All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Terrorism And Muslim Self Criticism: An Arab Journalist Speaks Out


London - published on 9 September 2004  
Beyond Images Briefing 107 – www.beyondimages.info/b107.html


In the aftermath of the Beslan school massacre, the following article was published by prominent Arab journalist Ahmed Rahman Al-Rashed in the pan-Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.  It was also published on various news agency websites.  Al-Rashed is general manager of Al-Arabiya news channel.  

In the article, Al-Rashed describes terrorists as the “end-product” of a “deformed” Islamic culture.  He calls for Muslim societies to embark on self-criticism, and to end their “history of denial” and their justifications for “heinous crimes”.


Innocent Religion Is Now A Message of Hate
by Ahmed Rahman Al-Rashed
6 September 2004

It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.

The hostage takers of children of Beslan, North Ossetia, were Muslims.  The other hostage-takers and subsequent murderers of the Nepalese chefs and workers in Iraq were also Muslims.  Those involved in rape and murder in Darfur, Sudan, are Muslims, with other Muslims chosen to be their victims.

Those responsible for the attacks on the residential towers in Riyadh and Khobar were Muslims.  The two women who crashed two airliners last week were also Muslims.

Bin Laden is a Muslim.  The majority of those who manned the suicide bombings against buses, vehicles, schools, houses and buildings, all over the world, were Muslim.  

What a pathetic record. What an abominable “achievement”. Does all this tell us anything about ourselves, our societies and our culture?

These images, when put together, or taken separately, are shameful and degrading.  But let us start with putting an end to a history of denial.  Let us acknowledge this reality, instead of denying them and seeking to justify them with sound and fury signifying nothing.

For it would be easy to cure ourselves if we realise the seriousness of our sickness.  Self-cure starts with self-realisation and confession.  We should then run after our terrorist sons, in the full knowledge that they are the sour grapes of a deformed culture.    

Let us listen to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Sheikh – the Qatar-based radical Egyptian cleric – and hear him recite his “fatwa” about the religious permissibility of killing civilian Americans in Iraq.  Let us contemplate the incident of this religious Sheikh allowing, nay even calling for, the murder of civilians.

This ailing sheikh, in his last days, with two daughters studying in “infidel” Britain, soliciting children to kill innocent civilians.

How could this Sheikh face the mother of the youthful Nick Berg, who was slaughtered in Iraq because he wanted to build communication towers in that ravished country? How can we believe him when he tells us that Islam is the religion of mercy and peace while he is turning it into a religion of blood and slaughter?

In a different era, we used to consider the extremists, with nationalist or Leftist leanings, a menace and a source of corruption because of their adoption of violence as a means of discourse and their involvement in murder as an easy short-cut to their objectives.

At that time, the mosque used to be a haven, and the voice of religion used to be that of peace and reconciliation. Religious sermons were warm behests for a moral order and an ethical life.

Then came the neo-Muslims.  An innocent and benevolent religion, whose verses prohibit the felling of trees in the absence of urgent necessity, that calls murder the most heinous of crimes, that says explicitly that if you kill one person you have killed humanity as a whole, has been turned into a global message of hate and a universal war cry.

We can’t call those who take schoolchildren as hostages our own.

We cannot tolerate in our midst those who abduct journalists, murder civilians, expode buses: we cannot accept them as related to us, whatever the sufferings they claim to justify their criminal deeds. These are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its image.

We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise: an almost exclusive monopoly, implemented by Muslim men and women.

We cannot redeem our extremist youths, who commit all these heinous crimes, without confronting the Sheikhs who thought it ennobling to reinvent themselves as revolutionary ideologues, sending other people’s sons and daughters to certain death while sending their own children to European and American schools and colleges.

Shira Is Two!

Today is Shira’s 2nd birthday. It is pretty special in that it’s probably the last one she’ll have that she’s unaware of. By next year, she’ll be pretty clued up to what birthdays are all about. I have to say that I’ve thorougly enjoyed her innocence!

Shira is entering the terrible two’s as they call them. If she’s anything like her sisters, she’ll be fine until next August 31st and then, she’ll provide us with nine months of the terrible three’s.

Right now though two years down the line, she is 100% edible and gorgeous. Long may it last and although you don’t quite know what it means….Happy Birthday Shir Shir. You’re a stunner!

Exam Question

Please read the following scenario carefully before attempting to answer the question.

A newly qualified teacher starts working in a State School. As instructed, he sends his bank details via the school the Payroll Department in the Local Council. As per the norm, he is paid by cheque for the first month since he hasn’t yet been put onto the payroll system, which will pay his salary straight into his bank account.

In the Council’s Human Resources Department, HR Assistant Alex Dashmuck receives the teacher’s bank details, soon after they are sent and promptly files them away in the teacher’s personnel folder, instead of submitting them to Payroll for processing. As a result, at the end of the second month, the teacher doesn’t get paid at all.

You are the Head of Human Resources at the Council.

Do you:

a) Have a gentle word with Alex and admonish him/her for this mistake (even though this is already the fourth time this has happened in the last six months)?

b) Give Alex a verbal warning and threaten that the next time, the warning will be a written?

c) Give Alex a written warning because the last verbal one went in through one ear and didn’t even make it anywhere near the second one?

d) Start disciplinary proceedings against Alex because you’ve just “had enough”?

e) Pop a blood pressure pill and storm out of the office, with blood encrusted fists?

or

f) Invite the teacher, who is understandably livid, to come to the office and rip out Alex’s entrails via his/her nasal passage?

Please choose one of the above and provide practical evidence to justify your answer.

You have 30 minutes.

(25 marks)

Tuesday, 30 August 2005

School Beckons...

I went back to school today, for the first time since 22 July. All new starters have been invited to attend two induction days, ahead of the commencement of the new term.

The fact that we are also being paid extra to attend, does not come into it in any way (perish the thought!).

Anyway, it was nice to meet the new faces. Tomorrow, we are going to have our photos taken for the staff bulletin board (say “don’t you dare throw that thing at me or I’ll have you in for six hours on Sunday morning, you little shit”) and get to know the new year 7 intake.

The biggie will be next Monday when we give our first lessons. If we screw up, we’ll be paying for it throughout the next year. I have to basically be a total bastard until Christmas if I want to have any control over my class. If I don’t get it right on Monday morning, they will be all over me by the next lesson. Talk about pressure!

I still don’t have too much of an idea of what I’m going to be covering but I met with my Head of Department today and he reassured me. We’ll be going over lesson plans on Thursday, so that’s ok.

Please excuse me, but I have to go and practise my “scary” expression to perfection, in time for Monday’s ordeal, I mean, lessons.

Message From The UK

My heart goes out to anyone who has experienced the horror of Katrina. If you are reading this and have been affected, please know that my thoughts are totally with you and your families.

Today, we are all Louisianans and Mississippians and may the Good Lord protect you all from any more harm.

I Know, I Know!

I know that I said I would be stopping with my Gaza stuff, but (!) I was sent this and really feel it is important to show a different opinion, parts of which I agree with.

Yakar is an orthodox study centre which takes an alternative viewpoint to traditional Judaism (more in line with Kabbalistic thought). The centre in London (there are a number in other cities, like Jerusalem) is headed by Rabbi Jeremy Rosen who wrote this article.

“There have been so many different reactions from all over the world to the withdrawal from Gaza and parts of Samaria, focussing on different and often totally opposite perspectives. This is my personal response and, as usual, it is concerned primarily with the religious aspect.
 
If one is going to take a religious position, then I stand fair and square with the Hassidic Satmar anti-Zionists. They argue that the religious ideal of a return to Zion is in the hands of God. Any attempt to return to Zion formally and officially is, to them, a blasphemy which they reject totally. This doesn't mean they do not continue to want have a presence in the Holy Land, but whether that presence is under Crusade, Ottoman, or Jordanian rule has never much mattered to them (except that under the Crusades they would have all been massacred).
 
I agree with the Satmar point of view only in so far as it removes religion from Zionism. Any return to Zion which is not Divine Intervention, is more political than religious, even if there is a religious motivation. Where we part company is that they see no value in the political whereas I do. And, of course, I am in no way supporting the crazies of the extreme and minute organization, Neturei Karta, who actively side with those who wish to demolish the Jewish State, even if in reality it is only a State for Jews.
 
The reason I oppose religion being used as the foundation of Zionism is that I find it offensive when people claim to know how God (or Allah) works. I find it offensive when people tell me they know when the Messiah is coming. For two thousand years we have been told the Messiah is coming tomorrow. Belief in the possibility that God might intervene in Human Affairs is essential to Jewish thinking, but it is not an idea that lends itself to human prediction. Yet every Tom, Dick and Moishe seems to know with certainty that this or that is the start of the redemption, or the end of exile, or the birth pains of redemption.
 
