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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mobsters going green?

In one of those "only in Israel" moments I just found out that apparently the mafia scene in Israel has environmentalist leanings. In this JPost article it details a potential mob war sparking off. Read closely and you'll notice a very interesting detail. About halfway down it mentions that one of the main conflicts between sparring crime families is conflicts over a bottle-recycling racket. Upon mentioning this to a friend here in yeshiva he confirmed and told me he heard that the mafia runs all the bottle recycling in Israel. I don't know if this is true or not, but living in Israel has taught me not to be surprised by very much anymore...
Police fear a full-scale war between the country's various organized crime families will erupt after Mafia kingpin Ya'acov Alperon was killed when a car bomb exploded in his vehicle on a busy Tel Aviv thoroughfare Monday afternoon.

Mob kingpin Yaakov Alperon killed in Tel Aviv assassination

Three bystanders, including a 13-year-old boy, were wounded in the blast, which left Alperon's car ablaze as it sat on the corner of Rehov Yehuda Hamaccabi and Derech Namir.

The lifeless body of the mob boss, known on the street as "Don Alperon," dangled from an open door.

"We received a report of an explosion in a car," paramedic Lior Elharar told Army Radio. "We arrived within several minutes and found three casualties, one of whom was dead."

* Analysis: This is a war over honor

"I heard a huge blast and I approached the junction," Idit, an eyewitness, said. "Two women were lying on the crosswalk and there was an exploded car. I thought it was a terrorist attack."

Police had initially identified Alperon's body by the polo shirt he had been seen wearing earlier in the day at a Tel Aviv courthouse, where his son Dror was indicted on an unrelated charge.
Slain mob boss Ya'acov...

Slain mob boss Ya'acov Alperon in court, several hours before his assassination, Monday.
Photo: Channel 2

Video taken by news crews of Alperon at the courthouse flashed across the evening news, with Alperon, in sunglasses and a black fedora, sauntering into the courtroom.

After the blast, large numbers of police, firefighters and medics arrived on the scene, including Insp.-Gen. David Cohen and Cmdr. Ilan Franco, the Tel Aviv police commander. Police said they were searching for a second vehicle that sped away from the scene of the blast, but a gag order was later placed on the details of the investigation.

Security will be tight for Alperon's funeral, scheduled for 12:30 Tuesday in the Ra'anana Cemetery. The family has asked that Dror Alperon be released from detention for the funeral.

"An extremely serious event took place today, and its consequences are completely clear to us," Franco said. "It likely happened because of an internal conflict within the Tel Aviv crime world ... If there are consequences to this attack, we will have to deal with them."

After Netanya crime boss Charlie Abutbul was wounded in an assassination attempt at a local café in September, an additional 200 auxiliary police officers were sent to Netanya to crack down on area crime syndicates and quell the possibility of a mob war erupting.

But while that situation eventually calmed down, hopes for the quiet to continue dimmed Monday, as fears of retaliation immediately followed the news of Alperon's death.

Alperon had many enemies, including convicted drug lord Ze'ev Rosenstein - who himself has survived at least seven assassination attempts - and the rival Abutbul and Abergil families, with whom the Alperons battled over a lucrative bottle recycling racket.

Alperon has also had a standing feud with another gangster, Amir Mulner, dating to a January 2006 arbitration summit that went wrong. Knives and guns were drawn there, and Mulner emerged with a stab wound to the neck that was widely attributed to Alperon.

Alperon went undercover afterwards, along with his son, and police searched the country in vain for two months before both men struck a deal to turn themselves in. They were never charged.

A number of attempts have been made on Alperon's life previously, including an attack in 2001, in which the assailants threw a grenade at his home.

Alperon also survived a previous car bomb attack in 2003. In 2004, an indictment was filed against four Belarusian citizens for trying to murder Alperon and his associates, and last year, police defused an explosive device found in his son Elad's car.

Last May, Yaakov Alperon's older brother, Nissim, survived the ninth assassination attempt against him. Police intercepted a three-man hit team dispatched to get him, and in the ensuing gunbattle a policeman was seriously wounded and one of the gunmen was killed.

Alperon had served multiple prison terms and was arrested several times for stabbings, assault, blackmail and intimidation. He recently served a 10-month prison sentence as part of a plea agreement.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

The "Nuclear Option?"

There's an age old expression that's apparently big in the news industry: "Follow the money." Well if you follow the money behind most muslim violence and the training and propoganda networks that fuel it, it will usually take you to two places- arab/persian oil and the U.N. While I have my opinions of how to handle the U.N. I doubt any of these genius plans will be put into practice anytime soon. But in the meantime this article shows a possible solution, at least in part, to tackling muslim oil dominance in the world-wide energy market.

Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb.

The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.

The US government has licensed the technology to Hyperion, a New Mexico-based company which said last week that it has taken its first firm orders and plans to start mass production within five years. 'Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,' said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. 'They will cost approximately $25m [£13m] each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $250 per home.'

Deal claims to have more than 100 firm orders, largely from the oil and electricity industries, but says the company is also targeting developing countries and isolated communities. 'It's leapfrog technology,' he said.

The company plans to set up three factories to produce 4,000 plants between 2013 and 2023. 'We already have a pipeline for 100 reactors, and we are taking our time to tool up to mass-produce this reactor.'

The first confirmed order came from TES, a Czech infrastructure company specialising in water plants and power plants. 'They ordered six units and optioned a further 12. We are very sure of their capability to purchase,' said Deal. The first one, he said, would be installed in Romania. 'We now have a six-year waiting list. We are in talks with developers in the Cayman Islands, Panama and the Bahamas.'

The reactors, only a few metres in diameter, will be delivered on the back of a lorry to be buried underground. They must be refuelled every 7 to 10 years. Because the reactor is based on a 50-year-old design that has proved safe for students to use, few countries are expected to object to plants on their territory. An application to build the plants will be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission next year.

'You could never have a Chernobyl-type event - there are no moving parts,' said Deal. 'You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium. Temperature-wise it's too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands.'

Other companies are known to be designing micro-reactors. Toshiba has been testing 200KW reactors measuring roughly six metres by two metres. Designed to fuel smaller numbers of homes for longer, they could power a single building for up to 40 years.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

This Rosh Hashana - Bees Need Our Prayers

Honey in short supply as Rosh Hashanah nears: "There is a decline in production in the world," said Alon Ron, CEO of the Emek Hefer honey company. "It was a drought year, and when there's no rain, there's no blossoming and no nectar. Nature is changing, and we can see it in the harvest."

Israel no longer Land of Milk and Honey after 60% fall in honey harvest: The bad weather has compounded already reduced levels of honey production caused by the mysterious global phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) where hives across the world have suddenly been deserted.

Israelis discover cure for bee colony collapse-associated virus: At Beeologics, scientists are convinced that IAPV is the primary cause of CCD. "If you look how the disease spreads, it's very reminiscent of flu. Flu also starts in the fall and hits hard in the winter, the same is true of this bee virus," explains Paldi. "It's very contagious like a flu. In our opinion, we have something that's interacting very strongly with the environment to cause CCD. It could be interacting with pesticides, with improper nutrition, general stress - but that's not what's killing the bees. What's killing them is a virus and we believe that virus is IAPV."

ISRAEL: Bee-rating in the land of milk and honey: But there are problems, too. Many Israeli farmers suffer from agricultural thefts, targeting anything from livestock to pipelines -- and beehives. Hives are small, often remote and unguarded, and hundreds are stolen every year, in many cases taken to the Palestinian territories. Beekeepers complain of lax enforcement and ridiculously low fines for apprehended thieves.

An ancient Israeli site yields the oldest known archaeological example of beekeeping: The Bible refers to ancient Israel as the “land flowing with milk and honey,” so it’s fitting that one of its towns milked honey for all it was worth. Scientists have unearthed the remains of a large-scale beekeeping operation at a nearly 3,000-year-old Israeli site, which dates to the time of biblical accounts of King David and King Solomon.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

First Pictures of the Snow Storm

Jerusalem usually gets snow once a winter. Sometimes it'll just be a flurry, sometimes a full storm. During the last month, we've had unseasonably cold temperatures a few times, but without precipitation. This winter has also seen unseasonably little precipitation, which is quite bad. But this week has already been full of precipitation, Baruch Hashem, and now the cold temperatures have caught up with it, which means snow in Jerusalem! It started tonight and is predicted to continue through Thursday morning, making it quite a blizzard for Israeli standards. For the rest of tonight's pictures:

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sun in Jerusalem

For those keeping track, today is the summer solstice. In honor of that, here are a few sun related pictures. Some are from a nice sunset viewed from Rechov Agripas last week, some are from a sunset viewed from Har Nof on Purim 5765 (2005), another is the sun through sand and haze. Others are from an old synagogue across the street from Shuk Machaneh Yehudah which is famous for it's sundial. It's called the Rays of the Sun Synagogue, or in Hebrew - Zoharei Chama. It was founded in 1908. From what I understand, as the new city of Jerusalem was built up and the Shuk opened as the general marketplace, the workers and shoppers needed a place nearby to pray. The synagogue still functions today and it is a "minyan factory" (Jews pray in quorums of at least 10 men, and in this building, there are a few rooms so every few minutes, a new prayer quorum starts) at least for the afternoon service, Minchah. There is also a Beit Medrash (Jewish study room) on the 2nd floor.

