Thursday, September 30, 2004

A few things
I told you Our Sis and Mister Our Sis visited the US, mainly New England, their first big trip without the kids, who are now nearly all grown-up. They spent Rosh Hashanna in a place called West Woodstock, Vermont, where they stumbled on Rosh Hashanna services in a beautiful reform shul in a converted barn (‘Not what you’d think. This was a lovely converted barn’). Used to Orthodox shuls, they said the service was strange but moving, and they enjoyed it. They were mainly excited about the very warm welcome they received from the congregation.

They said people were very warm to them, as Israelis, not only when they were among fellow Jews, but everywhere they went in America. Nice.

On the other hand, Our Sis told us that friends of theirs visited Europe. They weren’t received very nicely at all. At the border between, I think it was Italy and Germany, the German border police seriously hassled them, and Our Sis’s friend, the son of German immigrants, heard the policemen talking between themselves about giving these Jews a hard time. Jews not Israelis, note. The kids were apparently terrified by the unpleasant event and the family cut short their visit to Germany.

On another front, the situation in Sderot has been going from bad to worse. Increasing numbers of Kassam rockets, launched daily from Gaza on this southern development town in pre-1967 Israel, do not bode well for life after the disengagement, when the Palestinians in Gaza will be free to do as they like. Yesterday two little children were killed in Sderot by Kassam rockets.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Hag Succot Same'ach everyone

Sunday, September 26, 2004

So why fast if one does not attach deep religious meaning to the act, if one does not ‘do it properly’?

I once heard a Jewish woman say that when she lit the Shabbat candles every Friday night she felt a connection to all Jewish women everywhere who were also lighting Shabbat candles, ushering in the Shabbat. And she also felt a connection to all Jewish women down the generations before her who had lit the Shabbat candles, and the yet unborn baby girls who would be lighting them in the future.

Fasting on Yom Kippur is also something we do and have been doing for many generations. This is a humbling thought. The essence of this fast, of this day, is also humbling. We beat our breasts as we collectively speak our transgressions, and together ask for forgiveness.

I haven’t been to shul on Yom Kippur for many years, so I haven’t actually done this for a while, but I can still hear the tune “And for all these oh Lord of forgiveness: Forgive us, pardon us, grant us remission.” Nostalgia has made the memory far sweeter than reality ever was. I used to be bored out of my mind.

You sometimes hear people saying defensively, ‘I haven’t done anything wrong, so I don’t have to fast’. You smile to yourself, because you happen to know one ore two things about those particular people.

Others aren’t taking any chances. You can probably leave your door wide open in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur. The thieves are all praying and beating their breasts. They know that what they do for a living is wrong. They also know that tomorrow they will continue were they left off. Today they pray desperately.

Yesterday, Yom Kippur, I rode my bike through the wonderfully empty streets of industrial South Tel Aviv, through the deserted alleyways of the flea market in Yaffo, touching something that isn’t there on the other days of the year, not even on Shabbat.

When I came home I drank, two cups after the first trip, three after the second, so as not to dehydrate. Mine wasn’t a very ‘kosher’ fast.

But today I feel cleansed, and not just physically. There is a strength to Yom Kippur, however you choose to spend it.

Bottom line: Why fast? I’m not sure, but it feels good.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

A reader’s interesting thoughts:

The issue of Jewish secularism vs. 'observancy' is one I've been intrigued by for quite a while. Every religion has its traditionalists and its secularists, but of course with Jews the meaning of it all is obscured to some extent by the tendency to equate
Jewish ethnicity and Jewish faith. (I just wrote that Israel is the most obvious example of this, but crossed it out because I realized it's not the same thing - just goes to show how difficult this concept can be at times.)

Is "Jewishness" only adherence to a religion? That would neglect an obvious Jewish secular culture. Is "Jewishness" an ethnicity that tends to practice a certain religion? That neglects the various faces and colors of practicing Jews around the world. Is
"Jewishness" a national identity, i.e. Israeli? To make it so would disenfranchise Israeli citizens who are non-Jews by religion or ethnicity. Is "Jewishness" simply an inherited culture? Possibly, but is that a strong enough word for it?

I wonder if the roots of this seeming dilemma might be found in European history, extending back at least to the Middle Ages, where Jews were segregated and
considered separate from the European Christian population as a "people apart", regardless of religious observance or native language or outward appearance - the latter of course tended to be regulated. If a group is seen as "different" for long
enough, perhaps the reason for that difference can begin to seem inherent, rather than attributable to a specific original cause such as religious difference.

As I said above, I find this very intriguing because I can't offhand think of another case where religion and ethnicity seem so blended in terms of identity, and
I'm not even sure that's as fair and accurate a description of "Jewishness" as it might seem at first glance.

