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Teaching little Jews to be big Jews

A great big Kol Hakavod to my fourth graders, who led services last night. They were wonderful. They did a great job on Mizmor L'David and the Hatzi Kaddish, to name only two. I wish I could take pictures on Shabbat, because they were also cute as could be up there on the bima.

At the Oneg, a parent of one of my students from last year said her daughter asked if those were really Ms. Yourish's legs. She said she'd never seen me wear a dress before. She has, she's just forgotten all the services and dinners that I've dressed up for. I tend to wear pants suits when I teach, the better to be able to chase my students if need be. Or play dodgeball. We did that during recess on Tuesday. I let one of my "bad boys" hit me with the ball and get me out. I figured it was his dream come true, to be able to hit the teacher.

On the other hand, the parent also told me I was a good role model for her daughter. Uh-oh, I'm a role model. Actually, that's very flattering.

I've been saying for years that I'm a Jew-hater's worst nightmare: I teach little Jews to be big Jews. I may not have children of my own, but I'm doing my part to propagate the Jewish nation. That knowledge gives me great satisfaction.

My grandfather would be very proud. He taught Hebrew school for years, and was the director of several schools while I was growing up. In fact, I tutored some of his students as I got older. Interestingly, my grandfather was Orthodox, but he ran the Hebrew school at Beth Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Irvington, while my brothers and I were attending. Sometimes, he was pretty tolerant of differences in Judaism. Sometimes not so much.

Zayda was definitely intolerant of Jew-hatred. I got that from both sides of the family. And I pass it on to my students. I've taught them that one way to piss off a Jew-hater is to chant "Am Yisrael Chai" ("The people of Israel live"). I've noticed that if you start that chant at an anti-Israel protest, it really torks off the anti-Israel protesters. This always leads my students into chanting the phrase for a minute or two in class, which they love. They also like it when I say things like "Purim is the holiday where the Jews kicked the crap out of the Persians." After a second or two of gasping for my saying a bad word, they store that for the ride home with their parents. "So, what did you learn in Hebrew school today?" "Ms. Yourish said a bad word!"

Last night at dinner, I sat with the family of another of my students from last year, and said the above, at which point there was a gasp and then silence from my former student. "I'd never be able to teach public school," I said. Because of the language thing? they asked. No, because I can't see myself teaching the way you need to teach in public school. I need more latitude than that. There are some days I simply throw the lesson plan out because it's obvious my students need something more exciting to keep their attention. I've made up a Jewish Monopoly game on the spot, drawing the gameboard on the whiteboard and using a dreidel for a die, making my students answer questions, define Hebrew words, or read prayers in order to win points or get out of jail. (There's always a jail in any -Opoly game.) I let them read The Boring Book (Living as Partners with God; it's basically a thinking book, not a doing book) in "silly voices," which makes the lesson go a bit easier.

Then again, J. remembered an incident from last year when one of the parents and I were in the hallway discussing something that really annoyed me, and I said, "That's bullshit!" apparently loud enough for the students to hear.

"Oh, yeah, I heard all about that on the way home that night," his mother told me.

"You said it twice," J. reminded me.

I don't even remember what I was so annoyed about. But it's good to know what they remember the next year.

Actually, J. remembered something else from that year. When I asked him to tell me about Purim, he said, "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat."

That's what I'm talking about.

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Syria's "long-standing tradition of religious coexistence"

Charles Johnson pointed me to this op-ed in today's LA Times. (If you have no registration, go to Bugmenot.) It's by Syrian Spokesliar Bouthaina Shaaban, Syria's minister for emigrant affairs, whatever that means. (I suspect he is not minstering to the needs of Jews who emigrated from Syria.) It's chock-full of lies and equivocation, but this is the line that burns my ass the most.

Syria's secular heritage and its long-standing tradition of religious coexistence are being threatened

Let's look at Syria's long-standing tradition of religious coexistence, shall we?

In 1944, after Syria gained independence from France, the new government prohibited Jewish immigration to Palestine, and severely restricted the teaching of Hebrew in Jewish schools. Attacks against Jews escalated, and boycotts were called against their businesses.

When partition was declared in 1947, Arab mobs in Aleppo devastated the 2,500-year-old Jewish community. Scores of Jews were killed and more than 200 homes, shops and synagogues were destroyed. Thousands of Jews illegally fled Syria to go to Israel.1

Shortly after, the Syrian government intensified its persecution of the Jewish population. Freedom of movement was severely restricted. Jews who attempted to flee faced either the death penalty or imprisonment at hard labor. Jews were not allowed to work for the government or banks, could not acquire telephones or driver's licenses, and were barred from buying property. Jewish bank accounts were frozen. An airport road was paved over the Jewish cemetery in Damascus; Jewish schools were closed and handed over to Muslims.

