Proper journalists?

The Elder of Ziyon has a neat example (here) of how left wing (and other) demonizers of Israel do not tell a complete story when they want to stoke up hate. This is also worth noting to see how it is covered by the mainstream press; they are supposed to be proper journalists. Proper journalists would look a the sources. Proper journalists would not just recycle the hateful propaganda. But then again, are there any proper journalists out there?


Fast Fast

Yom Kippur starts tonight.

For those that mark the day, and fast, I wish you an easy fast.

For those that just mark the day, I wish you a worthwhile day.

To all, I hope that you will have a good year, with an Almighty seal of approval in the Book of Life.


70 years of Israeli peace attempts wrapped up into two short hours

The excellent David Collier blog – Beyond the Great Divide – has an insightful (and shocking) post about events at Lichfield Cathedral:

I have just spent a weekend at Lichfield cathedral for a conference “on the Israel/Palestine Conflict and the prospect of peace”. And what a weekend it was! A naïve Dean, antisemitism, conspiracy theories, global control, blood sucking Jews, child kidnappers, Arabs in 100ad. and of course, Jesus the Palestinian.

I do recommend you read it all, though I want to highlight the following extract:

We then heard from a dutiful liberal Zionist. And what a talk it was. Professor Yossi Meckleberg presented to the audience a very accommodating position. A man anyone could make peace with. Like most liberal Zionists he is talking to himself. *if only* such voices could be heard from the other side. Another break. More pamphlets to read. All about a fictional place called Israel/Palestine. Or Palestine/Israel for those who KameL Hawwashwant to belittle Israel’s legitimacy more thoroughly. A group called ‘Lichfield Concern for Palestine’. All talk was about Israeli brutality. No mention of Arab violence anywhere. Another talk was about to start. Then came the storm.

See how good a pundit you are. The liberal Zionist has put down a marker for peace. (In the lions’ den, perhaps, playing the part of the Christian?) What do you think the response was?

Here you go:

Next up was Professor Kamel Hawwash, Vice-Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. For every hand that Meckleberg had extended in friendship, Hawwash pushed one away. I am always thankful for people like Hawwash because they expose why there is no current chance for peace. There is no room in Kamel’s world for the Israelis, a group of people he describes as randomly deciding to invade the region. These two speakers presented the entire conflict in a microcosm. The Israeli Jew, ‘let’s make peace, let’s find a way, let’s accommodate’, the Palestinian Arab, NO, NO, NO. I have no doubt that people failed to see what had just occurred. But in truth, it was 70 years of Israeli peace attempts wrapped up into two short hours.

Collier’s observation is bang on target.

First, he’s correct (in general terms) about how the interaction summarizes Israeli peace attempts.

Second, he’s also right in suggesting that people didn’t notice what had happened. They seem to have accepted the outright rejection as acceptable, normal, and – dare one say it – understandable. If ever there were an acid test to determine whether Israel and its people were being delegitimized, demonized, and defamed, that would be a candidate.

What an obscene event Lichfield hosted. It will be interesting to see what Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield, and Chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, says about this. He dare not be silent, after this statement of his.


This is the whole Torah

Torah Tidbits is a regular publication put out by the Orthodox Union Israel Center, and widely distributed throughout the religious communities. It has a mix of Torah relevant articles, with notes on the week’s parsha, candle lighting times, and more. It is quite popular – so much so that for some people, their Shabbat is not complete without a copy to read over Shabbat during the boring bits in shul.

Last week’s issue included an article – Yom Kippur’s Magic Moment – by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students of the Diaspora Yeshiva, which had a thoughtful piece about introspection and Yom Kippur.

I was struck by the following:

The great tragedy of our generation is that for many people, even on Yom Kippur, there is no longer a feeling of fear or trembling before G-D. Even when we fast and pray we are not bothered by the question of having been created vs not having been created.

You could have a whole discussion on that paragraph alone. For now, let’s accept that – from a religious perspective – fear of G-d is desirable, and that it would be worthy to at least wonder about whether the world would be better off if we had not been created. How does Rabbi Sprecher explain this? He says:

In secular society, there is no longer a feeling of shame and guilt regarding what we do with our lives. Anything goes! We have been degraded by our desires and pleasures.

