The C and G Bagrut, Or, The System is Messed Up

The first bagrut (matriculation) exam this season was the English exam.  The way Israeli exams, in most subjects, work is like this:

A few hours before the exam, each school is sent more than enough test booklets, for every test that they will be giving.

They bring in  proctors, unrelated to the school, but usually from a sector and gender that will be mutually comfortable.

The proctors make sure that the room is ready for the test, and then the students come in.

The students hand over everything that is not a pen, food, or drink, or whatever material is allowed to be brought in (for instance, a dictionary, or simple Bible).

Then the proctor hands out the exams, the students do what they can, and hand it in.

This is the process in short.

But what happens when someone finds a copy of the test and uploads it to the internet, so that he and his friends can prepare?  It’s no longer an “unseen” text, and the questions are known, and the students have the opportunity to prepare answers . . . but not across the board, and therefore, the test isn’t really fair anymore.

The ideal would be to isolate that student, or possibly school, and punish them appropriately.  But half an hour before the entire country is going to take the test, there is no time for that.  So, what do they do?  The following is what they did while I sat in the teacher’s room and waited, and while my co-teacher kept calling the Bagrut hotline to find out, as soon as possible, what we were supposed to do.

First, the people in charge of the bagrut exams talk.  Then, they decide to change questions, and the new questions will be sent by email to the secretaries, to be printed and attached to the existing test booklets.

But what about the students who are LD, and therefore only do half the exam, orally?  Which questions do they do?  Previously, we had a list of which questions were necessary.  Now, what do we do?  What about those LD kids who have a disk?  The disk doesn’t have a recording of the new questions, and it’s not fair to make them do the test without having those questions read aloud to them.  And what about students who already started the test?

We got the list of questions for the first LD set, and the second LD set was told to do the original questions.  Then we saw the replacement questions – they were practically identical to the originals, except maybe in a different order.  The students who had already started had to start over, and had two options: 1. extra time, 2. moed bet (another chance to do the test, in a few weeks).  Even for those who chose to take the extra time, the test isn’t really fair.  It was late in the afternoon, and doing a matriculation exam is taxing.  I think it’s fair to say that the answers they gave the second time around were probably of a lesser quality than those they gave the first time around.

Because all anyone knew was that the exam that was supposed to be at 4:15 had been leaked, this whole process happened to 2 separate exams – C and G, which were both scheduled to take place at 4:15 that afternoon.

Two days later, we hear unwelcome news: Now, 45 minutes before the start of the exams, all students testing must be phone-less in the examination room.  Then the tests will be sent by email to the secretary, who will print them out for the students.  This is a bad plan, and if this is what we have come to, then we are in big trouble.  First, let’s see why it’s a bad plan:

1. 45 extra minutes in the exam room.  Expect grades to drop immediately, because that adds 45 extra minutes of stress, and certainly won’t help anyone do better on the test.

2. What happens if the school’s internet happens to not be working exactly when it needs to be?  What happens if a specific city has a power outage exactly when the bagrut needs to start?

3. Previously, the test booklets were sent to the schools.  Who is going to pay for the photocopying?  And for bigger schools, is 45 minutes going to be enough?

4. Who says the test won’t leak, anyways?

In my opinion, there are major underlying issues in the system, if this is what we have come to.  But on the other hand, I thought that anyways.  I’m not sure how standardized, stupidized, matriculation exams help our academic ranking, use, or level at all.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it does the opposite.  But I’m no minister of education, so my opinion doesn’t really matter, does it?

In addition, the new system punishes everyone.  Why not just punish the sector that started the leak?  I understand that in today’s age of Facebook and Instagram, the leaked test will make it to everyone.  But not fast enough to be a real threat to the test’s integrity, for the rest of the country.

Update: The Education ministry has responded to the anger of teachers and parents, by finding a middle ground.  Some schools will get direct delivery, and some schools will have to send two representatives who will be held responsible for the integrity of the exam in that school.  Students will have to hand in their phones 30 minutes early.  This is much, much better.  Will it work?  I don’t know.  Honestly, I am of the opinion that a student who wants to cheat will find a way to do it, no matter what guidelines are set.  This is a global problem (as in, affecting the entire Western world) and will not be solved until we stop making academics into a golden calf that everyone is required to serve.  

