In memory of my mother-in-law Edith Klausner z”l

ברוך דיין אמת

My mother-in-law Edith in 2008

My mother-in-law Edith Klausner z”l passed away on Thursday  כ”ו טבת תש”פ, (26th Tevet 5780), 23rd January 2020, just two years after her husband, my late father-in-law Menny passed away.  The levaya in Segula, Petach Tikva, was attended by around 100 people or more, a testament to the esteem and love that people felt for her.

There were beautiful hespedim (eulogies) given by her son (my husband) Henry, Rabbi Moshe Lifschutz of our shul, Rabbi Nechemia Taylor, previously of our shul and a close family friend, and also by two grandchildren: Evelyn’s daughter Yael, and our son Zvi (whose hesped was mostly written by our daughter Hadassah).

I filmed all the hespedim on my phone but I have not yet had time to upload them. I will update this post or create a new one when I have done so.

Menny and Edith at our son’s wedding

I don’t know where to begin to describe Edith. No mother-in-law jokes will be tolerated here. I loved her like a mother, and could always turn to her for sage, level-headed advice, as well as delicious recipes or simply a sociable chat.

The word that always comes to mind to describe Edith is “a lady”. She was the epitome of ladylikeness, but not in a false, vain way. She was simply naturally elegant, and always knew how to do the right thing, the right way at the right time. She would be dressed beautifully and correctly without overdoing it, she could – and did! – throw together a reception for VIPs and diplomats and host them in her own home without losing her cool, always working behind the scenes and never demanding attention, thus enabling her husband Menny to continue his own work for the good of the British Jewish community and the State of Israel.

She was also an extremely devoted daughter and daughter-in-law, there are few people who were as dedicated as she was to the older generation.

She was born in Leipzig, Germany and escaped with her parents via Switzerland just before the war to England. There they were evacuated from London to Harrogate during the Blitz.

Edith was extremely talented, she could cook, she sewed beautifully, and unusually for her time, she was a photographer.  Being married to my father-in-law, and he being so involved in the establishment of the State of Israel, Edith would be asked by various unnamed persons to photograph secret documents which helped in the struggle for the newborn State of Israel.

But mostly she was a portrait photographer, and one of the most famous portraits, that of Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, was taken by her while still known by her maiden name, Edith Hepner. In fact that Chief Rabbi and his wife waited until Edith returned from holiday for the official photograph to be taken by her, such was the esteem in which she was held.

My mother-in-law was a devoted mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Our children and grandchildren loved going to her house where they would be spoiled with chocolate and cocoa and other “good stuff”.

Sadly in her later years she suffered from Alzheimer’s but she never lost her beauty or dignity until the end. She was cared for by several caregivers whom I consider angels, the last and best being Sonal, without whom none of us could have coped.

We have missed Edith for some years now, but now that she is gone forever we can allow the beautiful memories to resurface.

Rest in peace Edith, my dear mother-in-law, join with Menny to be a מליץ יושר for your family and for all of Israel.

תהיה נפשה צרורה בצרור החיים.

I would like to take this opportunity to present here the hesped written by Hadassah which I have translated below. I was so touched and so grateful that Hadassah, her siblings and her cousins still remember the good times with Grandma Klausner despite her later illness. I think she has captured some of the essence of her beloved grandma.

ספר מיכה נאמר:
הגִּיד לְךָ אָדָם מַה טּוֹב וּמָה יְהוָה דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמְּךָ כִּי אִם עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת עִם אֱלֹהֶיךָ.

גרמה יקרה,
כשאני חושבת עלייך
נזכרת בך
זה לדעתי המשפט שכל כך מסמל אותך.
״עשות משפט
ואהבת חסד
והצנע לכת עם אלוהיך״

גרמה שלנו,
בחייך היית דוגמה ומופת לעשיית חסד, עזרה לזולת, עמידה איתנה על עקרונות-
אבל הכל בצניעות, בשקט, מאחורי הקלעין.
תמיד תמכת בגרמפה קלאוזנר ז״ל בכל הפעילויות שלו,עזרת מהצד, בשקט, שלא ידעו האנשים מה עשית ואיך, תמיד הולכים שניכם יחד יד ביד לכל מקום.
את שייכת לדור הנפילים, אלו שברחו מגרמניה מפחד הנאצים, שעזרו ככל יכולתם להקים לנו מדינה.
מספרים עלייך שבצעירותך עבדת כצלמת, ואפילו עזרת ל״הגנה״ וצילמת עבורם מסמכים.
כבר אז- כשעזרת ועשית- הכל היה בשקט, בצניעות.
זוכרת אותך עובדת עם גרמפה במפעל- תופרת ומגהצת, מקפלת ואורזת,
זוכרת אותך עומדת ליד גרמפה בכל מיני אירועים עם אנשים חשובים- הנשיא, ראש הממשלה, אפילו מלכת אנגליה, ואת תמיד ברקע, ליד גרמפה, נותנת לו את הבמה בחוץ, עומדת יפה ומטופחת- איפור ועקבים חובה!
מתוך ידיעה ברורה שבבית תגידי את דעתך והיא תישמע.

