Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Gone fishing

I'm taking a breather. I need some time to myself. See you again, some time soon.
Happy New Year.

[I haven't really gone fishing. I'm a vegetarian, for goodness' sake]

Monday, December 30, 2002

What is blogging?
Blogging is making my thoughts and feelings public. This is not easy.

Blogging is attempting to clumsily put into words the sadness I feel when I open the newspaper in the morning and seeing the faces of four young boys smiling up at me. This is very difficult.

Blogging is also not writing things. One of the things I don’t write is a question constantly in my mind: Am I sad and angry because of their pain and that of their families or am I sad and angry because of my pain?

Naturally, all this is not very interesting for anyone but me.

Blogging is also being attacked on my comments by a person whom I have never met or heard of before, because while I was being sad looking at those four young faces, for whatever reason, I wasn't being sad about the two Palestinian children who were also killed over the weekend.

I just don’t have the energy to deal with being attacked anymore.

I want to curl up with a nice book and read it from cover to cover in one sitting. I haven’t done that for months.

I think I need a break from blogging, too.

The thing is, I am sad about those Palestinian children, Kalle Westman. I am deeply saddened by the suffering of the Palestinians. I often think of the Palestinians I have met in my life, and I wonder how they are getting along. I am sad, no, I am much more than sad, I am heartbroken that my dream of coexistence and peace was shattered in September 2000, when the Palestinians, having turned down the best offer they could possibly have hoped for (had they really meant to make peace), turned to violence in the hope of getting more.

Go away and leave me alone, Kalle Westman. Go back to your orderly world of good guys and bad guys and simplistic ideas of justice for the world’s oppressed. You may mean well, but your good intentions could very well leave my family and myself homeless and defenseless, if we’re lucky enough to live that long. Not that that would bother you. We had it coming after all, especially my seven year-old.

I am too weary to care what people like you think, or have to say, anymore.

I don’t know how personally involved you are in this conflict, Kalle Westman or how the outcome will affect your life. For me, the Palestinians are not some faraway victims of heartless oppression; nor are they symbols of an heroic struggle for world peace and justice; they are not an exotic people fighting a wicked, cruel colonial power that is out to annihilate them, either.

The Palestinians are my neighbors, and I am fond of them, as one is (or should be) of one's neighbors. I am sorry that they are suffering and I am prepared for painful compromise, as one is (or should be) with one's neighbors.

Up to a point.

If my neighbors interpret my generosity and openness to compromise as weakness; if based on that interpretation, my neighbors try to force me to accept their demands at gun point; if my neighbors try to terrorize me out of my home (and I'm not talking about the territories) - they will find that I have ceased being a "nice" neighbor. They will find that I am just as determined and resilient as they are, if not more. They will find that I will never give in to their extortion.

I truly believed we could live side by side in peace and equality, sharing and growing together. I still hope (more than anything) that the Palestinians will put down their arms and cease their violence, and then we can once again renew our difficult but not impossible historical attempt at working out our differences peacefully.

Until that time, we are at war.

This war is not some sort of sick game we play for our enjoyment, as you seem to think, Kalle Westman. The soldiers in this war are protecting their homes and families (nearly all in pre-1967 Israel). And they know it. They know only too well, that if they don’t catch (and if necessary kill) that suicide bomber, hiding in that alley, surrounded by women and children, it could very well be their eleven year-old sister on her way to school in Hadera or in Netanya or in Tel Aviv who is blown to smithereens next. What would you do in their place? (Don’t answer that. I’m not interested.)

* * * *

I have a lot of sadness in my heart right now. I haven't got room in it for all those who suffer, deserving as they may be of my compassion. I know this is wrong, I know this is selfish, but this is just the way it is.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

A few months ago Michel told me he was making Aliyah. Now he’s been in Ra’anana Absorption Center for over two months. Here’s how he’s been getting on:

”OK, I'm living in the Merkaz Klita (Absorption Center) in Raanana. Studying in
the Ulpan in the morning, (third grade) and working as a guard in a supermarket in the afternoons. At night I do my journalism job
translating news (the same as I did back in Brazil). As you
see, I'm already connected to the net.

Well, I must say that I feel safer here than in Sao Paulo. I
can see all the problems around -- economic, security etc --
but the food is good and the nice people are reeeaaally nice
(let's not talk about those that are not nice, you know what
I mean).

I have no family here (well, some, but not so close) and
some really close friends (we grew up together), so the process
is easier.

There are many Argentinians in the Merkaz, some Turkish,
Uruguaians and even Swedish. Some came because of their bad economic
situation, some came to try, some came for Zionism -- like me --
although nobody seems to believe that such thing still exist. (I do, I do, Michel – I.J.)

The place is OK, the state helps a lot and let's
see...it's nice to be here!

Until know everything is fine, the routine is going on
(supermarket, school, job, going out sometimes)”.

This year 5960 new immigrants came to Israel from Argentina. I don’t know how many came from Brazil but they include Rinat and Michel, and we are very fortunate to have them.
The worst is seeing the photos in the newspaper. Young faces, full of hope.

And then, family members talking on the radio. A whole life described in a few sentences, trailing off into tears.

For the families, the worst is yet to come. But they don't know that yet.

I wonder how the nine orphans of the Dikstein family are getting along.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

What’s with France in the Ivory Coast? And where’s the international uproar?

I wonder if the BBC sees the irony in this: “The French troops now have orders to shoot at anybody stopping them from enforcing a fragile ceasefire”.

The Guardian actually seems quite understanding: “Nearly 2,000 French troops are in Ivory Coast to enforce an often-violated cease-fire between the northern rebels and the government, and to protect French citizens and other foreign nationals.
But the French have been increasingly dragged into the fighting, especially in the West, where they are effectively blocking any rebel advance south”

I have no idea what’s going on over there, and I have to be truthful and say that I couldn’t really care. We’ve got enough on our plate. But it does seem terrible hypocrisy to me that there is not one word of criticism anywhere. Am I getting this all wrong or is this not a blatant case of an ex-colonizing power looking out for its economic interests by interfering militarily?

We all know what the op-eds the world over would be screaming if it were the U.S.
Palestinians launched an anti-tank missile (Hebrew links) at Israeli soldiers in Rafiah near the Egyptian border. No harm done.
Moe links to this poignant article by David Mamet, written during his recent visit to Israel.
A car blew up in Jerusalem, last night, at 1 a.m. No one was hurt. A young Palestinian from East Jerusalem was arrested.

Update: It was an attempt to blow up a pub.

Friday, December 27, 2002

4 murdered, 9 wounded: In the dining room of the yeshiva in Otniel, South of Hebron. It looks like two terrorists infiltrated Otniel. One has been killed. The other seems to have managed to flee into a nearby village.
Ruminations of a floating vote.
Call me crazy, but I can’t help feeling sorry for Likud members with criminal backgrounds. For many years the party has wooed them. Knesset members and government ministers have dined at their tables. They have found, in the Likud, a warm home and respectability. Everyone knew people with criminal connections, and even some actual criminals and ex-criminals, were among local party activists and even members of the party center. And make no mistake, Labor is just the same in this regard. Being anti-elitism and open to people from all walks of life is very important in gaining the Mizrahi vote. That’s one of the reasons why left-wing Meretz is not perceived as a party that looks out for workers rights and won’t be, in the foreseeable future. Too pompous and intellectual and snobby.

Now, these criminals and ex-criminals, long welcome members of the party, probably even regarded as assets, are, not surprisingly, being dropped like hot potatoes. And they are terribly offended. They obviously can see that the politicians are no better than them. What am I talking about? The politicians are worse.

Last night, a major persona non grata, Shlomi Oz, was interviewed on TV. I usually can’t be bothered with this sort of thing, but for some reason, this guy I wanted to see, maybe to judge if he’s on the level. He has not been connected to the allegations of corruption in the party “primaries”, as far as I can tell, and he claims he hasn’t been involved in criminal activities since he got out of prison, twelve years ago (although his name is currently being connected to a big bank scam, which he denies). But still he has become the main bad guy, since the media cottoned on to his connections with Omri Sharon (son of). Anyway, he didn’t look good on TV. A quiet man, certainly not a thug, he seemed shifty, but maybe that was because he was really nervous. My verdict? I wasn’t really convinced of his innocence or of his being rehabilitated, as he claims, but I mainly felt embarrassed. He seemed too pathetic and defensive to be much of a threat to Israel’s democracy. According to this Haaretz article he is very powerful and charismatic. This didn’t come over on TV at all. In a passage in the Hebrew version of the article (requires registration) that was cut in translation Oz explains that he shies a way from publicity and exposure because his past is always brought up and it ultimately backfires. Therefore he is unaccustomed to it. That could explain his poor TV performance.

