Category Archives: Jewish history

Guilt baskets – an ingenious way to feed off armchair Zionists

There are some things in life that are constants. Some of them good, some of them not so good. Almost every chag (Jewish holiday), we are the unlucky recipients of the aforementioned Guilt Basket from a person we know in the States. If you peruse this website, the baskets contain items that can be purchased from our supermarkets for less than 50 shekel, but which costs the naive American over $50. Every chag, Josh and I keep telling ourselves that we should just phone her up and say, “Listen, it’s really sweet ‘n all, and I know you think that you are supporting the Israeli economy, but you are being ripped off good and proper, and the company is taking you for a ride with your guilt gift basket.” But we don’t have the heart.

Just a few days ago, this person told us that she wouldn’t be sending us the guilt basket, and that she would give us money instead. Hallelujah!! But as we got off the phone, and had a good laugh about it, we realized that these companies who market their gift baskets to Americans are sitting on a goldmine. How many American Jews are there who do not want to make Aliyah and relinquish their creature comforts, but who want to make themselves feel good by supporting the Israeli economy?

In plain English, what these sites are really saying is the following:

For $50, give yourself a pat on the back, and send your loved ones who are sacrificing their lives in Israel on a daily basis some Telma date spread and some stale cookies. They will be eternally grateful.

For $100, you will go down in the books as nothing short of a hero. With some choice Cabernet Sauvignon wine and some Elite chocolates, no one will ever wonder again why you are over 10,000 miles away sitting in front of your plasma TV instead of making sacrifices for the future of the Jewish people.

Ingenious.

Quite comical really….

This evening, as we sat down as a family to eat dinner, I tried to engage my three-year-old in conversation about Pesach. Purim was such an anti-climactic experience – Eliana was crying most of the day, she didn’t quite get the concept of reciprocating when it came to Mishloach Manot – I thought it would be smart to get her in the Pesach spirit ahead of time. I asked her what she had learned in Gan about Pesach – it better be extremely profound for 2000 shekel a month, I thought to myself – and she replied, tilting her head to one side, “I don’t know.”

Not one to be deterred, I pressed her further. “Did they talk to you, sweetie, about what happened to the Yehudim (Jews) in Mitzrayim (Egypt)?” Bingo. I had used the correct targeted keywords. Her eyes widened and her expression became animated.

“Yes, Mummy, Tzvika [the ganenet’s husband – don’t ask – it’s a really long story – if you really want to know why the ganenet’s husband was doing his wife’s job, send me an email and I will explain] told us that Haman HaRasha (Haman, the wicked one) was a really naughty man, and all the peoples were so scared!”

Josh responded, “No, honey, that’s a different chag (festival)! On Pesach, the Jewish people are scared of Pharaoh!” That basically summed up in a nutshell our experience as the Jewish people. We go from one baddy to another!

God is a Mob Boss

Posted by The Husband

If anyone is reading this blog then let me warn you that the following post will be heretical, heathenly, and hopefully, hilarious.

This weekend on shabbat, I was pondering the parashat hashavua and I decided that God has a lot in common with Tony Soprano. This (past) week’s parasha was parashat Ki Tisa. In that portion of the Torah, there are a few passages that relate how God will punish the Nation of Israel if they do not follow His Law. Concurrently, though not on shabbat, I was reviewing the last season of The Sopranos in preparation for The Last season of The Sopranos which will return to television (and my computer) around the middle of April. For anyone unfamiliar with The Sopranos, the show is about a mob boss named Tony Soprano and his relationship with his family, therapist, and crew.

In the last episode that I watched, there was a side story about how one of Tony’s front companies, Barone Sanitation, was being sold by the son of the owner. The owner had killed himself thereby passing on the business to his son. The son was never informed of his father’s connection with organized crime and only wanted to sell the business for his mother. The part of the story that is germaine to this particular discussion is that the son gets involved in the shady business side of his father’s business and ends up getting threatened, beaten, and then shaken down by one of Tony’s own captains. Of course, at the same time, Tony is assuring the kid’s mother that “nothing is going to happen to him, I swear.”

So how is God like Tony Soprano? I’m glad you asked.

