Monday, August 27, 2007

I say "Genocide," you say "Massacre" - Let's Call the Whole Thing Off!

The current media shitstorm over Abe Foxman of the ADL's upgrade from "massacre" to "genocide" to describe the murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire between 1915-1918 really stinks.

"Genocide" is the attempted extermination of a group of people by another group of people. The Turks did it to the Armenians. The Nazis did it to the Jews. The Soviets did it to the Russian dissidents. The Japanese did it to the Chinese. The Khmer Rouge did it to the Cambodian people, Rwanda's Hutu's did it to the Tutsi, and the Serbs did it to the Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina too.

Turkey is in an uproar because the American Congress (which apparently has nothing else to do) is about to pass a non-binding resolution to condemn the Ottoman Empire (FYI: no longer in existence) for its atrocities during the early part of the 20th Century. "Don't you dare call it genocide," they warn. Heavens no, anything but that! Mass murder, pre-planned massacre...that's ok, but dear Lord - not "genocide!"

"What's in a name?" mused Juliet, leaning over the balcony in her reverie. "That which is called a rose by any other name would smell as sweet! So Romeo would, if he were not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he own! Oh Romeo!" she swoons, thinking herself alone in the night, "Doff thy name! And for thy name, which is no part of thee - take all myself!"

Juliet, whose last name was Capulet, stabbed her own heart out, and died entombed with her Romeo, whose last name was Montique, poisoned by his own hand.

Apparently there is something in a name.

Hey so-called modern State of Turkey - what's in a name? Let the U.S. Congress, the ADL and anyone else call a proverbial spade a spade. Take it like a man - if a country can be asked to do such a thing.

Anyway, the world will forget. It always does. Genocide is, after all ... so very 20th Century.

Fly the Holy Skies

El Al started it all, but as usual the Christian world follows suit...


ROME, Italy (AP) -- A Vatican-backed charter airline service made its inaugural flight Monday, aiming to carry pilgrims to such Catholic shrines as Lourdes, Fatima, Santiago de Compostela and the Holy Land.
The flights, scheduled to start regular service next year, are tailored to the pilgrims' needs, with inscriptions such as "I search for Your face, Lord," decorating the seats, and religious videos shown on board.
"We want to create the conditions to enable pilgrims to live their pilgrimage starting at their city's airport and even before they arrive at their destinations," said the Rev. Caesar Atuire, CEO for the "Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi," an outfit that organizes pilgrimages for the Diocese of Rome.
"That's why we created this initiative, with a dedicated aircraft, trained staff, and messages (on board) to help people live a better experience," he told reporters at a presentation ahead of the inaugural flight, which carried VIPs and church officials to Lourdes.
The five-year agreement between Mistral Air, a small airline owned by the private Italian post office, and the "Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi," offers flights leaving from seven Italian airports, including Rome and Verona, with a Boeing 737-300.
Officials expect the deal will bring an estimated 150,000 passengers a year to destinations including Fatima, Portugal; Lourdes, France; Santiago de Compostela, Spain; the Holy Land; Czestochowa, Poland; and Sinai, Egypt.
Details on schedules and fares are still being discussed. However, Atuire said the airline is hoping to offer pilgrims competitive prices.
Rome Cardinal Camillo Ruini praised the initiative.
"The way to make pilgrimages can change over time but their deepest meaning remains the same: To look for a deeper contact with God," he told reporters before boarding the inaugural flight.
The Vatican does not have an airline or its own airport, and the pope regularly takes special flights with commercial carriers for his trips around the globe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What George Said

An occasion worth noting:

In 1790, The sexton of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, wrote a letter to George Washington, on behalf of the Jewish community welcoming the President on his visit to Newport.

In his letter, he expressed a vision of an American government that would permit all religions to live side by side in harmony, giving all its citizens the freedom to practice their religions.

