Following the terrorist attack in Haifa that killed 17, including 9 kids, at the beginning of this month (Was it really less than four weeks ago?) Allison wrote that "Most Israelis believe in letting their kids in on the brutal realities of life here from an extremely young age". She didn't have comments on her blog at the time, and she was yet to publish an e-mail. I had quite a lot to say about this statement at the time, but I didn't. I somehow couldn't manage to organize my thoughts into a post to publish here. I was upset about the attack.
Next month is Yom HaShoah (Holocaust memorial day), Youngest reminds me, when I notice she is reading "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl". She tried to read it following Yom HaShoah last year, but it was still too difficult for her. Now she can't put it down. She'll be eight next month. I couldn't have read it when I was her age, but then she's far more intelligent than I am (and fully aware of it, unfortunately).
It's much better than an ordinary diary in which the writer says today I did such and such, she informs me. Anne Frank writes about all sorts of things that are happening to other people and in the world, she says, and not just about herself. Then she asks me how to pronounce the name Margot (Anne's sister). The book is without the dots and little lines that serve as vowels in Hebrew, as is the case in all books and printed texts besides poetry, ancient scriptures and those aimed at small children (like Youngest is meant to be).
When I was Youngest's age I didn't know about the Holocaust. It wasn't that I didn't know about the Nazis or World War II or that Germans had killed Jews or about concentration camps. I just wasn't aware of anything systematic. I had no idea of the scale. I certainly didn't know any details. I didn't know about The Holocaust. I was eight, for goodness sake!
This lack of knowledge was because I wasn't living in Israel yet. It was not down to anything lacking in my education. I attended a Jewish school and lived a very Jewish life. My parents were Zionist activists. It probably just wasn't thought to be appropriate that eight year olds should know too much about it.
When we made Aliyah, my first Yom HaShoah was quite a shock for me, and it took me a while to grasp it all. At first I was convinced the Nazis somehow managed to kill six million Jews all on one day - on Yom HaShoah.
Children in Israel grow up with the Holocaust. It's just as much a part of life as terrorist attacks.
Last night, I'm helping Youngest wash her hair and she asks one of those questions I dread answering. No, not about the birds and the bees, those I can handle.
This is maybe the place to explain that Youngest is one of those kids that regularly embarrass their teachers by asking questions they can't answer. I often have to consult a dictionary or an encyclopedia, before answering her, as well (or if I'm feeling even lazier than usual: "Ask Abba" (=Dad)).
I should have looked up yesterday's first question before answering and then it wouldn’t have gone where it did. But we're in the shower, aren't we?
How did Anne Frank die?
Oy vey. I know where this is going. This is not a child who will make do with a general answer, certainly not with an evasive one. Not that I would dream of giving her anything but a proper answer, it's just a difficult subject to talk about, especially with an eight year old (next month).
I think she died in Bergen Belsen, an extermination camp, I say.
Of course, I don't remember that she actually died of typhoid, silly me, and I begin to tell her how people were killed in Nazi extermination camps. A discussion of gas showers, forced labor, Zyclone B gas, the selection process (and more) follows. She knows the basics (she already knows about the gas showers, for a start), now she wants a bit more information. Each detail is examined and questioned and elaborations are asked for. I'm not enjoying the conversation. In fact, I'm feeling slightly nauseous, trying to think how and when to cut off the stream of questions. What will be too much? Then she wants to know about other extermination methods. I tell her about mass shootings. She wants to understand it all properly and I find myself explaining exactly why gas showers are more effective than guns. I'm feeling a bit woozy. I'm tired and the bathroom is full of steam. She wants to hear more. Tell me about more extermination methods, she demands, but, by this point, hair washing and shower are finished, and I am depressed and feeling guilty. I've traumatized the child, she'll have nightmares, I think, as I send her off to put on her pyjamas, relieved that we didn't get round to death marches, beatings, starvation, scientific experiments...
Worried about what has just transpired (it's not even as if I allow the girls to watch violent programs on TV), I go and discuss it in whispers with Bish in the living room. I needn't have whispered. Youngest has already been drawn back into Anne Frank's secret hidden world behind the bookcase. Bish is exasperatingly unconcerned, as always. Worse, he's pleased. Youngest, he says, is so bright it gives him hope for the future of society.
Tfu tfu tfu. I'd rather she was less interested in these sorts of things and more interested in little girls' things, the sillier the better, at least until she grows up a bit.
It suddenly strikes me that she didn't ask any why's.
She's definitely much more of a "what?" child. When will the "why?" come? I wonder. Maybe the "what?" stage is actually easier, even though it makes me feel so uncomfortable.
She didn't have any nightmares. She's a very matter-of -fact girl. She took it all in her stride. If it had been Eldest it would have been a different matter. But then, it wouldn't have been Eldest, would it?
Today I asked her if I could tell you all of this. She thought about it for a bit and then agreed, for a price. The price? A kiss and a hug.
why not a fish
Monday, March 31, 2003
Avishai Raviv, former agent of the Shabak (Israeli General Security Service, called the Shin Bet, by foreigners, for some reason, historical I think), was acquitted today of charges of "of failing to prevent the assassination of then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, despite knowing that Yigal Amir was plotting to kill him". According to Ynet (Hebrew), the judges said that Raviv had no clue as to what Yigal Amir was planning to do and had no motive to withold such information from his Shabak controllers.
I got bored with this affair years ago, but the Raviv case was a very high profile affair in Israel, with certain elements on the right pushing very hard for him to be brought to justice, and the Shabak opposing his indictment. Exposing an intelligence source, especially a live one, can be very harmful for any intelligence gathering organization. Putting a live source on trial is even worse.
Let me guess: Tomorrow the headline in Yediot Aharonot will probably be something ridiculously sensational, on the lines of - "Shampania Hofshi" (Champagne is free or Free Champagne). Champaign was Avishai Raviv's Shabak code name, ostensibly because of his expensive tastes.
I'm relieved with the outcome. This was a witch hunt. And it was dangerous for the Shabak and its ability to effectively gather intelligence.
A few words by Diane on Rachel Corrie:
These actions should be barred in the territories. Jurjen kindly points out that the usual security precautions (having a pointman shoo away people from the 'dozer) in the Disputed Territories is difficult because of the risk of sniping. Yes, so don't allow this cat-and-mouse to start at all. Go in there and secure the area and then bring on the 'dozers. If anyone breaks through, arrest and deport them.
Oh, and as Jurjen correctly points out, use of human shields is illegal. That means that the ISM volunteers are lawbreakers, and should be expelled from the territories for that reason alone. They should then be expelled from Israel and barred from entering the country
Sunday, March 30, 2003
IRAQI HISTORY VS. AMERICAN IDEALISM
Ofra Bengio and Bruce Maddy-Weitzman of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies discuss democracy for Iraq:
It looks like phones are down in Baghdad
The big picture
I hear certain Sky News junkies are getting fed up with this war. They miss the sports news at twenty past the hour, every hour. The war coverage on the 24 hour news channels is dreary, isn’t it?
Catherine Bennett discussed this in a rather amusing article in the UK Guardian on Thursday. She makes an interesting point:
Do my eyes deceive me? Could this be possible? Is she really suggesting that reporters in the field cannot actually understand what is happening? Could it really be that they are not able to grasp the big picture? I am shocked. This is revolutionary! Think of the implications!
