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Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

To What Strange Place: Ottoman Music in America

When producer Ian Nagoski started collecting the 78′s that make up To What Strange Place, he initially thought he was collecting music of the former Ottoman Empire recorded in Greece, Turkey, and Syria. What he learned instead was that he was collecting some of the earliest recordings made in America — until now almost completely forgotten. This short film explores Nagoski’s search for the lives behind the music of “To What Strange Place,” and what his search says about his own need to reclaim these lost
voices from obscurity (4 July 2011).


Inside Story – Ankara and Tel Aviv???

Following the recent New York Times leak of the UN report into the Mavi Marmara massacre and Turkey’s immediate reaction, Al Jazeera’s “Inside Story” asks these pertinent questions: Is Ankara setting itself on a collision course with Tel Aviv, or setting a precedent in dealing with Israel, to be followed by other countries in the region?


Israeli Subs get Torah Scrolls

Religious observance is making yet another comeback in unexpected places . . . The Israeli propaganda broadcaster InfoLiveTV reports that ‘[s]oon Israel navy submarines will be decked out with miniature Torah scrolls to be used by observant soldiers often forced to remain at sea for months on end. A family who asked to remain anonymous, donated a number of Torah scrolls to military bases in the past and recently decided to donate another one. They consulted with an army rabbi who suggested they donate one to the navy’s submarine fleet, for soldiers who spend long periods of time underwater. Due to the limited room on board submarines it was decidedto make a miniature Torah scroll that will fit in a small container, the size of a shoe box. The writing of the scrollis to be completed in the coming days and will be handed over to the Navy in a special ceremony and transferred from submarine to submarine as needed’.



Tahrir Square in Israel: a ‘Protest of Privileged’???

The Russian state-sponsored international news broadcaster RT reports that ‘[l]eaders of social protests in Israel are calling for people to bolster demonstrations across the country. Over the last month up to three hundred thousand people in Tel Aviv have been demanding cheaper housing and social justice. But as RT’s Paula Slier reports there are outsiders in the Jewish state fighting a much tougher battle’.


 The topic of African and other non-Jewish refugees in Israel is not very media-friendly, but still in 2004, a refugee from Ethiopia, Yohannes Bayu, was able to set up the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC), a non-profit organisation seeking to help those forgotten victims . . . How could a refugee be able to do such a thing??? The ARDC’s dedicated website informs that Mister Bayu, who is at present still the Center’s Executive Director, is ‘a recognized refugee, [who] received his undergraduate degree in Social Sciences from the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, specializing on HIV/AIDS prevention and counselling. Before he was forced to leave Ethopia in 1997 because of political persecution and government harassment, he worked for various non-governmental organizations in HIV/AIDS counselling and prevention programs. He also worked two years for Doctors without Borders as a special advisor on a HIV/AIDS prevention project in Addis Ababa. Mr. Bayu was only granted political asylum in Israel, however, some five years after his arrival following a 23-day hunger strike on the steps of the Refugee Commissioner’s office and an order of Israel’s Supreme Court. Driven by such experiences, Mr. Bayu resolved to help the thousands of other asylum seekers escaping to Israel and founded ARDC the following year in 2004’.[1]

In 2008, the then-head of the Interior Ministry’s Population Administration, Yaakov Ganot, who has recently been appointed Director General of the Ministry of Public Security in Bibi’s government, declared openly that “The refugees must be stopped, or Israel will be overrun”.[2]  In the paper Haaretz, Bari Weiss opines that “[m]ost of the time, these asylum seekers, nearly all from the African continent, are portrayed as a burden on Israeli society, yet [constitutes] another demographic problem the Jewish state must face. Not wanting them here, [Israel] treats them as criminals. At best, this position smacks of paranoia. At worst, it’s cruel”. [3]  In general, these unwanted refugees come “from southern Sudan, Eritrea, the Ivory Coast, Somalia, Ghana and Nigeria”.[4]  In other words, the Jewish nation state proves to be just another nation state, after all nation states are entities prone to endow their citizens with feelings of xenophobia, racism (now also known as Islamophobia in the West), and plain old  chauvinism.

[2] Bari Weiss, “Knocking on haven’s door” Haaretz (29 February 2008). http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/knocking-on-haven-s-door-1.240395.

[3] Bari Weiss, “Knocking on haven’s door”.

[4] Bari Weiss, “Knocking on haven’s door”.

The Arab Awakening goes to Israel???

