11 Hours in Colleyville, 7 Days in Entebbe

Sabbath broke, so the phones turned on to check emails and the news of the prior 25 hours. The horrible reports coming out of Colleyville, Texas were not just disturbing but unsettling. Yet again, Jews were targeted by anti-Semites/ anti-Zionists to free other anti-Semites / anti-Zionists.

Between calls and community tehillim, I opted to find some strength in a historic hostage situation – when the Israeli army rescued passengers from an airplane hijacking at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. I had seen movies relaying the exciting rescue attempts made in the 1970s, but had not seen the newer version produced in 2018 called ‘7 Days in Entebbe,’ so watched it while my thoughts were with the Jewish hostages in Texas.

It’s a very peculiar take on the story. Rather than highlight the daring rescue operation by the Israelis, the writer/ director team of Gregory Burke and Jose Padhila took a completely different approach. They told the story of two German “revolutionaries” who joined the Palestinian hijackers; explored the Israelis through the lens of a political battle between Defense Minister Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin; and littered the story with performances by the Bat Sheva Dance Company.

The Left Wing Embrace of Palestinian Terrorism
(and in a good way)

The movie opens with a distorted pro-Palestinian view of history with statements to set the background and tone of the film:

  • The United Nations created Israel in 1947
  • The Palestinians then fought to get their land back
  • They were backed up by left-wing groups around the world
  • They called themselves ‘Freedom fighters’ while the Israelis called them ‘terrorists’

The distortion needs multiple levels of unpacking.

  • The UN voted to create BOTH a Jewish State and another Arab State. The Arab world refused to accept the vote as they stood firmly against any Jewish country and wanted the entire region to rule. Israel was created through its own declaration in 1948.
  • The Palestinians did not have a country where they had self-determination so there was no fight for “the return of their land.” Five Arab nations waged a war against Jews who had just survived the Holocaust, to expunge the survivors from their historic homeland.
  • The “left-wing” groups from the 1940s, 1970s and today have morphed in mission and focus. In the telling of this story, one senses that the writers believe that “social justice” requires actions like the taking of hostages – perhaps even today if nobody listens.
  • This view was cemented by the concluding lines of how the “left-wing” viewed themselves as “freedom fighters” while the Israelis called them “terrorists.”

The “left-wing” which rallied to the Palestinians’ side, dominate the story’s focus. The movie is a platform to state how these new Germans were “not Nazis” who hated Jews like the prior generation, but fought for “social justice.” They were “humanitarians” who saw how wrong it was for the Palestinians to suffer, and therefore sought and fought for a “life of meaning,” sacrificing on behalf of others.

I think Senator Bernie Sanders may have consulted on the film.

Israeli Politicians Care About Politics, Not People
But Rabin Knew That Palestinians Deserve Negotiations

The film took a very cynical view of Israeli politicians who simply were dueling for power. While Peres may have stated that one never negotiates with terrorists, the script made clear that Peres was a political opportunist who wanted the Prime Minister to look bad so he could gain the upper hand. Even when the movie relayed how the Israeli and Jewish hostages were separated from the other passengers reminiscent of the concentration camps, there was less emotion in the scene than when a small child needed to use the restroom on the plane moments after the hijacking.

While the Israeli public was hysterical about the hostage situation, Rabin remained calm. Even after the successful rescue operation, he shared with Peres that at some point the Israelis need to talk to the Palestinians and not just fight them. The writer/director were clearly paying more attention to the future when Rabin pushed forward the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, for which he paid with his life. But it is completely ahistorical when the action happened in 1976.

The Arabs fought two wars to annihilate the Israeli Jews, in 1948-9 and in 1967. Having lost both wars of attempted genocide, they adopted the Khartoum Resolution which declared three no’s: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.

The refusal to talk and make peace was a uniform Arab policy from the 1920s through that hijacking in 1976. The movie completely inverted facts and made the Israelis the party that was holding back on negotiating peace, rather than acting in a defensive capacity against neighbors determined to kill them.

Secular Israelis Have Evolved, While Traditional Jews Have Become the New Nazis
as told by the Bat Sheva Dance Company

The movie opened and closed with performances by the Israeli troupe, the Bat Sheva Dance Company. Aside from being a constant break in the flow of the movie, most movie viewers likely just found the snippets annoying and bizarre. Let me offer my take on why these scenes were in the film.

The first time we see the performance, we see a semi-circle of dancers dressed seemingly like Hasidic Jews, sitting on chairs performing before an empty auditorium. They dance to a song “Who knows one?” traditionally sung at the end of the Passover seder. Each dancer jumps in his chair except one, she falls to the ground, exposing shocking red hair. We assume at first it is a mistake, that the dancer was not supposed to fall. Or perhaps we think we understand the message since we are familiar with the Entebbe story – that one Israeli soldier dies in the rescue attempt.

I think that scene is a retelling of the Holocaust. The Jews jumping on the chairs one after the other were European Jews shot before a firing line. The one who fell to the ground was the old Jew in the ghetto, a community forever vanquished. The shock of red hair is meant as an anchor for the viewer, much like the girl in the red coat in the move “Schindler’s List.” It happens before open chairs, as to one did anything to stop the genocide of the Jews.

