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Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

Reflections of an Old Jewish Guy on Sundry Topics of Varying Degrees of Interest

The other alternative was:  No Matter How Hard I Tried, I Couldn’t Think Of A Title.

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Or, as stated above: And now for something completely different . . .

* * *

I just had a flashback, but my memory isn’t what it once was, so maybe I’m mistaken.

I seem to recall that during the final days of the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, a terrorist detonated a highly lethal bomb at Abbey Gate, killing 13 US service members and at least 170 Afghan civilians.  A few weeks later, in apparent retaliation, the US launched a drone attack in Kabul.  In what the New York Times called a “tragic blunder,” the attack killed 10 civilians, including 7 children.  Three weeks after the event the military acknowledged that it was a  “tragic mistake.”  A subsequent Air Force review of the circumstances surrounding the strike found “no violation of law, including the law of war.”

Whether one is prosecuting a war or shamefully running away from one, leaving broken promises behind, lethal accidents may happen.

Do you think that it would be a bit more seemly for President Biden to be more circumspect and judicious in criticizing the horrible, but inadvertent, killing of the seven aid workers in Gaza?

* * *

The University of Texas at Austin is shutting down its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) division, complying with a new legislative mandate, saving $13 million annually, and joining a number of Republican-led states in abolishing the race-centric programs.

At virtually the same time, the US State Department announced the appointment of Zakiya Carr Johnson as Chief DEI Officer.  Secretary of State Blinken had created the position when he took office, as part of the president’s program to introduce DEI throughout the government.  The office has been vacant since June 2023, when Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley resigned, the highlight of her tenure being the promulgation of a policy that a high school diploma would suffice for one wishing to enter the foreign service (on the theory that if you require a college degree “you’ve cut out 65% of the American population immediately”).

Blinken said that the State Department would continue to pursue DEI aggressively, because “recruiting, nurturing, and promoting the most capable workforce possible is critical to our national security.”

He did not take the logical next step and announce his retirement.  It would stretch credulity if an equally or more qualified high school graduate were not waiting in the wings.

* * *

Al-Jazeera provided information about Israeli troop location to Hamas.  Al-Jazeera distributed press credentials to Hamas fighters.  Under authorization of duly adopted new legislation, Israel will suspend the operations of Al-Jazeera.

Stop clutching your pearls, Karine, it has nothing to do with freedom of the press or censorship. Ha’Aretz and CNN have nothing to worry about.  My guess is that even the Israeli High Court will see it that way too.  Move on, folks.

* * *

Speaking of judicial reform, weren’t those folks demonstrating on the streets of Tel Aviv the same ones who were lecturing us about democracy and the rule of law?  If you want to change the government, how about trying to win a scheduled election without an insurrection?  Hint: Irritating motorists is not the best way to win hearts and minds.

People (right or left, secular or religious) who break the law and block traffic should go to jail.  And they should lose their driver’s licenses.  Period.  End of discussion.

* * *

The mission of Hamas is to obliterate Israel and annihilate Jews.  This is not a secret.  Hamas proudly proclaims it in its charter and in its promise to repeat its October7 actions again and again, as the opportunity arises.  Its tactics include, inter alia, violation of ceasefires, attacks on civilians, rape, torture, kidnaping.  Its strategy is to launch savage attacks, provoke an Israeli military response, sacrifice the lives of women and children by using them as human shields, and rely on the world’s antisemitism and its reflexive sympathy for (non-Jewish) victims to save them from Israel’s retaliation.

Because no one with any leverage is calling upon them to release the hostages and because they believe that the world will blame Israel, and not Hamas, for the death of innocent Palestinians, and, critically, because they couldn’t care less about the civilians in Gaza, whose food they steal and whose bodies they place in harm’s way, they believe that they can maintain a hard line in negotiations, even as they are battered in combat.

There is no country in the world that could tolerate Hamas as a neighbor.  Instead of calling for an immediate ceasefire, every responsible agency should be calling for the release of the hostages.  The war would end, one way or another, shortly thereafter.  And pressure should be put on Qatar to expel Hamas’ leaders and suspend all support to Hamas unless and until the hostages are released.  Anything that deters Israel from finishing the job will result in increased suffering and more casualties.

Period.  End of discussion.

* * *

Despite indications to the contrary, Pesach is not “late” this year.  Fifteenth of Nissan, as always.  Easter and Pesach are frequently associated because of their historic connection (the Last Supper was a Passover Seder) and customary coincidence.  But this year Easter precedes Passover by a wide margin.  This is because Easter has been fixed to always fall on the first Sunday after the paschal full moon on or after the vernal equinox.  Passover, on the other hand,  operates in accordance with a nineteen-year cycle, within which there are seven leap years containing 13 months (if you are counting, the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th).  This serves to adjust the lunar and solar calendars and assure that Passover always occurs in the Spring.  This year is a leap year.  By the way, the reason that this works is that the number of days in 19 solar years equals the number of days in 235 lunar cycles.

