Friday, February 1, 2008

Shabbat-O-mGram February 1, 2008 – Shevat 25, 5768


February 1, 2008 – Shevat 25, 5768


Rabbi Joshua HammermanTemple Beth El, StamfordConnecticut



Thank you and Mazal Tov to Terry and Asa Hazen,

who are sponsoring this week’s Shabbat-O-Gram in honor of Leah’s Bat Mitzvah


Special Occasion?  Sponsor a Shabbat Bulletin, (sent every Friday morning via e-mail),

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All sponsors will be acknowledged at the beginning of each of these announcements

and also listed in our Bi-monthly Bulletin.  Call Mindy in the office at 322-6901



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Contents of the Shabbat O Gram:

(Click to scroll down)

Just the Facts

The (Occasionally) Ranting Rabbi   

 Mitzvah/Tzedakkah Opportunities

Ask the Rabbi

 Spiritual Journey on the Web

    The Beth El Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary  

Required Reading and Action Items (links to key articles on Israel and Jewish life

Joke for the Week


Quote for the Week


You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.

-Eleanor Roosevelt






Candle lighting: 4:44 pm on Friday, February 1, 2008.  For Havdalah times, other Jewish calendar information, and to download a Jewish calendar to your PDA, click on  To see the festivals of other faiths as well, go to  The United Synagogue has updated its candlelighting information. To learn more, click here.



Shabbat Services: 6:30 Friday night in the sanctuary

Tot Shabbat  Friday at 6:45 pm. in the chapel

Shabbat morning @ 9:30, Children’s services at 10:30


Mazal Tov to Leah Hazen, daughter of Terry and Asa Hazen, who becomes Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat morning


Morning Minyan:  7:30 Weekdays, 9:30 Sundays




Reminder of our “No School No Shul” policy: On days when Stamford public schools are cancelled or delayed, morning minyan is officially cancelled.  During school vacation weeks, please use your own judgment.  If significant snow has fallen during the night, it is unlikely that our lot will have been plowed out by morning.  On Sunday, when our religious school is cancelled because of weather, minyan is also cancelled.   Friday night and Shabbat morning services are never cancelled, but people are asked to use their own good judgment on days when the weather is very bad.


Torah Reading For Shabbat Morning

Torah Portion: Mishpatim

(assorted laws comprising the “Book of the Covenant”)

Exodus 21:1 - 24:18

1: 21:1-6
2: 21:7-11
3: 21:12-19
4: 21:20-27
5: 21:28-32
6: 21:33-36
7: 21:37-22:3



Haftarah Jeremiah 34:8 - 34:22; 33:25 - 33:26





The (occasionally) Ranting Rabbi




Pats vs.G-Men



I’ve always given my Super Bowl prediction, based on Jewish sources, and I’ve almost always been right, last year’s pick of the Bears notwithstanding.  Because this year’s game hits so close to home, I thought it would be a good idea to open up this process to our fearless and wise Judaic experts and pigskin prognosticators.

Here are assorted comments, followed by my own.


Superbowl LXII Biblical and

Jewish Perspective Analysis

by the Robinov Family


The whole Robinov family gladly accepted the Rabbi’s invitation to predict the outcome of Superbowl LXII based upon Jewish sources.  Although our hearts are with the Giants, we predict that the Patriots will win in a close game.  Here’s why:


In the Giants’ favor:


1.      Eli Manning is #10, an auspicious number in the Bible.  Most importantly, it represents the 10 Commandments – Aseret H’divrot, in Hebrew.  If you remove the taf and the vav taf from the Hebrew, you get Eser H’dvar – “10’s the thing.”  In other words, Eli’s the Man.  And, of course, God created Man(ning) in his own image. 


Using Gematria, the taf vav taf that we removed from Aseret H’divrot equals 806.  Drop the zero and you have ’86, another very good year for the Giants!


2.      Eli can be a nickname for Elijah.  Elijah’s appearance is said to usher in the messianic age.  Another brilliant performance by our Eli might just do that.  It is also said that Elijah comforts the poor and the suffering and appears miraculously when the need is the greatest.  Certainly the Giants fans have suffered far more this season and over the past several years than the Patriots fans.  The Giants’ need is great.


3.      The Giants have a plethora of Jewish Biblical names among their playing and coaching staffs:  David (Diehl), Reuben (Droughns), Adam (Koets), Sam (Madison), Eli (Manning), Aaron (Ross), David (Tollefson), David (Tyree), Mathias (Kiwanuka), Danny (Ware), David (DeGuglielmo), and David (Merritt).  However, we do have two Popes, Geoffrey and Mike.  We think this latter fact is offset by the partial team ownership by the Tisch family. 


By contrast, although full ownership of the Patriots lies with the Jewish Kraft family, they have far fewer Jewish Biblical names among their ranks:  Dan (Koppen), Sammy (Morris), (Asante) Samuel, David (Thomas), Benjamin (Watson), Joel (Collier), and Josh (McDaniels).


4.      We have a Tom, too, Tom Coughlin.  Like Tom Brady, Tom Coughlin makes his job look “simple.”  This one’s (at best) a wash.



