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Archive for March, 2011

Some of you have probably seen the video below in previous years around Pesach time:


In an earlier post, I stressed the importance of not combining spring cleaning with Pesach cleaning, and this illustrates it well, i.e. bathtub rings are NOT chametz.

Having said that, there is enough to keep one busy for up to a month ahead of time.  (My friend Sigal won’t say the word “Pesach” until a week before, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know it’s coming.)  By stringing out the things that need doing over time, it can save on prep overload in the last week.

After my earlier Pesach post, one reader (who kindly linked to my blog from hers) sounded disappointed at the lack of timeline.  For those who have the drill down from years of practice, the following post will probably not be worth a lot, but for those new to Jewish practice (or morbidly curious non-Jews), it might prove informative as a jumping-off point for your own preparation.

First, though, a few more time-saving tips.

  1. If you eat kitniyot during Pesach, have older kids (7 and up) help with the checking.  I check each item three times (which seems to be the prevailing minhag), and let the older girls do one of the checks.  (They do a good job, too.)
  2. Don’t kasher your own metal if you can help it.  Shuls sometimes have large pots for boiling vessels and experienced blow-torchbearers to do libun on your oven racks.  If you take everything scrubbed and polished, let someone else do it.  It is safer and can save you time, mess, and possible injury.
  3. Friends of ours in Newton had leftover linoleum from covering their floor and cut it to fit their kitchen counters, so all they have to do is take it out and tape it down every year.  If you have countertops that have to be covered or kashered, this can be an easy way to do it, year after year.
  4. If you have porcelain sinks, getting sink inserts (instead of lining with foil) is a quick way to make your sink kosher for Pesach (and use the insert every year).  Personally, I miss being able to kasher my stainless steel sink in Newton, but it’s a lot easier lining my porcelain sinks here with the standard-sized liners sold at the hardware store, so it’s a tradeoff.
  5. On your computer, save documents from year to year for your prep schedule, weekly menus, and a corresponding shopping list so you don’t have to reinvent the Pesach wheel every year.  The more organized you are in advance, the easier it is to get everything done.  When Pesach is over, go back and revise as needed for the following year.  (I also keep a document with an inventory of what I have for pots and pans, utensils, and serving ware so I know if something broke last year or I’m going to need new equipment for the holiday.)

Here is my Pesach prep schedule:

1 month ahead

□ Work on finishing chametz food in pantry and freezer

□  Start sorting kitniyot

1 week ahead

□ Do additional cleaning

  • clean around upholstery
  • clean carseats
  • polish silver (kiddush cups, everyday meat cutlery, candlesticks)

□ Wash/vacuum car

□ Plan meals and shop

  • food (especially non-perishable)
  • aluminum foil
  • paper/plastic ware
  • sandwich and ziplock bags
  • foil pans (lasagna, small rectangular, pie or cake pan)
  • 24- or 48-hour candles
  • regular candles
  • toothbrushes, toothpaste
  • dishwashing liquid
  • sponges
  • Shabbat sponges

□ Arrange to sell chametz

□ Clean temporary space for Pesach stuff in kitchen; line with paper/plastic

  • empty cupboard, wipe out, and line shelf
  • cover chametz or pack and store

□ Laundry (especially aprons, oven mitts, dish towels)

3-5 days ahead

□ Check for chametz

  • coat pockets
  • backpacks, school bags

□ Finish shopping

  • buy produce, milk, eggs
  • last-minute items

□ Fridge and freezer

  • toss most food; bag chametz food
  • transfer chametz food to large basement freezer; reserve kitchen freezer for Pesach food
  • wipe surfaces clean

□ Prepare vessels/utensils for kashering

  • scrub clean
  • let sit 24 hours
  • kasher (kiddush cups, parve utensils, everyday meat cutlery)

□ Counter tops

  • pack up food/utensils
  • scrub clean with caustic cleanser; leave 24 hours
  • kasher

