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Monday, January 28, 2008

New Kid On The Block

Once again, I am delighted to find (and envious as all get-out, truth be told) an Israeli blogger who writes with flair, drama, humor and writes a lot better than I do. She covers not only Life In Israel, but also her own experience as a an olah chadishah caught in a suicide bombing. Check it out--hit the link in the title of this post or the link on the sidebar for My Shrapnel.

I wish it were in Arabic -- if the Arabs could read this blog, they'd give up on trying to eradicate Israel. If all Israelis has this woman's grit, we'd be absolutely unbeatable!

You go, Gila!

(Thank you, West Bank Mama and Jameel, for getting the word out!)

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Those Yanks old enough to remember That Was The Week That Was (TW3) will also remember that television satire's relentness highlighting of political absurdity.

We just had reality bite: TW3 has come to the Middle East.

First, the bastion of post-Renaissance Enlightenment, Oxford University, held a farcical debate wherein one of the lead speakers declared that "Palestinians have a moral right to terrorism."

Wonderful. If the Palestinians have a "moral right to terrorism" based on their history of losing war after war which they and their "Arab Brethren" allies started and lost, then who doesn't have a "moral right to terrorism?" Please note, United Nations and other world bodies, that your mandate has just been revoked by Oxford and all aggrieved parties now have a right to launch terror attacks to right perceived wrongs.....the Irish can now ethically bomb England; the Tibetans can send suicide bombers into China; Native Americans, African-Americans or even White Supremicists can now right what they perceive as historical wrongs through terror attacks on innocent civilians, according to this twisted political expediency masquerading as debate. We can no longer call the carnage in Rwanda, the Congo, Liberia or Cambodia "terrorism" when it results in the millions of deaths of unarmed civilians, including women and children. No, because once you make a moral exception for one man's grievance, the whole concept of morality goes right out the window.

Second, Hamas skunked the Israeli administration. It was too embarassing to be funny....staged candlelight protests against the non-existant alleged shutdown of Gaza's electricity (while the Askelon plant providing Gaza with power was still running, and buildings were lit up in the rest of the Strip); staged still photos of Gazan politicos 'working by candlelight' in a dramatic scene wherein the photographer forgot to crop out the window showing daylight peaking through the trissim; weeks of cutting away the Rafah Crossing fence that is the border between Egypt and Gaza.....and no one noticed? One PA cop was asked, "Why didn't you report this?" when he admitted witnessing the nighttime blow-torching of the fence. "Report it to whom?" he asked scathingly. "The government (Hamas) was doing it!" That fence cutting preceeded the 'humanitarian crisis' by weeks. This was no spontaneous outpouring of Palestinian need, but a carefully orchestrated propaganda coup.

Third, up to 700,000 Palestinians (or New Egyptians as I like to think of them) poured over the border into Egypt. That's half the population of the Strip. One of two things should've happened at that point--either we should have nudged the rest of them to leave, too, or we should've run to Rafah and slammed that fence back up and announced that they couldn't come back. Thank you, Dumbert and our ever-vacillating coalition of dunderheads, for dithering through this crisis. The returnees will no doubt come back with oil, flour, gasoline, and other basic Gazan necessities, like RPGs, Kalashnikovs and Katyushas now that they no longer need to tunnel under the border.

Fourth, despite the freeway-sized road blasted through the border and the obviously free movement of people in and out of the Strip, the Manchester Guardian, the modern British equivalent of Der Sturmer, steadfastly maintains that Gaza is still "occupied" by Israel inasmuch as Israel won't let Hamas's genocidal thugs cross the border into Israel.

Fifth, the western press has yet to pick up on the fact that the "humanitarian crisis" was a scripted farce. "A top PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that Hamas was "holding more than 1.5 million Palestinians hostage" in an attempt to rally the Arab and Muslim masses against the PA and Israel...The official also accused Hamas of ordering owners of bakeries to keep their businesses closed for the second day running to create a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. "Hamas is preventing people from buying bread," he said. "They want to deepen the crisis so as to serve their own interests." The official said that contrary to Hamas's claims, there is enough fuel and flour to keep the bakeries in the Gaza Strip operating for another two months. "Hamas members have stolen most of the fuel in the Gaza Strip to fill their vehicles," he said.

Another week in the Middle East, where 'journalists' drink at the American Colony, file their stories from the bar, and what little field work is employed requires a Hamas (or PA)-certified interpreter to tell the 'journalist' what the score is.

