Simchat Torah 5775 – Chag Same’ach!

Simchat Torah – Chag Same’ach!

The last and most joyous festival of the Jewish holiday season is almost upon us – Sukkot finishes tonight and Simchat Torah begins.

I shall refer you to last year’s post on Simchat Torah if you would like to know more about the festival – which involves lots of dancing with the Torah scrolls in 7 circuits of the synagogue, giving out sweets to the children, and generally celebrating reading the entire Torah and starting all over again from Bereishit (Genesis).

Dancing with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah

Following the dancing we say Tefilat Geshem (the prayer for rain) – which this year came in rather early, on the first day of Sukkot, and has decided to visit us again today with strong showers this morning!

Rainbow on 1st day Sukkot in Kfar Vradim (north Israel)

Thunderstorm in Haifa

I hope the rain holds off while we walk to and from shul. And then, let the clouds overflow!

I wish those of you celebrating Chag Sameach!

Posted in Judaism | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The British Parliament’s vote to recognize “the Palestinian State”

I’m reluctant to post bad news on erev Chag, but I didn’t get around to this yesterday and I don’t want to ignore the issue.

On Monday the British Parliament took time out from its domestic woes – the NHS not functioning, a shrinking economy, an underclass of unintegrated third-world immigrants… the list goes on – to tackle an “urgent” matter 2,000 miles away: whether to recognize Palestinian State.

And the ayes had it, by 274-12, although these alarming numbers take on a different hue when taken with the fact that nearly all the Conservatives stayed away or abstained, and a large number of Labour MPs absented themselves in order not to have to comply with the ridiculous 3-line whip imposed by Labour leader Ed Milliband.

Despite the vote being downplayed as largely symbolic (which it is), there are several ominous implications, not least of which were the shocking antisemitic statements being pronounced right there in the Mother of Parliaments.

One MP spoke about the power of the “Jewish lobby” in the US, while another insinuated that Israel was to blame for the rise in anti-Semitism around the globe.

The well-known “as-a-Jew” Gerald Kaufman spouted forth in a similar manner:

Later in the proceedings, leading Israel critic Gerald Kaufman, the son of Polish Jews, seemed to blame Israeli actions for a rise in anti-Semitism in the wake of the summer’s fighting in Gaza: “I call on right honorary and honorary members on both sides of the House to give the Palestinians their rights and show the Israelis that they cannot suppress another people all the time. It is not Jewish for the Israelis to do that. They are harming the image of Judaism, and terrible outbreaks of anti-Semitism are taking place. I want to see an end to anti-Semitism, and I want to see a Palestinian state.”

Thankfully there were some – very few – tzaddikim b’Sdom (righteous amongst the evil) who did their best to counter the smears and insinuations:

“We are told that 135 members of the United Nations — many of which have relatively little connection with the Middle East, although some have a great connection — have recognized Palestine as a state,” said Conservative Intelligence Committee chairman Malcolm Rifkind. “That has had no effect. It has received 24 hours of publicity but has had no marginal, massive or significant impact on the course of history. There is a great risk that today we will make ourselves feel important and that our own frustration will lead us to vote for a motion that will not have the desired effect and will perhaps make the problems that need to be addressed in reaching a two-state solution more difficult to deal with,” said Rifkind, a former British foreign secretary who is Jewish.

Labour-Cooperative MP Louise Ellman railed against the idea that Israel is uninterested in peace. “It should be remembered that while peace negotiations were under way following the Oslo negotiations, in one month alone — March 2002 — 80 Israeli civilians were killed and 600 injured in targeted suicide bombings …  The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza — a correct, unilateral withdrawal — was followed by rockets, the terror tunnels, and more and more death.”

Another British MP, David Burrowes who is currently visiting Israel called the vote a mistake.

I would refer you to “Abu Yehuda” (formerly Fresno Zionism) who has a good analysis of the Parliament vote.

News item:

The original motion stipulated that “this House believes that the government should recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.”

During the debate it was amended to include the words “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

It should also be noted that the amended resolution doesn’t make any sense. If the action is intended to contribute to a two-state solution, then that implies that a Palestinian state doesn’t yet exist to recognize.

