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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ramadan Rioting

News flash at Brussels Journal . Once again, "youths" are rioting in Europe, this time in Brussels, heart of the EU. Once again, the Main Stream Media is silent. As one blogger on the story pointed out, even the Belgian papers took three days to identify the perps as Moslems. This year, the excuse is the death of some Morocan in prison; however, other commentators note that the "Ramadan Riot" is becoming an annual tradition in France and Belgium, and any excuse will do....

This all serves a purpose, however. Now, when my Left-of-Center friends challenge me on the 1948 Partition of Israel (yes, they do--Israel stole that land, you understand, and there can't be peace until Israel willingly commits suicide and gives it all back to Fatahamas and we agree that any surviving Jews will be good, quiet, obedient little dhimmis), I point out that partition happened here for the same reason it happened in Pakistan/India/Bangladesh; for the same reason you see nightly on the news these days: radical Moslems don't play well with Others.

They riot on Ramadan; they riot over cartoons; they riot over free speech; they riot over democracy; they riot over other Moslem terrorists being arrested; they riot over (successful) police searches for explosives in their mosques; they riot, destroy, murder, and utter deadly threats against anyone and anything that seeks to criticize their barbaric behavior. Blowing up Buddhist statues, beheading unarmed Indonesian school girls, and car-bombing anyone who gets in the way of today's Islamist agenda is a given, including the car-bombing of other Moslems.

And moderate Moslems (yes, they exist) are their ennablers, as the moderates remain silent out of fear, out of confusion, out of a misplaced sense of brotherhood, or whatever cat it is that has each one's tongue.

Amin el-Husseini, the original hate-monger of Palestine and Hitler's pal

Israel has already had its fair share of the International Moslem Temper Tantrum: the riots in the '20s where Moslems killed Jews; the riots of the '30s wherein Moslems killed more Jews; the 1948 War of Independence after even the United Nations agreed Jews weren't safe living as a minority with Rioting Moslems and gave us our own country; the wars of every generation since then and the fedayeen raids between wars up until 1967. We don't call them fedayeen raids any more -- now its called what it really is: terrorism. The terror of the cross-border killings from Lebanon, by men and by missiles in the 80s'; the terror of the daily suicide bombing during the Oslo War; the terror of Hezbollah's incursions and Hamas's rocket attacks.

We're still paying the price for living in a free, democratic nation that also gives refuge from persecution to Jews (and others) as well as a dynamic, creative, hi-tech, quasi-socialist homeland imbued with Jewish culture. The price? The deaths of our families at the hands of Moslem terror. Now the rest of the world is paying that price as well. Maybe out of such senseless murders the world will come to understand Israel's struggle.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Walk About

When I visited Jerusalem last December in our whirlwind tours of potential schools for Josh, we spent a bit of time in this neighborhood. It was disorienting: small streets, major streets, no grid I could understand, deadends, old beautiful houses, small cramped apartments, new construction, very old construction, construction that looked like it should be torn down, little parks in odd places. I couldn't seem to grasp where anything was in relationship to anything else.

Then we found a school in Katamon, and we moved to the edge of Baka. We're actually in a new high rise along Derech Chevron, which we cross daily to make it to the Teen Ulpan and my own ulpan at Beit Mitchell. Not only are the roadways beginning to make sense, but walking and bussing through this end of Jerusalem is finally paying off: I'm learning where the small shops and neighborhood stores are, who has the best coffee and ice cream, who has ready-made for Shabbat, which store has the freshest pita, where the most convenient pharmacy is for my medical plan (yes, the pharmacies cater to specific plans--fortunately, my clinic and my pharmacy are both only three blocks from our apartment), where the hardware stores and produce markets are.......and a bonus to walking is that I find the short cuts. Well, Mike really found the short cuts but he showed me some and I later discovered others. There are 'streets' that would, in other places, be called alleyways--but they are alleyways redolent with jasmine, hibiscus, eucalyptus -- and oftentimes, on pick-up day, with week-old garbage. Okay, its NOT the City of Heaven--it's a very earthly place that has the beautiful next to the mediocre and sometimes it smells bad, too.

