Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

Excerpt from 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays, by Simon Jacobson.

This first week of Elul is the fourth week in the Seven Weeks of Consolation, which began immediately following the destruction of Tisha B’Av. God comforts
and consoles us while we work on rebuilding our relationship with Him during Elul (as Moses did on Mt. Sinai), thereby showing us that a relationship with
Him is a two-way street.
The Midrash explains the progression of these seven weeks as a dialogue between us and God (which reflects our introspection in the month of Elul):
· Week One: God sends His messengers, the prophets, to console the people after the destruction of the Temple.
· Week Two: The Jewish people ask the messengers, “Why are you coming here? We want God to come.”
· Week Three: The messengers go back to go and tell God: “The nation is not consoled.”
· Week Four (the first week of Elul): God agrees to come and console the people Himself, and begins consoling them.
· Week Five: God’s consolation intensifies.
· Week Six: The consolation reaches a more profound and powerful level.
· Week Seven (the week before Rosh Hashana): The Jewish people tell God, “We rejoice in Your consolation.”
Why doesn’t God Himself console the people at the very beginning? Why does He send messengers and allow three whole weeks to pass by before He acts?
God teaches us here, first of all, to bond with each other and to console each other. One could argue that we’re all mortals in the same situation, and
that we need someone above and beyond us to console us.
But God says, no, one mortal can console another mortal. One weak person can console another. One vulnerable person can console another. It’s a great gift
that one person can give to another.
Ask yourself: Have you developed the sensitivity to console others in time of sorrow in their lives? Do you seek out opportunities to offer consolation
or do you shirk away from such occasions? What has been your experience in being consoled by others?
– Console someone—visit a sick person in a hospital, or call a friend who is feeling down, or send a greeting to a person you know is lonely.
– Resolve to make consolation a regular practice throughout the month of Elul.

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This seems to be the most sensible thing I’ve read in a long time, and I think people would do well to at least think on it for a minute or two.

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS
Sunday Morning Commentary, Sunday, 12/18/05 ..

Herewith at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my
beating heart: I have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the
cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty
litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who
Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know
who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they
so important?

I don’t know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I do not care at all
about Tom Cruise ‘s wife. Am I going to be called before a Senate committee
and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and
Jessica are.

If this is what it means to be no longer young , it’s not so bad.

Next confession:
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And
it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit
up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel
discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to
me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a
ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and
sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all
that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach
house in Malibu .. If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is
the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t
think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think
people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around,
period. I
have no idea where the concept came from that America is an
explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution, and I don’t
like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from
that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren’t allowed to worship God
as we understand Him?

I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a
lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the
America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh,
this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not
funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham ‘s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and
Jane Clayson asked her “How could God let something like this Happen?”
(regarding Katrina)

Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.
She said, “I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for
years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our
government and to get out of our lives.

And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.
How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we
demand He leave us alone?”

In light of recent events…terrorists attack, school shootings,
etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her
body found recently) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and
we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school…..the
Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor
as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when
they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we
might damage their self-esteem ( Dr. Spock ‘s son committed suicide). We
said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said OK.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience,
why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill
strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure
it out. I think it has a great deal to do with “WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.”

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why
the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but
question what the Bible says.

Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like
wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people
think twice about sharing.

Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely
through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school
and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to
many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what
they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of
us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard
it… no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process,
don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

I’m seriously debating whether or not to go into work today.
I’ve been seriously congested for the past two days, and so far, it’s not letting up.
I slept OK last night, but I have a raging headache right now, and just feel generally cruddy.
The problem is I’m working on this center-wide newsletter, (which, BTW, got a huge boost thanks to Angel’s “Mr. Frodo’s Hobbit-hole” column, and no, it’s not really called that, I’m just obscuring the names), and the files I need are on the work box’s harddrive.
I wonder if I could get someone to send them to me here?
I’m definitely not in the mood to deal with stupid people, especially on the phone.
This newsletter’s supposed to be out tomorrow in final draft, but I just don’t see it happening.
Not if they expect good quality work, and if Angel and I have to hijack the entire project to ensure that it is quality so that neither of our names get attached to trash, then so be it … I think.
God, my head hurts, and so far the Excedron’s not helped.
I checked the weather, and it looks like we’ve got some major changes coming our way, which probably explains this crud.
We’re supposed to have rain all this week and into next, with the rain increasing as the week progresses.
So I wonder if I’m going to be stuck with this for all that time.
I really hope not.
I just don’t know.

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

By Heidi at Euphoric Reality

Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.
-Arnold Toynbee

Wide open and unguarded stand our gates, and through them passes a wild motley throng.
-Thomas Bailey Aldrich, “Unguarded Gates,” 1895

You cannot become thorough Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American.
-Woodrow Wilson, Address to New Citizens, 1915

Those who favor unrestricted immigration care nothing for the people.
-Sam Gompers, founding president, AFL, 1921

Why was the border guard so thin? Did the Romans not notice…that their way of life was changing forever?
-Thomas Cahill, 1995

No society has a boundless capacity to accept newcomers, especially when many are poor and unskilled.
-Robert Samuelson, economist and Newsweek columnist, 2005

We can’t protect our own borders.
-Donald Rumsfeld, November 29, 2005

*******

The following excerpts are all from a new book, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America. Many people may not read it because of the political baggage of the author, but I’ve read the book, despite my disagreement with the author on other issues, and it is entirely right on the money when it comes to the invasion of our country by foreigners. It occurred to me that many people may miss out on the common sense found within its pages so I’m excerpting a little bit of it here for those who may never read the words otherwise.

On November 28, 2005, President Bush, speaking in Tucson, conceded that in five years 4.5 million aliens had been caught attempting to break into the United States. Among that 4.5 million, Bush admitted, were “more than 350,000 with criminal records.” One in every twelve illegal aliens the U.S. Border Patrol had apprehended was a criminal.

That is 70,000 felons apprehended each year, 200 felons every single day for five years, trying to break into our country to rob, rape, and murder Americans. Of the millions who succeeded on Bush’s watch, how many came for just such purposes? How many Americans have been robbed, assaulted, or murdered because the President failed in his duty to defend the borders of the United States?

Nearly 8 million foreigners did enter during those five years, 3.7 million of them illegally. If one in twelve was a criminal, 300,000 felons slipped in during Bush’s tenure. This is an historic dereliction of presidential duty.

There are today 36 million foreign-born in the United States, almost three times as many people as the 13.5 million hear at the peak of the Great Wave in 1910. And it is among these tens of millions of foreign-born that illegal aliens find sanctuary. As James Edwards of the Hudson Institute writes, legal and illegal immigration are two sides of the same coin. If we fail to control the one, we cannot control the other. As a rule, he notes, when legal immigration rises, illegal immigration soars.
[…]
Our foreign-born population today is almost equal to the 42 million who came over three and a half centuries from 1607 to 19965. The Border Patrol catches as many illegal immigrants every month as all the legal immigrants who came to America in the 1820s. Today’s numbers are of a different order of magnitude.

No nation has ever attempted to assimilate 36 million foreigners in a generation. Yet, each year, 1.5 million more are added to the number, half of the illegals, 90 percent of them from Third World countries whose people have never before been assimilated into our population.
[…]
“The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities,” said Theodore Roosevelt. We are becoming was T.R. warned against: a multi-lingual, multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural Tower of Babel. To the delight of anti-Americans everywhere and the indifference of our elites, we are risking the Balkanization and breakup of the nation.
[…]
How many spies and saboteurs have been sent into our country as sleeper agents? How many Al Qaeda are here awaiting orders to bomb subways and malls or assassinate our leaders? We have no idea. Neither does the Department of Homeland Security. Border security is homeland security. But America has lost control of her borders and, as Ronald Reagan said, a country that can’t control its borders isn’t really a country anymore.

In his address in Tucson, President Bush made a startling admission. For decades, he said, the United States has had a separate policy in dealing with non-Mexicans breaking in through the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, a policy of “catch-and-release”: “about four of every five non-Mexican illegal immigrants we catch are released in society and asked to return for a court date. When the date arrives, about 75% of those released don’t show up at court.* As a result, last year [2004], only 30,000 of the 160,000 non-Mexicans caught coming across our southwest border were sent home.”

“This practice of catch and release has been the government’s policy for decades,” said Bush. “It is an unwise policy and we’re going to end it.”

Is this not an astonishing admission? …How can the president say our homeland is secure?

Further on in his Tucson speech, Bush conceded that our government and laws have been frozen in a pre-9/11 world:

Under current law, the federal government is required to release people caught crossing our border illegally if their home countries do not take them back in a set period of times…Those we were forced to release have included murderess, rapists, child molesters, and other violent criminals.

“This undermines our border security” and the work “these good folks” of the Borders are doing, added the president.

Again, is this not astounding? President Bush was talking about releasing “murders, rapists, child molesters, and other violent criminals” into our society, because “current law” commands it and the nations whence the criminals come refuse to take them back.

The question begs itself: With Bush and his party in power, why had they not changed “current law”? Why had President Bush not picked up a phone and told the leaders of these “home countries” that there will not be another visa issued to their country until they take back every one of their criminal felons who has broken into ours?

What is the matter with President Bush? What is the matter with us?

What explains the paralysis of the present White House?

George Bush has taken an oath to see to it that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed. The immigration laws are clear. Businesses that hire illegal aliens break U.S. law and are subject to sanctions. Yet, as the columnist John O’Sullivan writes, “in the Clinton years 1995, 1996, and 1997 there were between 10,000 and 18,000 work-site arrests of illegals annually. In the same years about 1,000 employers were served notices of fines for employing them. Under the Bush administration, work-site arrests fell to 159 in 2004 where there was also the princely total of three notices of intent to fine served on employers.”

“In this dramatic relaxation of internal enforcement” under George W. Bush, O’Sullivan concludes, “is the explanation of the rapidly rising estimate of immigrants living and working illegally in this country.”

Can anyone say that, with this record, President Bush has faithfully executed the immigration laws of the United States?

Twice, President Bush took an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Article IV, Section 4, reads: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union, a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion.”

Yet, with perhaps 4 million illegal aliens having broken in during Bush’s five and a half years in office, and our border states daily breached by thousands more, can anyone say President Bush has protected the states of this Union against that invasion? In an earlier America, this dereliction of constitutional duty would have called forth articles of impeachment.
[…]
America’s leaders claim she is the most powerful country on earth. But American has a government too morally flabby to act as decisively as Ike did** to remove from our national home those who have broken in and had no right to be here. How many America women must be assaulted, how many children molested, how many citizens must die at the hands of criminal aliens and foreign terrorists before our government does its duty?
[…]
If present projections of the U.S. Census Bureau prove accurate, the American our grandchildren will live in will be another country, a nation unrecognizable to our parents.

By 2050, it is now estimated that there will be almost 2.5 times as many people here as in 1960: 420 million. The share of the population of European descent will be a minority, as it is today in California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. And that minority will be aging, shrinking, and dying. There will be as many Hispanics here – 102 million – as there are Mexicans today in Mexico. …By 2050, they will be 24 percent of a nation of 420 million. By nation of origin of our people, America will be a Third World Country.

Our great cities will all look like Los Angeles today. Los Angeles and the cities of the Southwest will look like Juarez and Tijuana. Though we were never consulted about this transformation, never voted for it, and have protested against it in every poll and referendum, this is the future the elites have prepared for our children.

I’ll close the excerpt with this warning:

This is not immigration as America knew it, when men and women made a conscious choice to turn their backs on their native lands and cross the ocean to become Americans. This is an invasion, the greatest invasion in history. Nothing of this magnitude has ever happened in so short a time.

Against the will of a vast majority of Americans, America is becoming transformed. As our elites nervously avert their gaze or welcome the invasion, we are witness to one of the great tragedies in human history. From Gibbon to Spengler to Toynbee and the Durants, the symptoms of a dying civilization are well known: the death of faith, the degeneration of morals, contempt for the old values, collapse of the culture, paralysis of the will. But the two certain signs that a civilization has begun to die are a declining population and foreign invasions no longer resisted.

