Sunday, July 29, 2007

What's Going On?

Tony Blair becomes special envoy to the Middle East.
President Bush wants to give the Saudis $20 Billion in heavy armaments - just what the neighborhood needs.
Condi Rice tells Israel our future is in the Galilee and the Negev, and calls for a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza.
American Evangelicals send letter to President Bush urging him to push for a 2-State Solution in the Middle East and disabuse him of the impression that all "Evangelical" Christians support Israel unilaterally and in all things.

...and that's just what's going on OUTSIDE of Israel!

INSIDE Israel, the Olmert Government can't give concessions away fast enough. Terrorists are released from jail, more Jewish communities in Biblical Judea & Samaria are slated for future "disengagement" evictions, and Olmert desperatly grasps for something, anything, to claim as his legacy instead of the disgrace of his administration during the "Second Lebanon War," last summer.


et tu, Bugs Bunny?

There is something distinctly wierd and disconcerting about watching Bugs Bunny and other favorite Warner Bros. cartoons from the '60's on Middle Eastern Satellite TV. At first I didn't realize the dialogue was Arabic voice-over because Road Runner cartoons have no dialogue, but there's no mistaking the famous phrase, "What's up, Doc?" even when it's said in Arabic. However, Arabic fails to catch the sarcasm, the Bronx / Brooklyn accent, the hint that Bugs Bunny actually knows the answer to the question before he asks it. I can't image what the late great voice artist Mel Blanc (yes, of course a Jew) would say if he could hear what "What's up, Doc?" sounds like in Arabic, and I wonder if the programmers of Saudi Satellite TV where the cartoons play know that Bugs is Jewish too :)
Road Runner & Wiley E. Coyote - definitly not Kosher animals, therefore not Jewish.
Foghorn Leghorn - although chicken itself is Kosher if slaughtered correctly, Foghorn Leghorn is obviously a Southern Baptist (Fried chicken is to Southern Baptists what Cholent is to Orthodox Jews).
Daffy Duck - Kosher yes but not too bright. Maybe only half Jewish.
Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam - both Methodists, one practicing (Elmer) and one not (Sam).
Pepe LePew - French. Nothing more to say.
Porky Pig - Trafe. Need I even go on?
"'s all, folks!"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Jerusalem Mourns Jerusalem

The fast of Tisha b'Av came at sunset last night, after the final meal (carbs, baby!) and a pre-fast marathon of drinking immense amounts of water to ensure some probability of making it through the longest fast day of the Hebrew calendar without emerging with a migrane or dehydration.
I joined several thousand other people in Safra Square (the HQ of the Jerusalem Municipality) where Women in Green ("Women for Isrel's Tomorrow) sponsored the evening - first Ma'ariv prayers ("we can't begin davening until women move to the left side of the square and men to the right, please!") and then the reading of Eicha (the Book of Lamentations), the most mournful of all Scriptures.
And so begins the prophet Jeremiah's lament:
How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; she hath none to comfort her among all her lovers; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.
After reading (in Hebrew of course) the entire Book of Lamentations, the entire group of some thousands of people all walked together around the walls of Jerusalem's Old City. After reading about the destruction of the walls, the gates and the Temple, the exile of our people and the humiliations we endured at the hands of our enemies, it was noteworthy to mark the high level of police and army security accompanying the walkers, especially through East Jerusalem, where Arab pop music wafted through the night and bathed the marchers in the sounds of discomfort.
Finally ended up at the Kotel with about 100,000 other people. Some sat on the ground, others on low chairs, mats or pillows, others stood and roamed. More people than ever wore orange bracelets, orange t-shirts - orange is the color of protest against the disasterous Israeli government policy of "disengagement," which has wrought nothing but havoc and heartache on the population of Gush Katif, Northern Samaria, and threatens everyone else in Eretz Yisrael if our government continues to believe and act on The Big Lie - i.e., that if we give land for peace, there will be peace.
We gave away Gaza - and not a day has gone by since we "disengaged" that Kassam rockets have not fallen in Israel "proper," especially the Western Negev town of Sderot.
We have a lot to mourn for - past and present.
We will have a lot MORE to mourn for if we continue our present course of idiocy and denial of reality.
Our Siddur (prayer book) reminds us every day that Jerusalem was destroyed and we, the Jewish people, were sent into exile "because of our sins." Not because of other people's sins, not because of "anti-semitism," but because of OUR sins - first and foremost amongst them, NOT believing and having faith in the God of Israel.
May this Tisha b'Av bring clarity to our minds, repentance to our hearts and determination that we should remember the words of Jeremiah in the 3rd Chapter of Lamentations:
"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. Surely the LORD'S mercies are not consumed, surely His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion', saith my soul; 'Therefore will I hope in Him.' The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. It is good that a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Everybody's talking, nobody's listening

Sunset tonight we will begin to commemorate the fast of Tisha b'Av, the climax of the Three Weeks when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple - not just once, but twice - which took place on the 9th of Av as well as many other disasters for the Jewish nation including the Spanish Inquisition, the outbreak of WWI, Krystalnacht, etc.

