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News, Jews, and views

This won't go very far: Senator Sam Brownback (who?), R-Kansas (oh) has introduced a resolution declaring Jerusalem—all of Jerusalem—Israel's capital. Look for much unhappiness from certain sectors (can you say "CAIR"? I knew you could).

Let's play Spot-the-bias: Well, it's the Guardian, so it's an easy game.

Abu Thair likes to appear with a masked group of gunmen to illustrate that while the guns of Gaza are silent, the magazines are loaded.

Abu Thair, a leader of the Fatah-affiliated brigades in the city, says his men are enjoying a rest, but insists that "whatever happens we are ready".

It is a stance shared by all the Palestinian factions. They are willing to lay down arms until the end of the year to see the outcome of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza - and whether Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, can make any progress in carving out a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

But the conditional ceasefire has already fractured. Last week, Israeli soldiers killed three teenage boys in Rafah and militants retaliated by firing mortars at nearby settlements. The retaliation continued on Monday with the wounding of two Israelis on the Gaza-Egypt border.

Ghazi Hamed, a likely Hamas candidate in this summer's elections for the Palestinian legislative council, said neither side wanted to return to a cycle of violence this year.

No mention of, say, bombs going off, or bullets fired at civilians. But those "innocent" teenagers getting killed? Oh, the ones who were smuggling weapons? Yeah, those teenagers. I think we need a new term for this kind of tongue-bath for terrorists: Let's call it "terrorist porn."

What, not Judaism? Here's a good one. PA-TV says palestinian prisoners are being forced to convert to Christianity. Even the ones in Israel. Oh, yeah, that makes sense.

"Haven't you heard of our prisoners [of war] in Palestine, have you not heard of our prisoners in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and all over the world, who are exploited and imprisoned, and are offered conversion to Christianity?

Yeah, that's what Israel is doing. Sure. Uh-huh. Yep. And the sad thing is, the schmucks listening to this idiot probably believe him.

What cease-fire? Yet another palestinian attack in Gaza. This one doesn't count as a Guardian "fracture," apparently.

An Israel Defense Forces soldier was moderately wounded Thursday when his jeep was hit by an explosives device near the Gaza Strip security fence on Thursday.

The device was fired from the Palestinian side of the fence at a jeep patrolling on the Israeli side several dozen meters away.

[...] Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, even though it is part of the cease-fire forged in talks in Cairo.

Palestinian democracy watch: The pals fired a judge for criticizing the PA:

The Palestinian Authority has decided to suspend a senior Muslim religious judge (kadi) who criticized the PA judicial system and complained about anarchy and lawlessness.

The decision, the first of its kind since the death of Yasser Arafat, contravenes promises made by his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, to democratize Palestinian society and encourage freedom of expression.

Weapons, weapons, who's got the weapons? So Shaul Mofaz tells Abbas to get terrorists' weapons. Abbas says sure. The terrorists say no way. (See Guardian entry above.) Meantime, the Russians compound their deal to sell Syria missiles with a new deal—to sell helicopters and APCs to the PA. Gee. Wonder what those would be used for?

Okay. Time to get the place ready for Pesach. Within an hour or two, the smell of chicken soup will be wafting through my mother's apartment. And boiled eggs. And other good things.

Posting will be light to nonexistent for the next two days. If Mystery Guest Blogger wants to pipe in, feel free.

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Happy birthday to me

Okay, not really my birthday, but it's the fourth anniversary of, and today, in the shower, I finally figured out the new direction for this weblog. It's, uh, going to be the same direction it's been headed in for the last three years: News about Jews, personal commentary, and cat pictures. However, I will be changing over to a blogging tool (WordPress), and I've figured out what to do with all the volunteers to be guest posters. I'm not going to have time to get into much until I get back home on Monday. So happy Pesach, my fellow Jews, and here's hoping your haroseth is sweet and your horseradish is hot. (For the third year in a row, I awarded major points to any of my students who ate all the horseradish at the model Seder, and one point to all who tried. Two got full points.)