Politicians really are the lowest of the low. Now we’re getting a daily opportunity to see just how low they are. This is what we, picturesquely, call in Israel “hamitz shel hazevel” (the juice of the garbage). They (the politicians) don’t know them (the criminals). They’ve never spoken to them. They’re no friends of theirs (insert indignant guffaw). The party is fortunate to be rid of them. And so on and so forth. And these were their best buddies just a fortnight ago. It’s really nauseating.

I think the Likud is reeling from a serious slap in the face, with all this corruption business, and is in shock about the effect the criminals in their midst and mainly the open criminal activities party members have been engaging in should have on the anticipated outcome of the elections. I do believe they are earnest about cleaning the stables (as much as politicians can be earnest about anything). If this is indeed the case, then something good could come out of all this “go’al nefesh” (disgustingness).

I still don’t know if I could vote for them.

Yippee! I’m a floating vote. (I don’t intend floating anywhere near Mitzna, though).

Update: OK, OK, I went a bit far. I accept that, as Alisa says, there are good politicians. They just don't have much chance of being in realistic spots in the Likud list this election, probably for no fault of their own.
Lynn B. puts the sadness of Bethlehem’s Christmas in context.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Remember little five-year-old Nur Abu Tir, who was found dead? Her uncle, Majed Abu Tir has confessed that he murdered her (Hebrew link). His motive was his hatred of little girls and besides that a genie told him to murder her.
Ultra-religious Israelis are critically discussing their world on an internet forum (Hebrew link). Haaretz tells us a little about what goes on there.

I had a little read. Interesting, intelligent discussions. I quite enjoyed the level of the Hebrew. People who write on forums here sometimes have very poor grammar.
Iraq and Syria – best pals.
According to Zeev Schiff, Iraq is moving two kinds of weapons to Syria:
A. Weapons of mass destruction, for safe keeping and hiding there (PM Ariel Sharon came public with this information on Tuesday).
B. Rockets destined for the Hizbullah for use against Israel.
I dislike describing what's happening here in a way that would make it sound as if I’m whining or wallowing in self-pity. This is why I have been writing much less about the "situation" lately.

The other day I got an e-mail from someone who said something about a few months ago when we (meaning Israel) were in a bad way. But the thing is, we still are in a bad way. Even if the security forces manage to prevent or foil nearly all the terrorist acts, it doesn't mean they are not being attempted daily, or that we don't know about them here. We are being updated all the time about terrorist attacks that have been foiled, or terrorists that have been arrested and found to have had explosive belts or other weapons aimed at killing Israeli civilians (this is usually about two or three a day). A few times a day, there are announcements on the radio of increased alert in such and such an area, then announcements that the alert has been cancelled, then announcements of alert somewhere else, or in the same area again.

So we are still very aware that we are living under the shadow of terrorist attacks.

Now the media are doing their best to increase hysteria of an Iraqi attack on Israel. The left is saying its all a Likud plot to get back votes, but I hadn't noticed that the Israeli media were necessarily the Likud's lackeys.

With or without the media's help, preparations for the war are stepping up here. They've started teaching the children in school how to put on gas masks. My girls had these lessons this week. Bedtime was delayed this evening while I explained to them a bit about how it was last time, what we are planning to do this time and generally calmed them down. Mainly my eldest. My youngest is a toughie (or she puts on a very good act). It looks like my eldest and her girlfriends had all gotten a bit panicky together.

The Health Ministry has decided not to inoculate the population for small pox, for the time being. In the meantime, they've been inoculating police and emergency medical personnel. They're also giving out pagers to deaf people in order to alert them, because they won't be able to hear the air-raid sirens.

The economic situation is getting worse. People are losing their jobs and businesses in droves. Today I spoke to a friend whose whole department was laid off a few months ago. She says there are no jobs, no projects, nothing. She says that even when she gets a job interview she discovers it isn’t a “real job”, as she calls it, but something limited in hours and duration. She’s a single mother. She needs a real job.

So this is the score: It can hit from above, it can hit from ground level, it can hit through your pocket. The amount of uncertainty and tension people are living with is making the atmosphere here very unpleasant (even more than on my comments lately ;-), but then again, maybe that’s just me passing on some of the negative energy from over here).

My friend at work is thinking of voting Mitzna. She needs someone to tell her: "This is what we're going to do and this is how and when we're going to do it."

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

I'm sorry, I've been very busy and I haven't been near a computer today or yesterday since my 6 o'clock post. Needless to say, I've been worrying about this, and I really don't feel up to all this unpleasantness right now. It's just getting worse and worse.

I will now delete the letter to Diane and comments (people who didn't read it, and don't know what I'm talking about, please forgive me).

I have to go out again now to see about a middle school for eldest for next year, and I don't know if I'll be able to post again tonight.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002


King John's Christmas
by A.A. Milne

King John was not a good man-
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
And men who came upon him,
When walking in the town,
Gave him a supercilious stare.
Or passed with noses in the air-
And bad King John stood dumbly there,
Blushing beneath his crown.

King John was not a good man,
And no good friends had he.
He stayed in every afternoon,
But no one came to tea.
And, round about December,
The cards upon his shelf
Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,
And fortune in the coming year,
Were never from his near and dear,
But only from himself.

King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears.
They’d given him no present now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tribute from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out.

King John was not a good man,
He lived his life aloof;
Alone he thought a message out
While climbing up the roof.
He wrote it down and propped it
Against the chimney stack:
And signed it not 'Johannes R.'
But very humbly, 'Jack.'

'I want some crackers,
And I want some candy;
I think a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I don’t mind oranges,
I do like nuts!
And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife
That really cuts.
And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!'

King John was not a good man
He wrote this message out,
And gat him to his room again,
Descending by the spout.
And all that night he lay there,
A prey to hopes and fears.
'I think that’s him a-coming now,'
(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)
'He’ll bring one present, anyhow-
The first I’ve had in years.'

'Forget about the crackers,
And forget about the candy;
I’m sure a box of chocolates
Would never come in handy;
I don’t like oranges,
I don’t want nuts,
And I HAVE got a pocket-knife
That almost cuts.
But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!'

King John was not a good man
Next morning when the sun
Rose up to tell a waiting world
That Christmas had begun,
And people seized their stockings,
And opened them with glee,
And crackers, toys and games appeared,
And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,
King John said grimly: 'As I feared,
Nothing again for me!'

'I did want crackers,
And I did want candy;
I know a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I do love oranges,
I did want nuts.
I haven’t go a pocket-knife -
Not one that cuts.
And, oh! if Father Christmas had loved me at all,
He would have brought a big, red india-rubber ball!'

King John stood by the window,
And frowned to see below
The happy bands of boys and girls
All playing in the snow.
A while he stood there watching,
And envying them all-
When through the window big and red
There hurtled by his royal head,
And bounced and fell upon the bed,
An india-rubber ball!


Monday, December 23, 2002

More Tommy Lapid (my apologies to those of you who are fed up of this subject).
A Tel Aviv chef and TV personality, Tzahi Bukshaster, used to have a TV program where he took celebrities to their favorite restaurants. He once took Tommy Lapid to Yehudit’s Hungarian restaurant in Gan Hair. I had often walked past Yehudit’s, sat for a coffee and a cake in its outdoor coffee shop and a couple of times had even bought cakes to go, but I was completely unaware of this culinary treasure at the back. Lapid remarks on the food were a delight. He was obviously in his element, oozing with charm, as usual, and enjoying the food that he loved. Yehudit’s couldn’t have dreamt of a better advertisement. Since then, until I read Shavit’s article, I was under the impression that Lapid was Hungarian.

Tommy Lapid is everything Mitzna is not and never can be. Mitzna is a cold fish. His smile on his campaign posters is so frozen and unnatural, it’s hard to tell if he’s smiling or trying to get a fish bone out of his teeth with his tongue without anyone noticing. Tommy is outrageous and infuriating, but he has this irresistible, mischievous twinkle in his eye. That twinkle along with his sincerity and the warmth of his voice, are completely captivating.

Diane seems to find offense in the fact that his wife, besides being a successful and accomplished writer, is also a “Bala Busta” and takes joy in indulging her husband’s love of good “heimisher” food. He likes eating. She likes feeding him. Where’s the problem? Granted, Tommy doesn’t sound like an easy partner, but this doesn’t mean she’s an oppressed wife in a demeaning relationship. She makes the soup and feeds the guests. He takes down the garbage. This is family life. Shavit has twisted it to make it seem ugly, and Diane fell for it. But it isn’t ugly at all, it’s heart warming. This looks like a normal, warm relationship between two consenting, independent adults. She’s not in it because she’s economically dependent on him. She’s in it because she chooses to be.

