Yom Kippur – Remembering the sermon on the mound

It’s been 50 years since the Sermon on the mound. Unbelievable. The Jerusalem Post reminds us:

This Yom Kippur marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most seminal moments in postwar American Jewish life, an event – or, to be more precise, one that did not occur – that had a profound impact on how US Jewry came to feel about itself and its place in society.

In 1965, the Day of Atonement coincided with October 6, the date on which the Los Angeles Dodgers were going up against the Minnesota Twins in the first game of baseball’s World Series.

The Dodgers’ best pitcher, Sandy Koufax, was expected to lead the charge for the team. With a dazzling overhand curveball that seemed to defy gravity and a blazing fastball that was virtually unhittable, Koufax was dubbed by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks “the greatest pitcher I ever saw.” Or, as Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci once wrote, “Koufax was so good, he once taped a postgame radio show with Vin Scully before the game.”

But Koufax wasn’t just a baseball superstar.

He was also a Jew from Brooklyn, and a proud one at that. And although he was completely secular, he found himself facing a dilemma: stand by his teammates and play, or respect the sanctity of the day.

Koufax chose the latter, sitting out the first game (which the Dodgers went on to lose). His choice caused a sensation among an entire generation of American Jews, from the most observant to the least active. It underlined that Jews need not feel discomfort about their identity while taking part in American public life.

One of many such examples, but one of the most famous and enduring.

As we head in to this Yom Kippur, it remains only for me to say:

“G’mar chatima tovah 5776”

An easy fast to one and all taking part.

If the EU presses Israel, Israel should press back

The possibility that the EU will demand Israel labels produce from Judea and Samaria, or impose other restrictions or sanctions, is popping up with ever more frequency. Somebody is stirring the pot.

With that in mind, I seriously hope that the Israeli government has read this paper and made the appropriate preparations. It is a policy paper by Prof. Avi Bell and Prof. Eugene Kontorovich entitled:

Challenging the EU’s Illegal Restrictions on Israeli Products in the World Trade Organization

You can read the executive summary here, from which you will see that the EU action is… illegal! In a nutshell, the actions proposed by Europe breach the GATT and WTO (trade agreement) standards. Israel could – and should – take the EU to court, if the situation develops as expected. If nothing else, the EU policy makers will have a bit of challenge explaining away their blatantly discriminatory policy in a court of law.

I do hope somebody in the Israeli government is up to speed on this. If you happen to be on good terms with Bibi, please do tell him!

Monaco bridge mess?

I have blogged a few times about the allegations of cheating by Israeli bridge players (for example, here) but it’s now no longer just Israelis in the frame. Although slightly late with this, it is worth noting that the excellent Bridge Winners site now hosts a damning (and extensively researched and detailed) post:

“…alleging improper communication between the world’s #1 and #2 ranked bridge players, Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes, during the 2014 European Championships. The pair was on the Monaco team that placed second in this event, earning Monaco a spot in the upcoming Bermuda Bowl.”

See the post, here.

Thank goodness it’s not only Israelis that are involved.

Judging by some of the comments around the site, bridge has a problem with cheating. To me, the solution – certainly at the top levels of competition – has to be in better use of technology. For example, taking away the cards, and having all communications done electronically through specially designed consoles, instead of face to face (including card play). The players would need to be chaperoned to avoid email, text, and the like circumventing the arrangement. And that human element remains the weak link. Is there no perfect solution?

They hate the Star of David

From the Times of Israel:

A number of pro-Palestinian organizations have petitioned the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to expel Israel’s national emergency medical service for using the emblem of the international federation on its ambulances operating in West Bank.

The Palestinian groups charge that Magen David Adom — the country’s medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service — is in violation of a Geneva Convention protocol stipulating Israeli paramedic teams use a neutral emblem while working outside the country, the Yedioth Aharonoth daily newspaper reported Sunday.

The background is important. The MDA only became a full (ha!) part of the ICRC in 2006, after surrendering its principles agreeing to abide by a protocol adopted by Geneva Convention signatories the year before.