Mom and I are heading out to breakfast and errands. There will be an updated News about Jews post when we get back.

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More briefs

Russian anti-Israel update: The Soviet Union helped birth the nation of Israel, then decided it had made a mistake and was unremittingly anti-Israel ever after. Vladimir Putin is continuing this despicable tradition by selling Syria, a terrorist state, anti-aircraft missiles that will certainly be aimed against IDF (and possibly USAF) jets.

The SA-18 missiles Russia is selling Syria "will of course make it difficult to fly over the residence of the Syrian president," Russian President Vladimir Putin bluntly stated yesterday. "It will make flying low difficult," implying what has long been believed to be the reason for the sale of the anti-aircraft missiles: Syrian embarrassment over Israeli air force planes "buzzing" presidential palaces in Syria to issue warnings to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Russian president, who gave an interview to Channel One ahead of his historic visit next week to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, said the sale of the missiles to Syria would not upset the balance of power in the Middle East.

[...] While Putin emphasized that the missile Russia is selling to Syria is vehicle launched and hardly a threat to Israeli planes, Israel is particularly worried by shoulder-launched versions of the missile, which could end up in the hands of Hezbollah along the Lebanese-Israeli border and limit Israeli air force overflights into Lebanon.

Shoulder-launched missiles would also worry the U.S., which fears that they could end up in the hands of terror groups operating against U.S. forces in Iraq.

However, Israeli defense sources say the deal gives cause for concern even if it is a vehicle-mounted missile. The missile launchers could easily be dismantled, and with relatively simple engineering be transformed into shoulder-launched rockets.

So, why exactly is this being done? Out of Russia's long history of hatred for Jews? Not exactly.

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya) - By late April, Russia and Syria should draft an intergovernmental agreement on the use of Syrian debts.

During a visit made by President Bashar Assad to Russia, the sides agreed that the remainder of the debt ($1.5 billion), after Russia wrote off a part of the aggregate, would be repaid within ten years, and another $2.12 billion would be converted into Syrian liras. The latter sum was to be transferred to Russia's account with the Bank of Syria, for use by Russian companies during investment projects in that country. The list of projects and facilities where Russian businessmen can work will be included in the agreement on the debt settlement.

This will help reduce investment risks and serve as another impetus for launching major long-term projects in Syria, said Vladimir Fomichev, head of the department for cooperation with the Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries at Neftegazexport.

Money. Gee, between this and the French support of Saddam Hussein, you'd think that money trumps ethics in Europe. Oh, wait.

Your UN dollars at work: And US, if W. contributes to the PA what he says he will. Suha Arafat, living in Paris off the fat of the palestinians:

WASHINGTON: French investigators are tracking $7 million transferred by PLO treasurer Nizar Abu Ghazaleh to the Paris bank account of ex-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's widow, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Palestinian officials said the PLO controlled a bank account in Tunisia from which millions of dollars in unexplained payments were made to Suha Arafat - payments they suspect were connected to contracts issued by the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat before he died last year, the report said.

It's a payoff, folks, just as Lair Simon said in November.

The Dorktator's not going to like this: The Marines have landed in Israel.

Hundreds of US Marines riding hovercrafts stormed ashore the beaches of Nitzanim Wednesday as part of joint maneuvers being quietly held between the US and Israeli militaries.

The Marines simulated an armed assault from the sea while IDF forces maneuvered inland until the two forces met.

[...] The Marines of the Sixth Fleet specialize in extraction operations to evacuate US personnel and conduct such exercises periodically in Israel.

"These are highly specialized operations that require constant training," said a source familiar with the maneuvers.

The IDF refused to release more details in keeping with a policy dictated by the United States to minimize reports of Israeli-US military cooperation.

That's right. Jew cooties. Can't mention out loud how much Israel helps the United States keep her men and women safe. But she does, and the Jew-haters of the world just hate it.

Prepare for the worst: Expect to see Gaza settlements looted. Ariel Sharon does.

