Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jimmy Carter Does it Again

Below is an excellent response by David Harris to former United States President Jimmy Carter for anyone who still had doubts about his, to say the least, animosity against Israel. The good news is that the relevant actors all over the world are on a different page.

Have a great week!


Rabbi Mario

Jimmy Carter Does It Again 
Article re-posted from TheJerusalemPost.com 

When it comes to the Middle East, the former president never ceases to amaze.

In an interview published in Time, he was asked: "What do you think it means that Iran seems to have its first nuclear fuel rod?"

His complete answer: "Well, of course, the religious leaders of Iran have sworn on their word of honor that they're not going to manufacture nuclear weapons. If they are lying, then I don't see that as a major catastrophe because they'll only have one or two military weapons. Israel probably has 300 or so."

There you have it. In 51 words, Carter demonstrates convincingly why he should stay out of the business of Iran analysis.

Not that he was much better at it while in the White House.

Remember his famous expression of confidence in the Shah -- "an island of stability" -- when one year later the Iranian leader was ousted and had to flee the country?

And the catastrophic U.S. attempt, under Carter, to free the 52 American hostages taken by the Shah's successors, that failed for the lack of a working helicopter?

And the fact that those hostages languished in Iranian hands for 444 days, only to be released the very first day Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan, took office?

Carter did not understand Iran then. Judging by the Time interview, he still doesn't.

Reflection of a society fighting against fundamentalism and radicalism

We welcome this initiative from the observant Israeli society that decides that the voices of women should and must be heard!

In Talmudic times we learned about the School of Shamai as well as the School of Hillel. They both had a voice. Diversity and dissension should trigger dialogue and mutual respect and not intolerance and rivalry. 

This article is a reflection of a society fighting against fundamentalism and radicalism.

I welcome your comments!


Rabbi Analia

New Orthodox group puts Israeli women at its head

'Beit Hillel' hopes to counter creeping religious extremism.

A new national-religious rabbinical group that will include women in its leadership as equals is to be launched on Wednesday.The group, to be known as Beit Hillel, already has 110 rabbis signed up, along with 30 women who are considered Torah scholars. It was founded by congregational rabbis in the central region, who say they represent the silent majority of the national-religious population that is frustrated and alarmed by creeping extremism and the deterioration of women's status in the sector.
Beit Hillel Director Oshra Koren (left) with Pnina Neubirt.
Photo by: Ofer Vaknin

Beit Hillel is granting participating women equal voting rights and influence in the organization.

"We cannot remain silent anymore; we have to state our position clearly," said Oshra Koren, the director of the Raanana branch of Matan, an institute of advanced Torah study for women based in Jerusalem. She and a group of 10 rabbis who lead Modern Orthodox congregations formulated the plan after receiving persistent calls from congregants to do something.

"The need for such an organization has been evident for some time," Koren said. "But the frustration grew following the recent events involving the exclusion of women.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Drive Switch Go - View The Future Of Driving

A beautiful video to remind us of the amazing capacity for innovation Israel has in the midst of all the conflicts she faces daily from both external and internal fronts.


Rabbi Mario

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Trouble Getting Pregnant?

The article below is an opportunity to reflect on how the body, soul, and nature interact with each other. This article offers you a chance to explore the different horizons of the medical field beyond traditional treatments.

I hope you enjoy another aspect of Israel’s achievement in a globalized world.

Comments, questions, discussions are welcome!


Rabbi Analia

Trouble getting pregnant?
By Abigail Klein Leichman

Chinese medicine proven to help in fertility treatments.

Israeli researchers have discovered that using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapies along with intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a winning combination for women having trouble conceiving.

TCM's herbal preparations and acupuncture have long been used to ease pain, treat disease, boost fertility and prevent miscarriage. But these therapies also give a measurable boost to IUI, according to research by cellular biologist Dr. Shahar Lev-Ari, head of the integrative medicine unit of Tel Aviv University's medical school, and Keren Sela, a TCM practitioner specializing in women's health.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Living in the World of "Breaking News"

We live in the world of "breaking news." The competition of the media outlets for getting our attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,  makes it difficult most of the time to see the forest for the trees. The need to bring news that provokes shock prevents us from reading much analysis of that news, and prevents us from having a more panoramic view of any situation.

It is in the spirit of helping us hear different voices that I present you with this article published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

I also take this opportunity to invite you to join us in three weeks when Rabbi David Golinkin visits us as our Scholar-in-Residence. Our weekend with him will center around discussing some of these same issues with one of the most talented teachers from Israel.


