Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

I am reminded of the tsunami in Indonesia and Sri Lanka in December when looking at the photographs and video of New Orleans today. Right now I'm watching the live streaming video from one of the local New Orleans television stations, WWL-TV (if you wish to find it, go to WWLTV). An AP story on Yahoo said, "From the air, neighborhood after neighborhood looked like nothing but islands of rooftops surrounded by swirling, tea-colored water." This is just an appalling disaster - the levees have broken through and water is pouring into New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain. Apparently water is rising in the Superdome, where tens of thousands of people have taken refuge. On WWL they're now broadcasting a helicopter tour of the area (probably from earlier today, because it's in daylight), and are commenting on how high the water has gone - up the eaves on two-story houses (as I'm sure you've seen yourselves on television).

For those who wish to help with the relief efforts, contributions can be sent to the American Red Cross.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I had not thought Death Eaters had undone so many.

For a beautiful poetic parody of T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" and of J.K. Rowling's latest book, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," see this wonderful entry by ladysysiphus - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Poet.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Dispiriting Israeli moves after the disengagement from Gaza

The Israeli government has engaged in several actions concurrent with or just after the disengagement from Gaza that make me feel very depressed about the future of any possible peace with the Palestinians. Among other things, it has decided to build the separation wall around Ma'aleh Adumim, a Jewish suburb of Jerusalem in the West Bank, so that it will be connected to the Jerusalem municipality. This means that Palestinians will suffer further from the inability to travel, to work, to go to school, to visit family, to engage in business, etc. It also means that the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem will be completely surrounded by Jewish neighborhoods, thus making it impossible for Jerusalem to serve as the capital of two states, Israel and Palestine. Another move that I just received news about involves the plan to build a new Jewish settlement inside the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, near Herod's Gate.

This news comes via ICAHD: Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, which among other organizations is denouncing this decision and trying to reverse it. For more information about this decision and suggestions for letters to write against it, see the following information (I have abridged the statement).
Recently the Sub-committee of the Local Committee for Planning and Construction in Jerusalem has confirmed a plan to erect a Jewish neighbourhood in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. According to the plan, 30 housing units and a synagogue will be built to accommodate some 150 people. Professionals (BIMKOM - Planners for Planning Rights) warn of the implications of this plan:

The proposed plan violates the basic planning principles of all construction in the Old City:

1. Principles of preservation....
2. The Old City is the most densely inhabited place not only in Jerusalem but also in Israel....
3. In addition to the density, changing the open space, which is among the extremely few open spaces in the Old City, into a housing area will seriously harm the welfare of the people living there.

Besides the above planning drawbacks and the environmental implications, we recognize the political danger inherent in the plan. Building housing units for Jews in the Muslim Quarter has far-reaching implications over the delicate social fabric of the city. The Palestinians in East Jerusalem live in socio-economic distress, therefore a permanent presence of Jews in such a vicinity, in improved living conditions, would lead to provocation and a serious political and social crisis. Moreover, the proposed plan is also a continuation of a consistent Israeli policy whose purpose is a violation of the balance between Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem, creating by this policy a Jewish majority in East Jerusalem...


One way to help change policy is to contact government representatives....

--Phone, fax, or email your representatives directly. If you are a U.S. resident or citizen, find your representative's contact information at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov. If you have the ability, one fax is generally worth about ten emails.

--To help us gauge the response, please send a cc of your messages to lucia@icahd.org.

--Please also contact Israeli policy makers:

Min. Interior Ophir Pines, fax: 03-763 2638/ 02-566-6376 or email pinespaz@knesset.gov.il..

Minister for Building & Infrastructure, Isaac Herzog, fax: 02-584-7033 and 02-582-4111

Director of Jerusalem District Planning, Ruth Yosef: fax: 02-624-1986 or phone: 02-629-0216

Jerusalem Mayor, Uri Lupoliansky, Fax: 02-629-6014

Rabbi Yehoshua Pollak, Chairman, Municipal Local Committee of Building & Planning: fax: 02-629-6178

Emails to Meir Margalit at meir@icahd.org will be hand delivered to the Municipality



I was shocked to hear that the Sub-committee of the Local Committee for Planning and Construction in Jerusalem has confirmed a plan to erect a Jewish neighbourhood in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.According to the plan, 30 housing units and a synagogue will be built to accommodate some 150 people.

