Sunday, October 31, 2010

Friday Versus Sunday

Every Israeli misses Sundays. The chutznik reminisces back to the time when he had a day a week to have some good old family qualitity time. It's especially hard for datiim, who can only have day trips with their families a few times a year during the holidays. As a student, I missed Sundays immensely. While all my non-religious friends would have Friday and Saturday to catch up on all the homework we had, I spent Fridays cooking and Saturdays Shabbating. I really missed having a day like Sunday, where you could just sit down and do your homework, without it having to be in the middle of the night.

Now, of course we have Sundays. It's been a year, and we're still getting used to it. Very often we just spend a Sunday being lazy with the kids, though we're starting to get better at planning fun family things on Sunday (too bad the stores aren't open though). Yet, as I work a full day on Fridays and with shabbat coming in very early now in the winter, I found myself this Friday willing to give up that previously so desired Sunday for a free Friday to be able to prepare for shabbes like a mentsch and not some raving lunatic running around trying to defy time.

Today it's Sunday again, we survived shabbes, and I'm happy again to have a calm day with my family. Honestly, I don't know which is better, but I'm starting to see that a free Friday instead of Sunday wasn't so bad after all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Game Theory and the Peace Process

I just received this email and thought it worthy to share.
Professor Yisrael Aumann won a Nobel Prize for his knowledge of 'game
which includes the art of negotiation.  Although he lives in Israel
(his son was a soldier killed defending the country) the Israeli government has never asked
his opinion or his help in negotiating with the Palestinians. Below, Prof.
Aumann explains just what Israel is doing wrong. Hello, is someone out there
in the Israeli government listening? Give the Professor a call.

Israel's Conflict as Game TheoryBy Prof. Yisrael Aumann, Nobel Prize Laureate

Two men-let us call them Rick and Steve- are put in a small room containing
a suitcase filled with bills totaling $100,000. The owner of the suitcase
announces the following:"I will give you the money in the suitcase under one
condition:you have to negotiate an agreement on how to divide it. That is
the only way I will agree to give you the money."
Rick is a rational person and realizes the golden opportunity that has
fallen his way. He turns to Steve with the obvious suggestion: "You take
half and I'll take half, that way each of us will have $50,000."
To his surprise, Steve frowns at him and says, in a tone that leaves no room
for doubt: "Look here, I don't know what your plans are for the money, but I
don't intend to leave this room with less than $90,000. If you accept that,
fine. If not, we can both go home without any of the money."
Rick can hardly believe his ears. "What has happened to Steve" he asks
himself. "Why should he get 90% of the money and I just 10%?" He decides to
try to convince Steve to accept his view. "Let's be logical," he urges him,
"We are in the same situation, we both want the money. Let's divide the
money equally and both of us will profit."
Steve, however, doesn't seem perturbed by his friend's logic. He listens
attentively, but when Rick is finished he says, even more emphatically than
before: "90-10 or nothing. That is my last offer."
Rick's face turns red with anger. He is about to punch Steve in the nose,
but he steps back. He realizes that Steve is not going to relent, and that
the only way he can leave the room with any money is to give in to him. He
straightens his clothes, takes $10,000 from the suitcase, shakes Steve's
hand and leaves the room humiliated.

This case is called 'The Blackmailer's Paradox" in game theory. The paradox
is that Rick the rational is forced to behave irrationally by definition, in
order to achieve maximum results in the face of the situation that has
evolved. What brings about this bizarre outcome is the fact Steve is sure of
himself and doesn't flinch when making his exorbitant demand. This convinces
Rick that he must give in so as to make the best of the situation.

The Arab-Israeli ConflictThe relationship between Israel and the Arab countries is conducted along
the lines of this paradox. At each stage of negotiation, the Arabs present
impossible, unacceptable starting positions. They act sure of themselves and
as if they totally believe in what they are asking for, and make it clear to
Israel that there is no chance of their backing down.
Invariably, Israel agrees to their blackmailing demands because otherwise
she will leave the room empty handed. The most blatant example of this is
the negotiations with Syria that have been taking place with different
levels of negotiators for years. The Syrians made sure that it was clear
from the beginning that they would not compromise on one millimeter of the
Golan Heights.
The Israeli side, eager to have a peace agreement with Syria, internalized
the Syrian position so well, that the Israeli public is sure that the
starting point for future negotiations with Syria has to include complete
withdrawal from the Golan Heights, this despite its critical strategic
importance in ensuring secure borders for Israel.

