A new year

I'm not going to reminisce about 2011. The above cartoon pretty much describes how I feel about the old year. I am glad to see it come to an end.

And 2012?

I don't make New Year's resolutions (invitation to fail, anyone?), but here are some of the things I look forward to in the next several months:

  • Getting a job. Yes. A job. A real, paying job.  I'm flexible on whether it's full-time or part-time, at-home or in-an-office. But I want to stretch my mental muscles and I need to interact with adults on a regular, non-child-centered basis. I have my resume out for a few positions already, and I plan to start getting in touch with my old networks after next week.
  • De-cluttering my house. I got a good start on getting rid of unnecessary things when I moved, and I kept up the good work when I got some of my mother's things. But I got stymied after a bit when I couldn't move computer boxes, etc., into the garage because the garage was leaking. Now that the leaking roof is finally fixed, I want to get back into the groove and clear the junk out.  I've become a big fan of Freecycle, by the way. If you have stuff to get rid of (or if you're looking for stuff for free), I encourage you to check it out.
  • Socializing. I have so enjoyed being back East among my friends. It's been good for me and good for my kids to have an active social life, to be engaged with a variety of people, from lots of different parts of my life.  Church friends, neighborhood friends, work friends, widow friends, old friends, new friends: They enrich my life. I've also reconnected with some almost-forgotten friends, and that makes my heart smile.
  • Strengthening relationships. My sister and I are finding our way with each other, and I know that will continue. My sister-in-law and I are enjoying each other's company more than either of us had expected. This is good; very good and unexpected, indeed.
  • My nephew's wedding. My youngest nephew is getting married in Arizona in May. The boys and I will fly out for a long weekend. We won't have a lot of time out there, but it will be good to celebrate with my family. We didn't get to do a lot of "celebrating" while I was living there. 
  • Gardening. I cannot WAIT for spring. After four years in the desert, with nothing but rocks and sand, I am so eager to get my hands into fertile soil, that I can practically smell the dirt right now.  Pansies. Petunias. Tomatoes.  Where's my seed catalog?
  • But before Spring ... SNOW.  We got flurries a few days ago, and I was so happy. I will admit to having enjoyed the mild Tucson winters, but I really like a good winter storm, including the shoveling of snow.
  • Eating right. One side benefit of having my sister-in-law live with us is that I've had a reason to cook real meals again. It's hard to muster energy to cook for small beasts who would rather eat frozen pizza and cold cereal.  Being back in the church community has also helped: The Eastern church follows a pretty strict fast in preparation for major feasts. While we were in Arizona and not part of a faith community, it was just too hard to do in isolation. Being back in Maryland, when the whole church is aware of the Nativity Fast, for example, it's so much easier. And lo and behold, my kids really like all the yummy vegan food I know how to make and ask me to make some of the dishes. "Vegan: It's not just for Lent."
  • Exercising more. Okay. I'm not looking forward to it, but I know I have to get more active, and I have to tell myself it will be great fun.
That's all I've got for now. I thank you all for being out there (even when I'm not posting), and I wish everyone a healthy, happy New Year.

Baby No.1, here's our Christmas Down-Under!

Australian Christmas garden


Australian Christmas Santa


Australian Christmas Twirls



Australian Christmas Smiles



Australian Christmas chef


Australian Christmas Bro with Cracker


Australian Christmas Diner


Australian Christmas Cousins


Australian Christmas Nap


So here we are at the brink of another year...& we can only shudder as the US leads us by the nose into yet another war - heaven help us all (sigh)

See you in 2012 xx

Performers

Geraldine Cinema changed hands 18 months ago and it no longer seems to show the best movies. The flip side of this is that live bands now play there. Last night I saw the Shot Band with my parents. The band hail from Wellington, just like many of New Zealand's best singers and musicians. They were joined by some local acts including a young woman of about twenty who sang in a dark, almost medieval style. It was a good evening's entertainment, exceeding my expectations, and if anything the dilapidated old cinema added to the ambience. At just $15 each, it was exceptional value.

Last week we watched the Royal Variety Performance on telly. A real stand-out performer for me was Sam Wills, a mime artist known as The Boy With Tape On His Face. His act was simple but very clever at the same time, and showed me how some blokes of my age make a living. Not everyone applies on Seek for the privilege of pumping out pointless pieces of paper. I Googled him and was surprised to find that he was a Kiwi. Not only that but his performing career began in Timaru, just like Hayley Westenra who was also a Royal Variety performer. I know who I would rather see. The subject of Miss Westenra came up at work recently; we all agreed on one thing: none of us could stand her.

A few hours from now another year will have slipped by. I get on quite well with the head of our department at work but he's very much a product of last century. He's never quite sure what to call years in the modern era. He normally comes out with "two-eleven"; I can tell he longs for the simplicity of "eighty-two".

Two-eleven, or twenty-eleven as I call it, hasn't been a bad year but it took an expected path for me which was at times very stressful. My decision to take the Wellington job was without a doubt the toughest decision I've made in my life. For the first time ever I drew up a list of pros and cons of staying and going, assigning weights to the outcomes. It was a close race which staying won with a score of exactly nil. So I literally couldn't win. I recently learnt a new word - zugzwang - which describes a situation in chess where every possible move puts you in a hole, so to speak. My decision was a zugzwang - I was choosing between two undesirable options; I'd rather have stayed where I was. While waiting for my offer (or not), I had another interview with a company called One Path, aptly named because after ten minutes of the interview there was only one path I was interested in and it was marked Exit. In the end it was probably the possibility of regret (if I didn't take the job) that swayed my last-minute decision to accept.

My first six weeks or so in Wellington were tough. I was in a strange town where I didn't know anybody (I still don't really), in a job I basically didn't want. I was depressed so I saw the doctor who nearly doubled my Efexor intake. Things improved, but whether it was the drugs or just getting used to my new home I don't know. A real turning point was the trip I made to Auckland in July. It was great to catch up with Richard and some of the others at the autism group but I found Auckland a depressing place and was glad to get back.

I don't plan to be in my job twelve months from now but plans rarely work out. Getting up in the morning with precisely zero chance of doing anything meaningful in the coming day gets to me after a while. If my job wasn't supposed to have any meaning in the first place, I could handle that a lot better, but the fact that it's built up to be something of vital importance, and I just don't see it, makes me think there's even wrong with me than I originally thought. The whole corporate thing will always be a struggle for me. When it comes down to it, I've never been a team player, and the bigger the team the more difficult it becomes. I feel a sense of guilt when I compare myself to a teacher or a mental health worker or even an artist, who gives something to the world almost on a daily basis.

