We’re ba-ack (and you didn’t even know we’d gone).
This weekend we did something we haven't done for years. We went on a little holiday without the girls. We used to go to Sinai without them, when they were babies, but once they were old enough to they came with us. We didn't actually plan this holiday this way. Bish was invited to an event in Katzrin (a town) in the Golan (without kids) and he wanted me to come too. So instead of schlepping all the way there and back on the same day we decided to see if we could find somewhere nice to stay over. We found a lovely B & B in a place called Ma’ale Gamla over looking Lake Kinneret and just by Gamla (well it would be with a name like that, wouldn't it?). Four or five lovely and tastefully decorated chalets, an indoor swimming pool, a special chalet for massages. And best of all, a breath taking view of the mountains of Upper Galilee, fresh mountain air, and quiet, besides the constant choir of birds singing in the trees. The breakfast, served in the chalet, was superb.
When we crossed the Jordan River over Arik Bridge, on the way up, we stopped to look at the flow. We weren't alone. The sides of the road on each end of the bridge looked like a busy city parking lot. Hardly anyone passing by didn't stop to take a peek.
The Golan was amazing, so green; Cows grazing at every turn. We even saw a wolf crossing the road, at night time, when we were coming back from the restaurant. It wasn't the wine. Really. Bish saw it too, and he didn't even have any wine.
There were flowers and water everywhere and in the morning we managed to go and see one of the waterfalls, on the way to Katzrin.
The snowy peak is Mount Hermon.
why not a fish
Saturday, March 15, 2003
We’re ba-ack (and you didn’t even know we’d gone).
Friday, March 14, 2003
Thursday, March 13, 2003
I haven't dropped off the edge of the earth, in case you were wondering. I haven't had anything to say. We're just treading water, waiting for war. I'm fed up of writing about it and thinking about it, and nothing domestic has managed to catch my interest. So I went off to read a lowly mystery novel. I've just finished it.
Monday, March 10, 2003
Ruth, Cervantes and lentil soup.
In high school we read Bialik’s shortened Hebrew version of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”. It gave me incentive to read the lot and I had a shot at the English translation I found at home. I didn’t get very far but I was impressed with what was written on the back cover. Don Quixote, it said sagaciously, should be read three times in a life: In youth, in adulthood and in old age. I didn’t get it, but it did sound meaningful. It mainly made me frustrated that I wasn’t about to read it in youth, feeling uneasy that I was missing some major thing that I wouldn’t ever be able to recapture at a later date.
We were sitting in the Happy Chef restaurant in Mitzpe Ramon, this weekend. Youngest was telling us about the lentil soup Y’s father brought to the class to help explain about Esau selling his birthright to Jacob. “It was very nice, but not nearly as good as yours and Safta’s, Ima” (Ima=Mom; Safta=Grandma). I’ve told you before about my mother-in-law’s lentil soup. Eldest began talking vaguely about the story of Ruth. For some reason, she was mixing the two stories up in her mind. She couldn’t remember it very well, and I filled in the details for her, trying to make it as concise as possible, in case she lost interest. I got to the bit where the widow Naomi is returning home to the Land of Israel from Moav, following the deaths of her sons, and one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth the Moavite, insists on going with her and says to her “Ki el-asher telchi, elech” (Wherever you will go, I will go) and more. I tried to quote those words but I just couldn’t say them. I was suddenly all choked with emotion. It took me a minute or two before I managed to get them out.
When I learnt the Book of Ruth as a child, and whenever I thought about the story (in my neighborhood of Carmeliya in Haifa, site of last weeks terrorist attack, there was a Naomi street and a Ruth Street, so I did feel a connection to the story), I was taken by the romantic story of Ruth and Boaz. I don’t think I took much notice of Naomi. I saw nothing out of the ordinary about Ruth’s choice.
Now I am a daughter-in-law. I have a wonderful mother-in-law. I’m very fond of her and I know how unusual this is. Hey, I speak to people. I know that friction with one’s mother-in-law is quite common. But, despite our very warm relationship, had Bish died (tfu tfu tfu) before we had had any kids, would I have left my family and my home and followed my mother-in-law, unprotected and penniless, to an unknown foreign land, most likely for a life of degradation and abject poverty, if not worse? Highly unlikely.
It is, of course, possible that Ruth had an awful family and would rather risk death than go back to living with them as a widow. Even so.
Not something I could appreciate as a child.
So at long last I am beginning to understand the words on the back cover of that old copy of Don Quixote. A tale, and its lessons, can be seen very differently at different ages. I wonder how I will feel about the story of Ruth when I myself am a mother-in-law (should I have the good fortune to live that long).
* * * *
One of the best things about blogging is some of the people I have had the privilege to meet (as it were). Alisa here shares some very moving stuff about her life.
I’ve switched to classical music. No point listening to the current affairs programs on the radio all day. They don’t have anything interesting to add. More analysis, more speculation. I'm fed up. We will get a warning before the Americans attack Iraq, we won’t get a warning before the Americans attack Iraq. And in the meantime, plenty of warnings about terrorist attacks.
And then suddenly, amid all the chatter, I get this mental picture of all those young American soldiers, thousands of miles from home. They're like those desert flowers we saw on Shabbat. How many of them will not be going home at the end of this?
So what is there to say? I can't think of anything.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
Civax says some things about Palestinian casualties that I agree with.
I keep thinking about 13½ year-old Yuval Mendelevich's last words. What they mean is that he knew what was about to happen. He realized that the person next to him was a terrorist. He had just enough time to digest that he was about to die and say farewell to his father.
Dinah and Eli Horowitz were sitting at their Erev Shabbat (Friday night) dinner in their home in Kiryat Arba near Hebron. They were murdered by Palestinian terrorists who entered their home and shot them.
Diane has moved. Adjust your favorites.
Saturday, March 08, 2003
Flowers in the desert
Machtesh Ramon, March 2003
[click for larger image]
Friday, March 07, 2003
Thursday, March 06, 2003
On Wednesday, the conversation was cut short when a suicide bomber blew himself up on a city bus in this northern city, killing Yuval and 14 other passengers, many of them teenagers.
"Suddenly, out of nowhere, he said, 'I love you dad.' Then the line went dead," his father Yossi Mendelevitch told Israeli army radio Thursday. "It turns out that those were his last words."
Yuval was one of three students from the prestigious Reali school killed in the blast, which ripped through the No. 37 bus a few meters (yards) from the school. Another victim, US-born Abigail Litle, was in the same grade as Yuval.
Born in Lebanon, New Hampshire, Abigail was an infant when her parents brought her to Israel in 1989 and settled in Haifa, where her father Philip, from Harrisonville, New Jersey, was studying at the Technion, Israel's premier technological institute. Her family chose to stay in the Jewish state and her father later took a job with a Baptist church.
You know, one of the things I disliked about Haifa as a teenager was that nothing ever seemed to happen there. I wanted to be where the action was. Even as far as Haifa goes, I lived in an especially quiet, sleepy suburb.
First opportunity I had I was out of there. I moved to the center of everything and never looked back. I still live in walking distance from most of the places of interest in Tel Aviv and once regularly attended demonstrations and rallies for this that and the other in Kikar Malkhei Yisrael (Kings of Israel Square, later to become Rabin Square to commemorate the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin there), which is also very near my home, as if to make up for lost time.
This is why this is so hard to grasp. Things like this just don't happen there.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
Update: Quite a few people have sent me e-mails citing various possible authors. My apologies to the real author, whoever you are.
Meet Alison, Watching the World From Ra'anana.
