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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How Did a Reform Rabbi Become an Orthodox Jew

by Michael Arsers, Jewish Action Magazine, Summer 1999
My journey from Reform to Orthodox Judaism has taken many unusual turns. 

Perhaps the most unusual is that, despite living in Jerusalem and Brooklyn, it was not until I arrived in Peoria, Illinois, that I became a baal teshuvah [newly Orthodox].

How did a Reform rabbi become an Orthodox Jew? I need to begin by explaining how I became a Reform rabbi.  My upbringing was totally in the Reform movement, but it was not what I would now to be consider typical of Reform Judaism.  My family was active in a unique Reform congregation.

It was a congregation where most of the members were deeply involved and where Jewish education was taken seriously. I went to Hebrew School three days a week and attended Friday evening services regularly. I went to [summer] camps run by the Reform movement and when I went to Israel for the first time, my Hebrew was quite good and I felt myself to be a fairly knowledgeable Jew.

I remember the first time I went to an Orthodox synagogue in Israel. I decided very quickly that it was not for me. I spent an entire year in Jerusalem, never once questioning who I was or making any attempt (except for my one and only trip to a synagogue) to explore the possibility of Jewish life in Israel. I had many Israeli friends and basically lived as a secular Israeli. The same thing is true of my second year in Israel as a first-year rabbinic student at HUC-JIR. Again, I spent a whole year in Jerusalem, not once thinking that there was any reason to look at any other kind of Judaism.

The truth is that I was firmly rooted in Reform and, based on my experience, felt that it was serious, it not more serious, than Orthodoxy. I believed that Orthodoxy was out of touch with the modern world and represented an attempt to freeze Jewish life in a moment of history, while Reform Jews were actively engaged in making choices that integrated Judaism with modern life.

My wife and I moved to Brooklyn and lived on the border of Flatbush and Boro Park for two years, while I attended HUC-JIR in New York. To make a long story shorter, let’s say that it was pretty much the same as my two years in Jerusalem.

Despite the fact that I did study a little Talmud with our neighbor's son (who was a yeshivah student) to prepare for class, I never found myself interested in any exploration of the Orthodox community in which we were living. I spent one week laying tefillin in an Orthodox synagogue (as a class assignment) and quickly gave it up. We went only to the Reform temple on Friday nights.

So what changed things for me? After three more years in (Reform) rabbinical school in Cincinnati and four years in the graduate program, I was still a strong Reform Jew. After the birth of our second child, I decided to leave the Ph.D. program at HUC-JIR and took a position as a rabbi in a Reform congregation in Peoria, Illinois.

Before I begin to recount the factors that caused me to look at things so differently, let me first say that the Jews in Peoria are wonderful people. They have been extremely nice to me and they are trying hard to keep Jewish life going in a small mid-western city, Also, I do not believe that the faults that I found with Reform Judaism are in any way unique to Peoria. What I observed there has been confirmed by surveys and by my conversations with colleagues in larger communities.

Almost immediately, I discovered that only a tiny pro-portion of our (Reform) congregation had any kind of serious involvement with Judaism. Very few members even thought of themselves as religious Jews. Clearly they were looking for something, as they had joined -- but it was a minimalist Jewish identity that had mainly to do with having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

I discovered that most people knew almost nothing about Judaism. Except for Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah and the first night of Passover, most holidays were observed only by a small fraction of the congregation. We had to employ all kinds of gimmicks to get people to come. Usually it meant giving their kids a part in the service.

And then there were the demographic issues. I became very disheartened when I saw the large numbers of inter-married couples and the high percentage of children who thought they were Jewish because of "patrilineal descent".

Many of the congregants were only accepted as Jews by the Reform movement, but were not part of the Jewish People.

Despite my Reform upbringing, I was passionately committed to the unique importance of the Jewish People and the State of Israel. When I realized how many of our congregants would not be accepted as Jews in Israel due to traditional Jewish laws, I was devastated. I started arguing with my colleagues that Reform was on a path to complete separation from the rest of the Jewish People and besides, with so few of them seriously committed to religious life, what kind of Jewish future would this be?

