Tuesday, January 31, 2012

David Hatuel ~ Embracing LIfe

During the Second Intifada (approximately 2000-2005), we were in the United States and 2 of our adult children were in Israel. One was studying in yeshiva in Jerusalem and the other became a medic in the paratroopers. We lived our lives at the time constantly monitoring the news and assessing how close the horrific attacks were to our beloved sons. Because we were so closely connected, many of the terror killings are etched deep in our memories. The murder of Tali Hatuel is one that we will never forget. Tali, her four daughters and her yet unborn child were forced off the road by gunmen and then killed at point-blank range.

We have often wondered, and prayed for her surviving husband, David , who was not in the car at the time. In today's Israel National News there is a report about David and how his life is going. We want to share it with you. In his story we see the undying pioneer spirit, a mountain of faith and the glorious restoration of G-d. Below is the reprint of the article. Click here for the original link.

 Another Son Born to David Hatuel

Seven and a half years after he lost his entire family in a murderous terror attack on the road at the Kissufim crossing to Gush Katif, David Hatuel is celebrating the birth of a fourth new child following the tragedy, according to a report in the Hebrew-language Ma'ariv newspaper.
He has been blessed with three other children, as well: a daughter, Techiya, and two sons, Amichai and Shai.
“Obviously you cannot replace one family with another, but I am sure that no one would have believed that after the attack David would bring into the world four new children, in the place of his four daughters who were murdered,” an acquaintance was quoted as saying in the report.
Moshe Yanai, Ashkelon municipal assistant director of education and social services, who worked with Hatuel for years, also commented, “I think that the strength of David's faith, his strength of mind and character, and his late wife's family, who really supported him, gave him the the strength to move on. I of course wish him congratulations and the best of luck on this, the birth of his fourth child.”
Another acquaintance added, “David always said that he built a second house upon the first, and did not destroy the 'First Temple.' It is always before his eyes. On birthdays and on the anniversary of his first marriage, he always goes to the cemetery. Every new child born to him, he comes to the cemetery to share the news. He is a very special person, and deserves this good in his life.”
David and Tali Hatuel lived in the community of Katif. Tali was a social worker, and David was the principal of an elementary school in Ashkelon.  They were parents of four daughters – Hila, 11; Hadar, 9; Roni, 7; and Merav, 2.
On May 2, 2004, Tali – eight months pregnant -- traveled together with her four daughters from Katif to Ashkelon for an obstetrician's appointment, and then to attend a demonstration against the Disengagement referendum by the Likud being held that day.
At the Kissufim crossing, two terrorists opened fire on her car, forcing her off the road. Tali Hatuel was seriously wounded in the first attack.
The terrorists, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, then approached the car and fired at Tali and her daughters at point-blank range, emptying their cartridges, until they were dead.
IDF forces were dispatched to the area, and managed to kill the terrorists.
A joint committee of the Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees terrorist groups later proudly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Friday, January 27, 2012

International Holocaust Memorial Day

January 27 is International Holocaust Memorial Day as set by the United Nations*. (Different from Yom HaShoah) In pausing to remember, reflect and recognize the gravity of the Shoah, The 2 Spies would like to share with you a message from the Cheif Rabbi Lord Sacks.

*Israel, however, observes its official Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 26th of Nissan, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, according to the Jewish calendar. Its selection reflects the Jewish state’s preference to emphasize Jewish resistance to the Nazis.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Who's Afraid of Tim Tebow?

Have you ever met someone that was just so 'good', so principled, so clear-thinking, so well spoken, so completely focused and directed, so amazingly clear headed and moral that you might think you are dreaming? That the person sitting before you is just 'too good to be true'? This is The 2 Spies thoughts on Michael Freund. Not being an accomplished writer, we feel at a loss as to how to give an accurate description of this man. The first time this Spy met him, I was completely blown away and I told him so. 'Michael Freund, you are not at all what I was expecting!'. To which he answered with a grin, ' And what were you expecting?' 'I'm not sure anymore... just not the man I have sitting here!'

According to his profile on the Jerusalem Post :

Who's afraid of Tim Tebow?

This past Sunday I got a first-hand glimpse of one of the hottest phenomena in American pop culture and sports.
The venue was Metlife Stadium in New Jersey, the occasion was the first round of the National Football League playoffs.
Just prior to the start of the game between the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons, after the Giants had come onto the field, eight of their players headed toward the end zone, where they did something entirely unexpected.

These hulking and intimidating behemoths, who make their living by strapping on layers of protective body gear and pummelling their opponents, each knelt down on one knee, bowed their heads, and offered a silent prayer.
This act has come to be known as "Tebowing," after Tim Tebow, the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, whose signature prayerful genuflections have become a popular and internet sensation.

Tebow, who has led his team to some stunning comeback victories, including this past weekend when he tossed an 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime to defeat the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers, is an unabashed fan of his Christian faith. He talks about it in interviews and does not shy away from publicly thanking God for his team's success.
A growing number of athletes have begun to follow suit, offering thanks to the Creator for their triumphs on the field as well.

