Friday, September 22, 2006

Rosh Hashana

As most of you already know, Rosh Hashana starts this evening at sundown. A new year is upon us, and I hope it brings us all health and peace.

Looking back on everything that's happened since last Rosh Hashana, I realize just how difficult it's become to believe that things are going to get better anytime soon. In fact, I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who told me that all of the bad news about Lebanon and Iran was seriously making him lose his faith both in G-d and in humanity.

While it may seem like there's no end in sight to all of the evil in the world, never lose faith in what the future has in store for us. Our enemies may be powerful than we are, more numerous and much more influential, but G-d has chosen to show his strength through us and not them, and as long as we have the will, we're the ones who will prevail. It has happened before, and it will happen again.

On a lighter note: a bit of Rosh Hashana humor.

Shana tova u'metuka, everyone. I hope you all have an awesome new year.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering the Fallen: Yuji Goya

I'm sure none of you need to be reminded that, on this date five years ago, terrorists flew commercial planes into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and an open field in Pennsylvania, and in the process took 2, 996 innocent lives as well as their own. Remembering what happened that day, we often forget that each of the fallen was an individual who loved and was loved. Each one of them has his own story.

I'm privileged to share what I know of Yuji Goya's.

Goya, of Rye, New York, was a 42-year-old Japanese national, vice-president of Mizuho Capital Markets Corp., and, most importantly, a husband and the father of two children.

We all remember where we were, what we were doing, who we were with when we heard the news that a plane had crashed into Tower One just before nine that morning.

I was in school learning about prepositions and tangents while Yuji Goya was saving lives.

He was the one who gave the initial order to evacuate Mizuho's 150-plus employees from its offices on the 80th floor of the South Tower. Goya, along with company president Takashi Kinoshita, and managers Masaru Ose and Keiji Takahashi, who had stayed to help him, wasted no time in urging others to leave, making sure his co-workers found the correct exits. They died when the second plane --United Airlines Flight 175-- struck the South Tower at 9:02.

Reading through the first-hand accounts of Yuji's courage, I can't help but wonder whether I would have acted as selflessly as he did. He didn't abandon his employees in some last-ditch effort to save himself; he stayed behind and did what he could to make sure everyone else knew how to leave. How many of us would have been as willing to save the lives of others if it meant having to give up our own?

Think about it.

I obviously didn't know Yuji, but just looking at some of the tributes to him makes me wish I had:
Yuji Goya was a business school classmate of mine. Although I had not seen him in many years, I was deeply saddened to hear of his untimely death. In business school he was a decent, pensive, and level-headed student and classmate.The world has lost a good man.
--Tim Goodell (Stamford, CT )

Mr. Goya was a firm, but fair boss, he worked hard, and played hard. He liked ski or sail on his vacations, and came back refreshed and ready to work hard again. He leaves behind a wife and 2 daughters who have moved back to Japan. My heart goes out to them. My family and I will be eternally greatful for his clear thinking and actions on 9/11. God Bless You.
--Tom Lochtefeld (Darien, CT )
Though there wasn't much information I could gather about his life, and there's still so much I wish I knew about him, I don't think I'll ever forget the things I do know. And I guess it's in this capacity that his memory lives on.

Yuji Goya should be an inspiration to all of us, not only because of the way he lived, but also because of the way he died. I consider it an honor to be a small part of making sure his heroism and bravery on that day aren't soon forgotten.

"Whoever saves one life, it is as if he has saved the entire world." [Sanhedrin 4:5]

...Think about the love inside the strenght of heart.
...Think about the heroes saving lives in the dark.
...Climbing higher through the fire-- time was running out.
...Never knowing you weren't going to be coming down alive.
...But you still came back for me,
...You were strong and you believed.

...Everything is going to be all right. Be strong, believe.

...Think about the chance I never had to say
...thank you for giving up your life that day.
...Never fearing, only hearing voices calling out.
...Let it all go, the life that you know, just to bring them down alive.
...And you still came back for me,
...You were strong and you believed.

