Sunday, December 27, 2009

helping converts

Wishing my readers a tzom kal (easy fast).

This week there was a notice in shul that they are looking for families to host not religious/pre-Jewish immigrant soldiers for a traditional shabbos. The Education corps has a learning course in which they teach the fundamentals of traditional (Orthodox) judaism to those who are interested.

A couple of years ago we had over some soldiers who were in the middle of the conversion process and they came to our house a number of times for shabbat. We had lively discussions and they promised to keep in touch after the conversion was complete. Well they didn't. One of them called us once afterward and after that she never even returned my calls and the other one never called and never returned my calls. I think one of them actually had the potential, but I don't know where she is or what she is up to now.

The question is should we do it again? On one hand there is a serious problem with the russian immigrants who are not halachically jewish, but came to Israel after being treated like Jews their entire lives. They get to Israel and are not allowed to get married and are outcasts in a number of ways. Technically the State of Israel should have stricter controls of who comes in and who doesn't, but they are here now and it is our problem.

One on side, we don't want to be converting people who are probably not going to be keeping mitzvos. On the other hand, if they are interested in being part of the Jewish nation and they are willing to learn what is required, I don't know if it is my issue if at the end of their conversion they decide to join the secular majority of the Jewish people. That is, as long as I do my part and do my best to show them what traditional Judaism has to offer and to convince them that it is their best interest to keep the mitzvos.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

camping at the dead sea

We just came back from a multi-day chanukah excursion. Monday night we camped at the Ein gedi beach by the dead sea. It was supposed to be bitter cold, but the weather turned out to be very nice. So we had a bbq and a small bonfire and everyone had a great time.

We went to ein bokek monday morning on the trail and there was a lot of water. The weather was perfect, but not really for a swim. As I watched my children I saw a lot of differences in thought patterns (or lack thereof). It was chilly out so none of the adults went into the water, aside from our feet as we walked through it. Some of the kids went into the pool and had a great time. When they came out they were freezing. We didn't bring a change of clothes because we didn't think it was possible that they would go into the water.

In any case, what I noticed is:
Child - Sees water wants to go in, goes in and has a great time. Comes out. It is cold. complains bitterly until something else catches his attention.

Adult - Sees water and doesn't even consider going in because it will be cold when he comes out.

The child obviously had more fun because he did not use any foresight. The question is does his discomfort after playing in the water offset the fun he had?

We will never know the answer.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

erev yom kippur

This has been a crazy busy week between rosh hashan and yom kippur, I did two selichos tours, one in Tsfat with the boys(actually 2, one with each class) and then to Jerusalem the next evening with the girls. We also built our sukkah, which we got from our friends who bought a new paper sukkah.

Hopefully I will get to writing those experiences, but now I will talk about today. Today started at 4:30AM. That's not as early as it sounds because we changed our clocks last night, so it only felt like 5:30AM. I've been getting up at 5:30 anyways for the past 2 weeks for selichos. Last night I had decided that I was going to go down to the nachal (stream) for an early dip in the mikvah (ritual bath). My plan was to daven (pray) at 6 and then go down afterwards, but I told my wife that if I happen to wake up at 4 then I would go then.
When I opened I eyes and saw that it was 4:30 I decided that it was a good time, and I was parked dopwn by the nachal by 4:45. It was very dark, but there was enough moon and starlight to see the path. The hue on top of the mountains was a deep purple and everything looked dark and menacing. I was thinking on the way down that I should have brought a knife with me in case any animals threatened me. After a couple seconds I realized that the only animal that might threaten me are wild pigs, and a knife won't help against them. Afterward, I realized that the jackals might also attack if they are in a bunch, but I didn't think about it then and I didn't have a knife anyways so it didn't matter.

I walked along the dark path for about half an hour until I got to the springs and the big pool. The only sounds I heard were my own sandals and animals crashing through the brush when i disturbed them. The only animals I actually saw were a jackal, an interesting looking animal that was bigger then a squirrel, maybe a weasel, ferret or really large rat, and some fish. There are some Persian fallow deer in the area, but I haven't see any.

I got to the springs at 5:10AM and it was getting much lighter. The water was perfectly clear and I saw some fish swimming about. I was in a bit of a rush because I had to get back to davening at 6, so I quickly jumped in and dunked 7 times and got out. It was so peaceful, with nobody else around. When I started walking back, I noticed that that the leaves on the trees had changed from dark black to light green and I could see the holy raspberries on the bushes.

About half way back I noticed a tent set up in a clearing with a small family cooking breakfast. It's surprising that I didn't see the tent on the way in, but it was dark.

I made it to shul before 6 and got home by 7.

After breakfast, I took the boys to buy our lulavim and esrogim, here you pay the same price as back home, the only difference being the currency.

I wish you all a g'mar chasima tova, an easy fast and a happy, healthy sweet new year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

sefer torah fundraiser problem

See bottom for update

Disclaimer: I have not consulted with any rabbinic people about my issue, so don't take this the wrong way.

I recently received a fund-raising request from my yeshiva high school alumni association. They are writing a sefer torah and dedicating it to the rabbeim. It is being marketed as a way to give back to the school and show appreciation for the hard work and dedication that they had put into your education and life. As it is a dormitory school, the rabbis are a very big part of your life and teenage-hood.

After I got the first mail from the alumni association, I got another email from a former classmate asking me to participate in buying a parsha with our class.

I really liked my high school and I liked the rabbis, not all of them obviously, but I got along well enough with most of them, which is not something most of my contemporaries from other high schools can say. I am still in contact with the high school and see one of the rabbis once a year, generally. I have donated in the past and I will continue to donate in the future, may God continue sending me parnasa.

I have a small problem with this particular fund-raiser though. I haven't ruled out participating in my class parsha, and I most probably will participate.

Here's my problem -
They are selling:
Entire Torah: Already Sold
Individual parshas: a bunch of them already sold
Special parshas within the individual parshas: A bunch already sold

If someone already bought the entire Torah, then he gets credit for writing a sefer Torah. The guy who donates a parsha is really not donating a parsha, because the guy who bought the entire torah already got that parsha. The guy who buys a special parsha or a pasuk is not really donating them either.