After two years in Peoria, I saw the problem, but I didn't know what the solution could be. I can remember sitting in a restaurant with one of my colleagues, eating a treif [non-kosher] meal and vehemently warning him that Reform Judaism had no future in Klal Yisroel [the Jewish People as a whole] and that most Reform Jews would fade out of existence in the next few generations.

The power of Torah study is truly remarkable. I continued to be interested in [Torah] learning and someone lent me some study tapes for Masechet Shabbat in the Mishnah.

I sat down to start learning the Mishnayot. What I discovered had a tremendous impact on me. The issues of concern in the Mishnah seemed to be totally removed from anything I knew, or anything I had heard of.

Here I was a [Reform] rabbi, and I did not know that it was forbidden to carry on Shabbat, which is what the Mishnah was primarily discussing.

For the first time, I began to question whether Reform was indeed a continuation of historical Judaism. As I read and studied more, I came to see that Reform was a dramatic break with the past, not the next step in its historical evolution as I had believed.

But I still didn't know what the central difficult was until I read an article by Yeshayahu Leibowitz in which he argues that halachah [Torah Law] is not just an aspect of Judaism, but THE defining aspect.

Many of my colleagues had called Reform "non-halachic Judaism:" I now knew that term to be an oxymoron. But what was I to do?  Most people who become observant can still make a living -- but its not so easy when you're a Reform rabbi! We were keeping strictly kosher and I was Shomer Shabbat [Sabbath observant] as I could be. For two years I still continued to serve the Reform congregation. We sort of lived as Marranos: secretly I had become Orthodox, but very few people knew.

I wanted to find a job where I could live openly as an Orthodox Jew, but I couldn't find anything suitable. I had started davening [praying] at the traditional congregation in Peoria and when they heard that I wanted to leave my Reform congregation, they asked me to become their rabbi. And that is what I have been doing for the past three years. My new congregation has been extremely warm and welcoming. They even had to overlook their by-laws to hire a rabbi with Reform semichah [rabbinical ordination].

Ever since I was a child, I have yearned to be a religious Jew and take part in building the Jewish future. With the help of the Chicago Torah Network, I have learned that the Orthodox community is not stuck in the past, but is vibrant and dynamic; and it's the only hope for the Jewish future. As I write this article, my wife and I are making the decision to move to Chicago so that I can learn [Torah] more intensely, and hope to be able to get Orthodox semichah [rabbinical ordination].

I haven't written here about the challenges to our family life which resulted from my transformation, but with G-d's help, things have worked out. My son is a freshman at the Skokie yeshivah and my two daughters are also making the adjustment. My wife is rediscovering much of what she lost from her past as the daughter of traditional Tunisian Jews who grew up in Israel. I believe that as Orthodox Jews our lives are richer, more committed to G-d, and more securely rooted in the Jewish past and in the Jewish future.

Michael Arsers is the spiritual leader of Congregation Agudas Achim in Peoria, Illinois, and runs a home remodeling business with his wife, Pnina.

Israel is being buried-alive under an avalanche of media bias and false accusations.

These web sites can help refute those biases and false accusations:
















Sunday, July 24, 2016

Visited My Parents' Graves

While at leaving my brother's funeral on Friday I made a point to visit my parents' graves. As in Jewish tradition I placed a stone on each.

As you can see, my father's half still needs to be filled in. He passed away just three months before my brother.

Today Gd willing I will fly back to Shiloh to complete sitting shiva for my brother at home.

Getting up Thursday morning.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bucket List, In The Movies

my brother, the loving uncle, 1973
with Sharon Katz
During the time I knew that my brother was dying, I became more aware of my own mortality, a feeling many have in similar situations. So when an email arrived from my dear, inspiring and amazing friend Sharon Katz arrived asking me to be an "extra" in a film for Torah Live, I jumped at the opportunity.

