Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Isn't it awful that all of these people are popping by and I can think of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SAY? What sort of a hostess am I?

Where's the camera? Maybe it's time for some fresh Shoosha snaps. You wouldn't believe how she's grown. And her coat is so lovely and shiny. (This is Imshin attempting small talk)

Monday, June 28, 2004

Enough of that.
Four year-old Afik Zahavi came to the kindergarten this morning and was killed by a Kassam rocket. He lived in Sderot, a town inside Israel, near the border with Gaza.

Six seconds is all it takes for a Kassam rocket to land after it has been launched, according to the mayor of Sderot this afternoon. How will we protect Afik’s friends, and friends of 49 year-old Mordechai Yosefov, once we have disengaged from Gaza?

(updated) Yesterday’s rant was a reaction to, among quite a few other things, the witch-hunt currently being conducted in the media against Meni Mazuz following his decision to close the corruption case against Arik Sharon. I am not innocent enough not to realize that Meni Mazuz could very well have been given the position of Attorney General specifically so he would close the case against Sharon. But some of the things being written completely ignore Mazuz’s main assertions in his decision and continue to chant exactly the same things that were being written beforehand (if I read about that damn leaked out of context conversation of Gilad Sharon’s one more time…). You get the feeling the writers didn’t even bother to read his decision, or if they did they did so extremely selectively.

Sever Plotzker, whom you know I usually admire, took the cake on Thursday (is that the correct expression?) when he suggested (in the print edition of Yediot Aharonot) that maybe the whole Greek island project didn’t really exist, that it was a fictional invention concocted for the sole reason of bribing Sharon in such a way that would evade detection. This idea is so absurd I’m surprised Plotzker, a top financial reporter, wasn’t embarrassed to write it, albeit in a thinly disguised fashion.

What was he saying? That David Appel employed architects, surveyors, archeologists, advertising companies, and who knows what else, for months, spending many millions of dollars, all so he could give Sharon a measly $650,000? Come on, couldn’t he just have put the whole 14 million in an account in the Cayman Islands for the Sharons and finished? I’m sure they would have been far more appreciative (and probably would have managed to come up with a creative way to launder it).

The funny thing is that if, as Plotzker claims, Appel concocted this elaborate bribing scheme just to get his building concessions near the town of Lod, well Sharon didn’t supply the merchandize, did he? Appel didn’t get the building concessions after all. No one did. It was turned down. Thus Plotzker was unwittingly strengthening Mazuz’s claim of lack of evidence of what he calls ‘hayesod hanafshi’ (I can’t think how to translate that, the only thing that comes up is the ‘mental element’, and that’s all wrong) - that Sharon understood that he was being bribed and for what purpose.

Amnon Dankner wrote some acerbic comments about this witch-hunt in Maariv, only in Hebrew though.

Update: Joe G. says: "You could say "criminal intent." If you really want to get fancy, it's "mens rea." However, my law dictionary includes "mental element" as an option, so you're on solid ground".

Ooh, 'mens rea'. Eldest and me know that from Legally Blonde. How exciting!
Sderot: A Kassam rocket attack. A three year-old child and a fifty-year-old man murdered. The child’s mother is critically wounded. Five others also suffered injuries.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Something has happened. In Gaza. They're talking of dozens of casualties. Soldiers.

Update: Not as bad as initially reported - they're talking of seven wounded.
‘From the foam of a wave and a cloud / I built a white city’
This is my favorite Naomi Shemer song. It’s about my home.
A cultural dictatorship*
One morning, in the early days of April 2002 I think it was, I turned on the radio as I always did and tuned in to the Voice of Music’s morning concert. The Voice of Music is a classical music radio station belonging to Kol Yisrael, the Voice of Israel, Israel’s state radio service.

It was a difficult time. People were being killed daily en masse on buses and in crowded public places. Sending the girls off to school every day made me feel like a negligent mother. Finally, after months and months of restraint, we were just beginning to strike back in an attempt to bring back some sense of security to our beleaguered streets. Our soldiers were in the West Bank cities, endangering their lives to protect us by going from house to booby-trapped house, rooting out terrorists. And our hearts were there with them.

Listening to the Voice of Music had always had a calming effect on me. Every Friday, I would tear out the week’s music schedule from Haaretz’s weekend supplement and take it with me to work, where I would mark my favorites and make an effort to tune in at the appropriate times. Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, I’m no highbrow and not very knowledgeable, but I know what I enjoy.

And this morning was no different, except that someone had slipped in something that didn’t seem to be on the schedule, a piece called “War – there is no logic in it”, or something on those lines. I can’t remember who the composer was and it didn’t really matter to me much. What mattered to me was that someone was hijacking a state radio station to make his or her private political statement, which was in direct opposition to government policy. Under the circumstances, I was very upset. I felt betrayed.

I didn’t hear the piece. In fact, I was so dismayed that I switched station, and didn’t tune into the Voice of Music again for about a year and a half. I still don’t listen to it very often.

This was just one moment of awareness. I have gradually become more and more sensitized to the fact that certain political viewpoints dominate many aspects of public life in Israel, often in contradiction not only with government policy, that’s freedom of speech after all, but also with the facts or with common sense, while other political viewpoints, just as interesting, just as worthy, just as intelligent, and sometimes far more sensible and coherent, are completely ignored, as if they didn’t exist.

On the Head Heeb’s comments, Danny said, for instance, that, “What makes (Rotblit’s) song even more childish is the fact that the Israeli Left is not even in power”. But there are no democratic elections in Kol Yisrael’s music stations or in the state prosecution or in the media.

Maybe Diane was right after all. Maybe I didn’t move left in my early twenties because it pained me to see a twelve year old Palestinian boy washing the floor of a Tel Aviv restaurant at one o’clock at night, or an old woman making her way slowly with her sacks and her donkey along the sandy road to Han Younis, occasionally looking up at the sparkling white villas in the settlement on the hill. Maybe I never really believed that the Palestinians deserved a state of their own alongside ours, or that we would all be better off as a result.

Maybe all I wanted was to belong, just a lonely immigrant child trying desperately to fit in, by holding the right beliefs, by thinking the right thoughts. Maybe I was intimidated by the ever-powerful cultural elite that continues to high-handedly dictate the appropriate views and opinions in this country, and nonchalantly brands the renegades ignorant, dangerous, primitive, childish, irresponsible, inept, morally corrupt, mentally ill, or just plain stupid, even if they have been democratically elected, by an unmistakably large majority of the people, to rule the country.

I’m not trying to say that the semi-official opinions propagated by Israel’s cultural dictatorship are necessarily wrong. They are often wise, noble, and wonderful. But it is wrong to shut out other voices. It is wrong to ridicule and belittle what anyone else has to say, even if one disagrees vehemently. It is wrong to illegitimize those who dare swim against the prevailing cultural current, by claiming they have ulterior motives.

