Saturday, April 30, 2011

Is the Satmar Project "Kiryat Yoel in Jerusalem" bancrupt ?


A while ago I was writing about the Satmar construction site in Jerusalem. In August 2007, Rebbe Aharon Teitelbaum had arrived in Jerusalem in order to lay the foundation stone of the new Satmar housing site. Construction work began but soon stopped.

Other Chassidim gossiped that Satmar had run out of money due to the worldwide economy crisis and was thus forced to interrupt the project. I wrote an article on the topic on "Vos is Neias" and was, as expected, criticized. It would have been the Zionist's fault that construction had stopped. However, let me tell you one thing: If the former mayor had really stopped the Satmar project, who would have gone wild and organized wild demonstrations against the Zionists ? But nothing ever happened !

Now I read a comment on an Israeli haredi forum that the project is bancrupt. The people in charge  owe 13 million Shekels to the bank. The latest idea is to sell the planned apartments for 430,000 dollar instead of 200,000 dollar.

The buyers are young Satmarer families and they are upset, as they find themselves unable paying the much higher price. It says that those families are going to sue the project organizers.

Iranian Website displays cartoons about the Holocaust

How Palestinians use social networks such as Facebook for their own Purposes


Palestinians have been screaming on FACEBOOK for a "Third Intifada" and the "March onto Israel on May 15, 2011" for quite a while. Calling for war against Israel caused plenty of protests and eventually, Facebook closed down the page (The Palestinian Third Intifada). Nevertheless, a few days later, the page owner of the closed page had already founded a new Facebook page and has been spreading his hatred against Israel since.

MEMRI brings a detailed description on all different kinds of Arab Facebook Groups spreading hatred towards Israel.

On the other hand, the Palestinian side has its own version why Facebook closed down the page. I found the following AL JAZEERA quote in a brochure published by the "Sharek Youth Forum", a Palestinian organization financed by the UN. This youth organization is described as liberal. The brochure is called "Situation Report 2011".

Read the quote from AL JAZEERA published in the above brochure:

Israel attempts to strangulate the Palestinian voice even on Facebook and social networks
A Palestinian page on Facebook, called The Palestinian Third Intifada, said that the person in charge of this page was threatened by Facebook directors with closure of his page without giving any reasons. This page calls on the Palestinian people to rise against Israel, to protest corruption and to promote an end to internal division on 15 May (the anniversary of the Nakba - – Foundation of the State of Israel 15th Mai 1948 – The Palestinians do not mention that right away, Arab countries attacked Israel).
Although the number of visitors of the page exceeds 213,000, its owner accuses Facebook of manipulating the number of followers, saying that his page used to attract a daily number of 37,000 but now it has only 1000 – 2000 visitors. He added that his page is exposed to such harassment that he cannot post photos on it, expressing his concern that the administration’s behaviour is intentional in order to reduce the number of participants. To spread word of the date of the uprising, the page owner suggested new ideas such as writing the date on currency notes. The page also asked participants to invite at least five of their acquaintances so that the number of those who know about the uprising would number more than a million. It is worth noting that Facebook has closed and removed a page in the name of Freedom for Palestine, which had 216,000 members without giving any reasons. (Quote from AL JAZEERA Website, 22 March 2011)

How can the page owner know how many hits his site had when Facebook doesn't publish any figures ? Moreover, the article leaves out the reasons why Facebook closed the pages: Calling for war against Israel !

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Parashat Kedoshim - פרשת קדושים

Downtown Jerusalem: Where is the Kedusha (Holiness) ?

Photo: Miriam Woelke

Right at the beginning of this week's Torah Parashat KEDOSHIM, G - d announces that He wants to see the Jews HOLY because He is their G - d. Afterwards we are facing a long long list with all different kind of Mitzvot.

What makes those Mitzvot holy and how can we become holy through keeping them ?
G – d gave us the Mitzvot in His Torah in order to proclaim His will. Otherwise we, as finite humans, wouldn't know what an infinite being called "G - d" actually wants from us. Thus, the Mitzvot are a manifestation of G - d to show us His will. 

But how can there be real "Kedusha - Holiness" in our physical world ? When we look around, we may not see too much of this holiness but rather the opposite.  

