Sunday, November 30, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

A comment by John Williams:

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

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

I want us all to live happily ever after.

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

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

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

Monday, November 24, 2003

So where’s the rain they promised?

Saturday, November 22, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2003

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

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

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

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Reading Havdala and Anne makes me want to write something nice myself, but I can’t manage to organize my thoughts into anything coherent. I’ll go fold some laundry instead.
Shai of Sha! is a new dad. Go see photos.

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing. They’re not interested.
Local Jewish stuff
Haaretz article about Judaism as a culture: in recent years, there has been much interest, among secular Jews in Israel, in their Jewish roots. Study groups are popular. This is not a return to religion thing. It’s about what I would call secular empowerment. There is a popular feeling that our Jewish heritage does not belong just to the religious. The belief is that it belongs just as much to secular Jews, who wish to study it in a secular manner, without attempts being made to make them religious in the process.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Ooh, what’s this Haaretz is gloating about? Conrad Black forced to resign his position of CEO of Hollinger International?

By the way, no one has heard of Conrad Black in Israel, except maybe newspaper people. I’m joking about the gloating bit. In the print version of Haaretz, it was on the second page of the business part of the paper. I know this because someone had found this part of the paper so negligible that they had discarded it on the refrigerator at work (to be salvaged by yours truly). Haaretz and Jerusalem Post are not competitors. Even among the English speakers, the right wing ones read Jerusalem Post, while the left wing ones read Haaretz English version, which comes as part of the International Herald Tribune (what else?).

Anyway, I can’t stop to discuss the Conrad Black thing. Got to run to get dressed for an all-girl Hevr’e-from-the-past meeting. See, even anti-social me has them.

But before I go, I'll just send you over to An Unsealed Room. Black used to be Allison's boss, so her opinion on the subject is probably worth far more than mine. I hadn't even heard of him before I started blogging.
Nothing new
For those who haven’t seen it, here’s a film about Palestinian TV promotion of suicide bombings amongst children.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Civil marriages in Israel under the auspices of the Orthodox Rabbinate? or Is that the Messiah I see at the gates of Jerusalem?
Israel’s Channel 1 Evening News had some very interesting news this evening (Hebrew link). It was reported that the Chief Rabbis have agreed that rabbis will register civil marriages for couples that are not Jewish according to the Rabbinate. Up till now it has been impossible to have a civil wedding ceremony in Israel, although civil weddings performed abroad are recognized. The reason this situation developed is mainly a political one. But the ultra-religious parties, which have always been opposed to civil marriages, were weakened in the last elections, while the secular Shinui party was strengthened.

There has been a lot of pressure to solve the civil marriage issue, mainly because many Israelis of Russian descent find it difficult to prove to the strict Orthodox Rabbinate (the only stream of Judaism that is recognized for marriage purposes in Israel, also for political reasons) that they are Jewish (Proof is usually the mother’s Ketuba, her traditional wedding contract. Jews from former Soviet Union countries have no such documents, of course, because the Soviet Union wasn’t very tolerant of religion), and therefore have to go abroad to marry in civil ceremonies. The Orthodox Rabbinate obviously fears a loss of power, should a secular “revolution” take place, allowing civil weddings, or, even worse, Reform or Conservative weddings (Gevald!). Reform and Conservative weddings do actually take place in Israel. I’ve been to a few. But they are not officially recognized.

By offering this compromise, the rabbis probably reckon they can keep some measure of control, while solving the problem at hand.

It sounds like we haven’t heard the last of this. We’ll have to see how it develops. Just wanted to be the first to tell you.

Note: I know this is all probably very difficult to understand for people who are not Jewish, or for those who are not acquainted with the rather strange way the State of Israel has dealt, up till now, with the question of separation of religion and state in Israel (or rather the lack of it). I should really explain further, but it’s so late, and I’ve had a long day. I think I’ll just go to bed instead.

Update: John Williams points out: “Marriage, civil? A contradiction in terms my dear.”
I haven't been receiving any e-mails since Sunday morning Israel time (that's Eastern Time +7). I was so happy not to be getting any spam that it took me a while to realize I wasn't getting any nice mail either. So if you sent me anything, please send again.
MT musings
Israellycool has moved to Moveable Type. Adjust your links. The pressure is on again for me to move too. It seems like far too much hard work. Besides I’m fond of my little puppies, which sadly belong to Pyra/Google/whatever.

