Friday, March 31, 2006

Another Cute Movie From JIF!

Wonderful little clip about Pesach. It's called "Passover Noir." I particularly enjoyed that this was filmed right in the Old City of Yerushalayim!

Watch it right below or at the Jewish Impact Films site by clicking here. I also posted some more details about it below.

JEWISH IMPACT FILMS is proud to present the 2006 NY Jewish Student Film Festival Award-Winning Short "PASSOVER NOIR" directed by Scott Fuselier written by Marcus Velelis starring Simon Feil concept design by Yariv Newman Shot in the Old City of Jerusalem this past December. Enjoy and please do your part to help get this around the world in time for Pesach. Special thanks to JEC for their involvement with and support of JIF, to David Sacks, Rabbi Yaacov Deyo, Brian Ash, and all the participants of the Israel Winter 2005 Trip. visit for more!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Some "Crazy Talk" About The Election Results

Exit Polls like this one, above, were wrong.

Election results (all but the Army reported):

Kadima-28 Knesset seats
Yisrael Beiteinu-12
Arab parties-10
United Torah Judaism - 6

To sum it up “old people vote!” or perhaps “show me the money!” works better?

So it’s like this. Likud and Labor – more often than not are the two largest parties. But the old timers who were used to voting Labor or Likud were fed up with Labor and Likud. They didn’t want to vote for either. And they certainly didn’t want to vote for Olmert. (Sharon they might have.) But they definitely were upset about their pensions getting cut. And they received an ad in the mail about a party that will guarantee to help them – risk-free-for-90-days-or-your-money-back - get that pension restored. Sweet! A party that will help them get their money! “Well, if I’m not thrilled about voting for anyone anyway, I might as well get some money rather than not vote.” And old people ALWAYS vote. Young people – the Kadima supporters don’t, though they tell pollsters they do.

Consider this: Kadima is outwardly celebrating an “overwhelming victory.” But internally they are crying. Only 28 seats? Is this the same party that the day they were formed claimed to be able to garner 74 seats? And just last week even the lowest polls handed them 35 seats. So what happened to those other 7? Surprise! Old people vote.

Kadima did pull in votes from everywhere though – but if it doesn’t play its cards right its fate will be like that of the Shinui party. It will become merely a fade. As I waited on line – on a short line – to vote a heard a lady on her cell phone, “yeah, I don’t know who I’m going to vote for either – I don’t know, I guess Kadima.”

“I guess Kadima” might be a start but doesn’t get you very far in the long run.

The media seems to be ignoring another winner: Shas. Shas will be the third largest party in the 17th Knesset and it looks like any collation out there will need to include them. But Shas beware – you only have 8 or 9 solid seats. The others came from people fed up with UTJ, NRP, and even Labor. Many of those that voted for you are scared you will join a Kadima lead coalition. If you do – you’ll probably lose votes next time around. If you don’t and let the shaky left trip and tumble you’ll become even stronger next time around when you can even lead – yes, lead a right wing government. It’s like this. If Deri wants to – he could be prime minister. Crazy talk, huh?

Lieberman definitely pulled in some Shiniu voters. Pundits had written off Lieberman long ago but as the forth largest party – with the ability, like Kadima to pull voters from labor (yes, Labor!) and certainly from Likud - he remains as serious a force as ever to reckon with. Lieberman has everything to gain by leading the opposition if Shas joins the coalition.

NRP claims it lost two seats to “Marzel’s stunt.” I don’t think they did. Most Marzel voters seemed to be significantly fed up with NRP – and would either not vote at all, or vote for someone other than NRP. Still, perhaps NRP could have gotten another seat. Imagine the ridiculously unheard of scenario of NRP inviting Marzel in and Marzel accepting? If that ever happened NRP might be sitting a lot prettier than they are today.

UTJ seems to reliably pull in 6 seats no matter what. They might be happy about holding on to their six seats but truth be told their continuants’ population is growing dramatically and so should their number of mandates. Perhaps some of UTJ votes ended up in Shas’s lap and almost certainly many UTJ voters didn’t vote.

