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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Agriculture - One of the State of Israel's Greatest Accomplishments

This is the second post in a series.

One of the curses of the exile was that the fertile land of Israel, "a land flowing with milk and honey", would become desolate:
And I will bring the land into desolation; and your enemies that dwell therein shall be astonished at it.
American author Mark Twain notes the following during his travels in the Holy Land about 140 years ago:
There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent -- not for thirty miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles, hereabouts, and not see ten human beings.

To this region one of the prophecies is applied:

"I will bring the land into desolation; and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And I will scatter you among the heathen, and I will draw out a sword after you; and your land shall be desolate and your cities waste."

No man can stand here by deserted Ain Mellahah and say the prophecy has not been fulfilled.

Behind this Divine curse there is also a blessing as our sages noted:
The verse (Leviticus 26:32) states: "And I shall make the land desolate." This is in fact a positive attribute, whose purpose is to prevent the Jewish people from saying: "We have been exiled from our land and our enemies will come and find satisfaction there." As the verse (ibid.) states: "And your enemies who dwell in it will find it desolate" - even the enemies who come after [Israel had been exiled] will find no satisfaction there. (Midrash Sifri - Bechukosai)

And the fact is that no other nation successfully settled the land until we, the Jewish People, came back home. The success of Israeli agriculture is stunning:
In monetary terms, Israel produces almost 70% of all its food requirements. It imports much of its grain, oilseeds, meat and fish, and its the sugar, coffee and cocoa. However, these imports are offset by exports of agricultural produce valued at around $800 million and $600 million worth of processed foods per annum. Today, just under a quarter of the income of Israel's farmers derives from the export of fresh produce, including items such as flowers, avocados, out-of-season vegetables and certain exotic fruits grown for export. In 1996 some 140,000 tons of fruit and vegetables - 14 percent of the entire crop - were sold to factories for processing and export.

This is a far cry from the situation a century ago. When Jews began resettling their historic homeland in the late 19th century, their first efforts were directed towards reclaiming the mostly semi-arid land, much of which was rendered untillable by deforestation, soil erosion and neglect. Rocky fields were cleared and terraces built in the hilly regions; swampland was drained, and systematic reforestation begun; soil erosion was counteracted, and salty land washed to reduce soil salinity.

Since Israel attained its independence in 1948, the total area under cultivation has increased from 165,000 ha. to some 435,000 ha. and the number of agricultural communities has grown from 400 to 900 (including 136 Arab villages). During the same period, agricultural production has expanded 16-fold, more than three times the rate of the population growth.

The rabbis saw the agricultural renaissance of the land of Israel as a harbinger of the redemption (Talmud - Sanhedrin 98a):
Rabbi Abba taught: There is no more revealed redemption - no greater indication of the impending redemption - than that which the verse (Ezekiel 36:8) states: "And you, mountains of Israel, you shall give forth your branches and you shall bear your fruit for my people Israel, for they shall soon come."

Rashi explains: When the Land of Israel will give fruit bountifully, this is an indication of the impending redemption, and there is no greater indication than this.

And the land is giving its fruit bountifully. Here is a picture of the vineyards of Moshav Lachish, taken from the ruins of th biblical city of Lachish:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is Blogging a Waste of Time?

A comment by Zman Bir on his blog has got me thinking. He hasn't been blogging too much as of late and I was wondering if everything was alright. He ansered me as follows:
Yes, all is well. Pick an excuse - they're all true to some extent:

- I've started a new job, which I enjoy much more than the old one.

- I've probably already blogged about most of the things I have to talk about.

- What's the point of it anyway?

- I've taken up hobbies that have replaced blogging.

- I lost some interest once my wife found out...

The truth is I'm hardly even reading the blogs these days.

Chag sameach,

"Rapidly approaching" Zman Biur!

I'd like to comment on what he wrote:
- I've started a new job, which I enjoy much more than the old one.
That's the first law of blogging: A boring job + a good internet connection = a prolific blogger
- I've probably already blogged about most of the things I have to talk about.
What he said!
- What's the point of it anyway?
Well, I guess if you are a popular blogger you can influence current events and even make money. If you are not then it can be a nice form of self expression.
- I've taken up hobbies that have replaced blogging.
If I were to be honest with myself I would have to admit that there are much better ways to spend my time and I really do have more important things to do.
- I lost some interest once my wife found out...
I think that what Zman Biur is trying to say here is that when his wife found out that he was blogging she hit him over the head with a rolling pin. I would hate to see what would happen to me if my wife found out about this.

What do you think?

Haveil Havalim #163

Here it is!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chametz and Matzah

I saw this in Jerusalem today. I like it:



The sign says:

I refrain from eating leavened products
on Passover
because I am a Jew!
And not because I am an Israeli!


BTW, Biur Chametz came out of hibernation and posted this. Check it out!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Rebuilt Jerusalem, a Rebuilt Humanity

As many of you know I've been following the progress of the Jerusalem Calatrava Bridge, posting a picture of it from time to time. Here's the latest one:



You can see how the bridge towers over the historic Etz Hayim neighborhood in the foreground. The much newer apartment buildings on the edge of the Qiryat Moshe neighborhood are also dwarfed by the bridge's mast.

