Monday, April 30, 2007

"Anachnu Talmideem b'Ulpan!"

"Anachnu Talmideem b'Ulpan" - "We are students in Ulpan" (Ulpan = Hebrew School). Pictured left to right: Tanya (tourist from Holland), Chazan and Yasan (Arabs from Jerusalem), me, Daniella (a new immigrant from Mexico) and in front, Heni (another Jerusalem-native Arab). We're on a mid-morning break from conjugating new Hebrew verbs and sitting in the courtyard of "Ulpan Beit Ha Am" (Beit Ha Am = "The People's House" or more accurately, "Hebrew School for the Community").

Where I'm REALLY learning Hebrew is on the street, and what I'm REALLY learning is the most profound political, psychological and philosophical insights from Israeli taxi drivers, all of whom are pre-screened for depth of character, tolerance for stress and political acumen. Also they have to be prophets.
Tonight the taxi driver who picked me up was a 73 year-old native Israeli with 14 children, 53 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren (you do the math, I can't!) who didn't speak a single word of English but still managed to give me an in-depth analysis of the Winograd Report and his prediction that Ehud Olmert would be OUT of office by July and that the next Israeli Prime Minister would be our man Bibi Netanyahu. Remember when it happens: You heard it here first!

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Meaning of Love

I learned the meaning of love from a drunk. I once passed two drunks drinking in a gutter and overheard the following conversation between them:
Drunk #1: "I love you!"
Drunk #2: "No you don't."
Drunk #1: "Yes, yes, I do. I love you with all my heart."
Drunk #2: "No you don't. If you love me, why don't you know what hurts me?"
- Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchov

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My Tzadakah Lady

"Tzadakah" means "charity," and the giving of Tzdakah goes on all day every day here in Jerusalem. It's part of a routine daily life to carry coins to give whenever asked, no questions asked. The proper way to give is never less than half a shekel to ANYONE who asks for Tzdakah. This is a picture of me and my "Tzdakah Lady," who stations herself on King George Street outside the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. With such a prime location surrounded by tourists staying at the Prima Kings and Sheraton Hotels, you'd think she'd be in pretty good shape, but surprisingly, whenever I check in with her she really isn't quite making ends meet. She has a dozen children and scores of grandchildren to provide for, so her Employer (that would be HaShem, Master of the Universe) makes sure all the wealthy tourists have the opportunity to share their substance with her. She speaks NO English and my Hebrew is, well ... a work in progress. But we love each other and whenever I see her I give her a hug as well as coinage. She recites long prayers over me and I have no idea what she is saying but I know it comes from love and I feel her blessings quite palpably when she bestows them. She can't possibly be younger than 80 years old and is a teeny, tiny, itsy bitsy little woman - not even nearly near five feet tall, if she could stand up - which she can't - but what a radiant soul. Tzdakah Lady gives ME much more than I give to her with her smile and her light.

How to Hang a Flag

In honor of my very first Israeli Independence Day as a new Israeli citizen, I was very excited about buying a flag (or more accurately, a long string festooned with several flags) to hang from the window of my apartment in Jerusalem.
Of course in the 3 suitcases I was allowed to bring with me as a New Immigrant, I did NOT pack anything useful such as a hammer, nails, tape, thumbtacks, or any such tool or implement to facilitate the proper hanging of afore-mentioned flags.
So I did the best I could with what I have (which is nothing much but a lot of imagination) and pictured here is the outside of my apartment with my little flags flying today, on Israeli Independence Day.
Happy 59th Birthday, "Modern" State of Israel!

Brothers in arms IDF

Monday we commemorated Yom HaZicharon - the day we remember all the Israeli soldiers who have fought and died in every war from 1948 through the present day, as well as all the victims of terror attacks who have lost their lives. Tuesday - right on the heels of this very solemn day - is ISRAELI INDEPENDENCE DAY. This video is a tribute to the men and women of the IDF - Israeli Defense Force - who gave their lives so that WE can have an independent home in this world.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Pre-Shabbat Shuk Shopping

"The Shuk," Jerusalem's huge outdoors market, is where all the action is on Friday mornings as anyone concerned with feeding themselves, family and guests for the 26-hour marathon of feasting, drinking, singing, praying, napping and more feasting that is Shabbat in the Holy City, must find themselves deep within the myriads of maze-like streets, side-streets, corners and kiosks in complete "Hunter/Gatherer" mode.

