Friday, November 28, 2008

We are all Chabad

A young couple goes to India - no, not to meditate in the eastern ways, but to create a marker of home. Thousands of Israelis go to India, Thailand, and numerous places throughout the Far East. Far from home and family, the one constant so many of them experience, is a need to feel connected. For many, Judaism is secondary to their being Israeli. They were raised in a secular home and take pride in this.

Back in Israel, they feel little in common with the ultra-Orthodox movement and those who follow it. They are free, children of the world. Post-army and ready to take on the world. They will joke, if you can survive the army, you can survive anything. This is often what they believe, often what they practice.

Until they get to a small, unpretentious building somewhere and a feeling deep inside stirs. Home. Connection. Family. This is what Chabad centers throughout the world offer these traveling Israelis and business people. There is no judgement - do what you must do, go where you must go, but if you need a place to feel a connection with home, come to us. For a Shabbat meal, for directions, for anything.

To maintain such places, young families go and live. They forsake their own needs of family and community and share this with each Israeli or Jew who stops by - they too are alone and far from home.

This week, tragedy hit in Mumbai, targeting, among other places, one such Chabad center. At this moment, as troops storm the Chabad center to hopefully free the hostages and capture the terrorists who have spread havoc, hatred, and death throughout the city, we do not know the fate of those inside. We do not know if the Rabbi and his wife will live to raise their small child. We pray for the victims and the hostages. We pray for those who are ours.

Today, we are all Chabad.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chess Anyone?

Congratulations to Israel's Olympic Chess team. In Tuesday's match, they won their first medal ever, a silver, in the Dresden Olympics. Israel beat Holland in the 11th round, scoring just one point behind Armenia.

It's another part of being Israel - this hope and struggle to make our place in the world of champions - on Tuesday, in Dresden - we did! Congratulations to the team...and us!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If it quacks like a's probably a duck...

Last year, in September, according to most sources, Israel's air force bombed a building in Syria. According to the New York Times and others, the building was a nuclear reactor in the process of being built. Syria, of course, denied this.

Now, the United Nations has confirmed what we all knew. According to Reuters...when it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and quacks like a's a duck:

A Syrian complex bombed by Israel bore features that would resemble those
of an undeclared nuclear reactor and Syria must cooperate more with UN
inspectors to let them draw conclusions, an International Atomic Energy Agency
report said. (Reuters)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The UN Stikes (out) Again

Israelis have long accepted the double standards of the United Nations. It becomes so embarrassingly clear, year after year, resolution after resolution, that the United Nations is a biased and manipulated entity.

More than sixty rockets, mortars and missiles have been fired at Israel in the last week. Why? What triggered this sudden violence? The Palestinians objected to Israel destroying a tunnel that they planned on using to attack Israel, perhaps kidnap another of our soldiers. What nerve we have, says the Palestinians. We have violated the "relative calm" by protecting our territory from an imminent attack.

How does the UN respond? Do they request the Palestinians stop firing these they condemn the tunnel and its violent intent...

No - that would be UNlikely, that would be UNbiased, that would be UNnatural. No, here's the UN's latest response:

According to YNET:
The UN's top human rights official has called on Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says the blockade of the Palestinian territory breaches humanitarian law.

Monday, November 17, 2008

From the Four Corners of the Earth...On the Wings of Eagles

This is, perhaps above all else, what Israel is truly about...this is, in the greatest sense of the word...Israel.

From the Jerusalem Post:

'Lost tribe of Israel' coming 'home'Group believes it descended from biblical patriarch
BY: Aaron Klein

JERUSALEM – The Israeli government has given permission for about 150 Indian citizens who believe they are one of the "lost tribes" of Israel to move legally to the Jewish state.
This decision clears the way for the arrival here of some of the remaining 7,200 members of the Bnei Menashe in India, who believe they are the descendants of Manasseh, one of the biblical patriarch Joseph's two sons and a grandson of Jacob.

"With so much economic and political turmoil in the world, it is comforting and reassuring to see that the Divine process of the Ingathering of the Exiles continues," said Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based immigrant organization working with the "lost" Jews.

"Just as the prophets foretold, God is gathering in the Bnei Menashe, one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, and bringing them home to Zion," Freund told WND.
Over the last decade, several organizations, most notably Shavei Israel, have brought more than 1,300 members of the Indian group to the Jewish state, where they were successfully integrated into religious Israeli society, holding professional jobs, attending universities, becoming rabbinic leaders and serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Shavei is a private organization that relies on individual donations.

Freund said the new batch of 150 Bnei Menashe will arrive here on a special charter flight in January. He said they would settle in the Galilee, "where the landscape and pastoral setting resemble the land of their birth, making it an ideal place for the Bnei Menashe to start their new lives in the Jewish state."

Tribe members live in the two Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, to which they say they were exiled from Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian empire.

According to Bnei Menashe oral tradition, the tribe was exiled from Israel and pushed to the east, eventually settling in the border regions of China and India where most remain today. Most kept customs similar to Jewish tradition, including observing Shabbat, keeping the laws of Kosher, practicing circumcision on the eighth day of a baby boy's life and observing laws of family purity.

We Send Food...They Send Rockets

Last week, approximately 50 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel. Over the weekend, the barrage continued. Sunday, it continued, as well. A man was lightly injured from shrapnel, others sent to the hospital in shock. Imagine, without warning, a huge explosion in your yard...