Because if this is true for this Iraq war it could be true for other conflicts, couldn’t it? Maybe foreign reporters covering Jenin and Ramallah so objectively are just as clueless as the guys currently tagging along after the US forces or looking out of their hotel windows in Baghdad.
And if it’s true for professional, seasoned journalists, do you think it could possibly be true for ideological peace activists who arrive with preconditioned perceptions of what they are to find? Maybe they don’t understand what they are seeing and hearing and experiencing.
For instance, maybe they don't know what the bulldozers are doing and why. Maybe they don't realize (what every soldier and construction worker knows) that a bulldozer driver has extremely limited vision. Maybe this is how they come to be harboring a murderer and hiding weapons (Via Meryl Yourish).
Could it possibly be?
During the one o'clock news they suddenly said they had received a report of a blast in busy Herzl Street in Netanya in a cafe in Haatzmaut Square. Another suicide terrorist attack. Knowing Dad often spends his mornings with his pals in such a cafe, I immediately called him up on his cell phone. He had left ten minutes before and he hadn't heard any blast, but while we were talking an ambulance could be heard rushing past. Then the other phone in the office rang and I said to myself that will be Bish. But it wasn't. It was the girls. They'd just got home from school. Youngest wanted to tell me about a quarrel she'd got into about recycling the water bottles, Eldest wanted to tell me that they'd started preparations for the end of the year show they're putting on. It was difficult making the switch, tearing myself away from the radio. I knew that Dad was fine and R.T. doesn't have lunch there, as far as I know, therefore it was of course more important to listen to the stories the girls wanted to tell me about their day than to hear an update about the attack, but it was difficult to concentrate on what they were saying. I didn't tell them about the attack. What for?
No one was killed today (besides the suicidal murderer), thankfully, but sometimes we forget that living with the injuries can be very difficult. Just Friday, on the evening weekend news, I forget which channel, they brought the story of the Netanya Park Hotel waitresses injured in the Passover Massacre a year ago. One of them, such a pretty, sunny girl with a lovely smile, was in a wheel chair. She was telling her friends how she went to the mall by herself. Our Sis and I took Mum to a mall, a few months before she died, and I can tell you it's not always easy to maneuver a wheelchair into some of the shops even when you're pushing the chair and not sitting in it. This must be one determined and plucky girl to do this all by herself.
No one having been killed today, this attack will not interest anyone outside Israel, of course. It's quite understandable. There's a war going on.
Reshet Bet radio station said Forty-five were injured, one of them, a soldier, critically. They say he was the guy who stopped the terrorist from getting into the cafe and killing many.
Dan Scemama, Israeli TV channel 1 reporter, one of those indignant Israeli journalists who were held as spies and treated rather badly by the US military, spoke on Reshet Bet radio station this morning.
Yesterday I categorized him, rather hastily, as an arrogant fool before I actually heard his full version. Now that I have heard him speak on the subject I would like to apologize and correct the wrong impression my words from yesterday may have made. He is not an arrogant fool; he is an extremely foolish arrogant fool. And he doesn't come over as very bright either (He went on and on about his terrible traumatic experience in such detail that he spent about two whole minutes telling incredulous listeners about the family of ants he and his friends adopted while in captivity. At this point my friends in the next office switched radio station in disgust). My sources (scroll down to my comment) tell me that Scemama is not necessarily held in very high regard among some of his professional colleagues either.
The Frog wondered yesterday, if this incident would maybe change Israeli perceptions of the war. I hardly think that will be the case. After all, Israelis don't have much respect for the Israeli media, as we clearly saw during the recent Israeli election campaign. From random conversations I have had about this affair, it seems I'm not the only one who thinks these Israeli and Portuguese journalists were just a bunch of idiots. Scemama was the butt of many a joke at work today. Boaz Bismut, the other Israeli journalist, I notice, seems more sensible. He got the middle page spread in today’s Yediot Aharonot. But it's Scemama who seems to be running around ranting and raving and losing more and more credibility with each interview he gives.
Update: Channel 2 just showed Boaz Bismut ranting on French TV (no less) in perfect French about the despicable treatment they got, yada yada yada. GRRRRRRRRR.
Saturday, March 29, 2003
Dog log - the final chapter
We came home from our Shabbat lunch (Yes, we took our gas masks - I've decided to call them gasks for short) to find Sancho had finished off the remnants of that vanilla cake that had been sitting in the kitchen waiting (patiently) for someone so very much in need of something sweet as to not notice it was revolting. Of course, the crumbs were embedded (such a useful word) in the carpet and the cardboard cake box was in shreds all over the living room. But at least Sancho was happy at last. The girls got to take him out for a last walk ("I'm holding the leash!" "No, I'm holding the leash!" "But you held it last time!"...), before regrettably taking their leave of Sancho and going off to play with friends (Who am I kidding? They hardly said goodbye to him, or to us for that matter, in their hurry to be gone).
Sancho was delighted to see his folks, when they came for him. And there ends our dog story. Not to be continued.
The truth dawns on yet more human shields:
No wonder these "anti-war" characters also believe every preposterous lie the Palestinians tell them. They're just plain ignorant.
These two idiot Israeli journalists are frothing at the mouth with indignation at their alleged mistreatment by American troops in Iraq, even though they had no official authorization to be there. What on earth did they expect? Garlands? Kisses? This is a battlefield, for goodness sake!
We get just as annoyed with the foreign journalists in our battlefields, although I must admit, we seem to give foreign journalists far more freedom in the field than the Americans (or the Iraqis, of course) are doing, for all their complaining about us.
I'm glad this happened because it means that if real spies or terrorists come along, posing as journalists, they will be sussed out.
The Bamba issue
Okay, now listen! I've thought about it and I have just one thing to say. Bamba is a national asset, see? My girls might not be crazy about it but that doesn't mean I'll sit back and see it knocked all over the Blogosphere. So just you and you, watch it! Our leaders made a great patriotic decision in pronouncing it a vital product and that it's production continue undisturbed in times of emergency, and thus proved that they really do care about little people after all. Think of all the relieved parents and children all over the country who were losing sleep worrying what they would do if their supply dried up. So there'll be no more badmouthing Bamba if you don't mind.
I'm glad we've cleared that up.
Update: Laurence is my Bamba brother.
Second update: Go check out Allison's hilarious take on Bamba. It seems I've made her bad books, though. I can't say I didn't earn it.
Some of you may be asking what happened to my decision not to post on Shabbat. Well, last weekend I had so many visitors to Not a Fish it felt downright inhospitable not to entertain them all. This week it's not as hectic as last week but still far more than usual.
Miki took offense that I spelt out her name but not the dog's. She's right of course, the dog is Sancho, but you won't beat his folks' names out of me, even with threats of Saddam's shredding machine. Well, maybe.
It's quite nice having a four-legged friend here. His mood improved somewhat once he realized we weren't cruel and wicked and we knew to give him food and water and take him for walkies. Walkies is quite nice, meditative, but we're already making deals ("If you take him now, I'll take him in the morning") so I can see one of our own would not be such a good idea. Youngest is hesitantly stroking him, he can sense her insecurity and keeps clear of her. That's maybe the best reason for having one of our own. Eldest, who was most excited about having him here and who is forever asking for a dog or a cat, ignores him completely.