□ Oven/stove

  • clean oven (self-clean cycle)
  • clean stove with caustic cleanser
  • cover stove surface with foil
  • libun oven and burner racks

□ Microwave

  • clean and stow in cupboard

□ Dining room

  • tie cupboard doors closed
  • clean booster seat
  • wipe down chairs, table
  • launder chair pads

□ Laundry

  • change beds
  • launder table linens

□ Unpack Pesach dishes and cookware

  • store in Pesach-cleaned areas

□ Begin cooking

  • finish sorting kitniyot

Day before Erev Pesach

□ Final cleaning (as usual)

□ Finish cooking

Morning of Erev Pesach

□ Bathroom

  • replace toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap

□ Trash

  • take out trash before chametz burning

Above all, don’t go it alone.  Kids in Israel are home for a full week before the seder, and not everyone sends their kids to camps for that week.  Put ’em to work!  If they’re old enough to do laundry, enlist their help to do it.  Some kids like to do wet cleaning better than tidying, so make use of this, especially if you were hoping to sneak in some spring cleaning or if you’re having houseguests for the holiday.  Have them scrub out the tub, clean the bathroom sinks and mirror, or take out bathroom trash.  My ceramic tile floors could use a good scrub on hands and knees, so I plan to station a kid every few meters with a bucket, rag, and brush, and let them Cinderella away.  (They love it, for some reason.)  Kids can help with washing fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruit to prepare for the meal, and make simple salads.  Above all, the Pesach table should be festive, and kids can help by making centerpieces or name cards to mark each participant’s place at the table.  (Check out Creative Jewish Mom for craft ideas for the holiday.)  Such things need not be complicated; you’re trying to prepare, after all.  Just give them construction, scrapbooking, or Bristol paper, glue and beads or sequins, markers, or whatever you have to make something unique for each place setting.

Pesach is a family affair, and the participation of the whole family (including spouses who work outside the home, even if it’s just to put in half an hour a day before or after work) ensures that the work gets done and at the end of it all, on seder night, everyone feels they’ve earned their freedom.

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As a tireless advocate for Israel, I often get bewildered, enraged, and depressed at the insanity, hostility, and sheer stupidity of much of the human race.  A Facebook friend recently posted yet another in the series of pathetic man-on-the-street polls taken about Israel (this one in my former hometown of Portland, Oregon).

To think that these are registered voters in the most powerful country in the world is astonishing.  (That there were only 13 ignoramuses in this small sampling is cold comfort when you realize that they probably represent a good chunk of the American population overall.)

And then, to preserve my sanity, I look for a glimmer of humor (hope is too much to look for here) and remember this priceless scene from Mel Brooks’s “Blazing Saddles” (1974):

Proof of Hashem’s love for the Jews: He inspires Mel Brooks to come up with the antidote before the rest of the world comes up with the disease.

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Facing down Facebook

Those on Facebook may be familiar with a Facebook group which was formed recently calling for a Third Palestinian Intifada.  A translation of the group’s page by Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch follows:

Attention
The countries neighboring Palestine will start to advance on Palestine on May 15, and a while after that all the Islamic countries will advance. Our time is near. Palestine will be liberated, and it will be we who liberated it. Our aim at present is to reach millions of friends with this page before May.
I request that you publicize this page everywhere.
We are coming, Palestine.
Copy the link to your page, add it to your profile, and publicize it with every photograph, video, page, and everywhere:
[Site address]
Palestine, how negligent we have been concerning your rights. Forgive us and forgive your children for this.
You have always been our inspiration for resoluteness, for resistance, and for struggle for you to be free and Arab.

Palestine, as you were, as you still are, and as you will remain,
I love you, queen of lands!

Following the Tunisian Intifada, the Egyptian Intifada and the Libyan Intifada, it is now the turn of the Palestinian Intifada.

The first Intifada was in 1987.
The second Intifada was in 2000.
As to the third Intifada, its date will soon appear on this page.

