Wednesday, April 30, 2008

One of My Favorites: Better Off Dead

Funny Scenes from Better Off Dead (1 of 2)

Funny Scenes from Better Off Dead (2 of 2)
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Breaks Over?

Okay, I know I said I was going to take a blog break. I tried, but there are a few things that I want to blog about. So I have made myself a deal. I am going to blog part of the time in English and part of the time in Hebrew. That way I accomplish part of the goal I had in taking in the break and that was to get my Hebrew more fluent. As you may have noticed there is already one post in Hebrew, and for those of you who can't read Hebrew, sorry, but to my Hebrew speaking peeps, מה נשמע.

So there are a few things that I will be blogging about the next few weeks. Most of them fun things that I have been wanting to blog about, but just never did.

What crossed my mind today was the need to make true on a desire I have had for a few years now. Part of my family came from Senegal a few generations ago. Not much is known about exactly where, but I have a few ideas. There was also a time when this same family could be found in Mali. This is of course before the borders were set in the way that they are now.
Ariel View of Timbuktu, Mali

A few years ago I attended a talk at NYU by Sheik Abdel Haidaira, Curator of the Mamma Haidara Memorial Library in Timbuktu Mali, concerning the hundreds of thousands of Arabic documents in Mali. These documents cover a dearth of West African history, poetry, geography, trade, conflict resolution, etc. predominately from an Islamic perspective.

Sheik Abdel Haidara is on the far right

There is however a number of documents that are from the Jewish community that once existed in Timbuktu. Most of these documents are trade documents, but there is one is one group in particular that Sheikh Abdel Haidaira pointed out to me contained one my family's names. He ooffered me the chance to go to Mali and he would show me around and help me do research. Sheikh Abdel seemed really excited to talk about the Jewish presence that used to exist in Mali. It may be because I think the Haidaira family had Jewish ancestry from the Kata (Kati) family that originated from Spain.

Part of me for so long has been wanting to take up Sheikh Abdel on his offer. Several obsticles have stood in my way.
  1. I no longer speak French. I stopped speaking it when I was about 6.
  2. My friend sent an email to Sheikh Abdel, but he never heard back. Sometimes emails there can be problematic.
  3. Travel to Mali from Israel can be very expensive. I would have to go through Spain, and then Morocco.
  4. I no longer have contact with the friend that spoke French and was interested in going.
A part of me still feels like I need to do this. It is smaller part of me that wants to be able to see one the places that part of the family stopped off at. Similar to when I went to Ethiopia in 2001 I feel like something is calling me there. In 2000 I had this feeling like I needed to go Ethiopia for some reason, much of which I still understand even today. With Ethiopia, it was simply an experience. It was not like a homecoming, since Israel always has been my home. Yet, with Mali I feel like I need to go for the experience and to connect with where my family went in their travels before they went to America. Maybe it is also the educational aspect of seeing again those documents that mentioned the family name. Something also a Jew has been calling me there since I have all of this information about the Jewish community that used to be in Timbuktu, but seeing them with my own eyes would change everything. I feel like if I was able to go I would come back to Israel a different kind of Jew.

The Document: Trade document of Eliyahu Al-Yahud

The debate I have now though is with another site of importance. That is with Cape Verde. Cape Verde is a group of islands near Senegal that has a history of mixing between Jews forced to convert to Catholicism during the Inquisition and West Africans brought to the island as slaves by the Portuguese.

Every time these kind of calls have gone out I have ended up going to the places, and something always ends up changing within me. So I will have to save up my money and see what 2010 holds for me. I want to buy a house, maybe in Maale Adummim so I need to direct my funds that direction. Yet, I still feel like I need to keep my options open for this urge that I feel.

For my family the next post will be in Hebrew. חג סמח
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Friday, April 18, 2008

חג שמח ופסח שלום כלל ישראל

אמרתי לעצמי אני לא יכול להכנס פסח בלי לאמור מועדים לשימח לכולם

היה ברכה לי לעלות לארץ ולעשות את ההגדה פה

להרבה זמן קראתי את המילים שנה הבה בירושלים ועכשיו אני באמת פה

לכלל ישראל מועדים לשימח וחג שמח

בועז מודה - לך אלי

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Blogging Sweatshop

Okay. One little post before Pesach. This is when you know blogging has gone to far. Take care all.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Getting Back to the Battle: Taking A Break

Life is a battle sometimes. Not in a bad way, because some battles are like preemptive strikes to gain ground. So that is where is where I am at right now. I am ready to take on a few extra things right now to prepare for my future.

Well, I guess since everyone is taking a break from blogging every once and while it is my turn. My mother just left from here to go back to America. She came and visited me for two weeks to help me prepare for Pesah (Passover). It was really good to have her here and we did a lot traveling in the north of Israel. In a few weeks I will post pictures.

I started a Hebrew class two weeks. It is only one day a week so I am going to need to spend more time during the rest of the week learning and getting back to basics. My Hebrew has improved a lot since I moved to Israel, but it could be a lot better. So this is one of the reasons I am taking a break.