No wonder Israel gets slammed in the court of world opinion. The Arabs have cornered the press who colludes with the Pallywood propaganda to get only one side of the story out. Don't believe me? Go read the Manchester Guardian and it's Comments sections. It will sicken you.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Australia's ABC and Palestinian Myth-Making

According to an allegedly responsible mainstream media outlet Down Under, the Australian Broadcasting Company, the growing drug addiction of the Palestinian Arabs is due to the "Israeli Occupation."

This is being presented as a deliberate policy of the State of Israel in order to facilitate drug addiction, which will force desperate addicts to sell their homes to Jews.

Like, the Arabs of the Middle East were never exposed to hashish before the State of Israel existed?

Here's the definition of a recognized English word in Dictionary.Com:

–noun 1. a murderer, esp. one who kills a politically prominent person for fanatical or monetary reasons.
2. (initial capital letter) one of an order of Muslim fanatics, active in Persia and Syria from about 1090 to 1272, whose chief object was to assassinate Crusaders.

[Origin: 1525–35; < ML assassinī (pl.) < Ar ḥashshāshīn eaters of hashish]

Note that the word derives from the Arabic for 'eaters of hashish.' Drugs have been around the Middle East a long time and are not the result of Israeli security measures and suicide-bomb interdiction in the thugocracy of the West Bank.

I note, just in passing, that somehow Abbas & Co. get a pass on drug interdiction in their own (alleged) territory in this hit piece of pseudo-journalism......since the PA has more heavily armed 'police' than most almost any police force in the world, maybe the Palestinian police should take some action?

Israellycool disposes of this garbage in short order. See Dave's post--just hit the link in the title above. None of the quoted speakers are verifiably involved in any of the things they claim to do; they provide soundbites but no studies; studies involving joint Israeli/Palestinian efforts to eradicate drugs, involve youth in other activities go unmentioned in this piece....

...and of course, what would any responsible journalist do in investigating drug use and smuggling? He would talk to those most intimately involved: the users, the sellers and the cops.

Of course, the Chief Talking Head involved in this spurious broadcast, Tony Eastley, also has a history of anti-Israel bias as reported in Australian Jewish News last February (http://www.ajn.com.au/news/news.asp?pgID=2497):

Pyrrhic victory

THE admission this week by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that some of its coverage of Israel’s war with Hezbollah last year was inaccurate appears, at face value at least, to be a great victory for all pro-Israel supporters in Australia.

The ABC has for years received a ritual flogging from Jewish leaders for its perceived anti-Israel bias. Small wonder then that Jewish leaders this week welcomed the admissions, heaping praise on Liberal Senator Michael Ronaldson for his scrutiny of ABC managing director Mark Scott at senate estimates hearings.

But a closer inspection of the actual errors which the ABC admitted to reveals, if anything, a pyrrhic victory. After all, the national broadcaster conceded that it mistakenly cited Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel instead of Jerusalem.

And twice it incorrectly identified Lebanon as the location where the two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped, instead of a cross-border raid on northern Israel. Mistakes no doubt, but worthy of censure?

Arguably the ABC’s most egregious example of bias was AM radio presenter Tony Eastley’s claim that “the seizure of the soldiers was used by Israel as a reason to launch attacks into Lebanon against Hezbollah”, implying that Israel was awaiting a pretext for an invasion of Lebanon. This was blatantly open to misinterpretation, and was rightly acknowledged by Scott as such.

So there it is. The evidence, from this vantage point at least, does not suggest the national broadcaster was guilty of wilful anti-Israel bias during the Hezbollah war.


Mr. Eastley's co-conspirator in this garbage is David Hardakar, ABC's ""Middle East correspondent." He should more correctly be titled ABC's Palestinian mouthpiece. A quick search of the web finds the following gems by Mr. Hardakar:

(1)Israeli authorities under attack for letting 21-year-old Gazan die of cancer. Passing mention is made of Israel's security concerns (such as former suicide bomb candidates who used medical needs as a pretext for entering Israel) and brushed off Egypt's responsibility to treat the patient, who had previously received his treatments in Egypt; [http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2007/s2097578.htm]

(2) in his coverage of a Hebron evacuation, Mr. Hardakar states:

"The 650 Jewish settlers in Hebron are surrounded by 30,000 Palestinians. They claim a religious and a historical right to live here. They're known for their extreme views and their harsh actions against their Palestinian neighbours. {Bakadiary note: no mention is made of the fact that historically Jews have lived in Hebron since Abraham, that many of the shops in the souk are Jewish-owned or that the Jews were forcibly evacuated from Hebron by the British in response to the Arab pogrom against the Jewish community there, or that the Palestinians have themselves more recently murdered a baby girl in her stroller} Spokesman Noam Arnon.