I'd love to feel that I was good at my job. I did get that feeling in my earthquake work. That boost to my self-esteem meant that I cared what I looked like when I left home in the mornings. I tried to look like me. In my current job I just try to look vaguely presentable, putting on the first shirt that I can find.

A year ago I'd never have imagined I'd be a property owner. I'm very glad I did it - I think my purchase was a sensible one - but I'm not excited about it as perhaps I should be. That word has been used by various relatives in the past week: "How exciting!", "You must be so excited to have bought a house!" But really I'm not. I'm relieved, I think I've made a good financial decision, and it will be "nice" to have my own space, but that's about it. It does bother me that excitement is an emotion largely consigned to the past. Is it the job or the drugs, or both?

Tonight we'll be going to the Caroline Bay Carnival for New Year's Eve. I'll probably be forced to sit through a concert with music from Barry Manilow or Daniel O'Donnell before throwing a few dollars at the chocolate wheel.

Kathmandon't

A few months ago my cousin said that Jan Cameron doesn't get enough credit for founding Kathmandu, a successful outdoor clothing company. I wholeheartedly agree with her. Walk down any Wellington street between April and November and you'll see that a big black Kathmandu puffer jacket is almost compulsory attire. You do see other brands but Kathmandu - who admittedly picked a excellent name, evoking images of trekking through the Himalayas - is clearly the dominant force. Their market penetration is impressive it must be said. And why does everyone need to dress like they're about to scale K2 anyway when it's a positively balmy 15 degrees?


Kathmandu have a BIG 60% OFF SALE! on right now. I'm not certain about this, but given that they have such a sale virtually all the time, and it is just after Christmas, it's a fairly safe assumption. They have a store almost opposite my office. I did pop in there once to see what I was missing. Big black jackets were reduced from $649.90 to $259.90, or something like that, but they were still well above what I was prepared to pay for them. I suppose most people are paying for the brand. That makes no sense to me. If I'm going to be a walking billboard for you, shouldn't you be paying me?!

It's amazing how susceptible people are to advertising, branding, pricing, the shopping experience and everything that goes with that. I like to think I'm immune to branding but of course I'm not quite. I'd think twice before buying a Yang Song car, mainly because the brand name would be unknown to me so I wouldn't trust it. But I'm less susceptible than most and feel qualified enough to provide some anti-consumption tips:

1. If you think it's a rip-off at two hundred and something, the fact that it's reduced from six hundred and something doesn't make it any less of a rip-off.


2. If you have to buy A to get B free, then B isn't free at all.

3. It doesn't matter whether it's $39, $39.90 or $39.99. It's forty bucks.

4. Those ads where you can buy make-up "worth $250" for the special price of $50. If it was really worth $250 they wouldn't be selling it so cheaply.

5. There's nothing wrong with loyalty cards, so long as you don't change your spending patterns to pick up more points, which is of course what the shops are trying to get you to do.


6. Are you still at school? If so, it might be worth buying one or two brand-name items, if you (or your parents) can afford it, to fit it with the other kids. Otherwise be yourself and save some money.


After telling Mum I wanted to join a tramping club in the new year, you can imagine what she bought me for Christmas. Not one but two items from Krapmandu, sorry, Kathmandu: a thermal shirt and a lightweight waterproof jackety thing that folds up to occupy the same amount of space as your undies. Handy for trekking and despite my misgivings about the company I will wear them.

Phil

For the last few months I've been meaning to post some handy money-saving tips. Christmas - well, one Christmas present in particular, served to remind me of this. But in this post I'd like to write about my catch-up with Phil before it all slips from my mind. My next post will be on the subject of money-saving I promise.

Mum and Dad came into Timaru with me on Wednesday as I met up with Phil for lunch at a place called Zest. I'd much rather have gone on my own. He's back in Auckland, in his old job with the navy in Devonport after spells in Denmark and Dunedin. He'd like to move back to Dunedin. He studied at Otago and likes the Wellington-style bohemianism that exists in the city. At forty he'd quite like to buy a property but thinks he'd be throwing money away in Auckland even though he could put down a large chunk of the purchase price. He asked me for advice on real estate, as if I somehow had a clue. It made a nice change to talk about something other than job applications even if we're both far from thrilled about our current jobs. The story on the mini golf course also took a different twist this year. Instead of losing by a semi-respectable six shots, I was thrashed by fifteen.

When I'd said goodbye to Phil I got a text from Mum asking to meet in the Loop Road. This didn't make any sense to me - they can't be in a road - so I texted her back asking her to be more specific. I did eventually find my parents, and my aunt and uncle who they had since met up with, and they had a good laugh at my expense. "You know, in the car park, inside the Loop Road. Do you not know where the Loop Road is?" Oh I see. I guess the car park is technically in the road, but that's not how my brain works, and if you'd just let me go into town by myself you could have saved me all that hassle.

Yesterday we went south to Moeraki. Dad took a few photos of views to paint - his stock of paintings is depleted following his successful exhibition. Until yesterday I didn't know that a cormorant and a shag were the same thing. In Stephen Fry's book he recounts his time as a yound schoolmaster at an English boarding school where the dormitories were all named after seabirds. A particularly troublesome dorm was called Cormorant. It's just as well they didn't call it Shag.

The Prophetic War and Amalek




There are three levels of Amalek listed in Kol Hator by the Vilna Gaon: The Heart, Spiritual, and Physical.

a)Heart = Taiva, Yetzer HaRah
b)Spiritual = Satan, Lamed Lamed,etc.
c)Physical = Esav, Yishmael, and Erev Rav (all the more so Erev Katan - the main adversary at the Golden Calf)

All 3 of the levels are listed as Amalek.


