Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Which Threat Is Scarier?

My two youngest children, ages 10 and 6, had a scary day at school in which everyone was talking about the missiles falling in various parts of Israel. After school, as they were walking home from the bus-stop, a car alarm went off. Unfortunately, they thought it was a missile alert siren. Terrified, they ran to a nearby shul, but it was locked. They stood next to the shul, shaking in fear, until they finally saw people in the streets and decided that it was safe to come home. My wife and I spent the last few hours trying to calm them down and put them to sleep; they are deeply traumatized.

I am crying inside for my children's pain. But personally, I don't feel so scared about missiles, because Beit Shemesh is in a relatively safe region, and in the unlikely event that there is a siren, we will go to our protected room. Furthermore, Israel's massive military advantage means that not only do we have early-warning systems, but we also have ways to shoot missiles down.

I'm personally much more scared about the headline on the front page of The Jerusalem Post today: "Israel Under Threat." Published before the missiles started falling, it's speaking about a different and broader threat: the fact that a rapidly expanding portion of the population does not receive any kind of meaningful secular education. This does not only affect the economy; it will also result in Israel no longer possessing a military advantage. Here's the money quote:
“Being situated in one of the planet’s most dangerous regions, Israel requires a first-world army to simply continue to exist. Maintaining a first-world army requires a first-world economy. But roughly half of Israel’s children (not just the ultra-Orthodox) are receiving a third-world education, and they belong to the fastest growing population streams. As adults, they will only be able to maintain a third-world economy, with all that this entails regarding Israel’s future physical existence."

This is a grave long-term threat to Israel. And it's very difficult to address, because the charedi community is so resistant to providing an education to their children, and because as the charedi community grows, so does their government power.

There is no single or simple solution to this very serious problem. I do have a strategy to partially address some aspects of it, and if there are serious people out there with the resources and desire to do something about it, I would like to meet with them. If you fall into that category, please be in touch; I am flying to the US tomorrow.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Be Our Friend!

Great news for people in the NY/NJ area! We have decided to do a special event in Teaneck, a week from Sunday:

This is an event for those who join the Biblical Museum of Natural History as Friends or Patrons, and I will be presenting various fascinating topics relating to Biblical Natural History, as well as revealing some behind-the-scenes secrets of the museum! (And, yes, there will be some small but very special exotic edibles, though this is not a "food" event.) Please RSVP to office@BiblicalNaturalHistory.org. I look forward to seeing you!

(If there's interest, we might also repeat the event the next night, in the Five Towns.)

And even if you can't make it, perhaps you'd like to become a Friend or Patron of the Museum? It's a way to really make a difference. Sign up, and I'll give you a call!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Is Rationalist Judaism Going Extinct?

A few readers asked if Rationalist Judaism is going the way of the woolly mammoth and the dinosaur. They weren't referring to the rationalist school of thought, but rather to this website. As you may have noticed, there has been a virtual absence of posts over the last few weeks.

It's not that I don't have anything to write about. On the contrary; there are a very large number of topics that I would like to write about, including recent claims of heresy-hunting regarding certain educators, new sources regarding science and Torah that have come to light, and much more. In fact, I have an entire folder of ideas and raw material for posts.

The reason for the sharp decline in output is simply this: my responsibilities as director of the Biblical Museum of Natural History, in particular with regard to our impending move to our magnificent new home, are overwhelming! It's an incredibly momentous project, which takes up a lot of time, and even more so, my mental and emotional energy.

We are trying to figure out how to expand the team so as to be able to transfer some of what I do, especially the fundraising work (which I find especially taxing), to others. If and when that happens, hopefully I will be able to return to writing more in this forum. Alternately, perhaps there is a way to make my writing this blog more directly beneficial to the museum - I would welcome ideas regarding that.

Meanwhile, if you've appreciated the 1500 posts that I've written over the last ten years, and/or you would like to participate in the amazing work that we are doing at the Biblical Museum of Natural History, please make a contribution at this link: https://www.biblicalnaturalhistory.org/donate/ We are especially keen to expand our society of Friends and Patrons - the people whose annual donations help with our ongoing subsidized educational programs for many thousands of schoolchildren from across the spectrum of society. Please see https://www.biblicalnaturalhistory.org/support/ for details!

If you're interested in making a more significant impact and dedicating an exhibit at the museum, please write to me at director@BiblicalNaturalHistory.org - we have some amazing and unique opportunities available!

Note that I will be coming to New Jersey/ New York and then Los Angeles at the end of next week, and I am available for meetings with donors - if you are interested in such a meeting, please be in touch. There will also be an event in Teaneck (and possibly also the Five Towns) for Friends and Patrons of the Museum.

We are also looking to expand our Board of Directors (both for our US and Israel foundations) with serious individuals who would like to contribute resources, guidance and passion to this groundbreaking project. And I would also like to ask all of you for any helpful ideas and suggestions that might have for the development of the museum.

Thank you for your support!

(And if you'd like to be updated as to when the posts here pick up again, you can register by email on the side of this page to receive all posts to your inbox, or write to me and I will register you.)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Riddle Me This

Question: What's fifty cubits wide, thirty cubits high, a hundred cubits long, and is a Biblical home for all kinds of animals?

Answer: The new building of the Biblical Museum of Natural History! (Noah's Ark was three hundred cubits long, not one hundred. But the width and height are identical!)

This is the most amazing thing that I have ever realized!

Which Threat Is Scarier?

My two youngest children, ages 10 and 6, had a scary day at school in which everyone was talking about the missiles falling in various par...