Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The State and Holocaust Survivors

In the past few weeks there has been a recent reports on how well or poorly Israel treats its Holocaust survivors. This is a recent JPost article on the matter. Its been reported that the government will give each survivor 85NIS per month. I've never been able to figure out how they came up with that figure coming to about $20/month. It's a ridiculously low number.

It seems to me that Israel has an obligation to provide for these people. The Nazi's brought them to the lowest of the low, a government dehumanized them; here in Israel, the Jewish state, we should re-humanize them. We should pay them whatever it should take just to survive. If it's 1500NIS/month then they should get it without any qualifications.

It occurred to me that we should also ask them to help Yad Vashem - tell their stories, whatever they can do to keep the historical account up to date and accurate. Write letters to convince others to tell their stories or speak to tourists. Do this and we'll give you another 500NIS/month. It's not a job, its a right that they get just for being who they are.

Anything less than giving them full support is tantamount to do what the Nazis did, dehumanized them.

Monday, August 06, 2007

So I've been in Israel for a Week

Now that I'm posting from Israel I guess that makes me an Israeli blogger - but since I'm not an Oleh, oh well, maybe not.

Anyway, the past week has been full of crazy adventures. Somethings don't sound so crazy, but with out lack of comfort with Hebrew they turn out to be. We bought an oven from this guy in Mea Shearim and had it delivered to Efrat. We bought some furniture from a couple leaving the Kollel, however, it was so heavy four Kollel guys couldn't move the lightest piece. We hired two Arab workers to move the three pieces for 100 shekels total. Insane.

My wife had interviews - for this year and next - at Midreshet Rachel and Pardes. I was impressed with both places but for very different reasons. I hope it all goes well for her there.

Israel's been really great, the adjustments are sometimes hard. We had no furniture in our apartment when we arrived and our lift is still tw0-weeks out so we've had to buy things one at a time. Dealing with Bezeq setting up DSL and then finding an internet provider. Next thing is to find bookshelves and start reading blogs again and then in two weeks class starts.

It's stress, but good stress. And I love the breeze here in Efrat.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tisha B'Av and Moving to Israel

Tonight is erev Tisha B'Av. It's always been a very hard day for me; to understand the imagery that we find in Eicha. Two years ago I sat at the Kotel all day trying to feel the destruction - but I can't - it's so much easier for me to feel the destruction of the nation through the Holocaust, the descriptions provided in the megillah of what the populace went through during the siege. This is why most shuls watch Holocaust movies - because we cannot connect to the Temple - despite our best efforts most of us cannot do it.

XGH says that this phenomenon is proof that we don't really want the Temple back; I don't think so, it's been 2,000 hard years and we - today's Jews - don't really get it. So we take other aspects of Tisha B'Av the other calamities that have befallen us on this day and connect to those.

Is it bad to do so? No, I don't think so, since it's also an integral part of the day. But this year I'm going to make a concerted effort - like I've done in the past - to think about the Avoda in the Beit HaMikdash and what the Churban really was.

I found RWAC's post to be truly moving, because I feel that I will come out of Tisha B'Av feeling very like that. Today I will accept God's judgment, but I'm moving to Israel in a week. I have the pain of packing and moving boxes in my arms and legs; I can't forget that. There is a day after Tisha B'Av and on Tu B'Av I will move to Israel.

This year's Tisha B'Av promises to not be the average Tisha B'Av. It will be hard and special in it's own way.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Alan Dershowitz on Jimmy Carter

As I start Rabbinical School in less than a month I'm writing a number of posts on American politics so that I can exhaust that section for a while. Torah will become the focus of this blog soon.

This post is copied from The Huffington Post's blog:
When Jimmy Carter used the word "apartheid" in the title of his book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, he knew it would deeply offend many Israelis, Jews and other supporters of Israel's efforts to make peace with its Arab neighbors. Yet he deliberately chose that deeply offensive word precisely in order to provoke. As Jeffrey Goldberg of The Washington Post said, it was a case of "bait and switch," since in the text of the book, the word apartheid appears only three times and Carter goes out of his way to explain that what he believe Israel is doing "is unlike in South Africa -- not racism...."

Carter was cautioned by friends not to use the inaccurate and provocative word apartheid, but he insisted on putting it in his title, knowing full well how deeply offensive it would be to so many.

