Wednesday, December 31, 2008


We in south Mississippi can relate to huddling with our families when hurricanes threaten. We have a least two days to prepare and make everything safe and secure for our homes and families. Imagine what it would be like if we only had 60 seconds or even 10 seconds to prepare for something that could kill us, our family members, our homes, or our businesses.

People in Sderot have about 10 seconds to seek shelter when the bomb sirens sound. Ten seconds to find a child that may have been playing outside, 10 seconds to shelter kids at school, 10 seconds to leave your car to find a bomb shelter, 10 seconds to choose which children will go in your home's bomb shelter and which ones will have to remain outside: This is what the people of Sderot have had to contend with for over 5 years.

Now, in Beersheba, the longest range yet of any Hamas bombs, the sirens are sounding. Those in Beersheba have a little bit more time, about 60 seconds.

Those extra seconds don't really mean much when it is your family in danger or when you are at work.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Where's the Outrage?

H/t: Seraphic Secret

Checking In

There are many Israeli blogs I've been reading for several years now. Every time there is a terror attack in Israel, they are the first blogs I check to make sure they're okay. They are the same ones I check when Israel has to use its military forces in order to protect it's citizens. The calls from around the world condemning Israel are a tired and profane response to a nation's right to protect and defend itself. If those who cast the condemnations would have been as loud in condemning the Qassam rockets which have been falling on Israeli for over 5 years and if those same voices would have condemned the unjust and inhumane kidnapping of Galid Shalit, perhaps the Israeli military would not have had to act.

So I check in with those I know from Israel.

Muqata is given live updates.

David writes eloquently and has some very suggestions on how we can help.

Israellycool is doing a superb job, as usual, of liveblogging.

The Sandman is worried about his wife and children who are in the southern part of Israel. They are away from the Grad rockets and Qassams.

Akiva and the others who post at his blog all seem to be okay.

Miriam, Shiloh Musings, and Esser Agaroth are okay as well.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


I'm over at my Mom's. I forgot the Saints were playing today. As of now, she isn't too happy with them. The Panthers are ahead by 20 points.

It does give me a chance to post a few thoughts. I found out about the justifiable action Israel began in Gaza yesterday. No nation should be expected to allow it's people to be bombarded on a daily basis by Qassam rockets. From what I've read, Israel has destroyed a terrorist training camp and killed over 200 terrorists.

Jack has a good round-up.

I missed last weeks Haveil Havalim. 198 is up.

Miriam has some great news about Chabad House of Mumbai re-opeing.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Internet Withdrawal

I've been without access to Internet at my home for about two weeks now. I've been accessing it while at work or at my sister's. I'm fortunate my boss doesn't mind me doing posts on my lunch break and that blogger allows posts to be scheduled. I can continue to do my Shabbat posts and have them appear 15 minutes before Shabbat starts, my time.

I miss being to read at will my favorite blogs and making comments. I miss being able to follow the news on being able to research on topics ranging from Torah study to learning Hebrew to photography to space exploration.

I am suffering from a bit of internet withdrawal. I have been able to catch up on my reading.

Cry Freedom

Jewish history has long been a struggle for religious freedom, a struggle to worship the way we want. After sundown, I lit the first candle for Chanukah. The single light along with the glow from the Shamash gave a warm glow on a cold night. The word Chanukah means dedication. Dedication can mean several things:

Main Entry:
14th century
1 : an act or rite of dedicating to a divine being or to a sacred use
2 : a devoting or setting aside for a particular purpose
3 : a name and often a message prefixed to a literary, musical, or artistic production in tribute to a person or cause
4 : self-sacrificing devotion
5 : a ceremony to mark the official completion or opening of something (as a building)

Chanukah marks the rededication to the Second Temple which had been desecrated by the Greeks. And yet it means much more than that. From the time the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and left nothing more than a Wall standing and dispersed the Jewish population, Jews have been dedicated in remembering who they are.

