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

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

At Last Olmert Does Something Right!

Olmert has finally managed to do something right in his role as Prime Minister of the State of Israel -he's announced that he will be resigning as head of the party (and by extension, country) as soon as Kadimah elects a new leader.

In his televised speech, he had the chutzpah to complain that the Israelis had become a "nation of grumblers who complain in almost every situation".

Grumbers eh? How dare the inhabitants of Sderot complain as they are being shelled continuously whilst their leader does bugger all to sort the problem out?

Can you blame the Israelis for "grumbling"?
If I had this schmuck running my country, I'd also be pretty pissed off.

Goodbye Olmert. Don't bother switching the lights off because we need them to focus on someone who will be both an asset to the State of Israel and the Jewish people - and to be brutally honest, at present those lights are shining pretty damn dimly.

Monday, 28 July 2008

The Soul Reason For Blogging

How times change.

When I started this blogging business, my family and friends were this close to ordering me to go to therapy, to sort out my "problem". They asked me why I felt the need to share my innermost thoughts with strangers from around the world. They reasoned that it was understandable to "let it out all" by writing a diary, but why, oh why, would I ever want to share my emotions with the virtual universe, that we now call Cyberspace). The blank looks on their faces were something to behold.

I patiently explained that this was the way forward and that blogging would become the NBT (Next Big Thing). This was back in 2004 and I don't think that even I could have imagined how successfully it would have taken off.

Four years on and my "meshugas" (madness) is viewed as being much less of a worry than it used to be. Look at the Net. These days, you can reads blogs from anyone. Politicians, Rabbis, Doctors, journalists - you name it - post regular blogs and believe me, mine aren't anything as weird as many of those on the web.

This all brings me to the point of this post.

My friend Jonathan, whom I have known since we were children and whom I reconnected with a few years ago, has taken the plunge and joined the blogging club.

Nothing special there you might add.
Well, not quite.

Jonathan has started a blog because he is in the terrible position of waiting for the results of a biopsy, which may or may not determine whether he has liver cancer - let's pray that the results are negative.

Back to the blog.

Jonathan has managed to take a terrible situation and come up with the inspired moniker of "Jonathan's Chopped Liver", a title which whilst being wildly funny, also shows a human being with an amazing level of personal courage - I really cannot vocalise the level of admiration I feel for him right now.

Jonathan's need to share his thoughts really justifies the reason why we blog. Each of us shares the part of our soul that we hope will have an impact on at least one another inhabitant of the planet - and to me, that's reason enough to keep a blog and diarise my life for all and sundry to read.

If adding posts will help Jonathan wake up in the morning and look out of that window for his sunny day, then the concept of blogging has completely justified it's existence. Similarly, if I feel a weight off my chest when I've written a piece of prose, be it in the form of a political ranting or a moan at the crappy day I've had in school or even a joke that I want to share to make other people smile, then maybe at the end of the day, we bloggers are the only ones around who don't need therapy.

The tag line (from a Tracy Chapman song) at the top of this website reads "all that you have is your soul". In the case of my friend Jonathan, never was a truer word spoken/sung/hummed or yes, even cried.

Not every blog post is a piece of my soul, but every now and again, I feel a powerful inner twinge when I press the "Publish Post" button and make myself as vulnerable as I could ever be to you, the person who is reading this right now.

I send my best wishes of a speedy recovery to Jonathan and welcome him to the most soulful and special little club in the crazy world we call Cyberspace.

Please visit his website at http://jonathanshoham.spaces.live.com and tell him The Scribbler says "Hi."

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Do Not Adjust Your Set

I've been recently approached by a number of people, anxious to tell me that there was something wrong with my blog, granted that the template had been changed and the text seemed smaller than it used to be.

I should have alerted you that yours truly was responsible for the said changes. Simply put, I looked at the blog and felt that it was time for a bit of a spruce up. With this in mind, don't be surprised to see the template changing a number of times over the near future, as I play around with different colour schemes. If you don't like my choice, please tell me - after all, you're the visitors and at the end of the day....the visitor is always right!

Now that we've got that out of the way, what do you think of today's choice?

Friday, 25 July 2008

School's Out for Summer?

The girls have finally broken up for their summer break and apparently, I've been on a break since Friday. I say "apparently" because I've spent this week in school (bar Monday) marking my Year 10 coursework...and it's still not finished.

A few lessons I've learned from my experience.

1) Mark as much as you can during the year. It won't go away and you don't want to spend your summer break in a classroom catching up.

2) Make sure that you've got some decent summer wear. The odd kid that walks into the class won't be that impressed to see their teacher sitting there in tattered shorts.