In the Patriots’ favor:


1.      Tom Brady is number 12, also an important number in the Bible.  The Hebrews sent 12 Patriotic spies (oh, did we say “SPIES”? Is that a coincidence, too?) to check out the land of Israel.  Two of those spies came back with good news and weren’t scared at all of the Giants in the land.


2.      The most famous Giant in the Bible, Goliath, was slain by David, a Patriot fighting for his people.  As you know, David launched a rock right on target, just like Brady’s passes.


3.      The Israelites were always surrounded by Giants – Anakim, Philistines, etc.  Eventually, they were all conquered or driven out.


4.      Eli the priest had a big problem.  His sons did some terrible things in the temple.  Because of their behavior, God put a curse on Eli’s family forever.  (Is this why Peyton also lost this year and until last year had such a difficult time winning the big game?)


5.      The most famous Jewish Patriot in this country was George Washington’s financial advisor, Haym Solomon.  During the cold winter months at Valley Forge when American soldiers were freezing and running out of food, it was Haym who marshaled all the Jews in America and Europe to provide money in relief aid to these stranded American troops and turned the course of history. Without this help, Washington’s Continental Army, and the fate of the American Colonies would have perished before they could have defeated the British.  (In fact, the US one dollar bill has both a Star of David and a Menorah on the back placed there at Washington’s insistence to honor Jews.)


By contrast, the story of the most famous contemporary Jewish Giant, Eddie Carmel, is sad and tragic.  Carmel, born in NY in the late 1940’s, had a terrible disease that caused uncontrolled growth.  As an adult, he stood 8’9” tall.  He lived a very difficult life and died young.



Taking all of the above into consideration, we reluctantly foresee the Patriots winning in a close game over the Giants.


From Rhonna Rogol


The Giants will win because they have Eli (“God is on my side”) –just as the biblical Eli had God on his side against that other formidable foe that began with a P (the Plishtim).  Obviously I’m totally ignoring that horrible fall and neck injury at Eben Ezer – and Eli’s resulting death – and you’re probably thinking that’s because I am a Giants fan.  Not so. Clearly, those unfortunate events that befell Eli were due to the bad behaviour of those embarrassing kids of his, Hofni and Pinchas, and their indiscretions at Shiloh. Not only is “our” Eli not old enough to have problematic kids, he is the most devoted of sons to his mom. See article “Eli Manning Took Cues from Mom” at .  Shouldn’t he be rewarded for that?


By the way, despite his injury, did I hear that Jeremiah (Shockey) has been prophesying from the sideline about the downfall of the enemy?


Ok...being a relatively new football fan, that’s about all I know about the Giants, so I’ll end now.



I am afraid that according to the Bible, the Patriots will not have their season end in perfection:

Ps 119:96 - "I have seen a limit to all perfection"


From Carl Shapiro, TBE’s distraught Cowboy’s fan (who brought us “The First Basket” last week)


If the score is 61-3, in which 613 is the total number of Mitzvot AND the total number of victories Red Holtzman led the Knicks
to, the team that wins by this score will not only have won everything, but will also be sending a clear message to Jerry Jones to HURRY UP WITH THE NEW STADIUM!!!!


And finally, from Matthew Katz…











Now, for the Rabbi’s Response…


That all sounds very reasonable.  But for me, the most apropos biblical reference has got to be the incident of the spies, as indicated by the Robinovs.  In the story in Numbers, the spies did not get fined $500,000 and have to forfeit a draft pick, but their fear of the giants that they encountered caused them to wander for 40 years in the Wilderness.  Coincidentally, when the spies saw the Giants, they reported back that they felt “like grasshoppers.”  Anyone who has ever been to Boston knows that high above that home of the original Patriots, Faneuil Hall, there sits a weathervane in the shape of, you guessed it, a grasshopper! 

Also, it is noteworthy that the Patriots wandered for just over 40 years before winning the first championship, in 2002.  So they’ve already served their time for the sin of the spies.  They’ve weathered their grasshopper-ness.  Prior to then, they were never able to stand up to the Giants…or the Raiders or Steelers or Dolphins, for that matter.  But no more.  First they sacrificed the Rams, pillaged the Panthers and flew on wings of Eagles.  Now, just as the former Giant now coaches them, so have they become giants - in their own eyes, and the eyes of the other teams in the league.


Giants are called both Nefilim and Anakim in the Torah.  The Nefilim were mythic humanoids that filled the earth before the flood, much like the Titans of Greek mythology (a Giant-Titan Super Bowl would have been a doozy), while the Anakim were the ones who petrified the Israelite spies.  There is one other giant of note in the Bible’ as has been mentioned: Goliath.  But it isn't just Goliath who bit the dust, folks.  When Rashi tried to explain the term Nifilim, he related it to the Hebrew word "nafal," "to fall."  As Rashi (he was so good at predicting games that they called him “Rashi the Greek”) understood it, the Giants fell.


And so they will. 





Directions at

For those who can’t make it, stay tuned for info on a live webcast!




Check out the latest from

Visit the Sh'ma Home Page!
The Jewish Communal Landscape

Each month the journal Sh'ma posts three or four essays from the print publication online. This month our essays focus on the Jewish communal landscape and how it's changing. As Deborah Dash Moore writes:

"Increasingly American Jews are ignoring struggles over who controls the center of Jewish life. Relegated to the periphery of Jewish life because of their spouses, their associates, their minimal religious practices, their sexual orientation, their marital status, their lack of wealth, or their politics, they have discovered that things are pretty exciting out there."

