The Shmooze

What The Rockets Over Israel and Gaza Look Like From Space

By Anne Cohen

Social media is awash with pictures of what the rockets flying over Israel and Gaza look like from the ground. This tweet takes that to a whole new level.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst, currently on board the International Space Station, shared a photo of what the conflict looks like from 260 miles above earth — it’s pretty striking.

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Celebrities Tweet the Middle East — With Controversial Results

By Julie Wiener

(JTA) — First, there were the celebrity tweeter and deleters.

As the Israel-Gaza conflict continues to spark a proxy war on Twitter and other social media, numerous celebrities are getting themselves caught in the crossfire.

Earlier this week, both singer Rihanna and basketball player Dwight Howard alienated partisans on both sides by tweeting the #FreePalestine hashtag — and then deleting it.

Then former Justin Bieber paramour Selena Gomez decided to get all political and post a “Pray For Gaza” photo on her Instagram feed.

Fans got upset, so she posted a photo of herself meditating on the beach with the caption: “And of course to be clear, I am not picking any sides. I am praying for peace and humanity for all!”

Now comedian Bill Maher is irking feminists (and, presumably, Hamas supporters) with the following post:

Jezebel took issue with the “crazy woman” analogy: “Making a joke about hitting a woman to make a point about a country where people are being killed is just gross.”

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Jon Stewart on What It's Like To Talk About Israel as a Jew

By Anne Cohen

Making jokes about Israel can be tricky. No one knows this better than Jon Stewart, who has been criticized for remarks he made on “The Daily Show” pointing out the asymmetrical distribution of force in Operation Protective Edge.

So in a segment on Monday night, Stewart responded using what he does best — comedy. Every time the host mentions the word “Israel,” the show’s entire roster of correspondents starts shouting at him. Over and over again.

“Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this,” Stewart said when the verbal onslaught finally subsided. “But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”

Cue the tongue-lashing — and on to a “lighter” topic: Ukraine.

Check out the whole clip below:

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The Middle East Crisis, According to Woody Allen

By Rachel X. Landes

The situation in Gaza is “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself,” Woody Allen declared in an interview about his new movie, Magic in the Moonlight.

Asked about the Israel-Palestine conflict, Allen explained, “I feel that the Arabs were not very nice in the beginning… The Jews had just come out of a terrible war where they were exterminated by millions and persecuted all over Europe, and they were given this tiny, tiny piece of land in the desert.

“If the Arabs had just said, ‘Look, we know what you guys have been through, take this little piece of land and we’ll all be friends and help you,’ and the Jews came in peace, but they didn’t. They were not nice about it.”

Allen concluded that “there’ve been public relations mistakes, actual mistakes, and it’s been a terrible, terrible cycle of mismanagement and bad faith.”

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Backstreet Boys Scrap Israel Shows Over Gaza

By JTA

The Backstreet Boys canceled three sold-out concerts in Israel due to the Gaza conflict.

The American pop band posted a message Sunday on its official website announcing the cancellation of the July 29-31 concerts at the Raanana Amphitheater “to assure the safety of the audience.” New dates will be scheduled for the spring.

“This is a major disappointment for the band and fans as this was to be our first visit to Israel and we looked forward to meeting our fans,” the message said.

Canadian singer Paul Anka also canceled two concerts set for this week in Tel Aviv. The concerts will be rescheduled “once the local situation is resolved,” according to a statement issued by his representative.

Earlier, the Gaza conflict forced the cancellations of a Neil Young concert in Tel Aviv and a performance by the band America.

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Dr. Ruth's Sex Tips for Wartime

By Alona Ferber

Getty Images

(Haaretz) — If you were wondering what sexual position was most appropriate in a bomb shelter, don’t. That’s some of the advice Dr. Ruth Westheimer gave an audience in Tel Aviv Wednesday night.

The sprightly 4-foot-7, 86-year-old lost her parents in the Holocaust and was a sniper in the Haganah, prestate Israel’s underground army. But it was her sex advice over the radio that made her famous back in the ‘80s in the United States. On Wednesday, she addressed a crowd of 650 on the ninth day of Israel’s air offensive in Gaza.

The escalation between Israel and Hamas was very much in the background; Dr. Ruth applauded the audience for holding out despite the situation. Meanwhile, the event’s organizer, the Tel Aviv International Salon, reassured people that if the air-raid siren went off, they were in a safe zone.