A former Rebbe of Chassidut Gur, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (1847 – 1905), commentated that the holiness in our world is hidden. However, G - d wants us to be aware of the Kedusha in this world even if we cannot see it with our own eyes. Signs for the holiness in our world can we find in the Torah Mitzvot. They hint to the point that there is much more to this world than we are able to realize.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (1865 – 1935) wrote that holiness can be found in the most worldly matters. Eating and drinking, for example. Before and after we eat and drink, we say blessings (Berachot) in order to thank G - d for creating and providing us with nourishment. We don't actually thank Him for the pleasure but for creating the food. By blessing Him, we also acknowledge His existence as well as His entire creation.

The Baal Shem Tov saw in everything on earth a spark of holiness, as everything has its spiritual, totally perfect, counterpart in the upper spiritual worlds. 

There is no doubt that the Torah Mitzvot lead us to the way of perfecting ourselves. Even if we start with small things and not by running into all the Mitzvot at once. There are indeed various Mitzvot we don't understand and cannot graps their purpose. Some Mitzvot such as SHATNETZ are supposed to be for the future. Not that we only keep them in the future but that we will understand its meaning in the future to come.

Rabbi Akiva's Students and the Omer


It is customarily to refrain from listening to music during the Omer period. At least not until Lag Ba'Omer (the 33. day of the Omer). Not only music is avoided but also cutting ones hair and weddings.

Lag Ba'Omer was the day when Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai passed away. He was a student of the famous Tanna Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef.

We are always told that the time of the Omer period is a time of mourning and that's why we have to avoid listening to music or celebrating weddings. The Talmud Tractate Yevamot 62b teaches that during this time, 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died in a plague. Our Mefarshim refer to the death of the students as a G - dly punishment because the students spoke Lashon HaRah (idle talk) about each other. Each of them wanted to be the best and most respected person and didn't see the other ones anymore.

Historians, however, make a completely different statement. The students didn't die in a plague but died during the war with the Romans. This version seems to be more realistic and I totally agree with it. Rabbi Akiva falsely saw the Meshiach in Bar Kochba and supported him in the war against the Romans. He even let his students fight for Bar Kochba and many of them fell.

There is no doubt that the time of the Omer is a mourning period but it could be that many people stress the wrong reason.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yahrzeit: יהושוע בין נון - Yehoshua Bin Nun

A phone number for those who live in Beitar Illit, Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak or Jerusalem and would like to reserve space on a private bus traveling to Kever Yehoshua Bin Nun tomorrow night.


Tomorrow (Thursday) night is the Yahrzeit of the biblical Yehoshua Bin Nun (he took over leadership after Moshe died and led the Jews into Israel). Thousands of Jews will be traveling to his grave in a village called Timnat (Kefel) Hares. The village is located north of Ariel in the Shomron (Samaria).

Yehoshua Bin Nun belonged to the Tribe of Ephraim and was 42 years old when the Jews left Egypt. Later on, he married the famous prostitute Rachav from Jericho who had given shelter to the spies he had sent out.

Kever Yehoshua near the town of Ariel in Samaria (Shomron).

One month ago on Purim: The reading of "Megillath Esther - Book of Esther" at Kever Yehoshua Bin Nun.


Deeper Insights: Yehoshua Bin Nun

The Haredi World this Week

The haredi world this week: Pessach Celebrations

Rabbi Mordechai Machlis: Malachi & Parashat Kedoshim


I just wish that someone would finally produce a real professional video of Rabbi Mordechai Machlis' weekly Tuesday classes in his house in Jerusalem. However, so far we have to suffer from those poor quality videos whose "producer" is not even ashamed of charging the Machlis family.

Picture of the Day

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The other YOU


You are a Ba’al Teshuva (newly religious Jew) and suddenly it hits you. You neither doubt religion nor G – d. You try keeping Mitzvot and you may even study in a Yeshiva, seminary or any other programme. But then comes a time when you are getting up in the morning and start asking yourself whether the frum way is really for you.

Exactly this happened to me years ago. I woke up after having a nightmare, got dressed, put on my skirt but, at the same moment, started asking myself whom I want to impress by that. Why am I wearing a skirt and for what ? Because of my haredi flatmate, because of our haredi neighbours and neighbourhood ? 

The person on the photo has nothing to do with my text and I took the picture randomly.

Photo: Miriam Woelke

I knew I was leaving the apartment in order to return to Germany for at least some months. The advantage was that I didn’t have to think about the environment anymore. The result was that I instantly took off my skirt, pulled out my jeans and, after leaving the house, threw my skirts into the garbage outside. Later on I bought new ones but, for the time being, this was it.