We, as a whole, need to put more emphasis on who people are, and a solid value system, and less on grades, academics, and what people have.  “Keeping up with the Joneses,” should not exist, and is a symptom of this same problem; when you have to prove that you are a worthwhile person by grades, money, or lifestyle, you cannot put the same energy into living according to proper values.  But that’s a subject for a different post.


Hamas: Hated by Gazans and Israelis Alike?

Let’s forget for a moment that Hamas’ major goal is not independence and a good life for themselves and their brothers, but the destruction of Israel and the murder of all Jews.  We’re not getting into that at the moment, true as it may be. Today I want to look at Hamas from a different perspective – that of Gazan citizens.  Or, in other words, the very people that Hamas is supposed to be working to protect and help, to defend and build for.  What do Gazan citizens think of Hamas?  What do they think of Israel?  If they had to choose between Israel and Hamas, who would they choose? I think the answer is obvious, but evidently, it’s only obvious if you know the facts, something which most people today seem not to know, or perhaps are simply unable to see.  Let’s take a look: Mudar Zahran writes,

“While the world’s media has been blaming Israel for the death of Gazan civilians during Operation Protective Edge, this correspondent decided to speak with Gazans themselves to hear what they had to say. They spoke of Hamas atrocities and war crimes implicating Hamas in the civilian deaths of its own people. Although Gazans, fearful of Hamas’s revenge against them, were afraid to speak to the media, friends in the West Bank offered introductions to relatives in Gaza. One, a renowned Gazan academic, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that as soon as someone talked to a Western journalist, he was immediately questioned by Hamas and accused of “communicating with the Mossad”. “Hamas makes sure that the average Gazan will not talk to Western journalists — or actually any journalists at all,” he said . . .”

And according to the Algemeiner, most Gazans want a permanent ceasefire:

A recently released poll published by the Washington Institute of Near East Policy corroborates Perlov’s view that Hamas has been losing support within Gaza. The study, which notably was conducted prior to Israel’s July 18 incursion by a respected Palestinians pollster, demonstrates that the majority of Gazans are unhappy with Hamas governance – for myriad reasons.

The Way,’ also spoke to Mudar Zahran:

“Not a single Gazan that I spoke to supported Hamas,” said Zahran, who came to the “West Bank” to cover the conflict in and around the Gaza Strip.
“Come on, do you guys think we are animals? That we would love seeing Hamas terrorists hiding among our crowds just to have Israeli F–16’s bomb us so we can get the sympathy?” he asked in an interview with JerusalemOnline. “Please understand, yes, Gaza elected Hamas, but people make mistakes. Didn’t the Germans elect Hitler? Were the Germans still in favor of Hitler when Russia and the Allies were marching into Berlin and bombing the hell out of it?”
Of course, that doesn’t mean most of the population in Gaza is ready to ally with Israel or even return to Israeli rule.
“We have to be clear; Palestinians hate Israel,” Zahran reminded his Israeli readers. “This might change in thirty years or so, but they hate Israel. So Gazans hate Israel, but for sure and I can authoritatively say this, they hate Hamas even more now.”
So, where does that leave everyone else?  Is it aiding civilians when we give Gaza food and building materials, or is it aiding Hamas and hurting the innocent?

Disappointed by the Coalition

I knew that the coalition would probably look about the way it does (I was counting on Lieberman, though), but I didn’t think that the agreements would be this bad.

The ministry of religious affairs is in Shas’ hands.  They will not do anything good with it, and will probably do much harm.

Shas has Bibi’s consent to build cheap housing for the chareidim – which will mean that the housing crisis for everyone else will just get worse.

More money will be given to schools that do not teach the curriculum; I assume that this includes Arab schools, not just chareidi schools.  Bad, bad, bad.

They want to reinstate the draft exemption – bad.

The only maybe-good thing that Shas wants to do is get rid of the 18% tax on basic food items.  But why does pasta count as basic?

And we forgot that they want to raise the child stipends – something that costs the government blllions, takes responsibility off the parents, and worst of all, people use it to give themselves a salary for having kids.  Yes, that’s right.  With each cut to the child stipends, birth rates of groups that have children just to get money drop – and big time.  It’s not just a demographic war; it’s a war against people who try to live off the public pocket, with laziness as their only reason.

Shas got all of its demands, even at the expense of Bayit Yehudi.  And it makes me sick, especially since Shas is so corrupt.

I can’t blame Lieberman for not joining, but I am kind of peeved that he didn’t.

I don’t think that this coalition is going to last too long, though.  I think that Shas is going to get annoyed at something and bolt, giving us new elections.  Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, especially if it’s Shas’ fault.