Once one becomes aware that this is happening, one cannot help but see it manifesting everywhere one looks. And one cannot help but begin questioning the wisdom of the very opinions and views that must be forcefully upheld in this fashion.

The Israeli right has been shouting this for ever and I personally always thought it a ridiculous claim. I have only in recent years begun to be able to see what they were talking about. No wonder so many people holding alternative opinions in this country feel so alienated and detest anything that sounds or smells remotely ‘smollanee’ (lefty), even the really good stuff. We all ultimately lose.

* The idea of calling it a cultural dictatorship is Bish’s.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Naomi Shemer has died,
in the middle of the month of Tamuz, just like in her song. My friend A. reminded me of this song this morning, and Alisa has thought of it as well.

This country wouldn’t be the same without Naomi Shemer’s songs. Some of them have always driven me crazy, others never fail to bring tears of nostalgia or sadness to my eyes. But one thing is for sure - most of her songs are a part of our lives and national psyche in such a way that it’s hard to grasp that a person actually sat down at one time and wrote them, that they weren’t always just there, like the trees and the birds and the blue sky. Naomi Shemer is Israel.
Update: Bish is still not awake. Here goes (I'm sorry, it's the best I can do):

LandofIsrael Song
Yankele Rotblit
(An extremely humble, non-rhyming translation by Imshin)

I gave my life to you and for you, Land of Israel /
Mists of purity filled my mind, I thought it was the Will of God /
The Jewish People, the Return to Zion, Coming Home, Oh Sweet Land of the Fathers /
Leave me alone now, I can’t be bothered with Mitzvas

I built towns in Samaria and I built villages in Judaea /
I built with Rabin and Peres and Meretz and with the Labor Party /
They always winked at me with one eye, the Zionist eye /
No Supreme Court and no B’Tzelem they told me – that’s the whole plan

Every member of every bankrupt kibbutz built on the ruins of an Arab village has become a bleeding heart liberal /
And I am the enemy of the people building a colonial empire on conquered land /
They want to see me walking in mourning in the ruins of my home /
And the poet from Sheikh Munis in Ramat Aviv will write to the New York Times about poetic justice

So much –
Jews hating Jews
Don’t know if to cry or be angry
Fire up the bulldozer Arik
Let’s start demolishing

Thirty years a man builds, he has a wife daughters sons grandchildren /
They grew up under the trees he planted, and they’re bringing up their children /
And he makes a garden and a little business, and life, thank God, is not bad /
Until some little leader in a tie with manicured fingers comes and tells him that the mission is over

It seems that your life was a policy mistake, you will be reimbursed /
This is what the nation wants, and this is what their president said /
A day of joy it will be, a joint celebration, a festive day for all nations /
Give out wine in the square, dance naked for peace

Don’t call it transfer, the copywriter will find you a clean word /
And the court will prove what this has got to do with human rights and civil rights and animal rights /
Because they hate me in the new left and in the old left and in the media and all the heads of finance /
They’ve taught the poor they have exploited that it’s the Jew from Hebron who is to blame

So much –
Jews hating Jews
The cup has passed over me
Fire up the bulldozer Arik
Let’s start demolishing

My prayer shawl is not all sky blue, it is blemished /
I have been involved in quite a few brawls, shepherds quarrels, beatings and threats /
Sticks, stones, Molotov cocktails, the odd gun here and there, oh the good days /
You may like to remind me who brought him here, and who gave them guns

If here and there I bent a rule, made a straight line into a circle /
Not for myself was I doing it, it was all for the People of Israel /
Even three years of Intifada, and daily murder on the roads /
Didn’t make a partner of me, we are not cried over

There is someone to blame for war, there is someone to blame for every soldier killed /
There is someone to blame for the credit companies lowering the credit rating /
The washing of hands of an occupation of every enlightened man /
All those walking in the dark cry: why is my light on?

So much –
Jews hating Jews
Tell me now you’re the boss
Fire up the bulldozer Arik
Let’s start demolishing

There’s a sea of madmen around, all manner of dangerous elements /
Even God doesn’t know what they believe in /
And strange weeds around and enthusiastic youths hanging out on the hills /
And all sorts of Rabbis and all kinds of saviors

No, you won’t see another Massada here and there will be no street fights /
This herd will go quietly to the slaughter, that’s how it usually happens /
Only a few dazed tens of thousands whose whole world has collapsed /
A new kind of absent while present, exiled in their own land

No one will hang a key round his neck for thirty years /
They’ll take the VCR along with the tape, recording the bitter tears /
Everything is upside down – look at the Hellenized left all holier than thou /
And we of the knitted yarmulkas will be the new bearers of the cross.

So much –
Jews hating Jews
I’m throwing away my yarmulka, I’m no longer a ‘doss’
Fire up the bulldozer Arik
Let’s start demolishing

Fire up the bulldozer Arik
Let’s start demolishing

Update update: A huge confession: I hadn’t really listened very closely to the music of Rotblit’s song (Hebrew link). He’s a lyricist for goodness sake. He should have given this song to a proper musician and not attempted to tackle it alone. The music is bloody awful. I’m sure Ariel Zilber would have been only too happy to oblige. They worked together on the immortal ‘Ani shokhev li al hagav’ (‘I am lying on my back’), one of the all time favorites I mentioned yesterday, among other things.

So it seems the radio gods have a good excuse to ignore this song, although there are some really abominable songs, sung by tone deaf pompous farts (please forgive me, Dad, I’m on a roll here), droning on the radio all the time.

Okay, a serious apology is in order.
I agree with Anonymous on the Head Heeb's comments. The translation of the song is far too loose and pulls the song too far to the right. I thought about it when I posted it, I even started to write a comment, but then I thought - if you can't do anything better, Imshin, then don't write anything, so I deleted the comment. Now I've removed the links to the translation. Anonymous suggests a different translation. This is poetry though, and I don’t even like his translation much. But still Anonymous's understanding of the words is more accurate and compassionate, in my view than that of another Israeli commenter on Jonathan's blog, Danny, who misses the point of the song completely and, in doing so and in continuing chanting the usual stuff, totally proves Rotblit's point.

We have become blind to the settlers. We have dehumanized them. We care less when we hear on the radio that settlers were killed. We say to ourselves ‘They shouldn’t have been there in the first place’. But we put them there, not just the Likud, not just Arik.

And now they are there. I know a lot of people who were born there. Not babies, not children, but young adults, married with children of their own. They’ve never lived anywhere else. They are people, human beings, not sacks of potatos to be shifted around as it suits the establishment.

To paraphrase Ami Ayalon, if left wing people in this country, who claim to seek peace more than others, cannot feel the pain and anguish of people who are going to be torn from their homes, justified as this may be, they are every much as cruel and inhumane as they accuse the settlers of being.

