Monday, December 08, 2003

Check out Ocean Guy's new design. Very Ocean-y.

Well, we’ve got some of our guys on the Best Blog Award thing, so I’d like to endorse Allison (An Unsealed Room) for Best New Blog, Meryl Yourish for Best Female Authored Blog and Best Playful Primates Ecosystem Level Blog (?!), Silent Running for Best Group Blog (or Silflay Hraka, it’s just that I’m loyal to my BlogDad,“Tom Paine”), Roger L. Simon or Kesher Talk for Best Large Mammals Ecosystem Level Blog (??!) and last, but certainly not least, Israellycool for Best Crawly Amphibians Ecosystem Level Blog (???!). Okay, there’s more, but I’m getting a bit bored with all these links. You can go and see all the weird categories for yourself, and vote, here.

I'm now so relieved I didn't get nominated after all. I would probably be in hysterics about how many votes I got. Not worth the palpitations.

Rick Richman links to some stuff about the Geneva thing. Seeing as I deleted my most recent rant about Dr. Yossi Beilin, maybe you’d like to read some less angry words on the subject.

Meryl meets some Israeli teenagers. A wonderful post.

The lure of the fleshpot

In the wilderness, the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots, when we ate our fill of bread! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to starve this whole congregation to death.”

Exodus 16, 2 – 3. Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures, the new translation according to the traditional Hebrew text.

Maybe the Hebrews didn't have it so bad in Egypt, after all? I've read interpretations that suggest that the bondage the Hebrews were subjected to was not necessarily a physical enslavement, but a spiritual one, in the form of a life of spiritual desolation and poverty. I know this is not what the Bible says, but it's an interesting point of view: Moses, a spiritual teacher, takes his followers out of a land of plenty for a life of physical hardship that is at the same time incredibly spiritually uplifting and rewarding. Can you imagine what a powerful spiritual experience receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai must have been?

Egypt was the great international power of that era, not just from a military aspect but also from a cultural one, not unlike the United States today. The standard of living must have been so very much higher than anywhere else, even for those with no rights, even for slaves. Living anywhere else must have seemed unbearable. The same could probably be said about Ancient Rome, another great world power a couple of thousand years ago. People who love to hate the United States enjoy bringing the example of Ancient Rome as proof of the impermanent nature of all great world powers. Of course, they always neglect to mention that the Roman Empire was around for quite a while. Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say, but it didn't fall in a day, either.

When I was growing up I had five good friends. We were a close knit little group, the envy of those not included. We came complete with a cute, unusual name we invented for ourselves, made up of our initials. As such little teenage groups are wont, we had our little rituals. One of them was making unusual and creative presents for each other’s birthdays.

We were closest in middle school. The first major change came when one of us moved to another town. In high school, I gradually started drifting away as well, although I remained in the same school as the rest of them. I was never very social, as I've told you before.

One day I woke up to discover that my five friends and I were all grown up.

And I was the only one living in Israel.

It wasn't that my friends didn't love Israel, and didn't see it as home. It was just that life had drawn them away for various reasons. It's not as if I was in regular contact with them either. You know, a phone call here, a little get-together there.

What really bothered me was the thought that out of six intelligent, creative girls, Israel’s finest (even if I say so myself), only one had at no point attempted to live anywhere else. And it wasn’t because any of them had serious ideological or financial difficulties living in Israel. So what was wrong?

Bish said I was taking it the wrong way. Israel being such a small country, people needed to enrich their professional and personal experiences elsewhere. They needed to be in contact with like-minded professional colleagues and to find markets for what they had to offer, not an easy task in a country the size of Israel. My friends' drifting off was a natural occurrence, he said, akin to people moving from state to state and from city to city in the States. And besides, weren't my friends, all of them nice, educated and moderately left-leaning Zionist women, the best ambassadors Israel could have abroad?

Since then, three of them have wandered back*. During the very years that a great exodus of Israelis was meant to have been occurring, according to recent newspaper articles, three of my five friends packed up their families and belongings and came home. They did this without any big dramas or fanfares. They just came.

A few of the articles and blog posts that were floating round the Net, with regard to the numbers of Israelis living outside Israel were decidedly smug, as if to say: There you are! Proof that the Zionist experience is a failure (even if they didn’t actually spell it out). And I say: Oh, yeah? People like to have neat little explanations for things, preferably explanations that fit in nicely with their belief systems. But in actual fact there was always a large percentage of Israelis living abroad.

