Thursday, September 29, 2005

Planting Trees in Nitzan (Photos!)

As planned we went down to Nizan today. Basically there are thousands of Gush Katif refugees that still have no place to live – not even temporarily. They are hopping around hotels and staying by family and friends till the refugee camps are completed. And despite media and government lies to the contrary they are far from completed. See for yourself...

Ahh – home sweet home! Basically it’s a shack with a slab of plaster on the walls and a pretty red roof. Yep – those Gush Katif settlers sure got compensated well. Don’t believe the lies!

Thrown out of beach front paradises, and thrown into these – if they were lucky!

So a bus load of us went down to help plant trees. And make this refugee camp a bit more habitable.

Bulldozers and construction vehicles abound as they frantically work to meet the deadline they already missed months ago...

This volunteer gave us a tour of the “neighborhood.”

For us it was a very depressing sight.

We past loads of children – many were riding bikes or playing with each other.

This section was reportedly built months ago according to certain politicians for the 500 families of Neve Dekalim.

As you can see there is still a long way to go until those families could in fact begin to move in.

Just take a look at what these walls are made of... he told us the kids can’t even play soccer nearby because if the ball hits the wall it will dent it or crack it.

The plaster they slap on isn’t even half the width of my finger.

The people are strong like you won’t believe and make the most with what they have which isn’t very much. Most Bungalow Colonies in the Catskills, NY are even nicer. There aren’t any stores, no schools, just one Kupat Cholim (medical clinic), one “children’s center” (actually a tent) and could you believe it – he told us there was only ONE social worker for the thousands of people they are dumping there! Where is CNN now?

"Together... because we have no other country." (My editorial: We have no other country were we could settle with out getting thrown out eventually... oh wait...)

We were greeted with music and fanfare...

And by the local children.

Amazingly – they were all smiles. (I told you these people are so strong!)

“Welcome to Nitzan” he writes.

And of course who could forget the balloons!

We made friends very quickly. These kids were just so wonderful!

...and more balloons.

This little girl directed us...

...and showed us how to plant the trees.

All the kids were really so excited to help us.

And we of course were excited to help them!

They really cheered us up! (You’d think we were there to cheer them up but not so!)

Together we planted over four hundred tree saplings.

I asked him to translate...

These children worked faster than us.

And collected all the flags that were used to mark the spots to plant.

(And yes, notice the dati and chiloni kids get along just fine.)

Azahu Kif! (What fun!)

And indeed, the IDF was there to help too.

After we finished we had some fun playing with the local babies.

This woman explained she was a warehouse worker. Now she is out of work and has no way of making a living.

12/27/05 Update: For links to more postings from this photo series click here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Sanhedrin Moves to Establish Council For Noahides

From Arutz-7:

18:12 Sep 28, '05 / 24 Elul 5765
By Ezra HaLevi

A council of non-Jewish observers of the Seven Laws of Noah has been selected and will be ordained by the reestablished Sanhedrin in Jerusalem this January.

B'nai Noach, literally "Children of Noah," known as Noahides, are non-Jews who take upon themselves the Torah's obligations for non-Jews - consisting of seven laws passed on from Noah following the flood, as documented in Genesis (see below).

Until now, Noahide communities and organization had been scattered around the globe, with a particular concentration centered around the southern United States. The communities themselves are a relatively recent phenomenon bolstered by the fact that the Internet has allowed individuals sharing Noahide beliefs to get in touch with one another.

The court of 71 rabbis, known as the Sanhedrin, which was reestablished last October in Tiberius following the reinstitution of rabbinic semikha, decided, after numerous requests from the Noahide community, to assist the movement in forming a leadership council.

Rabbi Michael Bar-Ron, with the Sanhedrin's blessing, travelled to the United States to meet with representatives of the Noahide movement and select members for the High Council. Bar-Ron, an ordained student, talmid samukh, who currently sits on the Sanhedrin, is also one of the Sanhedrin's spokesmen.

Bar-Ron organized a small conference in California where six of the council's future members were selected and also addressed the annual convention of the Vendyl Jones Research Institute - one of the Noahide organizations represented on the council. At the VJRI convention, Bar-Ron met five more of the Noahide leaders who will be joining the council.

The purpose of the council, which was the brainchild of Rabbi Avraham Toledano, is to assist the B'nei Noach in their struggle to observe the word of G-d. "The goal is to unify, serve and organize all kosher B'nei Noach communities of the world under a single body that can operate under the direct authority and supervision of the Sanhedrin," the decision to establish the body reads. "To form a vessel through which the Torah, from Zion (via the Sanhedrin) can effectively serve non-Jewish communities around the world."

