Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

November 28, 2008

We’re all Chabadniks now

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:53 pm

Ron Coleman: “We’re all Chabadniks now.”

Even in India, which has had small Jewish communities for centuries and little history of antisemitism, it is possible to be killed for no other “crime” than being Jewish.

Not by Hindus of course — by Muslims.

August 22, 2008

Will birthday parties be legalized in Saudi Arabia?

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:00 am

Not yet, apparently:

Celebrating anniversaries, birthdays or mother’s day is against Muslim ‘righteousness’, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric has said, quashing suggestions by a colleague that Islam permits personal celebrations.

(Hat tip: Joe Malchow of Dartblog)

August 21, 2008

A Secular Israeli Encounters China

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:52 pm

Anyone who is aware of, and interested in, the divide between secular and religious Jews in Israel, should find this worth reading:

Thank God we’re Jewish

Adi Dvir says her time in China changed her perception regarding Israel’s Jewish identity

Adi Dvir

As I have never been religious, and have always supported the separation of religion and state, I always wondered what it would be like to live in a land with no religious tendencies whatsoever. In my mind, such land had all the makings of a utopia: There would be no religious fanatics dressed in 19th century garb, no holy wars, and gender equality would reign supreme.

This utopian dream was shattered, however, after I recently had the opportunity to live in such country: China. I soon found myself thanking God we have religion in Israel.

Click here to read the rest!

March 6, 2008

“15-, 16-year-old guys lying on the floor with their Bibles in their hands, all dead on the floor”

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:33 pm

From the BBC:

Eight people have been killed an nine wounded by a Palestinian gunman who infiltrated a Jewish seminary in West [sic] Jerusalem, Israeli officials say [sic].

The Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, praised the attack, calling it “heroic”, but did not claim responsibility. There was also celebratory gunfire in Gaza.

In the world of diplomacy, this is called the “peace process.”

The Jerusalem Post has more details, and some background on the seminary, Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav.

Arutz-7 has more, and provocative pictures.

From the Jewish point of view, this is the equivalent of someone shooting up the library at Princeton University, killing many students, and being praised for it.

Beyond that insufficient statement, words fail me.

One term you will not hear from the diplomatic community, politicians, or the mainstream media: “hate crime.”

February 15, 2008

Before Hitler, There Were…

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:00 am

The Crusades, and Chmielnicki. Rabbi Yonason Goldson writes in “This Week in Jewish History”:

n 1096, a mere three months into the First Crusade, the ragtag army of Urban II obliterated Jewish communities up and down Germany’s Rhine River, communities guilty of nothing other than lying in the path of Crusaders who sought distraction from the tedium of the road. Two centuries of Crusading, undertaken to free the Holy Land from heretical Moslems, inflicted a steady fallout of collateral damage upon Jews from Paris to Jerusalem.

In the 14th Century, the Black Plague that wiped out over a third of Europe struck Jews less than half as often as gentiles, ostensibly because of Jewish dietary standards and hygiene. Knowing nothing of germ theory, however, superstitious Europeans assumed that the Jews had poisoned or cursed their well water and responded, predictably, with violence. Blood libels, pogroms, and expulsions left tens of thousands of Jews dead, with the survivors emotionally and spiritually traumatized.

In 1648, a leader rose up among the Cossacks in the person of Bogdan Chmielnicki, who unified a band of former serfs, robbers, and escaped criminals into a devastating military force. Assuming the title of Hetman, or Captain, Chmielnicki allied himself with his former adversaries, the Tartars, then launched a revolt against the Polish nobility, routing 8000 soldiers of the Polish army.

A wave of massacres broke across Poland as the Cossacks drove the uprising from town to town and subjected their victims to almost unimaginable brutality. The historian Nathan Nata Hanover in Yeven Metzula records: “Some were skinned alive and their flesh thrown to the dogs. The hands and feet of others were chopped off and their bodies flung into he roadway where wagons ran them over and they were trampled by horses… Children were slaughtered at their mothers’ breasts, and they were sliced open like fish… no form of unnatural death in the world was not inflicted upon them.” And although Jews were the primary target of violence, the rebels ravaged and beheaded Roman Catholic clergy, while churches were pillaged and set aflame.

In what has become known as the Gezeiras Tach V’Tat (the evil decree of the Jewish years 5408 — 5409, but which continued for an additional three years), an estimated hundred thousand Jews lost their lives, and hundreds of communities disappeared. But amidst the long travail of savagery, one day stands outs beyond all the rest.

On the twentieth day of the month of Sivan, 1649, the rebels fell upon the Polish town of Nemirov. In a single day, Chmielnicki’s Cossacks slaughtered 6000 Jews until the Bug River turned red with Jewish blood. The following year, the Council of the Four Lands, an autonomous Jewish governmental body over Eastern Europe, established the date as a day of fasting and lamentation. In some communities, the mournful Selichos prayers are still recited in commemoration of the massacres.

And Chmielnicki is, to this day, considered a national hero of the Ukraine. There is a memorial with a big statute of him in Kiev.

December 4, 2007

Jew Against Channukah

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:08 pm

Some Jews — in Israel, no less — are now against Channukah. On the grounds of … Global Warming!

In a campaign that has spread like wildfire across the Internet, a group of Israeli environmentalists is encouraging Jews around the world to light at least one less candle this Hanukka to help the environment.

The founders of the Green Hanukkia campaign found that every candle that burns completely produces 15 grams of carbon dioxide. If an estimated one million Israeli households light for eight days, they said, it would do significant damage to the atmosphere.

“The campaign calls for Jews around the world to save the last candle and save the planet, so we won’t need another miracle,” said Liad Ortar, the campaign’s cofounder, who runs the Arkada environmental consulting firm and the Ynet Web site’s environmental forum. “Global warming is a milestone in human evolution that requires us to rethink how we live our lives, and one of the main paradigms of that is religion and how it fits into the current situation.”