3) The British summer is not long enough when it comes to catching up with your marking. If I don't watch out, it will be over before you've finished!

4) The novelty of going into a virtually empty school soon wears off.

5) Bring some decent music in, to listen to. Otherwise, you will spend an indeterminable amount of time sitting in silence, marking the same papers over and over again.

The thing is, can I remember all of this for next year?

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Get Real, Obama

There are numerous lessons from history that need to be learned.

Firstly, you don't do deals with terrorists. Israel pay note.

Secondly, you don't hold talks with homocidal dictators. Hitler was not someone who would be receptive to any sort of communication. He mocked Neville Chamberlain and his "peace in our time" document. If Obama honestly thinks that talking to a maniac like Ahmedinejad will stop him nuking anyone he dislikes, he must either be extraordinarily naive (which I'll give him, granted his lack of experience in the field) or plain stupid (which we know he isn't - so I'll opt for number one)

Listen Barack. Listen to history. Listen to the people who know. You are wasting your time suggesting talks with Iran. Ahmadinejad will talk the talk and play the game, but he'll be laughing at you behind your back. Iran is not interested in carrots and sticks. They are hell bent on developing nuclear weapons irrespective of what anyone thinks.

It's a non starter, so give it up and yes, talk to him in the only language he understands - and it ain't negotiations.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Crazes

It's part of the natural rhythm of life. The world loves crazes. Think about the different dances that our parents and grandparents boogied to - the Charlston, the The Twist, The Mashed Potato or The Locomotion. More recently, we saw the Disco, The Lambada and the Salsa taking over our dance floors. We all loved that craze didn't we?

What about the craze for clothes, haircuts (OK, I'm thinking Beatles now, but you get the drift.) Remember the Atkins Diet craze a while back?

We all love the latest craze. After all, isn't that what makes life that little bit more interesting and palatable? It becomes the "thing" that everyone talks about for a little while and then it dies away, usually to make room for it's successor.

Then, there is the other type of craze - the kind that we don't enjoy. Anyone remember the craze for hijacking aeroplanes? What about the one for suicide bombings? I'm afraid that one is still with us.

And now the latest craze - taking a bulldozer onto a busy main road, crushing cars and overturning buses with the sole intention of killing and maiming at an optimum level. In other words, a craze for the taste of blood, usually Jewish blood.

For people like me, a rational, thinking, caring inhabitant of the plaent, the crazes that I celebrate are the ones that enhance life. I know that right now, many like me would rather be moving their feet to the rhythm of a beat - as opposed to walking in two step behind yet another coffin.

Thank G-d, yesterday, we didn't witness any violent deaths in Jerusalem - but why do I fear that our cousins are in the stages of planning a more "successful" attack?

Remember that the word "craze" is a derivative of "crazy" and some people would do everything to give the beloved term a very bad repuation.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Why Did Israel Swap Live Prisoners for Dead Soldiers?

Whilst I am extraordinarily proud of Israel's moral stance, I fear that the kind of "people" we are dealing with see our noble actions as weakness. In the end, we will be victorious, but at what price?

War With Iran

Jews have marched on and survived for millennia, with a little help from their brains and their humor:

The President of Iran is wondering who to invade when his telephone rings.

"This is Mozel in Tel Aviv. Ve're officially declaring var on Iran!"

"How big is your army?" the president asks.

"There's me, my cousin Moishe, and our pinochle team!"

"I have a million in my army," snaps the president.

"I'll call back!" says Mozel.

The next day he calls. "The var's still on! Ve have now a bulldozer, Goldblatt's tractor. Plus the
canasta team!"

"I have 16,000 tanks and my army is now two million."

"Oy Gevalt!" says Mozel. "I'll call back."

He phones the next day. "Ve called off the var."

"Why?"

"Vell," says Mozel, "we all had a chat, and there's no vay we can feed two million prisoners."

Israel's Worst Leader

I'm going to say it.

In my opinion (and I'm sure I speak for many), Ehud Olmert holds the dubious honour of being Israel's worst leader.

His grotesque manhandling of 2006 Lebanon was an unbridled failure (although to be fair, he isn't wholly to blame - the then Chief of Staff is pretty culpable too) which he has managed to equal in the way he ineptly presided over the prisoner swap last week.

I fully respect the ideal of doing everything in our power to get our boys back, but why did Olmert agree to do so at the expense of not furthering his one and only chance to find out what happened to Ron Arad? He even admitted that the Hezbollah report was inadequate. So why go ahead with the swap. As far as I have read, the Israeli Government knew that the boys were already dead - although they chose not to share this information with the desparate families.