In addition to essays, Sh’ma has posted a very rich Roundtable discussion on Israel and its place in the lives of young Jews.


Nurit and Melanie’s Holiday Songs


          Now available in our gift shop, a new CD compilation of children’s holiday songs from our own Nurit Avigdor, assisted by Melanie Roloff, daughter of TBE teacher Galit Roloff.  Nurit has entertained and taught children here for generations, and her music continues to enchant children here every week on Shabbat morning and three times a month at Tot Shabbat on Friday.  This CD contains some of our all-time Nurit favorites.  Check it out at our gift shop!




Mitzvah/Tzedakkah Opportunties


Beth El Cares:

Inreach and Outreach





Dear Friends,


    If you stand at the 1948 Memorial to the fighters of Kibbutz NirAm, you can see Gaza City about 5 miles in the distance,  while the actual Gaza border is only 10 ft away.  The army patrols the border road constantly but it makes no difference to Hamas. They are firing Kassams at Sderot and those that miss, usually hit Nir Am.  This kibbutz of 80 families and 150 kids has been "receiving" Kassams for 8 years now. Nir Am has no indoor shelters in their houses and the community shelters are too far away to run to in 15 seconds, which is all the time they have after the warning "red siren".  So as our host explained, the kids run into a corner and the adults shelter them with their bodies.


   And in 8 years, no one has been killed. This secular kibbutz considers that a miracle.


   On the other hand, in Sderota city of about 25,000, there have been 10 deaths in the last 8 years, some of them from heart attacks as well as shrapnel.  Again, this is something of a miracle. Here's the statistics: In 2007 there were 1500 rockets which hit the city; since 2001 there have been 6,000!  From January 18 -26 alone there were 178 Kassams and they only stopped the end of January because of bad weather and the breaking of the Egyptian barriers which kept Hamas busy.


   Only ten deaths, but there's no way to measure the psychological trauma suffered by the children. They shake in fear when they hear the sirens.  They can't play outside; they can't study peacefully at home.  Hamas usually shoots Kassams between 7:30 and 8:30 when the kids are heading to school, again at 1:00 when they are coming home for lunch or for the day, and again in the evening when everyone is trying to get some sleep.Some days there are Kassams coming at the rate of 25 a day!


It is amazing that only 3,000 people have left the city, but the others don't necessarily stay out of patriotism. Most can't leave for economic reasons, and others have no place else to go. Besides the kids, it is also very hard on the elderly, many of whom live in the original housing built 60 years ago.  The Olmert govt isn't reinforcing the roofs of these old houses because they claim it sets a bad precedent!  They would have to do it for all the border communities.


   We felt the terrible frustration and anger of both Sderot and Nir Am residents, who have protested, gone to court, brought in observers from all over- - but until now, nothing has been done for them. And of course the big media story is always Gaza and the suffering GazansCan't seem to get international media to pay any real attention to Sderot.


   Forty of us from Netanya chartered a bus and went down to the border to both show solidarity and to go shopping.  No one has calculated the economic losses of this situation, but they are considerable. A large mattress factory in Sderot just moved out.  Nir Am used to house students from nearby Sapir College but they've all left.  We bought alot of pots, pans and cutlery from their main factory but we also saw the stunted wheat in their fields from the drought we've been having.  Ironically, the day we went down there were severe storms which flooded the fields.


   So why doesn't the army or the government do something, you ask?  I think you know the answer. It is a replay of Islamic terrorist tactics everywhere.  The Kassams are fired from neighborhoods and schools. The IDF know exactly where they are coming from, but- - - you know that ethical Israel won't fire on civilians and children.  And if they did, the world would come down on our heads.


  The sad thing about all of this is that people in both Sderot and Nir Am used to trade and meet with Gazans all the time, forming good friendships.  Until they were asked to stop coming, not just because of risk to the Israelis, but risk to the GAZANS.  If they were seen with the enemy their lives would be in danger. People on both sides still manage to speak to each other on cell phones but that's it. Our Nir Am contact told us that he was getting to the point where he wished the IDF would immediately retaliate, as they always did in the past.


"I prefer it would be their kids in danger instead of ours,"  he said. "


 The Arabs used to know that if they hit us, they would be hit back even harder.  Now they know differently."


    There is much more that the government could be doing, especially in the area of media coverage. But Israel has always been weak in this area.  Hamas is masterful in staging media events like the kids candlelight vigils when Hamas deliberately cut off electricity to respond to Israel cutting some but not all of their power.

The Israeli response lasted about 2 days until the world condemned us once again.


  We've had terrible storms this week so we didn't encounter any Kassam firings.  The wind was too strong. But I'm sure that once Gazans return from Egypt and the border is sealed again, Hamas will have plenty of opportunity to start firing again.  It is just a matter of time.