When I left the house, some chassidic kids from the neighbours upstairs saw me. I think they didn’t even recognize me. The main problem though was that I had to go to work. The job was connected to other Haredim. Lita’im (Litvish). Now what ? First I thought about skipping work but then decided to show up. In jeans.

I arrived and my female boss made a very strange remark. Instead of yelling or fainting she asked: “Who hurt you ?”

Now it was me who almost fainted because I had never expected this kind of question. My female boss didn’t ask any further questions. Nothing. I was doing my job, she did hers and this was it. Some years later we met accidently and still got along very well. 

Nevertheless, when you are part of haredi society and suddenly dress in a different way, you have to expect that your environment won’t always react as great as my former female boss. There are Haredim who definitely ask you what has caused the change and why ? However, if you try talking about your personal problems and difficulties you hope that your haredi friends may draw you back. You are awaiting some king of support but just the opposite will be the case. I was hoping for some encouraging conversations but, as soon as I made an approach, people just escaped. A little later I find out why. 

At first I had thought that my haredi friends may be too embarrassed to be seen with someone like me in public but this wasn’t the case. The main reason for running away was the fear of getting drawn into doubt. Maybe I could be a negative influence to other people.

As a matter of fact, there were very few people who stopped being in touch with me and those people, believe it or not, where Ba’alei Teshuva and NOT born Haredim. 

In case you do undergo such a chance, never forget the consequences. They may be positive but also extremely negative. However, the main issue is that you know what you want and how you are going to live your life.

Pessach in Hebron

Jerusalem Tram Update

Last preparations

Copyright / Photo: Miriam Woelke

The last preparations seem to come to an end and officially Jerusalem's new tram is due to start its public transportation in August. However, tickets are already available. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kever Joseph and the death of Ben - Yosef Livnat

Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud)

The tragic death of Ben – Yosef Livnat, the 24 year old nephew of our Culture and Sport Minister  Limor Livnat, was a shock. Not only because Palestinians don't only kill any ordinary Jew but also Jewish "celebrities" but because, once again, praying Jews have become the target of Palestinian killers.

Yesterday's deadly incident was caused by the so - called Palestinian police whose members in Shechem (Nablus) started yelling “Allah Akbar” and started shooting around into a Jewish prayer crowd. The Breslover Chassid Ben - Yosef Livnat was killed and three further Chassidim were injured.

Background & Facts:

As we all know from the Torah, Joseph was one of the sons of the Jewish forefather Yaakov. Joseph dreamt that, in the future, his brothers would bow down to him. The result was that the brothers became jealous and even before, they had been convinced that Joseph was the black sheep of the family. Just like Ishmael and Esav. The brothers saw in Joseph the "favourite" son of his father and therefore as arrogant. 

The Torah teaches us the famous incident of the brothers selling Joseph. Joseph ended up in Egypt, spent several years in jail and, later on, rose to the second man in power behind Paraoh. During a famine in Israel (Canaan), some family members came down to Egypt in order to buy food and, in the end, Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers who then brought the entire family down to Egypt. Joseph died and was buried in the Land of Israel, in Shechem (the Arabs call it "Nablus").

In our times, Nablus has become the home town of many suicide bombers. Until October 2000, Shechem had a Yeshiva located right next to the famous "Kever Joseph - the Grave of Joseph". 

At the grave of Joseph. Our Jewish tradition teaches that Joseph's two sons Ephraim and Menashe are also buried there.

During the Six - Day - War in 1967, Israel conquered the area and turned it, as it should be, into a regular part of the State of Israel. In 1995, however, the Israeli government gave Shechem to the Palestinian Authorities. Shechem now was officially "Arab Palestine". Nevertheless, Jews were allowed to visit Kever Joseph protected by the Israeli army. If the army hadn't protected the grave, the Arabs would have destroyed it instantly, as they have done many times to other Jewish sites. 

In October 2000, a Palestinian mob started rioting outside Kever Joseph. Muslims don't believe that Joseph is buried at the site but a famous Sheikh. According to them, Joseph is buried in Hebron near the Ma'arat HaMachpelah

The procedure of trying to make the world believe that Jewish sites don't actually exist is nothing new. For years, Palestinians have been claiming that there has never been any Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The strange thing is that many years before, including the Middle Ages, no Muslim has doubted the existence of Jewish sites in Israel. Even Mark Twain in 1869, when he was traveling through the Holy Land, praised Kever Joseph. 
Due to the Arab riots around Kever Joseph, the Israeli government gave up the Kever in early October 2000. The result was that the Arab mob took over and widely destroyed Joseph's grave. Even burnt certain parts. Later on, it was used as a garbage dump.  

