Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Ooh, what’s this Haaretz is gloating about? Conrad Black forced to resign his position of CEO of Hollinger International?

By the way, no one has heard of Conrad Black in Israel, except maybe newspaper people. I’m joking about the gloating bit. In the print version of Haaretz, it was on the second page of the business part of the paper. I know this because someone had found this part of the paper so negligible that they had discarded it on the refrigerator at work (to be salvaged by yours truly). Haaretz and Jerusalem Post are not competitors. Even among the English speakers, the right wing ones read Jerusalem Post, while the left wing ones read Haaretz English version, which comes as part of the International Herald Tribune (what else?).

Anyway, I can’t stop to discuss the Conrad Black thing. Got to run to get dressed for an all-girl Hevr’e-from-the-past meeting. See, even anti-social me has them.

But before I go, I'll just send you over to An Unsealed Room. Black used to be Allison's boss, so her opinion on the subject is probably worth far more than mine. I hadn't even heard of him before I started blogging.

Nothing new
For those who haven’t seen it, here’s a film about Palestinian TV promotion of suicide bombings amongst children.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Civil marriages in Israel under the auspices of the Orthodox Rabbinate? or Is that the Messiah I see at the gates of Jerusalem?
Israel’s Channel 1 Evening News had some very interesting news this evening (Hebrew link). It was reported that the Chief Rabbis have agreed that rabbis will register civil marriages for couples that are not Jewish according to the Rabbinate. Up till now it has been impossible to have a civil wedding ceremony in Israel, although civil weddings performed abroad are recognized. The reason this situation developed is mainly a political one. But the ultra-religious parties, which have always been opposed to civil marriages, were weakened in the last elections, while the secular Shinui party was strengthened.

There has been a lot of pressure to solve the civil marriage issue, mainly because many Israelis of Russian descent find it difficult to prove to the strict Orthodox Rabbinate (the only stream of Judaism that is recognized for marriage purposes in Israel, also for political reasons) that they are Jewish (Proof is usually the mother’s Ketuba, her traditional wedding contract. Jews from former Soviet Union countries have no such documents, of course, because the Soviet Union wasn’t very tolerant of religion), and therefore have to go abroad to marry in civil ceremonies. The Orthodox Rabbinate obviously fears a loss of power, should a secular “revolution” take place, allowing civil weddings, or, even worse, Reform or Conservative weddings (Gevald!). Reform and Conservative weddings do actually take place in Israel. I’ve been to a few. But they are not officially recognized.

By offering this compromise, the rabbis probably reckon they can keep some measure of control, while solving the problem at hand.

It sounds like we haven’t heard the last of this. We’ll have to see how it develops. Just wanted to be the first to tell you.

Note: I know this is all probably very difficult to understand for people who are not Jewish, or for those who are not acquainted with the rather strange way the State of Israel has dealt, up till now, with the question of separation of religion and state in Israel (or rather the lack of it). I should really explain further, but it’s so late, and I’ve had a long day. I think I’ll just go to bed instead.

Update: John Williams points out: “Marriage, civil? A contradiction in terms my dear.”

I haven't been receiving any e-mails since Sunday morning Israel time (that's Eastern Time +7). I was so happy not to be getting any spam that it took me a while to realize I wasn't getting any nice mail either. So if you sent me anything, please send again.

MT musings
Israellycool has moved to Moveable Type. Adjust your links. The pressure is on again for me to move too. It seems like far too much hard work. Besides I’m fond of my little puppies, which sadly belong to Pyra/Google/whatever.

Another excuse is that it’s hard enough for me to find time to blog as it is. I don’t want to be sidetracked with a big project.

And, of course, being the Contrary Mary that I am, if everyone thinks I should move, I just have to do the opposite.
Davka ;-)

If I hang on long enough, Blogger will become retro and I will be cool, at last.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

It has come!
Yes sir! It was right there in my letterbox when I got home from a funeral up north, this afternoon. And I fully intend to read it, all 47 pages of small print of it, eventually, sometime or other. You can count on it. I have no intention of returning it to sender, as Naomi Ragen suggests. Why on earth would I do that? No no, I will add it right up there on the top of that pile of things I really want to read. Occasionally, I will wipe the dust off. When I move apartment, it will move with me, along with the rest of the stuff I can’t bear to be parted with, but am not sure why. Who knows? In about sixty years it might even be worth something.

