Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Happy New Year
I hope 2004 is a good year for everyone.

[I'm not really into celebrating the Christian New Year, myself. As far as I can remember, I've never celebrated it. A lot of Israelis regard it as an excuse to party, but then I've never been much of a party-goer.]

Shai tells of the state of high alert in Tel Aviv this afternoon. Bish says that he could see a lot of security forces out of the window of his twelfth story office. They caught some Palestinians, with no explosives, but they're not telling what it was all about.

I took Youngest to the Yarkon River, regardless. We ended up on the trampolines in the Sportek on the northern bank. Great fun. On the way there we had to make a detour; Police sappers were dismantling a suspicious object on a bus on our route.

Update: Yediot Aharonot says they were car thieves. Whatever.
More prejudices
Peace activists marched on a segment of wire security fence from the Palestinian side, on Friday, and commenced attempting, peacefully and non-violently, to tear it down, aided by wire cutters. When one of the soldiers guarding the fence eventually opened fire and badly wounded one of them, they were astounded, absolutely flabbergasted. Couldn’t the soldiers see they weren’t Palestinians? Yes, it seems to have been the demonstrators, some of whom we could clearly see on TV newsreels with faces covered like Palestinians or wearing Palestinian-style kaffiyot, and their supporters, who brought up this complaint first, and not the soldiers, as Yishay (from his excellent vantage point in London) asserts. As far as the soldiers were concerned, the demonstrators looked like any other dangerous, hostile mob. There is now wide spread indignation in the Israeli Left, and in some corners of the Israeli Media, at the soldiers’ unfathomable, and even criminal, lack of racial discrimination.

I am not defending the shooting, mind you. The soldier could very well have been in breach of the regulations for opening fire, as far as I am aware of them (but I could be wrong), and if this is the case, the officer who gave the order will very likely get the book thrown at him, even though he probably wasn’t really to blame. He didn’t have any other means at his disposal, did he? Why didn’t the army supply him with one of those nice crowd-dispersing vehicles that spray uncontrollable, violent demonstrators with liquid (Preferably mixed with ink in an easily distinguishable color such as shocking pink, or phosphoric orange), for instance? Methinks such a vehicle would have been effective even against a far more hostile mob, had the water pressure been strong enough, unless the rioters started actually shooting at the soldiers (Hmm, there’s a thought: I wonder if drenching a bomb belt renders it ineffective).

A friend of mine, who lives quite near to the Israeli side of that particular part of the fence, in a town that has had its fair share of terrorist attacks in recent years, said he would have been quite happy to volunteer to go operate the water thing on them, even though he was dismissed from reserve duty years ago, for reasons of age. He sees the fence as providing direct protection for him and his family. And he was not the only one I spoke to who was angry about the demonstrators’ actions, and less than sympathetic about their being shot at, legal or not.

If we’re on the subject of protective fences, top Israeli journalist, Nahum Barne’a, who cannot be suspected of being even slightly right wing by any measure, pointed out an interesting twist in this particular story, in Monday’s Yediot Aharonot (Sorry, no link. For some reason, I couldn’t find the opinion page in Ynet). Gil Na’amati, the young man who was wounded during the riot (that’s what Barne’a calls it) alongside the Fence in the West Bank on Friday, lives in Kibbutz Re’im in the Northern Negev. His father, Uri Na’amati, holds the position of Head of Eshkol Regional Council. Every week or two, Barne’a tells us, Palestinians attempt to get across the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel and are regularly shot at by IDF soldiers. This happens just a few kilometers from the home of the Na’amati family. Barne’a says that while the fence crossers in Gaza are not all terrorists, and many of them are laborers seeking work, the young people at the fence in the West Bank were a bunch of provokers, wearing their Jewishness as a flak jacket, and looking for a confrontation with the army at all costs.

Nevertheless, Barne’a claims, the members of Kibbutz Re’im have never demonstrated against the fence that divides between them and the Gaza Strip nor against the shooting at people who try to cross it. Most of them, he presumes, see the fence as a blessing. And, as far as he can recall, the head of the regional council has never complained either. He says that it is understandable that he is complaining now that his son has been wounded by the soldiers’ shots, but that “the sound of wailing and weeping coming from others in the Left smells of racism, hypocrisy and favoritism”.

Today there was more fence-connected violence. Read about it at Tal's.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Today, round about lunchtime, I was walking along a busy well-to-do North Tel Aviv street, full of fancy restaurants and cafes, with two of my work buddies, when I saw a man put his hand into a trash can, take out a half-eaten bun, and proceed to eat it.

I had some other things I wanted to say, but that has sort of shut me up for a while. Things are bad and getting worse.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Working late
Plenty to say. It will have to wait.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

A terrible, terrible tragedy in Iran. I'm so very sorry for all the victims and their families.

We're good at rescue missions, but they don't want our help.
Two books broke my heart when I was teeny. The first was Black Beauty, which upset me so much I couldn’t finish it (and therefore missed the happy ending). The other was Beatrix Potter’s Pigling Bland. The idea that he had to leave his mother and never see her again was unbearable to me.

No one thought to take me to see Bambi, thank goodness. That would have finished me off. I remember watching it as an adult with Eldest and crying my eyes out. I explained to her in a choked voice that his mother had died and that now he would live with his father. Eldest was far more accepting of this than I was.
One-Sided Wonder
Anne Cunningham (new URL, adjust your links):

…I was told that we have a tendency to sanitize war - not face its full horror - and this makes us more eager to engage in it. But I said this is probably an evolutionary or historical advantage, since war is often a necessity, and something you have to get on with and just do, so it's useful not to have to think about how awful it is before you head off to it.

Anne is just one of my most favoritest bloggers whom I neglected to mention in the Israellycool interview.

A lotus flower

For dear Sheema, who has lost her mother, and shares her sorrow with such gentleness.

Not what it seems
I am currently reading a book published in 1999 by Shaul Mishal, a professor of Political Science in Tel Aviv University, who was a great favorite of mine when I was studying there (this will gain me a few raised eyebrows from other former students of his, because he wasn’t the most exciting of lecturers, to say the least). The book is about the Hamas (The link is to the English version. I am reading it in Hebrew). It’s about as exciting as his lectures used to be, so I doubt I’ll be reading more than a few chapters, but there was a sentence I liked in the first chapter (my translation):

It seems that sometimes contradictory perceptions, opposing preferences, and competing interests, are seen as threatening to the social order and the organizational fabric, mainly in the eyes of foreign observers and not in the eyes of members of the community and partners in the collective.

He’s talking about Palestinian society, but I think this holds true for Israeli society as well.

Pim feels bad about having maybe started a blog war, almost single-handedly. Quite the contrary! You instigated a dialogue - between two opposing points of view, for one thing, and also between Imshin and herself, for another. That can’t be bad. And I’m also pleased that Yishay started blogging again as a result.
Yishay Mor wrote a lovely response (scroll down, permalink not working – 12/26 2:11 am) to my post. He is a nice guy.

Problem is it’s not the nice guys who dictate how things will be in the world. It’s the not nice guys. It’s the guys filled with anger and hatred and venom. One of the messages of the particular stream of Buddhism I practiced was that if I were a nice guy, my very niceness would have a good affect on people I met, on the world. This is a wonderful idea. I would love for it to work. But it doesn’t. The sheep always get gobbled up by the wolves. Always. It is a fundamental truth. They will never dwell together. The prophet Isaiah used this allegory (11;6) to portray his vision specifically because it was not, and could never be, possible in the world as we know it.

I wish I had kept on meditating in my office during the late shift. I didn’t. I couldn’t. And now the poison penetrates me.

There are people one would rather not be in contact with, but sometimes there is little or no control over this. And it is difficult to protect oneself, not to mention the dismaying inability to spread anything positive.