And once again the familiar break in the regular radio broadcast, a bus. But this time - an unfamiliar jolt. They're talking about somewhere I know very well. It can't be, I think. The shock at hearing the familiar road names immediately brings tears to my eyes. This is my childhood neighborhood. I can immediately envision the exact spot and it brings with it a spontaneous flood of such strong memories, even though I haven't been there for many years. The bus stop is the one I stood at, waiting for the bus to school every day, all those years ago. No. 37 bus. This is the bus I took to school. I feel like I am standing right there at the bus stop. I feel like I am getting on the bus too. In my day, this bus would have been very full at this time of the day. Maybe school kids had just got on the bus at the bus stop, having cut through HaSport Street from Ironi Hey High school, on their way home at the end of the school day. Maybe students were on their way to their lectures in Haifa University.
The thought that this place, home of so many fond memories, has been torn apart like this is very hard. How could this happen there? And I didn't even know I felt like this about my old "shkhuna".
At least fifteen dead. About forty wounded.
Food stuff, sort of
For years I didn't fast on Yom Kippur. I had started fasting when I was twelve years old. as is customary. By the time I met Bish when I was about twenty two, I was already quite a veteran faster and I hated it. It was sheer torture. Bish had grown up in a religious family and when he left, he left all the way. I was only too pleased to join him in his enthusiastic secularism. And that was it for me. No more fasts on Yom Kippur, till this last Yom Kippur, that is (as some of you may recall). But we always tried to be considerate on Yom Kippur so as not to make the fast more difficult for our neighbors.
I remember one year in particular. This was back when the unpleasant and degrading experiences I had been through in the Tel Aviv Rabbinate when we’d committed the ultimate sin of being a secular Jewish couple wishing to be married in Israel, surrounded by our loved ones, were still fresh in my mind. I still felt a lot of anger, at the time, at the ultra-religious rabbis who controlled the Rabbinate (and still do), because of their political power, and had made the process so insulting for me. I had no respect for religion or religious people whatsoever. But still, every year, I'd make an effort to keep the fact that I was eating to myself. I'd spend a lot of time planning odorless meals for us. This is not an easy feat. You can really learn a lot on Yom Kippur about which foods have strong smells. I've learnt a lot about this subject over the years and I can honestly say that all foods have strong smells, although some should be avoided at all costs. This particular year, hot and tired of closing windows to keep smells and cutlery sounds from escaping our little kitchen (Yom Kippur is usually one of the hottest days of the year and we didn't have air-conditioning yet) we went out for a walk. The minute we walked out of the building we were overcome with that very strong and unmistakable smell of burnt toast. All that effort and someone had burnt their effing toast!
I am a vegetarian but I am very much opposed to any sort of violent or coercive activities aimed at convincing or forcing others to accept my point of view with regard to eating animals. In fact, I am opposed to any sort of persuasive activities in this issue. I view my vegetarianism, although somewhat ideological, as a peaceful matter. My daughters, therefore, are not vegetarians, because they choose not to be. This means that I regularly have to cook meat for them (or at last warm it up), a chore I find disagreeable, but I strongly believe that whether they eat meat or not is not my decision, and it is my duty as their mother, to make sure they eat properly.
I know nothing about PETA and its antics besides the latest stuff: A publicity campaign comparing modern slaughter of animals for food to the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis in the Holocaust, which comes to my attention via Meryl Yourish; but we also have our own nutty, violent, fanatic animal rights groups here.
An often-repeated cliche in Israel is that the first one to bring up the Holocaust in an argument loses. This is a problem here because the Holocaust is so much in the air all the time that it's very difficult not to bring it up in every other conversation, never mind arguments. Leaders of ultra-religious Sephardi Party, Shas, have been screaming and yelling that Shinui Party's chairman and now Justice Minister, Tommy Lapid, a Holocaust survivor, is as bad as the Nazis or words to that effect, and worse. The quite widespread sentiment about this, I think, is that they are so completely and utterly hysterical about their serious loss of power in the elections and their exclusion from the government, that whatever they say is meaningless. Their ranting is more pathetic than threatening.
This PETA campaign will probably serve as a boomerang. People who believe that cruelty to animals is equal to cruelty to human beings will feel good about themselves. All the others will not be convinced. Many will come to the conclusion that this is a group of raving lunatics.
They brought up the Holocaust first and therefore lost the argument.
I was going to say that eating an animal for PETA is like having a feast on Yom Kippur, but it isn't really, and now I've already made all this big introduction about Yom Kippur and it's not leading anywhere. Oysh, egg on my face. Or should I say…erm…B12 vitamin supplement on my face (these guys seem to be vegans, as well, which I am not).
I understand how very offensive a lot of people must be finding this PETA campaign and I can understand and respect the sentiment behind the initiative of the highly amusing International Eat an Animal for PETA Day. But, although I accept that I may be very wrong here, I feel that the best way to deal with PETA's hurtful comparison is to ignore it, just like the best way to deal with Shas' ranting about Lapid is to ignore it. I don't think it's a good idea to give them more of the publicity they crave.
Using "Holocaust" tactics means they know they are not getting anywhere near where they long to be and they have become desperate enough to bring out the doomsday weapons.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Monday, March 03, 2003
Three more Kassam rockets fell on Sderot today. One of them fell next to the home of the town police chief, I heard on the radio. He was out, but his wife and kids were home. His wife was treated for shock.
The arrested man is Fadi Murtaja, a Hamas militant from the area near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The cell was given orders by the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, and also planned to carry out a shooting attack on a synagogue.
Last night shots were fired on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, Anafa Road. I have friends who live just one road up. They have told me in the past that this is an occurrence they can hear very clearly, when it happens.
The statistics for February are out: In February, according to Ynet and Maariv (Hebrew links), 57 terrorist attacks were thwarted and 44 terrorists who planned to perpetrate suicide attacks were arrested. In January, 52 warnings of imminent suicide attacks were received. Out of the 57 attacks thwartes, 44 were prevented by arresting the terrorists, 4 by killing the terrorists and 9 as a result of IDF and Police deployment. Out of the 57, 13 were to have been so-called suicide bombings (and I say mass-murder suicide attacks) in Israel, 4 were to have been shooting "self-sacrifice" attacks in Israeli inhabited areas, 5 were to have been attacks on settlements and IDF outposts in the Gaza strip and two were to have been car bombs. Palestinians had planned a total of 22 suicide and penetration shooting attacks (I'm not sure how this works out, but this is the data they gave in Ynet).
All this and only 28 days in February.
The security forces stressed that the small amount of attacks that took place had nothing to do with Palestinian activites or as a result of a Palestinian decision to refrain from such attacks. The only reason attacks had been thwarted, thus the security forces spokespeople, was the presence of Israel forces in the cities of the West Bank and the intensive activities therein, and the forces' success in containing the terrorism in Gaza as a result of the security fence surrounding the strip.
They said a large scale attack could still slip past them any day.
Just thought you'd like to be filled in, and now I'm late with my sandwich making.
Sunday, March 02, 2003
Remember the episode of The Drew Carey Show when The Optimists Club's carpool gets run over by a train because the optimists were certain they could make it over the tracks before the train got there? There has been a lot of talk about Saddam here lately as being a great optimist. A lot of experts think he's quite convinced that he's going to get through this.
Interesting post by Salam about one of Saddam's innovative defense tactics for the coming attack. Sorry, I can't post to it directly (Republish your archives, Kiddo!), but it's fresh from today. First association I had was of ancient times, when they used to throw cauldrons of boiling oil over the walls of the castles on the attacking armies. And then I suddenly thought of MacGyver. Do you think Saddam is optimistic enough to reckon he can win this war with an old car radio, some chewing gum and a rubber band?
