Thursday, April 29, 2004

Mahmood emailed me with the names of some women's blogs from the Middle East:

There are several women in the Arab world with blogs, ones that I like to read are:

Baghdad Burning
ihath although she blogs from Canada
Desert Mermaid an expatriate woman's perspective
Simply Stinni an American lady married to a Kuwaiti and lives in Kuwait
Writer's Block a wonderful and very perceptive young lady from Jeddah, she is a Saudi, so this one is probably the first Saudi woman's blog in the world!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Lest we forget -- two emails by someone who saw the World Trade Center towers fall on Sept. 11 and went in to rescue people and dig out bodies -- (via LGF) Pearl 2001.

Another interesting blog I recently came across -- Treifalicious, by a Black woman who converted to Judaism and has very strong opinions about everything. One of the most recent posts is about freeing oneself from mental slavery from both the Jewish and Black points of view.

Also on the blog front, I came across an interesting blog from a Bahraini man with some of the same perspectives as The Religious Policeman -- Mahmood's Den. I would be interested to find blogs from women in the Arab world -- if anyone knows of such blogs, please let me know and I'll publicize them.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Ithaca Journal publishes an interesting, though somewhat flawed, first-person story of a Jewish law student's encounter with Palestinians on a recent trip to Israel, Risk, Revelation in Middle East. Charles Scheer, a third-year Cornell law student, went to Israel on his spring break and ended up with a Palestinian tour guide who showed him another side of the Israeli/Palestinian reality. It will be interesting to see what response his article gets in the letters column from both the right and left. Controversial articles in the Journal often inspire letters that are equal parts ignorance/apoplectic rage/bad writing.

While cruising the web, I found this quite incredible blog from a Saudi man -- The Religious Policeman. He savagely criticizes the government and all its policies, he is exceedingly skeptical that the police are actually doing all they can to catch terrorists in Saudi Arabia, and he denounces the Wahabi imams and their narrow-minded version of Islam (including their anti-semitism). I just hope that he doesn't get caught by the religious police he satirizes!

Saturday, April 24, 2004

I had been wondering if anyone (other than me) had noticed Come and Hear's web site of the Soncino Talmud. A couple of days ago Elder Avraham (of Protocols fame) posted a comment about the site on his weblog, Back Row of the 'Beis. One of his commenters points out another good site that refutes the claims of Come and Hear, Elizabeth Dilling, and other anti-semites who base their arguments on a supposed analysis of the Talmud -- The Real Truth about the Talmud by Gil Student.

More on the Talmud and antisemites front: William J. Cork, on his website discusses Antisemitism and the Catholic Right, which is about the way in which one Robert Sungenis misuses Talmudic quotes and uses other false evidence in order to defame Judaism. Sungenis uses Elizabeth Dilling's book, The Plot Against Christianity, for his talmudic quotes -- the same book that Carol Valentine (on her site, mined in order to put whole tractates of the Soncino translation of the Talmud on the internet, violating the copyright of the Soncino Press

Cork also discusses The Passion from a liberal Catholic perspective, giving what appears to me to be a balanced review and including many other web resources.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Yair Sheleg, in a Ha'aretz article entitled The extinguishing and rekindling of the `Holy Fire', writes about the history of Rabbi Kalonymos Kalmish Shapira, the Piaseczno Rebbe, and his contemporary effect upon Hasidim and especially on the religious Zionist movement in Israel today. See for more information about Rabbi Shapira and his teachings on repentance.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Wow -- see these brilliant words from Michael Moore about the Iraqi insurgents (via Andrew Sullivan:

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win.

The Minutemen? The Saddam loyalists in Fallujah and Sadr's militia? These people are the Minutemen, the Revolution? What is this? It seems to me that one can oppose every aspect of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, from beginning to end -- without fantasizing that the people fighting American and other coalition troops are the "Minutemen"! I had thought that this kind of nonsense was restricted to the extremists of ANSWER (for example, in their most recent anti-war demonstrations) -- it's very disturbing to see that the likes of Michael Moore are spreading this idiocy too.

I did support the war in Iraq, but I also think that we are now doing our very best to completely screw things up there, both for ourselves and for the Iraqis. That is what makes me think that my friends who opposed American intervention could, maybe, be right -- not the idea that the people we're fighting against are equivalent to the Minutemen of the American Revolution!