The present Jewish calendar dates from the time of Hillel II, who lived in the 4th century CE.  It is based on computations rather than visual lunar observations.  In ancient times, the calendar relied on visual sightings of the new moon and the extra month was added by the Sanhedrin based on its consideration of three factors in any given year (to make sure the barley crop was ready by Pesach, fruits would ripen by Shavuot, and Pesach and Sukkot fell in the appropriate seasons).

There were also some other factors that the Sanhedrin considered.  Was extra time needed to repair the roads, to facilitate the annual trips to Jerusalem?  Had the weather damaged the ovens and was time needed to repair them?  Did people in the diaspora have sufficient time to get to Jerusalem?  When were the rains expected?

I hear you.  Why is he going on and on?  The first part of this thing was at least a little bit interesting, but calendars?  Leap years?  Who cares?

Here’s the point.  For those who doubt the deep, historic, and time-old connection of Judaism and the Jewish people to the land that is now called Israel, the calendar we still follow serves as a reminder that Jews and Jewish observance of holidays have been here for thousands of years.  Our history is here.  The land’s history is ours.  More than a thousand years before Mohammad was born, Jews were coming to Jerusalem to celebrate Pesach.  We are not refugees, or economic immigrants, or colonists.  The Jewish people are indigenous to the Jewish land of Israel.  If someone who showed up a mere few hundred years ago from Arabia or Egypt (one of the largest clans in Gaza is al-Masri, meaning “the Egyptians”) wants to have a peaceful discussion about living together peacefully, by all means, have at it.

But when we sit down at the seder this year, keep in mind that we Jews have been doing that here, in Israel, since the days of Joshua–and if ignorant masses in the streets don’t know that–make sure that you find a way to let them know.

* * *

The Biden administration has flown over 300,000 migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Colombia into Florida under a “parole program” that releases them into the United States.  The DHS describes this as part of a program that provides expanded lawful pathways and reduces irregular migration. (There are no “illegal aliens”–only irregular migrants.)  Five separate lawsuits have been filed by States claiming that this program facilitates illegal immigration.  The parolees are approved for the program through a cell phone app and receive two-year periods of legal status, making them eligible for work authorization.

I make no judgments.  I just hope that the State Department DEI office knows about this repository of available talent.

* * *

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is the President of Brazil.  He is also a virulent antisemite who has compared the actions of Israel in Gaza to the massacres committed by Hitler and the Nazis.  He is also a moron who just claimed that over 12.3 million children have died in Gaza and Israel since Hamas attacked nearly six months ago.  12.3 million.  Wow!  More than the entire population of Israel and Gaza combined.

He could probably also get a job in the State Department.  If only Biden and Blinken can get him on the next parole flight.

* * *

Speaking of protests that endear themselves to the community, high marks to the three idiots who interrupted the Easter Vigil mass led by Archbishop Timothy Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  They carried a banner that said “Silence=Death” and chanted “Free Palestine” as they were escorted out of the church by police.  Reports say that the congregants paid little attention to them.  One of the arrested individuals, Gregory Schwedock (pronounced “schmuck”), 35, was previously arrested at the US Open in September when he glued his feet to the stadium floor, stopping a tennis match for nearly fifty minutes.

“Wait,” you say, “September was before the war commenced.”  Did he have advance knowledge, like the AP and Al-Jazeera?  Nope.  In September he was protesting climate change.  “From the River to the Sea/Palestine Will Be Carbon Free.”

National Review reports that many people who attended the Easter Vigil felt the demonstration was disrespectful and in poor taste. It is hard to imagine what the rest of the people thought.

* * *

The Times of Israel reports that Israel has canceled home leave for all combat troops, scrambled GPS (do NOT rely on Waze to get home), and beefed up air defenses.  An IDF spokesman also assured Israeli civilians that they do not need to “buy generators, store food and withdraw money from ATMs.”

As a former English teacher, I wish he had used “or” instead of “and” (the use of the conjunctive instead of the disjunctive sort of suggests that it might be a good idea to do not all, but two out of three).  As a present citizen and resident, I have another reaction:

“Uh-Oh.”

Good luck everyone.

כי מלאכיו יצוה לך לשמרך בכל דרכיך;  ה’ ישמור צאתך ובואך מעתה ועד עולם (תהלים קכא:ח)  

Psalms 121:8

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.