With permission from the army or without, the Breslover Chassidim have been sneaking into Joseph's grave for years. Many times being escorted by the Israeli army and many times without. Going to Shechem means endangering one's life as a Jew but the Breslovers wanted to make a point: We must not forget our Jewish heritage !

In 2007, the grave was returned to the Jews who restored its former condition. The site was cleaned up and fixed after the Arabs had vandalized the grave. Yesterday, 24th April 2011, the Breslovers came again. This time without any coordination from the army or the Palestinian police. Palestinian officers started yelling "Allah Akbar" and shot into the praying Breslov crowd. Ben - Yosef Livnat from Elon Moreh and father of four was killed and three other Breslover Chassidim were wounded.

Yesterday's funeral of Ben - Yosef Livnat

October 2000 – A Palestinian mob is storming Kever Joseph in Shechem (Nablus) and destroying parts of it.

April 2011: "KEVER JOSEPH - The Grave of Joseph" in flames

Further Details:



Hundreds of thousands of Jews of Moroccan origin live in Israel today. Most of them made Aliyah in the 50ies or 60ies and entire Israeli towns got a Moroccan touch such as Beit Shean, for instance. Tonight Israel's Moroccan Jews celebrate their special holiday always taking place right after Pessach: MIMUNA.

Special Moroccan food is being served (not only Couscous), traditional Moroccan music is being played (today maybe more from modern singers like Kobi Peretz or Sarit Hadad) and, within the past years, MIMUNA has become a day of Israel's politicians. Every high - ranking politician is going to a MIMUNA party no matter if Ashkenazi or something else. Whether Shimon Peres or Benjamin Netanyahu, everyone wants to be at MIMUNA and get some public relations. 

Moroccan Food

I heard that the MIMUNA actually comes from the word Maimonides and is a kind of extension of Pessach. Right after the holiday ends. A Moroccan tradition.

Today 51 % of Israel's Moroccan Jews still stick to their Jewish heritage; meaning, they keep up their traditions such as Kashrut or Shabbat. As a matter of fact, Sephardic Jews are much more traditional than Ashkenazi Jews where the Reform movement destroyed any original Jewish heritage.

When the Nazis invaded Northern Africa, also Moroccan Jews were suffering from anti - Semitic laws against them. Synagogues were destroyed or Jews were beaten up.

Today many Moroccan Jews in Israel still feel discriminated because many Israel say that Moroccans brought the worst criminals with them. Best examples are the two mafia families "Alperon" and "Abergel" operating in Israel.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Israel: An ordinary Country ?

Traveling where ?

Photo: Miriam Woelke


For most tourists visiting Israel, our country is not just an "ordinary" country as every place in the world. No matter what religion, the majority of tourists considers Israel as something special. But do we Israelis see our country as so special ?

I know Israeli Jews claiming that fulfilling all those Mitzvot is much more important when a Jew lives abroad. I haven't really experienced that when I used to live in Germany but, on the other hand, as soon as my environment started talking against Jews, I was proud of being a Jew and I must say that such Gentile remarks strengthen Yiddishkeit. Suddenly you feel like a Jew and see G - d from a very different perspective. First you didn't care too much and then a Gentile speaks out against Jews, you are there and hear it, and, at the same moment, a light goes on inside of you. Although you are not religious, you instantly feel like defending Jews and even Judaism.

Then a Diaspora Jew comes to Israel and usually doesn't hear such anti - Semitic statements anymore. He feels at home and that's about it. This is all he can do. 
Mitzvot ? Well, you already live in Israel. Isn't this Mitzvah enough ?

I have to admit that there are times when I do feel the same. We live in Israel and may keep plenty of Mitzvot. You don't do it or you do it. If you fulfill them, do you (in Israel) really do so with the best intention ? Are we aware of living in Israel ? I am sure that too many of us just take it for granted and we forgot to appreciate the fact of living here.

So, we are here. Lets see if anything is happening ! Meshiach ? Well, we have to earn a living, live our lives and just go on. Meshiach, of course, but we have other things to do. Maybe not now. 

