Miriam Shaviv

  • Is the Maccabiah too expensive?

    Jul 16, 2009

    Amir Mizroch, the Jerusalem Post's news editor, makes a convincing case on his blog that it is:

    This year’s Jewish Olympics, more than in years’ past, have become the Rich Jew’s Olympics. Even though these games are the biggest to date, so many athletes couldn’t afford to come that the very character of the competition is in question. If only rich Jews from rich countries can afford to come to the Maccabiah, what does that say about our solidarity as a people? The world financial crisis has had a huge impact on the capacity of the World Maccabiah to get sponsorship for teams. Many longtime sponsors have remained loyal, but their contributions have decreased. The worsening economic climate has also made it harder for teams and individuals to raise the money needed to travel to the games.

    Australia didn’t send a junior cricket team and kept two soccer teams at home. South Africa’s 2005 gold-medal winning rugby team stayed home, and so did the water polo team. There is a young Canadian swimmer, top of his age group in that sports-mad country, who stayed at home because of lack of funds. The cost for the South African team has almost doubled since the last games. In 2005 the South Africans paid R25, 000 each. Now, as the Rand continues its descent, the price for competing in the games has shot up to
    R45, 000, leaving many priced out of the market.

    Even in Israel, there are some athletes who chose not to miss several days of work in order to compete, because they know there are 14 unemployed people lining up for every job, and they don’t want to irritate their bosses.

    To make matters worse, there has been a deluge of complaints about the organization of the games, mostly around the issue of accommodation. Some competitors have already pulled out and gone home, others are staying with relatives, and some others say they won’t be coming back to the next Maccabiah. When the cost of coming is so high, sub-standard living conditions add real insult to injury.

    Read the whole piece here.

  • If you can't bear to part from your sukkah.....

    Jul 16, 2009

    DovBear has posted an ad by a North London sukkah company, which promises "a written guarantee that your sukka will go to you to Eretz Yisroel when Moshiach comes."

    I phoned the gentleman who owns the company, one Mr Bard, to find out why exactly anyone would want this.

    He explained to me that the Gemara says that when Moshiach comes, all shuls will go to Israel. The Kedushas Levi adds that so will all Jewish houses which were filled with Torah. Sukkahs going to Israel as well, however, are Mr Bard's own addition - "if houses that are filled with Torah go, a Sukkah, which is a piece of a mitzvah, must go too."

    There's no actual need for a sukkah to be transported to Israel in messianic times (as someone on DovBear's website commented, surely you can buy sukkot in Israel) - "just if you want it to".

    Sadly, no one has taken him up on the offer of a written guarantee yet - but "it's a new thing".

    There you go.

  • Evil Zionist chewing gum plot

    Jul 16, 2009

    Those devious Mossad agents are at it again - trying to corrupt the Gaza youth:

    Hamas suspects that Israeli intelligence services are supplying its Gaza Strip stronghold with chewing gum that boosts the sex drive in order to "corrupt the young," an official said on Tuesday.

    "We have discovered two types of stimulants that were introduced into the Gaza Strip from Israeli border crossings," Hamas police spokesman Islam Shahwan told AFP.

    "The first type is presented in the form of chewing gum and the second in the form of drops," he said...

    The story came to light after a Palestinian man filed a complaint that his daughter had experienced "dubious side effects" after chewing the offending gum, Israeli media reported."

    So let's get this clear. Israel is being accused - at the same time - of trying to decimate the Palestinian population, and encouraging them to breed uncontrollably. Well, which is it?

  • Michael Jackson, the Jew

    Jul 13, 2009

    Roseanne Barr - possibly not the world's most reliable source - has written a note to Michael Jackson's children:

    You are jewish, and your dad really loved jewish people and considered himself one of them. He considered that it didnt matter if a person was black or white, rich or poor, Muslim or christian, but that it DID matter if a person was jewish. Your dad believed that the Jewish People would change the world just by changing themselves. This is a very important jewish concept! Your dad would want you to know these things, he was a student of kabballah. kabballah teaches us that the jews need to change themselves, and to do that, they need to accept that they came from africa, from ethiopia, and not from europe!"