So with all of that said it is time to get back to the battle of life. I have a few posts that I will do every once and a while. So to leave you for a while on a good note.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Brave Sir Robin

This has nothing to do with much of anything. I just find this scene from Monty Python's The Holy Grail.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Understanding Judaism - Homosexuality

What do the Torah and Jewish Mesorah (Ancient to Modern Jewish Tradition) say on the matter of homosexuality? There is actually a lot that is said on the matter in Jewish Law. Not just in the way of saying it is wrong, which the Torah does state, but also it can be gleaned from Jewish Mesorah what is considered wrong about it. First, a more complex definition of Yahaduth (Judaism) needs to be given to distinguish it from world religions, as well as modern movements that have no connection to the Mesorah.
  1. The primary belief in Traditional and Orthodox Judaism is that Hashem (The Creator of all Things) interacted with the Jewish patriarchs giving them and their descendants a mission and a standard to direct their lives by.
  2. If Hashem said it, and the Mesorah proves to us this is the case we Jews do it. There are areas we may not understand fully, and there are things that become more clear with time, but regardless since Hashem created all things He calls the shots.
  3. Judaism is a religious, national, and social responsibility.
  4. Judaism rests upon the written Torah, Torah She-Ba'al Pe (Oral Teachings/Torah), Halakha (Jewish religious and traditional law), and Qabbalah (received understandings - this includes the prophecies, and various writings in the Tanakh i.e. Hebrew Bible).
  5. Judaism is not an al la carte religion, where a Jew can pick and choose what makes them feel good and discard what they dislike.
  6. Judaism is a faith system rooted in transmitted teachings, understandings, and tradition. If it can't be found in this process then there is no need to consider it.
  7. The Jewish sages of olden times discussed every topic under the sun. There was no need for them to hide matters, because no topic was to difficult to discuss. If an issue exists it is possible to find some Jewish sage or rabbi who discussed it. There are situations, of a scientific nature, where they used the science of their times which made their approach accurate, just as we use the science of our times. (Science being used in a more broad sense, since most science today is interpreted by Western cultures at the expense of Middle Eastern, Asian, African, and Native American cultures.)
The link below gives both the Traditional and Orthodox perspectives. I know from the start the there are going to be people who disagree with this paper, but I suggest to read it through since it provides Jewish sources going back many centuries.

Note: When you click on the link it will take you to a PDF. You may have to hit the back button to get back to my blog.

Orthodox Halakhah (Law) on Homosexuality by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel

Afterthoughts - The Ehav Perspective

It must be noted that the previously mentioned paper by Rabbi Dr. Nachum deals with the position in terms of how the Torah relates to Jews. I.e. the commands in the Torah that are discussed were given to Jews to develop the national and social structure for an Israelite nation and society. Within that context the Torah took on legal and social matters, which would have existed in the national Jewish forum. Because Judaism is a take or leave it kind of situation i.e. people have free-will to choose, the elements of the Torah that seem strict towards certain behavior exist because the people who stood at Mount Sinai all agreed that collectively and personally they and their children would accept and do ALL of the Torah. Right and wrong behavior is in the hands of Hashem, not in the opinions of humans.

Of course future generations who weren't there can easily decide that they no longer want to be a part of a Torah based community, and being that all humans have free will they are free to choose such. This of course would separate them on some level in all three areas of the religious, national, and social sense. This is something that is not the hope or desire for those who align themselves with the Jewish perspective.

The idea of course is not to beat up on or put down Jews who practice homosexuality. The idea is to show them the path of what we often call Torath Mosheh i.e. the Torah as it was given to Moses from Hashem, and to help them return to that path.
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Friday, April 4, 2008

Israel's Biggest Supporter Lavon Mercer

Coach LaVon Mercer calls himself "Israel's biggest ambassador." Born in 1958, LaVon grew up in the town of Metter, in South Georgia. He was raised by his grandparents until their deaths. He was adopted as a ward of the state when he turned 16.

Coach Lavon Mercer

His height is given variously as 6 foot 8 inches to 6 foot 11 inches and he is a basketball natural. He was an NBA draftee in 1980 to the San Antonio Spurs and soon came to play for Hapoel Tel Aviv. He stayed in Israel for 14 years, playing for Hapoel and later Maccabi Tel Aviv, becoming an Israeli citizen and serving two years in the IDF. He says, "Sports gave me the family that I wanted, the discipline that I needed and the belief in myself that I had to obtain in-order to reach true professional sport plateau."

LaVon's trip to Israel turned into a 14-year stay. During that time he raised a family, helped raise Maccabi Tel Aviv toward the European championships, participated in the Israeli Olympic basketball team, became an Israeli citizen and served two years in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Coach Lavon Mercer when he served in the IDF

Today he is a coach at Spelman College in Atlanta, and he travels widely, lecturing about Israel to anyone who will listen. His favorite lecture gimmick is a paper bag. Sometimes he just shows the bag, "Nobody would notice this bag here, but in Israel, it would be noticed immediately - someone might think it was a plastic bomb."

Sometimes he invites audience members to open a paper bag and look inside. It may contain assorted screws and nails, like the bombs made by terrorists. His explains that things aren't what they seem. The kids throwing rocks in the West Bank are backed by grownups with AK-47s. .

Israelis have had their way of life threatened by violence, a challenge that many African-American communities face daily. Back in Georgia, LaVon tells the African-American community: "The challenges I faced [in Israel] are the same ones we are dealing with here"

He isn't referring to Israeli Zionist "racism" though. He continues: Israelis have had their way of life threatened by violence, a challenge that many African-American communities face daily.

He says,

People here have no idea what it going on in Israel. Their knowledge of the Middle East amounts to the 15 seconds they see on CNN. The picture they get is distorted. They see the classic picture of kids throwing rocks at armed soldiers, who are shooting at them. Anyone who sees that immediately identifies with the children. But I tell whoever will listen - what you see is only part of the picture. Don't fool yourselves into thinking that there aren't armed men behind those Palestinian kids." There are many who support Israel [here]. But there are also many who oppose it. Even before I started to lecture, I found myself arguing with people. People challenged me because of what they get from the media here. I told them, 'Don't be such fools. I was there. I lived there.'

For more information about Coach Lavon Mercer, check out his web-site Lavon

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