a different side of Israel

Category: Jewish Life (page 9 of 15)

Jewish life in Israel and in the world, humor, news, and commentary in

End of Summer

* (en) Israel LocationWe’re quickly approaching the end of August. And even though we had some nice weather at the end of last week, it’s steaming hot in Israel at the moment. Nevertheless, the sky darkens a bit earlier.

Next week the school year begins, and hundreds of thousands of children will get off the streets and into the classrooms. One girl who might not ordinarily resume school is Rose from Netanya, who’s been missing for 3 months, and only two days ago came to the public’s attention. Today we learn that her step father is suspected of murdering her, and this story has a shocking similarity to the murder of Hodia Kedem 6 years ago by her father, as a twisted way of taking revenge at his ex-wife. We still don’t know if that’s the also the case this time, and the whole of Israel is hoping that Rose will eventually be found safe and sound.

On the environmental front, Israel is drier than it has been for many decades, and there is a real threat of entering a state of water shortage. Another consequence of the heat is the excess use of air conditioners and the resulting spread of allergies.

September 1st is a day dreaded by many, anticipated by many. But we still have a whole week to go.

How the Georgian conflict might affect Israel?

KremlinThe war in Georgia heightens the tension between Russia and the US, reminding many of us of the Cold War era. How this shift in the international arena might affect the state of Israel?

Well, first of all, there’s Iran. A growing involvement of American forces in Eastern Europe would make it virtually unable to open a new front in Iran. Furthermore, Russia’s backing is essential for any UN sanctions on Iran, and such backing is already quickly evaporating as the old tensions between the superpowers come to life again.

When faced with the pressure to choose sides, Israel will surely align itself with America. This could severely affect the large Russian population within Israel, which could become disgruntled and more alienated. In addition, Russia may make it more difficult for Jews in Russia to make Aliyah, which is a vital process in maintaining the delicate demographic balance in this country.

Finally, the prolongation of this conflict will have serious worldwide economic implications, especially on oil prices and on the American currency. Are we prepared to stand the tide?

Ignorance is Divine

26,000 Haredi children will reach the age of 18 without knowing basic mathematics, civics, or any English at all.

SeclusionUp until now, the 260 Haredi Yeshivas that did not teach the Core Curriculum to their children were deemed inappropriate to receive governmental funding. They received such funding anyway, contra legem. But since the matter had been exposed, these Haredi institutions faced the threat of being revoked of any governmental funding unless they incorporate some math and English lessons in their curriculum.

A new law that passed in the Knesset late last week now allows this absurd situation to resume, lawfully! Ignorance is not state sponsored.

This novel measure only perpetuate the cycle of ignorance and poverty within the Haredi population, and further divides the Israeli community as a whole. Another implication of the Haredi educational system is the inability of Haredi children to be exposed to contradictory dogmas, and when some of these already grown-up children decide to question religion and to enter the realm of secularism — and be sure, these people do exist — they step outside with no tools or knowledge to help them face the secular reality.

In short, it’s an educational system that perpetuates control no less than it perpetues ignorance. While I deeply respect my Haredi brothers, I don’t think this ever-growing seclusion is doing them good.

All hearts face North, not West

Human Narration on

According to well-informed predictions, the highly anticipated prisoner swap deal with Hezbollah is set to take place tomorrow morning (Wednesday, July 16) in Rosh Ha’Nikra – Israel’s northernmost border post along the Mediterranean Sea.

Rosh Ha
Rosh Ha’Nikra

Recent speculation, initiated by Lebanese newspapers, says that one of the two Israeli captives might be alive. Although many official reports in Israel have claimed that both Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are likely to be dead, we all hope for a miracle tomorrow.

On to a different subject… During the AIPAC convention in June, Barack Obama announced his clear devotion to an undivided Jerusalem — a message that surprised many, but was very resolute, and couldn’t be interpreted in any other way than as an affirmation of Israel’s sovereignty over east Jerusalem. However, this Sunday, the Democratic Nominee made a squeaking U-turn and retracted his AIPAC comments, saying they were “badly phrased”. As he explains: “The point we were simply making was that we don’t want barbed wire running through Jerusalem, similar to the way it was prior to the ’67 war.”

And to this I can only respond: Give me a break!

Obama plans on visiting Israel next week. I do not expect a warm welcome.

