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December 2, 2015 / 20 Kislev, 5776
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An American Odyssey (Part 9)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

These days, Israel commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day, IDF Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day. I hope to write about these days sometime soon. For now, back to the Odyssey.

On Sunday morning, after breakfast at the Elite Café, we loaded the van, filled the gas tank and travelled the famous Route #1 from Los Angeles toward San Francisco, along the Pacific Ocean coast. It was the 4th of July weekend and the narrow route was crowded with miles of RV’s, campers and fellow travelers. Traffic was a bit slow along the way.

Our first pit stop was at the Santa Barbara wharf. My wife, Barbara, enjoyed stopping there to buy a refrigerator magnet with her name on it. We enjoyed the beautiful boardwalk and watched all of the tourists watching us. After a short visit, we drove along the highway, searching for a vacant table so that we could enjoy a picnic lunch.

From Santa Barbara, we drove to the very famous Hearst Castle, the beautiful former mansion of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Today the castle is run by the Parks Service and is considered a historical treasure of majestic beauty. With 165 rooms, three phenomenal swimming pools and 127 acres of gardens, terraces and walkways, it is a popular and very crowded tourist attraction. On jam-packed weekends, tours often have to be arranged in advance, so we just enjoyed the film about the history of the castle and, of course, visited the gift shop where Barbara and Martha enjoyed trying on the big, colorful hats that were for sale.

We left the castle and returned to Route #1. The traffic and the single-lane curvy road, with no cross road exits, was bumper-to-bumper for many miles. This 12-hour day of Sunday traffic became one of our longest days on the road, and we were exhausted when we arrived at our motel, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The next morning we stopped at the beautiful new home of our cousins Sara and Dave Benevento. The house is located in a forested area and has several spacious rooms. Dave works for a company that packages delicious berries (which we enjoyed with our breakfast yogurt). When we left Dave and Sara, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand and purchased freshly-packed, delicious California cherries.

We travelled a bit off the beaten track and drove to visit the James Lick Observatory. It is owned by the University of California and is located at the very top of Mount Hamilton (4,700 feet above sea level). The narrow, winding mountain-side road was a steep uphill climb (drive) to the top. Everyone, except for the driver, kept his or her eyes tightly shut during the scary ascent on this often single-lane road. It took over 75 minutes to reach the top (but only 30 minutes to travel down). The visit to the telescope room was very interesting and we heard an informative talk by one of the staff members. James Lick was a “generous miser” who grew wealthy dealing in California real estate. The telescope is used each clear night to observe the solar system and search for distant galaxies. The telescope needs darkness to work and light-pollution can be a problem.

We continued our drive on the beautiful scenic route to San Francisco with a stop at Menlo Park to visit my sister-in-law’s brother, Teddy Hamlet. Visiting relatives that we have not seen in a long while was one of the purposes of our trip. The local Glatt Kosher restaurant was, unfortunately, closed and the bagel place is open on Shabbos, so we could not go out for a meal. Some supplies from a stop at the local Walmart and our packaged meals served as dinner and we enjoyed the 4th of July fireworks from our motel room and via TV.

Next: San Francisco.

Comments may be sent to dov@gilor.com.

Intoxication Tests, Traffic Control, Part of Israeli Police Preparations for 64th Independence Day

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Tel Aviv District Police has completed its preparations for Memorial Day and the 64th Independence Day of the State of Israel. County units will operate with reinforcements of Police, Border Guard officers and Civil Defense volunteers, increasing normal security arrangements, easing traffic flow and preventing criminal activity.

Police and volunteers will conduct foot and motorized patrols in crowded areas, markets, shopping centers, transport stations, and cemeteries (on Memorial Day), as well as in resorts, parks, museums and beaches (on Independence Day).

The traffic system will be supplemented by volunteers who will be utilized in maintaining the flow in main traffic arteries, in parks and outside cemeteries. Independence Day will see a stricter enforcement of the laws against driving under the influence of alcohol, and intoxication tests will be conducted.

Around public entertainment stages, clubs and pubs, Police will act to prevent violence and drug use, as well as selling alcohol to minors, using detonators and gas sprays, as well as unlicensed peddling.

The public is being asked to obey by Police and security guards, and to report any suspicious person or object. Personal weapons should be left at home.

