Sephardi Rosh Hashanah

From the Point of No Return:

The Jewish New Year begins tomorrow evening with blessings for a sweet New Year. Jews of Sephardi and Mizrahi origin will do more than eat apple and honey: they will have a whole range of different foods.

[snip]…here is what you need for a typical Sephardi seder, together with the blessings recited for each food. Note that the foods can vary from table to table: for instance, French beans are often eaten instead of white beans, etc…

See the rest, here.

This Sephardi tradition for Rosh Hashanah is one we have, thankfully, been able to participate in ever since we made aliyah, thanks to Susan’s family. We enjoy it. It adds something to the usual – dare I say it – bland apple and honey treatment. (But we do enjoy that, too!)

Whatever you do, in case I forget, may you have a sweet, happy, and healthy 5775. Shanah Tovah!


The Guardian is playing a game

What’s the game?

Catch the Jew.

All will become clear.

From CIF Watch:

Slow news days in Israel? Guardian plays ‘Catch the Jew”

Based on research collected while posing as a German investigative reporter during a tour through Palestinian areas, Israeli born playwright and writer Tuvia Tenenbom spent time with pro-Palestinian “activists” and NGO researchers in the West Bank and asked about the plight of the Palestinians. He turned the results into a book cheekily titled, ‘Catch the Jew‘, words meant to capture the surreal anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda continually fed by such activists to a compliant media.

“The Europeans aren’t really familiar with the Middle East dispute and they do not investigate”, said Tenenbom. Rather, he added, they want “to catch the Jew doing something bad“.

Now, we turn to the Guardian where, on Sept. 22nd, the paper continued to ignore Palestinian riots in east Jerusalem, as well as the widely cited AP story on growing evidence that Hamas used human shields during the war, but instead devoted space on their Israel page to “catching a Jew doing something bad”, publishing the following.

Click that last link to catch the whole piece.

When you’ve done that, it may be worth noting the finale:

…you come back to Matti Friedman’s axiom that most foreign journalists come to the region not to provide readers with a nuanced understanding of the region, but to report on Israelis behaving badly – or, as Tuvia Tenenbom put it, “to catch the Jew”.

The Guardian is not only playing that game, but also is in contention to be a champion at it. How proud they must be.

My kingdom for a point. Or two.

A quiet pre Rosh Hashanah session, started off with Yehudah and me introducing Sheer to Hansa Teutonica. Yehuda did his usual excellent job of explaining the rules, and off we went.

Blue is the color

Blue is the color

Like many of these games, a first timer is going to struggle to compete effectively with those who have experienced the game before. And so it proved, though Sheer did better than most, and probably enjoyed more the fact that he damaged my efforts to get the win.

A quiet part of the board

A quiet part of the board

I secured the multiple actions I needed, and several times benefited from a good action tile draw. But I should have been more aggressive towards the other players and that probably cost me the game. I lost out by a single measly point and probably would have won had I been paying more attention. I was too busy enjoying the game.

Next we moved on to Dominion: Intrigue, where my early draw of the Swindler caused Yehuda to moan, and Sheer to celebrate. Although I had a decent enough hand, I lost out to Sheer’s winning combinations.

Yehuda departed to meet his grocery delivery, and Sheer and I played Star Realms. I did such a good job of teaching this, that Sheer crushed me. Great fun. Accessible, light, but with room for thoughtful play. And fast.

That’s it for this year. Here’s to more and better gaming in the new year.

Shanah Tovah!

ASL Israel Event [Updated]

The second open ASL Israel event has been rescheduled, and will now take place at the Tzuba Hotel at Kibbutz Tzuba (between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) from 26-28 March 2015.

The format is open gaming. Participants are encouraged to submit a list of 3 desired scenarios (including scenarios from historical modules). We will make an effort to see that each participant gets to play at least one of his chosen scenarios. There is no formal competition, although the win/loss record of every player will be noted and published.

So far as accommodation is concerned:

“Just a 20 minute car-drive from Jerusalem and 45 minutes from Tel Aviv, Hotel guests enjoy easy access to the authentic village Ein Karem and to the main attractions in Jerusalem. The Wine Route through the Yoav Yehuda Region, horseback riding, hiking and biking trails, Mini Israel and Kiftzuba Amusement Family Park are all close by.”

The hotel website is here.

If you are an English speaker, you don’t need to worry about the language barrier!

All are welcome.

Transportation to the event location from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ben Gurion airport can easily be arranged.

For further information or queries, or help with transportation, contact Ran Shiloah at or Ellis Simpson at

Mossad agent started with a curry

From Ynet:

Former Mossad agent Mike Harari passes away

Mossad legend from Operation Wrath of God, Operation Thunderbolt dies, putting end to illustrious career shrouded in secrecy.

One of Israel’s most respected and legendary Mossad agents, Michael (Mike) Harari, has passed away at the age of 87.

And it all started with a curry.

You don’t believe me?