Here in America, the self-delusion about what is happening and the paralysis in the face of the crises have no precedent. What can be said for a man who would allow his home to be invaded by strangers who demanded they be fed, clothed, housed, and granted the rights of the firstborn? What can be said for a ruling elite that permits this to be done to the nation, and that celebrates it as a milestone of moral progress?

We are witnessing how nations perish. We are entered upon the final act of our civilization. The last scene is the destruction of the nations. The penultimate scene, now well underway, is the invasion unresisted.

_____________________________

*According to Congressional testimony on August 16th, the Border Patrol reported that actually only 90% of released illegals report back for their court date.

**In 1954, when Eisenhower discovered a million Mexicans here who did not belong, without apology he ordered them sent home in “Operation Wetback.” They went.

__________________________________________

This has been a production of the Guard the Borders Blogburst. It is syndicated by Euphoric Reality, and serves to keep immigration issues in the forefront of our minds as we’re going about our daily lives and continuing to fight the war on terror. If you are concerned with the trend of illegal immigration in our country, join the Blogburst! Send an email with your blog name and url to euphoricrealitynet at gmail dot com.

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

by louise fiszer

Late summer brings an abundance of good things to feast upon and wonderful opportunities to feed my vegetarian and/or kosher guests. Beautiful vegetables,
fresh herbs from the garden — these are summer’s best.

What better way to showcase these gifts of the season than to combine them with different shapes of pasta for light, colorful and tasty warm-weather fare.
Effortless, elegant and easy dishes can be created in a flash, allowing the cook to serve leisurely without spending a lot of time in a hot kitchen. The
key is simple preparations that rely on the natural goodness of the ingredients.

A fresh tomato basil sauce that requires no cooking, tossed with freshly cooked linguini makes a lovely starter for a casual dinner. (I sometimes add slivers
of leftover salmon or halibut for a heartier main dish). Ripe, garden fresh tomatoes are key to its success.

The scent of fresh basil resonates heartily in a Ligurian pasta, green bean and potato dish that is almost a summer vegetable garden in a bowl.

These sauces can be made ahead to reheat just before serving. Try using a variety of pasta shapes as interesting partners for these savory summertime sauces.

Uncooked Tomato Sauce | Serves 8 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course

4 lbs. ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded
2 Tbs. minced shallots
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 Tbs. minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup imported black olives, pitted
4 Tbs. olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound freshly cooked pasta
basil leaves for garnish

Coarsely chop all ingredients except pasta and basil leaves in food processor. Add salt and pepper for taste and toss with hot, freshly cooked pasta. Garnish
with basil leaves.

Pasta with Pesto, Green Beans and Potatoes |
Serves 4

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (about 2 bunches)
1/2 cup olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
6 Tbs. freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 ounce)
6 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 medium russet potatoes (about 3?4 pound), peeled, cut into 1?2-inch cubes and cooked
6 oz. green beans, trimmed, cut into 3-inch lengths and cooked
1 lb. trenette pasta or linguine, freshly cooked

Combine basil, oil, Romano and Parmesan cheeses, toasted pine nuts and minced garlic in processor. Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to large bowl. Add green beans
to same pot and cook until crisp and tender, about 3 minutes.

Using slotted spoon, transfer to bowl with potatoes. Cook pasta in same pot until tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
Transfer pasta to bowl with potatoes and green beans.

Whisk reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid into pesto. Add pesto to pasta mixture and toss thoroughly to coat. Transfer pasta to large platter. Serve, passing
additional Pecorino Romano separately.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin.
Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

By Rabbi Yehonatan Chipman

The Month

Ellul is a unique month—the final month of the year, “the month of mercy and forgiveness,” a month of expectancy and preparation for Rosh Hashanah and the
Days of Awe; a month during which, as several Hasidic darshanim put it, “the King is right here, in the field.” Among Ashkenazim, it is marked by blowing
the shofar every morning, and by reciting each morning and evening Psalm 27, a special psalm expressing the longing “to dwell in the house of the Lord.”
Sephardim begin reciting Selihot before dawn every morning from Rosh Hodesh on, while Ashkenazim do so only from the last week or so before Rosh Hashanah.

The month’s astrological symbol is Virgo (Hebrew: Betulah), the virgin. In Western culture, much influenced by Christian myth, the immediate association
of virginity is as the highest form of purity (even in this age of sexual latitude), but in Judaism there is no celebration of virginity as a value in
itself. She is a tabula rasa, an unwritten slate: one who symbolizes anticipation, readiness, “not yet…,” a certain guarding and holding of herself for
the future. As such, a virgin also signifies receptivity, a certain openness (to both the good and the bad), of potential for moving onto a new stage.

This concept of pristine, almost naïve purity, seems to me to dovetail with the theme of teshuvah. Teshuvah is about new beginnings, of the individual
remaking him- or herself. Unlike the month of Sivan, whose symbol of Gemini, the twins, suggests relationship, even intimate encounter, the “I-Thou” (as
between God and man at Sinai), here we focus upon a single individual—a single, lone human being encountering life, first of all, within his/her own inner
self, and attempting to return to a certain primal simplicity, freshness, purity: to remove the stain, the dross, the burden of various kinds of negativity
that have accumulated over a year, or over a lifetime—and to begin anew.

In this sense, the virgin is perhaps more suggestive of what some thinkers (Paul Ricouer seems to have originated the term) have referred to as “second
naïvete” or “second innocence.” A person who, having gone through many life experiences, and having experienced disillusionment, a sense of moral contamination
and corruption, perhaps a certain jadedness and cynicism, suddenly somehow comes full circle to seeking a kind of purity, innocence, freshness in life—albeit
on a different level than the innocence of a child, youth or maiden.

This loss and recapturing of innocence may be felt on at least two senses:

First, a loss of innocence about ourselves. Sin reveals to us the negative, selfish, thoughtless things of which we are capable. Every one is born with
certain illusions about himself, everyone likes to sees him/herself as good. Often we go through life with an enormous amount of self-justification, even
for the most heinous sins and crimes. Thus, authentic teshuvah requires, first of all, honesty with our selves, recognizing and acknowledging our sin;
being able to say: I did such-and-such a thing, this act belongs to me. (Imagine, for example, the image of Eleazar ben Durdai placing his head between
his knees, weeping for the years of debauchery and of life wasted in the pursuit of no more than coarse carnal pleasure.)

True, on another level teshuvah also means transcending the evil acts one has done, ”moving on,” changing the self, reaching the point of feeling that “I
am a different person; I am not the same person who did these acts” (Hilkhot Teshuvah 2.4; cf. the lyrical description of the transformation possible
through teshuvah in Chap. 7, which I will post on the blog presently). But before reaching that state, one must first acknowledge one’s sin, and one’s
perennial capacity for wrongdoing. The “second innocence” of such a person is thus of one who has undergone the full life trajectory: from initial innocence,
to performing cruel, immoral, or lustful acts—or simply acting and living without mature cognizance of what one is doing; to a kind of inner revulsion
at one’s self, and seeking with all one’s being to recreate him/herself in the image of a better, purer, higher self. This is perhaps the insight expressed
by Hazal in their saying, “One who does teshuvah out of love, willful transgressions are transformed into mitzvot.” That is, there is a certain finer
self that is somehow revealed specifically through the process of sin and the “recovery” therefrom.

Second: there may have been a loss of innocence in one’s very faith. One “raised in the faith” may start out with a simple, even naïve acceptance of basic
Torah dicta, and even one who has embraced Judaism at a later point in life may start by accepting “whole-hog” the doctrines taught by one’s teachers.
But the modern world presents many alternative approaches or “explanations” of the Torah, which sooner or later will cause the intelligent person to
begin thinking and questioning—whether these are in the realm of psychology (sublimation of parental figures); history and textual analysis (questioning
the Divine authorship of the Bible; historicistic explanations of the development of halakhah), economic theory (religion as an instrument of social control,
the “opiate of the masses); evolutionary biology or neurophysics (mechanistic interpretations of the human brain itself, with its thoughts, emotions,
and spiritual experiences), etc., etc. Or one may question a naïve belief in sekhar va-onesh, in Divine retribution, once one begins to see “bad thing
happen to good people.” Be it through personal encounters with suffering, tragedy, or premature death of dear ones, or through learning about catastrophic
events such as Auschwitz, one begins to doubt Gods goodness.

Second naïvete (Ernst Simon talks about this somewhat) means moving past these questions to a more subtle, mature, kind of faith. Such a “second faith”
does not deny the difficulties posed by modern thought or try to sop them off by facile, slick apologetics, but somehow moves to a place where it hears
Torah addressing an utterly different dimension of truth.

The Tur (Orah Hayyim §581) begins its presentation of the laws of Elul (and of Rosh Hashanah) by quoting the midrash in Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, describing
how, when Moses ascended the mountain a second time to receive the second set of tablets, a shofar was sounded in the camp as a sign that Moses had in
fact ascended, and to instill the people with a sense of awe and teshuvah.

This association of Elul with the second tablets, again, coincides with the theme of teshuvah and “second innocence.” The relationship of the people with
God, and with the Torah, was different after the incident of the Golden Calf. It was no longer one of simple, innocent faith—but neither was it one of
rebelliousness and protest. The people longed for things to be as they had been, but knew that they were different. Henceforth the relationship would
be more troubled, complex; however intense the renewed love, passion, faith and trust, beneath the surface there would be always be the seeds of faithlessness,
of the potential to realize the betrayal (much like a married couple trying to rebuild their marriage after betrayals on one or both sides, with the knowledge
of what happened suppressed, unmentioned, but somehow present just below the surface).

God’s relation to this, too, was different. He understood the people’s weakness, that they could not be counted on to stand unwavering in their loyalty
to Him—and He realized that He would have to exercise a greater measure of compassion, of forgiveness, of turning a blind eye to their shortcomings. This
was the secret of the Thirteen qualities of mercy, revealed to Moses in the crevice of the rock on that first Yom Kippur—and which have served since time
immemorial as the leitmotif of the Selihot, from Elul on through the Holy Day. (See my detailed discussion of this in HY I: Ki Tisa and on the blog at
Ki Tisa (Torah))

In Hasidism, the second tablets also symbolize the Oral Torah: somehow, in wake of the rift caused by the Golden Calf, and the painful reparation of the
breech, man began to take a more active role in shaping, transmitting, and interpreting the Torah. Elul thus symbolizes two kinds of creativity: the
creativity entailed in Oral Torah, and the re-creation of self involved in the act of teshuvah.

A brief word about the Torah readings for Elul. These consist basically of the latter half of Devarim: the recapitulation and summary of the law, with
certain new laws pertaining particularly to the news type of life to be lived in the Land; and admonitions, ceremonies of ratifying the covenant, and
Moses’ Song of Warning. All these clearly relate to the theme of renewal, of rebirth, of preparation, of return. And just as obviously, counterpointing
these to the stories of Adam and Eve at the beginning of Genesis, we find ourselves in a far more complex, mature, and ambivalent moral world—again, suitable
to “second naivete.”

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

Iran leadership poses threat
David Horovitz, THE JERUSALEM POST
Aug. 24, 2006

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, if he ever became the supreme decision maker in his country, would “sacrifice half of Iran for the sake of eliminating
Israel,” Giora Eiland, Israel’s former national security adviser, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

At present, Eiland stressed, the ultimate decision maker in Iran was Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 67, whom he said was “more reasonable.” But,
Eiland went on, “if Ahmadinejad were to succeed him
– and he has a reasonable chance of doing so – then we’d be in a highly dangerous situation.”

The 49-year-old Iranian president, he said, “has a religious conviction that Israel’s demise is essential to the restoration of Muslim glory, that the Zionist
thorn in the heart of the Islamic nations must be removed. And he will pay almost any price to right the perceived historic wrong. If he becomes the supreme
leader and has a nuclear capability, that’s a real threat.”

