Idan Raichel Concert

Last night I went with my son, his wife, and one of their daughters to an Idan Raichel concert at Live Park in Rishon LeTzion. I have always enjoyed Idan Raichel’s music. The lyrics, the melodies, the fusion of cultures- songs in many languages, so when my son and his wife invited me, I was very happy.

It was a perfect evening. the weather was perfect, the amphitheater was perfect, and the audience was filled with the full range of ages, colors, religious persuasions – you name it. In the moments when the audience was asked to sing, it seemed that every single one of the thousands of people knew every single word of the song.

Raichel’s conversation with the audience was gentle, amusing, self-effacing, and lovable.

But what was going through my head the entire time was the human aspect of creating something so powerful, so entertaining, so perfectly timed and executed. I thought about how amazing it must be for him to heard thousands of people singing his songs, how he had assembled an extraordinary group of singers and musicians, how the entire performance was choreographed and timed to perfection how the lights, the video clips, the special effects, the photography were all perfect. I thought about the processes involved in creating such an experience, the thousands of details, the teamwork it required, the rehearsing, the mutual respect.

I thought this was such an awesome metaphor of what the world could be. How if the creative parts of us could work very hard, harmonize with others, abandon pettiness and work together- all of the pain and suffering that could be alleviated, and what an amazing creation we could all be part of.

It is not a perfect world. There are still those who prefer destruction to building and still those who excuse that as just a different culture.

I thank Idan Raichel and his entire team for giving us a taste of what could be and wish all of them success in the future.


Where am I going this afternoon/tonight?

The first person who answers correctly will receive a Chinese wine bottle cover.

Clue: Look at the calendar.

More when I get back (by then, the contest is over).

Matan’s Bar Mitzvah — Take 1

The third of our grandsons has become a Bar Mitzvah. The first one, Tzvi, celebrated in Kfar Etzion on a cold rainy winter shabbat. The warmth was provided by the large extended family. The second one, Daniel, celebrated just a couple of kilometers away in his home yishuv, Alon Shevut. The third, Matan, celebrated at the Kotel, the Western Wall– yesterday.

The Kotel, the place where Jews from all over the world come to pray, is, on Monday and Thursday mornings, the scene of non-stop Bar Mitzvahs. People come from all over the world with their immediate, or if they can afford it, with their extended family, to celebrate there. For us, it was a ride of about 50 minutes and a walk through the alleyways of the Old City of about another 10 minutes.

And what a scene it was with happy people from all over the world! Groups of tourists crowded the plaza.

IMGP3237Matan reading the Torah

We are anticipating another celebration of his bar mitzvah in the future with the whole family. Until then,
כל הכבוד
Way to go!



What makes me smile?

Well, the truth is that lots of things make me smile, but my biggest smiles are for the wonderful people in my life. I thought I would share some of them with you.

Abigail and Nomi

Abigail and Nomi

These two have got to be the cutest thing going… Both of them started talking before they should have and you never quite know what they will say next. The only thing you can be sure of is that it will be clever or amusing or both. These two little sisters are filled with energy and they have plans…

Tamar and Lilach

Tamar and Lilach

Tamar and Lilach are cousins. They love each other and always have big smiles when they see each other. Lilach is particularly talented at relating to younger children (she’s actually working in a day care center a couple of hours a week) and Lilach and sparkly Tamar are full of personality!



Kinneret is just becoming verbal. She has new words every day and so we’ll soon see what’s going on in that mind of hers. But she already makes me smile.

These are only 5 of the 15 granddaughters who make me smile… and the 14 grandsons are no less adorable and precious. There’s a lot to smile about.

Giving birth

Can you believe it? At my age? But it’s true. My incredibly talented doula has enabled me to give life to a new blog that is devoted to information and experiences related to travel to China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. It can be found here. This is not a replacement for this blog. It is an additional blog. Here at, I will continue to talk about life in Israel, parenting, spirituality, emotional health, and family life.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of last week’s Bar Mitzvah boy, my grandson, Daniel Michelson, juggling torches for the first time– at his Bar Mitzvah party.

Daniel juggling torches

Daniel juggling torches

What I did this weekend

The last few weeks have been very busy and somewhat disorienting and we’re not done yet. The back rooms upstairs are still in disarray and I am waiting for the day when I get up and tell myself that I am ready to start working on them. Today’s not it.