Meretz is another big loser. They were counting on, as predicted, 5 seats or even 6 (with a charadi woman in the sixth spot). The fact is the only people nuts enough to vote for the “looney left” are students. (Traditional lefties vote Labor or if not, Kadima.) And as we said before students have a habit of voting in telephone polls but not at the ballot box.

The Arabs pulled in 10 seats even though exit polls had them at 4-6 seats. Why way off like that? Guess what? Arabs, like everybody else, lie to exit pollsters. In any case it’s probably better for the right that the Arab parties hold those extra six seats than Kidima hold then– as the exit polls originally predicted. See, now Olmert has to decide on the unpopular step of inviting them into the coalition which could hurt him in four years…err did I say years?

I meant in four months when we once again have early elections.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I voted!

I thought to put a picture here but didn't want to get my camera confiscated.

So I didn't change my address from the Ulpan in time so I ended up having to go for a nice walk to Baka rather than voting right down the block. A walk I gladly took.

On my walk I passed the place I think where Olmert voted because I saw loads of T.V. crews and Shin Bet agents. And areas were closed off by police line.

Then deeper into Katamon I spotted a Rebbe and a whole bunch of his chassidim with him coming out from having just voted.

In Baka it looked like voting was light. There were only two people in line in front of me. I don't know how it's supposed to be - but that seemed light to me.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why Do More Women Make Aliyah?

Being heavily involved on the Aliyah scene I get asked this a lot. "So why do more single women make Aliyah than single men?" To be honest I usually answer: "Oh come on, that's not true - plenty of guys come. I'm sure it's really about 50-50." Finally I decided to follow through on a completely unscientific experiment. So I went online. After all, the answers to all of life's questions can be found at - where else? Particularly in the section where Aliyah announcements are posted. And so I went through all 341 posts and tallied all the singles that were listed there. I have to say I was pretty shocked at the results. Women outnumbered men by well over 2 - 1. (Actually 140 - 59.)

Now of course this could just mean women like posting on more than the guys do. But still, to outnumber the men by that much? It really does seem to indicate that it's not just a myth as I thought it was - more gals really are making Aliyah. Which brings us back to the topic of this post: Why?

I have heard lots of answers offered. But I just read something interesting on this week's parsha that I would like to share. It is from Rav Frand. He discuses how the base of the Kiyyor was made with copper mirrors donated by the Jewish women.

Rash"i explains why these mirrors were so precious to G-d. When the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, the men gave up hope. They did not want to live with their wives. They did not want to have children. The thought of fathering children who would be born into and live and die in slavery was overwhelmingly depressing. As the Medrash in Shir HaShirim describes, the women went out into the fields and beautified themselves in front of their mirrors and convinced and persuaded their husbands to live with them and to have children. Those mirrors represented Klal Yisroel. Had it not been for those mirrors and that makeup and the beautification efforts of those women, there would not have been a Jewish nation. Consequently, G-d insisted that those precious mirrors did in fact belong in the Mishkan.

We see that those women exhibited the attribute of faith in redemption. When all seemed bleak and full of despair, when no future seemed to exist, when there appeared to be no purpose in having children, the women retained a hope in the future. The women kept the dream of rebirth alive. When the men were feeling down and were ready to give up, it was the women who insisted "We must go on."

Making Aliyah can be tough and it is so easy to just throw in the towel and say "why bother?" But it is the women that are full of hope. They are the ones with faith in redemption. They are the ones keeping the dream alive for all of us. Despite difficulties in Israel today it is the women who insist "We must go on."

Guys out there - follow their shining example and come on Home already!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Translation (sort of) of the "Danger: Sanhedrin!" Article

What follows is a very rough translation of much of R. Yehuda Henkin’s article.

