‘International incident’ not Israel’s fault

I was surprised to see The CJN blame the Israeli navy for causing “an international incident” when Israeli forces interdicted the Gaza-bound flotilla ship the Mavi Marmara in 2010 to enforce the naval blockade of Gaza (“Netanyahu, Harper bask in friendship,” March 8).

 To recall, when Israeli forces tried to peacefully board the Marmara, extremists surrounded the soldiers and beat them with metal poles, rods, and chairs, stabbing them with knives, and throwing firebombs, stun grenades, and even one Israeli soldier was thrown over the side of the ship. Some of the radicals grabbed pistols from the Israel Defence Forces soldiers and opened fire. As a result, seven IDF soldiers were injured, and nine of the anti-Israel passengers were killed. The “activists” had premeditated violent intentions as evidenced by the dangerous cargo they brought on the ship including: Molotov cocktails, slingshots, and other makeshift items that were fashioned for use as weaponry in a planned attack against Israeli forces. It should also be noted that the blockade is internationally recognized as a necessary and legal method to prevent the smuggling of deadly rockets and weapons to Palestinian terrorists.

 That this reference appeared in a front-page article about the historic visit by Israel’s prime minister to Canada was most unfortunate. As an avid reader of The CJN’s stellar news coverage and informative commentary pages, I expected more from Canada’s Jewish paper of record.

Mike Fegelman

Executive Director

HonestReporting Canada

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Bialik’s technology program

Two stories about special projects in a number of schools were published in The CJN’s Live & Learn supplement (March 8), and neither article mentioned Bialik Hebrew Day School. Many innovative programs take place at Bialik. Our students are regularly engaged in environmental activities and causes, and are aware of the power they have in positively affecting environmental change. Students are currently participating in an international collaborative project for which they planted tulip and daffodil bulbs, tracked their growth and reported on environmental changes and their effects on the flowers. They then shared their findings in a teacher-supervised chat room with their peers at HaShalom Yitzchak Rabin School in Jerusalem. Students there studied the growth of their own flowers and shared their experiences with our students. The project teaches students about global environmental issues, while exposing them in a safe environment to mediums that allow them to communicate online with students around the world.

This project exemplifies Bialik’s technology program, which seeks to put 21st-century technology directly into the hands of students in a way that enhances their regular learning. In addition to SmartBoards in each classroom, Bialik students have access to two iPad carts, two laptop carts, two computer labs and, beginning in September, a one-to-one laptop program that will be implemented throughout our senior division (grades 6 to 8) by the start of the 2014 school year. Bialik students are encouraged to use video cameras and smartphones, in controlled and appropriate settings, as part of a unit on screenplays and digital literacy.

Cayla Solomon

Marketing and Communications Manager

Bialik Hebrew Day School


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His duty was to referee

I was a referee at an Israel Football League game at Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem on March 11, when the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm played against the Jerusalem Kings. IFL games usually start at 8 p.m. This one began at 10 p.m. The game was originally scheduled to be hosted by Be’er Sheva but was cancelled, as the IFL did not want to include incoming rocket activity as part of the half-time intermission. When we are at war, all civilians must do their duty – mine was to help make sure that this game had the requisite five officials. It was a hard-fought match, and the Jerusalem Kings won 20-14. I was pleased to have been part of a solution that allowed the Be’er Sheva team to play one of Israel’s favourite sports in a secure situation.

Howie Osterer



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How to understand a midrash

I congratulate my distinguished colleague Rabbi Irit Printz for bringing to light the midrashic exegesis of Exodus 15:11 as “Who is like You among the mutes” ((Rabbinic Reflections, March 8). Her beautiful words help prepare us for the upcoming Pesach holiday, when Exodus 15:11 will be read from the Torah scroll.

Certainly, as Rabbi Printz indicates, the midrash in question appears unfathomable, since Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 222:3 obligates every Jew to recite the “Dayan ha-Emet” blessing with the same sincerity as one recites the “Ha-Tov ve-ha-Metiv” benediction. Likewise, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 230:5 summons every Jew to say, “Everything the Merciful One does is for the good.”  Similarly, Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 379:1 prescribes the following prayer for a house of mourning: “He judges righteously, and takes with justice, and rules His universe to act as He pleases, for all His paths are just, for all belongs to Him. And we are His people and His servants, and regarding everything we are obligated to thank Him and bless Him.”

Accordingly, it seems to me that the midrashic exposition to Exodus 15:11 should be understood as explained by Rabbi Baruch ha-Levi Epstein and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kasher in their Pentateuch commentaries (Torah Temimah and Torah Shelemah, respectively). Namely, they both link this midrash with the Talmud in Yoma 69b, which teaches that the omnipotence of the Creator is manifest precisely through the fact that He mercifully tolerates miscreants and offers them many chances to repent, and that the awesomeness of the Creator is also manifest through the fact that the Jewish People amazingly survives so many exiles. By the same token, the midrash, “Who is like You among the mutes,” praises the Creator for His forbearance in allowing villains many chances to repent.

Rabbi Shalom Spira