I heard that one of the reasons for investing so much money in the bridge was to create another tourist attraction in Jerusalem. I suppose that architecture buffs might find the bridge interesting. But is that what is going to bring people to visit our beloved city? Perhaps what we really need is a world class skyscraper. Maybe if we had a top rate baseball/football/basketball/soccer/whatever team the city would be packed with visitors.

All of this is nonsense of course. The prophets tell us that in the future, when the Temple will be built, not only the Jews, but all of the nations of the world will come to Jerusalem. They won't come to gaze at the buildings or the bridges. They will be searching for something much more meaningful: "Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples"(Isaiah Ch. 56:7. See also Zechariah Ch. 14).

This is the day that I long for. The entire world will throw away their idols. I'm not just talking about graven images or false religious/philosophical beliefs. I'm also talking about the over-pursuit of money, fame, material comfort and physical pleasure. Everyone will know that there is an inner dimension to the world, and they will seek it. They will cast off the bonds of bogus doctrines and crass materialism. This is the day when "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea"(Isaiah 11:9).

May we merit to see it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

HH #162

Ya'aqov at 'Esser Agaroth did a remarkable job hosting Haveil Havalim in the midst of Pesah preparations.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blogger's Pre-Passover Guilt Trip


I really shouldn't be doing this. There is so much work to be done. I just finished shopping at Aleph in Giv'at Shaul. I shelled out almost 1000 NIS on Passover food and I still have a lot of shopping to do.

Our kitchen is still in chametz mode. After Shabbat the real work begins when we get the kitchen into Passover mode (i.e peisachdik in Mamme Loshen). Then the real war against the chametz begins. Watch out chametz, I got your number!

What you see in the pic is harmless wild barley that growing in Jerusalem. It is still attached to the ground and as such cannot become chametz.

And what are you up to? Are you reading this blog while your wife is busy cleaning the house? Shame on you! Get back to work!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Rabbi Zalman Melamed and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

My son took this picture of the Rabbis at the religious-Zionist youth rally yesterday. Rabbi Aviner, the Rav of Beit El Aleph in on the left. Rabbi Melamed, the Rav of Beit El Beit and the Rosh Yeshiva there is on the right:

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Torah - One of the State of Israel's Greatest Accomplishments

I've decided to take part in Dan's initiative and write about Israel's accomplishments in honor of 60 years of independence. Dan requested that bloggers write about four accomplishments of the State of Israel that make them proud. In my humble opinion the four biggies are: Torah, agriculture, defense, and immigrant absorption.

Today I'll write about Torah. People do not usually associate the State of Israel with Torah. It is more likely that people envision an IDF soldier and not a rabbi when they think about the state. Yet the fact is that the Torah center of the world is here in Israel. We're number one. The verse "From Zion Torah will go out, and the word of God from Jerusalem" well describes our generation. I'm not saying that this was the vision of some of the state's founding fathers. However there are situations when the angel of death has to say Amen against his will, and this is one of them. Yeshivot, Kollelim, and Batei Midrash are all over the place, Baruch Hashem!

Being in the land of Israel facilitates the learning of Torah. "The air of the land of Israel makes one wise." Not only that, but the scope of Torah has widenned. "There is no Torah like the Torah of the land of Israel." In the exile the questions a rabbi was asked usually centered around the individual. Today in Israel old/new questions have arisen: How do we operate an army or a police force according to Jewish law? How should a Jewish government behave? These are questions that become important when there is a state. Happy are we that we live in the generation that has merited this. Happy are those that leave the impurity of Chutz La'aretz and come to live in the land of Torah.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

HH #161

Here.

30 Days Since the Massacre

It has been thirty days since the massacre of the Yeshiva students in the Merkaz HaRav library.

Today a Torah Scroll, in honor of the slain students, was brought from the home of the Indig family in Kiryat Moshe to Mercaz HaRav. I hope to have some pics up tomorrow.

This book was also a victim of the Arab terrorist (photo by Moshe X):



BeSheva has an article about the Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen, the father of Neria, hy"d.

Update: You can see a video of the event here.

I managed to take a pic or two before my camera's batteries died:

Friday, April 04, 2008

Before My Wife Catches Me

What in the world am I doing on line now? I've got to get ready for the Sabbath. There is a lot of shopping and cooking to do. It would be nice to prepare a Dvar Torah as well.

Before my wife catches me wasting time on the computer I'll post latest Jerusalem Calatrava Bridge pic. They removed the scaffold from the mast:

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Dan's Inspirational Initiative

Check it out here.

Obvious But True

Uzi Landau:
The truth, as big a paradox as it may sound to Assaf and his counterparts, is clear: A policy calling for fortification poses a risk for Israel's safety. With the exception of strategic facilities the likes of hospitals and schools, townships should not be fortified.

Fortification carries a destructive message, suggesting Israel is willing to stand for its citizens to be living under fire, cementing in world view a reality legitimizing terror organizations targeting civilians as a starting point for any negotiation.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Bird Sighting

Talk about heads up! Today I saw a huge flock of what I guess are White Stork flying over Jerusalem today. Click on the pic for an enlargement:



This reminds of the Rose-ringed Parakeet that I saw in Tel Aviv a while back.

The moral of the story is to be alert. You can see the most beautiful things.
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