I've discussed Shabbat lunch with Our Sis, and she agrees it would be best not to bring Sancho. Not because he would fight with little old T. .. er.. Tiggy, but because he might ruin Our Sis' pride and joy, her beautiful award-winning garden (It hasn't actually won any awards yet, but it should).
Friday, March 28, 2003
Ynet update: Haifa firefighters have been battling for the last hour to rescue a goat that fell down a well in a Haifa neighborhood.
I can always count on readers to offer explanations. James Begent informs me that "an esquire is an old term for the rank below a knight. In modern use it's more of a term of respect, since the meaning doesn't apply any more. People like the bank will use it to be obsequious."
There you go.
Mr. Begent, esq. also says on his bloggy sort of site: "I believe there is no meaning or purpose in anything. All effort is futile. All desire is empty. Buddha was nearly right but when you die you rot in the ground. God is Santa Claus for adults. Humans are monkeys. Life was an accident. I like burning things, especially hackers. I like complexity and abstraction as they distract me from the futility of human existence".
Hmmm. Cheerful. I tend to agree (except about burning hackers, but this is probably some computer jargon witticism that I am not acquainted with).
Update: More input from yet another reader - "We lawyers in the U.S. often have Esq. after our names." Aha!
S. has arrived with his bowl, toy cat, little ball and a very long face, which is getting longer all the time. Poor thing, he thinks he's been abandoned. Miki has asked for more details about him. Well he's a mongrel, part Alsatian, I think, about two years old.
This is not England, you nitwits! What did you expect? That they stand tidily in line and wait for their turn? This is not proof that they are hungry, this is proof that they are Middle Easterners. If you're giving out something for free, of course the whole town will turn up, of course there will be a scramble! If you don't organize queues and be tough in regulating them, there won't be any.
And don't forget this is the cradle of commerce - You'll be seeing those cartons of goodies offered for sale in the market tomorrow, more likely than not!
We're having a real dog to stay for the weekend. No, I'm not being rude about my guest, it really is a dog. The girls are very excited. Don't worry, Our sis, I won't bring him for Shabbat lunch, he's about twice T.'s size but she is still likely to devour him, with all her age. He's a bit of a simpleton.
Yes, go ahead, why don't you, and boycott Israeli research and products.
The war rushes past and we are left, thankfully, standing at the edge watching.
Gil points out that Israel didn't start deporting Palestinians as some anti-Israeli activists claimed we would (duh). These claims were preposterous, of course, and exhibited unbelievable ignorance of what is happening here (again duh). Gil also points out that you won't find any of these prophets of doom owning up that they were wrong (triple duh), but then they're too busy shouting stupid senseless slogans elsewhere, aren’t they? They'll be back, when other channels of expressing their foolishness and ignorance dry up. Actually they already are back, lying about by Bank Leumi in NYC, staging a... a... Die-In??! (Talk about time warps). Yeah, I can't stand Bank Leumi either, that so-called pillar of Israeli economy, (I'll tell you how they tried to put one over me and my Bat-Mitzva savings when I was eighteen another time) but I've got better things to do (sleep comes to mind, but maybe I'll put that on hold and go practice my considerable shooting skills so I'll be ready when the time is ripe for world domination hahahahahaha). Funny thing is, I saw this Die-In thing on TV and because I wasn't really listening (my mind kind of switches off when they start talking about so-called peace demonstrations - bo-o-oring), assumed it was against the war with Iraq. I didn't even notice it was about the rights of people to throw themselves in front of bulldozers in the south of the Gaza strip. It just shows - timing is everything. You have to know when to demonstrate about what, if you want to get across.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
Saddam playing games.
The Palestinians got fed up of waiting for Saddam's Scud missiles.
Take that, you France you. And let that be a lesson to you.
Lovingly sent by Our Sis.
The lowest of the low
A Palestinian youth was sent by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah to Jerusalem two months ago to perpetrate a suicide bombing. He changed his mind and was apprehended by Israeli forces after having dumped the explosives. Recently he confessed to his interrogators that the target had been a boarding school, a home for children that have been removed from severely abusive families. We have a few such homes in the Tel Aviv area too, actually quite near us. A boy that lives in one of them studies in Eldest’s class at school (the kids live in the homes but attend regular schools) and my sister-in-law works in another. The youth, a seventeen year-old from the village of Al Hader, “said he had decided not to go ahead with the attack after he realized that many children would be hurt.”
Thank you, Tal, for the link to the boarding school.
Back when my dad was an English esquire (I’ve no idea what that is, but he used to get letters addressed to him with esq. on the end of his name. Being an inquisitive child I had to know what it was, but no one really gave me an answer that quite satisfied me) he was regularly bashed on the head by nasty people* and robbed (we lived in the North). Each time this happened, he got a nice article in the local paper, but not once did they spell his name right!
*People less fortunate than us who wished to even things up a bit and in the process give my dad the benefit of a few days rest in hospital and more stitches in his head (and you still wonder why he brought his family to live in this wilderness?).
To whom it may concern: I am Imshin IMSHIN as in I.M.S.H.I.N., not Ishmin nor אישמין. Thank you, Harry.
The teachers have started their sanctions. School started at nine o'clock today, instead of eight o'clock. The new government economic plan calls for the dismissal of 6000 teachers. I don't know if they plan to give early retirement to some of the older, burnt-out teachers, or sack the younger ones, but I can think of one or two teachers in my girls' school that I would not be heartbroken if I didn’t see teaching next year.
I find it very difficult to feel empathy for the teachers' plight. They may not make very much money, but they don't work very much either (they boast a twenty four hour week, nearly half the national amount, and they work eight months a year, and that's on a year they don't go on too many strikes, and don't tell me they have all those exams to mark after school hours, I won't be impressed). Some teachers make a small fortune supplementing their salaries with unreported private tutoring. Besides pocketing (stealing?) what they should be paying as income tax for this, as I see it, this practice gives them incentive to be bad teachers in school in the morning (no fear of being sacked, they have job permanence). If little Adi can't understand what Shula the math teacher is talking about, her parents will be forced to fork out for private tuition (and it's very expensive). What a coincidence, Shula just happens to know of a very good teacher who could be of assistance... and what do you know, the very good teacher also has some students who need help. Maybe Shula would be so kind... A very profitable arrangement. I think it's not as straight forward as that, these days (have teachers of late grown some shame or is it the Education Ministry making a feeble attempt at curbing the phenomenon?), but that's how it worked in my day. And I suppose the logic hasn't really changed. Of course, many parents can't afford this blood letting, so this creates a situation whereby only the relatively reasonably-salaried can afford a decent education for their offspring (so much for free and equal schooling for all). So, no, I don't have much empathy for teachers, although we've been very lucky with the girls' class teachers in recent years (Why should I feel lucky? Don't our children deserve good teachers? Must it be a matter of potluck?).
The teachers’ sanctions will probably soon mature into a full-blown strike. This is a real torment for parents who aren't as fortunate as the teachers with their unparalleled work conditions and actually have to put in a full day's work all year round (give or take a bit for what's known as "Shabbatot ve hagim" - Saturdays and religious holidays). Let's hope the teachers manage to muster up some uncharacteristic restraint and wait till the end of the war in Iraq before they commence with their fun and games.
