Posts

Almost the whole of Shabbat, it was pouring and howling wind in Jerusalem, with a fair sprinkling of thunder and lightning, too.

These are the ‘late rains’ we pray for in our davening, until Pesach. And this year, God seems to be answering the prayer for rain abundantly, after almost 5 years of relative drought.

The last time the Kinneret started to fill up to full capacity was way back in the winter of 2013 when Operation Pillar of Defense was going on in the Gaza strip, as a response to terrorist rockets falling across Israel.

But the wettest winter in recent times happened in 1991, when the Gulf War was occurring, and Israel was being rocketed with Saddam’s scuds, and everyone was huddling in their ‘safe’ rooms with tape over the window, as instructed by the authorities.

(What makes the connection between rain and war even more distinctly is that the only year when Israel got absolutely ZERO rainfall was 2000, when Ehud Barak was PM and trying to negotiate half of Israel away to Yasser Arafat, at the failed Camp David ‘peace accords’.)

Last week, on Thursday, two rockets were apparently ‘accidentally’ fired at Tel Aviv.

You know how that goes, Ahmed accidentally leant against the control panel, and sent a precision Grad straight to the heart of the country.

Oooops!

And then, while Ahmed was still feeling bad about his blooper, Mohammed came in, tripped on a bit of dodgy carpet and also accidentally ‘fell’ against the missile launching control panel, to send a second rocket hurtling at Tel Aviv.

Accidents, accidents.

And this accident triggered a flurry of ‘tough man’ statements from our God-less politicians, each one trying to pretend that the safety of the country lies in their hands, alone.

With the lefties, the lie is obvious.

But with our current PM, so many otherwise believing Jews also seem to have been sucked into the fiction that all we need to emerge victorious in any confrontation with the enemy is to have Bibi as PM.

Things have gone so far, it’s approaching a modern form of idol-worship.

Who was ‘tougher’ than Ariel Sharon? But who was more of a disaster, ultimately?

Who was ‘weaker’ than Ehud Olmert? Yet that’s the guy who was steering the ship when the country went to war, twice.

Our Sages told us,

‘The heart of kings is in God’s hand’.

If the Jewish people are worthy, we’ll get miracles and protection even with a PM from Hamas, and if not – then not.

Even with Bibi.

Rav Berland has been telling us for months that our enemies have tens of thousands of rockets pointed at every part of the country, and that Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will not be spared, when the next round of hostilities start up.

He’s working day and night to try to sweeten things at their source, spiritually, in Heaven – but he needs us to work with him.

Rabbenu, Rebbe Nachman, explained that while we can’t do anything, really, without the help of the Tzaddikim, they also can’t do anything, really, without our active participation and yearning and prayers, however flawed.

Rav Berland called the prayer gathering for 4th Nissan, 5779, (Monday night, April 9, 2019) in Hevron weeks before the election was called, weeks before they found the ‘terror tunnels’ in the North. He made some pretty hair-raising statements about what is really on the cards, what we are really up against.

The Rav needs 50,000 people to join him in prayer, to really be able to sweeten the judgements we can all feel hanging so heavily in the air right now.

Sure, getting to Hevron is a shlep. Sure, it’s inconvenient, time consuming, uncomfortable. And then, there’s also the small point of convincing yourself that the Rav really is a huge tzaddik, and that all the effort is really worthwhile.

Everyone has the same tests, the same questions, the same inner battle.

But when you look at his track record, like when he said getting 10,000 people to Hevron would stop the ‘stabbing Intifada’ in its tracks, two years ago – and it did, immediately – that should hopefully give you enough strength to gird your loins, and make plans to be in Hevron Rosh Chodesh Nissan.

Because the alternative is getting a rocket through your roof.

So, rockets and rain seems to be going together again this year.

And I have a feeling, there are more storms on the way, before Pesach.

Learning some lessons from the first feminist in Israel.

After I wrote this post on whether orthodox Judaism can ever really go together with feminists, some thoughtful person tried to educate me via email about something she called ‘toxic masculinity’. Here’s how she described it:

“[W]hat feminism opposes is something called “toxic masculinity.” Toxic masculinity is basically someone with the middos or Eisav–they pursue power, hold brute force above kindness, look after their own interests instead of others, don’t care about justice, care mostly about their own taavos and material interests. They only express motions like rage and disdain, not tenderness or compassion.

“Healthy masculinity is basically someone who has “good Jewish middos”: they have self-control, pursue justice, hold spiritual (Torah) and emotional goals above material ones, look after other people, and don’t misuse power.”

Sadly, I must be an incorrigible barbarian because when I read that, I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my chair.

In my house, we all know who has got issues with so-called ‘toxic masculinity’ – and it ain’t the man! Sure, Eisav had bad middot – he was the root of evil in the world, after all. But he didn’t have bad middot just because he was a man. If you look through Tanach, there are plenty of examples of murderous, idol-worshipping women with awful middot, too.