“I want to applaud you for your resilience and taking the time to talk about subject matter that I am still talking about almost every day, even though I’m 86,” she said to laughter from the crowd, who had been woken up that morning by a siren. Then came her rundown on good sex, with a healthy dose of Jewish tradition mixed in.

“For Jews, sex has never been a sin; it’s always been a mitzvah,” she said in her famous German accent. And if you want to be “sexually literate,” as she put it, it’s better to be in a relationship. “I’m talking about relationships and commitment. Did you hear me? Commitment,” she said to laughter from the audience of mostly young professionals who have immigrated to Israel.

What else is key for a good sex life? Women must take responsibility for their sexual satisfaction, a message she noted that women in the United States had heard loud and clear. A couple’s relationship is a vital part of the puzzle. Don’t talk about past partners, “Use sechel,” she advised, using the Hebrew word for good sense. And don’t get too used to a vibrator.

Another important rule of thumb, if you’ve had an affair and don’t want a divorce, if you want someone else besides your partner, or if you sometimes don’t find your partner attractive, just don’t say it out loud. “You can have a whole soccer team in bed with you in your imagination,” she said. “Just keep your mouth shut.”

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Jon Stewart Needles Israel on 'Bomb-Better' War

By Rachel X. Landes

Our favorite Jewish late-night talk show host tackled the violence in the Middle East last night — with a few sharp-tongued yucks aimed at Israel.

In a two-minute segment on the Gaza conflict, Jon Stewart highlighted the “asymmetrical” nature of the two sides pitted against each other.

“Both sides are engaging in aerial bombardment, but one side appears to be bomb-better at it,” Stewart said with a grin.

Israel, with its Iron Dome missile defense system and smart phone technology, has the means to save and warn many more citizens than their Gaza counterparts, the funnyman noted.

“Most Hamas rockets are neutralized by Israel’s Iron Dome technology and Israeli citizens can even download an Iron Dome app,” Stewart explained. This alert system, which can be accessed by any Android or iPhone, alerts citizens of incoming missiles. So far, this app has been downloaded by about 500,000 Israelis.

Palestinians cannot be quite so sanguine about the conflict, he noted.

“How are the Gazans notified?” Stewart deadpanned. “The Israeli military warns Gaza residents of imminent bombing with a smaller, warning bombing.” He smiled. “An amuse-boom, if you will.”

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Want Slice of Hamas Rocket? Just 146 Bucks

By Rachel X. Landes

Yochay Benarie

Want to have your own slice of the war in the Middle East?

You can bid on your very own “Hamas Missile Debris” on HappySale, an Israeli based auction website. The seller, Yochay Benarie, is asking for 500 shekels, or $146.70, for the fragment.

Benarie, who lives in Tel Aviv, put up the debris for auction yesterday, and since then, the page has had more than 6,000 views, no doubt helped by a Buzzfeed article that features the Hamas Missile Debris for sale. The debris is marked, “Slightly Used,” so consider those words before placing your bid. According to Benarie, it is “99.9% safe.”

Another commenter replied, “So basically I only have 0.01% of losing a finger? Hmmm… I’ll think about it :)”

Benarie also assures potential buyers that he can sell multiple fragments of the missile, and that they come in different sizes.

At least 150 civilians have been killed in the air strikes in the past 8 days, including one Israeli man. Israel reported that more than 1000 targets have been hit.

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I Got Text From Hamas — in Broken Hebrew

By Ben Sales

Facebook

(JTA) — I just got a text from someone who’s trying to blow me up.

“The stupidity of your leaders put all of Israel under fire, and forced all the Israelis to go into shelters,” it said, sent by a user named SMSQASSAM. “We will continue bombing every place in Israel until they answer all of our legitimate claims with total affirmation.”

It was signed, “The Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades,” Hamas’ militia.

Hamas is texting me. Awesome.

This isn’t the first time. Hamas has hacked Israeli phones several times during this and other times of conflict, sending messages to tens of thousands of Israelis.

I don’t know for sure if I can credit Hamas with this, but a text I got Friday from someone named SHABAK informed me that a “Suicide bomber sneaked into Tel Aviv and Center targeting shelters. Beware of strangers in shelters.”

