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Monday, December 24, 2007

BILU

The year the pogroms began in Russia, 1881, is the year Russian Jews started emigrating in large numbers to the United States. A smaller number of them, however, turned their eyes toward Zion; in 1882, several thousand Russian Jews emigrated to Palestine. Prior to this, most Jews who made aliyah to Israel did so for religious reasons; it was considered meritorious, for example, to die in the Holy Land. Living in Palestine, however, was considerably harder. It was an impoverished land, many — if not most — of whose Jewish inhabitants depended on worldwide Jewish charitable contributions.

In 1882 also, a new Jewish organization was founded that had a very different scenario in mind for Jewish life in Israel. The group was called BILU, an acronym based on a verse from Isaiah (2:5), "Beit Ya'akov Lekhu Ve-nelkha/Let the house of Jacob go!" BILU's founders believed that the time had come for Jews not only to live in Israel, but to make their living there as well.

(courtesy http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/bilu.html )

My family was one of those who opted, at least in the direct line of descent, for the stews of the Lower East Side. Apparently another cadet branch chose Palestine, since we have a steamship record of a much younger brother coming to visit his American brother from Jaffo.

I've often wondered if all those Pausners/Pevsners/Pazners buried in Petah Tikveh are relatives?

BILU was not a particularly successful movement but they did leave their name at Tzomet Bilu, which is today not so much an intersection as a stretch of roadway that embraces a number of shopping centers.

"Bilu" today means that intersection and scads of shopping. I doubt the original quasi-Marxist founders of the movement would be flattered to find that their name has been appended to the best-known source of discount capitalism in Israel.

Because, as almost everyone in Israel except me (until recently in November) knew, Bilu is where you go to get it wholesale...or as close to wholesale as you can be. Clothes, shoes, underwear, china and stoneware and utensils, pots and pans, mattresses, bedroom furniture and household lighting are all available (as are other items I was too tired to explore in depth) at prices that beat anything I've seen in Jerusalem.

I have no idea how to get there by bus. It's next to Mazkeret Batya, which turned out to be a prettier community than I imagined. We got there by taxi since Yossi and his wife spend a LOT of their shopping time there. You take Highway One from Jerusalem down to Latrun and turn "left" on Highway 3. Keep going through a lovely rural countryside until you cross Highway 44 (Tzomet Nachshon) and continue to Road 411, the next right. This meandering country road takes you past some of Israel's oldest collective settlements and ends at Highway 40, just past Mazkeret Batya. Turn right at Highway 40 and you'll see a variety of shopping malls lining the road. This is "Bilu."

Shop 'til you drop.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Dangerous Beauty

I couldn't help but notice what an absolutely spectacularly beautiful day today is....it is clear and cool, but not cold; not a cloud in the sky and not rainy or windy. It could be Autumn except that it is now December and hundreds of thousands of ancestral memories are telling me it's supposed to be wet and cold.

I love today for its autumnal beauty, its cerulean sky, its crisp promise, its cool winter sunlight pouring through the denuded branches along Emek Refaim. The sidewalks are full of people in the absence of the rain and cold and wind.

I am loving this....but I am also from a land that has scant water resources. Californians love this kind of weather because it allows us to jog and play tennis well into winter....but we also have a creeping unease settling in our hearts while we enjoy the present. We know what this means. No rain. No winter snows. No water next year. Draught.

A day like this has a beauty that makes us savor it, all the while recognizing that it is a dangerous beauty indeed.

Baruch Atta Elokim, Magen Avraham...mashiv haruach umorid hageshem. Selah!

photo credit: RomKri of Jerusalem Shots

Friday, December 21, 2007

My International Internet Banking Nightmare

I haven't been able to get much blogging (or anything else) done this past few weeks because of a shameful secret -- my bank cancelled me.

Not on purpose, you understand. It was a "clerical error." Ooops. But a clerical error in a banking system 10,000 miles from me, connected only by telephone, internet and FedEx is the genesis of a major problem.

It started like this. When we made aliyah, we researched banks that would be useful to us Stateside but also work with international wire transfers to our Israeli bank. We didn't want to use the firms that invest your money, because at the time their fees for international wire transfers were high, very limited in number and our deposits wouldn't be insured.

Instead, we opened an account with a small bank in the South which was recommended by Nefesh B'Nefesh on their website.

The bank was perfect: inexpensive wire transfers, 24/7 banking service, good interest rates. They never caused us a problem the entire 17 months we used them.