Syria's attitude toward Jews was reflected in its sheltering of Alois Brunner, one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals. Brunner, a chief aide to Adolf Eichmann, served as an adviser to the Assad regime.2

In 1987-88, the Syrian secret police seized 10 Jews on suspicion of violating travel and emigration laws, planning to escape and having taken unauthorized trips abroad. Several who were released reported being tortured while in custody.3

In November 1989, the Syrian government promised to facilitate the emigration of more than 500 single Jewish women, who greatly outnumbered eligible men in the Jewish community and could not find suitable husbands. Twenty-four were allowed to emigrate in the fall of 1989 and another 20 in 1991.4

For years, the Jews in Syria lived in extreme fear. The Jewish Quarter in Damascus was under the constant surveillance of the secret police, who were present at synagogue services, weddings, bar-mitzvahs and other Jewish gatherings. Contact with foreigners was closely monitored. Travel abroad was permitted in exceptional cases, but only if a bond of $300-$1,000 was left behind, along with family members who served as hostages. U.S. pressure applied during peace negotiations helped convince President Hafez Assad to lift these restrictions, and those prohibiting Jews from buying and selling property, in the early 1990's.

In an undercover operation in late 1994, 1,262 Syrian Jews were brought to Israel. The spiritual leader of the Syrian Jewish community for 25 years, Rabbi Avraham Hamra, was among those who left Syria and went to New York (he now lives in Israel). Syria had granted exit visas on condition that the Jews not go to Israel.5 The decision to finally free the Jews came about largely as a result of pressure from the United States following the 1991 Madrid peace conference.

That's some history of religious tolerance. But hey, don't take my word for it. Look for yourself. There are tons of different sources, all pointing to the same thing: Syria has has no history of religious tolerance, not when it comes to Jews.

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Hamas declares victory: Israel says screw it, we're leaving Gaza because we're tired of the world coming down on us and it's getting rather expensive and tough to protect our people and oh, yeah, the effing world says to get the hell out of Gaza or they'll isolate us. What does Hamas say? "We won."

"The painful and qualitative blows which the Palestinian resistance dealt to the Jews and their soldiers over the past four-and-a-half years led to the decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip," Ahmed al-Bahar, a top Hamas leader, said. "The suicide attacks and the [booby-trapped] underground tunnels have taken their tolls on the Jews, both psychologically and economically, in addition to the high number of casualties."

Bahar said the disengagement plan should be seen as a major and strategic victory for the Palestinians "due to Israel's regression on all levels." He said the planned pullout was a sign that Israel had been morally defeated despite the full backing it enjoys from the US.

You may remember that that is exactly what happened in Lebanon. And look how that turned out. This is a lose-lose proposition, but Israel should probably have tried to force an agreement that calls for the pullout of Gaza. The war continues.

The thing is, Israel won the terror war. See Defeating Arafat's War: The IDF's Success Against Asymmetric Warfare - Gerald M. Steinberg (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies/Bar-Ilan University)

  • The successful Israeli responses to Palestinian strategic use of terror and asymmetric warfare are already being studied by the armed forces of the world's other democracies.
  • At its height, in March 2002, the terror campaign killed over 140 Israelis in a month, and severely wounded hundreds more. Palestinian leaders who viewed Israeli society as too weak to respond with the necessary force, mistakenly assumed that this carnage would escalate, and Israel would be forced to retreat and eventually surrender. Instead, by 2004, terror casualties were reduced to about 100 deaths for the entire year, and over 80% of attacks were aborted en route, essentially marking Arafat's defeat.
  • This accomplishment can be credited to five key dimensions, acting together:
    1. Highly advanced intelligence capabilities;
    2. Precision-guided weapons for preventive targeted attacks against terrorists;
    3. Isolation of the political leaders (Arafat);
    4. Extensive perimeter defense;
    5. A motivated and resilient civilian population, which continues to identify closely with the IDF.
  • After generations of Palestinian incitement, violence, and rejection of any "Zionist" historical rights, the hope that restrained Israeli responses to war and terror would lead to political compromise and mutual acceptance remains a messianic dream.
  • When Arafat and his colleagues returned to terrorism to achieve their goals, they had good reason to believe that Israeli society was too weak to defend its independence and core interests. Terror appeared to be the most effective means of gaining Israeli concessions through international intervention, and without the need for Palestinian acceptance of the rights of the Jewish people to sovereign equality and independence.
  • Four years later, the terror groups are in disarray, Palestinian economic gains achieved under the Oslo framework are gone, and the political achievements that Arafat rejected in 2000 are no longer within reach.