If you crack open the book of Kings (and the book of Chronicles), you’ll find the story of the first ‘feminists’ in Tanach, (i.e. ladies who put their own ‘rights’ and own ideas about ‘religious freedom’ ahead of Torah obligations and rules).

Israel’s first ‘feminists’

First up, is Queen Jezebel, who so thoroughly ruled over her husband, King Achav (Ahab) of Israel, that she managed to induce him to build a temple to her new Baal idol, and also got his permission to kill hundreds (and maybe even thousands) of Hashem’s true prophets.

The prophet Ovadya was a steward in the King’s palace, and he managed to hide the last 100 true prophets away from Jezebel’s murderous hands in two caves.[1]

You can just imagine how the conversations in that household used to go, can’t you?

Jezebel: Achvee, all these rabbis are bothering me. Every time I want to sacrifice a child to Moloch, or burn some incense to the Baal[2], they tell me I can’t do it, it’s against halacha.

King Achav: Jezebel, my love, I can’t believe these ignorant people are discriminating against your wish to worship in the way you choose! In the name of open-minded ‘religious freedom’, I give you permission to hunt down every last one of those antiquated men with beards, and to kill them as brutally as you wish!

Jezebel: Achvee, it’s so wonderful that I married such a tolerant, non-discriminating person like you! I’m going to write a Facebook post about it.

So anyway, Jezebel the feminist clearly wore the pants in that particular household[3], and man, did she abuse her position.

As well as murdering hundreds and thousands of God-fearing people in cold blood (all in the name of ‘religious tolerance’, natch), she was also instrumental in causing the Ten Tribes to fall so deeply into idol worship, they never recovered and were permanently exiled from their land.

Again, you can imagine how that was done, can’t you?

Jezebel: Achvee, I’m not worshipping in that orthodox Temple anymore. People keep looking at me funny when I want to read from the Torah, and I keep getting comments that wearing a pant-suit to shul isn’t respectful. That’s so disrespectful of me, and my feminine power! Achvee, build me somewhere I can go and be comfortable on Rosh Hashana, and where we can sit together, and where I can also give drashas, and share the wisdom of my forefathers!

King Achav: Yes, my sweet! Let’s reform this antiquated religion of ours! It’s not suitable for modern times, for modern, feminist women like yourself. And I’m also sick of that bearded fruitcake Elijah threatening me with God’s wrath every time I break out the cheeseburgers. And he was also pretty unhappy that I married you in the first place in that civil ceremony. These people belong in the dark ages! What shall we call this new Temple of ours? Temple of the ‘Baal’?[4]

Jezebel: I prefer ‘Temple of the Isha’.

So anyway, Jezebel was a real feminist power-house.

She managed to get a bunch of idolatrous temples built up all over Samaria and the Kingdom of Israel, and to pull millions of Jews away from believing in God, and His Torah, and His tzaddikim (the ones she hadn’t just murdered in cold blood.)

But that still wasn’t enough for her. That pesky kingdom of Judah, to the south, was still worshipping the One True God in the Temple in Jerusalem, and the people there simply weren’t interested in having ‘Welcoming the Baal’ ceremonies in the Women’s Courtyard every month. So one day, Jezebel had an idea.

Jezebel: Achvee, let’s create an organization that will promote feminists’ rights, and minority rights, and Baal worshippers’ rights, and get those pesky orthodox rabbis and their stupid religion out the way. All their talk of serving Hashem is just stopping people from living in harmony, and coming together. It’s so much easier to serve the Baal! He lets you marry whoever you want, eat whatever you want, do whatever you want, and you can even spend Yom Kippur sunbathing on the beach in Tel Aviv!

We need to re-educate those dumb, backwards people in Jerusalem, and get them to stop shoving their old, outdated ‘Torah’ down everyone else’s throats.

So, King Achav called together his accountants and lawyers, and together they created The New Jerusalem Foundation, which would channel millions of dollars to every subversive idol worshipper they could find in the Kingdom of Judah.

And their work bore poisonous fruit very quickly!

Within a decade or two, after constant sniping from the feminists on Facebook, even the otherwise righteous Judean King, King Jehoshaphat decided that in the name of achdut and tolerance (and to stop all the carping), he should marry his son, Crown Prince Jehoram, to Princess Ataliah, the daughter of Jezebel and Achav.

Like her mother before her, Ataliah was a hard-core feminist, and a worshipper of the Baal[5]. The first thing she did was encourage her husband to murder all his siblings after he ascended the throne of Judah, so he wouldn’t have any competition. Jehoram, King of Judah, initially wasn’t so sure, but Ataliah managed to persuade him[6].