And along comes a Diaspora Jew who is so excited of being here. He starts listing what amazed him in Israel. Plenty of kosher food, Jews everywhere and you don't have to justify yourself of being Jewish, the atmosphere, the whole country. Even the Falafel. 
At this moment we may start thinking about daily matters we usually don't see anymore because we are too busy. In fact, there are Israelis who would love to see Israel just like any other country in the world. On the other hand, we have the Torah and this alone informs us about the uniqueness and importance of our country.

I hope that I will remember my words tomorrow morning when the alarm clock is ringing and I need to get up for work. :-)

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv at the Kotel (Western Wall)


Just recently he celebrated his 101st birthday. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv, the Posek of the Litvishe world. This Pessach, he visited the Kotel. Not only that but he also wore a Streimel. 

All pictures HERE !

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Brothers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


The seventh and last Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson had two brothers. One brother was mentally ill, hospitalized in an institution and later on killed by the Nazis. The second brother, Israel Aryeh Leib, died in England at the age of approx. 49, and was apparently buried in Zfat (Northern Israel). It is said that Israel Leib lived as a totally secular Jew and communist in England.

A haredi forum published the below photo of Israel Aryeh Leib but no one seems to know for sure whether the picture really shows the brother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Maybe one of the readers can add clarification.

Was this the brother of Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson ?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pessach in Hebron


Thousands of Israeli Jews are traveling around the country during Chol HaMoed (Intermediate Pessach Days) and I have to work. Thus, the "What is Better ?" question is coming up ?

1. Is it better to earn money and not to neglect one's income ?


2. Should not every Jew enjoy the holiday and travel ? 
Or at least travel and enjoy a bit ?

I agree with both points and I do enjoy the holiday. Never before I have enjoyed the food on Pessach so much as this time. Potatoes, vegetables, red wine ... I can't complain. Putting cream cheese on the Mazzot.

Unfortunately, Pessach will be over too fast and then the noodles will be back. Bread ? I don't miss bread, as we have bread and rolls baked from Mazze Mehl (flour) or whatever flour. However, noodles are important to me.

Those who do have time to travel may have been to Hebron already. When I visit the Ma'arat HaMachpelah, I like to be alone. I want to sit alone, read Tehillim and just look at the "graves" of the forefathers and foremothers.

The tombstones we see today are neither the real stones nor do we stand in front of the actual graves. However, it is a spiritual place. The negative point: In case you need the toilet, you have to leave the complex in order to get to the bathrooms before the Machpelah. Meaning that, in case you want to come back inside, you need to undergo the entire security procedure again.

Going to Hebron is not a problem but when I took the bullet - proved bus I didn't feel very comfortable. Hebron itself is not always too save for the Jews. Especially not when you, by accident, cross the border into the much larger Arab Quarter. 

The haredi website KIKAR SHABBAT has a great photo collection of PESSACH 5771 in Hebron !

Obama's Passover Message

Thousands join today's BIRKAT HACOHANIM at the Kotel in Jerusalem

Goi stole the Pessach Chametz


"Kikar Shabbat" is reporting that the haredi population of the Jerusalem neighbourhood Ramat Shlomo experienced a bad surprise this Pessach. The Jews had sold their Chametz, as the Halacha demands, to a Gentile but this Gentile used his opportunity, came with his car to the place where the Chametz was stored, took the Chametz and disappeared. 

Watch out beforehand, to whom you sell your Chametz !!!

Chametz burning in Bnei Brak (Pessach 5771)

Photo: Miriam Woelke

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Blessing of the Cohanim - Birkat HaCohanim" Pessach 5771


Tomorrow morning, during Shacharit, the traditional "Birkat HaCohanim" is going to take place at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. The blessing will be said at about 9am.

Israelis are enjoying their Pessach Trips

Bnei Brak

Photo: Miriam Woelke

Israeli Pessach Events for FREE


Again, this Pessach, Bank Hapoalim is sponsoring various Pessach events where we can visit museums and further events free of charge. The complete list for those events only seems to exist in Hebrew, and here is a small selection from Tel Aviv:

Among many other places, people may visit the LECHI Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum or the Diaspora Museum (Beit HaTefuzot) for free. I hope I can make it to one of my favourite museums tomorrow afternoon. The Diaspora Museum in Ramat Aviv. If so, I assume that half of the Bnei Brak haredi population will be there as well. :-)

Ice Cream kasher le' Pessach

Seen in Ramat Gan near Bnei Brak.

