When Will They Learn? – Israeli Drivers

Yesterday we had a business meeting at 0230 in Tel Aviv. We set off in plenty of time and should have made it there in time.

Hitting heavy traffic on the main road around Ashdod and Yavne we turned on the radio to hear the traffic news. The reporter said that there had been a very serious accident at the next junction, resulting in delays of approximately an hour and half – the advice was to avoid going there at all costs.
As we crawled along, we wondered how bad it could be. We called ahead to our meeting to say we would be very late.

We finally approached and saw the area, cordoned off with police cars and no ambulances, then as we got closer, the two vans with the Logos of Zaka (a unit made up of orthodox men, specially trained and qualified to clean up all body parts, since in Judaism in order to bury the dead, all body parts must be accounted for)

We’d clearly got there in the aftermath, up ahead there was a big truck parked on the side. Other than being sure that there had been a fatality of some sort, it was hard to work out what had happened.

When we arrived to our business meeting, our acquaintance told us that she had just found out on the radio what had happened. A young married couple in their twenties had stopped on the side of the road to change a tyre and the truck had run them both over and killed them. She had been pregnant.

There are far too many road accidents in this country. The driving skills of many Israelis are horrifying, to say the least, and I dread the day when I will have to start driving in this country and enter its auto-jungle. Should I behave so many tailgating cutting in without warning? Is that the only way to survive the roads here?!

When will they learn? How many more lives will it take?

Quite poignantly yesterday we celebrated our third wedding anniversary. I thought about the couple who would be buried the next day and their mourning families while we were celebrating our anniversary last night.

Today’s newspapers showed today the couple’s wedding photo with the story behind it. What a waste. What a tragedy.

Dear Israeli’s please stop driving like a bunch of crazies. Yes, you should be offended. It is disgusting. We should all be ashamed.

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An Open Plea to Slumbering Ostriches

If Jews are forbidden from eating Ostrich, why are some so comfortable behaving like them?

Nu? Which camp did you fall into when you heard about the savage Anti-Semitic attack carried out by the aspiring cannibal at SOAS University UK yesterday?

When you heard about it, did you experience a stab of guilt that you were not there to help protect a fellow Jew? Did you reprimand yourself that you have been far too absent lately from the field? Sure in your university hey day you did some stuff here and there.  You may even attend some Zionist social events now and again. Was there a moment of regret that you had seen those emails and links flying about regarding such events but you just had so many other things to do, not helped by the fact that sometimes these things can be unpleasant…..Still, you are feeling now a little more willing to attend such events…?

I know, I know. Don’t worry. Busy? Me too. I challenge you to a game of “who has a fuller life?”. I bet you I win.  Plate full? Ha! Try overflowing.

Or on the other hand, did the attack send shudders down your spine? Ladies, did you turn to your respectable Jewish husbands and tell them, “I told you these things were bloody dangerous, don’t you dare even think of going to any of these events”. Or guys, perhaps  you “don’t need no lady telling what to do?” Maybe the attack sent shivers down your spine and you congratulated yourself on how damn right you were to stay with your head firmly burrowed deep in the sand.

Mind you guys, let us remind ourselves that when our head is so deeply buried in the sand like a proud ostrich, it raises ones backside a little higher thus helping our Enemies to aim perfectly and do the deed that my ladylike manners will not permit me to spell out. After all, why should we make it hard for them (if you pardon the pun that hopefully you’ve missed)? Let us assume the position and help them out! We are British after all. So damn accommodating.

So, which camp have you pitched your tent in?

Would it have made a difference to both camps if someone was G-d forbid ….killed?

Then what?

What additional sign are you waiting for to get out of your slumber? What would be your wake up call? A death? Where are my brothers and sisters and why did four go alone to the snake pit of SOAS? Why did we let them go there and not use our chutzpah to make it our business to see that they were safe, that enough were going there etc?  We’re good at sticking our nose into all sorts of things (don’t deny it, you know it’s true). Why don’t we stick our nose into this and make it our business to help out? My soul is restless and troubled with these questions and I am hoping that yours is too.