Of course it doesn’t make sense even without the amendment, because ‘Palestine’ has no borders or economy short of the international dole, and its unity government is a sham which does not control much of its population.

The practical significance is that a huge majority in Parliament thinks that the creation of an Arab state in the territories would be a good thing. This seems to be the conventional wisdom everywhere in Europe, despite the clearly horrendous security consequences for Israel.

In fact, as the debate shows, many of the MPs think that supporting a Palestinian state is the moral position to take, even going so far as to cite the Balfour declaration! The irony in this is that Britain acted consistently during the Mandate period and afterwards to subvert the intent of the declaration and the Mandate to provide for a national home for the Jewish people.

In fact, from a moral point of view, Britain ought to be harshly criticized for its actions in shutting the door to escape for millions of future victims of Hitler’s Holocaust before and during the war, as well as cruelly preventing survivors from reaching Palestine until its rule was ended in 1948, not to mention assisting the Arabs in their war against the new state of Israel afterwards. It is remarkably hypocritical today for MPs to claim that morality drives them to continue the cynical anti-Jewish policy they have followed since the 1920s.

There are many similar opinion pieces on this sorry subject. I’m sure you have read many of them. One of the must-reads is Brian of London at Israellycool who discusses the vote, the antisemitism expressed within, and the distorted views of the settlements which cloud the whole view of the Middle East. Brian also mentions Melanie Phillips latest facebook post in which she debunks “a string of falsehoods promulgated by Sir Alan Duncan, David Cameron’s special envoy to Yemen and Oman.” Just a short quote:

Duncan’s tirade presents a picture of Israel that is false and wholly distorted. The core of his spitting hatred is his claim that Israel’s settlements are illegal. There is an authoritative body of legal opinion that shows they are not illegal at all; the illegality trope is merely an anti-Israel canard. But even if they were illegal, this would hardly justify Duncan’s venom and vituperation which seem quite out of control.

Read Brian’s whole post and Melanie Phillips’ too.

Here too are some other relevant tweets which reflect my own opinion on the vote and its implications:

My favourite tweet was the one that brought up the original British vote on the original state of Palestine – the one that gave a Mandate to Britain to grant Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish People:

Here is the Israellycool post mentioned in the tweet: “Breaking: Britain recognizes Palestine”, accompanied by the letter “viewing with favour” a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Britain views with favour a Jewish homeland in Palestine

Those were the days!

Posted in International relations, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Money aplenty for reconstructing Gaza but no money to fight Ebola

John Kerry and Catherine Ashton at the Donor Conference for aid to Gaza

After Israel’s defensive war this summer against Hamas, the world as usual is in a great hurry to help the Palestinians reconstruct the damage to Gaza, and no matter how much Mahmoud Abbas promises to be transparent in the handling of the aid funds (please excuse my hysterical laughter here) it will be no surprise if we discover in the not too distant future that those funds were not used to rebuild homes, hospitals, schools and civilian infrastructure but instead to replenish Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s stores of weapons and to import the massive amounts of cement needed to build their terror attack tunnels.

Israel was not invited to the donor conference held yesterday in Cairo, which may or may not have been a good thing. On the one hand Israel could not be asked to contribute to the rebuilding of its enemy, but on the other hand Israel failed to link aid for reconstruction to the disarmament of Hamas.

An Israeli official was quoted by Channel 2 admitting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Hamas give up its arms — endorsed in principle by the US, EU and others at the end of the 50-day conflict — had not prevailed as a condition for overseas funding to rehabilitate Gaza. The funding for reconstruction, the official said, would flow so long as the ceasefire was maintained. Further development of Gaza after such reconstruction, the official said, would be contingent on the demilitarization of the Strip.

Israeli officials noted that a mechanism had been agreed, with UN involvement, to ensure that international funding not be diverted to finance the rebuilding of Hamas’s military capabilities. But sources quoted by Channel 10 expressed concern that such a mechanism would not hold firm, and the same TV report quoted sources in Gaza as saying there was no practical way to control how such money would be spent. The head of the Israeli Air Force’s Air Defense Command told The Times of Israel last week that Hamas has resumed rocket manufacturing in Gaza.

