Confession of an addict
For most people, I believe, life is a continuous process of dealing with addictions. Addictions don't necessarily have to be illegal activities or things universally recognized as unhealthy or wrong. We can see ourselves as addicted to anything we make use of to escape ourselves. This may be quite a lot of very ordinary things we do on a daily basis, such as watching a lot of television, getting very angry at things we cannot control, shopping to much, eating too much, or too little, writing a blog, reading blogs...
Anything can be seen as an addiction if we use it to escape dealing with life.
Often, when we realize we are too dependent on something, we overcome it by simply supplementing it with another dependency. If we're lucky, the supplement is less harmful than the original dependency. Sometimes the supplement is so harmful that it destroys us and/or others.
A person is considered well adjusted if his addictions are not too harmful, or are widely regarded as beneficial activities.
Few are strong enough to be aware of their dependencies, all the more so to successfully control them.
But, whether we are considered well adjusted or not, the great majority of us are always on the run. And we find it hard, if not impossible, to admit this fact to ourselves.
Once I thought I had found a way out of this cycle, but it too became a dependency. It turned out I was worshipping the teapot, instead of drinking the tea. [based on Wei Wu Wei, couldn't find a link]
Every morning, we wake up to a new day of coping with our pain and dealing with the dependencies we use as medicine to alleviate it. We are all drug addicts, and every day we have to face the danger of our drug pulling us under.
Yesterday, in the Yarkon Park, I saw some graffiti written by Braslavs on a big concrete block. One side of the block read 'We must be in a state of happiness all the time' and the other side read 'There is no despair in the world'.
But how can we ever be happy, truly happy, if we turn our back on our despair and deny its very existence? Surely happiness is not something we deserve, or can take for granted, but the well-earned result of being able to live with our despair, look at our loneliness, touch our pain, without denying these feelings of ours their place nor running away and hiding from them. When we can do this, when we can really accept the down sides, we can stop running and begin enjoying ourselves.
I'm not there yet.
* * * * *
[The weirdness above is not about anyone particular who may be reading this, by the way, in case anyone thinks he or she sees him or herself. It's all mine. Excuse me if I've got you all scratching your heads.]
why not a fish
Monday, October 27, 2003
Confession of an addict
Friday, October 24, 2003
Wishing to be hospitable to Lynn, I decided to help her find out what "gobble gobble" was in Hebrew. Not knowing what a turkey says in Hebrew myself, I asked Bish. He didn't know either, so I asked Eldest. She thought it was a joke, as in "I don't know. What does a turkey say?”
Bish asked to point out that a Thanksgiving turkey probably doesn't say very much at all.
Feedback: One reader points out - "It is still gobble gobble. Because turkeys do not speak English or Hebrew. They are turkeys! LOL". Good point, but how come ducks say quack quack in English and ga ga ga in Hebrew? Hebrew speaking dogs say hav hav, by the way. Can't think of any others off hand.
Someone else puts us right - "Because turkeys are indigenous to Mexico, they do not speak Hebrew.
In Spanish, they are Guajolote when living; pavo when dead. Like cattle in the field and beef on the dinner table. While they are still Guajolotes, they say, "Ayudame, Ayudame." When they become pavo, they say nothing."
So there we have it.
I saw it coming, although I didn't really know what it was
In October 1985, I spent my last night on my army base clutching the Uzi submachine gun that was usually chained to a rack in my department room, to be used only for guard duty. In a moment of superstitious hysteria I decided I was never going to get out of the army alive, and this, being my last night, was obviously the night all hell was going to let loose. It didn't happen. But I was right, something was brewing. It just took another couple of years to manifest.
Going to bed with an Uzi was a bit over the top, I know, but not completely out of touch with reality, it seems, with hindsight. You see my base was on a hilltop. The slope of the adjacent hill was completely covered by sprawling houses of an Arab village, a very hostile West Bank Arab village. I saw nothing to stop the villagers from attacking the base. The rather nonchalant guarding routine worried me tremendously, but no on else seemed the least bit bothered.