Besides the fact that building this settlement is illegal under international law, professionals (BIMKOM - Planners for Planning Rights) warn of the negative impact of the plan on the Old City.

The building of this settlement in the Muslim Quarter also has negative political implications for the delicate social fabric of the city between Palestinians and Jews.

I urge you to do everything in your ability to stop the building of this settlement.



As a Zionist, I oppose unilateral actions like these, because they will increasingly make it impossible even to hope for the future of an Israeli Jewish state. The long-term result of Israeli governmental actions like this will be to make the idea of "two states for two peoples" impossible, and will force Israelis to contemplate the existence of a unitary state in Palestine which will, in a few decades, have an Arab majority. I also oppose actions like these because they indicate that the Israeli governmental is gratuitously ignoring the suffering it is imposing upon Palestinians - which is hardly a Jewish value!

An editorial in today's Haaretz, A poorly timed provocation, also criticizes the moves by the Israeli government to build the separation wall around Ma'aleh Adumim, with these words, "It is hard not to view the decisions about the fence and the new construction near Ma'aleh Adumim as a poorly timed provocation. They damage the efforts to rebuild trust with the Palestinian Authority and to strengthen its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, as a partner for future negotiations. They lend credence to the Palestinian claim that the withdrawal from Gaza was merely an Israeli trick designed to obtain international support and to divert attention from its tightening occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They erode the contribution that the successful disengagement made to reviving the diplomatic process and show that Sharon has returned to his evil ways in the settlements."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sun Sun Sun here we come!

I'm sitting here in my study in Ithaca, planning this semester's courses and listening to "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles on Israel's Reshet Bet on my computer.... It is, after all, a little after 5:00 a.m. in Israel right now. Gotta love the internet.

Settlers set IDF troop transport ablaze in West Bank

It's sounding like the pullout from the four West Bank settlements is going to be toughter to execute than in Gaza. A recent incident, Settlers set IDF troop transport ablaze in West Bank, provides further evidence. This picture, from the AP, of "settlers attempting to destroy the minaret of an old mosque located inside Sa-Nur on Monday," shows further their lack of respect for their Palestinian neighbors. (One also has to wonder why Sa-Nur was built on that particular location). Other actions by settlers against Palestinians included:
On the eve of the evacuation of the northern West Bank settlements of Sa-Nur and Homesh, settlers before dawn on Monday vandalized property in at least eight Palestinian villages in the region, Palestinian witnesses said. In some instances, settlers reportedly marched through the villages with the aim of infiltrating Sa-Nur and Homesh, areas that have been sealed by security forces in the lead up to the evacuation. In other instances, the settlers reportedly entered the Palestinian villages with the sole aim of vandalizing property. Palestinian sources confirmed property was damaged but said there were no casualties.

In a separate incident, two Palestinians were lightly wounded late Monday evening when settlers threw stones at them near the Eli settlement located east of Ariel in the West Bank. Palestinians in Fendaqumiyah, located adjacent to Homesh, said armed settlers rode through the village before dawn Sunday on all-terrain vehicles, firing their weapons in the air. Sources said settlers also entered the villages of Kuchin and Madmah, located south of Nablus. Settlers in those villages threw stones and bottles at house windows and at cars.

Additional incidents were reported in Bazariyah, Burqa and Sabastiyah, located next to Karnei Shomron. Overnight Sunday, settlers reportedly took over a Palestinian family home in the village of Burqa and kicked the residents out for an hour as they destroyed furniture and smashed windows. Settlers also reportedly threw stones at residents in the village of Jit, located next to Kedumim. There were no casualties. The overnight incidents join other recent violent attacks on Palestinians, including the terror killing of four Palestinians laborers by a settler in the Shilo industrial area.

