Sunday, July 31, 2005

HaAretz Natan L'Bnei Adam?

A side issue that I've found interesting in this whole disengagement brouhaha is that the most fascinating interviews and articles recently have been by or about rabbis. And even more interesting is that these articles haven't been in the two major dailies (Maariv and Yediot) or even the more right wing and religious friendly Jerusalem Post. Where can you read about rabbis? In the flagship of the left wing, secular elite - HaAretz.

I'm not sure if this is due to the religious background of the current editor-in-chief, David Landau, or maybe it's connected to the reporters themselves. In any case, there have been interesting interviews recently with Rav Yoel Bin-Nun and Rav Benny Lau. HaAretz also printed Rav Aharon Lichtenstein's piece about refusing orders. And the most recent post to create waves both in Israel and in the blogging world was with Rav Yaakov Meidan. I don't agree with everything he wrote, especially about the part about joining the Haredi world. (This seems particularly strange when the UTJ is sitting with Sharon in the government now.) I also remember Rav Meidan mentioning in a previous HaAretz interview (that I can't find online now) a parallel to a driver coming at you on in the wrong lane. He's wrong, you're right, but if he's coming straight at you, you need to get off the road, even driving into a ditch, in order to avoid a crash. The analogy was that while what Sharon is doing is wrong, we have to be responsible, and take our car off the road to avoid the crash. The more recent article takes a slightly different approach.

What I think is most new about this trend of HaAretz interviewing rabbis is that the other papers now have a need to play catch-up, and discuss these interviews in their own editorials and columns. In other words, the interviews themselves are becoming news.

That's what happened this week in the Jerusalem Post. Amotz Asa-el wrote an op-ed entitled, Rabbi Medan Joins Mapam. It's based on the recent HaAretz interview. I think Asa-el goes a bit far, and Rav Meidan is not nearly as extreme or messianic as Asa-el makes him out to be. And I'm sure someone who uses historical parallels as often as Asa-el does knows that Meidan wasn't being literal when he referred to a "idolatrous city".

But he does bring up a few interesting questions. Have we isolated ourselves so much that the rest of the State has a right to view us as a dangerous outside element (to their worldview?) Is Feiglinism really showing anything else? I'm not saying that revolutionaries don't have a right to say the revolution has started, but it is important to be honest about it. And every revolutionary needs to know that it is the responsibility of the establishment to put down revolutions.

Also, are we being honest when we act shocked about the disengagement plan and the very idea to uproot settlements? Tachlis, the left has been talking about this since Peel in 1937.

I don't think we should be leaving Gaza - at least not like this. But there's a real lack of historical and intellectual honesty in our camp that sometimes makes it hard for me to identify with it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

an important article

This is an important article to understand halacha, and I'm glad to see it's online.

Rupture and Reconstruction - Haym Soloveitchik

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

what happened to the Northern Shomron?

No one talks about the Northern Shomron (NS). Everyone is talking about Gush Katif (GK). Why?

There are more people in GK than in NS, but I don't think that's the reason. My gut feeling is that precisely because GK is less integrally part of Eretz Yisrael than NS, the focus is on GK. In other words, by focusing on GK, the anti-disengagement movement is saying "we are opposed to giving up any part of Eretz Yisrael - look how much we fight for GK."

But bottom line, NS is much more important, even if there are less yishuvim. They are the heartland of the country. I'm concerned that by not putting a real fight there, if as likely the pullout goes through as planned, it will be much easier to pull out of small sections of Yehuda and Shomron.

But I haven't heard anyone say that NS is more important than GK. Is it too late?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

thinking japanese

We went out to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants last night, Yoko Uno, in Tel Aviv. It's a kosher Japanese restaurant with fantastic sushi, soups, pasta and fish dishes. In my pre-kosher days in San Francisco, Japanese food was probably my favorite. There were these great soup restaurants where a bowl of miso soup with udon noodles, chicken, vegetables, eggs, etc would fill you up for an entire meal. It took me longer to enjoy Chinese food, but Japanese food always seemed more clear, more distinct than the mish-mash of Chinese stir-fry (which I love now.) It fit well in with my personality (you can pick analytic or any part of that word for the adjective.)

In a similar way, I preferred Japantown to Chinatown. Instead of small chochkey shops like in Chinatown, Japan town had stores with high technology items, and a cool modern movie theater.

