Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Eldest and I are flying to Amsterdam far to early tomorrow morning. See you all next week, Wednesday-ish.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Cross Country
In high school, I was on my school's cross-country running team for a while. I was good at running long distance and I liked it, but I wasn't crazy about cross-country.

Running long distance track is like meditation. Once you have found your pace, you are free. Your mind soon shuts down and all you are aware of is your steady breath, the feel of your body movements, and the sound of your feet as they hit the ground. This is true for practice. Races have a different energy, but still, the steadiness, the sound of the footfalls, and your breath, always your breath.

I didn't like team practice, although I liked running in the evenings, on my own. They told me I had good style, which I found flattering, but I wasn't really very interested. Running in school was mainly an excuse to get out of games. When they started playing basketball or volleyball or something, I would tell the teacher that I was going out to run. She was quite happy with this because she needed me for races and I didn’t come to team practice.

Cross-country races were no fun because you couldn't get into a steady pace. There were constant surprises along the route, ups and downs, sandy bits, muddy bits, sun, heat, rain (the three and a half days of rain a year always seemed to fall on race days), missing the arrow and getting lost. You never knew what you were in for. And I missed that soothing, calming, steady awareness of my breath. I wasn't really the sporty type and always felt a bit out of place at these sweaty, dusty competitive sports events. I tried to skive off such events at one point, but my teacher lived in my neighborhood, right on my route to the bus stop, and curiously she always just happened to be coming out when I tried to sneak past.

* * * *

It would be nice if life could be like track. Someone would just show us the right direction and we'd be off, like the Energizer Bunny. But life is more like cross-country. You never know what's round the next corner or over the next hill. It's difficult to build up a steady pace. You have to be alert, ready for whatever surprises may lay in your path. You can't switch off and just run.

Another thing about cross-country is, you see, that there are no short cuts and no packing it in. You can't just give up in the middle and cut across the track towards the changing rooms should you decide, in your exhaustion, that you made a mistake and this is not for you. However tough it gets, however tired, broken, wounded, and desperate you are, you must finish the course. It requires stamina and flexibility and a dogged determination. And, unlike track, it's a team effort.

But somehow most people seem to think we have a right to run track. They think normal life involves moving along a steady, foreseeable course.

People crave predictability. People need a feeling of control. But these are illusions. They do not exist. Still people try to find quick and easy solutions for complex problems.

We Israelis used to react differently after terrorist attacks. We desperately wanted it to stop and we scrambled for instant fixes, each according to his or her basic beliefs.

Now we know, and we have known for a while, that there are no instant fixes, no quick and easy solutions. Bombing the living daylights out of them, and/or forcing them all onto trucks and dumping the lot of them on the other side of the border, will not bring about the desired impact. Neither will immediate, unilateral withdrawal to the 1967 border, and/or complete, unquestioning capitulation to each and every last Palestinian demand. Sadly, our experiences of recent years have shown us that not even moderation, compassionate dialogue and willingness for true compromise will do the trick. Nothing short of our ceasing to exist will suffice.

Because, as Melanie Phillips says:

...The Palestinians could have had a state when it was offered to the Arabs in 1948; they could have had it any time between 1948 and 1967, when the West Bank was illegally occupied by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt; they could have it after 1967 when Israel offered the conquered territories to the Arabs in return for peace, which was refused; and they could have had it in 2000, when almost all the land was offered again at Taba, and to which the response was the past three years of mass murder by the Palestinians.

In the face of this realization, and the depression and desperation it elicits, cross-country running has turned out to be a good preparation for life. Stamina and flexibility and a dogged determination. And team effort.

The collective experience of the Jewish people, down the centuries, has been like a particularly harsh, never-ending, cross-country event. As a people, we have learnt tenacity and adaptability.

D. thinks the Palestinians have more staying power than us. They don't.

Melanie Phillips has a blog. Goodie. For instance

But instead, victim and victimiser in the Middle East have been stood on their heads. Israel -- whose settlement policy is wrong and morally corrupting, but that is not the fundamental issue here -- has instead been demonised and dehumanised, and blamed for trying to prevent its citizens from being murdered, a defence which is represented as aggression; while the Palestinians' deliberate targeting of the innocents is said to be legitimate or understandable self-defence. It is this denial of truth, logic and history, this grotesque moral inversion, which is driving the violence in the Middle East --which, like all such terrorism, seeks to achieve precisely this kind of reversal in public opinion, in which the Europeans and Americans between them are so hideously complicit.

Thank you, "Tom Paine", for pointing this out.

Writing aids healing. I can bear witness to this, but now it's scientific. We'll have the doctor prescribing blogging soon.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

The Lord God called out to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" He replied, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid."

Genesis 3, 9-10 (From the new translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the traditional Hebrew text)

Last Yom Kippur I fasted to save my mother. It didn't work.

I know I shouldn't have fasted to save my mother. This was fake belief, belief for an end, belief in idols.

I didn't really believe it would save my mother. It was more a matter of being one with her beliefs. Giving more energy to her prayers. Fasting for her because she no longer could. Not that she could eat anything either.

This year I have no patience for God and His fasts.

I know recent obsessions and passions have been a way of coping, of channeling my anger and my frustration elsewhere. Because when I try to look at them and understand them, I always end up staring at my mother's photograph with that familiar block of pain throbbing mercilessly in my heart.

