Friday, December 31, 2010

השם יקום דמם

Mumbai, India

I am now in Mumbai.
This is one of the most unreal experiences -not only of the trip- but of my life.
Passing signs to Nariman, pointing to the Taj Hotel, staying at Chabad of Mumbai....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Ha!!! I met him!!!
(And no dear, I wasn't snapping "monkey-wise" but "happy-wise".)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I'm getting chills. Listening to Inbar speak home on Skype now in the booth near me. The yidden here jumping so high and so far and so quickly. Halevai, halevai me too..

More on Midreshet Garlic later. Ach I always think so, but so rarely have time/energy...

ZAKA: A schedule fixed by the angel of death

By Abigail Klein Leichman December 21, 2010

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav evolved from an anti-Zionist firebrand in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood into the founder of ZAKA, a unique rescue and recovery organization.
ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, founder of ZAKA, at the site of the June 2003 bus bombing in Jerusalem.
In a special Knesset gathering in November, Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz presented an award to ZAKA Rescue and Recovery Organization founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav for raising awareness and promoting road safety.

The moment was noteworthy not just because it acknowledged ZAKA's role in responding to thousands of car accidents and encouraging safer driving, but also because it underlined the warm relationship between Israel's secular officials and Meshi-Zahav, an ultra-Orthodox (haredi) former anti-Zionist agitator.

Since founding ZAKA in 1995, the 51-year-old father of seven has gained a reputation as an international rescue authority and as one of Israel's greatest champions of tolerance among both Jews and Arabs.

His post-9/11 work in New York earned him an invitation to participate in a special commemoration on the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attack, and he chose to take along Sheikh Akel Elatrash, commander of ZAKA's Bedouin Unit in the Negev.

"We slept in the same room, ate our meals together, and toured Manhattan together," Meshi-Zahav tells ISRAEL21c. With one sporting a black velvet skullcap and long gray sidelocks and the other in traditional Arab robe and headdress, the two caused quite a stir. "People asked if we were part of a film," he recalls.

Though Meshi-Zahav's life story could easily be mistaken for a screenplay, he is as real as the flesh and blood he encounters at the scenes of accidents, crimes and terrorist attacks. Brought up in the insular Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, he was ingrained to distrust "the other" and to disdain Zionism as evil.

Arrested 34 times for anti-Zionist agitation

"The haredi community is set up with 'walls' to protect us from outside influences," Meshi-Zahav says, speaking in Hebrew translated by his foreign media spokeswoman, Lydia Weitzman, and ZAKA development director David Rose. "I never knew there were Jews who act and behave differently and that they are also good people."

The 11th generation Jerusalemite was taught that there was a correct and incorrect way to do things, "and if we did something the incorrect way, we were called Zionists."

This same man, who proudly lit the torch ushering in the State of Israel's Independence Day celebrations in 2003, was arrested 34 times at anti-Zionist demonstrations as a youth.
ZAKA rescue scene

Photo by courtesy of ZAKA.
ZAKA members took part in the recovery operation at the site of the burned bus in the Carmel Forest fire.
At some point, the young Meshi-Zahav developed an affinity for the police who apprehended him time and again. "I began to see them as regular people who wanted to go home to their families after a day's work," he relates. "I started to see that a lot of things could be settled more easily by just sitting and talking to one another."

With this revelation as a backdrop, on July 6, 1989 Meshi-Zahav heard the explosion and subsequent screams emanating from a bus driven into a ravine by a terrorist. He and some friends rushed to the scene, determined to help tend the wounded and collect scattered body parts and blood for burial.

Though his mother had set a volunteering example with her regular visits to terminally ill patients, Meshi-Zahav knew neither first aid nor forensics. But he knew Jewish laws regarding human remains, and he discovered that no organization in Israel was authorized to do this gruesome but sacred work.

Free access to Palestinian hospitals

His life took on a new purpose: "Even though we Israelis have different opinions about how the state should be, the time had come to live together."

Over the next six years, he lay the groundwork for ZAKA (a Hebrew acronym for Disaster Victims Identification). The only group of its kind worldwide, it is recognized by the United Nations as an international volunteer humanitarian organization. Donations make up most of its funding; about 10 percent of the budget comes from the government.

During the Arab uprising or intifada from 2000 to 2006, Meshi-Zahav and about 600 volunteers rarely slept, constantly on alert for the next call. Working knee-deep in blood, Meshi-Zahav was fortified by his faith.

"At the time, I thought we were dealing with kavod hamet - honoring the dead. By the end, I realized that we were actually honoring the living, because a family whose loved one cannot receive a full Jewish burial has no rest."

ZAKA developed an avenue for transferring the remains of terrorists to the Palestinian Authority. "Our humanitarian message is the key that allows us to open doors to all communities," Meshi-Zahav says. "Even during [those years], we were going into Palestinian hospitals when we needed to."

Today, some 1,500 Jewish, Muslim and Druze ZAKA volunteers carry out lifesaving, rescue and recovery operations in Israel and around the world, garnering numerous awards including a citation from New York City for assistance following 9/11. The organization was one of those from Israel that was active in Haiti after the earthquake. Awareness of ZAKA's mission has grown in Israel and abroad.

I have no strikes or vacations

"Before ZAKA, if there was a traffic accident in Israel, paramedics would take care of the injured and a private ambulance would come to take the dead ... but if there were body parts, nobody collected them," says Meshi-Zahav. "The firemen would wash down all the blood and that was the end of it. Now it is in the Israeli consciousness to call us instead."

ZAKA has also changed attitudes in the haredi community, now one of its largest pools of volunteers. In the early years, Meshi-Zahav's children were derided at school for their father's close cooperation with official Israeli agencies.

But even when the social pressure eased, the time pressure did not. Calls come day and night from ZAKA's hotline or from the army, emergency services, police, firefighters, Homefront Command or foreign governments.

"My typical day's schedule is not fixed by me, but by the angel of death," Meshi-Zahav says. "I have no strikes or vacations."