All of this fascination with Japanese culture led me to an unusual choice in high school. I went to a large high school, so we had access to a wide variety of courses in every field. When it came to my foreign language requirement - I chose Japanese. In the beginning I enjoyed it, but by the third semester, I was sitting in class simply writing "I hate this" over and over again in my notebook.

This essay describes the experience perfectly: So You Want to Learn Japanese

Luckily, the size of the school that gave me the opportunity to take Japanese, also provided my salvation: I switched to Hebrew (in public school!) in the second semester of 11th grade. The difference couldn't be greater. In Japanese we had unending rules about addressing the teacher politely. In Hebrew the teacher went by his first name and we spent the whole class shmoozing.

I ended up forgetting how to read and write in Japanese within a few months of dropping the course. And now I only remember a few words. I regret it in the sense that it would be cool to know the language, but it's certainly not something I need on a daily basis.

What I do need on a daily basis is udon miso soup...

ever wonder why there's no cent sign on computer keyboards?

The Demise of the $.01 Sign

Monday, July 25, 2005

Me and Sports (yeah, right)

I was never good at sports. I never particularly enjoyed watching sports either. When I didn't have to play or watch any more, I never looked back. Although this sometimes puts me at a social disadvantage when people are talking about "the game", I think I can handle it.

But I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to review some various sports and my relationship with them:

  • Baseball: My family was always very into baseball. My grandmother started going to Red Sox games in 1925, and is still a huge fan. One story was how a neighbor heard her yelling and cursing and thought my grandfather was beating her. It turned out that he wasn't even home - she was yelling at a game on TV! My uncle loved baseball so much he ended up the president of a minor league baseball team. And in high school, my father used to bring home major league baseball players to play stickball with him and his friends.

    What about me? Well, I "had" to play little league. I was terrible. I think the experience is best described by one of my favorite comedians, Brian Regan:
    Lousy in Little League
  • Basketball: This sport I actually enjoyed playing a bit as a kid, even though I wasn't any good. But again, my family had a better connection than me. My father, for example, went to the same university as Julius Erving "Dr. J" - and they even played ball together.
  • Football: While I'm sure I must have, I don't remember ever really playing football. But it was an important game to watch. I remember being very bored on Sundays watching my family watch football. (Although the commercials on the Superbowl were fun). One big difference between football and baseball/basketball was that it was relatively easy to get tickets to the later in San Francisco, and almost impossible to the former. The only game I ever went to was a 49ers championship game, with 50 yard line seats. My father only needed to trade 2 airplane tickets to Hawaii...
  • Soccer: Boring. No interest in following it at all here. First of all it doesn't seem to have seasons - somehow it goes on all year round. And it reminds me of garinim (sunflower seeds) - way too much effort for such few results.
  • Hockey: I never played ice hockey. (Can't skate.) Floor hockey was fun in 6th grade, but haven't played since. But one game, although it's difficult to call it a sport, that I do like - air hockey. I'm actually not bad, and love to play it whenever I get a chance. Maybe some day I'll have a table at home...
  • Wrestling: This is the family sport. There was a saying in my family "Girls play volleyball, boys play football, men wrestle." My father, and brothers all wrestled in school, and my cousin nearly went to the Olympics. I never followed through like them, except for one day in high school when I thought of joining the team. Then I realized how much work was actually needed to prepare, and that ended as fast as it started.
  • Boxing: My grandfather was a boxer in the 1920s. At the time it was a very Jewish sport. He was called "Killer Cohen". But his career didn't last long. Mine was even shorter. For some crazy reason, in 5th or 6th grade, we were allowed to box, in the locker room, under the auspices of the gym teacher. I had a rival, we boxed (with no training), my head hit the wall, and I passed out. Never took that up again...
  • Volleyball: Nothing much to add here except that when I first came to Israel, I couldn't figure out why Israelis play it with their nose (if you know the Hebrew word for it, you'll understand)
  • Athletics: We had decathlon every year in 5th and 6th grades. I got hit in the teeth by a discus. Still have the marks on my teeth.
  • Golf: My brother loves golf. The closest I ever came was when we learned it in high school (it used to drive the soccer team crazy, since we practiced on their field) and miniature golf - which I'm not very good at, but have occasionally had rather good luck.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

one of the funniest things ever to ever grace the internet

SatireWire | Feature: Interview with the Search Engine

Friday, July 22, 2005

armchair quarterbacks of efrat

I subscribe to the email discussion list of my town Efrat. Despite the political moderation which Efrat (and Gush Etzion) is known for, there is often a sense of groupthink, mob mentality on the list. Sometimes I respond to issues brought up, but now temperatures and tempers are rising, and I think I'd prefer to bring up the points here, instead of on the list.