And why was that terrorist Kuntar released when Gilad Schalit is still languishing in the barbaric hands of Hamas? What will be the price of getting him back alive?

How much more damage is Olmert going to do to our country, before we finally manage to give the leadership to someone who is competent enough to carry out the job?

I love Israel deeply and it's breaking my heart to see it being led by this excuse for a Prime Minister.

He must go.

Now.

Go For It Macca!

Paul McCartney to Play Israel Gig
By Adam Nutburn, July 17 2008

Sir Paul McCartney is set to make history -- by playing his first gig in Israel.
The Beatles were banned from the country more than 40 years ago, after being turned away by its then education minister David Zarzevski, who believed a gig by the band would corrupt the country's morals.

However earlier this year, Israel's government sent apology letters the band's remaining members -- Sir Paul and drummer Ringo Starr -- as well as the relatives of deceased Beatles George Harrison and John Lennon -- inviting them to play as part of the country's 60th birthday celebrations.

The letters stated, "We should like to take this opportunity to correct the historic omission which to our great regret occurred in 1965 when you were invited to Israel. "We missed a chance to learn from the most influential musicians of the decade."

McCartney, 66, is now said to be on the verge of signing a deal to play to 250,000 in Tel Aviv this September. He will either play at the nation's football station Ramat Gan or put on an open air gig in Hayarkon Park.


A source reveals, "Paul is desperate to put Israel on the map of places he’s performed.He is pushing to make it happen, although the security issues are a real threat. Paul's very laid back so is not one to normally take such a keen interest in his personal wellbeing.But this show is very different given the tensions in the region. Paul wants to see how Europe goes before he hits the road worldwide. His biggest consideration remains seeing his daughter Bea while touring. He wants to take her on tour, but that means special arrangements with Heather Mills.He will see how well shared custody of Bea with her goes while he is in Europe, before planning anything bigger. He is desperate for them to amicably share Bea despite him being abroad."

(c) www.showbizspy.com 2008

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Middle Eastern Maths

They get 5 live terrorists (including 1 who killed two a father and his daughter and was responsible for the girl's mother asphyxiating the other daughter).

We get 2 dead soldiers and some very suspect information on the whereabouts of one other.

This is mathematics according the Middle Eastern rules. So why is it, that for us, the Jews, the numbers don't really add up?

Why is it that we have to receive death for life? Why is it that we feel so much more pain than they feel happiness? Why do our boys' lives mean so much more to them than their brothers' captivity?

When their fervour is over, our desparation will still be engraved inside our hearts. For us, the maths have always meant so much more than simply numbers and that's why this evening, although I grieve, I thank G-d that I was born a member of such an amazing nation.

In the end. we will prevail, even when 2 + 2 = 0.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Night Of The Living Dread

The hollow eyes and lipstick. The spiky hair and shallow complexion. This can mean one thing and one thing only...it's the annual school talent show and guess what I went on stage as?

That's right my friends.

A zombie.

But not any old zombie - a zombie doing the Thriller dance, along with five other zombified members of staff.

I don't know what possessed me to start doing a zombie dance in front of most of the kids and teachers (and Lord knows how I'm ever going to live that one down), but I've been practicing for the last fortnight. Dancing the lunch breaks away, turning up to afternoon lessons hot, bothered and aching - what more does one need to do to prove total dedication to one's place of work?!

It was a lot of fun and although I didn't quite master all of the steps, I don't think I did too badly either. The most important thing was that everyone had a good time - and not just from watching our act (which was the final offering in front of the "School's Got Talent" panel of judges (i.e. teachers).

Some of the kids' acts were sensational and we had everything from a comic duo (who were very funny) to one of the members of the staff doing brilliant take-offs of the teachers and in particular, of our 'soon to be departed' head (whom I/we shall sorely miss).

One of the great strengths of our school is that the kids really know how to enjoy the spectacle without being disrespectul. Both teachers and kids feel comfortable letting their hair down, sans fear of ridicule (well, I'll tell you if that's the case by the end of tomorrow!).

We didn't win, but who cares. I managed to become a zombie for the very first (and hopefully last) time and you can't really top that. Tonight, it was truly wonderful to be a part of the teaching profession.

thriller, thriller night...

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Liverpool 2008

I've returned from another visit to my beloved city. I first set foot in Liverpool on Friday 22nd February 1985 (ironically the day on which Dana had been born but fourteen years previously...and Tali wasn't even a twinklet).