The Carmel Forest fire earlier this month was a case in point. ZAKA volunteers rappelled down a hill to reach the site of the burned bus carrying prison guards and sift through the charred wreckage to uncover all human remains before the victims were buried. Another team worked to identify the charred bodies. "The people of Israel owe you much gratitude for the holy work that you have been doing," Interior Minister Eli Yishai told them.

While awaiting better times with perfect faith, Meshi-Zahav remains dedicated to his twin missions of disaster response and bettering society. "In the same way that enemies don't distinguish between different types of Jews, we too must be for everyone," he says. "Our guiding principle is our belief that all men were made in the image of God."

Monday, December 20, 2010

100 Crisps In A Can

The Indians, even those that speak English, don't understand why the Pringles cover says that, when in reality, there are over nine hundred crisps in each can.

I explain the concept of Seder Hishtalshelus.

A Parked Camel (on the road to Amber Fort in Jaipur)

Israeli Device to Detect Terrorists, Even If Unarmed

by Maayana Miskin (

An Israeli device designed for use in airports aims to detect terrorists whether or not they are armed, and to cut back on many security measures that inconvenience all passengers equally. The device tracks physical reactions to basic questions or statements.

Israel currently uses a similar system at Ben-Gurion Airport, where screeners aim to detect suspicious passenger behavior instead of focusing primarily on objects in passengers' possession. Unlike security teams in other countries, who take all liquids from passengers or conduct invasive searches, the Ben-Gurion screeners engage passengers in conversation and use their training to scout out unusual reactions, which lead to passengers being pulled out of line for further screening.

While the human conversation-based system works well, it can be time consuming. If the new devices being developed for security are put into action in airports, they are expected to significantly speed the process.

Ehud Givon, CEO of WeCU Technologies, spoke to Britain's Live about the new machines his company is working on. WeCU has worked with top psychologists to create a system that detects the small, involuntary physical response a person will have to something they know.

The device measures a subject's heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, changes in breathing, and more. It begins taking readings immediately as a subject approaches, establishing a “baseline” - then exposes the person to something that would elicit a reaction in someone involved in terrorism.

The phrase or image used to get a response is specially selected so as to not get the same response from someone who is anxious due to a fear of flying or some other, non-terror-related reason, Givon said.

Givon explained that going public will not reduce the machine's efficacy – if anything, he said, it will do the opposite. “It's even better if [the subject] knows this test is going to happen. This isn't a trick,” he stated.

The machine has a relatively low false positive rate, and in tests has selected just one or two of each hundred people for further questioning. Once it is in use, only those selected would be questioned by a human, while everyone else can continue to their flight.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

...vs the Internet Cafe in Pushkar

Where the keyboard has the Hebrew letters even BIGGER than the English!

Sorry, McLeod, you lose this round. Also, you don't have NEARLY as many Israelis as Pushkar has. But, I do have fond memories, very fond memories, of you, and Pushkar reignites that spark of India. So, you are not a real loser.

Yalla, time to get ready for Shabbos.

When I comment on how cool the hotel room is, the kid is all proud. Then I realize where I am - RAJASTHAN DESERT!! - and my irritation turns to relief. And, it's nice to be back to 200RS a night :)

The People of India (photos)

Vicky, Ali and I

Hindu, Moslem, Jewish.
Each two years apart, in age.
All free :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Streets of India

Ita summed it up best-"You suddenly see the most craziest thing you ever saw in your life, and then you turn around and then you REALLY see the craziest thing you ever saw in your life."

So I've seen cows wandering on the road, I've seen families of four (yes FOUR) riding on a motorcycle, I've seen people shlepping wagons towering with sacked goods..and someone hanging on as he drags, I've see auto- and cycle-rickshaws, I've seen shepherds walk their flock across the highway, I've seen filthy little girls come up to car windows asking for money, I've seen 8 people stuffed into a vehicle suited for 3; the streets of India don't really surprise me anymore with their craziness. It's gotten to a point that I wake up on the bus if it goes too long without the driver honking away. Yeah, I've pretty much seen it all..what?? Did I just say I've seen it all? There is a lady standing in the middle of all the traffic (coming from approx 7 directions), calmly sweeping the center of the road!! Not near her store or anything, just IN MIDDLE OF THE ROAD! Calmly sweeping away dust, dirt, who cares?! Wow, now I've really seen it all! Off the main road and into the narrow alley looking for a hotel, let me just sit back and relax in my WHATTTT?!!? TWO ELEPHANTS STROLLING BY MY CAR WINDOW?!?!?!?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why Israel Is a Rogue State (INCREDIBLE!)

A young man studying law in Cambridge, 19 year old Canadian Gabriel Latner, found himself debating at the Cambridge Union Society for the motion that Israel is Rogue State. He was placed on the "team" that included Lauren Booth, the ridiculous sister in law of Tony Blair who converted to Islam after a visit to that shining beacon of democracy and brotherly love, Iran, and who especially enjoys being photographed in Gazan supermarkets brimming with food although she publicly denounces Israel for starving Gazans.
Mr. Latner took the proposition for which he was arguing and proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that Israel is indeed a "rogue" state. He showed that it is a rogue state because it is a Jewish state in a world which has no other Jewish states, that it permits refugees from Sudan to enter while other states turn a blind eye, it speaks to and attempts to make peace with terrorists, its record on civil liberties stands strong in contrast with the region in which it exists and it has the courage to send official representatives to debate ridiculous motions like, say, its very legitimacy.

It is a lovely speech that he gave and one that apparently won over the audience which we can fairly assume was predisposed to accept Israel as a "rogue" state. In the end, the audience voted against the proposition.

Here is his speech (thanks Aliza for forwarding it to me!):

This is a war of ideals, and the other speakers here tonight are rightfully, idealists. I'm not. I'm a realist. I'm here to win. I have a single goal this evening -- to have at least a plurality of you walk out of the 'Aye' door. I face a singular challenge -- most, if not all, of you have already made up your minds.