It all began in the year 1312 B.C.E. when the Spies returned to Moses and the Children of Israel to bring their report of what the Land of Israel was like. They all agreed it was a very good land, but 10 out of the 12 spies said the inhabitants of the land were "like giants" and that they would swallow us Jews up and that there was no possible way we could take the land.

Only two of the Spies - Joshua and Caleb - said to the Israelites that the Lord would fight on our behalf and that we shouldn't worry about the "giants" because the land was to be given to us by the Lord, not by our own ability to fight battles.

Of course the Israelites believed the 10 negative Spies and that is why we had to wander a total of 40 years in the desert instead of only a few weeks - as punishment for disbelieving the Lord our G_d who brought us out of the land of Egypt, fed us in the desert with Manna, and gave us the Torah at Mt. Sinai. If He could do all that, a few "giants" in the land should be nothing for Him. And yet we still didn't trust Him.

Our Sages say that the sin of believing the negative report of the Spies is the basis for all of the rest of the disasters that befell the Children of Israel throughout history.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Everybody is talking, no one is listening. We still believe the negative report of the Spies and we still don't trust the Lord our G_d Who brought us back to this land after 2,000 years of exile.

So tonight here in Jerusalem will begin a time of mourning, fasting, the reading of the book of "Lamentations" written by the Prophet Jeremiah. We will assemble, sit on the ground, weep, tear our clothes, and call out for redemption.

The Lubavicher Rebbe said: "Our sages tell us that the Holy Temple was destroyed and we were exiled from our land because there was "baseless hatred" amongst us. Accordingly, the way to bring the Redemption is through baseless love -- to love a fellow even though one sees no cause whatsoever for such love."

Secular and Observant, Haredi and Religious Zionist, black hat and white kippah, Litvaks and Chassidim, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, left and right-wing - is there any possible way, for once in our lives, that we can transcend what divides us and remember who we are and why we are here?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dig that Temple Mount, man!

This would be a good time to pray that the illegal destructive digging the Moslem Wakf is doing on the Temple Mount results in a complete cave-in of the Dome of the Rock so we can rush in with our pre-fabricated Holy Temple and build!
The Temple Institute reports:
On the Eve of the Fast of the 9th of Av, 1937 Years after the Destruction of the Holy Temple at the Hands of the Roman Invaders, the Destruction Continues!Workers under the direction of the Moslem Wakf have dug a trench two meters deep and eighty meters long (2.5 feet x 87 yards) on the Temple Mount.
Ostensibly, this excavation has been carried out in order to lay down electrical cables. However, the Israel Antiquities Authority, charged by Israeli law with the important responsibility of overseeing all work at archaeological sites, is turning a blind eye. The turning of this blind eye, it would seem, is the government of Israel's policy concerning Moslem destruction of Jewish artifacts on the Temple Mount. The IAA supervises every other archaeologically-sensitive area in the country with great scrutiny. Why are the Israeli police on the Temple Mount physically preventing concerned archaeologists from assessing the damage being done? These archaeologists have been able to ascertain, even from a distance of many meters, that irreparable damage to ancient structures is being caused by this unsupervised and illegal excavation. How could it be otherwise? The trench being dug stretches from the location of the great altar to the Sanctuary itself!

Happy Yartzeit Holy Arizel!

The "Ari" (Rabbi Isaac Luria Ashkenazi, a.k.a. the Holy Arizel) passed away in Tzfat in 1572. This is a picture of his Ohel ("tent" or tomb where he is buried).

The Ari was born in Jerusalem in 1534. In 1570 he settled in Tzfat, where he lived for two years until his passing at age 38.

The Ari revolutionized the study of Kabbalah, and came to be universally regarded as one of the most important figures in Jewish mysticism.

"Every created entity has a spark of G-dliness within it, a pinpoint of divinity that constitutes its soul. When we utilize something to serve the Creator, we penetrate its shell of mundanity, revealing and realizing its divine essence. Thus we elevate these "sparks", reuniting them with their Source." - The "Ari", Rabbi Isaac Luria