Another excuse is that it’s hard enough for me to find time to blog as it is. I don’t want to be sidetracked with a big project.

And, of course, being the Contrary Mary that I am, if everyone thinks I should move, I just have to do the opposite.
Davka ;-)

If I hang on long enough, Blogger will become retro and I will be cool, at last.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

It has come!
Yes sir! It was right there in my letterbox when I got home from a funeral up north, this afternoon. And I fully intend to read it, all 47 pages of small print of it, eventually, sometime or other. You can count on it. I have no intention of returning it to sender, as Naomi Ragen suggests. Why on earth would I do that? No no, I will add it right up there on the top of that pile of things I really want to read. Occasionally, I will wipe the dust off. When I move apartment, it will move with me, along with the rest of the stuff I can’t bear to be parted with, but am not sure why. Who knows? In about sixty years it might even be worth something.

So thank you, kind Geneva Initiative promoters, for sending me my very own copy of the full suggestion. I’m very flattered that you should see me worthy and that my opinion matters enough for you to try to influence it. Thank you for taking the time and spending all that money. It makes me feel like an important person.

Just one request – couldn’t you please send me a more concise version? There is a synopsis on pages 7 and 8, you say? Oh, well I might just read that later on today then, after I have had my coffee; and washed the dishes; and scrubbed the toilets (Stop snickering, Our Sis!); and gone to pick up Youngest; and made the supper; and…

No, really.

After word: I’m not being cynical. I mean it. Well, maybe only a little bit cynical.

After after word: Okay, so I'm reading it with my coffee. So I'm a pushover. So sue me.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Ma yihiye? (= what will be?)
Rossi on freedom. So beautiful and so sad.

A murderous terrorist attack in Istanbul. Two main synagogues in the city were targeted. Worshipping Jews were among those killed and wounded, but also many, many Muslim passersby. I feel close to the Jewish community in Turkey, and to Turkey as a whole. I am proud that my daughters are partly of Jewish Turkish descent.

Seeing the pictures, just like here, so very upsetting.

Friday, November 14, 2003

I haven't discussed Haaretz for a while...
Every few days, I force myself to read the English language Internet version of Haaretz Hebrew daily newspaper. Those of you who have been reading my ramblings for a while (a fact I greatly appreciate, but still find quite hard to fathom), will know I no longer read the print version, which I read daily religiously from cover to cover for fifteen years. The reason I can no longer bear to pay to read this publication is not its high price but its lack of journalistic integrity. The political views of this newspaper’s owners, editors and writers find their way, unfettered, into all parts of the paper - news, featured articles, and art supplement alike, and not just the op-ed pages (their rightful place). Unfortunately, no other Israeli newspaper is as well written, serious, or comprehensive, so we continued reading it long after I personally could no longer stand it.

Now I read Haaretz as the world reads it, in English, and it is just as one-sided, just as lacking in journalistic integrity. Only in English the harm it does is far worse.

Haaretz is written for an intelligent Israeli readership; a readership that is exposed to other news sources, and that is usually in possession of wide knowledge about Israeli politics and society. Israelis read it in a certain context. Even if they accept the newspaper's political stand, they are usually aware that there are other points of view that Haaretz sometimes neglects to offer. The foreign reader of Haaretz, on the other hand, is not necessarily aware of this, or particularly knowledgeable about Israeli society, law, political life, and the conflict with the Palestinians, and therefore receives a completely warped view of Israel, should this be his or her main or only source of news about Israel. Especially worrying is the fact that Haaretz is regarded as an impartial and reliable source, and is widely quoted and referred to.

I wonder how many of the non-Israelis who read Haaretz realize how unpopular this publication is in Israel and how marginal its readership.

I once made the point, on my short-lived Hebrew blog, that Haaretz's English online version is widely read outside Israel, by people with an interest in this part of the world. I was the laughing stock of the (small) Israeli Blogosphere. Considering Haaretz’s reputation in Israel, it is rather hard to believe. I have attempted to explain this sad truth to people I work with, as well. They are just as skeptical. Very frustrating.

This said, I can't help linking to this review in Haaretz's book supplement about "The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land", by Donna Rosenthal, in connection to the subject of Israeliness, which we've been discussing lately.

