Friday, December 28, 2012

Hungry for Jerusalem

This article makes me hungry for Jerusalem - literally!

Winter on Saladin Street.
The last grapes, the first strawberries, a sweet rosetta and bitter coffee. It’s the nicest time of year to roam the central artery of East Jerusalem.
Yum!

"Israelization" among East Jerusalem Palestinians?

A very interesting article in today's Ha'aretz about the "Israelization" of some Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Some highlights:
  • Isawiyah now has a post office
  • increasing number of East Jerusalem Palestinians are requesting Israeli ID cards
  • more high school students are taking the Israeli matriculation exams (bagrut)
  • greater numbers are enrolling in Israeli educational institutions
  • decline in the birthrate
  • more requests for building permits
  • rising number of young people in East Jerusalem volunteering for national service (I didn't know there were any!)
  • revolution in health care services - the Israeli HMOs are now very active in the eastern part of the city, which has drastically improved health care there

Other signs:

More Palestinian presence in west Jerusalem - in the malls, on the light rail, and in the Mamilla mall (I've noticed this since the mall opened, a few years ago - it creates a pedestrian link between the Old City and west Jerusalem).

The light rail has made it much easier to travel from east Jerusalem to the city center.

Thousands of homes in east Jerusalem have finally been hooked up to the Israeli water system (rather than the Palestinian).

More flexibility in issuing building permits (this is a huge deal, because Israel usually refuses to grant east Jerusalem Palestinians building permits, so people build illegally, and then the municipality tells them they have to tear down the building and issue demolition orders against them).

Now the Festival of Light, which takes place in the Old City in the late spring (it's one of the many cultural events that the city sponsors now that Nir Barkat is the mayor) has spread to all four quarters, and the local Palestinian merchants are starting to open their shops in the evenings to cater to the hundreds of thousands of people who come to the festival. This is something I noticed this year when I went to the festival.

Counter-signs:

Not all of the residents of east Jerusalem can participate in this process, because they are stranded outside the separation wall, basically in no-man's land. They're within the municipal boundaries so the PA can't do anything for them, and the city has basically abandoned them. They lack the most basic services (for example, garbage pickup, ambulances entering to take people to hospitals, schools), and it's very hard for them to get into Jerusalem for services. About 70,000 of east Jerusalem Palestinians are in this situation. The Israeli government deliberately built the separation wall to keep them on the wrong side.

Jewish settlement activity in east Jerusalem

This article talks about the "King's Garden" plan on the lower slopes of Silwan, which would create a tourist area by demolishing 22 homes of east Jerusalem Palestinians, who would be forced to move. This would be run by Elad, a ultranationalist Israeli group that runs the City of David site.

There's a lot of other settlement activity within Palestinian neighborhoods, including in Sheikh Jarrakh, elsewhere in Silwan, on the Mt. of Olives, and places I don't know about. (Ir Amim has information on settlement activity on their website, as does the Settlement Watch run by Peace Now).


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Walk in Fall Creek, Ithaca

I've been posting all these terribly gloomy stories about murder, so I think it's time to post something much more pleasant - some photographs I took of my neighborhood when I took a walk this afternoon: Fall Creek, Ithaca.

Icicle outside my door

Icicle line

Pumpkins

Porch

Porchfest

Up from Fall Creek school

Porch on Tioga St.

Another porch on Tioga St.