Last Yom Kippur I asked forgiveness from my mother in public. It took me a long time to write. I was very nervous about doing it, but I knew it had to be public. I felt I owed it to her to shout it from the rooftop. Later, towards the end, other things were said in private. I am grateful that she died knowing how I felt about her.

This year I will ask for forgiveness in private.

This year I know who needs my forgiveness and acceptance. I know who needs me to tell her that it is alright to be still feeling the pain; that it is okay to be angry; that it is understandable to be swept away with strong emotions

and that it is natural for her to be hiding from herself. But only for a little while.

Seeing as this is Yom Kippur, it would be a good idea for me to also remind her that being swept away, as a way of coping with pain, has its limits. She must remember that the only true possessions that a person has are his or her actions. She must not get lost.

Gmar Hatima Tova

Saturday, October 04, 2003

A psalm of David, when he fled from his son, Absalom.

O Lord, my foes are so many!
Many are those who attack me;
many say of me,
"There is no deliverance for him through God."
But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, He who holds my head high.
I cry aloud to the Lord,
and he answers me from His holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep and wake again,
for the Lord sustains me.
I have no fear of the myriad forces
arrayed against me on every side.

Psalms 3, 1-7 (From the new translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the traditional Hebrew text)

Still groggy from my Shabbat siesta. Shalom Hanoch's new CD blaring out. "I'm at the end of the world" he sings. There has been another one, Bish says. We don't even bother with the TV anymore. Same pictures.

Haifa. A crowded restaurant. At least 19 dead. On Saturday lunchtime restaurants are packed with families. There will be a lot of children.

I'm taking Youngest out on her bike. She wants to practice for Yom Kippur.

"Stop whining" (Hebrew link), says Ehud Olmert, Minister of Industry and Trade and Vice Prime Minister in the weekend Yediot Aharonot , mainly to the media. I wish they would too.

Update: I know where it is. It's that gas station that we used to drive through on the way to the "Closed Beach" when we were kids. After the gas station we had to go through that little tunnel that went under the railway tracks, which I hated because it smelt bad.

TV is telling of five children among the dead, some of them tiny babies, and of whole families injured.

We have napalm?
Wishful thinking by John Derbyshire - his idea of the perfect war on terror. Via Moe.

Yisrael Ne'eman writes about Media Perceptions.

Following my post of the 23th, Oscar sent me this. I have been meaning to post it but forgot.

I agree with most of what you say, except for one thing. There is a sense in which we are not worse than we were before the Oslo accords. We are now wiser. Lots of people opened their eyes, see reality as it is, and are less inclined to daydream. And more importantly, people do not hate right-wing people so much anymore.

I came back to Jerusalem on August 1998 for two years, after having spent five years abroad, and I was amazed by the hate people professed to Netanyahu and anything related to him. I could understand that some people opposed his views, but I couldn't see why people hated him so much. I mean, I couldn't see anything he did or said that was so terrible. He wanted to move directly to a final settlement with the Palestinians instead of going through all the phases of the Oslo agreement, something that I found reasonable. But people interpreted this as a sign that he did not want peace. He insisted on the "reciprocity" principle, which sounded reasonable to me, but all people around me interpreted this as another sign that he does not want peace. During the elections, when I said that I planned to vote for Netanyahu, people looked at me as if I was joking. They were incapable of conceiving that anybody would vote for him.

But the worse symptom of the state of delusion that the society was in, occurred on a Friday afternoon, while I was driving back from my usual coffee meeting with my friends. It was during the election campaign, and Shlomo Artzi was talking on his radio show about the (admittedly dumb) Likud slogan: manhig hazak le 'am hazak. (A strong leader for a strong people – I.J.). Shlomo Artzi commented that the previous night he was with a couple of Argentine friends of his who told him about the atrocities the military government in Argentina had done during the last dictatorship. In particular, he mentioned the fact that some prisoners (kidnapped by the armed forces) were thrown out of planes to the river, while they were still alive. And these stories came to his mind when he heard people talking about manhig hazak le 'am hazak. This I couldn't take. Hearing the comparison of somebody whom I considered one of the most democratic leaders Israel had, to criminals who did not have any respect for human life persuaded me that there was something really wrong with Shlomo Artzi and people who think like him.

I think things are very different now. Some things are much worse now, as you said. But we know this. And this makes a huge difference. And I definitely prefer the situation today, when people seem to be conscious of what is going on, to the years of blindness and gratuitous hatred.

Friday, October 03, 2003

While torturing Israeli civilian captive, Elhanan Tenenbaum, we are told, his Hizbullah captors tore out all of his teeth. He was not a healthy man before he was kidnapped, we're told, and he's not holding up very well.

Shvuyim are captives. There has been a lot of talk here of Shvuyim lately. In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, talk always turns back to that war, that terrible war. This year this is especially so, because this year is the thirtieth anniversary. This year the reminiscence coincides with negotiations for a prisoner swap. A rather bizarre prisoner swap according to what has been published: One barely alive Israeli and three bodies, for two hundred or so terrorists (Although what the other side is getting hasn't really been published so this is mainly Media speculation, apparently). And what of IAF navigator Ron Arad? Israel is negotiating the release of Hizbullah's Mustafa Dirani, the one man who was directly responsible for his capture and for, at least, the first period of his captivity. Dirani is regarded as the only viable bargaining chip for Ron's release or for attaining information about his whereabouts, or the whereabouts of his body, if he is no longer alive.

