Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The "Eichmann - Files" are going Public

Adolph Eichmann at the Jerusalem court


For the first time ever, the Israeli Ministry of Justice is opening its archives. From now on, all files about the Eichmann investigations including the trial can be viewed by the public.

So far, the files are only available in Hebrew:

"Yeshiva Guide" for the National Religious


20 Yeshivot for national religious (Mizrachi) students:

Palestinian Media Watch


Highly recommended reading:

"Palestinian Media Watch"

Chanukkah in Karlin - Stolin und Toldot Avraham Yitzchak


There is a certain custom in many chassidic groups, celebrating the eighth and last day of Chanukkah in a special way. The last day of this years' Chanukkah was Monday and it was Monday night when I visited two of such events. During the previous days of Chanukkah, many Chassidim also eat a special meal after lighting the Chanukkiah (Chanukkah Menorah).

A special celebration on the eighth day usual means a Tish with the Rebbe and a band plays chassidic niggunim (melodies). Three days ago, I was at Zion Square, downtown Jerusalem, when Chabad lit the seventh candle. Guest of honour was the newly elected mayor Nir Barkat who used the opportunity for a brief political speech. Politicians just cannot without putting in some politics.

In all the years before, I enjoyed the Chabad candle lighting but this year however, it wasn't spiritual at all and just a short cold event. Guest of honour lights candles and then go home everybody. For this reason, I was glad to go to Mea Shearim on the next day and see something real chassidic. "Real" in this case means a Chassidut with a Rebbe, as I personally prefer this. A Chassidut without a Rebbe such as Breslov and Chabad wouldn't be for me.

I heard that a great Tish was going to take place in Karlin – Stolin on Monday night. Chassidut Karlin was originally founded by Rebbe Aharon the Great, (1736 – 1772), who used to be a follower of the Maggid of Mezritch (Rabbi Dov Baer Friedman). The Maggid was the successor of the Baal Shem Tov and Chassidut is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) Lithuanian chassidic group. Karlin used to be a suburb of the Lithuanian town of Pinsk but soon Chassidut Karlin also spread until Vilna and this caused further tensions with the famous Gaon of Vilna and his followers.

Due to a dispute about the Rebbe, the Karliner today are divided into two groups. The larger part of the group remained "Karlin – Stolin" and a smaller part of the group split away, as they didn't want the Rebbe. First, the "rebels" intended to join Chassidut Lelov but Lelov didn't want to get involved and refused to accept them. As a result, those Chassidim leaving the Stolin group founded their own movement called "Karlin – Pinsk". Both groups have their Synagogues in Jerusalem and furthermore, Karlin – Stolin is quite big in New York. The Stoliner Rebbe Baruch Yaakov Me'ir Shochet lives in the Jerusalem suburb of Givat Ze'ev where he moved his main center. Unfortunately, he doesn't come to Jerusalem too many times. Means his Tishes mostly take place in Givat Ze'ev. On Monday night, however, his Tish took place in Jerusalem and it was the second time I ever saw him after all those months of going to the Stoliner Synagogue in Mea Shearim.

The present Karlin - Stoliner Rebbe Baruch Yaakov Me'ir Shochet.

I arrived at about 8.30pm and already thought that I would be too early but as soon as I enterd the Synagogue, it was obvious that I was wrong. Hundreds of Chassidim were standing on the metal benches downstairs and at least one hundred women and girls climbed up onto the Mechitzah (separation between men and women). The Karlin – Stoliner Mechitzah in Mea Shearim consist of huge glass windows.
The weather outside was cold and rainy but inside the Synagogue it was boiling hot; especially the great atmosphere. A band stood on a stage hanging down from a wall and most of the Chassidim were dancing. Well, due to the lack of space rather swinging. At first, it took me a little by surprise how many Karlin – Stoliner Chassidim there actually are, as I had expected the group to be much smaller.

Karlin – Stolin in Jerusalem during the last Sukkot

Finally I found a good spot to stand on and the woman with her four teenage girls invited me to come closer to the Mechitzah. Then I had a great view over half of the Synagogue. The Rebbe was sitting in the middle at the table and all his Chassidim surrounded him. The band was playing and never before, I had seen even older Chassidim dancing so wildly. Many Chassidim jumped up and down on the metal benches or were clapping into their hands. I saw one father holding the hands of his handicapped son and together, they were jumping up and down. It seemed that both of them weren't really in this world anymore but somewhere in higher spheres. When the loudspeakers broke down for a few minutes, the Chassidim just kept on singing out loud. Nothing could bother them and they all appeared to form a complete unity.

The atmosphere was unbelievable and I have hardly ever faced anything like this before. Sometimes you participate in a Tish and think that this is it. That there wouldn't be any more spirituality than this and later on it turns out that you were wrong. The only thing really bothering was the heat and that no window was open. I urgently needed some fresh air and decided to leave and look for some other chassidic groups.

I walked through the Mea Shearim market but everything was quiet. When there seems to be nothing, there is always one group where something is going on, and most of the time these are the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak. Their Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov Kahn knows how to celebrate and from far away, I already heard the loud music causing the "Mosdot Toldot Avraham Yitzchak" to "shake". The Avraham Yitzchak are my most favourite Tish and I just love their Rebbe.

Inside the Synagogue, the Ezrat Nashim was even more packed than the one at Karlin – Stolin and it was very hard to find a place behind the Mechitzah where I could have a look downstairs into the men's section. I finally found a spot and had a short look at the Chassidim downstairs who were wildy dancing and running around in a circle. They were completely filled with joy and even danicing around with Torah scrolls. One day later, a member told me that the group also celebrated a "Hachnasat Sefer Torah – Receiving a new Torah scroll for their Synagogue). It was an incredible atmosphere and I was glad that I had made my way to Mea Shearim.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The National Religious - Christian Connection


Already years ago, Christian missonaries discovered the Land of Israel and its Jewish population for their evil missionary purposes. The vast majority of Jewish Israelis doesn't want to get missionized and therefore, different missionary groups thought about another way how to influence the Jews and the State of Israel itself.

"Christian Friends of Israeli Communities" donate tons of money to out country. By the way, not every Christian donor necessarily has something evil in his mind and intends to missionize.

However, the worst seems to be that our government accepts lots of Christian money (present example: American Evangelists - Southern Baptist Convention). The opposition under Benjamin Netanyahu is not much better and sometimes is looks like half of our country has been bought by Christian fanatics.

Until now I wasn't even aware of how the situation really is. Friends being involved in the subject and the Internet let me know the shocking truth. The Mizrachi (national religious) Movement is not ashamed of accepting money from the "Christian Friends of Israel". The whole settler movement seems to live off these donations. No wonder that the national religious Knesset member Benny Elon (as well as Netanyahu) was invited as a guest speaker of the Christian Parade in Jerusalem this October.

This site shows settlements (Yishuvim) receiving money from Christian organizations:

Do those settlements know where the money is coming from ?
Yes, they are very much aware of it, as you will see in the video below. It is not kept as a secret and unfortunately, more and more national religious rabbis go for Christian money. The among the English speaking population of Jerusalem popular Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cardozo even sees Christianity very much connected to Judaism and we (those two religions) should work together now and in the future.

Israel's main problem is that no one obviously takes into consideration that those Christian donor group may one day show up and ask for favours. Demanding something and I rather don't think about how these demands would look like. Is Israel including the national religious movement on the way to be bought by Christians ?

Those who look at the sites and the video may be shocked by how the so terribly religious settlements go for idol - worship money. Fortunately, the haredi world has not yet sunken so deep as the Mizrachistim, and hopefully this will never be the case.

Israel, its government and the national religious should be very much aware of the fact how they are on the way of selling their soul to the so - called "Friends of Israel". "Friends" who intend nothing else but the destruction of the Jewish people.


Brit Milah for a Neonazi


This slightly extraordinary event was reported on a haredi Website: Alex, a former Russian Neonazi whose family had made Aliyah to Israel, found his way back to Judaism. Alex from Petach Tikwah (near Tel Aviv) is still in jail but decided to have a circumcision (Brit Milah). The procedure took place in a hostpital under the supervision of Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Jonah Metzger.

