Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Footage of a surreptituous Kever Yosef pilgrimage

Yediot Aharonot journalist Akiva Novick traveled with Ben Yosef Livnat z"l to Kever Yosef, four days before he was killed by terrorists masked as policeman on a subsequent trip on the second night of Pesach. In the video below, Novick documented the drive to the grave in the middle of the night, which included driving at a speed of 230 km/hour to evade Israeli army vehicles restricting access to the area which is currently under Palestinian "control". Later in the video, the journalist and a group of Breslov Chasidim dash from their cars into the grave of Yosef Hatzaddik (Joseph, of the book of Genesis) to dance and pray on his grave on the eve of Erev Pesach.

The incident at Kever Yosef is a tragic event for all of the Jewish people. Note that the victim has a special connection to Yosef, rooted in his name, Ben Yosef. The significance of Joseph to the holiday of Passover is also noteworthy. When the Jewish people stood before the Red Sea, chased by the Egyptians, the sea split only after witnessing the awesome vision of two arks - the ark of the Torah, and the ark of the bones of Joseph.

NYT covers mitzvah tanks

Every once again I check out the New York Times to see what the revered newspaper considers as news these days. Happily today, Isru Chag in the U.S., the NYT features a video on its front page covering the efforts of the Chabad-Lubavitch mitzvah tanks to engage "secular" Jews in tradition. The mini-documentary altogether features very positive coverage of Chabad's activities and is definitely worth the watch.
“We go out there like soldiers, with a mission to conquer the world with light, with goodness, with kindness,” said Yishai Eliefja, 23, a Hasidic Jew who works for the Chabad Lubavitch’s “mitzvah tanks,” or “synagogues on wheels.”
The mitzvah tanks, which will resume operation on Wednesday now that Passover has ended, were inspired by the teachings of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson and aim to engage secular Jews in acts of tradition and prayer in order to advance the coming of the Messiah.
“We look at the mitzvah tanks as the front line Marines in the rebbe’s arsenal,” said Rabbi Mordy Hirsch, who is also involved with the administering of the mitzvah tanks. “People are depressed today. Everyone has their worries, their headaches. The mitzvah tanks idea is a warm, comfortable home environment in the hustle and bustle of Fifth Avenue.” 
See here for the video.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Amir Benayun sings to Tamar Fogel

Amir Benayun is an Israeli singer who in recent years has drawn closer to traditional observance and religious practice. Benayun has a new song called Hitna'ari which he wrote for Tamar Fogel, the 12-year old girl who found five members of her family murdered by terrorists. The words are based on the eulogy of her mother Ruth Fogel's brother. The words of the chorus are taken from the prayer L'Cha Dodi, traditionally recited on Friday night, and from a line from Yechezkel 16:6:
When I passed over you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you: In your blood, you shall live; I said to you: In your blood, you shall live!
The version below features the Itamar children's choir and has English subtitles:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sefirat HaOmer

Today (Wednesday) is the first day of the counting of the Omer. On Pesach, we experienced an enormous illumination from above. On the way to Shavuot, we proceed day by day, building our spiritual capacity to receive the Torah through our own merit. Hashem's love for us is so great that in addition to showering us with His infinite blessings and light from above during the holiest moments of the year, He truly desires to merge His infinite capacities with our finite makeup, such that we cultivate awareness, holiness and spiritual vessels exactly in the place where we find ourselves, creating channels for the infinite to dwell within the finite.

Each of the seven weeks of the Omer represents one of the seven intermediate 'sefirot' (aspects of Hashem; from the same root as the Hebrew word 'to count'). This week is the sefira of chesed - lovingkindness. Each of the days of the week represents an aspect of the divine attribute of chesed - the chesed in chesed, the gevurah (strength) of chesed, the tiferet (harmony, balance, beauty) of chesed, and so on. With Hashem's help we'll post insights into the divine attributes and other meanings associated with each week of the omer.