EVERYONE has a skill/talent that can contribute.

I also plead to those in their comfort zone of attending Zionist social events, concerts, purely educational events step outside their comfort zone and put it all to good use. Otherwise, frankly speaking, what is the point of grinding water and preaching to the converted at such pleasant events? Grow some balls! Get out there and join us! That goes for the ladies too despite the fact that many men would object to it (the growing balls part). Who’s asking them anyway? ;-)

If you made it this far, give yourself a big pat on the back, your head a big shake to remove all that sand in your face and get in touch with Stand With Us Uk to see how you can get involved in reviving Israel Activism in this country. Sheer numbers alone will help us protect each other.

If we don’t look after each other, who will?


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While They Were Sleeping

Of Slaughtering Sleeping Angels

Sometimes friends and strangers consult me about child-rearing. I often give the advice not to make important decisions when you’re angry, you’ll be likely to regret them. The same goes for marriage and many other areas of life.

I’m angry today, because a family was slaughtered. I’m furious because someone who breathes the same air as I do butchered two children and a baby with his knife. Today I am not rational and I can’t reason. Every fibre of my being wants to be left alone with the creature who murdered a baby. I care not if he is defenceless. Let him wave a white flag and I’ll redden it with blood. Maybe he has already won because he’s caused me to think as he does. I always said that they’d never defeat me until they caused me to hate them. Today I’m angry so don’t talk to me about a Palestinian state. Don’t ask me to compromise or understand the suffering of my enemies. Perhaps that is one more reason why Jews are made to sit and mourn for seven days after a death, cut off from the important decisions of life.

Today I need to mourn five people I never knew. I need to look at my own family, my four children and think unthinkable, unrepeatable thoughts. Tonight I must argue with my Maker once again and ask him why.

Tomorrow I’ll wake up and recite the morning prayer Modeh Ani, thanking Him for returning me my soul with compassion. Maybe I’ll read again the story of the Ten Martyrs. For the hundredth time I’ll reach the moment when Rabbi Yishmael is being burned alive. When the fire reached the place on his head where he would put his tefillin and he knew he would never wear them again the shrieked to the Moulder of his soul. Angels cried out to G-d, “Is this the Torah? Is this its reward?” I’ll cry again as a heavenly voice responded, “If I hear another sound, I will transform the universe to water! I will turn the earth to astonishing emptiness!”

I’ll sit in my garden over mint tea and debate with friends about a Talmudic ox that was stolen a thousand years ago. Someone must pay for it. Slowly reason will take the place of passion once more. I’ll remind myself that we are the most fortunate generation of the Nation of Israel since the time of Moses. Every day we live a life that our grandparents and their grandparents could only dream of and pray for. No murderer with a knife will take that away. Slowly the anger will pass. I’ll stop hating them, and already I’ll have won.

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Confessions of an Islamophobe

Recently, I think I was accused of being an Islamophobe. I’m not sure how the word is spelt as Microsoft Word spell-check doesn’t seem to recognize it, nor to the best of my knowledge has this supposed disorder been recognized by any academic journal or body. It appears to be a kind of catch-all answer to be used in any cases where the religion Islam or any Islamic group is criticized.

Stephen Suleyman Schwartz was born (in 1948) of a Jewish father and protestant mother.

Stephen Suleyman Schwartz

He began life following in Dad’s footsteps as a Stalinist, but later became a Trotskyite.  By the 1990s, his barmy journey led him to support the US’s Iraq War (apparently many Trots did) and also to convert to Islam in 1997. Today he describes himself as an adherent of the Hanafi school of Islam religiously and a Neoconservative politically.