NOAM ARNON: Unfortunately this country today is being controlled by a leftist pro-Arabic organisation. And they lead the whole country to more concessions to the Arabs.

DAVID HARDAKER: But of course, the international community regards this area as belonging to the Palestinians. It is occupied by Israelis, so you are in fact arguing against almost all the rest of the world. (emphasis added to underline the speaker's inherent bias.)

NOAM ARNON: I speak about historical fact, this land was never Palestine, this land was Jewish under Jewish sovereignty for thousand of years. (Bakadiary note: Noam, we lived here but did not have sovereignty--that was the whole point of establishing a Jewish state for us instead of having to live under the rule of hostile gentiles with axes to grind--but yes, it was NEVER a nation called "Palestine;" that name was merely the British Imperial colonial designation for their occupied territory of the former Ottoman Empire, in which case the nomenclature admittedly existed from 1919 to 1948.)

Hardakar is apparently unfamiliar with the wording of the Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention, the definition of disputed territories or anything remotely resembling an even-handed history of the region. These sound-bites come right out of the Palestinian Propaganda Playbook.

(3) a critique of 'honor killings' in Ramle, Israel.....with no mention of the fact that such murders are not only rampant in Moslem countries, but virtually unpunishable by law in those lands;

(4) Some other pieces not related to Israel.

So why should it surprise us that Australian newscasters with a history of anti-Israel bias should construct a fable about Palestinian drug addiction being the fault of Israel? Well, maybe because we (especially those of us who actually worked in the MSM back in Woodward & Bernstein times) would like to believe that the Fourth Estate remains a responsible watchdog for civil liberties instead of the pandering propagandists many of them have turned into---including, apparently, these two Australian clowns, who have not yet responded to Dave's demand for factual verification of the lies published under the guise of 'journalism' -- which this piece clearly is not. ABC's sorry excuse is that their correspondent is 'overseas' --which is meaningless in the age of email, faxes, Blackberrys, cellphones and Skype.

The reality is that drugs are a social problem everywhere in every society. Drug abuse is rampant in many sectors of many societies. Israel's political realities have nothing to do with Palestinian drug addiction. There are Jewish drug addicts in Israel as well, and the dirty secret of Iran's Islamic Republic is that drug use is rampant there as well.

Two weeks ago, my husband, a Jerusalem cop, worked with the Border Police at the Security Fence -- and they pulled over an Arab-owned-and-operated car coming from Ramallah. The Husband was the cover officer while the other guys searched the vehicle---which was stuffed full of hashish being brought by the Palestinians INTO Israel.

Care to cover THAT aspect of the drug story, gentlemen? Thought not--it doesn't fit your let's-bash-Israel agenda. You certainly wouldn't want facts to interfere with your propaganda crusade. You wanna know about drugs? Talk to the cops.

The sad truth is that these so-called 'journalists' don't want to know about drugs. Or about honor killings. Or about the Jewish historical connection to Hebron. What they want is a heart-wrenching piece of fluff that will stick it to the Jews, promote the soft racism of pediatric Arabism (the poor-little-brown-people-who-need-the-protection-of-the-wise-strong-enlightened-Europeans schtick) favored by the Radical Left, and give the Palestinian propaganda machine a platform to justify firing more Kassams at Jewish kindergartens and schools in the name of "resistance."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Yored Geshem

It's raining! B"H, it's raining!! It's still cold, and the wind is biting, but finally it's raining!

People tell us that even if it rains for a month, we'll still have a deficit of water for next summer -- but I don't care! I'm so relieved that it's finally raining. California, like Israel, relies on the rain and the snowpack, so the instincts of a lifetime kicked in when December passed without rain---and every morning I've awakened, pulled up the trissim and looked first at the sky for clouds. The two small storms that breezed through earlier in the Fall only damped down the ground a bit. It wasn't enough.

But this morning I awoke to the sound of something hitting the plastic roof over the sunporch....not a pitter-patter of drops but the hard, steady beat of real rainfall.

It's a Shehechiyanu moment! Thank You!

*photo credit: bubamara @ Jerusalem Shots

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Jerusalem Hair Dress Code

I have to admit I haven't totally figured it out. My comments are confined solely to Jewish females, as I am still clueless about the guys, and haven't quite figured out Moslem female dress code except in the broadest generalizations.

Where I hailed from, women either (1) didn't cover their hair at all (the majority of Jewish women in my county) or (2) wore a hat or baseball cap or (3) wore a tichel or scarf which completely covered the hair.

The latter two categories were "religious" although I knew women who were religious but also declined to cover their hair.

The latter two categories also contained women who, on more formal ocassions, wore sheitals (wigs).

Then I came to Jerusalem.

The first thing I noticed was that many more women here cover their hair, to some degree or other. I saw a lot of sheitals on women who were clearly not chareidi; I saw some full-coverage tichels on women who were clearly chareidi. I saw a lot of women, chareidi and non-chareidi, wearing full-coverage scarves--the long scarves that wrap around the head several times and knot elegantly in the back, allowing the fringe to fall down one's back...if you have the knack for this, which I don't.

But I also saw a variation of this -- the full-coverage scarf and gorgeous knot, but about an inch of hair showing all the way around. Then I noticed it: a LOT of women are covering their hair, but not completely. We're not talking Modern Orthodox hats and clothing, either--these are women dressed in skirts down to the ankles, sleeves down to the wrists, but hair hanging out. Some confine it to just the margin of the scarf; some cover only the top of the head, including the hairline, but have a foot of hair hanging down their backs. Some have tichels, but wear them pulled back on their heads so some modicum of hair is visible above the forehead.

I asked a masorti female friend, "What's with this?" She didn't really know. "It's a way of saying, 'I'm married and I'm religious,'" she told me.

Having been trained in the full tichel/scarf/sheital school of Chabad, I was puzzled. The purpose of a woman covering her hair is primarily the same as that of men -- one covers one's head in order to utter any prayer. That's why men wear kippot (yarmulkes). As one can utter a prayer for almost any ocassion and certainly every time one eats, one wears the head covering at all times during the day, male or female.

The Modern Orthodox women tend towards hats and berets back in the Old County. Here, I see some hats but also scarves. Full hair coverage was never a "must" in the MO community as far as I knew, but they, too, had sheitals for formal ocassions.

I was still wearing the full-coverage tichel when I was stopped one night coming out of a restaurant by another woman similarly dressed. "This is Mehadrin?" she asked, pointing to the restaurant. "No, it's Rabbinute," I told her pleasantly, happy that I was familiar with the teudah of the restaurant.

She looked nonplussed, but explained as nicely as possible that my dress was misleading to others like her, who ate strictly Mehadrin. My hair was completely covered, in a tichel, which indicated to her a stricter observance of kashrut than what would be expected (by her) in a Rabbinute restaurant.

"Your husband wouldn't wear a kippah in a non-kosher restaurant in the U.S., would he?" she asked pointedly. I got the point: a Jewish man would remove his kippah, I was taught, rather than mislead other Jews into thinking the restaurant was kosher when it wasn't.

"It's the same principle," this woman explained. Apparently having full-hair coverage betokens a level of observance that is inconsistent with anything less than Mehadrin, and my clothing misled her into believing that she could eat at this restaurant without compromising her own level of observance.

Suddenly, I understood why so many women in Jerusalem cover their heads but not entirely. They are religious, keep kosher, are tznius but they don't adhere to Badatz or Mehadrin only. Those are the women I see meeting for coffee in Cafe Hillel (Rabinute) or Aroma (ditto). These are women who eat at the many kosher restaurants that are not Mehadrin but are Rabinute certified.

The other reason women cover their hair, I was told, was for the sake of modesty. Having not let a stray bang slide into daylight in the last 10 years, I was a bit taken aback by this conversation which left me two choices: either stick to Mehadrin and Badatz, or show my hair.

No way The Husband was going to confine himself to Mehadrin and above! Our first dating spat was about how I-never-again-wanted-to-find-sliced-ham-in-my-refrigerator!

"But what if I want a ham-and-cheese sandwich?" he protested. "Go order one at the deli!" I snapped.

We've come a long way since then.