And here am I saying to people like Yishay don’t give up, don’t move aside out of exhaustion and despair, when it’s me who needs to heed that message.

We’re not so different. The main difference between us is in the solution we have found for ourselves.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Just east of Tel Aviv: Under the Geha bridge on Jabotinsky Street, between Petah Tikva and Bnei Brak. Three murdered, sixteen wounded. A suicide bomber. He was apparently trying to get on a bus. Luckily he didn't succeed.
An apology: I purposefully didn’t spell out the name of my refusenik from yesterday’s post. This was very rude. I’m not even sure why I did it. It’s been bothering me and I wish to make amends. Yishay Mor. There.

* * * *

Fact: Young soldiers often behave cruelly and inhumanely at checkpoints. Proffered solution: Cancel checkpoints.

If our front door proves ineffective in stopping burglars (and it’s ugly, as well), do we decide to remove it altogether? Or do we take steps to improve its effectiveness (and give it a new coat of paint)?

Checkpoints are bad, but right now they are necessary for the security of Israeli citizens. Until the day comes when they can safely be cancelled, they must be improved. How? By teaching the nineteen year olds that man them to behave more humanely. By utilizing conscientious, mature army commanders like Yishay Mor to be there with them as guides. Not hysterical, screeching, hostile peace activists, but people they can relate to and respect, fighters like themselves, with military authority, sent by the army for this specific role (I know military, hierarchic organizations well enough to understand that this has to come from inside, and from above, with a lot of emphasis put on educating officers and commanders that are not officers to ensure that they understand and support the move).

And this could work in other missions, not only at checkpoints - during searches in people’s homes, for example.

I can well understand the exhaustion of people like Yishay, but if they really care, how can they give up? How can they step aside? There are things they can do. We need them. Here, not addressing young people in Dublin.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003


I went to see what I posted last year. I still love it, so here it is again:

King John's Christmas
by A.A. Milne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refuseniks – Chapter 3
(For those who haven’t read the previous chapters: Chapter 1; Chapter 2)
I seem to have seriously aggravated a refusenik. He takes offense at my calling him a “supposedly enlightened, self-appointed Don Quixote-type who feels superior and therefore above the law” without taking the time to get to know him and hear what he has to say. So I read what he had to say, on his blog and at an Amnesty youth and student conference in Dublin, March 2003, and was once again reminded of a piece of wisdom of Meryl’s: Do not blog when angry (And if we’re on the subject, Bish tells me not to forget this other little gem: Do not shop for food when hungry). The difference between his blog post and the speech he gave in Dublin is amazing. It’s hard to believe that it’s the same person. This is what anger does to us. The guy in Dublin I can relate to. I don’t agree with him, but I can relate, and respect.

I think our refusenik friend (the blog one) may have read my post rather hurriedly and skipped my personal ramblings about floating embroidered velvet. Had he read it carefully he would have realized that I regard myself as no less a “supposedly enlightened, self-appointed Don Quixote-type” than him. Maybe even more. Even in my post-embroidered velvet version. I even ridicule my own feelings of superiority. It seems he hasn’t taken the time to get to know me and my motives, either.

People like myself may be regarded as mainstream in our little puddle, but we are widely regarded as dangerous monsters in the big wide ocean. In that ocean, it is the refuseniks that are the accepted ones, the good guys, the acclaimed heroes. The things I said yesterday about influencing middle Israel are all very well, but I suspect the refuseniks, not each one personally, not our friend here, but on an organizational level, are far more interested in the effect their actions are having outside of Israel. Our friend has actually supplied proof of this (Why doesn’t he supply the translation of the speech he gave in the Youth Center in Dimona development town? Oh, he never gave one?).

So here I am, a little puddle creature, daring to fare the rough seas of the ocean, their ocean, where it is they, not I, that rule the waves and the deep alike. You see, I am quite aware that my Don Quixote days didn’t end when I hung up my meditation cushion (I’ve got it down since, but I’m lapsing again). I do see the futility of spending all this time and energy writing this blog. I know I’m having no affect whatsoever on the tidal waves of hatred and anger, justified or otherwise, crashing onto Israel’s shores from all four quarters of the earth.

I know I will never persuade any refuseniks of this, but in my view, however noble their motives, their actions are contributing considerably to those tidal waves.

I’m a bit tired of this argument and had meant to stop now, and not bring it up again, it is the Sixth Candle of Hannuka and Christmas Eve, after all (There must be some positive floaty energy in that), but I just wanted to mention one more thing. My friend, the refusenik, in his anger, said something in his post that I found extremely unfair, especially coming as it did from one who, just a sentence or two beforehand, admonished me for generalizing and judging him, without first getting to know him and his motives. He said “The mainstream, and we both know it, doesn't know one side of a gun barrel from another. Most able Israeli males don't have to bother about refusal, because if they do any service at all, it’s a 9-5 in Tel Aviv.” He is saying that those who oppose refuseniks are those who do not bear the equal share of the load, with regard to army reserve duty. Well, I don’t know it. This is a gross generalization and besides sounding suspiciously bigoted, it just doesn’t stand up. I personally know far too many people whose lives contradict it. Besides, I thought we were talking of people who were refusing for conscientious and political reasons. I am aware that there are many who object to having to do so much reserve duty, while so many others are exempt. But that is an entirely different matter. I know of a lot of people who complain that they find the burden of their reserve duty unbearable, independently employed people, for instance. Not only their lives, but also their civilian livelihoods, are put on the line with every call up notice. But they wouldn’t dream of refusing to serve for conscientious reasons. It is very wrong and extremely misleading to connect these two issues.

Later: Said refusenik has contributed a recipe for making your own Hummous. All is forgiven.

Update: More on this - Zeev Schiff in Haaretz.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

An Amish Hannukiya. For the collection.
Smothering him with love
Lynn has all the story about Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher’s being attacked by Palestinians on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem yesterday (So has Dave). He came to worship there, had shoes flung at him and had to be hospitalized.

As Maher made his way into the mosque, scores of Palestinians, shouting Allahu Akbar ("God is great") converged on him and began berating him for his meetings with Israeli leaders.
"Traitor! Collaborator!" they screamed at him, with some of them pelting him with their shoes, both inside and outside the mosque.
"I'm going to choke, I'm going to choke," a panicked-looking Maher was heard saying, according to witnesses, as one of the shoes – which by Muslim tradition are taken off at the entrance to mosques – apparently hit him in the face.
Striking someone with a shoe is considered a great sign of Muslim insult.

The latest, according to Hebrew newspaper Maariv (Hebrew link), is that Maher is now saying that it wasn’t an attack at all - it was a show of affection! He claims that part of the Palestinians in the mosque wanted him to succeed in leaving the mountain, and the others thought he should have an opportunity to worship like he wanted to. Thus he found himself stuck between the two factions, each one trying to show its affection and interest. And this is what caused him to feel a bit constricted.

His words, not mine. Why don’t we have diplomats like that?

Here is photo of him drinking in all that Palestinian affection and interest.

More on refuseniks
Marjolein has sent me her explanation of why she has the Yesh Gvul refusenik banner on her site:

I have a counter on my site. Not because I think it becomes more socially acceptable in Israel, but because I think it is still not acceptable at all. As you say: the majority of the population does not agree. Standing up for your believes *against* what society thinks is right, getting maybe a few favorable reactions but mainly very aggressive and angry reactions but still following your own conscience is a very very brave thing to do. Admitting that you do wrong things, as a lot of those folks do, is hard to do too. Combining the two, saying that what happens in the occupied territories (as most refuseniks do) is wrong and that it made you do immoral things which you do not want to do anymore and which you do not want your country to do anymore is very very hard.

