Wednesday, April 30, 2003

My first thought was that they'd got it wrong, when I opened my door to reach down for the newspaper this morning. The headline was that there had been a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, while I had been sleeping, in a pub right next to the US embassy. At least 3 dead, 35-50 wounded. Looks like someone was sending a message to Abu Mazen.

Tuesday's attack came only hours after the Palestinian parliament voted to approve the new cabinet presented by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). In his inaugural address, Abu Mazen indicated that his new government would move against militia groups and he called for an end to "terrorism," which he said had not served the Palestinian cause.

...not because it was wrong, but that goes without saying. Why the inverted commas for "terrorism", I wonder? Has Haaretz been taking lessons from Reuter's?

Considering the location, the message was definitely for the US, too.

This is the place that got blown up. The URL was on my sitemeter. One of those weird mistakes that happen on sitemeter.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Read this.
What did it take to survive? What did it take to cling on to a life in hell?

Would I have had it in me? Not strong enough for hard labor; not streetwise enough for life on the run; not in possession of particular inner strength, determination or will to live. An easy kill. Not survivor material.

Bish reminds me that no one survives. The most you get is an extension.

I am learning to drive. My driving teacher has a beige Subaru. I am seventeen. We are at the traffic lights by the central bus station in Haifa, waiting to turn left to Bat-Galim. 'Maybe I should have my nose fixed so I don't look so Jewish', I think just as the light changes. A foolish thought. Why has it stick in my mind for twenty years?

Every day is Yom HaShoah. How can we tell when we are being paranoid and when they really are out to get us?

And each year - there are the films on television and the articles in the newspapers, with new stories that have not been told before. There are so many stories. Most will never be told.

Europeans who say we are doing exactly the same thing to the Palestinians have no shame. They have no shame.

Adolf Eichmann stands up in his glass cage. He says that there is no reason for him to be tried. (He did such a good job, he thinks, a brilliant job. He should be given a medal of honor; he should be recognized the world over for the genius he is. The judges seem such intelligent, educated, civilized people. Can they not see how absurd this trial is?)
Yom HaShoah
(Holocaust Memorial Day)

Monday, April 28, 2003

A grandfather of a classmate of Eldest came in to school today to share with the kids his experiences of staying alive in a Nazi concentration camp as a twelve year old, using his charm and whatever other abilities he could scrape together. Eldest was very moved. Eldest's class has had various grandparents coming in before Yom Hashoah to share their stories, for the past three years now. A very powerful way to help them grasp the meaning of the Holocaust, I think.
"It is my goal to be accused of being immoral by hypocrites" Janusz Korczak

This morning before she left for school, Youngest told me they would be seeing a movie about Janusz Korczak today. They tend to put most of the emphasis on the way he went to his death, but I think every parent can benefit from what he had to say about children. Here is a version of his Declaration of Children's Rights, based on his writings. I think I'll print it out so I can read it occasionally, as a little reminder.

The UN declaration is very significant, but it's a bit grandiose for us ordinary folk. Korczak's declaration is more relevant for people living *ordinary* lives with children.
Allison has published a very nice article about English language Israeli blogs on Israel21c. I'm in it. Yippee! Oh, and there's a (rather small) photo of Allison so we finally get to see what she looks like, more or less. Now I know our paths didn't cross in Sde Boker on Friday, after all. Well, they did, but not at the same time.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Tomorrow evening is the beginning of Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Day, which continues on Tuesday and includes a two minute siren, during which Israelis stand in silent memory of those slaughtered. You might like to check out the website of Yad Vashem (The Israeli Holocaust Martyrs'and Heroes' Remembrance Authority).

There are a lot of interesting excerpts of survivors' testimonies, in PDF format, describing moments in time and angles we are not accustomed to. Here are two random examples:

Shoah Resource Center, The International School for Holocaust Studies 2

From The Testimony of Lucille Eichengruen on Relations with Neighbors
Lucille Eichengruen was born in Hamburg in 1925. Her parents had emigrated
from Poland to Hamburg after the First World War.
Interviewer: Did you have German friends?
Answer: Non-Jewish German friends? No.
Interviewer: Only Jewish?
Answer: Yes. We had some neighbors and the neighbors stopped talking and
playing with us after 1933. But real friends, no. I did not have any.
Interviewer: and your parents?
Answer: neither.
Interviewer: Only Jews?
Answer: Only Jews and strangely all the friends of my father's with very few
exceptions were Polish Jews. My father was friendly with Martin Buber, with
Dr. Paul Holtzer, but those were exceptions.
Interviewer: What happened after 1933?
Answer: In 1933 the climate changed. There were restrictions, there were ugly
incidents - we walked to school, children would beat us up. Children would
yell at us and make nasty remarks. We were told to be quiet on the streetcar.
We were told not to draw attention to ourselves, and slowly and gradually
people began to leave. Students, teachers - it was a very unsettled situation.
It was constant turmoil and for a child it was not conducive to learning. It was
difficult to study under those circumstances.
Interviewer: And what happened?
Answer: My grades were not the best and my parents hired tutors for
mathematics, for English, for grammar, and they improved somewhat, but I
was not a carefree, happy child. I cried a great deal, I had a lot of nightmares
and it was not a good childhood. My parents tried - I had no reason to believe
that there was anything short in the house, but the atmosphere from the
outside was so strong that it just did not leave, it just was always there.
Interviewer: Your neighbors - how did they react?
Answer: They stopped talking to us and the children would run after us and
call us ugly name names, never talk to us. Sometimes they'd throw some
stones and the boys, when they were in the mood they would beat us up.

Source : Yad Vashem Archive O3/9556

Shoah Resource Center, The International School for Holocaust Studies 2

From the Testimony of Miriam Steiner: "We Began to Take In the Enormous Loss"
From the testimony of Miriam Steiner, born in 1929 in Hungary. Deported to
the Auschwitz and Ravensbruck camps. Liberated by the Red Army in the
middle of a death march to Germany. Immigrated to Palestine in 1946.
"In fact, we were supposed to begin normalization, the great crisis had not yet
hit us. It began when my cousin came home a few days later. I barely
recognized him, because that kid, that big slob, had two big ears, a big nose
and two cavities for eyes. He began to recover from his "Musselman"
condition. For the first time I cried, I fell on him and I cried at how he looked,
because then I suddenly woke up. He was the start of my crisis, of the crisis of
ours as a whole... He embraced me and said only this: "You should know one
thing, don't wait for your father and your brother". He repeated that many
times... My mother and I received a small flat, a one-room flat in
grandmother's house, and mentally speaking things began to get worse and
worse, because people started to come back with all kinds of stories, and we
knew that only we two were left. The second thing was the possibility of
making a living. Besides the soup and food and the meager clothing we
received from the Joint, you could deal in the black market, if you knew how.
My mother and I didn't know how to do such things. We knew for certain that
others had found the gold which my father had hidden in the garden, we even
knew who, but for the time being the grief was so great that this did not affect
us, because that was not our real loss.
"Now we began to realize the enormity of the loss, we began to understand
that Grandfather and Grandmother and hardly any of our relatives had
returned, only that one cousin, and his father also returned later on. People
said we shouldn't wait for them, but the truth is that we waited all the time for
my father. And I only want to say that I often look around, as though I am still searching... not for Father, it is my brother for whom I am still looking all the
time. I know it is completely unrealistic, because formally I am not searching,
I, I cast about with my eyes..."

From: Kleiman, Yehudit and Shpringer-Aharoni, Nina (eds.), The Pain of
Liberation, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1995, p. 47.

