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More Trouble in Paradise: The Unruly Neighbors

Pisgat ZeevThe Adhan is the Muslim call to prayer. Five times a day it gets broadcast from the loudspeaker of mosques. In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, residents have complained that the volume of the Adhan has been unnecessarily loud, creating an annoying nuisance, and that Israeli police have not done anything to fix the situation. Especially at 4 a.m., it does not seem reasonable that a call to prayer need be THAT loud; and according to residents of Pisgat Ze’ev, it has been getting louder and louder since Ramadan.

One Pisgat Ze’ev resident named Yehudit Raz told the Jerusalem Post:

“It’s as if they took the speakers and put them inside my bedroom…and it’s not from one mosque or two mosques – we’re talking about tons of speakers going off, one after the other, every morning…everyone is shirking their responsibility…all we want is for them to turn their speakers down. How would they feel if we did the same thing to them?”

Also problematic for Jewish residents, were wedding celebrations featuring fireworks and gunshots in the neighborhoods of Shuafat, Anata, Beit Hanina and Hizme.
“Why must they wake up the whole neighborhood with the noise?” she went on. “Can’t they just get alarm clocks?” asked Raz.

Yael Antebi is the City Councilwoman who represents Pisgat Ze’ev at City Hall and she is a resident. Antebi says that she knows exactly what her fellow residents are complaining about and said that she has been bringing the matter to the proper forum, with the municipality.

One reason that the police may be touchy about addressing such a taboo issue as this is due to recent rioting and unrest at the Holy sites in the area. They do not want to rile the dogs anymore than they have to, so to speak.
Antebi was quoted as saying:

“These mosques are violating noise ordinances…and the police are refusing to get involved…it’s easy for us to say that now isn’t a comfortable time to deal with this issue, but we can always say that…meanwhile, people can’t sleep. This is affecting people’s everyday lives.”

Other complaints have been recorded by Jerusalem residents from Mount Scopus to Gilo. One anonymous Jerusalem resident said:

“When my wife and I lived near the,Mount of Olives cemetery, the speakers were always going off, and loudly…we realized after some time that it was a recording – an mp3 file or something – because a few times, really early in the morning, I guess they had turned the speakers on before they turned on the computer, and the music that comes on when Windows starts up would just blast, really loud, through the whole neighborhood.”

Benny A., a resident of Gilo, told the Jerusalem Post “We hear it [The Adhan] every morning. People get woken up, they can’t get back to sleep, and then they show up to work just exhausted…what I don’t understand is that if this is a religion that says it preaches tolerance, why aren’t they being tolerant here?”

More like tolerable. He continued, “I’m all for freedom of religion and I think they should be able to practice their religion openly, but when it comes to tolerance, they’re forcing their religion into our lives, and we’re their neighbors!”

In defense, Jameel Sanduka, the Mukhtar of Shuafat told the Jerusalem Post last week;

“We were living here long before Pisgat Ze’ev even existed…and this is just a continuation of all the troubles that have been going on on Jeruslaem, and on the Temple Mount.”

He continued:

“It’s not the noise that bothers these people; Islam bothers them. But there are things that bother us, too. The [security barrier] that has been put up in Shuafat, the checkpoints – these things disrupt our daily lives. So I say, if they have a problem with the noise, it’s their problem.”

Sanduka says that he has been contacted several times by the police, but while they have slightly lowered the volume of the Adhan, for religious reasons they cannot altogether make it cease. Sanduka suggested:

“If they would like to come here, as neighbors, and sit and drink coffee, my hand is always open…when there was trouble between the two communities in the past, I personally went to Pisgat Ze’ev and met with leaders there. I’ve been to their community center, I have a number of friends there…but people who want to start trouble – what can I tell you? They’re going to start trouble.”

The police in Jerusalem certainly have bigger fish to fry; but who the REAL trouble makers are, is a question which certainly should raise eyebrows.