It says so in the report:


You can read it all, spiced up or not, here.

Does not compute

As seen at the Elder of Ziyon, if you follow this link to MEMRI, you will see a video interview with Salah Al-Zawawi, Palestinian Ambassador to Iran, broadcast on Al-Kawthar TV* on 16 September 2014.

It includes stuff like this:

“…we would witness our great people’s return to their homeland, the land of their forefathers, and we would see the demise and the shattering of this alien entity. Nothing bonds them together, no chemistry. Only physics are at work in occupied Palestine. All those people who have gathered to occupy our land must return to their countries of origin, leaving behind only the Palestinian Jews, with whom we had lived in love, respect, and fraternity.”


“I am not saying that Palestine will be liberated tomorrow, but we have made real strides on the path to liberation. A missile with a 200 kilogram warhead will carry a warhead of 100 tons in the future, because weapons change as men change. We just need to cross the scientific threshold to get to our goal.”

Man of peace? Partner for peace? You be the judge.

As usual, the Elder nails it:

But I thought that the PLO accepted Israel’s right to exist and that they no longer support military attacks against Israel!

Must be a bunch of slips of the tongue. This will no doubt cause a big scandal within the Palestinian diplomatic ranks and their media will denounce Mr. Zawawi’s anti-peace statements. Of course. Any minute now. Because they really want peace. They say it all the time in English. So it must be true. Let’s just ignore things like this.

And we may safely assume, the western media will ignore this. Hate speech that is not in English does not, apparently, count as hate speech.

[From Wikipedia: Al-Kawthar TV is a Tehran-based Arabic-language television channel. Launched in 2006 by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, it broadcasts religious and cultural programs about 19 hours a day mainly for Arab audience in the Middle East and North Africa. The content of the programs is mainly about promoting Shia Islam. The TV station derives its name from the holy river Al-Kawthar. Al-Kawthar means “river in paradise”. Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgement all true believers are led to the river, where they drink only once to never be hungry or thirsty again.]

First Frost – James Henry

R. D. Wingfield, who created the character of D. S. Jack Frost, died in 2007. His estate allowed James Henry – a pseudonym for James Gurbutt and Henry Sutton – to bring Frost back to life with this and two other books which are prequels, set in the 1980s.

I did not find the book as well written as Wingfield’s output. However, that is probably of no consequence. The goal here is entertainment, and that – for me – is what has been well and truly achieved. Of course, like many I have this mental image of actor David Jason playing the role and speaking the dialogue. And that brings an added vitality for free; something the authors did not have to work to get.

The other characterization is a bit sparse, though Inspector Mullet gets a reasonable airing. The plot is a bit wobbly, but just about works. But, despite these imperfections, it races along. It’s a page turner, for sure.

Bottom line: I’ll be reading them all in due course.

Frost is back, and he’s worth spending time with.

Five for Friday

That was the week that the dream of an independent Scotland died. Again. Let’s hope it is all for the best.

And as the weekend rolls around, here are some links for your interest. I guarantee they are 100% free of Scottish referendum matters! You all deserve that break at least!

No bonus links this week, but a quote from Guy Fawkes’ blog which made me laugh:

Diane Abbott on the Daily Politics:

“Labour MPs will unite behind Ed Miliband, once we find out what our policies are.”


Shabbat Shalom!



As the Herald puts it:

It’s No go: a record 84.6% turnout sees Scotland reject independence by 55%-45%

I hope the Scottish people can come together, and work together, for the benefit of all. And I also hope that amazing turnout translates into something (or some things) positive in the political arena. If more are involved, perhaps the quality of the argument, the representation, and the decision making will improve. Yes, I know. It’s another dream.

Be careful what you wish for

[Crossposted from the Jerusalem Post, here.]

It was June 1973. As part of the school English syllabus, I and my fellow Eastwood High School pupils had been dragged along to the Citizens Theater in Glasgow, forced to see the play, The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black, Black Oil.

John McGrath’s groundbreaking musical and political drama sent shockwaves in all directions. One of those waves must have hit me, because that was the only explanation. I didn’t like the theater. I especially didn’t like musicals. They were all boring. So why had I been glued to my seat? Why had I laughed along with the crowd at the political jokes – that in truth, I probably did not understand? Why did I feel – yes, really feel – something special in the air?

I left that performance, giddy with the after effects of the play. However, I do remember, on the pavement outside the theater, greedily grabbing and devouring the literature that savvy members of the then tiny Scottish National Party were handing out.

That was my introduction to the SNP. That was the start of my belief in the idea of an independent Scotland. Then it was a dream. Recently, that dream has turned into a nightmare.

Let me explain.

I made Aliyah from Glasgow in the summer of 2009. I still have family, friends, and acquaintances in the Jewish community there, and have made visits for smachot, and to recharge my Irn Bru* taste buds. Inevitably, the topic of the referendum has surfaced in polite conversation.