Ataliah: Jehoree, what’s the big deal?! Don’t tell me you really buy into all that 10 commandments stuff about ‘Don’t murder!’ That’s so pre-historic of you! All that stuff was just made up by rabbis to keep open-minded Baal-worshippers like us under their thumb! Do you know how many people I know, who left Yiddishkeit, because they weren’t allowed to sacrifice their child for the Moloch? We need to open things up here, and tolerate the different streams of Judaism. Baal Judaism and Moloch Judaism is just as valid as ‘orthodox’ Judaism![7] And where I come from, everyone is murdering their siblings to keep hold of their throne. It’s real politik, the way the world really works! Stop being such a doss!

Jehoram, King of Judah didn’t want to be thought of as backwards or as discriminating against his feminist wife’s more modern beliefs – and he was also a little concerned about losing his revenue stream, if one of his siblings made a grab for the throne – so he acquiesced, and had all his brothers murdered[8] in the name of ‘freedom OF, and freedom FROM religion’.

Fast-forward 20 years, and things were going downhill for both kingdoms.

Both countries were being continually harassed and threatened by external enemies from both the North and the South. Achav was dead, his idol-worshipping son Jehoram, King of Israel, had just been murdered by the Israeli General, Jehu, who then also went after Jezebel.

Jezebel heard him coming inside the palace, and her last recorded act (which she live streamed on her i-Phone) was to apply mascara to her eyes, and fix her hairdo[9], before being pushed out of a window at the royal palace.

Forget about praying, or making teshuva a moment before she died, that stuff wasn’t for a modern, feminist woman like her.

(After viewing the footage, feminists in Jerusalem were horrified by this senseless violence against one of their own, and organized a vigil in her memory in Tel Aviv, which was attended by 20,000 prominent idolworshippers.  Channel 2 also covered the story, and blamed her death on – who else? – the rabbis).

The idol-worshipping Jehoram, King of Judah had died from an incurably painful intestinal disease, and his son, the anti-Torah[10], idol-worshipping Ahaziah, had made the mistake of going to visit his cousin, the King of Israel, just as Jehu was killing the whole royal family, so he was also murdered.

When the Queen Mother Ataliah heard this, feminist that she was, what did she decide to do? She decided it was time for the Kingdom of Judah to have its first female prime minister – because anything men can do, feminist women can do better!

So, she declared herself the ruler, then she gave orders for every single male inline to the throne (including her own children and grandchildren) to be poisoned to death.[11]

Luckily for the House of David, Ataliah’s daughter, Jehosheba, was sick to the back teeth of all the Baal worship and feminist clap-trap she’d grown up with. She’d become a sincere baal teshuva, and married the Kohen Hagadol, Jehoiada. When her mother, Ataliah, started murdering all her male grandchildren in cold-blood, Jehosheba spirited away her nephew, a baby prince called Yoash, into the Temple, where she hid him for 6 years, until she and her husband could depose Ataliah in a coup.

Ataliah never went to visit that orthodox Temple once during her reign – once she took over the country, the Baal worshipping feminists stopped having their monthly ‘do’ in the women’s courtyard – so she never figured out what was going on until it was too late[12].

Ataliah continued to worship the Baal – and a whole bunch of other idols – right up until the end, when Jehoiada had her executed, and the Talmud even relates that she ‘married’ (ahem…) an Ashera tree on a regular basis. Because hey, when you’re a feminist who needs men?!

Especially with all that ‘toxic masculinity’ they have going on.

It’s amazing what you can learn when you crack open the pages of Tanach, not least, as King Shlomo so wisely stated way back when:

There is nothing new under the sun.

=====

“Do not turn to idols…R Chanin said: ‘The verse is interpreted to mean: Do not turn to that which comes from your minds[13].’” – Tractate Shabbos 149a

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Kings I, 18:4

[2] “Evil though he was, without Jezebel’s contemptible influence, Achav would not have followed the Baal, which required the revolting practice of sacrificing children.” – Malbim, Artscroll footnote to Kings I, 16:31

[3] “There had never been anyone like Achav, who sold himself to do what was evil in the eyes of Hashem, because Jezebel his wife had incited him.” – Kings I, 21:25

[4] “[Achav] erected an altar for the Baal in the Temple of the Baal that he built in Samaria” – Kings I, 16:33

[5] “[Jehoram] went in the way of the Kings of Israel, just as the house of Achav had done, for Achav’s daughter had become his wife; he did what was evil in the eyes of Hashem.” – Kings II, 8:17

[6] “Scripture implies that the queen’s influence was decisive in corrupting Jehoram.” – Kli Yakar, Artscroll footnote to Kings II, 8:18

[7] “Just as Athaliah’s mother, Jezebel, brought the Baal to the Ten Tribes, so her daughter influenced Jehoram to bring it to Judah” – Artscroll footnote to Kings II, 8:18.

