Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Is it all about to tumble down?

These latest prisoner releases have truly been boggling my mind. With previous releases we got something tangible in return such as the return of captured soldiers, or at least their bodies so we could honor them with a proper Jewish burial. Yet these current ones are beyond nonsensical. What are we getting in return? The ability for backstabbing Tzippi Livni to engage in behind closed doors discussions where they won't let the public have one inkling of what is actually on the table (what exactly are they offering that they are so afraid of us to know about?) with no guarantee that the talks will even complete their 9 month timeline much less garner any actual results. Yet if Abbas gives the word to pack up and go home those prisoners won't be returning to prison (at least until they get caught in their next act of terror). And while he gets to send his negotiating team home, the murdered Jews certainly won't be going home.

In previous prisoner releases, when there was at least a reciprocation of something from the other side, however negligible, those who orchestrated the release had something to defend their decision. One might say that over a thousand terrorists, many of them murderers, was a bit high a price to pay for the return of one soldier. Whether right or wrong, at the very least the other side could counter with the guilty accusation of, "Don't you want Shalit back? What if G-d forbid it was your son?" Yet what can they counter with now? "What, don't you want Tzippi to be able to negotiate the abandonment of our land, security and Jerusalem itself? What if it was your peacemaking credentials at stake?" Sounds absurd, yes? Yet the response they hurl back isn't really much more logical - something to the effect of, "The ruling powers that be in the government have made their decision and publicly challenging it is irresponsible." Really? REALLY? Yet somehow releasing unrepentant murderers onto the street for nothing in return when history shows they will most likely attempt to murder again is somehow responsible? But hey - thank heavens at least they didn't declare the questioning of their logic and morality as anti-Democratic. The more this story goes on the more one feels they went to sleep and woke up in Bizarro World.

Now a very sharp and poignant protest of posting signs on soldiers graves claiming their deaths were in vain due to current prisoner releases is being described as "shameful," an "act of cowardice," and "having crossed the line." Ummm... hello? Are we to insinuate that putting murderers back onto the street to murder even more innocent Jews for no reason whatsoever is by comparison prideful, brave and well within the lines of acceptable decision making? I'm not one to condone using Jewish graves to make a point however right it may be, but I would like to ask those who are decrying it if they protested as loudly (or at all) against the thing that brought about this act in the first place? With all your concern for the dead where is your concern for the living whom they sacrificed their lives to defend?

I forget where I heard it from, but I remember hearing years ago that at the end of times the lies and untruths of the world will become so abundant and ridiculous that one won't need to do great searching to arrive at the truth - the truth will become self evident by virtue of the fact the lie has grown far too large and unbelievable to ever be substantiated. That description certainly has a familiar ring to it now doesn't it? And as the lies become more blatantly untrue the leftitst establishment that perpetuates them goes into ever greater hysterics in order to keep their power hold on the pathetic life-support it now finds itself. The image that comes to my mind is that game we used to play as kids - Jenga. What starts out as a solid tower of filled in blocks starts to grow higher and higher. However in order to continue increasing the height you have to keep taking from the blocks beneath - thus making the foundation supporting your higher levels evermore shaky. The whole point of the game is to not be the player who takes that one piece, just the right one, which pulls out the last meager support and sends the whole thing crashing down. And the more outrageous and illogical their defenses become, the more I feel the Tzippi Livni's of the world are sweating bullets as they look tensely at each other and silently wonder who will be the one to take out that final block.

Thus the fanatical opposition to common sense. Every sane-minded question becomes a sharp reality check that sends this sickening Tower of Pisa swinging and risks ending the whole charade. Therefore it can not be tolerated at any cost. But their efforts are in vain. I wonder if even they realize somewhere deep down the futility of their cause and are just to proud to admit it... or are they really just that delusional? Either way, the truth has a hard time allowing itself to be ignored forever. Eventually that one reality check will come that knocks over the whole thing as we know from history. For what is G-d's way of sending a reality check? The cry of the shofar. And once Yericho had totally rotted and gone past the limits of what Hashem had allowed for human behavior, Am Yisrael didn't need battering rams or catapults. All they needed to do was circle the city, blow the shofar and the walls collapsed on their own.

Perhaps that has something to do with the fact the current amount of murderers being released is 26 - the same as Hashem's name? May we be zoche to such a revelation of the truth soon - before things get much worse.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rav Ovadia's Passing - What is a Tzaddik?

Baruch Dayan Ha-emet.

I was zoche to be part of the Rav's levaya last night, even to touch the van for a minute or so, and it was truly amazing to see Yerushalayim in such a state. Walking from Ramot, I saw the Golda Meir turned into a virtual 2-3 lane parking lot as the masses (of up to one million according to several reports) made their way to say good bye to Maran. Tzomet Bar Illan was a complete ocean of kippot and hats. Looking back on it I think of big funerals for state leaders with all their pomp. There were no fancy vehicles here, no soldiers in full regalia and a ceremonial firing of their rifles. The pomp was simply the throngs of people who loved the Rav... from talmidei chachamim on down to every day shop keepers pushing in for their chance to accompany him one last time.

Many thanks to my wife for giving me a heads up to this link from the Daily Mail with some very beautiful pictures from the levaya and around Yerushalayim (be careful viewing as several of the rotating links at the bottom of the page have some fairly untznius pictures). Yet as beautiful as some of the images captured are, the talkbacks are just powerfully ugly. The more benign amongst them responded to the grieving quotes of, "Who will lead us now?" with comments such as, "Why don't you think for yourselves?" The more blunt ones personally attached the Rav with names such as "bigot" "medieval extremist" and numerous others I'm too sickened to even post here.

