Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm!"

Yes, I know it's a complicated subject, and the speaker may have just been quoting others, and that this is his style, and that YU, to its great credit and benefit, is home to many different views and voices. But the rationalist in me cringed just a bit when I heard this line in a shiur- a very good shiur, don't get me wrong- on YUTorah:
...the commentators say that perhaps the source of the Rambam is the Zohar...
I'm thinking of Walter Sobchak for some reason:
...You see, it all goes back to the concept of "aish." Many learned men have disputed this over the centuries, but in the Fourteenth Century, the Rambam...he...
Later in the shiur, he says, when discussing the Hebron Yeshiva,
...unfortunately it was challenged by the riots of 1929...
Well, that's certainly one way of putting it. (Link not for the tender-hearted.) I always liked the way Meir Kahane put it in "Never Again". After describing the riots, he adds, parenthetically, "(The white flags came out quickly in Hebron in 1967.)"

Friday, December 03, 2010


Not sure how funny this one is, but it made me smile. I'm about to cross Ramban Street at Kikar Paris (thanks for the jelly doughnut, Chabad of Rechavia!) when I hear to girls talking English next to me:

"I think we turn here."

"No, this is Ramban."

I'm about to offer help when one turns to me: "S'licha..."

Well, at least I can pass for an Israeli physically, at least to foreigners. In English: "Yes?"

"Where's Keren Kayemet?"

"Up that way, to the left," pointing behind us.

"Whoops! OK, I'm embarrassed."

They turn around and head up. I start wondering if, in fact, they wanted Keren HaYesod, which is in front of us. Sure enough, a few seconds later, they're back.

Me: "You're sure you didn't want Keren HaYesod?"

"OK, we're lost. She said it's by a bank...King George becomes it?"

"Yep, that's Keren HaYesod. Right ahead."

They thank me and head off. Too bad I didn't have a chance to tell them the ridiculous historical reason why there are two easily-confused streets so close to each other- it may have made them (and me) feel better. (In short, the Keren HaYesod [United Israel Appeal, in charge of foreign fundraising] was jealous that the Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund, in charge of land buying] had a street named after it, and by the building which they share. So they cut off the end of King George and named it after them. Or so the story goes.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Apparently, someone left a stack of old sefarim on top of our shul's sheimot box yesterday. So one of the gabbaim told me, because by Mincha today, there were only two, a very old and cover-less standard folio size volume of Shulchan Aruch and a play of Shakespeare's. I told him it reminded me of the Cairo Geniza, where people apparently put anything written in Hebrew, thinking it was holy, and so we got (quite valuable, from a historical perspective) shopping lists and the like. (Of course, the Rav used this to criticize even halakhic works found there and elsewhere, but that's another story.)

Anyway, my bookshelf is now graced by an Israeli Hebrew translation of A Midsummer Night's Dream from the early 1940's. Nice. Perhaps one day it will stand next to my Klingon Hamlet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The things you learn...

Yitz Greenberg and Meir Kahane were BTA classmates. Maybe nothing deep, but the article on the left side here is wild, considering. Keep flipping through (or go back a year) to read more interesting stuff. And giant kudos to YU for putting the whole archive up. Valuable in so many ways.

Friday, October 15, 2010


OK, here's another:

Waiting on line at a good Schwarma place on the Midrachov last night (before you start tsking, it was the first schwarma I had since Pesach time, and I think the first eating out I did in a long time), a religious couple, clearly from out of town, started asking about the hekhsher. (By this post, I by no means mean to belittle them- checking to make sure of such things is sadly neglected these days in the Land.) Sorry, but there'd be no real point to a translation here, so sorry for the rough transcription. Oh, and see if you can guess the source of the title above.

One of the countermen begins answering, "Rabbanut Hashgacha..."

The couple is insistent: "Rak haRabbanut?"

"Lo, Mehadrin Yerushalayim."

"Ma zeh 'Mehadrin'?"

"Mehadrin zeh...ha-ki tov, haelyon."

"Ken? Aifo haTeuda?"

The counterman begins looking around behind the counter, can't find it there, then realizes it's actually behind them, at the door. He points to it, the couple turns to read it. They're a bit satisfied. But then the man turns back.

