Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Our World is too Freaking Small.

The other day, I ranted a bit about the JIB awards. I'm far from the only blogger who has ranted about them, and some even said I sounded "bitter."

What's interesting is that Trep and Jewlicious even commented on my posting about it. Someone else commented to me that - "Hey, all the big blogs read you!", which, when I thought I about it, was rather flattering.

Granted, LGF and Fundamentally Freund from Arutz Sheva haven't commented or acknowledged my existence, I doubt they read me blog or have ever heard of me.

However, I didn't anticipate my son's phone call from school:

Son: Abba, remember you said something about that Freund blogger, that you weren't even going to bother competing with him for that [JIB] award?

Jameel (rather surprised): When did I say that?

Son: Well, you posted in on your blog the other day.

Jameel: Er, right...I guess.

Son: Well, I thought you wanted to know that I know his son.

Jameel: Who's son?

Son: Freund's son. He's in my class in yeshiva. I went over to him and asked him today if his father is the Freund blogger on Arutz Sheva.

Jameel: WHAT?! How did you figure that out?

Son: Don't worry, I didn't tell him about your blog. Gotta get back to class. bye.

click

Our world is shrinking smaller daily.




Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

We Interrupt Muqata Programming for this Important Special Announcement

Kind Readers: While I was having a blast with my Fleeing Manila posting, a rather irate blogger commented to me on the story. While I won't deny anything written on my posting, I found that my posting had been picked up by a Philippino blogging RSS service listed as "Blogs about Manila."

The last thing I need is for Philippino bloggers to create an international incident between the Philippines and the hosting country of the Muqata, or worse, for Philippino bloggers to start hounding the Muqata.

Therefore, I am currently taking down the posting, "Fleeing Manila, Part #1"

I will continue to write part #2 and others, and if you're interested, please drop me an email and I'll be happy to send you a copy.

Obviously, all Muqata decisions are reversible...we'll see how this pans out.
If you really wish, I would consider guest blogging it elsewhere...life is so...Interesting.


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Bashing the Right. Again.

Allow me to preface this posting by saying that I hope to have "Fleeing Manila -- Part #2" ready for tomorrow - Wednesday. Thanks for all your kind comments and emails about it.



Translation: Arab Lovers. Leftists Disengaged [from reality?]
Another one I saw yesterday but don't yet have a picture says:
Leftist Maniacs.

On my way home yesterday from work, I saw a billboard that was so out of place that I wished I had a camera to take a picture of it. It was so stupidly offensive against Israeli left-wingers that I couldn't believe I was seeing it.

Turns out, I was right. I couldn't believe it, because it was not put out to bash Israeli leftists, but to imply that an Israeli right wing organization was bashing Israeli leftists. Haaretz reports today that the radical left wing party, Meretz, put out this particular ad campaign to shock leftists out of their complacency. Good work guys!

I have 3 comments on this:

1. When a self-proclaimed "Zionist" party resorts to such depths of hatred to further their own agenda, you have to wonder if there's any remaining common denominator with them. Demonizing the right wing for a cheap, cynically political soundbyte is improper, immoral, and has no place in a Jewish state.

2. Attention pro-disengagement Jews: You have been cynically used by the Israeli left. As much as you honestly believe the disengagement was the right thing to do, your views will continue to be exploited by the radical left in Israel, whose real agenda is that of hatred and division. I will never forget hearing Meretz MK Ran Cohen saying 13 years ago, that after Israel finally abandons all of Yesha, the next step will be the secularization of Israel. Food for thought.

3. According to the Israeli law of "Sedition", Israeli Criminal (punishable) Law 1977, section 136, article 4; Definition of Sedition:

לעורר מדנים ואיבה בין חלקים שונים של האוכלוסין

"Arousing contention/strife and malice between different sections of the population"

Sounds like Meretz to me.

If we are going to ever continue any dialogue in this country and move forward with any common denominators, this sort of disgusting and venomous hatred must stop.

As much as the Left may despise the settler movement's activity; directing people's hatred at the right wing, instead of at the right wing's policies accomplishes nothing for the cohesiveness of our country and brings animosity to a new level.



Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Monday, January 30, 2006

Morning Travels - part #1

Originally I wanted to blog today about a miserable checkpoint I drove through last week from my side of the fence to the "Israeli" one. I took lots of pictures and thought it would be an interesting read.

However, driving to Jerusalem today took my entire appetite away from blogging about checkpoints, border crossings and driving to work.

One of the checkpoints I drive through is called "Chawara North." Its a checkpoint on road 60, just north of the Arab village, "Chawara." Chawara's not the friendliest of places; the 2 mosques are landmarks commonly used by settlers when calling the army if they are hit by rocks, Molotov cocktails, shooting attacks, road accidents, etc.

There's a roadblock of burning tires by the old mosque

I just got hit by rocks between the old and new mosques

There's a car stuck on the side of the road just after the new mosque, heading north.


Lately, the IDF has put up a new checkpoint to search for terrorists at the northern entrance of Chawara. Settlers are usually able to drive around the checkpoints rather freely, since we're not at all who the army is looking for -- we don't want to blow ourselves up (and please, no comments on apartheid).

This morning's checkpoint congestion was rather bad, and the Israeli minibus in front of the Muqatamobile was asked by the soldier to pull off to the side of the road. Normally, Jewish traffic isn't pulled over, but since it was a commercial minibus-type van, I guess the soldier wanted to see who was in it. Fair enough.

The driver started yelling at the soldier not to bother him. The soldier yelled back at him to pull over. I waited patiently.

More yelling...the minibus started to move to the side, but I guess not quick enough for the soldier.

Then it happened.

The soldier put his left hand on his M16 right next to the back sight of the rifle, and yanked back on a piece of metal, chambering a 5.56 caliber bullet into the M16.

It was now fully loaded, and ready to be shot.

Gun Rule #1: You only chamber a round into a weapon if you think you are going to need to shoot. You don't do this for fun.

He had just chambered a weapon and pointed it at a Jewish driven minibus.

An officer ran over from the other part of the checkpoint (leaving the entire checkpoint open for all to drive through) to calm down the soldier and the situation.

With the minibus on the side of the road, I drove on...feeling miserable at what I had just seen.

The driver should have been more understanding of the soldier's situation; its nerve racking at these checkpoints, and if the solider wants to stop him for a minute, then go with the flow. Don't yell at him or try to ignore him.

The soldier, even with the mission he's charged with, should never chamber a round into his M16 unless he's going to shoot his weapon. Frustration, even valid frustration is not an acceptable reason to chamber a round and point a weapon in someone's direction; and especially if its another Jew, where its obvious he's not a terrorist.

That was enough to keep me from posting what I wanted to. Maybe tomorrow or later today I'll post part #2, with lots of pictures...though still disturbing.



Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Sunday, January 29, 2006

JIB JAB, Ad Nauseum.

It's downright sad.

Every single blog I've visited who is in the running for a JIB award over the past 2 weeks is shamelessly advertising itself; Vote for me! Vote for me!
Don't you people have any self respect whatsoever?

Except for a shockingly few blogs with a backbone, such as my good friends MC Aryeh and Jack's Shack, its pathetic to see big name bloggers pathetically pandering for votes. GodolHador and DovBear? How the mighty have fallen...

And Treppenwitz?! Et Tu?
The one big blog I thought I could look to as a moral compass?!

And using the "I don't want to be a frier" excuse?

How lame.

I for one, know full well that there's not a settler's chance in the muqata, that I will win a JIB in the category I was nominated for. The 3 heavyweights, "Little Green Footballs", "Fundamentally Freund" and "Jewlicious" will definitely take the top 3 awards.
Yet who are these people?

Freund is Arutz Sheva. While I like Arutz Sheva as much as the next radical settler, Freund has an entire organization behind him to get votes. A7 gets tens of thousands of hits a day, and its no big deal for him to promote himself through their mega-site.

Little Green Footballs? I honestly never browsed their site more than once or twice in my life. So, I just went there now. What did I see as their top post? This. I guess they shamelessly ripped off my posting about Zeev telling me how much he loved me. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm not flattered.

Jewlicious? I can't really have a gripe against them, even if they are a brand name. Personally, CK even wants to go out for coffee with me at some point, which I would be happy to do. Yet, I will not put gratuitous pictures on my website of models wearing t-shirts that say "I HEART The Muqata." No way. This is a family blog.

Is that what it takes to win a JIB this year? T-shirt models, pirate blog sites (heh, I never thought I'd be going after them with a cheap pirate comment ;-) or tiny green footballs?

Nosiree Bob. Not me.

The best I could hope for is 4rth place. You know something -- fourth place isn't that bad for a non-commercial, homegrown blog like my own. Yes, getting over a thousand visits a week are nice...and its really heartwarming when a posting gets more than 10 comments on it.

