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Friday, April 03, 2009

Used Furniture

From: Denise Troutman
To: Alex Traiman
Sent: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 9:22:20 PM
Subject: used furniture

Hi Alex,

We are temporarily moving out of our Temple while it is being reconstructed. Are you still in need of items for your Temple?

Thank you,
Denise Troutman

Facility and Events Coordinator
Temple Beth El
5101 Providence Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28226


From: Alex Traiman
Sent: Wednesday, April 01, 2009 5:04 PM
To: Denise Troutman
Subject: Re: used furniture

Denise, Shalom.

Thank you so much for your email. We were fortunate to buy some old but sturdy used furniture several months ago, as part of a longer (slow) initiative to fix up our hilltop synagogue on the actual mountain where Yaakov dreamt in Biblical Beit El.

Suffice to say that the project is ongoing, and nowhere near finished. Thus far, we have replaced the seats, the roof, and the ark curtain. We need to replace the ceiling, lights, the floor, and take care of the walls plus some other things. We are trying to turn a double caravan into a synagogue befitting of the holiness of the location....

Please let me know what you have in mind, and how you might be able to send it. We are always grateful for any donations, of money or physical items.

Thank you again very much for contacting. If you don't mind my asking, how did you hear about our synagogue needs?

Have a happy and kosher Passover.

With Blessings,


From: Denise Troutman
To: Alex Traiman
Sent: Thursday, April 2, 2009 4:34:09 PM
Subject: RE: used furniture

Hi Alex,

I found a comment from you with your email address when I googled used synagogue furniture. What state is your synagogue? I am sure as we get closer to our move out date there will be items we need to have removed.

I apologize but I am not Jewish so the statement "our hilltop synagogue on the actual mountain where Yaakov dreamt" doesn’t give my any clues as to your location. I hope you have a happy and kosher Passover,

Thank you,
Denise Troutman

Facility and Events Coordinator
Temple Beth El
5101 Providence Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28226



Thank you for the email. Our synagogue is in Israel. Our town, the original town of Beth El from the Bible, is recorded as the place where Jacob had his famous dream with the ladder. This synagogue sits atop that very mountain, and is one of the holiest places in the world.

Today Beit El is a Jewish settlement with 7000 residents located in the Biblical province of Samaria, commonly referred to today as the West Bank. And the synagogue sits atop an outpost with 30 families that live in caravans.

Our town is 20 minutes north of Jerusalem, and about 2 minutes north of Ramallah.

If your Temple Beth El has any desire to connect with the Biblical Beth El of its ancestral heritage, then we would be more than grateful to receive a donation.

Many thanks,

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Satire: The International Media

Unfortunately, this satire by the Israeli sketch comedy show 'Eretz Nehederet' is not as much of a stretch as some might like to think...

(I found the clip on the Jerusalem Post's blog called 'Must Sees'...

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Monday, July 16, 2007

OK. Real Baseball in Israel

Perhaps as an offshoot of this IBL fever, or because of my long held desire to shout at kids to "stop picking the daisies," I have started a Baseball Club here in Bet El for 8-11 year-olds.

We had our first practice on Sunday Morning. Yishai came by to take some pictures.

It was great fun for all, but we could definitely use some equipment.

Here is an email I am currently circulating:


I have started a Baseball club for 8-11 year olds in Bet El for the first time in nearly a decade. I have a dozen kids to start. They don't know a stitch about baseball, but they are eager to learn and play. We had our first practice Sunday morning. We started with instruction on how to put on the mitt, and I proceeded to show them the four bases (concrete slabs). We are hitting off of a makeshift tee I created after rummaging through a nearby construction area.

Our primary need right now is mitts. I have seven gloves to work with including my own, and three of them are adult size (too big). I would really like for each boy to have a glove. We could also use 2-3 little league size bats. I would even like to get the kids each a tee shirt, and take them to a baseball game of the new professional IBL. We definitely do not have any helmets or catchers' gear.

We have decided to call our "team" the Bet El Bears, as two bears are involved in a story with the prophet Elisha in Bet El in the second book of Melachim.

We would greatly appreciate if an individual, group of individuals, or business could help in one of the following ways:

1) Send a check for $1500 / 6000NIS, and I will purchase the necessary equipment.

2) Purchase us new equipment, and send it.

3) Take a collection of used (but decent) equipment, and send it over.

4) Any combination of the above. I am willing to accept a few gloves here, and bat from there.

Our total equipment needs in order of priority:
1) 12-15 gloves (including 2-3 lefty mitts)
2) 2-4 little league bats
3) 12 balls
4) tee shirts
5) batting helmets
6) bases
7) catchers' gear (including mitt)

I really do appreciate your consideration into this matter. I can assure you our town, and our kids will really appreciate it. For more information, please feel free to email me at - re:Baseball.