A third goal of the creation of the High Council and the Sanhedrin's efforts in regard to the Noahide community, is to "transform the Noahide movement from a religious phenomenon - a curiosity many have not heard of - into a powerful international movement that can successfully compete with, and with G-d's help bring about the fall of, any religious movement but the pure authentic faith that was given to humanity through Noach, the father of us all," said emissary Bar-Ron.

To that end, one of the primary functions of the council will be the creation and development of effective outreach materials for the world. Although Judaism does not require or encourage non-Jews to become Jewish, the observance of the Seven Laws of Noah is incumbent upon humanity and widespread observance is to be worked toward, even through active proselytization, something that is anathema to Judaism.

The council is also seeking to identify and contact communities around the world who observe the Seven Laws of Noah in order to invite them to learn more about the movement. B'nei Noach in India and Brazil are already in touch with Noahide leaders.

Asked why the Sanhedrin would reach out to B'nei Noach before concentrating on outreach within the Jewish community, Rabbi Bar-Ron answered: "There was no conscious choice to ignore the issue of outreach toward other Jews, but there is a Torah principle that a mitzva, positive precept, that comes to your hand should be fulfilled first and should not be put off. It happens to be that the group that showed the most outward display of support and genuine concern for the success of the Sanhedrin - contacting us from the very outset - were the B'nei Noach. One of the great responsibilities of the Jewish people is to spread the laws of Noach."

Bar-Ron said he had mixed feelings as he departed for the meetings with the B'nei Noach leaders, as he left the day the forced expulsion of Jews from Gaza began. "I was in such a horrible heart-wrenching pain about leaving - I almost felt like a traitor to our people. But I realized then that although the government was detaching itself from the Land of Israel - a partial annulment of our covenant with G-d, similar to the sin of the ten spies - there is another aspect of the covenant that has not been pursued. That aspect is our obligation to be a nation of priests unto the nations. This is the core of the covenant with Abraham and it is something the Jewish people as a nation has not involved itself in since Second Temple times. So as the government disengaged from the covenant, I was participating in the reengagement with an aspect of the covenant that has been dormant."

Bar-Ron was very impressed with the B'nei Noach leaders he met. "Each of them had a different unique talent. One was an extremely talented media coordinator, two were great scholars of Noahide law, one was secretary of a large successful Noahide community and research institute and one was a law enforcement officer for a number of years. Each had the wisdom and experience that will help them lead the movement.

All of the prospective members of the High Council are obligated to appear in Jerusalem this coming January, at which time they will be ordained by the Sanhedrin as members of the High Council. "One of the things I thought would be more difficult was implementing the fact that the Sanhedrin's steering committee unanimously voted that the High Council members must appear personally before the Sanhedrin to be ordained as such," Bar-Ron said. "But the level of commitment of these people is so high that it is not posing a problem at all.

Each member was screened very carefully and accepted not only on the basis of their high reputation, wisdom and experience - there were many dedicated and talented B'nei Noach who we would have loved to have accepted into the council - but for their role as representatives of entire B'nei Noach communities or as experts in a particularly field.

The acting head of the Sanhedrin, Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, has set up a Beit Din for B'nei Noach to serve the needs of B'nei Noach worldwide. At this point, the council will not serve as a adjudicating body.

"It is our sincere hope that in years to come, the knowledge of the halakha, Torah law, of the Seven Laws of Noach will grow to such a degree that there will be true Noahide judges," Bar-Ron said. "One of the goals is to delineate clearly the seven laws and their applications according to the Mishneh Torah of the Rambam."

"Never before in recorded history have B'nei Noach come together to be ordained by the Sanhedrin for the purpose of spreading Noahide observance of laws," Bar-Ron said. "This is the first critical step of bringing about the ultimate flowering of the brotherhood of mankind envisioned by Noach, the father of mankind."

The Seven Laws of Noah are:

Shefichat damim - Do not murder.
Gezel - Do not steal or kidnap.
Avodah zarah - Do not worship false gods/idols.
Gilui arayot - Do not be sexually immoral (engage in incest, sodomy, bestiality, castration and adultery)
Birkat Hashem - Do not utter G-d's name in vain, curse G-d or pursue the occult.
Dinim - Set up righteous and honest courts and apply fair justice in judging offenders and uphold the principles of the last five.
Ever Min HaChai - Do not eat a part of a live animal.