Shooting At American Synagogue

shooting in US synagogueThis last Thursday morning at the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic synagogue, in North Hollywood, a gunman opened fire and shot two people in the legs. The shooting happened at about 6:20 am, around the time of morning prayers, and the two casualties were both men in their thirties. This attack happened just 10 miles away from a Jewish Community Center which was the scene of another shooting in 1999. The Israeli consulate in Los Angeles said that the shooter was an African American male wearing a hooded sweatshirt. The man was seen earlier having an argument with two Jews in the synagogue’s parking lot.

Meanwhile, in related news, a U.S. jury indicted James Von Brunn on Wednesday, an 89 year old, World War II veteran, white supremacist, who opened fire inside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.
Brunn killed a museum guard named Stephen T. Johns, before he was shot in the face (thereby incurring wounds from which he survived). He was indicted on seven counts of first-degree murder and could face the death penalty.
The last time such violence against Jews happened on American turf was in 2006, when a mentally ill gunman burst into a Seattle Jewish center, killing one woman and wounding five others; this attack coincided with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

While these incidents are indeed very frightening, the Anti-Defamation League conducted a phone survey last week – the results of which expressed that anti-Semitism in America is at a historic low, with only 12% of Americans openly prejudiced toward Jewish people. The level of anti-Semitism measured in this survey matches that of the same survey taken in 1998, and is the lowest in the 45-year history of this particular poll. The first time that the survey was conducted in 1964, 29% of Americans were said to have “held anti-Semetic views”.

The poll was taken between Sept. 26 and Oct. 4 and consisted of 1,200 adult participants. It further showed men were more likely to be anti-Semitic than women, and that African Americans had higher tendencies to be anti-Jewish than any other ethnic group in the population.

A Sad Farewell to an Israeli Sports Icon

The ex-manager and vice chairman of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club, Moni Fanan was found hanging in his North Tel Aviv apartment Tuesday, in an obvious suicide.

fananThose who knew Fanan were aware that he had accumulated upwards of $20 million in debt, as an unfortunate result of his investing large sums of money in a “gray market” company for other Israeli sports figures. It is said that he had had people investing tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the promise that the investments would yield 1 to 1.5% a month in cash.
The reality of his debts, police, family and friends feel was what prompted him to take his own life.

Sharon Fanan, his wife, found his body in the shower at their home in Ramat Aviv. An ambulance arrived at the scene, but the paramedics were unable to resuscitate him. An article in Haaretz reports:

Dozens of players and fans of the Maccabi basketball dynasty arrived at the home over the following hours, including national team coach Zvi Sherf, and former star player Oded Katash.

While working for the Maccabbi Tel Aviv basketball franchise for almost 30 years, Fanan also worked for the You-Share finance and investment firm, a company that specializes in “gray market” check-cashing and loans. Apparently the firm was located outside of Israel and went bankrupt. While it was no secret that Fanan was involved with the company, he insisted that he had never cashed a check for a player or referee involved in Israeli basketball.

Haaretz reported in a recent article that:

the former manager habitually used money from other figures in Israeli basketball, including referees, coaches and players, and invested it in non-banking investment in exchange for high interest rates. Sources close to Fanan said it is possible that the bankruptcy of an investment firm outside Israel in which he had invested millions of shekels may have brought the legendary manager to take his own life.

One investor who lost tens of thousands with Fanan was quoted as saying:

“Dozens of people gave him tremendous amounts of money. He would promise to deliver the monthly yield in cash, and it would arrive in envelopes to some of the people. I have no idea where he would invest the money given to him, but over the years the money would come back like clockwork.”

The 63 year-old Fanan left behind a wife and two children. He became the manager of the ball club officially in 1992. After several times threatening to quit, he finally left his post last year. Since he left no suicide note, it was also suspected that perhaps he could not bear the separation from his players. The debts acquired as a result of the investment scheme seems more likely, though.

The Jerusalem Post reported:

Fanan’s funeral will take place on Tuesday afternoon at Qiryat Shaul Cemetery and will not be attended by any of the club’s current players and coaches, or even long-serving Maccabi chairman Shimon Mizrahi. Maccabi is currently in Los Angeles preparing for Tuesday night’s benefit game against the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. The club considered canceling the encounter, but after realizing that it is impossible to return to Israel in time for the funeral, the management decided to continue its US tour as scheduled.