Then there's the problem of Jerusalem. Israel is doing its damnedest to keep Jerusalem whole (which I wholeheartedly approve). The pals, of course, protest. The U.S. says stop. No, the U.S. says it won't say stop. Wait, yes, we will. No, wait, I was misquoted.

If anyone can make head or tails of this, I strongly urge you to apply to the Bush Administration for a job. They need you.

In the meantime, I am utterly dreading what is going to happen when the IDF has to confront people who refuse to leave their homes. Millions of Jew-haters are going to cheer when they see Jew against Jew.

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Can you believe I've never used that header? Me neither, but I think not.

They tried to kill us, they failed, let's eat: Happy Purim, my fellow celebrants. I had 62.5% of my students at the Purim festivities tonight, took a bunch of pictures, and will burn some CDs for the synagogue tomorrow and drop them off at the dinner. My students are leading services tomorrow night. They were a bit disappointed that I didn't show up dressed as the Hulk, but I couldn't find a pair of purple sweats for a decent price. I think I'll start looking for next year.

By the way, Purim is the holiday where the Jews kicked the crap out of the Persians. And that was using only swords. A lesson for Iran to think about today. In fact, it's a lesson that compares well with the state of Jews today. I'll go into more detail about it tomorrow or over the weekend.

Cats, damned cats, and sleeping: So this morning at 5 a.m., I hear this horrific, metallic crashing noise, and then I hear Tig yowling horribly, like he's been hurt. I run out of bed, zip down the stairs, and find Tig in front of the picture window—the one with the metal blinds—nose to nose with a cat outside the window, having words. Growls and yowls, mostly. The noise I heard was Tig crashing through the blinds. I got rid of the strange cat and Tig settled down, but I lost at least an hour's sleep, which rather sucks, as I have Round 7 of The Cold That Will Not Die. I'm off to bed early tonight, and thank goodness, I get to sleep in. The company I'm temping for is closed tomorrow.

And oh yeah, Lair rocks: He is so funny these days you can't read his blog if you've got a glass of anything within six feet of you. You can't even think about eating while reading Lair's blog, because you're going to spit imaginary food into your monitor. My current favorite are his letters from Kofi Annan to Yasser Arafat, which are offensive and tasteless and absolutely effing hilarious. Then there are all the cat posts. Then there's this one on timeclocks.

You see, this is why, no matter how offensive Lair gets, I'll never de-link him. He's too damned funny.

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Jews and news

Of course they could stop terror if they want to: The IDF says the PA is preventing as many terror attacks as Israel. Except for one little difference: The PA simply sets them free, weapons and all, to attack again.

But Kuperwasser, like Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, who spoke after him, noted that the PA is not yet taking proactive steps to collect arms from the gunmen of the armed organizations, as PA policy gradually is to bring the armed men into newly reformed PA security forces.

Ya'alon complained to the MKs that the reforms have not begun in earnest, and that the PA is now saying it will need six to eight months to complete the restructuring.

Like Kuperwasser, Ya'alon said that the PA forces are foiling terror attacks whenever they learn about a cell's intention to conduct an attack.

Kuperwasser said they had managed to shut down 18 smuggling tunnels in Rafah, but Ya'alon told the MKs that "the PA is not fighting the terror infrastructure and is not collecting the weapons in the hands of the terror groups."

If he were actually elected, I might change my mind about loathing all royalty: King Abdullah is telling the world that Hizbullah and Syria are planning terror attacks on Israel to try to divert attention from, oh, the fact that Syria has no intention of giving up Lebanon.

Interesting. First, he pushes for peace with Israel, and actually states that the pals don't get to turn the clock back to 1967. Then he blows off the Arab League summit. Now he's telling Jewish leaders that the Dorktator is trying to attack Israel to prevent attacks on his guys. If this keeps up, I may start actually liking the guy.

In the meantime, Great Britain is trying to get the EU to freeze Hizbullah's assets. Whoa. Of course, there's a flip side.

Israel, do as we say. Pals, uh, well, uh, do something. In yet another example of Israel Double Standard Time, we have the U.S. giving Ariel Sharon a hard time on settlements. And nobody giving Mahmoud Abbas a hard time on disarming terrorists.

Two senior U.S. envoys met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday to ask pointed questions about plans to expand the West Bank's largest Jewish settlement in violation of a peace plan, a U.S. official said.

