Capital Gratitude

May 17, 2018

Chanoch Ne’eman Jerusalem 29 Iyar 5778 (May 14)

Today I am going to walk up from my house to the opening ceremony of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem. It’s in the same place I ordered my new US passport a couple years ago, about a twenty minute walk. Twenty minutes for me to walk, but seventy years for the Embassy to show up, to paraphrase that American Astronaut!

This past December, as I was visiting the US, President Trump made the surprising announcement that the US would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. I felt the great contrast between just one year before, when the outgoing President, just before Christmas,
collaborated to pass a UN Security Council resolution, criticizing Israel for living in the post 1967 parts of her land.

I was amused by our non-Jewish neighbors, in both Arizona and New Jersey, who thought President Trump had made Jerusalem Israel’s capital! I assured them that no, Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital city for the past seventy years! But the odd reality was that America had never formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Why? Ask former presidents. I can only guess because they wanted to assuage the feelings of Arab oil partners, who objected. Indeed, when President Harry Truman recognized the creation of Israel in 1948, it was against the advice and urging of the State Department.

Truman was an independent President. He said “I make American foreign policy.” Mr. Trump may be the most independent President since. I was pleasantly surprised when Mr.Trump replaced his Secretary of State, who had been a former oil company CEO. Oil interests always seem to get their voices into an administration, be it Democratic or Republican. But Mr. Trump seemed to tire of competing with his cabinet, and, like Truman, decided to make foreign policy himself.

Average Americans, like our family’s non-Jewish neighbors, had little problem with Jerusalem being our capital. In fact, in 1995 Congress voted to insist that the State Department move the embassy to Jerusalem, or the next year it would cut funding for all US Embassies by fifty per cent. President Clinton, however, refused to sign the bill until a waiver clause was added, allowing the President to delay implementation every six months, if he chose. And so it was. Every President since 1995 has delayed implementing the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Surprising perhaps, to the average American, but true.

Interestingly, this Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 is an example of a species of legislation whereby the Congress tries to influence foreign policy using its power of the purse – appropriations. The first instance was in 1794, over the Jay Treaty. President Washington had sent John Jay to England, to negotiate a treaty that would keep America out of the war then being fought between England and France. Many Congressmen were upset when they learned of the treaty and threatened to not fund it, though it passed in the end. This balance of power between branches is a healthy element of the American system..

I salute President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. It is the right time. Critics say – good idea, but not the right time. Critics also said that about the Republican Party’s platform in 1858, which sought to contain slavery. Lincoln said then – You don’t want us to talk about it in the South, you don’t want us to talk about it in the North. Where would you have us talk about it?!

Indeed, any controversial topic will remain controversial so long as someone is willing to controvert it. Bravo to this President for saying what was clear to him, and many others – Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel. Too bad we had to wait for a former casino owner until someone was willing to take a risk for what is right.

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Overboard in Jerusalem

April 23, 2018

7 Iyar 5778 Jerusalem  Chanoch Ne’eman

Today I was walking up KKL Street, with a shidduch, and I see my friend Shlomo the Chabadnik standing on the side with a small tefillin table. Shlomo I know from the hood and the shteeple’ach, and I respect that he walks the streets on Rosh Hashana blowing shofar for folks who did not hear shofar in shul, who want to hear. He says to me, “Chanoch, hi, come put on Rabenu Tam tephillin!” “That is a little much, Shlomo”, I reply, “I put on Rashi”. “Have you ever in your life put on Rebenu Tam?”, he asks. “I don’t know”, I say, but no thanks, and I am on a date”, pointing to my companion. “She wants you to put them on!”, he urges. “Bye Shlomo”, I say “another time”.

If I were a psychologist, I might name this phenomenon the “Shaliach Syndrome“; the condition of trying to get someone to do something, not so much because it is good for them to do, but because it would make you feel good to have them do it.

(I have to beware of falling into it myself, I admit.)

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.

 

Copenhagen

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.

5778

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