* * *

Diane has pointed out some apparent contradictions in what I’ve been saying and I’d like to sort things out.

She fails to see why I dislike Shavit’s article so much. As I said before, it’s part of a whole campaign in Israel, embraced by all and sundry, to de-legitimize and demonize Tommy Lapid and Shinui. For secular parties, Shinui is a big threat, with its clean image and clear message. Shas, doing very badly in the polls, and badly in need of a resident Goldstein (i.e. someone to hate), has apparently published a pamphlet announcing that Tommy is a Nazi. This is rich, coming from a party that, if I am not mistaken (I can’t find a link), was recently cautioned by Judge Heshin, the elections’ overseer, for announcing, as part of its platform, that it intends to appoint only Sephardim for public office.

Whatever you think about Tommy’s often-controversial views, branding him a racist is wrong, and de-legitimizing his party, which represents the views of a large portion of moderate, sensible Israelis, is alarming. His party is not about keeping the Mizrahim down. What nonsense! That’s just Shas propaganda. For one thing, Shinui is about stopping the outrage of the ultra-religious feeding off us like leeches, while refusing to contribute to the economy, to serve in the army, or even to contribute the minimum suggested to them of a fortnight a year doing national service in hospitals or religious schools or the like, and at the same time actively, even vehemently trying to force us secular people into accepting their way of life. The anger about this among Israelis is immense.

The left is forever accusing the Israeli right and the religious for undermining Israeli democracy, but I think trying to paint Lapid as a racist, which fits nicely in with Amram Mitzna, Yoel Marcus and the likes thinking that anyone who disagrees with them needs their head examined, is also detrimental to Israel’s delicate political balance.

By the way, I’d like to point out that Shinui is not just Tommy Lapid. Shinui is home to one of the Knesset’s most hardworking and productive parliamentarians, Tommy’s rather lackluster, but soft-spoken no.2, Avraham Poraz. Poraz, aware of his shortcomings, made the deal of his life, before the last elections, when he brought in Tommy to replace Amnon Rubinstein as Shinui’s figurehead.

Diane also wonders why I dislike Shavit’s article so much, given my opposition to an Israeli “European” self-image as promoted by Lapid, which I call "Europeanism", and to the belief in European cultural superiority, which she calls “Lapidism”. By the way, Diane, I’m not saying we don’t have European roots, although I have my reservations about how deep they are, and in my comment to Jonathan’s post I was reacting to his assertion that Jerusalem was Eastern while Tel Aviv was European.

I know a lot of “Lapidists”. As I said yesterday, I regard them as dinosaurs. I don’t mean this in an offensive way. I just mean that they are on the way out. Their way of thinking has become irrelevant. I don’t think they are racist and I am strongly opposed to their way of thinking being de-legitimized. Some people find Mizrahi music boring and some (infinitely more, actually) find classical music boring. I personally enjoy both, but then I’m a bit of a weirdo, aren’t I? To each their own. “Lapidism” is not Shinui’s platform. Lapidism is his personal preference. He’s not preaching discrimination, quite the opposite.

Furthermore, his opposition to sitting in a coalition with Arab parties is not because they are Arab parties, as such, but because by no stretch of the imagination could any of them be regarded as Zionist and because their leading Knesset members have blatantly and repeatedly expressed their support for the Palestinian violent struggle.

A few words about Israeli Europeanism, as I see it:
Jews were always considered an alien element in Europe. As I see it, the intentional destruction of European Jewry by the Nazis, with quite a lot of support from various nations they were occupying at the time (by saying this I am not belittling the courageous people who helped the Jews in this dark era, but rather elevating them), is one of the results of the first real appearance of acceptance of Jews in Western European society, in the guise of the emancipation. Claims that Israel is a European colonizing agent are therefore particularly ironic and unjust.

The first Jews to arrive here, not for religious reasons but to begin to realize the Zionist vision of a return of the Jewish people to their homeland, were European. In fact, the whole idea grew out of European emerging nationalism, which had no place for perceived foreign elements such as the Jews. But how European were these first settlers, really? Most of those who came to live here, initially, were breaking out of the confinements of Jewish traditional communities in Russia and Poland. European philosophy and idealism were something new and exciting for them, not something they had encountered in their Eastern European Jewish homes, in the “Heder” or in the Yeshiva, not something they had grown up with. How European are today’s ultra-religious Jews of Mea Shearim? These people live in a world of their own, not only unreceptive to external influences, but actively fighting against them. This is the world the first Zionist settlers in the Land of Israel came from. That they should have the good sense to embrace Western European values of democracy and personal freedom is not obvious. It took Russia and Poland, the countries they came from, many more years to embrace these values.

The Jewish Zionists of the first half of the twentieth century built a secular European-style society here, in defiance of the Jewish religious world they came from. The Yekkes, the highly educated secular German Jews, fleeing Nazi Germany in the thirties, were welcomed even as their stiff European manners were widely ridiculed. Hundreds of thousands of displaced and often badly traumatized Holocaust survivors, mainly from Eastern Europe, also managed to somehow build a home for themselves in this Europeanist atmosphere, quite naturally. Among them was the young Tommy Lapid.

When hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries flowed in, they were also expected to assimilate into the prevalent Europeanism, which must have been completely bewildering for many of them. It seems that on the whole, they sincerely attempted to, initially. But much of their acceptance of this Europeanism was superficial, and they eventually rebelled.

I wrote yesterday about the subsequent cultural transformations, which I think we are still in the midst of. I strongly believe that shedding off an exclusively European self-image is important for the development of an Israeli society that is a natural and integral part of the Middle East. This doesn’t mean lowering our standards. This means enjoying the richness of our diverse society, accepting and dealing with the more problematic aspects of it and not succumbing to dangerous tendencies.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

This had me rolling on the floor in hysterics:
Mitzna's campaign staff has decided not to import spin doctors from America, like Bibi, Barak and Sharon. Instead, they have hired two local psychologists to accompany the election campaign from beginning to end. Their job is to figure out the mystery behind the public adulation of Sharon. If he's so good that most people are wild about him and anyone who dares to say a critical word is tarred and feathered, then why is the situation so bad? And if things are so bad, why the love affair with Sharon?

One explanation is that a portion of the public is suffering from shell shock and doesn't believe in changing generals in mid-battle. Mitzna's psychologists will also try to figure out how come most of the people who plan to vote for Sharon can't explain his policies. Maybe these guys will submit an evaluation or two, but to really crack the code and get to the bottom of this insanity, you need more than psychologists. You need psychiatrists.

It’s Yoel Marcus, of course, one of Haaretz’s thickest don’t-get-its.

Many thanks to The Head Heeb for inadvertently supplying me with a free session of laughter therapy.

Well, thank you for thinking I need my head examined, Mr. Mitzna, that will definitely get you my vote.

The arrogance of the man.
Piven has a website
I’m not sure how well-known he is in the US. Worth clicking through and taking a look at the portraits, if you’re not familiar with his work. And if you are. Brilliant.
The Israeli media are obsessing about the war in Iraq again. This has been happening at regular intervals for a few months now, and serves to get people panicky each time. I spent much of today attempting to calm down my friend at work, a young widow bringing up two young girls. Every time the war with Iraq comes up, she gets very jittery. I can understand, she’s probably very worried about going through this on her own, although she doesn’t say so.
The Adventures of Tommy the Dinosaur or Not European, Not Eastern - Israeli, An Original and Unique Entity.
The intense tensions between different segments of Israeli society are copious. Rich and poor; Askenazi and Mizrahi; Jews and Arabs; religious and secular; right and left; center and periphery. A lot of people are afraid that all these problems are pulling us apart; that they are just too much for any one society to handle. They are so worried about all these problems that they can't see all the wonderful things that are happening here.

Tommy Lapid is one of a dying breed in Israel, with his admiration for European culture and mannerisms. Europhiles, some open like Tommy Lapid, others who think it but don't talk about it for fear of being seen as discriminative, have been temporarily strengthened by the large influx of Russian immigrants, some of whom are derisive of the Middle Eastern winds that blow here. But these winds continue to blow, regardless. Israeli popular culture is more Eastern than ever before.

Young Israelis are faced with the dilemma of the "bad" Europe that brought about the systematic extermination of the Jews during WWII and the "good" Europe with its philosophy, music, art and literature. But unlike Lapid's generation, youngsters today have multiple influences. Europe, with its perceived contempt for Israel, is no longer a default choice.

