Thursday, March 29, 2018

Politics – March 2018 Happy Passover/Easter

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.

~Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5, Yerushalmi Talmud 4:9. Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a

There are very few things that should not be confined to certain boundaries. Kindness is one of them.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

There is a stronger smell of elections in Israel. The police have now secured a number of former close associates with PM Netanyahu who signed agreement to testify against him on a number of issues, all stemming from the Netanyahu craving for power and hedonistic life-style.

As the police is gathering more evidence against him, PM Netanyahu projects "business as usual", threatening Iran, visiting places, and playing the innocent victim who struggles against anti-democratic elements in Israel who wish to take him out of office in undemocratic ways. These anti-democratic people -- the police and the justice system, were mobilised by the non-Likud parties, in total disregard to what the voters wish. But, know no fear, promises the PM, the Likud will remain in power for many more years to come.

The PM office was very good to the Netanyahu family. Lord Acton warned: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

Reflections on Last Newsletter
Drafting Yeshiva Bochers
Cambridge Union Debate: THB the two-state solution is dead.
The Trump Administration
Violence and Terror
For the first time, a chief rabbi in the UK has publicly criticized a chief rabbi of Israel.

My New Article - “Social Responsibility on the Internet: Addressing the Challenge of Cyberbullying”, Aggression and Violent Behavior, Vol. 39 (March-April 2018), pp. 42-52.

New Books - Privacy and the Media

Gem of the Month – Barcelona
Gem of the Month - Barcelona FC and Lionel Messi
Gem of the Month - La Pedrera
Gem of the Month - Serada Familia
Gem of the Month - Jewish Museum Girona
Gem of the Month - A Coruña Harbour and Promenade
Gem of the Month – Ribadavia Jewish Quarter

Monthly Poems

Light Side - A Sunny Day


Reflections on Last Newsletter

Thanks to those who wrote to express their sentiments about Moshe Negbi and his premature departure. I appreciate all the good thoughts and words.

Drafting Yeshiva Bochers

This issue continues to torment Israeli politics. Two of the coalition parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, say they will not vote for the 2019 state budget unless the Knesset passes their legislation to restore the legal exemptions from military service available to full-time yeshiva students, after the High Court of Justice struck down just such a law last year.

A small number of people make a foolish decision and then it takes hundreds of more people to try and fix it. The decision to draft Orthodox men who “die themselves in the tent of Torah” was not carefully considered. You do not legislate laws that have no chance of success. Instead of coercing those men to be in a place they abhor, legislate a mandatory service for ALL CITIZENS OF ISRAEL, either in the army OR in national service for the same duration of time for men and women. This in the name of equal citizenship and egalitarianism. This Act would refer to EVERYBODY, including Ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian Israelis. People who do not wish to serve in the army for various reasons should serve in community service, if possible within their own communities.

Cambridge Union Debate: THB the two-state solution is dead.

Some weeks ago, I took part in a Cambridge Union Debate: THB the two-state solution is dead. You are able to watch the debate at

The Trump Administration

Every reshuffle in the Trump administration is nearing its end.

I cannot recall a messier administration than the Trump administration. Chaos is the name of the game.

Is the Bolton nomination good news for Israel? What do you think?

Violence and Terror

France and the USA occupy the news for the wrong reasons. My heart goes to the recent victims of senseless terror that brings nothing but more pain and suffering, and yields more senseless violence.

For the first time, a chief rabbi in the UK has publicly criticized a chief rabbi of Israel.

On March 21, 2018, British newspapers were quick to report that Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef called black people “monkeys” during his weekly sermon. He also repeatedly referred to black people as “kushim”, which is a derogatory word for blacks. I suspect that Rabbi Yosef does not even know it is a derogatory word. This is the word that he and his followers commonly use in their insensitive and unethical way.

Rabbi Yosef added insult to injury by insisting that his words were quoted from the Babylonian Talmud in Berakhot and thus legitimate.


Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis decided to criticize Rabbi Yosef publicly and unequivocally. At a time when the British Jewish community is waging a fight against Labour for alleged anti-Semitism, being complicit with racist statements would be irresponsible.

Rabbi Mirvis’s comments were also preceded by criticism from the UK’s Board of Deputies. President of the Board Jonathan Arkush “deplored the reprehensible racist remarks made by Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, who used a slang term and apparently referred to a black person as a monkey... In so doing he has betrayed his office. He should be working to eliminate all forms of racism, not voicing backwards ideas.”

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League also rebuked rabbi Yosef for his derogatory comments. ADL called Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef's comments "racially charged" and "utterly unacceptable."

For more information, see,7340,L-5197790,00.html

My New Article - “Social Responsibility on the Internet: Addressing the Challenge of Cyberbullying”, Aggression and Violent Behavior, Vol. 39 (March-April 2018), pp. 42-52.