I think the people who dare to do that are heroes and my counter is only a sign of support. I wish I could do more for them.

I disagree but fair enough.

Once I was a very committed JuBu. I floated round my workplace serenely, adorned head to toe in embroidered velvet, quite secure in my belief that my having meditated peacefully in the office during the late shift the night before had released the negative energies in the room for ever more. I couldn’t quite grasp why everyone began yelling and shouting as usual, when they arrived in the morning. Couldn’t they feel the change?

It wasn’t that my floaty quality was unpopular. I was fondly referred to as the Flower Child and people came to me for advice about alternative medicine, a subject which not only bored me, but about which I was completely ignorant.

It gradually dawned on me that the main effect my spiritual practice had on my workplace was that I was increasingly socially isolated, and not because I was being shunned, quite the contrary, but by my own choice. You see, if you believe that you are on some sort of special path, and no one else is, then you tend to feel a bit superior. You are the only one who has seen the light. That this is completely false is beyond your comprehension. The end result is that, in many instances of your life, you have no one to talk to, at least, not in the same language. It goes without saying that no one else will be affected by your self-perceived personal growth, or in any way benefit from it, besides seeing you as a bit of a weirdo.

Refuseniks truly believe that they are doing the right thing, the brave thing, following their consciences. But besides their personal feelings of gratification and self-righteousness, the immediate results of their brave acts and their reward for their isolation, what real good are they doing?

They are setting themselves apart, separating themselves from the people, and therefore losing their ability to influence. People who live in a society have a responsibility to others in that society, and not only to their consciences. No man is an island and all that. The hard thing is not refusing to man a checkpoint. The hard thing is standing in that checkpoint, day after day, week after week, and behaving humanely. And making sure everyone else behaves humanely. And then, on finishing your army reserve duty, going home and using your power as a citizen in a free democracy, to demonstrate, to write letters, to meet with Knesset members and government ministers, to try to interest the media in your point of view. In short, to try to change peoples views as an equal, as a peer, and not as some supposedly enlightened, self-appointed Don Quixote-type who feels superior and therefore above the law.

Another thing that foreign supporters of IDF refuseniks don’t seem to realize is that legitimizing left-wing refusal also legitimizes right-wing refusal. If it’s okay to refuse to guard settlements in the disputed territories, its also okay to refuse to forcibly dismantle them, when the time comes. Supporting refuseniks could very well be tantamount to supporting a future bloody civil war in Israel (God forbid). Surely, well meaning foreign supporters of peace in this region could not want that.
The Head Heeb has posted a most fascinating contribution to the Hannuka debate on the Maccabees. He is certainly far more knowledgeable than I am on the subject. That holds true for most subjects we discuss. I am flattered that he still reads what I have to say and sees fit to respond.

He still maintains he probably would have been opposed to the Maccabees had he lived back then. Based on his learned arguments I’m even more convinced than before that he wouldn’t have. But who knows? Had he lived back then, and been a Jew in Judaea, he could very possibly have been a lowly, uneducated farmer, or even worse - a woman!

Monday, December 22, 2003

A rare treat
The Frog has spoken.

I must be psychic. I haven't checked his blog for ages. I just popped in and lo and behold - he posted just an hour and a half ago.
The first time I saw Paris
In the summer of 1986 I cashed in my Bat Mitzva winnings and took a plane to Europe. On that trip I visited England, France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. But the focal point of my trip was Paris.

I got off the train in Paris at five o’clock in the morning. The first thing I saw was an elderly drunk lady, being brutally hauled out of the station and thrown into a police van. Then I went to the toilets, where I encountered the most elegantly dressed lavatory attendant you have ever seen.

I had a great time there. I knew my way around in no time, and even managed to get along with the Parisians with my non-existing French. I couldn’t hide behind my shyness there, you see. That’s the beauty of travel. I had a little Berlitz phrasebook. Once they could see I was making an effort to speak French, it turned out they could speak English after all. The friends I met up with, veterans of the Alliance school in Tel Aviv, did know French, but were far too self-conscious to use it. So I was the mouthpiece, funnily enough. Not knowing French turned out to have its advantages. I couldn’t understand what some of the men on the street were saying to me. I could tell it wasn’t very nice.

What seemed strangest to me about Paris on that first visit, something that really baffled me, was what I didn’t see, because it wasn’t there: Probably the most important building in Paris, the city’s most significant symbol – the Bastille. I just couldn’t grasp its absence, even though I was aware of the historical facts, having read all the right historical novels.

Today, older and more aware of the vengeful and destructive nature of man, I am far more surprised that the Russian revolutionaries had the wisdom and foresight to prevent the destruction of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.
Yesterday I met a co-worker in the corridor who told me in passing that he’d just come back from a few days in my homeland, my Moledet (which literally translates as birth land). My homeland? I asked, not understanding. He apparently meant he had been in London. It was crazy, he said. A few days before Christmas, you never saw so many people, you couldn’t move. But I was hardly hearing. I was transformed back to a fourth grade classroom in another century. The teacher Tziona was explaining to a perplexed nine year old that even though she was born somewhere else, this was her real Moledet.

I am struck by the thought that I haven’t been to London for seventeen years. And even that last trip seventeen years ago wasn’t all that marvelous. That’s when we discovered Bish was allergic to aspirin. We were in St. Paul’s Cathedral of all places, and I had given him an aspirin because he had complained of a headache or something. I suddenly noticed his lips were bloated to twice their normal size and the rest of him was covered in red blotches. This had happened once before, at home, but we’d thought it was because of the fish we’d just eaten (we weren’t vegetarians back then). We rushed to nearby St. Barts hospital, and ended up spending most of our time in London in our hotel room, Bish in bed, half alive, me watching TV.

No, London is certainly not my Moledet, that's for sure.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Now Moe has a beautiful Hannukiyah.
Dragan Antulov of Draxblog fame on comparing the war in Iraq to previous conflicts:

All those comparisons miss one important point. Trying to explain present-day events through past examples represents either intellectual laziness or inability to comprehend them. If someone tries to think of present-day Iraq in terms of Vietnam War or WW2 he/she would have to experience, sooner or later, the very same rude awakening as those military experts in 1914 who had all their expectations of major European conflict based on 1871 experiences. In other words, each conflict is unique and history, contrary to conventional wisdom, doesn't repeat itself, at least not with such detailed precision to allow predictability.

Imshin likes (Especially about the intellectual laziness. I thought I was the intellectually lazy one, or just plain limited, for having no patience for such comparisons). He does, however, see striking similarities with the Boer War, and he elaborates. Veeeery interesting.
This is why.
I really wanted to write about this, but as I said, I’m a bit under the weather. Luckily Meryl saw it too: A brother and sister meet again after 65 years. They last saw each other when he was eleven and she was five. Each had thought everyone else in the family had perished in the Holocaust and that they were the only one that had survived.

All these years lived apart, a whole life gone by separately, without them finding each other. This breaks my heart. At least they have been reunited now.

There are so many stories like it in Israel. Meryl says it best.
Free PR
Dave at Israellycool interviewed me. How cool can you get? (er... Israellycool? Groan)

So I have achieved celebrity status at last. Now do I have to start carrying a big stick around to wallop Paparazzi photographers with? (R.T., can I borrow your cricket bat?)
I was planning to e-mail Yesh Gvul as soon as I got home from work today (no Hannuka vacation for me, sadly) to inquire about the source of the number on their counter (“Where are the names, dammit?”). I’m feeling a bit fluey today so luckily a kindly person beat me to it, and e-mailed me the link to the page that explains that this is actually a fusion of a few refusenik lists. Read all about it here. I don’t really think this is a good enough explanation and I wonder what some of the actual signatories would make of it. You see it mixes up different kinds of refusals. Some refuse to do army duty at all; some are willing to do their duty protecting their country, but only within the boundaries of pre-1967 Israel; others limit their refusal to certain missions that they interpret as amoral. So you see sticking them all together is extremely misleading and renders the number on the counter completely meaningless, in my view.

