a good and sweet year

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Tonight we begin the Jewish new year. It will be the year 5775 according to our calendar. The rabbi of Lubowitzch was once asked by a student, why he blesses each and every one of his followers before the Jewish new year, with the wish for a good and a sweet new year. His reply was that every year is good. That we just have to learn how to appreciate all that we receive. That it is good even if we don’t know how to recognize the good. But that sweetness is a sensory pleasure. And so, his wish is that his friends and students will feel the good and recognize it, as we do when tasting something sweet.

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Nechama accompanies me to the park

It is not our custom to shoot fireworks into the sky at the start of a new year. We reflect on what has happened in the past year, and examine our actions and behavior. We repent our mistakes, and celebrate our accomplishments. We do our spiritual book keeping in honor of the year that has come to a conclusion, and remind ourselves that a new year is beginning… a new start in life.

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a love letter to god

This has been one of the most difficult years for me. It has been a year of tests and challenges. A year of pain and confusion and losses. But it has also been a year of learning and miracles… and yes, of joy too. Personally, I reached a point where I could only whisper… and then a place where I had nothing more to say… But as we approach the new year, I want to wish myself and every one of my friends and readers a good and sweet year. A year of health and happiness, a good livelihood, the pleasures of learning, and the support of dear friends.

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crows waiting on the railing… I hope to tell you the story soon.

I still have a few stories to tell… and some conclusions I came to, at the end of this last painful war. I hope that I will find the strength to continue sharing with you some of my personal experiences and lessons in this world that is filled with surprises.
with love, Shimon

defamation

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to be silent is one
response
to defamation.

- Buddha

cigarettes

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A limited edition of Noblesse cigarettes, the brand I smoke, in battle dress. On the right you can see the way the pack usually looks.

the shape of things

drbob: FAR too long since I’ve heard from you, and I care enough to worry. Just tell me (us…myra too) that you’re ok.

shimonz:
I’m alive…
uninjured so far.
but the war has had a bad effect on me.
I’ve lost the zest for life…
lost my sense of humor
grown bitter.
’cause it’s brought back
memories of childhood
that I thought I’d forgotten…
and a loss of faith
in man…
not god… man.

responding to aggression

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After a month of unprovoked attacks, we began to hit back. The Hamas, a terrorist organization, continued to shoot rockets at our country, shooting at us from schools, mosques, and hospitals in Gaza, using their own people as human shields. We accepted an Egyptian plan for a cease fire, but they continued to attack with rockets and missiles; using underground tunnels in an attempt to kill and kidnap innocent citizens. We offered ‘quiet in exchange for quiet’, but this was not accepted by the Hamas. They are still shooting rockets at us. Shooting at us, and complaining that we are shooting back.

hoping for better days

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the rock badger, native to Israel, is highly intelligent, and very peaceful

These are difficult days in my country. I had plans to write about dreams today… about the way that we represent abstract thoughts to ourselves and others. But it is hard to discuss abstractions while dealing with existential problems.

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experts discussing the situation on TV

I would just like to take advantage of this opportunity to explain a few things to those of you who read my blog in other countries around the world. We are not at war with the Palestinian people. We are doing our best to frustrate the efforts of a band of vicious terrorists without injuring any of the civilian population. We are trying to protect our own people. The Hamas hides behind civilians and innocent children, while shooting at our citizens. They have received aid from many countries and peoples, and have used most of it to build a military capacity. They celebrate each and every attack against innocent people on our side. We are now trying to take care of this problem. It is my hope, and the hope of my countrymen, that we will soon be able to live in peaceful coexistence with our neighbors.

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and when I get a good idea these days, I tell it to the birds

Devil’s Island

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Fido was here

My dear readers and friends, I would like to start out this time with an apology. Just as I wouldn’t normally write you about a bad case of diarrhea, or a vigorous attempt to remove a booger from my nose, I believe that there are some things better left unsaid. I know; the internet and blogging sometimes indicate that this might just be old fashioned thinking. But I can’t help it. My sense of decorum goes back longer than most people in this world have been alive, and it seems too late for me to change.