A year and a half ago, the police arrested a teenage Neonazi gang. The parents and grandparents of the gang members were mostly not halachically Jewish but had succeeded in making Aliyah to Israel.

A video report about Alex's Brit Milah including his Neonazi past:

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Hidden Message


At the last third Shabbat meal (Se'udat Shlishit), Rabbi Mordechai Machlis told the following story:

Every Shabbat morning, Rabbi Machlis has a Minyan (ten Jewish men) praying at the Kotel (Western Wall) and serves a light Kiddush (grapejuice and biscuits) afterwards. Then the Rabbi invites all people to his home.

Last Shabbat, however, he wanted to leave the Old City via Damascus Gate and walked through the tunnel out of the Kotel Plaza. At the army checkpoint a few meters far away, he was stopped and told that he cannot take the shortcut through Damascus Gate. Due to the Israeli air strike in Gaza, a walk through the Muslim Quarter would be too dangerous at the moment.

He went back and chose taking the other way through the Arab Shuk (Market) coming out at Jaffa Gate. But the second checkpoint sent him back as well. Finally coming out of Jaffa Gate via the Jewish Quarter, Rabbi Machlis met two families from New Jersey who were looking for a restaurant. He offered them to take them to his home for a Shabbat meal instead and the people agreed.

After the meal they came up to him, thanked him and said that this had been their first Jewish Shabbat ever.. Back in New Jersey, they are members of a reform temple and had never imagined that Orthodox Jews could celebrate so nicely and even talk to them (Reform Jews). In other words, the families were deeply impressed.

At the Third Meal, the Rabbi spoke about "Hashgacha Pratit - Divine Providence". G - d constantly rules our lives even if we don't understand the reasons why this and that is happening to us or why we necessarily have to meet certain people.
If the checkpoints had been open, the Rabbi would have walked home as usual and had never met these two families. But due to the fact that this and that had happened, he met them and this particular Shabbat in his house may have an impact on those people.

Pictures of the "Shomrei Emunim Rebbe"


Here are the latest pictures of the Shomrei Emunim Rebbe Avraham Chaim Roth, the son of the Toldot Aharon founder Rebbe Aharon Roth:

View all pictures here:

"Zewa Adom"

Hamas Terrorist


Many other blogs like to quote all kinds of sources from the international press. Usually I don't do this, as I expect people to read the latest news by themselves. Thus, I rather concentrate on opinions, even if I sometimes may sound very emotional. In Israel we don't use the term "emotional" in that particular sense; we say "Israeli".

The Israeli government has started its "Hasbara - Explanation" war. Most of the time, the Palestinians have a far better public relation than any Israeli ministry. Now our government has called all bloggers to join the Hasbara and explain people from abroad why Israel does react in a certain way and not in another way.

For more than six years, the Hamas has been shooting Kassam rockets from Gaza onto Israeli territory. And, as usual, the foreign press didn't really care about it too much. A picture of a Palestinian child crying about whatever attracts the world attention more than a Jewish child being hit by a Kassam rocket and loosing his leg, as the eight - year - old Osher Tvito from Sderot a few months ago.

For years, people abroad hadn't cared too much if the Negect town of Sderot was attacked several times a day. And, to my one disgrace, not even we Jerusalemites or Tel Avivim didn't pay too much attention to the suffering of the people in the Negev. Of course, we heard the daily news announcement, but haven't we all got used to it ?

The international media only reacts as soon as Israel strikes back. Then we see all the crying Palestinian children even if some pictures are Photoshop fakes. But who cares ? The Palestinian propaganda machinery knows how to get the world's attention and now we are facing the same kind of reaction. The UN already told Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza. The only question is: Where was the UN criticism when the Negev was hit by Kassam rockets ?

No other country in the world would take daily rocket attacks with so much patience than Israel. Well, we don't really call it "patience" but stupidity of our present government.

Sderot is a small town not too far away from the Gaza Strip. Its inhabitants are mostly Sephardi working class Jews. One may think that, after all those years, the inhabitants got used to the almost daily rocket alarm. This opinion is a mistake, as people are as frightened as in the past.
As soon as the alarm "Zewa Adom - Colour Red" is heard, people just run looking for shelter. After you hear the alarm, you have got 15 seconds saving your life. Within those seconds you need to find a save place but what is a save place. Not everywhere you are walking is a bomb shelter available.

"Zewa Adom" is not a normal sirene alarm but a voice coming out of the loudspeakers saying "Zewa Adom". Someone from Sderot once told me that this voice influences the people of Sderot in a more peaceful way than a loud sirene causing panic.

Once you hear "Zewa Adom", you run and then wait where the Kassam rocket is falling. If you are lucky, it goes down in the desert, if not, well, it may be a house, a school, a street or a car. No one knows where it is going to hit.

Sderot is even lucky, as it has a "Zewa Adom" and bomb shelters. Other towns like Ashkelon, Ashdod or Netivot are much more behind. There were rocket attacks in Ashkelon and no "Zewa Adom" sound when the Kassam his a crowded shopping mall.
Can you imagine, you are sitting and enjoying your cup of coffee and suddenly a rocket strikes the home next to yours or your own home ? Suddenly but somehow expected.

In which country do we live ? Some Palestinians shoot at us and we have to suffer ? Where is our government where our strong army ? These are the questions the inhabitants of Sderot have been asking themselves over the past years. Politicians usually visit some developement towns during election campaigns but otherwise ? While we are anjoying our coffee in Tel Aviv, Sderot has been constantly under attack.

Then the Israeli government and the Hamas made a deal about a mutual cease fire. It worked more or less. According the the BBC, the Palestinians kept the cease fire even if they shot two or three Kassam rockets onto Israeli territory. After the cease fire started, the people in the Negev were able to go out to work. Kids could go back to school. Almost business as usual.
Almost because now the cease fire has ended and the Hamas had no interest whatsoever in extending it. On the contrary, they started shooting 60 or 40 rockets a day on the Negev towns and even extended their missile range. Proudly they announced that they are finally able to hit Beersheva, Yavne and Gedera.

Now, Sderot is back to the "Zewa Adom" reality and running 15 seconds for shelter. The Hamas loves to provoke, as they know that, as soon as Israel strikes back, the world will be with the Palestinians and even with Hamas. Just show some sad pictures of crying Palestinian children or women on the late - night - news and the success is yours. Who cares about the Jews and Israel ?

The BBC claims that Israel is only striking back because of its election campaign. In February, we are electing a new Knesset and a new (hopefully not the old one) prime minister. Actually there is some truth in this irony, as Zipi Livni from the left - wing Kadima party needs votes. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is far ahead of her and may be the next prime minister. At least according to certain polls.

But the coming up elections are not THE reason for attacking Gaza and its Terror Hamas. Especially when you are taking the fate of the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit into consideration. The Hamas could decide to kill Shalit any day if the war continues.
However, the real reason is that we are all fed up with the situation and sick of Kassam rockets endangering our all lives. Who can live like that ? And now on Chanukkah we Jews should become aware of our real powers. Of the powers of our forefathers, the Maccabim, King David, etc.

Israel should talk to Hamas ! Israel's left wingers protested in Tel Aviv and some got arrested. Where have all those protesters been when Sderot was bombed and Osher Tvito lost his leg ?

The Hamas asked all Israeli Palestinians to join the fight against the Jews ("Yahud", as they say in Arabic). Last Shabbat, tens of Palestinians got arrested in Jerusalem throwing stones at the israeli border police (Mishmar HaGvul). But also in other places Palestinian demonstrations against the Israeli strike took place. On Shabbat, the Moslem Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem was closed for any Jews. The army set up checkpoints and didn't want to take any risk.

Everyone seems to wait for the Israeli ground forces marching into Gaza. So far, only air strikes have been taking place and Israeli is acting rather carefully. The government wants to show that it has learned from its mistakes during the last Lebanon war. Whatever that means ...