Contrast Carter's insensitivity toward his Jewish readers with his extraordinary oversensitivity toward Muslim readers of Salmon Rushdie's controversial book, The Satanic Verses. When Rushdie was sentenced to death in absentia by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and when Khomeini offered "paradise" to anyone who would murder Rushdie, Carter did not leap to the defense of the threatened author. Instead, he condemned him for his "direct insult to the millions of Muslims whose sacred beliefs have been violated and are suffering in restrained silence..." To be sure, Carter recited the obligatory defense of freedom of speech ("while Rushdie's First Amendment freedoms are important ...), and the obligatory criticism of Khomeini ("it is our duty to condemn the threat of murder....), it is clear that his true sympathies lie with the offended Muslims. This is what he wrote in his article entitled "Rushdie's Book Is An Insult:"

"This is the kind of intercultural wound that is difficult to heal. Western leaders should make it clear that in protecting Rushdie's life and civil rights, there is no endorsement of an insult to the sacred beliefs of our Moslem friends.

We must remember that Iranian and other fundamentalists are not the only Moslems involved. Around the world there are millions of others who are waiting for a thoughtful and constructive response to their concerns."

Carter was relatively silent when millions of Muslims were on a rampage against the Danish cartoons that depicted Mohammed (some positively, others negatively).

His sensitivity seems limited to Muslims and Christians. This is what he said about the film, The Last Temptation of Christ:

...the sacreligious scenes were still distressing to me and many others who share my faith. There is little doubt that the movie producers and Scorsese, a professed Christian, anticipated adverse public reactions and capitalized on them.

Yet Carter fully "anticipated" and "capitalized" on the deliberately offensive title of his best-selling book. Nor do I recall any condemnation by him of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, that was deeply offensive to many Jews.

Jimmy Carter's sensitivities seem to have a gaping hole when it comes to Jews. There is a term for that.

It's a little late; okay, a lot late, but I think his observations are right on the money. It's errors of obmission that have plagued Carter's policies since he took the oath of office. Presidents and other politicians, however, are no super-humans they are allowed to make mistakes; but every so often they need to admit to them.

Carter - and I wrote my thesis on his public speeches regarding the Camp David Accords - has never tried to put Israel's interests first. It was always what would Israel give up to get Peace - as if peace was only desired on one side. During the Accords there was a lot of rhetoric tossed around trying to get Sadat to come to the table without looking weak, very little desire to court Begin. Carter never cared about what was good for Israel or the Jews; should we be surprised then that his book only cared for one side and not an honest look for the truth?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Al Gore: Soothsayer of Truth...

Al Gore: Soothsayer of Truth...
by Michelle Kraus

The debacle of the Scooter Libby conviction and sentence commutation further "assaults" our Democracy

The popularity of Barack Obama finally makes sense after this week's Scooter Libby events. Al Gore is right again. There is an "assault on reason." We are living in a country starved for a vision: one of democracy and hope.

The stage is set for Barack Obama: Speaker for the Gospel of Hope. He speaks the words that call the discouraged and disheartened to contribute to him empowered to hope one more time. His voice has truly become the Voice of Hope, as Al Gore's is the Voice of Reason. It is in this context that his broad popularity finally makes sense. His words nourish those starving for these words.

As we listen to these two great men, a possible and hopeful future takes shape in stark contrast to the bleak and amoral present -- an America whose people are reeling from the daily "assaults" on our morality from the war on the Constitution and, in particular, our Constitutional rights, or the insane war on terror with its huge daily costs in green dollars and spilled red blood.

Democrats and Republicans alike, now is the time for you to stand up and speak the Truth from your hearts and minds. The only candidate to talk about the loss of the Constitution in the last series of debates was Senator Chris Dodd.

Where were you all before this week?

Inspire. Give voice to those who hunger for it.

Bring power back to the American people. Let them believe again!

It is time to hear all the voices of the Democratic candidates for President and for the media to encourage them to be heard.

It time for our candidates to stop politicking and posturing, and talk to the American people. Give them a vision. Give them hope. Show them the roadmap back to prosperity. Return their dignity.

Why is Obama the only one who has figured out how to give voice to the thirst of the American people for what is truly "right"?

Why is Ann Coulter still on the air? She's a purposeful and inflammatory distraction.

Are we missing the basics or being so distracted that the people are not really hearing the voices of Senator Hillary Clinton, former Senator John Edwards, Governor Bill Richardson, Senator Joe Biden, Senator Chris Dodd and all of the others?

Alas, why is Gore still the only soothsayer of the truth?

That's really it for me; America has lost it's vision. We've been lead astray - unpurposefully IMO - by Presidents, unmotivated Congressman, and even political commentators. I don't necessarily think that Obama is the hope that America needs, but that's only one small facet of her column. The crazy thing is that a first term Senator from Illinois is one of the two frontrunner's for the Democratic ticket.

All I know is this, with the current state of affairs in the US, it's time for a change. I don't care if you like Hillary or not, but if she's elected it will be 28 years of Bush-Clinton rule. America doesn't need that.