My wife and I were discussing the incredible difference between Am Yisrael and these talkbackers. They honest to goodness have no inkling whatsoever of the concept of a tzaddik. Beyond the esoteric connotations the Torah ascribes to the term tzaddik, they simply put can not understand the concept of a holy person. They laud being an individual and thinking for one's self, assuming such ideals preclude acknowledging the superior knowledge of one more learned and experienced. When most people are G-d forbid ill, they have no problem seeking the advice of top medical professionals. And nobody has a problem getting on a metal tube with wings and being shot through the air like a rocket thousands of miles simply because the airplane pilot or some engineer at Boeing assured them that according to physics it was perfectly safe and reliable. And there is nothing wrong with these things - because lacking the ability be become an expert in all walks of life, it is only common sense that for most things a person will trust acknowledged experts in a given field. So if it's common sense for all other areas of life, why wouldn't it be common sense for the realm of religion as well? If one seeks advice and guidance for the passing issues of this physical world, shouldn't it be all the more important to seek it for spiritual matters of the eternal world? Perhaps one could counter that it's not possible to differentiate between those who really posses the truth and mere charlatans. However the Jewish people proved themselves quite able distinguish one of those types pretty well about 2,000 years ago - a fact several of the talkbackers explicitly still harbor sore feelings over.

As far as those who outright insulted and attacked Rav Ovadia as well as the hundreds of thousands who saw fit to honor him, it seems their problem isn't with him as much as with G-d Himself. In this very week's parsha, when Lot separates from Avram Rashi comments that he said to himself, "I don't want anything to do with either Avram OR his G-d!" One might have thought they simply had a difference of opinion/lifestyle, yet it was specifically G-d and Avram's association with Him that drove Lot away. Lot made the same mistake that is all too prevalent in this day and age of divorcing morality from G-d. He admittedly wasn't interested in being religious, but he reasoned that his own intellect and desire to be a good person would prevent him from leading an evil lifestyle. Though his shepherds committed outright theft by letting the flocks graze on private fields they reasoned that he was one day destined to have possession of those fields anyway so what does it matter in the grand scheme of things of they just use them now? Though he chose to live with the wicked residents of Sodom, he thought nothing of it as by comparison to actual evil people he "wasn't that bad." Indeed, compared to his neighbors who went around committing homosexual gang rape he was such a good guy that they appointed him chief justice of the city. Yet just as his intellectual based system of morality (instead of a G-d based one) allowed him to rationalize away theft, it eventually progressed until he reached the depths of filth. As Rashi elucidates, upon waking up from a drunken stupor and realizing he had slept with his own daughter the night before, he allowed himself to get just as drunk the following night and sleep with his other daughter. Of course anyone with a shred of decency would be disgusted by the thought of sleeping with their own child and certainly Lot was no exception. Yet if he were to make himself drunk to a point of being beyond full control of his mental faculties, he would be able to allow himself the perverted pleasure without the accompanying guilt trip. I'm sure he told himself that, after all, he was too drunk to know the difference so who could blame him? Yet he knew very well what he was doing an purposefully allowed himself to get that intoxicated solely so he wouldn't have to feel as bad about it after the deed.

Without fail rationalizations will be abound with somebody who feels they can achieve morality without G-d. Any wrongdoing is simply brushed aside with answers such as, "that's not really a big deal - don't be so extreme!" "times have changed" or, "I'm only human what can you expect?" However without a higher power holding one accountable to an objective standard, a person's own subjective morality will allow room to rationalize away the most despicable acts as soon as their base desires get the best of them. The bottom line is that some folks just don't want to do what G-d asks of them in life, so they convince themselves that He is either, G-d forbid, not there or is but decided to create this whole awesome universe with all it's wonders and then suddenly lost interest and could no longer care less what happens to its inhabitants. Yet while they may desire to conveniently paint G-d out of the picture something throws a monkey wrench into their operation. That is the tzaddikim - who make it their sole purpose in life to attach themselves to G-d and bring awareness of Him and adherence to His will about in this world. The true reason that people hate the tzaddikim is that they remind them of a G-d they wish wasn't there and force them to acknowledge a Creator they wish they could forget.

I've seen the effects of the ravages brought upon a wholesome and unassuming Sefardi population when they were brought into the welcoming arms of a deceitful Eastern European socialist utopia hell-bent on ripping away every shred of their Torah and their heritage. To those unfamiliar with this part of history which still has reaching effects in Israeli society today, it's hard to appreciate what a revolution Rav Ovadia brought about in this country. One of my gemara rebbe's who, while Ashkenazi, was an ardent admirer of the Rav put it quite simply - "He made it chashuv to be Sefardi." Besides the obvious levels of greatness in Torah which he achieved - levels which practically nobody left in this generation can match and which basically nobody could hope to replace, he also achieved greatness in his love of his brothers. Like we await Mashiach to do to the entire Jewish nation, he took a downtrodden and shamed people and spent his life helping restore in them a reason for pride and self worth. Those who would choose to ridicule such a man wouldn't recognize a holy person if he spit in their face. Nay, they themselves are truly spitting in the face of G-d who sent us such a special individual.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Will the Honeymoon be Over?

If one seeks a sharp and insightful analysis of human nature vis-a-vis oppression and society at large, I would highly recommend Rav Binyamin Zev Kahane's Pesach Haggada of the Jewish Idea. One of the many gems found there is a thought (I believe in the name of his father ZT"L HY"D) on Pesach Matzah Maror. He discusses how extreme economic hardships can ferment hatred of "the other" in an otherwise civil society saying that once a people have become accustomed to the luxury of eating bread (Matzah) and meat (Pesach), should there be a sudden turn of fortunes they will do anything possible to avoid returning to having to eat the bitter Maror of how life was before things became so good. Should things become desperate enough they will willingly give themselves over to a leader who they aren't guaranteed can even improve things if he is convincing enough and can prove to them that the stem of their problems is "those people" and that "if we can only take care of them things will be good again."

