Archive for December, 2010

Hava Nagila

While locating videos on YouTube for my Allan Sherman post yesterday, I stumbled across several interesting versions of “Hava Nagila” (the tune to which Sherman’s song, “Harvey and Sheila,” is set).   I had no idea this song had such universal appeal, but I think you’ll agree from some of the versions I found below that it’s been adopted by anyone who has come into contact with Jews (and probably a few who haven’t).  Wikipedia says it was probably written in 1918 and based on a Ukrainian folk melody.

Just to introduce the song in its purest form, I shopped around for a totally straight version of it.  I thought I’d found it in this version by a Hong Kong choir (reassuringly entitled “Israeli Traditional”), but partway through, the percussion and harmonies started going all wonky and I knew that wasn’t it.  Then I found this version by a singer named Dalida, which starts in Hebrew at least (but then veers into French).  Nice version, nonetheless.

Beatles fans, here is the video for you, sung by a group calling themselves The Moptops.  (A skillfully edited version.  My only question is, who is standing in for George?)

Hey, everyone loves the song, though they don’t always want to stay in minor key.  Here is a bagpipe ensemble playing it (in major) while marching in a 2008 Israel Day Parade.

Exotic foreigners love it too.  Here’s Bollywood’s version (though the lyrics go pretty far afield of the real Hebrew lyrics).  And here is a delicate, Persian version from our friendly neighbors over in Iran.  This is the Trio Balkan Strings playing it—three men, one guitar.  And for something truly foreign, here is the Texas version.  (Gotta love the Latin faces getting into it.)

Think its appeal is confined to the 20th (and 21st) century?  Not on your life.  Even the (partially Jewish) crew of the Enterprise loves it.

For those who can’t hear the song without wanting to get up and dance, here is a dance to the song from the Efim Aleksandrov dance company.  (Amazing how Judaism is appreciated more for its music and dance than for its real substance.)

And for those who by now are ready to see some Yidn play their own tune, here is Bob Dylan, Peter Himmelman, and Harry Dean Stanton playing it (after confirming the lyrics with a Chabadnik m.c.).

Shabbat shalom, everyone.


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My children’s favorite CD to play in the car these days is Allan Sherman’s “My Son, the Greatest.”  It’s a compilation of some of his most popular hits pulled from albums like “My Son, the Box,” “My Son, the Folk Singer,” and “My Son, the Nut.”  What amazes me is not only what an amazing lyricist Sherman was (d. 1973; the tunes are mostly lifted from much older songs and classical pieces), but the fact that they’re so well written, I can still smile and chuckle at them after over 10 years of listening to them.  Here are some of our favorites, thanks to YouTube.  (You can ignore most of the videos as homegrown and lame, but listen to the lyrics and Sherman’s amazing band.)

“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” is probably the one people are most familiar with, which seems to have even made the Hit Parade in the UK in 1963.

“Harvey and Sheila,” set to the tune of “Hava Nagila,” is an utterly conventional love story coupled with Sherman’s love of American acronyms.

Here’s a version (not by Sherman) of “Sarah Jackman,” which my two youngest (yes, even Bill asks for “Jock”) request over and over and over and over again.  (I looked for one with Sherman and his female co-singer, but couldn’t find it.  This man gets Sherman’s part down pretty well, but the chorister needs a tuning fork next to her ear, and a few lessons in New York accents.)

“You Went the Wrong Way, Old King Louie” is my personal favorite, though it’s not easy to choose.  (I also love “The Rebel,” but couldn’t find a video of it to post here.  Such a shame.)  Enjoy, all you students of European history.

And finally, for those who can’t get enough of exaggeration and name-dropping, “Good Advice” should satisfy you…and then some.

Enjoy these, and tune in again tomorrow for some more video goodies I found while researching this.

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In my correspondence with my mother, I often hear complaints about how greedy people are nowadays, how rude, how ruthless in politicking, how violent or irresponsible.

I have to chuckle.  I remember a class of seniors I once had for English saying that people nowadays aren’t as polite or well-mannered as they were hundreds of years ago.  It’s such a beguiling thing, but is it true?  Let’s examine some of the facts.


Yes, Henry VIII had his reasons for departing from the Church of Rome in the 16th century.  But those reasons did NOT exclude the benefit to be derived from dissolving the Catholic monasteries and confiscating their property and assets for the Crown.  Why were the Jews shuffled off from one location in Europe after another in the Middle Ages, slowly pushing them eastward?  For their wealth, of course.  This precedent was in place long before the Nazis confiscated their houses and looted their art collections in the Second World War, or the Arabs did the same with their homes and possessions in the 1950s (which led to the house of Suzy Eban’s family becoming the Saudi Arabian embassy in the 1970s).  Hawkeye Pierce (of the TV show “M*A*S*H”) claimed that the three basic human emotions are “greed, fear, and greed.”  Nothing new in that.


In the eighteenth century, the authors Alexander Pope and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu were fast friends and admirers of one another’s writing.  Until one day they weren’t.  Then began the public sniping, rude caricatures drawn about each other, and generally public animosity they harbored for the other.  Pope was particularly bad to cross, since booksellers, publishers, and critics ended up portrayed in his long poem, The Dunciad, as competing in a race where they met the most appalling misfortunes, not least that of slipping on human waste and falling into it afterwards.  And remember that Pope wasn’t the first to go after his enemies in his writing, sentencing them to the most appalling tortures; the greatest literary executioner of all time was Dante.

Ruthless politicians

Thomas Jefferson hired James Callender, a Scottish-born pamphleteer and one of America’s first yellow journalists, to defame President John Adams.  According to David McCullough (in his 2001 biography of John Adams), during the presidential campaign of 1800, when Adams and Jefferson were running against one another (the first and last time a President ran against a Vice President), “Callender … was now working as a Republican propagandist in Richmond, Virginia, with the encouragement and financial support of Jefferson, who, at the same time, was actively distributing a variety of campaign propaganda throughout the country, always careful to conceal his involvement. …That Adams was never known to be involved in such activity struck some as a sign of how naïve and behind the times he was.”  Active campaigning was considered beneath a gentleman’s dignity in those days, but it seems that behind-the-scenes campaigning, mud-slinging, and character assassination were not, as long as the gentleman’s name was never “connected with the business” (Jefferson’s words).

