The Good, the Bad, the Ugly – and the Beautiful

Still no let up in the vicious attacks of our enemies. I had intended to devote today’s post to last week’s field trip, in the footsteps of the prophet Samuel and of King Saul, but instead, I must write, once again, of lives lost and of worlds destroyed – and of a world rebuilt.

My last post described the murder of five innocent civilians in two separate “Palestinian” terrorist attacks on Thursday November 19th. I posted about that the following day, Friday – and the very next evening, Motzaei Shabbat, another terrorist went on the rampage, stabbing four people – including a 13-year-old girl whom he stabbed in the stomach and chest. It was only after a manhunt lasting several hours that the assailant – an Arab from the Hebron area – was apprehended.

Although the little girl’s injuries were fairly serious, there were fortunately no fatalities in this attack. But the following day, 21-year-old Hadar Buchris (HY”D), from Safad, was not so lucky. She was stabbed in the head and neck by an Arab terrorist, and shortly afterwards, died of her wounds. Her murderer, who was shot dead by IDF troops, was hailed by the “Palestinian” media as a “hero”. What kind of evil, twisted ideology finds heroism in the murder of a 21-year-old girl?

Less than a day went by before Monday (November 23rd) brought a double attack by two “Palestinian” girls, Norhan and Hadil Awad, cousins aged 14 and 16, who went on the rampage in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market , attacking passers-by with scissors. One of their victims was a 70-year-old man. Both girls were shot, one of them – fatally. Ironically, their 70-year-old victim turned out to be a “Palestinian” from Bethlehem, who sustained stab wounds to his upper body.

Later that day, at the Dor Gas Station on Route 443, 18-year-old Ziv Mizrachi was stabbed to death by a “Palestinian” terrorist  who also wounded Ziv’s companion, a young woman of 22, before being shot dead himself by security forces.

Ziv Mizrahi

The brutal murder of Ziv Mizrachi (HY”D – May God Avenge His Blood), who was stabbed repeatedly in the abdomen,  brings the number of Israeli victims of “Palestinian” terrorism over the past two months, to 22.
And the world remains silent.


How do I go from this to finding that tiny ray of light, that moment of joy, of beauty,  that I wrote about earlier this month, that tiny spark that might enable me to forget, for just a few moments, the grim reality?

Perhaps in the wedding of Sarah-Techiya Litman and Ariel Biegel, whom I wrote about last week, whose wedding took place last Thursday evening, in the presence of thousands of well-wishers from all over the country – nay, from all over the world – many of whom had never met the bride and who had come to comfort and to gladden her and her family. I know a lot of people who cry at weddings, and I doubt if there was a single dry eye at this one, but Sarah-Techiya (the name “Techiya” means, appropriately, “Rebirth”) said it all when she prefaced her invitation to the whole nation to take part in her (postponed) wedding with these words of defiance from Micah 7:8:
Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; though I am fallen, I shall arise.

I will leave you with this webcast of the wedding. The actual ceremony starts at 1:09:00 with the entrance of the bride.

Whatever horrors our enemies may devise, whatever they throw at us, in spite of all terror – Am Yisrael Chai (עם ישראל חי – The People of Israel Lives).

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A Strange Sense of Déja-Vu

Lately, it seems that no sooner has the ink dried (figuratively speaking) on one post documenting the latest terror atrocity carried out by the “Palestinians”, than I am called upon to report on yet another. Thus, yesterday (Thursday), we were shaken by two more cowardly attacks on Jews. One occurred in Tel Aviv, just outside a Judaica shop, which was serving as a synagogue. Four people were stabbed – two of them, fatally. The dead are Reuven Aviram of Ramle, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union and Aharon Yesaev, 32, whose five young children are now fatherless.
All this, a year to the day after the Har Nof Massacre. Once again, Jews have been struck down as they pray, by foul murderers . Reading what I wrote then, I am struck by a strange sense of déja-vu.