"Aval ha'im zeh chalak? Aifo katuv she-ze chalak?"

A pause. The counterman ponders this. Then his face lights up.

"Ah! Avel ze hodu, ze lo basar!"

Another pause as it sinks in to the couple that despite common usage, there ain't no such thing as a glatt kosher turkey, and the counterman isn't so unlearned after all. Defeated- or, more likely, satisfied, they duly place their orders. And so do I. Yum.

By coincidence, a friend just emailed me a teshuva from Menashe haQoton (hey, it's what he calls himself) assur-ing all such foods. I promptly wrote back that I now feel pretty good that I unknowingly had some last night- if he says it's bad, it's a pretty good sign that the good Lord approves. (Ah, I had it phrased so nicely. Durn non-saved sent messages.)

By the way, I finally visited the Islamic Art Museum (see here) today. I'm not sure if I've posted this before- I first visited it in the mid-90's, and was especially impressed with their (non-Islamic) clock collection. Then last year, I discovered that half of the clocks had been stolen way back in 1983, and I was only seeing a part of the collection. They recovered almost all of them a few years ago, and...they are magnificent. Well worth a visit. The rest of the museum is pretty good as well.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

French Accent

It's been a while since my last "street encounter" posting. So here's a new one, once again translated from the Hebrew for your (and my) convenience:

I'm walking down Jaffa Street minding my own business (coming back from this event) when a group of young folk stop me and ask if I can explain a "joke" for them. (The Hebrew word can have a few translations.) They show me a small card on which is written, in Hebrew, "Holyland [the English word written in Hebrew, which is a long story in and of itself involving bribery and an eyesore- don't ask] in Latin, with a French accent." This was apparently some sort of scavenger hunt, and they wanted to know where it was.

Me: "Um...sorry, I don't think I know. Sounds like the Old City. Sorry!"

They: "That's OK, no problem! Thanks!"

We walk on. I go a few meters, still mulling it over, when it suddenly pops into my head. I turn around and run up to them, calling for their attention.

Me: "Holyland in Latin is Terra Sancta! Terra Sancta is a monastery, on French Square, at the end of King George Street! Holy Land, Latin, French!"

They, giving me a blank look for a second: "French Square? You mean Paris Square?"

D'oh! I must be the only person in Israel who refers to it by its proper name. That would have been too easy. Me: "Paris Square, that's right."

They, after checking a map: "Yay!" General cheering and pumping of fists. I walk away with my usual post-street encounter huge grin.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

You gotta love the way Shaffer (of National Review) reacts here (Paladino is running for governor of New York):

SHAFFER: Cuomo published an editorial in the New York Daily News acting like he will be a small-government, tough-on-unions type. Is that believable?

PALADINO: Ever been to the zoo?


PALADINO: Ever seen the zebra in the zoo?


PALADINO: Ever seen the zebra change stripes?


PALADINO: I’ve got the same feeling about Cuomo.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


When the news report said the victim led groups to the Har HaBayit, my antenna went up. Then I saw his picture. Yep.

Not much more to say apart from the obvious.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I'd been in the National Labor Court before, but hadn't noticed this: Cartoons on one wall illustrating various pesukim about treating your workers properly and statements from Chazal about the value of work. Nice.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Perhaps I'd be a little more sympathetic to this article if:

1. "Holocaust Memorial Day" in Europe wasn't picked on a day that glorifies the "glorious Red Army."

2. The crimes of Communism weren't ignored by most of the bien passants to this day.

Perhaps, but probably not.
You'd think the One would have learned a little humility after the BP disaster. But no, those with his kind of hubris never do.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

So I'm walking back from the Post Office to the office today and pass the Museum of Islamic Art. (I've been planning to visit for a while for a few reasons- must get to that.) Sitting on a bench outside the "Residence" connected to it is a man eating his lunch. Translated from the Hebrew:

He: Just one question!

Me: OK...

He: This is the Islamic Museum, yes?

Me: Yes...

He: Do the Muslims have a "Museum of Judaism"?

Me, cracking up: In your dreams.