The Losing SolutionAccording to game theory, Israel has to change certain basic perceptions in
order to improve her chances in the negotiations game with the Arabs and win
the long term political struggle:
a.         Willingness to forego agreements
Israel's political stand is based on the principle that agreements must be
reached with the Arabs at any price, that the lack of agreements is
untenable. In the Blackmailer's Paradox, Rick's behavior is the result of
his feeling that he must leave the room with some money, no matter how
little. Because Rick cannot imagine himself leaving the room with empty
hands, he is easy prey for Steve, and ends up leaving with a certain amount
of money, but in the role of the humiliated loser. This is similar to the
way Israel handles negotiations, her mental state making her unable to
reject suggestions that do not advance her interests.
b        Taking repetition into accountGame theory relates to onetime situations differently than to situations
that repeat themselves. A situation that repeats itself over any length of
time, creates, paradoxically, strategic parity that leads to cooperation
between the opposing sides. This cooperation occurs when both sides realize
that the game is going to repeat itself, and that since they must weigh the
influence present moves will have on future games, there is a balancing
factor at play.
Rick saw his problem as a onetime event, and behaved accordingly. Had he
told Steve instead that he would not forego the amount he deserves even if
he sustains a total loss, he would have changed the game results for an
indefinite period. It is probably true that he would still have left the
game empty handed, but at the next meeting with Steve, the latter would
remember Rick's original suggestion and would try to reach a compromise.
That is how Israel has to behave, looking at the long term in order to
improve her position in future negotiations, even if it means continuing a
state of war and fore going an agreement.
c.         Faith in your opinions
Another element that crates the "Blackmailer's Paradox" is the unwavering
belief of one side in its opinion. Steve exemplifies that. This faith gives
a contender inner confidence in his cause at the start and eventually
convinces his rival as well. The result is that the opposing side wants to
reach an agreement, even at the expense of irrational surrender that is
considerably distanced from his opening position.

Several years ago, I spoke to a senior officer who claimed that Israel must
withdraw from the Golan Heights in the framework of a peace treaty, because
the Golan is holy land to the Syrians and they will never give it up. I
explained to him that first the Syrians convinced themselves that the Golan
is holy land to them, and then proceeded to convince you as well. The
Syrians' unflinching belief that they are in the right convinces us to give
in to their dictates. The only solution to that is for us to believe
unwaveringly in the righteousness of our cause. Only complete faith in our
demands can succeed in convincing our Syrian opponent to take our opinion
into account.

As in all of science, game theory does not take sides in moral and value
judgments. It analyzes strategically the behavior of opposing sides in a
game they play against one another. The State of Israel is in the midst of
one such game opposite its enemies. As in every game, the Arab-Israeli game
involves interests that create the framework of the game and its rules.
Sadly, Israel ignores the basic principles of game theory. If Israel would
be wise enough to behave according to those principles, her political status
and de facto, her security status, would improve substantially.

Copyright Yisrael Aumann
I think this theory is even stronger in light of the Arab mentality. Whenever we give in even a little, the Arabs celebrate it as if they won completely. When operation cast lead came to an end, Hamas sold it as if they had defeated the Israeli army.
The examples of this type of behavior are endless.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Party of the Year

My daughter's birthday is coming up soon and I am feeling totally overwhelmed.
Birthdays are a much bigger deal here then they are in Israel (at least for us). In Israel we barely had any family to celebrate with, so we ended up having a small get together with a few friends and their kids. Here it's very different. With just the close family we're already an intimidating number. But that's not it. This year, we're going to have to invite all the kids from my daughter's ganon. She really wants to invite everyone, and that's simply how it's done here. I still think a party of 15 kids for a 4 year old is a bit much, but I'm not going to deprive my daughter from what all her friends get. So that's party number 2. Then there's number 3 in ganon. They have a little party, sing, some cake, a present, family members get to come and the birthday kid gives out a small bag of goodies to take home. For me this would be enough, but in stead, I have to make 2 different types of goody bags that will be going to the same kids.

