Monday, July 31, 2006

Qana: Who is this Man? What really happened?

In the wake of the Qana catastrophe there have been lots of reports of dead children due to the Israeli airstrike there. While Israel has accepted the responisbility for this attack it seems that there is something fishy going on.

EU Referendum posts about this man:

He seems to be everywhere in Qana, a super-man of sorts, or is he?

Bluke posts about an article he read regarding the "catastrophe" - I'm not exactly sure what happened in Qana, but it is definitely not what was reported by the media nor accepted by Israel. AlanLaz responding to Bluke's post suggests that Israel need not appologize for anything, whiel I understand his sentiment, I disagree - Israel should appologize for every civillian killed - but that should not stop them from doing what is necessary for the good of the country.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hebrew National...A better commercial

For all of the stigma that is associated with Hebrew National I have to say that their recent ad campaign is just brilliant. I came across this commercial while watching the History Channel and none of my roommates picked it up - but being a Kashrut dork - I did.

The commercial says: "They might just be the best hotdogs on earth, no ifs ands or butts about it". Of course this is due to the issur d'orisa from Bereshit 32:33 regarding the gid hanasheh (Sciatic Nerve) and the relevant parts if it's not removed.

I don't think one should have to be a Kashrut dork to notice it; they should have. Nonetheless, my level of respect for Hebrew National has risen tremendously, that doesn't mean that I will be eating their meat just yet but that's a cool commercial.

I'm sure Rav Ralbag is a reputable rov and a good mashgiach, but I'm not going to start buying their meat without some Rabbinic support. ADDeRabbi?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

One Day in a Pizza Shop

I went home to visit my parents in Philadelphia yesterday - a pre Rosh Chodesh BBQ was in order - and had a wonderful visit. This afternoon while running errands with my mother we stopped in a Pizza Shop in the North East (not hard to figure out which one if you know Philly) to get some lunch. I looked over at the community bulletin bord and noticed a Tzeddaka campaign for a chasid whose dying and has ten children to take care of. It's a heart-wrenching tale in a beautiful brochure with full color pictures of the children*.

However, eight of the children have their faces blurred out. Which eight? All of the girls. Much like the recent Feldheim scandal, Charedim have decided that pictures of females are completely assur even if they are newborns (check out what the Shulchan Aruch says about clothing your children) and dressed tzniusly.

What is the point of our tzniut standards if they are not good enough? We are telling our women that we really want them wearing burqa's if they ever need to show their faces. But why stop there? It should be assur to take pictures of women even if we can't see them, because men will imagine them and that's assur - even though it's not written anywhere it's still assur. But that's okay because our women don't learn anything but how to pray, read a chumash, cook, and maybe a few necessary mishnayot; so they'll never learn the difference.

*- It occurs to me that maybe the money spent on this brochure could have been better allocated to the children in need.

Friday, July 21, 2006

One Israeli's View

I came across this article and I immediately thought I needed to copy it in it's entirety. Read and enjoy.

One Israeli's View

The great Yogi Berra once said, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."

I am not a columnist - just an ordinary American citizen living in Israel - but I have gained some insight into both cultures, some might say mentalities. Here is what many Israelis are feeling nowadays.

The first point concerns some unwritten American values I grew up with:

* Problems are solvable.
* Good will is returned in kind.
* In general, favor the underdog over the top dog (unless you're the top dog).
* If two sides are fighting, they must both have some justification.
* Be reasonable; split the difference.

But what if you are living in a neighborhood where they are not quite as reasonable as you? Where your attempts to reason and split the difference backfire? Or worse, where concession is laughed at as weakness.

The second point concerns Israel in particular. We are 6.6 million people, toughened but pragmatic. At 8,020 square miles, we have an area 25% smaller than Maryland. The difference is that, unlike America's vast power, with oceans and peaceful neighbors on all sides, the Jewish state is surrounded on several sides with people who actually want to kill us. Not subdue us - destroy our country.

It would be convenient to think that this must be because of something we did. But Hamas and Hezbollah say it out loud and crystal clear. The "occupation" is the whole works. Their final solution is the total destruction of Israel. Iran, a member state of the UN, holds conferences called "A World Without Israel."

