Sunday, May 23, 2004

American Aliyah 

A disturbing new trend in aliyah (immigration to Israel) from America has been highlighted by Haaretz recently.
It seems that it is more and more common for American families to make aliyah and then find that they cannot 'survive' financially without the husband commuting back and forth from America to Israel every few weeks. Now American couples are even seeing it as a viable possibility from the start!

This, for me, is indicative of deep economic troubles besetting Israel, not just due to the intolerable security situation and resulting recession, but also due to a bureaucracy that is not the most supportive of the middle-class individual.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Indian wigs 

Anyone following news in the Jewish world has probably heard of this one already - but for the benefit of those who haven't....
Here's my take

The Indian Sheitl (wig) Crisis

Orthodox Jewish law requires married women to cover their hair in public - but there are many different styles - some use hats, others hijabs, and some (until recently) use wigs, or 'sheitls' in Yiddish.
Now as any wig expert will know, the best wigs are made from human hair, and the very best wigs available are made from Indian hair. Which Indian hair? The hair shaved by Indian women on their pilgrimage to a massive temple during devotions to their deity. Now, Jewish law prohibits the use of any objects used as part of worship in a polytheistic religion - therefore this would appear to have created an insurmountable problem for the sheitl wearers around the world. Previous investigations have found that it is not the hair itself that is offered, but know suspiscions have been raised once more, to the point that some extremely respected religous authorities, notably Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv Shlitahave ruled that the wigs may not be used.

This has actually led to such surreal occurences as the public burning of wigs!

In the spirit of the occasion -

One Sheitel, One Sheitel
by Martin Bodek, Co-founder of TheKnish.com

One sheitel, one sheitel that husband bought for an arm and a leg. One
sheitel, one sheitel.

And came The Sheitelmacher, who put it in her little shop, that husband
bought with his life savings. One sheitel, one sheitel.

And came the European Manufacturer, who sold it to the sheitelmacher,
that husband mortgaged his house to buy. One sheitel, one sheitel.

And came the Hindu church, who auctioned it to the European
manufacturer, who sold it to the sheitelmacher, that husband paid half a
year's salary for. One sheitel, one sheitel.

And came the Hindu priest, who cut off the hair, that the church
auctioned off, that the European manufacturer put in the highest bid
for, who sold it to the Sheitelmacher, that husband went into credit
card debt to purchase. One sheitel, one sheitel.

And came the Hindu pilgrim, who bowed before the priest in an offering
to Vishnu, and he shaved off the hair, which the church auctioned, that
the European manufacturer got for a steal, who sold it to the
Sheitelmacher, that husband created a tzedaka fund for. One sheitel,
one sheitel.

And came Rav Eliyashiv, Shlita, who paskended the hair was assur, that the pilgrim offered to the polytheistic gods, that the barber shaved,
that the church auctioned, that the European manufacturer got his hands
on for bupkis, who sold it to the Sheitelmacher, that husband sold his
daughter into slavery so that he purchase it. One sheitel, one sheitel.

And came the Holy One, Blessed Be He, Who said, "I am the L-rd thy G-d,
thou shalt not have any other gods before Me", which Rav Eliyashiv took
very seriously, so he paskened the hair was assur that the pilgrim
offered to the other gods, that the barber shaved off, that the church
put up on eBay, that the European manufacturer couldn't believe the deal
he got, who sold it to the Sheitelmacher, that husband got his knee-caps
broke because he couldn't pay off the interest from the loan he got from
Goombah Vinny. One sheitel, one sheitel.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Ridiculous Israel 

I used to think that Israel's education system was screwed up, and that literacy levels were appallingly low.

Now Israel's government has stooped to new levels of "we-aren't-too-fussed-about-our-children's-education-because-we-are-fighting-a-war-against-the-Palestinians" stupidity. Israel has decided to fire 2,000 teachers and cut back 30,000 classroom hours. This is absolutly ludicrous! How can a so-called western democracy neglect its education system like that? Classrooms are overfull as it is, and literacy levels are appalling - surely the way forward is to employ more teachers and to invest in special programmes that will raise literacy and numeracy levels and special progammes for the large numbers of disadvantaged children? Check out Ha'aretz's article about it here.