Fireball Seen by Thousands both in LA and in Tel Aviv

Wednesday, July 9, Last Updated 10:00 GMT

Human Narration on

TEL AVIV, Israel — Last night, a massive fireball crossed the Israeli nightsky at around 8pm local time (18:00 GMT), traveling in an East-to-West bearing and disappearing above the Mediterranean Sea.

Police received tens of emergency calls regarding the mysterious object starting at 8pm in the Sharon province (6 miles north of Tel-Aviv) and up to 8:20pm in Haifa (59 miles north of Tel Aviv). People described sighting a bright light descending fast towards the sea, followed by a clear trail of smoke.

Meteor Illustration“I thought this was it; the end of the world”, recounts Eyal, a Ramat-Ha’Sharon resident. “I called my wife to the window, but by the time she arrived, the object had disappeared. I’m sure it caused a tidal wave wherever it landed. I still have goosebumps all over me.”

Some people speculate the event is related to the Iranian missile test conducted last night, since there weren’t any prior reports of an expected meteor shower.

Interestingly enough, very similar accounts were received by Californian police a week ago, July 2, as a bright fireball was seen zooming past the San Bernardino Mountains. Correspondingly, the LA event wasn’t expected by astronomers as well, and the location of the debris — if such debris exist — remains unknown.

We at are the first to expose the link between these two mysterious events. Could they both be the result of the same asteroid slowly breaking apart after being caught in the Earth’s atmosphere?

With regard to last night’s occurrence, no clear photo has been made public yet. If you happened to film the event, please send us the footage and we’ll post it here with full credits.

Be Proud of Jerusalem

Human Narration on

Yesterday the Chords Bridge was inaugurated in Jerusalem in a massive celebration that cost 2 million shekels.

Jerusalem Chords Bridge at Night

Many people think the new bridge doesn’t fit the local atmosphere and is actually an attempt to try and make Jerusalem seem more European. The local Haredi (ultra-orthodox) population had threatened to boycott the event when it was discovered that an all-girl dance group would perform in the ceremony, eventually forcing the dance group to dress their girls in long puffy clothes.

Jerusalem Chords Bridge at Daytime

The Gay Pride Parade is scheduled to take place in Jerusalem this evening, despite protests made by the Haredi population. Last year the protests threatened to go out of hand and the parade turned into a much smaller event, and three years ago a Haredi man stabbed and wounded one of the marchers.

Jerusalem Pride Parade

Jerusalem is indeed a city in internal conflict: Jews vs. Arabs, Secular folks vs. Orthodox population, Old-style architecture vs. Western monumental designs.

Photos by Ynet/Sason Tiram, and the Jerusalem Open House

Israeli Soldier Captive for 2 Years – Come and Protest

Israeli Captive Gilad ShalitTomorrow, Tuesday the 24th, will be 730 days Gilad Shalit is being held captive by the Hamas. If you do the quick math, that’s 2 years!

Because the government has failed to release Gilad in the past two years, a large demonstration is scheduled to take place tomorrow in front of PM Olmert’s residence in Jerusalem, at 7pm. The exact address is corner of Gaza St. and Rambam St. (near the Square of France).

Come and be heard. Gilad needs to come back home, safe and sound, as soon as possible. It’s been too long.

For more details, visit the “Thy children shall come again to their own border” website, or their Facebook group.

The Naked Truth

Assi Dayan is a renowned Israeli actor, writer, and director. In recent years he is most associated with the character of Reuven Dagan, the therapist in the midst of the hit drama “Be’Tipul” — which has been adapted to the American audiences by HBO, titled “In Treatment”. Assi Dayan is a long-time drug addict and he doesn’t hide this fact. In fact, he likes to talk about it.

T ShirtLast week, Dayan was twice viciously exposed in the media: First, he gave an interview to Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s leading daily newspaper in the Hebrew language, and was featured naked on the weekend edition. In the interview, he compared his hairy belly to the state of Israel, saying they’re both in terrible shape. Then a few days later he made a phone call to channel 10’s entertainment correspondent Haim Etgar and invited him to come with a film crew to document his messy apartment and his messy life. The piece, aired on primetime TV during the evening news, bluntly exposed Dayan snorting white powder

These sensational interviews brought much outrage on the media affiliates that apparently weighted ratings over ethics, while Haim Etgar defended himself by saying that Dayan was pleading for help and that the primetime exposure was meant to divert public attention (and support) to his ill condition. Needless to say that Dayan granted full permission to both these interviews — He initiated the whole affair.

