Monday, January 31, 2011
There's a transition underway in Egypt, and the leaders of the Western World are having their air time to talk about how they have to make sure the revolution goes in their direction - democracy. The world leaders - American, British, Spanish, German, etc. - want peaceful change for democracy, social justice, etc. How nice.
I don't know if the Arab citizens that are rioting all over the Arab countries are rioting for democracy, or they are rioting to get the old dictators out and put young leaders in. Will the young leaders be democrats or autocrats? I don't know, of course. I just have a gut feeling that Islamic Fundamentalism is on the way just about everywhere.
CNN interviewed a protestor (see CNN - Egyptian protest rages on) who said, "If people are free in Egypt, they'll be free in Palestine. They'll destroy Israel!"
What happened to freedom for better jobs, better health care, better wages, better lives? CNN could have interviewed 100 protestors about the change they want. And they chose the guy who said that Egyptians want to be free so they can destroy Israel. Well, we know that in the end, everything comes down to "Israel".
Now, world leaders really don't know what the future will hold for the Egyptians, the Tunisians or the Syrians. Western leaders are truly not in tune with the Arab world. As much as they hate Israel and align with the Arabs out of that hatred, they don't understand them. Their CNN moments of face-time show that the world leaders are not feeling as confident today as they were at the start of the weekend.
But just about all of them are saying that Egypt's changes will affect Israel drastically. Why? Perhaps it has something to do with Egypt's 1.3 billion dollar US aid package to the country and the military. That's a lot of missiles.
Changes in Tunisia and protests in Syria have an optimistic (read: naive) world pointing at democratic futures of these countries.
The media say the people in these countries want a better education and better employment opportunities. Perhaps the West thinks these Arab nations want the good life of the modern world. And perhaps again, they think this will moderate them.
Why is it that I am skeptical?
Remember when the Shah of Iran was overthrown? Did the Iranians get a better more democratic life? They got the mullahs and now years later Mahmoud Ahmadinejad .
The finale of chaos and coups in Arab countries may well be Islamic Fundamentalism reigning in each country.
We'll Take Care of You
Remember when Hamas began its rise in stature in Gaza? The Arabs of Gaza were suffering under a corrupt PA leadership. Children were hungry, healthcare was bad, families were poverty stricken. Hamas came forward giving children hot lunches, helping families in many social ways. As we remember, eventually the PA was overturned. Democracy didn't come next, but Islamic Fundamentalism did.
Egyptians want a better standard of living. While democracy and a free market economy could indeed help them, chances are the majority of people will opt for an Egypt run by the Moslem Brotherhood.
Jews know we're never supposed to pray for a new king – that goes for a new king in a nearby nation too.
Egypt is one of the most militarily equipped nations in the Middle East. It's a terrifying scenario to think of those weapons in the hand of Islamic Fundamentalists.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
It's great. I ran outside this morning and videoed cars driving down the block, because I wanted to hear the sploshhhh of the rain on their tires. I watched the rivulets of rain running down my street.
Hooray hooray hooray. I stood by our kumquat and etrog trees to watch the little drops fall from their leaves.
The sky is full of rain, B"H. Super duper. Unfortunately, we can't make "rain men", but everyone enjoy it anyway.
This afternoon, I watched preschoolers in their adorable rubber boots, stamping their feet in the puddles. Their mothers didn't even scold them. I bet they would have stamped too if they had rubber boots with smiley faces on them.
I've gotten a bunch of emails since I first posted this short blog today, and everyone has signed off, "Happy rain!" Isn't that great? Yes, it is happy. B"H for a happy rain.
I've gotten calls from Jerusalem and Bet El that they're experiencing terrific rainfalls. It even rained for a short time in Bet Shemesh.
B"H for the rain and drive carefully, folks. Keep buttoned up. Keep your feet and head dry, and you'll get through the rain both happily and healthily.
We learn in the Torah (Bible) that we are not allowed to covet our neighbor's house or his wife. It didn't say, "Don't covet your neighbor's precipitation." We have been hearing for weeks about the record snowfalls in New York. We've read about the humongous rains and even mudslides in Australia and around the world. I never wanted 20 inches of snow (maybe three) or flooding rains. I just wanted a drop of their precipitation. Maybe now we've got a bit of it.
