Now that’s a bike.
Update: Finally got round to looking it up. A Cannondale Gemini. Yup.
why not a fish
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Here's my old post about the sand storm in Sinai.
Found here (Hebrew link).
Afterthought: It is, of course, inconceivable that anyone should want to go in any direction other than Yaffo D, but just in case, it's nice to know.
Yesterday I was feeling upset all day. You probably noticed – Why else would I lash out at poor, defenseless Gideon Levy? When Alisa mentioned 3rd November I couldn’t for the life of me think what that date meant. I racked my brain. Rabin was murdered on the 4th; the Brits burn Guy Fawkes on the 5th. The 3rd? No, nothing.
I reckoned it must be something to do with Mr. Alisa. So I shamed myself by asking her ‘What happens on Nov 3?’ Oysh.
Now I know ;-)
Friday, October 08, 2004
Here is Shoosha guarding the kitchen window ledge that used to belong to those nasty, horrible pigeons.
Gideon Levy: More dangerous than Sinai
It’s not every day you get to expose someone for being a spiteful, manipulative bastard, even if you can clearly see that that is what he is. But there is no pleasure in pointing the finger at Gideon Levy this day, because today his hateful vitriol against the Israeli establishment may have cost lives. Today we get an idea of just how dangerous Gideon Levy can be.
On 12th September 2004, Gideon levy unleashed his usual irresponsible venom, in the warm, receptive pages of Haaretz. This time he was attacking the security forces’ call to stay clear of Sinai during the holidays.
Even if the defense establishment has solid information about Sinai, the timing of its warnings is problematic, after four years of warnings in which not a hair of the tens of thousands of Israelis who went to Sinai was harmed. After all, it's always easier to frighten people, even if it's not certain that it's necessary - what's known popularly as "covering your ass." No one pays for false warnings here, not for the scare campaign about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons, and nor for the warnings about Sinai.
On the 22nd September, Juliano Mer, local actor and Palestinian activist (he’s half Jewish and half Arab), called on Israelis (Hebrew link) to travel to Sinai, and launched a paranoid (and hallucinatory, in my view) attack on the fear and panic tactics of the Israeli establishment, aimed, according to Mer, at turning Israel into one big Jewish ghetto.
Among other things, he pointed out that the warnings were not even logical.
Juliano Mer is actually regarded as a bit of a nut. He’s been arrested a few times for beating people up, most notably, his leading lady, in a play in which he was starring, a few years ago, in Haifa.
Update: Alisa thinks I'm exaggerating the influence of Gideon Levy and the rest of the Media on Israelis. She's probably right in this case. No one would really have decided if to go to Sinai based on Levy's recommendation, certainly not bsed on that of the unstable Juliano Mer. But I believe there is a cumulative effect of the hateful, manipulative way that Gideon Levy and his ilk write what they write, that is poisonous and harmful, and it does have a detrimental effect on society in Israel, and on the ability of the people to think clearly about what we face. I think that is dangerous.
I’ve been looking at some old photos we took in Sinai on our summer trips way back when. This one is Eldest in Nuweiba in 1998. She must be nearly seven. It always amazed me how happy she was to just hop on camels and horses there. She wouldn’t hear of going on them with a grownup. If you’ve ever been on a camel, you’ll know that the really scary bits are when the camel gets up and sits down. But even as they lunge along clumsily, they’re so tall, you feel like you’re a mile high, and Eldest was particularly teeny.
And this is Youngest in Nuweiba, the following summer, 1999. She’ll be four and a half here. I’m taking the photo from our straw hut, just on the water’s edge.
I think this was the time we got stuck in a sand storm. I remember telling you about it.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
First rambling thoughts of the day after
The only thing I could think about was that M, one of Eldest’s oldest and best friends, was in Sinai with her father. She’d come over for our snorkeling equipment just the week before. Her father’s girlfriend is a travel agent, so I reckoned they wouldn’t be staying in one of the beachfront straw huts we used to stay in. They’d be in a hotel.
I didn’t dare to ring J, M’s mother, till about an hour later. ‘She walked through the door half an hour ago,’ J reported, breathlessly. ‘They went through Taba five hours ago. I hadn’t heard about the terrorist attack, M told me herself. It’s a good thing. I would have had a heart attack on the spot.’ I was relieved I hadn’t rung before.
It had aggravated me that people had ignored the warnings not to go before Rosh Hashanna. People had said it was all just a scare by hoteliers in Eilat, so people would come to them instead (not that Eilat wasn’t just as packed). But the reporters in the know are saying that this is not the attack they were warning about; that one was foiled.
People did keep clear of Sinai for about two or three years after September 2000. And then gradually, they started going again. It’s safer there than in Israel, they’d say.
It’s heaven there, you see. It’s hard to keep away. I miss it very much, but I haven’t been since August 2000.
We used to go with the girls for a few days at the end of August every year. It wasn’t the most popular time and was usually quite empty. The sea breeze made it pleasant, even in the summer heat. There is a lovely sea breeze along the coast of Sinai that somehow disappears like magic as you reach the bay of Eilat. The air stands in Eilat in August.
I used to be a bit nervous going, it was a long drive, with or without the girls, and the border crossing was never comfortable. But once in, there was this freedom. I’ve never experienced a holiday quite like Sinai. It really was heaven there.
We used to drive down to the Nuweiba area, to find the hut nearest the water, preferably in a Bedouin resort. They were more laid back, the Bedouin, and their places were usually quieter. The Egyptian places often had loud Western pop music blaring out all day. Mind you, the Egyptians we met were all lovely people, generous, warm; incredibly friendly.
Not very efficient though. Bish once went to look for some eye drops or ear drops, or something, in the so-called hospital in Nuweiba. ‘Not a place you go to, if you’re expecting to get treatment for anything’, was his verdict. It was, like, three rooms. He doubted there was a doctor.
We used to half-joke about our contingency plans. If anything happened that needed emergency attention, we would load the girls into the car and race to Taba like bats out of hell, praying all the way they’d let us through the Egyptian side of the border without the queue.