On August 18, 1790, President Washington responded:

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support...May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Tzfat's Khan of the White Donkey

Although it is only 180 years old, "The Khan" is Tzfat's newest musical space, and so much more. Moshe Tov Kreps and his all-star team including Gavi Strauss and Eliyahu (Andy) Alperin have expanded the Center for Healthy Living into the historic space of what was once a "khan" or caravansarai -- a lodging place for the donkey caravans that came to the market place in the old days. Hence the new moniker: HaKhan HaHamor HaLavan - the Khan of the White Donkey. After all, it's an undisputed Talmudic fact that the Messiah will pass through Tzfat on His way to Jerusalem, and not only that, that a white donkey will make a key appearance in the story itself. The Khan was the site of 3 nights of musical innovation including a guest appearance by Yehuda Katz. Chai shop, beer (imported all the way from the Golan Winery), kosher snacks and fun was had by all.

Moshe Tov describes the Khan this way:

We're very happy to announce that about 3 months ago we acquired an historic 160-year-old property in the heart of old Tzfat that will provide a site for expanded activities of the Center. Located in the Artists' Quarter near the General Exhibition (the old mosque) and the Maayan HaRadum, and unused and rundown for almost 20 years, it is dominated by a large stone-arched hall of over 100 meters, one of the largest single rooms in Tzfat. We believe it used to be a "khan" or caravansarai, a kind of combination stable and inn where in the old days traveling merchants and their caravans of pack animals (most likely donkeys) would gather and stay while doing business at the central shuk (marketplace) next door. There is also a small apartment, courtyard and rooftop. It is a very special place with much potential that calls out for sensitive restoration.
We have been cleaning it up, exploring its spaces and patiently assessing possibilities. Our ideas include using the big room for large group activities, yoga, movement, dance classes, lectures, community meals, childrens activity groups, music performances, theatre, movies, art gallery, workshop space, etc. The apartment area could serve as an office, library, meeting space, holistic treatment rooms, guest rooms, etc. In addition we envision creating a food preparation and service space which could support nutrition and cooking classes as well as a simple natural food bar open to the public.
We are excited that this space could anchor a larger development growing into a conference center, institute or community center manifesting the purposes of the Center for Healthy Living: improving the quality of the environment, supporting holistic approaches to personal and community health, demonstrating the practical benefits of traditional arts & culture, and stimulating community creativity. In short, to be a catalyst for the much-needed sustainable vitalization of Tzfat and the Upper Galilee.
The building renovation itself will become an open project of the Center, as we learn and share knowledge of appropriate traditional methods and materials. We are interviewing architects, builders, environmental designers, health workers, etc to form a team of professionals, consultants, locals and visitors to work together to create a showcase for creative stewardship. We plan to have fun doing it.
Anyone interested in finding out how they can help with the Khan's restoration and development, please contact Moshe Tov Kreps at Tzfat's Center for Healthy Living, (054)7338388.

Tzfat Klezmerfest!

The annual Klezmer Festival is Tzfat's claim to musical fame, and this year was no exception to the rule. Three nights (Monday August 20th through Wednesday August 22nd), multiple stages, venues both public and private, publicized and secret, saw the best of the best of Klezmer (a.k.a. Jewish Soul Music), as well as jazz, blues, improv, old hippie stuff, original materials, "religious music" (isn't all music religious) all-enveloped in the perennial strains of the ubiquitous chant of: Na Na Nah Nachman m'Uman!

Catch a Falling Star

A spectacular view of the Perseids Meteor Shower was seen from the hills of Kadita, outside of Tzfat. The hours between Midnight and 4am of Monday August 13th saw the greatest frequency of falling stars. The assembled Chaverim huddled on the hillside brought plenty of blankets and bottled water, but surprisingly no one remembered a flashlight. Lo and behold: cellphones are the new flashlights. Although it had been in the high 90's all day, a strange mist rose all around us, and we lay looking up at the Milky Way, all solar mist itself. Truly cosmic in the best sense of the word!