   Jan Gaines, January 31, 2008




Mitzvah Suggestions for the Week


The Survivor Mitzvah Project

The Survivor Mitzvah Project is 100% dedicated to providing direct financial aid through donations to those elderly and forgotten Jewish Holocaust survivors scattered throughout Eastern Europe who are sick, impoverished, and isolated. Their families and communities destroyed by the Nazis, they struggle to survive in their few remaining years, lacking the means to buy even the most basic of human necessities: food, medicine, heat and shelter. Most live alone in horrific conditions. Our project, by bringing help quickly and directly to these Holocaust survivors, helps ensure that they may live out their last years with some measure of comfort, support, and dignity.

The Survivor Mitzvah Project considers all Jewish Men, Women and Children who experienced the Holocaust, "Survivors," whether they were in ghettos, concentration camps, partisan groups, the Russian Army, the Gulag, slave labor camps, or whether they were hidden or fled to Russia to escape the killing squads. In every case, the German War machine decimated lives and entire families, and these survivors were left with nothing. Because the definition of "Survivor" used by the German government to determine reparation is narrow, many elderly people receive no compensation at all, even though they suffered tremendously under the Nazis and in post war Soviet times. The Survivor Mitzvah Project seeks to help these people who receive no reparations from the German government. The Survivor Mitzvah Project complements, rather than duplicates, the fine work being done by major organizations such as the JDC and other charitable and humanitarian groups.


Chevra Kadisha of Stamford


We at TBE benefit greatly from this community-wide service.  Our members have always been among the volunteers, but the Chevra is always looking for more people from our congregation to become involved.  The Chevra (Burial Society) performs the sacred act of tahara, washing and preparing the deceased for burial.  It is done in a loving, traditional manner that is profoundly meaningful to all who participate.  Since I ran this in last week’s Shabbat-O-Gram, at least four people have decided to become involved.  Let me know if you might be interested in helping out. Meanwhile, here is the announcement regarding their annual dinner, always timed for the date traditionally known as Moses’ Yahrzeit, a date when burial societies have customarily been honored throughout the Jewish world.




Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. at Congregation Agudath Sholom

Honorees: Bernard L. Shapiro, President of the Chevra Kadisha, and his son, Benjamin Shapiro
Community Service Award: Michelle Balazano of Leo P. Gallagher and Sons Funeral Home


Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb is the Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union.


Donation - $36 person

Sponsorship available at $180 (entitles one to two reservations at the dinner)


Please join us as the community honors the many volunteers who selflessly perform the mitzvah of preparing the dead for burial according to Jewish tradition.


For further information, please call Phyllis Shapiro at 327-6711.



Bar/Bat Mitzvah Projects:


Keep watching for projects to appear in this space….







Why do we cover the Hallah?


               Last Sunday I had a delightful time with one of our religious school’s younger grades, discussing some of the customs of Shabbat.   One of the more amusing moments occurred when, while we were discussing the Friday night dinner, I mentioned that the Hallah reminds us of the mannah that was eaten by the Israelites in the wilderness, a food that, according to tradition, tasted like each individual’s favorite food.  So if someone liked ice cream best, it tasted like ice cream.  I also mentioned that the Friday night dinner, in general, should be the most special of the week, and that there is no rule that any specific food has to be served.  So if you like pizza better than chicken, by all means, then, it is OK to have the Shabbat dinner include pizza (though, of course, not pizza AND chicken).   So I went around the room and asked the kids what favorite food they would want served for Shabbat dinner.  One child gleefully jumped up and replied “lobster.” 


               A “Kosher Pig” moment, if there ever was one.


               Then one child asked why we cover the Hallah – a timely question, since they were about to make Hallah covers as part of this family program.  This answer is adapted from “A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home” by Noam Zion and Shawn Fields Mayer.


               On the one hand, bread is the staff of life, the primary ingredient of the daily meal and the one generally honored by the first blessing.  On the other, the opening invocation of the Shabbat meal is the Kiddush, the sanctification of Shabbat, which has been attached to the drinking of a cup of wine.  So which takes priority: basic nutrition or a spiritual toast?  By covering the Hallah during the Kiddush, we can “pretend” that it is not on the table .  Then, after having the wine, we can wash hands and break bread with all who are hungry. That is the legal and historical explanation, but some prefer folksy one, that the hallah would be “embarrassed” to see the wine receive the blessing first.


               It comes down to two priorities, sharing of food and celebrating life.  On Shabbat we do both.  Shabbat is both to be celebrated and to be shared.  We show concern for everyone along with our own spiritual fulfillment.  The Hallah and wine each play a key role in concretizing the moral and spiritual message of this sacred day.






Spiritual Journey on the Web



On Kosher Ferrets, “Rabbi-d” Dogs and Rudy Giuliani



In the “strange but true” department, I received this question from TBE’s own Nolan Zeide, who in the midst of his graduate studies, was confronted with an unusual situation.


Shalom Rabbi Hammerman!


I hope all is well in Stamford! It is bitterly cold out here in Indiana-better for studying i guess.


I am taking a class on "pocket pets" hamsters, rabbits, ferrets etc. My professor found some information about ferrets not being kosher, and I did not understand why that would be. He asked me why that was (there aren’t too many Jews in my class-so I guess I am the authority) and I had no idea.


I was under the impression kashruth only applied to our diet-not the pets we keep. Can you please clear up the confusion and relate to me any information you might have about un-kosher pets, particularly ferrets.


thank you so much,




My response: 


Hi Nolan


This is interesting...