We have contacted the managers of Arab [Facebook] pages with large numbers of friends, and they have said that they will assist us in publicizing this page. The Palestinian cause is our cause.
Publicize this page on websites, forums, and everywhere, and invite all your friends to join. If everyone invites all his friends ­ by Allah, by today we will have more than 100,000 friends.

This page was created on March 6, 2011.
Allah willing, we will reach a million [friends] this week.
The time for Palestine’s liberation has come.

Everyone who has a Facebook page ­please publicize our page on yours.
Palestine will be liberated and it will be we who liberated it.
We are coming, Palestine.

If Facebook closes this page, all Muslims will boycott it forever!

I’m a fan of free speech.  Where words end and deeds begin is murky at best.  I’m not ignorant of the power of speech to incite to violence, though where hate speech is controlled, hate can still thrive, and where hate speech is free, peace can still reign (if the speech and those making it are seen as the crackpots that they are).

On its face, the text for the Third Intifada Facebook Group does not call for violence, bloodshed, or even hatred.  It expresses love for Arab Palestine, makes no mention of Israel, and says nothing of Arabs converging with arms for a massive letting of Jewish blood.  If you read the text word for word, the biggest threat expressed in the text is that of a boycott of Facebook if the site closes the Third Intifada group page.

It’s rather what the words mean that represents threatening and hateful speech.  To call for a massive convergence (read: invasion) of Palestine (read: Israel) to liberate the Arabs there (read: destroy Israel), whether such a thing is really likely to happen at all, is a barely-veiled threat.  To compare what is being called for here to the First Intifada (i.e. popular uprising), which caused the deaths of between 160-300 Israelis and 1,886 Arabs (1,000 of whom were killed by other Arabs), or the Second Intifada (more accurately known as the Terror War) in which over 1,000 Israelis, tens of foreigners, and thousands of Arabs lost their lives, is nothing less than another call to war.  And to allow a group like this to exist on Facebook violates Facebook’s own terms of service, which stipulates that the user “will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence” and “will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.”

Now, it’s more than likely that this group’s stated goals will never come to pass.  It is more than likely that the internal unrest affecting much of the Arab world will continue through May 15, and that no such convergence on Israel to “liberate” the Arabs here will take place.  It is more than likely that this group will not mobilize any more Jew-haters than any other Facebook page devoted to hating Israel (do a search for the words “hate” and “Israel” and see all the dreck that shows up).  However, to allow a group which so blatantly violates Facebook’s own terms of service to stay up on the site shows that Facebook 1) can’t keep up with all of the hate groups that get created in order to take them down, 2) doesn’t care how many hate groups are created on the site, or 3) is actually afraid Muslims will boycott it forever.  One is a possibility, though one would think they would be more responsive to reports of terms violations rather than refusing to take the group’s page down as they have done.  Two and three are just pathetic.

I reported the group as inciting violence (since that’s exactly what an intifada is) before I read that Facebook has refused to take down the group’s page.  After reading that, I contacted Facebook through their “Suggestions” contact page with the following message:

Bottom line: This group violates your own terms of service by promoting hateful, threatening messages and inciting violence against a specific group.  The Second Intifada resulted in the deaths of over 1100 Israelis, 64 foreigners, and thousands of Arabs.  If Facebook is concerned that it will be subject to worldwide Muslim boycott, it should think again.  Most Muslims ignore such boycotts (they are practical people who enjoy modern technology as much as anyone else) and Facebook’s own cred as a hate-free site is seriously jeopardized by allowing such groups to flourish on its site.  If you believe in unfettered free speech, then remove the anti-hate and incitement terms from your terms of service.  If you say you won’t allow hateful groups to form on your site, then back it up with action.

I invite Facebook to put its money where its mouth is.  If you’re a Facebook user, I invite you to contact them, too.

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It seems that history was made recently at the United Nations.  No, China was not kicked off the Human Rights Council (though, inexplicably, Libya was).  And no, Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has not been disinvited from his annual anti-Semitic tirade and raspberry-blowing fest.  And no new canapés have been introduced at UN receptions.