Hundreds of stalls with fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, pastries, bread, meat, chicken, fish, olives, pickleded everything, spices, salads, cheeses and everything anyone could ever want or need are jammed together and thousands of Jerusalemites struggle to complete all their purchases while their way through the crowds of thousands of other people, each of whom is doing the exact same thing. Colorful, fragrant (or, politely put, pungent, depending on the temperature and location), crowded, close, noisy, Shuk shopping success depends on maintaining a kind of Zen-like serenity balanced with a precision-edged focus on the ultimate goal: getting the best quality of whatever you need at the best possible price as quickly as possible. Get in, get what you need, get out, get home. The race is on: everything has to be purchased, prepared, properly stored and made ready for THE MAIN EVENT - Sundown Friday night, when the weekly command to rest and remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy commences.
Shabbat Shalom, everybody, both near and far. May we each have rest, peace and renewal.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Zimmers - "My Generation"

Just because we need something to smile about this great video sent to me by my pal Rebbe Soul ( - enjoy!

Horror at Virginia Tech

As details continue to come in via TV and Internet about yesterday's horrific mass murder at Virginia Tech, the following item appears in today's Jerusalem Post:
Israeli Holocaust Survivor Sacrifices Self to Save VA Tech Students

As Jews worldwide honored on Monday the memory of those who were murdered in the Holocaust, a 75-year-old survivor sacrificed his life to save his students in Monday's shooting at Virginia Tech College that left 32 dead and over two dozen wounded.

Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, threw himself in front of the shooter, who had attempted to enter his classroom. The Israeli mechanics and engineering lecturer was shot to death, "but all the students lived - because of him," Virginia Tech student Asael Arad - also an Israeli - told Army Radio.

Several of Librescu's other students sent e-mails to his wife, Marlena, telling of how he blocked the gunman's way and saved their lives, said the son, Joe.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

Dear Readers - I'm sure as reports continue to come in (and at the time of the writing of this blog the identity of the murderer is as yet unknown) there will be many tales of heroism reported. Of course there will be heroes who will be Americans, non-Jews, etc. - but the strange irony of this gentleman's sacrifice to save his students on the very day the world remembered the Holocaust which he survived seems very, very poignant.

May all the people who lost their lives yesterday rest in peace, and may Almighty G_d Himself comfort the families and friends who lost loved ones yesterday until we are all reunited in the World to Come...amen & amen.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Holocaust Remembrance Day & Viva La France

Today all over Israel flags flew at half-mast and sirens wailed to commemorate Yom HaShoah ("Yom" = Day, "HaShoah" = The Holocaust - i.e., Holocaust Remembrance Day).

At 10 minutes to 10:00 a.m. this morning, Yehudit, our Hebrew teacher, stopped the class and asked if any of the students would like to join her in the courtyard below to listen to the sirens and observe a moment of silence in honor of the 6 million Jews who were killed by the Nazis and their European collaborators during WWII.

I joined Yehudit as well as Raphael, a Jewish pensioner from Paris who appears to be in his mid-60's and has just made Aliyah.

Accompanying us as well were Enzo, a Christian Italian man who has moved to Israel, and Malik, Jack and Hassan, three young Arab men from East Jerusalem who are also in our class. Malik and Hassan are Moslem Arabs, and Jack is a Christian Arab from a Greek Orthodox family.

Enzo, trying to be helpful and informative, attempted to explain to the Arab students that "The Germans" killed the Jews during the war, conveniently overlooking the role that Fascist Italy played in the Axis power grid that held the entire world in its deadly sway from 1939-1945.

Raphael, a trim and quiet gentleman who speaks ONLY French and absolutely NO English and knows only "Prayerbook Hebrew", wears a yarmulke over his white hair. We stood together in the courtyard while every single siren in the entire country - and just imagine how many that might be, for a country constantly under attack - wailed like a hundred thousand shofars being blown together for a full, long minute.

The sound of the sirens drifted on the wind like smoke, and dissolved into silence like the whisper of the last cigarette being stubbed out in a bed of ashes.