You are right, in that there are no restrictions regarding the pets we keep, just the ones we eat.  I looked it up and think the confusion may stem from this incident in NYC a few years ago:


Now that Rudy Giuliani's weighing a presidential bid, I thought it would be fun to look back at one of his lesser-known achievements as Mayor of NYC. For reasons that remain unclear, he lead the charge to ban pet ferrets in May, 2001:

The ferret legalization bill caused an unusually emotional, party-fracturing and, at times, humorous debate yesterday in the Council chambers, which was marked by alternating hissing and applause from Ms. Rainey and about 25 other ferret owners who assembled in the balcony for the show.

Councilman Noach Dear, an Orthodox Jew and Democrat from Brooklyn, said he could not vote in favor of the legalization of ferrets as pets for a simple reason: he was reminded by his rabbi that they are not kosher.


Well, so much for Rudy’s achievements – and his candidacy, for that matter!  Now I should mention that while there are no “kosher” restrictions on what pets we can own, the Talmud does discourage owning pets that scare other people (see  The rabbis were especially wary of dogs – I guess they had never seen MY dogs.  But, as another site quips, “While many observant Jews are scared of dogs, many unobservant Jews are terrified of rabbis.”  Perhaps, as this this questioner adds, the dog simply hasn’t had its “rabbis” shots!  Perhaps, as we read here in this d’var Torah on this week’s portion of Mishpatim, we should all just “thank Dog.” 


The Torah later, in parshas Mishpatim (Shemos 22: 30), commands the people not to eat flesh that was torn from a “treifa” animal. Rather, the flesh must be thrown to the dog. The Rabbis explain that the flesh is thrown to the dogs as a reward for remaining silent on the night of the plague of the first-born. An understanding of the significance of these dogs will enable us to appreciate the importance of gratitude to them.


And finally, some helpful advice from the new book, “How to Raise a Jewish Dog.”

Questions to Ask a Breeder: 1. What kind of job is this, growing dogs? 2. Are these dogs nice? I mean of course they are. But if not, is this refundable? 3. Is this a stable business? Do you make a decent living? 4. Does the insurance kill you or is it okay? 5. Dogs are animals ? does this mean you qualify for some kind of Federal ranch subsidies? 6. What do I say to people who want to know how I can spend $1500 and up on a dog when there are so many dogs to be rescued from the pound? The (make-believe) Rabbis of the (fictional) Boca Raton Theological Seminary have developed the essential dog training program for raising a Jewish dog. For the first time, the same dynamic blend of passive-aggressiveness and smothering indulgence, that unique alloy of infantilization and disingenuous manipulation that created generations of high-achieving Jewish boys and girls, can be applied to create a generation of high-achieving Jewish doggies. Written (for real) by Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman, co-authors of the bestselling Yiddish with Dick and Jane and Yiddish with George and Laura, this essential "guide" is sure to be a complete howl.


Turns out the professor had read this same article about Rudy simply misunderstood it.  Here is what the article says (the italics are mine): 


I’ll give Nolan the last word here, since he has often taken care of my two dogs, working for his father Steve, and because he went on Birthright Israel, and because now he is the only Jew in a class where the teacher is quoting rabbis, and because, many years ago, when he was a teenager and his teacher WAS a rabbi, he didn’t give me too hard a time J and because, well, just because I like him.


Now as for what the Talmud said-people should not have a pet that scares others. Well, in the wild, ferrets are carnivores, they eat mice, moles, etc. So they could be considered "scary" but at the same time, so are dogs and cats carnivores, not scary). Interesting though......




Some Marvelous Israeli Sites and Sounds - a virtual tour of the ancient City of David – a MUST See! DestiNATION Zion trailer - Israel in a Minute - Many Faces, One Country - Israel's Proclamation of Independence, by Shai Davis - A trip to the Supermarket, by Andrew Stein




The Beth El Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary




Stay tuned….



Required Reading and Action Items


Mazal tov to Carol Brewer, whose interior design expertise is featured in this month’s Architectural Digest



The Jerusalem Post's Special Section on the Candidates


 Tuesday Vote Promises Fresh Data On Jews’ Views (NY Jewish Week)


And now the 'Jewish primary' begins . . . (LA Jewish Journal)


Super Tuesday: Snapshots from Around the Country (the Forward)





Reut at the 2008 Herzliya Conference

In the panel entitled "The Balance of Israel's National Security," Reut presented its main conclusions regarding the question of why Israel is growing but not experiencing a socio-economic "leapfrog." Read more...

See the following Reut Products, presented at the 8th Herzliya Conference:




eBay buys Israeli startup for $169m:  eBay subsidiary PayPal has purchased a tiny Tel Aviv start-up in an effort to fight Internet fraud. The unexpected $169 million buy-out will help the two US companies raise their online security profile. more

Israeli energy initiative makes climate change a social cause

Israel's unique deaf-blind theater group Nalaga'at is not just challenging audience perceptions with its compelling and high-end productions, but also providing the partially-disabled cast with a chance to give something back to society. more

now for the rest

Prime source: Daily Alert of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs


Exposing Racism in Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Schools
Itzik, an ultra-orthodox resident of Jerusalem’s Bukharian Quarter, was annoyed by the presence of so many demonstrators near his home. “What are they protesting about now,” he wanted to know, looking exasperated.

