Friday, 2 October 2015

There's Still Beautiful Hills Around Beit Shemesh!

"My" fields across from Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, are being transformed into new neighborhoods.
Whereas this entails the wholesale destruction of the natural and historical wonders there, all is not lost for nature-loving residents.

Yesterday afternoon, me, my three (single) kids and our dog Messy, headed out into the hills in the Ella Valley.

Starting at the track which is popular with thousands of visitors who visit the rare "termosim" flowers there in the spring, now deserted, we headed up into the steep track to the hills towards the south.

In our three hour hike, during the 'crowded' Chol Hamoed Sukkot holiday, we passed just a father and his son on their mountain bikes. Aside from that, we had the hills to ourselves.

I used a recently downloaded Ap, called Amud Anan, which is an excellent map application, showing one's location, walking trails and terrain map. One of the features is highlighting points of interest, with descriptions and photos provided by fellow hikers.

As an illustration of the utility, I pressed on a site-of-interest symbol, and we explored a dramatic bell-cave - similar to those at Beit Guvrin. This cave was off the signed path, and we would not have stumbled upon it by chance.    

In time, this application should become packed with much more helpful information for hikers - the capacity and potential is tremendous. No need for paper maps!

I highly recommend Amud Anan (for Hebrew readers - no English).

We finished up at Aderet, a moshav in the hills.

Beit Shemesh hikers - head to the hills!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Happy Sukkot!

I wish you and your family a Chag Smeach - a truly happy and enjoyable Sukkot!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Recomended for Chol Hamoed: The Biblical Museum of Natural History

I highly recommend a family visit to The Biblical Museum of Natural History, a national asset located in Beit Shemesh, founded and run by Rabbi Natan Slifkin.

Book a tour and take your family for an inspiring, fun and educational experience you won't forget!

More info here:

Sarit Hadad Sings Boreh Olam + Slichot in Hebron

(Kol Isha warning!)

Sarit Hadad performed at Maarat Hamachpelah in Hebron this Erev Yom Kippur; it looks like for a women's slichot program.

Sarit Hadad is a wonderful singer and the place, content and occasion combine in a moving performance.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Missing Boy Miracle Story - True To Boot

Miracle stories can be uplifting spiritually - and therefore a reasonable topic for Yom Kippur.

This one is actually true; I have spoken and verified this today with the people I know well and who were the characters directly involved.

A boy from our community recently went missing; as news got around, there was a tremendous response from dozens of people here, who publicised details about the boy, his last sightings, etc. Tehillim meetings were held, newspapers were alerted who covered the story, and each hour brought more concern for the boy's safety...

A week passed since he had last been seen, and there was a feeling of panic. Memories of The Three Boys, the three students who were kidnapped and murdered last summer, were on everyone's minds.

Meantime, the police publicised the boy's information, but otherwise came up blank.

There was a private initiative to print up posters, and put them up in places where he may be, and generally raise public awareness.

On the Friday afternoon (this past Friday) a family set out from our community in their car to Tel Aviv, laden with their kids, Missing Boy posters and glue.

They stuck them up in some central areas of Tel Aviv (a city of some 1 million people) and, wary of the shortening time till Shabbat came in, then got in the car to head home.

They have traveled a short distance and the mother cried out "OMG! I think I just saw him!!".
They stopped the car, and went back to where she thought she had spotted the boy. Sure enough, it was him!
Thank God, the boy was alive, reasonably well, if bedraggled, and hungry as anything. He was oblivious to the concern, nay panic, his absence had caused.

They stuffed everything and everyone in the car up tighter, fitted the (sizable) boy in,  and took him back to our community, to his home, arriving there minutes before Shabbat.

In my books, this is an open and clear miracle. Statistically impossible. And it was so fitting that the people who were generous spirited enough to leave their homes and go put up posters in Tel Aviv, would merit to be the shlichim (emissaries) for this awesome event.

Gemar Chatima Tova!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Raphael Morris Defends Jewish Presence on Temple Mount

My 20 year old son Raphael, and his wife Aviya, have become (unofficial) spokespersons for Jewish rights on Temple Mount.

Raphael was interviewed last night for Channel 2 News, along with Tam Chavis (sp?), an Arab journalist from East Jerusalem.

Of course, I'm biased, but I think Raphael did a pretty good job, through the many interruptions and cross-fires, to defend the rights of Jews to visit Temple Mount. 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Refugee Camps in Europe

The world's spotlight is now on Europe and the Syrian refugee influx.

They are talking hundreds of thousands of current and potential refugees. The UK, for example, has 'thrown its door open' to 15,000 refugees, over a five year period (perhaps they hope the war will be finished & forgotten by then).

In addition, there are boatloads of refugees coming into Europe from other countries, mainly north Africa, fleeing political upheaval and poverty.

However, the brunt of the refugee crisis from just Syria is being borne by Syria's Middle East neighbours (2 million refugees) and within Syria itself (over 4 million displaced people).

Statistics on Syrian refugees
The reason that EU countries are so reluctant to accept these refugees is that fear they will become EU residents and eventually citizens. More people in Europe, apparently, means less resources to go around. Furthermore, the acceleration of the "Islamisation of Europe" is a recipe for local discontent and potentially worse.

An Egyptian billionaire business man, Naguib Sawiris, has become famous recently for offering to buy an island to house all Syria's refugees, at his expenses, and which he would run. Mr Sawiris has offered to give the refugees gainful employment while they are his guests.

While it sounds like a fine and magnanimous offer, this would amount to a private refugee camp, run by a businessman, running a work-force of dependents.

It sounds like (potentially) a private fiefdom, and a concentration camp.

I suggest a much better approach would be for Europe to establish refugee camps, under international supervision and control, to house, educate and provide basic services to temporary residents, who will return to their homes when it is safe to do so.

Of course, as every free country knows, returning refugees to their land of origin is a major challenge.

We have witnessed this debacle in Israel, with the refugees from Sudan and Eritrea, who are in limbo; the USA has this problem with Mexican illegal immigrants who, once in the USA, are difficult to repatriate. The same pattern is international.

So, in the case of today's refugees, a legal foundation would need to be set, to permit hosting countries in Europe to repatriate the refugees, if they do not return voluntarily to their countries of origin once the storm has passed.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Earrings Reunited!

Against all odds, an earring, of sentimental value, has been reunited with its pair.

On a family vacation to the Czech Republic over the summer, we visited the medieval silver mines of Kutna Hora.

This visit involved us changing into special miners clothes (they wore white so they could be seen better in the unlit tunnels), hard hats, and then walking through hundreds of meters of subterranean mining tunnels.

Once we returned to the surface, my wife Julie noticed that she was missing an earring.

We registered the missing earring with the lost property service at the reception. This included using my rusty artistic skills to draw the earring ("simanim"), so there would be no doubt to our claim, in the unlikely event the earring would be found. We stressed that the earrings were of no material value, but were of sentimental value to Julie.  

To our surprise and delight, a few days later, we received a call from a Ms Vlasta Bohacova from the Silver Mine, to inform us that they had found the missing earring.

Vlasta very kindly then popped it in the mail to our address in Israel, and furthermore she followed up with us by email to help track the progress through the mail.

This week, we picked it up from the local post office and the two earrings have now been reunited.

We let Vlasta know and thanked her for her kindness and efforts.

Vlasta replied: "this is the best news of the day. I am very happy. Thank you for letting me know and the photo!"

Monday, 31 August 2015

Stopping Bicycle Project in Jerusalem

According to Galei Tzahal/Army Radio Station, the new fight in the Jerusalem City Council is about a proposed bicycle renting project, to enable people to conveniently pick-up and drop-off bicycles.

The program offers many benefits, including reducing the number of cars on the roads, maximising parking spaces, and providing an alternative to public transport, particularly during crunch rush-hours.

For the users, it's healthy, green and low-cost.

These projects work well in many cities around the world; I recently enjoyed a visit to Toulouse, where I utilised the municipal bicycle rental program to get around the city.

There is also such a successful project in Tel Aviv.

In Jerusalem, like many other city programs, it has now become a chareidi vs secular issue.

Apparently, Chareidi representatives on the City Council are objecting because they believe this will cause Shabbat desecration.

I can see that in areas which are closed to car traffic on shabbat, the prospect of secular Israelis cycling through the neighborhood on shabbat could raise eye-brows, particularly if they are not dressed modestly.

So of course could the prospect of secular Israelis walking through a closed chareidi neighborhood.

The difference, I guess, is that the cycling also raises issues of forbidden activities on Shabbat.

This is due to a rabbinical ruling, based on the following concerns (from Chabad):

1) It is prohibited to carry objects in a public domain on Shabbat. Transporting an object by riding it is tantamount to carrying it.

2) Fixing a device on Shabbat is prohibited. If the bicycle breaks down, for example if the chain falls off, there is concern that the rider may fix it.

3) Riding a bike is considered a mundane weekday activity, one that we refrain from on Shabbat.

In Jerusalem, the first concern is not relevant, as the city has an Eiruv, and so carrying is permitted on Shabbat.

There is some controversy about the second reason, with the Ben Ish Chai, Rav Hildsheimer and Rav Ovadia Yosef among the rabbinical authorities who challenge it.

However, the bottom line is that orthodox Jews don't ride bicycles on Shabbat. And so someone riding a bicycle through an exclusively orthodox neighbourhood, could be offensive.

However, I don't see that whether a secular Jew rides a bicycle on shabbat, is the rightful business of Chareidi representatives on the Jerusalem City Council.

I suggest that, given the many benefits to all residents of the city of this program, that those bicycle routes which go through closed orthodox streets, be closed on shabbat.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Intimidation of Jews on Temple Mount

Dani Seeman, a guide with The Temple Institute, posted these videos of a recent tour group he led on Temple Mount.

While the introduction Dani gives is fascinating, together with the security briefing by a policeman, once the group gets onto Temple Mount itself, most of his guided tour is drowned out by the constant heckling of initially women and then also men - incessantly shouting "Alah Akhbar!" at the visiting Jews.

I have witnessed similar, but less organized, harassment on and around Temple Mount. The situation appears to have got far worse. I understand the funded harassers are now a constant part of visiting Temple Mount these days.

Dani explained to me: "this is unfortunately now the norm. The Muslims constantly test the boundaries & push out when they see that the police don’t react. (so much for Bibi’s holy ‘status quo’).

"The more I go up the more I am convinced that the way to improve things is to get more Jews involved, more going up & more often. Then will be more push from below on the establishment."

I admire Dani for his persistence & calmness in the face of the intimidation and harassment. The Show Will Go On!

[Plug: If you are looking for a guided tour of the Temple Mount, Dani's email is]

These Jewish Students Just Made a HUGE Kiddush Hashem on National Televi...