With Blessings,


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Friday, July 13, 2007

Time to Stop Playing with Our Balls and Strikes

This debate about baseball in Israel has gone just about far enough. Perhaps we have become so insensed by the current state of affairs in Israel, or have been so numbed by a corrupt system that remains in power, that we have decided to turn our attention to an easier target: recreation and entertainment.

Recreation is good. Professional entertainment bad. Fine. Case and point. I like baseball, and just may see a game before this summer is out, because I still retain many habits from a former life in the United States, like surfing the internet past my bedtime.

But here at Kumah, we are supposed to be shining Israel in a positive light wherever possible, pointing out areas critical for the growth of this nation, and pushing American aliyah.

I am quite worried that this hit and run on America's pasttime now in Israel, runs counter to the goals of our organization.

American Jews love American sports. This phenomenon is a little difficult to understand, even for myself who to this day thinks of the ballpark anytime I smell a freshly cut lawn.

Moving to Israel is hard. Real hard. Don't let these Aliyah junkies tell you otherwise. Most American olim consciously and unconsciously look far and wide to seek out the comforts of the old country here in our new habitat. Whether it is Hellman's mayonaise or a trip to Ikea, these creature comforts help us feel at home in our elevated environs.

I am quite afraid that this battery on baseball--a familiar face to many olim who feel as if they have left many wonderful things behind to begin a better life--might make future olim uncomfortable.

I worry that potential olim, and others reading this blog may begin to think that we have struck out swinging. We don't need to attack anything and everything that runs counter to the religious ideal. We need religious and non-religious Jews who like baseball to come make Aliyah, and help strengthen our nation.

There are a lot of problems in Israel and within American Jewry. Baseball, for better or for worse, is not one of them.

Look at the coaches signs, there is a lot of work to do here. I think we should step up to the plate, and try to hit a home run on some serious issues in this country, before our society gets picked off trying to steal a base.

And I also think that for those of us who don't like professional sports--in a land where soccer goons riot, and a basketball team routinely wins the European championship--paying any additional mind to this baseball league is simply giving more attention to another business started in Israel with private American investment.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

'The Good Olim of Our Times'

In my lifetime, I have seen the passing of several notable Gedolim, or greatest scholars-leaders of our time: The Baba Sali, Rav Soloveitchik, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Kadouri, just to name a few.

It remains to be seen whether our generation can replace these beacons of Torah and leadership with Rabbis and leaders of equal status. This is a great loss for our nation, in our generation. It is hard to pinpoint now exactly who are the Gedolim of our times.

But when leaders are no longer present, that doesn't mean that leadership ceases. Someone or someones need to take the bull by the horns, and lead the Jewish people forward. Today, Israel and the Jewish people were blessed with the arrival of 200 plus Jewish immigrants, or Olim, adding onto the 3,000 or so that have been arriving from North America each year.

I think we should praise these good olim. They (heck, myself included) have made bold steps to lead the Jewish people against all modern conventional wisdom, to return to our biblical heritage. This cannot be overlooked. These courageous leaders can definitely be considered the Good Olim of our times.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

1967: A Year of Jewish Military Campaigns

The friendly folks over at Chabad are happy to point out that more than one important military campaign was launched in 1967.

According to Lubavitch, 2007 marks the 40 year anniversary of the great Rabbi General Menachem Mendel's Tefillin campaign, which also has helped the nation and people of Israel expand their spiritual borders.

Check out this 1 minute video in honor of the anniversary, entitled "The Tefillin Booth"

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Is the U.S. Really Israel's Friend?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a "friend" can be defined as:

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement
5. Friend A member of the Society of Friends; a Quaker.

According to that same dictionary, a "foe" is defined as:

1. A personal enemy.
2. An enemy in war.
3. An adversary; an opponent: a foe of tax reform.
4. Something that opposes, injures, or impedes.

Israel and the United States have always professed to be "friends" and good friends at that. Yet, a recent examination of U.S. policy toward Israel over the past several weeks, may have you checking your definitions a little more closely.

In June 1967, Israel was forced to defeat the attacking armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel tried to avoid war at all costs, but as diplomacy failed (as it often does here in the Middle East) Israel had no choice but to take pre-emptive action to defend its borders and protect its citizens.

In the stunning victory, Israel swiftly repossessed the Golan, Gaza, Sinai, Yehuda, Shomron, and re-unified a divided Jerusalem. The re-unification of our nation marks perhaps the highest spiritual point in Israel's brief 59 year history.