More pictures:

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Neo-Zionist Challenge: Shmittah & The Living Torah

Next year is going to a be a Shmittah year - the one year in every seven, where the Land of Israel must be left to lie fallow.

Since the destruction of the 1st Holy Temple in Jerusalem, until present times - over 2,500 years later - Shmittah has been only Rabbinically mandated. However, within the next 25 years, when the majority of the Jewish People will be living in the Land of Israel, Shmittah (along with all of the other Mitzvot HaTeluyot Ba'aretz - Land of Israel dependent commandments) will return to Biblically mandated status.

Below are two article presenting differing perspectives as to how modern Israeli society should be relating to Shmittah - each with their own set of pros and cons:

1) Chief Rabbinate to Reduce Use of Special 7th-Year Dispensation

2) The ground beneath our feet

Equally important as the solution that will ultimately be agreed upon and implemented is the discussion in itself.

For 2,000+ years, this discussion did not take place - could not take place - in a manner that had any practical relevance. With the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel the Torah of Israel has returned to life.

Rabbi Yotav Eliach puts it best:
The Torah sets up a constitutional blueprint for the running of a Jewish society which is anchored in a Jewish state. Parashat Mishpatim, most of Vayikra and Bemidbar, and all of Sefer Devarim, make this point very clear. Judaism is not merely interested in the ritualistic aspects of our lives. It is rather a framework for running a Jewish republic, one complete with a court system, government, army, welfare and tax system. Finally, this constitutional blueprint is not meant for implementation in any piece of territory in which the Jewish nation may happen to be the majority, but primarily in the one country whose boundaries are clearly outlined geographically in the Torah: The Land of Israel.

One of the striking ways to reinforce these points is by showing that there are four basic areas of mitzvot in the Torah that are dependent upon the Land of Israel in one way or another:

a) All mitzvot connected to the Beit Hamikdash in any shape or form;
b) All mitzvot connected to having a Sanhedrin court system functioning;
c) All mitzvot connected to the soil of Israel;
d) All mitzvot connected to the running of the government, army, and taxes.

Taken together, these four areas make up approximately 50% of the 613 mitzvot. Another graphic way to make the point of Israel's centrality to Jewish life is by looking at the Shas. Two of the six sedarim of Shas, Kodashim and Taharot, are totally dependent upon the Land of Israel, as is Seder Zera'im (with the exception of Masekhet Berakhot).

The fourth, Seder Mo'ed, is also very dependent upon the Land of Israel. All the special sacrifices associated with each holiday are dependent upon the Beit Hamikdash in Israel, as is aliyah la'regel, bikkurim, and the bringing of the omer. The fifth, Seder Nezikin, is also connected, to a large extent, to the concept of a functioning Jewish legal system existing in the land of Israel, headed by the Sanhedrin. Only the sixth seder - Nashim - can be kept almost in its entirety (the exception being Sotah) outside the boundaries of Israel.
Thank G-d for the challenges that go along with living in the Land of Israel!

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Are you ready for some... Shmittah? (AUDIO)

One of the most special things that comes along with living in the Land of Israel is the privilege of being able to keep many Mitzvot that are simply not relevant to the Jew of the Exile.

Many of these Mitzvot are known as Mitzvot HaTluyot Ba'Aretz - Torah commandments that are incumbent upon a Jew living in the Land of Israel.

This coming year, 5768, will be a Shmittah year - the one year, out of every seven, when the Jew in Israel must allow the Land of Israel to lay fallow, (it's actually much more complex that that, but we'll get to that a little later on) and more importantly, being that I made Aliyah only four years ago, this will represent my very first opportunity to fulfill the Mitzva of Shmittah.

Shmittah has additional significance, as being one of the Mitzvot that only becomes Biblically mandated once the majority of the Jewish People are living in the Land of Israel - something that has not happened since the destruction of the first Temple 2,500+ years ago, and which is scheduled to happen at some point in the next 25 years.

In preparation for the upcoming Shmittah year, I helped to organize a weekly, English language, Shmittah shiur in my community. The shiur is scheduled to run from now until the start of the Shmittah year, and I will be posting each installment of the shiur, along with the accompanying source sheets.

The shiur is being given by Rabbi Gedalia Meyer of Ma'aleh Adumim, and he welcomes any questions that listeners might have ( .

The first, weekly English Shmittah Shiur can be listened to by clicking here. (MP3 format)

Tizku l'mitzvot!

