method of watching movies. There's something very cozy about it; it brings back a feeling of home, my parents, security.Maybe before I settle in, I'll break down, go downstairs and rummage around for the wine opener and figure out how to open the bottle without spilling its contents all over the table and floor--and have my second glass...

Actually, now that I think about it, we do say something as the Jewish New Year approaches.  We say "ktivah ve-hatimah tovah," may you be written and sealed for a good year. We also say 'this is the last Shabbat of the year'.  It has much more depth and meaning then this superficial celebration tonight, which is probably pagan in origin, anyway. I'm not bothering to look it up. You can, if you want to.

I also remember that for many years, it took me months to remember to write the correct date! For months after, say, 1995, I kept writing 1994.  It went that way year after year.  But with my arthritis getting worse in my hands, the year "2013" was hard to write because of the '3'. This year should be easier, it's got a 4.

I also never make resolutions. Why bother? First of all, as I mentioned above, the year begins for me in September/October, on the 1st of the Jewish month of Tishre. If I make any resolutions, it would be then. And isn't it more logical to have a New Year at the beginning of fall, rather than dead in the middle of winter? Makes no sense.  The beginning of the school year should be the beginning of the new year, and it is, in Judaism.
But if you're looking for resolutions, here is an interesting set of them I found in the Jewish Journal.
Happy New Year.

In Auckland, New Zealand, it's already 2014 (see? I remembered the right date!). So why don't you climb under the covers with a glass of wine, and enjoy the video of the first major city in the world to bring it in with fireworks?

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Long Time No Post...World Going to H. in a HandBasket

This is my first post in the month of December. I haven't had the energy to sit down, research stories which interest me, and write. I've also not been in the best of moods. Too much stress, personal, and global.

Besides, everybody else wrote about the incredible snowstorm-of-the-century and thunderstorms in Israel, so there is nothing I could write that's new; except for how my daughter in Tel Aviv wheeled herself to the mirpa'ah over a kilometer away from her apartment in freezing pouring rain in a hailstorm, over many inaccessible sidewalks and broken 'wheelchair ramps,' covered almost head to toe (thank G-d-because without, she could not have done it) in the excellent raingear she bought at REI here in Denver when she last visited-how smart! Why was she wheeling herself in her wheelchair in dangerous weather? Because she couldn't afford a taxi.

In other matters, our 'partners for peace' children play 'Behead the Enemy' games (hat tip Atlas Shrugs),

...Meanwhile, Iran continues to deny the Holocaust, (thank you, Memri, for attempting to inform the rest of the world; who still doesn't care.)...

...And Syria is murdering its own citizens including women and children, and creates a refugee outflow which is unprecedented...

...And children-13 years old-are fighting for the Rebels against the Syrian government.  One side is no better than the next.

...And the great peacemaker Kerry is returning to the Middle East (as I read on NBC, to "Israel and Palestine." As if 'Palestine' is already a recognized country...)

...And the American Studies Association joins the Boycott Israel movement...truly idiotic. At least some senators want to hit those universities complying with the ASA where it hurts: in their pocketbook.

...And the whole world is up in arms against Israel building "settlements," in "East Jerusalem." That, of course, being the obstacle to peace, right?

But so-called 'East Jerusalem' was Jewish. Until 1948, when that part of the city was captured by Jordan until 1967, when the Jews won it back after the 6 Day War.  CAMERA gives us a little history to set the record straight.

It's enough. I'm burnt out. Going to bed and watch an episode of "Hoarders" on Netflix. At least, I'll feel good about my house.

Lailah tov.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Arik Einstein, Israel's Great Musician, Passes Away

I am sitting here crying...Arik Einstein, the legendary Israeli musician, passed away tonight, Tuesday, November 26th, 23 Kislev, at Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, from a ruptured aneurysm. I am still in shock. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said this about him, emphasis mine:

“Arik was the greatest of them all,” Netanyahu said. “We all grew up on his songs. You said, ‘Arik Einstein,’ and you said, ‘the Land of Israel.’ He was a wonderful singer and a wonderful person.”
You said, 'Arik Einstein,' and you said 'the Land of Israel.' There are no words. May his memory be for a blessing...

This song was written by Aviv Gefen in memory of a friend who was killed, intended for Arik Einstein to sing. It is now his own goodbye...

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