Besides, ‘They shouldn’t have been there in the first place’ is exactly what everyone else says about us. I’ve been trying to explain us to myself for a while now, and explaining this particular paradox is getting increasingly difficult for me.

So I’m going to try to translate it myself. I’ve tried this before and always stopped in the middle because I never feel I can do the original any justice, but it’s important enough to make the effort. And as Anonymous says – it won’t rhyme but maybe it will be more honest.

In the meantime, I’ll put the original Hebrew version here as soon as I can work out how. I think I’ll have to wait till Bish wakes up (Shabbat morning, this might take a while).

Friday, June 25, 2004

There’s a new protest song in town, a new ‘Shir La Shalom’*. It was even written by the same guy.

There’s a new protest song in town, and it’s hard on the ear and a wrench on the heart. I hang my head in shame, because of what it has to say. I am guilty as charged.

There’s a new protest song in town. But you won’t be hearing it on any of the hip radio stations, or on any of the unhip radio stations either. In fact, you won’t be hearing it at all. Because this is the real thing, not the usual hypocritical garbage, not the banal commercial rehashes of the stuff that this guy wrote thirty years ago from the heart.

Yankele Rotblit, undoubtedly one of the greatest Israeli song lyricists (he's certainly written one or two or three of my all-time favorites), has written a powerful song that protests the unthinkable – the injustice being done to the settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.

And the very left wing music broadcasting establishment can’t take it. And he’s being shut out.

Because they think the only legitimate protest is their trendy well-fed-but-posing-as-working-class style of protest. They truly believe that theirs is the only opinion that should be heard. And they certainly refuse to let anyone hear any point of view that doesn't villify the settlers, no matter who it is who is doing the talking.

They’re shutting him out just like they shut out Ariel Zilber when he came out of the closet as a right-winger and recorded an excellent Hebrew version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Neighborhood Bully’ (I heard it on the radio exactly ONCE). Only in Rotblit’s case, with all that he stands for, and he really does stand for one or two things in this country, this is even more strikingly repulsive. Shame on them!

So fire up the bulldozer, Arik. Let’s start destroying.

* The “Song For Peace” was written in the late sixties by Rotblit, who lost a leg in the Six Day War. The song became the popular anthem of the Israeli Peace Camp; it is the song that Yitzhak Rabin sang in that peace rally just before descending the steps to his death; a sheet of paper with the lyrics of the song was found in Rabin’s pocket, covered in blood and with a bullet hole through the middle.
Right smack in the center of the Middle East
Tel Aviv celebrates its colorfulness and openness today with the annual Gay Pride Parade.

(Forgive the bad quality of the photo. Handy as it is, this little camera has its drawbacks)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Well, lifeguards back to work, Eldest finally got to the beach this morning. She walked there with a friend (“Take a hat, and plenty of water, and put sunscreen on before you leave, and make sure to always walk on the side with the shade… nag, nag, nag…”) and was amazed how quickly they got there.

By the time she gets fed up of the beach/pool/beach/pool routine and she’s seen all the new films, which should happen round about next week, she’s starting an art class, two mornings a week. The teacher is my art teacher from my heavenly Tuesday evening class, so it should be fun. She manages to give her classes a wonderfully accepting and encouraging atmosphere. I think Eldest is mainly going because she can see how much I love it.

So if any of you have teenage kids, seventh grade and over, who think they would enjoy being creative in such a warm environment during July, and have no problem reaching the north Dizengoff area (somewhere between Pe’er Cinema and Nordau Bvd.) for a few hours twice a week (late in the morning, they won’t have to get up early), send me an e-mail (imshin at bigfoot dot com) and I will give you more details.
Tiggy is a lovely little bitch. She’s old now, but she has always been sweet and good-natured, wonderful with kids. Our Sis and Mr. Our Sis have always had lovely dogs. Tiggy is actually Tiggy 2. Before her there was Tiggy 1 and before her there was Dougal.

Now it’s looking like there isn’t going to be a Tiggy 3. Because Tiggy 2 is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, as was Tiggy 1 before her. Dougal was a Rottweiller. But I don’t think any of them were aware that they were dangerous dogs*. My kitten is more aggressive than all three of them put together.

Last week, a four year old girl in Tel Aviv was killed by her father’s Amstaff. A sweet little girl called Avivit. The dog attacked her while they were playing in the living room and tore her throat apart.

It was the first time a dog had killed a person in Israel. The father had just got out of prison. The dog had been staying somewhere else while he was interned. The neighbors said they had been terrified of the dog. I read somewhere that everyone knew that the father used to beat it with a stick.

A public debate ensued, regarding the question of destroying the dog. I believe it is a sign of Israeli society’s inherent humanity that people could understand that it was not the dog that was to blame here. Attempts were made to find a home for the poor creature, in the IDF or in the Shin Bet. No, not so it could chew up Palestinian children too (some people’s minds are really twisted, but now I can’t remember where I read that), but so it could live out its days running along a leash, guarding security installations, being useful.

It was put to death yesterday afternoon by lethal injection.

And now they’ve made a list of dangerous breeds of dogs, including Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Rottweillers, and they’re planning to gradually make them illegal. I hope they let Tiggy live out what’s left of her life in peace.

It makes me very sad, because I know it’s the people who are dangerous, and it’s they who make the dogs dangerous (although I am told Amstaffs were bred in America specifically for dog fights, so maybe they can’t help being aggressive).

But how can you keep tabs on those who mistreat these dogs and rear them to be killers? How can you make sure that only Our Sis compatibles are allowed to adopt them and look after them? There are plans to sack one thousand policemen from an already sorely undermanned police force. Public veterinarian services are probably not faring the recession much better. Dogs and dog owners are certainly not high on anyone’s agenda right now.

Ultimately, under the circumstances, and knowing how things often work in this country, outlawing the dogs is probably the only practical solution that can prevent this or other such horrible events from happening again.

But I do fear it will be the Our Sis’s and their well-bred ‘good’ dogs that pay the price, while the criminals continue keeping problematic breeds of dogs, turning them into monsters, and terrorizing their neighborhoods with them, and people will be too scared to shop them to the authorities.

* Okay, so I do know that dogs are not capable of being aware of anything.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Israel Left wing blogs written in English seem to be getting ditsier all the time.

We should never have come here.

We are cruel and unjust.

Our army's actions are far worse than the Hamas'.

I thought she was kidding. I thought it was leading up to something profound. Apparently not.

Well, I’ve thought about it, and she hasn’t convinced me.

No, seriously. I’ve been thinking about it since before she was born. Thinking and thinking and thinking. And the funny thing is that round about when she was born I was just coming around to her way of seeing things.

Maybe it was me who lost the plot somewhere around the summer of 2000, and not her (How old was she way back then? Fifteen?). Maybe it’s because I wasn’t born in the year of the Rat. I’m obviously way too old to get it. I don’t even know what Chinese year I was born in. Forgive me, I didn’t even know it was of consequence.

