Sunday, August 31, 2008

the tire

After the starting school ceremony, the girls got together in their classrooms for a meet the teachers. My speech was cut down from what I wrote to a skeleton of it by my friend who told me that a lot of people would be insulted by what I had planned to say because I didn't understand the bad history in the school. Also I had forgotten that this was a welcome for first grade and didn't include anything about the darling new students. I also didn't throw in any sefardic phrases like yehi ratzon... and kapara alecha or chamsaa. So it was rewritten, but the new version didn't have a dvar torah, so he told me that the rav bet sefer was going to talk torah and I didn't need to. The subject of my dvar torah was taken out also so I couldn't use the same thing I had. Which left me with the opportunity to say what was on the top of my head which may have been appropriate for first graders "Look, I have put before you a blessing and a curse" but may not have been taken well, so I left out the Torah.

When we left it was already dark and as we were walking towards the car my wife, GBH, noticed someone changing a tire and suggested I go and help him. So I went over there and asked if he needed help and he said no, but it was a guy I knew and I assumed he really did need help so I sent the wife and kids home without me and stayed to help him change his tire. Something looked weird about the jack, so I asked him if he put it in the right place and he said yes, he knows how to change a tire. At one point the car slipped a little bit and I actually looked at the jack. What I found was that he really didn't know how to jack up a car and he had put the jack on upside down. The bottom of the jack is a flat panel that rests on the ground. The top of the jack is a little square piece with a ridge where the piece of metal sticking down from the car is supposed to fit into. Well he had the bottom braced on the bottom of the car against the door and it was balanced on the little square on top. When the car had shifted it was because he had dented the door of the car. It's a good thing that I went to help him or he might not be with us anymore. God works in wonderful ways.

As I was helping him change the tire, we were talking about his ethiopian project. He is an ethioipian himself (a kolel boy) and is now running a program that is trying to bring their teenagers off the street in Karmiel. They seem to be having a lotof what we would term "at-risk"kids. He needs money for the program and they are opening a non-profit org in the US so they can collect money. If any of my readers is interested in donating to a good cause that helps normalize ethiopian jews and teach them a bit of torah in the process, please let me know in the comment section and I will get you contact information.

I told him to send me the flyers he has in English and I will post them here as well.

new school year

The new school year starts tomorrow and tonight is the welcoming ceremony for first grade. I'm speaking as a representative from the parent body - in hebrew. I've spoken publicly in Hebrew a number of times. One time at a sheva brachos I said that I didn't know either the kallah or the chosson, and everyone started laughing, I used the word for "biblical knowing." Another time I used the mishnaic word meaning opposite and got yelled at by someone who couldn't understand why I would be against the gan (we live across the street).
This time I sent my speech to a friend of mine to proofread and make sure that when I thank the mayor for his help I don't also call him an ape.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How far to go?

We're technically already finished with parshas eikev as halfway through the week we switch our mindsets to the next parsha. That makes us solidly sitting in Re'eh territory right now. However, I wanted to share something that I spoke about at seudat shlishit last week in Chevron. You'll have to forgive me for being "so last week."

The activists who were talking to us were describing the obstacles they face while trying to redeem Jewish land. At one point someone told us that they had taken over a block of apartments for a couple weeks when 3000 yasmnikim came in to throw them out.
Yasamnikim are special police who are about as brutal as one can be. When they get taken out for a day of fun, they go to a settler beating instead of tubing on the Jordan river.

Anyways, he said that he and his son barricaded themselves in the apartment and gave them a really hard time before they were dragged out.

As I read through parshas eikev, I felt that the parsha was talking directly to us. It is easily understood in mostly modern hebrew as a musar shmooze from Moshe to us. He writes "Don't think that you are getting this land because you are so good and they are so bad. You are only getting the land because they are so bad. And you are a stiff necked people."
He also uses the famous line. "It was the strength of my army that won the battle." (כחי ועצם ידי עשה את החיל הזה) As it was in Egypt and in all the Jewish battles throughout history it is God who runs the battles and decides who wins and who loses.

Now I am pro fighting for our land. I think that we have to put in the proper effort to get it. I just don't know how far we have to go before it becomes a lack of faith in God to fight our battles. This seems to me to be the question that the Hagana, Irgun and Lehi faced (though they may not have known it).

I think that we have to fight the battle on many fronts, but at some point we have to take a step back and look at the forest. As it says in the parsha, we only deserve the land if we do Torah and mitzvos. If the people do not deserve the land, the actions of a handful of people will not change that fact.

I think that if some of the money that goes towards enhancing settlements went instead towards teaching non-religious people here about the importance of the Land of Israel and in keeping mitzvos then we wouldn't need to spend all that money on enhancing the settlements, it would come by itself.

no camping

We were planning a final camp-out of the summer tonight, but it is not going to happen. The boys school has their big school initiation tonight, which we go to for some strange reason, and the girls initiation is on Sunday night.
Part of the meeting is an election for the parents board and I would like to remain on the board this year as we push for excellence. I don't have a problem pushing my ideas on the principal in any case, but it seems like I have more of a say when I'm on the board.

Instead, I'm looking at having a bbq on the beach on Monday evening to celebrate the start of school.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

chasing out the hareidim

There was an article in ynet about a hareidi family being chased out of a park in a secular neighborhood in Bet Hakerem in Jerusalem. Rafi G has also blogged about the story.

At first I felt badly for the poor family that just wanted to play in the park and got chased away by "self-hating jews", the classical term for Jews who don't like hareidim. But on second thought, this is what has been coming to the hareidi community for quite some time. We are talking about a community that ostracizes anyone who does not fit their mold. A yeshiva boy who stops wearing a hat or doesn't talk yeshivish, or wears a colored shirt is considered having gone to tarbus ra, bad culture. A non chareidi person, whether secular or dati leumi is considered to be impinging on the sensitivities of the community if they walk in a chareidi neighborhood.

The infamous tznius patrol, which has been arrested recently, has been going around destroying all non-hareidi things, even though the gedolei hador say that it is inappropriate to do that.

Hareidim can walk into any dati leumi shul and be comfortable davening there - that is unless they can't handle the tooma. On the other hand, a friend of mine walked into a toldos aaron in bet shemesh with a kippa sruga and they wouldn't daven until he left. One boy came over to him and said "we don't pray with Zionists."

Now I'm not going to comment on the hareidi family that this happened to, for all I know they are a very welcoming family and full of gemilas chesed. But the community has been asking for this for a long time.

I recently spoke to a friend who is thinking of leaving the yeshiva world and getting a job. I suggested that he check out dati leumi neighborhoods instead of chareidi ones. He was uncomfortable with the idea.

plexiglas experience

My in-laws were just in from the great white north and my FIL loves helping out around the house. One of the projects that we had was to put a plexiglass wall going up the stairs. We had 2 wooden railings and nothing in between and my wife, God Bless Her, was afraid that the children would fall through. This fear was not without cause as the baby did fall through a hole so small we couldn't imagine that she could fit through it. She fell straight down from one floor to the next (about 15 feet) and apparantly landed on her diaper. It freaked her out ( and my wife as well) but, Thank God, no damage was done.

The first challenge was finding out what plexiglass is in Hebrew. They didn't know what we were talking about at the hardware store. After a number of inquiries, we found out that there is a glass store our industrial zone, so we went there. They make plexiglas, it is called perspex in Hebrew and it costs 300 shekel a square meter for 6 milli width.

We explained what we wanted including the measurements. We needed a parallelogram, the same height and width but at an angle. My FIL even drew a picture showing the angle. They explained to us that it was impossible and our drawing was wrong. It had to have a right angle and one side was shorter then the other and that would be the angled side.

We drank lousy thick coffee while they tried explaining this to us and then my FIL tried explaining why they were wrong and we really needed the parallelogram that he drew.
The manager was a Druze and the worker was Russian, I decided we needed some extra help, so I called a friend who is a native Hebrew speaker to try and explain it to them. After they discussed it for a bit, he asked them why they couldn't do it at an angle. They replied that they didn't have a protractor, so the only angle they could do was 90 degrees. I asked if I brought in a protractor and drew it on the glass would they be able to cut it. They said yes no problem, but it was late Friday, so I should come back Sunday. Sunday we went out for a tiyul and when we got back they said it was too late but that they would do it the next day before noon. I asked if we needed to draw the angle for them, and he said no need. He can do it, no problem.
The next day at noon, it was ready. My FIL picked it up and installed it on the stairs.

The only explanation I can think of is they went out on Sunday and bought themselves a protractor.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

programming help

I am in the middle of writing medical software and I really don't have the time to finish it. I am thinking of calling GlobeTask again to have a virtual programmer write it for me. I don't know if Globetask does programming, they are more of a virtual assistant company, where you call them to do time consuming tasks. The research they did for me on telemedicine devices was spot on and really saved me tons of hours.

The software piece that I need done is a GUI client that is to be written in wxPython. It is the part of the software that will allow the doctor to download the current patients to his laptop so he can work in a disconnected environment. I actually wanted to learn the library, whjich is why I'm writing it using wx, but I am so far behind schedule. Hopefully, GlobeTask or someone like them can pull it together quickly.

Livni, Mofaz, Barak or Netanyahu

The Kadima elections are coming up and the people of Kadima are going to choose their next leader. One problem that they might find in trying to determine who is the best leader for the party is that the party officially has no ideals. Since there is no one who can convince anyone else that they will best represent the vision of the party, it all comes down to who has the most personal supporters and who can get the least dirt thrown at him.

Livni and Mofaz are both from the Likud, but they seem to have veered leftwards in their struggle to gain or remain in power. We will all remmeber that when Mofaz lost the Likud primaries he said that the Likud was his home and then went and switched parties.

Barak has been playing Kadima politics for the past couple months as he forced Kadima into primaries, is forcing Olmert not to run and is now suggesting the Livni is not qualified to be prime minister. It looks like Barak is really running the show for the no-ideal party.

Obviously this is all in self interest, as Barak wants Kadima to fall apart at its seams and he will become prime minister as Kadima and Labor merge,leaving those right-leaning kadimaists to move back into the Likud. This is the only real chance that Barak has of becoming prime minister, and he is certain that if Mofaz wins the election, the former Laborites will come swimming back to him.

Barak won't be any better of a prime minister then he was the last time. After he lost the premiership, he realized that he was swimming without an inner tube and quit politics for good. He only came back to the party when they realized that none of the other wannabes in the party were worth their weight in straw.

Ditto for Netanyahu. Now Netanyahu talks the talk, but gave 80% of Hebron to the Arabs. He gave them guns and bullets, from which they shoot at Jewish people. He has shown that as prime minister he will not take an ideal stand. That being said he belongs in Kadima, the party without ideals. At the blogger convention he talked tough about Jewish history, but he didn't give the authorization for the Jewish community in Hebron to move into the homes that are Jewishly owned.

All in all, there is a serious lack of quality leadership in the country. This seems to be a problem around the world, as we look at the US elections and see the choices are Obama or McCain. With the democratic runner-up being Hillary Clinton. Those 3 names just shout out, "No leaders. Please barf."

Meanwhile, I am not a member of any political party. Last general elections I voted Chareidi because I couldn't stand the thought of voting for anyone and I figured that each vote they received was like $2.00 to charity. I may not agree with their lifestyle/philosophy, but I do believe in giving charity and their organizations are worthy.

Monday, August 25, 2008

To whine or to act

I mentioned last week, we just got a new principal for the girls school. I'm on the PTA board and we had a meeting with her last night for 3 hours. One of the problems we are facing is that the Education department does not want to approve 2 of the younger teachers for positions this school year, even though they had already been assigned classes to teach. We have a bunch of old teachers who are not able to teach anymore, because they're all burnt out and are bad for the students. For some reason, they can't fire them either. So the solution has been to give them minimal hours and bring in new teachers to teach the classes until the old goats either retire or die.

The principal requested that the PTA board write a letter to the education dept. explaining that we won't accept a school year without those new teachers. Our big threat is that we're going to strike the school year. None of the parents want to do it, but we don't feel we have much of a choice.

I recommended raising money for new playground equipment (again) and suggested that we have 2 options, either to continue to cry that the city won't give us what we deserve or to take pride in our school and raise the money ourselves. The opposing board member said that she isn't a fryer (Hebrew for sucker) and she is not contributing anything to buy equipment that the city is required to buy for us.

The most surprising thing was when I suggested we bring in Bat-El Gaterer, the religious olympian, to speak to the girls, none of the other board members or the principal had heard of her.

Is there no pride in our community?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Shabbos in Chevron (Hebron)

There are a number of places that elicit emotion in Jewish people just by hearing their names. This past shabbos we had the pleasure and great opportunity to visit one of them.

Chevron, or Hebron, the land of our forefathers.

Chevron symbolizes the Jewish connection to the land of Israel. It is the place of our roots, from where Judaism sprouted. This is the place that Avraham Avinu, father Abraham, settled in. The location of the cave of the patriarchs, which Avraham bought for 400 pieces of silver. Chevron was the capital of the King David's kingdom until he moved it to Jerusalem, 7 years after he began his rule.

While we didn't know it when we decided to go, this week was the anniversary of the 1929 Chevron massacre, when centuries of Jewish presence in Chevron was ended. This was indeed a symbolic shabbos to go and experience the renewed Jewish presence that has been facing an enormous uphill battle since we recaptured the city in 1967. We got to see first-hand the struggles that the Jewish residents have to go through on a daily basis.

We left our Galilean village Friday morning at 9:00 AM to head down to jlem where we were meeting the group. Most of the group came from Kochav Yaakov, a settlement between Jlem and Ramallah. We had actually considered moving there when we made aliyah 5 years ago, but for a number of reasons chose our Galilean mountainside instead. We got lost in jlem and showed up 15 minutes late to the spot we were supposed to meet the bus. Fortunately for us (unfortunately for them), their was a problem on the highway and the bus was delayed for about an hour, so we waited for them for 45 minutes. The group was very friendly and we warmed to them immediately. I think all of the other families were at least partly Torontonian (coincidentally), so it gave my in-laws a lantsman connection right away.

The first place we headed to was Kever Rachel, where mother Rachel was buried on the side of the road so that her children could stop by and pray while they were on the road. It used to be a quaint little building at the side of the road where you could pull off, pray and continue on your way. Since the peace process there has been no access for Jews to Bethlehem (because of the peace) and Kever Rachel has become a huge military compound completely surrounded by 30 foot walls. I said a couple chapters of Tehillim and went to deal with the children so my wife could have some quality prayer time. One of the ladies on the group brought a huge length of red string with her. There is a tradition that if you wrap a red string around the kever marker 7 times and then cut it up into little pieces and tie it around people's hands then good things will happen. A lot of people feel that the red strings that are handed out at other locations never actually got the kever rachel treatment and is therefore invalid. This is A1 kosher red string that got the full 7 times around and therefore can be worn by people who are into that sort of thing.

The bus was not ready when we left the building and the soldiers told us to wait in the building. We were a bit concerned at first that the bus got kidnapped, but eventually it returned.

The next stop was at the guest house in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood in Chevron (Hebron). We got our rooms and the kids played barefoot outside. The park next to the guest house was under renovations, so they made do with running around senselessy like kids do. The park that was being renovated was the place where a baby, Shalhevet Pas, was killed by an arab sniper a couple years ago. The rooms were decent, we had 2 bunkbeds and a cot for the kids, the air-conditioning worked well and the bathroom was ok.
I watched the kids play outside while my wife got them ready for shabbos one at a time. It was nice to see that the kids all made friends with the other kids on the trip right away. They were all English/Hebrew speakers and the kids spoke a mixed language amongst themselves.

We went to the Maarat Hamachpela for maariv, the evening prayer. It was done in a Carlebach style, led by Simcha Hochbaum, a local activist.

The Maarat Hamachpela, known as the maara, is not much of a cave. It is a huge building designed like a fortress. I believe it was built in the 1400s by the Turks, but I don't have Internet access at the moment to verify that. There are 3 rooms inside, though it looks much bigger then that. The Abraham room is the smallest and it could hold approximately 30 people. The Yaakov (Jacob) room is where we davened and it could easily hold a couple hundred. The largest room is the Yitzchak room, but at the moment it is only accessible to Muslims who believe that it is the Ishmael room. I don't know if they really believe that or if they just say that to bother the Jews. The Yaakov room is actually outide in the courtyard with a tarp covering. There are tombs with names of the partiarchs

Outside the building, the courtyard was filled with women and children, everyone easily relied on the soldiers standing guard for protection. Our kids were a bit nervous because we had told them that they had to stay near us at all times because it was dangerous if they went to the wrong area. We saw the local kids walking throughout the neighborhood by themselves and that relaxed us a bit. Dinner was excellent, Morrocan food, and we had a chance to relax and meet the other families in the group.

In the morning, I overslept a bit and went to the 9AM tefilla at the maara. This was a mistake, t was the fastest davening I've ever been to. Normally this is not a problem, but they started from áøåê ùàîø and davened sefard (in other words they skipped the entire thing). Davening finished within an hour. When we asked one of the policemen at the gate, where the 9:00 was, he pointed and and said in hebrew, it's full gas. No kidding.

Lunch was good. They put eggs in the chulent, but that's what I would expect from Moroccans. Before dessert we had our first propoganda speech by David Wilder who told us about the community, what they were doing and what the challenges were in trying to convince the government to let them live in homes that belong to Jewish people. In 1929, after the massacre the surviving Jews were expelled from Chevron. But they still kept the deeds to their property. This property is mostly now controlled by the Arabs and even the properties that are controlled by the Jews, the government won't let them enter. It is a fight for every inch of land and for every new family to move in. The expulsion from Gush Katif showed them how successful they can be and they are bringing all their weight and money down against little Chevron.

After lunch we had rest and relaxation time until 4:30, when we went on our tour of the community with Simcha Hochbaum as our guide. We went to first see the graves of Yishai and Ruth. We couldn't see the former Slabodka yeshiva because that is in the 80% of Hebron that Netanyahu gave away to the arabs when he was the prime minister (And tafka pp doesn't like him...)
We saw some excavations of what might have been the gate of the city where Avraham bought the cave from Efron the Hittite. We saw the hospital where the women and children hid during the 1929 massacre and the arabs came and may they all be cursed for eternity for what they did there. A group of women and children took it over in 1979 and it is now a permanent residence. We saw and davened in the Avraham Avinu shul.

It was a great experience for the entire family, and I'm really happy we went. We arrived home at about 1:30 AM, exhausted.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bronze Medal

Israel captured its first Olympic medal yesterday as Shachar Zubari from Eilat took the bronze in Wind-Surfing.

In today's Taekwondo match, Batel Gaterer Israel's religious taekwondoist lost 4-3 to the Czech girl, Martina Zubcic.
Martina then went on to defeat the Brazilian kicker, Debora Nunes, 3-2.
She finally lost to Turkey in the semi-finals.
Turkey lost to the Korean who took the Gold Medal. I guess it would be a national disappointment if Korea didn't win the gold medal in their own national sport.

Losing in the first round of the olympics is still a huge accomplishment. We are proud of Bat-El for representing Israel and not compromising on her religious standards. I think she can serve as a role model to all religous Jews that it is possible to keep our religious values and still strive to be the best.

Linked In networking group

A couple months ago I started a Linked In group called Israeli Anglo Network. The purpose of the group is to help English speaking olim build proteczia in a country where jobs more often go to the buddy of someone then the person most qualified.

This is not a mailing list or a discussion forum, it is just a group where other Linked In people who are in the group can find you. It is not the most convenient interface and they have screwed up a number of features as they are "improving" it.

At the moment, I have more then 220 members. Everyone in the group either lives in Israel or lied and said they did. I wanted to keep the group from being watered down, so I didn't let in anyone who wanted to be linked with everyone in the world (yes there are a lot of those people) or people who support Israel, or people who think that being in Linked In groups is the only way to be cool. If 10% of the group was not relevant to the group's purpose (which is to help ourselves) then it would lose a lot more then 10% of its value.

If you live and/or work in Israel, speak English and would like to be part of giving/getting proteczia even though you weren't in Unit 51 or a cherry, please join the group:

blogger conference

I must be the last person at the conference to blog about it. I actually considered live blogging it, but I didn't want to even think about holding my laptop in one hand and a plate of deli in the other, while balancing a drink somewhere in the middle. So the laptop remained in the car.
It's about a 3 hour drive from the heartland to our Galilean village, so after visiting with my sister and brother-in-law for 10 minutes, I hit the road. It only took me 2 hours to get home and as I told my wife, "maybe I drove a little bit faster then a could've"

It was a great conference, but somehow I think the organizers missed the boat (or at least part of it). For me, and for a number of the bloggers who I spoke to, the main reason they came was to hear people like Zavi Apfelbaum, the Director of Brand Management at the Foreign Ministry. How can our blogs help the state of Israel. The problem is that she ran out of time in the middle of her presentation and skipped through a number of the relevant points. When they called her on time, there were protests from the entire crowd. Her Q & A session was disrupted by a wack job yelling about Israel's Jewishness. Now I am pro-Jewishness in Israel. It is a main part of the content that I write here, but there is a civilized way of discussing it and a non-civilized way. Screaming "What about the Jewishness" a dozen times until they end the session is not the way, especially when she never came out against Jewishness. She just came out for a multi-faceted approach to how we would like Joe Goy to think about Israel.

I pretty much skipped the last group of panelists and went and spoke to Zavi. I explained to her what bloggers would like to do to help her and a little bit of the power of getting the message out if she had 1000 bloggers including some topics that she sends out in their normal blogs. For example, if I get a message that says: There are dinosaurs from Argentina in the MadaTech science museum in Haifa. I would be happy to write about that, I might even include differing viewpoints on creationism vs evolution and how old the world really is.

Another high point of the convention was the surprise speaker, blogger Benyamin Netanyahu. It is not updated all that often, but he explained that as an aversion to ghost writers and the lack of time to actually write himself. These are sentiments that I fully understand. Netanyahu spoke very well and answered questions, most of them political in nature. What he failed to do, was address how bloggers could unite to get a message across. I wasn't called on to ask a question and when I finally decided to ask without being called on they were just ending the session.

The first group of panelists were interesting, discussing what the purpose of their blogs was and how they became big traffic players. All of them without intent. In other words, write passionately, engage the community and quite naturally traffic that is interested in your topic will come to your site.

I saw a number of bloggers who I recognized from the online world including: Rafi G, Jameel at the Muqata, Joe Settler, Batya from Shiloh Musings. I was sitting in the same row as Lurker, the guy who doesn't have a blog but comments, and RivkA from Coffee and Chemo. I had a great discussion with Ted from IsraPundit about politics and life in general.

To sum up, it was a great convention and I would go again next year.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

going to Chevron

Last night we dined out at Arnolds in Netiv Hashayara. nice food and atmosphere, but they told us we had to eat outside if we wanted to come because there was a party there. It was a bit humid, but not uncomfortable. The food was good but not as good as Morganfeld's in Moshav Liman. It's hard to compare because at Morganfeld's we generally get the sirloin steak and here the only glatt meat they had was the Entrecote. It probably changes depending on the week, you just have to ask each time.

In another hour or so, I will begin the trek down to jlem for the big JBloggers conference. A number of my anonymous blogging colleagues will be there, but I will not be reporting on the unmasking.

This coming shabbos it looks like we will be heading down to Chevron, the city of the avos. Very exciting. I haven't been down there in forever.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

klezmer festival - done

The KlezmerFest was a lot of fun. For those who didn't make it the first night, there are 2 more nights for you to get on over there. As planned, we saw Simply Tzfat, which is mostly Breslovers, and 1 chabadnik. (I think the chabadnik was playing drums so he wouldn't actually be seen on stage. The mad fiddler was excellent.

The free concert cost us about 150 shekels. 70 shek for parking. (They changed it so you don't pay for parking with a free shuttle, you get free parking and pay 10 shek a person for the shuttle.) They charged us for our 1 year old, which made me a bit angry but I paid without a fight because there was no point in fighting, they determined the price and if we want to use the service we have to pay it. I did mention that was unreasonable and he shrugged his shoulders. 54 shek for pizza. 20 shek for popcorn, 37 shek for drinks. Not bad for an evening out with all the kids.

We walked through the carnival atmosphere for a bit. It was a nice mix of religious/non religious people. We heard a couple of other groups performing, but don't know who they were. We got back home at 11. An enjoyable evening out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tel Dan burnt down

This past Shabbos was very nice. My in-laws are in from anada and my bro-in-law came up with his wife and 2 kids. Everyone got along very nicely.

Sunday I took off for the day and we all went to Tel Dan, which is on the border of the upper galilee and the Golan Heights. It is a beautiful nature reserve and had a nice wooden path that is available for strollers, wheel chairs and people who have trouble walking. Unfortunately, there was a forest fire in Tel Dan a month ago and it destroyed, among other things the wooden path. They hastily formed a new trail that allows visitors to see most of the attractions in the nature reserve. It was nice, but not exactly what we expected. I explained to my children in my best Smokey the Bear voice that "Only you can prevent forest fires."

We hit Pizza Meter in Kiryat Shmona for a late lunch - delicious pizza. A half meter is about the size of a normal pizza, for 44 shek and it comes with a bottle of pop.

Tonight we are heading to the mystical city of Tzfat to hear the klezmerim play their music. You can see more information about the klezmerfest on their website.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Klezmer Festival

Next week - Mon, Tues and Wed (Aug 18-20) is the big annual Tzfat klezmer festival. I highly recommend it. We have gone and had a great time the past 3 years. (Except for one of the girls who thinks she remembers it and thinks it was boring). 4 years ago (or was it 5) we were supposed to go with the neighbors, but after driving for about 10 minutes they got a call from their mom that the baby just wouldn't calm down, so we returned home.
The Rock of Galilee will be going on Monday evening. We are planning on starting off the evening at the Municipal Stage to listen to Simply Tzfat for an hour. We might stay in the same place to listen to Maksim Klezmer afterwards, but we have not made a final decision on that yet.

The official klemer fest website is

On Wednesday evening is the big international JBlogger convention in jlem, and I am planning on attending.

an evening in the forest

Only in Israel will the driver of an 18 wheeler decide that traffic is going to slow for him and pull onto the should top pass a couple cars and then cut back in. This is an example of what I put up with on the daily commute.