*I would like to point out that most teachers I know personally are lovely people, dedicated to their vocation. I am very happy with my girls’ school on the whole, and haven’t really got much of an axe to grind. But being a full-time working mother, The Teachers, as a powerful political group, continue to p$#s me off no end.
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Sixty nine today
Last year Seder Night fell on the twenty seventh of March, the day after your birthday. So Seder Night was your birthday celebration too. You had been diagnosed just three weeks before and, without talking about it, we were all determined that this would be the best Seder Night ever. And it was.
We sang and were happy like there was no tomorrow. No, we sang and were happy because there was no tomorrow. And you sat there so fragile and delicate, like a rare flower of great beauty to be protected and adored.
Then you started to get tired. You and Dad were already preparing to go home, when Bish had a look on the Internet and told us the news about the terrible terrorist attack in the Park Hotel, the one that came to be known as the Passover Massacre, just down the road from your apartment.
This year, I won’t be ringing you up in the morning to sing “Happy Birthday” on the phone. I’ll never be ringing you up to sing “Happy Birthday” again. But I’ll be singing to you in my heart all day long, because you are always with me.
Happy Birthday Mum. I love you.
I've been regretting the post quoting Guy Bechor ever since I wrote it. I should have gone with my gutt feeling that I didn't really know what I was talking about, and kept my reflections to myself in that case, but what's done is done. I quoted Dr. Bechor as saying that Iraqi Shiites are undereducated. I do remember him saying that but I may have misunderstood his meaning. A reader wishes to point out that "Shiites are the intellectuals (and artists,) in Iraq and they are not undereducated but Sunnis are the ruling class". My apologies.
This reminds of the Jewish community of Iraq, which is now non-existent. The whole community, more or less, moved to Israel as one, once it became evident that staying in Iraq would be too dangerous. In many cases this meant leaving behind much wealth, for a life of years of squalor and degradation in tents in transition camps in the fledgling Israel. They were also intellectuals and artists (I think mainly musicians) but more or less devoid of political power. Many have done very well in Israel and they are prominent in Israeli politics, academia and art, not to mention in business and in the communications media.
I wrote something of my feelings on this, here. And here are more old posts of mine and Diane's, with links, on the subject.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
I'm watching US soldiers frisking men who are surrendering to them, on Fox News. Maybe they should ask them to pull up their shirts first. It's only a matter of time before someone "surrenders" wearing an explosive belt.
A. The weather: Very cold and very wet. I really don't want to go to my class this evening, but I have no choice. The course, when I finish it, will add slightly to my salary, which the government is probably voting to cut as we speak.
B. "Tzabar Salads" have come out with a product they call "Lebanese Green Tehina". It's yummy.
Update to A.: My class is in a tough South Tel Aviv neighborhood. My co-students are mainly blue collar. I was surprised and pleased to see that nearly half had gas masks with them. It seems proles (real ones) have more sense after all.
I’s a good girl, I is
When my betters tell me to take my gas mask with me, even if they themselves do not (“Do as I say, not as I do”?), I do it, especially if it seems to me to be quite a sensible thing to do. And when Diane tells me to read Lilek's Bleat, I do that too.
(This doesn’t mean I’ll put my hand in the fire if I am thus instructed. We heat by air conditioning.)
I wanted to tell you yesterday about the evacuation of Hill 26 near Hebron, but for some reason I couldn’t find a decent link and then I forgot about it. Well, now I’ve found a decent-ish link (I’ve been making an effort to steer clear of Haaretz’s heavily politicized news pages, but sometimes there just isn’t any other option in English). So here it is: They evacuated Hill 26.
Having reportedly spent an unprecedented fortune on hotel rooms, equipment, roof space and whatever else is necessary for gleefully updating the world when the Iraqis give us our due/show us what's for/beat the s#$t out of us (or whatever), most members of the foreign press have now left Israel, according to Israeli TV. Good riddance, vultures.
By the time the chemical missiles get here, and my feeling that the Iraqis will put in the greatest effort to make sure that happens, when the time is ripe, is increasing, I fear the only ones still schlepping our gas masks around will be Bish and me and Allison and my mother-in-law. How about you, Our Sis? At least most of the kids are still taking them to school.
Monday, March 24, 2003
"You don't see happy PoW's. What did you expect?"
Said Major General (reserves) Gidon Shefer on Reshet Bet radio station this morning. He's been there so he knows. A pilot, he was taken prisoner by the Egyptians just after the end of the Yom Kippur War during a reconnaissance mission. He pointed out that it looks awful for us at home, but actually, for the PoW him or herself, being seen on TV is a good thing, a much-desired goal. It is a relief for them that their capture is made public and they know that their situation is far better than that of others whose whereabouts are not known. Also, this is some sort of insurance for their physical and mental state. The Iraqis can be held responsible for any deterioration from now on.
I really liked listening to him. All morning they were interviewing all these prophets of doom, and he came on, optimistic, resilient, living proof that there can be a life, even a successful military career, after the horrors of being a prisoner of war in an Arab country.
The pilots who were taken as prisoners of war in Egypt in 1973 are remembered warmly in Israel even today because of their group translation in captivity of Tolkiens "The Hobbit". I don't know if Major General Shefer was involved in that project, although I think I have their translation lying around somewhere. There’s a newer translation now, which we've also got, but you can still buy their version.
The Frog reminds us to put the losses of this war, awful as they may be, into perspective.
Teachers’ main aim in life is to aggravate parents
They are teaching Youngest's class about diet. Healthy diet. You know what that means, don't you? A healthy mid-morning snack contest, of course, what else? But I always make you healthy sandwiches. No, now you have to make me really healthy food. Sigh. I'm not in love with Youngest's teacher at 6am, while I am busy cutting up really healthy vegetables. I wonder if she ate them now it's a contest or did she bring them back in her schoolbag, like she usually does. I asked her. She ate them.
One partial possible (not very brilliant) explanation why they are putting up such a fight if they hate Saddam (although we shouldn't have been surprised because Salam warned us this would be the case).
Israeli orientalist Dr. Guy Bechor spoke on Israeli radio station Reshet Bet yesterday morning. As usual he mentioned his pessimism with regard to the possibility of Iraqi democracy. Sunni Muslims are a minority in Iraq, he reminded us, while Shiites are the majority. However, Sunnis are the ruling elite while Shiites are an undereducated lower class. Democracy poses a real threat to Sunnis, because as far as it means rule of the majority, that could mean Shiite rule over the Sunnis.
Dr. Bechor was talking about democracy, but in the context of the last few days, this could explain the fight the Iraqi army is putting up. They may hate Saddam Hussein, but they may be more afraid of the idea of Shiite rule, which could turn out even worse for them. That is, if the Sunnis are more dominant in the army, of course. But maybe I should stop babbling on about things I don't really understand.
Ofra Banjo, an Israeli expert on Iraq, told channel 1 viewers that it's because Iraqis are fighting for their home and Ehud Yaari pointed out on channel 2 that people are still mainly afraid of Saddam and that's why we're not seeing people happy to be "liberated".
And then of course there is their honor. Dr. Bechor reminded us that Iraq is seen in the Arab world, and sees itself, as the most civilized of people. Can you imagine how very degrading it must be for them to be perceived as having been liberated by despised uncivilized Americans?
Honor is another reason I think that a chemical missile attack on Israel is still very possible.