Signs of the times
* The girls went back to school today after the long Passover break. The school had some new students - "refugees" from Hong Kong, probably offspring of Israelis working there, who decided it was probably a good time to go home for a while.

* Israeli TV channel 2 is to broadcast a travel program about France this evening. The promo has an apologetic air to it - "You don't have to like the French to love France..."
"The little guy with the moustache" (Bish could never remember his name).
The reactions around the world to Marwan Barghouti's court case stand out, in my eyes, as proof of the duplicity of those who claim to be in pursuit of justice, but in actual fact are only in pursuit of justice where it serves the side they favor.

How often did we hear that if Israel wished to combat terrorism it should do so by taking legal steps against the perpetrators?

Here we are doing just that with Marwan Barghouti. He's standing trial. He didn't fall victim to a targeted killing. He was arrested and indicted. He's getting his day in court. Happy now? This is what you said you wanted.

No! This is wrong! Israel has no legal right to try Barghouti!


So that's it, isn't it? The cat is out of the bag. It's not about the means we use to combat terrorism after all, is it? It's about the fact that we should have the chutzpa to take steps to protect ourselves against terrorism at all.

Good Jews don't do things like that, as history will tell us.

So what now? Barghouti has been placed in solitary confinement. That's no way to treat a heroic freedom fighter, an important Palestinian leader, who shouldn't be standing trial in the first place. More cruelty, more injustice. Today's Yediot Aharonot (print version) has the reason. It seems Israeli security forces received information indicating that poor, wronged Barghouti, victim of an unjust and illegal trial, had been passing messages and instructions for fresh terrorist attacks to his operatives outside prison. The heroic struggle to kill innocent Israeli civilians must continue, unfettered by the illegitimate means used by those lawless rogues, the Israelis.

So what we have here is one set of standards where Israelis are concerned and quite another for Palestinians. Must be some sort of novel interpretation of affirmative action. One party is deemed free to murder and maim without distinction, once negotiation and dialogue fail to procure the desired results. A violent mode of action is perceived as being a moral and logical mean to reach the goal. The other party, however, is required to turn the other cheek at all costs, and in no way whatsoever attempt to react to any aggression however murderous. Any action, however nonviolent, aside complete capitulation to the other party's demands, is perceived as being amoral and unjustified.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Hang the D.J.
On Friday, Israeli paper Maariv's online edition had a little item about Jihad Jaara, one of the two Palestinian terrorists the Republic of Ireland kindly took in last year. Jaara and his friend Rami Kamel were two of the thirteen armed and dangerous wanted terrorists who forcibly took over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem during operation Defensive Shield last year. You'll remember that, in order to end the siege, they struck a deal which allowed them to seek refuge overseas (disregarding the frustration and horror of the families of their victims who wanted them brought to justice). Jaara and Kamel got to go to Dublin, Ireland, where they were awarded with a nice apartment for their efforts. Like in the corniest of romantic novels, love blossomed between Rami Kamel and his English teacher and they soon tied the knot. Such a romantic story, but not for our pal, Jihad Jaara. Being a devout Muslim, living in the apartment together with his pal's wife was a big no-no so out he went, onto the streets. His Irish hosts promised to find him somewhere to live but seem to have had more worthy causes to spend their money on. So he's been wandering the streets of Dublin for the last five months.

I know what you're thinking, and you're probably right - Jaara, a Palestinian policeman and active member of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which answers to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah, wanted for perpetrating terrorist attacks against Israelis, is only dangerous where Israelis are concerned; he's a little meek pussycat unless confronted by dangerous Israeli women and children after all. But still, if I were a mother in Dublin, I'd be feeling a bit uneasy sending my kids to school with such a feline roaming the streets of my city, wet, cold, and desperate.

What can I say? Better them than me.

This story apparently appeared first in the Irish Independent on Thursday. I couldn't find a direct link in that publication, but Haaretz seems to have noticed it too.

I'm not sure what the D.J. has to do with it, either.
Yesterday we drove through a fierce sandstorm to get to our little hideaway in Mitzpe Ramon.

At times we thought we would be swept clean of the road along with the sea of sand that raced across the asphalt. We stopped for refuge from the storm at a little cafe by Sdeh Boker, the kibbutz that used to be Ben Gurion's desert home. We weren't the only ones. It was one of those little places that usually get about three customers an hour. The kibbutzniks operating the place were rather overwhelmed, if not from the masses then from the mountains of sand that blew in with every person that fought his or her way in. Bish, the girls and I finished off the last of the Burekas. There was one group of depressed looking men. They'd come down to the Negev for a bicycle-riding holiday, but in this wind they couldn't keep a bicycle up for two meters to save their lives, not to mention the difficulty actually breathing when there was more sand than breathable air swirling furiously round. They sat in a circle with their coffees and discussed what they should do. We left before they reached a decision. Not that I was eavesdropping or anything.

Miraculously, we reached Mitzpe Ramon in one piece. This was no easy feat considering the wind, the sand, the non-existent visibility and the cars coming the other way that somehow kept appearing on our side of the road, racing straight at us (some without their headlights, despite the low visibility).

And suddenly it was over, with no sign it had ever happened, besides the plastic bags strewn everywhere. Today was a beautiful, sunny and windy day in Mitzpe Ramon, which we spent strolling along the cliff of the crater. We found a nice statue, in the Statue Garden and plonked ourselves down. I think I even dropped off in the cool sun. Don't let the name Statue Garden mislead you. This is a desert and these are desert statues. No lawn. No dinky little trees. The Statue Garden spreads along the rocky ground at the cliff edge of the crater. Eldest pointed out that it was peaceful in a wild way.

We thought this would be our last visit to our funny little place in Mitzpe Ramon. The lease is up and we weren't planning to renew it, but we are loath to part with our hideaway, simple and basic as it may be. For us it's pure heaven.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Shabbat Shalom.
I used to despise the flag thing.
My mother-in-law loves Independence Day. She used to tell me how truly happy thay had been back when they established the state in 1948. She's second generation native Tel Avivi, which is quite unusual for a seventy year-old. Unlike me, she really lived through the birth of this state and knows what life was like before. She used to tell me, but I just couldn't grasp it. The flag thing was a bit of an embarrassment.

Now that I no longer take the existence of my home for granted, I do understand what she was talking about and I appreciate it far more. The flag is not some nationalistic nuttiness. It's my way of telling the Palestinians that I'm here to stay and they'll have to accept that and learn to live with me in ways other than blowing me up. I realize that goes both ways and I'm prepared to pay the price of sharing. More than prepared. But I won't committ suicide for someone else's gratification.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Oh, no! Say it isn't so!

French Guard
I'm French! Why do think I have this outrageous
accent, you silly king-a?!

What Monty Python Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I really should be getting back to my book. Via The World Wide Rant, who is The Rabbit. But I wanted to be The Rabbit! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Oh, the humiliation.
Dawson is packing up his blog. I'm sorry about that. He really cheered me up when I really needed it, back when I thought everyone hated us.
Last week I went shopping for nice white T-shirts for the girls. It's that white T-shirt time of the year. I will spend the next two weeks continually washing these T-shirts so they'll be clean and ready for the next white T-shirt event. It begins next week with the Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Day) ceremonies. It continues the week after that with Yom HaZikaron (memorial day for fallen soldiers) - two ceremonies - evening and morning, then the next day Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day). Two weeks later there's Lag Ba'omer (we've already started collecting the wood), but they won't really need white T-shirts for the bonfires will they? Then a fortnight after that is Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, but also the harvest (you know, dancing around haystacks with flowers in hair blah blah), definitely white T-shirt stuff.

