I wrote here how the media reported that the controversial film, "Innocence of Muslims," was made "with Jewish money, by a Jewish filmmaker" – an Israeli, in fact, trying to "help his native land."
We now know that the filmmaker is really an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Yet Associated Press and others failed in this most basic obligation to fact-check.
Not surprisingly, the Muslim world has continued this theme, blaming the Jews for producing the inflammatory anti-Islam film.
This cartoon appeared in the newspapers Ar-Raya (Qatar) and Ash-Shuruq (Algeria).
The caption reads: "The Killing of the US Ambassador in Libya." Note the stars of David on the filmmaker's shirtsleeves.
Tragically, these lies are more than just factual inaccuracies or a PR issue. These myths remain firmly engraved in Arab lore, fomenting an atmosphere of mistrust that will linger for decades, and that ultimately undermine the possibility of peaceful coexistence.
HT: Tom Gross
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This year, I got a shock right before Rosh Hashanah.
My bike was stolen.
About a year ago I received a bicycle as a birthday gift. (My first one since elementary school!) It quickly became my main mode of transportation, as well as my primary source of exercise. I took it everywhere and loved it.
Last week I rode it to a meeting in Jerusalem, near the Old City. The meeting lasted only two hours, but when I came out my bike was totally gone – no helmet, no lock, no trace remaining.
It was a real shock and, after filing a police report, I had a long walk home to think about why this might have happened to me.
I realized that I'd been feeling a bit self-inflated about my bike. It just had a tune-up and I was feeling really great about it. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that – the Almighty wants us to be energized and productive.
But I was harboring a bit of self-pride about the whole thing. You know, "Aren't I so cool." And this was getting in the way of my building a relationship with God.
You see, a relationship with God starts with the recognition of His profound greatness. The more we see the unparalleled power of God, the more we put our human-ness into perspective. Arrogance gets in the way of that; humility enables it to happen.
Unfortunately humility has gotten a bad rap. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is the recognition of our own place in the universe. By not letting our ego – our sense of "self" – get in the way, we can tap into our near-infinite Divine potential. As "the most humble of all men" (Numbers 12:3), that humility is precisely what made Moses the greatest of all time.
As Rabbi Noah Weinberg writes, the Talmud likens arrogance to idol worship: both push away the presence of God.
Rosh Hashanah is the key day of the year to forge a connection with God. So it seems that going into Rosh Hashanah, having my bike taken away was the dose of humility necessary to knock me down a notch… and make that deep "High Holiday" connection with God.
And there's more good news: My homeowner's insurance pays for a replacement.
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Rosh Hashanah is a day when we take stock and re-evaluate our lives – priorities, goals, relationships, the whole shebang.
To me, it starts with defining our bottom-line necessities in life, and then building back up from there.
It's a bit of hard work... but doesn't everything valuable in life require investment and effort?
Wishing you all a sweet year, filled with peace in your heart, in your home, and in our precious world.
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The "demonize Israel" campaign was in full swing last week in Ontario, Canada, with an exhibit of "Gaza Children's Artwork" at an event called MuslimFest.
There's nothing wrong with that. Except in this case, the "art" was not drawn by children at all, but rather by sophisticated artists trying to mimic a child's style, in order to better pull at the heartstrings of a Western audience.
The unanimous opinion of experts is that these drawings – which depict various scenes of "Israeli brutality" – are far too sophisticated to have been drawn by children. The symbolism, detail, coloring and motifs all indicate the work of trained artists imitating the style of a child. Note, for example, how the dynamic brushstrokes are well conceived and controlled, and how the people are drawn in a clear single-line outline. No child does that.
Here's another clear indication this is a big fake: One would think that a children's art exhibit would eagerly publicize the names of the artists and elaborate on their own personal stories – which is often more compelling than the art. Yet for some bizarre reason, none of the drawings are signed, and none of the "artists" in this exhibit are named.
One anti-Israel website tried to explain away this omission, claiming that the art was often drawn and painted in the dark, due to limited electricity and frequent power outages as a result of the "Israeli siege of Gaza."
Hmmm... So kids can spend an hour drawing an intricate picture, but can't find the ten seconds to write their own names?
The crazy thing is that Festivals and Events Ontario, a non-profit organization that supports various public festivals in Canada, gave a $40,000 grant to MuslimFest.