Israel is complaining that they didn’t let Israeli emergency services through fast enough last night. But that’s just the way the Egyptians are. Slow. They don’t mean any harm. They just take their time about everything.
They let the first Israeli ambulances in to Taba after about an hour. That’s really fast by Egyptian standards, in my experience, especially considering the historic sensitivities about sovereignty in the area.
You have to go to Egypt to realize what an amazing accomplishment Israel is. We maybe don’t compare very well to Europe and the US, but we’re very impressive compared to our immediate neighbors. This is quite incredible when you take into consideration that about fifty percent of the Jewish population in Israel is made up of natives of Middle Eastern countries and their descendants.
Nu. Anyway. I digress, and with good reason.
Anyone who has been to Sinai will understand my ramblings. It is hard to envision such a place amid the chaos of a terrorist attack. Heaven and hell all mixed up together. It doesn’t connect.
A big blast in the Hilton in Taba, on the Egyptian side of the Israel-Egypt border. They don’t know if it’s a terrorist attack yet, or an accident, but security forces here have been warning Israelis again and again not to go to Sinai, for weeks now, and everyone was poo-pooing it and going for the Succot holiday anyway.
I know a lot of people who are in Sinai right now, but probably not at that particular hotel. There is a popular casino in the hotel, gambling is illegal in Israel, and it was probably full to bursting with Israeli gamblers, who cross the border just to gamble. And being Simchat Torah, the hotel was obviously full of families staying there as well.
The Egyptian health services in Sinai are atrocious and they reportedly only let four Israeli ambulances through a few minutes ago, to evacuate wounded. Not enough. Those who can walk have been walking over to Eilat. The border must be hell to get through. They’re dreadfully slow there at the best of times.
No news about numbers yet.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Another day, another Hag (and then we’re finished till Hannuka)
I can’t tell you how upset I am about that thirteen-year-old girl killed in Rafiah on her way to school. My Eldest is thirteen.
The Palestinians are saying that twenty bullets ripped through her body after she threw her school satchel, and the soldiers suspected it was rigged with explosives. Twenty bullets. Talk about overkill, literally.
Can we begin to imagine how terrified she must have been at the moment of death?
How could they do such a thing, I ask myself. How could they make such a terrible mistake? Twenty bullet holes. Horrible.
I suddenly think of a scene in a film I once saw. I didn’t see the rest of the film, I was just zapping. The scene didn’t make me want to stick around for more. I’m a bit vague about the details. It was Bosnia or Serbia, or somewhere round there. British soldiers (I think they were British or maybe American) were in control of a bridge. A young girl comes along (with a baby? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m mixing it up with something else) and wants to cross. I think they’re not meant to let anyone cross. She looks at them, they look at her, and then they nod her across. She walks along and when she gets near to them she blows up, or throws a grenade, or opens fire, or something. Can’t remember exactly, only that it was ‘och and vey’, as Mum used to say.
So how can I judge those soldiers? I understand that the circumstances were such that it could well have been like on that bridge in that film, which I didn’t really see and can’t remember very well. Not much consolation for her family though, is it?
I remember a time, not so very long ago, when I used to be really, really afraid to let the girls go out of the apartment. I used to sit at work all day, tense and fearful, until they rang to tell me they had arrived safely home from school. I used to ride the number five bus home from work with clenched teeth, listening to the guy at the back mumbling the prayer for traveling, over and over again. There always seemed to be a guy at the back.
During that period, a friend said that every day she would wait for the terrorist attack, for it was a daily event at that time, and, awful as this may sound, she would be relieved when it happened. She’d survived the game of Russian roulette they were playing with us, for another day.
Am I happy that tables are turned and now it is other mothers who are afraid? No, I am not. My heart goes out to the tearful mothers and fearful children we see every night on the TV (Do they show our tearful mothers and fearful children on their TV, as well?). I have no vengeful satisfaction. I’m just grateful it’s not so much me and mine at the moment. I’m only human.
A week or two ago, I heard a song on the car radio. I don’t hear much radio these days. I ride my bike to work and I’m too busy to listen to the radio there. I often only hear about important events of the day, when I get home in the afternoon. Anyway, this was one of those quiet, wistful songs, woman and guitar. The refrain included the words - ‘A bit of compassion never killed anyone’. And I thought, God, what a daft song. Compassion could very well turn out to be one of the big killers of our time.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Egg on face
Well it looked like one tube to me. Apparently it really could be two tubes with canvas in the middle – a stretcher. Even the IDF are saying so now. Someone was in too much of a rush to go public with this. Bad publicity mistake.
I admit I started to be a bit nervous about this when I saw this photo in yesterday’s Yediot Aharonot. Bish says he felt the same way.
It’s a UN paramedic showing what a folded stretcher looks like.
Now I feel uncomfortable because a few people linked to what I said. I apologise.
Monday, October 04, 2004
Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:
"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).
The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.
Can any of the above be seen as a reason that Hamas members should not be receiving a salary from the UN? Certainly not, according to Peter Hansen, head of UNRWA. Its all just a little, unimportant matter of political persuasion.
I am sure the Hamas members whose livelihoods are secured by the UN, so they can proceed to plan and carry out their clearly stated goal, are very grateful to the government of the United States, for its substantial monetary support of Hamas, via the UN.
'All that glisters is not gold.'
Ah, thank you, Dad. Nice to see you're feeling better.
Update: Joe says that's Shakespeare.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
The Guardian parodies itself in its sports pages (what else is new?)
On a day of extensive bloodshed 70 miles south of Tel Aviv, the Uefa Cup was of diminished importance, even to the minor miracle that is Bnei Sakhnin, but Newcastle still had a job to do.
As for Sakhnin, they and their 12,000 fans go back to the hills of Galilee and a life framed by violence. With no stadium and no money, theirs was a romantic tale of over-achievement, though the claims to Sakhnin demonstrating the power of Arab-Jew co-operation were left looking weak when the news came through shortly before kick-off that the Israeli military had killed 28 Palestinians near Gaza City.