Only a couple of hours later, at the busy Gush Etzion intersection, another of these “Palestinian resistance heroes” murdered three people in a drive-by shooting attack which morphed into a vehicle-ramming. One of the dead was an 18-year-old American tourist, Ezra Schwartz, a recent high-school graduate who was on a gap year in Israel, studying at a yeshiva in Beit Shemesh. Another was Rabbi Ya’akov Don, the son of Holocaust survivors, a teacher and educator, who left behind a wife and four children, between the ages of 13 – 21.
And let us not forget the third victim. The terrorist who drove past a column of cars at the busy intersection, firing indiscriminately, also killed a “Palestinian”,  24-year-old Shadi Arafa, who was on his way home from work. But I expect that, in his case, the “Palestinian” leadership will apologise to his family and proclaim him a shahid – a marty – as they did in 2004, when they “mistook” the son of a prominent Christian Arab Israeli lawyer for a “settler” and shot him while he was out jogging.

In both of these barbaric attacks, the murderers were apprehended – alive, I am sorry to say.
May God avenge the blood of their victims.



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An Ocean Of Tears

Sarah Techiya Litman and Ariel Bigel engagement


This is a picture of  Sarah-Techiya Litman and her fiancé, Ariel Biegel, at their engagement party. They were to have been married this evening. That wedding will not now take place – not tonight, at any rate – for tonight, the bride is in mourning for her father, Rabbi Ya’akov Litman (HY”D), and her brother, 18-year-old Netanel Litman (HY”D), gunned down by “Palestinian” terrorists near Otniel on Highway 60, south of Hebron, last Friday afternoon.

You probably won’t have heard about the murders of Ya’akov and Netanel Litman (May God Avenge Their Blood), possibly because the news was so quickly overshadowed by the tragic events taking place in Paris only hours later – or possibly because, even if cowardly Islamist terrorists had not chosen that same evening to carry out their satanic attacks in the French capital, the western media would not have considered the shedding of Jewish blood in the Jewish homeland as sufficiently newsworthy to warrant their attention. After all, the Jewish victims didn’t manage to get off a shot before they died and wound, or perhaps kill their attackers, which would have enabled the western media to publish yet another headline screaming: “ISRAELI SETTLERS SHOOT PALESTINIAN”. That might have rendered the story newsworthy in their eyes.

So you won’t have heard how the terrorists, who lay in wait and ambushed the Litmans’ car near the Arab village of Dura, also wounded Sarah-Techiya’s mother and another of her brothers, and traumatised her little sisters, the youngest of whom is only five years old.
You won’t have heard how the wounded Netanel called the emergency services and how the terrorists approached the car and shot him again, to ensure his death.
You won’t have heard how the first “rescue” vehicle on the scene was a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance, which slowed down, realised that these were Jews lying in their own blood on the road, and then drove on, leaving them to their fate – in stark contrast to Israel’s Magen David Adom (Red Magen David) which, on more than one occasion, has drawn flack from some  Israelis for treating wounded terrorists before their victims, if the terrorists’ injuries were more serious.

Israel has filed a complaint with the International Committee of the Red Cross over the behaviour of the PRCS ambulance crew. It will be interesting to see how the ICRC deals with the matter – given the fact that, for decades, they refused to accord recognition to Magen David Adom, while recognising the Red Crescent of the Muslim countries.

Now, you might have expected that the leaders of the western world would by now have made the connection between the terrorist campaign against the only non-Muslim state in the Middle East, by murderous thugs driven to kill Jews by the vicious and relentless incitement of Muslim leaders who have been telling them, over and over again (without any basis in fact) that “the Jews” are trying to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the heinous crimes of Muslim terrorists in Paris. And, in fact, some of them did – but not in the way any normal, decent person would expect.
No, it isn’t Islamic extremism – at least, not according to Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström. In her opinion, the Paris attacks (in which not a single “Palestinian” was involved, as far as we know, and which ISIS, who has claimed responsibility for the attacks, has justified as being payback for French actions in Syria) can be attributed to “Palestinian” despair at the lack of hope for the future!