Late breaking news out of London informs that the suicide of Fanan is being linked to a missing London stock broker named, Nicholas Levene. The London Times reported that “Fanan’s links to Levene had left him ₤12 million in debt to former players, basketball coaches and club managers.”

What exactly the relationship entailed has yet to be discovered.

Who’s Going to Break Up Haredi Marriage Monopoly?

My wedding has finally made it to the news. No, I don’t think the state of Israel particularly cares whether I, personally, got married or not, but here’s what I mean. When I started asking people about the bureaucracy of getting married in Israel, many people scared me half to death, or at least disgust. Some even suggested not registering as married in Israel in order to avoid the whole situation. And then there was another group of people who told me straight out to avoid the Rabbanut, Israel’s government Rabbinate, altogether by going the way of the Haredim.

Badatz, an acronym for Bet Din Tzedek, or Court of Justice, is the Haredi arm that dispenses marriage licenses, much like Bisli in a vending machine. The thing is, when the State started out and those secular Zionists pompously insisted in centralizing the marriage license industry so they could keep a record and run a country, the Haredim said, basically, “To heck with that. We’re going to register our own guys, and if you don’t like it, go climb an olive tree.” They thereby maintained their right to dispense Bisli marriage licenses, because who was going to stop them? The Messiah?

stavBadatz isn’t nearly as complicated as the Rabbanut, because Badatz only expects to register people they already know are ultra Orthodox and “keep the Torah.” So why should they bother forcing the women to sign notes that they went to the mikveh, the ritual bath before marriage, or that they took pre marital courses with a Rabbi or some such thing? Or that your Rabbi isn’t Conservative or Reform, or a Messianic Jew fםר Jesus, or even a priest who knows some Hebrew? They don’t care, because they assume their guys aren’t going to do that kind of stuff.

So when I went to Badatz in my jeans and sandals in order to circumvent the Rabbanut to get my marriage license, all I had to do was give them a note that my mother is Jewish, and my (now) wife’s mother is Jewish. We both walked in to their little office where nobody had a computer and they all spoke Yiddish, gave them our letters, slapped 360 shekel on the table and he asked me, “Who is doing your wedding?” I told him. He didn’t seem to care. I asked him if there’s anything my Rabbi has to do at this wedding. (At Rabbanut weddings, you have to follow protocol exactly or you don’t end up married.) The guy said, “KeHilchisa!” Literally, “The right way!” Meaning, according to Jewish law. Or, in this case, the implication was “I don’t care what you do!”

So we left, got married, and then picked up our license a few weeks later. Dealing with Haredim had never been so pleasant.

Now, this Rabbanut circumventing phenomenon is circulating in the news, finally. That’s what I mean when I say my wedding finally made the news. Rabbi David Stav (above) of the Tzohar Rabbis Organization, a group of Rabbis that is fed up with the Rabbanut and its insane bureaucracy, said this week, “Today, formally, it is the local rabbinates that are authorized to register marriages, in the marriage departments. However, you never actually see Haredi-religious Jews going there to register for marriage, because the Haredi Jews can register for marriage at the various Badatz courts, which have deals with local rabbinates that allow them to register marriages and later pass on the paperwork to the rabbinate.”

He continued, “Zionist-religious and even secular couples go to those Badatz courts because there is not a long line there,” (that’s me, baby!) “You don’t need to go back several times to complete the paperwork, and you do not need to bring witnesses to testify that you are single. Also, there are many who want a specific rabbi to perform the ceremony although the rabbinate does not approve that rabbi, while the Badatz courts have no supervision and they let almost anyone marry couples.”

Seriously, I could have had an Imam do my wedding and they wouldn’t have cared.

Rabbi Stav said this because he wants to get Tzohar in on the action. Piece of the pie, slice of the cake, etc.

Ain’t love grand? I call for a mudwrestling match between the Rabbanut and the Tzohar guys. Badatz can ref.

Is Richard Goldstone An Anti-Semite?

Head of the UN fact finding Mission on Operation Cast Lead, Richard Goldstone, released in the Jerusalem Post an op-ed article, in defense of his, mainly Israeli and American criticizers. The article comes five weeks after the official release of the Goldstone Report.