On another point, Amira Hass in Haaretz points out the human cost to Palestinians living near Netzarim, in the Gaza Strip, the last Gaza settlement to be evacuated. When it was evacuated, there were 80 veteran families and 20 families of newcomers living there. She says, "Netzarim is 114 people killed, including 17 children; 1,915 dunams of destroyed vineyards and fields; and 105 houses that were demolished and another 35 partially torn down." In another article I read today, 17 Israeli soldiers were killed over the years defending Netzarim from Palestinian attacks of various kinds. And were all these deaths worth it? I don't think so.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Soldiers vs. Settlers in Gaza

I was just looking at some of the photographs from Kfar Darom about the fighting between IDF soldiers and settlers on the roof of the synagogue - a horrible scene. This photograph is from the New York Times, with the following caption: "Israeli settlers fighting with Israeli riot police from the roof of the synagogue of Kfar Darom." It was taken by Pavel Wolberg/European Pressphoto Agency.

Update (from Haaetz) - What we saw here crossed all boundaries
Israeli security forces seized control of the roof of Kfar Darom's synagogue Thursday evening, as they moved to oust die-hard protesters, hours after troops stormed the inside of the building to remove illegal infiltrators. Some 44 people were injured in the operation - 27 police officers, 14 protesters and 3 soldiers. The police officers were taken for tests at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, after acid was thrown at then during the evacuation. One of the policemen sustained moderate to serious injuries when he slipped on oil thrown by protesters to deter security forces, and fell from the second story of the synagogue. Major General Dan Harel said several troops were wounded by acid and were sent to hospital. "What we saw here crossed all boundaries," he said. "Everybody who was now on the roof will be arrested and put in prison."

Cuban crackdown brings arrests of 50 dissidents

Here we go again - Cuban crackdown brings arrests of 50 dissidents, and yet people on the left still defend it. Chris McConkey (of "Pastors for Peace") said in 2004, "'To think that there aren't organic changes occurring in Cuba is insane,' says McConkey. 'Democratic ideas are developing there at the community and local level.'" Unfortunately, those democratic ideas are being systematically suppressed by the Cuban government.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

On the terrorist attack

Some Jewish blogs on the recent terrorist attack:

Rahel (in Jerusalem) at Elms in the Yard condemned today's terrorist attack by an Israeli with these words:
According to Weisgan’s friends, he was “depressed” over the disengagement. Well, what do you know—so is most of the country. No matter which side of the issue you’re on, what is happening in Israel right now is absolutely heartbreaking. But we don’t deal with sadness, depression and heartbreak by going out and committing murder. Anyone who practices such a hideous form of “therapy” is no better than the terrorists who, in order to sate their lust for blood and power, strap on explosive belts and blow themselves up amid crowds of innocent people.

The best Weisgan can now expect is a trial followed by a long prison term, possibly for life. But at least he will live, which is more than can be said of the four people whose lives he cut short today in cold blood.

Jack's Shack said: "This type of behavior is inexcusable and does nothing but damage. It is terrorism, it is murder and it is shameful."

Life-of-Rubin says: "The only thing being accomplished by people who think the only channel for protest is murder is convincing the world that we are just as bad as they are. We don't commit senseless acts of terror, and that's what this is. I can't speak out against this enough."

Another Israeli terrorist attack

The scenes from the disengagement are horrible to watch and hear. I was especially appalled to hear on the radio this morning that a woman had attempted to burn herself to death as a protest. And then today, another Israeli attacks Palestinians:
An Israeli Jew killed three people and wounded three others Wednesday afternoon when he opened fire on a group of Palestinians in the industrial area of the West Bank settlement of Shiloh.

Asher Weisgan, a 38-year-old driver from Shvut Rahel in the West Bank, transported Palestinian workers to and from the industrial area daily. Wednesday afternoon, he picked up the workers to take them home, and stopped on the way out to ask a security guard for a cup of water.

He then stole the guard's weapon, shot the two Palestinian workers in his car at the time, and then ran into the industrial area, killing another worker on the way and wounding two others.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon condemned the attack:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday condemned a shooting attack by an Israeli Jew in the West Bank, in which three Palestinians were killed, saying that he regarded the attack "very gravely."

"I view this act of Jewish terror, which was aimed at innocent Palestinians with the twisted thinking that it would stop the disengagement plan, very gravely," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in a statement released by his office.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Street Hebrew

Once more, a reprise of the essential Hebrew slang you never learned in ulpan, from "The Underground Academy for the Hebrew Language": Street Tongue - The Hebrew they never taught you.

