Knesset dissolution bill passes first reading


Legislation to dissolve the Israeli Knesset and go to national elections was approved unanimously on first reading.

Israeli lawmakers voted 99-0, with one voting “present,” on Monday night to dissolve the 18th Knesset and hold elections for a new government on Jan. 22. The measure still must pass the second and third readings.

Following the vote on the first reading, the legislation went to the Knesset House Committee for discussion. It was expected to go back to the full Knesset for the second and third readings later Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, President Shimon Peres, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and a host of other lawmakers spoke in the hours before the vote on the opening day of the winter session.

Elections for the next Knesset had been scheduled for October 2013. The new poll will take place four years since the last vote.

Netanyahu had announced last week, after consulting with his coalition partners, that the country would go to early elections, saying it was impossible to pass the 2013 budget without first holding elections.

“These coming elections are intended to set our goals for the future,” Peres said. “They should be conducted with respect, with sensitivity to one another and with restraint. The elections should be a national debate without senseless attacks.”

Chanukah gift guide


What Men Want (To Say)


On a typical coffee date, because we’re meeting for the first time, awkward conversation comes with the territory. Neither of us completely reveals what we’re thinking or feeling. We’re shy, holding back, concealing, putting on a good face, feeling the other person out.

How much more interesting the first date would be if we both were to communicate our true emotions. Still, those actual thoughts and feelings are definitely present, whether uttered or not. They’re simply bubbling under the conversation’s surface; biding their time until we feel more comfortable and trusting with one another.

For instance, take this (nearly) verbatim transcript from one of my coffee dates. All un-uttered thoughts have been italicized for the protection of the emotionally fragile.

Me: Lauri?

Here I go again. Date No. 163, but who’s counting? At this rate, by next May I’ll have dated every unattached woman in the city. At which time I’ll have to start importing them from other countries and taking Berlitz classes.

Lauri: Hi, Mark. Nice to meet you.

Dear Lord, please don’t let this one be a stalker, a jerk or have serious psychological issues like the last six. I believe I’ve reached my annual quota for restraining orders.

Me: Should we get some coffee and sit down?

And then decide within 10 minutes whether there’s a chance we might eventually see each other naked or, and most likely, never see each other again?

Lauri: Sounds good.

Looks like I’m gonna have to train this one how to dress, make eye contact, speak, stand up straight and do something with that hair. Yep, this one’s a definite fixer-upper. Again. Dear Lord, just shoot me now.

Me: So, have you been doing this Internet dating thing long?

Exactly how many guys have you rejected, and how many have rejected you? Be specific. You have five minutes to answer. Show all work. Begin.

Lauri: You’re actually only the first coffee date I’ve been on.

Today. The sum total of all my coffee dates could fill Dodger Stadium. And it’s always I who do the rejecting, because I am perfect and they are flawed. Capiche? So unless your own perfection level approaches mine, you might as well start heading over to the stadium right now.

Me: What are you looking for in a relationship?

Are you a) High maintenance? b) Emotionally needy? c) Nuts?

Lauri: Oh, I don’t know. I guess the usual — chemistry, shared goals, friendship.

A man with Brad Pitt’s looks and Bill Gates’ bank account who can make me yodel in bed. That specific enough for you, Sparky?

Me: What kinds of things do you like to do for fun?

And please know that the red flag goes up immediately with any hint of chick flicks, shopping or eating at restaurants whose names begin with a “Le.”

Lauri: I’m pretty down-to-earth. Just the usual.

That is, if you define “usual” as a) Frequent, “where is this heading?” talks about our relationship; b) Having my mother visit us as often as possible; c) Making it my lifelong mission to interest you in ballet and opera.

Me: Is it just me, or am I sensing some chemistry here?

I’m picturing you without your clothing right now, but I’m gonna have to do some up-close and personal research in order to get the full effect.

Lauri: You might be right.

It’s just you.

Me: May I walk you to your car?

And check out your rear view as I, the perfect gentleman, allow you to walk in front of me?

Lauri: Sure. Can I contribute something to the bill?

And need I remind you that a “yes” answer on your part will forever brand you as a cheapskate of the highest caliber?

Me: Oh, no, I’ve got it. Thanks.

I accepted one of those invitations to contribute once before and ended up as the featured newcomer on www.cheapdatestoavoid.com for two months.