He: Only Jews are crazy enough to do this.

I laugh all the way back to the office.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Am I the only person who gets the irony in this Turkish embassy story? Armed Palestinian barges in, demands amnesty, shot by embassy security. And that's cool...but I wonder if no one thought of the flotilla. I must peruse some news sites when I have the time.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

"Zere are no small coinzidences!"

Shabbat, 31 July, was my birthday on the Gregorian Calendar; today, 23 Av, is my birthday on the Hebrew one. (I see I share it with Gilad Shalit.) Shabbat was also Parshat Ekev, my Bar Mitzvah parsha, and I read it three times: At the 6:30 Ramban minyan, at Shir Chadash, and at the Late Late Minyan, where I also read the Haftarah. It went over well at each place, and I even got to say Birkat Kohanim two more times than usual. Well, on to Ohel Nechama in two weeks! And thanks to Rabbi Klein, my bar mitzvah rebbe, who made sure it didn't stop there!

After that was a very enjoyable lunch, with fellow Encore people among others. I'm really blessed to have found a good "chevre" here. They think I should audition to sing this time, can you imagine? (Come to think, my bar mitzvah rebbe is also a Gilbert and Sullivan fan- I used to run into him at performances in New York.)

Then Mincha at Shteiblach, and then I hosted this week's Seudah Shlishit for the "Shabbat Meals etc. Jerusalem" group. That, in fact, is another grand chevre I've fallen in with. (No easy link- look for them on Facebook!) Lots of people- thirty or forty- showed up- best of all, my sister, brother-in-law, and niece came at the beginning- and we all had a good time, good food, talk, zemirot, divrei Torah, and so on. I'm glad that the person who alerted me to the group (before I even made aliyah, via Facebook) was there so I could thank her- and the whole group- in my little talk; also there was the person who set me up with my apartment and roommate- also off of, you guessed it, Facebook (500 million members helps, eh?)- and I'm happy I was able to thank her as well. My d'var Torah focused on the parsha and its special ties to Eretz Yisrael, of course.

The day ended with a very enjoyable outing to one of the Waffle Bar locations, again with the Encore folk. But all that, while most pleasurable, proved not to be the most interesting part of the day.

At the first Torah reading of the day, I noticed something interesting- the mantle, the velvet cover of the Torah scroll, had an embroidered dedication to someone with the exact name of my brother-in-law (my other brother-in-law, the one in New York). It described the dedicatee as being deceased and the brother of the people who dedicated it. I saw the Hebrew equivalent of 1930 on the scroll's handles, but wasn't sure if the cover was of the same date or later- it's certainly looked to be about forty or more years old. I emailed my sister in New York on Sunday to see what was up.

Today, she wrote back to me. Her husband is named for his grandfather, who passed away in 1959. (The Torah cover could certainly have been fifty years old.) Right before World War II, he was able to get exit visas (from Germany, I believe) so his entire family- his siblings and their families- could get to Israel and survive. Of all of them, only he couldn't get a visa, and so he and his family (including his wife, his daughter, and his son, my sister's father in law) rode out the war in the Philippines. My sister says that it's entirely possible that his siblings dedicated the cover to him after he passed away. She has a family wedding this weekend and will inquire further. But wouldn't it be so cool if it was him?

And for the most amazing part? His birthday was August 3rd. Today.

Oh, Israel is full of amazing "coincidences." (Not long ago I was struck that a Torah cover in my "regular" shul was dedicated to someone from my paternal grandparents' hometown in Galicia.) But this one- especially if it pans out- is one of the biggies.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I'm a Met fan myself. But I remember a TV interview with Steinbrenner back during the '96 World Series (or maybe '98 or '99). The reporter was asking if he ever told the manager what to do during a game, but got a bit flustered between talking to George (Steinbrenner) and referring to Joe (Torre):

Interviewer: "So, do you ever call George and say..."

Steinbrenner, with a grin: "Call George? George who? Costanza?"

Interviewer, chucking: "Sorry, do you ever call Joe..."

That Steinbrenner took the whole Seinfeld thing in good humor was a sign, I think. He even filmed some scenes for the show, but they never aired, I've read because he felt that episode's plotline (the death of Susan) was a bit too harsh. The scenes were with Elaine, of all things- they're on the DVD.