United Torah Judaism MK Avraham Ravitz called the environmentalists “crazy people who are playing with the minds of innocent Jewish people.” He said the campaign would only convince people who do not light candles anyway.

“They should encourage people to light one less cigarette instead,” Ravitz said.

But if they do that, they’ll only make people live longer, and produce more carbon emmissions!

November 21, 2007

Gang Rape Victim Sentenced to 200 Lashes

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:30 am

No, you didn’t read that wrong. A 19-year-old woman was sentenced to 90 lashes of the whip for the “crime” of being raped by seven men. When the appeals court reviewed the case they increased the sentence to 200 lashes! At the same time, they decreased the sentence given to the seven rapists.

As Dave Barry might say, I am not making this up:

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia defended on Tuesday a court’s decision to sentence a woman who was gang-raped to 200 lashes of the whip, after the United States described the verdict as “astonishing”.

The 19-year-old Shi’ite woman from the town of Qatif in the Eastern Province and an unrelated male companion were abducted and raped by seven men in 2006.

Ruling according to Saudi Arabia’s strict reading of Islamic law, a court had originally sentenced the woman to 90 lashes and the rapists to jail terms of between 10 months and five years. It blamed the woman for being alone with an unrelated man.

Last week the Supreme Judicial Council increased the sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison and ordered the rapists to serve between two and nine years in jail.

It gets worse: They disciplined the woman’s defense lawyer for publicizing the sentence:

The court also took the unusual step of initiating disciplinary procedures against her lawyer, Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, forcibly removing him from the case for having talked about it to the media.

“The Ministry of Justice welcomes constructive criticism … The system allows appeals without resort to the media,” said Tuesday’s statement issued on the official news agency SPA.

Now you would think that if they were really interesA State Department spokesman told reporters on Monday that “most (people) would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happens”.ted in deterring “crime” they would want sentences to be publicized — to discourage other “offenders.” (As if women need to be discouraged from becoming rape victims…)

It [the official news agency SPA] berated media for not specifying that three judges, not one, issued the recent ruling and reiterated that the “charges were proven” against the woman.

Right, so there are three judges who think victims should be whipped, not one. That’s supposed to make it better?

It also repeated the judges’ attack against Lahem last week, saying he had “spoken insolently about the judicial system and challenged laws and regulations”.

In other words, this was no rougue court. The government approves of this decision.

The Bush Administration’s reaction?

A State Department spokesman told reporters on Monday that “most (people) would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happens”.

Maybe that’s because “most people” think Islam is a “Religion of Peace.”

(UPDATE: More on the U.S. reaction here.)

November 19, 2007

Praying for a livelihood, or “The Spirituality of Retail”

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:35 pm

The traditional Jewish prayers recited daily include a couple of prayers for a livelihood. This sounds reasonable — after all, if you don’t at least have food and shelter, you can’t do much of anything spiritual or helpful. But modern life has a way of making daily prayers for this sort of thing seem kind of anachronistic. I mean, in a society in which most people are farmers or merchants, it makes sense — every day can bring good or bad weather, many or few customers, and so on. Even if you are generally successful, you never know whether you’ll make money or lose it on a given day.

Yet, nowadays most people work in jobs with fixed hours and fixed paychecks — I get paid the same amount every two weeks, regardless of how the week goes. Sure, in the long run people get laid off or fired, employers go our of business, raises are given (and could be high or low), and so on — but a typical person does not experience these events on a daily bases. Most employers give raises no more than once a year or less, and even most people who get laid off experience this no more than a few times per lifetime, not every day.

Still, there are a few professions in which one’s income is subject to day-to-day fluctuations in factors that appear beyond one’s (apparent) control, as Rabbi Yaakov Salomon noticed, in “The Spirituality of Retail”:

Want to feel God’s loving involvement in your every day life?

Open a store.

That’s right. One of the most spiritual things you can ever do with your life is to go into retail.

I went to school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In the late 60′s and early 70′s …

But my favorite location was actually a rather obscure street — Allen Street. It was known for only one commodity — neckties.

Now I was no tie freak when I was a teenager. So what drew me to that unsung boulevard? It wasn’t the ties at all.

I never actually counted, but there must have been 20 little shops on Allen Street, and all of them sold neckties. All of them! I kid you not. Not only that, they all sold the SAME neckties! Same colors, styles, fabrics, patterns — and all for pretty much the same price.

I remember times when I would walk over to Allen Street from my high school and just stand on the sidewalk and watch, as people sauntered by the shops and occasionally entered and made a purchase. I would wonder to myself, “What made someone choose to walk into one store rather than another?”

There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for it, since they were all pretty much the same. When it dawned upon me that perhaps the ‘x’ factor was the service people received, I personally visited some of these establishments and found no perceivable difference from one store to another — same grouchy and grumpy reception.

That’s when I felt a Heavenly Presence. Who else could be guiding those tie-less customers into each store? Although we all possess free will and each customer did indeed choose the store he wanted to patronize, there seemed to be no compelling reason to select one store over another! To me, the only plausible explanation was that they were being personally herded by the Almighty’s invisible hand.

So anytime I needed a spiritual lift, I just zipped up my parka, headed over to Allen Street, found a good spot, and waited. Invariably, I saw God quietly at work.

September 29, 2006

Finding God in the Genome

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:00 am

The book I mentioned here should be available by now.

September 17, 2006

In Memoriam, Oriana Fallaci

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:15 pm

Oriana Fallaci, arguably the greatest journalist of the century (this one, and the last one), passed away on Friday in her native Florence. She was 77, and had been fighting cancer for 14 years.

She had spend most of the last decade or two in New York, especially in the last year and a half — since she was facing charges in Italy for what she wrote in her last book.

Fallaci lived a fascinating life, and her biography reads like a history of the world from the time she was born. She joined the Italian anti-fascist resistance with her father at the age of 10. After Italy was captured by the Allies and switched sides, her father was tortured by the Nazis but released alive; Oriana was honorably discharged from the Italian Army at the age of 14. She started writing at age 15, and became a reporter in Florence at age 16, while attending the University of Florence. She was originally a Leftist, but was open to changing her mind based on what she saw — and as such, she necessarily abandoned the Left repeatedly on issues she covered in depth, from Vietnam to Iran to the Middle East to the War on Terror — which she never hestited to call Islamic terror. She was an avowed atheist who had a strong admiration for Pope Benedict XVI, and in fact was one of the first people invited to meet with him after he became Pope. (And she will be buried at an Evalgelical cemetary.)

The Left, of course, called her a fascist. Never mind the fact that she started off in life fighting the real fascists.

Tributes are pouring in from such diverse quarters as Daniel Pipes, Tammy Bruce, Victor Davis Hanson, The Anchoress, Rusty Shackleford, and many others.

Formal obituaries are from the New York Post, Times [of London], the Basque news channel EiTB,

Her manifesto against antisemitism is worth rereading. As is her interview with an Iraqi soldier in Saddam’s army.

One Arab’s Apology

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:43 am

Emilio Karim Dabul writes in the New York Post:

September 12, 2006 – WELL, here it is, five years late, but here just the same: an apology from an Arab-American for 9/11. No, I didn’t help organize the killers or contribute in any way to their terrible cause. However, I was one of millions of Arab-Americans who did the unspeakable on 9/11: nothing.

The only time I raised my voice in protest against these men who killed thousands of innocents in the name of Allah was behind closed doors, among the safety of friends and family. I did at one point write a very vitriolic essay condemning their actions, but fear of becoming another Salman Rushdie kept me from ever trying to publish it.

Those of us who wondered why all those “religion of peace” Muslims didn’t speak out — well, here’s our answer: The are afraid of all those non-peaceful Muslims, just as we are. The difference is, they acknowledge that there actually are non-peaceful Muslims.

Well, I’m sick of saying the truth only in private – that Arabs around the world, including Arab-Americans like myself, need to start holding our own culture accountable for the insane,
violent actions that our extremists have perpetrated on the world at large.

Yes, our extremists and our culture.

Every single 9/11 hijacker was Arab and a Muslim. The apologists (including President Bush) tried to reassure us that 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam, but was a twisting of a great and noble religion. With all due respect, read the Koran, Mr. President. There’s enough there for someone of extreme tendencies to find their way to a global jihad.

I’ve always thought there was something quite odd about President Bush’s protestations that Islam was a “relgion of peace” and the the 9/11 hijackers had distorted “a great religion.” Obviously, President Bush meant to say merely that he wasn’t going to war against Muslims as such, just against terrorists and murderers who in this particular case happen to be Muslims. But the way he said it — declaring plainly what Islam is (“a religion of peace”) and which strain of it is legitimate Islam (the peaceful one) — it seems like he is presenting himself as some sort of authority on Islam; perhaps even one who can speak for Islam. Clearly, he is neither. Bush is a Methodist, not a Muslim — and I imagine he wouldn’t appreciate Osama Bin Ladin telling him what true Methodism is any more than Osama appreciated Bush telling him what true Islam is. The question of whether Islam is a “religion of peace” or a religion of constant armed jihad against non-Muslims is a question that has to be resolved by Muslims, not Methodists (or Baptists or Jews or Catholics or secular humanists…). As Dabul puts it,

The men who killed 3,000 of our citizens on 9/11 in all likelihood died saying prayers to Allah, and that by itself is one of the most horrific things to me about that day.

And, while my grandparents never waged a jihad, their attitudes toward Jews weren’t that much different than Mohammed Atta’s. No, they didn’t support the Holocaust, but they did believe that Jews were trouble in many different ways, and those sorts of beliefs were passed on to me before I’d ever actually met a Jew.

I’m sorry for that, for ever believing that anything that my grandparents or other relatives had to say about Jews or Israel, for that matter, had any real resemblance to truth. It took me years to realize that I’d been conned into believing the generalizations and stereotypes that millions around the Arab world buy into: that Jews, America and Israel are our main problem.

One look at the average Arab regime should alert us to the fact that the problem, dear Achmed, lies not overseas or next door in Tel Aviv, but in the brutal, corrupt despots that we have bred from country to country in the Mideast, across the span of history. …

Five years after that awful day, it’s time for all Arab-Americans, and Arabs around the world, to protest against Islamic fascism, to raise our voices – and, where necessary, our arms – against these tyrants until their plague of terror has been driven from the face of the earth forever.

September 11, 2006

This is BIG News

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

One of the original — and I mean original — al-Qaeda-style Islamofascists was captured today in eastern Afghanistan. This is none other than the unlamentable (and unpronounceable) terrorist leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. I remember Hekmatyar from the 1980s when the U.S. was aiding anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan, and Hekmatyar was sort-of on our side in the sense that he was against the Soviets, but was deemed insufficiently trustworthy to receive U.S. support, since he seemed to spend as much time fighting other anti-Soviet allies as fighting the Soviets. When the (Islamic) mujahideen finally drove the Soviets out, Hekmatyar refused a place in the coalition government, claiming it was “un-Islamic” — and continued the war, shifting effortlessly from shooting rockets into Kabul to fight the Soviets, to shooting rockets into Kabul to fight the “un-Islamic” Islamic government. His nemesis was Ahmad Shah Masoud, “The Lion of Panjshir,” the very Islamic, and very pro-Western leader of the anti-Soviet resistance and then the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, better known as the Northern Alliance. Masoud was assassinated on September 9, 2001 — which, as you can see by subtraction, was two days before September 11, 2001. It’s never been entirely clear whether Masoud’s assassination was ordered by Osama bin Laden or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — it’s believable either way.

