Netanyahu injures leg playing soccer with Jewish, Arab youth


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu injured his leg during a soccer match with Jewish and Arab youth.

Netanyahu pulled a tendon in his leg during the Monday afternoon game in Jerusalem, Walla! News reported.  The prime minister slipped on the grass, rose and continued to play and scored a goal, according to Walla!

Netanyahu’s personal physician, Dr. Tzvi Berkowitz, examined the prime minister and diagnosed the pulled tendon, according to the news website. The injury caused the postponement of a Likud Party meeting.

Exploding Knives, and Other Hazards of Kashering


Let me just start by admitting that I probably didn’t really need to put the knife directly on my burner. But it was the first time in a very long time I was kashering anything, and I had conflicting guidance from my rabbi and my mother, and I thought I needed to drop a hot metal object into my hot water urn to make it kosher for Pesach (I was totally wrong. Do not try it at home.).

How was I to know the knife would explode into my face, leaving me traumatized — though only slightly injured?

But my ignorance is exactly the point: In preparation for Passover, usually smart homemakers end up doing really dumb things with superhot materials, all in the name of removing any trace of chametz (leavened grain products). And, often, people get hurt.

“Here you have this extra cooking and extra work, while the kids are running all over the house, and the combination, naturally and unfortunately, brings in a high volume of calls,” said Tzvika Brenner, chairman of Hatzolah, an all-volunteer first-responder system operating in three Orthodox neighborhoods in Los Angeles that has been responding to emergencies since 2001.

On any normal day, Hatzolah usually gets about five calls; before Passover, that number jumps to between 10 and 15. Hatzolah has 86 trained EMTs who are able to respond within minutes, even seconds, to an accident in Pico-Robertson, Valley Village or the Fairfax/Hancock Park area and then transfer care to the paramedics once they arrive.

Most Passover calls involve burns, either from kashering or cooking accidents.

Kashering involves subjecting pots, dishes or cooking appliances to extreme treatments to eliminate even invisible traces of offending food. Those treatments usually involve heated metal or rocks, boiling water, superheated ovens and, in some cases, blowtorches.

“It’s not something we do every day, so accidents happen,” Brenner said.

And, as in my case, half the things we do don’t really need to be done, according to Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz, executive director of Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center in Sherman Oaks and founder of the Kosher Information Bureau and kosherquest.org. He said when Passover approaches, he receives twice the usual daily 100 e-mails with questions regarding kosher products and kashering a kitchen.

“The reason I went into this in 1976 was that people were going so overboard,” he said. “And it didn’t make them any more observant of halachah.”

Many women don’t trust rabbis when it comes to kashering a kitchen for Passover — they want to do it like their mothers did it or better than their neighbors do it.

Eidlitz has seen men and women strain their backs moving refrigerators to clean up any crumbs, which, he said, is completely unnecessary. Only accessible chametz needs to be removed. People blowtorch ovens, damaging the thermostat and killing the gasket that lines the door, when all they really need to do is turn the temperature up as high as it goes for about an hour.

While he lauds the impulse to be thorough about kashering, he laments that so many women can barely stay awake at seders because they’ve spent the week repapering every shelf, lining their refrigerator with heavy duty foil (thereby limiting air circulation and breaking the compressor) or covering the counters. All unnecessary, he says. If it’s clean and it’s cold it does not need to be kashered or covered. Only appliances or utensils that come into contact with heat need any special treatment.

In fact, it was from Eidlitz that I learned I hadn’t needed to kasher my hot water urn at all. I could have just cleaned the outside, and that’s it.

I’m not sure how I got it into my head that I need to drop a hot object into my urn. Heating a rock or a piece of metal and dropping it into boiling water is a standard method for kashering pots, because it causes the water to overflow, thus insuring that every part of the pot has been covered in boiling water.

I didn’t have a rock, so I decided to use a solid metal, blunt knife from my everyday stainless steel cutlery. I put the knife on the burner, and after a minute or so, I leaned over to turn the flame off.

Which is exactly when the knife exploded.

Turns out the core of the knife handle was made of ceramic or some other kind of porous composite rock. When I put the knife on the burner, the metal and the rock heated up at different rates, and the built-up energy resulted in the rock exploding out of the metal casing.

The explosion threw me backward and muffled my hearing.

Shards of something hit me straight on, and I shrieked, imagining myself forever blinded and scarred by what I thought was hot metal shrapnel all over my face, in my eyes, in my mouth.

I hobbled to the bathroom and washed off what I soon realized was a chalky substance. I had pocks all over my neck and some on my face, but I could still see — my eyes didn’t even hurt — and there was no blood or open wounds. I ended up with small burn blisters on my neck, eyelids, face and arms that were gone within a few weeks.

Brenner said L.A.’s Hatzolah has never been called for any exploding knife incidents, but there are plenty of other ways people have managed to hurt themselves.

To kasher granite or marble countertops, you pour a small amount of boiling water onto the counter. That can get kind of tricky, especially if you’re trying to keep the water from dripping onto wood cabinets or onto the floor. People often pour much more water than needed, Eidlitz said, and sometimes the water spills into their shoes, which can cause severe burns.

Brenner has had cases of people playing with the fire as they kashered. Or a man might grab a utensil he thinks needs to be dipped in boiling water, only to find out that his wife just removed it from the steaming cauldron.

Most often, Brenner, himself a responder, sees cooking accidents.

“You’re in a rush to take something off the stove or out of the oven, and many times you put it down the first place you find, not realizing it’s too close, in the reach of young children,” Brenner said.

He warns of leaving cords for hot water urns loose, vulnerable to being pulled down.

Eidlitz thinks many of the accidents, and the general exhaustion of Pesach, would be mitigated if people asked more questions about what they really need to do.

But he knows he’s fighting an uphill battle. And he admits the zealotry of Passover may have advantages.

“There is a good reason why statistically only between 11 and 18 percent of people buy all kosher food year round, but over 70 percent do for Pesach,” Eidlitz said. “And that’s because as little girls, women today saw their mothers and bubbes working their kishkes [guts] off to make sure that everything is so meticulous. And something that important gets ingrained in a person.”

Letters


Workers’ Comp Woes

I am appalled by Jill Stewart’s self serving and misleading missives about the so-called reform (in reality, deform) of workers’ compensation (“It’s Time to Heal Worker’s Comp,” May 6).

During the past approximately 25 years I have been representing injured workers. I am proud to say I am an Orthodox Jew and a registered Republican. As you can imagine, I am not a starry-eyed liberal and I certainly do not support the very rare and sometimes understandable (but not excusable) desire to take advantage of the system. But, the new regulations and legislation violate the very spirit and substance of the workers’ compensation system, which is to adequately compensate those who put their life and limb at risk working for others. As an Orthodox Jew, I have felt comfortable seeking compensation for my laboring clients, especially as such compensation does not differ radically from the damages available to an injured worker under traditional Jewish law. As a good American, follower of halacha and an employer myself, I recognize we all have a duty to go as far as possible to aid and make whole those who are truly injured through no fault of their own, but this is exactly what the new laws do not do.

Any fair-minded insurance defense attorney will admit that the new laws are shamefully and extremely draconian. Every attorney who represents injured workers already has several horrible-but-true tales of what has happened to their clients over the past few months. I hope the many Democrat legislators who signed on to this plan did not realize the actual impact of what they were creating in this monstrous Senate bill by giving the benefit of doubt to the governor. No one can honestly tell you that there has never been fraud and abuse in the system, but it has not been endemic or systemic either. Let politicians and insurers chase the treatment mills and other scavengers away by enforcing the law as it stood, but the solution is not starvation wages and denial of bare minimum medical treatment for injured workers.

Jeffrey Nurik
Fairfield

Cover Girl

Is The Jewish Journal so starstruck that the best you could do for a cover story the week of Yom HaAtzmaut was an article including a profile of a “beautiful young” Israeli expat actress who has fulfilled her life’s ambition by standing on a soundstage with Scarlett Johansson (“Shalom Hollywood,” May 13)? I wish her all the best in her endeavors — but I may be old fashioned. I would have preferred a cover story for Israeli Independence Day following up on some ex-Angelenos pursuing the Zionist dream by making aliyah.

Aaron Davidson
Los Angeles

Reform’s Rep

My first visit to a Reform congregation was truly exciting (“Reform’s Reforms,” May 20). Although some of the ritual and prayers were foreign to me, the majority of the readings were in English and relevant to the issues that I face in the modern world. The sermon called upon us as individuals to make a difference in the world. This was a call to action, not a request for belief!

I am 62-years-old and preparing for my bar mitzvah 13 years after my conversion. I struggle with Hebrew. I am more comfortable worshipping in English. I am a Reform Jew. I do not consider Reform Judaism to be less religious than traditional Judaism. In fact, I assert the opposite. Traditional ritual and following a faith-based list of rules has the very real danger of seeming religious without challenging the worshipers to truly search their hearts and their minds for ways to repair our world. Judaism is an action religion. We are challenged to do. We are challenged to repair the world. We are challenged to be better than we are. We are not challenged to accept kashrut, tefillin, tzeniut or tzitzit.