WATCHING THE Giants kneel filled me with a sense of awe. What humility! Surrounded by 80,000 screaming admirers, with millions more watching on television, these grandees of the gridiron had no qualms about engaging in a public act of such profound self-effacement.
Like anyone about to undertake a monumental and daunting task, they sought solace in spirituality, acknowledging that we humans ultimately owe everything to the Head Coach in heaven.

At a time when society so badly lacks positive role models, it is refreshing to see some of America's top athletes setting such an excellent example for the countless number of kids who look up to them.
Indeed, as Jews, we should welcome and encourage this development because it can only help to restore a healthy sense of perspective, one that can serve to counterbalance the West's increasingly materialistic mores.
But not everyone, it seems, shares this point of view.

Last month, the New York Jewish Week ran a vile and hateful column by one Rabbi Joshua Hammerman entitled "My problem with Tim Tebow."
Hammerman had the gall to claim that should Tebow lead his team to the championship, it could incite people to torch mosques and attack gays.
Yes, you read that correctly.
"If Tebow wins the Super Bowl, against all odds," he wrote, "it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants. While America has become more inclusive since Jerry Falwell's first political forays, a Tebow triumph could set those efforts back considerably."
Huh? Is this guy serious?

After Hammerman's screed provoked widespread outrage, the Jewish Week was quick to take his article off its website and offer an apology, stating that his column "was more inciting than insightful, and we erred in posting it, which we deeply regret."
To his credit, Hammerman also said he was sorry, acknowledging that what he wrote was "clumsy and inappropriate, calling to mind the kind of intolerance and extremism my article was intended to disparage."
You can say that again.
But the imbroglio does highlight an important and troubling truth: many Jews just are not comfortable with public displays of religion.

They look askance at those who invoke the Divine, as though there is something inappropriate or unseemly in doing so. For many Jews, it is legitimate to demonstrate loudly on behalf of animal rights, global warming or to be an assertive atheist who insists that we are all descended from apes.
But if you get down on one knee and thank the good Lord for your achievements, well, that is somehow out of bounds.

The fact that Tebow is a Christian driven by evangelical fervor only seems to add further fuel to the fire in the eyes of his Jewish critics.
But this is as wrong-headed as it is small-minded, and it says far more about his detractors than it does about him.

Personally, I am neither threatened nor intimidated when Christians such as Tebow flaunt their faith in public, whether on or off the football field.
As an observant Jew, I am confident enough in my own belief system not to feel jeopardized or vulnerable.
I am comfortable wearing a yarmulke at all times and putting on tefillin in a busy airport. Neither I nor anyone else should be made to feel that their expressions of faith ought to be kept from public view.

Those Jews who share Hammerman's sentiments and identify with his discomfort are merely giving voice to their own insecurity, spiritual and otherwise. Rather than hurling insults at others, they should look within and ponder why someone else's devotion could possibly irk them as much as it does.

So while I am most certainly not a Denver Broncos fan, I do believe it is time that we all catch a case of Tebow fever and give God His rightful due.
After all, saying thanks to a Higher Power can only elevate us to new heights and enrich our lives.
Even in the end zone.
Original Article

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Israel 365

Bless G-d, we are allowed to LIVE Israel 365 days a year!  BUT for those of you who LOVE Israel and whose hearts are here with us, there is a wonderful way to enjoy Israel anew every morning... right in your email box. Israel 365 is, well, we'll let them tell you in their own words:

"Israel365 promotes the beauty and religious significance of Israel. 
Featuring the stunning photographs of more than 30 award winning
Israeli photographers alongside an inspiring Biblical verse, 
Israel365 connects you with Israel each day."

Such a marvelous promotion of the beauty and wonders of the Land~ 
Here is a sample of some of the photos we have been enjoying already in 2012

 If this interests you go to Israel365 to sign up for their daily email, inspiration and a bit of the Land.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Miracle of Hebrew part 2

“For everything there is needed only one wise, clever and active man, with the initiative to devote all his energies to it, and the matter will progress, all obstacles in the way notwithstanding... In every new event, every step, even the smallest in the path of progress, it is necessary that there be one pioneer who will lead the way without leaving any possibility of turning back.”  Eliezer Ben Yehuda, 1908

Eliezer Ben Yehuda
For the revival of the Hebrew language, that pioneer was Eliezer Ben-Yehuda himself.

It is an error to say that Hebrew was a 'dead' language. It was the language of the synagogue ritual and prayers. It was the language of the Talmudic studies. It was the language of the Torah. If in any essence it was 'dead', it was only in it's use on a daily basis for the daily and mundane commonness of life. 