Later: What am I talking about? This is really revolting. The Americans will just drive through with their gas masks and suits on, or stay outside or whatever. It will be about as irritating for them as a mosquito bite. Meanwhile Baghdadi's will be suffocating. Horrible, horrible. Got to get this monster.
We've been told by a "top army official" that it looks like we will not be required to prepare sealed rooms after all. Ms. Imshin Suspicious Mind here is trying to work out what that means. One thing that crosses my mind is that the US and co. are in complete control of Western Iraq already but everyone's keeping shtum about it (including the Iraqis, so as not to lose face), or else they are quite certain they have destroyed all the launchers there. Another thought that comes to mind is that they are aware that we will get no early warning of the attack (and even if the powers that be get a warning they have probably promised not to let us ordinary folk know about it) and they are attempting to prevent mass hysteria if or when it starts before we've been told to prepare the rooms. But if this were the case and there was a serious danger, wouldn't they be telling us to prepare the rooms right now, in anticipation? In 1991 they started to instruct us on how to prepare the rooms quite a while before the end of the ultimatum. This time they're keeping a very low profile as far as official state TV broadcasts on the subject are concerned (there haven't been any). All we've really been exposed to so far, besides the raving of the media, is the Home Front Command booklet. On the whole I'm feeling quite optimistic about the whole situation (famous last words).
On the other hand, I've been reading about this "Shock and Awe" doctrine. They had quite a bit about it in Friday's "Yediot". I'm worried about Salam. He has said his family is not planning to leave Baghdad this time, but I've read they're not letting anyone leave anyway. I hope he doesn't live anywhere near any palaces or important installations.
I'm not bothered about the "human shield" idiot war tourists. Strike that. Reading this (another must, care of Tim Blair), they sound like a bunch of raving lunatics (and those who aren't have already opted out, or maybe fled in terror would be more accurate).
Later: I can't believe they didn't realize they'd be shielding strategic installations (and this is the relatively sane ones I'm talking about). I can't find words to describe my disgust at their stupidity.
Positive development for the economy?
As I've often said in the past, I am a complete idiot where money is concerned, but even so, I'm rather pleased about Netanyahu agreeing to be Treasury Minister (although I didn't want him for PM, you'll remember, and I don't particularly like him). He seems to have an idea about what to do, which is more than can be said for the guy he's replacing (and who is replacing him in the Foreign Office). I'm obviously not the only one who feels this way - I hear the stock market has been going right up since Thursday. Netanyahu doesn't have a good record for putting his theories into practice, though. We'll have to see. The Treasury is traditionally an end of the road position for a minister. If he does a bad job, he could be finished politically. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. I guess if his very poor performance as Prime Minister didn't finish him off, we'll never be rid of him. Maybe he's immortal, like Shimon Peres.
On the whole, I'm quite satisfied with the government ministers (although Tzahi Hanegbi shouldn't have got Public security), a very rare phenomenon indeed.
So I finally cancelled our subscription to the print version of Haaretz today. Bish was a bit peeved with me, because I didn't use the opportunity to tell them what I thought about them. He's right, of course. How are they supposed to know it's a protest cancellation if I don't share the fact with them? The thing is that he's the talker in the family. I would just have got all hot and bothered and tongue-tied. Bish gets very frustrated with me, poor dear. They did actually ask me and gave me the feeling I had the chance for cutting a really good deal with them, like getting the paper for next to nothing. Haaretz is very expensive. We should have tried this, years ago. We're not very good business people, Bish and I.
Poor Bish, I think he was looking forward to giving them a piece of his mind. I offered to ring them up because I know he's very busy. The problem is that this is his angry protest cancellation. My angry protest cancellation is the one that didn't happen, nearly a year ago. I've cooled down considerably since then, although I still find a large proportion of the paper extremely aggravating and I believe the English version is very harmful.
Update: Bish called them up. He explained why he has a problem with Haaretz and gave some excellent examples. I knew I couldn't do it anywhere near as well as he could.
More Israeli lives saved.
Saturday, March 01, 2003
I have an e-mail problem. Until further notice, I will not be reachable, although those who have my number are invited to call (not too late, please, if you want a polite Imshin to answer the phone). If you can't wait for me to sort this out, you can always leave me a comment on my Hebrew blog, although I don't check my comments there as often as maybe I should.
I’m getting a bit fed up of saying this, but I think it’s important to stress it again and again: Contrary to some things I’ve been reading in some foreign publications, attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks in Israel have not ceased, they are being STOPPED by Israeli forces.
A Palestinian on his way from Bethlehem to carry out an attack at the stadium was seized at the entrance to the city. Later, security forces found a three-and-a-half kilogram explosives belt meant for use by the bomber.
According to the data, there were 41 terror attacks in Jerusalem in 2002, including 17 suicide bombings. Eleven attempted suicide attacks were thwarted by the police.
I got fed up long ago of writing about it every time a bombing here was prevented, I'm not a reporter after all, so I don’t do it any more. But this is a nearly daily occurrence. I think even the Israeli papers are fed up of reporting it, but we hear it on the radio continuously. And we mustn't forget the bombardment of Israeli town of Sderot with Kassam rockets. It’s a miracle no one has yet been killed from one of these rockets, although a few have been badly injured. We didn’t go into Beit Hanoun in Gaza for the fun of it.
And the Oscar goes to
Tim Blair noticed the most hilarious anti-anti-war column ever, by Julie Burchill, in today’s Guardian: Silly show-offs against Saddam! This one you have to click through to. I wonder how she got it past the censors. What a waste to have this in the Guardian. Their readers probably weren’t at all amused.
I must say, I find these "anti-war" people fascinating.
[By the way, the Oscar goes to Imshin for the silliest, most disconnected title ever for a post.]
After the attack
In this weekend’s Yediot Aharonot (the weekend newsy supplement is really good) Smadar Perry discussed the controversies that surround head of the Iraqi opposition Ahmad Chalabi. For instance, his criminal status in Jordan. He was apparently given a twenty-year prison sentence there, in his absence, for leaving the bank he owned there, the Petra Bank, with a 200 million dollar debt.
Professor Amatzia Baram of Haifa University, a veteran expert on Iraq, who has just returned from a series of meetings in Washington, was asked his opinion. “I know the American administration has an interest in constructing a democracy in Iraq, but because of the problems that will crop up – my estimate is that democracy will only be possible in two or three years.” He says “the first days after the attack will pose a great challenge to the Americans. They will have to immediately commence rebuilding the infrastructure, which will have been damaged in the attack. At the same time, they will have to make an effort to avoid internal massacres. There is a danger that immediately following occupation the Shiites will begin slaughtering members of Saddam’s Suni regime”, and he anticipates “revenge campaigns: People who were harmed will track down the murderers and the rapists that harmed their family members, and try to kill them.
There is also the danger that Saddam and Kusai’s Presidential Guards will respond to the attack with unconventional weapons, aimed at Americans and Shiites. It is necessary to be prepared for acts of revenge, and then revenge of revenge. The initial effort given over to this will determine the future of the American stay in Baghdad”.
Baram doesn’t see a real problem if Saddam and his sons survive the attack. He says a big enough money offer to those in resistance pockets will eventually persuade someone to betray them. I don’t know. It didn’t work with bin Laden, did it?
It’s hard to believe that a few days ago we were in the middle of a storm, a snowstorm in some parts of the country. Today was warm, sunny and dry. We wanted to get the girls out of the house a bit so we all went for a walk in the old Tel Aviv port. It’s no longer a functional port. They’re slowly renovating the old quay and after years of being very run down, in recent years it has become quite trendy, with nightclubs and cafes springing up. It's actually quite nice there now. Today it was full of families enjoying the lovely weather, walking along the pier bridge thing and enjoying the blue sky and the beautiful calm blue sea. We reckoned that the cafes in the actual quay would probably be tourist traps and we sat down for a hummous a few steps away from the port. The weather was nice enough to sit outside. Not too hot and not too cold. Just right.
Friday, February 28, 2003
As you can see, we didn't go. I'm getting fed up with the girls being ill all the time. It hasn't been this bad since they were toddlers and started with the kindergarten illnesses. One good thing is that Eldest has been under the weather for a few weeks now, off and on and no asthma.
The bag is still packed and ready by the door. I would like to say it's my protest at the unfairness of the world, but I'm just lazy.
Talking about unfairness, did you hear about our pal Yasser? I wonder if they take this into account when they calculate the Palestinian average income.
I'm just being mean. It's probably all from Suha's royalties.
Thursday, February 27, 2003
A bedtime thought
People who are a hundred percent sure of their opinions make me nervous. They make me suspicious. Isn’t it natural to be at least a little bit uncertain? Isn’t it understandable to think that such and such is probably the best course of action, for instance, but we can’t be completely sure of this? These people who are so sure, what makes them so secure in their knowledge of what is right and what is wrong?
An explanation why Africa has so much AIDS. Awful.
None so blind
Even if it turns out not to be a relevant comparison, it seems very foolish to fail to see the similarities. Shlomo Avineri, professor of political science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, continues the discussion of the most significant historic parallel of today’s situation with regard to Iraq.
It is today a commonplace that Europe's behavior in the 1930's in facing Nazi Germany was morally wrong and politically disastrous. Yet like the Bourbons, some European statesmen have not forgotten anything or learned anything from one of Europe's most shameful chapters of history.
So one has to wonder why people who view the appeasement of Hitler in the 1930's as wrong find it difficult to admit that there may be no other way but to use force against Saddam when his record is much worse than that of Hitler in 1936.
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
IDF soldiers fight back
Five reserve soldiers have filed a libel suit against Muhammad Bakri, director of the "Jenin, Jenin" movie.
"The film portrays itself as a documentary, and presents so-called testimonies and facts," the reservists charged in their lawsuit. The soldiers claim the film includes scenes of alleged cruelty on their part, including unjustified gunfire and the harming of innocent children, and that all these incidents are fabricated.
"We received an emergency call-up order and went out to fight in order to defend our homes," said one of the reservists who brought the lawsuit, quoted in Haaretz. "We fought slowly, day after day, in order to avoid harming the civilian population. This film portrays us as war criminals."
Look what appeared in my mailpox…er…box:
THE PISTACHIOS WERE THE FIRST TO GO
By Helen Schary Motro
My first mistake was jumping back and forth between the stations, listening to the commentators on Channels 11, 22 and 10 spout wisdom as if their fingers were on the pulse of Rumsfeld at the very least, if not the great white chief himself.
"It's a matter of a few days, weeks at most," they chanted like a Greek chorus on every channel. They gave me no choice but to acknowledge the severity of my dereliction. We had reached this midnight hour - but my storage room aka bomb shelter held nothing but an assortment of bottled water which I had sporadically lugged home when it was on special at the supermarket or the gas station.
If we are stuck in there, what would we have for nourishment? Sadly, I had to admit, only the dusty bottles of wine left over from bygone Passovers. The next morning I hurried out to the market to finally buy the supplies I had so negligently put off.
I whizzed down the aisles, piling my cart high with all the non-perishables in the best example I have ever seen of impulse buying: juices, cookies, crackers, canned peaches, long-life milk, wafers, pistachio nuts, cereal, chocolate. Then into every available crevice of the cart I wedged corn, corn, and more corn.
Of cabbages and kings II
While the Likud was fighting out the government jobs, today, I was blissfully unaware, at home with the girls. I don’t usually listen to the radio at home. Eldest’s school councilor called and reminded us to enroll for middle school. No queuing up any more, this is the second year running it’s been done in Tel Aviv via Internet. So the deed is done. Eldest was very excited, although she was quite sure about her choice. In the afternoon we went to the doctor and I heard on the radio on the way that I’d been missing all the fun.
Look who's back after three months of silence - Nikita as in Life by...
The dreary life of the intellectual
I’m starting to get it. The big big difference between Haaretz and Yediot Aharonot is that Yediot has GOOD NEWS too. All those little “human interest” stories are nice. The woman who marched through the snow to hospital to give birth, and the one who didn’t and gave birth at home; an amusing description of someone’s unsuccessful attempts to build a snowman with the kids; wonderful color photos of a white Jerusalem; Arik Sharon’s 75th birthday… These are nowhere to be found in Haaretz (These photos are all for Haaretz's foreign readers. Only two of them appear in today's Hebrew print version).
All you get in Haaretz is bad news of apocalyptic dimensions. Those old bores need to loosen up.
What should we blow up next, Uncle?
For those of you who don’t read Diane before you read me, she carefully read a very long Financial Times article, about a top al Qaeda operative called Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, for us (I had to type it out to read at my leisure). The Financial Times guys have apparently been playing connect the dots. Diane, probably the only person to read this article (I’ll get to it. The girls are sick; I was called home from work. So it might even be this morning, right after I do the laundry), noticed a very interesting family connection (not to Diane, silly – to Ramzi Youssef of 1993 WTC bombing fame, of course). And she doesn’t neglect to point out the Iraq connection, as well, found elsewhere.
[OK, I read it. It reminds me of those books I used to read in the late seventies, early eighties, about international terrorists like Carlos and Bader-Meinhoff. Full of exciting details. I sort of lost the trail somewhere round the Philippines.]
So Shinui, National Religious Party and National Unity it is.
It seems the Frog is back. Writing a bit about the politics I can't be bothered with. Haven't really got time. Let me just say I'm extremely satisfied with the ministries Shinui got: Lapid - Justice Minister ("Yesh!" Sorry, in-joke - this was his campaign thing. You had to be there...) and Vice (Do you say vice or deputy, as in Deputy Dawg?) Prime Minister; Poraz - Interior Minister (more about this some other time, trust me, this is the greatest); Paritsky - National Infrastructure Minister (that means he has the finger on Electricity Company's plug and in a position to do something about their shameless greed) and so on (can't remember the rest offhand and I'm hurrying to work. Posting this is very naughty as it is).
Meanwhile the ultra-religious parties are foaming at the mouth at being left out, especially Shas. To hear them you'd think Lapid's already started constructing concentration camps for Sephardis as we speak. Their revered Rabbi, Ovadia Yossef, is lashing out. This is one of his particular talents. The man may be the great Torah scholar of our day, I wouldn't know about that, but he certainly has a mouth like a sewer. More about this at Gil's (and some great photos of the water situation).
Having Shinui controlling the Interior Ministry is Shas' worst nightmare come true. But it's my idea of heaven. Especially with Poraz as minister. It's making my mouth water. Literally.
One thing I'm enjoying, in the sickest possible way, is watching Labor squabbling. Now that it's final that they're out of the government, they've started bringing out the knives. And using them on each other. Mitzna is still adamant that Labor did so badly in the elections because they sat in Sharon's government. He never gives up. What an obstinate mule. When he decides something, nothing will move him. And we need this fool as a top minister in the government because? I'm rather relieved that they're sitting this one out. I'm told that it's in our national interest that they be in the government, I just can't feel any enthusiasm about the idea. Just as well, because it's not going to happen. Not right now, anyway.
Not that I'm over the moon about National Unity (far right), mind you.
One last thing - popular Israeli TV interviewer, Yair Lapid, last night interviewed his father, Tommy Lapid, on his show. It was brilliant. I’m sorry I don’t have a transcript for you.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Stormy weather, including snow in Jerusalem, but it seems to be refusing to stick there so far. It's stuck good and strong in the Golan, though. It’s cold and stormy in Tel Aviv, too. And very very windy (Did I tell you a friend of mine's balcony collapsed last week? That was during a previous storm. She said she lay awake shivering all night, listening to the noise of everything crashing, but was too terrified to go out and see. Just as well). Friends in Jerusalem fled from work to their homes in the Jerusalem suburbs at lunchtime yesterday, afraid they would be unable to get home later on.
Bish heard it was going to snow in Mitzpe Ramon. I was working late yesterday, and Bish suggested he just put the girls in the car and take them. But Eldest wasn't very well, she came home with a bad cold, so we shelved the idea for the time being. I read it has started to snow there now.
They’re saying the climax of the storm will be today.
Oh, and have you heard that we seem to have a government? Later.
Update: Jerusalem and surrounding mountains were covered with snow today, as were the Golan and the Galilee. A house was reported to have fallen down today in Upper Nazareth, right on top of another house built just below it on the mountainside. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Go see the great photos Harry took. I could be dead jealous, but I could also say: They have to live there all year round, they deserve it more than we do. The funny thing is, most Jerusalemites actually like living there. Go figure.
Answer for Diane about ma'amouls
My mother-in-law makes her ma'amouls with ordinary flour - 4 cups to 300g butter (Which makes it a dairy dish. I can't say Milchik about a Sephardi dish, it doesn't sound right and I don't know the Ladino.), 1/4 cup icing sugar and 1/3 cup rose water mixed with milk. If the mixture is too dry, add more of the rose water and milk mixture.
In case you were asking yourself - hey, what about the date mixture, this is not a full recipe. Just answering Diane's question. But all this has given me incentive to get the whole recipe. I am the worst baker in history. Just ask my youngest. She'll be happy to tell you her favorite story - how she told Ima that the cake was ready, and Ima said not yet, and then the cake burnt. But if it's written down, my daughters, who are undoubtedly more talented than their mother in all respects, will be able to make ma'amouls when they're older. Actually, I've been discussing with Youngest an idea a friend gave me, to start a documentation of my mother-in-laws recipes.
I haven't forgotten that I owe you her recipe for red lentil soup. I'm just finding it a bit difficult. I've been making it for years, based on her instructions. I just throw in the amount of ingredients that seems right at the moment I make it. I did try to write it down a few times and I couldn't decide what amounts to give. I have new admiration for the effort that goes into writing cookery books.
Monday, February 24, 2003
A Jazz band?! They got a Jazz band at lunchtime?! They had to give up weekend trips to Cyprus and shiatsu massages, though. Ahhhhhhh, that’s too bad.
Actually, I can’t complain. Most of my co-workers wouldn’t know a Jazz band if it hit them on the head with hammer. And they wouldn’t thank anyone for force-feeding them with anything like that while they were trying to eat. Eyal Golan, on the other hand…
This is not a newspaper! This is a…a…a….a gossip-about-uninteresting-people-paper. Did you know that SPORTS is the most popular class among Israeli school children? I thought you didn’t. And did you know that most Israeli mothers think motherhood has proved DETRIMENTAL to their careers? Well, now you know! Aren’t you a happier, more fulfilled person as a result? Yeah, me too. And you’ll all be relieved to hear that Sarit Hadad, popular Israeli singer, did not collapse and was not hospitalized over the weekend, contrary to rampant rumors.
ARE THERE NO DECENT HEBREW NEWSPAPERS IN THIS COUNTRY?
So here’s the plan Bish and I have come up with. We beg, steal or borrow and become disgustingly rich. Then we buy an existing paper and fix it up so it is neither exasperatingly left wing nor offensively yellow. Hey, it worked for Conrad Black.
Sunday, February 23, 2003
Last of the (small) giants.
Today was a busy day at the very large Yarkon Cemetery, which serves Tel Aviv and its satellites. “It’s Sunday,” Someone said, knowingly. I think he meant that all those that had died on Shabbat were being buried. A colleague’s mother had died. It was the first funeral I’d been to since Mum’s and I wondered how I’d feel. I was fine, but I realized that no funeral would ever be the same for me again. I’d always be partly burying Mum. During the actual burial, I found myself surreptitiously examining graves to see how the Hebron stone ages. That’s what we used for Mum’s grave.
Walking along, on the way to the burial site, I saw a group of my co-workers congregating over a fresh grave we were passing. They had noticed that there were an unusual amount of wreaths on it, many with very interesting inscriptions on them, and had stopped to see who it was. It was Isser Harel, mythological founder of Israeli security agencies, the Mossad and the Shabak, and the man most responsible for their reputation. The flowers were still very fresh. The funeral couldn’t have been over long.
We stood there for a moment, in awe. One of my co-workers commented on the fact that such a man had such a humble burial place, but actually it was entirely appropriate. This was obviously not a materialistic man or someone overly concerned with public recognition. During the many years he was one of the strongest men in the country, few ordinary Israelis even knew his name. But don’t be fooled, I remember reading that his subordinates were terrified of him.
His grave was the first in a whole new area, as if in death, as in life, he was staking out new territory. I guess they had to have room for all the people who attended the funeral.
Update: Obituary in the Jerusalem Post:
Yes! Bish has decided he just can’t take it any more. Having held out for nearly a year of my lobbying (not nagging!), claiming he couldn’t read anything but Haaretz with his morning coffee, he finally gave in. This morning we subscribed to Yediot Aharonot. We’ll give it a few days trial and then we plan to finally end our fifteen-year subscription to Haaretz.
And this is the straw that broke the Bish’s back. I think I'll have it framed.
Update: I admit I'm going to miss things like this:
"In Holland after World War II, a law was passed that Jewish children who had been hidden during the war would not be returned to their parents."
Saturday, February 22, 2003
The three minute man?
"In a book published after he was sacked, the president's former chauffeur, Jean-Claude Laumond, says female staff at party headquarters dubbed Chirac "the three-minute man" because of his speedy sexual liaisons.
Laumond says: "They came down the stairs with their eyes twinkling and their tights twisted like corkscrews.""
Bish and I rarely go out in the evenings. We have found that even if we make plans, by the time we manage to leave, we are both so exhausted from our long day, that we don’t really enjoy ourselves. And, after a late night, the next day is hell. I have to be at work at 7am. Besides, we can never agree on what to do. He would rather go out for a meal. I hate eating late. I love a good play. He’d rather watch the basketball on TV.
Every now and again, I decide we should invest in what they call here our “zoogiyoot”, one of those silly words that dime psychologists and other idiots discuss with self-importance on morning television. I think. I’m never home in the morning and if I am, I’ve better things to do than watch someone showing how to do flower arrangements or introducing the latest natural cure for warts, not that these subjects are not worthy and might even be interesting to some. Anyway, zoogiyoot would probably translate literally as something in the realm of “Couple-dom” or “Couple-ism”. The dictionary translates it as “intimacy” but that’s all wrong. It just doesn’t manage to catch the ludicrous aspect of the concept of zoogiyoot.
So, as I was saying, I occasionally think it might be a good idea for us to do something together (Doesn’t that sound more sensible than “investing in our couple-ism?”). The last time was quite a while ago. I suggested it to Bish, who agreed, reluctantly. Bish used to work as a waiter. He more than exhausted any hunger he might have had for any sort of nightlife before he even met me. I perused “Achbar Ha’ir” (= City Mouse), which gives information about Tel Aviv nightlife, and managed to find a familiar name of a rock musician who had a show on trying out some sort of classical arrangements of his repertoire. Relieved to find someone who was actually born in those far off days when I was young and fancy free, and young men used to take me out to try to impress me, I decided that that was a suitable choice. Do I sound like I miss that, by the way? Well, I don’t. First of all there were not all that many of them, young men, that is. And considering the pressure of the whole thing and what terrible torture most of the dates turned out to be, if I can rack my brains that far back, I’m quite happy to be out of it.
But I digress, again. Bish suggested we go with another couple. So much for a romantic evening, working on our couple-ism. On the night in question, the babysitter arrived, clothes were flung around until I was happy (what do you wear to these things these days?) and after some further messing about (our friends’ babysitter was late) we were finally off. When we got to the place there was an enormous queue. Lucky we had a reservation. We eventually managed to get inside. It was a musty, low-roofed basement, down scores of winding stairs and we were shown to our table, in a far-flung, hardly accessible corner. I immediately needed to go to the bathroom, naturally, which meant fighting my way back up the winding stairs, this time against the flow. Later, back in my seat, as the basement slowly but surely filling up to sardine capacity (smoked sardines at that, no adherence to no smoking laws in this place), the thought crossed my mind that there were no emergency exits that I could see, and we were pretty far away from the winding staircase. I’m a bit claustrophobic at the best of times, but this time my slightly panicky feelings seemed justified. We were in a firetrap. I soon remedied the problem by downing a nice big glass of wine and forgot about it. The show was great.
Last night, watching the horrific pictures of that nightclub catching fire, reawakened those unspoken fears that I felt that evening. You could see that the cameraman who was filming it all realized what was happening long before anyone else, because he was gradually edging himself to the exit, away from the fire. But everyone else seemed oblivious. Maybe the cameraman was the only sober person in the place.
Just people who wanted to have a good time. Aren’t there enough dangers out there that we can’t control, that such a thing should happen?
People think of the cutest names for their sites.
Wiggle Worm Farms is a friendly site with links to just about everything. And guess what? I’ve got a cool link there, too, right on the home page. Yippee!
Grow a Brain Cafe has all sorts of unusual links. Perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon. I’ve spent hours there and haven’t even got started yet.
Both have the nice fresh flavor of non-commercial sites made by people having fun.
Friday, February 21, 2003
Purim is nearly here.
I usually spend the month before Purim furiously sewing fancy-dress costumes for the girls. I ask them what they would like to be in Purim and they often have some pretty unusual ideas. Last year Eldest and her friend were an enormous pair of boots, complete with (fake) white fur round the top, Santa Claus style. My masterpiece to date. It was quite a project. The big problem turned out to be finding stuff to put on to reduce the flammability (They were completely covered by felt and sponge stuff and I was a bit worried). Bish eventually found a factory in Petah Tikva that manufactures the spray used by upholsterers for furniture. It took ages to dry. Then I had to spend the whole day at school with them, helping with the logistics, such as getting up and down the stairs!
As you can see, I regard it as a personal challenge to make whatever idea they come up with, however difficult. People think I’m mad, you can buy really nice, inexpensive costumes these days, but where’s the fun in that?
I’ve been hinting to the girls that they have to decide soon or we won’t be ready in time. Eldest said she wants something more comfortable this year. She’s decided on something really easy. More than easy, but I’m not telling beforehand. Youngest had this costume when she was five and I still have the props and they will fit Eldest as well.
So now we have to see what Youngest wants. It’s helpful if they don’t both want difficult things.
Thursday, February 20, 2003
I've also been asked my opinion on Neturei Karta. This is a tiny and inconsequential sect of fiercely and vehemently anti-Zionist ultra-ultra-religious Jews. Their views are accepted here by no one but themselves. They have no Israeli following and I don’t think they even have a Jewish following overseas (am I wrong?). I know nothing about them (the only thing that comes to mind is that their women wear black scarves over their shaven heads). They live in Jerusalem. I live in Tel Aviv. I never even see them. They don’t interest me or anyone else and neither do their views, as far as I know. Maybe Tal is more knowledgeable about them. He lives in Jerusalem.
However, considering their extremely marginal position in Jewish society and the bored disdain, if not plain indifference, with which they are widely regarded in Israel, in religious circles as well, it is significant that Yasser Arafat, accepted leader of the Palestinians, a man who claims he wants to make peace with the Israeli people, should choose Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, a leader of this fanatic group of Israel haters, as his advisor on Jewish affairs. Is this not an important declaration of Arafat’s vision of peace with Israel?
Update: The Head Heeb develops this subject. I see the the Dhimmi Guy also discusses. These guys have more information than me. Obviously Neturei Karta and other ant-Zionist frummers are more vocal in the Diaspora. Here they risk having their social benefits cut off if they go too far (they also risk being beaten up on by hot-headed right-wing Jerusalemites). Note the absurd. They live like leeks off my hard earned taxes, but hate my guts and would have my home destroyed (In case any one was wondering where Shinui party sprung from).
Nice to see I started an interesting discussion.
The significance of Hirsch is in the symbolism. It's not as if the other ministers in Arafat's government have any say anyway. Arafat calls all the shots. The ministers have political significance but no actual effect whatsoever on the ministries they head (thus when Salam Fayed accepted the treasury he demanded autonomy, but I don't know if he really got it or how much). Arafat makes all the decisions, from the largest and most important to the smallest and most trivial. So whether Hirsch takes part in cabinet meetings is of no relevance, because Arafat has no orders to give him anyway.
The honor Arafat bestows on Hirsch gives us an opportunity to peek into Arafat's mind, and see what he really thinks and intends. It's a pity Israeli leaders didn't heed this during the nineties, and call him on it.
I've been asked what I meant by “So why is it that so many westerners believe that this is not possible for their former neighbors?”
What I meant is that based on the Israeli experience, Arabs, Muslims and, I suppose, other peoples who haven't had the good fortune to been born in a western democracy, have the capacity to handle a more participatory style of governance, even if it turns out to be very different from the European interpretation.
It is true that second and third (not to mention fourth and fifth) generation Israelis are very different from their parents and grandparents, wherever they came from. The truly amazing thing about Israel is that its democratic foundations were laid by Eastern Europeans long before there was any sort of democratic tradition in their countries of origin. And it was further built up by people from many corners of the earth, the great majority of whom were not the immigrants or descendants of immigrants from established democracies. People here are such a diverse mixture, but still, God knows how, IT WORKS. We are the best proof you can get that democracy is possible even in the most improbable of places and situations, with the most problematic of people. The question, with regard to Israeli society, is not why there are so many deep and seemingly insoluble rifts, but why there are not more, and how is it we have not yet all killed each other. I know, I know, some are trying, but the rest of us are managing to work together long enough to fight off those who would have us all dead.
I accept that we had a problem with the fact that non-Israeli Arabs in our midst, the Palestinians in the territories, did not participate in the democratic process here (as opposed to Israeli Arabs who do participate fully in Israeli democratic process). Oslo, as I saw it, and I think many other Israelis did too, was to be the solution of that problem. The creation of a State of Palestine, alongside the State of Israel, which I naively believed would be democratic, was to give the Palestinians an opportunity to shape their own destiny at last. That this did not happen is not the fault of the Israelis. The Palestinians had seven long years to lay the foundations for such an entity and they chose not to.
I hope some day they will come to their senses and make an effort to persuade us that they mean to live with us here in peace, and then maybe they will get another chance to build such a state.
Today found me in the Negev. It was an unlikely day for a trip with work. Stormy. But it was amazing to see how much it had changed in the few months since my last visit to Mitzpe Ramon. I'm beginning to pine a bit for our little southern hideaway, but it's very difficult to get away. I'm hoping next weekend.
I've already told you a few times that it has been unusually rainy this winter. The desert looked different. The lower areas and the wadis were partly covered with a thin green plume of delicate grass, little flowers and shrubs. Incredible. The goats were all out with their Bedouin goatherds, enjoying the fresh greenery.
We didn’t get as far as Mitzpe Ramon today. I wonder what it looks like there.
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
The haphazard results of today’s woolgathering
Up till about ten years ago or so, although I'm not sure exactly when the change to plastic cards came about, all the public phones in Israel were operated by little tokens with holes in the middle. My mother always used to send me back to the army after a visit home with a pipe cleaner (left over from Dad's pipe smoking years) twisted into a ring with about twenty to thirty tokens thread on it, so I could keep in touch ("Why didn't you use your cell phone, Ima?" "We didn't have them in those days, dear". Gasp of horror mixed with pity when contemplating poor mother who grew up in the dark ages.).
A short explanation for Martians or readers aged thirteen or less (and I hope the comparison causes neither offense): You had to put your token in the phone, or more than one if you intended to make an inter-city call, listen for the tone and then dial. When the other side answered the phone, the token dropped. From here stems the popular Hebrew phrase "Nafal lo ha'asimon" or "Yarad lo ha'asimon" literally translated as "the token has dropped for him" or "his token has gone down". It means, of course, "He got it" or "He suddenly understood it", an Israeli equivalent of "Eureka!" or a light bulb going on in a little bubble over a cartoon character's head. The funny thing is that young people, like my girls, who have never seen a token operated public phone, continue to use this phrase, without knowing where it comes from or what it really means.
I have had quite a few big tokens dropping in the past two and a half years. This has definitely been a serious token dropping period of my life. Actually, all of life is a series of tokens dropping (Wow. That was deep! I've cracked the meaning of life, at last!). Blogging is especially full of dropping tokens, because instead of just floating mindlessly along, you find yourself trying to translate the sensation of floating into words in order to share it with your readers. It's like the first time I used a public phone in Eilat to call home in the north. It took just two seconds for five or six tokens to drop and I started scrambling hysterically to get more tokens in before I got cut off.
When I was reading the Haaretz article about Israeli artist Mosh Kashi I linked to on Thursday a token dropped with regard to something or other. Just a little one, not a transatlantic call. I’m not quite able to put it in to words just yet, but it’ll come to me eventually. In the part that wasn't translated into English, Kashi talked about quality and, in this regard, discussed the importance of food in his childhood home. He said his ability to appreciate good food is something he has taken with him in life, so that the first time he tastes a type of food, wherever he is in the world, and he gives the example of sushi, he can tell if it is of good quality or not. This is true for him regardless of his extremely humble beginnings.
He also talked of his mother inspiring him artistically with the way she made ma'amouls. These are little date filled parcels of dough, absolutely scrumptious. My mother-in-law excels at these. When Kashi described his mother making them, I could clearly see my mother-in-law sitting patiently, and lovingly shaping each one in her fingers and gently laying it on the baking tray. She can spend hours doing this, and make hundreds. And when she's finished the ma'amouls she'll start on the homemade marzipan, which she calls by its Ladino name, massapan.
Things have a different pace in the east.
In the east, there seems to be more time to enjoy life's richness, and in the east, if the Jews are anything to go by, this is not a pleasure to be experienced by the wealthy alone. There seems to be time to make at home and enjoy foods that are complicated to produce and rich to the palate; to roast your own coffee beans; to bring the coffee (no, not “instant”!) to the boil three times in the finjan; to listen enraptured to a twenty minute long love song, in which the singer only begins to sing after a ten minute instrumental introduction. And I’m talking ordinary, “uneducated” people, not just culture vultures.
In the east, quality seems to be measured differently than in the west.
My life is western and I like it, but whenever I have slowed down and taken the time to slightly touch things more eastern I have been enriched by them.
Mosh Kashi is not what you'd call an "ethnic" or “eastern” artist. His work is modern, precise. But if I understand him correctly, certain qualities that were present in his impoverished home, empowered him to circumvent the barriers that stood between him and what he wanted to do, what he wanted to be. Having seen my mother-in-law patiently making ma’amouls and other foods that are also extremely time-consuming and often laborious with such amazing peace of mind, completely unencumbered by the multitude of other things she had to do, I can understand how this would prepare Kashi for creating works of art like these. And it gives me an insight into how, like Mosh Kashi, but in different ways, both my mother-in-law’s sons grew up to be such special people.
A very large proportion of Israelis are people who were born and bred in Arab or Muslim countries or are the children or grandchildren of those who were born and bred in Arab or Muslim countries. These are no longer people expected to merge into an existing society like in the early days, or like in other places in the world to which they emigrate. They are the existing society (a fact that exposes the absurdity of claims that Israel is a European colonizing entity). They are an integral part of our society’s very essence, so much so that in many instances, to single them out is becoming increasingly artificial and forced (and is usually the practice of politicians and social activists who stand to gain from emphasizing social rifts, not to mention a certain ignorant blogger).
And, surprise surprise, they largely accept democracy as the best (or the least bad) mode of government.
So why is it that so many westerners believe that this is not possible for their former neighbors?
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Monday, February 17, 2003
Hellooo! Is anybody there?
I'm getting the feeling I'm all alone. No one seems to be posting. Has this got something to do with the blizzard? I hope everyone is okay.
Even as an emotional manipulation this stands out
Like many others, I tend to be suspicious of people in positions of power, not just because power corrupts but also because I ask myself what their motivation was in the first place to be willing to pay the heavy price required to reach such a position. But every so often, someone in a position of power does something that I find truly inspirational, something that leaves me speechless (a feat indeed!). This is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. When I was in the army, the then Major General Ehud Barak did something that still moves me to this day. Please forgive me, I know it's annoying, but for various reasons, I would rather not say what it was, although it's not a military secret or anything. I just don't think I can explain why it affected me the way it did. Today I am a different person and if it happened today, I don't think it would touch me in quite the same way. But I will continue to admire Barak for it, no matter what came after, and what is still to come.
My first impression of Tony Blair was quite positive. He seemed nice, charismatic, clean cut. I didn't think much of his wife, though, poor woman. She just has a face you love to hate (and she doesn’t like cats). Then I saw a program about Blair on TV. It was before he won the elections the first time. Naturally everyone was curious about him back then. The Brits obviously liked what they saw, because they voted him in, but I wasn't very impressed. He seemed too slick, far too smooth. The people who made the program filmed him meeting ordinary people of very different types, and just talking to them, listening to their grievances and sharing his thoughts about what should be done. He seemed to say to everyone he met exactly what he or she wanted to hear. "Typical slimy politician", I thought to myself and I didn't regard him very highly after that. Not that I really followed his career as prime minister or took much notice what he was doing. I don't live in the UK and I don't have the vote there. It's not as if he had any direct affect on my life, after all.
But on Saturday he earned my everlasting admiration.
On Saturday he faced not only a hostile audience of his own party members in the conference he was speaking at in Glasgow, but he also faced one million demonstrators and who knows how many millions more of their supporters, most of whom probably voted for him. Knowing quite clearly that he was destroying his political career with his own two lily-white hands, as it were, he did not attempt to appease them. Instead he said to them (my interpretation): I respect why you are marching, I respect your “understandable hatred of war” and your “moral purpose”, but there comes a time when war is inevitable.
This was of course very impressive, but it is not what won my admiration. The words that struck me, and stayed with me, and that I have read over and over and over again, were in these three sentences, so strong, so wise, so painfully aware and therefore so very sad:
"I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honor. But sometimes it is the price of leadership. And the cost of conviction."
British prime minister Tony Blair, whatever he may do from this day on, has won a permanent place of honor in my private little, sparsely-inhabited, Hall of Fame for Great People.
Palestinian leaders review the situation
It looks like some Palestinian leaders and commentators are trying to learn the lessons of the unequivocal message the Israeli electorate sent the Palestinians in these elections.
The translation of columnist Taufiq Abu Bakr's article is especially interesting.
"In history, you have opportunities and risks. When the train of history comes by the station where you stand, you should not hesitate to board it... Hesitating at crucial historic moments is fatal. Calm and acceptance of the Clinton initiative in time for the February 2001 elections would have prevented Sharon's rise and the sweeping shift towards the Right in the Israeli street. Had the Taba talks taken place a few days after the initiative proposal, the face of Palestinian history might have been changed. This is a fact from which many flee..."
Were the Hamas operatives that were killed yesterday (in a “work accident”? By the IDF?) in Gaza, working on an unmanned drone airplane, preparing it for blowing up in Israel? Palestinian sources told Ynet that the Hamas was just bragging when they released the statement to that effect. The Hamas denies the blast that killed them was a “work accident” and blames Israel, but the same Palestinian sources confirm that it was, in fact, inadvertently self-inflicted, while preparing explosive devices. These “work accidents” are not uncommon. Maariv points out that access to the scene of the blast was immediately prevented. This is unusual, a sign that the event was “sensitive” (If I remember correctly, they usually do this in cases suspected of being such self-inflicted “work accidents”). Maariv doesn’t refute the Hamas drone story and also says that people in the area noticed an IDF drone flying in the vicinity just before the blast. Well, you know what they say: it takes a drone to catch a drone. Haaretz tells it a bit differently. This is getting a bit confusing. It’s like that old joke (truth?) that two Jews have three opinions.
Moving right long, the IDF has caught Riad Abu Zeid, a top Hamas terrorist this morning in Gaza. He was wounded, trying to escape, but is now under IDF custody.
Bigwig discusses how this war with Iraq will differ from the previous one. Good stuff. I hope none of the Iraqi bigwigs are reading it.
Dressing for success
Now that Bish is The Chairman (That makes me, what? The Chairman’s wife? The girls at work are already calling me Suha.), I suggested that maybe the time has come for him to buy himself a suit. After all, now that he is representing a largish group of his professional peers he surely wants to make a good impression.
Now anyone who has ever visited Israel will know that it’s quite possible to reach the ripe old age of forty here without ever having been in possession of a suit. Actually Bish did wear a suit for his Bar-Mitzva, an utterly revolting brown and beige thing, judging by the faded photos. Thankfully, he outgrew that about twenty-six years ago.
Before our wedding, when Bish happened to mention to my Mum that he intended to show up for the ceremony in blue jeans and sandals, she nearly had a fit. I knew he was joking because he never wears sandals. Well, he didn’t wear blue jeans and sandals, but he didn’t wear a suit, either.
Now he has started to realize that he probably will have to have some decent clothes for public appearances, but a suit? That’s going too far. “Why don’t you pop into one of the posh men’s shops on Kikar Hamedina?” I suggested, “And get yourself one good suit.”
The weeks passed and nothing happened. Yesterday, he walks in from work with one of those suit-bag thingies over his shoulder, a really posh one, and he’s looking as happy as a twelve year-old who’s just won a soccer game in the school yard (sorry, Americans won’t get it any more than I do). Out he brings a beautiful Italian blazer, sort of casual, but you can see it’s excellent quality (“What color is this exactly?” He asks me. I’d say it’s charcoal.). Don’t ask how much it cost, I thought the price was the serial number.
So, there we have it. Not exactly a suit, but at least something decent looking. Now we’re getting somewhere. My Bish the flashy dresser. Of course, he does think it looks best with his old blue jeans and a T-shirt. I give up.
It is inconceivable that Belgium could possibly forget such a debt.
Lynn B. - the Menin Gate.
Sunday, February 16, 2003
Diane made a stand for freedom in New York yesterday. Good for you, Diane.
And after Iraq…
Before the revolution in Iran in 1979, Israel had very good relations with Iran. A cousin of my mother’s lived there for a few years. I think her husband was a representative of an Israeli company there. I remember sitting in her kitchen, when she got back, listening to her tell about what life was like there. I have often wondered how it could be that all the people in Iran could have had such a complete change of heart about Israel.
Well, it seems they didn’t. It seems many of them had the change of heart thrust upon them.
On my favorite radio program, the International Hour on Reshet Bet, this afternoon, they spoke to someone from Kol Yisrael (Voice of Israel) in Persian. I didn’t catch it all, because I was at work and someone came in for some help with something. What I managed to catch was this guy telling Reshet Bet listeners about a regular call-in program they broadcast in Persian. He said they have many Iranians, living in Iran, calling and speaking on the program, and even giving their real names. He said some of them have expressed the hope that when the USA finishes liberating Iraq they will keep on going and liberate them, as well. He said that when Ilan Ramon went up into space they had warm words of congratulations and when he was killed, with his fellow astronauts in the Columbia disaster, they said they were very sad with the people of Israel. He said that during the days that followed, everyone who called up began the conversation by offering sincere condolences for the people of Israel. He let us listen to one caller and translated him as asking how the people of Iran could show their solidarity with the people of Israel in our time of mourning. And then he offered a way himself. He suggested that every person in Iran who wished to express his or her feelings on this matter should light two candles and place them by their window for all to see. I wonder if anyone dared.
We've been playing at pretend war here in Israel, preparing safe rooms, buying water, masking tape and canned food and preparing evacuation bags. We'll probably never have to use any of these things, even if the US finally gets round to going ahead with this war in Iraq (that is if we haven't all died of old age or been nuked by then). But all this time, our war (the one that is actually happening right now) hasn't stopped for a minute. Yesterday we had another little reminder to bring us back to reality. Little for us. Big for the families of the four boys killed. I'm told it was a 100 kg bomb and not 25 kg as I told you yesterday.
We are informed that there are continuous warnings of terrorist attacks. Someone on the radio today said that the warm support the Palestinians are receiving around the world in these mass anti-war-with-Iraq demonstrations and the affect these demonstrations may be having in bringing about a postponement of that war, will probably serve to strengthen and motivate the Palestinian terrorists' commitment to make even greater efforts to pull off mass murder attacks against Israeli civilians. So much for promoting world peace. (I can imagine one or two Iraqis aren't too happy with these demonstrations either).
But then again, maybe the people demonstrating don't see mass murder of Israeli civilians, in pizzerias and supermarkets, as contradictory to world peace.
Haaretz headline (Hebrew version): Because of the opposition in the world: The USA is considering postponing the offensive
I knew it! This is because I got ready, isn't it? Well, no fear, it won't happen again! I won't be made a fool of! (Just kidding)
I know it’s not the same thing at all, but I must say all this makes me feel extremely grateful that Israel's leadership did not heed world public opinion and didn't let it prevent us taking determined steps in order to protect Israeli citizens from brutal, bloodthirsty terrorist attacks.
And we thought the Middle East was violent!
Have you read about the horrendous goings-on Meryl had to contend with on Valentine's Day? As we say in Israel, when confronted with such horrors, Ima'le.