Aliya Adventures- Part 2 The Moving Blues-Part 1

Shalom Y’all:

The next step, which perhaps should have been done much earlier, was to find a place to live. We were initially looking to buy an apartment, but the deal for the apartment we wanted fell thorough.  At first we persisted in trying to buy another apartment since we felt that any money paid toward rent would be a waste. However, buying an apartment without actually seeing it is very difficult. My son-in-law went to see a few apartments for us and even took multiple pictures of the apartments. However, nothing quite met our specifications.

As the departure date grew closer, we got increasingly nervous and decided we would have to rent initially.

Our search for agents also proved difficult. Most of the agents we contacted had two or three apartments to show and after that they simply stopped looking for others. We were growing increasingly desperate. Many apartments that were advertised online were unavailable. Finally, we settled for a three bedroom apartment which did not have everything we wanted, was in so so condition, and was more than we hoped to pay. But as we had to live somewhere, it would have to do. Also, since we found it through an agent, we would have to pay a month’s rent for his services.

Now a word about Israeli apartments. Unfurnished Israeli apartments come without anything and by that that I mean anything- no appliances, closets, furniture, etc. Just plain empty. Renters are required to buy appliances, furniture and wardrobes and either take it all with them when they move, or sell them to the landlord and/or next renter. Then there are semi furnished apartments which come with appliances and maybe wardrobes, which Israelis use instead of closets. Finally there are furnished apartments which come with everything.

We were hoping to get a semi furnished apartment so that we could take our own furniture and ultimately move it to an apartment we would buy. This apartment was furnished, but the landlord agreed to remove whatever items we wished.

Since some of our kids live in Israel and some in the States, we decided that, although we had to sell our house, we would need to have a place to stay in the States when we come to visit our kids in America.  Our feeling is that for a for a week or two it’s OK to stay with the kids, but after that we become a burden. So we decided to buy a mother daughter house with one of our kids. However, since this house is not yet identified, much less purchased, we would have to put any furniture, appliances, clothes, or household stuff we wished to bring into paid storage.

Finally, since Israel uses 220 voltage instead of America’s 110, all our electrical appliances would not work in Israel unless we purchased a heavy duty transformer. We decided not to do so.  So we had to decide what to do with our appliances, both large and small.

Essentially we had to divide the contents of our house into five categories- Israel, storage in America,  remaining in the house, donations and disposal.

This meant going through the entire house and garage and evaluating their contents. I had no idea I owned so much stuff until I had to sift through it. Things I hadn’t seen for many years suddenly appeared. And, even though I hadn’t had a need for them all these years, now that I had them I had to decide what to do with them. For example, my vinyl records. At first I thought they must be worth loads of money, but a quick trip on Google convinced me that they were not worth selling. I would have to give them away since I had no means of listening to them. Old suitcases and various carrying bags would also have to be given away or disposed of, as would old cameras, phones and clothes.

There are various companies that ship possessions to Israel. But they all basically have three types of containers- shared, 20 foot and 40 foot. Obviously, the larger the container the greater the price. Companies send out appraisers to review the contents of the house or apartment and decide on the size of the container required. This means that what will be sent to Israel should be separated out so the shipper will be able to make an accurate judgement.

So the first thing we did was decide what to take to Israel. We decided to take neither large appliances nor small ones. We also decided not to take our couches, but to leave them in storage for our American home, since we did not know if the couches would fit into our rented apartment or our future apartment. That hurt, since these couches were barely a year old and I really liked them. Deciding which clothes and books to take was even more difficult, since we knew space would be an issue. Despite all my attempts to prune down my choices, I’m sure I still took much more than I will have room for.

To Be Continued

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Aliyah Adventures Part 1- Documents, Documents

Shalom Y’all:

Sorry I haven’t written in such a long time, but we’ve busy with Aliyah activities.

We decided to make aliyah after our pilot trip during December and January. Proceeding with aliyah meant the following:

First we had to decide whether we could afford to keep our house while paying for the rental or purchase of an apartment in Israel. The answer to that question was a no brainer- we could not. So we had to arrange for the sale of our house. We had intended to sell it without an agent, but an agent persuaded us that going solo would mean that lots of curiosity seekers and unqualified buyers would come to see our house, while he assured us, he would bring only real buyers to see it. Of course, he wanted an exclusive. We agreed to give him an exclusive for 45 days, after which the sale would be open to all. Of course, if we found the buyer ourselves, we would not be obligated to pay him a commission.