I don't remember much of the trip, except for the visit to the Beatle City exhibition (on Sunday the 24th), which is long gone. I have a vague memory of walking around Seel Street and seeing the docks....and that's about it.

When I bought my first Beatles' tape at Oliver Crombie, a music shop in Golders Green the next day, I really didn't realise that I was on the cusp on developing one of my life's great passions.
The tape, by the way, was Please Please Me.

Fast forward 23 years and then some... and I've come back from my fourth visit to the city - my third annual trip.

To be fair, this wasn't exactly a Beatles event. As you know, I was here on business, although the lads were never far away from either my mind, or the itinerary.

There were three teachers - M, L and myself and M. did all the driving in the very reliable minivan. We took 10 kids along with us and their behaviour throughout the trip was nothing but exemplary.

"Roll up for the mystery tour....the magical mystery tour is coming to take you away, coming to take you away...."

We didn't leave school yesterday afternoon until after 12.00 and the trip up the motorways of England was pretty uneventful. The weather however, wasn't. It was dreadful. Our entry into Liverpool was accompanied by heavy rain and a sky whose monochrome tones weren't exactly the way in which I'd envisaged I'd re-visit the city.

The rain was pelting down.

Fortunately, we had L's Satellite Navigation device with us (a Tom Tom) replete with the rather confused directions emanating from "Tim", our electronic voice.

We made our way to the halls of residence, based at the Liverpool Hope University. We saw our first Lambanana. Nuff said.

L. and I walked out into the gushing rain and made our way into the bowels of the main building. It was virtually impossible to get any semblance of instruction as to where we were meant to drop our bags off for the night. We were told to go and get the students and bring them into the cavernous canteen. We walked the poor students through the rain into the said area, only to be told that our dorms had been flooded and we therefore needed to make our way to other halls, yet another three miles down the road.

The rain was not forgiving as we all made our way back to the minivan. Complication after complication hit us until we finally managed to get our rooms sorted out and make our way back to the original location for "supper".

I'll skip the details regarding "supper" because there wasn't much food. We were however shepherded into a Double Decker bus to take our tour of Liverpool.

Ah Liverpool! Wonderful, wonderful Liverpool. Well, it wasn't too great last night at 8.15 - in fact it was downright miserable. Our driver/guide did the best he could to show us the sights, but nary was to be seen through misted windows, caked in pelted rain. I added some narration of my own, but this wasn't the way I had hoped I would be able to share my love of the city with the other teachers! It was a miserable bus ride through the town and along by the docks.

No matter. We made sure that the kids were in their rooms and after chatting in the hallway, settled down in L's room for a good old chinwag - three teachers chatting, schmoozing and basically having a good laugh.

By the time I looked at my watch, it was 3.00 am and definitely the time to get to bed, so I bid my farewells and crashed into the rather comfortable bed (granted that we were staying in student dorms) in Dorm 10, Room I.

Less than three hours later, Reveille came along and it was time to get the kids up and ready for the day. The irony had been that the kids enjoyed a restful night, whilst we, the adults did the "staying up and chatting" routine. Talk about role reversal.

We had a light breakfast (note the emphasis on "light) and made our way to the hotel/pub in Edge Hill, the location at which the competition was to take place.

There were more than two dozen schools competing against one another and to keep it fair, teachers were separated from the kids and left to heir own devices (aside from the chance of listening to some pretty boring speakers). The kids were given their task and got on with it. We were superfluous.

M. found a rather cosy settee in one of the sitting rooms of the hotel and made himself comfortable. L. and I managed to escape the second speaker (management accounting is really not my thing, thank you very much) and locate him there.

After our sleep-deprived night, there wasn't much chance that we'd manage to stay awake - granted that we each had our own criminally comfortable settee to park our bodies into. Poor L. didn't quite know what to do when both of us fell asleep, sprawled across our respective sofas/beds - this being in a public room.

Apparently, people who came in, waiting to have their lunch were less than impressed with our antics and poor L. had to shake us (literally) out of our slumber. I don't think either of us are going to be living that episode down.

We went back to the room we'd escaped to hear the presentations and cheer our kids on. Our students were really great and did the best they could in coping with a pretty challenging task.
Unfortunately, they didn't win, but did it matter? They'd probably learned more in these few hours, than they might have done in a month of business studies lessons.

It was time to go and we made our way home - wearily. The good news was that the sun shone all day and at least I could prove to the others that Liverpool wasn't the rainy city they all expected it to be.

The final irony? Today was the first Liverpool Beatles Day and I was but three miles from concerts, outdoor performances and the like. I didn't see anything in Edge Hill. However, the icing on the cake was that I bought a genuine Beatles wig.

I left Liverpool with a heavy heart, yet lightened somewhat in the knowledge that I'll be back there in about five weeks - determined to restore the Beatles' element to my experience of the city. It was fab to be back in the city, if only for less than 24 hours.

It is still waiting for me, but 200 miles away.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Liverpool Bound (Again)

I don't know how I managed to wrangle it, but I'm off to Liverpool again tomorrow for a two day trip. My excuse this time (like I need one, eh?) is that I'm accompanying a group of Year 10's, who are taking part in a contest. Ironically, I/we will be staying in the heart of the Jewish area of Childwall, but I don't think I'm going to get much of a chance to meet up with the community this time around.

I honestly don't care! It was an excuse to return to my beloved Liverpool once again and I wasn't about to miss the chance. Then again, maybe I'm being a touch greedy as I will be going up again next month, accompanied by my mother and the two eldest girls.

Come to think of it, I was only about 60 miles from my destination last Thursday. It was tempting to go up (not that I really considered it), granted that I knew I'd be driving around the same roads in less than a week. It's funny how I've suddenly developed into a long distance driver (when compared to the amounts of road I used to cover) in the last few years.

This promises to be a pretty interesting trip....and we get to have a tour around the city too (and no, I won't be the guide).

Liverpool, the European City of Culture 2008 beckons. I didn't think I would get there before the summer holidays.

Who'd had thought that teaching would afford me the opportunity to visit the city again, albeit on a totally different agenda?

Monday, 7 July 2008

First Hand Account (Of Bulldozer Terrorist Attack)

by Rochelle Eissenstat

On Wed. July 2, 2008, an Arab started trying to kill people on a very packed busy street in Jerusalem with his work vehicle, a caterpillar type of huge bulldozer. He just drove it onto the adjacent packed street and started trying to crush cars. One of the first cars he attacked was ours.

In our car were my husband in the front passenger seat, me the driver, and 3 of our girls in the back; we were on our way to meet visiting friends.

As we drove toward the place, we were on the packed street called Sarei Yisrael, when suddenly, several workmen suddenly ran into the street gesturing vehemently that we should clear out. This was really impossible with the very packed traffic! And anyway, just behind them came a huge bulldozer at an impossible-seeming speed. In the first seconds as he bashed into a car to the left of us, it was not entirely clear whether the vehicle or driver was out of control. But then after flattening car #1, he crushed a second car next to us, and turned his attention to us, as I was already trying to reverse our car, as the only direction possible to attempt to distance ourselves from him, hoping that the drivers behind me would also back up.

So there we were stuck in our car, staring into the face of this man determined to kill us. He was around 30, looked somewhat overweight, with a fixed, purposeful look on his face, but unbelievably was using his bulldozer as a deadly weapon. I still feel how bizarre this was - a bulldozer! I have read since then, that later he was screaming Allah is great, but at the moment he was staring at us, determined to crash into us next, he was unsmiling and silent, with only what I thought was a look of determination and concentration on his face.

He crashed his dozer into the front of our car 2 or 3 times after having successfully crushing the 2 near us with one blow each. Those 2 other cars I saw which he attacked before us were pancaked but amazingly the drivers were able to escape since he couldn't crush the drivers' sides quickly enough and noone else was in those cars. One driver was the woman whom he had diabolically motioned to proceed and then bashed into her car and as she dashed out of her destroyed car he tried to run her down! A second vehicle, a taxicab was flattened next. The 2 drivers both escaped from their cars virtually unscathed. The woman who was dressed unreligiously and we stayed together into the hospital - she declared that God must exist here after all. At any event, within seconds we were attacked.

We were immobilized in our car by his repeated violent crashing into us. Was he frustrated that our car didn't collapse with his first blow like the first 2 and yet it was full of people to kill? Over the next period of what was probably really only a minute or so, he bashed the front of our car repeatedly and bashed our roof with the shovel at least once, all to no avail!!!. Unlike the 2 other cars he had attacked first, our car would not crush. He then drove ONTO the roof of our car trying to crush the 5 of us in the car with the full weight of the dozer. This is truly a miracle - our inexpensive Mazda 5 minivan still did NOT collapse. The sides of the frame were so distorted that we could barely open only 1 door, the front of the car was crushed, and the front window in smithereens but the roof only a little caved in! I was the driver and as the bulldozer rammed us, I put the car into reverse - no other direction to go. His ramming pushed the car back against the one behind me but at least that movement absorbed some of his impact that might otherwise have further crushed the car with us in it.