This week according to IsraelNationalNews, the United States Ambassador to Israel will not be present at celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the miraculous Six-Day War.

This week's festivities are certainly the type in which Israel would like its friends to be present. It is not that our friends are busy with prior engagements, but rather that the United States is boycotting the festivities, along with member nations of the European Union.

According to the INN report:
"The U.S. did not issue an official statement explaining why the current Ambassador, Richard Jones will not be attending the ceremonies, but Ambassador Dr. Harald Kindermann from Germany, which heads the European Union (EU) this year, specifically said EU countries will not participate because of Arab claims of sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, which includes the Old City."

Perhaps this incident can be brushed aside as part of some grand political game the U.S. must play to appease others across the globe. But some other recent occurances are harder to overlook.

When Winograd Commission released its interim report into the Israeli government and military's mismanagement of the Summer War in Lebanon, the Jewish nation was engaged in sharp condemnation of its leaders, and calls for their resignation. Winograd dominated news coverage for a solid week, and still appears in the headlines on a regular basis.

Just two days after the report was released to the public, there was another, no less important news story in the headlines: The United States had presented Israel with a detailed timetable of commitments for Jewish State to satisfy, in line with the U.S.'s renewed push for the creation of a Palestinian state.

This seemingly important top news story only managed modest news coverage, and barely any opinion, because as mentioned, Israel was engulfed in Winograd.

One may ask whether a timetable, or the creation of an Arab state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan represent acts of friendship to Israel at all. But to present Israel with this kind of wish list when it did, was intentional.

The State Department could have easily pushed off its diplomatic attempt by a week or more, as proved by Condoleeza Rice's postponement of her scheduled trip to Israel this past week. She claimed that Israel was too busy with its own domestic issues to engage in diplomacy.

So why then was the timetable given to Israel when it was? Specifically to dodge any media criticism of the document, and to attempt to have the commitments accepted and in place, just in case Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was man enough to resign his post following the damning Winograd report.

While the timing of the document may or may not be friendly, the contents of the timetable further reveal the nature of the United States toward Israel.

The first commitment called for in the document presented by the State Department requests that Israel ease passage between Gaza and the provinces of Judea and Samaria--also known today as the West Bank.

Since the Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, during which Israel destroyed 21 Jewish communities and forcibly expelled upwards of 10,000 residents, Gaza has turned into a terror state. Hamas has taken control of the region, sponsoring terror activities including the firing of nearly 2000 Kassam rockets into Israel. Well over 60 tons of weapons and munitions have been smuggled into Gaza via Egypt, and the rival factions in the newly autonomous area have engaged in murderous street fights that fall somewhere in between anarchy and civil war.

Now, the United States is suggesting, strongly, that Israel allow Arabs of Gaza passage into Judea and Samaria. This despite the fact that there is a large landmass of indisputed Israeli territory between the aforementioned regions, and also despite the fact that Judea and Samaria wrap directly around the borders of Jerusalem, and end within ten miles of the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan population center.

Obviously the United States knows all of these facts, particularly when you consider that they are openly arming, funding, and training members of the Fatah terror faction in their struggle for control of the Palestinian Authority with Hamas.

By the way, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah wrote his doctoral thesis on Holocaust denial, and openly calls for the very weapons donated to his cause by the United States should be turned against the Jewish people.

So to summarize, the United States is funding and arming sworn enemies of the Jewish State and asking the Jewish State to ease their travel near Israeli population centers. They ask us to do this when the media is too caught up Winograd to rightfully comment on the request.

And the U.S. who is acting squarely against the interests of safety for Israeli citizens and security for Israel's borders, won't celebrate with as friends the greatest demonstration of Israel's independent ability to protect those interests: The miraculous Six-Day War.

Many Americans and Israelis alike believe claims by their respective governments that Israel and America are friends. But actions speak louder than words.

"Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy." (Proverbs 27:6).

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Ride to the Cemetery

You read about traffic accidents almost daily in Israel. They kill more Israelis each year than Arabs do. Today alone there were 97 traffic accidents. This past weekend 15 Israelis were killed on the road, 21 in the past week.

Two especially unique Jews, killed in the car above were, have left me grieving heavily, along with the rest of the nation of Israel.

Yocheved Chein, of blessed memory, died well before her time. She was 44, a devoted wife and mother of six. Well, maybe mother of eight, if I would count my wife and I. Yocheved was like a second mother to us.

This was one of the truly genuine women of our time. She was selfless, and righteous. She gave every last resource she could scrape to help others. It didn't matter if Yocheved knew you or not. If you needed something, and she heard, she was going to help. Convenience was not one of her considerations.