As for Hekmatyar, he is the sort of guy who thought the Taliban were not “Islamic” enough — meaning, not violent enough against non-Muslims and not-his-type-of-Muslim. The funny part — if you can call it that — is that according to this biography written in 1997, Hekmatyar was originally a Communist. When he became disillusioned with Communism and fell under the influence of the writings of Sayd Qutb, he traded one form of absolute evil in for another.

And, today — five years to the day after the attack on the United States — this advocate of “martyrdom” to the cause of Islam, surrendered without a fight. Glenn Reynolds quotes Bill Roggio:

On the day of the fifth anniversary of the 9-11 attack, Coalition forces score a high value target in Afghanistan. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the commander of Hezb-i-Islami and ally of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, has been captured during a joint U.S. and Afghan Army raid in “eastern Afghanistan.” Hekmatyar, contrary to his rhetoric gave up to the Coalition forces without a fight. Hekmatyar’s arrest is said to be part of an ‘ongoing operation.’

Hekmatyar has been designated by the U.S. Department of State as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist“ and “has participated in and supported terrorist acts committed by al-Qa’ida and the Taliban.”

I’ve been waiting for 20 years for Hekmatyar to be taken out of action The first 15 of which were spent waiting for the West to decide he ought to be taken out of action.

As an aside, here’s my media prediction: This will get practically no play in the mainstream media. My subsidiary prediction is that if If I’m wrong about that and it does get significant play, half that play will consist of Democrat politicians and strategists and commentators explaining how unimportant it is.

It’s about as unimportant as capturing bin Laden.

August 23, 2006

Why Aren’t Jews Rioting?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:50 pm

Six months ago, Muslims the world over rioted over the publication of some anti-Muslim cartoons in a Danish newspaper.

Now, a reader wrote to me to point out that Iran has set up an entire museum exhibit of anti-Jewish Holocaust cartoons:

Organisers of Iran’s International Holocaust Cartoon’s Contest said the museum exhibit, which has drawn more than 200 entries, aims to challenge Western taboos about the discussing the Holocaust.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has drawn international condemnation for dismissing the Holocaust as a “myth”. Nazi Germany killed six million European Jews in World War Two.

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction.

Iran’s best-selling newspaper, Hamshahri, launched a competition in February for the best cartoon about the Holocaust in retaliation for the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Danish and other European newspapers.

Notice that Jews are not rioting about this. We are not even rioting “in retaliation” for the Muslim riots before.

In fact, the most strident reaction has been a strong statement by Abraham Foxman of the ADL, who is basically paid to fight antisemitism wherever he can find it.

The Iranian sponsorship and exhibition of a cartoon contest on the Holocaust is outrageous, hateful and cynical.

One should ask two questions: Why is the outrage in the Muslim world to the cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed directed against Jews, who were not responsible for the Danish cartoons? Why, if, as President Ahmadinejad says, the Holocaust is a myth, call for a cartoon contest to deride it?

The questions are easily answered in the fact of the constant drumbeat of anti-Semitism and demonization of Jews and Israel emanating from the Arab/Muslim world, through their media and through leaders such as Ahmadinejad. Everyday, in much of the Arab/Muslim world anti-Semitic and other hateful material is produced for mass consumption.

Denying the Holocaust and deriding the Holocaust are two sides of the same coin and must be denounced by the international community as classical anti-Semitism.

I’m not holding my breath. But perhaps it’s worth pointing out that not all religions are equally tolerant.

August 21, 2006

The Banality of Evil

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:22 pm

With apologies to Hannah Arendt, here’s this telling quote from a panel discussion on antisemitism:

Ella Ringens-Reiner:“Those who actively approved of the mass murder — were people who conformed to the common picture of the SS men. They were sadists, the brutal criminals, organized, legalized, and dressed in uniform.”

“Worse, because more dangerous, were the people in their everyday life, and frequently, in their dealings with prisoners, were quite kindly, looked normal, and behaved like any other average citizen — and who were pleased with the mass murder, without any deeper emotion, simply because it was an opportunity for getting a pigskin bag or gold watch which they could never have afforded to buy. Among them were people little concerned with National Socialism … and yet belonging to it heart and soul — indeed, with fanaticism — out of their joy at the annihilation of the Jews.

“They were drab little people who would never have been conspicuous if no occasion for extraordinary behavior had not offered to them. … In normal living conditions they would have had their coating of civilization, and their coating would not even have been so very thin. Under the impact of steadily repeated slogans … they shook off their coating as if with a jerk, with a certain violence. And then part of their being was unleashed and began to rage.”

“Months after leaving the concentration camp I talked with a young National Socialist woman who, in the official classification, had not been a ‘bad’ Nazi, had never been in a position of power or personal profit, and in private life was a quiet, modest, friendly person. I hoped to move her by my story of Auschwitz camp, and finished by saying that no people had ever inflicted so much evil on another group as the German nation on the Jews. In reply she asked me blithely, ‘Why? Is gassing such a disagreeable death?’”

As it turns out the Muslims esteem the Europeans for the very accomplishment the Europeans would rather not boast about in broad daylight, that is, the Holocaust. When the Malaysian prime minister spoke to the Muslim heads of state last year he drew a standing ovation when he proclaimed that the Europeans murdered six million Jews and you too can achieve success if you improve your education standards.

This is another nugget of data for my theory: In most situations, most people just “go with the flow.” Some people are independent thinkers, and a few people are leaders — but most people will just go along with the crowd, doing great good, or great evil, or in between, depending on what’s going on around them.

Which is one reason why it’s very important to pick good leaders, and to establish and support a culture that makes good behavior fashionable.