Photo: Miriam Woelke

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sikarikim against a Toldot Aharon Chassid


Some Sikarikim (Neturei Karta) screaming "Sheygetz (Goi)" at a passing Toldot Aharon Chassid.

Why ?

Chassidut Toldot Aharon and the Neturei Karta are not that friendly with each other. First of all they have different opinions about the interpretation of anti - Zionism and, secondly, there may be a kind of competition, as one of the two Neturei Karta heads in Mea Shearim, Yoel Kroisz, was born into the Toldot Aharon but left and, obviously, found a better job.

Memories from Ramat Gan

Ramat Gan

Photo: Miriam Woelke


If there is a place in Israel I avoid seeing let alone live there, it is Ramat Gan. Ramat Gan is not a Tel Aviv suburb but an independent city. Three cities are located right next to Tel Aviv and you won't see much of a border. Sometimes you may even think that you are here but you are actually there. Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak and Givatayim. 

Until a few years ago, Israelis who thought that Tel Aviv is too expensive moved to Ramat Gan or Givatayim. Today the costs of living are basically the same and the only difference may be that there is less noise outside Tel Aviv.

Many years ago, I used to live in downtown (if I may call it so) Ramat Gan. The shops near our house haven't changed much. The hardware store turned into a hairdressing salon but this is nothing unusual in Israel where hardly any store exists vor more than five or ten years.  

My flatmate was national religious. Modern, using lots of make - up and walking around in high heels.

"If I mind that her married lover is showing up from time to time ?"

Somehow the Tel Aviv area appears to me as a huge "spouse betraying area". Of course this is happening all over the world and all over Israel but outside Tel Aviv, people may not talk about it openly. 

I didn't mind and the lover turned out to be quite nice. Two national religious flatmates and one had a married lover. My flatmate went nuts when her lover went out with his wife and she used to phone him all the time and hang up. A game and she drove me nuts as well. One day, her "love diary" was taken by mistake by one of her students she helped with their homework. My flatmate went berserk and managed to get the diary back. The worst was when her really frum national religious parents and Yeshiva brother came for a visit and we all played the game "perfect world". Only her sister knew about the lover but what could she do when my flatmate wasn't too religious.

However, this experience is not the reason why I don't like Ramat Gan. In order to live somewhere and feel at home you need a certain feeling. I have never had this with Ramat Gan. To me the city was nothing more than something inbetween. Inbetween my life and inbetween my decision where to live. I stayed but moved on. Nothing has changed until today. When I come to Ramat Gan then I am only passing through in order to get somehwere else.

And the end of the story ? There is no end. I just hope that my former flatmate has found a good Shidduch and fulfilled her parents dream.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chag Sameach - Happy Passover !

Bi'ur Chametz and Kashering Dishes in Bnei Brak (Photos)


I went to Bnei Brak this morning and was walking around but also took some photos showing the great Pessach atmosphere. Here are some of many photos I made about two hours ago.

Junction Ramat Gan - Bnei Brak / near Tel Aviv

Bi'ur Chametz, the burning of the last Chametz (forbidden grains during Pessach) in the middle of Bnei Brak. Near Rabbi Akiva Street.

Its a custom that religious Jews burn their Lulav from Sukkot together with the Chametz before Pessach. Many Haredim came with their Lulavim and even with the brooms the family cleaned up for Pessach. Everything was thrown into the fire.

Chametz represents the own Yetzer HaRah and with the burning a few hours before Pessach starts, we are symbolically getting rid of our Yetzer Harah.

Public Kashering Kelim (Dishes) for Pessach in Rabbi Akiva Street.

The boiling water where the dishes are put in for a few seconds.

The father of the girls in the background brought his Kiddush cups for kashering.

Further Kashering.

Copyright / Photos: Miriam Woelke

Tel Aviv's heathen AM:PM is Kasher Le'Pessach


A few years ago, the haredi world went beserk against Tel Aviv's supermarket chain AM:PM. Someone told be that in the US, you call a similar supermarket 7:11.

First, AM:PM used to sell pork but since has been changed to the better long ago. For the past years, AM:PM has only been selling mainly kosher products. The remaining problem, however, is that the chain is open on Shabbat. The good thing is that the management decided to close down on Yom Kippur.