We had a fun company event yesterday. They set up in the Carmel forest with an open bar for the adults and bouncy things, a climbing wall and arts and craft activities for the children. There was also a pool table, air hockey, foosball and board games such as checker, chess, backgammon and cards.
I started out letting the kids jump around on the bouncy things, then I hit the bar. A long island for myself and a Tom Collins for my wife. The bartender replies that he doesn't have any ice tea and he doesn't know what a Tom Collins is. So I tell him how to make a Tom Collins and then how to make a long island. He asked if I wanted to take over.

Dinner was delicious, even though we had specially packaged "Super Kosher" food, so we didn't have to eat the regular kosher food that the non-shomer kashrus people were eating.
Towards the end of the evening, a co-worker (non-religious sefardi) told me that I should have gotten a minyan together for mincha so that he could say kaddish. I told him that I daven by myself at these types of events as there is no one else who is generally interested in davening. Also I didn't know he had to say kaddish.
I told him no problem, we'll gather 10 people, I'll say a mishna and then you can say kaddish. So he went back to his car and got his kippa and we gathered 10 men. I said a mishna from Avos, then some rav chananya ben akashya and he said kaddish. Excpet he didn't know kaddish very well so I had to help him. I told him he couldn't say kaddish dirabbonim because I didn't know that one by heart. It was still funny because I had to help him out with the extra sefardical words that he says. It's a good thing that I have experience davening with sefardim or I wouldn't have even known that they have extra words.

Next month - Dead Sea for shabbos.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

we saw an owl

This evening I took my girls out for a roller-blade. Well they roller bladed and I walked. They still aren't up to the level where it is worth it to put on my roller blades.
As we were walking we saw 2 very cool things.
The first was a helicopter that was standing in mid-air in the middle of the wadi. It was very dark and we could only see its lights. Suddenly it turned off its lights and we heard it moving, but we couldn't see it at all. I wonder if it saw something, or what it was looking for. A bit scary, I suppose. Generally when we see or hear things like that, we don't read about it in the morning, but I always wonder what is really going on.

Far cooler then that, we saw a bird with an incredible wingspan flying out from the wadi. I said it was a bird, but my daughter looked closer and yelled that it was an owl. I looked again and saw that she was right. It was an owl and it was just flying around in circles, higher and higher. I think that was the first time I've seen an owl flying free in its natural habitat.

Monday, August 11, 2008

hiring a principal

Well Tisha B'Av is over and I'm eating a late lunch with another religious person at 12:45 so we can eat meat. Tomorrow is shwarma day, so we're not going to go there, probably just to the local cafeteria and get a chicken leg or something.

Our girls school principal decided to retire. He had a heart attack during the year last year (A couple days after I had a disagreement with him, though I don't blame myself for the heart attack). But he gave notice very late, so they don't have time to go through the normal hiring procedure, so they are doing a shortened, less open, procedure.

I am on the board of parents of the school and I tried to find out how we could be involved in the hiring process, so we don't end up with a monster. I was told that the best we could do is give a recommendation for a specific candidate. There are 3 candidates from our community who are vying for the position.

If anyone is qualified to be a religious girls elementary school principal and wants to move up north, now is the time.

The current candidates are:
* the former assistant principal who left the school last year to become principal somewhere else.
* The assistant principal at the boys school
* The teacher who was already appointed to be assistant principal this coming year.

They all seem to be qualified for the position, though we aren't doing any interviewing of the candidates, so I don't really know that. One of the members on the board wanted us to send a letter recommending the former assistant principal for the job. Apparantly, a number of people have called up the supervisor and said some nasty things about her.

The board member who wanted to send a letter is also the best friend of the former assistant principal. She was not interested in sending similar letters in support of the other candidates who are community members.

My first thought was that it would be ok to say that we do not agree with nasty rumors and that in our opinion she was a viable candidate, but no more support then that.

After thinking about it for a while, I changed my mind and said that if people are complaining about her, I am not giving any recommendation unless I know what people are saying and to check if there is a problem. As a representative of the parent body, I can't just ignore the fact that people are unhappy with her candidacy.

Most of the board agreed with my assessment and we decided that if the supervisor is not going to include us in the hiring process then we will not, as a body, do any recommending.

God help us.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

tisha b'av

I got off the floor about an hour ago, a little bit after chatzos. While the fire is still burning in the bais hamikdash, we only have a small, symbolic amount of mourning to do. The beard that I have been growing for 3 weeks, the not going to public events, no live music, the refraining from water activities, the vegetarianism etc.. all say that I am symbolically part of the mourning. It would be impossible to truly mourn, for if we knew what we were missing, we would never get off the ground. As it is written, "those who mourn Jerusalem and the temple will take place in its rebuilding.