Switzerland UN Gaza War CrimesThe President of the Human Rights Council announced the mandate that the Report was:

“to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

Justice Goldstone maintained in the article that his intentions were entirely subjective. He reminded his enemies that he is former member of the South African Constitutional Court and former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; that he has a history of supporting the Jewish State, and served on the Board of Governors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. And also that he was highly critical of the “alleged fraud and theft by governments and political leaders in a number of countries in connection with the United Nations Iraq Oil for Food program.”

He explained that

“In all of these, allegations [I] reached the highest political echelons. In every instance, I spoke out strongly in favor of full investigations and, where appropriate, criminal prosecutions. I have spoken out over the years on behalf of the International Bar Association against human rights violations in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.”

Since the likes of Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called him a Jewish “anti-Semite”; Goldstone felt the need to clear things up. “As A Jew” he wrote, “I felt a greater and not a lesser obligation to do so. It is well documented that as a condition of my participation I insisted upon and received an evenhanded mandate to investigate all sides and that is what we sought to do.”

Richard Falk, a Princeton University professor, and strong criticizer of the IDF in terms of alleged violations of Human Rights against Palestinians, predicts that “the weight of the report will be felt by world public opinion.

Gilad Shalit II? Close Call…

BadriHere’s the quick scoop. Cab driver Dudu Badri picked up a guy in Beit Shemesh, who then forced him at knife point to drive to a Palestinian village. He was then beaten by three men who stole his cab. Fortunately, they did not steal him.

“I was sure I was going to be Gilad Shalit two,” he told the press yesterday. Of the passenger, he said “He didn’t look Arab at all. “He looked like a regular teen from Beit Shemesh. He asked, without an accent, how much it would cost to get to Jerusalem’s center.”

Somewhere in the middle of the drive, he took out a knife and told Badri that if he didn’t do what he wanted, he’d murder him and run.

Badri was then directed to Beit Hanina, an Arab village in East Jerusalem, told to drive into a dark alley and leave the taxi. He refused, and then was beaten by three men.

“I was sure they wanted to take me into one of the homes and kill me. I didn’t realize they wanted the cab,” he said. He then ran to the main road and managed to flag down a civilian. He was driven to the nearest police station.

You never know how close you come to another international incident. I don’t even want to think about it.

The question is, what can we do about phenomena like this? There may not be anything we can do, aside from maybe silent alarms on all cabs. Don’t they already have that? I think it’s called LoJack.

You know…I think I just got that. It’s the opposite of Hijack. LoJack Hijack. HA! Great stuff. Now get them on the cabs. And maybe all the cars that pick up hitchhikers.

Elyashiv Aside, Here’s the Good News

Nishmat is a center for women’s learning and halachic instruction. Not that Torah learning institutions for women are all that rare, but this one sponsors a program that issues certification for women who have completed a course in Jewish law in the area of family purity, or Taharat HaMishpaha. This area regulates sexual relations between husband and wife.

NishmatAnd yesterday evening, Nishmat lifted a 10-year restriction on their certifications’ validity. The women they certify, however, are not called “Rabbis,” but rather “advisors.” And their rulings are first sanctioned by a Rabbi before they are validated, if a simple answer is hard to come by.

Then, you may ask, what’s the point of training women? Simple. If you’re a married woman and you have a question regarding family purity laws, it’s really difficult to go to a male Rabbi you may not even know well and talk about the intimate details of your menstrual cycle. It is much easier talking to a woman about it, for obvious reasons.

The effect on the community has been enormous. The volume of questions coming in to the Yoatzot (female advisors) hotline is exceeding 20, sometimes 30 a day, probably encouraging those who would otherwise shun away from the practice of family purity to follow it, now that they have someone to talk to. Over the past decade, 100,000 questions have been answered on their hotline, fielding questions from all over the world.

Nishmat is endorsed by leaders of Israeli Modern Orthodoxy including Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya’acov Ariel abd Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, the former head of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion near Efrat.
It’s a big step in harmonizing the two worlds, one that brings many closer to religious observance without coercion.