This issue is too polarizing for the vast majority of you not to already have a set opinion. I'd be willing to bet that half of you strongly support the motion, and half of you strongly oppose it. I want to win, and we're destined for a tie. I'm tempted to do what my fellow speakers are going to do -- simply rehash every bad thing the Israeli government has ever done in an attempt to satisfy those of you who agree with them. And perhaps they'll even guilt one of you rare undecided into voting for the proposition, or more accurately, against Israel. It would be so easy to twist the meaning and significance of international 'laws' to make Israel look like a criminal state. But that's been done to death. It would be easier still to play to your sympathy, with personalised stories of Palestinian suffering. And they can give very eloquent speeches on those issues. But the truth is, that treating people badly, whether they're your citizens or an occupied nation, does not make a state' rogue'. If it did, Canada, the US, and Australia would all be rogue states based on how they treat their indigenous populations. Britain's treatment of the Irish would easily qualify them to wear this sobriquet. These arguments, while emotionally satisfying, lack intellectual rigour.

More importantly, I just don't think we can win with those arguments. It won't change the numbers. Half of you will agree with them, half of you won't. So I'm going to try something different, something a little unorthodox. I'm going to try and convince the die-hard Zionists and Israel supporters here tonight, to vote for the proposition. By the end of my speech -- I will have presented 5 pro-Israel arguments that show Israel is, if not a 'rogue state' than at least 'rogueish'.

Let me be clear. I will not be arguing that Israel is 'bad'. I will not be arguing that it doesn't deserve to exist. I won't be arguing that it behaves worse than every other country. I will only be arguing that Israel is 'rogue'.

The word 'rogue' has come to have exceptionally damning connotations. But the word itself is value-neutral. The OED defines rogue as 'Aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time ', while a dictionary from a far greater institution gives this definition 'behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way '. These definitions, and others, centre on the idea of anomaly -- the unexpected or uncommon. Using this definition, a rogue state is one that acts in an unexpected, uncommon or aberrant manner. A state that behaves exactly like Israel.

The first argument is statistical. The fact that Israel is a Jewish state alone makes it anomalous enough to be dubbed a rogue state: There are 195 countries in the world. Some are Christian, some Muslim, some are secular. Israel is the only country in the world that is Jewish. Or, to speak math-mo for a moment, the chance of any randomly chosen state being Jewish is 0.0051%. In comparison the chance of a UK lotto ticket winning at least £10 is 0.017% -- more than twice as likely. Israel's Jewishness is a statistical abberation.

The second argument concerns Israel's humanitarianism, in particular, Israel's response to a refugee crisis. Not the Palestinian refugee crisis -- for I am sure that the other speakers will cover that -- but the issue of Darfurian refugees. Everyone knows that what happened, and is still happening in Darfur, is genocide, whether or not the UN and the Arab League will call it such. [I actually hoped that Mr Massih would be able speak about this - he's actually somewhat of an expert on the Crisis in Darfur, in fact it's his expertise that has called him away to represent the former Dictator of Sudan while he is being investigated by the ICC.] There has been a mass exodus from Darfur as the oppressed seek safety. They have not had much luck. Many have gone north to Egypt -- where they are treated despicably. The brave make a run through the desert in a bid to make it to Israel. Not only do they face the natural threats of the Sinai, they are also used for target practice by the Egyptian soldiers patrolling the border. Why would they take the risk? Because in Israel they are treated with compassion -- they are treated as the refugees that they are -- and perhaps Israel's cultural memory of genocide is to blame. The Israeli government has even gone so far as to grant several hundred Darfurian refugees Citizenship. This alone sets Israel apart from the rest of the world. But the real point of distinction is this: The IDF sends out soldiers and medics to patrol the Egyptian border. They are sent looking for refugees attempting to cross into Israel. Not to send them back into Egypt, but to save them from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and Egyptian bullets. Compare that to the US's reaction to illegal immigration across their border with Mexico. The American government has arrested private individuals for giving water to border crossers who were dying of thirst -- and here the Israeli government is sending out its soldiers to save illegal immigrants.

To call that sort of behavior anomalous is an understatement.

My Third argument is that the Israeli government engages in an activity which the rest of the world shuns --- it negotiates with terrorists. Forget the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, a man who died with blood all over his hands -- they're in the process of negotiating with terrorists as we speak. Yasser Abed Rabbo is one of the lead PLO negotiators that has been sent to the peace talks with Israel. Abed Rabbo also used to be a leader of the PFLP- an organisation of 'freedom fighters' that, under Abed Rabbo's leadership, engaged in such freedom promoting activities as killing 22 Israeli high school students. And the Israeli government is sending delegates to sit at a table with this man, and talk about peace. And the world applauds. You would never see the Spanish government in peace talks with the leaders of the ETA -- the British government would never negotiate with Thomas Murphy. And if President Obama were to sit down and talk about peace with Osama Bin Laden, the world would view this as insanity. But Israel can do the exact same thing -- and earn international praise in the process.

That is the dictionary definition of rogue -- behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal.

Another part of dictionary definition is behaviour or activity 'occurring at an unexpected place or time'. When you compare Israel to its regional neighbours, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is. And here is the fourth argument: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbours. At no point in history, has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle East- except for Israel. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Israel is the only one where the LGBT community enjoys even a small measure of equality. In Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Syria, homosexual conduct is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, or both. But homosexuals there get off pretty lightly compared to their counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, who are put to death. Israeli homosexuals can adopt, openly serve in the army, enter civil unions, and are protected by exceptionally strongly worded ant-discrimination legislation. Beats a death sentence. In fact, it beats America.

Israel's protection of its citizens' civil liberties has earned international recognition. Freedom House is an NGO that releases an annual report on democracy and civil liberties in each of the 195 countries in the world. It ranks each country as 'Free' 'Partly Free' or 'Not Free'. In the Middle East, Israel is the only country that has earned designation as a 'free' country. Not surprising given the level of freedom afforded to citizens in say, Lebanon- a country designated 'partly free', where there are laws against reporters criticizing not only the Lebanese government, but the Syrian regime as well. [I'm hoping Ms Booth will speak about this, given her experience working as a 'journalist' for Iran,] Iran is a country given the rating of 'not free', putting it alongside China, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Myanmar. In Iran, [as Ms Booth I hoped would have said in her speech], there is a special 'Press Court' which prosecutes journalists for such heinous offences as criticizing the ayatollah, reporting on stories damaging the 'foundations of the Islamic republic' , using 'suspicious (i.e. western) sources', or insulting Islam. Iran is the world leader in terms of jailed journalists, with 39 reporters (that we know of) in prison as of 2009. They also kicked out almost every Western journalist during the 2009 election. [I don't know if Ms Booth was affected by that] I guess we can't really expect more from a theocracy. Which is what most countries in the Middle East are. Theocracies and Autocracies. But Israel is the sole, the only, the rogue, democracy. Out of every country in the Middle East, only in Israel do anti-government protests and reporting go unquashed and uncensored.