זוכרת אותך גיבורה! עושה עלייה לארץ בגיל 70+, למרות ששינויים אף פעם לא היו קלים לך.
נוהגת לבד מפ״ת לירושלים, למרות שפחדת מאד מהנהגים הישראליים.
המשפט שאמרת כל הזמן-god helps those who help themselves,
ולא ויתרת לעצמך.
זוכרת אותך לוקחת אותנו הנכדים לימי כיף בערב פסח- כולנו ביחד! 8 ילדים מתחת לגיל 12.

גרמה היקרה,
נזכור אותך תמיד כאשת חיל,
כסבתא אוהבת ומפנקת,
שתמיד הביאה את המתנות הכי טובות,
האוכל הכי טעים.
תמיד דאגת שיהיה בבית שוקו בקרטון ושוקולד טעים, שיהיה לנו כיף לבוא אליכם.

נזכור אותך הסבתא הצדיקה שתמיד הגיעה לתפילות בבית הכנסת, גם כשכבר לא יכלו לך כוחותייך, דאגת שיקחו אותך לתפילות לשמוע קול שופר בראש השנה, ותפילת מוסף ביום כיפור.

נתגעגע אלייך גרמה, זה בטוח.
מבחינתנו תם עידן.
תהיי מלחמת יושר עלינו בשמים גרמה, אנחנו כל כך צריכים את זה עכשיו.

אוהבים ומתגעגעים,

The book of Micha says: Man, you have been told what is good and what G-d demands of you: only do justice and love kindness, go modestly with your G-d”.

Dear Grandma, when I think of you, when I remember you, this in my opinion is the sentence that so represents you. “Do justice and love kindness, and go modestly with your G-d”.

Our Grandma, in your lifetime you were a shining example of doing kindness, helping others, standing strongly on your principles, but all with modesty, quietly, behind the scenes. You always supported Grandpa Klausner z”l in all his activities, helping from the side, quietly, so that people didn’t know what you did and how, always the two of you walking everywhere .hand in hand

They tell us that in your younger days you worked as a photographer, and even helped the Hagana and took pictures of documents. Already then, when you acted and assisted, it was all done quietly, modestly.

I remember you working with Grandpa in the workshop, sewing and ironing, folding and packing.
I remember you standing next to Grandpa at all kinds of events with important people – the President, the Prime Minister, even the Queen of England. And you were always in the background, next to Grandpa, giving him the stage outside, standing beautiful and elegant, makeup and heels a must! All in the clear knowledge that at home you can express your opinion and it will be heard.

I remember you as a hero! Making aliya at age 70+, despite the fact that change was never easy for you. You would drive alone from Petach Tikva to Jerusalem despite being terrified of Israeli drivers. The words you said all the time: God helps those who help themselves – You didn’t make any allowances for yourself.

I remember you taking us grandchildren for fun days out on Erev Pesach – all of us together! 8 children under the age of 12.

Dear Grandma,
We will always remember you as a woman of valour, as a loving and pampering grandma, who always brought us the best presents, the tastiest food, and who always made sure that there would be cartons of chocolate milk and tasty chocolate, so that we would enjoy coming to you.

We will remember you as the righteous Grandma who came to daven in shul even when your strength was failing. You made sure to be taken to hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashana and Musaf on Yom Kippur.

We will miss you Grandma, that’s for sure. For our part, an era is over.

Be a stalwart defender for us up in Heaven Grandma, we need it so much now.

Loving you and missing you,

The grandchildren.

Posted in Family, History | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

A civil uprising in Iran

It looks like a civil revolution is taking place in Iran, where the people are rising up against the regime of the Mad Mullahs. The courage, the sheer bravery of the Iranian citizens is awe-inspiring. They face arrest, torture and death and yet are not giving up. It is clear that they have had enough of the 7th century rammed down their 21st century throats, and have finally gathered enough courage, likely bolstered by the support of Donald Trump – because the rest of the West is still too scared or too enamoured of Iranian oil to help – to revolt.

Despite the brutal crushing of any signs of rebellion, with 1,500 said to have been killed by the Iranian security forces, the Iranian people are not giving up.

The atmosphere heated up even more after the regime admitted shooting down the Ukrainian airliner with a missile “by mistake” last week.

Protesters gathered on Sunday for a second day of demonstration in Tehran despite heavy police presence. Protesters called for the ouster of senior government officials after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard admitted it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines passenger jet, killing all 176 on board.

Rescue teams on January 8, 2020, at the scene of a Ukrainian airliner that crashed shortly after take-off near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran. Getty

President Trump has been tweeting support for the protesters.

The jetliner crashed early Wednesday in the hours after Iran launched missile attacks on two Iraqi military bases housing American troops. The attacks were a response to the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani days earlier.

On Saturday, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division said his unit accepts “full responsibility” for the crash on Monday. Iranian officials had earlier denied that it had shot down the jet.

Look at this video clip that was filmed during the protests:

It’s not only in Iran that citizens are objecting to the Mullah’s malign rule. In Beirut, Lebanon, too, protests have been taking place:

Besides these protests, there has been astonishing support for the west expressed by the courageous Iranian citizens:

Iran’s only female Olympic medallist has defected in protest at the repressive Iranian regime:

Iran’s only female Olympic medallist, Kimia Alizadeh, says she has defected.

Alizadeh, 21, posted on social media that she had left Iran because she didn’t want to be part of “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery”.

