Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Neo-Nazis, Skin-Heads, Terorists and Islamic Extremists United?

As part of the volunteer work that I do for Fuel For Truth I research various things that are going on with terrorists. Yet, as a Jew of Spanish and West African descent I decided to also see what the White Supremest are up. One can easily think that since I live in Israel the White Supremacists are not a problem. Well I had to rethink that when I came across the following sites. Yet, another reason that Jews and African Americans need to come to terms that we are hated by many of the same people.

  1. The Swastika and the Crescent
  2. The Peculiar Alliance
  3. Neo-Nazi Al Qaeda
  4. The FBI is Covering Up a White Supremacist/Islamic Terrorist Alliance

Now may say that this is only a problem for the Jews. Yet, African Americans are right up there when it comes to Neo-Nazi, Skin-Head, and White Supremacist hatred. If such an alliance were successful in its goals, don't think that the Islamic extremists would put up any fight defending African Americans. Just something to think about.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Getting Back in Shape: Part 1

So now that I am in Israel I have a goal that has been haunting me for a while. That goal is to get myself back in shape. In order to understand the importance of this goal to me I have to back track a bit. When I was younger I was somewhat skinny, from the shoulder's to the waste. From the waste to the knees I was thicker, my calves were somewhat skinny, and I had big feet. For a long time I felt really bad about not only my physical appearance, but also who I was in general. This changed over time, but physically I felt like I could be more. This changed when I had a room mate my freshman year of college named Troy Bundy, or as we called him "Little Hercules." Troy was a body builder and it wad due to his example that I spent the next few years working out and getting into really good shape.

Yet, when I moved to New York, I had a number of set backs. The free weight set that I used in the morning and at night I had to give away because I didn't have room in my apartment. Normally, I would do free weights at home in the morning and at night every day. During my lunch break at work I would do my cardio work. This allowed me to save on time in the gym and not feel rushed in my work outs. I also was able to keep off additional fat from the amount of food I ate because of doing cardio every day. During that time my weight was between 220 and 225.

The next thing that happened was that I decided to join a gym closer to my apartment in Manhattan, intead of the gym at my job. The problem was in the winter it was often to cold and I did not want to walk to the gym. So not having my home equipment and not have a reliable gym schedule began to take its toll. Next, I had a series of financial setbacks that forced me to have to give up my gym membership.

After watching the movies 300, Chronicles of Riddick, and Scorpion King I was eager to get back into shape. Not the same kind of shape I was before when I worked out, but this time I wanted the full body system. So before I left America for Israel, I ordered a bowflex. I also dusted off my copy of Lee Haney's book Ultimate Body Building.

I also looked into the workout that used by the actors who played the Spartans in the 300 movie. The 300 workout for the movie was created by Mark Twight, a self-taught exercise guru and former world-class mountain climber. It consisted of the following. According to Kathleen Doheny in her WebMD Feature, The 300 Workout: Can You Handle It?

The workout gets its name from the total number of repetitions. But those 300 reps weren't done daily, as some media accounts report, Twight says. Rather, the 300 workout was the finale of months of training, a kind of graduation test, after actors had weight lifted and trained with tools such as medicine balls and Kettlebells (cast iron weights with handles).

300 Finale Workout

  • 25 pull-ups
  • 50 deadlifts at 135 pounds
  • 50 push-ups
  • 50 box jumps with a 24-inch box
  • 50 "floor wipers" (a core and shoulders exercise at 135 pounds)
  • 50 "clean and press" at 36 pounds (a weight-lifting exercise)
  • 25 more pull-ups -- for a total of 300 reps
There's no rest between movements and the score is based on total time. The workout was also consistently changed every time it was time so that the body consistently could not adjust to one workout strategy.

I found a scaled down version of it at Josh Hillis's blog.

It consisted of the following.

