Yom HaShoa II

Well, I’m not really in the mood to write anything about Yom Hashoa, but this was a pretty good post. The comment thread is unusually insightful, as well.

I’m not going to go back and copy-edit something I wrote a year ago, but know that when I wrote the ’27th of pesach,’ I probably meant the ’27th of Nissan.’

Here’s a “cause and effect” question for you, though: Did the Ghetto uprising allow Jews to see their own strength, and cause (or contribute to) the War of Independence? Or did half a century of Zionism give strength to the fighters, and allow them to resist the Nazis?

Talking in the Bathroom

I went to a movie last week with David (V for Vendetta. I will be blogging about it). So, we got there a little early, and we both had to go to the bathroom. Now, usually, the rule is the opposite for guys than what it is for girls. Guys go to the bathroom one at a time, and if they see someone there they know, no conversation. Two notable exceptions to this rule are yeshiva and movie theaters.

In yeshiva, the bathroom is a place to hang out. You go, you talk, you schmooze, and you don’t need to worry about Rabbis, because usually they have their own little bathrooms that they go to, or they’re like Pharaoh, and go at dawn so no-one can see them.

Movie theatres have evolved to be exceptions to the rule due to force of circumstance. You always need to go to the bathroom after a movie, and you always want to discuss the movie. So you discuss it in the bathroom. The men’s bathroom also allows us to discuss the parts of the movie that we want to discuss without the women present.

Back to our story: We were standing there, peeing (The urinal rule is well known, though often ignored by Israelis. One must always have a “buffer” urinal between yourself and any other pee-ee. Still, conversation is prohibited during actual pee-time, unless there is a partition, or three or more buffer-urinals) and talking. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I wonder how they decided on porcelain as the best material for urinals. Does it really have the best “low bounce-back,” quality?

David: I guess they just made a bunch of different urinals out of all available materials, and porcelain performed the best.

We continued on in this vein until, at some point, one of the stall doors behind us swung open, and a girl stood there in the doorway. She said, in English, “Oh my God, I am so sorry, I didn’t know this was the boy’s bathroom,” and ran out, without washing her hands.

Now, two obvious questions. One, why didn’t she just wait until we finished? Two, if she was so eager to leave, why wait until that point in the conversation?

No Really – Questionable Halachik Practices

First, a shout out to all my one-day peeps out there in chutz-la’aretz, reading this while locked away in their rooms, waiting for the chag to end for everyone else. Word.

Next, for those of you still waiting on the burning vodka burning issue (yes… that made sense), well, it burned. Not as well as I would have liked, though. The vodka didn’t catch on and burn, but it did make the cup slightly more flammable, and the whole thing went down.

Yesterday I went to the kotel. I guess that’s not so amazing in and of itself, but I walked there from giv’at masua, and then I walked back. It took an hour and a half one way, and an hour and three quarters the way back. I have blisters on my toes. All in all, it felt pretty good, though. Like I was back in the army again.

At the kotel, I saw a couple of chareidim smoking. The exception for smoking on chag is something I’ve been aware of for pretty much as long as I’ve been aware of chag itself. I can remember old men smoking outside of my shul in Brooklyn, and I was seven when we moved away from there. It still strikes me as weird, though, and somehow wrong. What is definitely wrong is what these guys were doing. I don’t know if you’ve been to the kotel recently or not, but they’ve tripled all the kotel rabbinate signs that detail what you are and are not allowed to do. You know, they say “Please respect the sanctity of this holy place by refraining from smoking, talking on cell phones, and taking pictures on the Sabbath and Holy days,” or something like that. So here were these two guys, in their full chareidi garb, smoking away, right next to the sign saying you can’t do that. To the Christian tourist from Boise, Idaho, it looks like they have no respect for the rules, so why should he refrain from talking on the phone or taking pictures?