Leaving aside how one suicide bomber could target more than one bomb shelter, I’m guessing that text wasn’t from the Israel Security Agency, called the Shabak. Maybe it was from Hamas.

Two days earlier, I got a text from a user named “Haaretz” informing me that rockets had hit Haifa. They hadn’t. The Haaretz newspaper sent out an email titled “URGENT CLARIFICATION” telling us that “The message was not from Haaretz.”

Was it from Hamas?

I’m not going to respond; I’m not the biggest fan of text-messages. I prefer phone conversations, even if they’re short. But I’m not going to call Hamas, and judging from this past week, it’s probably not going to call me. I guess I’ll have to wait and see what it writes me next.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: social media, hebrew, hamas, gaza, elizabeth tsurkov

Dodging Gaza Rockets? There's Red Alert App

By Steven Scheer

Getty Images

(Reuters) — Israelis have found a new way to learn of imminent rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in the form of a mobile phone app.

Hamas militants have fired more than 1,000 rockets from Gaza at Israeli cities in the past week. Typically, air raid sirens blare and residents have between 15 and 90 seconds to head to bomb shelters and safe rooms in their homes.

Many have also downloaded an application called Red Alert to their phones that also warns of incoming rockets.

“The initial thought was to help people in the south. We didn’t think we would need to help people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv but we do,” said Ari Sprung, a co-developer of the app.

Israeli has responded to the rocket salvos - most of which have been intercepted by an Iron Dome system - with air strikes toward those launching them in Gaza.

Most of the rockets launched from Gaza since 2005 have been aimed at southern towns but Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups now have missiles that can reach deeper into Israel.

The app has been downloaded by some 500,000 Israelis on their Android and iPhones, with another 50,000 in the United States having downloaded an English version.

Once a rocket is fired, Israel’s military sounds sirens and also notifies Red Alert’s servers. Its servers crashed at the outset when rocket fire turned to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv but they were quickly back up with stronger servers.

“The No 1 reason we created it was to save lives,” said the U.S.-born Sprung, who works at Jerusalem start-up Curiyo. “I hope I can un-publish it in the future.”

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What a Boob! Kardashian Deletes Gaza Tweet

By JTA

getty images
Kim Kardashian

Reality television star Kim Kardashian apologized for tweeting about the Gaza conflict.

Kardashian apologized after two tweets in which she first told her followers she was “Praying for everyone in Israel,” and then tweeted that she was “Praying for everyone in Palestine and across the world!”

Kardashian later deleted both tweets and issued an apology: “(A)fter hearing from my followers, I decided to take down the tweets because I realized that some people were offended and hurt by what I said, and for that I apologize,” the statement, published on her blog, said in part.

The statement continued: “I should have pointed out my intentions behind these tweets when I posted them. The fact is that regardless of religion and political beliefs, there are countless innocent people involved who didn’t choose this, and I pray for all of them and also for a resolution. I also pray for all the other people around the world who are caught in similar crossfires.”

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Jon Voight Visits Terrorism Victims at Soroka Hospital

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

He’s known to many as the father of superstar and international do-gooder Angelina Jolie, but Jon Voight is also recognized as a longtime supporter of Israel. The actor made a Chabad-sponsored trip over the weekend to Israel, surprising victims of last week’s terrorist attacks and the ongoing missile barrages from Gaza with a visit to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva.

Voight told reporters who met up with him at the hospital, on his way to cheer up the critically wounded victims, that this was his third visit to the country, and his second to the South. He specifically mentioned that he had been in Sderot last time and had to take cover there when an alarm sounded, so he knows what the security situation for residents of the Negev is like.

The actor emphasized that Israel needs friends, and that he thought that the U.S. should be Israel’s best friend. He has been a vocal advocate for Israel, having appeared at a rally in Los Angeles last year condemning Turkey’s role in the Flotilla incident, and having written a letter to President Obama accusing the Administration of abandoning Israel.

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Giant Israeli Pumpkins Fertilized With Qassam Rockets?

By Nathan Jeffay

Wikimedia Commons

One common interpretation of the symbolic significance of the egg on the Seder plate at Passover is that it represents the paradox of the Jews. Suffering at the hands of oppressors, from ancient Egyptians onward, made us stronger. Likewise, eggs are one of the few foods that get harder when boiled.

There’s nothing new there — but could violence from our enemies also somehow help our crops?

