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Miketz and Christmas

Two separate items. I am not suggesting a relationship between them.

First, here is another great American Jewish World Service d'var Torah, this time on Parshat Miketz. I wish it recommended reputable organizations that are doing just what the d'var Torah suggests--preventing hunger and famine, rather than responding to it after the fact. Anyone know of any good places to donate towards this cause?

Secondly, I was in Bethlehem last week, including on St. Nicholas Day, and saw a great Santa Claus decoration. There is no reason at all why Santa Claus should be pasty white--St. Nicholas was from what is now Turkey.

I don't know if I am in a place right now to write extensively about Bethlehem. It was a different world from my world in Jerusalem (West Jerusalem, that is), and many aspects of the trip were quite difficult for me. I was happy to read this recent New York Times article ("Palestinians Work to Jolt West Bank Back to Life," December 23, 2008) about increased tourism in Bethlehem and other West Bank cities, since that seems like it would improve life for everyone in the region.

Happy holidays to all who are celebrating something at the moment!

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Still true

This is still true. I wish I was in a space to write something this hopeful and assured this year, but I am not. Maybe by the 6th night of Chanukah, I will be.

Tonight is Shira's eighth yahrzeit. You can read more about her here and here. I don't have anything to say about her yahrzeit this year. I am thinking about her, though.

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Public works worthy of investment

This is probably one of the more generally ignorant posts that I'm ever going to publish, but I hope that those who know more can comment and teach me.

I just read this New York Times article ("Obama Pledges Public Works on a Vast Scale", NYT, 12/6/08), in an attempt to keep up with what is going on in the US these days. I haven't really been reading any news online, and, as such, am terribly under-informed. The article basically talks about the major infrastructure spending that Obama is planning in order to create more jobs, in the model of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which created many highways and bridges that are now on the verge of collapse.

My main reaction is that I would hope that infrastructure spending would focus on mass transit and alternative energy, both of which I think are incredibly important and too often under-funded in favor of building more roads and bridges.

Cities that have mass transit should have better mass transit, and cities that don't have mass transit should build it. And subways are way faster than buses, people. I don't know about light rails--I assume that they are faster than buses but slower than subways. How did cities like Washington, DC, finance the construction of their relatively new Metro subway system in the mid-1970s? Why aren't more cities building them or improving their existing ones? Los Angeles, anyone? Dallas? Houston? Phoenix? Not only would investing in mass transit create jobs, it would also make cities more pleasant to live in by reducing smog and congestion and lessen dependence on both cars and gasoline.

Alternative energy is also a no-brainer to me. There is a limited amount of gas; we need other ways of running all of our computers, home appliances, subways, buses, and cars. I would hope that investing in alernative energy would also involve investing in education, especially science education, on all levels.

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Let's hear it for naps!

I think I would find it much easier to get up in the mornings if I knew that I could take a two hour nap every day.

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