Posted in Living in Israel

Stand With Israel, Chances Are You Owe Us One

Being a university student means occasionally getting emails from the Dean’s office. But how often do they say something like this:

“Due to the security situation, students wishing to host relatives and friends from the South of Israel in their dormitories may file a request.”
Only in Israel would the Dean’s Office give permission to students to host their families in the dorms. How awesome is that!
 
The IDF has “recommended” to evacuate the south of Israel due to a bazillion rockets being fired in the vicinity. It’s recommended because a bazillion rockets can be quite a nuissance to civillians trying to study or meditate, etc. It’s not manditory because the Iron Dome takes care of most of them. We listen to the news and hear that rockets were fired and caused damage to a house, but fortunately the people were not home at that time and no one was hurt. Hundreds of rockets fall every day and hardly anyone gets hurt.
 
I deliberately avoid reading the news as much as possible. I started to hear about the unusual amount of rockets by facebook posts. Following the IDF’s suggestion, many of my friends have posted that there is spare room in their home for those who need to come and stay. The fact that Israel is a Jewish state means that all of the citizens are one big extended family. Rick Riordan says, “Families are messy, immortal families are eternally messy.”
 
Galgalatz, the IDF redio station is playing songs selected by individuals in the south. Wedding halls in central cities are clearing their schedules so that couples who were planning to get married in the south don’t have to postpone the celebration. That’s what we do here in Israel, when there’s an outside threat. We stick together and prove how awesome we are. I think the Iron Dome has already proven that by minimizing the victims of 500 rocket firings to 4 people. But we’ve tolerated these rockets for seven years, and at some point we just get tired of it. 
 
What I don’t understand is, why are we on our own out here? Didn’t we send huge aids to Haiti and Hurricane Sandy victims? Listen, world, Israel is there for you when you need us, and you know it. When the Carmel forest was on fire we had some help, so it’s obviously not anti-semitism that’s going on here. So come on, if you’re not going to help us fight, at least be on our side. Chances are you owe us one.
Posted in Fighting WorldSuck

Let’s Talk About This: Keeping Kosher vs. Internet Bullying

First, two quick facts about me:

  1. I’m Jewish
  2. I keep Kosher

These facts are important players in this story, which is partly about a Facebook post, but mostly about the horrendous politics of the Kashrut industry. (Kashrut = the state of being Kosher.)

The following picture was posted on Facebook, along with a plea to share it. Several of my friends had shared it, so I read it, and was ENRAGED.

Translation:

Public Announcement to avoid certain Restaurants because of Kashrut dispute

WARNING!

This hereby is to announce to the public who observe kashrut in Jerusalem that we, the Rabbinate of Jerusalem are not responsible for what occurs in the following restaurants:

(List of 5 restaurants and their addresses)

AND that these restaurants sell non-kosher meat and vegetables which have not been supervised and contain abominable insects.

AND that the Certificates of Kashrut displayed in these places are provided by criminal institutions of Kashrut which are purposely deceiving the public.

The Department of Kashrut

Jerusalem Rabbinate

OK, wow. Fisrt of all, a little background: A restaurant can be considered Kosher by following certain guidelines, and if they do they receive a certificate of Kashrut which they are required to display to the public. The certificate can be revoked if they violate the Kashrut guidelines. However, the Kashrut industry also happens to be extremely corrupt, meaning, you can lose your certificate for other reasons, such as failing to pay rent, or insulting someone’s brother-in-law, which have nothing to do with Kashrut. It’s all about who you know.

Now let’s take a look at this announcement before we talk about the implications it has on society.

“Abominable insects” – Fair enough, I wouldn’t want to eat insects either. But come on, there’s no way the department of health would let them get away with not washing their lettuce.

“Purposely deceiving the public” – wow, that’s a nasty accusation. Why are we discussing this on Facebook instead of in court?

“The Certificates of Kashrut” – wait, what? They hold certificates of Kashrut? Oh, but they’re not applicable since they were provided by a different organization. Got it. (Am I the only one who thinks this sounds shady?)

There is a very important principle in Judaism which is giving the benefit of the doubt. Actually, in the case of Kashrut, we are supposed to assume that a person is not trying to cheat us or trick us into eating non-kosher food. (For more on this topic, see my post “Can You Eat in the Home of a Non-Observant Jew?“)

So, after sorting through these messy and dangerous thoughts, I wrote a comment on the post on one of my friends’ walls. I wrote,

“But how do we know it’s not just a matter of politics?”

And she responded,

“It could be. Why don’t you go eat in these places and then we’ll meet in the world to come and you can tell us if the food was not kosher, or if it was just about politics.” *(The world to come refers to the redemption, messiah, etc.)

All right, I was asking for it. Still, I was stunned by her response. The level of certainty with which she is able to say that every word of that post is %100 true, and back it up with the opinion of God in the world to come, well, that baffled me. I stewed over it all night, and decided that if she was going to play that card, why couldn’t I?

I went back to the post and wrote, “Deal!”

My response was erased within an hour, but as far as I’m concerned, we made a deal.

Here’s what I think. I don’t think it’s right to sabotage someone’s business because of a Facebook post (I have this strange habit of not believing everything I read on the internet.) This post provides me with no information with which to make an educated choice. What I see in this post is someone trying to destroy someone else’s business based on something I don’t know. Since I don’t know the story, I can’t really choose a side. But I think it’s important to support local businesses, and since they do have Kashrut certificates, who am I to decide they don’t apply? Who am I to agree with the statement that they are “purposely deceiving the public”? Who am I to help destroy someone’s source of income based on a story I’ve never even heard?