    If Michael Jackson considered himself such a Jew, how come he converted to Islam?

  • Should sheitls be banned?

    Jul 10, 2009

    And while we're on the subject of covering up...

    Hadassah Sabo Milner, an Orthodox Brit currently living in Canada, writes about her changing emotions about covering her hair:

    When I was first married, years ago, I didn’t want to cover my hair, I just did it because it was asked of me. Almost every time I covered it I felt like I was putting shackles on. I never researched it, never wanted to understand the reasons why. I just went along with the flow – shalom bayit, y’know? I know there are a lot of women out there who feel the same way, and yet they plod along because it is expected of them.

    At the time that I uncovered my hair, about 10 days after receiving my Get, I did so after a lot of conscious thought and reflection... My Get happened mere weeks after we separated. I was in so much deep pain and suffering and at that time, I needed, for myself, to physically show signs of my grief (other than crying all day long wherever I was – that gets old quickly), to work through the grief and the pain and the anguish and all of that.

    It was never about “not married any more so who needs to cover their hair, I am doing what I want”. I needed to do it to help heal my spirit. I needed to show myself and the world that I was not the same person I was when I was married.

    By the time last year’s barmitzvah preparations were in full swing and the barmitzvah boy asked that I wear a sheitel and not a hat to the festivities, I had to do some tremendous soul searching... Standing there, on the day of the barmitzvah, watching my son lain his parshah, my heart swelling with enormous pride and love and gratitude to G-d, I knew I had come full circle. I knew my mourning was very much over. I let go of the past, of the pain, of the anger and bitterness. That day marked my son’s barmitzvah but also in some ways my rebirth.

    Since that day I have been lucky in finding my soul mate, and in February we celebrated our wedding, and the merging of two lively households. I wore a sheitel to my wedding. I cover my hair now when I leave the house. I am a married lady, and it is what’s right for me.

    Many religious men take it for granted that their wives will cover their hair, but they have no idea what a difficult mitzvah this is to keep. I struggled for so long with it, and it was only in the absence of keeping this mitzvah that I learned to appreciate the finer points of it. I wish that when I had first got married that there were classes to explain the whys and wherefores of hair covering, to help us come to terms with it. As girls and teenagers, we obsess about our hair, and then all of a sudden we are expected to cover it. It’s a lot to have to deal with."

    A reminder that in our religion, too, covering one's hair is not always an issue of entirely free choice - there are social and familial pressures at play here too.

    So - like the burka - should sheitls be banned?

    The difference, I think, is that wearing a burka makes it difficult to interact with others, obscuring a woman's personality and turning her into a faceless entity.

    A sheitl may be uncomfortable and unwanted (for some), but it does not obscure a woman's essence. It is not oppressive, nor does it interfere with public order.

    In addition, a burka is a political statement to do with radical Islam, not just a religious (and social) symbol like the sheitl.


  • 'The burka gives me bad headaches'

    Jul 10, 2009

    Should the burka be banned?

    A debate is raging in France, echoing discussions which have taken place in this country and around Europe in the last few years. Those who think they should be banned - including President Sarkozy - claim that they are a polical statement rather than a religious one, and oppress women.

    Others - such as President Obama, in his Cairo speech - think that women's right to wear the burka in public must be protected; the state has no business telling people what to wear and essential freedom is involved.

    An interesting insight, therefore, in this Reuters piece about burkas in Afghanistan. Sales have dropped by as much as 50 per cent since the Taliban was toppled in 2001:

    In the gardens of the shrine of a revered sufi poet, cousins Margol and Amirejan Abdulzai chatted together as they walked among rose bushes and marble tombstones.

    Margol has lifted her burqa over her head for now because she can relax a bit more in the enclosed and quiet space. Amirejan wore a black chador namaz decorated in swirling white flowers.

