Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Who was Harry Bingham and why is he getting a stamp?

Hiram (or Harry) Bingham, IV was an amazing human being.
He came from an illustrious family.
His father (whom the fictional character Indiana Jones was based) was the archeologist who unearthed the Inca City of Machu Picchu, Peru, in 1911.
Harry entered the US diplomatic service and, in 1939, was posted to Marseilles, France, as American Vice-Consul.

The USA was then neutral. President Roosevelt's government ordered its representatives in Marseilles not to grant visas to any Jews, since the administation didn't want to annoy Marshal Petain's puppet Vichy regime.
Bingham found this policy immoral and, risking his career, did all in his power to undermine it.
In defiance of his bosses in Washington, he granted over 2,500 USA visas to Jewish and other refugees, including the artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst and the family of the writer Thomas Mann.

He also sheltered Jews in his Marseilles home, and obtained forged identity papers to help Jews in their dangerous journeys across Europe.
He worked with the French underground to smuggle Jews out of France into Franco's Spain or across the Mediterranean and even contributed to their expenses out of his own pocket.
In 1941, Washington lost patience with him.
He was sent to Argentina, where later he continued to annoy his superiors by reporting on the movements of Nazi war criminals.
Eventually, he was forced out of the American diplomatic service completely.

Bingham died almost penniless in 1988.

Little was known of his extraordinary activities until his son found some letters in his belongings after his death.
In 2001, Harry Bingham was portraited in the movie "Varian's War".

After fifty years, Bingham finally got the recognition he deserves.
A few months ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell gave a posthumous award for "constructive dissent" to Bingham, finally and officially recognizing him as a hero.
A stamp honoring this amazing man can be purchased at any US postoffice.

Bingham is now been honored by many groups and organizations including the United Nations and the State of Israel.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Let me guess, you always thought that the Western Wall is Jewish, correct?
And that our Kotel is a remaining wall of the Second Temple?

Surprise: according to Dr. Hassan Khader, founder of the popular Al Quds Encyclopedia, “Jews have no historical connection to the Western Wall, which is actually the "Al-Buraq Wall."

In case you wonder what or who “Al-Buraq” was – it’s the name of Muhammad’s horse (the one of prophet fame).

According to Khader’s Grimm’s fairytale, the Al-Buraq Wall was similar to a space station location - the landing pad of Al-Buraq.
After landing safely, M. tied his horse to the wall.
I wonder if that was done to prevent the stallion from flying off again?
That’s the trouble with winged mammals - just check with Harry Potter if you don't believe me.

With a blatant disregard for historical timelines, Dr. K. goes on claiming that the Israelis arrived 1,400 years later, conquered Jerusalem and made the wall into their special place of worship and pray.
He happily went on stating that the first Jewish connection to this site started in the 16th century.

Needless to say, this academic Peter Pan believes that Islam has “ancient roots” to the location.
Well, anything dating from the Middle Ages is not considered “ancient” in the Middle East.
The fact that the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 and Mohammed was born in 570 doesn’t seem to bother him at all.

Unfortunately, Khader is not the only creative history writer.

According to Kamal Hatib, vice-chairman of the Islamic Movement, the Al-Aqsa Mosque was built by angels before King Solomon built the First Temple.
According to Hatib, the temple was therefore built outside of Jerusalem, due to lack of space.
The discrepancy of 1,400 years is not addressed.

Let’s faces it, it’s not easy getting the worksheet of angels to contradict these history hooligans.

There are Islamic scholars who disagree.

A former senior leader of the Waqf said that he believes that the first and second Jewish temples existed and stood at the current location of the Al Aqsa Mosque.
He based this on stories passed down by Al Aqsa custodians for centuries from generation to generation indicating the mosque was built at the site of the former Jewish temples.
According to him, most of the first guards of Al Aqsa were Jews.
Needless to say, once he made his beliefs known, he was promptly sacked.