12x Assisted Pull-ups
25x Dead-lift @ 70-90lbs
25x Push-ups
25x Box Jumps @ 12” box
25x Sit-ups
30x KB Clean and Press @ 18-26lbs
12x Assisted Pull-ups
154 reps total

This in no way means I am going to consistently use this method, because we all have to find our own, but it is a good something to scale for myself.
So now I am putting my gym arsonal back together. When I find an apartment I have to have a room for my fitness equipment. I have the Bow-Flex, the Shoes, the Gear, and additional work out tools. I am the type of person can only work out effectively if I either have someone with me or if I have equipment. I also have my handy MP3 player filled with the soundtracks of Conan the Barbarian, 300, Star Wars, the Chronicles of Riddick, Batman Begins, Dune, Big O, and Dragonball Z. All of these soundtracks have songs that get me in the mood for training. I also intend to begin training in martial arts again. My choice is with the Abir Warrior Arts taught by Abir Aluf Mori Yehoshua Sofer, more than likely at the Tel Aviv school.

My hope is to not regain my former stature, but to take where I am now and become something different. The most important part of what I want to accomplish is to combine all my efforts with the Judaic perspective that I live by that can be summed up by the 13th cent. Sephardic Rabbi Rambam (Rabbi Mosheh Maimon) in his book the Moreh Nevuchim i.e. the Guide to the Perplexed.
Rabbi Mosheh Ben Maimon (1135 - 1204)

"Thus those who accomplish acts of exercising their body in the wish to be healthy, engaging in ball games, wrestling, boxing and suspension of breathing are in the opinion of the ignorant engaged in frivolous actions, whereas they are not frivolous according to the Sages of Israel."
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

I Got My Permanent Israeli ID Today

Well, I got my Teudat Zehut today, which is my Israel ID card. What is means is that I am officially an Israeli and also that I can do things like start a checking account, get a driver's license, etc. It is like gold in Israel and without it a person can't do a lot of things here.

Sample of a Teudat Zehut (Israeli ID)

It wasn't as hard as some people make it out to be. Of course it was hectic, but it is no different than any other government office you have to know how to "Que". Of course I came on Tuesday and then I found out that I had to come back another day for a reason that wasn't clear. Of course there was a government strike on Wednesday, which closed down the building where I needed to get my ID. Of course I found Thursday morning that the strike was over, and that government offices were going to be open. Of course when I first arrived at the Misrad Ha-Panim there were not many people there. Of course I was sent around to different people all morning, and then more people started to arrived. Of course I ended up in one person's office and he decided that he was not going to work on any more new immigrant IDs. Of course he sent me back to the place where I started, and of course they did in 15 minutes what I was trying to get done all morning.

I also was sure to use my connection with the Yemenite and Moroccan Jewish communities to my advantage as it is often who you know, who you are related to, or who you are married to that gets you places in life. There are some who would be deterred or stressed with all of the running around that started at 9:30 A.M. and ended at about 2:30 P.M. That is not me though, and I was only stressed once when this guy from France was sitting to close to me. I like personal space. You ask, "Ehav how were you able to keep your cool? How did you stay so composed?" My answer to you simple and short.

I attended a Historically Black University named Prairie View A&M University from 1993 to 1998.
Nothing that they can throw at me here in Israel can compare to going to an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) during the time when there was no internet registration. I was going through bureaucracy of a entirely different level when Prairie View A&M University (PVA&MU) had the following.
  • Old broken down dorms.
  • One printer for the entire engineering computer room (you had to bring your own paper).
  • A laundromat with 8 washers and 4 dryers for a campus of 3,000 students.
  • When the computer network would always go down during registration.
  • That who didn't care and had a reputation of telling off people's parents.
I also remember how having the right hook-up i.e. the right connections always paid off when it came to registration and washing cloths. Of course the last time I visited PVAMU the dorms are really nice, registration is a lot better, and what a different almost 10 years makes. It is funny how those things prepared me for making my way through Israeli bureaucracy. More to come as my adventures in Israel continue.

The Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Problems With Politics

When I was in America I stopped voting several years ago. For the most part I always felt like I was not really having an effect because I was voting for the lessor of two evils. Besides voting for president doesn't change much because change is also linked with the Congress and the Senate. Yet, also there is a need to vote for the right local officials. So f I were to vote Republican, I could never find a balanced with the positions and morality I respected. Voting Democrat didn't matter much either because they were essentially no different as an overall package. So I stopped voting, besides it was also not as if my life was in my own hands by voting one way or another.

The Problem With the Two Party System

Now that I am back in Israel though it is a different scenario. Literally, not getting things right politically could cause my life to be thrown by the wayside. On some level I feel like Israel's problems are related to how we as Jews stand or don't stand up for the morality found in the Torah. That is to say that if we don't live by the responsibility that God gave us as Jews it causes most of the problems that we experience. This is mainly the case in times when we have our own state or the ability to control our own destiny. Some of our enemies seem to exist to destroy us because we don't represent the values that we should. This goes all the way from the secular Jew all the way to the religious Jew. We are responsile for each other, but we sometimes don't treat each other that way.
So how does this fit in with politics? I will have to let my time to get adjusted determine that for myself. My mission is to live by the Torah and be an Israeli of the modern era. Where that leads me I will keep you posted.Read Entire Post!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Back In Israel: Part 1

Well, I am back in Israel and felt so good to get off the plane. As I sat in the taxi taking me to my cousin's apartment outside of Jerusalem I felt like I was where I needed to be. The initial absorption process at the airport was easier than I thought it would be. I went in with the expectation that something would go wrong, but thank God it did not. I don't have much time to write now since Tisha B'Av is approaching, but pictures and more are coming later.

It is so good to be back home!
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jurassic Judaism, Age of the Universe

The following article comes from Ohr Samayach's web-site for the Ask the Rabbi section. It is an interesting article that takes a Judaic perspective to Dinisaurs and the age of the earth. Jewish Kabbalists (Rabbis and Sages who had traditions of understanding the Torah passed down to them), have dealt with this issue for thousands of years.

From Ohr Somayach's Ask the Rabbi

Dear Rabbi,
A friend recently asked me how Orthodox Judaism deals with the issue of scientific proof of dinosaurs' existence. Is there an explanation to be found in the Torah? Your answer or explanation would be greatly appreciated as we are both teachers in a Hebrew day school and the children argue amongst themselves about whether dinosaurs did or did not really exist.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, strange artifacts began to be discovered. They were bones, bones of gigantic and monstrous creatures the like of which had never before been heard of. Sir Richard Owen, the renowned British paleontologist, coined the collective term Dinosauria, Greek for "terrible lizards."

Even the plant-eating dinosaurs were awe-inspiring. Triceratops, larger than an elephant, had a fearsome array of horns on its armored skull. The large sauropods, Brachiosaurus and Ultrasaurus, weighed more than eighty tons and stood as tall as a five-story building. But the meat-eating dinosaurs were downright terrifying. And none more so than the greatest predator ever to walk the earth. Twenty feet tall and forty feet long, with a massive head boasting six-inch fangs, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the "king tyrant lizard," was a fearsome beast indeed.
Dinosaurs are terrifying creatures. Fortunately, there aren't too many of them around nowadays, so there is little to fear. But some Jews do still walk around in fear of dinosaurs. However, this has nothing to do with the dinosaurs' extreme size or their tendency to crush or eat anything in their way. It has more to do with their very existence. Paleontologists assert that dinosaurs lived hundreds of millions of years ago, while the Jewish calendar sets the age of the universe at under 6000 years plus six creation days.

I remember a young student in yeshiva once drawing me aside in a conspiratorial manner.

"Do you believe in dinosaurs?" he asked me in a hushed tone.
"No," I replied, surprised. "I believe in G-d."

I wasn't sure as to exactly which religion he belonged to (The New Age Temple of the Dinosaur Worshippers, perhaps?),but as far as I'm concerned, it's only G-d, and religious affairs, that are matters of belief. (And even with those, we're not talking about blind faith, but rather acknowledgment based on firm evidence and reasoning.)