The recent lobbying assault by AIPAC in favor of an American attack on Syria has left me scratching my head even more than I previously was trying to figure out why Obama himself wanted to do such a thing. Multiple major news outlets have predicted that if AIPAC were to not sway enough hearts and minds, their credibility would be historically lessened. So they seem to have what to lose. Yet if they were successful in this venture, they would contributing to fanning the flames in a conflict that could, G-d forbid, very quickly turn dangerous for Israel (whom their entire purpose is supposedly to stand for and help) so it's not entirely clear what they have to gain. Yet win or lose, the very fact they have jumped into the fray automatically taints the whole issue with a Jewish/Israeli slant when in reality it has nothing to do with us. And when we're talking about a conflict that even the simplest of observers can see has no pretty resolution for America and could very well end up costing it quite a bit (and not just monetarily) I wonder to myself why on earth you would want to give the public a reason to believe it's Israel's interests that got them involved in this mess in the first place.

Now Drudge is featuring headlines such as this and this about the latest Snowden leaks revealing that Israel is privy to all that data the NSA is gathering, quite often on American citizens (which Israel is bound by the "honesty policy" not to take advantage of). A quick perusal of the talkbacks show quite a few people that are less than please with this revelation. One my argue that many or most of those people posting are just anti-Semites regardless. Yet the tone of quite a few of them is not so blatantly anti-Semetic but truly feeling upset, or even betrayed. It's a tone of people with no default negative Jewish or Israeli bias, but just ordinary people who have become very frustrated.

And you know what? If I was your average American I'd be pretty frustrated too. I know I certainly wouldn't be thrilled about my president wasting vast amounts of my tax money and risking the lives of my soldiers in a cause that had no obvious benefit to my country whatsoever, and smacked of what I perceived as a favor for Israel. I know I would be plenty angry that every time I wanted to type something into my Gmail I'd have to look over my digital shoulder lest some stranger across the ocean in Ramat Gan become privy to details of my life meant only for friends and family. Even if I was somewhat pro-Israel myself I imagine I'd start rethinking my position on things a little. Even one's closest friend would have some explaining to do if he was busted flirting with his wife.

Conventional wisdom has been for a long time that America, or at least the American public was firmly behind Israel through thick and thin... yet it looks like a lot of rules in the game of life have changing these days.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

All that chest beating must make one's arms tired

One of the greatest pointers I learned from parenting books was that when disciplining, don't make a threat to the child you don't intend or have the capability of following through on. Though one's initial logic might dictate that making the price tag on an undesirable behavior exceedingly high should scare the child off from doing it, if they take the chance and do it anyway you end up a double loser. First of all the behavior you were trying to avoid happened anyway, and secondly (and more importantly) your future authority has now been undermined as the child now has reason to believe that just as this threat ended up being empty so too other ones you make might be as well.

As it turns out, sometimes the rules of the game for little people are equally applicable to big people too. It seems Obama got himself into quite a pickle a while back when he first threatened that Assad's use of chemical weapons would merit American intervention and punishment. Now why on earth America would ever be interested in getting involved in the whole Syrian mess is completely beyond me. Could the motivation to take sides be solely to be on the opposite side of Russia? Though not impossible it's such a sorry excuse to risk a war that I would hope it's not true. Is it to counter one of Iran's staunchest allies in the region and therefore Iran itself by extension? Could be. But if Obama really intended on confronting Iran why not just go for them directly? And if he doesn't truly intend on confronting them, what's the use of getting involved with Syria simply due to the Iranian factor in the first place? Or perhaps it was simply out of the altruistic desire to protect innocents from the horrors of a death induced by chemical warfare? Yet as scary as such a scenario may be, many bloggers and even a few less mainstream media outlets have raised the valid question of why a given amount of people dying from nerve gas is a travesty requiring intervention but the murder of upwards of 100,000 people by "conventional" means is not? Would it not have been sufficient for the president to public state that he deplores the violence and the suffering of the innocents but that it's not America's place to get involved and he's leaving it up to the international community bodies such as the UN to resolve? Such a policy certainly got a free pass concerning Darfur.

Yet, whatever the reason President Obama felt it was appropriate to threaten US involvement, he had his reason and he did it. At least he thinks he had an appropriate reason. Please G-d - I seriously hope he though he had a appropriate reason. Regardless, whatever the reason (or lack thereof), now the president finds himself in the situation of the parent who has put out the threat to his child he didn't want to carry out. He seems to have committed himself to a ridiculous conundrum of choosing sides between a murderous dictator on the one hand and Al Qaeda on the other. Aside from the distastefulness of that in and of it's own right, I wonder if the old adage of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" even holds water in this case? Both the Syrian government and Al Qaeda seem equally hostile to America. In fact, given that Assad has never sent passenger jets crashing into the World Trade Center, perhaps logic would dictate Obama would be better served taking his side!