"Immediately after the Israeli army leaves there, everything will be looted," Yediot quoted Sharon as saying. "The guys from Khan Younis will storm (the settlements) from one side, and the guys from Rafah from the other side."

"One will take a window, another will take a door, a third will take sprinklers and yet another will take the greenhouse," Sharon said.

Yeah, Charles Johnson is going to get a lot of pictures out of this, I think.

Right. Off to run errands with Mom. But oh, yum: Real bagels for breakfast. Can't beat the NJ-NY area for bagels.

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Bush stays the course on Hizbullah: President Bush reiterated his call to disarm Hizbullah. I like this part best:

Speaking in an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, Bush said: "There is a reason why we've put Hizbullah on a terrorist list. They've killed Americans in the past. We will continue to work with the international community to keep them on that list and we will continue to pressure this group."

Which leads us to: WTF is up with Bush's main spokesman? (Hat tip: Lynn)

And I think if you look back at the previous Palestinian elections, the people that were elected, while they might have been members of Hamas, they were business professionals. They were people that ran on talking about improving the quality of life for the Palestinian people and addressing their economic needs and addressing other needs that are important to them — not terrorists.

Excuse me? Hamas members are business professionals? The ones whose charter goes on and on about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? The ones whose charter has these lovely quotes:

[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement.

[...] There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.

Oh, yeah. These are business professionals. That is, if the profession is execution. Which brings us back to Israel Double Standard Time, as usual. Hizbullah, based in Lebanon, is a terrorist organization. Hamas, based in the territories, is what? A bunch of "freedom fighters"? I expect that from the rest of the world, but not the Bush Administration.

Jewish Double Standard Time: So all the Arabs and Muslims and the rest of the world scream and shout and accuse Israel of violating UN resolutions all the time. The UN Security Council comes out with a resolution that says Hizbullah must disarm, and what happens?

The leader of Lebanon's Hizbollah group called a U.N. Security Council demand to disarm meaningless on Tuesday and said his guerrillas would keep their weapons as long as Israel posed a threat to the country.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, in a rare interview with an international news organization, said the Syrian-backed movement was recognized as a legitimate resistance group by Lebanese and was not a militia as described in the U.S.-sponsored resolution.

"That article has no meaning," Nasrallah said in the interview, which followed the formation of a new government to take Lebanon to a parliamentary election set for May.

"I say clearly, there are two reasons for the resistance: occupied land and the threat of aggression. When the threat of aggression ceases to exist and there is no occupied land, there is no reason for resistance," Nasrallah told Reuters.

Oh, that's right, I forgot. It's the Resistance Exception, that unwritten rule that all terrorist movements get to claim—and the tools who enable them echo—whenever they want to pretend they're not going against world opinion. And oh yeah, Baby Assad is digging in his heels. I look forward to seeing him pulled out of a rathole someday.

Syria reiterated its backing for Hizbollah on Tuesday when its departing military and intelligence chiefs met Nasrallah.

"No matter how severe the trials get, nothing divides Syria and Lebanon and Syria and the resistance," Syria's security chief in Lebanon, Rustum Ghazaleh, said after the meeting.

Uh-huh. He's going down.

Speaking of Assad's life-span: Get a load of this article in the Lebanon Daily Star:

At the National Security Council (NSC), meanwhile, a top official insists that while relations between Lebanon and Syria may be "special" by virtue of the countries' being neighbors, "it shouldn't be a colonial relationship. There will be friction with Syria if it doesn't respect this." Asked whether the Syrian regime is on life support, he avoided a direct answer, but accepted that the U.S., like most Arab regimes, thought "Syria was not maneuvering very well." He also said, with a hint of derision, that "pressure on Syria has not been very great; it can be greater," implying that Assad had perhaps caved in by so quickly withdrawing from Lebanon.