You may say I'm overly optimistic and that I am ignoring some unpleasant realities, but I truly believe that we are witnessing something exciting happening here, a slow but sure fusion of our rich cultural diversity. Unlike in the early years, Europe is no longer the main cultural axis around which everything revolves. Bish and myself are just one example of the many couples I know from different cultural backgrounds. I believe that, in a few generations, the question of Sephardi and Ashkenazi will be marginal. Most Israelis will be happy, healthy mongrels, like my girls. The result will be a whole new culture. No one can really prophesy what it will be like. It doesn't really matter, either, for it in itself will not be static, but a constantly transforming and developing entity, as is the nature of human society.

Which direction is this development taking right now?

Well, for one thing there is currently a lot of popular interest in Jewish roots and heritage. This is not necessarily a religious thing. Part of coming to terms with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin has been a growing secular movement of getting better acquainted with our Jewish traditional wisdom. Many organizations have sprung up that teach Judaism to secular adults without attempting to make them religious.

Another newish trend takes advantage of the fact that people are feeling more comfortable than ever before with their ethnic differences, within the framework of Israeli society, and not necessarily out of a place of protest (although some would want to exploit it to further such protest). The Yiddish theater is flourishing, and theatrical productions in Moroccan are very popular. And these are just two little examples.

I'm not sure where this is leading, but reconciliation with our past is surely the first step of moving forward.

Israeli pop music has become of late an interesting mixture of east and west. I find the current fad for releasing Mizrahi versions for old Israeli favorites particularly intriguing.

The widespread fascination in Israel for Eastern philosophies, and the firsthand experience of India and Thailand, by hundreds of thousands of young Israelis is sure to have an affect, too.

And then, of course, there's the American culture absorbed into our psyche through TV and music.

I believe we are right in the middle of a process of building our own unique identity. Unlike in the early years, this time it is not being pushed in any particular direction by an official ideology. It's just happening. I admit it's getting quite a lot of rather aggressive help from the electronic media. They're always eager to cash in on anything that seems popular. This will probably serve to slow down the process. People rapidly get fed up of what TV rams down their throat.

I think a lot of people of all kinds feel very threatened by this spontaneous change that is coming about (I wanted to call it a cultural revolution, but that term is rather loaded), without really being aware of what it is they are reacting too, so strongly. They're still stuck in old concepts.

People who complain incessantly about deprivation of the Mizrahim, for instance, can't stop Mizrahi youngsters from leaving the development towns that sadly can offer them little cultural or economic advancement and coming to Tel Aviv to change their destinies. A lot of the people I work with came to the Tel Aviv area from Tiberias, Sderot, Afula, Kiryat Shmona, to name but a few. They haven't waited for affirmative action. They have got on with their lives and many hold managerial posts. Their children are already growing up into a different reality than their parents experienced as children. In Mitzpe Ramon, I have met people who have returned to live in their hometown, strengthened and enriched from a few years away from it.

People, who continue to be stuck with their feelings of deprivation, cultural superiority or disappointment with the changing face of Israel, will forever feel uncomfortable in this whole new entity that is emerging. What can I say? That's their problem. You can't drink the empty half of the cup. You can dwell on it, be angry about it and let it pull you down into endless misery. But you can't drink it. It's your choice. Don't blame me for it.

Excuse me if I choose to enjoy the full half of the cup to the utmost.
I'm not sure why you liked the Ari Shavit article so much, Diane. I found it rather slanted. Tomy Lapid is a big threat to all the secular parties right now. Polls show he's going to do extremely well, and it's open season on him from all quarters, right, left and center (Maybe not center, because he's perceived, I think, as the center). All and sundry are doing their utmost to de-legitimize him and portray him as a racist. The gloves are off. It's quite easy because he is completely un-PC, king of the provocative one-liner, which is most of his charm for potential voters. He comes over as completely on the level, even if what he has to say is hard to stomach, and up till now appears to have kept his promises to his voters, a rare phenomenon indeed in Israeli politics.

The "how many Mizrahim have you got?” line, is a cheap shot. Personally, I'm fed up to the back teeth of it. I'm fed up of token women and token Mizrahim and token gays and token Arabs. Meretz seems quite obsessive about making sure every last minority is represented. Affirmative action gone haywire. Has everyone forgotten that people would appreciate representatives with actual abilities? The women who got into the Likud list are frankly shameful. What's the point of having women to represent me if they have no proven qualifications (besides knowing who to pay off)? No, it’s worse than that. Having unsuitable women in Knesset could even have long term adverse affects, in maybe showing that sexists and religious nuts are right, and that women really are unsuitable as national leaders.

I don’t like the European thing that comes over in the article one bit, but I’m also fed up of hearing, morning, noon and night, how downtrodden and deprived the Mizrahim were and are, when I’m completely surrounded, in my private life (What am I talking about? Since when do I have a public life?), by people who prove the complete opposite.

I found the Ari Shavit article particularly misleading for the foreign reader, who reads it out of the context of the rest of the input the Israeli reader is getting from the media. The Israeli reader knows Lapid extremely well, as the article suggests, from his days as a TV star on a hot current affairs program. A lot of other details could also be misleading for those unacquainted with the nuances. For instance, to the uninitiated his wife "Shula" comes over as a little home-keeper, quite in keeping with the right-wing bigot impression the article is pushing. It is not necessary to tell the Israeli reader, however, that his wife, Shulamit Lapid, is in fact one of Israel's foremost novelists. His son is also very popular as a newspaper columnist and TV interviewer, whose recent divorce from his also famous wife was widely speculated about and he himself wrote about it in his column. In fact, they are probably one of the most high profile families in the country.

All this is superfluous for the Israeli reader, so Shavit tries to scrape up some little known facts (everyone knows Lapid's a holocaust survivor) to try to keep the reader's interest and maybe give us some new angles to explain his personality. In Israel we call it “psychologia bigrush”. Would that be translated as “dime psychology”, I wonder?

Let us not forget that everyone has a vested interest, even Ari Shavit. Our not necessarily knowing what it is, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Reading Haaretz, I often think the writers themselves are not aware of how strongly their personal views come across, but maybe that’s just me being naive now.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Some party
This Brit went to an Astanga yoga Christmas party and was not amused. As a graduate of the beginner's course and one advanced course in Sivananda yoga at their Tel Aviv branch , I sympathize. I appreciated the elated feeling when finishing a yoga session, and the newly found bodily suppleness, but I fled when they started teaching us about chakras. Even I have my limits.

I actually saw my yellow-clad former teacher ride past me on his bicycle, a month or two ago, looking skinnier than ever.
An eventful weekend, mainly in Gaza. IDF divided the Gaza Strip into three parts Saturday morning, with roadblocks. This has been done before, and today came following the murder of Rabbi Arameh there, yesterday. A terrorist that infiltrated Morag, a South Gaza settlement was killed, before he could do too much mischief. He managed to injure a soldier, though. R.T., isn’t that near where you did reserve duty in May? A 12 year-old Palestinian girl was killed during a gunfight in Rafiah. Palestinians had been throwing grenades in Rafiah, as well. Palestinians attempted to assassinate a German United Nations official traveling in a diplomatic car near Jenin (Very bright these Palestinians). And the US deported some Palestinians to Gaza, because no one else would have them (Thanks for nothing). And so on and so forth. Nothing out of the ordinary, I know. I usually can’t be bothered to update about these things, but I’ve finished folding the laundry and the dishes are washed, the girls are showered and in bed, schoolbags ready for tomorrow. All this leisure. Lucky me.
Haaretz: “Syria told the United States on Saturday it had no right to attack Iraq and warned that U.S. support for Israel was fuelling popular anger in the region”. You see it’s Israel that “is the most dangerous core of terrorism in the region and the world”. I’m glad we’ve got that straight.
I can’t read this Proche-Orient Info article, because it’s in French, but Nelson informs me it supplies the information that a cable-TV operator showed a chapter of the Egyptian anti-Semitic series called Rider without a Horse in France last Sunday. I say supply and demand. Lots of French Muslims want to see it. Who are we to deny them their fun?
Mary has directed me to Howard Fienberg’s post about buses segregated by sex in Jerusalem. Last week I heard my very feminist neighbors in the next office talking about this heatedly, but I didn’t really listen. The ultra-religious have been pressing hard for this for a long time. I understand it’s only on bus lines that serve them in their neighborhoods. One of the reasons I dislike Jerusalem, having spent my two years of army service there, is the multitude of different cultures all mixed up together, and the tension between these different groups. Of course, coming from elsewhere, this makes the city seem all the more exotic and interesting, but I’d rather not live there, thank you very much. Eldest has a friend whose parents, both educated media people, fled Jerusalem a few years ago, because they couldn’t stand the rapidly growing ultra-religious flavor of the city any longer.