I still have some hopes that our intervention might result in more good than bad -- but I believe that things are hanging in the balance right now, and President Bush is not giving me a whole lot of hope.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A very interesting post by David Adesnik on OxBlog about the Bush-Sharon press-conference today. It makes me feel slightly less gloomy that I did upon reading the NYTimes article, which certainly made it sound like Bush had just agreed to everything Sharon asked, including the right to keep as many Israeli settlements in the West Bank as he likes. From what I could tell, Bush *said* that he was in favor of a Palestinian state, but didn't give any indication of *where* this state could exist, if the Israeli settlements remain on the West Bank.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Here's a wonderful article by Loolwa Khazzoom on living in Israel -- American, Iraqi, Jewish: So It Makes Sense for Me to Live in Israel. If you want to read a book she edited, see The Flying Camel: And Other Essays by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage. Her web site, tells more about her work as a multicultural educator and provides articles and links to information about the vast Jewish diversity in the world.

Cancer and closure

Although this article says that Lung Cancer Affects Sexes Differently, the disease killed both my mother (in 1981) and my aunt Susan (her sister), this past December. My mother was diagnosed about 15 months before she died -- it had already spread from the lungs into other parts of her body. My aunt was diagnosed when it was still confined to the lungs, and she had surgery to take the cancer out. That was in the early 1990s. A couple of years ago the cancer reappeared, in an inoperable form, and finally killed her on December 16, 2003. Even though she beat the odds (the article says, "Among cases diagnosed from 1992 to 1999, only 12 percent of patients over all survived five years, 10 percent of the men and 14 percent of the women"), the cancer finally did get her.

Both my mother and my aunt were smokers until the moment they were diagnosed with lung cancer. They had started in their teens. My father, who was also a smoker, managed to quit smoking in the early 1970s (I don't remember exactly when) and his lungs appear to be healthy now.

Today was the last day of Passover (I had my first hametz meal tonight). The service on the last day of Passover includes Yizkor - the memorial service. I thought of my mother, my aunt, and also my grandmother (who died in June of last year, at the age of 98). Even though my mother died over 20 years ago, I am still not reconciled to her death. I still miss her. I would guess that my aunt's death has stirred up feelings also for me this year.

In America, we believe in "closure." There is no such thing as "closure." The pain of death is not so acute, so many years afterward, but it never goes away.

yitgadal ve-yitkaddesh sh'mei rabbah....

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Jim Davila in PaleoJudaica points out a really interesting article on the languages of first-century Palestine. The article, by Seth Sanders, Mystically Correct, criticizes the use of Aramaic as the lingua franca in first century Palestine in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." He says:

The problem is the pretense of purity: the presentation of the languages of Palestine as Aramaic, on the one hand, and Latin, on the other.

What's behind this? Why does the movie represent a linguistically hybrid reality "in" one language -- and why Aramaic? Christological Aramaic is an old theological project. Dating at least as far back as Johann Albrecht von Widmanstadt's 1555 translation of the Syriac New Testament into Latin, the tradition claims that Aramaic (not Hebrew or Greek) is the key not merely to Jesus' cultural background, but to his ipsissima verba, and thus an unmediated experience of him. The attempt to paint the "Semitic" background of the New Testament as exclusively Aramaic, and Hebrew as a moribund, strictly liturgical language, corresponds to a theological polemic against Judaism as a "dead" religion serving the "letter of the law," not its living spirit.

A longer version of the article, complete with notes, is available at The Word's Self-Portrait in Blood: The Languages of Ancient Palestine and the Linguistic Ideology of the Passion.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

I am taking a break from finishing my Pesach cleaning. The kitchen floor still needs to be washed, the cat box needs to be cleaned out -- then it's time for bedikat hametz and a well-deserved rest.

And then there's matter of our weather. As I sit here in my study looking outside into the dim evening, it's snowing. And the snow has even left a little deposit on the ground. When spring will actually arrive in Ithaca this year, only God knows. So I will laugh cynically at the thought that Pesach is a springtime holiday. Before it started to snow I did see a couple of daffodils blooming...which are now covered with the white stuff.