July 30, 2006

Muslim Attacks Jews in Seattle; 1 Killed, 5 Wounded

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:54 am

I don’t know why this isn’t getting more attention. A Muslim attacked a Jewsh Federation building in Seattle, killing a one women and wounding five others. The Seattle Times is reporting it, but for them it’s a local story.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

“Once inside he immediately started firing”

The gunman who forced his way into the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on Friday afternoon put a gun at the back of a 13-year-old girl to gain entry to the building, police said this afternoon.

The man who described himself as a Muslim American angry with Israel then opened fire with two handguns, killing one woman and wounding five others before surrendering to police.

The dead woman was identified this morning as Pamela Waechter, 58.

“Once inside he immediately started firing at people.”

He rattled off anti-Israel slurs and commanded people not to dial 911. But shooting victim Dayna Klein, who is 17 weeks pregnant, ignored him. Her actions convinced Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske to call her a hero.

Seconds after being shot in the arm, she crawled across the floor toward a phone and called for help.

Within minutes police were at the building and the Everett man put down his two semi-automatic handguns and surrendered.

In a bail hearing this afternoon, King County District Court Judge Barbara Linde set bail at $50 million and found probable cause that Haq could face one charge of first-degree murder and five charges of attempted-murder.

Prosecutors will meet next week to decide whether they’ll pursue the death penalty, said spokesman Dan Donohoe. [Will they have candlelight vigils if he's executed? --DR]

Three of the victims underwent surgery Friday night. They are Layla Bush, 23, of Seattle; Christina Rexroad, 29, of Everett; and Cheryl Stumbo, 43, of Seattle. They are in the Intensive Care Unit, said Pamela Steele, hospital spokeswoman.

The two other victims, Dayna Klein, 37, of Seattle, and Carol Goldman, 35, of Seattle, remain in satisfactory condition.

Waechter grew up in Minneapolis, Minn., as a Lutheran, the daughter of a businessman. She converted to Judaism after marrying Bill Waechter, an airline pilot, and the couple moved to Seattle in 1979. After raising their two children, Waechter became a student at the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in nutrition.

She became much more active in the Jewish community than her husband, Bill Waechter, from whom she is now divorced. She worked at Jewish Family Service and later at the Jewish Federation, where she did outreach and fundraising. She rose from secretary to two-term president at Temple B’nai Torah.

The shooting came a day after the FBI had warned Jewish organizations nationwide to be on alert after Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon and al-Qaida’s second in command urged that the war raging in the Middle East be carried to the U.S. However, the law-enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there is no evidence that Haq was involved with any group. [Yet. --DR]

“He said he hates Israel,” said the source, who is part of the Seattle Joint Terrorism Task Force, which was called in to help investigate the shootings.

David Gomez, the assistant special agent-in-charge of the Seattle FBI office, said there is “nothing to indicate he is part of a larger organization.” [Yet. --DR]

“We believe he is a lone individual with antagonism toward this organization,” said Gomez.

Amy Wasser-Simpson, the vice president for planning and community services for the Jewish Federation, said the man announced “I’m a Muslim American; I’m angry at Israel,” then began shooting. Wasser-Simpson said she heard the account from staff members who witnessed the shootings.

His 1994 yearbook photograph from Richland High School showed a smiling Haq with the words “Peace Be Unto You.”

An obituary of Pamela Waechter is here.

Dave at American Thinker has some snarky thoughts about the role of the Seattle Times.

June 15, 2006

Before Hitler, There Were…

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:00 pm

The Crusades, and Chmielnicki. Rabbi Yonason Goldson writes in “This Week in Jewish History”:

In 1096, a mere three months into the First Crusade, the ragtag army of Urban II obliterated Jewish communities up and down Germany’s Rhine River, communities guilty of nothing other than lying in the path of Crusaders who sought distraction from the tedium of the road. Two centuries of Crusading, undertaken to free the Holy Land from heretical Moslems, inflicted a steady fallout of collateral damage upon Jews from Paris to Jerusalem.

In the 14th Century, the Black Plague that wiped out over a third of Europe struck Jews less than half as often as gentiles, ostensibly because of Jewish dietary standards and hygiene. Knowing nothing of germ theory, however, superstitious Europeans assumed that the Jews had poisoned or cursed their well water and responded, predictably, with violence. Blood libels, pogroms, and expulsions left tens of thousands of Jews dead, with the survivors emotionally and spiritually traumatized.

In 1648, a leader rose up among the Cossacks in the person of Bogdan Chmielnicki, who unified a band of former serfs, robbers, and escaped criminals into a devastating military force. Assuming the title of Hetman, or Captain, Chmielnicki allied himself with his former adversaries, the Tartars, then launched a revolt against the Polish nobility, routing 8000 soldiers of the Polish army.

A wave of massacres broke across Poland as the Cossacks drove the uprising from town to town and subjected their victims to almost unimaginable brutality. The historian Nathan Nata Hanover in Yeven Metzula records: “Some were skinned alive and their flesh thrown to the dogs. The hands and feet of others were chopped off and their bodies flung into he roadway where wagons ran them over and they were trampled by horses… Children were slaughtered at their mothers’ breasts, and they were sliced open like fish… no form of unnatural death in the world was not inflicted upon them.” And although Jews were the primary target of violence, the rebels ravaged and beheaded Roman Catholic clergy, while churches were pillaged and set aflame.

In what has become known as the Gezeiras Tach V’Tat (the evil decree of the Jewish years 5408 — 5409, but which continued for an additional three years), an estimated hundred thousand Jews lost their lives, and hundreds of communities disappeared. But amidst the long travail of savagery, one day stands outs beyond all the rest.

On the twentieth day of the month of Sivan, 1649, the rebels fell upon the Polish town of Nemirov. In a single day, Chmielnicki’s Cossacks slaughtered 6000 Jews until the Bug River turned red with Jewish blood. The following year, the Council of the Four Lands, an autonomous Jewish governmental body over Eastern Europe, established the date as a day of fasting and lamentation. In some communities, the mournful Selichos prayers are still recited in commemoration of the massacres.

