Monday, April 30, 2007
No one to blame but myself
The overwhelming majority of the posts I write are simply stuff that I had on my mind when I woke up in the morning. There is really no rhyme or reason to the topic selection... or even genre.
Sometimes I don't feel like writing... or I hate what comes out on the page... and you end up staring at day-old crap when you click over. [shrugs] Other times I feel strongly about something and just throw it out there to see if it resonates with anyone else.
But there are times (like yesterday) when I wanted desperately to hear what others felt about something that was/is a source of inner conflict for me. On those occasions I dearly wish that I hadn't allowed my frequent ranting to alienate so many people from elsewhere along the political and religious spectrum.
However, as in real life, if you share your honest ideas and feelings long enough... you are bound to self-select your friends/audience to the exclusion of a lot of potentially informative teachers from outside your immediate circle. That's pretty much what has happened here, and yesterday's post brought that home to me... hard.
Back in the golden days of the Jblogosphere (IMHO late 2003 to early 2004), there were few enough of us writing that it was sort of inevitable that we would read and interact with bloggers that lived substantially different lives... and believed substantially different things. And because I made myself part of their world on a daily basis, many of these fine writers frequently came to see what was going on over here.
But with the exponential explosion of Jblogs, many readers (and writers) began to gravitate towards cliques of like-minded folks and adopted the habit of checking in on 'the others' only infrequently (if at all). While I recognize the folly of ignoring other points of view along the political compass, I am certainly as guilty of this tendency as anyone.
Without naming names, there were a handful of lefty (or at least left-of-center) bloggers I used to read religiously. At turns they used to infuriate me and make me shake my head with sympathy (how's that for arrogance?)... but the body of knowledge I brought back from my daily visits 'over there' was an essential part of unconsciously balancing/modifying my own views and adjusting my own political 'rudder'.
Yesterday's post here on treppenwitz was nothing more than a bleat in the dark... a bit of self pity at my own stupidity for having chased away so many of the 'other voices' and then having compounded the mistake by not making the effort to invite them back.
So instead of a balanced discussion on a topic that is literally tearing me apart, I got what I deserved... a discussion dominated by an extreme view from an extreme blogger whose long suit is expressing controversial opinions without much substance to back them up. This is indeed a shame because with his fairly unique world-view and just little research / internal documentation to his arguments, this blogger could be a deadly debater. He probably still wouldn't change many minds, but he would force a lot of people to perform that all-important reality check... something that few of us do anymore.
As it is he simply ties me up in knots and presents easily refuted slogans... easy to refute, that is, if one has the time and patience to revisit the most basic points of the background material. I don't.
Oh sure... I made a half-hearted attempt to guide the discussion back towards the central points of the post in hopes that more reasonable voices would chime in (some eventually did). But in the end the discussion was hijacked by circular logic and unsubstantiated claims that were left to a well-informed lurker to refute.
Sure, I love writing about my life and my family as well as the pitfalls (or more correctly, pratfalls) of being a clueless immigrant in a new culture. But as ill-equipped as I may be to discuss politics, the infrequent political discussions here have always been an important, perhaps even essential, part of my education and self-check.
I miss that... and I really have nobody to blame for its absence here on treppenwitz but myself.
Just as an afterthought, I just found out that there was a whole different portion of the JIBs Awards voting that was postponed by a week due to technical difficulties. This is the segment dealing with 'Best Posts'. It turns out treppenwitz has been nominated for:
I was actually a bit disappointed that Ibrahim's Mirror wasn't nominated for Best Left Wing Post so that I could maintain at least the illusion of balance here. :-)
Oh well. As always, go vote for the stuff you liked... not just mine.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
An open (and sincere) letter to the Israeli Left
It was widely reported last week that PM Olmert's spin doctors were busily preparing various ways to deal with the political fallout from the impending release of the preliminary Winograd report. While it was universally assumed that the report would be extremely critical of Olmert and both his Minister of Defense and Chief of Military Staff, it was not clear what level of damage control would be required.
The only question that remained was how a vulnerable Prime Minister could defend himself and his top brass from such bad news?
The answer came this morning, seemingly perfectly timed to head off the release of the accusatory report, with the Defense Ministry issuing orders to evacuate the house in Hevron that has been at the center of an ongoing controversy since being legally purchased from its previous Palestinian owners.
Olmert & Co. have taken a page from the Ariel Sharon play-book and decided to invite the media and Israel's political left to run cover for them by making a frontal attack on their mutual enemies, the settlers. No matter what your personal views on the legitimacy/legality of the house puchase in Hevron, I personally can't believe that they (the media and the left) would be so stupid as to fall for this sort of political trick a second time.
Ariel Sharon's political career was headed straight for the courtroom, and possibly even a jail cell, before he came up with the admittedly brilliant strategy of using a frontal attack on the settlers as a smoke screen.
Once he began his campaign of vilifying the settlers and distancing himself from his ideological children, the media completely abandoned its coverage of his legal woes and the left-leaning judiciary suddenly decided that it was 'not in the national interest' to pursue charges against Sharon.
Now with their own political lives in the cross-hairs of the Winograd Commission, and dozens of criminal investigations threatening to embroil the PM, it seems that Olmert and Co. have decided that it is once again time to go on the offensive select a high-profile target in the settlement camp.
So why aren't Olmert and Peretz going after the illegal outposts that they promised long ago to dismantle instead of the Hevron house. The reason is simple: The settler leaders have stated publicly several times in the past few months that they are willing to work with the government to remove most of the outposts and absorb those that are populated into the larger settlement blocks.
Without active opposition form the settlers, Olmert and Co. have no political cover and would therefore still be dead in the water. They needed a high profile confrontation where the settlers would dig in their heels and provide a reason to send in the troops. The house in Hevron was the perfect choice.
I have made no secret of my dismay at the tactics and the (seeming) willful amnesia of Israel's political left. But one thing I have never accused them of is stupidity. In fact, I have to grudgingly admit that the left contains some of the best and brightest people that Israel has ever produced. They claim among their members the lion's share of academics and the business leaders. They are the elite of the political establishment, and one can't ignore that they are also the best minds of the Tel Aviv coffee house scene... Israel's vaunted 'street'.
This is what makes the settler position so difficult to defend... even on the occasions when they are completely [no pun intended] in the right.
My only hope is that the left, which prides itself on being on the side of intellectual honesty, political correctness and law & order, is big enough to admit to itself that the current leadership has taken their loyalty too much for granted this time.