Farmers in Southern Israel say they have never seen pumpkins so enormous as those grown in a field twice hit by rockets from Gaza. The Mines family of Kfar Maimon have grown two supersize pumpkins, one weighing 140 pounds and another weighing 100 pounds.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Qassam, Pumpkins, Passover, Israel, Gaza, Farming

Holiday News From Israel

By Nathan Jeffay

The Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha is upon us, and just like everything in the Western World, it has been commercialized. Check out this video about the Israeli electronics store that tried to boost its Arab clientele by offering a free sheep with every purchase. A central Eid tradition is to slaughter an animal.

In Gaza, which is under blockade from Israel, animals for slaughter are nevertheless in plentiful supply. They are arriving through smuggling tunnels.

In other holiday related news, if you’re sending a Hanukkah gift to friends of family in Israel, make it a good one, as you may decide it’s the last. The Israel Postal Company is going to start charging people $10 to receive a package from abroad, supposedly to cover the trouble of clearing packages through customs, even if there is no duty to pay. So after the charge comes in on January 1, gifts sent to Israel may be slightly less welcome.

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Rabbi Funnye's Sukkot Plans

By Renee Ghert-Zand

While President Barack Obama spent Labor Day weekend at Camp David, his wife Michelle’s cousin, Rabbi Capers Funnye, is heading out for a very different kind of camp experience over Sukkot.

While Obama and his diplomatic team will work (thanklessly in some quarters) through a historically intractable conflict to spread a sukkah of peace over Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Funnye will be focusing on bringing Jews of diverse backgrounds and cultures together under a single metaphorical roof to celebrate the Jewish Thanksgiving.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Michelle, Rabbi Capers Funnye, Thanksgiving, Walker Creek Ranch, Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation Chigago, Gaza, Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken, Barack Obama

Survey: One in Three Spaniards Is Anti-Semitic

By Michael Kaminer

Look at the bright side… Muslims here are hated even more than Jews!

That’s the line Spanish government officials are using to mitigate the damage from a new survey suggesting one-third of Spaniards harbor anti-Semitic sentiments.

According to AFP, The “Study on anti-Semitism in Spain” revealed 34.6 percent of Spaniards had an “unfavourable opinion” of Jews compared to 48 percent who said they had a “favourable opinion.” Considering that the poll was initiated by two government institutions, it could charitably be labeled a backfire; its sponsors were Casa Sefarad-Israel, which was founded by the Spanish government to promote closer ties between Spain and Israel, and the opinion-research think-tank DYM Institute.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Anti-Semitic, Casa Sefarad, DYM, Gaza, Israel, Moratinos, Muslims, Spain, Spanish

Canada Halts Mail to Gaza

By Josh Tapper

First it was building materials, now it’s the mail.

In the latest international Gaza blockade spat, Israel’s national mail carrier, Israel Post, told the Canada Post last week it would not deliver Canadian mail to the Strip, citing circumstances “beyond their control.” It’s not known what caused the mail stoppage.

Just days after the embargo was announced, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers issued a statement of solidarity with Gazans, pledging to get residents their mail. Moreover, the CUPW voiced support for Canada Boat Gaza, which plans to send an aid ship through the Israeli blockade this fall.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Blockade, Canada, Canadian Union Of Postal Workers, Gaza, Israel, Israel Post, Mail

Gaza Kids Attempt To Break World Record for Bouncing Balls

By Lauren F. Friedman

In a rare piece of lighthearted, apolitical news from the Gaza Strip, AP reported that more than 7,000 Palestinian children there spent five minutes on Thursday simultaneously dribbling basketballs in an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.

The children, among 250,000 in the Gaza Strip who attend United Nations summer camps, were aiming to beat a previous record set in Indiana in 2007. (The political angle here — and there always is one — is that about 100,000 other children in Gaza attend competing summer camps run by Hamas, where they reportedly learn Israel-hating, along with swimming.)

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University of Haifa Awards Honorary Doctorate to Druze Spiritual Leader

By Nathan Jeffay

The name Shaykh Mowafak Tarif probably doesn’t mean much to you. But among Israel’s Druze minority, everybody has heard of him — he is the community’s spiritual leader.

Today he will receive an honorary doctorate at the University of Haifa. There is much excitement about the award in the Druze community, where it is seen as a well-deserved recognition of his contribution to Israeli society.

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  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
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