But having lived in the kosher-challenged environs of the San Francisco Bay Area, The Husband delights in being able to actually Go Out To Eat! Now coming to him and saying, 'Sorry, honey, we can only eat at these two restaurants in our neighborhood,' was going to cause some serious challenges to shalom bayit.

Then again, I never bought the 'modesty' argument myself. I'm aware of the history of Jewish women and headcoverings; I know that in Lithuania, for example, many women, including those in the families of rabbis, never covered their hair. I know that originally Jewish women had head coverings similar to those of their Moslem and Christian contemporaries--which slowly evolved over the centuries. (Have you ever closely examined hijab? It's a tichel with a scarf over it. I also suspect that Shabbos robes are an echo of the abaya, or vice versa.)

One scholar proposed, and it was widely accepted in the Ashkenazi world, that unmarried girls need not cover their heads because all fathers see their young daughters at home with their hair uncovered---and therefore there is nothing immodest or seductive about a young unmarried girls hair. From that time forward, young unmarried girls didn't cover their hair, and the tradition was confined to married women.

This minhag was penned at a time when Ashkenazi girls married at 13 and 14 years of age. I doubt very much that the scholar who proposed this had in mind uncovered hair on nubile 20-year-olds, which is the case today.

However, if the grounds for discontinuing hair coverings on unmarried young girls under the age of 13 was male family members' familiarity with such uncovered hair, then it would follow that since most of the modern world, and the majority of the adult women in Israel, go about with undraped hair, the same logic pertains: there isn't anything seductive or immodest about uncovered hair precisely because it is so commonplace. Hence, the defining reason for my covering my hair is the need to show reverence in prayer.

I've compromised. We're still eating Rabinute; the Husband isn't gastronically challenged; peace prevails in the home; and a little curl peaks out from under the scarf where it meets my forehead.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Travels With Yossi--Part III

The Ari story was meant to be simply a place-setting but then I decided to make it a post in its own right. It was originally just going to be background, because it was on the walkway to Ari's apartment that Yossi intervened in my relationship with HaShem.

We're approaching Ari's apartment between the flowerbeds, the late winter sunlight falling on the walkway. I'm along on this trip because I was enroute somewhere else when Ari called Yossi. "Ah, go ahead and pick him up--he's on the way and you can drop him off at work and take me downtown without having to make two trips," I said, assuring Yossi that double-cabbing it was okay. Of course it's okay--it's HIS cab, after all, and I'm 'family' so there's no real need to ask me...but he does, because he is polite.

He glances anxiously at me as we're walking. "What's wrong, Sarah? You haven't been okay all day," he asked.

I shrugged. "Nothing."

He stopped dead in the walkway. "No. Something is bothering you. It's been bothering you. What is it?" he pressed. "Is it your son? That he's in the hospital? He's going to be okay."

To my complete surprise and utter humiliation, I could feel my eyes start to water. I also felt trapped, and could feel the eyes start to show their whites and roll a bit.

"What IS it?" Yossi asked more gently.

"I'm angry at G-d," I blurted out. "Look at my son. He's the most observent, most religious, most loving person in the household. He davens correctly, he never forgets a bracha, he reminds his parents when we're supposed to do something we're not doing, and he does it not by rote but from the heart. And he's the one in the hospital!" I'm trying not to humiliate myself further by actually crying. "He's a really good kid and he has a kind heart. Why is he in the hospital?"

Yossi first looked stricken, then the stern visage of our forefathers asserted itself in his expression.

"You cannot to fight with G-d, Sarah," he admonished me. "You cannot be angry at Him, either. Angry that something bad happens, yes, this is true for all people, but it is all from HaShem."

"It's not fair," I wailed, knowing I sounded like a child but unable to help it. "I can't even pray! I'm too angry to pray."

"Fair? You think life is fair? You think I'm not angry about things that happen to me bad?" Yossi said sternly. "Betach! But it's all from G-d, Sarah -- and what does He want from you? Or from me? Or from any of us?"

He then lowered his head and turned his eyes to the ground, setting an example. "He wants His children to walk humbly before Him, and that we should be thankful for the blessings He gives us."

He looked at me and added, "Life has these tests, Sarah. We all have them. You, me, my wife, your husband, our children. Yes, and your son, too."

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," I muttered rebelliously, in English. The meaning got through, though.

"Yes, this is true!" Yossi exclaimed.

His eyes caught mine again, more gently this time. Yossi is a father also, and he adores his children. "Pray again, Sarah. Open your heart to HaShem. The gates of tears are always open, and a mother's tears or a father's tears are powerful."