Will the left condone criminally negligent action (or inaction) which led to the senseless deaths of so many Israelis in the 2nd Lebanon war and forced a substantial portion of the country to live in bomb shelters without a shred of governmental assistance or protection, just for the sake of an empty jab at some settlers living in a legally purchased house in Hevron?
Will the left look the other way at a Prime Minister's alleged criminal activities for the sake of furthering a meaningless gesture that will not move the country one millimeter closer to their goal of complete withdrawal from the territories?
Will the left vote with their silence in order to preserve the integrity of the Kadima Party instead of rising up to secure the immediate and future safety of the nation through new elections for better leadership (presumably from either Labor or Likud)?
This post is meant as a serious letter and it begs some serious answers. I have emailed a link to this post to some bloggers whose opinions I value and respect (even when I don't share them). Several of them would be fair in stating that my past rants have not exactly left the door open for dialog.
I can only say that I am now leaving the door wide open and ask that they walk through it. You have my solemn word that ANYONE who attempts to impede the fair exchange of views here will be banned from the discussion and their comments deleted.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
The outing of my inner monologue
Comedienne Lily Tomlin had a great line in her one-woman Broadway show a few years ago (I'm paraphrasing from memory):
"I wish I could pair up all the crazy people who wander around New York City talking to themselves so at least they'd look like they were having sane conversations."
I have been vaguely aware for some time that my inner monologue has been bubbling closer and closer to the surface. Perhaps it's the process of keeping this on-line journal that has channeled my inner monologue up towards the light. Or maybe it's just the immediacy of the news content I follow and how it seems to have a more direct effect on my life than it used to.
Whatever the reason, the net result is a nearly non-stop stream of
insane audible outbursts as I read or listen to the news. Here are a few examples from a few minutes ago as I scanned the on-line news headlines before getting out of bed:
Outburst: Oy, someone should clue these kids in to current U.S. University tuition levels... A little perspective is all I'm saying.
Outburst: Yeah, and when I was five I hoped for a pony.
Outburst: Nah nah nah! Missed me again! [tfu, tfu, tfu]
Outburst: No sh*t Sherlock... you're gonna to be treated like a very special criminal.
Outburst: Ooooh, that one over there looks like a pretty unicorn! [ka-CHING!]
Outburst: Hmmm, I wonder how long until the inevitable next terrorist attack?
Outburst: Uh huh... and I'm gonna wear my hair long when it all grows back.
Outburst: I'm shocked... shocked to find that
gamblingkidnapping is going on here!
Outburst: Pshaw!... I'm sure they don't really mean it.
Headline: Kassam fired from northern Gaza
Outburst: Well, that didn't take long.
You get the idea. It's gotten to the point where I don't really notice that I'm doing this... and I've even stopped caring if there are other people around to hear me carrying on like a lunatic.
Maybe Lily Tomlin was right... I need to be paired off with someone with similar self-control issues so at least we'd appear to the outside world to be having a sane conversation.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Israel @ 59
Today is Israel Independence Day, the 59th anniversary of the declaration of the modern State of Israel.
My family and I will be celebrating as we do every year; grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, kababs and various other kinds of meats, for hundreds of IDF soldiers who are on duty today. This event takes place every year at the local Pina Chama - a local rest stop where the communities of Gush Etzion conspire to spoil the men and woman from all over Israel whose service in the IDF brings them to our area.
By the way, I just found out that the first round of the JIB (Jewish & Israeli Blog) Awards is underway and some kind souls went a little nuts with the nominations.
So far it seems Treppenwitz has been nominated in the following categories:
There may be others too, but frankly I'm too stunned to even look.
If you think this site is a good fit for any of the categories listed above, please go do your civic duty. Obviously, if you get to the JIB Awards page and you see other blogs that are a better fit, vote your conscience. Seriously, there are some very good blogs out there and the best really deserve your votes.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
A time for war
I still remember the first time I ever took a bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As the bus plodded up the winding Jerusalem/Tel Aviv highway, we passed several groups of wrecked armored cars/trucks that sat on or near the spot where they had been destroyed trying to break through the Jordanian Legion's blockade of Jerusalem during the war of Independence.
Each one of these iron wrecks sits surrounded by wildflowers and meadow grass that waves lazily in the summer breeze. But the bucolic setting can't disguise the fact that each one of these wrecks marks the spot where a group of volunteers sacrificed their lives trying to bring supplies to the beleaguered residents/defenders of Jerusalem.
There are many things to which Israelis and veteran tourists become jaded over time. Many of the archaeological and holy sites lose some of their 'specialness'... and landmarks associated with many of Israel's wars seem to blend into the scenery.
But for me, these wrecked vehicles never fail to evoke the same strong emotional response I felt when I first saw them in 1983.
You see, from 1948 until today there has been a chilling continuity in our country's willingness to place its young men and women behind armor plating in order to safeguard them from our enemies (both external and internal) while ignoring what such a weak and defensive posture says to our bloodthirsty foes.
Even Israeli Arabs who were once nominally neutral, if not somewhat loyal citizens have become a dangerous fifth column in our midst. It isn't that they have any particular gripe with Israel. They are simply throwing their lot in with the side they perceive to be winning.
Anywhere you go in this small country you will see armored IDF jeeps (Sufas), Hummers, trucks and personnel carriers ferrying solders from place to place. But less obvious are the IDF ambulances that are also armored because their humanitarian nature has never been respected by our enemies... the same enemies who spew chapter and verse of Geneva conventions and International law at every real or imagined Israeli transgression.
Even more insidious is the fact that nearly all civilian commuter and school buses that travel within firing distance of our enemies have armor plating and bullet-proof windows. This isn't some hysterical precaution... these buses are regularly targeted by Palestinians with rocks, Molotov Cocktails and gunfire.
During the height of the last Intifada, most commuter cars that traveled in the 'territories' replaced their fragile glass windows with rock-proof polycarbonate windows, and many people (myself included) commuted to and from work wearing bullet proof vests.
In Sderot, where daily rocket attacks continue despite a one-sided cease-fire, our feckless Defense Minister (who nominally calls Sderot home) sees a perfectly workable solution in reinforcing the roofs of the city with iron bars and concrete armoring rather than targeting the source of the ongoing bombardment in Gaza!
Like the burned out wrecks that sit silently along the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, none of these armor solutions has proved particularly effective against the efforts of a determined enemy... and in fact seem to have simply increased the enemy's desire to strike. Nearly every week we read about explosive devices being set off and/or thrown at IDF and civilian vehicles. Some cause damage... others death.
