Miriam Shaviv

Benzion Dunner's inquest is a wake-up call for the Charedi community

By Miriam Shaviv, August 6, 2008

So Benzion Dunner, a pillar of Charedi society, had cocaine in his system when he died, according to his inquest. Whatever next?

The temptation for the Charedi community will be to suppress this genuinely shocking story, internally, altogether. But since it has been widely reported in the national press this may prove impossible.

And a good thing, too.


Is alcoholism on the rise in the Orthodox community?

By Miriam Shaviv, August 4, 2008

Newsweek is running a piece on the supposed rise of alcoholism among American Jews, particularly Jewish ones.

The assertion is unsupported by any real figures - numbers about "Israelis younger than 33" do nothing to shed light on trends in the Orthodox community in the diaspora - but anecdotally, I can believe there probably has been such a rise (no word on whether there is a similar trend in the UK).

In addition, while the article goes some way to explaining why alcohol addiction among Jews has traditionally been low, it never really even attempts to explain why that might be changing now.

Doing a little research on the web, I was fascinated to come across this piece from Time magazine in 1958, about a Yale study asking why there is so little alcoholism in the Jewish community. It includes the following strange theory, which I have never heard before:


Review: Baby Love

By Miriam Shaviv, August 1, 2008

Baby Love: Choosing motherhood after a lifetime of ambivalence


By Rebecca Walker
Souvenir Press, £15


How does a woman preserve her sense of self after becoming a mother? This is the question that shapes Rebecca Walker's provocative pregnancy diary.


Now read Gordon’s note to God

By Miriam Shaviv, August 1, 2008

There was uproar when Obama's prayer was lifted from the Kotel. But what if we could read all politicians' letters to the Almighty?


If anyone still doubted that Barack Obama was the Messiah, he has now delivered written proof.

"Lord," he wrote in a note he deposited between the Kotel's stones last week, "Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."


What to read today

By Miriam Shaviv, July 31, 2008

-- Ha’aretz is carrying an excerpt of an interview, which will be published in full over the weekend, with the son of one of the leading Hamas men on the West Bank. He has converted to Christianity, moved to LA, and has some very nice - yes, nice - things to say about Israel.

--  Haim Watzman reveals the best advice he ever received as a soldier - shouted at him by his company commander. It’s not what you might think:


The conspiracy theories around Obama's Kotel note get murkier

By Miriam Shaviv, July 31, 2008

Charedi news blog Vos Iz Neias has posted a link to a video on YouTube which, it says, documents the moment at which the note Senator Obama placed in the Kotel was “lifted“. The blog explains:


Are Charedi women at the back of the bus the modern-age Rosa Parks?

By Miriam Shaviv, July 31, 2008

About a month ago I wrote about a directive, issued by the Rabbinical Transportation Committee, calling on Charedi women to sit at the back of the bus.

The Forward picked up on this last week, and adds an interesting angle to the story. The move towards segregated bus lines, it says,


Reading into Obama's note to G-d

By Miriam Shaviv, July 28, 2008

The Israeli daily Ma'ariv is currently being blasted by all sides for publishing the (actually rather charming) note left by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in the Western Wall.

The paper has been criticised by no less than the rabbi who supervises the Kotel for interfering in Obama's relationship with G-d and for acting in a "sacrilegious" manner. The Police have even been called upon to intervene. Meanwhile, one of the yeshivah students who supposedly took the note has apologised publicly, although one does wonder why he had to go on national television in order to make his regret known.

A rare dissenting voice comes from blogger "Jameel",


How blaming Israel can get you off the hook in a court of law

By Miriam Shaviv, July 25, 2008

This is one of the most worrying examples of anti-Israeli bias I have ever come across.

Last month, six men were acquitted in a Belfast court of causing more than £300,000 of damage to an office belonging to an American arms manufacturer in Derry, Northern Ireland, in August 2006 (one was convicted of theft of two computer discs).

They had broken into Raytheon’s building, destroyed its computer mainframe, damaged PCs, thrown documents out the window, and barricaded themselves inside the building for eight hours.

The Israel connection?


Why this forced get is a scandal

By Miriam Shaviv, July 25, 2008

So the Sephardi Bet Din has issued a religious divorce to a woman who never appeared in its court. Justifying his decision, Dayan Amor wrote, according to the JC's translation, that she "dressed provocatively in public, worse than a common harlot" and "danced in nightclubs late into the night".


Chumra of the week

By Miriam Shaviv, July 24, 2008

First, we had Orthodox Jewish women wearing burkas.  Now, we have Charedi women coming back from weddings and other simchas being told they should wear 'overcoats' - because the sight of them in their best clothes in the street could be too much for some men. (According to the Kosover Rebbe of Boro Park, "Though it may be hot in warm weather, it is a good thing".)