In reality; the most amazing part of Muqata blogging is the emails I get from people. Here are some of the emails I received last week:

Shalom, Jameel - I read the Muqata regularly, enjoy it very much. A recent change in my circumstances has made it a possibility for me to make aliyah now. That said, I'd like to talk it over a little with someone IN Israel...

Hi Jameel! I've been reading your site for a while now, and decided that maybe I really should start thinking about aliya as a serious option. How do I get started?

So, to conclude, kuddos to Jameel who's by the way spending his time @ the Muqata. You made me realize, once again, the importance of staying put where we are; right here in our homeland!

Truth be told; as I wrote a month back; the JIB award isn't that important. The continued hits, comments and emails are what make it all fun and meaningful. And if I can actually impart just a tiny bit of the importance of living here in Eretz Yisrael, then that's the best award I could hope for.

You want to vote for me for a JIB award? Don't bother.
Do something instead which can make a difference.

Put me on your blogroll. Tell DovBear or Treppenwitz to put me on their blogroll. Tell someone you thought my site was worth reading. Think about moving here. Send me an email.

I'd prefer one of those anyday...as Israel's #1 totally volunteer, non-commercial, aliya advocating blogsite....masquerading with an Arab name.



Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

End of an Era. The Passing of Rav Kadouri, z'tl.

Growing up in the US in an Ashkenazi, Litvish, yeshivish family, the concept of Kabbala and Jewish mysticism was always looked upon as something "not for us." Learn enough gemara and halacha and you'll be able to get by without ever needing to think about this strange and foreign world.

Kabbala was for Sephardim or Chassidim; a rational Jameel didn't need to confront it at all.

My first exposure to "Kabbalists" was when I learned in Yeshiva in Israel in the 1980s. I had never heard the names "Ben Ish Chai", "Baba Sali", and "Rav Kadouri" before, yet my sephardi friends in Yeshiva taught me all about these masters of Kabbala. I took all these stories with more than a grain of salt; "Masters of Kabbala" reminded me too much of the Jedi masters from the fantasy world of Star Wars. As a 17 year old rational Yeshiva student, I looked upon the entire concept with disdain. I admit, that was probably rather presumptuous and arrogant of me at the time, but how could I have known any better?

A very rational, yeshivish cousin of mine told me of his first exposure to Rav Kadouri; instead of the Mir, my cousin went to Yeshivat HaNegev. One day, a group of yeshiva students came from Jerusalem to visit Rav Kadouri at Yeshivat HaNegev. At some point, totally out of character, Rav Kadouri yelled at one of the students, who turned pale, then red with embarrassment. My cousin, a die-hard Litvak recounted the story to me that after the yeshiva students went back to Jerusalem in 2 cabs, Rav Kadouri explained that he "felt" that the yeshiva student he had singled out had a death wish on him, and its considered "death" to be embarrassed, so Rav Kadouri wanted to remove this person's death wish.

My cousin related that he thought the entire story was rather weird. Till they got the phone call a few hours later, that the yeshiva student's cab flipped over, caught fire, and exploded. The driver didn't make it but the yeshiva student did. My cousin related that being in the presence of Rav Kadouri was spiritually overwhelming (and rather scary), even for a Litvak.

Scoff as you may when you read or hear such stories, but Rav Kadouri was a "Lover of Israel" -- and dedicated his entire life towards helping fellow Jews. Religious or Secular, Left, Right, or off the map, Rav Kadouri would meet with any Jew, and generously give out brachot for success and health. Rav Kadouri was the last of a generations of elder Kabbalists. They weren't of the ilk that did things for money or persued corruption (like many others have done in the past 20 years), but he possessed a genuine love and caring for the Jewish people.

Personally, I never believed much in the "Kabballa" side of Judaism, and was always bothered by such stories. Yet, ever since moving to Israel, where its obvious that we live in the land of miracles (anyone who's ever done IDF reserve duty knows that its a miracle the army functions at all), my attitude towards Kabbala and the Kabbalists changed. I don't scorn it anymore, and decided that there are things way out of my realm of understanding that I should respect and observe from a distance.

While I'm not a Lubavitcher in the slightest, I still went to the Rebbe in the 1980's to get a bracha and a dollar. I kept the dollar in my wallet and said I would give that dollar to tzedakka as soon as I merited moving to Israel. 15 years ago, the morning after landing in Israel, I kept my promise and gave that dollar to tzedakka at the Kotel (much to the chagrin of my Lubavitch friends who said I should have kept it). I told them I didn't need it anymore since I kept it to make aliya.

As the story goes, Rav Kadouri was given a Bracha from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to "Live in the times of Mashiach". What exactly that means, I don't know...but as believing Jews, rational Jews, we also believe in the Rambam's 13 principles of faith that we await the coming of Mashiach daily. And if not today, then tomorrow.

Rav Kadouri died last night at the age of 104 (to 114 depending on who you ask).

May his memory be a blessing for all of Klal Yisrael.



Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Friday, January 27, 2006

My Blog Sonnet.

Aliya concepts floating in my brain,
Latent brilliance hopelessly obscured.
Frustration mocks me, "So it shall remain"
Still, I blog, crafting idea and word.
From stubborn chaos I exract each drop,
Covering pages with meaningless ideas.
Blogger overflows with digital glop,
Gelling a post dispelling all my fears.
A Winning JIB? Thousands of hits this week?
Will even one contemplate moving home,
Eretz Yisrael -- a land of mystique,
One to proudly announce Israel's our own.
My polished prize anticipating praise
receives a few comments with bland okays.


Sorry about that. Absolutely no more poetry after midnight.



Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hamas Hamas Hamas...big deal.

I've gotten about 10 emails from people asking for my take on the Palestinian Elections, and although I didn't have the energy to write about it, I'm sitting at my laptop, late Thursday night...waiting for the soup pot to cool off, so I can put it away in the fridge and go to sleep.

Taking AskShifra's advice on getting things done before shabbat, the table is already set for tomorrow evening's meal, and everything is more or less cleaned up.

So what do I think about the elections? The first thing that come to mind was how the entire planet was rooting for Fatah. Let's see - who is Fatah? The same people who's platform calls for the destruction of Israel, the same people who have "armed factions" of their political party. "Geduday Al-Aksa," Ever heard of them? Just a terrorist group that tries to target Jews whenever they get a chance. PA "policemen" are all from the Fatah, and they have been involved in countless terror attacks against us. So what's the big deal?

Let's see if we can figure out why everyone is so scared of the Hamas. For starters, they are Fundamentalist Islamists...they are very religious. While their interpretation of religion calls for killing of Jews, and has no qualms about using children and women as suicide bombers against us...the Fatah doesn't have a problem with that either. So why does everyone think the Hamas are SO bad?

Well, they DON'T rape, pillage and plunder their own population like the PA/Fatah policemen do. They aren't corrupt sleezebags like the PA/Fatah. They aren't into extortion either. So what's the downside?

Ah yes, they aren't "moderates" like the Fatah. Fatah doesn't outright call for the destruction of Israel on a daily basis...in English. Hamas has no problem saying it outright. Fatah is a bit more subdued when talking in English, as they still want European and American donations to flow into their own pockets.

I would rather the Hamas be in power so that its clearer to us where we stand. As long as the Fatah/PA pretend to be good for our interests, the Israeli Left makes everyone think we have a partner (when in fact, we don't). Maybe with Hamas, we'll be able to see through the fog and understand what the Palestinian agenda really is.

Fine. That's my analysis on late Thursday night. Take it or leave it. I'll be back blogging on Sunday...all about the security fence and what its impact is on everyone. (with lots of pictures!)

Shabbat Shalom...from the Muqata.






Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Jameel the Israeli? Who are we kidding?

Allow me to preface this posting with a rather scary thought; I am traveling in a car on my way to Heathrow airport having spent the day in the UK on business.

In an effort to show that Israelies are fearless, my coworker rented a car and is currently driving on the wrong side of the road, with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car, and this is only the second time he has ever driven in England.

To add to the excitement, the car is also a stick shift, and the engine is constantly racing -- the driver keeps slightly missing the correct gear to be in.

To keep my mind off this incredibly scary ride, I'm sitting in the back seat, blogging myself into oblivion.

As dedicated Muqata readers are well aware, my former self, Bernie, grew up in the United States of America. Moving to Israel in my twenties, it will be impossible to fully lose my American accent when I speak Hebrew.

I'm still culturally attached to the US in many ways; family, friends, I fly to the US for work, I even have a current US (one of the 50) state-issued driver's license. I may not fly the American flag on July 4rth, but I would love a July 4rth barbecue and Turkey for Thanksgiving is always welcome.