So 750,000 Israelis are not living in Israel. That’s their business, not mine. This isn’t the Soviet Union, you know. People are free to leave. Some people are not suited to the kind of life Israel has to offer. For most people, it’s no fleshpot, at least not by Northern American standards. But six million of us are right here, just trying to do our best, like everyone else.

* To be fair, I must point out that one of my friends only left for a relatively short period, and then commuted to and fro for a few more months.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

My two last posts have been deleted, because I didn’t like them.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Shai links to an excellent comment by Ari Shavit in Haaretz about the Geneva thing. (I knew I'd seen it somewhere before... Allison had it too).

Shabbat Shalom

Harry Potter countdown: Seven more days till the Hebrew version of #5 comes out. Needless to say I ordered it for the girls ages ago. They're very excited.

I've already read it in English, much to Eldest's frustration. I kept leaving it around to try and tempt her to read it in English, but she said it wouldn't be the same.

I found #5 disappointing, but I'm not sure if it's just not as good as the previous ones, or if it's me that has changed. Blogging has made me more critical of what I read. I'm more aware of manipulation than I was, and therefore more resistant to it. Also, I think I've lost interest in the story, because the breaks are too long between the books. I've moved on. Maybe she has lost interest too, J.K. Rowling, I mean. So much money is riding on it, she must be under such pressure. It can't be fun for her any more.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Winter is here!
I spent most of the afternoon walking about with my umbrella in torrential rain, part of the time with Eldest. The legs of my pants were soon drenched and I discovered that my boots weren't completely waterproof. It was fun. Even Eldest enjoyed herself, even though she wasn’t initially very enthusiastic about venturing out. Bish also had fun in the rain. He came home dripping from head to toe, after the ride home on his moped. Let’s hope this weather lasts, with a break on the 18th (Mum’s Yahrzeit).

I was relieved to hear Lynn enjoyed her Negev trip, and wasn’t disappointed. I was a bit worried, because I knew I sort of inspired the trip. She just missed the flash flood. Go read.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Two big suicide bombings were foiled today. The security fence (You know which fence, that Nazi Apartheid fence, that obstacle-to-peace fence) by Jenin stopped the terrorists from waltzing straight in. They had to take the long way round, via the Jordan Valley, and that is why they were apprehended.

One suicide bombing was planned for a school in the town of Yokne'am. A middle school. Eldest is in middle school. I don't want to talk about it.

How nice
Jonathan has nominated me for Best Female Authored Blog in the 2003 Wizbang Weblog Awards. This is very sweet of him. Don't get all excited, Dad, and start telling people, I've got extremely worthy competition (and numerous too), so I don't stand a chance of getting any awards. This is probably just as well, because I don't want to get an inflated ego now, do I? But it's still nice to be thought of.

Update: Well, I'm not on the list of nominees. I hope Meryl wins.

...IDF soldiers chasing after Palestinians and screaming at them in Vietnamese. Surreal, huh?

But I do do something, Helena. I write a blog. I expose my feelings, my experiences, and my life to the world. I do this in the hope that maybe, just maybe, someone, somewhere will read what I have to say, just an ordinary Israeli working mother with everyday hopes and fears, and see that I am not an ogre, and that even if they don’t agree with what I have to say, I am a human being. And maybe that person will be moved slightly to see that things are sometimes more complex than they seem at first glance. That must be worth something.

I know the things I say are nothing special, probably not very different from the thoughts and feelings of many ordinary Israelis. I’m no great scholar, no brilliant columnist. I’m not very right wing, or very left wing, by Israeli standards. I’m somewhere in the middle, a bit mixed up, swayed by emotions. I have no hidden agenda. I just say what enters my mind at a given moment. All I have to offer is my little angle of Israeli life. Could this not be useful for someone who wants to help peace along and needs to really know and understand both sides, and not just what he or she believes is right and just, based on previous life experiences from other parts of the world? Does compromise not take into account the dreams and fears of both sides in a conflict? Is my contribution so far less valuable than that of someone with fury in his or her eyes, standing on a street corner chanting mindless, inflammatory slogans that someone else thought up, and that mean very little, but serve to increase hatred between the sides?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Miki wishes to point out, in reaction to yesterday's post, that no one seems to question the fact that the Palestinians exist as a people. True. In actual fact, if it weren’t for Israel there certainly wouldn’t be a Palestinian nation (Hey, they owe us ;-)). If it weren’t for us, they would be no more than inhabitants of a district in Syria, or in a Greater Transjordan, or in Egypt, maybe even in Iraq (See, without the Israeli threat, Iraq might have swallowed up the Hashemite Jordanian Kingdom years and years ago).