A few months earlier we had watched as bus after bus of terrorists, freed in the Jibril deal, had rolled into the village amid much jubilation. After that, tension had soured, or had it been gradually increasing beforehand and I just hadn’t noticed? We were no longer allowed to leave the base on foot, and had to wait for a vehicle to take us. A bomb exploding at the nearby bus stop, used by the soldiers of the base, killed no one only because, luckily, the times that the work shifts on the base began and ended had been changed the day before and the stop, which should have been full of soldiers, was empty. We no longer spent our free time roaming the alleyways of the old city of Jerusalem in civilian clothes. Something was definitely in the air.
After that last night on the base, I packed my bags and left. I moved to Tel Aviv where I had enrolled in Tel Aviv University. I didn't see Jerusalem again for about five years. Wild horses wouldn’t have dragged me there. In Tel Aviv I forgot all about the army and Jerusalem, and unfriendly Arabs.
When the Intifada erupted in December 1987, I made no mental connection to the tension I had experienced in Jerusalem. I had blocked it out as part of an unpleasant period of my life.
I'm in big trouble with Bish. He brought me home a new and wonderful keyboard ages ago and, enjoying the unplanned break in cyber life (I've been reading a book and watching TV. We were hooked on Spielberg's "Taken" for a few days), I didn't bother to tell you guys. So now Bish thinks you think he is horrible and cruel. You don't think that at all, do you?
I'd like to thank you all for your advice on what to do about coke in keyboard, especially Lawrence who even helped substantially in keeping my visitor count from plummeting. I don't know why I didn't think of sticking the keyboard under the tap, before it was too late, myself. The dishwasher idea amused me greatly, but since I don't possess one (a dishwasher, not an idea, although...), not very helpful for me.
A few years ago my cell phone fell down the toilet (after I'd been, eeeeuuuuwww) and this is just what I did, washed it under the tap and dried it with a hairdryer. I was pretty amazed when it worked as if nothing had happened. Bish reminds me, however that this technique didn't work a few years before that when I made the fatal mistake of putting a pair of his pants in the washing machine with his brand new electronic phone book in one of the pockets (This was before Palms came out, they're more bulky). Bish had just spent hours entering all his phone numbers (It was quite primitive, didn't synchronize with the computer) and he wasn't very pleased with me, and, as you can see, he won't let me forget it.
So anyway, I've got this shiny, new Rolls Royce of a keyboard, with all interesting keys that no way will I ever remember to use, and this is the first time I'm using it. Mazal Tov to me.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Sunday, October 19, 2003
Guess what I am in Spanish? I'm "una madre de personalidad dividida tratando de dar sentido a lo que pasa en su tierra". So there. Now maybe you'll treat me with more respect!
What do you want from us?
I always think it is both unfair and unwise to make unfavorable and critical comparisons between Israel and old, established Western democracies. Israel is not an old, established Western democracy and cannot be expected to have reached the same levels of development in issues such as human rights in such a relatively short period of time. Think how long it took for the UK to give women the vote (or to give anyone but the landed gentry the vote, for that matter), or for the USA to abolish slavery (or even to award all African Americans their basic civil rights). We're mere infants, in comparison, and, taking that into consideration, we're not doing so badly. Actually, we're doing damn well!
Strangely, many see Israel's being forged as a Western style democracy as a natural development, but when you think of it, it was anything but natural. The Israel we see today was built, in the early days, by Eastern European Jews, most of them born and bred in Orthodox Jewish households, where the Rabbi's word was law and the secular ruler of the land, often a cruel tyrant, was feared and hated. Jewish Pioneers from Western democracies were few and far between in the Land of Israel, and, mostly unsuited for the life of hardship, didn't last it out. There was no tradition of peer rule, no gradual development over the years of a belief in liberalism or in individual freedom, or anything like that. Still, amazingly, these people, joined later by, among others, hundreds of thousands of immigrants from feudal Middle Eastern and North African countries, somehow managed to break away from what they had experienced before, and established a Western-style democratic state (as opposed to a Soviet-style socialist one), long before this was to come to be in any of their countries of origin. Is this not a wonder? Is this not amazing? True, our democracy has its flaws. It is far from perfect (as are all democracies, even old, established ones). But give us time. We're working on it. We have one or two other problems, as well.
I believe the example of Israel can give us hope, because surely it proves that other countries in this region are also capable of functioning as democracies. Ve'yafa sha'a ahat kodem (= and better sooner than later).
Saturday, October 18, 2003
Jonathan Edelstein, his Head Heebness, suggests a legal treaty between the State of Israel and its Arab citizens, so as to ensure their rights and equality, and to strengthen their connection to the state, on lines similar to the Waitangi Treaty, which is the foundation of white-Maori relations in New Zealand.