But one thing that hasn't changed since the War of Independence (a war which many insist is still being fought) is that we and our enemies operate under completely different rules of engagement... a disparity that renders armor nearly useless.
It is worth noting that the war this past summer began when Hizbollah fired upon an Israeli armored vehicle patrolling the border with Lebanon from within sovereign Israeli territory. Also worth mentioning is that a large proportion of Israeli casualties during the war came from Hizbollah's ability to exploit our confused and overly-tentative rules of engagement to fire armor-piercing weapons at our aimlessly-wandering tanks and personnel carriers as if at a carnival shooting range.
I bring these things to your attention because at 8:00PM this evening a siren will sound all over Israel. At that moment men, women and children will stop whatever they are doing and stand silently to remember the 22,305 people who fell fighting to make the Zionist dream a reality. A staggering 233 of them fell during this past year!
Quite a few of the (too many) families who have lost family members in Israel's wars will have already positioned themselves in military cemeteries near their loved-one's graves and will join the siren's wail with their own lamentations.
Honor guards from all of the combat units will have representatives standing watch on Mount Herzl over their fallen comrades, and as one, the country will pause to contemplate the wasted potential of every man and women killed before the future arrived... a future where the false security of armor would no longer be needed.
I honestly don't know what to think when our young soldiers still drive around within their own borders inside armored vehicles and wearing ceramic body armor while our enemy's combatants parade fearlessly in the streets of Gaza City and Ramallah in shirt sleeves.
I don't know how to weigh the fact that our children travel to school in armored buses and learn their lessons only steps from bomb shelters while our enemy's children sit securely in their classrooms learning blood libels about me from textbooks bought and paid for by the U.N..
One thing is clear, though. No amount of armor can begin to safeguard the current and next generation of Israelis from harm. The only thing that can accomplish that is a sea change in the very rules of engagement under which we operate.
We have steadfastly refused to behave as a country at war, thinking that if we only provide a convincing illusion of peace it will hasten the arrival of the real thing. While we have forced our soldiers to act under the rules of engagement appropriate for suburban policemen and our civilians to behave like sheep, our enemies have broken every rule of civilized warfare and
blurred erased any meaningful distinction between civilian and military targets.
I'm not suggestion that we begin deliberately targeting non-combatants in the current/ongoing war. But I don't see the wisdom of gathering each year to mourn our war dead unless we have the courage of our convictions to finally fight this war.
Our enemies are not shy about naming their objectives and declaring the war in which they are engaged a holy one. They openly exhort their fighters to inflict maximum damage on the Zionist entity, and even the 'moderates among them claim the right of armed resistance as sacrosanct. They fire rockets and mortars at us over the border from their autonomous territory and violate our sovereignty at every opportunity to plant bombs,carry out attacks and kidnap our citizens.
Doesn't any of that pass even the most tentative definition of a war? If the answer is 'yes', then why are we raising another generation of Israelis to believe that they need only hide behind the armor for a little while longer and diplomacy will bring a solution?
I, for one, will be standing silently with head bowed at 8:00PM this evening to remember the soldiers who fell in the defense of my country. But while I stand in respectful silence my mind will be wondering how our leaders can have the gall to attend this year's ceremonies even as they till the ground for the next crop of Israeli dead that will be plowed under in the coming year.
We don't need some foreign doctrine to tell us how to behave as a nation. Ecclesiastes was but one of many of our own voices throughout the ages whose wisdom has admonished us that 'hows' are not nearly as important as recognizing the importance of the 'whens'. Quite simply there is a season for everything.
There is, indeed, a time for peace and a time for love.
I would be willing to bet anything that many of the men and women who died horrible deaths inside those iron wrecks that line the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway though the time of peace and love was waiting for them just around the corner (if not at the top of the hill). Yet here we are more than half a century later and we ignore the reality all around us, a reality that tells anyone with the wit to pay attention that the time for hatred and war is still very much with us (though we refuse to act accordingly).
The best way we can honor the war dead this year is to promise them that we will finally come out from our armored hiding places and bring the war to our enemies, where it rightly belongs.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Pros and cons of the low-carb lifestyle
I have to admit that as much as I love Passover, it wreaks havoc with a low carb diet.
Oh sure, I could have ignored my Zahava's heavenly mandel bread, merengues and pesach blondies... and I could have had only the minimum required amount of matzoh to fulfill my religious obligations to the holiday.
But then it really wouldn't have been Passover, right? I mean, what would have been the point if I couldn't sit around with my family and slather big globs of jam on enormous shards of buttered matzoh in the morning???
Anyway, so now post-holiday I have had to go back to my low-carb diet, forcing me to once again become exquisitely aware of the various pros and cons:
- Strong urge to shoot anyone seen eating pasta or pizza
- Total avoidance of the candy aisle in the supermarket due to the acute sadness it causes
- Lying awake at night trying to figure how to make low-carb ice cream in our home machine.
- Near total boycott of office birthday parties
- Grocery bills took a noticeable jump
- Occasional metallic taste in my mouth from the ketones my body is producing
- More frequent, er, 'calls of nature' due to increased water intake
- No more d
rugged feelinggrogginess in the morning
- No more hunger pangs/cravings between meals
- No more post-lunch
- 15% cream in my coffee = Good. 38% cream in my coffee = Great!
- Eggs for breakfast nearly every morning!
- Meat for dinner nearly every night
- Old snack = half a bag of cookies and a glass of milk. New snack = hunk of Emmenthaler and a glass of Merlot.
- A euphoric feeling of total control
All-in-all, not a bad trade-off. Especially since it is getting easier (both physically and mentally) to look at the scale in the morning.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Celebrity Endorsement #2
I rarely give plugs to commercial products or services here on my site. In fact, I can remember doing so only once before, almost three years ago. But I just have to share something with you that makes me smile every time I think about it... knowing that I have such a valuable service available to me anytime I may want it.
You see, I have a love-hate relationship with bookstores. I love browsing bookstores... but I hate plunking down the
king's ransom full retail price for new books.
When I was attending Hebrew University back in the mid 80s, one of my favorite hang-outs was a used bookstore in Jerusalem called 'Sefer V'Sefel' (Book & Mug), that doubled as a coffee shop. They even offered a nice selection of their own home-made ice cream!
I loved that I could go in there and sit around and read for as long as I wanted... and then walk out with more used books than I could carry for less than the cost of one new book in one of the big retail chains.
And once I'd finished reading what I'd bought, S&S would buy them back for only slightly less than I paid.
Of course, the downside to such an arrangement is that the limited size of any such bookstore makes it unlikely that you'd find exactly what you're looking for on any given visit... or if you happened to luck out, that the book would be in good shape.