Tonight, I will light two candles and as i gaze upon their glow, I will think about the post David wrote and renew my dedication.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who Will Speak?

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

The above poem is famous because it speaks volumes about the injustices and atrocities the Germans carried out. No one spoke against them except a few brave souls who ended up the concentration camps as well.

There's a new silence going on in the world today and it is being helped by none other than the United Nations. The United Nations has a special envoy only listens to the Palestinian side. These envoys usually have never met an Israeli victim of a Palestinian terrorist. The United Nations also has a special refugee unit for just the Palestinians, never mind the fact there were more Jewish refugees from Arab countries than there were Palestinian refugees. The United Nations has has a special day of solidarity with Palestinians when the 1947 partition plan went through. They don't have a special day of solidarity with Israel for the same partition.

When India is attacked by Muslim terrorists, very few offer excuses for the terrorists. The murderers are seen for who they are: Cold-blooded murderers. During the attacks in Mumbai, the Chabad Center was targeted. India has a total population of 1 billion. Of that billion, 5,000 are Jews.

Mottel written a post well worth reading. An excerpt:

Did the Terrorists target Israelis and Israeli causes -yes, but by the very fact that they indiscriminately killed Jews, regardless of National affiliation or belief, makes it much larger then Anti-Israeli sentiment. It is Judeophobia and antisemitism most foul.

There may be those that can argue that Jewish identity is one entirely separate then that of the Holy Land. Perhaps in the past there was room for philosophical debate, and in the isolated realm of Academia (which by no chance of fate is host to the most vicious and virulent antisemitic tirades spoken in the free world since the fall of the Third Reich) there may be continued room for debate. - I would venture that since Antisemitism went out of style with ashes of our brethren in Auschwitz, Belzec and Chelmno, and has today hidden itself in Anti-Zionism and the pages of the Guardian. Mr. Silverstein may choose differ.

When we deal with Islamic Extremists, however, there is no room for differentiation between Judaism and Zionism -to them they are one and the same. When Daniel Pearl was killed, by Pakistani terrorists might I add, there was no difference between Zionism and Judaism. So to by the victims of Beis Chabad Mumbai.
Mr. Silverstein, may I perhaps suggest (though I by no means recommend) strolling alone down the streets of Gaza city, Damascus or Karachi and see if your separation from "Jewish Nationalism" will be of much use to you . . . If your knowledge of Geo-Political conflict will allow you to point out that you are there to help the Islamic cause . . . Need I any further proof to my words then Silversteins own, and I quote:

"Even the Chabad movement should taken to task for not providing greater security for its facility. In a city already beset by past terror attacks, any target perceived as Jewish or Israeli (not just Israeli government buildings) should have had serious surveillance (i.e. security cameras) and the ability to lock itself down quickly"

Already, Islamic terrorists have moved beyond merely Jewish/Israeli targets. Americans and the British are targeted more and more. Indians are facing more threats.

No excuses for any type of terrorist must be allowed. It shouldn't matter if the victim of terrorism is an Israeli citizen, an Indian citizen, and American citizen, a British citizen, or someone from Bali. No excuses must be made for the terrorists. Terrorists seek to destroy, maim, and murder. Who will speak against these vile acts against humanity?

Monday, December 15, 2008


I have long been curious as to when my son began to consider himself an atheist. At first, I thought perhaps it was based on trying to impress his girlfriend. I learned it was actually his older half-brother(his Dad had been married previously).My son had been having doubts and he discussed it with his brother. His brother suggested he read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. For the past 18 months, my son and I had some spirited conversations over this issue. Pesach was memorable because the majority of the discussions centered around belief in G-d even as we were celebrating the miracles of crossing out of mitzrayim.

Jeremy challenged me to read Dawkinss book and I told him I would but he would have to read one of mine. So after havdalah, I began reading the book. I must admit I didn't get very far into even the preface before I started having serious issues. I have moved beyond the preface and have read a few pages of the first chapter. Even this small amount has given me some ammunition to counter some of Dawkins' premises.