So thank you, kind Geneva Initiative promoters, for sending me my very own copy of the full suggestion. I’m very flattered that you should see me worthy and that my opinion matters enough for you to try to influence it. Thank you for taking the time and spending all that money. It makes me feel like an important person.

Just one request – couldn’t you please send me a more concise version? There is a synopsis on pages 7 and 8, you say? Oh, well I might just read that later on today then, after I have had my coffee; and washed the dishes; and scrubbed the toilets (Stop snickering, Our Sis!); and gone to pick up Youngest; and made the supper; and…

No, really.

After word: I’m not being cynical. I mean it. Well, maybe only a little bit cynical.

After after word: Okay, so I'm reading it with my coffee. So I'm a pushover. So sue me.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Ma yihiye? (= what will be?)
Rossi on freedom. So beautiful and so sad.

A murderous terrorist attack in Istanbul. Two main synagogues in the city were targeted. Worshipping Jews were among those killed and wounded, but also many, many Muslim passersby. I feel close to the Jewish community in Turkey, and to Turkey as a whole. I am proud that my daughters are partly of Jewish Turkish descent.

Seeing the pictures, just like here, so very upsetting.

Friday, November 14, 2003

I haven't discussed Haaretz for a while...
Every few days, I force myself to read the English language Internet version of Haaretz Hebrew daily newspaper. Those of you who have been reading my ramblings for a while (a fact I greatly appreciate, but still find quite hard to fathom), will know I no longer read the print version, which I read daily religiously from cover to cover for fifteen years. The reason I can no longer bear to pay to read this publication is not its high price but its lack of journalistic integrity. The political views of this newspaper’s owners, editors and writers find their way, unfettered, into all parts of the paper - news, featured articles, and art supplement alike, and not just the op-ed pages (their rightful place). Unfortunately, no other Israeli newspaper is as well written, serious, or comprehensive, so we continued reading it long after I personally could no longer stand it.

Now I read Haaretz as the world reads it, in English, and it is just as one-sided, just as lacking in journalistic integrity. Only in English the harm it does is far worse.

Haaretz is written for an intelligent Israeli readership; a readership that is exposed to other news sources, and that is usually in possession of wide knowledge about Israeli politics and society. Israelis read it in a certain context. Even if they accept the newspaper's political stand, they are usually aware that there are other points of view that Haaretz sometimes neglects to offer. The foreign reader of Haaretz, on the other hand, is not necessarily aware of this, or particularly knowledgeable about Israeli society, law, political life, and the conflict with the Palestinians, and therefore receives a completely warped view of Israel, should this be his or her main or only source of news about Israel. Especially worrying is the fact that Haaretz is regarded as an impartial and reliable source, and is widely quoted and referred to.

I wonder how many of the non-Israelis who read Haaretz realize how unpopular this publication is in Israel and how marginal its readership.

I once made the point, on my short-lived Hebrew blog, that Haaretz's English online version is widely read outside Israel, by people with an interest in this part of the world. I was the laughing stock of the (small) Israeli Blogosphere. Considering Haaretz’s reputation in Israel, it is rather hard to believe. I have attempted to explain this sad truth to people I work with, as well. They are just as skeptical. Very frustrating.

This said, I can't help linking to this review in Haaretz's book supplement about "The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land", by Donna Rosenthal, in connection to the subject of Israeliness, which we've been discussing lately.

Update: I'd hardly posted this and it was linked to, which just goes to show it's always a good idea to trash Haaretz. It took me a bit longer to understand what a non-piscean was. LOL.

Shabbat Shalom.

A nice compilation, in yesterday’s Guardian, of ten favourite scientific hoaxes. Via Miranda's Window Dressing.

You are the playful pin-up! Do you know how to be

What Type Of Retro Gal Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Via Havdala, who else? (She's the classy pin-up. Not fair)

British Colonialism
John Keegan, in the UK Telegraph:

None the less, I suggested, there is a fundamental difference between the British and the American approach. While the Americans, for reasons connected with their own past, seek to solve the Iraqi problem by encouraging the development of democracy, the British, with their long experience of colonial campaigning and their recent exposure to Irish terrorism, take a more pragmatic attitude.

They recognise that Iraq is still a tribal society and that the key to pacification lies in identifying tribal leaders and other big men, in recognising social divisions that can be exploited, and in using a mixture of stick and carrot to restore and maintain order.

