Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Once Upon a Busy Place in Baka



Bagel Bite is a restaurant in Baka, a neighborhood that used to be home to a few thousand Arabs. Today, it's a blossoming district of Jerusalem neighboring Talpiot and the German Colony, about 40-minutes walk from the center of town, and another 15 to the Wailing Wall. It's a busy place. You'll hear excited voices at any time of the day--or night. There's always something to do here.

Even though I live in a highly contested area, you won’t hear a word of politics at Bagel Bite because it’s a mixed staff of Jewish and Palestinian workers who try to have as much fun as possible while making a living selling bagels, and an assortment of foods ranging from muffins to sushi (sushi was recently added to their already-packed menu).

I've been coming here ever since I moved from Efrat to Jerusalem a year ago. It's a nice place with friendly waiters who do their best to make you happy, leaving you wanting to hand them a big tip. I’ve made some really good friends amongst both the staff and the usual customers. Somehow, I feel this is my “home away from home.” I come to Bagel Bite whenever I have a writing assignment, or need to finish a translation project. In fact, I’m sitting here now writing this.

One of my closest friends at Bagel Bite is a young Palestinian called “Baha.” I recently helped him put together an application to a German university. Yesterday he approached me and thanked me for having performed this act of kindness towards him. And the result: he was accepted to study there! Now, it’s on to bigger and better things for my friend, Baha.

Bagel Bite allows people of different backgrounds to come together for a hearty meal. It’s a place to read a good piece of literature, sip a cup of Latte, or do some work. I’m grateful to the Bagel Bite staff for treating me like I’m one of theirs. Even though I recently started working full-time, I continue frequenting this busy place in Baka in search of the company of good people, and a refuge from all the hustle and tussle of our beautiful capital.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Gush Katif: I Remember


They would not budge

If it were them

Let go now?

“Hard”, “tragic”

                               In their words

No room for mercy

Self-annihilation

                           In my words

Tragedy strikes

Have we not learned?

                                             Words

Spoken by generations gone

Inquisitions, pogroms

                                  Not loud enough

Did they hear?

Maybe more

 

Our land whose?

                           Do you want my land?

No, peace

Back home

                         Do you understand?

Freedom at last

Gathering of exiles

                                Who is talking?

History here

One only

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Illegal Sudanese/Eritreans and Unemployment in Israel

Note: A few months ago, I published a post on why I was a proponent of the African refugees staying in Israel. Since, then, I've had many discussions on the topic with my friend and roommate, F. He provided the clarity I needed to re-examine my position on the subject at hand.

It's been tough finding a full-time job lately. I've been asking the usual question of "Why?" and it would appear that the problem lies in the illegal immigrants who've made their presence felt in Israel.

Over the past 10 years, thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese have made their way from Northeast Africa through the Sahara Desert to Israel, the only country that comes close to resembling a "democracy" in the Middle East.

The smart thing to do would have been deemed as "inhumane" by all the "peaceful" humanists who felt no pangs of anguish when Gush Katif was being evacuated. The government should have acted quickly and decisively (something our government almost always fails to do) in sending the "refugees" (these are people who, unlike of my family who was really fleeing religious and ethnic persecution in the former USSR, are coming to Israel on the pretext that they're running away from ethnic cleansing) home.

We haven't yet, and it may be too late by now. Just as was the case with the Russians who came to Israel in search of work and a better lifestyle, and who weren't halachically Jewish, we're already feeling the consequences of the illegal African immigration wave. The Russians brought theft, vodka, and prostitution with them. Now, it's the Africans' turn.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Shabbat at Ma'aleh Ha'zetim with the Fleisher's

From left to right: me, Yishai Fleisher, Shlomo Alegra

I had an amazing opportunity to spend Shabbat at the Fleisher’s a few weeks ago in Ma’aleh Ha’zetim. It’s a Jewish complex in the middle of Ras el-Amud in Eastern Jerusalem, an Arab neighborhood that answers to the Palestinian Authority politically, but is geographically a part of the Jewish State. People here don’t serve in the army, or do any kind of national service like everyone else in Israel. They’re also not required to pay “arnona” or the very expensive land tax all Israelis are obliged to pay. They do benefit from medical coverage, vote in Israeli elections, and work in Jewish neighborhoods.
Yishai Fleisher, the man of the family, is a long-time political activist. He was born in Israel, but his parents moved to the States, where he grew up. His wife, Malkah, is just as dedicated to the cause of a Greater Israel. They met in the States, and got married in Hebron. Yishai is the founder of Kumah. He served as the head of Channel 7, Israel’s primary right wing media source for many years.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

An Inside Look at Two-Week Old Israeli Election Results



Israelis went to the polls 13 days ago. The elections resulted in the joint Likud-Yisrael Beitenu (Likud Beitenu) list getting 31 mandates, Shelly Yechimovich’s Labor with a decent showing of 15 seats (up 7 from the previous elections), the Jewish Home under the leadership of Naftali Bennett got the expected 12, and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) surprised everyone including themselves by getting 17 seats.

As far as the smaller parties, Shas (the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party) got 11 mandates which is pretty much the accepted standard for this party, United Torah Judaism getting 7, Meretz with a great result of 6 MK’s (they had only 2 in the previous Knesset), Tzippi Livni’s Hatnuah (The Movement) with 6, Kadima (previously Israel’s largest party) with a measly 2 seats, and the Arab parties with 13 mandates altogether (much like the infighting in the Arab world, the infighting amongst the Arab parties is what does them in year in and year out). Otzma, headed by Michael Ben-Ari, and Arye Eldad, did not cross the electoral threshold.

The results gave the right a clear majority: 61 to 59 according to most local media outlets, but a staggering 78 to 29 if we’re to include Yesh Latid, which has a very right wing economical agenda and whose leaders are willing to be a part of either a right—or left wing coalition as amongst the “right” bloc, and rule out the Arab parties who won’t be included in any coalition.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Missionaries and Messianic Jews: Worse than Islamic Terrorists

I've been approached by some weirdos on Twitter lately: people who claim that the in-gathering of the Jewish people will bring about the second-coming of their pagan god. I have a big, big problem with Messianic "Jews," many of whom aren't halachically Jewish and happen to be the biggest anti-Semites in the world--worse than Muslim terrorists.

These organizations: Jews for Jews and Yad L'Achim deal with issues that demand a lot of attention from the Jewish world. Missionaries are one of the biggest threats to Judaism today.

I firmly believe that Messianics are more dangerous to the continued survival of the Jewish people than Islamic terrorists. Both are obviously evil and strive to wipe us off the map. One is the progeny of Ishmael, while the other is the work of Esav.

Ishmael was a "man of the sword," whom nothing good has ever come of. His "hand was in everything," as the Torah states. Esav, on the other hand, accomplished his goals by virtue of a completely different method. He was wise, studied Torah (he learned from Isaac), and knew how to get the best of his pious brother, Jacob.
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