Herzog is acting like Livni did a few years back – having a temper tantrum that Bibi managed to make a coalition.  Of course, Herzog himself probably wouldn’t have been able to do it, because there are not enough people willing to sit with him AND with each other.

But enough of this.  We have a right-wing coalition, shaky as it is.

Ayelet Shaked is justice minister, and this is good.  The left, of course, is calling her the injustice minister, as if Tzipi Livni had been better.  Yaakov Litzman is not the world’s best health minister, but neither was Yael German (I think she was awful).  We will finally have a sane education minister, instead of the crazy Shai Piron.  And hey, for all of Obama’s interference, we managed to outsmart him in the end.

I, along with the majority of Israelis, am not completely happy with the new coalition, but on the other hand, it’s quite obvious that this was our only choice.  I’m just sorry that there were so many unreasonable demands made, and given in to.  It reminds me of a three-year-old who screams for candy until his parents get sick of hearing the screaming and give in.  Short-term gain, but long-term loss, and big time.

Oh, well.  G-d will help.

Because if He doesn’t, we are in big trouble.

The Diaper Dilemma

What do you do when every diaper leaks?

Some leak from the sides, and some leak from the backs, and once we had a leak from the front – under Tova’s belly button.  That was just weird.  And before you say, “Well, just change the diaper immediately,” I want to make sure that it is very, very clear that we change the diapers almost as soon as Tova is finished pooping in them.

We do this for two reasons:

1. Tova hates sitting in a dirty (or wet) diaper;

2. We know that it is probably going to leak and make more work for us if we don’t change it right away.

But it doesn’t help.  Either the back of the diaper is too short, or there is no elastic in the back, or both.  And we really don’t understand why the diapers have suddenly become so low-quality – with Shlomo, practically every diaper worked.

We’ve tried:

Huggies – leaks from the back 8/10 times, and from the sides 5/10.

Pampers – leaks from the sides 6/10 and from the back 8.5/10.

Babysitter – leaks from the sides 9/10, from the back 3/10 (this is the best so far, since back leaks are much worse).

We are now trying “Life” brand, from SuperPharm.  Yitzchak doesn’t hold high hopes, because the back has practically no elastic.  If this brand doesn’t work, we will try Premium (Titulim) – which was our favorite brand with Shlomo, until they changed their packaging (and their quality).  But hey, it’s worth a try, isn’t it?  After that we might give Litufim, the local, known “garbage brand” a try, just for the sake of it.  Maybe, maybe not.  Maybe we will find another brand, one that works.  And maybe by the time we find something that holds all this liquid poop, her poop will start solidifying . . . the only problem is that solidified poop is poop that stains – and stains that don’t always come out, even with stain remover.

Seriously, if we are cleaning poop from her back every time, and stain-treating half her clothes, we may as well just buy cloth diapers.  They can’t be that much worse, and we will keep them for future uses with Tova, and future kids . . . plus, it means less landfill waste.  It sounds utterly disgusting to me to put her poop into the toilet myself, but at this point, it’s not that much more gross than cleaning off her clothes and her back – while trying to keep her hands away from the mess.

I think if we run out of diaper brands we will try either cloth, or asking Mom to send us diapers from the U.S.  Yitzchak wants to try the second route, because he is convinced that the diaper companies are selling Israel worse quality diapers than they sell in America, and by proving that, we can expose it and force them to change.  I’m not sure how we can expose it and force change if we don’t have today’s societal key to propaganda (i.e., Facebook), but we can try.

It’s just really frustrating that these companies are cutting corners, lowering quality, lowering the quantity per package – AND raising prices.  The deterioration in quality is huge, and all of this from when Shlomo was a baby.  Then, we bought most of our diapers 3 packages for 100 shekel.  Now, the best you can reasonably hope for is 2 for 87 shekels – but maybe that’s because we don’t live in the same area, anymore.  I don’t think so, though.

To Vaccinate, Or Not To Vaccinate?

When I was growing up, everyone in my family knew that I was the only one who had been properly vaccinated.  Esther had been mostly-properly-vaccinated, and the younger kids had never had the pertussis vaccination.  This didn’t mean much to me, until I was in high school.

I don’t remember which grade I was in, maybe tenth, but at some point a note was sent home (that I never got), that everyone needed to take antibiotics, because someone in school (or someone in school’s sibling) had had whooping cough.  Probably, they still had whooping cough at that moment – it isn’t a cough that goes away quickly.