I have one final argument -- the last nail in the opposition's coffin- and its sitting right across the aisle. Mr Ran Gidor's presence here is the all evidence any of us should need to confidently call Israel a rogue state. For those of you who have never heard of him, Mr Gidor is a political counsellor attached to Israel's embassy in London. He's the guy the Israeli government sent to represent them to the UN. He knows what he's doing. And he's here tonight. And it's incredible. Consider, for a moment, what his presence here means. The Israeli government has signed off, to allow one of their senior diplomatic representatives to participate in a debate on their very legitimacy. That's remarkable. Do you think fora minute, that any other country would do the same? If the Yale University Debating Society were to have a debate where the motion was 'This house believes Britain is a racist, totalitarian state that has done irrevocable harm to the peoples of the world', that Britain would allow any of its officials to participate? No. Would China participate in a debate about the status of Taiwan? Never. And there is no chance in hell that an American government official would ever be permitted to argue in a debate concerning its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. But Israel has sent Mr Ran Gidor to argue tonight against [a 'journalist' come reality TV star, and myself,] a 19 year old law student who is entirely unqualified to speak on the issue at hand.

Every government in the world should be laughing at Israel right now- because it forgot rule number one. You never add credence to crackpots by engaging with them. It's the same reason you won't see Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins debate David Icke. But Israel is doing precisely that. Once again, behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal. Behaving like a rogue state.

That's five arguments that have been directed at the supporters of Israel. But I have a minute or two left. And here's an argument for all of you -- Israel willfully and forcefully disregards international law. In 1981 Israel destroyed OSIRAK -- Sadam Hussein's nuclear bomb lab. Every government in the world knew that Hussein was building a bomb. And they did nothing. Except for Israel. Yes, in doing so they broke international law and custom. But they also saved us all from a nuclear Iraq. That rogue action should earn Israel a place of respect in the eyes of all freedom loving peoples. But it hasn't. But tonight, while you listen to us prattle on, I want you to remember something; while you're here, Khomeini's Iran is working towards the Bomb. And if you're honest with yourself, you know that Israel is the only country that can, and will, do something about it. Israel will, out of necessity act in a way that is the not the norm, and you'd better hope that they do it in a destructive manner. Any sane person would rather a rogue Israel than a Nuclear Iran. [Except Ms Booth]


Sonal (Indian Cook at Indian Chabad House): "Hello, how are you?"
Chava (Same Chava like last conversation): "Thank G-d, and you?"
Sonal: "Barukh Hashem"
Chava (startled appreciative laughter)
Sonal (quizzically): "What's so funny?"
Chava: "Tell me, Sonal, when you heard what happened in Mumbai [ed: hundreds of miles away but still, Indian Chabad House], were you scared at all?"
Sonal: "Why should I be scared? Moshiakh is on the way!"

Ok I really want Hamantaschen now.

All this Purim reading...!
Last week it was Sufganiyot reading that made me drool.
Heck, soon I'm gonna start craving Matzah and Morror!


I won't. I won't crave Matzah and Morror. We can be friends again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

…Understand the Unspoken…

From Zina

Piercing pain
Bloodcurdling terror
Tears dried within, uncried
Stab-wounds unbled
Suffering in the depth
Of a dim damp cavern
Black bats bite loneliness,
Stories which never unfold
The agony

Love unshared
Happiness uncommunicated
Feelings unexpressed
Smiles unnoticed
They part, the heart
Fork the bond
Block the possibilities beyond
So unfair when our loved ones
Unshare and we uncare

How many stories of survival are published of WWII?
Yet six million stories of those who perished
The last cries, the last breaths of air
Hopes of a miracle unhappened
The goodbye’s unsaid
Taken by a swishing bullet undiscriminating
Or smoke thick and quiet rising unashamed
From the ashes unseen

My dear
Please share
Your feelings, your love
Your situations and your pain
With those close to you.
You never know
If the opportunity will stay
Or when it may
Be your last day.

And my dear
Please hear
The words unspoken
The feelings untold
Listen to the heartbeat
Of the lover you hold
See the unwritten words in their eyes
Hear their silent cries
Share the happiness
Kiss away the sadness
Practice forgiveness

Don’t be a silent knife
Inaction can hurt more than action at times
Unwillingly you commit horrible crimes.
Please care
Please be there
Don’t ignore
Because the stuff that matters most
Is what lies beneath the layers of shelter
Don’t let life pass you by

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hayom Yom Shishi B'Shabbos...

And I'm READY!

Woke up 7:30'ish and snoozed till 8:30'ish and then chatted on the phone overseas till 9:30'ish. Davened and ate and took a rickshaw (with a door!) to Dharamkot (of course I forgot to buy veggies beforehand and of course the driver assured me there was on the way but of course he doesn't know what he's talking about) and got to the 770 Chabad House at 11.

Made chapatis (for challah), tuna fish (for fish. I know, I know, it's complicated), shvartze kashe (that's buckwheat for all you non yiddish folk. er non yiddish SPEAKING folk) and fried eggplant/tomato/onion medley (for main course), and oatmeal cookies for dessert. Also egg salad for Shabbos day. But nobody will know if I eat it tonight. Unless the French and American old men I invited will come, and then they'll know. But they won't know it's for tomorrow. So we're safe. I took (homemade. not by me) wine, a white tablecloth, and candles and cinnamon for Havdallah, and some Jewish Hebrew reading material.