One way of summarizing his explanation for the lack of fear of G-d is that it is all the fault of secular society. I will admit he seems to include himself in that group by saying “We have been degraded…” but it is possible he is making two separate statements: on the one hand, secular society has lost its shame. On the other, we have all been degraded by pleasure.

What I found particularly offensive was the reference to secular society. Sure, there are parts of secular society that are not a great example. But equally, if not more so, there are parts of religious society that are just as awful. Have there not been orthodox people in positions of leadership and power that have been imprisoned for offenses of dishonesty or corruption or sexual or physical abuse? Did they maintain a sense of shame or guilt?

What about the religious protests against army conscription? Are they a positive example? Even the protests against those who do not keep Shabbat are a disgrace. Since when was it a part of Judaism to behave like that?

On a less serious level, how common is it to see obviously orthodox people behaving badly – driving like lunatics, dropping litter, queue jumping, being rude and aggressive, and so on and so on?

It should be patently obvious that not all orthodox people are bad people. Far from it. I know many who are outstanding examples of good, honest, selfless people. They do not discriminate in their dealings with people based on their religiosity. By the same token, of course, I know many secular people who are also good, honest, and selfless. So, it ill behoves the author to put the blame on secular society. That is wrong. That is offensive.

I would go further. It would do the religious community a power of good if the Rabbinic leadership of the country took a good, long, hard look at themselves, and realized how deficient their behavior is – not only personally, but in setting an example by publicly and prominently denouncing the behavior of religious people where it is lacking. No (so called) religious person should feel it is right to behave badly. They should, indeed, be trembling and in fear of G-d.  They should remember Hillel’s declaration:

What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.


Another warning Europe will ignore

Not the happiest way to start the New Year, but it’s a message that needs to be publicized. From an interview with Monika Schwarz-Friesel – “one of the most quoted experts on anti-Semitism in both international academic literature and the German media” at the Times of Israel:

“Many of the refugees that have been pouring into Europe recently come from societies that are deeply anti-Semitic. It would be foolish to assume that their anti-Semitism can be educated away in a few years and that it won’t leave its mark on European societies.”

The trouble is, many Europeans do seem to be foolish when it comes to antisemitism. That standing ovation for Abbas ‘poisoning the wells’ speech to the European Parliament in June this year is just one clear example. And the other notable issue is whether Europe will “educate” in any effective fashion against anti-Semitism or indeed, educate at all.

Another warning Europe will ignore.

Read the whole thing, here.


Shanah Tovah


To those celebrating the Jewish New Year, which begins tonight and runs through to Tuesday night, Shanah Tovah! – have a good and sweet New Year, and well over the fast.


Dear Anti-Israel Activist

Some things deserve as wide an audience as possible. This, for example, as first seen at Anne’s Opinions:

I don’t know you personally, but I know what you do. You demonstrate on college campuses, in front of stores that sell Israeli products, at co-op grocery outlets, and in the town squares of liberal places like my community of Seattle. You wear a keffiyeh and carry signs that say “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Shall Be Free” and other slogans that deny Israel’s right to exist. I see your swastikas and other classic antisemitic images.

I see your placards with names of villages lost when Israel’s neighbors invaded in 1948. I see your props: child-size coffins, for a dramatic effect. Mock “eviction notices” and “apartheid walls.” Posters commemorating the “Nakba”—catastrophe—your term for the Arab failure to destroy Israel.

I hear your chants of “Intifada, Intifada” and “We are Hamas”—glorifying violence against Jews and celebrating their murder. I see you disrupt talks by Israeli scholars and experts—and even by Palestinians who support peace. I hear you call for boycotting hummus (made in Virginia!), and petition artists not to perform in Israel, and demand that pension funds divest from one of the world’s most vibrant economies. I hear you misappropriate terms like “justice” and “apartheid” and “genocide,” divorcing words so far from their true meaning that the language is no longer recognizable.

And I can’t help but wonder: How is all this vitriol, this hateful rhetoric, remotely helpful to the cause of the Palestinian people you claim to support?

If you truly cared about Palestinians…

Read the whole thing, here, because the message is well worth noting. Highly recommended.



More loss, this time for the whole country, with the passing of Shimon Peres earlier this morning. I see the Guardian took the opportunity to mark the occasion by attacking the Israeli government.

As recently as last year Peres strongly criticised the direction of the government of Israel’s rightwing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, although he did not name Netanyahu directly.

Peres said he believed the values he and Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995, had inherited from Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, were in jeopardy as he defended a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Israel should implement the two-state solution for her own sake, because if we should lose our majority, and today we are almost equal, we cannot remain a Jewish state or a democratic state.

“That’s the main issue, and to my regret they [the government] do the opposite.”

For something that’s not trying to make a political point, and actually deliver a decent obituary, see the Times of Israel piece here.



My mum died twenty five years ago, though sometimes it feels like it was yesterday. But, despite the passage of time, I still feel the loss. The pain may not be as sharp, as deep, or as overwhelming as it once was, but it’s still there, not far below the surface. The loss endures.

My mum did not have an easy life. After she and my dad separated then divorced, she was a single parent bringing up two young boys. This was at a time when that status was far more unusual. It was hard, but she never complained. Instead, she went about her mission, which was to bring up her boys to the best of her ability. She sacrificed everything towards that end. Although I am biased, as far as I am concerned she did a great job.

When my brother Michael and I were on our feet financially, we tried to repay some of the debt. Mum wasn’t comfortable with taking from people, even from us, so we had to be forceful. That was a quirk of her character that both her sons have inherited, so we both understand what it must have been like for her. At least in those later times she enjoyed some happiness, with both her sons making their way in the world, and especially when her granddaughters appeared on the scene. How she loved the girls! And how they loved her.

Near the end, with mum’s body ravaged by the cancer that was to kill her – a cancer that her doctor misdiagnosed as nothing to worry about – she was confined to bed and a wheelchair. She was living in our house, with Susan doing her Florence Nightingale bit to her usual high standards, ensuring she had the best of care, and suffered as little as was possible. I remember the pharmacist being a big help, too.

Although mum was very weak, she had set her heart on being at her niece’s wedding.  For several days before the wedding, it seemed as if she did not want to go to sleep, sensing that she might never wake up. She was hanging on, just.

She made it.

When we took her to the simchah, it was as if she had been plugged in to an energy pack. She was still stuck in the chair, but she smiled, and laughed, and surrounded by close family and friends, she joined in the celebrations, and had a thoroughly good time. We took her home, and she died the next night. She was 59.

Twenty-five years on, I still miss you mum. And I always will.


On being the father of the bride

Photo from the excellent Ori Chayun Wedding Photography Service - See here:

Photo from the excellent Ori Chayun Wedding Photography Service – See here.

Our daughter Sarah-Lee got married last week to Tomer. Susan and I (and her sister, Lori) could not have been happier. It was one of the best days of our life. All the planning, the discussions, the waiting, the anticipation – just everything – faded away as the simchah started. From the arrival of the first guests until the 2.00 AM wind down, it was non-stop enjoyment.

At any simchah, the guests make the difference. The Simpson family and the Bakshi family were favored with guests from near and far, all of whom came to enjoy themselves, and seemed to have a blast. The mix of Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Scottish, Israeli, Americans, Australians, Brits, and Canadians got on like the proverbial house on fire. You could feel the joy. Led by the happy couple, people bopped, boogied, and bounced around the fantastic venue – well done to The Avenue. The food was good, the drink was good, the staff were good – it was all so good. Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth delivered an outstanding experience under the chupah, enjoyed by people from across the religious spectrum. Brilliant.

From a personal perspective, there were three threads to my experience.

First, I had been warned the event would pass quickly, and it did. Faster than the proverbial speeding bullet.

Second, the wedding was a true crossing of several paths; we had guests there from several different backgrounds, all brought together to share the joy of the simchah, and that felt wonderful. It was heightened by the large number of family and friends who attended from abroad.

Third, at times the whole thing felt unreal, like a dream. It was as if I could not quite believe it was happening. I think it finally sank in when I got to bed; after all this was the first bedtime when the wedding was not some potential event in the future. It had happened!

I felt so proud to be the father of that beautiful bride, and so happy to be welcoming Tomer into the family, in the same way that the Bakshi family have done to Sarah-Lee. Susan was equally proud and happy. We are grateful beyond words.