Honestly, none of this surprises me. Remember Muhammed al-Dura, the suspicious scene of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy allegedly caught in crossfire and killed at the beginning of the second Intifada? Now in Ontario, visitors to a public art festival are subject to the same kind of scam. It's all part of what I call "Pallywood," a cottage industry dedicated to producing Palestinian propaganda materials that demonize Israel. Calling it out is the best way to neutralize its poisonous effect.
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We're all incredibly busy, and sometimes our myriad responsibilities – work, social, health, etc. – clash with the core goal of giving proper attention to our children. So assuming we cannot give them optimal attention 100% of the time, how can be assured that our children will have the secure feeling that we absolutely love them with full devotion?
There's a story told about Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the leading Torah scholar in America from 1936–1986.
One of Rav Moshe's grandson's was becoming a Bar Mitzvah, but Rav Moshe was unable to attend, as it coincided with a major rabbinical conference taking place the same day.
Rav Moshe's son, Rabbi Reuven Feinstein – the father of the Bar Mitzvah boy – was asked how he felt about his illustrious father not being able to attend. His answer: "It's alright. I know that my father loves me."
He then described a few incidents in his childhood which served as a constant reminder of his father's great love for him:
In the New York winter, before waking up his son for school, Rav Moshe would put the boy's clothes on the radiator so they would be toasty-warm.
Over the years, many famous and important people joined the family's Shabbat table. Yet Rav Moshe never allowed any visitor – no matter how wealthy or well-connected – to supplant his son's seat next to his father at the table.
I thought about this in reading an article by Erin Kurt, who spent 16 years as a teacher around the world. Every year, she would ask her students what their mother did that made them feel happy or loved.
She reports that
surprisingly, many of the responses were the same. Year after year, in every country I taught, and in every type of demographic, the students were saying the same things and had the same message:
It's the small things that their mothers did that meant the most and that they remembered.
Here's a list of the top 10 things kids say they remember and love most about their mothers:
1. Comes into my bedroom at night, tucks me in and sings me a song. She also tells me stories about when she was little.
2. Gives me hugs and kisses, and sits and talks with me privately.
3. Spends quality time just with me, not with my brothers and sisters around.
4. Gives me nutritious food so I can grow up healthy.
5. At dinner, she talks about what we could do together on the weekend.
6. At night, she talks to me about anything – love, school, family, etc.
7. She lets me play outside a lot.
8. We cuddle under a blanket and watch our favorite show together.
9. She disciplines me. It makes me feel like she cares.
10. She leave special messages in my desk or lunch bag.
So what's the key to instilling a lifelong feeling of security, acceptance and love? Small acts of thoughtfulness that make your kids feel important and cared for. Good advice.
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Students of Geography 101 know that Mt. Everest is the highest place on Earth, and the Dead Sea is the lowest. And now, these two "extreme" spots have joined together in a gorgeous new postage stamp, simultaneously issued by the governments of Israel and Nepal.
Nepal was among the first Asian countries to establish relations with Israel. Over the years, the two countries have cooperated closely in areas of health, agriculture and security. This marks the first time that Nepal has issued a joint stamp with another country.
The Dead Sea, at 422 meters below sea level, is the largest spa in the world. Its hypersalinity (about 10 times more salty than the ocean) provides unparalleled health benefits in the form of minerals found in its water and mud.
Mt. Everest, at 8,848 meters above sea level, is located in the Himalaya Mountains, on the border between Nepal and China. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary became the first climber to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, a feat that ever since come to symbolize extraordinary achievement.
The stamps are valued at 5 Shekels in Israel and at NPR 35 in Nepal.
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This week I read the horrific story of Thalidomide, a drug which pregnant women took during the late 1950s and early '60s to counter the nausea of "morning sickness."
Many children born to these mothers were too deformed to survive; those who did survive had a soaring rate of birth defects – most commonly stumps of arms and legs.
Today there is a whole group of armless survivors called "Thalidomide kids." They include an amazing guitar player who plays with his toes, and a filmmaker whose feature documentary on the disastrous side-effects of Thalidomide, "NoBody's Perfect," won the 2009 German Film Award for Best Documentary.
The drug was pulled from sale in 1961 after doctors linked it to birth defects.