Scenic Samaria - Blessings and Cursings

Yesterday I visited Itamar, out in luscious, beautiful Samaria.
Located in the Shomron area of Biblical Israel (also known by the politically incorrect term of "The West Bank," "The Occupied Territories," "Beyond the Green Line," etc.), Itamar is literally a stone's throw away from Mt. Garazim and Mt. Ebal - the mountains of Blessings and Cursings which were commanded by Moses to be pronounced by the 12 Tribes when they entered the Land of Israel (Deut. 11:29-30, Deut. 27:11-26).
After leaving Jerusalem and crossing through the various security barriers, everything changes. Beyond other side of the Security Fence that divides the "green line" is a vast moonscape, barren rocky hills occupied by Arab villages, tents and trailers. An occasional flock of goats driven by barefoot boys wielding sticks and stones are sighted as we drive.
In our rental car, we are flying over poorly paved pock-marked roads "condemned by international standards," as my Guide, riding shotgun in the passenger seat, likes to say. The road rises and falls before us, a narrow asphalt ribbon disappearing into the hills.
We whiz by Arab villages with outlandishly oversized houses, garishly designed desert mansions in ghostly configurations, some with improbable pagoda roofs, all unfinished so that future generations may "add on" as they like.
Donkeys and dust, roadside fruitstands, futility and flies.
"Careful here," my Guide warns me in whispers, inscrutable behind his Ray Bans. "This is where the big Arab gravel trucks like to run us off the road and leave us for dead."
"I grew up on the L.A. Freeway system," I said with serene confidence. "No driving experience can possibly intimidate me."
"Good, I'm glad to hear it. Now gun it and drive as fast as you can through this part, and don't stop for anything or anyone. Usually we prefer bulletproof busses but I have a good feeling about this rental car today. Did you take out full insurance?"

Once inside the massive electronic security fence, Itamar is beautiful. Green and lush, edged with plenty of barbed wire, watchtowers, road patrols, infrared cameras and IDF sharpshooters, suddenly we realized we were perfectly safe.
As if to illustrate how safe it is within the "Settlement" itself, we picked up hitchhikers - two little girls, looked to be 6 and 4, to whom we gave a ride to the top of the hill where our host's house and property is located. The site of these two little girls hitchhiking within the apparent total and complete security of Itamar itself was shocking in an unnameable way.
We were there to visit Baruch, who has a large farm where he presses his own olive oil, makes his own honey and wine, raises chickens on organic feed grown on his own property, and where he grinds and stores kosher organic flour grown in Israel.
Baruch has lived in Itamar for over 20 years. He and his wife have 7 sons, all of whom study Torah and the older ones work with their father in the fields and the groves. It's possible they are still trying for a daughter.
Baruch takes us on a tour of the olive oil press, the honey farm, the massive and unexpectedly air-conditioned storage facility where tons of the world's best Kosher Organic Flour is grown, ground, packaged and stored. Baruch sells it, kilo by kilo, to customers in Jerusalem who can't get enough of it - he delivers once a week, and no matter how much he brings in there isn't enough supply to meet the demand.
He gives us a small jar of homemade quince jam and two plastic spoons. My Guide and I dip in and within moments our mouths are filled with the sweetest, most delicious taste ever - and we begin to laugh "like dreamers...our mouth will be filled with laughter and our tongue with glad song" (Psalm 126). We battle with our spoons within the jar for another and another heavenly mouthful.
"Enough," says my Guide, holding the half-finished jar high above his head. I can't argue about quince jam with someone who is well over 6 feet tall and possibly a trained assassin. "I need the rest of this for my ulcer, it's like medicine to me."
Baruch points out Mt. Garazim and Mt. Ebal, which rise like the most luscious of breasts, languid supine against the mercilessly blue sky. In the cleavage is a natural amphitheater, acoustically perfect, where in approx. 1423 B.C.E. after the Israelites, led by Joshua, defeated both Jericho and Ai, the voices of the our ancestors were heard with perfect clarity pronouncing blessings and cursings upon themselves and future generations.
Six Tribes stood on Mt. Garazim and the other six on Mt. Ebal, and according to what they had been taught by Moses and Joshua, and call back and forth to one another the words recorded in Deuteronomy 28.
It SEEMS simple enough. Obey the LORD our God and we will be blessed. Disobey and we will be cursed. What's wrong with that?
Driving back to Jerusalem we see evidence of our cursing everywhere - as we have failed to obey the Lord's commandment to drive out the inhabitants of the Land that He gave to us. We have listened to the voices of other nations, who say "peace" when they mean "war," who tell us we have no rights to the Land that the Lord Himself gave to us, whom we allow to strike fear of the worst sort into our hearts - the fear of "what will the neighbors think?"
What will the "neighbors" think, indeed - especially when things get ugly.
But right now - it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, Mister Rogers! "Won't you be my neighbor?"
Can't we all just get along?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Grapevines -a -go-go in Tzfat, adoring the courtyard of The Center for Healthy Living, currently housed in the home of Moshe Tov Kreps, but soon to be revealed in all of its ancient and refurbished glory in the NEW location (more on that later)....remember, you heard it through the grapevine!