Update: I'd hardly posted this and it was linked to, which just goes to show it's always a good idea to trash Haaretz. It took me a bit longer to understand what a non-piscean was. LOL.
Shabbat Shalom.
A nice compilation, in yesterday’s Guardian, of ten favourite scientific hoaxes. Via Miranda's Window Dressing.
You are the playful pin-up! Do you know how to be

What Type Of Retro Gal Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Via Havdala, who else? (She's the classy pin-up. Not fair)
British Colonialism
John Keegan, in the UK Telegraph:

None the less, I suggested, there is a fundamental difference between the British and the American approach. While the Americans, for reasons connected with their own past, seek to solve the Iraqi problem by encouraging the development of democracy, the British, with their long experience of colonial campaigning and their recent exposure to Irish terrorism, take a more pragmatic attitude.

They recognise that Iraq is still a tribal society and that the key to pacification lies in identifying tribal leaders and other big men, in recognising social divisions that can be exploited, and in using a mixture of stick and carrot to restore and maintain order.

Via Anne Cunningham, who comments:

I would say that the problem with the British approach is that even if it works in the short term, if there isn't fundamental change and democratization, then there will be a long term problem, and reversion to strong-man politics. After all, the British were in Iraq before, and did not make a lasting impression.

This brings to mind the British Mandate in Palestine/Eretz Yisrael between the years 1917 and 1948. I do believe that Israeli democracy, which developed, and actually began to function, during this period, came into being in spite of British rule, and independently of it, and not because of it. The British goal was to keep the natives quiet, while they utilized the land for their own ends, i.e. as a transportation route for Iraqi oil. Beyond that I don’t think they could have cared less. The other side of this was what was happening in Arab society in Palestine during the same period. Arab society remained feudal and tribal, and, for the most part, uneducated. Not only was it completely uninfluenced by any democratic notions; it was actually attracted to European Fascism and Nazism. The British disinterest in interfering with, or influencing, local politics, beyond the bare minimum necessary for keeping the peace, eventually blew up in their faces with the Great Arab Revolt of 1936 – 1939, the real first Intifada. From this we can learn that the British approach in Iraq may not necessarily serve as an insurance for keeping the peace (although Iraq has no Jews to stir things up ;-)).

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Really only in Israel
It is evening. I am sitting meditating with a group of friends in a lovely apartment in Neve Tzedek, the first neighborhood built outside of Yaffo in the early years of the twentieth century, making it the nearest Tel Aviv has to an "old city".

During the day and the early evening its cafes are full of trendy youngsters; lovers of modern ballet can be seen on their way to Suzanne Dallal Center, to see the latest Bat Sheva creation. Later at night, it belongs to the colorful mixture of people who live there.

The sound of the meditation bell is followed by silence; eyes closed or semi-closed; breathing in, breathing out.

Suddenly a sharp, piercing sound fills the air around me, taking over my mind. Could it possibly be? Yom Kippur and Succot are far behind us. Still, the sound persists. Now it's growing louder. Someone is playing a shofar, outside, somewhere nearby. My face softens into a smile. The sharp calling of the shofar fills me, making me feel more aware, more alive.

And then, another sound. A man's voice, shouting out of a window. "Will you stop that? I can't stand it any more. It's been five years..." It seems the shofar is not helping everyone to reach inside themselves.

But the shofar continues to sing its unmelodic tune. It knows, and so does its player, that it is more powerful than its detractor, who is now silent. Maybe he has fallen under the spell of the irresistible shofar, like a child dancing merrily along behing the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

Soon yet another sound becomes audible, that of a fast darbouka beat. Reason tells me that the gay, repetitive rythm it produces should clash with the piercing shriek of the shofar. But strangely, both sounds complement each other. They both belong here, together, along with the whistle of the cheeky, early winter wind knocking at windows, pushing in doors.

Sitting quietly in the midst of the rush of sounds surrounding me, I am able to let go. In the turmoil, my previously troubled mind finds peace. I am home.
It's so refreshing to see that some people's lives are so uncomplicated that they have absolutely no problem to post lots of lovely photos of
themselves travelling in Europe (press the links on the left). She looks nice. I love seeing photos of bloggers. I love knowing what Meryl looks like, for instance (Oh, I'll get round to finding the direct link, eventually. Until then you'll just have to take my word for it).