Now – this week, 50 years later – the German pharmaceutical company Gruenenthal has finally apologized for the damage caused.
Also this week my mother told me that when she was pregnant with me (in 1960-61), the doctor suggested looking into the possibility of Thalidomide.
Thankfully, she refused.
Imagine what my life would be like, had my mother made a different decision.
Life is so complex, so fraught with perilous decisions at every turn.
Some people prosper, while others suffer.
We see "bad things" that happen to us, and may feel that our lot in life is unfair. Yet what about the many things in life that could have happened – the near-misses – that we don't even know about?
When put in this perspective, our own set of challenges becomes easier to bear. No, I didn't suffer the disaster of Thalidomide. But I do have my own set of challenges. And I embrace them, knowing that my life is closely guided by a loving and caring God.
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We are now in the Jewish month of Elul, which leads into Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This is the year's biggest opportunity to get our act together, to look deep inside and make those changes that we all know are painful but necessary. (Do I sound like a presidential candidate?)
It all starts with some brutal self-analysis, and a plan of action. The first step in making a plan is to determine your goals:
• What do I want my life to look like five years from now?
• How will I implement these goals?
• Do I have a series of achievable, short-term goals?
• What system will I use to monitor my progress?
This is not about solving the Iranian threat or finding the cure for cancer. It's all about getting down to the real you.
It's two weeks till Rosh Hashanah. You deserve a better you. And now's the time to get started.
To get started, check out some of these great tools on Aish.com:
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Neil Armstrong passed away this week at age 82 – a global iconic hero who became the first man to walk on the moon, uttering those immortal words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
What many don't know is that Armstrong was a lover of Zion. Thomas Friedman's book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, describes a visit that Armstrong made to Israel after his trip to the moon. He was taken on a tour of Jerusalem by Israeli archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov.
"I have to tell you," Armstrong remarked while walking near the Temple Mount. "I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon."
Truly immortal words.
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There's good news and bad news from the Norwegian justice system.
The good news is that terrorist mass murderer Anders Breivik has been pronounced guilty of the brutal bomb and gun rampage that left 77 people dead last year – mostly kids at summer camp.
The bad news is that Breivik has been sentenced to a grand total of 21 years in prison. His incarceration will be in a three-room cell with a TV, exercise room and Ikea-style furniture.
This is shocking.
Although the sentence can later be extended (21 years is the maximum sentence allowed by Norwegian law, except for war crimes and genocide), given the beastly, premeditated, cold-blooded nature of the crime, justice has clearly not been served.
So what were the folks in Norway thinking over there? Before we Tweet our outrage and move on to the next piece of news, perhaps we should look a bit deeper and try to understand what might be behind this Norwegian system.
I believe the reason for our adverse reaction is because the American penal system is based on "punishment": Commit a crime, and you will suffer. But in Norway and other "progressive" countries, the purpose of incarceration is geared more toward rehabilitation – treating the psychological dysfunction which spurred the crime.
As Max Fisher reports in The Atlantic
The pleasant-sounding experience of being in Norwegian prison isn't some sign of Scandinavian weakness or naïveté; it's precisely the point. A comfortable cell, clean and relaxing environment, and nice daily activities such as cooking classes are all meant to prepare the criminal for potentially difficult or painful internal reformation. Incarceration, in this thinking, is the treatment for whatever social or psychological disease led them to transgress. The criminals are not primarily wrongdoers to be punished, but broken people to be fixed...
Here's the tough thing about restorative justice: it works, as long as you don't consider retribution to be its own inherent good. Despite the lighter sentences, restorative justice systems seem to reduce crime, reduce the cost of imprisoning criminals, and reduce recidivism... Proponents, such as University of Oslo professor Thomas Mathiesen, say it's better for society overall because it isn't about "revenge, but sober, dignified treatment."
In this instance, Breivik is an unrepentant murderer, and although the system maintains hope that he will come to his senses and reform, if he doesn’t, the sentence will be extended and he will likely remain behind bars for a lifetime.
Although one case cannot be compared to another, it is interesting to note that this rehabilitation approach – as opposed to the punishment system that Americans are used to – is discussed in the Torah.