My shul says 14 kinos on Tisha B'av morning, ending with the traditional Eli Zion. We started davening at 7:30 and finished at around 9:30 I thought that it was a good amount of time. In our shul, a different person reads each kinah out loud and then the congregation says out loud the congregational point, so during one kinah everyone is saying Oyah together. I read one kinah, stating that God is great and we should be embarrassed as it went through some of history saying nice things that God did for us and how we screwed it up. I thought that it was a decent amount of time for kinos. In Detroit, where they said all of them, someone generally brought a backgammon set and when we got bored of kinos we would play

I took my little girl for a walk today because she needed to get out. It was so refreshing breathing the fresh air and looking around at the Galilean hills. May we merit the bais hamikdash to be speedily rebuild, in our days.

Friday, August 08, 2008

friday hike

Today were planning on going to Tel Dan with the family for a nice little non-intensive nature walk. 2 kids refused to go and then the family we were planning on going with decided not to go, so I ended up sitting on the couch working most of the afternoon. This was good because I have a lot of work to do to finish the application I'm writing. But OTOH I really wanted to go out. After working all week, I like to enjoy Friday and get ready for shabbos by seeing the rivers and streams in our nature reserves and say מה רבו מעשיך ה.

Have a good shabbos

Thursday, August 07, 2008


A couple of days ago my eldest returned from her visit in the US/Canada. She was gone for about 5.5 weeks and I think everyone agreed that it was 2 long. My wife, God bless her, took all the kids and went down to pick her up from the airport. My in-laws came in as well, and they planned on having dinner with at my BIL's in bet shemesh. The problem was that after a long, exhausting day with the kids, my wife was a bit nervous about driving 3 hours back home. I don't blame her at all, because it's a long drive and very dark and the kids tend to fall asleep. So I offered to take the train down after work and drive back with them. It's not that I'm so gallant, but the last thing I need in my life is a trip down south to identify the bodies.

I was going to go all the way to the Bet Shemesh station, but that included a layover in Tel Aviv and I was not in the mood of that, so we agreed that I would go to the Azrieli mall and wait for her there. I brought my laptop with me, so I could work on the train, I am learning wxPython right now and it gave me a full hour on the train to play around with it.
--Did you know there are outlets on the train to plug in laptops? You have to sit in the right seat though.--

I got to Azrieli at about 6:15 and my family was supposed to leave Bet Shemesh at 6:30, which gave me time to find something to eat. Unfortunately it is the 9 days before tisha b'av and we are very sad that we cannot put our cows on the altar so we don't eat meat to make the memory real. So I had to settle for Sbarros. Not bad food, but not exactly a shwarma either. Then I walked around the mall. They were having the 10th Bday party of the azrieli center, and the place was full of clowns, music, and other events for kids. They had a bunch of stuff that was very cool, like people doing flips (I like flips).

The azrieli center is right on top of the Ayalon highway, so the plan was that when the family drove by, i would walk down to the highway and get in. If I timed it right, they wouldn't need to pull over because of the horrible traffic situation on the Ayalon. Thank God we live in the Galilee where there is no traffic.

When the wife called to say she was enterring Tel Aviv, I went and bought a couple of fruit shakes from Juiceland. They had grapes, watermelon, cantelope and pecans crushed into an orange juice base (the 2nd one had a milk base). Drinking this is also part of the 9 days, by the way. By the time they finished, I walked down the entrance ramp of the highway and my wife had just passed. She pulled over to the side and I got there a couple minutes later.

The rest of the ride was relaxing and enjoyable. It was very nice to see my daughter again.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


I think the war killed my blog. Yes, that war that happened 2 years ago for a single summer caused a lot of casualties. I've been meaning on getting back on track since then, but I always feel that my content isn't on par anymore. Beforehand, I had no problem writing about random events and thoughts. Then the war came and I was focused. I had a topic, and I wrote about it every day. Real events that were happening, letting my readers around the world know how a Galilean family had turned into refugees and was living in the Jerusalem refugee camp.
After the war, I felt that my regular content wasn't as good anymore. It seemed to lack the purpose that I had beforehand.

Now is time for the resurrection. Resurrections are important during the 9 days before tisha b'av. It can remind us that just like this blog is coming back from the dead, the beis hamikdah will be rebuilt.

During this period of time we don't eat meat to remind us of the korbanos that we do not have any more. We don't eat chicken because it reminds us of meat. This is a time to cry and to pray, but most importantly to resurrect ourselves and bring ourselves to the glory that we once were.

We have suffered through so many tisha b'avs and the redemption is now near.

The Rock of Galilee will now restart blogging about the future as well as the present and the past.