Where Is Everyone On Yom Yerushalayim? 

Today is Yom Yerushalayim - the anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem in 1967. Today is more than just a happy Zionist day, it has particular religious significance in that is the anniversary of the Jewish return to its spiritual centre.

In New Zealand we should be particularly joyous - we are the first community on the planet to be able to celebrate this wonderful day.

So I must pose this question - where are all the Zionists? Why do seven of us wake up at 6am to make our way humbly to the synagogue for morning prayers and no one else [brief explanatory note for non-Jews reading this: many of the prayers in the Jewish liturgy require a quorum of ten men to be able to recite them]. There were plenty of religious people who did not attend the service this morning.
Where has our Zionism gone? I don't believe that it's gone to Israel because only a minority of the people in this community have taken that leap of faith. I am feeling more and more that people are beginning not to care.

To all those "so-called-Zionists" in the New Zealand Jewish community, I have a message for you - the war of independance is not over. Israel is still fighting for survival, fighting for people to recognise its right to exist. Sending money to Israel is not the only way to support her - we need to be strong here, we need to consolidate the community. Things don't happen by themselves anyway, especially in New Zealand. If you want a Jewish future, in New Zealand and in Israel, then things need to change. Ambivalence does not dissolve problems but only escalates them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Bye-bye recession 

Despite the terrorist outrages, a sluggish world economy, attempts to boycott the "Zionist entity" -- Israel's economy is now back on track, and growing fast:

Economy grows 5.5% in first quarter of 2004

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Risking the living for the dead: is it right? 

This is a very tough issue: Habib must declare at the outset that he has not served in the Israeli Defence Forces, so he lacks any moral standing to judge these issues in a definitive manner.

That said, I think all of Israel's friends and the worldwide Nation of Israel (in the Diaspora) are too invested to keep quiet.

In the Jerusalem Post, Arieh O'Sullivan voices criticism of the army for sending soldiers into harm's way in order to retrieve the remains of other soldiers.

Yes, I know that part of the deal every Israeli family makes with the IDF when they send their sons and daughters to serve is that, the Army will look after them, and bring them back -- even if they fall in the field of battle.

But, is it right to jeopardise more lives in the search for their bodies? Is it right to send soldiers on any mission that is not in itself necessary for the security of the state or the people?

This issue was played out earlier in the year when Israel traded hundreds of terrorists, many with innocent blood on their hands, for the remains of four soldiers, and one criminal. Then, the chief rabbinate spoke out, and rightly so, that although bringing the remains back for proper burial may bring comfort to the grieving families, this goal does not justify the risk of more people dying.

In my (modest) opinion, it is not justified -- the IDF needs to strike at our enemies in ways that do not expose the sons and daughters of our nation to unnecessary harm.

I throw this open to the readers. I would particularly welcome comment from anyone who has served.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Islamic Idol...... 

Good to see some of that decadent western junk-culture penetrating the middle east. Maybe it will exercise a moderating effect.

I think the world is better off with these kids dancing on stage, rather than them strapping semtex to themselves.

I think, when "Temptation Island" comes to al-Jazeera, we'll know the west has really won.

Monday, May 10, 2004


I think the Palestinians cannot get anymore depraved, they manage to pull it up a gear. How do they do this?

As if it were not enough to shoot a pregnant woman and her four young daughters in cold blood at point blank range, the Palestinian "freedom fighters" decided to shoot at the mourners at the funeral. (Thankfully soldiers were on hand, and they managed to prevent any innocent fatalities).

Anyone who thinks that, by giving these people a state, and without any process of educational detoxification, the Palestinians will suddenly transform themselves into responsible, civilised actors, truly believes in pixies.

