On Thursday evening Arabs launched a massive rock attack on Israeli cars driving on Highway 60, near Ofra. Numerous cars were damaged and one Israeli was injured. MDA services treated the injured Israeli on the spot and then evacuated him to a hospital.
IDF forces are searching the area for the rock throwers.
U.S. authorities announced the seizure of $150 million allegedly linked to a money-laundering scheme by the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.
The Lebanese Canadian Bank and other unidentified institutions sent nearly $330 million to the United States between 2007 and 2011 to finance the purchase of used cars that were shipped to West Africa, according to the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Money from the sale of the cars was then routed to Lebanon, where it was handed over to Hezbollah, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Monday’s seizure concerns a December 2011 money laundering and forfeiture complaint filed in U.S. federal court in New York that targeted the bank and two other Lebanese financial institutions with alleged ties to Hezbollah.
“As we alleged last year, the Lebanese Canadian Bank played a key role in facilitating money laundering for Hezbollah controlled organizations across the globe,” Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart said in a statement.
A Hezbollah official refuted the charges, telling AFP they were “another attempt to tarnish the image of the resistance in Lebanon,” but U.S. prosecutors said there was no doubt about the institutions’ ties to the militant outfit.
Back in 2005, my daughter and my wife discovered the Stanton Street Shul. They spent a holiday service there and came back with the news that, at last, there was a shul on the Lower East Side tailor made to my needs.
You should know that on the Lower East Side people move to a new shul by slamming the door behind them on their previous shul. I had been davening in a Chassidic hole in the wall on East Broadway, where the nicest and sweetest people were engaged in very deep and serious spiritual pursuits while espousing the most repugnant politics.
My friend who shared that shul’s benches with me said that he only listens to what these people say in Yiddish. When they switch to English, he switches off.
Perhaps this wise policy should be embraced by all Jews, modified for different places and languages, of course.
After more than ten years in that sweet and odd Chassidic shul, I was ready for a change. But unlike the proverbial Lower East Side shul shopper, I didn’t slam the door, only kind of slipped away.
Stanton was such a cool place at first sight. For one thing, jeans was encouraged. Davening was in my kind of Hebrew, the lazy, one-sound-fits-all speech I had grown up with. There were women in the crowd at the Stanton, seated behind a “bikini” mechitza. In my other shul, women were an afterthought, stuck in an altogether separate room.
But Stanton was also a shul out on the borderline between the Lower East Side and the East Village. Back in 2005, it was populated mostly by folks from the co-op buildings on Grand Street and the occasional local Jew. Making the minyan was a daily existential issue, obviously. It’s not easy for any Lower East Side shul these days to make a minyan – but when you’re out in Yehupitz, you get “not easy” only on good days.
Unless you had Benny Sauerhaft in your arsenal.
Every weekday morning, Benny, then already in his early 90s, I believe, would go downstairs to where he had left his Saladin green Dodge Swinger circa 1970, with bumps that made it look like part of the terrain of the moon, if the moon came in Saladin green, with a ceiling that was attached to the roof with all manner of duct tape and electrician tape—and still sloped down with a belly that sagged on top of Benny’s passengers’ heads.
His reputation with local cops was so solid as the old man you don’t want to start up with, that I suspected Benny enjoyed parking in all the many illegal spots the rest of us mortals craved with our eyes on our daily quest for a place to leave our cars. There was so much spirit inside this old man, it was scary to imagine what he must have been like fifty years ago, with his body and his hearing intact.
Incidentally, I always suspected Benny’s hearing impairment thing – it was always a little too selective. I firmly believed that Benny simply tuned out that which he didn’t value, but was absolutely keen on the stuff that was worth listening to.
And Benny was tenacious. Each weekday morning he’d drive along his route, picking up shul members. Rain or shine. On those late fall mornings, when Jewish men go out for the morning prayer in a pitch black world, riding in Benny’s backseat could be a harrowing experience. Benny had this left stigma, you see, or maybe it was a right stigma, but he drove so close to the line of parked cars along Grand Street, we, his passengers, would gasp and occasionally yell out: “Veer left, Benny! Left!”
From day one I had no doubt that Benny was happy to have me around. Mostly because he told me so. He grabbed my hands in his and said, his eyes welling up, “I heard good things about you, I’m happy you came.”