Zionism (as opposed to Ahavat Zion, the Love of Zion) is, for me, a political movement that grew out of Nineteenth Century nationalism. Herzl and his allies consciously detached themselves from Jewish religious thinking, even though some religious Zionists tried bravely to maintain a religious ingredient.
 
I totally support the political aims of establishing a Jewish homeland, negatively, to try to deal with the effects of anti-Semitism and to have a refuge in an antagonistic world, and positively, to help our traditions and religion thrive. But I do so politically, not religiously. When religion is added to a political situation it is invariably catastrophic.
 
Throughout Jewish history, 'holy' as 'land' might have been and remains, human life has always taken priority. Whether it was Bar Goria or Bar Cochba, those who fought in the name of Judaism for a religious cause have invariably lost, and manifestly with Divine approval.
 
So those settlers who thought that God would intervene to strike down Sharon or to prevent army intervention, or who swore that God was on their side, or invoked halacha to resist the withdrawal, were simply wrong and clearly God thought so too. Pure and simple. If the trauma of the withdrawal stops this misuse of religion I am pleased, though I doubt it will, any more than the death of a great Rebbe stops some followers believing he is the messiah.
 
Despite my disagreement with their opposition, on purely pragmatic grounds, I was really moved to see how strongly people felt and adhered to a cause, even if a lost one. The peaceful demonstrations were a positive example of protest that others would do well to follow. Of course, I did not feel anything but anger for those hooligans on rooftops in tzitzit and kippot hurling missiles and noxious material at unarmed police and soldiers. Their abuse of religious gear once again shows that appearances in no way indicate true religiosity. I hope they and everyone who abused the soldiers and policemen feel the full weight of the law.
 
I was moved by the way the Israeli police and soldiers calmly took the abuse and the blows and did not retaliate. It was a side of the Israeli military and police I had never seen before (having often in my youth been beaten by Mishmar HaGvul simply for peacefully protesting on and for Shabbat).
 
But I was sad to read the vituperation and profound hostility of several secular Israelis, notably Amira Hass, Amoz Oz and Uri Avnery. It was not their depiction of the withdrawal as an insincere stunt by Sharon to ensure he never gives another, they were never willing to consider that the Sharon they vilified might actually withdraw altogether. It was rather that hey were incapable of seeing a pragmatist, and yet only pragmatism will find a solution in the end. Only time will tell if Sharon has started something or not.
 
I agree with their legitimate complaint that the lot of the average Palestinian is awful. The contrast of settlers with swimming pools and villas as opposed to Gazans without enough drinking water was telling (although Arafat's cronies with their villas and swimming pools and billions in Swiss accounts is also an issue). But most of this has to do with the UN and the Palestinians, themselves. After 1967 Israel offered to rebuild Gaza, but UNRWA blocked it because the Arab world wanted to keep the Palestinians in camps as a tool to use against Israel. It's hardly surprising that Israel built settlements to use as a tool back. You can't blame the settlers for the cess pit of Gaza City.
 
These secular Israelis, like all prejudiced people, just generalized about those they disagree with. Avnery even compared the settlers to Ghetto Jews and made Nazi comparisons. According to these secular critics, all religious Zionists are extreme. All religious Zionists hate all Arabs. All settlers were religious. Forget the fact that there are religious settlers and secular settlers, economic settlers and idealistic settlers. No, they were all religious fanatics.
 
These people delude themselves that the Arab world or the Left Wing world will like them or accept them more because they plead that they really belong with them, and understand them, and are on their side. They will be expelled or done away with just as quickly as the religious Zionists if they're on the losing side to Hezbolla or Hamas.
 
They claim that the withdrawal spells the end of religious Zionism. It doesn't and it won't. Firstly, religious passion will be kept alive regardless of loss of land. It always has. Secondly, Zionism of any sort is about politics, and politics means accommodation. It always did. Zionism was prepared to consider Uganda, Partition, Withdrawal from Sinai; political Zionism is healthy precisely because it is pragmatic. It has a positive, passionate cause, unlike secularism.
 
My reservation is that when religious ideology mixes with politics it becomes a problem precisely because of its inevitable stasis and reliance on non-rational external justifications. This is what happened over the withdrawal. And there are too many dangerous, murderous extremists on the West Bank ready to scupper any deal who have been allowed to get away with blue murder, literally.
 
Yet I believe that this crisis might just teach the religious Zionists to try being more pragmatic, to reach out to try to bridge the gap between religious and secular in Israel. If it does, it might succeed in creating a healthy modern Judaism, rooted in Israel and in halacha-healthy because it relates to modern political and social realities. Then it can present itself as a viable alternative to the extreme ultra-Orthodox, non-Zionist world, many (though not all) of whom only use the State for their benefit, giving precious little back to the wider community beyond their narrow confines and interests.
 
Some of my friends argue that the gap between religious and secular is unbridgeable, the hatred is too deep and irrational. But I am optimistic. The religious world has shown both vigour and adaptability, and I believe that from a purely Jewish point of view this withdrawal will turn into something positive.
 
But as for peace in the Middle East, let us see how the Palestinians respond. If they show they can run their own affairs fairly, without corruption, and reign in their fanatics, then the pressure will indeed be on Israel to give more and rightly so. Otherwise, fortress Israel will retreat behind its fences and its walls.
 
As a PS, I believe that genuine peace with Egypt should have allowed the settlers of Yamit a choice. Just as Arabs can live as free and voting citizens under Israeli rule, so Jews should be able to live as free and voting citizens in Arab countries. Genuine peace means that Jews should have been offered the possibility of staying on as citizens in a Palestinian State. If the land is holy, it is holy no matter who controls it. But this didn't happen then, and it hasn't happened now. That is the litmus test. Until this happens, we know that genuine peace is a very long way off. But we must strive for it, and not wait for God. God helps those who help themselves and I don't think we should rely on Divine Intervention as a policy. A spiritual reality, perhaps. A policy, no!
 
Shabbat Shalom
 
Jeremy”

Monday, 29 August 2005

Get That Fence Built NOW!

Israel has left Gaza and the terrorists thank us by sending suicide bombers from the south Hebron Hills – one of the few areas where the fence hasn’t been built.

If that’s not a reason to continue with some frenzied fence building, I don’t know what is – cos I sure as hell don’t want our brethren to leave the birthplace of Judaism: Hebron.

Sunday, 28 August 2005

Publishing Posts Using Word

I’m sure I’m the last one to find this out, but you can now post your entries from Word, using the Blogger add-in. I know that some of you have lost some posts in the past when using the online method, so this should definitely come as a tonic. The only drawback is that you can’t include images (yet.)

I’ve published a few posts this way and it works really well. You can find it somewhere on the Blogger website!

60 Months

Today was Michal’s 5th birthday, hence the visit to the cinema (at 10 am!) which was followed by lunch in a restaurant (if you can consider hot dogs to be lunch) and a wonderful double birthday party (Shira is two on Wednesday) at home attending by my in-laws and Dana’s brother, sister-in-law and their very cute 14 month old daughter.

Whilst the four of us were at the cinema, Dana ( no doubt ably assisted by Shira) cooked up a wonderful feast of cakes and tarts. Dana really is an amazing cook (and if this doesn’t get her to comment on my blog, I give up).

My little Michali is five years old. I can’t quite believe it’s five years to the day since she popped out in that pool of water and her little screaming head emerged, ready for its first swimming lesson.

Does time fly or what?

Movie Review: The Adventures Of Shark Boy And Lava Girl In 3D

I have to say that I approached this film with a certain level of trepidation. My experience of 3D movies has not been too positive and I remember the last time the genre hit the big screen with very mixed emotions.

In 1983, I went to see "Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone", a 3D space "extravaganza". The director fell into the trap of many of 3D film maker and concentrated on scaring the wits out of the audience by throwing everything he could (in 3D) at the audience - explosions, debris, meteorites - you name it - at the expense of penning any sort of comprehensible script. I remember emerging from the cinema with a gargantuan headache, still not knowing what the story had been about.

Making films in 3D is therefore a tricky business and definitely not one to approach lightly. I'm therefore delighted to report that Robert Rodriguez has made a thoroughly enjoyable entry into the genre, that for once doesn't compromise a good storyline with overbearing special effects. In other words, the 3D CGI's compliment rather than take over the movie - which is the way it should be.

