Five for Friday

One aspect of a shortened work week – because of the Pesach holiday – is that I feel a bit of a cheat looking forward to the Shabbat break; after all, it’s not as if I haven’t enjoyed some holiday time already. However, Shabbat is different. It’s a different type of holiday, a different type of mindset, and a different type of experience. Much as it continues to surprise me, the power of the day to recharge the batteries (even if sometimes it is not a full charge) is awesome. So, I am looking forward to Shabbat.

Meantime, some links for you:

Shabbat Shalom!

The Haaretz response to a moral dilemma

From the Elder of Ziyon:

Why did Haaretz take down its article on Kansas killer’s admiration for Max Blumenthal?

Haaretz, picking up on a piece in the Washington Free Beacon, briefly posted this article yesterday:


According to the Washington Free Beacon, an online news source that describes itself as being “dedicated to uncovering the stories that the professional left hopes will never see the light of day, Frazier Glenn Cross, the Hitler admirer and Klansman who is accused of the murders, often praised Blumenthal’s work.

According to the report, a search of the VNN Forum – a prominent white supremacist website run by Cross – finds over 300 references praising Blumenthal’s criticism of the State of Israel and American-Jewish support of Israeli policy.

There is no doubt that leftist Israel-haters like Blumenthal give lots of material – and inspiration – for right wing antisemites like Frazier Glenn Cross. Both groups claim, disingenuously, that their criticisms of Israel are meant to defend human rights when it is the other way around – they use the language of human rights to attack the Jewish state, a nation whose record on human rights would be the envy of any other nation at war in history.

Some antisemites see no contradiction between the extreme right and extreme left manifestations of Jew-hatred. Someone named “Rehmat1″, for example, has hundreds of comments both on Cross’ VNN forum and on Mondoweiss, both linking back to his own blog.

The only difference is that the right-wing antisemites are more willing to admit that they hate Jews. The leftist antisemites prefer to use Israel as a proxy for Jews and are, too often, Jews themselves, which all stripes of Jew-haters love to quote to give their hate an air of authenticity.

Haaretz took down this article very quickly after it was posted online. Why?

Perhaps the reason is that Haaretz has provides at least as much comfort and aid to the VNN antisemites as Blumenthal does!

While Haaretz doesn’t seem to be as explicitly praised as Blumenthal was by Cross, according to Mondoweiss, Haaretz itself is mentioned on the VNN site over 11,000 times and Cross mentions Haaretz himself scores of times in his antisemitic rants! (I did not check either the Free Beacon’s or Mondoweiss’ claims about the number of citations of Blumenthal/Haaretz.)

Haaretz provides at least as much of aid and comfort to antisemites as Blumenthal does, and perhaps that is what prompted it to silently pull this story.

Do you think the editorial board of Haaretz might stop to think about that last observation: Haaretz provides at least as much of aid and comfort to antisemites as Blumenthal does. And will they go that step further and ask themselves if what they are doing is a good thing?



This has been waiting a long time for an outing. After yomtov lunch, Peleg and I took it for a quick spin, managing to get in one game of the basic level.

You have a deck of cards representing your faction. Each card has a pattern. If you match the pattern with your playing pieces, that summons a creature – that may destroy something on the board. If you summon, you get bonus actions. So, careful planning is required to get the best out of your troops, and the enemy is there to get in your way. There are frills, but that is the heart of it. And it is fast. Easily under an hour.

Afterwards I checked the rules – two sides of A4! – and saw we got stuff wrong, but nothing too bad. But despite the rules simplicity, it is very rich in strategy and tactics and that little taster has left me keen to get back to it soon.

New one

The first of a new category. You’ll know it when you read it:

“Naseby is perhaps the most famous battle of the English Civil War. It bears little resemblance to its portrayal in the film “Cromwell.” Unlike the movie, the New Modal Army outnumbered the King in every way, but nearly lost the day.”

From This Accursed Civil War Play Book, page 12. GMT Games,Ben Hull, 2002.

Burn, baby, burn


In the orthodox Jewish way of life, on the morning before Pesach, the practice is to burn all the chametz found during the search in the home, and everything left over from breakfast. In Ra’anana (as above), and indeed throughout Israel, there are several public fires – monitored and secured – to accommodate the practice.

The blessing is:

“All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession, whether I have seen it or not, whether I have observed it or not, whether I have removed it or not, shall be considered nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.”