An important note: I would like to thank “itsallgood” for helping translate it. Very helpful! That said I’m afraid I almost certainly completely butchered the translation when I tried to polish it up. I still need loads of work on my Hebrew. That’s why I say it’s a very rough translation just to give you the jist of the article. I welcome all comments on fixing up this translation. Or if anyone knows of a better translation done on this please let me know. Thanks!

[Start Article]
Danger: Sanhedrin!

I suppose I’m not the only one that regarded the Sanhedrin publicity with amused tolerance. The gap between the Sanhedrin according to Halacha and the Sanhedrin according to “public relations” is so great, it would seem even its founders won’t take themselves too seriously. On the other hand, as a demonstration of longing for what has been missing from the Jewish scene for 2000 years, the Sanhedrin doesn’t fall short in its educational value from “machon ha’mikdash”. And if it won’t help, it won’t hurt.

I was wrong. “The Special Court For Matters Concerning The Nation and the State under the Auspices of the Sanhedrin,” a very pretentious name, published an amateurish Psak Halacha in the form of a letter of encouragement to the people dragged out of Amona, signed by a few unknown Rabbis as an Halachic ruling, piggybacking on the name “Sanhedrin.” The letter rejects any authority of all of Israel’s governments since the founding of the state until today, and was published in a famous magazine for youth (!) “Olam Katan” as well as elsewhere.

I will be content with examining the first part of the letter, in which there is a clear Halachic precedent but only seemingly:

The open question: Does the current government and its conclusions, impose an authentic obligation on us?

Answer: In order for a law or rule to be imposed as an obligation on us according to halacha three basic conditions need to be filled:

1. The law should be decided by people who know Torah and fear G-d.
2. The people were appointed by G-d fearing Jews.
3. The law was decided according to the Torah.

If these conditions aren’t fulfilled, and the government acts against the nation and the Torah, they are considered an “evil conspiracy” and it can not be regarded.

It is clear that the above occurs to all the governments since 1948, because for all of them the following conditions were not met: “The law should be decided by people who know Torah and fear G-d,” and who were “appointed by G-d fearing Jews.” But that is not what HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohein Kook wrote in “Mishpat Kohein” (144:1-15) “But when there is no king, since the laws of ruling also apply to the general state of the nation, the constitutional rights return to the nation at large” he did not precondition that the voters and those elected must be Shomrei Mitzvot.

In “Tzitz Eliezer” (10:1:14) he wrote “Also today the President, the Government and the Knesset (with all their flaws regarding religion, and with it being clear that regarding religion their decisions hold no obligation whatsoever) that were chosen by the majority of nation who reside in Israel instead of a king, they stand in all matters pertaining to the general state of the nation, that’s needed presently and internationally politically.”

[At this point the author – if I understand it correctly - cites many more sources supporting his claim that a government, even an evil one, can be authorized to rule over Israel despite the population not being G-d fearing. Indeed this is the very meat of his point and if anyone could help translate this part it would be appreciated. The author concludes:]

It’s not because I have sympathy for the latest Israeli governments, the opposite is true, but you can not use halacha as bandaid.
[End Article]

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Two New Sanhedrin Articles

These are both in Hebrew.

One printed in Hatzofeh around a week ago.

And now a rebuttel found here.

I'm trying to get an English transation of both posted. Stay Tuned! Also if you can help please let me know. Thanks!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Update: More Kotel Renovation Photos

For the offical word on the renovations (including a flash tour of the planned changes before they were complete click here and then click on the "Renovation of the Prayer Hall of the Western Wall" link.)

Here is the text found on that site:

The Prayer Hall at the Western Wall, at Wilson's Arch, is the easternmost vault of the Great Bridge that dates back to the Second Temple period. Hundreds of thousands of visitors and worshippers pass through this place 365 days a year. It is the only enclosed and covered area for prayer at the Western Wall.

After several years of restoration work, it has been decided to renovate and upgrade the central hall and the halls and rooms extending from it. By doing so, the hall would be able to serve as a comfortable and elegant enclosed prayer sanctuary as befitting a place of prayer so close to the holy Temple site.