Kimia Alizadeh won a landmark bronze medal in taekwondo in the 2016 Rio Olympic

Alizadeh did not say where she was, amid reports that she has been training in the Netherlands. She made history for Iran in 2016 when she won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the Rio Olympics.

“I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they’ve been playing for years,” she wrote.

“I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”

She added that although the government would exploit her sporting success politically, officials would humiliate her with comments such as: “It is not virtuous for a woman to stretch her legs.”

This is incredible bravery on her part. I hope Miss Alizadeh keeps safe and enjoys success in whichever country she finds refuge.

Similarly the Iranian chess player Alireza Firouzja has refused to play for Iran because of his country’s ban on competing against Israelis:

Iran’s top-rated chess champion has decided not to play for his country, Iranian news agencies reported on Tuesday, in an apparent reaction to Tehran’s informal ban on competing against Israeli players.

Iranian chess player Alireza Firouzja. Photo: Leonid Fleischman.

Alireza Firouzja, the world’s second-highest rated junior player, would be the second Iranian sports figure in recent months to try to renounce his citizenship over pressures on Iranian athletes to forego matches with Israeli competitors.

In October, Iran was banned indefinitely from international judo by the sport’s world body until it could guarantee that its athletes would be allowed to face Israelis. The move came after an Iranian judoka said he was pressured to drop out of bouts to avoid facing an Israeli athlete.

“Firouzja has made his decision and has told us that he wants to change his nationality,” the president of Iran’s Chess Federation, Mehrdad Pahlavanzadeh, told the semi-official news agency Tasnim.

“Firouzja is currently living in France … and may want to play under the French or US flag,” Pahlavanzadeh told the news agency ISNA.

The rumblings are being heard in the cultural sector too. Another extremely courageous Iranian woman is the Iranian state TV anchor who resigned while apologizing for the lies she spouted on behalf of the regime:

I hope she too stays safe and out of the hands of the brutal benighted regime.

Just to get an idea of the numbers involved and the hypocrisy of the UN:

Unlike former President Barack Obama, who did nothing to help the nascent Iranian civilian revolution, preferring the nuclear deal to assisting the “Green Revolution“, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are secretly assisting the protestors:

The story begins in early 2017, with then-CIA director, Pompeo. Determined to escalate the CIA’s activities against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s regime, Pompeo unified Iran operations under a specific mission center and aggressively minded chief. What followed were successful U.S. operations to obstruct Iranian nuclear activities, contest the regime’s external activities, recruit Iranian officials (including senior officials), and identify those behind the repression of Iran’s population. The mission center’s activities now define Pompeo’s push to see the CIA accept greater operational risks. The current director, Gina Haspel, has continued in this vein.

One element involves assisting satellite streaming services in penetrating extensive Iranian censorship platforms. But a key focus is helping protesters to get their messages out. Iranian activists have shown courage and skill in rapidly getting videos out onto the internet during major crackdowns. But they face real challenges. So to give them a helping hand, sources tell me that the U.S. facilitates access to virtual private networks that allow internet connectivity outside of censor constraint. These VPNs transmit data through encrypted internet tunnels, protecting users from Iranian counterintelligence activities to detect and disrupt them.

But what happens when Iran’s government shuts down the nation’s internet service entirely, as during the November 2019 energy price protests?

Well, Iranian activists have to travel to Iran’s border areas to jump on foreign networks. But a new development, as one senior administration official tells me, is that the U.S. has enabled protesters to get their messages out even “when the internet is shutdown.” The official emphasized that while this effort is limited in scale, it is a positive work in progress.

The administration’s countering of Iranian oppression doesn’t begin and end with assistance to the protesters.

The U.S. intelligence community also provides secured communication platforms — revamped following disastrous security breaches — to allow its Iranian government sources to provide timely intelligence without compromising themselves. This allows U.S. officials to quickly learn the nature and human cost of Iranian security crackdowns. An important advantage in the context of the Iranian regime’s particular penchant for deception.

This highly advanced technological assistance is remarkable for its level of sophistication and for the risks involved. Huge kudos to the Trump administration for having the courage of their convictions and for standing up for what is moral and right.

What will happen next? It all depends on Iran’s next move. Will the mullahs relax their hold on power? Will they ease the religious restrictions on their citizens? And will they reign in their proxies all over the Middle East and beyond? It seems hardly likely.

Interesting times ahead.

Posted in International relations, Iran, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Good News Friday

A very wet and cold week has passed by and has brought us huge amounts of rain.  So huge in fact that the Kinneret rose 23 cm in one day! When you consider the size of the lake the amount of water that has fallen is almost unbelievable.

In the last 24 hours, the Sea of Galilee has risen by 23 centimeters. This morning (Thursday), the current sea levels are at 211 meters and 10 cm below sea level, according to the Kinneret Authority.

Since the beginning of the rainy season, the Sea of Galilee rose 80 cm. The current water level is at 1.9 meters high from the bottom red line and 2.3 meters away from the top red line, marking a full Sea of Galilee.

See the pictures below to see the dramatic rise in the water level of the Kinneret:

Top: The water-mark on 9th Jan. 2020 Bottom: The water-mark on 9th Jan. 2019

The rains – which in Israel are usually called “rains of blessing” – גשמי ברכה – broke a 50 year record, which despite the blessing of filling up the Kinneret and our underground aquifers, also brought widespread havoc and flooding, and sadly brought tragedy too.