The agent assured us that we did not have to “stage” the house, but we did do our best to straighten it out. After two weeks, we had a buyer whom the agent convinced to meet our price. Contracts were drawn up and signed and the closing was set for mid May, with the stipulation that if we stayed in the house beyond that date, we would pay rent. As we are not planning to leave until mid July, that was a given.

Then we had to gather up all our original government documents including: passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc. and obtain a letter from a Rabbi certifying our Jewishness. The latter was necessary to enter Israel under the Law of Return, which grants every Jew the right to settle in Israel. Then we had to fax these documents to Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that assists those making aliyah.

Now for most people while gathering the above is an inconvenience, for me it was much more difficult. I was born in Amsterdam Holland and the Dutch have not yet made birth certificates available online. Furthermore, at the time of my birth, the city was divided into different sectors and each produced their own birth certificates. After locating the area of my birth, we requested the birth certificate only to be told that there was a fee for it, roughly $17, which would have to be paid in Dutch currency. No, they don’t take credit cards, checks, or bank wires. Only cold hard cash. Our appeals fell on deaf ears and finally they suggested we ask a friend or relative living in Holland to bring the money to them. Luckily, I still have cousins who live in Amsterdam and one of them graciously agreed to pay the fee and procure the document. I’m not sure what would have happened had I had no contacts in Holland.

The birth certificate turned out to be hand written in Dutch. Surprise. At first, the Nefesh B’Nefesh officials we were working with asked that we get an official translation since they could not find my name, nor the names of my parents, nor my date of birth. Once we pointed these things out to them, they were satisfied. Or so it seemed.

My husband, who was born in Belgium, had much less of a problem since his Belgian birth certificate contained English headings for the pertinent data and was free.

After all the documents were reviewed and approved by Nefesh B’Nefesh, we, as do all aliyah applicants, had to make an appointment with the Jewish agency and present the original documents to the interviewer. The interviewer asks questions, reviews the documents and makes recommendations as to whether the person should be allowed to make aliyah. Within two weeks or so, the applicant is informed of the decision. Most, if not all applicants, are approved, as so were we.

The next step is deciding the date of the Aliyah and booking a flight with Nefesh B’Nefesh to Israel. The flight is heavily subsidized and people can either fly on a group or charter flight. or make their own arrangements. We decided to take a charter flight, which means flying with El Al on a special flight on which everyone is making Aliya. These flights are often met by Israeli government representatives at the airport and all processing for citizenship is done on the plane and in the airport. Arrangements for processing can also be made on the other types of flights.

Part Two – Moving Madness

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Passover Thoughts


As you all  know, Passover is tonight.  Pesach, 2015, begins at sunset on April 3 and ends at nightfall on April 11. I hope you were able to find Passover t shirts and gifts that you liked at and at our sister Passover shop,

Putting aside all the cleaning and cooking, have we really stopped to think about the true meaning of Passover?

Passover celebrates the birth of the Jewish nation. The Lord took the Jews out of their slavery in Egypt and made them into a free nation with a high moral code as elucidated in the Torah. After wandering in the desert for forty years, the Jews conquered and settled in Eretz Yisroel, Israel. They were a sovereign nation for a while, then split into two and subsequently driven from their land. The Jews remained stateless for almost two thousand years.

In the intervening years, many of the ancient peoples disappeared. The mighty Philistines are no more. Neither are the Babylonians and the Assyrians and other powerful nations.

While living in exile, Jews were attacked, killed and driven from the countries they were inhabiting.  The Crusaders, inquisitions, pogroms and the Holocaust wiped out large numbers of Jews. Stateless as they were, Jews were still a readily identifiable people whom other nations sought to destroy. But through their religion and shared values, they continued to exist. Miracle of miracles, after almost being totally destroyed, they returned to their land and built a vibrant Jewish state.

As we will read in the Haggadah during the seder, in every generation people rise up against us to annihilate us, but G-d always saves us.

