British actor Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the finest captain of the Starship Enterprise ever, is seen here on a movie set on Jaffa Street in the center of Jerusalem.
According to JTA, Stewart is playing a disgraced, eccentric British lord in a heist comedy titled “Hunting Elephants,” in which three Israeli senior citizens help a 12-year-old boy hatch a plan to rob a bank in order to save his home.
Stewart is replacing John Cleese of Python fame, who reportedly withdrew from the project due to heart trouble.
Suhila Abd el-Salam, the sister of Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, accompanied her husband for treatment in an Israeli hospital four months ago. According to Israel’s Ynet News, the sister’s husband was admitted to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva, for immediate medical treatment following a serious heart condition.
Because Gaza hospitals could not properly treat the condition, Haniyeh’s sister and her husband requested permission to travel to Israel to receive the necessary medical treatment. The husband was taken by a Palestinian ambulance across the Erez crossing, where he was transferred to an Israeli MDA ambulance. He was taken to the hospital with his wife, who was with him during the entire week until his condition stabilized.
The couple could have gone to a more advanced medical center in Egypt but opted to come to Israel for medical treatment instead.
According to the Ynet report, Israeli sources have refused to address the report and Beilinson hospital said that it could not offer any details on the visit.
This was not the first time that a Gaza resident was treated in Israel. This past March, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy transported to the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot after suffering from severe burns and shrapnel injuries from an alleged rocket launching pad that was set up in Jabalya, a neighborhood in northern Gaza.
Israel’s Civil Administration released a report in March stating that 115,000 Palestinians were treated in Israel in 2011, a 13% increase in comparison to the previous year. “Every year more patients are sent to Israeli hospitals,” said Dalia Bassa, Civil Administration Health Coordinator. Over 100 Palestinian doctors interned at Israeli hospitals and five organ transplants were performed to save the lives of Palestnian patients treated in Israel.
Furthermore, data published in the World Health Organization’s February 2012 report reflected the efforts of both the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and the Israeli government to facilitate passage of Palestinian patients from Gaza to Israelis hospitals. According to the published data, over 90% of requests for medical treatment at Israeli hospitals were approved and carried out.
The sister and brother-in-law of Ismail al-Haniyeh were no exception to this Israeli government policy of treating medical cases.
Meanwhile, Haniyeh, who refuses to recognize Israel and calls for Palestinian violence against the Jewish state, wasted no time on Monday to declare that Israel was somehow “responsible” for the attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers on Sunday night, when terrorists targeted an Egyptian army post and then infiltrated into Israel, using two stolen Egyptian military vehicles. The terrorists were prevented from killing further Israeli civilians when the Israel Air Force shot down the speeding armored vehicle heading towards Kibbutz Kerem Shalom.
In the days of Shmuel Hakatan a terrible drought held the land in its deadly grip. The wheat withered in the field and the grass dried and died. Day after day, the skies remained leaden and no clouds appeared to bring rain and salvation to the parched land.
The people knew that Shmuel Hakatan was a saintly and righteous man and they hoped that in his merit the Almighty might bring rain to them.
Coming to Shmuel Hakatan, they said: “The people of Israel are in great distress. Pray to the Almighty that He send us rain. Perhaps He will hearken to your prayers.”
The Rains Come
Shmuel Hakatan then answered the people saying: “Proclaim a fast for the morrow and call unto G-d with all your might and He will have mercy upon you.”
The leaders of the community immediately issued a call throughout the area for a fast and prayers to begin the next day. No sooner had the sun risen, then a great shower of rain began to fall on the land, soaking all the fields and filling all the wells with precious water.
The people were overjoyed and they called out in great happiness: “Today we have seen that we are good in the eyes of the Almighty for He answered us rapidly, even before we called out to him.”
But Shmuel Hakatan shook his head and said: “No, what happened here today is a sign not of great love. On the contrary, it is a bad omen.”
The people looked at the great sage in puzzlement.
“Why do you say that Behold, G-d sent us rain before our prayers were even uttered. Is this not a good sign?”
“No. It is similar to the case of a servant who seeks a favor from the king. The king knows of this and quickly tells his other servants: ‘Hurry and give him what he wants, for I do not wish to be bothered with him.’”
