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Friday, April 22, 2005
Pesach/Passover
Wishing everyone a:



David (Rishon-Rishon) has written an excellent post about this holiday, that begins tomorrow night, here.

 
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Barthez the wiz
Guess who's in trouble? Our buddy Barthez has apparently been banned for spitting on a judge. A muslim judge, by the way.. The judge claims he's too experienced for such "stupid mistakes". But then again, he's a football player, they're not exactly renowned for their intelligence. Here are a few other stupid things footballers have said. Would an accountant, for example, be likely to say these things?...


'I would not be bothered if we lost every game as long as we won the league.' - Mark Viduka

'If you don't believe you can win, there is no point in getting out of bed at the end of the day.' - Neville Southall

'We lost because we didn't win.' - Ronaldo

'I've had 14 bookings this season - 8 of which were my fault, but 7 of which were disputable.' - Paul Gascoigne

'I'd like to play for an Italian club, like Barcelona.' - Mark Draper

'I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel.' - Stuart Pearce

Interviewer: 'Would it be fair to describe you as a volatile player?'
David Beckham: 'Well, I can play in the centre, on the right and occasionally on the left side.'
(I recall Victoria describing how "David really is very misunderstood. He's actually very deep").

'I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don't know into what religion yet.' - David Beckham
(Worth mentioning: David Beckham was adopted by Jewish parents (askmaria.com, hehe).

How monsterous can a person get..
This is too horrible not to mention. It's not often that news make me shiver like this:

Jessica Lunsford was raped and buried alive

TAMPA, Fla. — A 9-year-old girl was raped, bound and buried alive, kneeling and clutching a purple stuffed dolphin, state prosecutors said in documents released Wednesday.

Jessica Lunsford's (search) body was found March 19 buried about 150 yards from her house in Homosassa, about 60 miles north of Tampa.

According to the documents, Jessica was found wearing shorts and a shirt — different from the pink nightgown her family said she was wearing when they reported her missing Feb. 24, The Tampa Tribune said in its online edition late Wednesday.

The body was wrapped in two plastic trash bags knotted at her head and feet in a grave covered by a mound of leaves, the state attorney's office said in the documents.

Jessica died of asphyxiation, according to a coroner's report. A convicted sex offender,John Evander Couey (search), 46, is charged in her slaying.

Officials said they believe Jessica may have been alive in Couey's home while police and volunteers searched for her. After she was killed, Couey fled to Georgia.


First day of summer, and a pesach holiday in Iceland
Tourists can be quite stupid sometimes. It certainly doesn't surprise me that practically every other tourist that visited the shop where I work today, wanted to know why everything was closed (everything except tourist shops..). The reason was the national holiday we call "the First day of summer". I had a few conversations with Americans that just didn't seem to want to understand. They went something like this:

Tourist: So what are you celebrating?
Maria: "the First day of summer" (Sumardagurinn fyrsti)
Tourist: Oh okay. But wait, is it the first day of spring, or the first day of summer?
Maria: Summer
Tourist: That seems early. So when is winter?
Maria: The "First day of winter" is usually in late October.
Tourist: Oh right, so that is because you only have two seasons, right?
Maria: No, we have four seasons..
Tourist: So do you also have a "First day of spring and fall"?
Maria: No
Tourist: Why not if you have four seasons?
Maria: I don't know. We just don't. 
Tourist: Oh, well jee thanks!