The atmosphere was subdued and any chance that it might be aroused by Sakhnin staging one of the great upsets was removed when Kluivert collected a lovely back-heel from Jermaine Jenas and side-footed in the first.
Scroll down to the photos of little Dorit and Yuval for balance.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
Jerusalem Post: Footage shows terrorists using UN-marked vehicle.
Haaretz: IDF releases footage of militants loading rockets into 'UN' car.
Militants? MILITANTS?! Makes you wonder what side Haaretz is on.
Here is the Israel channel 1 newsreel during which this footage was aired. It’s the whole newsreel in Hebrew. Fast forward to minute 5:45 to view the relevant part. You’d better watch it soon, it probably won't stay there for long. Beats me why this isn’t on the IDF spokesman’s site.
What you will see are three short segments, filmed from an IDF drone. First you see ‘militants’ burying a bomb in the ground so if an IDF tank should come along they can blow it up. Next you see ‘militants’ loading a Kassam rocket into a UN vehicle. In the third segment you see ‘militants’ loading a Kassam rocket into a Palestinian Police vehicle. Then you see the vehicle driving along the road, and then you see it being blown to pieces by a missile launched from an IDF helicopter.
Here are two year old Dorit and four year old Yuval, may they rest in peace, the babes killed as they played by their home in Sderot last week, by one of these Kassam rockets, launched by ‘militants’. Sderot is a town in pre-1967 Israel, not far from the border with Gaza.
Update: Here is the footage. It’s been edited differently than on last night’s channel 1 newsreel. First section, you see a Kassam rocket being launched. Second section, you see something being buried in the middle of the road, men standing around watching. Third section, you see men walking along a wall, one of them carrying something, then the men pass through a gate in the wall and load the thing onto a UN vehicle, and close the back doors.
I've seen it on TV a few times more. It is far clearer on TV, much better quality. It is quite clear that what the man is carrying and loading into the vehicle is a long metal tube.
Israel is demanding the resignation of Peter Hansen, the head of UNRWA, who is trying to wriggle out of it all by saying it couldn’t have been a Kassam rocket because “the object looks more like a folded-up stretcher than anything else. Especially since it was being carried with one hand. A Kassam rocket would be too heavy for a man to carry with one hand”. The Jerusalem Post points out that “According to the IDF website, the Kassam rocket is about 2 meters long and weighs on average 5.5 KG (about 12 pounds)”.
By the way, the car that was seen blowing up, on the channel 1 footage that I linked to before, was apparently unrelated to the police car shown just before.
Some things give you a jolt however often you see them.
I remember the first time I saw a number tattooed on someone’s arm. I must have been about ten. I was on the bus home from school, the number thirty-three.
She was sitting across from me, a large woman who seemed to me to be in her fifties, wearing a sleeveless cotton print dress. Little flowers, I think the pattern was, although the colors were faded from age and use. She had one of those awful pale green plastic baskets everyone used for carrying groceries from the store in those days. And there, on the inner side of her flabby white forearm was a little blue tattoo, a row of hardly distinguishable numbers.
I remember being surprised that the numbers were so blurred.
There were a lot of people with those tattoos back then. You don’t see them as often nowadays.
The Age of Tinsel
"A celebrity is a person who is well-known for their well-knownness".
Precious. Found link (sort of) in rebecca's pocket (what she’s reading).
What happens is this: An Israeli model gets a little part in a soap on cable. For about a week, she is happy just to manage to learn the lines reasonably well (thank God there are no three syllable words). Then things start getting frantic. She’s continually on the front pages of the newspapers and gets invited to all the best chat shows; thirteen year-old girls scream when they see her on the street and crowd around her for autographs. She soon comes to the realization that she is a very talented actress.
Now this is where she gets it wrong. Instead of continuing to milk the local cow till everyone is sick of her (including herself), she gets greedy. And so, off she trots to Hollywood to find fame and fortune. Being so wonderfully talented and beautiful, she must share herself with the rest of the world, it’s only fair.
But (gasp!) no one is waiting. After about three years of hustling, she gets a tiny part (‘woman in store’) in some obscure TV mini-series, by pulling every last string she has (it’s a Haim Saban production). No one ever actually gets to see it, but she is hailed all over Israeli media as an international star, as the one who finally made it. When she comes home for a visit, after yet another year of waiting tables, she appears on all the chat shows as ‘our very own success story in Hollywood’, and lands an advertising campaign, selling a new fad diet. Three years later she marries a rich American Jew in his seventies, thus managing to save face at home.
(Don’t try and work out who I’m talking about, I’m not. I just threw that together using details from the stories of various local egomaniacs, and not only female ones)
I have a new motto (translation from the Hebrew): ‘Not Everything That Sparkles Is Gold’.
I find it, along with ‘Istra Belagina Kish Kish Karya’, extremely consoling. Helps me handle the loud, shallow, lazy, silicone-and-buttox, stupidity-is-beautiful, atmosphere that has overrun a certain place where I am paid to spend a large part of every day.
On the other hand, sometimes glitz is good. I really have to get one of those garish cycling t-shirts - all the better to SEE me with. Oh oh, I forgot to tell you the best news ever – Bish got a bike, just like mine (a Giant Sedona hybrid) but bigger. Thank you, R.T., for all your help. We’ve just got back from our first ride together. He’s all aches and pains, but he had a good time. I am suddenly aware of how very fit I am. Yippee.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
A few things
I told you Our Sis and Mister Our Sis visited the US, mainly New England, their first big trip without the kids, who are now nearly all grown-up. They spent Rosh Hashanna in a place called West Woodstock, Vermont, where they stumbled on Rosh Hashanna services in a beautiful reform shul in a converted barn (‘Not what you’d think. This was a lovely converted barn’). Used to Orthodox shuls, they said the service was strange but moving, and they enjoyed it. They were mainly excited about the very warm welcome they received from the congregation.
They said people were very warm to them, as Israelis, not only when they were among fellow Jews, but everywhere they went in America. Nice.