This is the backdrop against which most civilized countries would have us turn the other cheek. As social writer Eric Hoffer once said, "We really do expect the Jews to be the only good Christians in the world."

To put things in perspective, imagine, if you can, that Arlington lobbed 1,000 shells at Georgetown. Or sent suicide bombers. How exactly would you react? Imagine that Mexico was calling for the destruction of the United States, backing it up with cross-border raids and missiles.

The third point is that Israel already withdrew from every last inch of southern Lebanon and Gaza, as the international community demanded. But the provocations and terror - violence aimed intentionally against civilian targets - continued. This is why we entered this conflict. Enough is enough.

This is a horrible situation to be in, fighting Hezbollah behind its human shields. But before bombing southern Lebanon and the Hezbollah neighborhoods of Beirut, Israel dropped leaflets encouraging evacuation. Confronted with terrible choices, we are trying to fight while minimizing civilian casualties.

It was wishful thinking to hope that joining the government would make Hamas and Hezbollah more responsible. Sometimes putting the bully in charge of the playground works, and sometimes it doesn't.

The operative emotion in Israel right now is sadness, sadness for what is being done to us, sadness for what we must do to defend ourselves. The missiles shot at Haifa landed a few miles from the research labs of Intel, IBM, Microsoft and Google. Israelis would much rather continue working on desalination, stroke treatment, and alternative fuels (see We would rather that our adversaries developed their own economies pragmatically.

We hate this conflict, but we will not commit suicide. As Golda Meir said, "We will have peace when our enemies love their children more than they hate ours."

My father was a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, was the most optimistic person I ever knew, but he once taught me, "Above all else, when someone threatens to kill you or your loved ones - just believe him!"

The lesson for America is simple. Do not hide from international responsibility. Do not assume the oceans offer protection. Iran is behind Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and, of course, the insurgents in Iraq. If Iran gets nuclear bombs, do you want to bet they won't sponsor a radical Islamic group to eradicate American cities?

You want to know what Israelis are thinking? Theory and practice are intertwined. We are on the front line, but we will show patience and strength. That's why 89% of Israelis, Left, Right and Center, support the army right now. A mere 61 years and 10 weeks after V-E day, we know that evil and blind hatred exist. And that they can be beaten.

-- Bob Rosenschein is CEO of (NASD:ANSW); he can be reached at rrosenschein at; this piece reflects his own views

This post originally came from and is also featured on The Washington Post.

Monday, July 17, 2006

B'not Tzlophchad: A radical feminist claim and Poor Divrei Torah

[This is a week late, but the message is still important.]

At the end of Parshat Pinchas we read about B'not Tzlophchad who ask, "Why should we be left out" Lama Negara? Because our father died and left no sons. So what is the overall message of the story of B'not Tzlophchad? Is it a radical feminist ideology hidden within the text or a claim that those who feel outside of B'nai Yisrael should be included?

Rav Menachem Schrader believes the overall message of this story is that a superhuman effort should be made to make those who feel excluded from B'nai Yisrael to feel included. Consideration is made for these daughters, we understood the pickle that they were in and Moshe decided that he had to go up the lader and find out what could be done. This is how we should treat those Jews who feel marginalized, understand them and try to find a kula. We should not, Rav Schrader warns, perform halachic summersaults when we cannot - Halacha can only be stretched so far.

This same story is used by some to show a radical feminist ideology in the Torah. A careful reading of the text shows that their wish is not "The Torah's laws are unjust and women also should inherit", but rather "Our father should have a right to inherit, and because daughters cannot inherit, he has no representation in Eretz Yisrael". Their point is not that they should inherit, but our righteous and holy father should not be excluded from the people.

This also brings me to point out this d'var torah on - a website that could be a great resource but tries to be to much and fails at all of it. The d'var torah isn't so much the feminist ideology, but rather just a poor d'var torah. Instead of trying to grapple with the message of the text the parsha of B'not Tzlophchad is hijacked by their idea into something that it's not. Divrei Torah should try to understand what the text is saying not making the text say what we wish it to it is false scholarship.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

To Judge or Not to Judge?