Early Inspiration

Not surprisingly, Schwartz does not mention any of this when writing as Stephen Schwartz. describing Islamaphobia sounds far more credible than Abu-Trotsky. Here’s a nice Jewish boy writing about Islamophobia. What axe could he possibly have to grind?

http://archive.frontpagemag.com/Printable.aspx?ArtId=8781

After starting well:

It is seldom noticed, however, that the Wahhabi lobby engages in its own forms of profiling, which mainly consist of branding every opponent of Islamist radicalism an “Islamophobe.” In addition, the charge often includes labeling of such critics as Jews, Zionists, and Israeli agents…”

Who could argue with any of that? He has both our attention and trust, so now he gets to his real point:

“Notwithstanding the arguments of some Westerners, Islamophobia exists; it is not a myth.”

And now the good bit. What are the symptoms of this appalling ailment?

Again, if you want to convince somebody of crap, then mix it up with sensible statements. Your reader will say, “Well, the first and second bits were fine, so I guess the third one must be correct too.” Indeed, symptoms one and two seem quite rational:

  • attacking the entire religion of Islam as a problem for the world;
  • condemning all of Islam and its history as extremist;

Islamophobia is not really a recognized condition, but who would dispute the fact that these two crass generalizations are wrong? Then the barmy one is fiendishly slipped in:

  • denying the active existence, in the contemporary world, of a moderate Muslim majority;

Nobody would deny that there are both moderates and extremists in the Moslem world. These are not absolute, but relative terms and an Ayatollah in Iran may well see himself as a moderate, while somebody else may describe a Harvard lecturer in Islam as an extremist. It is impossible to objectively count off how many extremists and how many moderates there are until universally recognized definitions of both terms have been reached. Ask me whether to my mind the majority is extremist or moderate and I instinctively feel it may be the latter.

However, that’s all it is, an instinct or a feeling, a guess. Nobody can prove it anymore than they can establish whether the majority of Christians are good or bad, the majority of US citizens are clever or stupid or whether the majority of Jews are happy or sad.

Schwartz believes that the majority of Muslims are moderate, fair enough. He may be right and he may be wrong. A cynic might say that the question hardly matters since most Islamic states are rarely democratic and therefore their decisions are not determined by a majority anyway, but that’s not the point. In Schwartz’s book if you don’t agree with him about an unprovable demographic fact, then you’re an Islamophobe.

Things become clearer when we realize that Schwartz believes himself to be a moderate and an opponent of extremism. In other words, if you disagree with me about the fact that I’m in the majority I’ll brand you an Islamophobe.  From that point onwards I don’t have to refute your argument. After all you’re suffering from Islamophobia – and that’s your problem. Get help, I know a good Islamophobia-therapist.

As a footnote I tried to modify Schwartz’s method by classifying any spouse or offspring not bringing their husbands and fathers iced coffee and muffins as settlerphobes. It seemed like a good idea at the time, however, this not being a Moslem household I got less agreement than I might have hoped for. Or am I just being an Islamophobe again?

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What Would you do?

“What would you do if your government decided by a democratic parliamentary vote that Maale Adumim would be part of a Palestinian state? Would you resist?”

“I hope that’s a hypothetical question. I usually try to avoid dealing with hypothetical questions. The real ones are hard enough.” (polite laughter)

“What are you a politician? Why are you afraid to answer? What would you do if soldiers came to evict you?”

“Look, let’s not limit this question to me. After all, the dilemma is not one faced exclusively by settlers. What would an Israeli Arab do if the government decided by a democratic parliamentary vote to evict him from his house? I hope he’d do his best to resist and I hope we’d both be there to support him.

What would any of you do if your government decided to evict Jews or Arabs from their homes in Germany just because of who they are. To expel a person from his home because of his religion or ethnic origins is immoral and a democratic vote doesn’t make the decision any less monstrous. It just means that those deciding are immoral too.”

“So you would resist?”

“Yes.”

“By force? Physically?”

“Of course. That’s what resistance means.”

“How far would you go? Would you use weapons? Do you have a gun?”