The Arab students bowed their heads in respect during the sirens and the moment of silence, and as soon as it was over, slipped off to get coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk to girls, taking Enzo with them.

When it was over Raphael and I looked at each other in shocked silence, as if to say: that's it? That's all we can do for them...the millions who died just because of being what WE are - Jews?

Rapahel and I have no common language. All I could say to him was: "Kaddish?"

"Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'may rabah," he began, and with tears streaming down his face he stood in the school courtyard, surrounded by indifferent youngsters, reciting Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, with only me to say "amen."

It was the most beautiful, terrible, moving, important moment. Because it summarizes everything I can't explain to other people about being a Jew.

I don't speak French and he doesn't speak English but we both knew Kaddish needed to be said - and he said it, and I said "amen" in all the right places, and when it was over he walked away, wiping tears from his cheeks and I walked away, wiping my own eyes and thanking Almighty G_d for FRANCE.

Yes, Viva La France for being a country so full of anti-Semitic assholes that it drove this perfectly nice, polite, cultured man to leave Paris after the end of his career and retire in Jerusalem just so we could have this one moment of holy solemnity together, and by reciting the words of the Kaddish prayer, honor and remember the 6 million Jews who died, just for being Jews.

And let us also remember that, politically speaking, the modern State of Israel came into being because of those 6 million dead Jews whose ashes, skeletal remains and suffocating crematoria so shocked and horrified the world that for ONE SINGLE MINUTE humanity felt guilty enough to vote in the United Nations General Assembly to grant the Jews a small, ugly, hot, fetid patch of desert in the most dangerous backwater part of the planet so that the next time a Hitler came along and wanted to kill us, WE WOULD HAVE A COUNTRY OF OUR OWN.

And we do. It's called Eretz Israel - the Land of Israel...thank G_d.

Viva La France, the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, for still hating us so much that Jews like Raphael are coming HOME to Eretz Israel, at last.

FROM THE JERUSALEM POST: MORE ABOUT FRANCE: Jean-Marie Le Pen, France's far-right National Front leader and presidential hopeful, said Sunday that outgoing President Jacques Chirac's 1995 recognition of France's responsibility for the deportation of Jews during World War II was regrettable... Chirac was the first French president to acknowledge the state's responsibility.... According to Le Pen, Chirac's remarks are scandalous because they taint the country's image...Le Pen is the one who said the gas chambers were nothing but a detail to minimize the importance of the Holocaust...a statement that cost him a €183,200 fine from the French Justice Department.


Global anti-Semitism is spiraling upward, driven by xenophobia and cultural clashes in Europe and by increasingly virulent anti-Zionism in the Arab world, according to a comprehensive study of anti-Semitic incidents released by a Tel Aviv University research institute on Sunday.
"Once, when we were talking about anti-Semitism we were talking about [desecrated] gravestones... Now the main targets are religious Jews, since "they are identifiable" to attackers..."
There was a dramatic rise "in physical, verbal and visual manifestations" of anti-Semitism in 2006, according to the Roth Institute, which prepared the report...In all, 590 incidents of violence or vandalism were recorded in 2006, a 15 percent increase from 2004 and a seven-fold increase from 1989.
The 2006 figures also represents a 31% increase from 2005, when anti-Semitic incidents declined after several years of increases.
"In two countries - France and Norway - chief rabbis are calling on Jews not to step outside with Jewish symbols on their person," said Prof. Dina Porat...The breakdown of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide is heavily tilted toward Western Europe, which witnessed 54% of them, followed by North America - whose Jewish population is over five times the size of Western Europe's - with just 17% and the former Soviet Union with 13%.
Britain, with 136 "major violent incidents," saw a 20-year high in 2006. France, with 97 such incidents, witnessed a 45% increase and the French-speaking regions of Canada saw a doubling of violent attacks over a year earlier.
...the attacks...increased over the years in each country...and now tended to target people rather than Jewish buildings or graves.
According to the report, desecration of graves accounted for 53% of the incidents in 1999 (60 recorded attacks). Even though such attacks rose by 50% by 2006, their share of total attacks shrank to 16% of the total in 2006, while attacks on people - usually in the street - grew to 47% of the total."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Goodbye Philly Cream Cheese