The special way the ultra-religious regard the differences between the sexes (aren’t I soooo politically correct?) is just the tip of the iceberg. There are all sorts of different sects and streams and degrees of intensities of the ultra-religious, but many of them live in horrifying ignorance. There is an ongoing battle to force them to teach the boys math and English at school. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Dov Elboim, an Israeli writer and TV presenter, was brought up as an ultra-religious Jew. He comes from a family of important rabbis. A few years ago, he wrote a novel describing life in an ultra-religious yeshiva from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old boy. Very disturbing. I remember a passage in the book about the rumor going round the yeshiva that there were actually millions of secular Jews in Israel. If I remember correctly, the hero thought this a preposterous idea.

Of course, the more ignorant they keep them, the more difficult it is for them to leave, should they find the immense courage necessary to do so. The boys have absolutely no skills whereby to fend for themselves in the outside world. The girls are better equipped. They get a better education because they have to work to support their double-digit families, so their husbands can get on with the serious stuff of studying Torah.

I could probably write for weeks about the Haredim (ultra-religious), but I really don’t want to.
Susan sent me this NYT article about burning crosses. You Americans are so civilized in the face of racism, busy busy debating the legalities of this or that symbol. A white-clad Islamist from Gaza brandishing a Koran reminded Susan of the Klu Klux Clan.
We’ve had a serious storm in Israel for the last couple of days. If you’ve ever been to Israel in the winter you will know that a bit of rain causes everything to come to a standstill here, especially the traffic. It’s the shock at encountering this increasingly rare phenomenon, of course. They’re saying that this storm is a biggie. The winds have been unbelievable. We had to tie our plants to the balcony rail so they wouldn’t fly off and do any damage. The storm is top of the news. Can you imagine? This is a rare occurrence indeed. Five people were killed in Jordan, as a result of the storm, and twenty-five were injured, according to this Hebrew link.

We went to my dad’s for Erev Shabbat (Friday night) meal. He lives by the sea. The roar of the sea and the wind was so loud we could hardly hear each other speak. Later in the night, at home, a tree fell across the road from us. First we heard a big bang and a bright light. We thought it was lightening hitting the building across the road, but the lights were still on. Then there was another big bang with sparks of light. The tree had fallen on the electricity line. We rang the municipality and when we woke up this morning the tree was gone. Something must be working properly in this town, after all.

When we were at my dad’s the roar of the wind and the sea suddenly reminded my eldest daughter that once we were in a sand storm in Sinai. I’d completely forgotten about it. It seems to have left a strong impression on eldest, though. Before the Terror War, we used to drive down to the eastern coast of Sinai every August for a few days’ holiday. We used to scout the coast around Nuweiba until we found a nice beach with basic straw huts (just four straw walls and simple Bedouin rugs for a floor) that looked nice. We used to hire the hut nearest to the sea, preferably right on the water line. Meals were at the coffee shop that was always part of these little hut villages. We were careful to drink bottled water. People used to warn us about the food, but we were usually fine. Sometimes we stayed with Bedouins and sometimes with Egyptians. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but our idea of heaven. Cheap too. The girls had an opportunity to experience a life without modern amenities and swiftly became little nature girls, running around freely with wild hair and happy sparkles in their eyes.

One time, the girls were sleeping outside the hut. In August, it could get very hot sleeping inside, even with the nice sea breeze you get on the coast, and the natural air-conditioning of a straw hut. Sometimes the evenings could be very windy and even cold, though. Well, that night the wind gradually built up, until we found ourselves in a full-blown storm. This was unusual for August. You usually got sandstorms in the spring. I’d never been in a storm before, although I’d been going to the Sinai since childhood. We managed to get the girls, who were covered in sand, into the hut and reorganized the sleeping arrangements. The straw walls didn’t do much to keep the wind and the sand out. Bish ventured out into the storm and hung up Bedouin rugs on the outside of the walls, in an attempt to keep the wind out. We huddled together, wondering if the hut would last the night. Much to our amazement, it did. So did the sunshade Bish had erected outside the hut. But we didn’t get much sleep that night.

Back to the current storm, this morning Bish took the girls to the old Tel Aviv port to see the waves breaking on the bridge. While they were gone I made them a nice steamy vegetable soup for lunch.

The storm seems to have died down for now.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Shabbat Shalom.
A Rabbi was shot dead in front of his wife and six children, this morning, driving on the road in southern Gaza Strip.
Who let the truth slip in?
The doorman must have been sleeping on the job at the Guardian . Here is a realistic description of the Palestinians/Israel situation. It explains what a mess Arafat made of things, with the support of his people.

I am a bit confused about the final passage, though. The writer, Emanuele Ottolenghi, a research fellow in Israel Studies at the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in Oxford University, says that after the elections in Israel, Israel will move to unilaterally withdraw. I don’t see it happening at all. It’s not that simple. Evacuation of tens of thousands of Jews under fire is not realistic, for one thing; and the results of leaving the Palestinians to their own devices, as Ottolenghi puts it, without a real peace treaty that they mean to keep, could be rather horrific, for another, especially considering that the evacuation will have whetted their appetites and strengthened their conviction.

Still it’s nice to see some sense in the Guardian. A bit too complex for these guys to grasp, though (via Tal).

Thursday, December 19, 2002

More election fun (boring it’s not)
Mitzna says he will form a coalition with Arab parties that recognize Israel as a Jewish and democratic state (in the unlikely case that he wins and gets to form a coalition at all) (Hebrew link). Based on the actions and utterances of most current Arab members of Knesset and other Israeli Arab leaders, I'm wondering exactly which Arab parties he has in mind. Maybe Azmi Bishara’s “Balad”? I hope it keeps OK for him. Balad list stands a chance of being disqualified “because its goals contradict the Jewish-democratic nature of the state of Israel and because it supports organizations fighting against Israel.” according to Attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein. The other lists aren’t much better.

According to this poll (Hebrew), a third of voters say their vote will be effected by recent corruption (Turns out that there’s been quite a bit of it in Labor, too, surprise, surprise, but Likud has still managed to excel in this respect) -- 18% of voters say they'll vote for another party, 12% says they won't vote at all. Hmmm, worrying. I suppose I won't have any choice but to vote Likud, and hope they clean up their act, or all the nasties go to prison (fat chance).

Shinui really is a contrary party. I may agree with a lot of what they say, but definitely not the way they say it, or the way they manage to rub everyone up the wrong way.

What will happen, I wonder, if the elections fall in the middle of the Iraq war, which looks increasingly likely? If they don't postpone them, I wonder how voting rates will be effected. Actually I don't see how they can not postpone. If this war is anything like last time, Tel Aviv will be empty. Who's going to come back to town from, say, Eilat, just to vote? This probably means the left stands to lose out. The left's voters are more affluent, and more likely to be able to afford alternative living arrangements.
Now don’t start shouting
Your old pal Jane Fonda is here. She’s also taking the time to visit Israeli victims of Palestinian violence as well as the other side. I know a lot of you don’t like her, but I do appreciate the effort to see both sides’ suffering.
Haaretz: Hand found in park

City inspectors inspecting a public park in Rishon Lezion yesterday found a human hand in an advance state of decomposition that had drawn the attention of a pack of street cats. The inspectors called the police, which sent the hand to the forensics department. Most likely, said police sources, the hand was lost during a terrorist explosion at the nearby promenade in May and probably belonged to the terrorist, since all the body parts of the two Israeli casualties in the attack were buried and none of the dozens wounded lost a hand".

Oh, oh, oh. Ehud Yaari on Mitzna
VERY interesting. How did I miss this?
Thanks to Haggai for pointing it out.
An English 39 year-old artist and writer, Margaret Davies, died of starvation and cold in an uninhabited wilderness in North West England. This is a very strange story. She sounds a very unusual person, too. I suppose it would be inappropriate to call her strange, under the circumstances. Maybe eccentric would be better. The article mentions she spent the summer in Israel, working for the UN, to make some money, before continuing to Nepal.

Isn't it strange? She and I are about the same age, but seem to have nothing in common. I have always lived a very structured life, completely of my own choice, grateful and appreciative of the security and warmth of family life and a steady job. She has gone looking for hardship, danger and solitude.

I suppose I am not a typical Israeli in my decided lack of wanderlust, but then, Bish is the same. On the other hand, my parents have traveled enough for all of us.

So if I regard someone like Margaret Davies as an eccentric it’s probably because most 39 year-olds are like me and not like her. Even if they were more like her when they were younger, traveling around and living on the edge, most have settled down by now. But just because most people live some version of my life, doesn't mean it is better than hers. You may say: Well, you're alive and she isn't. (Tfu tfu tfu! Bite your tongue!) I've got no guarantees that I won't get run over by a bus, on the way to work, tomorrow morning, have I?

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

I loved The Head Heeb's post about the working peace among Israeli and Palestinian criminals. Jonathan's mention of the late Jonny Attias amused me. Years ago, when I first came to work for my current employer, one of my first bosses was a cousin of the late Jonny Attias. Luckily for me, La Cousina, who, unlike her relative, was a law-abiding citizen, took a shine to little old Fresh Meat here (as I was then) and took me under her wing, thus protecting me from being devoured by the workplace pack. I rather suspect that otherwise she would have been first in for the kill. Years later, she reaped the benefit of this, when having ventured out into the far greater jungle of the world outside government salaries and job permanence, Bish threw a few tasty morsels of prey her way.

The very fruitful and widespread cooperation between Jewish and Arab criminals in Israel is truly a rare example of successful coexistence in Israeli society. It can be demonstrated nicely with the story of the Turk family of Yaffo. I think they are distant cousins of Rifat "Jimmy" Turk, once a famous Israeli soccer player, now a member of the Tel Aviv city council. (I must point out that these are Israeli Arabs and not Palestinians from the territories). At one point, the illegitimate son of one of the brothers was wanted by the police for his complicity in a big burglary of safe deposit boxes in a bank in Holon. Under his mug shot, the police poster gave his name as "Amir Cohen, son of Muhammad". He was never found, by the way, because, according to one of his uncles, his other uncles murdered him, as a “reward” for cooperating with the police.

Jonathan talks of Israeli (Jewish) car thieves supplying stolen cars to Palestinian car dealers and what's known here as car slaughterhouses, in the territories. Contrary to Jonathan’s claim, this successful business cooperation has been badly hampered by the Terror War (also known as the Intifada), much to the relief of car owners and insurance companies. In fact, I understand that car thefts have dropped so drastically, that the police have begun liquidating their special unit for investigating these car thefts, because it is no longer needed. Unfortunately, we have seen that this cooperation between Jewish and Arab criminals extends to a lively trade in weapons, as well, which Israelis (mainly Arab, but Jewish too) supply to the Palestinians in large amounts.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

The real mistake
Says Ami Isseroff on MidEastWeb’s new blog: “It is one thing to view the Oslo accords from the perspective of those who believe in peace and equality for two nations, and to say, "this way did not work." It is quite different to begin with the idea that Palestinians or Jews do not deserve self determination, work very hard to make the Oslo agreements fail, and then when they do fail, say "You see, I told you so!"”

How do I feel about that? Well, I partially agree with it. Looking around, most people I know who say the Oslo Accords were a dangerous mistake, never believed in them from the start. People like me, who supported them but have been forced to admit that they have failed dismally, usually think we were right to have tried.

However, I believe it wasn’t the disbelievers on either side who finally derailed the peace train. It was Arafat, by refusing to accept the Camp David offers and not only failing to crush the terror war, but, according to credible sources, actually instigating it.

I think that to suggest that those who always believed that Oslo was a terrible mistake do not “believe in peace and equality for two nations” is an unfair generalization. Many of those Jews who opposed Oslo (I can’t speak for Palestinians) certainly do not think Palestinians “do not deserve self-determination”. They believe, however, that the Palestinians cannot be trusted and will use any independence given to them to further the goal of being rid of the Zionist entity. Sadly, they seem to have been right about that.

We wanted so much to prove wrong the disbelievers on our side. But another thing they said was that Arafat was not a reliable partner. Right again. That was both our mistake AND the Palestinians’ mistake. If the local Palestinians had had the guts to go without the Tunisian leadership, it’s much more likely we would have got on just fine. But they didn’t and couldn’t. We’re all paying the price.

I hope that in my lifetime, we will see a Palestinian leadership we can trust, and then, I hope, we can learn from our experience and (this time) slowly, carefully and sensitively, attempt again to learn to live in peace with the Palestinians.
Gotham 2003, the new Diane
No more pink. Does the dreary template reflect a new bleak realism in Diane's outlook? Time will tell.

Update: Pink again. What a relief. I hope this is permanent. Have I mentioned motion sickness?
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, addressing The Washington Institute's Special Policy Forum, explains Israel’s strategic goals in the War of Terror and how to achieve them. I can think of a few people who should read this. Not that it would make any difference, of course.
It seems Tony Blair wants to talk peace with our neighbors the Palestinians. I hope the British and other Quartet members are successful in reaching a peaceful agreement and resolving their differences with the Palestinians. A word of warning: Negotiating with the Palestinians can be very dangerous. And the more you offer them, the nastier they get.
We also have our share of silly actors who have become too big for their boots (or, as we say in Israel, their urine has gone up into their head).

Yesterday I heard some local actors talking on the radio. Apparently they are planning violent protests ("the likes of which have never been seen before" - I kid you not) in view of the proposed harsh cut, in the state budget for 2003 (which should be passed this evening), of investment in cultural enterprises, meaning many of them stand to lose their jobs. The ones most likely to be thrown out, of course, are those who make a living from state-subsidized repertoire theaters.

These actors are very angry indeed. They honestly can't understand why they're not on the top of the list for government handouts or why Israel doesn't spend 2% of the GNP on culture, like in Europe.


By the way, this came right after an item about a home for people who can’t look after themselves (I didn’t catch exactly what sort of people live there) in the poverty stricken southern town of Dimona, which is having such problems keeping afloat it is finding it difficult to supply the basic needs of its wards. Coming after this, the actors’ plight rather disgusted me.

How come some actors seem so intelligent when they say things other people write for them and so silly when they try saying anything they thought of themselves?

Probably the best example of this is Israeli actor Muhammad Bakri, whom you've probably heard of because his movie, "Jenin, Jenin", was recently banned from being screened in cinemas or on TV in Israel, apparently because it's a pack of vicious lies. I am told it especially offended parents of IDF soldiers killed in Jenin, who staged demonstrations at the couple of screenings that preceded the ban. I am opposed to the ban on the grounds that Bakri is a twerp and banning him only serves to advertise his movie and make him even more full of himself (if that is possible).

For some reason, he's very popular with TV interviewers in Israel, although he always talks such nonsense. Maybe it's because he's so good looking. I admit I don't switch channels when he's on, even though I usually find the content at best uninteresting, usually inflammatory. He manages to charm everyone into thinking that he has something worthwhile to say. The Arabs in Israel deserve a better spokesman, but I doubt if they could find a more prepossessing one.
I know nothing about the causes for the threatened New York transit strike, but I can relate to the strong words asparagirl has to say about it.

Monday, December 16, 2002

But what does it mean?
Erm, via Allison Lives
Diane of Gotham has gone from black on pink to ...pink on pink.

Diane! We can't read pink on pink! What do you take us for?

Just kidding. It appears she's having some problems. I'll update you when she manages to fix it, that is, if she updates me.
E-mailed to me by Our Sis:
Once upon a time a powerful Emperor advertised for a new Chief Samurai.
Only three applied for the job: a Japanese, a Chinese and a Jewish Samurai.

"Demonstrate your skills!" commanded the Emperor.
The Japanese samurai stepped forward, opened a tiny box and released a fly. He drew his samurai sword and "swish"; the fly fell to the floor, neatly divided in two! "What a feat!" said the Emperor. "Number Two samurai, show me what you can do."

The Chinese samurai smiled confidently, stepped forward and opened a tiny box, releasing a fly. He drew his samurai sword and "swish, swish"; the fly fell to the floor, neatly quartered!" That is skill!" nodded the Emperor.
"How are you going to top that, Number three Samurai?"

Number Three Samurai stepped forward, opened a tiny box, released one fly, drew his Samurai sword, and "swoooooosh," flourished his sword so mightily that a gust of wind blew through the room. But the fly was still buzzing around! In disappointment, the Emperor said, "What kind of skill is that? The fly isn't even dead."

"Dead, schmed," replied the Jewish Samurai. "Dead is EASY.....Circumcision. THAT takes skill!"