However, with the exception of a few college towns, the days of the used bookstore are pretty much gone. The profit margin on used books is apparently so minuscule that finding a store like Sefer V'Sefel these days is a truly rare thing. In fact, I had started to think that most of the used books in the world were now located in old milk crates and cardboard boxes at flea markets. But not long ago a friend tipped me off to an on-line company that has simply blown my mind. It's called Abebooks.com and their mission statement kinda sums things up nicely:
"...to help people find and buy any book from any bookseller anywhere"
And you can take them at their word! They are a portal through which you can search for over a hundred million new and used books located at more than 13,500 bookstores worldwide.
Let's say you are looking for a used copy of Nevil Shute's post-apocalyptic novel, 'On the beach'. You could...
a) ... drive down and waste your only free afternoon trying your luck at that charming little used bookstore/jumble shop run by those two rather, um, earthy-looking women who smell vaguely like tofu and seem to have more body hair than your uncle Bob...
b) ... simply log onto Abebooks.com and search for what you need by title, author or one of several other criteria. Within seconds you will be looking at a list of pretty much every used copy of the book available for sale in the world. Not only that, but you can compare prices and book condition, as well as the most convenient bookseller location to where you live. Then... once you've settled on a book, you can buy it right there from within Abebook's site. They deal with sending the instructions and payment to whichever bookseller you selected.
Heck, in the end you might actually end up buying your copy of Shute's book from the tofu-smelling, leg-hair-wearing gals down at the 'Bean Curd & Books' outlet via Abebook's seamless portal. But then again, you might find that a bookseller across town... or on the other side of the world... has a better price or a copy in better condition.
Not only that, but this site is an excellent place to locate those used textbooks you need for a fraction of the price you would have to pay at the campus bookstore.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Sell crazy somewhere else... we're all full over here!
A couple of years ago I got the first of what would turn out to be a long stream of unsolicited emails from someone that suggested that one of my personal heroes, Natan Sharansky, had actually been a KGB operative who informed on his fellow refuseniks.
This long, rambling email came uninvited from someone I had never heard of. The only thing I knew for sure was that the person who had sent me that informative little manifesto obviously didn't know the first thing about me. If he had he would have realized:
a) I hate unsolicited email.
b) I particularly hate hate loooong, unfocused, unsubstantiated, unsolicited emails that slander people I admire.
c) I hate unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.
d) Probably the only thing that can make angrier than sending me an example of 'a', 'b' or 'c' is to do so and then defend your actions in such a way as to imply that I'm the one with the problem for not wanting your unique brand of crazy inflicted on me first thing in the morning when I check my email.
For those of you who know about whom I speak, please don't mention his name here. While he may be worthy of public ridicule, I'd prefer to keep this discussion in the realm of theoretical and out of the realm of a courtroom (if you get my meaning).
Anyhoo, this theoretical Oliver Stone-wannabe didn't take the hint. In fact he didn't even take my direct instruction (I used small words for clarity) to cease and desist from sending me his crap.
I continued to get emails about everything from how Rabin was actually assassinated by the Shabbak (Israel Security Service) to how nearly every road accident involving a religious person is actually a carefully orchestrated plot by the power-brokers on the secular left to knock off the country's religious leadership. This person's concern for Israel's religious population is especialy puzzling since many of his emails arrive on Shabbat.
Look, I'll be the first to admit that there is a very fine line between hobby and mental illness (not my line, BTW) but I think that 'containment' is critical for preserving that distinction.
Not clear? Here, let me give you an example:
Raising bees... cluttering up your house with beekeeping equipment and protective clothing... reading everything in print about bee culture and apiaries... taking your kids to spend precious free time to work with several hives... writing about it and posting pictures of it on a blog... and giving honey to one's friends and neighbors: Hobby
Emailing / writing letters to people you don't know to tell them that there really is no such thing as a natural death or fluke road accident in Israel: Mental Illness
Clear so far?
There are certain crazies I grudgingly tolerate because they are fairly harmless and honestly feel they are tasked with making me a better person. But I feel strongly that the decision to tolerate craziness or keep it at arm's length should be mine to make... not the crazies'.
Yet here we are almost two years later and I'm still getting emails from this theoretical person. Some of them contain long, rambling rants about G-d-knows-what (I sure wouldn't since I never read them), while others land in my in-box bearing nothing more than a cryptic subject such as "Jonathan Pollard" and a blank email (oooooh, maybe the thought police deleted his email before it got to me!).
I discussed this whole 'tin-foil-hat brigade' thing with a couple of my fellow bloggers a while back and one comforted me with the following observation, "Don't get me wrong, I'm very glad we have renegade independent journalists [ed note: I love that !] questioning the official version of events. It's an important thing to have in a democracy. But he is pretty nuts."
That about sums it up. I'd hate to live in a country where alternative-theory-enthusiasts (Oh who am I kidding, conspiracy nuts) are not allowed to indulge in their, er, hobby. But could they please sell crazy somewhere else... we're all full over here!
Monday, April 16, 2007
I just read parts of two articles that left me absolutely speechless. Both articles appeared in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, and were penned by Saudi columnist Yousef Nasser Al-Sweidan.
I'm speechless because these ideas were written by an Arab Journalist for an Arab news outlet... but sound like they are the work of a center/right-wing Israeli!
"The slogan 'right of return'... which is brandished by Palestinian organizations, is perceived as one of the greatest difficulties and as the main obstacle to renewing and advancing the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians based on the road map and a two-state solution.
"It is patently obvious that uprooting the descendants of the refugees from their current homes in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and other countries, and returning them to Israel, to the West Bank, and to Gaza is a utopian ideal and [a recipe for] anarchy. More than that - it is an idea that cannot be implemented, not only because it would upset the demographic [balance] in a dangerous and destructive manner and have [far-reaching] political, economic and social ramifications in such a small and constrained geographical area, but [mainly] because the return [of the refugees] stands in blatant contradiction to Israel's right as a sovereign [state], while the Palestinian Authority lacks the infrastructure to absorb such a large number of immigrants as long as the peace process... is not at its peak."
"Clearly, the refugee problem is mainly the result of cumulative mistakes made by the countries where [the refugees] live... such as Syria and Lebanon, which have isolated the refugees in poor and shabby camps lacking the most basic conditions for a dignified human existence.
"Instead of helping them to become fully integrated in their new society, they let them become victims of isolation and suffering... Later, the worst of all happened when Arab intelligence agencies used the Palestinian organizations as a tool for settling scores in internal Arab conflicts that probably have nothing to do with the Palestinians...