First, Dawkins believes in all things should be measured in some way to be proven as to exist. He leans very much on Darwin's Theory of Evolution. It seems he argues against the existence of G-d because there is no empirical data for the existence of G-d. I'm not really concerned what Dawkins believes. For though he states he believes in the Natural World and he is a Naturalist, to me he is just calling G-d by another name. Instead of saying Shiva, Allah, or whatever, he calls it the Natural World.

I enjoy reading about science. It is exciting to read about new discoveries of how our brains, our world, and so many other things work. Evolution doesn't scare me and it doesn't conflict with my belief in G-d.

In discussing some of the issues with my son who is in his early 20's, I asked him questions about his relationship with his girlfriend Sarah. I asked him if he felt that his love for Sarah was more than a brain synapse response, more than a pheromone response, or more than a chemical change in his body. Science has shown that different our brains and bodies react differently when we first fall in love. It can be measured. I asked him if he thought the love and bond between them was just those measurable responses.

He responded their relationship was more than scientific instruments could measure. I then asked are there are some things that cannot be proven by empirical data? He left to go think about it for awhile. I'll post updates when I have the opportunity.

My son has every right to believe the way he wants. We are fortunate to live in a country that allows us to worship or not worship as we choose.

Missed It

Jack is hosting Haveil Havalim 196: My Kids Wish It Was Chanukah Already.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Not Just Any Mouse

It's super mouse!

Speaking Out

The Muslims in India are speaking out against the terrorists who attacked Mumbai.

Throngs of Indian Muslims, ranging from Bollywood actors to skullcap-wearing seminary students, marched through the heart of Mumbai and several other cities on Sunday, holding up banners proclaiming their condemnation of terrorism and loyalty to the Indian state.

Muslims took part in a candlelight march last week toward the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai.
The protests, though relatively small, were the latest in a series of striking public gestures by Muslims — who have often come under suspicion after past attacks — to defensively dissociate their own grievances as a minority here from any sort of sympathy for terrorism or radical politics in the wake of the deadly assault here that ended Nov. 29.

Muslim leaders have refused to allow the bodies of the nine militants killed in the attacks to be buried in Islamic cemeteries, saying the men were not true Muslims. They also suspended the annual Dec. 6 commemoration of a 1992 riot in which Hindus destroyed a mosque, in an effort to avert communal tension. Muslim religious scholars and public figures have issued strongly worded condemnations of the attacks.

There were 40 Muslims among the dead in the Mumbai attacks. The Muslims in India have realized that terrorism isn't to redress grievances but to murder innocents and that it is an attack against the country in which they live. it is a good start.

There are 140 million Muslims who live in India. The Muslim leaders in India have made a strong stand against terrorist attacks even going as far as not allowing the terrorists to be allowed burial in Muslim graveyards. Perhaps these leaders in India can talk to the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries. Instead of making heroes out of child-murderer Sumar Kuntar, shun them. When suicide bombers blow them selves up and try to murder innocents, do not allow them to be buried in Muslim cemeteries. Instead of making martyrs out of those who are willing to gun down high school students, condemn them loudly and offer no excuses for the vile murders they have committed. This will be the real start for statehood for Palestine and peace in the Middle east.

Until all terrorists are condemned and no more excuses are offered for their vile murders, there will not be peace. It cannot be okay for Palestinian terrorists to shed the blood of innocent Israelis. Those terrorists must be condemned as well.

Another First for Congress

Congressman William Jefferson, Democrat from New Orleans, was defeated. The winner is another first for Congress. A Vietnamese American will join the ranks of Congress. Jefferson is under indictment after the FBI found $90,000 in his freezer.

Indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson suffered what might be the final blow of his storied political career in the most improbable way Saturday, when an untested Republican opponent took advantage of Louisiana's new federal voting rules -- and an election delay caused by Hurricane Gustav -- to unseat the nine-term Democrat.