In Memory of Lee Rawls (1944-2010)

This article discusses the phenomena of cyberbullying especially among young people. The discussion, based on an interdisciplinary study in the fields of brain studies, child development, psychology, social policy, victimization and Internet studies, probes the troubling phenomenon of cyberbullying which may result in suicide. It is argued that adolescents are more vulnerable than adults because they lack maturity with respect to capacities such as thrill seeking, impulse control, peer pressure, reward sensitivity, cognitive processing, rational decision-making and long-term planning. The article suggests remedies to counter online social ills and argues for responsible cooperation between parents, schools, governments, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and social networking sites.

Keywords: adolescent vulnerability; bullying; cyberbullying; friendship; responsibility; social networking; suicide

I have been working on this article, on and off, for several years. This is a complex and an interdisciplinary study in the fields of brain studies, child development, psychology, social policy, victimization and Internet studies.

The issue is timely and of great importance. Please feel free to circulate it among interested parties.

The article is available at

New Books

Andrew McStay, Privacy and the Media (LA: Sage, 2017).

This is an easy to read, accessible text book that is aimed to tackle timely privacy concerns. The chapters are short, with pertinent examples that make the reading enjoyable. I teach from this book the issue of privacy and recommend other teachers to do the same.

I thank Sage for a book copy.

Gem of the Month - Barcelona

There are cities to which I feel instant connection. Barcelona is one of them. I fell in love with the city the moment I entered its gates during the late 1980s. I was very happy to return and appreciate its beauty, walking its streets and e plotting its hidden and not so hidden gems. Barcelona is lovely.

And it is great to see the colours of Barca and the names of Messi et al all over the city.

Everyone I met spoke about the issue of Cataluña independence. This is the burning issue. I heard a lot of pain. Some told me: We have nothing in common with Spain. Spain unfairly benefits from our resources. Spain does not respect our culture. We will be far better off separating from Spain, leading our own way of life. While others are deeply concerned by the independence movement, do not feel comfortable leaving in Cataluña and even consider leaving. One told me that when he speaks Spanish with his university colleagues, one of them rises and gives the Nazi salute. The Spanish government is not my cup of tea but I do not think it is Nazi.

The independence movement is growing in strength because of the government mistakes. Jailing and deporting the Catalan leaders is not a solution. The two sides need to meet and speak. Cataluña educates its young in Catalan, not in Spanish; therefore, the cessation movement is likely to grow with the years, and there will be further calls and claims for independence.

Gem of the Month - Barcelona FC and Lionel Messi

My friend Jaime Cabeza bought tickets to see Barca v Athletic Bilbao in Camp Nou. He flew from Vigo to Barcelona, we had lunch with another friend and proceed to the game. After the game, he flew back to Vigo. Jaime fulfilled my dream to see Barca and Messi playing in one of the most distinguished football shrines of the world. 

Barca won 2:0, goals scored by Paco Alcácer and Leo Messi. Barca played one half and then walked in the second half. It is a wonderful experience to watch Barca playing. Poetry in motion. Football of the highest level. 

Messi is the greatest footballer in the history of the game. I have never seen a player who controls the ball as Messi does. Watching him play is a treat.

Gem of the Month - La Pedrera

This is one of Antoni Gaudi's masterpieces, an example for his imagination and creativity, his distinct style and ability to design every aspect of a building, exterior and interior, including the courtyard, the staircase, the roof terrace, the bathroom and the chairs. Every aspect, every detail is important to create a distinct environment and identity that cannot be mistaken. Gaudi. 


La Pdrera certainly worth a visit. I recommend warmly.

Gem of the Month - Serada Familia

Antoni Gaudi dedicated a major part of his life to the Serada. As a religious man, this project was important to him. The result is distinctive and extraordinary. I have never seen any church like the Serada. I appreciate innovation, originality, industry and attention to detail, all are manifested in this construction that became one of Barcelona's symbols. The richness of artistic creativity is astonishing. Both the exterior and the interior are impressive. 


Gaudi did not live to see the end result. He was killed in a tragic accident at a relatively young age. Other architects took upon themselves to complete this immense project while remaining loyal to Gaudi's ideas and vision.

Gem of the Month - Jewish Museum Girona

The museum tells the history of the Jews in Girona. Emphasis is put on the years of inquisition that destroyed the Girona Jewish community as well as many other Jewish communities in Spain, including the community of my forefathers in Toledo that brought them eventually to Palestine. There were many similarities between the inquisition modes of operation against the Jews and the Nazi final solution. The major difference that the Inquisition fought Jewish religion and the Nazis fought the Jewish race, thus conversion and renouncing Judaism were no redemption.

In 1480, las Cortes of Toledo ordered that the Jews live in separated neighbourhoods. In 1491, the Inquisition court ordered to burn 2000 Jews in Sevilla. In 1492, the decree of expulsion was announced. Many Jews chose to convert to Christianity.


Girona is the heart of the independence movement. Many of the houses are dressed with the Catalan flags, and with yellow ribbons, calling to free the Catalan leaders who are serving time in Spanish jails.

Gem of the Month - A Coruña Harbour and Promenade

A Coruña has some of Spain's best beaches, a lovely harbour and a long, beautiful promenade to relax and enjoy. It was rainy during my short stay but I trust that during the summer this place is buzzing with people who enjoy a stroll.

Gem of the Month – Ribadavia Jewish Quarter

In Ribadavia there was another Jewish community who is now remembered by the names of the streets, the castle museum, and the shops that sell Hebrew cakes and cookies. During the Middle Ages, the Jews were 15% of the population.


Sisters Lola, Amparo and Julia Touza helped 500 Jews flee Nazi extermination. The Touza sisters lived in the town of Ribadavia (Ourense), the last stop in the Jewish exodus to Portugal. Lola and her sisters would wait for them at the station kiosk they were running. Lola, Amparo and Julia offered food to the Jewish fugitives before organising their escape, “crossing the river Miño in the dark of the night” to Portuguese soil. 

I thank Jaime Cabeza, Jose Raus, Ferran Camas Roda, Oscar Coromina Rodriguez, Meira Odina, Victor Sorenssen, Belen de Campo, Francisco Campos Freire, Emili Prado and Matias Menbiela for their kind and warm hospitality.

Monthly Poems

Winter Night

It snowed and snowed ,the whole world over,
Snow swept the world from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

As during summer midges swarm
To beat their wings against a flame
Out in the yard the snowflakes swarmed
To beat against the window pane

The blizzard sculptured on the glass
Designs of arrows and of whorls.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

Distorted shadows fell
Upon the lighted ceiling:
Shadows of crossed arms of crossed legs-
Of crossed destiny.

Two tiny shoes fell to the floor
And thudded.
A candle on a nightstand shed wax tears
Upon a dress.

All things vanished within
The snowy murk-white,hoary.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

A corner draft fluttered the flame
And the white fever of temptation
Upswept its angel wings that cast
A cruciform shadow

It snowed hard throughout the month
Of February, and almost constantly
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

Boris Pasternak


Profile dim
Always at dusk
Line of your hair
As it used to curl
Falling on firm shoulders
Only your nose can be discerned 
Voice does not penetrate
The purple evening.

I used to know your movements so well
To whom you turn
Stream smile so stern
Light breeze you bring into the empty room
Embracing smooth voice that touches
Sweet scent of rich burgundy mixed with peach shampoo
Reviving children and adults alike
What happened to the happy entry?

Toast of glasses sunk into your eyes
Vivid brown turned to blurred and fluffy
Like Tony's Cocker Spaniel in his morning walk.
Young Ringo ecstatic, Tony's half a tone down and yours
Like a soft wind in Californian summer
Leaf fight for the green while you leave softly
I can see only the silhouette of your face
Memories of your heartbeat.


Raphael Cohen-Almagor



Light Side

A Sunny Day

By Raphael Cohen-Almagor

After four months of rain and grey skies, the sun came about. Bernard looked out of the window and was thinking to himself, I must find a way to avoid school and go to the beach. Such a lovely day. I am not going to waste it by sitting in class, listening to Mr Goodman's boring stories about nothing. After all, the more I learn, said Bernard to himself, the more I forget. So what's the point? And anyway, I learn most of my staff from television and from the Internet.

Bernard went to his mother who was still seeking energy to open her tired eyes.
Bernard: “Mummy, I do not feel like going to school today”.
Mum: “Why?”
Bernard: “Because of the sun”.
Mum: “What about it?”
Bernard: “I wish to enjoy it”.
Mum: “Well. You can enjoy it in the afternoon”.
Bernard: “But mum, the sun will not wait for me”.
Mum: “Well, if you insist, call school and tell them that”.
Bernard called the school and spoke to the receptionist, explaining his desire not to come to school on such a beautiful, sunny day.

The receptionist listened politely, said nothing and put him to his teacher.

Mr Goodman: “Bernard, I would also like to go to Whitby beach and enjoy the sun but I cannot”.

Bernard: “Explain to your mum, and maybe she will understand. Like my mum”.

Mr Goodman: “Good idea. But my mum is not the only obstacle”.

Bernard, trying to help: “Who do you need to convince?”

Mr Goodman: “Mr Paul, the headmaster”.

Bernard: “Well, I cannot help you there. I am sorry. Mr Paul is not a very sunny person. He won't understand, I am afraid”.

Mr Goodman: “No worries. I won't try talking to him”.

Bernard: “OK. I must dash now as long as it lasts. Try to enjoy your day nevertheless. I will see you soon”.

The Story of Purim || Mayim Bialik

Happy Pesach!

Peace and Love. Yours as ever,


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