And then there are the small streets, especially in Baka and Moshava Germanit. The latter, literally "German Colony" in English, contains the old Templar houses built by devout German Christians who made their homes on the then-rural outskirts of Jerusalem. These devout Christians lost their homes here and in Bethlehem HaGalit during World War One when the British seized them as 'enemy aliens,' later deporting them and keeping their properties. To their east and south is Baka, which was once largely Arab and Moslem with a scattering of Jews. There is still an Arab population here, and we can hear the call to prayer some evenings when the wind blows from the west. To the west of Moshava Germanit is Katamon, also once largely Arab but Christian. Jews lived here also, but they weren't a majority in these neighborhoods like they were in Talpiot and Arnona to the east and south of Baka. These neighborhoods became overwhelmingly Jewish between 1948, when Arabs fled from the war zone and throughout the 1950s, when Israel housed some of its hundreds of thousands of "Arab" Jewish refugees who arrived penniless after being expelled from the Arab countries in which their families had lived for generations.

When I walk home from ulpan, there is a downhill stretch that is open field with an old oak tree and what I think is a tamarisk. The field itself is unkempt and full of knee-high grasses. There is an olive tree in one far corner next to the ruins of a some kind of building. It's impossible to tell if this was a house or just an outbuilding. There's no construction in this field because the neighborhood is fighting the erection of a 14-story hotel here (rightly so--the original plan approved was for seven stories) which would overwhelm the neighborhood housing and the small Armenian church across the street. What I love about this stretch is the view: from the sidewalk I can look across this field towards the Old City of Jerusalem, and past the convent church on the far hillside bordering the Old City walls, and I can imagine what this area was like one hundred years ago when it was largely rural. There are few places like this in Jerusalem any more.

Slide off the main roads into the small streets: Shemayya, Shimshon, Gedaliahu, Hananya, Lloyd George, Cremieux, Emile Zola, and you find a world of alleyways with high stone walls, tumbling flowered hedges, mature trees, and between the slats of a gate, a glimpse of a cool green garden with a patio. Some gardens are well-kept and inviting; others are run-down and neglected. One of the things I enjoy most about walking home is that I can take my time and meander through the small streets, glance into the gardens, admire the architecture and wonder what the people who live in these homes do with their lives. It isn't meant to be intrusive; it's just that anyone who lives in such an interesting place must also be pretty interesting themselves, right?

The picture above is a home in Moshava Germanit by Egle, who posts at Jerusalem Shots. He also took the photo of the street below.

Moving into Katamon along Rachel Imenu (Rachel Our Mother) Street will bring you to Josh's high school, the gate to which is just to the right beyond the round-about in the street. This is the road we walk every Friday, his one day out of ulpan, so he goes to high school on Fridays. The street is never this sedate on the days we go there, so this must have been an early morning shot, but the neighborhood is lovely. One of these days, I may be able to wander through Katamon and discover its side-streets and alleyways in addition to those of Moshava Germanit and Baka...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Israeli Salad

Every immigrant to Israel has to deal with culture shock, I'm told. So far, I haven't seen much to distinguish Israel from California except for cobbled sidewalks ( a plus ), loads of available kosher food, markets and restaurants (a major plus) a plethora of synagogues (another major plus) smokers (a minus) and incessant horn-honking, a practice that could get you killed in California, so it startled me at first.

The thing that has struck me most strongly is that Israel is a small country. I don't mean just geographically: the cars are small, the streets are small, the people are on the average shorter than the average American. But where 'small' is most noticeable is in the markets. There is no such thing as 'super-size' anything. Shampoo, sandwich bags, deoderant, even the cucumbers, pineapples, watermelons and bananas are much smaller than those found in the States (they also taste better here, by the way).

The major exception to this rule is salads. In Israel, the salad is not necessarily something served on the side of the main course. The salad is a meal in itself. The salads are HUGE. I've been known to order salads and not be able to finish them. I've frequently ordered a 'salad and two forks' since a single salad can feed me and another member of the family.