His manner changed dramatically when he learned that the more than 50 protestors were demanding an end to discrimination against Mizrachi students in Ashkenazi ultra-orthodox schools. “Well done. It’s about time somebody did something against that,” said Itzik whose grandparents came to Israel from Morocco. ” Everybody knows that the Ashkenazim don’t let Mizrachi children into their schools, or if they do they keep them in separate classes. My children haven’t reached school age yet but I dread what will happen to them in years to come.”. Read More


Commission of Inquiry on Second Lebanon War Submits Final Report - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
    A year and a half after the Second Lebanon War, retired Justice Eliyahu Winograd, the chairman of the commission of inquiry into failures of the 2006 war, delivered the 500-page final report to Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Barak.
    The other four members of the commission were law professor Ruth Gavison, political science professor Yehezkel Dror, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Menachem Einan and Maj.-Gen. (res.) Chaim Nadel.
    See also Winograd's Dire Warning - David Horovitz (Jerusalem Post)
    The thrust of the report was focused more on Israel's survival, noting that Israel "cannot survive in this region" without "the political and military leadership, military capabilities, and social robustness" to deter and, if necessary, overcome its enemies.
    See also English Summary of the Winograd Commission Report (New York Times)


Polls: Olmert's popularity rising (JPost)

42% support PM; 27% say he should resign immediately; Netanyahu leading among opponents.


Israel to Send Animal Vaccine to Gaza after Border Breach (AP/Ha'aretz)
    Israel will deliver thousands of doses of vaccine for cattle and avian-borne diseases to Gaza.
    Gazans have brought in large numbers of camels, sheep, cows and chickens. Israeli authorities fear that with the new influx of livestock will come a wave of diseases not indigenous to Gaza, among them foot-and-mouth disease and avian flu that are known to exist in Egypt.
    Because of the proximity between Gaza and Israel, the diseases could easily spread into Israel.


Israel High Court Okays Reducing Fuel and Power Supply to Gaza - Yuval Yoaz
Israel's High Court of Justice on Wednesday gave the state a green light to reduce the supply of power and fuel to Gaza, ruling that the reductions are legal as they still meet the humanitarian needs of the population. Israel has sought to impose economic sanctions on Gaza in response to continued Kassam rocket attacks by Palestinians on southern Israel. The court denied petitions presented by several human rights organizations seeking to stop the government's plans to scale back the supply of fuel and electricity.
    Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch wrote: "We emphasize that the Gaza Strip is controlled by a murderous terror group that operates incessantly to strike the State of Israel and its citizens, and violates every precept of international law with its violent actions."
    The three-ju dge panel ruled: "In the case of the attacks against Israel, the damage [to the civilian population] is not accidental, but rather a result of deliberate and frequent assaults on civilian populations which are aimed at harming innocent civilians. This is the difference between Israel - a democracy fighting for its life within the confines of the law - and the terrorist organizations trying to destroy it." (Ha'aretz)


IDF Foils Suicide Attack on Gaza Border - Hanan Greenberg
An IDF force shot and killed an armed terrorist near the border fence north of Kerem Shalom in Gaza early Thursday morning. A bullet-proof vest and a Kalashnikov rifle were found on the man's body. "This is another attempt by the terrorist organizations to carry out an attack against IDF forces patrolling the fence," said an army official. According to a Palestinian source, the incident was an attempt by an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades cell to infiltrate Israel. Four gunmen tried to reach an IDF outpost, and after a gunfight erupted, three of the Palestinians managed to withdraw, while the fourth was killed. The sources said that the cell planned to carry out a suicide bombing at the army post. (Ynet News)

Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S.UK, and Israel):


Lebanon Held Hostage - Editorial
Lebanon is in a state of full political paralysis, a stalemate engineered and enforced by its overlord, Syria. It has been without a president since Nov. 24. U.S., UN, French and now Arab League diplomats have failed to broker a solution. Syria wants to stop the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri from indicting and prosecuting senior Syrian officials. And it appears willing to fight to the last Lebanese to do so. To ensure that the UN tribunal cannot operate, Syria has to control at least one-third of the Lebanese Cabinet, which must authorize the tribunal.
    It's intolerable for international justice - and Lebanon's future - to be held hostage to Syrian political expediency. And the best remedy is swifter justice. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must rally the Security Council to authorize the tribunal to begin operating and issue indictments as soon as possible. Syrian retaliation is to be expected - including possible attempts to sabotage the nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace process. That is the price of Lebanese freedom. (Los Angeles Times)


Has the Shiite Crescent Disappeared? Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Alliance Against Iran - Joshua Teitelbaum
Viewed from Riyadh, Washington is no longer the strong, confident leader it had been - weakened in Iraq, and burdened by a National Intelligence Estimate that appeared to contradict much of the current administration's rhetoric. Bush arrived in Riyadh on Jan. 15 with the deck stacked squarely against him. Sa'ud Al Faysal had stated a week earlier that his country would hear Bush out, but that "Saudi Arabia is a neighbor of Iran in the Gulf, which is a small lake." In private, the Saudis are deeply fearful of Iran. But they want a U.S. policy of containment, not confrontation. More than anything, they want to be on the winning side. (Dayan Center-Tel Aviv University)