I think well intentioned but partially informed people who stick counters on their sites, with apparently meaningless numbers of supposed IDF refuseniks, are missing something. They seem to think that if their counter shows an increase in numbers, then refusing is becoming more socially acceptable in Israel, along with a growing opposition in Israel to this government and its policies. But this is just not the case. Not that everyone is crazy about this government, mind you, but the Israeli Left is still seen as far less attractive. I do suspect the drop in Sharon’s popularity has much more to do with suspicions about his corruption, and that of his sons, than to dissatisfaction with his government’s policies, even if such dissatisfaction does exist (and it does, to a point), and is on the rise (and it is, again, to a point).

So what does linking to said counters accomplish in aid of furthering World Peace in Our Time? Beats me. As far as I’m concerned, it just means the linker is less interested in what regular Israelis think, feel, and fear, and has regard mainly for those that in Israel are widely regarded as hallucinatory kooks if not outright traitors (not that this is necessarily what I personally think, but it is hardly an uncommon sentiment). Refusal to serve in the army at all, or specifically in the territories, or on certain missions that they dislike, still an extremely marginal phenomenon (most of the infamous “refusenik” pilots, for instance, were not even in active combat service, rendering their so-called refusal quite meaningless in operational terms), is seen by many as an act that serves to strengthen Palestinian incentive to perpetrate murderous acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians. As if choosing not to participate in the protection of those civilians is not bad enough. This is still not regarded as a legitimate mode of protest, even by most moderate left wing Israelis, I believe.

Pim, however, (who looks very lovely in her photo, by the way) has linked not only to said meaningless counter, but to my blog as well, meaning she is interested in a more mainstream Israeli point of view. I am grateful for this, and pleasantly surprised (I am once again reminded that I constantly have to work on my prejudices). I would like to apologize, in advance, to her and to any of her readers who wander over here, if some of the things I say are less than pleasant for them to read. But she should know that she’s far more likely to hear views similar to mine on the street in Israel than what she might or might not have been reading over at the Yesh Gvul site. (I’m not being arrogant, quite the contrary. The things I say are nothing special).

If you really want to do your little bit to further peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and not just be seen to have trendy opinions, you have to try to really understand the problem with an open mind. This can be achieved, hopefully, by studying different aspects and complexities of both sides, and not just the suitably palatable margins.

And that goes for Israel sympathizers, as well.

(Does this mean I have to read Gideon Levy? No! No! Don’t make me do it! I’ll do anything…)

Saturday, December 20, 2003

What’s all this then?
A blog called Chez Pim kindly linked to me. I popped over to see who it was and was met with this link to the Yesh Gvul refusenik counter. Now I’ve been following the “refuseniks’ letter” site for ages, and remembered that the count there was somewhere around 570, plus minus. Yesh Gvul, however, according to its counter, claims no less than 1206 signatories. But the Yesh Gvul site lists only 392 names. A quick renewed look at the “refuseniks’ letter” site reveals that they claim 574 refuseniks and they back it up with 574 signatories.

I don’t get it. Where are the missing 814 Yesh Gvul signatories? They can't all be down to backlog.

Maybe it’s their idea of satire.
We're eating chestnuts. Lucky us.
'Tom Paine' on the Gaddafi development. Spot on, every word (especially about the lab rats).
The Hannuka Story – Imshin’s Fantasmagorical Technicolor Version (specially tailored to suit her point of view).

[A forenote: The title is misleading. It's also the best thing in the whole post.]

The Head Heeb links to what he posted about Hannuka last year. I wasn’t reading him last year, I don't think, and I wouldn’t have read this post of his even if I were, since I was sitting Shiva during Hannuka. Here is an excerpt:

One of the paradoxes of Chanukah is that it is celebrated most avidly by assimilated Jews, who are most likely to live in non-Jewish neighborhoods and to feel the need for a substitute Christmas. The irony, of course, is that Chanukah is a celebration of the victory of fundamentalism over assimilation. The heroes of the Chanukah story, the Maccabees, were religious zealots; their enemies were as much the outward-looking Hellenistic Jews as the Seleucid monarchy. As a modern Jew who treasures the fusion of Jewish tradition and ethics with the limitless horizons of Western civilization, Chanukah seems to me a distinctly ambivalent holiday. I've always had a nagging suspicion that, had I been alive at the time of the Maccabees, I would not have been on their side.

On the other hand, I have the luxury of choices that the Maccabees did not. At the time of the Hasmonean rebellion, the Jews of Palestine suffered from religious persecution so severe as to amount to attempted cultural genocide. The Seleucids were not interested in fusing Jewish and Hellenistic tradition; they wanted, instead, to replace the Jewish culture with the Hellenistic. As unpleasant as the Maccabees might seem to those who prefer Judaism with a more worldly focus, they were necessary to the survival of the Jewish community of their time.

First of all, Palestine was a name given to the Land of Israel by the Romans, so “The Jews of Palestine” is hardly accurate, when discussing the Hellenistic period.

I wouldn’t know about how enthusiastically Diaspora Jews, secular or otherwise, celebrate Hannuka, not being one myself. Here it’s just another “little” festival, as opposed to the biggies: the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur) and the three pilgrimages (Succot, Pesach/Passover, and Sahvuot). It’s popular because it’s fun. The candle lighting is fun; the Hannuka Gelt (money) is fun; the latkes (fried potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (doughnuts) are fun; the s’vivonim (dreidles/spinning tops) are fun. Kids sometimes get to go on organized marches round the streets carrying burning torches and that’s great fun. It’s always been a favorite festival of mine, although it’s meaning has changed slightly now, because I will always connect it to my mother’s death.

The idea of the Maccabees as the ultra-religious fanatics of old is not a new one for me. I’ve never really known what to do with it, but today it suddenly crossed my mind that it’s the same as the Kipling thing. Here we are judging people, who lived thousands of years ago, by today’s values. Jonathan says that if he had lived back then he probably would have been opposed to the Maccabees. But how can he know this? Things were quite different. He points out that what was happening was an attempt of cultural genocide. And this is exactly the point. In those days, you were who you worshipped. Secularism didn’t exist. Nationalism didn’t exist. Cultural genocide, as Jonathan calls it, was standard procedure for dealing with conquered peoples.

Worship was usually localized in this region, with a neighborhood deity being accepted by everyone in the vicinity. Remember the people of the Kingdom of Israel who were exiled and the Samaritans who came in their place? On their arrival, the Samaritans (good or otherwise) commenced worshipping the local god, didn’t they? And that local god just happened to be the One God of the Israelites who were there before. It seems no one thought to fill them in on this particular god’s special quality – that he wasn’t just another local god. They just picked up the rituals and carried them out, no questions asked. (The One God still must have had something about him, because some of those Samaritans lasted it out, and amazingly managed to keep a separate identity from other inhabitants of Samaria down the centuries. Most of them are now living in the town of Holon, south of Tel Aviv).

Anyway, fast forward to Greek times: Spreading their culture among the natives was their way of gaining and keeping control. Seeing as their culture was so vastly superior to what was prevalent in most of the places they reached, this wasn’t a problem. Not so with those pesky Judeans (or were they Jews by then?) who must have found the Greek human-like gods, with their little stories and family squabbles a bit hard to swallow. In short, although the Hellenistic lifestyle was very tempting, the Jews must have seen themselves as greatly spiritually superior. I can imagine that those of less intellectual and more materialistic inclinations would have been those more likely to be swept away by Hellenistic influences. I doubt Jonathan (his Head Heebness), as we know him, would have been among them (Now there’s a thought – the Maccabees as lefty intellectuals, teehee).