Not only are the salads HUGE, they're also creative. Salads here are more inventive, more fun and use more combinations of ingredients than I've seen used anywhere, including the vaunted California Cuisine of the West Coast.

You can get a salad as a side dish. We got an 'appetizer' last night at a new restaurant on Emek Refaim called La Boca. The 'appetizer' was a wonderful meat empanade with a simple salad--this appetizer plate was a meal in itself. I've ordered a 'salad' under the appetizer list at Joy and happily eaten the salad alone, as the salad was a meal in itself.

Salads come in every conceivable combination. Salads with a variety of greens; salads with no greens; salads with cheeses I've never heard of but are wonderful; salads loaded with Feta; "Arab" salads with the usual tomatoes and cucumbers, but each one different--some with capers, some with green onions, some with fennel, all with a variety of different herbs and spices. Salads with pastas, salads with sweet potatoes and nuts, salads with oriental themes, salads of fruits and yoghurts....salads here are ubiquitous and you can't ever get tired of salad in Israel. There are just too many of them and they ARE the one exception to the 'small' rule I've found.

Trust Israel, tiny as it is, to feed its people BIG portions of the fruits, nuts and vegetables from its bounty.

And if you're going to enjoy the delicious bounty of this time of year, with it's turn to a New Year and new hopes, amid the joy and celebration of your families, please take a moment to think of those who would also like to enjoy the bounty of the New Year, and donate to Meir Panim, an organization which has valiantly stepped in to feed Israel's hungry.

On Yom Kippur, Isaiah instructs us:

Surely you should divide your bread with the hungry
and bring the moaning poor to your home.
When you see the naked, cover him,
and do not ignore your kin.
Then your light will burst forth like the dawn
and your healing will speedily sprout.
Then your righteous deed will precede you
and the glory of God will gather you in.
Then you will call
and God will respond.

May you be inscribed for a good year, and may the tzedakah you perform merit HaShem's blessing on all of us.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dysfunctional Islam

This week, a religious leader made a declaration that was offensive to many of other faiths and even to some of no faith. His was the kind of statement that was inflammatory, hateful, and indicative to many of a 'Crusading' state of mind. He cited older sayings of his own religious tradition as justification for his words. Those inflammatory words were greeted with enthusiasm by his own adherents yet barely noticed by the Fourth Estate.

The statement was made by the leader of Israeli Arab Muslims, Sheikh Raad Salah, who openly promised a gathering of 50,000 Israeli Arabs last Friday that “very shortly the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem would be eclipsed and the city will become the capital of the world Islamic caliphate.

His audience eagerly thundered: “With fire and blood we will liberate al Aqsa!”

Understand, please, that Israeli Arabs are free in Israel's democracy to worship in their mosques. They pay no 'poll tax' to be exempted from the military; they collect the same social and medical benefits that Jewish Israelis receive; they are free to come to Jerusalem and worship at Al Aksa Mosque, something they were never permitted to do curing the iron-clad Occupation of Jerusalem by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for 19 years (1948-1967).

Israeli Arabs are even free to gather in seditious crowds of 50,000 and scream for the destruction of the state.

No one demanded that the sheik apologize despite his hate-filled triumphalist call for Holy War against the West and the Jews, the conquest of Israel and the theft of Judaism's holiest city, Jerusalem -- to be seized by force and used as the capital of a new world-wide Caliphate wherein Islam will be the state religion and Moslems firmly in control of the world.

And Moslems rioted over the Pope's remarks?!

Since 1973, Islam, a religion ignored by much of the civilized world and relegated to the category of "Third World religion" has embarked on the colonization of the West: we have witnessed the murder and threat of murder through fatwa of its dissidents and freethinkers (and Jews), the intimidation of too-politically-correct western leadership, the censorship-through-threat of the western press, the rape of western women in places as disparate as Australia and Norway by Moslem men determined to force western women into Islamic standards of dress. We have stood by haplessly as Moslem colonizers have infiltrated western society and glorified mass murder, justified the butchery of crippled old men like Leon Klinghofer, or unarmed young men like Robert Dean Stethem, hailing these butchers of the helpless as 'heroes' of Islam.