Musical Road Trip Part 1

As if the Deadheads United concert in Jerusalem Moe'tzi Shabbas wasn't enough, it was time to take a musical road trip North.
Ultimate destination: Tzfat's annual Klezmer Music Festival.
First stop: pick up itennerant Jewish (but not Klezmerish) musican, fresh in from a gig in Turkey, at the Benjamina bus stop.
Second stop: pick up sound system in Zichron Yaakov - which quickly became perfect excuse to swim the rest of the day away at a beautiful secluded beach north of Hof Dor.
Swimming in the Medeterranian Sea, so far from anyone or anything, with only endless blue of sea and sky punctuated by rocky reefs and mossy flats upon which to explore, was a much-appreciated delightful treat.

Jerry in Jerusalem - "The Rebbes of Rock"

Deadheads United at Jerusalem's Yellow Submarine on August 11th for a night of Grateful Dead music celebrating the 12th Yartzeit of Jerry Garcia. Spearheaded by N Safeq frontman and former Carlebach session artist Aryeh Naftaly, the All-Star Israeli musical lineup included Reva L'Sheva's Hanan Elias, Danny Roth and special guest guitar jammer Yehuda Katz; Duvid Swirsky of the Moshav Band, and Yood's Elizer "Lazer Lloyd" Blumen.

Edem MiQuedem's Shmuel Nelson was also scheduled to appear but couldn't make it because his wife was giving birth to their child. Mazel Tov!
The band opened with Sugaree, then played One More Saturday Night, followed by an ironic Friend of the Devil, and Deal. The room became electric with "One Way or the Other," the lyrics "One way or another / this darkness got to give" took on a special meaning here in Jerusalem that it never had in the United States, even in the dark Nixonian era of the early '70's.
The evening also treated the lucky listeners to Samson & Delilah (a paean to the local homeboy!) went into a Franklin's Tower / Space jam. The night also included U.S. Blues, Ship of Fools, Eyes of the World, as well as a somewhat out-of-place Casey Jones and a sweetly poignant Ripple.
Crowd reaction ranged from estactic to blissful. Original Deadheads (who have actually seen Jerry) and the next generation who've inherited the love of the music experienced nostalgia and an overwhelming sense that we (read: Jerusalemites, Israelis and Anglo Transplants) NEED some of the old spirit of those days - even though it has been "a long strange trip," indeed we know now, more than ever, that WE NEED A MIRACLE EVERY DAY.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Lawsuit Against God Rejected

BUCHAREST, July 12 (RIA Novosti) - A Romanian court has rejected a lawsuit against God filed by a local prisoner serving a 20-year term for murder, a local newspaper said.
Evenimentul Zilei said Mircea Pavel's suit was against "defendant God, resident in Heaven, represented here by the Romanian Orthodox Church."
In late 2005, it was reported that the convict, serving his term in the western Romanian city of Timisoara, blamed God for the troubles in his life and wanted God brought to account for failing to fulfill the commitments He undertook and for taking bribes.
The plaintiff said that when he had been baptized in childhood, he concluded a contract with God that had legal effect - God was supposed to protect him from evil, and insisted that the Romanian church should compensate him for the alleged God-inflicted damage.
"God received different material valuables from me, as well as prayers in exchange for promises of a better life. In reality, this did not happen - I found myself in the devil's hands," the plaintiff said.
The court rejected the prisoner's claims on the grounds that "God is not an object of law and has no residence address."

Dancing in the Streets of J-Town

The Jewish Agency for Israel is throwing a 3-day street festival.
"Ascending to Jerusalem," is a celebration of the 40 years since Jerusalem's re-unification and an opportunity for anyone and everyone to find out more information about making Aliyah - becoming a citizen of Israel.
Jewish Agency Absorption Counselors are out in droves to answer questions, give directions and suggestions and evangelize on behalf of the wonder and magic of living as a Jew in the Jewish State.
Musicians, storytellers, craftspeople, jugglers, artists, hippies and hipsters gather together to enjoy the street party, all in the hopes of attracting some of the Jews who are here on holiday to think about staying a little longer ... like the rest of their lives!