[8] “[Jehoram] had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat – Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael and Shephatiah….Jehoram rose up over the kingdom of his father, and…he killed all of his brothers by the sword” – Chronicles II, 21:2-4

[9] “Jehu then came to Jezreel. Jezebel heard, and she put mascara on her eyes and adorned her head, and she looked out of the window.” – Kings II, 9:30

[10] “Rashi cites the Sages’ tradition that Ahaziah’s wickedness was so extreme…he took a Torah scroll and erased all mentions of Hashem’s name, and replaced them with the names of his idols.” – Artscroll footnote to Kings II, 9:27.

[11] “When Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, saw that her son had died, she arose and exterminated all the offspring of the royal family.” Kings I, 11:1

[12] “[Yoash] remained…in the Temple of Hashem, hidden for six years, while Athaliah reigned over the land.” – Kings II, 11:3

[13] The word אלילים (idols) is cognate with the word חללילים (recesses – of a man’s heart and mind) – Rashi: cf. Chidushei HaRan and Tos. Rid).

==

You might also like these posts:

I have to tell you, when Ori Ansbacher was brutally murdered in the Jerusalem Forest two weeks ago, I found it so upsetting, I kind of blocked it out.

Me and my girls went into shock for a few days, then we all tried to pretend that it was life as usual, because when you live in Jerusalem, and you are a teenage girl yourself, or the mother of one, really what else can you do?

But the fear and anxiety about what had happened still started to seep out, in all sorts of subtle ways.

All of a sudden, I couldn’t sleep easily again if my girls were out by themselves, and I started phoning them up and texting them every five minutes to check on them, which they both really hate.

And who can blame them?! They are 18 and 15 ½! But I’d gotten so nervous again, after what had happened with Ori.

After a couple of weeks of this, I realized I was driving my kids bonkers again, and I have to try and get a grip on the fear again.

God is running the world. God is deciding everything. OK, there is a certain amount of common sense that’s required when raising teens in our world, but ultimately, so many ‘bad’ things can happen in such normal circumstances in the middle of the day.

If God decides, you can be waiting for a bus near Beit El…or strolling on the boardwalk by the sea in Yaffo…or walking in the forest late afternoon near Ein Yael… and disaster can strike. God forbid a million times over.

As a parent, it’s so tempting to just try and bundle our children up in cotton wool, and to build big walls around them, and to try to monitor their every move and to keep them ‘safe’ in their rooms at home.

But we can’t.

Not if we want to raise emotionally-healthy people who aren’t going to spend their whole lives permanently looking over their shoulders, waiting for the hammer to fall.

God is running the world, not us.

It’s not always easy to accept that.

Yesterday, they held a huge concert just up the road from me at the First Station in Jerusalem, to remember Ori Ansbacher. There were a load of famous singers there, Ori’s mother spoke to the crowd, and there were also a lot of videos and ‘remembrances’ of Ori herself.

Half the teens of Eretz Yisrael tried to attend, so the roads around the First Station were closed to traffic, and swamped with thousands of people, many of whom couldn’t even squeeze in, so they watched the show on the big screens set up outside.

This morning, my kid told me all about it, and concluded:

She was a really good, kind person.

In so many ways, it would be easier if she wasn’t, wouldn’t it?

It would feel a bit more comfortable, if the murder victim had been some sort of low-life, so we could assuage our own fears by telling ourselves what happened was somehow ‘deserved’.

Instead, yet again, we buried the cream of the crop. The best of the best. The kindest of the kind.

God knows what He’s doing, God’s running the world, it’s all ultimately for the best.

But the heart still breaks.

And I’m still having trouble sleeping.

I wrote this last Thursday, February 7th.

The last few days, I’ve been mostly staying at home, because this week it feels like ‘out there’ got dangerous, somehow.

The last two days, I’ve also been having weird dreams again. One night, it was the face of the ugliest person I’d ever seen in my life, who was chasing me around and I couldn’t get away from it. I woke up screaming.

Then yesterday night, I dreamt that I’d just moved into a massive, luxurious mansion, built of Jerusalem stone cobbles and filled with OTT swimming pools like one of the hotels in Las Vegas (I’ve never been, but so I’ve heard.)

BUT – there was some sort of massive leak / waterfall happening, cascading down the roof, and when we and the 400 people who were apparently visiting me in the mansion went up to see what was going on, this toddler started crawling on a very dangerous low wall overlooking the stairs – and fell off before I could grab him.

It was a long way down, and he was comatose – I knew it was a really bad fall, but I had the impression that he was still alive, and would make it.

Then, unbelievably, another small kid fell off the same wall – and I had the impression that this one had died.

I started yelling at the people in my mansion to keep their kids away from the wall and to pay attention to where they were, and what they were doing, but no-one was paying attention to me, because they were enjoying themselves way too much. So, I stood by the wall, and just kept grabbing the kids as they fell off, pulling them back.

In the dream, I was thinking:

“What’s the point of owning a house if it’s just going to spring massive leaks, and kill people?”