But this past shabbat, we took a real break. One of the big advantages of living in Israel is that you can get into your car and drive two or three hours and be in an entirely different world! On Friday morning, we drove two hours and were in the wilderness of Judea, along the Dead Sea, turning into the parking lot at Masada.

I had been to Masada at least four times before, but this was the first time that I ascended on the snake path. We were with a group of people all of whom were climbing. It was a warm, very windy , very sunny day. The path was long and winding (hence the name “snake path”). Much of the path has been widened and improved to accommodate tourists with steep inclines having been replaced by very steep steps. I am not certain that that constituted an improvement, because from the sound of my breathing, it seemed much harder to climb the steps than to climb the inclines. The walking itself wasn’t difficult– it was the breathing part- which I consider essential for continued good health (stop breathing and you are pretty much out of the game). Several times I stopped and rested and checked my pulse (the pulse was doing fine- registering aerobic activity, but not startling numbers) and drank some water. I had been fairly self-conscious about my heavy breathing (had I brought along a recording device, I am almost certain I could have sold the sound track for use in a stag film), but as I rested, I could hear the approach of people much younger than I as they panted their way up the mountain.

At a certain point, probably less than halfway up, I thought, “the is probably the last time I will be able to do this.” That thought was followed by a second, “I never want to do this again,” which in turn was followed by the pervading feeling “what am I doing here in the first place!”

I tried to tell myself that the view was gorgeous (it was.) I am awed by the desert and by the Dead Sea in the distance. But the truth is, that from the top, easily reached by cable car, one can see the same view without the huffing and puffing sounds.

But the bottom line is that I did it, and in a very short time, I was feeling fine.

The improvements made to the site are stunning! Many of the buildings have been restored, all the time preserving the original areas of the construction and having them marked as such. The explanatory signs in Hebrew and English and sketches of the buildings as they looked originally were very helpful in making this visit unique and memorable.

We returned from our visit to Masada and for shabbat, we stayed at a youth hostel just at the foot of Masada with a group of friends. It was lovely. The building was fairly new and the architecture and planning of the space was beautiful. There was a peace and serenity that was exactly what we needed. It was the most pleasant, relaxing shabbat we’ve had in a very long time.

And just as we approached home, we were blessed with a long awaited rain!

The brit

The last of the babies due in this very productive 10 month period had his brit today. His name is Ephraim Yehoshua. He’s a very sweet baby and so are all of his playmates (and there are 4 who are just about his age in the family!)

Pictures of some of the family are available here: at this site


Yesterday I had the privilege of being an observer at one of the polling places in our city for the local municipal elections. After all of the voter fraud stories coming from the US, I took special note of all of the safeguards that are in place to prevent it here in Israel.

Each citizen has an ID number (roughly equivalent in the US to one’s social security number.) Each person above the age of 16 carries an identity card with his/her picture. This identity card is supplied by the Interior Ministry which also keeps on file every person’s legal address. Before each election, every citizen gets in the mail a voting card that tells him/her where his/her polling place is. Except for soldiers, there are no absentee ballots. No one votes early and everyone must vote at his/her polling place which has a list of all of those permitted to vote in that district. There are at least three other people in the room when the voting is taking place. One takes the identity card, calls out the person’s name and voting number on their list, and marks through the name. A second, with a duplicate list may do the same. A third has stickers with each voting number on them and removes the corresponding sticker from the sheet where they were printed and places it on another sheet that has the numbers in order of people’s appearance at the polls. Another person checks off the number of the voter on a chart to ensure that the same number is not used more than once. Voting is done one at a time behind a carton that is set up at a distance form the observers. Behind the cardboard partition, there are a number of white papers– one for each party with the party letters written on them. One is placed in the white envelope. In addition, there are a number of yellow papers, each with the name of a mayoral candidate, and one is placed in the yellow envelope. When finished, the voter places both envelopes (in full view of those working and observing in the room) into a slot in a cardboard box. Observers, appointed by the parties running for city council, are able to check periodically to make sure that all of the printed ballot materials are arranged properly and that there are sufficient notes with each party and candidate’s name.