A hotline center will address questions related to traffic on Memorial Day, starting at 6:30 P.m. Israel time, at 03-6801982.

Settlers: On Road to New Palestinian City We’ll Be Moving Targets

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Some 200 residents of settlements in the Benjamin region, in central Judea and Samaria, rallied Sunday night on Route 465, in protest of the new access road being paved to serve Rawabi, the modern urban center of the planned Palestinian state.

Led by Rosh ha’Moa’atza (County Clerk) Avi Roeh, the Jewish residents arrived at the work site to demonstrate against connecting the existing and the new roads. They were joined by Likud activists.

“Rawabi was born in sin,” Itzik Shadmi, chairman of the residents committee of Benjamin Region, told Ma’ariv. “It was planned deliberately in a location that would create a contiguous Arab settlement to serve the additional Arab state in the heart  of Eretz Israel. It also affects environmental quality and Israel’s mountain aquifer (underground water table).”

The road that will connect the Arab city of Ramallah to Rawabi runs south to north, and halfway through it crosses highway 465, the cross-Benjamin highway, the central access road to Ateret and Halamish.in West Benjamin.

In the future a tunnel will be dug at this junction, to allow Palestinians to drive under Route 465. But for the time being, the Ramallah-Rawabi road will connect directly to highway 465, which will become part of Ramallah-Rawabi for a mile and a half.

A member of the Benjamin residents’ committee explained that the entry and exit of vehicles to Palestinians from Highway 465 is done only with road signs and no traffic lights at the junction. “We know the wild manner of driving of many of the Palestinians,” he said. “Put them here on the road, and they’ll turn it into a major traffic artery, with us as moving targets on the highway.”

An aerial view of construction work on the site of Rawabi

An aerial view of construction work on the site of the new, modern, Palestinian City of Rawabi

Jewish settlers fear another security aspect of heavy Palestinian traffic on the road. “It could be a major Palestinian event, or a funeral, causing serious traffic jams, and then if an Israeli vehicle is stuck inside a Palestinian convoy, it could end with very unpleasant  consequences,” the source suggested.

Rawabi (“The Hills” in Arabic) is the first Palestinian planned city in Judea and Samaria, located near Ramallah and Bir Zeit. The master plan for the city calls for constructing 10,000 homes in six neighborhoods with a population of 40,000.

Over the course of two years, before construction began, the developers bought private property from 2,000 families living in Canada, Iraq, Spain, Kuwait, Britain, Portugal and Italy. The source of the city’s water supply is not yet clear, with the most obvious solution being hooking it up to Mekorot, the Israeli water utility, via the settlement of Ateret.

The Palestinian website The Electronic Intifada accused Bashar Masri, the Palestinian businessman and CEO of the company developing the “Rawabi luxury real estate project in the occupied West Bank,” of “actively helping Israel deepen its hold on the Palestinian economy despite his earlier claims that he is trying to help end this relationship.” This because “a dozen Israeli companies have been contracted to take part in the construction of Rawabi.”

A map of highway 465 connecting Halamish and Atarot

A map of highway 465 connecting Halamish and Atarot

Courtroom Drama

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

There was a time when I thought we would never reach this stage. However, I can now say that we are “courtroom-drama free” – at least in regards to our blended family. The scars remain, the experiences no doubt have changed us, but the constant upheavals no longer control our daily lives.

After a recent conversation with a close friend, who is still in the midst of the madness and courtroom drama, I felt compelled to write in the hopes of giving chizuk – strength – to those like her who often wonder, “will this ever end?”

For those of us who have experienced divorce and remarriage involving children, the court system becomes a significant factor that must be considered while raising our family and making personal choices. The “system” with its very long “arm of the law” may step in and govern decisions – such as where the children go to school, where they can live, how much time a parent can legally spend with them, and the amount of child support owed – when parents cannot come to agreements themselves. The court can even decide which parent or guardian will be the party responsible for making the day-to-day decisions, which may include religious upbringing and medical issues.

There were times during the first decade plus of our marriage that I felt that my husband and I spoke more often with our attorney on any given day than with each other. Simply planning a family trip was grounds for being called into court. Switching “parenting time” to accommodate all of our children attending a family celebration needed to be “cleared” with the attorneys. Bad traffic that would result in returning the children later than usual on a wintery Sunday afternoon, after a Shabbat spent together, may have meant a call from a member of the police department questioning where we were and the reason for the delay.

