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.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Packing it in Israel

Here in Israel we have just completed the Holiday of Shavuot, commemorating the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.  For various reasons that will not be expounded at length here, it is celebrated one day in the Land of Israel and two days outside of the Land of Israel (which means that the holiday is still in progress in the USA).

Israel is still reeling from the terror attack at the Sarona Market complex in Tel Aviv.  Much has been written and reported and punditized about the incident; I have little to add at this time, but gratuitously note that (1) Israel Police, along with military personnel carrying their weapons, have shown a higher profile these past few days; and (2) during this coming week I expect to ride a bus that passes within 2 blocks of Sarona. 

What I will mention, though, is that during the past two days at my Shul worship services (Saturday, of course, was Shabbat, and today was Shavuot), I saw a heretofore unprecedented number of individuals packing heat.  Two I know to be law enforcement officers, but that did not explain the others.  Turns out that word was informally passed that those licensed to carry should carry to shul during the holiday.

Before we departed from the USA I had a discussion with my rabbi.  He had made the decision to enlist armed security for Rosh Hashanah services, and was considering asking some congregation members who are licensed to carry (including two retired police officers) to carry on a regular basis.  Another rabbi of another congregation caught some heat (pun intentional) from his resident leftards for doing that.  With the strong encouragement of the Rebitzin, my Rabbi told everyone that they would be welcome to carry.  Most of the congregation members backed him on it.

In Israel everyone seems to understand the need for defensive measures, but these days it must be difficult to be a Jewish hoplophobe in America.

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Sunday, June 05, 2016

Yom Yerushalayim

Today is the 28th day of the Month of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar.  It is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the reunification of the Holy City of Jerusalem in 1967.  The Holy City came back into Jewish hands for the first time in nearly 2000 years.

My wife and I spent Shabbat with some friends in the City and saw some of the festivities last night.  My wife got out before the worst of the traffic and came home so that she could go to work today.  I stayed because I had a meeting scheduled in the Holy City today.  I'm done with that gig but am still here, waiting to meet my son for dinner.

The world cannot hack it when the Holy City of Jerusalem is in Jewish hands.  UNESCO is now trying to deny the Holy City's Jewish past, and would prefer to destroy it than to allow it to remain in Jewish hands.

UNESCO is not in charge.  Obama is not in charge.  The EU is not in charge.  G-d is in charge, running things.  The Holy City will remain in Jewish hands if G-d wants it to (and I do believe that He does). 

אִם אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְרוּשָׁלִָם תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי
תִּדְבַּק לְשׁוֹנִי לְחִכִּי אִם לֹא אֶזְכְּרֵכִי,
אִם לֹא אַעֲלֶה אֶת יְרוּשָׁלִַם עַל רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי

"I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her cunning.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I remember thee not;
If I set not Jerusalem
above my chiefest joy.

  -- Psalm 137

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Yom HaZikaron

In Israel, today was Yom HaZikaron, the literal translation of which is "Memorial Day" and, as that implies, is a day to remember the sacrifices of all of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen/women who gave their lives in defense of the nation.  That it occurs immediately before Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) has great poignancy.

One great tradition of Yom HaZikharon is that 11:00 AM, the sirens all sound and everyone stops what they are doing and stands at attention.  Drivers pull their cars to the sides of the road and get out so that they can stand at attention.

Today I was at a meeting on the sixth floor of a building.  Through the window I could see a tree-pruning crew at work on the street below.  When the sirens sounded, they brought down the man in the cherry-picker, who joined his co-workers as they stood at attention by their truck, some holding their chain saws in hand.

Today, wife was accompanying a group of medical students on some hospital rounds.  When the 11:00 siren sounded, the patient at whose bedside they happened to be, a veteran of the Yom Kippur War, insisted upon getting out of his bed and standing at attention with everyone else.

At many businesses it was "white shirt day," and many places had special ceremonies to commemorate Yom HaZikaron.  Businesses closed at 1:00 PM, by which time I had begun my trek back home.