"The Israelis, on the other hand, were civilized and humane in their treatment of the thousands of Jewish refugees who had lost their property, homes and businesses in the Arab countries, and who were forced to emigrate to Israel after the 1948 war. The Israeli government received them, helped them, and provided them with all the conditions [they needed] to become integrated in their new society...
"The lies of the Syrian Ba'th regime, and its trading in slogans like 'right of return,' 'steadfastness,' 'resistance,' 'national struggle' and all the other ridiculous [slogans], are evident from the fact that, to this day, dozens of Palestinian families [remain] stranded in the desert on the Syrian-Iraqi border, because the Syrian regime refuses to let them enter its horrifying Ba'th republic and return to the Yarmouk [refugee] camp.
"The Arab countries where the Palestinians live in refugee camps must pass the laws necessary to integrate the inhabitants of these camps into society.
"[In addition, they must] provide them with education and health services, and allow them freedom of occupation and movement and the right to own real estate, instead of [continuing] their policy of excluding [the refugees] and leaving the responsibility [of caring for them] to others, while marketing the impossible illusion of return [to Palestine],"
In the second article, published on March 16 and titled "Naturalization is the solution," Sweidan wrote: "There is no doubt that the Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon - who have for many long years been fed by their Arab hosts on impossible dreams and on shiny promises that were soon broken - do not need another 60 years of misery, wretchedness and suffering... to figure out for the thousandth time that all the talk about the 'bridge of return' is nonsense and deceit - a fairy tale that exists only in the old, worn-out demagogy of the Arab propaganda...
"In reality, there is no 'bridge [of return]'... except for the bridge that we now must pass... called the peace process and normalization of relations between the Arabs and Israel.
"Undoubtedly, the Arabs cannot continue to avoid the implementation [of the peace process], which brooks no further delay. [Any delay] will have a heavy price for the Arab societies in the present and in the future, considering the sharp strategic changes in the Middle East. [These changes] demand an immediate and final solution to the Arab-Israeli conflicts, and [require] the two sides to direct their joint energies and efforts toward confronting the Iranian nuclear threat which imperils us all."
"As the Middle East peace process gains momentum, and as the regional and international forces remain committed to the need to resolve this [conflict]... there is a growing necessity for a realistic, unavoidable and bold decision that will provide a just solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees by naturalizing them in the host countries, such as Syria, Lebanon and other countries.
"Even though this is a humanitarian [project], it requires intensive efforts on the legislative, economic, logistic and administrative levels, to integrate the Palestinians organically into the social, economic and political fabric of the Arab societies...
"By every conceivable and accepted criterion, naturalizing the refugees [in the Arab countries] is the inevitable solution to [this] chronic humanitarian problem. The fact that [this solution] constitutes an important part of the overall peace process and of the historic reconciliation between the Arabs and the Israelis will help to reinforce [the naturalization process] and to perpetuate it," Sweidan wrote.
Now do you see why I'm speechless???
At this point, one of two things could happen:
1. This kind of unprecedented, outrageous thinking could catch on in the Arab world.
2. This guy will be found beheaded within the next few days.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
The best line so far...
... to be delivered by a guest at chez treppenwitz.
We get a lot of friends (blog & real word) and relatives staying with us here at chez treppenwitz. It is truly a rare weekend when the guest suite and Shabbat table aren't graced with truly special people.
Last year we had our good friends Noa and Bryan over for a weekend (this was before they were blessed with their beautiful new son), and Noa provided what has turned out to be the best line so far to be delivered by a guest in our home.
The conversation went something like this:
Me [planting a big smooch on the soft head of our black lab-mix, Jordan]: "Did you ever notice how all dogs have their own unique smell? Don't look at me like that... I'm telling you that every single dog I've ever owned has had their own special scent."
Noa [giving her own dog, Sharona, a doubtful sniff]: "Um, no. They pretty much all smell like 'dog'."
Me: "No seriously, Jordan has a unique smell all her own... sorta like warm corn chips. It's a really pleasant smell that she's had her whole life."
Noa [clearly humoring me, calls Jordan over and gives her a sniff and then yells upstairs to her husband]: "Honey! Remind me never to eat corn chips at the Bogner's house, mmkay?"
Note to self: It's been far too long since we've had Noa, Bryan and Sharona (and now baby 'Kivi') over for a Shabbat. Gotta do something about that.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Question & Answer Time
There are a wide range of opinions circulating in the jblogosphere on the current crisis that has developed over the Hevron building that Defense Minister Amir Peretz has ordered to be evacuated of its Jewish residents.
What is conspicuously absent from these rants for and against the original real estate transaction and the subsequent governmental intervention is anything approaching an honest analysis of the facts. Instead what I've seen has mostly been emotional stuff aligned along party lines:
Therefore I have compiled a list of questions I'd like to ask that deserve consideration in any discussion of this building and its current legal status. I will provide my answers, but they are just that; mine. Feel free to offer your own. All I ask is that you try to stick to facts and check your emotions at the door:
Q: Was the building legally purchased for the stated price of $700,000. USD?
A: Yes. Well, sort of... probably... um, maybe. My inclusion of the word 'legally' in the question was deliberate and is responsible for my vague answer. Legally even if money changed hands, contracts were signed and title changed hands, the transaction lacks full legal status without the Defense Minister's signature. But we'll look at that next.
Q: Is the legal requirement for the Defense Minister's signature on all real estate transactions in the 'occupied territories' enforced most of the time... or even a significant portion of the time?
A: No. This rule is enforced sporadically and along political lines when it is enforced at all. Any rule/law that is not uniformly applied or which is enforced only when it suits a politicians political whims is neither just nor legal (IMHO).
Q: Has even a shred of evidence been offered by any parties that might indicate that the Jews who paid for the building, and those who currently live in it, acted in bad faith towards the previous owners/occupants during any part of the transaction?
A: No. This is an extremely important point since Israeli history is full of land sales that have been complicated by the illegality (according to the Arabs) of selling land to Jews. Today, as in Ottoman times, it could cost an Arab his life to sell land to Jews. Therefore even when multiple intermediaries were used to acquire property, as soon as Jewish owners took possession of the property, loud protestations of fraud and theft were arguably the former owner's last resort against an official death sentence or an unofficial lynching.
Q: Was the location of this building in Hevron meant as a provocation by the Jewish purchasers?