Then, to put our current crop of Western politicians into some kind of global perspective, there are the antics of Ukrainian politicians who poison their enemies, Palestinian politicians who murder their fellow parliamentarians, and Iranian politicians who simply ignore election results, hire gangs of thugs to bludgeon and shoot those who demonstrate against them, and thumb their noses at the rest of the world as a daily ritual.  Kind of makes American politicians look tame, don’t it?


There is too much violence in society today, we often hear.  (To which I’ve also heard the response, “Well, how much is just enough?)  In raw numbers, it can be shocking to see the number of murders that occur in a given year.  But let’s look for a moment at the recorded homicide rates for the last several centuries in Europe (considered by many to be the cradle of über-civilization):


(per 100,000 People)

.                        England      Neth/Belgium      Scandinavia       Ger/Switz       Italy

13th and 14th c.   23.0               47.0                    n.a.                 37.0            56.0

15th c.                   n.a.              45.0                  46.0                  16.0            73.0

16th c.                   7.0               25.0                  21.0                  11.0            47.0

17th c.                   5.0                 7.5                  18.0                    7.0            32.0

18th c.                   1.5                 5.5                    1.9                    7.5            10.5

19th c.                   1.7                 1.6                    1.1                    2.8            12.6

1900-1949             0.8                 1.5                    0.7                    1.7            3.2

1950-1994             0.9                 0.9                    0.9                    1.0            1.5

*not including wars

(source: Freakonomics)

So you see, England’s murder rate, which at its worst was less than half that of the Dutch for the same time period, has dropped to almost nothing.  Even Italians, with their fiery tempers, have dropped to only one-and-a-half murders for every 100,000 people.  Considering the rise in the population of these countries, it’s worth noting that crowded conditions, economic downturns, and industrialization haven’t significantly slowed the tapering homicide rate.  More recent statistics (found online here) show slightly higher figures for the new millennium, with the US showing a higher rate than most of the above countries.  While Germany shows a homicide rate 0.9 per 100,000 souls, the Netherlands 1.0, Norway 1.2, and the United Kingdom 1.4, the US has 5.4 homicides per 100,000 people.  (There have been plenty of explanations for this which I don’t want to get into right now, though I did find the explanation in Levitt and Dubner’s 2005 book Freakonomics compelling.)  The US makes a sorry showing here, but hey—at least they’re still ahead of Russia (20.15), Jamaica (32.41), Colombia (33.9), and Venezuela (49.2).

Poor manners

Confused by the number of forks fanned out at the side of your plate when you sit down to a fancy dinner?  Don’t know which glass to use for what kind of beverage?  Think all this is the result of hundreds of years of high-class frippery?  Not on your life.  What did Henry VIII eat with?  A knife.  That’s it.  Oh, and his fingers.  Three hundred years later, they’d got as far as a two-pronged fork (or, if they were fancier, a three-pronged one).  How did they eat their peas?  From a knife, of course.  In the 17th century, while forks were common in Italy, they were considered by the English to be an “unmanly Italian affectation.”  The Catholic Church opposed fork usage as “excessive delicacy”:  “God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks — his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metallic forks for them when eating.”  Fork use only became common in Britain in the 18th century.  The curved fork design used today was developed in Germany in the 18th century, and the four-tine fork in the 19th century.  (source)

So rather than claim that the greater delicacy in eating belonged to the ages, one should rather argue that modern cutlery is gone off the deep end of gentility.  The greatest advance in cutlery to my children’s minds?  The spork.  It allows them to stab their chicken in their favorite kebab restaurant AND eat their beans and rice without it falling off the fork.  Now THAT’s progress.

The takeaway message?  The good ol’ days may not have been so good.  Or they may have seemed that way when the nostalgic were too young to know what they were really like.  Or the bar for what is considered “good” is set too high.  All I know is, things are rarely as bad as they seem.

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A new discovery

I once had an argument with a student over the origins of modern man.  Clinging to the Leakeys’ discovery of Lucy in Africa, and espousing a creed that maintains that civilization began with people of color, this Latino lad reached the same conclusion that many have for decades: that modern man originated in Africa.

As I told this kid, there is nothing wrong with believing that—as long as it still holds true.  But I warned him that continued archeological discoveries may come along that challenge that, and he’d better be prepared to accept another continent as having an even greater claim to the origin of the human species.  (He jutted his chin out and said there would be no other legitimate claim to that title.)

Well, it’s been 14 years, and I’ve finally been proven correct.  Jameel over at the Muqata had a post yesterday about the discovery of the oldest Homo Sapiens remains—right here in the Zionist paradise.

Despite the modern anthropological thesis (“Out of Africa“) that mankind originated in Africa, the world’s oldest Homo-Sapien remains found so far have recently been uncovered in the Kessem Cave near the Israeli city of Rosh HaAyin. To date, the oldest examples of skeletal remains from Africa are carbon dated at about 200,000 years, while the remains from the Kessem Cave are dated approximately at 400,000 years. This discovery could completely change modern science’s theories about mankind’s evolution.


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Facing the oldest hatred

The Cap’n and I were chatting the other day and, as we often do, surveying the world stage and Israel’s role on it.  I was marveling at how credulous the world is when it comes to nonsense spoken and carried out by Palestinian Arabs engaged in an active campaign to destroy Israel (something that most people a) don’t care about, b) don’t believe is really happening, or c) wholeheartedly support).  It’s mind-boggling, the stuff people will believe (e.g. that the Mavi Marmara was on a mission of peace, that Israeli soldiers harvested organs from Arab civilians during Operation Cast Lead, and that those Palestinian Arabs I see driving Mercedes Benzes and Volkswagens on Route 60 are poor and oppressed), and the stuff they won’t believe.

For example, a friend recently posted on Facebook a December 17 article written by Alan Dershowitz which states that a Hamas leader admits that Israel killed mostly combatants during Operation Cast Lead two years ago.  My friend is concerned that Dershowitz’s support for Israel (and lack of external links from the article) may compromise the willingness of the public to believe in its content.  A commenter observes wryly that even if the content were verifiable, no one would believe it.

Just to clear up any doubt as to the veracity of what Dershowitz writes, the remarks were made by Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad to the London-based newspaper al-Hayat.  The Interior Minister’s comments and an analysis of them in greater context are available on the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center website; link here).  In short, the Minister’s comments included the following:

It has been said that the people were harmed by the war, but is Hamas not part of the people? It is a fact that on the first day of the war Israel struck police headquarters and killed 250 members of Hamas and the various factions, in addition to the 200-300 operatives from the [Izz al-Din] al-Qassam Brigades. In addition, 150 security personnel were killed, and the rest were from people.