All just fun speculation, not to be taken too seriously - a bit like life.

[Afterthought: I should have called this post something on the lines of "It Ain't Necessarily So", but I just loved the current title so much.]
I can’t believe you haven’t read any Leibowitz, Diane. Reading about him is nothing like reading him. He was one of the great men of our time, in my extremely humble opinion, and there was far more to him than the things he said about settlers and occupation, that so enraged so many people. But you know that already. Don’t wait, life is too short.

Bish has often said that he would probably still be living a religious life had the Judaism he had experienced at home in any way resembled that of Leibowitz’s. When I was following the weekly Torah portions, I loved his commentary, and I recommend anything he wrote about the Rambam. He's certainly not beyond you, Diane, you must be joking, if I managed to grasp what he was on about, with my humble abilities (Well, sort of. I think).

Oh, and you might try republishing your archives, dear, so people can permalink.
Hag log: More Hannuka stuff
Here’s Meryl’s Hannukiya (Hannuka menorah). Maybe we could make an exhibition. Tell me if you’ve seen any other bloggers’ Hannukiyot and I'll add a link.

For the uninitiated: the Hannuka menorah has eight branches, one for each day. We add a candle each day until on the eighth day all eight are ablaze, it’s good fun. And there’s another branch, set apart (usually taller), which holds the shamash candle, used to light all the others.

Serious Hannuka freaks still use oil to light their Hannukiyot, like in the olden days. My mother-in-law has a beautiful old oil Hannukiya, that has been passed down in her family. She says there's one just like it on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Here is the most coherent, concise, no nonsense explanation of the Hannuka story I could find. In 1995, historical evidence of the Maccabees, the main characters in the story, was found during road works on road 443 (Remember Harry’s rock, last week? See! Everything is connected ;-)).

Talking about everything being connected, Lynn has some poignant comments on Hannuka.

The Hannuka menorah must not be confused with the Menorah in the Temple, which had seven branches (seen here, a copy of a detail on Titus’s Arch in Rome. Roman soldiers are carrying the menorah triumphantly into Rome, following the defeat of the Jews). The Temple Menorah appears on Israel’s national emblem, representing our deep connection to our past. It is flanked by two olive branches, symbolizing our yearning for peace.

Update: More on candles, Hannuka, and stuff, by Judith at Kesher Talk.
Hag log: First day of Hannuka
I woke up to the smell of the oil from last night’s latkes. No matter how much you air the apartment afterwards you can never be rid of it. Youngest didn’t want her sufganiya (doughnut). She is strangely uninterested in sweet things, that child. She actually dislikes chocolate. Eldest was happy to oblige. She loves anything sweet (like mother, like daughter).

Roger Simon is back and, sadly, doesn’t have anything very positive to say about what France is looking like these days.

Malcolm S. at Occam’s Toothbrush linked to an interesting article about European anti-Semitism and political correctness by Jean-Christophe Mounicq, a few days ago. This passage, in particular, caught my interest:

Contemporary political correctness defines any limits on immigration as racism. Any political leader, intellectual or "normal" citizen, who suggests that immigration should be controlled through the application of law or who advocates repatriation of illegal immigrants is denounced as a racist. It is sometimes even considered outrageous to suggest that immigrants should obey the laws of their host country. "We cannot obey this law because it is incompatible with the Koran" is a claim heard more and more often from Muslims. "Native Europeans" often seem ready to abandon their principles to avoid conflict.

Airplanes full of illegal immigrants sent back to their native country have been compared, by French intellectuals, journalists and political activists, to the trains that carried Jews to Dachau. Thus a former French interior minister, Jean-Louis Debr×™, who carried out this policy, was portrayed as a Nazi despite being of Jewish origin himself. […]

Any criticism of the culture of any immigrant is also viewed as racist. The only permissible criticism seems to be that which is directed against Western civilization. Bad Westerners are portrayed as the only violent colonizers and evil invaders of all history.

Why does this make me think of a person being violently mugged, and while the assailant is sticking his knife in the person’s gut, he succumbs nobly, mentally accepting the violence against him, because he believes his attacker is so much more deserving than he is?

So is this it? An intellectual elite denies its people’s own cultural worth and independence to decide its fate as a result of self-loathing and guilt? And why? Roger suggests the French have too much leisure. Idle hands are the devils tools, as they say. But I can see this unhealthy phenomenon developing in some Israeli intellectual circles too, and I can bear witness to the fact that we certainly do not work a thirty-five hour week (besides in our dreams). Fortunately, in Israel most people do not feel this way, and this has been reflected clearly in recent election results.

I’m hoping all this is just exaggerations; people seeing what they want to see; searching for the missing penny under the streetlamp; Roger going over to France and finding what he expects to find (although I have no doubt that Roger is far too discriminating for that). This brings me to a little Jewish folk tale, that was told in an Israel Harel article in Haaretz that Miki sent me:

In a small town in Lithuania, a young genius served as a yeshiva head and the town's rabbi. One day, he received an offer to serve as the head of a yeshiva in Vilna, where the most important yeshivas at the time were located. The town's residents were very disappointed, but he allayed their concerns: We will send two delegations to check whether it would be worth my while to take up the offer, he told them.

If the rabbi decided on two delegations, the town's residents thought, he must have a hidden and important reason for doing so.

A few days later, the first sled returned to the town and made its way straight to the synagogue, where, with almost the entire town listening on tenterhooks, the delegation said: Rabbi, with all the sorrow and pain it entails, we have no right to stop you. The yeshiva that has invited you has many hundreds of students, and all study Torah day and night. Your future lies there; and from there, you will lead the world of the Torah.

Two days later, the second sled returned, with the faces of its occupants reflecting satisfaction. You are staying here, they told their rabbi in front of the entire congregation. We may be a small town, but here at least you are respected by everyone, and the sins of the community are few. In the big city of Vilna, we found brothels that are frequented, spare us, by Jews as well - including students from the yeshiva that has invited you. Vilna is also filled with thieves and loansharks, many poor people, and bitter conflicts; and the pupils of one rabbi boycott the pupils of another; and there are curses and abuse. Why would you want to get mixed up in all that?

Everyone turned to face the rabbi. True, he said; both delegations have reported the truth. Each delegation chose to go to the place that suited the nature of its members; and as is the way of man, to project what it saw and experienced onto Vilna in its entirety.

In reaction to the article, which you can read in its entirety here, Miki asks me “How do you think Israelis now see Israel? As "a hard-pressed and exhausted country without morals and without a future"?” And my answer is: some do, some don’t. Some do some of the time; some do most of the time; some never do. I have a tiresome acquaintance, who, when shown a cup full of water, will always emphasize the empty segment of the cup, however small and inconsequential. We all know people like that, don’t we? Others, when shown an empty cup, with maybe just a few drops at the bottom, will focus on the drops.

If the offspring of members of an Israeli elite don’t feel content with life in Israel, maybe the time is ripe for the emergence of a new elite. Recently I have been spending some time, one afternoon a week, in the vicinity of Tel Aviv University. Surely, if so many intelligent young people are leaving, there wouldn’t be so many of them waiting at the bus stop opposite the dorms, on their way home from a long day of study, would there? There were never that many when I waited at that same bus stop sixteen, seventeen years ago.

However, I would be lying if I said everyone thinks everything is hunky dory. It’s not easy living in a difficult situation without a solution in sight, especially in this era of instant enlightenment and coffee. I guess it is particularly difficult for those who think they can clearly see the solution, and can’t understand why most people don’t agree with them. I am referring, of course, to very left wing Israelis, who blame Israel alone for everything, not unlike the Europeans Jean-Christophe Mounicq talks about, who see fault only in western society, and seem willing to happily surrender every value they claim to hold dear, in the name of openness and diversity (and cowardice?).