6700 reserve soldiers are about to be drafted and the Israeli population is expecting a victory. Where is all our strength from the past ? Are there any new heros just like in the Six - Day - War in 1967 ? Where have the heros and charismatic people gone ?Hopefully Olmert and Livni won't give in this time. If they do so, the majority of the Israeli population would not forgive them. It is us who have to deal with our security and our land and not the US, Europe or the UN. Those countries or organizations don't belong here but us, the people who actually live in Israel.

Those are the facts and there is not much to explain, as everything should be very obvious.

A Kassam rocket his a house in Sderot last week.

Hamas - Trainings Camp in Gaza

These and further pictures can be viewed here:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Re - Opening of the CHABAD - House in Mumbai


The CHABAD - House in Mumbai / India re - opened and at the same time, the chassidic group set up a huge Chanukkiah in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel. Rivka Holzberg's father, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, lit the candles.

Rivka and her husband, Rabbi Gabriel Holzberg, were killed by Pakistani terrorists almost 30 days ago.

Toldot Aharon, Toldot Avraham Yitzchak and the Mishkenot HaRoim


Last Erev Shabbat (Friday night) I went, as usual, to Rabbi Mordechai Machlis for dinner. I was an hour too early because I had been for "Kabbalat Shabbat" at the Karlin - Stolin Synagogue in Mea Shearim. Surprisingly, the Karliner Rebbe wasn't there. He lives in the Jerusalem outskirt of Givat Ze'ev and only comes sometimes to his Jerusalem Synagogue over Shabbat. However, I was still surprised that he didn't show up, as it was Shabbat Chanukkah. Especially then most Rebbes are with their groups in Jerusalem in order to celebrate.

The Machlis meal was very nice. Almost every Shabbat it is so unbelievable crowded but last Friday night, there weren't too many people. Someone mentioned that due to Shabbat Chanukkah, many people are invited elsewhere. And it wasn't only Shabbat Chanukkah but also Rosh Chodesh Tevet (the beginning of the new Jewish month of Tevet). Such a Kedusha (holiness) and I really felt like doing something and not just let the Shabbat pass. Of course, this high Kedusha was also a topic at the Machlis table and although the stove of the family broke down in the afternoon before Shabbat had started, they managed to cook a great meal.

Afterwards I went to three different chassidic Tishes.
First to the Toldot Aharon in Mea Shearim where is was totally packed. No wonder … Chanukkah, Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh together. Not only that the Toldot Aharon women occupied all the metal benches; more and more groups with mostly national religious or yound haredi seminary girls walked in. Those girls usually stay for 10 - 20 minutes and then move on to the next Tish somewhere else.

It was so packed that I didn't succeed in getting even close to the Mechitzah (glass windows) in order to look downstairs to the Rebbe and his Chassidim. Then one of the Toldot Aharon women turned around, saw me, and lifted me up on the metal bench. Suddenly I had a great view and the women said that we are here to see something. We talked for a little while and I asked her if she knew if the Rebbitzen is giving her regular class this week. Last week, it was canceled due to Chanukkah. The women didn't know but pointed over where the Rebbitzen was standing. In the end, I decided not to climb over all those women just in order to ask the Rebbitzen herself. I will find out in a different way.
Rebbe David Kahn ran his Tish as usual but upstairs in the Ezrat Nashim (women's section) it was boiling hot. Obviously someone had really turned on the heating system too much and there was hardly any air to breathe. I would have loved to stay until the end but decided to continue breathing but also seeing something more.

My next stop were the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak in the Mea Shearim market. The same picture: Packed but at least not too hot.

My third stop were the Mishkenot HaRoim. The Mishkenot HaRoim are not a chassidic group but rather an organization although they have a Rebbe. They are part of the Edah HaCharedit and known for their extreme anti – Zionism. Some Haredim even call them "zealots". Unfortunately, I came too late for their Tish. Rebbe Chaim Rabinovitz just said "Gut Shabbes" to everyone and was about to go home. Some other Chassidim were already cleaning up the tables. A little later, I met the Rebbe and about 40 Chassidim outside when then accompanied him to his home.

Gathering in Ge'ulah / Jerusalem


On Wednesday, 31.December 2008, a huge gathering is taking place at Kikar Shabbat in Ge'ulah (next to mea Shearim). The reason are the "Shloshim" (30 days) after the terror attack in Mumbai / India.

Haredim from all different directions want to show unity at the event and many leading rabbis confirmed their participation. However, the names have not been announced yet, but one thing has been already published: Only MEN can participate !

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rosh Chodesh Tevet

The SOREK Cave


This Shabbat and Sunday, we celebrate Rosh Chodesh Tevet, the beginning of the new Jewish month Tevet.
Rosh Chodesh is always time for renewal and we should use especially this time to make positive changes in our lives.

The Rosh Chodesh even gets more Kedusha (Holiness), as we still light the Chanukkah candles. Chanukkah is the only holiday taking place in two months; it starts in Kislev and ends in Tevet. Every additional candle raises our Simcha (joy) and increases our inner light. According to kabbalistic and chassidic literature, everyone has his or her personal individual inner light in order to light up the world. For this reason, it is extremely important that each of us lights his own Chanukkiah at home. When you go through Jewish religious areas you can see many Chanukkiot standing in the windows and it is customary that even small cildren light their own candles.

According to the "Sefer Yetzirah", every Jewish month hat its own colour, letter, tribe, organ, horoscope and human sense.
The colour of Tevet is blue, the tribe is the Tribe of Dan, the human sense is the anger, the letter is the AYIN, the horoscope is Capricorn and the organ is the liver.

Historically, Tevet, Tammuz and Av are the worst months for the Jewish People. All of them are connected with negative events in Jewish history. Especially the 10th Tevet which I will describe in a later article.

Our task in the month of Tevet is to fight our own anger. The Talmud Berachot 61b sees the liver in charge of our anger and in Tevet we should transform our negative anger into positive anger. According to the Chozeh of Lublin (Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz) we have the ability to take something negative (such as jealousy) and change it into something positive.
But how can jealousy be positive ?
At the moment when I am jealous of other people who became more religious than I am. They succeed in keeping the Mitzwot and I do not. Eventually this will lead me to make higher efforts in order to reach higher levels of observance as well.
The same with the negative anger. We have to overcome our own ego and strive for more perfection.

General halachic rules for Rosh Chodesh:

1) We do not fast.

2) We add the "Ya'ale VeYavo - prayer" in the Birkat HaMazon

3) Usually women do not do any work at home such as laundry, cleaning, etc.

Have a great Rosh Chodesh and a successful Chodesh Tevet, Shabbat Shalom and Chanukkah Sameach !!!

What a Disgrace


It is more than a disgrace what the Palestinians did to Joseph's grave in Shechem (Nablus). Hundreds of settlers protected by the Israeli army entered Joseph's grave on Wednesday night.

Joseph's grave before the violent Palestinian takeover


This Shabbat


This upcoming Shabbat is Shabbat Chanukkah and Rosh Chodesh Tevet (the beginning of the Jewish month of Tevet). It is said that if Rosh Chodesh falls on a Shabbat, we are blessed with a double portion of Kedusha (Holiness). This Shabbat, however, we are even blessed with a tripled portion of Kedusha, as it is Shabbat, Chanukkah and Rosh Chodesh.

Let us all look forward to a hopefully very spiritual Shabbat and that especially Chanukkah helps many Jews rediscovering their own Jewish identity. Being aware of our own identity is especially important in these days where the Hamas is constantly shooting Kassam rockets on southern Israeli towns and settlements.

Goal Nefesh - גועל נפש


The Hebrew expression "גועל נפש - Goal Nefesh" stands for something negative. Something arousing the soul in a negative way.

We are in the middle of Chanukkah and maybe I should only mention the most positive subjects. However, we celebrate Chanukkah because the Hasmoneans didn't close their eyes and thus were very aware of all the problems / dangers within their own Jewish society under the reign of the Greeks.