[...] "We have told Syria you are responsible for violence in Lebanon. If Syria wants to escalate the violence, it will be another Syrian mistake." This phrase was echoed in the lapidary opening question posed by a senior Pentagon official known as a hard-liner on the Middle East to two Lebanese visitors: "What mistake will Assad make next?"

What cease-fire? Six shooting incidents were reported in the terrortories [not sic] Tuesday.

Right. Time to clean up the apartment and get on the road. I'll be posting tonight from (sigh) Mom's AOL dialup connection.

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On Second Thought

Spring plague: It isn't spring fever, it's a nightmare. This is the time of year when it's nearly impossible to put anything inside a nine-year-old's head. My fourth graders are horrible, and it's not really their fault. But from now until the end of May, I still have to try to teach them things. Not even a lengthy recess helped.

Would you believe they have twice requested that I teach them more about the Holocaust? I asked them why, they say because it doesn't feel like lessons. It's not boring.

Sigh. I'm bringing Elie Weisel's "Night" into class on Tuesday. We shall see what happens when I read excerpts.

I think I'll also bring some less-horrifying books on Jewish history, like, say, the Six-Day War. They love hearing me say "Oh, that's the one where we kicked Arab butt."

I could never teach in public school.

A Worf-shaped hole: There's a hole in Heidi's house. You can't see it. It's not visible. But there's an absence so strong, that you keep on wondering where Worf is hiding. I was visiting yesterday, and even though the other two dogs were all over me when I came in, Worf's absence was vivid.

I did not visit his grave. Not yet.

You know, Heidi says Worf's death is the reason I've been dreaming about my father all week. She says I never really processed it. She may be right. Maybe someday I'll write about that one, too.

Traveling again: I'm off to NJ for Passover tomorrow, back home in a few days. It's going to be a beautiful drive. It's in the eighties down here. There's also a job possibility in NJ and one down here, so cross your fingers. I need the work.

Four more years: April 22nd is my fourth anniversary. I'm changing the software and the name of the blog (but not the URL; remains my domain), and may be inviting guest posters. If you're interested, I'm looking for people who are more centrist politically, people who are pro-Israel (required; don't even think about asking if you're going to bash Israel), and people who are as disgusted with extremists on both sides as I am. I'll consider fellow bloggers as well as those of you who don't have your own blog, and yes, you can blog under a pseudonym. Email me if you're interested.

Oh, yes, the other main requirement: You must be a good writer. Mediocrity won't cut it here. And like my father used to say: I'm a low marker.

Update: Several guys have requested guest-posting privileges, but not a single woman. What is up with that, ladies?

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Terror attacks continue; no one does anything

The IDF is getting frustrated with the PA lack of response to stopping terror attacks.

GAZA - The IDF's patience is wearing thin in the face of growing Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip, army officials said Monday, after a soldier sustained moderate injuries and an Israeli civilian was moderately wounded by Palestinian fire along the Philadelphi Route.

A short while later, Palestinians opened fired near the Neve Dekalim settlement in Gush Katif. No one was hurt in that incident.

The military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the first attack.

"It's impossible that the same small group, the Popular Committees, continues to operate freely in violation of Abu Mazen's (Abbas) understandings, at our expanse," one IDF official said. "Yesterday someone was lightly wounded, today someone was seriously injured, and tomorrow it will end in disaster," he said.

So Shaul Mofaz gets on the phone with Mahmoud Abbas, and tells him to shape up.

TEL AVIV - In what was characterized as a "long and incisive" phone conversation, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas he must act to end mortar attacks in the Gaza Strip.

Since Saturday, more than 70 mortar shells were fired at Gaza settlements and army posts, killing a horse and damaging two buildings.

Israel will not accept an escalation in Gaza, Mofaz told Abbas during their conversation Sunday. The defense minister demanded that Abbas dispatch additional security forces to areas used to launch mortar shells and noted that all terror groups are taking part in the attacks.

So what's the result going to be? Let's try to predict, based on more information:

Meanwhile, the Palestinians have noted the IDF has refrained from responding to Palestinian attacks, despite the massive mortar fire and Palestinian infiltration attempts.

"Apparently an order came from top echelons in Israel to refrain from escalating the situation," a Palestinian security officer told Ynet.

The Palestinian Authority views the mortar attacks as a natural response to the killing of three Palestinians youngsters by IDF troops, the officer said.

Sources close to Abbas said Israel should not be blaming the Palestinians for the violence and noted the mortar offensive would not have materialized had the three Palestinian boys not been killed.

To recap: Palestinians fire mortars at Israelis. Israelis do nothing. Israelis tell pals to stop firing mortars. Pals know Israelis are doing nothing to make them stop it.

Right. Who thinks the pals are going to stop, raise your hand. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Oh, I know! The EU will take care of it. No, the UN. Right?


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French Jews rally for Israel

10,000 French Jews listened to Shimon Peres and Shaul Mofaz and rallied in support of Israel's disengagement plan.

PARIS - Around 10,000 French Jews expressed their support for the Israeli government on Sunday in Paris during a rally attended by two senior Israeli ministers and several French politicians.

The goal of the rally was to show French Jewish support for the “courageous, brave and determined step” of the Israeli government toward peace, namely the disengagement plan.

French politicians from both sides of the political spectrum took part in the event.

Francois Holland, head of the French socialist party, said he came to support the Israeli government, and especially Shimon Peres, chairman of Israel’s Labor party and deputy prime minister.

There were no reports of Jews being attacked by French Muslims. I guess they don't attack unless they outnumber the victims.

Whoops, did I type that out loud?

Update: Hey, I've got a foreign correspondent! Micol from Brussels says that Ynet got it wrong. She writes:

"Israel Je t'aime" rally didn't have any problems with french muslims because security was at its highest, the place was surrounded by police and roughly 400 bulky security volunteers, not to mention paid security guards. it's not something that should be highly publicized in general, the world frowns upon jews defending themselves and you know that very well, but don't think that nothing happened because they didn't try :) nothing happened because defensive measures were taken in advance.

how sad that in this day and age a 12 hour rally of love and support for a young country who's given so much to the world would need such tight security.

it also wasn't for disengagement anything. it was a day of support for israel and israel's youth, something which was already done in the past. why ynet decided it was in support of disengagement? maybe because shaul mofaz talked about it while he was there.

on a brighter note, gloria gaynor was there too, and on stage she took the mike and said "i love israel", how sweet :)

Way cool, I love "I Will Survive." Did she sing it?

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Radical Islam: The fight for hearts and minds

The U.S. is finally doing something to counter the Saudi Wahabbis:

After repeated missteps since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has embarked on a campaign of political warfare unmatched since the height of the Cold War. From military psychological-operations teams and CIA covert operatives to openly funded media and think tanks, Washington is plowing tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to influence not only Muslim societies but Islam itself. The previously undisclosed effort was identified in the course of a four-month U.S. News investigation, based on more than 100 interviews and a review of a dozen internal reports and memorandums. Although U.S. officials say they are wary of being drawn into a theological battle, many have concluded that America can no longer sit on the sidelines as radicals and moderates fight over the future of a politicized religion with over a billion followers. The result has been an extraordinary--and growing--effort to influence what officials describe as an Islamic reformation.

Among the magazine's findings:

The White House has approved a classified new strategy, dubbed Muslim World Outreach, that for the first time states that the United States has a national security interest in influencing what happens within Islam. Because America is, as one official put it, "radioactive" in the Islamic world, the plan calls for working through third parties--moderate Muslim nations, foundations, and reform groups--to promote shared values of democracy, women's rights, and tolerance.

In at least two dozen countries, Washington has quietly funded Islamic radio and TV shows, coursework in Muslim schools, Muslim think tanks, political workshops, or other programs that promote moderate Islam. Federal aid is going to restore mosques, save ancient Korans, even build Islamic schools. This broad engagement with Islam has raised questions about whether the funding is legal, given the constitutional line between church and state.