Yet if America takes no action at all, it lives up to any paper tiger accusations thrown at it and future threats hold much less water. Even more than that, if the reason Obama holds back on action shows to be that his previous threats were too hasty and not thought through, it would call into question all of his other foreign policy past present and future. So at the risk of otherwise looking like a fool, he is called into action if for nothing other than to protect his own image. And this perhaps is the most ridiculous aspect of the entire equation. I once heard a shiur by Rav Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld quoting the sefer Lekutei Halachot that kings and leaders of countries who choose to make war against each other are held accountable for every drop of blood spilled from every soldier and civilian casualty. However immoral their rationale may be, at least Assad and Al Qaeda's actions can be justified according to their own particular interests - the former being to hold on to his seat of power and the latter being to spread their ideological cause. However the only motivation Obama seems to be driven by is one of frustration upon finding that not all Middle Eastern leaders cave to his demands as easily as Bibi Netanyahu.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Israeli - Arab Peace Negotiations - Israel Tachlis Style

With the looming threats of pointless and untimely negotiations between Bibi and Abbas (whom none ever expected to work in the first place) getting derailed before they even begin, how about seeing some honest debating on the REAL issues with fair representation from both sides? I'd like to acknowledge Ari Louis, founder and director of Israel Sports Radio (and good friend of Israel Tachlis), with a blast from the past of his former American television show "Louis Live" where he invites some distinguished guests to delve into the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict. Enjoy....

Friday, August 9, 2013

It's a bird! No wait it's a plane! No wait it's Bibi! No wait... who is it again?

To put it extremely lightly, you couldn't call me Bibi's biggest fan. Though G-d has blessed him with intelligence, experience, and American English that would rival any oleh chadash it always seems to get washed down the drain of wretched policy. Flying back and forth between right and left more often than a ping pong ball, there is only one true constant in his decision making - he will do whatever it takes to make sure that it is his tuckus occupying the chair in the PM's office.

Like most others, the recent decision on the prisoner release infuriated me. But maybe more than others, I was already infuriated the week before the decision as I knew deep down that it would go through. How? Because when Bibi wants something he can pull the strings to get it. Just last year I watched in disbelief as the cabinet approved making Ulpana in Beit El Judenrein, including supposedly religious MK's not lifting a finger to stop it for cowering fear of losing their seats at the table. Aside from the absolute ridiculous injustice of the case, both from a moral and legal aspect, it showed me just how skillful Bibi is at manipulating the government to have his way. And though HE HIMSELF of all people declared before the neighborhood was even built that it would never be evacuated, apparently not even Bibi is able to stop Bibi. Had I possessed the money and resources at the time of the past election, I would have liked to have posted pictures of good Jews from Beit El being unjustly kicked out of their homes next to all those nonsensical billboards of Bibi in front of the Kotel proclaiming what a strong prime minister he was. Though, perhaps, recent as it may have been maybe people wouldn't have really gotten the point. Maybe a PR campaign reminding everyone who gave away Hevron would have been a little more poignant eh?

Yet just when I'm ready to throw in the towel and resign to label Bibi in my mind as complete and total rat, all of a sudden something right wing comes out of left field. Reading today of his refusal to sign further agreements with the EU over their recent policy decisions regarding entities in Yehuda and Shomron I almost felt proud of the old boy. Though it certainly took long enough, one would almost think Bibi took the diapers off and moved on to pull-ups. Additionally, I must give credit where credit is due. Building a new border fence in the south and the speed with which it has been progressing is something I commend whole heatedly as well.

So I don't really know what to make of Bibi these days. Is he a sellout leftist wolf in right winged sheep's clothing? Is he a misguided but well intentioned proud Jew and lover of the land of Israel? Is he simply just the opportunist he often seems to be who will whore himself out to whichever side of the political aisle best currently suits his needs? As Jeremy Man Saltan said in a great recent interview on the Yishai Fleisher Show, it seems that only Bibi and G-d really know what Bibi is actually thinking. Though I myself wonder G-d is actually the only one of those two who knows. I myself know one thing for sure - and that's who my choice would be for the next Likud primaries if I were to vote in them. I'd personally do a write in for a dashing young fellow by the name of Ben Nitay...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Germany - Apparently Some Countries Never Change

Photo: Stuttgarter Zeitung

To anyone who would like to argue that the above image is a purely political statement with no inherent anti-Semitism riddle me this - do you honestly think Bibi's nose is that large?? Come on folks.

My mother has some interesting mixed heritage. Her own mother was a Jewish girl from Odessa. Unfortunately she left the Ukraine to intermarry with my maternal grandfather who was half German and half Baluki (from the Balukistan region, part of modern day Pakistan... yeah, don't ask). While I never met my German great grandmother and know next to nothing about her, what I do remember is the few stories my mother told me about the suffering her own mother went through at the hands of her mother-in-law. While I'm not aware that she was blatantly anti-Semitic, she did used to have a great joy at teasing and mocking her Jewish daughter-in-law and being an overall cruel bully. I myself had a close non-Jewish friend once of German heritage who, while he was an all around good guy, had a strange air of cruelty I remember picking up on. Whether it was wrestling with buddies for fun or getting in serious fights while drunk at a party or the like he got a real kick out of physically overpowering people and submitting them to him. It always struck me as strange that it didn't seem to be an ego thing so much as him really just enjoying watching other people suffering in physical pain. It certainly doesn't take much of stretch of the imagination to see why conventional wisdom holds Germany, at least in the previous generation, was the most recent incarnation of Amalek. If Amalek is the exact spiritual opposite of Am Yisrael than it would make sense for a nation embodying cruelty to be the opposite of "rachmanim bnei rachmanim."

There is a story in the Gemara in which a rabbi was speaking to non-Jewish government official or military officer of some sort (I forget the exact details but I believe he was a Roman). The rav told him that he was aware of a major dilemma his nation was contemplating to which the non-Jew expressed doubt. The rav continued, "You all wish to destroy us (the Jewish people) but practically speaking you can't . While you control a large part of the world there are still areas of the world in which Jews live that aren't under your control. So even if you were to kill off every Jew under your dominion you wouldn't have completely wiped out every Jew in the world. And in the meantime, while not completely achieving your objective, you would have to suffer the criticism of the world for being cruel murders and killing off all the Jews of your lands for no reason." Surprised, the non-Jew swore by the name of his avoda zara that what the rav had just stated was precisely what they had been contemplating and he was highly impressed with the rav's keen insight.

