Friday, January 31, 2003

Shabbat Shalom.

While I’m enjoying the Shabbat, you can read this very good Israeli Election Post-Mortem, by Stefan Sharkansky’s father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky.

So blogspot has been blocked in Iraq. It looks like Salam will be moving. I did notice this but had forgotten by the time I’d finished washing the dishes. This is obviously the memory span of your average dishwashing mother and wife. Thank you, Diane for reminding me. Never mind, Salam, soon you’ll be able to have all the blogspot you want. All you have to do is live that long.

Who am I talking to? He can't read this.

And that is the last thing I'm saying this Shabbat. Honest.
“The time has come to talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax
Of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings”.
Lewis Caroll

So in the mail we got a booklet from the Home Front Command, explaining WHAT TO DO. So far only my rather precocious seven and a half year old has read it. From flipping through I know it has all sorts of lists, such as what sorts of food to have in, exactly how much of each type; lists of things to have in the “protected area”; how the kids could be expected to react (my daughter found this bit especially interesting) and so on. This morning, as I was coming out of the supermarket, I noticed they were selling plastic sheeting. For a split second I couldn’t understand what it was doing there.

A lot of people are much more fatalistic this time. R.T. says that anything that happens after his bedtime will not get him out of bed. I know Dad isn’t making any plans to change anything in his life. If I didn’t have kids I’d feel the same way, but I have to be responsible for them so I’ll have to go through the motions. I’d love to be able to hear an air-raid siren and just turn over to the other side and go back to sleep. But I won’t. I know I won’t. I read once about someone telling that, as a child in London during WWII, her mother refused to wake her up and take her down into the tube like everyone else when there was an air raid. Rather silly considering the amount of civilians who were killed during the Blitz of London, but understandable.

I hope the US is worried enough about our threats of retaliation to make sure we don’t get gassed. Not a pleasant way to die.

Here's Ehud Yaari on the dangers of going about the Iraq offensive in the wrong way. And here's an interesting David Warren commentary about Iraq, Israel and, of course, France and Germany. Moe saw it first.
Alisa In Wonderland explains why a secular agenda such as that of Tommy Lapid’s Shinui Party has such popular appeal for many Israelis.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Oh, look what happened while Dad was beaming applications to me from his new Palm Pilot. They finished counting the soldiers’ votes. Likud got another seat. They’ve now got 38. National Religious party also got another seat, giving them a total of 6. Who lost? Hadash (Commies, mainly Arabs) and One Nation - Am Ehad (party of Amir Peretz, head of the Histadrut, trade union). The right is bigger by two. Excellent.

I’m not going to get into coalition speculations right now. I’ve started really enjoying the Ben Gurion biography. It’s started reading like a really exciting suspense-filled novel. Haim Arlozorov just got murdered (1933) and things are heating up between the Workers and Zeev Jabotinsky’s Revisionists.

This is good:

“Nothing is more ridiculous and more criminal than to fight with constitutional means against an absolutely anti-constitutional force.” David Ben Gurion, 1934.

He said it about the Revisionists, but it has wisdom beyond the context.

By the way, did I ever tell you that, according to my grandfather’s memoirs, my great-grandfather came back from the Great War raving about his impressive Russian officer? This was Jabotinsky, of course. I’m excited to think that I am descended from someone who was in the first Jewish Legion. I hadn’t really thought about it before.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

How could this happen?
Left wing politicians and pundits talked and talked all morning on Israel radio. Some of them admitted to being in shock about the results of the elections. And I really wanted to ask them: Which planet have you been on exactly???? If you had just spent a little time during the last couple of years listening, really listening, to the voices around you, instead of blaming and deriding; if you had only spent some time trying to stretch your brains to let in some other opinions, for a change; if you had made a little effort to control your urge to run to the psychiatrists for explanations for the collective lunacy of Israelis that do not belong to your own circles - maybe you wouldn’t be so surprised today. No one else is.

Oh and reading too much Haaretz doesn’t help much, either.

All things considered, the left actually did quite well...

[Sorry, couldn't help it. You wouldn't begrudge me my fun, would you? I reckon I earned it]

More: This is how…
Posted by my very own Bish on an Israeli forum:

Strategically, most Israelis are prepared for concessions like those suggested by the Israeli left, but agree with the Israeli right that there is currently no one with whom to negotiate.

The right will continue to rule Israel, as long as the left continues insisting on negotiating with Arafat, and goes on and on about our “not being able to determine who will lead the Palestinians” while people are being blown up in the streets.

Even born pro-concessions-lefties, like myself, will not vote for a blind Israeli left, locked in views that are not compatible with reality.

But Ehud Barak is right when he says that, one day, reality will change again, and the viewpoint of the Israeli left will once again be relevant.

And then the stupid and blind politicians will jump up and cry: “We told you so” and “At last the nation understands that we always had it right” …

Fools. Even the hands of a clock that isn’t working show the correct time twice a day.

Notice how Haaretz couldn't bear to place National Union above Meretz. Sore losers. Teehee.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

More international recognition.
I see I am consolidating my position as Important Israeli and Psychic.

Gedoudahere, you lot!
I love Election Day!
For the last fourteen years I’ve lived across the road from two different polling stations. On Election Day I love watching the continuous stream of people going in to have their say.

I’m told that in Israel the percentage of voters is always high in comparison with other Western-style democracies. This time, a particularly low turnout is expected, but it’s already looking like it’s going to be a bit higher than the low turnout in the 2001 special vote for Prime Minister (when the Arabs boycotted the election).

I’m always excited when I’m actually in the polling booth with the envelope. First of all, I can never find the piece of paper with the letters I’m looking for, representing the party of my choice. And then, when I’ve found it at last and put it in the envelope, I always have to check myself. I open the envelope again just to be sure, forever afraid that I’ve got it wrong. My fingers always shake a little when I put the envelope into the ballot.

And this time was no exception. I’m not feeling too well and I wasn’t looking forward to standing in line, but once again I queued up outside my daughters’ English classroom in their little school, which is our polling station. I could see I wasn’t the only one excited. I noticed the guy before me held his breath and smiled before putting his envelope in the ballot, as if for good luck. It doesn’t matter to me that he could have been voting for a party I disagree with. This is very mushy, I know, but I feel an affinity with all the people in the polling station. These are my fellow citizens who have come to do their duty and realize their right to take part in the democratic process. By coming, they are showing that they trust and believe in the Israeli democracy.

Bish still votes at the polling station of our old address. He hasn’t changed his address with the Ministry of Interior. He told of an amusing thing that happened while he was voting. A lady of over seventy went behind the booth with her envelope and then came back out again and asked the Polling Committee people what was the difference between the “Green” Party (the environmental party) and the “Green Leaf” Party (the legalize-marijuana party). They told her to look at the poster explaining the different parties and the letters representing them. But she said no, she didn’t need the letters, she just didn’t understand the difference between them. The Committee members explained to her patiently that they are not allowed to tell her such a thing and again suggested she read the poster. Bish said it took a while for them to convince her that she wasn’t going to get any explanations about content from them. I wonder what she voted for in the end. And why.

There’s been a lot of talk about Israeli democracy being in danger lately, mainly from the left side of the political map and the more left slanted parts of the media. Their reasons for saying this may be well based, but I ask myself why I should take them seriously, considering that for the first thirty years of this state’s existence there was one major party that always won national elections and ruled the country with a high hand. In those days, to be any sort of part of the establishment you had to first prove your loyalty by being in possession of a membership booklet of the Histadrut, the Workers’ Union (among other things).

I’m sure you’re wondering for whom I voted. Well, I’m not telling. I don’t have to tell and I’m not going to. So there.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Oh, dear.
Looks like war some time soon.

Doesn't it?
A comprehensive explanation about the Israeli elections can be read on Shark Blog, written by Stefan’s father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky.
Still under the weather.
I’m getting bored. That’s a good sign. I dread the mounds of backlog that’ll be waiting for me when I get back to work. That is, if I don’t arrive back to find my things in a box outside the door, in which case, someone else will have to do it all ;-)

Ah, Tom Paine has been to Mitzpe Ramon. That’s nice. He gives a good description: ”…it's kinda like looking down onto the surface of Mars. There's this HUGE crater, and the town is built right on the lip. There's a Crater Observatory right on the edge with enormous floor-to-ceiling windows. Just put some red cellophane over them, and it looks like Mars Colonisation Authority HQ, Olympus Mons, circa 2057”. Yeah, that’s what we like about being there. Puts you into perspective.

