Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Praying for Rain


Before relocating here to Israel, neither my wife nor I were ever as busy as we now are.  I have been going back and forth to various places, including Beersheva, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and, of course, the Holy City of Jerusalem. 

Looks as though my prior posting called it correctly --  The security situation in Israel has been intentionally enhanced.  At that large mall in Tel Aviv, in addition to walking through the usual metal detectors, they are now using scanner wands on those who walk through to enter the mall.

A former client of mine who came here almost 20 years ago has just received his carry permit, and is carrying.  His son is now in an army combat unit, and, of course, is now carrying his weapon.

And, of course, there is the wildfire situation.  If the fires are not soon controlled, it likely will present a political crisis for the governing coalition, and Bibi Netanyahu will have to do something physical and visible.

We have already begun to ask G-d for rain in our daily prayers.  Bibi is not very religious, but I do believe that he is praying for rain as we enter the rainy season here.



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Saturday, November 12, 2016

I am interested -- and concerned

[The Mozilla browser USED TO BE my browser of choice, but since its latest update it is refusing to allow me access to various websites, including Blogspot.com.  In the name of enhanced security, it has turned itself into a useless piece of excrement.]

The American presidential election is huge here in Israel, possible the most important election in the country's history.  The Jerusalem Post, Israel's English language rag, has nothing but election recaps, election analyses, and foreign policy predictions.  The only things that are not election related are the weather and the sports (Israelis are very big on American, British and EU sports).

Basically, Israelis are very pleased with the results (with the exception of the leftist pockets in the Tel Aviv area, not too far from where I am located).  Even in Tel Aviv there is optimism over Donald Trump's victory.

Thursday evening my wife and I were walking down the street in our town.  We passed a sidewalk café frequented largely (but not exclusively) by American expats, and joined some of our friends who had just taken their seats at a table.  The conversation, of course, was about the election.

The concerns in Israel are whether Trump will be able to deliver on his promises to Israel, and, as always, the security situation here.

These days I am in Tel Aviv at least twice per week.  During the past two weeks I saw some subtle tightenings in security measures, including but not limited to more thorough backpack searches and a more visible presence of uniformed military, including at the largest shopping mall in Tel Aviv, where I have occasion to do lunch and/or shop on my Tel Aviv days.  I saw more people carrying at my shul this Shabbat, including some who are not law enforcement officers (including EMTs).  One of these non-LEOs is in my study group.  I asked him if there was any reason for special concern of late; of course he is very tight-lipped about such things, but he grinned and told me that it never hurts to be aware of one's surroundings.

Similarly, my wife has picked up some signals of enhanced security at the hospital where she is employed, including a colleague whose army reserve training exercise got revised to an earlier date.

I have a full schedule in the coming weeks.  Situational awareness will be a high priority.


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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Agudath Israel in Cyberspace

Been away from posting for a while, what with the holidays and business and family things.

I have been trying, with varying success, to avoid discussion of the great farce known as the 2016 Presidential Election.

In more than a few postings past, I have speculated not so much whether as when the Agudath Israel of America will hop aboard the internet train.  The Agudath Israel is a loosely-organized advocacy group that purports to advance the interest of the insular religious Jewish community.  I have had past occasion to interact with the AI, and hold many of its officials and functionaries in very high esteem.

But there are various factions within AI, including many which remain totally and absolutely against the use of the internet.  For a while, it looked as though such factions would prevail in the internal debate within AI.  It seems, however, that the practical heads within AI have prevailed (mostly).

It has come to my attention that the upcoming 2016 AI Convention has a website.  Moreover, for all intents and purposes, AI itself now has its own website, albeit under the name "Lefkowitz Leadership Initiative"; that way they can have an official website without having an official website.

My wife and I caught some flak here in Israel not too long ago for using our smartphones; we were with some of my wife's 2nd and 3rd cousins in Bnei Brak, a largely insular community (which is more dependent upon non-religious and non-Jewish help and money than it cares to admit).  In the social groups my wife's cousins frequent, people are ostracized for possessing smartphones, which are considered to be a bad influence.  What stopped the flak was when my wife showed how she can use her smartphone to access vital medical information and facts to treat patients, including patients with conditions related to my wife's subspecialty.

Exit question:  If you were offered $100,000 to remain in a cabin in the woods for 3 months without any telephone, television, radio, or internet access, would you go for it?

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Yom Kippur 5777

[At this time I shall have no words regarding the e-l-e-c-t-i-o-n, other than to say that I have already mailed in my absentee ballot.].

Yom Kippur will soon be upon us.  As always, I ask forgiveness from those I may have wronged, and grant forgiveness to those who ask it in sincerity.

Everyone have an Easy Fast! 

חתימה טובה!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rosh HaShana 5777

The hectic pace that has been my life for the past month-and-a-half can be expected to continue.  Burn-out has begun to take a small toll, but work remains interesting and fulfilling thus far.  Commensurate with my degree of inspiration, this posting's commentary on world affairs will be terse.

Firstly, it is that time again.  In less than two weeks the year according to the Hebrew calendar will transition from 5776 to 5777.  As usual, I take this opportunity to wish all a Happy and a Healthy New Year; I may not have the opportunity to do so before.

לשנה טובה תכתבו.

Secondly, now that the series of Islamic terror attacks has hit American soil, if you are or have been given to censuring Israel for the measures it takes to protect its population and its existence, then cut it with the whining and start recognizing what you are dealing with.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Yesterday's funeral

As usual, lots going on here in Israel, but, as usual, I have no profound comments that have not been stated by others regarding those events.  My family's personal events have been, well, uneventful.  We live normal and relatively unremarkable personal lives -- for Israel, that is.

I went to a funeral yesterday.  The decedent, who was born in Manchester, England, had been living in Israel for almost 40 years.  Her death was somewhat of a surprise, inasmuch as she seemed to be in good health when I saw her for the last time about a month ago at a gathering of Anglos in our community here.  She had been complaining Wednesday night of pains.  Her son-in-law, who is an emergency room physician at the hospital where my wife works, did not like what he saw and got her admitted to the hospital.  She died at about 9 AM yesterday morning, and was buried at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Here in Israel, everyone has a right to be buried in the local town cemetery in whatever burial plot happens to be next on the list.  Premium arrangements (e.g., saving a gravesite next to that of one's spouse or other family member) can be made by those willing and able to foot the bill for the same.  No such arrangements were made for our friend in this case; her late husband, who has been gone about 12 years, is buried in another grave in a different section of the same town cemetery.

Unlike the practices in America and elsewhere, there was no casket.  Her body was borne on a litter, covered in a tallit, and placed into the grave.  A board was placed over the body, and the grave was refilled by the funeral attendees.

Following the burial, the family received visitors (my wife and I included) in the departed's old apartment and will continue with sitting shiva there.

In Jewish tradition and culture, death is accepted as G-d's will, and we come to terms with it accordingly.  The body is given a ritual washing, and buried as soon as practicable thereafter.  One of the greatest acts of kindness is to participate in bringing the deceased to his or her burial; any other act of kindness that is done cannot help but have at least some motive for repayment, but the decedent you escort to burial will never, and can never, repay you for your kindness to him or her.  It is a big deal!

Back on Long Island, our Rabbi had a few occasions to round up people for funerals that otherwise would have been sparsely attended (i.e., less than the minyan of ten men), including some where the decedent had little or no connection with the congregation or community.  Fortunately, such was not necessary for yesterday's funeral; the deceased had plenty of local and not-so-local friends and family.

In other cultures, death is denied and/or defied.  Fixing up the deceased's body for a viewing is a form of denial; it is, at best, a highly reluctant form of acknowledgment that our relationship with the departed will henceforth be different than it had been in the past.  The so-called "Viking funerals" where the body is placed in a boat and set afire are a form of derision where death is mocked.

One funeral practice that combines the best aspects of both denial and defiance is the Jazzman's funeral, where the deceased jazz musician is escorted to his or her burial by a band of jazz musicians.  Though typically associated with New Orleans, they have been known to occur in England for British jazz musicians, and elsewhere.  I had occasions, many years ago, to observe them as a fortuitous passer-by in Harrisburg and in Baltimore.  The practice has a certain degree of class and quaintness to it, but it is not in keeping with Jewish funeral and mourning practice and custom.

I hope to receive a proper Jewish burial.

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