Dinosaurs aren't a matter of belief. The fossils really exist; I own one myself. How one interprets these fossils is a different matter.

It has been suggested that G-d placed fossils in the ground as a test of our faith. There are two main difficulties with this explanation. The first objection is that it's not a particularly good test. As we shall see, there is more than plenty of room for accepting the former existence of dinosaurs and the Divinity of Torah. The second objection is that, without being overly presumptuous about G-d's ways, everything that we know about Him tells us that He doesn't act that way. G-d does not create evidence against His Torah and ask us to blind ourselves to it with a leap of faith. Rather, He presents us with evidence for His existence, and preserves free will by implanting within us a powerful ability to ignore that which is inconvenient.

This point is powerfully presented by Rav Elchanan Wasserman, zatzal. He raises the question of how a twelve year old girl or a thirteen year old boy can be commanded in the mitzvah of emunah, faith, which the brilliant Aristotle didn't even manage. His answer is that emunah just requires one to draw the logical conclusions from the evidence that surrounds us; if great minds slip up, that is because of personal agendas.

Nature points towards G-d, not away from Him. We are told, "Lift your eyes upon high and perceive Who created these!" (Yeshayah/Isaiah 40:26); and that "The heavens speak of G-d's glory, and the sky tells of His handiwork!" (Tehillim/Psalms 19:2). Contemplating nature is not only a means to affirm G-d's existence, but also, as Rambam explains, the fulfillment of another mitzvah:

This honored and awesome G-d - it is a mitzvah to love Him and to fear Him... And how does one come to love and fear Him? When man contemplates the great wonders of His deeds and creations, and he perceives from them His boundless and infinite wisdom, instantly he loves and praises and gives glory, and he has a great desire to know G-d... And when he contemplates these matters, he instantly recoils and is in awe, and he knows that he is a small, dismal, lowly creature, standing with a minuscule weakness of intellect before the Perfect Wisdom... (Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:1-2).

Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi, in his famous work the Kuzari (1:67), writes that "Heaven forbid that there should be anything in the Torah to contradict that which is manifest or proved." Likewise, Heaven forbid that there should be anything manifest or proved which would contradict anything in the Torah. If one is convinced that G-d wrote the Torah and created the world, then one should fear no scientific discovery. Conversely, if one is afraid of what the scientists will discover, then one is clearly not fully aware that everything discoverable was created by G-d.

But doesn't the apparent age of the dinosaurs contradict the Torah? Well, to claim so, one would have to claim to understand what the Torah actually means with its account of Creation. But this raises many matters of interpretation; for example, how do you measure a "day" when the sun is only created on the fourth one? How do you determine the flow of time when it varies depending on how near you are to objects of large gravitational mass? Since we have so little understanding of these matters, how can dinosaurs frighten us?

Far from being frightened by dinosaurs, Rabbi Yisrael Lifshitz, author of the Tiferet Yisrael commentary on the Mishna, received the news of fossil discoveries in the nineteenth century with delight. As he had undoubtedly expected, they confirmed everything that we knew all along. He writes:

…As regards the past, Rabbi Abahu states at the beginning of Bereishet Rabbah that the words "and it was evening, and it was morning" (in the apparent absence of the sun) indicate that "there was a series of epochs before then; the Holy One created worlds and destroyed them, approving some and not others."

The Kabbalists expanded upon this statement and revealed that this process is repeated seven times, each Shemita achieving greater perfection than the last…They also tell us that we are now in the midst of the fourth of these great cycles of perfection…[Editor's note: Interestingly, many paleontologists also consider there to have been four eras: the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic.]

We are enabled to appreciate to the full the wonderful accuracy of our Holy Torah when we see that this secret doctrine, handed down by word of mouth for so long, and revealed to us by the Sages of the Kabbalah many centuries ago, has been borne out in the clearest possible way by the science of our generation.

The questing spirit of man, probing and delving into the recesses of the earth, in the Pyrenees, the Carpathians, the Rocky Mountains in America, and the Himalayas, has found them to be formed of mighty layers of rock lying upon one another in amazing and chaotic formations, explicable only in terms of revolutionary transformations of the earth's surface.