However, Icelanders are also incredibly stupid. I was working at the little shop on the shopping street today. There wasn't that much to do, and I spent much of my time watching the people walk by. People are beginning to dress lightly, since it's getting warmer now. "Summer" appears to magically transform all the people into such a gorgeous bunch, I seriously don't know why. But although everyone (or a lot of people) are looking extremely fit and beautiful, they're still (and I won't apologise if someone finds this offensive of arrogant) incredible stupid! I mean they don't look stupid, they look great. But try having a conversation with a regular Icelandic person, they will only be able to discuss gossip and fashion. (although I doubt that Icelandic people are any dumber than people from other countries, they're certainly very well educated, which leads me to the conclusion that people generally just tend to be very stupid and ignorant).
Now why am I mentioning this? Well, while I was bored at work I started reading "the Reykjavik Grapevine", this paper about Iceland/Icelanders in English, for tourists. The reason why I read this and not real newspapers, is because of my attempt to boycott Icelandic media. So I decided to read something more entertaining and more mindnumbing. Alright, so they took several regular Icelandic people and asked them a bunch of very easy questions. The only question some of the people were able to answer was "who is Britney Spears' husband?" (and that doesn't impress me, sorry). They were asked "where is Finnmark?" (a part of Norway. Icelanders should certainly know this, I've known this since I can remember). Nobody had a clue, and people gave answers such as "uhm, it must be a country", or "I'm certain that it is in Iceland".
Another thing they asked a different group of imbeciles, ehrm I mean people, was: what comes to your mind when you hear the word "Israel". People said: Sorrow, injustice, war, war, war etc.
You know that's funny. I have (unlike all those people, obviously) been to Israel, and for me "burrekas", "shook", "hareidim", "falafel", etc etc etc all seem far more illustrative...

Which brings me to the pleasant part of my otherwise un-eventful day at work.
An American family, a wife, husband and their two children were trying to decide which souvenirs to get. They started chatting with me a bit, and I noticed that their daughter (about 12-13 y.o) was wearing a "chai" necklace. I was quite surprised, since you don't exactly see people wearing Jewish jewelry a lot in Iceland (I have a pair of chai earrings from Jerualem that I wear a lot though). I mentioned the girl's necklace, and they all kind of stared at me and went: "You know what it is?". So I said "yes, chai". And they woman shouts: "Oh my God, are you Jewish?!". And I tell her I'm not, I've "just" been sort of obsessed with Israel since I was like, born. So it turns out that they are a Jewish family from Boston, and that the mother once lived in Israel for 1 year. I asked her where, and she said she lived in a kibbutz near Jerusalem called "Ma'ale Ha'hamisha". I told her that I have been to Ma'ale Ha'hamisha many times, and we all got quite excited that it's such a "small world", after all.
After that they stayed a while and she asked me things about some products. For some strange reason I told her the "truth", as opposed to just saying what will sell the product, like I normally would. It's not that I normally lie, but I do withold information if people don't ask (such as "this isn't really made in Iceland"). But for some reason, I just felt.. I don't know..

 
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
It's pure madness!
Oh the unimaginable horrors of this day!
This day has been the worst, craziest, most annoying...
As some of you may remember, I have quite recently been ill. While being ill I went to see my doctor, who prescribed antibiotics (not penecillin). The problem was that I didn't really get better. I got out of bed, but I never properly recovered. Yesterday I started to become far more sick, and today I've had a sore throat, been feverish, dizzy and a just a mess. I had my doctor (who has always been a complete ass) and his reply was that "there is nothing to be done". When I told him that I wasn't satisfied with his answer, and that I did not feel that being sick for a month was normal, he told me "call me again on Friday if you feel like you're "dying".
I finally decided to go all the way to the suburbs (located outside of Reykjavik, I hate the suburbs) to the "shifts", where doctors are working from 17-23:30. I was fortunate enough to bump into a friend in the waiting room, so waiting wasn't so bad. The doctor there was nice, and prescribed penecillin and took a sample. He said he thought I seemed kind of nervous. I told him I'm in the middle of reading for my exams. He said that a lot of people my age that are seeing him are nervous as well, for the same reason.
This mixture of sickness, medication and exam stress is causing me to behave like mad woman. While sitting in the waiting room, my friend Jona (the one I bumped into, and who was later diagnosed with phneumonia) and I were discussing how we were seeing things double and our heads were spinning. Then suddenly I "heard" my mobile phone ring, very clearly. I got very anxious to pick it up since I somehow got this idea that I was "expecting a very important call from my sister".
Okay...
Nr. 1) I knew perfectly well that I had left my phone at home in the recharger
Nr. 2) Calls from my sister are very rarely "important", but more like casual
Nr. 3) I also knew very well that my sister was downstairs at the Bedmaker (Rúmfatalagerinn) waiting for me, so her calling me would make little sense

And yet I persisted. I was certain that my phone was ringing. Finally I asked Jona if she had not heard my phone ring. She said she had heard nothing, that I was mistaken.
Now, I suppose I better go take a nap. Tomorrow is a national holiday. I don't know if it's celebrated in other countries, that's how clueless I am... "The first day of summer", and I am working, as ill, messed up and mad as I am!