I don’t know what people think anymore, Miki. I haven’t discussed the situation with friends and acquaintances for quite a while. What’s the point? As Bish said yesterday, who can be bothered to have an opinion any more?

Is this a sign of exhaustion, or of mental health?

Friday, December 19, 2003


I know, we lit the candle on the left by mistake. This always happens on the first night. We can never remember.

Those damn dripless Hannuka candles are dripping. Grrrr.

* * *

Having survived a stoning on road 443 this week, Harry has been winding down throwing sufganiot (Hannuka doughnuts) at various Israeli politicians (and Arafat too). You can do it too. And so can your friends.
Thank you, Peter. Very much appreciated.
Unilateral Disengagement
Yesterday was a very tiring day, although I did very little, besides driving to Dad’s, going to the cemetery, and talking to the people who came back to the house. I must have been using up a lot of energy just coping with the emotions that were coming up in me, that or fighting the wind. You never saw such a storm. Amazingly, miraculously, it all died down when we arrived at the cemetery. A wonderful rainbow appeared in the sky and we had an hour of sun, no less, while we were there (We quipped that Mum must be very well connected up there, to have organized such a timely lull in the storm).

Anyway, by six or seven in the evening I was exhausted. I still thought I should make an effort to watch Sharon’s speech. I even managed to stay awake through most of it (Sharon has never been known as much of an orator).

So what do I think about what he had to say? I think it makes sense.

What have we had? We have had a peace agreement that fell to pieces, when one side was asked to finish the deal once and for all, and decided to pass. I am somehow reminded of how loan sharks operate. You can never ever repay your debt to them because the interest just keeps growing and growing. The Palestinians’ demands were also turning into just such a bottomless pit. Just when we thought we’d given them all, or very nearly all, of what they had previously demanded, they remembered something else. They just wouldn’t let it end (or couldn’t, because in actual fact they weren’t truly interested in compromise).

Then they embarked, with national excitement and vengeful enthusiasm, on a rapidly escalating rampage of violence, terror, and sacrificial mass murder, while sanctimoniously denying all the time that their official leadership had anything to do with it. This leadership, nevertheless, refused to take any action whatsoever against the violence, besides rhetoric in English, aimed at the foreign media.

In its desperation, Israel had no choice but to take responsibility for preventing the daily bloodbath on Israeli streets. No one else was doing it for us, regardless of promises made to do just that, in documents signed in all pomp and ceremony, to the cheers of the world. A hard hand was necessary, was unavoidable, to prevent Israel from descending into chaos.

But do we really want to keep on policing these lunatics, who would rather live lives of squalor and hopelessness than move just a little from their professed goals? No, we don’t. Contrary to popular belief, as depicted in numerous vicious caricatures in Western mainstream newspapers, we do not enjoy fighting to keep them from blowing up in our midst. We do not revel, as they do, in the deaths of innocents, regrettable victims of our attempts to incapacitate the guilty.

If they continue to refuse to make any effort to fulfill their commitments to fight terrorism and terrorists in any way, besides pussyfooting around Islamic fundamentalists who openly declare that they will not rest and will not cease till the last Jew is gone from the region, then we are left with absolutely no choice but to call the shots to suit ourselves.

Should such a unilateral disengagement take place, the Palestinians would be wise to seize the opportunity and make the most of it for a change, in an attempt to rebuild, not only their part of the land both peoples love and share, but also the trust of their Israeli neighbors. Then maybe we can all once again approach the negotiation table, and we can discuss the deal that would give them what was theirs for the taking, just a few short years ago.

Okay, I realize I didn't actually discuss the unilateral disengagement itself, but R.T. will be here any minute and I haven't even started the spaghetti yet. Phew! Saved by the gong.

Update 1: R.T. wishes to protest his being used as an excuse.

Update 2: Bish says its all such a mess, who can be bothered to have an opinion anymore?

Update 3: The Head Heeb has taken the time to discuss Sharon's speech and is mainly disappointed that he didn't go into detail about the withdrawal (was this expected to happen?). I don't necessarily agree, but it's always interesting to read his point of view. He's the perfect example of someone who manages to write things I often disagree with in a manner that not only doesn't annoy me, but that I actually enjoy reading (that automatically disqualifies him from writing for Haaretz then, doesn't it?).

Thursday, December 18, 2003

First Yahrzeit

I have a photograph of Mum in which she can be seen picking up shells on the beach with my girls, oblivious of the rest of the world, just her and her granddaughters. There is another photograph of Mum, which I have always loved, that shows her reading a bedtime story to R.T., who must be about three or four. Here, again, she is completely absorbed in the task at hand. That is all that matters at that moment.

Mum had a wonderful ability to give, to us, her family, completely and naturally, without expecting anything in return. We always knew we were being thought about, and cared for, and maybe that has been the most difficult thing to get used to doing without.

During the Shiva, someone said she lit up a room. Maybe all mothers light up the room for their children, I wouldn’t know, but nevertheless I feel that Mum had a special light that radiated from her.

And here we are, a year after she left us, and I can still feel the light. Like the seeds of a dandelion, spread by the wind, her light has been carried out of her and into us, all those she loved and cared for. It is our inheritance. It may manifest in each one of us in a different way than it did in her, we are different people after all, but it is there. I feel it inside of me. I see it in my eyes when I look in the mirror. I’m not sure where it is taking me yet, but I know it is making me a better person.
Oh dear, oh dear
Brave Palestinian freedom fighter, embraced lovingly by compassionate Belgians, rewards his benefactors by robbing them silly, with explosives. Haaretz:

One of the 13 Palestinians deported from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in May 2002 was arrested Tuesday in Belgium on suspicion of participating in a number of robberies in which more than $250,000 were stolen. Khalil Mohammed Abdullah al-Nawara received asylum in Belgium following the siege on the church.

Another link, that touchingly describes al-Nawarah as “a football fan and activist in the military group Tanzim-Fatah”, explains that he “was arrested on suspicion of involvement in two bomb attacks carried out on post offices in Brakel and Court-Saint-Etienne in February 2003”. Old habits die hard. Yediot Aharonot (can’t find a link) mentions three details that both sources don’t seem to see as important: a. Prior to his taking refuge in the Church of the Nativity he was wanted by Israel, as a terrorist with blood on his hands, for a number of shooting incidents on the Tunnel Road. b. He was receiving a monthly allowance from the kind people of Belgium (so it wasn’t as if he was starving). c. When arrested, weapons and explosives were found in his possession.

An article about him from August 2002 gives us the real reason he was driven to violent crime: He was lonely. Aaaaaah.

What can I say? Belgium? Would it be very rude of me to say they had it coming?

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Stoned, and not in a good way
Harry, of the view from here was stoned yesterday, on the way to work, while driving along road 443, a main route from Modiin to Jerusalem, serving a lot of the traffic from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Luckily the rock hurled at him just missed. These rocks have been known to kill.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

No, this is not some graffiti I saw on the way to work or the draft of a threatening letter I’m working on. It’s common sense, Middle Eastern style. These are the rules of the game. The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

Listen, you dorks, as long as he lives, it’s not over*.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m opposed to the death penalty. In Israel. Unless, as Israeli law states, the person in question has been convicted of genocide. (And even so, I have nightmares that some day Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin’s assassinator, will be pardoned and set free to a cheering crowd). But this isn’t Israel. This is Iraq. The deposed tyrant dies. Period. Nothing less than stringing him up in the center of Baghdad (and then impaling his severed head on a very tall pole for all to witness) will suffice.

He has human rights? Don’t make me laugh.