Thank you, G-d, for the blessed rain. Please keep it coming.
Wanna see the rain: http://www.voices-magazine.com/index.php?page=inside_page&id=176 .
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Qumran, we know, is the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the most important archaelogical finds of the 20th century.
The Qumran Caves national park is highly visited, mostly by Christians who are intrigued by its many mikvaot (ritual baths) and the notion that one of their saints, John the Baptist, might have been an Essene (one of the folks who lived a ascetic life in Qumran). According to our terrific tour guide Eve Harow, "For Christians, Qumran is a must-see, and for Jews, it's a 'Well, I saw the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israel Museum.'" We were on a tour of the area by the One Israel Fund.
The story of the discovery of the scrolls by Bedouin is well known. In 1947 while pasturing their flocks, Bedouin sheperds came across a cave in which they found large jars standing. Inside the jars, they found pieces of leather, some of which were wrapped in cloth - the first of the scrolls. The scrolls, hidden for nearly 2000 years, were preserved B"H, because of the area's arid climate. They included the Bible, the Apocrypha and some of their own works. French archaeologists began excavating the area, and in 1951 as the Bedouin sifted through the cave, they unearthed 14,000 fragments of scrolls. Archaeologists later uncovered anothe 1,000. Fragments of these scrolls were pieced together to produce 530 different scrolls. Their publication was completed in 2001.
Why were there so many torn pieces? Scholars believe Roman soldiers tore apart the Jewish scrolls - in vengence against the Jews? in hopes of destroying the Jewish people by destroying their holy works? other reasons?
Well, we know where the Roman Legion is today - dust, like the dust of Qumran...and B"H, we know where the Jewish people are - still vital, still creating, B"H and still improving the world.
Ancient Industry in the Desert
You might wonder how the Essenes could survive in such an unhospitable environment. Well, one of the curious places we saw in Qumran was a workroom where the residents worked with date pits.
Eve recalled the verse, "Tzaddik k'tamar yifrach," a righteous person is like a date palm tree. A date palm tree is beneficial in so many ways. "Tall and straight, every part of the palm tree is valuable." You can eat its fruit, use its fronds for roofing, etc.
She reminded us that a few years ago, Ben Gurion University began growing a date pit from 2,000 years ago. The "Methuselah" date palm tree is now growing at Kibbutz Ketura. That, she noted, gives the verse added meaning. Even after 2,000 years, the influence of a tzaddik sprouts again through his words or deeds.
The Perfume of Queens
Another industry of the area was balsam, a legendary bush of the Second Temple period, a prestigious and royal perfume. It's hard for us to believe that a tree could be so powerful, but balsam was such an important industry in ancient times that it is said that Cleopatra and Herod contested the ownership of a balsam grove near Jericho, not far from Qumran. The grove was a gift to her from Mark Antony. Herod leased them back.
Eve said that at one point in time, balsam was the most expensive commodity in the world, and that Herod possibly made his fortune from the sale of balsam. The industry was so important that during the Great Revolt of 70 CE, the balsam trees were uprooted, taken to Rome, and paraded through the streets along with the Menorah, as proof that Judea was indeed captured.
Eve said that when the Jewish people were taken into exile, two groups of people were left behind. In Kings II: 25:12, it says that the chormim and the yogvim were left behind. These are translated as simple people to tend the fields and the vineyards. Eve said she believes they were the people who knew how to grow the balsam and those who could harvest the trunculus snail for purple and blue dye - two industries coveted by the kings of the surrounded countries.
The industry was so secret, so specialized and so special that Israel hasn't been able to recreate it since.
Today, scientists in Ein Gedi are trying to grow what they believe is the balsam and reintroduce it into the Dead Sea area, where it once thrived.