I'm completely convinced that my name was on the list by mistake, especially because of the logistics of my getting from Shiloh to Efrat on time for morning shooting, but I decided to go for it. When you want something, things can work out, and they did. I had actually been accepted for two days of filming, but had a very strong feeling that my brother's life wouldn't last long enough for the second, and I was right.

on the set, being filmed
To be honest, I have always been interested in performing, though dancing had been my specialty when I was young. All aspects of the production interested me. Being that all of us actors in the movie are amateurs, there were none of the ego problems or competition one hears about in the real acting world. I wonder if I'll be called again...

And if you think that my bucket list has been completed, you are wrong. I have lots more I want to, Gd willing, do before kicking the bucket.

לעילוי נשמתו
 צבי הירש בן זיסקין

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

In Mourning...

I'll be taking a break from my regular schedule, since my brother passed away yesterday. Others may be posting on the blog. I may or may not or on different topics.

My brother didn't marry, so the mourners are me, my sister, our children, grandchildren and lots of loving cousins and family friends. The funeral will be in New York, and then next week I will return to Shiloh to finish the shiva.

my brother, the loving uncle
My brother lived in Israel for quite a few months in the early 1970's and learned Hebrew in Moshav Argaman, when it had a "kibbutz ulpan" set up.

May he know peace...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bush Republicans- Sore Losers!

In American democracy, like baseball, tennis and American football, there's no such thing as a tie. There's one winner and winner takes all. True democrats, small "d,"  are supposed to accept their losses, and when it comes to a Presidential nomination, support the winner, even if he/she is the candidate least favored. The majority wins. That's what democracy is all about.

At this point in the American Republican political calendar, it doesn't really matter which of the wannabes you supported, a loyal Republican leader, like those in the Bush Clan, have a responsibility to accept that their candidate lost, and Donald Trump won the nomination to be the official Republican Presidential nominee.

Social Delta

I have no doubt that the Bush Machine is supporting, in one way or another..., the Republican minority that is undermining/sabotaging Trump's democratically chosen candidacy.
Convention drama: Trump campaign stops rules rebellion
Cleveland (CNN)Open discord and revolt broke out on the floor of the Republican National Convention Monday as GOP officials crushed an attempt to change party rules, a maneuver that could have embarrassed presumptive nominee Donald Trump.
In a highly unusual show of disunity and anger on the floor of a modern party convention, a group of states tried to force a state-by-state roll call vote on the rules of the convention. The rebellion apparently caught Trump's campaign team by surprise, and his lieutenants were seen frantically whipping votes on the floor to squelch the effort amid scenes of deepening disarray.
Without powerful backing, the anti-Trump Republicans would have accepted their loss and either played ball fairly for Trump, or quietly wiped their tears and started working on 2020. This does not look good for Republican democracy, not at all.

It's clear that these sore losers would rather hand the Presidency over to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats than support Trump. Remember that no Republican got close to Trump in the primaries. It's a sorry state for the Republicans to be so un-American, so antidemocratic, so disloyal to their own party, so selfish and so disregarding the wishes of the voters.

"Lone Soldiers"... Great Idealists

It's so sad to hear that any of our IDF soldiers, or anyone, had been killed, whether by terrorist, accident or the inexplicable. And when the dead was one of those called "Lone Soldiers" it's even worse.

Shlomo Rindenow Courtesy of the family
Watch: Remembering Shlomo Rindenow

People like Shlomo Rindenow, Z"L, weren't drafted in the army. They join and contribute. And in some cases they are injured or die.

Sad, very sad, but not the first and I doubt the last...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Miracle in Jerusalem- Trust The "Gut Instinct"

Arutz 7
The first I heard of today's Jerusalem miracle was on the family whatsapp*" which mentioned that my husband was stuck on his way to work because a terrorist had been caught.

Apparently, a quick-thinking security worker with great gut instincts was alerted/suspicious about someone, and his gut was right. It ended up being an Arab terrorist equipped with bombs and a plan to blow up the train.

Thank Gd for giving the security guy not only the knowledge but the guts to act on his suspicions. Praise the Lord!

*Nowadays many families have whatsapp groups for easy and real-time communication and picture sharing.