Was done at 2. Felt and looked total Indian carrying the milk crate with all my stuff and my blanket draped all over me. (It was only after that I bought the wooden bangles which REALLY would've completed the look.) Splurged on a taxi (vs a rickshaw) and the extra 30 rupees (seventy cents?) was totally worth the bump-less ride.

Got back to town (McLeod Ganj) with an hour to do last minute shopping (and internet) before I had to clean my room and get ready for the Sabbath (shower and dress-wise). Bought a big water, pringles (yup, it's easier to find Kosher pringles in India than it is in the UK), conditioner (gotta check for lice in this sterile country), toilet paper (from a woman I always feel bad I cannot support through purchase of her UCF (Unidentifiable Crawling Food), and loads of fruits n veggies for salads.

Oof my alarm just went off-time to head back to my LUXURIOUS hotel (paying a whopping NINE dollars a night, vs four that I was paying in my old village). Come to think of it, I've finished writing up my day anyhow. So that's good timing.

Yalla chevreh, shabbat shalom u'mevorach!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Strand of My Indian Tapestry

Indian Taxi Driver: "One hundred rupees"
Chava: "Whadaya mean, one hundred? Eighty."
Indian Taxi Driver: "Eighty is by day. Now, it's layla."
Chava: "So what, I've taken taxis at layla before. It's always eighty."
Indian Taxi Driver: "No shmonim at layla. Layla, meah!"

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Identities, Funeral Times of Fire Victims Released

by Chana Ya'ar Victim Identities, Funeral Times

Identification of the bodies of the victims who died in the wildfire that raged through Mount Carmel last Thursday has been completed and the names released for publication.

The photo that accompanies this article is one that was taken at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and is a shot of the most recent class of the Israel Prison Service cadets. Most of the members in the photo were victims of of the tragic wildfire that continues to rage in various areas of northwestern Israel.

Following are the times and locations of the funerals set for Sunday:

Shimon Dayan, 28, of Karmiel, is survived by his wife. He served in the Nachshon unit and will be laid to rest Sunday at 13:00 in the military cemetery in his city.

Derman Kiril, 28, of Afula, is survived by his wife. He served at the Gilboa Prison. His funeral will be held Sunday at 12:00 noon at the military cemetery in Afula.

Tanya Lansky, 23, of Ashdod, served in an unidentified prison. Her funeral will be held at 1:00 p.m Sunday at the military cemetery in Ashkelon.

Avi Noach, 34, of Jerusalem, is survived by his wife and two children. He served in the Jerusalem detention facility and will be laid to rest at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the military cemetery at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem.

Elad Riven, 16, a volunteer in the Fire Service, the only child of his parents, will be laid to rest in Haifa at 12:30 PM.

Below are the names of those who have already been interred:

Tafash A'adel, 33, of Beit Jan, is survived by a wife and two children. He was laid to rest Friday at the cemetery in Beit Jan.

Wassim Abu-Reish, 28, of Yarkha, is survived by a wife and three children.

Wasim Abu Rish, 32, of Kfar Yarka, served in the Rimonim Prison. He was laid to rest Saturday in the cemetery in his village.

Warden Rafi Alkalai, 54, of Lapid, is survived by his wife and five children. He served at the “Nir” school as a commander of the Officers' Course. He was laid to rest at Jerusalem's military cemetery at Mt. Herzl.

Inbal Amoyal, 26, of Dimona, is survived by her parents and four siblings. She had just finished a Master's degree in Criminology and looked forward to serving in the nation's security force like her brothers. She served in various prison facilities and was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Dimona.

Anonymous, at the request of the family.

Ayala Yifrach, 23, of Kiryat Bialik, served in the Kishon Prison. She was laid to rest at the military cemetery in Haifa.

Yaron Bermi, 31, of Mevuim is survived by his wife and one child. He served at the Dekel Prison and was laid to rest at the military cemetery in Be'er Sheva.

Ro'i Biton, 28, of Kiryat Gat, is survived by his wife who is eight months pregnant and a young son.

Warden Faviola Bohadana, 48, mother of two, of Ness Ziona. She served as company commander of the Officers' Course in the “Nir” school, and was laid to rest in the cemetery in Ness Ziona.

Police Dep.-Comdr. Lior Boker, 57, Northern District Operations Branch commander, promoted posthumously to Assistant-Commander.

Maor Ganon, 27, of Gan Yavne, married with one child, was a member of the Nachson unit. His funeral was held Friday at the military cemetery in Yavne.

Dimitry Gerstein, 27, of Tel Aviv, served in the Nachshon unit. He was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Holon.

Hagai Jorno, 28, of Kiryat Gat, survived by his wife and young daughter, was laid to rest in his city's military cemetery on Friday.

Calai Chen Kefir, 35, of Gan Yavne, is survived by his wife and three children. He served in the Logistics Department at Israel Prisons Service Headquarters. He was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Gan Yavne.

Efrat Chen, 35, of Ra'anana, served in the Neve Tirza Prison for women. She was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Ra'anana.

Topaz Even Chen Klein, 28, of Rehovot, served in the Office of the Spokesperson. She is survived by her husband. Her funeral was held Friday at the military cemetery in Rehovot.

Dimitry Kozlov, 45, a resident of Be'er Sheva, is survived by his wife and one child, served in the Ketziot Prison. His funeral was held at the military cemetery in Be'er Sheva.

Aviram Levy, 32, married, of Tiberias, is survived by his wife and one child. He served in the Nachshon unit. He was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Tiberias.

Maurice Levy, 32, single, of Tiberias, served in the “Nir” school. His funeral was held in the military cemetery in Tiberias.

Calai Chen Kefir, 35, of Gan Yavne, is survived by his wife and three children. He served in the Logistics Department at IPS Headquarters. He was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Gan Yavne.

Iliya Langman, 31, of Nahariya, served in the Kishon Prison and is survived by his wife. He was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Nahariya.

Uriel Malcha, 32, of Karnei Shomron, is survived by his wife and five children. He served at Oholei Kedar Prison and was laid to rest at the cemetery in Yavne. “He was a devoted family man, virtuous, and just a great human being,” his friends told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew news service.