It makes me so angry, I want to scream – and, despite what I have written in my last two posts, I am finding it very difficult to find some little thing in which to rejoice, in order to help me through the ocean of tears I feel at the loss of two more Jewish lives last Friday, simply for the crime of being Jewish.

And yet, perhaps I should take comfort in the strength of Sara-Techiya Litman and her family, who have decided to hold the wedding anyway, next Thursday and who have invited the whole House of Israel to celebrate it with them. It is, after all, a mitzvah, a meritorious deed, to gladden the bride and groom.
What better way to show the terrorists  that whatever they throw at us, they cannot win, and that, in spite of all terror, “Yet again shall be heard, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride”?


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My Favourite Things

Since writing my last post, not only has there been no let-up in the number of daily attacks by so-called “Palestinian” terrorists on Israeli Jews,  but another victim of the Bus #78 atrocity has since succumbed to his wounds.
Not a day has gone by without multiple attempts by “Palestinians” to murder Jewish Israelis, whether with knives, Molotov cocktails or by ramming cars into groups of pedestrians. Most of the attacks have, fortunately, not proved fatal, but in several, the victims incurred serious injuries, such as a man in his 40s and a woman in her 80s, who were stabbed in an attack a week ago in Rishon-le-Zion.
Later that day, another “hero of the Palestinian resistance” stabbed, and seriously wounded, a 71-year-old man in the coastal town of Netanya.

Last Wednesday, (November 4th), another “Palestinian” rammed his car into 19-year-old Border Policeman Binyamin Yakobovich, mortally wounding him. After fighting for his life for five days, Binyamin lost his battle yesterday.

I could go on and on, detailing each day’s attacks, but thereby lies the road to madness.

The week before last, I wrote about the coping mechanism which enables us to retain our sanity amidst all the horror.  I am not the only person, I am sure, to have found solace in music. But I have discovered another way, also. It is to try to find, every day, something, be it ever so trivial, in which to rejoice. It could be as great as the party to celebrate a cancer-stricken friend’s successful conclusion of her chemo and radiation therapy, which I attended last Thursday, or as small as this butterfly, which I spotted feeding on the flowers lining the street where I live:


And then there is the daily joy of learning. In the past, I believe I have mentioned Project 929, a study project in the framework of which, participants read one chapter (and not one verse, as is mistakenly written in the linked article) of the Hebrew Bible, every day except for Saturdays and Sundays. All over the country, there are study groups, one of which I attend (as a course at the Open University Centre for Continuing Studies). Since the Open University courses are linked to the academic year, the fortnightly meetings take place only during the winter and spring semesters, but the reading continues all year round, either in smaller groups or individually – and those who need or wish for the guidance of the lecturers are able to follow the daily articles (in Hebrew only) on the project’s website  or on Facebook. Last week, saw the start of the 2015/16 academic year, with the final chapters of the Book of Judges, which we finished reading today. Tomorrow, we shall begin Samuel I.

Hand-in-hand with the study of the Biblical text, I have signed up for a series of field trips (“929 on the map”) under the auspices of the Ben-Zvi Institute (see here for Hebrew). One a month, we will go out to explore the Land of Israel, Bible in hand, each month’s tour being linked to the chapters being read that week. The first field trip was the week before last, and its subject was Samson: “Between Tzora and Eshtaol”. In view of the inclement weather of the preceding days, which had caused widespread flooding throughout the country, we took umbrellas along with our Bibles – and, miraculously, it stayed dry!
We visited the site of ancient Tzora, home of Samson’s parents, near which there is a modern kibbutz:

20151028_122900         20151028_122524

There, we saw, among other things, an ancient wine-press:

20151028_120933 גת בתל צרעה

Apparently, in Biblical times, this region was famous for its vineyards (which must have made life difficult for Samson, who, as a Nazirite was obliged, among other things, to abstain from partaking of the fruit of the vine). The local winemaking tradition continues to this very day, as attested by the Tzora Vineyards and the Mony Winery. We visited the latter, a delightful boutique winery where the wine is aged in barrels stored in tunnels dug into the hillside:


The winery has a terrace, famous for its panoramic view of the Sorek Valley, where Samson dallied with Delilah (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one ;-) ):

Nachal Sorek from Mony Winery          20151028_153704 תצפית שורק

Nearby are the ruins of ancient Beit Shemesh, where the lack of any pig bones helped archaeologists identify the Biblical Israelite city (since the Jewish dietary laws forbid the eating of pork).