We see the dancers in a similar scene later in the movie. However, this time the dancers – except for the one falling with red hair – remove an article of clothing after each wave of shots. At the end, they are all standing in their underwear while the one sitting is still garbed in the Hasidic attire. This is a reflection of the new Jew which has shed religion and its past, except for a lone holdout. These are the new strong Jews who come in and shoot the hijackers. The packed auditorium loves the performance. But are these killing Jews, like a Palestinian hijacker states, the “new Nazis”?

At the very end of the film, the stage is set with only two dancers remaining. In the background is the re-haired dancer running continuously and going nowhere. In the front of the stage, the stripped down modern Jew goes from a creeper-crawler to dynamic dancer. This evolved Jew commands the stage – until abruptly exiting. We are then only left with the dull and distant Hasidic Jew, forever repeating the same actions and going nowhere.

The audience in the end is only us, the viewer, left to decide what to make of Jews: the evolving, modern, beautiful and appreciated Jew who dominates the scene and then disappears, and the traditional Jew, in the background who endures.


The failure of the movie (not just from critics and Rotten Tomatoes) is the notion of choice. The allegories of the dancers interspersed throughout the film attempt to parallel the tension and options of modern and traditional Jews with the Israeli-Arab conflict, and consequently, why secular leftists attach themselves to the Arab cause for a Palestinian state.

The orientation of the film is that Israelis and Jews have a choice as to whether to be modern or traditional, and whether to make peace with Arabs or to fight them. To set such worldview (which is perhaps a worthwhile discussion today, over a coffee) in a movie about hostages in 1976 is highly offensive and illusory. The Jewish hostages had no choice. Saving them is not an option (and certainly not simply a matter of politics). It is the Arabs who have always had the option of making peace with the Jews, and opted each time to fight.


There are two sides to a conflict, and one party may view themselves as “freedom fighters” while the other views them as “terrorists.” It is clear where you and society stood on an issue by how each party was portrayed.

The end of the Texas synagogue stand-off is a cause to celebrate. Not only were the Jewish hostages saved, but all Americans came together to clearly identify with the besieged Jews. Regrettably, that is not always the case.

The western world is fracturing when it comes to other dead and persecuted Jews, such as the recent movie retelling the story of the 1976 Israeli hostages in Entebbe from the hijackers perspective, and an opera showing the 1985 Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking in a manner which highlighted the “humanity in the terrorists,” as general manager of the Met, Peter Gelb said about the performance “The Death of Klinghoffer“.

Will society focus on providing security to Jews or evaluate the merits of the cause of the terrorists?

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Singing of Joy and Jerusalem on Foreign Land

Many people are familiar with the Jewish tradition of breaking a glass at the end of a wedding ceremony. It has become the marker for when people go from sitting quietly to screaming “mazel tov!” for the new couple.

The shattering of the glass traditionally is accompanied by a few lines from Psalm 137 (5-6) which are sung in a subdued manner:

אִֽם־אֶשְׁכָּחֵ֥ךְ יְֽרוּשָׁלָ֗͏ִם תִּשְׁכַּ֥ח יְמִינִֽי׃

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither;

תִּדְבַּֽק־לְשׁוֹנִ֨י ׀ לְחִכִּי֮ אִם־לֹ֢א אֶ֫זְכְּרֵ֥כִי אִם־לֹ֣א אַ֭עֲלֶה אֶת־יְרוּשָׁלַ֑͏ִם עַ֝֗ל רֹ֣אשׁ שִׂמְחָתִֽי׃

let my tongue stick to my palate if I cease to think of you,
if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory even at my happiest hour.

One would imagine that keeping “Jerusalem in memory even at my happiest hour” would imply making such memory very festive at a wedding ceremony. That is when the bride and groom are at their “happiest hour,” and as they burst for joy, they should sing about Jerusalem in that same boisterous spirit, not one of solemnity capped by broken glass.

The entirety of Psalm 137 must be internalized to appreciate how Jews incorporate these few lines of song at a wedding. Here are the opening lines (1-4) which precede the wedding song:

עַ֥ל נַהֲר֨וֹת ׀ בָּבֶ֗ל שָׁ֣ם יָ֭שַׁבְנוּ גַּם־בָּכִ֑ינוּ בְּ֝זׇכְרֵ֗נוּ אֶת־צִיּֽוֹן׃

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept, as we thought of Zion.

עַֽל־עֲרָבִ֥ים בְּתוֹכָ֑הּ תָּ֝לִ֗ינוּ כִּנֹּרוֹתֵֽינוּ׃

There on the poplars we hung up our lyres,

כִּ֤י שָׁ֨ם שְֽׁאֵל֢וּנוּ שׁוֹבֵ֡ינוּ דִּבְרֵי־שִׁ֭יר וְתוֹלָלֵ֣ינוּ שִׂמְחָ֑ה שִׁ֥ירוּ לָ֝֗נוּ מִשִּׁ֥יר צִיּֽוֹן׃

for our captors asked us there for songs, our tormentors, for amusement said “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

אֵ֗יךְ נָשִׁ֥יר אֶת־שִׁיר־יְהֹוָ֑ה עַ֝֗ל אַדְמַ֥ת נֵכָֽר׃

How can we sing a song of the LORD on alien soil?