My favorites: לנקר (l'na-ker) - to nod off, literally, with head striking nearest lower surface.

BAS'A - באסה. Bummer, or that which has caused said bummer.

COM'BEE'NAH - קומבינה. Somewhat sleazy deal, which often has the effect of screwing one or more of its partners, to the advantage of the COMBINATOR, see below. I first heard this one in the late 90s - I think it comes from Russian.

And finally -
ACHOOL S'RATIM - אכול סרטים. [Literally, "Eaten up by Movies"]
Adjective describing person consumed by anxieties, or one who imagines nightmare scenarios.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Other Uprooting

Danny Rubinstein in Haaretz reminds us today of the other uprooting. While many Jews today are mourning the evacuation from Gaza, we should remember that:
During the course of the bloody conflicts of recent years, approximately 30,000 inhabitants of the Gaza Strip have been uprooted from their homes. Entire Palestinian neighborhoods along the Philadelphi route in Rafah, at the edges of the Khan Yunis refugee camp, along the route to Netzarim and in the north on the edges of Beit Hanun have been turned into heaps of ruins by the Israel Defense Forces. The reason was an Israeli security need.

Thousands of Palestinian refugees, with only a few days' warning, and in some cases only a few hours, have had to evacuate their homes, which were demolished, and their fields and orchards, which have been razed. In at least two cases that were publicized, an Israeli bulldozer demolished a house with its tenants inside, two old people to whom no one had paid any attention, and they were buried under the ruins.

I reread Eicha (Lamentations) this morning (after hearing it in synagogue last night). One of the clear emphases of the book is that the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile from Judah were not blamed on others - the author or authors of Lamentations place the blame on the people of Israel, figured as the woman Jerusalem.

"Jerusalem has greatly sinned,
Therefore she is become a mockery.
All who admired her despise her,
For they have seen her disgraced;
And she can only sigh
And shrink back."
- Lam. 1:8

God is the author of her sufferings:

"May it never befall you,
All who pass along the road -
Look about and see:
Is there any agony like mine,
Which was dealt out to me
When the Lord afflicted me
On His day of wrath?

From above He sent a fire
Down into my bones.
He spread a net for my feet,
He hurled me backward;
He has left me forlorn,
In constant misery."
- Lam. 1:12-13

"The Lord is in the right,
For I have disobeyed HIm.
Hear, all you peoples,
And behold my agony:
My maidens and my youths
Have gone into captivity!"
- Lam. 1:18

The authors of these beautiful poems of lamentation blamed no one but themselves for their sufferings, but they still hope for reconciliation with God, as the lovely next to last verse of the book says:

"Take us back, O Lord, to Yourself,
And let us come back;
Renew our days as of old!"
- Lam. 5:21

When we finish these words at the end of the reading of Eicha, they always remind me of the great message of the Yamim Noraim (the Days of Awe - Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the days between): teshuvah, turning back to God, repairing our relationships with God and with other people, is always possible, and when we turn back to God, God will turn back to us, as Maimonides says in the Mishneh Torah.
Repentance brings close those who are far away. Yesterday this one was hated before the Omnipresent - filthy, far away, an abomination. Today he is beloved and lovely, close and intimate. And thus you find that with the words that the Holy One sends away the sinners, He brings close those who repent, whether individuals or many people. As it is said, "In the place that it is said to them, 'you are not My people,' it is said to them, 'children of the living God.'"...

Yesterday this one was separated from the Lord, the God of Israel, as it is said, "Your sins separate you from your God." He cries out and is not answered... And today he cleaves to the Shekhinah, as it is said, "And you who cling to the Lord your God are alive here today." He cries out and is immediately answered.

- Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Book of Knowledge, Laws of Repentance 7:6-7 (my translation).

DovBear and the Renegade Rebbetzin have recently both written movingly about the disengagement, teshuvah, and the meaning of exile. DovBear says:
In my eyes, the Gaza withdrawl is an act of Teshuva. The nation and the people are repenting for abiding 30 years of Jim Crow conditions in Yesha; and it is my abiding hope that a "treasure of gold" waits for the nation and the people who complete this process.