So, in addition to our hopes for the Redemption, or perhaps along with it (hm, interesting thought), we've got two great things to look forward to, IY"H - the growth of a 2,000 year old date palm and the return of the balsam.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Jews were commanded to wear the blue string since the days of Moses. "G-d said to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, that they shall make for themselves tzitzit on the corners of their garments throughout their generations. And they shall place upon the tzitzit of each corner a thread of tekhelet...And you shall see it and remember all the commandments of G-d and you shall do them." (Numbers 15:37-39)
Tekhelet was a precious commodity. One of the Amutah members Baruch Sterman said in a movie at the factory, "Everyone in [Biblical days] worse raw wool - beige, brown, grey. So when the Jews wore tekhelet, they stood out. The blues and the purples are what royalty wore."
"When he wore the strings of tekhelet, he looked down and said, 'I'm not a peasant farmer. I'm a prince, a king, a priest."
But the Romans put an end to those thoughts. They issued edicts that only royalty could wear purple or blue. And with the oppression of the Jewish people, and their exile from the Land of Israel and from the sea and the source of tekhelet (thought to be the trunculus snail), the secret to making tekhelet was lost.
In the late 19th century, the Radzyner Rebbe felt that the Messiah couldn't come until the Jewish people reinstituted the tekhelet, and so he tried to restore tekhelet to Am Yisrael, beginning with his own Chassidim.. His followers still wear blue strings on their tzitzit. A few decades later Rabbi Isaac Herzog (later Chief Rabbi of Israel) wrote a doctoral dissertation on tekhelet, and was even in contact with the Radzyner chassidim about their dye. Rabbi Eliyahu Tavger of Jerusalem began researching the tekhelet again while writing a book on tzitzit in 1985.
Today, Ptil Tekhelet makes about 1000 sets of blue-stringed tzitzit every month. That's not an easy feat, considering the fact that it takes 30 snails to make one set of tekhelet.
Joel Guberman, our guide in the factory, said that since all shell fish are protected in Israel's waters, today most snails come from Croatia.
We walked through the factory where the wool is made into spools, and where the threads are dyed blue. Every step of the way, the words, "Be'shaim mitzvot tzitzit" (in the name of the mitzvah of tzitzit), were intoned.
Joel told us that in order to make blue fringes easier for the general Jewish public, Ptil Tekhelet even has a tzitzit tying board with international tyers who are available to tie tzitzit in many areas of the world.
In fact, I met a tyer.
Five Towns teenage tekhelet tyer (you say that five times fast!)Michael Rosenfeld was visiting the factory while we were there. Michael said that he can tie tekhelet in any one of the many shitot (opinions) of our sages. He can be contacted to tie tzitzit at email@example.com.
For tyers in other areas, contact Mois Navon, firstname.lastname@example.org .
It says in Sifre, Shelakh, "Rabbi Meir said, 'Whoever observes the mitzva of tzitzit, it is considered as if he greeted the Divine Presence, for tekhelet resembles the sea, and the sea resembles the sky, and the sky resembles G-d's Holy Throne."
Sunday, January 23, 2011
The inn got its name from a negative parable of the Good Samaritan, who helped save a traveler who had supposedly been ignored by a Kohen and a Levi, after he was attacked by a band of robbers. Eve noted that this was a difficult road to climb eight to ten months out of the year, and most likely, travelers wouldn't choose willingly to come through these hills.
But she added that in reality the Samaritans weren't good at all. She said, they killed people who came through their area. "A man who traveled through an area in Samaria had to give his wife a get (divorce) [because it was so dangerous, he might be killed]."
The Samaritan roadside inn was a Chan, built on the walls of a former Crusader fortress.
Eve Harow said that the Shomroni Hatov museum was one of only three mosaic museums in the world. The museum holds mosaics from synagogues, churches and Samaritan synagogues – all from Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
The visit to the museum begins with a mosaic from a synagogue in Gaza (it is undated). There are pictures of animals, and curiously, a picture of a giraffe.
As we examined the different mosaics, we learned that the symbols that designated the world's religions changed through the centuries. Originally the symbol for Judaism was a menorah, not a magen david. The symbol of Christianity was a fish before it was a cross.
All the mosaics in the museum were originals, except for three: the replica of the floor of the Shalom al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho, a mosaic inscription from Shiloh (pictured at left) and a mosaic of King David from Gaza. The first is still in the synagogue in Jericho, the next is in the Israel Museum, and unfortunately Gaza's King David mosaic is most probably no longer existing.