A: No. This is not my opinion... it is demonstrable fact. Unlike many outpost settlements that are intended as deliberate provocations (and even as a passive/aggressive sort of vengeance) in the wake of Arab terrorist attacks, one need only look at a map to understand the logic behind this property acquisition. In the heart of Hevron is the Ma'arat HaMachpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs) where the traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam agree four Biblical couple are buried: (1) Adam and Eve; (2) Abraham and Sarah; (3) Isaac and Rebekah; (4) Jacob and Leah. According to Midrashic sources it also contains the head of Esau, and to Islamic sources, is also the tomb of Joseph. The Jewish and Christian Bibles contain what is likely the most widely acknowledged legally binding real estate transaction in history; the purchase of this cave and the surrounding land by Abraham in order to bury his wife Sarah. Jews were forbidden from worshiping by Muslim decree until after the Six Day War and since that time both Muslims and Jews have worshiped there. The problem is that in order to reach the Ma'arat HaMachpelah, Jews have to travel a narrow corridor from neighboring Kiryat Arbah that has been the site of frequent unprovoked terrorist attacks. I've given you this short history lesson because the building in question today lies along the route between Kiryat Arbah and the Ma'arat HaMachpelah in Hevron and is intended to help create one part of a safe passage for Jewish worshipers along this historically dangerous route.
Q: Is there any likelihood that the Defense Minister would have signed off on the sale of this building had it been presented to him for consideration?
A: No. Peretz, one of the early leaders of 'Peace Now', has never made a secret of his total opposition to any and all settlement activity over the green line. In fact, in his campaign for leadership of the Labor Party he promised to evacuate all outposts and reiterated this promise when he was given the Defense portfolio. That he has not done so is mostly because he has been viewed by most as a 'lame duck' in his position in Defense, and would likely not get cabinet approval to make any moves that might have any lasting affect beyond his limited tenure. However denying approval of real estate transactions in the territories costs nothing and requires no Cabinet approval/oversight. This is one of the reason that almost no real estate transaction in Judea and Samaria have been handed to his office for approval.
Q: Are there any legally compelling reasons for the sale of the building to have been approved?
A: Yes. Aside from the strong emotional and ethical arguments against weighing real estate transactions strictly along religious/ethnic lines, there is ample legal precedent for approving this particular sale. That reason can be summed up in one word: Security. As noted above, it is in the interest of all parties to reduce the the amount of exposure that Jews and Arabs have to one another. Several entire neighborhoods were created around Jerusalem in order to create and preserve contiguity for the movement of the Jewish population so that they would not have to pass through Arab areas. In many cases land was appropriated by the state to accomplish this goal without any of the niceties of the present real estate transaction. It stands to reason that if the goal of avoiding friction between Jewish and Arab populations is still paramount in the minds of Jewish and Arab leaders, that a 'kosher' real estate transaction that would help accomplish this goal without resorting to the appropriation of land or property would be welcomed.
Q: Does Defense Minister Peretz have the support of his military advisers, the State Attorney, his fellow cabinet members and the Prime Minister to carry out the evacuation of this building?
A: Sadly, the Defense Minister doesn't legally require any of these people's approval or support to carry out the evacuation orders. This is just one of countless places where proper checks and balances are lacking or inadequate in the Israeli political and legal process. Here's how the opinions line up:
- The State Attorney has approved the legality of the evacuation order but has said that it should not be carried out immediately. This indicates to most that he expects legal or political challenges to the order and wants to allow time for them to be presented.
- Peretz's military advisers have advised against the evacuation order, but it is not clear if they have done so only because they are in favor of creating this safe corridor from Kiryat Arba or if they are also weighing the cost and potential political consequences of carrying out a contentious evacuation.
- The cabinet has not spoken (or even met) as a body on this particular issue, but the individual statements of the members to the press indicates that support for the evacuation is by no means assured. If the cabinet does nothing the order to evacuate can go forward. However if they meet and reach a consensus to over-ride the order they have the legal power to do so. This is one small legal check that I wish were expanded to work both ways. One news report indicated that a cabinet member has asked to convene a meeting to discuss the evacuation but it is too early to tell if such a meeting will actually take place or what the outcome might be.
- The Prime Minister has not made a statement for or against the evacuation order, but has reportedly echoed the State Attorney in advising a delay of any evacuation order. I honestly doubt that Olmert is opposed to the evacuation, but I think he sees Peretz's move for what it is; an attempt to bolster his ratings among Labor voters in advance of the upcoming elections for party leadership. Anything Olmert can do to prevent any clear front-runner from emerging in the Labor elections will likely keep the Laborites too busy campaigning to interfere with coalition politics. Once a clear front runner emerges, you can bet that that person will almost certainly pull Labor out of the government and force early elections.
One last note: I'm sure many of you have different answers to these questions... and perhaps even new questions of your own. That's fine. Fire away. But I have tried very hard to avoid allowing my emotional views to eclipse the solid legal arguments surrounding this issue, and I would encourage any commenters to do the same. If you aren't sure of whether you are being fair in your comment, please change the word 'Jew/settler' for 'Arab' and substitute 'Tel Aviv' for 'Hevron'. If your position can stand that test then comment away.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Of Turks, Spaniards and bathtime
There's an old story about a newly married woman who is preparing dinner for her parents for the first time in her new home. Her mother wanders into the kitchen and watches as her daughter is preparing the Roast Beef: First she cuts about a third of it off from the main hunk of meat. She then places the large chunk of meat on it's side in the roaster and stands the smaller piece up next to it in the pan. Then she puts in all the seasonings and vegetables... and finally prepares to put it into the pre-heated oven.
Her mother, who has been watching all this time, asks her why she has cut off a big chunk of the roast and stood it up? The question catches the daughter off-guard and she answers, "But mom, I've been watching you do that for years... I just assumed it helped the meat cook more evenly."
Her mother smiled and shook her head when she heard this, responding, "No dear, I always did that because the only roasting pan we had was one we got as a wedding gift and it wasn't big enough for a large piece of meat to fit unless I cut off a chunk and stood it up. But you have this nice big roasting pan so there's no need to do this!"
I doubt this exchange ever actually took place, and it is probably just a nice illustration of how some family traditions get started. I'd also like to think that, despite the adequate size of her roasting pan, that the young woman continued to cut her roasts in two so that someday when when her daughter asks why, she could tell the story of how her grandmother used to prepare Roast Beef for special occasions... and both the tradition and the memory of how it began could be passed down through the generations.
Each family has its rituals and traditions, great and small... important and trivial. Some are related to tasks and chores (such as cooking Roast Beef) while others involve celebrations and/or religious observances.