The following problems in Israeli society can maybe not be compared to those in days of the Hasmoneans but, nevertheless, should at least make us thing about what is going on in this country.

Last night, I worked on nightshift at a bakery in Jerusalem. I was downstairs in the shop with one of the workers as at about 3am, we heard loud screams outside. I opened the door and had a look.
I saw two Asian foreign workers fighting with each other. I think that they were from Nepal or one of those countries.

For more then ten years already, Israel has been accepting workers from the Philippines or Nepal who take care of elderly people. Many of them stayed illegaly and were arrested and deported by the Israeli immigration police. Another problem arising is that these foreign workers started building their own churches and other idol - worship places.

However, the two foreign workers were fighting outside the bakery. A guy and his girl - friend. The guy took off his shirt and started beating his girl - friend. I yelled at him in Hebrew to stop but both of them didn't speak anything besides their mother - tongue.
I threatened the guy with calling the police and he apparently got the message. They both disappeared and hopefully made some peace.

You can call me a racist but sometimes it is too much what is going on in the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv which seem to be flooded with foreign workers.

Another incident occured almost two weeks ago when I came back to Jerusalem with a friend. Still in Tel Aviv, we wanted to enter the Central Bus Station and went through the security check. Suddenly one of those African refugees appeared, yelled at the security guard (an Ethiopian girls) "What do you want from me ?" Offensively he lifted up his shirt and pushed the girl aside.
Israelis witnessing the incident were more than upset and this behaviour hasn't caused the African refugees a great sympathy.

For more than half a year, African refugees have been entering Israeli illegaly and most of them came to Tel Aviv in order to find a better life. The Israeli government has never faced such a problem before and couldn't care less. The easiest way is to deport them but the International Christian Embassy and the UN are supporting the refugees. And now it almost seems that southern Tel Aviv is flooded with them. Many of them live in neglected houses around the Central Bus Station or simply sleep in the nearby Levinsky Park.

Two weeks ago, my friend and I tried to make some pictures but were watched with great hostility while walking around with a camera. In the end, I pretended to be a tourist and my friend pretended taking a picture of me. In reality, she took a picture of the Africans sitting in the Levinsky Park. The picture didn't come out to good because she was too excited and also scared.

Some of the Africans and my arm on the right.

Right next to the Levinsky Park and only a few hundred meters away from the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv you can find a shop called "Kingdom of Pork". The whole area is mostly inhabited by foreign workers from China, the Philippines, Africa, South America, Russia, you name it. And this is exactly the reason why many local Israelis justify the existence of the "Kingdom of Pork" with the excuse that those foreign workers need their pork and we Jews don't have the right taking away the food the strangers are used to.

As far as I saw, the shop is mostly run by Russians and a Thai worker. The majority of the customers may be coming from the foreign workers but I am sure that Jews buy there as well.

You could argue that in Israel, pork is available in many places and the "Kingdom of Pork" is nothing extraordinary anymore. On the other hand, when I see such places in Israel, I am asking myself why no one is doing anything against it. We Jews from the Diaspora made Aliyah and thought that we would find a Jewish state. Our own Jewish country; maybe not too religious but, at least keeping some Jewish identity. When I realized that, in many ways, Israel is just as any other country, I was shocked. I was shocked when pork sausages were served on my Kibbutz. And this already happened more than 13 years ago.

The "Kingdom of Pork" is located in the middle of downtown Tel Aviv and no one seems to be bothered. Where are Satmar or all the other Haredim ? Where is all the protest ?

"Kingdom of Pork"

This just came into my mind even on Chanukkah. Maybe because then the Greeks tried to force the Cohanim to eat pork.

I have to say that I made aliyah because my desire was to live in a Jewish country. Of course, Israel has its security problems and once I witnessed a bomb attack in Jerusalem. Coming to Israel as a Jew doesn't necessarily mean to live in a religious state. At least not now before the Meshiach. However, I am proud to live here and when I am facing all these foreign influences including churches for foreign workers, I am fed up and disappointed at the same time. Where is our Jewish dream of having our own country ?
I see by allowing all these strange people into our country a danger. The Torah tells us that once, we were starngers in Egypt but I wouldn't really compare this situation to what is going on today. Or maybe I just don't want to ...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Just a Thought


Just a tiny joke about what is happening in the Christian world these days ...

The "Modesty War"


A new / old "modesty war" has been breaking out in Jerusalem for quite a while. It seems that almost every chassidic group wants to be better than the other one, and especially extreme groups (the members of the anti - Zionist umbrella organization Edah HaCharedit and in particular the Toldot Aharon) have been hanging up Fakshivilim (news poster) demanding more modesty. Men and women should not meet or get together in public, as this is against the modesty laws.

For quite some time I am getting more and more upset about the sometimes exaggerated interpretations of the Halacha. Some Chassidim keep on sticking to their own perfection so much that they do not even brush their teeth on Shabbat.
The reason is that this may cause a bleeding of the flesh.

According to Halacha, it is forbidden to put cream on one's hands on Shabbat. I admit that until approx. two weeks ago, I didn't know about this Issur. Someone told me but at the same time explained a special way how I could still put on the cream.

During the winter, I suffer from dry skin and need cream on my hands. And to be honest, I don't intend waiting until Shabbat is over in order to put on some cream. When I hear about such laws or see people even going beyond the regular laws, I am asking myself what our forefathers and foremothers would have said. Not that I consider any Halachic issues as completely unnecessary but sometimes it just seems so exaggerated and simply overdone. I don't think that G - d intended to make our life so complicated.

And now we are also facing another "modesty war" which isn't really about modesty but mostly about some rabbis who want to show that they are the best and the strongest. "I am better than you", this is how many leading rabbis seem to think.

In the haredi part of Beit Shemesh as well as in Bnei Brak, some Haredim demanded separated sidewalks. Men on one side of the road and the women on the other side. No exceptions for married couples !
Generally, the majority of the Israeli haredi population doesn't agree with all those demands. They read the Fakshivilim but have their own opinion. To many Haredim this sounds all too fanatic and chaotic but the secular press just claims the opposite. For them, all Haredim are the same fanatics and fundamentalists. However, if you deal with haredi society, you may be surprised how open minded many of them are. At least, if you get to know them a little better.

Already some months ago, the Toldot Aharon Rebbe David Kahn announced that the women should leave their Ezrat Nashim (women's side in the Synagogue) at least 15 minutes before the chassidic Tisch or the Synagogue service ends. Otherwise men and women would leave together and thus gather together outside.
Men are always considered to be an easy victim for the "Yetzer HaRah - evil side within ourselves". Concerning sexual issues, women are able to resist much easier whereas men just run and stop thinking. And those gatherings, even if they are not really intended, would cause the men's Yetzer to rise.

Here I am again, asking myself what our forefathers or King David would have said. On the one hand, I do admire such people who stick to the law no matter what. Especially those who are real Chassidim and set up much higher restrictions for themselves. This can only be done with lots of self - discipline and I still don't have too much of that. On the other hand, I look at certain rules with some sarcasm because it just seems to be so out of place.

The discussion about the "modesty buses" is still going on in Jerusalem. In Bnei Brak they already have a bus where men and women are divided by a curtain. Satmar is doing the same in their New York neighbourhoods.

The state - owned bus company EGGED refuses to set up more modesty buses in Jerusalem. There are some exceptions for entire haredi neighbourhoods but buses running through secular neigbourhoods and the city center are not due to be transformed into a "modesty bus" with separate seating. Every day, thousands of secular customers use the EGGED buses and no one can force them to take over haredi rules. And, as I said, there are a few exception for haredi neighbourhoods only where haredi men and woman keep the separate seating voluntarily. But if a secular Jew goes onto the no. 1 or 2 bus to the Kotel (Western Wall), onto no. 11 or 15 to Har Nof, he usually doesn't keep the inofficial rules.