But if I'm honest, this isn't all that bad. Actually, if I'm really honest, I'm the one who's making it stressful. I'm not the most creative person who wows everyone with her newest conception, but I don't like doing the same as everyone else either. So I put in lots of time and effort in order to put something together that's just a bit different then the standard. Like last year, in stead of just giving out some candy and juice in a little plastic see through bag like all the other kids', I mad these "hot air balloons":

So now I have to (again, it's just me pushing myself) come up with something similar for this year and I'm totally stuck. Not to mention trying to think of some fun activity (which of course has to be entertaining as well as educational) and treat for the party.

I know I have to learn to do things the easy way when I just don't have time and it's putting to much pressure on me (and my family), but some how I just can't.

Oh, did I mention I'm having the very same problem with one of my best friend's wedding and sheva brachot?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What a Rav

After reading this blog I feel the need to stand up for a rav who has been receiving some negative press concerning his stand on inter-faith dialogue. I in no means am a halachic expert, either in general or in this particular sitution. I am not taking a stand on whether or not Rabbi Riskin's Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation  goes against halacha. Jewish Israel quotes a psak of rav Soloveitchik taken from the book Community, Covenant and Commitment.

In a letter to the Rabbinical Council of America in November 1964 Rav Soloveitchik wrote,
…We are, therefore, opposed to any public debate, dialogue or symposium concerning the doctrinal, dogmatic or ritual aspects of our faith vis a vis “similar” aspects of another faith community. We believe in and are committed to our Maker in a specific manner and we will not question, defend, offer apologies, analyze or rationalize our faith in dialogues centered about these “private” topics which express our personal relationship to the God of Israel. We assume that members of other faith communities will feel similarly about their individual religious commitment.

We would deem it improper to enter into dialogues on such topics as:
1) Judaic monotheism and the Christian idea of Trinity.
2) The Messianic idea in Judaism and Christianity.
3) Jewish attitude on Jesus.
4) The concept of the Covenant in Judaism and Christianity.
5) The Eucharist mass and Jewish prayer service.
6) The Holy Ghost and prophetic inspiration.
7) Isaiah and Christianity.
8) The Priest and The Rabbi.
9) Sacrifice and the Eucharist.
10) The Church and the Synagogue – their sanctity and metaphysical nature, etc.
There cannot be mutual understanding concerning these topics, for Jews and Christians will employ different categories and move within incommensurate frames of reference and evaluation.
Again, I am not trying to make any halachic argument. I have had the honor of meeting Rabbi Riskin in person (and in a more personal setting) several times. I know that he still is a great follower of his mentor Rabbi Soloveitchik as well as another mentor of his The Lubavitcher Rebbe, whom he was extremely close with and had a great influence on him as well. I havent heard or read any statements of his on this most recent project of his, but I feel it is important to recap some segments of his life as to show all the greatness this one man has done for Modern Orthodox society. He changed an entire conservative community, helped it become orthodox and made aliya with lots of this congregation. Together they formed Efrat and he is still the chief Rabbi there today. He was the leader of the movement to free the Soviet Jews, he has set up a very well respected program to train rabbis specifically for chul and was the founder of Midreshet Lindenbaum. He developed the first program for people with severe learning disabilities, so they could still come to Israel for a year. Created (and first fought for) a program to train women to advocate for women in the beit din and fight for agunot. Right now he is fighting in the Israeli beit din to change the way they pasken when it comes to agunot (since they now use a minority opinion, backed by non to deal with the agunot, while the majority opinions are a lot more lenient). You can read about all of this here (I normally wouldn't use Wikipedia as a source, but I have heard him personally speak on each and every one of these subjects, so I know this to be true). So, given what this rav has accomplished in his life, I for one am not going to judge him unfavorably as others seem to be in a great hurry to do.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Read You Loud and Clear

I know I should stop reading reader's comments on news sites, especially when it's an article on Israel. But here I was, reading an article from a Western European country on the fact that the municipality is going to start subsidizing the security costs the Jewish community and especially the school has. I started reading all the "smart" comments from civilized, free thinking Westerners. Some where just upset, that in a time where governments are cutting costs, their tax money is going to this. Fine, I can somehow understand not wanting to pay taxes to a small minority of people and feel that if people need protection, they should pay for it themselves. But a lot of these people where writing clear and blatant antisemitism. Saying that they (the Jews) should take care of themselves or have Israel cover their costs, since it's clearly Israel's fault for not making peace with the Palestinians. Telling the Jews it's their fault for not integrating more (which clearly helped in Germany in the 1930's). Some blame it on religion in general. They suggest the governments should solve this problem by only allowing public schools, which will of course lead to all the different religions to hold hands and sing peace songs together. Really, this person has solved all the world's problems. If only we would all be in one big public school, we would all get along. I'm sure Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu would have been great friends, if only their parents had sent them to school together. Of course, let's not forget the Jewish lobby, which is always their to protect the rich Jews from invented dangers. But most importantly, those Jews should just leave, back to their own country.