As the wife of a Chabad Shaliach, Yocheved's home was open 24-7. Their door was open all the time. Literally, even if they weren't home. And in Queens, that's not always advisable. I entered through their door on hundreds of occasions.

The Rabbi and Rebbitzin worked non-stop with the community of Georgian immigrants they devoted their life to. They taught them Judaism from scratch. The Georgians always knew that they were Jewish. The Chein's taught them how to be Jewish.

The Cheins were literally readying the world for Moshiach, one mitzvah at a time, and believe me, that is not an easy task.

I cannot tell you how many times the Chein family came to our assistance. Handing us a car, and giving me a second income from their community for two years--which I later found out sometimes came from their own pockets--are just a few of the memorable kindnesses they offered. We were regulars at their Shabbos table.

The Rabbi survived the crash with several broken ribs. Rabbi Chein is a Rav, mentor, and friend, in addition to a father-figure to me. How he escaped the car alive is a miracle that is overlooked amidst tragedy. The Rebbitzen and her mother passed away.

The Rebbitzen's mother, Rachel Tzedek Schneerson, of blessed memory, was a true matriarch figure. Her husband had passed away many years ago, and she raised the family. I'm not sure how many grandchildren she had, but it is in the dozens. Rachel was known to me, and the rest of the family as Bebby, or grandma in Georgian.

Bebby had a comforting smile. A glance in her eye told you that she knew something you didn't. I didn't get the chance to find out what it was.

Yocheved was a fireball. I have never seen a woman with so much energy. She was a perpetual optimist. Even when the cards didn't seem to line up aces, the Rebbitzin had no fear. She put all her trust in G-d, and didn't worry about the rest.

She had a loud voice, and was not afraid to let anyone hear her opinion. Yet, since she really was righteous, she never really offended anyone.

She cooked up a storm, Georgian-style. I am going to miss her spicy sauces, despite the fact that I am an Ashkenazi Jew who prefers that sweet European-style cooking.

Yocheved was a great wife and mother, and was without a doubt the glue that kept her fast-moving family together.

Though they were living in New York, sent there on Shlichut by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, they were Israeli at their core, and loved the Holy Land. The Rabbi and Rebbitzen came to Israel at least a few times a year to visit their family, including the Rebbitzen's mother Rachel, who lived in Kiryat Malachi.

On this trip, as they did every year, the Rebbitzen came to honor the passing of her father. On the yahretzeit (memorial day), this past Friday, the Rabbi, Rebbitzen, and her mother were on route to the cemetery to pay their respects.

They eventually made it to the gravesite, but not in the condition they had envisioned.

You can read about the accident, and see pictures from the site.

My wife and I, and two friends were supposed to meet the Cheins for breakfast in Jerusalem Friday morning. An hour before the rendez-vous we got a call from their daughters saying that for some reason breakfast was off. An hour later, we got the news.

I was at Yocheved's funeral Sunday night at Har HaZeitim (Mt. of Olives) cemetery. That is a spooky place at night. It is perhaps the oldest Jewish cemetery in the World, and it shows. Her grave stares straight across to the Temple Mount. It has been a while since I was at the funeral of a loved one. It is an uncomfortable feeling.

The Rabbi made it to the funeral despite the severe pain in his ribs. I know his physical pain is nothing compared to his emotional suffering. Their children flew in from NY to attend their mother's funeral. I can't imagine what that plane ride was like.

Funerals in Israel are not the same as in the states, particularly in Jerusalem.

I had never been to a funeral at night, and here in Israel, bodies are brought to the grave in just a sheet. No coffin. A member of the Chevra Kadisha (burial society) literally jumps into the grave, and lays the body down to rest.

And then it is over. Yocheved and her mother were returned to the earth and returned to their maker.

We are left to grieve in their wake. May they merit all the rewards of the righteous in the world to come, and may their memories be a blessing for the Jewish people.

May the Chein and Schneerson families be comforted among mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Last Boy Scout

Leading up to the Purim Holiday, there was much to be done at the last moment. Two days before the holiday, there was work to be done, a lecture to give, an important dinner take-out order to fill, and costumes to get for the little ones.

As I got to Jerusalem to lecture a bunch of (what's a nice word for spoiled?) Yeshiva kids on the ins and outs of Israel advocacy, from the neo-Zionist perspective, I passed by a bunch of hooligan-looking Israelis dressed in what looked to me like boy scout uniforms.

In Israel, you'll see these types of uniforms on teenagers of the various youth movements--each movement occupying their own special niche within the vast religious-political culture which of course must also include innocent and non-innocent young children.

Let's just say these boy scouts didn't look like the helpful kind. Want a smoke?