We have listened to Moslem clerics and lay leadership justify the 'honor killings' of their women and the mass murder of not just Israeli children, but now any child who happens to be on the same street as a car bomb in Iraq or attending a wedding in Amman.

We have listened to Moslem clerics and lay leadership talking out of both sides of their mouths for three generations: telling Moslems in Arabic to keep killing because their cause is just and they will triumph in an orgy of bloodletting that will transport them to world domination, all the while making soothing placating politically correct noises to western leaders who don't understand Arabic and won't read the translations provided them.

Islamic terrorists kill and kidnap, then justify their actions by citing aging "wrongs" that any reasonable examination will show flow from their own short-sighted, willful decisions to repudiate peaceful means of resolving differences (I like to remind the Politically Correct of my acquaintance that while the Palestinians scream about UN Resolution 242, they fail to ever mention that the Palestinians themselves refuse to adopt the UN Resolution creating the states of Israel and Palestine in the first place).

Now, after decades of Moslem colonization, intimidation, coercion, kidnapping, terror and murder, Moslems laughably claim 'victim' status and make more demands on the West for its adherence to the Moslem Agenda.

I say the Pope got it right. Go read the remarks--hit the link above in the title. Or continue below with the salient portion:

"Here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion".

According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war.

Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in generalsaying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.

Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".

This statement, a statement that violence is not compatible with faith, God and the souls of mankind, and that the faiths of the world should enter dialogues based on theology rather than secular constructs which ignore the Divine, is what prompted an outburst of murderous violence throughout the Moslem world. The Pope talks about the encounter between Faith and Reason -- and the Moslem world responds with an orgy of church-burning, threats and murder.

Islam proved once again it is a dysfunctional religion peopled by Third World fanatics intent on dragging the rest of the world into a 7th Century religious dictatorship. Moslem behavior has only proved that Islam is not a 'religion of peace' but a cult of death.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hebrew Reading Skills

I read Hebrew--sort of. I know most of the words in the Siddur, fewer in the Tanakh, and can with patience and difficulty, decode some of the newspaper and the subtitles on television.

My husband, who has lived here before and is much more fluent than I am, naturally reads better than I do.

Nonetheless, it does no good to have Hebrew reading skills if you DON'T read the documents first.

Mike does something quite sensible when confronted with any Israeli bureaucrat who says he can't do something and tells Mike to go elsewhere. Mike always asks for a note in Hebrew, and never has he been turned down. He got a note from the post office guy for Bituach Leumi when we were re-routed there; he got a note from Misrad Hapnim when they sent us to the Rabbinut. We needed to go to the Rabbinut to file Mike's get and civil divorce papers with the Rabbinut so I can 'officially' be on my husband's teudat zehut as his wife.

However, having a note doesn't help if you don't READ the note yourself.

We raced to an appointment at the Rabbinut the other day and Mike pulled 'the note' out of his wallet and asked the security guards where in the building he was supposed to go.

The security guards looked at the note and said, "Oh, no, you're in the wrong place. You need to go to the Russian Compound, by the police station."

We looked at each other blankly. The Russian Compound? There's a beit din there?

We power-walked on the hottest day of Jerusalem's summer to date from the top to the bottom of Ben Yehuda and raced across Yafo and up to the Russian Compound without seeing any signs of official rabbidom. We asked another security guard (the ubiquitous fixture of modern Israeli life, and frequently a source of immense information) where 'this' was, 'this' being the address on the note.

"Oh, around the corner from the church, next to the police station," he told us.

So we hiked over to the police station, got more directions from a friendly officer, and walked to the exact address -- of the police reserve unit.

My husband was a cop in the US for years, and is friendly with many police officers in Jerusalem as well. The 'note' he yanked out of his pocket and showed to the various security personnel contained the directions to a lunch date with a friend of his on the Jerusalem Police Department......not the address of our date with the Rabbinut.