Friday, October 17, 2003
As I write these words, a large group of young men in white shirts is dancing and singing along the street under my window. It is the eve of Simchat Torah, when observant Jews celebrate finishing the year long reading of the weekly portions of the Torah and begin again.
Schiphol (and misconceptions)
Eldest and I were on the train on our way back from somewhere or other, when the train made a stop at Schiphol Airport and filled up with people with suitcases. The seats across from us filled up with big Americans. I might point out that, being rather small, everyone seemed enormous to me in Holland. The ethnic Dutch were real giants. Luckily there were so many non-ethnic Dutch (I hope this is not a very un-PC thing to say, but how else can I call them?) I didn't feel completely dwarfish. I eavesdropped shamelessly to the Americans' conversation with a Dutchman who was sitting with them, and to the conversation that their colleagues, sitting behind me, were having with a woman, who turned out to be Israeli. They were from Florida and they were on a one-night stopover on their way to... Israel! Eldest and I were flabbergasted. They had flown all this way to such a beautiful city and they weren't stopping. They were continuing straight on to Israel (Were they completely mad?!). I thought they must be reporters or something, but no. They planned to rent a car and head up to the Galilee. Wonders never cease.
* * * *
Waiting to board our El Al flight to Tel Aviv from Schiphol Airport, after the last security checks, a young couple sat down opposite Eldest and I, a man and a woman. The man seemed Middle Eastern, he could have been Jewish or Arab, I couldn't tell. He had one of those weird little, strangely shaped beards young men seem to sport these days (Don’t ask me why. They must think it makes them look attractive or something). The woman looked Dutch. They shared one piece of hand luggage. I was immediately curious about them because from the moment they sat down they seemed extremely tense, even hostile. Then I noticed that they weren’t talking to each other. In fact, they didn't exchange a word for the fifteen minutes we were sitting there.
The suspicious thoughts started racing. The first suspicious thought was that they were ISM-ers forced for some reason to fly El Al and feeling decidedly hostile about the wicked Israeli families around them, especially those most dangerous colonizing Israeli babies. The second suspicious thought was straight out of an Entebbe Rescue movie. She was Baader-Meinhof and he was PLO and they would take over the plane once it was airborne. I wondered should I alert security. I commenced piercing them with my fiercest glare, so they would know I was on to them, and they wouldn't dare try anything. They didn't seem very intimidated by this. Well, it used to work on perverts on crowded buses when I was in my teens. I must be losing my touch.
Then it dawned on me. Pure speculation, of course, but far more likely: They were on their way to Israel to meet his parents and, being tense about this, they had had a big row.
I still decided to keep an eye on them during the flight, just in case. Unfortunately, I wasn't seated anywhere near them and only saw them again in Ben Gurion Airport at the place you get your suitcases. I was busy worrying how I would be able to schlep our suitcase (which, strangely, was now far heavier than on the way out to Holland) off the conveyor belt without swinging it at someone and causing grievous bodily harm. Even though I was thus preoccupied and continuously warning Eldest to keep away from me because I was all psyched up to fully implement my meager muscle power for the serious mission I was facing, and therefore dangerous, I happened to notice the man right on the other side of the conveyor belt. He was chatting and laughing excitedly with someone I couldn't see, probably the woman. All the tension had disappeared from his face.
Ah, that's nice, I thought, they must have kissed and made up during the flight.
Or maybe he was just nervous of flying, like Bish, and now he was relieved that his ordeal was over.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Amsterdam was great. Holland was great. Eldest was great. We had the best hotel and the best weather. We had a great time hopping on trains and off trams and managed to do all the things we had set out to do (and to empty my bank account, as well. The Euro made things very expensive for us).
Because it was the Succot holiday (still is, actually), Holland was full (and I mean full) of Israeli tourists, but not full of other tourists, which was nice (although there were quite a few Japanese as well, but not enough to render the queues at tourist attractions in any way unpleasant). Eldest was very excited with all the Israeli tourists, quite a few of whom were also mothers (or mothers and fathers) with what looked like other twelve year-old daughters also on their Bat Mitzva trips. I'm such a snob. I tried to curb Eldest's enthusiasm about fellow countrymen for fear of being stuck with them ("Shshsh, they don't have to know we're Israeli, too!"). It didn't help. We obviously looked the part. We ended up spending one evening with a very nice Kibbutznik with her Bat Mitzva daughter searching for the shops her friend back home had promised her were open till nine o'clock at night, although I did try to convince her that from what we'd seen, and according to all our guide books, the shops closed at five, six at the latest.