In other words, if someone buys a pasuk in a special parsha, that pasuk has already been sold to 3 other people, The Torah donor, the parsha donor, the special parsha donor and finally to the pasuk donor. I would think (and I could be wrong) that all of the donors aside from the original Torah donor are going to get credit for giving tzedaka, but not for writing a Torah.

I would like to hear from my readers what they think of this situation. As I mentioned above, I have not consulted with any rabbis about my issue with this yet and it is very possible that I am wrong and that everyone involved does get Torah writing points and not just regular tzedaka points (which are nothing to sneeze at).

I got a response from the yeshiva and I'm happy to tell you that my issue was unfounded. The head of the alumni association sent are sponsa to the exact same question from R' Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. The question asked went much farther then the question I asked and included the question, do you need to make a kinyan on the letter in the sefer somehow. The question indicated that most of the time when you purchase a letter in a sefer torah you do not make a kinyan on it. However, I have seen where the person sponsoring a letter has given the pen to the sofer and made him a shaliach in the writing. They also asked if someone who is not allowed to write a torah donates, does that pasul the entire torah.

If anyone wants to read the responsa themselves, please let me know and I'll forward it over (in Hebrew).
The answer is that when someone buys a parsha, they are not in actuality buying a parsha. The parsha is dedicated to them. However the way that it technically works is that you take all the money collected for the sefer torah project and combine it into one pot. If one person spends $1000 and another person spends $200 then the person with the $200 donation gets 1/5 of the amount of Torah writing credit then the $1000 donor. So if you want to know how much sefer torah writing credit you actually get, you add up the sum total of donations and divide the amount of your donation by it and that percentage is what you take with you as torah writing credit and the rest of the donation goes with you as tzedaka and harbatzas torah credit.

A groiseh yasher koach to the hanhala of the yeshiva, I recommend all of my readers donate to a sefer torah project.

Friday, September 18, 2009

shana tova

I want to wish all my readers a שנה טובה ומתוקה, a sweet and good new year. May this year be a year of health, wealth and happiness for all of us.

I have been very busy this entire year, with very little time to blog, as I'm sure you've noticed. God willing this coming year will be just as busy, if not more so.

Monday, September 14, 2009


It looks like I missed the JBloggers conference in jlem this year. I've
been pretty lax in my blogging recently and I hardly read anybody so I
didn't feel the pull to connect with my fellow bloggers. Maybe next year.

Normally I leave my house at 6 AM to beat traffic into Haifa, so I daven
when I get there. The shul on the Technion campus is mostly a sefardic
institution and they have been saying selichos for the entire month of
elul. Now that it is a week before rosh hashana, ashkenazim have started
saying selichos as well. After some inner debate I decided that it was
worthwhile leaving at 5:30 AM to get to selichos on time and I will hope
I don't get punished too horribly for saying sefardic selichos instead
of the regular ones.

I got to the shul 2 minutes late and someone was at the door saying
ashkenazim that way. They had a seperate minyan for ashkenazic selichos.
I had been worried about the singing and chanting, but this way there
were no worries. It was the familiar hum of reading the words as fast
you can possibly get them out, reading out loud together the key phrase
over and over with a single pizman other then the daily שמע קולנו. I
don't know if God forgave us because of the stuff we read, I'm not even
sure that anyone who was there knew what he was reading. But he
certainly forgave us because we showed we cared by getting up extra
early to ask.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

school politics

I'm on the school parent board again this year (like a PTA). I
considered leaving the board and making room for someone new. In fact, I
tried. I volunteered to be one of the class parents, we have 4 this
year. One of the class parents is supposed to be elected to represent
the class on the school board. I actually insisted on a correct process
this year where 3 people are voted as class parents and only one
represents the class on the school board. Last year, I was the only
volunteer and we had to convince 2 others to raise their hands. This
year 3 other people instantly put up their hands. Nobody had a problem
with 4 class parents. At the end of the meeting I asked the other 3 if
anyone wanted to represent the class and one woman said that her husband
really wanted to. I thought this would be a great way out of it. It is
so hard getting anything across and the culture is so different here
that I thought, "I tried for a couple years, and they'll be relieved
when I tell them that I'm not returning."

So I went down to the final meeting where we were talking about whether
to strike the system because a teacher wasn't given all the hours we
wanted and told them that 6th grade will be represented by another
parent. I was informed by the principal and a few other parents that
that is ridiculous and 6th grade can be represented by more then 1
parent. I explained to them that we had already agreed to 1 parent per
class and they rejected that with the explanation that at the beginning
of the year a bunch of parents join and then leave, so most probably the
other guy wouldn't stick it out.

At the meeting, most of the other parents actually agreed with me
(surprise) that we could not threaten to strike the system when the
school has more hours then it is supposed to and we only want 5 more,
which we can pick up from other classes here and there.

Last week I met with the principal and we worked out some of our
misunderstandings, so all is good.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lost and Found

On July 16 2005, I wrote a blog post about going to Morgenfeld's
restaurant on Moshav Liman. The restaurant has since moved to across
from Akhziv and the food is excellent, we were there 2 nights ago with
settler friends from the West Bank.

Laurie commented that she was looking for a friend, Amir Tlumak who used
to live in moshav Liman. I don't know either Laurie or Amir, but
yesterday, more then 2 years later, Amir commented on that blog post
that he is still in Israel and hasn't seen Laurie in 27 years.

Amir did not leave an email address or phone number, and Laurie did not
leave any contact information either.

If Laurie is still reading and Amir still wants to be found or if anyone
knows Laurie or Amir, please let me know if they find each other. I'm
very curious.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

sefardi selichos rap

I go to a sefardic shul for morning prayers every morning and now during the month of elul they have started saying selichos. Ashkenazim only have to say 1 week of selichos because as a general rule we have less to be forgiven for.
Sefardim don't just say selichos, though, they chant them. And sometimes they slaughter a goat in the middle.
The way it works is different people randomly start leading the chant at different places, so one guy might start chanting out loud and everyone will start answering and then in the middle a different guy will start his own chant.
Today someone started rapping instead of chanting. I think he was going for a new selichos feel. But he actually rapped shomer yisrael. It was very moving. Then he started to breakdance and that's when the rabbi asked him to leave. He felt that it was inappropriate to rap and breakdance the selichos as it is supposed to be a chanting with minor in-sync swaying.