I'm quite proud of myself that I thought to plan ahead about the white T-shirts this year. Usually we find ourselves on the morning of Yom HaShoah, scrambling around the closets for white T-shirts that still fit and don't have too many very noticeable stains on them. Well Eldest has reached an age that that just isn't good enough (even a white T-shirt becomes a fashion statement?), and neither are the rather shapeless T-shirts I used to purchase for ten shekels at the corner shop. Children's clothes shops know to stock up on white T-shirts round this time of the year. It only took me about nine years of motherhood to discover this fact. It's apparently all part of springtime.

It's also flag time. Flags are already being peddled by vendors who endanger their lives illegally offering their wares to car drivers on busy junctions. As a result of their efforts, flags are starting to appear on balconies and on cars, in time for Yom HaAtzmaut. Last year there were more flags than I'd ever seen before. Things were bad, people were blowing up all over the place and our soldiers were fighting door to door to combat terrorism. I doubt if we'll be seeing as many flags this year. People have got used to the army, the police and the Shabak thwarting the attacks (well it certainly isn't the Palestinians who are doing anything about them). Well, most of the attacks anyway. The feeling of crisis is not as severe anymore. As for me, the cynicism that left me when this War of Terror began has not yet returned. I'll definitely be flying the flag again this year (actually I didn't take it down from last Yom HaAtzmaut until about three months ago, and only then because it was so dirty. It's still waiting to be washed. You know me and laundry - not the best of friends).
Go check what belief you are. Don't ask me what I am. They might throw me out saying I can't live here any more. Don't be upset if the result has nothing to do with anything. Mine wasn't either. I really don't understand how they managed to reach the conclusion they did about me. My guess is it's something like those computerized translation thingies. A bit wacky. This is courtesy of Joe from Northern Ireland. I'm dead chuffed someone from Northern Ireland reads this.
Another dead hero. Poor guy. This scares the hell out of me. The thought that some day I may find myself in a similar situation. Or someone I know. It could happen to anyone. Being in the situation of identifying a suicide bomber and making the split second decision to get him to kill me to prevent him killing others. Would I be up to it? How could I do such a thing to my girls? How could I live with myself if I didn't? This is what happened in Netanya as well, in the last attack. That time it was a soldier who happened to be there.

Escape to bed with a bad mystery onvle, I mean novel (How did that happen? More than the usual dysfunctional typing). This one is driving me mad. I've known who did it for the last twenty pages. And why. These fictional detectives are such twerps.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

So what else is new?
Diane pointed me to this rather pessimistic article in the Washington Post.

The despair is likely to stiffen the objections of many Arabs to any new Middle East peace deal seen as selling short Palestinian interests and promoting Israel's further integration into the region, analysts said. So too, having been humbled at the hands of America, Arabs could be less receptive to Bush administration efforts at preaching democracy in the region.

The article misses a central point and fails to learn the lessons of the Iraq experience. Just as the USA was planning to stage a military operation in Iraq and not in Jordan or in Egypt, Israel is hoping to make peace with the Palestinians and not with the Jordanians or the Egyptians (We already did that. Sort of.). Just as the rest of the Arab world had absolutely no idea how Iraqis felt about being invaded by the USA, and were completely taken by surprised by their refusal to put up any real fight, once they understood that Saddam really was finished, so Jordanians, even Jordanian analysts (especially Jordanian analysts) can't be expected to talk for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. They haven't been experiencing what the Palestinians have been experiencing for the last two and a half years so they can't speak for them, can they (just as they weren't experiencing what the Iraqis were experiencing)? So let them say what they like. It doesn't mean they know what they're talking about.

As if to prove my point, while my mother-in-law was serving us a delicious Hag lunch, Arafat and Abu Mazen managed to reach an agreement about the new Palestinian government, it seems, with a little help from their friends (knowing Mubarak and his great love for Arafat, the heavy pressure reportedly placed on Arafat by Mubarak's emissary, the head of Egyptian Intelligence, Omar Suleiman, would have had Suleiman sitting on Arafat, pummelling him and shouting, "Ya kalb, ibn kalb*, let Abu Mazen have his way!" Excuse me while I fantasize a little).
* Dog, son of dog. Rumor has it that Mubarak has used this manner of addressing the honorable Palestinian Ra'is** once or twice in the past.
** President.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Did I die and go to heaven?
This is has made my day. Make that - my week.
You see, the thing is, when we all saw him go over to see Saddam, all kissey kissey and starry-eyed, it wasn't really Saddam he was in love with. IT WAS THE MONEY. And now we all know.

Ah, the joy, the satisfaction, the utter bliss of seeing a spade being called a spade for all to see.

I really really really hope this story turns out to be bona fide.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

I'm still alive. Nothing to say.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Shabbat Shalom.
Diane sent me this troubling article from the Observer, a subsidiary of the Guardian: Just a taste of the terror of life under Saddam.

Jennifer has begun SpillingHerGuts on her very own blog. About time too. Have fun, Jen.

More from the Guardian: My name is Ariel Sharon. Notice they call Ariel Sharon (our Ariel Sharon) a world leader (never mind the derogatory adjective). Wow! World leader. I like it. Does that make us, like, a world power? Cool.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

And now the blog.

Some people have too much time on their hands.
Perception is never very clear in the moments just before you fall asleep, even more so in the night of the Seder. After four cups of wine (five, including the "haramat kosit" (toast) at work before they let us go home early) it's not easy to fight sleep long enough to work out if the noise I'm hearing requires action. A man, his voice hoarse and distorted with rage, is yelling. A woman is screaming. It's not really screaming. It's more like the terror-stricken yelps of cowering puppy. I can't make out the words but the situation sounds volatile. If I get up and go to the window, will I be able to tell which apartment it's coming from? It could be anywhere. We're surrounded by hundreds of apartments in shouting distance. I only know that the apartment immediately across from us in the next building is empty, so the sounds can't be coming from there. I lie in bed, not quite awake, wondering if I'm imagining it, too foggy to find the energy to do anything. I know I should be trying to get more information so I can alert the police, but I can't move. The noise has stopped. I must be asleep.
On Tuesday I happened to meet an acquaintance of mine that I know is of Iraqi descent. 'Planning your trip to the old country?' I asked him jokingly. It's a popular amusement around here lately, outlining imaginary trips to Iraq. No one takes it very seriously. He remarked that he'd mentioned the idea of going back for a visit to his mother and she had been horrified by the idea. She said she could never forget or forgive the horrors of the Farhud, the massacre of Baghdadi Jews by their Arab neighbors in 1941. Even the thought of going back to that country was too appalling for her. She had memories, still fresh, of little boys having their legs chopped off and grown men having their heads cut off. No, she didn't feel very nostalgic about Iraq. In fact she had no wish to visit any Arab country. She had no problem with Greece and Cyprus though and enjoyed her trips to those countries. The air stewards were so nice, she said. The flight from Iraq all those years ago had been far less pleasant. The women had been seated at the front of the plane and the men had been seated at the back. My acquaintance's father had his little daughter on his lap. Just before take off an Iraqi army officer got on the plane and proceeded to savagely beat up all the men in the back of the plane, including the father of my acquaintance, regardless of the little girl on his lap. The air staff was powerless. No, she had no wish to go back there.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Mum's Haroset
3 oz walnut (3 oz? What on earth is that in grams?)
¼ large cooking apple
Wine to moisten
2 level teaspoons sugar (brown if possible)
2 level teaspoons cinnamon
All in food processor starting with nuts.