The Erev Katan (corresponding with Mincha Katana, a lesser more dense entity) have been explained by Rabbi Bakst, as illuminated by the Vilna Gaon and based on the Talmud:
[for clarification - Erev Zeir, is Aramaic for Katan, which is Hebrew for Smaller, as opposed to Rav, which is Bigger in Hebrew]



The Talmud (Succah 48b ) records the following tradition:

Once there were two Jewish heretics,[307] one was called Sasson (joy) and the other was called Simcha (happiness). Sasson said to Simcha, "I am better than you, since it is written, 'They will obtain Sasson [first] and [then] Simcha'" (Isaiah 35:10). "I," said Simcha to Sasson, "am better than you, since it is written, 'The Jews had Simcha [first] and [then] Sasson'" (Esther 8:17). "One day," said Sasson to Simcha, "they will take you out [from heaven] and make you a runner, since it is written, 'For with Simcha they will go forth'" (Isaiah 55:12). "One day," said Simcha to Sasson, "they will take you out [from heaven] and use you to draw water, for it is written, 'You will draw water with Sasson from the wellsprings of salvation"' (Isaiah 12:3).
The Jewish heretic whose name was Sasson once said to R. Abbahu, "You are destined to draw water for me in the World to Come, for it is written, 'Therefore with Sasson you will draw water from the wellsprings of salvation.'" "If," R. Abbahu retorted, "it had been written, for Sasson (L'Sasson) it would be as you say, but since it is written with Sasson (B'Sasson), the meaning must be that a water-pouch will be made of your skin, and water will be drawn with it.


It is very clear that Sasson and Simcha are a pair. An obvious symmetry exists between them and one cannot exist without the other. Yet, basing himself on the GRA's sod of "the Torah that has been given over to the external forces," R. Yitzchak Izik speaks only of the collective personality of Sasson. He is strangely silent concerning the nature of Sasson's compatriot Simcha. It may be suggested that since the Talmud only records a secular-religious debate between R. Abbahu and Sasson, and not with Simcha, R. Yitzchak Izik likewise saw fit to concentrate exclusively on the sod of Sasson.


The Erev Rav is also alluded to in the verse, "Woe to us for the day has turned and the shadows of the evening (erev ) have stretched out" (Jeremiah 6:4). The "evening shadows" are the Erev Rav that began constructing the Golden Calf at the 6th hour of the day (high noon), as the Talmud interprets the verse, "The people saw that Moshe was late (bo-shesh ) in coming down the mountain" (Exodus 32:1). The Talmud (Shabbat 89a) explains that the word bo-shesh (literally, "the 6th hour has come") alludes to the fact that the "people," the Erev Rav, gained their power only at the 6th hour. This is the period known as Erev Rav, the Greater Evening.[369]

There is also an Erev Zeir, a Lesser Evening. This is the significance of the term Bein HaArvayim, which means literally, "Between the Evenings," and indicates that there are two evenings, a Greater Evening and a Lesser Evening. Paralleling these, the sages instituted two periods for praying the afternoon Minchah service - Minchah Gedolah (the Greater Minchah) and Minchah Katanah (the Lesser Minchah) - in order to weaken the power of the Klipot of the two Erevs.



The GRA has made it clear that the Erev Zeir is a necessary counterpart to the Erev Rav. He has also explained that the collective soul of the Erev Rav transmigrates in every generation. The next logical step is to conclude that this must also be the case with the Erev Zeir. Our question now is, who are the Erev Rav today and, correspondingly, who are the Erev Zeir? The answer to this question will supply the missing clue to the riddle of Simcha's identity and to the unique form of his disbelief.

It has been pointed out by a number of Torah masters and accepted as religious truth for many decades in certain Orthodox Torah circles that the contemporary manifestation of the Erev Rav is none other than the secular Zionist leadership.[371] According to this school of thought, it is to the phenomenon of secular Zionism that the sages referred when they prophesied, "In the Ikveta D'Meshicha [i.e. prior to Mashiach ben David] Chutzpah-Arrogance will increase" (Sota 9:16). It was the leaders of the "New Erev Rav" who consciously led an entire generation of Jewish youth away from a life of Torah and away from the deeper meaning and purpose of the Jewish People. They rallied around the idolatry of a new Golden Calf - a secular state fueled exclusively from secular aspirations and secular knowledge. They struggled hard to remove and uproot traditional Torah values and, in 1948, when the incarnated Erev Rav gained political control over the Land of Israel they hopefully predicted that Orthodox Judaism would all but disappear within a generation.
Yet it was these very men and women whose blood, sweat and tears powered by a mighty spirit paved the way for a whole generation of Jews to enter into a new era and into a new land - Palestine. With their statesmanship, scholarship, artistic vision, literary talent and technical knowledge they led and continue to lead and influence much of the Jewish world. How do we explain the powerful, almost miraculous phenomenon of secular Zionism?




According to the underlying geometry in this doctrine, the inverse side of the Erev Rav Klipah of secular Zionism is the subtle Erev Zeir Klipah of anti-Zionism. The former proclaims itself as a paradoxical "secular" fulfillment of historical Judaism. [It bases its claim to the Land of Israel on the very Biblical teachings that it scorns.] The latter manifests as an outright rejection of the secular state as a distortion of the Torah's prophetic teachings of redemption, or simply as apathy and non-involvement regarding the role of immigration in the redemption process. R. Hillel is very adamant about this last point. Concerning the refusal of the Torah leaders of his time (end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries) to encourage immigration and to initiate the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael he writes:[374]

What will they say, those with their lame excuses, to the words of the sages, "When Jerusalem will be rebuilt then the Son of David will come"? Likewise, on the verse, "A redeemer will come to Zion" (Isaiah 59:20), the Midrash and Rashi both explain that, "As long as Zion is not built the Redeemer will not come." Rather, they are like the lichen growing out of the walls coming to do battle with the ceders of lebanon. Their excuses are none other than those of the Spies whom Moshe sent to scout the Land of Israel. They spread evil reports that discourage the Jewish People from emigrating to the Land. This is what the sages referred to when they said, "In the Ikveta D'Meshicha truth will become diminished and Chutzpah-Arrogance will increase." This arrogance is an attack against the holy words of our prophets and seers. It is an attack against the past Leaders of Israel and it is an attack against the conviction and holy commandment of the Saint of Israel, our master the GRA. It is our prayer that all of those within whom the spirit of Amalek dwells should quickly return from their evil ways. "[God] is merciful and He forgives iniquity."[375]
It is essential to note in what context R. Hillel is using the well known rabbinic formula "In the Ikveta D'Meshicha truth will become diminished and Chutzpah-Arrogance will increase." This has always been used to refer to modern secularism and atheism as was the case above with the heresy of Sasson. Here, however, it is used to refer to the religious leaders themselves! Thus, we now have another important symmetry in the larger formula. This time it is two modes of Chutzpah - the "Greater Chutzpah" of the Erev Rav and the "Lesser Chutzpah" of the Erev Zeir




From this we can see the prophetic war taking place between Erev Rav and Erev Katan, Simcha and Sasson, preceding the End of Days.



The battle over religious extremism in Israel now has an unexpected public face - that of a blonde, bespectacled eight-year-old girl.