Modern Beit Shemesh wasn’t really part of the tour, but we finished up there, with what the guide called “the Bible Quiz” in Gan Golan, a sculpture garden created by his parents in memory of Golan Peli, an IDF Armoured Corps Officer who fell in Halhoul, in 1992. The sculptures were created by Golan’s father and stepmother, in stone and metal, and all of them represent stories from the Bible, some more obliquely than others. For example, I managed to identify “Jephthah’s Daughter” quite easily:

20151028_163940 Jephthah's daughter

And David, playing his harp and with the head of Goliath at his feet also posed little difficulty:


But how could anyone guess what this one is supposed to represent? (Scroll down for the answer.)

20151028_164550  רחל מבכה את בניה

Full marks if you guessed that this is Rachel, weeping for her children (Jeremiah 31:15).

Or how about this?

20151028_164828 וגר אריה עם כבש

Is it a lion? Or a ram? The interpretation is up to you.

As I read over this post, it rather reminds me of Maria’s advice to the von Trapp children, in The Sound of Music, to think of their favourite things and then they won’t feel so bad. And, now that I come to think of it, it occurs to me that it isn’t a bad philosophy for life in general, to try to find something fascinating, or beautiful, every day, to refresh the spirit and bring a moment’s joy to the soul.

Have a good week.

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Staying Sane In A World Gone Mad

The fact that a week has passed since I last posted about the wave of “Palestinian” terrorist attacks against innocent Jewish men, women and children in my country, should lead no-one to the conclusion that things have quieted down. Not a day has gone by without several stabbings, or attempts to ram pedestrians with cars, or combined attacks in which terrorists have first run over pedestrians and then got out of their cars, not to render assistance, but to attempt to finish off their victims with knives or hatchets.
In other attacks, Israeli vehicles have been stoned and forced off the road and then, when the drivers were forced to stop and get out of their cars, they themselves were attacked.
Not only that, but on Saturday evening, one of the victims of the Har Nof massacre, Rabbi Chaim Yechiel Rothman, who has been in a coma since the attack, almost a year ago, succumbed to his wounds, becoming the sixth victim of that particularly brutal “Palestinian” atrocity.

Yet, as I wrote before, life has to go on. We cannot surrender to terror, we cannot shut ourselves up in our homes. If we do that, we might as well pack our bags and go back into Exile.

We all have to find our own way of coping. Some people have demonstratively hung Israeli flags from their balconies and windows, in a public display of defiance, as if to proclaim to those who seek to terrorise us: “You will not scare us away, you will not drive us out, we are here to stay”. Others have resorted to the tried and true method known as Consumer Therapy. I tried that myself, in fact, and it helped, but I needed more.

My refuge is music.
The Friday before last, October 16th, the Jerusalem Oratorio Choir travelled up north to Haifa, to perform Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms”, together with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra. This is a joyful selection of verses from various psalms, in three sections, of which the longest is the central section, based around that most famous of all the Psalms of David, Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd.” But it was another verse, verse 4, which was uppermost in my mind as we sang: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…”
I am sure that the simple faith of the psalmist spoke to many in the audience of several hundred.