I was both amused and puzzled by this exchange between my friend and his commenter.  Of course Israel targeted Hamas militants in Gaza—they’re the ones lobbing missiles into Sderot and the Negev, holding Gilad Shalit hostage indefinitely, and keeping Gaza under the heading of a terrorist state instead of a normal state.  The fact that Hamas is an enemy that embeds itself in a thickly-settled civilian population with no regard for the safety of the people they’re supposed to protect and serve, instead making it as difficult as possible for Israel to fight them without some collateral casualties, is a fact that many people either don’t know or don’t care about, and are content instead to believe whatever lies Hamas and others put out about Gaza.  I was reminded of the observation Abba Eban once made about the UN General Assembly’s pro-Arab automatic majority back in the 1970s, that “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”  If the Arabs say it, I mused to the Cap’n, it must be true.

The Cap’n disagreed.  It’s not that everything the Arabs say is taken as the truth, he claimed.  Rather, it’s that anything bad about the Jews is eminently believable.  I hate looking at things that way (after all, we’re not supposed to believe that anti-Semitism is so widespread, are we?) and challenged the Cap’n to prove it.  It turned out to be chillingly easy.  Here are some of the lies, fabrications, and baseless accusations leveled at Jews by the non-Jewish world, accepted by the majority and used to persecute, expel, and murder Jews:

  • Jews were responsible for spreading the Plague by poisoning wells in Europe
  • Jews kill Christians and use their blood to make Passover matzo (aka The Blood Libel, raised dozens of times, including as recently as 1946 in Kielce, Poland)
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the minutes of a nonexistent secret meeting of Jews planning to take over the world
  • Jews control the banks/press/government’s foreign policy
  • Jews are responsible for 9/11, and all the Jewish employees were telephoned and told not to report to work at the World Trade Center that day

No one seemed to notice that Jews died of the Plague just like everyone else.  Anyone who wanted to kill a child could just blame it on a Jew and be believed.  (And who cares that Jews are forbidden by the dietary laws to eat ANY blood, even animal blood, much less human blood?)  The Protocols continue to excite anger and alarm, even from those who seem to believe that Jews already dominate the world.  Those who accuse the Jewish lobby of undue influence should read Mitchell Bard’s new book, The Arab Lobby, which describes the influence (backed by money, and not popular support as the Jewish lobby is) that Arabs—many of them not Americans—have on the US government and use to destabilize the Middle East.  And among the thousands of bereaved families from 9/11 can be found hundreds of Jewish households.

None of these time-honored libels is verifiable, yet they have all been accepted as true by a plurality, if not a majority, of the general populace.  There are other libels which are too absurd even to mention on this blog (but which some of my Muslim readers have been kind enough to inform me of).  The point is that in these situations, someone is able to make an accusation, provide no evidence, and the story will be believed, put about, spread, and acted upon.  Racism, religious hatred, and economic hardship only provide leaven for the dough.

At my final meeting with the Beit Din (rabbinical court) prior to my conversion, one of the rabbis, himself a Holocaust survivor, told me that “The Jews are not a popular people.”  And yet joining this religion (which belongs to half of my ancestors), making aliyah, and even becoming a settler, are all things I was born to do.  I don’t believe in the morality of the majority.  I don’t believe in twisting the truth to serve a political purpose.  I don’t believe in accepting a story without some provision of proof.  And I don’t believe that a small minority religion that has miraculously survived attempt after attempt to destroy it should just be allowed to die out because the majority of the world doesn’t like it.  And the only way I as one person can do anything to save it is to take part in it, to speak out, and to persevere.

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Extreme jump-roping

As a young girl, one of my favorite playground activities was jumping rope.  Much later, I discovered the wedding reception gag of tying cloth napkins together and having the bridal party jump rope on the dance floor.  (I lasted quite a while at my wedding; some things you don’t lose, I guess.)  And now my girls are jumping rope with their friends at school.

We used to kick it up a notch on the playground, using two ropes, running in-jumping-running out, and having more than one girl jump at a time.  But the video below of a group called Kings Firecrackers (performing at the US Naval Academy) is jumping rope like I’ve never seen it.    (Check out a higher resolution version from this link.)  My girls were wowed watching it last night (and so was my boy).  Find eight minutes today and watch the whole thing.  I’ll bet you’ve never seen someone jump rope on her belly before!

(hat tip: Peter Raven)

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I followed with half a brain the brewing storm over a group of anti-Israel activists who call themselves Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (awareness? of what?) who wanted to place “advertisements” on the sides of Seattle buses accusing Israel of war crimes.  The ads were to show Arab children looking at a demolished building and the legend, “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work,” and help spread the world about the aggressive, disproportionate policies of Israel’s government, coinciding with the second anniversary of the beginning of Operation Cast Lead.

I recently saw that a friend on Facebook posted a link to an article that states that Seattle and the King County Metro bus service have decided NOT to allow the libelous posters to be placed on the side of 12 public buses.  This is largely in response to a mobilized counter-campaign by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a pro-Israel group, which planned to take out ads on other Seattle buses showing victims of Arab bus attacks during the Palestinian Terror War (aka the Second Intifada) and the words, “Palestinian War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work.”  Pictures of children and adults in Sderot and Negev kibbutzim running to shelters to escape missiles launched from Gaza were also slated for possible “advertisement.”

Seattle’s decision to ban all new non-commercial advertisements on the sides of public buses is not only wise, it’s necessary.  To allow a public service provider to get embroiled in the controversies surrounding the Middle East, and all the vitriol and ignorance that seems to accompany it, would at best be, as they feared, “disruptive” and at worst open a new forum for the insanity and stupidity that passes for public debate and discourse on the subject.

It’s also proof positive that an aggressive counter-attack against the forces of idiocy works.  If someone threatens to “expose” Israel’s “war crimes” (which have never been substantiated, proven, or otherwise dealt with in an official manner outside the court of public opinion), all pro-Israel people need to do is mobilize and offer a tit-for-tat exposure of Palestinian Arab violence.  (Canada also recently saw a counter-BSD event in Montreal with a pro-Israel “buy-cott”).  It’s a nuisance to have to deal with these stupid little attacks on Israel, but the more we care enough to make a few phone calls, donate a few dollars, and threaten to stir up the pot a little more, the less traction these nitwits who call themselves “activists” will have in getting their message out.