The nature of the Psalm is one of sorrow. Tormented in diaspora, the local nations taunted the Jewish people to sing, but the joy of song could not be completed while on foreign soil. The “right hand wither[ing]” and “tongue stuck on my palate” are expressions that no harp can be played nor song uttered about Zion and Jerusalem while stuck far away.

With such orientation, consider the following wedding celebrated during the COVID pandemic:

A young man made aliyah and joined the Israeli army as a lone soldier. He completed his study at a Hesder yeshiva and his army service, and then met a beautiful girl. She had also made aliyah, albeit more recently, as she waited to hear from graduate programs in the U.S. They fell in love and got engaged with plans to marry in Israel together with their new community of friends. Unfortunately, as they spent a semester in the United States to take courses, they got stuck due to COVID restrictions and could not have the wedding in Jerusalem. They hastily made arrangements to get married in the diaspora, despite their best efforts and plans.

With the unexpected backdrop, the bride and groom finally stood beneath the wedding canopy. The chazan – who himself had made aliyah but happened to be in the U.S. for another affair – sang Psalm 137 verses 5 and 6 and then paused, as is the custom in Israel, for the groom to repeat the two sentences.

As the groom recited those words, everyone in attendance was pulled by this couple’s longing to be in Israel, and internalized line 4 from the Psalm which was unsung but deeply felt: How can we sing a song of the LORD on alien soil?

Hopefully this new couple will be blessed to share many happy anniversaries in the land in their hearts, the Jewish holy city of Jerusalem.


Related articles:

Humble Faith

Shtisel, The Poem Without an End, Continues

Jerusalem Donut Crawl 2021

This year’s Chanukah donut / sufganiyot (filled donuts) crawl took us around Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem and surrounding suburbs. The selections were plentiful and the quality varied significantly.

There are a number of observations to share before reviewing each location. First, many places emphasize toppings and appearances which often do not correlate to taste. Second, out of the way and unpopular places were amazing. Lastly, some places that had great reviews had long lines and sometimes ran out of any donuts (and thus were not reviewed).

Roladin (Mamilla Mall)

Roladin is a big chain with locations all over Israel. They have a large selection of fancy sufganiyot on Chanukah. However, the quality and taste varied depending on the selection, and generally, the taste did not live up to the hype or presentation.

The sufganiyot looked really great and the chocolate truffle seen above had great flavor. Unfortunately, most of the others like pistachio had little taste other than sugar. The cookies and cream, while tasty, relied too heavily on the Oreo cookie on top.

Kadosh (Ben Yehuda Street Area)

The food at Kadosh is amazing so don’t just stop in for the donuts and stay for breakfast or lunch. The problem is that there is a long line to get in – even just for donut pickup – as they have a great reputation. The donuts basically met the high expectations: excellent dough, nice flavor while not being too sweet. They were differentiated in presentation from many places, as it placed a dollop of filling on one side and had a sugar coating.

Gourmandises by Yoel (Ben Yehuda Street Area)

Go through the Friends of Zion Museum to locate a nice cafe in the back run by a French couple with amazing desserts. Gourmandises makes wonderful light sufganiyot which were tops in regards to flavor and texture of the dough. The icing and filings were light and tasty and avoided the heavy sugar found in many others. Try the pistachio and roses. Or the lemon. Or just about any of them – I had six! Remarkably, there were no lines at all.

Boutique Central (Ben Yehuda Street Area)

The small cafe was recommended to us but the sufganiyot were more of a pastry with no filling. The dough was tasty but disappointed overall.

Boutique Central donut had no filling

Uri’s Pizza (Me’a She’arim)

One can easily miss this place on a side street, and, as it’s not a classic bakery, one would imagine an easy skip for a donut crawl. Not so. While the donut was simple and not beautiful, the dough was light and the filling was just right.

Brooklyn Bake Shop (Me’a She’arim)

Brooklyn sells out fast and we did not get to sample their donuts but heard they were amazing.

Brooklyn Bake Shop with sign in green that they were sold out of donuts

Brizal (Me’a Shearim)

Brizal is near Brooklyn and there’s a reason they had donuts while Brooklyn did not. They looked nice but are inedible. Sweet and artificial. We threw the two we purchased out after the first bite.

English Cake (Mahane Yehuda)

English Cake supplies the sufganiyot found in many of the small stores located around the city. Like Roladin, they look pretty but rely too heavily on sugar as a substitute for taste.

Sweet Nation (Mahane Yehuda)

Like English Cake, Sweet Nation has a beautiful presentation as a cover for a sugar fix. Most of the flavor comes from the fancy toppings. Very festive, but not for a foodie.

Beautiful sufganiyot at Sweet Nation relied heavily on the toppings

Delicases de Paris (Emek Refa’im)

After the great experiences of the French bakeries of Gourmandises and Kadosh, hopes ran high for the two French bakeries on Emek Refaim. Both were disappointments. Delicases sufganiyot had heavy dough that resembled a challah roll – dense and completely off.

Moulin Dore (Emek Refaim)

Moulin Dore was probably the biggest disappointment. The heavy dough was coupled with a spoiled filling. Simply horrible and tossed in the garbage.

Ne’eman (Emek Refaim)

The third stop on Emek Refaim was not a French bakery but a tried and true location. Unfortunately, Ne’eman’s donut simply had little flavor, even while the top and icing were quite good.