Rabbi Mario

Religious leaders’ seclusion, and the political power they have been granted, have led to expressions of belligerence that reflect a lack of understanding of life in this global era.

The Era of the Rabbis' Decline  
Article by Dov Halbertal. Reposted from Haaretz.com.

Religious Zionists and and the ultra-Orthodox should be very concerned about the rabbis who represent them. The public face of Israeli Judaism, as manifested in the recent public statements of certain rabbis, is immoral, nationalistic and racist in a way that puts Judaism at risk of becoming irrelevant, even to itself, and certainly to the rest of the world.

The Sense of Awe...

Israel is a country that lives under permanent risks and danger. Both external political tumult and internal national problems expose Israel's existence to the enigma of survival.  Nevertheless, we experience the sense of awe as far as Israel's daily accomplishments in science, technology and other achievements are concerned.  Is this 'survival mode' a motivation for innovative discoveries?  Lets take a look at one of the latest findings:

A solar window that generates power

Pythagoras Solar unveiled the world's first transparent photovoltaic glass unit (PVGU) designed to be easily integrated into conventional buildings. CEO Gonen Fink tells ISRAEL21c: "There are many companies today doing energy-efficient windows or energy generators using photovoltaic such as skylights, but this ... is the first time
somebody has actually combined the advantages in one product." In June, the Pythagoras Solar window won the prestigious GE Ecomagination Challenge, which recognizes the most promising innovations for capturing, managing and using energy in buildings.

Let’s not loose our sense of awe when we look at our beloved Israel and its accomplishments in only 63 years of existence as a modern state.


Rabbi Analia

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Loving Israel Even When I Don't Love It!

“I love Israel even when I don’t love it!”

Thesewords, originally uttered by Amos Oz, one of Israel’s finest authors andintellectuals, last summer at the third Israeli Presidential Conference have stuck with me since I first heard themlast week. They express accurately how I feel when reading some of the newsthat comes out of Israelthese days.

Examplesof things going off track in some sectors of the Israeli society sadly abound. Thereis the unacceptable treatment women receive from an extremist portion of thepopulation that forces them to sit in the back of public buses. You have the event in Beit Shemesh, where an eight year old orthodox girl, on her way to school,was cursed and spat on by a group of ultraorthodox adults because she was not,in their sick minds, dressed modestly enough. Then there is the absolutely despicableultraorthodox protest 10 days ago when they wore yellow stars and dressed theirchildren in striped uniforms to protest their perceived discrimination.1 Add to all this the despicable attitudeof settlers in the West Bank who call “Nazi” to the Israeli Police or one oftheir leaders who claimed in an interview this week that “Israelidemocracy has finished its role, and it must disassemble and give way toJudaism.”

It was in that sense refreshing toreceive the email below2, written by Aryeh Ben David, founder of "Ayeka, Jewish Spiritual Education," reflecting notnecessarily on the events of these last weeks, but even more importantly on thecauses for them. May we all be inspired by his words to rethink the ways inwhich we apply our Jewish values in our lives. May we recommit ourselves to keep doing whatever we can, from our place,to keep our beloved Israelas a source of pride and inspiration for the Jewish people all over the world.


Rabbi Mario

1. You can read an excellent opinion by Professor Deborah Lipstadt on theprotest here.

2. More Thoughts on the Situation in Beit Shemesh

   Re-posted email from Aryeh Ben David 

The way we learn Torah affects the way we relate to people.

I studied for many years as an adult in several very observant yeshivot in Israel. The yeshiva where I received my Rabbinic Ordination hosted many prominent Rabbis, including a former Rabbi of a large city in Israel, numerous poskim (halakhic deciders) and writers in Encyclopedia Judaica. I began learning with my chevruta (study partner) at 4:30 in the morning, braving many freezing cold hours in the unheated Beit Midrash. I was the gabbai (organizer) of the early morning minyan, and a central figure in the yeshiva for 4 full years.

I offer this background not to extol my role, but to note that I played a very central and conspicuous part in the yeshiva. That being said, it is quite mind-boggling now for me to look back and realize that in the countless hours during those four years not once did a single Rabbi approach me and ask, "Aryeh, how are you doing?" I repeat - Not Once.