Me: Well, here we are. It was really good to meet you.

Because I enjoy taking two-hour chunks out of my day to spend time with people I’ll never see again.

Lauri: You, too. You seem like a really nice guy.

And we’ll have our next date when Paris Hilton becomes a nun.

On second thought, perhaps those dates are better off with the actual thoughts and feelings remaining bubbling under the conversation’s surface. After all, if you start off a romantic relationship with absolute honesty, no telling what madness and chaos would result.

Mark Miller has written for TV, movies and celebrities, been a professional
stand-up comedian and a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. He
can be reached at markmiller2000@comcast.net.

The Price We Pay


Jacob spent 20 long years in the home of his father-in-law, Laban, before he could return to the land of Canaan, his home and homeland.

He had been threatened, cheated, tricked, attacked, injured and orphaned over the course of those years. Certainly, he was hoping to settle down and enjoy the rest of his years in peace. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. Jacob’s daughter, Dina, was spotted by Shechem, the prince of the land. He desired her, abducted her, raped her and then, in an odd twist, his aggression turned soft and he sought to make her his wife.

Shechem and Chamor, his father, approached Jacob and preposterously asked for his permission to marry Dina. It could be the start of a new relationship between the locals and Jacob’s family, they reasoned. Sons and daughters would intermarry, they could do business together; it was a win-win partnership for everyone. Jacob and his sons listened incredulously as these men painted such a rosy picture, as if they would happily agree to an alliance with those who perpetrated such an ugly and violent act against their daughter and sister.

Unfortunately, Jacob’s family had the weaker stance in these negotiations. Dina was still Shechem’s prisoner, and their one objective was to bring her home safely. Instead of agreeing to or rejecting the proposition, the brothers devised a plan, and attached an unrealistic condition to the marriage; all of the men in the city of Shechem must be circumcised before they would allow Dina, or any of their daughters, to intermarry. If the men refused, the brothers could take Dina back and be released from any obligation to have dealings with these repulsive people. It was a clever plan, but it backfired. The brothers underestimated the power and persuasion that Shechem had over his people, and all of the males underwent circumcision.

What to do? It seemed that the brothers had backed themselves into a corner. Shimon and Levi, two of Dina’s brothers, decided, independently, to take matters into their own hands. On the third day following the circumcision, when the men were weak and defenseless, they entered the town wielding swords. They killed all of the males, including Shechem and Chamor, took spoils and captives, and fulfilled their main objective, rescuing their sister and bringing her home.

They were successful in their quest, but were they justified? Were they allowed to kill so many people, to risk their own lives, to act with deceit? Their father seemed to think not. Jacob rebukes them sharply, both at the time that they act, and years later at the end of his life. He fears the repercussions of the inhabitants of the land, curses the anger of his sons and disassociates himself from their partnership.

But they have a defense. They have a response to their father’s objection: "Hach’zonah ya’aseh et achoteinu. (Should he treat our sister like a harlot?") Shimon and Levi felt that Shechem acted so brutally against Dina because she was the daughter of Jacob, a Jewish girl. Jews are easy targets because no one stands up to protest when a Jew is attacked. Shechem feared no punishment, no backlash, no consequence to his actions, and, therefore, he was free to do to Dina whatever he pleased. But Shimon and Levi stood up to say an emphatic no. Jewish blood is not hefker (ownerless). It is not free for the taking. We can and will use the full force of our strength to defend the lives and honor of our own, even if everyone else turns a blind eye to the injustices carried out against us.

Is this not the story of our past and our present? Who stood up to defend those who lost their lives in the Crusades? In the Inquisition? In the pogroms? In the Holocaust? Atrocity after atrocity befalls our people, and why? Because the world does not cry over spilled Jewish blood. Thank God for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who have, time and again, been blessed with the strength of Shimon and Levi, and showed the world that Jewish blood is accountable. As a nation, we can and will defend the lives of our citizens, and even if the world stands idly by while aggression is unleashed against us, it won’t go unpunished.