Alan Johnston is Free

Alan Johnston, the BBC reporter who was taken hostage in Gaza, has been freed by Hamas forces. I truly believe, and CNN speaks of it, that the only reason Hamas decided to do something was that they sorely need some good publicity.

The captors - the Army of Islam - have been connected to Fatah; which is curious since Abbas was not able to do anything about it.

Either way, I'm glad he's safe and unharmed.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Michael Moore's new film SiCKO

Visual Vendetta has Michael Moore's new film online so you can view it here.

It boggles my mind why we can't have Socialized Health care. I think Moore's point is long overdue. Al Gore after you're done with The Assault on Reason do you think you can take on American and give us real democracy - a democratic health care?

I'm moving to Israel and as a non-citizen I have to pay for health care - $1 a day. That's insane. My wife and I pay over $200 a month. Do that math. I pay nearly $4 a day in the US and still have deductibles and co-pays; all in a country that I'm a taxpaying citizen of.

I'm not some crazy socialist, in fact I have arguments with my Marxist kibbutznik cousins all the time, but democratic health care seems like a basic human right to me.

No health care system is going to be perfect; it can't be. But after needing an emergency room visit on the second day of Shavuot for an infection I shouldn't have to pay hundreds of dollars after I pay my monthly bill.

Watch the movie. It's well worth your time.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What to do with Hamas? Part IV

Charles Krauthammer wrote a very interesting OpEd in Friday's Washington Post. Instead of crying about the situation in Gaza he provides, what seems to be, a good solution.

With Hamas now clearly in charge, Israel should declare that it will tolerate no more rocket fire -- that the next Qassam will be answered with a cutoff of gasoline shipments. This should bring road traffic in Gaza to a halt within days and make it increasingly difficult to ferry around missiles and launchers.

If that fails to concentrate the mind, the next step should be to cut off electricity. When the world wails, Israel should ask, what other country on Earth is expected to supply the very means for a declared enemy to attack it?

What do do with Hamas? Show them who's boss. If they really are there to provide leadership for the Palestinians, then now that they've consolidated power there, let them do something. If the attacks continue, cut off gas and then electricity.

What Krauthammer fails to mention - though I'm sure he knows - is that no matter what Israel does they're always blamed. But at least it's a plan that deserves thought.

I also found this interesting: "Historian Michael Oren points out that the Palestinian Authority has received more per capita aid than did Europe under the Marshall Plan." If true, than that's pretty telling of the political situation in Gaza. If there are still Hamas supporters out there, I think it's time for them to wake up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Nathan's Kosher HotDogs

There's been a lot of activity on a certain e-mail list attached to a shul regarding the Kosher status of Nathan's Kosher Hot Dogs. While I certainly do not mind people talking about items with a hechsher they are unfamiliar with it seems that what has created a hoopla is that the has the chutzpah to give a hechsher to a piece of meat that is not glatt.

The e-mailer then went on to say that he is very happy that he did not eat it and will from now on only shop at kosher certified supermarkets because his trust in hechsherim has disappeared.

On a Halachic level only Sephardim are required to eat Glatt Kosher. And Secondly it is quite possible that our Glatt kosher standards don't even fulfill the requirements for Glatt. This is why products are labeld Glatt Beit Yosef.

Secondly, this Hechsher - a reliable one - has every right to certify non-Glatt meat.

What really ticks me off about all of this is that the guy had no idea that kosher meat wasn't always Glatt. And "oh my gosh" if it's not Glatt it's not Kosher enough for me. Listen, don't buy the meat again if you don't want to, but don't go getting people in a frenzy over a respectable and reliable Hechsher because of your Chumrah.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

On the Libby Verdict

Scooter Libby has been sentenced to 30 months in jail and fined $250,000 for lying under oath to a Grand Jury. I've been reading the newspaper and listening to the radio and I've heard some really disturbing notions. One, the verdict is not harsh enough. Two, that Bush should pardon him.

The case revolves around the leaking of a CIA operatives name to the press and a cover up of the leak. Some commentators would like Libby to serve a life sentence or to be hung for treason. I don't understand what people can't get their heads around - he was not charged nor convicted of treason. He lied to FBI Investigators and the Grand Jury. 30 Months is a lot of jail time - a lot more time than other similar cases that have happened in the past.

My disdain for Bush would grow tremendously if the President pardoned Libby. Presidential pardons can happen for any number of reasons, usually for some failing of the judicial system or other external factors. Libby was trying to protect the Vice President and lied to do so. It would reek of partisan corruption for Bush to pardon or otherwise commute the sentence. For the health of the nation and our ability to re-instill trust in our Government I truly hope Bush will ignore the Libby's pleads for a pardon.