The history I refer to is the recent screening of the Julian Schnabel film “Miral” at the United Nations General Assembly.

The UN is not the usual venue for a feature film to debut.  That’s because it’s a policy-making body, and not Sundance, Cannes, or Toronto.  And while it seems that documentaries (i.e. based on fact) are occasionally screened, feature films (i.e. based on fiction, imagination, or anecdote) are not.

And as feature films go, this one would not seem the likeliest to be chosen.  It was panned by English and Italian critics who found it shallow, stilted, and just another hackneyed vehicle for demonizing of Israel.  Focusing as it does on a young Palestinian Arab girl who grows up in an orphanage, becomes a teacher in a refugee camp, and falls in love with a terrorist, it would not seem to be the most dispassionate tale one could imagine.

I’m not taking issue with a Jewish producer making a movie about a book he enjoyed by an Arab woman he’s romantically involved with.  I’m not even taking issue with the fact that it may or may not be bald-faced Palestinian propaganda.  Such a film, whether or not it has merit, should be allowed to be screened in appropriate venues and judged on its own merits.  I also support the rights of people who claim it is Palestinian propaganda to protest its screening, expose any lies in the film, and to call it a dog of a film if that’s what it is.

But what I do take issue with is the UN as an appropriate venue for this kind of film.  Films that are intended to educate, report facts, enlighten, and provide historical background, are all worthy of being screened to a body which should concern itself with reality rather than imagination.  On the other hand, films that are attempts to appeal to emotions, reinforce (dubious) conventional wisdom, or provide catharsis for the viewer, are inappropriate to be shown at the UN.

GA president Joseph Deiss was reported to like the film “and thought it could contribute to a useful and interesting discussion on a topic that has gone on for so long.”  This is revealing on a number of points.  First, the desire to spark discussion on a topic which has been discussed and discussed until the discussants are blue in the mouth seems to me more like beating a dead horse than contributing to any solutions.  And the fact that the issue “has gone on for so long” is also telling.  The UN itself, through the UNRWA, has administered the very refugee camps that are featured in the film, places where in reality, extremism, violence, and hatred of Jews fester and are indoctrinated into generations of young Arabs.  The UN itself has done more than any other body to prolong this conflict by perpetuating the refugee camps instead of doing what they were set up to do, which is to resettle the refugees and enable them to build whole lives for themselves.  Over 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands descended on Israel in the 1940s and 1950s, and sixty years (and no UN aid) later, they are fully integrated in Israeli society.  The UN High Commissioner on Refugees has operated many large-scale refugee resettlement programs, enabling an estimated 50 million refugees to restart their lives.  Yet under the UNRWA (created specially to administer the Palestinian Arab refugees), between 520,000 and 800,000 Arab refugees from the Arab-Israeli conflict have not been resettled in over 60 years, even on an annual operating budget of well over $500 million (source).  If anything, showing a film like this should embarrass the UN, and the discussion it sparks should be one which questions the UN mandate itself.

If the UN wants to make peace in the Middle East, it needs to stop perpetuating the conflict through its own neglect and bloated, protectionist bureaucracy.  If it wants to make peace, it needs to stop fomenting the political divisions that are so entrenched in its own structure (the automatic majority comes to mind).  If it wants to fix this problem and get it off its desk (which seems to be a high priority throughout the West), it would do well to look at what really exists here, and not at the “art” of a scruffy Jewish American who shows up to premieres in his pajamas and hobnobs with celebrity “activists” and self-promoting Hollywood executives.

I read recently that Canadian journalist Robert Fulford is credited with saying that conspiracy theories are “history for stupid people.”  Looking at the behavior of the UN General Assembly these days, it seems that Hollywood feature films are history for international diplomats.