Other officials in Jerusalem variously claimed that Israel was not invited because it was not donating any funds, and that Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had opted to not extend an invitation because Israel’s presence could have prompted other states to stay away.

Ban Ki-Moon spouted his usual distorted view of the Israel-Palestinian conflict:

“We must not lose sight of the root causes of the recent hostilities: A restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who later announced in a news conference that he planned to visit Israel, Gaza and the West Bank on Tuesday.

Ban needs an urgent lesson in modern history; he should read up on Israel’s disengagement from Gaza – there is no occupation! – and on the multiple offers of peace and land withdrawals made by Israel, all of which were rejected by the Palestinians who then ignited huge waves of violence each time.  The man is a disgrace.

In that conference the US has pledged $212m in aid, while Hamas-supporting Qatar has pledged $1bn to reconstruct Gaza.  Altogether the donor countries have pledged between $4-5 billion in aid.

International envoys pledged about $5.4 billion in aid for the Gaza Strip at a meeting in Egypt on Sunday, Norway’s foreign minister said.

Half of the pledges will go for reconstruction and the rest as unspecified aid to the Palestinians, he said

Gas-rich Qatar led the way at the donors conference in Cairo with a promise of $1 billion in aid to the coastal enclave.

The Palestinians asked for up to $4 billion in international aid after Gaza suffered heavy damage in its 50-day summer war with Israel.

Note that no one has considered the damage suffered by Israel – through no fault of its own – from that same war.

The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait also pledged $200 million each.

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced immediate US assistance of $212 million as the conference began.

British International Development Minister Desmond Swayne pledged $32.1 million in early recovery assistance for Gazans affected by the war. The money will cover disposal of un-exploded ordnance, rubble clearing and reconstructive surgery, according to a statement released by the British government.

The statement said that the UK is ready to provide longer term support, but only if the situation changes in Gaza, and the conditions do not invite another conflict.

“Simply relying on international donors to continue to pick up the pieces is not an option,” warned Swayne. “The cycle of conflict and emergency aid is unsustainable. The need for bold political steps from all parties has never been more apparent.

It is mildly gratifying to note that the British are not simply throwing the money at Gaza but are looking for a political solution first and foremost.

Houses of Parliament

Sadly the British are cancelling out this small amount of common sense by the UK Parliament holding a debate tomorrow on whether to recognize “the State of Paletsine”Labour Party MPs are furious at the party leader Ed Milliband’s decision to “whip” the vote (forcing them all to vote in favour), and are threatening to boycott the vote. Even though the vote is only symbolic it will be interesting to see how the votes swing – and how Ed Milliband’s political fortunes swing too in the aftermath of this unnecessary altercation.

This could also be a case of wishing to distract from domestic woes. As Amotz Asa-El pointed out in the Jerusalem Post about a similar vote taken by Sweden:

“Unable to affect the domestic scene, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven fled to a foreign affair where talk is cheap and responsibility is everyone else’s except his.”

Getting back to the funding crisis, the world is only too keen to throw money at the undeserving Palestinian terrorists, whereas desperately needed funds to fight Ebola are still lacking. $1bn have been pledged – curiously an amount identical to that which Qatar has promised to help Gaza – but most of that money has not been actually forthcoming.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that nearly $1 billion will be required to fight Ebola, but less than one-fifth of that amount has actually been funded.

As of Wednesday, roughly $155 million has so far been delivered, with funds coming from countries, global agencies, private companies, individuals and other entities, according to data collected by the Financial Tracking Service (FTS), which records all reported international humanitarian aid.

According to FTS’s most recent data, another $183.5 million has been pledged — meaning the donations have been promised but not yet delivered — and on Tuesday, the Obama Administration committed an additional $500 million. If every dollar pledged so far is delivered, $838 million will have been donated to fight the ongoing Ebola crisis.

Just imagine if the world were to require the Palestinians, and primarily Hamas and its Arab supporters, to act like grown-ups and fund their own reconstruction, just like Israel does, thus freeing up those billions of dollars to fight the ever-growing plague of Ebola.

What? Palestinians helping themselves?? Perish the thought!