The CIA is revitalizing programs of covert action that once helped win the Cold War, targeting Islamic media, religious leaders, and political parties. The agency is receiving "an exponential increase in money, people, and assets" to help it influence Muslim societies, says a senior intelligence official. Among the tactics: working with militants at odds with al Qaeda and waging secret campaigns to discredit the worst anti-American zealots.

Read it all.

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Israel news briefs

The real fifth column: Arab Israelis are caught plotting to murder a rabbi. The world will yawn and ignore it, just as they ignore the Arab destruction of Jewish Temple artifacts by the people who are supposed to protect the holy site. Of course, if it had been an Islamic site treated that way....

More palestinian play-acting: Yeah, yeah, yeah, Dead Pool Candidate and head Al Aqsa terrorist Zakariye Zubeydi and his thugs shot up some palestinian offices in Jenin.

In the West Bank city of Jenin, about 40 militants gathered in the main intersection, firing into the air as several hundred sympathizers encouraged them. The armed men were led by Zakariye Zubeydi, the head of Jenin's branch of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades a militant group linked to Abbas' Fatah movement.

Zubeydi told the crowd he was ready to march on the offices of local parliamentarians. "In half an hour, if we find any of them in their offices there will be blood and then our only language will be the bullet," he said.

There's only one problem. It's all for show.

Later, two Aqsa gunmen, under orders from Zubeidi, confiscated the keys of the building housing lawmakers' offices and shut it down, said Iyad Nassab, the building's office manager. Nassab said he sent everyone home before the gunmen arrived, and that the building was empty.

You may remember this picture of Abbas being carried on Zubeidi's shoulders. It's a sham, folks. A sham.

So let's talk permanent borders: The anti-Israel media are fond of saying that the security fence is a way for Israel to dictate permanent borders of the palestinian state. Well, here's a palestinian terrorist talking about Israel's permanent borders.

The head of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Mashal , told a Cairo conference almost three weeks ago that the fight against Israel will continue "so long as the occupation continues."

[...] Regarding the lull in violence, Mashal said, "Hamas controls its military wing and it can maintain discipline amongst its people ... The lull for Hamas is tactic of resistance, while for the PA, it's an alternative to resistance."

"No occupation in history disappeared without resistance. Without resistance, negotiation is worthless," he added.

Mashal said that, once an independent state of Palestine emerges, Hamas will become a political party, but that does not mean that it would accept the borders with Israel as permanent.

The war is coming. Once the PA feels comfortable in Gaza, it will erupt, from both sides—Gaza and the West Bank. And, oh yeah—terror attacks are up in Gaza, as the withdrawal date draws closer. The IDF is expecting the withdrawal to be done under fire, and is practicing for such an occasion. Anyone want to make a sucker bet? Find your favorite lefty and win a few bucks. Yes, perhaps we'll do that. I'll find a left-leaning blogger who thinks the withdrawal will be done without terrorist fire, and offer a bet. Paypal accepted.

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9/11: Actions and reactions

More reasons to appreciate Israel: On 9/11, the palestinians danced in the streets and handed out sweets. Israelis watched, horrified, as Americans leaped out of windows of the World Trade Center to escape the fires. And two Israelis did something to prevent such scenes from ever happening again.

Israelis Yoav Barzilay and Jonathan Shimshoni are both in business to succeed, but what truly drives them is the desire to save lives. And if their visions are realized, it will mean a safer existence for millions of Americans.

Both head companies founded after September 11, 2001, which are intended to help rescue those trapped in burning skyscrapers.

Barzilay says that what lay behind his venture - DoublExit - is the haunting memory of watching Americans on television jumping from the upper floors of the burning World Trade Center towers to their deaths.

Barzilay, who spent 30 years working in the security and rescue field, knew that there had to be a way to save people trapped in burning buildings for whom access to stairs or elevator is impossible.