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The gift of the Jews

My parents are visiting the Crunch family in Israel for a rare visit (their second in 4½ years).  Today, I took my dad to the new, improved Israel Museum, where we dodged the raindrops to see the Second Temple model, strolled through the Shrine of the Book, and visited the Jewish Life wing (especially to see the shul interiors brought from Italy, Germany, India, and Suriname) and the ancient artifacts in the Archeology wing.

As we looked at the small figurines, jewelry, and other objets d’art of ancient Egypt, I thought about how some of these precious, astonishingly beautiful things might have been made during the times when Bnei Yisrael were slaves in Egypt.  And that gets me thinking about Pesach.

Pesach is my favorite holiday.  It always gets me thinking about how we Jews came together again after years of slavery and became a nation.  Yes, most stayed behind in Egypt, and yes, life was difficult for decades after the Exodus.  And yes, today it’s a hassle, and yes, a lot of people go ballistic over it.  (I have heard of some who eat treif year round and then won’t eat in anyone else’s house during Pesach because they’re not kosher enough.  Weird.)  But I love cleaning and putting away the stuff I use all year and thinking of ways to simplify, simplify, simplify what I eat for a week.  I spend less time thinking about food in general, and more time sitting around the table talking to my kids who are on vacation.  We sleep a little later, go on family trips (including to the beach, where we can get kosher le’Pesach ice cream), slurp fruit juice pops, and enjoy the spring weather.  Some people think that for all the work that goes into preparing, Pesach should last a month.  (I’m still happy with a week.)  It’s not a celebration of freedom only in name; the Cap’n takes off from work for the week and we actually celebrate our freedom from the grind of the work week, the school week, my cooking/cleaning/child-herding week, and take each day as it comes.

After seeing the magnificent artistry, craftsmanship, and sophisticated technology that went into creating these cast bronze figures, jewelry and such, I look at what has become of the Egyptians and the Jews since they were created thousands of years ago.  The Egyptians and their great (though undoubtedly barbaric) society were eventually overrun by Arab colonizers.  (Egyptian Copts are descended from the pharaohs, but as you can see from this article, they are coming under vicious attack by Muslims and are little better off than the Jews were before they fled Egypt in the 1940s and 1950s.)  They lost their language, their culture, their religion, and their race itself was mostly subsumed by Arab settlers.  Their country went from being wealthy and bounteous to being just another two-bit oppressive Muslim state with some pretty fabulous (if frequently ransacked) ruins from earlier times.  The Jews who left Egypt wandered in the desert for years, eventually built their own society which suffered from internal strife and external conquest, but rebuilt itself twice now (after the return from Babylon and in the creation of the modern State) and has endured.  Our people are (more or less) the same people we were thousands of years ago, with the same language (updated, of course), the same texts, and the same mission.  As Egypt has groaned under the oppressive regimes of dictators, Israel has created a flourishing (if flawed) democracy.  As the Arab world (including Egypt) has contributed little to the betterment of civilization in hundreds of years (unless you count the assassin and the suicide bomber as contributions), Israel’s achievements in science, medicine, and communications technology are more than amply documented in email forwards which circulate the globe constantly.  Egypt gave us papyrus; Israel has published 6,866 books in a year (2006), while Egypt published 2,215 (1995) (source).

Israelis know what it is to be free: free to speak, to assemble, to practice your religion, to disagree with your government.  For Egyptians, as for most Middle Eastern Muslims, freedom is simply the opposite of slavery.

So have Israelis created the legacy of breathtaking art that the Egyptians did those thousands of years ago?  Generally not.  But we did give the world the Torah, the commandments (both the 613 and the Seven Noahide Commandments), the belief in one God, the definition of true justice, and a sense that all humans are created equal (i.e. in the image of God).  When all is said and done, our gift is much more beautiful, and more enduring.

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Pesach made simple(r)

With Purim over and the kitchen and dining room littered with the refuse and junk food from mishloach manot, it is time to think about Pesach.

Every year I look for ways to simplify the process, use less aluminum foil, and pack away fewer items.  Making aliyah has changed much of how I do things (fresher, more appetizing Pesach food available, fewer days of Yom Tov, and less storage space), but I continue to look for ways to increase my efficiency.