Well done, Seattle.

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Michael Totten has posted an interview with Giulio Meotti, an Italian journalist, who recently published a book entitled A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism. The book documents the impact on Israeli society of terrorism by telling the stories of thousands of Israelis murdered by Arab terrorists. Meotti’s choice of title does not seek to compare the quantitative loss of life to terrorism in Israel with that of the catastrophic loss to European Jewry in the Shoah, but rather to draw a legitimate comparison between the two events in which Jews have been killed for no other reason than the fact that they were Jewish. (Here is the link to Totten’s interview with Meotti.)

One of the issues Totten and Meotti discuss is the resurgence of open anti-Semitism in Europe. Meotti defines “[t]he current European anti-Semitism [as] a powerful mix of Islamist pressure on Europe by large Muslim communities in its midst and a leftist-progressive ideology.” Students of history will note that for decades (even before the foundation of the State of Israel), European powers such as England, Germany, and Italy were sympathetic (and sometimes more than that) to Middle Eastern Arabs, always at the expense of the Jewish population, and this attitude has not changed significantly in recent years. Not surprisingly, the charge of anti-Semitism (which modern liberal sensibilities like to reformulate as the much more politically-correct anti-Zionism) rankles with some readers.

Nearly as interesting as Totten’s blog posts are the comments which follow the articles. Some nut jobs get on and leave absurd comments, but most readers have something legitimate to say. I was struck by the comment and counter-comment of two readers in particular. Read what “Craig S” has to say in response to the interview:

Very interesting article, and sounds like a very sobering book but it’s very frustrating to read about Sweetish and Norwegian prime ministers ‘hating’ Israel. And no I’m not anti-Semitic, I have Jewish grandparents, Judaism is part of my history. I’m also not anti-Israel, but to read any criticism of Israel’s governments policy as being hatred is just so frustrating. The Swedish and Norwegian governments don’t hate Israel, by stating International law, as accepted by the UN, the International criminal Court and the vast majority of states in the world. Calling for a withdrawal from the West bank and East Jerusalem is not hatred, it’s not anti-Semitic! Yes I’m sure there is a fringe in the British trade union movement that is anti-Israel, probably even a few individuals that are anti-Semitic, but calling for boycott of what I believe was settlement goods not Israeli goods is not anti-Semitic its a legitimate tool to try to pressure the state of Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories…

I’m sorry to rant but defining criticism of Israel as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic takes away from the real anti-Semitism we see, the desecration of Jewish graves in France and other parts of Europe that is anti Semitism, not criticism of the occupation and a boycott of (illegal) settlement goods. ‘Hatred’ shouldn’t be banded about to delegitimize policies and statements which criticise Israel and call for the creation of Palestine on its national homeland, side by side with Israel on her national homeland. There is no hierarchy of national aspirations; the Palestinians have the same rights as the Jewish people or any other national group seeking the right to self determination.

Craig S’s is the voice of Western liberalism, the type of person who defends the right of free speech for those who criticize Israel, champions the Palestinian right to self-determination, and resents the label “anti-Semite” being applied to those who use the BSD movement as a “legitimate tool to try to pressure the state of Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.” (And as an added bonus, Craig S has Jewish grandparents, which gives his words—like those of Richard Goldstone—the added legitimacy it needs.) I can read Craig S and think to myself, “Yeah, it’s all just a misunderstanding. All this criticism of Israel around the world is completely legitimate, and any pro-Israel voices who cry foul are just stifling debate. All Israel needs to do is clear out of Judea and Samaria, give the Arabs back their land, and all will be well.” It’s enticing, and it sounds reasonable. What’s the big deal?

And then “Daniel in Brookline” logs on and takes on Craig S’s points one by one. Check out his response:

to read any criticism of Israel’s governments policy as being hatred is just so frustrating.
Why does this issue keep coming up? Criticism of Israeli government policies is not the problem; Israelis do it all day, every day. (Read any Israeli newspaper, and I do mean any Israeli newspaper.)
If you think that Israelis should not settle in the West Bank, for example, you’re entitled to that opinion, but let’s explore the connotations of what that means. Presumably you don’t think any nation is entitled to use land it captured in a war, and as such you also advocate America’s evacuation of Texas, New Mexico, and California. If you don’t feel that way, then, to make your point, you must also explain why you think Israel is different.

The Swedish and Norwegian governments don’t hate Israel, by stating International law, as accepted by the UN, the International criminal Court and the vast majority of states in the world.
“The law is an ass.” Please don’t tell me what the majority says; Israel is not up for election by the combined population of the world. Tell me, instead, what is right and what is wrong.

Calling for a withdrawal from the West bank and East Jerusalem is not hatred, it’s not anti-Semitic!
See above. Is there any other nation you’d advise to cut its national capital in half, and hand over much of its territory (and all of its strategic depth, such as it is) to its sworn enemies, who are on record promising that they’d use that territory to start a new war?
If you advocate such policies for Israel only, then you should be prepared to explain why only Israel deserves such treatment. Because believe me, Israel’s situation is not unique in this regard; if anything, Israel is exceptional for its generosity, compared to other countries.
None of this is antisemitic, unless it’s Israel’s character as the world’s only Jewish state that bothers you.

Yes I’m sure there is a fringe in the British trade union movement that is anti-Israel, probably even a few individuals that are anti-Semitic, but calling for boycott of what I believe was settlement goods not Israeli goods is not anti-Semitic its a legitimate tool to try to pressure the state of Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.
Would you care to explain why this is ‘legitimate’? Would you refuse to buy goods from one American state but not another? (With Arizona attracting a lot of attention lately, this might be closer to reality than we think.) Would you expect the United States to jettison one of its states in response to your actions?

There is no hierarchy of national aspirations; the Palestinians have the same rights as the Jewish people or any other national group seeking the right to self determination.
Israel has no obligation to commit suicide, and she does not have to honor the yearnings of self-determination of those pledged to destroy her.
As far as I’m concerned, if the Palestinians really want a state of their own, let them prove that they can, and will, be good neighbors. Let them prove by their actions that Israel can vacate territory, as she did with Gaza, without the response being a daily rocket barrage, as it was in Gaza.
And let’s not forget that the West Bank was offered to the Palestinians, by Ehud Barak in 1999 and again by Ehud Olmert a few years ago. The offer was rejected both times. What have the Palestinians offered? Have they offered, for example, to stop killing Israelis for a time?
I don’t know where you live, Craig. But I guarantee you that, if the Palestinian territories were only a few miles away from you, and treated you the way Israelis have been treated, your country would respond at least as harshly as Israel has.