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seminary student in the city

When the three seminary boys were kidnapped, and later found murdered, some weeks back, I was overcome by sorrow, heartbroken by the cruelty of it. I actually went into mourning, and found it hard to think about the subject rationally. But as events unfolded, I realized that what had happened was the first move in a contest… one of the worst in which human beings participate. It’s known as war. Surprise and confusion are considered legitimate openings in war. Witness the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, or the Trojan Horse in ancient Greece. It has happened over and over in the history of man. And yet, more often than one might expect, we are still surprised. We may study sociology, psychology, anthropology or culture. But after a long career as a perennial student, I’ve reached the conclusion that the key to understanding mankind, is the study of history.

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a charity box

We told the Hamas in Gaza, ‘if you give us quiet, we’ll give you quiet’. Can you imagine saying that to someone who wants to knock your block off?! That was all they needed to hear in order to realize that we didn’t want to fight, and it just gave them more confidence. So they started shooting missiles at us. Now we’re fighting. By Tuesday, we already had missiles falling on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I’ve heard an interview by a BBC reporter of a government official here. He asked, ‘how many Israelis have been killed by these missiles?’ Well, we don’t want to wait until we’re counting the dead. It is provocation enough for us to have missiles falling on our people!

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peppers in the market place

When fighting a war, each side is trying, by way of force, to have its own way. The contest is one of life and death. Surprises and obtuse behavior are an integral part of the game. It is always easier to understand what was happening after the fact, rather than during the action. We are presently engaged in a war that is called Steadfast Cliff in Hebrew, and Operation Protective Edge in English. Jews lived in Gaza before the modern state of Israel was created. But we gave the Gaza strip to the Arab population that lived there nine years ago, after forcibly removing the Jewish population. And this was because the Arabs claimed that they couldn’t possibly live alongside Jews in peace, even though a large minority of Arabs live in Israel and enjoy more freedoms and a higher living standard here, than in any of the Arab countries.

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dried fruit

Since then, the Arab population of Gaza have made fighting the Jews their national pastime. Though they were given the vineyards and farms left behind by the Israelis who lived there, they let these farms die of neglect while digging smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border, and doing their best to develop a burgeoning arms industry. Their greatest accomplishments have been in the field of weapons production. They teach their little children that the highest purpose in life is fighting the Zionist devil. They are very proud of some missiles they have made themselves. But they have also managed to smuggle into their country a large quantity of professionally made missiles from Iran. Meantime, we invented an anti missile system that has had 90% success. It is the first of its kind in the world. But that still leaves a 10% chance of killing or wounding innocent citizens. Not to speak of the dismal sight of watching women and children stumbling as they rush to the shelters. In some of the towns near the Gaza strip, they have only 15 seconds to get into a bomb shelter! Over 400 missiles have fallen on our cities this week as I write this. And we have not forgotten that over 1000 innocent people were murdered by these terrorists a decade ago.

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Arabs and Jews at a bus stop… living in peace in Jerusalem

As a people, we’re not enthusiastic about war. We try to avoid it. We have other interests. We are able to compete in the global market, invent new contraptions… and do academic research. We’re pleasure seekers. Most Israelis like toys and enjoying the good life.. We’ve tried to buy our neighbors off, to flatter them, and to outwit them. Using our intelligence, we’ve managed to build much better instruments of war than they could put together. But no matter what we’ve tried, or how hard we’ve endeavored… and despite the fact that we’ve won every war in recent history, they know our weak points, and they keep on coming back for still another round. It is exasperating.

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folks in Tel Aviv have a look at a missile that fell in their neighborhood

Usually, when the fighting is over, the United Nations get together to make a few resolutions. Since there are a lot more Moslem countries than there are Jewish, the numbers are at their service. And we’re not especially impressed by the objectivity of many ‘neutral’ nations either. If you were to check out UN resolutions, you’d get the impression that we are really the devil’s workers.