As I watched the people come in to vote, one by one, I was struck with how seriously Israelis take elections and how it was a very orderly process. We may be the homeland of people from all over the globe who speak different languages and have different customs, but come election day, we all are Israelis. And we should be very proud of this process. This is something that our country knows how to do right!

Prayers for the chief

Having been through the US election process here in Israel– having been overloaded with information from the internet, I am finally recovering. Like everyone else, I am praying that the next administration will be one that helps the US recover economically, maintains the values that made it a great country, and keeps the US and all of its citizens safe.

I worry that this administration may be like others who have forced upon Israel “agreements” that from the outset everyone understood would be binding on Israel, but not on our still sworn enemies. Every “agreement” had the Israelis ceding land and control and had the Arabs being responsible to stop terrorism. We all know how that has worked out. Since September 2000, over 1,000 Israelis have been murdered in terror attacks and a countless number have been seriously injured with the result being amputations, blindness, and paralysis. Children have been orphaned, parents bereft, and whole families destroyed. Our dear friend Chana, injured at Sbarros in 2001 has still not regained consciousness and her daughter, then 2.5, knows her mother only as someone who lies in bed connected to tubes and machines. More about her: here

Our separation from Gaza, involving the destruction of 21 communities and the removal of all of their inhabitants could not have been more ill-advised. Now, over three years later, there are thousands of displaced people, still living in trailers, still paying the mortgages on homes destroyed by Israeli tanks, still unemployed. The profitable greenhouses that were left in Gaza so that Gaza farmers could grow vegetables for their own people have been destroyed or abandoned. Israelis had exported millions of dollars of produce raised in those greenhouses. On the security front, Hamas came into power and has lobbed thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel from the area where the communities had been.

I pray the the next administration will understand better that it’s not a matter of sitting down and making nice- it’s a matter of our seeing a real willingness to put aside hatred and violence-inducing rhetoric both in English AND in Arabic. We need to see a real commitment to stop the teaching of hate in the schools. As long as the curriculum in Palestinian schools prescribes that children be encouraged to be martyrs and kill the Jews for the greater good, we really have nothing to talk about.

And I sincerely hope that the new president will understand that Iran is a threat not just to Israel who he may think of as expendable in a first strike, but also to Europe and to the US itself. Israel *is* the canary in the mine. When terror against Israel began, everyone else believed that terror was an Israeli problem. Now it has become a worldwide epidemic. If Iran successfully strikes Israel, the West will not be safe.

So yes, I worry and I pray.

The end of journalism

Just a brief note before this amazing piece:
1) For 20 years, Barack Obama sat in Reverend Wright’s congregation and didn’t know that he preached anti-Semitic, anti-white, anti-American sermons
2) Barack Obama didn’t know that Bill Ayres was an unrepentant terrorist.
3) Barack Obama didn’t know that his aunt was living in the US illegally.
Do we really want a president who is that oblivious?

Victor Davis Hanson
October 31, 2008, 4:00 a.m.

The End of Journalism
Sometime in 2008, journalism as we knew it died, and advocacy media took its place.

By Victor Davis Hanson

There have always been media biases and prejudices. Everyone knew that Walter Cronkite, from his gilded throne at CBS news, helped to alter the course of the Vietnam War, when, in the post-Tet depression, he prematurely declared the war unwinnible. Dan Rather’s career imploded when he knowingly promulgated a forged document that impugned the service record of George W. Bush. We’ve known for a long time — from various polling, and records of political donations of journalists themselves, as well as surveys of public perceptions — that the vast majority of journalists identify themselves as Democratic, and liberal in particular.

Yet we have never quite seen anything like the current media infatuation with Barack Obama, and its collective desire not to raise key issues of concern to the American people. Here were four areas of national interest that were largely ignored.

For years an axiom of the liberal establishment was the need for public campaign financing — and the corrosive role of private money in poisoning the election process. The most prominent Republican who crossed party lines to ensure the passage of national public campaign financing was John McCain — a maverick stance that cost him dearly among conservatives who resented bitterly federal interference in political expression.

In contrast, Barack Obama, remember, promised that he would accept both public funding and the limitations that went along with it, and would “aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” Then in June 2008, Obama abruptly reneged, bowing out entirely from government financing, the first presidential nominee in the general election to do that since the system was created in 1976.