Yesterday there was a documentary on channel 10 about the famous IAF flight squadron "201", known as "The One". They had a tough time of it in the Yom Kippur War. They were less prepared than other squadrons and their first missions at the beginning of the war were disastrous. They lost fourteen planes. Seven pilots were killed, and fourteen were taken captive. The ones who fell in Egyptian territory were relatively well treated. Those who found themselves on the ground in Syria weren't so lucky.

So you've got these guys telling their horrifying stories of the torture and cruelty they endured and you're thinking, why bail out? Why not go down with your plane? Is it part of their code of honor, or something, to stay alive? To endure a fate worse than death? Brave men.

Being a shavuy in Israel, a captive, is not some far off notion. Everyone knows someone who was a shavuy. And everyone was in the army and has therefore seriously considered this eventuality at some point or other. The shvuyim are like our own children. We all await their return.

* * * *
Towards the end of the film about the "201" flight squadron, the pilots being interviewed began to speak about certain unnamed pilots' in the squadron who didn't fulfill their duty during the war. There was talk of those who wouldn't fly. And of shellshock that went untreated. Then they spoke of a sort of hearing that was held for one of the pilots by his peers, the other pilots, at some point, to decide if he could remain in the squadron, considering his behavior. His name wasn't given.

This article in Ynet (Hebrew link), quoting a new book about the war, written by Ronen Bergman and Gil Meltzer, leads us to understand that the person in question was actually none other than the squadron commander 'Y'. I will translate a short excerpt:

8th October 1973 – The commander 'Y' disappears
Two days after the beginning of the war, 'Y' returned from (studies in) the USA. But instead of coming straight to the squadron, he went home and stayed there for another two days.

One of the pilots said, "We all liked 'Y' but he wasn't a strong character. When he was on his way to Israel and he heard the entire story about "Model 5" (The Squadron's mission on 6th October which ended in disaster - I.J.) and about all those killed and the other pilots that were hurt, without anyone knowing how they were, he broke. 'Y' wasn't just any squadron commander. He was carrying on his back quite a lot of difficult feelings as a result of another security affair. (From things I have been reading, the affair the pilot is referring to here could very well be the felling of the Libyan civilian airliner (Hebrew link) that mistakenly flew over Sinai in February 1973, and that was feared to be a suicide mission headed for Tel Aviv, WTC style. Although I have no links to support this, and it should therefore be regarded by readers of this as unsubstantiated hearsay, Bish and I have been reading lately on Israeli forums that 'Y' was directly responsible for this occurrence. It has been claimed that he was the pilot in the fighter plane that unsuccessfully attempted to force the airliner to land, with a disastrous result. Only seven survived the ensuing crash. I'll explain why this has come up lately, in a moment – I.J)

"He was also suffering from jetlag and was unwell. At some point, a few people in the squadron, especially the more senior ones, realized that he didn't want to begin flying again. He didn't have a lot of close friends in the squadron, but anyone who could talk to him at home, did so, in an attempt to persuade him to return to the squadron. We tried to persuade him to return immediately to flying and regain his confidence, and feel that it was not the end of the world. …"


On the 8th October he returned to command the squadron (I think this must be a print mistake. Logically, based on the story given here, it should be the 10th – I.J). On the 13th October he flew with Navigator Jetlani on a mission to attack the Damascus International Airport. On the way there, over Bethlehem, they aborted the plane because of a technical problem. During the abortion, 'Y' broke his back and did not return to command the squadron. …

So why is former squadron commander 'Y' of interest in Israel today, and why am I making a point of recounting this story? Because according to Israeli current affairs forums he is Lieutenant Colonel Y. Zemer, number five on the list of signatories of the so-called Pilots' Letter (Hebrew link).

Is it right, I ask myself, that such a man, with such a problematic air force history, should be signing such a letter? He may be a good man. He may mean well. He certainly must have quite a lot on his conscience, poor man. I just don't think he should be signing such a letter, that's all. It is not right. It is a deception.

By the way, two of the pilots have already publicly retracted their signatures, claiming that they misunderstood the meaning of the letter. For some reason, their names remain on the site. Another, the most important and highest ranking of the signatories, Brigadier General Yiftah Spector, argues that the wording of the letter does not call for refusing to serve. He says it is just badly written and therefore people have misunderstood its meaning. (Update: I've just read the letter again. There can be no mistake about its meaning. I think it is quite well written and very clear. I don't get it. Gen. Spector must be hallucinating. This is the English version, I don't like linking to this site but I can't find another English one right now. Note that the list of signatories given here is incomplete. The missing names are those of the pilots among the signatories who are currently employed as El Al pilots and they are chicken. LOL.).

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I missed Allison's birthday. Oops.
Happy Birthday, Allison. Hope you had fun.

[Someone, who will remain nameless, suggested foulplay, but I won't do it. I am a woman of honor (stop laughing).]

I haven't been very well for a few days. Now I'm busy preparing for the trip to Amsterdam. I know, I know, famous last words, but it's not for me. It's Eldest's Bat Mitzva request. We suggested Sinai. Top of her list was, horror of horrors, Paris, but that was where I put my foot down. This is not the time, I said. So Amsterdam it is. I'm quite excited about it. Mother and daughter thing and all that.