On the other hand, Our Sis told us that friends of theirs visited Europe. They weren’t received very nicely at all. At the border between, I think it was Italy and Germany, the German border police seriously hassled them, and Our Sis’s friend, the son of German immigrants, heard the policemen talking between themselves about giving these Jews a hard time. Jews not Israelis, note. The kids were apparently terrified by the unpleasant event and the family cut short their visit to Germany.
On another front, the situation in Sderot has been going from bad to worse. Increasing numbers of Kassam rockets, launched daily from Gaza on this southern development town in pre-1967 Israel, do not bode well for life after the disengagement, when the Palestinians in Gaza will be free to do as they like. Yesterday two little children were killed in Sderot by Kassam rockets.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Hag Succot Same'ach everyone
Sunday, September 26, 2004
So why fast if one does not attach deep religious meaning to the act, if one does not ‘do it properly’?
I once heard a Jewish woman say that when she lit the Shabbat candles every Friday night she felt a connection to all Jewish women everywhere who were also lighting Shabbat candles, ushering in the Shabbat. And she also felt a connection to all Jewish women down the generations before her who had lit the Shabbat candles, and the yet unborn baby girls who would be lighting them in the future.
Fasting on Yom Kippur is also something we do and have been doing for many generations. This is a humbling thought. The essence of this fast, of this day, is also humbling. We beat our breasts as we collectively speak our transgressions, and together ask for forgiveness.
I haven’t been to shul on Yom Kippur for many years, so I haven’t actually done this for a while, but I can still hear the tune “And for all these oh Lord of forgiveness: Forgive us, pardon us, grant us remission.” Nostalgia has made the memory far sweeter than reality ever was. I used to be bored out of my mind.
You sometimes hear people saying defensively, ‘I haven’t done anything wrong, so I don’t have to fast’. You smile to yourself, because you happen to know one ore two things about those particular people.
Others aren’t taking any chances. You can probably leave your door wide open in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur. The thieves are all praying and beating their breasts. They know that what they do for a living is wrong. They also know that tomorrow they will continue were they left off. Today they pray desperately.
Yesterday, Yom Kippur, I rode my bike through the wonderfully empty streets of industrial South Tel Aviv, through the deserted alleyways of the flea market in Yaffo, touching something that isn’t there on the other days of the year, not even on Shabbat.
When I came home I drank, two cups after the first trip, three after the second, so as not to dehydrate. Mine wasn’t a very ‘kosher’ fast.
But today I feel cleansed, and not just physically. There is a strength to Yom Kippur, however you choose to spend it.
Bottom line: Why fast? I’m not sure, but it feels good.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
A reader’s interesting thoughts:
Jewish ethnicity and Jewish faith. (I just wrote that Israel is the most obvious example of this, but crossed it out because I realized it's not the same thing - just goes to show how difficult this concept can be at times.)
Is "Jewishness" only adherence to a religion? That would neglect an obvious Jewish secular culture. Is "Jewishness" an ethnicity that tends to practice a certain religion? That neglects the various faces and colors of practicing Jews around the world. Is
"Jewishness" a national identity, i.e. Israeli? To make it so would disenfranchise Israeli citizens who are non-Jews by religion or ethnicity. Is "Jewishness" simply an inherited culture? Possibly, but is that a strong enough word for it?
I wonder if the roots of this seeming dilemma might be found in European history, extending back at least to the Middle Ages, where Jews were segregated and
considered separate from the European Christian population as a "people apart", regardless of religious observance or native language or outward appearance - the latter of course tended to be regulated. If a group is seen as "different" for long
enough, perhaps the reason for that difference can begin to seem inherent, rather than attributable to a specific original cause such as religious difference.
As I said above, I find this very intriguing because I can't offhand think of another case where religion and ethnicity seem so blended in terms of identity, and
I'm not even sure that's as fair and accurate a description of "Jewishness" as it might seem at first glance.
If a Jew 'converts" - to Christianity, to Buddhism - is s/he still a Jew? If an Eskimo 'converts' – to Judaism - does s/he become a Jew? I suppose that Israel is the place that would bring these questions into highest relief.
Also interesting, the above-mentioned concept of "common culture" is generally accepted as the best available definition of "Arabness", although the parallel stops just about there, as Arabs practice a number of different religions in addition to being
composed of myriad ethnicities.
Irit Linor? In Haaretz?
How very droll.
Irit Linor is an Israeli writer. Bish knew her in university. She used to be known mainly as a very loud lefty feminist who wrote a witty and provocative column in I forget which newspaper, and was a regular commenter on TV and radio. She later amused many by changing her tune a bit, following her marriage to a hunky TV military correspondent. She has also published two very popular books of fiction. One of them was made into a feature film.
But she first really captured my heart when she sent a wonderfully eloquent and cutting letter to Haaretz in 2002, I think, canceling her subscription. The letter was bandied round the Internet, as was Haaretz’s response. I think the only ones who didn’t get to read it were the rest of Haaretz subscribers. Haaretz didn’t dare publish the letter. They were in the middle of a mass reader exodus at the time, as a result of a severe clash between their open political stand and reality, as perceived by many of their veteran readers (including this one), and were reportedly getting a bit hysterical (not enough to change their stand but enough for them to be very worried).
And now she’s back, writing an article for Haaretz. As always, it’s worth reading. I see her as a representative of people like me, lefties whose eyes were forced opened in September 2000 and after.
Friday, September 24, 2004
More on being a secular Jew
(This post may be a bit shocking for traditional and religious Jews, who may have certain pre-conceptions about life in Israel. Be warned)
A reader suggested it must be difficult to be a secular Jew in Israel. On the contrary, Israel is an excellent place to be secular. First of all, the majority of Jewish Israelis are either secular or traditional.
The modern State of Israel was created by secular socialists, breaking out of the confines of Eastern European yeshivas. As a result, until fairly recently, the academic, financial, cultural, and political elites were mainly secular. This is changing, but even though the ultra-Secular tend to feel threatened by religious politicians attempting to infringe on their freedoms, it isn’t really happening (this is a bit complex – more about it another time, maybe).