Don’t worry. I’ll be getting to the polling station tomorrow, on my knees if needs be, to vote for the guy on the left. (Via Charles Johnson, Silent Running and Meryl Yourish).

Or should I vote Shinui?

Watching Mitzna's speech on the party propaganda broadcasts last night, I commented to Bish that I might just vote for Mitzna out of pity. Bish said I should be careful or people will start to believe I am actually capable of that emotion. Since he's been a politician he's become so mean. I asked him if we’re going to end up like that elderly couple they’ve been showing on TV. The husband wants to divorce his wife of many years on the grounds of her not voting for the “correct” party. They have hardly been speaking to each other since the last election, when she did the unthinkable (voted for Barak). The Rabbis have suggested that she doesn’t vote, in order to save their marriage. See what I mean? Why didn’t they suggest he doesn’t vote?

Anyway, Bish says that could be a good idea, but he just has to make up his mind whom to vote for first.

Update: At last, international recognition! Wind Rider thinks I’m an important Israeli!
Oops! Although, it could be said that Sharon is further left than some of his party counterparts. Ever since I was map-reader during a European holiday in 1987, while Bish drove, he has known the shameful truth about me. I can’t tell my RIGHT from my LEFT (“Turn right, here. Right, I said, right! Why are you turning left?”). He married me anyway.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Sunday special
In "Two fingers from Sidon ", a 1986 Israeli movie about the last days of Israel's occupation of Southern Lebanon, before the retreat to the "Security Zone", a young officer, fresh out of officers' course, arrives to take up his command. Someone gives him a crash course on local Lebanese politics, giving him the run down of all the many factions and parties, and their alliances and rivalries. Very confusing. In summing up, the impromptu guide explains that no matter how much the different groups may hate each other, they all hate the Israeli soldiers more.

An e-mail I received this morning from a reader (I feel very uncomfortable saying that. Who do I think I am exactly? A reader, noch!) that helped me get a feel of just how confusing Israeli politics must be to the uninitiated. So I will attempt to answer the questions she asks, within a wider framework.

First the basics, as found in the Knesset website:
“Israel has an electoral system based on nation-wide proportional representation, and the number of seats which every list receives in the Knesset is proportional to the number of voters who voted for it. The only limitation is the 1.5% qualifying threshold. In other words, a party must receive at least 1.5% of the votes in order to be elected. According to this system, the voters vote for a party list, and not for a particular person on the list”.

Now what that means is that, unlike the American and British winner-takes-all systems, in Israel the more votes you get, the more seats you get. This allows for representation in the Knesset of the full spectrum of the diverse Israeli society. In Israel there is a lot of confusion about the left-right continuum. Although there is, of course, some measure of compatibility, in Israel, when you talk about right and left, you are mainly talking about hawk and dove. There is very little difference in the outlook on economic matters between the two largest parties, the right of center Likud Party or the left of center Labor Party. The difference is mainly in their perception of the conflict with the Arabs and the solutions they offer (these have changed considerably over the years for both parties).

The current success the previously marginal party, Shinui, is having is due to its being perceived as a central party in matters of security and peace, although in matters of economy it is decidedly right wing. The Likud and the Labor parties did start off as real right and left. The Likud is the descendant of a fusion between Menahem Begin's Herut and the historical General Zionists, and the Labor Party is the descendant of Ben Gurion's Mapai, which translates literally as the Party of the Workers of the Land of Israel. This was a socialist party and this is why you can still see Labor Party elder, Shimon Peres, regularly proudly singing "The Internationale" at the Socialist International conferences in various delightful locations in Europe (much to the glee of his TV imitators and their audiences, who love to ridicule his frequent trips to different corners of what Rumsfeld has recently called "Old Europe").

The problems new Labor Party chairman, Amram Mitzna, is having in the polls, besides his lack of personal charisma, is that he has taken a sharp move to the dove side of the hawk-dove continuum. At this point in time, a lot of traditional Labor Party voters (Myself among them, I was even a party member at one point) do not feel it is wise to renew negotiations with the Palestinians right now, especially not while they are still being led by Yasser Arafat, or to retreat unilaterally under fire, as Mitzna suggests.

Now because of the proportional representation, a lot of small parties get voted into the Knesset, making a coalition necessary in order to create a government with a majority of Knesset members backing it. The party that gets the most seats, or has the best chance of creating a coalition gets to form the government.

Because of the proportional representation, we also get all sorts of weirdo parties running for Knesset each elections, from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Natural Law Party (I think they're sitting this one out, actually, or should I say, floating this one out?), through Men's Rights in the Family (These guys are fighting for men’s rights in divorce. Now I know fathers often get a raw deal in divorce, but considering Jewish divorces in Israel are finalized by the patriarchal and inherently sexist Rabbinate, I doubt this is the worst place in the world for men to get divorced) to a very hopeful group called "A Different Israel" who seriously thought that they would take Israel by storm by offering the novel idea of politics without politicians (Don't ask). These groups rarely get enough votes to pass the qualifying threshold.

"Green Leaf” who are advocating the legalization of the use of marijuana, is one of the more popular of these quaint marginal parties, for obvious reasons. Last elections, I think they mainly got the votes of drug dealers and people who were too stoned to notice or care what they were putting in the ballot. This time, confusion is such, that they are being perceived as a hip protest vote and have a good chance of getting in. Thus my attempt to put things in context about the actual political views of their chairman and number one of their list. It's one thing to vote a protest party into Knesset. It's quite another to discover, after the fact, that you've voted for someone who holds radical left-wing views and will use his vote accordingly in his capacity as Knesset member.

"Green Leaf" is not to be confused with Women in Green (the ones with the green hats), which is a group of right wing settlers, headed by the radical Nadia Matar, that demonstrate in favor of the settlements and against any land concessions. Women in Green was created as a reaction to the veteran Women in Black, an equally radical group of women, who have spent each Friday afternoon for many years now, demonstrating in the center of Jerusalem against the occupation, aggravating the rather right wing Jerusalemites and often being attacked verbally and physically by passers-by who don’t see eye to eye with them.

Confused yet? But wait, I haven't even started on the small parties that do get in, the different types of religious parties, the various Arab parties... Maybe we'll leave that for another time.

Moving right along, a few words about Israeli newspapers: It is a pity that foreign readers don't get to read any of Israel's mainstream (if slightly yellow) newspapers, Yediot Aharonot (center-left) and Maariv (center-rightish), because they are not available in English (Although look what I’ve just found: Maariv in English. But you have to pay). What you do get, sadly, is the more political margins. Israel National News, which doesn’t have a print version, as far as I know, is run by Arutz Sheva, a far right wing radio station representing the settlers, which is still not allowed to broadcast in Israel and operates from a small ship outside Israel's territorial waters. Attempts are constantly being made to pressure the state into giving it a license. Arutz Sheva is said to have broadcast incitement against Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the months running up to his murder. Lately it has been blamed of broadcasting illegal election propaganda.

The Jerusalem Post is also right wing, although less than the Israel National News (On Friday, the Post endorsed former prisoner of Zion, Natan Sharansky and his party, Yisrael Ba’Aliyah, who has made a special effort to target the English-speaking community in these elections). Haaretz, on the other hand, is very much left wing (This morning’s editorial in Haaretz endorsed the Labor Party). Neither newspaper has a large readership within Israel, although Haaretz, is naturally more widely read than the Jerusalem Post, because it comes out in Hebrew. Most Israelis dislike its rather gray and dull looking layout. The Jerusalem Post is read by the small English-speaking community, while Haaretz is favored by the intellectual and business elite, and my dearest husband, Bish. Haaretz comes out in Israel in English along with the local edition of the International Herald Tribune, thus targeting the English speakers who dislike the right-wing slant of the Post.

I think that’s about it.