As mentioned, I didn’t get the notice.  I don’t remember how we found out that I hadn’t gotten the notice, but I do remember that my mother blamed me for bringing pertussis into the house and not taking precautions to make sure no one would get sick.  As I write this, the anger at being blamed for the family’s illness comes back to me.  I didn’t get the notice, I didn’t do it on purpose, and I certainly didn’t deserve to have all of my siblings blaming me for something that could have been prevented, if my parents had vaccinated them.

Obviously, as it usually goes, those who are not vaccinated suffer the most – and the younger you are, the worse it is.  I don’t remember if my parents had pertussis; I do remember that of my siblings, Noach and I had the lightest cases.  Noach was about 7, Shira was 4, and Ari was two, I think.  Esther was 12, maybe 13, but she had the worst case, because it was complicated by a preexisting heath condition (which, for privacy reasons, I will not name now).  Esther, by the way, always a copy of my mother, blamed me for the fact that she was sick and lost her summer job, a few times a day, for about a year.

At any rate, this is getting off topic.

People who don’t vaccinate make me mad.  Herd immunity is one of the major reasons that vaccinations work, and without herd immunity, even vaccinated people can sometimes get very sick.  This is because the vaccination does not work 100% on everyone.  Some people get the vaccination and are only 80% immunized.  If everyone around them is also vaccinated, the herd immunity protects everyone, and no one gets sick.  If enough people in the community aren’t vaccinated, an epidemic will break out, putting even the responsible, vaccinated population at risk.

In addition to this, no one is immunized until they finish the vaccination schedule, at about a year and a half.  This means that, especially for babies who don’t breastfeed (and therefore have no immunity at all for the first three or four months, and do not receive any helpful antibodies to aid their immune systems afterwards), those who are not vaccinated are a huge threat, not just to their health, but to their lives.  Even those who do breastfeed are at risk, especially if they were born prematurely, and even if they are still in the relative sterility of the NICU.  Tara Hills, in her article on how she went from being against vaccines to being absolutely in favor of them, says it beautifully: “But in the four highly contagious days before any symptoms show we easily could have passed on our infection to my sister’s toddlers or her 34-week-old son in the NICU.”

In other words, to put it very bluntly, if you choose not to vaccinate, you are putting many lives at risk, not just your own kids’.

That’s a lot of responsibility; unfortunately, many anti-vaccine parents don’t see it that way, and refuse to see it that way.  Probably because it would burst their “better-and-more-natural-than-you” bubble.

From what I’m writing, most of you probably assume that I unblinkingly, unthinkingly, give my kids any vaccine out there, without asking questions.  This, I must say, is not true.  I do not completely trust the varicella vaccine, nor am I convinced that it is necessary for everyone.  I do agree, however, that for certain populations it is probably recommended.  And about the HPV vaccine – new, barely-tested, and a good part of the risks avoidable by teaching teens responsibility – let’s just say that each person can make their own decision, and as long as this does not become a required vaccine, I will keep my peace.  But there is a huge difference between the routine vaccinations – for diseases that literally spread like plagues, often with disastrous results – and the HPV vaccine, for a disease that in most cases (admittedly, not all) can be avoided by proper monitoring and taking responsibility . . . and is not spread through coughs, air, or random handshakes.

About a year and a half ago, there was a polio outbreak here in Israel (brought here, of course, by some Arab who came from the grossly unsanitary conditions present when the Muslims gathered in Mecca).  At some point, the Ministry of Health told everyone to get OPV – the oral polio vaccine, consisting of a live, but weakened, virus.  Even those who received IPV (the dead, or inactivated, polio vaccine) were supposed to get OPV.

When I did some research, I found out that the push to get OPV was not so that the person vaccinated would not get polio, but in order to ensure it could not be passed on.  As it turns out, polio, like group B streptococcus, can live in a [vaccinated] person’s gut without harming them; however, if it passed to someone who was not immunized, that person would get infected, and probably sick, as well.  If we had had an young baby at that time, I probably would have gone out and gotten all of us immunized with OPV.  However, we did not have a baby at that point, and I saw no reason to give my kid a live virus so that people who chose not to immunize their kids would not have to suffer.  At the end of the day, I reasoned, those who are the biggest threat to society’s health are not about to run out and give their kid IPV, much less OPV.  True, there are those with compromised immune systems, there are the elderly, there are the babies.  But we don’t have contact with too many of those people, and if the virus was passed on, it would be by someone else, not by us directly.  So, Shlomo did not get OPV.  Was I irresponsible and thoughtless?  Probably.  But a live vaccine is a big thing, and if everyone had had IPV, the OPV wouldn’t be necessary.  Even a dead, inactivated, vaccine can cause side effects, and if I am taking that risk, I don’t think that I need to take the live virus risk – not the risk of the actual disease because of a lack of herd immunity, and not to try to compensate for that lack of herd immunity.