Okay, I've made it. It's nothing like Mum used to make. Must be the wrong wine. And the wrong nuts. And the wrong sugar. And, most of all, the wrong finger on the food processor button. Maybe I should have made my mother-in-law's after all. Too late now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Too busy to blog.
I wish everyone a happy and enjoyable Seder.
Very sad
Diana Moon announces that due to problems at work, she must not only stop
blogging but take down her blog altogether. She will return to blogging as
soon as possible. She wishes to thank all her readers. :-(

Monday, April 14, 2003

War with Iraq? Economic recession? Murderous suicide bombings? Forget it. The main news in Israel these days is the visit of four youthful teen idols, stars of the awful Argentian soap opera RebeldeWay aimed at adolescents, that all parents detest with a vengeance. I told you about Chiquititas a few months ago. This is far worse, but I can't be bothered to elaborate at this late hour.

As I write this, the said teen idols are appearing on the Dudu Topaz (barf) TV show. I can hear squeals of excitement coming from behind Eldest's closed door (we're watching Fox News). I just spoke on the phone to a friend whose son has also sequestered* himself in a room with a TV. As a matter of fact, tens of thousands (at least) of Israel kids all over the country are also staying up late this evening to watch them and I can promise you they are all squealing.

I bought Eldest tickets for the show months ago. She's going on Friday morning with a friend. I'm dropping them off. I hope the traffic won't be too bad. I've been trying to very gently and subtly prepare her for the possibility of disappointment, should she discover that, contrary to high expectations, this is not the greatest experience of her life ("You mightn’t be able to see very well, and there might be a slight problem hearing …"). She is quite reconciled to this. "Oh, I know. They can’t dance, they can’t sing", she tells me, not really realizing the screaming that will be going on all around her. At least she'll be too far away to be trampled on - I didn't actually get her the most expensive tickets. So if they can't dance and they can't sing, why go to a show in which they do just that? (Silly question)

When I was young my passion was the Beatles (Besides being a juvenile delinquent I was also a geek, but that goes without saying, doesn't it? I'm a blogger, for goodness sake). At least the Beatles could sing (Well, with the exception of Ringo, who couldn't even play the drums very well), but on the other hand they hadn't existed as a group for about eight or nine years, by the time I became enamored with them, and there wasn't a hope in hell of any of them coming to Israel (Besides John, maybe, if that's where he ended up). Paul was planning to come in those days, but rumor was he cancelled following his arrest in Japan for possession.

Adolescence is horrible. Could I please go to sleep and wake up with two married daughters with **grandchildren**. Ah, grandchildren. Bliss. Those are the best kind of kids. They’re fond of you; you get to spoil them silly without having to pay the price and best of all, you give them back when you get fed up of them.

Back to reality, today we got an answer about Eldest's middle school. She got in to the one that she wanted. Nice of them to let us know this early. They usually only tell you at the last minute, so if you're not happy you don't really have time to do much about it. Maybe they're only telling the ones who got their first choice, at this point.
* I admit I didn't know this word. Diane suggested it.

I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink

I'm so tired I don't know what to do
I'm so tired my mind is set on you
I wonder should I call you but I know what you'd do

You'd say I'm putting you on
But it's no joke, it's doing me harm
You know I can't sleep, I can't stop my brain
You know it's three weeks, I'm going insane
You know I'd give you everything I've got
for a little peace of mind

I'm so tired, I'm feeling so upset
Although I'm so tired I'll have another cigarette
And curse Sir Walter Raleigh
He was such a stupid get.

Lennon/McCartney, or would that be McCartney/Lennon? No, no, it’s definitely Lennon/McCartney. Isn’t it?

Such problems.
Our Sis found Mum's Haroset recipe. Therefore the Haroset Recipe Festival has been cancelled. My apologies to the hundreds of people who slaved over a hot magimix for days to reach the perfect mixture in order to send me their recipe.

I'll post Mum's recipe along with my mother-in-law's some time soon.
This would make a great board game
I happen to have my old school atlas at work. I took it there once, years ago, I forget why, and it's been languishing in the cluttered closet with the old files ever since. It's had quite a few uses over the years, the most notable being a not very efficient footstep. Of course, it's horribly out of date. Looking at it is like stepping back in time. Israel still includes Sinai, if you can believe it, and most of Israel's newer villages and towns are not to be found. Everywhere else has changed too. Europe is unrecognizable; in Africa quite a few states have changed names (and back again). Some pages are adorned with doodles I must have indulged in as a way of escaping particularly sleep inducing geography lessons way back when. And I was highly amused to find, on the last page of the index, carefully written in tiny pencil handwriting, a list of different types of fertile soil. I've always been fascinated by maps, but geography lessons in my day were not very thrilling. As for the list of soil types - I vaguely remember having difficulty memorizing some of the less exciting details that were listed in the study requirements of an exam, which allowed the luxury of open atlases, and that was therefore expected to be that much more difficult. So now you know that I wasn't very studious in my youth. Downright lazy would be more accurate. And you are now in possession of some damaging evidence of my juvenile delinquency.

Fast forward to the present day - when the war in Iraq commenced, the disgraced atlas came out of the closet and it has spent the last fortnight commanding a place of honor on my desk, open on the page romantically named "Countries of the Fertile Crescent". Visitors to my little office have looked at me with compassion and sympathy and have then rushed off to share with relish the sad news of the latest manifestation of Imshin's eccentricity.

This morning before work I read in Yediot Aharonot about Uday Hussein's letters that were uncovered in one of his Baghdad homes. In a letter from 1990, he discusses Saddam’s plans for the creation of a greater Iraq including Kuwait, Arabstan (apparently a part of Iran) and Palestine; Palestine apparently meaning the historical Transjordan including today’s Jordan and the whole of the land of Israel - thus proving what Israel had suspected all along. Hmm, interesting, I thought to myself and hurried off to work, late as usual.

It was only after lunch, which was an uninspiring sandwich eaten hurriedly in my office, because the kitchen and dining room are closed in preparation for Passover, that I remembered Uday's letter and had another peek at the "Fertile Crescent" on the map. These plans of Saddam are not really a new discovery, but I personally hadn't really thought about them much, especially not from Iraq's point of view, before. I was impressed.

The idea of a greater Iraq is a really good one. Not only does it give Iraq far wider access to the Persian Gulf, not to mention the oil, it also gives it access to the Mediterranean Sea. The most fascinating aspect of it, though, is that it effectually cuts up the Arab world into two pieces with Iraq being the sole controller of overland passage between the northern countries and the southern countries. This would give Iraq complete control over most of the commerce in the region, for a start. And there are a lot more advantages I can’t be bothered to organize in my head for writing down (still lazy). It’s a brilliant idea. It’s an exciting vision. If you’re Saddam Hussein that is.

Thank God (and the U.S.A.) that he didn't get around to doing it. I wonder what would have happened if they had timed the invasion of Kuwait better and the U.S. hadn't been available to do something about it.

And I wonder what Israel would have done had Iraq got around to taking over Jordan. He apparently was well on his way to doing just that in 1990. We couldn't have allowed that to happen. We would have had to attack, amidst fierce global condemnation, of course.

The world we live in is a crazy place.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Sharon interview
Ari Shavit interviewed Israeli PM Arik Sharon in today's Haaretz. Interesting. Some excerpts:

Isn't that phrase "painful concessions" a hollow expression?

"Definitely not. It comes from the depth of my soul. Look, we are talking about the cradle of the Jewish people. Our whole history is bound up with these places. Bethlehem, Shiloh, Beit El. And I know that we will have to part with some of these places. There will be a parting from places that are connected to the whole course of our history. As a Jew, this agonizes me. But I have decided to make every effort to reach a settlement. I feel that the rational necessity to reach a settlement is overcoming my feelings."