Dayan’s cousin, the author Yonatan Geffen (who was once a drug addict himself) published an article in Ma’ariv — the second largest Israeli daily newspaper — in which he blames the media for exploiting his cousin’s condition, and reminding us that Dayan’s so-called consent is morally and legally invalid, since he was not thinking clearly at the time. He accused the media of “tenderly” pushing Dayan towards his death, comparing his cousin to Britney Spears, who has also been suffering from intrusive media reports. Although perhaps an Amy Winehouse comparison is more fitting in this case.

We all have demons of self-destruction; they are not the sole property of celebrities. I wonder why the camera loves them so much.

Post Optimism

An Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire “sort of” began today; Iran agrees to discuss the West’s anti-nuclear incentives; Exchange of prisoners with Hezbollah is rumored to take place any day now; Bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance stand together with the Histadrut (the federation of labor) against the Minister’s plot to tax the Study Funds; It’s summer…

There are lots of things to be optimistic about, it seems.

Question Mark

Well, I don’t think anyone’s really excited about these news. It’s good that things start to roll, but it may be too little, too late.

1. The truce may enable Hamas to smuggle Gilad Shalit out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt, turning this tragedy into a much longer affair. In addition, there are no illusions about this cease fire. In the meantime, Hamas supplies itself with new ammunition and new rockets, and the flames could be back in a matter of days.

2. Iran stalls time. After all, Mr. Bush is about to leave office, and Ahmadinejad knows that while Bush is keen to attack, Obama (which polls project him to be the next US President) is keen to avoid any such confrontation. “So it’s Okay to show signs we’re ready to enter the diplomatic path. These things take months and years, and we only need to stall Mr. Bush for five months”.

3. Yes, after almost two years, we may finally know what happened to Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. However it’s highly estimated that they’re dead, and in exchange for their release, Israel will let go of Samir Kuntar, the last bargaining chip we have when it comes to extracting information from the Hezbollah regarding the missing pilot Ron Arad.

Sun4. It’s “common knowledge” in recent years that the state of Israel is actually controlled by the Ministery of Finance bureaucrats. The Ministers come and go every two-or-so years, but the bureaucrats are the ones who sign the papers and release the money, while having the chance to push forward their agenda over long periods of time. They have practically privatized any thing imaginable in the last decade, and make this country unbearable for more and more people: Students, the elderly, single moms, etc. Now they’ve done something truly exceptional — entirely out of character — and stood up against the Minister when he suggested striking another blow at the average citizen. Honestly, this is the only report that actually excites me.

5. Oh, and I’m also excited about the summer.

Picture by Lucky Oliver

Right Wing Extremists pour boiling water over Meretz party representatives

The four Knesset members who currently represent Meretz (a left wing Israeli political party) paid a visit to the city of Hebron this morning, after the Supreme Court (Ba’Gatz) ordered that the city be made accessible again for organized tours. This privilege had been previously stripped from “Breaking the Silence” — a veterans’ organization that aims to draw public attention to the tense Jewish-Arab relations in Hebron — due to security concerns.

And indeed there were security concerns to be dealt with this morning. A wild demonstration by right wing extremists ended when they sprayed boiling water at the Meretz representatives, injuring the party spokesman, a foreign journalist, and a policeman.


Source: Walla! News

Is this Anti-Semitism?

Millionaire Avi Shaked tried to enter politicsYair Lapid hosts a weekly television newsmagazine called “Ool’Pan Shi’Shi” (Friday’s Studio). This last Friday I watched a piece in Ool’Pan Shi’Shi about Israeli entrepreneur Avi Shaked who set out to establish a chain of coffee shops in Shanghai, China. You see, apparently the Chinese favour the traditional tea over coffee, and drink it only because it’s trendy and it symbolizes the West.

In any case, this Israeli brand, titled Citta Caffe, has currently only 3 branches in the entire country — while the competing Starbucks already has 350(!) branches in China. Yet, according to the reporter, the Chinese people see Citta as equal in dominance and relevance to Starbucks, a widespread notion that derives from the way the Chinese view the Israeli. As evident from the piece, Jewish people are considered in China to be intelligent and savvy in the business world. One could find books in Shanghai titled “How to make money like the Jews” and so forth.

What really caught my attention was one innocent quote… At the end, the reporter asked a young Chinese woman what she thinks of Israel and its people, and the woman responded that “the whole world is controlled by the Israeli people, but the whole world is made in China”. This tongue-in-cheek answer, which may seem at first like an attempt at flattering, turned a red light in my mental dashboard.