Some time later, still another drought struck the land. Once again the fields dried up and the people were in great distress. Shmuel Hakatan called for yet another fast and more prayers.
This time, the people continued fasting and praying the entire day.
“Please G-d, Have mercy upon us! Redeem us, Grant us salvation and do not turn us away empty-handed.”
All day they prayed; all day they fasted. It was to no avail. The skies remained as before, the rain locked in and the land still thirsty. The people returned to their homes that night, sad and forlorn. Only then did the skies open up and the rains came down on the earth bringing life and hope.
“This, too, is not a good omen,” said Shmuel Hakatan. “To what may this situation be compared? To a king, whose servant requests a favor and the monarch tells his advisors: ‘wait until he suffers a little more before giving it to him.’”
The Good Omen
The people then asked Shmuel Hakatan: “If this is so, how can we know when the people are acceptable in the eyes of the Almighty?”
And Shmuel Hakatan answered: “This is how you shall know. When the people are in need of rain and they come to the synagogues and say, ‘Who makes the wind to blow and the rain to come down,’ if then, the Almighty grants them what they ask, this is the sign that they have found favor in His eyes and at that time you may rejoice.”
In The Days To Come
And the spirit of G-d rested on the great Shmuel Hakatan and he was permitted to see the events that would occur in the future for Israel. He saw the terrible tragedies and terror that would befall his people and his heart grew heavy within him. He would not eat or sleep and he walked about the entire day as a mourner, with his head bowed and bent. He grew ill and was forced to lie in bed but his situation grew worse and he lay at death’s door!
The sages, hearing the sad news, hurried over to see how he was. They found him only a shell of the man that he had been, pale and emaciated, unable to speak above a whisper.
In our previous blog, we mentioned that Moshe Rabainu offered 515 prayers to Hashem, at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, begging Hashem to let him enter the Land of Israel. Some people have trouble making up prayers if it isn’t written out for them in a siddur. So here’s a prayer I wrote for coming to the Land of Israel. Print it out and say it every day for the next 515 days. If it doesn’t work, crumple up the page, send it to me, and I’ll eat it.
It may be the most important prayer you say in your lives.
Prayer to Come to the Land of Israel
Please God, and God of my fathers, please help me to come to the Land of Israel, Your chosen Holy Land, the Land where the Torah is meant to be kept, the Land where the commandments have their true value, the gateway to Heaven where all prayers ascend, the Land that You watch over from the beginning of the year to the end, the Land of the Shechinah, the Land where our holy forefathers longed to dwell and never wanted to leave.
Please God, fill my heart with a burning desire to reach the Land of Israel and to live there, for I know that the service of God can only be complete there, in the Land which You created especially for the Jewish People and for the Torah, as it says over and over and over again in the Torah, and just like our Prophets and Sages have told us in dozens and dozens of ways, emphasizing that it is the Land of our life, the only place we can have our own Jewish Nation, the only place where we can live as free men and not minorities in foreign countries, immersed in foreign cultures that surround us wherever we live in the exile and which pollute our true understandings of Torah.
And now that You in Your infinite mercy have opened the gates of aliyah after almost 2000 years, in fulfillment of Your promises in the Torah, and through the words of our Prophets, please help me to come to the Promised Land and do my share in the Redemption that is unfolding in our time. Now that the 2000 year longing “Next Year in Jerusalem” has become a reality, please let me shed all of my fears of the future, and of started out anew, and let me race after You with blinders, trusting in You and You alone, not listening to anyone who tries to discourage me from attaining the ultimate goal of a Jew – living a Torah life in the Land of Israel.
Please Father in Heaven, and Master of all the Earth, gather me also with the millions whom You have already brought home, let me take my place beside them in building the Land, Your cherished Holy Land, which is the beauty of all the earth, which our teacher, Moshe, yearned to reach all of his life, and now that I, a simple Jew like myself, has the chance to do what Moshe was denied, how can it be that I won’t do everything in my power to come?