Jews who came here from Arab and Muslim countries, by the way, make up about half of Israelis. They apparently lived a far less confining and restrictive style of Jewish life in their countries of origin than did the Jews in Eastern Europe, therefore when they came to Israel, many, if not most, became secular but remained traditional.
Secondly, in Israel the likelihood of your kids marrying non-Jewish people, if this holds any importance for you, is relatively low, even if you make no attempt to live any sort of ‘Jewish’ life.
Third, and best of all, if you are seriously secular, you get to make the most of both worlds on Yom Kippur.
Imagine, if you will, the busiest, noisiest, most congested street you know; always jammed with cars, buses, trucks whizzing past, horns peeping, hundreds of people filling the sidewalks, rushing this way and that.
And now try to mentally visualize that same street, completely empty, eerily silent. No vehicles moving on it, not even one, sidewalks empty of passersby, besides maybe the occasional family, walking slowly and reverently towards their synagogue.
And then you hear it, a low clicking, whirling sound. Soon there is a sight to go with the sound, a solitary guy on a bike, riding boldly, right in the middle of the wrong side of the road. He’s soon followed by a group of kids in their early teens, about six of them, racing their bikes, shouting out to each other. Next to go passed - a couple on roller blades, holding hands; and then more bikers, mainly children of various ages, many in packs, but quite a few serious adult bikers too, with all the fancy gear.
This is Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur, the best place to be in the world if you are a secular kid and you possess a bicycle. There is nowhere you can’t go, complete and utter freedom, unheard of, unthinkable. The next day the gangs of kids tell stories of how they reached as far as Herzliya and Rishpon in the north. An all time favorite is the Ayalon Freeway, which cuts through the east of Tel Aviv all along. For secular Tel Aviv kids, used to the restrictions of living in the middle of a busy city with all its dangers, Yom Kippur is a day of breaking free, a day of personal independence.
Last time I rode a bike in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur was two or three years ago, and I think I was fasting (poor R.T., I more or less destroyed his bike on that occasion, but that’s another story). I’m going to try for both this year as well. Maybe I’ll drink water. Yediot Aharonot reported yesterday that 22.5% of the customers of one movie rental chain fast and watch movies. I wonder how many fast and ride their bikes!
So this morning was bike maintenance time. I’ve ridden with the girls a few times recently, so their bikes were fine, only needed a bit of air, and I fitted them with the lights I had bought, ready for the ritual Kol Nidrei night ride. Mine had another flat, on the other hand, so now we’re a bit low on spare inner tubes should we have any calamities (Erev Yom Kippur is not a good time to go anywhere near any bike shops - too packed).
Both girls have big plans and were on the phone all morning. I think Youngest is being a bit over-ambitious, her bike isn’t marvelous and she isn’t very strong, but now that I have my own bike, I’ll have no problem to come and save her, wherever she may find herself.
So there we are. Yesterday I was proud to receive my first sample of hate mail, from someone who completely misunderstood an old post of mine so much so that he actually understood it to mean the exact opposite (he obviously didn’t read it very carefully). The e-mail itself was very silly. Besides one unpleasant expression which was repeated throughout (the ‘f’ word and the ‘sh’ word) to describe me, I am apparently in possession of a ‘little graphomaniac blabber's mind’. I quite liked that. Maybe I’ll make it my blog description.
I’ve deleted the old post. It wasn’t that important. And although you had to be pretty dense to be offended by the particular detail that made my hate-filled correspondent froth at the mouth, I really don't want to upset anyone like that. It’s so sad that people are reduced to such language and such behavior. If he had written a polite e-mail saying that he was offended by it, I would have apologized and deleted it, so why the violence?
Update: Good description of Yom Kippur by Shai.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
I’m not sure why, but I love this:
Be virtuous, and find yourselves a dragonslayer.
Via Alice in Texas (‘Is that a gun in my pocket, or is that a gun in my pocket?’).
Bish would probably say it was shtooyot*. Still, he didn't marry a cheerleader, did he?
And while we're on the subject, Mazal Tov to David and Zahava, my nominees for Nicest Couple of the Blogosphere (MidEast Chapter), on the occasion of their wedding anniversary.
*Shtooyot = nonsense
Another thought: I'm reading Alice and I'm thinking 'This must be the most un-cool, nerdy thing I have ever read in my life'. "The truth is that goodness is never boring, because it is creative and powerful and principled". You can't get more nerdy than that. Thing is, it's true, even if it does seem so unworldly and old-fashioned.
When did we become so cynical, so self-destructively sophisticated, that we automatically ridicule such sentiments, even as we see the wisdom in them? (Maybe because there aren't enough Darcy's to go round).
It's all Heathcliff's fault. The original incredibly-sexy-but-bad-news hero.
I confess, a long time ago I thought I was getting a Heathcliff, but he turned out to be a Darcy. No, even better than a Darcy. "Goodness is never boring, because it is creative and powerful and principled". Definitely. I am the luckiest person in the world.
Now see if you can beat that for uncool nerdy-ness, not to mention shameless mushy-ness.
Bish just received spam from someone using the address of Bish’s business website, something on the lines of – email@example.com
He can’t even blacklist it, it’s his own address!
More about why
Razak - who lived for over thirty years in Jaffa and worked in Bat Yam, a Jaffa bakery and the central bus station in Tel Aviv - said that he was glad he had been caught, as he doubted he could have detonated the bomb when the time came.
Why would such a person put on underwear filled with explosives and come to blow up people?
According to the Jpost
On TV last night, al Razak was asked what he thought about the people who had sent him. He said that there was a God in Heaven. The interviewer then said that those who sent him were claiming that they were doing God’s will. He was silent for a moment and then again said that there was a God in Heaven.
Since last night, I have been worried about what they might do to his son now. And if I’m worried, can you imagine how he must be feeling? Poor guy.
Monday, September 20, 2004
Just got back from a parents’ meeting at Eldest’s school. Her class is a mixture of children from the relatively wealthy north and the less affluent south of the city (I say ‘relatively’ because Our Sis has just come back from a trip to New England, full of stories of real affluence).