We saw Jewish mosaics with images of the Holy Temple, menorahs, and horns. Eve said, "When you see Jewish symbols on mosaics, you see the yearning for the Temple."
The museum's collection included mosaics from all faiths and all areas of Israel. It was worth the trip just to see the replica of the David mosaic from Gaza. I had learned about it many years ago.
The mosaic of King David (left) playing the harp was located at one time in Gaza City. Its fate is unknown today, although it was still existing in 1967. Given the Arab record of destroying evidence of Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael, I don't have high hopes for the King David mosaic. I had seen it only in photos. Even though it is a replica, it is still striking. It is very infuriating to know that beautiful ancient synagogues existed in Gaza and had been destroyed. I guess that was only a foreshadowing of the 2005 destruction of Gush Katif's synagogues.
Supposedly Jews are allowed in to Jericho at certain times. Perhaps I'll get to see the mosaic in real life.
A new orchard was dedicated in honor of Jonathan Pollard, who has been languishing in American prison for 25 years on charges of spying for Israel. Everyone present expressed their hopes that Jonathan would one day visit the orchard and plant one of his own trees there.
Organized by Women for Israel's Tomorrow (Women in Green) and the Yibaneh Fund, the planting was specifically significant because of the on-going struggle in Netzer over State Land - between Arabs, who are planting illegally with the help of unlimited funds of anti-Semitic organizations, the European Union, Oxfam and even Saudi Arabia; and dedicated Jews who are trying to safeguard those lands.
There were even confrontations at the start of the planting with Arabs who threatened to uproot the new saplings.
"The Jewish residents of the Land of Israel have to safeguard their own land," Nadia Matar, co-director with Yehudit Katsover (left) of Women in Green said. "Thank G-d, with the help of Am Yisrael, who gave donations, and farmers from the Galil, as well as volunteers, we have been planting on these Jewish lands to try to stop Arab encroachment," she said.
On Tu B'Shevat, they returned again with hundreds of people to redeem a few more dunams of land. They planted olive trees, pomegranate trees, fig trees, vines. As she faced Alon Shvut, with Elazar over her left shoulder, Efrat over her right, Nadia declared the reason for the planting, "The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel. No one will take it away from us. Everyone here saw the incredible enthusiasm and the love of the land. Am Yisrael chai. Am Yisrael loves this land. And Am Yisrael will keep this land forever for future generations."
Photos above by Sharon Katz.
Additional photos at link by Gemma Blech: http://picasaweb.google.com/gemmablech/TuBShvatOnNETZER2011#
Friday, January 21, 2011
As the trees drank their first sips of water in the new garden, everyone smiled, almost in unison. We all felt more connected than ever to our Land and our past on this Land. My husband said, "May these trees and these towns grow and flourish." Amen.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The Tu B'Shevat Hagadda isn't like the Passover Hagadda, which has an exact wording that has been handed down from generation to generation. It's made from a combination of sections from the Bible that talk about the seven species of the Land of Israel - "A land of wheat, and barley, grape; fig trees and pomegranates; a land of oil-olives and date-honey." (Deuteronomy 8:8) - as well as stories from the Mishna, Gemara and rabbis throughout the ages.
We learn about each of the distinct species of the Land, and then we pass around the representative food. For wheat, we've got pizza or lasagna. Barley is always barley soup - yum! The others are the fruits themselves, plus we've got lots of nuts and dried fruits too.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Last month security forces surrounded the Carlebach home at 4 AM one freezing morning, evicting the couple and their newborn baby. Maayan had delivered by Caesarian only three weeks before, and was recovering from her surgery.
All the couple's belongings were tossed out into the street, and their home was smashed, Tehilla, a Tekoa Daled resident said. "The Carlebachs were simply outside in the freezing cold. The forces threw everything outside into the mud. The Carlebachs couldn't find anything, not their diapers or pacifiers or anything. Everyone from Tekoa Daled stood together watching. We didn't do anything, no violence, but they wouldn't let us help our friends either."
