The week in review

February 20, 2018

Hanoch Ne’eman Jerusalem 5 Adar 5778

Iran in Syria

On Shabbos Parshas Mishpatim the Iranian forces in Syria sent a military drone into Israel, which Israel shot down. Israel then bombed many sites in Syria, both Syrian and Iranian.

The week before, on Feb. 7th, US troops engaged Assad-side Syrians near Oil Fields in the Deir el Zour region, and reportedly some Russian nationals on the job there helping Syria were killed too. I don’t know if that is related to Israel hitting the Iranians hard this week, but it is an interesting coincidence.

You know the Russians have just about taken over Syria, since they moved in to help Assad stay in power. Syria was always a Russian client state, but now it is “not just a client, but also the President”, to paraphrase an old commercial.

According to A. Pe’er in Hamodia, Israel struck many sites, including ones 185 miles into Syria. Israel destroyed (we hope) Surface to Air missile sites, and attacked Iranian planes on one side of a runway while sparing Russian planes on the other.

An Israeli F-16 was damaged and crashed in Israel. It was damaged by an anti-aircraft missile. The two pilots got out. Thankfully to Hashem, it came down in Israel and not Syria, and the crashed plane landed in a field.

The Migrant Question

Another big issue this week was the plan of the Israeli Government to extradite many of the illegal migrants. As is known, many thousands of illegal migrants live in Israel. Most come from countries in North Africa such as Eritrea and Sudan. Many of them crossed into Israel before Israel built a bigger fence along the Egyptian border. There are over 37,000 of them here now.

The Government announced it would be helping the migrants to leave to a safe, unnamed third country. It would give them a plane ticket and some money, like $3500. Those who don’t take the deal can be deported.

At the heart of the issue, from both a legal and moral perspective, is the question whether the illegals are refugees or just migrants. The difference, legally, is that a refugee is someone fleeing persecution, and refugee law allows them to seek asylum. While there is Civil War in Sudan and Eritrea, Israel does not think the migrants are here because they are persecuted, rather because it is simply much better and stable here in Israel. In any case, Israel is not trying to send them back, but go to a third country.

Immigration usually helps an economy in the long term. I am in general in favor of immigration. Of course Israel wants to have a Jewish majority, so it can’t open the floodgates. And Israel has, like every country, the right to control illegal immigration.

Rabbi Shlomo Dov Rosen of Yakar in Jerusalem articulated the problem with the current plan: since it is secret, we don’t know if it is safe for them where they are going. They should not, he says, be deported unless we know it is safe. The problem is the third country likely does not want to admit the deal publicly. So we are left in the position of trusting our government. Trust is a beautiful thing, as one of my professors said, but don’t trust anyone. I especially feel that way as our Interior Minister, who is handling this, is Aryeh Deri.




February 19, 2018

28 Shevat, 5778 Jerusalem, Hanoch Ne’eman

I stopped in Copenhagen, Denmark, for one day (13 Shevat, 5778) on my way back to Israel. Here are some of my thoughts and impressions.

First of all, they do not pronounce the name of their city “Copenhagen” any more than we say “Jerusalem” for our city of Yerushalayim. That was comforting to know. They say something like “Ko-pu-hawn”, with the last part very nasal.

I stayed in a nice place downtown called The Ibsens Hotel, and enjoyed the staff and room, as well as staying in a place named after a playwright, howbeit Norwegian. I did fly Norwegian Air back to Israel, which I was very happy with too. We stopped in Stockholm for a couple hours and I walked around outside at the airport, enjoying seeing the frosted trees.

In Copenhagen, the bicycles are everywhere, by the thousands! This is one of the main reasons I wanted to see it. That and the fact they helped most of their Jews escape the Gestapo in 1943.

The bicycles make Copenhagen human, “heimish”. Real people live here. People I can relate to as humans, because they are on bikes. Windows do not separate me from them. Riding a bike in Denmark is the most natural thing to do. People commute in groups with their friends. They are simple and healthy. I love them. And most of the bikes don’t have motors. Some have carriages for kids.

Image result for copenhagen              photo credit – U. of Copenhagen

There is a street for cars, a lane for bikes, and a sidewalk for pedestrians. Each in its place. Parallel but separate. All stop for the lights. There are even special traffic lights for the bikes, which if you are a bile rider you can understand the need for. It is civilized, like it should be. Yerushalayim, take note.