Robert Ingrum
Northridge

As a freelance book editor who has worked with the Reform movement and continues to do so, I read with great interest Micha Odenheimer’s cover story. To the many noteworthy facets of change that the article reported, let me add one more: the publication three months ago of a revised edition of its bestselling Torah with commentary. Of the new edition’s many features, three in particular manifest that Reform Jews study Torah more seriously than before:

1. It provides a Hebrew text that is among the most historically accurate and visually precise ever published.

2. It places the translation right next to the Hebrew original, paragraph by paragraph, so that the translation better serves as a stepping-stone to the real text.

3. It is backed by more than 350 pages of online documentation that list and explain changes made to the Hebrew text and to the translation (relative to the first edition), because the publisher believes that its readers care about those details.

Such changes are achieved only with a considerable investment of time and expense.

This and other recent publications of the URJ Press (www.urjpress.com) speak volumes about the direction of the Reform movement.

David E. S. Stein
Redondo Beach

Honorary Jew

There is a factual error in Tom Tugend’s piece “Stamp of Approval.” Yip Harburg, the prolific lyricist of such Ammerican pop standards as “Over the Rainbow,” was not, in fact, Jewish (“Stamp of Approval,” May 20). His co-writer, composer Harold Arlen, who created the gorgeous melody for “Over the Rainbow,” was very Jewish (his father was the venerated cantor Samuel Arlen). The talented Harburg joked about feeling like an honorary Jew in that he worked with various Jewish composers of the golden era of American song, and because his name sounded Jewish — but he was Christian.

Jacqueline Bassan
Author
“From Shul To Cool: The Romantic Jewish Roots of American Popular Music”

Healing Workers’ Comp

Jill Stewart is well-known for her anti-worker and anti-workers’ comp sentiments. She has repeatedly misstated the facts and attacked the wrong parties (“It’s Time to Heal Worker’s Comp,” May 6). She continues to have a distorted view of what is going on in workers’ comp. We did not get reform of the workers’ compensation systems — we got an outright assault, a mutilation of injured workers’ rights. How dare she attack the one group of people who have fought long and hard to protect the injured workers’ of this state, the lawyers who represent them?

Stewart claims that the money spent on workers’ comp went to the middlemen, like lawyers who were milking the system. Wrong again, Ms. Stewart. Nothing could be further from the truth. No. 1, the insurance company does not pay the attorney fees. Attorneys only get 15 percent attorney fees, paid by the injured workers from their award or settlement. Compare that to all other areas of law where fees are much more substantial. The insurance companies, who padded Gov. Schwarzegger’s with exorbitant amount of money, got the reforms they wanted. How’s that for taking special interest money and the governor doing favors for those who did? Now the insurance companies are laughing all the way to the bank at the expense of the injured worker. Employer rates have not dropped as promised and, as her article states, permanent disability benefits are now the bottom in the nation. That is not something this state should be proud of.

Injured workers’ rights to medical control have been taken away. Do we take that away from any other segment of society? No. Injured workers’ rights to obtain treatment that is necessary has been taken away. We have limited their benefits while they cannot work and reduced their compensation for permanent disabilities. We have taken away their right to be retrained if they cannot return to their usual and customary work as a result of their permanent injuries. This is a travesty, Ms. Stewart. You should be ashamed of yourself for distorting the truth. Try living in the shoes of an injured worker.

I am outraged by what the governor has done to hurt the working men and women of this state and I am outraged by the special interest money he has taken from the insurance companies. The injured workers of this state deserve better.

Susan Fields
Northridge

In response to Jill Stewart’s scathing attack on attorneys representing workers, it revealed more about her ignorance of the subject matter than anything else. Senate Bill 899 is the most vicious attack on the basic rights of the injured worker in California history. Instead of focusing on the rights of injured workers, she goes off on a tirade against their attorneys who instead of “milking the system” earn a mere 15 percent fee. The recent Rand Study confirms that benefits paid to injured workers are woefully inadequate. The new legislation even cuts that amount by at least 50 percent. As an attorney who has represented injured workers for more than 25 years, I can tell you unequivocally that the California applicant attorneys are the most dedicated group of lawyers on behalf of their clients that I have ever had the pleasure to associate with. Of all the reasons for the workers compensation crisis, Stewart is misinformed in blaming the attorneys. She should do more research before she spouts off about a subject of which she certainly has little knowledge.