I'm still not very well, so if none of that makes any sense, please forgive me.

A clarification: Women in Green and Women in Black are not political parties and do not run for Knesset. They are activist groups. Women in Black are not to be confused with the ultra-religious men who wear black hats.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

A must: Silflay Hraka on France’s impressive military accomplishments.
Fluey Shabbat ramblings
Well, I’m sorry to say we didn’t get to Mitzpe Ramon. I’ve been in bed since Wednesday, feeling sick and sorry for myself, getting up only to feed the girls and hazily publish a post here and there. Funny that my hazy posts managed to attract a bit of attention. Why is that? It’s the same when I’m really tired. I seem to write best when my head isn’t working and I’m writing with my stomach. This hardly makes me feel good about myself but there you are. Anyway, I was quite sure I’d be better by Friday, so we made plans for the trip. By making plans I mean we decided to go. I couldn’t find the energy to pack any bags.

Well, on Friday morning I was worse, so we stayed home.

I spent the weekend reading, mostly. I’m reading Ben Gurion’s biography by Michael Bar Zohar (the abridged version). It’s a bit gossipy for my liking, so far, not enough analysis, and the Hebrew is way too flowery, but it’s the only Ben Gurion biography they had at my local public library. I hear Shabtai Teveth’s is the one to read. I don’t really like reading biographies, but this one’s an easy read for a bed ridden fuzzy brain.

Not being able to sit for long by the computer, I typed out newspaper articles and some of the longer blog posts and read them in bed. A few weeks ago, I bought the Friday editions of both Yediot Aharonot and Maariv. You already know we subscribe to Haaretz. Bish and I were both struck by the enormous amounts of paper we were needlessly consuming. It may not be very cheap typing out articles but at least we’re not supporting such shameless waste.

So what’s been happening?
That Diane has been back for a while, you probably already know. Lynn B. has a new, attractive, home via Blogmosis. She links to this excellent frogginess about the big mistake of what’s left of the Israeli left.

“Now that the Olso bubble has burst (a process that began at Camp David and Taba and reached a peak at the Passover Massacre), the Labour party ought to be preparing themselves for the future. They do not need to take on the Likud position, as proven by the more pragmatic and moderate statements of Shinui. But some how, the Labour generals can't stop fighting for the last peace. They can't give up that dream that somehow, in some way, they're going to make a peace-maker out of Arafat. They're preparing their new Maginot Line - or road map - irrelevant of what reality might present. They're presenting their magic solutions irrelevant of whether they're suited to the conditions of peace”. Read the rest, it’s really good..

And more on the same subject by Bret Stephens in the Jerusalem Post. He discusses Mitzna’s contempt for his countrymen and women who see things differently from him and why that makes him the wrong choice for prime minister.

I must admit I’m a bit tired of all this talk. The mainly left leaning papers here are busy trying to dissect what they perceive as the illogical herd behavior of the majority of the nation. They can’t understand why hungry people in development towns would rather vote Likud. There is constant frustrated chatter about this on serious TV discussion panels, as well (the kind only lefties and Bish ever watch). If we are to believe the more prominent and vocal commentators, all we have to do is get out of the territories and a new morning will dawn, peace will reign ever after in the Middle East and the development towns will be paved with gold. In short the Messiah will be at the gates of Jerusalem on his white donkey. They claim that regular people can’t see this because they are being fed a false reality by the right. This is rather absurd considering that it is they (and not the right) that more or less dictate the agenda of the media. According to the prevalent punditry, this entire war thing with the Palestinians is no more than a political spin to keep the people from noticing that they are hungry and miserable. The thing is that most regular people don’t seem to buy this. They do perceive this Terror War as an existential threat and would probably rather be hungry and poor than dead or worse. What is amazing actually, is that in spite of all this free propaganda the left gets from the media, the people seem unmoved.

Meretz is exasperated that despite all their good deeds in slums and development towns, the residents of these places won’t vote for them. They just can’t understand it. But it’s quite logical really. The people living in these places can clearly see Meretz fighting for Palestinians’ rights more than for theirs. And besides, is there anything worse than accepting charity from someone who pities you and, you suspect, despises you? This, by the way, could be one of the reasons why the Palestinians don’t seem to be too enamored by the Israeli left either, besides in a rhetorical capacity. At least the right bestows a measure of respect on them by perceiving them as a threat.

This whole election thing is making me sick. I’m not feeling very hopeful about the ability of creating a decent government. It just doesn’t add up, however you look at it.

And while we’re on the subject, I’ve been reading that some bloggers seem to think that ”Aleh Yarok” (Green Leaf) is a good bet as a protest vote. Well, for your information, an article in Haaretz’s secondary growth, Tel Aviv local rag Ha’ir, a few weeks back revealed that Green Leaf number one, Boaz Vechtel, is actually ultra-radical-left-wing (sorry, no link, they don’t have an online presence). Be careful what you do while under the influence.

So what else have we got? Iraq. Oh, yes, Iraq. I’d nearly forgotten.
Haaretz interviewed former UN biological arms chief, Richard O. Spertzel. He explains why the U.N. inspectors won’t find anything and why the only way to disarm Saddam is by force (duh). I wonder what the O. stands for.

Tom Paine, who I regard as one of my main BlogDads (although he had a different name back then) cheered me up no end in my sick bed with this hilarious Donald Rumsfeld press briefing. And if that was not enough, he cracked me up with this description of what a space shuttle flight would look like if the whole crew were Israeli. Not to be missed.

Tom Paine wrote the aforementioned biblical press briefing as a birthday gift for Judith Weiss of Kesher talk, who has this gem to offer (no connection to the biblical stuff). Tom has thrown down the biblical gauntlet, suggesting we all do our bit for the birthday girl. What does he want from me? Can’t he see I’m not well? (Sneeze, sniffle, sniffle, cough, splutter). In my distress I cried to the Lord, and he heard me.
Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given to thee? or what shall be done to thee, thou false tongue?
Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.
Woe is me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!
My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.
I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.

That about sums it all up, but not very suitable for a birthday celebration. First one to come up with what that is, gets to be Knesset member for Shas (If it’s a man. If it’s a woman, she gets to marry a Knesset member for Shas and raise his seventeen kids).

This is too much for me. I’m going back to bed. By the way, there is a prison near Beer Sheva called “Ohalei Keidar” (the tents of Kedar). Maybe there is hope yet, and this is straight from the mouth of King David himself.

While we’re on that positive note here’s another comment about the leaky Israeli prosecution, written by a lone ranger who doesn’t think Liora Glatt-Berkovich deserves a medal. Somehow I don’t see him becoming CNN’s White House correspondent any time soon. Never mind. I’m rambling. Anyway, I’m being unfair. There was another in Maariv, but most of you can’t read that, can you? This is just as well, because it’s full of inaccuracies. On the other hand, I thought this one, in Ynet very amusing. Hebrew readers should go read it. Like the best Yiddish jokes, it just doesn’t translate. Sorry.

* * *

I was awakened by the warmth of the soft afternoon sun on my face. I could hear the sounds of a happy family in the street below. The young couple had taken their little children for lunch on the beach and they had now brought them to see their grandparents. What I was hearing was the happy meeting. The grandmother was asking her grandchildren if they had had a good time, and what they had eaten. The son was off to park the car and the daughter-in-law was chatting to her father-in-law. ‘Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy’, I whispered to them from my bed. Happy carefree moments like this are precious and far too brief.

A photo of my mum's I have always loved has her reading a bedtime story to R.T. He is about three and is listening with what looks like a detached air. The wonderful thing in the photo is my mum's face. She is completely engaged in what she is doing. The story and her little boy are all that exist at that moment. She is reading to him with all of her being.

The framed picture of Mum I have put on my desk at work portrays a similar scene. Mum on the beach with my two girls. The girls are much younger than they are now. It's a sunny winter day like today and they are collecting shells. Here too, she is completely engrossed in the serous business of finding the best shells. I know that when they get home, she will sit them down in the kitchen to paint the shells with goash paints. What a lovely time they are having. The girls are probably staying with my parents for a few days. They will come home in a few days time and I will find their little plastic bags of painted shells among their things, along with their drawings and their freshly laundered and nicely folded clothes. Mum reveled in family life.