The storyline is both imaginative and clever. I would also add that I don't will be the only person to see a homage to The Wizard Of Oz (in the script) and if you're going to reference a movie, the "Oz" isn't a bad one to use!

The kids act well and the story is absorbing, to the extent that Tali, who is six, says it is the best movie she's ever seen and if that's not a compliment to the film-maker, I don't know what is.

Go see, wear the glasses and have a blast.

Highly recommended for the whole family.


My Rating

4 ½ (out of 5)

Friday, 26 August 2005

The International Teacher

As a matter of personal interest, like many other bloggers, I like to track the hits I get on this site. The program I use is called Statcounter and before you start worrying, it doesn't give me any personal information about who visits (unless their IP address is traceable and then I only know the domain name!).

I enjoy writing the posts because it is a way of expressing myself. It's nice to know that people are reading your thoughts, although I don't write, so as to be read. If you know what I mean.

Saying that, if people are reading my blogs, it's interesting to know where my thoughts are being read. With this in mind, I please look at the following screenshot of countries in which my posts were read yesterday:



I find it staggering (and fantastically ego boosting) to see that I’m being read around the world – from Australia to Canada. I also feel quite vulnerable that all these strangers in countries I’ve never visited, know exactly what’s going on in my mind!

On second thoughts, maybe looking at the list wasn’t such a good idea after all...

Thursday, 25 August 2005

Dry Bones

I've added a link for the wonderful Dry Bones cartoon strip. You can find it just below the animated lady on the couch, in the left hand column.

For those who don't know, it is an Israeli institution, debuting in 1973. I love the strip for it's wry, humerous and very Jewish way of looking at the Middle East situation (and the rest of the world) from a wonderfully refreshing angle.

Always right on the mark, I highly recommend it.

Eponymously Anonymous

I've noticed that a few of you (bloggers) have opted to ban anonymous comments from your blogs. I haven't had any yet, but the option to post thus, is available.

Question. Should I restrict such comments? In doing so, would I be removing the option for people to post exactly what they feel and in doing so, invoking some sort of censorship? I suppose I would only need to do this if people start abusing the anonymous option. Right?

Opinions requested please (anonymous or not.)

Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Closure

You will no doubt be relieved to read that I'm enacting closure on the topic of the Gaza disengagement as I think I've pretty much said (or quoted) everything I wanted to about it.

I think it's "business as normal" from now on. Besides, school starts next week and I'll have enough to report from my first year of teaching, without flogging what is fast becoming "a dead horse".

What's done is done, let's all move on.

My First Girlfriend Part 2

Dana, my fab wife and the other scribbling teacher in the house is amused by my recollections of my first date. She really makes me smile though, when she comes back from the supermarket this afternoon beaming.

"I bought you something to show that I support your blog writing." she says coyly.

I'm intrigued. What can it be? With a grin, she gives me...

...The DVD of Trading Places.

I'm still chuckling twenty minutes later......... and the best thing is that this one comes slap-less.

What a gal!

A Short History Of The Jews and Gaza

This article explains my own reasons for backing the Gaza disengagement. I have always gone with the fact that Gaza was never really a "Jewish" area (although Jews may have lived there on and off throughout history).


From today's New York Times

Palestinians on the Right Side of History

By BENNY MORRIS

There is, from the historian's perch, something fitting about the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. I am not speaking about the fact that this appallingly overcrowded area has 1.3 million Arabs who need every inch of its 140 square miles to even begin to imagine a better life and who regard their former Jewish occupiers as nothing more than robbers.

I mean instead that for the greater part of ancient history - that past in which the Jewish people anchor their claim to Israel - the Gaza Strip was not part of the Jewish state. The embattled settlers may have screamed last week that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was expelling Jews from part of Eretz Yisrael, "the land of Israel." And the first Hebrew, the patriarch Abraham, may have understood God, at least on paper (or papyrus), to have included this narrow strip of territory in his promised domain.

But in reality, the Gaza Strip and the coastal towns to its north, for most of the years between, say, 1250 B.C. and 135 A.D. - the era in which the Jews lived in and often ruled the land of Israel - eluded firm Israelite or Judean control and, indeed, Jewish habitation. It is not even clear that the great Hebrew kings David and Solomon, under whom the kingdom reached its vastest expanse, ever directly controlled the Gaza area.

The Hebrew tribes that crossed the Jordan River and pushed into the Holy Land in the 13th and 12th centuries B.C. settled and established their rule along its hilly central spine, between Ishtamua (present-day Samua), Hebron and Shechem (present-day Nablus). This stretch, with Jerusalem at its center, comprises the area that the Bible and many Israelis now refer to as Judea and Samaria, and the rest of the world calls the West Bank. This is the historical heartland of the Jewish people - and of course today it is largely populated by Arabs, who claim it as their own and are demanding that Israel evacuate it.

By contrast, the coastal strip to the west, from Rafah north through Gaza to Caesarea, was the land of the strangers, the Gentiles. Paradoxically, Tel Aviv, that ultimate Israeli-Jewish city, serves as the hub of this coastline today, a city of the plain par excellence.

Thus in a spiritual sense, history served up a terrible irony at the start of the Zionist enterprise. Wishing to return to Shiloh and Bethel, Jerusalem and Hebron, the Jews immigrating to Palestine found its hilly core heavily populated by Arabs. So the early settlers put down roots in the thinly populated coastal plain and interior lowlands (the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys), where land was available and relatively cheap.

Then, in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, the Jews established their state in those same lowlands, while Judea and Samaria were occupied by the Jordanian Army, which resisted Israeli takeover. Thus history was reversed: the reborn Jewish state sprang up precisely in those areas that millenniums earlier had been the domain of the Gentiles.

The Gaza Strip was the exception. It was the only part of the old Gentile coastal plain that was saved for the Arabs, by the Egyptian Army. It changed hands, of course, in 1967 (along with the West Bank); but with the Israeli withdrawal, it will regain a long tradition of evading Jewish control.

In antiquity, Gaza was part of Biblical Pleshet or Philistia - the domain of the Philistines, a non-Semitic "sea people" hailing from the Greek isles who probably invaded and settled along the coast in the 12th century B.C. (more or less simultaneous with the arrival in the Holy Land of the Hebrews from the east).

From their towns of Gaza, Ashkelon and Jaffa, the Philistines controlled the coastal plain from 1150 B.C. to 586 B.C., and intermittently challenged Jewish rule over the inland hill country. It was in these forays eastward that the Philistines lost their champion, Goliath, to young David's pebble and, in turn, slew King Saul and his son Jonathan on Mount Gilboa, displaying their heads on the walls of Beit Shean, in the Jordan Valley.

Philistia was conquered (along with Judea) by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and the Philistines were exiled and vanished from history. In the second century A.D., after having quashed a Jewish revolt, the Roman rulers renamed the land of Israel - in order to de-Judaize it - Palestina (a derivative of Philistia). They thus gave the Arabs, who were to arrive on the scene five centuries later, the name they were to adopt. In this nominal sense, there is justice in the Palestinian Arabs now gaining possession of ancient Philistia.

Of course, these historical details are of little interest to the Islamic fundamentalists, who, by most accounts, enjoy majority support in the Gaza Strip. For them, history begins with the conquests of Muhammad and his caliphs in the seventh century. According to Koranic law, all the land they conquered (including not only today's Palestine but also Spain and Portugal) became inalienable Islamic territory. Or as Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, said recently, the fundamentalists seek to control not just the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; as he put it, "All of Palestine is our land."

Indeed, probably most Arabs would like to "de-Judaize" all of Palestine, and many, no doubt, see the Gaza evacuation as a first step. But that remains a distant dream. Gaza may be reverting to "Gentile" rule, but whether the West Bank - in which lie the true historical roots of the Jewish people - will do so also is another, and far more painful, question.

Benny Morris, the author of "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited," is a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel.

Book Of The Month

I have been asked to post this on my blog.


Background

"Oct 4, 2003 - Assaf Staier, 11, of Haifa was one of 21 people killed in a suicide bombing carried out by a female terrorist from Jenin in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

The blast devastated the restaurant, of joint Jewish-Arab ownership, on Hahagana Boulevard near the southern entrance of the coastal city. It was packed mostly with regular Saturday customers. The bomber, Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old lawyer from Jenin, managed to get past Maxim's security guard before blowing herself up in the middle of the restaurant. The security guard, an Israeli Arab, was killed in the attack, along with three other Israeli Arab employees of the restaurant. The victims included five members of the Almog family from Haifa and five members of the Zer-Aviv family from Kibbutz Yagur. Four children were killed and 60 people were wounded in the bombing.