Probing still further, deep below the earth's surface, geologists have found four distinct layers of rock, and between the layers fossilized remains of creatures. Those in the lower layers are of monstrous size and structure, while those in the higher layers are progressively smaller in size but incomparably more refined in structure and form.

Furthermore, they found in Siberia in 1807, under the eternal ice of those regions, a monstrous type of elephant, some three or four times larger than those found today…
Similarly, fossilized remains of sea creatures have been found within the recesses of the highest mountains, and scientists have calculated that of every 78 species found in the earth, 48 are species that are no longer found in our present epoch.

We also know of the remains of an enormous creature found deep in the earth near Baltimore, seventeen feet long and eleven feet high. These have also been found in Europe, and have been given the name "mammoth." Another gigantic creature whose fossilized remains have been found is that which is called "Iguanadon," which stood fifteen feet high and measured ninety feet in length; from its internal structure, scientists have determined that it was herbivorous. Another creature is that which is called "Megalosaurus," which was slightly smaller than the Iguanodon, but which was meat-eating.

From all this, we can see that all that the Kabbalists have told us for so many years about the repeated destruction and renewal of the earth has found clear confirmation in our time.
(Tiferet Yisrael, in Derush Ohr HaChayyim, found in Mishnayot Nezikin after Masechet Sanhedrin)

Huge and fearsome creatures that they were, dinosaurs can't possibly be a threat to the religious Jew. As G-d's creations, they are another example of His wondrous might. There's nothing to be afraid of.‎ Read Entire Post!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Being Religious and Self Defense: Part 1

There is a false view that is often classified as Judeo-Christian that implies that religious people are not supposed to fight back when oppressed. This view goes on to suggest that, being religious in this format, means a person who is rightous just sits back and lets bullying, oppression, etc. exist as a part of being "holy." This view is not Jewish nor connected to a blanket Jewish view of the world and here is why.

In Hebrew Shalom is traditionally translated peace, but it means so much more. Shalom comes from a root word which means complete/full payment/etc. The word is also used to mean payment.

According to the Sefer Ha-Yasher 56:9, a book of additional teachings on the Bible from Genesis to Joshua, Jacob on his deathbed requests that his son Judah insure that the Hebrew combat art be passed down to his progeny forever:
ויאמר יעקב אל יהודה: ידעתי בני כי גביר לאחיך אתה ומלך עליהם ובניך ימלכו על בניהם עד עולם אך למד נא את בניך קשת וכל כלי מלחמה למען ילחמו את מלחמות אחיהם המלך בכל אויביו

''And Jacob spoke to Judah: 'I know, my son, that you are a master to your brothers and king over them, and your sons will reign over their sons forever. However, please teach your sons Qashath [the Hebrew weaponless combat art] and every weapon of war, in order that they will fight the wars of their brother the king, against all his enemies.''

It is this that was being referenced by King David in the book of 2nd Samuel chapter 1 after the nation had just suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of the Philistines where both King Saul and David's friend Jonatan died.

וַיְקנֵן דָּוִד, אֶת-הַקִּינָה הַזאת, עַל-שָׁאוּל, וְעַל-יְהוֹנָתָן בְּנוֹ. 17
17 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his

וַיאמֶר, לְלַמֵּד בְּנֵי-יְהוּדָה קָשֶׁת, הִנֵּה כְתוּבָה, עַל-סֵפֶר הַיָּשָׁר.18
18 and said: [It is mandatory] to teach the sons of Judah qoshath—behold, it is written in the Sefer Ha-Yashar