On Thursday Dad said it's been eight weeks. I'm not counting the weeks. I'm looking at the dates. Here's the Hebrew date, kaf gimel - tomorrow; here's the Gregorian date, 28th - Tuesday. One month. Two months.

Last night I had a dream about her. No, not a dream. A nightmare. I woke up in a fright at one o'clock and was afraid to go back to sleep. I ran into the living room to find Bish like the girls do. We sat together till three and Bish made me laugh.

Nothing can really prepare you for this loss, can it? I asked youngest if she remembers collecting shells with Grandma. She doesn't. But she remembers going to the beach with Grandpa and Grandma and playing in the sand between them. Everyone has their own memories.

Update: A reader comments: "Regarding the vote in development towns: you may be right that people there are voting for the Likud because they believe that is the right choice in the situation, and I'm not saying they're wrong, but you should not ignore the tribal nature of much of this vote. In the Post they quote people saying they will always vote Likud because of the way the left and the Ashkenazis treated them in the 50s! This whining about past perceived wrongs is uncomfortably like the Arab world which loves to go on and on about being "victims"."

Thursday, January 23, 2003

We’re off to Mitzpe Ramon tomorrow, till Saturday evening, so I’ll wish you
Shabbat Shalom right now.

This photo was taken by Dr. Michael Rebhan, during one of his visits to Israel. Go see. There are some beautiful photos of other parts of Israel too, and some of Sinai. The very first photo of the center of Tel Aviv is very near where I work.
A shooting attack claims three Israeli lives south of Hebron.
Found it!
Here’s that post about guilt (or lack of it) that I wrote a hundred years ago in September.
Thank you Meryl.
Meryl Yourish, one of the better bloggers around in my opinion, has, on quite a few occasions, embarrassed me by writing really nice things about me. I have just realized that I have never thanked her. This is for the latest.
This is just what I’ve been telling my landlady.
Let me give you some advice. If stopped by a policeman in Israel, do not, I repeat, do not, try to offer him money in return for letting you off. Do not suggest working it out between you. Do not hand him your passport with some “green” notes accidentally folded inside. If you do this, there is a good chance of your being detained for questioning. Now this doesn’t mean that there are no policemen or women in the Israeli police who wouldn’t accept your money, if offered. There are. Quite a few, judging by the stories in the paper, when they are eventually caught and arrested. But you have no way of knowing if the policeman standing before you is one of them. Offering a bribe to a policeman on the street is not standard procedure and could turn out to be very unpleasant. Corruption in the Israeli police is not an organized group behavior of the sort we were exposed to in movies like “Serpico”. It’s individual.

So where is this police corruption prevalent? On the street level, I think it’s mostly in Vice. This is where the big money rolls and police raids do a lot of damage to the pockets of the owners of the illegal casinos. A tip off before a raid can be worth a lot.

How about leaks to the newspapers? Quite common, I think, but it seems to me that they are usually not perpetrated for money but for self-aggrandizement. The logic is that the more a young officer’s face and name appear in the paper, the more familiar he’ll be to the bigwigs when he comes up for promotion. It’s a style of advertising, even though it can be self-defeating. An early leak can ruin the case. This logic works just as well for the bigwigs too. If they want to get ahead, they have to have a “public presence” as it were. The best journalist for criminal affairs and THE person to leak to is Buki Na’eh, who writes in Yediot Aharonot. If you want to know what’s happening in the police, he’s the guy to read. I bet the criminals never miss his column.

I have long suspected that a lot of the leaks attributed to the police in bigger investigations are actually leaks from the State Prosecutor’s office. This is never sorted out, because there never seems to be a serious investigation to find the source.

When the Cyril Kern loan thing was leaked, one of the first things said was that someone from the State Prosecutor’s office hurried to say that the leak must be from police sources. This made no sense at all. From then on it was obvious to me that the leak must have been from someone in the State Prosecutor’s office.

All this makes me think of something nearer to home. Literally. When we moved into this apartment, a few years ago, I was delighted at having my own indoor parking place for the first time. My delight was slightly marred by the resident cats who decided my car bonnet was a good place for them to relieve themselves and also the occasional large drops of water that hit my head, Japanese torture style, on my way to and from the car. The water was seeping through from the garden, located directly above the underground car park. This winter, which has been rainier than usual, I have noticed that the drops have turned, in places, into a thin continuous flow, indicating that the cracks had widened. This was bound to happen. So I mentioned it to my landlady. I just rent, I’ll probably be long gone before the building collapses, but it needs seeing to and the longer they wait, the harder it will be to deal with.

The ease with which attorney Liora Glatt-Berkovich leaked a confidential Justice Ministry document and the ideological justification she finds in this act are pretty shocking. Exactly how common is this? Today’s Haaretz editorial amazed me by saying that there was absolutely no justification to instigate an investigation to reveal the source of the leak because it was not “a highly classified state secret, and the publication caused no harm to the national interest”. I could hardly believe what I was reading. What we’re talking about here is a severe breach of trust by a top civil servant and they say something that in effect means she had every right to leak it and the state shouldn’t discipline her for it. I accept that the police interrogation of the journalist she leaked it to seems unjustified, especially as the source had already been revealed by the time he was questioned. But what they are suggesting is that a breach of trust is fine because it’s only a criminal investigation. So it’s not in the national interest to effectively fight crime?

Turning a blind eye to leaks for years is exactly what brought us to this state of affairs. The drops have become a flow.

The Attorney General, Elyakim Rubinstein doesn’t seem to be doing his job very well. This is nothing new. There are many questions about his conduct over the years. Why no indictments in the Bar-on case, for instance? It was his first test and he failed it dismally. He just seems too weak and too susceptible to pressure to do his job properly. Why burrow out this particular source, but not others that came before? It sounds like Sharon gave him a call too, not just Mitzna (who apparently saw nothing wrong in ringing him up to personally demand his investigation of corruption be finished by Sunday).

I think the Haaretz editorial is not clean of foreign interests (why are you laughing?). It looks like they are making a statement to their other sources and potential sources, who are probably very worried right now. Haaretz is encouraging them that their deeds are not amoral but completely justified and in the public interest.

In Haaretz weekend magazine that comes out today, Arye Caspi announces that these are the last days of Israel’s democracy, because of the conduct of the right and that this is probably the last time we’ll be going to vote (I told you they were hysterical). I’d say encouraging state prosecutors to take the law into their own hands is also rather detrimental to Israel’s democracy.

Ari Shavit seems to understand the absurdity of what his newspaper is doing, when he points out the problematic conduct of the media, among others:

“The question is: Why does every child in Israel know about Cyril Kern's $1.5 million, whereas only a chosen few know about Yisrael Savyon's $2.5 million? The question is: Why does every child in Israel know about every stupid thing done by every Likud small fry, whereas only few know that the person closest to Mitzna received $2.5 million from the straw man of a Russian mogul who was about to take control of the Israeli telecommunications monopoly?”

I was sitting Shiva (mourning) for my mother when the Gad Zeevi/Bezeq thing was made public (which is what Ari Shavit is talking about) so I sort of missed the whole thing. I wasn’t aware that this was Haaretz’s scoop. It’s interesting that they haven’t followed it up as scrupulously as they have the Cyril Kern loan and they seem to have effectively played down the connection to Mitzna.

If Liora Glatt-Berkovich doesn’t go to prison, and I have a funny feeling she won’t, what is this telling us about our judicial system?

* Haggai says: “I think the drop-by-drop water torture method is credited to the Chinese, not to the Japanese, although they both might have used it in the past.”
* Bish says that considering no other leaks are ever investigated and even though she was breaking the law in what she did, it was wrong to ferret out Glatt-Berkovich just because this particular leak harmed the Prime Minister just before election time. He points out that no one is in the right here, everyone is acting on his or her interests and as he sees it, Glatt-Berkovich is actually the least guilty party. Today Bish was elected as chairman of an organization representing people in his chosen profession. I’ve told him I no longer respect his opinion since he’s now a politician.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

More corruption but this time Haaretz isn’t covering the story
Why not? Because the suspect is Mitzna. They certainly took their time, but at long last, Mitzna is being investigated* for one of the corruption allegations*. I’ve been reading about the allegations of corruption in Haifa* against Mitzna* (who is mayor of Haifa) for a while now. I'm told it's been all over the local papers there for ages, but the only national paper that ran the story up till now was Maariv. This particular charge has to do with his being suspected of being bribed by a Haifa contractor firm. According to this* Hebrew source Mitzna has demanded of the General Attorney that the investigation be finished by Sunday, and TV (I forget which channel) said he even rang him up personally with this request (that doesn’t sound right at all).