In facing up to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Eiland said the United States had three possible courses of action, “all of them bad,” and that a decision could
not be postponed for too long, “since delay, too, is a decision of sorts.”

The first option was “to give up” – to accept that Iran was going nuclear and try to make the best of it. By “making the best of it,”
Eiland said, he meant “isolating Iran economically, politically and internationally in the hope that this will eventually prompt an internal push for regime
change.”

This might also give other nations the sense that the political price of going nuclear was too high for them to contemplate, and might thus deter nations
such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria and others from seeking to emulate Iran and spelling the full collapse of the nuclear nonproliferation era.

Washington’s second option was to launch a last-ditch effort at diplomatic action, he said. At this stage, a mixture of sanctions and bonuses would not
be sufficient to deter Iran altogether, but it might seek to persuade Teheran to suspend progress for two or three years.

“In return, the US would have to open direct engagement with Teheran, with full recognition of the regime. This would boost the regime’s credibility and
standing at home and allow it to say it was voluntarily suspending the program for a while,” he said.The advantage for the Bush administration was that
“Bush could then say, ‘They didn’t go nuclear on my watch, and it’s up to my successors to keep things that way.'”

The third option, said Eiland, was a military operation – born of the sense that the diplomatic process would not work and that there could be no compromise
with an axis-of-evil power. However, internal political realities and public opinion in the US were not conducive to this, he said, nor was international
support readily available.
Furthermore, said Eiland, “this would be action that would have to be taken within months.

If not, and if Iran continues enrichment, it will complete the research and development stage and have a proven ability which it can then duplicate at numerous
sites. And at that point it could not be stopped by military action. Six months or 12 months from now would be too late, he said.

Tellingly, Eiland noted, it seemed to him that the difficulties facing the administration over that third course were growing.

As the crisis with Iran deepens, meanwhile, some Israeli sources believe the US has acted foolishly in spurning opportunities for international diplomatic
cooperation against Iran in recent years, and that Israel mistakenly encouraged this course of action.

The US might have had more success isolating Iran two years ago, when Bush and French President Jacques Chirac were stronger, Iran was weaker and the situation
in Iraq looked better, said the sources.

As recently as a few months ago, on a trip to Ukraine, which is a vital Russian sphere of influence, US Vice President Richard Cheney criticized the Putin
regime’s record on democracy, the sources pointed out. Against that kind of background, the US should not be surprised now, therefore, to find Russia less
than willing to fully cooperate on its Iran strategy.

Israel, these sources went on, realized early the danger posed by Iran’s nuclear drive but erred in supporting the US in hanging tough rather than pushing
it toward cooperation.

As for Israel’s military options, these sources spoke of an immense dilemma for the government. Declining to go into detail, they noted only that Israel
was not as potent militarily as the US and mused about what might happen if a military action proved unsuccessful in thwarting the nuclear program. Iran
might then complete its nuclear drive and, branding Israel a preemptive aggressor, claim legitimacy for a strike of its own at Israel.

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

By Mazal Mualem Haaretz 24 August 2006
www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/754136.html

A day before the current government was sworn in, on April 17, former
Knesset member Uzi Landau found out he has prostate cancer. This grave news
came on top of the Likud defeat in the elections, his personal failure to
obtain a realistic place in the party’s Knesset list and the failure of the
rebellion he had led in the Likud to stop the disengagement.

At age 63, after 22 years in politics as a Knesset member and a minister,
and after two turbulent years as head of the rebel group, Landau suddenly
found himself outside the political game, with a cancerous tumor to fight.
He is an organized man, stubborn and rational; predictably he saw no
symbolism between the newly found tumor and the blow to his political
career.

After consulting several doctors, Landau decided on a treatment strategy,
and he had a successful operation a month ago in Paris. Fortunately the
tumor was discovered at an early stage and had not spread.

Granting a first interview since his illness became public, Landau adamantly
blocks discussing it or how he has coped. He sums up the ordeal with typical
briefness and distance. “Prostate cancer is very common among men”, he says.
“I had to treat it. I consulted experts. I treated it. That’s it. Now I’m in
after-care.”

“Now” is the middle of August 2006. Precisely a year to the Gaza
disengagement, a week from the end of the second Lebanon war, which of
course Landau links to the Gaza withdrawal, eight months from Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon’s exit from the political arena. A different era.

He arrives for the interview in sandals, far from the buttoned-up image of
Landau the politician. These days he is looking into a few job offers in the
private sector and academia; he has a doctorate in civil engineering.

He does not miss politics nor most of the politicians. He stays in touch
with Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, and Knesset members Natan Sharansky
and Moshe Kahlon, but says he has no intention of returning to political
life. A man who was one of the media’s most celebrated politicians in the
two years prior to the disengagement has not been seen on televisions
screens for several months. He is forgotten, along with all of his fellow
rebels, who held center stage in the public discourse for a long while.

You probably want to shout out that you were right? Qassams, Katyushas.

Landau: “I have nothing new to say. It doesn’t interest me to say I was
right. Nothing came as a surprise. The disengagement caused a terrible split
in the nation, has promoted the radicals and made Hezbollah understand that
the Jews understand only force. We are now in a much worse situation than we
were a month ago. But I was made to look delusional, because part and parcel
of the campaign against the disengagement opposition was a nonsensical
discourse. They said I was a war monger.”

Surely you assess the next war to be approaching?

“The odds are much greater today of a war with Syria. The only possibility
to prevent a war is to make clear to everyone that you are ready for it.
Because when you face a terror organization that sees you as cobweb, there
is no way to avoid confrontation. We found ourselves in the current conflict
in Lebanon because we were not ready to take chances, so we paid a heavier
price. If a Palestinian terrorist is released now from prison, we are laying
the foundations for the next kidnapping.”

Do you sympathize with those calling for Olmert, Peretz and Halutz to
resign?

“Yes. In any normal country the trio would not be allowed to go on
functioning. You don’t have to wait for outsiders to tell you so. This is
our tragedy. I was disappointed. I thought Olmert would behave differently.
I expected him to be firm. I thought we would end this war on a different
note. This is a trio of unworthy people. Olmert is very clever. He knows how
to make decisions, but not regarding policy and war. Peretz has no
understanding whatsoever. He speaks of negotiations with Syria, so the
Syrians are confident that we lost, since they understand only force. And we
have a foreign minister who is doing her internship in foreign policy. All
of this at Israel’s most difficult period, with the public paying the
price.”

The question of whether a state commission of inquiry should be established
brings him back to the days of Sharon and releases pent-up anger against the
mediad:

“I’m not a lover of inquiry commissions”, he says, “but I wish a committee
would be set up to examine the media, which has to ask itself how it was
used as a mouthpiece for the government during the last five years,
particularly during the disengagement. It was one of Israel’s greatest
tragedies. The country was run by a gang of media spinners, Sharon’s media
consultants were only concerned with Sharon’s interest, and not with the
country’s interest.

“Journalism in Israel is a cartel. You cannot express yourself, and you
cannot conduct a debate. This journalism has deluded the public and
prevented a serious discussion. For a long time there was a desire to keep
the facade. Even now the same interviewers are inviting the same
commentators and the same consultants and all those who drove us into the
mud. For 13 years the elite has been explaining to us that we are the
occupation and justice is with the Palestinians. We were brainwashed that
the Israel Defense Forces cannot win, that it is all about the occupation.
No real debate took place.

“Oslo does not represent only a physical withdrawal. It was a mental
withdrawal. The entire country was reprogrammed. We escaped from Lebanon.
The Four Mothers model also hurt us. All the rhetoric since has rendered
Israel’s rational capacity impotent.”

But the public did not go for your proposal. The disengagement happened and
the great revolution failed.

“I don’t think that the rebels failed. That period was the height of my
political activity in my 22 years of Knesset membership. We proved that not
everyone in the Likud is for sale.”

The disengagement took place, you brought about the splitting of the Likud,
and most of you stayed outside the Knesset. That’s a failure.

“The Likud would have split in any case. Maybe we shouldn’t have voted
against the appointments of Ministers Ze’ev Boim and Ronnie Bar-On in the
second round. We gave Arik an easy way out. Ruby Rivlin told me, ‘Arik is
looking for an excuse to leave the Likud, so even if he intends to appoint a
horse, I am going to vote for it. I will not give him an excuse.’ In
retrospect, Ruby was right.”

Landau, the leader who contended for the party leadership, was left without
a relevant central message. Without a real opponent. At the end of the day
he also forfeited the dream, withdrew his candidacy and teamed up with
Netanyahu. These were already the days of his political decline. In the
Likud’s elections for the Knesset list, he found himself 14th, an
unrealistic place.

Landau believes that the combination of his inexperience at wheeling and
dealing and punishment for spliting the Likud kept him out of the Knesset.
He says he had lost the joy of politics and hoped not to be elected: “On my
way to the trade fairs, while I was listening to the polls on the radio, I
said to myself, ‘I wish the Likud would not reach 14 mandates.’ I didn’t
want to be in this Knesset.”

Do you think of Sharon sometimes?

“Of course. I also have had several conversations with Omri. On a personal
level, I am grieving. All the ganging up on Sharon was a very difficult
thing for me. I appreciated him. In 1973 I was part of his force that
crossed the [Suez] canal, and it was a sweet song. All the glory was his.
Sharon’s honor is dear to me, but the honor of the country is even dearer.

“To this day it is unclear what he was thinking of with the disengagement.
In 1995 Sharon was asked, ‘How did Rabin go to Oslo?’ Sharon replied, ‘Rabin
is a different man’. I can say the same of Sharon. He was a different man
when he commanded the disengagement. I have no other way to explain it. That
is not the Sharon I knew. To this moment I cannot grasp the disengagement
issue. As far as I am concerned, it’s the handiwork of media spin.”

Is it like they claim, that Sharon is one of the responsible for the Lebanon
failure?

“When I was the minister in charge of secret services overview, we had a
cabinet meeting on an occasion when Hezbollah attacked our soldiers. 2001 if
I recall correctly. Arik ordered for the first time to respond with an
attack on a Syrian target. We took down a Syrian radar station. For me that
was like breathing clear mountain air. A government that understands that
the real enemy is Syria, and not anyone else. It was one specific operation,
but we held to that guideline. In effect, Arik did not deal with Lebanon. We
did not deal with the Lebanese issue properly. Naturally all the attention
was on the terror.”

Landau sees all the processes that Israel has undergone since Oslo as a
consistent weakening, “A slippery slope.”

“I look at the Arabs. When they wage their war against us, they are certain
they are right. The Arabs fight for justice, we fight for peace and
security. It has a devastating effect”.

According to Landau, the social and leadership conduct since Oslo projects
weakness. He finds another expression to this “in the behavior of the Arab
Knesset members”, whom he calls a fifth column. “This is our stupidity”, he
says. “We are the only country in the world which allows use of the
democratic instrument to undermine its Jewish democratic nature. It’s
another expression of our inner weakness. Ahmad Tibi cannot be a member of
the Israeli Knesset.”

Any thoughts of returning to politics?

“I cannot find a reason to come back to politics today, unless it is to a
position from which I have crucial influence. I was already a Knesset member
and a minister. On the personal level I have achieved everything a
politician could aim for.”

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

Hezbollah Didn’t Win
Arab writers are beginning to lift the veil on what really happened in Lebanon.

BY AMIR TAHERI
Friday, August 25, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

The way much of the Western media tells the story, Hezbollah won a great victory against Israel and the U.S., healed the Sunni-Shiite rift, and boosted
the Iranian mullahs’ claim to leadership of the Muslim world. Portraits of Hassan Nasrallah, the junior mullah who leads the Lebanese branch of this pan-Shiite
movement, have adorned magazine covers in the West, hammering in the message that this child of the Khomeinist revolution is the new hero of the mythical
“Arab Street.”