The burkas were bad enough - but at least


The Russian revolution continues

By Miriam Shaviv, July 24, 2008

A few weeks ago, The Jerusalem Post's Calev Ben-David reported that the brand-new editor of Ha'aretz, Dov Alfon, was making substantial changes at the paper, toning down or getting rid of many of the best-known voices on the far left and firing (and then rehiring) its social affairs reporter, who focused on the plight of the poor.

Ben-David explained at the time that:


Gordon Brown's speech defect

By Miriam Shaviv, July 23, 2008

Yesterday I reported that, according to Sky News's Adam Boulton, our prime minister has difficulty pronouncing the word 'Jerusalem'. Now The Evening Standard's diary adds,

Sources at the Jerusalem Post note that Brown mangled his attempt at a Hebrew quotation before going on to pronounce "Auschwitz" as "ouchwhich".

How do you think he would pronounce, "complete disaster as prime minister"?


Why can't Gordon Brown pronounce 'Jerusalem'?

By Miriam Shaviv, July 22, 2008

Adam Boulton of Sky News is puzzled about one aspect of Gordon Brown's visit to Israel:

He seems to have trouble with the word Jerusalem, repeatedly pronouncing it Joo-rislem. The only explanation we can find is that he’s trying to remember how his father, the Reverend Brown, named the Eternal City in Hebrew. I’m told that pronounced correctly in the local language the name should sound like Yerooshalyam (sic)


Living in denial over Samir Kuntar

By Miriam Shaviv, July 21, 2008

Dion Nissenbaum visits Samir Kuntar, back home in Lebanon, and tries to explain the question haunting so many: How can the Lebanese possibly take pride in, even celebrate, a child-murderer?

Clearly, many people - the majority - simply want to harm the Israeli "enemy". But Nissenbaum adds:


Barack Obama, Shabbos goy

By Miriam Shaviv, July 18, 2008

Colin Powell and Elvis Presley are two famous Shabbos Goys – they were both employed, in their youth, by Orthodox families to carry out certain acts forbidden to Jews on the Sabbath, such as turning lights on and off.

 But are they about to be eclipsed by one Barack Obama?


The new Zionist weapon: giant, indestructable rats

By Miriam Shaviv, July 18, 2008

Palestine Today reveals the latest Zionist weapon, which they allege is being used against Jerusalem's Arab population: rats.

Rats have become a weapon used by new Israeli colonizers against citizens in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem, in order to displace and expel them from their homes.

Districts in the old part of town are suffering and facing recently this new type of Israeli actions that aim to harass Jerusalemites in order to force them to leave...


A Chassidic rebel goes public

By Miriam Shaviv, July 17, 2008

The cover story in New York magazine this week is a must-read. It features Gitty Grunwald, a Satmar Chassid who lost religion, left her husband, and is now fighting her former spouse for custody of their daughter, Esther Miriam, 4:

In early 2007, Gitty fled Kiryas Joel for good, taking Esther Miriam with her. At first, they lived in the relatively relaxed frum (Orthodox) community of Monsey, New York, then moved to Brooklyn. “It was just the two of us. I loved it,” Gitty says. Then in January of this year, as Esther Miriam was walked with her class to a Flatbush playground, she was taken, says Gitty, who believes her husband was behind the act.

“Some KJ guys snatched her off the street. Esther Miriam said they were wearing masks. All she remembers was crying, crying so hard,” Gitty says, calling it the worst day of her life. “When they told me what happened, I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was being suffocated. I still do.”

The article is told exclusively from Gitty's point of view, without any attempt at telling her husband's side of the story. Nevertheless, there are plenty of insights to be gained -


Israel's POWs - as they were in life

By Miriam Shaviv, July 17, 2008

Israel's Channel two is carrying a video of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev's miluim (reserve duty) unit in 2004. The two men, who were buried today, pop up occasionally, smiling naturally at the camera and even flirting with it.

For those of you who understand Hebrew, but even if you don't, perhaps there is no more appropriate time to take a moment and remember these two fallen soldiers - as they were in life.


Why were the terms of the POW agreement not clear in advance?

By Miriam Shaviv, July 16, 2008

Many have contended that the POW deal with Hizbollah is bad for Israel. Not only does it reward and encourage terrorism and kidnap, but Israel has – yet again – given up far more than it has received in return. Is 199 bodies and five live men in exchange for two bodies a good strategic move? And should Israel really have given up its most important bargaining chip, the murderer Samir Kuntar, without even getting any definite information on Ron Arad’s fate?