In the past I have written about how my children were brought home from the hospital wrapped in the same blanket as my sibs and I were wrapped for our first car ride after being born. In that post I also mentioned that all of our children ate their earliest 'solid' food from an heirloom porringer that had also served my siblings and me.
These are examples of tangible family traditions that can be passed down from generation to generation without too much worry. But I was recently thinking about what would would become of the less tangible traditions... the bedtime & bath-time rituals that our children might forget before they have a chance to pass them along to their own children. What of these?
An example of this is a song called 'Golden Vanity' that Zahava used to sing to all of our children from their very first bath in the kitchen sink, until they were old enough to bathe themselves. No matter where in the house I was I could always tell it was bath-time when I heard this song accompanied by the squeals of delight and splashing water.
The lyrics of the song are actually kind of gruesome, but since we all grew up on a steady diet of cradles crashing to earth from treetops and spiders creeping up on unsuspecting little girls while they eat cottage cheese, I figured what could be the harm in Zahava singing a cute little sea chantey about a ship's captain tricking a cabin boy and allowing him to drown while our kids were sloshing around the bathtub, right?
The basic premise of the song's story is that a ship is in danger of being captured by an enemy. The captain asks who in his crew has an idea of how to save them all. A young cabin boy volunteers to jump overboard with an auger (drilling tool) and swim over and sink the enemy ship by drilling holes in its hull... but first he wants to know what the captain will give him as a reward for this feat. The captain promises him 'silver and gold' and even the hand of his daughter if he is successful. The cabin boy sinks the enemy ship as promised, but when he swims back to his ship, the captain refuses to take him back aboard. Finally the crew hoists him out of the ocean and he dies on deck. The cabin boy is then wrapped in a blanket and tossed overboard (buried at sea).
Anyway, I figured that since so much of this journal documents obscure (and often embarrassing) aspects of my children's up-bringing that might otherwise be lost in the mists of time (or our inevitable senility) I decided that it might be a good idea to write down the lyrics to this song here on treppenwitz.
However, my good intentions turned to worry when I Googled the song and found about a gazillion versions of it out there on the 'Net *... with some dating back as far as the mid-1600's!
The one thing they all seemed to share in common was that none was exactly the same as the version Zahava had sung to our children.
The ship was sometimes called the 'Sweet Trinity' (apparently in a 17th century jab at Sir Walter Raleigh) and sometimes the 'Golden Vanity'. The enemy ship is alternately Turkish, English, French, Spanish or even Mongol (did they even have ships?). And the song sometimes ends with the death of the cabin boy in the water... sometimes on deck... and sometimes not at all (having received his promised reward from the grudging captain).
Far from being worried that 'our version' might not be correct, the wide range of lyrics convinced me more than ever of the need to commit 'our' version to writing so that there would be no questions when some future, hypothetical bath-time rolls around for my grandchildren and Ariella, Gilad or Yonah have doubts as to how the bath-time song goes. I mean, this was far more serious stuff than a simple Roast Beef recipe, wouldn't you agree?!
So here they are in all their glory... the Bogner/Pomeranz (Zahava's maiden name) version ** of the bath-time song:
The Golden Vanity
Oh, there was a lofty ship and she sailed upon the sea,
and the name of that ship it was the Golden Vanity,
She once feared she would be taken by the Turkish enemy,
as she sailed along the lowland sea!
Chorus (I usually omitted)
As she sailed upon the lowland, the lowland, the lowland,
as she sailed upon the lowland sea!
Up stepped a cabin boy just the age of twelve and three,
and he said to the captain “What will you give to me
If I swim along the side of that Turkish enemy,
and sink her in the lowland sea?”
“Oh! I will give you silver and I will give you gold,
and the hand of my daughter if you will be so bold
As to swim along the side of that Turkish enemy,
and sink her in the lowland sea!”
Well the boy he made a-ready, and overboard jumped he,
and he swam along the side of that Turkish enemy,
And with his little drilling tool he bore holes three,
and he sank her in the lowland sea.
Well the boy he turned around, and back again swam he,
and he hollered to the captain to haul him from the sea,
But the captain did not heed, for his daughter he did need,
and he left him in the lowland sea!
Well the crew they hauled him up, out upon the deck he died,
they wrapped him in his blanket, so very soft and wide,
They cast him overboard, to drift along the tide,
and he sank beneath the lowland sea.
Oh! There is a lofty ship and she sails upon the sea
but she sails without a cabin boy the age of twelve and three,
She once feared she would be taken by a Turkish enemy,
as she sailed upon the lowland sea.
I've shared this here today mostly for safe-keeping before my own, or Zahava's memory begins to fade... but it is also a reminder to anyone reading this that there is no time like the present to safeguard the little family rituals and traditions that are uniquely yours before they are lost.
* Here are some links to other sites that discuss the well-loved song and its many versions:
** The lyrics Zahava sings she learned from Mr. Reber, her fourth grade teacher. He had a penchant for folk music and old ballads.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
CPR Update (yet another PSA from the management)
I remember back in my first year of high school I took an after-school CPR course offered by the local chapter of the Red Cross.
It wasn't that I had ambitions of being an EMT or Paramedic or anything. Rather, there was this gorgeous cheerleader whose locker was two down from mine. She had the uncanny ability to make me light-headed just by walking past and leaving me in her intoxicating aroma of Noxema and Herbal Essence shampoo that always seemed to waft after her perfectness as she walked down the the hallway. One day I overheard her telling one of her friends she was planning on taking this CPR course...
Take one adolescent boy and toss in the remote (like Antarctica-remote) possibility of a mouth-to-mouth or chest compression demonstration with a Senior Cheerleader/goddess (or more likely, simply prolonged close proximity and perhaps an exchanged word or two) and one begins to understand how I ended up taking this CPR course.
So much for altruism, right?
So a few weeks after this bit of eavesdropping I found myself in a classroom with about 15 other kids (including you-know-who) where a Red Cross instructor was unpacking a 'Resusci-Annie' doll that was just ghastly enough to banish any, and all, kissy/touchy-thoughts from my over-sexed teen-aged mind.
The CPR course ended up being surprisingly informative and well-run, and I think there was only one small moment of distraction where most of the boys in the room watched this cheerleader performing mouth-to-mouth on 'Resusci-Annie's' cold-dead lips while silently wishing that G-d would bless us at that very instant with a mild coronary event so that she could practice on a more suitable subject.
