Friday, August 28, 2009

What's Wrong with the Chareidim?

It started most recently when the Utlra-Orthodox community in which the Munchhausen mother lives chose to attack Jewish policemen, burn garbage bins and prevent the family from receiving the help they most desperately need. To admit that this woman has a pathological psychological disorder and needs intervention would be opening their community to the outside, and admitting that just because they are religious, they are not perfect and harmonious, but rather human. Having witnessed first hand in my work as a Chiropractor the devastating effects of a mother's Munchhausen by Proxy, I can say that this family, and the entire community, needs help in understanding and treating this disease.

Because she isn't really ill, and she didn't really endanger at least two of her children, it is a vast conspiracy against the Chareidi community.

As if the initial burst of violent and pointless protest wasn't enough, they took out traffic lights in major intersections throughout Jerusalem, not only destroying public property but also making driving in the Holy City dangerous. It would almost be acceptable (NOT) if they actually worked and paid taxes that would go toward repairing the accumulated damage they have caused thus far and over the years.

Then we have the ongoing Shabbat protests against the privately owned parking lot in downtown Jerusalem. These supposedly religious and Sabbath-honoring Ultra-Orthodox Jews somehow feel that it is preferable to spend their day of rest standing in the center of town, throwing rocks at cars attempting to enter the parking lot, and getting dragged away into police cars and getting arrested rather than spending quiet quality time with their family.

Because this parking lot represents a personal affront to the Chareidi community, who feel that they "own" Jerusalem and its politicians; Mayor Nir Barakat has had to increase security for himself and his family due to death threats from this supposedly morally superior community.

Then last night's news showed footage of the favored summer activity of young boys and teenagers from the Ultra-Orthodox set, who apparently have nothing better to do in between not getting a proper education during the school year. Captured on tape, these children take pot shots and completely dismember traffic lights in their neighborhood and throughout the city.

Because destruction of public property is AOK in Israel, as the modern State of Israel has not been sanctioned by G-d or their Messiah, and is the "Treife Medina" [Hebrew = the Non-Kosher State]

I can promise you that if they lived in any other country on the planet, this behaviour would not take place, as Rabbinic literature and halacha mandates that Jews respect the law of the land in which they live. Unless of course they live in the only Jewish State...hmm.

Once these boys return to their yeshiva studies, they will learn that they are better than everyone else because they dress like 18th century Polish nobility - the same class who stole Jewish property and historically randomly massacred Jews - and that is fine to pick up a smoking habit to inhibit their natural sexual drives. The Torah states that you are forbidden to do anything to yourself or others that directly leads to physical damage or death, but I suppose that smoking doesn't count. I blame society, but I blame the parents even more, for not making better choices for their children.

The Chareidi community consistently complains that they are misunderstood and misrepresented, but how can any rational human being think otherwise? How can the Ultra-Orthodox claim that they represent G-d's and the Torah's true intent?

This heathen thinks otherwise.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Barack Obama's Double-Speak

During his speech at the conference in Cairo, Inexperienced President Barack Obama stated that "all nations" (ie IRAN) have the right to develop nuclear power, as long as the resource is handled "responsibly." Because radical Islamic nations with a thirst to get rid of the Zionist and the Capitalist entities will use nuclear power for schools and hospitals, rather than to develop a far-reaching nuclear weapons program. He further implied in his statements that the United States would look the other way if these so-called responsible countries had a fit of irresponsibility, opening the door for every Arab country to attack Israel.

Several days later, Obama issued a press release clarifying that anyone who attacks Israel (in a responsible way of course...) will be attacking America. It reminded me of the microscopic corrections box hidden between the ads in the New York Times and other major news papers. No one pays attention to the accurate information, once the headline has screamed.

In a developing pattern, at the beginning of this week, Obama's representative in the Middle East stated that Israel has every right to defend itself from its enemies, and that the United States has not and will not direct our internal and foreign policy, including such time that Israel should decide to attack IRAN. What followed that day in the Israeli press were a series of faux blustering, every politician in this country claiming that Israel has never backed down from a fight because our allies told us to, that Israel has and always will defend its citizen and its borders. Both recent and past history certainly disprove that claim.

Today, after several days had passed, Obama issued a statement that the United States has neither requested from Israel nor would they approve of Israel attacking Iran for any reason. Again, who is paying attention now?