The Torah prescribes that when one commits an act of theft and cannot repay, he must become a servant to the one he victimized. Though at first glance this might sound oppressive, it is anything but. The Torah (Leviticus 25:43) declares: "Do not oppress him" – a directive to treat the thief with utmost dignity and respect. Specifically, the thief cannot be given any demeaning jobs, and the master must provide high-quality food and accommodations – to the extent that if only one portion of food or one pillow is available, it goes to the servant.
Hence the basis of the Jewish "rehabilitation" model: By placing the criminal into a family atmosphere, he is exposed to a healthy environment of caring and sharing. For a thief, who displayed a stunning lack of respect for others and their property, this is a powerful mode of rehabilitation.
Of course, details of the Jewish method differ widely from what is practiced in Norway today (the Torah example refers to theft, not mass murder), and there is no question we should be justifiably outraged at Breivik's light sentence and comfortable conditions.
So before you press the comment and express outrage that Aish.com is condoning the Norwegian decision… No – we are not condoning it. We condemn the heinous crime, and we are outraged at the Norwegian system that is giving a mass murderer comfortable treatment. We are simply saying that we can learn something from all this. Let's appreciate that in the criminal justice system, there can be room for a lofty belief in the power of a human being to reform and rehabilitate.
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Last Thursday night, some Jewish teens were hanging out in Jerusalem looking for trouble. Emotions escalated and they viciously beat some Arab boys, leaving one in critical condition.
I, as well as the entire State of Israel, am outraged. Rabbis, educators and politicians across the spectrum have denounced this vile act. A special police committee is investigating, arrests have been made, and those responsible will assuredly be punished to the full extent of the law.
The Jewish people pride ourselves in being different. Violence is not the Jewish way – especially not targeting someone due to their nationality. This troubling incident indicates that we are not doing a sufficient job educating our children in the ways of tolerance.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forcefully declared:
"This is something that we cannot accept – not as Jews, not as Israelis. This is not our way; this goes against our way, and we condemn it in word and deed. We will quickly bring to justice those responsible for this reprehensible incident.
"We say as clearly as possible: The State of Israel is a democratic and enlightened state in which when we come across acts such as these, the entire state and all of its leaders come out together against such phenomena, and we will continue to do so. This is what makes us unique in the environment around us and this will continue to make us unique. I hope that one day our environment will change as well. But we will be persistent in our complete opposition to racism and violence."
On the flip side, the fact that all sectors of Israeli society have so strongly condemned this outrageous act shows that even in our errant moments, our moral compass remains acute.
As Ruthie Blum writes in Israel Hayom, a society is not judged by immorality in its midst, but rather by the response of its leaders, educators and the general public to it.
Blum compares the current crime to another lynch that took place in October 2000, when two Israelis took a wrong turn and ended up in Ramallah by accident. A mob of 1,000 Palestinians attacked – choking, stabbing, disemboweling, and setting the Israelis on fire. One of the murderers proudly stood at an open window and displayed his bloody hands to the cheering crowd. In the aftermath of the lynch, the Palestinian Authority made no arrests, and uttered no condemnations. (Indeed, Palestinian police helped facilitate in the lynching, and the Palestinian Authority's primary concern was to prevent video footage of the atrocity from getting into the hands of Western media outlets.)
This is no way justifies or excuses Jewish acts of violence. Yet can we see the difference?
Palestinian society today is rife with rhetoric that vilifies Jews and encourages murderous violence against them. Suicide bombers are elevated to the pinnacle of Palestinian society – lionized with poems and immortalized with dozens of schools, roads and sporting events named in the bombers' honor. In a popular Palestinian children's program, a Mickey Mouse look-alike calls on children to "annihilate the Jews" and "commit martyrdom." Ahlam Tamimi, the woman who helped carry out the gruesome Sbarro Pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15 civilians and wounded 130, is treated like a rock star in the Arab world.
These are just a few of the thousands of examples.
To make matters worse, the Western media downplays it all: The New York Times characterized Palestinian calls to genocide as merely an "insult to Jews" ("Hamas's Insults to Jews Complicate Peace Effort," April 1, 2008). And the Christian Science Monitor quoted a Palestinian TV director that encouraging kids to jihad "isn't for teaching hate. It's for teaching children to think in the right way, to socialize them in our culture's way of life." ("Hamas's Approach to Jihad: Start 'em Young," August 20, 2007)
For peace to exist, all parties need to accept the idea of tolerant, peaceful coexistence. A sincere condemnation of violence is a crucial first step.