I can’t believe that Haaretz still hasn’t published a word about this online. It has to be on tomorrow’s print version front page. They just can’t be that biased.

By the way, they’ve discovered who leaked the Sharon loan investigation and gave the confidential document to Haaretz newspaper. It was the state prosecutor attorney Liora Glatt-Berkowitz who was working on the case and admits it was ideologically motivated, so as to help Sharon’s rivals in the elections. This is really nauseating. It is, of course, giving ammunition to far-right and ultra-religious factions who already claim that the prosecution and the whole judicial system are biased against them.

Hey, I know, maybe Glatt-Berkowitz should take up the Mitzna investigation. Then it’s sure to be finished by Sunday. Maybe before. And I bet I can guess the outcome. What a pity she’s been suspended.

The funniest thing is that the whole country is covered with banners telling us that Mitzna is honest. How embarrassing.
* Hebrew links.

Update: OK so it appeared on Haaretz English updates at 02:40 am (23 Jan). Why am I so petty? Is it their fault I went to bed? Actually, I now realize I didn’t check their Hebrew online version. Oy! Egg on my face. But still, the story was running all day. Say it did appear on the Hebrew version earlier on, how long does it take to translate?

Ah, here is the print version. You won’t believe this: It’s on the front page! Yippee. My faith in the world is restored! So what if it’s in such small print? Does it matter that it’s underneath a big headline (unusual for Haaretz, they don’t even give terrorist attacks big headlines) about what Cyril Kern told the South African Justice department about the Sharon loan? Note the headline if you will on the English version: ”Police raid Haifa city hall for evidence against
. Smooth. The print version Hebrew headline, although very very small, is less annoying: “The police commenced an investigation against Mitzna on suspicion of accepting bribery from Haifa building contractors”. (My translation)

Sadly, I will continue to read Haaretz, Alisa, and continue to be aggravated by it. A. Bish refuses to stop our subscription, and B. No other Hebrew paper comes near to it in quality and depth.
A car laden with half a ton of explosives, as well as cooking gas canisters connected to a detonator was seized by the IDF yesterday. The four men in the car fled. Two back into Palestinian Authority area, two apparently hid in nearby Israeli Arab town Umm El-Fahm. The car was blown up in a controlled fashion. It made a nice big bang. Of course, the idea was to have people blow up as well.

Hizbullah have been busy on the Northern border too.

Interesting article by Amira Hass in today's Haaretz. She writes about the great interest the Palestinians have in the Israeli elections. They are apparently all following them very closely, not just the leadership and the intellectuals, but regular people, as well. They see them, she says, as their only hope for change. They are hoping Mitzna will win. It seems they find it hard to understand why he won't.

“Almost without exception, Palestinians begin every conversation with the question: "Does Amram Mitzna have any chance of winning?"

Everyone - smiling secretaries in the offices of Paltel (the Palestinian telephone company), the greengrocer who has relatives in an Israeli village, the psychologist who treats children for trauma, a member of the Preventive Security Force who spent 15 years in an Israeli jail, the shopkeeper who bought his grocery with the money he saved in the United States. Some do not even bother to wait for an answer and respond on their own: "Isn't it logical for Israelis to vote for Mitzna after Sharon failed to bring them peace and security?"”

But as I see it, Sharon didn't bring peace and security because peace and security were sadly not to be had. This, of course, was greatly due to the actions of the Palestinians themselves, during the last two years.

If the Palestinians gave me any reason to believe that they were seeing things differently, I would maybe thinking again about who to vote for, although I must admit, the more I see and hear of Mitzna, the less I approve of him.

What could they do? You may ask. Well, if I could see some sort of move in Palestinian opinion polls against terrorist attacks, for a start, or some sort of popular call to put an end to them; some serious attempts to discipline Islamic organizations would be nice, as well. But how can they do these things? You ask. They are under curfew and closure, after all. Well even in the West Bank they are not under curfew and closure all the time, they seem to have plenty of opportunity to rebuild weapon workshops and organize terrorist attacks the minute the tanks roll out. And in Gaza they have always been free to do something to change the situation, but chose not to. On the contrary, no one prevents the Islamic organizations there in their attempts to provoke us into reoccupying Gaza’s cities by daily launching rockets and mortars on Israel towns and villages, in the Gaza Strip and inside pre-67 Israel alike. They are busy fighting each other there, but not because of the attacks on us.

The Palestinians could have made a marked difference in these elections, at least as far as I'm concerned, if they had wanted. Not by winking towards the party of their choice, but by starting a popular movement calling for peace and compromise with Israel. Couldn't do it? Well, that's just too bad, because my fingers can't put the piece of paper saying "Emet" (the letters representing the Labor party) in the envelope next Tuesday, either. They've missed yet another chance to better their situation. So what else is new?

Update: Miranda sees the Amira Hass article as no more than part of the Haaretz pro-left election campaign. Could I have been completely led astray by my fascination with how the other side sees us? Could be. The thing is, I may not appreciate Amira Hass’ bias, but I don’t think she completely lacks journalistic integrity. I don't see her inventing a story, although her Palestinian friends and neighbors probably say one thing to her and another to each other. I once saw a documentary about her and her life in Ramallah. One scene showed her during a Palestinian Authority press conference. I think it must have been before The Terror War. She was the only one to ask them the difficult questions - about reform and democratization. I usually don’t read Amira Hass’ articles. I know the Palestinians are suffering and I’m sorry for them. I just think it is them who hold the key to change and, unlike the Intifada in the 80’s, this time I feel no guilt. I wrote a post about this in September but my archives seem not to be working again. Anyway I can’t be bothered to be lectured to, although Hass is less of a whiny moralizer than Gideon Levy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Lots of rain today and yesterday. There was even some flooding in Tel Aviv and surrounding towns.

This is quite near where I live. One guy rang up the radio to say he was sitting on his steering wheel, the rest of the car being under water. He said the police came to rescue him, but they got flooded too. Quite a lot of people had to be evacuated from their homes, and two kindergartens too. My youngest was very worried about this. "Did they drown?" She asked me. The traffic has been awful all day. I hope it's cleared up, because I have to go to South Tel Aviv soon. I walked to work so I haven't had to tackle traffic so far today.

Monday, January 20, 2003

OK so here is the list you’ve all been waiting for: 100 songs that changed the world as compiled by, which modestly claims to be The World's Greatest Music Magazine Online [I don't think much of the name, I hate Q-ing and I certainly wouldn't do it 4 music (groan)].

Hmmm. Let's see what we've got here.

I think they should be defining what “changing the world” means. Notice the ethnocentrism, for one thing.

I would personally have placed “The Internationale” somewhere near the top, however I may feel about it personally. It was the first thing I thought of when I read that someone had taken the time to make such a compilation. But it seems it didn’t even cross the minds of the deep thinkers who made the suggestions for this list.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really like some of the songs on their selection, well the ones I’ve heard of before at least, but it beats me how anything by the Spice Girls could be said to have changed the world.
I know, I know
But I can't help it*. That's why I can't have comments.
* Feeding the troll.
Once upon a time, Bish and I met a man with a wonderful smile and light in his eyes. He told us how he had cured his cancer by positive thinking.

Because I’m interested in Buddhism and I used to wear a lot of Indian clothes (I stopped because they’re all have to be hand washed and they tend to fall to pieces very quickly) people assume I’m into alternative medicine. Different types of alternative medicine are very popular in Israel and there are a lot of schools and practitioners. People often ask me if I can recommend a doctor that practices Chinese medicine or a reflexologist and that sort of thing. I can’t.