Garage on Tioga St.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

3 more gun murders today

Ambushed NY firemen shot dead; two police killed elsewhere

In addition to the horrible arson-murder-suicide today outside Rochester, NY, a police officer was killed in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin - Jennifer Sebena, age 30. In Houston, a police officer was killed during a shootout, along with a bystander.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Two more gun deaths: Two Rochester-area Firefighters Shot and Killed

Two Rochester-area Firefighters Shot and Killed
Webster, N.Y. - Two firefighters were shot and killed during a call to a fire on Bay Road in Webster, N.Y., which is located in Monroe County northeast of Rochester on Lake Ontario. Two other firefighters were also shot, and at this point, have survived. 
Report from CNN:
(CNN) -- At least two firefighters died when they were shot at the scene of a blaze in upstate New York on Monday, police said. 
Two other firefighters were injured, police in Webster, New York, told reporters.
Authorities believe one or more shooters took aim at the firefighters after they left their vehicles, Police Chief Gerald Pickering said. 
It was unclear whether there were any suspects. 
"We have different individuals that were possible people with knowledge, but at this point I can't really comment," Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn told reporters.
For hours, the gunfire stopped firefighters from working to extinguish the fire and forced police SWAT teams to evacuate homes in the area. 
Firefighters first arrived before 6 a.m., said Rob Boutillier, Webster's fire marshal. By 9 a.m., flames had engulfed three houses and a vehicle, he said. 
"It's still an active crime scene," Pickering said. "We have firefighters there at the location. It took a while to make it safe ... to put out the fires." 
Doctors were treating the wounded firefighters Monday morning, said Teri D'Agostino, a spokeswoman for Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York. They were in guarded condition, she said. 
One firefighter escaped from the scene in his own vehicle about an hour after he was shot, then was taken to the hospital by an ambulance from another location, Boutillier said. He was listed in satisfactory condition, Boutillier said. 
Another wounded firefighter was conscious and speaking when he was removed from the scene, Boutillier said.
Updates

Names of the victims: "One of the deceased, Michael J. Chiapperini, was a police lieutenant in the Webster Police Department; the other, Tomasz Kaczowka, was a 911 dispatcher for Monroe County."

The injured: "John Ritter, an off-duty police officer from Greece, N.Y., who happened to be driving by and stopped to help, suffered shrapnel wounds from the shooting, Chief Pickering added. The firefighters who were injured, both volunteers, were identified as Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino."

The murderer: "Webster Police Chief Gerald L. Pickering tells reporters that the gunman — found dead at the scene from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound — was 62-year-old William Spengler. Pickering says Spengler was convicted of the 1980 murder of his grandmother, was imprisoned in 1981 and was paroled in 1998."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Central Pennsylvania, Friday: 4 deaths by gun

A man killed two men and one woman Friday in central Pennsylvania, then died in a gunfight with state troopers, authorities said. 
One woman was killed at Juniata Valley Gospel Church, one man was found dead in a residence, and another man was killed after getting into a car accident with the truck's driver, added Bivens. All three had been shot.
After these three people were killed, state troopers then shot the killer.
The first report of shots fired "at multiple locations" in Frankstown Township came in a 911 call placed around 9 a.m., Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said. As state troopers converged on the area, someone in a truck -- going the opposite direction on a two-lane road -- fired at two marked patrol cars. 
The truck's driver continued driving and then "rammed ... head-on" into a different patrol car, Bivens said. He then got out of his vehicle and began firing at officers.
State troopers returned fire, eventually killing the truck's driver. 
Three state police members were hurt in the response. One was struck in the wrist by bullet fragments and in his chest -- which was protected by body armor -- by a bullet. Another trooper got glass fragments in his eyes and bullet fragments in his forehead. The third suffered minor injuries in the car accident with the shooter's truck. 
More information from a Reuters article -

The killer's name was Jeffrey Lee Michael, 44. His victims were Kimberly Scott, 58, Kenneth Lynn, 60, and William Rhodes Jr., 38. 
In the Pennsylvania incident, the gunman in fairly rapid succession shot and killed a woman inside a church, then fatally shot two men at their respective homes - all within a short distance from each other - before trying to flee. 
He opened fire at two state police patrol cars rushing to the scene as he passed them on a two-lane road and slammed head-on into a third patrol car. The gunman was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police at the crash scene, police said.