Several people have been killed in the floods including a couple trapped in a flooded elevator in Tel Aviv last week, several people swept away in their cars, a shepherd swept away in the flood, and this week Motti Ben Shabbat, a heroic young man who drowned while trying to help other people, including a mother and baby trapped in their car in the northern town of Nahariya which took a particular beating in the floods.

Motti Ben Shabbat z”l

At least a thousand people attended Motti’s funeral and President Rivlin wrote a condolence letter to the family:

“Dear brave Ben Shabbat family,” the president wrote. “Moti risked his live to save a family whose car was stuck in the rising tides. In those seconds, when action comes before thought, a person’s true character is seen.

“His bravery, his refusal to be a bystander, his courage, touched all our hearts and are examples of humanity and mutual responsibility of the highest order,” Rivlin wrote. “Please, on behalf of the people of Israel, accept my sincere condolences at this difficult time.”

May his memory be for a blessing.

The internet is awash (pun intended heh heh) with videos and pictures from the floods. Here are a couple – one from the Tel Aviv area (with accompanying song “let the heavens rejoice, the sea and its fullness will thunder” which I guess is pretty appropriate).

EDIT: I missed a very clever pun! DavidinPT in the comments pointed out that the caption “ישמחו השמים – Yismachu Hashamayim” (let the heavens rejoice) – has been written “wrongly”, forming a Hebrew pun. The word Shamayim was written שמאים with an א instead of י – making the word sound more or less the same. But the meaning is radically different.  “Let the insurance adjustors rejoice”. 🤦🏽‍♀️😝

The second video is an aerial view of Nahariya after the floods.

Mt. Hermon in the north is covered by a deep layer of snow, although the site is still closed to visitors because of the bad weather. The views are terrific though:

Mt. Hermon in the snow, January 9th 2020

Let us pray that the rains will continue but only as “rains of blessing”, with no more damage and no more tragedies.

Moving now to something completely different. In very timely news considering the ramifications of the Soleimani killing last week, Israel this week unveiled its latest weapon: a Laser gun to shoot down missiles! (Via DavidinPT):

The Defense Ministry’s Research and Development Directorate revealed a breakthrough in laser technology on Wednesday, saying it is expected to complement the country’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.

The new laser-based system is built for the interception of rocket, mortar, and artillery threats, aerial drones and anti-tank missiles. It will undergo testing in the coming months with the goal of having it operational within a year and a half.

The new technology was unveiled by the directorate chief Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, who said it would alter Israel’s ability to defend itself strategically.


… The laser-based interception, which is silent and invisible, is based on electric laser technology rather than the chemically based lasers used up to now.

The cost is less than 10 shekels (about $3.50) per interception, in contrast with Iron Dome, which costs about 170,000 shekels ($49,000) per interception.

As a result of the technological breakthrough, the Defense Ministry has launched three programs for the development of high-energy laser demo systems in cooperation with defense industries, Rafael and Elbit Systems:

  • Development of a demo ground-based laser system to complement the capabilities of the Iron Dome (an additional layer to the air defense array
  • Development of a maneuver platform-mounted laser system to defend troops in the field
  • Development of a laser demo system mounted on an air platform to intercept threats above cloud covers and for the defense of wide areas

Last Thursday, meanwhile, the Israel Police unveiled a new laser system designed to intercept airborne incendiary threats sent from the Gaza Strip. According to Channel 12 News, although the system is operational a deploy date was not immediately given.

Dubbed Light Blade, the system is said to resemble Iron Dome in its technology. It will tackle incendiary balloons and kites, which have started countless fires in the southern border vicinity communities over the past two summers, as well as drones.

The Jerusalem Post has more details:

While most developments over the years – both in Israel and abroad – have been ineffective, significant achievements have been made over the past year and a half as a result of collaboration between the ministry and defense companies, including Rafael and Elbit Systems, as well as academic institutions. The breakthrough recently made by the ministry is based on the precision of the laser beam, which can be focused on long-range targets and which can overcome atmospheric disturbances such as clouds and dust storms.

According to Oster, the ministry was able to take several laser beams and, with an advanced algorithm, connect them to get one strong beam that is able to intercept and take down a variety of threats.

“During a war, missile interceptors will at one point run out, but with this system, as long as you have electricity, you have a never-ending supply,” he said.

“This is a weapon that you can’t see or hear,” Rotem said, adding that while it is not free since it runs on electricity, every interception will only cost a few dollars, as opposed to interceptor missiles that can run into the thousands.

The use of two different and complementary technologies – kinetic air-defense-like systems, such as the Iron Dome, and laser platforms – “is a game-changer,” Rotem said.

This new laser “anti-missile” sounds like something out of science fiction! What a fantastic invention! Kol hakavod to the various Ministers of Defence (Avigdor Liberman, Naftali Bennett, et al) and of course to all the personnel at Rafael and Elbit who were involved.