Monday, August 10, 2009

tzfat klezmerfest

While I'm already blogging...

The klezmer festival is back in tzfat (or safed if you write it like
that). The hebrew site can be found at and
there is also a English site at The English schedule is at one of the links
on the site doesn't work.

The festival starts today, Aug 10 and goes until Wednesday. We've gone
for the past couple years and have really enjoyed ourselves. I highly
recommend Simply Tzfat who is playing tonight at 11PM. We won't be there
as it is way too late for the kids, but it is definitely worth seeing.

If you just roam the streets you'll find a mad fiddler or too and that
totally make the evening.

Enjoy the music.

50 shek for a blogging convention???

I just received my invitation to the 2nd annual Jewish bloggers
convention. It will be held somewhere in Jerusalem on Sep 13, 2009. The
exact location is not being released due to security concerns.

I enjoyed the 1st blogging convention. I didn't learn anything listening
to the panelists, but it was a lot of fun meeting the other bloggers,
some of whom I read and others who I had never heard of. When I first
suggested this blogging convention to Jameel 5 years ago, I told him
that people would happily pay to go to a blogging convention and he told
me I'm out of my mind.

I'm not so sure that I'm going to go this year. Maybe it's the 50 shekel
cover charge. Maybe it's because I'm not seen as often on the blogging
scene anymore. Maybe it's because I don't have any freaking time.

In defense of the cover charge, last year's dinner was easily worth 50
shek. If you have a couple of piled high deli sandwiches and some
drinks, you could easily surpass the cover charge. I would doubt this is
for profit, and even if it was I'm pro-free market.

But at the moment I'm not registering. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

sys admin in haifa

I'm looking for a sys admin in Haifa with good Linux experience. If
you're interested shoot me a note.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

apples from the US

Today, at work, I noticed that the Granny Smith apples had a tag that
said Product of the USA, Washington Apples. I asked the woman who is in
charge of food why we are buying our apples from the US. We have plenty
of apples grown in the country. She replied that we buy from the
supermarket, whatever they have. But it is probably because of shmita,
then she and another woman (both of them secular) started arguing about
exactly when shmita ended and if that was a valid reason.

A couple weeks ago we visited the Breishit fruit packing plant in the
Golan. The apple picking is starting in another 2 weeks, so there are no
fresh apples from Israel yet, last years crop was indeed a shmitta crop,
so unless we are eating heter mechira (and it is odd that the
supermarket we buy from wouldn't) we have to eat apples from chool (out
of the country).

Speaking of the harvest, I saw a bunch of random people in one of
kibbutz yagur's fields picking tomatoes. A guy I was giving a ride to
told me that the machine already finished the harvest, and these people
are doing leket. Leket is one of the commandments of a field. After the
harvest, anyone can come to the field and pick up what is left. It is
one of the 3 commandments relating to poor people picking other people's
crops, giving them something to eat. The other 2 commandments are שכחה
and פאה. I have not seen a corner of any field marked off as being for
poor people to harvest, but I imagine that if a buncle is left in the
field, someone will come and take it.

According to <a
encyclopedia</a> these mitzvos are only done when most of the Jewish
people live in Israel. Until then this is a Rabbinical commandment, and
I'm happy to see it is being fulfilled.

Finally on the topic of harvest, we went to the Golan last week to a
U-Pick in Moshav Sha'al and had a great time picking sour cherries,
raspberries, blackberries, mulberries, little plums and some other
assorted berries. It is 23 shekel entry fee for all you can eat and then
20 shek a kilo for what you take home. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

mad reviews

These are unpaid ads.

First off I want to give mad reviews to the good doctors at EyeTravel, who travel around MI providing eyecare for the homebound. Eyetravel doctors go to people who can't get out, their primary enjoyment in life is watching tv or reading. Unfortunately as they get older and their health deteriorates, their eyesight is not as sharp as it once was. EyeTravel doctors give these people back their life as they come prepared with miniature medical equipment right into the house and restore their eyesight so they can continue to enjoy tv, reading and whatever else they need to see. As a number of their patients say to them when they are done, "God Bless You."

Back in Israel - Mad Reviews to the new burger place in Meona. Your choice of 160, 220 or 320 gram burgers (160 grams is ~1/4 lb). A 160 gram burger is 25 shek (about $6.50) and comes with an order of fries (cajun spicy, or regular). The burger and the fries were both excellent. It takes a bit of time to prepare the burger, but the taste is what counts.

Mad Reviews to me, I made chicken for the first time and it was edible. I actually didn't do much more then put my special wing sauce on already cut pieces of chicken and put in in the oven, but it worked. I also learned that if you have potatoes on the bottom of the chicken pot and you want them to be in oil so that they can fry while the stuff on top is cooking in the sauce, it doesn't work, because oil always floats even if you try to get it to stay on the bottom.

Monday, May 11, 2009

the economic thing

This topic has been touched upon for several years. Everyone knows close ones who either work in the center of the country, or even in the regional center of the North, realizing that local jobs go less far in covering personal skill sets, or failing that, basic family monthly expenditures - if, that is, you can find one.

The graph image appeared in the "Israeli" July 25, 2006 on page 12 with no documentation.

In general. there has been a scarcity of useful documented local economic information and indicators or ideas relevant for initiatives in the so-called peripheries. But I am convinced this is an inhouse matter and among those of us who are concerned, there is sufficient talent and intelligence to suggest strategy over a barbeque, maybe.

I would like to share some sources that may flesh out thinking about these ideas. The first three touch on or relate to the North; the fourth relates to similar problems in the UK but which provide food for thought. Maybe you, the reader, do not need these. Anyway, they are not required reading, just represent my 2 cents worth. Check out the zip file and other links, if interested.

The bottom line is that our specific catchment area and population - even total population - is only a very small part of even the North of the country meaning we can expect to receive only token attention from central government planning committees even after, nevermind . I personally find this lack of attention to inhibit my own sense of confidence, but that's a good reason I am me and you are you.

If you who happen to be reading this would like to invest in charcoal or other components or expenses or aims of this venture, please let us know.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

pesach tiyul

I know this is a bit late to be writing about our Pesach tiyulim, but I know everyone has been waiting for them. I just handed in a new support application that I've been working on for a couple months and I actually have a couple minutes to breathe.