Is this reputation true? We’re intelligent? We’re business savvy? Well, of course there are many intelligent Jews, and many who succeed in business, but there are just as many successful Americans, rich French, or savvy Chinese. See, it’s true that historical reasons drove a large percentage of the Jewish diaspora into the business world as they were forbidden to engage in many other professions, and it’s also true that the Israeli culture promotes its members to be daredevils and to claim their place in the world. I don’t think it’s a bad thing; on the contrary, I’m proud of my culture. But these characteristics cause our tiny country to be very “noisy”, from a global perspective, relative to its size — and this notion fosters hostility and envy by many.

When the Chinese revere Jewish people as smart and successful, it may be a sign of affection and respect on their part — yet I can’t help but to think how these very same stereotypes were so prevalent across Europe in the 1930’s.

If Only Cancer was a Sign of Progress

A report published by the Ministry of Health a few days ago determines that the new leading cause of death in Israel is cancer. Previously, this dubious title was reserved for heart disease. The report explains the change by citing the development of new methods for the treatment of heart disease. At first glance, it sounds like good news. Here we are, a tiny country in the Middle East, able to defeat one of Death’s servants. Now we could move on to focus on its “lesser” sibling: Mr. Malignant Tumor.

Alas, if only this was a sign of progress, or a tribute to Israeli medicine.

As a child growing up in Israel, I was always taught that road accidents is the leading cause of death in Israel. Whether a proven fact or not, it had been ingrained into our brain. Teachers used to cite the appalling numbers of car victims, and the fact that these numbers exceed by far the number of Israeli war casualties. Well, it is true that the Israeli driver earned the reputation of being snappish and restless — a rather accurate description, which could only be rivaled by the Italian driver’s reputation. And getting into my car and onto the road is sometimes like entering a battlefield. On the one hand, it’s a stressful experience for many, but on the other, the perfect opportunity to vent off some anger — as honks, curse words, and the middle finger do not pose a rare occasion out here.

SerpentAnd what about violent crimes? The numbers are rising, and we hear more and more of young teenagers being stabbed outside of dancing clubs, or of old folks being brutally beaten and robbed. Crime families, such as the Alperon family, or the Rosenstein’s, have gained celebrity status, and appear to dodge the police time and time again with the help of their fancy lawyers. Domestic violence is also a phenomenon that declines to recedes, despite massive awareness.

Terror and rockets continue to claim their victims, although the numbers are have drastically fallen in recent years, thanks to the government’s firm approach. But even so, as peace is constantly lingering, conflict is likely to cause more sorrow for Israeli families in the future.

So we’ve been left with Cancer to be our biggest foe. Personally, I find the prospect of cancer terrifying. I know too many people afflicted by it, friends and family. In addition, the fervent sun in Israel is relentless in summer, and the presence of antennas and satellite dishes is always on the rise. It seems the world turns more and more radioactive by the day, and not only in Israel.

Finally, I want to address the reduced percentage of heart-related death in Israel. It is indeed a positive mark, but it’s something we can see across the Western world, and it is not unique to Israel. We have the privilege of placing advanced technology in our hospitals and cutting-edge drugs in our pharmacies, but less and less people can afford these — as poverty is spreading, while medical care is being progressively privatized.

Dear Government Officials, we may have won a single battle, but the war is still waging, and there is much more to do. Death is a tricky serpent.

Source: Haaretz ; Picture by My Pets

Sex and the Orthodox City

An Israeli Billboard company demands to take out the sex from the “Sex and the City” posters displayed in Jerusalem and Petah Tikva.

The new and highly anticipated film is now being promoted throughout the country to the delight of many of its fans that have waited for this moment impatiently. But the billboard company Maximedia is fighting the ad campaign of this popular movie under the premise that the citizens of these two predominantly religious cities are not interested in the word “sex” printed all over their town.

You really don’t know whether to get angry or just laugh at the ridiculousness of this whole thing. Once again we are confronted with the absurd reality where the interests of the secular population in mixed cities are not taken into account.

“We have treaties of commerce with the municipalities which grant us the right to install signs and advertise within them, and there are certain understandings as to the substance advertised”, said Meir Shamir from Maximedia. According to Shamir, the officials in the municipalities of Jerusalem and Petah Tikva have requested not to put up the word “sex” simply because it bothers them.

“We asked Forum Films to leave out the word and place three dots instead, so it’s not exactly as they have been telling the press,” said Shamir. “If we don’t leave out the word it’s likely that the past will repeat itself and our signs will be defaced. It certainly bothers a certain population.”