Pat BeMelach (Efrat)

Outside of Jerusalem is a great cafe with tasty food and great sufganiyot. The icing, filling flavor and dough texture were all great in every flavor we sampled – and there were many!

Summary

Here’s a table summarizing our review of the sufganiyot of Jerusalem for Chanukah 2021.

BakeryDough textureDough flavorfilling amountfilling flavortopping flavorpresentationoverall
Gourmandises by Yoel101010778.59
Pat BeMelach8798.5778.5
Kadosh888.587.588
Uri’s Pizza996 7NA57.5
Roladin4475.57.58.56.5
English Cake65757.58.56.5
Sweet Nation5584786.5
Ne’eman542687.55
Boutique Central970NA66.57
Delicases de Paris1284564
Moulin Dore1280462
Brazil2000031
Results of the Jerusalem 2021 Donut Crawl

Israeli sufganiyot are quite different than those found in Brooklyn, NY and varied widely in terms of quality. Top scores go to Gourmandises, Pat BeMelach (in Efrat) and Kadosh. We understand that Brooklyn is very worthwhile as well, although it was sold out of donuts when we arrived. Roladin donuts are fine and are easily found throughout the country. We hope you enjoyed the holiday!

Related articles:

Brooklyn Chanukah Donut Crawl 2020

Chanukah Donuts: Brooklyn 2019

Brooklyn’s Holiday Donuts

Humble Faith

“The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.”

– Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

For thousands of years, people thought of themselves as the center of the universe. People believed that they were the most sophisticated animal and assumed that Earth was the only planet to house life, let alone intelligent life.

Religions encouraged such beliefs. The story of Genesis made humans the pinnacle of God’s creation and center of His plan, as the master of all other life forms. As late as the early 17th century, when Galileo posited that the Earth rotated around the sun, not the other way ’round’, the Catholic Church called him a heretic, banned his books and sentenced him to prison.

Religion appeared vain, anchored in self-absorption, and in opposition to science.

Map of world with Jerusalem in the center by Heinrich Bunting (1581)

As science became widely accepted over the following hundreds of years, people came to appreciate how small the Earth is in a remote edge of the galaxy. Mankind shifted from writing mythology about Gods in the stars, to scripting stories of alien life traversing the universe. Man seemingly embraced science and eschewed religion.

But people remained equally as arrogant.

Beyond the wave of science fiction books and movies over the past sixty years, sci-“fact” shows like the new “UFO” documentary have considered that aliens from other planets have come to Earth. The guise of awe for the unidentified flying objects at first conveyed humbleness in considering that humans are neither alone nor the center of the universe. Yet that premise fell completely flat. What kind of unbridled arrogance must someone have to believe that in the vastness of space, an alien managed to find earth and visit that one special person. Such remarkable conceit!

A profound faith in either religion or science could mask the same egotism with a different veneer of humility.

Carl Sagan, an astronomer and popular author about space strongly believed in science and of life on other worlds, and also believed in religion. He once said that “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.” Despite the appreciation for both belief and science, he nevertheless acknowledged the issue with fundamentalism in his book ‘Contact‘ and how religion and science could be at odds for those with profound faith.

At its worst, profound religion acts as a cudgel, enabling those who believe they speak with divine authority to dictate demands. Deep faith facilitates massacres like the Christian and Muslim crusades as well as the Inquisition.

This stands in sharp contrast in humble faith. Humble religion serves as a guide for people to act towards one another with kindness. The belief in a powerful God who judges people’s seen and unseen actions is designed to shepherd society with humbleness as a check on power.

Faith can act as rein or a weapon. It depends on whether it is embraced with humility or conceit.

Jews have often been accused of arrogance as they believe that much of the bible is particular and not universal. Yet it is a unique monotheistic religion in believing that all people can ascend to heaven: Jews need to follow 613 commandments while non-Jews only need to follow the seven Noahide Laws related to universal morality. That is why Judaism does not try to convert people as their souls do not require “saving.”

Judaism encourages a humble faith in God and science, pursuing both knowledge and coexistence.

The notion that there is a dichotomy between religion and science is widely touted and deeply false. The divide is between profound faith and humble faith. The latter will serve to the betterment of all mankind.


Related First One Through articles:

The Loss of Reality from the Distant Lights

Kohelet, An Ode to Abel

The Relationship of Man and Beast

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‘Her Unorthodox Brand’

The Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities are extremely upset about their depiction in the Netflix show “My Unorthodox Life.” People have accused the show’s star, Julia Haart, of maliciously slandering the lifestyle of thousands of women as outrageously “fundamentalist” in nature. One woman said in a local newspaper that “Monsey is home to thousands of women who are thriving religiously, professionally and personally. We are wise, we are proud and opportunities abound. We come in all different flavors. While some of us have chosen to be stay-at-home wives and mothers, many of us have pursued careers as CEOs, doctors, lawyers, nurses, authors, artists, business owners, computer techs, professors, therapists, accountants — and pretty much anything else out there.

While undoubtedly true, Haart’s story has its own message and it has so much less to do with Judaism than it does about the brand she is building and the money she hopes to make.

Julia Haart in Netflix’s “My Unorthodox Life”

Haart is the CEO of a modeling agency called Elite World Group and a clothing line named “e1972.” In the competitive world of modeling and apparel, brand message is everything and critical to success.

Haart elected to build her brands around the central theme of “giving women a voice,” and the entire “Unorthodox” show was developed to burnish that image.

The thrust of the “voice of women” message is found throughout. Haart specifically states that she is focused on helping models build their own personal brands as influencers on social media and elsewhere to extend their careers. In one episode, Julia spends time with a model helping her to launch her own line of sauces with flavors from her hometown and an image of herself on the label. One of Haart’s daughters builds her own social media presence, which she then tries to use on behalf of other models.

The underwriter of Julia’s modeling empire is her husband who built and sold a communications company years earlier. He is virtually invisible throughout the show, as his presence would undermine the message that this is a woman’s company showcasing women’s voices. The husband represents the “creepy old men from the fashion industry,” which Julia has promised to purge.

While marketed as a reality TV show, it is heavily crafted. That the women wake up in bed with an hour’s work of makeup on their faces and two-inch eyelashes in place, is but one tell-tale sign.

The storylines are all orchestrated with “the voice of women” message. Women – and Julia in particular – come off as assertive and powerful, while the men are feckless and timid. The women have successful or budding careers, while the men are faltering (there is deliberately no discussion of what Julia’s successful husband does). The women have active dating lives while the men cannot even talk to women without assistance of a female family member. There are repeated scenes of women keeping men waiting at restaurants or not showing up for appointments because the women are too busy, in a poor attempt to show the women as more important than those kept waiting, when it just made the women look rude and exposed the scriptwriters’ choreography too blatantly.

Of course, everyone comes to Julia for advice and she’s always the one with the right answers to solve each problem. She is the mascot of the brand and her voice and message must be the strongest.

It is through that lens that one has to consider the depiction of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism in the show.

Religion is just a tool in the script. To be a true inspiration to others, Julia must have broken away from a terrible past that had suppressed her. The darker and more fundamentalist her background, the greater her star shines in her new brand. In the past she was just a baby machine and unable to wear what she wanted; now she stops her children from having kids and walks around showing as much cleavage as she can while keeping the show PG. She had been limited to kosher and now enjoys shrimp and non-kosher restaurants. She had lived in her husband’s shadow in a male-dominated cloistered society, while now she is the star and bread-winner in the world, supporting the entire family.

The Orthodox community watches the Haart show from their particular vantage point, rightly insulted by the commentary on their lifestyle but cannot fathom that despite the show’s title, it has nothing to do with Judaism. “Unorthodox” is just a multi-hour long EWG “voice of women” infomercial, and the various over-the-top portrayals are simply gimmicks to keep everyone talking to burnish the brand.


Related First One Through articles:

Orthodoxy in ‘Shtisel’ and ‘Nurses’

Shtisel, The Poem Without an End, Continues

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‘The Maiming of the Jew’

Joseph Borgen, a 29-year old Jewish New Yorker, was walking on his hometown’s streets on a sunny May day, when a gang of Arabs surrounded him, beat him to the ground and sprayed his face with mace for a minute. The police apprehended one of the assailants, Waseem Awawdeh, 23, from Brooklyn who saidIf I could do it again, I would do it again.

Palestinian supporters call for violence against the Jewish State amid days of conflict between Israel and HAMAS, in Brooklyn, New York, US, May 15, 2021. (photo credit: RASHID UMAR ABBASI / REUTERS)

The unprovoked hate crime happened amid various pro-Israel and pro-HAMAS protests in New York City in the aftermath of a 10-day fight between the two forces. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted after the attack on Borgen “Anti-semitism has NO place in our city.

But it very much does. Attacking Jews because of Israel is celebrated on the stages of New York’s opera house and loudly defended in the liberal New York media.

In October 2014, the Metropolitan Opera House put on “The Death of Klinghoffer,” an opera that explored the killing of an elderly wheelchair-bound Jew vacationing on an anniversary cruise around Greece, by Palestinian terrorists. The New York Times wrote that the general manager of the Met, Peter Gelb, noted that the composer “John Adams said that in composing ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ he tried to understand the hijackers and their motivations, and to look for humanity in the terrorists.” The Times editorial on June 19, 2014 offered its disapproval that “bowing to the wishes of Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters and other Jewish critics,” the Met cancelled the global telecast of the show so the whole world could not watch the spectacle. The New Yorker magazine wrote that “when Adams walked onstage, during the curtain calls, he received a huge ovation. I imagine that a similar roar would have greeted Gelb had he appeared,” and added “the opera is not anti-Semitic, nor does it glorify terrorism.

If Jews would only read the local progressive rags, they would know not to be offended and let the masses enjoy their re-education that Palestinian terrorists have rightful grievances to attack Jews – ambulatory or otherwise – around the world.

Alas, those powerful Jews ignored their enlightened teachers and tried to stop a production that explored “the humanity of the terrorists” in killing an American Jew who had absolutely nothing to do with Palestinians. This became another reason to hate Jews, again of their own making: because of Israel and because of their powerful control on society. Don’t take the progressive press’ word for it: ask New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo about their oversized clout.

For the past decade, the liberal media has systematically ignored, minimized and excused anti-Semitism. For example, when their champion President Barack Obama said in February 2015 that “vicious zealots… randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris,” not one liberal media outlet challenged the absurd assertion that the attack was not rooted in anti-Semitism and that the killer was not targeting Jews.