Three generations of the Almog family had gone to the beach and then went to Maxim for lunch. Assaf Staier was killed along with his grandparents, Ze'ev and Ruth Almog, his uncle Moshe Almog, and his cousin Tomer. Assaf's mother Galit was also wounded in the blast, along with his aunt Orly and two of his cousins.

Assaf Staier was buried in Haifa alongside his grandparents, uncle and cousin. He is survived by his parents, Ofer and Galit, and his brother Omri, 14.

Book Of The Month

The Palestinian Ministry of Culture released its “Book of the Month” today, a
poetry collection honouring suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat, who murdered 29
Israelis. It was distributed as a special supplement in the daily Al-Ayyam.

Entitled “What Did Hanadi Say?” the collection includes a poem glorifying
Jaradat’s act of suicide terror, calling it “the highest goal”:

“O Hanadi! Shake the earth under the feet of the enemies! Blow it up! Hanadi
said: ‘It is the wedding of Hanadi the day when death as a Martyr for Allah,
becomes the highest goal.’ The poem is dedicated to Jaradat (pictured), called “the Rose of Palestine,” who murdered 29 Jews and Arabs in a suicide bombing in a Haifa restaurant in October 2003.

The poem criticizes the Arab nation for ignoring Jihad:

“Where is the [Arab] nation..? The armies hid, nothing left in the field ... not
the sound of Jihad, all of them, at the moment of decision, surrender, obey the
enemies...”
She complains:
“O Hanadi..! The flag of the nation is not flying in the fields of Jihad.”
The poem ends as Hanadi takes the initiative:
“O Hanadi! Shake the earth under the feet of the enemies! Blow it up! It is the
wedding of Hanadi the day when death as a Martyr for Allah, becomes the highest
goal, that liberates my land.”
[Source: Palestine Media Watch, from Al Ayam, August 22, 2005]"


It would help if you could copy and paste the above text into your own blog to raise awareness of this despicable "book choice" by a department within the Palestinian Authority - the people with whom Israel is expected to negotiate.

Tuesday, 23 August 2005

Perfection

Between two o' clock and four o'clock this afternoon, I reached a state of perfection in my life.

Let me explain.

I don't know if this idea exists in other countries, but here we have some farms that operate a P.Y.O. (pick your own) system. You turn up at the farm, see what they've got growing, grab some baskets and a trolley and fill them up to your heart's content. You walk back to the shop, pay and go back to your car, laden with filled baskets and carrier bags.

We took the girls to a nearby P.Y.O. farm. There we were, the six of us, enjoying a rare family outing. The sun was out, the kids were not arguing and both Dana and I were in fabulous moods. We walked across fields and hills filling our baskets with fresh strawberries, raspberries, spinach, red and white onions, corn and beetroot.

The wierdest moment was stepping through the onion field. I have to confess that I never knew how onions grew and it seemed really weird just being able to pluck them out of the ground. They looked like mines, lined up in neat rows, with just the tops revealed.

Those two hours were just magical and if that's what life can be, every now and again, it's enough for me. To top it all, we had fresh strawberries, raspberries and cream for dessert.

Perfection indeed.

4000 Hits!

Thanks everyone and wow!

You Won't See This On CNN

I was sent this by the Middle East Media Research Institute. I think that it speaks volumes about the value of human life, as seen in different cultures.


Al-Jazeera Special on Female Suicide Bomber Hanadi Jaradat

The following are excerpts from a report, by Al-Jazeera TV that aired August 16,2005, about female Palestinian suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat. Jaradat was responsible for the October 2003 bombing of the Arab-owned restaurant Maxim in Haifa, Israel, which killed 19. (To view this clip, click here ).


Hanadi Jaradat: "By the power of Allah, I have decided to become the sixth female martyrdom-seeker, who will turn her body into shrapnel, which will reach the heart of every Zionist colonialist in my country, and every settler or Zionist who has tried to sow death in my country. We are not the only ones who must sow and reap..."

Reporter: "Her cousin Sami was the one who filmed her."

Sami Jaradat: "I filmed her with a video camera. There was no need to prepare a special room. She could stand and say whatever she wanted, and that's it.

"She was more courageous than a man. I was standing in front of her, and although she was the one going [on the operation], I was more mentally distressed than her.

"At the time, Amjad Al-'Ubeidi was in charge of the Al-Quds Squads. Amjad rented an apartment in Jenin, where people would sleep or be filmed before becoming martyrdom-seekers. I filmed her in that apartment. He gave me the key and left an explosives belt there. I went to the apartment, showed her the belt, and gave it to her. It is not as complicated as you portray. Even if a girl doesn't want to undress in front of me, she can wear her clothes, and you give her the belt and show her how to put it on.

"She suggested going to Jerusalem. When I saw this wasn't possible, I said to her: 'Jerusalem is too difficult.' We were in the West Bank and would have to pass 10 checkpoints on the way. There is a checkpoint between every two villages or towns. So I said it would be easier to get to Haifa. 'In Haifa you could look for a military base, and carry out your operation there.'

Amjad Al-'Ubeidi, commander of the Islamic Jihad in Jenin: "It is not that complicated. We produce primitive explosives, from which we make an explosives belt, a bag, or something. You can get most of it easily these days. There is nothing special about it. The belt is like this shirt – you wear it and there is a button here. You push the button, and that's it. All she had to do was push a button. There's nothing to learn. She would wear it... Hanadi, especially, being an educated lawyer, who knows what to do, who speaks English, and gets along by herself - she did not need anyone to take her.

"From the Haifa operation in which Hanadi was martyred until my capture, I did not see her family at all. What can I possibly say to console them? They deserve to be consoled, but words are not enough. They lost [a son before Hanadi]. Nothing is more precious than a son. They lost a son.Losing a son affects the soul many times more than losing a daughter in our society. Losing even 10 daughters is not as bad as losing one son. That's how it is in our society. A son is more dear to the parents than a daughter. Since his role in life is greater, the pain is heavier."

Hussein Al-Sheikh, West Bank Fatah commander: "When Wafa Idris did this, she played a role, I think, in the shaping of a new culture among Palestinian girls. She has become a source of pride. Many girls, for various reasons, wanted to play the same role.

"What drove Palestinians to this level is the occupation. On the other hand, the tight Israeli security measures and the strict searches of young men by the occupation forces drove the Palestinian organizations to incorporate women. Girls and women were not subjected to strict Israeli security measures, and it was easier for them to reach a certain place and carry out a mission than it was for young men."

Interviewer: "From the moment you decided to carry out this operation, how did you prepare yourself for it?"

Samar, failed suicide bomber: "I was very, very happy, happy on the inside. I tried to grow closer to my parents, so they wouldn't be mad at me. I might have been a little confused, but not too much. The joy that filled me overcame everything else."

Interviewer: "What were you happy about?"

Samar: "That I was going to become a martyr."

Interviewer: "Happy? Someone about to end his life is happy?"

Samar: "But there is life after death. There is life after death."

Interviewer: "You think so?"

Samar: "Yes. There is life after death. Every person who dies will be resurrected and held accountable. I will die and be resurrected."

Hanadi Jaradat's mother: "If I had known, would I have let my daughter die? I had already sacrificed one child, would I sacrifice another? Would anyone say this to his parents? There is nothing more precious than a child. Even if they offered you all of Palestine, you would rather give it all up than lose your son. If you have a child, nothing is more precious. That is how Allah wanted it. Allah be praised."

Interviewer: "If you had known, what would you have said to her?"

Hanadi's mother: "I would not have let her go. I would have tied her up. I would have locked her in her room, and stayed with her for an entire year."

Monday, 22 August 2005

The Bomb Shelter

I'm feeling pretty down today. I don't know if its the shitty weather (grey skies and nothing but rain) or the fact that the alarm clock woke me up at the ungodly hour of 4.30 this morning - but I really don't feel happy.

I'm pondering whether I'm finding my marriage or parenthood more challenging right now. My throat is raw from all the screaming I've done at the kids over the last few days and my T.Q (temper quotient) is at an all time low. You sneeze at the wrong volume and I'll bite your head off.

I'm an absolute bastard to live with and I know it. I prefer not to engage in conversation with any of the family because I can't be bothered to be sociable.

At least on my blog, I can let my emotions rip, without someone interrupting my rant.

The underlying cause for it all? It could be a growing sense of panic that school is approaching and I really haven't done any preparation yet. When I sit down to start work, I get a feeling of total paralysis. I know I need to do it, but I don't know where to begin. Time is gnawing away at my ankles and I'm getting really panicky about my non-existent scheme of work due for next year. I know that I'll get out of this ditch in time, but I just wish it could be now.