According to Rebbe Nachman (Likkutei Halachot, Sefirat Haomer), the waving of the omer (a ritual to be conducted at the Temple during this time) represents the search for the divine presence throughout the myriad of moments of our lives and external manifestations in the world. After the first day of Pesach, the intense revelation of Hashem's essence vanishes, and it is up to us to search Him out everywhere. According to Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, by counting the days, we are called upon to see the unity within the multitude.

Lucky enough for us, technology and counting the omer a match made in heaven: Add an omer counter to your site (see right banner), or download the Omer Counter iPhone app, or if you're in the US, just text the name of your cell phone company for a daily reminder. For the blessing to count the Omer see here.

Moadim L'Simcha! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why are we still in exile?

Here is historic footage from Hoshanah Rabbah 5744, September 28, 1983. After Maariv the Rebbe turns to address the crowd. More than just a Sicha (speech), the Rebbe launches into an impassioned plea: Why the Golus? The Rebbe's voice is broken with emotion. The Almighty can surely find a way to give us all of the benefits of Golus without the Golus. The crowd is silent, stunned, every eye is moved to tears. How can Hashem ignore such a plea! (From WeJew)

Is the Shema the secret behind Justin Bieber's success?

The 16-year-old pop phenomenon that is Justin Bieber (pronounced "beeber" in Israel, for some unknown reason) performed at Park HaYarkon in Tel Aviv on Thursday night, in a concert that drew 35,000 fans. This week Bieber toured Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with his family, although not entirely without incident. During the week Bieber tweeted his frustration over paparazzi who reportedly disturbed his tour of the Old City. Bieber also failed to dodge politics when his organizers refused a meeting with children of Sderot, leading to a cancellation of the proposed Bibi-Bieber summit.

What not everyone knows about Justin Bieber is the Jewish eye for talent beyond his success, and the inspiration his close Jewish friend and manager, Scooter Brown, has on the young star. Brown, 28, is from a Conservative Jewish family and has been to Israel many times. The following is an excerpt from an interview with Brown from the Jewish newspaper Yediot Aharonot (via isRealli):
What was the moment that you understood Bieber was what you were looking for?

I’m a big fan of Michael Jackson, the only thing I regret is that I never had the chance to meet him. I worked for a record company and had a concept of who is going to be the next superstar: I thought the next big thing would be a child with a young voice who sings songs about love that adults could also enjoy since he would be someone who makes great music. I saw Justin on YouTube when he was 12 and I was really impressed. I just had to find him. I googled him and played the role of a detective until I ended up with the phone number of his mother in Canada. I succeeded in convincing her that they should come to Atlanta. That was their first time on an airplane. The rest is history that we are still writing.
Yes. I believe Justin could be much bigger than he is right now. It’s all up to him. He plays lots of instruments. He sings amazingly, he dances great. Will Smith said that there’s talent and then you have skills. Talent you’ve been given, skills you need to work on. And if Justin keeps working hard on his skills, he will be big in a way we haven’t seen. The biggest.
Also, I have to tell you, the thing that children from Israel will most want to hear: Justin prays the “Shema” before each show. First he says a Christian prayer, then he says the “Shema” (The “Shema” is a Jewish prayer, proclaiming the oneness of God).
Because I am Jewish, and it’s really important to me. I always say the Shema. Justin and I are like blood brothers, we are a real family. Justin heard me pray, he gets why I do it and now he does the same prayer every time before he goes on the stage.
Do you keep the commandments?
I’m trying. I never had a cheeseburger and I’ve never had bacon, but I have a tattoo which is kind of against the rules.