Now I'll probably get an enraged e-mail from Yaeli saying she is too complicated. Okay, so not uncomplicated then, but you must admit she can't have much to hide. Or is it just that I am a paranoid nutter?

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

"I always think," says Alec Guinness in that most wonderful of films, The Lady Killers (definitely high on my list of all time greats), "that the windows are the eyes of a house.” He goes on to say, quoting someone else I think, that eyes are the windows to the soul.

I look at the windows of the apartment building next to my workplace. The windows, typically, are no more than square holes in the wall, with no frame, embellishment or ornamentation of any kind. Windows in Israel, like many things, are often not very lovely.

Israel is a young society, a mixture of cultures. Unlike other cultures made up of immigrants, in Israel there is no one dominant culture that all immigrants feel obliged to assimilate into. There was, once, sort of, that of East European immigrants. But the (Jewish) immigrants from Muslim countries did not accept this Eastern European hegemony, and sure enough, it has slowly and gradually been eroding. And so a new creature has come into existence, who is not the continuation of anything that came before, but something new and unique. The Israeli. The Israeli has not yet developed mannerisms and rules of behavior as a result of many years of living together as a society. He is an uncut and unpolished diamond. People are often wounded when coming into contact with his rough edges.

It has become fashionable on the Blogosphere lately, I've noticed, to discuss how nice, polite, and well-behaved Israelis are (not!). Gross generalizations are nonchalantly slung about. It's not just what you've been doing over there, you seem to be telling us. It's more than the question of what is disputed and how to solve things. It's that you are just not nice. We don't like you, neither as a people, nor as individuals.

I get the feeling that this question of our niceness is an existential one. If we are not nice we have no right to be. Most people would rather we ceased to exist as it is. Our being such an unpleasant bunch must make this so much easier on the conscience.

Wouldn't it be perfect if someone could just press the delete button and we'd all be sent to the recycle bin?

What does that mean anyway? How are deleted documents recycled? Is it the energy that was used to create them that is recycled, or some sort of potential? But I digress (I love digressing every so often, just so I can say “But I digress”. It’s so deliciously pompous).

Digression over. Back to the subject of much beloved Israelis.

How does it feel to be superfluous? How does it feel to be so utterly unwanted on a global level? I know you're not interested. I know you'd rather not hear. So much easier to think about us as some distant, not nice, undeserving figures with blurred faces. I'll tell you anyway.

It does not feel good.

Why are you complaining? You ask. Always whining, you lot. You brought this on yourself. Who asked you to go there anyway? You could have stayed in those nice camps for displaced persons we built for you after World War II; you could have continued to be carefully-unobtrusive, second class citizens in Iraq and in Syria. And even now, all you have to do is go away, just crawl under a rock or even better into a deep hole in the ground (we'll help you dig) and we'll be off your backs, honest. We'll forgive you for everything, even for the cardinal sin of daring to exist. Maybe, if you're nice.

Update: More about why Israelis are Israelis, by people who have researched this, among others.

By the way, one of the things that provoked this post was reading about this opinion poll, in the morning newspaper.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Well, it’s here at last. Let’s hope it stays a while. Last night the thunderstorm kept us awake. Today it rained all day.

This winter the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is offering trips to see the desert flash floods (Hebrew link). You have to put your name down and they call you when there is a flood. Sounds exciting. I’ve never seen one close up, but they’re meant to be pretty amazing.

Forgive me for not discussing the baby formula thing. It’s very upsetting. Read Allison.

I have always been a strong advocate of breastfeeding.

Update: Allison says that bringing breastfeeding up is not fair right now, because it "smacks of "Blame the victim"". I'm sorry, this was thoughtless of me. I still think it's a good time to bring it up though, because women are listening, and it's a good opportunity to get the message over.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Haaretz's editorial has more about why this prisoner swap deal with the Hizbullah is so problematic.

Hezbollah has positioned itself as the representative of countries that have, in the past, conducted negotiations with Israel about their prisoners. Hezbollah's demand for the release of Jordanian and Palestinian prisoners, as well as its demand (which was rejected) that Egyptian prisoners be freed, trespasses well beyond the norms of humanitarian exchange deals. This deal with Hezbollah is likely to have political repercussions that affect Israel's relations with neighboring states, and with the Palestinians.