In March 2016, the New York-based United Nations passed resolutions to ban the usage of religion when tied to terrorism in an effort to curb “Islamophobia.” Yet less than a week later, it called out “Jewish extremists.” The Arab and Muslim-dominated global agency acted to “protect” the honor of 1.8 billion Muslims but had no concern about vilifying a few million Jews at the same time.

In early 2019, the leaders of the U.S. Congress could similarly not condemn Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a freshman member who repeatedly spouted anti-Semitic bile, and instead called out generic hatred (which Omar called a victory for Muslims). Some months later, the same members of Congress – including New York Senator Chuck Schumer – knelt on the floor wearing African Kente cloth to specify that Black Lives Matter in a moment of solidarity he could not find for fellow Jews earlier.

In September 2019, New York’s only Ivy League school, Columbia University, invited Malaysian Prime Minster Mahathir Mohamad to speak on campus, even though it was widely known that he referred to Jews as “hooked nosed” and was “glad to be labeled an anti-Semite.” Shortly thereafter, the Columbia Alumni for Campus Fairness produced a report documenting 100 anti-Jewish incidents at Columbia and Barnard over the prior three years including a swastika painted on a Jewish professor’s office and various faculty members who promote Holocaust denial.

Perhaps not wanting to be outdone, New York University awarded the President’s Service Award to Students for Justice in Palestine, an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish group.

The reality is that Jews have always been the most targeted victims of hate crimes in the United States – more than Blacks, Muslims or the LGBT community. They’ve been attacked when there have been fights in Israel and when it has been calm, when the Democrats ruled as well as when Republicans were in charge. The anti-Semitism is a disgraceful constant.

What is also undeniable, is that physical attacks on Jews have skyrocketed as politicians call Jews both powerful and dangerous while the liberal press anoints Victims of Preference which cannot be Jews. The daily headlines and editorials in The New York Times serve as propaganda material for HAMAS, inverting cause-and-effect, by repeating lies about “ethnic cleansing” and refusing to mention the anti-Semitic genocidal foundation of HAMAS. To cleanse any appearance of anti-Jewish animus, it allows Jews to join the fray.

New York’s cultural and educational scene had welcomed anti-Semites to the stage, and liberal politicians and press took box seats. As the world democratized content, the play moved outside. It’s called ‘The Maiming of the Jew,’ and features real New Yorkers.


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Prayer of The Common Man, From Ancient Egypt to Modern Israel

In general, the world knows little about the desires and prayers of the common man who lived a few thousand years ago. While archeologists piece together how people lived, the prayers and thoughts of only the most powerful leaders and religious figures have been captured in ancient bas reliefs and religious texts.

There are exceptions. Roughly 3,000 years ago, a group of artisans who decorated the tombs of the kings of Egypt prepared their own modest burial chambers about a kilometer away from the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, in Deir el-Medina.

Sennedjem, the owner of what became known as “tomb 19”, was ensconced for three millennia with his wife, children and grandchildren in that tomb until it was discovered at the end of the 19th century. Unlike the government officials who featured artwork related to their government functions in their tombs, Sennedjem and the other artisans of Deir el-Medina had painted scenes of their family and idealized world.

Sennedjem’s tomb walls and arched ceiling were completely covered in ornate paintings which reflected scenes from the Book of the Dead. The yellow background paint gave the walls the feel of papyrus, the ancient Egyptian paper, and allowed the strong colors of the painted subjects to stand out.

The western wall of the tomb painting included two jackals which guarded the road to eternity along with Sennedjem and his wife, Iyneferty, and several gods. The southern wall featured a banquet with the parents and children of Sennedjem and Iyneferty, while the northern wall showed the mummification process together with text from the Book of the Dead, and an appeal to the god Osiris that the deceased, who led a good life, should be granted passage to paradise.

The eastern wall is the last wall to be “read” in the tomb. On top, two baboons surround the falcon-headed god Horus with a sun and protective cobra over his head, depicting the god of the rising sun. It is meant to convey a prayer for a successful journey to paradise and the beginning of a peaceful eternal life.

Below the tympanum are five rows which highlight that view of paradise.

The East Wall of the tomb of Sennedjem, Deir el-Medina, Egypt

The top register, read from left to right, includes the couple kneeling before five Egyptian gods followed by one of the couple’s sons facing them in a bark (boat) who escorts them to paradise. Another son is seen opening the mouth of the mummified Sennedjem, an important action to help the body survive and enjoy food and drink in the afterlife.

The following four registers show scenes of paradise. First they arrive in the Field of A’aru, the Field of Reeds. Egyptians believed that it is there that all of one’s possessions and family which were lost are returned (think of the death scene in the movie Gladiator). In this after-world, harvesting is as easy as pulling the grains from the ground or using animals to work the land. Blue water envelopes the entire scene (much like the Nile and canals during life), feeding plants, fields and trees. The bottom row features poppies and mandrakes, showcasing plants used in making drugs for sleep and aphrodisiac for love-making (see Genesis 30:14).

Paradise in ancient Egypt was an idealized version of life on Earth, focused on physical pleasures together with one’s spouse.

Shalom of Safed

Shalom Moskovitz (1896-1980) was commonly known as Shalom of Safed. He was an artisan for most of his life, including in watch-making and silver, and took up painting at the age of 55. He mostly painted scenes which were important and close to his heart such as the events of Jewish history, the Bible and the Talmud.