Guest Post: Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton

* * * GUEST POST * * *

After 8 years of the Obama-abomination, Israel cannot afford another Israel-bashing American President. 

A vote for Hillary is a vote for wiping all-of-Israel off-the-map forever [G_d forbid], followed by another Holocaust [G_d forbid], followed by many thousands of Jewish refugees unable to find a country to take them in [G_d forbid].

[1] The Democratic Party is the political home of Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans and Americans who want to wipe all-of-Israel off-the-map; the Republican Party is not.

[2] The Democratic Party favors the “Two State Solution” which means creating another terrorist state, dedicated to wiping all-of-Israel off-the-map and killing all Jews; the Republican Party does not.

[3] Donald Trump’s potential anti-Semitism is limited by the fact that he has Jewish grandchildren; Hillary’s is not.

[4] Hillary Clinton’s closest Jewish advisors are sick, super-Leftist, self-hating Jews; Donald Trump’s closest Jewish advisors are not.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Turkey Falling Apart, "Jinxed" by Israel Agreement?

Photo Credit: Channel 2 News
Just a few weeks ago Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu considered himself very lucky to come to an agreement with Turkey.
Netanyahu said that with both the world and the region going through enormous changes, it is important to create islands of stability*, and this accord does that with Turkey. He said that his strategy is to create these points of stability in ties with some Arab states in the region, with Greece and Cyprus, and with Russia. Jerusalem Post
I'd consider that a major miscalculation on the part of Bibi, since less than a month later Turkey is suffering from major instability.
Turkish forces thwart coup against Erdogan after crowds rally
Attempted coup d'etat in Turkey, hundreds dead

It's just another lesson, since the beginning of the Jewish People, that we can't shouldn't rely on foreign leaders/countries for help. When we do the right thing, then Gd will help us! That is how this week's Parshat Shavua, Torah Portion of the week ends. Balak, Bamidbar 25
6Then an Israelite man came and brought the Midianite woman to his brethren, before the eyes of Moses and before the eyes of the entire congregation of the children of Israel, while they were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.ווְהִנֵּה אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּא וַיַּקְרֵב אֶל אֶחָיו אֶת הַמִּדְיָנִית לְעֵינֵי משֶׁה וּלְעֵינֵי כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהֵמָּה בֹכִים פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד:
7Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen saw this, arose from the congregation, and took a spear in his hand.זוַיַּרְא פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן וַיָּקָם מִתּוֹךְ הָעֵדָה וַיִּקַּח רֹמַח בְּיָדוֹ:
8He went after the Israelite man into the chamber and drove [it through] both of them; the Israelite man, and the woman through her stomach, and the plague ceased from the children of Israel.חוַיָּבֹא אַחַר אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל הַקֻּבָּה וַיִּדְקֹר אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶם אֵת אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת הָאִשָּׁה אֶל קֳבָתָהּ וַתֵּעָצַר הַמַּגֵּפָה מֵעַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:
9Those that died in the plague numbered twenty four thousand.טוַיִּהְיוּ הַמֵּתִים בַּמַּגֵּפָה אַרְבָּעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים אָלֶף:
Gd ended the plague after Pinchas (Phinehas) executed the most blatant of the sinners.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Deja Vu, Again...

When an Arab terrorist plowed into me and dozens of others at a Jerusalem Bus Stop just over twenty years ago, it was probably a rather innovative genre of terror attacks. The first reaction of the police was:
"It must have been an accident."
 Now, the technique is well used, at least here in Israel. So we rarely hear, and certainly don't take seriously, the allegation that the killings and injuring were accidental.
The driver, who sources identified to Fox News as a 31-year-old Tunisian national, left a mile-long swath of carnage along the seaside walkway before police killed him in a shootout. French authorities did not hesitate to pronounce the attack, which began at 10:40 p.m. local time, an act of terrorism.
The vehicle driven by the terrorist that went over my foot was a small car, but the terrorist in Nice rented an enormous truck to attack innocent celebrants.

Fox News

When I was run over the terrorist and his car didn't go very far, but one woman was killed and over twenty injured. In Nice, the terrorist drove, zigzagging to do more damage, about two kilometers, over a mile. And the surviving injured are much more seriously injured than many of us were. A large truck does a lot more damage than a small car.

A refuah shleimah, complete recovery to the victims, Gd willing.

TERROR in France Yet Again

I had completely different blogging plans for this morning, but the news that greeted me changed it all.

Yes, there was yet another TERROR ATTACK in France. I'm capitalizing it, because the news agencies and mainstream newspapers are inexplicably putting quotation marks around the word "terror," "terrorist."
Truck 'terrorist' kills 80 in Nice Bastille Day crowd
A "terrorist" gunman killed 80 people and wounded scores when he drove a heavy truck at high speed into a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks in the French Riviera city of Nice late on Thursday, officials said. (Reuters)
This TERRORIST ramming dwarfs all those we've suffered.

French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck July 15, 2016 that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France, July 14.. (photo credit:REUTERS) Jerusalem Post
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 80 people died and 18 were in a critical condition, with many more also wounded. 
Counter-terrorist investigators were seeking to identify the driver, who a local government official said opened fire before police shot him dead. The official said weapons and grenades were found inside the 25-tonne, unmarked articulated truck.
Officials said hundreds were hurt as the driver wove along the seafront, knocking them down "like skittles."
The attack, which came eight months and a day after Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers struck the French capital on a festive Friday evening, seemed so far to be the work of a lone assailant. Newspaper Nice-Matin quoted unidentified sources as saying the driver was a 31-year-old local of Tunisian origin. (JPost)
No doubt that the numbers may climb, since some of the severely injured may not survive, and some who survive will be affected, even seriously handicapped the rest of their lives.

The world is changing for sure; it is getting much more dangerous. Fact is that a very high percentage of terrorists are Muslim and many of them are Arab, too. I'm talking just plain numbers. And western, once relatively safe, countries all over Europe and the United States, too, are welcoming lots of Arab Muslims from countries like Syria. That is in addition to the illegals sneaking in.

It's harder for an ordinary Jewish Israeli twenty-something to get a tourist visa to visit the United States than it is for a Syrian Muslim to be accepted as a future USA citizen.
US will welcome target of 10,000 Syria refugees, says Kerry
And we've all read those articles about European countries, especially in Germany where Muslim refugees have taken over, changing the demography, norms a safety of what once were safe, sleepy villages.

To be perfectly honest, I feel safest here in Israel, and when I have to travel to the states I feel more secure about paying more for a direct flight, rather than changing planes in a European airport.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Squatters* are Lawbreakers! Not According to UN and Int"l Media

Various NGOs from the United Nations and European Union have been illegally building homes for Arab, Bedouin etc in parts of Israel. And when the Israeli Government takes perfectly legitimate steps to destroy those illegal buildings, there's a hue and cry as if we've done something illegal.
Israeli demolitions displace dozens of Palestinians
Israeli forces have displaced at least 43 United Nations-registered refugees in a "large-scale demolition" of Bedouin homes and structures in the occupied West Bank, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). (Al Jazeera)
All over the developed world it's considered normal, acceptable and moral for a government to forcefully evict squatters and destroy whatever illegal structures they have made. Every country has building rules and regulations. Not only can't you build wherever you fancy, but even if you own the land, you must get proper permits. Here in Israel, like most countries, one must get permits even to add a simple terrace, not just a room or a wing to a home.
Israeli demolitions leave West Bank Bedouin, U.N. alarmedThe European Union came and built a temporary classroom and other prefabricated structures, an effort to help a community of around 40 families, some of them still living in caves, that subsists without electricity or mains water in a part of the West Bank fully under Israeli control, known as "Area C". (Reuters)
So it's clearly illegal and immoral for these NGOs to be protecting, facilitating and defending lawbreakers!