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I've been closely watching the start-up curve of Better Place, the first nationwide network of 100% electric vehicles. It began with a concept – removable batteries that switch (i.e. "fill up") just like a gas station. Then it was the funding – nearly a billion in venture capital to date. Next was adapting a traditional automobile – in this case, the Renault Fluence. And finally, putting the entire infrastructure into place.
It took about five years, but now the dream has become reality: Yesterday, company founder Shai Agassi drove the entire length and breadth of Israel in a single day.
In the morning, he left his home near Tel Aviv, driving north to the border with Lebanon, then onto Mount Hermon, the tallest mountain in Israel near the Syrian border. At noon he headed south, and by 7:30 p.m. had covered the entire length of Israel, arriving in the resort town of Eilat. Then for good measure, Agassi drove home to Tel Aviv, arriving just after midnight.
Total: 1,150 km (715 miles). "Range anxiety" no more!
Keep your eyes on this. I predict that within 10 years, you too will own a Better Place car.
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Back from an amazing week in the Golan Heights, in Israel's northeast corner. Some random thoughts:
• I always thought that Hawaii had the ultimate weather, but the Golan was indescribably great: 80 during the day, 70 at night, with a cooling breeze all the time.
• The town where we stayed – Ramat Magshimim – is just a few miles from the Syrian border. So I took a 40 km bike ride from the Syrian border to Lake Kinneret. Exhilarating!
• One aspect of Israeli life that I've always treasured is the relative safety of day-to-day life. I can send my 7-year-old alone to the grocery store, and have my teenage daughter walk home after midnight, without fear of anything weird happening. Our stay in the Golan was even more carefree; we marveled at how nothing gets locked up – not bikes, not homes, not even the Holy Ark containing the expensive Torah scrolls.
• This area of the Golan was overrun by Syrian invaders on the first day of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It's a good thing Israel didn't cave into all the pressure and hand the Golan over to Syria's Assad regime. Imagine how worthless that piece of paper would be right now.
• The family whose home we rented was totally hospitable and treated us like kings – offering full use of everything from toys, games and books, to bikes and washing machine. They fulfilled the number one rule of a good host: Making us feel at home!
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A few months ago, Israeli President Shimon Peres got some backlash when he launched his own Facebook page under the banner:
"We used to be the people of the Book. Now we're the people of the Facebook."
This cartoon is a good rejoinder:
The story of Hungarian Jewry during World War Two is one of the most tragic elements of the Holocaust.
The community of approximately 850,000 Hungarian Jews avoided deportation during much of the war, but in May 1944 sweeping transports were begun to Auschwitz. On a typical day, 12,000 Hungarian Jews were being unloaded from cattle cars and directed straight to the gas chambers.
Over 70% of Hungarian Jewry was wiped out in a span of months – what Winston Churchill would later call "the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world."
And now Hungarian Nazis are back in the news.
Laszlo Csatary, the world's most-wanted Nazi war criminal who was a Hungarian police commander, has now been arrested in Hungary. The 97-year-old Csatary was in charge of the Jewish ghetto in Kassa, Hungary, where in April 1944 he supervised the loading of 16,000 Jews onto trains headed for the crematoria at Auschwitz.
Csatary was convicted in absentia for war crimes and sentenced to death by a court in Czechoslovakia in 1948. He escaped to Canada where he lived under a fake identity for nearly 50 years. He escaped again, before being tracked down in Budapest.
Another "Hungarian Nazi" was in the news this week when it was revealed that Hungarian politician Csanad Szegedi, a member of European Parliament, discovered that his maternal grandmother was Jewish and had been imprisoned in Auschwitz.
The irony is that Szegedi is a member of Jobbik, a radical neo-Nazi party which has proclaimed it the "duty" of all Hungarians to "prepare for armed battle against the Jews."
Szegedi, who now says he is proud of his Jewish heritage, recently met with the Chief Rabbi of Hungary. In response, the Jobbik party is pressuring him to resign his seat in European Parliament.
Nearly 70 years after the war, remnants of Nazism are alive and well in Hungary.