To See or Not to SeeTo See or Not to SeeThe removal of the word sex from the title “Sex and the City” is absurd! It is also a blatant expression of censorship in what is supposed to be progressive and modern society. Well, let’s just rename the film with something less provocative, like “The Encouragement of Natural Reproduction and The City”.

So for the time being the two cities remain sexless, and frankly they’re better off. After all, what logical arguments can possibly appeal to those who think they can stay protected from the obscenities of this world by never leaving town or watching television?

Source: YNET

“Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people”

The quote above is taken from a 1821 play by Heinrich Heine called “Almansor”. In the play itself, the quote is referring to the burning of the Muslim Quran by the Christian Inquisition in Spain. However the quote is most associated with the May 10, 1933 burning of Jewish books by a Nazi crowd in Berlin’s “Babelplatz” (Babylon Plaza). Today, there is a monument standing in that place:

Babelplatz in Berlin

Last Thursday a book burning event took place in the city of Or Yehuda, a small city outside of Tel-Aviv. The event was a local reaction to the intensive activity of Christian missionaries from the sect of “Messianic Judaism” in one of the city’s neighborhoods. The missionaries went door-to-door and distributed written materials, including the New Testament.

Or Yehuda Book BurningThe collection of the books was arranged by Assistant Mayor Uzi Aharon, a lawyer, and a representative of the “Shas” party — an ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) political party, that has representation in the Knesset as well. In an interview to the press today, Mr. Aharon denied initiating the fire itself, claiming it was a spontaneous action of some people. Nevertheless, he did not offer an apology, and stated out that “the residents of Or Yehuda are people with values and a strong orientation towards the Jewish religion and the Jewish tradition”. In addition he proposed during the interview for the government to alter the law that deals with religious conversations, in order to prevent the Messianic Jews from continuing their missionary activities.

In response to the burning of their books, the Messianic Jews demand the opening of an investigation by the police.

I mention the association between the 1933 book burning and the Or Yehuda book burning without further commentary. I would like to hear your comments and find out whether you think these two events can be compared together or not.

Babelplatz Photo by Aaron Siirila; Or Yehuda photo and Source by NRG Ma’ariv

Lebanon: Who’s in Charge There?

A lebanese shiite gunmanRecent fighting in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon has made many wonder who is really in charge there. The fighting began several days ago following a clamp down by the Sunni Muslim dominated government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora – himself a Sunni Muslim – on a media network run by none other than Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s Hezbollah organization. PM Siniora must have pushed the Shiite Sheikh and his organization a bit too far, as Nasrallah went on the air declaring in a fiery speech that Siniora and his “so-called” government’s actions were nothing less than an act of war against the Hezbollah.

Nasrallah’s tirade was almost immediately followed by Shiite gunmen setting up positions in various sections of the Capital, which forced Siniora to order the Lebanese army to send out troops with tanks and armored personnel carriers, as to try and show Nasrallah and his followers that the government meant business. All that can be said about these events is that the fighting which took place over the past few days in both Beirut and Tripoli indicates the Hezbollah appears to have the upper hand in this new conflict that many fear could turn into another civil war, like the one that almost destroyed the country back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

The situation went from bad to worse with large areas of Beirut again becoming a war zone, and people being afraid to leave their homes, or even to purchase basic necessities.
Although the situation has begun to improve a bit since the fighting broke out (which coincidentally was about the same time that Israel was celebrating it’s 60th Independence Day), the relative calm only occurs because Nasrallah and the Hezbollah backed off a bit, for their own personal reasons. Most likely, the Hezbollah isn’t inclined to assume control of the entire country, and so its people are content to consolidate their hold on areas like West Beirut, along with their known strongholds in southern Lebanon.

Obviously, the Israeli government and military are keeping a wary eye on the developments in the north, as was noted by Defense Minister Ehud Barak during a visit to a kibbutz in southern Israel after a Hamas attack that took place there. Barak said that the IDF is “keeping one eye open in the south and another eye open in the north in regards to what is happening in Lebanon”.

That may be indeed a good idea, as Israel’s worst nightmare would be a Hezbollah-governed Lebanon on its northern border. The 2006 war is still on many people’s mind in Israel, especially those living in the north. The actions of Nasrallah’s organization during the past few days clearly indicate that Fouad Siniora and his government are not in charge of their country’s affairs — in fact, far from it. So, who’s really in charge in the “country of the cedars”? You, the reader, can draw your own conclusions.

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