I wonder how the coming sand storm will affect the coalition forces ability to see what’s happening on the ground in Western Iraq. At least we’ve got rain.
I suppose you’ve noticed Salam put up a new post.
Sunday, March 23, 2003
Sunday evening tension
Still nothing from Salam.
The idea of coalition PoW's in the hands of the Iraqis is making me feel sick. All I can think of is the Ramallah Lynching.
Bish saw the female soldier on Sky News. He said she looked scared. I'm glad I didn't see it. Without thinking I asked him if she had long hair. I'm not over this yet. Maybe I never will be.
I'm suddenly realizing (with a mixture of shock and depression) that we're not out of the picture yet. All this Iraqi resistance gives me the feeling that maybe we shouldn't be in any hurry to rule out the idea, widely speculated on in recent months, that Saddam could still make an effort to lash out at us with the worst when he's got nothing left to lose. The feeling of relief that nothing has happened yet, which has been replaced with complacence, could be premature.
I took youngest to her dancing class this afternoon. My friend I. who usually takes Youngest and her daughter, while I bring them back, cancelled. I wondered if I should maybe not take Youngest either, for once, but she was adamant about going. They were starting a new dance routine today, following last week's performance in the Purim party. Watching the six and seven year olds filing into the studio with their gas mask boxes, like it was the most natural thing, I felt very sad.
Youngest told me that N., Eldest's little friend from first grade, found an atropine shot on the floor today at school. All the students up to the age of eight, who had the same type of atropine shot as that found, had to take out their gas masks and check if theirs was missing.
When we got home from the dancing class I had to go to the supermarket for bread and tomatoes. I gave the girls the usual briefing about what to do if there is a missile attack while I'm gone. The supermarket is next door. Once downstairs I discovered it was dark out. Then I discovered I'd forgotten my cell phone.
Bish did the shopping when he got home.
As you can see, I'm feeling rather jittery this evening.
And this morning terrorists opened fire on a car at the entrance of the Israeli village of Katzir, which is inside pre-1967 Israel. One of the two terrorists was apprehended.
Update: Shared my hysterical feelings with Bish and got a big hug. Now I'm feeling much better.
I wonder what they'll find in this chemical plant.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
This shredding machine story has been haunting me. I've read it in two places: The London Times and UPI. I've been trying not to think about it, but it keeps popping up in my mind. Horrific.
Many people truly believe that the USA is more dangerous than these monsters and that Israel is committing worse crimes. These people's concept of reality is sadly flawed. And yes, that is quite an understatement.
The UPI link via Occam's Toothbrush
Today was a very ordinary Shabbat. Youngest went to a friend. Bish and Eldest went to the shopping center at Kibbutz Shfayim to buy poufs for the girls (that’s those big bean bag things). The girls have been dying for them for ages. I thought Shfayim, a popular shopping place for Shabbat because most places of commerce are closed, wouldn’t be as packed as usual. We usually don’t go near there on a Shabbat, but Bish says it was just as packed with shoppers as every Shabbat.
I’ve been checking up on Salam about once an hour but there’s nothing new. I see they’ve put those oil trenches around Baghdad on fire. You’ll remember we heard about them from Salam first. This probably means that the whole of Baghdad is under a horrible black suffocating cloud.
Here a Home Front Command top officer has been anonymously complaining to the Press that the decision to tell the public here to open the masks was an expensive mistake. I don’t know why these people can’t keep their mouths shut. A Home Command Front officer, high up as he may be, probably isn’t in possession of all the information with regard to intelligence and contact with the US and even if he is, it’s not his decision. His job is to follow the orders of his superiors and not to run to the journalists when things aren’t going as he likes. If I know these things, the Home Front can’t be bothered with the extra work and the headache they’re going to have “refreshing” the gas mask kits after this is over. Well that’s just too bad.
Anyway, tomorrow the bigwigs are going to reassess the situation and decide whether to bring down the level of alert. Picking up Youngest I saw just one person with a gas mask, although there were quite a lot of people out on their evening stroll. Besides us, that is. I’m what is known as a “Yekkit”. Yekke’s were what the German immigrants in the 1930’s were called, but it has become synonymous to doing things in an orderly fashion, strictly by the book. Well, the orderly thing is debatable, but by the book – definitely. Tonight this family will be just as ready for a missile attack as we were on the first night, even though Richard Perle just told Israeli TV channel 2 that coalition forces are in control of Western Iraq and that missiles on Israel are now very unlikely.
Update: IDF spokesperson called on Israeli citizens to continue to carry the gas mask kits. Israel TV channel 10 news.
If you came from Diane for a glimpse of the IDF Home Front Command booklet in Arabic - this is it. And this is the English version. You might find the Home Front Command website interesting, as well.
* * * *
"Ya Saddam, Ya Habib
Udrub, Udrub Tal Abib!" ("Our beloved Saddam, hit Tel Aviv")
Palestinians are again chanting the popular chant from 1991, in widespread demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza in support of Saddam, benefactor of the families of suicide bombers, (and bin Laden, according to Ynet). It looks like they will be disappointed this time around, no dancing on the rooftops. Gil has more links on this and Allison sums it up nicely from her Unsealed Room.
Once again, I woke up surprised and grateful this morning following another quiet night. This groggy early morning waking-up sleepiness is a welcome sensation. It means nothing happened again.
For months, no, years, we've been waiting for this. For months everyone has been saying that, this time, we'll not be involved, do not fear. But we are in possession of insecurities and lingering anxieties from the last Gulf War when we were targeted night after night, completely unprovoked, especially here in Tel Aviv, just spitting distance from IDF headquarters. Back then the sound of a motorbike resembling the beginning of an air raid siren continued to make our hearts beat faster months after it was over.
This is this war. So even though my heart reacted with instinctive fear when they let us hear the sirens in Kuwait on TV the day before yesterday, that is there and I am here. And here all is quiet.
I awoke with the pictures in my mind of the immense numbers of coalition troops moving in a planned and orderly fashion through the desert and with a feeling of amazement, tremendous respect and, yes, Awe. I am grateful to be on the right side of the Shock for once. I'm just relieved it's not us being shocked.
Yes, I'm sorry for the Iraqis, I know the terror they are experiencing. I feel no hatred for them. On the contrary, I feel a great deal of compassion, even though I realize they are not going to love Israel and Israelis any more after this is over. Probably even less.
* * * *
Andromeda suggests that problems accessing Salam can be overcome by browsing dearraed.blogspot. I've tried it and it works.
Friday, March 21, 2003
Okay this is enough!
I am not in Iraq. I am not being bombed right now. I am in central Tel Aviv, Israel. All is quiet. I admit, my gas mask and those of my husband and daughters are ready by the door of our apartment for rapid removal to the sealed security room on our floor, should we be awoken in the night by a missile attack. But the danger of this happening is low and is decreasing as time goes on, thanks to Coalition forces operating in Western Iraq and because this war really has nothing to do with us.
I welcome all of my many new visitors. I'm really happy to see you all. Please come in and feel welcome to explore my humble abode. The water is on the boil. Do you take sugar with your coffee?
But you see, you've come to the wrong place. Nothing is happening here. You might like to go over to Salam's. That's were the action is.
And for the latest update from him, check out Diane (if you didn't come from her in the first place).
I hope all you Israelis have got your radios set on the silent station for the weekend like Head Rabbi Lau instructed!