Nothing could be weirder on the night before Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day -than watching Middle Eastern Satellite TV.
The Oprah Show - with Arabic subtitles - featuring Bill O'Riley in a "Town Hall" session discussing the War on Terror is sponsored by Philadelphia Cream Cheese, whose commercial is also in Arabic.
Other sponsors included the Ford Motor Company (promoting a vehicle called "The Edge"), and Nestle (a French company, as my father rightly points out - but who doesn't expect hypocrisy and moral relativism from the French?)
Kraft Foods knows marketing. Visit
for more information about what fine demographically customized products Kraft is selling to the ENORMOUS Arab market here in the Middle East.
For those who don't know, up until 1 month ago I was an advertising & media maven in L.A., America's #2 media market. Guess what I know for a stone-cold fact? ADVERTISING SUPPORTS CONTENT.
The Middle Eastern Satellite TV service I subscribe to features 340 channels. 3 of them are Israeli TV stations with Hebrew-language programming. 10 other channels are English-language programming such as "Desperate Housewives," "Gray's Anatomy," etc. with Arabic subtitles, surrounded by commercials in Arabic for every product and service imaginable (many of which originate in the U.S.). The other 327 are all Arabic-language channels devoted to a variety of programming both sacred and profane, campy and kitchy (by American media standards) but ALL of which are AD-SUPPORTED.
Who are these Advertisers? Ford. Chevrolet. Kraft. All the big ones - from "back home," who can't afford NOT to market to this huge segment of the world's population.
Could we win the "War on Terror" if American companies refused to export automobiles, cream cheese, chocolate pudding and instant coffee to the Arab League Countries who refuse to recognize the State of Israel, support terrorism and consistently call for Israel's demise? Of course we could - but we won't, because that isn't the "American Way" anymore.
The American Way is about developing emerging markets, delivering products, increasing margins, growing cash flow and decreasing operating costs.
What does any of this have to do with remembering the Holocaust? Just that nothing much has changed - the business of America is still business, we still sell anything we can to whomever wants to buy it, and instead of using our economic clout to reward our allies and punish our adversaries, we sell whatever we can to whomever we can whenever we can.
I'm not suggesting that the nice families in Bahrain, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the other fun countries that surround the State of Israel don't deserve to enjoy chocolate pudding, instant coffee, cream cheese or motor vehicles. I just don't see why it has to be AMERICAN chocolate pudding, instant coffee, cream cheese and cars, when their governments, their clerics, their press and their "educational" institutions have made it part of the fabric of everyday life in Arab cultures and societies to vilify America and everything American.
But they like our stuff. And we sell it to we can make more money and buy more stuff...from China.
Oy. So good-bye Philly Cream Cheese. I just can't spread you on my bagel anymore. It's just too wierd.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Garden of the Dead

In honor of Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed in Israel tomorrow (Sunday April 15th):

A small excerpt from the poem "Garden of the Dead" by a woman I am honored to call my friend - Dr. Thea Iberall

Garden of The Dead

Dedicated to the 15,000 children of Terezín, most of whom were born in Prague and died at Auschwitz-Birkenau

I. The Jewish Ghetto, Prague

I sit on Maiselova Street, time ticking backwards.
A woman clicks by on high brisk heels. A dog barks.
A weight hushes the Synagogue, dark bricks lick into place.
There is a legend that these building stones were exiled
from the Temple in Jerusalem and that someday, they will rise
borne aloft by the letters of the divine.
A song about children learning the alphabet seeps through the old cemetery,
bodies buried twelve deep.
Un der rebe lernt kleyne kinderlekh dem alef-beyz.
A headstone stutters, the letters etch unto bones:
י Yod wisdom,
ה He comprehension of all life and the unity of God,
ו Vau answers to all questions posed.
Here’s one: When Nazi jackboots echoed through the synagogue
and words replicated in the congregation’s blood,
were the letters scrambled by the tongue of pride, the stones strifed by dread,
the teachings profaned and sealed forever?
We are torches of days, trains from our countries
lost in our remembering,
we have no simple way to bridge between earth and dream.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Cup of God's Wrath is Full - but is it a "C-Cup?"