See, it was leaked, too, to make the humiliation public.

And in a reprint from the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune chides Sharon. If anyone can find the Times similarly chiding Abbas to rein in terrorists, I'll eat my hat. And it's made of straw.

Anti-Semitic attacks hit a ten-year-high in France: You know, the country where there wasn't any anti-Semitism. And in the spirit of moral equivalency, this report was released with a report that attacks on Muslims in France also doubled. But here's the difference:

French newspaper Liberation reports there were 970 attacks against Jews, as opposed to 601 in 2003. Most of the attacks came from individuals of “Arab or Muslim extraction”.

[..] Muslims suffered 595 attacks, as opposed to 232 in 2003. Most attacks were perpetrated by far-right activists.

So, in a sick way, Chirac was right. The anti-Semitism isn't coming from the French. It's coming from the Muslim and Arab immigrants.

More to come later. I'm off on Friday, at least. That's when we'll get to catch up on posting.

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On Second Thought

Talk to me: Okay, the excessive talking on phone at job is over with, so I can once more resume chatting on the phone at home. Go ahead. Call me. Then again, I'm rather tired. Never mind.

Things I learned on the phone, 1: It is extremely easy to confuse people who answer the phones at call centers. It is even easier to confuse people who answer phones at call centers in New Delhi. Then again, the ones in America were not exactly brain trusts. After a while, I just started saying, "Thanks, but I dialed the wrong number," which didn't confuse them at all, since that was something they heard often.

Things I learned on the phone, 2: I think every major company in this country has its own road assistance service. Everybody. Even Reader's Digest has one. I kid you not.

Things I learned on the phone, 3: Nobody will never get me to do that full-time.

I'll be back after dinner. I had a bit of Internet access today, and saw things I want to discuss.

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Nothing's changed in the past few months

The Arab Dictators' League, holding on for dear life: Looks like Amr Moussa and his buds aren't going to acknowledge what most of their people really want (e.g., freedom). They're going to issue a statement of solidarity with the Dorktator and tell all us furriners to keep our noses out of Lebanon. And no, they see absolutely no irony in forbidding "foreign interference" while propping up Syrian intervention. They're all one big Arab nation, remember?

By the way, Lebanon's Syrian sock-puppet isn't at the summit. Neither is King Abdullah of Jordan, whose peace proposal with Israel the Dictators' League swatted down.

While the IDF's away, the terrorists play: They're taking advantage of the truce and regrouping, restocking, and reloading. Watch the bombs start exploding as soon as they decide they're ready. Bastards.

"We are ready to fight back at any moment," the Al-Aqsa spokesman warned. "Weapons will remain in the hands of the resistance and we will direct them only against the Israeli enemy."

Abu al-Walid from the leadership of Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said the faction aimed to take advantage of the lull "to prepare our military apparatus to confront any eventuality".

The war is far from over. This is only a lull.

Hamas vs. Fatah: My money's on the killers. Oh, wait, they're all killers. Sucker bet.

Hani al-Masri, a political analyst from Ramallah, says Hamas's new approach is the result of changes on the Palestinian street, where support for the armed struggle and suicide bombings appears to be dwindling. The international community's decision to include Hamas in the list of terror organizations and the drying up of its resources and funds had also contributed to the movement's decision to endorse a more pragmatic line, he explained.

Here's hoping.

Let's end on a good note: Israelis saving Americans. Once again, Israeli technology is helping to save American lives. No Jew cooties for us!

Israeli-developed armor that has been installed on American armored personnel carriers (APCs) in Iraq has saved "many lives", according to a letter of recognition the US Army has sent to Rafael, the Israel Armament Development Authority.

The Bradley and 7AV APCs in the service of the US Army and the Marines, which play a central role in the armed operations in Iraq, have been fitted over the last year with armor by Rafael in partial cooperation with the American General Dynamics company, based in Burlington, Vermont.

Nice job all around, folks.

And that's a wrap. My dinner is ready. Which is not a wrap.

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Thing 1: I've got a temp job through Kelly that involves talking on the phone all day long. (No, it's not a telemarketing job; I'd never stoop that low). I will not be answering the phone tonight, tomorrow, or Wednesday unless it's extremely important, or the call is extremely brief. Since I don't know how you can telegraph to me that the call will be brief, don't expect me to pick up. Your best bet is email for the next few days.

Thing 2: Related to Thing 1: There are a lot of stupid people at the other end of phone lines.

Thing 3: There is no Thing 3. (Oh, shut up, that's the first time I ever pulled this one.)