    "When I wear a burqa it gives me a really bad feeling. I don't like to wear it. My family are not really happy with me wearing a chador namaz, they tell me to always wear a burqa. But I don't like it, it upsets me, I can't breathe properly," 18-year-old Amirejan said.

    Margol, who is in her early 20s, said that she was used to the burqa now, having worn it since she was about 15. Her family prefers her to wear it and does not approve of her walking the streets with her face on display.

    "My family says I have to wear it, they say the chador namaz is bad. You understand that if you don't wear a burqa and your face is open, people will just gossip about you," Margol said, giggling.

    "But it does give me bad headaches, it puts a lot of pressure on my head, especially if it's sewn too tightly," she added.

    Her cousin Amirejan said she would rather wear a mantau chalvar and discard her chador namaz if it was left up to her.

    "Now they say that Afghanistan is free and women should be able to breathe more, but no, your mother, auntie and family still tell you that you have to wear the burqa ... I just don't like it, I like to be free, not under a burqa."

    President Obama, please note the common thread - wearing the burka is not the free choice of these women. They are pushed into it by their relatives (including female relatives).

  • No Gilad Shalit deal until his condition is verified

    Jul 10, 2009

    The Hamas leader in charge of the Shalit portfolio, Osama al-Muzeini, has said that only a few people in the organisation know whether the Israeli soldier is "wounded, sick or dead", and that even the leadership is in the dark. (Fuller report in Hebrew here.)

    Now, it is perfectly possible that this is a negotiation tactic; implying that Shalit may be "wounded, sick or dead" certainly ups the pressure on Israel to conclude a deal quickly.

    However, there is a lesson in this for Israel. During the last prisoner exchange, with Hizbollah exactly a year ago, the government was widely criticised within Israel for not knowing whether they were negotiating to receive live soldiers, or bodies. Although kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were widely assumed to be dead, this was only finally confirmed when their coffins were delivered to the border. Had Israel known this for absolute certain beforehand, it would have surely affected the price they were willing to pay to get them back.

    Israel cannot repeat the same mistake with Shalit. It must know exactly what state he is in before they make any promises, whatsoever, to Hamas - they need to know what they are negotiating for.

  • Giving Ruth Madoff the benefit of the doubt

    Jul 9, 2009

    A couple of days ago I wrote about how few people had come to the defence of Ruth Madoff, Bernie's wife. Now, Debra Nussbaum Cohen quotes from Ruth's statement, on The Sisterhood, one of the Forward's blogs:

    "From the moment I learned from my husband that he had committed an enormous fraud, I have had two thoughts – first, that so many people who trusted him would be ruined financially and emotionally, and second, that my life with the man I have known for over 50 years was over … Lives have been upended and futures have been taken away. All those touched by this fraud feel betrayed; disbelieving the nightmare they woke to. I am embarrassed and ashamed. Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years.”

    I find her claim that she does not know her husband –- her high school sweetheart – intriguing.

    Is it, as one friend claimed at a lively shabbat dinner table discussion last week, simply a legal maneuver to distance herself from being further implicated in Bernie’s criminal conduct?

    But I wonder if we ever truly know even the people with whom we are most intimate. On this question the two married couples at the table were silent. Only the never-married man at the table thought she must have known what was going on. The rest of us, perhaps, knew better.

    After all, even among couples in my generation (late-30s to 50s), many times one partner handles the finances and the other says that she (usually it’s the wife) leaves it in her husband’s hands.

    All the more so for couples of the Madoffs’ generation. Ruth is 67, Bernie 71. It was typical, when they were married 50 years ago, for women to be uninvolved in their family financial life and certainly in their husbands’ business affairs, even if they were close in other respects.

    I feel sure that she enjoyed all of the material fruits of her husband’s fraud. But I think she can only be blamed for greed and willful ignorance. And, to a certain extent, can’t we all?

  • Enough with Michael Jackson

    Jul 8, 2009

    Hands up anyone who - like me - objects to the Michael Jackson hoopla.

    I don't mind celebrating his music - the bestselling album of all time certainly deserves to be marked.

    But do we really need to elevate Whacko Jacko to the status of saint?