.......--Yellowcard, "Believe"

(This tribute is a part of the 2996 project; those for other 9/11 victims can be found here.)


Thursday, April 27, 2006

One Small Step For Man...

Muslim Nations Urged on Space Exploration:

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia's ambition to send an astronaut to space next year should inspire other Muslim countries to embark on space exploration, an Islamic professor said Tuesday.

However, Muslims who travel to space must tackle religious challenges such as performing prayers at zero gravity and ensuring their meals fulfill Islamic dietary conditions, said Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad, a United Arab Emirates-based university professor in Islamic studies.

"We are all very hopeful that the efforts by the Malaysian government will inspire other Muslim countries to inaugurate space initiatives," Ahmad said on the sidelines of a conference in Kuala Lumpur to discuss Islamic perspectives on space expeditions.

The only Muslim who has flown into orbit so far is Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan bin Salman, who went aboard the U.S. shuttle Discovery in 1985, Ahmad said.

A Malaysian might be the next Muslim in space, as the government plans to send a citizen on a Russian-led scientific mission to the international space station in October 2007. Three of the four finalists in the country's astronaut program are Muslims, while one is a Hindu.

It is unclear whether the Saudi prince encountered any problems in determining the direction of the Saudi holy city of Mecca — toward which Muslims are expected to pray five times a day — while orbiting the earth aboard Discovery.

Mazlan Othman, director general of Malaysia's National Space Agency, voiced hopes that Muslim nations could consider technical cooperation to send more people on similar expeditions.

"Muslim countries so far are not able to send an astronaut to space on their own, because we still need to partner with countries such as the U.S., China and Russia," Mazlan said.

Malaysia, which chairs the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, is among Southeast Asia's wealthiest and most industrialized countries. More than 11,000 people in the nation of 26 million people applied for the astronaut selection process in 2003.

Ahmad, the university professor, said funding for space programs would not be a problem for rich, oil-producing Middle East nations, especially if OIC members pool resources and expertise.

"The Muslim world suffers plenty of problems, especially with its image because of issues like terrorism," Ahmad said. "We should have an inspiring example that comes from our own, instead of looking to the U.S., England or Europe all the time."

Officials estimate Malaysia's program will cost around US$25 million (euro20 million), but it will be offset in a defense deal struck with Moscow to buy Sukhoi fighter jets.

Riiiight. We all know what their real intentions are: the Intergalactic Muslim Space Corps is attempting to stop the illegal Zionist occupation of the universe. Low earth orbit is sacred Islamic territory, you know.

But seriously, do these Muslim nations honestly expect us to believe that a group of people who haven't given us anything useful since the number zero is suddenly going to make something that doesn't involve either violence, death, or fanaticism a priority of theirs?

I think I'm going to need some convincing on this one.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I've apparently been tagged by Stevin, of Ionetic fame. So this is my first meme. How cool is that?

The mission: Come up with ten of life's simple pleasures I appreciate the most and then tag ten more people to do the same. The only drawback is that I can't list things someone else already has. That's going to be a little hard, since a lot of Stevin's answers happened to concide with my own. Oh well.

Anyway, here goes...

--School: I know I spend an awful lot of time griping about UIUC, but I do I love being surrounded by people who actually want to learn... even if I don't agree with them most of the time.

--Spending time with the parental units. Being away from them for months at a time has made me appreciate them a little more. Who'd have thought?

--Thunderstorms... when I'm inside, of course. They frighten and fascinate me at the same time.


--Two words: Snail mail. I love getting letters. Even junk mail.

--Homework. I'm a shameless nerd.

--Going to the library. Especially when I get so involved in what I'm doing there that I lose track of time.

--Spoken Hebrew: One of my favorite sounds in the whole world.


--Playing guitar, or just hearing someone else play one.

--Reading new posts from some of my favorite bloggers ... And it's just as nice seeing their comments on my own page. :)

Okay, that's actually more than ten. Guess I got carried away.