Additionally, I'm still extremely upset about what happened in Israel last week. Backing the Government's actions did not make them easier to swallow.

So what's the answer? In Israel, every house has a bomb shelter which doubles up as a basement. I think it's a great idea. You can fill it up with tinned goods and soft drinks and lock yourself away from your family for weeks at a time. Right now, the only rooms I can do something like that in, are either the toilets or bathroom. I tried locking myself in my bedroom, but I had to deal with the wife's knocking and nagging.

I'll get over it and reconnect with the world around, but right now, the more I'm left in peace to dwell with my own thoughts, the happier I'll be. If you want to add a comment, please feel free to do so. I promise I won't let it out on you.

The Disengagement - A Rabbinic Viewpoint

My father has been blessed to learn at the feet of a human being who was, without a doubt, one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Twentieth Century, Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, known throughout the Jewish World as The Rav. My world view of Judaism stems from the knowledge my father taught me and so, by extension, I feel that in many ways, The Rav was also my teacher.

I would therefore like to reprint an article which I found, that explains The Rav's views on territorial compromise in Israel. I feel that it completely vocalises my opinions regarding the involvement of numerous Rabbi's ( both inside and out of Israel) in the disengagement debate. I am reprinting this article from www.mesora.org, a superb site which I subscribe to and support.

I have translated any Hebrew words that may not be understood by some of our visitors to the site.


Translation of a five-minute segment of the Rav’s 1967
Teshuva drasha (speech) (although the drasha was summarized in
“Al Hateshuva”, this portion never appeared.From Arnold Lustiger)


“I don’t intend here to engage in politics, but this is a matter that has weighed heavily upon me since last June. I am very unqualified to assess the extent of the deliverance that the Ribono Shel Olam (lit. Master of the World) accomplished on behalf of Klal Yisrael (the Nation of Israel) and the Jewish victory over those who hate Israel. But in my opinion, the greatest deliverance, and the greatest miracle, is simply that He saved the population of Israel from total annihilation.

Don’t forget that the Arabs were Hitler’s students, Amalekites, and in regard to the Arabs there is a Mitzvah (positive commandment in the Torah) of utterly blotting out Amalek’s memory. Today, they are Hitler, they want to uproot the Jewish people, and it is possible that Russia is together with them in this regard, so the status of Amalek falls upon Russia as well.

The blood congeals when one considers what would have happened to the Yishuv (i.e. the Jewish people living in the Land of Israel), to the hundreds of thousands of religious Jews, of gedolei Yisrael (lit. great people of Israel - the Learned Rabbis), or to all the Jews in Israel for that matter--”there is no difference”--all Jews are Jews. This is the greatest salvation--but also that the State itself was saved.

Because even if the population would remain alive, but if G-d forbid the fate of Israel would fall, there would be a wave of assimilation and apostasy in
America as well as in all Western countries. In England I heard that Rothchild said that Israel’s victory saved Judaism in France. He is 100% correct--this was better articulated by him than many Rabbis in Israel regarding the ultimate significance of the victory.

But one thing I want to say. These reasons constitute the primary salvation behind the Six Day War. Indeed, we rejoice in the [capture of] the Western Wall, in the Cave of the Patriarchs, in Rachel’s tomb.I understand the holiness of the Kotel Hamaarovi (Western Wall). I studied Kodshim (a tractate of the Talmud dealing with holiness) since I was a child: Kidsha le’asid lavo , kedushas makom,kedushas mechitzos, lifnei Hashem (lit. the various issues of holiness ascribed to the status of holy places) - these are concepts with which I grew up in the cradle.

The Kotel Hamaarovi is very dear, and the Har Habayis (Temple Mount)is very dear to me: I understand the kedusha (holiness) perhaps much more than many religious journalists who have written so much about the Kotel Hamaarovi.

But we exaggerate its importance.

Our Judaism is not a religion of shrines, and it seems from this that it lies in the interests of the Ministry of Religions to institute a [foreign]concept of holy sites in Judaism - a concept we never had. We indeedhave the concept of kedushas mokom (the holy status of a place such as the Temple Mount), this is the Bais Hamikdash (The Temple), [but]graves are not mekomos hakedoshim (holy places). As important as kivrei tzaddikim (the graves of pious men) are, they are not holy. Perhaps there is a different halacha (Jewish law). To visit kivrei tzaddikim is important, like mekomos hakedoshim (the holy places such as the Western Wall or the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron).

I will tell you a secret--it doesn’t matter under whose jurisdiction the Kotel
Hamaarovi lies--whether it is under the Ministry of Parks or under the Ministry of Religions, either way no Jew will disturb the site of the Kotel Hamaarovi.
One is indeed on a great spiritual level if he desires to pray at the Kotel Hamaarovi. But many mistakenly believe that the significance of the victory lies more in regaining the Kotel Hamaarovi than the fact that 2 million Jews were saved, and that the Malkhut Yisrael (kingship of Israel) was saved. Because really, a Jew does not need the Kotel Hamaarovi to be lifnei (in front of) Hashem. Naturally, mikdash (the Temple) has a separate kedusha which is lifnei Hashem. But there is a lifnei Hashem which spreads out over the entire world, wherever a Jew does not sin, wherever a Jew learns Torah, wherever a Jew does mitzvos (positive commandments), “minayen sheshnayim yoshvim ve’oskim beTorah hashechinah imahem”--through the entire world (lit whereever two people sit and learn Torah, the holy Spirit is inside them.)

I want you to understand, I give praise and thanks to the Ribono Shel Olam (Master of the World or G-d) for liberating the Kotel Hamaarovi and for liberating and for removing all Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) from the Arabs, so that it now belongs to us. But I don’t need to rule whether we should give the West Bank back to the Arabs or not to give the West Bank to the Arabs: we Rabbis should not be involved in decisions regarding the safety and security of the population. These are not merely Halakhic rulings: these decisions are a matter of pikuach nefesh (saving lives) for the entire population. And if the government were to rule that the safety of the population requires that specific territories must be returned, whether I issue a halakhic ruling or not, their decision is the deciding factor.

If pikuach nefesh supercedes all other mitzvos,it supercedes all prohibitions of the Torah, especially pikuach nefesh of the yishuv (Jewish population) in Eretz Yisrael. And all the silly statements I read in the newspapers-- one journalist says that we must give all the territory back, another says that we must give only some territory back, another releases edicts, strictures and warnings not to giveanything back. These Jews are playing with 2 million lives.

I will say that as dear as the Kotel Hamaarovi is, the 2 million lives of Jews are more important. We have to negotiate with common sense, as the security of the yishuv requires. What specifically these security requirements are, I don’t know, I don’t understand these things. These decisions require a military perspective, which one must research assiduously. The borders that must be established should be based upon that which will provide more security.

It is not a topic appropriate for which Rabbis should release statements or for Rabbinical conferences.”

–Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

Sunday, 21 August 2005

My First Girlfriend

A number of you have been filling in the polls that I've placed in the left hand column. I see these as a bit of fun and also an interesting way of gauging the views of my erstwhile visitors.

You might notice that I vary them from time to time ensuring that since they are randomly set up, you should be able to get a choice of which ones to fill in.

One poll that I've had up for a while asks if you would want to meet your first boy/girlfriend again. For some reason, this seems to have been the most popular poll, with 67% of you answering positively! In light of the question and with reference to my friend Rachael, I too shall take you for a short trip down memory lane.

I remember that my first relationship a) didn't last too long and b) was 100% platonic. When I say platonic, I really do mean it. We didn't even kiss, which begs the question as to whether she was my first girlfriend! But, let's assume for argument sake (and I love a good argument)that she was my first girlfriend - as she was the very first young lady I took out to the cinema (where else?) on a date.

I recall that we went to see Trading Places and spent the time laughing our heads off (hey, it's a very funny film when you're a teenager) I took her home (well, I think my parents gave her a lift home... how embarrassing is that?) and we went out again, although I can't remember where.

I think our "relationship" lasted about a month until we went to summer camp together and it soured. Towards the end of the camp, at one point,I said something that upset her and as a result she slapped me in the face in front of her friends, which sort of ended it for me. Amazingly, I still remember her face and name (but only cos she slapped me and that hasn't happened too often I'm happy to say).

So that's my rather boring tale.

Would I want to see her again? Yeah, why not? We were quite young, she laughed at the right places in a movie and she slapped me. Isn't that what the best first relationships are all about?

Who Would Believe It?

It's been a lovely day.

Michali and her friend Chloe had their joint birthday party. It was a total success. The entertainer was top class, the food was just enough and the hall was perfect.