A day not to be celebrated
So guess who had a birthday on this day, April 20th? (born 1889 in Braunau, Austria).
I hope no sad creatures out there in Germany, France, Sweden or whatever get carried away with their "celebrations". May it be a peaceful day.

A new pope
Cardinal (now Pope) Joseph Ratzinger of Germany

 
Pope Benedict waves to a Vatican crowd 


Well there is a new pope, and his name is Ratzinger. To be honest I am not into cardinals and popes. However, as I have previously mentioned, I take classical (Biblical) Hebrew at the Department of Theology at the university. This means I'm the only anthropology student, studying with a group of student that are (most of them) planning to become priests. They are a real jolly bunch, and they like to tell Christian humor a lot. They're also very much into the world of Catholicism and popes, and they have been eagerly discussing who the next pope will be. My Hebrew teacher had said that he "sincerely hoped that it would not be Ratzinger...". The newly appointed pope is, to quote my teacher "more conservative than everything that conservative is". Now, a conversative pope is the last thing the world needs. I mean think about it. The newly deceased pope banned usage of condoms in Africa! He is responsible for the death of countless individuals, thousands!
My teacher told a joke about Ratzinger, it went something like this:

The Pope, some cardinal, and Ratzinger are standing outside heaven's gates waiting to enter. The pope goes in first. He goes in, and it takes a little while. Then the pope comes back out and says that he will be allowed to stay if he takes back some of the things he said about women's rights.
Next the cardinal goes in. He takes longer than the pope. Then he comes out, and he says that he will be allowed to stay if he takes back some of the things he said about homosexuals.
Next Ratzinger goes in. Ratzinger stays a very long time in there, and then Jesus comes out and says "oh I'm not allowed to stay unless I take back some of the things I said in my mountain speach!".
The theology students thought it was hilarious.

The headline of Israel Insider said the following "Jews concerned as Germanic hardliner, ex-Hitler youth, elected Pope" I myself, however, am less pessmistic (for a change) where that is concerned.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the Roman Catholic Church's leading hard-liner, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium by cardinals intent on sticking to conservative policy.

Some have questioned whether the new pope betrayed any pro-Nazi sentiment during his teenage years in Germany during World War II.

In his memoirs, the new pope speaks openly of being enrolled in Hitler's Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He says he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood.

Ratzinger has gone on record about his Nazi past. In the 1997 book, Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger is asked whether he was ever in the Hitler Youth.

"At first we weren't," he says, speaking of himself and his older brother, "but when the compulsory Hitler Youth was introduced in 1941, my brother was obliged to join. I was still too young, but later as a seminarian, I was registered in the Hitler Youth. As soon as I was out of the seminary, I never went back. And that was difficult because the tuition reduction, which I really needed, was tied to proof of attendance at the Hitler Youth.

"Thank goodness there was a very understanding mathematics professor. He himself was a Nazi, but an honest man, and said to me, 'Just go once to get the document so we have it...' When he saw that I simply didn't want to, he said, 'I understand, I'll take care of it' and so I was able to stay free of it."

Two years later he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit as a helper, a common fate for teenage boys too young to be soldiers. Enrolled as a soldier at 18, in the last months of the war, he barely finished basic training.