When I asked one of my cousins if she was going to give her kid OPV, she said, “No, he doesn’t go to gan [hint: unlike your kid], and I don’t live in the south [hint: unlike you].”  Which just proved to me that she hadn’t done her homework – polio had been discovered in the sewage in the center of the country by that point, as well; and just playing with one friend’s dirty toys, or touching his dirty hands if they hadn’t been thoroughly washed after he pooped, was enough to infect him.  If that wasn’t enough, she was seven months pregnant – her new baby wasn’t about to be vaccinated any time soon, either.

As it turns out, thank G-d, the polio scare passed without too many problems, on both a personal and national level, thank G-d.  The OPV was largely understood to be a highly protective, preventive measure, and there was a question if it was truly necessary.

herd immunity, spreading infections, outbreaks, immunity, immunizations, vaccination, vaccinations, health, diseases, babies, mutual responsibility, those who dont immunize put everyone else at risk, anti-vax, anti-vax stupidity, education, responsibilityA few months after Shlomo was born, Esther said, “Did you give him the pertussis vaccine?”  I told her yes – since we were kids, the vaccine has changed.  Plus, no matter what, it’s better to get the vaccine than the disease – and pertussis is one of those very nasty diseases that still pops up quite a few times a year.  True, Esther’s health was negatively influenced by the pertussis vaccine (and it’s not certain if the vaccine was the cause, the trigger, or completely unrelated); but it is also true that she was never fully immunized, and that she ended up getting the actual disease – and suffering the consequences – in the end, anyways.  Isn’t it better to just get the vaccine?

By the way, as it turns out, people need a DTaP booster as adults, too.  Once, when we were in a clinic because Shlomo was throwing up, there was a kid next to us with a distinctive whooping cough.  I asked the mother if he had had his immunizations, and she said he had had all but one.  When I asked which one – she didn’t know.  We moved away from them, and later that week, Yitzchak and I went to get DTaP shots (Shlomo was about a year old at the time, and his shots were recent enough that he was protected).  As it turns out, this was helpful in more ways that just the obvious one: When I was pregnant with Tova, the nurse told me to get a pertussis shot.  Always wary of vaccinations during pregnancy, I asked Mom, who, at first, told me that I should get the vaccine; when I told her I’d had one in January 2012, she told me that it was recent enough to give Tova my IgG without having to get a vaccination while pregnant – and she also told me that she tried to get her vaccinations while not pregnant, for this exact reason.

What I did just realize is that when Esther has a baby, she probably will not vaccinate the kid against pertussis – which means that I don’t want my kids coming in contact with hers until they have been fully immunized and have had recent enough booster shots that I won’t have to worry.  Luckily, because Esther doesn’t live too close to me, this won’t be too much of a problem to pull off.  Hmmm . . . does that mean I don’t want any of my siblings near my kids, until I know my kids are fully vaccinated?  But maybe not, because they all got pertussis – not the shot, but the disease.  I guess it doesn’t matter, because it all amounts to the same thing: not to travel unless we are all up-to-date and not in need of booster shots.  Maybe this is why the concept of vaccinations before traveling exists?

vaccinations, peanut butter allergies, irresponsibility, plauges, outbreaks, infections, immunity, school, healthPlease, everyone, vaccinate your kids.  The entire time I was pregnant with Shlomo, I was worried about getting rubella.  At the beginning of the pregnancy, the blood tests showed that I wasn’t immune, even though my mother insisted that I got both doses (and even if I don’t always believe my mother, you can’t get into the school system where I was in first grade without being up-to-date).  At some point, there was a notice in my college (again, while I was pregnant with Shlomo) that everyone should check their vaccination records, because there had been a case or two of measles.  As soon as I could after having Shlomo, I went with him to one of his well-baby appointments and got myself an MMR vaccination.   Thankfully, since then, I have tested my levels twice, and each time, the IgG value went up a bit, so that now I am fully immunized.