I beg you, my Father, my King, strengthen my conviction until it be like steel, so that all of the distractions don’t confuse me along the way and prevent me from making aliyah, because I know that coming to Israel is the most important thing for a Jew and that the yetzer hara (evil inclination) rises up against him with all of its strength to prevent him from reaching his goal, even confusing people who are far greater in Torah than me, just as it twisted the thinking of the Spies in the Wilderness, who were all great men, leaders in Torah, but who rebelled against Your command to journey on to the Promised Land, because they wanted to remain in the wilderness and be protected by the Clouds of Glory without having to face the challenges of conquering and dwelling in the Land. Deafen my ears to all of the excuses for not coming, however reasonable they might sound, and put true faith in my heart that in doing Your will, knowing that You will surely guide me on my path, and watch over me. Even though the journey be hard, give me the strength to overcome all difficulties and setbacks, and the wisdom to know that all of the tests are for my good, to break down the walls of my swollen American ego so that I may become Your true humble servant, trusting in You and living according to Your will in the Land that you promised to our forefathers.
Last week I shared a tragic letter of family disintegration. What could have been a most beautiful mishpachah was torn asunder by one son and his wife who decided to sever all relationships with their siblings. Despite all the efforts on the part of the parents and the siblings, this son and his spouse remained refused to be reconciled. When simchas came – births, bar mitzvahs, weddings – the parents were invited but never the siblings. To add insult to injury the parents were treated disrespectfully on all of these occasions.
Over the years the gap only widened. The cousins did not know one another and the family feud, for which no one could really find an explanation, festered and poisoned the atmosphere. The immediate problem that prompted the letter was an upcoming simcha to which, as usual, the parents were invited but not the rest of the family. The parents wanted to know whether they should attend or finally put a stop to this shameful state of affairs by declining – and whether, if they decided not to go, they should state the reason or make up some excuse. The following is my response.
My Dear Friends:
Perhaps it was not by coincidence that I received your letter at this time – the most catastrophic period in our long and painful history. As we remember the tragic destruction of our holy Temple, the razing of Jerusalem, and our people taken in chains into the darkness of exile, we must ask, “Why did such a tragic fate befall us?”
The answer is well known: sinas chinam – hatred between Jew and Jew. It was hatred that brought on this horrific calamity, and it is hatred that continues to consume us to this day. But as much as we know this, we have yet to absorb this simple truth and apply it to our lives. Sadly, we have become so conditioned to this venom that we no longer know how to identify it. We view it as “normal” rather than abominable. It doesn’t even occur to us that it must be expunged from our minds and hearts.
Our First Temple was destroyed because of three cardinal sins: idol worship, murder, and adultery, but after seventy years of Babylonian exile the Almighty forgave us and returned us to our Holy Land. Our present exile however, is almost 2,000 years old and we have yet to be redeemed; we have yet to shake off the shackles that keep us chained in jealousy, animosity and, yes, hatred. In Israel and in all the lands of our dispersion the germ continues to fester and infect us with its deadly venom.
I will never forget the words of my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, after our liberation from Bergen Belsen. With tears streaming down his holy face he said, “Noch azoy ah churbon men darf kushen un lieb huben yeden Yid” – “After such a cataclysmic conflagration, we have to kiss and embrace with love every Jew.”
Every Kol Nidre night, before commencing the sacred prayers, my father would weep and plead for parents and children, brothers and sisters, to reconcile and make peace.
Alas, it hasn’t happened. Even the Satanic horror of the Holocaust has failed to wake us up. So the question to your letter remains: What to do?
Before addressing your dilemma, I must tell you that I write with pain. There is nothing as agonizing for parents as to see walls of hatred separating their children. May Hashem have mercy on us all.
Those of you who have read my columns or consulted with me regarding personal problems can testify that I try not to put forth my own opinion but rather to find a Torah example for guidance. You ask whether you should attend the forthcoming simcha and suffer silently as you have in the past, or whether you should once and for all put your foot down and refuse to participate.
Do we have an example that could shed light on your dilemma? The answer, tragically, is yes. Even as your son and his wife refuse to allow their siblings to come to their simcha, so it was in the days of the Second Temple in the shameful story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, in which one Jew ejected another from his celebration in Jerusalem. Our Heavenly Father, Who desires to see all His sons and daughters living in harmony, does not countenance acrimony and hatred among His children. Despite the meticulous religious observance of the generation of the Second Temple, our Father’s fury raged and He set His House and the entire city afire and cast us all into exile.