And Chmielnicki is, to this day, considered a national hero of the Ukraine. There is a memorial with a big statute of him in Kiev.

Reconstructing Maimonides

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:40 am

… As literally as possible. A reader alerts me to this story:

British university to reassemble crumbled works of medieval Jewish scholar

Tue Jun 13, 01:02 PM EST

LONDON (AP) – Scientists at a British university hope to use digital technology in reassembling some 300,000 tiny fragments of an 800-year-old Jewish philosopher’s oeuvre.

The University of Manchester’s Centre for Jewish Studies is reassembling the life works of Moses Maimonides, a scholar and writer whose findings were hugely influential on modern Judaic thought.

Maimonides worked as a physician, lawyer and scientist in the Middle Ages, project leader Philip Alexander said. His writings were obtained from a medieval document storeroom – called a “genizah” – discovered in a Cairo synagogue.

Documents gleaned from the Cairo genizah, both by Maimonides and other Jewish scholars, are in repositories all over the world, said Stella Butler, head of special collections at Manchester’s John Rylands University Library. More than 10,000 pieces from the ancient manuscripts are in the Manchester library.

“Internet technology means we can collaborate with colleagues around the world to solve some of the puzzles contained in the genizah collections,” Butler said.

“We hope to link together fragments from our collections with those held in other libraries, and so achieve greater understanding of the genizah as a whole,” she said.

The grant money will enable the centre to buy a special camera to take digital images of the fragments.

“Until we got image technology, it was very difficult for people across the world, if they’ve got one bit of a document, to know if another fits,” Butler said.

I can’t help but imagine that Maimonides (often known among Jews by the Hebrew acronym for his name, which is pronounced “Rambam”) would have really loved the internet. He corresponded with people all over the world, which took quite a lot of doing 800 years ago. (He would have loved weather satellites even more, since his brother died when his ship went down in a storm — taking the family fortune with it.)

By the way, this story is also a reminder of the bad new for people who shred their confidential documents. If computers can scan the decayed fragments of an 800-year-old handwritten document and reconstruct it, imagine what they can do with a document that’s printed in a stable font and “shredded” into pieces with nice, straight-line edges. Someone who is willing to spend the money can get the document reconstructed.

June 14, 2006

Finding God in the Genome

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:00 am

Lots of people say that religion and science are in conflict. Many say that science proves that religion is wrong, or that God does not exist. Many also say that religious beliefs are an impediment to scientific understanding.

I’ve never understood any of those claims. I found studying chemistry and physics in high school and college to be a window into the profound wisdom that went into creating the universe. And I fail to see how anyone encountering Euler’s formula fails to see something beyond human construction

And now, one of the world’s top biologists — Francis Collins, one of the mappers of the human genome — has put this all together in a new book. The Sunday Times [of London] reports:


The scientist who led the team that cracked the human genome is to publish a book explaining why he now believes in the existence of God and is convinced that miracles are real.

Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, claims there is a rational basis for a creator and that scientific discoveries bring man “closer to God”.

His book, The Language of God, to be published in September, will reopen the age-old debate about the relationship between science and faith. “One of the great tragedies of our time is this impression that has been created that science and religion have to be at war,” said Collins, 56.

“I don’t see that as necessary at all and I think it is deeply disappointing that the shrill voices that occupy the extremes of this spectrum have dominated the stage for the past 20 years.”

For Collins, unravelling the human genome did not create a conflict in his mind. Instead, it allowed him to “glimpse at the workings of God.”

“When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration because you have been on this search and seem to have found it,” he said. “But it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but God knew all along.”

“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”

Collins joins a line of scientists whose research deepened their belief in God. Isaac Newton, whose discovery of the laws of gravity reshaped our understanding of the universe, said: “This most beautiful system could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.”

Although Einstein revolutionised our thinking about time, gravity and the conversion of matter to energy, he believed the universe had a creator. “I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details,” he said. However Galileo was famously questioned by the inquisition and put on trial in 1633 for the “heresy” of claiming that the earth moved around the sun. [Though Galileo didn't actually question the existence of God, nor the fact that he created the universe. --DR]

Collins even takes on evolution, making an argument I’ve been making for over two decades::

“I see God’s hand at work through the mechanism of evolution. If God chose to create human beings in his image and decided that the mechanism of evolution was an elegant way to accomplish that goal, who are we to say that is not the way,” he says.

And it’s not like Collins is trying to justify what he was taught in childhood:

Collins was an atheist until the age of 27, when as a young doctor he was impressed by the strength that faith gave to some of his most critical patients.

“They had terrible diseases from which they were probably not going to escape, and yet instead of railing at God they seemed to lean on their faith as a source of great comfort and reassurance,” he said. “That was interesting, puzzling and unsettling.”

He decided to visit a Methodist minister and was given a copy of C S Lewis’s Mere Christianity, which argues that God is a rational possibility. The book transformed his life. “It was an argument I was not prepared to hear,” he said. “I was very happy with the idea that God didn’t exist, and had no interest in me. And yet at the same time, I could not turn away.”

His epiphany came when he went hiking through the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. He said: “It was a beautiful afternoon and suddenly the remarkable beauty of creation around me was so overwhelming, I felt, ‘I cannot resist this another moment’.”

I’ve been hiking in mountains — and I can totally believe that.

(Hat tip: Clayton Cramer.)

June 6, 2006

The Ice Cream Store in Hell

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:32 pm

The ice cream store in Hell is owned by John Colone, and is hosting a big party today because today’s date, June 6, 2006, can be written as “6-6-6.” The store is selling ice cream cones all day Tuesday for 66 cents, and

[S]ome of his neighbors will offer similar specials. Hell Creek Ranch, 10866 Cedar Lake Road in Putnam Township, for example, will offer $6.66 grounds, kayaking and canoeing rates. Colone’s business neighbor, Hell Country Store & Spirits, will offer $6.66 large pizzas, and the nearby Dam Site Inn will offer meals for $6.66.