Freedom is not free. Unfortunately, many people have died to enable us to live in freedom. But today, Jews persecuted in other lands know that they have a place to go, that Israel is there for them. It’s ours. It is the homeland of the Jews,  a place where every Jew can feel free to practice Judaism. And this freedom of religion is not just for Jews. Unlike other Middle Eastern countries, all people in Israel worship their religion freely.

So as you sit down to enjoy the seders, think about freedom, the price of freedom, the many sacrifices others made so that we can be free. Thank the Lord that you are free, that you are not celebrating the seder in hiding as a Marrano, in fear of anti Semitic mobs, or in secret in a concentration camp barrack. Thank the Lord that you have a Jewish homeland. Enjoy the freedom, and value it.


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JewTee Blog Purim Edition

Shalom Y’All:

As I hope you know, Purim begins on the eve of March 4 and ends nightfall March 5. On Purim we celebrate our salvation through Queen Esther from the edict Haman prepared to annihilate all the Jews in the Persian empire.

On Purim Jews listen to the Megillah at night and the following morning, give Shalach Monos- gifts of food and/or drink to family and friends- charity to the poor  and eat a big meal in the late afternoon. In the carnival spirit of the day, kids, and often adults, dress in costumes and liquid refreshment of all kinds is imbibed.

In the topsy -turvey spirit of the day, I bring you the latest “news”:

Obama Netanyahu Friends At Last

Let’s Be Friends, Make Amends, Now’s the Time To Say I’m Sorry.

In a bombshell announcement today, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have agreed to bury the hatchet, become friends and learn from one another. President Obama will teach PM Netanyahu how to shoot basketballs into baskets while PM Netanyahu will teach President Obama how to shoot sunflower seed husks from the mouth into a bowl.


Sunny Days Ahead

Jew Are Refugees

In a shocking reversal of long-standing policy, the newly appointed Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Sun, has declared that all Jews living outside of Israel are refugees and has pledged 3 billion dollars to their resettlement in Israel. Consequently, UNWRA will be disbanded and a new agency, UNIRA (United Nations Israel Resettlement Agency) will be established.

Mr. Sun reached for comment at his residence in New York, explained that since all Jews once lived in Israel, any Jew not living there now is a refugee. Furthermore, he explained, since the borders of ancient Israel encompass much more land than the current state, Jews will be free to live anywhere within the ancient borders of the Jewish state. Arabs who wish to continue living there may do so if they agree to be “dhimiis.” (Druze Arabs and the families of Bedouin, Muslim and Christian Arabs who have served in the Israeli army will enjoy full rights.) Arabs who are unhappy with this turn of events will be free to move to any of the 22 Arab countries in the Middle East.

Reached for comment after this bombshell announcement, former West Coast Bank President Atbat said, “Oh well, we gave it a good shot. I’ve always wanted to ‘paint the town red’ in Tel Aviv and now I’ll have my chance.”

Hummus leaders in Graze City also seemed resigned to the new state of affairs. They explained that they had been offered a lucrative financial opportunity to turn their rockets into drones to be used to deliver packages from e-commerce companies to residents of the Jewish state and to turn their tunnels into underground shopping malls. The entire Graze Strip will become a vacation playland with separate beaches for men and women, and rocket building and tunnel digging activities for kids.


Green Is Better Than Red

Green Is Better Than Red

As to their enmity of the Jewish State, Hummus head Khabead Mashup said, “While I was having a good smoke on my Hookah, it came to me. We’ve tried to fight them. That didn’t work. It just gave us tons of rubble to clean up and many funerals to attend. So now, we may as well join them and get our hands on some real money.  When we feel like fighting and getting our own state, we’ll just attack one of the 22 Arab countries who did so little to help us.”



Beauty Is In The Eyes Of The Beholder

Beauty Is In The Eyes of  The Beholder

Hussle Realhoney, Iran’s Leader, shocked the world today by announcing it was renouncing  the manufacture of nuclear weapons and instead focusing on establishing a yearly Purim contest. (Iran, formerly Persia, is the location of the original Purim story.) “Instead of being hit with sanctions and losing revenue from the lack  of oil sales, we will make Tehran the world’s wealthiest city. Girls from all over the world will come to Tehran for the title of the world’s most beautiful girl. Contestants, who will need to be sponsored by their home country, will spend months being pampered and prepped with the world’s best beauty products. Of course, in keeping with our traditions, female contestants will have to be fully clothed with only parts of their faces allowed to be seen. Since true beauty lies on the inside, however, there is no need for  greater exposure.”