Hang on. She’s nineteen and she listens to Joan Baez?? Is that sad or what?

Now I’m definitely going to be kicked out of the Ministry of Compassion. Fancy being nasty to some infant blogger, still wet around the ears, young enough to be my daughter!

I am downright ashamed of myself. (And of Israel’s education system. Don’t they teach them why the Six Day War broke out? Or do they reckon it’s too complex for the kids today to understand?

Or maybe when she says “We should never have come here” she’s not talking just about the territories. Maybe she missed the lesson about the Holocaust. I know they teach that.

Hey kiddo, you’re free to leave, you know. You’re still young enough to build a life somewhere else, and, unlike most Israelis, you seem to know English well enough to get along in a nice civilized country.)

In my perplexion, I return to the infant blog for clues.

We have the right to defend ourselves, when we're living within our borders.

We are living on stolen lands.

We should never have come here.

I detect a logical dillema here. If we should never have come here, and we are living on stolen lands, which exactly are the borders we have a right to defend? Define 'borders'; define 'here'; define 'us'; define 'defend'.

Fuzzy brain attack ... I really shouldn’t start thinking about these things at this time of night.

I wish infant peacey bloggers would be more precise and not leave me with all these bothering questions.

On the other hand it’s nice to see that someone can manage to be even fuzzier than me.

Imshin, you are horrible and mean.

Okay, I’m going to bed now, before I get completely out of control.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

UN confronts anti-Semitism
Thank you, Mark in Mexico, for pointing me towards Anne Bayefsky’s powerful speech in the UN at a conference on Confronting Anti-Semitism yesterday (That’s a good one. Maybe they mean confronting anti-Semitism with cheers and standing ovations). I can only hope someone was listening (Dream on, Imshin).

On Norm’s profile I suggested that the best thing to do with the UN was to continue ignoring it. But reading Bayefsky I wonder of it shouldn’t be subjected to a bit of the treatment our old friend in the green cap would have for us.

Oh Imshin, don’t be so mean. People coming from Israellycool are going to think he got it all wrong. And then they’ll complain and then I’ll lose my lofty cabinet position and then… Hmmm, I wonder if there’s pension in it for those that get the chop.
I’ve been a bit sleepy for the last few days. The humidity is just getting revved up for summer. Eldest has finished school. She’s been gleefully celebrating summer for a few weeks now, and she deserves to, because she worked hard this year and did very well. So now she’s on an orgy of movies, swimming pool, beach, potentially - I had to veto the beach this morning.

Her little group of friends plans to go during the very hot hours and I fear she will burn to a frizzle. Furthermore it’s still not clear where there will be lifeguards. They’re on strike, of course. It’s summer. Summer means lifeguards go on strike.

This time though it’s not for higher pay (they’re apparently paid very high salaries, but then they don’t get paid in the winter). This time it’s because they’re cutting down the lifeguards to two at a station, instead of three. The lifeguards say this will undermine their ability to do their job safely, but we know the truth, don’t we? Two lifeguards instead of three will seriously hamper their ability to cruise the beaches and hit on babes during their workday. Definitely not to be tolerated!

I see they’ve been forced to go back to work by court order, seeing school’s out and a few people have drowned, but they’re not manning all of the stations, probably only the ones on deserted beaches!

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Imshin the big mouth
It’s the twentieth of June again tomorrow. I wrote my first post two years ago tomorrow. And I’m still at it. It’s hard to believe. I find it incredible how beneficial blogging has been for me, how much it has helped me grow as a person.

This is what I wrote on my first blogiversary, last year. Still holds.

Last week I had my periodic interview with my boss. For the first time ever, I told him what I thought, what I really thought. I offended him. I guess that was inevitable, but I think I did it in the nicest way possible, considering the things I said. We talked for about two hours, about a variety of subjects, most of them unrelated to me personally. Usually these interviews last ten minutes.

Bish couldn’t believe. He said, “You’re turning into me.” I couldn’t believe either. I’m famous for being timid.

And the next day, amazingly, he didn’t cold-shoulder me (boss not Bish). At the end of the day I actually asked him if I were now the public enemy and he said not at all. Let’s hope he meant it, and that it stays that way.

It’s the blogging. Okay, living with Bish for seventeen and a half years has obviously done its bit, but mainly it’s the blogging. I find it increasingly difficult to shut up. When I have something to say, I tend to say it. Even if it’s better not to.

Will it make any difference to my boss, to his behavior, to our relationship? I doubt it, but I feel so relieved to have finally got things off my chest. And, mainly, I feel so incredibly empowered.
Yippee! It is a green cap, after all! (Another follow-up)
Combustible Boy informs me that “Some commenters in that Michael Totten thread said this guy with his ersatz Mao cap is a regular presence at San Francisco rallies. Here's a pic of him that was snapped at a rally on April 10:”

“Same hat, same sunglasses, same clips on the sign.” Adds Combustible boy, “Somebody in S.F. needs to figure out who he is and what he's all about.”

Ersatz. That’s a nice word.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Reader Michael Lonie had some comments on my post The Sting (of course, it's taken me ages to post them, lazy me):

I have often marvelled at the restraint of Israel in the face of the horrible things the Palestinian Arabs are doing in the present Oslo War (as I think of it). I think if they had tried this stuff on an Arab government starting at the end of September 2000, by the end of that October half the PA territory would be a smoking ruin and tens of thousands of Palestinians dead, just like at Hama in Syria in 1982. The Palestinians are lucky they are fighting Israel, infused as its people are with Jewish ethical and moral beliefs, and not some brutal Arab dictatorship. Think of Saddam Hussein gassing Jenin.

I never forget the reason there is an Israel occupation in the first place: the concerted Arab effort in 1967 to destroy Israel. I was a teenager at the time, but I well remember the period of tension leading up to the fighting, when it seemed the whole world had abandoned Israel to its fate and the Arabs were ready to pounce. Then Zahal struck and produced what seemed to be a miracle of deliverance. "He blew and they were scattered" sums up the amazed relief Israel's friends felt at the close of the sixth day.

As far as I'm concerned, as long as the Palestinians maintain their goal of the destruction of Israel they can rot in the mess they have made for themselves.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I’m no lawyer but
I am horrified by Attorney General Meni Mazuz’s decision to close the corruption case against Arik and Gilad Sharon for lack of sufficient evidence.

But it’s not the actual decision itself I’m horrified by.

It seems quite logical to me that if there is no sufficient evidence (and the highly self-publicized video/audio-toting turncoat star witness for the prosecution is absurdly unreliable), this is the right decision. Why is it better to haul all concerned through the courts for years, at considerable cost to the taxpayer (me), ruining political careers, blackening names, maybe even having an adverse affect on such minor subjects as war and peace, only for the accused to inevitably be acquitted at the end?