But all this is speculation, just like trying to wish Israel and the Israelis away into non-existence. The Palestinians exist, like it or not. And their tragedy is a real one; their suffering is not imaginary. However, it could have been avoided had they had the wisdom and foresight to accept the Partition Plan of 1947, dividing the country between Arabs and Jews. We accepted it (What accepted?! We rejoiced! We danced in the streets!). They did not. They waged war. And they paid a terrible price.

And they continue to wage war, and continue to pay a terrible price.

Life is about adapting to change. This is rarely easy. We Jews had our fair share of adapting to change in the twentieth century, as well (and isn't that the understatement of the century?).

One summer, in Sinai, Bish and I made friends with a young Egyptian student. For various reasons, we were the first Israelis he had ever met, and he was amazed at the way we didn't fit the stereotype he had had in his head. He told us about a Palestinian who lived in his village. He explained that this Palestinian was widely disliked in the village (as were many of the Palestinians living in Egypt), because he was regarded as being badly behaved, pushy, money-grabbing ... Sound familiar?

It crossed my mind then that the Palestinians could be to many in the rest of the Arab world what the Jews are to many Europeans and other westerners. They don't like them. They often treat them badly and discriminate against them. They feel obliged to speak out in their favor, as lip service, as a sort of inner-Arabic political correctness, but they are not prepared to accept them, or actually do anything for them. Quite the contrary. Over the years, the Palestinians' Arab brethren have done little but contribute to, and perpetuate, the Palestinians' suffering.

How sad.

Sad also that the Palestinians and we Israelis have so much in common, but can’t get on with one another.

[Miki, thank you for inspiring this post, with your thought-provoking remarks.]

Update: Some interesting observations by Brian Ulrich.

Hurray! It’s a blogiversary!
The Head Heeb ’s this time.

I am completely in awe of this guy.

Mazal Tov!

In my comment about Americans, yesterday, I meant no offense to Native Americans. I know they were there before. But the American nation, as a nation, as a people, is a new phenomenon. Before Israel, there were Arabs; there were Jews; there were Germans; there were Turks; there were Horanis; there were Samaritans, and others, all living in the Land of Israel. But they weren’t Israelis, even if they are now (and I remind you that one million Arabs are full Israeli citizens). When I said Americans I meant the body of people who inhabit the United States of America, and who are regarded by the world, and regard themselves, as Americans (as opposed to Canadians, Mexicans, Argentinians, etc., who are also Americans, but are not called that).

Hang on…sixty years… few hundred years, what’s the difference? It’s the principle of the thing, after all. Maybe the non-indigenous Americans should get the hell out as well, and go back where they came from. How dare they get away with stealing not a small country, but nearly a whole continent?!

Monday, December 01, 2003

I have found a treasure:
Wonderful old photographs of the Land of Israel.

Mazal Tov to the Frog. A new tadpole.

Guess who I just spent the day with?
Can't tell you right now because I've got to go for parents' night at Eldest's school. Tell you later. (I'm cruel and wicked, aren't I?)

Much later: Okay, okay, I’ll tell you. Don’t be so impatient! With Lynn B., lucky me. We had lunch overlooking the sea in Givat Aliya in the south of Yaffo (Jaffa), and then we visited Yaffo port.

There’s really nothing that can beat sitting in the sun watching the sea with someone nice, instead of going to work.

Mary sent me the link to the excellent Julie Burchill farewell column yesterday, but I didn’t have time to blog about it. Thank you, Mary. I see it has been dealt with. And this is a very, very interesting article, also in the Guardian (I saw it at Allison's and at Meryl's). I love reading that paper (albeit selectively, for my mental health), even if it is written by, and caters for, people who, on the whole, don’t particularly love me. If Haaretz were anywhere near as interesting and fun to read as the Guardian, as Julie Burchill rightly points out, I would still be subscribed to Haaretz, despite my strong reservations about its journalistic integrity.

Having read the very, very interesting article, I have something to say (for a change), maybe another angle, as an Israeli:

Israel exists. Its inhabitants are Israelis. We are more than just a group of Jews who decided we are a nation. We are a people who live together and belong together. Ask Israeli Jews you meet in the street what they are first: Jews or Israelis. I believe a very large proportion of them will say: Israelis.