Shalom’s painting “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem,” is a classic example. Like the Egyptian painting described above, Shalom used a muted old paper-like yellowish background for a story with multiple scenes. The registers were not neatly aligned in rows, and show a number of locations from around Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The borders showcase grains and fruit trees, bringing to mind the sheva mi’nim, the seven species native to Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

“Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” by Shalom of Safed

Shalom replaced the semi-circular Egyptian tympanum which had been used because of the arched ceiling of the burial tomb (and later copied by churches in Europe above their portals) with a few of the notable monuments in Jerusalem’s skyline: the Tomb of Absalom, the Mosque of Omar (Dome of the Rock) and Tower of David. Further down are two gates of the Old City of Jerusalem with the Kotel, the Western Wall in between. To the left is Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Other churches, mosques, homes and fields give the painting a calm feeling.

The painting highlights diversity in sharp contrast to the Egyptian tomb which focused on the deceased couple. The people in the painting are assembled in two groups with one in the lower left ascending a hill (and holiness metaphorically) passing graves and the tomb of the Jewish matriarch, Rachel, and the second group to the right praying at the Kotel. All of the men are wearing different hats showing their different backgrounds, but stand together in their prayers. Similarly, the Jewish, Muslim and Christian sites are shown coexisting in harmony. They dwarf the people as opposed to the Egyptian tomb in which the people dominate the scenes.

The people of ancient Egypt worshiped idols and their art showcased those many gods to whom they prayed for an afterlife of physical enjoyment. The Jews of modern Israel pray to an invisible God, and their art reveals an inconsequential physical man before dominant religious monuments with prayers for abstract harmony.


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The Journeys of Abraham and Ownership of the Holy Land

Chanukah and Fighting on Sabbath

Your Father’s Anti-Semitism

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Shtisel, The Poem Without an End, Continues

“Inside the brand-new museum
there’s an old synagogue.
Inside the synagogue
is me.
Inside me
my heart.
Inside my heart
a museum.
Inside the museum
a synagogue,
inside it
me,
inside me
my heart,
inside my heart
a museum…”

Poem Without an End
Yehuda Amichai (1924 – 2000)

So ends Shtisel‘s season 2 in 2015. An Ultra Orthodox Jewish artist is seemingly caught between two worlds: a world which dominates his family and community, and the passions which drive him beyond the realms of that world.

It is a classic formula used by authors and poets for generations, the story of forbidden love. While typically written about two secular people pulled together against a repelling backdrop, Shtisel is written about a religious Jew pursuing a banned profession.

The protagonist, Akiva Shtisel, lives in a secluded world in which tradition calls for men to learn Jewish texts and to be married with children. But Akiva cannot fit neatly in that prescribed paradigm. He not only has difficulties in his relationships but is pulled by his talents to pursue his love of art. He gets encouraged by the secular world to pursue his artistic gifts, making his already awkward pursuit of a spouse yet more complicated.

In the season finale, we find Akiva walking in a modern museum past his own exhibition to find the comfort of an exhibit of a reconstructed old synagogue. He sits in the more familiar environment where he is surprised to be joined by a love interest. Akiva’s loves are now all contained within one another like nested Russian dolls but the viewer recognizes that the perfect setting does not obviate the conflict.

Unlike a family member who allowed tradition and established roots with a wife to pull him back into the Ultra Orthodox world and forgo his love for singing, Akiva is unmarried and involved with a woman who might entertain Akiva’s life in two worlds. That situation is not one of nested dolls but a life of dynamic movement with a troubling feedback loop like an M.C. Escher drawing.

The show was enormously popular, well beyond Israel where it was filmed. Jews and non-Jews in various countries admired the universal message of dueling loves in which passion and commitment are set against each other. The cast was featured in various events around the world over the past few years in which the actors considered why the show had such broad appeal. They negated the notion that viewers wanted a peak into the life of Hassidim and described the universally understood personal/family/community tensions that exist in all cultures.

Shtisel program held at Temple Emanu-El in New York City, June 11, 2019

Shtisel, the short-lived popular show with the perfect poetic ending was called back by its fans for a third season. The competing forces of attraction of the show’s actors demanded as much from its viewers.


Related First One Through articles:

The Last Sounds of “Son of Saul”

The Right Stuff, Then and Now

The Beautiful and Bad Images in Barcelona

The Last of the Mo’Kichels

The Shrapnel of Intent

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Brooklyn Chanukah Donut Crawl 2020

With the pandemic in its second full swing, the annual pilgrimage to try the great donuts and sufganiyot (filled donuts) in Brooklyn was not without controversy. Some people refused to join the outing due to fear so we decided to take a different approach:

  • only two people would make the trek- a parent and a teenager;
  • we would go in the early morning before the crowds;
  • only the teenager would enter the store in full hazmat attire;
  • all donuts would be brought back to base for consumption and ratings

The approach allowed for a wide sampling of bakeries, principally focused on Borough Park and Flatbush. The bakeries are listed in order of our route in case people want to replicate the tour:

  • Taam Eden Bakery, 4603 13th Ave
  • Weiss Kosher Bakery, 5011 13th Ave
  • Sesame – Boro Park, 5024 13th Ave
  • Gobo’s Cafe, 5421 New Utrecht Ave
  • Shloimy’s Bake Shoppe, 4712 16th Ave
  • Brooklyn Artisan Bakehouse, 1371 Coney Island Ave
  • Isaac’s Bake Shop, 1419 Avenue J
  • Ostrovitsky Bakery, 1124 Avenue J
  • Presser’s Kosher Bagels and Bakery, 1720 Ave. M
  • Patis Bakery, 1716 Ave. M
  • Schreiber’s Homestyle Bakery, 3008 Ave. M

Yes, that’s eleven bakeries. We’re that committed (in a bad mental health way).