The first time I ever heard this story was from a very learned friend who made the shrewd point that Germany is an absolute modern day incarnation of this piece from Chazal. When you simply mention the word "Germany" many things may come to mind. Talented engineering including the some of the best designed cars in the world, opera, chocolate, beer, etc. However... despite all the many associations that are conjured up, the very first one that pops into anyone's head (arguably non-Jews just as much as Jews) is the Holocaust. Practically every nation in the world would have liked to have wiped us out, as evidenced during WW2 by their active assistance in the Holocaust on the one hand, or on the other by convenient feigning of ignorance or at best empty protests lacking any consequential follow-through to the verbal condemnations. While everyone secretly (or not so secretly) wanted to do what Germany did, only the Germans themselves had the honesty to come out in the open and try it. Yet today all the previously jealous bystanders all stand up and point fingers at the Germans condemning them for the rasha'im that they are.

But be all the hypocrisy as it may, the Germans still hold the infamous title of being among the nations who actually tried it.... and quite arguably the worst of them all. While other nations may have committed genocide, even against Jews, nobody ever turned it into a calm calculated industrial process. A modern day suicide bomber's last words will invariably be the screams of "Allahu Akbar" before he ignites in a physical and emotional blast. For his hatred is a highly passionate one. Yet for the SS officer who would release the Zyklon B, he did it with as much emotion as he would tying his shoe. Hatred and murder of Jews wasn't some great philosophical and idealistic concept which entailed dedicating and giving his life so much as an item so ingrained in his blood and normal for him that it occurred in between mundane things like eating a sandwich.

And with this in mind I feel somewhat surprised by the recent anti-Semetic German cartoon. No no, I'm not actually surprised by the cartoon itself. What I'm surprised by is why anyone, especially Jews would be so foolish as to expect anything else. It's as if people think that by constantly repeating the zen mantra of "Never Again" and making every foreign diplomat and dignitary who comes to Israel make their first stop Yad Vashem (even if the nature of their trip is totally unrelated and they have already been to the site multiple times) that will somehow change people's nature. If going through a holocaust isn't enough to change some peoples' wishful thinking, then how can the guilt of a few museums and Steven Spielberg films be enough to change inborn national Jew hatred?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Something Doesn't Smell Quite Right

Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens – August 2, 2013 UPDATE
The Department of State has instructed certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4.  All facilities of the U.S. Consulate General are normally closed to the public on Sundays.  The Consulate General is instructing all U.S. government employees not required for ensuring essential building safety and security not to come into Consulate General facilities for afterhours work on Sunday, August 4.  The Department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations, indicates we should institute these precautionary steps. It is possible we may have additional days of closings as well, depending on our analysis.

The above is part of a recent email sent out to everyone on the Jerusalem US Consulate mailing list. Of course anyone need only check the headlines since last Friday to be aware of this. But I'd like to know - is anyone else's Spidey-sense being set off on this one? As an interesting side note, the second line in the email states that regardless of a terror threat the consulate is usually closed for business on Sundays anyway. The same goes for the embassy in Tel Aviv. So it's not so clear why the media keeps mentioning the Israeli locations along with the other middle eastern ones as it appears no special external precautions are really being taken at the moment.

But as far as the other embassies go, this whole thing just doesn't make sense. The warnings are so vague that they essentially amount to, "We're worried that some really bad people are going to do some really bad things really soon." If they don't want to reveal any additional information for security purposes, then why go through the bother of making the whole thing so public in the first place? I'm not so hot at poker, but I imagine I'd feel pretty confident if I was playing at the same table as the federal government. I mean come on people, from an intelligence gathering perspective I think one could go about it much more effectively. Wouldn't it make sense to just close each of these locations individually and contact anyone scheduled to come in that day for a visa, passport, etc. telling them the toilets have all massively overflowed and they'll need to reschedule their appointment? Then in the meantime beef up security in as inconspicuous a manner as possible and play a little game of wait and see. Then when something does pop up maybe you can apprehend a few suspects and garner some information out of them? I'll admit I've never worked for an intelligence agency like the CIA or the like, but even an amateur like me has to venture a guess that my plan is at least a slightly more sound alternative to just broadcasting everything you currently know to the world via CNN. Maybe they are banking on the hope that conservative-minded Muslim extremists prefer not to monitor the mainstream media due to the liberal bias. 

And does the United States not feel at least slightly embarrassed that the best they can offer is a warning that a Al Qaeda might commit a terrorist attack somewhere in the Middle East, but they aren't sure where or when or against whom? And then again, maybe there won't be any attacks at all - they're not quite sure about it either way. Heck, even if something is supposed to happen they're not even 100% sure it's going to be at an embassy. It could even be an airbase, plane or a train (what... no automobiles?) So essentially what they are telling us is that it's just another normal day in the Middle East, eh fellas? And these crackpot intelligence reports are supposed to be what reassures us here in Israel when Obama tells us not to worry about Iran getting a nuke because they'll for sure find out about it in enough time to stop it? Do Iraqi WMD's ring a bell to anyone?

Some talkbalkers are spawning conspiracy theories that the whole thing is a ploy to distract the American public from the major scandals currently hitting Obama one after the other about how the federal government snoops on everything from your tax reports to your Facebook "Likes" and just about anything in between. Perhaps vague, but oh so deadly, threats such as these are even supposed to garner up support from the public and coax them into giving Obama carte blanche to peruse their Gmail. After Edward Snowden I supposed I can believe anything at this point. However, were these theories proven to be true I'd actually be a bit disappointed. Orwell's Big Brother and Inner Party had far more oppressive and invasive control over their subjects and yet even half the stuff they came up with had more substance and logic to it than what we are now currently expected to swallow.