All those facile notions, those calm, rational, democratically sound opinions get blown out of the water. The double standards applied to Israel, the irrelevance of “international law” (as though such laws were truly applicable or binding) to Israeli settlements, the absurdity of establishing an enemy state on one’s borders, the madness of splitting one’s capital with a sworn enemy, the total ignorance of past offers of land for a state in the last 10 years, and the naïveté of those who think that the Palestinian Arabs only want “self-determination” instead of Israel’s destruction—all rendered dust.

The only thing I would add that Daniel in Brookline didn’t write is the fact that this IS the homeland of the Jews, and NOT the homeland of the Arabs. The Green Line does not delineate the line between two distinct homelands; it’s the line marking the 1949 Armistice between Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Hebron is NOT part of any Arab homeland, nor is Shilo, Jericho, or the Old City of Jerusalem. This whole thing is the Jewish homeland, and the Arabs are recent arrivals, with a handful going back to an Arab colonization effort in the 7th century, and most having come from neighboring countries as a result of Jewish immigration in the 19th century to avail themselves of the new economic opportunities that opened up. Jewish offers of land on which to build an Arab Palestinian state are gifts, and certainly not within the Arabs’ “rights.” Those offers are based on over 2500 years of Jews being driven from our own homes and being packed off to exile or death, and serve as an acknowledgment that however they got here, the Arabs are here now and to uproot and expel them would be cruel (though certainly not unprecedented in world history), expensive, and assuredly violent. If the Arabs were really only interested in “self-determination,” they would have embraced one of these offers and gotten underway building themselves a state years ago. The fact that they haven’t should raise eyebrows, including those of Craig S and others like him.

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While copying and pasting my recipe for cranberry apple crisp into a comment (for yesterday’s post, Ta’am Gan Eden), I noticed the recipe below it in my “Pies, Tarts & Cobblers” Word file.  It’s for French Apple Pie with Nutmeg Sauce, a serious hit last Sukkot when I had mid-week guests on a cool day in our sukkah.  I also recommend it for a wintry Friday night dessert, when you can keep the sauce warm.  I give the parve version here; if you serve it after a dairy or parve meal, do make the pie and sauce dairy using butter in the crust and milk in the sauce.
8 C. tart apples, pared, sliced
Few drops vanilla
½ C. water
1½ C. sugar
1 crust recipe
1 C. graham cracker crumbs
½ C. flour
½ C. sugar
⅓ C. margarine
Nutmeg sauce
1 egg yolk
½ C. sugar
1 C. rice milk
1 t. nutmeg

Cook apples in water until tender.  Add sugar and mix carefully to retain shape of apples.  Arrange apples in a pastry-lined pie plate.  Combine graham cracker crumbs, flour, sugar, margarine and vanilla; mix until they resemble coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle mixture over apples.  Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes, then at 350°F for 20 minutes.

To make nutmeg sauce, beat together yolk, sugar and rice milk.  Heat to boiling, remove from heat, and add nutmeg.  Serve over slices of pie.

Notes: I cooked the apples for a few minutes on the stove, but left out the sugar and most of the water.  I also left out the flour in the graham cracker topping. Even more delicious.

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Ta’am Gan Eden

I made apple-cranberry crisp for Shabbat last week.  When I was removing the sticker from a Granny Smith apple, I noticed it said, “Ta’am Gan Eden” (Taste of the Garden of Eden).  I’m not sure what I think of that.  Does it mean that this apple is delicious, like one would imagine the fruit in Eden might have been?  (It tasted like an ordinary Granny to me.)  Does it mean Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise-On-Earth because of a tart green cooking apple?  (I think not.)  Does it mean that if I put this apple in my crisp, I, my family, and our guests will be spat out of our comfortable homes and forced to scratch a living out of the rocky soil and thorns of the hills of Judea?  (I certainly hope not.) 

In the end, all was well.  The crisp came out good, and we’re still in our own home.  Perhaps I should sue for false product labeling.

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Happy Birthday, Beethoven

Painting of Beethoven composing at the piano by Hermann Junker

Today is Beethoven’s 240th birthday.  (Maybe.  Several sources claim he was born on December 17, which means we share a birthday.  No matter.)  So make yourself a nice cup of tea, nestle into a comfortable chair, and be sure to listen to something by him today.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Piano Concerto No. 4.  I took a class in college on Beethoven and my professor believed that this piece was inspired by the recent publication in Vienna of Ovid’s Metamorphoses into German.  The three movements were, in his mind, expressions of Orpheus charming the animals, descending to Hades to redeem Eurydice, and being torn apart by the Bacchantes.  It may be sacrilege for some to think of Beethoven as having written “program music,” but my prof made a very convincing case, and it makes the music all the more powerful.
  • Sonata No. 32, opus 111.  I love how the third movement is echoed in Scott Joplin’s piano music 100 years later.
  • Piano Concerto No. 5, the “Emperor.”  Peaceful.  Heard this for the first time in the movie “Dead Poets’ Society.”
  • Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica.”  Majestic, beautiful.  Beethoven originally dedicated this piece to Napoleon, but when the once-inspiring leader crowned himself emperor, Beethoven scratched out the dedication so vigorously he tore the paper.
  • Symphony No. 5.  Classic.
  • Symphony No. 6, the “Pastoral.”  Beautiful, reminiscent of Beethoven’s own walks which would last for hours sometimes.  The first movement was used to great effect on a Simpsons episode when the kids’ favorite cartoon went off the air and there was nothing to do but go outside and play.

One could go on, but these are what I reach for when I want to listen to Beethoven these days.  What a legacy.

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Whose hasbara problem?

For years I’ve been listening to people (Jews and non-Jews, Israelis and Americans) complain about Israel’s lousy hasbara.  They slammed Israel’s explanation of why it went to war in Operation Cast Lead two years ago.  They groused about the flotilla fracas.  They are kvetching now about Bibi’s supposed intransigence in making peace with the Palestinians (or at least his refusal to make them an offer the likes of which Barak made in 2000 and Olmert again in 2007, knowing full well that Abbas will turn them down).