No, I am horrified at what the decision seems to reveal about the state prosecution. About the press too, but that’s nothing new.

I haven’t read the whole decision, only about ten or eleven pages of the seventy six, but these few pages spell out a story so completely different to what we have been fed by the press, according to information supplied by the prosecution, that I am horrified at the apparently blatant impartiality of both these parties.

One of the targets of the corruption investigation in question was Arik Sharon’s son, Gilad. Gilad Sharon was accused by the prosecution and by the press of receiving very high payment for counseling work he didn’t do, on a Greek island construction project that eventually didn’t materialize.

The recording of a phone conversation was made public in which he is heard clearly saying that all he’s doing (in return for the money) is taking some things from the Internet. The conversation makes it sound like he did absolutely nothing to earn the large amounts of money he received, paid straight into the family estate. It sounds very much like he was a vessel for bribing his father, Arik Sharon.

Mazuz’s decision reveals that this conversation was taken completely out of context. There are apparently police recordings of dozens of telephone conversations showing that Gilad Sharon worked hard and long on the marketing side of the Greek Island project. There is a police recording of a conversation in which Gilad’s former boss in the project, alleged briber, David Appel, talks about how satisfied he is with Gilad's work. There are testimonies given by people in the advertising company they were working with, among others, telling of Gilad’s remarkable marketing skills and about the valuable work they did together.

The conversation in question is from a period when it was becoming clear that the project was losing momentum. There was no need for marketing at that point. The reason Gilad was being paid at that particular point, when he obviously wasn’t doing very much, was because he hadn’t been paid before, when he was doing a lot, and because it had become apparent that he wasn’t going to get any of the bonuses he had been expecting, on account of the problems the project had run into.

Out of dozens of conversations, why was this the only one leaked with regard to this issue?

There’s more. It’s just that this particular discrepancy shocked me. I had no intention of writing about this matter before I read this and understood what Mazuz was inferring the prosecution had done.

I’m not completely naive. I realize that Sharon and his sons are not squeaky clean. Even Mazuz doesn’t say he’s closing the case for lack of blame, only for lack of evidence. The Sharon’s are, most likely, at least as corrupt as the next powerful politician (on both sides of the political fence here) if not more so, far more so. But to prove corruption, it stands to reason that you need evidence, and not just circumstantial evidence. Attorney General Mazuz says there clearly isn’t enough of that in this case in order to prosecute. The police didn’t think so either. That doesn’t seem to have bothered the prosecution.

From where I’m sitting this looks like a disgusting attempt by public servants to intervene in national politics, supported by a left leaning press eager to discredit the prime minister they detest. Mazuz has created a media storm by openly questioning the motives of the prosecutors and specifically, of high handed State Prosecutor Edna Arbel, who has recently been appointed judge in the Supreme Court (oops).

New Attorney General Mazuz wrote a seventy-six page decision (Hebrew rtf link) and signed it simply Meni Mazuz, not Menahem (his full name), not Attorney General, just plain Meni Mazuz (his interesting life story is worth reading). In his decision he kicked ass. He stood up to the state prosecution and told them there’s a new boss in town and a new way of doing things. I like this guy. What like? I love this guy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

I hope Charles Johnson, Michael Totten, and 'zombie' don’t mind my borrowing this photo. I printed it out yesterday and stuck it on the wall in my office this morning, where only I could see it. Today I sat with the man holding the sign, occasionally glancing at him while I worked, trying to understand.

‘SMASH THE JEWISH STATE’, he says. Smash the Jewish State. I’ve been rolling those words on my tongue and looking at the man’s image looking back at me.

He’s wearing a nice green golf shirt with a pocket. My dad likes a pocket in his shirts too, so he can have his sunglasses and other things handy. This person also has things in his pocket, just like my dad.

He’s also wearing a nice, good quality cap. It looks green, but it could be gray. I’d like to think it’s green and that he’s matched the colors. The cap looks like it has a little red five-pointed star pinned on it. Someone on Michael Totten’s comments said that he doesn’t look like a lefty, whatever that means, but doesn’t that star mean he’s a communist? I thought communists wanted to make the world a better place.

It looks like he’s made the sign himself, and attached it to the placard with clips. I wonder if he goes to a lot of demonstrations and changes the signs according to the subject on hand? That’s a very tidy, organized thing to do.

You know, physically, he reminds me of someone else. Someone I was just thinking about this year on Remembrance Day for the fallen of Israel’s wars. Guy called Yossi. He used to be in my class. I can’t remember how he was killed, but I remember not being surprised. He was the type of guy who was always ready to help, who carried the girls’ backpacks when they were tired on school trips. He was an innocent who really believed in things. And he was the type of guy who would think nothing of volunteering for the really dangerous stuff.

The appearance of the man in the photo is probably similar to how Yossi, my old classmate, would have looked had he been fortunate enough to reach fifty. He didn’t make it to twenty-six. But maybe our green-clad friend here could have learnt something from him about kindness, about industriousness, and about trying to make the world a better place. Oh, and about smiling at the camera. Yossi would have smiled at the camera, no doubt about it.

And he would never have been holding a sign saying anything like that.

Everything about the harmless-looking gentleman in the photo, in his green or gray cap, even his serious, committed expression, is in such sharp contrast with the viciously violent, hateful sentiment expressed on his little sign.

Smash the Jewish State. Smash the Jews in it. Smash my nine-year-old daughter. Smash her little collection of Bratz dolls, lovingly collected one by one. Smash our three-month-old kitten. Smash my great grandmother’s Shabbat candlesticks. Smash Ronit’s new baby with her dark skin and bright eyes, suckling milk from her mother’s breast in the shade of the tree. Smash Doctor Assuline, who helped bring her into this world. Smash Luda, who washed the room after mother and daughter had been wheeled away, and Hameed, who built the crib her parents bought for her when they brought her home from the hospital.

Smash the memory of my dead classmate, look-alike of one hate-filled American protester.

What did we do to this tidy, organized, serious man to make him hate us so much that he wants to smash us?

I suppose he will tell you he isn’t an anti-Semite.

Update: Thank you Mark in Mexico for such warm words of support. And thank you Yael in Boulder, for the excerpt of Oriana Fallaci.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Carnival of the Cats #13 is up at Laurence’s blog that is…erm…full of crap (Dad’s away so I don’t have to apologize for writing that word. Still I feel guilty).

Shoosha isn’t in the Carnival this week. She’s got a post all to herself. She appreciates this greatly, as you can imagine. Well she will, as soon as I can find her to tell her. These days she’s forever emerging from new and interesting hiding places. Then Eldest appears carrying more garments with little holes in them, for me to sew…

Found her! In bed with Youngest.
Staying Alive: The Abu Mazen Version
In a Newsweek interview with Dan Ephron, former Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, reveals the real reason he resigned, besides blaming Bush and Sharon for not helping him, or giving him any cause to gain popular support, which we’ve heard before.