Two things:

  • Rabbi Riskin was attacked publicly for supporting a new fund designed to help the families who are set to be evacuated from Gush Katif later this summer. He was accused of demoralizing the public, admitting defeat, conceding to the enemy, etc. Besides the fact that I would hope that people here could respect opinion different from their own, I think that the approach that says we should avoid thinking about the "day after" because we hope it won't come - isn't very Jewish. We're the most pragmatic religion out there, and that's why we've survived for so long in so many difficult situations.

    I think a good example of this is something that happened recently in our shul. We've been davening there less than a year, and Tisha B'Av is coming up. Should we buy kinot? In principle, it's one of the 13 principles to believe that Mashiach will come daily. (I think that's even more of a core belief than the need to keep any given section of Eretz Yisrael, at least according to the Rambam). Is purchasing kinot before Tisha B'Av admitting defeat? Are we conceding that Mashiach won't come? Of course not. We believe that mashiach will come, but we still prepare for the future, based on what seems most likely to us now.

    (An interesting halachic side - if someone comes to Israel from Chutz L'Aretz for a visit, how can they keep two days of chag? If they believe Mashiach will come before they leave, then they will de facto make aliya and only need to keep one day. So by keeping two days, they're declaring that Mashiach won't come before they leave. I've heard this in the name of a number of rabbis, but never seen it actually printed anywhere.)
  • Today a number of people on the list got angry at the heads of Moetzet Yesha for calling off the march to Gush Katif which ended in Kfar Maimon. "Failed leadership", they decry. This really bugs me. It's one thing to say that Labor leaders like Peres, Rabin, Barak aren't good people despite all they've contributed to the State. They can easily ignore all Sharon has done for the settlements because of his current plan. If any politician strays from the path, no matter how far right they are (Bibi, Rav Benny Elon, Orlev, etc) they are in for a real lashing by the ones who really know on the Efrat list.
    So who's next? Moetzet Yesha. This is weird to me primarily because if these people really wanted to ignore the decisions of the Moetzet Yesha leadership, they could have simply stayed in Kfar Maimon. But at some point will they have the humility to say, that perhaps, just perhaps, if they were in a position of leadership, where they'd need to actually make decisions, they might end up doing something different than they think now? Or does that sound too much like "What you see from here you don't see from there..."?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

the joke still fits

Condoleezza Rice is coming to visit today, and I'm reminded of this old joke:

On one of his trips to China, Henry Kissinger was presented with silk fabric by one of the Chinese diplomats. Kissinger went to several tailors who all told him that there wasn't enough fabric in order to make a suit for him. Finally, he went to a tailor in the strictly-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem. There the tailor took Kissinger's measurements and assured him that not only would he be able to make a suit for him, there would even be enough fabric to make an extra pair of pants. Kissinger asked the tailor how this could be, when afterall, several other tailors had told him that there wasn't even enough fabric for a suit. The tailor replied, "That's because by them you're a very big man. By us, you're not so big."

it's nice to see a company that doesn't take itself too seriously

Google Copernicus Center

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A powerful article by Rav Aharon Lichtenstien

Reflections on decisive times and decisive orders

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Now this is a great cellphone accessory...

ThinkGeek :: Retro Phone Handset

Monday, July 18, 2005

What I'm reading presently


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

My daily web jog

I thought I'd share my daily web habits. I like "jog" better than surfing or browsing, since it's more of a regular routine, like a jog around the neighborhood. (Actually, I don't ever really "jog" - at most a brisk walk. During the last local elections, someone asked me if I "was running" - which in Hebrew is the same as "do you run". I said, "look at me, does it look like I run?")

I've been using the internet for quite a while, back to around 1993. For a while I used bookmarks/favorites to mark those sites where I wanted to return to visit often. But recently, I've begun taking advantage of the wonderful technology of RSS, which allows you to "subscribe" to web sites that publicize their changes. Some people use software to read their RSS feeds, but I prefer web based, since I check them both at home and work. So the first site I visit is My Yahoo! which contains many (most?) of the sites that I visit daily. It's very convienent, since I can very quickly see which sites have new content.