The reason I've shared this rather embarrassing glimpse at my high school dorkiness with you is that Book of Joe, one of my primary go-to guys when it comes to demystifying medical news, has just dropped a bombshell - and not the cheerleader sort - regarding CPR:
"In a nod to reality, the medical profession is finally taking a practical position on what CPR should entail when performed by bystanders without medical training, as is usually the case if it happens at all.
Long story short: Forget all the stuff they taught you about rescue breathing and focus on chest compressions — 80 to 100 a minute, forceful enough to depress the breastbone about two inches (ignore the sounds of ribs cracking — that's collateral damage and unavoidable sometimes) and so energy intensive that the average person can't do more than five minutes at a time and remain effective." [emphasis mine]
Did you catch that? No more dilemma of whether to risk giving mouth-to-mouth to a bleeding stranger (or carrying around a key-chain disposable airway/shield as I have for over a decade), or trying to figure out what to do first if you find yourself alone with someone who seems destined for the old dirt-nap unless you intervene.
The money quote from the article at Book of Joe:
"...a study of more than 4,000 cases of cardiac arrest, the largest on the subject to date, found that patients were more likely to recover without brain damage if their rescuers had focused on chest compressions alone. Published in The Lancet, the study found that 22 percent of people who received chest compressions alone survived with good neurological function, compared with 10 percent who received combination CPR."
I don't know about you, but if Joe buys it (he's a practicing physician, after all), that's good enough for me.
Oh, and for all you 15-year-old boys out there, the new rules leave alive the fantasy of, um, chest compressions... so there's still that (if you catch my drift).
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Quantifying that which shouldn't be quantified
There is an old joke that makes the rounds in the medical community every few years:
Q: How do you differentiate between major and minor surgery?
A: Minor surgery is something that someone else has to undergo.
I was reading the news this morning when a headline caught my eye and made me sad. Once upon a time it would have made me angry... maybe even furious. But today it simply reinforced my conviction that modern Israel is hopelessly divided between the elites in power and the rest of us with whom they have zero connection and/or empathy.
The headline, which was a quote from the Social Affairs Minister, Yitzchak Herzog, read:
"Israel should be flexible in defining 'blood on hands'"
The story went on to detail how our government now seems willing to blur one of the last lines in the sand in order to trade terrorists in Israeli prisons for a kidnapped soldier who we have no indication is even alive.
Now, call me old fashioned, but the concept of having blood on one's hands is arguably the last bastion of things for which there should be absolutely no wiggle room. Either someone was involved in the taking of a human life... or they were not. There has never been a reason in the past to differentiate between those who plan and those who act since they are all part of a murderous conspiracy. But now it seems that even this hair can, and will, be split by the people in charge.
What saddens me most is that, like the medical joke, the criteria for adjusting the definition of 'having blood on one's hands' will almost certainly be modified according to whose blood was spilled and how closely the political elite in our government can identify with them.
A shooting, knifing or bombing in Tel Aviv or Natanya? Bloody hands.
A shooting, knifing or bombing in a development town or in the territories? Well, not so fast... let's talk about this a bit, shall we?
There was a time when Israel didn't openly negotiate with terrorists. This was perhaps the only thing that kept us reasonably immune from the emotional blackmail of kidnapping and the dirty trade in body parts in which our ghoulish enemies seem to take delight. But somewhere along the way we allowed the Arabs to set the market price for a Jewish captive: A dead captive (or any part thereof) was worth dozens of prisoners. A live captive was worth hundreds.
It doesn't take a great thinker to realize that agreeing to this kind of extortion only whets the terrorist's appetite for more Jewish captives. And now that the last taboo of not allowing terrorists with blood on their hands to be considered in these shameful trades is about to be set aside, there is quite literally no limit to the demands that these savages can make.
It is no coincidence that in addition to the normal ministers that a typical political entity might have, that governments like Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority feel no shame in openly appointing permanent government representatives called 'Chief Negotiators' and asking the rest of the world to extend full diplomatic status to them. These are nothing short of savages in suits who feel no shame at all in demanding all the political niceties and protocol due a government representative, while acting in the finest tradition of their predecessors who stood on balconies in Munich in 1972 clutching machine guns and wearing ski masks.
The only thing that has changed is our willingness to play along with the charade to the point of allowing our enemies to quantify the value of spilt Jewish blood.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
The time of our freedom...
There are as many connotations to the holiday of Passover as there are people celebrating it. Mention this holiday among a group of Jews and some will immediately think of matzoh... others will think about cleaning house... and still others will conjure mental images of family and friends sitting around the seder table enjoying delicious food.
But for some reason most of us seem to forget one of the few actual requirements of the holiday; that we view ourselves as if we had personally been redeemed from captivity... and to pass this self-awareness down to our children so they too will never forget.
The repeated phrase 'Zman Cherutainu' ('the time of our redemption from captivity') is the very cornerstone of the prayers we recite throughout this week-long holiday, yet even as we sit around the seder table reciting our commitment to internalize the plight of being held captive in Egypt, the enticing aromas emanating from the kitchen wipe all thoughts of captivity from our minds.
Throughout the year, many synagogues add a prayer for the safe return of our captured soldiers to their Shabbat service. But like our mental lapses at the seder, we frequently find it difficult to really internalize the plight of captives while surrounded by the warm embrace of friends and neighbors. For those not familiar with it, it goes something like this:
"May the One Who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, David and Solomon, bless the kidnapped and captive soldiers, including among them Gilad ben (the son of) Aviva Shalit; Ohed ben Malka Goldwasser; Eldad ben Tova Regev; Guy ben Rina Hever, Ron ben Batya Arad; Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz; Tzvi ben Penina Feldman; and Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel. May the Holy One, Blessed be He, watch them and save them from all trouble and oppression and from all evil and injury.
May He be filled with mercy for them, to cause them to recover and to heal them, to strengthen them and to invigorate them, and to bring them speedily to freedom, to return to the embrace of their families. May they merit long lives and years of much strength and peace. In the merit of our forefathers, may the descendants be saved and fulfill through them the verse, 'Release my soul from imprisonment to praise Your Name' (Psalms 142:8), swiftly and soon, and let us all say Amen." [source]
As always, I am going to take a few days off for the Passover holiday. But before I sign off I wanted to share my deepest gratitude to you for your companionship, your humor and your wisdom. Each of you holds the power of gentle persuasion in your hands and (for the most part) you use that power judiciously and for good.
This year, in addition to keeping me on the straight-and-narrow, I would ask that you also remember these soldiers in your prayers, and that you take the time to lobby your elected leaders for their assistance in gaining the release of our captives.
May this be the year when we are all privileged to live as a free nation... captives, no more.