By the way, there was the usual amount of cars near work this morning and when I got out of work this afternoon. I had to drive round a bit to find a parking spot, same as usual. But the streets were much emptier than usual. People have obviously stayed in town, but they're keeping indoors.
I don't think there will be any missiles either, but you know how it is. A mother gets worried. Actually I'm much less worried than I expected to be. Still we had everything ready for the dash to the security room, in the middle of the night. I notice Bish forgot about the silent radio station last night when he went to bed after me. The night before we had a fight about it. I said that it's unnecessary and if he uses my bedside clock radio I won't wake on time for work. I need it to wake me up.
Last night I slept beautifully, always appreciated more when you half expect a loud and unpleasant walk-up call in the middle of the night!
I wonder what parking will be like near work. Fridays and Saturdays are usually difficult in parking terms because the people who live round there don't vacate their spaces by going to work themselves. This will be a good indication of how many people have left town. As far as I can see from the window, parking round here is pretty normal. I live on the junction of two busy main Tel Aviv roads so this is a good indication.
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Youngest’s piano teacher says Tel Aviv streets are completely empty. She says her Thursday evening concert is going on as usual at the conservatorium. Good for them!
No such luck
I rang my boss for an answer about the weekend. He said that on principal, they’ve decided that mothers won’t be working over the weekend, but he’s got a real problem on Friday between 8am and 4pm and could I please…
Bish absolutely refuses to go without me. So once again I have unpacked our bags. Since this happens so often when we plan to go to our little hideout in Mitzpe Ramon, I’m used to the feeling of disappointment.
There are some good sides to not going. For one thing, Bish will get to see the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball game this evening. Our little apartment in Mitzpe Ramon does not boast a television. Or a radio for that matter, but we would have taken one this time. And I’ll be able to catch up with the laundry.
We won’t bother to get the girls up for school tomorrow. I’ll be home tomorrow afternoon. We might decide to go then.
Those reporters in Kuwait with their gas masks on look so silly. What good do they think the mask will do of they’re standing outside in thin shirts with no additional protection?
I feel very spoilt in my relative safety, writing about what’s happening here when American, British and other soldiers are going to get killed over there.
A friend of mine has some important job in times of emergency. He was one of very few Israelis who got to meet some of the US military that are in Israel - Patriot operators, I think. He confessed being very impressed with them and how professional and businesslike they were. I’ve been hearing things like this a lot. A lot of people here are currently completely in awe with US soldiers as they are coming over on the media, serious, professional, disciplined. Complaining is often the national pastime over here, and people are pointing out the US soldiers’ complete lack of it.
Furthermore, a lot of people here are expressing empathy for the Iraqi people and what they are about to endure. I too am checking up on Salam all the time.
So excuse me if I sound like a spoilt brat. I’m just writing what I see and feel.
I’m cheesed off with hysterical parents. Quite a lot of kids from Youngest’s class (second grade) came to school and they studied nicely as usual. However, only eight of Eldest’s classmates (sixth grade) came (including Eldest). Those that did come didn’t want to stay of course “It’s not fair, blah blah blah”. Damn those other parents. I really see no justification for all this fuss. Business as usual, that’s the healthiest way, I think.
I might be able to get off this weekend after all and go down to Mitzpe Ramon with Bish and the girls, but I’ll only know later on.
Are people carrying masks in Tel Aviv as requested? Well, I didn’t get around very much today, but from the short drive from home to work and back I’d say so so. Some with, some without. I didn’t notice any difference in the amount of traffic in the city or in vacant parking places lining the sidewalks. In 1991 one of the best things was the abundance of parking in Tel Aviv, after everyone left town. Too bad I didn’t have a car back then. Of course, this was following the missile attacks. Most people don’t think we’re going to get any this time.
I don’t think that the fact that scuds having been launched against Kuwait really increases the likelihood of our getting them too, but it does make people feel a bit uneasier.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Bish wants to go to Mitzpe Ramon with the girls tomorrow afternoon for the weekend, but doesn’t want to leave me on my own here. Isn’t that sweet? Will someone please tell him I’m quite happy to be left here on my own? I’ll be able to raid the chocolate drawer freely. Hmm, maybe that’s why he doesn’t want me here on my own.
Gas masks time
Just as I was trying to get Youngest to start getting ready for her shower, they announced that we must open the gas mask kits and try them on. Youngest’s special mask completely baffled me. Bish had to go out and forgot to put on his cell phone as usual, so I couldn’t ask him for his advice. The Home Front Command phone line was continually engaged (duh). It took me about half an hour to work it out and dare try it on her. I mainly dithered about trying out the battery-operated pump thingy and then about opening the filter so as not to waste it, but without the filter and the pump you can’t try it on at all. Don’t ask. She hated it, poor thing. I don’t blame her. It says here to keep the masks fitted with the filter. Seeing as I’m sending the girls to school tomorrow, and if necessary their teachers are going to have to help thirty odd children with the masks (if all the kids go to school, which is unlikely), I thought it wiser to leave their rather complicated children’s masks fitted out with the filter, than trust their teachers to have time to fiddle with them for them.
We’ve got to carry the masks everywhere from now on, kids included. This means I have to send Youngest (not yet 8 years-old) to school with an atropin shot in her gas mask box. Is this wise? Bish says I shouldn't worry. I've warned the girls they mustn't touch the atropin and mustn't attempt to put on the masks without grown ups. Eldest seems so unhappy about the whole mask thing that I don't think she'd dream of putting it on by herself.
They’ve also announced that the silent radio station will start working soon (Hebrew link). This is a silent radio broadcast that allows us to sleep with the radio on. This way we can catch the very first code announcing a missile attack originally meant to alert the people who work the air raid sirens. It was a great help in 1991 because you didn’t get much warning in those days and there wasn’t much time to get into your sealed room, air raid shelter or whatever and this way you got a few precious extra seconds.
Nothing will probably happen here, but still…
Schools will be open tomorrow. Bish and I both have to work. It looks like I’m going to have to work over the weekend too. My job has some sort of significance in a time of emergency and I can’t just stay off. Bish’s mother is also very busy in her capacity as organizer of volunteers for the Home Front Command in her town. When I rang her cell phone this morning, she pressed to accept the call but didn’t answer. I could hear her talking in the middle of what sounded like a pretty important meeting. It sounded like they were making last minute logistic plans.
All these things taken into account, Mitzpe Ramon is out of the question for the time being. Bish would rather the girls were there. I’m more an advocate of routine. It doesn’t matter either way because we can’t go or send them. At least we have a good security room here in Tel Aviv. Much better than the place we were living last time. Bish is talking about going down with the girls (and without me) for the weekend.
I think a lot of parents won’t be sending their kids to school tomorrow, which could be a good thing, because it will be easier for the teachers to organize the kids that do show up (like mine) in the secure rooms if necessary. Both my girls’ teachers don’t have kids of their own, so there won’t be a danger of their not coming. The missiles, if they arrive, will most likely be coming in the night anyway. I hope they do, because the sealed room on my floor at work is so pathetic, I reckon it’ll be just as safe to stay in my own office, or make a dash for the good sealed room downstairs at the front.