After one very expensive bad experience whereby Bish exposed a charlatan homeopathy practitioner to whom we took eldest (our friends who so warmly recommended her refused to believe us and continued to be taken in), we’ve more or less steered clear, besides “fun” things like massages and so on. The charlatan homeopathy practitioner died of cancer about a year or so after our partaking of her services, if you could call them that, and the ensuing unpleasantness of Bish telling her what he thought of her. A case of the shoemaker going barefoot, perhaps? [You may think this is a callous thing to say, but I'd say scaring a sensitive, impressionable eight year-old into thinking she has all sorts of imaginary illnesses is a pretty mean trick to pull to get her parents to fork out, don't you?]

Sadly, chemotherapy couldn’t cure my mother’s cancer, but I know a lot of people who got a second lease of life as a result of modern treatments for cancer, horrible as they may be, such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation. There may be many more men and women with wonderful smiles and light in their eyes who have cured their cancer miraculously without the benefit of modern medicine. I just don’t know any of them.

It has been suggested to me that instead of being a modern western country, sending astronauts (er.. astronaut) into space (Have you seen the NASA site, by the way?), a prominent innovator in agricultural technology and contributor to scientific research, Israel should be a bit more like her Arab neighbors in the way of life of regular people, a bit more humble and simple. We should try and fit in better. Bish says he regularly had this said to him on a European pro-Palestinian forum he used to frequent.

Maybe they have a point, I think. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all live more modest lives, with more of us making our living simply, off the land? This would serve two noble objectives: Not making our neighbors jealous, and saving the environment. I would love to live a life of self-sufficiency.

Then I look out of my window. I live on the second floor of a sixteen-story building. The view from my window includes some trees, a lawn, a lot of sky, a busy road and quite a few other high-rise buildings (Oh, and what is that I see over there? A large Meretz banner, no less!). I ask myself how we are to feed all the people who live in all these buildings, if we decide to put a stop to technological research, stop the tractors and send the farmers out with their oxen to till the land.

It’s all very picturesque, all this back-to-nature stuff. But back-to-nature people I know can hardly feed themselves, never mind the whole country. Maybe we do have to starve to fit in, in the Middle East.

If we were all starving, I wonder, would they accept us? We’d still not be Moslems, and we’d still be controlling a part of Dar-a-Salaam (but for how long?).

I am reminded of the Jewish pioneers a hundred years ago. They were poor and hungry. They lived off the land and died of malaria, just like their Arab neighbors. And they weren’t even controlling the country. I don’t remember them being very popular round here, either.

But wait a minute. We do have people who live like this today, ideologists who have left the cities for a more natural way of life. They live like our forefathers did, in the mountains in shacks, living humbly off their small family farms. Take the late Netanel Ozeri, for instance. Until Friday, he lived over on Hill 26 near Hebron. He had a little organic farm there, and lived simply and humbly with his wife and his five children. His neighbors apparently didn’t appreciate his back-to-nature approach to life very much.

Isn’t it ironic that the very people who do see the logic in living simply, and strive to live like the Arabs, are the very people who are perceived by many, if not most, as the main obstacle to peace?

[By the way, have you read how those crazies handled the funeral? God help us all!]

Update: It seems that, based on this post, people have got the impression I support those fanatic outlaws on the hills. Well I don’t. I think they should be in prison.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Most adults don’t get it. How do you explain to an eleven year-old?
Eldest’s class (6th grade) had special activity today at school about the elections. They split up into groups and each group had to prepare a presentation about a different group of parties. Class students who belong to a special interest group about current affairs led the groups. Eldest’s group had to present the case of the Arab parties. Eldest said she found she couldn’t contribute anything, because she knew nothing about the Arab parties. When she told me about this, I pointed out that it’s difficult to throw the Arab parties into one group without making inaccurate generalizations about them.

Then we started talking about “the situation”, going a bit further than talking about the fear of terrorist attacks, this time. When she made some rather simplistic statements, I tried to point out the complexities. She was frustrated. The conversation had started with her asking me for whom I mean to vote. I tried to explain what had happened that caused me to change my choice of party from last time. Difficult. I had to keep it concise because I didn’t know at which point she would lose interest. I couldn’t leave her with a one-sided view, either. I didn’t want to persuade her or to indoctrinate her. So I tried to telegraphically explain things from other viewpoints as well.

The end of the conversation had me explaining why the checkpoints were necessary and then, so she could understand how it feels on the receiving end, asking her to imagine a situation whereby her weekly trip to the Music Center in Yaffo (which she recently forfeited), would take three or four hours each way, instead of ¾ hour and she would have to go through checkpoints each way, checked by strange, hostile soldiers, shouting at her in a language she couldn’t understand, pointing weapons at her. At this point she abruptly decided it was time for bed.

We had spent the evening visiting yet another optional middle school with her. The checkpoints dilemma was about the most frustration she could take and she retreated into bed with the ever-reassuring magical world of Harry Potter books. She’s reading them again. I thought we’d seen the last of them after the twenty-second time she read them when she announced she’d finally had enough. Obviously not. I can understand her. It’s nice when you can easily tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Hey, in Harry Potter, you can even tell from the names.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Friday night: A man was murdered and his four year-old daughter was wounded, when two terrorists entered their home, an isolated illegal outpost near Kiryat Arba, on the outskirts of Hebron and opened fire.

According to this Hebrew link the man murdered, Netanel Ozeri, was a disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahana and a Kach activist.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Shabbat Shalom and Hag Same'ach
Solly of GedankenPundit wrote an excellent post about Israel, in response to someone who disagreed with him.
Tu Bi'Shvat

A few months ago on the radio, I heard the mother of a severely disabled child telling enthusiastically about the care center her child goes to run by an organization called Aleh. This morning, I was reminded of this in the supermarket, because I was asked to donate to them. The card I got had their website URL on it, so when I got home I had a look. Aleh means leaf.

Tomorrow is Tu Bi'Shvat, Jewish New Year of the Trees, and one of my favorite days of the year, because it’s a nature day and because we eat a lot of fruit, especially dried fruit. In Israel, this is the time when the new leaves begin to develop on the trees, along with the early springtime blossom. It is customary to plant trees on this day and it looks like we’re going to have a lovely weekend for it, although for many it’s falling on Shabbat, this year, means they won’t be planting, at least not on the day itself.

Tu Bi'Shvat reminds us of how nature renews and replenishes itself and that everything is forever being born again, fresh and new. This is a nice thing to remember, in these dark days.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

”To be or not to be, that is not the question” (Thich Nhat Hanh)
I don’t really want to talk about what we should or should not be doing or what chances we have of surviving here. This is the reality of my life. Feeling bad or afraid won’t help or change anything.

Unfortunately, this knowledge is not enough.

Today was a beautiful day. The sky was blue, the trees were green and I could hear the birds singing even in the middle of Tel Aviv traffic. Tomorrow something from outer space could hit Earth and destroy it. More likely, I could cross the road and be run over by a bus. I could live in mortal fear of these things happening, or I could live in such a way that if they happen, I will die happy. Am I living in such a way? Not really, but I would like to. As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in 1987 in his book “Being Peace”: “Each day 40,000 children die of hunger. The superpowers now have more than 50,000 nuclear warheads, enough to destroy our planet many times. Yet the sunrise is beautiful, and the rose that bloomed this morning along the wall is a miracle. Life is both dreadful and wonderful”. Do we dwell on the dreadful or do we enjoy the wonderful? Can we enjoy the wonderful, while being aware of the dreadful?

I don’t want to live my life angry and unsatisfied by things I can’t change. I often find that strong beliefs, that I once held, turned out to be completely wrong. I’m thankful I haven't been spending my life trying to change things that once angered me, but no longer do. Bish is much better at taking life as it comes, but I’m learning. Slowly. One step forward, two steps back.

There are two lines in a very famous poem by Hebrew Poet Rahel, which always move me to tears, however many times I hear them. She wrote (and please forgive my terrible translation): “I only knew to tell of myself / My world is as narrow as the world of an ant.”
Good News Day
This morning I took a bus to South Tel Aviv. I sat by the window and stared out of the window blankly, as one does, my eyes automatically searching for interesting things in store windows. And then suddenly it dawned on me. There was nothing interesting to see in the store windows, because so many of them were empty. Dirty windows with black nothingness behind.