[...] Another company in the forefront of developing a rescue solution is Escape Rescue Systems. Its CEO Shimshoni, a former deputy head of the IDF Planning Branch, shares Barzilay's sense of mission.

While the two companies are attacking the same problem, their solutions are very different.

Escape's product is an external collapsible elevator that is kept on the roof of a building can be used to rescue people from a skyscraper. The elevator is operated by a motor also located on the roof of the building.

That's right, U.K. Boycott Israeli academics, who grow up to become heads of companies like the above. It's in all of our best interests.

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Death with dignity

I've stayed completely away from the Terry Schiavo case because of all the bile and anger it brought up on other blogs. But Michele's post about death with dignity, and the conversation going on in the comments, leads me to finally put in my opinion—or at least, to posit a situation.

In February 1999, my father was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Within hours of getting the phone call, I had reams of research emailed to my brother to print out and give to our father.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually lead to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. Yet, through it all, for the vast majority of people, their minds remain unaffected.

We found the latest information on the latest medications, their costs, their benefits, their risks. With luck, Dad could have lived fairly well for a number of years. Except for one thing: He didn't want to. He told us he didn't want to "live life as a cripple."

Dad read all the research we found for him. He listened to his doctors. And then, firmly, slowly, but surely, he made up his mind to die. From February (when he was nearly whole, except for the inability to lift one arm to full height) to May (when he collapsed with a case of the flu which turned him into an invalid needing 24-hour care), Dad did nothing to stop the course of his disease. He decided not to spend thousands of dollars a month on an experimental medication that might not work. He refused to eat the protein shakes and vitamins and healthy foods we brought him. In fact, he did nothing that would stave off death in any way, particularly after he needed 24-hour care, with the exception of finally yielding and using an oxygen tank the last few weeks. We got him to make out a living will with a do-not-resuscitate order, and to give us power of attorney so we could see his wishes done.

When he told us he wanted to die in his own bed, we got him a caretaker and explained to her that if he wanted to eat ice cream for breakfast and cookies for lunch, she was to give him ice cream for breakfast and cookies for lunch. She was not to try to overrule him on anything, just give him whatever he asked for. Dad had made it clear to us that this was what he wanted.

Dad died in June. It didn't matter to him that the doctors had told him he could live quite well for years. He didn't want to watch his legs fail. He didn't like that he had trouble holding a fork and spoon, and was losing control of his arms. He didn't want to wind up in a wheelchair. He didn't want to be fed and diapered by a stranger, unable to do anything but sit all day long.

The ALS, with nothing done to stop it, quickly reached his lungs. Dad lapsed into a coma on the night of June 21st and died early the next morning. It was shockingly fast and unexpected. I spoke to the visiting nurse a few days before Dad died. While we knew it would be soon, we thought he had at least a few more weeks left. I was in Richmond for a job interview the morning he died, having just satisfied myself that his caretaker was doing a good job and could be trusted to look after him while I took off for a few days.

My father did not actively commit suicide. He didn't harm his body in any way. Nobody forced him to take medication, or forced him not to take it. He was completely in control of his faculties, sharp until the very last day. But he could have lived for years longer than he did. He chose not to.

Where does this fit into the "life above all" worldview? Are my brothers and I to blame, for not forcing him to take better care of himself to live longer? Did my father commit suicide, because he refused to take any measures—not extraordinary measures, any measures—to halt the progress of the disease?

If life is sacred at all costs, then are my brothers and I guilty of assisted suicide? Should his caretaker have reported us to the authorities for not making my father eat healthy foods and take better care of himself?

If you choose to answer these questions in the comments, stick to my father's case. Don't discuss the Schiavo case. Tell me whether or not you think my father was wrong.

Because if you want to talk slippery slopes, I think that the upshot of all the people freaking out over the Schiavo case would be a world where my father would be forced to take medication he didn't want, or one where my brothers and I would be indicted on assisted-suicide charges.

All my father wanted was to die with dignity. We didn't see anything wrong with that.

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Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary is also a good bet if you've never been here before.