In my humble opinion, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas should use his state-run TV station to broadcast outlines of peace proposals.
If he is more interested in TV fiction, creating an Palestinian Sesame Street program would be a better option…and Al-Buraq can replace Big Bird!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

KISS of hope.

Once an Israeli, always an Israeli – opinionated and compassionate.

According to Fox, Gene Simmons of KISS, born Haim Witz in the heavily hit town of Haifa, sent a video message to wounded soldier and KISS-fan Ron Weinreich.
Ron is one of Hezbollah’s many victims - paralyzed from the chest down.
Due to his injuries, the wedding of Ron’s brother was relocated to his hospital room in order for him to attend.
At the wedding, Ron received the following message from his rock hero:

"Hi Ron, this is Gene Simmons. I'm talking to you from my home. I can't tell you how proud I am of you, and how much the world and Israel owes you a debt of gratitude. From the bottom of my heart, you are a real hero, you are everybody's hero, you are my hero and I wish I could be there with you."

Suddenly switching to confident Hebrew, Simmons added:

"My name is Chaim, I was born in Haifa."

He concluded by saying in English:

"I wish you my best, a happy life and I hope the wedding comes off and everybody should honor you because you are a real hero."

Kol HaKavod, Haim!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Anti-Semitic Passion of Gibson

Last Friday,
Mel Gibson was arrested in the early hours for speeding along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, the famous beach town North of Los Angeles.
Well, happens to best of us, you might think (although most of us don’t drive around in a

Although Gibson was under the influence, the arresting officer told the actor that he was supposed to cuff him but would not, as long as Gibson cooperated.
Fair enough, I would think.
But what does our thespian do?
He drunkenly informed the deputy: “I'm not going to get in your car," and promptly bolted.
Our law enforcement officer quickly subdued Gibson, cuffed him and put him inside the patrol car.
Up till now, nothing special.

But instead of keeping his mouth shut, Australia’s import started acting out.
"You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you," he informed the policeman.
After these crude words, Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."

Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"
(The deputy wisely refrained from answering).

When this Gibson Monologue escalated, the officer called ahead for a sergeant to meet them as soon as they would arrive at the station.
Upon arrival, a sergeant began videotaping Gibson, who noticed the camera and said: "What the f*** do you think you're doing?"
Gibson then noticed a female sergeant and yelled:

"What do you think you're looking at, sugar tits?"
I personnally applaud the police force for their restraint.
(BTW, if you are interested, you can download the report from the entertainment website

The next day, after spending the night in a detox cell and posting $5,000 bail, Mel G. apologized for driving while drunk and for his "belligerent behavior" towards the deputy sheriffs who arrested him.
Mmmm, doesn’t sound like a sincere apology to me.
I also miss the reference to his anti-Semitic remarks.
Not that I am surprised, mind you.
For one, Gibson is a staunch Catholic (nothing wrong there), but he shares many beliefs of the Traditionalist Catholic movement, not known for their tolerance.

This sect rejects some or all reforms started by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
I find it quite funny that he became so successful in Hedonist Hollywood.
But it would explain the private chapel Mel built.
The Holy Family Catholic Church is run out of Gibson's AP Reilly Foundation, a charity he and his wife established for the sole purpose of creating the church.
The Holy Family Catholic Church is run out of Gibson's Icon Production company offices, with an Icon employee responsible for keeping the church's books and Gibson and his wife Robyn as directors. All their donations are - of course - tax free/deductable......pennywise, but definitely not pound-foolish!

And then their is our Mel’s father, Hutton Gibson, who has repeated claimed that the Holocaust was exaggerated.
According to Gibson Père, Jews are out to create "one world religion and one world government" and outlined a conspiracy theory involving Jewish bankers, the US Federal Reserve and the Vatican, among others.
Oy vey!