Anyway, who knew he was a mensch? (Billy Martin might disagree, but he did go back four more times. And Steinbrenner did eventually make his way to Berra to make up.) Here are two stories:

From Billy Crystal.

From Daniel Foster.

I liked a line I saw yesterday: "He will forever be a defending World Series champion." RIP.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Kol HaKavod!

So we're walking down Derekh Bet Lechem tonight, relatively quiet and peaceful at that hour, and a bunch of soldiers passes us on the sidewalk. Diverse group- men, women, religious, secular, all different services and uniforms. On the other side of the street, a man is parking his car, and just as we're all passing between each other, he calls out, "Kol HaKavod L'Tzahal!" and all the soldiers let out a rousing cheer in response. I tell ya, it was something to be in the middle of. Kol HaKavod indeed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


This piece is incredible and disgusting. Melamed admits right up front that the haredim are simply discriminating against Sefaradiot, but then says (laughably) that everyone has to work to keep the government out of education. The article, of course, doesn't see fit to mention that he himself had a recent run-in over government recognition of his school; nor does it mention that in both cases, they want to have their cake and eat it too (i.e., that the government should recognize/fund them and yet allow them to do whatever they want).

Also troubling, of course, is the way that various groups see an obligation to defend the racists in this case just because they don't like other things the Supreme Court (or State) has done. Witness Arutz-7's refusal to condemn haredim for anything, or their constant use of "haredi-religious" to describe them.

By the way, I await with bated breath the day that haredim turn out to demonstrate for a Dati Leumi or Sefardi causes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Yom Yerushalayim

Many years ago, I saw a book called "So Sorry We Won!", סליחה שניצחנו in the original Hebrew. It was published right after the Six-Day War and contained columns by Ephraim Kishon and cartoons by Dosh from that period. I remember one of the latter in particular, probably done right after the war: A very old man, with a long white beard, is sitting with a little boy on his knee. Spread out on his lap, the floor, the walls, are books and maps depicting the war, arrows showing how the Israeli forces swept here and there. And the little boy is saying, "Oh, come on, Grandpa! It couldn't have happened that way!" The grandfather, probably a veteran of the war, has a small smile on his face.

And here we are, the veterans of that war grandfathers or greater. I thought of that cartoon at the small "kibbud" we had after the shacharit chagigit this morning. One elderly mitpallel started talking about the miracles we experienced, leading our gabbai to reminisce about what it was like as a soldier in the weeks leading up to the war. Wow. It did happen that way, didn't it?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Et, tu, Abigail?

Abigail Thernstrom writes, regarding the Constitution:
Might the Three-Fifths Clause have been a wee bit of a defect?
This is a common meme among the race-hustlers. And, of course, it is quite simply wrong. The Three-Fifths Clause was meant to increase the rights of slaves and perhaps even help bring about the end of slavery (something that the document hints at elsewhere as well), not decrease them or declare them less than human, as is claimed. Not perfect, of course, but hardly what Thernstrom should be pointing to in order to make her point. (Come to think, I can't really think of something she can point to.) That a scholar of race relations can so glibly state this is troubling.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Remember the Commerce Clause?

Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution reads: [The Congress shall have power] "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes". The original intent was clear, even if it isn't to the Left portion of the political spectrum, which neither knows what the Constitution is nor cares much about what it was intended to accomplish: The Constitution was written so as to create a stronger Union between the States; one fear was that states would set up trade barriers, tariffs, and so on at the borders to protect their own industry. Thus, Congress was given the exclusive power to do so, so that there would be complete free trade between the states. (I suppose the power was reserved to Congress for the rare instances in which regulations would have to be made, e.g. the blockade of the South during the Civil War, although I imagine most examples aren't all that drastic.)

The problem is, that clause has been much abused in pursuit of the increase in Federal power in the last hundred years or so, to the point that it has been completely removed from its original context. Namely, it has been read to give a positive power to Congress, such that Congress is said to have the power to regulate anything relating (however marginally) to commerce between states, a definition that, it has been seen, takes in pretty much all activity by anyone anywhere.