This year, the municipality cancelled the special bus the kids from the south get to school, for lack of funds. The school is located in the north, about ten minutes walk from our apartment. The kids from the south are now being given bus tickets and are expected to get the public transport. It takes some of them about an hour and a half to get to school, poor things. The school administration is trying to negotiate a deal with ‘Dan’, the local bus company, so that they will allocate a special bus for these kids. They’ll pay with the bus tickets they’ve been given, but the bus won’t stop at any of the bus stops on the way, and will reach the school much quicker. I hope this solution works out.
During the meeting, while parents from the south were understandably letting off steam on the subject, some character at the back of the class kept making wisecracks about the discrimination of the south. It was uncomfortable.
Parents’ meetings in Middle School are truly horrible. We don’t know any of the parents, even those we suspect are parents of Eldest’s friends, unlike in elementary school where quite a few of the parents were our friends, and we knew all the others as well. Not that the parents’ meetings weren’t horrible in elementary too, just less so.
Tonight we couldn’t get away fast enough, and we certainly didn’t stick around for the lecture about dealing with drug abuse among adolescents.
The drugs issue has been a big joke in our household ever since Eldest confessed that she was very worried about some research she had read about somewhere that apparently had found that kids from families who didn’t have regular family meals together were more likely to deteriorate to drug abuse. We’re not very hot on formal family meals during the week, although we do manage a few every weekend. Bish expressed the view that maybe some families who don’t have family meals together could possibly have one or two problems besides the meal factor, and that maybe the lack of family meals was more of a symptom than a cause. She accepted the sense in this, but now we can’t help feigning mock distress every now and again, about Eldest’s imminent deterioration.
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Once upon a time Imshin and Bish lived across the road from an ultra-Orthodox boys’ school and synagogue. Every morning Imshin would encounter the resident rabbi as she left home for work and as he arrived for the early morning prayers. Imshin was going through a pretty spiritual period at the time, so she thought maybe the rabbi was, like, her local spiritual leader. Once or twice she tried to catch the rabbi’s eye, to say good morning or nod. He usually ignored her. Sometimes he graced her with a hostile glare. ‘So much for a spiritual leader’, Imshin would think, as she hurried on her way down the road, away from the rabbi.
Her religious friend at work said to her, ‘What do you want? He’s just a rabbi. He learnt some stuff and passed an exam. It doesn’t automatically elevate him to greatness.’ Her religious friend told this story about a rabbi in Bnei Brak he had gone to when his parents were dying of cancer. That guy sounded elevated to Imshin, but not the neighborhood rabbi from across the road.
One evening the gabbai of the synagogue across the road got hold of Bish, who was coming home from work. The gabbai was missing someone for his minyan (the ten Jewish men necessary for the prayer), and he was out in the street trying to grab someone. ‘You don’t want me,’ Bish told the gabbai, ‘I don’t believe’. The gabbai retorted that there was no such thing as a non-believing Jew. Bish answered, ‘Behold, before you - a non-believing Jew!’
Now it is not strictly true that Bish is a non-believer. He just didn’t believe in what the gabbai and his rabbi had to offer, and he wasn’t prepared to be coerced into participating in their prayer.
For eleven years Imshin and Bish lived across the road from that school and synagogue. Every four years, sometimes more, they ventured into the school to cast their vote for the national elections, every four years they cast their vote there for the municipal elections.
But they never set foot in the synagogue.
Some people, whose knowledge and experience of life and society in Israel is twenty years out of date, say that secular Judaism in Israel has no future. Some people seem not to have a clue what secular Judaism in Israel is, as opposed to secular Judaism, say, in the United States. But they are quite sure that it has no future. Bish says, ‘Some people are quite right’. Bish doesn't see 'The Future' as a very important concept. It’s the Buddhist in him speaking. You see - it is various types of Buddhism that are popular among secular Jews in Israel, including those who have spent time in India, not Hinduism, along with other popular types of supermarket spiritualism, many of them leading back to Judaism, Orthodox or otherwise. But some people wouldn’t know that, however brilliant they may be, however convinced they are that they know everything.
Secular Judaism in Israel cannot be seen solely as a religious affiliation, if at all. It’s a coincidence of birth (or choice); it's a state of being; an identity. It’s who and what we are. It has no future? What does that mean? A lot of people around the world are saying that the United States of America have no future either. What does that mean?
Some people are too judgmental. At least we have that in common.
[No link. Some people I don't link to any more.]
Dad wanted to know what an epikorsit was. Well it's a Hebraized female version of apikorus, heretic. Although as Dad points out, you actually have to have been religious and to have opted out, to be an apikorus, and that hasn't happened to me, although Mum did schlep me to shul, to be bored silly, on a regular basis, when we were living in England, and I used to fast on Yom Kippur till I met Bish , who is a real apikorus.
Friday, September 17, 2004
Epikorsit log: Real life
Thirteen-year-old Eldest volunteered to help prepare food parcels for Tel Aviv’s needy before Rosh Hashanna. She said she had vaguely envisioned the work as involving sitting in the shade of a tree on a nice grassy spot with a few friends, passing along packages of biscuits, or something.
Reality, as always, was a little less idyllic. She found herself in a hot, smelly, dirty street, in an industrial area of South Tel Aviv, opening out seemingly endless amounts of cardboard boxes, and sorting crates of moldy vegetables. She worked very hard. She came home exhausted. I was so proud of her.
Epikorsit log: The perspective of the terrorist
Hadn’t had time to translate this, but I held on to it, because I think other people should get to read it. It’s from Yediot Aharonot 10th September, just a little corner frame at the end of an article in the weekend magazine, about a new book (Hebrew link) discussing the current war with the Palestinians. While the article puts an emphasis on the implications of the targeted killing of Raed Karmi in 2002, this little passage gives us an insight into what is going on in the heads of our enemies:
“Your debate about the future of the settlements and their necessity in the territories just served to strengthen our resolve to continue with the terrorist attacks”, So says Sheikh Hassan Yussuf, head of the Hamas prisoners held in Israel, in a rare interview. Yussuf is regarded the head of the Hamas leadership in the West Bank and head of that organization’s West Bank political bureau. He was convicted of belonging to a terrorist organization.