Sunday, December 15, 2002

This is a bit over the top: “A respected Saskatchewan native leader said Adolf Hitler did the right thing when he killed six million Jews during World War II”. Is this a joke or what? It gets better/worse (depending which side you’re on): “"…That's how Hitler came in. He was going to make damn sure that the Jews didn't take over Germany or Europe. That's why he fried six million of those guys, you know. Jews would have owned the goddamned world. And look what they're doing. They're killing people in Arab countries."” This must be a joke.

Fred linked to it over on Israpundit. Hiya Freddie, how ya doing?
Hollywood to the rescue
I approve very much of Blogatelle’s initiative for solving the world’s ills.

A bit worn, I know, but my fantasy cel-dip (celebrity diplomacy) would still have Clint Eastwood standing over a hovering, quivering Saddam/bin Laden/Nasrallah/insert the bad guy of your fancy, “Uh-uh. I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kind of lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?”

I know, I know, I’m more likely to get a John Lennon look-alike plus goatee plus black and white Kaffiya singing Happy Christmas (War Is Over) or worse. Oh, well. The dream is over.

Don't mind me.
Needless to say, the news here is all about the nasty bribes and payoffs in the Likud “primaries”. Labor thinks they’re going to win back votes. They can just think again.

Aha! I spy an opportunity to be catty, which thankfully has no existential meaning for me and mine:

Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh): Spirituality for the young and good looking?
I always thought that using (an abundance of) sex as a means on the spiritual road to enlightenment a weird idea. I strongly suspect that most people came to Osho’s Ashram in Poona, India, mainly for the sex and not for the spiritual stuff (even if they told themselves otherwise), which is fine by me. People often delude themselves in much more destructive ways. So I’m not really surprised that twelve years after Osho’s death, (reading between the lines of this article) it looks like the sex has at last officially become the end. Well, I must say, it took longer than expected.

Funnily enough, the Hebrew version of the article, which appeared in Haaretz today, has cut out the mention of sex and AIDS testing that appeared in the original version. Are they getting prudish in their old age, or was it translated by an ex-disciple who thinks the emphasis on the sex in the media is taking it out of its spiritual context and making it sound too sensational? If it’s the second reason – maybe he or she didn’t get it at all. Based on everything I’ve ever read that Osho wrote, and I admit that I found reading his stuff a terrible waste of time and usually couldn’t get past the first few chapters (I also once saw a video of him talking which was an equal waste of time), I personally think Osho was a crook and charlatan. I do believe the sex stuff was invented mainly to attract suitably gullible and misguided customers. This is a rather mean thing for me to say, considering I know some ex-disciples of his who are very sweet and lovely people. What can I say? I’m obviously just not spiritual enough to have shed off my nasty cynicism, yet. This is another reason I left my Buddhist group – I felt like a fraud. I was a fraud.

Will I be getting responses telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about? Very likely, and probably rightly so. But I can’t help feeling a malicious delight that Osho’s Ashram in Poona is finally coming clean about what it seems to have been all along - a holiday resort for people who want to live it up and feel self-righteous and spiritual while they’re at it.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

A (belated – sorry my fault) Hannuka story from the Jerusalem Post:
“Bus 16 moved slowly through traffic in Haifa. Olga Grossman Solomon was sitting in a seat that faced backwards. Across the aisle, in the window seat facing forward, a plump woman with soft white hair was staring at Olga. When a passenger got off, the stranger moved over and leaned across the aisle.

"Is your name Olga?" she asked. "Are you a twin?"

A twin! Olga's heart pounded. The question sent her hurtling back more than half a century to a freezing platform in Poland. Olga was clutching her momma Shari's long skirt, and a man with immaculate white gloves and a stick was asking, "Are you a twin?"”

Read on.
The Jerusalem Post claims that, unlike the interest shown by the Israeli media in this story, the Palestinian press remained indifferent to the plight of Nur Abu Tir. It was written before her body was found.
And if we're on the subject of Lebanon
Remember the Wazzani River business?
It seems the Lebanese haven’t started pumping, yet. They claim it’s because of technical problems.
Hezbullah – it seems CBC can’t understand what all the kerfuffle is about.
The Canadian National Post attempts to explain to Canadians a few things about the Hezbullah, for those who think they’re OK because they only want to kill (Jewish) Israelis.
Awful news
The body of 5-year-old Nur Abu Tir from East Jerusalem was found yesterday, in a drainage pit inside the grounds of the family home. They suspect family members (or A family member) of her murder. The motive seems to be sexual molestation.
I can’t believe we missed this.
We were in the best place in Israel to see it. How annoying! R.T. (who came with us this time) and I actually stood looking at the sky last night, but obviously not at the right time. Harry R. caught it from outside Jerusalem. (Sorry Harry, couldn’t link to the direct post – you should try fixing your archives or something).

Friday, December 13, 2002

We're off to Mitzpe Ramon tomorrow morning.
It's really cold there now. I've been packing long-unused sweaters.

We'll be back Saturday. See you then.
Someone in Haaretz gets it.
Thank you, Ari Shavit, for explaining what is as clear as the blue sky, but completely eludes most of the Israeli left, who continue to insist that the rest of the Israelis fail to see things as they do, because they are stupid and uneducated.

“Thus, the dove-hawk paradox is not an expression of the hysterical moods of a confused mob. The dove-hawk paradox is not the caprice of a stupid and frightened public. Indeed, the dove-hawk paradox does indicate that the Israeli majority is more mature and balanced today than it has ever been”.

Go read.

Diane and Grasshoppa also comment on this.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

5 year-old Nur Abu Tir from East Jerusalem is still missing. I find the theory of her being kidnapped as part of a family feud rather hard to believe. Not that such family feuds do not often result in kidnapping and murder, But this is a small child, after all. The family seems pretty convinced, though.

Then again, I didn’t want to believe Eli Pimstein had murdered his baby, either.

Update: Channel 1 is saying something about sexual abuse in the family now.
Two Israelis have been shot dead in Hebron.
Two soldiers, military police. A boy and a girl.
Anti-Zionism is an anachronism
In this week’s UK spectator, Geoffrey Wheatcroft explains why anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism. A very interesting and persuasive read.

I had some thoughts about anti-Zionism, while reading, that don’t necessarily have anything to do with Mr. Wheatcroft’s argument.

One thing I think anti-Zionists fail to understand is that however Zionism began and whatever it meant to accomplish, and however you feel about all that on a philosophical level, it’s ancient history. There is now an Israel. The great majority of its citizens were born here. They are Israelis. They have no memories of the countries their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents came from. The Israeli nation may have been artificially created; it may have been a great mistake (I don’t believe that but I can respect others that do), but the fact is that now there is an Israeli people.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft talks of “One early Jewish opponent of Zionism, the ardently assimilationist Austrian writer Karl Kraus, thought the notion nonsensical: it was absurd to imagine that German, French, Slavonic and Turkish Jews had a common bond, or that any interest united the caftan-wearing tradesman of the Galician shtetl with the literary poseur of the Viennese cafיs”. Well today’s Israel proves him wrong. While his literary, Viennese, cafי-frequenting descendants were probably exterminated by the Nazis, this descendant of caftan-wearing tradesmen of the Galician shtetl is happily married to a descendant of Turkish rabbis and wealthy Bukharans. We get on just fine and we have a lot in common, thank you very much.

We are here. We don’t want to assimilate into a Palestinian state. We are not Palestinians. This week a whole nation held its breath as thousands searched for a lost baby. While I was waiting for my youngest daughter to finish her dancing lesson on Sunday afternoon, a man rushed past me towards the TV corner there, calling urgently, as if she was his own daughter “Have they found her? Have they found her?” A whole nation was horrified when the tiny body was finally found and the unbearable truth came to light. A father had done this to his own offspring. Fathers all over the country rushed home to hug and kiss their children, newly appreciative of their relatively normal lives.

We are here. This is our home. Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents may have spoken many languages. We speak Hebrew, the language Karl Kraus may have known only as a language in which to utter prayers he probably couldn’t understand. Contemporary anti-Zionists, rush past Israeli inhabited areas, on entering the country, lest they be contaminated by our moral deficiencies. They hurry off to show their solidarity with the Palestinians and to console them for the great injustice of the theft of their land by the Zionists. They fail to see, in their haste, that we are not like the French in Algeria, who returned to France; and that we are not like the British in India, who went back to England. We are home. We have not transported “life at home” to a new venue. Everything that went before is gone. The Galician shtetl has gone forever, as has the Jewish neighborhood in Baghdad. Now there is something new. This is our home and I, for one, love it dearly, corrupt politicians and all.