There was also a man in my dream, a writer, who initially was really bad, but who by the end made teshuva.

I woke up, and I repeated Rabbenu’s instructions for defusing difficult dreams, by saying: “It’s just a dream” three times.

But then it struck me: this whole dream, and the one before with the ugly person, had to do with talking lashon hara and hating other Jews.

In the first dream, the ugly person was an newspaper editor, and he was chasing me around with gossip and yucky information about other people. And the second dream, I realized, was all about the temple.

The kids who were falling off the ledge represented the destruction of the Temples. The first kid who fell and went comatose represented the destruction of the first Temple, which was a serious blow to the Jewish people, but which we recovered from, mostly, after 70 years.

The second kid who fell and apparently died was the destruction of the Second Temple – which we’re still suffering from after 2,000 years. And the 2-3 kids that fell off afterwards, but who I managed to grab back by their clothes, are the Third Temple, which God keeps trying to build, but which we keep torpedoing by our behavior and attitudes towards each other.

The problem that is causing all this death and destruction is sinat chinam, or the baseless hatred of other Jews that causes people to go around saying horrible, hateful and hurtful things to each other, and about each other.

And that sinat chinam is most destructive closest to home, with our children. It’s mamash destroying the next generation.

Whenever you see people who are publically and poisonously shooting their mouths off about ‘the problems’ they see in other Jews, and other groups of Jews, you can take it as read that they are also negative, critical, neglectful and abusive parents and spouses.  It can’t really be any other way.

Real tzaddikim don’t rebuke like that. They talk about particular bad behaviors, thought patterns or actions that are ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’ and that we all need to work on. They don’t talk about specific Jews being ‘bad’, and place themselves on a platform of being ‘the perfect rebuker who never does anything wrong’.

So, instead of giving these ‘sinat chinam’ types of people a platform to spread hate, and an audience to eagerly lap it up, we should be running away from them as fast as our legs can carry us.

Because this is what is preventing the geula, and this is what is damaging our own relationships, especially with our own children: sinat chinam and lashon hara.

There’s a lot more to say, but hopefully a word to the wise will suffice.

More and more, I’m starting to feel as though some big change, some big transformation really is on the horizon. And the only way we can really prepare for it, wherever we live, is to continue to work on our own bad middot, and particularly the tendency to speak badly of others, and to hate them in our hearts, even while we’re so politely smiling at them.

==

The day after I had this dream, and wrote the above, we got the awful news of the rape and murder of Ori Ansbacher, a beautiful 19 year old girl who was doing her year of National Service at Ein Yael national park.

There’s a news blackout on a lot of the details, but it was awful, awful, awful.

All this stuff hits so very close to home, when you have teenage daughters yourself. And probably, even if you don’t.

We need geula the sweet way as fast as possible, before any more of our children ‘fall off’ and get smashed on the rocks of evil speech and hating our fellow Jew in our heart. God forbid, we should have any more of these sorts of evil tidings.

Could it really be? Moshiach straight after Seder Night, 5779

Over on the RavBerland.com site, there’s a very interesting interview with Rav Shimon Badani, a very highly respected Sephardic posek who met with Rav Berland yesterday, and asked him straight out:

When is Moshiach coming?

Rav Berland told him:

Straight after Seder night, 5779.

I so want to believe it! We’ve had so many false starts, haven’t we? It’s kind of hard to get too excited about it, but Bezrat Hashem, maybe we really are in touching distance of geula.

Time to work on the marriage plans even more…

UPDATE ON ELIEZER BEN ETIA:

Looks like it actually happened! Unbelievable. Go HERE to read it for yourself.

My 18 year old bounced up to me, and asked me:

Imz, can I show you something that made me cry?

Sure. Sure you can.

She waited for me to get the internet stick thingy switched on, and I steeled myself for another semi-pointless ‘teenage girl’ video that I’d have to make the right noises about. Like, a few days ago she showed me a video that was meant to be ‘the funniest thing ever’.

It was some aggressive little pooch called Quincy, trying to bite its owner’s hand off every time he was trying to retrieve a pair of socks or some other thing that dog was nesting on. It was kind of amusing, I guess, although by the 15th clip of Quincy trying to attack the owner, the one thought I had in my head was ‘that pooch should be put down’.

But I know better than to make comments like that to my teens, so I bit my tongue and tried to look sufficiently amused by Quincy, the killer poodle.

So my hopes weren’t high for the ‘emotional’ clip my teen wanted to share with me – and even less high when I realized she was clicking over to the ‘Star is born’ website, where wannabe singers get rated by Israeli celebs in heavy make-up.

Please eyes, don’t roll so far back in my head that my teens will notice. I’m trying to ‘bond’ with them here…

The 18 year old gave me some background:

Imz, this is a really special band that my hanichot (students from the Bnei Akiva group for disabled kids that my daughter was the madricha for) told me about. The two singers are blind, and all the band has some sort of disability. I cried so much when I saw it.