EGGED can neither afford to loose its secular nor its religious customers. The local buses are for all parts of the population. The Haredim, however, found a better solution called "Superbus".
A private bus company goes to the haredi town of Beitar and soon also to Beit Shemesh. Additionally, EGGED keeps its "kosher" bus line no. 402 from Jerusalem to Bnei Brak running.
The "Superbus" has two obvious advantages. Haredim who have an anti - Zionist ideology are not forced to take a state - owned bus. "Forced" because there ins't always another solution available. And, furthermore, no one has to support a bus company which many times lets its buses run on Shabbat. Only in special areas but EGGED is not a Shomer Shabbat company. The Superbus, on the other hand, would also be cheaper than the regular bus.

But forget about the "kosher" buses now, as there is another modesty demand ahead. Rabbi Fuchs, the Chief Rabbi of the Ramot D (Daled) neighbourhood is planning to introduce a new Takana where men and women won't stand at the same till in the supermarket anymore. Instead there will be one till for men and one for women. Obviously Rabbi Fuchs sees his solution as the best in the struggle against the Yetzer. Ramot D as well as G (Gimmel) are entirely populated by Haredim. Ramot B (Beth) is for the national religious (Mizrachi) and Ramot A (Aleph) includes some secular as well.

As a woman I cannot tell you how much this is going on my nerves. Of course, there are those women who do like these kind of modesty ideas but I am anything but among them. As soon as I walk around in a haredi neighbourhood, I am simply limited in my life. I am limited when I go to chassidic Tishes or further events. Not every Tish is for women; I mean that sometimes the doors are closed, as I have experienced quite a few times in Dushinsky. A guy just forgets to unlock the door to the Ezrat Nashim and no one seems to be bothered. We females don't get any Shirayim (food handed out by the Rebbe) at the Tishes, in most cases we don't get cold drinks, we get nothing. And then we are being told to go home earlier. Back to the kitchen and cook food.

For the time being, the "modesty war" will go on and on. But where does this all end ?
Maybe in Iran ?

War in Beit Shemesh ?


Is or will there be a war between the national religious (Mizrachi) and the Haredim of Beit Shemesh ? Some national religious blogs and the Israeli press reported about an incident where national religious girls were beaten up by some Haredim in the haredi part of Ramat Beit Shemesh.

That Shabbat, when the incident seemed to have occured, I was in Ramat Beit Shemesh myself. After I received a comment and read some articles in the press, I started asking a few Haredim from Beit Shemesh. One had been visiting that particular Shabbat as well and the other one lives nearby where the incident may have occured.

When something like this is taking place, the whole haredi neighbourhood knows about it. Everyone has something to talk and to add. But about this specific case no one spoke. None of the Haredim even seemed to know about it. Furthermore, no Chassid wearing a golden coat on Shabbat (as the attacked girls claimed) would touch a woman anyway. Those golden Shabbat coats are mostly worn by the Toldot Aharon, the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak and Karlin. And believe me, none of them would jump on strange women and beat her up.

A few days later, I read in a haredi forum that at several occasions, national religious guys and girls came into the haredi neighbourhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh and started provoking tthe haredi population. The Haredim, on the other hand, warned the national religious but there was no reaction. Just the opposite, national religious girls were laughing out loud immodestly and the Haredim began asking themselves if this is not just a provocation in order to drive them mad. Why do the national religious have to hang around in a haredi neighbourhood and don't stay in their own aerea where they can laugh and scream as much as they like ?

Despite all the claims, I very much doubt that the incident really took place. There wasn't even any gossip in the haredi forums about it which actually is very unusual. A sign that it was only a set - up ?

For many parts of haredi society, the national religious are not religious or modest enough. Religion "light".
And it doesn't surprise that girls and boys stand around together. But why provoke a war with the Haredim and later on, run to the press and complain about haredi "violence" ?
When I was visiting Beit Shemesh over Shabbat, I was told that some secular and others only come to Ramat Beit Shemesh on Shabbat in order to provoke. The haredi side, on the other hand, fears a kind of revenge attack of the national religious. Not only a few of them would show up but hundreds.

Unfortunately, the Haredim don't have a positive press among the secular media and therefore, it is easy to make certain claims about their "violence".

The Rebbes and "Hadlakat Nerot"


In Chassidut, the lighting of the Chanukkah candles (הדלקת נרות) has a very spiritual meaning and thus, is taken very seriously.

Here are some pictures of famous chassidic Rebbes lighting their candles. By the way, all pictures can be viewed here:

The Belzer Rebbe Yissachar Dov Rokeach.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson z"l.

The Gerrer (Gur) Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Music from Breslov


The Nanas from Chassidut Breslov and their spiritual leader Rabbi Israel Odesser z"l.

The message of the Breslover Nanas in this video is: "Rak Lismoach kol Hazman veMechayech - Be happy all the time and smile !"
Even if you are sad or depressed try to smile and be happy and eventually you may be happy.

The Nanas (Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman and followers of Rabbi Israel Odesser z"l) are a little neglected and seen as the hippies of the Breslov movement. The original Breslovers consider anyone from the outside and pretending to be a Breslover Chassid as not acceptable. However, the Nanas are around everywhere and still singing their Mantra "Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman".

Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi on Chanukkah


Until his death in 1983, Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi was one of the most famous Kabbalists in Jerusalem. In 1908, he was born in Yemen and then came to Jerusalem where he established his Yeshiva "Nahar Shalom" right behind our bakery at the Machane Yehudah Market. Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi received the Sephardi title "Chacham - a wise man"; a title, only extraordinary Sephardi Rabbis receive.

There actually is a very famous story about Rabbi Sharabi still being told in Jerusalem. The building where our bakery is located turned out to be higher than Rabbi Sharabi's Synagogue right in the back. Moreover, the new building kept away the sun from his yard where he liked to sit. The Rabbi was so upset that he cursed the building and until today it is known as the "Binyan HaMekulal - the Cursed Building". And since then, no business or shop really succeeded in the seven floor building. Today a social office of the municipality is located inside, several families live there (including Dov Shurin, a relative of Rabbi Kamenetzky), some shopkeepers from the market have their storage rooms inside and we have our bakery. And the bakery has been the only successful business ever. When we moved in, the father of the owner who was a famous Rabbi in the Kurdish community, canceled Rabbi Sharabi's curse.

The duty of a Jew on Chanukkah is to spread around the whole world that G - d alone is the Creator of everything.
The Chanukkiah should be placed outside the house. When a Jew leaves his house, the Chanukkiah should be standing to his right. When he comes in, the Chanukkiah should be placed to his left. Then the Mezuzah is on the right and in case the returning Jews is wearing a Tallit, everything will be a perfect Mitzwah. The Chanukkiah, the Mezuzah and the Tallit at the same time.
The same applies to women but usually without a Tallit.

The Chanukkah Miracle

1. The weak (the Jews) defeated the strong (the Greeks).

2. The flask of oil miraculously lasted for eight days.

3. The Jews were saved from assimilation and the loss of their Jewish identity.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chanukkah in Jerusalem


Chanukkah in Jerusalem is always very special. Seeing all the Chanukkiot standing in the windows and shining their light towards everyone ...

Yesterday, I walked around with a friend and first, we went to Zion Square where Chabad had a public candle lighting. Later on, we walked through Mea Shearim and had a delicious Latkes.

It was freezing cold while we were standing at Zion Square, right in front of the Ben Yehudah Mall, and waiting for Chabad to begin. The Chassidim announced that Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai from the Sephardi haredi SHASS party would be the guest of honour and light the first candle. In other words, we had to wait for a politician who cound't be on time.

Chabad set up its Chanukkiot at various places in Jerusalem such as Zion Square, King George or in front of Gan Sacher. Sometimes the Chanukkiot are so huge that an electronic ladder is needed in order to lift up the Rabbis to the candles.