Haredi Rabbi Elyashiv: Please Don’t Anger the Gentiles!

Here are some of the edicts that Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who will turn 100 this coming April, has made lately. The internet is forbidden, Shabbat elevators are forbidden, women must acquiesce to every form of extortion from husbands they want to receive a bill of divorce from in order to be free to remarry, Crocs are forbidden on Yom Kippur, it is forbidden to visit the Western Wall on Shabbat, women are forbidden from earning an academic degree but at the same time must support their unemployed husbands who aren’t allowed to work because they have to study all their lives, and now, Jews are forbidden from entering the Temple Mount complex.
Oh happy day.

Rabbi ElyashivThis latest of rulings was mentioned to President Shimon Peres when the latter went to visit him in his Meah Shearim sukkah.

According to Elyashiv, Jews going up to the Temple mount could anger the gentiles and spark a war and further condemnation of Israel by the nations of the world. So it’s better the Jews lay low and put up a do not disturb sign.

This ruling fits perfectly well with the Haredi mentality of, basically, put up a giant wall, and wait for everything around you to collapse on its own, at which point the Messiah will come and the Haredim will inherit the Earth. This translates into the assumption that if Jews do anything to assert their rights anywhere, then we are “inhibiting the coming of the Messiah,” by breaching the wall we’re supposed to put up. This is why, in Haredi eyes, Israel is illegitimate. We breached the wall.

Elyashiv has his critics and slowly but surely, Haredi society is freeing itself from the influence of the old guard. We won’t see this actively happening until Elyashiv passes on and then some, but there is some simmering going on. Building a giant wall and waiting for everything outside of it to collapse just isn’t in style so much these days.
Some actually think that putting up a do not disturb sign encourages people to start rapping at your door. If you don’t answer, it, the knock usually gets even louder.

Avigdor Lieberman’s Back in the News

About to be indicted for money laundering and bribery, Avigdor Lieberman has finally made a headline once again. Believed to be keeping a low profile, spending time in Africa while Barak and Bibi talk to the Americans about Iran, he decided to make another one of his comments about the peace process. According Israel’s foreign minister, there’s no chance of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for many years.

Avigdor LiebermanI have a hard time figuring out why statements such as these make headlines at all. Isn’t that what everyone says in the street all the time? The only thing special is that Lieberman is the only government official who says it out loud, and he seemingly represents the State. Everyone else wants to sound diplomatic. It is Israel’s top diplomat, however, that doesn’t really care about diplomacy all that much.

Going a bit deeper, Lieberman says it’s unrealistic to think a long-term agreement can be reached at this time and that whoever thinks an agreement can be reached soon just doesn’t understand the situation. Instead, he wants interim agreements that will keep the situation calm until such a time as a permanent agreement can be reached.

To me, this is just more of the same. What’s the difference between a permanent agreement and a temporary agreement? For both of them, you need both sides to agree to something. And that’s what’s proven so impossible these years. So why would temporary work better than permanent? This I fail to understand.

“What is possible to reach is a long-term intermediate agreement … that leaves the tough issues for a much later stage.” He failed to elaborate, as politicians often do.

Does anyone ever think of the possibility of no agreement? After all, this is the direction Israel has been going in lately. The disengagement was one form of that, as it was unilateral. Argue about the direction taken in that unilateral decision one may, but it seems we are on the course of imposing some sort of solution rather than signing more papers.

It’s just a question of what the next unilateral move by Israel will be and who will make it. Oh, it won’t be Lieberman. He’ll probably be in prison or some such place.

Assaf Ramon, Son of Late Ilan Ramon, Killed in F16 Crash

Assaf RamonThere are some stories that just make you go wide-eyed, and pretty much stay that way for weeks. The shock never really goes away, and every time you think about it, you are somewhere between cringing, crying, and shedding a tear of pride. And let’s not ever forget, simply asking why.

We all felt this when Ilan Ramon, the first Israel astronaut and one of the most sublime representatives the Jewish people has ever had, went into space with the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Ramon took upon himself what is arguably the most pervasive sanctification of the name of God in modern times by bringing a Holocaust Torah into space and doing his best to keep Shabbat as a representative of the Jewish people while he was flying around the globe in the space shuttle Discovery back in 2003.