In summing up his essay, Mr. Wheatcroft, who describes himself as an honorary Jew, asserts that “More than 100 years later, every single dispute involving Israel demonstrates that, whatever else it may be, it is not a nation like all others, and maybe never can be”. I’m not sure by which standards Mr. Wheatcroft is gauging us when he makes this claim. As I see it, the only point in which we are not a nation like all others is in the particularly harsh judgment we receive from those who arrogantly see themselves as our moral betters.

[If anti-Zionism is an anachronism, you may argue, does that not mean Zionism is an anachronism, too? My Oxford dictionary from 1969, defines Zionism as “A movement resulting in the re-establishment of a Jewish nation in Palestine”. Seeing as this has already happened, Zionism could definitely be seen as an anachronism. A Jewish nation in so-called “Palestine” is a fait accompli.]
This is exactly what I’ve been talking about.
Dr. Patch Adams is in Israel and has been visiting Israeli victims of terrorism in hospital. He plans to visit Palestinian hospitals and refugee camps as well. This is REAL peace activism. He didn’t make a beeline for the Palestinians, like they usually do. He took the time to be in Israeli hospitals because he sees our wounded as also deserving of a bit of his laughter, even though I understand he is far more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel.
Politicians – can’t live with them, can’t live with them (I)
Dr. Yossi Beilin didn't do very well in the Labor Party primaries. Neither did Yael Dayan (Moshe's daughter). So now they're moving to Meretz. Gil sums all this up nicely. Yael Dayan is probably one of the most aggravating people in Israeli politics, but I disagree with Gil. She's done a lot in recent years for women's rights, violence in the family, sexual assault victims and so on. Anyway, Meretz is really a much more suitable party for them both. Maybe someone could get Mitzna to go, too ;-). Gil says that Yossi Sarid, head of Meretz, is “one of the most arrogant people in Israel and I’m not referring to his political views at all. I will even dare and say he is at least as arrogant as Bibi is”. Oh, Gil, what Sarid forgot about being arrogant, Bibi hasn’t even learnt yet! I’d say Bibi has a gigantic chip on his shoulder, whereas Sarid is quite convinced that Planet Earth is truly a fortunate place to have him walking on it.

Politicians – can’t live with them, can’t live with them (II)
I notice the EU court has OK-ed a decision to ban the sale of cigarettes marked as "light" or "mild" in EU countries. But they are not advocating a ban on EU countries exporting such cigarettes, mainly to countries less fortunate or affluent than EU countries. What hypocrites. They are opposed to waging war on poor unfortunate countries (although they supply them with the very weapons that make these wars necessary) because of the anticipated civilian fatalities, but they don't mind killing them slowly with their cigarettes.

This brings me back, for some reason, to the tendency in Israeli politics for (nearly) all the dirt to be out in the open. I have discussed this in the past. I find it hard to contain my utter disgust with the Likud's corrupt "primaries", which reached an historical peak with the election of an unknown pipsqueak named Inbal Gavrielli to the 29th spot on the list, which means she is very likely to be a Knesset member by February. A lawyer (I think, or is it a law student?), a woman, new blood, why am I taking offense? Well mainly because of her family connections. She belongs to a family of criminals. According to Haaretz (Hebrew version), two of her uncles went to prison in the 1980’s for drug dealing and trafficking, extortion, forging documents and fraud and now are mainly involved in the international gambling scene (including illegal gambling in Israel, I believe). I am opposed to legalizing gambling in Israel, by the way, but that’s for a separate post. One of these ex-con uncles was very much involved in her being elected to the Likud list. Even if she is on the level about her political agenda, whatever it is, and has a lot to offer, she will still be under a lot of pressure from La Familia, and their pals, to push their interests, whatever she says, won’t she? Right out of The Godfather, eh?

The upside is that she's right out there in the open. Most, if not all, politicians have the backing of unsavory characters, and they have to look after their backers' interests. But we usually don't know exactly who they are or what their agenda is until it's too late. This little lady we can keep our eye on.

My nausea might just cause me to vote Shinui (a small liberal, secular party, that runs on the vehemently-opposing-religious-coercion ticket, a little too vehemently for my sensibilities) and not Likud in the end. According to this poll (Hebrew) I'm not the only one who's nauseated. These Likud "Primaries" could affect other ex-lefties who were planning to vote Sharon. This week has been a sharp reminder that we're not voting Sharon; we're voting Likud. Yuck.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

The Guardian discovers home schooling.
A few years ago I was very interested in home schooling and read a lot about it on the net. Not that I dreamt of not sending the girls to school and teaching them at home, but because before they started school I fantasized about supplementing what they would got thrust at them in school with some quality stuff. When my eldest daughter started school I had zero expectations of the system. This must be the reason I have been so pleasantly surprised. The state school they spend their days in isn’t bad at all. Its not that I think it is the best school in the world, far from it, but I’m satisfied, and I think they are happy there. They seem to be learning a thing or two, and even acquiring some skills of self-study.

In Israel, school is compulsory. The law probably has its roots in the early years, when a lot of poor, uneducated people came to live here (or lived here already) and sent their kids out to work instead of to school. They couldn’t be trusted to make their own choices for their children’s education (I know this sounds unpleasant, but I think you’ll agree that kids have rights too). There is, however, some sort of legal loophole that does allow for home schooling, in some cases, and there are apparently a handful of families who take advantage of this. I hear the authorities dislike it and give them a hard time.

Home schooling always comes over as sort of daring and pioneering, doesn’t it? As a parent, I always think that people, who educate their kids themselves, from beginning to end, must be wonderful, wise, patient people. The kind of parents we all want to be. I would lose patience and interest after about two minutes. I love working outside of the house. Housework bores me silly and (as a result?) I’m not very good at it. The idea of being stuck home with my kids, day in, day out, has very little appeal for me. I’m sure they’d be bored silly, as well. Home schooling obviously requires energies I just don’t possess. I think not being able to afford not to work is also rather relevant to the question of home schooling, too, don’t you? It’s obviously a rich person’s luxury.

Home schooling advocates often put an emphasis on the inability of regular schools to encourage a love of learning in children. They even go as far as to say that school stifles and destroys a child’s natural love of learning. They say it does bad things to a child’s character, or things to that affect, because of the unpleasant and unnatural atmosphere, lack of freedom and so on and so forth. This is all probably true, and makes me feel a pinch of guilt for ruining my girls’ minds by sending them to such a horrible institute. But maybe kids who don’t go to school are missing out as well.

They say “It takes a whole village to bring up a child”. Well these days most kids don’t live in a village or in any such close, nurturing community. (Actually, I know someone who grew up in a close, nurturing village that was sexually abused by family members and was thrown out when she finally found the courage to speak up, but you know what I mean…) Even extended families no longer live together and often don’t meet up on a regular basis. School is a regular, relatively stable society for kids. It’s their community. As I see it, the social side of school, for good and for bad, is much more important than the math and science kids learn there, especially in these days of readily available information. In school, children learn how to live in society. They learn that living with people is not easy, that it is full of challenges, but that it is also wonderful, interesting and exciting. They get the opportunity to meet people who are very different from them, and they learn to get along with them. Today, most of us work with other people. Learning to live with them and understand them, especially people we don’t particularly like or choose to be with, is a very important skill for life. Shielding children from anticipated unpleasantness of the social life in schools prevents them from gradually developing the ability to deal with such unpleasantness in adult life.

A reason many people give for home schooling is bullying and violence in schools today. But if you take your kids out of school because they are being bullied, or just because they don’t enjoy their social life there, you are not giving them the opportunity to deal with these problems. You are encouraging them to run away from difficulty. Of course, if you feel that your kid’s school cannot protect its wards from danger then this is not a suitable school for them, but is this a reason to write off the whole idea of schools?

A lot of people cite religion as a reason for home schooling. These are Christians wanting to avoid unwanted influences. This seems very strange to me, maybe because Judaism is such a very social religion. Judaism kept going in the Diaspora because Jews stuck together. Jewish men always studied together; first, as small children, in the “heder”, then, during youth, in the “yeshiva” and later on, as adults, together with the community, in the Rabbis’ “drashot”. This is still the religious Jewish way of life. Ten Jews are the minimum required to pray together.

My parents both stood out as Jews in predominantly Christian schools, when they were growing up. My mother even went to a Catholic convent during the war. Rather than hasting their assimilation, this experience served to sharpen their Jewish sensibilities and helped turned them into avid Zionists and then Israelis. Seeing other ways of life doesn’t necessarily encourage people to emulate them, but there is always the danger.

Erm, I seem to have lost my line of thought. Is that the time? I really must go.