As to Bieber's decision to perform in Israel despite pressure by heavy pressure by Arab groups on performers not to do so, Brown said the following:
I want to say it loud and clear, I’m proud to be Jewish and to support Israel. I know many people in the industry aren’t saying it at this period of time. Members of my family are Holocaust survivors and without the State of Israel and the United States of America, I couldn’t be safe and secure. They say that some American Jews are weak and scared to say things, [but I wanted to say that] we will come to Israel to perform next year. I want to support Israel. I don’t have a problem performing anywhere in the world.
For more on Bieber's Israel show see here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Syrian protest death toll reaches 200

Yahoo News reports:
Syria's main human rights movement has said the death toll from less than a month of protests has reached 200 and called on the Arab league to impose sanctions on the ruling hierarchy.
"Syria's uprising is screaming with 200 martyrs, hundreds of injured and a similar number of arrests," the Damascus Declaration group said in a letter sent on Monday to the secretary general of the Arab League.
"The regime unleashes its forcers to besiege cities and terrorize civilians, while protesters across Syria thunder with the same chant 'peaceful peaceful'," it added.
"We ask you to... impose political, diplomatic and economic sanctions on the Syrian regime, which continues to be the faithful guardian of Hafez al-Assad's legacy," the letter said, referring to the iron-fisted rule of President Hafez al-Assad, father of current President Bashar.
The Arab League is unlikely to turn on Assad. Syria will be interesting to watch after Egypt and Libya. On the one hand, Assad's crackdown on protests is closer to that of the Mubarak regime than Qaddafi's. On the other hand, the protest movement in Syria is not as strong as in Egypt, and their powerlessness vis-a-vis the government is closer to that of Libyan rebels. Right now, the Arab League and the West is turning its shoulder, but this could quickly change.

Israel's medical delegation to Japan returns

This morning Japan's ambassador to Israel expressed gratitude to Israel for sending a medical delegation and aid to Japan following the tsunami. The ambassador referred to the fact that the offer of Israeli aid was treated with high regard at a time when Japan did not accept aid offers from many countries (Israel Radio).

Yesterday Israel's medical delegation returned to Israel after a two-week mission in Japan. Around 50 military doctors set up a field clinic in Japan that provided routine medical services to Japanese residents forced from their homes by the recent disaster. Israel was one of the first countries to send a medical delegation to Japan. 

The MFA also issued the following statement on Israeli aid to Japan:
Japanese authorities noted that Israel will be one of the first countries to provide aid in accordance with their requirements. While other countries sent planeloads of equipment, they did not consult with the Japanese regarding specific requirements. The Japanese also noted Israeli efficiency and flexibility in determining the list of items that would be shipped to Japan.

Leads on the Itamar murder

Israel National News reports that the IDF and Shin Bet are close to a breakthrough in the investigation of the terror attack on Itamar:
According to a report on Channel 2 News on Monday, security forces believe that the murderers indeed came from the nearby Arab village of Awarta. The report said that during the past week, fingerprints and DNA samples were collected from the village’s residents, including women.

Egyptian pro-Israel blogger sentenced to 3 years

An Egyptian blogger, Maikel Nabil, 25, was sentenced yesterday to 3 years in prison for criticizing the military. Since Mubarak's fall, Nabil has criticized the Egyptian army for continuing the corruption and anti-democratic policies of the Mubarak era. His lawyer explained: “This ruling is a warning to all journalists, bloggers and human rights activists in Egypt that the punishment for criticizing the army is a sentence in a military prison.”

YNet ran a story about Nabil last year, when Nabil became Egypt's first conscientious objector to military service. In his blog at the time, he wrote: 
I thought about this a lot and decided to refuse to serve in the Egyptian army, and accept the results, whatever they would be, even though I knew the results would be hard because I am the first young Egyptian to refuse to serve for pacifist reasons...I don't want to point a weapon at a young Israeli, recruited into obligatory service, defending his state's right to exist. I think obligatory service is a form of slavery and I have worked for years for my freedom.
Nabil is Christian and defines himself as pro-Israel. YNet recounts his path to his extraordinary views on Israel:
From a young age I read a lot about the Israeli-Arab conflict. I understood the Arab media hid facts that support Israel. I tried to contact Israeli activists and started asking them questions, such as, 'Is it true that Israel is a militaristic state?' or, 'Is it true that Israel wants to expand and reach the Nile? That's how I learned. I understood a lot about the state, society and its laws. Many Arabs living in Israel told me how they are really treated and how much they prefer living in Israel above any Arab state. I also read about Israeli pacifist organizations.
Nabil believes Palestinians are to blame with the conflict with Israel: "If the Palestinians had a democratic leadership, everything would be solved." About Operation Cast Lead, he said:
Take the war on Gaza for example two years ago. Hamas started it. They refused to hold elections in Gaza and took control of the regime. They planned a dictatorial and fundamentalist regime. They refused to speak to Israel, fired rockets at it and caused it to defend itself.
Maikel Nabil's site is still up, and you can view it here. You can read more about his biography here.