Go back a few thousand years. God does a favor for the Nation of Israel. They are slaves in Egypt and pretty miserable and God offers them a way out. “I’ll take care of the Egyptians,” says God, “and I will make a nation of you.” Pretty good offer. “All you have to do,” God says, putting His (figurative) arm around the pathetic slaves, “is promise to worship me and obey my laws.”

Now the slaves, who probably were ready to do anything about that time, say, sure, what the hell, we’ll obey, we’ll listen, just get us the hell out of here. So God does. He sends a couple of His goons to break a few kneecaps, smash a few windows, and smite some firstborn sons. Israel rejoices and runs like hell to get out of Dodge. God sends one of his captains, Moses, to lead the newly freed slaves to the mountain of Sinai where God explains his business plan. Along the way, God gives the nation some seed money, in the form of manna, and helps them with some pesky legal troubles by splitting the Red Sea and drowning the opposing council.

God business plan is simple. “Here’s My rules. 10 basic rules and 603 more to come. Follow the rules, do what I ask, and I’ll protect you and make you prosperous. If you have a problem, don’t take it to any other god. Don’t go outside the family. Take it to me. I will take care of it. At some point in the future, I might ask you to do Me a favor. There’s this nasty other family called the Amalekites who are trying to bust in on My action and I may need you to clean up that mess. Don’t go to the cops, they won’t help you. Other nations won’t listen to you and will turn their hearts and hand against you. But I am your God. I will help you. I will make it alright. Of course, if you should happen to go against my wishes, I will smite you and your children and your children’s children until you come back to Me and beg My forgiveness. But don’t worry, I’m sure you are smart enough to do the Right thing.”

So here we are, the children of the Nation of Israel who made a deal with God to protect and deliver them. God doesn’t really talk to us anymore, but we’re still obligated to Him. He hasn’t done much in the protection racket lately, although occasionally He steps in and stops us from being totally annihilated. But we’re still paying our dues and paying for the deal that our forebears made with God. And, according to the terms of the deal, if we don’t kick up to the Big Boss, we are gonna wish we were never born.

The previous comments do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of Double Take. Thank you for your understanding.

Writing on the wall – Jewish school targeted in Germany

I have never been able to understand how, after the atrocities of the Holocaust, any Jew is capable of living in Germany; yet the figures show that the Jewish presence in this country is formidable – over 200,000 Jews have made Germany their home, making it one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe.

 A few days ago, a smoke bomb was thrown through the window of a Jewish kindergarten in Berlin. The thought of what could have happened if the smoke bomb had successfully been ignited sends shivers down my spine. Thankfully, no one was physically hurt, but the anti-Semitic imprint was left on this kindergarten after its walls were spray-painted with swastikas, anti-Semitic symbols, and Nazi slogans.  This was the first time that a Jewish school in Germany has been the target of anti-Semitism; unfortunately, I don’t envisage that it will be the last.

 In today’s world of senseless terrorism and hatred, where Jews are so often the target, people are scared to be direct in their obsession with being politically correct. “You can’t generalize, not all Arabs are suicide bombers,” “the Germans have learned their lesson – you cannot blame them for the sins of a previous generation,” but these words ring hollow in my ears.

In this day and age, when it is unsafe to go on a bus in Israel, let alone fly, should I feel guilty about mistrusting each and every Arab I encounter? I definitely feel sadness about the reality of our world, but certainly not guilt. In my mind, I am responsible for keeping my children safe, and if that means that I won’t let an Arab step foot into my home to do repair work, out of fear that he will stab me in the back, then so be it. The Arabs who built our apartment in Israel filled our pipes with stones; an Arab who my uncle hired to do odd jobs around his house, and trusted him implicitly, turned out to be an accomplice in a suicide bombing. The man who took money from my uncle and smiled at him deferentially each day was the same man who transported a suicide bomber to his final destination.

Yes, there are countless Arabs out there who are decent and who only want to live in peace, and yes, there are Germans who are shamefaced and are genuinely sorry for the unspeakable acts of cruelty that took place in Nazi Germany, but until Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora stand firm in their fight against anti-Semitism, generalizations and protective measures are the only defense mechanism we have at our disposal.