Here are a few things I’ve come up with:

1.       Don’t combine spring cleaning with Pesach cleaning.  I know it’s tempting, but unless you start really early, the price in burnout is just too high.  My neighbor says she tidies and cleans gradually over the month or two in advance and just needs to touch up things a bit before Pesach.  I muck out the fridge a week before Pesach while the kids are still in school so I only have to give it a quick wipe before unpacking Pesach food.  If you’re getting a late start on Pesach prep, let go of the things that can wait until after the holiday.  It’s more important to enjoy Pesach than to have a sparkling house.  (Let the dust and dirt remind you of the desert which was Bnei Yisrael’s home for 40 years.)

2.       Minimize what you store for Pesach.  The only Pesach dishes I keep are my formal meat dishes and my grandmother’s glass goblets for the seder.  If I’m not hosting a seder, I don’t unpack them.  (This makes years when we host a seder all the more special).  I keep cutlery for meat and dairy and a box of everyday glasses (a wedding gift), but that’s it.  We use disposable the rest of the time, using the same plate for breakfast and lunch (which usually just accumulates matzah crumbs), and a clean one for dinner.

3.       Keep menus simple.  I’ve been working to reduce the number vessels and utensils I store from year to year.  The more elaborately you cook, the more stuff you have to store, so think of Pesach as a time to eliminate fanciful food and cook with the simplest ingredients (fresh herbs, fruit, vegetables for soups and salads, eggs, simply cooked meat and fish).  I’ve stopped kashering my KitchenAid mixer and only keep a hand mixer, just in case.  Since Purim involves so many sweets and I find Pesach desserts uninspiring (too many eggs, too much beating, too much matzah meal), I have stopped making desserts except my friend Heather’s farfel clusters (recipe below).  Did our ancestors stand there beating egg whites for half an hour for macaroons?  I think not.  Figure out what you REALLY need to eat during the holiday and just keep equipment for that.

4.       Keep Pesach special.  I know no one bakes desserts with matzah meal during the year, but reserve some tasty recipes just for Pesach so it is something to look forward to.  The Cap’n and I love matzah brei, and the kids love having their first fruit juice pops of the season in the special molds I keep for Pesach.

5.       Don’t move.  Stay in the same house.  This makes it much easier to develop a routine with Pesach things stored in the same place and a kashering method that works quickly and efficiently.  (Also, don’t get pregnant, don’t get sick, and don’t be in graduate school.  These all interfere with Pesach preparation and should be avoided.)

As promised, here are Heather’s Farfel Clusters (via her mother-in-law; with two or three ingredients, how can you go wrong?):  Melt 12 ounces (350 grams) of chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, or in a double-boiler.  (I use a pyrex dish inside a saucepan of water on low heat.  Don’t heat it too fast or the chocolate will burn.)  Stir in one cup of farfel (lightly toasted in the oven) and 1 cup of nuts or raisins (optional).  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto foil or wax paper and refrigerate until firm.  Store in a zippered bag in the refrigerator or a cool place.

I am always looking for new ways to eliminate fuss at Pesach.  What do you do to minimize Pesach prep fatigue?

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Dying to oneself

My mind has been on the murder of the Fogel family every day, for much of the day, since it happened.  This has not necessarily been a good thing, but it’s been something I cannot really prevent.  The images of the bloodied bodies in their beds (or on the floor next to their beds) remain burned on my memory, as do the words of the family at the funeral and since.

Eulogizing his younger brother Udi (the slain 36-year-old father), Motti Fogel said, “A man dies to himself, to his children. Udi, you are not a national event. Your horrible death mustn’t make your life into a tool.”

I can imagine that the extended family might have felt conflicting emotions at having 20,000 people (about the same number as attended Beethoven’s funeral) show up for the Fogel family’s funeral in Jerusalem.  On the one hand, they may have been comforted by the show of solidarity, support, and grief shared by so many fellow Israelis.  On the other hand, in their own shock and sadness, they might have preferred a much smaller, quieter funeral without so much press interest and speech-making by politicians.