So on My Yahoo!, what do I check? First, the news. Ynet is the only Israeli site with an RSS feed of their own. But I also visit HaAretz regularly. And when I want to follow a breaking news story, or just see what's been going on in the past hour or so, I go to Fresh. Fresh has up to the minute headlines from most Israeli news sources (in Hebrew.) My Yahoo also has headlines from Reuters, so I can keep up with what's going on in the rest of the world.

Then comes the blogs. My regulars:

  • Chayyei Sarah. In a way, this one got me interested in the world of blogging. We have a common friend in Jerusalem, and when we had a shabbat meal together, she mentioned something (which I've long forgotten) that I wanted to lookup after shabbat. When I tried finding it on Google, I came across her blog, which led me to others, which led me to starting my own, etc.
  • Lamed. Lamed is run by a friend, neighbor and teacher, and on a daily basis has an interesting link about something in the Jewish and/or educational world.
  • An Unsealed Room. I've been following Allison Kaplan Sommer since the Gulf War (before she was a Sommer). I've always enjoyed her writing, and was pleased to come across her blog when I was looking for gossip about the management changes at the Jerusalem Post.
  • Treppenwitz. We live in the same town, although I don't think we've ever met. Constantly good writing, daily updates, interesting pictures, and often gives me cause to comment. A real leader in this field.
  • Ben Chorin. Another fellow resident (although this one I've finally met!). A fascinating thinker with much to say. After hearing him speak in public, I'm even more impressed. He's leading some amazing changes in this country - someone to watch.
  • Bloghead and Hirhurim. These two are so prolific and update their blogs so much, that I can't read every post. But to follow trends in the Jewish world, you can count on them.
  • The Slumbering Lungfish. Lore Fitzgerlad Sjoberg deserves (and I hope will get) a post of his own. Perhaps the funniest guy on the internet. I used to await weekly his new Ratings, but now that it's not being updated (although, Lore, if you read this, it's never too late to start again), I can still count on his blog to make me laugh.

Now what's the daily papers without the comics? I've always been a loyal reader of the comics (my dad and I used to fight in the morning about who would read them first.) Here are my regulars:

  • Dilbert
  • Doonesbury
  • Pearls Before Swine
  • Speed Bump
  • Fox Trot
  • Mr. Boffo

A daily site for me that's not on My Yahoo is Newsmax's Liners. They quote most of the jokes from the monolouges of talk show hosts like Leno, Letterman and Conan. Besides being funny, this is one of the best ways for me to keep up with current events in the US. When I read the news I find out about what's imporant. When I read the Liners, I find out about what people are talking about.

Some sites I visit are updated weekly, and I can remember what day of the week it is by what's coming out that day (or is it the other way around?):

  • Sunday: The New York Times Sunday Magazine. While there are often a number of interesting articles, I need to read William Safire's On Language column.
  • Wednesday: The Onion The classic satirical magazine. While some pieces fall flat, there's always a few that hit the bullseye.
  • Friday: Cecil Adams' column, The Straight Dope. The expert on everything, never ceases to enlighten the teeming millions.

All this is in addition to to the dozens of columns about computer news that I read for proffesional enrichment. Without RSS, I can't imagine how long it would take me to go to all those sites!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

there is a fish...

I got an email from the Exploratorium yesterday, telling me about the exhibit I mentioned here.

Check out the New Yorker piece in particular, it really describes the experience.

Subliminary Artworks by Bill Bell

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I saw the fish ... again

In January of 1990, I went on a Bnei Akiva shabbaton in NYC. On Saturday night, we went to some sort of mall on the ground level of the World Trade Center. There was some activity planned for all of us. We all spread around the area. At one point, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a giant red fish floating in the middle of the air. I turned around and it was gone. I thought I must have been seeing things, so I forgot about it, until it happened again. When that happened, I ran to tell one of the participants on the shabbaton. She thought I was crazy. By this point I realized that if I turned my head really quick, I could cause the images to appear. There were other images besides the fish - a basketball player, for example. Finally, after bothering both friends and people who on the shabbaton who had only known me for about a day, someone else saw the fish. And to the consternation of the counselors on the shabbaton (who wanted everyone to participate in the activity), eventually almost everyone saw the fish.

It turned out it was a borrowed exhibit from the amazing science museum in San Francisco, the Exploratorium. I haven't been able to find anything online explaining the exhibit, but what I recall was that you were meant to use mirrors, because then you'd see the floating images clearly. But you could see them briefly without the use of mirrors.