What I find so interesting is that when I go on business to the UK, my British colleagues consider me Israeli. Not even an expat American living in Israel -- I'm ISRAELI. We had a meeting today about cultural differences between Israelis and British, and it was so weird hearing them define ME as the Israeli.

I usually talk reservedly, don't shout during meetings, don't interrupt people and don't get overly passionate in an argument over which looping mechanism should be used or if the project plan makes sense. Yet -- everyone pointed at ME, Jameel the Israeli, as the typical Israeli of all Israeli behavior.

How did I turn from American to Israeli in the eyes of the world?

A few years back, I was in Albuquerque on business as well. Some big SouthWesterner stopped me on the street and said;

NewMexican: "You're from Israel, aintchya?"

Jameel: "Wow, yes I am. How did you know that?"

NewMexican: "I could tell from that thing on your head" (as he pointed to my kippa).

Jameel: "Well sir, you happen to be correct, I am in fact, from Israel."

NewMexican: "You ISRAH-AY-LEES must have one hell of an ED-JU-CAY-TIONAL system!"

Jameel: "Actually, we have some great Universities and schools in Israel --The Technion, Hebrew University, Bar Ilan -- how are you so familiar with our schooling that you can say with such determination that we have a great educational system?"

NewMexican: "'Cause you speak better English than I do!"
Not wanting to ruin our reputation, I left it at that and went on my way.

I guess my klita, my absorbtion into Israel is now complete.

PS: Made it back home safely. Remind me next week to tell you about my trip to Manila...

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Scandalous JBlog Behaviour

When a J-Blogger tells another J-Blogger they love them...


Yes, it happened to me last week.

I'm happily married...and the other blogger is ALSO married (I’m pretty sure happily as well)

We're both religiously observant, Orthodox Jews.

We're both…male.

And then...out of the blue...on the phone, he says to me..."love you."

I'm sure the Mrs. @ The Muqata's eyebrows just shot up…

Desperately trying to get ourselves ready for my son's bar mitzva, a rather strange thing happened last week. A male blogger friend of mine called me up to say "hi," and wish me a "mazal tov" on my son's upcoming bar mitzva.

We chatted for a few minutes...discussed some ideas for different postings...and he gets a phone call.

It was a rather important one as well.

He says he has to run.

Then, on auto-pilot he throws the following pitch at me, "gotta run, important phone call, love you, bye".

Now, either this is how he ends conversations with his wife, or he thinks I’m his wife, or he actually loves me, or all of the above and then some.

What can I say? I hope his wife knows.



Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Judaism, Interrupted

Walking along damp station platform of the London Underground, the ad posters on the yellow bricked wall finally grabbed my attention. Fifteen identical adverts, framed in aluminum all lined up along the wall with white block-lettering on a heavy black background.

It read “KLAVAN” and the name of some book. I had never read any of his books, never really heard of this author, and I don’t know why the name stuck in my head – yet that was 5 years ago and I had since forgotten about it.

Till yesterday.

Once again this author’s name jumped out at me – from the most unlikely of places, an op/ed piece on the Arutz Sheva website, “Why G-d Chose the Jews?”

What in the world did this author have to do with Arutz Sheva?

His bio was interesting enough:

Andrew Klavan is the award-winning author of such bestselling crime novels as True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don´t Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere.

A quick google and I found that his article was originally from the LA Times and reposted on the A7 website. His homepage biography was too funny,

“Klavan attended the University of California at Berkeley for a year but dropped out when he discovered the sixties were over. He was one of the very few people at Berkeley who actually did discover this.”

especially how he met his wife:

Returning to UC Berkeley for a few years to pick up his diploma, he also picked up an extremely attractive hitchhiker named Ellen. Spying her as he was walking to is car, Klavan jumped into the antique vehicle, drove across a lawn to beat the one-way grid, dragged the poor girl off the street and abducted her for more than twenty years, forcing her to bear his two children, Faith and Spencer. So let that be a lesson to you. Ellen turned out to be the daughter of Thomas Flanagan, then chairman of the Berkeley English department, a fact which may account for Klavan’s graduation. Thomas Flanagan later went on to become an award-winning novelist, also named Thomas Flanagan


Browsing his website, I learned that he was a horror, mystery and detective novelist -- some of his books did better than others; he’s been published in newspapers as well.


Returning to google, I searched for this author and Judaism…or Jews…or Israel…and the main connection was still his recent article, “Why G-d Chose the Jews?”

Nothing on his website connects him with the Jewish people, Judaism, or anything remotely connected to Judaism. How does someone come to write an article like this which got rave reviews everywhere? Something in him must have connected to Judaism…or reconnected?

Google Found it. The Christian blog equivalent of the “Not the Godol Hador”The Questioning Christian (dare I say, lehavdil?) provided the missing link for me.

December 25, 2004
An Atheist Converts -- But for the Wrong Reasons?

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal features a column by Andrew Klavan, a former atheist who was baptized into the Episcopal Church this year. He took that momentous step, not because science suggests the existence of God, but because of "the human experience of God's presence."

The presumption of atheism seems to me to be at the heart of all scientific reasoning about religion. And as I'm someone who loves and believes in science, it was a major stumbling block for me most of my life. After all, why would anyone believe without proof in that for which there is no evidence in the first place?

Delving a bit deeper on the web, it becomes obvious that author went from Judaism to Atheism, to his recent baptism within Episcopalian Christianity.

His op/ed article reads very well…Jews were created to be a “…Villainy Early Detection System for everyone else.” If you hate the Jews, you must be evil.

“If it's some clown who thinks the Jewish state should be pushed into the sea, or that the Jews killed Christ, or are conspiring to subvert the world economy or the government or the media, I beg you to consider that you might be wrong. There is no shame in changing your opinion. Falling into step with wicked fools - that's shameful, and it's dangerous, too. God gave you an early detection system. Use it.”

As any reader of my blog knows, I actively try to convince people of the centrality of Israel to the Jewish experience and outright encourage Jews to move here to Israel. It really pains me when the concept of aliya is not even a blip on some people’s radar.

However, if the lack of aliya awarenes is painful, the following is far worse -- a pro-Judaism article from a disenfranchised Jew, who left the fold, returned to religion…yet the wrong one?

This person’s great-grandparents were probably respected rabbinic figures in Europe, in the best yeshivot…yet in the span of 80 years their offspring couldn’t find the answers, didn’t find the answers, or didn’t want to find answers. They probably didn’t read the Not the Godol Hador website to go “off the derech”…yet they return to religion, via extrapolated belief of "the human experience of G-d's presence,” in the framework of...Christianity? Is this the advocacy we really want?

Is Israel the answer?

There are no guarantees in life…but I firmly believe that Israel is still your best bet to retain your family’s Judaism, and your own.

Jameel a.k.a. Bernie Kleinman
In London for 24 hours.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The week that was - The Muqata Madness Recap.

Just 7 weeks ago, I blogged about my perceived decline of the fun and wackiness of the JBlogosphere...how I missed the boat. Thankfully, so as not to sound that pathetic, I noted with a bit of cautious optimism that maybe things would turn around.

Since then, there has a been an explosion of excellent writing all over the JBlog world. I didn't know the JIBs were just around the corner, and little did I know how much things could change in such short time.

As you know, I was threatened with severe bodily harm if I blogged before my son's bar mitzva, so I invited 16 blog friends to guest blog at The Muqata over the past week and a half. I was a bit hesitant at first -- how many of them would actually accept my invitation? Yet within hours of sending out my email invite to them, I was overwhelmed by their bubbly enthusiasm to guest blog.

"Be careful what you wish for - it may come true"

Had I been able to go back in time only 7 weeks ago to when I wistfully wrote about the JBLOG heyday party I missed, and tell myself that a huge new carnival was only a few weeks away, and would be on MY blog...I doubt I would have believed it.

A quick reminder of their posts as as follows:

Jack from Random Thoughts, recalls his first trip to Israel...and how that amazing experience left its indelible mark on his soul. Whenever you are ready to come back Jack, we'll be cheering for you on this side!

Zeev from Israel Perspectives, already living in Israel (who I've had the pleasure of meeting) invites us to the Cafe Kitzoni - the comic cafe of the radical right. Actually - a place for bloggers to meet and have have some hot soup on a cold Jerusalem evening sounds like a lot of fun to me.

And then there's Chana, A Curious Jew. This enchanting and prolific younger blogger routinely manages to amaze me by her depth and breadth of knowledge. While she definitely did not belong at Templars, maybe she can find a place of learning here in Israel...that will inspire her even more.

Must Gum Addict. I found this blogger commenting on Orthomom's blog not too long ago, and as my kids are fans of "MUST" gum, I started reading his blog. Definitely a person with the right aliya orientation -- his recollections of a trip here (with great pictures) shows us where to be.

When I found my blog listed on Zion Report under "Blogs I would pay to read" -- I knew this was someone I had to connect with. He poignantly reminds us of the high price a committed Jew can pay for living in in Chutz LaAretz.