The protocol introduced a neutral “red crystal” emblem to be used by any relief teams in areas where there is sensitivity about Christian or Muslim symbols.

They should never have signed the protocol. It was wrong, wrong, wrong. And now it has come back to bite them.

Here’s the graphic from the TOI site:


On the right – OK for use “in Israel.” On the left, for use “outside Israel.”

If we ignore the protocol, we see what the protest is about. They hate the Star of David. It is not the Israeli flag, but the worldwide symbol associated with Jews. They hate the Star of David. It offends them.

It’s OK for Israel to (rightly) tolerate the cross and the crescent, but they cannot tolerate the Star of David – even when doing humanitarian work!

The MDA may have given them cover for their hatred (by signing the damned protocol) but those with an objective and independent mind will surely recognize that what is being displayed here is naked Jew hate.

And the world snores on.

Having a drink on Kahlon

I was out last night at Jems in Petach Tikva ( a micro brewery with a restaurant attached) and this is what showed up on their beer price list:


The Hebrew text says:

“New price. Thank you Kahlon!”

It’s a reference to the recent decision by Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, to reduce taxes in some areas. (See here.)   I’ll drink to that. L’chaim!

Five for Friday

A week composed of holiday, chag, fast, and work, has now set itself up to wind down for the weekend. Hooray! Then we will move on to phase two of work, fast, and work! There’s nothing quite like the times of the Yamim Noraim. And then there’s Sukkot

The links

Enough of the diversions of a spiritual nature; they will come when their time is due. For now, I offer the usual weekly selection of links. I hope you get something out of them.

Bonus! Bonus! Bonus! What’s more, it’s an Irn-Bru Bonus!

This week, I couldn’t resist posting the following link. It takes you to a story that hits several, er, sweet spots, including technology and Irn-Bru. Yes, Irn-Bru:

Scotsman cools PC with IRN-BRU, dubs it the ‘Aye Mac’

Shabbat Shalom!

The unpaid Palestinian electricity bill

Have a guess how much the unpaid bill for supplying electricity to the PA is. When you have made your guess, continue reading.

Ready? Then, how close was your guess to this:

NIS 1.7 billion.

On the assumption a billion here is the US billion (1,000,000,000) that makes the debt about:

442 million dollars, or

289 million pounds.

What is going on?

“”If you don’t pay for electricity, they let it go for one month, they give you a warning in the second month, and they cut off your electricity in the third month. We haven’t got to that yet with the Palestinian Authority (PA). My unequivocal stance is that anyone who doesn’t pay for electricity should have it cut off, and since the PA doesn’t pay like it should, actual measures should be taken by limiting the supply of electricity. If that doesn’t help, their electricity should be cut off…”

Thus spake Israel Electric Corporation chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal in an interview this week.

Somebody, somewhere, previously decided not to punish the Palestinians for the unpaid bill. Or, not so much punish, as take the appropriate action: cut off supply.

Now, you can argue about whether that would have been right morally, or politically, but here’s little room for argument as to the effect on future Palestinian conduct. In other words, they were bound to continue the practice of non payment. And they did, indeed, not pay.

At this point in time, it’s worth pondering where the aid budget goes. if not to pay for basics like electricity.

As reported by Globes, it could be that the situation will shortly be more prominent in the eyes of the world:

Ron-Tal made it clear that he intended to limit the flow of electricity to the PA soon, as has already happened before, saying, “As a government company, we have to coordinate what we do with the government, but I intend – already in the coming weeks – to again limit the flow of electricity to the PA until it pays, or until the problem is solved by government decisions. This will not continue at the expense of the citizens of Israel; it’s a scandal.”

He’s right. But Israel has, by dint of a whopper of an error of judgement in not enforcing payment from the outset, dug itself into a bit of a corner. If it takes steps, how will the world see this? You can bet Israel will not be seen in a favorable light, even if it sends the cut off notice with pink ribbons and rosewater perfume.