We started to walk again. I sniffed, trying to compose my expression before reaching Ari's door. As we entered the building, Yossi paused. "Don't to fight with G-d, Sarah," he urged with a quiet intensity. "Pray, and I know your son will be all right. You'll see. G-d never closes a door unless He opens another door."

He's been correct about virtually everything else. How can I doubt Yossi? I'm davening again, and trying to find that elusive quality, humility. Even in the midst of my doubts, I'm trying to keep faith with G-d and with Yossi.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Travels With Yossi--Part II

While the Boy was in the hospital, Yossi and his mom visited him daily. After one of those visits, Yossi offered to take me on an errand I needed to run. En route, he received a call from a 'client' who calls him regularly for transportation.

This 'client' is a guy just a few years younger than Yossi, but who has been disabled from birth. Yossi started providing transportation to him about eight years ago, and they became friends, of sorts. In the interests of privacy, I'll call this client "Ari" which is not his real name.

Ari has called taxis on many prior ocassions....and in the usual manner of taxi drivers, they pull up to his building at the designated time, honk, wait five minutes and then leave. They often leave without Ari, because Ari is struggling to get his socks and shoes on, to fix the foot rests of his wheelchair, to find his keys and his 'tik' with his wallet, MP3 and other necessities. He isn't always able to wheel himself out of the house at exactly 9:00 am for a ride to work.

Another problem with Ari's transportation is that he has often called a taxi, and when the drivers saw a guy with limited eyesight, the wheelchair and the obvious muscle control problems which Ari exhibits, they often just drive away. Passengers with wheelchairs are a problem many drivers simply refuse to deal with.

Over the years, Ari and Yossi developed a relationship beyond that of driver/passenger. This is in large part due not to Ari's dependence but to Yossi's soft heart. When Ari didn't come outside to the curb at 9:00 am precisely, instead of driving away, Yossi parked the cab and went to the door, banging on it until Ari answered. He saw Ari's struggle with the footgear -- one sock was on, one sock wasn't on, and the shoes were still on the floor next to the wheelchair footrests.Yossi helped him put on the sock and shoes, attached the wheelchair footrests to the wheelchair, gathered up Ari's 'tik' and made sure his wallet and other things were in it, then wheeled him out to the taxi.

Yossi became Ari's regular 'driver' and took him to and from work, to and from an after-work adult social center for disabled adults, but more importantly, took him "out" when Ari wanted to go to the mall and go shopping, or go get his hair cut, or wanted to go to Sambooki and get a bagel toast, and generally try to live a life outside the narrow confines of what is provided to the disabled. Yossi has even driven him to the beach at Ashdod for pizza, a cool breeze and a nice view.

Yossi doesn't do this for free. He needs to make a living as a taxi driver, but he arranged to bill Ari's father monthly for the cost of the transport to the job site and the adult center and back. If Ari wants to go to the mall, go out to lunch (he works part-time), get a haircut or go to the beach, then Ari pays the freight from his disability allowance and his income. It isn't a free ride for Ari, but neither does Yossi take advantage of it: he charges him like he charges any customer--and sometimes throws in a discount for long rides to Ashdod so Ari can enjoy the boardwalk.

Yossi has also protected Ari from the bottom-feeders of society who prey on the elderly and disabled. These cretins are the people I most enjoyed prosecuting when I was working because of their predations on the most susceptible victims in our society.

I found this out almost by chance. Yossi is aware of my former occupation, and he picked me up from ulpan one day in a rage. He had in his hand the torn up pieces of a personal check.

"What's this?" I asked.

He told me that after taking me to ulpan, he had driven to Ari's home to take him to work. Once again, he went inside to help Ari get ready and he saw several personal checks lying on the table in the front hallway. He looked at them and saw all of them were drawn on Ari's personal checking account, and each check was successively larger in amount than the earlier check. Each check was made out to a 'charity' Yosi had never heard of.

"What are these checks for?" he asked Ari.

Ari balked, clearly uncomfortable with the probing. Finally he admitted that a 'rabbi' had come to his door seeking tzedakah and so he wrote a check to the 'rabbi's' organization. These funds were supposedly to feed the poor of Geula. However, the first check wasn't acceptable to the 'rabbi' who told Ari that certainly he could make a larger contribution. Ari ended up writing larger and larger checks until finally the rabbi was satisfied and walked out the door with a check for six thousand shekels.