To Live and Die in America

From Huffington Post's home page today:


3 Shot And Killed In Mich... 18-Year-Old Shot Multiple Times, Dies... Man Kills Wife, Teen, Himself... Man Shoots, Kills Own Son... Cops Shoot Teen Dead... Man Gunned Down In Parking Lot... 5 Dead In Spate Of Shootings... 2 Murdered In Philly... 2 Kansas Cops Shot Dead... Shooter Killed... 4 Die In Apparent Murder-Suicide... Ga. Cop Dies From Gunshot... Argument Leads Teen To Shoot Friend...Man Shot To Death... Teen Dies After Being Tied Up, Shot... Man Shot Dead In Street... Drug Deal Leads To Shooting Death... Mother Of 2 Killed In Road Rage Shooting... Man Shoots, Kills Intruder... 1 Killed In Coney Island... Man Dies From Gunshot Wounds... Cops Investigate Gun Death... Shooting Victim's Body Found On Bike Trail... Man Charged With Shooting Own Brother Dead... Man Dies After Being Shot In Chest... Body Of Shooting Victim Found In Pickup... Teen Arrested For Robbery Shooting Death... Man Carrying 2-Year-Old Son Shot Dead... Man Fatally Shot Near Home... Parolee Dies In Shooting... 1 Killed In Buffalo Shooting... Man Shot Dead In Apartment Complex... Street Gun Battle Kills Grandma Bystander... Man, Woman Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide... Woman Shot Dead By Intruder... 14-Year-Old Arrested Over Fatal Gun Attack... Man Found Shot Dead In Parking Lot... Woman Shot In Face By Ex-Boyfriend... 1 Woman, 3 Men Shot Dead... 2 Die In Attempted Robbery... Army Reservist Shot To Death In Alley... Man Shot To Death In Bodega... 2 Shot Dead In Burned House... Man Shot During Break-In... Man Fatally Shot... 20-Year-Old Gunned Down... Man Shoots Self During Police Pursuit... 1 Killed In Baltimore Shooting...Cops ID Shooting Victim... 60-Year-Old Man Shot Dead... Shot Man's Body Found In Vacant House.... Woman Shot And Killed Outside Her Home... Shooting Victim Was 'Trying To Turn Life Around'... Slain Shooting Victim Found In Street....Driving Altercation Leads To Shooting, 1 Dies... 3-Year-Old Dies In Accidental Shooting... Man Turns Self In After Allegedly Shooting Wife... Man Shot Dead Outside Home... 3 Slain In Separate New Orleans Shootings... Cops Investigate Shooting Death... Man Shot Dead In Ohio... Teen Shot To Death... Man Dies After Being Shot Multiple Times... Man Charged Over Son's Shooting Death... Cops Find 2 Men Shot Dead... 1 Dies In Shooting... Man Charged Over Gun Killing... 1 Shot Dead In Confrontation... Man Charged With Murder Over Shooting... Motel Owner Shot And Killed... Husband Shoots Estranged Wife Dead... Suspect Arrested Over Deputy's Shooting Death... Police Probe Fatal Shooting... Cops Kill 2 Suspects In 3 Shooting Deaths... Man Killed Fighting Back Against Robber... Man Killed In Home Invasion.... Nightclub Shooting Kills 1... Child Brain Dead After Drive By Shooting... Man Charged Over Shooting Of Ex-Wife... Body Found In Vacant House... Teen Fatally Shot...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

People I know who were murdered: Barry Smotroff and Ben Blutstein

I believe I've only known two people who were murdered, in sharp contrast to Aisha Roberts, the 19 year old quoted in the previous post, who knows 13 people who were murdered just this year.

The first person I knew was Barry Smotroff, a science fiction fan who lived in New York City, who was killed on July 29, 1976, apparently in a robbery. See a link to a photo of him. Here's a link to a story about Barry. I'm not sure exactly how I met him - either during a visit to New York to meet fans, or possibly at a science fiction convention or two.