Now I'm supposed to tag ten other people, but I doubt that any of the other people who read me actually do memes. I could be wrong, though. So, does anyone want to be tagged?


Monday, April 17, 2006

"Palestine Awareness Week"

For those of you who didn't know, April 17th - 21st is Palestine Awareness Week here at the U of I. Or, "Israel, Palestine, and the New Apartheid Regime", if you'd rather use the Arab Student Association's name for it.

Amomg the many events planned to supposedly commemorate the plight of the poor, oppressed Palestinians, most seem to do little more than demonize Israel.

Take the lecture scheduled for Thursday evening, for instance: "Israel and South Africa-- The Apartheid Connection", given by Francis Boyle, who in addition to being a "scholar" in international law and human rights, also happens to teach law courses here. Or, "From Ethnic Cleansing to Equal Rights: On Conflict Resolution", given by a Poli. Sci. professor at ISU. Or, "Resisting the New Apartheid: Divestment and Solidarity", led by Fayyad Sbaihat, head of the Palestine Solidarity Movement and its Divestment Campaign.

These events don't help make the case for Palestinian statehood. They simply divert attention from the fact that the Palestinians have done absolutely nothing worthy of our support. But, I suppose the Palestine Awareness Week calendar would look quite empty if the ASA and other groups sponsoring it had actually decided to focus on Palestinian contrubtions to the peace process instead of promulgating anti-Israel mythology.

What bothers me is knowing that lots of people will flock to these lectures and blindly accept everything they hear there as fact becaue professors and other "intellectuals" tell them it is. That they'll believe all of the lies they're told about Israel and the Palestinians because, if Francis Boyle and Jamal Nasser say that Israel's an apartheid state and engages in ethnic cleansing against Arabs, then it must be true.

Okay, that isn't the only thing that really gets me about PAW. It annoys me to no end that Israel doesn't receive as much support here on campus as the Palestinians do, simply because victimhood sells, even if it's made-up. It almost seems as if people would rather believe that the IDF eats innocent Palestinian kids for breakfast and that Israel makes its Arab citizens drive cars with different license plates than accept the more prosaic reality that the Palestinian have primarily been the victims of their own actions. And anyone who disagrees with the myth of the Oppressed Palestinian People is generally considered a hater of some sort.

The truth is that the Palestinians have never been a nation, and, given their current rate of self-destruction, probably never will be. Israel does not engage in either apartheid or ethnic cleansing against its non-Jewish citizens or the Palestinians. Any statements to the contrary are lies, and to know that these lies are being espoused by the very people we're supposed to be entrusting our intellectual futures to seriously scares me.

In all honesty, Palestine Awareness Week appears to be much more of an anti-Israel hatefest and exercise in academic antisemitism than a call for pro-Palestinian solidarity and peace with Israel. And everyone seems to be okay with it. I can't believe how blind people can be sometimes. Especially after things like this.

But no one's asking me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Lame seder joke:

Q. What do you call someone who derives pleasure from the bread of affliction?

A. A matzochist.

I crack myself up.

Chag sameach, everyone. :)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hopefully Not A Sign Of Things To Come

Today I took part in a mock Israeli election sponsored by a local Israel advocacy group. Anyway, before the election, a "debate" was held, and much to my disappointment, only the leaders of the three "most important" parties (Labor, Likud, and Kadima) were represented in it, so the entire debate had a decidedly secular slant to it. It's like religious Zionism didn't matter. To be honest though, I didn't really expect it to. Not here anyway. Given the setting of this event, I guess I should be glad enough that Bibi Netanyahu, and right-wingers in general, were actually portrayed as sensible people with valid points. And that minor parties were included on the ballot.

I, by the way, voted NU-NRP. Not that it made any difference in the end.

Guess who won? Labor (duh), with ten votes to Kadima's nine, Likud's three, and Meretz's one. There was, oddly enough, also a vote for Shas.

Go figure.