I don’t like getting into the anti-Zionism=anti-Semitism argument. I get that old fuzzy brain sensation coming over me when the question comes up. But this I know: Israel exists. Good idea, bad idea. Right, wrong. Irrelevant. Israel exists and is inhabited by Israelis. True, there were no Israelis sixty years ago, just as there were no Americans a few hundred years ago. But now there are. It’s about time people started adjusting their mindsets to this fact.

A joyous occasion?
I see the unelected Dr. Yossi Beilin is signing a peace treaty for us in Geneva today. I read in the paper that Arafat has allowed the Palestinian delegates to leave for Geneva for the signing. Erm, maybe I should repeat that: Arafat has allowed the Palestinian delegates to leave for Geneva for the signing.

Dr. Beilin has been on Reshet Bet radio station all the time pushing the agreement. Or so I’ve been told. I’ve been listening to Reshet Gimel music station. They’ve recently decided to have Mizrahi (Eastern style) music all through the day and not just in special programs. About time too! This way I get much more of a chance to hear Benayoun, mon amour, during the day. Sometimes even Zohar Argov, of blessed memory. So, unfortunately, Dr. Beilin’s persuasion attempts haven’t had much of an affect on me. Oh and someone must have thrown out the pamphlet we got through the mail, with the full agreement, because I can’t find it anywhere. Not that I have really made much of an effort to search for it.

So maybe some people are very excited about the signing of this agreement, I just don’t happen to know any of them.

Please don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against peace treaties, I'm actually quite partial to them. I just don't see the point of this one. Dr. Yossi Beilin explains that it's to show that we do have partners for negotiation after all. So I say fine, we have partners. Now all we have to do is win the war we're fighting with them and then we can sit down and negotiate peace with them.

Here's a silly quiz for bored cat lovers. Nice music (one of my all-time favorites, actually, from back when I was a wee lass). This originated, er, here.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

I’m thinking that maybe my previous post might have given some the wrong impression. I’m sad and weary, but that doesn’t change a few basic things:

The current Palestinian leadership has proved itself as a totally unreliable partner for negotiations with Israel. Many, maybe even most, ordinary Israelis feel they were conned by this leadership: taken for a ride; double-crossed; stabbed in the back… (Am I getting through here?). Most Israelis fail to see any change in the current Palestinian attitude, not that they would be taken in a second time as easily as the first.

Not until the current Palestinian leadership begins to treat the Palestinian terrorists as they treat those suspected of collaboration with the Zionist enemy (tortured, dragged through the streets, hanged on electricity poles in the town square to the cheers of the crowd… believe you me, you’d be prepared to pay a lot of money to be a Palestinian terrorist in an Israeli prison, to avoid the fate of a suspected collaborator, or a homosexual, in a Palestinian one), will ordinary Israelis begin to trust the current Palestinian leadership. Maybe.

All these supposedly peace-y people abroad, don’t seem to realize that building trust goes both ways.

Right now, the Israeli people have no choice but to support a government that does the work the current Palestinian leadership swore to do, over and over again: look after the lives of Israeli citizens by taking strong action against Palestinian terrorists.

Note: I would like to point out that I do not, in any way, condone torture, dragging through streets, hanging, or any type of physical violence as means of punishment. Sadly, the current Palestinian leadership does, but only for certain crimes. The mass murder of Israeli innocents is not one of them.

A comment by John Williams:

The phrase, ' The current Palestinian leadership...' might lead the unwary reader to think that there was ever any other Palestinian leadership outside of Arafat. He is the only constant in all the conflicts. I am reminded of Newton's law,

Whenever one body exerts force upon a second body, the second body exerts an equal and opposite force upon the first body

Arafat has been exerting force on Israel since his return to the territories and is in my opinion responsible for the election of equal and opposite force in the shape of three hard Israeli leaders. He provokes, they respond. He is a permanent impediment to peace and should be taken out of the equation.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I'm tired of writing about The Situation. I'm tired of thinking about it, I haven't got the energy. It's hopeless. I can't look at The Big Picture or even at a little bit of the picture, without feeling despair. I want it to finish already. I want the Palestinians to have a state, and for them to be able to live in freedom and in affluence; I want the settlements dismantled; I want the Palestinians and all Arabs (and the rest of the world, for that matter) to accept our presence here; I want the terrorists in prison or dead or reformed; I want to know my children and grandchildren have a future; I want to know I will be able to grow old in peace in my home that I love.

I want us all to live happily ever after.

I'm worn out. I don't want to think about it any more.

Maybe it's because my mother's first Yahrzeit (the Hebrew date of her death) is coming up. I'm a bit low on energy.

