Friday, August 31, 2007

hike and grape juice

Today we had a very enjoyable Friday. My wife had wanted to go to a short hike in the Golan and I had said fine as long as we leave early in the morning. This morning, i wasn't really in the mood to drive all that way for a short hike, so my wife suggested nachal kziv, our local default hike, but to go a little bit farther then we normally go because there is a bigger pool of water there. About 300 feet past the springs, the was a much larger pool of water and the kids played there for about 2 hours. We found blackberries and figs, which were delicious.

We headed for home and I stopped by Train Talk's house to pick up Die Hard 4, which we haven't seen yet. He has an abundance of gropes (purple grapes in my family tradition) and offered me a bunch, so we picked a plastic shopping bags worth. I decided to make graoe juice, but I don't have a gat and I wasn't in the mood of having the children dancing all over them, so I decided to try something new. I put the gropes into the food processor and turned it on full speed. After about 15 seconds, they were ready. I poured the mixture into the strainer, which very quickly got stuck. I wasn't sure what to do at that point until my wife came to my rescue. She suggested using a cloth diaper (unused) to squeeze and strain the juice out. The juice is delicious, but from what I understand it has to be used in the first day after it is made. So we will be drinking it all tonight unless I hear differently from someone else.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

political parties

Last night I was having a discussion with my 9 year old daughter about politics. She had brought up the subject because there was a newspaper on the table and she saw the name Olmert which looked like Voldemort, so she read it. So I told her there were political parties and the first one I mentioned was the dati leumi party. Then she wanted to know what dati leumi was. In order to tell her what dati leumi was, I had to explain that there were 2 groups of religious Jews today, the dati leumi and the chareidi. (Yes I know that conservative, reform, chasidic and Lubabvitch jews consider themselves religious, but for the purpose of this discussion, there are only 2 types of religious jews: chareidi and dati leumi).

We discussed the Jewish people having been given this land by God himself, and how he then took it away from us. Now we have it back and the question is whether the state of Israel is the end of the exile or just another part of it. The question being does the state have intrinsic holiness, and is the army a holy army.

I explained that we are somewhere in the middle of chareidi and dati leumi and for us it really doesn't matter because we are living here now and when mashiach comes he'll tell us if Olmert, sharon and their predecessors were the heads of the Jewish country or the country of Jews and whether it is a mitzva to serve in the army or only a civil obligation. I told her that in all of the wars of Israel there were miracles upon miracles, including in the war last summer against Lebanon. Because the chareidi do not believe that there is any holiness to the country, there point in being in the government is simply to protect their interests. The dati leumi, which believes in the holiness of the state is in the government to make sure that they keep the laws. (Of course it doesn't always work out that way, like the problem with El Al flying on shabbos, for example but I didn't bore her with extra details.)

And yes, he caused the Holocaust too (though how she came up with that question, I don't know) and there were plenty of miracles then as well, both for us and against us. The fact that it was possible to occur in civilized Europe is a miracle (bad for us) in of itself.

In any case, I don't know if she has any greater understanding of the situation, but I think I explained it to her on her own level answering her questions and not delving too deep into the muck.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

vacation tiyul

Its been a long day - I go on a little vacation and return and the whole place is shot to pieces. At least I had a nice vacation. My parents were in to meet my sister's fiance, so Thursday we had an engagement party. I heard from a number of people that I seemed to be in a bad mood, but it was after a long day of work and a 3 hour drive and I wasn't in a bad mood for any particular reason, so I have excused myself. We planned on sleeping in Jerusalem Thursday night , so after the party we left the kids sleeping under the watchful eyes of my parents and went to the kotel to pray. My sister-in-law (on the other side) has breast cancer and it is right before the new year (rosh hashana) so we thought it was a good time to pray. Prayers at the wall are always enjoyable and have some form of extra oomph or feeling brought about by the special location.
We returned to where we were staying and I couldn't fall asleep, probably because I had an ice tea on our way back from the wall and I'm not used to drinking caffeine at night. I fell asleep at 3ish and woke up at 10 to 6, which is when I normally wake up. I waited an hour for my dad to wake up and we went to the wall for morning prayers. (Two times at the wall and I am ready for the new year). We went with my mom to downtown Jerusalem to go shopping. It was a very successful trip, the girls got new skirts and I loaded up on meat from Matam Chafetz Chaim. They have great American corned beef and pastrami, which we don't get up north, and I also got some garlic pickles and a salami to hang, among other things. When we returned to the car I found a 250 shekel parking ticket tucked into the windshield wipers. As they say in Jewish, this too is for the best and I didn't let it get me down.
We drove 3 hours home after a pizza lunch and I got to have a nice long catch-up chat on the drive home with my little sister who I hadn't spoken to in a very long time. Now we're all bonded or something.
We got home a couple hours before shabbos and I got a call from a friend that his car broke down outside of Or Haganuz, a Breslover moshav, near Meron. I went out to pick him up (25 minute drive) and he wanted to (understandably) wait with his car until the tow truck guy got there. He figured the tow truck guy would give him a lift home on his way to Karmiel. An hour later he found out that the tow truck had a faster route to Karmiel that didn't take him by our village, so he was stuck again, so I went out to get him. He didn't get hit too badly, it was his exhaust that went. I had thought it was the transmission from the way he described it.
We discussed it on the way home and my theory is that right before rosh hashana God collects from everyone who owed him throughout the year. There is a great mishna in pirkei avot (towards the end of the 3rd chapter): (In the name of Rabbi Akiva) "The store is open and the storekeeper is around, the notebook is open and the hand is writing. Anyone who wants a loan can come and borrow. The loan officers are constantly taking payments, with and without your knowledge...." In other words, the collectors were in my neighborhood this week.