For a long time afterwards, every time I thought I knew or saw something that no one else could see, where they thought I was crazy but I knew I was right, I called "seeing the fish".

I hadn't thought about that incident for a long time until recently, when I started playing with Google Earth. One of the neat things about the program, is how you can find all sorts of things from above that no one would ever see on land. Through the supporting online forums, I've found shapes that people mowed in to fields, or placed in the middle of the desert. Pretty amazing stuff, when you think you can see it from a satellite.

Well, I thought I found my own version of one of these man-made shapes when I was looking around the satellite images of Israel. Just north of Beersheva, I saw this:

It's a pretty unusual shape, no?

So I called up a friend from Beersheva, to ask what she thought it was.

She had no idea.

She thought I was crazy.

Finally, I used a program online, where we could both see the same image, and I could "draw" on top of it.

I showed her this:

See it?

It's a fish!

I admit it's a strange fish.

With legs. And a lawn chair on it's back.

But it's still a fish.

And while I was trying to "prove" what I saw, I started laughing.

Because her husband was on that shabbaton!

Of course when I asked him if he saw the fish, he thought I was talking about that night 15 years ago.

And he still doesn't see the fish in the picture.

Do you?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

My country 'tis of thee

According to this article in HaAretz, 500,000 American Jews could immigrate to Israel in the next 15 years. Obviously, this would have dramatic implications for life here in Israel.

Here are my top ten predictions for how life will change:

  1. On the bills and coins will actually be printed, "In God We Trust"
  2. Monday will become the most dreaded day of the week
  3. Knitting clubs will become popular to utilize all the time freed up from the cancellation of movie intermissions
  4. Instead of multiparty political chaos - two party gridlock
  5. IDT will replace Bezeq as the national phone carrier, but will be forced to open call centers in Los Angeles to find Hebrew speakers
  6. Yoni Leibowitz will become Israel's most popular talk show host (no more "Jon Stewart" for him!)
  7. Difficult to pronounce "resh" will be replaced by the new letter "thoth"
  8. Football = Football
  9. Coca-Cola will be the most popular soft-drink (uh, wait...)
  10. 24 Hour Weather Channel hosted exclusively by Robert Olinsky

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

What I'm reading currently...

I'm again reading a few things concurrently:

  1. The Jews of Lithuania: A History of a Remarkable Community 1316-1945 by Masha Greenbaum. My entire family comes from Lithuania - the small shtetls of Jonava, Seduva, Skaudvile, Vilkomir (Ukmerge), Anyksciai, Balbieriskis and others. I've done a lot of research about my families' history, and I generally consider myself well-versed in world history. But when I finally started reading this book I bought a couple of years ago, I was surprised to see how much I didn't know about Lithuanian history in general, the Jewish community in particular, and how it likely impacted my ancestors. What I find particularly interesting is how unique Lithuania was. They were the last country in Europe to adopt Christianity, and for centuries treated all the churches with suspicion. This led to fairly good relations with the Jews. I also didn't know just how recent the Russian conquest of the Lithuania was - only from 1795-1917. Before that no Jews lived in Russia. And those Russians Czars were bad - really bad. Lithuania also had a pretty decent democracy between WWI and WWII (for at least the first 10 years or so) and the Jews got much more autonomy than anywhere else in Europe. But for all the ups and downs in the book, I know that the story is going to end very badly. I'm in the chapter just preceding the Nazi invasion (another piece of history I knew little about was the Soviet occupation of Lithuania from 1939-1941). While most of my relatives came to the States between 1880-1910, some still remained after WWI. I can't imagine the horror that must have come from realizing their chance for democratic Jewish autonomy in Lithuania would end up in the worst crime in human history.
  2. Abba Eban: An Autobiography I don't think I've ever read an autobiography before, at least as an adult. The book is very detailed (I've read probably 150 pages and the State hasn't been declared yet), but I'm getting a very interesting view of one of Israel's most important diplomats. (His family was from Lithuania, which gives a little connection to the book above.) As with the biography of Chaim Weizmann, and the history of the Etzel, I'm getting another new perspective on the pre-State period. For all the difficulties, it still seems like one of the most interesting times in history to live. Since the book goes up to 1977, I imagine I'll also get new insights on the early years of the State as well. I wouldn't have expected it, but I'm also really enjoying the occasional bits of sharp British humor.
  3. Mishnayot: Masechet Shabbat. As I wrote earlier, I finished Seder Zraim on Shavuot. So now I'm going through a more relevant seder: Moed. This was actually the first pocket mishnayot that I bought - back in the army. I never got far into it then - my Hebrew wasn't good enough. This time I should be able to finish - even if it takes months...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

it's true because it's funny

We took the kids to see the movie Madagascar yesterday. It wasn't the best animated movie I've ever seen, and maybe was less fun for the adults than some of the Pixar movies. But there was silly, slapstick comedy.