My good friend Jerusalem Cop who quit the Israeli Police Force, so as not to participate in the Disengagement this past summer, talks about Aliya -- and issues surrounding it, and why it's an option for everyone. Guess the movie his post titles come from, and you can chose what he'll blog about next.

Mirty HaBlogger has a great series she's currently writing about her stay in Israel in the early 70s. Feeling a bit under the weather at the time, she extrapolates on world peace via chicken soup. See her blog...she's a fantastic writer, and code scripter and fairy blog mother.

LabRab - the Yeshiva University synthesis of Torah Umadda writes about his visit to Israel as part of Operation Torah Shield II. This was of particular interest to me, since I celebrated my aliyanniversary last week as well, having come on Operation Torah Shield I in Jan 1991. Ever the nice guy, LabRab throws in an extra post with a DafYomi song. Thanks LabRab -- your calling for JIB support was very kind!

JoeSettler wrote a great political piece about Jonathan Pollard and how he should be smack in the middle of Israel's consensus. Joe also tries to get extra site visits by posting a photoshopped picture of me from my son's bar mitzva...I apologize on behalf of Muqata Management that he shamelessly used this tactic. And no, you can't tell its me in the picture either.

My left of center blogging friend, the Artist Formerly Known as the Purple Parrot treats us to a great culinary experience of Palestinian Burgers. Its always best to discuss politics on a full stomach...makes the conversation alot more relaxed. Thanks Parrot - your writing is always great!

Guys! Its 18 minutes before shabbat, and you haven't yet read this outstandingly funny post by Shifra? Drop everything and read it now! This post has been linked to everywhere...and I feel guilty that such a fantastic post was guest blogged at the Muqata...when her site should have received 100% of the credit. Do check her site regularly for her weekly soap opera, "The Modern and the Orthodox" and read all about questions to the "Dear Abby" of the JBlog world.

MC Aryeh of "A Whispering Soul" offers some hilarious top secret insight into the history of the Muqata and how I chose the Jameel moniker for blogging. I feel totally outted...not. And then, after such a great guest blog, he further embarrasses me with a blog review that made me blush. Though up for lots of JIB awards, MC Aryeh ignores the limelight and helps showcase many great blogs.

One of the more senior bloggers out there, I only realized recently that I know Soccer Dad (and yes, we did meet in person). He writes about some special doctors in Israel and why everyone should know about these private tzaddikim. Coincidentally, the same day this was posted by Soccer Dad, I bought a book about historical sites around Jerusalem, which was published in memory of Dr. Shmuel Gillis.

And last...in the list. Not expecting anything like this in the slightest, comes a personal and touching guest post from R.X at Suburban Hymns, simply named "For Jameel". If anyone ever dreamed of orchestrating an episode of "Jameel @ The Muqata: This is Your Life" -- they could not have written a finer example of quality literature. Hanging on to every word throughout this posting, this was a fabulous present which I will always treasure.

And now...to all of you guest bloggers - I salute you! I would be honored if you would remain as contributors to my blog - even if on an annual basis. Seeing all your names on the "Contributors" list makes my day every time I see it.

Thanks for such a wonderful week of blogging; I look forward to meeting you all in Israel!

You Bloggers ROCK!

(...and I'll post about the bar mitzva later -- it was great!)

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael and Israel Perspectives (?) along with JoeSettler's Jerusalem compass, Soccer Dad's home page (though his keyboard is still in the West), Shifra's husband when he davens late Friday afternoon; Purple Parrot's nice sentiments; LabRab's funny songs point to Rechov Sumsum; and J-cop even without cellcom reception...

A Picture of Jameel near the Muqata

Anyone want to see a picture of Jameel?
(He's in the second photo, next to Feiglin)

Wherever Jameel is, his smiling face turns towards Eretz Yisrael

The Tragic Tale of a Spurned Suitor

And yet again he rejects me...

He is a large, freakish monster that takes sadistic joy in devouring ideas. I type all night, I come up with the perfect article, I remember the exact phrasing that will explain all the pleasures of the universe, and it is at that fatal moment that he decides to quit, fizzes out and dies. Angrily, I send him stabbing looks with my eyes, willing him to break into myriads of pieces and then reassemble himself so that he is faster, kinder, and more efficient. Of course, he does nothing but continue to drone in his mindless way, an endless zzzzzing noise that informs the other party that no, he is not interested, and would you please go away until it's time for tea?

He wheezes, huffs and puffs while he loads pages. The little green chugger at the bottom of the page slowly, ever so very sl-o-oo-owly fills, the plumbline tips, and just as the page should come into being- presto! I hear a dying gasp, a snorting breath, the last thin sound as he tries to grip- and it is then that the pleasant 'This Page Cannot be Displayed' sign gloomily takes over the screen.

When I feed him a CD, thinking that he will enjoy the musical and artistic satisfaction of hearing the sublime melodies roll off his tongue, he does his best to destroy it. I hear creaking noises, and horrified, realize that you, treacherous friend, have decided to destroy my musical collection. There is a ghastly CRRRR and I realize you have scratched the surface of my brand-new disc. Just as I am ready to weep, I place the CD into a real CD player, only to hear it play back perfectly, with absolutely no stops or skipping. So you take pleasure in pretending to destroy my posessions, eh?

Indeed, at one point in time, he acquired the ability to express certain sounds when I click on the mouse. This means that he is currently drowning every time we minimize a window, as we hear gurgles and gloops of bubbling liquid sloshing about. There are strange animal shrieks and screeches whenever a window is opened, and even though we have long since done away with the fish screensaver, the vestiges of the past remain...

He strongly resents working with more than one program at a time. Imagine how overworked he must feel when I open *gasp* Microsoft Word in addition to *gasp* DavkaWriter! He instantly complains about memory space, the lack thereof, and the fact that virtually, he is dying once again.

He refuses to scan pictures (although he once did) and claims there is a problem with the "connection." What connection? And yet it remains. Depressingly, our phototools are located on the very computer that refuses to scan, while the only scanner that works is connected to a computer lacking in phototools...

He is notorious for telling me about updates and various sorts of antivirus protection, informing me that pages are not secure, stating that Windows Media Player can work in a minimode- and belligerantly claiming it will not turn these functions off even when I click the little box that says 'Please do Not Tell Me This Again.'

The DSL lights enjoy flickering through all the stages of the rainbow in efforts to make me resign myself to the absence of the Internet.

Oh, computer, I love you so, and yet you spurn me, again and again...

(This is not really based on my computer. It's based on the many computers I have known, and who have met their untimely demise, swallowed into the black hole, the yawning vortex that commands them to FREEZE or in other ways contradict their owners.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

For Jameel...

It was 1987. The year of the Kings Cross Fire and the Hungerford Massacre. The year of Three Men and a Baby and Fatal Attraction. Walk Like an Egyptian was top of the charts, Moonlighting arrived on our TV screens for the first time and everyone had a copy of Bonfire of the Vanities. We had big hair, big phones and big ideas. It was 1987 and I was fourteen years old.

Fourteen is often seen as an awkward age. A no-man's-land between the innocence of childhood and the cynicism of maturity. Fourteen year olds don’t want to be kids. But they don't much fancy being adults either. And they struggle and fight and swear through all the uncertainty.

But for me, fourteen was a magical age. It was an age of independence, of discovery and freedom. At age fourteen, I spent five long, glorious months in a field school in Israel, a few kilometres from the coastal town of Ashdod and a million miles from anything I had ever known before. I left behind my family, my friends and my rainy hometown in the north of England and I moved to a sun-bleached dormitory building with a corrugated iron roof and windows that rattled with the daily fly-past of army fighter jets. I had only a rusty command of Hebrew and had never been away from home before for longer than a week. And suddenly I found myself in the middle of the Middle East, with a group of people I didn't really know, in a country that I had not visited since a two-week family holiday when I was eight years old.

There were twenty-five of us in the group. All of us were fourteen years old, bursting with hormones, away from our parents for the first time and eager to experience everything we possibly could without being caught and/or sent home. The idea was that we should experience real Israeli life. Attend school, go on tiyulim, meet the people and learn the language. The reality was rather different. We hadn't gone to learn Hebrew and visit the Holy Land. We had gone to smoke, swear, snog and sunbathe.

The choice of venue for this 'experience of a lifetime' was far from ideal. The school itself was a boarding school for troubled teenagers. Every dope addicted or anorexic adolescent from a fifty-mile radius was there. The offspring of every acrimonious divorce, alcoholic father or imprisoned mother was sent to that school. These were kids who had nothing - materially or emotionally - and into their deprived world the powers-that-be decided to parachute twenty five blonde, pasty, pampered British kids who had more electronic gadgets than these kids had had hot dinners. It was a recipe for disaster. Every day one of our group reported at least one item of clothing missing. We never got them back, although we'd bump into Israeli kids on the school campus a month later wearing our t-shirts and listening to our radios and we'd wonder how a girl from Dimona had been able to buy a Marks and Spencer sweater or a radio with a British socket-plug and adapter.