On the day of the contest, all contestants will appear before the “King” who will judge their beauty and abilities and pick that year’s World Beauty Queen. The Queen’s responsibilities will include selfies with all World Leaders.

Asked who the “King” would be, Beauty Contest developers said that while no final decision had been made, those in the running included: Prince Charles, Big Sean, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods, Simon Cowell and Jesse James, all of whom have chosen women other than those they were married to.

Despite thousands of requests from married men, the part of Queen Vashti will not be played by the wife of a married man.

That’s it for now.


Categories: Israel, Jewish, Jewish Blog, Jewish Holidays, Jewish Humor, Purim, Purim, religion | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel Pilot Trip Part 2

Shalom Y’All:

The next Friday night we decided to visit yet another synagogue. That’s one of the advantages of being in Jerusalem, synagogues galore. This synagogue turned out to have an English speaking Rabbi, not such a big deal since many of the synagogue rabbis in Jerusalem speak English. But this Rabbi even gave his weekly sermon in English, something that is not easy to find, even in Jerusalem.

Since clearly everyone in this congregation was an English speaker, we thought we had hit pay dirt. After services, we looked around and tried to find a friendly face. We saw a gentlemen speaking what sounded like British English conversing with someone. He seemed pleasant. We waited until he finished his conversation and then approached him. He was friendly, engaging and soon introduced us to his wife. (In Israel it is very common for women to attend Friday night services.)

We spoke for a while and wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, they invited us to join them for a meal in their home the following Friday night. Despite our many trips to Israel, we have rarely been invited, by other than a family member,  to a meal in someone’s home. We’ve been told that a reason for this is that since Israelis work on Sunday, Shabbat- Friday night and Saturday- is the only time they are able to spend time with their families. We were, therefore, thrilled to receive the invitation.

Our visit to another synagogue on Shabbat day, Saturday, did not result in any new contacts. Furthermore, a repeat visit to the English sermon synagogue did not produce any new acquaintances.

It turns out our “British” friends were Australians who had made aliya only two years earlier.  Our dinner with them was delightful and we were even invited to their daughter’s engagement party and wedding. They are truly a lovely couple and we hope we will become good friends.

We continued visiting other synagogues and very finally told about one which was very close by. This synagogue was composed of about half Israelis and half Anglos. The Anglos were very friendly and we made a friend here also.

To sum up our experience: If you want to make friends with the Anglos in Israel, you have to approach them first and engage them in conversation. My guess is that since there are so many tourists in Israel, Anglo Israelis do not bother introducing themselves to every new face they see in the synagogue. Furthermore, even if you do speak with these Anglos, don’t expect an invitation to dine with them, since quality time with their families is limited and thus greatly  valued.

We subsequently learned of more synagogues that have a large percentage of Anglos attending, but did not have the opportunity to visit them since our time in Jerusalem was limited.


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Israel Here We Come

Shalom Y’all:

We finally did it. We decided to move to Israel, or as Israelis say, make aliya (which in Hebrew means to go up).

As I don’t speak Hebrew well, there wasn’t that much of a question as to where we would live. Jerusalem has by far both the largest collection of Anglos (people from English speaking countries) and the greatest amount of activities for Anglos. In Jerusalem it’s easy to find lectures in English, live theater in English (although most productions are like community theater) and English speakers in stores and in the streets. Other cities like Efrat, Bet Shemesh and Raanana also have lots of Anglos, but far fewer activities for them.

Of course, I’m planning to go to an Ulpan, but I’m not real gifted language wise.  At the end of two years of French in my junior and senior year of High School, our French teacher announced that he was foregoing awarding the French prize usually given to the most deserving senior in French class, since none of us deserved it. After an additional year of French in college, I finally got to Paris where I was barely able to stammer Bonjour in French, much less say anything meaningful. As for my Hebrew speaking ability, no one would believe I took four years of Hebrew in college and actually attended classes.