And now to conclude, harking back to last week’s post about the Siyum HaShas, the huge crowds who gathered at various events round the world caused a wonderful Kiddush Hashem – a sanctification of G-d’s name through their cordial and respectful behaviour.  Last week I mentioned the reactions of some of the Met-Life stadium staff to the respectful behaviour of the participants.  Now read the following letter below, sent from the Wembley Arena in London. (click to enlarge):

In addition we have the beautiful sentiments expressed by one of the Met-Life stadium officials:

Kol hakavod once again to all those who took part in the hard work of studying the Talmud every day for seven and a half years, and who started the cycle all over again without stopping. And of course a huge yasher koach to everyone who took part in the celebrations and brought respect and honour to Am Yisrael and a Kiddush Hashem.

This week the family are celebrating the Barmitzvah of my niece’s son, so I would like to add a hearty Mazal Tov to Talya and Yuda, and their son Ariel. Wishing the whole family lots of nachas!

Shabbat Shalom to everyone, may you all keep warm and dry while the rain falls outside.

Posted in Defence and Military, Family, Israel news, Judaism, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Good News Friday

This week’s Good News Friday post opens with the startling – and very good – news that the US killed the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Group Corps – Al Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani last night.

IGRC-Al Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani meets Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2015

Make no mistake about it: Soleimani was an extremely bad, dangerous man. From the above link:

Qassem Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s Quds Force, was killed in an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport, Iraqi TV and three Iraqi officials officials said Friday.

The US Department of Defense confirmed it had carried out the airstrike.

“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” it said. “General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”

The Iraqi officials said the strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Iranian state television said the attack was carried out by US helicopters.

Soleimani has for years been seen as the architect of much of Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East, including attempts to place a foothold in Syria and rocket attacks on Israel, making him one of Israel and the US’s most sought-after targets.

In a 2013 profile of Soleimani, New Yorker reporter Dexter Filkins wrote that as head of the Quds Force, which he took control of in 1998, Soleimani “sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq.”

Israellycool has more background:

Qassim Soleimani has been in control of Iran’s Quds Force for more than 20 years. His current greatest hits include helping Bashar al Assad slaughter hundreds of thousands of his own people in the Syrian civil war, stoking the Houthis in Yemen’s civil war, and overseeing the killing of hundreds of Iraqi protesters recently demonstrating against Iranian influence in their country.

But most importantly for Americans, Soleimani was behind the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers during the Iraq War. Last year, the U.S. State Department put the number of Americans killed by Iranian proxies in Iraq at 608 since 2003.

Soleimani was so powerful he was in effect second in command only to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei:

Despite the dire threats of revenge (possibly against Israel too via Iran’s proxy Hezbollah) it is good that this man is dead. As the mastermind behind almost every dangerous terror group in the Middle East, he needed to be taken out.

Kol Hakavod to the American troops and to President Trump for keeping his eye on the target.

If it weren’t for the malign influence of Iran and all its proxies the Middle East might be looking a lot different today. As it is, relations between Israel and her Arab neigbours are steadily warming up. Watch this great video from StandWithUs:

A Chanukiya was even lit in Dubai last week!

Let us pray that with the elimination of the wicked Soleimani, Israel’s relations with its neighbours can continue to develop and flourish.

And now from the depths of evil to the heights of righteous spirituality, this week the Jewish world marked the completion of the 7-year cycle of study of the Talmud known as “Daf Yomi”, literally “the daily page“. The project, started on Rosh Hashanah 5684 (Sept. 11, 1923) by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, involves the study of one page (two sides) of Talmud per day.  At the end of the cycle a huge celebration, the Siyum Hashas (completion of the Talmud) is held. Since the Talmud study is carried out simultaneously in Jewish communities throughout the world, the celebrations too are similarly marked. In New York, over 90,000 Jews filled the Met-Life Stadium and smaller celebrations were held elsewhere.

The Met-Life Stadium packed with Orthodox Jews celebrating Siyum Hashas – having completed the Daf yomi cycle

The New York Times (!) reports:

An estimated 350,000 Jews all over the world take part in the movement known as Daf Yomi, which means “page a day” in Hebrew. In synagogue study halls, Wall Street board rooms and even on the 7:51 a.m. Long Island Rail Road train from Far Rockaway to Penn Station, they study the same two-sided page each day until all 2,711 are completed.

Many, …  choose to start the cycle all over again, anticipating new shards of insight or wisdom.

The movement has become so popular that the New York-area ceremony on New Year’s Day not only drew 90,000 participants, filling the home of the football Giants and Jets in the New Jersey Meadowlands, but also attracted 20,000 to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. There were smaller celebrations in 80 cities in 15 countries, according to organizers.

The celebration, known as a Siyum HaShas, or “completion of the Talmud,” was organized by Agudath Israel of America, the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group that initiated the program in 1923 as a way of unifying Jews and their practice in a growing diaspora.

This year the Siyum Hashas, coming on the heels of weeks of antisemitic attacks in New York and elsewhere, this huge celebration is a form of revenge against the antisemites. Not only will they not defeat us physically, our spiritual life is flourishing too.

Not only is the Siyum Hashas a huge Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name) in itself, the respectful way in which the participants behaved created an even bigger Kiddush Hashem. Israellycool has the story:

Remember, we are speaking about 92,000 people packing the stadium, so if things got a little unruly, it would not be surprising. This is what the stadium staff had to say about them behind their backs:

Huge kol hakavod to every single learner and studier and teacher over this last cycle. May your Torah study grow and flourish for the benefit of the entire Jewish nation.

On a personal note, tomorrow night we are going to our son-in-law’s personal Siyum Hashas at his home. Another kol hakavod goes to him and his friends.

One funny wisecrack to finish this week’s post. One lone wise-guy in the huge black-garbed crowd at the Met-Life stadium dressed himself up as “Waldo” from Where’s Waldo:

I would have said “only in Israel” – but this was New York! 😀 Well done sir, you are a brave man!

I wish everyone Shabbat Shalom, may the coming week bring us only good news.

Posted in Defence and Military, International relations, Judaism, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Antisemitism in America – Monsey stabbing attack is the worst in the latest wave

The subject of antisemitism in America is something I never thought would become “a thing” and I certainly never imagined it would become a series to write about.

Scene of the Monsey stabbing attack

On Saturday night a domestic terrorist, for want of a better term, invaded a Chanukah party taking place at the home of Rabbi Rottenberg, a Hassidic Rabbi in Monsey and began stabbing and slashing the participants, injuring 5 people. One of them is in a critical condition.

But the Monsey attack didn’t come out of the blue. It is not even the culmination of the recent antisemitic attacks taking place around America. Barely 2 weeks ago we witnessed the deadly attack on the kosher supermarket in New Jersey, and of course there have been 2 murderous attacks on synagogues, one in Pittsburgh and one in Poway, in the last year and a half.

Here is a short, rather horrifying video showing just a few of the latest attacks on Orthodox Jews in the New York area:

In my post about the Jersey attack I quoted Eli Steinberg, an Orthodox writer, who wrote about the deafening silence surrounding these attacks on Orthodox Jews. The crux of his argument is still valid:

What happens when the victims are people who publicly align themselves with the President? What happens when the people committing the acts of anti-Semitism against them aren’t white nationalists, but minorities — like the former Black Hebrew Israelite who committed the Jersey City murders?

Then we ignore it.

When people can only recognize anti-Semitism when it comes from the other side of the aisle, it isn’t ant-Semitism which bothers them; it is their political enemies. It isn’t Jew hatred that is at stake but politics, and winning.

Since the attack in Monsey, gallons of ink have been spilled in all the media, not just Jewish media but in the mainstream media too – finally! – about the rising levels of antisemitism and the physical danger facing Orthodox Jews in particular, (mainly because of their visibility).

Nita Lowey and in The New York Times talk about the right response to the antisemitic Monsey attack:

First, we need to recognize the problem for what it is: an epidemic. We are no longer talking about isolated, occasional actions — bad enough as those are — but a regular phenomenon. Like an epidemic, it must be treated comprehensively, addressing root causes.

Second, we must acknowledge that there are multiple ideological sources feeding this paroxysm of hate; it is not a result of a single political outlook. Some critics wish to exploit the issue to undermine their political opponents. That is no way to deal with anti-Semitism. There is no one-size-fits-all profile for the perpetrators of these attacks.

One of the people getting a lot of blame for allowing this latest antisemitism to occur is New York Mayor Bill De Blasio whose liberalism ignores left-wing or black antisemitism as he puts the blame only on the right-wing:

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that anti-Semitism is a “right-wing movement” — while rejecting a claim that the left plays any role in discriminating against Jews.

“I think the ideological movement that is anti-Semitic is the right-wing movement,” de Blasio said at a Brooklyn press conference Tuesday about the increase of hate crimes in New York City. Hate crimes against all minority groups are up 64% compared to this time last year. Anti-Semitic incidents have spiked by 90%.

De Blasio said he did not agree with a claim by a reporter that there is also rising anti-Semitism “on the left in the BDS movement and around the world.” The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a largely left-wing campaign to ban Israeli products.

“I don’t agree with the mayor,” said Chaim Deutsch, a Brooklyn Democrat.

“I have not seen any white supremacists coming in here committing these hate crimes,” he said.

Indeed, NYPD Chief Dermot Shea said at the same press conference that perpetrators of hate crimes “run the gamut” from teens, to people with mental illness, to first- time offenders, and career criminals.

In this vein, Karol Markowicz in the New York Post explains how liberals are helping antisemitism to flourish:

Mayor Bill de Blasio released his usual by-the-numbers statement. “Hate doesn’t have a home in our city,” he tweeted. But hate does have a home here, and it has found it while Hizzoner has mostly looked away.

The mayor added: “In light of recent anti-Semitic attacks, the NYPD will increase their presence in Borough Park, Crown Heights and Williamsburg.” But the recent attacks have spread to Midtown Manhattan and Gravesend, Brooklyn. The problem has gotten worse while inaction paralyzed the mayor.

I first wrote about the uptick in May. The reason the city’s liberal political class was ignoring it, I ­argued, is that the criminals don’t fit their picture of Evil Bigots. They aren’t, for the most part, MAGA hat-wearing white guys with tiki torches. In fact, many of the attackers are people of color, as investigative reporting by Tablet’s Armin Rosen and others has shown.

Imagine if they were white ­nationalists. How much faster would the mayor and other city leaders have taken action?

Will he face the facts now? Or will Jews need to actually die, not just be pummeled, for our leaders to grasp the threat?

“Anti-Semitism is an attack on the values of our city — and we will confront it head-on,” de Blasio tweeted after this latest round of violence against Jews in the city. He has to stop beating around the bush. These attacks aren’t an ­attack on “our values.” They’re attacks on visibly Jewish people.

Even Sunday, after the Monsey stabbings, he blamed Trump and “Washington” for creating “an atmosphere of hate.”

De Blasio needs to stop trying to find a “them” to be the opposite of his “us.” His juvenile obsession with having the right adversaries allows anti-Semitism to flourish.

Although it is politically incorrect to say this out loud, many if not most of these individual attackers (as opposed to the men who shot up the two synagogues) are black. What is causing the black community to turn on the Jews so viciously?

One very important reason is the far-left campaign of delegitimization of Israel, one of whose projects is the “Deadly Exchange” protest.  This project protests the training of US police officers by Israeli police, claiming that this has encouraged the US police to kill black civilians. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, but as the proverbial saying goes, a lie is halfway round the world till the truth gets out of bed.

Prof. William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has written a thorough analysis of this “Deadly Exchange” campaign, and its equally deadly results. It is a long read but very worthwhile and necessary in order to understand what is going on. Here are a few excerpts:

While this seems to come out of nowhere, in fact there has been a highly organized and aggressive campaign to stoke and exploit pre-existing racial tensions against Jews as part of anti-Israel activist tactics. The effort goes back decades to Louis Farrakhan, who serves as an inspiration for “intersectional” activists like Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour, formerly of the Women’s March.

But more than anything in recent years, anti-Zionist groups, including anti-Zionist purportedly Jewish groups, have sought to turn Blacks against Jews for the purpose of demonizing Israel by blaming Israel and American Jewish groups for domestic police violence and other policing problems.

Leading the way has been the anti-Zionist non-Jewish group calling itself “Jewish Voice for Peace” (JVP), which launched the “Deadly Exchange” campaign in 2017 falsely tying anti-terrorism training of U.S. police chiefs during short visits to Israel with police violence in the U.S. That “Deadly Exchange” campaign now has spread more broadly to the anti-Israel community, where various groups led by JVP seek to disrupt and terminate U.S.-Israel police exchanges.

As detailed below, the recent deadly shooting of Jews in Jersey City was by a Black supremacist group which espoused conspiracy theories eerily similar to the Deadly Exchange propaganda. While not all of the recent attacks can be tied to such conspiracy theories, what cannot be denied is that JVP and the other anti-Zionist groups promoting Deadly Exchange are playing a deadly game by promoting false claims of American and Israeli Jewish responsibility for police shootings.

The claims that Jews are responsible for the spilling of minority blood in U.S. cities is reminiscent of ancient blood libels which incited pogroms against Jews. The anti-Zionist activists’ hoped-for uprising against Israel and Jews may be playing out in ways they didn’t intend, but that doesn’t justify the continuation of the Deadly Exchange incitement.

In one of our analyses of the program, Professor Miriam Elman explained the premise behind and methodology of Deadly Exchange:

Launched several years ago by JVP, “Deadly Exchange” falsely blames Israel and its American-Jewish supporters for fueling police brutality and discriminatory policing practices against minority communities in America, and militarizing the approach to crime and public protests.

At its root, the campaign traffics in tropes and canards about Jewish power in order to accuse Israel and US-based Jewish organizations, like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), for conspiring to harm and oppress American black and brown people.

Since its launch, the Deadly Exchange campaign has been taken up by a variety of anti-Israel groups (including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the anti-Zionist blog Mondoweiss, and American Muslims for Palestine). Such groups undoubtedly hope to use the campaign’s  purported concern for the welfare of Black- and Hispanic-American communities as a way to sever those communities’ previously robust relationship with American Jews.

Afraid of the power of traditional Black and Hispanic Christian identification with Israel, Deadly Exchange advocates seek to use the campaign to recruit minority populations to the anti-Israel movement instead.

With the support and collaboration of such anti-Israel organizations, JVP’s Deadly Exchange campaign has directly engendered public expressions of naked anti-Semitism.


Jewish Voice for Peace and its anti-Zionist allies may have thought they hit on a useful tactic in blaming Jews for policing in minority communities as a way to turn minority public opinion against Israel. But it’s a dangerous and potentially deadly game. It is a modern blood libel with the potential to incite antisemitism at a minimum, and violence in those who buy-into the conspiracy theories and have other axes to grind.

In this time when violence against Jews is spiking in the communities targeted by the Deadly Exchange campaign, it is time for people of conscience to speak out against the Deadly Exchange incitement.

Seth Franzman in the Jerusalem Post points out the “inconvenient antisemitism” that is being perpetrated in America – the fact that the perpetrators are not your usual white supremacists, but very often “people of colour”:

How did we get here? The motivation behind the Jersey City attack is clear from social media posts one of the perpetrators made, according to a research by the ADL. This included claims that Jews are “Khazars,” and that “Brooklyn is full of Nazis-Ashkenazis,” and that the “police are in their [the Jews] hand now.” The worldview matches with the larger milieu in which Jews are portrayed as not merely “white Jews” but in fact as controlling the slave trade and police violence. In this new antisemitism Jews are reframed as both being “fake,” as in not really Jews from the Middle East, and also being “white” and running white supremacism. This replaces German Nazis with Jewish Nazis; it replaces white supremacists with a hidden hand of Jews controlling both the American far-right and also the police. Instead of pushing back against this there are attempts to excuse it or just remain quiet about it and hope this antisemitism goes away.