Six thousand shekels is a huge amount of money for most people in Israel. It is as much or more than many people make in a month.

It wiped Ari out.

Yossi somehow teased the name of the rabbi out of Ari, and then drove him to work, telling the distraught man not to worry. After depositing Ari at work, Yossi telephoned the number on the sheet which the 'rabbi' had left with Ari. A woman answered the phone, confirmed that "Mr.Goniff" did in fact work at this organization. Yossi told her that he needed to meet with him and what was the address of the organization, as it was not on the paper the 'rabbi' had left with him? She gave Yossi the address, and confirmed what he already suspected--that "Mr. Goniff" wasn't a rabbi but merely the head of this unlisted "charitable organization."

Yossi drove promptly to Geula, and found that the address was that of a small apartment on an upper floor. There was nothing on the building, the mailbox or the door that indicated it was anything other than a residence. He telephoned "Mr. Schmidt" and spoke to him.

"Hello, you took a check from Ari ben Canaan last night? He lives on Rehov Aleph? Remember? For 6,000 shekels?" he pressed.

Mr. Schmidt didn't remember until Yossi told him he was holding the receipt....then Mr. Schmidt recalled hazy details of the transaction.

"He's disabled, you recall? He's in a wheelchair. Certainly you remember that?" Yossi continued.

Ah, yes, he recalled now, a fine young man, very generous.

"How can you take advantage of a man who is disabled, can't see well, is in a wheelchair and depends upon his disability payment to help him make ends meet?" Yossi snapped.

"And just what business is it of yours?" Mr. Goniff snapped back.

"He's my brother," Yossi replied tersely. "Maybe you'd like to return that check to me before I do something official, like involve the police?"

Mr. Goniff laughed out loud. "The police? Why would the police care?" he hooted disdainfully.

"Because Ari is my brother and I'm a police officer--you're ripping off one of our own when you rip off my brother," Yossi retorted.

There was a silence on the other end of the phone. "What do you want from me?" Goniff demanded.

"I want the check returned to my hand, right now, and I want you to never contact my brother again," Yossi told him.

"Okay, you can have the check--where are you?"

"Right outside, parked at the curb," Yossi stated.

A moment later, a fat man garbed in full black-hat regalia appeared at the door of the building, and looked up and down the street for a police car. Yossi was leaning calmly against the passenger side of the cab, looking straight at Goniff.

Goniff caught the look. "You?! You!! You're nothing but a cab driver! You're not a cop!!" he sputtered in a rage.

"So?" Yossi snarled. "You want a cop, I can get one here in five minutes!" he retorted, holding up his cellphone.

"Pfah!" Goniff huffed, turning away. Yossi started dialing.

"No, no, now, no need for that!" Goniff said. "Here's the check--just give me the receipt."

Yossi told me that this was his mistake--he handed the receipt to Goniff before getting the check in hand. Once Goniff had the receipt, he tore the check into shreds and dropped it on the sidewalk, then ran back upstairs and slammed the door. Yossi picked up all the shreds and laboriously pasted them all to a piece of paper, so that the jig-saw-puzzle check was legible.

"Sarah, you are a criminal lawyer--will the police take this as evidence?"

Yes, they would, I told him. Whether or not they would do anything about making a case against Goniff when the victim has been made whole by Yossi's actions is dubious, and I said so. "It can't hurt to try."

Yossi opted instead to tell Ari not to write checks to strangers, no matter what the cause, and then told Ari's father about the matter so he would be alerted to any attempts to extort money from Ari.

This wasn't the first time.....several years earlier, a local predator refused to leave Ari's apartment unless Ari wrote him a check for a large sum. Ari, fearful that he would be hurt, wrote the check and then called Yossi.

Yossi knows the street. Yossi also knows the predator and saw him at the makolet down the street from Ari's home. After talking to Ari, Yossi walked up to the makolet. "Give me the check, and I won't call the police," he told the predator. "F#@$ you! Mind your own business," the predator replied, standing up so he could tower over Yossi.

"Give me the check and that's the end of it -- no trouble from the police," Yossi offered reasonably. "Don't give me the check, and I'll take Ari to the bank the moment it opens tomorrow, stop the check, have him fill out an affidavit that you extorted it from him, and call the police. You don't want this kind of trouble, believe me."