The things that Yussuf said to the authors of “The Seventh War” (Hebrew link) will undoubtedly inflame many in Israel, but they expose something of the state of mind in Hamas. “The people of the Peace Camp in Israel”, he says, “those who spoke of ending the occupation and retreating, pushed us forward in our decision to continue with the suicide terrorist attacks. Ariel Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan is also a great accomplishment that is a result of our activities. The refusenik phenomenon was the best evidence of the breakdown in Israeli society as a result of the suicide terrorist attacks. We thought that we should further deepen this breakdown and the use of the weapon of suicide became a matter of consensus in the organization”.
Another Hamas leader imprisoned in Israel, Jamal Abu Il-Hijra, who was the head of Hamas in Jenin and was arrested in August 2002 under suspicion of involvement in the suicide terrorist attacks in Meron junction, Matza restaurant in Haifa, and Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem, also explains that the choice of suicide attacks was a combination of vengeful feelings with the wish “to change the perception of Israelis, who thought they could continue with the occupation indefinitely. The political negotiations didn’t bring forth any change. On the other hand, the terrorist attacks caused the Israelis to feel the pain we felt. We wanted them to pressure their government to stop its actions – and as far as we’re concerned the disengagement is proof that we have succeeded in changing the Israeli consciousness. More proof is to be found in statements of Israeli public figures, such as that if writer Batya Gur, who said that she understands the perpetrators of suicide terrorist attacks.”
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Epikorsit log: The view from here (forgive the plagiarism, Harry)
I must say I am enjoying following what’s being called Rathergate and its hilarious and informative coverage (not to mention creation) by bloggers.
The presidential elections in the US always seem such fun. They have this ‘The circus has come to town’ sort of quality, with fanfares, nice blue and red banners flapping, and people cheering, even as the mud gets slung.
Of course, I can say this because they aren’t my elections. For all I know, you might think the very same thing about our elections. Somehow I doubt it.
Afterthought: Mind you, the coverage of the US elections here is so clueless, what do I know?
The other day, channel 10 had on a giggly, fluffy blonde, who was apparently standing in for someone or other, telling us about Rathergate, among other things. The giggly, fluffy blonde version of Rathergate she shared with us, in a very pompous those-silly-Americans tone of voice, gave me the impression that Dan Rather himself had dictated it to her.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being fluffy and blonde. Fluffy and blonde is quite nice. But I really do prefer the supposedly serious news (well, some of it...) not to be giggled to me, especially if the giggler sounds so very full of herself when she obviously doesn’t have any inkling what she’s talking about.
Bish pointed out that, because she was a giggly, fluffy blonde, no one really cared what she was saying. (He's not very politically correct, my Bish, just one reason I'm so fond of him).
Important update: Bish says I misquoted him. What he said was even less PC than I thought. Never mind.
Epikorsit log: Two young female Palestinian students of economics who were planning to commit mass murder in Tel Aviv, by blowing themselves up, turned themselves in, after their operator, Hanni Akkad was killed by the Israeli army. According to Ynet (Hebrew link) the girls’ parents forced them to turn themselves in, following visits by Israeli soldiers who warned them of their daughters’ intentions. Apparently the parents weren’t too happy with the idea that their homes would be demolished should their daughters go ahead with their plan.
Maariv (Hebrew link) says that today security forces arrested another young lady, also a would-be suicide murderess.
Yesterday, Israeli soldiers killed nine Palestinian militants. Sadly, an 11 year-old Palestinian girl was killed as well, during a skirmish between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. Haaretz says that the IDF shot her, but Maariv (in Hebrew) says that the army said that there was no use of firearms by Israeli soldiers in that particular skirmish and that she must have been shot by Palestinians. The IDF is checking.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Wishing you all a very happy and fruitful year.
I got Shoosha to pose for me. She was surprisingly cooperative.
Oh look! The large servant creature has given me a shiny green thing. Must investigate.
It rolls when nudged. Interesting.
German newspaper Die Welt apparently says Syria has been trying out chemical weapons on civilians in Darfur. Too horrible.
Is Die Welt a serious source of information?
Update: Jonathan says that "_Die Welt_ is one of the top five German newspapers and has an excellent reputation. If it says that Syria used chemical weapons in Darfur, then it's at least provisionally credible."
Clicking through to this 1961 IBM 72 SELECTRIC typewriter, on sale at eBay (hilarious – go read), pointed to by James Taranto, I realized, with a jolt, that these things were still in use in my current place of employment, when I first came to work there in 1989.
I don’t know about the US, but in Israel the public sector always seems to be the last to hear of any new inventions, although things have improved considerably. It took them a while more to discover computers in my workplace, and some people are still not convinced that it would be far better to computerize their card indexes, instead of writing them by hand (!!!).
Well, I will live in the Middle East. I sometimes find it hard to believe that such wonderful scientific research is going on in this country and amazing innovations are being developed, while money is so scarce at my place of work that they can hardly afford pens and paper (and isn’t that a good reason for computerization? A modern-ish version of ‘Let them eat cake’…).
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Before I go and make the soup (R.T. is making the chicken soup. I'm making some clear vegetable soup for Bish and I)
Here they are again, the High Holidays, the time of year we look into our souls.
We don’t have to be religious or observant to do this. Actually, we don’t even have to be Jewish, do we? It is an opportunity.
Last year I took this opportunity to approach someone with whom I share a complex, uncomfortable, and unpleasant relationship. I said I was sorry that our relationship was so aggressive; I suggested we made a fresh start; I offered peace, friendship.
It took me a few days to start to doubt the sincerity of his reaction to my words, but his behavior towards me, during the days, weeks, and months that followed, proved to me that he had manipulated me.
It is hard for us to believe that some people do not want peace. When someone doesn’t want peace, we automatically try to work out what we have been doing wrong to hurt them so. It is hard for us to grasp, or accept, that sometimes it has nothing to do with us, or our behavior; that they may have their own agenda and that they may not care who gets hurt, as long as they get what they want.
