Friday, November 28, 2008


Little Moshe Holtzberg will be two years old tomorrow. He'll celebrate his birthday with his grandparents, in Mumbai. His parents, Gabi and Rivka (z"l) are gone. Hundreds of others are dead or wounded.

There is real, true and absolute evil in this world. It must be stopped. Now. What will it take before the civilized world realizes this? Will it be soon enough?

Our heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to the Scherr family, the Holtzberg family, the entire Chabad community and so many others who are grieving tonight.

Baruch Dayan Emet.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving thanks and stuff

You want to watch this? I don't want to watch it. (But I did.)

Overwhelming and inexcusable ignorance on display. Here is a rebuttal, of sorts.

Meanwhile, there are some folks in Mumbai who are in genuine crisis and could use all of our prayers.

It's been a tough year. It could still get tougher. And yet..., and yet we still live in the greatest country on earth at a time when new insights, new discoveries and new inventions are broadening our horizons and our opportunities on a daily basis. As a whole, we live better and have more freedom and, yes, more resources if we would only tap them, than anyone anywhere anywhen. So in spite of all the tsuris, we have a great deal to give thanks for, this year and every year.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Market melt-up

Vastly preferable to the melt-downs of the past few days and obviously attributable to Obama's selection of Geithner. Well, that appears to be one good choice.

So what else is up? Certainly not Sholom Rubashkin, and the fallout from the Agriprocessors debacle is spreading. Hardly helpful in light of the other recent blows to the economy.

Disaster relief efforts have been launched to help the Agriprocessors employees who are still living in Postville, Iowa without paychecks. The direst concern was that electricity might be cut off in local housing just as winter hits. The companies that own much of the real estate in town have not paid utility bills recently, but some fast thinking by Jeff Abbas, who runs the local radio station, got people registered so that their electricity would not be cut off. There also have been a number of separate food-relief efforts. Morris Allen, a Minnesota rabbi who has been a leading critic of Agriprocessors, led a drive to bring kosher food to the many Jewish families associated with the company. Abbas said that through the food drives he has run, “we’re going through 800 to 900 pounds of food a day.”
(Yes, his name is Abbas.)

Ok, breaking news! UN says Gaza on brink of humanitarian disaster!! Meryl has some thoughts (wait ... before you click, guess how long Gaza has been teetering at the edge of this very same precipice. It's gotta be a world record.)

And in other news, southeastern Pennsylvania has snow. Not a lot, but definitely snow.

So. Once more, into the weekend. Hope it's a good one.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


This is what palestinian arabs who try to help reduce terrorist attacks against Israel can expect.

Military Court in Bethlehem Sentences a Palestinian to Death; PCHR Calls upon Palestinian President Not to Approve the Sentence, and for Abolition of Death Penalty in Palestinian Law

On Wednesday, 12 November 2008, the Military Court in Bethlehem sentenced Ayman Ahmed 'Awwad Daghamgha, 24, a member of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, from al-'Arroub refugee camp north of Hebron, to death by firing squad. The trial was administered by a panel of 3 judges (Chief Justice Fares Douda; Judge Fadi Hijazi; and Judges Ahmed Jaddou'). It was held in the headquarters of the Military Court in Bethlehem. Representatives of the prosecution, Major Ibrahim Abu Saleh and First Lieutenant Akram 'Arar, and the defendant's lawyer, Khalil al-Heeh, were present in the trial.

The court convicted Daghamgha of treason in violation of article 131/A of the Palestinian Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, and sentenced him in consensus to death, a sentence that needs the Palestinian President's approval and which can be appealed against. The bill of indictment presented against the defendant states that he started to collaborate with the Israeli intelligence service when he was working in a gas station in "Kfar Etzion" settlement, south of Bethlehem, in 1999. Since then, he had monitored stone throwers and students and provided information to the Israeli intelligence in exchange of little money. Later, he joined the Palestinian Naval Police in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) before he moved to the General Intelligence Service. He started to monitor Palestinian resistance cells and to provide information on them to the Israeli intelligence. Such information allowed the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to extra-judicially execute Jad 'Atallah Salem and Ahmed Is'haq Hamamda, members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (an armed wing of Fatah movement) on 8 March 2008. He also cooperated with IOF in arresting a number of Palestinians.