Following the lecture which I thought was inspirational, and I am sure that some of the yawns were also out of appreciation for my time and energy, I went to go take care of some of those other last minute errands.

(By the way, I know that I give a great lecture).

I got to Pisgat Ze'ev, the largest community in what is now Jerusalem, although used to be the """"West Bank"""". It is a lovely part of the city built by the Prime Minister who could both build and take away, Ariel Sharon. It is really a beautiful large neighborhood.

We like it, because it is on the way home to Bet El from Jerusalem, and has some of the infrastructure missing from a smaller yishuv, like a shopping mall, and of course Burger's Bar.

The Burger's Bar is located at this intersection at the end of Rechov Moshe Dayan. I'm not sure what that tall red thing is supposed to be.

This is a good opportunity to talk about traffic safety in Israel.

When you are coming from Jerusalem, the best thing to do is park across the intersection in one of 8 or so parking spots facing in the direction you need to drive later. Now the road you need to cross on foot has 2 lanes in each direction--a 4 lane road in total. Not so big. But here in Israel, that means that the road takes about 5 minutes to cross, stopping on 2 seperate half-meter-wide islands in between green lights.

Now I was born in NY, so I am no fool. I look both ways and cross against the light if the coast is clear. For some reason, Israelis who will break just about every rule on the road, don't really jaywalk.

I got across the road pretty fast, when all of a sudden, I hear a 35-40 year-old blind lady holding a cane and 3 young kids in Purim costumes shouting, "Selicha, Selicha."

Now she didn't know it, but she was apparently talking to me.

She told me that it was unsafe to cross such a difficult intersection, and needed some help. She was right. Whichever engineer designed the traffic pattern here, they did not have this type of scenario in mind.

Of course, I helped her and her cute, decked-out kids back across the street.

After finishing my good deed for the day, I went back across that street, to get my take-out. The owner of the Burger's Bar, who knows me quite well from my wife's 9 months of pregnancy cravings that made me a regular at this establishment, invited our family to his child's upcoming birthday party at the restaurant. What a real, yet surreal night.

And how good it all made me feel. It was at that moment that I realized, it is simple good deeds like these that make this country what it is, and what it is supposed to be.

You don't have to be dressed like a boy scout to behave like one. But if you are dressed like a boy scout in Israel, it certainly wouldn't hurt to try.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

David Melech Yisrael Chai Vikayam! --or--
Dudu for President

We all know by now that Israel's government is corrupt and devoid of high moral standing, both in the eyes of Israelis and the world at large. I don't intend to go into all the sordid details now. That we can save for several upcoming posts.

But the situation is in desperate need of repair, and many argue that we need to start at the top of the political ladder and work down to solve our leadership crisis.

The President of Israel is considered Israel's highest public servant. He certainly is the highest paid. The current term of President Moshe Katzav officially ends in June, if he is not tossed out of office beforehand for sexual misconduct, possibly rape.

The Israeli populace agrees that we need to restore dignity to this position with a man or woman of exemplary character, that can well represent what the modern nation of Israel is all about.

I nominate Dudu.

When I think about all the characteristics that are necessary to make a good president in Israel, one man stands out miles above the rest.

David (Dudu) Fisher has been a model Israeli for decades, and may even be a true Jewish hero. Fisher is a performer par excellance, his star quality shines through all his endeavors.

Fisher has embraced Jewish culture. He served as the Cantor of the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv, meaning scores of non-religious "Middle Israelis" have probably heard him belt out Kol Nidrei when they wanted their semi-yearly dose of Judaism. Dudu can sing with the best of them, reawakening the oft hibernating souls of the Jewish people.

Dudu won't buckle under pressure. He has performed on the world's biggest stage. I personally saw him play Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway. That's the biggest stage I can think of. You can be certain he won't lose his composure standing before the evil glare of the Israeli media's cameras.

And did I mention that Dudu is religious. He never performs on Friday nights or Saturdays. I can't offhand think of any other Valjean's or prominent Israeli politicians with that to their credit.

Dudu is one of Israel's top diplomats meeting with world leaders across the globe.

Fisher understands the diaspora quite well. In addition to his broadway stint, Fisher served as High Holidays Cantor at Kutshers Hotel in the Catskills for over 20 years. It doesn't get any more galut than that. Really.

And let's face it. There is no name that screams, "I'm an Israeli and proud of it," more than "Dudu."

But most of all, Dudu cares about the future of Israel. This is why he has devoted so much of his time and energy to educating our youth with his powerful and funloving DVD series that is a staple in just about every Israeli household.