But, realistically, it cannot continue. And Israel may have to endure ordure and condemnation on the way to sorting things out. I bet this problem is being ignored by the government in the hope it will go away. It won’t. It is a scandal, and the government needs to wake up and sort it out, for all sorts of reasons. Apart from the economics of it all, what message does this send to the Palestinian leadership about Israeli resolve for dealing with real issues?

Biking season

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

The front gears on my bike have been acting up. I know enough to make an attempt at repairs, but whatever I was doing wasn’t working. So, (because what else do you do on Tzom Gedalia?) after work I rode my bike to the bike shop.

I had a suspicion it would be busy, but did not appreciate how busy. It was mobbed. The forecourt was jammed with new bikes – it looked like they had taken delivery of a batch of 50 or so. And there were a couple of tall towers of stacked bike boxes waiting to be opened. The place was also busy with customers.

To cut a long story short, they were too busy to do the repair and had no space to store my bike, and I will need to go back again. Why so busy? It’s about to be the peak of the biking season – Yom Kippur…

Because over 90% of Israelis do not drive on Yom Kippur (some sources say it is 99%) the roads are emptier than at any other time. On the night of Yom Kippur particularly, Israeli kids (and adults) celebrate by riding on the road. Both sides. Both directions. I never said the roads were safer than at any other time…

So that’s why the bike shop was so busy. It’s the biking season!

Trouble at the Temple Mount

From Ynet:

Clashes between security forces and Palestinians at the Temple Mount continued for the third consecutive day on Tuesday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Jerusalem Police said: “Following intelligence collected by the Shin Bet and the police regarding Arab youths, some with their faces covered, who barricaded themselves inside al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem Police organized additional security forces at the entrance to the Temple Mount, who are prepared for any eventuality as has been done throughout the entire holiday.

According to police, the youths inside the mosque collected stones and fireworks and set up barricades to prevent closing the entrance, using shoe racks, iron rods, and rope tied to the doors of the mosque, and other methods.

As soon as the Temple Mount was opened to visitors on Tuesday morning, police said, rioters began throwing stones towards the Mughrabi Bridge.

The aim of the rioters is irrelevant. See if you can spot any condemnation of their violence.

Police and border guards then entered the Temple Mount area, at which point the rioters fled inside the mosque and began throwing dozens of stones, concrete blocks, and fireworks at security forces.

A firebomb was also thrown at security forces, setting wooden beams on fire.

Security forces began dismantling the barricades at the entrance to the mosque and shut the door with the rioters still inside.

Visits by Jews and tourists began on time and without disturbances.

On the surface, job well done by the police. But they are handicapped in that they do not have control of the site. The Waqf does. It sure looks like time to revisit that arrangement.

Later in the day, police arrested an Arab man suspected of attacking two Jewish youths in the morning in the Old City. He fled the scene, but was detained after police said they recognized him on security footage.

Another one bites the dust.

Meantime, how is that condemnation coming along?

Khaled Mashal, head of Hamas’s political bureau, had a phone conversation with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas regarding events at the Temple Mount.

The Middle East; where logic comes to die, and Arab politicians come to lie.

The United States said on Monday that it was deeply concerned about the violence and urged both sides to lower tensions.

What they mean: surrender to this terrorism. No, thanks. Bloody fools.

Jordanian King Abdullah II condemned Israel, saying it was acting aggressive at al-Aqsa.

I hope this is window dressing for his home audience. Otherwise he is joining the ranks of the fools. (And by all accounts, he is no fool.)

Turkish President Recep Erdogan called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to reprimand Israel for “violating the mosque’s sanctity.”

What he means: Israel is not surrendering to the terrorists. His pronouncements are unlikely to carry much weight anywhere outside his immediate family.

L’Shanah Tovah

לשנה טובה

"Runny hunny" by Scott Bauer, USDA ARS - This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID K7240-6 (next).This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.English | français | македонски | +/−. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Runny_hunny.jpg#/media/File:Runny_hunny.jpg

Source: Wikimedia – “Runny hunny” by Scott Bauer, USDA ARS

Have a sweet New Year. May it be a year of peace, prosperity, health, and happiness.

Here’s to 5776!

[PS: no more blogging till after the chag.]