Monday, September 13, 2004

Strengthen the Good

Strengthen the Good has posted about another charitable organization: The Brent Woodall Foundation for Exceptional Children.

This charity was founded by an exceptional woman, Tracy Woodall, whose husband Brent was among those murdered at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

I’m thinking now of two other charitable organizations that came out of painful, challenging situations. One is Keren Malki, which works to provide home care and equipment for severely handicapped children. Keren Malki is named for Malka Chana Roth, a teenager who was murdered in the bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem on August 9, 2001. The other is Israemploy, which works to combat the current economic crisis here in Israel by helping people find jobs. Founder Chaim runs an active e-group that lists hundreds of jobs per week.

As the Jewish New Year approaches, may we know only good. As the traditional prayer says, “Let the old year and its curses end; let the new year, with its blessings, begin.”

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Excuse Me—Where Did You Say You Were From?

While looking up the statistics for my various sites this evening, I discovered that Shirat Sara’s website received a visitor recently ... from Saudi Arabia.

Shirat Sara is a women’s prayer group. A Jewish women’s prayer group. That’s already two strikes against us. Three if you count the prayer bit; though some Moslem countries have women imams, I don’t think the KSA is one of them. (Heck, even some of our fellow Jews think we’re radical. We’re not, actually, and we might even fit in a tiny drop in the KSA because some of us wear these long, tasselled veil-type garments when we pray.)

Seriously: Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow the free exercise of any religion but Islam within its borders. Betcha our site will soon find itself banned over there.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


There’s something really disturbing about us Westerners. We don’t seem to be comfortable with the concept of evil. Whenever we hear about an abused spouse or child, or about dozens of innocent civilians being blown up on buses, or about thousands of people killed in one day on hijacked airplanes and in the buildings at which those airplanes were deliberately aimed, we find excuses for the perpetrators. Abusers were themselves victims of abuse, we say, so they couldn’t help themselves. And terrorists—or “freedom fighters” as they are misnamed by those who make excuses for them—were made so desperate by the oppression they suffered that they had no other choice. Since the perpetrators couldn’t possibly be evil, then surely the victims must have done something to deserve their fate.


We always have a choice between good and evil. People who do the kinds of things mentioned above do so because, for whatever reason and for whatever length of time, they have chosen evil. And they are responsible for that choice.

By the standards of those who would justify terrorists and mass murderers, we Jews have the perfect excuse to have invented the explosive belt. We have been persecuted for centuries, enduring stunning hatred, massacres of entire communities over false accusations, laws forbidding us to own land and restricting where we could live, in what trades we could engage, how many of us could receive an education and even how many of us could marry. By the misguided standards of those who excuse terrorism and its perpetrators we have every reason to be angry, and to kill for our anger. Yet, as a people, we never have. Instead we have contributed far more to human civilization than our tiny share of the population. (Just take a look at the list of Jews who have won Nobel Prizes and think how much more we could have accomplished if we hadn’t had to cope with two thousand years’ worth of hatred, incitement, restrictions and murder.)

That’s because early in our history, we learned that no matter what happens to us, we must always take responsibility for our choices. Playing victim is never an option. God gave us an explicit choice between life and good, and death and evil, and told us clearly: Choose life.

But that’s just one example. Every human being makes the choice between good and evil every moment of every day. The scum who took over the school in Beslan, torturing and murdering hundreds of people, including more than one hundred fifty children, made their choice. And in that scene of unrelenting horror one courageous man, Yannis Kanidis, an elderly teacher of Greek extraction, made his.

Read about this extraordinary man here.

May he rest in peace.

Saturday, September 04, 2004


At last count, according to the Associated Press, more than 330 bodies were pulled from the rubble of the school in Beslan. One hundred fifty-six of the dead were children.

All I can think of is God’s cry of horror to the Israelites in Jeremiah 32:35:

And they built the high places of the Ba’al, which are in the valley of Ben-hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molekh; which I did not command them, nor did it come into my mind that they should do this abomination ...

(Emphasis mine.)

Read Imshin. Read Meryl. Read Charles at Little Green Footballs. They’re all right on target; I’d just be repeating them at this point.

The prophet Jeremiah could not have been more explicit in his denunciation of child sacrifice.

So after this I do not want to hear, ever again, how much Islam respects the prophets who came before Mohammed.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Right On Target

While I’m posting on blogging matters, there’s a new and different blog in town, Hitzei Yehonatan (Yehonatan’s Arrows; see 1 Samuel 20:18—23).

For the past several years, Rabbi Yehonatan Chipman has been sending out his profound and scholarly divrei Torah (essays on religious topics) to his mailing list. Now he is making them available on the Net. And may I say: Finally.

Mazal tov on the new blog, Rav Yehonatan. I hope you’ll come to the next blogger meet-up!

Bloggers, Bloggers Everywhere

Last night was the first Israeli blogger meet-up. It was wonderful to meet the people behind the blogs and start putting faces to names. We turned out to be quite a cross-section of English-speaking Israeli society (all right, we did have a sprinkling of native Hebrew speakers here and there), and were an almost equal number of men and women. We came from several different countries including the US, the UK, Canada and Israel, though I’m sure more were represented.

We even had a journalist covering the event. Turns out she’s a blogger too and had intended to come anyway, so she had to participate and do her job at the same time. My hat’s off to her, and when her article is posted I’ll post a link to it here ... but only if she says wonderful things about me. (Just kidding! No, really!)

I finally met Allison, Imshin, Adrian of Neither Here Nor There (formerly Expat Egghead), the Rev. Huatou, Celestial Blue and many others. I also saw a friend of mine and his wife for the first time in years. Ah, the miracle of the Internet, the best part of it in my opinion: connecting people. (Sorry, cat-bloggers; Imshin didn’t bring Shoosha. Darn.)

Ra’anana is a beautiful city, the restaurant was terrific and its personnel lovely people. And it was great to have a change of scene, if only for a few hours. I’m glad I went.

I’d write more but I’m exhausted. It’s Friday afternoon, the week is catching up with me and I’ve been awake since 5:00 a.m. (Work started at 6.)

Shabbat shalom. (Finally. Thank goodness.)