Shabbos was very nice, my brother and his wife came up with baby boy blue and we had a very nice time with them as well.

I took vacation Sunday and Monday so we could all have some fun. It is the last week of summer vacation for the kids, so it was good all around. I wanted to show my parents an old Syrian village which was Jewish in the times of the Mishna, so we went on a hike of Nachal Jalabon. This is a great hike and I recommend it to everyone. It is a little hard to find if you don't know what you are looking for. We had 2 cars, so we parked one on each side of the tiyul and started off. First we walked down the side of the mountain on a rocky descent. We crossed the stream and walked up to the overlook where you can see the first waterfall "Devora's waterfall" Above the lookout is the village of Devora (Dabura in Arabic) I looked all around for references of the prophetess Devora, but she was in the Shomron the whole time and never made it up to the Golan, as far as I could find, so it was probably not named after her.
After we wandered through the village and heard a story about the place from my dad, we headed down to the water. My wife and mother waited with the small children by the small pools of water while I took the older ones, my sister and my dad to the waterfall. We made it all the way to the pool by the waterfall, but the waterfall itself was hidden from view by the mountainside. It was rough going and the children couldn't have made it all the way over to the pool so we turned around and headed back to the small pools where the kids played in the water for a bit before we continued on our way. We went up and down across rocky paths until we found the second waterfall with a big pool of water. It was a bit of a climb to get to the pool, but we made it and jumped in the water. A refreshing swim and sitting under a waterfall after a long hike is all that. After the swim we hiked the rest of the way out including a killer uphill climb to reach the top. But we all made it. All in all the hike took us about 4 hours and is highly recommended. (Though my dad thought we were trying to kill him).
On Monday, on my oldest daughter's request, we went to an animal sanctuary called "Owl, all life" (my daughter yells that it doesn't mean that, but it does). The group goes to all the school's with various animals like snakes and iguana's and interesting lizards and stuff and they have a campus that you can go visit where they give you a guided tour and explanation of all the animals there. They also make pita, but the corn oil didn't have a kosher symbol on it. (It only had arabic writing). They offered to make us our own dough without any oil, but I didn't want to cook it on the same whateveritiscalled as the other ones were cooked on so we turned them down. I don't know what could be problematic about oil, but oil is processed, (except for virgin olive oil) so you really don't know. After the animal farm, we went for lunch in Tiverya (Tiberias) and had Shwarma and felafal. We said good by to my parents and sister who headed back to Jerusalem and found a nice quasi-private (very rocky) beach on the Kinneret to play in for an hour before heading home. It was a full and exhausting couple days.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is the Likud/Feiglin a good choice

The klezmer festival in tsfat last night was very enjoyable. We took the kids with us and they all seemed to have a good time, except that they were so exhausted that we left fairly early. It went exactly as expected, the kids had a fight before we left and then whined about which seat in the car. As we were walking they each got annoyed that another one was walking in their way. We brought a stroller for #4 so that he wouldn't complain that he needed to be picked up the whole time and #5 ride the whole time in the front pack.
My wife planned the food very well, so we had a deli sandwich picnic before the music started, and then we walked around to hear the various bands. We left in the middle of Simply Tsfat because I really didn't want to carry the children all the way back to the bus.

Onwards to Feiglin. Yesterday the Likud had internal elections and the 2 front-runners were Netanyahu (74%) and Feiglin (23%). Netanyahu said afterwards that he was going to work to get Feiglin removed from the Likud and he would not allow him any influence in decisions or the Knesset list. He went so far as to instruct his supporters not to let Feiglin in the victory tent, where traditionally the winner sends next to the loser and gives his victory speech. How is it that Netanyahu can afford to alienate almost a third of his voters? 40% of the Likud turned out to vote. One (good) assumption is that 100% of Feiglin supporters came out to vote and everyone who didn't vote either assumed Netanyahu would win and didn't want to waste their time or didn't want to vote for either candidate, but didn't support Feiglin. That still gives Feiglin 17% support, which is very significant. However, there are other factors that have to be considered when looking at the Israeli political spectrum.