Fortunately we're the kind of people who leave early so we can only be a little late after getting lost, so we rushed back to Yafo, grabbed a cab and raced back to the Rabbinut. There, finally in the correct building, a nice and helpful woman looked at the CORRECT note and asked in a puzzled voice, "Why were you told to be here today?"

We looked at each other, shrugged, and snitched off the guy in the next cubicle who was the one who told us to be here on this particular date.

The woman sighed. "He must have looked at the wrong file. I'm looking at your file here in the computer and you aren't scheduled to be here until October 16th. Come back then."


It should be about 20 degrees cooler in October, school will be well underway and the chaggim will be over. October is a great date.

And this time, we'll READ the note first.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

OJT Hebrew--Just DO It (and swallow your embarassment)

Emma S addressed olim mistakes while speaking Hebrew in one of her recent posts at Moving On Up Yep, Brain Fart describes it beautifully! I took great comfort from this post, because my own mistakes are fairly awful.

My husband, who lived on kibbutz for 5 years, has his fair share of mistakes as well. However, because I don't understand real Hebrew (as spoken by natives) as opposed to Ulpan Hebrew (which is recited at a quarter of real-life speed), I generally miss his mistakes, unless he points them out to me.

He did share this week's flubb solely because it was funny. We have a dog. Actually, Yona has a dog but the dog stayed with us when Yona moved out. She was working two jobs and her hours were not conducive to dog ownership at the time, and we had grown very fond of Pax. Pax made aliyah with all of us, including the two cats, both of whom were highly dubious about our adoption of a dog in the first place.

So Pax takes us for walks around Jerusalem now. Since school started, she takes Mike and Josh to the Ulpan for Teens, and three mornings a week I walk with them on the way to my ulpan. On those days that I don't have ulpan, we walk Josh to school, then stop at our favorite coffee shop on Derech Bet Lechem for coffee and breakfast. As a result of these frequent refueling stops at the coffee shop, most of the staff, the owner and the security guard have come to know Pax on a first name basis. There are seats inside the coffee shop, but one of the attractions of this cafe is that there are also comfortable, funky couches and tables outside in addition to the usual cafe tables on the sidewalk. With Pax, we sit outside.

A couple of days ago, the security guard approached and asked my husband if it was all right to pet Pax? "Of course," Mike replied in Hebrew, "She loves everybody!" The word for "loves" is ohevet--but what Mike said was "Of course! She eats (ochelet) everybody!" The guard, who was reaching out to pet Pax, snatched his hand back in anticipation of it becoming an hors d'ouvre.

Fortunately, Mike explained his mistake and Omri and Pax are now pals.

I have my own OJT Hebrew--on the job training. Last week, I needed a new book for this semester's ulpan. Unfortunately, the book wasn't available at the school but was available at Tamir Books on Yafo Street near Zion Square. That's too long a walk, even for me, so I took the 8 bus which stops near the top of Ben Yehuda, and from there it's a pleasant stroll down the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall to Zion Square.

For some reason, the word 'go' as in drive or ride refuses to remain in my memory. The word to go, by foot, or just generally, is different from go in the sense of riding in a car, a taxi or on a bus. (I know, I know--I was never going to ride a bus--that's another post.) I tried to ask the bus driver if he goes to Yafo Street but instead I asked the bus driver if he's married to Yafo Street. The guy did a double take, but he must be used to new immigrants mangling his language: without missing a beat, he said he went left to the souk on Yafo but not right.

I was simply grateful he didn't fall out of his seat laughing at me.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Photo Day

I'm starting to get the hang of the camera, downloading the pics to the computer, and posting. However, the one frustration is that loading the pictures into emails takes forever, and half the time the email won't 'send'. I'm told there is a way to reduce the picture size so the emails won't freeze up, but I haven't figured that part out yet. Anyway, here are the photos--our neighborhood and family. Enjoy!

The walk in front of the best vegetable market in Baka, right next to our favorite coffee shop on Derech Hebron

The Tayelet, two blocks from our apartment

Neurim, the special education high school in Katamon

Josh, 16 on the back patio of our apartment

Mike with Pax on our mirpesset (patio)

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