Sunday morning, Chol Hamoed, we met my brother and his family near Yokneam to nachal Hashofet. My brother-in-law and family and littlest sister were with us for shabbos and they came with us too. I downloaded the directions from the Internet, and we found the park and a nice place to have a picnic lunch. We did deli sandwiches and they did some kind of cheesy somethings. Of course, there was also chocolate spread for the matzas.

After lunch we tried to figure out which way the nachal was, but the signs were all very confusing and the Internet directions did not help very much. There were a number of other cars trying to figure out where it was as well and so we guessed and continued upwards. We continued driving and the signs were not very clear and we finally got to a place where a number of cars were parked. We stopped there and asked someone if they knew where we were in relation to the map. They guessed that we were on the map and must be somewhere in the middle of the trail we were looking for.

We decided to start from that point and hope to find the red trail to get us to the water springs. We started walking through the cornfields, there were signs that said that we should not enter the cornfields, but the children didn't think that applied to them and they walked part of the time through the corn. It was similar to the movies, where you the corn is higher then the people walking, so we couldn't see them, but fortunately no one got lost.

At some point my BIL turned around and left because it was too much for his kids (they're much younger). And we continued onwards. After about an hour, we found the springs and had a great time playing in them. There were tons of people there, and it was good to have had a nice long hike before getting to the water. I've found that water after a strenuous hike is much better then water that you park next to, but that is debatable. My little sister fell into the water a number of times and she blamed me, in part, for her inability to stay on her feet.

After we finished playing in the water, we continued on the circular trail till we exited into the parking lot. The problem was that we didn't know where we were in relation to the trail to take us back to our car. It took us some time and the kids all got popsicles, but we found our way back to the trail and after a good hike back, we found our car.

We returned to our village for a nice BBQ. One of my little brothers came up with his family from Sunday eve through the last day. We did kabobs, not israeli hamburgers, meat and vegetables on a stick (They say that if there is both meat and vegetables on the stick, then your grill has not been disgraced as it would be if there was only vegetables), hot dogs and hamburgers. We decided that kabobs are bad to cook, because the meat and vegetables don't get ready at the same time and also the meat doesn't all get ready at the same time because there are different levels of heat on the grill. In any case, the food was all et and a good time was had by all.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

$300 million dollar mistake

Surprisingly enough, traintalk did not send me this article, which details how small things in e-commerce can make such a huge difference.
A huge retailer took away their forced customer registration on their website and they realized $300 million dollars more in sales.

The first thing I did after reading that was to send a message to my web developers that registration should happen automatically, and it should send a password by email so the user can check their account status.

atzmaut tiyul

Yom Haatzmaut we planned a nice tiyul in the morning. Our family BBQ was at 3:00 PM, which gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the day. David Bellin, a friend and tour guide operator, recommended that we hike Nachal Katlav. The nachal is between Bet Shemesh and Jlem (through the back) and was perfect for our hike. We ate lunch at a precarious angle half way down the mountain. It was rocky, and rough and slightly strenuous. There was nana growing there and we found a couple almond trees as well. My eldest picked some wild beans and told me to eat them, slightly spicy and good.

The hike took us approximately 3 hours. We parked a car at the end, so we would not have to climb all the way back up. I heard the climb up is the fun part, but we passed on it this time. We got to the bbq on time and had a great time eating and playing around. There was very little traffic all the way home and we arrived before 10PM.

Special Prayer Session

One of the most contested things about Israeli Independence day among various religious sects is whether to say hallel and if so, with a bracha or without. Before moving to Israel, I had never celebrated Israeli Independence Day (though as I'm writing this, I seem to recall a BBQ at my parents house once). After I got here I joined a religious zionist community and started celebrating the independence. I have been going to special prayers every year since I got here, though I still haven't said hallel with a bracha. It's a lot more then just hallel, they add in a whole bunch of stuff including blowing the shofar at night and reading a haftorah (without a bracha) during the day.

This year after the bris, we had thought we were going to hang out with my aunt and uncle who are here (for the first time) on a mission. We couldn't get ahold of them right away so we decided to go to the kotel for a little bit. They called as we were driving to their hotel and told us that the group was doing something that evening, so they wouldn't be able to get together with us until the next day for the family BBQ. We realized after we hung up that their hotel was across the street from the parking lot, so we stopped in the hotel anyways and visited for a bit. We continued on our way to the wall and the kids were all complaining that they were starving hungry (apparantly they forgot you are supposed to eat at a bris) so we stopped for pizza (70 shekel a pie in the old city, איזה מכה.

We then realized that we would be right on time for special prayers at the wall, so we hurried on down. They were just finishing up the speeches and we watched as they raised the flag to full mast and put out the big memorial flame that had been burning next to the Wall throughout Memorial Day. We then proceeded to do special prayers. Special Prayers (which includes the normal evening service) was very, very long. The first part was read repetitively half of a pasuk by the chazzan and the other half by the people, sometime. They were chanting sefardically as well (though nobody slaughtered a goat) and tried to throw in the tune of Hatikva as many times as they could during the reading/chanting. Hallel took way too long. Did you know that you could do the entire hatikva tune for each הודו לה' כי טוב. I hadn't know it was possible.

We decided to leave immediately afterwards and did not stay for the dancing.

We got to my brother's in Modiin (where we were staying) around 11:00 PM and then we started the grill up. My brother made a rub for the grilled chicken that was a bit strong, it was based on spicy paprika. It was a good way to end the evening.

the bris

My brother's child had his bris on Memorial Day so we headed on down to jlem for the festivities. There is a dichotomy of emotions involved when memorial day meshes with a happy occasion, as you have to intertwine the seriousness of the day and the sensitivities of the people remembering their lost ones along with the happiness of the day.

The child was named Shoham Amitai. In my brother's speech he said that he didn't want to name after a dead person and especially not after someone who died so young, so he hinted at a friend of his who was killed in action during the Lebanon war, whose name was Amichai. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the name had to signify both Holocaust Day (the day of birth) as well as Memorial Day (the day of bris). Though my brother did not mention it (and probably doesn't know), the name Shoham hints at the holocaust as the Shoham Geriatric Center in Pardes Hanna is the home to the larget number of first generation Holocaust survivors in Israel.