But I digress. Before making this momentous decision, even though we had been to Israel many times, we decided to make a six week pilot trip to Israel. The trip did not begin auspiciously, as our flight was delayed for four hours, despite the airline’s repeated assurances that the flight was leaving on time. So trusting souls that we are, we believed them and did not eat prior to arriving at the airport. By the time we realized how late the plane was actually leaving, we were starving. As we are kosher, the pickings at the airport were few. After downing a bag of pretzels, we were still good and hungry and actually looking forward to our airline meal.

Our plane finally arrived after a six hour flight from another city. Since it arrived so late, the airline must have decided that, in the interest of improving their on time record, no interior cleanup was necessary. So the plane was not spic and span and the bathrooms smelled like urine depositories. When the food finally arrived, its taste matched the cleanliness of the bathrooms- it was probably the worst tasting dinner I’ve ever had on an airline. Breakfast the following morning matched the supper.

Extremely glad to exit the plane we made our way to the rental car office where we received a high mileage car which we had to pay using a credit car which charges foreign transaction fees. We had intended to use a card which does not charge fees, but on the way to the airport, we learned that someone had been using our card to book multiple trips to Kenya. So, of course, that card was cancelled. Luckily for us, we had taken another credit card with us.

We had rented a two bedroom, two bathroom, apartment in a neighborhood called San Simon. The apartment was fine, but we had been led to believe the apartment was high end. It was not, but it was comfortable. The heat worked well and the windows faced San Simon Park, a nice park containing the San Simon Monastery, which I’m not sure is still used. The supermarket was fairly close by and as most chain supermarkets in Israel also sell Kosher meat, we were all set.

Our aim this trip was to meet as many Anglos as possible and to discuss with them what their Aliya experience was like and to garner any suggestions they might have for making the transition easier. We decided that the place to meet other Anglos was in the synagogue on Friday night and Saturday. So we got addresses from the woman who rented us the apartment and anxiously awaited Friday night to begin our quest.

In the interim, my husband began a job search.

Friday night finally arrived (we moved in on a Sunday after spending a few days with my daughter and her family). Off we went to one of the synagogues, and lo and behold, after services, no one said anything to us.

Determined to do better, the next day we went to another synagogue. This time I surveyed the congregants and took a seat near a woman I thought looked Anglo. Of course, she left before the services were over. At the conclusion of services there was a kiddush, which is a collation with snack food. We noticed an Anglo we had met on one of our previous trips and approached him hoping he would remember us. No such luck. He had no recollection of ever meeting us, but was friendly. And that was the end of the Anglos we met there.

To be continued in the next post.

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2014 and the Jews

Shalom Y’All:

Hope all our Jewish readers had a most enjoyable Chanukah. To all our Christians readers, Happy Holidays and best wishes for the new year.

Chanukah in Israel is a joyous affair with nightly candle lightings on a large menorah at the Kotel, Western Wall, and many activities for children throughout Israel. Parents often take vacation from work to spend time with their kids, as schools are closed most of Chanukah. Of course, everyone eats suganiot, or filled donuts, which come with many different toppings and fillings. Menorahs adorn many light posts in Jerusalem and other cities in Israel. Here are two photos of Chanukah in Israel.

Good To The Last Bite.

How Sweet it is!

Chanukah Menorahs in Jerusalem

Chanukah Menorahs to light the way.

In Israel, the Christian Holidays are mainly celebrated in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, Bethlehem (under Palestinian control), Nazareth and in Christian villages and towns.

As 2014 draws to a close, it seems fitting to think about the effect the year that just passed had on Jews.

In May the ADL released a report which said that a quarter of the world’s population held anti semitic beliefs.

As 2014 continued, three Israeli boys were kidnapped and murdered, an Arab boy was murdered in revenge and the Gaza War erupted. Anti Semitic words and images proliferated and were thought to be acceptable in support of Gaza and Hamas in the pro Gaza Anti Israel protests across America and the world.

2014 also saw an increase in anti semitic acts against Jewish college students in the United States, and against Jewish citizens in a number of European countries. ISIS became stronger and some horrific acts of terror took place in Europe and the Middle East, including the  attack and murder of men praying in a synagogue in Jerusalem. Russia invaded the Ukraine and annexed Crimea, the Palestinian Israeli peace talks fell apart and the Palestinians tried, but failed, to get the United Nations Security Council to declare Palestine a state with pre 1967 borders. This failure was due mostly to efforts by the United States to defeat the proposal.