The government voted in favor of the deal, by the way, as was expected. It's not a done deal though. Israel refuses to release Samir Kuntar, perpetrator of a murderous terrorist attack in Naharyia in 1979. Without him the Hizbullah won't go through with it.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Shabbat Shalom

These are my Shabbat candlesticks. They used to be my grandmother's and she inherited them from her mother.
According to Diane: "Israeli men are not big on empathy" (Blogger archives, we know we know, scroll down to the 6:33am post).

I object! This is an extremely unfair generalization. Not that I don't know Israeli men who are not big on empathy, plenty of them. But I also know quite a few who are extremely big on empathy. My Bish, for instance, is far more empathic (or is that empathetic?) than I am (and I was a woman, when I last checked). Not that I'm being boastful or anything. And before you make any snide remarks about his masculinity (or lack of it), I'll have you know he's not a bit wimpy, and he works in very "male" occupation, and he owns a big handgun, which he practices shooting regularly, and he is happiest watching soccer or basketball on TV. So there!

A tough exterior doesn't necessarily mean a tough interior. When my mother died, I half-expected some of my more macho male co-workers to be embarrassed and avoid me, but most of them went out of their way to be warm and kind.
Jewish sages said: "Whoever has compassion for the cruel will eventually be cruel to the compassionate" (Yalkut Shmuel 121). This is a much-quoted saying in Israel. Israeli judges don't seem to buy into it. The newspapers regularly tell us of convicted offenders getting ridiculously light sentences for terrible crimes. I really do believe this is a result of the judges' compassion (which is commendable in itself, although maybe I’m just being naive), but they don’t seem to have compassion for the victims' suffering, or for potential future victims, in their sentencing.

One result of this leniency, I think, is the affect it has on Israeli law enforcement agencies, which some may say are disinclined to exert themselves at the best of times, in anything but matters of national security (i.e. fighting terrorism). This could be a result of low pay, long hours, job security and being chronically over-worked, but I do believe frustration at the seeming ineffectualness of the courts plays a part in this, too. If you've worked for months, long and hard, on a big criminal case and the judge gives the felon a six-month suspended sentence, you'll be disinclined to put in so much effort next time, won't you? And you will eventually become desensitized and stop caring.

I think people tend to blame the laxity in which Israel deals with severe crimes committed by some fanatic Jewish West Bank and Gaza Strip settlers on government policy. I think it's more down to the indifference of law enforcement agencies and their consistent desire to avoid trouble. And the fact that courts tend to treat settlers, who have committed crimes against their Palestinian neighbors, extremely compassionately.

But it's so terribly, terribly wrong. It must change.

Update: Lynn B. has the reaction of Yesha (Judaea, Samaria and Gaza, i.e. settlers) Rabbinate Committee to the olive tree uprooting. They strongly condemn these acts and call for the prosecution of the perpetrators.
Look who's back!
And not taking any prisoners.

A hint: She lives in a mythical city.

It's the historic URL, by the way. Adjust your links.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Blogging sucks.
I've been seriously Allah-lanched. Not for anything brilliant I wrote, but because I posted a photo of an attractive girl. Sigh.

Well, at least this way it didn't give me an inflated ego or anything.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

So this is the deal: In return for one Israeli shady character, who apparently went looking for easy money in Abu Dhabi, trafficking in drugs and found himself in Hizbullah captivity in Lebanon, and three bodies of dead Israeli soldiers, Israel will release 400 Palestinian prisoners (We negotiate with Hizbullah for the release of Palestinians because...???!), but also one Syrian, one Pakistani and oh, yes, 20 particularly murderous Lebanese, including one very high ranking Shiite Amal guy and one very high ranking Hizbullah guy who was directly responsible for the fate of missing IAF navigator Ron Arad and who may hold the key to information about his whereabouts.

I am VERY worried about this deal. It just doesn't make any sense, however you look at it.

Paying such a heavy price for dead bodies, for one things, means terrorists need not worry about keeping their captives alive anymore. Dead bodies are far less trouble and if they are just as valuable as living captives, why not just kill captives straight off?

I know this sounds callous. I do feel for the families. What they have been through, and will forever continue to go through, is terrible. They need to mourn. They need a grave. They need to know. But this is a very dangerous precedent. This could very well lead to many more kidnappings and many more deaths.