And the RenReb says this:
So I've given up. I'm going to let myself cry over the disengagement, that is, assuming I'm able to cry instead of just sit there all frozen. Because it's all about the same thing, isn't it. It's all about the exile, and about how God doesn't speak to us anymore, and how we have to try our best to carry out His will as well as we can interpret it, and about how unimaginably difficult, divisive, and painful that process can be.

Hashiveinu Hashem eilecha v'nashuva, chadesh yamenu k'kedem. (Lam. 5:21, translation above)

The Religious Policeman

I just made a pleasant discovery: The Religious Policeman has returned from to blogging after a year of inactivity. Who is he? "The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment." He started the blog while he was still living in Saudi Arabia, writing caustically about the injustices of Saudi life, especially towards women.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Well, I've just had the unusual experience of having this blog be be counted among the "more conservative Jewish blogs" in a discussion on Semitism.net about the Jewish terrorist attack on Arabs in Shefaram last week. Andrew Schamess writes a very interesting post, giving a somewhat more leftwing position than I would, but still not out of my range, about the terrorist attack, religious fundamentalism, and Zionism. I agree with him that "Islam is not the only religion to generate a radical fundamentalist philosophy that can be used to justify terrorism. Kahanism is an outgrowth of religious Zionism just as militant Islam is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism."

I also agree, but less comfortably, with his statement that:
Religious Zionism has generated less violence than the Islamic movements because, until recently, Israel's actions were more or less in synch with its philosophy. There was little reason for Jewish extremists to engage in terrorism because they had the apparatus of the state at their disposal. As long as the settlements were expanding and the Palestinians being driven gradually out of Eretz Israel, there was no reason for violent opposition.

He is right that the settler movement has been able to use the power of the state to gain their ends, and that this has often (and perhaps normally) resulted in violence against Palestinians - whether direct violence by soldiers, or the more indirect violence of having their land expropriated for settlements, olive groves uprooted, people being forbidden access to their own farmland, etc.

What I find uncomfortable is that even though there has never been a religious Zionist majority in the Kenesset, they have been able to have their way for so many years with largely secular governments, because secular and religious non-Zionist parties have gone along with their messianic version of Zionism in order to make viable governmental coalitions.

Gaza disengagement

There are some interesting discussions/debates going on in the Jewish blogs about the Gaza disengagement, which is about to happen after Tisha B'Av. Dov Bear argues that "In my eyes, the Gaza withdrawl is an act of Teshuva. The nation and the people are repenting for abiding 30 years of Jim Crow conditions in Yesha; and it is my abiding hope that a "treasure of gold" waits for the nation and the people who complete this process." Over at Bloghead Miriam argues that "it's the demography, stupid." She quotes from a recent demographic study reported in Haaretz:
[F]or the first time, the proportion of Jews living in territories under the country's control has dropped below 50 percent, standing slightly more than 49 percent .The results are based on figures supplied by Israel and the Palestinian Authority's official statistics bureaus. According to the figures, following the upcoming disengagement, the proportion of Jews in territories under Israeli control will jump to 56.8 percent. As a result of this development, demographic expert Prof. Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University said the country is ensured of a Jewish majority within its territories for the next 20 years.

Chayyei Sarah, in Jerusalem, blogs about her several feelings and opinions about the disengagement, and scolds those commenters who try to use her blog as a soapbox for their own opinions. Orthomom, back here in the States, posts about her ambivalence about the disengagement from Gaza.

One thing I have found useful in reading blogs from people I disagree with on the disengagement is that it has made me more sympathetic to the Jewish settlers who are being uprooted. It is easier for me to see how they feel and how wrenching and difficult it must be for them. I do believe that it is the right thing for Israel to evacuate all the settlers from Gaza, but it is at a tremendous human cost. The people who moved to Gaza were doing it with the approval of the Israeli government - it was not simply an idiosyncratic action of their own - so the government bears a great deal of the responsibility for their suffering now that they are being uprooted.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Jewish Terrorism

In response to several commenters on Orthomom's denunciation of the Shfaram killings, who attempted to make light of this attack, I wrote this comment:

Well, some people are doing their best to avoid the fact that a Jew killed other human beings in cold blood. I remember when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated - I was in Israel, on a sherut (shared taxi) going to the airport (at the end of a week-long visit). We heard it on the radio, and one of my fellow Jewish passengers said that it couldn't possibly be a Jew who had done this.

