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Archive for January, 2009

After writing about Uri Auerbach yesterday I thought it would be in form to write a few words about his great-great-grandfather Rabbi Benjamin Hirsch Auerbach (1808-1872) who is also known as the Nahal Eshkol and is described in the Jewish Encyclopedia and  Wikipedia as “one of the most prominent leaders of modern Orthodox Judaism”.

You can read all about him in those links.

He was an interesting personage and was involved in various controversies, one of which was his publishing of a version of the Sefer HaEshkol – for which he is named. The real interesting part is that not only is he Uri Auerbach’s great-great-grandfather (Uri is 1.4.5.8.4 in the Auerbach family tree published 2002), he is also my great-great-great-grandfather – I am 1.6.2.1.2.2 for the record.

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Last night for the first time in my life I went to an election meeting. The meeting was for the “Habayit HaYehudi HaMafdal HaHadasha” party and the speaker was Uri Auerbach. As anyone in Israel will probably know, Uri Auerbach is a jounalist, publicist, radio presenter and childrens writer (I even wrote a blog post a while back about one of his books).

He is seen by many as being a pioneer of religious people in the largely secular media and arts scene. Indeed Israeli media and arts have gone through an amazing revolution away from their socialist, internationalist and modernist roots to cultural pluralism in the last few years and Uri Auerbach certainly has been a part in this. I do feel though that he has been somewhat overtaken by the flood waters that have come in his wake but that is often the nature of being a pioneer.

Getting down to politics, doubt has been expressed that the split Bayit Yehudi or Ichud Leumi will get throught the Achuz HaHasima and even get into the next Knesset. His take is that according to surveys 41% of his potential consituency of the religious public are still undecided and that the results in the general surveys are getting better. The other major political insight from surveys that he shared with us is that most of the undecided are tossing it up between Likud and Bayit Yehudi. That’s me as well.

His message was double. On the one hand he stressed the sectorial importance of having “our people” in the right places to help us on a personal and community level. If you need help getting money or support for a project or institution close to the hearts of the religious community then do you go to Zvulun Orlev or to number 17 in the Likud list who has a kipa on his head whoever he may be. Fair enough, but as he admitted a large number of his potential voters don’t want to be a “sector” anymore. They are part of the larger picture of the country and want to be seen and vote as such.

His other message was one of vision. We have something to offer. A different agenda. Our agenda. This is where your values and your will be heard. I am just a bit worried that they are a bit too new and naive for the political game. What do I have to show that they will actually get stuff done or make a difference?

That said, I am leaning in the direction of giving them my vote.

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A video article from JPost.com.

As usual, after years of neglect and short-sighted mis-management there is a government enquiry going on about how come we don’t have any water.

Unfortunately this doesn’t mean that anything is actually being done about it. As I blogged a couple of days ago, we are going to start paying considerably more for water over a base “ration” of 2.5 m3 a person a month.

However collecting more money for water will not magically refill the aquifers. Demand for water is not that elastic and with little public awareness and only twelve inspectors to enforce watering bans over the whole country, even the water authority optimists are only expecting to make up about a third of the 100 M m3 shortfall.

So what are we going to do. We can pray and hope that we won’t run out of water or do irreversable ecological damage before the overdue desalination plants come on line starting in 2010.

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Drought

Israel is officially in a drought. As if we needed anyone to tell us that. The level of the Kineret today is at -214.37m which is over 5.5m from its maximum and although the winter had an early and promising start it hasn’t rained seriously since. Our local weather station at Kibbutz Tzora is showing a pitiful 144mm which is about a quarter of the annual average of somewhere around 550mm. If you look at the expected rainfall in the months up till now, you still get over 300mm. This is all after five years of below average rainfall and little public awareness or action.

News is that soon water will be rationed to 2.5 cubic meters per person per month. That’s about 70% of what my household uses right now and I don’t think we are that wasteful. Shorter showers and less toilet flushing. Did you know that a third of domestic water usage is flushed down the toilet and further third goes on showers and laundry?

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The future of mankind

So tell me; are we all going to die or live for ever? Or maybe we’re going to mutate into super-computers?

Whichever, it looks like the next century is going to be an interesting one.

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Who to vote for

Elections are coming up on 10th February. I still haven’t decided who to vote for but I saw the “Electoral Compass” site  (in English, Hebrew and Dutch) linked from YNet today, which claimed it was going to help me.

It is an online questionnaire about your views on a whole series of issues at the end of which you are shown a series of “compasses” which remind me a bit of Gartner quadrants showing how you stand compared to the different parties. I came out nearest to Likud. Not bad as this is one of the options I am considering.

I wonder what the underlying assumptions were about the political parties. I suppose they used their official platform documents but seeing as they don’t necessarily follow those, I wonder whether they used their intelligent guess at what the parties really will do.

When I once did the Belief-O-Matic questionnaire (a similar thing regarding religious beliefs) and I came out somewhere between Judaism, Sikhism and Bahai. There I reckoned that some of the answers were obviously aimed at Judaism but badly worded, meaning that a more general alternative answer was more accurate.

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So the war is over. Strange how they managed to finish it just in time for Obama’s swearing-in. Our troops are supposed to complete their pull-back today and leave Gaza to the Gazans to start sorting out the mess and put things back together.

The Hamas leaders and military who all ran away leaving the civilians on the streets, have all come out of their hiding holes and seem to have got back to normal real quick. They are already claiming a “great victory”, promising to rearm with “holy weapons” to kill us and started rounding up Fatah members as suspected collaborators to torture and murder. Great. “What was is what will be and there is nothing new under the sun” (Kohelet (Ecclesiastes for the Greek) 1:9).

Schools in the south of Israel go back today in the hope or belief that they won’t be fired on and things will get back to normal.

Really we’re all hoping that things will become normal rather than just getting back to normal, because normal hasn’t been that normal in Sderot for the last eight years. Many Palestinians no doubt share this wish, but as long as they keep giving power to psychopathic leaders we will continue to be stuck where we are.

Hopefully a lot of Gazans will be wishing things had been normal before and will be happy to try and keep them normal now.

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