Monday, July 28, 2008

Checking into the Blog

I think this is the longest I've gone without blogging. Let's just say things seem to be taking off. You see, a couple of months ago, my workflow from my tele-job in the U.S. started slowing down, so I started browsing the local job listings and answering job offer emails that breeze by on the Nefesh B'Nefesh email list. One of them mentioned that they were looking for someone with experience in wind power. I answered that I have zero experience in wind power, but I'm a mechanical engineer and I can learn things pretty fast, and shot off my resume. I was invited over and it took me a few minutes to realize that I was not exactly being offered a job.

Bentzi, the engineer with entrepereneurial experience who wrote the email, told me vaguely about this idea he had for a device which would generate electricity from wind at high altitudes. We had thought we would move at a modest pace over the next couple of months until we had an entire plan together to start fundraising, but over the last week things have really taken off. And of course, these investors are always demanding further technical clarifications, much of which falls on my shoulders to produce.

Anyway, whoever is interested, our company is: . Anyone who is interested in investing, please contact me and I'll forward an email with a PowerPoint presentation attached.

Monday, July 21, 2008

You're Probably Wondering Where I've Been

Well, going crazy is one answer. I've been trying to plan this trip to the U.S. for August, then trying to figure out what to do employment wise. As the American economy continues to choke and sputter, I've got pretty much nothing coming in these days. I looked around here in Jerusalem, and let's just say that there are plenty of options for me to pursue. I've actually been turning down offers and interviews for the time being, because I'm working on this project which may turn into a startup company. It's exciting, but we (the team I'm working with and I) are also under a lot of pressure to produce a report to start fundraising in the next couple of weeks. It means I'm incredibly busy. On the one hand, it's exhilarating to be a part of something new like this, and investing my time in something that might really pan out. On the other hand, working like crazy for non-monetary compensation can be a bit nerve wracking when you are sinking financially.

Between the startup thing, and planning my trip to the U.S., never mind the misery of the dating life, I've been falling deeper and deeper into a stressed-out zombie state. Still an inspired zombie, but a zombie none the less. It culminated about a week and a half ago, when I was lying in my bed wide awake until about 4 AM, every now and then getting really upset and punching the wall (fortunately they're made out of concrete here.)

Yeshivah started out as a one-hour per day commitment. Pretty soon I was in for two or so. Then, I started the beginning Gemara (Talmud) class and it bumped up to three. After that, I moved up to the advanced level, and was suddenly in for four hours a day. Meanwhile, I started falling further and further behind with the rest of my life. Hence the stress-out.

I finally decided something had to give. So I've had to cut back on the blogging, and I decided to take some time off from Yeshivah. After a week, I was slowly getting my head above water. Yesterday morning, one of the Rabbis called and said he noticed I hadn't been around in class for a week. Then another one called asking if everything is okay. I was really touched. Today, I finally made it back in after a week and a half of absence, and everyone was genuinely glad to see me. I talked it over with some of the rabbis, and we figured out how I can cut back on my shiur (class) time a bit, and cut back on chevruta (study partner learning) and still make it into shiur. It should cut back my learning to about 2-3 hours per day instead of the 4-5 I've been doing recently. Of course, the level of my learning is not at the level the 4-5 hour commitment would be, but hey, at least I'm still in the game, even if I'm not as high-scoring. So, we're going to see if I can handle it this way, and go from there. Unfortunately my blogging may also be cut back for a bit, but I'll still post and keep everyone abreast of the situation here. Feels good to be back on some sort of track though.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sami Kuntar

As I write, Israel is officially losing the Second Lebanon War. Everyone remembers that the war began with the kidnapping of two soldiers from Israel’s northern border, but there seems to be a blind spot in the national memory as to what came next. Forgotten is the liberating knowledge that, at last, Israel was not caving in to the demands of kidnappers and releasing thousands of Arab terrorists for a couple of Israelis. Rather than the standard Israeli response of retreat and negotiation, as was the case during Hezbollah’s kidnapping of three soldiers in 2000, this time the response would be military. "This time it's different," they told us. After one month, realizing the futility of eliminating Hezbollah, Israel took the cease fire option. And now, two years later, we’re back to the prisoner exchange game.

Captive soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev

I've been reading the book, "Live from Jordan," a collection of travel stories by an assimilated American Jew living and studying in the Arab world. What struck me the most about the book was one small paragraph, in which, listening to the news coming out of "Palestine," one of his roommates launched into an enraged tirade. He reserved his deepest animosity not for the casualties his side was experiencing, but for the lopsided prisoner exchanges. Arab society is what anthropologists refer to as a "Shame Culture," in which one's estimation of self worth is not based on obedience to an inner sense of right and wrong, but on demonstrating domination and in exchange receiving honor from one's fellows. When Israel trades thousands of Arab prisoners in exchange for one or two Israelis, it sends the humiliating message that a thousand of them is worth less to us than one of ours.