Back to the not being well, it seems like everyone in Israel is under the weather. When this happens, I always get this funny feeling that it must be biological warfare. Everyone can't be unwell all together just like that. Someone must be slipping something into our water.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Bat Mitzva
My baby is 12 today. Only yesterday she was gazing at me with clear black eyes, a tiny bundle of starched green cotton with a head of black hair, in the nurse's arms.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Reeling? Hardly
I'd say: slightly irritated at the media for giving this issue (a fringe phenomenon) such a lot of unnecessary exposure, better describes my feelings. I am referring to the so-called IAF pilots' letter, of course. It doesn't seem like a very serious endeavor. 27 ex-pilots and reservists aren't very impressive. What about the hundreds (I'm not aware of IAF data, and if I was I wouldn't be writing it here, but it could very well be thousands for all I know) who didn't sign? It seems one of them has already changed his mind (Hebrew link).

Bish has pointed out some interesting things with regard to the letter (they are all apparently ex-IAF pilots, a few of them still do reserve duty, although I've read that hardly any (Thank you, Allison for the link) were actually called to do any of the missions they are objecting to, so their refusal is actually academic). I still have to do some research, organize my thoughts about some of the information he has uncovered and find relevant links, but the one thing that stands out is that one of the ringleaders is none other than Yigal Shohat, husband of the infamous Orit Shohat, the far left wing pain in the neck that writes in Haaretz and its Tel Aviv local rag Ha'ir. I've discussed her before. Her husband is a known refusenik (Hebrew link, don't be sorry, it's a rather uninspiring and uninteresting speech given by him in Tel Aviv on 9th January 2002 about the merits of refusing). This couple's well-publicized sentiments emboldened Orit's mother, famous Israeli singer of old, eighty-something-year-old Yaffa Yarkoni, into making a fool of herself by taking a public stand in favor of the refuseniks a while ago. This provoked much mirth and merriment at the time, because Ms. Yarkoni is not famous for her brains or for her common sense. Or for her voice, for that matter. Every time I hear Shlomo Gronich sing Bab-el-Wad I cry. I just can't help it. Her rendition, on the other hand, (the original, sadly) makes me cringe. Oh well, they say she was pretty when she was young.

Yigal Shohat's F-4E Phantom II was apparently felled by an Egyptian SAM (scroll down and down and down) on 3rd August 1970 during the War of Attrition. The crew was taken prisoner and Shohat's co—pilot, Moshe Goldwasser, was killed in captivity. Bish says Shohat lost a leg, but I can't find a link.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Happy Birthday, Bish my love.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Shana Tova
May the coming year bring many blessings to us all.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Arafat – not exactly a self-made man
DogfightAtBankstown links to this article in WSJ about how the KGB invented Arafat. Riveting stuff. The Straightjacketed Saint over at Dogfight etc. attributes it to Andrew Sullivan for some reason, but I can't find anything about it on his blog and he didn't write it. The guy who wrote it is Ion Mihai Pacepa, a Rumanian who was the highest ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc, or so says WSJ.

Update: The Saint has rectified: Andrew Sullivan linked to this on the 23rd. His permalinks seem to be inaccurate (this can happen to big important bloggers and not just to us mere mortals?).

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Apropos the splendiferous festivities on the wondrous occasion of Shimon Peres' eightieth birthday, for which I paid but wasn't on the guest list:

Things are far worse now than they were before the Oslo Accords, for us and for the Palestinians. I am saying this as one who was once a staunch supporter of these accords. Things are not worse because terrorism takes its daily toll on ordinary Israelis and because life for the Palestinians is unbearable in the shadow of the Israeli tanks. Things are worse because where there was once hope for a better future for Israelis and the Palestinians living here alongside us, now there is none.

My belief in Oslo was based on my personal acquaintance with some of these local Palestinians. They wanted a bit of what we had. They wanted to be able to run their lives themselves. I wanted it for them too. So did most of my friends. But it never happened. What happened was that for various inner-Palestinian political reasons they couldn't accept a leadership other than that of Arafat and his cronies. And they got it. Some of them said, quietly, that what they got was far worse than what they had before. Israeli rule was exchanged for the rule of Palestinians who came from without ("Tunisians"), foreigners who knew nothing of Israel and the life the local Palestinians had been watching and wanted a piece of. They enforced their rule over the local Palestinians brutally. Their torture chambers made Israel's prisons seem like summer camps. Furthermore, they saw no need to learn from Israel's example of proper administration. And most of all, they hadn't internalized what the local Palestinians had: That Israel and the Israelis weren't going anywhere, and it would be better to get along with them and compromise, compromise.

They came, these outsiders, and commenced poisoning the few sweet water wells that they found. Palestinian society is a young society, and children are more susceptible to indoctrination. An old-new hope was fuelled, a completely unrealistic but very compelling and seductive hope, not of coexistence and peace with Israel, but of ridding this land of its usurpers.

Yes, I know, the failure of Oslo was not one sided. Israel wasn't lilywhite, either. But while support for a Palestinian state among regular Israelis increased steadily all through the Oslo years, with many of my right-wing friends, formerly opposed to Oslo, voting for Ehud Barak and his left-wing government in 1999, Palestinian leadership was just as steadily instilling among regular Palestinians the belief that Israel was weak and destructible.

It is a rather dreamlike belief of some in Israel that the deportation of Arafat, a completely justified action given that he broke every promise and agreement he made in order to get in, but maybe not very wise, will somehow turn back the wheel and obliterate the adverse results of Oslo. It won't, of course. The wells have been poisoned, their water no longer fit for human consumption. It will take years and years for the water in them to be clear and sweet again, if ever.

For the same reason, Israelis, who believe that talks can begin again where they stopped as if nothing has happened during the last three years, are just as deluded.