And this Tannenbaum guy, well, what can I say? I'm sorry for him and I'm especially sorry for his kids. No one deserves his plight, no matter what he did, or was going to do. We should make all efforts to help him, but at what price? His captivity is the result of his own greed and corruption. It's not like he was a soldier that was doing his duty for his country. This is the release of 422 very dangerous people we're talking about.

Hizbullah will become monstrously powerful among the Palestinian masses (and not only) as a result of this deal. It's like a nightmare. It's a mockery of everything Israel has ostensibly been trying to do to combat terrorism.

So what the hell is going on? Has everyone gone stark raving mad?

The government will vote on this strange, illogical prisoner swap deal next week. It looks like it will be passed. I don't get it.
Go see Gil's photos from his Nepal trip.
A scoop on Israeli forums (Hebrew link): Hizbullah planted an array of bombs in Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch near the northern border of Israel. The bombs were discovered and dismantled. The rest of the story is not being published. I think I picked olives there (or something or other), when I was in high school.

Zina Tashoma, an Israeli policewoman. Her photo was in this morning's print version of Yediot Aharonot, because she was involved in undercover work in a drugs case involving a well-known Israeli soccer player. I just had to scan her for you. She's even more stunning in the larger version (click on the photo). Sorry it's a bit grainy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

The Head Heeb comments on the EU poll thing.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Eldest had spent the night with a friend. It was her first time sleeping away from home. She was four. In the morning we met up in the park with Eldest, her friend and the friend’s parents, with whom we had become quite friendly of late. 'Coming to the peace rally, tonight?' We asked them. Rhetorical question. Everyone was going.

The friend's parents looked a bit embarrassed. 'Well, actually, we're not.' They said. Oops, I thought. I hadn't realized they were not ...erm ...well ... of the same sort of political views as us. How could that be? They were both secular, educated professionals, and native North Tel Avivis (unlike Bish and I). They must be from old "Herut" families, or maybe "General Zionists", I said to myself, trying to organize this strange new piece of information in my mind.

It's that 'Where were you when...?' time of year again for Israelis, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the annual Saturday night memorial rally, in Rabin Square, organized by the Rabin family as a Peace Now-style rally, making all those who don't feel very Peace Now-ish unwelcome, although he was their Prime Minister too. I'm sick of boring, repetitive, pompous school ceremonies depicting Rabin as some sort of mythical, unreal, superhero dead guy.

The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin changed my life. The most shocking, chilling words I have ever heard were those uttered by Eitan Haber, in the parking lot of Ichilov Hospital, just down the road from where I am sitting right now, announcing that Yitzhak Rabin was dead. "The government of Israel announces with astonishment and deep sorrow...". These words still choke me up, regardless of all that has happened since nationally, and to me personally. I think they always will.

But the annual memorial ceremonies leave me cold. And yet, I don't know how better Yitzhak Rabin or the assassination could be remembered.

Allison feels differently, or maybe not so differently after all.

I lost much of my starry-eyed innocence on the 4th November 1995. And I have learnt a lot in the years that have passed as a direct result of my attempts to understand what happened. One of the lessons has been to be more aware of those snap judgments I automatically make about people based on superficial details. Eldest and her little friend have grown up. We're still friendly with her parents. I still have no idea what their political views are. It's not important.
In Israel, this guy, would probably have had a complaint filed against him by the police for calling in a false report. The way to do it is to call in anonymously from a phone booth.
By the way, Gil has been back for a few days and I neglected to update you. Dave of Israellycool is envious.
Good one.
Israel: cruel and racist. Via Israellycool.

Of course, one would be forced to point out that all these things are completely beside the point...

And those gay pride parades really really really aggravate the ultra-religious!
Happy General Strike, y'all!
Or not?
Ooooooooh! BIG scoop.
Photo of Salam Pax in Stern

Sunday, November 02, 2003

"This could never happen in Russia," Said the security guard disapprovingly. "The elections there were much better organized." Russia, well, there's a nice stable democracy for you, I thought, but didn't say anything out loud. The security guard looked rather forbidding. He went on to explain that there was no campaigning on Election Day in Russia, but they gave out free food and drink in the polling station. Good way to get the starving masses to come and vote, I thought. Well, the street outside this polling station, in a notoriously crime-ridden neighborhood, in a satellite town south of Tel Aviv, on Municipal Election Day last Tuesday, was obviously nothing like Russia. It didn't resemble anything I'd seen before either, in the various polling stations in better neighborhoods, where I'd always cast my vote for the past twenty years. They were always orderly and organized, with a quiet, responsible, business-like air of "Let's all do our civic duty like good citizens".