I think that everyone who didn’t receive the necessary vaccinations needs to make sure that those around them know to keep away – especially pregnant (or potentially pregnant) women, young children, babies, and anyone with any kind of medical issue – even just a flu.  Outbreaks of infectious diseases happen every few years; for some diseases, every year.  And they always start in communities that have high numbers of people who are too good for the vaccine – white, richer, more skeptical of the “outside world”,you name it.  Let’s stop trying to convince ourselves that vaccines are the cause of so many of today’s ails, and accept the fact that they have very effectively prevented thousands, if not millions, of hospitalizations per year.

When a Muslim Asks For a Ride

Quite a few weeks ago, we spent Shabbat in Kfar Chabad.  Traveling back after Shabbat, we had two options:

1. Take the train all the way home, which meant a second train switch.

2. Get off where we normally would, in Be’er Sheva, and take a bus.

Although our hosts thought the train was a better idea, we didn’t have a carseat for Shlomo with us, and so we preferred to take a bus, instead of having to take a taxi from the train station.  I checked the times and found out that from when we were supposed to get off, until the last bus home left, was fifteen minutes – which should be exactly enough, giving us 2 minutes to spare if we moved fast.

As it turns out, I made a mistake.  The time we were supposed to get off the train, that gave us 15 minutes, was the time we were supposed to get off the train at a previous stop, to catch the connecting train.  The train got to Be’er Sheva five minutes before the bus was supposed to leave.  We ran and ran – and missed the bus, the last bus, by two minutes.

Then we had two options: Wait until the wee hours of the morning, or take a cab.  Yitzchak insisted that there were night lines.  He’s said this a lot, and I know that at one point such bus lines existed, but in practice, we have never seen any sign of them.

There were two other people who needed to get home to our city there, also.  We thought about finding a big shared taxi (together, if we paid for both kids, we would be 6 people, and even if we paid the extra for the others who weren’t there, it would still be cheaper than a regular taxi).  But none of the taxi companies were answering their phones.

A shared taxi, or 'monit sheirut'.

A shared taxi, or ‘monit sheirut’.

Then a religious driver offered to take us for 60 shekels off the usual price, in his words, “I’m practically losing money, but I figured, you’re religious, and I want to help you out.”  We were going to split the cab with the other people going, but when the driver saw how many we were, he refused to take all six of us.  I told G-d we were going to do this once, He should protect us from our stupidity and get us home safely, and next time we go anywhere where we might need a cab, we are going to bring a carseat for Shlomo.

During the drive, the taxi driver (religious with a knit kippa) started talking to us.  I asked him why there was such a huge price difference between a taxi during the day and a taxi at night, and he told me.  Then he said that when he sees an Arab, he doesn’t take him.  I asked how he would know just from looking that it was an Arab – some of them are almost indistinguishable from Jews, if you just look at them.  He said, first of all, he locks all the doors and closes the windows.  Then, he pulls over and opens one window a crack.  He asks where the guy is going and talks to him a bit, and if the man is an Arab, or even if he’s simply not 100% comfortable, he finds some excuse and drives away.  “It’s not worth it, even if he would offer me 400 shekels, it’s not worth the money, and I’m not going to take a risk by picking him up.”

He’s the first taxi driver I ever heard of who does this, and I think, honestly, that he’s a smart guy.  Maybe a little racist, maybe the refusal in itself carries risks, but it is still the safer route to take.  What is absolutely true is that picking up an Arab – whether you are a taxi driver or just a nice guy willing to give him a tremp (let him hitchhike) – can be very, very dangerous.  Often, it leads to carjackings, and more often, to murders, though these have become less common recently because of the awareness.

And like we saw last summer, taking a ride with an Arab, or even someone you don’t know (because they can dress as Jews and some speak beautiful Hebrew) can be very risky.  Three teenage boys took a ride with someone whom they believed to be a religious Jew, and who turned out to be a Hamas terrorist.  They were kidnapped and killed . . . remember?

Yesterday, a 60-year-old man in Tel Aviv agreed to give two young Arabs a tremp.  In return, he was stabbed, bound, put in the trunk of his car, and driven by those same Arabs towards their home in the PA.  By some miracle, the police decided the car was suspicious, and heard his cries for help in time.