Will the social unrest that has been plaguing the Arab world for the past months now finally make the jump into the Jewish state of Israel??? Are Bibi’s days finally numbered??? The Russian news broadcaster RT seems to think so: ‘The biggest wave of protest rallies in years is due to start shortly in Israel. Demonstrators will take to the streets in seven cities across the country. And activists hope the rally in Tel Aviv alone will attract half-a-million people. Thousands have been camping out across the country for about a week now, calling for social justice and for Prime Minister Netanyahu to go. RT’s Paula Slier is in Tel Aviv’ (30 July 2011).

 Will Bibi go home???  Will Rothschild Boulevard become Israel’s Tahrir???  After all, it is ‘one of the busiest and most expensive streets in Tel Aviv, being one of the city’s main tourist attractions’. At the same time, the Arab uprisings have not reached their objectives either. Particularly in Egypt the population is becoming more and more restless as Mubarak’s departure only marked a cosmetic alteration at the top of Cairo’s rulership but not real regime change.

Below is a picture of an ‘Egyptian demonstrator wav[ing] a national flag on top of a street light in downtown Cairo’s Tahrir square,  July 29, 2011. Tens of thousands packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square, with Islamist groups dominating the protest meant to show unity during a fragile transition from ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s regime (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)’.

“Do you believe in God???”

Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport reveals that nearly all Americans say yes when asked if they believe in God, a figure which is little changed since the 1940s (3 June 2011).

Bibi in Congress: Netanyahu Addresses Adoring U.S. Congress


Michel Warschawski: Israeli PM makes no attempt to even appear willing to compromise, makes sure no peace talks are possible.

Obama Speaks: AIPAC, 22 May 2011

President Barrack Obama speaks on America’s unbreakable bond with Israel at the AIPAC Policy Conference 2011 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (22 May 2011).


During his speech, the President could not help but mis-speak a little bit, while referring to Iran’s Ahmadinejad and his oft-misquoted statement. At first, Obama somewhat stuck to the Iranian’s original words that “[t]his occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”, but then, arguably keeping his audience in mind, the U.S. President corrected himself turning the “map” into the “earth”, as disappearing from a map is arguably in line with vanishing from the page of time and wiping off the earth has a tone of finality about it that smacks of Endlösung and Holocaust. Rather than calling for the destruction of Israel, President Ahmadinejad was arguing in favour of a one-state solution, which would indeed lead to the end of a uniquely Jewish state in the region. In Israel’s left-leaning newspaper Haaretz, Natasha Mozgovaya writes that “President Barack Obama’s speech Sunday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) comes on the heels of three contentious days of U.S.-Israel diplomacy, beginning with the president’s vision of peace negotiations on Thursday [, 19 May] and continuing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public rebuke of that vision on Friday [, 20 May]. But was the AIPAC crowd swayed by his attempts to explain himself?  AIPAC issued an official statement following the speech expressing appreciation for Obama’s assurance that the U.S. does not expect Israel to withdraw to the lines that existed on June 4, 1967, and was also glad the U.S. president explicitly condemned Hamas as a terrorist organization. National Jewish Democratic Council President David Harris said that in his opinion, Sunday’s speech included ‘a very helpful explanation of the 1967 parameters that some misunderstood and some purposefully distorted. This will dramatically help the president with going forward. I was deeply gratified to see the tremendously warm reception he got throughout the speech – it was more than a polite minimum the folks here were expected to do. He got clearly genuine support throughout his address. It shows that even in this room in the heart of the pro-Israeli advocacy in the country there was a clear recognition of the fact that the status quo is not sustainable’”.[1] 


Mozgovaya adds that “[t]here actually was one solitary ‘boo’ in the middle of the speech, when the president tried to explain what he meant by the ‘1967 lines’. But there was much applause too”.[2]  



[1] Natasha Mozgovaya, “Obama met with applause at AIPAC, but with a boo or two too” Haaretz (22 May 2011). http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/obama-met-with-applause-at-aipac-but-with-a-boo-or-two-too-1.363396.

[2] Natasha Mozgovaya, “Obama met with applause at AIPAC, but with a boo or two too”.

A.J. Jacobs: My Year of Living Biblically


Here is Mister Jacobs giving a TED talk condensing his hourlong Fora TV lecture into a handy segment of circa 17 minutes: Speaking at the most recent EG conference, author, philosopher, prankster and journalist A.J. Jacobs talks about the year he spent living biblically — following the rules in the Bible as literally as possible (17 July 2008).



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