Last Thursday, the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir took part with several other choirs, including our sister-choir and fellow member of the full Oratorio Choir, the Bel Canto choir, in a special event at the Clal Centre, Jerusalem’s first ever shopping mall, housed in a particularly depressing building in Jaffa Road. Despite the security situation, the nightmarish difficulty of guarding such an event and the likelihood that few people would venture out in such conditions, the organizers refused to cancel the event, intended to rejuvenate a building which has widely been considered a White Elephant, since it was first opened in the early 1970s. And I have to say, they were right. Not only was the concert a huge success, I was astonished to see how full of life the city centre was, in spite of everything. Before the show started, I watched a procession of Bratslav Hassidim, singing and dancing their way down Jaffa Road. And afterwards, walking back through the shuk, I could see no evidence for the claim that, since the latest wave of terrorism began, Jerusalem has been like a ghost-town at night. The restaurants, cafes, and bars were full, and everywhere, there was light and music.

And getting back to music – the acoustics in the Clal Centre are, to put it kindly, not of the best, and Raul, from our bass section, had to set up his video camera quite a distance away, but this should give you an idea of the atmosphere. Kate Belshé conducts the combined Bel Canto and Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choirs in Randall Thompson’s “Glory to God in the Highest”:

And here, Salome Rebello of the Bel Canto Choir, conducts the two choirs in “Tzena U’Re’ena” from Yechezkel Braun’s “Shir Hashirim” (Song of Songs):

The concert ended with a combined performance of all the participating choirs, who were dispersed along the various galleries, singing a Yemenite tune,  “Ani Tsameh” (אני צמא – “I thirst”).

As you can imagine, with the conductor down in the centre, and the conductors of the various choirs (placed above her in the galleries, on different levels) attempting to relay her conducting, as not everyone could see her, it was a bit chaotic – but moving, nonetheless.

I thirst, I thirst, I thirst, I thirst for your waters, Jerusalem.”

This, then, is my way of retaining my sanity amidst all the horror. I can put it no better than Leonard Bernstein:
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

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Cry Havoc

After four posts in a row on “the Situation”, as it is euphemistically termed, I had hoped that my next post would be about our concert last Friday in Haifa but, alas, it was not to be.

Friday was a long day, as I had to get up before 6 am in order to travel to Haifa, so I was planning on sleeping late the next day, Shabbat.  However, you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men…

At about nine o’clock in the morning, I was lying in bed, between sleeping and waking, wondering whether or not to get up and take myself a cup of coffee, when the Sabbath-morning quiet was shattered by what appeared to be the sound of several gun shots, in rapid succession. Not long after that, the phone rang. I would not normally answer the phone at 9 o’clock on a Shabbat morning, but “the situation” being what it was, and in light of what I was certain had been gunfire, I gingerly picked up the receiver. At the other end of the line was my stepmother, with an urgent warning not to leave the house because there had been a terrorist stabbing at the synagogue just up the road and that, although the terrorist had been “neutralised”, there was a danger that he had an accomplice who might be wandering about the neighbourhood even as we spoke.

It later turned out that the stabbing had not been at a synagogue, but that an alert citizen had seen someone acting suspiciously and had alerted a Border Police patrol on the Armon Hanatziv promenade. The latter conducted a search and apprehended a suspect. They demanded to see his ID card and, while he was being questioned, he draw a knife and attempted to stab one of the policemen, who then shot and killed him. All this took place a few hundred yards up the road from where I live.

There were at least four other attempted stabbings that day, in Jerusalem and in Hebron. I got so jittery that, when I took down the garbage the following morning, I changed my flipflops for closed shoes in which it would be easier to run from a potential terrorist, and took my mobile phone and tear-gas spray with me – just to walk forty yards or so to the dumpster.