The second person I knew was Ben Blutstein, who was murdered on July 31, 2002, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem by a terrorist who left a bomb in the Frank Sinatra cafeteria. Eight other people were killed in the same attack. I did not know any of them, but friends of mine in Jerusalem knew them. This was during the height of the second intifada.
Nine people - four Israelis and five foreign nationals - were killed and 85 injured, 14 of them seriously, when a bomb exploded in the crowded Frank Sinatra cafeteria on the Hebrew University Mt. Scopus campus shortly after 13:30. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. 
The bomber left the bomb in an innocent looking bag packed with shrapnel in the cafeteria. The device was professionally prepared, possibly in one of the factories in the Nablus casbah, which the IDF has refrained from entering since Operation Defensive Shield after Passover. 
Though classes were not in session, students were taking exams at the time of the blast, and the cafeteria was crowded with diners. There were also numerous students in the building registering for classes for the coming school year. 
The cafeteria is also near the Rothberg International School, where about 80 pupils from the US and other Western countries had arrived to prepare for the fall semester.
Most of the injured were between the ages of 18 and 30. The explosion gutted the cafeteria.
The murderers in this case were caught about two weeks later. They were also responsible for the Cafe Momento attack in Jerusalem on March 9, 2002, when 11 people were killed. The man who placed the bomb in the cafeteria was Muhammad Ouda, 29, who worked as a construction worker at the university.

Who was killed by guns this week in the US?

The Huffington Post has tracked murders in the US since the Sandy Hook school massacre on December 14. They found that over a 100 people have been killed this past week. Some of those killed by guns since then are:

Aydan Perea, age 4, in Kansas City.

Adreanne Evans, 21, in Harrisburg, PA, allegedly killed by her boyfriend on December 20. He also shot another man in the head. A baby was sleeping in a crib nearby at the time of the shootings.

On December 15, a 3 year old boy shot himself in the head (accidentally), after he picked up a gun in a home owned by his uncle, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer.

Paul Sampleton Jr., a 14 year old boy, was killed in Gwinnett County, Georgia, on Wednesday.

Veronica Soto, 30 years old, was killed by Mark Trevino in a case of road rage, in Fort Bend County, Texas, on Thursday. She left behind her husband and two children, 7 and 14.

Veronica Soto and her husband went out to get food from a Jack-in-the Box when they got into a traffic altercation with two other vehicles, investigators said. The drivers were all heading to the same neighborhood and Soto's vehicle was "boxed in" by the others. 
Investigators said Mark Trevino came to a stop, ran into his home on Addicks-Clodine, grabbed a rifle and started shooting. Soto was shot in the head.
Her husband also pulled out his gun. 
“They started shooting back and forth and the bullet went through the windshield, hit her and went out the back windshield,” said Matthew Soto, the victim’s brother-in-law.
In this case, having an armed protector did not save Veronica Soto's life.

On December 17, Leroy Louderback of Georgetown, Ohio, age 71, killed his son, 41-year-old John Louderback. He called the police and told them he had killed his son, and he's being charged with voluntary manslaughter.

More cases from the Huffington Post article:
Ramona Foreman was found shot in the doorway of the Oakland, Calif., 92nd Avenue Head Start office. The 48-year-old and her sister were walking home from a store when shots rang out. Foreman had been the innocent victim of a drive-by shooting. The victim's stepdaughter told a reporter that her grandmother was the 13th person she knows killed this year.
She was the 124th person murdered in Oakland this year. The stepdaughter is named Aisha Roberts and she is 19 years old.
Deputy Sheriff Christopher Parsons, 31, worked the early-morning shift on Saturday, when he took an emergency call to assist an unconscious woman at a trailer park in Mineral Point, Mo. As he helped place the woman in the ambulance, her son came out of the mobile home and fired a rifle, killing Parsons. 
On Sunday in New Orleans, three people were shot and killed, including 18-year-old Lawrence Burt, 56-year-old Vivian Snyder, and a 56-year-old Jefferson Parish taxi driver Joseph Wilfred, who was shot behind the wheel. According to an account, he'd been on the job for about three weeks. 
That same afternoon, 25-year-old Krystal Garcia Nacoa was allegedly shot to death by her husband, Leonardo Nacoa, 26, at their Porterville, Calif., home. Police found the husband's cell phone number and called it multiple times, until the man finally picked up. He admitted that he had fled across the border to Mexico. Police were able to get Nacoa to surrender.