I don’t like the idea of not having the girls with me at home all the time. But this is just the way it has to be. I do think keeping to routine is better for the girls psychologically. The kids who will go to school will probably have a lot of fun, especially if there are not a lot of them, because there will probably be a special intimate atmosphere. Eldest is trying to persuade me to let her stay home. She reasons that they won't get any studying done so why bother. No way is she staying home alone tomorrow!
Another member of my family, who will remain unnamed, has prepared for war by buying earplugs and an extra tin of baked beans. This person has no intention of letting any silly old missile attack spoil his/her beauty sleep. That’s the spirit! If I didn’t have any kids I‘d probably do the same. Lucky devil!
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
It doesn't get more surreal than this. Organizing the security room, we can clearly hear the neighbors on the floors above and below organizing theirs too. This building has sixteen floors. This must be going on all the way up. At one point the neighbors from the floor above come down to visit us and tell us that in 1991 the neighbors all chatted and passed verbal messages between the floors.
The security room is all ready with chairs, cushions, food, water, radio, games, first-aid kit... Gas masks and evacuation bags are all ready in a big bag by our apartment door. Our neighbor says she'll bring a TV. She's gone to take her elderly mother her gas mask.
Eldest is starting to be nervous. She says it's getting too real, what with preparing the security room, and picking out games to put there. I explain to her that it's mainly a matter of taking precautions. I do believe it's unlikely that we will need to use the room, or that anything will happen to us even if missiles are launched towards Israel, but it's better to know we are ready. I am more nervous that the war will not go as smoothly as the US hopes, than about Israel being involved. The Frog feels differently. Well, it doesn't really matter what we imagine will happen, as long as we are ready. We'll know soon enough.
Everyone is hoping the rain that started this afternoon will keep up. Rain is good for dispersing gas, should it arrive.
Update (11pm): Eldest just came looking for her inhaler. She hasn't needed it for months and months, even though we have had this cold rainy winter. Lucky I'd already packed an inhaler in her evacuation bag and there's one in the first-aid kit. It's also fortunate that she still has the kid's mask with the pump, which is easier to breathe with.
Here we go, here we go, here we go, here we go, here we go, here we go, here we go, here we go, here we go
Thank you Lynn B. and Haggai for taking the time to e-mail me and tell me that it's called a pre-nuptial agreement. I had thought of that but didn't think it suitable. The agreement we signed was a monetary agreement between two people, not necessarily between a couple planning to enter any sort of marital style arrangement. Another reason it didn't seem appropriate was the connotation I have, probably the result of watching too many crumby American suspense movies (No offense. I don't think all American suspense movies are crumby. You have to admit some are, though), of a pre-nuptial agreement being something to do with scheming opportunists marrying millionaires while harboring dark ideas of murder and easy money (Or something on the lines of that tacky fat blond woman whom I have seen momentarily on American TV shows while zapping. Am I right in supposing that her late husband didn't find such an agreement necessary?).
This could serve as a taste of how Hollywood colors the way non-Americans perceive the US, in case you guys were wondering why you aren't so very popular in certain corners of the world. Us foreigners probably get a pretty warped view of life in America (What? Don’t all Americans look like Michelle Pfeifer?).
Yesterday I met up with some old school pals, who have returned to live in Israel after many years in various parts of North America. They pointed out how hard it is for them in Israel to reach the standard of living they had enjoyed effortlessly in the US and Canada. I'm fortunate I don't have to make any such comparisons, never having lived or worked anywhere but in Israel (besides a few years in infanthood and early childhood). It's maybe easier to appreciate and enjoy what you do have if you don't have high expectations.
Treasury Minister Netanyahu announced new economic steps yesterday including the plan to fire around two thousand government workers this year (and another two thousand next year) and an average cut of 8% in governmental salaries. Sounds the right thing to do to me, the question is if he’ll manage to get it past the Histadrut (union). I only hope I'm not one of the two (or four) thousand.
Netanyahu's timing was impeccable. The whole thing is getting far less media attention than if everyone wasn't more interested in what's going to happen in Iraq.
And if we're on the subject of war with Iraq, I've come to the conclusion that this must be the war most-talked-about-in-advance in all of history.
Anyway, the latest is, fresh from this morning, that we're to prepare the secure rooms for use already. There was widespread speculation at my workplace this morning that tonight’s the night. Well, those of you who are in America will maybe get to see it start live on TV this evening. I'll be asleep in bed, thank you very much, unless rudely awoken by an air raid siren.
I had to work till 1 am last night for reasons unrelated to the war. Today I came home from work early because it's Purim. Now I'm going to bed for a little afternoon schloff (before I drop - I didn't get much sleep last night). When I get up, we'll start moving stuff into the security room.
Monday, March 17, 2003
The London Times says Israeli commandos have operated in Western Iraq, in addition to American and British forces there, who are apparently operating out of Jordan.
I must get this.
When Bish and I got married (back in the year dot) we weren’t very happy about the idea of playing into the hands of the ultra-orthodox by being married by the Rabbinate. We played with the idea of going to Cyprus or Britain for a civil wedding. In the end we went ahead with the whole orthodox shaboom, so as not to do our parents out of the pleasure of a wedding celebration with all their friends and family. Furthermore, a civil marriage would have somewhat complicated the issue of taking out the (very small but still necessary) state-sponsored mortgage we were entitled to (not a lot - we would have got it, it would just have taken longer to organize and we didn’t have time, for various technical reasons). The fact that we really couldn’t afford any trips abroad also helped the decision. I’m glad we did go ahead with an orthodox Jewish wedding, although I still don’t appreciate not having had a choice.
In those days, people were starting to be aware of the idea of a monetary relations agreement between couples (whether married or in a long term relationship). I’m not sure if I’ve translated the term correctly. In Hebrew it’s Heskem Yahasei Mamon. Bish and I had read about this a few months before the wedding and decided it would be a good idea. Of course, being us, we forgot about it and remembered three days before the night (Weddings in Israel are usually at night, preferably on a Tuesday which is deemed a lucky day because during the seven days of creation God looked at his work every day and saw it was good. On Tuesday this happened not once but twice). So we spent the three days running up to the wedding sitting with our lawyer planning our divorce. Down to the tiniest of details. This was not very pleasant (What am I talking about? It was pure hell.), but at least we knew where we stood.
Last night I packed evacuation bags for us all, according to the Home Front Command booklet (Do I really have to link to this again?). It felt very much the same as planning our divorce all those years ago. Trying to visualize the worst so as to be prepared, hoping the preparations would not have to be utilized.
My mother’s illness and death have taught me you can’t ever really prepare for the worst.
I spent most of the evening searching, unsuccessfully, for Bish’s inoculation booklet. Do you think I’m being a bit obsessive?
Bish prepared the "security room" with plastic sheeting for sealing (It's quite an old building by Israeli standards - today built-in sealing is part of the requirements).
Sunday, March 16, 2003
Wait! It’s too soon. I’m not quite ready yet. Tomorrow is very inconvenient. Couldn’t we just…
[Bish thinks it's maybe time to prepare the security room]
My humble suggestion in answer to Beth’s query: (“Why are we going to war with Iraq at all? Why not just move in with a surgical strike and kill Saddam Hussein, and then see if the country falls peacefully?”)
Because there would be a blood bath between the different ethnic groups, for a start. There's a lot of revenge coming to a lot of people. A temporary military occupation is necessary to prevent this and to help create (attempt to create?) a more responsible alternative style of government. Remember the WMD Iraq still has? Does the US want it falling into the hands of another bunch of thugs or does the US want it destroyed?