Lets look at this from the Likud's perspective.
The worst case scenario is that Feiglin left the Likud and went to another party. Probably 1/3 to 1/2 of his supporters would stay in the Likud because that is their "political home." Now he has 10% of the Likud going into another party. They have 2 choices, they can go into the NRP, which is their assumed natural home or they can make a deal with Lieberman and try to accomplish the same thing there. If they go to the NRP that would be great for the Likud. In the national elections, the NRP would most likely sign a coalition deal with the Likud then with any other party. The Likud would have to compromise on their platform a little to make a coalition agreement. This is much better for Netanyahu then if he had to change the Likud's internal platform for Feiglin's 20%. In either case he has the same number of votes and he has to compromise, but keeping them in the Likud presents a greater danger to him then driving them out.

If they join up with Lieberman, then there are real problems for the Likud, but again Lieberman needs the Likud to form any coalition. The issue between Lieberman and Netanyahu would be which one is slightly bigger so they can be the ruling party.
In summation, even if Feiglin is driven from the LIkud, the Likud has almost the same chance of gaining power as it did before. Lieberman would also be very hesitant to make a deal with Feiglin, when Feiglin's platform is to change the platform of the party to fit his people better. Lieberman would also be very happy if Feiglin was absorbed into the NRP because that is a good coalition partner for him as well.

In any case, the odds are that Feiglin will not bolt the Likud and therefore Netanyahu can easily afford to marginalize him. The media has been against Feiglin and will probably continue on that way. It is well known (whether true or not) that a percentage of Feiglin's supporters do not vote Likud in the national elections, they just joined the party to help Feiglin change the party's platform. That causes the core Likudnikim to look at Feiglin and his people as interlopers.

It might make more sense for Feiglin to work at building a stronger NRP, which can be looked at as the religious wing of the top right wing party and make his gains in coalition agreements.

For Feiglin to succeed in the Likud he needs to build greater positive media attention - and that will not be an easy thing to do.

Monday, August 13, 2007

klezmer festival

The tzfat klezmer festival will be heating up the evenings starting tonight for the next 3 days. Last year we went the last night of the festival and heard a band called Simply Tsfat, which we really enjoyed. This year they are playing on the second night (tomorrow), so I think we're going to go to that. The war last year began the day after the klezmer festival ended. We don't think they started firing rockets because they had enough of the klezmer music (tzfat is relatively close to the border), but we don't know.

This year we are considering bringing the kids with us. It will cost more bringing the kids then leaving them with a babysitter and it will be more of a hassle and more frustrating. But they will definitely enjoy the music and the late night stroll through tsfat so giving them that might be worth the whining and complaining that will be included in the jaunt.

If you are interested in the klezmerfest there is both an English website, and a Hebrew Website, which have the schedules. The hebrew website seems to have a lot more information.

Let us know if you are planning on being there and maybe we'll hook up

Sunday, August 12, 2007

summer weekends

One day my oldest daughter came home from school and was very upset. A girl in her class called her retarted. I asked her if she was retarted and she said no. I asked her if she would get upset if someone started yelling at her that her nose was upside down and green? She thought that was silly. I explained to her that when you know something is not true it might make you sad that someone is not being nice to you, but she shouldn't get upset at what was actually said because it was said by someone who obviously didn't know her very well. I think that is good random advice for everyone. It isn't always true, but it is a nice workable starting position.

We had a lot of company this weekend.

On Friday an old seminary friend of my wife's came up with with her husband and baby for a tiyul. They were staying with someone who I work with and that family came up as well. The friend's family lives in Montreal and is planning on making aliyah eventually, so they are checking out the countryside. They probably won't make aliyah until he finishes his MBA, (which he is doing part time so it will take a few years) and I think that is an excellent decision. The better prepared you are the easier the absorption process will be. We went to nachal kziv - the water was flowing and we had a very enjoyable afternoon.