Via Anne Cunningham, who comments:

I would say that the problem with the British approach is that even if it works in the short term, if there isn't fundamental change and democratization, then there will be a long term problem, and reversion to strong-man politics. After all, the British were in Iraq before, and did not make a lasting impression.

This brings to mind the British Mandate in Palestine/Eretz Yisrael between the years 1917 and 1948. I do believe that Israeli democracy, which developed, and actually began to function, during this period, came into being in spite of British rule, and independently of it, and not because of it. The British goal was to keep the natives quiet, while they utilized the land for their own ends, i.e. as a transportation route for Iraqi oil. Beyond that I don’t think they could have cared less. The other side of this was what was happening in Arab society in Palestine during the same period. Arab society remained feudal and tribal, and, for the most part, uneducated. Not only was it completely uninfluenced by any democratic notions; it was actually attracted to European Fascism and Nazism. The British disinterest in interfering with, or influencing, local politics, beyond the bare minimum necessary for keeping the peace, eventually blew up in their faces with the Great Arab Revolt of 1936 – 1939, the real first Intifada. From this we can learn that the British approach in Iraq may not necessarily serve as an insurance for keeping the peace (although Iraq has no Jews to stir things up ;-)).

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Really only in Israel
It is evening. I am sitting meditating with a group of friends in a lovely apartment in Neve Tzedek, the first neighborhood built outside of Yaffo in the early years of the twentieth century, making it the nearest Tel Aviv has to an "old city".

During the day and the early evening its cafes are full of trendy youngsters; lovers of modern ballet can be seen on their way to Suzanne Dallal Center, to see the latest Bat Sheva creation. Later at night, it belongs to the colorful mixture of people who live there.

The sound of the meditation bell is followed by silence; eyes closed or semi-closed; breathing in, breathing out.

Suddenly a sharp, piercing sound fills the air around me, taking over my mind. Could it possibly be? Yom Kippur and Succot are far behind us. Still, the sound persists. Now it's growing louder. Someone is playing a shofar, outside, somewhere nearby. My face softens into a smile. The sharp calling of the shofar fills me, making me feel more aware, more alive.

And then, another sound. A man's voice, shouting out of a window. "Will you stop that? I can't stand it any more. It's been five years..." It seems the shofar is not helping everyone to reach inside themselves.

But the shofar continues to sing its unmelodic tune. It knows, and so does its player, that it is more powerful than its detractor, who is now silent. Maybe he has fallen under the spell of the irresistible shofar, like a child dancing merrily along behing the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

Soon yet another sound becomes audible, that of a fast darbouka beat. Reason tells me that the gay, repetitive rythm it produces should clash with the piercing shriek of the shofar. But strangely, both sounds complement each other. They both belong here, together, along with the whistle of the cheeky, early winter wind knocking at windows, pushing in doors.

Sitting quietly in the midst of the rush of sounds surrounding me, I am able to let go. In the turmoil, my previously troubled mind finds peace. I am home.

It's so refreshing to see that some people's lives are so uncomplicated that they have absolutely no problem to post lots of lovely photos of
themselves travelling in Europe (press the links on the left). She looks nice. I love seeing photos of bloggers. I love knowing what Meryl looks like, for instance (Oh, I'll get round to finding the direct link, eventually. Until then you'll just have to take my word for it).

Now I'll probably get an enraged e-mail from Yaeli saying she is too complicated. Okay, so not uncomplicated then, but you must admit she can't have much to hide. Or is it just that I am a paranoid nutter?

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

"I always think," says Alec Guinness in that most wonderful of films, The Lady Killers (definitely high on my list of all time greats), "that the windows are the eyes of a house.” He goes on to say, quoting someone else I think, that eyes are the windows to the soul.

I look at the windows of the apartment building next to my workplace. The windows, typically, are no more than square holes in the wall, with no frame, embellishment or ornamentation of any kind. Windows in Israel, like many things, are often not very lovely.

Israel is a young society, a mixture of cultures. Unlike other cultures made up of immigrants, in Israel there is no one dominant culture that all immigrants feel obliged to assimilate into. There was, once, sort of, that of East European immigrants. But the (Jewish) immigrants from Muslim countries did not accept this Eastern European hegemony, and sure enough, it has slowly and gradually been eroding. And so a new creature has come into existence, who is not the continuation of anything that came before, but something new and unique. The Israeli. The Israeli has not yet developed mannerisms and rules of behavior as a result of many years of living together as a society. He is an uncut and unpolished diamond. People are often wounded when coming into contact with his rough edges.