May baby Hammy be zoche to Torah, Chuppah and good deeds.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

memorial day

Today is Memorial Day in Israel, whcih is noted in a different manner then Memorial Day in the US. This is a very solemn day, there are no big sales or BBQs, as most of the population in Israel has lost a loved one in Israel's wars. This is a day for visiting graves, of family or friends who you served with in the army.

I feel very much an outsider on this day, as I did not serve in the army and in my family only one brother served in the army and he made it out unharmed, thank God.

Last night, we went to the city's memorial service, which included the El Malei Rachamim, and a speech by one the city's rabbis as well as other people. The mayor did not get up to tell us how important he was, though the MC let us know. They have a slideshow where they mention all of the locals who were killed in Israel's wars. It is a very touching service, though a bit much for the little ones so we left in the middle.

Monday, April 27, 2009

word for single purpose item

In Hebrew I have often heard the term yehudi when talking about something that has a single use. For example, if I want my own server for something that would say it is a sherut yehudi.

The word yehudi means Jewish, and I thought it was funny that they would use that term in Hebrew to talk about designating something for a specific purpose. I have used the term myself and people have understood me.

Today I learned that the word that is used in not yehudi, Jewish, it is yeudi, designated. The difference in spelling is יהודי vs. ייעודי. Hebes (native hebrew speakers) don't always pronounce the hay, so they can sound the same.

I realized this when reading some literature and it suddenly struck me that the word they were using was the word tht I thought was something else.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

mazel tov

My little brother had a baby boy today. It is Holocaust day and the bris will be on Memorial Day. I wonder if the planning people did this on purpose. Anybody born on Yom Hashoah should have their bris on Yom Hazikaron.

They are going to need a name that will incorporate all of these events, such as Massuah or something similar.

Friday, April 10, 2009

the pesach seder

Seder was surprisingly fun. We ended up without any guests and the army never sent me the soldiers that I requested, so we were going to be alone. Seder is generally more fun with more people so we were a bit sad. We heard another family was without guests, so we invited them over. They turned us down and then invited us the next day. We agreed and invited them for lunch.

There are a number of different kinds of seder people. Some people read through the hagaddah quickly without commentary, other people discuss it, some people like to analyse every word and other families sing the whole thing. We like to discuss the hagaddah on the level of the children at the table, and the family we went to is more of a read it through kind. We didn't really discuss it, but we compromised as I interrupted the reading with questions and discussion points. I had prizes for the different age groups and the mixture of our 2 styles went very well.
I asked a couple difficult questions, one of which was partially answered by their teenage daughter who had been listening when I spoke to bnei akiva on shabbos. I hadn't given them the full answer, to the question I asked, but I was amazed that she was able to repeat what I had told them.

They brought a gift when they came for lunch and we hadn't brought a gift when we went to them, which is kind of awkward. Now we have to decide if we have to gift them back. The intricacies of human relations are always confusing.

One thing that is very different about where I grew up and where my children go to school is there is no focus on the hagaddah in my children's schools. I always came home with notebooks full of information on the hagaddah, as did my siblings. My children didn't know the first thing about it and I went through it a little bit before the seder with each of them so they would be prepared.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Blessing God for the sun

Every 28 years, on the day before Pesach, the sun is in the exact spot that it was on the day that God created it (at least according to Abaye). To celebrate this we say a special blessing to God, who creates things. My wife wore a yellow scarf in honor of the day.

Today was that day. The last time this happened I was 5 years old and I don't remember it. Today someone in shul asked me to remember him the next time I say the prayer. He just turned 60 and assumes he won't be around for the next time around.

I went to 2 sun blessing ceremonies, the first was at our shul after davening. Everyone went outside and said the bracha together. The second one was the community event, where there were speeches (The head of the religious party, an official rabbi and the mayor) and musical accompanyment. I went with the wife and children to that one.

If you haven't thought about it recently, just look up at say out loud, "Thank God for the sun"

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

searching for chametz

Tonight begins the search for chametz. We do this even though my wife
has already been through the house and is sure that the house is ready
for Pesach. The odd thing is that sometimes we find chametz. This is
not, chas vshalom, a criticism on the cleaning efforts, this is a fact
of life. Some things get missed.

We should learn a life lesson from this process.

As we continue through life striving for perfection it is worthwhile to
stop and do a check and see if the part of your life that you have
"cleaned up" is truly clean or if there is still a bit of chametz lying
around. It is only when we take the time to do the check, as opposed to
all the time spent cleaning that we are able to find the missing spots.

This year after you finish your search for chametz, take a minute and
think of a way that you could finish a process of making yourself
better/cleaner spiritually/physically and how you would be able to do a
search afterwards to make sure that the process did not leave any spots

Have a great Pesach.

Monday, April 06, 2009

(non) kosher for pesach

I was talking to a co-worker about Pesach and what the company does on
Chol Hamoed. I believe they generally order from places that are not
kosher for pasech. My co-worker is not religious and does not keep
kosher, but he was concerned that there wouldn't be anything for him to
eat. He does not eat chametz on pesach. He doesn't necessarily keep
kosher during the holiday, in fact he told me one of his favorite pesach
foods growing up was matza, cream cheese and meat.

Very odd, but in my opinion it is better to keep Pesach wrong and at
least identify with your Jewishness then not to keep it at all.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

another false alarm

Today my wife called me that the air raid siren went off while she was
grocery shopping. She didn't hear the siren in the store but was told
about it by someone afterwards. They have already announced that it was
a false alarm and that they will be checking into the spate of false
alarms recently. According to one of our commenters, it is a natural
reaction by the radar watcher who were wrong on thinking that real ones
were false, which is understandable but still keeps us on edge.

My children are currently all out and about, the oldest one is who knows
where with a friend, and 2-4 were at the park with friends. They have an
older girl with them, but she's only 13. I hope they didn't completely
flip out, especially since they were at the park close to the siren.

bnei akiva peula

Bnei Akiva asked me to do a "peula" for them on Friday night. Peula means activity, but it is actually supposed to be an interactive discussion on any topic that I want.