In Israel it is unthinkable to stage a recreational event such as a golf tournament on Yom HaZikaron.  The Israelis are serious about remembering their war dead.  Israel's military casualty count now stands at 23,477.  Israel's population is about 8.5 million.  The United States population is more than 40 times that of Israel.  Go do the arithmetic!

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Power Corrupts; Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

We had a wonderful Pesach Seder with some old (and some new) friends in the Holy City of Jerusalem.  For us, it was a celebration of our liberation.

One person who may well be viewing it from a different perspective is former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon  Silver (of whom I posted here on 22 January 2015 ) .  He faces sentencing in about 2 weeks for his bribery conviction on bribery charges.

In his heyday, Shelly Silver alone could determine which bills were put up for a vote in the New York State Assembly.  The common street wisdom was that Shelly Silver looked out for the best interests of the religious Jewish community (of which I was a member when I lived in New York State, and of which I remain a member here in Israel), and that if a few pieces of another kind of silver ended up in his pocket, well, that could be overlooked.

I, for one, did not and still do not buy into that line of reasoning.  If anything, Shelly should be held to a higher standard;  it ultimately serves the Jewish community's best interests to have a just and sound-working government.

It therefore is, in a sense, somewhat perplexing that so many letters of support from so many quarters are coming in to beseech Judge Caprioni for leniency when she sentences Shelly.  After all, certain groups in New York and American can thank Shelly for allowing the same-gender marriage bill to pass the New York State Legislature.

Understand that I do not personally concern myself with the living arrangements entered into by consenting adults, but continue to be vehemently opposed to according same-gender arrangements all of the same legal status and benefits on par with one-man-one-woman marriage.  The governmental approval of same-gender marriage has opened the door to the polygamous marriages practiced by many Muslims, and imperils American values.

[And speaking of intimate personal relationships, the U.S. Attorney's office has put forward evidence, for consideration in imposing sentence, of Shelly's alleged extramarital affairs for the purpose of debunking the notion that Shelly Silver is a scrupulous person, bribery conviction notwithstanding (I have not read the evidence, and accordingly, proffer no opinion and place not bets one way or the other as to whether he has or has not been cheating on his wife).

Actually, I sort of do understand why so many have stepped forward to speak up for Shelly Silver.  He has done much for those who have greased his palm, and those who have shmeered him are not ingrates.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

THIS Year in Jerusalem

Posting on this Blog from 14 April 2015:  "And while our planned residence is not in direct proximity to the Holy City of Jerusalem, there is a good chance that one or more of our friends there will invite us for the Passover Seder next year.  If so, then the aspiration of Next Year in Jerusalem will become a reality for us."

I am pleased, and most grateful, to report that such seems now to be in the making.  Some old friends of my wife's family, who came to Israel almost 30 years ago, have invited us to stay with them for the first day (which begins at sundown the night before of Pesach (it is celebrated only one day inside the Land of Israel, but that's a whole separate ball of wax).  They live in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

We obviously are looking forward to it.

As mentioned in the posting from last year, "Next Year in Jerusalem" are the concluding words of the Passover Seder meal  ("L'Shana HaBa'a B'Yerushalayim" in Hebrew). 

We will still say "L'Shana HaBa'a B'Yerushalayim" on behalf of those who have yet to physically present themselves in the Holy City of Jerusalem this year, but for us it will be This Year in Jerusalem.

"HaShana HaZot B'Yerushalayim."

Though our seder invite spares me and (mostly) my wife from lots of holiday preparations, there still is much to be done for the entire holiday, inasmuch as the other days we plan to be based out of our apartment, and need to remove all the fermented grain from the premises (including, but not limited to, bread, beer, and whiskey).  Aside from such matters, this week promises to be quite busy, what with some scheduled meetings in Tel Aviv, plus at least one locally in my own town.

In case I don't get around to posting before, we wish everyone a Happy and Kosher Passover, including the obligatory "L'Shana HaBa'a B'Yerushalayim"

לשנה הבאה בירושלים

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