So I’m keeping the deal. My friends and I are going to go to these restaurants and eat their food and show our support. We’ll have a great time and make someone happy. We’ll make the important statement that we don’t buy into internet bullying.

So I was just trying to start a conversation. We can talk about this now if you like, but if you’d rather wait till “the world to come,” that’s fine with me.

Posted in Living in Israel

Mom, Dad, Couldn’t You Have Used A Better Picture?

So, is he really home?

It seems so hard to believe. Only a few months ago we were watching so many protests which appeared to have no effect at all. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there’s a deal for his release. Before we know it, there are photos of him hugging his family. How did that happen?

Before Gilad was released there were rumors about what sort of bargain the government was going to make to get him home. Seven years ago, the Israeli government traded 400 terrorists for the bodies of three soldiers. I was thirteen at the time, and I remember feeling confused and afraid. Why would the government release so many terrorists just to get dead bodies? I felt scared thinking about all of those criminals running amok. It didn’t seem like a fair deal in my thirteen year old mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy he’s home, and it does seem like it was the right thing to do. It gives me hope to know that sometimes it does happen. But I’m not going to say I like the deal they made. I don’t like to think that one Israeli soldier is worth a thousand terrorists – as poetic as that may sound. I think it’s important to remember that although that was the deal, it does not mean that any one person is worth more than another. That sort of mindset will not help us evolve into a better race. Terrorists, as terrible as they may be, are still humans, and I don’t like the idea that their government is teaching them that they are not even worth one thousandth of an Israeli soldier. Or trying to make it look like the Israeli government thinks that, which I’m sure they will do, because why pass up an opportunity to blame the Jews? It doesn’t seem like a healthy mindset to me.

Gilad Shalit
Mom, Dad, couldn't you have used a better picture?

Back then I was not in favor of letting a bazillion terrorists out of prison to rescue Gilad. I was afraid that it would cost us more than one Israeli soldier. And who knows? Maybe it will.

But right now I feel differently. I don’t feel any more afraid with more terrorists on the loose; there will always be terrorists. But I do feel safer knowing what my country would be willing to do for me to get me home.

Posted in Book Reviews, Mirror, Mirror

Collins, Dr. Seuss, and the Mockingjay

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, I’ve finally finished the Hunger Games trilogy. It was like riding a roller coaster. Once you get in, you’re hooked until the end. You’re stomach flips over but the rush of excitement is worth it.

I was fully prepared to be disappointed by Mockingay. I was ready for all of my favorite characters to die, ready for Katniss to never make up her mind who she loves more, Gale or Peeta (I was actually hoping she would end up with Finnick). But the book had much more to give than a story. It has an important lesson to teach us, and although I was not impressed by the plot, I was satisfied by the message the book delivered.

Continuing the holocaust metaphors I pointed out in my review of Catching Fire, I was not at all surprised to find the authorities of District 13 stamping things on people’s forearms. The children gathered outside President Snow’s mansion made me think briefly of the Palestinian civilians the PA uses to guard terrorists. It’s hard to imagine that the things Collins talks about are anywhere close to reality, but they are. Frighteningly close.

I heard a theory once that what made World War 2 unique was not the number of casualties, but the advancement of military technology which happened in those years. The technology revolution was the mark of the twentieth century. People were killed in inconceivable ways. The first and only nuclear bombs were used to end the war. Along this line, the Hunger Games is punctuated with brilliant, terrible inventions.

The thing is, I don’t agree that the holocaust is unique. I think, and Suzanne Collins agrees with me, that if we were capable of doing it once, we are capable of doing it again.

“Are you preparing for another war, Plutarch?” I ask.
“Oh, not now. Now we’re in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated,” he says.

“But collective thinking is short-lived. We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.

“Although who knows? Maybe this will be it, Katniss.”
“What?” I ask.
“The time it sticks. Maybe we are witnessing the evolution of the human race. Think about that.”

We need to start learning from out own mistakes. We need to wake up and start acting to change the future, instead of weeping over the horrors of the past. If we don’t, history will continue to repeat itself. In the words of Dr. Seuss in his book (and my all time favorite) The Lorax,

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

So, yeah.

Think about that.

View all my reviews

Posted in Living in Israel

Where I Was On 9/11

On September 11th, 2001, I got up and went to school, said “Good morning!” to a friend, and she snapped, “No. Bad morning.” I was ten years old and had just started fifth grade at Orot Etzion in Efrat. I loathed my new homeroom teacher.

We didn’t have a TV. If my parents had heard anything, they didn’t let on, so it wasn’t until much later when class started that I found out what had happened in New York, and it wasn’t until two years later that I watched it on video in science class, where our teacher showed us that the bombing of the twin towers was visible from outer space.

In Israel, the second Intifada was going on where I lived. Hearing about people dying in terrorist attacks was a part of my daily routine, along with eating a healthy breakfast and learning Judo after school and pretending to do my homework. Not that it was any less upsetting. I spent many sleepless nights wondering why I was living in Israel, wishing I could go back to America, where it was safe, where I didn’t have to hear about my neighbors being shot in their car on the way to Jerusalem.

I don’t really remember how I reacted when I first heard the news. But I do remember that for me, 9/11 was the day the option of going back to America became officially closed. I realized at the ripe age of ten that no place on Earth is safer than another, that evil, like humans, lurks everywhere.

In Israel, kids grow up quickly. From a very young age we are faced with the brutal reality that life is not to be taken for granted. I remember thinking that the best way for me to feel safe was to trust in God, because security can not be guaranteed. You’re safe where you feel safe. It’s not a matter of geography or politics.