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squatting Squatting can be related to political movements, such as anarchistautonomist, or socialist.[4]

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Maybe This Year, For the First Time, I Will Vote in U.S. Elections

Even though I reached American voting age forty-six 46 years ago, when one had to be twenty-one 21, I've never voted in U.S. Elections. Maybe if 1970 had been a "presidential year" I would have applied for an Absentee Ballot, but it wasn't, and all I could think of was getting married and then on the boat to Israel. American politics and elections were not on the menu.

A bedrock programme in the UK 
comedy structure, Yes Minister embodied 
the early 1980s attitude to authority and 
politics as a gently hypocritical world 
filled with doubletalk.
And over the decades living here in Israel, no American presidential candidate had me excited and enthusiastic enough to fill out the forms and apply for an Absentee Ballot. My general cynicism and decades of following the news and politics here and there have just strengthened my feelings that all candidates lie or at best once in office have much less control over things than one would think. Again I'd like to recommend the fantastic British comedy "Yes, Minister."

So, davka, why now am I tempted to break my custom?

As in the past, there is no candidate I desperately want to help by giving my vote, but for the very first time there really is a candidate whom I do not want to see with the power of the American Presidency. This is especially after eight years of Barack Hussein Obama who has turned a rare, war only, custom/principle into the norm; Executive Privilege which overrides American democracy. I'd hate to think of what Hillary Clinton would do with so much power. 

So maybe I will vote and I'd vote for Trump. He may not be the best candidate, but he's light years better than Hillary!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Will Brexit and Theresa May make for Better Britain-Israel Relations?

Here in Israel, there are those who say that one of the reasons that some British voted for Brexit was the EU's extreme anti-Israel policies including the fact that it sponsors all sorts of pro-Palestine activities and NGOs which work very blatantly not only against Israel but supporting the Arab terrorists. That is what the pro-Brexit crowd meant by saying that they were interested in economic ties but not in the politics.

The Jerusalem Post has a very optimistic article about Great Britain's new incoming Prime Minister, Theresa May. Here's for hoping that they are right about her, although if their optimism is only based on a speech she gave two years ago when visiting, I'm more a pessimist. As regular readers of this blog know very well, I do not take such speeches very seriously. They are no more true than film scripts.

Theresa May emerges to speak to reporters after being confirmed as the leader of the Conservative Party... (photo credit:REUTERS) Jerusalem Post
Theresa May, a ‘long-standing friend of Israel’

The parliamentary chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel issued a statement saying that “Israel can rest assured that a UK led by Theresa May will be there in its moments of need."
...May, according to former ambassador to London Daniel Taub, “has been a long-standing friend of Israel and the Jewish community.” He said that as home secretary, May was very supportive of “our efforts to deepen British- Israel ties in the area of homeland security, and also very receptive to the concerns of the Jewish community regarding anti-Semitism and violent extremism.” Her ministry was responsible for Britain’s MI5 intelligence service, and as such was both aware and appreciative of the close intelligence and security cooperation between the two countries.
...May’s only visit to Israel was in the summer 2014, when the bodies of the three kidnapped youth from Gush Etzion were discovered. In a speech in September of that year to the Conservative Friends of Israel, she discussed that trip, and that speech provides a glimpse of her outlook on Israel.
“The murder of those boys – and the loss of life among Israelis and Palestinians in the subsequent military operations in Gaza – is a sad reminder that the Arab/Israeli conflict is not just an abstract debate argued over the pages of Western newspapers and television screens,” she said.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ladies, Boycott "Always"

As you would most probably guess, I'm past the age of needing "Always" and similar products. But I must admit that in my day, that was the brand I frequently bought. A few days ago, a friend tipped me off about the fact that "Always" supports UNESCO. Yes, that means that every time you buy a package, you're supporting an international organization that downplays and denies the Jewish connection to our holiest sites. UNESCO also accepted Palestine, sic as a member since 2011.

What a sorry state of affairs when women have to choose their sanitary napkins according to politics!

And even worse... Did you notice the blue P&G logo?


Always is a product of a very large company that makes other iconic products like Pampers, Tampax and Tide! If you have any of these at home or see them in a store, please check to see if they, too, give some of their profits to UNESCO or a similar type of NGO. Please comment with relevant information.