Thing 4: I have to stop watching zombie movies. Now I can't stop thinking about that zombie survival test (thanks so much, Michele), and what I'd do in case of a real zombie attack (Southern Gun World, first stop). I scored a 99 on the survival test, by the way. Not because I've seen a lot of zombie movies. I've only seen, oh, five or six of them. But damn, I know what to do when in a situation that includes zombies, and trust me, it isn't, "Stop and help every other human being you see." Survival of the fittest, boys and girls. And I don't care what Michael Jackson thinks, zombies can't dance.

Thing 5: My dinner is ready. I may have enough energy for another post tonight. We'll have to see.

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Around the world

We can rebuild it: Kofi Annan is setting forth a plan for "sweeping changes" to the United Nations. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I'm willing to give him a chance to institute them. Of course, the first thing you need to do is make the voting eligibility in the United Nations for democratic nations only. No dictators need apply.

One of the major proposals calls for the creation of a Human Rights Council - possibly as a principal organ of the United Nations like the Security Council or the General Assembly - to replace the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights. It has long faced criticism for allowing the worst-offending countries to use their membership to protect each other from condemnation.

I'm going to check out the documentation on this. If nations like Syria or China are eligible to sit on this council, we'll know the patient is on life support and the plug should be pulled.

Gee, that's a shock: The Arab nations have rejected Jordan's new plan for peace with Israel. Why? Because Jordan had the nerve to say the palestinians can't have everything they've demanded since they lost the war with Israel.

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) - The Arab summit formally rejected on Sunday a proposal by the Jordanian king that would have revised Arab conditions for normalizing relations with Israel, sinking a plan that had won Israeli praise only hours earlier.

The original plan by Jordan's King Abdullah II had dropped the traditional Arab call for recognizing Israel in exchange for the Jewish state's withdrawal from land it has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Nine of 22 Arab League countries assembled for the summit which begins on Monday had objected to the proposal on Saturday, and league Secretary-General Amr Moussa declared it dead a day later.

"If Israel implements all its commitments, all the Arab countries will be ready to normalize relations with Israel. We are not going to move even 1 millimeter away from this," Moussa told reporters after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in the Algerian capital.

Here's the thing, Moussa, baby: After the Israeli public watches video of Israelis beating and teargassing Israelis so that they can give Gaza back to the palestinians, you're not going to see a repeat of that in all of the West Bank, specifically none of the Jerusalem suburbs. As one of my favorite lines from the Princess Bride goes: Get used to disappointment.

As a result, Jordan's King Abdullah is skipping the summit. So is Lebanon's chief Syrian puppet, er, so-called president, but not because of the peace plan. He says Lebanon is going through "exceptional circumstances" right now. Yeah, they want you and your Syrian masters to get out, bub. I'd listen if I were you. I sense a change in the wind.

Shut up, murderers: Hizbullah is whining now that the EU has finally removed Al-Manar from their satellite channel choices, finally deciding that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization, and Al-Manar is nothing but Terrorist TV. So why were they shut down?

Every voice worldwide supporting the Palestinians, the Intifada and condemning the Zionist enemy - its massacre and actions - is silenced, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said Saturday.


Whatever will Hizbullah fans do without their incitement? Not to worry. Al-Jazeera still exists.

You know, I don't understand why Nasrallah is still breathing. If ever there were a case for targeted assassination, he is one.

Jaws in Oz: Ew. A 20-foot shark, no less. (Oh, c'mon. You know you want to click the link. We've all seen Jaws.)

The Iraqi war protests, 2005 version: Wow, thousands protested worldwide. Hundreds protested in Pittsburgh. Hundreds more in San Francisco. Hoo-wee, it's a good thing there weren't, oh, millions protesting, like there were two years ago, or we'd never have toppled Saddam. Oh, wait. They did, and we did. Man, life's gotta suck if you're an anti-Bush protester these days. But then, perhaps it's because of scenes like this that the protesters simply aren't drawing well:

One protester dressed up like the hooded Iraqi prisoner in the famous photo taken of detainee abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. The woman was surrounded by others wearing masks of President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who were dancing to the song "Shout" by the Isley Brothers.

Okay, picture it. Really. You think the woman in the hood was putting her hands up and shouting when everyone else did? I'm thinking yes.

And they wonder why we laugh at them.

There's also a Tsunami Overuse Alert in this quote: ""That's a whole tsunami worth of people, vanished," said Maureen Small, an Albuquerque physician."

In fact, I've just decided to implement a new policy. Send me your Tsunami Overuse Alert quotes, and I'll post them as I get them.

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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.