Today on Ben Yehuda Street (the main shopping and hanging out area in Central Jerusalem), a white-haired self-styled preacher (pictured) who was apparently overcome with "Jerusalem Syndrome" (an internationally-recognized psychiatric disorder manifesting as delusions of Biblical identity which overtakes tourists and pilgrims on a regular basis here), shouted (in an American accent that can best be described as "cracker") to the perplexed crowd:

"The cup of God's wrath is full! The cup is full to overflowing! The cup of His anger is full and it's going to overflow all over this street!"

Unfortunately, the spot he chose to deliver his diatribe was directly in front of the "Women Only" store (click on the picture to read the sign:) "C-Cup and Up."

The Israelis who stood by and politely tried to listen to what he was saying murmured between themselves in Hebrew - "Mah Kos?" ("What cup?") "Kos gadol?" ("Big cup?") The general impression among the Hebrew-speaking crowd was that this preacher felt that God was irate about big breasts ("C-Cup and Up!") and that the wrath of the Almighty was upon women who require...special support, as it were.

Now, everybody knows that the Almighty loves C-Cup and Up women so much that the Name He revealed Himself to Abraham as was "El Shaddai," which can be interpreted as "The Breasted One." Analogies to the Nation of Israel being fed from ample breasts are so common throughout Biblical texts as to be common-place. Additionally, several male members of the Israeli government itself (including President Moshe Katsav) are currently under indictment for being far too enthusiastic about women's breasts. So there is clearly no theological, exegetical or sociological reason for this guy to imply that C-Cup and Up breasts are objects of God's wrath!

"On my first day of Ulpan my teacher gave to me..."

. . . a Government voucher to lean Hebrew for free" (Sung to the tune of "On the First Day of Christmas...a partridge in a pear tree").

"Ulpan" means "Hebrew School." This is where we go to learn the Hebrew language on the "5/5/5" Program - 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for 5 months.

I arrived at my Ulpan class this morning at 8am and was officially enrolled (hence the reference to the Government Voucher, which allows New Immigrants like myself to study for free.)

I walked into my new class expecting it to be full of . . . people like me?

Wrong - so wrong!

The class was made up of an entirely unexpected international and domestic mix of students. Loch, a bearded and studious young man from Texas, was the only other American. I discovered after class that he is a Gentile (non-Jew) born and raised in Beaumont, Texas (Bible Belt!) in a family of Pentecostals and Methodists.

"It's all that Bible readin', " he said with a real Texas drawl. "I'm from the Bible Belt and I just had to find the buckle of the belt, y'know what I mean? And that there buckle, it's Israel and the Jewish people." Loch (whose original name I suspect may have been "Luke") is not only studying the Hebrew language but is studying for formal conversion to Judaism via the only State of Israel-recognized conversion process: strict Orthodoxy.

I didn't ask (of course), but I pray he already has had his Brit Milah (circumcision) in the hospital in Beaumont, Texas when he was born. If not, he's a really brave young man - not only for going through the 5/5/5 class and the formal Orthodox conversion process, but because if he isn't circumcised...he will be soon!

Also in the class were Makonan and Abedee, two New Immigrants from Ethiopia, and Danielle, a New Immigrant from Mexico. I believe that Makonan and Abedee (who are both as beautifully black as the desert night) and Danielle (who is a gorgeous young Mexican woman) and I are the only Jews in the class.

Our other International and non-Jewish classmates consist of Enzo from Italy, Keddie from Thailand, and Kamar from Nepal. Enzo and Keddie are tourists who love Israel and want to learn Hebrew, and Kamar is employed here in some as-yet undisclosed capacity and needs to learn Hebrew for her job.

Most surprisingly to me, our "domestic" enrollees are Hassan, Malik, Heni, Yazar and Omar - all young men from East Jerusalem, who only speak Arabic and some smatterings of other languages such as "tourist English" or "tourist French," but who went to Arabic-only schools growing up and now want to learn to speak Hebrew so they can get better jobs, go on to University studies, etc.

So - Ulpan summary: Jews (4) - two African, one Hispanic, and me, an Ashkenazi (descended from Eastern European Jewish immigrants) "white girl" from the San Fernando Valley by way of Long Beach, California.