The women's section of the prayer hall currently has enough room for only 20-30 women at a time who come daily to pray in this area. Likewise, in inclement weather, when Bar Mitzva ceremonies are held in the Wilson's Arch sanctuary, the small women's section is the only option available. Therefore, a plan has been devised to expand this vital area. New furnishings for the entire prayer hall are planned, as well as a proper air conditioning system and ample lighting, so that this sanctuary is both attractive and comfortable to sit in and pray.

The plan to make the sanctuary one befitting the prayer hall adjacent to the Western Wall includes designing and building a magnificent Holy Ark appropriate for such an extraordinary location. This would replace the arks that are in poor condition, many of which are not safe for holding Torah scrolls. Likewise, a room to contain the various Holy Arks that store the many Torah scrolls used on Mondays and Thursdays, Shabbatot and Festivals at the Western Wall will be built in one of the halls adjacent to the prayer hall.

A room designated for scribes who work at the Western Wall meticulously proofreading and emending Torah scrolls will be built in an ancient and beautiful internal hall adjacent to the prayer hall. In addition, another ancient hall will be renovated and refurbished to serve as a central library of holy books that should, undoubtedly, be near the remnant of our Temple. Our intent is to also devise and install stylized bookcases that will be designed specifically for storing the many books that are necessary in the prayer hall itself (prayer books, Bibles, books of Psalms, etc…) in various versions that exist and are used.

Due to all of the renovations and developments taking place at and around the Western Wall Plaza, a modern and advanced electricity room is planned that will be able to efficiently handle the load of the additional lighting and other electrical needs.

To help sponsor any of these meaningful and significant projects, call 212 725 0598.

Here are some more pictures.

As you can see the Aron has now been unwrapped and on display in its full glory.

Beautiful bookcases.

In the redone back room as well.

Shir HaShirim.

Sifrah Torah and Klafim stored here when not in use.

A staircase to the Ezrat Nashim. There is another way in from the top and my sister tried finding it. But the gaurd told us "it's closed now and is only open till 8" - not sure what he meant by that.

However he told use there is another new Ezrat Nashim on the ground level of the men's tunnel. It's in the back - and I didn't even notice it till he pointed it out.

My sister took this photo from inside.

Guess this is the "modern and advanced electricity room" they were talking about.

For more photos click here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

NYT: Esther is "Almost Certainly False, a Fantasy"

Above: The Tomb of Esther and Mordechai in the Iranian province of Hamadan (formally known as Shushan) to this day is still revered by Iranians. Yet the NYT boldly claims the Purim story is a false fantasy.

The grey rag, The New York Times prints an opinion piece that claims Purim never happened.

“The Purim story is suspenseful, ribald, comic and almost certainly false, a fantasy of revenge and redemption. Scholars generally agree that it is a pseudo-history introduced into Judaism about 2,400 years ago, at a time when the memory of Jerusalem's conquest by the Babylonians was still laying Jews low.”

Almost certainly false?

Of course Goldberg, the author, fails to even name one such “scholar.” That said Wikipedia suggests (after a fierce and vigorous debate and “edit war”) that there are indeed many (mostly modern) scholars that do believe it is false. It also states that this remains quite debatable – something Goldberg conveniently forgets to mention in his piece. And there are plenty of scholars that argue, with strong supporting evidence, that the historicity of Megillat Esther is completely authentic. Gil Student of Hirhurim fame produced a fantastic compilation of such sources on the Aishdas website.

Here is Student's bottom line:

Gordis summarizes the various lines in favor of the historicity of Esther by concluding, "all in all, the case for the historical basis for the book is impressive." Moore admits, "on the face of it, the story seems to be true... Nothing in the book seems improbable, let alone unbelievable." If this is the case, and if the alleged historical problems are not insoluble, then it would seem preferable to take the book at face value as a historical narrative rather than to resort to subjective and highly speculative reconstructions. Scholars such as Wright, Shea, and Claus Schedl have indeed argues [sic.] for such a view. (Yamauchi, p. 239)

Furthermore Iranian history itself indicates the "modern scholars" are dead wrong.