“There’s an old Jewish story about a very righteous man who had found favor in the eyes of  G-d. Elijah the prophet was sent to him to grant him a wish and he asked to meet the person who would sit next to him in heaven. Elijah agreed and gave him the name of a man called Simon in a village he’d never heard of. Our hero decided to go to meet Simon; he assumed that he’d be a just and learned man like himself.

On arriving at the village the visitor asked where Simon lived. The villagers seemed to be laughing and could not understand why someone of his standing would want to meet ‘Fat Simon’.

The man arrived at Simon’s house, which was dirty and neglected as was its owner. Simon was a obese, unfriendly ignoramus who seemed to just spend most of his day eating. ‘How could this be?’ thought the righteous man. ‘Shall I be sharing eternity with this man? There must be more to him than meets the eye.’

He interrogated Fat Simon, ‘Do you study Torah? Do you give charity? Do you help people?’

‘No’ answered Fat Simon. The man would not give up. ‘Have you never done a good deed? Tell me Simon, why are you so fat?’

Finally to this question Simon had an answer. “When I was a little boy I went with my father one day to market. On the way back we were set upon by anti-Semites. After they had stolen everything, they tied my father to a tree in order to burn him to death.

You see, my father was a small, thin man and I remember watching him burn. He shouted, “Shmema Yisrael” but hadn’t even completed the first line of the prayer and he was just a cinder. In a few seconds nothing was left of my father.

I ran away and on that day I decided I would eat. I would eat and I’d eat and I’d become fatter and fatter. I’d become the fattest Jew in the world. And one day when they catch me, when they tie me to a tree, I won’t burn out in a minute. I’ll burn and I’ll burn and the fire will light up the whole world. On that day all of humanity will know that a Jew is sanctifying his Maker’s name!”

And that is why we will all resist too. Not because we can overcome the IDF, of course we can’t. I’d be petrified to live in a country in which a few old, overweight guys like me can defeat our army. Nor would I ever lift up my hand against one of my sons, and they are all my sons. But would I resist? I would.  And on that day the whole world would know that a Jew is being expelled from his home in Eretz Yisrael.”

Judah

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He Who Saves A Life…..

Picture the scene. Two doting parents returning from a late night showing at the cinema on a Saturday night. As they turn into their street at around one in the morning, they see in the distance flashing lights of what seems like an ambulance parked up ahead. No, wait a minute, there are also police lights there.

Approaching the scene they see that their house with their gorgeous baby inside is sealed off with police all over the place and the ambulance is parked outside. As the husband suddenly realises that it is their house where the alleged crime scene is, he carelessly pulls the car onto the kerb, partially blocking the whole road, leaves the engine running, and darts like an Olympic sprinter in a blind panic into the crime scene.

The officer holds his hand up to him and tells him to stay where he is. The husband is pleading and repeating “I live here, I live here, my baby is inside, what has happened?”

The wife is running close behind in her heels in dread and horror, her heart is in her mouth. The officer is sternly reprimanding the husband telling him that he cannot just run wildly like that into a crime scene. The husband does not hear nor care what the officer is saying. He just wants to be told that nothing has happened in their house where their baby was left, with her trusted baby sitter.

That, folks, is the scene that greeted us last night as we returned from watching the silly but funny new film, The Other Guys.

But this post is not about us. This post is about a young unsung hero. At this stage I don’t even know his name.

After calming down and being assured by our downstairs neighbour, who was there giving a statement to the police, that it is nothing to do with us, the story began to unfold.

However I, the wife, just went indoors to see my baby asleep, relieve the baby sitter and offer a prayer of gratitude that she was safe and well. Thank G-d. I almost cried with relief. I let my husband to deal with hearing the details.

Some of this is first-hand and some is second-hand but this is what we were told:

Directly outside our house a young girl was walking along the road when someone jumped on her. (This in itself is shocking as our street is not some small back alley but pretty busy). He (I am told a Romanian guy) pulled her to the ground and attempted to rape her. Right outside our house! She screamed and struggled.