Friday, May 07, 2004

You want to see the 'roots of terror'? Try Europe's limp-wristed response to prior terrorism 

I've been reading an excellent book recently: "Why Terrorism Works" by Alan Dershowitz.

Great to see the great champion of civil liberties and the rights of the accused tell the truth about what we need to do about terrorism. What is fascinating is the way he illustrates Europe's pathetic response to (mainly) Palestinian terrorism in the 1970s, and how it made further terrorism almost inevitable, because it was so successful.

How successful? Compare the Palestinian position in the world stage in 1970, and its position now -- they now have embassies in more countries than Israel, are a cause celebre, have total media and academic sympathy, and total unthinking acceptance of their positions such as the 'occupied' nature of the territories-- and the substance of their case hasn't got any better. They have jumped the world priority queue, ahead of more deserving causes such as the Kurds and the Tibetans (who don't rely on terrorism. Anyway, here is the record:

Anyway, here is the record:

1968: PFLP terrorists hijack airliner from Rome on way to Tel Aviv. Terrorists are released, with 16 others whose release they demanded.

1968: Hijack at Zurich, pilot and 3 passengers killed. Two terrorists captured, both released within months.

1970: Palestinian hijacks plane from Beirut to Paris. Hijacker was released.

1970: Palestinians kill Israeli, wound 8 others, at Munich airport. Following another hijacking, the Germans released the terrorist.

1970: PFLP hijacks plane to Athens. The 6 terrorists were freed by Greece, as well as 7 other terrorists already in custody.

1970: PFLP tries and fails to hijack an El Al plane; British take lead hijacker Leila Khaled, and quickly free her (she goes on to hijack other planes).

Later that year, Palestinians hijacked four more planes (including three on one day). ALL the hijackers went free,.

The list keeps going and going. It culminated with the murder of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich, where the Germans bear responsibility for another massacre of Jews on their soil. The Germans then conducted a secret deal with Palestinian terrorists to mock another hijacking, to give the Germans an excuse to release the Munich terrorists. This story has now been verified by former high-ranking West German officials.

The Palestinians got publicity and world attention at no cost. Instead, the Israelis were deligitmised.

So why shouldn't other groups try terrorism?

The next time you hear nuanced, intelligent people say that the "war on terror" is wrong and we should work on the "root causes", tell them that one of the major causes is the pathetic cowardice of European governments dealing with terrorism in the past.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Do you remember the days of the old jihad? 

Very funny rewrite of an old Cat Stevens classic, to suit his new tendencies.

FYI, Cat (now Yusuf Islam) was refused entry into Israel for being a fundraiser for a group that gives money to Hamas, as well as other lovelies.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Morality is the Key 

After reading Habib's last post, I was spurred to write this. The following quote is from the renowned French philosopher (and perhaps my favourite philosopher) Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas was a Jew as well as a European intellectual - a committed Jew at that. One of his outputs, less well known in the secular world, was his work "Nine Talmudic Readings" - a collection of nine speeches he gave as Talmudic discourses put into a philosophical light.

This is taken from his speech As Old as the World?. It is something for us all to consider and keep at the forefront of our minds, always:

...morality begins in us and not in institutions which are not always able to protect it. It demands that human honor know how to exist without a flag. The Jew is perhaps the one who - because of the inhuman history he has undergone - understands the suprahuman demand of morality, the necessity of finding within oneself the source of one's moral certainties.

Institutions such as the UN cannot guarantee morality. It is ridiculous to think that it does. We must look within ourselves for morality and we must realise that the responsibility lies on our own shoulders. Such disgusting acts as the murder of an entire family cannot be justified by anybody and, if we are to find the morality within us that will preserve the world's integrity, they must be condemned by everybody.

Radio New Zealand  

If any of you were listening to Morning Report on Radio New Zealand this morning, you may have noticed something astounding.

Bulletin after bulletin referred to an Israeli attack on a building from which Hamas broadcast incitement to murder (for examples of this incitement, click here). No-one was killed in the strike. Only secondarily was it mentioned that the strike was in response to the killing of five "settlers".

