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Friday, August 31, 2007

Coming Soon: Sheitel Searchs

Mark my words: Your wife will soon be asked to remove her sheitel for airport security, or have it "patted down" for bombs and the like.

OK, OK, maybe I'm just a little sensitive about articles like this one on searching Turbans after The PT (age 6) was frisked on her way through Atlanta security recently.

Can we start screening more intellingently, please? Sikhs aren't blowing up airplanes! Neither are 6 year old girls and little old ladies from Miami! Muslims are!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Great-Grandfather's Grave

If I had to pick a theme for the family trip to Israel, it would be “connecting.” Connecting my kids with their cousins in Israel. Connecting our strangely out of place existence in the US with our roots in Israel. Connecting the stories of the Torah to the physical places where they occurred. Connecting our practice of Judaism with the land from which it sprang. Connecting the seemingly obscure laws of the Torah with the society for which they were written. Connecting the stream of Jewish continuity from our Forefathers through the Exile and finally to the place where we now reside.

For me there was an additional connection: Connecting with my own personal ancestry. I went to visit the grave of my great-grandfather, Abraham Silberberg. His story is recorded briefly here. But to summarize:

Abraham Silberberg is 3rd from right.

My mother’s paternal grandfather was a Polish Chussid who had the foresight to realize that bad things were coming for the Jews and immigrated to Palestine in 1938. He attempted to bring his children (there were 11) with him. But some of them refused to leave, thinking things would “blow over.” As we know, they did not. Almost all of his children were murdered by the Nazis, including my grandfather, Moses Silberberg, for whom I’m named. As my mother tells the tale, when he heard what had happened, he laid down and died.

His grave is in an ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, in what is now considered “Occupied Arab East Jerusalem.” Apparently, Jews have been occupying Palestinian land for at least a thousand years, because that’s how old some of those graves are.

My cousin and her charming husband were nice enough to agree to take me to the cemetery and show me the grave. We drove through the Old City to get there. If you’ve ever visited the Kotel (Wailing Wall), odds are that you’ve seen my great-grandfather’s grave, because it’s clearly visible from the approach to the plaza.

The cemetery itself is in a bit of disarray. New paths are being constructed, and there are multiple Burial Societies involved in its upkeep, and my impression is that they don’t cooperate that well with each other. We had to climb over walls and up slopes to get to where he was buried.

Many of the graves look new. This is partially because the cemetery is still in active use and new graves are being dug. It is also because the Jordanians overturned many of the graves during their occupation of the area between 1948 and 1967. My great-grandfather’s headstone was one of those that were rededicated after ‘67. How do we know where it was? First, because my Aunt Sara and her husband visited the grave before the Jordanians took over. And second, because the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) kept meticulous records going back hundreds of years.

On our way over we passed numerous graves that were still in a state of disrepair. My cousin told me that there were many that either could not be identified or that didn’t have family to rebuild them. In fact we passed one “mass grave” that was constructed from the headstones of multiple unidentifiable graves.

I was told that the Arabs had looted the cemetery, and that the marble headstones were used to make toilets.

The view from the cemetery was spectacular. In addition to sprawling panoramic views of the countryside, we had a clear view of the Old City and the Intercontinental Hotel, where the PLO held its first meeting in 1964, its goal to remove the Jews from its “occupied land.” Since this was three years before Israel acquired the West Bank and Gaza, one must conclude that the occupied land in question was the rest of Israel. In the distance you can also make out the wall that is being constructed to keep terrorists out.

After zigzagging our way through various plots and climbing up and down terraced levels, we made our way to the actual grave. As you can see from the photos, it looks fairly new.

Here’s a close up of the top:

Translating roughly:

Here is buried
The rabbi and chussid
Abraham son of Shmuel
Silberberg of blessed memory
From the town of Jaworzno
He was sheltered all his days
In the shadow of the righteous men of Kozmir
Passed on 11 Shevat 5701 (1941)
May his soul be bound up in eternal life

-- - --

This monument was newly rededicated
Tammuz 5729 (1969)
By his daughter Sara
And her husband Yehoshua Shlomo
Wachsman from New York

-- - --

In remembrance of the soul of his righteous wife
Mother of the family
Malkah daughter of Reb Sholom
Passed 19 Elul 5698 (1938)
???? in the town of Jaworzno

In the front, too, there is an engraving commemorating his many children, including my grandfather, who perished in the Holocaust and who have no graves of their own.

We said some Psalms, and I put a little stone on the marker, and did the same for my uncle’s next to it. In the distance we could hear a gunshot. Or maybe it was a car backfiring. Anyway, it was time to go.

It was a sobering experience. I was angry at the thought that the day may come when I can no longer visit my own ancestor’s grave. I was angered by what the Arabs had done to this cemetery, by the continued perpetuation by them and the media of the lie that this is not Jewish land. And about how few of our own people seem to understand or care.

As I turned to start the trek back to the car, I saw the sun setting over the Temple Mount. And I was struck by how close we were to the Old Temple, and yet still quite far.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Great Article from Fudge

My daughter Fudge managed to cobble this article together for the Observer while we were in Israel, even though she had to share the one computer with seven other people and even though it eventually exploded.

Talk about working under pressure! It's a good read, too. Reminds me why we need places like YU.