“Not only was Esther a Jewish queen, but, as the wife of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), she also continues to be revered as a Persian queen and, thus, an icon of national Iranian history,” reports Helen Eliassian in The Forward.

Almost certainly false?

Once again the New York Times is almost certainly wrong.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

(Shushan) Purim in Yerushalayim 5766!!! (Photos) And No, I Don't Drink and Blog!

The Kotel on Shushan Purim Night.

Hearing The Megillah...

At the Kotel.

And in nearby Meah Sharem...

Witch's Hats are Black Hats too...

"C'mon, it's Purim - give me money! A half shekel! Something!"

Lots of little Kallah's and Cowboys and Police walking around.

Violins in Geulah!

My Camera and the rest of me was covered in white foam seconds after this photo was shot.

HaPpY pUrIm!$#!!%!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

*EXCLUSIVE* Photos of the Kotel Renovations

(Okay – anybody can take these photos but I haven’t seen anyone do so yet.)

So if you’ve visited the Kotel lately and you’re a woman you’ve noticed that you don’t have much room. (Women have been complaining for years that there is hardly any room “indoors” for them.) Well stay tuned!

And if you’ve visited the Kotel lately and you’re a man you’ve noticed that the indoor cave portion of the Kotel has been closed every other day while mini bulldozers scurried in and out.

What exactly have they been doing in there?

Well last week we got our first look and the results are amazing!

Check these out:

The first thing you’ll notice is lots of more lighting has been added. The stones are now brightly lit up and they look just stunning!

Also, I’m no engineer but it looks to me like some beams have been reinforced with steel.

There are some beautiful new bookcases.

Some have not even been “unwrapped” yet.

Brighter lights added so we could actually see the bottom of the kotel.

And what’s this? Could it be an Ezrat Nashim? Sure looks like it to me!

Some cameras.

A new public sound system.

And – YES! Nice new air conditioners – COOL!

Friday, March 10, 2006

One Year Ago

Point of Pinchas: One year ago.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dating Spots In Israel

Who said "find a need and fill it?"

Well here’s a need. Shidduch dating spots in Israel. Now, now, I know I’m spoiled coming from NYC which is easily the Shidduch dating capital of the world, with more places to date – by far – than any place in the world. But here in Israel coming up with new places really takes creativity. So – Chaim Leichman from Janglo was nice enough to put together this list.

It’s a great list, but honestly I could make a list of NY spots five times as long. So people – you heard it here first. If you build it they will come. There is a shortage of dating spots in Israel. Please help. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It Just Got Really Really Dark Outside

Looks like there's still more rain in the forcast this winter.

In the photo is Bayit Vagan in the distance.

Believe or not a few minutes before this photo was taken it was very bright outside. It's still several hours before sunset.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Happy Adar: More David Lavon... Why not?

I don’t know why I keep doing it? Well, that’s not true - sure I do. Hits. 17 out of the last 20 google hits I got were searches for David Lavon. So someone out there is interested in him!

And I’m not the only one blogging about him either.

Perhaps that because Yehoshua Karsh just posted, not one, but TWO new clips. And now with the new google video feature we could post the videos right here.

In the first one (shown below) Dave is showing all his stuff at a wedding.
(Or click here if your firewall blocks it.)

And the second one is a slapstick clip – hey it IS Adar.
(Or click here if your firewall blocks it.)

Both are must sees.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"It’s Adar, and OnlyTzaras 2 is Funnier Than Last Year!"

If I use that headline do you think they’ll link me in the news section?

The truth is like most sequels this one bombed. If there's one thing Hollywood has proven – it's that Prequels are the way to go. So, I'm looking forward to OnlyTzaras -1. Anyway at least they themselves acknowledged they can't top the original. "Devastating: was funnier last year" reads one Tzara.

Of course if you never saw it yet, what are you waiting for? And even if you saw it last year you’ve probably forgotten all the jokes anyway. So check it out again here.