Programme host Geoff Robinson reported the attack on Jews in Gaza. In his words "five settlers were killed including a pregnant woman".

What he did not mention is the ages of the victims: 11, 9, 7 and 2. A pregnant woman and her four young daughters. Executed, in a planned, vicious attack.

David Hautel, sole survivor of the family, had to bury his pregnant wife and four children.

People call the killing of a terrorist master-mind who organised attacks on innocent people a "war crime" -- there was condemnation in the UN, by governments all around the world, and protests.

Here, a family was intentionally butchered, an attack fueled by exterminationist rhetoric. No condemnation, no UN resolutions, no comment from Kofi Annan or Phil Goff.

The reason? In international opinion, Jews are fair game. Jews who live in the Palestinian territories are considered deserving of death, no matter how personally innocent they are.

Regardless of your opinion on the legitimacy, or widsom, of Jewish communities existing in these territories (for the record, Comrade and I are both opposed to Gaza settlements and support the planned pullout) -- the license given to those who would murder them should be unnaceptable in the civilised world.

Genocidal intent, and action, against the Jews, has gained international legitimacy.

And we see an example of that legitimacy here in New Zealand, through our taxpayer-funded radio station.

Jewish Responsibility in New Zealand 

One of the things I've been thinking about over the past couple of weeks is that, as Jews in New Zealand, we have an incredibly large responsibility to portray Judaism well (or, rather, correctly). Two weeks ago I was working with a Malaysian guy who has been living in New Zealand for several years, and I was the first Jew that he had ever met. Another person from from one of my university classes told me that along with two others, I was one of the three Jews he had ever met (and the only religious one).
In many communities around the world, specifically larger ones in America, Australia and Europe, there is a large enough "pool" of Jews that a non-Jewish person may meet at any given time. In larger communities Jews may become involved enough within their community so as not to have to meet non-Jews; or they may be involved with the larger community, within which their experience as a Jew may have little significance.
However, in New Zealand, because of the small size of the community, Jews must become part of the larger community and their input may have a large effect on peoples' views of Jews and Judaism. We have an enormous responsibility to ensure that we are portrayed properly. We must make sure that all our encounters with non-Jews are, as far as this is possible, pleasant or amiable.
To be the only Jew someone has met is daunting. But it also provides a wonderful opportunity to ensure that our culture is portrayed correctly and does not, as it has done in many places, particularly America, become a commodity - to ensure that the richness of Judaism is conveyed to the public at large and that it does not become reduced to a Chanukkah sevivon (driedel/spinning top) or merely a ban on eating pig.

New Blog link 

Added a new link to a blog site which deals with issues of Judaism and modern trends.
See the site for a discussion of the trends of increasing stringency in the Jewish world -
The writer quotes Dr. Haym Soloveitchik from Torah u-Madda Journal vol. 7 ("Clarifications and Reply"). "Like most of my contemporaries and elders, I was baffled by the spread of humrot (stringencies in religious performance). Upon reflection I realized that many of the so called humrot were, in fact, quite reasonable, indeed, could often make good claim to being the only correct ruling in the case at hand. Frequently, a new practice was being labled a "humra", not because it was the more stringent of two valid views, but simply because it made stricter demands than what had been habitually required. More often than not, "humra" meant simply "more than what one had been accustomed to." (p. 137) "What is clear, to me at least, is that we are dealing with a generational difference. A new generation has emerged which finds the past ways of its parents and grandparents too unthinking, too ignorant, and yes, if truth be told, simply too lax and accomodative. This is not a pleasant prospect for the older generation to contemplate, especially as the young are only too unaware how much this "lax" observance had cost their parents in a different day, and how high the price they regularly paid for their "minimal" Orthodoxy. It is only natural then that explanations as religious one-upsmanship, "humra of the month club," ideological brainwashing and "Magyarization of Yiddishkeit" abound and beckon soothingly. Such interpretations, to my thinking, offer consolation rather than understanding. (p. 145)

Yeshivas as Army platoons? 