Have you really accepted the idea of two states for two peoples? Do you really plan to divide western Israel?

"I believe that this is what will happen. One has to view things realistically. Eventually there will be a Palestinian state. I view things first and foremost from our perspective. I do not think that we have to rule over another people and run their lives. I do not think that we have the strength for that. It is a very heavy burden on the public and it raises ethical problems and heavy economic problems."


In the past you talked about a long-term interim agreement. Did you not believe in a permanent solution and an end to the conflict?

"I think opportunities have currently been created that did not exist before. The Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular have been shaken. There is therefore a chance to reach an agreement faster than people think."

Read the whole thing.
Anyone need any duct tape? I've got plenty. Plastic sheeting too.
Where did all this stuff come from? Did all this really come out of our apartment? Emptying the security room is turning out to be a very annoying chore. I think I'll leave the evacuation bags till tomorrow.

Bish is worried about the Syrians now.
On the way to work this morning I happened to notice a shesek tree full of ripening fruit in one of the gardens I passed. The dictionary tells me this is called loquat in English. It's a very popular tree in Israeli gardens. Our old apartment had three impressive specimens. Every spring when I noticed fruit ripening on our trees I would say to myself that this year we'd take the ladder down and pick some. We never actually got round to it although we lived there for eleven years. The trees and the fruit belonged to all the neighbors in the building, of course, but no one else bothered either. There were always customers for the sweet soft fruit though, besides the birds - the school kids from the ultra-religious boys' school across the road. I often used to come across a red-faced kid with bulging cheeks and pockets, sneaking guiltily out of the garden. I always pretended not to see. Half the fun is the fear of being caught. I should know.

We used to have the most wonderful mulberry tree on my route home from school. In season, we used to climb it and stuff ourselves with as much of the sweet fruit as we could, before the neighbors started shouting. I think most people can tell similar stories. I know Dad can. When I was growing up on Mount Carmel you didn't really have to climb the neighbors' tree to eat. There was a lot of fruit just growing wild, free for the picking. You had the carobs and the sabra fruit (which required certain skillfulness to pick and prepare for eating, otherwise you got the prickles on your fingers and on your tongue) and then there were the tznobarim, the nuts of the pine that my mother-in-law calls by their Ladino name of pinyones and uses in many delicious recipes.

When we used to eat them we didn't need a fancy recipe. All we needed was a lot of pine trees (preferably overshadowing a side walk, otherwise the tznobars got lost among the pine needles, and a big stone with which to break through the hard shell, and we were in for the meal of our lives. Our high school had plenty of pine trees and when I was little Our Sis used to bring me bags full of them, which I would take down to the sidewalk to break open and eat. When I grew up I was amazed to discover you can buy bags of them in the supermarket, shelled and ready to cook. But they're never nearly as succulent and delicious as those I collected myself from the sidewalk as a child.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Important Announcement
I've been asked to make the Haroset for the Passover Seder this year. Sadly, I don't know my mother's Haroset recipe, so I can't make the exact recipe we're used to. I could ask my mother-in-law for hers but although she makes a really really delicious Sephardi version with dates, we're having the Seder with the Ashkenazi side and the appropriate product would probably be appreciated.

I need help!

I hereby announce a Haroset recipe festival on Not a Fish (This was R.T.'s idea). All recipes are welcome: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yemeni and whatever. If you have a nice Haroset recipe you would like to share, please e-mail it to me and I'll do my best to publish it here before Seder night (Remember to tell me if it's OK to post your name or not). The recipe I like best (which will probably be the one that gives ingredients I have in the house already, or, even more likely, the easiest one) will be the one I use. Or maybe I'll use my mother-in-law's recipe in the end. It really is yummy. I'll post it here too, if I remember to ask her for it.

Yes, I have noticed that there are quite a lot of recipes available online, but this sounds like much more fun, doesn't it?

[I do realize I should be writing "my late mother" or "of blessed memory" or something like that, but it sounds too strange, sort of distancing her, when I don't feel she's distant at all]
Hey, Laurence moved.
‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.
’Who cares for you?’ said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time). ‘You're nothing but a pack of cards!’
At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, Chapter XII

A week ago, it looked like conquering Baghdad was going to take weeks of bloody hell. Amid shouts of “This is just what we said would happen” and the old favorite “Quagmire!”, Israelis suddenly noticed all eyes were on us, glaring menacingly. What? What? It wasn’t us, honest. But someone always has to pay the price, after all. Round up the usual suspect. The Quartet’s nearly forgotten “Road Map” was dug up and dusted off. That’ll do just fine.

Only a week has passed and everything has changed. Only a week, and some are sitting up and taking notice, trying to work out what happened while they were busy dancing to a tune that played only in their heads. France, Germany, Russia, the Arabs, countless misguided western do-gooders (Well, maybe not them, they don’t watch TV, it’s a corrupting influence, especially if it offers any other truth than their own) are all discovering too late that they put all their money on the wrong horse (even though the right one had “Winner” written all over it in flashing neon lights).

This week has seen looting and lawlessness in Iraq. Some have chosen to emphasize this, although experts say it is a regrettable but common phenomenon in war and subsides when things stabilize. But this week has also seen the unbelievably rapid fall of Baghdad which few, if any, in the media foresaw. We saw historic pictures of Saddam’s giant statue being pulled down by Iraqis in the center of Baghdad and of ecstatic Iraqis kissing U.S. soldiers and shouting “Thank you Bush”. You just can’t ignore those powerful pictures. The story they tell is of a nation sighing with relief. This seems to have been played down, though, by various communication media for their own reasons.

Smadar Peri wrote in Yediot Aharonot that Al-Jazeera repeatedly aired a video of a mob in Basra stringing up Baath militants. You won’t be seeing that on your TV screen. Bodies of men swinging from makeshift gallows don’t make for very pleasant viewing.

What will Al-Jazeera viewers make of it all? How will they react to the realization that they believed without questioning the lies they were fed, systematically, culminating in the award-winning performance of one Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who entered history by denying again and again with conviction and talent what was happening right next to him (but whom only the Arabs believed)? Will they learn any lessons? Will they begin questioning other things Al-Jazeera and other Arab media tell them? Or will they continue to sooth the pain of their humility and embarrassment with ridiculous conspiracy theories?

Suddenly, somehow, the Road Map doesn’t seem so threatening anymore. Maybe it’s time, anyway. We’ve really had enough, haven’t we?

A week down the road and it looks like a few more people have realized that things are changing, that the world is going to come out of all this looking different. Maybe, just maybe, the result will be that this sad little country of ours will also come out at the other end of this tunnel of uncertainty looking better than when it went in.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Shabbat Shalom.
Good thinking.
More about the shock in Arab countries in Haaretz

Indeed, it seems that all Arab nations, including those mentioned, have been in a state of shock in the last two days. The absence of demonstrations in the streets is evidence of that. Egyptian Islamic activist Muntasar al Ziat published a statement in Cairo saying that the Arab regimes should learn the lesson of the Iraqis deserting their regime "and cease the tyranny with which they treat their peoples."

The Arab media are now full of interviews with confused Arabs. The impression is that none of the Arab capitals understands how the "invading forces" were greeted in Baghdad without any difficulties and with cheers, despite all the predictions in the Arab and Western world that the Iraqis would defend their capital with their lives.