She is Naama Margolese, the daughter of US immigrants who are observant modern Orthodox Jews. A television program at the weekend told the story of how Naama had become terrified of walking to her primary school in Beit Shemesh, a Jewish city between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, after ultra-Orthodox men spat on her, insulted her and called her a prostitute because her modest dress did not adhere exactly to their more rigorous dress code.
The country was outraged. Naama's picture has appeared on the front pages of all major Israeli newspapers. Although the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Sunday that ''Israel is a democratic, Western, liberal state'' and pledged that ''the public sphere in Israel will be open and safe for all'', there have been days of confrontation.
Ultra-Orthodox men and boys from stringent sects have hurled rocks and eggs at the police and journalists, shouting ''Nazis'' at the security forces and assailing women reporters with epithets like ''whore'' and ''shikse'', a derogatory Yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman or girl.
For many Israelis, this is not a fight over one girl's walk to school. It is a struggle that could shape the character and soul of the country, against ultra-Orthodox zealots who have been encroaching on the public sphere with their interpretation of modesty rules, enforcing gender segregation and the exclusion of women.
The battle has grown increasingly visible. Orthodox male soldiers walked out of a ceremony where female soldiers were singing, adhering to what they consider to be a religious prohibition against hearing a woman's voice; women have challenged the seating arrangements on kosher buses, serving ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods and some intercity routes where they are expected to sit at the back.
''We are working to save our city and to save our homes,'' Dov Lipman, 40, a local activist, rabbi and modern ultra-Orthodox who moved to Beit Shemesh from the US seven years ago, said. Seizing on the public mood of rejecting ultra-Orthodox bullying, Mr Lipman and supporters have been lobbying parliament, organising protests and working with a media consultant. He said that is how Naama's story came out.
In Ramat Beit Shemesh B, signs on buildings call for modesty, exhorting women and girls to dress in buttoned-up, long-sleeved blouses and long skirts. Outside a synagogue, a sign requested that females cross to the opposite sidewalk and not tarry outside the building.
Naama's school opened in September in an area with a large community of English-speaking observant Jews that borders on the strictest ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods. She soon found she had to run a gantlet to get to school, even dressed in long sleeves and long skirts.
Riots broke out this week when the police accompanied media crews into Hazon Ish Street, where Naama's tormentors are believed to have come from. Hundreds of men and boys poured out of the synagogue and a seminary holding signs calling for the exclusion of women.
Many of the ultra-Orthodox agitators blamed the media for the unrest, saying they had come into ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods to sow hatred and persecute residents for their beliefs.
Meanwhile, some residents insisted that Beit Shemesh was a tolerant city but defended some gender separation and modesty on religious grounds.
''I think women are very poorly treated in Western society,'' said Cindy Feder, 57, from Ramat Beit Shemesh A. She came to Israel from New York in 1970. Ms Feder said the objectification of women on billboards made her sick




To look objectively at both sides of this war, of the Erev Rav and Erev Katan, it is no more than the Torah playing itself out.

I have ridden the Mehadrin Bus Line from Tzfat to Bnei Brak hundreds of times, and have seen this war going on for years, to the point that I have seen and videotaped on a phone, a man spitting in a woman's face for not moving to the back of the bus. I asked people what the precedent was at that time, and the bottom line is, they subsidize the buslines, and they flat out just "don't want to sit next to women." The word is "want" not musn't. It is a pointless war over politics and money and control, that both sides have turned into propaganda about morality (on both sides funny enough) and piety (again on both sides.)

I have seen one woman in 10 years defeat these people: she threatened to flash the men if they would not stop. (she was injured and needed the footroom in the front to stretch, of which they were against.) She told them if you don't stop, I'm flashing. In the end, she didn't flash, as they gave up, and we all got home safe, sound, and at peace. 
If these people want to act like animals, then retaliate with animalism - suddenly, they find ways to behave. This woman was a tad radical, yes, but it worked. Had it not worked, it would have gotten ugly, and/or arrived home 3 hours later than ususal, which is what the threatened penality is if a woman refuses to sit in the back (if spitting doesn't work.)

Thank God, this is a very minute part of Israel, a small problem, that allows us to see a much broader picture, one that the Talmud taught us about years ago, about 2 heretics named Simcha and Sasson. Ironically, the Erev Rav and Katan are the opposite of Simcha and Sasson: Joy and Happiness.

Moshiach 5772. Please.

The Song of Solomon




Sir William Russell-Flint's 'Song of Solomon' 1909

It is not generally realised how much the Old Testament's Song of Solomon pervades modern culture. It is contains some of the most beautiful love poetry ever written:






Because of the savour
of thy good ointments thy name is as
 ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.


Draw me, we will run
after thee: the king hath brought me into
 his chambers: we will be glad and
rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love
thee.



Look not upon me,
because I am black, because the sun hath looked
 upon me: my mother's children were
angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard
have I not kept.


Tell me, O thou whom
my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where
 thou makest thy flock to rest at noon:
for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?


If thou know not, O
thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by
 the footsteps of the flock, and feed
thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.
















It is important to know that this is just the first chapter and that the 'voice' of the poem switches from person to person. Biblical scholars argue whether or not this was written by Solomon or for him. Here are just a few of the references that have been made:






  • Stephen 'Tin Tin' Duffy's 1985 song  Kiss Me quotes directly from the Song of Solomon.

  • Toni Morrison's novel Song of Solomon was instrumental in her winning a Nobel Prize.

  • Chapter 2, verse 15 (not reproduced here)
    provided the title for Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play Little Foxes.

  • Also the opening line of Chapter 2 provides the name 'Rose of Sharon' used by Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath.

  • Countless number of (mostly obscure) rock groups have taken their names and song titles from Song of Solomon.

  • One of Kate Bush's song from The Red Shoes 
    is Song of Solomon

  • In his poem When I Hear You Sing, Leonard Cohen refers to the Song of Solomon.

  • Many writers and composers through history have taken inspiration from this work. They include Geoffrey Chaucer, JS Bach and up to Steeleye Span and Neil Diamond (in Holly Holy).


Finally I wish all visitors to the blog a peaceful and healthy New Year. Be inspired by this poetry and remember that love is better than hate!

Now it's Baby No. 4's turn for Aussie hatwear pantomime



"Where's your helmet young lady?" demanded nattily dressed 'Occupy Pyrmont' bike police last week.

Groan...& sigh...

...are they really still there? - isn't there another bridge / park / road / suburb they could set up camp on or in?

What is the fascination the police have with this picturesque bridge?