But it wasn’t until a recent exchange with an American friend on Facebook that I stopped and thought about all this.  He complains that it’s getting increasingly difficult to defend Israel and its non-cooperation with Obama and Abbas to reach a settlement.  He warns me that support for Israel is fast slipping away in America, with pictures on the TV news of Arabs at checkpoints, the Wall of Shame, and Bibi’s refusal to renew the settlement freeze.  He defends Obama’s insistence on ramming a peace—any peace—down Israel’s and the Arabs’ throats, ready or not, saying that Obama is more committed to facilitating peace here than his predecessors.

It’s hopeless arguing with someone like that.  He visited Israel once, for a short time, many years ago.  As Ariel Sharon once said, מה שרואים מכאן לא רואים משם (what you see from here, you don’t see from there).  And it’s not just that where my friend lives, he is surrounded by goyim who don’t have a clue what Israel is about.  It’s that living in America is almost like living on another planet.  (How my British and South African friends would cheer if they heard me say that!)  The insulation—from the rest of the world, from the proximity to hostile enemies like Turkey, Iran, and Gaza, from the closeness of how everything feels here (one or two degrees of separation from fallen soldiers, victims of terror attacks, people burned alive on a bus in the recent fire in the North)—cannot but create a sense of distance and distortion of perspective for someone living there.  I read the news too, but there is always another side to the news that one gets here because someone always posts something to a chat list here about what really happened, or what got reported inaccurately, or who was actually there and saw what happened with their own eyes, not to mention things that happen here that never get reported in the press.

But the take-away for me from this interchange with my friend is this: Why should Israel have to explain, justify, apologize, or make excuses for what it does?  Where else in the world is the word hasbara used in the context of a governmental obligation?  What other country is expected to stroke the press, go on the defensive all the time, or have its prime minister stand up in front of the cameras and say, “My government has decided on the following action because…”?  (And when Israel does explain itself, the explanation never manages to convince anyone; it merely opens Israel up to more criticism and derision.)  Does anyone complain about Turkey’s hasbara?  Anyone get an explanation from Erdogan about why his government took part in sponsoring a boatload of terrorists armed with knives to confront a sovereign nation at sea?  Anyone see kingpin Khaled Mashaal on telly explaining why Hamas continues to lob missiles into Israel?  Has anyone gotten up in front of the General Assembly to make excuses for why Africans continue to flee their homes and countries to escape slaughter (often perpetrated by Arabs), often coming to Israel for refuge?

I think no one expects explanations for these things because they’re obvious.  Turkey is becoming more Islamist and cozying up to Iran.  Hamas exists to try to destroy Israel.  And who in the international community has ever given a hoot about Africa?  People are always dying there of something.  First AIDS, then starvation, and now murderous, government-sponsored gangs.  Ho hum.  These are all “normal” things that need no elaboration.  But Israel—oy, Israel!  Whatever Israel does is exceptional, remarkable, rogue, and requires investigation, condemnation, sanctions, and all the rest.

I for one am sick of hearing these complaints about Israel.  If other countries have the right to do what is in their best interest, then so does Israel.  If Bibi doesn’t renew the housing freeze in Yehudah, Shomron, and Jerusalem, it’s not just because he’s worried about holding together a coalition; it’s because it runs counter to his party’s platform, his own beliefs, and the will of the voters (not to mention that the first freeze was agreed upon by Bibi with the proviso that it be a one-time freeze, by definition unrenewable).  Israel gets plenty of stuff wrong, and is perhaps one of the most communications-challenged places I’ve ever seen.  But to obsess about it the way the world does—it makes me think of an apartment building where there’s one family that everyone is always watching, commenting on, whispering about, criticizing, yelling “Hey!  Where ya goin’?” every time they leave the building.  There’s nothing terribly remarkable about this family, no more than any other in the building.  But everyone else’s behavior toward them reveals an obsession, a hyper-vigilance, an absolutely cuckoo attitude that no one can see for what it is.  “Why’d you drive your kid to school today?  Why’d you change the color of your briefcase?  Why did your wife make chicken soup on Thursday last week instead of Monday?  She always makes it on Monday!”

Get a life, people.

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Holidays: Ours and theirs

Christmas falls on Shabbat this year, reminding me that since my conversion, that was always my favorite calendar configuration.  They do their thing; we do ours.  No sitting around with nothing to do because everything’s closed but the movie theaters and Chinese restaurants.  Shabbos Christmas always gave me something positively Jewish on the day, and alleviated some of the pain of transition in the early years.

For the comfort of the newly-converted (and the amusement of the veteran giorim), I have compiled a list of rituals that take form in both Christian and Jewish life.  Of course there is not exactly a one-to-one correspondence, but there is certainly enough to provide outlets for the former non-Jew’s accustomed activities.  Take a look.

Christians decorate trees; Jews build and decorate sukkahs.

Christians send cards at Christmas; Jews do it at Rosh Hashana.

Each has a cumulative song: “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” versus “Echad Mi Yodeah” (sung at the Pesach seder).

Christians make and decorate gingerbread houses at Christmas; my friend Heather once made a gingerbread sukkah (adorable, ingenious, and much simpler).

Christians imbibe obscene amounts of fat, sugar and starch at Christmas in the form of hot cross buns and plum pudding; Jews gorge on sufganiot (doughnuts) and latkes.

Christians publicize their miracle with strings of Christmas lights on the house; Jews light candles in the window or in wind-sheltered glass boxes outside the house.

Christians (at least a few, anyway) bake a Twelfth Night cake (with a bean or pea inside); Jews bake shlissel challah (with a key inside, or in the shape of a key) after Sukkot.

Christmas and Easter account for the two major festive meals in the Christian calendar.  Jews have a Pesach seder, a Purim seudah, approximately 19 festive meals during the month of Tishrei, a dairy blowout at Shavuot, and of course, two lavish meals every Shabbat.

Christian children trick-or-treat on Halloween and beg for tricks or treats; Jewish kids go sukkah-hopping (especially in Israel) and have to produce a song or a vort (a short Torah-related speech) to collect a treat from each family sukkah.

Christians give up certain foods for Lent; most Ashkenazi Jews give up kitniyot during Pesach (here’s what I think of that, if you haven’t already read it).

Jewish holidays get earlier every year—until there is a leap year and they get pushed back.  Christmas festivities and commercialization get earlier every year because Christians don’t have enough holidays.  (This is my little theory).  They don’t have enough, and Jews have too many.  They breathe the same sigh of relief after the shopping, decorating, partying madness that starts around Halloween and goes through New Year’s that I breathe after the month of Tishrei, when Mar Heshvan  (called mar or “bitter” because there are no holidays) begins.