When the good guys with guns are killed by the bad guy with a gun

Yesterday, Wayne LaPierre, the vice president of the NRA, said that "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

David Gogian and Jeff Atherly were both armed, but they were both killed by a man with a gun. The mere possession of a gun, even wielded by someone who is trained in how to use it in a dangerous situation, is not a guarantee that the "bad guy" will be stopped. The suspect in that case fled and was subsequently killed in a shootout with police on the Monday after the officers were killed.

People are murdered every day by guns in the US

After the horrible massacre at Newtown, I think we need to become aware of all the other people in the US who are murdered every day with guns.

According to the FBI reports for 2011, "firearms were used in 67.7 percent of the nation’s murders, 41.3 percent of robberies, and 21.2 percent of aggravated assaults." In 2011 there were 14,612 "murders and non-negligent manslaughters," and the rate per 100,000 was 4.7. There were 653 justifiable homicides in 2011.


The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program "collects supplementary homicide data that provides information regarding the age, sex, and race of the murder victim and offender; the type of weapon used; the relationship of the victim to the offender; and the circumstance surrounding the incident."


The FBI figure for victims of murder for whom supplemental information is known is: 12,664. Of these, firearms were used in 8,583 of the murders (6,220 handguns), for a rate of about 67% of all murders.

Using the same figure of victims for whom supplemental information is known - victims of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in 2011 were disproportionately male - 77% of all victims were male. 50% of the victims were black, 46% were white.

Note that in the last 20 years, both the number of murders and the murder rate have gone down very significantly. In 1992 there 23,760 murders, and in 1993 there were 24,526 murders and the rate was 9.5. For the overall violent crime rate, the peak number of violent crimes was in 1992 - 1,932,274, for a rate of 757.7 per 100,000, while in 2011 it was 1,203,564, for a rate of 386.3 per 100,000.

December 16, 2012 - two police officers in Topeka, Kansas, were killed "after exchanging gunfire with a man." Their names were David Gogian and Jeff Atherly. The man suspected of killing them is David Edward Tiscareno.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Who is the "Red One" of Maoz Tzur?

I wrote on this question on December 14, 2009, and here is the answer once again (slightly edited).

I'm thinking about the words to Maoz Tzur, the Hanukkah hymns According to the Birnbaum siddur, it was composed in the 13th century (Philip Birnbaum, Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem [New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1969] 777). (The article in Wikipedia makes the same statement, based on Zunz). 

The article on Maoz Tzur in MyJewishLearning.com refers to an article by Ismar Schorsch, the former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, published in the journal Judaism in the fall of 1988, entitled "A Meditation on Maoz Zur." Schorsch's family escaped from Germany on the first day of Hanukkah of 1938, after his father had been freed (he had been arrested on Kristallnacht). He writes that his family always sang the first five stanzas of Maoz Tzur with great fervor during their Hanukkah celebration (p. 459): "The poem's theme of redemption seemed to offer a poignant comment on our family's experience." They omitted the sixth stanza, however.

He records the history of the poem as follows (p. 460): "In its present form, Maoz Zur consists of six stanzas. Since the days of Leopold Zunz, the first five have been ascribed to an unknown German poet named Mordecai, who lived sometime before the middle of the thirteenth century and whose name survives as an acrostic formed by the first letter of each stanza." Schorsch writes that the poem is written as if shortly after the Maccabees had retaken the Temple from the Syrian Greeks. "The rescue from 'Greek' tyranny triggers a recollection of earlier cases when God's intervention redirects the course of Jewish history." These are in Egypt, Babylonia, and Persia. The fifth stanza describes the "redemption at the time of the Hasmoneans."