Potential Jewish Converts: (1) - a self-described "Redneck" from Texas.
International non-Jewish Tourists - (3) - Italy, Thailand and Nepal.
Israeli Arabs - (5) - all who grew up in the Old City and East Jerusalem and speak practically not one single word of Hebrew.

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals," said the former Pharisee and star pupil of Rabbi Gamalil the Elder, a.k.a. Saul of Tarsus (better known as the Apostle Paul). If I speak the Hebrew language perfectly but have not "charity" (in Greek: "Agape," unconditional love) for my fellow students, I am become like a noisy, off-key cacophony of meaningless sound. Lord help me to learn Hebrew, AND to drop my pre-conceived notions about everyone else long enough to get to know...real people!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter Sunday is NOT "Red Nose Day" at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher!

Police who patrol Jerusalem's Old City and whose responsibility it is to keep peace on the various holy sites found themselves extremely vexed as they attempted to explain to a young German tourist that Easter Sunday is NOT "Red Nose Day" at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Orthodox Chrisitanity's most holy location.

The young man, who declined to be identified except as "Rudolph," insisted to the Police that he had a right to enter the (alleged) Tomb of Jesus wearing his red nose. He pointed out that the Priests and Bishops of the various orders were "wearing skirts" (true, but tastefully worn and classic black!) and that many of the other tourists were wearing what only could be described as very ugly (and smelly) t-shirts of questionable taste.

Nevertheless, the Old City Police (to their credit) insisited the young man denude himself of his decorative nose prior to entering the Church, where the assembled worshipers may have torn him to bits with their bare hands for desecrating the holy site with too much merriment on Christianity's most sacred holiday.

When last seen, "Rudolph" had entered the Church with his red nose tucked into his back pocket. We hope (for his own safety) he left it there during his visit. Note to Rudolph: the Red Nose is for Christmas, not Easter!

It's Greek to Me...

...but of course, it was Greek to everyone today as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch (pictured above - click on the pic to see him up close!) on his splenderous throne receiving the adoration of hundreds of worshippers celebrated Greek Orthodox Easter today - which happens this year to fall on the exact same day as what we know as "Roman Catholic" (i.e. Latin) Easter Sunday.*
The faithful with candles ablaze (huge fire hazard FYI) wept and sang as the Patriarch and his Bishops and Priests blessed the crowds, who could only fit about 300 at a time into the relatively small space of the Greek Orthodox section of the Church of the Holy Sepulchure. Hundreds more waited their turn to be dazzled by the sights, smells and sounds.
Smoke from incense and candles obscured the air within the Church, and undoubtedly I was the only Jewess among the crowd...but thankfully un-noticed, as I deliberatly dressed very "American" today as not to be religiously identifiable.
Arabic, German, Italian, English, French, Yugoslavian, Russian, and tounges of which I have no knowledge all rose together to proclaim: "Krystos Vostinyu! Vosgracy, Vostinyu!" ("Christ is Risen - Indeed, He is Risen!").
(Many apologies to any reader who actually knows how to pronounce this transliteration correctly)

*For inquiring is it that the two branches of Orthodox Christianity (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus on different calendar days? That's another story, and best answered (for those who really want to know) by reading a short but wonderfully informative book called "Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year" by David Ewing Duncan. I'll summarize by saying that the Jews have had a true and accurate calendar for 5767 years so far but when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire a great deal of effort, time and trouble was expended to create a "New and Improved" calendar that would not depend on the Jewish people as the newly Christian (post-Pagan) Romans were certain that Jews would shortly no longer exist, and that they needed a "Christian" way of telling time. Note to readers: Roman Empire = GONE. Jews = still here, still counting years the old fashioned way! :)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Watch Video of Priestly Blessing at Kotel!

"One Jew, Two Jews, Red Jews, Blue Jews....

...Black Jews, Blue Jews,
Old Jews, New Jews!
This one has a little car!
This one has a little star!
Say -

Everyone (and I do mean everyone) was at the Kotel today for the big event of the day, which was the Birkat Kohanim (Blessing of the Kohens, also known as the "Priestly Blessing").
There were no shortage of beautiful people of every size, shape, color, and tradition. From the shtels of Poland to the deserts of Ethiopia, all our "Tribal Members" came together to receive the words of the Priestly Blessing during these "Hol HaMoed" (Intermediate Days) of the Passover Holiday. There were thousands and thousands of us there - and this is only part of what was said:
"Please O Merciful One,
in Your abounding mercy - Return Your Shechinah (Divine Glory) to Zion, Your city,
And the order of the Temple Service to Jerusalem,
And may our eyes behold when You return to Zion in mercy,
That we may serve You there with awe, as in days of old and former years...
Amen, and may it be so - speedily and in our days!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

McDonalds - More Dangerous than Hamas!