There is a concept in traditional Judaism that a religious Jewish nation can not wage war without first offering shalom. The same in terms applies to the individual religious Jew. Even as the Jews drew close to battle, they were commanded to act with mercy. Before attacking, the Jews offered terms of peace, as the Torah states, "When approaching a town to attack it, first offer them peace." (Deut. 20:10) Judaism teaches the supreme value of life, yet we're not pacifists. Wiping out evil is also part of justice. As (aka Rashi) explains (Deut. 20:12), dangerous disputes must be resolved. Because if you choose to leave evil alone – it will eventually attack you.
Rabbi Shraga Simmons taught some interesting points from the Torah (Five Books of Moses) on this type of topic. Whoever sheds the blood of a human being shall his blood be shed, for in the divine image did God make humanity Genesis 9:6. The rabbis elaborated on this point and claimed: When one destroys a single individual, it is as if that person destroyed the whole world (Sanhedrin 4:5). According to Judaism, a part of each human being is Godlike and to murder one human being is to diminish God and destroy the world. The reality is that war makes one callous and cruel. Therefore, since God Himself had commanded the ancient Israelites to rid the Land of evil, God likewise promised the soldiers that they will retain their compassionate nature. (Deut. 13:18).

The Bible is filled with numerous men and women who were both faithful to God and defeneded themselves and the weak. Examples such as.
  • Abraham who fought off 10 kings to save his nephew Lot.
  • Moses who killed two Egyptians who oppressing the Israelites.
  • The Israelites who fought the Canaanites, the Moabites, the Midyanites, etc.
  • Devorah who led the Israelites against the Canaanites.
  • Samson who fought the Philistines.
  • David who fought the Philistines.
  • Elijah who stood up to the pagan priests of Baal.

The list goes on and on. There is no concept in the Bible of being a push over, except when God has decreed it in specific situations. For example, during the time of Jeremiah Israel was supposed to submit to the Babylonians because of the sins of the past generations of Israel required that they be conquered. The Israelites were submissive to the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, etc. until God either delivered them or raised up a leader to show the people how to stand up for themselves.

Needless to say, there are times when a person has to submit to a greater authority than themselves and seek peace and non-violent means in order to exist and survive. Yet, there are also times when a person has to stand up against injustice because allowing it to exist is unrighteous. It is unrighteous to, for example, allow a widow or an orphan to be persecuted. The reality is that the Torah deals with how violence came about, and gives us path in which to deal with it and still retain our sanity as well as our connection with God.

Note: Pictures are from the Abir Warrior Arts web-site and the Ryu Kyu Kempo Web-site. Both are fighting styles taught with the Torah (i.e. Hebrew Bible) and Judaism as the focus. Both are also taught in Israel.
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Tough Jews: The Daghestani Jews Part 3

'And we, the Tats' 'We, Samson warriors,'
'Bar Kochba's heirs...'
'we went into battles'
'and bitterly, heroically'
'struggled for our freedom'
Song of the Mountain Jews

The Jews of Daghestan lived isolated and in one of the most remote, impenetrable areas in the world for many centuries. They have been historically known for their fierce and war-like nature. In dress and custom they were hardly distinguishable from other Caucasian fighting people in the region. Though they are considered Ahal Dhimmi, subjigated people, by their surrounding Muslim population, the Mountain Jews owned land were known to be fierce, not hesitating to defend, by sword or the rifle, their family, religion, or personal dignity.

''The Jews of Daghestan greatly resemble the other warlike inhabitants of this mountainous region; and they have acquired the virtues as well as the faults of the latter. There is a tradition among the Jews of Daghestan that they are the descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes; but the history of their wanderings is now forgotten, the written documents which they once possessed having in the course of time been either lost or destroyed. They differ from their Christian and Mohammedan neighbors in speech, using the Tat language, which is a combination of Persian and Hebrew. Their writing is a mixture of square characters and Rashi. They wear the Circassian dress, and always go heavily armed, even sleeping without having removed their weapons."
It is possible that the Mountain Jews are descendants of Persian-Jewish soldiers who were stationed in the Caucasus by the Sasanian kings in the fifth or sixth century to protect the area from the onslaughts of the Huns and other nomadic invaders from the east. Under the impact of the invading Turkish hordes, later generations of Jewish inhabitants of the Caucasian lowlands were forced to migrate even further north to Daghestan.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Memories of Japan, Anime, and Other Stuff Part 2

I used to love a variety of Japanese anime as I mentioned before. Thanks to the magic of You-Tube I have been able to find the originals of the cartoons I used to love when I was in Japan. Also, included is one of my favorite American cartoons influenced by Japanese cartoons.