As the philologist Chaim Rabin noted in 1958, “...it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that at the time of Ben-Yehuda's first article in 1879, over 50 percent of all male Jews were able to understand the pentateuch, the daily prayers, etc. and some 20 percent could read a Hebrew book of average difficulty, allowing for a much higher proportion in eastern Europe, north Africa and Yemen, and a very much lower one in western countries.” 
This being the case, Eliezer's role in the revival of Hebrew as a daily language:
“Before Ben-Yehuda... Jews could speak Hebrew; after him they did.” ~ Cecil Roth

Born Eliezer Yitzak Perelmen on January  7, !858 Luzhky, Lithuania; he began his religious training at a young age with parental hopes that he would become a rabbi.  Later, like a lot of the scholars of his day, Eliezer studied other philosophies and joined the 'free-thinkers'. The same year that he finished his formal education, 1877, the Bulgarians were seeking independence from the Turks. This upheaval caused Eliezer to ponder the return of a people to its own nation and sovereignty. If this desire for independence was just for the Bulgarians how much more so for the ancient and much older people, the Jews.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda, known for his work in Hebrew was also a fore-runner of modern Zionism. His published papers promoted the idea that the Jewish people should return to their original homeland~ Israel. In his writings he encouraged the people to reconsider national identity. After overhearing a challenge, Eliezer decided that his campaign for a national homeland and the revival of Hebrew as a spoken, daily language could be better waged from Jerusalem.
Eliezer and Dvorah

In 1881, he and his new bride, Devorah, arrived in Israel. Not long after, he was hired to teach Hebrew at a boy's school and his first son was born. He insisted that the ONLY lanuage that the child would hear would be Hebrew. Eliezer understood that if his vision was to take wings and fly, it would mostly be through affecting the next generation. 

Like all visionaries, Eliezer had his difficulties. There was much persecution by the religious community who thought that Hebrew was only a holy language and should be used only in that manner. However, there were enough people of influence who agreed with Eliezer's vision and joined forces with him to help push along the venues necessary to see it happen. It was clear to Ben-Yehuda that herein lay the very future of the revival. If children could learn Hebrew from a young enough age in school, they would become virtually unilingual in Hebrew when they grew up. In his words: “The Hebrew language will go from the synagogue to the house of study, and from the house of study to the school, and from the school it will come into the home and... become a living language” 

One event that helped push along the integration of Hebrew, was the beginning of immigration in 1881. With so many Jews coming into the Land~many intellectuals~ the need for the common language became even more evident.  These new olim learned Hebrew, passed it on to their children and helped spur the movement into a reality. On Novemeber 29, 1922 the British Mandate Authority, recognized Hebrew as the official language of the Jews of Palestine (Israel) Only one month later, Eliezer Ben Yehuda died but not without seeing the beginnings of the fulfillment of his dreams.

On this your birthday, January 7, 2012~ The 2 Spies salute you, Eliezer Ben Yehuda with grateful hearts for your vision and drive and sacrifice.

Ben Yehuda's Home
Memorial Museum at Hebrew University

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Miracle of Hebrew part 1

Years ago, The 2 Spies had the privileged of visiting the F.S.U. ~ Former Soviet Union. The Iron Curtain had not been torn as yet and we were closely watched as we 'toured' the cities. There were guards on each floor in our hotel who kept an eye on our comings and goings and we are sure searched our possessions when we were gone. Our tour guide expounded daily on the glories of Russia~ most of which we agreed with her but of course there were major differences between us and our countries at the time. It was nearing the time of glasnost and perestroika and the Russian citizens were restless with what they felt was the approaching freedom. Still, there were police, prisons and punishments.

Moscow Synagogue
One of our main objectives on our trip was to visit the Jewish communities and encourage them that there would come a day when the doors would be opened. We spoke to them of Aliyah and of G-d's promised Land. We visited the Great Synagogue of Moscow that Pesach~ the first time it had been used in years. There were so many people that there was not enough room and the streets outside were filled. We shared the matzah that we had brought with them and once again reminded them that, like in Egypt, the day was coming soon and they could go Home. Hopefully, one day we could meet again in Jerusalem~

Sadly, there were many refusenics. Two of the men in our group (one of us and a friend) made a clandestine 2AM trip to visit some of them. They spoke of their lives and punishments they had suffered but also of their hope that one day they would be victorious. One of the men had been imprisoned for teaching Hebrew. That was his crime. It was illegal to teach Hebrew. He did it. He got caught. He went to Siberia.

Inside the Synagogue
It is hard to imagine that there once was a day in Moscow when Hebrew was illegal. As we listened to the concert in this video,this thought came to mind. As well as the thought of how completely life has changed. This concert piece is a medley of Hebrew songs done with the strength and beauty of the Russian creative soul. It was the  Turetsky Choir, the male choir of the Moscow Synagogue,  who performed this piece at the Kremlin. A rather remarkable and mind-boggling event. Years ago, we had walked the grounds of the Kremlin and past the KGB offices, praying~ pleading with G-d~ for the government of oppression to fall. To hear these songs sung in that place.... what can we say? We stand amazed at all that G-d has done in this place in our lifetime.
Enjoy the music.