Adam Tzachi, spokesman for the Gush Etzion Regional Council, also said the demolition was a "total surprise." He said, "The Minhal Ezrachi (Civil Administration) did not notify the Moetza beforehand, so there was no way to prevent it."The media reported that the Carlebachs had received several Demolition Orders. In fact, the Civil Administration showed the Carlebachs photos of the orders, but Maayan said that she had never seen one, and that the destruction of her home came as a shock.
He explained that the Minhal Ezrachi said it destroyed the home because "it was a stone house, built during the freeze."
In the name of the Moetza, Adam said, "We're very sorry about the destruction of a Jewish home in Eretz Yisrael…The Gush Etzion Regional Council encourages Jewish building within its boundaries and all parts of Eretz Yisrael. However, in certain areas, you have to build with appropriate caution."
Tekoa Daled is a young neighborhood in the ever-growing community of Tekoa. On Daled, 20 families live in an area closer to the desert and to the town of
The residents of Tekoa Daled stood together helpless, as the Carlebach's home was destroyed. Later, neighbors rallied around the couple, offering them support and help to rebuild immediately. Maayan said, "The support is the only thing that has kept us on our feet. It is very heartwarming."
Gush Etzion’s Mayor Shaul Goldstein visited Tekoa Daled later that day and assured the family of the Moetza's help on a "humanitarian basis." A social worker was sent the next day, and the Carlebachs were put up in a guest house in Tekoa Bet.
Right after the destruction, the young couples organized a concert with Arye Zilber and Aaron Razel in order to raise money for the rebuilding.
Maayan said, "Our new home is much simpler than the first one. We still need windows, doors, plumbing and a kitchen," which would total about 20,000
Maayan said that she and husband Yigal merited "to take a community that had some dissention, and when this happenned, they solved problems between neighbors. People who didn't get along for years were united, and now realize what is important in life and what is not."
She added that she asked security forces why they were destroying her home when "over the hill there are 3000 Arab homes that were all built illegally."
Yigal and Maayan are concerned about the future of their new house, as well, but she added, “This is a war for the existence of the Jewish people in their land!”
Maayan is a tour guide and horseback riding instructor. Yigal is a farmer in a plant nursery. In two months, IY"H, Maayan said, the nursery will have plants to sell. He also builds musical instruments.
In order to help the Carlebachs rebuild, please send a check to Yigal and Maayor Carlebach, Tekoa 90908. To transfer money, Bank Leumi, Branch 647.
Photos courtesy of the residents of Tekoa Daled.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Recently I read that building is indeed proceeding in different areas of Judea and Samaria (Yesha), but Efrat's Mayor Oded Revivi explained that towns whose land is being marketed by the Jewish Agency or Jewish National Fund are under construction. However, Efrat's land is marketed by the State of Israel, and the State just is not releasing any lands for construction.
Now, Efratians might not be worried by this. Shortage of housing keeps housing prices high, and folks love when their real estate is worth a bundle. But high housing prices mean that young people can't afford to live in your town. Without young people, there is no future. Folks just grow old in their over-priced houses, and even when they want to sell, there are no buyers, because the prices are too outrageous.
Visits by Knesset Members are great, and it's very gratifying that they are sympathetic to our predicament, but the key to Efrat's building, as well as building most anywhere else in Yesha, is Defense Minister Ehud Barak. And the only way he'll sign anything for Efrat is if the Prime Minister orders him to do it.
The trouble is that the government doesn't want to put out public tenders in Efrat, because it doesn't want the American government
Efrat is the capital of Gush Etzion. It's a city of kindness (chesed) and a place where people work together for the common good. Efrat's made a record of an extraordinary amount of educators and a tremendous amount of doctors and nurses within its population. Efrat's residents have often taken the lead in times of national trial - helping Gush Katif expellees in their hotels, welcoming residents of the North into their homes during the Lebanon War, etc. Efrat deserves to build, so that it can absorb more families that love Israel and work for its benefit.
Efratians, you must act now. Respectfully demand the start of construction in Efrat. Call or fax or email today. Even if you don't live in Efrat, I'm inviting you to help us.