So the girls went off to school today in their Purim finery (the next three days are holidays so the kids celebrate at school today, although Purim day actually falls on Tuesday). Youngest as a pink fairy and Eldest as a black and green witch (coupled up with best friend who was a black and purple witch). Nothing that allowed me much creativity this year, but they were happy, sort of. As grown ups we look at all the kids in their shiny colorful costumes and think what fun they’re having, but there is a lot of tension in it, competitiveness, bashfulness. They usually don't enjoy actually being dressed up as much as the planning and anticipating. At least the weather kept fine. When it rains it’s very inconvenient because the costumes don’t usually allow for sweaters, coats and umbrellas.
The jokes are all about which masks we’ll be wearing this Purim. Last Gulf War Purim came just at the end of the war and a lot of people went to Purim parties with their gas masks all decorated. Since 1991 Purim has changed its flavor somewhat, or is it just me growing older? Many important events have been burnt into our memories as part of Purim. Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of worshippers in the Hebron Cave of Machpela in 1994 was the first. Then came the terrorist attack at Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv in 1996. A year later, in 1997, it was the terrorist attack in the Apropo Cafe in Tel Aviv. There could be more, but these are the things that automatically come to mind.
So people get nervous at Purim. This is life. The fun and the tragic forever intertwined. The fear of terrorist attacks is such that I have never taken my girls to Purim parades or outdoor street parties. I always loved the Tel Aviv Purim Parade (called Adloyada - “ad de lo yada” means “until not knowing”. You are meant to be so happy in Purim as to be incapable of knowing anything – alcohol is encouraged), and I once took my nephew when he was a baby (he’s now in high school). They haven’t had it in Tel Aviv for a few years. I think the last one here was in 1998. They have one in Holon, a large satellite town just South of Tel Aviv, and in other smaller towns.
[Israeli PM Ben Gurion meeting Egyptian president Nasser - wishful thinking in the Tel Aviv “Adloyada” of 1956]
I can hear happy music coming from the school Purimon. When I took Youngest I noticed the teachers seemed to be having the most fun. They were all dressed as Little Red Riding Hood.
From Naomi Ragen’s Mailing list:
They arrived from Auschwitz in several groups. Each group counted about twenty people. Of course, they didn't look like people. They looked more like walking skeletons. They had triangular faces with pointed chins, and sunken cheeks. Even the lips had shrunken to thin blue lines. The only prominent feature were their eyes; they were unusually large and with a strange sheen, almost luminous. They were known in concentration camp slang, as ‘Musselman’. That was usually the last stage before death. They spoke Yiddish with an accent, which to us Lithuanian Jews, sounded strange. They told us that they came from the ghetto of Lodz through Auschwitz,
before they were sent to our camp. Our camp was known as the ‘Outer camp of Dachau, number 10’ and it was situated near the picturesque town of Utting, by lake Amersee.
Our camp was sitting in the middle of a small forest with surrounding green meadows and beautiful landscapes.
I remember the day when we were brought there, I thought to myself, ‘How can anything bad happen to us among all this beauty’? I soon found out that the beauty was in the landscape only. The Germans in charge of us were sadists and murderers.
The Lodz people fell into the same deceptive trap. They thought that after Auschwitz, our camp looked like paradise. Most of them died soon after their arrival, from hard labor, beatings and starvation, still they preferred to die here than in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. It was from them that we heard the incredible stories of gas chambers,
and crematoriums, where thousands of our people were murdered every day. Some of them told us that they were standing naked before the gas chambers when they were suddenly ordered to get dressed and were sent to our camp. The Germans must have been really desperate for workers to send these walking skeletons all the way from Poland.
Around March 1945, there were only a few of them left alive. One of them was known as ‘Chaim the Rabbi’. We never found out whether he was actually a rabbi, but he always washed his hands and made a bracha before eating. He knew the dates of the Jewish calendar, and also knew all the prayers by heart. From time to time when the Germans were not looking, he would invite us to participate in the
Our Jewish camp commander, Burgin, heard about him and tried to get him easier jobs. Most people died when they had to carry a hundred pounds of cement sacks on their backs, or other chores of heavy labor. He wouldn’t have lasted a day on a job like this. He once told me that if he would survive he would get married and have at least a dozen children.
Around the middle of March, we were given a day off. It was a Sunday. The camp was covered with snow, but here and there the first signs of spring was in the air. We heard vague rumors of the American break through into Germany and a glimmer of hope was kindled in our hearts. After breakfast, consisting of a slice of moldy bread, a tiny piece of margarine, and brown water, known as ‘Ersatz Coffee’, we returned to our barrack to get some extra sleep.
Suddenly we noticed ‘Chaim the Rabbi’ standing in the snow and shouting “ Haman to the gallows! Haman to the gallows!” On his head he had a paper crown made of a cement sack, and he was draped in a blanket which had cut out stars from the same paper attached to it.
We stood like petrified before this strange apparition, barely able to trust our eyes, while he performed a dance in the snow, singing: “I am Achashwerosch, Achashwerosh, the king of the Persians.” Then he stood still straightened himself out, chin pointed to the sky, his right arm extended in an imperial gesture and shouted:
“Haman to the gallows! Haman to the gallows! And when I say Haman to the gallows, we all know which Haman we are talking about!” We were sure that he has lost his wits, as so many did in these impossible times. By now there was about fifty of us standing gaping at the “Rabbi”, when he said: “Yiidden wos iz mit ajch! Haint is Purim, lomir shpilen a purim shpil!” “Fellow Jews, what is the matter with you?! today is Purim, let us play a Purim Shpil!” Then it dawned on us that back home, a million years ago, this was the time of the year when we children were dressing up for Purim, playing, and eating ‘Hamanetaschen’. It took the ‘Rabbi’ to remember the exact date by the Jewish calendar when Purim was. We hardly knew what day it was.
He then divided the roles of Ester Hamalka, Mordechai, Vashti and Haman among the onlookers.I was honored to receive the role of Mordechai, and we all ended up dancing in the snow. And so we had our Purim Shpil in Dachau. But that was not the end of the story. The “Rabbi” promised us that we will get today our ‘Shalach Manot’, and we thought that it was hardly likely to happen.
But, miracle of miracles, the same afternoon, a delegation of the International Red Cross, came to the camp. It was the first time that they bothered about us. Still, we welcomed them with open arms, because they brought us the “Shalach Manot” the ‘Rabbi’ promised. Each one of us received a parcel, containing, a tin of sweet condensed milk, a small bar of chocolate, a box of sugar cubes, and a pack of cigarettes. It is impossible to describe our joy! Here we were starving to death as suddenly on Purim, we received these heavenly gifts. Since then we never doubted the ‘Rabbi’ anymore.
His prediction also came true. Two months later ‘Hamman-Hitler’ went to the gallows, and shot himself in Berlin, while we, those of us who were still alive, were rescued by the American army, on May 2, 1945. I lost track of the ‘Rabbi’ on our ‘Death March’, from Dachau to Tyrol, but I hope that he survived and had many children as he always wanted. I always remember him when Purim comes around, for the unforgettable ‘Purim Shpil’ in Dachau.
Purim. ‘Yud Daled, Adar.’
March 16, 2003
Saturday, March 15, 2003
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.
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.