I'd point out that this "Military Court" is convened in Bethelem under the PA, not in Gaza under Hamas. And implementation of the sentence (under the law, anyway) requires the approval of moderate man of peace President Mahmoud Abbas.

So what will happen? Stay tuned.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Under the bus

Ok, this is all kind of creepy.

US President-elect Barack Obama's White House chief of staff apologized to the Arab-American community on Thursday for remarks his Israeli-born father made to Ma'ariv.

Last week, Benjamin Emanuel talked about his son Rahm Emanuel's new job and told the Israeli daily that "obviously he'll influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to be mopping floors at the White House."

That prompted an outcry from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which called on Rahm Emanuel, a former Israeli citizen, to condemn the "unacceptable smear."

On Thursday, Rahm Emanuel called the group's president, Mary Rose Oakar, to apologize on behalf of his family.

"These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family," the group quoted him as saying.

Oakar said the apology was accepted.

I think Dr. Emanuel's comment was taken the wrong way, but I can see how it could be interpreted badly. It would have been nice to see his son stick up for him and explain what he really meant rather than tossing him under the bus, but that wasn't how things were done during the Obama campaign and it looks like we can expect more of the same in the Obama administration. Too bad.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A good election result

It looks like Jerusalem, despite a few shenanigans, made a good choice.

Secular businessman Nir Barkat won the Jerusalem municipal election and will succeed Uri Lupolianski as mayor of the capital.

The result was officially declared Wednesday morning when votes had been counted at all 707 polling stations, with Barkat garnering just over 52 percent of the vote, MK Meir Porush of the United Torah Judaism Party just over 43%, Israeli-Russian billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak 3.5% and Dan Birron of the Green Leaf Party wining 0.5%.

However, despite his win, Barkat's party, Jerusalem Shall Succeed, did not win a majority in the city council, but rather came in second behind United Torah Judaism. Wake up Jerusalem, a new party made up of young, mostly secular Jerusalemites, won two mandates, while Gaydamak's Social Justice party did not win any seats.

Barkat made a victory speech to a crowd of celebrating supporters at a Bayit v'Gan hotel, calling the win "a victory for Jerusalem, Israel and the Jewish people... for the Left and the Right, the secular and the religious."

The East Jerusalem Arabs, as usual, mostly boycotted the election. Too bad for them. They don't seem to have a problem accepting all of the benefits that their Israeli ID cards provide, and they certainly don't want to lose those benefits by being turned over to gentle mercies of the Palestinian Authority. But participating in the choice of their next municipal government? That just might be seen as acknowledging Israeli Jewish sovereignty over our eternal capital. No can do.

Like I said, too bad for them. And warm congratulations to mayor-elect Barkat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thanks to all our veterans.

Once a year, we set aside a special day for this, but hopefully this day serves to remind us to thank them all year 'round. Because that's when they serve. Every day, every hour, every minute, they've had our backs, and the backs of freedom loving people all over the world. Those who are veterans and those who will be veterans when their service is over. Although their service is never really over. Those who have served usually continue to serve, in one way or another.

Without them, we wouldn't be here.

So thank you, one and all, from the bottom of our hearts.

Happy Veterans' Day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Food fight

Although this is old news already, it deserves a mention here as part of the ongoing theater of the absurd that we seem to be living now. Can it get any worse? Of course it can.

After decades of war, invasion and occupation, Lebanon and Israel have plenty of tension simmering between them; but the latest source of strife is literally cooking.