Probably because he watches a lot of CNN, Iran’s “Supreme Guide,” Ali Khamenei, also believes in “a divine victory.” Last week he asked 205 members of his
Islamic Majlis to send Mr. Nasrallah a message, congratulating him for his “wise and far-sighted leadership of the Ummah that produced the great victory
in Lebanon.”

By controlling the flow of information from Lebanon throughout the conflict, and help from all those who disagree with U.S. policies for different reasons,
Hezbollah may have won the information war in the West. In Lebanon, the Middle East and the broader Muslim space, however, the picture is rather different.

Let us start with Lebanon.

Immediately after the U.N.-ordained ceasefire started, Hezbollah organized a series of firework shows, accompanied by the distribution of fruits and sweets,
to celebrate its victory. Most Lebanese, however, finding the exercise indecent, stayed away. The largest “victory march” in south Beirut, Hezbollah’s
stronghold, attracted just a few hundred people.

Initially Hezbollah had hesitated between declaring victory and going into mourning for its “martyrs.” The latter course would have been more in harmony
with Shiite traditions centered on the cult of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom in 680 A.D. Some members of Hezbollah wished to play the martyrdom card so that
they could accuse Israel, and through it the U.S., of war crimes. They knew that it was easier for Shiites, brought up in a culture of eternal victimhood,
to cry over an imagined calamity than laugh in the joy of a claimed victory.

Politically, however, Hezbollah had to declare victory for a simple reason: It had to pretend that the death and desolation it had provoked had been worth
it. A claim of victory was Hezbollah’s shield against criticism of a strategy that had led Lebanon into war without the knowledge of its government and
people. Mr. Nasrallah alluded to this in television appearances, calling on those who criticized him for having triggered the war to shut up because “a
great strategic victory” had been won.

The tactic worked for a day or two. However, it did not silence the critics, who have become louder in recent days. The leaders of the March 14 movement,
which has a majority in the Lebanese Parliament and government, have demanded an investigation into the circumstances that led to the war, a roundabout
way of accusing Hezbollah of having provoked the tragedy. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has made it clear that he would not allow Hezbollah to continue as
a state within the state. Even Michel Aoun, a maverick Christian leader and tactical ally of Hezbollah, has called for the Shiite militia to disband.

Mr. Nasrallah followed his claim of victory with what is known as the “Green Flood”(Al-sayl al-akhdhar). This refers to the massive amounts of crisp U.S.
dollar notes that Hezbollah is distributing among Shiites in Beirut and the south. The dollars from Iran are ferried to Beirut via Syria and distributed
through networks of militants. Anyone who can prove that his home was damaged in the war receives $12,000, a tidy sum in wartorn Lebanon.

The Green Flood has been unleashed to silence criticism of Mr. Nasrallah and his masters in Tehran. But the trick does not seem to be working. “If Hezbollah
won a victory, it was a Pyrrhic one,” says Walid Abi-Mershed, a leading Lebanese columnist. “They made Lebanon pay too high a price–for which they must
be held accountable.”

Hezbollah is also criticized from within the Lebanese Shiite community, which accounts for some 40% of the population. Sayyed Ali al-Amin, the grand old
man of Lebanese Shiism, has broken years of silence to criticize Hezbollah for provoking the war, and called for its disarmament. In an interview granted
to the Beirut An-Nahar, he rejected the claim that Hezbollah represented the whole of the Shiite community. “I don’t believe Hezbollah asked the Shiite
community what they thought about [starting the] war,” Mr. al-Amin said. “The fact that the masses [of Shiites] fled from the south is proof that they
rejected the war. The Shiite community never gave anyone the right to wage war in its name.”

There were even sharper attacks. Mona Fayed, a prominent Shiite academic in Beirut, wrote an article also published by An-Nahar last week. She asks: Who
is a Shiite in Lebanon today? She provides a sarcastic answer: A Shiite is he who takes his instructions from Iran, terrorizes fellow believers into silence,
and leads the nation into catastrophe without consulting anyone. Another academic, Zubair Abboud, writing in Elaph, a popular Arabic-language online newspaper,
attacks Hezbollah as “one of the worst things to happen to Arabs in a long time.” He accuses Mr. Nasrallah of risking Lebanon’s existence in the service
of Iran’s regional ambitions.

Before he provoked the war, Mr. Nasrallah faced growing criticism not only from the Shiite community, but also from within Hezbollah. Some in the political
wing expressed dissatisfaction with his overreliance on the movement’s military and security apparatus. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they described
Mr. Nasrallah’s style as “Stalinist” and pointed to the fact that the party’s leadership council (shura) has not held a full session in five years. Mr.
Nasrallah took all the major decisions after clearing them with his Iranian and Syrian contacts, and made sure that, on official visits to Tehran, he alone
would meet Iran’s “Supreme Guide,” Ali Khamenei.

Mr. Nasrallah justified his style by claiming that involving too many people in decision-making could allow “the Zionist enemy” to infiltrate the movement.
Once he had received the Iranian green light to provoke the war, Mr. Nasrallah acted without informing even the two Hezbollah ministers in the Siniora
cabinet or the 12 Hezbollah members of the Lebanese Parliament.

Mr. Nasrallah was also criticized for his acknowledgement of Ali Khamenei as Marjaa al-Taqlid (Source of Emulation), the highest theological authority in
Shiism. Highlighting his bay’aah (allegiance), Mr. Nasrallah kisses the man’s hand each time they meet. Many Lebanese Shiites resent this because Mr. Khamenei,
a powerful politician but a lightweight in theological terms, is not recognized as Marjaa al-Taqlid in Iran itself. The overwhelming majority of Lebanese
Shiites regard Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in Iraq, or Ayatollah Muhammad-Hussein Fadhlallah, in Beirut, as their “Source of Emulation.”

Some Lebanese Shiites also question Mr. Nasrallah’s strategy of opposing Prime Minister Siniora’s “Project for Peace,” and instead advancing an Iranian-backed
“Project of Defiance.” The coalition led by Mr. Siniora wants to build Lebanon into a haven of peace in the heart of a turbulent region. His critics dismiss
this as a plan “to create a larger Monaco.” Mr. Nasrallah’s “Project of Defiance,” however, is aimed at turning Lebanon into the frontline of Iranian defenses
in a war of civilizations between Islam (led by Tehran) and the “infidel,” under American leadership. “The choice is between the beach and the bunker,”
says Lebanese scholar Nadim Shehadeh. There is evidence that a majority of Lebanese Shiites would prefer the beach.

There was a time when Shiites represented an underclass of dirt-poor peasants in the south and lumpen elements in Beirut. Over the past 30 years, however,
that picture has changed. Money sent from Shiite immigrants in West Africa (where they dominate the diamond trade), and in the U.S. (especially Michigan),
has helped create a prosperous middle class of Shiites more interested in the good life than martyrdom à la Imam Hussain. This new Shiite bourgeoisie dreams
of a place in the mainstream of Lebanese politics and hopes to use the community’s demographic advantage as a springboard for national leadership. Hezbollah,
unless it ceases to be an instrument of Iranian policies, cannot realize that dream.

The list of names of those who never endorsed Hezbollah, or who broke with it after its Iranian connections became too apparent, reads like a Who’s Who
of Lebanese Shiism. It includes, apart from the al-Amins, families such as the al-As’ad, the Osseiran, the al-Khalil, the Hamadah, the Murtadha, the Sharafeddin,
the Fadhlallah, the Mussawis, the Hussainis, the Shamsuddin and the Ata’allahs.

Far from representing the Lebanese national consensus, Hezbollah is a sectarian group backed by a militia that is trained, armed and controlled by Iran.
In the words of Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan, “Hezbollah is ‘Iran in Lebanon.’ ” In the 2004 municipal elections, Hezbollah
won some 40% of the votes in the Shiite areas, the rest going to its rival Amal (Hope) movement and independent candidates. In last year’s general election,
Hezbollah won only 12 of the 27 seats allocated to Shiites in the 128-seat National Assembly–despite making alliances with Christian and Druze parties
and spending vast sums of Iranian money to buy votes.

Hezbollah’s position is no more secure in the broader Arab world, where it is seen as an Iranian tool rather than as the vanguard of a new Nahdha (Awakening),
as the Western media claim. To be sure, it is still powerful because it has guns, money and support from Iran, Syria and Hate America International Inc.
But the list of prominent Arab writers, both Shiite and Sunni, who have exposed Hezbollah for what it is–a Khomeinist Trojan horse–would be too long
for a single article. They are beginning to lift the veil and reveal what really happened in Lebanon.

Having lost more than 500 of its fighters, and with almost all of its medium-range missiles destroyed, Hezbollah may find it hard to sustain its claim of
victory. “Hezbollah won the propaganda war because many in the West wanted it to win as a means of settling score with the United States,” says Egyptian
columnist Ali al-Ibrahim. “But the Arabs have become wise enough to know TV victory from real victory.”

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

by Julie of Degree of Madness

If you owe back taxes to the federal government, the next call asking you
to pay may come not from an Internal Revenue Service officer, but
from a private debt collector.

Within two weeks, the I.R.S. will turn over data on 12,500 taxpayers
each of whom owes $25,000 or less in back taxes ? to three collection agencies.
Larger debtors will continue to be pursued by I.R.S. officers. (link)

So now, private firms will have access to our tax information, or at minimum
how much you (may or may not) owe to Uncle Sam. Our tax information is private.
Or it was up until now.

Within two weeks, the I.R.S. will turn over data on 12,500
taxpayers
each of whom owes $25,000 or less in back taxes to
three collection agencies. Larger debtors will continue to be pursued by I.R.S.
officers. (my emphasis).

And the IRS isn’t too particular about the business ethics of the firms
they select to receive our tax data:

One of the three companies selected by the I.R.S. is a law firm in Austin,
Tex., where a former partner, Juan Pena, admitted in 2002 that he paid bribes to
win a collection contract from the city of San Antonio. He went to jail for the
crime.

Last month the same law firm, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson,
was again in the news. One of its competitors, Municipal Services Bureau, also of
Austin, sued Brownsville, Tex., charging that the city improperly gave the Linebarger
firm a collections contract that it suggested was influenced by campaign contributions
to two city commissioners.

And how will these debt collectors be paid? They will receive 25% of what they collect. Whether or
not the tax bill is accurate or actually owed at all (the IRS is in a league of
its own when it comes to mistakes, errors and general incompetence), will not be
the concern of these collectors.

And the privacy issue is not insignificant. It’s not clear whether
these firms will be given the taxpayer social security number, but:

Private collectors will have authority to set up installment
payment agreements, and gather financial information about those targeted, presumably
to assess their ability to pay or to locate assets that might be attached.

Private collectors will have the authority to gather our personal financial
information. Authority handed over to them by the federal government. Most everyone
is aware of the aggressive, heavy-handed methods of collections agencies. I guess
a partnership with the IRS just makes sense. A marriage made in heaven, so to speak.

The federal government already has too much access to our private financial
information. And the ability of the IRS to audit at will, with no constraints or
accountability is something we should not tolerate. And should not be forced to
tolerate. And now private firms can get in on the action. And profit from it. At
our expense.

There are so many good reasons to support the Fair Tax. Preventing the
IRS from giving our private financial information to outside firms is just one more.

With the Fair Tax, the IRS will be abolished. No other tax plan under consideration
abolishes the IRS. This is important. The IRS operates under the “guilty until
proven innocent” theory. And however unjust that may be, that’s the way
it is. It will never change. The IRS has power that most politicians only dream
about. And IRS abuses
are legend. And most of the abuses never make the headlines. They are relatively
small in nature but very significant to those involved.

The convoluted tax code is an outrage. The enforcer is an even greater
outrage. Leave your Constitutional rights at the door when the IRS shows up, ’cause
you no longer have any. The IRS has virtually free will to demand access to every
single detail of your financial life. With no probable cause.