Israeli scientific advancements in the use of stem cells to treat a variety of serious and debilitating illnesses may now be credited with advancing the Torah learning of a generation of students at the Mir Yeshiva, thanks to the miraculous recovery of their Rosh Yeshiva from ALS, courtesy of the breakthrough Israeli treatment.
A clinical trial of ALS patients conducted by Israel’s BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics shows their therapy, NurOwn, is safe and well-tolerated by patients, and not only capable of halting the progress of the illness, but can actually reverse the course of the disease, improving the breathing, muscle strength, and speech capabilities of sufferers with nerve damage in the brain and spine.
Four months ago, when Rabbi Rafael Shmuelevitz was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he was given just 2-4 years to live until he succumbed to the most severe of the neuromuscular diseases. Soon his speech became difficult to understand, and he was confined to a wheelchair.
Yet just one month after beginning an experimental treatment spearheaded at Hadassah, Rabbi Shmuelevitz was back on his feet, teaching again at the 7,000-student Mir, as he has done for the last 30 years. His recovery was not only touted as a miracle and a joy for the students of the Mir yeshiva, but is being called the first ever recovery from ALS.
Last May, Israel’s Ministry of Health granted approval to biotech company Brainstorm, which specializes in stem cell use, and Hadassit, a company associated with Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center, to begin the first-ever clinical trial of stem cell therapy to delay or halt the advancement of ALS.
In the past, ALS patients gradual loss of motor abilities turned into an inability to breathe, with the average sufferer living 3-5 years until dying of suffocation. Rabbi Shmuelevitz was denied entry to the trial because he was suffering from an additional muscular disease, myasthenia gravis, but was ultimately give the therapy as a last-ditch “compassionate treatment”.
Just days after his first treatment, his speech began to improve, his breathing became easier, and he was able to walk unassisted. “My students understand every word I say. It’s truly a miracle from Heaven,” the Rabbi said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 news. “I am a new person as a result of the treatment I received.” Click here for video in Hebrew.
“I am very excited by the incredibly impressive positive effect in this case, Prof. Dimitrios Karussis, Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Hadassah Ein-Kerem University Hospital told Channel 2. “ I was pleasantly surprised, I was optimistic, but not to such a degree,” he said with a laugh.
Researchers and doctors caution that, for now, this is an isolated case, but say the findings are extremely encouraging and could signal a medical breakthrough. The other 12 patients participating in the trial have also witnessed encouraging results, but not to such a grand scale. Patients in the trial were transplanted with stem cells taken from their own bone marrow and treated with NurOwn stem cell technology.
Some attribute the extreme nature of Rabbi Shmuelevitz’s recovery to prayer rallies held by students of the Mir in Jerusalem and the Ponevitch yeshiva in Bnei Brak, as well as the saying of psalms and the dedication of the learning of pages upon pages of Gemara to Rabbi Shmuelevitz’s health. No one, however, is denying that BrainStorm’s technology has something to offer those who may have less spiritual leverage.
BrainsStorm President Chaim Lebovits said that preliminary results are so promising that stem cell therapy may soon be used to cure ALS, as well as to treat multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
A Phase I/II trial to measure the safety and preliminary efficacy of BrainStorm’s therapy is underway at Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center. The company submitted the interim report to Israel’s Health Ministry.
BrainStorm is awaiting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to begin ALS trials at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Last year, the FDA granted NurOwn orphan drug designation, providing financial incentives for its development.
BrainStorm’s miraculous success is just the latest development in a field of study long dominated by Israel. In 2006, Bar-Ilan University made headlines when human nerve cells infected with the familial dysautonomia disease were grown in a petri dish to test possible treatments for the peripheral nervous system ailment found exclusively among Ashkenazi Jews.
That same year, in the United States, President George W. Bush vetoed a bill which would have awarded federal funding for stem cell research.
Almost across the board, leaders in Jewish thinking and religion have agreed that research and use of stem cells is permissible according to Jewish law.