Ignorance is not the property of one side
I had a look at this video made by about a peace rally in San Francisco. Via Grasshoppa. This guy is talking to the demonstrators towards the end of the video and they are saying the most intriguing things. One of the main messages is that the U.S. has no business in Iraq and should butt out. But these "Mind your own business" guys have no problem butting in where Israel and the Palestinians are concerned. One guy explains that a Jewish state should have been established in GERMANY, no less. He must have meant turning Dachau into a state (I can see it now - Population of Jewish state: 0. They all died mysteriously while taking a shower, how strange)

One kook explains how great life in a dictatorship really is. Free this, free that. Hey, I'm convinced. When does the next bus leave? (Funny, I don't see her on the bus. I wonder why).

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Business as usual over here
Two Israeli soldiers were killed today by Palestinians and the IDF killed a top Islamic Jihad terrorist.

Yesterday I forgot to tell you they averted the general strike. We'll probably get it after Passover (They say it was averted because they cut some sort of deal, but I don't believe any of it, it's all a game of politics and interest. A dance of power). The strike wasn't very popular right now, a few days before the Hag (= religious holiday). Like I said, I ignored it and it went away. Maybe I should try this with some other unpleasant issues.

Oh, and I forgot to tell you. I stopped schlepping the gask around with me the day before yesterday (Yes, yes. Even me, last of the Mohicans). They say they're not bringing down the alert, yet, but they say they're letting a lot of reservists go home.

I continue to be intrigued by the surprise shown by Arabs in other Arab countries at what's happening in Iraq. They actually believe the lies their media feed them. Amazing. In Israel the media is held in such low esteem even though it's a free press. In Arab countries a lot of the media are no more than governemnt information outlets and even the independent ones are heavily biased. But still they seem to lap it all up.

A few Israeli experts who follow the Arab media were telling Reshet Bet radio station listeners today that there were already all sorts of conspiracy theories circulating to explain the shameful way Baghdad fell without a fight (for instance, Saddam makes a deal with the Americans, they let him disappear and he lets them into Baghdad...).

Enough with the delusions of grandeur, already. People round this part of the world thnk if they sit about in coffee shops twiddling their beads, things will sort of happen by themselves. Everyone's a makher.
This changes things not only in Iraq
As I started to say yesterday, before joviality took over, in latter years, Saddam was notable, strange as this may seem now, as a symbol of Arab military strength. He was the one who fought the mighty U.S.A and lived to see another day. Arabs living in more benign dictatorships adored him as a great leader, restorer of Arab pride. They were oblivious of the terrible suffering he inflicted on his people.

The so-called “Arab street", misled by Arab intelligentsia (itself egged on by western intelligentsia), made the same mistake about the U.S. that the Palestinians made about Israel. In both cases humaneness and willingness for compromise were interpreted as weakness.
A word of explanation about yesterday’s silliness:
It’s not as if Saddam was about to invade Israel tomorrow, but if the conquest of Kuwait had gone unchallenged things would certainly have gotten very very nasty round here. For one thing, they say he saw himself as another Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon who conquered Jerusalem, in days of old, and exiled the Israelites. The Sallah a Din equation came later, after 1991, in order to gain popularity with Muslim masses.

The word is that in 1990 Saddam was operating in Jordan with a view to doing very unpleasant things to us. Poor old King Hussy of Jordan had little say in this. He wasn’t supportive of Saddam in 1991 because he wanted him to show him how to grow a nice moustache.

And we didn’t destroy Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981, to fierce global condemnation and to the horror of the French (they built it), as an act of altruism. It was pure self-preservation.

Saddam truly believed he could outlast sanctions and continue to further his plans, while fooling the West. If it weren’t for 9/11, he would probably have been right.

Sadly, most Arabs would like to destroy Israel. We're right smack in the middle of the historical home of Islam. They can't accept that. The difference is that Saddam thought he could actually pull it off. If we manage to secure peace in this region, it will only be because we have persuaded them all, and the Palestinian leadership first and foremost, that destroying Israel is impossible, even if we show what they perceive as weakness by compromising about land. This is what the current Terror War with the Palestinians is all about. And even then, we will always have to watch our backs, even after peace is a fait accompli.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Oh, look! The French also have a Home Front Command booklet, just like ours. They even have a Hebrew version, isn't that nice?

Except theirs is shorter. All they have to do is...

“Have available:
* Flag of La Republique
* Scissors

In an emergency, cut out white part of flag and wave as invader passes through Arc de Triumphe.”

What on earth are they thinking? (Imshin starts the post feeling sensibly pessimistic)
While it’s heartwarming to see elated, celebrating people, the lawlessness that seems to be prevailing is very disturbing. I was upset to hear US Marines spokesman Capt. Stewart Upton on Reshet Bet radio station’s International Hour saying something to the effect of - People in Iraq are just letting off steam and celebrating, which is something they deserve to do. Yes, looting is regrettable, but understandable and after all they’re just taking back what Saddam took from them all those years. This is not quite accurate. They’ve also been looting private homes, and even hospitals and aid organizations like the UN. He said that the coalition forces have no intention of getting involved. He sounded as if he expected it to sort of fizzle out by itself.

Doesn’t the US military realize it could get far worse?

More from Allison on this.

On the other hand (as the pictures of hysterically happy people start to seep in)
How utterly shocking for the Arab “street” in more moderate Arab states seeing the pictures of jubilant Iraqis. Misled by Arab media, they truly had no idea how much Iraqis actually hated Saddam and suffered under him.

How scary for Arab leaders to see the pictures of the chaos. Will they take heed?

Exciting! (Imshin begins to grasp it)

I wonder how this is grabbing the Palestinians. Saddam was the chief supporter of Palestinian terrorism and symbolized Arab militant strength. Saddam had been the one who fought the US and lived to tell the tale.

What will these mean for the Palestinians?

Maybe, maybe it will do something to their point of view? I feel a glimmer of hope sneaking in…

And on the other other hand (euphoria finally sets in)


Saddam is down! As Ehud Yaari, top Israeli expert on Arab affairs, just put it on Channel 2 news: “Miracles don’t happen just in Hannuka. Sometimes they happen between Purim and Passover.” (For the uninitiated - this may not have been our war, but Saddam was a serious threat to Israel. Israel's annihilation was one goal he was very serious about).

Finally (Imshin succumbs and joins the celebration)

There'll be time enough to be sensible tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Yesterday, the Frog spoke to a Baghdadi expatriate relative (by marriage) who couldn't understand why the Germans and the French were supporting Saddam. He was also frustrated and confused about the Arabic language service of the BBC, which he said was dominated by Egyptian Muslim fundamentalists and broadcasts lies about British forces.

He obviously doesn't listen to or watch the English language service. Di zelbe drek, as they say in Chinese (pardon my language).
Bernard Lewis has similar ideas about why they're not dancing in the streets.
And the Oscar goes to

Either that or he's on the CIA payroll. There's no other explanation why he's the only one who hasn't skedaddled or been targeted. Bish says I'm reading too much into it and that he's just raving mad.

He's very entertaining though, isn't he?
A cautionary tale
Last night, a mother in Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, asked her (adult) son to get off the computer and go tidy his bed. When he refused she stabbed him to death (Hebrew link).

Bish told the girls about this story but they failed to be impressed.

We're too soft.

Update: Allison has an English link. I didn't mean to belittle the fate of this unfortunate young man, by the way.
General strike starts tomorrow
I'm hoping if I don't think about it it will go away, that's why I haven't been writing about it.

The girls have started their Passover holiday already. The teachers only work half days but they still need a two-week holiday before Passover to clean and prepare the Seder. Their lives are so hard.

I'm not among those striking, by the way.

Update: Histadrut (union) chairman Amir Peretz just said on channel 1 TV that he'll postpone the strike for 24 hours while he negotiates with treasury minister Netanyahu. I don't like him. Peretz that is. If Netanyahu manages to get us out of this economic mess we're in, I may very well vote for him next time around (Did I really just say that? I can't believe I just said that).
Anarchy in Basra
I am extremely worried about what's going on in Basra. Looting is rampant and the British troops don't seem to be attempting to intervene or do anything by way of policing. I hope this is not a sign of things to come. If it is, what we're going to see is complete and utter chaos and anarchy. If it is, my post of yesterday, which I felt was overly pessimistic, may actually have been overly optimistic. These people have lived under Saddam for three decades. Before that the state was also very strong. Like most people in this part of the world, they are used to being forced to behave themselves. British soldiers smiling politely and putting on their funny hats is just not good enough. This can't be how they ran the Empire.

If the coalition forces continue to be so ineffective in their policing of the civilian population, the bloody power struggle will take place under their very noses. The bodies will start piling up. Revenge hasn't even begun. The danger to Iraq, and even to the physical well being of coalition soldiers themselves, could be very great.

I hear the British are going to use a local tribal chief to police. Oy vey. I don't envy the rival tribes.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Not the same at all
Charles J. Stephens points out some major differences between the US war in Vietnam and the war currently being fought in Iraq.
My mother-in-law is a Palestinian
A reader, Ben F. wrote:

I am increasingly bothered by references to "the Palestinians."

I know it's deeply ingrained.

But I don't like it.

The UN's 1947 Partition Plan proposed two Palestinian states for two Palestinian peoples.

The Arab rejection said no, there is only one Palestinian people, the Palestinian Arab people, so there can only be one Palestinian state.

If we call the Arabs simply "Palestinians," do we not concede to them the argument that they are the indigenous people and that the Israeli Jews are not Palestinians, but imperialist colonialist occupiers?

The fact that the Palestinian Arabs call their state Palestine (see 1988 Declaration of Independence) says it all, doesn't it? Nobody ever looked at Judea, Samaria, and Gaza and called it Palestine.

This reminded me of a remark my mother-in-law made the other day. “I am a Palestinian”, she said. “I was born and raised in Palestine”.

Now I think about it, so was her father. And her father’s father, for that matter, although it wasn’t Palestine back then, it was just a far-flung district of Syria, a particularly derelict corner of the Ottoman Empire. It was the British who created modern “Palestine”.

I personally don’t mind them being Palestinians and us being Israelis, although truth to be told, Ben is right. We are all Palestinians. But not having any real history to speak of, as a people, they need a name, after all. The Palestinians is as good as any other.

It was the Romans who first called this land Palestine after the Philistines, the great enemies of the Israelites of old (remember Samson and Delilah?), who used to live around Gaza and Ashkelon way (although the modern day Palestinians are not their descendants). The Romans did this as part of their effort to put down those rebellious, obstinate Jews (sounds familiar). Why should I take for myself a name that was devised to humiliate my forefathers?

The Palestinians may want the whole of "Palestine". Well, they're not having it! They'll have to either learn to share or do without.
This is how things work: If you have a business, you have to share your income with the neighborhood tough guys. If you don’t, you no longer have a business, if you’re lucky. If you try to resist or to get outside help, you no longer have a life or, at least, not one worth living. Call it income tax if you will, only you don’t get it back by way of education, sewage or roads. You do get to see it driving around the neighborhood as a flashy new car. Often you find that your business is no longer your business. You have become the employee of the neighborhood tough guys. Lucky you. Only now, when they go down, you go down.

This is life.

Those few of us who were born incredibly fortunate and happen to live in a nice neighborhood, in a nice orderly western democracy, with law abiding neighbors and a powerful and independent judicial system, don’t know about this. We are so used to power being used moderately that we have come to believe that our safety and well-being are something we deserve, something we have coming to us. We don’t know we are just plain lucky. We don’t realize we were dealt an unbelievably good hand.

And so, in our ignorance, we get really upset when we discover that some people don’t get to live as we do. We get upset and we feel guilty. We don’t really know why this has happened and we tend to blame the wrong people. We completely misread the circumstances.

When a neighborhood tough guy is finally caught and removed, this way or the other, the neighborhood doesn’t sigh with relief. People know from bitter experience and plain common sense that the uncertainty that follows is just as dangerous, if not far more, than the reign of the deposed bully. Now there is likely to be a very violent period while the scramble is on to fill the void. If you just want a quiet life, this is a time for vigilance and caution. This is the time to stay down. On the other hand, if it’s power you want, if you see yourself as a possible heir, as the next tough guy, and you have reason to believe you might be successful in achieving this goal, now is the time for you to build your power base. And, of course, rid the neighborhood of your enemies or potential enemies.

Whoever you are and whatever your intentions, this is not a time for dancing in the streets. This is a time for warily and carefully evaluating the situation.

Show me people dancing in the streets of Iraq and I will show you people who, if they lived in any western country, would be riding the bus, right now, on their way to their Psychiatric day wards, their faces and bodies bloated from the medicines they take to alleviate their psychoses.

Because any sane Iraqi, or at least, not a very stupid Iraqi, knows that the Americans won’t be staying. Democracy? Why that’s just the void until another strongman takes over (maybe with the help of the Americans). Ask anyone.

[I hope I’m wrong, but this is how things work]

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Talking about Jewish .... There's a new TV channel on satellite. A religious channel. I spent part of the evening watching it. I enjoyed it. There's something fresh about it. There was a nice travel program called "The Wandering Jew" with Jacky Levy, one of the cooler religious guys in the media, who showed us round Rome from a Jewish perspective (from kosher restaurants to the Arch of Titus and beyond). Then there was a talk show sort of thing with this ultra-religious guy and a dummy that looked just like him. It was fascinating. I'll maybe tell you about it some other time.
Flashback episode
I am not in any way what could be called an observant Jew. I do not spend Shabbat as my religious brethren would have me spend it. I do not pray. I do not go to a synagogue. I do not read the weekly portion of the Torah, although I did one year, not for religious reasons, but because it was an interesting, enriching experience. In some mysterious, magical way, the weekly Torah portion was always extremely relevant to the week's events. Maybe I'll start doing it again, sometime. I eat kosher because I am a vegetarian, not because of my faith. I don't partake in most of the Jewish ritual that would define me as "religious". In Israel the boundaries are quite clear. You are either religious, or you are not.

However, I light candles every Shabbat eve. Why do I do this? I'm not sure. Is it because it makes my secular Shabbat special? Is it because my mother and my grandmothers and my great-grandmothers did it?

I am a Jew because I was born a Jew, not out of conviction. But as such, my Jewishness is at the very core of my being. It's more than a religion.

Down the centuries, all you had to do, ostensibly, was to change your religion, to revoke your Jewishness and you could change your destiny. But could you really? Spinoza did it, and he was still regarded a Jew, although shunned by his people. Dizraeli did it and he is probably remembered to this day a lot because he was a Jew. The Inquisition helped people purge themselves of their Jewishness even after they had turned their back on it.

And there were the Nazis. For them there was no escape, no absolution, no mercy for those that had committed the terrible crime of being born a Jew.

It was different in Islam, I'm told. The Muslims wholeheartedly welcomed those who had seen the light. Now, I hear, we are monkeys and pigs. Should we convert, do we cease to be monkeys and pigs? How does this happen, exactly?

My Jewishness is more than a time and a place and a ritual.