Dudu has the respect of practically every child in the country. There are Israeli children who will utter the word "Dudu" before they learn to say Abba and Ima. Ask an Israeli youth who Ben Gurion was. I'm not sure they'll know. Ask about Dudu, now that's simple. Dudu is an institution, a revolutionary, a teacher and a leader.

Corrupt? I don't think so. I think all Israelis will agree. Dudu Fisher is an exemplary individual who knows how to represent Israel and Judaism throughout the entire world.

I hereby nominate David (Dudu) Fisher for President of Israel--and for that matter, Prime Minister, or Monarch.

David Melech Yisrael Chai Vikayam!!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You Let WHO on the Guest List?!

On Sunday night, my mother's short one week visit to Israel came to a close. She needed to get to the airport. We needed to spend the afternoon and evening in Jerusalem finishing up some loose ends, gifts for family, last visit to the Kotel, etc.

We decided that the best way to get my mom to the airport was via a shuttle, known commonly as Nesher. The Nesher is just 45NIS per person, which is about 1NIS per minute of the trip from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.

Not residents of Jerusalem, we needed to select a place for the Nesher to pick up my mom. Thinking of a nice, comfortable place near to both the Old City and Ben Yehuda Street, I chose the David Citadel Hotel. Its a great hotel, with plenty of parking around.

We arrived at the David Citadel about 20 minutes before the Nesher.

All the parking spots on both sides of the hotel were blocked off with police barriers. I had forgotten all about it. Our dear friend Condoleeza Rice was back in town trying to advance those blessed peace accords that have made life in Israel so simple over the past 15 years. (That's sarcasm folks!)

I dropped off my mom, wife and kids in front of the hotel, while I went to find more distant parking. I found a spot not too far off, and returned fairly quickly.

My entire family was outside one of the country's nicest hotels with together with my mom's luggage sitting on the curb. I asked why they weren't inside.

My wife Tzippy told me that security was only letting paid guests and restaurant goers inside due to the increased security surrounding Condi and Company. I said "Okay."

Then Tzippy--who has clear conviction when it comes to politics in Israel and has her own ideas about where the Palestinians can shove, err...create a state of their own--pointed to a tinted window SUV.

"You'll never guess who just came out of that car parked right there," Tzippy said.

I was stumped. "Who?"

"Mohammed Dahlan."

"Really?" I said.

"Yep, he just walked right in with his entourage," Tzippy said.

At that point, I looked at the bags and my family sitting on the curb, Jews living and visiting the Holy Land of Israel, not allowed into the hotel for security reasons. All the while, one of the greatest threats to Israeli security was allowed direct access, on an invitation from our friend Condoleeza.

Honestly, I felt quite inferior at that moment.

Until we realize who the real threats to security here are, we are going to be in for a bumpy ride. Buckle your safteybelts.

PS. Here is a bio of Dahlan, put out by the ZOA in 2002. You can bet some details have been added to his resume since then:

MOHAMMED DAHLAN Dahlan, 41, is chief of the Palestinian Security Forces in Gaza. He spent four years in Israeli prison for terrorist activities, and was a commander of operations for Arafat’s Fatah terror group during the mass “intifada” violence that began in 1987. According to the Israeli government, Dahlan is one of the primary directors of the current terrorist violence against Israelis in the Gaza region.

Masterminded bombing of Israeli bus: Israel Radio reported on October 20, 2000, that “Dahlan was behind the October 18 bombing of an Israeli bus in Gush Katif.” The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported on November 16, 2000, that “members of the Preventive Security Force in Gaza, headed by Mohammed Dahlan, were involved in a series of attacks on Israelis in Gush Katif and Netzarim.” Ha’aretz reported on April 17, 2001, that Yasir Arafat “takes an active part in decisions regarding the firing of mortars. The general directives in this regard are passed to Mohammed Dahlan, and from Dahlan to his deputy, Rashid Abu Shabak.”

Ordered rocket attack on an Israeli bus: Dahlan is currently a defendant in a lawsuit filed by victims Arab terrorism, including an American citizen as well as three children whose legs were blown off in a Dahlan-directed rocket attack on a bus on November 20, 2000. The Israeli daily Hatzofeh has reported (April 13, 2001) that the Central Intelligence Agency has tape recordings of telephone conversations in which Dahlan can be heard ordering the November 20 rocket attack and other terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Shelters Hamas terrorists: Dahlan told the PA-sponsored newspaper Al Ayam on Oct.26, 1998 that terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad “will not be outlawed.”

Hired Hamas terrorists: Dahlan said in an interview with the PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah on Sept.24, 1998, that 25 more Hamas terrorists have been hired by his force, specifically in order to protect them from being arrested by the Israelis.