I actually volunteered to be on the list of people they call, after they posted a letter in our shul lamenting how hard it was to get anybody to help them out and it was our responsibility to provide them with quality peulot and they posted a sign up sheet for anybody willing to give one. So I posted my name and a month later they called me.

The age group is high shool (15-18) and I recognized most of the kids by face, if not by name, and most of them knew who I was. I had heard a great Radio Lab a while ago which gave a situation that is perfect for a teenage discussion.

You are standing on a bridge and you see a train coming towards the bridge. You look behind you and see that the tracks are broken and end in a big pit. If the train keeps going it will fall in the ditch and kill or injure hundreds of people. There is no way for you to warn the train. You have 30 seconds before it arrives. Suddenly you notice a fat man sitting on the bridge over the tracks. Not just a regular fat man, huge. You know that if you push the fat man, he will fall on the tracks and stop the train. He will die, but all the other people will be saved.

Would you go over and push the fat man?

On Radio Lab they asked this question and alomost everyone said no. They then changed the question slightly.

You are on the same bridge, and see the same train going towards the same problem. This time there are a parallel set of tracks and the fat man is sitting on the parallel tracks with his back towards the train. Next to you is a lever and if you pull the lever you will switch the tracks that the train is going on and it will kill the fat man and save all the people on the train.

Would you pull the lever?

This time, a signaificant number of people answered yes.

So I put the question to the teenagers. The topic of my discussion was not, would you kill a man to save 500. It was on making decisions and what goes into them. I gave them both cases, they didn't see any real difference between the two cases and if a teenager is going to theoretically kill someone he would prefer to push him.

There were about 70 kids in the room,50 girls and 20 boys, sitting separately (who would have thought that would happen in BA), so it was easy to see the differences between boy responses and girl responses.
In the initial response, only 7 people answered, 5 wanted to kill him and 2 didn't. I explained to everyone that all of the rest decided not to make a decision, which was a decision in of itself.

I changed the role of the fat man a number of times to gauge the responses:
* What if the fat man broke the tracks dug the pit?
Suddenly a lot of the kids wanted to kill him and there were a bunch who decided that we shouldn't kill him, even though they hadn't decided not to kill him before (from the undecideds).
* What if he was your friend?
* What if you know he had 5 kids at home?
* What if your brother was on the train?
* What if he wasn't Jewish, but he was completely innocent, someone from Mexico that had never seen a Jew before?
Here a couple kids said that didn't see any difference if he was Jewish or not, and an argument broke out about whether his descendents would become terrorists.

To finish off, I explained to them that the facts of the situation remained the same during all of the scenarios. What changed was the emotional factor. I told them that we are always aking decisions and emotion plays a big part in it and that it is very important to understand ourselves and understand what pressures we are open to, and what our buttons were that cause us to react when pushed. I told them that if they did not understand what made them tick, then they were open to manipulation as soon as someone else figured out what buttons to push.

Finally I tied it into Pesach, and expalined that when God hardened Pharoah's heart, he removed the emotional equation. From a logical perspective, Pharoah still wanted to keep the Jews enslaved. However, he had reached a breaking point emotionally. God therefore removed the emotional factor from him so that he could finish showing Egypt, and the world, the rest of the plagues, until form a logical perspective they recognized that God ran the world and all of nature and decided that if God decided that the Jews should leave, he could take them.

I got mad reviews, everyone loved it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

lieberman and annapolis

Avigdor Lieberman, the new Foreign Minister of Israel, responded to
Tzipi Livni's speech, in which she berated him and everyone else in the
government, with a proverbial slap in the face.

Livni has been spent countless hours working on the Annapolis initiative
for peace, which was what the former government had based their peace
efforts on. However, this initiative was never ratified by any Israeli
government. The latest peace initiative that was ratified by the Israeli
government was the Road Map for Peace brought by the Quartet. Lieberman
started his first day in office by declaring Annapolis dead and buried
and declared that Israel would only be obligated to the ROad Map which
was approved by an Israeli government.

The Road Map for Peace has stages including obligations that the arabs
have to fulfill before Israel has to continue fulfilling. The reason why
Livni needed Annapolis was because Israel had already gone beyond its
obligations and the arabs hadn't done anything. In order to keep the
ball rolling towards ??peace?? Livni created a new initiative to
obligate Israel to more concessions without asking anything in return.

It's a good thing for the country that the only thing she can do now is
shriek from the opposition instead of continuing her policy of damage
towards Israel.

air raid siren

My wife just called that they are down in the bomb shelter again. She
didn't hear any booms and it was only a single siren. They were probably
cleaning the siren for Pesach when it went off by accident.

lone soldiers

We would like to invite 2 lone soldiers (חיילים\חיילות בודדים) for the first day of Pesach.
Does anyone know who to get in touch with?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

new government

Netanyahu presented his government yesterday and then he and Livni spoke. I prefer Netanyahu to Livni as prime minister, but I think he paid too large of a price. I also feel that the government is way too big. 1/4 of the Knesset members are ministers. Netanyahu's speech was very positive and he was constantly heckled by Kadima members. Livni's speech was bitter. There are no other words for it. She personally attacked everyone in the government, basically calling them a bunch of liars and thieves.

Livni is just a bitter old woman, crying that she received more mandates, so she deserves something.

Netanyahu did not mention the Kadima corruption in his speech, he thanked the former prime minister and did not wish him a comfortable prison cell. He did not talk aboout how crappy the last government was. One of the prices of victory is that it is very hard to attack the losers and make sure they stay losers for ever. Hopefully Netanyahu's government will actually do something positive in the next couple years.

Regarding the National Union - On one hand I'm sad that they were left out of the government, because I share a lot of the same ideas and plans as National Union voters. On the other hand, I'm happy they were left out because they are a bunch of backstabbing fools who don't know when to say enough. I feel that the NU and their voters are the epitome of "My power and the strength of my hand won for me this victory."

I'm also not happy that Labor is in the government. Barak is a crackhead and will probably be deposed of in the next Labor primary.

We'll see in the upcoming months if Lieberman is indicted for his crimes that have been investigated for the last 10 years. None of the facts have changed in 10 years, the issues just come out during election season. How odd is that.