Generally, my impression is that most members of the community are opposed to Scottish independence; there are some pockets of SNP support, but they are in a minority.

If you had asked me six months ago about the effects of an independent Scotland on the Jewish community, I would have (perhaps naively) answered that I would not have expected any material change. Things would continue, as they have for other small diaspora communities, with people largely free to follow their religion without interference or harassment.

However, then came the recent Gaza war.

Part of that war was fought out in the arena of social media. There, many of the pro-independence groups lined up, resolutely and completely, with the Palestinians. They were not all Hamas supporters, but there was little sympathy or understanding for the position of Israel and its citizens.

That’s being polite.

A less restrained version of events would be that the conflict unleashed a veritable online tsunami of bigotry, hate, and defamation towards, Israel, the idea of a Jewish state, and Jews. It was as if the poison had been bubbling away, hidden below the surface, waiting for the right moment to be pumped into the world outside.

Incidentally, I ventured into that sewer a few times and asked how a people struggling for their own state of independence – the Scots – could deny the right of the Jewish people to the same. The replies were full of delusional, incoherent, hate, and personal insults. It’s worth noting that it was clear many of the haters were ignorant about the most basic facts concerning Israel.

My memories of Scotland and the Scottish people did not include such vicious hatred. Sure, I had witnessed and experienced instances of out and out anti-Semitism. However, they were far from commonplace. And all the time I lived in Scotland, I never felt threatened or at risk.

But it appears the last Gaza conflict has sparked a real change.

For example, for as long as I can remember, on most weekends pro-Palestinian campaigners used to have a token presence – a table and chairs and tatty leaflets available for distribution – outside the Argyle Street, Glasgow branch of Marks and Spencers. But few noticed, they were mostly ignored, and I don’t recall any trouble.

Recently however, the Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement has surfaced for real. In Glasgow and Edinburgh it has launched what appear to be picket like activities, brimming with intimidation and bullying behavior, directed at stalls in shopping centers selling Israeli products, and their potential customers.

As another example, take the enforced cancellation of performances at the Edinburgh Festival by the Jerusalem-based Incubator Theater, after Palestinian agitators held intimidating public protests. With their safety at risk, it was no surprise the Ben Gurion University student dancers withdrew from the Festival.

As yet another example, take the decision of some Scottish Local Authorities to fly the Palestinian flag in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Despite some cogent representations from the Jewish community and other parties, noting the divisiveness of such action, the authorities could not be persuaded otherwise. No authority was willing to fly the Israeli flag.

All such cases and others adversely affect the lives of Jews in Scotland. They create an atmosphere in which people are fearful of identifying as being Jewish or as having connections to Israel.

And that’s before independence.

This sea change in the political arena in Scotland has ended my belief in the idea of an independent Scotland. I no longer see it as something to strive for. Quite the opposite.
Much as it pains me, I fear for the welfare of the Jewish community in an independent Scotland.

I expect those in political power to make all the right noises about protecting minorities, and respecting opposing opinions.

But at the same time, I would expect certain actions to follow independence.

For example, during the Gaza conflict, the Scottish External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf made an offer to treat wounded Gazans. Personally, it looked to me like political posturing rather than any serious attempt to do some good. After independence, there would surely be more of the same, but probably going beyond gesture politics.

Perhaps it’s not unrealistic to expect the establishment of a PLO office in Scotland, to be greeted with continuing exchanges of fraternal greetings and joint condemnation of Israel.

For sure, the country’s foreign policy – laughably touted as being ‘ethical’ – will be hostile to Israel.

And I would expect BDS to be adopted as official government policy.

The referendum has succeeded in getting more people more involved in the political process than has been the case for a while. If there is independence, I expect some of that involvement to be used by anti-Israel interest groups outside the mainstream, to campaign for positions which are even more radical and anti-Israel. (Might an independent Scotland end up, unwillingly, mimicking Venezuela?)

I am hoping that outright acts of anti-Semitism will continue to be rare and isolated. But I fear that independence will bring about a drip-drip effect of measures that will increase the discomfort of the Jewish community.

I should say that the Jewish community has not been taking things lying down. There have been a number of grass roots and communal initiatives that have impressed me with their fervor and energy. They are fighting a much better resourced and numerous enemy. But they are putting up a good fight.

Unfortunately, while I hope I am proven wrong, the future does not look good. The bottom line is that, eventually, I expect the community – or those parts that are able – to get up and leave. It would be a sad ending for a community that has enriched Scotland with substantial contributions in the arts, sciences, medicine, the law, commerce, and elsewhere. But the realization of my dream of an independent Scotland, one that started with the swish of the curtain going up on The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black, Black Oil, may ironically also signal the curtain coming down on the Jewish community in Scotland. Now that would be a nightmare.

[*Note: Irn Bru is a bestselling Scottish soft drink, often described as “Scotland’s other national drink” (after Scotch whisky). It is not readily available in Israel.]