Where NOT to Buy your Succah

I was actually planning to buy a new sukkah this year. Then I got my kids' tuition bills.

Anyway, if I were going to buy a new sukkah, I wouldn't but it from this guy:

The owner of the websites described below, www.succah.com and www.succah.safewebshop.com, is in violation of Jewish law, in that he has not given his wife a get, a Jewish divorce decree. He has failed to comply with an order issued by the Baltimore Bet Din (Jewish court). Until he gives his wife a get, she is not permitted to remarry under Jewish law.

Sam Rosenbloom has a seruv issued against him by the Baltimore Bet Din. A copy of the seruv can be viewed at www.getora.com/seiruvim.htm .

Mr. Rosenbloom owns and operates an on-line sukkah business at http://www.succah.com . We strongly recommend that no Jewish person buy from his website, that no synangogue grant him an aliyah or other religious honor or benefit, and that no Jewish family invite Mr. Rosenbloom into their home or otherwise provide him with Yom Tov or Shabbat hospitality.

Thanks to Queenie's Mom for pointing this out.

Monday, August 20, 2007

An Explanation for my Avatar

If you have the good fortune to chat with me on Yahoo or Gmail, you may be bewildered by my Avatar. Bewilder ye no more:

Thanks, A Simple Jew (and Alpaca too!)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Need for Speed

Say what you will about Israeli drivers: the fact remains that driving in Israel can be exhilarating. I'm not talking about the gridlocked streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, although there is still some challenge to be found there. No, I'm talking about the narrow roads that wind their way up and down the mountain ranges of Northern Israel. The sudden changes in elevation, hairpin turns, blind corners, and soaring vistas seem tailor-made for the video game racing enthusiast.

That is, if you have the right car. Sadly, I did not. As Fudge pointed out, I was driving the roads of my dreams with the car of my nightmares. I shouldn't complain. We were lucky to have any vehicle. Mrs. B's aunt managed to procure one for us at the 11th hour from some Charedi rental agency in Tel Aviv. The price was exorbitant, but at least we got a minivan.
However, it was not what one would call, a performer. If the Kia Rio that I rented when my car was in the shop was powered by a lawnmower, the power plant of the Kia Carnival contained, in my opinion, a gerbil in need of a hip replacement. And it was a diesel, so it was loud and smelly too. I'm not sure how old it was. This picture to the right, which resembles it fairly closely, is a 1999 model, according to the Russian auto sales site from which I stole it. I think. I can't really read Russian.

As far as I can tell, it was not capable of accelerating. Any forward movement of the van was on the basis of either gravity or possibly wind. Certainly, it didn't seem interested in going forward when I depressed the gas pedal. This was particularly distressing in situations where rapid acceleration was desirable, say when attempting to enter one of Israel's many traffic circles, or trying to make a left turn onto a busy road. This is usually what you'd hear, if you were sitting in the car with us:

Mrs. B: OK, that guy passed, you can enter the traffic circle.

Me: OK.

Mrs. B: GO!

Me: I'm trying!

Mrs. B: Why aren't you moving?

Me: I don't know! I'm pressing the gas! Wait...are we starting to go forward a little?

Mrs. B: Hurry up! That truck is getting closer!

Me: I'm flooring it! Hey, OK, now we're starting to move a little!

Mrs. B: Would it help if I got out and pushed?

Me: It might. Crap that guy is going to hit us!

I can only daydream about what it would have been like to cruise those roads in a Lamborghini. Well, I guess there's always video games.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ooo that Smell

Henceforth, if anyone asks you if raw potatoes can go bad, the answer is Yes. Very Yes.

Only in Israel...and Middle-Earth

The Aron in the main courtyard at the Maarat Hamachpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs) in Hebron

The Doors of Durin, Western gait into the Mines of Moria, from Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings

See Jameel! I told you!


This goes out to my Homies who are still in the Holy Land...first decent cup of coffee I've had in more than 2 weeks! It'll be here waiting for you!

And last night I slept like a baby! Traveling is good and all, but there's nothing like snuggling up in your own bed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Terrorist Killed in Old City After Snatching Guard's Gun

At least according to Arutz 7.

According to Ynet: Security guard at Ateret Kohanin yeshiva in Jerusalem's Old City shoots and kills Palestinian who snatched another guard's weapon and wounded him. Ten other people wounded in incident.

Meanwhile, our friends at the Jerusalem post say Jerusalem security guard kills Arab attacker in Old City.

And at Haaretz, Attempted attack in J'lem Old City injures ten. "The incident took place on Hanotzrim Street, near Jaffa Gate."

However you want to spin it (shouldn't the story be that some Arab grabbed a gun and shot at a bunch of Israelis?), we were there yesterday.

Only in Israel #5

Can I get a small salad, please?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Only in Israel #4

Vending machine for candles at the Tomb of Rav Meir (yes, THE Rav Meir).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Only in Israel #3

Hassidic Graffiti (Hey, that would be a great band/blog name!)

Can someone explain the whole "Na Nach Nachma Nachman MeUman" thingie to me in a way that doesn't make it sound like a cult or Avodah Zarah? I don't remember seeing all of this when I was in Israel in the '90s.

Only in Israel #2

You need to wear a black hat to cross the street: