The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why Elmo?

The Toddler is infatuated with Elmo. And she doesn't even watch any TV! Someone got her an Elmo doll and she took to it right away. Once, I was looking for an Elmo DVD on the computer and TT saw an image of Elmo. Now, everytime any of us gets on the computer when she's around, she makes us go to You Tube and put on a snippet of Elmo.

What's up?

When did Elmo surpass Burt and Ernie and even Grover as the main man? Where was I when this happened?


Really Out of Control

Following up on O'Mom's post about Meyer Fertig's editorial on Purim drinking, here are two articles by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz that show, inter alia, how clueless parents really are.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Serious Blogging

When I started blogging almost three years ago, my intent (to the extent I really had an intent) was to mix posts about serious matters like Jewish education and music with goofy posts about whatever came to mind (like, for example, macaroons).

I more or less stuck to this formula until my first "retirement" and continued to follow that pattern when I resumed blogging, until my second, longer hiatus, which began in May 2005.

Since I returned, however, it's been increasingly more difficult to post about serious issues. Not that serious issues don't exist. On the contrary. The problem is, I simply don't have the time or the mental energy to write about serious issues. My job is extremely intense while I'm at work. And, because of the intense and political nature of the work, I'm always thinking about it. In the shower, on the train, during davening (!), on my bike. So, instead of thinking about Jewish education, I'm trying to work through XYZ's agenda or figuring how to get ABC to see my side of an issue. All I have time for is narishkeit. (Not that there's anything wrong with that).

If you think about, how many Jbloggers have been around nearly as long as I have, post as much as I do, and are still any good? I would suggest a very small handful. Most have either cut back on the frequency of their posts, the quality of their posts, or both. Many have just faded into the sunset.

So, while my inability to post much of substance on this blog is personally frustrating, I guess it's still worth blogging if I can continue to make a few people smile, smirk or grimace while reading one of my posts. That's about the best I can do these days.



I have to admit it. I exhibit "at risk" behavior. I am addicted.

To my Crackberry.

I've always known this but, like many addicts, I've been in denial.

It all came home, though, one night last week.

I was at a sheva brachos with MHW, sitting at a table with a number of her childhood friends and their husbands. Among those at the table were me, another corporate lawyer, a businessman and a surgeon. Of course, the other lawyer and I were busy reading our emails before the meal actualy started. I challenged everyone at the table to refrain from checking their emails for one full hour.

After three minutes, my blackberry began to buzz. I didn't check it. Again. And again. I was starting to break out in a sweat. Then, providence answered my call. The phone part of the blackberry started to buzz. I hadn't said anything about phone calls. And besides, TT was home and it could have been about her. (In fact, it was. She refused to sleep and OOD was looking for aitzas).

Of course, once I had the berry out, I figured it wouldn't kill anyone if I took a quick look at my emails.

That's when I knew for sure that I was deeply addicted.

Is there a 12 step plan for crackberry-heads?


Stood Up

I waited for my lunch guest at at Solo for 10 minutes before I sent her an email: "Where are you?" After another ten minutes, I called her office. Got her on the line. That was a bad sign.

Her response: "D'oh!"

I have the emails to prove that we were supposed to have lunch today but she apparently forgot to put it in her calendar.

(She is one of my early, and favorite, bosses; I could never be upset with her because she taught me a lot, including, mostly, how to be a great boss. As I was writing this, she called me back, horrified. We are on for tomorrow).

I hold myself partially responsible. As a person who does at least 50 business lunches a year, I almost always confirm the morning of the lunch. I do this for two reasons. First, I deal with very busy people so this gives them a chance to blow me off early rather than 5 minutes before lunch; helps me plan my days better. Second, so as to avoid the rare situations where people completely forget about it. Today, I had meetings outside the office all morning, never got to my office before lunch and didn't confirm.

So, PSA, from MoC. Always confirm lunch or, one day, you will have to sheepishly go to the maitre de after sitting alone for half an hour and explain that you've been blown off.


Saturday, February 24, 2007


I saw an ad soliciting matanos l'evyonim in one of the Jewish newspapers that we get.

Your Matanos L'Evyonim Sweetens (sic) The Bitter Lives of Over 10,000 Children In Every City And Town of Eretz Israel
My reaction to this ad was one of sadness and chalishas hada'as. How have we come to this point? How could the "Gedolei HaDor" (who have supposedly appointed this particular charity as the one of choice) have allowed this to happen? They have created a society of voluntary poverty that relies on the goodwill and chesed of their coreligionists. They have created the 10,000 bitter lives.

I know this is nothing new. But it struck me like cold water when I read the ad and processed what it really meant. Is this what the Torah had in mind?


TT Update

The Toddler is 21.5 months old. Her vocabulary is increasing rapidly. She can name most people, herself, lots of animals, and other stuff. She says "yeth" and, especially, "no". She is still as delightful and funny as ever, albeit more mischeivious.

She continues to be in the higher ranges of the growth chart, a joke that the One Above is playing on us since all our kids were barely on the growth chart. So, not only will people wonder why these old people are walking around with a daughter that appears way too young and doesn't look much like them, they may also be ammused by how much taller she is than they.

Her favorite foods continue to be weird and eclectic, to wit, potato kugel, broccoli, craisins, apples, and chicken. She has also discovered soda, which we allow her to drink (in moderation) only on Shabbos. She prefers Coke to Fresca. So do I.

She has also discovered that it's fun to stay up rather than go to sleep, so, for the first time last week, she started to give us a bit of a hard time when we put her to sleep. But, she still takes an afternoon nap and does go to sleep after dropping a guilt trip on us at night.

That's it for now. I hope I have made all my female readers happy.


Excellent News

The Great Joe Schick is Back.


Friday, February 23, 2007

More on Mom UPDATED

I am fascinated at many levels by the goings on at Orthomom regarding the Pam Greenbaum lawsuit.

Let me summarize my thoughts.

1. PG will come out of this a laughingstock. Her lawsuit is completely baseless. It is being prosecuted by a lawyer who is probably comfortable pursuing a traffic accident case but is completely over his head in a libel suit. OM, on the other hand, will probably lawyer up with an expert from a top Manhattan firm. She will make mincemeat of PG's silly case. As soon as a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment is filed, it will be over. PG will be lucky if she doesn't have to pay OM's costs. Anyone who thinks that PG will prevail is smoking dope.

2. PG has publicized how silly she is. OM's hit numbers are off the chart, the story has been covered in every local newspaper and PG comes off looking like a thin-skinned clown. I think her career as a public servant has a very short half-life.

3. This kerfuffle has once again demonstrated the level of anger and frustration of the displaced elite that used to run District 15. They want their ball back but must know in their heart of hearts that it's over. They would be much better served if they just got over it and dealt with it.

4. At the end of the day, I still don't know what the big deal about OM's identity is. I started out anonymous three years ago but quickly realized that, because of the personal nature of my writing style, I would not be able to write anything worthwhile if I worried about my identity being revealed. Although I have certainly aggravated a few people over the years, I have experienced zero repercussions. I suspect the same would be true for OM. (I also suspect that, completely unrelated to PG's suit, it will be increasingly more difficult for OM to maintain the confidentiality of her identity. IMHO, that is the nature of the beast, particularly as you get more popular. Ultimately, I believe, OM will also have to make that choice).

UPDATE: A lawyer whose opinion I respect and who agrees that this lawsuit is ridiculous, is not so sure that it will be dismissed on motion. He thinks it is possible that the claim for defamation could get to a jury. Interesting. We will see. (In any event, Pam Greenbaum is finished).


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Deep Thoughts During Shiur

For the past six years I have been attending a 6 a.m. halacha shiur Mondays through Thursdays. Some of my best thinking happens during shiur. Unfortunately, the thoughts almost never have anything to do with the topic being covered at the shiur. Instead, I find my mind wandering into all kinds of other places, usually connected to work.

This morning was no exception. I had been struggling with a very difficult political issue at work for the past three months. It had been driving me crazy and I had not been able to solve it. Then, suddenly, with about 20 minutes to go in shiur, Shazzam! The solution appeared to me like a nevuah (l'havdel).

Of course, the rest of the shiur was shot since I now had shpilkes to start implementing the solution. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons it is unlikely that I will become a talmid chacham any time soon.