A young boy who lives with his family two doors down (I am led to believe his is aged between 17 and 20) heard the screaming and struggling, he came outside and saw the commotion. He asked his mum what he should do and she told him to help (good woman). So he did just that.

Apparently not only did this young boy pull the guy off but he gave him a right good hiding! (hence the blood that was all over the floor). The rapist ran off into our downstairs neighbours’ back garden to escape, but thankfully was caught by the police and arrested.

My husband went a few doors down the street to meet the young unsung hero. He was there with his mum. She was quite shaken up and crying, but clearly quite proud of her boy. And so she should be! What a brave young man. The father of the girl was there too, thanking the boy and trying to make sense of everything. The police were also there  shaking the young boys hand and thanking him.

So, will he be given recognition for his courage?

The girl that he saved from rape was a young Israeli girl.

What do we, as a community propose to do to thank a young British non-Jewish youth for his bravery and for saving her from such a horrific savage act? It goes without saying that he would have helped anyone regardless of race or creed. This was simply a young guy doing the right thing. Doing the right thing, is a feat we cannot always be taken for granted in this day and age.

I intend to go and knock on their door in a few days to thank the young man and tell him how impressed I am with him and ask some questions.

Is it just me or is anyone else impressed with him? What would you have done?

If anyone has any ideas of how to show appreciation and encouragement to a young nameless unsung hero (even just writing letters etc) then please do come forward with them. He deserves more than just a handshake from the police.

All it takes for evil to triumph, is for a few good men to do nothing.

(some nice graphic pictures of the blood that is all over the pavement outside our house, the rain will wash it away)

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What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Russian army cadet Grandfather Nathan and Grandmother Polly - circa 1900

Grandfather Nathan, his young wife Polly, and the first two of their eventual ten children, landed on the shores of England at the turn of the last-but-one century. I believe that Nathan or Eli-Nachum as he was sometimes called, was actually a deserter from the Russian army. A deserter is usually a dishonorable title, and the inglorious bearer is viewed with disdain. But twenty-five years of compulsory service for young Jewish conscripts who were drafted at the age of just twelve, was reason enough for Nathan to uproot his family from their shtetl of Dobrinka in the Ukraine, and seek their fortunes on distant greener pastures.

Nathan, whom sadly I never knew but after whom I was named, confidently disembarked the ship, and though fluent in Russian and Yiddish, his smattering of unintelligible English failed to get him understood by the immigration official who was processing the newcomers.

Some may jest that the said official was anti-Semitic. Jackie Mason for one, regularly hurls such accusations. I believe that the official was guilty of nothing more than an inability to speak Russian or Yiddish. But you never know?

For the aspiring and ambitious Nathan Kopalovich, his name was probably far too Jewish for his liking. Jews would customarily tweak their surnames to adopt a more goyshe indigenous version to avoid detection as to their Jewish roots. The more devout would employ a physical hands-on method. They would curl their long overgrown sideburns around their ears to try to look inconspicuous in their thick 14th century black woolen garb.

Nathan had probably heard of the Isaacson who reinvented himself as Saxon and was aware, that in our extended family, Hirsch had done a good job assimilating as Hurst, and Cohen drew little attention as Conway.

The tale is told of how upon arrival in the reception hall, Nathan Kopalovich decided that losing the Russian suffix would cleverly fool the natives. He chose to become Nathan Kopaloff – he thought they would never know. With such a poor grounding in basic international espionage skills, it is little wonder that Grandfather Nathan was never to become a spy.

Another and more plausible version, as recounted by Cousin Martin, is that Nathan had no idea whatsoever what was going on, and that it was the immigration official, who having trouble spelling Kopalovich, took the initiative and created Kopaloff.