Someone was going to kill, he says carefully, but then confesses that he was the target and goes on to offer a pretty thinly veiled hint to who was going to do the killing.

I wouldn't want to mention anyone by name. But I'll give you something to understand: I don't have any relationship with the chairman from the resignation to this day.

When you're in Ramallah, you don't meet with him?
I live in Ramallah and he's 100 meters away. I don't go to him, I don't meet with him, I don't have any relations with him.

I’d say that was quite clear, wouldn’t you?

Sunday, June 13, 2004

What can I say? I’m a masochist.
Someone at work is a Spinning instructor. She’s started a special class for us lazy lumps. Twice a week we pedal away for an hour, have a nice shower (it doesn’t matter how high the air conditioning is set, we’re completely soaked at the end of it), and then get to work. The first two lessons were sheer hell, but now I’ve started to enjoy myself.

With all this running and spinning I am now as fit as a fiddle. I need to be fit as a fiddle to handle my baby. She’s a little devil. We’re all covered in scratches most of the time, the result of ferocious battles, and usually, by the time I get to read the newspaper, it’s full of tiny little bite marks. Seeing as the newspaper in question is Yediot Aharonot, this is probably an improvement. On second thoughts, I can’t think of a newspaper that wouldn’t benefit from a little impromptu feline editing.

A belated Happy Birthday to Dad. I didn’t actually forget about it (although I pretended to, for in-joke reasons), but I did forget to post congrats on the blog. He wouldn’t have seen it anyway. He’s far too busy sailing away for a year and a day, lucky him.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Sting
The worst thing about being taken for a ride isn’t the material loss, even if that loss is very great. It’s the humiliation, the stinging insult that is so unbearable, so painful. The victim presents the swindler with his most precious, closely guarded treasure, his trust, only to have it abused, trampled on, ridiculed. It’s a strong person that doesn’t turn bitter as a result.

Arafat’s masterful scam comes to mind.

And I realize, in amazement, that I am impressed at my country’s ability to swallow the insult, to a great extent, and react in a relatively careful and measured fashion. It may not look that way from where you’re sitting, in front of your computer screen, but it certainly does from here. You see I am the victim and I feel the sting. You don’t, so you can’t understand, just as Europe cannot understand the sting of 9/11. Not yet anyway.

We have the power to crush the Palestinians like so many ants. Angry people can’t think straight. They don’t consider the results; they don’t take the implications into account. In their anger and hatred, they take revenge, even if the end is ‘Let me die with the Philistines’. [Samson’s exclamation as he pulled down the Philistines temple, with what was left of his strength, killing himself along with his enemies - Judges, 16, 30]

And sadly, this is what the Palestinians have been doing. It’s pathetic. I’m sorry for them. But in their humiliation, their anger and aggression are being directed at the wrong target. They should be turned towards the real cause of their terrible malady, towards the main reason that they are not busy right now with the exciting endeavor of building their brave new sovereign state. I’m talking about Arafat. The Master Swindler. He didn’t just take us for a ride.

We have the power to crush the Palestinians and yet we don’t. You’re right, their lives are awful; they exist on a continuum of poverty, degradation and danger; they can be killed by a stray bullet, theirs or ours; making a decent living is nearly impossible; their freedom of movement is severely constricted; many of our young soldiers behave very badly towards them. And there’s more.

But it’s nothing to what we could do, and probably would, if we were in the business of revenge, not self-defense. And it’s nothing to what anyone else would do, especially the Palestinians themselves, if they were in our shoes.

You may say that that is no excuse. No it isn’t. The only acceptable explanation is self-defense. And that is exactly what it is. We are effectively fighting vicious, hate-filled, unrelenting, bloodthirsty terrorism as humanely as we possibly can. It may not be humane enough for you. But if it were in your back yard, you would very likely feel very differently. Maybe if it were, you would also be impressed with our ability, and willingness, to swallow the sting.
Most Comfortably Ugly

Random associative chatter
Bish said he was bowled over by my answer on Norm’s profile to “What personal fault do you most dislike?” I said “Blaming others for one's own shortcomings and failures.” “You do that.” He said with a little twinkle in his eye. Well, duh! I know that!

He was talking of what I do on a personal level. But I also realize that much of what I write here on my blog, in my attempts to explain why Israel does what it does, is blaming others. My inner work is to be aware of this.

I do try to see our part, our mistakes, and our part of the blame. If I don't write about it very much, it is because it is being done already, particularly viciously and unfairly, by others, others who refuse to see any other point of view and refuse to put any of the blame on the Palestinians, even as they commit crimes against humanity. It is also because I believe that, especially at a time of war and bloody conflict, this is mainly a subject for inner debate, inside Israeli society, in Hebrew.

A large segment of Israeli society has been deeply immersed in the self-blame game for years. I had counted myself as part of this segment for most of my adult life. Then one day I discovered that this can be dangerous, even suicidal, when it is one sided.

Yes, we do share part of the blame for what has happened in our conflict with the Palestinians. I saw the Oslo Accords and Barak’s offer for a final settlement as sincere attempts to accept this, correct it, and make amends.

However, the Palestinians, as a people, seem completely and utterly unwilling to openly look at themselves critically. Until we see such a serious, pervasive inner dialogue among Palestinians as we see in Israeli society, until we see a real Palestinian peace camp, until they are widely able to accept that there are two sides here, and that they must compromise, there will never be peace.

Despite this, and despite Palestinians’ often-sickening war strategy and the open proclamation of certain Palestinian parties that the destruction of Israel is their ultimate goal, the self-blame game of many Israelis continues, unfettered.

Ruined parts of Jenin refugee camp are being rebuilt and renovated - wider roads, better, newer homes. Some residents are being relocated to a shiny, new neighborhood. See how Gideon Levy follows Palestinian lead, perversely twisting this into something monstrous.

Wider roads, not so that cars can drive through the former narrow alleyways, but so tanks can get through! (Apparently building roads wide enough for tanks to pass without having to go through the houses is a very wicked thing to do). He makes building nice new homes for people sound like something awful. How could this possibly be? Is it because they may lose the urge to want to destroy Israel and kill Israeli civilians? Is it because if they’re not desperate, what excuse will they have to be angry, indignant, and murderous? As Bish put it, it’s taking all the fun out of the Right of Return!

Yahoo! reports that the construction and renovation works in Jenin have been halted, because some Palestinians are so angry they’ve been threatening workers and even shooting off rifles in the local UN offices! Is this Israel’s fault as well? Surely there must be limits on blaming oneself.

Actually this ungrateful, violent behavior sounds like no more than a typical Middle Eastern ploy by private Palestinians in order to get a better housing deal. The best way to get what you want in this part of the world is to make sure to be the one to shout and complain the loudest. The Palestinians, as a people, are the masters of the art. Westerners, unfamiliar with the practice, are completely taken in.