As many people know, many ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel get an exemption from army service, on the basis that they are engaged full-time in religous studies in a seminary (Yeshiva). This is a sore point in ultra-orthodox/secular relations in Israel. Here's an idea that might solve it - after all it is known that the ultra-orthodox stance is justified by many by saying that religous study is a vital part of the spiritual defence of the Jewish state. Well all right, lets start taking it seriously.

As R' Zev Sero recently wrote:
The exemption for yeshiva students should be abolished. Instead, military yeshivot should be set up, and recruits should be assigned to them just as they are to other units. A recruit could express a preference for serving in a yeshiva, just as he can ask to be a paratrooper or a cook, but the decision on where he serves would be made by those in charge, taking into account both his talent and the competing needs of the various services. Soldiers assigned to the yeshiva would be treated exactly the same as those in other units: showing up late to seder , absence from seder, chutzpah to the rosh yeshivah/mashgiach, etc, would be treated the same as the same offense in other units.
They could also set up brigades of tehillim-sayers , etc, for those who are not physically capable of serving any other way, and thus get rid of the exemptions for the physically invalid, the aged, etc. If you're in a wheelchair, you can still serve, by saying tehillim, davening,praying>, and this counts as military service.
Of course, to make this work, the people in charge would have to take the protective power of torah and tefillah seriously, when deciding how many soldiers to assign to these units, and when allowing them to take soldiers who could also be good elsewhere, but who would be better suited there.

Well it might make for an interesting situation. Couple it with basic training, so that if the worst comes to the worst they'll know how to defend themselves, and put in strict quotas for the amount of study each has to get through in a day, with strict hours and a miltary regimen. It could work!

The UN is sooo Anti-Semitic 

It turns out that Lakhdar Brahimi, Algerian diplomat and UN envoy to Iraq, is proud of having never knowingly shaken a Jew's hand.

Funny, what happened to the UN's mission of ending bigotry and racism?

From the Jerusalem Post:

"The protest comes amid revelations by UN sources that Brahimi, a UN undersecretary-general and
former Foreign Minister of Algeria, has boasted that he has never knowingly shaken hands with an
Israeli or a Jew. Israel's ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman said that the boast, reported Tuesday
in the New York Sun, proves Brahimi's "prejudice, bigotry and anti-Semitism.""

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Daniel Pipes is worried. And you should be too. 

Daniel Pipes is an expert on militant Islam and Middle East politics. In this rather pessimistic piece, he explains how a growing and increasingly powerful Muslim population in America, with attendant Islamist leanings, poses a threat -- not just to America's Jewish community, but to America itself -- and how this affects the struggle against militant Islam worldwide.

"The End of American Jewry's Golden Era"

Choice quotes:

"The focus on al-Qaeda is doubly misplaced. First, it is an umbrella group, rather than an actual organization. Second, it is a symptom of a much deeper attitude. The ideology is the key, not an organization. This ideology is a force in itself and not the result of socioeconomic conditions; it cannot be solved, for example, through a Marshall Plan type of response."

Those silly eggs who say that Jerry Falwell and R' Ovadia Yosef are really just the same as Osama are simply wrong:

"Militant Islam cannot be compared to any segment of Christianity, Judaism, or Hinduism. These religions do not embody groups with totalitarian utopian ideologies that seek world hegemony. In fact, militant Islam resembles fascism and communism more than any religious movement."

He also gives American universities a well-deserved smack, for trying to suppress the very freedom of thought and expression they ought to be promoting:

"They maintain a veneer of civility. Sometimes however, they reveal their true face of intolerance. A typical example of this was when a mini-intifada prevented former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from speaking at Montreal's Concordia University."

"My visit to York confirms, as if one needed more proof, that the North American university has become...'an island of repression in a sea of freedom.' This problem was inadvertently but succinctly captured by a newspaper headline: 'York University to Allow Talk by Pro-Israel Academic.'"

Read it all.

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