We had the same problem in the army, with beinishim who knew halacha and broke a lot of the strict kashrut rules in the kitchen, because they knew what was real, and what was just an extra preventive rule. But then what about the Russian kitchen worker who goes out of his way to make sure everything’s kosher according to the army (even though he eats pork when he goes home), who then sees the guys he thinks he’s doing this for breaking all the same rules?

Questionable Halachik Practices

B’dkat chametz was a little… different this year. I’m the only one left in the apartment, so I did it myself. When I wanted to get started, however, I realized that I didn’t have any bread to use. So I started rummaging around looking for other types of chametz. I settled on vodka. I filled ten shot glasses with vodka, spread them around the apartment, and started searching for them with a tea lamp. As I got to each one, I spilled it out into a scrubs cup. Tomorrow I guess I’ll set the whole thing on fire. Vodka burns, right? Maybe I’ll have to soak a rag in it or something. Or set the cup itself on fire. I’ll let you (all five of my loyal readers) know. Happy and Kosher Pesach.

Miami-Dade, Galil

Apparently, some of the elderly Galili Arabs were confused by the “butterfly ballot.” Labor loses a seat, and the Arabs go up by one. Votes for one of the Arab parties were mistakenly counted for Pat Buchanan. I’m not sure if this is good for the Jews or bad for the Jews. Good, because this means that the dreaded Kadima – Labor – Meretz – Gil coalition can’t happen. Bad, because really, who wants another Arab in the Knesset? That can’t be a good thing. Like J.D., I’ll wait and see.

Coalition Predictions

Election predictions are stupid. It’s impossible to know who’s going to win because the polls are not to be trusted (obviously) and until voting day, you can’t ask every single voter who they want.

What you can do, after the elections, is make coalition predictions. The Knesset has 120 seats, and they have all been divvied up, based on Tuesday’s outcome. The prime minister (presumably Olmert, but actually anyone who is able to pull it off) is the leader of the party that can put together a 61 seat government.

Possibility number one: Kadima, Labor, Meretz, and Gil for 61 seats.

This is the one we were all scared of before the election. Kadima goes left for support for its disengagement agenda. Labor gets onboard in exchange for the Treasury, Gil gets on board in exchange for a new ministry, “Old People rights,” or whatever. Meretz probably takes Justice.

The problem with this is threefold; Olmert wants a center coalition, without being the rightmost party. He probably doesn’t want Meretz anywhere near him, for fear of driving away the base he stole from the Likud. He really doesn’t want Peretz at the helm of the Treasury. Also, this is the weakest coalition possible. Any one of the three partners could topple it. He’ll only fall back on this option if all else fails.

Possibility number two: Kadima, Shas, Israel Beitenu, UTJ, and Gil for 65 seats.

This one is tempered a bit to the right. Olmert appeals to the right-leaning parties that have shown possibilities for compromise. Gil’s votes are available for hire, as they’ve made clear, and Shas and UTJ are open to bribes in the form of child allowances and yeshiva budgets (I know it doesn’t sound so sinister, but it is). Leiberman at Israel Beitenu is the wild card here. Olmert would have to significantly change his plans for disengagements to appease him, but it would still take place. Leiberman would benefit greatly by being in the government, establishing his party as a force to be reckoned with, and possibly taking the place of the Likud in the next election. Shas gets education, Israel Beitenu gets foreign ministry or finance, UTJ gets justice. Gil gets their social service agenda. I would very much like to see this happen, but I don’t give it much hope.

Possibility number three: Likud, Shas, Israel Beitenu, UTJ, NRP/NU, Gil, and three defectors from Kadima for 61 seats.

Not going to happen. Stop praying.

Possibility number four: Kadima, Labor, Shas, UTJ and Gil for 74 seats.

This is most likely to happen. Olmert gets his way in disengagements, but has to compromise on social and economic issues. He increases taxes to support the unemployed (for Labor), the old (for Gil), the kollels (for UTJ), and the superstitious (for Shas). The great benefit of this is that aside from the major partner (Labor), Olmert can piss off any one of the three minor partners, watch them leave the government, and still keep things stable.

My prediction: new elections in 18 months.