Some things just can’t be reformed. Our tax code is one of them. The
IRS is another. With the Fair Tax, we will all pay our fair share, but we won’t
have to give up our privacy, or our sanity, to do it.

The FairTax Blogburst is jointly produced by Terry of The
Right Track Blog
and Jonathan of Publius
Rendezvous
. If you would like to host the
weekly postings on your blog, please e-mail
Terry.
You will be added to our mailing list and blogroll.

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

Tel Aviv Notes No. 184
August 22, 2006

Aiman Mansour
Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies

For Hizbullah and its supporters in Lebanon, UN Security Council Resolution
1701 is, if not a clear victory, then certainly the least of all evils. The
main reason is that 1701 keeps the discussion of Hizbullah’s disarmament
within the confines of the barren exercise known as the “Lebanese National
Dialogue.” Moreover, the Resolution provides no effective mechanism for
action by the Lebanese Government or UNIFIL to disarm Hizbullah or terminate
its existence as a state within a state.

Israel’s initial decision to act against Hizbullah raised hopes that it
would damage the Shi’ite organization severely enough to empower the United
Nations and the Lebanese Government to act decisively against Hizbullah and
disarm it completely. But while the IDF did seriously degrade Hizbullah’s
missile array, it was unable to strike a decisive blow at the organization’s
senior military or political leadership. Moreover, the military campaign
did not initially involve destructive operations against Hizbullah’s
civilian infrastructure; that only happened toward the very end.

>From the viewpoint of Hizbullah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, the Security
Council Resolution does not undermine his status but rather the opposite.
The Resolution creates a situation in which Lebanon after the campaign is
little different from Lebanon before it. True, the Resolution does call on
the Lebanese Government to deploy through the south – which was apparently
impossible a month before – and it does provide for the augmentation of
UNIFIL by some 13,000 troops, but it does not create any framework that can
threaten Hizbullah’s existence or ongoing terrorist activity. The viewpoint
is evident in the following ways:

1. effectiveness of the international force: Hizbullah was extremely
apprehensive about the possibility that a NATO force might be deployed with
extensive authority similar to that of the multilateral force sent to
Lebanon in the early 1980s. Indeed, that prospect was so threatening that
Hizbullah’s leaders declared their intention to fight such a force.
Moreover, the idea that even a reinforced UNIFIL might be authorized under
Chapter 7 of the UN Charter provoked outright rejection by Hizbullah. That
position led the Lebanese Government to endorse the deployment in southern
Lebanon of UNIFIL with very ambiguous authority. This is apparent from the
provisions under which it will operate. Although it is explicitly
stipulated that UNIFIL can use its weapons to defend its troops and
equipment, the force is merely enjoined to do everything “within its
capabilities” to prevent hostile actions within its area of operations.

2. deployment of the Lebanese army: a Lebanese army force is deployed in the
south with the explicit consent of Hizbullah. That constitutes a concession
compared to Hizbullah’s position a bit more than a month ago. But given
that the army is not charged with disarming Hizbullah, its deployment is a
much less dramatic development than might appear to be the case.
.
3. demilitarization of the area south of the Litani: the Resolution states
that the area south of the Litani River should be free of armed personnel or
weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL. However,
the reality of the south is more complicated. In the Shi’ite villages
there, Hizbullah maintains “security committees” that provide a framework
for security coordinators whose ongoing task is to “protect the Shi’ite
villages.” In fact, this framework constitutes a militia, and it is
unlikely that the Lebanese army or UNIFIL will have the political will to
disarm an ostensibly “civilian” framework.

4. disarmament of Hizbullah and arms embargo: the IDF’s inability to disrupt
Hizbullah’s civilian infrastructure or eliminate its leadership mean that
the Lebanese Government lacks sufficient self-confidence to act decisively
to disarm Hizbullah, even with the assistance of any international force.
Consequently, the “National Dialogue” may reconvene but Hizbullah’s
opponents will have no capacity whatsoever to translate their political
power into a decision to disarm Hizbullah, either by peaceful means or by
force. The absence of an effective framework to do that means that the
Security Council’s stipulation that all states will prevent the “sale or
supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel
of all types” will remain a dead letter. The ineffectiveness of the embargo
is due to the fact that the Lebanese Government will continue to control
border crossings (as it did in the past) and UNIFIL will assist in this
control only if it is asked to do so by Beirut. Absent any decision to
disarm Hizbullah (and with Hizbullah officially represented in the
government), the smuggling of weapons into Lebanon, primarily by Iran and
Syria, will be far less difficult than might appear from the wording of the
Resolution.

Less than seventeen hours elapsed between the adoption of Resolution 1701
by the Security Council and the acceptance of it by Nasrallah. In one
sense, that reflects the extent of the damage the IDF had inflicted on
Hizbullah’s military infrastructure and the pressure placed on Nasrallah.
But it also demonstrates the extent to which the Resolution does not really
constrain Hizbullah. A resolution that had truly jeopardized Hizbullah
would have prompted it to fight on, as it apparent from the organization’s
reaction to the original Franco-American draft. And while regional
governments may be ambivalent about the outcome, the ability of Nasrallah
and the rest of the Hizbullah leadership to survive has just strengthened
their popularity on the “Muslim street.”
___________________________________________________________________
Tel Aviv Notes is published by
TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY
The Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies www.tau.ac.il/jcss/
& The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
http://www.dayan.org/
through the generosity of Sari and Israel Roizman, Philadelphia

KEYWORD: Lebanon

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

This is exactly what we need.
I think we need to spice it up a bit though.
I’m definitely in favor of the clip ‘n copy cards, where you write in whatever stupid advice or plattitude the non-disabled have given you, and then let them know in a very sarcastic manner how you never would have gotten through life without their timely advice. Take a look. I wonder if she’ll customize them?

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

I got back early from lunch, and was setting up the Pacmate, and my phone started ringing.
Since I was still on lunch, I didn’t pick up.
The agent let the phone ring until I clocked in, which was about five minutes.
The little bastards need to read their memo, and try internalizing what it says for a change.
I’m not giving up five minutes of my lunch, just like they’re not giving up five minutes of theirs to get back to work.
If they want to get mad because I’m not there when they call, whenever they call, then too bad.

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

I checked my phone mesages at lunch, and found one from the DA’s office.
Nice of them to return my latest call.
Anyway, there’s an administrative hearing on 5 September, and they’re going to take up pursuing the probation issue, this time with more enthusiasm.
I won’t be able to claim missed wages, since I don’t have anything that would show an actual monetary amount, but there’s nothing to be done about that
Here’s hoping things pick up and I start getting some answers.

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

East European tradition is religious hallmark.
LOOLWA KHAZZOOM

I entered the study hall of the Iraqi synagogue in Ramat Gan – the synagogue where I’d spent my childhood summers. Some of the women sat on the outskirts
of the hall, literally outside, and others sat pressed against the right side wall, huddled together meekly. The men filled up the rest of the room, with
their grand physical gestures, booming voices and uninhibited laughter. Disgruntled and disappointed, yet not surprised, I joined the makeshift women’s
section.

The rabbi was dressed in standard Ashkenazi garb – black suit, white shirt, black hat – no surprise, considering that the seating arrangements and overall
energy smacked of eastern European rigidity. Though he spoke of Yom Kippur customs through the teachings of Hacham Yosef Hayim, the leading religious figure
of Iraq, the rabbi did so in a way far removed from traditional Iraqi practice. Each time I asked a question, he put up his hand to the side of his face,
as if to block my existence from his reality, while the men clamored in an uproar that a woman had the audacity to speak.

At first, I was not actually sure if the hand went up to hush the men’s clamor or to silence me. The first two times, after all, the rabbi did answer my
questions, once people quieted down. He spoke facing straight ahead, however, refusing to look even vaguely in my direction – as if doing so would sully
his holiness. The third time, however, when not only the men but also the women completely freaked out about the fact that I was speaking, the hand went
up again and the rabbi refused to answer my question. After causing one more commotion by turning to the women to see if they knew the answer (they did),
I picked up my belongings and left.

I considered creating a public ruckus – challenging the rabbi and congregants on this clear turn against our heritage – instead of leaving quietly. I also
considered approaching the rabbi at another time, to advise him that his behavior had chased out of the synagogue a Jew thirsty for knowledge. But I’d
been hurt so much as a girl and young woman in what is supposed to be my community that I just could not handle another confrontation.

I grew up observant and was a flaming Jew pretty much from birth – willing to risk my life for my people and our beliefs. That’s why, weeks after a friend
was nearly shot boarding a plane to Israel from Los Angeles, days after a suicide bomber blew up scores of students at the Hebrew University cafeteria
in Jerusalem, amidst a wave of terrorist attacks across the Jewish state and with Israel and Iraq on the brink of war, I left my quiet, tree-lined street
in Berkeley, Calif., and made aliyah to Israel – settling in Be’ersheva, a small desert city in the south.

Israelis repeatedly expressed their shock and confusion that an American-born and -raised Jew would choose what is considered a boonie town like Be’ersheva
– seen by most as the transfer point for a bus to Eilat – instead of the hustle and bustle of Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem. A major part of my draw to Israel,
however, was having the chance to connect deeply with Jews of Middle Eastern and African heritage. With Moroccan and Iraqi neighbors directly across from
me, Indian, Turkish and Iranian neighbors on the floors below, Ethiopian neighbors across the street and a Tunisian synagogue just at the edge of my balcony
(eliminating the need to get out of my pajamas to participate in morning prayers), I was exactly where I wanted to be.

I had stopped attending religious services while living in Berkeley and I had all but completely withdrawn from Jewish community life in the area. The organized
Mizrahi/Sephardi community was tiny, a two-hour round trip away, and, for reasons I won’t get into here, not the community I wanted to be part of. In addition,
there was only one Ethiopian Jew I knew of in the area. With few exceptions, the only multicultural Jewish experience I had was when I was teaching or
otherwise leading a program. I was hungry for the plethora of Mizrahi, Sephardi and Ethiopian community options to choose from in Be’ersheva.

As it turned out, there were many different synagogues to attend, with the chazzanim at each following the liturgy of their respective countries of origin,
but every community was otherwise homogenous in its practice. The ultra-Orthodox tenets of central and eastern European shtetls, I discovered, have come
to dominate that which is defined as “religious” in Israel.

Traditionally, Middle Eastern and African Jewish communities emphasized the concept of chesed, or compassion, over that of mahmir, or strictness. Judaism
was a vehicle for joy and celebration, not an instrument of fear and condemnation. One wall around the Torah was enough. We did not need a wall around
a wall around a wall. Today, however, that foundational approach has been buried deep in our past, and religious life is now a contest between who can
be the strictest, most intolerant of all – especially when it comes to women.

In traditional Mizrahi and Sephardi synagogues, for example, the women generally sat upstairs in the gallery, where they had full view of the service led
below, and where they were welcome to sing at full volume along with the male congregants. I vividly remember the passion of women with white lace head
coverings and colorful dresses, praying from the bottoms of their hearts and the depths of their souls, closing their eyes while holding their hands open
and in front of them, as if to gather the energy being raised by the congregants, then bringing their hands to their faces and kissing them – as if they
were kissing G-d.

Today, in most of the Mizrahi and Sephardi synagogues I have attended in Israel, that image has been replaced by one of resigned women silently crumpled
in their chairs – some bored and staring into space, others talking, still others holding out their hands – this time behind an energetic layer of fear
and a physical barrier to the space below. Not only are women seated in the gallery today (quite enough to keep us separate from the men, thank you very
much), but there is a wall blocking our visual connection to the service – purportedly to keep us way, way out of men’s line of sight. Just in case that
wall is not enough, there is also a curtain hanging on top of it, one which must not be moved for all but one part of the service. To top it all off, women’s
voices must not, under any circumstances, be audible to the men below.