Upon reentry, as we all well know, Ramon’s craft was destroyed, killing the entire crew and burning everything including the Torah that was written in a death camp, save 37 pages from a diary Ramon had kept which, beyond any rational explanation, survived reentry while the space shuttle itself did not. The wreckage was found spread out over a southern US city called Palestine, Texas. We all cried, we all felt incredibly proud, devastated, perhaps sick to our stomachs, and the lump in our throats wouldn’t leave for weeks. We also scratched our heads, thinking that something strange just happened that we couldn’t readily explain.

Ilan Ramon was survived by his wife and four children. His eldest son, Assaf, decided to be an F16 pilot, just like his father Ilan, so he could be closer to him, posthumously. So he did, graduating at the top of his class, and he of course would have made Ilan proud. He certainly made his mother, Rona, proud.

Yesterday, Assaf Ramon was killed in a training accident over the Hebron Hills. He was flying the same plane flown by his father in 1981 as the Chief Navigator of the mission to blow up Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.

The plane took off from the Nevatim air base at 1 P.M. on a routine training flight in a single-seat Falcon as part of the advanced flight training course. The pilot Assaf was working with could not find him on radio, and reports followed of residents near Hebron reporting a plane flying at low altitude, followed by an explosion.

An IDF officer who was one of the first on the scene said that “all that was left was a big, burned out crater, with very little debris.” The IDF brought hundreds of soldiers who began combing the mountains for debris. Ramon’s remains were found near the crater.

Ramon was named best cadet in his class after finishing his training almost three months ago. He is now buried next to his father.

Rona, Assaf’s mother and Ilan’s wife, now has three children left. Only God knows the pain she is going through, as only God knows why this family has to suffer so greatly.

So it is with a sense of entirely contradictory emotions of profound sickness, pride, shock, hope, and sincerity, as well as many others I dare not list, that I wish the Ramon family comfort in the new year that will begin at the end of this week. May they know no more sorrow, oh God. They have had enough.

May God comfort them among the mourners for Zion and Jerusalem.

Kick-ass rabbis team up to defend synagogues

GaryHigh Holiday season is always a stressful time for Rabbis, but the word “stressful” usually describes how they feel about their sermons, the High Holiday appeal, the synagogue’s financial situation, the latest pow-wow the Rabbi got into with the president of the board, those sort of things. But this year, a group of Rabbis is taking their stress-coping strategies to a new level and teaching congregants how to beat up terrorists that may otherwise infiltrate a group of Yom Kippur worshippers and harm them.

The group is called the International Security Coalition of Clergy, founded by Rabbi Gary Moscowitz. Yes, he’s a black-belt and a former NYPD officer. In a quote that I happen to really like, he said “Jews are not like Christians. If I turn my cheek, I’m coming around to make a kick.” I second that. Nobody’s messing with me anymore.

What inspired Moscowitz to do this? It was an event last May when police discovered a terrorist organization of American Muslims planning to attack New York City synagogues.

He claims he doesn’t fear Muslims specifically, but extremists in general. “We’re just worried about the safety of the houses of worship that are being threatened with rhetoric on regular basis and extremism,” Moscowitz said.

His course is a 100 hour martial arts course that will hopefully turn Jewish worshippers into lethal weapons that defend their houses of prayer. Or something of the sort. At the beginning, nobody took him seriously, but he was just interviewed on Fox News and there’s even a video on about him.

The course teaches rabbis and synagogue-goers how to take down a terrorist who succeeds in entering the houses of worship, use tables as means of defense against gunfire, and to pull out a handgun while performing a flip.

“A terrorist could put a yarmulke on, say, ‘Happy holidays,’ and blow the place up,” he warns. That’s why he’s not relying only on the police.

IDF Chief Ashkenazi – First His Credit Card, Now his Life?

Boy is it dangerous to be the IDF Chief of Staff these days. First, he gets his credit card and antique pistol stolen by some soldier, and now a Hezbollah-recruited Israeli-Arab has been caught trying to kill him to avenge the death of assassinated Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh.