Start easy with a few of your Likud representatives.
Benny Begin - 02-6408022, email@example.com
Tzippy Hotovely - 02-6408328, Fax: 02-6753719, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ze'ev Elkin - 02-6408145, Fax: 02-6496438, Zelkin@knesset.gov.il
Ruby Rivlin - 02-6753444, Fax: 02-6496193, email@example.com
And of course, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - 02-6753227, Fax: 02-6496659, firstname.lastname@example.org
Write to your Knesset representatives.
Keep those phones ringing!! We need to build now!
Monday, January 10, 2011
Demolition had begun on the Shepherd Hotel to make way for a Jewish apartment building. If you read a previous blog of mine: http://voices-magazine.blogspot.com/2010/03/divine-retribution-of-g-ds-sense-of.html, then you know that the Shepherd Hotel was once the residence of one of the biggest anti-Semites and incitors to violence that Israel ever knew - Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem. He was kindred spirits with Adolph Hitler, yimach shmo.
I had visited the Shepherd Hotel last March and heard of the plans for the new building. Everything about that specific building is proof that eventually G-d's justice is served.
Husseini was not only an anti-Semite. He stirred up the Arab masses to attack Jews throughout Israel and create pogroms in Jewish neighborhoods. Like Hitler and Haman before him, he wanted the destruction of the Jewish people And now the site of his home will be filled willed with wonderful Jewish children, running, playing, living life in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people.
Another point about that house is that it is right next to the British Consulate building. The British Mandate did everything it could to prevent Jews from buying land in Israel, from building in Israel and from even entering Israel. And now a Jewish building is going up right next door. Yippee.
Besides all else, this was the site of the murder of the Hadassah doctors and nurses on their way up to Hadassah Hospital during the Mandate Days, during the time when the British were pledged to look after the welfare of all those in their Mandate. Well, the convoy climbed the hill to Hadasah Hospital, and right outside the British Consulate, the Arabs attacked and murdered 79 Jews, or was it 78 Jews and one Christian.
The memorial stands there today outside the Consulate and across from the Shepherd Hotel. Those 79 souls will be avenged by the building of a Jewish community right across from the site of their horrible deaths. Am Yisrael Chai. The nation of Israel shall live, despite the Arab enemy that would bomb, stab, kassam them. The nation of Israel shall live, despite the British or any of the European nations would have not and would not lift a finger to prevent the destruction.
I laughed this morning when I read the Jerusalem Post:
Consuls General in capital call to be present at demolitions, court proceedings, intervene in arrests; "Attempts to emphasize Jewish identity of city threatens to radicalize the conflict," 'Independent' reports.
Well, the Jewish identity of Jerusalem threatens to radicalize the conflict with the Arabs! When buses were blowing up all over Jerusalem in 2001, was it because of the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel or that of any illegal Arab building in Jerusalem? Um, no.
When a suicide bomber blew up Sbarro's Restaurant and killed 15 year old Malkie Roth, the sweet Schijveschuurder family, 18 year old Tehilla Maoz, pregnant Shoshanna Greenbaum and others, was it because of demolitions of illegal Arab homes in Eastern Jerusalem? Um, no.
When an Arab terrorist blew up Cafe Hillel and took with it Naava Applebaum, a bride on the eve of her wedding, and her father Dr. David Applebaum, the head of the emergency room at Shaarei Tzedek hospital, was it because of the demolitions of illegal Arab buildings? Um, no.
So what are these blind Consuls General talking about?
The European Union is pushing an Arab agenda that would end, chas v'shalom, in the destruction of the Jewish State as we know it today. They're just happy that their hands are clean, and someone else is doing the dirty work.
B"H for building Jewish homes in Jerusalem and everywhere else in the State of Israel. B"H for the population growth of the Jewish people, especially in Judea and Samaria, where Jewish building has been frozen all year.
B"H for a country that grows and prospers. May Am Yisrael grow in number, in buildings and in faith in Hashem Above, because He is the One who rules the earth, not the EU or the PA or the USA.
Friday, January 7, 2011
All photos by Rebecca Kowalsky. Images through Time!! http://www.imagesthroughtime.com/