Ronald M. Canter
Los Angeles

I read with dismay another of Jill Stewart’s articles about workers’ compensation. I can only say, “Jill, you’ve got it wrong.” She falsely hints that the truly injured will be helped by the Schwarzenegger sellout of injured workers. Nothing is further from the truth. Under the new AMA guides, the near dead, such as Terri Schiavo in her final days, would only be considered 90 percent disabled according to one of the editors of the AMA Guides.

Stewart has declined an invitation to meet with injured workers or an attorney representing them to hear directly from them how the changes have hurt truly injured people.

She needs to expand her sources beyond the Chamber of Commerce.

Robert Blum
El Dorado Hills

Battle of Faith

James D. Besser’s article shows a moral blindness to seven glaring realities (“The Faith Wars Heat Up, ” May 20):

1) For the past 37 years, the forces of political correctness have poisoned, corrupted and degraded every institution of American life.

2) Those who are “faith revolutionaries” are average, decent people who were not very political. They were focused on raising their families, making a living and supporting their houses of worship. Pushed too far, they are angry and radicalized.

3) There are serious changes in American Jewry. A decade ago, you could not find enough Jewish Republicans for a living room meeting. Today, they are packing large auditoriums to capacity.

4) During the days of Harry Truman, Democrats represented “average Joes” who played softball at the public park while the Republicans represented those who played golf and tennis at posh country clubs. Today, the opposite is true.

5) Too many Jews, including numerous rabbis, are lukewarm Zionists. The Christian right loves Israel unconditionally.

6) Bigotry against Jews and Christians is socially acceptable. Islam is sacrosanct!

7) The real dangerous hate mongers, whom we need to fear, are on the left — not the right!

Rabbi Louis J. Feldman
Van Nuys

 

Set, Spike, Kiss


I’ll never play the violin in high heels again.

OK, I’ll be back in sticks in six weeks, and I never played the fiddle. But I did play an important game of volleyball.

Every Sunday, my peeps and I play co-ed pickup volleyball on Venice Beach. New catch Austin is always up for a little bumping and setting, so I invited him to come out and play. It seemed like the perfect chance to make a make a big impression. I’d win the point, I’d win the game, I’d win his heart.

Wearing nothing but my red polka-dot bikini, I was dressed to impress. But my play? It wasn’t pretty. Remember the last kid picked for gym class? Yeah, that wasn’t me. I was never even picked. I spent P.E. class helping Ms. Toppee keep score. So, Misty May I’m not, and Austin’s presence only heightened the pressure.

Then I saw it, in slow motion, the volleyball teetering above the net. This was it! One of those “douse me with Gatorade, throw me on a Wheaties box, one shining moment” kind of plays. The kind of play we’d recount over victory drinks. The kind of play I’d never attempt, but one that would make Austin fall for me — hard. Unfortunately, I’m the one who fell.

In all my 5-foot-2 glory, I jumped for the spike. But my towering 5-foot-3 opponent, Wendy, went for the block. We collided midair and crashed to the ground in a Cirque de Soleil contortion of bikinis and sand. I heard my teammate Randy say, “That’s hot.”

Austin helped me hobble off the court and drove me to his couch. My foot — swollen. My ego — bruised. I wanted the afternoon to be perfect. I wanted Austin to think I was perfect. I wanted to start things off on the right foot, and now all I’ve got is a Hobbit foot. Who wants to date an uncoordinated girl who lives in a Shire?

This wasn’t the first time I klutzed my way through a courtship. I’m the Tasmanian devil of the singles scene, the Lucy of JDate. I hit my golf ball into the moat at Sherman Oaks Castle Park. I released an air hockey paddle into Brad’s head, I spilled cold beer on Andrew’s pants, and I knocked over a candle during dinner with Dave. Those guys each canceled our relationship faster than a bad fall sitcom. I’m nervous Austin will follow their lead — another date bites the dust.

The next day I met Doc K. He looked at my chart, did a George Clooney head tilt, and said “Carin Davis … wait, do you write for The Jewish Journal?”

“Yes. I — “

“That’s what I thought. You write that singles column. My wife and I read it. You talk about a different guy every time. Pretty funny stuff. But as a happily married man, let me give you some dating advice.”

“What about some medical adv–?”

“Quit looking for the perfect guy and find your perfect match. From what I’ve read, you’re not perfect, so why would he be?”

“I’m sorry, I’m here about my–”

“The key is to find someone who likes you despite your faults … wow, I can’t wait to tell my wife I met you. Well, let’s look at that foot.”

Leaving the office with my broken toe taped and orders to stay out of stilettos, I realized the podiatrist formerly known as Dr. Phil, made a correct diagnosis. Not only was I looking for the perfect guy, but I was desperate to appear perfect to him. No whammies. All my ducks in a row. Not that I own any ducks, geese or Empire chickens — or would bring anything that quacks on a date. I would, however, make myself meshuggeneh trying to look graceful and flawless. But why work so hard to get some guy’s hechsher?