Pictured here is the most dangerous place in Israel. No, it's not Sderot, or Gaza, or Jenin - it's McDonalds, bringing the evil fast-food nation product to people who are biochemically unable to digest this kind of DREK.
Hamas and Fatah will kill you on the outside, but McDonalds will kill you from the inside! Israelis, beware!

Pesach in the Old City

For my first Pesach Seder in Israel, after having made Aliyah only 3 weeks ago, I was invited to the home of Rabbi Yosef Halpfinger and his wife Leah, who run Chabad of the Cardo. Their home is in the Old City , only steps away from the Kotel and (by a stone's throw) probably 300 yards from the actual Temple Mount itself.

During the Seder service we drink 4 cups of wine (that's just the ceremonial drinking, not counting the rest of the drinking that goes on during the meal!). When we make Kiddush over each of the 4 cups we fill it to overflowing, and the excess is caught on a dish beneath the cup.

During the part of the Seder when we relate the plagues we pour a few drops from the cup onto the dish with each mention of the plagues. This differs from the custom I am familiar with in the Galut, where we merely shake a drop from the tip of our finger onto the plate or dish.

Rabbi Yosef (the "ba'al HaSeder" - leader of the Seder) - poured a total of 16 times from his wine cup - "upon mentioning the three signs in the wilderness, the ten plagues in Egypt and the three parts of Rabbi Yehuda's abbreviation" (that being the mnemonic "Detzach, 'Adash, Be'ahav" for Blood, Frogs, Lice, Wild Beasts, Pestilence, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness & Slaying of the First-Born).

Mystically, this poured-out wine then becomes the wine "of wrath." Rabbi Yosef's son Moshe then related a story about the power of this "wrathful" wine to create destructiveness, it literally becomes the "grapes of wrath." He told of a neighbor of his who was such a bad, negative, hateful person that another neighbor poured the "wrathful" wine on his car which from that point on never started again.

I suggested at that point that we should take the "wrath wine" across to the Temple Mount and throw it on the Dome of the Rock to see if it would destroy it. My suggestion was met with total shocked silence and ignored, but then shortly thereafter I was chosen to go downstairs, open the door (which faces the Kotel and the Temple Mount) for Eliyahu HaNavi, and read by the light of a candle (which was held by Moshe, who is super-super Frum even by Chabad standards and whom I think secretly really liked my idea) the following part of the Seder service:

"Pour out your Wrath upon the nations that know You not, and upon the kingdoms that call not upon Your name: for they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place! (Ps. 79:6-7) Pour out your indignation upon them and let Your burning wrath overtake them! (Ps. 69:25), Pursue them with anger and destroy them from beneath the Lord's heavens!" (Lam. 3:66)

So - I got to open the door for Eliyahu NaNavi, and while my gracious hosts did NOT encourage me to start WWIII and after carefully collecting all the "wrathful wine," quietly poured it down the sink, they DID let me shout into the dark night towards the Temple Mount the battle cry for Moshiach!

Which brings me to the answer to my most buring question, which is: what do Jews in Jerusalem say at the end of the Seder when we say "Next year in Jerusalem ?"

The anwer is: we STILL say "Next Year in Jerusalem," for two reasons: 1) that we (Am Yisrael, the People of Israel) are not complete until ALL our brothers and sisters have left the Exile and returned to the Land, and 2) Even though we are in Jerusalem (thank G_d) we are still not able to bring the Korban Pesach (Pesach offering - the Paschal lamb) to the Temple Mount, to the re-built Temple where we can offer the sacrifices as prescribed by HaShem in the Torah.

Until all the Jews come home and the Temple is rebuilt, we still say "Next Year in Jerusalem." even if we are lucky enough to be able to conduct the Seder literally a stone's throw away from the Temple Mount itself.