Innumerable times I was asked, "Aryeh, did you understand the Gemara? Did you crack the Tosephot? Aryeh, what new idea can you say today?" But not once was I asked how I was doing.  "I", as a Jew and a human being, was not important. The only thing that was significant was the Torah learning I was engaged in. I think this attitude led to my valuing myself only insofar as I could master the Talmud and other books. This led to a total disconnect between myself and my learning. 

I replicated this modeling with my chevruta, Ariel. What did I care how Ariel was doing? I never talked with him about his life.

My wife Sandra once asked me while I was studying with Ariel, "How is he doing? They've got 3 little kids, is he sleeping, is he overwhelmed?" I looked at my wife dumbfounded, telling myself "She obviously doesn't get what Torah learning is about. How should I know how Ariel is?! And what do I care? The only thing Ariel and I care about is - did we crack the Gemara. Caring and talking about each other? That's equivalent to bitul Torah (wasting of Torah studying time)."

It was pure learning. And purely disconnected from life. Which is, of course, the opposite of what Torah learning should ultimately be. It should be the greatest connector to life.  Now it is many years later and of course I am embarrassed and ashamed of what I wrote above and much more. Which leads me to the present furor and crisis visiting Israel these days and thoughts which I am sure many will consider heretical.

It seems to me that men have been directing the condition of Judaism for the last several thousand years. I look around and ask myself, "Is learning which is disconnected from life going to make us a more compassionate and spiritual people? Is this really the way of Torah? Is Torah really just about accumulating more and more information without pausing and reflecting and applying it to life?"  It didn't cross my mind to connect my learning to my life.  My wife Sandra always connects her learning to her life.

Men have always been the ones in power. We know that it is very hard for someone in power to relinquish or even share it. Especially when one's reputation, prestige, and livelihood depend on keeping the status quo intact. But maybe the time has come for us men to admit that we have really bollixed up this whole Judaism thing, and give the women a chance to fix it. Maybe it's time to reflect on that for a while.  Have you ever experienced or witnessed Torah learning disconnected from life? How do you connect your learning to your life? Do you think there is a difference between the way men and women approach learning?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Artificial Pancreas Could Revolutionize Diabetic Care

Prof. Moshe Phillip, director of the Institute of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Schneider
Children's Medical Center, demonstrates MD-Logic on a young patient.
Article by Karen Kloosterman and re-posted from Israel 21c on January 1, 2012.

In people with diabetes, the pancreas doesn't produce or release insulin as it should, so the body can't metabolize sugars properly. That means blood sugar levels have to be monitored continuously, even (and especially) at night, when diabetics' blood sugar can get dangerously out of control. But nighttime monitoring and dosing is a sleep-stealing activity, particularly for parents of diabetic children.

A new artificial pancreas developed in Israel may allow them sweeter dreams. The MD-Logic was recently tested on Israeli children at an overnight diabetes summer camp, to resounding success. The key is that the device's software "thinks" like a physician, says one of its developers, Eran Atlas of the Schneider Children's Medical Center in Tel Aviv. Using existing insulin pump technology, MD-Logic closes the loop between a continuous glucose monitor and insulin pump, allowing patients to self-regulate their glucose levels and deliver the exact amount of insulin needed, when needed -- even at 3 o'clock in the morning.

First diabetes system of its kind for home use Developed by Atlas along with Prof. Moshe Phillip, Dr. Revital Nimri and Shahar Miller at Schneider, the artificial pancreas was tested on 18 Israeli kids between the ages of 12 and 15. It was also tested on groups of children in Slovenia and in Germany.  MD-Logic is the first system of its kind to be tried outside the hospital and it may be the first to offer relief and freedom to diabetics.

"A bigger problem is not just for the seven-year-old with diabetes but for the parents," says Atlas. "They are very stressed about the diabetes and often hire someone to be with the kids at school to administer insulin. But these caregivers don't always know diabetes so well.  "And then there are nights -- the most frightening when parents and patients are asleep. We wanted the nighttime to be easier to manage, so we focused on that," he tells ISRAEL21c.

Setting up a control room at the hotel where the kids were staying, the researchers were able to safely measure the efficacy of the device, and to ensure it could deliver insulin at the moment when the body needs it. The medical device is still in the prototype stage, so for now it requires connection to a laptop computer that can be carried in a backpack or set beside the bed. The general idea is to turn it into a mobile device so it can work night and day to regulate glucose levels. The more well regulated the blood sugar, the less likely that diabetes patients will suffer dangerous consequences including eye, kidney and nerve damage. 