Think about it: The guy lives in Tel Aviv.  Why under the sun didn’t the terrorist find someone closer to home?  Why does he need to go all the way from Tel Aviv?  Is there no one murder-able closer to his home?  Of course there are (unfortunately).  But here he had a chance to kill two birds with one stone: He gets home free of charge, and takes a Jew, dead or still living (and therefore torturable, and a good bargaining chip, as well) back with him.  Eventually, of course, he will kill the Jewish captive and get his 72 virgins (when he dies) – as well as a nice, fat, salary while he lives.

And if any of you had any doubts whether these Muslim extremists kill Jews because they are oppressed and want a decent life, or whether they kill Jews because they are taught to kill Jews, no matter how good their life is – watch this:

Neville Chamberlain vs. Barack Obama

Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing?  If you can honestly say yes, then you agree that Obama is doing the right thing.

If you think that in retrospect, Chamberlain was absolutely wrong and inexcusably stupid, then I ask that you try to open your eyes and see that Obama is following in his footsteps, and ultimately, if we do not stop him, Obama will cause World War Three by giving Iran a free pass to do what Nazi Germany failed at.

Notice, please, two things:

1. Neither Obama nor Chamberlain directly sold their own country; instead, they sold their allies’.

2. In the first case, war was imminent and broke out the same year.  If we do not prevent it, the second case, might G-d forbid turn out the same way.

We might also add that both believed in peace, despite clear warning signs that the people with whom they were signing treaties had done several things that clearly showed a lack of desire to actually achieve peace.  Both of the other parties are extremists who believe that the entire world should be under their rule.

One difference:

We can forgive Chamberlain, because he had no one to learn from.

We cannot forgive Obama if he does not wake up and learn from Chamberlain’s example.

There are many, many other comparisons, but I think the point is made and therefore I will not cite them all.

I would add something else at the end but I am afraid of U.S. government trolls and do not want my citizenship revoked; therefore, I will just say that if we do not want another world war, we need to do something about Obama’s mindless race after a place in history, before he kills us all.  Obama may get his place in history, but at the rate he’s going, it’s not going to be a very honorable one – IF there is a free world around to learn about him in the future.

Holocaust Memorial Day

This past Thursday was Holocaust Memorial Day.  Outside of Israel, it falls on a different day (I don’t remember which anymore); in Israel, Holocaust Memorial Day is right after Pesach – on the day that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began.  Calendar-wise, it’s not the best day, but okay, it works.

At 10am, the Home Front Command (Pikud Ha’Oref) sounds the sirens all over Israel.  It starts off like an air-raid siren, but keeps going “flat” instead of up and down.  However, the first five seconds sound the same, and I have to admit, even though I was expecting the siren, my heart still dropped when it started.  Obviously, we told Shlomo that the siren would sound, and thank G-d, Shlomo took it well.  When he got back from gan, he told me, “In two days (holding up 2 fingers) there will be a siren, okay?  I’m not scared, it’s not a woo-woo.  In two days there will be a siren, Mama.  Okay?  In two days and I’m not scared of the siren, it’s not a woo-woo.”

The soldiers in charge of sounding the siren invited a Holocaust survivor to be their guest, and to be the one to activate the siren.  It’s a very, very sweet video.

As a kid, and as a teenager, I read a lot about the Holocaust.  Maybe because there was so much material, maybe because it was so recent, and maybe just because it is so, so, horrendous, it was the period of history that I learned most about.  At some point, I grew up, and shortly after that, I found that I just couldn’t stomach it anymore.  It’s just too awful.  But what is most important, as one survivor told Netanyahu, is to prevent another Holocaust.

Unfortunately, the world hasn’t yet learned its lesson.  To be honest, the world may never learn.  But even more unfortunate is that we, as Jews, refuse to learn the lesson.  The “rabbi” (more like principal) of our school gave a speech during the school Holocaust ceremony that I really didn’t like.

The first part was about the fact that we need to realize that this is not in the past, and that not only can the Holocaust happen again, we are seeing the warning signs right now, and that if we don’t do something, it WILL happen again.  He quoted what Netanyahu said about Iran’s goal being to wipe Israel off the map.  Yeah, duh.

holocaust, little kids, yellow star, jewish kids, world war 2

I wonder if these cute kids survived . . .

He said that one day, our great-grandchildren will say, “Wow, you actually saw Holocaust survivors?  You heard them speak, in person?” and that what we are seeing and hearing is not just for ourselves but for all future generations.  Okay, fine.