But this trade is different. Now, the bodies of the two kidnapped soldiers are to be exchanged for one living terrorist, Sami Kuntar. Kuntar himself is another one of these general-issue psychopaths which our neighbors seem to vomit up on us with great regularity. Back in 1979, he and his comrades beached their boat in Nahariya, invaded the nearest beach house, and took a father, Danni, and his four year old daughter, Einat, to the beach at gunpoint. The mother heard the commotion and hid in the closet with her baby daughter Yael, covering her mouth to prevent her from crying. Meanwhile, Kuntar smashed Einat’s head into the rocks in front of her father, and then fatally shot Danni. The mother then came out of hiding to discover that in her panic she had accidentally smothered baby Yael.

And now Israel releases this animal on humanity again, and in exchange for the bodies of two kidnapped soldiers. And that's what this is really about. Israel’s release of Kuntar is the ultimate manifestation of Multiculturalism, the belief that the values of one’s own society are no better or worse than those of any other. While Kuntar was being given three square meals a day, Red Cross treatment, and even conjugal visits, the leaders of Hezbollah have been releasing snippets of information, neither confirming nor denying whether the kidnapped soldiers were alive. It was just enough information to extract pleasure from torturing the soldiers’ families, which brought honor upon Hezbollah in the Arab world by proving their dominance over the Jews.

Goldwasser and Regev repatriated to Israel

Although his savage actions made him a hero in the Arab world, Kuntar is being paraded through the streets of Lebanon not for their sake but for ours. This is a celebration of Israel’s surrender to multiculturalist nihilism, and Hezbollah wishes to express its dominance over Israel by proclaiming the fact.

Hezbollah prepares for the party of the century

After all, if Israel is willing to exchange Arab psychopaths in exchange for the bodies of soldiers who protect the rest of us from those same psychopaths, this sends the message that we don’t think our values are any better or worse than theirs. That Israel is trading a living Kuntar, along with three of his comrades, for the dead bodies of two soldiers, means that Israel places no premium on keeping soldiers alive, that we place as little value on our lives as they do on theirs. The days of live prisoners being repatriated, as after the Yom Kippur War, are now over. It is unlikely any Israeli soldier taken captive will ever return home alive.

Kuntar (second from left) and his buddies are prepared for release.

Just as their grandparents disposed of Judaism in favor of Zionism, so too this generation of Israelis have disposed of Zionism in favor of... nothing. “Post-Zionism,” the Israeli ethos of the day, defines itself in its very name not as a set of beliefs but merely the absence of Zionist beliefs. Israel is a great country, with a strong and energetic people built on an ancient and beautifully restored land, but this country also exhibits serious moral deficiencies. Not only the immorality of Israel’s abolition of the death penalty, which would have made this travesty impossible, but the equation of soldiers and terrorists, of war and murder, is dragging Israel closer and closer to the barbarism beyond its borders. How I yearn for the day that Israel’s ruling elite abandons its post-ethical worldview and returns to Judaism.

Celebrations in Lebanon: Kuntar takes his place with Saddam, Arafat, and Che, in the pantheon of the faces of atrocity

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Wedding of Yosef Bali

Hi Folks, sorry for the delay in blogging over the last week, but I've been insanely busy getting my voyage to the Old Country, which begins in three weeks, all planned out and squared away. I've also got some potential employment news, and, well, let's just say it's been busy.

Anyway, I was at Shai Diamond's wedding talking to Yosef Bali, when I realized that I had photographed his wedding a few months ago and never posted the photos! Anyway, better late than never:

The chuppah (wedding canopy) wasn't the usual tallit suspended on poles, but it was this 3-D silk hut sort of thing. We saw the ceremony through the veil.
The guys got into the singing.
And they're married. It was a rowdy crowd.
Yosef gets a ride.
Performing arts: the ladder balance.

The man had a chin of steel.
Chatan (groom) and kallah (bride) sitting together.

Daniel and Yosef. Daniel himself just got engaged as well, so more photos are coming soon!

Yours truly in the blue.

The Machon Meir gang
Yosef and Efrat.
Ad meah v'esrim! (Until 120!)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Wedding of Shai and Emunah Diamond

Our madrich (guide,) our diamond in the rough, Shai Diamond, was married tonight! I had the pleasure of participating in his simcha.
The guys, ready for action.