I am reminded of Efraim Kishon’s classic depiction of an Eastern ma’abara dweller, Sallah Shabbati. A ma’abara was a transition camp – the Israeli version of a refugee camp - where they housed the hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the early years. They were awful places. People lived for years in soggy, muddy tents or, if they were lucky, in ramshackle huts.

In one of the most famous and well-loved scenes of the film, which I recommend watching if you get the chance, Sallah Shabbati is fed up of being continuously passed over for permanent housing. Typical Kishon, Shabbati stages a noisy demonstration with his sizable family in front of the local Housing Ministry office, chanting, “We don’t want housing! We want the ma’abara!” The housing bureaucrats are, of course, horrified, and the members of the Shabbati family soon find themselves in their brand new apartment in the housing project.
What’s all this then? Palestinians want it like in Israel?
Amazingly, Palestinians seem to prefer the Israeli way of doing things, according to the latest Khalil Shkaki opinion poll.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip view Israeli democracy as the preferred model for a regime that they would like to see applied in a future Palestinian state, according to a survey released at a conference in Jerusalem last week.

Not the American model, not the French model. The Israeli model (with all its crazy chaos). Things are not always as they seem.

And between the lines we learn the most important message of all: They want democracy, real democracy, not the farce Arafat gave them under the auspices of Oslo, the EU, and Clinton.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Just my luck that I'm in this morose mood when Norman Geras is kind enough to post a profile of me (I find it intensely embarrassing to write that. Who do I think I am? Profile, indeed!).

So if you've come from Normblog, welcome! Feel free to click through to the stuff on the left sidebar. And please don't hold the anti-model bias against me, I'll be feeling more postive about life soon, I hope.

Lately I haven’t had anything good to say about anything. I have disliked everything I have managed to put into writing. In such a state it is better to keep quiet.

Here’s a little contribution to the Comfortably Ugly collection

And here are some unconnected snaps I took at the beginning of a little tour I took with work to the shiny new Terminal 2000 of Ben Gurion Airport. Not very interesting, but I like them.

All taken before the sinking feeling started setting in. I was initially immensely enjoying the interior design of the place. Gradually I began to realize that the concept was all wrong. A week later I am still slightly in shock.

I had been under the impression that the idea was to build something that would eventually serve as a travel center for a peaceful Middle East. Apparently not. They seem to be building a shopping mall with an airport.

My sad verdict: A very expensive white elephant. I can’t see how it is any improvement on the old place, besides being more modern and more flashily designed, and besides being bigger, not in a clever way, but in an opulent, ostentatious way. I dearly hope I prove to have been very mistaken.

Monday is the grand opening celebration. Don’t ask me why. They say they’re not starting to use it before November. I’d be surprised if they even made that deadline.

[See what I mean about not having anything nice to say?]

Sunday, June 06, 2004

I hate pigeons.
I hate them. I hate them. I hate them. Horrible, dirty, flea-infested creatures. I hate them. I hate them. I hate them. Did I mention that it's my wedding anniversary today? Yup, Bish and I tied the knot exactly fifteen years ago, give or take an hour or two. And how do we spend the day? Fighting horrible, filthy pigeons and their crawly, nasty, itchy fleas. I hate them. I hate them. I hate them.

Poor Shoosha. We thought it was her, and we schlepped her to that lovely vet for treatment. But it wasn't her at all, poor little thing. It was those horrible, revolting pigeons. I hate them.

I don't think I'll ever feel clean again. And I can't believe I once thought pigeons were sweet.

I hate them.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

About Sharon's firing cabinet ministers
Go read Allison. Hilarious. The comments too.

Thank goodness some of us are still finding the energy to write about what is actually happening here right now.
And what's wrong with muesli and sandals, exactly? (You forgot to point out that they have to be Birkenstock, preferably the green plastic ones).

Update: I’ve been admonished as unpatriotic by Allison, for writing about Birkenstock without mentioning the far-superior Israeli equivalent – Naot.

Somehow I don't think Guardian readers would dare wear Israeli sandals, for fear of their hard-earned subscriptions being automatically revoked.

The funny thing is that, in Israel, the most fervent among the Settlers are also muesli and sandals people. Things are often not quite as they seem.
And talking about humility...
I agree SO much, Alisa (no longer in Wonderland?)! Every word in the rock, as we weird Israelis say.
So who isn’t a bloody misfit? (revisited)
Last week a friend at work was telling us at great length about the hard-luck story of an apparently well-known Israeli model and former beauty queen, as it had appeared in an interview in the paper. (Don’t you just hate it when people do that? If I’d really wanted to know the story of that TV movie on Hallmark last night, I would have watched it myself. You really don’t have to tell it all to me! Nu, but I have to be polite).

Anyway, this poor gorgeous model (I forget the name) had had an awful life. Grown up in a well-to do family, beauty queen, followed by successful modeling career, got married to a handsome Italian millionaire who had fallen in love with her image in a magazine and flown straight to Israel to woo her… Now I’m just being mean. The sad truth was that the Italian millionaire treated her like a piece of jewelry to put on his arm and they eventually divorced leaving her with three kids, I think.

Now she’s a bright girl, even though she’s a model, so she studies medicine, not because she has a burning need to heal the world’s sick, but to prove that she’s not just some dumb model. Then she starts writing, and quite well, according to her. But no one will publish her, because she’s just this dumb model, see? Even when she sends her stuff in incognito, and the publishers show an interest, they back off when they hear that it was a dumb model celeb person who wrote it. Okay, so this is how my friend told it, okay?

I’m getting there; I’m getting there…

Now, I’m a pretty self-absorbed person myself, but I try to keep quiet about it, because I know I’ve been very lucky in life. I have absolutely no call to feel sorry for myself, even if I do every once in a while (Don’t worry, Bish refuses to allow me to wallow in self-pity for more than two seconds in a row).

This model person is rich (I suppose she did get something from the Italian millionaire), beautiful, and she has three lovely kids. What else? Oh yes, she’s clever and accomplished. But that’s not enough! No, she wants the whole world to bow down before her in recognition and say ‘We know you’re not only beautiful, we admire you also because you are clever and accomplished’. A bit of humility is in place. Some people are hungry, you know. Count your blessings before whining.

But then again, if everyone were happy and satisfied with their lot in life, who would write the books?

Sayed Kashua’s first book made a strong impression on me. I haven’t read his second one (Hebrew link) yet. Maybe I’ll buy it during the upcoming Book Week.

You can’t help liking Kashua. He’s so painfully truthful, about everything, but he’s never vicious.

By the way, my friend from Tiberias, the one I mentioned yesterday, besides being brilliant, was also an incredibly well-adjusted person. She wasn't at all one of the gifted-but-confused I also discussed in the same post.