And so, as I ran open-hearted to the Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan synagogues peppering my neighborhood in Be’ersheva, eager to fully reclaim my observant
Jewish practice and to re-embrace communal Jewish life, I found myself crashing into physical, energetic, spiritual and emotional blockades. Unwilling
to accept these barriers – affronts not only to my feminist sensibility but also to thousands of years of Mizrahi and Sephardi Jewish practice – I launched
a one-woman rebellion throughout the city and across the country, singing out loud and pushing the curtains to the side wherever I prayed. Synagogue attendance
thus came to mean constant battles between myself and, ironically, the women “gatekeepers” of the congregation – whose sole purpose in life seemed to be
keeping all the ladies in check.

The experience became so unpleasant that, over time, I stopped going to synagogue and, as the months and years rolled by, even stopped observing traditions
at home. A holier-than-thou, suffering-oriented approach to Judaism – ironically steeped in the non-Jewish mindset of Christian Europe – clearly had hijacked
religious Jewish practice in Israel, leaving me feeling frustrated, resentful and alone.

While there are a few pockets of practising Jews who refuse to kowtow to this narrow definition of “religious Judaism,” most observant and secular Jews
alike, from every ethnic branch, have fallen in step – to the point that people refuse to believe that I am “religious” if I am wearing a pair of jeans.
What’s more, the Israeli government enforces this ideology: While at the Kotel, praying wholeheartedly to G-d, I have repeatedly found myself surrounded
by soldiers and police officers ordering me to be quiet. Make no mistake: the Western Wall has yet to be liberated.

I wonder why those who promote rigidity, suffering and alienation are willing to stake their claim to our 4,000-year-old heritage, but those who promote
flexibility, joy and inclusion are not. The Torah specifically states that it is as wrong to overdo observance as it is to underdo it: “You shall not add
unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your G-d which I command you.” (Deuteronomy
4:2)

Until we recognize that a black-hatted, three-times-a-day davening, super-extra-deluxe-kosher Jew can be just as much of an apikoros (heretic) as a string-bikini-wearing,
Nietzsche-loving, pork-scarfing member of the tribe; until our understanding of “religious” reflects this recognition; and until Mizrahi, Sephardi and
Ethiopian Jews refuse to let European shtetl ideology set the tone for our Jewish practice, I will continue to feel that someone has walked off with my
religion.

Loolwa Khazzoom has published internationally in such outlets as the Washington Post, BBC News, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. She is also the editor of
The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage.

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 22, 2006

At around 4 a.m. Saturday, Lt. Col. Emanuel Morano, a senior commander in
the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal), was killed in a
fierce battle with Hizbullah fighters near Baalbek in the Bekaa valley not
far from the Lebanese-Syrian border.

>From the details of the commando raid that have filtered into the media, we
learned that Morano and his men were airdropped into the area by helicopter
along with their two Hummer vehicles, with the mission of attacking a
Hizbullah base in the nearby village of Bodei used by the Iranian-sponsored
guerrilla fighters for weapons smuggling.

Read more here.

Originally published at customerservant.com. Please leave any comments there.

Stories like this always have a special place, not because I myself want children, (I don’t), but because they’re an illustration of how idiotic the misconception that disabled people somehow can’t do the same things like “normal” people can, or that they for some reason shouldn’t be trusted with children because it’s somehow more irresponsible than the teenage girls getting pregnant, or poor single women having children.

By
Chava Willig Levy

My name – Chava – means “mother of all living” in Hebrew. As a little girl, I remember learning from my parents, both deeply religious Jews, that names
are very meaningful. Quoting the Jewish sages of long ago, they told me that parents are granted a moment of prophecy when they choose their newborn’s
name.

I took their words to heart. Not surprisingly, children have always made me weak in the knees. The fact that a 1955 bout with polio made me very weak in
the knees never deterred me from my dreams of motherhood.
People said that, given our disabilities, we’d be irresponsible if we went ahead and had a baby

At 15, I remember asking my doctors, “Will I be able to have children?” They explained that polio had no effect on the reproductive system; getting pregnant,
they implied, would be no problem. “But, young lady,” and here their voices grew ominous, “your pelvis is deformed and your breathing is restricted. These
polio-related factors could jeopardize a pregnancy. And let’s not forget your arms; they’re too weak to care for or carry a baby.” One doctor found my
question amusing. “Aren’t you putting the cart before the horse? First, see if you can find a husband; then worry about having a baby!” His voice insinuated
that my chances for marriage were slim.

By the time I was 30, I was beginning to think he was right. My social life in the Big Apple was active, but my dating life was nearly nonexistent. Then,
in 1982, a miracle happened: I met a wonderful man named Michael Levy. We began dating that December, during the Chanukah season.

What a glorious Chanukah that was! We were head over heels in love, learning how many things we had in common: similar religious values, a passion for words
and music and, since Michael is blind, hands-on experience with disability. Married in August, we prayed that G-d would grant us our deepest wish: to bring
a child into His world.

Cushioned by a euphoria common to newlyweds, we were amused when people – even doctors! – asked us if we had consummated our marriage. Amusement turned
into annoyance when some people said that, given our disabilities, we’d be irresponsible if we went ahead and had a baby. And in November 1984, when doctors
informed us that – due to infertility problems unrelated to our disabilities – our chances of having a child were nearly nil, we were engulfed by anguish.

That Chanukah, still stunned by the doctor’s verdict, we hardly felt like celebrating. Each night, as I lit the menorah and recited the blessing, “Blessed
are You, our Lord, who created miracles for our ancestors, in days gone by and in our own time,” I could barely hold back the tears. Would the miracle
we prayed for ever come our way?

Three months later, I was pregnant.

Our jubilation knew no bounds. The doctors groped for scientific explanations, but as far as we were concerned, this was the miracle we had been hoping
for. We kept our thrilling secret to ourselves for the first three months and then, bursting with joy, we broke our news to the world at large.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have, because at the end of my third month, we lost our baby. My obstetrician explained that I had a blighted ovum, a fertilized egg
that never developed. The hormones it produced made me look and feel pregnant, but in fact there was no baby growing inside me after all.

This emotional rollercoaster ride sent us reeling. We struggled with painful questions – Why did this happen to us? What did we do to deserve this agony?
If we were not meant to have children, why would G-d “tease” us with such short-lived joy? – but the answers eluded us. We tried to keep our faith and
trust that G-d’s love, although hidden, was still with us.

Then on February 26, 1986, nine months and four days after our miscarriage, Michael and I learned that I was pregnant once again. Two days earlier, my younger
brother and his wife had their fifth child who, by higher mathematics, was conceived just when our first conception faltered and failed. After months of
mourning and attempting to make sense of our loss, I felt that all was right in the world once more. There was a G-d in the universe after all, and He
had decided that in our family tree, another life had to precede our little one’s arrival.
The doctor told me that once a woman has had an ectopic pregnancy, she is less likely to have a baby

My optimism swelled the next day when a man and his three-year-old son passed me in the street and noticed me struggling to get myself and my motorized
wheelchair into a taxi. Without a moment’s hesitation, the man brought his son over to me, placed the boy’s hand in mine, and told him, “Now, hold on to
this lady. I’ll be right back.” While he proceeded to put my wheelchair into the cab, I marveled at the feel of this child’s hand in mine, the look of
his lovely face, the sound of his barely audible voice when I asked his name. It was a sign, I remember thinking as I looked at my deformed hand holding
his perfect one and noticed how he didn’t pull away. This time the little one wouldn’t leave me.

A few hours later, I headed to my gynecologist’s office for the official blood test (a home pregnancy test had given us the glorious news). On the way,
I passed a little gift shop.

Attracted by a glass candlestick in the window, I decided to pop inside and treat myself to it. I made my purchase and was about to leave when I noticed,
on the back wall, a display of children’s puppet-washcloths shaped like various animals. The variety was impressive – pigs, roosters, bulls, mice, frogs
– but the moment I spotted the pink and white lamb, I knew what my selection would be. On our second date, my husband had shared with me a children’s poem
about a lamb, and it had figured prominently in our courtship – as it still does in our marriage. So I bought all the lambs in the store: one for my new
niece, the others for all the babies our friends were expecting, and one for our little one.

The next day, I started staining. My euphoria turned to dread. Silently, I begged our little one, “Please don’t leave us. It’s been only two days, but we
love you so much already.”

It took several weeks to discover that I had an ectopic pregnancy: The embryo was growing in my fallopian tube; if left unchecked, it could have killed
me.

Ectopic pregnancies are usually terminated surgically. But because anesthesia restricts my breathing, I spent a week undergoing a new drug treatment that
dissolved my life-threatening embryo. The doctor told me that once a woman has had an ectopic pregnancy, she is less likely to have a baby.

It took several months to recover from our loss, but Michael and I soon were back on the infertility circuit. Month after month came a slew of blood tests,
sonograms, hormone medications and doctor appointments. Month after month, my supply of lamb washcloths dwindled as relatives and friends had babies; when
only one remained, I tucked it away next to Michael’s love letters, suspecting it would stay there forever. By the time Chanukah of 1988 rolled around,
I was overwhelmed by frustration and fatigue. I remember turning to Michael, the most supportive husband in the world, and saying, “I’ve never been one
to cut my losses, but I can’t keep banging my head against the wall. Do you think we could look into adoption?”

That January, after consulting with an adoption attorney, we placed ads across the country and waited by our new phone line, hoping to hear from a pregnant
woman in need of our help. The calls were few and fruitless. In mid-February, in need of a break, we decided to spend a few days in Florida, visiting Michael’s
parents. While there, I got my period. The usual disappointment turned to dread when I noticed that the flow was barely a trickle, similar to my ectopic
symptoms. As we flew home, I said to Michael, “I don’t care if New York is battling a blizzard. First thing tomorrow, I’m going for a blood test. I can’t
have this anxiety hanging over my head.”
I can’t carry Tehilah, but I can care for her

The next morning, I made my way across town to the lab where I’d gone so often. All I wanted to hear was that I did not have an ectopic pregnancy, that
this strange period was perhaps a reaction to air travel. That afternoon, just as I was about to light the Sabbath candles, the phone rang. “Congratulations,
Mrs. Levy. You’re pregnant!” a cheery voice announced.

“That’s impossible! I’ve got my period,” I whispered. “And besides, we stopped all fertility procedures and medications two months ago!”

“There’s no doubt about it: You’re definitely pregnant. Some women do get a period during their first month; that’s why they often miscalculate their due
date. As for your due date, it looks like it will be at the end of October.”

Following that extraordinary phone call, Michael and I were too stunned to speak. We sat together and, with tears in our eyes, prayed that this time the
Almighty would help us bring a child into His world.

He did. The pregnancy had its rough moments – a month of bedrest, a bad fall in my eighth month, breathing and sleeping problems, a caesarian section –
but G-d did not abandon us. (Neither did our many friends and relatives whose prayers, good deeds and optimism helped us through many months of anxiety
and anticipation.) On October 17, 1989, our breathtakingly beautiful daughter was born. We named her Tehilah Sarah. Tehilah means many things: praise,
a song, a poem to G-d. And the Bible paints a poignant picture of Sarah (a name shared by my two grandmothers), the matriarch who knew the heartbreak of
childlessness but lived to build a dynasty.

Today, as I watch our little one blossom, I remember my doctor’s dire prediction: “And let’s not forget your arms; they’re too weak to care for or carry
a baby.” He was half-right: I can’t carry Tehilah, but I can care for her. When Michael is home, we can manage pretty well, each of us compensating for
the other’s disability. Diapering Tehilah, for example, can be quite an adventure. Michael lifts her onto the changing table, unfastens her diaper and
holds her legs while I wipe her and apply Desitin. If Tehilah is really dirty, we reach for her lamb washcloth, hidden away for so many years. As she squeals
with glee and tries to grab it, joy overwhelms us.