That’s why I have had nothing to say lately. More or less. Meanwhile, here are some nice
illusions. Via cloudshift.

Monday, November 24, 2003

So where’s the rain they promised?

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Bish and I drove to Mitzpe Ramon today. With a heavy heart we packed up the meager belongings we had collected in our little apartment there and loaded them into our little van. Then we returned the keys to the landlord. We went for a last look over the edge of the Crater and headed back home.

The landlord is quite fond of us. He suggested we come down to one of his holiday villas as his guests. We will. We still love Mitzpe Ramon, even if we can’t get down on a regular basis.

On the way back we stopped at a little place for a bite to eat. It was set out Bedouin-style with cushions on the floor. We had pita, laban’e, yoghurt, salad, olives and herbal tea. I love these places because you sit comfortably and you don’t feel obliged to leave in a hurry. In Sinai you can sit in a Bedouin cafe all day reading a book, and order just a glass of sweet tea.

This was a new place. We’d often driven past that spot and had never seen it before. The proprietor seemed uncomfortable to be serving people. He was a bit gruff, but in a vulnerable, endearing sort of way. It crossed my mind that he might have been a retired army officer, more used to giving orders than receiving them.

Now we have to figure out where to put all the stuff we brought home.

Friday, November 21, 2003

No evidence of WMD in Iraq? Well, there’s no evidence of Saddam Hussein either, and he certainly did exist before the US invaded Iraq, and quite a lot indicates that he still does, IN IRAQ.
[This in reaction to some idiot on Sky News, which I never watch, but R.T. was here]

Oh, and Salam has the reaction of G in Baghdad to yesterday’s demonstration in London:

tell your friends in London that G in Baghdad would have appreciated them much more if they had demonstrated against the atrocities of saddam.
And if you could ask them when will be the next demonstration to support the people of north Korea, the democratic republic of Congo and Iran?

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Reading Havdala and Anne makes me want to write something nice myself, but I can’t manage to organize my thoughts into anything coherent. I’ll go fold some laundry instead.

Shai of Sha! is a new dad. Go see photos.

Thank you Allison. No she didn't deliver the baby, but she did point out her existence to her readers.

Welcome Lia.

Jewsylvania? I like it.
Meryl explains Zionism to an Egyptian reader.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Stefan Sharkansky would like to know what the reaction in Israel is to the Friday interview of four former Shabak heads who warn of imminent doom as a result of the actions of the current government and support the initiative of one of them, Ami Ayalon, with Palestinian Sari Nusaiba.

So reactions? Erm, well, Haaretz editorial yesterday fully supports (duh). In today’s Yediot Aharonot op-ed page (the newspaper in which the original interview appeared) (Hebrew link), Yaron London was in favor and Arye Eldad was opposed. Interestingly, they both ask why these people are only saying these things now, and why, when in office, they didn’t refuse to implement the same sorts of policies they are now opposing.

Eldad even goes further to remind us that one of the four, Avraham Shalom, was forced to resign his post as head of the Shabak following the # 300 bus fiasco, in which Shabak operatives killed terrorists who had hijacked an intercity bus in 1984. It came to light that the terrorists had been apprehended, and were tied up, when killed, making this an illegal execution. Shalom then sent his people to lie to the Commission of Inquiry and blame the killings on then IDF Southern Command General, Yitzhak Mordechai. He also reminds us that Carmi Gillon resigned his post after his operatives failed to prevent the murder of Yitzhak Rabin.

Yaron London says that it’s better late than never. He contends that the opposition to Sharon and his policies is growing. He has a point. People are starting to feel a bit uneasy about Sharon. But considering the majority the right got just under a year ago in the elections, and that the left still doesn’t really look like a serious alternative, it’s far too early to start burying him.

So that’s a bit of media reaction for you, from those guys who get paid to have an opinion. But what are people on the street saying?

Nothing. They’re not interested.

Local Jewish stuff
Haaretz article about Judaism as a culture: in recent years, there has been much interest, among secular Jews in Israel, in their Jewish roots. Study groups are popular. This is not a return to religion thing. It’s about what I would call secular empowerment. There is a popular feeling that our Jewish heritage does not belong just to the religious. The belief is that it belongs just as much to secular Jews, who wish to study it in a secular manner, without attempts being made to make them religious in the process.

And there’s more from Haaretz on civil weddings: a Knesset committee has begun to function to work out a solution. In the meantime, Shinui party says the state may pay for nuptial trips to Cyprus.

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?
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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.