We started our visit in Anne Frank's house, of course. I think I embarrassed Eldest because I got very emotional, but she made light of it by saying it didn’t matter because she didn't know anyone anyway. She's so sweet.
I like the way Amsterdam, unlike other places, hasn't tried to hide, ignore or bury its rich Jewish history or what happened to make the Jews disappear. In every tour guide, and tourist map you'll find the Portuguese Synagogue and the Jewish Historical Museum prominently pointed out. But that seems to be the thing with Amsterdam. It doesn't pretend to be something it's not. No games. You want sex for money? Over here, take your pick. You want "recreational" drugs? This way please.
Maybe this matter-of-fact openness is why Israelis love it there, besides the Dutch knowing how to make us feel really welcome. It was nice to receive pamphlets in Hebrew at quite a few tourist attractions (and not just at Jewish-y ones). How many cities in Western Europe can boast that, these days? Not anywhere in Britain, that's for sure. (Via Melanie Phillips. Thank you, again, Dad, for taking me away from that country before I was old enough to experience or understand any of that sort of stuff. )
One lady in the market I bought some clothes from, asked me if we were not scared, living in Israel. After answering (same sort of stuff you can read here), I pointed out that I found it strange to be going into crowded tourist attractions in Holland and no one was checking anyone's bags. Just the day before, we had been standing in a very long queue for a ride in the Efteling amusement park (I suffer from very bad motion sickness, this was not one of my best days in Holland. Luckily Eldest is as terrified of roller coasters as I am made nauseous by them, so I managed to get through the day without actually losing any of my meals before they were fully digested), when it suddenly crossed my mind how easy it would be to just come along with a machine gun, open fire and kill dozens of us. Then I realized that there was nothing to actually prevent anyone from entering the park armed with such a weapon. Not to mention an easy-to-conceal explosives belt, which could have killed hundreds in such a queue. Holland is so liberal, I doubt it would be a real problem to purchase such equipment locally. So I told the lady in the market I hoped they would never need to have to check people at the entrance to places. She said they already do, in discotheques, but that was because of the Moroccans, whom, she said, tend to be aggressive. You mean violent? I asked. She meant violent.
We didn't see or hear any news while we were there, and Eldest didn't allow me to go into any Internet cafes (She wouldn't let me go to the meditation room in Schiphol airport either. Meanie. I was very excited about there being a meditation room there).
So it was only on the plane, where they gave me Maariv to read, that I first heard about this Geneva Agreement thing. From what I've managed to work out, it's the Beilinim*, forgetting once again that they lost the elections by an extremely large margin and therefore represent only a small minority of Israelis, having the gall to cut deals with Palestinians, although they have no mandate to do so whatsoever. It seems I'm not the only one incensed by this. According to yesterday’s Yediot Aharonot, an opinion poll by Mina Tzemach and the Dahaf Institute reveals that 59% of Israelis are opposed to the Geneva agreement and 69% of Israelis feel that Israelis cannot negotiate an agreement with Palestinians without the approval of the government (Hebrew link).
* Beilinim = A group of people who happen to be on the left of the Israeli political map, one of them being, as always, MK (Dr.) Yossi Beilin, who believe, on the whole, that just because Arafat and his subordinates have lied and cheated repeatedly, and continue to do so, doesn't necessarily make them unsuitable negotiating partners.
Moreover, the Beilinim seem to believe that whoever doesn't see things as they do is probably either too deranged or too stupid to have a viewpoint. The democratic vote of such a person, therefore, doesn't mean much in their eyes, or so it seems. The Beilinim lost the support of the Israeli public following the colossal failure of Oslo and their rigid refusal to internalize or accept this. These people have no right to be cutting deals in our name. But that's not how they see things.
Still, it's nice to be home.
Update: OK, so I've read this post again three times and I fail to see any insightful observations. But thank you for saying so anyway, Jonathan.
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
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:
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 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:
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. …
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.).
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
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
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.