Because Michael’s job takes him away from us, we have hired a full-time babysitter/housekeeper. She and I work as partners. At mealtime, she lifts Tehilah
into her high chair and brings me her food so that I can feed her. When it’s time for Tehilah’s bottle, I lie down and Tehilah is placed on my stomach.
Our babysitter puts a small pillow under my wrist so that the bottle stays at the proper angle. These tasks are tiring, but I wouldn’t relinquish them
for the world.

We pray that Tehilah will teach them all that disability need not be an obstacle to successful parenthood When Tehilah was seven months old, I actually
discovered that I can carry my little girl with the help of a baby carrier called Sara’s Ride. We originally purchased it with Michael in mind, figuring
he could carry Tehilah on his hip and still get around unencumbered with his cane. Well, as it turns out, Michael rarely uses the device. I, on the other
hand, have begun to carry Tehilah around on my own! I sit in my motorized scooter and, once Tehilah is secured on my lap, we roam the streets of New York
unaccompanied! After an hour or so, fatigue sets in – but how thrilling it is to feel so truly united with my daughter, with no one hovering nearby to
intervene. At day’s end, we often head for Broadway and wait for Michael to emerge from the subway station. When Tehilah spots her Abba (Hebrew for Daddy)
approaching, she gurgles excitedly. Michael stops in his tracks and, when I verbally second her emotion, he beams with delight. Passersby, notorious in
New York for keeping their distance, smile at us as we head for home.

People often ask us if Tehilah knows yet that her parents have disabilities. The answer is yes – and no. When she was only seven months old, I discovered
that Tehilah’s “pick-me-up” plea, indicated by arms stretched eagerly upward, is never directed to me. And one evening, when she was eight months old,
Tehilah started whimpering while the three of us were watching a television game show. We had no idea what was wrong. Suddenly, our unhappy little girl
craned her neck until she located me. She gave me a pleading look, turned back toward Michael and then my way once more. “Michael,” I said, “could it be
that you’re blocking her view of the TV screen?” Michael moved slightly to his left and Tehilah was content once more. More interesting than our daughter’s
fascination with game shows is her awareness that visual obstacles are easier to resolve with her mother’s intervention.

So yes, Tehilah has learned that her parents have disabilities. But she has not learned that, in the eyes of most people, her parents are “different” or
even “unfortunate.” Seeing a wheelchair, a braille book, unfocused eyes or an assymetrical body is commonplace for our little girl. And, speaking candidly,
Michael and I think that makes Tehilah a very fortunate person. As she gets older, she will discover society’s misconceptions about disability. But, happily,
children and adults who lack Tehilah’s enlightened upbringing will encounter a refreshingly bemused response from our little girl. We pray that Tehilah
will teach them all that disability need not be an obstacle to successful parenthood.

As Michael and I anticipate Tehilah’s second Chanukah, we remember the Chanukahs that have come before. This year as I light the menorah for my husband
and daughter, I know my eyes will well up once again – this time with tears of thanksgiving. Each night as I recite the blessing, “Blessed are You, our
Lord, who created miracles for our ancestors, in days gone by and in our own time,” I will thank G-d for our miracle baby. And each night I will add a
special prayer: May our little Tehilah grow up knowing that, as her name signifies, she is a song, a poem to G-d.

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Dr. Meir Levin and Torah.org.

Jesse, or Ishai, was the father of David. As such, he was an important personality but we do not know much about him. The Biblical record is scant and tells
us very little about this direct ancestor of the Messianic King. The Sages attempted to fill this gap with a variety of traditions and their concept of
Redemption played an important role in how these traditions were conveyed. First, they viewed him as a great man, certainly not the clueless patriarch
portrayed by the superficial reading of Samuel I, 16.

Ishai is one of the “eight princes of man” in Micha 5:4 according to Sukkah 52b. He went out at the head of a multitude of followers and returned with a
multitude and he taught Torah to a multitude (Brochos 58a). Ishai inspired David to fight Goliath (Tanchuma Buber Vayigash 8) .

Four died solely because of the serpent’s advice to Eve, for they never sinned. Ishai was one of them (Shabbos 55b). “The Sages said: Ishai lived more than
400 years (Genesis Rabbah 96:4).”

We will focus upon a long midrashic passage that characterizes both Ishai and David. More importantly, it throws a strong light upon the approach of the
Sages towards the recurring patterns in Tanach, the return of generations and the nature of repentance and redemption in history.

There is an opinion that Ishai separated from his wife after he came to learn that there were some who questioned the legal propriety of the marriage of
Boaz to Ruth. As a descendent of Moabites, he was, perhaps, prohibited from living with a full-fledged Jewess. He then separated from his wife. He told
his non-fully Jewish maid to prepare herself so he can cohabit with her and in this fashion fulfill the commandment of procreation (the Midrash invokes
a conditional freeing arrangement that renders her permitted for those with a tainted lineage). In the meantime, Ishai’s wife was distressed for she desired
more children from her sainted husband. The maidservant suggested that they do as Rachel and Leah – that they change place under the cover of darkness
so that Ishai cohabit with his wife instead of the maidservant. The plan worked and the wife conceived and bore a child. This was David. When Jesse and
his sons saw this, they suspected her of adultery but they held their peace for 28 years, until Samuel came to Ishai’s house to anoint the new king (Yalkut
Hamechiri, Psalms 118:28, retold in Sefer Hatodya, p322-323).

What might at first glance be seen as no more than a fanciful tale is in fact a necessary denouement to the progression of the process of purification and
repentance throughout generation. As you surely recall, the motif of a well intentioned woman deceiving a man for a laudable goal is a recurrent pattern
that we have encountered many times. First there was Lot and his daughters, then Judah and Tamar, then Ruth and Boaz. At each succeeding instance, the
sin became finer and less apparent, the evil of it becoming more subordinate and, we might say, more diluted by the good intention. What Lot’s daughters
did is abhorrent and off-putting. The transgression of Judah and Tamar was technically much less prominent for both he and she were single; yet, clearly
some sin was committed. Ruth and Boaz triumphed over their inclinations; however, it is hard to deny that their encounter in a secluded place and in the
middle of the night was nevertheless improper. A scent of impropriety hung over the ancestry of David. To complete the great cosmic drama of redemption,
the situation must have been replayed again, even if the Bible does not say so explicitly, this time with no sin whatsoever. The Sages understood that
this must have taken place before the curtain descends upon this episode in the life of the royal family. A wholly righteous man and an entirely deserving
woman must once again come together to replay the scene totally within the confines of holy matrimony. No law was broken when Ishai approached his wife,
no technical prohibition and no moral consideration.

Both he and she acted out of most laudable motives and their union was blessed with David. A cycle has ended, another cycle was ready to begin.

What is human history but a spiral that continually passes over the same ground, over the same issues but each time at a higher level. David certainly continued
the personal and national work of redemption throughout his life and career and in the life of his descendents. Yet, a chapter has closed and a new chapter
opened. The ground that was gained will never be forfeited and the failures and ascents will henceforth play out on a more elevated platform.

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST
Aug. 18, 2006

Sine the cease-fire was implemented in Lebanon, we have heard scattered reports indicating that a prisoner swap with the Palestinians may be in the works.
In exchange for hundreds if not thousands of Palestinian terrorists now held in Israeli prisons, IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who has been held hostage by Palestinian
terrorists for nearly two months, may be released from captivity.

These reports lend weight to the view that things are back to normal.

Terrorists kidnap Israelis and hold them hostage and Israel releases terrorists in order to free them. It is a comforting thought for people like Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert and his colleagues and the members of Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz’s General Staff who continue to believe that it will be possible for Israel
to sign on a dotted line and achieve “a normal existence.” Unfortunately, the chance that Shalit will be released is almost as small as the chance that
Israel will be able to achieve a “normal existence.” Palestinian sources explain that the decision of whether or not to release Shalit is firmly in the
hands of the Iranians and Syrians, and they are not in any mood to horse trade with the Jews.

Today the Palestinian Authority is nothing more than yet another Iranian proxy. During the past month of war in Lebanon, it was the supposedly moderate
Fatah terror group and the supposedly moderate Fatah-led Palestinian security forces that organized mass rallies in the streets of Ramallah and Gaza cheering
on Hizbullah and calling for Hassan Nasrallah to bomb Tel Aviv.

Now, in the aftermath of the cease-fire, which handed Hizbullah and its state sponsors Syria and Iran the greatest victory in their history, forces in the
PA are actively preparing for a new round of war against Israel. As Hamas spokesmen have put it, Israel’s defeat in Lebanon has convinced them that it
is possible to adopt Hizbullah’s methods to destroy the Jewish state. Amid false reports that he was planning to dissolve the Hamas government and replace
it with a government of technocrats, Abbas went to Gaza on Monday morning and asked Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh if Fatah could join his government.

As instructed by his commanders in Teheran and Damascus, Haniyeh has not yet agreed to Abbas’s offer. Rather he set humiliating conditions which Abbas must
accept first. Abbas already agreed to Hamas’s demand that he allow the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization to also join the government. He is similarly
expected to agree to Hamas’s demands that Fatah join the government as a junior partner and that it abandon its negotiations with Israel.

Throughout the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian areas of Judea and Samaria, the Palestinians are gearing up for their next round of jihad with Israel. As
was the case six years ago, they are beginning with public executions of Palestinians accused of helping Israel combat terrorism. Just this week, a crowd
of hundreds hooted and stomped their feet in ecstasy as unmasked murderers killed one such Palestinian “collaborator” in Jenin.

So while all eyes are glued on Lebanon, the Palestinians may well start the next war. And we know exactly how that war will look. They will use missiles,
mortars and rockets that they will smuggle in from Egypt to kill Israelis in their homes in the South. They will infiltrate Israeli cities by digging tunnels
under the security fence around Gaza, and from Egypt and from towns and cities in Judea and Samaria and murder us in ever growing numbers. They will receive
money, weapons and combat instruction from Hizbullah and Iranian operatives in Gaza and abroad and they will attack us while protesting their everlasting
dedication to jihad and their anger over Israel’s “aggression.”

Then there is Syria. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s address Tuesday was a watershed event. After 14 years of beating around the bush, Syria finally came
clean. Peace, Assad sai, is dead. We hate Israel and we want to destroy it. If not us, then our children will destroy it. All the Arabs that want peace
with Israel are traitors. Long live Hizbullah and we’re going to war to conquer the Golan Heights as a first step towards destroying Israel.

So Syria is planning to attack us. Perhaps it will do so while Hizbullah is carrying out what Nasrallah called the “building and reconstruction jihad” where
with Iranian funding Hizbullah will rebuild Lebanon for the Lebanese and so nail one more nail in the coffin of the Lebanese nation state and move 10 steps
ahead in the Iranian colonization of Lebanon. Yes, while Hizbullah goes forward with Lebanese reconstruction, and with Iranian and Syrian assistance reequips
and upgrades its arsenal of war and rebuilds its force structure, Syria will likely open a new front on the Golan Heights.

Like the Palestinians, the Syrians will be following the Hizbullah model. Assad knows that his antiquated conventional forces are incapable of conquering
and holding the Golan Heights. But, if Israel fights Syria the same way it just fought Hizbullah, then that doesn’t matter. Syria, with its arsenal of
Scud missiles whose range covers the entire country and armed with its chemical and biological arsenals that can act in the best case as a deterrent force,
will be able to kill thousands in not tens of thousands of Israeli civilians and soldiers in the coming battle and cause property and economic damage to
the tune of tens of billions of dollars.

Syria believes that it will be able to cause sufficient damage to make Israel sue for a cease-fire as we just did with Hizbullah. So like Hizbullah, Syria
expects to gain at the UN Security Council what it could never hope to achieve on the battlefield. Specifically, given the precedent of Resolution 1701,
Syria no doubt believes that in exchange for its aggression, it will receive international recognition for its territorial demands against Israel; an international
force on the Golan Heights that will make it difficult for Israel to respond to future attacks; a major upgrade in its international profile; and billions
of dollars in international assistance to rebuild in the wake of any damage caused to Syrian infrastructures by IDF operations.