Posted in Mideast news, International relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

The antisemitism of the intelligentsia, disguised as anti-Zionism

Media BiasA couple of recent articles caught my eye as I noticed a similar strain run through both pieces: the subject of antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism.

Haaretz, of all papers, has an article by Uzi Silber about The Jew Flu (h/t Elise Ronan), “the strange illness of Jewish antisemitism”.  The reason for my surprise at Haaretz’s article is that Haaretz itself is a prime source of anti-Israel material for all those foreign media outlets, diplomats and commentators who love to focus on Israel’s ostensible misdeeds.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

The 1930s Labor Zionist leader Berl Katznelson asked “Is there another People on Earth so emotionally twisted that they consider everything their nation does despicable and hateful, while every murder, rape, robbery committed by their enemies fill their hearts with admiration and awe?”

This is Jew Flu – the virus of Jewish Anti-Semitism, and its Jewish Anti- and Post-Zionist mutations, afflicting a small but inordinately loud minority of Hebrews.

Its modern symptoms are a rejection of Israel’s identity as a Jewish state and a dismissal of its right to defend itself militarily, while embracing the goals of its nihilistic Arab enemies. Those infected with the virus wildly inflate Israeli sins real or imagined, while excusing or rationalizing Palestinian anti-semitism and outrages against Jews.

What causes Jew Flu? Harvard psychiatrist Kenneth Levin argues for twin culprits: so-called ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, where “population segments under chronic siege commonly embrace the indictments of their besiegers however bigoted and outrageous”, as well as “the psychodynamics of abused children who blame themselves for their situation and believe they could mollify their tormenters if they were ‘good’.”

Suffice it to say that Noam Chomsky, Daniel Boyarin, Joel Kovel, Avrum Burg, Ilan Pappe, Steve Quester, Jacqueline Rose, Tony Judt, Naomi Klein, Michael Neumann, Ben Ehrenreich, (the apparently “outed”) Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and their ilk, spout pronouncements eerily similar to the propaganda routinely ejaculated by representatives of Fatah, Hamas or Hezbollah.

Please note that two famous names are blatantly missing from this miserable list. That’s right – Haaretz’s very own Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, two haters of Israel who would be more at home on the pages of the PLO’s internal screeds than in a national Israeli paper.  The malign influence of these two writers on the foreign media’s anti-Israel bias is hard to overestimate. It’s possible that had the author mentioned those names, Haaretz would never have agreed to publish the article.

Silber continues:

At the same time, a hearty “shout out” is due those who have made it their business to forcefully rebut the Jewish defamers, including Andrea Levin, Edward Alexander, Alan Dershowitz, David Solway and others. Those interested in a quick and free primer on Jew Flu should download Alvin Rosenfeld’s UJA-sponsored brief, “Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism”.

The author goes on to give a history of Jewish antisemitism, from its roots in Soviet anti-Zionism through the New Left’s over-identification with the enemy, especially amongst the intelligentsia:

The infection among Israel’s cultural elites intensified through the Lebanon War and the two Intifadas that sandwiched the delusional Oslo era. As author Aharon Meged lamented in 1994, there existed “an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel’s intelligentsia, and its print and electronic media, with people committed to our annihilation.”

Epitomizing this “moral identification” were the certain prominent Jewish journalists who, according to Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea, crucially failed the so-called ‘lynch test’, by exhibiting an inability to ever criticize Palestinian terror, even following the widely televised gruesome execution of two Jews by a Palestinian mob in Ramallah In 2000.

As it turns out, the afflicted regularly engage in at least one of the following -Demonization (comparing Israeli actions to Nazism and referring to Arab refugee camps as Auschwitz);- Double Standards (singling out Israel for human rights abuses while ignoring the blatant human rights violators such as Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestinian Authority, North Korea, Cuba, China, Myanmar etc); and Delegitimization (denying Israel the fundamental right to exist as a Jewish state)

Jew Flu occurs even amongst religious Jews like Avram Burg or admirers of the late Prof. Yishayahu Leibowitz.

Silber then draws his own conclusions based on some interesting research:

David Brooks recently reported in the New York Times on research by a Haifa University team led by Reem Yahya who studied the brains scans of Arabs and Jews while showing them images of hands and feet in painful situations.