Shira was a total delight (she kept on disappearing behind the entertainer's display)but the best moment of all (which I captured on Video...yes!!!) was when the kids were told, during a "Who Let The Dogs Out?" musical game to crawl over to Dana and chase her as though they were dogs and she was a postman.... all this unbeknownst to her.

It was great! She found herself running away from twenty kids. You should have seen her face when the penny dropped. As they say "Priceless"!

Life or Death?

By Tuesday, Gaza will probably be Jew free. The Palestinians can't wait to get their claws into the land and tenements left behind by the Settlers. Like buzzards picking over the carcasses of the dead, they are moving in for the "kill". The problem is that the "kill" they've received is the equivalent of rotting meat.

Welcome to Gaza.

In the next few months, as Israeli politics move on and the Settlers re-settle and rebuild the First World existence they created in Gaza - in a new location, the Palestinians will do what they've done wherever they've lived, that is, turn beauty into dross. They might start by building new tenements on the newly freed-up land, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the average man on the street won't notice any change. In dirt do you live and in dirt do you survive.

A political struggle between secularism and fundementalism is already underway within Palestinian society. Hamas is on a mission to create an Islamic Palestinian State, yet your average member on the street is pretty westernised (that's what comes of mixing with those pesky Jews)and not that interested in maintaining an Iranian type of existence. That's what happens when the two cultures clash -and we're only referring to the religion bit.

Forget Israel, the occupation and all that. What about that little thing called "an economy"? Will the PA suddenly try to use the billions of Dollars thrown at them by the Europeans and Americans to improve the lives of their citizens, or will the sand dunes of the ex-Gush Katif become another building site to accomodate the villas for Abbas and his cronies? In other words, will the Palestinian leadership show that they actually give a damn about the futures of the people they are meant to be representing?

Will the money they receieve, be used to fund jobs, build hospitals, schools and libraries or will it pay for the next arms shipments?

I ask these questions because I would like to see results. If the Palestinians really want to have their own state and independence, they need to stop picking on the Jews and get on with sorting their own society out. They've got Gaza, now let them do something positive with it. Let them demonstrate to themselves (let alone Israel and the rest of the world) that they can actually build a society based on the kind of values and standards accepted around the world, as opposed to the culture of death that has reached the highest echelons of their government.

Israel is out of Gaza and we're getting on with our lives. The Palestinian leadership, both the PA and Hamas, have the opportunity to make the most important choice they've ever had to face - do they want life or death?

Friday, 19 August 2005

Movie Review: The Island

This is a hard review to write as I don't want to give away any crucial plot twists! Suffice to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the finished result. Not being a fan of Sci-Fi, I started watching the film with some reservations, but I was soon pretty much engrossed in the original and thought-provoking premise.

Ewan McGregor is perfectly cast but I found Scarlett Johanssen's role to be underwritten. Basically, her part could have been played by any other pretty actress, which is not exactly complimentary to her acting skills. She's not the most natural actress on screen at the best of times, although I think she performed her best work to date in "The Girl With The Pearl Earring".

A good, crisp script and some pretty nifty special effects. I know that the movie isn't performing that well at the box office, but don't let this factor put you off. For once, some people have put together an intelligent sci-fi movie with a contemporary message (and that's all I'm going to give away!).

I'd be interested to hear what other people think.

Recommended but may not suit all tastes

My Rating

4 (out of 5)

Thursday, 18 August 2005

In The Dark Sky, A Shaft Of Light.

Through the tears I shed for Gaza, I see a positive element emerging from the fire.

I am so impressed with the way the soldiers have handled the almost impossible situation. They are dealing with their fellow Jews in an incredibly compassionate and humanitarian manner.

Where else would you see soldiers who are evacuating protesters doing their utmost to avoid hurting the evacuees?

Where else would you see soldiers/policemen and women crying alongside the people they are being ordered to take away?

Where else would soldiers/policemen who are removing protesters, go into the field unarmed?

Where else would soldiers/policemen exhibit such restraint in the face of extreme provocation, such as their being called Nazis by the Settlers, having food and chemicals thrown at them or continuously being screamed at?

There is total empathy by the soldiers/Police as to how the protesters are feeling and this is demonstrated in their extraordinary behaviour vis a vis the Settlers.

In the Bible, we Jews are commanded to be "Or La Goyim" - a light to the (other) nations of the world. In other words, we have a role to be an example to the other nations in how to behave towards our fellow human beings. We also have a concept of "Kiddush Hashem" - sanctifying G-d's name, whereby when Jews are shown to act in a humanistic way, we extol the virtues of G-d's name and demonstrate that we are indeed acting as that light. I believe that the behaviour of the Army and Police were indeed a case of Kiddush Hashem. The whole world looks at this and sees how Jews behave towards one another and by extension, learn a lesson on how human beings should treat each other.

As a Jew, I am so very proud of my brethren right now. The Israeli Army and Police, maligned by the media most of the time is demonstrating the Jewish ethics and morals that distinguish it from any other army in the world. I'd like to see how the British, French or Americans would behave in such a situation?

We Jews may argue a lot and debate on everything under the sun, but when push comes to shove (quite literally), we unite and remember that we are one people and this gives me great hope as to the future of the State of Israel. United we stand, divided we fall - and from the way the Army has behaved, we will recover from these traumatic events and live to fight another day.

Here's a message to any Palestinians who think that by leaving Gaza, we are demonstrating weakness

- Look at the way we treat one another when our backs are against the wall. You can send us as many suicide bombers as you want; you can call for the destruction of our State till you are blue in the face but you will never never defeat us because Am Yisrael Chai - The Nation of Israel lives - with and without Gaza. You've won this battle but as I look at the way Jews treat their brethren when the chips are down, I am in no doubt that we will win the war.

Wednesday, 17 August 2005

On A Lighter Note (Thank G-d!!)

I feel that there needs to be a balance on this blog, between the serious and lighter sides of life. With this in mind, here are some jokes I recently received:

Marketing

Several people have asked for an explanation of Marketing.
Perhaps the following analogies will help clear it up:

You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and say, "I'm fantastic
in bed." -- That's Direct Marketing.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy.
One of your friends goes up to him and pointing at you says, "She's
fantastic in bed." -- That's Advertising.

You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and get his telephone
number. The next day you call and say, "Hi, I'm fantastic in bed." -- That's
Telemarketing.

You're at a party and see a handsome guy. You get up and straighten your
dress. You walk up to him and pour him a drink. You say, "May I?" reach up
to straighten his tie brushing your breast lightly against his arm, and then
say, "By the way, I'm fantastic in bed." -- That's Public Relations.

You're at a party and see a handsome guy. He walks up to you and says, "I
hear you're fantastic in bed." -- That's Brand Recognition.

You're at a party and see a handsome guy. You talk him into going home with
your friend. -- That's a Sales Rep.

Your friend can't satisfy him so he calls you. -- That's Tech Support.

You're on your way to a party when you realize that there could be handsome
men in all these houses you're passing. So you climb onto the roof of one
situated toward the center and shout at the top of your lungs, "I'm
fantastic in bed!" -- That's Spam.


Marriage Test

I was happy. My girlfriend and I had been dating for over a year, and so
we decided to get married. My parents helped us in every way, my friends
encouraged me, and my girlfriend? She was a dream!

There was only one thing bothering me, very much indeed, and that one
thing was her younger sister. My prospective sister-in-law was twenty
years of age, wore tight mini skirts and low cut blouses. She would
regularly bend down when quite near me and I got many a pleasant view of
her underwear. It had to be deliberate. She never did it when she was
near anyone else.

One day little sister called and asked me to come over to check the
Wedding invitations. She was alone when I arrived. She whispered to me
that soon I was to be married, and she had feelings and desires for me
that she couldn"t overcome and didn"t really want to overcome. She told
me that she wanted to make love to me just once before I got married and
committed my life to her sister. I was in total shock and couldn"t say a
word.

She said, "I"m going upstairs to my bedroom, and if you want to go ahead
with it just come up and get me." I was stunned. I was frozen in shock
as I watched her go up the stairs. When she reached the top she pulled
down her panties and threw them down the stairs at me. I stood there for
a moment, then turned and went straight to the front door.

I opened the door and stepped out of the house. I walked straight
towards my car. My future father-in-law was standing outside. With tears
in his eyes he hugged me and said, "We are very happy that you have
passed our little test. We couldn"t ask for a better man for our
daughter. Welcome to the family."

and the moral is.....
Always keep your condoms in your car.

Despair

I turn on CNN and watch a Palestinian, unable to hide his glee at the disengagement, explaining how he "loves the Jews" whilst stating that he wants them to get out of Palestine (and he's not just talking about the territories) for their own good.