Justice at the UN Human Rights Council? - Bridget Johnson
The UN Human Rights Council voted 30-1 to condemn Israel for "grave violations of the human and humanitarian rights of Palestinian civilians." There was zero mention of Hamas' continued rocket attacks on Israel or Hamas' refusal to renounce violence against and attempted destruction of the Jewish state. Only Canada had the chutzpah to cast that lone "no" vote. The U.S., long having realized the HRC is a farce, is not a member.
    Remember that Israel ceded Gaza and forcibly removed its settlers in 2005 to further the peace process. But since Hamas is hell-bent on the destruction of Israel, that gesture just stoked more jihadist fervor. Efforts were still focused on bringing down Israel instead of developing Gaza. Yet when Israel was forced to enact a blockade after umpteen warnings to Hamas to stop rocket a ttacks, the HRC jumped on Israel as the baddies. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)


A Barrage Against Israel - Robin Shepherd (Times-UK)

    • Apologists for extremism had long argued that occupation rather than ideology was the "root cause" of terrorism. Terrorism would therefore cease once occupation ended. That argument has now been conclusively defeated. Since Israel withdrew, Palestinian militants have fired more than 4,000 rockets from Gaza at Israeli civilian targets.
    • There is not a state in the world that could ignore this kind of barrage. So what were the options? One was reoccupation. Another was to carpet-bomb the areas from which the rockets are being fired. Many states would have done both. Israel has done neither.
    • What has Israel actually done? First, it has built a barrier around Gaza to limit the ability of suicide bombers to kill civilians. Secondly, it makes incursions to target the terrorist infrastructure. Thirdly, it has restricted imports into Gaza to stop bomb-making equipment from getting to the terrorists in aid and food packages. Fourthly, it has applied economic sanctions against the Hamas regime. Israel, in other words, has chosen the strategy least likely to cause heavy loss of life while still exercising its right to self-defense.
    • The condition of the residents of Gaza is dire. But ultimate blame for this surely rests with Hamas, other militants, and the culture of violence in Palestinian society that sustains them. In the absence of all this there would, of course, be no security barrier, no military incursions, no trade restrictions, and no sanctions.
    • The frenzied, rhetorical onslaught against the Jewish state is at best intellectually lazy. At worst it forms part of a hateful agenda that shames those who indulge in it.

The writer is a senior fellow at Chatham House, home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.


Shoah: the silence
On Monday, Binyamin Netanyahu said in front of the Knesset, on the occasion of the International Day of the Shoah : ''We are still hearing calls for hte extermination of the Jewish people, yet the international community continues to be silent''.


A Modest Proposal for Middle East Peace - Victor Davis Hanson
Why not hold an international conference on all displaced populations, many from the post-war, late 1940s? Perhaps it would be best to start with the millions of Germans who were expelled from East Prussia in 1945, or Indians who were uprooted from ancestral homes in what is now Pakistan, or over half-a-million Jews that were ethnically cleansed from Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. Were these refugees ever adequately compensated for lost property and damages? Can they be given promises of the right to return to their ancestral homes under protection of their host countries? The ensuing solutions might shed light on Palestinian aspirations to return to land lost sixty years ago to Israel.
    Another international panel could take up the issue of returning territory lost by defeat in war. Ten perc ent of historic Germany is now part of Poland. The Russians still occupy many of the Kurile Islands, and Greek Cyprus lost sizable territory in 1974 after the invasion by Turkey. The Western Sahara is still annexed by Morocco, while over 15% of disputed Azerbaijan has been controlled by Armenia since 1994. Additionally, all of independent Tibet has been under Chinese occupation since 1951. Surely if some general framework concerning these occupations could first be worked out, the results might then be applied to the much smaller West Bank and Golan Heights. (National Review)


Give Gaza to Egypt - Daniel Pipes
Washington and other capitals should declare the experiment in Gazan self-rule a failure and press President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt to help, perhaps providing Gaza with additional land or even annexing it as a province. Culturally, this connection is a natural: Gazans speak a colloquial Arabic identical to the Egyptians of Sinai, have more family ties to Egypt than to the West Bank, and are economically more tied to Egypt (recall the many smugglers' tunnels). Calling Gazans "Palestinians" is less accurate than politically correct.
    It's hard to divine what benefit American taxpayers have received for the $65 billion they have lavished on Egypt since 1948; but Egypt's absorbing Gaza might justify their continuing to shell out $1.8 billion a year. (National Post-Canada)


Iranian Threats and the UN Sanctions Debate - Patrick Clawson
On Jan. 26, Hussein Shariatmadari - the publisher of Iran's most influential newspaper and a close confidant of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei - stated that attacks on "Zionists, Americans, and European countries that support Israel," as well as on compliant regional rulers, were both morally permissible and easily carried out.
    Despite the regime's provocations, a total ban on all Iranian exports is not the best approach. Instead, the Security Council should design "smart sanctions" based on careful consideration of the following criteria: Do the sanctions pressure Iran's political elite? Will the sanctions slow Iran's nuclear program? Is there an enforcement mechanism? Do the sanctions preserve people-to-people contact? The longer Iran's nuclear program is slowed, the more likely the regime's fundamental weaknesse s will be evident. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    See also The Iranian Policy in the Gulf Is Indeed Puzzling - Zaki Taleb
Could the editorial penned recently by editor-in-chief Hussain Shariatmadari of the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan saying Bahrain is "part and parcel" of Iran be looked upon as a trial balloon? Is it not absurd for a man like Shariatmadari, an advisor to Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, to write such an extremely sensitive editorial without a "go-ahead" from senior Iranian officials? (Arab Times-Kuwait)