Akin to their place of worship, Jews have always tried to blend in. Since the collapse of the Tower of Babel, your average synagogue has been anything but an imposing structure that kisses the skyline or a towering edifice that dwarfs the landscape. The Jewish house of prayer as a rule, is an unassuming building that doesn’t want to cause any trouble and does not suffer from delusions of grandeur, sacrilegiously attributed to soaring mosques and gargantuan churches and cathedrals.

Blending in was never more striking than in the period of emancipation and in the age of enlightenment in the 18th century.

Many Jews in the German states and in central Europe, took on board Moses Mendelsohn’s advice to be a Jew indoors, and a gentlemen outside, while all too many others embraced their newly-found freedom by going that extra mile and converting to Christianity.

From Heine, F. Mendelsohn, Mahler, Gans, Offenbach, Borne, Bendemann, the list is painful and endless.

In a die-hard effort to preserve their uniqueness, orthodox Jews and Charedim in particular, would deliberately try to stick out like a sore thumb. Their reactionary intransigence provided an excellent example as to the meaning of the untranslatable “Davka.”

In an eerie symbiotic relationship, religious continuity appears to need that which is dark and medieval, in order to ensure survival.

But to the multitudes of Jews who embraced emancipation, the root cause of centuries of oppression had been their Jewishness. Now with the shackles removed, the Jewishness was best concealed.

With the breaching of the walls of the ghettoes, names were tweaked, beards and sideburns were out, and modern dress and respectful demeanor were in. Assuming immaculate mannerisms and immersing oneself in the beauties of the liberating culture would overshadow the inadequacies of their lowly birth.
Emancipation was all about seizing the opportunity, blending in, making up for lost time and getting ahead.

Some never managed to lift the curse of their Jewishness. German Finance Minister Walter Rathanau would stretch his limbs daily for want of that elusive Aryan physique. This strange practice he continued until his assassination – after which he ceased to do it.
The philosopher Otto Weininger almost saw it as a crime to pass on his inferior Jewish genes and ended up dramatically committing suicide in the same house where Beethoven had died.

Jews everywhere would agree that almost all gentiles harbored some degree of revulsion towards Jews. Pinsker wrote that “Jew hatred is a phenomenon lying deep in human psychology.” In his blanket statement, he was probably not including the “Huaorani” tribe of the Ecuadorian rain forests, who had never even heard of a Jew. He was probably just mimicking the license of the Catholic Church who would have had the “Huaorani” committed to the fires of eternal hell for not accepting as their Messiah someone they had never even heard of. But back to the Jews.

Anti-Semitism was just a murky feature of how God in his infinite wisdom, had designed the world. Even leading literary figures like Dickens and Voltaire, were ostensibly anti-Semitic, they just did not hate the Jews any more than was necessary.

In their discourse and interactions with gentiles, Jews knew their place. That is why in Russia they were never fearful when dealing with Ivan the Terrible – they knew what to expect. Terrible by name, terrible by nature.

Emancipation fell short of making its mark in the vast Romanov empire. Far fewer Jews converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church while many became communists and revolutionaries. Some were attracted to the fledgling Zionist movement while many like Nathan Kopalovich just wanted out and took to the seas in search of a brighter future.

Nathan fathered ten children. My father was the youngest and he was given the name of Sidney in English, and Shlomo in Hebrew.

Sidney married my mother Franceska (Fruma), a wartime refugee and Holocaust survivor from Czechoslovakia.

For some obscure reason, they chose to name me Nicholas. It was not after Saint Nicholas aka Father Christmas, or after one of the two Jew-hating Tsar’s of Russia, or after Pope Nicholas who was the first to sanction hereditary pagan slavery. The name had a tasteless pedigree but was intended to honor me with a name, that like my Grandfather’s, began with the letter “N”.

Either way, it seems like an inappropriate name for a nice Jewish boy from England.

Each to his own, but the cycles of history have taught me that I personally cannot live a meaningful Jewish life, orthodox or otherwise, outside of Israel.

I have come home, and my name is Nachum Yosef.

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