Police Ch.-Supt. Yitzchak Melina, 46.

Kfir Ohana, 30, of Ofakim, served at the Oholei Kedar prison. He is survived by his wife Olga, who is nine months pregnant, and a 2-year-old daughter. His funeral was held Friday at the military cemetery in Ofakim.

Hanan Ohayon, 31, married, of Nazareth Illit, is survived by his wife and two children. He served in the Shita Prison, and was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Nazareth Illit.

Ronen Peretz, 34, of Ashkelon, married, survived by his wife Shirit and two young children ages 6 and 3.

Hagai Pinkar, 31, of Yerucham, is survived by his wife and a child. He served in a prison. His funeral was held late Saturday night at the military cemetery in his city.

Oshrat Pinto, 26, of Tzfat, was laid to rest in that city's military cemetery on Friday. She is survived by her parents and siblings.

Vadislav Rachamimov, 30, of Be'er Sheva, served in the Nafcha Prison. He was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Be'er Sheva.

Ayas Sarchan, 30, of Kfar Marar, is survived by his wife and one child. He served in the Ofek Prison and was laid to rest in the cemetery in that community.

Beiber Shadi, 35, of Kfar Jat, was laid to rest in that community's cemetery on Friday.

Yakir Suissa, 26, of Dimona, served in the Ramon prison. His funeral was held Friday at the military cemetery in Dimona. Suissa spoke to his sister shortly before the tragedy and she heard him recite the Traveler's Prayer, and heard a group respond with a chorus of “Amens.” His father died after suffering a heart attack three years ago during a terrorist bombing.

Adal Tafesh, 33, of Beit Jan, is survied by his wife and two children. He was laid to rest Friday at the cemetery in Beit Jan.

Siyum Tzagi, 31, of Netivot, is survived by his wife and three children. His funeral was held Friday at the Netivot military cemetery.

Eran Weisel, 31, of Kiryat Bialik, is survived by his wife and a child. He was laid to rest Friday at a cemetery in Haifa.

Rami Yisraeli, 33, of Be'er Sheva, is survived by his wife and two children. He served in the Dekel Prison and was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Be'er Sheva.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"Take care of my kids, Peggy"

I whispered, choking emotionally. And then I walked out of the house, shut the door, and allowed the tears to come streaming down.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One Thousand Lice

One thousand lice
that creep and crawl,
hiding in your hair
cannot compete in horridness
to your "Mammy can't talk to us here."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


The words I saw all the time and prayed I would never see.

There is no 'no' big enough and bold enough able to express my every fiber's cry >;(

Saturday, November 13, 2010

When I Go:

I just want everyone to be happy.
That is my message.

Are All Prayers Answered?

This piece by Tzvi Freeman has been resonating in my heart, both before and after it was shattered.

How could it be that a prayer goes unanswered?

Some will tell you that every prayer is answered, but sometimes the answer is, "no."

Those who say this do not understand the secret of prayer. For prayer is when a consciousness below breaks out of its ego and causes delight to the Consciousness Above. And when delight is brought Above, it must return below.

So some will tell you that, yes, the prayer is always answered, but perhaps only in a spiritual realm. Not always can a prayer affect the coarseness of our material world.

Yet this also cannot be, for the consciousness below did not pray for a spiritual blessing, but for a material one. The place from whence the prayer emitted, to there the blessing must return.

Rather, it must be that every prayer is answered, in our world, now, for the one who prayed and for that which he prayed.

The problem is only in the packaging -- that it is packaged in the artifacts of our coarse and dark world, so that at times we cannot see through the wrappings to discover the answer to our prayer.

But there will be a time when all of us will return to the One Above with all our hearts, and then all the concealment of this world will be shattered. The wrappings will fall away and we will see how each prayer was answered in its time. And we will hold all the blessings of all those millennia in our hands

Levi Yitzchok ben Tzirel

It's like the whole world is waiting with bated breath. Hanging onto a thin sliver, swaying in the breeze, in the hurricane, in the calm. Swaying, swaying, swaying. I don't know what point G-d is trying to get across. It's a scary game He is playing.

Tehillim and Shabbat invites and good resolutions and achdus and tzedakah and more tehillim and more tehillim and more tehillim and more tehillim and more......

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The room was black, only the moonlight shone in.

She was tucked into bed. I sat beside her on the bed and looked down at her sweet face. We finished Shema, and now we were softly chatting about this and that. School, silly-bandz, the chasunah, what we should have for supper tomorrow. I wished her goodnight and stayed put, waiting for sleep to overcome her.

The room was peacefully silent.

Suddenly breaking the stillness, the six year old girl asked me, looking up straight into my eyes and all the way down to my soul, "Do YOU have a Mommy?"

Sunday, November 07, 2010


It is with a heavy heart informs its readers of the untimely passing of 23 year-old Chosson, Yossi Kreiman OBM of Los Angeles on Friday afternoon.





Friday, November 05, 2010

"I hate Manchester"

she said suddenly. It was her last night here and we were lying on our beds, silently staring up at the ceiling, each lost in our own thoughts. "I hate Manchester", she repeated, "they killed my sister."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


"Hot cocoa."
"Gemara test."
"Uh bookcase?"
"Moishele is the best."
"Ha. No."
"I can't figure it out, give me a hint."
"I want..."
My heart sinks. My hunch was correct.
I stall though, hoping and needing that my thinking was off.
"Um I want cookies and milk?"
"I want to stay up all night and play computer games?"
"I want--"
"I want Mommy now."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"I'm not your kinde"

she interrupted me as soon as she heard that line in the goodnight song I was singing to her. "Why did you say 'Gutte nacht mein kinde' ['Goodnight, my child'] if I'm not your kinde? You're not my Mommy."

Monday, October 11, 2010

One Young Woman Gone

And hundreds cannot fill her place.
Not emotionally and not logistically and, clearly, not spiritually either.

"I know why they are fabrenging so hard",

says the 4 year old, three days after the levayah, "cuz they want Mammy to feel better."

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Kids Ran Into The Shiva Room

"Is it okay that the kids are running in there and playing?", I asked their father, "Or would you rather I take them out?"
"It's bad enough they lost their mother", he answered me, "must they lose their childhood too?"