Does any of this ring a bell???

Of course, one has to keep in mind that the probability is that some of these people must be stupid. But even so, We're talking about a country that saw 80% of their Jews murdered only 65 years ago. I really cannot understand how people from a so called enlightened country can spew such blatant antisemitism. Something has clearly gone wrong in the education of these people over the last 65 years. But most of all, I do not understand how my friends and family keep living there without seeing how unwanted and unwelcome they really are. Most are natives, as were their parents as were their grandparents. To lots, being Jewish comes in second place. But sadly, this is not how their fellow citizens view them. And if their beliefs haven't changed after the Holocaust, one would be very naive to believe they will in the future.
I know, I also live in Europe, so who am I to talk. The difference is, I know I don't belong. I am not comfortable being here and I know that I'm the odd man out. I know I should pack up and move. And I will. I do not disillusion myself into thinking that I belong here, even if I have their passport and my husband's family has been living here for over 400 years. This is not my home and it never will be. I just wish others would learn from history and get the message.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

New Shabbes Experiences part 1

I recently started a new job and now work 2 full days at the end of the week. Which means I've had to say bye bye to the weekly Friday cook-out. Luckily, I have a big freezer and have started to cook a lot in advance. There's really a lot you can make in advance and freeze, like challes, soup, kugels, cakes etc, which I did. This Friday was to be the first time no one would be home during the day. My freezer was fully stocked though, and I felt fairly confident that it would all go fine. Yet somehow there was that knowing, nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. And Thursday night it hit me, the cold cuts. We usually order these from our local kosher butcher on Friday morning, so it's nice and fresh and they deliver it somewhere during the morning or early afternoon. We figured it wouldn't be so bad to do the same this week, even though neither of us would be home till after 4. The weather has been quite cool and the delivery has been coming later and later (ah, the perks of having a kosher monopoly), so it should be fine.
Well, luck would have it that it was an unusually hot day. I have no idea when they delivered the meat, but when I took it out of my mailbox it still seemed cool. I only threw out the liver pate, since that would have been risky. Now, you should know that I have a very sensitive stomach and generally try to avoid the situations where others would say that it's probably ok. However, in this case I couldn't avoid it and took the risk.  Of course, it ended up poorly, and I am writing this from my bed feeling sick. And of course, as always I am the only one to be affected.
So, I guess we learnt our first lesson when it comes to preparing shabbes in advance. I've titles this to be part one since I'm sure this isn't going to be the last time something like this happens, let's just hope that next time it won't cause physical pain.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I DON'T Like it...

I'm a little disturbed by this newest facebook trend.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for breast cancer awareness, but is this really the way to go about it? To insinuate to all your friends where you like to have sex, while seemingly actually to be referring to your purse?
First off, why not use some fact about breast cancer, the percentage of women it affects, or remind women to do an exam. With what they're doing now, no one is learning anything real and the majority of people probably don't even realize it's somehow connected to breast cancer awareness month (in fact, it doesn't seem connected at all and if google hadn't told me that it is, I'd still be clueless). It's all about playing this sexually tinted game and the fact that it's for breast cancer awareness seems to just be an unmentioned side point.
But mainly, it bothers me to see how many of my frum, even married friends are doing this. Do they really think it's appropriate to do such a thing?

Anyway, in stead of going on a big rant I decided to do some research and find out how one can really raise some awareness. I found this where you can make your own early detection plan. This is what will be mentioned in my next facebook status. Maybe you can join me in that and try to raise some real awareness.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Red Alert