Over the years there were small trips to court, to enforce our right to be included in the children’s educational concerns. There were longs days in court fighting for the “privilege” that allowed us to make aliyah which we view as our religious obligation and birthright.

There were months devoted to psychological evaluations by a very costly court appointed psychologist – twice, at different periods of the children’s development. Additionally, there were private evaluations by a therapist of our choosing, just to keep things balanced. I cannot even calculate the many miles we covered driving to and from these appointments to ensure that each family member involved was seen – in the hopes that the “bigger picture” would be taken into account. Countless hours and sleepless nights were spent wondering and worrying what the professionals may have seen; would it help our case or would it hurt our position? Would the therapist uncover what we had noticed? Only time would tell.

Sometimes we were involved with not one court case but two ongoing cases; same state, different counties. One of them involved my ex-husband and the other with my husband’s ex-wife. These battles left us depleted of time, energy and financial resources. I recall way too many evenings when my new husband and I spent reviewing court documents and attorney’s notes in order to keep each other up to speed and decide on our “game plan.” We would have certainly preferred to use that precious time at the start of our marriage dreaming of our life together instead.

There were court visits for “silly things” and court visits for life altering matters. Courtroom “lingo” became interwoven with our daily vocabulary. We could hardly believe that friends didn’t understand what giving a deposition entailed, or the proper format used when submitting a certification to court. Court appearances themselves were often grueling and stressful; there were days in court when I wondered if the judge believed the one sided accounts presented by our opposition. How can someone meet you in a courtroom after simply reviewing some paperwork and determine the type of person you are, what type of parent you are?

During one particularly difficult day the judge labeled me cold and unfeeling, based on my demeanor in the courtroom, when in fact I had walked in that day determined to keep my emotions in check. I thought becoming too emotional would have me viewed as weak or overly sensitive. I wanted to be careful not to be seen as playing on the sympathy of the court. Yet, my ex-husband, who was able to turn on the tears during his testimony, was praised for being sensitive and caring.

Friends, currently going through their personal courtroom drama, often ask how we made it through that difficult phase. I admit that it was difficult and seemed like it would never end. It takes a tremendous toll on the family, especially the children. No matters how we, as parents, try protecting them from the horror of it all, most children do pick up on the emotional stress and turmoil. When you are going through something so major and possibly life-changing as a family there is no way to keep it completely hidden. Often children’s “imagined truth” is far worse than the reality of a situation, so it is important to explain certain aspects in a way the children can accept and understand.

Syrian Community Members contest Synagogue’s Expansion Plan

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

In response to community objections, a prominent Brooklyn synagogue will not proceed, for the moment, with the construction of a 65-foot annex to its main building, according to several members of the Syrian Orthodox community in Brooklyn who asked not to be named. However, they will most probably not permanently shelve the project altogether.

Congregation Shaare Zion’s plan was to turn the two-story property it owns next to the shul into a six-story building housing classrooms and more prayer space.

The main building, located on Ocean Pkwy, between Avenues T and U, has a capacity of just over 1,000 people, while the shul’s membership has swelled in recent years to 670 families.

At a Community Board 15 meeting that was open to the public two weeks ago, five area residents, including members of Shaare Zion, spoke out against the proposal. No one spoke in favor of it. When the vote was tallied, the board rejected the proposal by a count of 19 to 13. (Five or six board members, who are also members of Shaare Zion, did not vote to avoid a conflict of interest.) The board’s vote is only advisory and does not preclude the shul from trying to obtain an official variance from New York City’s Board of Standards and Appeals to erect a building taller than 35 feet.

“Right now, the project is on hold because the community is not for it,” said one Shaare Zion member with knowledge of the shul’s plans. “It’s not going to proceed. Maybe in a year or two, but not now.”

However, Edmond Dweck, a member of the Syrian Orthodox community and a member of the community board’s zoning and variances committee, said that it is unlikely they will permanently disband with the expansion plans. He said the two sides will probably have to come to a compromise – one that he recommended is to build the annex only up to three stories, within the 35-foot limit.