No one was more stubborn than Benny Sauerhaft. I’ve lived through two different rabbis who divided up their time more or less 50% tending to all the congregation needs and the other 50% dealing with Benny. He was opinionated, blunt, unabashed, strong—physically and mentally—and he was shul president.
Ah, yes, his stubbornness also saved the Stanton Street Shul from being sold to members of an alternative, though monotheistic, faith. He got help, for sure, but at some point the future life of the shul came down to one last obstacle, the edifice was all but a memory, the contracts were all but signed, the checks all but cut – and a short, stocky Jew in his ninth decade blocked all that and started pushing back.
My daughter, Yarden Yanover, shot a marvelous little film (under 15 minutes) about Benny and his minions, titled, appropriately enough, “Benny and the Gang.” I believe if you never met Benny Sauerhaft, you would understand a lot from this film about why so many people loved him.
And don’t miss the part where Benny cuts a stack of Styrofoam cups the way you cut a Challah on Friday night, and when he inspects a container of tuna fish salad that was left outside in an un-air-conditioned sanctuary overnight, sniffs it and against a torrent of protests from fellow congregants declares: “It’s good.”
Horses and buggies? Gas lights on streets? Did my mother grow up in the Dark Ages of History? She told me about living in buildings without elevators, where no apartment had its own bathroom. Years later I decided it was like my college dorm in the 1950’s when I had to climb stairs to my room on the 4th floor, and a bathroom with showers was at the end of each floor’s hallway; no big deal. She informed me there were no washing machines, dryers, refrigerators with freezers, and gas stoves had to be lit with a match; this didn’t seem to affect me as I wasn’t doing laundry or grocery shopping and cooking; being a young girl, my mother was responsible for all of my needs.
My mother spoke of her girlhood apartments with coin-operated heating devices; was she cold in the winter, I wondered, suddenly listening to what she was saying! My dad bought space heaters for us to use during World War II, and I always grabbed it first for my bedroom and warmed up my clothes before putting them on for school. But I just plugged it in; no coins were necessary. She mentioned that there were no electric sewing machines and she hand-made most of our childhood dresses; she taught me to sew when I was about nine years old.
The author's father outside their family home
The daily life she was describing, even that coin-space-heater, seemed as far back as hoopskirts, and I’d only thought those gowns were gorgeous and never about the wearer being restricted. My mother didn’t appear old but she certainly had to be since she’d been living “before” so much. I tried to imagine her sleeping on a fire escape in the summer because the tiny apartment was too hot, sharing a bed with her sister, even the 4 flights of stairs she walked up and down just to get to the street or school, and really couldn’t. My childhood in a big house with my own bedroom, streetlights, cars, radios, 78-rpm recordings, was “modern,” and I tended to “see” my mother in my world and not one before I was ever born.
“Did you grow up in black and white?” my granddaughter, Elaina asked; we were looking at some photos. They were all black and white. When did color film come out, and be inexpensive enough to put a roll in a camera, I wondered but kept that to myself? The question was cleverly put. Was she being diplomatic about age, or merely observant that photos were shades of grey? If I were to tell any of my grandchildren about my “black and white” days, might I then seem as ancient as my own mother had been because of the “lack of?”
I quickly remembered some of my early childhood before houses/cars/offices were air-conditioned, when music records were heavy 78-rpm and only one could be played at a time. We had a weighty black telephone with a personal phone number of only a few digits, and a real operator generated long distance calls, microwaves were not even imagined. My early hosiery had seams and were made of silk. All my elementary school classes were held in one room (except sewing for girls and shop for boys), taught by a single female teacher, and the desks had inkwells for liquid ink. There were no ballpoint pens.
Well, I could tell Elaina that my parents got our first television set in May 1948, the screen was very tiny, and there were almost no programs on anyway. Nah. She’d laugh. Hmm. We had no cell phones, x-boxes, computers, fax machines, eye contact lenses, automatic garage door openers, frost free refrigerators, self-cleaning ovens, disposable items, riding lawn mowers, cars with navigation systems and keyless operation, our cotton clothing required heavy starching via a solution to soak the items in…my mind was remembering things as if turning a rolladex and bringing up file cards. Now a hand-held device with a tiny memory chip takes the place of file cards and calendars. I can make a phone call to Israel and get an instant connection, and, with a computer or tablet, have a video call.