We didn’t actually buy sufganiyot at the eleven stores. Gobo’s, the number one bakery of 2019, was closed both times we drove by, as was Brooklyn Artisan Bakehouse. Patis Bakery still had not received their shipment from New Jersey when we arrived around 10:00am. That still left eight bakeries to review for Chanukah. If one includes the free donut we got from Rachel Berger, the Kosher Dinner Lady (top score on presentation for the cookies and cream), we more than hit our calorie quota.

Taam Eden

In 2019, we got to Taam Eden last and the scores suffered due to our being well-sated and more than a tad over-sugared. We decided to start with that bakery in 2020 and hoped for a fresh assortment of interesting flavors. While they did have many unique flavors like Pina Colada, they weren’t always that good and the sugared toppings fell right off at first bite. Overall, they were also pretty flat and not puffy.

Taam Eden donuts. Blue flags denote dairy

Weiss Kosher Bakery

Weiss is an all around favorite bakery in our family. Yoely was nice enough to give us a free donut too. Unfortunately, the shelves were pretty bare when we arrived at 8:40am, so we missed out on their amazing chocolate horns. The chocolate sufganiyot were good but a bit too sweet. The custard was nice, especially for a pareve one.

Thanks Yoely!

Sesame

Sesame redoes the entire bakery just for Chanukah, and for good reason. The donuts are amazing. Full of rich flavor which is not too sweet with dough which has nice texture and flavor. I cannot believe how good the pistachio ones are. BTW, no masks in sight.

Shloimy’s Bake Shop

My teenage son was impressed by what he saw in Shloimy’s and came back with lots of choices. The taste varied. The salted caramel was simply not good while the cheese was very tasty and went perfectly with the texture and flavor of the dough.

A hazmat boy in a heimeshe bakery

Isaac’s Bake Shop

Isaac’s had the benefit of being the only bakery we visited where everything was fresh. We gobbled two onion bagels without any spread as we left the store – delicious. The sufganiyot we ate at home were non-complicated and tasty.

Ostrovitsky Bakery

If you want something a bit more ornate and shall I say… Hungarian? – try Ostrovitsky. The chocolate rosemarie are tops in the pareve category with great flavor. The chocolate mousse is very light – perhaps a bit too much relative to the texture of the dough. The Napolean flavor was also quite good.

Presser’s

Presser’s has a lot more appetizing in the store than donuts. We picked up a couple anyway which were pretty good.

Schreiber’s Homestyle

We always visit Schreiber’s to bring home a box of excellent lace cookies; hauling donuts is a plus. Skip the sufganiyot in the boxes in the front of the store and go to the back to select your own. This year we decided to try the dairy donuts – which run about $5 – quite a bit more than the pareve ones at around $2. There’s a reason. The dairy cheese and strawberry are remarkable. A must have.


Overall, none of the sufganiyot (other than Isaac’s) were fresh when we arrived. It felt like we were getting 6am baking at 9am. Sufganiyot don’t age well so we decided to try the other Sesame Bakery location in Flatbush to see if we could try one straight out of the oven. Unfortunately, it was packed at 11am and none of the baked goods were oven-fresh. We grabbed two and hit the road back home.

Below is a rating of the various spots. I would again put Sesame in the top category along with Schreiber’s dairy sufganiyot. Ostrovitsky’s got mixed reviews but I liked them.

We actually have a GoPro video of each store location. Subscribe to the blog and send a note and we’ll let you experience the shopping!


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Chanukah Donuts: Brooklyn 2019

Brooklyn’s Holiday Donuts

The Last of the Mo’Kichels

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Purim 2020, Jewish Haikus

While the format of a traditional haiku is seventeen syllables in a 5/7/5 format, for this Purim, I have decided to use the Jewish chai’ku which has 18 syllables in an escalating 5/6/7 format, with some license.


I don my costume
The latest from Disney.
Rabbi’s grandson wears the same.

Her name Hadassah
Later called Queen Esther
First of Her Name, Breaker of Chains.

We all hear “Haman”
The groggers fall silent
My stomach growls, loudly.

The good guys triumph!
How unusual. Ah,
Not written in Israel.

Megillah two times
Yet Chanukah has none!
Al Ha’nissim inequality.

Diaspora Purim
Large meal and much drinking
Why only a single day?

Mishloah Manot
Only need two items
But don’t want label “cheap friend.”

Stale Hamantashen
Clearly weak store-bought fare
I rummage to find homemade.

Yes, I like muhn
A single day a year
A sweeter poppy bagel.

Two weeks trapped inside
Called for “Calm” Purim shpiel.
What day is Purim Sheni?


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Purim 2019, The Progressive Megillah

Purim 5776/ 2016 Poem

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