Thursday, November 22, 2007

Last night I walked out of the house I grew up in for the last time.

My parents, who have been splitting their time between Jerusalem and New York for the past seven years, have sold our house in New York and will now be spending all their time here. I went back to New York for a few days to help them dismantle and to settle all sorts of tangential issues arising from the loss of my U.S. address. And to part from the house and the neighborhood in which my siblings and I grew up.

We moved into that house 40 years ago. I've been in Israel for 27 of those years but it was still home. To be sure, the guys I played touch football with in the park every Friday afternoon and the gang that came over on Shabbos afternoon to play Risk, bull around and eat Stella D'Oro Swiss Fudge cookies have long ago dispersed to the four corners of the earth. Most of my parents' friends have moved on as well -- the lucky ones to the company of their descendants and the less lucky ones to the company of their ancestors.

The neighborhood has changed as well. The larger houses are being bought up by Russians, who immediately surround them with large walls. (It's a good thing state law forbids moats with alligators.) The only frum people moving in are yeshivaleit buying the houses in the area where the goyim used to live. In short, the supply of baalbatim is drying up quickly. The previous rabbi of the big shul, who was a talmid chakham and a scholar, has been succeeded by a sincere teller of Artscroll maaselech.

But still through all these years, I've always known that when I needed to or wanted to, I could go back to my old neighborhood, to my old house, to my old bed. To a place where people still add a -y to my first name. Home.

No more. The American era in my family history began when my parents arrived as refugees, my father in middle of the Shoah and my mother after it, tired and poor and yearning to breathe free. And since my siblings and I all live in Israel now, this era will end in a few weeks when my parents leave America not as refugees but as olim -- komemiyut le'artzeinu. The debt we owe the United States is too profound for words. It is truly a malkhus shel chessed, free and open in a manner unprecedented in the history of the world, and it is characterized by an unparalleled fundamental decency.

My family celebrates this Thanksgiving in Israel without turkey or cranberry sauce but with a great deal of gratitude. Thank you, America, for everything.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Holy Kurstemal is a uniquely goofy old video that might be the mother of frum parody. See how many references you can catch.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Beitar Jerusalem fans have been roundly condemned in the press and banned by the league from attending two home games for booing during the moment of silence for Rabin. It is not especially politically correct to defend them but they deserve to be defended. In theory, the moment of silence is a mere display of respect for a slain prime minister and as such should be uncontroversial. In fact, however, such ceremonies have been turned into ritualized forms of identification with specific political messages.

The Beitar fans understood perfectly well that they were being asked to affirm the virtuousness of the secular Ashkenazi left and the barbarism of everyone else, first and foremost, people like themselves. Their reaction was a sign of healthy self-esteem combined with a certain, um, lack of inhibition. Many others share the sentiment but tend to subtler forms of self-expression.

So next time you're working up a head of steam about the manipulative annual Rabin rituals, remember this: the people having the babies in this country aren't buying.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I'm not a meteorologist but the documentary aimed at exposing what it calls "the global warming swindle" seems entirely persuasive.

Monday, November 05, 2007

There's some stuff I need to get out of the way.

I have tons to say about the idiotic way the rabbanut handled the shmittah business and the outrageous Supreme Court decision which grossly interfered with halachic business. (The decision is worth reading: Elyakim Rubinstein thinks he's Rav Chaim Ozer with a law degree and Beinish thinks she's a Reform rabbi.) Taken together these two acts of insanity clearly mark the beginning of the end for the rabbanut. And nobody seems to give a damn: the haredim never had much use for rabbanut mi-taam, the Mizrochnikim are delighted that the heter mechirah is back in business and have missed the main point, and the rest of the country thinks they can all go to hell.

I also have a full stomach about Daniel Friedmann's proposal for formally legalizing judicial review under specific constraints. In short, he means well but has compromised with the dark forces to the extent that we are better off without his law than with it. He allows a provision for a Knesset override of a court decision to strike down laws (good) but 53 MKs can block the override (bad). This number is too low for an override to ever happen and will kill the prospects for such an override in the constitution, thereby likely killing the whole constitution. There are a variety of other niggling problems with the proposal from my point of view, although the published attacks have come almost exclusively from the left.

The problem is that even I'm bored with all that, so I can only imagine how most people who have no interest in this topic to begin with must feel. OK, so now it's officially out of the way and we are free to talk about more interesting stuff.