“Elaina, color photography didn’t exist, and a black and white portrait was hand colored in transparent oil paint.” I smiled as I remembered when I personally learned this process, enjoyed both making plain into magical visual with paint, and there was not the fading I eventually had when color film came out for my camera and captured color images. I paused. I did want to tell her about life before hand-held hair dryers, curling irons, and automatic ice machines in refrigerators, but decided to enjoy playing in raked leaves and sharing giggles and “young” things with her which I couldn’t do if I revealed “my days.” It would sound so old, just like my mother’s did for me. So, I merely answered, “Yes, Elaina, I was a very little girl during black and white.”
It’s February in Israel and, mercifully, we’ve been having one of the wettest winters in many years. The level of the Sea of Galilee is now almost 3ft above where it was this time last year.
But stark headlines are screaming of summer electricity shortages. In June, pioneering electric car company Better Place will begin delivering to customers in Israel the battery-switch capable Renault Fluence ZE sedan – just a month into peak air conditioning season. How irresponsible is it to load the grid with electric cars when there is a recognized shortfall in generating capacity? There is a very clever reason these cars may actually help, and it relates to a controversial law that Israel has passed: charging an electric car from the regular electricity system is illegal. You may only use (at present) a Better Place charge point. Critics are screaming about state-appointed monopolies and rewards for crony lobbyists.
First some background on Israel’s electricity infrastructure: The so called ‘Arab spring’ has seen Israel’s supply of natural gas from Egypt interrupted by pipeline sabotage numerous times in the last year. Israel gets 61% of its electricity from imported coal, 37% from gas and the rest from fuel oil (source: Israel Electric Company). Israel has its own small gas field on stream now but the more major recent finds are not on stream yet.
Israel is a hot, desert country and summer is by far the peak time for energy use – with air-conditioning at a near-ubiquitous usage. The average daily summer temperature on the coast in Tel Aviv is above 87℉from March to November, while Eilat in the southern desert is much hotter. A little-known mitigating factor is the almost universal use of simple radiated heat – solar water heaters in 90% of homes and businesses for hot water. These cheap, simple devices were made mandatory for new residential building in the early 1990s meaning there is very little hot water heating during the summer.
Whatever the internal causes, the news right now is full of predictions that Israel will have production reserves of only 2-3% in the summer. Energy minister, Uzi Landau has said “There is a great danger that the electricity grid will fail if there is any type of breakdown at the power station, especially during peak usage hours.” Plans are in place to ship in portable 25 megawatt generating equipment to help out.
The cars are sold to consumers with a big sticker: “battery not included”. The battery, and most importantly, all the electricity you will ever put into your car, are bought from Better Place in the form of a monthly subscription. These subscriptions are dependent on the number of miles you plan to drive but start at a relatively high level of 12,000 miles per year. Better Place does not want low mileage drivers: Better Place’s business model makes it’s money per mile! By not forcing the consumer to buy the most expensive single part of the car, it’s battery, the sticker price of the car is competitive with similarly-equipped gasoline cars on the Israeli market. Right now, Better Place is fixing the subscription price for the next four years. The price is highly competitive when compared to the cost of gasoline in Israel — which is over double the price in the US.
So how does that square with a car that can only drive 100 miles on a full charge? Included in the purchase price is the complete installation of a home charging point with it’s own meter and separate connection to the power company – it does not appear on the home owner’s electricity bill. Commit to 16,000 miles per year and you can have one at your place of work too. So, for many users who drive less than 100 miles per day or 100 miles each way to a place of work, home charging will be their sole source of power. Better Place is also installing public charge spots in mall parking lots and other locations. Each owner has a smart card that identifies them and opens a public charge port for them.
The unique part of Better Place, however, is the network of battery switch stations they’re rolling out along every major route in Israel. Drive into one, it looks like an automatic car wash, sit in the car and 5 minutes later drive out with 100% charge. Your depleted battery is taken inside, cooled to 40℉ and rapidly charged ready for another car. Israel is a small country. East to west through Tel Aviv you can cross the country and return on a single charge. North to south would take two or three battery swaps. Around 60 stations are enough for the whole country.