The next part was not so fine – in an attempt to make everyone feel better, he said that no one will ever be able to annihilate us – they always try, and always fail, and then they try again.  The only thing we can do is add light to the world, and strengthen our connection to Torah.  We must pray, we must become stronger, and only through this will our nation survive.  We need to make sure that the life we live is true life, that we make the most of it, and the way to to make sure that we live to the fullest, and to make sure that we preserve our nation’s legacy, is by keeping Torah and strengthening ourselves spiritually.

Now, I am a religious person.  I agree that we need to keep the Torah, and that we need to add light to the world; I agree that we cannot lose faith and that the core of our nation’s existence is our belief in G-d.  BUT, first of all:

a. His first part and second part are complete non sequiturs.  There is no connection between them – he jumped from one topic to another with no bridge between them.

b. The people who believed in G-d, strengthened their connection to Judaism, and did nothing else – DIED.  Yes, they all died.  Entire communities, who chose to play Ostrich, died.  Those who saw the warning signs, including great rabbis, and decided, in addition to their learning, praying, and belief, to pick up and leave – and aid anyone else who would agree to leave – they all survived.  Because G-d doesn’t want us to sit and do nothing but pray and keep Torah.  G-d wants us to do what we can to save our own skins.

Now, I don’t believe that leaving Israel will help – after all, if Iran gets a nuke, the entire world is at risk of being nuked.  Even Antarctica will suffer the consequences.  But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do – and saying that there is nothing to do but pray does two undesirable things: It causes hopelessness and helplessness by tying everyone’s hands behind their backs, and it says that there is nothing that can be done.  Both are harmful.  People who feel trapped become trapped, and depressed  Plus, there is lots that can be done:

We can fight propaganda with propaganda.

We can get the other 2 senators to override Obama’s veto (turns out not to be necessary, but still).

We can write on the Facebook pages of Israel’s leaders, American leaders, and others, pressuring them to fight Iran.

We can push politicians to give Israel the green light to nuke Iran before they can become dangerous.

There are lots of things to do – but no one will do anything if they feel trapped and useless.

Last Thursday, as I was walking out of the classroom with some of my tenth graders, two of the students asked me, “Teacher, what happened to your family in the Holocaust?”

I smiled and said, “My father’s parents are from Russia.  My mother’s father was put on a boat of orphans (even though he wasn’t an orphan) and came to Israel; later, by some miracle, his entire family came to join him.  My mother’s mother’s family immigrated to Israel at the start of the war.”

And they said, “Wow.  That’s a real miracle.”  And I said, “Yes, it was definitely a big miracle.”  And it was.  Still is.  That’s not to say that my grandparents didn’t have aunts and uncles that died in the Holocaust – of course they did.  But they and their immediate families were spared – because they saw what was coming and left.

If we are ever going to be able to prevent another Holocaust from happening, we will have to look it in the face before it hits full-on.  Unfortunately, there are many countries in the world who would like for Iran to do their dirty work for them, and there are many countries who don’t really care either way.

The problem is, Islam is Islam, and the idea is to take over the world.  First they want to kill the Jews; then they will go after the Christians, and then the other “heathens”.  Anyone who is left will either convert or die.  Those who convert will live the oppressed life that many Muslims already live.  Gone will be feminism, gone will be freedom of speech, and gone will be democracy.  Islam isn’t a fun religion, and living under Muslim extremists is not what any of the Western world really wants to be doing.

But, if the world doesn’t wake up, that is what will happen – and while it’s true that the Jews will probably be first, it’s also true that the Christians will be second.

Obama: Please, Iran, Nuke [the] US!

After all of his talks, promises, sanctions, and deals;

after Obama has agreed to let a dangerous nation possess and develop nukes, and has given them the green light to forge ahead and go for a zero breakout time;

after everyone has told him that he is crazy; after he has insisted that he is not;

after it has become known that the Senate is planning to force Obama into cooperating and consulting with them;

after he has told us one version of the agreements, Iran has told us another version, and he still insists on making this deal –

after all of this, what does Obama do?

He admits to the whole world that he has allowed Iran to nuke the entire free world, by reopening the Cheyenne Mountain.  And then, we also realize that North Korea is capable of nuking the United States, as well.

Obama, we congratulate you on your failed second term, and on making history as the president who not only ordered Israel to allowed itself to be completely obliterated and its citizens brutally murdered by Islamic murderers, terrorists, and extremists, but also gave these same Islamic extremist terrorist murderers the go-ahead to obliterate the United States and the entire western world.

Obama bin Laden, we congratulate you on aiding your brother’s mission.