The fact is that despite Motti Fogel’s statement that this was not a national or a political event, to everyone outside the family, that’s exactly what it was.  It was politics that led these subhuman creatures to commit this murder.  It was politics that created the climate of hatred that thrives throughout Palestinian Arab society.  It was politics that has led to decreased security for settlers and increased tolerance of attacks against Jews throughout Israel (not just against settlers, but against residents of any place targeted by Arab gunmen, terrorists in bulldozers, or Hamas missiles).  It was politics that led Ehud Barak to extend the housing freeze in capitulation to American pressure and naïve foreign policy, giving comfort and encouragement to the rest of the world’s Israel- and settler-bashing, including the Arab world’s.

The Fogels, Ben-Yishais, and the rest of their family have a job to do.  It is to comfort one another, pick up the pieces, and find a way to go on with their lives, adjusting to this painful new reality.  Ruthie’s father says this is a test of his faith; 12-year-old Tamar says she understands the challenge ahead of her, and that she will be strong and be a mother to her surviving younger brothers.  With Hashem’s help, they will find the strength they need to do what they must.

The rest of Israel has a different job to do.  It is to view the murders (with or without the photos) in the greater context of how Israel is conducting itself.  Spiritually, Rav Binny Friedman suggests a nationwide call for teshuva (examination of our lives and resolve to improve our own conduct).  Are we Israelis, as individuals and a society, conducting ourselves at the highest standards we possibly can?  Are we treating one another, in the public and private spheres, as we ought?  Are we making this Jewish State a state for all Jews?  Are we keeping the mitzvot, especially those that command us to care for one another?  Are we working to build a country that can function as a light unto the nations?

Politically, this incident is a wake-up call to the status quo, both in the smaller picture and the bigger picture.  Does Itamar (and the other settlements) have the security system it needs?  (The security guard was alerted that something had breached the perimeter fence, but wrote it off as animals, which frequently penetrate the fence.)  Perhaps it’s time the Israeli government put a little more effort into protecting its citizens (especially one of the current government’s chief voting blocks, the settlements) and a little less in jeopardizing those citizens with foolhardy “confidence-building gestures” like dismantling roadblocks.  And the Israeli government must find the perpetrators of this crime.  If traditional methods don’t work, perhaps Israel should consider less traditional methods.  (Here’s my favorite, courtesy of Treppenwitz.)  And in the larger picture, Israel must ask itself some tough questions.  Do we resume building in the settlements, or do we continue the farce of peace talks with a partner that educates its people to do exactly what was done to the Fogels?  Do we take some action to hold the PA responsible for its blanket policy of incitement throughout the society under its control?  Do we reevaluate the nature of our possession of the West Bank altogether, perhaps considering other alternatives than holding it in escrow for the creation of yet another hostile Arab state on our borders?  (Here’s an interesting take on that.)

There isn’t a soul in Israel who doesn’t wish that the Fogels had lived to a ripe old age, seen their children grow up (or grown up themselves), danced at their weddings, and cuddled their grandchildren.  The fact that they will not now is something which affects every Israeli, both spiritually and politically, in much the same way as the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in 2006.  The fact that the Shalits have chosen to be public figures and campaign worldwide for their son’s release is understandable (whether or not one agrees with their methods or demands).  But ultimately, Gilad’s capture and confinement (both in violation of international law, which Hamas sees as a joke) is something that greater Israeli society has to deal with in its own way, weighing the cost of having him in captivity, the possible cost of getting him released, and other alternatives to getting him home.  (Let’s watch the situation of the Gazan engineer kidnapped in the Ukraine and jailed in Israel to see if that develops into a hostage exchange situation.)  That is as excruciating, in its way, as the loss of the Fogels, and one of the many painful facts that Israelis, publicly and privately, have to live with.

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