On the way back, there was only standing room on the bus. This time I didn’t look out the window. I stood in the middle of the bus with my back to the driver, looking at the other passengers (except when it stopped to let on passengers, then I had a look at who was getting on). Just ordinary people on their way to work. Another bus came up next to our bus, covered with an enormous election banner with the slogan: “The Nation Wants Sharon”. These people just want to get to work, I thought.

Today is Good News Day. Yesterday the news was all about factories closing, children coming to school hungry, annual inflation data, suicide bombers being apprehended and Palestinian houses being demolished. Today the news is all about Ilan Ramon, first Israeli astronaut to be launched into space aboard NASA space shuttle Columbia, along with six American fellow astronauts. His father said on TV, that there was too much publicity, that maybe it would be better if the coverage was more modest. I don’t agree with him. We deserve a day with good news, don’t we?

Of course, Ilan Ramon isn’t joining this space mission to make us feel good. You can read here about some of the research he will be engaged in.

My girls are very interested and excited about this. It must have considerable educational value for Israeli children.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Rinat from Balagan, came to live here from Brazil five months ago. She is a wonderful, energetic and optimistic person. I love reading about her experience, learning to live in a new country. I find her blog inspirational. Lately she has been going through a tough period. She’s been working very hard at two exhausting jobs and was having difficulty finding an apartment. Her spirits have seemed uncharacteristically low at times. The last thing she has needed is nasty, petty harrassment on her comments. But some people couldn’t care less. If she’s Israeli she deserves it. Tired? Down? Ah, but you’d have it worse if you were a Palestinian, you nasty person you. Signed with a first name. No e-mail. No URL. The unbearable ease of anonymously kicking someone in the teeth and running away. Pathetic. A bit like this miserable human being, who drove his truck into a car parked at the side of the road, killing one person and injuring another, on the road to Jerusalem in the small hours of last night. He got out of his truck, saw that he’d done some serious damage, and then, instead of trying to help, he got back in his truck and drove off.

Enjoy your new apartment, Rinat. Hope the new job offer works out.

Update: That was a bit harsh. A nasty comment, is not like a hit and run accident, where someone gets killed. I apologize.
Good news.
Joe Katzman’s Winds of Change are back.
Exciting archeological find.
It’s apparently so exciting, specialists are questioning its authenticity.

“An inscription attributed to Jehoash, the king of Judea who ruled in Jerusalem at the end of the ninth century B.C.E., has been authenticated by experts from the National Infrastructure Ministry's Geological Survey of Israel following months of examination. The 10-line fragment, which was apparently found on the Temple Mount, is written in the first person on a black stone tablet in ancient Phoenician script. The inscription's description of Temple "house repairs" ordered by King Jehoash strongly resembles passages in the Second Book of Kings, chapter 12.

Dr. Gabriel Barkai, a leading Israeli archaeologist from Bar Ilan University's Land of Israel Studies Department, says that if the inscription proves to be authentic, the finding is a "sensation" of the greatest import. It could be, he says, the most significant archaeological finding yet in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. It would be a first-of-its kind piece of physical evidence describing events in a manner that adheres to the narrative in the Bible.”

That’s from yesterday’s Haaretz. Today’s Haaretz (Hebrew print version, not available online) gives a lot of details about the tests it has been through for authentification purposes.
I can explain
Well, Dad, in case you’ve been wondering why I’ve been blogging all day, instead of being out making a living… eldest is ill. So instead of sitting by her bed, wiping the delicate droplets of perspiration off her little forehead with a damp cloth (she’s only 11, she doesn’t sweat, yet), soothing her with soft words of comfort … I’m on my computer and she’s on hers. Bringing up kids is much easier than it used to be in your day.
Fly Guy
This is lovely. I got it from Allison Lives and she got it from a curious frog.
The Frog reports on Labor’s suggested new slogan. Sounds mysteriously like the slogan favored by far-right Herut party (Hebrew link), the one that suggests transfer! Naughty frog! (Ribbit?)
Diane was right?
OK, so we’re ready. The gas masks are in order. We’re all stocked up with plastic sheeting and masking tape. We’ve got the required amount of water. The security room is still empty (there’s a catch there but I’ll tell you about it later). We’re all psyched up and we’ve even been playing God by giving out invitations to the few fortunate close relatives who will get to play sardines with us in our apartment in Mitzpe Ramon.

And now you tell me it’ll only be NEXT YEAR???

What am I supposed to do with 32 bottles of water?

Diane (of Gotham) says: "Gotham is the town of "wise fools." I am definitely a fool, but whether I am wise or not time will tell.

I say there will be no invasion. Bush lost a major opportunity, because in war, momentum is legitimacy. This country was united like a mailed fist on 9/11. He could have announced, "the invasion starts tomorrow; Islam delenda est" and people would have lined up around the block to volunteer. I KNOW THIS.

The whole strategy since then has been to dampen the people's natural ardor for justice with a bunch of diplo-bullshit and delay and circumstance. They HAD TO KNOW that this would happen. HAD TO KNOW.

Ain't gonna be no war.

Am I a wise fool or just a fool? Time will tell".

Oy vey. I hope she's wrong.

Doesn't it just give you a nostalgic pang to read something so Gothamy?
Unheard of, unthinkable
Herb Keinon about the Likud's successful PR in this loan business (intentional or lucky?). Halting a press conference mid-sentence proves what we suspected all along: The left is out to get us. Brilliant. Tee hee. Who said this was a boring election campaign? I have never had such fun at election time before.
Arafat: Benefactor of Israeli thieves.
Maybe he should consider running for Knesset on behalf of the Likud.
Akiva Eldar explains that Mitzna is not trying to win the elections any more (Hebrew link, requires registration – the English translation seems to have cut out the interesting bit). It seems that, having given up on winning the premiership, his goal, in the time-honored tradition of bad losers, is to put sticks between the spokes of the winner’s wheels. He gallantly intends to do his utmost to create a situation whereby the next elections will be necessary very soon. This is accomplished by pushing Likud into a coalition with the far right, thus creating a weaker government that will continually be contending with strong pressure for harsher measures against the Palestinians and will be victim to plenty of extortion for sectorial funding. All in all, an impossible (and in my view dangerous) situation for the whole country. Moreover, should the situation change (a cessation of Palestinian hostilities and a new Palestinian leadership, for instance), maybe as a result of the war with Iraq, in a way that enables renewing negotiations with the Palestinians, this will not be possible with a very right-wing government. Sharon doesn’t want such a government. Neither do most of the people, including most of Labor voters, according to polls. All this hardly increases my respect for Mitzna.

These wasteful and untimely elections were thrust upon us in the middle of a desperate, endless war of attrition, a terrible recession taking big bites out of our bank accounts and financial security (if we’re lucky enough to have any), and (if that wasn’t enough) war looming with Iraq. And all because then head of Labor, Ben-Eliezer, was doing well in party polls and mistakenly thought it would be advantageous for him (personally) to leave the government at that particular time.

Quoted by Amotz Asa-el in an interesting commentary, American political consultant, Arthur Finkelstein, says aptly: "When forced to choose between the crooks and the fools - the voters ultimately prefer the crooks."

Now which is the crook and which is the fool?

Monday, January 13, 2003

Thank you, Cousin D. for the delicious pecan pie. Cousin D. is from the creative part of the family. He's studying chefhood, or is it chefdom? Chefness? Chefinette? Chefery? Well anyway, he's learning how to cook well.
Acme Magic Election Winning Card
Surprise, surprise, latest polls (Hebrew) show Likud is back up to 32-33 mandates (seats in the Knesset), following Sharon’s infamous press conference, while Labor is back down to 20. The shocked Labor party (I warned them not to be too jubilant, but would they listen?) has announced drastic measures. They’re apparently considering emphasizing Sharon’s advanced age, for one thing (It’s like a cartoon race, with each team trying to think of the most diabolical plans to stop the other team from winning). Sounds like ageism to me. Maybe they were just having a bit of fun during a boring meeting. Their real ace is their apparent decision to announce that they will not be partner in a coalition with the Likud (Hebrew). Don’t laugh, they are really really desperate. They’re running out of ideas.