We studied in our own separate classroom so that we could stick to the British school curriculum. But the truth was that none of us had come to study. It was a five-month holiday and we intended to milk it for all it was worth. We were late for class every day. The girls sat at the back, chewing gum, plaiting each other's hair and making knotted bracelets with coloured thread. The boys gazed out of the window and stared at the gorgeous sixteen-year-old Yemenite girls and thought that they were the nearest thing to perfection they'd ever seen.

The billed highlight of each week was the weekly tiyul. We were woken at 5 a.m. every Wednesday for a day's trek through the Negev desert or across the Judean hills. (We had to start early so that we could catch the sun-rise before we began the trek). We'd clamber into the bus, bleary eyed, while the teachers repeated the words "Hat! Water Bottle! Camera. (Optional)" like some possessed mantra. We would then argue with the coach driver, and each other, over the choice of tape to play on the journey. We'd beg for Madonna (it was the year of Papa Don’t Preach) and the driver would insist on Arik Einstein.

The thing about trekking in Israel is that there is absolutely no point to the whole exercise. Other than physically doing it. There was never a final destination that we were aiming for - we always hiked in a circle. And it wasn't long before we began to question, feet blistered and calves aching, why the hell we were tramping up yet another dehydrated, rocky mountain only to walk down the bloody thing again and get back in the bus. Occasionally, places of national or historical interest were pointed out. The snake path up to Masada. Joseph Trumpledor's battle field. The burial place of the matriarch, Rachel. But mostly, we walked up a hill, ate lunch, and then walked down again. The tour guides (well meaning National Service girls who were totally out of their depth) did their best. But when you're fourteen, newly arrived from England and just want to chat about which of the boys in the group you really fancy, you don't much care about the geographical mechanics of a wadi. You just want to know if he fancies you back.

We were spotty, cynical and sarcastic. We were out to avoid as much study as we could. We were away from home for five whole months and we were going to make the most of it. We hadn't come to learn the language or meet the people. We'd come to go wild. We could smoke without getting caught. Swear at the teachers without our parents finding out. We were in the nearest thing to heaven a fourteen-year-old can get. And we drove the teachers and tour leaders to distraction.

Then, one evening in March, something happened to change all that. Or, more accurately, someone. We were sitting in the lounge at the end of the dormitory building, listening to Bruce Springsteen and planning an illegal midnight beach party in Ashdod, when a tall, lanky, bespectacled young man walked into the room. He was wearing kibbutz sandals and a scruffy crocheted kippa, and spoke in a strong (to our ears) American accent. He was the first American most of us had ever met. (In 1987, we were convinced that they all sounded like JR, our only point of reference.)

The young man was twenty years old and he had come over to the school from the neighbouring Yeshiva, where he was studying for a couple of years before beginning University. He strode into the centre of the lounge and a hush descended on the room.

“Okay guys, listen up!”

Twenty five English fourteen-year-olds, in stunned silence, looked at him, then at each other, and then at him again. We’d never been called ‘guys’ before and we had no idea where the phrase ‘listen up’ came from. We didn’t know who this chap was, what he wanted or why he was standing on a chair in the middle of our lounge with an orange in one hand and a siddur in the other, asking us to listen up. But we listened up.

He had been asked to come over to the school to run some informal programmes. The kind of ‘Jewish education by the back door’ that only half-crazy Americans are capable of imparting on cynical English fourteen-year-olds. With no formal training in education or youth leadership he managed to turn a bunch of disaffected teenagers, who were intent only on having a good time and getting up to mischief, into a cohesive group of self-aware and engaged young adults, who were open to new ideas and challenging opportunities.

After that first evening in the lounge, he came with us on every tiyul. While previously we had moaned and whined our way up hill and down dale, we now found ourselves singing nonsense marching songs as we hiked along, or playing ball games over lunch. He encouraged the stronger members of the group to help the smaller, weaker ones to cross the difficult patches of terrain. He persuaded us to stop and marvel at the scenery. He made us feel that the hills that we were walking on were our hills, a part of our heritage, hills that Jews had prayed and dreamed about for centuries. We stopped asking for Madonna on the coach – we were happier singing together as a group or taking the microphone to start our own traveling radio station.

In the evenings, there was no longer any time to plan a break-out to the beach or to smoke illicit cigarettes behind the dining hall. We were too busy decorating the lounge area, creating a group newspaper, learning about the country we were visiting. We stopped splitting up into mini cliques or getting ourselves bogged down in that tiresome pattern of break-up and make-up of adolescent friendships. With his encouragement we started to gel as a group and became a tightly-knit bunch of teenagers who genuinely cared about ourselves, each other, the land, its history and this very special (though clearly slightly deranged) American.

There were some in the group who could barely read Hebrew. Others had never before heard anyone make Kiddush. Most had no idea how to keep Shabbat or which way to put on tephillin. But somehow, (I can’t even tell you how) this geeky American, with his flailing arms and his Chesire-cat grin, inspired us to give it a try. He would happily sit for hours listening to one of the group read two lines of Hebrew in slow, faltering mispronounced syllables. When homesickness set in, as it sometimes did, he’d listen, and occasionally advise, but mostly just listen. He was old enough for us to look up to and respect, but young enough to gain our immediate confidence and trust. He was a conduit between out-of-control teenagers and our exasperated teachers.

At the time, I was obsessed with the Beatles. Posters of the Fab Four were hung on every inch of my wall in the dormitory. I would listen to their music on an almost constant loop on my walkman. I would celebrate their birthdays and drove my room-mates mad with anecdotes and stories about them. My friends would lose patience with me and beg me to shut up. But this funny American would talk to me for hours about why I loved the music. What was it about them that made me feel so passionately? What was my favourite song? I told him that my favourite track was Here Comes the Sun and I made a copy of the song for him. On every tiyul, as we drove in the bus towards our starting point, the sun would rise and he would come over to where I was sitting and say, “Hey, Here Comes the Sun!”. He knew it was a ridiculous obsession. He knew it was a silly phase that would soon pass. But he knew that it was important to me. And he treated it with respect.

Maybe it was his infectious laugh that made us love him? Maybe it was simply because he made it all seem like fun? Maybe it was because, deep down, we knew that smoking and swearing was all very well, but once the novelty had worn off, it really wasn’t that clever after all, and he showed us that we could behave and enjoy ourselves and make the most of this amazing opportunity we’d been offered. Maybe it was simply because he made us feel great about ourselves and he taught us that we were worth it. It’s hard not to care about yourself when someone so inspiring cares about you too. Or maybe, it was because we were fourteen years old, confused and misunderstood, and he just listened. He always had time to listen.

I don’t know if he expected to become so important to our Israel experience. I’m not even sure that, to this day, he’s aware of the effect that he had on us. But looking back, almost twenty years later, he remains the central figure of those magical five months. He held the group together, showed us how to bond as a team, so that when we got back to school and sat in England, thousands of miles from those dusty hills, we could look across the room at one of the other members of the group and know, without saying a word, that we had shared the most amazing five months of our young lives.

But five months passes by in a flash. Before we knew it, we were back in the UK, studying for our exams and re-acquainting ourselves with life in England. The lanky American made his own way in life and we moved on with ours. We grew up. Went to University. Fell in love, got married, had children. And those magical days in Israel, when life was simple and the future was as vast and open as the starry middle-eastern sky, became a distant memory. A chance remark or a reminiscent sight would occasionally take my mind back to those days. But, for the most part, it was locked away in the dim and distant past. Happy days, but gone forever.

Years later, I find myself in London. Working hard and, for the most part, happy; the mother of a wonderful eight-year-old boy, and the writer of a modest blog, Suburban hymns. Out of the blue I receive a message from another blogger. His name, he claims, is Jameel of the Muqata, and we begin a tentative email correspondence, blogger to blogger, about the Beatles. He tells me that, long ago, a friend gave him a copy of Here Comes the Sun and, to this day, it remains his favourite song. He asks me which is my favourite track? And what am I doing now? And how old is my son? And I smile, because I know that, somewhere among those dusty hills, where I had trekked so happily at age fourteen and watched the sun rise, that lanky, smiling, slightly mad but inspiring American, is still listening.

Creation as Religion: Man in the Image of God



א בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Genesis 1:1
~

What is creation?

It is difficult to understand the beginning of the world. A place in which deep darkness existed, earth in its unborn state, a void. And then comes the phantasm, the spirit of God that hovers over the waters, lapping waters that compose melodies of splendor and beauty to Him, raging waters that take the earth as their domain. It is then that a voice comes into being, a voice that commands the earth, and it is this voice that forms our world.