Well, this morning, thinking of how various cities have been talking of boycotting Arizona due to that state's eminently reasonable new immigration law, I got to wondering: Isn't this exactly what the Commerce Clause was designed to outlaw? Don't states have no power in this matter, and aren't they forbidden from discriminating against trade with other areas? I doubt Congress will rise to the occasion, but it seems to me like it would make a beaut of a Constitutional lawsuit. Just my two cents, from thousands of miles away.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

"NY car bomb suspect cooperates, but motive mystery"

That's the AP headline. Lord save us all. (And from the likes of "Probably someone angry at the health care bill" Mike Bloomberg.)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Last night I visited Mosad Harav Kook, the famed research institution and publishing house, for their annual sale. It runs until next week, and I highly recommend it. A huge selection of great books, almost all from them, of course, at huge discounts. I managed to restrain myself and limited myself to what I came for. (OK, maybe just a bit more. But that was it.) There was a big and very diverse crowd browsing and buying.

In the lobby was someone selling the Bar Ilan Responsa Project, now on "disk on key." I think if you bought enough at the sale you got a discount. He had some monitors set up to demonstrate and greeted everyone coming in with an "Erev Tov" ("Good evening"), a flyer, and, presumably, a sales pitch if you stuck around. On my way out, he was still at it. A man in a black hat and suit came in:

Salesman: "Erev to..."

Customer, cutting him off and hurrying on: "Ain li mechashev." ("I don't own a computer.")

He was so abrupt I just had to laugh out loud, although a few seconds later I realized that, the Haredi world being what it is, he might well have been telling the truth. Still, it made me smile. And I got a few good books out of it too, which is never a bad thing.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Just like UN vehicles in these parts have "UN" written on them in large letters, so too reporters (no matter what their actual medium) have "TV" written on their cars in big letters. I was always a little offended by that- the obvious implication is "We're on your side, don't throw stones at us!"- and also a bit amused- Arabs don't use the Latin alphabet, but the whole world knows from the letters "TV." But today I saw something really funny- a couple of media SUVs with the letters "HD" added before "TV." Ha!

So, heading home down a semi-alley tonight, I see a few kids arguing/discussing something. As I approach, one goes "Ah!" and turns to me. I was a bit wary, but no need. Translating from the Hebrew:

He: "What blessing do we make on bananas?"

Me: "The fruit of the earth." (The usual blessing for vegetables, not fruit, which gets the "fruit of the tree" blessing.)

He, turning to the girl as if I've just settled it: "Aha!"

She: " grows on a tree!"

I tried explaining that strictly speaking a banana doesn't grow on a tree (look it up), and walked on. And promptly cracked up. What a country.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Shloshim Yom...

What an enjoyable Purim that was! On to the next chag, Nefesh b'Nefesh asked for reflections on the Chagim to be published in the Young Israel's Magazine. Here's my contribution:

I have a short anecdote from Erev Pesach of last year. I hadn't yet made Aliyah but was well along in the preparations, and was in Israel for the Chag.

Erev Pesach last year was extra special, as it happened to fall, of course, on the same day as the once-in-every-twenty-eight-years Birkat HaChamah. After Shacharit at a Beit Knesset in Katamon, where I was staying, we went outside and actually had to walk a couple of blocks to see the sun rising. Then I walked to the Old City and went up to the Har HaBayit (having properly prepared early that morning) along with thousands of other people. The leader of our group said Birkat HaChamah and explained why the Har HaBayit is a particularly significant place to do so, as the Mishna in Sukkah describes how they used to stand there and recite the formula "Our fathers stood in this place and worshiped the sun, but we turn with our eyes to God."

I then walked back to Katamon. In one of the parks I passed on the way, there were perhaps a dozen small fires going (in the barbecue pits) with people standing around them burning their chametz. As I walked by, a car pulled up and a young family got out- father holding the hand of a boy of about three or four, mother holding a baby girl. They were clearly not religious (in the sense we usually think of the term)- no kippot, etc.- but the little boy had a small bag in his hand with the chametz they'd collected the night before. As they crossed the street to the park to join in one of the fires, the father began asking the boy, in Hebrew, what they were doing; the boy answered about the requirement to eliminate chametz for Pesach as the father explained further.