Since I was unable to do anything at the moments of his attacking us, I don't think now that my thoughts were really prayer. They consisted of just a realization that when we can do nothing, then everything is in HaShem's hands. We couldn't try to get out until he stopped ramming our car. Then as we tried to open the doors, we discovered that the front passenger door was the only one that could be opened by my husband, but 1 of my kids had her window completely open so we all got out in the 2 ways quickly. We wondered whether we should have tried to escape while he was still attacking the car but he had already tried to crush another driver as she got out of her car [his first intended victim] and later we were told that he had a pistol which he used to try to kill others. It was hard to get out as fast as maybe we needed to because we were trembling so much. It took me a few minutes to be sure my legs wouldn't buckle under me if I tried to stand up. One of my kids has a bruised arm but it is a miracle that we were otherwise unscathed. Is this a recommendation for the Mazda 5? I don't know, our air bags NEVER opened :-) But they would not have helped us and the sturdiness of the frame did! Does Mazda design the minivan 5 to withstand a dozer driving into and over it? My brilliant husband had picked that car as the safest and best model for the money for us. We walked away from the attack!

We feel so glad to be alive. After his rampage including our car, he continued on to other cars, pedestrians, and at least 1 full bus behind, having finally given up trying to destroy us in our car. After driving over us, he apparently killed a new mother and rammed at least 1 bus effectively and turned it onto its side. 3 people were killed before a policeman and I think a soldier were able to jump into the dozer's cab and grapple with him. I think that is when he started shooting. Another man grabbed the gun of the policeman fighting the Arab [because he couldn't take his hands off him to reach his own pistol] and shot him and killed him.

For what it is worth, the perp was a 30 year old Arab, a citizen of Israel, had a well paid job with good government benefits, lived in his own house, and was married with children.

So we've received lectures about how we are going to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One person told us that we had to recount our ordeal at least 100 times in the first day to avoid PTSD. Another told us to immediately get psych counselling from an expert. So far we are all too numb to do more than go through our days on auto-pilot. My kids were called by everyone in their school, kids and teachers, by now I think they have retold their experience 100 times. Most of our friends and neighbors have found out we were at the terror scene and called us too. I broke out some chocolate for the kids that I usually save for Shabbat and the kids put on a funny movie. One of the girls' friends had come over but didn't inform her mom who finally calmed down when she tracked her down to our home.

What has so far been the most effective means of staving off PTSD is our neighbor Miriam's chocolate chip cookies. She brought over a freshly baked batch. We have always thought they are probably the best in the world even when one isn't trying to fend off PTSD. We know that we have to start counselling ASAP but are still too numb to initiate it yet.

Thursday is the first day of the new month, and with the Jewish calendar, also the new moon, a traditional holiday especially for women, so we will all be praying especially thankfully. We went to pray at the Wall. I have already started wondering why G-d made a miracle for us so that our inexpensive car somehow withstood the terrorist's REPEATED blows while other cars were flattened at once [that would have killed all 5 of us]. We happened to have donated generously over the past year to Victims of Terror, but among the killed was a dedicated teacher of the blind and a warm wonderful early childhood teacher who had recently had a baby after years of fertility treatments. I think that our past mitzvot cannot measure up to this miracle saving our lives. HaShem clearly needs us to still do things - mitzvot here so we are needed to live.

Rochelle Eissenstat, Beit Shemesh

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Silence

On the day I drove up to Telford, I heard the horrific news about what had happened in Jerusalem that morning. Knowing the route that the Jaffa Road takes, as it winds its way through the heart of downtown Jerusalem, I could visualise the location where the events had taken place.

Obviously, at the time, details of what had happened were still sketchy and the names of the victims, particularly, the young mother who had saved her six month old baby, within seconds of losing her life, were unknown. That said, I couldn't shake the image from my mind.

A few days later, I found out that the mother, Batsheva Unterman was married to a guy I went to school with in London.

I don't know whether I feel any worse being in possession of that knowledge. Does it make me feel more angry, more frustrated, more tearful knowing that one of my contemporaries, someone whom I remember from school, is having to cope with such an unimaginable situation?

The emotions run wild. What if my wife had been in that car? What on earth could this poor, poor woman have done to deserve such a fate?

It is at times like these, that I really struggle with my belief in the Almighty. I know that I should accept everything that happens as being destiny, but....








silence.

The Travelling Teacher

One of the more interesting aspects of my job that I hadn't anticipated when I signed up was the notion of travelling.