But far, far worse was yet to come. Yesterday evening (Sunday), a terrorist, who turned out to be an Israeli Bedouin, somehow managed to enter the Central Bus Station in Beersheba, armed with a pistol and a knife. He then opened fire, murdering a 19-year-old soldier, Sgt. Omri Levi (HY”D) and stealing his M16 assault rifle, with which he began shooting indiscriminately. A gun battle developed between the terrorist and security forces, during which, the terrorist was shot dead. But, in all the confusion, and fear lest the terrorist might have had an accomplice, like the terrorists who carried out the attack on the #78 bus in Jerusalem last week, an innocent man, a migrant from Eritrea, was mistakenly identified as a terrorist and shot by one of the security guards (himself, ironically, an Arab Israeli).  As he lay wounded and helpless, he was attacked by vengeful citizens who, believing him to be a terrorist who had just participated in the murder of a young soldier and the wounding of at least 11 more people, vented their grief and rage by beating him mercilessly. He later died in hospital.

When I heard this morning of the death of Haftom Zarhoum, I wept as I have not yet wept since the beginning of this campaign of terror that has been waged on us since Rosh Hashana. I wept for a stranger, an African migrant who came here looking for a better life and who was caught up in a war which was not his. I wept for what we are in danger of becoming, through fear and confusion rather than through any innate evil. I wept, because, when our enemies succeed in turning us into a mob of wild beasts like themselves, who would lynch an innocent man, they win.

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Way Too Close For Comfort

I had intended to update my readers about yesterday’s Arab terrorist attacks, which included several stabbing sprees, one of them by two teenage terrorists, who went on a knife rampage in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Pisgat Zeev, seriously wounding a young man in his twenties. They then fell like beasts of prey on a 13-year-old Jewish boy who was innocently riding his bicycle, stabbing him over a dozen times, before being neutralised. One of the terrorist thugs was killed and the second was seriously wounded. These two wild beasts were aged only 15 and 13. No doubt the European and other foreign media will headline the story (as they usually do) “Palestinian child killed by Israeli forces after Jerusalem attack”. After all, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is already calling the killing of the older terrorist an “execution

Meanwhile, the 13-year-old Jewish child whom they tried to murder is still in serious condition, (as is the older victim) despite the stabilisation of his condition, following apparently successful surgery performed by the devoted surgical team at the Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital, including Head of General Surgery Prof. Ahmed Eid (who, as you have probably guessed from his name, is an Arab – because hey! Naturally the Head of Surgery in a leading Israeli hospital would be an Arab, Israel being, don’t you know, an apartheid state and all that…)

As I said, I had intended to give you all a detailed update on yesterday’s attacks, but before I could sit down at my computer, the air was riven by the wailing of sirens and a procession of police cars and ambulances began streaming into the Jerusalem neighbourhood of East Talpiot (Armon Hanatziv), where I live. Instinctively, I turned on the television and the radio and also began scanning cyberspace to find out what was happening.
And what was happening was unnerving. Two Arab terrorists, armed with a gun and knives, had carried out an attack on the #78 bus which runs through the neighbourhood, leaving two dead and 22 wounded. This occurred just after the bus stop right across the road from my old apartment, thirty metres away from what used to be, till last year, my study window. In fact, if I hadn’t decided to postpone my weekly shopping at the neighbourhood supermarket till tomorrow, and write my blog today instead, I would have been on that bus.

And as if that wasn’t enough, in other Arab terrorist attacks today, an Arab employee of the Israeli Bezeq Communications Company carried out a deadly attack on a group of Jews waiting at a bus stop in Malchei Yisrael Street in Jerusalem, ramming his work vehicle into the bus stop, killing one and seriously wounding two more. He then got out of his car and proceeded to stab his victims.
You see the horror here? In the current climate, one tends to be wary of passing cars, but who would suspect a Bezeq van or its driver?

Nor was Jerusalem the only scene of Arab terrorism this morning. In two separate attacks in the town of Ra’anana, five people were wounded. One of them is said to be in critical condition.

At the time of writing this post, I still do not know the names of the victims and so I do not know yet if they include anyone I know.

I have always agreed with Albert Schweitzer, that there are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world – music and cats. I have three cats. And this evening, I have choir practice – a rehearsal for this coming Friday’s lunchtime performance, in Haifa, of Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, together with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra.

Only – I am almost afraid to leave the house.

But I will. Because if we shut ourselves up in our homes, the terrorists will have won.

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