This was more like a carnival, a happy-go-lucky street party. "There was a big brawl out here last elections," The security guard informed me. Delightful, I thought.

It looked like the whole neighborhood had shown up, mainly to make a bit of money by working for the various parties, if not to vote. There was a great deal of campaigning going on, with definitely far more party activists around than voters. Party activists were running after passers-by calling after them to vote for their parties, brightly decorated trucks were driving past with music and jingles blaring out, kids whizzed by on scooters and bikes, party banners trailing behind them, party activists haggled with the befuddled-looking policewoman in charge, to allow them to move their tables a few meters nearer the entrance to the polling station. They were all too close as it was. Lacking backup (according to the talkative security guard), the policewoman had given up trying to keep them to the mandatory twenty-five meters.

The street had everything necessary for a lively, exciting Election Day, even a pizza vendor, trying to attract customers to his nearby pizzeria. Everything except voters, that is. Actually, this was not strictly true. Every so often, one of the musical trucks stopped to let out a Shas (Sephardi ultra-religious party) activist along with an elderly lady, usually at least in her eighties. The Shas activist would then gently escort the elderly lady into the school that was serving as a polling station.

The party activists were busy trying to justify the salaries their parties were paying them by trying to give out voting slips to passers-by. At one point this activity became so aggressive that one man, after having three such voting slips stuffed in his hand against his will, bellowed out "Voting slips, voting slips! Who else has a voting slip for me?" Then dramatically threw the voting slips on the ground in disgust. Another woman wasn't interested in voting slips, but she really wanted some of the T-shirts the party activists were wearing. She asked the security guard if he could organize any for her. He threw up his arms in angry frustration.

Shas activists were handing out presents to those coming out of the polling station, a framed photograph of the venerable Rav Ovadia and a little booklet of Psalms. I heard them asking one woman, before presenting her with her little bag of goodies, "You did vote for us, didn’t you?" "Betah, betah" (Sure, sure), she answered and winked at me, a twinkle in her eye.

Later, I visited my regular North Tel Aviv polling station, in the girls' old school. It was sleepy. I didn't even see any campaigners. They were all round the corner, adhering docilely to the twenty-five meter thing. Weary from my morning experience, I'd made a short cut through a parking lot, so I wouldn't have to pass them. Not that it would have mattered. This was an indifferent bunch. Shas didn't even bother with this part of the world, so everything was very quiet. No musical cars. In fact, it was all extremely civilized and subdued. Everyone was quite well behaved and European. But oh, how boring.

Hard to believe it was the same country.

Footnote: On National Election Day, one year, my mother-in-law called me up on the phone and surprised me by saying "Hag Same'ach" (Happy Festival!). In her view, the day we get to participate in deciding who is to run our lives is a joyous occasion, a festival.

I thoroughly enjoyed the short time I happened to spend in the street outside the polling station in that tough blue-collar neighborhood, because the people there made me feel that the democratic process really was a festival, a cause for much gaiety and dancing in the streets. Yes, voters are fed up of having to come and vote all the time. Yes, participation was lower than ever before. I agree that it was probably a lot tenser at that same polling station at the National Elections at the end of last year. These were only the Municipal Elections. But there was no mistaking that these people were having fun.

Prophets of doom in Israel, most of them writers in Haaretz newspaper, like to rant regularly about the untimely demise of Israeli democracy. Last Tuesday I saw democracy as experienced by people, most of whom will never once in their life bother to read anything written on the longwinded comment pages of Haaretz. And it was clear that they really believed in the process.

It seems Israeli democracy doesn't belong solely to the left wing, Ashkenazi, Haaretz-reading affluent after all. South Tel Aviv style democracy may look a bit different, and sound a bit different, but I still believe it has good, strong roots. What a discovery!
Imshin poll: Europe greatest threat to world peace.
And now, fifty nine percent of Imshin will go make sandwiches for her young daughters, so they can be happily sent off to just another day of plotting to take over the world. The other forty one percent will do some yoga.

You'd forgotten I was split personality, hadn't you?