After seeing a scene like that, it would have been hard for Pesach itself to have lived up to the day before. But, of course, it did. Chagim in Israel can be like that. I'm very much looking forward to my first Pesach as an Oleh.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The things you learn...

I've been reading the Megillah for who knows how long, including three times this Purim alone. And only on the third time, today, did I notice something interesting: Shushan Purim is treated as the norm, and "regular" Purim is something "all those other people do." Maybe it's because the book was written in Shushan, and I'm probably noticing it because this is the first time I'm celebrating Shushan Purim, but there you are.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Megillah Comes Home

I've previously written about the Megillah I read from- see the end of the post here. It wasn't until yesterday, though, and an email from my mother, that I got the full story. My parents sent it over to Israel so I could read for a few people this Purim, and after I sent them a note telling them that I'd gotten it, here's the message I got back:
Happy to hear that the megillah arrived safely. Dad and I figured out that it may be close to 100 years old. Don't ask me how my cousin Henoch Lieder, of Kiryat Hashmal outside of Haifa, got his hands on it. He made aliyah to Israel, I believe after the war, but was caught and imprisoned in Cyprus for a while. He was married to Yachne Bashe who was my mother's first cousin. He's the one in the Betar picture, if you remember. Maybe as a young man he studied in Yeshivat Mir but when the family arrived in Israel they were not religious and if I'm not mistaken, when my Tante Eshke visited Israel, he gave her the megillah. She gave it to Dad when we were in Cleveland in 1973. Hopefully this will be the megillah's final home. I think I wrote a whole megillah...
Isn't that nice? Happy Purim, one and all!

Monday, February 22, 2010


Caught a bit of a cooking (cookery, for the Brits) show. Set in what seems to be a kitchen on an organic farm someplace out in the hills, raining. The host has a serious thing for leeks, at least in this episode. Makes leek chicken soup, then announces that he's going to do challot with leeks. He and the guy who runs the farm start kneading the dough.

Again, translating from the Hebrew:

Farmer: "Ah, challot. My mother is a da'atiyah [religious] and makes challot every Friday. I love challot."

Host: "Really? I didn't know you were raised religious."

Farmer: "I'm still a ma'amin [believer]. Just without a kipah."

Host and farmer then go off for a while in a discussion of religion, how religious each is despite not having the visible signs, how much they appreciate the religion and traditions...and then, after a few minutes, the host seems to suddenly remember he's on a cooking show:

Host: "Well, in any event, we're doing the leeks now..."

A nice little moment. The challot looked yummy, by the way. They should have smell-o-visions for those shows, and I see an Israeli company is developing one for cellphones, as it happens.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ahh, cabbies

OK, here's another one to match the one below:

So I'm sitting at the bus stop, minding my own business (the eventual destination was Tel Aviv, for a very nice evening), learning from a Gemara, in fact, when a cab pulls up in front of me. At first I think the guy wants my business, but then I realize he's asking me something. Something about...Yehuda HaNasi?

Now, let me explain: Yehuda HaNasi (Judah the Prince) was a third-century rabbi. The Greek Colony, the next neighborhood over from where we were, is full of streets named for rabbis from that period, and I assumed (my headphones had been in) that he was asking me where "Yehuda HaNasi"- that is, Yehuda HaNasi Street- is. Logical, right? Translating from the Hebrew:

Me: Um, I'm not sure...somewhere down that way...

Cabbie: Sorry! You don't speak Hebrew?

Me (boldly): Yes, but I'm just not sure where it is...

Cabbie: No, no! Who was Yehuda HaNasi?

Me: Ah, who! He was a rabbi, a Tanna. Lived in the year...

Cabbie: I just told someone he arranged the Mishna! Was I right?

Me: Certainly! He was the one! Live in the year two hundred...

Cabbie: Two thousand? [The words sound vaguely similar in Hebrew.]

Me: No, two hundred.

Cabbie: Ah, of course! But he arranged the Mishna...are you sure?

Me: Definitely!

Cabbie: Thanks!

And he drives off, and the bus comes. Nice, eh?

Incidentally: My synagogue changes their various cloths- the ark curtain, the reading table cover- fairly frequently. Today (whoops, yesterday) I noticed that the cover they had on was dedicated to those people from the city of Brody who were killed in the Holocaust. And I thought- my father's family was from there; most of them were killed in the Holocaust. Good to see them remembered in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"When I live in Jerusalem, I am living another's dream."

I saw that quote in a poetry book recently, and frequently have cause to think of it, even when experiencing seemingly unrelated events, like passing by a local Hasmonean-era tomb on Chanukkah, or hearing a reference to "Canaan" in Joseph Erev Shabbat Vayeshev. (A lovely minhag of my roommate.)

I was on my way to the opening panel of the Jerusalem Conference last night, riding in a taxi with a somewhat talkative cabbie. (Note, although it's becoming something of a- still lovely!- cliche in these sorts of stories, that there was no kippa on his head. This is all translated from the Hebrew, by the way.) I usually don't take cabs, but the hotel where the conference is at is a bit out of the way and I was slightly pressed for time.

So I'm sitting in the back, listening to the Daf on my Ipod, and we're heading up Straus Street, when the driver asks me if I want to go straight or turn right on Neviim and take a more roundabout route. He explains that the straight route will take much longer- lots of traffic. The Haredim are out in force, rioting and burning trash in Kikar Shabbat over some nonsense. (We smelled it on the way back. Lovely.) So we turn right as he (and, I'll admit, I) carry on about the Haredim and their crazy and destructive habits, as he blasts the police for being ineffective along the way. "Nu, it's getting warm," he says. "They need something to do." "Let them work during the day, they won't have as much energy at night," I opine. "Where do you live?" he asks.


"Try adding a room to your porch in Katamon! The municipality will be on you in a second and stop you and fine you! Here in Geulah? Nothing!"

He then went on about how he thinks bottle recycling is nonsense, and would only put his bottles in the bin if he knew the money was going to tzedakah. "But the city keeps it all! See this bottle?" He holds up his soda. (Only liter bottles have redemption value in Israel, due to- believe it or not- Haredi pressure. Don't ask.) "I throw it in the regular trash- I don't need the money. Let someone who needs it collect it and get the 25 agorot." This then leads to a discussion about tzedaka. Amidst another blast at Haredim ("Rosh Chodesh Adar today- Marbim b'Simcha! They're practicing for Bi'ur Chametz already, and it's a month and a half off!"), he suddenly shifts gears. "Ahh, lots of tzedaka is given in Geulah- millions of dollars collected. I always give- you know what kimcha d'pischa is?"

A bit shocked to hear him use the phrase, it takes me a second to acknowledge that I do.

"You have to give! How can I enjoy my meal, my seder, when I know that other people don't have food? You have to give kimcha d'pischa..."

The conversation ends with talk of Gilad Shalit. "They want us to let people go- let them go! Then we can kill them right after we release them, when it's OK! Give me a gun and send me to Shechem, I'll do it myself!"

He drops me off at the hotel, telling me to send regards to the Mayor. Alas, I didn't get that chance, but the session was very nice indeed, with Mayor Nir Barkat (whoo-hoo!), Minister Benny Begin (looking more like his father all the time), journalist Nadav Shragai, Natan Sharansky (I always feel in awe when I see him), R' Aryeh Stern (two Katamonites in a row!), and Gavriel Barkai, the archaeologist, who gave an impassioned talk calling for Jewish rights on the Har HaBayit, from a mostly secular perspective. Interesting there sister and brother in law were there- we sat together, which was very nice as well- and I got a ride home with a neighbor I see in shul every morning- turns out I was in ulpan with his wife. Don't think I'll make any of the rest of the conference, but Kol HaKavod to them, and most of all to my cabbie.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cold and wet in Jerusalem, Barukh Hashem. Just down the block from me is parked a car- a BMW!-with Vanuatu plates. (Scroll down for a location map.) Aside from the obvious question of how the car got here (never mind what it's doing here), now I'm worried how they're taking the weather.