To come back to the current peccadilloes of M.G. - the media (including the New York Times and Fox) jumped on the story, not in the least due to the current wars raging in the Middle East.
Thanks to the worldwide web, the story spread like wildfire.
As the New York Times correctly pointed out, in a little over 24 hours, Mr. Gibson’s arrest and subsequent behavior in Malibu had already prompted talk of a claimed cover-up, an exposé, worldwide news coverage, an apology and then a full-blown push for alcohol rehabilitation, even as his representatives and executives at the Hope Hartman, a spokeswoman for Disney’s ABC television network, said the company was dropping its plans to produce a Holocaust-themed miniseries in collaboration with Mr. Gibson.
The reason given: “it’s been nearly two years and we have yet to see the first draft of a script, we have decided to no longer pursue this project with Icon.

Gibson’s production company Icon started developing this four-hour miniseries for ABC, in what was widely seen as an effort to patch up his relations with parts of the Jewish community after his “Passion of Christ” movie.

Needless to say, this is a huge relief - I think all of us want to forfeit this "treat".

To quote Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center:
I don’t think he should be doing a film on the Holocaust.
It would be like asking someone associated with the K.K.K. to do a movie on the African-American experience.”

There is a famous Latin expression: “in vino veritas” – therefore, one remark our Mel (who promptly checked into rehab) made, hits home: “My life is f****d.”

On a final note, if you look at his photo, you see an uncanny resemblance to another notorious anti-Semite…

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Be Sweet with Elite to the IDF

The news today is far from sweet – no disarmament (let alone defeat) of Hezbollah in sight.
As usual, the Forces Outside are ganging up again against us, Israel, once again.
Well, we are used to it – we have been blamed for everything under the sun, including the death of Princess Diana.

I agree, the UN accident was unfortunate, but weren’t they supposed to keep the peace? And not move from their location?
And Mr. Anan, before you trash us again in global media court, could you please wait for the investigation to end?
BTW, aren’t you and your son under investigation for fraud?
Or are you hiding behind “innocent until proven guilty?”
You have a flexible yardstick, don’t you Kofi Dear?

Going back to the sweet issue at hand, Israeli chocolate maker Elite has launched a great campaign.
Together with the Heritage Affinity Services credit card, they created a special webpage where you can click to send a personal message of support and a chocolate bar to an Israeli soldier for free.
It will take 24-hours for your message to appear on the website – Cyberterrorism of our Arab cousins and other anti-Semite ignorani is rampant.

Please be a mensch and send a chocolate bar and your personal message – it’s only a mouse click away!

Monday, July 24, 2006

How Isrealis try to claim war damages compensation from Lebanon

The current conflict (as the news channels phrase it - from where I am sitting, it's more like a three-front war) raging in the Middle East, has taken a legal dimension.

Israel blames Lebanon for not complying with the UN resolutions and dismantling Hezbollah, the initiator of all the present violence.
And what is an effective way to make a government pay?
Yep, a lawsuit!

Israeli attorneys Yehudah Talmon, Yoram Danziger, and Nitzah Libai are presenting a symbolic lawsuit to against Lebanese government in a US civil court.
They are suing for compensation to be paid to Israeli businesses and citizens for war damages.
More specifically, the claim states that the Lebanese government is responsible for damages caused to residents of Israel since it didn't prevent Hezbollah from acting from its territory to harm Israeli citizens, thus violating the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism.

The legal team of lawyers and accountants include the former Chief Administrator of the Courts and judge, Dan Arbel, Attorneys Yoram Danziger, Nitzah Libay and the office of Ziv Haft Public Accountants.
The team has been swamped with petitions from tens of citizens, most of them business owners, who want to participate in the lawsuit.
There is no fear that they will forfeit other legal options.

Although by law, a civilian who is suing the state for compensation claims is not allowed to sue other bodies, the current claim is a complementary one, intended to recover money to people that the Israeli government will not recover.
The demand for compensation will be for loss of clientele, damage to sales, and damage to manufacturing capability – the things the government does not compensate for.