Finally the Jewish Home, Daniel Hershkovitz's party settled for minister of Science. I really wanted education, but I guess science is part of education. Hopefully they can throw a bit of Judaism on the fire and have some spirituality and Zionism thrown back into the equation.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

not like jack

In our shul there is a small group of daf yomi learners, who learn by themselves (myself included). We often discuss the daf or include references to it in our conversation.
I generally do the daf during davening, not during the actual prayers, but during Torah reading, or when the shatz repeats shemona esrei. Sometimes, I'll see something in Rashi or something that doesn't make sense in the daf and I want to go and show it to someone. Then I remember. I am not Jack. And I hold myself back and wait until after davening till I discuss the daf.

There was this baalabus in a yeshiva (somewhere in America) that spent the entire time on shabbos davening learning. I never saw him with a siddur in his hand. We'll call him Jack. Probably a couple dozen times during the davening he would yell loudly to the mashgiach, "Look at this!!" As if the mashgiach had never seen whatever it was that he was looking at. First of all, we didn't like Jack, or his kids. Secondly we felt that it was the wrong time to be having a chavrussa.

Now that I'm more grown up, I realize that davening is an excellent time for learning. I understand that it is the wrong time, as I should be concentrating on the prayers, and when I have my boys with me I don't look in my gemara at all (Educational purposes). But it is a time when I have dedicated to religious time, so instead of reading the Torah pamphlets that everyone else is reading, I go through the daf.

But I am not Jack. I don't disturb other people's davening with my insights or questions on the page. I am not Jack, I spend time actually davening during the service. I won;t say that I am doing it correctly, but at least, I am not like Jack.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

tremp to a kibbutz

Last week I gave a girl a tremp from the Technion campus to the junction near the kibbutz she lives at. I asked her if she was a kibbutznik and she replied that her parents are. She is planning on leaving the kibbutz when she moves on. She said that the idealism is mostly gone and the beaurocracy is way too suffocating. When she grows up she does not want to have a committee decide on everything that she wants to do. She needs more freedom of movement. I suppose there was probably some sort of disagreement in the kibbutz about her going to to the Technion, but it could be a lot of other things as well.

I explained to her that there is a tight framework around everything in life and the kibbutz is probably just an exaggerated example. I gave her the example of my life, in which I have a wife and 5 children and work. I enjoy my life, but there is a very tight framework deciding what I do and when I do it. Even single people with few responsibilities cannot go and do whatever they want. They have to get up in the morning for work, they cannot just decide to take off whenever they want, etc..

I also explained that with the responsibility and framework comes all the benefits.

She was unconvinced and I wished her luck in her future.

judification of our village

I attended an urgent meeting last night on the topic of Judification of our village. Apparently a lot of Arabs are moving in and people would like to stop the trend. There is a rumor that this is an intentional move and Saudi Arabia is funding Arabs moving into Jewish neighborhoods. In some cases the Arabs are offering more then the asking price to convince the seller to sell to them.

We discussed a multi-level plan.
1) Buy houses - There is a definite lack of quality rental properties in the area and a high demand. There is a current NBN initiative to move new immigrants to the Galilee and our village is one of the featured places. Buying property for rental is a solid investment.
There is an organization called Moreshet Galil that is involved in buying houses in the area and keeping it Jewish. One of their proposals is to form real estate investment groups, where people buy houses together. Their first proposal is a house for approximately $120,000 with someone prepared to rent the house for approximately $475/month. He is looking for 5 investors to split the house and already has 3 people at $24,000 a piece and is looking for 2 more. It will provide revenue of approximately $95.00 per month, which is a much better rate then you would get on almost any other investment at the moment.

Another thing we talked about was making the new communities that are being planned into closed neighborhoods where any buyer would have to be accepted by the acceptence committee.

Someone propsed making it less comfortable for them to live in our neighborhoods.

Lastly, we discussed the economic problems of the area and how we can improve it.

It was an interesting discussion, and I will probably have more to discuss on this in the upcoming months.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

not hit

On Saturday night my SIL calls right after shabbos to find out if we are still alive. Apparantly there had been a rocket attack in our neighborhood over shabbos and people were injured. We hadn't heard anything, except for a lot of thunder. We checked the news reports and it said a village near ours was hit, but the village was not mentioned. This might be under military censor still, so I'll only say it was a Christian arab village that was hit. This village has been around since the days of the crusaders and has a crusader castle on the other side of it. Also of interest to note, this village is right next to the village where Gilad Shalit is from.

That news ended a very interesting shabbos. We had 3 boys from Anywhere in Israel who were looking for an out-of-the-ordinary shabbos. We had a nice friday night with pouring rain. Unfortunately the basement flooded and all of their stuff got soaking wet. We had fixed the problem of rain coming into the basement, but 6 hours of straight rain overcame our defenses.

I told the boys that not only did they get flooded, they also survived a rocket attack. I suggested that the next time they seek adventure, maybe they should think again.

Monday, January 19, 2009


It seems like Israel really likes these one sided deals in Gaza. They walked out of the Gaza strip without an agreement, and that is what brought us this war. They are now walking out of gaza again without an agreement, and you can bet that they won't have a problem shooting rockets at us as soon as the last soldier leaves the strip, if they wait that long.

What I heard from the PM was laughable, given the history. "If they fire on us we will respond severely." I laugh at that statement even as I write it. You can almost hear Rabin saying, "if they shoot at us with the weapons we gave them then we will go in and take them back." Or how about Sharon, "if they dare to shoot one rocket at us after we leave Gaza, we will take it back." In other words, Olmert has decided that we've killed too many bad guys for now, so we will give them time to stock up on more weapons so that they are more prepared for the next round.

The northern border has been quiet for the past couple days and we're hoping it will remain that way.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Galilee sporadic attacks

Well I guess that free punch was just the beginning. Rockets were shot at Kiryat Shmona and my wife said some hit Kabri as well, those that was not reported on the news. I think it means they are getting nervous that we are nearing our goal in Gaza. They are keeping us off-balance at the moment.
We had just offered to watch my brother's kids while they go to have another baby. They aren't sure if the north is the best place to send the kids to right now. They live in peaceful, quiet Samaria.