I then tune into the Jewish Settler network (Arutz Sheva) only to hear Jews calling Ariel Sharon, the democratically elected prime minister of Israel, a criminal and referring to the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) as the INA - Israel Nazi Army. If that's not bad enough, a Rabbi comes on to be interviewed and states that Sharon and his ministers are the "Erev Rav" (literally the mixed multitude) i.e. the half Jewish half Egyptian troublemakers who left Egypt with the Israelites and caused all the problems in the desert (such as the making of the Golden Calf and the Korach rebellion).

I despair at the situation in Israel right now. The Settlers are understandably bitter and the Palestinians see the disengagement as the beginning of their campaign to kick the Jews out. Yet, had the Jews stayed in Gaza, the situation would not be any better.

Over a hundred years after the return of the Jews to our land and nearly sixty years after our miraculous independence, we are still fighting the very same battle for survival. We are a stiff-necked people and that is our strength. Additionally, as the song goes, we do have G-d on our side but I for one, would just love to know how He's going to sort this problem out. I have come to the decision that it is an issue beyond human grasp.

Today we move out of Gaza and then what? Peace? Acceptance by the Arabs?
Who are we kidding? Of course not.

I hold my head in my hands and despair at the ongoing tragic nature of the situation.

I despair.
I despair.

Tuesday, 16 August 2005

Movie Review: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

I'm going to cut to the chase - I loved this movie! From the moment the credits rolled, I was totally captivated. Johnny Depp is creepily wonderful as Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompa's are incredible (all played by the same versatile actor). The sets are magnificent and Christopher Lee adds that extra sparkle. The film is magical as well as funny...and I can't wait for it to come out (legally) on DVD!

Any criticisms I have are minor - such as the ending which doesn't seem very Roald Dahlish...and the absence of the lovely Oompa Loompa song from the Gene Wilder film, that I would have liked to have heard again here. Other than that, I can't fault the film and as a result, I am awarding it my very first top rating. Thats' right - five Claudy's!!

Go see this movie, take your kids and have a great time. I don't think it deserves a PG rating -this being based on the fact that both Michal (5) and Tali (6) thoroughly enjoyed it (Dana has just gone with Dassi).

My Rating

5/5 Wonderful!

Monday, 15 August 2005

Seaside

The girls, my parents and I decided to take advantage of the lovely weather and so we spent the day at the seaside. Dana was meeting with her brother in town and therefore there was no rush to get home. Unfortunately, due to (ahem!) our getting lost, it didn't seem as though we were in too much of a rush to get to the seaside either...

When we got there, we sat in a quiet beach and the kids went about doing the usual kinds of things that kids do when they see a lot of sand (the tide being miles out). Shira was an absolute scream. The girls went about looking for crabs to resuscitate as they all looked half-dead (the crabs, not the girls) whilst Shira, trousers and all, jumped in and out of shallow pools. By the time we got all four of them off the beach and back into the car, they were all trouserless (and the washing machine will no doubt be chugging away tonight).

Addendum To The Last Blog

I'd like to clarify that, despite my getting carried away in the last blog, I do not wish that innocent Palestinians in Gaza starve to death. They are just pawns in a very cynical game being played between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. I have no problem whatsoever with people who wish to live peacefully alongside my brethren - so the comment was wrong.

I should have stated that I was referring to any Palestinian who is involved in planning or carrying out terror attacks - although I think starving is too good for him/her.

I will gladly make peace with anyone who wants to be my neighbour - but first, I need to know that he/she wants to make genuine peace with me.

Post Gaza

So far so good. I know this is only the beginning of the disengegement process, but the settlers seems intent on demonstrating peaceful resistence and this fills me with a great deal of pride. They have a right to resist, but when push comes to shove, they are saying that they will not fight with the police.

When every single Jew has left Gaza, the Palestinians will once again be in control. I put hand on heart when I state that I honestly don't care if they rot in their own shit. The Jews will no longer be (unfairly) held responsible and as far as I'm concerned, the Gazans can literally go to hell, which is what I bet Gaza will come to resemble.

Israel must not have anything to do with the area - apart from protecting herself against the inevitable terrorist attacks. If the Palestinians need milk or bread, let them sort it by themselves. If they need vegetables, let them start growing. For all I care, they can all starve to death - they wanted Gaza and now they've got it.

It won't be long before the Palestinians start ruing their decision to cut off the hand that fed them. Of course, they'll never admit it, but I guarantee you, we Jews will have the last laugh...

...because we always do.

Goodbye Gaza. Go sink in your own putridity.

Sunday, 14 August 2005

The Fast

I'm twenty hours into the fast and feeling OK. Yes, my stomach is grumbling, my knees are shakier than they were this time yesterday and my head feels somewhat heavier - but I'm alright.

They say that fasting is good for the soul and I can surely testify to this. After nearly a day of not eating, I feel very humble and in myself, closer to G-d. I feel that my existence on this earth has more meaning and that, with prayer, I can achieve something.

Before you start worrying, I am not delirious. I know exactly what I'm writing and thinking. This is a critical time for our nation, both within Israel and without. Like everyone else, we face the threat of terrorist attack the minute we leave our homes and it therefore doesn't hurt to use a day like Tisha B'av to reflect on how the world could be a better place, if we only just believed a little more in the power of G-d to sort things out. I don't apologise for getting all religious here -for once I'm leaving behind my physical needs and letting my soul speak out.

In past years, I've found the fast extremely difficult, not least because the weather was so hot. This year, with the fast falling a month or so later (I won't go into the whole Jewish Lunar Calendar thing) and therefore finishing an hour earlier than usual, I find it more bearable. Additionally, it's rained for most of the day and so the air is nice and cool.

However, unlike those other years, I won't get that feeling of elation when the fast ends. In short, I'm too concerned about how the Gaza thing is going to pan out over the next few days and months.

One can tell that on this Tisha B'av, our minds are concentrated less on the past and more on the immediate future. Yes, we have our own country again and that is miraculous, but this year, in Israel, there seems to be so much hatred between Jew and Jew. Can we really proclaim the end of the fast to be a success if tomorrow the Jews in Gaza physically attack one another?
Remember that with the destruction of the 2nd Temple (due to infighting) , we failed in our last attempt to run our own country. We cannot afford to make the same mistake, nearly two millennia down the line.

I therefore pray that something miraculous will happen that will reunite us once again. I don't mean a return to Gaza, because that wouldn't be the answer but an event, so spectacular and unexpected that it manages to reunite the Jews and bring real peace to our world. Am I asking for the coming of the Messiah? Yes - but failing that, maybe G-d has something else up His sleeve to turn the world around yet again.

Enough blood on all sides. Let's have some miracles around here please, because we really really need some Divine help right now and that's the prayer I make on this tragic but strangely inspirational day.

The fast finishes in about three-and-a-half hours.
Suddenly, I'm not that hungry.

Tisha B'av - My Very Special Memory


Last night was the start of Tisha B'av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. On this very day throughout history, terrible things have happened to the Jewish people. Both Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed; the Inquisition began; the Jews were exiled from England in 1290; The First World War started, which directly led to WWII and so on. These events are documented in the annals of history and if you compare the Gregorian dates, you will see that they do indeed match up with the same Hebrew date. It is truly bizarre and horrifying.

Without labouring the point, let me take you on a little journey and tell you about one of the most incredibly powerful moments of my life (aside from getting married and watching my kids being born, which as any parent knows, is as good as life gets).

Twelve years ago, I spent a month in Israel, from Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) through to the Simchat Torah (the last of the festivals after Sukkot, Tabernacles). I decided to visit the newly opened Western Wall tunnels. These ran alongside the hidden part of the Wall in Jerusalem and weaved their way under existing houses. At the time, the other entrance (which caused so much trouble in 1996) had yet to be opened.

We followed the guide and moved alongside the Wall. At one point, we came to a spot, directly below the Holy of Holies, in fact closer to the spot than the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would have reached on Yom Kippur when he entered the darkness of the Kodesh Hakadoshim (Holy of Holies) and came face to face with the Ark of the Covenant.

We continued and reached an arch that had been discovered through the excavations. Incredibly, through this arch, there was a passage that came out dead centre on the Temple Mount. Unfortunately, when the arch was discovered in 1968 (soon after Israel recaptured Jerusalem), the Arabs started complaining about the dig and so the excavators concreted the area.

I am digressing.