Obama has now raised over $600 million, by far the largest campaign chest in American political history. In many states he enjoys a four-to-one advantage in campaign funding — most telling in his scheduled eleventh-hour, 30-minute specials that will not be answered by the publicly financed and poorer McCain campaign.

The story that the media chose to ignore was not merely the Obama about-face on public financing, or even the enormous amounts of money that he has raised — some of it under dubious circumstances involving foreign donors, prepaid credit cards, and false names. Instead, they were absolutely quiet about a historic end to liberal support for public financing.

For all practical purposes, public financing of the presidential general election is now dead. No Republican will ever agree to it again. No Democrat can ever again dare to defend a system destroyed by Obama. All future worries about the dangers of big money and big politics will fall on deaf ears.

Surely, there will come a time when the Democratic Party, whether for ethical or practical reasons, will sorely regret dismantling the very safeguards that for over three decades it had insisted were critical for the survival of the republic.

Imagine the reaction of the New York Times or the Washington Post had John McCain renounced his promise to participate in public campaign financing, proceeded instead to amass $600 million and outraise the publicly financed Barack Obama four-to-one, and begun airing special 30-minute unanswered infomercials during the last week of the campaign.

We know now almost all the details of Sarah Palin’s pregnancies, whether the trooper who tasered her nephew went to stun or half stun, the cost of her clothes, and her personal expenses — indeed, almost everything except how a mother of so many children gets elected councilwoman, mayor, and governor, routs an entrenched old-boy cadre, while maintaining near record levels of public support.

Yet the American public knows almost nothing of what it should about the extraordinary career of Joe Biden, the 36-year veteran of the Senate. In unprecedented fashion, Biden has simply avoided the press for most of the last two months, confident that the media instead would deconstruct almost every word of “good looking” Sarah Palin’s numerous interviews with mostly hostile interrogators.

By accepted standards of behavior, Biden has sadly proven wanting. He has committed almost every classical sin of character — plagiarism, false biography, racial insensitivity, and serial fabrication. And because of media silence, we don’t know whether he was kidding when he said America would not need to burn coal, or that Hezbollah was out of Lebanon, or that FDR addressed the nation on television as president in 1929 (surely a record for historical fictions in a single thought), or that the public would turn sour on Obama once he was challenged by our enemies abroad. In response, the media reported that the very public Sarah Palin was avoiding the press while the very private Joe Biden shunned interviews and was chained to the teleprompter.

For two months now, the media reaction to Biden’s inanity has been simply “that’s just ol’ Joe, now let’s turn to Palin,” who, in the space of two months, has been reduced from a popular successful governor to a backwoods creationist, who will ban books and champion white secessionist causes. The respective coverage of the two candidates is ironic in a variety of ways, but in one especially — almost every charge against Palin (that she is under wraps, untruthful, and inept) was applicable only to Biden.

So we are about to elect a vice president about whom we know only that he has been around a long time, but little else — and nothing at all why exactly Joe Biden says the most astounding and often lunatic things.

Imagine the reaction of Newsweek or Time had moose-hunting mom Sarah Palin claimed FDR went on television to address the nation as President in 1929, or warned America that our enemies abroad would test John McCain and that his response would result in a radical loss of his popularity at home.

In 2004, few Americans knew Barack Obama. In 2008, they may elect him. Surely his past was of more interest than his present serial denials of it. Whatever the media’s feelings about the current Barack Obama, there should have been some story that the Obama of 2008 is radically different from the Obama who was largely consistent and predictable for the prior 30 years.

Each Obama metamorphosis in itself might be attributed to the normal evolution to the middle, as a candidate shifts from the primary to the general election. But in the case of Obama, we witnessed not a shift, but a complete transformation to an entirely new persona — in almost every imaginable sense of the word. Name an issue — FISA, NAFTA, guns, abortion, capital punishment, coal, nuclear power, drilling, Iran, Jerusalem, the surge — and Obama’s position today is not that of just a year ago.

Until 2005, Obama was in communication with Bill Ayers by e-mail and phone, despite Ayers reprehensible braggadocio in 2001 that he remained an unrepentant terrorist. Rev. Wright was an invaluable spiritual advisor — until spring of 2008. Father Pfleger was praised as an intimate friend in 2004 — and vanished off the radar in 2008. The media might have asked not just why these rather dubious figures were once so close to, and then so distant from, Obama; but why were there so many people like Rashid Khalidi and Tony Rezko in Obama’s past in the first place?