Also beautiful are the buildings, most, but not all, of which are no more than six stories high. Like Washington DC, this makes a much more humane and lovely city.

Copenhagen makes good use of water in its cityscape. There are large, rectangular water areas which separate parts of the town, which gives a calming effect on the city. They are called the Lakes. Also there are lovely parks, which also have small ponds in them.


Pumpkins vs Purim

December 24, 2017

orig. written: 3rd of Heshvan, 5778, Lawrenceville, NJ  Hanoch Ne’eman

Halloween approaches in America. Need to ask: why some people are moved to put tombstones and skulls in their front yards? Necrophilia? Hard to say that plays no role.

Can we see anything good in Halloween? Yes. It’s fun to see people dressed up in “normal” costumes, like mermaids or caterpillars (not ogres or monsters). And does not trick or treating get people to meet their neighbors a bit? We often have no contact with people in our neighborhood. Though the implied threat of “trick” and the often accompanying Halloween vandalism is negative.

I can’t help contrasting this with Purim and sending portions, shaloch manot, to your neighbors. There you send something as a gift to your neighbor, instead of asking for it. But we also have the other side on Purim of gifts to the poor, where the poor often do come and ask.

And on Purim many folks dress up in costumes too.

Here in Jersey, for Halloween, many folks “decorate” their homes and shrubs with giant “spider webs”. Thank you very much, I have enough work keeping the real spider webs out of my home!

So I think the conclusion is that we should teach more people to celebrate Purim and then maybe they can leave the pumpkins for for pies and nothing more. Maybe they can make pumpkin hamentashen.

New Gemach

November 29, 2017

12 Kislev 5778 Jerusalem Chanoch Ne’eman

Tired of getting your good suit all wet and smelly at the draft protest?

Come to Yanky’s New Protest Suit Gemach!!!

That’s right, now you can pick up a already smelly-like-fertilizer suit, having been sprayed with skunk spray by the Israeli Police in previous demonstrations, and return it after your release!  No more embarrassing shidduch dates or Shabbos meals with your smelly suit!

Open evenings from 8-10 pm. Special discounts for Sephardim too.

Protest Management and Odor Issues

November 28, 2017

11 of Kislev 5778 Jerusalem, Hanoch Ne’eman

Got off a bus from Bet Shemesh today, around 4:30 pm.  Intersection near Jerusalem Central Bus Station smelled like… a barn?

Walking on Yaffo, I met a fellow who asked me if there had been protests up that way. Then I figured out that there must have been more protests, draft protests I assume, and the Police had used the stink stuff I had heard people talk about.

Give me a break, … Is there no better way to handle protests than to stink up our city?

Something is wrong with the Israeli Police… The Nose Knows!

And now you know too.

Breath of Fresh Air (Please!)

November 28, 2017

9th of Kislev 5778 Hanoch Ne’eman, Jerusalem

I saw in the news that some mayors complained about air pollution from Arab towns. Yes, there is a big problem of Arab areas burning garbage. In recent days, with the overcast skies, I was suffering from it here in Baka too. And of course when I visit Tekoa, I suffer from it from the nearby villages. As do many places in Israel.

The Israeli EPA does not allow Israelis to do that, but the Palestinian Authority, that monster we created, does.

As Mr. Kushner, Minister of American Innovation and Middle East Peace, prepares to suggest a Peace Plan, I reflect on how we still have many years work ahead of us to try to mitigate the harmful effects of the Oslo Accords. I yearn for fresh air.

And of course, this week is 70 years from the 29 November, 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine, which led to heavy violence and of course it not being accepted or implemented.

Partitions are good for synagogues, but not Israel. Wish everyone understood that.


September 24, 2017

Motz. Shabbat, 4th of Tishrei, 5778 Yerushalayim, Hanoch Ne’eman

Back in Israel. Arrived on Monday. Spent time during flight thinking how could make airline cabin more comfortable and utilizing overhead space for place to lie down.

Glad, very happy, to see the Israelis again, my dear fellow Jews first of all. But the city itself is depressing me, it looks disorderly and dirty, as usual. (That is not a criticism of Israel, just of the way we are keeping it!) Feel need to move, at least apartments. Need fresh air and quiet.