For more information email the Sanhedrin's secretary at:

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Why Israel Needs Baseball

Michael Freund comes through with this absolutely brilliant piece! And as more and more Americans are making Aliyah and influencing Israeli culture who knows maybe one day...

Why Israel needs baseball

It's that time of year again. As autumn nears, temperatures in North America begin to fall even as baseball's pennant races heat up in the season's final stretch.

Growing up in New York, there was no greater diversion from my daily routine than following the hometown heroes as they made a dash for glory.

Who can forget 1986, that miraculous and wonderful season when the New York Mets defied the odds and stormed their way into the playoffs, crushing the insufferable Boston Red Sox and earning the coveted title of World Champions.

I remember going to Shea Stadium for the final game of the World Series and haggling with a scalper in the parking lot until he finally relented and sold me a ticket at half his original asking price. Sitting in the stands I may have been by myself, but I was certainly not alone as I cheered along with the 55,031 other fans when the Mets came from behind to win, 8-5.

With their gritty determination, and stubborn refusal to give up, they taught a generation of New Yorkers the meaning of persistence and resourcefulness.

To the uninitiated, baseball can often seem boring or simplistic, like a watered-down American version of cricket. In actual fact, it is an exquisite game, one replete with elegance and nuance that requires just as much brain as it does brawn. Governed by a clear set of rules, baseball inculcates in its devotees a series of basic and fundamental Jewish values such as discipline, patience and humility – values that are so sorely lacking in modern society.

And it is precisely for that reason Israel needs to embrace this unique and incomparable sport, which has so much to offer the younger generation.

LOCALLY, THE two most popular games are of course basketball and soccer. Baseball easily trumps them both. Defined by innings rather than a clock, baseball is a more leisurely pastime, one that often combines fast-paced action with deliberate and measured steps.

It is not a matter of running up and down a court trying to outmaneuver an opponent. No; baseball is far more subtle than that. It is a duel between the pitcher and the batter, with each trying to outsmart the other. It is about placement of the ball just as much as about speed, about foresight as much as about power.

Unlike other sports baseball places immense value on the individual as well as on the collective. Each player must stand in the batter's box on his own, with the spotlight focused entirely on him. There is no avoiding the issue of personal responsibility, no way to point the finger at someone else and escape accountability for one's actions.

But baseball is equally about teamwork, too, about giving your all for the greater good.

Where else is there a sport that boasts a play known as a "sacrifice," where the individual forgoes his own best interest for that of the team? Taking responsibility for one's actions, giving of oneself for others – these are the types of ideals that need reinforcement in Israeli society, perhaps more today than ever before.

Baseball also teaches one of life's most important lessons: how to deal with losing. Failure is an entirely unavoidable part of the game, with even the best of players managing to get hits just one out of every three times they come to bat. A team that wins 60 percent of its games, while losing the other 40, is actually having one heck of a season and will likely find itself in the playoffs. Baseball, therefore, is about learning to cope with one's limitations, fending off life's blows while continuing to press forward.

IT MIGHT sound silly to speak so philosophically about a game. But we should not underestimate the power of sports as an educational and social tool.

As syndicated columnist George Will once put it, "Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal."

For far too long baseball in Israel has been sidelined, receiving next to nothing in government encouragement or support. It has been left to the Israel Association of Baseball (IAB), a devoted band of enthusiasts, to promote the sport, quietly and painstakingly, among the Israeli public.

Volunteering their time and their love for the game the IAB has managed to introduce baseball to thousands of Israelis young and old despite a lack of proper playing fields or equipment.

Baseball in Israel is now where tennis was in this country some two decades ago: under-funded, under-appreciated and under the radar screen.

But just as tennis eventually took off, with courts rising across the land, the same can hold true for baseball. With just a little more effort, and a modest investment, the game could eventually become a national pursuit.

This would teach Israeli kids to better appreciate values such as fair play and integrity. More importantly, it would help them realize that the key to happiness lies not in straying into foul territory, but in sticking to the rules – both on the field and off.

The writer is not a Red Sox fan.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Anonymous, Bite Your Tongue

In response to the blog posting Hurricane Katif - err Katrina and Modern Day Pharaohs this comment was posted:
Anonymous said...
1. Im confused why hashem would punish the poorest people in the united states for the sins of Bush. These arent his voter base. Wouldnt it be more appropriate that hashem send a hurricane to destroy Dallas.

Hashem Yeracham! (May G-d Have Mercy!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Oil in Israel!

John Brown wants to make Israel engery independent. Read about it and watch the clip here.

Hat Tip: Yosef

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Simon Wiesenthal Z"L

Simon Wiesenthal’s contributions to the Jewish People speak for themselves. Below is his AP obituary.

As an aside I would just like to point out something Rabbi Shalom Gold spoke about at a Kumah event in NY. In a nutshell he was researching Jewish life in Bavel (Babylonia) during the second temple era. Now Bavel is where MOST Jews lived. Only the lowest “dregs of Jewish Society” returned to Israel at that time. And yet he couldn’t find anything in the history books until he came across this quote that made a chill run down his spine. “The Jews of Babylonia during the Second Temple era lived on the fringes of recorded history.” The Jewish centers may have been there but Jewish history then was being recorded only in Israel! And today as well. Jewish history is being recorded in Israel.

Take a look at this obituary and see how many times Brooklyn is mentioned. Then see how many times Israel is...

Simon Wiesenthal did what he did for the Jewish People – and the center of the Jewish people is only one place in the world: Israel.

Here's the AP write-up:
VIENNA, Austria - Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who helped track down Nazi war criminals following World War II, then spent the later decades of his life fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice against all people, died Tuesday. He was 96.

Wiesenthal, who helped find one-time SS leader Adolf Eichmann and the policeman who arrested Anne Frank, died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

"I think he'll be remembered as the conscience of the Holocaust. In a way he became the permanent representative of the victims of the Holocaust, determined to bring the perpetrators of the greatest crime to justice," Hier told The Associated Press.

A survivor of five Nazi death camps, Wiesenthal changed his life's mission after the war, dedicating himself to tracking down Nazi war criminals and to being a voice for the 6 million Jews who died during the onslaught. He himself lost 89 relatives in the Holocaust.

Wiesenthal spent more than 50 years hunting Nazi war criminals, speaking out against neo-Nazism and racism, and remembering the Jewish experience as a lesson for humanity. Through his work, he said, some 1,100 Nazi war criminals were brought to justice.

"When history looks back I want people to know the Nazis weren't able to kill millions of people and get away with it," he once said.

Calls of condolences poured into Wiesenthal's office in Vienna, where one of his longtime assistants, Trudi Mergili, struggled to deal with her grief.

"It was expected," she said. "But it is still so hard."

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Wiesenthal "brought justice to those who had escaped justice."

"He acted on behalf of 6 million people who could no longer defend themselves," ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Tuesday. "The state of
Israel, the Jewish people and all those who oppose racism recognized Simon Wiesenthal's unique contribution to making our planet a better place."

Austria's parliament speaker said "an important voice for remembrance and humanity has been silenced."

Wiesenthal was first sent to a concentration camp in 1941, outside Lviv, Ukraine. In October 1943, he escaped from the Ostbahn camp just before the Germans began killing all the inmates. He was recaptured in June 1944 and sent back to Janwska, but escaped death as his SS guards retreated with their prisoners from the Soviet Red Army.

Wiesenthal's quest began after the Americans liberated the Mauthausen death camp in Austria where Wiesenthal was a prisoner in May 1945. It was his fifth death camp among the dozen Nazi camps in which he was imprisoned, and he weighed just 99 pounds when he was freed. He said he quickly realized "there is no freedom without justice," and decided to dedicate "a few years" to that mission.

"It became decades," he added.

Even after turning 90, Wiesenthal continued to remind and to warn. While appalled at atrocities committed by Serbs against ethnic Albanians in
Kosovo in the 1990s, he said no one should confuse the tragedy there with the Holocaust.

"We are living in a time of the trivialization of the word 'Holocaust,'" he told AP in 1999. "What happened to the Jews cannot be compared with all the other crimes. Every Jew had a death sentence without a date."

Wiesenthal's life spanned a violent century.

He was born on Dec. 31, 1908, to Jewish merchants at Buczacs, a small town near the present-day Ukrainian city of Lviv in what was then the Austro-Hungarian empire. He studied in Prague and Warsaw and in 1932 received a degree in civil engineering.

He apprenticed as a building engineer in Russia before returning to Lviv to open an architectural office. Then the Russians and the Germans occupied Lviv and the terror began.

After the war, working first with the Americans and later from a cramped Vienna apartment packed with documents, Wiesenthal tirelessly pursued fugitive war criminals.

He was perhaps best known for his role in tracking down Eichmann, who organized the extermination of the Jews. Eichmann was found in Argentina, abducted by Israeli agents in 1960, tried and hanged for crimes committed against the Jews.

Wiesenthal often was accused of exaggerating his role in Eichmann's capture. He did not claim sole responsibility, but said he knew by 1954 where Eichmann was.