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Can Frozen People Move?

Yes, they can.

We are feeding the kids lunch, we are making phone calls and we are making jokes (albeit black ones), we are carrying suitcases and we are even going to the park.

Frozen people can move.

Matty was jumping on the mattress before, while I was looking for her pajamas. "STOP JUMPING!!!", I shouted like a madwoman. She wasn't frozen. HOW DARE SHE MOVE ABOUT SO CAREFREE?!

How dare the other Cohens not.

"How old was Tante Esty?" asks the 5 year old.
"That's not an old lady." she observes.
"No, it's not. It's young. Very young. Tante Esty was just a young lady when she went to Hashem."

Mushky muses that Hashem must be very busy and needed help so that's why He got Tante Esty.

And, sickeningly reminiscent of the world's Moishele, little Yechiel keeps asking for Mammy.

Frantic rush to finish filling out the Tzivos Hashem forms for school tomorrow.
Who's filling out THEIR forms, we wanna know.

"Most Mammies don't go to Hashem", the niece tells us. We agree. We literally see the question burning in her mind.

All the tehillim slots we missed. The hachlatas we didn't keep.

Who's going to make sure the 6 year old is not in her room crying for hours??

They'll bring meals, food and drinks to please every palette. But the souls will still cry out in hunger. All the care, concern and cleaning help in the world won't match up to one hour with their mother.

"Stop testing us, Hashem! We're going to start cheating!" cries out her mother.

Waiting for a levayah.
Are we in a novel? Are we really dealing with all this dodgy hospital stuff?
She's coming back in a few weeks, right? 4, 6 max. Alright, 2 months. And then we're back to normal.

"I want them to make their own lunches in the morning", he told me last week. "In case it's shayich."

That was the most horrible thing I could remember hearing in my life.

And we're sitting here having to decide between celebrating with one son by his wedding and one son by his wife's funeral. A funeral. A funeral. A body and a coffin. Hundreds of black hats.

Frozen people. We're moving.

We're wandering, lost. Unbalanced. Suspended in time. The world is moving but we stand in one place, staring off in the distance, until the tears come crashing down, blocking our vision. Do we really want to see anyhow? Better to just keep on moving. Moving. Moving.

Waiting For A Levayah

Waiting for a levayah...! Imagine that!

I can't believe that I'm actually waiting for a levayah.
We're WAITING for it to happen.
Like counting down.
Anxious, nervous, impatient, worried, frustrated, angry, sad, broken--we want that levayah!!

Waiting for a levayah??

We're waiting for Moshiach.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Width of the Jordan River

The width of the Jordan River varies from 144 km to 160 km.
The length of the river measures 251 kilometres and its depth is anywhere between 5 and 16 kilometres. Therapeutic, isn't it?

The stolen waters are always sweetest and I gave those up for waters painstakingly and honestly acquired.

And it tastes freakin bitter.

Why does doing the right thing so often leave me with the same sucky feeling as doing the wrong thing??

Monday, September 27, 2010

What Massage Therapy Taught Me About Simchat Torah

"Más participación", interrupts Margarita, my massage course instructor, "y menos presión."

I nod without looking up and continue to knead down the back of Yvonne, my fellow student; this time, as per my Venezuelan teacher's directions, using more participation (namely from my entire hand) and applying less pressure.

"Muy bien", she proclaims when I'm done, "very good".

With a small towel, I wipe away some sweat from my forehead.

Onto the shoulders now.

"If you are not relaxed, how can you bring relaxation to your patient?"My eager fingers grab, pinch and pull her stiff joints, bidding the cartilage to allow her shoulders the ease of movement they so desperately desire. I work vigorously. I stand stiffly as my fingers do their dance, their concentrated dance, upon Yvonne.

Deeper now, deeper. More pressure, more pressure. Get out all the knots. Dig!

I'm breathing hard and quickly.

Yvonne nudges me and points to our teacher. "Más participación y menos presión. Involucrate!" Margarita repeats herself. "More involvement and less pressure. Get involved! You need to involve ALL of your hand! Ease on the pressure!"

I roll my eyes and we all giggle. It's an ongoing joke, this constant reminder for me to slow down and focus on where my energy is coming from and where it's going to, rather than pounding away zealously.

I shake my wrists, take a deep breath and carefully resume my labor of love on my dear friend and classmate. "Victim", she claims with a wink.

I started this course about three weeks earlier and the classes are the highlight of my week. I'm absolutely in my element as Margarita lectures, demonstrates, tests, and guides us in everything there is to know about Masaje de Todo (Everything Massage). I knew a bit about massaging before I joined, having been blessed by G‑d with 'hands that heal', but entering the world of the erudite and gentle Margarita was entering into a whole new sphere of healing.


Friday, September 17, 2010

An Incredible Rebbe Story

Heard from Rabbi Shabatai Slaviticki.
Related by Yosske Sossonko.

There is a personal acquaintance of Reb Shabatai in Antwerp by the name of Feivel (a Belzer Chasid and a business man).

Feivel's mother passed away when he was 12 years old, shortly before his Bar Mitzvah. She orphaned a home full of children and Feivel was the youngest at 12.

Some twenty five years later, Feivel traveled to New York on business. One summer night he came to 770 to daven Maariv with the Rebbe. After Maariv Feivel noticed a commotion, people were going in and other people were going
out of 770. It was obvious there was something going on. He was told, that the Rebbe is receiving people who have made an appointment for yechidus.

Feivel who is a person who is not afraid of anything and a lively kind of fellow, was hanging around outside the Rebbe's room and decides that he is going to go in and see the Rebbe even though he doesn't have an appointment. Feivel goes over to the person at the front of the line and says that he needs to go in before him as he urgently need to leave soon. The person agrees to let Feivel go first.

The door opens, the person from the previous Yechidus comes out and Feivel walks into the Rebbe's room. Rabbi Groner is shocked by Feivils chutzpah and follows Feivil in and wants to schlep him out.