At 45, it takes a little more to get me emotional these days, (and in some ways, also a little less.)

The clip began, and there were the panel of celebs pulling celebrity faces and making celebrity noises like ‘Vow!’ and ‘Me-a-mem’.

But then half way through, something started strange happened.

The fake glitz and the fake glamor somehow disappeared out the picture, and the soul dimension started to shine through. As I watched the two blind girls singing, and the two young men with Down’s Syndrome playing percussion, and the other band members who were all doing their thing despite their own disability – some of whom had kippas on their head – I started to realise something profound:

I love the Jewish people. We’re amazing.

But that wasn’t all.

The ‘vows’ and the ‘me-a-mems’ dried up, and even the celeb panel started to dab tears off their heavily made-up faces. OK, you could say that maybe that was expected from the lady celebs, although for once, it all seemed far more real than scripted.

But when the young male singer who was carefully cultivating a cool image also found himself fighting back the tears, that’s when you just knew something very profound was going on.

The soul dimension had exploded in the most unlikely of places, a TV studio for ‘A Star is Born’ in the middle of secular Tel Aviv and fake celeb land.

It took two singers how couldn’t see, and a few band members who couldn’t give a hoot about coming across as ‘cool’ to break down some of the ‘fake’ that divides us all, and to reach past external appearances to remind everyone:

We Jews have a tremendously big soul. We’re all part of the same people. And very soon, that’s going to become obvious to everyone.

Having the cool male celeb tear up on TV is only the beginning of the good things that are about to start happening here in Israel.

And I can’t wait.

Before I threw all my secular CDs away, Queen was one of my favorite bands by a long chalk.

The beats, the melodies, the guitar riffs, the clever lyrics. I loved Queen to bits. One of my all time favourite songs was ‘Under Pressure’.

Dum dum dum diddy dum dum. Dum dum dum diddy dum dum (oo-wa-oop).

Just now, my husband told me that since Chanuka, he’s been feeling like he’s been under non-stop pressure, without any let-up. Thank God, we can pay our bills and nothing particularly ‘major’ is happening to explain this big build-up of tension and stress, but there’s no doubt about it: we’re under pressure.

And we aren’t the only ones.

As ‘the matzav’ in Israel continues to wind its way towards whatever Heavenly goal it’s being designed to achieve, I’ve noticed more and more short tempered outburst going on around me. People are honking more; they’re walking faster (or staying home…); they have less patience for people, they’re more out of it.

In short, they’re under pressure.

All of us are feeling the stress at every level of our being. That much is clear. What’s less obvious (at least to me) is what all this pressure is meant to be achieving. Because for sure, God is doing it for a good reason.

Is He trying to provoke a collective national melt-down, that will lead to a mass teshuva movement?

Is He trying to show us all that we simply can’t get by without Him any more, and He’s going to keep upping the ante until any semblance of arrogance and independence is crushed out of us?

Is He secretly working for Big Pharma, and has bought a bunch of shares in Prozac et al?

I don’t know – which is actually quite strange for me, as I like to think I at least have a small inkling of what God might be planning with all this stuff.

But I don’t. Despite all my hours of praying, and all my efforts to talk to God, and all my attempts to read the runes and decode the hints He’s sending me, and everyone else, I feel that I’m currently sailing in unchartered waters.

To put it another way, I haven’t had a clue what’s been going on in my life, or around me, since Succot, and that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. I know the pressure is building – we can all feel it, and you’d have to be crazy to not recognize that ‘something’ is bubbling under the surface.

What the something is, or how it’s going to manifest in the world, is anyone’s guess. I hope its Moshiach. I hope its redemption. I hope it’s chanukat habayit (both personally and nationally). But right now, all I really know is that I’m under pressure, and some days, it really feels like I just can’t take it anymore.

After I finished House of Windows, a collection of essays written about and around the Jerusalem neighborhood of Musrara, where I used to live, I started to muse:

Is it really possible for us to have peace?

I’m not talking about peace with the Arabs, because it’s so clear that once we have peace between the Jews, and the Jews come back to God, the war with the Arabs will disappear all by itself.

Without firing a shot.

Just as the Breslov teachings about what will happen when Moshiach actually shows up describes.

It seems to me the far harder job is to make peace between the Jews, because sometimes, we seem fractured into so many opinionated shards – each one hating the other – that I feel it’s going to take an open miracle to turn things around.

About two thirds of the way through House of Windows, the author starts having guilt pangs about the original, Arab, owners of her house, and starts the process of trying to track them down. After months spent hacking through all the bureaucracy, she discovers the name – and then something seems to have fundamentally changed in her outlook.

She admits in the book that she had no intention of ‘giving the house’ back to whoever the original owners actually were – the knowledge is not going to change anything on the ground. But what it did seem to do is to sour the secular, American-Jewish author’s feelings towards Israel and her fellow Jews.