Obama to Israel Aid Will Damage More Than Help

The strings attached to the large aid package the Obama Administration has offered the State of Israel is more like a noose designed to strangle Israel's military industries.

That's it in a nutshell.

PHOTO: US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, USA, on May 20, 2011. (Michael Reynolds/EPA)

And the really bad news is that Prime Minister Binyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is rumored to be ready to sign.
Washington sees Netanyahu accepting aid package
According to various reports, Israel had begun the negotiations with a request to increase aid to $50 billion in 10 years, about 5$ billion annually, from the current annual $3.1 billion aid. This would have constituted a 60% rise (separate from the missile defense program aid). Gradually, Israel decreased its demand to $40 billion in ten years - that is annual aid of $4 billion.
The Obama administration currently proposes slightly less ($3.8 billion annually, according to some estimates), but subject to two conditions: 1. Merging the separate aid for Israel's missile defense program into the general aid package, forfeiting the various additions the congress used to provide for these programs annually. 2. Plus-ups Israel will have to spend all aid funds on procurement from US companies. In the current MoU, Israel was permitted to spend about 25% of the aid on procurement from Israeli companies and several hundreds of millions of dollars on aircraft fuel a significant boost accelerating defense industry growth. (Globes)
Israel is like a drug addict when it comes to American aid, claiming that on one hand the country is independent and sovereign, but on the other hand, it can't manage without.  This new package seems like a sure-fire OD overdose very tempting but powerful enough to close down vital industries in Israel.

IMHO it's time for Israel to quit-- detox cold turkey! 

Not only had the so-called aid been no more than "Buy American Only" shopping coupons, but the American military industry has benefited greatly from the "tweaking,"suggested/requested "improvements" by Israeli experts/engineers.

We in Israel have the knowhow to make top of the line equipment, and if we no longer have to get American permission, frequently denied, to sell our military products with time we will have one of the strongest military industries in the world. That is probably why Obama's people have devised and insisted on the new stricter restrictions.

The time has come to just SAY NO!!


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Timeless: "A Club I Don’t Want to Join"

A friend of mine whose sibling was murdered a few years ago by Arab terrorists told me that when her mother came to comfort Rena Ariel, she was looked upon as a role model as bereaved mother and had the sad job to welcome the grieving Rena into "the club I don't want to join."

Amichai and Rena Ariel grieve at their daughter's funeral. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Over ten years ago, I wrote one of my early "musings" about this club. It may have had been before I was blogging. I did post it previously, here and here. But it's timeless:

Musings #13
May 22, 2003
A Club I Don’t Want to Join

The other night I was at a beautiful, joyous wedding. The bride was one of the younger daughters of people I have known since my teens. When she smiled I went back almost forty years, when I first knew her mother.

I knew quite a few people there, but not from our mutual past. These friends have something in common with the parents of the bride. They are all bereaved parents; one of their children was killed by Arab terrorists.

They are all members of a club I don’t want to join. The parents of the bride are veteran members. She befriends other parents whose children are killed to help them rejoin and regain “normal life.” Everyone could see the joy she, her husband and parents get from her surviving children and grandchildren.

The Arab terrorists murder and maim Jews. They cause great pain to the surviving family and friends, BUT THEY CANNOT DESTROY US. We are surviving, and we will always survive! We survived slavery in Egypt. We survived Haman in Persia. We survived the Greeks. We survived the Crusaders. We survived the Inquisition. We survived the Nazi Holocaust, and we will survived these murderers and all of their supporters.

I have no doubts.

Every generation has its challenges and its heroes.

Batya Medad

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein's Narrow "Bridge," A Book Review

As I read Zev Chafets' fascinating biography of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, I kept on thinking of various titles to call the review I was to write, like "The Fine Line" or "Tightrope," but in the end played with the book's title, The Bridge Builder.