Chag Sameach!

On Sunday the Rabbi wrote science fiction

This just in from the Times of Israel:

Prague rabbi authors sci-fi bestseller

Karol Efraim Sidon, chief rabbi of the Czech Republic, tried to keep his authorship of popular novel a secret

Chaim Cigan is one of the hottest new authors on the Czech popular literature scene.

He’s the author of the novel “Altschulova Metoda,” or Atschul’s Method, the first of four books in a science fiction series “mixing politics, prison cells and the secret police with the Middle Ages, Moses and Jewish history – a science fiction thriller told across continents and epochs,” according to Radio Praha.

Speculation grew around the identity of Cigan, a supposed émigré to Canada, once the book entered the bestseller charts in recent weeks. But the hidden identity of the Czech Republic’s popular new science fiction writer didn’t last long.

Cigan is none other than Rabbi Karol Efraim Sidon, the chief rabbi of Prague and the Czech Republic, who is also a playwright and screenwriter.

Read it all, here.

What goes around may reverse

Most sensible people accept that the general standard of driving behavior on Israeli roads is awful. Awfully awful. There is not a single Highway Code rule that is not broken every minute of every day on every main road.

  • Lane discipline? What white lines?
  • Keeping a safe distance? This way he knows I want to overtake.
  • Mirror, signal, maneuver? What’s a signal?
  • Never overtake on a bend? There’s never any oncoming traffic here.
  • Stop at a stop sign? That’s for novice drivers only.

And on it goes. The ironic aspect is that, according to all feedback, the driving test for new young drivers is a long, involved, and demanding process that teaches all the right stuff. But after passing the test…

It’s with this background that you may not be shocked to know that there are several theories why the driving is so poor. This being a popular topic among immigrants (especially) I have heard many, varied excuses. (Or reasons; it depends on your point of view.) This weekend, I heard one that was new to me.

Apparently the 1948 State of Israel had about 400 cars in the entire country. And so, the theory goes, this is not only a young country, but also a young country of drivers. In other words, there are not enough experienced drivers, and certainly not enough experienced generations of drivers, passing on the right driving skills.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t convince me. However, it did spring to mind on the journey home from the office tonight.

It happened like this: I approached a roundabout on a single lane road. The car ahead of me went through the roundabout very slowly. I followed. On the exit from the roundabout, I was still behind this slow car. It stopped. It pulled in. (No; no indicator was harmed in that maneuver.) I passed the car carefully – in case it started up again without warning – noting the little old lady in the driver’s seat. The next thing I see is her starting to move her car. In reverse. She reversed into the roundabout and back the way she had come… OMG, where do they come from? I was glad I was going in the opposite direction.

So your challenge, should you accept it, is to come up with an explanation. Just why is the driving so bad here?

Whisky future

The good, the bad, and the ugly

The good, the bad, and the ugly. Source: Wikimedia

From the Scotsman comes this interesting news:

LOVERS of a wee dram may soon be raising a glass to cutting-edge DNA fingerprinting techniques being used create a Scottish “superbarley”.

Scientists at the forefront of barley crop genetics are using the sort of profiling methods associated with criminal investigations in a bid to ensure the long-term sustainability of whisky’s raw material and increase production of the national drink.

What’s it about?

There are two crops of malting barley sown each year in Scotland: spring and winter. Currently, all whisky uses the spring crop; it’s supposed to be the better quality. However, the winter crop has a higher yield and is sturdier. Given fluctuating weather patterns and increased demand, the scientists want to identify the genes that give the spring crop its good quality, and breed these genes into the hardy winter crop. As the article says: “This will help guarantee barley supplies for malting and boost production of Scotland’s liquid gold.”


But what I found even more fascinating was this detail from the article:

The latest figures from the Scotch Whisky Association show annual exports of the water of life were worth £4.3 billion last year. In volume terms, overseas sales rose by 2.5 per cent to the equivalent of 1.23 billion bottles. Overall, the spirit accounts for about 85 per cent of Scottish food and drink exports and nearly a quarter of the UK total.

No wonder they are looking at the future of whisky. It is as important as ever in the economy of both Scotland and the UK. Every time I have a dram, I’m doing some good by supporting those economies!

I’ll drink to that, but now it’s going to have to wait till after Pesach…