Shuffle Logic UPDATED

I rarely use the "shuffle" feature on my iPod but I had to drive into work yesterday so I turned it on before placing the iPod into my transponder.

Way cool. I got to listen to a bunch of the 895 songs on my iPod that I rarely listen to. I should do this more often.

I'm still mystified by how the iPod selects the music. Is it completely random? Is there a pattern? It seemed to me that the iPod was playing a disproportionate number of Diaspora Band and Eitan Katz tunes early in the shuffle. Anyone have any insights?

UPDATE: Issac points out that I am not the first to wonder about shuffle choices

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Letter from MoC to the Committee for Mikvah Standards




* Before you sent your letter, did you ask your Rav whether it was motsi shem rah to cast aspersions on mikvaot, mikvah attendants and (by assocition) community rabbanim or did you pasken yourselves?

* Before you sent your letter, did you ask your Rav whether the unnamed mikvahs and mikvah attendants weren't actually well within halachic standards but were perhaps permitting a few women to tovel without the countless chumrahs that have become customary?

* Before you sent your letter did you ask your Rav whether it would have been more appropriate to go through Rabbinic channels rather than annonynously slander unnamed community mikvaot, attendants and rabbanim?




Bose Rocks

Last month I finally gave in and purchased the ridiculously expensive Bose noise cancelling headphones. I convinced myself that I deserved them since I work so hard and travel so much (take out the world's smallest violin). My argument to myself went something like this: The beauty of the Bose headphones is that, besides being great for music, they are much more effective than ear plugs while travelling on airplanes. And, since I travel frequently to Israel, Europe and Asia, almost always overnight, it is only right for me to have them. Almost like a business expense.

The good news is that I prevailed in this argument with myself.

The better news is that the headphones are even better than I could have imagined.

Listening to music from my iPod through the Bose headphones is a totally different experience. You hear the music in a richer, fuller way. (A number of my Israeli musician friends tried them on during my recent trip to Israel. They were all blown away).

But the plane ride to Israel was what really got me. As advertised, the headphones canceled out a great deal of the engine noise that one usually hears on a plane. Truly amazing. (Of course, I still wouldn't fly to Israel without 10 mg. of slow-release Ambien, but that's another story).

In short, Bose rocks.


Dave Cowens' New Gilgul

Last night I went to my first Knicks game of the year courtesy of a very good man who provided me courtside seats. I was supposed to go with "Judah" but that didn't work out for reasons that are beyond the scope of this post (I will take him next Monday).

As you may know, I haven't had any use for the NBA for at least 15 years. I find the pro game to be generally dreadful, with little team play and a bunch of outsized egos on display. I yearn for the Celtics of the 70s and 80s.

Last night's game, however, gave me hope. In particular, one player gave me hope: David Lee, the latest gilgul of Dave Cowens. Lee played with joy and intensity. He scored about 14 points, had 16 rebounds, played fierce defense and moved constantly.

I'm not saying that Lee will be as good as Cowens (1971 rookie of the year and a Hall of Famer who was voted one of the top 50 players in NBA history) but he does remind me of Cowens in many ways. (Cowens was an undersized center even back in the 70s. These days he would be, at best, a power forward if not a small forward).

Lee made a few reckless moves last night but they were mistakes of aggression, not laziness. That can be harnessed. So long as Isaiah doesn't mess this up, there is renewed hope in Knicks land.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Can anyone tell me what this means? I just a flyer from a Chareidi charity that heralded the appearance of Horav Ploni Ben Ploni. Don't they mean HaRav? Do they do that just to annoy me?


Spring in the Air

This morning's walk from Penn Station to work was downright tropical compared to the last two weeks. Just another sign of spring.

* Pitchers and catchers reported last week; regular players start coming this week .(certainly the number one sign of spring). The good news: it won't be long before we won't even have to hear about the tedious NBA.

* I had my bike, newly returned from Israel, cleaned and tuned. I also added an 8 function computer (what we used to call a speedometer; now they are too fancy to be called speedeometers). Of course, if I can figure out how to use just four of the functions (speed, average speed, distance and cadence), I will be thrilled. It is amazing how dirty my bike got during my Israeli sojourns. What a dustbowl that joint is! All I need now is another 30 degrees and I'll be back on the bike.