Couldn't they be moved on? - this permanent posting on Pyrmont is such a waste of my good taxes!!!

Let There Be Water! (And Then Light)



Finally! Now we can begin to restore the Kinneret, Jordan River (after forever of being practically nothing), and other diminished areas. Such Good News! (And a great export!)



Desalination plant could make Israel water exporter
National water company says new facility will not only meet Israel's own water needs, it could also make it a top regional water exporter by 2014


Israel's national water company signed a financing agreement to build a desalination plant, which officials said could allow drought-ridden Israel to export water to its neighbors upon completion in 2013.

Israel's ADL, a subsidiary of state-owned Mekorot, will build and operate the plant in the coastal city of Ashdod for 25 years, supplying 100 million cubic meters of desalinated water annually, the Finance Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.


Israel is two-thirds arid and to avoid further depleting its fresh water sources it has become a world leader in desalination and wastewater recycling. The new Ashdod plant will join four other desalination facilities that to provide, by the end of 2013, 85% of the country's household water consumption.

"In the coming years we will be able to return water to nature and even sell water to our neighbors," said Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau.

ADL secured funding for the project from Israel's Bank Hapoalim and the European Investment Bank (EIB), the statement said.

The Finance Ministry had previously put a $400 million price tag on the plant, which will use reverse-osmosis to desalinate seawater from the Mediterranean.




Prophecy says the Beis Hamikdash will turn the Waters of the World from Bitter to Sweet.
Is this a Hakdama?


A level-par Christmas

I survived Christmas. About a dozen of us turned up at Mum's sister's place. I had a sore tummy before we even started eating, so was glad when we eventually got away. Christmas Day is always stress-inducing for me even though I'm never involved in the cooking. Heaven knows how you're supposed to talk to all those relatives and concentrate on not overcooking the Brussels sprouts.

Mum and Dad bought me Stephen Fry's autobiography. He really is an amazing bloke. I watched a documentary a few years back about his bipolar disorder; he said he wouldn't be "normal" for all the tea in China. That wasn't the only present my parents bought me - I'll talk about the other one in my next post.

I played six holes of golf with Mum tonight. I did them in level par. That's my par which is twice the figure shown on the card. On the first hole I sunk a 20-footer for a bogey eleven. I did the rest in 7, 7, 10, 5 and 8, hitting just about every tree imaginable.

Tomorrow I'll be meeting Phil in Timaru, just like last year and the year before. We've been hopelessly out of touch in recent months so I'm looking forward to it.

Holy To Hashem : Seal Of The Kohen! Happy Zos Chanukah



The Miracle of Chanukah is said to be that the last jug of Oil was found with the seal of the Kohen. Here is some found proof of such a concept:




A rare clay seal found under Jerusalem's Old City appears to be linked to religious rituals practiced at the Jewish Temple 2,000 years ago, Israeli archaeologists said Sunday.

The coin-sized seal found near the Jewish holy site at the Western Wall bears two Aramaic words meaning "pure for God."

Archaeologist Ronny Reich of Haifa University said it dates from between the First Century BC to AD 70 -- the year Roman forces put down a Jewish revolt and destroyed the second of the two biblical temples in Jerusalem.

The find marks the first discovery of a written seal from that period of Jerusalem's history and appeared to be a unique physical artifact from ritual practice in the temple, said Reich, co-director of the excavation.

Very few artifacts linked to the temples have been discovered. The site of the temple itself -- the enclosure known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary -- remains off-limits to archaeologists because of its religious and political sensitivity.

Archaeologists said the seal was likely used by temple officials approving an object for ritual use -- oil, perhaps, or an animal intended for sacrifice. Materials used by temple priests had to meet stringent purity guidelines stipulated in detail in the Jewish legal text known as the Mishna, which also mentions the use of seals as tokens by pilgrims.

The find, Reich said, is "the first time an indication was brought by archaeology about activities in the Temple Mount -- the religious activities of buying and offering and giving to the temple itself."

The site where the seal was found is on the route of a main street that ran through ancient Jerusalem just outside the temple compound.

Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, a biblical archaeologist not connected to the dig, said the seal was special because it "was found right next to the temple and is similar to what we see described in the Mishna."

"It's nice when we can connect an activity recorded in ancient sources with archaeological finds," he said.

The seal was found in an excavation run by archaeologists from the government's Israel Antiquities Authority. The dig is under the auspices of a broader dig nearby known as the City of David, where archaeologists are investigating the oldest part of Jerusalem.

The City of David dig, located inside the nearby Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and funded by a Jewish group affiliated with the settlement movement, is the Holy Land's highest-profile and most politically controversial excavation.




Happy Zos Chanukah Sameach

May this Chanuka begin the Geulah Shleimah Bechinah to Chanuka as it is destined to be, and may we all be inscribed for Life - as Chanukah "seals" our Din for the year.




Shir HaShiurim...From Tzfat!



Click Here For Parashas Vayishlach With Ramban!


  • The Spiritual Level of Yaakov
  • Amana of Yaakov ; Save Me!
  • What is Real Suffering?
  • Yaakov and Uriel?
  • Keil Elyon and Tachton?!
  • Judging Shechem Like Bnei Noach
  • Where Do We Come From?
  • Kings of Esav? Prophecy of the Future?


  • Yerushalayim - Why is it Called This?
  • How Does Hashem Look Onto The World?
  • Exile - What About It?
  • 2=1...???
  • Israel and Judaism, Are They The Same?
  • Kohen, Angels, and Torah






May Torah From Tzfat Lead To Torah From Zion!

BAZZA vs. WILD Sneak Preview HD


Here it is! The official sneak preview of Bazza vs. Wild. Enjoy!


Merry Christmas! Here's a gift for you all...

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.

As this is the season for giving, I've finally been able to set aside a few solid hours to edit some of the Bazza vs. Wild footage into a sneak preview. It's being uploaded onto YouTube as we speak and I shall post the link in a few minutes. If it receives a good response we'll set aside more time next year to pump out the full series. It's just been a very busy time for all involved, with Bazza been left stranded for far too long.

Other than that, my books going well - I'm working on the first prequel, which will be released 2012.

Thanks, and stay safe this holidays season.

Ash.

You Look Like A Terrorist!



Ever hear of FEMA Camps? American Concentration Camps. On Dec. 26th, Obama will either veto or sign a bill to literally legalizing martial law.




President has until December 26 to act on NDAA FY2012

White House phones are said to be jammed today by American rights defenders, including Ron Paul, express outrage of pending martial law by the National Defence Authorization Act 2012 sitting on President Barack Obama's desk as The Bill of Rights Defense Committee Executive Director Shahid Buttar advises that the president only has until December 26 to sign or veto the bill and urges the public to contact the president and demand he veto the NDAA FY2012.

"Call the White House at (202) 456-1414 and demand that President Obama veto the NDAA," Director of Bill of Rights Defense Committee Executive Director Shaid Buttar stated today in a written statement.

Presidential Candidate, Congressman Dr. Ron Paul stated today about the bill that strips Americans' rights, "This is a giant step -- this should be the biggest news going on right now -- literally legalizing martial law."

LA Times reports Dr. Paul added that, despite the topic's importance, the subject has never been discussed at any of the Republican presidential debates.

Explaining the extremism of the bill that Dr. Paul said:

"In other words, the military could arrest any American citizen suspected of being a domestic terrorist and throw them into a military prison indefinitely. Beyond being incredibly inhumane, this section of the bill violates a citizen's Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and also ignores the Miranda process that informs criminal suspects of their rights while in police custody."

Buttar at BORDC clarified as Dr. Paul and other human rights defenders have been doing over past months and more so since Congress sailed the bill through to the president to sign, "By giving Obama and any future president the power to imprison anyone indefinitely and without trial on the basis of accusation—even without proof—of a 'belligerent act,' the NDAA is a direct assault on the Bill of Rights." 

"President Obama has until December 26 to either sign or veto the bill, but he hasn’t taken any action yet.

"Time is running out, but you can still make a difference."

Authors of NDAA FY 2012, Congressmen John McCain and Carl Levin have supported "an afront on the U.S. Constitution," ACLU said last month in a written statement 

Since then, the NDAA Bill 2012 to enact martial law in the United States has been fast-tracked through both the Senate and House of Representatives last week, both approving it with little opposition.

Congressmen including Dennis Kucinich, Al Franken and Ron Paul have strongly opposed the bill.

The White House made an official annoucement last week that President Obama would sign the bill into law but he was then said to be in discussions over it.

The bill, that also permits the Pentagon to wage cyberwars on "domestic enemies of the state is a serious violation of First Amendment human and civil rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press," says LA Times Tuesday.

Should the bill become a law, it is a direct threat to whistleblowers of government and corporate corruption, journalists attemtping to report high-level corruption, and could potentially hinder both Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party campaigns.

President Obama has already signed an Executive Order claiming his right to have assassinations, "targeted killings," of Americans. (Also see: www.aclu.org/targetedkillings and ccrjustice.org/targetedkillings)

Last week, the world's largest human rights group updated its explanation of the bill's inclusion of targeted killings.

(Read "NDAA's CIA, military targeted killings of innocent Americans")

The ten-step blueprint for creating fascism have each been taken in the United States. NDAA codifies those steps.



Will the 2012 - 5772 Show finally begin?


No let-up for Christchurch

Just what Christchurch residents needed for Christmas: more quakes. They copped a bunch of them yesterday including a 5.8 and a 6.0. I was outside for the first of those, and didn't feel it, but I was in the living room with Mum and Dad for the second one which we certainly felt. I'd never felt a "proper" shake prior to this month but I'm now almost getting accustomed to them. I was lucky that I flew into Christchurch the night before.

Some good news for Dad - he has sold four more paintings at what has been a very successful exhibition for him in Timaru.

This morning I hit a tennis ball for the first time since April. Mum used to play a lot - this season she's joined the local club. This morning we knocked up for an hour at the Woodbury courts. I enjoyed it more than I imagined I would. We were both rusty - and Mum couldn't run down as many balls as she used - but maybe I'll look at joining a club in Wellington next season. I remember playing - and losing - on those courts in '89 for St Joseph's, the school I briefly attended in Temuka.

We'll be off to church in half an hour. Dad and I only "do" church once a year. Tomorrow we're having Christmas dinner at my aunt's house in Timaru.

Doom and Disaster: The Neutrino of 5772




Neutrino = "A piece of obscure knowledge in Physics that baffles Scientists, leading to Knowledge that they would kill for. Is this a modern day element of Etz HaDaas Tov v' Rah? Doom seems to accompany all neutrino research.


Neutrino on Wikipedia CLICK here!



Neutrinos are making all the headlines these days, and could be the source of monumental problems.


Earthquakes and Tsunamis : Christchurch and Japan both are MAJOR neutrino hot spots. Does neutrino research create a cascade effect onto the spot of the research - to gain knowledge?

Physics: Are neutrinos faster than the speed of light, thereby disproving Einsteinian Physics?

And now moving into the Med. Sea - whats next? As this is very close to Israeli Soil - is the Erev Rav involved there too? Israel is getting heavy into the LHC in Geneva as well, taking part in the search of the God Particle, which is directly related to these neutrinos. It was there in Geneva that the neutrinos were found going faster than the speed of light.

Do neutrinos spell out Doom?




Underwater neutrino detector will be the second largest structure ever built

Plans are afoot to build a gigantic, state-of-the-art neutrino detector beneath the Mediterranean Sea. This particle-hunting behemoth would be taller than the Burj Khalifa and the second biggest structure ever built, second only to the Great Wall of China.


The structure is the work of a consortium of forty institutes and universities scattered across ten European countries. Given the catchy name of KM3NeT, the detector would measure several cubic kilometers in volume, all so that we have the best chance yet to spot these weakly interacting "ghost" particles. Because neutrinos don't interact with other particles, we can use them to figure out the conditions of extremely distant part of the universe.

Studying astrophysical neutrinos should give us crucial new insight into exotic phenomena like gamma ray bursts, quasars, and supermassive black holes. In case you're wondering, the extraterrestrial neutrinos we're searching for here aren't directly related to the possibly faster-than-light neutrinos, which were created as part of the OPERA experiment.

But it's also because neutrinos are so fiendishly hard to spot that we have to build a gigantic, underwater detector - and that doesn't even cover how ridiculously difficult it is to observe them in the first place. Far away across the universe, extremely powerful cosmic forces can rip apart subatomic particles, in the process creating super-energetic neutrinos. These fly off in all directions, and at least some of them end up headed towards Earth. When it reaches Earth eons later, it can hit a charged particle that, in turn, spits out a muon, which is a much more massive cousin of the electron.

The formation of the muon releases a flash of blue light known as Cherenkov radiation, and that is what the KM3NeT detector would be built to observe. It's an insanely circuitous process that relies on plenty of luck, and in all our searching we've still only confirmed two extraterrestrial neutrino sources in the entire universe: our own Sun and supernova SN1987A.

When built, KM3Net will feature towers at least 2,600 feet tall, and the current designs call for them to exceed the height of Dubai's 2,723-foot Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world. Of course, this wouldn't simply be an underwater skyscraper - its vast network of towers would add up to three cubic kilometers, three times bigger than the current biggest detector, IceCube, and second only to the Great Wall of China in terms of largest human structures. All the towers would be fitted with arrays of spherical photomultiplier tubes, which are optical sensors that can spot the Cherenkov radiation in any direction.

The detector needs to be built underwater for a couple of reasons. First, Cherenkov radiation is most visible in a clear, deep medium, which the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea is perfect for. Second, scientists want to spot extraterrestrial neutrinos, as opposed to the much, much more common atmospheric neutrinos, and so they need a gigantic particle shield that can keep these lower energy particles out while letting the high energy neutrinos through. Over three thousand feet of seawater is the perfect natural shield. There are also some fringe benefits to be had from building such a massive structure beneath the Mediterranean. The detector is designed to double as an underwater observatory, with equipment in place for biologists to listen to whale songs and observe bioluminescent organisms found on the ocean floor.

These measures may all seem pretty extreme, but it's just what we have to do if we want to see astrophysical neutrinos. The relatively smaller detector IceCube, which is housed in the South Pole, has yet to find a single non-atmospheric neutrino, and it's possible it simply doesn't have a large enough volume to spot these particles. KM3NeT will be at least two to three times more powerful, and it's scraping against the limits of what we can presently build. If size really is the issue here - and that's not actually a certainty, as there could be some other reason why we're having so much trouble finding extraterrestrial neutrinos - then KM3NeT is probably about as big as we can go. But the detector has an excellent chance - not only is it almost incomprehensibly vast, it will be pointed right at Sagittarius-A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.




Will tampering with the Briah usher in 2012 - 5772 with a little haste from above?
"In it's Time I will hasten it"
- A year ending in "'72" Melech Moshiach wil be revealed - Zohar

Galus China : Welcome







Galus China: The Erev Rav securing the Far East.

China is a product of Avraham Avinu sending his children with Ketura East. Having sent them with powers of impurity, they would be permanently exiled. The irony is: as China would prepare the world for the "Exile of China", they would be so consumed with the preparation work of this exile, that it would in effect, cause an exile on themselves. The longer they prepare to take over, the further they are ineffective. This would be the opposite of Torah, in Klippah. The more Torah that one learns, the more he realizes he does not know, thereby he must study even more, to the point of infinity. Thus China has the power of an infinite exile, and ironically they have exiled themselves infinitely waiting to impose their veil.

The Erev Rav seeks to use the power of Klippah, to rule the world in their attempt at a final exile - something that we are witnessing now. While there is the economic turmoil in the world, the Erev Rav are doing quite well, finding resources, and looking to enslave the enslaved nation of infinite possibilities : China.

China has said that they could weather a nuke, as they disregard their people; The Erev Rav see this as an opportunity, and a chance to secure their grip on the world, moving the war from propaganda, to an outright dictatorship - police state - NWO. Are we seeing the final phase of Galus? (and how will Korea work into this)

Bnei Haggar are coming very close to the Bnei Ketura (same person - wife of Abraham, yet 2 distinct klippot), both under the political jostling of Erev Rav. As Erev Rav work ever closer to Ketura, Yishmael will only strengthen in his war against the Erev Rav. Yishmael sees all Jews as Erev Rav, and as they become monotheistic from their Avodah Zarah of the past, they can not tolerate the East, and the Jewish presence there. This is one perspective of the hostility and Gog Magog features of Pakistan. It will be interesting to monitor China and Israel into 2012.




China should buy small start-up companies in Israel to help it move from a "made in China" to "made by China" manufacturing model, said an American-Israeli journalist and author Tuesday in Beijing.

Saul Singer, who co-wrote with Dan Senor "Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle," a bestseller that investigates Israel's innovative prowess, made the statement at a press conference in the Chinese capital.

Referring to Israel as a start-up nation that abounds in small innovative ventures, Singer said some big companies, many of which were American, had bought start-ups or built research and development centers in Israel. He encouraged Asian countries, including China, to follow suit.

Singer went on to suggest that Chinese leaders, who talk, plan and think very seriously about how to move from a "made in China" to "made by China" manufacturing model that generates more innovation inside the country, turn to Israel and work with Israelis to achieve their goal.

"Start-ups are very good at innovation, but they are very bad at promoting their innovations to big companies," Singer said. "They don't know how to do that. Big companies have the opposite problem. They are very good at taking something and making it big, but they are not very good at innovation. It's hard for them to think of a really new innovation."

Singer said if China and Israel worked together, they would be able to solve each other's respective problems. Citing Intel Corporation's success in Israel as an example, he noted that as soon as China began similar cooperation projects with Israel, it would benefit both sides.

Singer said the fact that Intel chips were designed in Israel had helped the country get a lot of businesses from the American microchip manufacturer, while Intel had benefited greatly from Israeli assistance in helping it become the most important chipmaker in the world.

He added that the challenges China faces in innovating and cultivating more entrepreneurs who want to launch their own businesses could be solved if the country teamed up with Israel. In return, big countries like China would also benefit, he said.



Will Galus "just end" in 2012? 
Baal Haturim : When Yishmael falls, Ben David Rises
2012 = Yishmael Falling
B"H 5772 We Witness Moshiach's Revelation



Unconditional

Today is the longest day. It's also the day my purchase went unconditional. There were no surprises in either the LIM or the builder's report, so I gave my solicitor the go-ahead. Tomorrow I'll hand over $35,000 as the initial deposit. I'll be able to move in on the 43rd day from today, which by my calculations is 2nd February. I guess I should be over the moon, but it still feels like a leap into the unknown.

I popped into Moore Wilson's for the first time last night. It's what you might call a "high-decile" supermarket which is why I'd never shopped there before. But the range of meats and cheeses on show there (that was the only section I visited) was mouth-watering - it felt like I was in Parma again. I bought a variety of cheeses as a Christmas present.

Every Tuesday I have a catch-up with my boss. He didn't mention exams this week, and I sure as hell wasn't going to. Maybe if I don't talk about them they'll go away.

The (staged?) outpouring of grief shown on TV following the "dear leader" Kim Jong Il's death would be laughable if it wasn't so scary. Millions are starving to death in that nuclear basket case.