Eichmann's capture "was a teamwork of many who did not know each other," Wiesenthal told the AP in 1972. "I do not know if and to what extent reports I sent to Israel were used."

Among others Wiesenthal tracked down was Austrian policeman Karl Silberbauer, who he believed arrested the Dutch teenager Anne Frank and sent her to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she died.

Wiesenthal decided to pursue Silberbauer in 1958 after a youth told him he did not believe in Frank's existence and murder, but would if Wiesenthal could find the man who arrested her. His five-year search resulted in Silberbauer's 1963 capture.

Wiesenthal did not bring to justice one prime target — Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous "Angel of Death" of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Mengele died in South America after eluding capture for decades.

Wiesenthal's long quest for justice also stirred controversy.

In Austria, which took decades to acknowledge its own role in Nazi crimes, Wiesenthal was ignored and often insulted before being honored for his work when he was in his 80s.

In 1975, then-Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, himself a Jew, suggested Wiesenthal was part of a "certain mafia" seeking to besmirch Austria. Kreisky even claimed Wiesenthal collaborated with Nazis to survive.

Ironically, it was the furor over Kurt Waldheim, who became president in 1986 despite lying about his past as an officer in Hitler's army, that gave Wiesenthal stature in Austria.

Wiesenthal's failure to condemn Waldheim as a war criminal drew international ire and conflict with American Jewish groups. But it made Austrians realize that the Nazi hunter did not condemn everybody who took part in the Nazi war effort.

Wiesenthal did repeatedly demand Waldheim's resignation, seeing him as a symbol of those who suppressed Austria's role as part of Hitler's German war and death machine. But he turned up no proof of widespread allegations that Waldheim was an accessory to war crimes.

Wiesenthal's work exposed him to danger.

His house and office have been guarded by an armed police officer since June 1982, when a bomb exploded at his front door, causing severe damage but resulting in no injuries, according to the Wiesenthal Center Web site. One German and several Austrian neo-Nazis were arrested.

He pursued his crusade of remembrance into old age with the vigor of youth, with patience and determination. But as he entered his 90s, he worried that his mission would die with him.

"I think in a way the world owes him and his memory a tremendous amount of gratitude," Hier said.

Wiesenthal earned many awards, including Austria's Golden Decoration of Merit, which was presented by President Heinz Fischer at Wiesenthal's home in June. He also wrote several books, including his memoirs, "The Murderers Among Us," in 1967, and worked regularly at the small downtown office of his Jewish Documentation Center even after turning 90.

"The most important thing I have done is to fight against forgetting and to keep remembrance alive," he said in the 1999 interview with the AP. "It is very important to let people know that our enemies are not forgotten."

Wiesenthal's wife, Cyla, whom he married in 1936, died in November 2003.

A memorial service was to be held in Vienna's central cemetery on Wednesday. Funeral services will be in Israel, Mergili said.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Tree Planting For Gush Katif Uprooted

Saw this posted here in Yerushalayim:

WUJS (The World Union of Jewish Students) in conjunction with Keren Kayemet LeIsrael, Lev Achad Organisation [sic] and the Israeli Defense Forces invite you to:

Tree planting in the new park in the settlement of Nitzan

About 1,000 evacuees from Gush Katif have so far been moved to the settlement of Nitzan, the settlement was established under pressure and therefore still does not look like or function like a real settlement.

On Tuesday 20th September [UPDATE: This has been postponed until Thursday 29th September] 2005 students from Israel and abroad will go together with children from the settlement to plant about 400 trees forming the first “park” in Nitzan. Hopefully this initiative with [sic… will] improve the look of the settlement and will make the residents feel more “at home” …

Pick up information: Tuesday 20th September [UPDATE: Changed to Thursday 29th September], at 13:00, Binyanei Hauma (returning some time in the evening)

For additional information and to register: 02 – 625 – 1682,

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Same Golus, Different Zip Code?

Re-posted this last year over here.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Visit The Kotel On a Thursday Morning

I really got to start carrying along my good camera with me everywhere! I took these with my Treo cellphone instead...

Yesterday morning I visited the Kotel. It's amazing to go on any Monday or Thursday morning because the plaza is full with Bar Mitzvah Boys!

And singing and dancing and candies being thrown all over the place...

Boys in colorful garb - it was achlah! (That's Hebrew for "groovie!")

And there's always something going on at the Kotel.

This motorcade then pulled up and this old distinguished looking man got out...

Followed but what looked like a general.

So I yahooed (google doesn't let you search news photos) and found these Reuters photos:

It seems it was Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus.

Yep. Always something going on at the Kotel...