Our world was not the first that He created, indeed, He had labored long over many. These were beautiful realms, exquisite and astonishing, formed in all the colors and hues of the spectrum. But these worlds were destroyed. (Medrish Rabbah to Genesis 3:9) And here it is that we remain, Jews living within our world, wondering at times, wondering of our purpose and our mission. Why are we here? What truly do we have to add? What is our purpose?

There are many who attempt to answer this question. Our purpose, some will say, is to follow God's commands in their entirety and to strive to be better people. While this is true, it is not, perhaps, our ultimate purpose.

Our purpose is to create- to be what we were intended to be, not simply, as Ayn Rand would put it "second-handers" but Creators.

This will be accomplished in a way different from that of God, the ultimate Creator. God is unique in that what He accomplishes is yeish me'ayin, something from nothing, while we create something from something, i.e. using the materials and creations that are already at our disposal.

Interestingly, this very distinction between us- man and God- plays a very important role in terms of our religious beliefs, specifically the Sabbath.

    Kabbalistic writings offer an alternative understanding of creation as "yeish mei'ayin," something from the Ein Sof, finite emerging from the Infinite. Consider the problem mathematically: Any value added to infinity necessarily yields a sum which is infinite. When God, who is infinite, creates a finite value- i.e., the world- the sum total of reality should remain infinite. How can finite be added to infinite? The Kabbalistic response to this question is a term known as "tzimtzum"- contraction. Creation is not the result of God adding something finite; rather, He "holds back" infinity, as it were.

    We may now see Creation, and therefore Shabbat, from a different perspective. On the first day, God holds back infinity; likewise on the second through sixth days. Finally, at the end of the sixth day, the world is complete and God rests. In other words, God reverts back to a noncontraction mode, back to infinity. Shabbat is therefore the day which represents infinity, the one day which relates to and reflects God on His terms, not via the tzimtzum....

    Let us return to the laws of Shabbat, which are derived from the melachot of the Mishkan. Creativity is manifest when an object is improved in some way, but this type of work is fundamentally different from the work which God performed in Creation. God's work was "something from nothing," while our work is "something from something." Being that we are finite beings, our creation is necessarily different from God's. While God "held back" in order to create, man goes forward; while God goes into His "infinite mode" on Shabbat, transcending the tzimtzum He employed in creating the world, man must hold back his creative energies. What we have described is an inverse relationship, due to the fundamental difference between man and God.

    One may describe the relationship in the following terms: Man is said to be in the image of God. We are, in fact, the mirror image of God. We are opposites. Therefore, on Shabbat we "hold back" while trying to be like God in the only way we can- by imitating the means of God's creation, tzimtzum. Perhaps that is what we mean when we describe our rest on Shabbat as a "commemoration of the act of Creation": We do on Shabbat what God did in Creation....

    My rebbe, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt"l, explained these concepts as follows: For Jews, philosophical understanding leads to moral imperative. The Jew must emulate God and practice tzimtzum in various relationships. This is the idea of gevurah (strength), as in the mishnah,

      Who is strong? The person who controls his evil inclination.
      (Avot 4:1)


    This idea arguably stands at the core of all Jewish ethics and marks a radical departure from the way man sees his responsibilities vis-a-vis his fellow man. It is noteworthy that the Torah begins with "Bereishit bara Elokim," the Name Elokim being associated with the mystical realm of gevurah. God practices "self-control" by limiting the infinite in the process of Creation. Therefore, we may view shabbat as a one-day adventure in self-control. Often we have to hold ourselves back from even the most mundane, arguably trivial activities, only because they are defined as creative activity, melachah. It is hoped that such self-control will spill over into the week, elevating all our actions and thoughts.

    Explorations, Parashat Vayakheil, Shabbat: Creation, Mishkan, and Infinity, pages 197-199, by Rabbi Ari D. Kahn


This is fascinating. God most hold himself back during the week while we mortals create "something from something," while we must hold back (and refrain from doing work) on the Sabbath, when God is at His infinite self.

But what is this creation of man?

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik writes:

    When man, the crowning glory of the cosmos, approaches the world, he finds his task at hand- the task of creation. He must stand on guard over the pure, clear existence, repair the defects in the cosmos, and replenish the "privation" in being. Man, the creature, is commanded to become a partner with the creator in the renewal of the cosmos; complete and ultimate creation- this is the deepest desire of the Jewish people.

This is man's task, indeed, it is the "deepest desire of the Jewish people." But how is it to be fulfilled? And what does it mean- when we create, what is it that we do? And what are we if we are vessels for creation?

    The dream of creation finds its resolution in the actualization of the principle of holiness.
    Creation means the realization of the ideal of holiness. The nothingness and naught, the privation and the void are rooted in the realm of the profane; the harmonious existence, the perfected being are grounded in the realm of the holy. If a man wishes to attain the rank of holiness, he must become a creator of worlds. If a man never creates, never brings into being anything new, anything original, then he cannot be holy unto his God. That passive type who is derelict in fulfilling his task of creation cannot become holy. Creation is the lowering of transcendence into the midst of our turbid, coarse, material world; and this lowering can take place only through the implementation of the ideal Halakhah in the core of reality (the realization of the Halakhah=contraction=holiness=creation.)

    But man himself symbolizes, on the one hand, the most perfect and complete type of existence, the image of God, and, on the other hand, the most terrible chaos and void to reign over creation. The contradiction that one finds in the macrocosm between ontic beauty and perfection and monstrous "nothingness" also appears in the microcosm- in man-for the latter incorporates within himself the most perfect creation and the most unimaginatble chaos and void, light and darknes, the abyss and the law, a coarse, turbid being and a clear, lucid existence, the beast and the image of God. All human thought has grappled with this strange dualism that is so pronounced in man and has sought to overcome it....

    Judaism declares that man stands at the crossroads and wonders about the path he shall take. Before him there is an awesome alternative- the image of God or the beast of prey, the crown of creation or the bogey of existence, the nobles of creatures or a degenerate creature, the image of the man of God or the profile of Nietzsche's "superman"- and it is up to man to decide and choose.....The most fundamental principle of all is that man must create himself. It is this idea that Judaism introduced into the world.

    Ibid, pages 108-109


The purpose of our lives is to engage in self-creation.

We exist in order to create ourselves. We exist in order to choose, to decide whether we are those made in the image of God, or those who exist only based on the "will to power," where the strongest survives and religion is a mere crutch.

We exist- either as men or as beasts. It is up to us to determine who we are, who we will be, and what we may become.

Creation is the principle upon which we survive.

Creation is also a fundamental principle in religion due to the idea of repentance, in which man can erase his sins. This erasure, however, is not as important as the process, mainly the realization that one has done wrong, earnestly regrets it, and earnestly desires to change his ways. It is this process that reflects our ability to create ourselves.


    Repentance, according to the halakhic view, is an act of creation- self-creation. The severing of one's psychic identity with one's previous "I," and the creation of a new "I," possessor of a new consciousness, a new heart and spirit, different desires, longings, goals- this is the meaning of that repentance compounded of regret over the past and resolve for the future."

    Ibid, page 111


This is one of the most beautiful ideas I have ever come across. There are many who regard teshuva, repentance, as a sad process, a terribly disturbing idea, an admission of the fact that we have failed, that we have sinned, that we are in some ways evil. There are many who like to admonish others in this regard and tell them how wicked they are. The idea of self-creation, indeed, the very purpose for which man was created! allows us to see teshuvah as something positive. Instead of a negative process during which we feel hopeless, terrible people who fail miserably, we see in ourselves the ability to change, to create ourselves anew.

Indeed, as Rabbi Soloveitchik writes:


    Here there comes to the fore the primary difference between the concept of repentance in Halakhah and the concept of repentance held by homo religiosus. The latter views repentance only from the perspective of atonement, only as a guard against punishment, as an empty regret which does not create anything, does not bring into being anything new. A deep melancholy affects his spirit. He mourns for the yesterdays that are irretrievably past, the times that have long since sunk into the abyss of oblivion, the deeds that have vanished like shadows, facts that he will never be able to change. Therefore, for homo religiosus, repentance is a wholly miraculous phenomenon made possible by the endless grace of the Almighty.

    But such is not the case with halakhic man! Halakhic man does not indulge in weeping and despair, does not lacertae his flesh or flail away at himself. He does not afflict himself with penitential rites and forgoes all mortification of body and soul. Halakhic man is engaged in self-creation, in creating a new "I." He does not regret an irretrievably lost past but a past still in existence, one that stretches into and interpenetrates with the present and the future. He does not fight the shadows of a dead past, nor does he grapple with deeds that have faded away into the distance. Similarly, his resolve is not some vacuous decision made with regard to an obscure, distant future that has not yet arrived. Halakhic man is concerned with the image of the past that is alive and active in the center of his present tempestuous and clamorous life and with a pulsating throbbing future that has already been "created."