Brooks reports that “the two cultures perceived pain differently. The Arabs perceived higher levels of pain over all while the Jews were more sensitive to pain suffered by members of a group other than their own.”

The intriguing research out of Haifa suggests that Jews may very well be inherently altruistic. But while exhibiting more sensitivity to another group’s pain is one thing, embracing the goals of people openly committed to one’s destruction is a form of madness.

So here’s my ultimate theory for the cause of this nefarious virus: Jew Flu is a condition in which being “more sensitive to pain suffered by members of a group other than (one’s) own metastasizes into a malignant emotional and moral identification with people committed to (one’s) annihilation.”

Like any other virus, Jew Flu is contagious but containable. Yet ultimately incurable.

I find the article extremely interesting in an appalled kind of way. If it didn’t concern us, the Jewish nation and Israel, so directly, I’d be fascinated. As it is, it leaves me profoundly depressed despite the brave souls who work so hard to combat “Jew Flu”.

A related article starkly highlights the utter hypocrisy, not to mention the ultra-thin skin, of antisemitic Israel-bashers and boycotters.

Daniel Greenfield in Front Page Magazine tells us of The Amcha Inititative which has been working to identify and list those academics who call for a boycott or blacklist of Israeli academics – and the boycotters are whining at being boycotted!

There’s nothing anti-Israel academics love more than playing the victim. Given a choice between the fountain of youth and the opportunity to whine about how they’re being persecuted for their anti-Semitism, they will always choose the latter.

We dealt with their whining and cries of McCarthyism last month.

The Amcha Initiative put out a list of college faculty who support pro-terrorist boycotts of Israel. Its sources were mostly the boycotters themselves.

Apparently it’s not McCarthyism to boycott Jews. It’s only McCarthyism when Jews boycott back.

Now a bunch of professors have claimed that listing the names of BDS advocates is a blacklist. Either this whole thing is a promotion for the second season of The Blacklist or they think that boycotts should only go one way.

The professors, who include the repulsive Hasia Diner, denounce the denounciations as a threat to academic freedom. Somehow it’s not a threat to academic freedom to engage in BDS boycotts of faculty from the Jewish State.

But when someone says something critical about BDS PhDs, they have to be muzzled right away by the likes of Hasia Diner. That’s not a violation of academic freedom.

But here are Hasia Diner’s views on a BDS boycott of Israel.

“BDS is labeled anti-Semitic. Why is it that somebody can not take a political, moral, ethical stance and say, ‘I think the policies of the Israeli government are reprehensible and the only way to push Israel to change is to boycott their products’? I am not sure why that constitutes anti-Semitism, but they are immediately tarred with that feather. Among other problems, this means it is impossible to have a conversation about Israel or BDS because one is accused of being anti-Semitic.”

Those darn Jews. So if we can demand the destruction of the Jewish State and attacks on Jewish businesses and faculty members as a form of academic freedom… why can’t we have a conversation about BDS supporters without being accused of McCarthyism?

The antisemites, anti-Zionists, BDS bigots and general Jew-haters can certainly dish it out but they’re too pathetic to take it when it’s dished back at them.

Posted in Academia, Antisemitism, Media and journalism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sukkot 5775 – Chag Same’ach!

חג סוכות שמח Happy Sukkot!

The festival of Sukkot, the most joyous festival in the Jewish calendar, begins tonight, lasting for 7 days (8 outside of Israel), running straight into the Simchat Torah festival on the 8th day (9th day outside Israel).

Sukkot is the last of the Shalosh R’galim (three pilgrimage festivals). Like Passover and Shavu’ot, Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif Chag Ha-Asif (in Hebrew), the Festival of Ingathering.

Inside our Sukkah

Inside our Sukkah

On this festival Jewish households build a sukkah (pl. sukkot), a booth-like structure, where all meals are eaten, and people (usually the menfolk but not solely) even sleep there. The flimsy roof consists of leaves or branches, widely enough spaced so that one can see the stars at night, but close enough to provide shade during the day. It is considered “hidur mitzvah” – glorifying the mitzvah – if the sukkah is beautifully decorated, so of course this provides much entertainment, not to mention arts-and-crafts time, for the children to beautify their sukkah.