No, the government did not respond with military action - although let's give credit where credit it due - they issued a very strong, "Please don't do that again!" warning. What did they send to Gaza in exchange for these rockets and mortars:
Thirty trucks carrying humanitarian equipment, medications and food, will enter the Gaza Strip on Monday morning through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the defense
establishment decided following another discussion.
I'm sure that will convince Hamas to stop those rockets!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You Think?

Sometimes, news items are so obvious, it's almost painful. And sometimes, the absurdity and simply astound you. This news item is an example - it left me thinking..." think?" Two points to Human Rights Watch for stating...the obvious.
Egypt must stop shooting African migrants, including Sudanese refugees fleeing Darfur, when they try to make the dangerous trek over the Sinai desert border into Israel, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. The US-based rights group, in a report on the perils of African migration between Egypt and Israel, said Egyptian security forces had shot or bludgeoned to death at least 33 mainly African migrants at the Israeli border since July 2007.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Holy Fight?

A few years ago, I took a visitor on a tour of the Old City. When we approached the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, I knew my time was up. I finally had to explain that I don't go in churches. I would wait outside while they enjoyed the opportunity to worship at such an important site. To understand the next part, you have to know that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is either in or very close to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and so, after I'd been sitting there a short while, an Israeli police officer came over and asked why I was there. I explained.

I guess he felt that he should "watch" me or perhaps he felt that he could watch everyone else from a position right near me. In any event, for the next 30 minutes or so, he stood nearby and after a few minutes, we began to talk. I asked him if he went in the church or only patrolled outside. His answer was that there are regular fights inside and so he goes in several times per day.

"Who's fighting?" I asked.

"Who's not?" he answered.

Apparently, there are disagreements if one group stays too long or is too large, or moves to slowly. He looked resigned to the concept that this would happen all the time and so today's news item brought back the police officer's words...
Fight breaks out at Church of Holy Sepulcher
Published: 11.09.08, 12:08

A fight broke out between Greek Orthodox worshippers and Armenian worshippers during preparations for Inventio Crucis at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in eastern Jerusalem. A police force separated between the two sides and detained two worshippers for questioning.

Yes, I Can...for Gilad Shalit

Barack Obama ran for president on the slogan, "Yes, I Can." I personally didn't support him and don't really understand these one syllable concepts, but I'm willing to borrow it for now.

There is something you can do - right now...for Gilad Shalit. We can't swing nations to care. We can't get the Israeli government to do all in its power (see below on that one), but what you can do...right now - is open a prayer book or Bible and say Psalm 142. (Click here for Psalm 142 in Hebrew and English).

My idea to return Gilad Shalit:

Very simple. Gilad Shalit is our son, our child. He belongs with Israel, with his family. We must do all we can to save our child, our children. If you have extra to give, Judaism instructs you to give charity. But if you have but one piece of bread, there is no commandment to give charity and let your family starve. First, you see to your own and you pray that you have enough to give others afterwards.

Israel is a central location for all manner of medical care. We have operated on thousands of Palestinian children to save their lives or better the quality of those lives. We have operated on children (and adults) from Egypt, Jordan, even Iraq and Iran.

Our own child is suffering. We have no obligation to help others until we first see to our own. Our government should send the following note to all Arab leaders:
Dear Arab leader,

For many years, quietly and without credit (and often without payment) we have treated your young. Our doctors and nurses have worked tirelessly to help, to save, to improve. We did this because it was the right thing to do, the human and humane thing to do.

With great regret, until our son is returned home, healthy and sound, we will no longer be able to take care of your children...until you return our child to us. When Gilad Shalit comes home...we will once again open our hospitals to care for your children. Until then, we recommend you find another country willing to care (often for free), willing to give the highest quality health care, with top equipment and caring doctors and nurses.

Send Gilad home and your children...and ours won't suffer.

Now, all we need is an Israeli leader brave enough to send this message.

For now, what you can do, until that brave leader steps forward, is say a prayer for Gilad.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Ultimate Spin

Spinning a story is a political challenge for many, and few excel at spinning better than Hamas and our other enemies. Today's news provides a perfect example. A tunnel was being dug close to the security fence between Israel and Gaza. According to Israeli military intelligence, which is notoriously accurate (as opposed to much of what Hamas' leadership says), the tunnel was built with its exit inside the Abu Hamam family home, to run under our security fence. It's goal, says our army, was to be used as a passage way through which to enter Israel, capture one of our soldiers, and escape back to Gaza - another Gilad Shalit.

Israel destroyed the tunnel. And here comes the spin:

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri claimed Tuesday night that Israel's raid into Gaza proves that Israel no longer wants to maintain the lower level of direct attacks begun in June. Abu Zuhri called the Israeli destruction of the tunnel "aggression... a major violation of the ... agreement..." He threatened that if Israel conducts more such raids Hamas would bring the combat to more of Israel than merely within rocket range of Gaza.

The IDF spokewoman's office stressed that the incident was just a pinpoint operation to stop an immediate threat, and that it was not intended to bring about an end to the relative calm. (Israel National News)

So there you have it - the intention to break the "relative calm" - was not the digging of a tunnel to kidnap one of our soldiers, but rather our nerve in destroying it. And the response from Gaza:

At least seven rockets and 16 mortar shells landed near kibbutzim (agricultural collectives) in the western Negev on Wednesday morning. No injuries have been reported at this time. The Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance service has gone on alert in the region.

Four IDF soldiers were wounded in a mortar shell attack in Gaza, IDF spokesmen said Wednesday morning. Three of the soldiers were moderately wounded, meaning doctors see no imminent threat to their lives, but one or more of their limbs or major organs are at risk. The fourth soldier was lightly wounded.