Eventually Eli Yishai showed up accompanied by his boduguard. He was in a rush and in an extremely bad mood. No spirituality, nothing. Just rushing to the Chabadniks and lighting the candle.
People didn't applause and Yishai told us his excuse for being late: He had been to Sderot and visited its inhabitants who are being flooded with Kassam rockets from the Hamas in Gaza.
Eli Yishai's short speech became political but, fortunately, he dind't have much time and was in a hurry. The spectators weren't interested in him and only the Chabad Rabbi was sliming around.
The whole procedure only took a few minutes and we were quite fed up from all the waiting in the cold. Afterwards people ran for free Sufganiot (donuts) but, as we didn't want to get killed, we just left. We weren't in the mood of entering a battlefield in order to make our way to the Sufganiot.

Chanukkah - Decoration in the Ben Yehudah Mall

Electronic uplifting to the candles.

Eli Yishai (left) is lighting the candle.

Chabad - Chanukkiah at Zion Square

The Rebbe is being "hung" up.

Chabad - Chanukkiah in the Machane Yehudah Market / Jerusalem.

The "Streimel Center"


Advertising sign for the "Streimel Center" in Mea Shearim / Jerusalem.

A Streimel is the traditional fur hat coming from the Ashkenazic shetl in Eastern Europe. Chassidim wear the Streimel on Shabbat, Jewish holidays and at private celebrations such as weddings etc.
In many cases, a Chassid begins wearing a Streimel after his Bar Mitzwah (at the age of 13). Others start wearing it after their wedding is announced.

The picture shows the most common Streimel - the standard model. However, there are many other different Streimels around, as certain groups have different customs.

Where is our Jewish Identity ?


Is our Jewish identity going down the drain ?

Stands selling Xmas decoration inside the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv

Money makes the Xmas World go round !


Unfortunately, and I really have to say "unfortunately", many Israeli tourist places set up Xmas trees and Santa Clauses these days.
In order to attract Christian tourists, especially hotels and hostels don't hesitate setting up idol worship decoration. Money seems to be more important than Jewish pride or the fact that we do live in a Jewish country.

There are Jews who couldn't care less. They say that first of all, they are Jewish and all the Xmas stuff is nothing but decoration for the tourists. However, I am asking myself why many places in Tel Aviv are decorated for Christians but any Chanukkah decoration is missing. In fact, there is hardly anything in Tel Aviv showing that we Jews are celebrating Chanukkah at the moment. Moreover no one seems to realize that the Hasmona'im (the Maccabis) fought Greek idol worship and would have done the same with the Christians if those had existed during that time.

When Jews celebrate Chanukkah and Xmas or "only" decorate their companies for business purposes, they do nothing else but spitting right into the face of Yehudah Maccabi and his family and the entire concept of Jewish identity.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chanukkah Sameach !!!


Tonight, we are ligthening the first Chanukkah candle.

Chanukkah Sameach to all of you !!!

Congress of the "Agudat Israel"


Pictures from the latest congress of the "Agudat Israel" in Bnei Brak.

A few brief details about the "Agudat Israel":
Founded in May 1912 in Upper Silesia.
Different reasons caused the foundation of the Agudah. However, the main interest was to protect Orthodox Judaism from any hostile influences such as Secularism and the Reform Movement as a whole.

Until 1935, the headquarter was located in Frankfurt / Germany but the actual soul of the "Agudat Israel" was in Poland. Chassidut Gur (near Warsaw) had always been the most influential part inside the organization. The "Chafetz Chaim", Rabbi Israel Me'ir Kagan, as well as Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Brest - Litovsk (Brisk) were among the supporters. Before the Second World War, one third of Polish Jewry was associated with the "Agudat Israel". Even the women formed an influential group and in 1931, for the first time ever, they discussed their own problems and issues.

Although the Agudah was anti - Zionist, it still included a passive Zionism. In 1923, a "Palestine Office" was opened in Poland and Jews could learn agricultural professions in special training camps. Those professions would enable them to make a living in Israel (then Palestine).

When the "Jewish Agency" was founded in 1929, the "Agudat Israel" didn't join the new Zionist Movement. Instead they reached an agreement with David Ben Gurion when the State of Israel was founded in 1948. All religious matters should remain in the hands of the Orthodox Movement.

Until today, the "Agudat Israel" is taking part in the Knesset. Its own party is called "Yahadut HaTorah" and has five seats at the moment. The strongest figure in the Agudah is still the Chassidut Gur with its representative Yaakov Litzman besides Shmuel Halpert from Chassidut Vishnitz.

The counterpart of the Agudah is the "Edah HaCharedit" from Mea Shearim with groups such as Satmar, parts of Breslov, Brisk, the Toldot Aharon, den Toldot Avraham Yitzchak, Spinka, the Mishkenot HaRoim and the descendants of the original followers of the Vilna Gaon. The Edah mostly considers the Agudah as Zionist traitors, as they take play a role in the Zionist Knesset.

All pictures can be viewd here:

Gur in Dire Straits


Chassidut Gur announced that this year, the students at the Great Beit Midrash in Jerusalem won't receive any warm meals and drinks during Chanukkah. According to the announcement, hot drinks are only going to be served on Erev Shabbat and Shabbat (on Chanukkah).

On Chanukkah, thousands of Gerrer Chassidim are coming to the Beit Midrash in Jerusalem, as their Rebbe is lighting the Chanukkah candles. Moreover, it is customary that the Chassidim also study Torah; just as on the Ten Days of Repentance during Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.

The Gerrer Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter

In the years before, Gur used to serve bread, yoghurt, salads, biscuits and hot / cold drinks to the students. Due to the worldwide financial crisis however, Gur decided to make some budget cuts and doesn't serve anything except drinks on Shabbat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Some Time Off


It is always good taking some time off and getting one's mind cleared. A friend of mine from Jerusalem came to Tel Aviv and I showed her around. It is a good feeling that finally I am able to explain how life in two different worlds works, as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are different.

Many people keep on asking me why I am in Tel Aviv, as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are so different. For the religious, Tel Aviv seems to be an entire "Yetzer HaRah" (evil inclination) and nothing else. It is hard for me to explain to those people that this is not true and that there are great people around. Nevertheless, the religious in Jerusalem argue that a religious Jew should be living in a religious environment and not surround himself with all kinds of temptations.

This may be true but speaking about myself, I do need a change sometimes. I cannot be totally among the religious and not totally among the secular. I enjoy a change in order not to get depressed and so far, only people experiencing the same are able to understand me. And this is what I tried to show my friend who visited me.

For Shabbat, we came back to Jerusalem and today, we went to Mea Shearim for lunch. And guess what - there I was facing the same prejudices again. One thing may be true: There is no Chanukkah feeling whatsoever in Tel Aviv and I am going to spend some more time in Jerusalem this week.

However, I still enjoy running around between two worlds.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Claims against Haredim


Countless prejudices regarding Israeli Haredim are floating around. Not only in our country but also abroad. And sometimes I am really getting the impression that Diaspora Jews talk like they know our country much better than we Israelis do.:-)
At least, according to some comments from abroad.

What are the most common prejudices against Israeli haredi society ?

1. They don't go to the army.
Right, but you need to learn how to differentiate. It depends on the group and many other things. However, quite a few people do join the army (Nachal haCharedi).

2. They live in ghettos.
Sometimes, as they try to protect themselves.

3. They are being supported by the money of the tax payers and they themselves won't work.

4. They are all anti - Zionists.
It depends who.

5. They all want to force anyone else to keep the Torah.
It depends how the outside world understands it.

6. Their women are uneducated.
Depends on what your understanding of education is.

7. If no one else behaves as the Haredim want, they just beat people up or force them othewise.

Within the past few years, claims about haredi violence have been on the rise. Secular, national religious or even litvishe women, for instance, who claim that they got either yelled at or really physically attacked on public buses or elsewhere.

I am not denying that some cases may be true and if so, it is a horrible thing. Nevertheless, as soon as we hear about such claims we still need to be very careful. Especially today, many other society groups (secular or national religious) seem to hold a grudge for certain parts of haredi society. I spoke to some Haredim and asked about the reason such people might have. To be honest, I didn't get an answer. It sounds just like haredi society isn't too interested in the subject. Okay, there are people from the outside spreading rumours, so what ? Or to say it in Hebrew:
"Stam Shtuyiot - Just Nonsense".