The sukkah is a commemoration of the flimsy huts that the Children of Israel dwelt in during their 40 years of wandering in the desert, with only the ענן הכבוד, the Cloud of Glory, to protect them by day and the עמוד האש, the Pillar of Fire, by night.

By leaving our safe and warm (or cool) houses just when autumn and the rainy season starts and going to live in a fragile hut for a whole week, it is also meant to remind us how fragile is our existence on this earth, and it is only by the grace and protection of G-d that we survive.

Arba Minim – the Four Species

On Sukkot we also bundle together the Arba Minim – “The Four Species” consisting of a Lulav (branch of palm), branches of Hadass (myrtle), Aravot (weeping willow) and an Etrog (a citron, related to the citrus family) and during Shacharit (morning prayers)  wave them together in all 6 directions to show G-d’s presence everywhere.  Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot the streets of Israel are packed with markets and stalls selling the Arba Minim and sukka decorations. Many people take extra care when buying their lulav and etrog, examining them minutely as if they were buying a precious diamond.

Examining a lulav

The weekdays of Sukkot, as on Pesach, are called Chol Hamo’ed (lit. the weekdays of the festival) which are a semi-holiday in Israel. Schools are closed, and many places of work are either closed or work half day, giving families the chance to go on trips, hiking or visiting. On the intermediate Shabbat (Shabbat chol hamo’ed) of Sukkot, Megillat Kohelet (the book of Ecclesiastes) is read in shul. We will have the pleasure of hearing our son reading the megillah in his shul this year, as in previous years.

As in previous years, former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger has provided a very useful Guide to the Perplexed about Sukkot. Here are some intriguing snippets:

2. The first recorded 7 day Sukkot celebration was – following the 5th century BCE Cyrus Edict – in Nehemiah 8:17: “And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun (13th-14th century BCE) unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.”

5. Columbus Day is celebrated around Sukkot.  According to “Columbus Then and Now” (Miles Davidson, 1997, p. 268), Columbus arrived in America on Friday afternoon, October 12, 1492, the 21st day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, the Jewish year 5235, the 7th day of Sukkot, Hosha’na’ Rabbah, which is a day of universal deliverance and miracles.

Indeed there have always been rumours that Columbus himself was Jewish, a refugee from the Spanish Inquisition.

As in previous years, even the American TSA is cooperating with religious Jews and is permitting the import of the Arba Minim, overriding regulations that ban the import of plants to the US:

The Transportation Security Administration and the US Customs and Border Protection once again will allow the carrying of the four plants used during Sukkot.

However, travelers may be asked to open containers so that their religious items can be checked for invasive pests, according to the notice posted this week on the Orthodox Union website. Unlike in previous years, there was no similar posting on the TSA website.

The TSA regulates the transportation of plants to keep invasive pests and diseases out of the United States.

The four species permitted in airports, security checkpoints and on airplanes are a palm branches, myrtle twigs, willow twigs and a citron. Willow twigs from Europe are not allowed entry.

“We are gratified by the ongoing sensitivity of these agencies to the religious concerns of our community,” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s vice president for federal affairs and its Washington director. “They are taking meaningful and appropriate steps to accommodate our religious needs.”

Chabad Sukkah-mobile in Manhattan

We’ve all seen and heard the Chabad Mitzva Tanks which bring religious necessities like Shabbat candles, tefillin etc. to any Jews they can find . Now Arutz Sheva has a cute article about Chabad Mitzva Cycles, bringing mobile Sukkot to Jews worldwide:

Look for Levi Duchman on a bike. Not just any bike, though; the 21-year-old Chabad yeshiva student of Brooklyn is riding around on a modified pedi-cab – an adult-sized tricycle that instead of having a set of seats in the back attaches to various holiday accoutrements.

For example, there’s a sukkah for Sukkot, a giant dreidel for Hanukkah, and a year-round customized display with a Chabad greeting.

Meet the “mitzvah cycle.” And it’s hitting the streets again this holiday season.