Thinks like a doctor

"We have automated the way physicians think and the way people are taught for treating their own diabetes," Atlas tells ISRAEL21c. "The breakthrough is the ability to actually connect sensors to a system that changes insulin infusion rate safely and efficiently to create better glucose control than what they would achieve by themselves," he says.

The next stage is to test the artificial pancreas at home under supervised conditions. It will need to gain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration before being sold in the United States. In the meantime, the team is working to commercialize the technology along with Prof. Thomas Danne from Kinderkrankenhaus auf der Bult in Germany and Prof. Tadej Battelino from University Children's Hospital in Slovenia. They are working under a multicenter collaboration called the DREAM Project, for Diabetes wiREless Artificial Pancreas consortiuM.  The researchers believe that this is the first step in giving kids with diabetes -- and the adults who supervise them -- a worry-free night's sleep.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Israel Inside: Rewalk

It’s time to cure the disease of ultra-Orthodox Education

Article by Nehemia Shtrasler and re-posted from Haaretz.com on January 3, 2012.

Blessed be the yeshiva student who scared the little girl on her way to school. Blessed also be the one who spit at and cursed female passersby. Blessed be the ultra-Orthodox man who called the female soldier a prostitute, and blessed be those who demonstrated in striped prisoners' garb and stuck yellow stars on their clothing.

All this taken together might finally shake up the secular majority and force it into action. All this might make 90 percent of the population understand that there's no point in condemning the spitter or putting the one who cursed on trial. They are merely symptoms of a serious disease, and whoever deals merely with the symptoms is wasting his time and could even make the disease worse.

This disease is ultra-Orthodox education.  It's an education that puts young Haredim through a thorough brainwashing, which ends with them believing that democracy is the evil regime, that equal rights for women is totally treif, that freedom and humanism are only good for the goyim, and that studying math, English and history is idolatry.  They also learn that to go out and work for a living is a terrible embarrassment, and that to serve in the army is worthy of contempt, suited only to the secular donkey - who is stupid enough to sacrifice his life for the "homeland." 

Young Haredim are educated to totally despise the values of the secular state, which is why they have no problem scaring a little girl or calling policemen Nazis.  Their leaders have a clear goal: To provide the community with good living conditions at the expense of the secular donkey, who they believe should work hard, pay taxes and sacrifice his life in the army. Thus they can continue to shirk their duty while continuing to blackmail.

The part that's especially galling and absurd is that the secular majority, in its foolishness, is financing this destructive process. It gives huge budgets to the independent Haredi educational system. It gives allowances to married yeshiva students, as well as grants that are far higher than what a soldier gets during his compulsory service, or a student studying medicine or engineering. This is because the secular population is suicidal. It is slowly but surely wiping itself out with its own hands.

Just now, following the events in Beit Shemesh, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested a solution: Divide Beit Shemesh into two, a Haredi city and a religious-secular one. Interior minister and Shas chairman Eli Yishai immediately objected. Yishai understood that a Haredi city couldn't survive because it would be "without revenues, without arnona [city taxes] and without industry."

In other words, without the secular-national religious donkey bearing the burden, there would be nothing from which to give those Haredi families with many children. It would be impossible for them to finance their education, health care, welfare, ritual baths, synagogues, yeshivas and kollels - yeshivas for married men.

As we speak, Beit Shemesh is planning a new neighborhood with 25,000 apartments, but the government is marketing those apartments at Haredim at cost price. In other words, despite the recommendations of the Trajtenberg Committee, the Haredim are the ones who will get land at half price, in addition to large discounts on taxes. All this comes on the backs of the religious and secular taxpayers.

Only last week, Yishai suggested changing the tables for arnona discounts so that large families in small apartments with low incomes get a bigger break.

So we have to stop dealing with symptoms; it's time to cure the disease. In other words, to do away with the independent education systems of Shas and Agudat Yisrael, and force every child in Israel to study the same general curriculum, as in France. Whoever wishes can teach his children Mishna and Talmud in the afternoon.

All the Haredi draft evaders should be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces for three years, like any other citizen. Everyone has to help protect the country. The support given to yeshivas and kollels from the state budget should be totally stopped, which will force the Haredim to go to work. In no part of the Diaspora, neither in Poland nor in Morocco, did Jews even dream of living as parasites at the public's expense.

But knowing where we live, and what's important to Netanyahu, we can assume that this call will fall on deaf ears and we'll take the slow-but-sure route to oblivion.