Behind the Palestinians and the Syrians lies Iran, the guiding light behind the present jihad. Iran, with its burgeoning nuclear weapons program, is the
single greatest danger to international security. It is the single greatest danger to Israel’s survival. To date, Iran has made do with fighting Israel
through its proxies, to great advantage.

But Iran has made it absolutely clear that it intends to join the fray directly – when it is good and ready. And of course it will be good and ready when
it has nuclear weapons.

If Iran is allowed to attain nuclear weapons, there is no reason to doubt that it will use them. If Iran attacks Israel with nuclear weapons, then of course
we are looking at a future war scenario involving not thousands of dead, but millions.

As all of Israel’s leaders have been quick to point out over the years, the threat of a nuclear armed Iran is not just dangerous for Israel but for the
entire world. Iran has its Persian Gulf neighbors in its gun sites. It has directly threatened the US and Europe.

Although this is true, the fact that Iran is a threat to the entire world does not give Israel the ability to shirk from its responsibility to contend directly
with Iran. Doing so would be tantamount to signing the death warrant of the Jewish people.

In the not so distant future, we will find ourselves at war with Iran. Today, the choice of whether we fight that war in our own time, and before Iran gets
nuclear weapons is in our hands. If we hesitate, if we and the rest of the free world waste precious time with worthless diplomatic wrangling with the
ayatollahs, war will come to us, but on the enemy’s terms. And we will have only ourselves to blame.
All of these future wars present us with a clear challenge as a country. We must prepare for war. This means, that technologically, we must engage in a
crash program to find means to protect our cities from missile attack. We got off relatively easy this time. Hizbullah chose not to attack our industrial
centers but showed it has the ability to do so through its missile attacks near Haifa’s port and its attacks near Hadera’s power plant.

Militarily, we must not relent in targeting our enemies. The IDF must target every Palestinian terrorist. It must reassert control over the international
border between Gaza and Egypt. Israel must accept the reality that the PA is a terrorist organization, not a legitimate regime, and stop viewing Abbas
and his associates in Fatah as potential peace partners. Obviously, Israel must give up the idea of transferring Judea and Samaria to Palestinian control
and take all necessary measures to stabilize the situation on the ground in a manner that neutralizes the threat of Palestinian jihad.

Furthermore, the war in Lebanon exposed the results of years of neglect of the IDF reserve forces. These forces must be properly equipped, properly trained
for war, and properly led. The talk of releasing men from reserve duty at 35 must be abandoned. The IDF has to accept that it is a fighting force in war.
Commanders have to stop acting like yuppies in uniform and understand that they have a war to train for and fight and win.

Finally, Israel needs a political leadership that will be capable of telling the Israeli public the truth that has been ignored for the past decade and
a half. We are not a “normal” nation and we are not going to get peace in the coming years. We are an abnormal nation in our neighborhood and in the world
and will always remain so, as is our right. Our people must be ready to sacrifice for the survival of the state and the defense of our freedom to be abnormal.
We need leadership that will tell the Israeli people that a struggle awaits us but that our democracy, our freedom, and our values give us the power of
creative thought that will allow us to beat the dull forces of jihad that surround us.

In response to Assad’s speech on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that Assad has to decide if he’s on the side of peace or on the side of war.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz outdid even that when he said that now that the war is over, it is time for Israel to get down to the real business of peace
and to set the conditions for a renewal of the peace negotiations with Syria.

In so responding to Assad’s unequivocal warmongering, our leaders again have shown us that they have learned nothing and are incapable of learning anything
from the disaster into which they led us with Hizbullah in Lebanon. There is no missile that is capable of penetrating their walls of self-deception and
delusion. They are blind and deaf to all evidence that their way of appeasement has failed.

With the Olmert government’s stubborn insistence that Israel won the war it just lost, with the General Staff’s absurd statements that the mission was successful,
it is clear that both our political and military leadership must be replaced as quickly as possible. Our enemies give us no time for hesitation. They plan
their next wars in broad daylight as our leaders squawk in the darkness of their ideological stupor.

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

***A podcast of this week’s Blogburst is now available.***

By Heidi at Euphoric Reality

There are only a few hours left to have some impact on the case of two Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, who are being sentenced tomorrow for attempting to apprehend a drug smuggler who was fleeing across the border illegally. The charges against the Border Patrol agents were serious bodily injury; assault with a deadly weapon; discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence; and a civil rights violation. Compean and Ramos also were convicted of four counts and two counts, respectively, of obstruction of justice for not reporting that their weapons had been fired. The Texas jury acquitted both men of assault with intent to commit murder, but found them guilty on all other charges. The recommended sentencing is 20 years in prison.

You can read the entire account of the case in this Daily Bulletin article written by Sara Carter, but there are a few things you need to know up front:

  • Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof, who prosecuted this travesty of justice against the two BP agents, has successfully contended that BP agents are NOT SUPPOSED to apprehend or pursue illegals.
  • “It is a violation of Border Patrol regulations to go after someone who is fleeing,” she said. “The Border Patrol pursuit policy prohibits the pursuit of someone.”

  • Two weeks after the incident, a Homeland Security agent tracked down the drug smuggler in Mexico and offered him immunity to testify against the two Texas Border Patrol agents. They found the drug smuggler based upon a tip from another BP agent in Arizona! The connection between the Arizona BP agent and the drug smuggler is murky, though the prosecutor gets upset at any one who dares to question the unsavory connection.
  • The drug smuggler was treated to free tax-payer funded medical care in El Paso in addition to his full immunity to testify against the BP agents.
  • The drug smuggler changed his story, but the fact that he lied was never disclosed to the jury.
  • According to the memo, Aldrete-Davila told investigators the agents shot him in the buttocks when he was trying to enter the country illegally from Mexico. But according to Aldrete-Davila’s later testimony and that of the agents, he was shot after trying to evade the agents upon his re-entry into Mexico.

    The memo never was disclosed to the jury.

  • The drug smuggler is now suing the Border Patrol for $5 million for violating his civil rights.
  • Also, Ramos’ extensive training and accomplishments in drug interdiction, which would be directly relevant to the actions he took during the incident with the drug smuggler, was deemed not admissible during his trial.
  • As a Border Patrol agent, Ramos has been involved in the capture of nearly 100 drug smugglers and the seizure of untold thousands of pounds of narcotics. He also was nominated for Border Patrol Agent of the Year in March 2005, though the nomination was withdrawn after details of the Aldrete-Davila incident came out.

    Ramos also had drug interdiction training from the Drug Enforcement Agency and qualified as a Task Force Officer with the Border Patrol. But Ramos’ training in narcotics — as well as the numerous credentials he had received for taking Border Patrol field training classes — was not admissible during the trial, he said.

    TJ Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, just addressed the Congressional hearings here in Houston on August 16th, where this case was of great concern among all the law enforcement officials.

    He said the Border Patrol’s official pursuit policy handcuffs agents in the field. He also sees the prosecution of Ramos and Compean as part of a larger effort by the federal government.

    “The pursuit policy has negatively affected the Border Patrol’s mission as well as public safety. Part of that mission is to stop terrorists and drug smugglers,” Bonner said. “They could be smuggling Osama bin Laden, drugs, illegal aliens, or it could have been just some drunk teenager out on a joyride. You don’t know until you stop them.”

    “The administration is trying to intimidate front-line agents from doing their job,” he added. “If they can’t do it administratively, they’ll do it with trumped-up criminal charges.

    “Moreover, the specter of improprieties in the prosecution of this case raises serious concerns that demand an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation.”

  • Ramos and Compean and their young families have been living under threats of retaliation from criminals in the drug underworld.
  • The El Paso Sheriff’s Department has met with the Ramos family to discuss continued threats against them from people they believe to be associated with Aldrete-Davila. The sheriff’s department also has increased patrols around the family’s home.

    The only other organization that has responded to the Ramoses thus far, Monica Ramos said, is the Chino-based nonprofit group Friends of the Border Patrol, chaired by Andy Ramirez.

    “This is the greatest miscarriage of justice I have ever seen,” Ramirez said. “This drug smuggler has fully contributed to the destruction of two brave agents and their families and has sent a very loud message to the other Border Patrol agents: If you confront a smuggler, this is what will happen to you.”

    This case has been virtually ignored by the press, which is why the American public only found out about it after the conviction of the two BP agents. But now that we know, we must take action. If, as TJ Bonner has said, this case is a dirty attempt by our government to intimidate law enforcement officers into leaving the borders wide open and unguarded, then the American people must speak out immediately.

    You can do so by signing a petition that will be delivered to the President – but you must do so TODAY, it’s the last day. The men will be sentenced tomorrow.

    The goal is to collect 100,000 signatures asking President Bush to pardon these two men. So far, 97,589 people have signed the petition and there is no doubt in my mind that Guard the Borders readers can fill in the remaining numbers needed. The petition, to which you may add your own comment reads as follows:

    To: President George W. Bush,

    As a citizen of the United States I am outraged to learn that two U.S. Border Agents are facing twenty-year prison terms for doing their jobs– pursuing illegal aliens who cross our border, and I’m calling on you to officially pardon them for their actions.

    I am even more outraged to learn that this illegal alien (who was attempting to smuggle about 800 pounds of marijuana into our country), was tracked down by a Department of Homeland Security Investigator and granted immunity for his testimony against these two agents!

    This is a terrible injustice, and I urge you to use your considerable authority and power to pardon these two agents and right this obvious wrong!

    In addition to rallying your friends and family to take action with you, I would also ask that you call the White House Comments line, and leave a message on behalf of these agents. White House Comments line: 202-456-6213

    Please do not hesitate to take this small action on behalf of men whose lives have been destroyed by a drug smuggler and corrupt government agents and prosecutors. It’s the very least we can do for them – I wish there was more.

    What if this was you? What will happen to these two men? What will be the fallout from such a miscarriage of justice?

    “My husband is a good man, a loving father, and his devotion to his country and his job is undeniable,” Monica Ramos said. “Prosecutors treated the drug smuggler like an innocent victim, refusing to allow testimony that would have helped my husband. The smuggler was given immunity. My husband is facing a life in prison.

    “It’s so frightening, it doesn’t seem real.”

    COUNTING THE DAYS

    About a week ago, feeling little hope, Joe Loya, Monica Ramos’ father, took the family on what will be Ignacio Ramos’ last fishing trip with his sons before he is sentenced.

    “What kind of justice is this?” Loya asked. “What kind of nation do we live in when the word of a smuggler means more than the word of a just man?”

    Monica Ramos says her hardest day is yet to come — the day the authorities take her husband away.

    “We just guard (our children’s) hearts right now,” Monica Ramos said. “I think about the last time he’ll hug them as children, and maybe not get the chance to hug them again until they are grown men.”

    The sons are between 6 and 13 years old.

    Ignacio Ramos was, if anything, even more emotional.

    “Less than a month left with my family,” he said, his voice choking, as though the air had been pulled from his lungs. “My sons,” he whispered. Then silence.

    It took several minutes for Ramos to summon more words. “All I think about at night is the day I have to leave my family. I can’t sleep. I’ve always been with them.”

    Then he talked about the memories he would never have, “their first dates, high school graduation, sports,” and the tears falling from his eyes were mirrored only by those of his wife, who took his hand into hers.

    Families destroyed. A drug smuggler on the loose to threaten the lives of others and on the scam for $5 million dollars. And a government who won’t do anything about either – unless we force it to.

    The only ones left who can help are the American people themselves. That means you.

    __________________________________________

    This has been a production of the Guard the Borders Blogburst. It is syndicated by Euphoric Reality, and serves to keep immigration issues in the forefront of our minds as we’re going about our daily lives and continuing to fight the war on terror. If you are concerned with the trend of illegal immigration in our country, join the Blogburst! Send an email with your blog name and url to euphoricrealitynet at gmail dot com.