As I've mentioned before I work in a restaurant, but today was the most memorable day in a while. I've been on vacation for the weekend and even though I normally work on Sundays I came in only at 5pm (till 10). Anyway, tonight a certain infamous celebrity walked in with his family. All of the employees recognized him but couldn't place the name (neither could I at first), until his wife came to the counter to ask for help and the proprietor said "You husband looks very familiar". To which she laughed and said, "Yeah from the newspapers. Jack Abramoff."

Knowing what I do about the situation and living in the area that I do, I know many people that have had less than
spectacular dealings with this man, but tonight he and his family looked like every average joe that walks in. Happy, enjoying life, etc.

I spoke to my (soon to be) mother-in-law and she was shocked that he came here, but unlike her I wasn't. As a professional it's my duty to treat everyone equally and to try as hard as I can to not pass judgment on them.

Anyway, that was the one cheerful thing that happened tonight when we weren't discussing the news in Israel and the checking of parsley.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

On the Horizon

So it looks like war is on the horizon or at least that's what the American news is making the developing situation seem to be. Katusha's in Haifa and Sfat. I can hardly believe that the day came so quickly when that sentence is true.

Since I wrote the previous post Hizbu'allah (after threatening just that they're not denying it) has escalated the violence. What else can Israel do but attack? Yet the UN, the EU, and the Japanese Prime Minister are telling Israel to be careful. Right, if those North Korean rockets landed in Japan I doubt the Japanese would be restraining themselves.

It seems that Iran is more likely to be behind this Hizbu'allah attack then Assad. Or maybe it's Iran through Assad but either way Matt may have been correct.


Israel is in turmoil right now. Hizbu'allah has kidnapped two soldiers, killed eight more and we're invading Lebanon in retaliation. Am I disputing the need to do so? No. It is painfully clear that Hizbu'allah is attempting to take the focus off of Gaza and force Israel - actually Olmert and the Army - to make a painful decision. Gaza or Lebanon?

The problem is that it won't work. Olmert already sent in the Northern Command into Lebanon and seems to be intensifying the operation in Gaza to free Gilad. For that I am thankful, it is exactly what he should do. If, as my friend Matt is suggesting, Assad starts attacking Israel within the next few days we might just have a new war on our hands.

I don't believe it will go that far. Assad may be irrational but I don't believe he will start a war that he cannot win coupled with the knowledge that you don't attack a superior enemy when they are operational. You attack when they least expect it - like the Yom Kippur War.

Getting back to the point - I don't believe Olmert's "restrained, but painful" response will be restrained at all. They'll attack and attack hard because the Army won't put up with anything else. They'll go in hard and fast until the world opinion (or just the US) says "Okay, breathe. If they start up again, then do it all again". Olmert may not be the best Prime Minister ever, but he is not stupid. The Israeli public will not put up with the Hizbu'allah antics and so he will use the Army for reeking retribution upon Lebanon. Gaza. And Syria too if they don't want to play nice, and yes if Assad so much as lifts a finger expect to see more than a fly-by of his palace - but I don't believe it will get to missiles.

tzom tov.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What to do with Hamas? Part III

It's been a long time since I posted regarding Hamas (I, II); basically, I advocated a position that the elected officials of any group of people should be regarded as the legitimate governing body of that population regardless of their past history. That is not an easy position to argue when talking about Hamas.

Since then, Hamas has clearly lapsed back into their previous modus operandi. Instead of believing that we need to give them a second chance, they have clearly relapsed into terrorism and kidnapping because they are incapable of being the government they pretended to be. In my opinion the IDF's current operation in Gaza is perfectly justified and a necessity.

Unlike bluke (who, while providing good analysis, is overly pessimistic), I think the current situation is one of strength. I have yet to hear of the world criticizing Israel for their operation, we went in hard, stopped to allow negotiations, and when those failed went back in-all the while maintaining our determination and position of strength. I, like Harry (with whom I agree with on many issues), am very proud of Israel right now.