I've never been able to solve the Rubik's cube. At least two of my cousins can. At the weekend I was at my cousin's house, getting nowhere with her cube. After half an hour I'd completed one side. I asked my cousin if she could finish it off, but what I'd done was no good because the colours of the edges weren't lined up. C'mon! That took me half an hour! She did solve it from my position but she prefers to start with white, not the blue that I started with.

Here's a flashback to 1992. Anyone remember Tasmin Archer's Sleeping Satellite? Great song, with quite deep and meaningful lyrics.

My next post will be from Geraldine.

The Abyss Of 2012 - One Year From Today



Is Time running out? Speeding up? Or just Shifting? One thing we can see, is that Change is supersonic!

Here is a review - look at what is on tap into the near 2012 future. As always, we can expect curve balls from Hashem.





As the year 2011 is drawing to an end, the world is facing a host of uncertainties in the coming new year ranging from higher risks of a faltering global recovery and Iran's nuclear issue to U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election bid.

HOW TOUGH IS THE ROAD OF WORLD ECONOMIC RECOVERY AHEAD?

Rising uncertainty about an uneven global recovery has given rise to worries that the world economic situation in the new year will become more complex and volatile.

The United Nations on Dec. 1 slashed its world growth forecast to 2.6 percent in 2012, much lower than a previous forecast of 3.6 percent made by UN economists half a year ago.

The main factors that will have an impact on the world economy in 2012 include an accelerated slowdown in some major economies, the sovereign debt crisis hitting some countries, the turbulent international financial market, higher inflationary pressures in emerging market economies, and rising protectionism of various forms.

Global challenges including political turmoil, food and energy security, climate change, and major natural disasters are also becoming increasingly serious.

WILL THE EUROZONE DEBT CRISIS BE EFFECTIVELY CONTAINED?

Eurozone debt woes have overshadowed prospects for the world economic recovery. Eurozone countries will have to pay 1.1 trillion euros (1.47 trillion U.S. dollars) of long-term or short-term debt due in 2012, among which 519 billion euros (693 billion dollars) will by paid by Italy, France and Germany in the first half of next year.

At a summit in early December, European Union leaders reached an agreement to help countries which have high debt burdens.

All EU countries except Britain agreed to pursue stricter budget rules and a stronger fiscal union, and to give up to 200 billion euros (264 billion dollars) in bilateral loans to the International Monetary Fund to help tackle the crisis.

But the financial markets remain unconvinced about the outcome of the EU summit, as investor feel that the deal did not go far enough.

Disappointments about the new EU deal include -- It doesn't reduce existing government debt levels; doesn't do much to promote the long-term growth that would shrink those burdens; And doesn't provide enough money to reassure financial markets that Italy and Spain can keep paying their bills.

Tumbling stock markets and pressures on the euro reveal weak investor confidence.

HOW WILL THE SITUATION DEVELOP IN SYRIA?

Unrest in some Arab nations have brought down leaders from three North African countries, while Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh has signed a deal agreeing to step down as president in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

Since late 2011, Syria has become the new focus of regional turmoil. Will there be outside armed intervention against Syria in 2012? And will the Syrian crisis be resolved eventually through peaceful means or by resorting to force?

Protests against Bashar al-Assad's government first erupted in mid-March. Peaceful demonstrations have turned violent as the unrest continues.

In 2012, Assad will have to deal with challenges from the opposition while facing political isolation and economic sanctions imposed by the Arab League and some Western countries. It remains to be seen whether outside intervention will escalate.

WILL SECURITY WORSEN IN IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN AS U.S. PULLS OUT TROOPS?

In mid-December, U.S. forces formally ended almost nine years of war in Iraq with a flag-lowering ceremony in Baghdad. The U.S. administration is also planning to withdraw most troops from Afghanistan, by 2014 hopefully.

Devastated by years of war, social and economic development in the two countries is slow, and sectarian strife and terror attacks are on the rise.

After the U.S. pullout, the security situation in Iraq and Afghanistan will threaten to spin out of control. And it will be a daunting task for the United States to prop up pro-Western regimes in the two countries.

WILL WAR OR PEACE PREVAIL IN THE STANDOFF OVER IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM?

Iran's controversial nuclear issue drew worldwide concerns in the latter half of 2011.

An IAEA report released in November suggested for the first time that Iran was using the cover of a peaceful nuclear program to produce atomic weaponry. But the UN nuclear watchdog did not conclude that Tehran is currently attempting to develop a nuclear weapon.

Israeli President Shimon Peres has said: "The possibility of a military strike on Iran is more likely to be realized than the diplomatic option."

In the wake of the IAEA report, the United States, Britain and the European Union slapped tougher sanctions on Iran as a way of punishment.

On the other hand, Iran dismissed the findings in the IAEA report as fabricated by Western countries, and insisted that the country's nuclear activities were purely for peaceful purposes.

Recently, the Iranian armed forces have seized an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone. U.S. President Barack Obama has asked for the return of the top-secret aircraft, but Iran has rejected the U.S. demand.

Whether the lingering stand-off between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear program would eventually lead to war will keep the world in suspense.

WILL U.S.-RUSSIA TIES BECOME STRAINED IN 2012?

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's party gained an absolute majority in the State Duma (lower house) elections on Dec. 4.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that the vote was rigged, saying it was neither free nor fair.

Putin defended fairness of the election, stressing that the results reflected the views of Russian voters.

NATO will hold its next summit in Chicago in May 2012 to map out the framework of a missile defense shield in Europe when the system is expected to acquire an "interim operational capability."

But Russia has threatened to deploy missiles to the westernmost Kaliningrad region and other areas of Russia to be aimed at the U.S. and NATO missile defense sites unless a deal is reached assuaging Russia's security concerns.

As both Russia and the United States hold presidential elections next year, the results of the polls will have an important bearing on future Russia-U.S. ties.

COULD OBAMA WIN RE-ELECTION?

The United States will hold its presidential election in late 2012. President Obama has announced he will seek re-election.

Will any Republican candidate be popular enough to beat Obama in the battle for the White House next year?

Over the last 34 months since Obama took office, the U.S. jobless rate has hovered around 9 percent. A majority of the American people disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy.

Whether the Republicans will have a strong challenger and the U.S. economy and employment could turn for the better prior to the vote would be crucial for Obama's re-election bid.





5772 will either bring monumental consciousness or a monumental dud.
I'm starting to think the Geulah is happening now, began on Mincha Gedolah, and now we need to just ride this thing out...as the Zohar says it can take many years until an actual Gilui/Revelation.

Beis Hamikdash Bekarov! - the makeh b' patish to the Geulah.