These calculated slips are dangerous, similar to the time that former/shameful PM Ehud Olmert let it "slip" that Israel has nuclear capability, at the behest of America who were trying to intimidate various upstart nuclear nations in the area. Obama may think that his soaring rhetoric and supposed charm will conquer the world and bring about peace in the Middle East, and yet his moves speak of more of inexperience and naivete, leading to disaster and chaos.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tragic Ending

Five weeks ago, my 91 year old grandfather fell into a coma, after being revived by the paramedics for a total of seven times, on the way to the hospital. My grandfather, who believed that Death would somehow forget him, had adamantly refused to sign a DNR, and as a consequence, arrived brain dead. Because my mother and her two sisters believe in the role of the halacha (sometimes over common sense), their father was immediately placed on life support and a feeding tube.

In addition to managing my father's business, my mother visits my grandfather every day, twice a day in the hospital. She tells me that it is clear hat he is unaware of his surroundings; that his physical situation remains stable only with the benefit of the various machines that have taken over the function of his brain and parasympathetic system.

This past week, in an attempt to move my grandfather into a Chronic Care Facility, the doctor removed the breathing tube in the presence of my mother and one of my aunts. According to my mother, my grandfather began gasping for breath, and while he may have expired soon afterwards, the guilt and perceived immorality of the situation overtook them. The breathing tube was returned, and it seems that my grandfather must now spend the rest of his days as a vegetable, in the highest cost situation possible. His heart is strong, and he could very well "live" this way for another five years.

In Judaism, a traditional blessing is given, "May you live to 120." Not so in this case, I know that my grandfather could not have imagined his full life culminating in this tragic never-ending end.

The family knew at some point that the home in Providence would have to be cleaned out and sold, with the death of my grandmother seven years ago and the subsequent deterioration of my grandfather's health. Now not only will the house be sold as soon as possible, regardless of the poor showing of the current housing market, but all his carefully planned stocks and retirement assets will be liquidated, to pay for this care.

It doesn't stop there. Medicaid will only pay their share when it can be shown that my grandfather has essentially become a pauper. This includes gifts he has give to his daughters and eleven grandchildren in the past five years. My parents, who themselves are struggling with a mortgage, running a business and sending my youngest brother through college, may have to sell their home and leave the community in which they have lived and actively contributed for the last 23 years, in order to pay off their portion of the gifts to be returned.

The thought sends me spinning: because my grandfather was not allowed to die a simple death, it could bankrupt my immediate and extended family. This is a case of mismanagement by both the medical establishment and the Orthodox Rabbis who did my family no favors by insisting upon extreme measures. Even worse, the same government that allows a parent to give tax free gifts has a cleverly placed back door in the program, to take it away with a vengeance.

My grandparents, founders of the Orthodox Jewish community in Providence, Rhode Island, raised their family and planned for their financial future. My grandfather, and Optometrist by training, worked until his mid-80's, until he was physically unable to get to his office.

That is the harshest irony in this whole story: A workaholic by nature, my grandfather sacrificed much in his primary role as breadwinner, concerned with providing for his family and community. He often said that if it had not been for the Shabbat, he would have worked seven days a week, and he would not have spent any time at all with his family. At the end of his life, his mind is now literally disconnected from his body, and all those years of proving his manhood as a doctor will be taken away in an instant.

We live in an age of "miracle" medicine, where life is prolonged without having the resources in place to properly care for our elderly, and by extension, the sandwich generation left with the burden, both financial and emotional.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Argument Against Prisoner Exchange

Gilad Shalit and his family are suffering. There is no question about that, and I feel for them, and I despair at the inadequacies of our current government.

To play the flip side, a point with which I equally agree and thus causes me great conflict: when a man or woman joins the army, they know that they might be captured or killed. Gilad Shalit knew this as well as anyone else.

In the last prisoner exchange, we broke through all the "red lines" and released not only terrorists with blood on their hands, but several high ranking and particularly heinous individuals. For the return of two dead bodies.

We have already upped the ante, and the Arabs know they can exploit our weaknesses.

What price Gilad? Is one man worth releasing 450 killers, who will return the favor by adding more bloodshed to the Israelis in the future? And by making a deal, does it not in fact encourage all terrorist groups to kidnap more soldiers, to bring about the release of more of their cronies legitimately jailed and held by Israel? Do we even know that Gilad Shalit remains alive?

As I have said before, I surely do not have the answers to these questions, and I do not presume to forecast the future.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

1000 Days

Last night I attended the Solidarity meeting for the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who as of yesterday, has been in captivity for a full 1000 days. I joined the journalists and Israeli citizens, some of whom had driven several hours from all over the country to support the Shalit family; three weeks ago, they moved out of their home and into the protest tent across from the Prime Minister's house in Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, the Shalit family are returning to their home this morning, as the latest rounds of negotiations for Gilad's safe return have failed, and it looks like the responsibility will fall to the incoming Netanyahu government. I never trusted Ehud Olmert to get the job done: he had three years and only made it a priority when he was literally on his way out of office, and had to save his legacy and reputation.

Before the ceremony began, a PA system played a tape in Gilad's voice, saying, "My name is Gilad, son of Noam Shalit, a prisoner of Hamas. Save me." All the more heartbreaking when you know his mother and father and brother, his friends and relatives, have been living this reality every day.

Noam Shalit put Netanyahu on notice, saying that the incoming PM would not have his 100 days of political honeymoon; that the family and the country expected Gilad back not in "one hundred days, or ten days, or even ten hours." 1000 days have already passed, with opportunities wasted.

Meir Shalev, the noted Israeli author, encouraged the government to stop protecting their own "red lines" and put Gilad Shalit first. Notably absent the entire evening: both Ehud Olmert and Bibi Netanyahu, literal neighbors of the Shalit protest tent. Shame on them, they couldn't roll out of bed to support this family and encourage the country with some leadership?

The rally ended with a group prayer more inspirational than any Yom Kippur I have ever experienced, and of course with HaTikva. By the time we got to the Israeli national anthem, the crowd could barely sing, so choked up with tears.

What price Gilad? How many terrorists can and should be released to bring him home? I don't know how to answer that question.

But G-d keep Gilad safe and bring him home, so that he does not become another Ron Arad.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Peace Proposal

Let's establish first that Peace must begin on a small scale, with changes in the attitudes of individuals and the desire of individuals to live differently and better. Let us also establish that in many cultures, but especially Judaism, food and meals are the center of human interaction among both families and friends.

Living in Israel, I observe with pain the division and animosity (which sometimes leads to physical violence) between various sectors of the Jewish population. Religious and Secular. Religious and Ultra-Orthodox. Sephardic and Ashkenazic. Sabras and Immigrants. Immigrants and Immigrants.

The upcoming major holiday of Pessach accentuates these differences, with the normal dietary restrictions overlaid with the hot subject of "Kitniot" (Legumes), a food group which Sephard Jews can eat and Ashkenaz Jews shouldn't even look at, lest they turn to stone. (I will not even start with the Gebrachts issue.)

You see it in the supermarkets, which gouge the customers as soon as they add a little sticker on an item that says "Kosher for Passover." Most items in the supermarket are "Kosher for Passover for those who are allowed to eat Kitniot." Furthermore, many would argue that I cannot even visit my Sephardi friends during the holiday, as I would be exposing myself to forbidden Ashkenazi foods.

Kitniot, like many things in Judaism, is qualified as "minhag," a custom with deep roots in history. Now that all Jews - and for that matter, all beings - are connected through globalization, and we live side-by-side in the same JEWISH country, I say we knock down the wall of Kitniot. I say we allow all Jews, religious and non-religious, to eat together and enjoy each other's company on a holiday which celebrates our common past and our families.

One small step of dining together could lead to major developments in Israel, such as the end of the Shas (Ultra-Religious Sephardic) political party; such as a basic understanding and growing tolerance for each other as people rather than ethnic groups. And most importantly, the unification of the Israeli and world-wide Jewish population, which will change the way the international community expects to treat us.

Anti-Semites can be fought more easily, and Israel would not be pushed into deals with terrorists, because our inherent right to live and live safely would be respected.

Together we are strong, and together we can decisions for the future of all our people.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Responsibility to Vote

With less than 24 hours before the voting booths open around the country, I think it is important to point out that the United States has some good lessons to teach other democracies. In the States, there are two large parties - the Democrats and the Republicans - with a smattering of small independent parties that rarely get notice. Neither of the big parties necessarily represent everything for which you stand, but there is normally a clear side or candidate that works for you.

By having two large parties, the chances of bickering are slim to none, as the majority rules in the House and in the Senate.

Israel, a so-called Parliamentary Democracy, has up to 40 parties large and small each election. The negotiating and bargaining are inevitable, and everyone loses, as the larger parites do not get enough votes to have a clear majority of 61 in the Knesset. Shas gets to exort money for its seminaries, other parties lobby for various Ministerial positions for which they are not qualified; and the country, instead of being able to start clean and fresh, gets stuck in the same old garbage.

The three to four big parties running in this election are: Likud (Central-Right), Kadima (Central-Left), Labour (running out of steam) and the dark horse Yisrael Beiteinu (the Fascist Lieberman party). Many potential Likud voters are planning on voting for Lieberman because they subscribe to his extreme right positions, and make the assumption that Netanyahu of the Likud will get enough seats to become Prime Minister.

Do the math! If all you people don't vote for Likud and instead vote for the Russian, Netanyahu will lose the ever shrinking advantage with which he started, and then we get stuck with Kadima, again. I encourage all those who lean to the right to cast their vote for Likud, so we can see real change in this country.

If I had my way, I would have four parties in the system: Central-Right, Central-Left, Far Right and Far Left. This would force natural allies to unite, and would significantly cut down on the destructive post-election bargaining.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Terrorist are like Children

When disciplining children, the key is CONSISTENCY. When you say a child will receive a certain punishment if they misbehave, that consequence must appear every time there is an infraction, until they learn to associate the action with the result.

Once upon a time there was an Operation, Cast Lead, a very belated response to eight years of bombing of Israeli citizens by Hamas terrorists. Then, so that President Barack Hussein Obama's Inauguration would be headline free, Israel agreed to a ridiculous unilateral cease fire. The day Israel had cleared out from most of Azza, the bombings continued, and yet we ignored it, to keep the Americans happy.

The bombing has resumed once again, another soldier has been killed, so far in spits and spats; but as many of the Israeli leadership - across the political spectrum - have pointed out, little attacks become larger attacks, and before long we will again have to engage in a full-scale operation. The time to show our resolve is here and now, as the attacks are Hamas' way of testing us and seeing how much we will let them get away with.

Like manipulative children who need a firm hand of guidance, we must respond immediately, missile for missle, until they learn that we will no longer roll over and play dead.

Even President Shimon Peres, a man with whom I never thought I would agree on anything, said at Davos, "What other country would sit back while ten missiles [if not more] attacked its citizens on a daily basis?" Did the Turkish representative walk out because his brain kicked in and went into overload, when he realized that even Israel has a right to defend itself?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Harry, On the Mend

Last week, there was a period of several hours when my cat, Harry "The Highlander", acted in a manner most uncharacteristic to his normal behaviour. It passed, and I forgot about it until this past Thursday, when he stopped eating and drinking, did not want to go outside at all and rejected T-U-N-A. Chiropractic adjustments seemed to have no effect, though it had in the past. The tuna clinched it, and I took him to the vet after there was no evidence of using the litter box, after 24 hours.

Dr. Tzvi, the vet, ran a battery of tests, took blood and gave Harry an IV drip to deal with his dehydration. Every half hour or so, Dr. Tzvi would check our the lifeless lump that used to be my very active cat, look at his blood test results, shake his head and say to me, "This is not good at all," and yet refused to elaborate. When I would ask for details or try to understand the worst case scenario - having been raised in the Jewish/Polish mother model -the vet would refuse to explain until all data came in. But I was not supposed to freak out, of course.

The short version of the story: "most probably" a parasitic infection that is causing severe anemia and break-down of his red blood cells. If I had not brought him in for a check-up, he "probably" would have died over the weekend. Then he casually mentioned cancer and FIV as alternative diagnoses, if no improvement appeared within four days.

The good news: the very same day, after receiving the IV plus anti-biotics and steroids to avoid RBC break-down, Harry started to get ornery, used the litter box and tried to eat food. Today, one day later, he is more active and asking to go outside. Which he can't, until his 21 day course of anti-biotics is completed.

When I told my mother about the stress this caused, she did not hide her true feelings; there is some part of her that fears that I am falling into the Crazy Cat Lady stereotype, and that having a cat means I will die alone and single. Her immediate response to my sadness was, "Oh well, your cat is dying. Pets die you know..." Thanks for the sympathy and support, Mom; surprising all the more so because she grew up all her life with cats as pets.

The aspect of this episode that continues to bother me concerns the clinical approach (as expert and professional as I could want) towards my feelings and fears. Never mind the fact that I am the one paying the veterinarian's bill, all 600 NIS of it, but that fact that pets (as with children) reflect the environment created by their owner and in the home. Like any other doctor, he could use some improvement in his bed-side manner towards the human in this equation.

I always mock the American pet owners who take their dog or cat to an animal shrink, when their house mate misbehaves by peeing on the carpet or destroying furniture. It is ultimately therapy for the owner, as animals cannot speak English (duh) and they simply react to the atmosphere around them.

Oh, and I think that I would subscribe to a pet care HMO in Israel, if such a thing existed.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Big Surprise for Labour (Not)

A recent poll revealed that since the start of the latest Operation in Azza, Ehud Barack and his political party, Labour, has gained five seats for the upcoming Knesset elections in February 2009. Netanyahu's party, Likud, considered hawkish and therefore in line with this military action, gained two seats, and Kadima gained one seat. Olmert has at last done something to help rather than harm his colleagues.

Not a big surprise. There is nothing that generates more election (and economic) fever than a chaos and war.