As a result of the troubles and fears Jews faced around the world, the number of those making Aliyah (immigrating) to Israel rose 32% from last year. Immigrants from France were the largest group and the number of immigrants from the Ukraine increased by 190%. Immigration from North America was up slightly.

In summary, anti semitism is rearing its ugly head around the world, causing many Jews to consider moving to Israel. Hatred against the Jewish state is increasing and the Palestinians are increasingly looking to world bodies to help them achieve a Palestinian state and to penalize Israel. For Israel to return to the pre 67 borders is suicidal, as is allowing all those who say they are descendants of those who left Israel in 1947-48 to return. Israel will hold new elections in March and the future direction of the country may well be determined then.

As Jews all we can do is hope and pray that 2015 will be a better year for our people, yet be aware of all the dangers that face us. Support for Israel by Americans and by the US government is critical and anything we can do to help shore up that support is vital.

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Chanukah Musings

Shalom Y’All:

Happy Chanukah!

Tonight we light the first Chanukah candle. As we do so, we should keep in mind that while Chanukah is a joyous holiday, its true meaning should not be obscured by the latkes and the gifts. Chanukah is all about religious freedom, the freedom to serve G-d as we wish. Back then it was the Greeks who tried to make Jews into Hellenists and killed those who refused. But this modus operandi is not limited to the Greeks. It was practiced by both Christians and Muslims during the many many years of Jewish persecution.

Today ISIS and the Taliban are killing those who do not practice the same brand of Islam as they do. A tragic recent story described the beheading of four Christian youngsters in Iraq who refused to convert to Islam. Religious bigotry, unfortunately, is alive and well. The freedom to practice any religion freely is not a given in many countries. Jews, in particular, are unwelcome in many parts of the world. They no longer exist in most Arab countries and have been attacked in a number of European cities. The difference is that fortunately, today, unlike in the past, persecuted Jews have a place to go, a place where they are free to practice and believe as they wish. That place of course is Israel. Israel by the way is also a safe haven for many other groups that that been persecuted because of their religion, such as the Bahai, and Ahmadi.

So as you light the candles, think about how fortunate we are that our kids no longer have to play dreidel to hide their Jewish education, that you can practice your religion freely and that if worse comes to worse, you have a place to go where you will be safe.

Enough of the seriousness. Let’s lighten things up a bit. Here are links to eight Chanukah videos that you may enjoy.

Chanukah Music Videos: Debby Friedman Sandler KeyTov Orchestra

Some of these are classics. Some have newer versions, such as the Maccabeats, whose newest video can be found here.

Happy Chanukah from JewTee! May your Chanukah be joyous and full of laughter and good cheer.

Categories: Judaism, religion, religious freedom | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Jonathan Pollard’s Parole Request Denied

Shalom Y’All:

Today Jonathan Pollard begins his 30th year in prison for a crime for which others typically serve only two to four years.  He was hospitalized three days ago and is in poor health.

His parole request, the first since his incarceration, was summarily denied in August of this year on the grounds that the breath and scope of the material he gave to the Israelis was the greatest comprise of US security to date. This allegation is totally false and was based primarily on the document prepared by Casper Weinberger, a former secretary of defense, nearly 22 years ago, which has since been proven to contain many falsehoods. Years later Weinberger himself backtracked and said that the Pollard case was a relatively”minor matter.”

Despite the fact that Pollard is a model prisoner, is no longer a security risk, and scored highly on factors indicating suitability for release,  those present at the parole hearing characterized it as a “kangaroo court” and a “lynching.”

Although the parole board said it would conduct another review of the case in February 2015 and another parole hearing five months later, it made clear that the US government would again vigorously oppose Pollard’s parole request.

The letter informing Pollard of the rejection of his parole request was harsh and said in part, “You passed thousands of Top Secret documents to Israeli agents, threatening US relations in the Middle East among the Arab countries.” The letter concluded by stating, “Given all this information, paroling you at this time would depreciate the seriousness of the offense and promote disrespect for the law.”