Update: Oh dear, I hope I haven't awoken the dormant Feminist beast(-ess) in my female readers with this, who sympathise with our long-suffering beauty-queen/model/doctor/writer in her quest to be taken seriously. Confess! Aren't you secretly delighted to hear that a model's life can be horrible and that beauty is a terrible crutch to have to live with?

Friday, June 04, 2004

Shabbat Shalom.
So who isn’t a misfit?
Jonathan Edelstein has just read Sayed Kashua’s book “Dancing Arabs”. I read it when it came out in Hebrew in 2002, before I began blogging.

I can’t remember the book well enough to comment on it. I mainly remember falling in love with the hero’s grandmother, as she is described in the book. Kashua portrays a powerful image of her that has stayed with me.

Jonathan writes:

But Dancing Arabs isn't fundamentally about harmony; it's a story of conflict. The narrator is an Arab Israeli from Kashua's home village of Tira - he is never named, and we are left to guess how many of the details are autobiographical - and Dancing Arabs is the story of how he was caught between two worlds. The narrator's father and grandfather were Palestinian militants, and he is raised on stories of the 1948 war which he retells in the first person. When he is accepted to a predominantly Jewish boarding school for gifted children, he responds by trying to "pass" - to become as Jewish as possible, to blend in to the Israeli society around him.

The conflict comes from the fact that, from the narrator's standpoint, it is impossible to be both Arab and Israeli at the same time. This is due at least in part to his village background; much of his difficulty fitting in at the boarding school comes from his accented Hebrew and unfamiliarity with middle-class norms rather than his Arab ethnicity as such. He is no middle-class urban Arab who can comfortably consider himself Israeli; to him, Israeli society is Jewish society, and to become an Israeli it is necessary to become a Jew.

But even when he passes for Jewish, he learns another truth - that acceptance is always conditional, that efforts at coexistence are often gratingly artificial, and that the rift between Arabs and Jews will come back to bite him when he least expects it. He ends up a man without a country, too Israelized to return to village life but barred by accident of birth from blending fully into middle Israel. This loss of identity follows him through depression, failure in career and marriage, and finally resignation.

I am reminded of a friend, with whom I lost touch long ago, who was originally from Tiberias. We were in the army together and later we met again in university. She was the most brilliant person I knew (besides Bish, of course :-)). She must have tried to explain to me what her thesis was about at least three or four times. I just couldn’t understand. And it wasn’t in Higher Mathematics, it was in Psychology and I was also studying Psychology. Still it was far too clever for me.

When she was fourteen, my friend had left her family in Tiberias and had gone to a special school in Kfar Saba, a boarding school for especially gifted children.

The idea of this boarding school (which has since closed, I believe, for lack of funds) was to give very talented children a chance to develop their special abilities. These were children from development towns in remote areas, where the schools couldn’t give them suitable intellectual stimulation.

I remember my friend telling me that there were two such boarding schools in Israel. The other one was in Jerusalem. It was to this other one, it seems, that the narrator in Kashua’s book was sent, as was the author himself, in real life, I believe.

I can well understand and sympathize with Kashua’s hero not feeling that he belongs to either Arab or Jewish society. I too am a child of two very different universes. You are probably thinking that my worlds couldn’t possibly conflict as severely as Kashua’s. Maybe not, but conflict they do nevertheless, and my life has always revolved around my inner struggle to find my place.

Something else sounds familiar in Kashua’s story, from my limited experience observing gifted people, and that is the difficulties that these people can encounter, in adjusting to life. They are brilliantly shining stars in a dull, mediocre world. Their everyday social experiences can often be disappointing. Even without such an inner (and outer) cultural conflict, as Kashua’s hero experiences, just dealing with the world can be extremely frustrating for them. Learning to successfully cope with these dilemmas along with such a cultural conflict is certainly no small feat.

Israel has so many serious social challenges to meet, but it can’t address them properly until it is at peace. But how can it be possible for Israel to achieve peace while all these social challenges are pulling it in all directions from the inside?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Comfortably ugly 2

Haaretz again
Jonathan tells me that the three missing paragraphs I translated myself were added to Haaretz English version later. He pointed out that "Ha'aretz English articles are updated frequently, and the version you read might have been put on the web before those three paragraphs were translated."

Fair enough. I still think they could have translated those three paragraphs before the bit about Yossi Sarid calling Mofaz names.
Mazal Tov to Ly-LY of Lights in the Distance. She's had her baby and all's well (tfu tfu tfu).

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

No one is immune

There is a story about a Zen master whose monastery was overrun by marauding soldiers. When the Zen master did not appear frightened, the soldier’s captain said, “Don’t you know who I am? I could run my sword through you and not think twice about it.” The Zen master replied, “Don’t you know who I am? You could run your sword through me and I wouldn’t think twice about it.”

Written on the inside flap of the cover of No Death, No Fear, Comforting Wisdom For Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh.

This is what immediately came to mind when I heard of the beheading of a Buddhist by Islamic separatists in Thailand on Saturday. Maybe not so appropriate. This was no Zen master. And he was killed because he wasn’t a Muslim.

Cheam, 63, a Buddhist who lived with his wife in a remote Muslim village, on Saturday became the latest victim in the litany of killings blamed on Islamic separatists in Thailand's deep south.

To drive home the message, the killers had flung Cheam's head in the village street while the body was left in the rubber plantation he managed several kilometers away.

Look at this great Map of Israel. Click on the different areas to get a closer look. Then you can get even closer and even see photos. Bish found it for us. Thank you Bish.
A letter
Sent to me yesterday by reader Randy Daitch:

I discovered this morning, on Memorial Day, a letter sent by my father to my mother, when he was serving in an army medical detachment in British Guiana, in April 1943. My father's Yahrzeit is next Sunday. His words would surely resonate with our soldiers overseas today:


Our countries are fighting a war, and I am a soldier - a fighter for the common cause. At present my leaders have seen fit to place me in a position of comparatively little danger. I'll not complain, but accept the verdict of my commanders as to the best place in the scheme of things for me.

I've heard men say that they would rather be a live coward than a dead hero. I would rather be neither. I believe that while it is great to die for one's country, it is even greater to live for it. But if it ever comes to the choice of losing, to the Nazi hordes, our way of life, or dying in the attempt to maintain that way of life, I'll choose the latter.

Sweetheart, I miss you much, but whether I see you soon or later does not really matter. The important thing is that there is a job to be done, and if there is to be any of peace, freedom and security in the future - do it, and do it well, we must.

Until I return then, my love, keep me close to your heart, and I will remain happy in the knowledge that some day, soon I hope, I'll return and there will be no more waiting, wondering, worrying, for either of us, and we will be eternally happy in one another's arms.

With all my love,

Randy found this letter while organizing his worldly possessions for shipment to Israel. He's making Aliya in September, lucky us.