Please daven for Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar, 16, victim of the schoolbus attack

Update: Baruch Dayan Emes, Daniel Viflic

Video in Hebrew in which the family of Daniel Viflic asks for the entire Jewish people to pray for him (via מקום מוריה): 

Sixteen-year-old Daniel Viflic was critically injured by a missile which terrorists shot at his schoolbus in Southern Israel yesterday. His parents are now by his hospital bed davenning that a miracle will happen. 

Daniel's father told B'Chadrei Hareidim that Daniel was on the way to visit his grandmother in the Negev (thanks to Mashiach is Coming for the link to the Hebrew news site's interview with Daniel's parents). Daniel is a yeshiva student at Yeshivat Heichal HaTorah, and the only child of a family of olim from the United States that lives in Beit Shemesh. 

The head of his Yeshiva, Rabbi Ephraim Havruni, said about Daniel (translated): "I have no words to describe Daniel's personality. He is a very special student, who excels both in his learning and in the unique sensitivity of his soul. Special and one-of-a-kind." The rabbi also shared that he has a hevruta with Daniel in the afternoon, and that every time he is astounded by the boy's character again and again. 

Daniel's parents ask the entire Jewish people to pray for the recovery of Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar. 

Update A special prayer session for the healing of the victims of the latest terror attacks will take place on Monday, April 11th at 7pm at the Kotel. Prayers will be made for the healing of Odelia Nechama bas Michal and Shilo ben Ofra who were injured in the Jerusalem bombing, and for Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar. (Arutz Sheva)

Update: An emergency fund has been established for the Viflic Family.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Explosion in Minsk subway kills at least 11 (updated)

An explosion has occurred in the Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, where two of Minsk's subway lines intersect, 100 meters away from the government's main building, during rush hour. RT reports that at least 11 people have been killed and 103 have been injured.

NEW: According to RT: "Local police are not allowing journalists near the place of the incident, cameras have been banned and cell phones are being confiscated if used. No filming whatsoever is being allowed, and law enforcement is acting ruthlessly, a newspaper reporter informed from Minsk."

According to the Telegraph, the US has called Belarus "Europe's last dictatorship". Last December, Belarus' president Lukashenko was given a fourth term in office, fueling mass protests. The government responded with a violent crackdown on protesters, which led to sanctions by the West. The Washington Post observes that this blast occurs on background of a potential Belarus-Russia economic deal, and that a subsequent crackdown on the opposition could further distance Belarus from the West, playing into Russian interests.
Ever since a violent police crackdown on protesters last December, the government of Belarus has been imposing increasing tough measures on its opponents. Up to 50 people face trial and years in prison for participating in the protest, while some of their lawyers have been disbarred and advocacy organizations warned or shut down.
The explosion took place just as Lukashenko is facing the prospect of bargaining with Moscow for a $2.7 billion loan to help keep his struggling economy afloat. In the past week his government has been making friendlier gestures toward the West than at any time since December, presumably to strengthen his negotiating position with Russia.
A severe crackdown now in the wake of the explosion would run the risk of cutting him off from the West altogether—to Russia’s benefit.
In his book 2048, Dan Passig claims it's only a matter of time before Russia and the US have another confrontation (and that this has everything to do with Israel). According to Passig, countries like Belarus who border Western and Eastern Europe will begin to emerge at the forefront of this struggle.