Gym AshkenaziThe Shabak, Israel’s secret service, caught the culprit by tracking his emails and Facebook messages. The suspect, Rawi Sultani, a 23-year-old Israeli-Arab from the town of Tira, was recruited by Hezbollah in the summer of 2008 when he traveled to Morocco to attend a Balad Party summer camp.

Balad, an Arab party with representation of the Knesset, was recently disqualified by the central elections committee from running in these past elections on the grounds that its leader, former Knesset member Azmi Bishara, fled to Syria to escape terrorism charges. He still gets a pension though. We’re just that gracious and self-effacing of a people. The Supreme Court reversed the disqualification, and Balad continues to run its Hezbollah-attended summer camps from Knesset headquarters.

During his stay at the camp, Sultani met Hezbollah operative Salman Harab, where Sultani gave him information on Ashkenazi’s daily routine, including the fact that the two occasionally worked out together at a Kfar Saba country club.
I wonder if this will be enough evidence to bar Balad from running in the upcoming Knesset elections. Something tells me, though, that nothing will ever be enough.

Hezbollah is still trying to avenge the assassination of Mughniyeh, as yet unsuccessfully, since they blame Israel for his death. Israel has not claimed responsibility for the assassination, but was openly satisfied that Mughniyeh, responsible for the bombing of a Jewish Community Center in Argentina in the early 90’s, can no longer direct terrorist activities, given that he is no longer alive.

Car bombs will do that to you.

An Immigration System Worth Crying Over

passportA few days ago, we received a letter from a reader who is a Russian immigrant, involving the immigration issues surrounding his non Jewish wife. We are posting it here not because we advocate the cause of non Jews immigrating to Israel, but rather because we advocate consistency in immigration policy, so people, when they come here from foreign countries, get actual information that makes sense and doesn’t strand them without health insurance or any means of normal living.

Meaning this: If you, State of Israel, allow the immigration of non Jewish spouses to Israel, then allow it fully and cut the double talk. If you don’t, then don’t, but say this unequivocally. But don’t lure them here under the pretense that everything will be fine and then unload a trap. It’s embarrassing for a modern State to act this way.

The Office of the Interior Ministry has been known to make people cry like children for its zoo-like cacophonous horror of primordial discord, and here’s yet another illustration of it. It’s a wonder we’re able to win wars with a public administration like this.

This is a story that is happening with my family right now, it is unbelievably ridiculous but very true.

I made Aliyah a few months ago from Russia. I am Jewish on both sides of my family and my wife is Russian. In July 2009 I received all my documents and Isaeli permanent residency status without any questions or problems whatsoever. My wife, on the other, hand came one month after me, once I prepared everything for her arrival. At the consulate we were told that she could not get her visa before August 8th 2009, since we were married on August 8th 2008 and one year must pass before she can become an Israeli citizen.

So, after August 8th, my wife went to the consulate in Moscow and submitted her passport. Prior to this we presented all documentation required by the consulate for approval of our status as immigrants. We were told everything is fine and to prepare our new passports for visas, which of course we did.

After arriving in Ben Gurion Airport on the 17th of August, my wife presented her visa to the representatives of the ministry at the airport. Everything was fine and she was let into the country. On the 23rd of August we went to the Ministry of Interior to get her Israeli I.D.. This is when the fun began.

We were told that she must go to the visa section at the Ministry in order for them to review something and she was not issued an I.D., the persons at the visa section gave us a list of documents which must be presented in addition to what was presented already to the consulate. For instance a marriage certificate, certificate of no criminal offenses, pictures to prove that we live together, letters from relatives and a lot of other bull. This was all presented to the consulate in Moscow and they were satisfied. Otherwise they would not have issued the visas.

We were sent to the visa section at the Ministry of Interior immediately after my wife was asked if she was Jewish and what religion did she follow. Of course she answered that she is not Jewish and she did not ascribe to any religion.