Mazinger Z

Original Japanese Robotech (Macross) Intro
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Memories of Japan, Anime, and other stuff: Part 1

When I was 10 years old, my family was in Japan due to my step-father's service in the US Marine core. I have so many memories from that time, but most of all I became enamorated with Japanese culture, or least what was then my understanding of it back then. I came back to America with an interest in Shintoism and in Anime. I also decided at a young age that I wanted to a Ninja, or at least what my understanding of it was back then.

What remains from that time into my life now is a love for certain types of Japanese Anime. I like the drama of some of them, and the music. So I will have a few articles as a tribute to my favorites.
Big O: Roger the Negotiator (First Episode)

Big O vs. Big Duo
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Searching for the Past: Part 1

A few years when my grandmother Elnora Lyons-Ever z"l passed away I began to wonder who I was and my own mortality became overwhelming apparent to me. I realized that I really didn't know much about myself or my family. So over the last four to five years I have been researching my family history and their stories. Below are two of the earliest paintings/photos that I found in the search.

Richard Lang - My Great Great Grandfather painted 1870 (Father's Side)

Richard Lang is the father of my Great Grandmother Huldah Lang-Lyons. Huldah Lang-Lyons was the mother of my grandmother Elnora Lyons-Ever. Elnora Lyons-Ever was my father's mother. Richard Lang's father owned a large tract of land in North Texas, which was split between all of his children. The Lang originated from some of the early Jewish Spanish and German families who made their way into the region in the 1800's. It is believed that Richard Lang's wife was German according to one family account. Richard Lang worked with his family in the herding business. He would take the cattle between Texas and Kansas City, MO.

Charles Knoble - My Great Great Grandfather circa 1890's (Mother's Side)

Charles Knoble is through the mother of my mother. Charles Knoble was mixed French and from some unknown part of West Africa. Charles Knoble left home on the east coast when he was 12 years old, and made a life for himself between Louisiana and Texas. He married a woman who, according to my grandmother was from India, but she may have been simply been Native American. His wife was known by the name Lettie Hayes-Knoble. My grandmother described Letty Hayes as very dark brown with extremely long dark black hair. Charles Knoble died when my grandmother was 10 years old, but he raised her like she was his daughter because her father has passed away.

These two photos were only the tip of the ice berg in what I have been finding out about my family. More to come later.

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Tough Jews: Abir Warrior Arts Part 2

Last year I came across an interesting web-site for Abir Warrior Arts. Abir is a Jewish martial art taught by Grandmaster Yehoshua Sofer in Israel. According to Grandmaster Yehoshua Sofer, Abir is fighting techniques that the ancient Israelites used, and was preserved by certain Middle Eastern Jewish communities. There are two schools, one in Jerusalem and one in Tel Aviv.

When I found out about it I did some research on it, and I even met several people who either knew Grandmaster Yehoshua Sofer personally or studied under him. They all had high praise for the Grandmaster and for Abir. The fact that there was a martial art that was based on Torah was the key point that I really found interesting. I became so interested in Abir that I helped work on a Wikipedia article about it that can found here. The video below gives some details about Abir.

ABIR - Biblical Martial Arts

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Yemenite Jewish Music: Ofra Haza and Aharon Amram

Dedicated to the memory of Ofra Haza z"l. This is a beautiful Yemenite song performed by her and the great Aharon Amram at the Galbi and Dan Shilon show. I learned a lot of Yemenite Jewish songs from Aharon Amram's tapes and also his visits to my synagogue.

The words of the song translated are:
You stole my heart.
You stole my soul.
You take my breath away.
What Can I do?
What can I say, When you're so far away?
What Can I do?
What can I say?
When you're so far.Read Entire Post!