And the kids loved it. I don't think there's anything more authentic than hearing a 6 year old or an 8 year old laugh out loud at a movie. They weren't holding back, trying to be cool or cynical or anything. Just enjoying themselves watching animals do silly things on the screen.

At one point my older daughter leaned over to me and whispered, "Abba, this is just right for us."

It reminds me of the following saying by the Hassidic Rebbe, R' Simcha Bunim:

Three things can be learned from a child:

  1. The child is happy at just being alive.
  2. The child is always active and never bored.
  3. The child always cries for everything it needs.

So too we should serve God with joy, we should always be performing mitzvot, and we should implore God with tears for everything we need.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Tonight was the last show of the season of Yair Lapid's talk show. It's a light, popular show - kind of like a cross between Leno and Oprah (although Lapid himself doesn't do comedy.) If it wasn't on one week, or even was cancelled, it would make no difference in my life at all. But sometimes there are things on the show that people talk about on the following day at work.

But for all of its insignificance, I can't help thinking about all those people I used to be in Bnei Akiva with. They keep Shabbat like I do. They visit here. They might even still believe in the same ideology. But they don't know who Yair Lapid is. And somehow that shows how they've passed up the opportunity to join up with their people here.


My son led "Anim Zmirot" for the first time this Shabbat. I'm really proud of him. He basically took it upon himself and practiced both at home and at school. When I was his age I certainly couldn't. (Hell, when I was a senior in high school and asked to do Anim Zmirot at a shabbaton, I couldn't!) I'm already thinking about how with some more practice, he could lead Pesukei D'Zimra or Kabbalat Shabbat (even before his bar mitzva).

But for all the significance of this milestone, I can't help but thinking about my girls. Will they have the opportunity to find a role for themselves in shul? Will they be able to be proud of themselves the way my son can?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

I need closure on that saga!

I enjoy a good saga. I don't know if this is the actual definition of a saga, but I'm referring to a series of books or movies that has a definite end. The James Bond movies, for example, wouldn't be a saga. But the Star Wars movies, especially with the last movie having just come out, fall in that category. After almost 30 years, I now know the whole story.

Another couple of sagas that took me a while to get into, but eventually I enjoyed are Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I never read LOTR as a kid (started reading the Hobbit, but never got into it.) But we got the DVD of the first movie a few years ago as a gift. However, the long playing time discouraged me from seeing it. In the end, we finally watched it, and rented the other two, enjoying them. (But I don't think I'm going to read the books.)

My wife had been reading Harry Potter for a while, and I kind of dismissed them as silly. But after she convinced me to read one, I was hooked. With the newest one coming out later this month, I'm not sure how we're going to handle sharing it! Either we'll have to come out with a very sophisticated plan, or maybe we'll just buy two copies...

Another series that I really enjoyed as a kid was Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles. Except for a terrible Disney cartoon that combined two books and completely distorted the story, there was no movie made. But the books were fascinating, and as a kid I knew everything about them. I even corresponded, and later met Lloyd Alexander. When we were in the States last summer, I bought the series, and am waiting for my kids to get a little older, so I can read it to them (or perhaps they'll read it themselves.)

One series that I read as a kid, and now is about to be made into a movie, is C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. Probably in 5th or 6th grade I read the entire series, but something always seemed uncomfortable for me. I can't remember anything about the plot now, but I do remember thinking even then that the book seemed much too Christian for me. This has always been a bit strange for me, but even when I wasn't religious, and even as a young kid, Christianity always made me uncomfortable. In 5th grade I went to Spain with my father, and I couldn't stay inside the world famous Prado museum because of the Christian art. I recall even at a younger age being in an after-school program at a Church and being very upset at having Christianity discussed with me. And I don't remember this story, but my parents have told me that as a baby I urinated on the floor of a convent!