Many months later, I once again found myself in an opportunity to speak to this person about our ever-deteriorating relationship. This time I was less apologetic. I told him how very offended I was by his behavior. ‘Oh’, he said, ‘It’s not personal.’
I have never had so many interesting, wise, and thought-provoking e-mails in reaction to a post. I am so relieved.
I was not trying to tell anyone off. I was talking about the quality of public discussion in America, as reflected in blogs, now that the pain is not as sharp, now that Americans, who were not directly involved, have finished their mourning and are ripe for moving on.
This may be strange for you to hear, but my local equivalent of 9/11 is not suicide bombings. It’s not even the Park Hotel. We’ve always had terrorism here. I grew up with it. The difference now is the level of the threat, not the essence.
No, for some strange reason, although it is maybe wrong to make such a comparison and you have to remember that I'm talking about deep personal feelings here, and (mainly) about how we deal with loss, my equivalent of 9/11, as that one national occurrence that rocked my being and deeply changed my life, was the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
Although there are great differences, I feel there is some, slight similarity between this event and 9/11 that is worth mentioning. Like 9/11 it had a deep effect on the national psyche in Israel. And like 9/11, there were, and continue to be, deep disagreements in Israel about its meaning, and what’s to be done about it. Maybe this is why I felt so uneasy with bloggers’ reactions to 9/11 this year, or rather the lack of them.
I cried for a week when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. I cried on the first anniversary, and on the second, and on the third. Then I didn’t cry any more.
I’d finished mourning. And the commemoration of the day started to seem stale, insincere, even more so after Oslo finally collapsed altogether, in September 2000. Now the annual memorial of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in Israel has become the property of a certain political faction in Israel. It leaves me cold. No, it leaves me angry.
But it’s completely different, because this was something we did to ourselves. It wasn’t the work of a common enemy that we have to decide how to deal with.
When I started blogging in June 2002, 9/11 was still very fresh in the minds of people. It was part of blogging. It wasn’t the details, or the sadness of the loss. There was this spirit that bloggers seemed to have, this strength. On Saturday I found myself wondering if it had really worn down so soon.
I wasn’t trying to tell anyone off for not writing about 9/11, I know a lot of people did, and there were some excellent columns in some of the papers. And there was really nothing wrong with not writing anything at all.
My feeling was that the time was ripe to move on from reliving the day, the details, the pain felt. I didn’t mean moving on into forgetting, or ignoring, or discarding it like clothes we have outgrown. I meant using it, somehow, as a springboard for mature reflection, discussion. It worried me that this didn’t seem to be happening.
The authors of the e-mails I received discussed why they thought this was, each in a particular way, offering me some different perspectives. I’ve been wondering which of them to reproduce here, but I can’t decide. I will just summarize by saying that it seems that reflection is happening, and I shouldn’t be worried.
You’ll excuse me if I do anyway (worry that is).
Sunday, September 12, 2004
You’ll say I don’t know what I’m talking about. You’ll say I’m a foreigner and I can’t possibly understand, and how dare I presume, and what business is it of mine anyway?
I know I am a foreigner, I know I should just butt out, but blogging has made me a bit of a big mouth. I get this uncontrollable urge to speak when it would be wiser to shut up. It’s a wonder I still have a job.
So I’ll say what I want to say. What will happen? You won’t read me anymore? You’ll write nasty things about me? I can always just turn off my computer, you know, and not turn it on again for six months. This has happened before, not recently, but if I feel like it, who’s to stop me?
It’s just that I have a question for American bloggers this 12th of September:
Was that the best you could do?
I wanted to know how you were feeling this year, but you just sent me over to last years posts. Many of you didn’t even bother to do that (not even a ‘I’m shutting down for 9/11’). Some of you just continued business as usual, as if nothing had happened.
And if you did write something it was the same thing as you wrote last year - more memories, some prayers, a few flags. It stuck in my throat, like a sandwich made of last week’s bread. Is that it? No fresh revelations, insights? Anybody?
I got a very strong feeling that the anniversary of 9/11 was a bit of an annoyance this year, a nuisance. It crept up while everyone was busy with other things. It got in the way of much fun being had with some authentic historic forgeries, that will or will not make a difference to something or other, for some reason.
Oh no, I could hear you thinking, but not daring to say, Not 9/11 again, just when we’d managed to forget all about it!
There is a word I am thinking about today. The word is DENIAL.
Oh, I know all about denial. What happened to you is pretty heavy. We Israelis, we always knew we were a shitty little country. We’d rather French VIPs would have the good manners to refrain from saying it in public, but we don’t really blame them. We’re bluffing, see? We’re used to being slapped in the face, first on one cheek and then on the other, and then kicked in the gut for dessert.
But you guys, you’re on top of the world. Should you fall, well, you’ve got a long way down.
It’s quite simple really. Think about a guy with cancer. He knows something is wrong, but he can’t deal with it. It’s too big. But the thing is, if he doesn’t get checked, he won’t get diagnosed. If he doesn’t get diagnosed, he won’t get treatment in time. If he doesn’t get treatment in time, and the only treatment is harsh and violent, he will soon die a horrible death.
There is a price to be paid for denial.
A British policeman spied for the Saudis, and has admitted he supplied them with a large amount of information, from police databases, about people and organizations that interested them. The man was born in Yemen and immigrated to Britain as a young man. He did it for the money, apparently.
More encouraging news is that members of England’s football (soccer) team and their manager, visited Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland last Tuesday, while they were in Poland for a World Cup qualifying game against that county's national team. Apparently it was some of the players themselves that asked to visit there.
Thank you to Bish and John Williams, for reading the Guardian and the Independent for me.
An Israeli blogger experiences the Academic Boycott first hand. Quite incredible, considering the subject he was researching.
And from the same blogger, a settler's perspective on the Jewish civil war we are being led to expect come evacuation date.
[By the way, Jeffrey, I am actually Not a Fish, but seeing as its nearly Rosh Hashanna, I'm prepared to compromise and be a Gefilte Fish, till Yom Kippur.]