I think we are sending some artillery into southern Lebanon to show them that we aren't complete wussies, but we haven't attacked Beirut yet. UNIFIL is still scratching their heads as they try to figure out what the best way to condemn Israel for getting rockets shot at herself again. This is supposed to be a group that is charged with shooting the bad guys. This is their entire purpose of existence. Lets hope they can figure out which way the barrel should be pointing before Israel has to go in and do the job itself.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

ctrl Alt up arrow

In Windows XP sometimes the screen gets turned in the wrong direction. So you are looking at it sideways or upside down. The easiest way to deal with this problem is to physically turn the monitor on to its side or upside down and then it will be the correct orientation. Another way of doing it is by clicking ctrl+Alt+up arrow. The orientation was most probably changed that way to begin with (clicking ctrl+alt+other arrow).

Sometimes life is like that too. You do something small and find that suddenly your orientation is way off. The easiest way of dealing with it is to adapt to your new orientation, such as turning your monitor upside down. The more correct way of correcting it is to figure out how to get your orientation back the way you want it to be and hopefully on the way figure out how it got screwed up.

In the JPost today there was a story about a teenager (17 year old) who was convicted of killing his mother and wounding his father because they took away his video game. The judge said that he firmly believed that the boy did not realize that by killing his parents they would be gone forever, however he denied an insanity plea and said the boy was responsible for his actions. Talk about needing a reorientation.

UPDATE: I just realized that while this story was in the jpost, it did not happen in Israel.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Haifa was not hit

Haifa was not hit. Don't worry we're all ok. This is the message we passed along to my wife's grandma after she got ver worried when she heard that Haifa was hit yesterday. I was here, nothing happened. At least nothing out of the ordinary - other then me buying shoes, which I don't normally do.

There is a push now to ban Balad, one of the Arab political parties, from participating in the upcoming Knesset elections. The party's platform includes armed struggle against the state and the destruction of its Jewish character. Kadima is trying to look more and more right wing because of the war is actually going to support the motion, while Labor is going to vote against.

The natives are getting restless and there will probably be more riots if the motion actually passes. the last time they did this the supreme court invalidated the vote and let them participate.

Balad's official response to the proceedings are that they stand by their platform.

The question is should a democracy allow a voice calling for the state's destruction? If the majority of people vote that they prefer a dictatorship to a democracy, do they take away their own inherent right to be self-deterministic? When the majority of German's voted for Hitler, did that make the actions that he did, which he promised before he was elected, moral? Or moral for the German people? Or is democracy not equal to morality?
If the majority of Gazans vote to annihilate Israel, does that make them all the enemy and remove from them any status of innocent civilian?

Deep thoughts by Sim

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I finally decided the time had come for new shoes. My New Balance of 1+ years were completely destroyed after having served me faithfully for about 2 years. I showed them to the guy in the shoe store and he said he had never seen New Balance look like that before.
I am very hard on shoes, I am a two pair of shoes kind of guy, 1 for shabbos, holidays and other assorted looking fancy occassions and the other for everything else. I also have sandals, but I don't consider them shoes. I went to the Grand Canyon today, the big mall in Haifa (Canyon is Hebrew for mall). I explained to the guy in the store that I am hard on shoes and I need the entire front to be solid leather, not netting or material as I would rip right through that. He had never heard of anyone doing that before but I chalk that up to his inexperience.

He had some Air Jordans, which he said were the best quality that he had, but I told him I had a problem buying those. He was a bit confused, so I told him I was from Detroit. He told me that it shouldn't be so personal, because Jordan would have played for whatever team gave him the most money. Israelis do not understand sports. In the end he didn't have any other quality shoes, so I bought these. I feel like my feet should throw up.

Friday, January 09, 2009

leftists suck

It looks like the war chants were a bit early. One barrage, a war does not make. I think they were testing the water or throwing a free punch.

I want to wish a happy birthday to my little sister who turned 18 yesterday.

Anyways, for shabbos we are heading off to Bet-shemesh to spend it with the BIL. This was planned in advance and is not related to the rocket fire. Bet Shemesh is within firing range of Gaza, it is about 40 KM away, though they haven't been hit yet. Hamas probably wants to avoid the Tel Aviv area because they know that if the lefties have to go into their bomb shelter even one time it will kill the support they enjoy there. Udi Aloni suggested, in a ynetnews article, that Israelis should happily accept the rockets from Hamas as it is our fault that they are unhappy. The entire family is a bunch of nutcases. Someone should check into how much of his monthly income comes from Europeans.

TrainTalk pointed me towards a eureferndum blog post which discussed how Hamas is not only using women and children as human shields, but is actively trying to get them killed so as to maximize their pity power. I think it's important to see exactly who we are dealing with.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

sonic booms???

My wife heard a boom earlier and she called me to ask if there was anything on the news. I told her that she was the news and there wouldn't be anything on for at least 10 minutes. I listened to the news afterwards and there was a live report of someone from Lebanon who saw the rocket take off towards Israel. After that there was a report from Nahariya that rockets had landed. The reports were from someone who was "very experienced" according to the radio. The Home Front Command denied the reports and said with absolute certainty that there was no second barrage and the noise that was heard was from sonic booms.

I came home early today because my wife had an appointment with my older daughter and I have to get the baby from gan. It just turned out to be on Katyusha day, luckily for us.

activating the war blog

I've been very lax at blogging recenty. This is mostly because I have completely run out of time. I fired my system admin at work recently, and now I have his work to do on top of mine. That and the rest of life has just left me with no time at all.

This morning my wife called and asked if she should take the kids home because rockets hit in our area. They haven't hit our village yet, but it's probably only a matter of time. Two minutes after I hung up with her, Jameel called to find out if we were still alive.

During warfare I feel a greater responsibility to blog then during peacetime (or non-active war, as is the general state in Israel). This is to keep people informed about what is really going on. The media outlets generally have such garbage and try to equate our suffering to their suffering. There is no comparison. Their suffering is self-inflicted and our suffering is inflicted by them. In other words they inflict suffering on everyone. It's about time we wiped them out.

We are still working out our family war plan, and I will keep you updated as the war progresses.

At the moment, the kids are all in school and we are waiting for instructions from the warroom as to whether we are taking them home or not. For the moment everything is just tense.

It's a good thing I only planned on working half a day today.