Monday night I'm going to friends' for the first seder, and then on the second night a whole crew of people are coming to my house -- first seder I've hosted in many years. It should be fun.

So let me wish all of you, my many readers (hah!) a "hag sameach ve-kasher" -- a happy and kosher Pesach, enjoyable seders, and imagination in eating something other than matzah for the days of Pesach.

An amusing article from Ha'aretz on Mel Gibson, Lenny Bruce, and especially Aramaic -- Een, Yuudaayaa naa. (Jim Davila over at PaleoJudaica has been on the Aramaic watch, and here's another good example).

But, unlike Latin, Aramaic is a living language though surely a threatened one. I already had a dim notion that Aramaic is still spoken by Christians in isolated hamlets of Syria, Lebanon and Iraqi Kurdistan. What I did not know, until a couple of years ago, is that it is still spoken by Jews. A cousin of my wife married a delightful young woman whose family belongs to a community that hails from an area of northwestern Iran - by Lake Ormiya near the border with Turkey and Azerbeijan. She told me that her parents spoke Aramaic. I admit I was incredulous. But it is true.

Her small community, which settled in Ormiya at the time of the Babylonian Exile and never left, calls itself "Nash Didan." They speak a dialect of Aramaic they call lishan didan - "our language." As I write, I have by me three books, lent to me by our cousin. They are translations from the Bible into lishan didan; the language is recognizably Aramaic. I later learned that Kurdish Jews also speak an Aramaic dialect they call lishna yehudiyya.

I find this survival of an ancient Jewish language profoundly moving, an unbroken link with a past that stretches back to the early years of the Babylonian Exile. Sadly, the language will probably disappear within a couple of generations: The young people of the community no longer speak it. Unlike Yiddish or Ladino it has no literature to speak of and we shall not see a chair in lishan didan studies endowed at any university. Truly a great pity.

So one cheer to Mel Gibson for Aramaic. But, as for the movie, if I ever have an overwhelming desire to see a crucifixion I think I'll look again at the DVD of "Life of Brian."

I have to say I agree with that last comment -- "Look on the bright side of life" indeed.

More on Neturei Karta, from the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv -- Arafat transferred funds to Neturei Karta.

Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, known as the “Foreign Minister” of Neturei Karta, has never hidden the fact that he prefers a Palestinian state in place of Israel - the Neturei Karta sect refuses to recognize the state of Israel until the coming of the Messiah. However, now it appears, from documents disclosed by the defense establishment, that Rabbi Hirsch has also been in the pay of PA Chairman Arafat himself.

The incriminating documents were captured in the Mukata, Arafat's headquarters, two years ago during Operation Defensive Shield. While looking for PA efforts to fund terror organizations, security officials discovered that large amounts of money had been transferred to the Neturei Karta sect in Jerusalem. The captured documents show that Hirsch received from Arafat $55 thousand just two months before Operation Defensive Shield. Among the documents are receipts with Arafat’s personal signature authorizing the transfer to Rabbi Hirsch under the heading “outgoing expenses”. In the same period, Arafat allocated a much lower sum to terror operatives.

The captured documents include letters written in English by Hirsch to Arafat. The letters are addressed as to an eminent rabbi: “Dear Abu Amar (Arafat’s Arabic name), may you live a long and happy life”.

Hirsch has never hidden his relationship with Arafat. He is a regular member of the Palestinian National Council and served in the past as Minister of Jewish Affairs in a Palestinian government. Members of the sect recently demonstrated against Israel and for Palestine at the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

This article gives evidence for some of my fears about what would happen when "The Passion" started showing in other countries -- especially in the Middle East. Arab censors giving 'Passion' wide latitude / Gibson film packs Mideast movie houses

Here's another 'Passion of the Christ' a blockbuster among Arab Muslims and Christians

It seems that many viewers not only see a strong anti-Jewish message -- they think it's part of the film's appeal. A Jordanian Muslim woman says she was moved to tears when she saw the movie at an Amman theater. She says the movie "unmasked the Jews' lies." Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat saw the move over the weekend in the West Bank. He compared the pain Jesus endured during the crucifixion to the suffering he says Israel has inflicted on Palestinians.