Israeli Strategists Weigh Gaza Options - Leslie Susser (JTA)

  • The collapse of the border wall between Gaza and Egypt has opened up new strategic options for Israel while exposing it to grave new dangers.
  • Guy Bechor of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center argues that the border breach has created conditions for a total Israeli disengagement that would leave Egypt responsible for Gaza. "For the first time since 1967, Egypt has been sucked into Gaza, and worse, Gaza has been sucked into Egypt," he says. The fall of the wall, he says, has reopened the possibility of close working ties between Hamas and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which could threaten the Egyptian regime. He says, if left alone to deal with GazaEgypt will keep a much tighter rein on Hamas than Israel ever could.
  • Former Israeli national security adviser Giora Eiland also sees an excellent opportunity for Israel to rid itself of responsibility for Gaza. He proposes detaching Gaza from the customs union with Israel and the West Bank, and force Gaza to turn to Egypt for sustenance and trade. The huge Gazan shopping spree on Egyptian soil in the wake of the wall's collapse demonstrates that Egypt can provide a realistic economic alternative.
  • Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yom Tov Samia, a former head of Israel's Southern Command, says Israel must act quickly to reinforce its control along the border with Egypt "from the Mediterranean to Eilat." This includes reasserting Israeli control over the Philadelphi route dividing Gaza from Egypt. Otherwise, terrorists will be able to move out of Gaza into Sinai and threaten Israeli civilian populations across the weakly defended Israeli-Egyptian border - to say nothing of the free flow of heavy weapons from Egypt into Gaza.



ISRAEL: Myths and Facts

MYTH #287

"Israel forced the Palestinian refugees to stay in camps in the Gaza Strip."


During the years that Israel controlled the Gaza Strip, a consistent effort was made to get the Palestinians into permanent housing. The Palestinians opposed the idea because the frustrated and bitter inhabitants of the camps provided the various terrorist factions with their manpower. Moreover, the Arab states routinely pushed for the adoption of UN resolutions demanding that Israel desist from the removal of Palestinian refugees from camps in Gaza and the West Bank.74 They preferred to keep the Palestinians as symbols of Israeli “oppression.”

Now the camps are in the hands of the Palestinian Authority (PA), but little is being done to improve the lot of the Palestinians living in them. Journalist Netty Gross visited Gaza and asked an official why the camps there hadn’t been dismantled. She was told the Palestinian Authority had made a “political decision” not to do anything for the more than now nearly 6500,000 Palestinians living in the camps until the final-status talks with Israel took place.75

When Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005, the Israelis were prepared to leave the houses of settlers for use by Palestinian refugees, but the Palestinians said these mostly single family homes were not practical for their needs and asked that they be demolished so the PA could build high-rise apartment buildings to house refugees and other Palestinians. More than two years later, not a single brick has been laid for housing for the refugees.

The Palestinians received more than $6 billion in international aid following the Oslo agreements. One might have expected that at least one home could have built for refugees with that sum, but none were. In December 2007, international donors pledged $7.4 billion in new aid to the Palestinians.75a That should be more than enough to build homes for every refugee. Based on the last 60 years of neglect by their fellow Arabs, however, the refugees are far more likely to see their officials’ enriched than their lives improved.


74Arlene Kushner, “The UN’s Palestinian Refugee Problem,” Azure, (Autumn 2005).
75Jerusalem Report, (July 6, 1998).
75aRoni Sofer, “Donors pledge $7.4 billion for faltering Palestinian economy,”, (December 17, 2007).

This article can be found at



Joke for the Week

(One of my father’s old favorites)

A man walks into shul with a dog…

The Rabbi comes up to him and says,

"Pardon me, this is a House of Worship,

you can't bring your dog in here."

"What do you mean,"

says the man,

"this is a Jewish dog.


And the Rabbi looks carefully

and sees, that in the same way

that a St. Bernard carries a brandy barrel round its neck,

this dog has a tallis bag round its neck.

"Rover," says the man, "kipa!".

"Woof!" says the dog,

stands on his hind legs,

opens the tallis bag,

takes out a kipa and puts it on his head.

"Rover," says the man, "tallis!".

"Woof!" says the dog,

stands on his hind legs,

opens the tallis bag,

takes out a tallis and puts it round his neck.

"Rover," says the man, "daven!"

"Woof!" says the dog,

stands on his hind legs,

opens the tallis bag,

takes out a siddur and starts to daven.

"That's fantastic," says the Rabbi,

"Absolutely amazing, incredible!

You should take him to Hollywood,

get him on television,

get him in the movies,

he could make millions of dollars!!

"You speak to him," says the man,

"he wants to be a doctor."


Previous Shabbat-O-Grams can be accessed directly from the archives on our web site (

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