Would I trade the 25-hour fasts, the compulsive cleaning of Pesach prep, the (to me) puzzling giddiness of Purim, the Martha Stewart Month of Tishrei, and the emotional roller-coaster of the Israeli national holidays (Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom HaAtzma’ut)?  Any day of the year (except possibly Hoshana Raba) I would say no.  The command to celebrate and commemorate is sometimes exhausting and occasionally veers into what the girls at my high school bewailed as “mandatory fun,” but let’s face it: the Jews are a long-lived people with a lot of history behind us.  And I am always harping on this blog about the importance of studying and remembering history.  So where the temptation may be to live the vast majority of our days as “normal,” Judaism doesn’t let us do that.

I sometimes miss having all of the card-writing, tree-trimming, carol-humming, snowman-building, turkey-basting, Baileys-sipping, gift-wrapping together-time all crammed into one short season.  But after having it both ways, I think it’s good to spread it out over the year.

Extreme gingerbread

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A commenter on my post “No Hate Zone,” blames the media for the majority of the unrest in the Middle East and the current stalemate in negotiations toward a peace settlement between Israel and Arab Palestinians.

There is no lack of blame to be leveled at the press in this as in other matters.  Outgoing Government Press Office director Danny Seaman was recently interviewed by Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief David Horovitz, and let it all hang out.  He made very clear, precise points about how the press fails to do its job accurately in Israel, including sending inexperienced journalists to the region (who have no grasp of the region’s politics, history, or society), ignoring true experts on crucial matters (such as the use of white phosphorous in war) or printing their opinions in the context of an article giving credence to accusations of improper use of the stuff in Operation Cast Lead, and repeatedly seeking out Arab sources that have lied to them in the past for new stories.  This doesn’t include, of course, Israel’s own poor handling of the press or the Israeli press’s contribution to the confusion and antagonism of Israel in the news.  One of his most salient points is that once an Israel-bashing story (like the Mohammed Al-Dura “shooting” in 2000, “reported” by France 2) is out, it’s well-nigh impossible to counter it, even if it’s utter fabrication and the facts prove otherwise.  (Article here.)

But the sleaziness of the press is not the whole story.  When I mentioned the continued incitement against Jews in mosques here and elsewhere in the world, the commenter had no response.  When I mentioned the teaching of hatred and dehumanization of Jews in Palestinian and other Arab schools, and the textbook maps of a Middle East with no Israel at all, he had no answer.

And the truth is, there are some in the press who get it right, who see the bigger picture, and who can look with a cold, clear eye at what happens here.  And they are not all Jews or Christians.  Some are Arabs.  Mudar Zahran’s articles about Israel and the Palestinian Arabs offer an interesting contrast to the perspective on Arab politics so often championed in the Western press.  Not only does he challenge the received wisdom of the virtue of the underdog and the suffering of Arabs at the hands of a mighty and sadistic Israel, he also points out how responsibility for much of Palestinian Arab suffering can be laid at the feet of Arab politics and the very demonization of Israel carried out by the press, the Left, and the BSD movement which claim to care about the supposed plight of Palestinian Arabs.  His article titles include “Arab politics; Palestinian suffering,” “Demonizing Israel is bad for the Palestinians,” “Israel, the good enemy,” and “Hizbullah: Hating Israel…and Palestinians.”

Khaled Abu Toameh is another Arab journalist who exercises his independence and freedom of speech, including in his most recent piece on “Fatah: The Message Remains No, No, and No,” in which he addresses PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s paralysis to make any kind of peace deal involving concessions following the most recent meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.  In the course of the meeting, it was resolved that the answer is

No to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state; no to any solution that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders; no to the idea of a land swap between Israel and the Palestinians; no to any resuming peace talks with Israel unless construction in settlements and east Jerusalem is halted; no to understandings between Israel and the US regarding the future of the peace process; no to supplying Israel with US weapons; no to recognizing the Western Wall’s significance to Jews and not to a new Israeli law that requires a referendum before any withdrawal from Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

So it seems to me that the press is not entirely at fault; the Arab leadership bears most of the responsibility for refusing to participate in a productive peace process, instead placing obstacles and conditions before every step of the process, all the while having no intention of making or accepting any viable offers from the Israelis.  What is clear to me (and this is from what I read in the press) is that the Palestinian Authority has lost interest in negotiation as a means to achieve its ends.  With the failure of open war, terrorism, and negotiation to destroy the Jewish State, the next step in the PA’s sights is an externally imposed settlement which is certain to beat any deal they could get by compromising.

The press is a convenient whipping boy in this scenario.  But the news consumer must remember at all times that the press is not here to give the reader or viewer the truth (despite Pravda’s suggestive name).  It is to garner an audience to consume its media and to provide a market for its advertisers.  This is a jaded, cynical view of the press, I grant you, but it’s not inaccurate.  There are still some journalists who care about their craft and continue to preserve a shred of respectability for the profession.  (I praise them whenever possible on this blog.)  But most of the major news sources look for a sensational angle, eschew historical background to conflicts, and avoid whenever possible admitting to wrongdoing.  And the only thing more irresponsible than to print this stuff is to believe it.

No, the situation is much more complicated than simply blaming the press, and the responsibility for the failure to create peace in the Middle East is spread much wider than the rubes with cameras and tape recorders.

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A letter from a reader

I recently received the following in my email inbox.

My dear Shimshonit,

While monitoring the activities of my employer’s forces as reflected in news outlets, blogs, and YouTube (such a delightful source of devilry!), I recently came across your blog.

You caught my attention for your spirited defense of history, truth, and fact, especially in relation to Israel.  Really, dear lady, I should have thought someone with your educational background and relative sanity would have more sense.  After all these years, do you still not recognize the futility of such an exercise?

Since I know you yourself have admitted that news agencies are not about news, but about advertising, readership, and ratings, it amazes me that you still think it worthwhile to get frothy about what they print and say.  Do you think for a moment that you—a Jew, an Israeli, a settler even—could possibly alter the ossified mindset of those who oppose you in the court of public opinion?  Do you not know that my employer’s most dedicated servants, in the guise of the “humanistic,” blindly underdog-loving Left, are far more numerous, influential, and powerful than you?  Can you not accept that facts and history have no bearing on the rest of the world, which is too busy concocting slanderous accusations at Israel to see the slaughter that takes place at dozens of other flashpoints on the globe, too set in its ways to listen to others’ opinions, and too lazy to open a book whose recorded facts might challenge its assumptions about the Middle East?