* Rosh Chodesh Adar. Purim in less than two weeks!


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Deep Thoughts From OOS



"What About Our Mikvahs"

This post is something you would normally see at Orthomom, but I couldn't hold myself back.

I received a disgusting letter today from the anonymous "Concerned Women For Mikvah Standards". It reads as follows:




* Is your mikvah attendant insuring that your tevilah is kosher?

* When a halachic question arises, does the attendant call a Rav (or does she pasken herself?)

Be aware: not all community mikvahs provide equal service!


I am hard-pressed to find the right words to express my disgust at this cowardly letter. I am so tired of anonymous, divisive, community-dividing rechilus slinging. Don't these people realize that what they are doing is worse than anything a mikvah attendant may not be doing? Aren't there better ways of addressing this issue if they feel so strongly about it? If the so-called Concerned Women For Mikvah Standards feel so strongly about this issue that they are willing to cast aspertions on local mikvahs (presumably the Woodmere mikvah) and, by extension, the Rabbanim who are connected to it, let them be man enough (woman enough?) to use their names. Why are they hiding? What are they afraid of?

This makes me sick.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

O'MOM and Anonymity

These are my two cents about Pam Greenbaum's ridiculous suit against Google to unmask O'Mom.

1. The suit is a joke. Greenbaum is a public figure and you can say lots of nasty things about public figures without liability. The fact that a commenter (not even O'Mom herself) called her ugly and a bigot, doesn't come close.

2. This kerfuffle must be great for O'Mom's numbers.

3. What's the big deal if O'Mom's identity were to be revealed? I think that anyone who says anything anonymously on his or her blog should be prepared to say the same thing for atribution. I have less and less patience for anonymous blogs (and, just as bad, anonymous letters to the editor of Jewish newspapers). And, frankly, I don't think that O'Mom says anything so radical that she couldn't say it for attribution.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Earth to MoC...Come in MoC!

I am speaking over the next two days at a conference that my firm is sponsoring. For the past two years, this conference has been held in a hotel downtown. I was prepared to go straight there tomorrow morning. Two minutes ago, I overheard a conversation in my office where someone mentioned something about a hotel across the street from our office.

It turns out that the conference is at the Roosevelt Hotel which is literally across the street. When did that happen?


Hockey Mishigas

Last night I attended my final regular season hockey game. It was the rematch of OYS's team against Crosstown Rival (CR).

I got to the game erly and was watching CR warm up. Except something was off. Guys were shooting around in other players' uniforms. They had all switched jerseys!

What was up with that? Besides being unimaginably gross (I will let you in on a secret: Most of the boys on the hockey team don't wash their uniforms all season long. That's why it smells like an elephant's behind in an all-boys high school gym), what's pshat? Team unity? I don't get it. (In any event, alas, it didn't work; OYS's team won the game 3-2).

OYS played a good game, scoring his team's first, game-tying goal towards the end of the first period and playing pretty tight defense the rest of the way. He can still step his game up and I assume he will for the playoffs. Both teams played well but OYS's team still seemed a little flat (they have enough talent to get away with that most of the time).

My biggest concern hockey-wise is that I am scheduled to travel to London and Florida on successive Sundays in mid-March and I may have to take some weird flights so as not to miss any of the remaining games. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that OYS's team has a bye in the first round and must wait until the first round gets completed before scheduling its next game. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.

In the meantime, it's been a fine final season, 13-0-1.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chaim Dovid and Nochi Krohn

Chaim Dovid and the Nochi Krohn Band will be performing this motsai Shabbos, February 17th, at 8:30 p.m. at Cong. Aish Kodesh in Woodmere (corner of Woodmere Blvd and Woodmere Place, one block from the Woodmere LIRR train station). Admission is $15 at the door.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Dressed for Success

Those who know me know that there are probably very few people around who care less about clothes than I.