So I don't mind that I wasn't invited to Shimon Peres' egotistic celebrations. I wouldn't have gone even if I had been the guest of honor. His wonderful vision of the New Middle East, which I still yearn for, is further away than ever.

I still believe in compromise, compromise, but never in suicide, suicide.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

An admission of guilt
Okay, I can't stand it any more. I just have to come clean. I'm feeling guilty about what I wrote about the Shari Arison thing here and here (on the comments). Sometimes I get carried away.

Please don't hate me for it. I couldn't take it.

We-e-ell, you can hate me a little bit if it will make you really happy.

Traveling in a convoy
I didn't really explain the Hevr'e thing and a Canadian lady on Michael J. Totten's comments took offense. She also lives in a community, she said. But the Hevr'e is not a community. It's more of a clannishness of people who aren't necessarily related, a sort of sticky group mentality. It's blunt and intrusive and at times vulgar. It's loud and warm and protective. It's an often-overbearing familiarity that automatically makes every Yitzhak an Itzik, and every Avraham an Avi. It's often extremely embarrassing and must seem completely Neanderthal to the outsider. But it functions as a powerful support group when the going gets rough.

Many people here regularly meet up with their Hevr'e from high school, from the youth movement, and above all, of course, from the army unit. Even when everyone has long gone their different ways. Even after twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years. Some meet once a year, some once a month. People will come from all over the country and sometimes from abroad too. Parents, siblings, widows, widowers and children of those of the Hevr'e who were killed are often part of these meetings too.

The Israeli Hevr'e mentality, I'm told, is particularly noticeable to those traveling in the Far East. Israelis, who go there en masse after the army, apparently travel in large, noisy, rather badly behaved groups. These groups are created largely over there. The first thing the kids do when they land is look for other Israelis. A friend of mine told me that he was once spending the night in a remote village in the Himmalayas with four other non-Israeli hikers he had not previously met. "You can't be an Israeli," One of them asserted. "You're on your own." It is no coincidence that, out of the eight tourists kidnapped last week in Colombia, four were Israelis (you'll remember that another two Israelis were released) while the other four were of other nationalities (two Brits, a German and a Spaniard).

Even a natural loner like myself, who often stays at a safe distance from the happy-go-lucky rowdiness of the Hevr'e, finds herself feeling a little lonely in its absence.

A popular Israeli book for pre-schoolers by Lewin Kipnis tells the story of The Three Butterflies (It seems to be out of print. We had our copy passed down to us from Our Sis's boys). A butterfly goes out to play, fluttering about in the meadow. After a while another butterfly appears and they decide to play together. Then another one comes and all three are fluttering about together in the meadow. Suddenly it begins to rain and the three butterflies start looking for cover. They reach a flower and ask to take cover inside it. The flower agrees but says it only has room for one butterfly. The butterflies say indignantly that they are friends and they won't be separated, and they fly away. This happens twice more. Each time they reach a flower, which agrees to give refuge to just one butterfly, and they refuse to be parted. In the end, they manage to survive the rain. The sun comes out and they go back to fluttering happily around the meadow. They have survived the rain and have stuck together, without any one of them taking the opportunity to save itself by deserting its friends.

Notice that the butterflies' acquaintance is fleeting, but when the rain starts, they have a strong feeling of mutual responsibility. This is the essence of the Hevr'e.

There was a time when I was obliged to read this story to my girls on a daily basis. Back then the story's message used to annoy me. I reckoned that if each butterfly had just gone into one of the flowers all three would have been less endangered. Their chances of personal survival would have been greater. I disliked this herd mentality, and what I saw as preparing the kids for the army before they could read. Today I am more reconciled to this thinking. It is probably the survival tactic that has got us this far. Yes, there is sometimes something idiotic and obstinate in putting friendship first. But that is the Hevr'e. And it is an indispensable part of the Israeli way of life, like it or not.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

The bi-national state
In Friday's Yediot Aharonot, Shlomo Avineri explains why a bi-national state is not a feasible solution. We often hear this idea from people from outside of the region who have no idea what they're talking about. Avineri discusses the tiny percentage of Israelis who believe in this solution. I believe this issue is important enough for me to make the effort of translating the article myself. So here it is

Fata Morgana
Shlomo Avineri

The difficulties of renewing the peace process, as well as the stubbornness of the Palestinian opposition to reconciliation with Israel as a Jewish state, have of late brought some Israelis to again bring up the idea of a bi-national state as an alternative solution to the concept of "Two States for Two Peoples", that has been for many years the guideline of the Israeli left.

This is proven quack medicine. But before we turn to analyzing the issue itself, we should first say a few words about the ideological background of those who bring up such notions.

These belong mainly to two kinds: The first kind is made up of the remnants of the old anti-Zionist left: Veterans of the Communist Party, members of "Matzpen" and Trotskyite or Maoist cells. As far as they are concerned, the idea of a bi-national state is nothing new, because they have always disagreed with the right of Jewish self-definition, seeing Zionism as an extension of Western Imperialism and opposing the very existence of the State of Israel. The pathetic aspect of their viewpoint is that after their vision of a Communist Brotherhood of Nations descended into the Stalinist horror and the Soviet Union itself collapsed, all that remains of their old ideology is the opposition to the existence of the State of Israel. It can be said of them, just as Carl Marx said of the Bourbons, the former kings of France: They have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.