In any case, when I heard about the upcoming movie, I went online to see if my memories of the story were accurate. I found this very disturbing article:

Disney finds religion for its Chronicles of Narnia

There seems to be an antisemitic undercurrent by some of the supporters of the movie. I think this might be one saga I can pass up on...

Friday, July 01, 2005

don't break the (nuclear) wessels...

I'm concerned about the protests over the disengagement.

I'm not talking about their effectiveness (although I don't really see who exactly the road blockings are going to convince, and how that will change the government's plan) or the specific tactics. I'm not even talking about whether the plan should be protested against. (It doesn't seem like a good plan to me, but as I've mentioned before, I think things are usually a little more complicated. Perhaps a reverse Occam's razor?)

I'm concerned about the effects of the protests themselves - regardless of whether the disengagement is blocked.

What's difficult for me, is that if the disengagement is truly unjust (or at least viewed that way by its opponents), then why should I view the protests differently than those against other unjust acts? My cousin was one of the leaders of the Etzel, and planned and carried out many of the attacks against the British. When I read his stories - I fill up with a great sense of pride. I remember myself protesting against the Soviet Union, to let the Jews leave freely leave to Israel. So why is this different? Why can't I identify in the same way?

I think the reason is, that I don't care about the welfare of the British mandate or the Soviet Union. But I do care - very much - about the State of Israel!

What I'm worried about is called in Hebrew "shvirat kelim" - translated as "breaking of vessels". It's a kabbalistic concept, but the modern idiom might be closer to "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". It is often said that it is forbidden to break the vessels - meaning that once the vessel is broken, it can't be repaired. There must be limits - no shvirat kelim.

Another classic example of this is the famous story of the two mothers who came to King Solomon fighting over a baby, each claiming he was hers. When Shlomo offered to cut the baby in half, one mother objected, and the other thought it was fair. The wise king realized that any mother who would cut the baby in half for a cause, who was willing to break the vessels, could not be the real mother.

I think the metaphor is clear, but I'll give one more example that I wrote about recently on an email list:

" I think an appropriate metaphor would be a voyage across the sea. Obviously the focus of the traveler is the sea - not the vehicle. But to cross the sea, you need some vehicle, in this case a boat. Now you can complain about the boat, the crew and the captain, but bottom line, this is the first boat (in our metaphor) to successfully make it to sea in 2000 years. All other attempts - walking across the sea by foot, waiting for the wind to carry one across the sea - didn't work. Now no one would say that the boat doesn't need improvement or can't go off course. But to start drilling a hole in the boat -- well, that very well may lead to the end of the voyage. The unity of the boat must be preserved! We have no other boat!"

What concerns me greatly is that I see more and more people from the Religious Zionist camp who are willing to drill holes in the boat, cut the baby, break the kelim - anything in the name of preventing the disengagement. This approach doesn't surprise me when it comes from the haredim. They don't view the State as a vessel of any intrinsic value. And in fact, in the haredi neighborhoods not far from my work, they've had some of the most active road blocking protests. But we're not Haredim! At least I'm not. (I do know that the late Adir Zik was probably the best examples of someone associated with Religious Zionism who had in the past few years said he could identify more with Haredism. But I don't think it's a real trend in RZ circles - at least not consciously.)

How far will the country go this summer? What will remain?

A few years ago, at the height of the intifada, and also when Israel's water resources were at a dangerous low, a neighbor of mine told me that when she would go to the States, she couldn't relax about the terror situation, because she was always worried that someone she cared about back home might be hurt. But she was relieved about using the water in the States, because it didn't impact the situation in Israel at all. Now I think there's a new category. People are so concerned about the anger level this summer, that if they leave Israel for a vacation they're actually looking forward to not facing the explosive situation.

But maybe things will work out. We obviously have some level of divine supervision happening here - I can only hope that it will prevent us from destroying the most valuable gift we've received in the past 2000 years.

But I don't want to end on a scared note. Here's a great joke related to the metaphor above...

A Jewish town had a shortage of men for wedding purposes, so they had to import men from other towns. One day a groom-to-be arrived on a train, and two mother-in-laws-to-be were waiting for him, each claiming ownership on him. A rabbi was called to solve the problem. After a few minutes of thought, he said: "If this is the situation, you both want the groom, we'll cut him in half and give each one of you half of him." To this replied one woman: "If that's the case, give him to the other woman." The rabbi said: "Do that. The one willing to cut him in half, is the real