From the deep-fried chick peas that make falafel to the parsley and burghul wheat of tabbouleh, the salad that's almost a national obsession - green-fingered enthusiasts once held the world record for making a dish weighing one and a half tonnes - Lebanon's foodies are pushing back against what they see as Israel's appropriation of their cuisine.

"At ethnic food exhibitions our producers go to the Israeli stand and find most of the specialities they are marketing as Israeli foods are Lebanese," said Fadi Abboud, president of the Lebanese Industrialists' Association (LIA). "Our culture goes back a few thousand years. It's time to set the record straight."

Time to set the record straight? Well, ok, but be careful what you wish for. First, the "justification" being bandied about for this move is, well, just plain ridiculous.

"Foods like falafel are not Lebanese but they're certainly not Israeli either. How can they be when Israel is only 60 years old?" asked Rami Zurayk, professor of agriculture and ecosystems at the American University of Beirut, and author of a book on "slow food" in Lebanon.

"But Lebanon's borders are only 60 years old as well. There is an instinctive response in the region against what is seen as Israel's theft of land and appropriation of culture, but to register falafel as Lebanese is almost as absurd and chauvinistic as Israel trying to register it as Israeli."

But the thing is that Israel has never tried to "register" any of these foods as Israeli, as far as I know. What the LIA is upset about is that Israel appears to be doing a better job of marketing them overseas than Lebanon is. Whose fault is that? (Sorry. Silly question.)

According to Ynet (via Wikipedia), the origins of falafel are murky but may date back to the Egyptian Copts, India or even ancient Egypt.

Likewise, hummus, although that dish may (or may not) have originated in or around eighteenth century Damascus (i.e., back when it was a part of the Ottoman Empire known as "Greater Syria"). The same would appear to be more or less true of tabbouleh.

According to this Beirut based website, the palestinian arabs also claim ownership of falafel although, again, the argument is anachronistic.

But Lebanon may be opening up a can of worms by claiming falafel, tabbouleh and hummus as Lebanese because the Israelis are not the only ones in the game.

Siham Baghdadi Zurub, a Palestinian chef in Ramallah and author of The Palestinian Cuisine, staked her own claim in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

Zurub argues that the Palestinians were in fact the first to make hummus from chickpeas given that they were plentiful in ancient Palestine, unlike in Egypt or Syria where the fava bean was more common.

Sounds reasonable ... except that there were no "Palestinians" (i.e., arabs) in ancient Palestine. On the following point, however, we're in complete agreement.

But, said Zurub, "No one has the right to call hummus and falafel as his national dish. Putting copyright on certain dishes is a selfish trend that reflects insecurity and a lack of common sense."
Thank you. It's also an effort that's unlikely to get very far beyond an official nod by the Lebanese government. And, no, the "Greek precedent" isn't going to help them much. Greece has been around for a little longer than Lebanon and has a pretty airtight claim to feta cheese. And, nevertheless, the enforcement thing just doesn't seem to be happening, even there.

By the way, I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend this blog, which I keep forgetting to add to the blog roll over there. Hummus is one of my very favorite foods, even though it's (still) really hard to find much worthy of the name around these parts and I still haven't figured out a way to make it well. Anyway, here's heaven.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Things fall apart

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The Second Coming
William Butler Yeats

Rapidly becoming one of the most over-quoted poems ever, it pretty much sums up my feelings today.

Barack Obama has been elected President of the United States (with 78% of the Jewish vote). Al Franken might very well soon be poisoning a seat in the U.S. Senate (though on this one, I still have hope).

Joe Sestak has been returned to the House of Representatives for two more years, due to the utter failure of the Pennsylvania GOP to advance even a modest campaign for his very worthy opponent (who nevertheless garnered an impressive 40% of the vote). And Proposition 8 passed in California.

Nothing makes sense.

Read the rest.

P.S. Did I forget Murtha? Yeah, I did.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This is it

Well, folks, it's do or die time. If you haven't already, please get out there and vote.

No matter how long the lines, no matter what you think your candidate's chances are. This isn't one to sit out.

And please keep this in mind.