Japan hit by 7.1 quake on day marking one month since tsunami

On March 11, at 2:46 p.m., Japan was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, which brought in its wake a tsunami, which killed 25,000 people and caused a yet-to-be-resolved nuclear crisis.

Today, at 2:46 p.m., on April 11th, ceremonies were held around the country to observe exactly one month since the tsunami.

Hours later, Japan was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, and a new tsunami warning was issued. Workers have been evacuated from the Fukushima plant, which was close to the quake's epicenter.

Google and the Geulah

You might have thought we'd report here that millions of people are searching right now for Tiger Woods, iPhone 5, and Kohl's. Not quite. We're here to report a much more interesting trend in Google search analytics.

What's the road from Google to a blog about news and Mashiach?

1. You may be losing sleep agonizing over what lies in the "days and weeks and months ahead". Hopefully A modern-day Esther put you at ease: Sarah Palin has been known to defend Israel's right to build with a prediction that "more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead."

2. Tired of the weatherman seeking no higher power? We are too! March 9, 2011: Turning Point? may bolster your hunch that crazy weather forcasts are a sign of moshiach.

3. Has anyone else ever had an eerie feeling that ikea is the third temple? Or, to be more precise, a misplaced yearning for transcendence and completion? We catch your groove at Netanya IKEA burned to the ground on Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Adar.

4. If you tell Google that  the greatest threat to the republic is living in denial about what the United States has become, it may tell you that Edom is the last exile.

5. Could we be on to something here? Without Google, the internet is like the world's largest library, only uncatalogued and out of order. But if have Google in front of you, can you really say "I don't know" anymore? Today, if we want to know something, from how to get to the nearest post office to how to bake a cake to whether the war in Libya is over to what date Washington crossed the Delaware, we ask Google.

If that's the case, maybe we should be asking whether google knows the mashiach.

Thanks to the creative anonymous readers who thought up these search terms. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Emergency fund for the Viflic family

Via Israel National News:
Lema'an Achai charity organization of Ramat Beit Shemesh, "One Family" (which specializes in assisting terror victims) and "Paamonim" (which specializes in financial and small business structuring) are coordinating efforts to help the family of 16-year-old Daniel Viflic of Beit Shemesh, who remained in critical condition Sunday with wounds suffered Thursday, when an anti-tank missile. launched by Gaza terrorists, hit the school bus in which he was travelling.
Chairman David Morris of Lema'an Achai says the Viflic family will need $10,000 to make it through the Pesach period which, under normal circumstances, would be a peak season for its catering business, which has been closed by the tragedy.
To donate securely on line, go to:
Use the drop-down, or comments section to designate "Terror Victim - Viflic".
To donate by Phone (in Hebrew), people in Israel can call: 02 999 9933

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Police: Santa Monica blast caused by explosive device

UPDATE: FBI: Suspect in Santa Monica synagogue explosion linked to bomb evidence
The blast sent a 300-pound metal pipe encased in concrete hurtling through the air and crashing through the roof of a home next door to Chabad House. Originally authorities had said they believed the explosion was a freak industrial accident.

But on Friday, bomb technicians and detectives scouring the scene discovered evidence that the blast was caused by an explosive device, police said. Items found nearby were linked to Hirsch, who was being sought on state charges of possession of a destructive device and other charges. 

UPDATE: From the official Chabad-Lubavitch Twitter account: "We have confirmed that the explosion at the S. Monica #Chabad house was NATURAL. Possibly linked to construction in the area."

According to the Jerusalem Post, Santa Monica police have reported an explosion on the roof of the Santa Monica Lubavitch Chabad House in Los Angeles at 6:45 on Thursday morning. No injuries have been reported. According to the LA Times, the device is believed to have been a pipe bomb.