Praised Hamas terrorists: In an interview with the Hamas newspaper Al-Risallah (cited in Ha’aretz, June 15, 1997), Dahlan said: “The presence of Hamas on Palestinian territory is very important for building the Palestinian homeland.”

Threatened violence against Israel: On August 30, 1996, Dahlan said: “The Palestinian Authority does not exclude the return to the armed struggle, and it will then use its weapons.” (Jerusalem Report, Nov. 28, 1996)

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Kaparot -or-
This Country is Going Down the Toilet -or-
My Neighbor the Angel

Well, I will spare you the pictures on this one, but all of the waste drainage for my brand new apartment was backed up at an unreachable, underground juncture. Every last water dispenser in the apartment be it sink, shower, or other, was draining itself on the floor of my bathroom. I won't name names, but let's just say that someone who lives in the apartment started flushing multiple baby wipes down the toilet.

This has not been the first kapara, or spiritual cleansing punishment, our family has faced in the past several months. In consecutive recent hail and wind storms, one could find me outside rebuilding the five-month-old Keter shed I build next to our home for extra storage. The entire roof flew off, soaking all the valuables stored within. Critical pieces of the shed broke, and were fixed with metal brackets and a great deal of ingenuity.

Much of that ingenuity came from my new neighbor, Nati. Nati has helped me countless times in several weeks. In addition to the aforementioned episodes, Nati drove me to the gas station when my car was sitting outside my apartment out of gas.

Nati is a chef, and a good one. He cooks for the girl's high school Ra'aya here in Bet El. Previous to his arrival here, he lived and worked an identical job in N'vei Dekalim before being forcibly evacuated from his home of eight years with his wife and three children.

They didn't live in Gush Katif on settlement principles. It was an affordable place to live, close to the beach, and just minutes from their family in the now battered town of Sderot.

When the government offered Nati money for his home following the expulsion, he quickly took it and invested the entire sum in an Ashdod apartment, choosing not to link his fate to the rest of the Gush Katif residents that now are dependent on the government for support.

Nati, who was not a farmer like many of his former neighbors, was able to land a comparable job as a chef here in Bet El, following a short stint in a hotel restaurant. Let me tell you, Nati is an excellent chef.

Being of Algerian descent, his wife is Moroccan, Nati's attitude to life is different than my own. Nati, who doesn't speak a word of English, making communication for me challenging, has said time and again: "We family."

It seems that lately, many of my kaparot, and there are others, have become Nati's as well. For some reason, he doesn't seem to mind.

I'm sure there is a lesson to be learned in his behavior. The kapara of one Jew is often the kapara of the entire Jewish nation. And sometimes one Jew's problem cannot be easily overcome without a little support. And with some support and empathy from our fellow Jews, particularly in times of uninviting distress(Did I mention that Nati and I were up to our elbows in sewage?) we can keep this Jewish nation from literally going down the toilet. After all, "We family."

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

What is Blue and Yellow and Filled With Thousands of Israelis?

No, it is not a Beitar Jerusalem soccer match, or a Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball game. It is the true national sport of Israel: IKEA.

Consumerism at its best, sleek furniture and housewares galore, a glatt kosher cafeteria, a playcenter for children, and parking for nearly 1,000 cars, Ikea reigns as the true national sport of the modern State of Israel.

Day off from work, national holiday, summer vacation; these are all perfect reasons to go to the hip Israeli's new favorite pastime. A store unlike any other in our burgeouning material economy, Ikea features two floors and countless dunams of shopping.

Fun for kids and adults alike, only the most insulated and isolated Israelis have yet to make it to the Swedish supercenter parked firmly in the middle of Israel's population center.

The store is so popular, that two more branches of the international uberchain will be opening in Israel in the next 24 months.

I recently celebrated my third outing this year alone to the mega magnet located off Highway 2 in Netanya. It is truly an experience. For those who live outside the Gush Dan region, a few hours at Ikea gives you a taste of Israeli society, a microcosm of the state featuring citizens spending more than they can afford on items they don't need, and loving every minute of it.

We got some shelves for our kitchen and toy storage for the kids room:)

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Have You Ever Played the Game of RISK?

Have you ever played the classic board game RISK? You know, the game where you get into countless arguments and make shady deals with sole purpose of best asserting your own personal position in a quest to take over the world.

And of course you know that the only way to actually take over the world is by rolling the dice. Well, Israel's government got together for a similar foray (aka meeting), as they do regularly. Israel's top brass sat down for a friendly Israeli game called RISK: The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

For those of you that missed what went on during the game, let me review.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asserted that there is no problem with the working or non-working relationship between his office and the office of Defense Minister Amir Peretz. This despite repeated press leaks that the two never speak. Olmert assured the committee that it is not necessary for the relationship between the two offices to be rosy.