In response, eight former high level US officials wrote a strongly worded letter to President Obama denouncing the Parole Board’s decision and charging the administration with basing its “unjust denial” on a “patently false” document -the Weinberger Memorandum. The signatories include former CIA director, Amb. R. James Woolsey; Lawrence Kolb, former assistant US Secretary of Defense; and former National Security Advisor Robert MacFarlane.

The letter writers pointed out that the parole board ignored all evidence in Pollard’s favor, including his high score on a test measuring “suitability for release,” his age, his family situation, poor health, and his wife’s cancer. They denounced the “grossly disproportionate” treatment of Pollard, and said his “unconditional release is long overdue.” They criticized the “unjust parole process” and called it “deeply flawed.” Furthermore they said that the Commission had falsely characterized Pollard’s spying as “the greatest compromise of US security to that date,” a charge which they said was wholly unsupported, and the document on which it was based was known to be unreliable.

The writers are familiar with the Pollard file and its classified documents and know of what they write.

So why is Pollard still in jail? There are certainly no security reasons for his continued incarceration. One explanation currently in vogue is that the US government wishes to use him as a bargaining chip to get concessions from Israel. That this has validity is shown by the fact that the US was willing to free Pollard if, during the latest attempt at peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel completed the last round of Palestinian prisoners releases. The talks broke down before this became a reality.

Now that the parole option is useless, Pollard’s attorneys and supporters are going back to the only available option: a pardon by the US president. To achieve this, US Jews will once again be urged to send letters to Congress and the President.  Pollard’s lawyers hope the renewed pressure not only from US Jews, but also from civil liberty movements will be successful.

All people of good conscience should actively participate in trying to get President Obama to pardon Pollard. This shows the President that many people favor Pollard’s release and may persuade the President to act.

Hopefully, the Administration will come to its senses and put an end to this mockery of justice. If not, Pollard’s freedom will be in the hands of the next President. I just hope Pollard lives long enough to enjoy it.

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On Chanukah Gifts and Hunger

Shalom Y’All:

We light the first Chanukah candle on December 16, two weeks away. To help last minute shoppers, I’d like to suggest a few Chanukah gifts from

The Sweatshirt of Champions

The sweatshirt for winners.

A funny Hanukkah shirt for kids

A funny Chanukah shirt for the younger set.

Latke Chefs Apron

These Latke men are hot.

Woe to the World.

The World Is Really Messed Up!

Happy Hanukkah baby.

Celebrate the Hanukkah Holiday and the baby.

Check out these and many other Chanukah and Jewish designs on shirts, t shirts, sweatshirts, jerseys, hats, pajamas, mugs and novelty gifts at

Did you know that the distribution of Chanukah gelt is also part of the Hanukkah Holiday? Chanukah gelt these days is packaged as pieces of chocolate in gold foil in the shape of coins. It is usually given to kids. However, gelt means money and in the 17th century money was given to the teachers of Jewish students on Chanukah. (For a further discussion of Chanukah gelt see my previous Chanukah Q&A post.)

Many parents still give their kids actual money on Chanukah, but the kids are encouraged to give this money to charity.

Speaking of charity,  I recently learned that one in five New Yorkers does not have enough to eat. One in four children are hungry. A 2011 study of New York’s Jewish poor revealed that one in four New York Jews do not have enough to eat. That’s heartbreaking!

In a country as rich as ours, in a city with so many millionaires, in a city with so many Jewish institutions, for so many people to be hungry is outrageous.

Here are some additional facts:

As of 2011,more than 333,000 people in Jewish households in New York City were poor—a 50 percent increase since 2002, and a 100 percent increase since 1991.  One in ten Jewish households were near poor- not earning enough money to meet their needs, but above the poverty guidelines.  Jewish poor and near-poor include Russian-born immigrants, seniors on fixed incomes, members of the Orthodox community , and the unemployed/underemployed.

Soup kitchens, including Kosher soup kitchens, exist to feed the hungry, but they generally serve only one meal per day. That leaves lots of room for hunger.

So this Chanukah enjoy the festivities, but remember the Jewish poor and all those who are hungry. Give generously to the reputable charity of your choice, but be wary of telemarketing calls, even those that  seem to be from a reputable charity. You don’t know who’s on the other end of the line and these days giving out your credit card number to a phone caller might result in the hijacking of your credit card and even identity theft.  So be generous, but careful.

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