From the Santa Monica Chabad website:
In response to news reports of a pipe bomb in our facility.  During morning services today the police department came to Chabad House in response to a report of an explosion.  The men that were praying did not hear or feel anything.  Rabbi Levitansky grabbed on of the new Torah scrolls so they can finish services.  Which they did at the corner of 17th and S. Monica.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Humanity for Pollard

Kudos to the San Francisco Chronicle for publishing a press release on the launching of Humanity for Pollard, a new organization dedicated to achieving clemency for former US Navy intelligence officer Jonathan Pollard, who is now serving his 26th year in prison. Pollard was convicted on one count of providing classified information (the threat of Iraqi biological and chemical weapons) to an ally (Israel) -- a charge which has never before led to a life sentence.

According to the press release, the new organization "seeks to reignite social awareness of the issue, and through public support, encourage President Obama to commute Pollard's sentence based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds."

The organization's launch features the ba'al teshuva (in the true sense of the word) rapper Shyne of Def Jam records:
In a video message to President Obama, Shyne, an artist with Def Jam Records, spoke out in support of Jonathan Pollard, saying, “As a human being, we've all made mistakes, and we've all done things that we regret... but I think we, as human beings, have to be given the opportunity to atone, and to redeem ourselves, and to be forgiven, be given a second chance... He has paid his debt to society.”
The press release maintains that public awareness of Pollard's plight is essential is bringing about a resolution under Obama's presidency. It also highlights the participation of delegated figures such as Henry Kissinger, John McCain and Barney Frank in public calls for his release.

Eager to join the new effort? From the group's website, you can call Obama, send a letter to the White House, email Humanity for Pollard and have them send a letter on your behalf, or agree to be filmed.

Last June, after the former chief rabbi of Israel, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu z"l passed away, Jonathan Pollard's wife Esther the following about the significance of Jonathan Pollard's release from captivity:
Over time, the Rav shared with us and with a few others who were very close to him that Jonathan’s release is the key to the redemption of all of Am Yisrael.
In 2006, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu z"l, who had a special relationship with Jonathan Pollard, compared his captivity to that of biblical Joseph. Below is a video in Hebrew, followed by an English transcript of his words.

This week, we read in the weekly Torah portion about the actions taken by Avraham Avinu to save a captive, to save Lot who had gone to Sodom. He went to Sodom and he was undeserving (of rescue); yet Avraham Avinu spared no effort to save him. 

There is a Jew - a very dear Jew - who did so much for the Nation of Israel all over the world and who did so much for the Land of Israel, to save us from some very harsh things --the worst that could happen!

This Jew is named Jonathan Pollard.

His wife, Esther, has worked endlessly to try to get him out from where he is held in prison. I myself have appealed to several Presidents of the United States: to Regan, to Bush, to Bush's father, to Cardinal Law and to a host of others. To whomever I could turn, I have appealed to them, asking that they act to take him out of there and bring him here to The Land.

And I told them - also told them here in The Land - if they what they are afraid of is that he will talk, then I will be his guarantor that he will not say a word. He won't say anything. On the contrary! He will praise everyone; he will praise the presidents.

In any case, what we want is this: He is our brother! He must come home to the Land of Israel - and at once!
Many have pointed to the Pollard case as a cause that unites Jews across "divisions" of denomination (Reform/Conservative/Orthodox), nationality (American/Israeli), political persuasion (Israeli left/Right). Only last week, Meretz Youth, a (far) left-wing Israeli political organization issued a statement on the eve of Shimon Peres' upcoming meeting with Obama.

