Showing posts from November, 2015

150 Years Old and 20 Years New

I had the privilege of visiting the off-the-map Jewish community of Giessen last week; Giessen is a small German town, located an hour outside Frankfurt.

As I come from such a community myself, Harrogate in Yorkshire, England, I could closely relate to the struggles for existence where the entire Jewish community is measured in lower three figures.

My guide was Mr Dov Aviv, who is Chairman of the Giessen Jewish Community.

Dov himself originally hails from Jaffa, Israel, and has lived in Giessen for around 30 years. He originally moved to Giessen to take a degree at Giessen University in Veterinary Medicine - at the time there were no equivalent courses in Israel  - later switching to dentistry, which he still practices in the town.

The Jewish community numbers around 400 people, of whom the overwhelming majority (90%) emigrated from the Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The community center is a small campus of buildings consisting of a synagogue, an events hall, admin…

Should Charities Have National Emergency Campaigns?

The major Jewish/Israeli organizations regularly initiate and participate in fundraising campaigns when there are high-profile events, often tragic and/or dramatic, in Israel, such as Wars, terror and other crises (which we should not know of). These include campaigns by UJA, The Joint, KKL, and numerous other highly respectable and respected NGOs.

Literally hundred of millions of dollars of donations are raised in these often intense and emotive campaigns. With national emergencies (unfortunately) hitting Israel approximately every two years, these fundraisers have almost become part of the fundraising calendar.

A posting by member of the Fundraisers Forum in Israel asks his fellow fundraising professionals about the ethics of fundraising from tragic circumstance: "The major issue is how much mileage can we make out of others tragedy?" 

I think it is legitimate for organizations who supply services which are particularly in demand during such national emergency events, such…

Feels Like Russian Roulette

Yesterday there were two more terror attacks - a 38 year old Arab stabbed Jews at prayer in a synagogue in Tel Aviv, murdering two, and at Gush Etzion, 20 minutes from my door, an Arab terrorist shot and murdered three people, two of whom were Jews.

One of these victims was Ezra Schwartz, an 18 year old yeshiva student from Boston, USA. Ezra was studying at Ashreinu, a local Beit Shemesh yeshiva for American students.

Terror attacks have become a horrific nightmare part of daily life in Israel, particularly in the past two months.

With each news broadcast and social media report of more terror attacks, a subjective filtering of the horror takes place. What happened? Where was it? Could anyone I love or know be a victim?

I have recently had the nagging surging feeling that I'm involved in some ghastly and terrifying game of  Russian Roulette.

Myopic Swede


The National Religious Pay The Highest Price

My son's yeshiva high-school, Yashlatz, is in mourning.

Aged just 18, Netanel Littman, a 12th Grade pupil, was gunned down this past Friday, together with his father Rabbi Yaakov Littman, both murdered on their way to their family's Shabbat Chatan wedding celebration.

Posters and newspaper cuttings are on the school's walls, and the somber students take turns to talk about and eulogise their fellow student and beloved friend Natanel.

At the evening prayer last night, they announced that Natanel had committed this past Simchat Torah to learn a large number of tractates; he had not been able to complete this gargantuan task. They asked for volunteers to complete the learning on Netanel's behalf.

Yashlatz has been through such horrific tragedy before, including the savage terror attack at the adjoining Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, where 8 boys were murdered by an Arab terrorist in 2008 - five of whom were teenage boys from Yashlatz.

According to staff at the school, at least 4…

Terror and Security on Road 60

One day after the murder of Yitzhak and Natanel Litman and just two hours after the car-ramming terror attack on an Israeli car near Psagot, I took my son  Raphael and his family back to their home in Gush Shilo last night.

Road 60, the main North-South road through Judea and Samaria, the site of these and countless recent terror attacks, was quiet. Hardly any traffic, and no sign of security measures, such as increased patrols, check points, visible army presence, etc.

Just a few kilometers of lonely road.

The fact that the murderers of the Litmans were able to perpetrate the murders and escape, points to a paucity of basic security on this known danger.

There is no reason that every part of that and similarly exposed roads cannot be monitored live by video.

And there is no good reason that every part of that road cannot be physically patrolled and protected at all times.

Whereas there was political will to improve security in Jerusalem, and so thousands of troops were brought in an…

"Most anti-Israel interview ever"

Naftali Bennet under a severe grilling by Tim Sabastian of the arch-anti-Israel BBC - puts up a spirited counter-attack.

Woman approaches Security Guard, and pulls knife out of her bag

A Day in Tel Aviv

It doesn't sound too exotic or adventurous - I took a day off this week to tour around Tel Aviv and had a surprisingly varied and enjoyable time....

1. Beit Hatfutsot -

When I last went there (over 20 years ago!) it was called the Diaspora Museum, now the Museum of the Jewish People.

It is located at the Tel Aviv University campus and, with a little help from Waze, was fairly easy to find.

The ground floor has a nice looking cafe (I don't know if it is kosher - didn't go in) and an exhibition about the United Colours of Judaica - which was temporarily out of commission due to maintenance. Otherwise auditoriums, which were hosting conferences and talks. Not much doing.

The second floor is the main exhibition area, and is grouped according to 'theme' rather than strictly chronological. There are few genuine artifacts but the exhibition was extensive and varied.

The Mazal Ubracha temporary exhibition was potentially jarring for some orthodox Jew…

Photos from a Friday Afternoon Walk in the Hills

Click on the photos to view full sized

There is no need to travel more than 15 minutes from Beit Shemesh to find stunningly beautiful open countryside. I headed out this past Friday afternoon to Nachal Machasia (to the right of the road between Beit Shemesh and Nes Harim).
The rugged storm-darkened skies brought out dramatic contrasts and depth of the landscape.

In my two hour stroll, the only other person I saw was a lone shepherd tending his flock.