No, Shimshonit, it is time you learned some home truths about this ridiculous planet you live on.  First, you are not popular now, and never will be.  You are a Jew (and a Jew by choice, which I for one will never understand).  And Jews, if you haven’t realized this by now, are crafty, devious, deceptive, and not to be trusted.  This is why, no matter what you say about how you live and see the world, you will never be believed.  You say Arabs have benefited from Israeli rule of Judea and Samaria through jobs and an improved quality of life, and that many would rather live under Israel’s orderly government than a corrupt, chaotic Arab one with no system of universal justice?  You point out that the Palestinian Arab refugee problem was never solved by Israel’s Arab neighbors, who were the ones who created the refugee problem in the first place?  You point to the agreement signed at the 1920 San Remo Conference as evidence that the Arab Palestinian homeland is located in modern-day Jordan, and not in Judea and Samaria?  You point out that Israel’s national claim to Judea and Samaria goes back thousands of years, as opposed the Arab nationalist claims which never existed?  You insist that Jewish holy sites be considered Jewish despite rival Muslim claims, many dating from as recently as 1996?  But my dear, as a Jew you are partial (and your religion is, as always, sadly out of fashion), as an Israeli you are a member of that rogue nation, and as a settler you will always be an extremist, prone to violence and racism.

The religions that oppose you are Islam, Christianity, and secular humanism.  Each has adherents as zealous as the most zealous settler, but their creeds are not your creed.  Their mottoes include slogans such as, “If you can’t convert the Jew, kill him,” “Love your neighbor and hate the Jews,” and “Zionism is racism.”  Anti-Semitism (cleverly disguised as anti-Israel sentiment) inhabits every fiber of their being.  So complain all you like about Israel’s harsh treatment in the press, in the UN, and even in the United States, but don’t claim to be surprised by it.  And whatever you do, don’t think of accusing them of anti-Semitism.  That’s just the sort of thing you Jews accuse anyone of who points out your flaws.

Allow me to give you some friendly advice from someone who takes a genuine interest in your welfare (at least as it concerns your relationship with my employer and his minions).  Give up your blog.  It’s fruitless my dear, and very bad for your blood pressure.  And the next time you sit and wonder if this is all a bad dream, if you’ve been wrong all along and Israel really is the demonic state everyone says it is, embrace that feeling.  And above all, remember what former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said: “Can the whole world be wrong?

Your affectionate reader,


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…is up at Miriyummy.  Chanukah sameach, and all praise to Hashem for a little rain in Israel today.

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Chanukah, Day 4

The posting has been lean these days due to kids home, husband home, and in-laws visiting.  (It also doesn’t help that I’m slogging through an incredibly intricate part of a Norah Gaughan cabled cardigan that has had to be unraveled three times already.)

But today was really remarkable.  Kids up at 6:30 (their usual time, not so remarkable).  Fighting (totally unremarkable).  But once the in-laws materialized, breakfast was made and consumed and a few snacks and water bottles packed, we were actually able to get on the road.  Today’s adventure was at Neot Kedumim, a sort of national park near Modi’in dedicated to educating the public about life in Israel during Biblical times.  There is a large section of sukkahs (kosher and nonkosher to test everyone’s’ knowledge) which we visited a few years ago, but this time was dedicated to Chanukah.  There was a table set up in a wooded area for kids to make whatever they liked out of clay, displaying traditional and modern versions of clay oil lamps (burning, for a cool effect).  There was an olive press up and running, with a mule hitched up to the large stone wheel to crush the olives, and the press in operation, squeezing the oil from the olives and filling a cistern in the ground.  There was a display of pottery, a water cistern (complete with pulley so the kids could get a physics lesson by comparing hauling up the bucket by hand versus using their weight with the pulley), and nearby a gently sloped stone surface with a narrow channel feeding into another cistern—a wine press.  It was a beautiful warm, sunny day (too warm and too sunny for December), and we and the kids had a fabulous time.

Ice cream break at Neot Kedumim at noon had well worn off by 3 pm, when we got in the cars and headed to the shopping center on Emek Ayalon in Modi’in, where the Pizza Domino (no relation to the Operation Rescue-owned American chain) sells the tastiest pizza we’ve had in Israel.  We ordered our favorite—cheese pizza with chopped tomato and onion— and chowed down, then went downstairs to the large open area at the center where there were inflatable bouncing structures.  The kids, used to these for years now, doffed their shoes and immediately set to.  My in-laws prowled a drug store, the Cap’n and Bill wandered around, and I bought soufganiyot: four minis with chocolate filling for the kids, and warm, fresh-from-the-vat doughnuts filled with my favorite, ribat chalav (dulce de leche).  When I walked out of the bakery, I looked over the railing of the upper level at the kid-friendly festivities below.  Directly below me was a long table set up with kids all wearing lime green bandannas on their heads and doing what looked to be a craft activity.  Gluing?  Rolling?  Arranging colored sticks on black construction paper?  No.  They were making sushi.  The red and green sticks were julienned carrot and cucumber, the glue was sushi rice, and the black construction paper was seaweed.  With the help of the sushi bar’s employees, the kids were layering the ingredients, rolling them using bamboo mats lined with paper, then taking them to the end of the table where the employee with the big knife sliced them and placed them in neat plastic trays.  Every kid’s sushi roll came out looking like a pro.  I once knew a kid whose Japanese father always made sushi at New Year’s.  I love the idea of making it anytime but especially at Chanukah to help counter all the grease we ingest.  (Last night’s mixed vegetable latkes were a success, and one which I don’t feel obliged to repeat for another five years or so.)

Had the seventh Harry Potter flick not been sold out, the day would have been complete.  But as it is, I got to come home, put the kids to bed, and sit down to blog about our very satisfactory day.

Wine press, Neot Kedumim

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Chanukah in Gush Etzion

Tonight we light the first candle for Chanukah.  This is a good time to remember the significance of Gush Etzion as the site of two of the battles fought by the Maccabees against the Greeks.  Sharon Katz’s Voices Magazine online has the story.  And to be clear, the events described in the Maccabean revolt against the Assyrian Greeks took place 2200 years ago.  That’s before the Romans, before Jesus, before Islam, before the Ottoman Empire—and just a few kilometers north of where the matriarchs and patriarchs are buried.  Just think about that the next time you hear someone say that the West Bank is “Palestinian land.”

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