It has become fashionable on the Blogosphere lately, I've noticed, to discuss how nice, polite, and well-behaved Israelis are (not!). Gross generalizations are nonchalantly slung about. It's not just what you've been doing over there, you seem to be telling us. It's more than the question of what is disputed and how to solve things. It's that you are just not nice. We don't like you, neither as a people, nor as individuals.

I get the feeling that this question of our niceness is an existential one. If we are not nice we have no right to be. Most people would rather we ceased to exist as it is. Our being such an unpleasant bunch must make this so much easier on the conscience.

Wouldn't it be perfect if someone could just press the delete button and we'd all be sent to the recycle bin?

What does that mean anyway? How are deleted documents recycled? Is it the energy that was used to create them that is recycled, or some sort of potential? But I digress (I love digressing every so often, just so I can say “But I digress”. It’s so deliciously pompous).

Digression over. Back to the subject of much beloved Israelis.

How does it feel to be superfluous? How does it feel to be so utterly unwanted on a global level? I know you're not interested. I know you'd rather not hear. So much easier to think about us as some distant, not nice, undeserving figures with blurred faces. I'll tell you anyway.

It does not feel good.

Why are you complaining? You ask. Always whining, you lot. You brought this on yourself. Who asked you to go there anyway? You could have stayed in those nice camps for displaced persons we built for you after World War II; you could have continued to be carefully-unobtrusive, second class citizens in Iraq and in Syria. And even now, all you have to do is go away, just crawl under a rock or even better into a deep hole in the ground (we'll help you dig) and we'll be off your backs, honest. We'll forgive you for everything, even for the cardinal sin of daring to exist. Maybe, if you're nice.

Update: More about why Israelis are Israelis, by people who have researched this, among others.

By the way, one of the things that provoked this post was reading about this opinion poll, in the morning newspaper.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Well, it’s here at last. Let’s hope it stays a while. Last night the thunderstorm kept us awake. Today it rained all day.

This winter the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is offering trips to see the desert flash floods (Hebrew link). You have to put your name down and they call you when there is a flood. Sounds exciting. I’ve never seen one close up, but they’re meant to be pretty amazing.

Forgive me for not discussing the baby formula thing. It’s very upsetting. Read Allison.

I have always been a strong advocate of breastfeeding.

Update: Allison says that bringing breastfeeding up is not fair right now, because it "smacks of "Blame the victim"". I'm sorry, this was thoughtless of me. I still think it's a good time to bring it up though, because women are listening, and it's a good opportunity to get the message over.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Haaretz's editorial has more about why this prisoner swap deal with the Hizbullah is so problematic.

Hezbollah has positioned itself as the representative of countries that have, in the past, conducted negotiations with Israel about their prisoners. Hezbollah's demand for the release of Jordanian and Palestinian prisoners, as well as its demand (which was rejected) that Egyptian prisoners be freed, trespasses well beyond the norms of humanitarian exchange deals. This deal with Hezbollah is likely to have political repercussions that affect Israel's relations with neighboring states, and with the Palestinians.

The government voted in favor of the deal, by the way, as was expected. It's not a done deal though. Israel refuses to release Samir Kuntar, perpetrator of a murderous terrorist attack in Naharyia in 1979. Without him the Hizbullah won't go through with it.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Shabbat Shalom

These are my Shabbat candlesticks. They used to be my grandmother's and she inherited them from her mother.

According to Diane: "Israeli men are not big on empathy" (Blogger archives, we know we know, scroll down to the 6:33am post).

I object! This is an extremely unfair generalization. Not that I don't know Israeli men who are not big on empathy, plenty of them. But I also know quite a few who are extremely big on empathy. My Bish, for instance, is far more empathic (or is that empathetic?) than I am (and I was a woman, when I last checked). Not that I'm being boastful or anything. And before you make any snide remarks about his masculinity (or lack of it), I'll have you know he's not a bit wimpy, and he works in very "male" occupation, and he owns a big handgun, which he practices shooting regularly, and he is happiest watching soccer or basketball on TV. So there!