That sounds awful. I can’t believe I just wrote it. But there it is. I stand by it, squeamish vegetarian and lapsed Buddhist that I am.

(So much for writing in a way that doesn't aggravate those that disagree with me)

*By "it" I don't mean the armed opposition to the American presence in Iraq or the terrorism, I mean his rule - the hope for his return by some and the fear of it by others.

Monday, December 15, 2003

What an eventful day yesterday was!
Let me see now, American soldiers rescued a poor old man, buried alive in a hole in the ground in Iraq; a firm majority (even firmer after Kevin got rid of some errant votes, it seems) agreed that Not a Fish was most egregiously omitted from the 2003 Wizbang Weblog Awards (YIPPEE!); and, of course, the most important news by far: Harry Potter #5 Hebrew version arrived on our doorstep by special delivery, thank God ( “…but Ima, all my friends are on page 500, at least! When will it get here already?”).

But seriously folks… (By the way, in case you are worried about me, I do realize that the old man down the hole takes precedence, it is a human interest story, after all) I would really really really like to thank you all for voting for me. It was very kind of you to take the time. Really. Big hug and kisses (Virtual hug and kisses. Don’t get your hopes up). I know it’s not important, but it has been such tremendous fun! I haven’t been a candidate for anything that required people to vote for me since I was elected onto the class committee in sixth grade, and that turned out to be disastrous because I had a humungous crush on one of the boys on the committee (I can’t believe my speller just accepted “humungous”). So I was completely useless on the committee because I was far too shy to open my mouth during meetings or in any official capacity. My embarrassment was so acute that I eventually stepped down to save face. Since then I’ve always steered clear of politics and of anything that smelt like potential public humiliation. But just look at me now, promoting myself shamelessly and loving it! Who said blogging was bad for you?

Anyway, we all did exceedingly well, all things considered, even those of us who didn’t get to be first (and no, I don’t accept that those that didn’t come first - lost. They just didn’t come first). It was a very close call for Meryl. I was on shpilkes. A tie is great though, that way two ladies get to be Best Females. Even better.

The good thing is that I no longer have to go vote for everyone every few hours. I was getting a bit fed up. The bad thing is that now I’m going to have to work out what to do with the winner’s logo and html code Kevin’s talking about. And talking about Kevin, let’s all give him a virtual round of applause for all his hard work and helping us have such good fun! And then if you are so inclined, you might like to go over and drop something in his tip jar. Here is the complete list of people who came first in all categories.

Re Harry Potter: Eldest is loving it so far. I have come to the sad conclusion that the reason I wasn’t impressed was because it is, after all, a children’s book, and I am no longer a child; an upsetting discovery for a thirty eight year old.
The morning Yediot Aharonot says they were looking for cyanide in his hair and mouth. Silly me! I thought they were worried about his personal hygiene.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

The Bear asks the essential question about the illegal Iraq war, now that Saddam has been found alive (and given a nice shower and shave).
Ladies and Gentlemen..."

What an incredible sight – an American soldier checking Saddam Husseins’s unkempt hair for lice and sticking a medical wooden stick thingy in his mouth, for all the world to see. How wickedly, deliciously degrading. Aren't I mean to feel this way? But just get a load of those shrieks of delight!

Coming up.... I'm planning a special treat to celebrate this joyous occasion, but we'll have to wait till Bish comes home from work, for technical reasons. Stay tuned.


And now...

Celebration Special! First time ever on Not a Fish!! Imshin reveals herself (and Bish)!!! (Well, sort of)

A little reminder of why this is a happy day for Israelis too: This is Bish and me (Bish is on the left), during the 1991 Gulf War, young and fancy-free (but not for long – Eldest, a “war baby”, is already starting to develop inside of me, although we didn’t know it at the time).

And the celebrations continue. John Williams, always ready with a wonderfully appropriate and insightful response, contributes this gem:


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Things are different every time you encounter them. It's like not being able to cross the same river twice. The river has changed, and so have you.

The first time I read Rudyard Kipling's "If" was when my scout leader gave it to us to read. I must have been fourteen. It was the first time we had met him. He took us for a long hike down a deep wadi (a narrow valley between two mountains). When we were completely exhausted, he sat us down and gave us each a copy to read. Then we had to make our way back up again.

Our scout leader was only three years older than us, but even at such a young age, he managed to affect us all deeply. He was one of those rare animals: the natural educator.

A few years later, during his army service, his jeep drove over a mine in the Jordan valley. For years I have mourned the loss of a great man, that didn’t get to fulfill his life’s goal, that didn’t get to make a difference. But he did make a difference. He made a difference to me.

Today, when I read Kipling’s “If”, I am not the same person. And it is not the same poem that I am reading as the one I read that first time, sitting on a rock in a Wadi on the eastern slope of Mount Carmel, on an autumn afternoon just before sunset. I was impressed by it back then, but I didn't really understand it. I think this was as it should have been, seeing I was only fourteen. Life was just beginning. We tend to idolize the freshness of youth, thus underrating the wisdom and beauty of experience.

But still, even after all these years, whenever I come across it, I think of my gentle, sensitive, seventeen year old scout leader, Meidad.

[A thought: To those who dislike Kipling's work because of his racist, sexist and whatever other tendencies, I say - don't be silly! The man lived in a different age. So "If" is written to a man in a world in which only men mattered; so Kipling didn't like Jews (and today we are so very popular...). Kipling was part of his world, not ours. Does this render this poem any less sagacious? I think not. I think it possesses a timeless wisdom that is beyond who Kipling the man may have been, and if we choose to reject it because of our prejudices, than we are the poorer.]

Update: John Williams writes to me that Rudyard Kipling's only son was killed in WWI.

What are we doing?
Another weblog award thing has come to my attention, one that openly calls itself left wing (more about what this means, exactly, by The Head Heeb). As a foreigner to American politics and mindsets, I understand that Wizbang would be described as right wing. His award thing was described as a right wing one too, by a commenter yesterday. This all just shows, once again, the futility of trying to choose a best of anything. There is no “best”. It’s just a matter of point of view, personal taste, what side of the bed we got up on this morning.

So I take a look at the nominations for the Koufax Awards. I have read very few of the blogs suggested. So many of the names of the blogs are negative. I wonder if the people who write them, or enjoy reading them, are aware of this. Without checking, I know the same goes for right wing blogs. (Even my little blog has a negative name. I just thought of this yesterday. Funny isn’t it? I hadn’t been aware of it, although I’ve been blogging for a year and a half and thinking and writing about all sorts of things.)

Isn’t it sad that so much talent and energy, worldwide, is being poured into fanning flames of anger and hatred? Everyone knows where he or she stands and refuses to budge or see things a little differently. Anger is very easy to write, because it comes from the heart; it writes itself. But it doesn't make you feel very good.

Maybe we should all take the time to try and write in a way that would be easier for people who disagree with us to stomach. Then maybe they will be more likely to listen.

Easier said than done, I know.

[By the way, thank you Jonathan, for sort of nominating me for the Koufax thing]

All this doesn't mean you shouldn't vote for me for Most Egregious Omission. At the moment I'm feeling most egregious. Voting continues till 14th (that's Sunday). Amazingly, I'm currently number one in my category, and I really really want to stay that way ;-)

Later: Okay, I know what blog competitions are good for - for learning about wonderful blogs you weren't previously aware of. This post about John Lennon, on Body and Soul, is pure magic.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Demise of the Guy Upstairs. A short story.
Shabbat Shalom
Quote of the week:

…to be "in favor of Israel" is the most intelligent, rational, prudent, and honest way to be in favor of Palestine.

Pilar Rahola, former member of Parliament of the Spanish Republican Left.