In 2004, the US National Institute of Health approved the Technion university as a training center for embryonic stem cell technology and funded two courses – one there and one at Johns Hopkins University – with a $450,000 grant for three years.
In 2006, Israeli researchers were found to be the world’s most prolific authors of scientific articles on stem cells, according to an article published in The Scientist.
In December 2011, Israeli researchers from Rambam Medical Center in Haifa and the Technion medical school isolated cells in embryonic stem cells capable of repairing damaged tissue, and fixed damaged tissue in mice for the first time, with expectation that the treatment could be used to repair human tissue and organs in the future, particularly those damaged due to insufficient blood supply.
The team’s findings were published in the November 2011 issue of “Circulation,” the journal of the American Heart Association. The journal also dedicated an editorial to the findings, because of their great medical significance.
Technion scientists created cancerous cells for use in studying the effects of different anti-cancer drugs, and are working to perfect the creation of tendons from stem cells.
In May 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that Technion researches had removed skin cells from two patients with heart failure, returned the cells to an embryonic state, and transformed them into beating heart cells capable of communicating with the patients’ existing heart tissue.
Challenges include the risk of stem cells to lose control and become cancerous and difficulty in attuning stem cell-derived cardiac cells to normal heart rhythms
Yet research presses on, with research on ways to regenerate heart tissue on the forefront.
A recent study by researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem has shown the ability of stem cells to perpetually renew themselves and turn into all kinds of mature cells. The breakthrough illustrates the ability of stem cells to be effective in treating diseases characterized by cell death.
The findings of their study appeared in the journal Nature Communications and was funded by grants from health ministries and scientific organizations in Israel and around the world.
I try not to be defeatist; not to give up hope. I try to believe that it will all be okay. I really do. I do believe I have faith and I do trust God. And having said all of that, I hate to introduce a “but” in there…but…
I surrender. I just give up. I’ve been reading about the Munich massacre in 1972. Only weeks before, I had come to the conclusion, at 12 years old…the age my youngest daughter is now…that I wanted to live in Israel. I watched the Israelis march into the stadium with the Israeli flag and my heart soared – that was my flag! I was proud of the American flag; I really was, but my heart was already Israeli.
And then the report of an infiltration in the Olympic village. The Israelis. The hostage situation and the bungled rescue. A report that the Israelis were safe…and such relief…and then utter and complete shock that not one had survived…not one of the hostages. It would be only later we would learn of the incredible, criminal incompetence of the German police and “rescue” squad.
For weeks now, I’ve been posting and writing about the International Olympic Committee’s pathetic, disgusting and disturbing decision not to grant one moment, sixty seconds, of silence in memory of the Israeli athletes murdered in Munich – not once…in forty years. And today, I read an article about the heightened security concerns. Days after Israelis were attacked in Bulgaria, I surrender.
“In London, Israel’s Olympic team of 38 athletes is training under tight security at the Olympic village, and British forces have even placed surface-to-air missiles at six locations.”
–Reports Israel National News
“More than 17,000 troops and 7000 private security guards will protect the London Olympic Park and 26 other venues, with a further 12,500 police patrolling city streets in a series of ‘rings of steel’.”
— The Australian
Tight security; 24,000 guards and an additional 12,500 police. Is it worth it? If this is what we need to have these games, does it truly represent the great gathering of all nations? Where is the peace and brotherhood that should be symbolized? I surrender – it just isn’t worth the risk. I don’t want the Israelis to go to London. I don’t want to spend my time checking the news to make sure they haven’t been attacked.
I don’t want to trust those guards, those police and those missiles. I don’t ever want to feel what I did back when I was 12 years old watching as the world moved on and continued their games while I watched them loading coffins on planes that flew home to Israel. I couldn’t bring myself to watch them play while we cried.
Let them play – let them play among their missiles; praying they can finish before they are attacked. Let them watch the skies for missiles, the buildings for snipers, the roads for explosives. I know the Israeli team will go; I know they will play. I know others will hope they bring home some gold, some silver, some bronze.
I just want them to come home safe so that we never have to beg the International Olympic Committee’s cold-hearted members for sixty seconds to remember them. Go in peace, I’ll pray to each one…and most important, come home in peace.