For shabbos my sister came with her chosson. We had met him before, but this was the first time we got to spend quality time with him. I reckon it's nerve-wracking going to your fiance's brother's house for shabbos. We were nice and he did mostly fine. However, this was only practice. They have to go to America to meet the state-side friends and family before the wedding. One thing that people who get married learn is that there are certain things that they shouldn't share with their spouse. For example, when we were engaged we got together with a female friend of mine and I mentioned to my fiance when she asked about her, that I once asked her out and she turned me down. My fiance took that in the way that girls take those kinds of things to mean that I was still interested in her and put her down on the hate list.
I think (hope) my sister learned that there are certain things you just shouldn't communicate.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Yes heidi - this post is about fishing.
When I was younger I went fishing every so often. It was a primary activity when we went camping or on trips. By the grace of God, we never caught anything. Except once when my brother caught a rainbow trout in Colorado or Wyoming or some place in that vicinity. He named it Raymond and the father of the family we were with knew what to do with it so he gutted it and did whatever else you do to dead fish and then we each got to eat a little piece of Raymond.

Last night I went fishing in the Mediterranean Sea. A friend of mine has been stuck on fishing for a while and we decided to go. He had a cast and reel rod already and he bought a 12 foot sea rod for the trip. I don't have any gear. He also bought this dough as bait because they told him in the store that it would work.

We left the house at 9:30 PM and I forgot our flashlight. One other guy came with us and he brought the beer and sunflower seeds. I had piled up a bunch of wood for our fire and I brought that. We got to the shore in between Nahariya and Rosh Hanikra and set up (Just south of Betzet Beach). We sat and fished for a while and then got the camp fire lit up and sat around talking, drinking beer and eating sunflower seeds. It was an interesting mixture of Israeli and American culture.

At 1:00 AM we decided to head for home, so we packed up our gear and got into the car. As I got to the turn from the beach road onto the highway the police stopped us to find out what we had been drinking. I told them I hadn't drank anything. One of the guys in the car thought that I should have said I had 1 beer because there was nothing wrong with that. I explained to him that according to the gemara if you admit to partial guilt then you are suspected as to being guilty and if you completely deny then you are assumed completely innocent. The 3rd guy couldn't believe that I was using Talmudic reasoning to justify lying. From a psychological perspective it really wasn't lying. If I said I had 1 beer then they would have assumed that i meant I had 6. So saying 1 would have been lying. By saying I had none I was telling them that i wasn't driving under the influence of alcohol, which was the real question they were asking.

In any case, we didn't catch any fish and I was not very sad about that.

Monday, August 06, 2007


We had a very nice vacation. We didn't go fishing. Thursday we headed up to Nimrod's castle. It has nothing to do with the legendary Nimrod and was built by the Muslims in 1237 or something like that. The place was enormous and a long time ago it would have been gorgeous. They really put in a massive effort to make it look nice. We spent about 2.5 hours at the castle and then tried to find a place that the kids could jump in the water. We're members of the national parks association, so we thought we wouldn't have a problem, but the first place we went to, Charoshet Tal, said they give a 50% discount to members and they were only open for another hour. The second place we went to, Nachal Senir (Chitzbani), had just closed. So we decided to go to the campground at Kibbutz Dafna and let the kids play in the river there. The river running through the campground was about 2 inches deep. so it was perfect for getting your feet wet and somehow or other the children got soaked, but it wasn't much to speak about.
We met 3 other families there and had a nice bbq in the evening. The fathers took the walkable children on a flashlight hike through the kibbutz, though my littlest walker stopped walking int he middle then when he couldn't even stay on my shoulders any more threw up on me as I carried him. It was just a bit too late for him.
Friday morning, after a failed attempt to get a minyan going, we headed over to nachal hermon (lower banias) and hiked between kibbutz senir and moshav shar yashuv. The water was freezing cold and moving fast. It was a bit of a difficult hike for all the children, but everyone enjoyed themselves (especially jumping into the freezing cold water.) The hike was about 4 hours long and the kids got popsicles when we finished.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I took a vacation day tomorrow and we are probably going camping in the golan heights. We felt it is an appropriate time to go specifically now because Assad announced that he is planning on taking it back and this is like rubbing his face in it.

One friend who we are going with would like to go fishing on the trip. I'm not sure if my children can handle fishing yet, they wouldn't understand that it is actually fun to just sit there with the rod cast off and not actually "doing" anything.

A couple days ago, I was appointed as the co-chair of alumni relations for graduates of my high school in Israel. The next day one of my old classmates made aliyah and I called him to welcome him both personally and from the alumni association. Now I'm going to start getting in touch with all of these alumni who are living here and seeing what they are up to. That will be interesting on a number of different levels.

The IDF (Israeli army) has started making an issue out of people who refuse to serve in the army. There is a lot of public discussion going on right now about both the chareidi who refuse to serve because they are learning Torah and it is not a positive environment (though now with nachal chareidi it is becoming better) and left wingers who don't serve in the army because they are morally opposed. Then there are those who just feel the army isn't good for them, because they don't like sleeping in rooms with other people, need their TVs, ...
It is an interesting discussion to say the least.