The Rebbe looks up and tells Feivel to sit down. Feivel did not have a Tzetel or anything specific to ask so he sits down. The Rebbe and he were sitting there in silence. The Rebbe gets up from his desk and walks over to a drawer looking for something.
The Rebbe returns to his desk with a letter.
The Rebbe begins to read a letter, from Feivel's mother written some 25 years earlier. In the letter she writes that she realizes that she is going to pass away but "I am not concerned for myself. Rebbe, I am asking you to arouse Rachamim Rabim, (extraordinary mercy) from Hashem, on behalf of my children." She goes on with a passionate plea that Hashem should protect and bless her Kinderlach.

Feivel is just in shock and overwhelmed. He was just a child when his mother passed away and did not have any letter of this kind in his possession.
He asked the Rebbe if he can have the letter, a letter from his mother pleading for her children!

The Rebbe said "I read this letter every year before I go out to Kol Nidrei..."

I Believe (music video)

I Believe

I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower
And I’ve seen Trafalgar Square
I’ve seen the sun rise on the ocean
And I know that You are there
From our holy land
To the Jewish plight we all know too well
I know You are there
And I know, I know You care

Horrified, we watched the Towers fall
As my soul froze somehow
I wondered
G-d where are You now?
But as the people ran in fear
I know You were standing there
And as our heroes went to die
I think I heard You start to cry

And I believe, You are listening to me
And I believe, You are standing here with me
And the footprints in the sand, oh no they’re not from me
I believe they’re all from You my G-d, when You carried me

And the storms in our life
They come riding in like the wind
And turn us inside out
Just to fill our hearts with doubt
But You’re my strength, You’re my power
You’re my hero, You’re my tower
You’re my life-line in the sea
And it’s You who carries me


Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'd Eat Rocks If He'd Tell Me To

So I'll watch the kids instead of davening Ne'ila, big deal.
It's for Him, either way.

And also, I'll always have a smile on my face, and if I need to grind my teeth, I'll do it with nobody knowing and I'll never cry and I'll never complain and I'll never kvetch and I'll always save money and I'll always be pleasant and I'll never leave my stuff around and I'll always agree and I'll always do things your way and I'll never ask for appreciation or even acknowledgment and I'll always be the mature one and the one who forgives and forgets and for sure, for sure, I'll always always keep my mouth shut.

*bitter. angry. sad. hurt. o-v-e-r-w-h-e-l-m-e-d*

I believe. I believe. These are the words of the song skipping around my head and tongue the whole day. "I believe."

G-d doesn't want me to do that whole list of things, nor does He want me to eat rocks.
He wants only one thing from me.
He wants me to believe.

I'll believe. I'll believe.

And y'know what just happened?? The Rabbi walked in with £180 pounds for me! Just when I needed it. After me telling him earlier this week I don't need it anytime soon. And not $180 like I mistakenly thought it would be. (and worked hard to muster up the "it's not important" attitude) Not even the USD equivalent of £180, but actual GBP which is what I need tonight. After me telling him earlier this week I'd rather dollars.

Apparently, G-d knows me a lot better than I know myself. And He knows the plan a lot better than I do, I must remind myself.

All I have to do is believe.

I believe.
I believe.

And so now, when she got upset at me for taking her small change (instead of thanking me for being faced with the uncomfortable situation of not having any money with which to pay the shochet and not wanting to wake up the tired mother and stressed sister-in-law, I scraped out my last pennies and ran around the house looking for more, while the busy man stood there waiting), I just quietly apologized and told her I'd get her change tomorrow.

I believe, G-d. I believe.

And it feels so darn good.

Awrite frae Glasgee :)

It's bin real. Nae as real as Auld Reekie, ay coorse, but we loch ye mair noo 'at Scootlund proved itself ;) an' noo, we're aff....

Monday, September 13, 2010


SayTehillimMenachem Mendel Chaim ben Chana

Esther Aidel bas Sheina Rochel

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Gates of Nikanor are screaming again.

Read Ruti's blog post here.

1:00 PM

Salm the 34th

Can you please say tehillim for Esther Eidel bas Sheina Rochel?
She is the aunt of my nieces.
Perek 34.

What's Your Excuse for Not Attending Synagogue? (spectacular article!!)


Rabbi, do you know why I don't go to synagogue? I used to go, but I started to notice that in my synagogue, the rich people get more noticed and average people like me are overlooked. So I stopped going. If you need to be wealthy to be respected, I want no part of it. Am I right or wrong?


You are the third person this week to explain to me why they don't go to synagogue. This happens to me all the time. At almost every function I attend, a wedding, kid's birthday party or communal gathering, someone comes up to me and says, "Rabbi, do you know why I don't go to synagogue...."

They feel the need to share with me their particular Jewish gripeI have never asked anyone why they don't go to synagogue. I don't even know these people. And yet they feel the need to share with me their particular Jewish gripe, either about the unfriendly rabbi or the arrogant cantor, the grandfather who forced them to pray or the G‑d who didn't answer their prayers.

It's funny, I don't feel the need to justify to my dentist why I never go to him, or the local gym why they never see me. And yet when people see a rabbi they are overcome with an urge to explain their absence from synagogue.

Mind you, the people who do attend synagogue don't seem to have a good reason why they come. Even someone who has not been to synagogue in years can rock up to a service, and without any justification for their sudden appearance, they walk in, take a prayer book and sit down as if they always belonged there.

Because they do belong there.I am here because I am Jewish, and going to synagogue is Jewish A Jew needs no reason to be in synagogue. There is no explanation necessary. Most of the time, they themselves don't know why they started coming to synagogue. And so they offer no rationalization. You only need a reason not to go to synagogue. But to go, no reason is required. I am here because I am Jewish, and going to synagogue is Jewish.

This is why I love hearing those alibis people present for not being in synagogue. A Jew needs a reason not to connect to Judaism. Some may have pretty good reasons, like yours. But they are reasons nonetheless. A Jew needs no reason to connect to Judaism. It is who we are.

If you don't like your synagogue, find another one. Until you do, all the justifications in the world won't change the fact that you're a Jew, and a Jew wants to be Jewish.


uch i LOVE it!!