There are 50 of these around the world, including in Canada, Denmark, England, Australia, Holland and France, as well as in 14 states in America. The bikes can be spotted in Michigan, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, just to name a few locales.

Sukkah mobiles on patrol in Manhattan

Rabbi Ruvi New, co-director of Chabad of East Boca Raton in Florida, saw the bike advertised online and got one last year for Sukkot. “We are in a coastal area; it’s also a downtown area, so there’s pedestrian traffic,” he says, adding that the vehicle was a welcome alternative to a more full-sized truck.

In southeast Florida’s balmy weather, it can go to outdoor shopping centers and other places people congregate, and always seems to draw attention, he says.

“People, if they’re sitting outside a Starbucks, for example, will see it, and if they’re Jewish, it makes doing the mitzvah cool, sort of funky.” That makes it all that more appealing, according to the rabbi, who bikes around neighborhoods, pulling up in front of people’s homes to give them a chance to do shake the lulav and etrog, and do a mitzvah.

Kol hakavod to Chabad who always come up with unusual ideas to spread the beauty of Judaism while being practical at the same time.

Although the news from our region is unrelenting, posting will probably be very light in the coming week as I prefer to enjoy the chag rather than focus on the bad stuff.

I wish all those celebrating a chag Sukkot sameach!

!חג סוכות שמח

Posted in Judaism | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

ISIS spreads as the West stands by and lets Anti-semitism grow

Apologies for the lack of posts since Friday. I’ve been suffering from a severe case of over-bloggingitis (aka writers’ block together with an overdose of internet) combined with too many chagim.

To say that the Middle East is in turmoil is both an understatement and a cliché. The news seems to get worse every day, and yet nothing seems to be moving on the ground.  The main theme of the day for most of the international media is the ISIS crisis (I love the poetry in that).

Syrian Kurds cross the Turkish border in droves at Kobani

Jeffrey Goldberg has a heart-rending report in which he quotes a Kurdish intelligence official who says “A terrible slaughter is coming” in the Kurdish town of Kobani, on the border with Turkey:

I just got off the phone with a desperate-sounding Kurdish intelligence official, Rooz Bahjat, who said he fears that Kobani could fall to ISIS within the next 24 hours. If it does, he predicts that ISIS will murder thousands in the city, which is crammed with refugees—Kurdish, Turkmen, Christian, and Arab—from other parts of the Syrian charnel house. As many as 50,000 civilians remain in the town, Bahjat said.

“A terrible slaughter is coming. If they take the city, we should expect to have 5,000 dead within 24 or 36 hours,” he told me. “It will be worse than Sinjar,” the site of a recent ISIS massacre that helped prompt President Obama to fight ISIS. There have been reports of airstrikes on ISIS vehicles, but so far, Bahjat said that these strikes have been modest in scope and notably ineffective.

Kobani is located on the Turkish border, but Bahjat said he is receiving reports that Turkey is pulling its troops back, rather than risk armed confrontation with ISIS. “It’s unbelievable—Turkey is in NATO, so you literally have NATO watching what is happening in this town. Everyone can see it—the TV cameras are there, watching. It’s terrible.”

Kurdish fighters are outnumbered by ISIS, and they have no heavy weaponry. There are reports coming out of Kobani that at least one female Kurdish suicide bomber has struck at ISIS terrorists already. The situation is grim, growing grimmer, and one in which hesitation by the international community may not be easily forgiven.

What can explain this horrific situation where the world sits by and does nothing? Jerry Gordon at The New English Review attempts to explain why Turkey and the US Administration have doomed the Kurds in Kobani:

Perhaps  the most insightful analysis of this looming disaster in Kobani came from  former Reagan era OMB Director and veteran Wall Street banker,  David Stockman , in his Contra Corner blog commentary, The Siege Of Kobani: Obama’s Syrian Fiasco In Motion .  Stockman is as disturbed as many Americans about why the valiant Kurds in Kobani are being abandoned to their doomed fate.  He clearly is in command of Kurdish history in the modern era and the failure at the Treaty of Versailles following WWI to the present to recognize a non-Arab ethnic state of more than 30 million Kurds drawn from enclaves in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.  Stockman is unforgiving about the current duplicity of the Islamist regime of President Erdogan of Turkey, the Saudis and the baleful failure of the Administration to exert leadership in the face of the provocative barbarism of ISIS and even its acolytes here in the US.  Stockman presents the real-politick behind the doomed plight of the PYG fighters trapped in Kobani.