With the upset victory, Anh "Joseph" Cao, an eastern New Orleans attorney who fled war-ravaged Saigon as a child, becomes the first Vietnamese-American in Congress. He will represent a district that was specifically drawn to give African-Americans an electoral advantage and one in which two of every three voters are registered Democrats.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Jews in Name Only?

I used to be somewhat dismayed by the perception I had of my congregation. It seemed as though the majority were secular Jews, Jews whose only ties were secular in nature. As I became more open and aware of those in my congregation, I thought less why they remained Jews and more of how I can learn by their example. I used to wonder why so many didn't make the effort to learn the Kabbalat Shabbat prayers in Hebrew and were content just to be there. And there was my clue. They werethere.

Perhaps the majority don't keep Shomeir Shabbat. Perhaps the majority don't keep kosher. They do keep our community going. They are there when someone needs a ride to services, to the hospital, or someone is sick and needs a visit.

They are there when someone dies in our very small Jewish community. They come and say the Mourner's Kaddish for the prescribed period when their parent or child has died.

They are there when we joyfully celebrate the groundbreaking of our new shul. They are there to greet the visiting rabbis. They are there when we dance with our Torahs on Simchat Torah.

They struggle and have struggled so their children can have bar/bat mitzvahs. These parents have to find a rabbi who is willing to help their children learn the trope via phone, email, webcam, etc. And thank HaShem there are rabbis who are willing to take the time to help these children and their families.

I used think why do they remain Jews. Now I think of the great strength it has taken each of them to remain Jewish when we live in the Bible Belt. It would have been so much easier to just assimilate.

The very essence of Jewish life is community. Our small community is made up of both observant and non-observant. We remain a strong community because we look out for one another. That is our greatest strength.

Only Six More!

Shiloh Musings is hosting Haveil Havalim 194: Start Counting Down!. Number 200 is just around the corner.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Shabbat Shalom!

Tears of Heaven

As a Jew, it distresses me to see the mess going on over the Peace House in Hebron. This house, from all I have read was legally purchased by Jews. The Israeli courts have ruled those living in the house need to be evicted until the matter is settled. The Jews who bought the house and most of the settlers have been labeled as extremists. I can sympathize with their anguish. They want to be able to live in a town were Jews have lived since the time of Avraham. They want to be close to were Sarah and Avraham are buried. Like Avraham, they purchased the house. Unlike Avraham, they didn't do it in the open so that there would be no dispute later on.

What I don't like is the level of violence they have shown. It would be nice if the Palestinians who live close to some of the most holiest sites for Jews would respect our rights to visit those places. It would be nice if Palestinians would not destroy those sites like was done with Joseph's Tomb and the ongoing work at the Temple Mount.

I read an interesting D'var Torah about Ishmael and Isaac. It stated that the reason Sarah wanted Hagar and Ishmael to be cast out was because Ishmael wouldn't be willing to share. I see this reflected in the ongoing violence in Israel. It started in the 1920's when those who were willing to work with Jews and wanted peace were assassinated. We saw that when Sadat was assassinated after the historic peace treaty with Israel. We see it today with the Iranian threats to 'wipe' Israel off the maps.

The country now known as Jordan was supposed to have been the Palestinian homeland. By default, with 90% of its population being Palestinian, it is. In 1947, the United Nations proposed a two state solution. Israel accepted even though the lines drawn up seemed more like a sick joke. The Palestinians and the Arab world were not willing to share.

Israel has benefited the Palestinians. Even with the weekly news articles about the supposed distress of those living in Gaza, those living in Gaza have a better quality of life than most in Egypt.

It bothers me more that Israelis seem to be turning on each other. Israeli peace activists seem more willing to stand with Palestinians than Israelis in Sderot. They do not seemed to be too concerned that those evicted from Gaza three years ago still await for the promises of the Israeli government.