A tough exterior doesn't necessarily mean a tough interior. When my mother died, I half-expected some of my more macho male co-workers to be embarrassed and avoid me, but most of them went out of their way to be warm and kind.

Jewish sages said: "Whoever has compassion for the cruel will eventually be cruel to the compassionate" (Yalkut Shmuel 121). This is a much-quoted saying in Israel. Israeli judges don't seem to buy into it. The newspapers regularly tell us of convicted offenders getting ridiculously light sentences for terrible crimes. I really do believe this is a result of the judges' compassion (which is commendable in itself, although maybe I’m just being naive), but they don’t seem to have compassion for the victims' suffering, or for potential future victims, in their sentencing.

One result of this leniency, I think, is the affect it has on Israeli law enforcement agencies, which some may say are disinclined to exert themselves at the best of times, in anything but matters of national security (i.e. fighting terrorism). This could be a result of low pay, long hours, job security and being chronically over-worked, but I do believe frustration at the seeming ineffectualness of the courts plays a part in this, too. If you've worked for months, long and hard, on a big criminal case and the judge gives the felon a six-month suspended sentence, you'll be disinclined to put in so much effort next time, won't you? And you will eventually become desensitized and stop caring.

I think people tend to blame the laxity in which Israel deals with severe crimes committed by some fanatic Jewish West Bank and Gaza Strip settlers on government policy. I think it's more down to the indifference of law enforcement agencies and their consistent desire to avoid trouble. And the fact that courts tend to treat settlers, who have committed crimes against their Palestinian neighbors, extremely compassionately.

But it's so terribly, terribly wrong. It must change.

Update: Lynn B. has the reaction of Yesha (Judaea, Samaria and Gaza, i.e. settlers) Rabbinate Committee to the olive tree uprooting. They strongly condemn these acts and call for the prosecution of the perpetrators.

Look who's back!
And not taking any prisoners.

A hint: She lives in a mythical city.

It's the historic URL, by the way. Adjust your links.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Blogging sucks.
I've been seriously Allah-lanched. Not for anything brilliant I wrote, but because I posted a photo of an attractive girl. Sigh.

Well, at least this way it didn't give me an inflated ego or anything.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

So this is the deal: In return for one Israeli shady character, who apparently went looking for easy money in Abu Dhabi, trafficking in drugs and found himself in Hizbullah captivity in Lebanon, and three bodies of dead Israeli soldiers, Israel will release 400 Palestinian prisoners (We negotiate with Hizbullah for the release of Palestinians because...???!), but also one Syrian, one Pakistani and oh, yes, 20 particularly murderous Lebanese, including one very high ranking Shiite Amal guy and one very high ranking Hizbullah guy who was directly responsible for the fate of missing IAF navigator Ron Arad and who may hold the key to information about his whereabouts.

I am VERY worried about this deal. It just doesn't make any sense, however you look at it.

Paying such a heavy price for dead bodies, for one things, means terrorists need not worry about keeping their captives alive anymore. Dead bodies are far less trouble and if they are just as valuable as living captives, why not just kill captives straight off?

I know this sounds callous. I do feel for the families. What they have been through, and will forever continue to go through, is terrible. They need to mourn. They need a grave. They need to know. But this is a very dangerous precedent. This could very well lead to many more kidnappings and many more deaths.

And this Tannenbaum guy, well, what can I say? I'm sorry for him and I'm especially sorry for his kids. No one deserves his plight, no matter what he did, or was going to do. We should make all efforts to help him, but at what price? His captivity is the result of his own greed and corruption. It's not like he was a soldier that was doing his duty for his country. This is the release of 422 very dangerous people we're talking about.

Hizbullah will become monstrously powerful among the Palestinian masses (and not only) as a result of this deal. It's like a nightmare. It's a mockery of everything Israel has ostensibly been trying to do to combat terrorism.

So what the hell is going on? Has everyone gone stark raving mad?

The government will vote on this strange, illogical prisoner swap deal next week. It looks like it will be passed. I don't get it.

Go see Gil's photos from his Nepal trip.

A scoop on Israeli forums (Hebrew link): Hizbullah planted an array of bombs in Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch near the northern border of Israel. The bombs were discovered and dismantled. The rest of the story is not being published. I think I picked olives there (or something or other), when I was in high school.