Prayed two mornings of Rosh Hashana at Kotel. Nice to be in open air, with stereo symphonic shofar blowing, and the price is right. I have been away for over six months and have not had time to pay any shul dues yet. Didn’t even have any Israeli checks with me.


on fish and humming birds

May 24, 2017

28 Iyar 5777 Scottsdale

Funny sometimes how Man and animals interact. I noticed at the piling of Chaparral Road Bridge, in the canal, some large fish. They are big fish, over 30 inches long, if you threw one at your friend, it would likely knock him over. At first I thought they were spawning there, but having checked on them regularly for many weeks, I see that they are just always there. It protects them from the current, and in this man-made canal, there is not much else to hide behind. It is a really artificial situation; a man-made canal, and then these poor fish are “stocked” into it, and then they have no place to hang out except behind a piling.

On a more positive nature note, I made a discovery (for me, not science) about hummingbirds. Since I always see them sticking their beaks into the honeysuckle flowers in the backyard, I thought they must only eat nectar. But no. It turns out they mostly eat bugs. How did I discover this? I was sitting under some trees near a small pond in Chaparral Park, and the hummingbirds come there and keep going near leaves. I am thinking, what are these hummingbirds dumb? There are no flowers here! But then watching carefully I see they are stirring up little insects, which they then catch. Then I checked online and saw that indeed it is a common misconception that they eat only nectar. They eat both insects and nectar. Now you know!

By the way, standing under that tree, one flew about a foot from my face! They are a lot of fun to watch, and don’t mind you hanging around.

Image result for hummingbirdsphoto: national zoo

Bald Eagle

May 14, 2017

15 Iyar 5777, Hanoch Ne’eman, Scottsdale

Some nights ago, without me hearing it, it rained here. Let me tell you, there were a lot of happi cacti out there on the morrow. The Saguaros were simply swelling with joy. The air smelled beautiful too. Had to clean the dust marks of the car, but that was a small price to pay.

Two Shabboses before today, I took a walk down to Hayden Road in the late afternoon.

Image result for rain on cactus

Elizabeth Rose – photo

I walked along Hayden Road, with its heavy traffic, up to Jackrabbit Road, then turned back. As I get closer to Chaparral Road, I see, atop a tall wooden electric pole, a very large bird. “What might that be?”, I think, “a turkey vulture or a heron, looking for fish in Chaparral Pond which is just on the other side of the street?” Getting closer, slowly, I see it is a bald eagle! And I know what they look like, because I saw them and photographed them years ago on my Aunt’s property in Vermont.

Before long the eagle got uneasy and took off. It circled high over the lake a few passes, not diving for anything, and then kept flying off. It was about 24 inches from head to toe. He kept flying off, heading north, sort of veering back and forth. I could easily still see him over a mile away.

Rav Kook wrote in 5668 (1908) in Jaffa:

The longing for freedom will reach its peak, and Man will realize that he is entitled to live in his spirit (inside) as he actually is, according to the desire of the mighty nature of his living soul – and this soul lives only in G-d. Without deep, vibrant faith, this soul has no life or light. It is fleeting as a shadow, oppressed by a terrible suffering, and parched with cruel thirst. Who would prevent her? Who would not allow her to live in G-d? Who would drive this sky bird from her nest? Who would put her in prison? Who would stop her from cruising the full expanses of heaven, the place of splendor and fresh air, full of light and life?   (Orot, pg. 218)

Yes, we should be privileged to see the eagles soaring every shabbos, wherever we are!

something old, something new

April 26, 2017

rosh hodesh Iyar 5777 H. Ne’eman Scottsdale

I am enjoying reading my Mom’s collection of old scout books. It is interesting how a hundred years ago, the general society in America dressed modestly; women in skirts, men in shirts and pants. What made values change? It is also interesting how international dress standards are today. I see a lot of the same fashions among the immodest in Israel as in America. I must conclude that if you are not taught about modesty, you are unlikely to practice it. You will want to be like others, you will want to stand out, you will want to be most comfortable.

How can we influence people for better? One, by example. Two, by insisting on clean ads in public spaces. Three, by writing and speaking to groups, such as civic and religious groups; this is a topic where we can build bridges and create constructive dialogue.

Of course this is for those inspired to it. Many of us don’t have time to devote to such things. But examples we should always be.