After detouring into a minor rant about ‘messianists with guns’ from the Bronx and New Jersey taking over the country, plus some extracts of letters from the colonial Brits who clearly couldn’t stand the Jews, and especially the Jews that fought back, like Menachem Begin, the book kind of petered out.

I loved the author’s writing style, if not all of her sentiments, so I went to look up what she wrote next, and discovered it was a biography of a Palestinian poet named Taha Muhammad Ali, who wrote some very good poems that are politically not my taste at all, heavily-laced with references to God.

Now, she’s writing the biography of Ben Hecht – who wrote the classic book ‘Perfidy’ in between turning out Hollywood scripts for blockbusters like Scarface and Notorious, but the reference in the book blurb to Hecht supporting the ‘Jewish terrorist underground’ clearly got my back up again.

Next, I went to check out the reviews she got for her book on Musrara – and like mine, for the Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife, they are incredibly mixed. Her one star reviewers are clearly very upset with her for favoring Arabs over Jews, and for treating the religious Jews she meets as aggressive, ogling aliens from another planet.

Meanwhile, my one star reviewers are calling me racist – for stating that Arab terrorists who like to stab people are a drawback to living in the holy city – or dissing me for talking too much about God.

So after all that, I started to ponder: is it possible for us Jews to see past all our differences, and to still respect and relate to the person, despite their different (and sometimes, disturbing) views?

I’d had such high hopes when I was half-way through that book of tracking the author down, and seeing if she’d like to swap notes on life in Musrara as viewed through the lens of an English-speaking journalist. But by the end of the book, I pondered if she’d relate to me as an alien from out of space too, just because I have a hat on my head and an abiding belief in God and His Torah.

And what about me?

How would I relate to her?

At this stage in my life, I am trying very hard to see the good in others, and to look for the ties that bind, as opposed to the disagreements that cut apart, and the shorthand labels that dismiss other Jews as ‘lunatic lefties’ (or ‘messianics with guns’). At least in theory. But in practice, it’s so much  harder.

Part of me bristled when I was reading her negative account of the yeshiva students who were trying to cut down a mature tree illegally in the shared garden. But the truth is, that I also experienced things like that – chillul Hashem like that – day in and day out in Musrara. And in Meah Shearim. And in Beit Yisrael and Geula and a bunch of other places, too.

Chareidim are only human, after all. And Baal teshuva Chareidim often rush to adopt the external look of being totally ‘religious’ before their internal middot have caught up.

At the same time, the author’s attitudes towards her fellow Jews reminded me of the secular Anglo who lived upstairs from me in the slum, and who spent most of his day loudly criticizing his ‘disgusting’ religious neighbors, and their disgusting children to anyone who would listen.

Sure, he didn’t drop his trash on the floor, but he managed to bespatter the neighborhood with a potent filth of a different kind.

And me? I was in the middle of it all.

I also couldn’t stand the dirt, and the seemingly wanton neglect. But I understood it. I understood that I was dealing with people who were overwhelmed with life, and who just didn’t have the energy to pick up the trash. And on some level, I also understood the secular bigot upstairs too, because it honestly would look so much nicer if it was clean and orderly.

But who wants to hear someone criticising his neighbors in such ugly terms, day in day out?

Not me.

So I circle back to the question: could me and this author get on, somehow?

We lived in the same neighborhood, we experienced such similar things, we’re both Anglo Jewish writers who were completely out of our element, we’re similar ages, we both wrote a book about life in Musrara.

Is that enough for us to relate to each other as human beings, and not stereotypes?

I’m tempted to find out.

As you might have gathered if you read The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife, the Jerusalem neighborhood of Musrara has figured big indeed, over the last 4 ½ years of my life in Israel.

Musrara has a crazy, eclectic energy which makes the place hard to describe, and hard to forget. When I lived there, I thought that maybe this was because it was a place where so many extremes met: on the edge of Meah Shearim, on the edge of the Russian compound and Yaffo St, on the edge of the Old City, on the edge of East Jerusalem.

“On the edge” sums up so much of how I felt for a lot of the time I was living there. Like “on the edge of a nervous breakdown” (repeatedly); “on the edge” of giving up, a million times already. “On the edge” of something amazing, stupendous, amazing that always seemed to be retreating off another step into the distance the more I chased after it.

I had a real love / hate relationship with Musrara, and I still do.

In terms of sheer drama and street entertainment, it was unparalleled. Cops were constantly being called, neighbors were yelling their lungs out every two minutes, the renegade ‘Nachmans’ were always in the middle of mischief. Every time I turned around, there’d be another 9 year old trying to learn how to vape.

And let’s not talk about all the stabbings and people getting run over in the neighborhood which makes for interesting copy (hey, that’s what sells newspapers!) – but not for great living.