Then along came the sub-prime mortgage meltdown...and we opened our account page one day to find our Nice Little Bank was suddenly being handed over by the FDIC to Big International Conglomerate Bank. BICB promised us all the same services and that everything would be hunky-dory with them, and why don't we fill out an on-line application and officially become their customers?

Okay, sounds good, but I can't find the internet link on the site for the international wire transfer, because I need to move some money to Israel since I'm in the middle of working with various contractors and materialmen on our new apartment, and they'd like to get paid.

So I call the 24/7 customer service number. Long distance. Then I get a recording telling me that they are no longer providing customer service 24/7 and that I should call back between 8 am and 11 pm EST.

Rats. Trying to coordinate my calls with daylight hours in the US in problematic, but, well, in this case it has to be done. So I call them back (long distance international because their "toll free" number doesn't take calls from Israel)during the requisite hours and get Ms. Snippy, who proceeds to inform me that Big International Conglomerate Bank doesn't have the link to international wire transfers any more because--they don't do international wire transfers.

"How can this be?" I asked. "You're a big international bank!"

"It's not cost-effective for us, " she replied, snippily.

"Well, what about your overseas customers? My husband and I have our deposits made directly in these accounts and we're living in Israel and need to transfer some of that money to our bank here."

"I can't help you with that. You need to look into other options," she tells us in a distracted and less than helpful voice. "By the way, you need to provide us with a US address to maintain your account with us."

We have such a US address. It appears on our account information pages of Nice Little Bank's web-page but nonetheless, I recite it for her and assume she is putting this into her records.

I dutifully fill out the internet form on the web-page that says what we need to do to transfer our account from Nice Little Bank to Big International Conglomerate Bank. I do this despite the warning that it may take 30 to 60 days to process the application.

I also direct them to close the CD account, and put the funds into the Money Market Account.

I start shopping around for another bank that will do international wire transfers, and ultimately, we decide to go back to our Credit Union, which while not 24/7, will conduct conversations with us by email, give us real, live, helpful personal service, and whose employees actually answer the phone and give their customers the employees' direct extensions. It's a bit more cumbersome, because the wire transfers cost more, and I have to fill out a form, fax it, then call Erika the next morning (our night) to make sure the form arrived and that the wire transfer will go out that day.....but its better than BICB which isn't being helpful at all.

Then I get an email from BICB: "You need to provide us with an updated U.S. address."

I just did that. Okay, I'll do it again. I email BACK to them the US address we maintain in California.

We have "bill-pay" on the Nice Little Bank account. This is handy for being able to pay any US credit card bills that may arise, or kids' loan payments, etc. I generally sit down towards the end of each month, plug in the dollar amount into the bill-pay column for any credit card that has an amount owing, and plug in the "payment date." The first of the month, like magic, all the bills are paid!

As the end of the month approaches, I get another email from BICB....."You need to provide us with an updated US address."

I WRITE BACK the US address (again) with a note stating that we provided this last month and PLEASE MAKE A NOTE OF IT!

I get a cheery email back telling me that the address information has been updated on two of our three accounts -- money market and checking. This is a bit puzzling because no mention is made of the CD account, but then I remember that I asked them to close that account and put the money into the money market account....so I figure that's why there's no note about the CD account.

I'm busy with guests coming, Chanukkah coming, medical stuff for the kid, so I figure that on the first of the month, I'll simply sit down, plug in the payment amounts and "send" and get everything taken care of.....I'm not worried that Nice Little Bank's accounts are going to be closed on December 7, because our own application for BICB is in process and we should have a new (transitioned) account with them momentarily--certainly in time for the bill-pay to be activated on the new account January 1st.

I blithely open up our accounts page on the last day of November, prepared to set up the bill-pay options for the next day -- and discover that all the money in our checking and money market accounts has been reversed out of the accounts and the two accounts are CLOSED!

I call BICB, forgetting that they are no longer doing customer service 24/7--now I have to call only during certain hours. After wasting money on that phone call, I call again during the requisite hours and get a customer service representative, to whom I pose the questions: why our accounts are closed, the bill-pay shut down, and what happened to our money?

"I'll have to send this upstairs to be researched," she says. She assures me that this will NOT take weeks but only 24-48 hours and "someone" will be in touch with me.

Right.

In the absence of anyone getting back in touch with me,I call back the next evening and get a somewhat more harried customer service representative, who looks at her computer and tells me that yes, Nice Little Bank's services were to remain operation until December 7th BUT that some accounts are being shut down early because they don't have valid US addresses, and we never provided them with a valid US address.

"But we did. More than once," I told her. "I provided it on the telephone and twice in writing. And I'm holding a confirming email from your bank stating that you received the information and updated our accounts."

"Well, we're really busy here and its really difficult to make this transition work, and it looks like the information you sent us just didn't get to Operations in a timely manner." I.e., a clerical mistake.

Fine, okay, mistakes happen. I just want it fixed.

Put our pensions (which we later find were sent back to our pension authorities) and the money reversed out BACK into our accounts and let's get back in business.

"We can't do that," she says, starting to sound really annoyed. "The pensions have been refused, which means the money is already sent back to your pension originators. You have to contact them about getting those funds back into the account. The moneys reversed out of your two accounts have been sent back to the address on file." You, know, the address they are saying they DON'T have....

I explain, a little tersely, that I would like to have some customer service here that involves, if not reactivating this 'accidental' closure of accounts, at least opening the new BICB immediately, so I can wire money into it and use the bill-pay feature to pay our bills.

"I don't see an application on file for you and your husband," she said when I asked about this option.

We filled out the application back in September, I tell her. "Well, I don't have a record of it," she said icily, as if I'm making this all up. "You can reapply, of course," was added in tones of don't-hold-your-breath.

How long, if I reapply tonight, will it take to open the new account--especially in view of the fact that it was YOUR error that closed our accounts in the first place?

30 to 60 days, she tells me.

Arggghhh!!

This didn't happen all in one night, of course.....so while I'm pursuing Option Number One with BICB, I'm also contacting our credit union, FedExing forms to them in order to add a joint checking account to our shares account, and set up bill pay and get an ATM card, etc.....

While BICB is giving us neither apology nor customer service, our forms and photocopies of IDs which were FedEx'd to the credit union arrive at said credit union. We know this because FedEx makes everyone sign when they receive a packet. Thank goodness....because once they arrived at the credit union, they disappeared. No one knows where-oh-where the FedEx'd originals went to, or where the faxed copies went to...both sets of documents vanished.

Ultimately, this worked to our favor. The credit union, which does believe in real customer service to their members, rushed around making everything square with us without the requisite documents in hand, and we got the joint checking and the bill-pay set up. Finally. Then I wired money from our Israel bank to the credit union, then paid the bills.

I took our copies of the faxed documents, scanned them into the computer and then emailed the documents to our account rep at the credit union so he'd have at least some paperwork to back up his risk in opening a joint checking with no paperwork in hand.

We then arranged with our pension departments to direct deposit our pensions into the credit union account starting January 1st....the pensions that were returned to us (at our US address) were ultimately FedEx'd to us (at our expense) as checks, which we now get to FedEx back to the credit union for deposit....

I'm not looking forward to seeing either the phone bill or the credit card bill at the end of this month....

But....BICB still has our CD account -- THAT they never closed but they haven't yet sent us checks for the amounts which were in the closed accounts. And of course, I can't reach them by 'bank mail' because I don't yet formally have an account with them, so this is yet another long-distance international phone call to their so-called "customer service."

Is there a moral to this story? Yes: the smaller the bank, the better the service. We can't do without a US bank because our pension originators refuse to deposit into overseas banks; we have to use wire transfers and bill pay. But just because a big international bank has a huge advertising budget, don't think their customer service is going to be helpful. Just the opposite--they have so many customers, the little pensioners who run into problems appear to be not worth helping.

Now, if I can just figure out how to make them disgorge the CD account and return the money that was in the accounts.....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why We Can't Just "All Get Along"

I have a stepdaughter who recently visited her siblings in the San Francisco Bay Area. Neither of the California siblings is strongly connected to anything remotely resembling a Jewish heritage. As the most important aspect of coming-of-age-in-the SFBA is 'fitting in,' there tends to be an assimilation to the Mainstream, which is a kind of post-hippie, multi-spiritual, politically correct world view where all beliefs are of equal un-value, and it's deemed "not cool" to 'pass judgment' on anything in this bubble of rectitude (except out and out racism against non-Jewish minorities is given lip-service proscription).


So Oldest Daughter has a discussion with the siblings about the Middle East. The youngest asks in plaintive tones, "Why can't Everyone Over There just get along?" This child is a recent product of the University of California system with a degree in psychology. So much for a university education and its ability to install an informed world view.


Oldest Daughter grew up in both Israel and California. Oldest Daughter is a product of the kibbutz system, and while not datia, is certainly conversant with Israel and what it means to be Jewish. Oldest Daughter has served in the military, gone to college, and has a firm grasp of the Middle East, both ancient and modern.


She provided her sibs with the best answer I've ever heard for those who are either uninformed or in denial about the Middle East:

"We can't just 'all get along' because frankly, why should we? Why should we, Israelis, products of an ancient tradition of learning as well as a post-Renaissance and humanist society, get along with a bunch of medieval fanatics who at their most liberal concede that some Jews might be allowed to survive the coming Arab-led genocide and live here as second-class citizens under Palestinian law?"

"These are people who deny the Holocaust ever happened, insist that Jewish antiquities are all fakes planted by the Israeli government, and claim that despite the Koran, the Bible and the Tanakh, the Jews have no historical affiliation with this land whatsoever."

"These are people who believe that women are second-class citizens, and that its okay for fathers to totally control their daughters' lives. This is a society that condones honor killings because a girl talked to a boy without a male relative being present and without having prior approval of the family patriarch. This is a society that agitates for the imposition of "Moslem law," meaning Sharia--a Code which calls for execution by impaling of homosexual men and the stoning of women who engage in "immoral behavior," which is defined by, of course, the men. This is a Code which gives full credit to the testimony of a Moslem male but denies such weight to the testimony of non-Moslems and Moslem females---so even if a woman denies a charge of 'immoral behavior' the testimony of her male accuser outweighs her denial."

"These are people who openly glorify the killing of Jews, are terrorizing the Christian communities of the West Bank, killing Christians in Gaza, throwing their political rivals off of rooftops and indoctrinating their children to hate anyone who isn't like them."

"Do YOU want to live in a society like that?" she challenged them. "You really want Abba picking your husbands for you? You really want to be told you have to cover up from head to toe just to go to the store?"

"Why should we be expected to "get along" with people like this?"

I gather from her account that this information was something new to the siblings, and that as a general principle, no, they didn't themselves want to live in such a society.

I have to applaud her for putting it so succinctly. It seems that many folks in our former domicile have extremely simplistic views of the Middle East, and a vast unfamiliarity with the history and the societies that exist here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Are You Cold In Jerusalem This Winter?

Uh, ummm....I seem to be plagiarizing a bit this week, but in this case, it's worthwhile. Forgive the copycatting but please take a look.

Thank you, Balaboosta, for the tip and link, and Jameel, for the article. It's very cold in Jerusalem right now -- cold and crisp and bitter if you are one of those without heat. The north is cold, too, and the Galil has those winds that howl down from the Asian steppes.

My gas bill for a small two-bedroom was 250 NIS (and the Junkers were only on for part of the month--the average Junkers costs 1,000 NIS per month and that's with conservation--two hours in the morning and 4 hours at night) and the electric was 597 NIS. That's a tad bit more than $400/month if I've done the math right.....the families helped by Warm The Needy are staying warm on half that amount, so they're conserving even more than we're conserving. A LOT of poor families in Israel struggle to get by on 2000 NIS/month -- around $500 approximately.

The middle class in Israel is reportedly shrinking and those who fall out of that class are falling into the lower class--the working poor of Israel. Those are the folks making less than 8,200 NIS/month (roughly $2,500). They're supporting families of 3, 4 or more children plus buying groceries, paying for school books, paying for day care, putting gas in the car (if they have a car), paying the mortgage or rent, and paying their utilities. (Check out Ha'Aretz's article on this at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/813340.html)

It's a fragile economic balance--and if one parent becomes ill, if there is a divorce, if one parent is laid off, the family economy crashes. So when the crunch comes, what gets cut?

The heat. The lights. The food. The clothes.

-------------------------------

Warm the Needy
--Special Advertisement –-

As Jameel will tell you, in Israel, Milluim (army reserve duty) in the winter is cold, Milluim in the winter is wet, but most of all, it’s cold outside.

If you’re lucky enough to be on a base in a group tent, your tent might have a kerosene heater. But, if you’re out in the field, its winter jackets, long johns, and two pairs of socks every night.

But imagine for a second this isn’t milluim. It’s Israel, it’s your home, it’s winter and it’s cold inside your house.

Thousands of Israeli families can’t afford to heat their homes in the winter. Many of them can’t afford heaters and radiators. Those that do, can’t afford to pay the electric bill that goes along with it.

In 2005, 7,200 families had their electricity cut off in the winter when they couldn’t pay the electric bill.

So instead, they sleep at night in their jackets and winter clothing.

A few years ago (in 2003), a young American Chassid (Hershel Puretz) living in Jerusalem saw a few families in this bad situation and decided to do something about it.

At first it started quite simply, he got heaters for those needy families.

He helped a few families that first year.

But then it grew larger, so he found donors and an electrical appliance store happy to help subsidize part of the cost of the heaters. Those that needed a heater could buy with pride a subsidized heater to warm their home.

Then he saw that this problem was bigger than he imagined.

He formed “WarmTheNeedy.org”, and started helping even more poor families.

Suddenly he came across a new problem. The electric bills for running the heaters in the winter were far beyond the means of many of these families to pay.

So, he worked out a deal with the Israeli Electric Company (IEC) where he directly subsidizes the bills for these poor families. The IEC now directs cases to WarmTheNeedy.org when the IEC thinks they need external help.

What started off as a few families, grew to over 1000 families in 2006 receiving heaters! And nearly 1500 families having their electric bill directly subsidized!

In fact, with the help of donors, WarmTheNeedy.org has subsidized electric bills for some 2000 families to a tune of $100,000!

This organization is staffed completely by volunteers and 100% of the money goes to helping the families. It is registered 501(c)(3) in the United States.

WarmTheNeedy.org expects to help 2000 families this winter, but they need your help to keep these families warm.

Please visit their site, learn more about what they are doing, and how you can help.

And please help. It’s going to be a very cold winter this year.


-----------------------------------------------------

Check it out: http://www.warmtheneedy.org/ or simply hit the title above which has the link in it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Condoleeza, The Black Bigot

It's not that I'm lazy today--I've been working hard since around 0300 this morning on a variety of projects that need my immediate attention. However, this caught my attention yesterday and I'm reprinting it because (a) not everyone reads the JPost and (b) I'm not sure the link will last longer than a week.

Contrary to what my friends and acquaintances on the Left has always maintained, this is proof that yes, people of color can also be bigots.


Fundamentally Freund: Condi hangs a 'No Jews Allowed' sign

Michael Freund 12-11-97



Condoleezza Rice has got some nerve. First, the US Secretary of State had the hutzpa to compare Israel's treatment of Palestinians to that meted out to US blacks during the bad old days of the segregationist South.

Speaking at a private session at the close of the Annapolis conference, America's top diplomat said that having grown up "as a black child in the South, being told she could not use certain water fountains or eat in certain restaurants, she also understood the feelings and emotions of the Palestinians."

Aliyah06 NB: The restaurants, coffee shops, water fountains, movie theatres, malls, libraries and schools in my neck of Jerusalem all have Arabs eating, drinking, shopping and studying in them. I sat next to two Arab Moslem women in hijab this morning in a local coffee shop; I ride the buses with Arab men and women who mingle freely with the Jewish passengers. I, too, lived in the segregationalist south and recall clearly that movies had separate seating for blacks, that libraries were invariably peopled only by whites, and that black citizens shopped on the 'black side' of town and whites on the 'white side' of town, and eating establishments were off limits to anyone of color. That is NOT the situation in Jerusalem, and her blithe association of white southern bigotry with security procedures put in place because of Arab bigotry, racism and genocidal intention either means she is the biggest idiot on the planet (unlikely) or she is pandering to the oil despots.

"I know what it is like to hear that you cannot go on a road or through a checkpoint because you are Palestinian," the Washington Post (November 29) quoted her as saying. "I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness," she added.

Aliyah06NB: I live just north of the Bethlehem checkpoint, and have travelled through the northern checkpoints of Jerusalem. I have yet to see anyone stopped "because (they are) Palestinian." The checkpoint coming out of Efrat and Bethlehem is crowded in the mornings with hundreds of people, Jewish and Arab, pouring into Jerusalem for jobs, for hospital appointments. The checkpoints bottleneck during rush hours (as do all roads) as well as during security alerts when we receive information that two Palestinians with bombs are coming into the city to commit mass murder. So let's get this straight--people aren't barred from roads or held up at checkpoints 'because (they are) Palestinian' -- we are all inconvenienced, sometimes horribly, by the security necessities imposed on both populations by the murderers amongst us who happen to mostly be Palestinian.

You want humiliation and powerlessness, Condi? Trying going through a manned security gate every time you enter a mall, every time you go to the hospital and have some male guard open up your tampon case in front of the entire line to make sure it doesn't have explosives in it.

Needless to say, the fact that American blacks were victims of violence and hate, while Palestinians are its proficient practitioners, seems to have escaped the secretary of state's attention.

Moreover, Rice's comparison between Israeli security measures and America's Jim Crow laws is both intellectually dishonest and morally obscene.

There is no similarity whatsoever between Israel establishing a checkpoint aimed at catching Palestinian suicide bombers and the state of Georgia's 1960s era prohibition against serving blacks and whites in the same restaurant.

To suggest otherwise is insulting and offensive, and Rice should know better. After all, by her logic, would Hamas terrorist-in-chief Ismail Haniyeh qualify as a Palestinian Rosa Parks? And yet, for all of her ostensible sensitivity to questions of discrimination, Rice did not hesitate to engage in some bigotry of her own last week when it came to the issue of building new homes for Jews in Jerusalem.

After Israel announced the approval of tenders for the construction of 307 housing units in the capital's Har Homa neighborhood, Her Excellency went into what can only be described as a tizzy.

Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Friday, Rice told reporters that she had raised the issue of Har Homa with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - not once, but twice! "I did, in fact, bring up Har Homa, both earlier in a phone call and then today in our meeting," Rice said. "I've made very clear about seeking clarification on precisely what this means. I've made clear that we're in a time when the goal is to build maximum confidence between the parties and this doesn't help to build confidence," she proclaimed.

CONFIDENCE? Did she say "this doesn't help to build confidence?" And what, Madam Secretary, of the constant Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns and cities? Do they "help to build confidence"? Or how about the daily incitement to violence on official Palestinian radio and television? Or the murder last month of 29-year old Ido Zoldan by members of Mahmoud Abbas' own Palestinian police force? Strangely enough, not one of these odious deeds merited a public comment from Rice about their impact on the "building of confidence" between the two sides.

And yet, when Israel decides to build some new apartments in an already-existing section of Jerusalem, Rice suddenly finds her voice? (Aliyah06 NB: A section of Jerusalem which belonged primarily to Jewish landowners prior to the Jordanian conquest of 1948.) Who does she think she is kidding? But what was still more troubling about her statement on Har Homa is that it lends credence to the discriminatory notion that certain places should be off-limits to Jews simply because they are Jews.

Rice herself was born in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. Ironically enough, just 105 miles north of her birthplace lies a town named Jerusalem, Alabama.

Were the Secretary of State to suggest that the right of Jews to live and build in Jerusalem, Alabama, should be restricted in any way, she would immediately be denounced as a racist and an anti-Semite, and rightly so.

Yet when she suggests that Jews should not be permitted to build freely in Jerusalem, Israel because they are Jews, it is inexplicably described as being a "confidence-building measure."

Call it what you will, Ms. Rice, but your opposition to Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem is nothing more than an archaic form of bigotry. You can't post a "No Jews Allowed" sign, and expect us to view it any differently.

To suggest that Jews or any other ethnic group should not be allowed to live and build freely in a certain area because of who they are is something that went out of fashion in the United States four decades ago, and I can't think of a good reason to begin applying it here in Jerusalem today.
The secretary of state knows full well that civil rights for Jews, like any universal human right, cannot be restricted in time or place. They must be applicable regardless of where a person chooses to live.

This is especially true when it comes to Jerusalem, the heart and soul of the Jewish people. Our connection to the Holy City stretches back more than three millennia. Indeed, over 1,500 years before the advent of Islam, Jews were living, working and praying in Jerusalem. Now, following in our ancestors' footsteps, we have returned to reclaim what is rightfully ours.

So step aside, Ms. Rice, and please do not try to interfere.

Like it or not, nothing can stop this historical process from unfolding.

Aliyah06 NB: Condi apparently has not seen fit to comment on the rampant building up of Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. I drive around and look at Sur Bahir, Shuafat, Beit Safafa and Umm Tuba and marvel at the sudden spate of building. And we're not talking apartment-condos, like Har Homa -- in the Arab neighborhoods, entire villas and multi-family houses are popping up like mushrooms. Like the British before them, the State Department had apparently decided that US policy should be one of "Arab good, Jewish bad" whether it comes to building new homes or anything else....

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Law Of The Garbage Truck


I visited Jilly's blog and found this. I promptly told her I was plagiarizing it because its too good not to pass on!


Beware of Garbage Trucks

by David J. Pollay


How often do you let other people's nonsense change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss, or an insensitive employee ruin your day? Unless you're the Terminator, for an instant you're probably set back on your heels. However, the mark of a successful person is how quickly she can get back her focus on what's important.


I learned it in the back of a New York City taxi cab. Here's what happened. I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central. We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car's back end by just inches! The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and he started yelling bad words at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean he was friendly. So, I said, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!'


And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.'


Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. When someone wants to dump on you, don't take it personally. You just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. You'll be happy you did.


So this was it: The 'Law of the Garbage Truck.' I started thinking, how often do I let Garbage Trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people: at work, at home, on the streets? It was that day I said, 'I'm not going to do it anymore.'


I began to see garbage trucks. Like in the movie 'The Sixth Sense,' the little boy said, 'I see Dead People.' Well, now 'I see Garbage Trucks.' I see the load they're carrying. I see them coming to drop it off. And like my Taxi Driver, I don't make it a personal thing; I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.


One of my favorite football players of all time, Walter Payton, did this every day on the football field. He would jump up as quickly as he hit the ground after being tackled. He never dwelled on a hit. Payton was ready to make the next play his best.


Good leaders know they have to be ready for their next meeting. Good parents know that they have to welcome their children home from school with hugs and kisses. Leaders and parents know that they have to be fully present, and at their best for the people they care about.


The bottom line is that successful people do not let Garbage Trucks take over their day.


What about you? What would happen in your life, starting today, if you let more garbage trucks pass you by?


Here's my bet. You'll be happier. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so…


Love the people who treat you right.


Forget about the ones who don't.


Believe that everything happens for a reason.


If you get a chance, TAKE IT!


If it changes your life, LET IT!Nobody said it would be easy... They just promised it would be worth it!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What Peace Process?

Today, the Palestinian Legislative Council passed a law making any compromise on Jerusalem illegal.

The Palestinians state that they want a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders AND Jerusalem (see Jerusalem Post 12/6/07).

In other words, after attacking the nascent State of Israel in 1947/48 and losing, after mounting the 1967 war and losing, then waging the 1973 war, and despite incessant terror attacks since then, the Oslo Terror War and thousands of dead Israelis, the Palestinian's idea of "justice" is that they get their "Palestinian state" with its (for Israel) suicidal borders, forced transfer of hundreds of thousands of Jews AND all of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians never had ALL of Jerusalem. Under the aegis of their Jordanian masters, they managed to hang onto the eastern 'seaboard' of Jerusalem and the Old City. Once in control of the Old City, they drove out the Jews they hadn't already killed, dynamited the Jewish Quarter, destroyed the synagogues, desecrated the graves and -- built a Wall.

No one called it the "Apartheid Wall" back then, although that's exactly what it was. No Jews Allowed--despite "international guarantees" that Jews would have access to holy places, including the Western Wall, we didn't.

So much for "international guarantees."

Now the Palestinians, while talking "peace, peace" have in fact demonstrated once again that their talk is nothing more than a smokescreen. The passage of this law means that any compromise that Olmert and Abbas can reach on Jerusalem is doomed to fail, and that Abbas, by law, is now deemed a "traitor."

Even the hardliners of the Israeli government are willing to concede that the Arab-majority districts of Jerusalem could belong to the Palestinian state.

Such a compromise from the Israeli Right is apparently not enough. Hence this newly passed law prohibiting compromise, and declaring unconditionally that Jerusalem is "Palestinian, Arab and Islamic."

This is the sort of declarative statement that I wish the Tzafonim and the uber-Left elitist allies of European and American chattering classes would sit up and notice. This is, in effect, a declaration that peace is not negotiable and that if victorious, the non-Palestinian, non-Arab and non-Islamic citizens of Jerusalem better (1) not hope for civil rights and (2) run for their very lives.

Shades of 1948 ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem all over again....

Then again, on the "peace front" the Palestinians have presented another conundrum: "A massive IDF operation in the Gaza Strip will force the Palestinian Authority to boycott peace talks with Israel, PA officials warned Wednesday." (Jerusalem Post, 12-6-07)

The Palestinian terror gangs rain missiles down on Israeli towns daily, yet their government does nothing to stop them. The Palestinians and their amen-choir of NGOs, UN parasites and knee-jerk Leftists all bemoan "targetted killings" (IDF strikes on missile crews and terror unit heads), scream "disproportionate" when the IDF fires artillery back at them, but now scream about the only alternative, which is a ground assault.

Let me see if we've got this right: the Palestinians attack us from Gaza, deliberately aiming at civilian institutions like kindergartens and schools. We aren't permitted to selectively take out their leadership or their firing teams. If we eliminate those two options, and mount a ground offensive, then Israel will be responsible for halting the "peace process" because then the Palestinians will have to boycott the peace talks.

They're waging war, and we're supposed to make peace under fire? Yet we aren't allowed to make peace because peace requires compromise and one of the compromises to be decided is the the partition of Jerusalem, and now the Palestinians say any such partition is illegal--they want ALL of Jerusalem (including the majority that's Jewish).

And last week, Hamas, the political party of the majority of Palestinians, weighed in with their official policy: it called upon the United Nations to apologize for the 1947 partition plan, stating unquivocally that “Palestine is Arab Islamic land, from the river to the sea, including Jerusalem. … There is no room in it for the Jews.”

Why are we even talking to these people?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The 25th of Kislev

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. This is our third Hanukkah in Israel. Our first as Israelis was last year, the year of our aliyah. The prior Hanukkah in Israel was on our pilot trip, looking for schools for the Boy.

I am not yet jaded about the appearance of Hanukkiot on every corner (thank you, Chabad!), or tired of the flicker of lights from countless windows and balconies in every Jewish neighborhood.

If you have always lived in Israel, or have lived here for a very long time, you may have forgotten how special it is to hold the celebration of our own holiday where it isn't trampled by the majority-religion's glitzy overkill in non-Jewish nations. (In all fairness, even observant Christians cringe at the crass commercialization that has stripped their holy day of meaning.)

I find a very warm spot in my heart for all those quiet little lights flickering in the windows all over Israel. Like Lag B'Omer, this is a holiday best celebrated in our homeland. We're all Maccabbees, it sometimes seems, in an increasingly hostile world, lighting our lamps in the darkness and holding on to our Jewishness despite the slings and arrows and Kassams of inimical forces.

The collective lights from hundreds of thousands of windows is still a beacon of Jewish freedom and nationhood, telling the world "Hineinu."

Chanukkah sameach.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The OTHER Yossi

Okay, I read a lot of blogs. Blog-reading depends on time available, so some I get to weekly, some once in a while, and some daily. Treppenwitz (http://bogieworks.blogs.com/) has always been a daily "must-read."

But this time, he's outdone himself. Read about his taxi ride to Beirut with another Yossi (not mine) for one of the best stories in the blogosphere.

Hit the link in this post's title to get there, and 'enjoy the ride.' You'll find it well worthwhile.

Border Police? What Border Police?

I went to a friend's apartment today. She was having some custom work done on her bathroom, and at the suggestion of her contractor, she called a guy who lives in Jerusalem to give her an estimate on a bathroom counter.

The guy comes and gives her the estimate. Turns out the guy DOES live in Jerusalem but in one of the Arab neighborhoods because, well, he's an Arab. Nonetheless, he came highly recommended by the (Jewish) contractor, his price was reasonable for both the material and the installation, and he could get it done quickly.....important if you only have one bathroom and need it in good working order.

So today, because she was alone at the apartment, I offered to come over and sit with her while the workers delivered her bathroom counter. I met them outside to guide them into the apartment while she made coffee for everyone.

To my astonishment, when they opened their work van (one of those big Savanna-type things), it was packed to the gills with large clear plastic bags stuffed with tin cans.

Recycling? I wondered.

The workers proceeded to offload the myriad plastic bags until the only thing left in the van was a tool box and the counter, buried under all those bags. The guys picked up the counter-top and carried it into the apartment.

I told Yossi and the Husband about my friend and her counter, and in what must have sounded like quintessential American babe-in-the-woods naivete, I asked why the workers would cart around a pile of tin cans to be recycled?

The Husband, having lived here before, simply laughed at me. Yossi, who refrained from laughing but who must at times like this think I'm incredibly dumb, explained:

"The Arab has a factory in Aza or in Chevron or Bet Lechem, Sarah. Probably it belongs to his family or to friends. The countertop is made there. That's why its not expensive. Then to get it into Israel, he has to drive it from the factory to Jerusalem to your friend's home. He has to get it by the Border Police--so he covers it with bags of trash."

I was astounded. "That's it?!" I asked, somewhat rhetorically, "That's all they have to do to sneak something over the border? Pile trash on top of it?"

Used to the border crossing at Tijuana, where I've actually watched the border police disassemble cars, I was appalled. Even on ride-alongs with the police in the various departments I've worked with, I've seen more thorough searches of suspect vehicles.

"WHAT are the guys in the Border Police doing?" I asked aloud. "Why isn't anyone searching the van?"

"The policeman looks in the back window, maybe opens the back door, sees a lot of bags filled with aluminum cans, and waves him through," Yossi said calmly, lifting an eyebrow with a cynical what-were-you-expecting glance.

"What if it was a bomb instead of a countertop? What if it was a bunch of suicide-bomb belts instead of construction material?" I asked heatedly.

Yossi just shrugged. "It's not hard to smuggle something into the country, Sarah."

I was hot at that moment, blaming it on lax security procedures.....but then again, for all I know, the Border Police did open the vehicle, did see the countertop under the trash, and waved the driver through anyway because it wasn't a bomb.

At least I'd like to think that the police in charge of border security and counter-terrorism are doing their jobs thoroughly enough that we're not in danger from their laxity and boredom. I'd like to think that......

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