Yes, I've become one of those people. You know, the ones who incessantly link out to relevant news and opinion pieces because they're too lazy to generate their own content. I'll try not to make a habit out of it.
For those who didn't notice, there have been a few surprisingly good articles about the settlements popping up in the last few weeks. The first was by uber-conservative Jennifer Rubin in WaPo. Surprisingly, the journalist most associated with the Israeli right had, prior to February of this year, never herself stepped foot in the West Bank, much less had a decent understanding of the settlements or their residents. Your can read the account of her travels - Part I, Part II - full of the now cliche, incredulous remarks like (and I'm paraphrasing) "wow, the settlements aren't temporary trailer parks" and "look at that, Jews and Arabs work and live together in relative harmony" - and that coming from a strong, lifelong supporter and defender of Israel (in the era of JStreet, the two are no longer interchangeable). In any case, she's worth reading. If Jennifer Rubin didn't know better, what's to say that someone like Andrew Sullivan (or even you) might not know very much about the settlements either?
I can't seem to find the second settlement story link I was referring to earlier, so instead, he's a year old review of wines from the Judean Hills. The history and context in which the wine is grown is of greater interest to me than the bottle labels themselves. Despite my Moldovan extraction - Bessarabia was once the second largest wine producing region in the world, second to France - I'm no wine aficionado, with a palate generally considered more the preserve of the fairer gender, that being sweet and semi-sweet reds. Nevertheless, it's always good to keep an article like this bookmarked, for the next time one is invited over for Shabbos to a household that appreciates good wine, which, as Tehillim (Psalms) 104:15 tells us, "gladden man's heart".
Yet another article contemplating Israel's entry into becoming a serious energy exporter. One of my relatives in Israel, a citizen of the country for twenty five years, once told me that he's been hearing stories since his arrival, at least once a year, that here or there in the Negev desert someone found a billion barrels of oil, but nothing ever comes of it. If you add all those billions of barrels up, he said, we should be like Saudi Arabia by now. Still, the recently discovered, substantial gas reserves off Israel's coast are no fantasy, and the entire Levantine basin, largely within Israeli jurisdiction, may hold five times as much gas as recently discovered, according the US Geological Survey. In addition, the high price of oil and new extraction technologies are creating the potential to tap Israel's oil shale deposits, with optimistic projections of up to 250 Billion barrels. Getting bullish on Israel's future won't hurt anyone.
For those interested in the inner workings of the Conservative movement, there have been a rash of posts on Jewschool associated with the USCJ's recently released and much anticipated strategic plan. I don't have time or interest to be going through a long, dry policy paper put out by a Jewish movement with which I am not affiliated. However, I did read the synopses provided on Jewschool, and found them interesting, in that I learned more about the organization and the Conservative movement, perhaps still the largest denomination among American Jews, and the current challenges faced by both. So, for those so inclined, here are the links to the multiple Jewschool posts that deal with the subject:
The USCJ Strategic Plan Part 1: USCJ as it is
The USCJ Strategic Plan Part 2: Critique of the strategic plan
The USCJ Strategic Plan, Part 3a: Some thoughts on what USCJ could be... 3b... 3c
The USCJ Strategic Plan Part 4: Comments on the final plan
Lastly, here is some incredible footage of the terrible moment the tsunami burst over the containing walls and flooded the Japanese fishing port of Miyako. As the camera pans to the left, you can see cars still on the roads of the city, the rushing waves of water and sludge soon to meet them head on. What a horrendous tragedy for the people of Japan. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to them.