Zina Tashoma, an Israeli policewoman. Her photo was in this morning's print version of Yediot Aharonot, because she was involved in undercover work in a drugs case involving a well-known Israeli soccer player. I just had to scan her for you. She's even more stunning in the larger version (click on the photo). Sorry it's a bit grainy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

The Head Heeb comments on the EU poll thing.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Eldest had spent the night with a friend. It was her first time sleeping away from home. She was four. In the morning we met up in the park with Eldest, her friend and the friend’s parents, with whom we had become quite friendly of late. 'Coming to the peace rally, tonight?' We asked them. Rhetorical question. Everyone was going.

The friend's parents looked a bit embarrassed. 'Well, actually, we're not.' They said. Oops, I thought. I hadn't realized they were not ...erm ...well ... of the same sort of political views as us. How could that be? They were both secular, educated professionals, and native North Tel Avivis (unlike Bish and I). They must be from old "Herut" families, or maybe "General Zionists", I said to myself, trying to organize this strange new piece of information in my mind.

It's that 'Where were you when...?' time of year again for Israelis, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the annual Saturday night memorial rally, in Rabin Square, organized by the Rabin family as a Peace Now-style rally, making all those who don't feel very Peace Now-ish unwelcome, although he was their Prime Minister too. I'm sick of boring, repetitive, pompous school ceremonies depicting Rabin as some sort of mythical, unreal, superhero dead guy.

The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin changed my life. The most shocking, chilling words I have ever heard were those uttered by Eitan Haber, in the parking lot of Ichilov Hospital, just down the road from where I am sitting right now, announcing that Yitzhak Rabin was dead. "The government of Israel announces with astonishment and deep sorrow...". These words still choke me up, regardless of all that has happened since nationally, and to me personally. I think they always will.

But the annual memorial ceremonies leave me cold. And yet, I don't know how better Yitzhak Rabin or the assassination could be remembered.

Allison feels differently, or maybe not so differently after all.

I lost much of my starry-eyed innocence on the 4th November 1995. And I have learnt a lot in the years that have passed as a direct result of my attempts to understand what happened. One of the lessons has been to be more aware of those snap judgments I automatically make about people based on superficial details. Eldest and her little friend have grown up. We're still friendly with her parents. I still have no idea what their political views are. It's not important.

In Israel, this guy, would probably have had a complaint filed against him by the police for calling in a false report. The way to do it is to call in anonymously from a phone booth.

By the way, Gil has been back for a few days and I neglected to update you. Dave of Israellycool is envious.

Good one.
Israel: cruel and racist. Via Israellycool.

Of course, one would be forced to point out that all these things are completely beside the point...

And those gay pride parades really really really aggravate the ultra-religious!

Happy General Strike, y'all!
Or not?

Ooooooooh! BIG scoop.
Photo of Salam Pax in Stern

Sunday, November 02, 2003

"This could never happen in Russia," Said the security guard disapprovingly. "The elections there were much better organized." Russia, well, there's a nice stable democracy for you, I thought, but didn't say anything out loud. The security guard looked rather forbidding. He went on to explain that there was no campaigning on Election Day in Russia, but they gave out free food and drink in the polling station. Good way to get the starving masses to come and vote, I thought. Well, the street outside this polling station, in a notoriously crime-ridden neighborhood, in a satellite town south of Tel Aviv, on Municipal Election Day last Tuesday, was obviously nothing like Russia. It didn't resemble anything I'd seen before either, in the various polling stations in better neighborhoods, where I'd always cast my vote for the past twenty years. They were always orderly and organized, with a quiet, responsible, business-like air of "Let's all do our civic duty like good citizens".

This was more like a carnival, a happy-go-lucky street party. "There was a big brawl out here last elections," The security guard informed me. Delightful, I thought.

It looked like the whole neighborhood had shown up, mainly to make a bit of money by working for the various parties, if not to vote. There was a great deal of campaigning going on, with definitely far more party activists around than voters. Party activists were running after passers-by calling after them to vote for their parties, brightly decorated trucks were driving past with music and jingles blaring out, kids whizzed by on scooters and bikes, party banners trailing behind them, party activists haggled with the befuddled-looking policewoman in charge, to allow them to move their tables a few meters nearer the entrance to the polling station. They were all too close as it was. Lacking backup (according to the talkative security guard), the policewoman had given up trying to keep them to the mandatory twenty-five meters.