Since last Pessach, the AM:PM management has also decided to keep Pessach. Yesterday, most employees at the AM:PM branch where I sometimes shop, cleaned up for Pessach and see the above photos as a result.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Exodus and the Tribes


What is wrong with the above picture ?

When the Jews crossed the Red Sea (Yam Suf), did they really follow one path ? A Midrash as well as the Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria teach that when the Jews crossed the Sea of Reeds, not all the tribes walked together. Instead, each tribe crossed the sea separately. The symbolic language describes how even walls were separating the different tribes but the amazing thing was that they could all see each other through those walls.

What is this statement teaching us ?

First of all, why did G - d separate the Hewish people into 12 tribes ? Couldn't their be ONE Jewish nation and that's it ? Why do we need tribes ?

Every Jew is different. He has different approaches, different ways of spirituality, of life, of everything. We are not all the same and this is what the tribes teach us in a symbolic matter. Zevulon is not Yehudah and Asher is not Shimon.

We all have different mentalities, ways of life but when it comes to the Jewish soul, we are all ONE.

And this is what the above Midrash is teaching us. Jews may be divided into totally frum, secular, traditional. One wears jeans, the other a Streimel and the third a blanket but what we should never forget is that we are ONE. I may not like my neighbour who is Vishnitz and I am Chabad. One is Munkatch and the other one is Tel Aviv secular. What we shouldn't do is looking down on someone and excluding another Jew. I think that Pessach and the Seder Tish is the best time to prove that we are still into our oneness.


Pictures from Jerusalem, 11 April 2011


Jaffa Road with the tracks for the new tram.

Still testing the new tram without passengers. I took the photo outside the Machane Yehudah Market.

Jaffa Road is widely closed for the traffic due to the tram. Furthermore, the street is turned into a shopping mall with lots of green and cafes where people can sit outside. The wild Jerusalem traffic, however, is now passing through Agrippas Street (see photo) behind the Machane Yehudah Market.  Agrippas is far to narrow and doesn't have a sufficient capacity for all the traffic.

Copyright / Photos: Miriam Woelke

Another Pessach without Gilad Shalid

Not to be Missed

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Laurel & Hardy singing LIPA (Schmeltzer)

Earthquakes and Thunder in the Talmud


The Gemara (rabbinic discussions) in the Talmud Tractate Berachot 59a lists various reasons why earthquakes take place. The Spanish commentator RASHBA (Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, 1235 – 1310), however, understands the text in the Gemara not as a reason for earthquakes but for THUNDER. Thus, the RASHBA is asking what is causing thunder. Does G - d really clap in His hands or stamping his feet ?

This Talmudic statement of G – d making noise with His feet or hands reminds me of the old Germanic people who believed that their God Donar / Thor is making noise in heaven by rolling around his wagon. 

Although the Gemara is giving the reason that G – d is clapping His hands or stamping his feet, these examples are not to be taken literally but symbolically. What we have to do is recognizing the deeper meaning behind this symbolic language. The Tunisian commentator Rabbeinu Chananel (Rabbi Chananel ben Chushiel, 11th century) explains that G – d uses loud noise in order to express His dissatisfaction that the Jews still live in the Diaspora. He (G – d) would love to lead them back to Israel but the time has not yet come.

The Rashba added that thunder is a nature occurrence. During Temple times, when the Jews fulfilled G – d’s will, there were no heavy storms although they are caused by nature. Of course, there was rain but only as much as was needed and no floods or catastrophes. Thunder, however, was meant to cause a Jew to do Teshuva (to repent). 

When G – d creates a rainbow after rainfall, it is a sign that no further flood will befall the world. After Noach’s Flood, G – d made a promise (Brit) to Noach not to bring about another flood covering the world. The world but G – d could bring about a flood destroying a country. The rainbow is part of nature but G – d chose using nature occurrences in order to express His dissatisfaction with humans. 

I don’t really understand the Gemara. Earthquakes may take place when the Jews don’t go according to G – d’s will. Maybe even when the other nations don’t show a proper behaviour. G – d uses nature occurrences in order to make us think and review our behaviour, as nothing in this world happens without a reason. No quake, no thunder, no tsunami, etc. Nevertheless, I don’t think that it is right when certain Rabbis point their fingers at other people and claim they know the reason why this and this happened. Of course, we can guess and maybe make a suggestion but we should never forget that we don’t know G – d’s true intention.