The wedding was held in a reception hall on the Tayellet, where I go jogging every day. It has a beautiful view of Har Habayit, the Temple Mount.

Children playing around the chuppah

Shai is escorted to meet his kallah (bride)


Now we bring him to the Chuppah

Waiting for the kallah

Yours truly
Sunset over Mount Zion
And they're married!

As the sun set I got some nice shots of Jerusalem at night.

Har Habayit.
East Jerusalem

At every wedding, we sing Od Yishamah, "may there soon be heard in the cities of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy and gladness, the voice of bride and groom, the jubilant voice of feasting and singing. . ." first said by a lamenting prophet Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) as he looked over the ruins of Jerusalem, then a destroyed city, prophesying the dream of return.
Isn't it great to be able to live the prophecy, so sing these words in the cities of Judea, and the streets of Jerusalem? To know it's all for real? How could Jews live anywhere else?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Bad Day in Israel

Got home today and checked the news to hear that, in downtown Jaffa street, there was an attack, and there were casualties. Apparently, our unoriginal neighbors, who copied classical European anti-Semitism and called it their own, and who invented Palestinian Nationalism as a twisted imitation of Zionism, do have one creative spark. Then never tire of finding innovative ways to kill Jews. In this case, the suspect in question was a construction worker on the Jerusalem Light Rail. While pushing dirt around with his bulldozer, he apparently got the idea to start running over the parked cars, overturning busses, and generally rampaging through the streets. Apparently, he had been shot several times by police personnel in the area, but kept up his killing frenzy until he was finally put down by an off-duty soldier who climbed onto the bulldozer and shot the perpetrator three times in the head. The soldier who put an end to the rampage happens to be the brother-in-law of the soldier who killed the terrorist in the Merkaz Harav Massacre.

What's interesting about both of these attacks is that they were inside-the-wall jobs. The massive barrier being built by Israel also happens to encompass East Jerusalem, which became entirely Arab after 1948. In 1982, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and offered the residents the ability to become citizens. From 1967 until 2004, very few took up this offer for fear of being branded as "collaborators" with the Zionist entity. However, with the failure of the Second Intifadah to destroy Israel, the collapse of the Palestinian Authority into a hellhole of armed gangs, the emigration of Jerusalem's educated Arab intellectuals, and the deaths of terrorist mastermind Yasser Arafat and Jerusalemite Arab leader Faisal Husseini (grandson of Haj Amin Al Husseini,) there has been a shift in attitude. Today, most Jerusalem Arabs, at least publicly, don't find inspiration from the rapidly dying concept of Palestinian Nationalism. That, coupled with the building of the wall, and the subsequent threat of an end to medical care, law enforcement, and the myriad of other services provided free of charge by the Israeli taxpayer has led to a spike in citizenship applications by those now living beyond the wall. There's a desperate race to gain citizenship in the Zionist Entity.

But as today's attack shows, committed by an East Jerusalemite with citizenship just like the Merkaz Harav Massacre killer, the old hatred is still there, still seething. I haven't heard any reports about the driver, but I'm willing to bet that he was an affable fellow, probably relatively friendly, who showed no signs of his murderous designs, and probably didn't think of it until a split second before going berserk.

This is an example of a known phenomenon, the spontaneous terrorist. I remember during the Intifada, an interview was played with an Israeli factory manager in Atarot, North Jerusalem, who had narrowly survived an attack. He had gathered his workers together during a break and announced that the employee of the month was Mohammad, who commuted daily from Ramallah. He awarded his worker a new cell phone, a cash gift, and some other rewards. A few minutes later, once everyone had returned to work, the factory was rocked by the sound a massive explosion. The factory manager went outside to find his car, and what was left of Mohammad's body, blown to pieces. Apparently, after receiving his award, Mohammad had walked right outside and continued with his plan, to plant a bomb under his bosses seat, when it accidentally detonated.

And that's not the only example. There are cases where families employed a gardener for decades, and went to each others family weddings, and then were one day found killed. "It's like someone who brings home a bear cub," one Israeli explained to me. "He looks so cute out there in the woods, so you take him home, feed him, and raise him. And then one day, when he's a little bit bigger, he wakes up and remembers he's a bear."

This sort of spontaneous switch from functional member of society to murderous sociopath is, of course, the exception, not the rule. But it's not so exceptional that it's shocking. It’s another component of the wildness of the mind which characterizes our neighbors. This wildness is something I think we will never truly grasp, and from which the only sensible protection is to put as much distance between ourselves and the Arabs as possible while we wait over the generations for their culture to evolve into a genuine civilization.