The street had everything necessary for a lively, exciting Election Day, even a pizza vendor, trying to attract customers to his nearby pizzeria. Everything except voters, that is. Actually, this was not strictly true. Every so often, one of the musical trucks stopped to let out a Shas (Sephardi ultra-religious party) activist along with an elderly lady, usually at least in her eighties. The Shas activist would then gently escort the elderly lady into the school that was serving as a polling station.

The party activists were busy trying to justify the salaries their parties were paying them by trying to give out voting slips to passers-by. At one point this activity became so aggressive that one man, after having three such voting slips stuffed in his hand against his will, bellowed out "Voting slips, voting slips! Who else has a voting slip for me?" Then dramatically threw the voting slips on the ground in disgust. Another woman wasn't interested in voting slips, but she really wanted some of the T-shirts the party activists were wearing. She asked the security guard if he could organize any for her. He threw up his arms in angry frustration.

Shas activists were handing out presents to those coming out of the polling station, a framed photograph of the venerable Rav Ovadia and a little booklet of Psalms. I heard them asking one woman, before presenting her with her little bag of goodies, "You did vote for us, didn’t you?" "Betah, betah" (Sure, sure), she answered and winked at me, a twinkle in her eye.

Later, I visited my regular North Tel Aviv polling station, in the girls' old school. It was sleepy. I didn't even see any campaigners. They were all round the corner, adhering docilely to the twenty-five meter thing. Weary from my morning experience, I'd made a short cut through a parking lot, so I wouldn't have to pass them. Not that it would have mattered. This was an indifferent bunch. Shas didn't even bother with this part of the world, so everything was very quiet. No musical cars. In fact, it was all extremely civilized and subdued. Everyone was quite well behaved and European. But oh, how boring.

Hard to believe it was the same country.

Footnote: On National Election Day, one year, my mother-in-law called me up on the phone and surprised me by saying "Hag Same'ach" (Happy Festival!). In her view, the day we get to participate in deciding who is to run our lives is a joyous occasion, a festival.

I thoroughly enjoyed the short time I happened to spend in the street outside the polling station in that tough blue-collar neighborhood, because the people there made me feel that the democratic process really was a festival, a cause for much gaiety and dancing in the streets. Yes, voters are fed up of having to come and vote all the time. Yes, participation was lower than ever before. I agree that it was probably a lot tenser at that same polling station at the National Elections at the end of last year. These were only the Municipal Elections. But there was no mistaking that these people were having fun.

Prophets of doom in Israel, most of them writers in Haaretz newspaper, like to rant regularly about the untimely demise of Israeli democracy. Last Tuesday I saw democracy as experienced by people, most of whom will never once in their life bother to read anything written on the longwinded comment pages of Haaretz. And it was clear that they really believed in the process.

It seems Israeli democracy doesn't belong solely to the left wing, Ashkenazi, Haaretz-reading affluent after all. South Tel Aviv style democracy may look a bit different, and sound a bit different, but I still believe it has good, strong roots. What a discovery!

Imshin poll: Europe greatest threat to world peace.
And now, fifty nine percent of Imshin will go make sandwiches for her young daughters, so they can be happily sent off to just another day of plotting to take over the world. The other forty one percent will do some yoga.

You'd forgotten I was split personality, hadn't you?

Friday, October 31, 2003

Sorry I've been out of circulation lately
Actually I had a few interesting things to tell you, but just couldn't get round to it.

I've been taking an interest in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, for reasons I can't go into. Don't worry, the person I suspect of being thus afflicted, or more likely afflicting, is no one close enough to do any real harm to my loved ones or to myself, and no, it's not anyone on the Blogosphere. I do know one or two people in real life, you know. Here are some informative sites on the subject, if you're interested (and I truly hope you have no call to be).

Also, I thought it might be a good idea, after all, to take a peek at the material for a professional exam I have to take at work. Time consuming and sleep inducing.

Shabbat Shalom

Monday, October 27, 2003

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.]

Friday, October 24, 2003

Shabbat Shalom

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 a bit worried that no one pointed out that Dr. Yossi Beilin is not currently a Knesset member. Maybe I should bring back the comments option just to keep me on my toes? Hmmm... Naaaah.

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

Have spilt Coca Cola into my keyboard. Blogging suspended till Bish comes home with a new one.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

So What you think?! This guy advertised himself directly and unashamedly on a post by Allison on ... Appropriate Advertising. Can't not love him.

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).