Opponents of the expansion – mostly neighbors of the synagogue – said that the proposed building would block their sunlight and more people would start to attend services, increasing traffic and parking difficulties in the area.

The shul had originally said the expansion’s purpose was to accommodate the current number of worshippers, not to make room for more.

Opponents also expressed concern that the synagogue’s current banquet hall would expand and the accompanying garbage from catered affairs, as well as the increase in pedestrians and valet-induced traffic, would make the already-busy area even more intolerable, according to Dweck. Dweck said, however, that according to the plans submitted by Shaare Zion, the catering facility would not be expanded.

“They really are in need of additional space for classes and services,” Dweck said. “They are currently very tight there.”

The congregation started in the 1940’s in the home of a local resident, and then moved into its current location in 1960. The synagogue was designed by the noted architect Morris Lapidus and includes a main sanctuary – often referred to as “the Dome” – that seats some 400 people. The annex building was purchased by the shul in the late 1980’s.

The synagogue and its lawyer, Lyra Altman, did not return multiple calls for comment.

New, Severe Traffic Enforcement in Israel

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

New measures to enforce driving rules announced by the Israel Police Traffic Division, the Knesset, and the State Prosecutor’s office this week will mean severe punishments for driving infractions, and a significantly increased likelihood of being caught committing them.

New speed and traffic light cameras will be installed throughout the country as part of the new crackdown.  Additionally, it will become easier for police to revoke drivers’ licenses for prolonged periods and will impose harsher penalties on many driving offenses.

The traffic cameras can operate in all weather conditions and times of day, and can photograph at a rate of less than a second between pictures, meaning driving breaches can be fined at any time of day or weather, and can capture images of any car on the road at any given time, as well as while turning at intersections.

A report by the Globes online business magazine informed readers that fines will be issued beginning at 10% above the speed limit, with a 31km/h (19.26 mph) rate above the limit resulting in an automatic NIS 750 fine (about $197).

Notices of fines incurred, or traffic court dates set, will be sent to violators in the mail.

A recent report by the State Comptroller’s office noted that 40% of road fatalities in Israel are occur to non-Jewish citizens, primarily Arabs, despite the fact that they are only 20% of the population.  The report blamed human error, road quality in pre-dominantly Arab areas, and the poor condition of the drivers’ cars.

Do The Right Thing

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

In 2001, the year of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, my husband and I were both in mourning for close relatives. As a woman, I did not have the responsibility of attending a minyan to recite Kaddish. So I never realized how complicated it could get.

My husband, who never misses minyan, was ultra-conscientious during this time because he wanted to attend minyan in his shul three times daily. This was usually not a problem, since he worked in Brooklyn and was close to our shul. However, on one cold December day, he had to travel to Monsey for a closing. He scheduled the closing so that he would have no trouble getting back to Brooklyn in time for Mincha.

As he was about to leave Monsey, someone asked my husband if he could drop him off in Manhattan. My husband, always the first one to do a person a favor, was a little hesitant. Since 9/11, traffic did not flow smoothly, and he was afraid of missing minyan. He told the man that he was trying to avoid going through Manhattan, but that he could drop him off near the entrance to the Triborough Bridge where he could get a train. My husband would then go through Queens to Brooklyn.

The man agreed to the arrangement and was grateful for the ride.

As my husband got closer to the Triborough Bridge, he began to think that maybe it wasn’t nice to leave his passenger midway, and he decided to take the man to his destination. The man tried to talk my husband out of it, but he made up his mind that this was the right thing to do. He left the man on 47th Street and continued to the FDR.

Near the exit for the tunnel to Brooklyn, all traffic came to a standstill. The police instructed traffic to get off the FDR and take an alternate route. My husband began to panic. He started wondering if he had made the right decision. But how could doing one mitzvah get in the way of doing another one? He was sure that Hashem would not let that happen.

As darkness set in, he raced to the shul. He made it exactly on time and was able to recite the Kaddish. What a close call! After davening, he overheard some people talking about the Triborough Bridge. It seems that there had been an accident there, and people were stranded for hours. Had he gone that way, he would surely have missed the minyan. Hashem had sent him a mitzvah to perform so that he would get to shul on time.

If you do what is right, Hashem will take care of you!

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/do-the-right-thing/2011/08/24/

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