And don't blame Ariel Sharon for this attack. Blame the extremists in the settler movement who have been engaging in the most over-the-top rhetoric possible for inciting someone like this. The people who compare the disengagement from Gaza to the deportations to the death camps create the atmosphere that makes people like this snap. If the disengagement is like sending people to the camps, then anything is justified to stop it. And let us also not forget that the perpetrator was a member of Kach, a banned organization in Israel that has advocated racism against Arabs for many years.

I remember one day in Jerusalem stumbling upon a Kach demonstration in the center of the city. I stood on the outskirts of the (thuggish) crowd to listen to Meir Kahane speak (this was in 1988, I think). He was speaking in the most disgusting way possible about Arabs and how there should be laws forbidding sexual relations between Jews and Arabs - shades of the Nuremberg laws. I left shaking with anger. Let's not pretend that we don't have racists among us.

And let us not forget the plots of the Jewish underground in the early 1980s to blow up the Temple Mount.

Jews, unfortunately like other human beings in this respect, are fully capable of committing terrorist attacks. And just to be clear on how I define terrorist attacks - deliberate attacks on innocent civilians, with the aim of causing death and mayhem, and with the intention of terrifying and intimidating.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

IDF, police fear riots in wake of Shfaram shooting

And now this - Deserter from IDF kills four Arabs on a bus in Shfaram, in northern Israel. "A Jewish Israeli man in an Israel Defense Forces uniform opened fire on passengers on a bus in a Druze neighborhood of the Israeli Arab town of Shfaram Thursday afternoon, killing four people and wounding 12. The gunman was killed by a mob that boarded the bus after the shooting."

Israel Prime Minister Sharon denounced the deed with these words: "a sinful act by a bloodthirsty terrorist." The murderer lived in the settlement of Tapuah in the West Bank - a settlement "dominated by followers of U.S.-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, who believed in expelling Arabs from Israel and the West Bank."

Jews in Prague

Looking through my photos of Prague, the architectural difference between the churches and the synagogues strikes me. The churches are all bigger than the synagogues - especially than the Staronova (the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest in Prague, from the 13th century), the level of which is below-ground. The churches are in open public squares, obvious to everyone, with lots of fancy decoration and statues on them. The synagogues are not nearly so decorated outside, except for the Spanish synagogue and the Jerusalem synagogue (which is fabulous outside, but I didn't see the inside). When I went into the Staronova the guidebook said that in the Middle Ages the synagogues had to be built lower than the churches as a sign of the Jews' inferior status to Christians. It is really a striking architectural statement of the inferiority of Jews to Christians.

The Staronova synagogue is on top, and below it is St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle.

It is intimidating to realize in my guts that I come from a group of people who were despised and denigrated for hundreds, if not thousands of years, in the places that they called home. They were systematically discriminated against, restricted in their livelihoods, even in whether their children could marry (under the Hapsburgs, before Emancipation), prevented from living anywhere but in ghettos, their religion was denigrated, they were forced to wear special clothing to single them out for ridicule.... the list goes on and on. Knowing this intellectually is one thing, seeing it even in the architecture is another.

And it's not as if it's over. Strangely enough, tourists can go in and out of the synagogues as they wish, after having paid the entrance fees, but people who want to pray in the synagogue on Shabbat have to be inspected by guards before being allowed to enter. If one is identified as a Jew in a Jewish place there is clearly a danger of terrorism (this is not true only in the Czech Republic, for that matter - I've had this same experience going to synagogue services in Israel, for example, and when I visited Vienna a couple of years ago and went into the sole remaining synagogue, I had to show my passport and inspected by the guard). When I went on Friday night there were two guards searching bags and wanding people for weapons or explosives. And then when we entered the synagogue for the service, it was so obvious that the building had been made for a much larger congregation (this was in the Spanish synagogue, built in the late 1800s), and that we were a rather meager remnant, mostly made up of visiting tourists. The service was held in Hebrew and English, with occasional Czech translation.