As opposed to them, the other group that advocates the idea of a bi-national state comes from another background, from inside the Zionist left. What has happened to them is that they have simply been broken by the stubbornness and refusal of the Palestinians, as well as their willingness for sacrifice, and have reached the conclusion that, in the face of such determination, Zionism has no chance, and it would be better to give it up. It is painful to witness the process of some of this group being broken, for some of them surely are the salt of the earth. But such a process often takes place in nations facing dangers and difficult challenges.

But beyond that, the thing is that the proposed solution is not feasible.

Simply stated: There is no place in the world where a conflict between two national movements was solved by compressing the two national movements, each clutching at the other’s throat, into the one cauldron of a bi-national state. The main claim of those now bringing up the idea is that the vision of "Two States for Two Peoples" doesn’t work. It’s true – the difficulties are immense. But where has the idea of a bi-national state worked? The supporters of the idea have brought no example of the success of the solution they suggest, because there simply isn’t one. It is easy and elegant to suggest ideas that sound nice and even politically correct: But they can’t be taken seriously, when there is not one successful historical example.

Once the Communist oppression was gone, all the Eastern European attempts at creating bi-national or multi-national frameworks as solutions for national conflicts collapsed: Thus the Soviet Union collapsed, as did Yugoslavia (amid blood and fire), and Czechoslovakia. Even in Cyprus, our neighbor, the idea of a bi-national state was not a success. Canada and Belgium – two veteran bi-national states – are facing great difficulties, in which the last word has not yet been said, even though no one has been murdered or killed there for over 150 years.

The reason for the difficulties is simple – and this is what the supporters of the bi-national state are ignoring. If such a state should be established (assuming that it will be possible to agree on its name), the problems will just have begun:
* How will it be possible to run a state in which half of the population will see the fifteenth of May as a holiday, and the other half as a tragedy, a day of national mourning: What will be celebrated exactly?
* What will be taught in mixed state schools, for instance, about Herzl: Founder of a national movement or western colonialist? What will be taught about the Mufti (of Jerusalem in the period of the British Mandate – I.J.): National hero or collaborator with the Nazis? Or maybe one thing will be taught in the Jewish schools and another in the Arab schools?
* Will it be permitted to name streets after Hovevei Tzion (a group of ninteenth century Jewish settlers – I.J.), Herzl, Bialik (Israel’s national poet – I.J.), Ben Gurion or (heaven help us) Jabotinsky (founder of the right wing Revisionist Party, that provided the ideological basis for the Etzel and the Lehi Organizations – I.J.)? Will roads be named after Izzadin A-Kassam and Haj Amin al-Husseini? Will Zionism Bvd. in Haifa change its name to something "neutral" (Avineri obviously brings this example because this road used to be called UN Bvd. and its name was changed in 1975 when the UN passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism – I.J.)? Or will a parallel road be named "Hamas Bvd.", for the sake of balance?
* What will be taught about the Holocaust? A terrible crime or a Jewish "invention"?
* How will the history of the 1948 war be taught? What will be said in schools about the suicide bombers: Murderers or heroes of the War of Independence?
* If organizations, Jewish or Arab, threatening violent action, will be established, which police force exactly will deal with them?
*If the state has an army, what will it be called exactly? Or maybe there will be two armies, the IDF and the PLA?

The more we continue with these examples, it becomes more and more clear that the slogan "bi-national state" is an empty solution, and worse: A recipe for an internal civil war, maybe bloodier than any of the wars between Israel and Ishmael. Therefore it is no coincidence that the supporters of the bi-national state prefer to talk in slogans and avoid discussing the practical content of their suggestion.

There is room to criticize the policies of the current Israeli government. It is also understandable why there are those whose spirit has been broken. It is only human. But they shouldn't force-feed us with slogans that are both purposefully misleading and full of ignorance.

Cheezcake. Imshin likes.

This is absolutely amazing. A toilet that doesn't use water or chemicals. A dry toilet. I'd never heard of it before. And the Expat says it's available in Israel. Can you imagine how much water can be conserved if this becomes standard one day?

The Frog. In Arabic.

There's an ongoing discussion over at Michael J. Totten's about why Israelis are happier than Canadians, based on the results of different opinion polls. The deduction that Israelis are happier is not really scientifically viable in this instance, because the polls are not comparable, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Everyone in Israel is always amazed with the results of these "happiness" polls. Not just because of terrorism, and the worsening economic situation, but also because everyone's always complaining all the time about how awful everything is and how we've never had it so bad (even though this is not strictly true). And we're such a pressured society, always running around and talking on our cell phones. When do we have time to be happy?

Off the cuff, without really thinking, I wrote on the comments "We can sit on the rocks of the wave breaker on the far side of the pier in the ancient Jaffa Port, near Andromeda's Rock, and watch the sun setting into the sea. How can we not be happy?"

Roger took this to mean that I think Jaffa is particularly beautiful. I don't. I'm not sure why I wrote it. Bish says this is not the reason Israelis are happy, it's the reason Imshin is happy. Well, maybe not the reason - its more of a moment in time that has been forever burnt into my consciousness as what happiness feels like. Of course, I was sitting there on the rocks with my family.

So why are we happy? Don't try and romanticize us. We behave atrociously to each other, we are grasping and impatient and we are forever chasing after pleasures of the moment.

I asked Bish why he thought Israelis were happy and he said because of the Hevr'e. The Hevr'e is the gang, the network of friends. There's always someone to sit and complain with about how awful everything is. People don't need much, he said. A dry piece of bread in a prison cell is just fine if you're sharing it with a good friend.

When I was a child we used to have a steady stream of visitors from the 'Old Country' staying with us. I wasn't crazy about this, because sometimes I had to give up my bedroom. But it made life interesting. One time we were expecting two young ladies to come and stay, when word came that they had changed their minds at the last minute. Israel was too dangerous. They had decided to go to Cyprus instead. That summer war broke out in Cyprus, while they were there.

Last week four Israeli hikers were kidnapped in Colombia along with four more tourists. I hear Colombia is a beautiful country but didn't these people see that film with Meg Ryan and that Australian guy?

The Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize winner and strong advocate of non-violence, says it might be necessary to fight terrorism with violence, and that it is too early to say whether the war in Iraq was a mistake.

"I feel only history will tell," he said in an interview in the United States. "Terrorism is the worst kind of violence, so we have to check it, we have to take countermeasures."


A wise man indeed. I heard him speak in Tel Aviv once. He said then, talking about working things out non-violently, “Compromise, compromise”. And that just stuck in my head. Compromise, compromise.

This via DogfightAtBankstown (Isn’t this breathtaking?).

Friday, September 19, 2003

The Shark links to a fresh Salam Pax interview. He sounds nice.

I don't like that they call him the Anne Frank of the Iraq War. So they were both talented writers who wrote diaries during wars. Anne Frank was a child. She lived in hiding for years and died in a concentration camp because she was a Jew. I find the comparison thoughtless and insensitive.

I was so busy being moody this last week that I forgot to tell you the real scoop. Bish went out on a yacht last Friday morning with two of his seafaring friends (well, his only seafaring friends as a matter of fact). I couldn't go. Much as I love the sea, I'm sick as a dog in a boat. Anyway, they were a few kilometers out when they had some friends come to visit them. Three dolphins appeared and began jumping up and down, swimming alongside the yacht and playing with them.

It was Bish's first time sailing. Bish's friends sail quite a lot, they've both finished skipper courses, but they said this had never happened to them before. I know exactly why it happened, it was because of my Bish, naturally. He's quite irresistible to small children, animals and, er, women (unfortunately).

Gil has posted photos he took with his cell phone. Okay, now I've seen what he looks like from all sides, I wonder if I'd recognize him in the street, in the event of our paths crossing. Probably not. I didn't recognize my neighbor when we ran into her in Mitzpe Ramon last time we were there.

You've just got to read this. Tee hee.

Would it be presumptuous of me to talk of "writer's block"? Maybe blogger's block? Blocker's blog? It's not as if there has been nothing to write about. This week we had a parents meeting at Eldest’s new school. One of the fathers complained bitterly that the school doesn’t seem to have internalized the deterioration of the economic situation in the country. It's meant to be a free schooling system but the additional payments get quite heavy in North Tel Aviv schools competing between themselves to attract students. Calling it a North Tel Aviv school is misleading as it is completely integrated with an equal share of children from the southern, less affluent, neighborhoods.

So what else has been happening? Multi-billionairess marries obvious gold-digger who turns out to be habitual sexual harasser (There was a rape charge too but that was cancelled because it allegedly happened ten years ago). What does she do? Chuck the bastard? Not on your life! She gets terribly offended that everyone is being so unkind to her (everyone but the gold-digger, that is, who is charged with molesting a woman in the said multi-billionairess's home, with her in the next room) and does a bunk with him (Helping him elude justice? They're denying this, promising he'll show up for interrogation. We'll have to see about that). Oh, and did I mention her canceling her funding of hospital development programs and other good deeds on her way out? Might I say she's not the most popular of multi-billionairesses in Israel, these days'. This shouldn't have much of an effect on the other multi-billionairesses in Israel, though. She was the only one.

She had already amused Israelis when she started a campaign promoting the idea of peace beginning in ourselves, blah blah blah, sweet idea in itself, but straight afterwards she decided to fire 900 workers from the bank she owns. Peacefully, of course. Israelis considered this along with aerial photos of her impressive mansion and failed to be convinced with the peace stuff. Could you blame us for sniggering when it turned out that the Eilat playboy she hastily married was in the habit of, erm, not taking no for an answer?

I know, I know, I'm an ungrateful brat of an Israeli. Her father did so much for us; she did so much for us. I should be groveling at her feet. We have a saying here "Ba'al hame'a hoo ba'al hade'a". More or less: The one who has the money gets to have the opinion. That was Shari's big mistake. She should have bought up the newspapers and then she would never have heard a bad word about herself or her deviant spouse, although Bish says she must be invested in the press. I wouldn't know about that. Maybe we do have a free press after all.

What else have we got? Oh, yes. Shimon Peres is throwing a big bash for his 80th birthday with everyone who's anyone invited (I saw him on TV with my own eyes threatening to live till he was 500, oy vey). So who's paying for the splendiferous festivities? Why, we are of course, especially Tel Aviv taxpayers, according to one of Tel Aviv's local rags (It seems we're paying for the hall, aren't we nice?). So fortunate we're not in the middle of a terrible recession with harsh salary cuts, mass lay offs, welfare benefits being cut or cancelled, unprecedented unemployment, etc. Maybe that's why we parents have to fork out to pay for the Remembrance Day ceremony in Eldest's school next spring (among other things). You have a lovely day, Shimon. Don't mind us.

That's it. Strictly gossip today. I can't take the serious stuff right now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Okay okay, don't take me too seriously. That's what I dislike about those prophets of doom. They freak you out and in the end it turns out not to have been all that bad. Humanity always seems to drag itself back up from the depths of depravity. The planet somehow manages to escape destruction at the last minute. The flowers continue to bloom and they really couldn't give a damn about what the prophets of doom have to say. Here's to the flowers.

Monday, September 15, 2003

I read Igal Sarna in Yediot Aharonot this morning (Hebrew link). A prophet of doom, eloquent, poetic and compelling, he touched all the places in me that I am trying very hard not to notice. He touched my fear. He said things I do not want to believe but that I do not dare ignore.

So I decided to translate it and post it here. I'm afraid my translation doesn't do it justice.

Save Us From Ourselves
Igal Sarna

Imagine that Ariel Sharon and Rabbi Ovadia Yossef were killed by Palestinians. Would this monstrous event cause an Israeli riot that would die down after a few weeks, and then we’d go back to our ordinary lives? Or would this double murder thrust the area into a hell that would last for years? It seems that the second option is the more realistic one. Such an event would not be forgotten and would not die down, but would rather submerge the area into a bloody whirlpool for many years to come.

But you know, translation is a wonderful practice. You should try it if you can. Even if you don't know another language well enough, try taking a text that moves you and rewriting it using alternative words. You can't help reaching a much deeper level of understanding for the piece you are tackling. And so with Sarna.

Now think of what the Head of the Shabak (General Security Service – I.J.) Avi Dichter said: It's better to kill Arafat than to deport him. His deportation will cause a serious problem, but killing him, probably along with Sheikh Yassin, will only cause a few weeks of rioting, which will die down. Only a foiler (foiling being the name used by Israeli security forces to describe targeted killings of Palestinian terrorists - I.J.) such as Dichter, his mind defective from too much foiling, could prophesize such a riot. Only a man who saw Arafat as a mirror reflecting the figure of his failure, the figure of all the missed chances, could suggest to kill him, to shatter the mirror reflecting that which he can no longer bear to see.

Funny, I didn't notice that particular load of nonsense when I first read it. Edward Lear move along, the competition is here.

I write these words, not out of love for the Rais (Arabic = President – I.J.) Arafat, an old man of many tales, but because of the growling of my heart with fear for the fate of our children and of this place. Save us from ourselves, I write. Save us.

Because after Arafat and Yassin have been killed, and the lava of the volcano has erupted, the personal security of Dichter and Mofaz (Defense Minister - I.J.), of Sharon and his sons will be stepped up immediately and all the rage and the hatred and the vengeance will be unleashed on us, the simple, defenseless citizens.

Omri Sharon (P.M. Arik Sharon's son and advisor and Member of Knesset – I.J.) is my neighbor in Tel Aviv. I like him personally because he is moderate and funny, but when he stands in the garden below my apartment, with his two little girls, he has with him a bodyguard, a sharp-eyed Shabak-nik, but my children and I, and your children, and our homes and lives are exposed and forsaken now that the fire is near to the keg of explosives. In Israel of 2003 only the suicidal decision-makers are protected. Only the killers are concealed from the eye. And we are standing in the strong blue light as live targets.

Israel is divided into

I read and translated and read and translated and suddenly found myself very aware of the emotional manipulation his beautifully written and emotional column was working on me and I stopped, mid-sentence.

The manipulation had worked because I am scared. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to admit it. I don't know what's right or wrong anymore. Maybe I never did.

I'm scared of my kids blowing up, so I don't think about it. I'm scared of my home turning into a living hell, so I look the other way.

Once, years ago, I had a vision, a terrible vision. I was looking out of the window in the back of the living room of my apartment at the time. This window gave one quite a vista of Tel Aviv. Looking out, the whole of Tel Aviv was engulfed in orange flames; the sky was blackened with smoke. It scared the hell out of me, I tell you.

The memory of this vision comes to me when things are particularly bad, and I'm feeling a bit desperate in the face of the hopelessness of it all and I'm trying my best to be strong and brave and not give in to my fear of things to come.

Maybe it's time to hang out the flag again.

He really freaked me out, that Sarna guy, huh?

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Take a look a this. Cool. Thanks to Lynn for pointing it out.

Security forces have been foiling suicide attacks and other attacks on civilians, left, right and center. Somehow I am unmoved. It doesn't touch me. I am trying to muster up interest in the deporting Arafat question, so as to have something to blog about.

I'm rather fed up of all these clever people who get paid to write their opinions in newspapers but have never actually done anything to render their views worth anything. My dad always used to say that if learned professors of economy understood anything about economy they wouldn't be teaching about it, they'd be out there making money (Of course, one may argue that there has to be someone to see the bigger picture and that making money isn't everything, but then my dad's a capitalist). So if the columnists have all the answers, why aren't they bloody well running things instead of shooting their mouths off (or should that be "shooting off their mouths")?

I have no idea if throwing Arafat out would be good or bad. It doesn't seem like a good idea. Do we really want him gallivanting about, being received like a king by the Germans and the French, making speeches in his old hunting ground, the UN General Assembly? Of course, we could always deport him to Egypt. Mubarak just loves him and would know just what to do with him (whatever he says to the microphone).

If we're about killing terrorists, then Arafat's definitely number one (there's my good karma gone down the drain again). But is that a good idea? I don't know. I feel old fuzzy brain coming on. I really shouldn't attempt working things out in my head like this. It isn't good for me.