I find the whole situation insulting. How is it possible that you get a visa to immigrate to a country, spend money, time, and great effort and when you think everything is finally done, you are told that because your wife is Russian she has to present a bunch of documents which no one told us she would need to present once in Israel? Now they are proposing to issue my wife a temporary visa status. She is not eligible for health insurance, she cannot take language courses, she cannot receive absorption compensation, and she cannot even have a bank account in Israel.

This is the most idiotic thing I have had to deal with in my life. Why issue an immigration visa for permanent residency if then once the person is in the country they are told that it was a mistake?!

Welcome to the Jewish State my friend. When you’re with a people who haven’t had one for 2,000 years, just know that things can get a bit rusty. Just watch out for tetanus on the rust.

Water Usage Drops by 13.5%

The government has been taxing the bejoobles out of water and broadcasting scary toilet-flushing sounds with pretty Israeli women warning how every toilet flush contributes to the flushing of the Kinneret into the Mediterranean Sea. Sounds silly, but the sad thing is, it’s true. The good news is that water consumption for July went down from 73 million cubic meters last year to 63 this year.

This is especially good since water consumption in the summer months generally increases. This year, it actually stayed flat. So far, 70 million cubic meters have been saved, and the Water Authority is hoping to get that number up to 120 million before the onset of the winter rainy season.

To get a picture of where we are, the Kinneret is currently at 213.89 meters below sea level. The red line, meaning the lowest the Kinneret can go before being endangered with salt water intrusion, is 213 below sea level. We are, currently, about a meter below that already, with 2 months to go before the first rains can even begin to get here. The final black line is 215 below, at which point salt water intrusion becomes a definite, and the lake becomes salinated for decades, and 60% of our drinking water becomes virtually unusable.

This is why conserving is so critically important, especially now. We have at least 60 more days until rains come, and with the lake going down 1-4 centimeters a day, we’re getting really, REALLY close to that black line.

Word has it that water taxes are even higher for those who live in mountainous areas. Though our wallets are suffering and the government hasn’t really done much to increase desalination projects, our wallets will suffer much more if the Kinneret becomes unusable.

Trust us. You don’t want to see that happen. Here’s a short Hebrew video about how to save another 20 million cubic meters a year by putting a displacer in your toilet.

Kissing a Mezuza Risks Swine Flu? Doctors Say Yes

swine flu virusIn a country where it’s a nearly ubiquitous custom to kiss a Mezuzah upon entering and exiting a building, at a time when said country is all up in arms about Swine Flu, is probably a bad combination. But the question has already been asked. Can kissing a Mezuzah contribute to the spread of the disease?

What’s the need for the question? Of course yes. Flu is extremely contagious, and it stands to reason that an object that collects bits of saliva from passersby can function like a hub for H1N1. But the Rabbis were asked anyway. Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar had this to say on the subject, “If a specific order is given in the matter, the mezuzah must be kissed from the air, to ensure that the custom is not forgotten.” That’s a pretty fair compromise, but why must an order be given? We all know that the flu spreads from salivary contact. Do we need an order to tell us so?

Dr Ilan YoungsterMeanwhile, six out of seven doctors interviewed on the subject declined to comment about Mezuzahs in particular, for fear of getting in trouble with the Rabbis. No comment. There was only one doctor brave enough to tell the truth. Kissing Mezuzahs (sans Rabbi Amar’s air-kissing technique) increases the spread of Swine Flu, is dangerous, and people should refrain from doing it. His name is Ilan Youngster, and he based his warning on research he presented a year and a half ago sampling 70 Mezuzahs, which all turned out to contain many dangerous bacteria.

“Perhaps,” he continued, “because of the fact that the mezuzah is a religious object, people are afraid to sterilize it.”

Rabbi Amar responded to Youngster’s recommendation with ambivalence. On the one hand, he didn’t want the Health Ministry to issue an advisory against the practice, however, he recommended that anyone who wants to follow Youngster’s advice, “…put his hand near the mezuzah and kiss it, so as not to miss out on this good and important custom.”

I would ask Rabbi Amar about the commandment of “shmor et nafsheha” which is a Biblical obligation that a Jew watch over his health and well being, which I’m guessing should override a mere custom, but Amar wasn’t available for comment. I also didn’t call him for one either, for fear of getting in trouble with the Rabbis.

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