"We are certain that he will continue on the path of reconciliation between Christians and Jews that John Paul II began," Paul Spiegel, head of Germany's main Jewish organization, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

 
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
My neighbors just took the cake, and ate it
You say tomato, I say... Oh I guess this doesn't really work as well when written, eh?
Well my point is, that at this point (yes I used the word 'point' there twice but with two different meanings deliberately, how sophisticated, don't you think?), I don't quite know what to say, or to think. All I can say is that I do know that I am now capable of declaring that I have finally officially gone mad! (narrate 'gone mad' with a Hugh Grant sort of British accent).
And what would be the cause of all this madness? Oh yes in indeed, my ever so lovely (the British accent doesn't didn't stop at 'mad' by the way) neighbors! I realise that I have often before (since moving into my current residence) put my dear readers in the position of having to endure my complaints about my neighbors. This day hasn't been the worst day, not really. There have been days when my neighbors have been more noisy, more inconsiderate, more unbelievably annoying, etc. But it was on this day that I said "hither and no further!" (common expression in my native language that goes "hingađ og ekki lengra!"). I shall not go as far as to give you a long list of all the horror I have had to endure (can you imagine the word 'endure' with a Manchester accent, like 'endoouuuure') by the hand of my neighbors, but I will post an incredibly cute picture. Some of you might be appalled by its violent contents, but tough luck, my neighbors are going down! (Yes, that's just how fierce I can be...). Oh well ok, in the sense that they'll lose the best neighbor imaginable (myself), since I shall be finding a new place to live during the summer.


 
Monday, April 18, 2005
Are conversions becoming impossible in Israel?
This article is quite disturbing. It basically makes it sound as if an orthodox conversion to Judaism (which is indeed the only authentic conversion according to Halacha) is becoming practically impossible in Israel, except for a non-Jewish spouse of a new immigrant. This means that things have changed a lot for the worse even since I did my Hebrew ulpan 8 years ago. Where I did my ulpan, at "Kvutzat Yavne", there was a conversion ulpan being conducted at the same time. From what I understood, many of the participants had not spent a full year in Israel, did not have a Jewish spouse, and some even confessed to me that for them the conversion process was a time of "pretending". (It should still be noted that most of the participants, whether they had a Jewish partner or not, seemed very sincere and enthusiastic).
But it hurts me to hear what this article has to say. That the doors should be shut in such a way. While I realise that the state of Israel already has too many residents in the practical sense, I don't think prohibiting those who wish to convert will benefit anyone. There are certainly not so many people who are willing to leave everything behind and go to Israel and convert, that it should seriously add to unemploymency or social problems in Israel.

Another issue is the recognition of conservative and reform conversions. An obvious effect of making orthodox conversions so difficult while recognising non-halachic conversions, will be the increase in conversative and reform conversions. Therefore, while Israel attempts to ban conversions, she ends up increasing the social problem of "no knowing who is a Jew".
In other words, the Israeli government's attempt to dispose of potential converts seems more like a classic case of shooting yourself in the leg.

"Stop blocking converts"


The visas of students in state-sanctioned conversion programs are not readily renewed, if at all. Many students cannot complete the arduous courses they have already embarked upon, and are forced to return to their lands of origin and reapply for Israeli visas, which are often denied. 

The logic behind this abuse by bureaucracy is impossible to comprehend. The result, nonetheless, is palpable. The state-sanctioned programs – those which offer non-controversial conversion opportunities right here, supposedly beyond all reproach – are being de-facto drastically cut, in some cases halved. The remaining students are those resident in Israel, generally spouses of immigrants or immigrants who qualify for residency under the Law of Return. 


Students who arrive from abroad with both a wish to become Jewish and to make Israel their home are increasingly being turned back.

This inflicts a double whammy on both the Jewish people and the Jewish state, pushing away both those who plan to make a spiritual aliya to Judaism and a physical aliya to Israel.


 
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Archaelogical Damage at the Temple Mount
This is one of the most disturbing things I have read in a long time. (Hat tip: Rishon Rishon)

Israeli archaeologists are sifting through the rubble of a garbage dump in order to recover the remains of antiquities destroyed and history lost as the Islamic Wakf, responsible for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, built a new, enormous underground mosque and simply dumped what they didn't destroy.

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