When work went casual about 10 years ago, I was thrilled. Since then, I've been wearing more or less the same outfit virtually every single day. I mean, Every. Single. Day. My outfit consists of a blue oxford button down shirt from Macys, and black or navy khakis from the Gap. If I wear a sweater it is a hand-me-up from one of the boys. My annual budget for clothes is certainly less than what I spend on my biking accessories. (I do wear a suit when I have a presentation or a particularly important meeting).

This was fine in my previous job where I rarely needed to see people outside the office. I spent most of my time either on the phone, in front of the computer or on the trading floor. No one really cared how I looked.

In my current job, however, I see people all the time. I have business lunches and/or breakfasts at least once a week, sometimes as many as three or more. I have meetings outside the office all the time. The one thing that I've noticed is that the people with whom I meet, even those dressed in business casual, are not dressed like shloomps. I, on the other hand, am dressed like a shloomp.

So, last Friday, I finally bit the bullet and decided that I needed to step up a bit. It was painful but I purchased some nice dress slacks and a couple of nice sweaters (the first sweaters I have bought myself in at least ten years). While I am far from the GQ man, I think I have attained at least the minimum level of adult clothing.

Why do I feel like I sold out to "The Man"?


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pizza, Pizza

The Toddler often walks around spontaneously calling out "pizza, pizza". She loves pizza and would eat it three times a day if she could. Today she came close.

MHW and OOD went sheitel shopping at around noon leaving me home with TT. At around 12:30 I gave her lunch, what else, a slice of pizza. After lunch I put her in for a nap.

TT woke up shortly after MHW and OOD returned, at around 2. When I came down to the kitchen a few minutes later, I saw TT in her booster seat, eating another slice of pizza. I wonder what she was thinking.

She ate every last bit of it.


Mo Bear

No, this is not what you think.

This is about riding my bike. On Monday morning, driving to shul at 6 a.m., I saw a guy riding his racing bike. It was no more than 10 degrees and the wind/chill had to be 10 below or more.

I, on the other hand, am like a bear. I hibernate during the winter. I get absolutely no enjoyment out of riding my bike in cold weather. None. In fact, I left my bike in Israel after the Alyn Ride, because I knew that I wouldn't ride it in New York until the spring (who knew how mild the winter would be?) and I knew I would be going back in January.

And, because the weather in Israel was crazy warm during most of my stay, I got to ride on a couple of occasions without even putting on winter biking gear.

I finally lugged my bike back to the States but I won't be riding outside until the temparatures reach 60 degrees or more.

The good news is that pitchers and ctchers report next week. Spring can't be far behind.


Thursday, February 08, 2007


I spent 40 minutes on the phone yesterday afternoon with a man who may be interested in fostering and possibly adopting "Judah" (f/k/a Fosterboy). His wife will be calling MHW tonight to follow up.

My first impression of him is extremely positive. We had a very frank talk and nothing I said seemed to discourage him. (I do not hold back anything in my conversations about Judah. To do so would be idiotic. Anyone taking this on must go in with eyes wide open. I would rather discourage pretenders early rather than waste peoples' time and arose false hopes). I believe he and his wife may be the real deal.

The new candidate became aware of Judah indirectly through my earlier post, "A Home of His Own" So, I am grateful to all of my fellow bloggers who, at my request, linked to that post. Almost everyone responded graciously and immediately and to the extent this turns out successfully, you all have a chailek. (No thanks to those who couldn't take the time to link or even respond to my repeated emails.)


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Doing the Right Thing

Tonight I did the right thing and it was somewhat painful.

OYS was playing in a hockey game against Crosstown Rival. He has only one regular season game remaining after this one and a maximum of three more playoff games. My 9 years of hockeydadhood are coming to an end.

I rarely miss a game and have never missed a game involving either of our sons against Crosstown Rival (or any other important game for that matter) in those 9 years. I missed tonight's game.

MHW and I were invited to sheva brachos of a good friend's daughter. Normally I would have blown off the sheva brachos because of the game (I would have been completely upfront about it too). Except this case was different. I had missed their older daughter's wedding which took place during one of my bike rides in Israel. I missed this wedding because we were in Israel last week.

Summoning up every once of maturity I have, I decided that it simply would not have been right to miss the sheva brachos. MHW, of course, totally concurred.

In any event, the sheva brachos were lovely and the game was intense. I received periodic updates on my Blackberry from one of my friends so I was following the game closely. The game ended in a 2-2 tie (sadly, the referees missed a goal that OYS scored with three minutes remaining that would have won the game. Eye examinations are in order since virtually everyone else in the gym apparently saw the ball go into and out of the net).

The good news is that despite the tie, OYS's team, with a 12-0-1 record, clinched first place in the division and with it a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The teams meet again Tuesday and I intend to be in my regular seat.

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I am grateful to Hashem every day that He saw fit to pair me with MHW as my partner in life. It proves He has a sense of humor since this combination is, on the face of it, so unlikely.

MHW's current job is to (figuratively) smack me upside my head every once in a while when she sees me starting to believe my own press clippings. Whenever I start to get carried away with myself, MHW brings me back down to Earth. This is a good thing because it prevents me from becoming insufferable and haughty.

For example, she made it clear that talking about how painful it was to fly to Israel in the back of the bus after flying all over the world in business class was not a topic of discussion she was interested in hearing. She also didn't want to hear much about how great my Bose noise-cancelling headphones are (cost: you don't really want to know). (Which, by the way, they are. Bose Rocks!)

Likewise, MHW is happy to let me to convince my boss and board how great I am (especially at comp time) but would certainly prefer that the kids are not subjected to this drivel.

As usual, she is right.


Monday, February 05, 2007

New Vegetables

I received the following inspring email from A Jew in the Ayalon Valley:

Lichvod Talmidei Sha'alvim and Friends-

Yesterday we were privileged to spend Shabbos at the Yishuv Yated. This settlement, located in the Chevel Shalom area, ten minutes away from the Egyptian border and the border of Azza, is the new home for a number of families from Atzmona, Gush Katif. As you know many of the homeless families from Atzmona stayed with us at Sha'alvim for a few weeks during an extremely difficult and painful time. It was at this time that the Vatkin family, along with their 8 children, stayed with Rav Chaim Cohen and family in Sha'alvim for a few weeks and formed a close friendship. With the families at Yated rebuilding their lives, settlement and agriculture in the sand dunes of Chalutza, the Vatkin family invited Rav Cohen to bring along the boys from Sha'alvim for an up close look at these pioneers and their inspiring non-stop attitude towards Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

On Erev- Shabbat the boys toured the new areas of agriculture, according to some areas in which agriculture has never been attempted, and actually participated in the harvesting of the first vegetables being grown in Chalutza.

The overriding message which was both heard over Shabbat and seen implemented in the lives of these incredibly idealistic personalities was the famous words of Rav Kook in Arpelai Tohar, "The purely righteous do not complain about wickedness, they increase righteousness; Do not complain about heresy, they increase faith; do not complain about ignorance, they increase wisdom."

May we merit incorporating this powerful message into our lives and see the complete rebuilding, physically and spiritually, of Eretz Yisrael b'karov.


New Music

I picked up a new CD in Israel from Udi Davidi called "Back to You". Really good. I had never heard him before although I see he has earlier CDs. Good pickup. I don't know whether it's available stateside.


The 9:15 Minyan

One of the two shuls where I am a member has a 9:15 a.m. minyan Sunday mornings. I have probably gone there no more than two or three times in all my years in the neighborhood.

Yesterday, because of a snafu by El AL (about which, more later), I found myself spending three hours at JFK waiting for them to retrieve one of my bags. So, it was either daven at home or pop in to the 9:15 minyan.

The truth is, I am semi-embarrassed to go to such a late minyan. I'm trying not to be judgmental but it is simply not in my constitution. I always thought that the 9:15 minyan should be for teens who are dragged out of bed by their fathers and sent on their way to shul.

What really blew me away, though, was that a high percentage of the people who showed up to the minyan were 10 or minutes late! You gotta be kidding me.


The Ugg/Poof Ratio

I got back yesterday from a two-week visit to Israel. Somehow the JBlogosphere survived my spotty posting. My visit spanned the last week of many of the MO schools' winter vacation and the first week of the more chareidi schools' winter vacations. During the first week, the UGG/Poof ratio in Israel was exteremely high. Not so much during the second week.