I mean, who would think that something as sedentary as teaching, where in effect, your classroom is your office, could send you on adventures in places you'd never thought of visiting, let alone finding yourself there.

Last year, as you may recall, I travelled with the Year 7s to Disneyland Paris. It was an unforgettable trip (probably because it was my first) and I didn't think I'd be off again so soon.

My Head of Department approached me on Tuesday, asking if I could go to Telford, to undertake some training for the ever changing sixth form curriculum. I didn't think twice and so, on Wednesday night, I made my way up the M1 and M6 to Telford, a little town in the north west of England, whose reputation is mainly derived from being the location of the world's very first iron bridge. It is also the site of the very interesting and quite unique Thomas Telford School.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the experience. The training, by the OCR exam board was great, as was the opportunity to walk around the school.

You're probably thinking that I've had my trip for the year.

Uh uh! No no no!

On Wednesday and Thursday, I will going up the M1 yet again, this time to accompany a group of Year 10s who will be attending an event in.....can you guess?????????

No, not Telford.

You won't believe it....but Liverpool! How could I resist the request when asked? It's been nearly a year since I've headed in that direction and I was already starting to get withdrawal symptoms. Yes folks, I'm going back to the 'Pool. If that's not enough, I'm there again at the end of August.

It's at times like these when I really enjoy being a teacher.
Not least because I'm going to be on holiday in two weeks!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

After 43 Years, Israel Welcomes Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney is no longer a threat to Israeli youth.
by Nathan Burstein

More than four decades after the Beatle and his famous band mates were told they couldn’t perform in Israel for fear that they would corrupt the country’s young people, the “Let It Be” singer has signed on for a September concert in either Tel Aviv or Ramat Gan. The big-budget show, first reported by Yediot Aharonot, will follow McCartney concerts in Georgia and Turkey. The show, likely to be the largest and most expensive of the summer, is being organized by David Zarzevski, a promoter behind the Eilat Jazz Festival and recent Tel Aviv-area concerts by Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu.

The show will mark McCartney’s debut concert in Israel, though not his first invitation to perform. The singer and his Beatles counterparts planned a concert in the country in 1965, but they were barred from performing by then-education minister Yaakov Schneider on grounds that the band members might serve as negative role models for the country’s youth. (Israeli government approval is no longer needed for performances by foreign artists.)

Israel’s current ambassador to England sent letters to McCartney, Ringo Starr and relatives of deceased Beatles George Harrison and John Lennon earlier this year, expressing regret for the incident. The letter to McCartney declared that “Israel missed a chance to learn from the most influential musicians of the decade.”

McCartney isn’t the only high-profile musician heading to the Holy Land. Also on his way is American jazz great Branford Marsalis, who will perform at the Tel Aviv Opera House on July 17. The saxophonist previously performed in Israel in 1997.


(c) The Jewish Daily Forward 2008

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

British Jews support Israel in highly visible celebration



LONDON (Jewish Telegraph Agency) -- With a pair of massive rallies for Israel held simultaneously in London's Trafalgar Square and Manchester's Heaton Park on Sunday, British Jewry may be signaling that its transformation is at hand.

Some 30,000 participants attended the public shows of support for Israel, which were inspired by New York’s annual Salute-to-Israel parade.

Several thousand people waving Israeli and British flags marched from the Ritz Hotel to Trafalgar Square followed by dozens of carnival floats, cyclists, dancers and bands. At Trafalgar Square, an Israeli Cabinet minister, Britain’s secretary of state for Education and Britain's chief rabbi all addressed the crowd. Israeli musicians performed between the speeches.

"I'm sure that my father, who served here as an officer in the Britishrmy, couldn't have imagined that some day tens of thousands of Jews would be waving Israeli flags here in Trafalgar Square," said Israel’s minister for welfare and Diaspora affairs, Isaac Herzog, who addressed the London rally. Herzog's father, the late Israeli president Chaim Herzog, served as an intelligence officer in the British army during World War II.

Observers and critics alike said the unprecedented show of pride and self-confidence at the rallies is a sign that British Jewry is shaking off its reputation for being timid and low key.

Organized by a coalition of community groups under the direction of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, the rallies were aimed at expressing solidarity with Israel at its 60th anniversary and the unity of British Jewry.

Jeremy Newmark, the Leadership Council's chief executive, said the idea for the event was born when he and several British Jewish organization executives attended last year's Salute to Israel parade in New York. Discussing the parade with representatives of the American Jewish Committee, Newmark recalled an AJC representative saying a New York-style Israel salute probably wouldn't play in Britain.

But Newmark said the New York experience changed his mind.