Sure men get excited about that perfectly polished, put-together, supermodel type, but they also get excited about cold pizza. They’re not so hard to please. Sometimes we’re so focused on impressing the person we’re dating, we fail to notice how impressive that person really is.

Austin could have called The National Enquirer, told them he’d located Big Foot. But instead, he was a knight in shining T-shirt. With my athlete’s foot elevated and my head in his lap, we spent hours talking, exchanging stories and playing beach blanket bingo. Guess I was the one who was swept off my feet. Well, at least one of them.

Freelance writer Carin Davis can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

Once Upon a Mime


Once upon a time, Joel ben Izzy worked as a mime — until he injured his hip in a car crash.

Then he became a storyteller who lost his voice.

"If I could market irony, I’d be rich," said the wry, rueful performer.

Ben Izzy — who eventually regained his speech — recounts the journey in a moving new book, "The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness" (Algonquin, $22.95). Woven into the memoir are 15 multicultural folk tales, including the Talmudic legend of how King Solomon achieved wisdom after temporarily losing his empire.

If ben Izzy’s tribulations sound like a not-so-funny cosmic joke, it’s fitting that he began an interview with a story set during a Purim carnival at his Arcadia Conservative synagogue three decades ago. There, the budding performer, now 44, met "Professor Presto," the Jewish magician who would become his first magic teacher. Ben Izzy went on to become a mime in Paris until a Ford sedan gave him "a very quick physics lesson," and dislocated his hip in 1981, he said.

While recuperating, he read a newspaper article about the emerging storytelling movement spurred by artists such as Jackie Torrance; he knew he’d found his new calling. After earning a degree from Stanford in that craft, he traveled from Japan to Israel, collecting folk tales he performed live and on several acclaimed CDs.

He felt blessed until the medical checkup in 1997, where the doctor found the lump in his throat.

"After surgery, the good news was that the thyroid cancer was gone," he said. "The bad news: So was my voice and my livelihood."

While waiting to see if a second, experimental surgery could help, the desperate ben Izzy began "The Beggar King" to explore whether he could carve meaning from his misery. He was "shocked" when "King," his first book, earned rave reviews and potential movie deals: "I never thought that losing my voice would be my ‘big break,’" he said. &’9;But as soon as ben Izzy mentioned his newfound success, he sheepishly added that he should perhaps spit to ward off bad luck. "An irony-free life would be nice," he said.

Ben Izzy performs Feb. 25, 7 p.m at Borders Books & Music, 1415 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica; and Feb. 26, 7 p.m., at the Central Library downtown. For reservations, call (213) 228-7025.

A Teen Spared From Terror


Hilla Hayo, 16, was not a victim of the Dolphinarium attack in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2001 — but she could have been. The teenager, who, along with four classmates, spent 10 days at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills this October as part of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership, canceled her plans at the last minute the night of the explosion. She and her pal were planning to go to Pacha, the Dolphinarium’s neighboring club whose patrons were also struck when the bomb was detonated.

"My best friend got sick and we decided not to go," remembered Hayo.

While Hayo may have dodged a bullet that fateful night, the anecdote seems just one of the many threatening situations she has confronted as an Israeli teen. Without hesitation, she described the deafening bombs she occasionally hears from her home in Yad Eliyahu, a city just south of Tel Aviv, and the eerie vibrations from the impact. Then there was the time that she saw an actual suicide bomber run by the buses at a central mall in Tel Aviv.

"I feel safe here," she said, looking around the crowded lobby of the West Hills Jewish Community Center. "I don’t feel as safe in Israel."

Even having a social life involves being wary of terrorism.

"I have a lot of fights with my parents about going out at night," Hayo said. "When I had a boyfriend who had a car, they felt better because they knew I could return safely without taking public transportation."

But living with fear hasn’t robbed her of hope or typical teenage enthusiasm. From teaching her host family Hebrew rap songs to serenading the New Community Jewish High School student body and faculty on the night before she flew back to Israel, Hayo is a spirited teenager whose zest for life is intact. Unlike some of the other girls from Ironi-Tet who visited Los Angeles, Hayo is open to friendships with Arab teens. Upon her return home, she was looking forward to singing with her band, continuing to be involved with her school’s student council and becoming a doctor someday, after spending two years in the Israeli army.

"We donít want to let the Palestinians stop our lives because then they win," Hayo told The Journal. "We want to show them we’re not afraid."

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