What are the chances of winning the lawsuit?
Better then it might look at prima facie, since there is a precedent.
A few years ago, a similar claim was submitted in the United States against the Iranian government for damaging property belonging to American citizens.
The prosecutors won.

Thus, Lebanon, as a sovereign state, was violating international law by permitting Hezbollah to hurt Israelis from its land.
The lawyers are confident that once they win, the Lebanese government will recognize the claim and pay the money.
They base this on the fact that the Lebanese government conducts business with the US and maintains property in the United States.

Therefore, it is possible to collect money from Lebanon without its consent.
For sure, this is a lawsuit to watch – who knows, the pen might be mightier than the sword……

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Coming to America – the Israeli coffee chain Aroma

Israel is a coffee loving nation.

There are several chains of cozy and trendy coffee shops (of the caffeine kind, not the leafy ones), where you can sit, chat and enjoy a wide variety of coffees, salads, sandwiches and cakes.

For impatient types like me, there is the coffee-to-go aka Israel’s answer to Starbucks.
Starbucks tried to enter the Israeli market, but left at the same time the US invaded Iraq.
(No, I am not making a political point here – I blame Bush for many things but not for Starbucks pulling out of the Israeli market).

One of the successful chains in Israel is “Aroma”, which I patronize frequently.
The chain opened its first small espresso bar-style café based in Jerusalem in 1994.
It was the brainchild of two young brothers, Yariv and Sahar Shefa, who wanted to offer us coffee lovers inexpensive but top-quality coffee-to-go.

Nowadays, the chain has a national coverage of 72 branches and is going global.
The ambitious Shefa brothers want to add 40 branches in the USA (California and Florida for starters) and Canada (starting with Toronto).

They just opened their first foreign branch in NYC near Houston Street in Manhattan’s posh SoHo district.
The NY flagship branch will have the distinct Aroma branding of red-black-white color scheme and spaceship-like design.
The menu will be an adapted one – both in taste and in names.
To be PC, the famous Iraqi sandwich will be offered as the “Grilled Vegetable Mediterranean Sandwich”, and burekas will be sold as “treat burka”.

Will Aroma make it in the Big Apple?
Quite likely.
The prices are reasonable: USD 3 for a cup of coffee, USD 5-11 per sandwich, USD 4 for a Burekas, and USD 9 for a salad bowl.
Aroma prepares the food in its own kitchen, in contrast to Starbucks.
They are first targeting Israelis living in New York and New Yorkers familiar with Aroma Israel.
Aroma USA is positioning itself as a US brand, so don’t expect menus, newspapers and TV channels in Hebrew.
The ordering system will be different from the Israeli one as well – your name will not be announced over the speaker when your order is ready, and the Israeli “What would you like to order?” will be replaced with “Welcome to Aroma”.

If you are in Manhattan and want a taste of Aroma’s traditional sandwiches or just an Aroma coffee that is warm (not piping hot) served with a complimentary chocolate, visit Aroma's SoHo branch.
It's not kosher, but its made-to-order low fat salads, soups and muesli, can be enjoyed 24/7.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A great Israeli success story is ICQ.
The name is a
oronym (wordplay) on the phrase “I seek you”.

In case you are interested, ICQ is an instant messaging computer program that allows allows the sending of text messages with offline support, URLs, multi-user character-by-character chats, resumable file transfers, SMSes, greeting cards and more.
Other features included a searchable user directory and POP3 email support.

In 1996, four young Israelis Arik Vardi, Yair Goldfinger, Sefi Vigiser and Amnon Amir started a company called Mirabilis with ICQ as their flagship product.
Yossi Vardi, the father of founder Arik Vardi funded Mirabilis when no others would touch it.
He travelled frequently promoting Mirabilis and was known for publicly stating the
company's revenue goal was zero.
This was intentionally - the company’s CEO often stated that the company did not have a plan for revenue, since large revenues would come later in the form of advertising revenues, upgraded services and back-end selling.