The sixth stanza was composed later than the first five, and it is (p. 461) "an unabashed messianic plea for divine retribution upon Israel's Christian oppressors." He comments that it is often left untranslated in modern prayerbooks (like the Birnbaum siddur, which translates only the first five stanzas). The fifth stanza adds the final subjugator of the Jewish people - Edom (which in rabbinic interpretation is equated first with pagan and then with Christian Rome, thus becoming the code name for Christianity as a whole).

My rough translation (helped by Schorsch's discussion on p. 462):
Reveal your holy arm (cf. Isaiah 52:10) and bring near the day of salvation.
Avenge your servants against the evil kingdom.
The time has lengthened, and there is no end to the evil days.
Destroy the red one (Admon=Christianity) in the shadow of the cross,
and send forth the seven shepherds [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David]
This stanza is a more urgent request for divine salvation - rather than remembering the past salvation from danger and oppression at the hands of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, it directly calls God to save his people from the Christians. Schorsch believes that this stanza was also written by an Ashkenazic Jew (p. 463), "stirred by the tremors and aftershocks of the Reformation," who believed that the Christian kingdom could only be overcome by direct divine intervention.

With this understanding of the meaning of the text, it's clear why Philip Birnbaum did not care to translate the stanza into English. Although he does not mention it in his entertaining introduction to the siddur (full of jabs at earlier translations and editions of the prayerbook), he refrains from translating quite a number of potentially troublesome passages, particularly mystical ones, and in this case, one that could be viewed as an open attack upon Christianity, something that he presumably thought would be unwise even in the United States.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Jews of Libau / How not to be an antisemite / Losing the plot

In Norm's excellent series, "Figures from a dark time," he has just posted about the fate of the Jews of Libau/Liepaja, Latvia, which I have also written about. Norm's headline is "The figure 2700-2800."
On the night of December 13, 1941, Latvian policemen arrested the Jews of Liepaja and took them to jail. Those with work permits, along with their families, were released. 
The remaining Jews were taken to Skede, north of Liepaja, to the dunes overlooking the Baltic Sea, the site of a former military training [ground]. A long ditch had been dug just before the dunes. The Jews were forced to strip off their clothes except for their underwear. Near the ditch they then were made to take off their remaining clothes and assemble in groups of ten. They were executed by members of a Latvian SD guard platoon, units of the 21st Latvian police battalion, and members of the Schutzpolizei-Dienstabteilung (German security police) under the command of the local SS and Police Leader Fritz Dietrich. On the 15-17 of December, 2,700-2,800 Jews were massacred, most of them women and children.
His source is an article on the site of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum: This Month in Holocaust History, December 6.

Fat Man on a Keyboard (Peter Ryley) has also pointed to an excellent resource for those who wish to criticize Israel without being antisemitic, on a Tumblr blog called "This is not Jewish." His post is also very good, discussing the vexed question of "Why does the Israel/Palestine conflict send everybody gaga?"

Monday, December 03, 2012

Building in E-1: a final blow against the two-state solution?

If Israel goes ahead with its plans to develop E-1 (Dividing the West Bank, Deepening a Rift), located between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, it will cut the West Bank in half and make a viable Palestinian state impossible. It's time for the Obama administration to come out publicly against this plan, as publicly as the UK and France are - who are threatening to withdraw their ambassadors from Israel.


The New York Times has an excellent multimedia presentation on the final status issues: Challenges in defining an Israel-Palestinian border.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Review of Orlov, "Dark Mirrors"

At the SBL in November, 2012, I participated in a book review session for Andrei Orlov's fine new book, Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology. I've just posted my review as a Page on this blog - Review of Dark Mirrors.