"Seeing this tremendous display of communal unity and affirmation of the relations between not just the Jewish community but actually America and Israel, we thought, ‘Well, here is one thing that might just play in the UK,’” he said.

Herzog told JTA he was pleased that "Anglo Jews decided to follow the American Jews' example with a display of power and unity."

An event like Sunday’s Salute to Israel could not have taken place as recently as a decade ago, Newmark said. But a political shift that has made British politics much more tolerant of minorities, lobbies and interest groups changed that, he said.

"If you want to influence political decisions in Britain, you have to operate up front as an interest group, and the community had to adjust to that," Newmark said.

Some Jews long have complained that British Jews are too timid.

Three months ago, a renowned British-born Israeli expert on anti-Semitism, Prof. Robert Wistrich, told the Jerusalem Post that Britain’s Jewish leadership is taking a "softly, softly approach" in tackling the problem of anti-Semitism.

"There is a long tradition of doing things behind closed doors," Wistrich said. “It is difficult to break with tradition, but it should be broken."

Newmark believes the breakthrough is already under way.

"The caricature of Anglo-Jewry that Wistrich and others have sought to portray is no longer the case; it's history,” he said. “Ask any minister in a government portfolio that relates to the Jewish community in any way if the Jewish community is shy about coming forward or making noise, if they feel they're not being treated the way they want to. You'd get a pretty clear response."

Newmark points to several high-profile media campaigns launched by the British Jewish community in the past year, including fighting an academic boycott and campaigning against the Anglican Church's "divestment intentions," as further evidence of the community's willingness to speak up.

“We now have strong support for Israel within all the mainstreams in the nation's political parties as a consequence of the work done by the Friends of Israel organizations within each party," he said.

At the rally, Herzog lent support to this argument, saying he felt "decision makers in British politics as well as in the media are much more attentive today to Israel's case than several years ago."

Researchers of British Jewry say the Jewish community here has never been healthier.

Keith Kahn-Harris, a sociologist based at London's Goldsmiths College, says research suggests that in recent years, even during the height of the second intifada, an overwhelming majority of British Jews feel settled and comfortable in their homeland.

To be sure, there are concerns about the growing threat of anti-Semitism and the virulent anti-Israel views coming from some in the media and the intellectual elite. But, Kahn-Harris said in a phone interview, "The threats are manageable and the community developed effective mechanisms to counter them."

Yaakov Wise, a researcher at the University of Manchester's Center for Jewish Studies, said the number of British Jews was growing for the first time since the end of World War II.

A large part of this growth is due to an exceptionally high birth rate among the fervently Orthodox, though they were largely absent from Sunday’s parades.

Also underrepresented were Israelis living in England. One communal leader admitted he was "disappointed" by the "limited success" of efforts to engage Israelis in Britain.

On the fringes of the Trafalgar Square rally, some pro-Palestinian Jews took part in a vigil organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Brian Klug, a prominent left-wing activist who has criticized British Jewry's unconditional support for Israel, told JTA he did find something positive about the parades in the fact that "Jews are able to express in public their views about something that affects them, which was not the case about 30 years ago when I was growing up in London."

Nevertheless, he said, "It is not supportive of Israel or of Israelis to 'salute' the country in public while passing over the occupation in silence.

Salute to Israel organizers, however, didn't seem to care much about the voices of dissent.

"We're focused on having a good day and a few fringe voices are not going to upset anybody," Newmark said.

At the London rally, huge screens projected greetings from Israeli President Shimon Peres and London's new mayor, Boris Johnson, followed by a slew of American celebrities such as former President Bill Clinton, Billy Crystal, Michael and Kirk Douglas, Ashton Kutcher and Ben Stiller.

The events cost some $700,000, and nearly 600 volunteers were required to secure the Trafalgar Square rally alone.

"We promise to do this again next time Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary," Henry Grunwald, the president of the Board of Deputies, quipped when asked if the Salute to Israel would be repeated.

"I'm sure we will have such events again in the future" he later added, "but probably not on an annual basis like in New York."

(c) JTA

A New Service For You - Music Whilst You Visit Me Here!

I've found this fabulous new website called Seeqpod which allows you to create an online playlist from any MP3 on the web. You can add as many songs as you like and they are streamed through.

I've embedded a player in the left hand column (just above the Israeli flag), so if you want to suffer my mix of songs, feel free to play them whilst you visit. I've configured the player to play the songs upon request, so I really don't mind if you prefer to, ahem, avoid my choices!

I will be adding more tracks as and when, so keep checking (if that's your thing).