In fact, as I write this sentence, Peres is meeting with Obama in Washington. Before his departure, Peres had what was reported as a very emotional meeting with Esther Pollard. Following their meeting, she made a special plea to all of Am Yisrael:
Please dedicate at least part of this time to prayer, hope and thinking about Yehonatan ben [son of] Malka
Prayers for Jonathan Pollard's release are available here. A prayer to insert at the end of the amidah is available here in Hebrew, and is reprinted below in English:
May it be Your will HaShem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, that with the might of the twenty-two letters of Your Holy Torah, which we received at Mount Sinai, that You open the Heavenly Gates for Yehonatan Ben Malka: the Gates of Healing and Cures; the Gates of Health; the Gates of Joy; the Gates of Redemption; the Gates of Freedom; the Gates of Splendor and Glory; the Gates of Merit; the Gates of Compassion; the Gates of Gladness; the Gates of Goodness; the Gates of Salvation; the Gates of Atonement; the Gates of Good Heartedness; the Gates of Forgiveness; the Gates of Pleasantness; the Gates of Reliance; The Gates of Assistance; the Gates of Liberty; the Gates of Righteousness; the Gates of Holiness; the Gates of Mercy; the Gates of Happiness; and the Gates of Return. May all of the righteous deeds he has done for the Nation of Israel be remembered before You and may they rise before Your Throne of Mercy to plead for good for him; and may he be granted the merit, along with his wife, Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, to build a Faithful Home in Israel; and may they be blessed with whole and healthy sons and daughters, and Your Name will be Sanctified publicly! May the verse "Take me out of confinement to praise Your Name" (Psalms 142) be fulfilled for him! Do so for the sake of Your Right Hand; do so for the sake of Your Righteousness; do so for the sake of Your Holiness; do so for the sake of Your Divine Presence; do so for Your own Name's Sake; do so for the sake of Your Torah. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your Presence, Eternal! my Rock and my Redeemer!
May Hashem hear your prayer and bring about the speedy release of Yonatan ben Malka, Gilad ben Aviva, Sholom Mordechai ben Rivka and all captives, and may their release herald the redemption of all of Am Yisrael.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Larry Klayman vs Facebook

Who's the man behind the $1 billion lawsuit holding Facebook accountable for allowing a Third Intifada Page to attract members for weeks on end?

The answer is Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, an organization which has also fought to halt the construction of a mega-mosque on the ruins of the 9/11 terrorist attack, which was committed by radical Islamists.

Klayman is Jewish, and in the official complaint is self-described as:
...a public interest human, civil and individual rights activist who is “active” in matters concerning the security of Israel and all people, including but not limited to Jews, Christians and Muslims who believe in freedom, and the rights of persons of all races and religions to not be discriminated against, to live in peace, worship as they wish as long as they do not harm others, and the rights of man not to be harmed in any way on the basis of national and religious origins.
According to Klayman:
While Facebook has accomplished a lot of good, it can, as in this instance, be used for nefarious and evil purposes...they must be held accountable, so as to prevent this from ever happening again...They must be not only enjoined but also hit in their purse, which is where they understand matters best.
And if you think $1 billion is high, consider the damage:
By the time the page urging incitement against Israel on May 15 was closed, it had attracted nearly 350,000 "likes" and made headline[s] around the world. Content posted on the page included videos and quotes calling on pro-Palestinians to kill Israelis and Jews.
Here is a copy of the official complaint from the Freedom Watch website.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Has Goldstone done teshuva? Dershowitz, Yishai say so

On Friday, Richard Goldstone published a retraction (see below) of the infamously anti-Israel Goldstone report, stating that "if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document." Goldstone highlights the fact that while Israel has investigated hundreds of cases of potential misconduct from the Gaza war, Hamas has done nothing. Also, Goldstone established once and for all which side is truly liable for crimes against humanity: Goldstone states that Israel's post-war investigations "indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy." On the other hand, when it comes to Hamas, Goldstone states that it "goes without saying" that Hamas launches rockets indiscriminately on civilian targets.

Goldstone's retraction was published after Interior Minister Eli Yishai wrote a letter to the South African judge last week, blaming the Goldstone report for providing conscienceless killers the legitimacy to murder innocent children, and demanding Goldstone condemn the incessant rocket fire from Gaza. In his Friday retraction, Goldstone calls on the UN to condemn Hamas rocket fire on Israel and the Fogel family murder in the strongest terms (in case any "vanguards of human rights" were still on the fence about that one).