"You screw with me like this and I'll kill you," predator threatened.

"You do what you have to do, but if I don't leave here with the check, you're in a world of trouble tomorrow." Yossi said with apparent equanimity. The bluff worked. Predator handed over the check.

"And don't go near Ari again, you understand?" Yossi added. Predator hasn't bothered Ari since then.

No good deed goes unpunished, my grandfather used to tell me. This year, due to the general rise in the cost of living, and particularly in the cost of gasoline, Yossi told Ari's father that he was going to charge 5 shekels more per ride. That totals an increase of 35 shekels per week.

Ari's father is rich. He lives in villa, holds a well-paid prestigious position, makes an enormous salary and earns 50,000 NIS for each of his consultations outside the country, which consultations take place approximately every month.

What did Ari's father do? He fired Yossi. 35 shekels more a month was too much, and he hired another cab driver to drive his son.

Ari hasn't made it to work in a week but once. The other driver simply drives away if Ari isn't outside, on the sidewalk at precisely 9:00 am. And one day, even though he was outside on time, the driver called him after an hour and told Ari, "Take another cab--I'm too busy to come get you today." Needless to say, Ari doesn't get to go to the mall, have lunch at Sambooki and socialize, or get his hair cut or go shopping any more with the new driver.

Thursday, Ari called Yossi. "I want to go out and get my hair cut," he pleaded. "Will you take me?"

Of course Yossi took him.

"Just don't tell my father, " Ari begged.

Yossi kept that secret, too. After all, Ari is his brother and brothers keep each other's secrets.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Travels With Yossi--Part One

I haven't been able to update the blog because I've spent the better part of the last week at Hadassah Ein Kerem. The Boy went to the ER by ambulance following the worst seizure he's had in his life. While generally one cannot die from the kinds of seizures he's had, this one included vomiting, and since he fell out of bed and landed on his back, I was afraid he would choke to death....fortunately the Husband is a big guy, and could do what I could not: roll him over on his side and so clear his air passage.

I found out that despite 18 months in Israel, I have yet to master calling the local equivalent of 9-1-1. Besides, when emergencies happen, my Hebrew flees the brain cells.

So I called Yossi. It was seven in the morning, and I knew he'd be up drinking a cup of botz while making breakfast for his kids. I told him, briefly, what was happening and asked him to call the ambulance, knowing he could give the driver directions in Hebrew that I was incapable of giving.

"Sarah, you want me to come?" he offered.

"No, that's all right, you have to get the kids to school, but thanks. I just needed help with the ambulance," I answered.

I went back into the Boy's room and watched things get worse. I yelled for the Husband to come help me turn the Boy so he didn't choke, and while Husband did that, I ran back to the phone.

"Is the ambulance coming?" I asked, a bit more frantic now.

"Yes, but you need to stand outside by the road and wave them into the parking lot," he cautioned. "What's happening?"

I told him.

"I'm coming, Sarah," he stated with the finality that I've only ever heard Yossi summon. A tone of voice that brooks no argument and no quarter.

He arrived right after the ambulance. He drove me to Hadassah Ein Kerem and spent the day in the ER with my son and me. When the staff took the Boy away for a CT scan, Yossi took me to the mall and helped me buy clean sweats and a shirt for the kid, then took me to buy something to eat for him as well.

"Food?" I queried. "Will the hospital allow this?"

I got a sort of smiling grimace and Israeli shrug as if to say, 'and who's going to stop you?'

"Believe me, he'll like this better than anything the hospital gives him," Yossi assured me as we carted a cheese boureka and an iced coffee back to the ER.

Yossi stayed with us until the Boy was finally admitted into the hospital for observation and more tests. I went home to an unprepared Shabbat....only to find out that Yossi's wife had done my Shabbat shopping for me and brought us a bottle of wine, loaves of fresh challah, a coffee cake for breakfast, and made rice as well as a chicken & potato dish for Shabbat dinner. Yossi's mom, a balabusta of the first order, also made moussaka and a variety of salads for Shabbat and then threw in an extra dish of chicken, meatballs and fresh peas so we'd have something to tide us over for a couple of days.......

These are ordinary Israelis who have sick relatives of their own, kids to pick up from school, homework to help with, kid haircuts and shoes to get, deadlines of their own to meet---but because we're 'family' they chipped in without a second thought and made Shabbat (and a little bit extra--we ate Moroccan all week) for us.

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