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Get a Home in ISRAEL!!!

So when I read THIS I just had to share with the whole crew!!! I mean, being able to getsome friends or family together and getting a house in ISRAEL is just too amazing.

All the info is in the link, but a brief run down: you buy a house in YESHA and they Amana rents it out for you. Its the coolest way to support Israel, and then when you're ready to make Aliyah, you have a house all ready for you :-)

Now the fun part is convincing my "Family" and "Friends" to chip in and buy a house, any suggestions????

~ at work... Shulamit

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Planting in Gush Katif (1.5 Years Ago)

Keeping with the Tu B'Shvat theme, I decided to post some old planting pictures. These were taken 1.5 months before the expulsion (30 Sivan, 5765 - July 7, 2005). The funding for these plants came from Tzedakah because the government had stopped giving loans to farmers. If I remember correctly, these were planted in Gadid.

This is me:

All done:

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Got the Post TU B'Shvat Greens

There is something extra Ayit Fallspowerful about the winter prayer for rain that comes from the mouths of farmers. Since moving to Moshav Yonatan in the Golan Heights just one month ago, I've tried to do my part as well, joining my prayers for rain with those of these men of the Land. We've gotten a few sprinkles here and there, but nothing like the downpour beginning last night and continuing all day today.

The rolling hills and mountains are lush with exploding greenery and the waterfalls are gushing liquid gold straight to the Kinneret. Check out this picture of the Ayit waterfull in the central Golan. Intense.

Here in the Golan, especially in the moshavim and kibbutzim, you get a constant reminder of what it means to live close to the Land. Just this past Saturday night there was a moshav sponsored Tu B'Shvat party in the brand new lul, chicken coop, that the agricultural collective here just added to their many endeavors. Lovely Leah in the LulThe party was the moshav's way of dedicating this new state of the art, massive facility, which will eventually hold up to 25,000 chickens at a time for 3-4 month cycles. Our rabbi spoke about the connection between the last week's Torah portion, the new lul and Tu B'Shvat.

He described how it was that even after Am Yisrael witnessed the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea they still complained about not having the quantity or variety of foods they had in Egypt. In other words, you can take the slave out of Egypt, but it's tough to take the slave out of the Israelite. Part of being a slave is that although life is hard and portions might be meager, at least you know where your next pot of meat is coming from. So Hashem tides them over with the manna to show that ultimately sustenance comes from Above. But it would be a tough lesson because in the Land of Israel they had to work by the sweat of their brow to produce food. This still holds true today. And it is the working of the Land, he said, that solidifies the Jews' connection to our home. This connection is weakening throughout the population, he worries, and is leading to results like the Disengagement. That said, it is because of strongholds of Jewish agriculture, like our collective, that this connection is kept alive by sowing the seeds and deepening the roots (Tu B'shvat connection) of our future here on the Land.

Speaking of Jewish agriculture, there was a powerful write up about Shai Dromi in the local Golan paper. I'll save that for a future blog.

In the meantime, suffice it to say, I'm blessed to live in a place where the water runs fast, the rabbis speak the truth and the parties are held in chicken coops.

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Picturesque Sunset in Ramat Beit Shemesh

I happened to be leaving Ramat Beit Shemesh to come back to Yerushalayim around sunset today and I caught the sun setting between the rain clouds that would hit shortly. Enjoy a beautiful Israeli sun set!

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Tu B'Shvat in Beit El (Photos!)

Kumah, Yavneh Olami, and Am Segula teamed up to put together an unbelievable Tu B'Shvat Shabbaton in gorgeous Beit-El!

On Friday the group planted trees in one of the highest and most breathtaking points in the region. If you weren't there here's a bit of what you missed!

Yishai shows the group the stunning view.

Everyone helped out!

Keep making a splash!

More photos are on the way!

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Photos From TeKumah Klean-Up in the Old City

Last Friday Kumah and Yavneh Olami headed out to clean up Gan Tekumah in the Old City of Yerushalayim. Gan TeKumah is a beautiful, but sadly neglected, park located between Shar Tzion and the Kotel along the wall of the Old City. Volunteers managed to fill a dumpster and then some, with years of trash that had accumulated at the site. Trash included several shoes and boots, tons of broken glass, boxes, bottles (which were recycled) and one volunteer even found part of a burned Israeli flag (see below). The park was looking a lot better when we left and the view is just gorgeous!

After a hard days work Yishai spoke briefly about the holy site and the rest of us were rewarded with free pizza! Next time we have to remember to bring ping-pong equipment.

Anyway be sure to visit!

Click the thumbnails below to enlarge the pics!

Or click here to watch a slideshow!

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