Seriously though, this is rather worrying, although it is not inconsistent with what Mitzna has been saying all along. How this is meant to attract voters from the center beats me. A TV analyst explained that it isn’t. The idea is apparently to move (further) left and try to get at Meretz voters. Haaretz says more or less the same thing. Sounds a lot like doomsday tactics to me. Yossi Sarid is probably apoplectic.

But I just don't get it. Even if they manage to schlep some votes off Meretz and the Arab parties and somehow win, who do they create a coalition with exactly? I can feel old fuzzy brain taking over here. This is way too complex for me.

Last week, when Labor was up to 24 and Likud was down to 27 according to one poll Shinui was getting 17mandates. This seems to have grabbed the imagination of a few journalists who have been fantasizing about Tommy Lapid as Prime Minister. Gil (still on his break) sent me this Hebrew Ynet article that suggest that all it would take would be 7 seats, 5 from the Likud and 2 from Labor and for Tommy Lapid to announce that he sees himself as a candidate for prime minister. Haaretz offers an interesting idea:“Even though the polls give Shinui at least 17 seats, they (Shinui) are refusing to consider that a tie between Likud and Labor could force President Moshe Katsav to ask Shinui leader Yosef Lapid to form a coalition. "We aren't that megalomaniac," says Paritzky, "though I think there was such a case in Italy once."” (Emphasis is mine)

Shinui hasn’t dropped in the most recent polls, but I must admit that the chances of all this happening are slim. They were slim last week and they are even slimmer this week. But still, the idea of breaking the monopoly of the Likud and Labor as the two big parties is deliciously tempting.

One day, I daydream, when we have peace (Why are you laughing? is this such a farfetched idea?), the electorate could see the current large parties as irrelevant. Maybe in that faraway, magical kingdom (of Peace), right and left will assume their natural form on the continuum of economic ideologies and not solely on that of hawk-dove. The party with the left-wing economic agenda may be a descendant of Meretz, whereas the party with the right-wing economic agenda could be a descendant of Shinui.

Will there be room for a large Sephardi protest movement? What will the percentage of the ultra-religious be and how will they affect this picture? Who knows? It's only a fantasy anyway. The spell will soon break and we'll be thrown back into reality with a bump. Back to a seemingly hopeless and endless war with the Palestinians. Back to the Likud with its influential criminals, vote buying and shady financing and back to Labor with its just as influential criminals (even if they’re probably not as open about it as they would be if they were in the Likud), vote buying and shady financing (all maybe less overt and hardly covered by the media, but there nonetheless).

When will we be a normal country? Someone asks. We already are, I answer. This is normal. What you dream of as normal - that's a fantasy, an illusion. It doesn't exist. "Normal" countries have their problems too. As Jennifer wrote to me recently: “.... I hate election-time.... but makes me warm and fuzzy to know that you all have to put up with the same %&*$ we do....”. Nowhere is perfect. At least this nook of the woods, with all its imperfections and problems, is ours.
Two people were killed yesterday as a result of Palestinian terrorism in two different parts of the country. Both inside the "Green Line". You can read about it here and here and here. In one case, terrorists entered a moshav (an agricultural village) and started shooting. I heard one of the moshavniks on the radio saying it could have been much worse, because the terrorist hid in the moshav's children's public playground. The children happened to be at a special event somewhere else, otherwise it could have been a bloodbath. Not that the death of 48 year-old Eli Biton is any less of a tragedy. So much for Arafat's kindly call for a cessation of terrorism against Israelis until the Israeli elections. A 23rd victim of last week's terrorist attack in Tel Aviv has died of her injuries. A Chinese worker.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

The wolf inside us.
Meryl Yourish sent us all over to read this Tom Paine post about his transformation from peace-loving leftie to I’ve never seen Buffy, but I know what he’s talking about.
Aren’t we in a strange situation, here in Israel, with regard to the Iraq offensive? We want it to happen. We know we stand to gain from it. But the immediate dangers it poses for us mean that we’re not very happy about it.
Put off by Sharon’s suspected corruption?
Last night on Israel TV channel 2, top Israeli pollster Mina Tzemach gave her analysis about the Likud’s situation. Their problem, she says, is the new voters. Not the diehard Likud voters, who will vote Likud anyway, but the new ones that have come from the left or from the religious Shas. I’m not sure she’s right. I don’t think people who came from the left necessarily think Arik Sharon is a saint and therefore will not necessarily be disappointed.

Take me for instance. I don’t find the question of whether Sharon can mortgage his farm or not the interesting question. The interesting question is how he came to have a spacious private farm leased from the Israel Lands Administration in the first place.

I wasn’t born yesterday. I remember Sharon. I haven’t forgotten him as Minister of Agriculture. My beloved middle school teacher had to wait patiently in Haifa for many years before her village in the Galilee was built, because he had sent all the bulldozers to build settlements in the territories first. I haven’t forgotten him as Minister of Housing, when he hastily erected badly planned slum dwellings in shoddily constructed caravans for hundreds of thousands of new immigrants who were pouring in. Needless to say, these caravan towns soon became crime ridden and drug infested and those who were able fled, while the poorest and the uneducated were trapped. I haven’t forgotten his thuggish behavior in Likud Party conferences, either.

And of course, I haven’t forgotten him as Defense Minister and architect of the Lebanon war. His part in the build up that ultimately led to the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is also fresh in my mind.

I won’t be surprised if Sharon turns out to be corrupt. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.

I didn’t vote for Sharon when he was up against Barak in February 2001 and I was very worried when he was elected, given his track record. But he has surprised me in his ability to handle this war with a restraint we didn’t know he had in him.

As I see it, the “instant” solutions suggested by both the far right (harsher measures against the Palestinians), and those remaining in the left (go back to negotiating with Arafat and implement a unilateral separation) are dangerous and hysterical. I think what we need now, is to internalize that there are no instant solutions and that it is imperative for us to show the Palestinians that on one hand, we are strong, resilient and determined and that we can’t be broken by terrorism, and on the other hand, we are not planning to annihilate them, and are ready to make peace and compromise with them, if they give us a chance. This requires patience and forbearance, qualities neither the far right nor the left seem to possess. Sharon, surprisingly enough, despite his track record and despite his age (or maybe because of it) does seem to be in possession of these qualities. I don’t know about his ability to make peace, but we’re not there yet. When the time is ripe for the difficult compromises he talks about, if he doesn’t come through, he will have to go.

I would rather it be someone else and I would rather it be the foreign policy platform offered by Shinui, which is more to my liking, but without the ranting figurehead and the anti-religious slant (not because I don’t agree with it, but because now is the time for unity). But there it is. These are the options. As I see it, what we need is a strong Likud that will be a powerful leader of a moderate coalition. But maybe I’m wrong. Who knows?

In this Friday’s Maariv, Ben-Dror Yemini (Hebrew) explains that Mitzna being elected is the worst thing that could happen to Arafat right now, and he’s giving out subtle messages, through an advisor, that he’d like Mitzna to be elected, so as to make sure he isn’t.

The Frog has been discussing the fact that neither left nor right in Israel have been very good at keeping to the law, and that includes Amram Mitzna’s “alleged back-handers from Haifa property developers”.

We’re back to basics. What matters is not who is more likeable, who looks better on TV or who is not being investigated by the police, but what they’re going to do if elected.

If I have to hold my nose while putting the envelope in the ballot, so be it. It won’t be the first time.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Shabbat Shalom.
Maariv’s weekend magazine has picked up the Israel Shamir saga (Hebrew link). You may remember I wrote a few posts in August about this incredible character (a real live Jewish-Israeli vicious anti-Semite of the Jews-eat-the-blood-of-Palestinian-children-for-Passover kind, I kid you not): Here [scroll down to “The Israeli Noam Chomsky? (I don’t think so!)”], here and here.
I'm now inaccessible to readers in China
along with all other blogs, according to John Ray. I don't think I've ever been accessed by anyone from China.