    Ibid, 113-114


Man has the ability to create, to pursue, to live for that which is good, the future, as opposed to losing himself in the sadness of the past. His entire life is made of his own efforts, the creation process of himself and his personality.

This does not mean this is easy. Indeed, the process of creation- being a creator- is one of the hardest tasks in the universe.

Look to Howard Roark (from The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, pages 710 onwards):


    Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, burt they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received- hatred. The great creators- the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors- stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won.

    No creator was prompted by a desire to serve his brothers, for his brothers rejected the gift he offered and that gift destroyed the slothful routine of their lives. His truth was his only motive. His own truth, and his own work to achieve it in his own way. A symphony, a book, an engine, a philosophy, an airplane or a building- that as his goal and his life. Not those who heard, read, operated, beieved, flew or inhabited the thing he had created. The creation, not its users. The creation, not the benefits others derived from it. The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things and against all men.

    His vision, his strength, his courage came from his own spirit. A man's spirit, however, is his self. That entity which is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego.
    The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power- that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He lived for himself. And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.
    Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. Man has no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs a process of though. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man- the function of the reasoning mind.

    But the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual thoughts. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act- the process of reason- must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred.

    We inherit the products of the thought of other men. We inherit the wheel. We make a cart. the cart becomes an automobile. The automobile becomes an airplane. But all through the processs what we receive from others is only the end product of their thinking. The moving force is the creative facutly which takes this product as material, uses it and originates the next step. This creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed. It belongs to single, individual men. That which it creates is the property of the creator. Men learn from one another. But all learning is only the exchange of material. No man can give another the capacity to think. Yet that capacity is our only means of survival.
    Nothing is given to man on earth. Everything he needs has to be produced. And here man faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways- by the independant work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by the minds of others. The creator originates.

    The parasite borrows. The creator faces nature alone. The parasite faces nature through an intermediary.

    The creator's concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite's concern is the conquest of men.

    The creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Others become his prime motive.

    The basic need of the creator is independance. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be curbed, sacrificed or subordinated to any consideration whatsoever. It demands total independence in function and in motive. To a creator, all relations with men are secondary.

    The basic need of the second-hander is to secure his ties with men in order to be fed. He places relations first. He delcares that man exists in order to serve others. He preaches altruism.

    Altruism is the doctrine which demands that man live for others and place others above self.

    No man can live for another. He cannot share his spirit just as he cannot share his body. But the second-hander has used altruism as a weapon of exploitation and reversed the base of mankind's moral principles. Man have been taught every precept that destroys the creator. Man have been taught dependance as a virtue.

    The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves. The relationship produces nothing but mutual corruption. It is impossible in concept. The nearest approach to it in reality- the man who lives to serve others- is a slave. If physical slavery is repulsive, how much more repulsive is the concept of servility of the spirit? The conquered slave has a vestige of honor. He has the merit of having resisted and of considering his condition evil. But the man who enslaves himself voluntarily in the name of love is the basest of creatures. He degrades the dignity of man and he degrades the conception of love. But this is the essence of altruism.

In the world that Ayn Rand created, a world of stark contrasts, black vs. white, where each man has been created equal (there are no mentally handicapped or physically handicapped people there) this philosophy makes perfect sense. Each man is born with the ability to create, the ability to envision a different world, a world where man triumphs over nature, similar to the verse where Adam was given the earth to "subdue it." A man who enslaves himself to another is not a creator, he is a mere follower. A man who strives to break people, to make people serve him rather than his materials, who cares more about the opinion of others than his own opinion of himself- such a man is a second-hander, a user, a parasite. All creators must by necessity be leaders, different in their own way, diverse in their original patterns of thought. They are not loved, at least initially. In fact, they are hated.

Or, as Albert Einstein put it:

    "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."


Those of us who have been born with health, blessed with normal intelligence and intellectual curiousity, (and in my opinion, even those who have not been thus blessed, albeit in different ways) have a task, a duty, a purpose.It is creation.The joy of creation, the power man has to impact himself and his world, whether physically or spiritually. Self-creation in the form of repentance, or the skilled creation of an artisan, a craftsman. Thought, and the ability to think, precede creation.

Or, as we say in Lecha Dodi, 'Sof ma'aseh b'machshava techilah.' Last in deed, but first in thought.

We are all creators, each in our separate ways.

This is how we find meaning. It is through creation that we truly live.

Doctors' in Israel

Welcome to the Muqata. Jameel has more important matters to tend to. (More important than blogging? Yes. Believe it or not.) I'm one of your hosts for today, Soccer Dad.

I don't believe that I can match the two previous entries, which were absolutely hilarious. One of them was so true; the other so false.

In one of those occurences that the internet has made possible, it turns that I know Jameel. Or at least met him once (I think). Thanks for giving me a chance to guest blog here.

Last week Israel Perspectives had a wonderful post about PM Sharon's Argentinian born doctors, "True Heroes". I've thought about doctors who have made Aliyah a lot. My sister-in-law is one. But then there are some who have been in the news.

Five years ago as Yasser Arafat's war against Israel was just getting started a 43 year old doctor named Shmuel Gillis was shot to death on his way home from the hospital one evening. Not much mention was made of him in the American media. The Washington Post simply called him a "settler."

But Shmuel Gillis was a true tzaddik (righteous person). He was a doctor; specifically he was a hematologist. His murder distressed his many patients: Arab and Jew alike. I heard from my brother (my sister-in-law worked with his brother - also a doctor) that Arabs called his house during Shiva to express their sadness over his killing.

Barbara Sofer in a wonderful piece, "Who will care for Jamila?" told of this phenomenon:

For 12 years, Dr. Gillis took care of Jamila, an Arab patient with a severe blood disease. Dr. Gillis helped keep her alive, helped her maintain a pregnancy and give birth.

"Who will take care of Jamila?" wondered one of his colleagues.


(The pregnancy and birth is important. Dr. Gillis believed that many instances of infertility were caused by diseases of the blood.)

And though Dr. Gillis lived in Karmei Tzur (an area that might well be "disengaged" from) he hardly fit the part of the wild eyed crazed settler (most don't). Isabel Kershner a cousin of Dr. Gillis's wife and writer for the Jerusalem Report recalled:
At the shivah, one of the family mentioned that Shmuel had resisted suggestions to plant a garden outside his house in Karmei Tzur. How could he waste water on a lawn, he had argued, when the Arab neighbors on the next hill sometimes went without?


After he was killed my brother suggested that I do a search and find out how many papers Dr. Gillis had written. I think I tried Google and found scores of papers on which he was one of the contributors.

There was also Dr. Amram Cohen who died in 2001 of a heart attack while on vacation in Africa. The irony of his death, is that Dr. Cohen, an oleh from Maryland, made his life's goal saving the hearts of children. He founded Save a Child's Heart an organization devoted to treating children with heart problems. (Guess which area has benefitted the most from Save a Child's Heart since its inception? Why the Palestinian Authority.)

In the past I've blogged about the cruel toll the war took on Israeli doctors.

This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list, just some more reasons to be proud of what Israeli doctors have accomplished.

UPDATE: And how could I forget? Mazel Tov to Bernie, er, Jameel, on his son's Bar Mitzvah!

My keyboard is in the West but my home page is in the East

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How Jameel Got His Mojo Working

Perhaps the most common question we get here at the Muqata is how did a nice Jewish boy end up with a name like Jameel. I, MCAryeh (thanks to Jameel for the guest spot), have been authorized to provide the unauthorized version of the truth behind Jameel's name to loyal readers and curiosity-seekers alike.

Growing up in NY, Bernie Kleinman had two lifelong dreams - to make aliyah and to have a muqata to call his very own. Upon realizing his dream of making aliyah, Bernie was distressed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and hatched a plan to change attitudes from within. Taking on the name Afula (as in "I fooled ya") , Bernie donned a kefiyeh and infiltrated the ranks of the more militant wing of Arafat's Fatah movement.

At the very beginning, Bernie/Afula had some trouble fitting in. He almost blew his cover at a training meeting, where members raged against the Israelis:

Achmed: Infidels! May they know our wrath!

Jachnud: Land stealers! They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!

Bernie/Afula: Yidden! May they know many many simchas!

Jacnud: What is that you say, Afula? What kind of insult is that?!

Bernie/Afula: What? What'd I say? I meant that in the worst possible way. I heard they serve very salty foods at their simchas. Very bad for you.

Jachnud: Afula, you disappoint me.

Bernie/Afula: Well, you're one to talk! Yours was a quote from Braveheart!