Their marketing concept was unique:
viral marketing.
Mirabilis depended on the users to spread the word about the product.
This way, friends would encourage their friends to join so they could communicate to each other. This established a powerful network effect as prospective users strongly preferred the system where their friends were likely to be.

Mirabilis made sure that it was very easy to spread the word.
For example, they used standard e-mail to invite friends to join, but also software instructed to scan address books for sending all recipients invitation letters.
In contrast to competitor
MCI, Mirabilis stayed away from telemarketing and never contacted a potential user during dinnertime.
As a result, they were the first mover into the market and gained a large market share rapidly and at a low cost.
This lead to the ultimate dream – they were bought up by
AOL for $200 million.
AOL keeps the viral marketing philosophy going.

To quote
Ted Leonsis of AOL in Newsweek:
The less you do, the more it grows”.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Hack Attack

Cyberterrorism is not new –therefore none of us should be surprised that more than 750 Israeli websites were recently hacked within a few hours.
The victims were: Soldier’s Treasury Bank, Rambam Hospital, and Globus Group ticket center.
When surfers tried to access these websites, they got the message:
You’re killing Palestinians, we’re killing servers

The hackers are members of the Moroccan “Team Evil” group, responsible for most of the website damage in Israel in the past year.

In April 2006, Team Evil succeeded in hacking into several sites of medium-sized but recognized Israeli companies, including those of the “Shilav” children’s store, “The Blue Square” supermarket and McDonald’s.

The top evillenius happily informed the world that they are

“a group of Moroccan hackers that hack into sites as part of the resistance in the war with Israel. We attack Israeli sites every day. This is our duty…hacking is not a crime.”
Well, obviously this guy didn’t go to law school - hacking is as legal as suicide bombing……

They also don’t seem to understand that hacking a website is not exactly an effective way of putting pressure on a government or army.
That doesn’t stop another group member from remarking:

we want Israel to stop fighting. Stop killing children and we’ll stop hacking.”
According to their spokesman, the group’s members are all Moroccan youths, under the age of 20, which explains a lot.

The irony is, that they almost for sure use Israeli programs and tools for their cyberattacks.
My suggestion to them: put all that brainpower and energy to good use and start a Moroccan Silicon Valley….

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Case of the Cursing Parrot

We all read stories or watched pirate movies with cursing parrots perched on the shoulder of a mean, one-legged sailor.
Well, such a bird is currently making headlines.
The Bird (name unknown) has the habit of screaming phrases such as “maniac”, “homo” and “son of a bitch” at regular intervals.
The bird belonged to an orthodox Jew, who bought it as a pet for his kids. Needless to say, he was not too happy by the verbal outbursts of the creature.
I am still puzzled that he didn’t find that characteristic out before he purchased the bird, but who am I? Anyway, the pater familias went to the rabbi to find out how to handle the feathery culprit.
The rabbi informed him that the parrot should be slaughtered since he “sins and causes others to sin.”
Personally, I thought that you only sinned if you purposely commit an act that is sinful, but obviously, I am wrong (being a woman and not orthodox probably accounts for that).
The family father is a patient of a holistic doctor who decided to come to the bird’s rescue. No good deed goes unpunished, so the good doctor had to fork over $ 3,000 to save it from death row. The doctor was now stuck with a bird that has quite a mouth on it.
So how did our medical professional handle the situation? Yep, you guessed it – he consulted a rabbi!
The second rabbi recommended that the poor parrot either be put to death or have his tongue severed, which brings back images of mediaeval witch trials, doesn’t it?.

The story hid the headlines and all kinds of organizations and individuals came to the bird’s defense; some of them even protested in front of the doctor’s house.
The “Let Animals Live Foundation” took it a step further and applied to the court to prevent the pending execution (or tongue mutilation). In its petition, the Foundation stated that there is a reasonable basis to assume the parrot will be subjected to suffering and cruelty. Therefore, the court must interfere with a restraining order. The ruling judge agreed and issued an injunction protecting the parrot from being harmed in any way. For now, our feathered friend is safe.
The order will apply until a further decision is made. In the next few days, a deliberation will be held and the court will seal the parrot’s fate. Our good doctor is planning to attend the court session accompanied by the parrot in question.
Let’s hope the bird will not engage in foul language in court – that’s the prerogative of lawyers!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What got into Yehoshua?

Author A.B. Yehoshua is one of the most respected Israeli authors.
Intelligent, articulate, insightful.
It was therefore surprising to hear him at the centennial celebration of theAmerican Jewish Committee in May 2006 in Washington, DC.

As one of the panel members, Yehoshua passionately claimed that only theState of Israel can ensure the survival of the Jewish people.
With wild gestures, he claimed:
"For me, Avraham Yehoshua, there is no alternative...I cannot keep my identity outside Israel. [Being] Israeli is my skin, not my jacket. You are changing jackets... you are changing countries like changing jackets. I have my skin, the territory".
The flabbergasted audience was told that Israeli Jews live a Jewish life in a totality that the American Jews do not know.

Nice way to go, Avraham, especially since Israel exists thanks to the unwavering support of the US and its Jewish population.
Needless to say, not all Israelis agreed.
Efraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad, distanced himself from Yehoshua's statements, emphasizing that Israel goes to great effort to help Jewish communities around the world, proving that that Israel finds the Jewish Diaspora important for its existence.

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic, strongly objected to the bold statements.
He told Yehoshua that he took the concept “Jewish” and narrowed it down to “Israeli”.
He got a point there – Yehoshua failed to take into account that 20% of the Israelis are non-Jews. So where does that leave them?
I agree with Wieseltier that the concept of Judaism existed long before the State of Israel was created.
To quote Wieseltier:
"There is Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish literature, texts that have been with us form 3,000 years. Why do you insist on narrowing it down to Israeliness?”

The panel moderator, charismatic news anchor Ted Koppel kept his cool, although he was obviously offended.
He pointed out to Yehoshua that all the contributions of Diaspora Jews ensured the continuity of the Jews as a people and could therefore not be disregarded.

In the newspaper the Jerusalem Post, Yehoshua voiced his surprise at the uproar over his arguments.
"It seems to me obvious that our Jewish life in Israel is more total than anywhere outside Israel. I think this is common sense.
If they were goyim they would understand it right away."
So does that mean that the goyim understand him better than his fellow Jews?

Yehoshua’s views represent the traditional Zionist one:
Jews who live outside this country and do not play a part in its cultural development will either be destroyed or assimilate.
To some extend, this is correct – more than 6M. (Bar and Bat Mitzvah) Jews have been assimilated and “lost” in the US alone. This is a frightening number, but is making Israel the sole Jewish enclave in the world the answer?
In my opinion, Israel needs the Diaspora Jews as much and the Diaspora Jews need Israel.

With all due respect to Mr. A. B. Yehoshua, I strongly disagree with his viewpoint.
The vitriolic response that he received in and outside of Israel (especially in the blogosphere) had more to do with the way he delivered his message than the content alone.
Let’s face it, it’s extremely poor taste to criticize one’s gracious host in such a public setting.

Next time, the American Jewish Committee might consider inviting Amos Oz when discussing "The Future of the Past: What will become of the Jewish people?"

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The biggest surprise of the Israeli elections was not the victory of Kadima or the defeat of Likud, but the 7 seats that the “Gil Pensioners of Israel to the Knesseth” Party snagged.
This party is headed by Rafi Eitan, who is quite a character.

You see, Eytan used to be a former senior Mossad official and head of the branch dealing with technology and science during the Pollard affair.
He recruited Pollard, a navy intelligence analyst. He used Pollard as a spy against the US. Pollard and his than wife Ann were convicted for supplying Israel (via Eitan) with top secret information.
During the Pollards prosecution, Rafi Eitan and Aviem Sela of the IAF were also mentioned, but never indicted.