Behind the Olympian calm of Obama, there was always a rather disturbing record of extra-electoral politics completely ignored by the media. If one were disturbed by the present shenanigans of ACORN or the bizarre national call for Americans simply to skip work on election day to help elect Obama (who would pay for that?), one would only have to remember that in 1996 Obama took the extraordinary step of suing to eliminate all his primary rivals by challenging their petition signatures of mostly African-American voters.

In 2004, there was an even more remarkable chain of events in which the sealed divorce records of both his principle primary rival Blair Hull and general election foe, Jack Ryan, were mysteriously leaked, effectively ensuring Obama a Senate seat without serious opposition. These were not artifacts of a typical political career, but extraordinary events in themselves that might well have shed light on present campaign tactics — and yet largely remain unknown to the American people.

Imagine the reaction of CNN or NBC had John McCain’s pastor and spiritual advisor of 20 years been revealed as a white supremacist who damned a multiracial United States, or had he been a close acquaintance until 2005 of an unrepentant terrorist bomber of abortion clinics, or had McCain himself sued to eliminate congressional opponents by challenging the validity of African-American voters who signed petitions, or had both his primary and general election senatorial rivals imploded once their sealed divorce records were mysteriously leaked.

The eleventh-hour McCain allegations of Obama’s advocacy for a share-the-wealth socialism were generally ignored by the media, or if covered, written off as neo-McCarthyism. But there were two legitimate, but again neglected, issues.

The first was the nature of the Obama tax plan. The problem was not merely upping the income tax rates on those who made $250,000 (or was it $200,000, or was it $150,000, or both, or none?), but its aggregate effect in combination with lifting the FICA ceilings on high incomes on top of existing Medicare contributions and often high state income taxes.

In other words, Americans who live in high-tax, expensive states like a New York or California could in theory face collective confiscatory tax rates of 65 percent or so on much of their income. And, depending on the nature of Obama’s proposed tax exemptions, on the other end of the spectrum we might well see almost half the nation’s wage earners pay no federal income tax at all.

Questions arise, but were again not explored: How wise is it to exempt one out of every two income earners from any worry over how the nation gathers its federal income tax revenue? And when credits are added to the plan, are we now essentially not cutting or raising taxes, but simply diverting wealth from those who pay into the system to those who do not?

A practical effect of socialism is often defined as curbing productive incentives by ensuring the poorer need not endanger their exemptions and credits by seeking greater income; and discouraging the wealthy from seeking greater income, given that nearly two-thirds of additional wealth would be lost to taxes. Surely that discussion might have been of interest to the American people.

Second, the real story was not John McCain’s characterization of such plans, but both inadvertent, and serial descriptions of them, past and present, by Barack Obama himself. “Spreading the wealth around” gains currency when collated to past interviews in which Obama talked at length about, and in regret at, judicial impracticalities in accomplishing his own desire to redistribute income. “Tragedy” is frequent in the Obama vocabulary, but largely confined to two contexts: the tragic history of the United States (e.g., deemed analogous to that of Nazi Germany during World War II), and the tragic unwillingness or inability to use judicial means to correct economic inequality in non-democratic fashion.

In this regard, remember Obama’s revealing comment that he was interested only in “fairness” in increasing capital-gains taxes, despite the bothersome fact that past moderate reductions in rates had, in fact, brought in greater revenue to government. Again, fossilized ideology trumps empiricism.

Imagine the reaction of NPR and PBS had John McCain advocated something like abolishing all capital gains taxes, or repealing incomes taxes in favor of a national retail sales tax.

The media has succeeded in shielding Barack Obama from journalistic scrutiny. It thereby irrevocably destroyed its own reputation and forfeited the trust that generations of others had so carefully acquired. And it will never again be trusted to offer candid and nonpartisan coverage of presidential candidates.

Worse still, the suicide of both print and electronic journalism has ensured that, should Barack Obama be elected president, the public will only then learn what they should have known far earlier about their commander-in-chief — but in circumstances and from sources they may well regret.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

National Review Online –