Soon, Bernie/Afula learned to blend in better. It wasn't long before he gained the trust of many Fatah members. One day, while lounging around PA headquarters after a lavish ceremony and fish (some of which had gone bad) buffet marking the anniversary of Arafat's death, Bernie/Afula was resting with an Arafat cousin, Chew-the-fat, and his friend Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi: My stomach. I feel sick because of that damn eel at the muqata.

Chew-the-fat: Do you mean Arafat?

As they all laughed at Chew's little joke, they did not notice a figure with a tape recorder standing in the doorway. They fell silent as they recognized the face of Alan Jazeera, an Arab reporter for the BBC.

Alan: Did you just call Arafat an eel?

Chew-the-fat and Abu Dhabi froze, quite literally fearing for their lives. Thinking quickly and sensing opportunity, Bernie/Afula came to the rescue.

Bernie/Afula: No, no. You misheard. They didn't say damn eel at the muqata. They said Jameel at the muqata, the new spokesperson. Me.

Relieved, Chew and Abu nodded in agreement: Yes. He is Jameel, the new spokesperson for the muqata.

Alan: You?! You don't even look Arab!

"But I am wearing a kefiyeh!" Bernie/Afula/Jameel protested. "Come, let me kiss you on both cheeks, and we will hold hands and talk of fatwas as we walk together in our flowing robes."

An interview with Jameel, the new spokesperson at the muqata, appeared on the BBC the next evening. Taken with the charm and personability of this Jew-loving Arab, it wasn't long before other reporters flocked to Jameel for pithy soundbites. Recognizing good PR when he saw it, Mahmoud Abbas officially appointed Jameel as spokesperson for the muqata in a lavish ceremony and fish (some of which had gone bad) buffet.

Jameel soon hit upon a plan to simultaneously promote aliyah for the Jews and the relocation of Palestinians to Jordan as a viable option. The yidden were intrigued by this oddly-named man who had such passion for the Jews and their homeland. Abbas, as you might imagine, did not react as well:

Scene 1:
Abbas (holding his head in his hands): Jameel, why are you encouraging Jews to make aliyah?
Jameel: Look at it this way - more peace partners!

Scene 2:
Abbas (holding his head in his hands): Jameel, why are you encouraging Palestinians to move to Jordan?
Jameel: The appeal of 40 virgins after death for a "martyr" is starting to wane. Jordan is tangible. And they have casinos there. It's a win-win.

Though he had added a last name, Rashid (in tribute to the biblical and Talmudic commentator, Rashi), Jameel became known far and wide as Jameel @ The Muqata. It was only a matter of time until he realized his second dream of building a muqata of his own to live in. Jameel's wife agreed to live in the muqata and play the part of Mrs. Rashid, but she worried over how to answer the phone so as not to alienate neither their religious Jewish friends nor Arab officials.


To avoid the Baruch HaShem vs. Allah Hu Akbhar issue, Jameel and his wife settled on the following:

"Mrs. @ the Muqata. God is great. How may I direct your call?"

Ocassionally, chanelling Joan Osborne, she would add, "yeah, yeah, God is good."

As for Jameel himself, when he answers the phone at the muqata, he simply says,

Wherever I am, my phone line and my heart turn towards Eretz Yisrael, but if you're calling from a militant faction of Fatah, know that I only mean that in the worst possible way....


For a profile of The Muqata and other great blogs, go here. And mazal tov to the entire @the Muqata clan on the Bar Mitzvah!

Disclaimer: The preceding is not necessarily reflective of my own political views, nor Jameel's, and was not meant to offend anyone's political sensibilities. It was written purely for entertainment purposes.

Mars and Venus on Erev Shabbos (or why men can’t shower until the last minute)

A Guest Post by Shifra.

My husband and I are a mixed marriage – he’s an 18 minutes man, and I’m not.
We come by it honestly though:

My father is probably the world’s most organized man.
He is early to everything. He wakes up early and goes to bed early.
He never misses minyan.
His hobbies include stamp collecting (the organizing and reorganizing of tiny pieces of paper) and safrus (the placement of neat brushstrokes in a specified order onto parchment).
His closet contains (from left to right) Long sleeved white shirts, short sleeved white shirts, polo shirts, black pants, grey pants, chinos, suits, bathrobes.
He sets the table for shabbos on Thursday night.
Do you see where I’m going with this?

My father-in-law on the other hand feels that an hour late to anything is considered pretty respectable, two hours late is “running a little behind.” He gets his work proposals in at midnight on the day they are due. He wakes up late, goes to bed late, files his taxes late and to my horror uses the 18 minutes on a regular basis. If he gets to shul in time for Boruchu it’s a miracle. You get the picture.

Since the winter began, and maybe even before that, my husband and I started having the same fight every erev Shabbos, which escalated like this:

2 hours before Shabbos –
My husband, who gets out early on Friday, has picked up the kids at school and taken them to get library books. He begins working from home.
I rush home and arrive at about the same time.
I feed the kids a snack, and cook up some vegetables. I set up the cholent.
I remind him of what time shabbos starts and ask him to start packing up his stuff which is all over the dining room table.


1.5 hours before Shabbos –

My husband is still working from home.
I clean up the living room and the kitchen, and get the kids ready for shabbos.
I remind them that if their rooms are not clean they cannot have friends over – I shut my own bedroom door first so that the hypocrisy is not immediately obvious. I take a shower.
I ask my husband to empty the wastebaskets and take out the trash – he says he will- I remind him to shower.


1 hour before Shabbos-
My husband has not moved.
I call my family and wish them a good shabbos. I set up the candles and the hot water urn. I wash a bunch of dishes, then I ask my husband if he will wash the pots because I’m sick of it. “No problem” he says- I tell my husband he should get in the shower.

30 minutes before Shabbos
Husband still working…I ask him to get up I need to set the table. He starts putting his things away.
I heat up the food and break up several fights between my kids.
When I return he still has not showered.

10 minutes before Shabbos-
Husband starts washing the dishes…
“What are you doing?!” I say
“You asked me to wash the dishes, I’ll get to the trash in a minute”
“Go take a shower, you’ll be late for shul!”
“I’m doing the dishes I’ll be done in a MINUTE!”
"Just stop" I say
"Don't ask me to do things, and then tell me not to do them!"

3 minutes to Shabbos-
I have leave the kitchen to keep from exploding, and return to turn off the stove.
My husband has the trash bags out and is scouring the back of a pan with steel wool.
“FORGET the DISHES already!” I say “shul is starting now.”
“I just have to take out the trash and then I’ll get in the shower”
“JUST SHOWER!” I should taking the grabbing the sponge out of his hand.
"FINE!" My husband gets very annoyed and leaves the kitchen.

Licht Benching-
My husband gets in the shower…
I light candles entirely bent out of shape.
“Why is Abba showering on shabbos?” my youngest asks.
“It’s not shabbos yet for him” I say grinding my teeth

-10 minutes until shabbos
My husband comes down dressed for shul and starts collecting the trash.
By now I’m seeing stars.
“You don’t look very well” my husband says, “do you want me to stay home?”
“GO…. TO….. SHUL!” I yell

Good Freaking Shabbos!
That’s no way to start the day of rest is it?

So on the good advice of a friend I decided to try something new (see I also TAKE advice, not just give it). Since all the reminders and yelling and getting upset didn’t change anything…maybe I could try just NOT getting upset. “Oh, and SMILE” he said, “and mean it!”
What? That’s ridiculous, I thought to myself.

So I tried it this way:

Friday morning before work I tell him the jobs I’d like him to do and when he gets home.
I also tell him what time shul starts.
When we get home, I leave him alone. I do what I need to do and work around him.
“I’ll get in the shower soon” he tells me (unsolicted) several times. “OK” I smile “whenever.” He looks confused.
Soon enough he’s taking out the trash and putting his stuff away. I smile again. He asks the kids if he’s forgotten our anniversary. They don’t know.
He somehow manages to get in the shower before licht benching. When he comes downstairs all is quiet. I hand him his coat wish him a good Shabbos (much more smiling) and he leaves for shul (also smiling).

AMAZING!!

So what’s the lesson here? Well for me it’s:
A) On a personal level: Don’t be such a Friday afternoon control freak
B) With regard to my marriage: Women sometimes want to treat their husbands like an extra kid, but treating him like a man is infinitely more effective and sweeter all around.
C) On a religious level: Tosefes shabbos (adding to the shabbos) is important, but shalom bayis (having a peaceful home) is important too especially on Friday night…Maybe even more important.

An early Good Shabbos to all of you and a shout out to the Lab Rab for his unbiased source material on the subject of the “18 minutes.”

Where ever my husband ends up late Shabbos afternoon, he davens Kabbalas Shabbos facing Eretz Yisroel.

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