The recent incident in Beit Shemesh has been discussed in many national religious and anti - religious blogs. Young people were attacked by some Jerusalem Chassidim (wearing golden coats on Shabbat). The blog world seems to jump on this particular incident. Anyway, I spoke to some Haredim from Beit Shemesh and they haven't heard about anything. No one was attacked lately.

You may argue that these Haredim lie but why should they ? In order to protect society ? Let me tell you there is not much more for a male Haredi than the latest gossip in society. Just look into Israeli haredi forums; and this particular attack hasn't been discussed once. In fact, the Haredim don't know about it.
This doesn't need to mean that the person being attacked lies; however, it does mean that blog readers or the public as a whole have to be very careful and if necessary, should further investigate. Not every attack reported to the press really took place.

So, what is the reason for such false accusations ? Specific groups have an interest in giving the Haredim a bad reputation ?
One Haredi told to me that those claims cause Meshiach not to come. Not only such behaviour but parts of it.

There is some truth in it although very much on both sides. Years ago, I was trying to be a Haredi myself and when I decided to leave, I had neither faced any violence nor was I pushed. My case was different anyway, as I wasn't born into society and thus people do have more patience than with someone born right into it.
What I remember very well is that especially the Haredim (at least most of them I knew then) supported me much more than any other Jewish society. And this, on the other hand, caused me always to come back into society. Even as a visitor or as someone supporting haredi ideas without being vey much haredi myself.

It goes without saying that there are violent groups within haredi society but, nevertheless, each case should be looked at carefully and individually, as sometimes the circumstances are much more complicated. Furthermore, other outsiders try to take advantage of the whole new "scandal" (if there is one) and thus put more and more fuel into the conflict.

The Daily Tel Aviv


Most of the time, people love to show the best side of Tel Aviv. The beach, the towers, the train, happy people and everything seems to be just so great and perfect.

This video, however, shows the real Tel Aviv. Not that everyone sleeps in the street but this video still very much reflects the daily life of the inhabitants.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chanukkah Insights

Chanukkiot in the Old City of Jerusalem.


Sunday night, Dec. 21 or 25th Kislev, the festival of Chanukkah begins. Chanukkah lasts for eight days and is the only holiday where the event took actually place in Israel. Especially in Jerusalem and in the Beit HaMikdash. It is a rabbinic holiday stipulated by the Sanhedrin. For the first time, Chanukkah was already celebrated one year after the Greeks were thrown out of the Temle.


Chanukkah is a Jewish holiday although other religions such as Christianity like to steal Jewish holidays and claim them as their own. The Chashmonaim (Maccabim) were Cohanim and fought against idol worship in Israel. They fought for Judaism and the Jewish people and if they knew today how other religions use their ideas for their own selfish purposes, the Chashmonaim would turn around in their graves. Xmas and Chanukkah have nothing whatsoever in common and whoever tries to connect them kicks the ideals of the Chashmonaim with his feet.

I am not mentioning the whole Chanukkah - history but I would like to give some insights instead.

The goal of the Greek - Syrian occupation was to destroy the Jewish religion. Studying Torah, keeping Shabbat and Brit Milah (circumcision) was forbidden according to the law.
In 165 B.C.E., the Chashmonaim won the war against the Greek idol worshipers and brought back the spirituality to the Jewish people. The Greeks concentrated on materialism and the beauty of the body whereas the Jews wanted to keep their religion. It was not only a physical war but also a spiritual. The Neshama fought against materialism.

The real miracle of Chanukkah is not the military actions of the Maccabim but the burning of the Menorah for eight days (see Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apta in his book "Ohev Israel", the Sefat Emet and many others). After the Maccabim reconquered the Temple, they only found one tiny bottle of kosher olive oil which hadn't been used for idol worship. With this amount, the Menorah was only to burn for one day but miracoulesly the oil lasted for eight days. In that time, the Jews were able to produce more kosher olive oil.

In Kabbalah and Chassidut, the eight days of Chanukkah and the miracle are timeless. For G - d, time does not exist because He is infinite. Time only exists for us and is implanted in our DNA. The upper (higher) spiritual worlds of G - d do not know time. There, past, present and future coexist and all three times happen together. Therefore, Chanukkah is timeless.

But why miracle ? What exactly is a miracle ?

For us a miracle is always something supernatural. Something is happening against nature and we are unable to explain it with our human understanding. We have no logical explanation for it.
But not everything which seems to be a miracle is really a miracle. G - d is always able to change nature and at the time of the Chashmonaim He did. Thus, the Temple Menorah burnt for eight days instead of one.

Chassidut sees the Chanukkah candles as Jewish Neshamot (souls). The light itself is considered to be the "Or HaGanuz - the Hidden Light" which G - d created on the very first day of Creation. This hidden light will only be back in the time of Meschiach (see Bnei Yissachar and others). The eight days are a spiritual journey of body and soul. Food, candles and the history represent body and meditation; joy, warmth and light represent the soul.

The light of Chanukkah has the power to reach every single Jew, no matter how far he is from his Jewish roots. His soul (Neshama) still contains the spark which enables him to connect directly to G - d (Rabbi Shmuel Bozorowsky, the present Admor of Chassidut Slonim in Jerusalem). This spark always remains with a Jew, even after his death. At the time of the resurrection, the spark will come to life again (Bnei Yissachar).

The Sefat Emet (one of the previous Rebbes of Chassidut Gur) considers each Chanukkah as a spiritual renewal. Especially for the Jews in the Diaspora. The Chanukkah light reminds them of their Jewish identity and, at the same time, of the difficulties of living in the Diaspora. The war of the Maccabim shows us that we should never give up hope because we Jews have the spiritual power to change everything. G - d can change nature any time and bring us the Ge'ulah.

Have a great and spiritual Chanukkah wherever you are - Chanukkah Sameach from Jerusalem.

A Hat for Everyone


The perfect haredi hat of the Chassidim HaYerushalmim (Chassidim from Jerusalem). You can enlarge the picture by clicking on it and read about the meaning of the height of the hat.

Those of you who know more about the Yerushalmim and know Hebrew will have a great laugh.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Humus from the Garbage


Location: Downtown Tel Aviv

Time: 2:30pm in the afternoon

An elderly men is looking through a green garbage can next to a bus stop in downtown Tel Aviv. He is holding three plastic bags in his hand and while watching him, I am thinking that he definitely is searching for empty plastic bottles or cans, as collecting them brings extra money to many poor people.

The man is looking through some bags inside the garbage can and finally finds something. A full plastic box full of Humus.
The guy is hungry and obviously too poor to buy much food. He smiles and wants to walk away.

None of the bystanders seem to care but a woman in her fifties was watching him. Not watching but staring at him while he was looking through the garbage. Her hair is dyed shiny blond and, as the man wants to walk away, she is stopping him.

Wow, I thought, that's nice. Someone seems to care.
The woman is talking to the man and I am too far away to hear a word. The man shakes his head and is walking away. Almost escaping from the woman. The woman is staring after him, then turning around and walking into my direction. While she was passing me I just became aware of her big golden cross hanging around her neck.

Sometimes people are not that nice at they appear to be and I was very proud of that old man running away from the missionary probably offering a "better" life but also idol worship.

Do not disturb tonight !


Do not disturb any Israelis tonight. Not even some Haredim. Don't make unnecessary phone calls to our country and expect people to answer.

Everyone will be too busy doing one thing:
Watching the final of the BIG BROTHER show.
Who is going to win BIG BROTHER tonight ?
This is the most important question in our country today. I heard that people even delayed trips in order to watch BIG BROTHER.

It wouldn't be so terribly important if one guy wasn't there. "Yossi Bublil" who is expected to be the big winner tonight. Bublil is 54 years old and from Ashkelon.