So if you too feel that something doesn't quite smell right with this situation perhaps we should all follow our nose on this one. Maybe it's not for nothing that the American president's initials are B.O.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Those Jews" and "It's just their problem"

First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out -
Because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists, and I didn't speak out -
Because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out -
Because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out -
Because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak out -
Because I wasn't a Catholic.

Then they came for me -
And there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

First they kicked everyone out of Gush Katif, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a "Tzioyni"

Then they kicked the Charedim out of the yeshivas, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a "Parasite"

Then they came to kick everyone out of Israel, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not "Israeli"

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me...

... nor a land to embrace me.

Shachar Mosby

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Just Spit it Out Already!

Above is a recent episode of Al Jazeera's "Head to Head" featuring Dani Dayan as the guest. While he does make several good points, I found the majority of his statements to be twisted logic that leaves one scratching their head, dodging questions, and trying to change the subject. Even if your rooting for him it's a little difficult to wave the pom-poms on this one. Indeed even Sam Westrop, the guy whom they have apparently brought in to support him only seems to dispute the claims of those arguing against Dani, but he doesn't go so far as to say that Dani himself is right (his repeated argument seems to be your previous point X is wrong because of fact Y, therefore let's just let the diplomats at negotiating table decide who is right).

Though I know from a factual, moral, and certainly Torah point of view Dr. Karmi is not correct. However if I had happened to be an outside observer with no background in the matter I would probably believe her just by virtue of how confident she is in her position. She makes her accusations with full certainty and no shame while Mr. Dayan barely even calls her out on her fallacies instead opting to re-frame the argument in terms of terrorism and security (when he can catch a breath in between hemming and hawing).

Though I didn't thoroughly follow the past American elections, and basically paid no attention to the Republican primaries, I recently found this clip from the Republican debates which underscores the problem:

While Newt definitely is more correct from a historical and factual point of view (and I personally think he wiped the floor with Romney), Romney hits the nail on the head as to the unfortunate reality of why simple truth doesn't prevail at about the 3:36 minute marker when he states that if Bibi really thinks this is our land, let him say it himself. Newt Gingrich, and those like him, can make all the eloquent and factually accurate statements in the world as to the land of Israel belonging exclusively to the people of Israel but if we (and especially our so called "leadership") don't do it ourselves then why should the world even pay attention to their great points?

Recently Arab MK's were suggesting to change the hatikva anthem citing it is Jewish bias and lack of Arab references. Rav Meir Kahane הי״ד often spoke of the absurdity of expecting an Arab citizen of Israel to loyally and dutifully sing a national anthem that speaks of a Jewish soul and a Jewish home while at the same time celebrating the defeat of his own people. When I was in university, my campus Hillel had an off the derech leftist serving as a shaliach from Israel. During one of the many debates I had with her she asked me how I thought it felt for an Arab to have to sing a national anthem with the above mentioned problems. To her wide eyed shock I told her that the Rav (whom she completely reviled) almost precisely word for word posed the same exact question she just had. I said his solution was to conclude that the land of Israel belongs exclusively to the Jewish people and therefore our first and foremost concern should be with actualizing that reality instead of worrying about how Arab feelings might be hurt by it. I then asked her what her conclusion was. It was something that we should instead look into writing a new anthem.

And unfortunately we are doomed to keep going around and around on this merry-go-round of ridiculousness and violence until we finally grow the fortitude to say it like it is. This land is our land... period. Why? Because regardless of what the United Nations, US State Department, Arab world, or whoever else says, G-d said otherwise. And there is nothing to be ashamed of in that. By claiming this land we are simply fulfilling a mission bestowed upon us by the Creator of the universe. Is it offensive that we believe our religion grants us the right (and even obligation) to a national destiny on a specific plot of real estate at the expense of other people from different religions? Yes... quite so in fact. But what are we to do? If G-d says to do it we must follow through no matter how offensive it might be. One need not dig deep to find a myriad of items in any religion that would offend those of other faiths. That's the way it goes. But as the famous Bill Cosby quote goes, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone." Bill need only reverse that mantra to find the key to success... instead of trying to please everyone, try to please "The One." Or as, l'havdil, Chazal tell us, "Make His will your will so that your will will be His will."

It is most definitely His will that this land be ours. Can't somebody PLEASE stop the shenanigans and just call it like it is already?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Paradigm Shift - Generation of the Flood 2013

  Kermit Gosnell

There are many reasons I don't envy those who grew up in previous generations. Growing up in post Cold War America during the advent of the internet, CD's, text and instant messaging, and xbox was truly a blast. However there is a phenomenon which truly aggravates me and instills a feeling of jealousy for the generations of my parents and grandparents. That is the long lost ability to speak honestly about the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage. In their generation it was still fairly accepted by normal society that homosexuality was not only not a normal (or healthy) lifestyle, but even one that one should be kept hush hush lest one's professional and social reputation be flushed down a toilet of shame. In my parents' generation people were "in the closet". In my generation the big thing was "coming out of the closet." I sometimes ponder if my own children will grow up in a generation where they won't know what those who speak about the "closet" are even taking about.

It doesn't even bother me so much if somebody themselves is gay, or that there are people like that in the world. It's one of those things that has been around since the beginning of the human race and I don't see it going away anytime soon short of Mashiach coming, please G-d. Indeed, in my personal dealings with people, I tend to act according to the philosophy that whatever you do behind closed doors is strictly between you, the other person, and G-d.

So what really irks me about this whole topic? The complete and utter loss of the ability to call a spade a spade. In previous generations nobody would bat an eyelash were one to suggest that homosexuality is abnormal (or even immoral). Yet today everything is so topsy turvy that not only has it not polite to forward such a premise, but suddenly you are the one who is not normal for even thinking such a thing. If you call into question the morality of a deviant lifestyle, not only is your query assumed to be baseless but your own morals must now investigated. Indeed, the majority opinion of the recent Supreme Court ruling essentially claimed opponents of gay marriage to be enemies of the human race. So much for everyone having the right to hold their own opinion, eh?

Yet it's not just me that is bothered by the current conventional wisdom of society and law - G-d is bothered too. In fact, it seems according to the Torah that He is bothered much more by public acceptance of flagrant violations of His will than He is by the committing of the acts themselves. While things like homosexuality and abortion are a constant in civilization, it is usually only when they become commonplace and wholly accepted by society at large that G-d so-to-speak "intervenes." Chazal say that though the generation of the flood were steeped in wickedness, G-d only carried out the flood once men started writing official ketubot for other men (and animals). In speaking about the generation of the flood the Me'am Loez brings a midrash from Berishit Rabbah that men would be with each other and animals publicly as it if was a normal wedding and without the slightest embarrassment. Additionally, it mentions that when the passuk states "הנפלים היו בארץ בימים ההם" (commanly translated as "The giants were on the earth in those days") that the word nephilim is missing an extra yud and should have been written הנפילים. Instead you can re-read it as nephalim or miscarriages. This is because it was so common for women to have illegitimate children and to subsequently get an abortion to cover up their adulterous behavior that literally "הנפלים היו בארץ" - the earth was filled with the buried aborted fetuses.

Sound familiar? Though not all of the media chose to cover it, the last few months featured headlines about the Philidelphia "House of Horrors" run by abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell was charged with eight counts of murder, only seven of which involved children (the 8th being an adult female patient who died from being given an overdose of anesthesia and painkillers). Of those he was convicted of 3 counts. Yet even if he had been convicted of all seven counts of child murder, it still leaves him free of accusation for the 16,000 other abortions he committed during his career. Basically the legal system was sending a message that while he should be held culpable for children he killed past their 24th week of life and those whom showed signs of life after coming out of the womb, the murder of 16,000 other children who were killed at least one week before that time were considered perfectly legal acts. Yet abortion is another one of those "protected rights" which one dare not call into question lest they be outed for the hate monger (or in this case misogynist) they really are. How dare one criticize a woman's right... to murder her unborn child?

But while these phenomenon are already firmly entrenched in the West and are now more often then not being codified into law, we too are not spared here in Israel. According to official estimates there are roughly 20,000 abortions performed every year in Israel, though sources like Efrat say that when you factor in illegal abortions the number is more like 50,000 annually (read it out loud and see how it sounds in your ears- fifty thousand). But let's take the stat of the legal 20k just for argument's sake. And for additional argument's sake let's be conservative and say that 90% of those are the result of rape or they present a health risk to the mother or child (as other reasons such as pregnancy outside of marriage or a mother under 17 are considered sufficient to justify terminating the pregnancy). The remaining 10% leaves us with 2,000 abortions a year - a little over one and a half times the amount of people killed in both Intifadas combined. Again, this is not factoring in the additional estimated 30,000 which are not done legally (and much fewer of which I imagine are based on factors like rape or health risks).

Several years ago a family friend of ours contracted CMV while pregnant and due to her being religious and living in Jerusalem the doctor didn't push abortion though he did tell her that had she lived in Tel Aviv he would have flat out told her to abort. Thank G-d she and her husband chose to follow through with the pregnancy and today have a beautiful little girl who, other than a few periodic tests, is a perfectly healthy child no different than any other one. Granted, the potential risks to the child from a disease such as this one is not simple and G-d forbid it could have ended very differently. However, while decisions like this must always be a delicate balance of consultation between qualified doctors and Rabbanim (as well as prayer), when an attitude is prevalent that a fetus holds little value and is not viewed as an individual life it's much easier to throw that life away, regardless of the chance that it might end in a fully viable and healthy child.

And while Russia passed a law banning gay parades in Moscow for the next century, the police in Israel bring extra officers from all over the country to protect the annual one in our own capital. Additionally in Tel Aviv several Israeli cabinet members attended gay pride week - which last year featured a parade that ended with a mock chuppah where several gay couples exchanged the updated vows proclaiming, "If I forget thee Oh Tel Aviv, then let me forget my right hand."

But the good news is that while you may not have to ability to speak freely about these issues, you do have the ability to build a boat. A really big boat. And with continued feakish weather occurrences in America and record rainfall this past year in Israel it might not even be that bad an idea. You can even try to bring a few pairs of different species of animals on board- though you might want to do it before it's legal to start marrying them... or find a convenient clinic to help you out when things don't go according to family planning for that matter. After all - who are you to tell Rover or Fido what to do with their bodies?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lebanese-Syrian Ties

Though their reporting on Israel barely makes an effort to hide bias, I've found that Al Jazeera often tends to have the most honest reporting on all other issues in the Middle East, and especially when it comes to the news on Arabs or Muslims (and their internal conflicts). Perhaps being an Arab network themselves they feel a more of freedom than other networks to be more blunt and real about what's going on with their own without having to fear being labeled racist.