"The Cry of the Mothers"

"Zakat HaEemahot" means
"The Cry of the Mothers," and the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, family & friends of young Israelis who have been killed by random violence such as murders, car thefts gone wrong, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, etc. are camped out in front of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's residence in Rehavia, trying to get him to pay attention to their plight.
This group is advocating for a change in procedures for the "24 Hour Law," meaning police won't open a file or an investigation on a missing person until they've been missing 24 hours.
The families sit on chairs behind pictures of four young Israelis whose lives might have been saved if their frantic families who had called police about their missing children would have been able to open an investigation before their child had been missing 24 hours.
Pictured (in frames behind the seated family members):
Inbal Amram
Shaket Shahov
Raz Morr
Mayan Sapir
Unfortunately, Prime Minister Olmert was too busy giving away land to Fatah (and their almost newly reconciled ex-best-friends Hamas, who are just about to re-join the PA government after their recent spat in Gaza that killed hundreds of their own) and freeing terrorists to pay any attention to "the cry of the mothers."

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

United Buddy Bears Visit Jerusalem

United Buddy Bears comes to Jerusalem - here I am between the Buddy Bear from the United States (that's the big green one holding the torch and wearing the Statue of Liberty's crown) and the United Kingdom (Union Jack, y'all).

Yes, as befitting an art installation whose title is: "United Buddy Bears: The Art of Tolerance," the bears line Jerusalem's Safra Square in alphabetical order. Israel's Buddy Bear (wearing a Kotel-inspired motif) is sandwiched between Iraq and Iran (pictured).
There are even Buddy Bears from countries that exist either in memory only (i.e. Armenia) or in fantasy (the Palestinian Authority, see picture of Palestinian Buddy Bear with kafiyah around neck next to Pakistani Buddy Bear).

Monday, August 6, 2007


When standing at a crossroads - at the metaphorical corner of Shamai & Hillel - what's the right choice?

Shamai always insists on the more stringent path, while Hillel tends towards leniancy.

Our Sages say that in this world we follow the rulings of Hillel and in the Messianic Age we will follow the rulings of Shamai - in other words, right now we have to be realists (Hillel) and when Messiah comes we can afford to be idealists (Shammai).

So does that mean that in the upcoming Likud primaries we should be "realists" and vote for Bibi, or "idealists" and vote for Moshe Feiglin?

Realists will never build an idealistic world, and idealists will never be able to live in a realistic world. History proves this, again and again.

What kind of REAL choices do we have here?

All I can do is quote those non-Talmudic sages, Led Zepplin:
"Standing on my heels on the mountain of dreams, telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems"

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Judy Tradition Lives On!

The esteemed Rabbi Neal from NYC is the first "mule" from the U.S. on behalf of The Judith H. Wachtel Travel & Hospitality Relief Fund - bringing Dove Unscented Soap for Sensitive Skin (bar version of course), zip-lock baggies and Swiffers all the way from NYC to me in Jerusalem.

The Judith H. Wachtel Travel & Hospitality Relief Fund was named for the late, great, adventurous, beloved and much-missed Judy Wachtel, mother of my best friend Amy.
Judy began it all by being the first to schlep important things we needed in Israel when Amy & I lived as teenagers in Jerusalem - such vital, life-saving personal care items such as Herbal Essence shampoo and other then-impossible-to-get toiletries!

Although much has changed in Israel since we were 18 (toilet paper: much better; traffic: much worse) one thing remains the same - there are certain items that need to be...shall we say, imported?
ANYONE coming to Israel from the U.S. who has: A) a heart, B) one inch of room in their luggage and/or C) a sense of humor, please contact me via email ( and you will be put in touch with either the East Coast or West Coast representatives of the Judith H. Wachtel Travel & Hospitality Relief Fund and you will be asked to become a "mule" - bringing VERY IMPORTANT items for ME from the U.S.!
Judy would be proud of you for doing this kind of a mitzvah! :)