I should probably add that this is all taking place in Hell, Michigan, which is a small town about 60 miles west of Detroit. Details are here and here.

Apparently, the origins of the name are shrouded in mystery:

Theory One goes like this: A pair of German travelers slid out of a curtained stagecoach one sunny summer afternoon, and one said to the other, “So schoene hell.” ‘Hell,’ in the German language, means bright and beautiful. Those who overheard the visitors’ comments had a bit of a laugh and shared the story with the other locals.

Sometime later, George Reeves, who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the origin of Hell, was asked just what he thought the town should be named. George reportedly replied, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell if you want to.” As the story goes, the name stuck and stuck fast. After some attempts to soften the effect of the name by suggesting they change it to Reevesville or Reeve’s Mills, he gave up on the whole thing and simply lived with it.

Theory Two [sic -- three, by my count --DR]. The area in which Hell exists is pretty low and swampy. And because it was a part of the Dexter Trail, which traced along the higher ground between Lansing and Dexter, Michigan, a formerly busy farm market and early railhead, traveling through the Hell area would have been wetter, darker, more convoluted, and certainly denser with mosquitoes than other legs of the journey. Further, river traders of old would have had to portage between the Huron and the Grand River systems somewhere around the present location of Hell. You can picture them pulling their canoes, heavy with provisions and beaver pelts, through the underbrush, muttering and swatting bugs as they fought to get to the banks of the next river.

For the record: The name is unofficial. The “town” is unincorporated, and from the point of view of the it’s part of the town of Pickney, MI 48169. (Here’s a Google Map of the ice cream store.) A history of Hell is at the Hell website, hell2u.com. Of course, since they are trying to attract tourists, it would be more appropriately named u2hell.com. Oh, well. (Or should that be, “Oh, Hell”?)

Apparently, tourists go there so they can say they’ve been to Hell and back — and of course, buy T-shirts and similar items attesting to that fact. Personally, I hope that if I ever happen to be there, it’s in the winter — so I can say, given the whether in Michigan, that I’ve experienced a cold day in Hell. ;-)

Seriously, though: In these times of conflict, it is worth noting that despite the role “Hell” plays in Christian theology, Christians seem to be taking this all in good humor. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if there residents of a small, unincorporated town in Saudi Arabia called their town by the name of a similar concept in Islam, and started selling souveniers to tourists mocking the name?

(Hint: Remember the cartoons. And of course, Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses.)

May 1, 2006

A New Shah for Iran?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:54 pm

Human Events has a fascinating interview with Reza Pahlavi, son of the late (and deposed) Shah of Iran. The Shah was deposed in 1979, in a revolution that brought the current Islamic/totalitarian regime to power. Here’s what he has to say:

Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah of Iran, told the editors of Human Events last week that in the next two to three months he hopes to finalize the organization of a movement aimed at overthrowing the Islamic regime in Tehran and replacing it with a democratic government.

He believes the cause is urgent because of the prospect that Iran may soon develop a nuclear weapon or the U.S. may use military force to preempt that. He hopes to offer a way out of this dilemma: a revolution sparked by massive civil disobedience in which the masses in the streets are backed by elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Pahlavi, who lives in exile in the United States, said he has been in contact with elements of the Revolutionary Guard that would be willing to play such a role, and activists who could help spark the civil disobedience.

If this is true, I don’t know why he’s saying it in public — but if it’s not true, I don’t know what he could possibly gain by saying it.

Under any circumstances, would you support U.S. military action against Iran?

As a matter of principle there’s no way that I can support any kind of military intervention regardless of the crisis because as a matter of principle, and as a nationalist, I cannot even imagine the fact that my country could be attacked, and today it’s a very different scenario from, let’s say, the Second World War where you are occupied by Nazi forces and there’s a liberating force coming in. This is a strike against Iranian installations that are part of our national assets. That it’s used wrongly by the wrong people is beside the point. So there’s no justification as far as I’m concerned.

I’m not sure I see the difference he does.

You would be willing to renounce that idea that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon?

I’m against developing any weapons of mass destruction. I work to see the world develop a process of disarmament because otherwise it will be madness. If we build it, tomorrow the Turks will build it, then the Saudis want to build it, then the Egyptians want to build it. Believe me, in that part of the world, there’s some track record how stable the world will feel having a whole bunch of nuclear warheads in the hands of all these people. Forget it. I’d be the first one proposing a plan to reverse the cycle of proliferation.

He’s right about the track record, and that’s why people who support having the U.S. and certain other countries having nuclear weapons, but opposed allowing those other regimes to have them are not actually hypocrites.

I’ll pick one nit though — the Saudis will not build a nuclear weapon. They might buy one, but they will not build one. They don’t build anything.

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting:

You don’t believe Iran needs a nuclear weapon to balance Israel’s nuclear weapon?

No.

You would not demand that Israel disarm?

Since when has Israel been a threat to anyone? Israel just wants to be left alone and live in peace side by side with its neighbors. As far as I’m concerned, Israel never had any ambition to territorially go and invade, I don’t know, Spain or Morocco or anywhere else. And let me tell something else about Iran: Unlike the rest of the Islamic or Arab world, the relationship between Persia and the Jews goes back to the days of Cyrus the Great. We take pride as Iranians of having a history where Cyrus was the most quoted figure in the Torah, as a liberator of Jewish slaves, who went to Babylon and gave them true freedom for them to worship and in fact helped them build a temple. We have a biblical relation with Jews, and we have no problem with modern day Israel. As far as regional politics, I believe, I think many Iranians believe so, that as much as Israel has a right to exist, so should the Palestinians. They have to work the problem between each other. And we have no business interfering, and we need to help get as much stability in the region.