I just watched the show once and to me, Bublil seemed like an idiot. Arrogant and bossy. The typical Arsi (Sephardic Macho).
He is not that popular but, for some reason, people love to watch him.

Yossi's encounter with a door

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nefesh BeNefesh can pay you off !


I don't have any confirmation for it but many people told me that Nefesh BeNefesh is paying off more and more people who are willing to make Aliyah to Israel. In particular Anglos.

The rumour says that each new immigrant receives a few thousand dollar in order to buy a house and equipment. Today I read in a Israeli daily that from now on, Nefesh BeNefesh is handing over luxury cars to those Anglos who are willing to build their new home in the northern part of the country. I think that the expensive car is available for about two years or so. A car for about 100.000 Shekels.

It is no wonder that new immigrants from other countries, but especially those Israelis immigrating in the 40ies, 50ies, etc. are getting upset. Not out of jealousy but they say that those wealthy Americans are coming here, throw around their money and feel superior to any Israeli.

In fact, many Americans do feel superior. No matter if some Yeshiva students coming here as tourists or new immigrants. The most popular quote among them is: "In the States its like this and like that ... ". Who wants to hear that as an Israeli ? Our country is different and those making Aliyah should get adjusted and build a life. And this includes, as I have already mentioned somewhere else, learning Hebrew.

However, many Nefesh BeNefesh Americans are being sent to live in Beit Shemesh or Modi'in where they build their own little American neighbourhood or in other words, a ghetto. I met a few claiming that Nefesh BeNefesh hadn't informed them about the daily Israeli life and Israeli mentality. Some Americans returned to the States because they couldn't get adjusted to Israel and were simply disappointed.

All the money makes it easier but for how long can you live on that ? And once the money is gone, your American ghetto may be gone, as then you are facing the real Israel. And Israel means a daily fight for existence unless you win the lottery.
Those who come here out of ideological reasons (Zionism, etc.) mostly have the strength to make it.

Just paying American Jews off to come here ... I am asking myself what kind of immigrants those taking the money are. It seems that the real true Zionist idea is gone and today Nefesh BeNefesh is just waving with Dollar bills.

A Rabbi Nachman Story


I heard the following story about Rabbi Nachman of Breslov from Rabbi Mordechai Machlis:

Once Rabbi Nachman went for a walk and saw a young buy standing in the street and crying. He went over and asked the boy why he was so sad. The boy responded that him and a few other children played "Seek - and - Hide" and non of the other children had come searching for him.

Rabbi Nachman told the boy that it is the same with G - d. Sometimes He is crying as well (in a metaphorical sense). Our task in this world is to seek and find G - d. Everything in this physical world is "hidden" and we need to seek and find.
The Hebrew word for "World" is "Olam". Olam also has the same roots as the word "Ne'elam - Disappear or Hidden".

As G - d is hidden throughout the whole Purim story, He does the same practise in our private lives. Each one of us should individually think about how many miracles have happened in his life so far. Sometimes it is hard for us to understand that we failed. If something negative is happening to us, we concentrate our mind on asking why it happened to us and what the purpose may be. Our problem is that we don't see the whole picture but only small parts of it. The moment we review certain events in the future, we usually get a clearer picture and many times understand that even the negativity in a particular situation had turned out to be positive for us.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shiur with the Toldot Aharon Rebbitzen


The Rebbitzen of Toldot Aharon is giving a shiur (lecture) for women every second week. Next week, I am planning to go and I am really looking forward to it.

I heard that he class consists of "Q & A" and the Rebbitzen is telling her point of view of an ultra - orthodox life; how it should be.

It sounds very interesting and many more chassidic Rebbitzens should give such classes where people can learn from.

Shabbat in Beit Shemesh

Mountains around Beit Shemesh.


Before anyone starts asking. "No, the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov Kahn was not neither in Jerusalem nor in Beit Shemesh last Shabbat".
The Kahn family is still in deep shock about that one of the daughters lost her husband (Rabbi Aryeh Leibush Teitelbaum) due to the terror attack on the "Chabad House" in Mumbai / India. The Rebbe went to Arad (a small town in the Negev) and the reason may have been to simply get away from all the mourning and see something else for a while.

Bus No. 411 from Tel Aviv to Beit Shemesh takes ages. I was on the bus for more than an hour because the bus went through the whole countryside. The town of Ramle and all the surroundings. Finally we got to Beit Shemesh and after some time even to Ramat Beit Shemesh.
Ramat Beit Shemesh is the haredi part of Beit Shemesh and I was invited there by an Toldot Avraham Yitzchak family. I had their address and as soon as I got off the bus, I wanted to ask my way through which I did. When asking a Breslov woman for the particular street she told me that there are two parts of Ramat Beit Shemesh; Aleph and Beit. A little later it turned out that my friends live in Beit, in the chassidic part.

After asking someone else I quickly found my way and one of my friend's daughters was waiting for me in front of the house. It was almost Shabbat when I finally arrived and the three kids of the family were jumping all over me. All their lives (from 5 - 7) they have been growing up chassidic and I was a total outsider for them. I think the biggest shock was finding out that I don't wear stockings. This was just unbelievable for the kids and totally immodest. In other words, I had a good time with the two daughters and the son. Additionally, the family had another visitor like me. They took care of a one - year - old little boy from friends (Chassidut Bobov) and young Hershi became our Shabbat "star". Everyone was after him and I wouldn't have blamed him for having a nervous breakdown.

The father went to the Synagogue with his son and the mother and I were talking. In the middle, the kids drove us nuts. She told me about how they got adjusted in Beit Shemesh after living in Jerusalem for a couple of years. There was nothing going on in town and from the windows we only saw Chassidim walking up and down and the mountains further away. A great view and fresh air.
Especially Haredim discovered Beit Shemesh long ago, as it is not too far away from Jerusalem and rents are cheaper. After young couples are getting married, they rather move to Beit Shemesh or Beitar instead of staying in expensive Jerusalem. However, even in Beit Shemesh it is hard to find a place to live in the haredi area. The demand is so great that construction workers cannot follow anymore.

The area where I stayed.

What you do on Erev Shabbat ?
You make Kiddush, eat and go to sleep. And this is what we did.

The next morning, my friends husband and the son went to the Synagogue. We, the daughters and Hershi had a tiny breakfast and then decided to go for a walk. The weather was sunny and warm and my friend showed me all the new chassidic neighbourhoods. Chassidut Nadvorna and Dushinksy are building great Synagogues at the moment.

We were in the chassidic part and suddenly heard cars coming. My friend told me that there are some secular inhabitants who especially on Shabbat get the idea of taking their car or motor - bike and driving through the haredi neighbourhood. "They only do this on Shabbat", my friend said when this huge motor - bikes were passing us. "Then people yell at them "Shabbes" and the secular complain. What would they say if we went into their areas and were hanging out there ? Maybe we should do this and see their reaction. But they only do this here to cause trouble".

We got to a playground and the Beit Midrash of Chassidut Gur was right next to us. The kids were jumping on the swings and everything and suddenly a jogger passes by. He wasn't that what Haredim call "modestly dressed". Then my friend had enough and screamed "Shabbes !" The jogger stopped and asked if she has a problem. She just went on "Shabbes, Shabbes", and the jogger lost his temper. "Taliban !" he yelled and disappeared.

I told my friend that she didn't necessarily had to scream at him but, on the other hand, the jogger passed a haredi neighbourhood and he didn't even care that there were religious children on the playground while he wasn't dressed modestly. "We try to raise our kids pure", my friend that. What kind of impression do the kids get from this ? Some joggers even run without wearing a shirt at all".

This incident showed me how many secular just ignore the haredi population. I am not saying that there shouldn't be tolerance on both sides but many times before, I had the experience that especially parts of the secular population are provoking trouble and then complain that the Haredim are so bad, yell and throw stones. I don't get a kick out of running around through Mea Shearim half naked but other people obviously do.

I had a great Shabbat with the family and when I left after Havdalah, the kids were just jumping on me and asked me to come back soon. Even without wearing stockings.