Sela, who was in the US at the time, fled to Israel and was never prosecuted.
Both of them avoid visiting the US, since they could face question about their role in the Pollard affair.

Eitan took full responsibility for recruiting Pollard:
"It was my decision and mine only. I took complete, absolute responsibility. I decided to take the risk, which was clear to me, although I didn't predict the affair would develop to such an extent. There's risk when using any agent."

He disputed the claim that Pollard's information led to revealing the identity of American spies operating in the Soviet Union.

Now that Eitan's party scored such a election victorty, two questions need to be ansered:
  • Will Eitan join the coalition and be appointed minister?
  • How will the US react to the new publicity linked to the (still) sensitive case of Pollard?

One thing is for sure: politics in Israel - never boring!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

An interesting candidate to watch in the upcoming Israeli elections is Tzvia Greenfield.
She is special in many ways.

She is a 59-year old mother-of-five, has a doctorate in political philosophy, is number 6 on the Meretz list and follows an ultra-Orthodox, American lifestyle.
Especially the last created lots of noise in the ultra-Orthodox community.
Ultra-Orthodox journalists objected to Tzvia calling defining herself as ultra-Orthodox, since (gasp!) she has a dog.

It seems that therefore, she doesn’t answer the social definition of ultra-Orthodox. (Confused? So am I!)
According to ultra-Orthodox journalist Kobi Arieli, you cannot have a dog and not detest the political party Meretz and be ultra-Orthodox.
So much for peaceful coexistence.
Greenfield pointed out that there is many American-type ultra-Orthodox in Har Nof (the stronghold of the Shas Party).

They are highly educated and some even have a television in their homes, but they maintain a strictly ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, including the centrality of Torah study, a certain mode of dress, a certain order to their daily routine and the observance of Shabbat and Jewish Festivals in a particular style.
Sounds kosher to me….
They also hold her field of expertise against her.

Although born in Israel and graduated from a Beis Yaakov ultra-Orthodox girls seminar, she went on to study general history and philosophy at Hebrew University.
What’s wrong with that, you might ask? Well, it seems that the ultra-Orthodox community finds secular history and philosophy unacceptable and dangerous.
I don’t quite understand why; I always thought that broadening your mind is healthy and prevent prejudice, racism, anti-Semitism, and the like.

Greenfield has a sharp, analytical mind combined with (lucky for her) a nice sense of humor. That would be a great asset in the Knesset, I tell you!

So what are her viewpoints on the main issues of life?
First of all, she is a strong advocate of going to work and maintain a life of Torah and productivity.

She points out that the ultra-Orthodox society doesn’t understand that it is impossible to impose their value system on others.
As we non-ultra-Orthodox know, it doesn’t take much to be at the receiving end of their contempt and even wrath by not complying with their lifestyle.

There is another reason Greenfield advocates to join the workforce.
The Halpert Law (which was passed by all the non-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox and Arab Knesset members alike, with the support of the Likud), increases child allowances for the fifth and subsequent child to NIS 850 a month.
The money comes from the taxes paid by the (non-ultra-Orthodox) working population whose children serve in the Israel Defense Forces (ultra-Orthodox are exempt).
The law also reinforces the ultra-Orthodox tendency to turn ultra-Orthodox women, or children, into a source of income.
When the income of an ultra-Orthodox family is dependent on the number of its children, intense pressure is exerted on women, excluding the possibility of having fewer children.

Greenfield is also in favor of civil marriage and divorce for the same reason.

She points out that Israel is the only democracy in the world in which a large group of people cannot marry.
And it gets better. She also wants homosexuals and lesbians to have the same status as any other citizen, which includes the right to marry and the right to realize any desire and any life plan that does not harm others.
In that aspect, she is for sure more liberal and tolerant than many Israelis!

Her view on rabbis in Israel is even more surprising.

She points out that they don’t do the Jewish people much good and are inefficient leaders.
They prevent change in order to preserve their positions of power.
Anyone of us who ever had to deal with the rabbinate in Israel can unfortunately confirm this.

Tzvia Greenfield will make a great Member of Knesset in my book.
After all the scandals, she might be the candidate of moral fiber, intelligence, and humor that we sorely need in this country.

And when asked if she asked a rabbi for permission to run for the Knesset, she answered:

Of course not. There is no reason to do so. Why would it be important?
I can assure you that the Rambam did not ask a rabbi if he should be Salah a-Din's doctor. The problem is that the applicability of halakhic questions has expanded terribly and now includes all aspects of life.
The areas about which people ask questions have grown with no rhyme or reason.”

Friday, February 10, 2006

There is an Israeli fashion designer to watch.

You may never have heard of Michal Negrin, but she is slowly conquering the world with her "Israeli Victorian romance" fashion.
Negrin has developed her personal passion for kitsch into glittering and colorful pieces of jewelry that are popular with women all over the world.
Negrin's successful designs include jewelry, clothes, curtains and upholstery, as well as lamps and cushions –all in her trademark frilly style.

Negrin career is quite impressive.

She and her husband left Kibbutz Na'an 15 years ago and moved to Tel Aviv.
She opened a small stall in the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall where she sold her own jewelry creations.
These pieces embroidered with lace and small colorful glass stones were a hit and Negrin was smart enough to develop her own style that also became her trademark: shameless kitsch adorned with floral designs, images of angels and drawings of elaborately made-up ladies.
It radiates Victorian boudoir romance.
Michal Negrin is currently running a small business empire of 39 stores from
Japan and Hong Kong to France and the United States.
Production is done in her Israeli factory in Bat Yom, where 150 immigrants from the CIS are employed.
Her fashion line includes jewelry, clothing, mezuzahs and bathroom upholstery as well as closet doorknobs.
She also produces special jewelry items for El Al, that can be purchase on board.
Kitsch doesn’t come cheaply – a simple
pendant will easily cost you $50.

Negrin’s designs are in high demand, riding the current fashion wave for elaborate necklaces, chandelier earrings and baroque jewelry.

Her high-profile customers include Britney Spears, Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Kim Bassinger, Uma Thurman, Dustin Hoffman, Joni Mitchell, Celine Dion and Jane Seymour.

Negrin jewelry has also featured in Britney's music videos and in the latest movie of Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Fashions come and go, but although her designs are definitely not my taste, I sincerely wish that the Michal Negrin Designs Ltd. keeps on prospering and expending.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Let there be a prenup

Israeli couples heading for the chuppah are becoming clever.
The number of prenuptial agreements has risen spectacularly over the last few years.

More than 40 percent of the happy couples sign a prenuptial agreement before they get hitched - an increase of about 50 percent compared to the two previous years.

Most couples sign the contract a few months before the ceremony; the rest prefers to sign after the deed it done.

Not surprisingly, men are more likely to push for the prenup, while many women are still; willing to forego the contract even when they are better off than their partner.
The reason is quite likely the unfortunate habit of women to avoid tensions into the relationship.

Dumb, if you ask me.
If he splits up with you (or the other way around, doesn’t matter) over the prenuptial dispute, s/he was out for the money anyway.
So good riddance, I say.

Why are prenups new in Israel? There are several reasons.
First of all, the age of the average couple is rising, so it’s likely that partners already accumulated assets (especially own a house).
Secondly, the divorce rate is steadily climbing – a trend Israel has in common with most countries.

Last but not least, more and more couples choose a civil ceremony over a religious one, which makes the Israeli legal profession benefit from the attitude of the religious establishment towards marriage in Israel.

Still, if you really want to watch your back and safeguard your future, the best option is not to get married at all……just a thought.