Is it right to define oneself as others would define one? Maybe not, but isn't this often the case? A mother is a mother because her children make her one, not because she feels like a mother.

I could keep quiet about my identity, pretend to be something else, "play it down". I know people who do that, people who don't live in Israel. I once met a very sweet American girl whose family had been doing that for so long that she really didn’t know anything at all about Judaism. For her being Jewish was synonymous to being a nice person. That was more or less it. I live in Israel. I don't have to feel apologetic about being Jewish. I can be nice just for the sake of it, not to prove anything. Even better, I can be not nice without feeling I am somehow damaging all Jews everywhere.

I don't want to be religious, but I still want to sing at the top of my voice and bang on the table at the Passover Seder for all to hear. No, not Next Year in Jerusalem - This Year in Jerusalem! We have ceased waiting for the miracle. We have made it happen ourselves.

I have read elsewhere that Israel is not necessary. That America is the place where Jews can be free and safe. Well I don't know about that. My green card hasn't yet arrived in the mail, and even if it does, I doubt I'll make use of it. This is my home. This year I will sing at the top of my voice and bang on the table and so will my neighbors on all sides.

Ah yes, about your neighbors, I hear you say. What about the other ones, the ones that won't be sitting down to the Seder table to sing about freedom?

What about them?

I've written quite a lot about my neighbors. Round about Yom Kippur, I wrote this:

In the eighties, before and during the first Intifada, I felt ashamed and embarrassed by the occupation.

I did reserve duty in the Gaza Strip (pretty unusual for women at the time) and got a good look at Rafah, Han Younes and Gaza City. The result was that I suddenly understood the demographic problem. Round about the same time, I was shocked to see a 12 year-old Palestinian boy washing the floor of a Tel Aviv restaurant at one o'clock at night, and it wasn't even summer. A young Palestinian construction worker confided in me that his deep ambition was to be a policeman, but that they didn't have a police force.

My feeling that something had to change intensified during the first Intifada. When the opportunity arose for Palestinian self-rule which was to gradually become (as I saw it) Palestinian sovereignty in the territories, I was all for it.

The feeling was euphoric. No more shame. We were finally doing the right thing. At last we would be able to be on equal footing with the people we share this country with. It felt like the Messiah had come.

* * * * * *

This time around I have no feelings of shame or embarrassment. I have compassion for the Palestinians' suffering. I'm sorry about innocent Palestinians being killed. I feel for their families. I wish it could be different, but I feel no guilt.

They had their chance and messed up big-time. The blame is theirs, not ours.

And round about Hannuka I wrote this in answer to a detractor:

...The thing is, I am sad about those Palestinian children. 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. 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 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. 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?

As usual I started writing about one thing and seemed to have wandered off in the middle. I have some more thoughts about Passover, which I will keep for another time.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Who switched all the mirrors with life size photos of a bimbo with red tinted blow-dried hair?

But seriously...
I now remember why I've avoided hairdressing salons all these years. You can easily die of boredom, for one thing. I wonder how often they come back to find that the woman with her head in the sink, waiting for her blonde dye to take, has to be carted out?

I spent half an hour with my head thus, staring at Fashion TV. This would have been bearable if I had had my glasses on. As it was I could just make out if the creature on the screen was male or female and the color of the garment it was wearing. I could more or less see which body parts were revealed, but not well enough to enjoy the experience.

The next hour I spent staring at a blurred version of the red tint bimbo, while her hair was being cut (for about three seconds, by the boss. What's wrong with the kid who cut Eldest's hair? I can hear the cash machine clinging in my head.) and blow-dried (for ages by the kid). All this time I'm trying to work out if I've ruined my very expensive new glasses by sitting on them.

Now all this surely can't interest anyone, but I did promise an answer to a reader about some pretty heavy questions about religion and "The Situation". And now I have to ask myself - Is the bimbo up to it? Or is she just a mass of flowing auburn locks (Good grief, Imshin, what are you talking about? It's not that spectacular. And it's actually not all that red, either. And what's with the sexist remark?).

Well, this is all something for me to look into over the Shabbat, which I will spend mourning years of carefree hippi-ness, washed down the drain of the hairdresser's sink, along with the leftovers of the red tint mixture.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Who are you and what did you do with Eldest?
Well, I’ve nearly done it. I’m well on my way to growing up. I have an appointment at the hairdresser’s for tomorrow at three. A hairdresser hasn’t touched my hair since Youngest was born. I don’t like having my hair messed with. So it’s rather long. Caveman style. Very cool. When it got too long I would always find someone at work to snip off the ends. But now the white hairs are getting a bit much and I really am getting a bit old for the wild look. Time to start acting my age.

It wasn’t actually my idea. Eldest started demanding to have her hair styled. I did try to discourage her but she was adamant. What can I do? She’s an adolescent. I don’t know any hairdressers, I told her, hoping that would be the end of it, but she went off and found one herself. I couldn’t deny that her friend T. and her mother both have very nice hair. It took another week for me to come by the phone number. This evening we went and did it. And what do you know? It was fun. Eldest looks great and she’s over the moon. And they were very nice there.

Tomorrow’s my turn. Oh, dear.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Asparagirl fisks an anti-Zionist beautifully.
There is always something exciting about the Hamsins of early spring. Last week was rainy and cold and wintery. Today the Hamsin desert wind, or Sharav in Hebrew (Hamsin is Arabic), began to bring the heat and the dryness of the desert right into the city. Summer in Tel Aviv is very humid and sticky. The Sharav is dry and dusty. When I'm walking outside during a spring time Sharav, I like to imagine it's still cold and wintery and I am the lucky one, all wrapped up in a warm, dry blanket. I can do this, because in the springtime, the sun is not yet as fierce and unforgiving as in the summer, however hot the wind may be.

The beginning of the Sharav can be deceptive. My friends in the next office came to work wearing light clothes; everyone knew the Sharav was coming. They laughed at me when they saw I had come in suede boots, even though I was wearing a thin skirt and summery blouse. But our offices face north and they soon began complaining that they were cold. If you keep the windows closed during a Sharav, the cool weather gets trapped inside.

The feeling of excitement that the Sharav wind brings with it is symbolic. This is a season of new beginning. One of the many paradoxes in Jewish tradition is that although we celebrate Rosh HaShana, the New Year, in the month of Tishrei, which falls in September or October, the month of Nisan, which falls in March or April, is actually the first month. Nisan is the month of the wheat harvest and this is when we celebrate Passover, the festival of emerging from slavery to freedom.

When the wind changes and the Sharav breaks it will be time to start cleaning the houses for Passover. There's no point starting before because the sand and the dust get into everything. Maybe I'll actually get round to doing it this year.

The General of the Army
Thought that war was balmy
So he threw away his gun
Now he's having much more fun

Spike Milligan

The best anti-war poem ever.
(Recited from memory).

I loved it when I was a kid, but it didn't make me a pacifist. Even as a child I could see it didn't make much sense.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

I'm feeling uncomfortable about yesterday's post. I'd like to point out that Youngest is more interested than most kids her age in current affairs and in stuff like the Holocaust. I don't remember having a conversation like that with Eldest when she was in second grade.

This doesn't mean other kids are ignorant of the Holocaust. Round Yom HaShoah all school kids learn about it, in a manner suitable to their ages.

Last year, when Eldest was in the fifth grade, her class was responsible for the Yom HaShoah ceremony at school. In preparation, they were shown movies, read books and had a Holocaust Survivor, the grandfather of one of the students, come to talk to them.

In high school a lot of the kids go to Poland to visit extermination camps. My nephew went a few months ago.