Stockman blames the Obama Administration for not going in with boots on the ground or at least carrying out a massive sustained airstrike against ISIS.   As for the Turks:

For us, ISIL and the (Kurdish) PKK are the same,” Erdogan said in televised remarks today in Istanbul.

And that’s literally true because from Turkey’s vantage point the Kobani showdown is a case of terrorist-on-terrorist. The Kurdish fighters in Kobani are linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. The latter has waged a separatist campaign of armed insurrection and terror inside and around Turkey for 30-years and has long been considered Turkey’s top security threat. In fact, Turkey has received untold amounts of US aid, equipment and intelligence over the years to help suppress this uprising. That’s the reason that PKK is officially classified as a “terrorist” group by the U.S. and the government in Ankara.

The US Policy in Iraq that armed ISIS.

Washington’s foolish delusion that it was spending $25 billion to train and equip an “Iraqi army” added fuel to the fire.

“No Turkish politician can explain to the public why the government is aiding the PKK and its affiliated groups after fighting against it for 30 years,” he said by phone.

Likewise, the Saudi’s want to destroy the Assad regime because it is allied with their Shiite enemy across the Persian Gulf in Iran and because they fear their own abused Shiite populations which are concentrated in their oilfield regions. Consequently, they see the fight against ISIS as essentially a pretext for escalating their war against Damascus, and are not even interested in bombing the non-ISIS jihadi like the Nusra Front that they see as allies in the campaign against Assad.

What to make of the US led Coalition Air Exercise?

At the end of the day, Obama’s air campaign amounts to nothing more than a glorified international air force training exercise. Pilots and air crews from the UK, Denmark, Belgium, France, Australia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan etc.  will get to run a few live fire sorties at politically correct targets. So the Brits will bomb in Iraq but not Syria; the Saudi’s will bomb ISIS targets close to Assad-held territories, but not Nusra Front positions; and the Qataris will go along for the ride pretending to help, even as they preserve deniability that they ever dropped an actual bomb for that day down the road when they seek to make a pipeline deal with the Islamic State.

Stockman’s Conclusion.

Never in recorded history has a fading imperial power conducted a more feckless, pointless, and strategically irrational war. Indeed, the real lesson is that by inserting itself into tribal and sectarian conflicts in these pockets of anarchy Washington only succeeds in generating more of the same. That is exactly what the siege of Kobani is all about.

The way the free world is milling about aimlessly without a serious coordinated action against ISIS has echoes of the way the Allies abandoned the Jews during the Shoah.

Parchin nuclear facility

Meanwhile at the centre of the web of Middle East violence in Iran, a massive explosion occurred on Sunday night at the Parchin nuclear facility:

Two people were killed in an explosion at a defense ministry plant east of Tehran for the production of explosives, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported Monday.

The Defense Industries Organisation, quoted by IRNA, said the fire broke out at the plant on Sunday night but it gave no further details.

The BBC, citing a report from the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), reported on Monday that the incident happened in an “explosive materials production unit” at the site south-east of the capital Tehran.

According to ISNA the blast was so powerful it shattered windows up to 12 kilometers away and the glare from the explosion lit up the night sky.

Several arms facilities and military bases are located east of the Iranian capital, including Parchin. UN nuclear inspectors have been seeking to visit the site to answer concerns about Iran’s atomic program.

The base lies at the centre of allegations of past Iranian research into sophisticated explosives that can be used to detonate a nuclear warhead.

Was it sabotage? Or just an accident? Will we ever discover the truth?

You would imagine that with all this mass murder and barbarity, not to mention the severe danger of a rogue nuclear regime, international academics would forget their obsession with demonising Israel. You would be wrong.

The latest anti-Israel tactic from the BDS bigots is an academic boycott by hundreds of anthropologists, including from such Ivy League institutions as Harvard and Yale:

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