Our split shul personality was in overload over chag. We decided not to go to the chareidi shul for the yamim noraim since it's quite far (it takes me about an hour, with pushing 2 kids up and down hill) eventhough the rest of the family davens there. My husband is connected to their community though, since he has a chavruta with their chief rabbi. When the rav heard we wouldn't be davening there, he was quite disappointed. So, as a compromise, we decided to daven there for one of the Sukot yom tovim.
I knew I wouldn't make it to the davening since it's so far and actually didn't really mind. The davening there is a little different than I'm used to, I like to sing along, which is definitely a no go there for women (even though they're up high on a balcony and are not heard by the men). I got dressed in the morning, avoiding one of my favorite dresses that I think shrunk a bit and now just hits my knee, taking in stead a nice length skirt and very tsnius top.
After the long masa I finally get to shul. The renewed it and now there is no longer a play room for the kids, but in stead a third beit midrash. I felt extremely uncomfortable and wasn't sure where to go. All the women were staring at the new comer and I decided not to go into shul since it was up lots of stairs and tfila was sure to be over soon. I joined a small group of women who went into the kitchen (the only place for the women to wait now) and sat down. As I took of my coat and looked around at the others, I suddenly realised my huge mistake. I was wearing... shock of all shock... COLOR! And not only was I wearing a color, it was borderline red. I felt terrible and suddenly realized that all the staring was maybe not solely because I was new. I contemplating putting on my safe black coat, but it was too warm inside. Then I started to feel silly. Why should I be embarrassed of wearing something I had previously never thought of as being untsnius, just cause these other women decided they want to live there lives as zebra's. I ended up sitting there, jacket less, a little uncomfortable but still somewhat defiant. And also a little resentful, for being made to feel untsnius when I really wasn't.
Any thoughts on this? How would you have felt and reacted?

Monday, October 4, 2010

To Affront or Collide

I have been procrastinating all day. We were away for almost 2 weeks, so you can imagine how empty our fridge is. I really need to do some serious food shopping, but I've been making up excuses all day so as not to go. Now, you might conclude that I'm being lazy or just not in the mood, but actually, I'M SCARED! Yes, scared to go food shopping. I know you've now probably concluded that I must be a little strange, have some kind of fear of large crowds or the like, but nothing could be more true. This is actually the first time I've felt like this. I'm home alone, with both kids, who I'd have to shlep with me. This is my official claim for not going now. But in reality, I'm scared because this would be my first time driving there. I only just got my license. And even though I have driven quite a few times since then, I'm still a little nervous when it comes to parking. Yes, I know, like all women. But honestly, it's not because I'm a woman. I live in a very European place, where we all have to conform to perfect codes of behavior and beware to those who don't (for example, we collect paper and put it out on the street. It must be a neat pile, wrapped up tightly with a piece of string. And they all are! And I'm sure, if yours isn't you'll get some kind of reprimand, most likely from your own neighbors, telling you how you're ruining the neighborhood standard and they of course understand that you're a foreigner, but really, you ought to know better).
So I'm scared there won't be a parking spot (which is very likely, since there barely are any in this city, even in my suburb) and I'll have to wait somewhere on the side, where everyone is bound to get annoyed and tell me off. Honestly, I think some of the elderly here go out specifically to find people to chastise in order to keep this country pure. Or, I'll find a parking spot, but won't be able to park smoothly or quick enough and will end up crashing into another car or person. I'm not sure which is worse...
Did I mention that my fridge is really empty, like, no food for dinner?!
Anyone feel like coming with me and parking for me? Please? Pretty please?

Lost but not Alone

Sadly, but after having lived in chul for almost a year, I still feel lost.
If I'm honest, I want to feel lost. I'm afraid to let go and start feeling at home. What if I feel too at home? What if I consequently don't want to go back to Israel? So this is my coping mechanism for making sure I'll go back, though ironically, it is leaving me with the feeling that I cannot cope with chul.
I feel isolated.
We don't really seem to fit in anywhere. We are too frum for the community we live near, though we share the same ideals. We are orthodox, come from a strong Dati Leumi background, in which we believe in incorporating halacha in our modern life, without compromising on it. However, where we live now, this kind of orthodoxy doesn't exist. The more modern community compromises a lot, sometimes knowingly, more often though out of ignorance. Here we are often outsiders due to a different lifestyle (non of our friends have kids yet) and our strict halacha observance. Then there's the chareidi community, by which we are seen as being less frum (it doesn't matter that my husband has a strong yeshive background and now has a chevruta with their chief rabbi) and even though some of our ideals match, their views on Israel are definitely a tie breaker and so we don't fit in their either.
Being as we can't start a new community, consisting of us, the Bne Akiva shlichim and a few other people, we have to try and fit in somewhere. Of course this is hard and we are constantly confronted with dilemmas, some small, some more major. I guess I started this blog as a means to deal with all these predicaments and by sharing them, maybe feel less alone.