I can sympathize with the bitterness of those in Hebron. They are being forced by their government to leave a house they purchased. They have the promises of the IDF that they will not allow the house to be occupied by Palestinians until the issue is resolved. Those that purchased the house see from the experience of those in Gaza that the Israeli government doesn't seem willing or able to keep its promises.

I do not like the images of Israelis fighting one another.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


The tank looks really cute!

Goodbye, Old Friend

The Biloxi Library on Lameuse Street was unique. It's architecture was fitting for it also housed a small museum for the pottery of George Ohr. A new museum is being built and will house the unique works of the Mad Potter of Biloxi. I used to visit the library every two weeks and check out 4-5 books. Also, I would go and look at some of the exhibits of local artists and photographers. I love books and the Mississippi Gulf Coast lost two treasures because of Hurricane Katrina. The Gulfport Library on Highway also had unique architicture and when my son was small, he loved to go there and watch the koi in the water feature in front of the library. Both places were ones I visited often. Gulfport has decided it must be torn down. A groups is fighting that decision. The demolition has already started on the Biloxi Library. The picture below is from the Harrison County Library system web-site.

Monday evening I wanted to take pictures of the area around the Vieux Marche. The picture below is of the back of the library. The space for the Ohr pottery and other exhibits were held upstairs.

As I walked up Lameuse Street and stood in front of City Hall, I felt sadness. Even after more than years, sometimes the things we lost still hit hard. The library was a refuge for me and many others. The demolition is just more reminder of how things will never be the same.

A new library will be going up in Biloxi. It will be further from any potential storm surge. The Gulfport library will be demolished as well and moved further inland. Both are a passing of a way of life that was enjoyed by many. I can only hope that the architicture of both will be unique. For now, I'll just say goodbye to my old friend.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


It is time for the Pledge of Allegiance to revert to its former wording. Many may not know that is was written by socialist minister Francis Bellamy in 1893. In 1954, another minister, Reverend George Docherty convinced President Eisenhower and Congress to add the words "under G-d".

This is how the pledge looked when it was first written:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

In 1923, it was changed to:

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

In 1954, during the era of McCarthyism and the scare of the red menace of the Soviet Union, it was changed once again:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

It is interesting to see that our Founding Fathers did not see the need for free citizens to recite an oath of allegiance. The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights guarantee freedom of liberty and justice for all. Do we even really need a pledge to assert that we believe in the ideals of this country? Do we need the added "under G-d"? A persons religion or lack thereof should be personal. It is a right that is so profound that our Founding Fathers in the Bill of Rights adopted as the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Washington Post article It's Time to Update the Pledge suggest because of the changing face of Americans personal beliefs, it is time to take out the words "under G-d". I'll one step further, we don't need a pledge at all. For 117 years, our country did just fine with out one. We don't really need it and to me, it goes against the principles for which this country stands.

Why should we as free people have to prove our loyalty by asserting a pledge? We assert our loyalty and love of country each day by working and living our lives in the pursuit of happiness. Our courts ensure liberty and justice for all.

Do we really need a pledge if we are a free people?


This one form Marshall Ramsey of the Clarion Ledger had me snorting.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

That Day

Gentry Burkes, 11 years old, wrote a song about that day, 8-29-05, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Listen. Not bad for an 11 year old.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Answer to Terror

The aim of those who spread the evil of terror besides murdering innocents is to make others fearful and to keep them from moving forward. The answer is not to be paralyzed by the lingering fear. Akiva at Mystical paths has posted Rivka Holtzberg's parents will go to Mumbai and continue the work of their daughter and son-in-law. They will also be taking the couples two year old son with them. This is the answer to terror. I'm worried about what will happen. I can be reasonably think Rivka's parents are fearful as well. Their hope outweighs the fear.

If you are on Facebook, you can help by donating to the HoltzbergCause.

Or you can go directly to Chabad's web-site and donate.