And so, how shall we accept Goldstone's double-take? Some are saying he indeed has done teshuva. Eli Yishai personally wrote Goldstone back, surprised by the latter's willingness to admit error (my translation): "Your words today surprised me as well, and indicate your ability to come out with courage and admit your error, and for this you deserve appreciation. The Jewish tradition places a special value on those who acknowledge their mistakes." Meanwhile, Alan Dershowitz called the retraction a "good start", and added that "Jews must always accept those who repent back into the fold and this is the case here."

The Goldstone report has been the #1 weapon used against Israel since the end of Cast Lead, and any retraction from it and towards the truth is honorable. Still, I'm waiting for the day that Goldstone, overwhelmed by the moral clarity of the complex situation he continues to piece together, will write letters to all MKs begging Israel to do a favor for all of humanity, and finish the job.

In the meantime, Goldstone's retraction is big and should be widely circulated. The reason teshuva is such a powerful concept is that to err and then to correct oneself brings even more glory to the side on which truth and justice lie. Hopefully Goldstone's reassessment will ripple throughout the international community and inspire others to clean their glasses and hone in on humanity's true foe.

Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes
By Richard Goldstone, The Washington Post, Friday, April 1
We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza” while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”

Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

...Indeed, our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing. Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise. So, too, the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.

Friday, April 1, 2011

World's largest cargo plane to fly world's largest concrete pump to Japan

It's official: Japan has finally admitted defeat in the battle to contain radiation at four Fukushima reactors. Officials have indicated they are abandoning all efforts to keep the nuclear fuel rods cool.

So, what's next? Entombing Fukushima in tons of concrete. The Augusta Chronicle reports:
The world’s largest concrete pump, deployed at the construction site of the U.S. government’s $4.86 billion mixed oxide fuel plant at Savannah River Site, is being moved to Japan in a series of emergency measures to help stabilize the Fukushima reactors.
“The bottom line is, the Japanese need this particular unit worse than we do, so we’re giving it up,” said Jerry Ashmore, whose company, Augusta-based Ashmore Concrete Contractors, Inc., is the concrete supplier for the MOX facility.

The 190,000-pound pump, made by Germany-based Putzmeister has a 70-meter boom and can be controlled remotely, making it suitable for use in the unpredictable and highly radioactive environment of the doomed nuclear reactors in Japan, he said.

“There are only three of these pumps in the world, of which two are suited for this work, so we have to get it there as soon as we can,” Ashmore said in an interview with The Chronicle today. “Time is very much a factor.”
The pump was moved Wednesday from the construction site in Aiken County to a facility in Hanahan, S.C., for minor modifications, and will be trucked to Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport, where it will be picked up by the world’s largest cargo plane, the Russian-made Antonov 225, which will fly it to Tokyo.
Bloomberg explains the logic of dumping concrete on a dysfunctional radioactive plant:
Dismantling the plant and decontaminating the site may take 30 years and cost Tokyo Electric more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said. The government hasn’t ruled out pouring concrete over the whole facility as one way to shut it down, Edano said. Tokyo is 135 miles (220 kilometers) south of the Dai-Ichi power plant.
Dumping concrete on the plant would serve a second purpose: it would trap contaminated water, said Tony Roulstone, an atomic engineer who directs the University of Cambridge’s masters program in nuclear energy. “They need to immobilize this water and they need something to soak it up,” he said. “You don’t want to create another hazard, but you need to get it away from the reactors.”
The process will take longer than the 12 years needed to decommission the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania following a partial meltdown in 1979, said Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear engineering professor at Kyoto University.
Meanwhile, Energy News is reporting that Radioactive Iodine-131 in rainwater sample near San Francisco was 18,100% above federal drinking water standard. 

However, not everyone is trying to steer clear of Fukushima. Today, a man was arrested after breaking through the gate of the plant and driving his car around the highly radioactive site for nearly ten minutes. The incident raises a grave question: Who is now guarding the nuclear cores?

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