Jezreel Valley Magical Mystery Tour

Driving my rental car through the breathtakingly beautiful, holy land of Israel is so theraputic. I found myself at the foot of Mount Tabor, mysteriously shrowded in mist even though the rest of the Jezreel Valley was sunny and cloudless.
Judges Chapters 4 & 5 relate how the prophetess Deborah ralled the Israelites against the Canaanites on Mt. Tabor, and how Jael, another remarkable woman, saved the Israelites from the hands of the Canaanites, only a short

Sitting on the hood of my car listening to the wind, , imagining I could hear Deborah's song itself:

Blessed above women shall Jael be, the wife of Heber the Kenite, above women in the tent shall she be blessed.
Water he asked, milk she gave him; in a lordly bowl she brought him curd.
Her hand she put to the tent-pin, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote through his head, yea, she pierced and struck through his temples.
At her feet he sunk, he fell, he lay; at her feet he sunk, he fell; where he sunk, there he fell down dead.
( Judges 5:24-27)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Birthday USA!

Happy Birthday USA!
At a mere 232 years old, you're lookin' pretty darn good for your age.
The last time I was out of the U.S. for the 4th of July I was 16 years old. It was the summer of 1974, Richard Nixon was on the verge of resigning over the Watergate scandal, and I was picking pears on a kibbutz in the middle of the Megiddo Valley in central Israel (future site of "Armageddon's" climactic battle, a.k.a. "Gog and Magog").
America - still Israel's best friend in the world. God bless America for that, and for everything else she stands for - freedom, liberty, equality, fairness, generosity, opportunity - and of course one of the the things I miss the most which is ENDLESS VARIETY IN RETAILING OPPORTUNITIES, i.e. a dozen different incarnations of a single product line (DOVE SOAP FOR EXAMPLE!). Some may call that "Consumerism" but I just call that FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN SHOPPING!
So Old Glory, long may you wave o'er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Weeping for Tammuz

Today is the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, beginning of The Three Weeks, a time to focus on the calamities that befell the Jewish people throughout history between 17 Tammuz and 9 Av - "Tisha b'Av," when the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem occured not once - but twice - on the same day in history.

Some of the things in history that happened on the 17th of Tammuz include:

2006 - Outbreak of the "Second Lebanon War," between Hezbollah and Israel.

Moses Breaks Tablets (1313 BCE) - The Talmud (Taanit 28b) lists five tragic events in Jewish history that occurred on Tammuz 17, on account of which a fast was instituted on this day.

The first of these occured in 1313 BCE, forty days after the Giving of the Torah on Sivan 6. Upon descending Mount Sinai and witnessing Israel's worship of the Golden Calf, Moses smashed the Tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments which he was carrying down from the mountain.

The daily sacrificial offerings (Korban Tamid) in the Holy Temple were discontinued, three weeks before the Babylonians' destruction of the First Temple in 423 BCE.

Jerusalem Walls Breached (69 CE)

The other three national tragedies mourned on Tammuz 17 are connected with the Roman conquest of Jerusalem and their destruction of the Second Temple in the year 69 CE:
--The walls of the besieged city of Jerusalem were breached.
--The Roman general Apostomus burned the Torah and,
--placed an idol in the Holy Temple.
The fighting in Jerusalem continued for three weeks until the 9th of Av, when the Holy Temple was set aflame.
Oh yeah people, it's going to be a long, hot summer.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Hamas Plot to Capture Temple Mount Foiled

Hamas Tried To Take Control of Temple Mount

16 Tammuz 5767, 02 July 07 09:54by Hana Levi Julian, Israel National News

( The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and police revealed Monday morning a sting operation that resulted in the arrest of 11 Hamas officials who led an effort to take over the Temple Mount from the Jordanian Wakf. Ten of those arrested possess cards identifying themselves as Israeli citizens.

One of the detainees is 39-year-old Nasser Yaakuv Abu S’oud, who carried out money transfers for Hamas and other activities for the group on the Temple Mount. Abu S’oud was not directly involved in weapons-related activities, nor was 47-year-old businessman Amin S’wini. He was also involved in funds transfers and other Hamas activity in the capital.

"Their goal is to gain full control over the Temple Mount," a security official said, adding that the Hamas terrorist party has built a bathroom and expanded its library and prayer rooms at the Temple Mount.

Hamas, funded by Syria, Iran and other Arab nations, has invested millions of dollars in the Temple Mount site, where it has conducted tours and preached Hamas ideology.

The terrorist organization has provided social services support to low-income Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods, thus cementing its support in the population.

Shin Bet sources reported Hamas terrorists have used the identity cards to operate throughout Israel, gaining grassroots support among the Palestinian Authority and Israeli Arab population, which it uses to recruit new members.

Covert surveillance by security personnel has revealed that the terrorist organization, which took over Gaza in a bloody civil war with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization, is working actively to consolidate its control over the Temple Mount complex.

“If it wasn’t for this operation, Israel could have been dealt a harsh blow,” said a senior Shin Bet official.