Reached via the Shaister, who is always a very interesting read.
It’s not anti-Semitism, it’s anti-Zionism!
According to Haaretz, quoting Israel radio, a French Interior Ministry sponsored task committee has submitted a report that deals with anti-Semitism.

According to the report, wearing a skullcap in the street or on public transportation could be dangerous, and that the expression ‘dirty Jew’ has become common in school yards. Many Jewish pupils and teachers have left the public education system for Jewish and Catholic private schools because of the racial problems they encountered.

In several schools it is impossible to teach about the Holocaust, because pupils dispute taught facts about the genocide of Jews by the Nazis, the report stated.

The emphasis is mine.

Oh, and the great majority of Germans are fed up of Germany still being held responsible for the Holocaust. It is irritating, isn’t it?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Today the girls in the office next to me decided that they didn’t like the energy in their office (or something or other) and moved to a vacant room in the next enclave.

I suddenly found myself all alone.

In the ensuing moments of hysteria I decided I would move too. The guys in the office next to where I would be moving to offered their help. “But not now.” They were very busy. Afterwards. Sometime or other.

I didn’t really like that other office anyway. Maybe I was better off staying where I was.

Now I had the opportunity to look deeply into the meaning of impermanence and taking refuge in myself. (Sigh)

I moved some of the clutter from my office into the now empty room next door, and looked round happily at the result. I suddenly realized that I now had full control over the air-conditioning, which the two offices shared. I turned on the radio just that little bit louder than I would have before. A feeling of contentment descended.

My peace was only disturbed after lunch, when Bish called from his office to tell me that they’d just heard a tremendous blast from one of the nearby roads and that now they could hear the ambulances. You can imagine the familiar sinking feeling. It took a while before it became clear that it wasn’t a terrorist attack but part of an ongoing war among criminals. Not that this knowledge made me feel much better. Three people were killed and about thirty injured.

I think I should explain: Israel Police is so busy fighting Palestinian terrorism that not enough manpower or funding is left over for the local bad guys, who are having a wonderful time shooting, blowing up and stabbing their rivals in crime, or at least trying to. They missed today’s target, kingpin Zeev Rozenshtein, while killing three innocents. I reckon Rozenshtein is indestructible. There have been quite a few attempts on his life over the years. Maybe he’s still alive because he’s been more successful in liquidating his enemies than they have. His enemies crossed a line today though.

Watching the pictures on TV, I realize how near this attack was to Bish’s office. He says he often goes past the money-changing place in which it took place.
Happy Birthday, Lynn!
She claims to be half a century young, but I’ve met her, and I think she’s exaggerating her age to get compliments.

Is it rude for me to mention her age, even if she did make it public herself?

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

What’s all this about the Brits taking nuclear weapons to the Falklands in 1982? They weren’t seriously considering nuking Argentina over a little island no one had ever heard of, on the other side of the world, with a few farmers and some sheep, were they? (And if they weren’t, what did they need the weapons there for?)

Makes you wonder about the wholesale criticism they’re dishing out to the Israeli government these days, for doing its best to prevent kids riding on buses to school from being blown up.

Update: The loyal Expat stands up for the old homeland (what can I say, he's a better person than me): "Some of the ships sent to the Falklands came directly from Nato deployments and other stations without returning to the UK. Some of them would have carried nuclear tipped depth charges for use against Soviet subs in the event of a general war.

They would have been useless in the Falklands war. The fuss seems to have been over container damage when they were transferred back to other ships. The Sheffield would not have been left to sink if there had been nukes on board."
Don’t feel guilty, Gail. I was witness to the difficulties my parents went through in their forties when they took the plunge and left everything, for an unknown future in a strange land with a strange language, schlepping three kids with them. I don’t think everyone is up to it. I doubt if I could have done it.

As I near the age they were when they came here, I feel great admiration for them. It must have taken tremendous courage. I always used to think that, despite the trials of their absorption, it was easier for them than for those who came from Arab countries or Communist countries, usually with nothing. But my folks had a problem those other Olim* didn't have - the constant temptation of somewhere more materially comfortable to go back to.

*Jews who go to live in the Land of Israel are known as Olim = those who go up, ascend. Until a few years ago, Jews who left Israel were refered to as Yordim = those who go down, but this has been dropped because it was perceived as offensive.
Well, Richard Gere is back in Israel. This time he’s not leaving till there’s peace. I hope. Can’t beat those smiling eyes. Well, Bish can. He also has smiling eyes.

I see he was in Yaffo, as well (Richard Gere, not Bish). I must have just missed him.

Update: Israellycool has the ultimate Gere/Ashrawi poll. I didn't see the famous hug on TV, but I hear she didn't want to let him go.
Bish must think I’m lonely. He sent me an online friend called Alan to keep me company. Thing is, I don’t think we’re really communicating on the same wavelength. Here’s me trying to build up a deep, meaningful conversation about blogging, and he’s going on and on about young people and technology (yawn).
Blogging as a mad dash away from Buddhism or (more accurately) Why haven’t you voted for me yet???
Those Wizbang Weblog Awards are turning out to be very beneficial. I’m learning all sorts of interesting things. For instance, Allison took pity on me for my ignorance with regard to Ecosystem and filled me in. I have a faint memory of realizing such a thing existed a while back, and going over to take a peek, but was far too lazy to try to work it out. Then I forgot all about it. Of course, I could portray this as just another expression of my deep anti-establishmentarian feelings. I refuse to dance to the flute of Blogosphere authoritarianism! Underdogs (or puppies) of the Blogosphere unite! Who am I kidding? No fervent ideology or even fuzzy (pathetic middle-aged) adolescent-style rebelliousness, can honorably explain away my still not being able to understand what the Carnival of Vanities is.

Anyway, proud anti-establishmentarian, foolhardy rebel, or plain nitwit, I’m still extremely competitive. And I have deduced, with the help of my sitemeter and what little commonsense I possess, that most of the visitors to Not a Fish since I was nominated for Most Egregious Omission (I’ve worked out what that means, please stop e-mailing me with explanations) haven’t bothered to click through, scroll down, and actually VOTE FOR ME! Shame on you all. I will however forgive you, if you trot over there right now and do your blogic duty.

I know I’m contradicting myself, but as I always say, life is far more complex than we would like to believe ;-)

By the way, if you’d like to call it a vote for Israel, that’s fine by me. Anything that works for you.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Today I was in Yaffo (Jaffa) again. It was sunny, the sky was clear and blue, besides spots of those clouds that look like cotton wool balls that have been pulled to pieces by your cat and strewn all over the Persian carpet you inherited from your late grandmother's aunt (of blessed memory). And the sea, oh, the sea. It was that wonderful deep turquoise that makes your heart miss a beat when you first get a glimpse of it.

I had to tear myself away so as not to be late for the meeting I was headed for.

I might be working in Yaffo next year. I can't wait. Just think: the ancient port with the fishermen spread along the long, rocky pier ending at the Rock of Andromeda, the fishing boats, resting after a long night out at sea, the winding alleyways leading up from the port to the old city, the flea market with its strange array of doodahs to be sold to the most adamant haggler, Margaret Tayar's couscous, Bino Gabso's shakshooka... I'll be so busy trying to sneak off, I don't know when I'll get any work done.

Everyone else is depressed about the move, because we'll be leaving an up-market shopping area. Go figure.

At one time, Yaffo began to be a magnet for Bohemian-Arty-Yuppie types. There are gorgeous, old houses, with high arched ceilings, big stained windows, and brightly patterned ceramic floors. I could never live there though, I'm far too aware of the seedy side: the poverty; the protection rackets; the flourishing market for hard drugs. No, I'll stick to unromantic North Tel Aviv, thank you very much (as if we could afford anything decent in Yaffo).

But I love the idea of working there, of drinking in all that beauty on a daily basis.