Olmert accused Opposition Leader and former (and potentially future) PM Benyamin Netanyahu of establishing the Hamas terror group by releasing Sheikh Yassin, former Hamas spiritual terror leader in 1997.

Olmert went on to assert that he would in fact take part in a 3-way summit between PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, US Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice and himself in less than a week, to discuss the conditions for the creation of a rogue Palestinian state in the holiest provinces of biblical Israel.

Olmert added that if the PA will release Israeli captive soldier Gilad Shalit, then Israel would be forced to reconsider the terrorist nature of the Palestinian Authority "Unity" Government featuring warlording factions Fatah and Hamas.

On the northern front, Olmert opined that any peace deal with Syria would have to include returning the entire Golan Heights which was officially annexed by Israel under international law in 1981. Olmert asserted that every government between 1993-2001 secretly opened negotiations with our northern enemy on the notion that we would return the Golan.

Netanyahu, PM in '93 intelligently interjected during Olmert's briefing, "That's not true!" Olmert, a lawyer, who is quite slick with his own tongue countered, "Yes it is, don't try and hide the truth."

Netanyahu, not wanting to keep the game going too long, said in response, ""This is a failed government, and there is only one thing it must do and that is to go home."

Well, not one concrete idea for strengthening the defense of the state was raised. The only thing left to do right now for the committee is to roll the dice, because the entire Jewish Nation is at RISK.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Marbim B'Simcha -- Olmert Style

Tu B'Shevat is now behind us which means just one thing: Adar is right around the corner. In just a few weeks time we'll be drinking until we don't know the difference between the righteous Haman and the wicked Mordechai (ah wait, reverse that -- perhaps I started drinking too soon.

But perhaps I am not the only Jew that is confusing righteousness and wickedness ahead of the great Purim festival.

If you haven't noticed, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to be one component of a very unholy triumverate, similar to the three sided hat Haman bedecked over 2000 years ago.

Olmert will take part in a 3 way summit with co-conspirators Condoleeza Rice and Mahmoud Abbas. This summit will attempt to bring the parties towards "final status negotiations" on the borders of a permanent Palestinian State -- within the current, though disputed, borders of Israel.

And the date for their summit: February 19th, or more correctly the first day of Adar -- a day of great joy on the Hebrew calendar.

Olmert and company will attempt to take all the joy out of this month of Adar, by meeting on how best, and when, to remove Jews from their homes in Israel's holiest cities, to create a state for the self-sworn enemy of the Jewish State.

Expect Olmert to continue in his predecessor Ariel Sharon's path of desiring to make far-reaching concessions. Such concessions will likely include the release of over 1000 terrorists from Israeli jails, and timed committments on how to move forward with bi-[read uni-]lateral withdrawals from the biblical provinces of Judea and Samaria.

Be sure that chief conspirator Condoleeza Rice has learned well from Bill Clinton's mistakes, and will not come away from this summit empty-handed. And since Mahmoud Abbas has nothing to give Israel, the only way to achieve any diplomacy at all, is if Israel gives something to the PA.

Now I know that it is customary to give 2 items of food to our brethren on Purim, but those in the upper echelons of the PA, be they Fatah or Hamas, are by no means are brethren. They are not even righteous gentiles.

We can only hope that the magical month of Adar remains true to form, and we will have reason to celebrate, despite the machinations of this unholy triumverate, just as we have an annual reason to celebrate the failed annihilation attempts of evil's predecessor Haman.

We should not be fooled for one moment this Adar, of who is righteous and who is evil. There is no single righteous virtue in any summit between Olmert, Abbas, and Rice -- three individuals that in can in no way stand next to the holy likes of Jewish heroes Mordechai and Esther.

And while I may get confused in a drunken stuper on Purim day itself, I pray for continued clarity for the Jewish people on this matter, on all days before and after.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

To Bowl or Not To Bowl, That is the Super Question

I can honestly admit that there is probably no event in the world that is as anti-Zionist as the Superbowl. Professional sports at their best or worst, with billions, yes billions of dollars being wasted in just 4 short hours.

The Superbowl probably consumes more money in just one evening, than most countries registered in the United Nations produce in an entire year. And at the end of the night, there will be virtually nothing to show for it.

And while some cute writers like those at the Jerusalem Post will try to tell you that there are parallels between this Superbowl and Israel's political and security situation; I can assure you, no such similarities exist.

So, now I've bashed the pinacle of pro-football, alienating hundreds if not thousands of American olim and future olim, who all proclaim their Zionism, but for some unknown reason, just can't miss the big game.

Well, I have alienated myself as well.

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