For the past two years, daily and deadly attacks have been unleashed against the citizens of Israel, yet Israel gets condemned for exercising her right of self-defense. Women and children are targeted and killed in their cars, their restaurants, their own homes — and the world seems to side with the perpetrators, not the victims. Were Shimon and Levi justified in wiping out the city of Shechem? Is the IDF justified in rooting out terrorists? Not everyone thinks so. The United Nations, the European Union and some in our own American government don’t support the drastic measures Israel must sometimes take to defend her citizens, even her very existence. But despite the protest and the bad press, it is hard to condemn success and security. There is a price to pay for relying on others for help, and there is a price to pay for taking care of ourselves. Shimon and Levi force us to think about which is a greater price to pay.

Steven Weil is senior rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills.

It’s Just a Present … Really


Legend tells us that Judah and the strapping young Maccabees faced the mighty Syrian army and defeated it against all obstacles. But if you want to face some real odds, try finding a nice Jewish guy courageous enough to accept a girl’s Chanukah present.

I just started dating a guy. Now I know it’s early, but I love the idea of celebrating Chanukah together. My dilemma: how do I prevent him from contracting "commitmentitis" the moment I hand him a Chanukah gift?

The present I’ve conjured up for him is genius. On our first date, he mentioned how much he loved Michael Jordan. His eyes danced when we discussed M.J.’s recent comeback. But unlike Jordan, I was on top of my game.

First, I threw out all the "how to play it casual" advice I acquired from those "Venus and Mars" books. Then I spent hours on the phone hunting down a friend of a friend whose agent’s assistant snagged me tickets to the Wizards-Lakers game. OK, so they’re not Nicholson seats. Best-case scenario: He’ll freak when he opens this present; look at me like I’m the most amazing woman (which, by the way, I am). He’ll conclude that after months of bad blind dates and high-maintenance disasters, he’s finally found the right girl.

Actually, with my luck, he’ll have a conniption. He’ll unwrap the package with considerable hesitation. His mouth will squeak out an insincere "thanks" while his eyes scream, "Why did you buy me this?! What does it mean?! Do you expect a gift in return? First a gift, then a ring. You probably already picked out the chuppah. I can’t breathe. I need my space. We need to talk."

Girls can’t help it. Giving gifts is in our genes. We fantasize about coming up with the perfect Chanukah gift the way guys fantasize about this month’s Maxim cover.

It’s so hard to fight that gift-giving urge when the mall is blizzarding with holiday sales. But we’ve got to squelch that impulse. As far as I can tell, holiday gift giving follows the same absurd set of unspoken rules as every other aspect of singlehood. It seems that giving too nice a gift is a bigger turnoff than calling him first. In the same way that we unfold and refold that little scrap of paper with his number on it, resisting the urge to call, we must crush our present-buying cravings. A girl should play hard to get: an overly thoughtful gift makes her appear eager and less of a challenge.

So at what point do men stop interpreting our gifts as "I’ll get you, my little pretty, and your little black book too?" How far into a relationship do we have to be before it’s safe to exchange holiday presents?

The Better Dating Bureau states that when purchasing a gift for a significant other, spend $10 for every month you’ve been together. It’s the Pythagorean Theorem of dating. If you’ve been dating for one month spend $10, if you’ve been dating for two years spend $240. According to this formula, I should ditch the basketball tickets and just pick him up a pair of Marky Mark boxer briefs instead.

But I can justify the tickets, since technically I can give him eight Chanukah presents: 1.5 months x $10 per month x eight nights = $120.

Then I can designate that entire total for one night rather than distribute it over eight nights.

When did it all get so complicated?

Chanukah should come with speed bumps, warning us well-intended givers to slow down. But the reality is, giving gifts makes me happy. Especially when I sidestep the generic beer-of-the-month-club membership and Banana Republic sweater and find my guy something special. My gift doesn’t have to mean, "I can’t breathe without you" or "I’ll never wash this cheek again." It can simply mean, "You’re a great guy. I like hanging out with you. Happy Chanukah." We ladies don’t expect anything in return. Not much anyway — a kiss, a thank you, a reaction that does not include dizzy spells or hyperventilating.

It’s so difficult finding one such courageous mensch in this sprawling city.

Not helping matters is the Maccabee legend that circulates this time of year that speaks of that entire clan of brave young Jewish men — strong, athletic Jews — all living in one village. If only that were the case in Los Angeles. Now that would be the real miracle of Chanukah.


Carin Davis, a freelance writer living in Los Angeles, has an extra ticket to the Lakers game.