We continued walking and entered a room that had recently been discovered. In the walls therein, one could see the ash that remained from the burning (Churban) of the Second Temple. There was an old Jerusalem custom that this ash used to be put on the forehead of a Chatan, a bridegroom, before he got married, to remind him and everyone present of the Temples' destruction.

I touched this ash and had the most amazing spiritual experience. Here I was, connecting with the remains of the actual Temple, nearly 2000 years after it had been destroyed. I was dipping my fingers into our history at the epicentre of our culture. This ash was my connection with the past.

I don't know if I am conveying the extraordinary feeling and emotion that I experienced from having this ash on my fingertips. I can only describe the moment as being spiritually beyond this earth. It was as though the whole of Jewish history rested in this ash and I can honestly say that from that moment, I realised how truly blessed I am to be a member of the Jewish nation.

Tisha B'av is about the destruction of the Temples. For me, it is also about the Shoah (the Holocaust) and the murder of my ancestors and family. But Tisha B'av is also about re-birth. If I could be in a position to touch the past - something that my great-grandparents could never have done - then this was true continuity - in other words, there was a direct link between the Jews of Old and yours truly.

We are a stiff-necked people and this is shown in everything we do. The fact that after so much persecution, we can stand proud and tell the world (and the UN) that, despite their wishes, we will not die, or give in to our enemies - demonstrates that we will never disappear.

The Second Temple in Jerusalem, the Beit Hamikdash, may have been physically destroyed. Spiritually though, it still remains, in the walls of those Tunnels in Jerusalem. Go visit and you will never forget the experience.

I wanted to relate the story of the ash for quite a while. I kept it for Tisha B'av, because it is only really on this day that one can have any understanding of how the story still affects me. G-d works in mysterious ways and allowing me to be privileged enough (and alive at that very moment) to have such an experience is extremely humbling.

May the Messiah come speedily in our days and may we all share in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
From ashes to re-birth.

Friday, 12 August 2005

Some Thoughts

You may be aware that in the Jewish calendar, the new day starts at night. Therefore the Sabbath runs from dusk on Friday night to nightfall on Saturday night. The origins of this lie in Genesis, where the description of each day's creation starts with the words "and it was evening and it was morning on day...."

Why do I mention this? Because tomorrow night, the fast of the ninth of Av begins. As you know, Tisha B'av (Tisha= Ninth B'av= of Av) is the saddest day in our calendar. This year, it has extra meaning because, come Monday, the disengagement from Gaza begins and none of us know what that will lead to.

Tisha B'av is the culmination of the three weeks of mourning. I can literally feel the heaviness in the air. There is a sense of depression that overcomes me, whether or not I observe the strict laws of the nine days to their fullest (e.g. not listening to music, eating meat or drinking wine, washing clothes, taking hot showers, buying new items, shaving/cutting hair.)

So, here I am, on the eve of the fast and feeling pretty despondent. The Sabbath will begin soon and one is not allowed to be sad on this special day, but it's not easy 'switching off'. The fast will begin at 8.27 and end at 9.12 on Sunday night. During that time, I am forbidden from doing five things:

1) Eating or drinking.
2) Wearing leather shoes.
3) Wearing jewelry.
4) Wearing aftershave/perfume.
5) Having marital relations.

You will note that no's 2-4 concern adorning oneself and feeling comfortable, whilst 1 and 5 refer to partaking of physical needs. On this day, we hold loftier ambitions than feeding or pleasuring ourselves.

I have prepared a very special blog for Tisha B'av itself. It is the same one I posted last year on a different site, so I apologise to those who have previously read it. For those who haven't, it is a blog that reaches from the depths of my soul.

Traditionally, we believe that beyond the mourning, Tisha B'av also heralds the birth of the Messiah and the hope that when he finally arrives and we rebuild the Temple, the fast will be transformed into a holiday. With everything that's about to happen, let's hope that this year, we mourn for the very last time.

Until we meet again when I'll be fasting, I bid you adieu and ask you to pray for real peace in Israel, whatever faith you hold. We need all the help we can get.

Thursday, 11 August 2005

My Crying, Broken Heart


Satellite Photo of Gaza (2005)


The ancient Rabbis say that the Second Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam, (i.e.)baseless hatred between one Jew and another. In other words, the Jews hated each another so much so, that they literally ripped apart the most treasured possession they had, which was the Temple. G-d therefore sent the Romans to finish off the job for them.

This Tisha B'av, my heart cries for yet another reason. I constantly read the reports coming from Israel regarding the ongoing conflict that is developing between the Settlers and the Israeli Army over the imminent disengagement from Gaza - how Jews are once again quarreling - and I can feel my heart and soul being pulverised from within.

Is Gaza worth the earthquake that is taking place in Israel right now? No no no! It's certainly not. The sad truth is that all parties involved have been wronged for one reason or another:

The Settlers, in my opinion, are justified in feeling betrayed by successive Governments who enthusiastically encouraged them to go to the Strip in the first place. Now, they are being wrenched from their homes and livelihoods, uncertain of what lies ahead. Naturally, they are angry and disappointed (and I'm not just talking about the idealists) although I don't in any way condone the acts of violence being carried out to further their cause.

The 18 year old soldiers are being pulled from all sides. How can they be expected to do their jobs with some of their Rabbis - who should be letting the politicians and the Army get on with it - mixing in and complicating things by scandalously telling the soldiers who are their students, to disobey orders? (I really hope that these Rabbis are kicked in jail for treason). Additionally, the poor kids - and they are kids - face the extremely unpleasant task of evicting women and children from their homes. Would YOU want that job?

Sharon is taking a huge risk by pushing for this leap into the unknown and has had to deal with the disgusting behaviour of Bibi Netanyahu (ex Finance Minister) who quit his job on the eve of the disengagement, due to "ideological differences". If he felt so strongly about the policy, why didn't he leave three or six months ago? The man doesn't deserve to hold office.

The rest of us look on in horror at the unfolding drama and wonder where all this will lead, especially when the Palestinians don't seem to doing a single thing to rein in the terrorists.

So, after all this, do I think the disengagement is the right thing to do? Yes I do. As heartbreaking as I feel it to be, staying in that G-dforsaken piece of land will do nothing to ensure our security or bring about peace. The terrorists have been firing mortars, making bombs and sending out suicide bombers whilst the settlers have been in situ - and their being there has not stopped the attacks. Additionally, numerous settlers (including mothers and children) have been killed by terrorist attacks inside Gaza. They are literally "sitting ducks".

Gaza is a case of 'damned if you stay or damned if you go'. There is no right answer. However, if by leaving, the Settlers can save one more Jewish soul, then I'm all for it - and that's why I back the disengagement.

I feel differently about Judea and Samaria because there is a continuous thread of Jewish settlement that goes back to Biblical Times and I believe that Jews should be living in these areas, if they want to. Gaza was a trouble spot for Samson and it is the same for his descendants. We are leaving a cursed area and that's the way I look at it.

I just wish the others, who are fighting to stay there now, felt the same way.

Our Anniversary

Today is our ninth anniversary. Sadly, we are not together on the day (although Dana will be back tonight) but there you go.

The last nine years have been wonderful, not so great and sometimes, plain awful - but here we are, another 365 days down the line, still together. I know that Dana sometimes wonders whether she made the right choice marrying me and I suppose, the thought has crossed my mind, but isn't that what happens in most marriages? Or is it just us?

For me and I would suspect Dana, the greatest result of our union (both physical and metaphorical) has been the gift of four incredible daughters. Whenever I feel a little despondent, I think about how the two of us (and G-d!) were responsible for creating these amazing little girls. Had two other people got together, they wouldn't have existed and the world would very much be a poorer place for it.

Next year will be the first big one - the tenth. Hopefully, things will be a little brighter (i.e. I will have been working for a year) and so we will be able to celebrate in style.

Happy Anniversary Dana.
I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

Daylight Saving Time

I found this article on CNN quite amusing.

Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Hang-over

This is very funny - please press the "play" button - it might take a few minutes to run if you're using dial-up.



Tuesday, 9 August 2005

The Shuttle Has Landed Safely.

Two words: Thank G-d.

A Bientot

Dana and her mom have gone to Lille, France for a well deserved mini-break. They are due back on Thursday evening. This means that I have the pleasure of looking after all four girls till then.

Thank G-d my parents are in town, so they'll be able to help. I have no hesitation in branding myself an absolute wimp, when it comes to taking care of the girls for more than 12 hours! The situation is however made much more bearable as the three eldest kids are in a summer day camp which finishes at 4 p.m. This means that I only really have Shira to look after and if anything, she seems to be taking care of me.

Right now, she is sitting in the garden at her favourite kiddie table, playing. She looks sooooooo cute!