So, when Annette Gendler, a writer friend of mine, gave me a copy of a book called “House of Windows”, which was a collection of essays written about Musrara, I approached it cautiously. Musrara is so colorful, so intense, was it really possible to capture some of that energy accurately in plain old black-and-white?

The book is written by Adina Hoffman, an American writer who moved into Musrara a good 25 years before I hit the neighborhood in 2015. Some of the props and costumes have changed, but so much of what she describes was so familiar, I had the weird experience of looking in on my life through someone else’s window.

Like, some of the barmy locals trying to illegally chain-saw one of the old big trees in the communal space, and only stopping when the cops were called.

Something similar was still happening in my day, except now, the trees were being chopped down by the Arab gardeners hired by the locals to turn the communal space into a concrete temple, replete with its own idolatrous idol.

But her descriptions of popping into the local corner shop for some friendly human interaction after a full day spent alone, tapping away at the keyboard, was something I could so relate to. I could also really relate to Hoffman’s descriptions of feeling alien, and yet so completely connected to all these strange people in Musrara, although like I said, a lot of the props and costumes had changed.

Most of the surly Moroccans she described have either moved out of the neighborhood, got frum, in various ways, or have cashed-in on Musrara’s sky-rocketing house prices and become almost ‘respectable’.

But I was still shocked to learn that Musrara was home to Israel’s infamous ‘Black Panthers’; and that the first street I lived on there had a reputation amongst the locals for being cursed, as so many people had committed suicide on it.

That explained a lot.

The four months I spent in that house were indisputably the most miserable of my life. If living on that street made people feel as bad as I felt, I can only say it’s amazing there weren’t more people putting in for monster prescriptions of sleeping pills at the local pharmacy.

But what shone through the pages is that Musrara has always been somewhere that’s somehow larger than life – both for the good, and for the bad.

Since my failed house purchase (which now that I’ve read this book, I can see is just another ‘typical Musrara’ story), I’ve been living in a much quieter, much more ‘normal’ part of town. In Baka, most of the neighbors keep a polite distance from each other. The police are rarely called. The juvenile delinquents go about the business of trying to set fire to things, and trying to learn how to smoke, in a much quieter, more covert way.

The streets of Baka are way cleaner, much quieter, and (especially now they paved over the communal garden) greener.

And mostly, I like it.

But every now and then, I think about Musrara, that place of high windows, Moroccan mafia and Breslov chassidim, that village on the edge and simultaneously in the middle of everything.

And I miss it.

Oooahh, there is nothing like having a couple of days off the evil internet to start to regain some optimism and joie de vivre again.

Here’s what I did yesterday:

  • Volunteered for 2 hours a local school’s garden in Jerusalem
  • Wrote up something deep and meaningful on how to forgive people who have really hurt us, for spiritualselfhelp.org
  • Went for three hours to ‘paint me pottery’ with my husband and teenage kids – we all had the best time. And my two teens even left their phones behind for the occasion, unprompted, which was stoo-pen-dous.
  • Spent two hours painting a picture of the Rav.
  • Spent an hour walking around and smelling the roses, literally and figuratively, need to where I live.
  • Swept the huge dust balls off the floor, hung up some washing, did some washing up and generally tidied the house.
  • Exercised twice – some stretching, and then some energy exercises.

I went to bed feeling stoo-pen-dous!

I got so much done that wasn’t just sitting here typing.

I also had some ‘space’ in my head to think, and here’s some of the thoughts that bubbled up:

  • I need to start writing proactively again, instead of re-acting to everything that’s going on, or not going on.
  • I need to stop writing about geula stuff, even though it’s mamash unfolding before our eyes. People are falling into yeoush and despair left, right and centre, and hitting them over the head with ‘reality’ is not going to help anyone at this point.
  • Unity is the thing to focus on – even the Queen was talking about it in her speech. “One must have achudus at this difficult time, and stop hating one’s selfish, retarded jerk of a neighbor.” I’m paraphrasing, natch.
  • I need to go back to writing creatively about life as a believing Jewish woman living in Israel. That means getting on the second volume of the Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife – but doing it with a twist. I’m currently working with Alizah, the very talented fiction editor from SassonMag.com to turn the raw material from the blog into something that’s actually a good read, as a book.

It’s time to make a new start – again!

I know I write about that a lot, but I just saw something on the RavBerland.com website that really underlined for me again how important it is to just keep starting over again when things aren’t going how we want.

Every day is a new creation, that’s what the Rav says! The path of Breslov is to just keep sweetening, and reassuring, and strengthening and picking ourselves up from the bottom of the pit, over and over again.

And not to get stuck in all the doom and gloom.

Man, I keep getting stuck in that myself, and probably I’ll get sidetracked again in the future.  But then I just have to try to pull it back faster, and start over again.

Life is good!

So, that’s what I got from my day off the evil internet, and it was so useful, BH I want to have at least one ‘internet-free’ day a week now.

With God’s help.