A democratic regime in Iran would be doing that, but a clerical regime in Tehran that sends money to Hamas and to Hizballah and to all the terrorists around the globe obviously is not promoting stability and peace, it is doing the reverse.

Since when do Islamic leaders acknowledge that Israel just wants to be left alone?

That’s pretty amazing. And you know what? Based on every conversation I’ve had with Iranian emigres in the U.S., I believe he really thinks that. Because nearly all the Iranians I’ve met in the U.S. think the same thing, and they are all here for the same reason he is — because the previous government was overthrown.

Obviously there is some selection bias here — anyone who supports the current regime would not have left — but that doesn’t mean they take a concilliatory line on Israel. Most Arab emigres I’ve known despise the regimes they left, but despise Israel more. (N.B. Iranians are not Arabs. If you don’t believe me, ask any Iranian — and stand back!)

While you’re doing this, how concerned are you about your own security here in the United States?

Look it’s beyond concern. I put faith in the Almighty and I said whatever it takes. You know, what can you do? You cannot live in a shell.

In your Iran, Mahmoud Abdullah, the Afghan who converted to Christianity, would have every right to do that and the state would protect him from retaliation by radical clerics?

God, I hope so. I hope so. Because if we are basing our constitution on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that’s one of the most fundamental rights that any human being should have. I’m sick and tired of hypocrisy and all this dubious attitude that is so typical of our region. If you believe in something you say it, you don’t fool around. I mean, that’s where I’m coming from. I haven’t lived 45 years of my life to fool around with these things. If I’m willing to lose my life for it, hell I’m going to fight for these rights, otherwise it’s not worth it. Frankly it’s not worth it! I might as well forget about Iran and become a citizen and live my life in this country. No. I want to have the same rights you have over here over there. That’s what I’m fighting for! Otherwise why bother?

Do you think the Iranian population as a whole agrees with you today or do you feel you have to convert them to your point of view?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find out that the minute you criticize any aspect of this regime you are going to be at the very least incarcerated, possibly tortured, and at the very worst, executed. Last week, there were six bodies of women found in South of Tehran, because of the new edict by Ahmadinejad—and I’m not saying “edict” as a cleric because he’s not, but the new law—to further strengthen the strict code of how you dress! People can be fined if they happen to have a dog on a leash because dogs are supposed to be bad in Islam. You cannot even walk your dog on the street and not be fined. Imagine if you were to criticize the regime! Don’t you think people get that? They do.

Would you rather participate in a democratic parliamentary election like Iraq or simply come back as a constitutional monarch?

I appreciate the question. I know what my function is today, and my function today is to be a catalyst that promotes unity as opposed to being an element that brings polarity. My role today is not institutional, it’s political. My role today is not someone who will be a symbolic leader under that institution, but a national leader that is fighting for freedom. … My job today is to be a liberator, as opposed to representing an institution. However, as an option, certainly the Iranian people should consider that beyond the content of the future, which I described to you—secular, democratic, based on human rights—what should the ultimate form be? Do we want to have a parliamentary monarchy like we do Sweden, or Japan, or Holland, or Belgium? Or do we want to have a republican system like you have in this United States or France or elsewhere? That debate is not today’s debate. That is the debate that will be the responsibility of the next constitutional assembly that will have to bring in a new constitution and draft a new one.

At that time, there probably will be a lot of debates between those who are advocates of a monarchic system and those who are advocates of a republican system.

But you don’t rule it out?

I think it is, in my personal opinion, I think that that institution will better serve the purpose of the institutionalization of the democracy in Iran rather than the republican form. I can, case in point, use the example, of a post-Franco [Spain] with King Juan Carlos.

You’re not renouncing the throne, in other words? You’ll take it, if—

Look, it’s not a matter what I choose to do. I think that if monarchy has to be decided it should be based on people wanting it, not me arguing it. I have faith that this is an appropriate institution. It’s not a coincidence it survived more than 25 centuries. It is very much imbedded in Iranian culture and tradition and identity. In modern days, it can play just as effective a role. And I think that one of the things that I often find, thinking of the way Americans look at monarchy, which is immediately George III in your mind, is that you should at least liberate yourself from that aspect and see that the name “republic” doesn’t mean anything. Most of your enemies are republics. Saddam Hussein is one. Syria is one. “Republic” doesn’t automatically mean democratic. The Soviet Union was a republic. Most of your allies in Europe and NATO, half of them were monarchies. … I think it’s not the form of the regime, it’s the content that matters. I think a monarchy is just as compatible to be committed to be democratic as a republic is. In some countries, a monarchy works better than a republic. Usually, history has shown us, in countries that are heterogeneous, in other words that have a lot of different groups, ethnicities and religion, the gelling factor, the unifying factor, has been the institutional mind, with the difference that this institution has to remain above the fray and not be engaged in the politics. That’s the big difference. Because the only time it can maintain neutrality and be for all is by not being engaged. Because the minute you become political then you have to take sides and that defeats the purpose, which is pretty much the problem we had under the previous regime, because the person of the king was directly involved in making policy, which is the last thing you want to do.
Having said that, yes, I’m fully committed to that. I’m ready to serve in that capacity. If the people so choose, it would be my greatest honor. But at the end of the day, what I tell them is, first and foremost, I’m an Iranian and I’d be just as happy to serve my country in whatever capacity. But if you give me that choice, that opportunity, I think I could do a good job for you.

BTW: To pick one other very small nit. It is close, but not precisely correct, to say that “Cyrus was the most quoted figure in the Torah.” Cyrus is the most quoted non-Jewish king in the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible, which consists of the “Torah,” the “Prophets,” and the “Writings”). He is also the only non-Jewish king to whom God is said to have spoken. And he is portrayed very favorably in the Books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Chroncles.

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