It's looking like the fighting in Syria is starting to rev up in its spillover into Lebanon - especially along Sunni/Shia sectarian lines. While Hezbollah is off supporting their patron Assad across the border, back home some of their opponents have been causing a bit of their own ruckus, now even drawing the Lebanese army into the fray. When the cat is away the mice will play eh? Below is a somewhat interesting background into the inter-meshing of control between the two countries and some insight into who pulling some of the strings. Enjoy...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Paying the Price on the Tag

Price Tag Clip Art

I hate graffiti. And while even I agree that on occasion some can be creative or even artistic, in general I find the vast majority of it to be lacking any artistic qualities and often just crass and tasteless if not downright incomprehensible. But you know what I really don't like? Graffiti in Jerusalem. The uniform chalky limestone look of the mandatory Jerusalem stone building exteriors gives the city a unique beauty not shared by other cities in the country and probably most in the world .And nothing disrupts this ascetic eye candy bespeaking of the ancient past via the eyes of modern architecture like a nice fat ugly street tag. You know what else I hate? Flat tires. I hate getting three flats in as many weeks, having to waste my days off and hard earned money getting them fixed and being told by the guy at the shop that at least two of them were from somebody sticking a knife into my tires. Dealing with the above mentioned acts if they are done anonymously and to anonymous victims simply out of pure delinquency I find frustrating and stressful. When they are done to targeted groups for ideological reasons, I find it scary no matter who the respective perpetrators and victims may be. Therefore I think most decent people of any persuasion find it regrettable that we are witnessing a growing phenomenon known as "Price Tags."

Enter a slew of politicians issuing condemnations of the highest order and pushing for new legislation to deal with this phenomenon such as our lovely Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. Now I highly doubt somebody so entrenched in the Gaza Gush Katif philosophy of kicking innocent Jews out of their homes could even spell the word "justice" much less minister it to a nation, but perhaps she feels she qualifies for the position based on her attendance at many "Social Justice" events. Tzipi was pushing for recently declined measures to legally equate price tag acts with acts of terrorism. Apparently spraying paint is now the equivalent of spraying rocks and Molotov cocktails, and slashing tires is as serious as slashing people. Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich compared price tag acts to terror and recently said, “This phenomenon might bring about a serious deterioration in Jerusalem and the West Bank." I wonder how many public statements Minister Aharonovich has made warning of the threat of deterioration Arab rock throwing poses? And while many have been calling the Price Tag phenomena a threat to democracy, how often has that same phrase been applied to rock throwing exactly? Go ahead and google it... see what you come up with. Maybe Arab rock throwing is considered to be a valid democratic right? Perhaps the American phrase "vote with your wallet" should be adjusted to "vote with your rock."

All in all the concern, condemnations, and proposed punitive actions seem somewhat one-sided. And therein lies an interesting albeit under-examined point. To the government, media, and left wing of this country who are so up in arms about anti-Arab actions taken by Jewish youth I ask - who and what do you think caused them to be this way in the first place if not you!? An entire generation of Jewish youth has grown up witnessing their friends family and countrymen murdered and maimed in bus bombings, stabbed, rocketed and stoned. And all the while the above mentioned institutions go to our enemies and the world at large accepting the blame on ourselves, apologizing for existing and exercising suicidal measures of restraint in self-defense to avoid heaven forbid looking like an aggressor. Sending in soldiers to take on knife and club wielding flotilla activists with a couple of paintball guns ring a bell? Armed soldiers caught on camera running away from rock throwers because they will be prosecuted for shooting to defend themselves? 1,027 terrorists released for one soldier? Hundreds let out of prison scot-free for a few dead bodies returned? And what message does this send to youth who spend their childhood witnessing all this? If you express your negative feelings towards other groups through violence and intimidation you will get away with murder (both figuratively and sometimes literally). Additionally, if you want your family property and people being fought and behalf of, you may as well do it yourself because as a Jew your government and media very often won't bother doing it for you.

Additional shock and condemnation has been raised over several incidents in the past couple of years of Jewish youth beating Arabs they find associating with Jewish girls. Many would write this off as bigotry but it's naive to think it's occurring entirely in a vacuum. While mainstream Israeli society would like to sweep it under the rug, the fact remains that countless Jewish women are trapped in abusive marriages with Arab men whom have taken them to live with them back in their villages and they now find themselves unable to leave due to the danger of attempting to, or fear of having to leave their children behind. The story is often a textbook case - a girl who is down and out, suffers very low self esteem or has a bad situation at home is overwhelmed by the gifts and charm of an Arab man just to meet an entirely different person once he has taken them out of the reach of the family and friends. And where is law enforcement when these women start to feel the horror of regret over their decisions but are unable to leave on their own? Nowhere to be seen. Perhaps for fear of appearing racist by breaking up an interracial/religious marriage, or perhaps just for fear of causing a riot when the neighbors catch wind, police usually won't step foot in one of these villages to help take these women out. So while it is not right to attack a stranger in the middle of the street based solely on his being an Arab and his lady friend being a Jew, can one be realistically be surprised when we see it happening? I'm frankly surprised it doesn't happen more often. The built up frustration of watching the honor and safety of Jewish girls and women get trampled upon doesn't dissipate on it's own and when the authorities simply throw their hands up in the air for too long it's not so inconceivable that private citizens take matters into their own hands even if it be in unlawful ways.

So instead of applying some common sense to an ever less sensible situation, the powers that be continue to make logic defying decisions and are all of a sudden shocked an appalled when human nature takes over and people begin to react in ways they don't want them to. Golda Meir famously said, "Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us." That may be true but I contend that security will come when the government cares more about protecting our own rights over those who seek us harm. And if they view the youth who do Price Tag acts as "problem children" then they need look no further than the mirror to find out who the parents are. They themselves racked up the hefty price on these price tags and just because they chose to pay in tashlumim doesn't mean the bill would never get charged.