Despite the way this this antisemitism has combined traditional antisemitism with a twist, turning Jews into “whites” as opposed to hating them for being wandering Middle Easterners, there is very little recognition that it is dangerous.  This is despite hundreds of violent attacks over the years, primarily targeting Orthodox Jews. Now, this has resulted in murder. But many voices want to downplay it and explain it away. For instance, The New Yorker asked whether an “influx of Hasidic residents in the Greenville [Jersey City] neighborhood spur two assailants to embark on a shooting spree that left six people dead.” Jews, simply for moving somewhere, may cause a shooting spree, in this explanation. Jews are the only US minority group who, when they move somewhere, are accused of being an “influx.” Others have argued that we can’t even label the recent attacks “right wing” or “left wing” because it’s totally different to “white nationalists whose beliefs are based on antisemitism.”

A review of the discussion about the New York City attacks reveals an America that has trouble adjusting to and describing antisemitism when it comes from unexpected perpetrators. This is partly because the general view of racism in the US is that racism is not just about racism but about power. That is why in the US people look for racism in “white privilege” and the way racist views can be perpetuated even through code words and social settings and institutions. Confronted with the idea that minority groups are also racist, such as Hispanics using the n-word, there is a struggle to come to grips with how to define and confront. With the Jewish community there has been an agenda to argue over its relative “whiteness” and insofar as Jews are then removed from the intersectional agenda of minority groups fighting white privilege, Jews become either a separate category or part of the oppressive majority. This is odd but it is part of a wider agenda to assert that Zionism is racism and Jews are somehow linked to far-right groups through Israel and Israel is a modern apartheid colonialist structure. These ideas didn’t inform the Jersey City killings, but they are part of the milieu that informs those who might excuse the attacks.

In a similar vein Debbie Hall writing at Israellycool talks about “The Elephant in the Room” of black antisemitism – and is justifiably upset:

We are told that as non-black people that we don’t have a right to police black people or the leaders they choose. We are told as non-black people that Farrakhan has done amazing things for the black community and because of that, it’s perfectly okay that he is considered a leader in the black community, despite his violent, antisemitic rhetoric. As a non-black person and as a Jew, I’m here to tell you unequivocally that it is NOT okay that Louis Farrakhan is an accepted leader in the black community and I will tell you why. If you want to have the right to claim that racists against black people should be shunned, taken to task, and rejected by society (a stance that I agree with 100%), then you have to be prepared to do the same for the bigots among you. Otherwise, your appeals to anyone else to reject racist leaders are hypocritical, you will have lost all credibility, and you are no longer justified in making that demand of others.

Right now, white supremacists are laughing at both of us. They hate us both and black people are doing their dirty work. They are celebrating these attacks on Jews by people of color. The black people committing violence against Jews have put themselves in a subservient role to white supremacists by attacking their enemy for them and going to prison for them. While we should be uniting and fighting white supremacists together, you are in fact, making them stronger and in the end, they’ll be coming after you once the Jews are out of the way.

Antisemitism is rising all over the world – in Europe, in Britain (although maybe it will improve now with the election of Boris Johnson and the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn) and now in America. In all these places the hatred emanates from both the right and the left. In all these places it seems harder for society to acknowledge the hatred from the left. After all, the left are the righteous ones, the ones with their heart in the right place, the ones who fight for social justice.

But in America this right-left divide is complicated by the issue of race. It is something that the entire society has to face up to in order to defeat this evil phenomenon, before it consumes them all.

Posted in Antisemitism, Incitement, International relations, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Good News Friday – Shabbat Chanukah edition

We are right in the middle of Chanukah, entering Shabbat Chanukah in a few hours, so here is a special, Chanukah-themed Good News Friday post.

Looking at my post from last year, I find I can begin with almost the same paragraph! What happened last year that was repeated this year?

It has been raining. This is good news in Israel. But not gentle, English-style rain, but rainstorm of almost tropical proportions. After a very hot dry October, and an almost equally dry and unseasonably warm November, and even the first half of December, Hashem decided to have the last laugh on us and dumped practically the entire season’s rainfall on us on one afternoon (only very slightly exaggerating).  I know we need the rain, and our reservoirs and the Kinneret need refilling, so I feel bad complaining… but please? Couldn’t the rain be spread out a bit more evenly? Especially when sadly the heavy rains claimed the lives of 2 men who were swept away in the floods.

The rains this week were a national record:

This rain this week brought the heaviest single-day rainfall in northern Israel since records have been kept. As of Thursday evening, the Sea of Galilee had risen 8.5 cm (3.35 inches), mostly as a result of a downpour that dropped some 65 mm (2.56 inches) of rain.

The northern Golan Heights saw 150 mm (5.9 inches) of rain, which increased the water levels and flow in the Jordan River and the creeks on the Golan Heights.

Snow blanketed the Mt. Hermon ski site in the first serious snowfall of the season:

Mount Hermon on December 27, 2019. (photo credit: MT. HERMON MEDIA)

Meanwhile back to today, here is a cute video from the brilliant a capella band Six 13 – A Star Wars Chanukah!

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh tov and Chanukah Same’ach!

Posted in Israel news, Judaism | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments