Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Two-State Solution: Are You Straight Kidding Me!?

A left-wing media outlet called "OneVoice" (note: this a project geared not towards cooperation between Jews belonging to different political/religous factions but one between Israeli and "Palestinian" youth who desire "peace" i.e. the elimation of Israel and the creation of the 23rd terrorist Arab state in its place), recently posted the following as part of an article on the latest Gazan "sulcha" between Israel and "Palestinian" youth (emphasis mine):

"We cannot have 20 factions each trying to impose their vision on the people," explained Masri. "We need national consensus on how to end the occupation and the conflict, and the only pragmatic solution is the two-state solution. We must come to terms with Israel to put Palestine back on the map."

Imad al-Falouji, head of the Adam Center, joined Masri for the introductory session to the trainings, spoke about pursuing a non-violent political course to achieve an independent Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and answered questions about the Fatah-Hamas split and the power of the grassroots to effect positive change."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chess and Judaism (Based on the Learning at Aliyos Yerushalayim)

My chevruta today pointed out some interesting things from the book we were learning that got me thinking: Judaism--the practice, the laws, and the statutes that are a part of it make sense for the most part. There are some halachot (laws that make up the practice of Judaism) that are based on "sod" or the "secret" teachings that make up kabala/zochar, but it seems that a majority are derived from Gemora (oral tradition) and the Rishonim/Achronim (the greatest Rabbis from the times of the Second Temple to modern day).

I don't know exactly how to define "Jusaism," nor will I delve into this complex subject at the moment, but suffice it to say that the ancient way of life of the Jewish people makes sense. It's passed the litmus test of time, paving the way for generations of Torah scholars. It's met and exceeded expectations. Every obstacle on its path has been cleared one after the next. So Judaism is a logical practice. So's chess, possibly the most ancient "game" known to man.

There are questions surrounding whether chess is a "game" or a "sport." It's very difficult "pinpointing" chess. There's no clear definition just like there's no clear definition to "Judaism" i.e. are the Jewish people a nation or is being "Jewish" a religion? But it follows logic. So does chess. As a matter of fact, it's a game (let's call it that) that connects several worlds. One needs to have mastery of several senses to be a good chess player just like being a pious Jew takes more than just outwards appearance but also an inwards sense of self and a yearning to create a more just world (tikkun olam).

Another key point worth making is that an experienced chess player learns to "see" patterns. You begin realizing that every game you play is similar in certain ways, and start being able to notice signs. The same can be said of Judaism. Halacha not only makes sense, but after a while, you become alert to "patterns" that repeat themselves. I realize this is a very general statement, but I just can't think of examples at the moment. I'm sure my reader is wiser than me in this department and will be able to do so on his/her own...

I wouldn't go as far as saying that chess and Judaism are the same. There are many obvious differences, but I just wanted to publish the what I was thinking as I sat there in a cozy Jerusalem synagogue where the Rabbi is a man of great spirit and integrity who continues to inspire me on a daily basis.

I'm not an easy listener by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm not easy to please, but Rabbi Yitzchok Snyder has captured my imagination with his Torah drashot (lectures). Please tune in to the Rabbi and if you live in Jerusalem, feel free to join his study group (evenings 7:45-9:30pm)

Rabbi Snyder's Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/AliyosYerushalayim?feature=plcp

Chitown Bears On Fast Track to Superbowl?

As I walked down the picturesque Ben Yehuda, surrounded on all sides by cute, little cafe's and an a variety of shops aimed at attracting American tourists, I couldn't help missing my hometown of Chicago, especially my beloved sports teams: the Bulls, White Sox, and Bears (I'm not a Cubs fan and the 'Hawks might not even have a season to speak of so...).

Da Bears are coming off a less-than-stellar offensive performance. Star quarterback, Jay Cutler, hasn't looked like he did last year and he certainly hasn't met the expectations that were set when he came over in a blockbuster trade from Denver. He has been good enough to hold his own against some less-than-average defenses such as yesterday's Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, and Indiana Colts to name 3 out of the Bears' first 7 opponents.

Our defense has been pretty incredible. We're currently ranked 7th overall, but I have a feeling that this stat will improve as the season continues. How about Tim Jennings and "Peanut" Tillman leading our secondary to a ridiculous amount of interceptions!?

Jennings had two more yesterday vs. Carolina. Tillman had one against Dallas and another the following week against Detroit as did Lance Briggs. The latter has had an outstanding career with the Bears. Brian Urlacher is getting better with every game. His play has steadily improved. In short, the Bears' "D" leaves little to ask for other than perhaps, just perhaps a trip to the Superbowl. Is that too much to ask for for a life-long Bears' fan who just happened to be a 4-year old living in Soviet Russia last time we won it all!?

As far as other stories (besides the Bears) going on in sports, there's the Giants winning the World Series, Peyton Manning and his return to the NFL, my favorite female tennis player, Serena Williams winning an insane number of majors in '12, Da Bulls revamping what seems to be their entire bench and starting the '12 campaign without former MVP Derrick Rose, and oh, did I forget to mention, a whole new Israel Football League season about to start (or has it started already?).

...and now back to Ben Yehuda and the array of delicacies it has to offer...

Efrat: A Town that Represents All That's Israel

Efrat, or “Efrata” is a blossoming municipality in Judea, Israel. The earliest mention of Efrat is in Genesis, when Jacob buries his beloved wife, Rachel after she’s given birth to her second son, Binyamin: “And Rachel died and was buried on the road to Efrat.” (Gen 13:19) Efrat is mentioned as “Efrata” or “towards Efrat” in Ruth 4:11, Chronicles 2:50, Chronicles 4:4, Psalms 132:6, and Micah 5:1. It is located 7.5 miles south of Jerusalem between Hevron and Bethlehem (Wikipedia).

While the international community considers it an “illegal settlement,” the State of Israel has always considered Efrat, and the entire Gush Etzion bloc which Efrat is geographically a part of, an integral part of the Jewish State.

Efrat was founded on Passover eve, October 5th, 1983, by Moshe Moskovitz (Moshiko). Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, an extremely vocal and well-known religious Zionist leader, soon joined Mr. Moskovitz in his mission, establishing the Ohr Torah movement with the blessing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Grateful to be 31

Meriting to live to see one's first birthday is a huge privilege, but now that I've turned 31, I must say I'm trully blessed. It's not a "blessing in disguise" either. Every day I live, every breath I take, every time I swallow a parcel of food it's an ongoing miracle. I'm extremely grateful to G-d, to my parents, to my grandparents, and to all my wonderful friends for making this happen. Thank you!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Avraham: the 1st Zionist

This week's parsha, Lech Lecha, describes the life and trevails of our forefather Avraham, how he was commanded by G-d to leave his "land, (his) home, and (his) father's house," and travel to a distant, unknown land, a land "flowing with milk and honey."

Avraham leaves Charan at the old age of 75. By then, he's already established himself as a leader and a visionary. He goes on to live a life of righteousness, of arrousing curiosity for the Jewish faith amongst the people of the world, and of settling the Land of Canaan.

Avraham was for all intents and purposes, the first Zionist. The first settlers in Palestine who came here with the dream of building a "perfect" society based on socialist ideals were following in Avraham's footsteps. Perhaps, they were misguided in thinking that the new state would be based on socialism, but they weren't far from the truth.

Why is it that it took a secular movement--as opposed to the Charedi community of Eastern Europe to realize that the Jewish people's future lay in Israel and that the correct--and only thing to do was to pack up their bags and travel to a land deserted by its inhabitants; a land that lay desolate and barren?

Why I'd Vote for Romney

I won't be voting in the upcoming American elections due to technical difficulties with my absantee vote, but I know whom I'd vote for if I were. Romney impressed me very much with his presence of mind in the recent presidential debates. I'm convinced he outdueled Obama with his intelligence and common sense, but I'd vote for him even if he lost the debates.

Obama has been a complete and utter failure as far as both the economy and foreign policy are concerned. He's given Americans ample reason to doubt his good intentions and even more reason to vote against him. He's come up short on promises to reduce unemployment and create a more stable economy.

He's also made the world a more dangerous place during his presidency. Nato/American involvement in Lybia and America's lack of action in Egypt have led to increased instability in the Middle East.

I believe voting Romney for President is an easy choice. The fact that a majority of Jews will again be voting for Obama greatly angers me. We are a "stiff-necked" people who refuse to learn from history. I wonder what it will take to teach us a lesson. A worsening in US-Israel relations? More suffering for Jonathan Pollard? A lack of credible action with regards to the Iranian nuclear program?

I urge my fellow Jews to vote "Republican" in this year's elections. We've gotten far too accustomed to voting Democrat. Yes, it was the Democrats who helped end segregation and improve race relations in America. It was also the Democrats who created a wellfare state in America. They've treated Israel as an inobedient child who refuses to give in to selfish American demands, and are responsible for Iran being able to do just about whatever it's felt like doing. Obama is a perfect example of the Democrats' inability to change anything for the better.

Change? It's only been the negative type. Hopefully, the American people will elect a president who wants to change America and the world for the better instead of following the advice of the Reverand Wright's and the Jesse Jackson's of the world.

Why I'll be Voting "Likud"

Elections are coming up and it's time for Israelis to make up their minds as far as whom they'll be voting for. I've been back and forth: first with Herut (Michael Kleiner didn't get any mandates the year I voted for him), then the Moledet (a far-right party that joined the NU a few years ago), and now, I'm planning on voting for the Likud. I hope Moshe Feiglin moves up to a realistic position on the party list, but even if he doesn't, I believe Netanyahu has done a great job over the past four years.

In general, I believe that unless the Prime Minister completely fails in his responsibility to provide security for the citizens of Israel and maintain a stable economy, he should be given the opportunity to continue on to a second term. Netanyahu would have been granted this opportunity in 2000 had it not for Clinton's interference in Israel's internal affairs, and his reneging on promises made at Wye.

There has been an interesting development in the past few days. The NU, Mafdal, and Ha'bayit Ha'yehudi (The Jewish Home) have formed a unity party that appears poised to gain at least 8-9 Knesset seats. I won't be surprised if they "overachieve" and amass 10-11 seats.

I like the fact that Michael Ben-Ari was left on the outside looking in, but it seems regretful that Arye Eldad has been left behind as well. The two hard-liners were prevented from joining the new party in order to maintain a bit of sanity, but I feel that Eldad would have added a secular Zionist presence that may be missed. I'd consider voting for the new party if it weren't for the Likud and the need for a strong government. I believe it will be an integral player in the next coalition.

Netanyahu has been great as far as preventing another war. His recent Facebook update correctly eluded to the fact that Bibi has been strong-handed in preventing terror, thus giving the Arab world a strong incentive to "stay away" from Israel. The army has continued air raids in Gaza in response to pretty much every rocket attack on Israeli soil, thus not allowing Hamas to gain a strong footing.

Hamas, who unoficially won the elections in the West Bank some-two years ago, appears stronger than Fatah and its medly of corrupt "leaders" (these "leaders" have led their people from one crisis to another while trying to undermine Israeli authority), but has been yet unable to muster up the international support it needs to take over as the major player in the West Bank.

The internal discord amongst Palestinian terrorist factions is, to a large degree, the product of Israeli foreign policy. We've been able to avert a major war and limit Palestinian terrorism thanks to a strong government. I hope the Likud gains more seats in the Knesset in the upcoming elections. Bibi's got my vote! Maybe we can even avoid including Kadima and/or Labor in the coalition.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Was Blind feat. Binyamin

Yeah...My inspiration. Where does it come from? It comes from waking up in the morning and knowing that G-d gave me another day. It comes from knowing that whatever I do, Hashem is behind me; that no matter where I go, G-d will strengthen my resolve to keep fighting. Fighting to become a better person.

Hayiti iver/ I was blind
Lo yadati le'hyot/ I didn't know how to live
Achshav ani nelcham/ Now I'm fighting
Keneged kol ha'hayot/ Against all the animals
Ein pachad/ There's no fear
Yesh tachat/ There's a bottom (to sit)
La'shevet lilmod / To sit and learn
hochmot me'hatalmud / The Talmud's wisdom
Achshav ani mabsud/ Now I'm satisfied
Mekir et atzmi/ Know myself
Yodea she'isha tova/ Know that a good woman
Lo stam eize stut/ Isn't just a one-night stand
Matchil le'hitbonen im ha'zman/ I'm beginning to get stronger with time
Yesh ta'am/ I want to
Le'gdol be'Torah/ Grow in Torah
U'mitzvot And mitzvot/ And good deeds
Ze lo ezize sod/ It's no secret
Le'kol Yehudi/ Every Jew
Yesh et ze bedamo/ Has it in his blood
Ha'ikar/ The key
La'tet le'Elokim / Is to allow G-d
Lagur betocheinu/ To live within us
Lomdim me'chayeinu/ We learn from our lives
Menasim le'hashlim/ We try to put things behind us
Menasim le'havin/ We try to understand
She'yesh me'ever le'mashe/ That there's more than
Roim be'chayim/ We see
Yom yomim/ In our everyday lives

Kama tov le'hyot / How good it is
Ba'olam ha'ze / To live in this world
Kama tov la'daat / How good to know
She'ani shave / That I'm worth it
Ani matzig la'olam kulo / I'm presenting the world
Sipur milchama / A story of war
Yodea she'ein le'an le'vroach / I know there's nowhere to run away to
Ein ma le'hitaka/ No reason to stop

Kama tov le'hyot
Ba'olam ha'ze
Kama tov la'daat
She'ani shave
Ani matzig la'olam kulo
Sipur milchama
Yodea she'ein le'an le'vroach
Ein ma le'hitaka

I'm doing it still
Still needing to thrill
This time around
It's a whole new crowd
My people
Need a leader
Someone to trust
And I feel I must
Lead a revolution
End the pollution
Of the Jewish mind
By liberal swine
By secular politicians
I need all the ammunition I can carry on my back
I can't side-track
Learn the Torah
Rebuild the Temple
Take back the menorah
Take back our pride
How many have tried?
How many have died?
Al Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying the Name of G-d)
Haim ani ashem? (Am I guilty?)
Haim ani lo nisiti (Haven't I tried?)
Lo kamti (Didn't stand up?)
Lo nelchamti (Didn't fight)
Lo karati le'ami le'hilachem be'Amalek (Didn't call on my People to fight Amalek?)
I've made it this far
There's no looking back!

Kama tov le'hyot
Ba'olam ha'ze
Kama tov la'daat
She'ani shave
Ani matzig la'olam kulo
Sipur milchama
Yodea she'ein le'an le'vroach
Ein ma le'hitaka

Kama tov le'hyot
Ba'olam ha'ze
Kama tov la'daat
She'ani shave
Ani matzig la'olam kulo
Sipur milchama
Yodea she'ein le'an le'vroach
Ein ma le'hitaka

I still want my piece of the land in the sun
How bad do I want to get the job done?
Well, put it this way
I'm gonna put bullets in yo' head
That's if you want my people dead
Cause no one loves this here place more
I'm more dangerous no than I was ever before
Dreams of taking the Temple Mount back
I can't get rid of these thoughts
I'm back on the attack
Soon as the light of the sun comes light up the day
I got a lot of things to say in my daily shemon esre
I pray and I say:
Grant me the power to go on
Don't ever turn your back on me
I'm your servant
You're the light
G-d grant me the might
The power
To blossom like a flower

Kama tov le'hyot
Ba'olam ha'ze
Kama tov la'daat
She'ani shave
Ani matzig la'olam kulo
Sipur milchama

My old self is about to vanquish from the rap scene
You haven't been where I've been
Haven't done what I've done
Haven't run down the Arabs and liberals I've run
Down to size
But it's not about that
Cause I'm better than that
I'm badder than that
I'm bigger and phatter than that
I crush the competition like Bush crushed Saddam
But as bad as it gets, I'm still having fun
I'm still the rap-daddy of 'em all
But how come y'all wanna question my form?
How come I gotta taste my own blood?
Yo, how much love for the Palis have all y'all liberals got?
Why is it that every time the Rabbi's mentioned it causes a stir?
Why is it that every time Obama is likened to Osama y'all gotta fear?
My beats and my lyrics rule supreme
So how come my people just wanna scream?
How come we die every day—get chopped down by enemy guns?
How come the world don't care about our sons!?

On My Stay in Chicago and On Coming Home to Israel

My stay here, in Chicago, was an eventful one. Lots of things happened: some positive and some negative, but overall, I enjoyed my stay here. The worst thing to happen was my grandma's passing. My mom is still having a very difficult time adjusting to the new reality of not having her mother by her side. She (grandma) was sick for a very long time, but we all got used to her being there for us whether she was sick or not. It was definitely a very difficult experience.

The best thing that took place while I was here was having an opportunity to see all my friends, especially an old buddy of mine whom we reconnected with after a 3-year hiatus. We spent several days hanging out in a variety of cafes around Chicago and Skokie, doing some studying (I loaned a few books from the library), watching movies, and playing b-ball and tennis. I ran a bit, but not as much as I was running in Israel and definitely not as much as I hoped to run while here.

As a side-note, I'm probably going to move back to blogger unless something drastic happens, and I figure out how to use Wordpress. Honestly speaking, it's been a big hastle for me. I'm pondering watching the presidential debates tonight, but the NY-Detroid game sounds awfully enticing as well. What a decision: presidential debates vs. ALCS!

Job-wise, I'm hoping to start covering Israeli current events and daily life in Israel for "Reklama," a local Russian language newspaper. I'll be placing my articles here as well. I'm also looking into writing for the JPost blog. We'll see how that goes.

I feel a little guilty that I ended up not voting in the American elections. I'm a big Romney fan and hope he gets elected, but I just wasn't able to print up all the documents for the absantee ballot. It was harder than I expected, and I ended up passing on the whole thing altogether. Hopefully, Illinois will eventually become more balanced and my vote will make a difference in future elections.
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