First of all I must say that Zev Chafets did a great job writing this book. My gut feeling all along, and before reading it, was not to like Eckstein. Even though I know a number of people who do a bit of what Eckstein does, and my husband and I have had dealings with Christian zionists for decades, I'm more negative than ambivalent about the dependence Israel and Jewish social/financial/charity funding has on Christian, especially evangelical money. I must admit that decades ago, many times I had hosted groups of Christians in my home and led them on tours of Tel Shiloh and very happily accepted their monetary thanks. But as time went on I became more and more uncomfortable with the close relations that were being established. Was this all one big, rich Trojan horse? Were they really out to buy our souls?

Apparently Eckstein, too, in the beginning felt that your ordinary Jew could not be expected to know how to counter the theology problem. It's one thing for Jews to accept the money, but there could be theological influences when getting too close to enthusiastic Christians. Too many Jews are too ignorant of Judaism to understand the nuances and protect their Jewish religious identity.

Eckstein confided a lot to Chafets, who wrote of Eckstein's difficult relationship with a cold, critical father. Eckstein found more warmth and acceptance in the Christian and especially evangelical leadership, though he keeps on insisting that he has always remained an Orthodox Jew, praying to Gd, keeping Shabbat and Kashrut.

Eckstein's close relations with Christians, also, caused the Kollel, Torah Study Center, which he had been attending to question his allegiance to Judaism, causing him great emotional and spiritual pain. This was before his stupendous financial fundraising success.

And all along, there have been Jewish groups that while being grateful for the money would refuse to allow it to be revealed that Eckstein's Christian donors were the source. When Eckstein made having a proper sign as recognition, some groups refused the money.  But many more accept and request more and more funds.  The numbers, the millions of dollars donated to Jews all over the world (and also Arabs in Israel) by Eckstein's various funds/organizations stagger the imagination.

Money speaks making Eckstein a very powerful man. He is not the only Jew raising money for Jewish, especially Israeli causes from Christians. Eckstein is the best connected with powerful evangelicals and media personalities.

Zev Chafets makes Yechiel Eckstein into a very likeable person and admits that if he was to have a rabbi, then Eckstein would be the one. There's no claim of objectivity from the author. Yechiel Eckstein is a success story. I know of so many people who tried to make a success at fundraising. Some did well, but nobody reached the volume that Eckstein did, even those who also targeted similar Christians and evangelicals. If you want to know more, then read the book.

Friday, July 8, 2016

"Racism:" Two Way Street

A few days ago, I got a lot of flack on facebook for describing the TSA officers who treated me badly:

  • one pushed me instead of speaking clearly
  • the other was verbally abusive, not allowing me eye-contact with my valuables, as she gave me a "pat-down"

Both of the women were black and heavy. If they had been described as blondes, asians or red-heads and petite nobody would have cared. But there were some really nasty comments against me, just because I didn't leave them as vague "stick-figures."

Whenever there's an "incident" in which a white shoots a black, those descriptions are accepted:
Still images from video show Alton Sterling as he is shot dead by police during an incident captured on the mobile phone camera of shop owner Abdullah Muflahi in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Video taken July 5, 2016. Abdullah Muflahi/Handout via
The U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the fatal police shooting of a black man in Louisiana's capital, the state's governor said on Thursday, as two deadly encounters between law enforcement and black men triggered protests in the United States.
The probe comes as community leaders in Baton Rouge urged authorities to conduct a full-scale criminal probe of two white police officers over the slaying of Alton Sterling, 37, on Tuesday. (Reuters)

Of course, and I'm not denying it, the police look awful and most probably made a very bad call. But don't forget that the victim, also, made a mistake, a fatal one. These short of shootings happen quite often when people want to take out their "papers,"and the police mistakenly think they are pulling out a weapon. So the best thing is to just stand with hands raised and tell the authorities where to find identification/license etc.

But calling me a racist for giving a physical description of the TSA officers who treated me badly/incorrectly  is so much like those who insist that those who don't support Obama are racist or those who don't support Hillary are anti-women/sexist. Looking at Obama's or Hillary's experience, character, platform etc and making a decision based on that and not their color, sex, and so on, is racist/sexist. There's no moral superiority in saying:
"It's time for a woman president. We are behind the times," (Newsday)

If that's the main theme, than it's totally sexist.