If a Jew 'converts" - to Christianity, to Buddhism - is s/he still a Jew? If an Eskimo 'converts' – to Judaism - does s/he become a Jew? I suppose that Israel is the place that would bring these questions into highest relief.

Also interesting, the above-mentioned concept of "common culture" is generally accepted as the best available definition of "Arabness", although the parallel stops just about there, as Arabs practice a number of different religions in addition to being
composed of myriad ethnicities.

Irit Linor? In Haaretz?
How very droll.

Irit Linor is an Israeli writer. Bish knew her in university. She used to be known mainly as a very loud lefty feminist who wrote a witty and provocative column in I forget which newspaper, and was a regular commenter on TV and radio. She later amused many by changing her tune a bit, following her marriage to a hunky TV military correspondent. She has also published two very popular books of fiction. One of them was made into a feature film.

But she first really captured my heart when she sent a wonderfully eloquent and cutting letter to Haaretz in 2002, I think, canceling her subscription. The letter was bandied round the Internet, as was Haaretz’s response. I think the only ones who didn’t get to read it were the rest of Haaretz subscribers. Haaretz didn’t dare publish the letter. They were in the middle of a mass reader exodus at the time, as a result of a severe clash between their open political stand and reality, as perceived by many of their veteran readers (including this one), and were reportedly getting a bit hysterical (not enough to change their stand but enough for them to be very worried).

And now she’s back, writing an article for Haaretz. As always, it’s worth reading. I see her as a representative of people like me, lefties whose eyes were forced opened in September 2000 and after.

Friday, September 24, 2004

More on being a secular Jew
(This post may be a bit shocking for traditional and religious Jews, who may have certain pre-conceptions about life in Israel. Be warned)
A reader suggested it must be difficult to be a secular Jew in Israel. On the contrary, Israel is an excellent place to be secular. First of all, the majority of Jewish Israelis are either secular or traditional.

The modern State of Israel was created by secular socialists, breaking out of the confines of Eastern European yeshivas. As a result, until fairly recently, the academic, financial, cultural, and political elites were mainly secular. This is changing, but even though the ultra-Secular tend to feel threatened by religious politicians attempting to infringe on their freedoms, it isn’t really happening (this is a bit complex – more about it another time, maybe).

Jews who came here from Arab and Muslim countries, by the way, make up about half of Israelis. They apparently lived a far less confining and restrictive style of Jewish life in their countries of origin than did the Jews in Eastern Europe, therefore when they came to Israel, many, if not most, became secular but remained traditional.

Secondly, in Israel the likelihood of your kids marrying non-Jewish people, if this holds any importance for you, is relatively low, even if you make no attempt to live any sort of ‘Jewish’ life.

Third, and best of all, if you are seriously secular, you get to make the most of both worlds on Yom Kippur.

Imagine, if you will, the busiest, noisiest, most congested street you know; always jammed with cars, buses, trucks whizzing past, horns peeping, hundreds of people filling the sidewalks, rushing this way and that.

And now try to mentally visualize that same street, completely empty, eerily silent. No vehicles moving on it, not even one, sidewalks empty of passersby, besides maybe the occasional family, walking slowly and reverently towards their synagogue.

And then you hear it, a low clicking, whirling sound. Soon there is a sight to go with the sound, a solitary guy on a bike, riding boldly, right in the middle of the wrong side of the road. He’s soon followed by a group of kids in their early teens, about six of them, racing their bikes, shouting out to each other. Next to go passed - a couple on roller blades, holding hands; and then more bikers, mainly children of various ages, many in packs, but quite a few serious adult bikers too, with all the fancy gear.

This is Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur, the best place to be in the world if you are a secular kid and you possess a bicycle. There is nowhere you can’t go, complete and utter freedom, unheard of, unthinkable. The next day the gangs of kids tell stories of how they reached as far as Herzliya and Rishpon in the north. An all time favorite is the Ayalon Freeway, which cuts through the east of Tel Aviv all along. For secular Tel Aviv kids, used to the restrictions of living in the middle of a busy city with all its dangers, Yom Kippur is a day of breaking free, a day of personal independence.

Last time I rode a bike in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur was two or three years ago, and I think I was fasting (poor R.T., I more or less destroyed his bike on that occasion, but that’s another story). I’m going to try for both this year as well. Maybe I’ll drink water. Yediot Aharonot reported yesterday that 22.5% of the customers of one movie rental chain fast and watch movies. I wonder how many fast and ride their bikes!

So this morning was bike maintenance time. I’ve ridden with the girls a few times recently, so their bikes were fine, only needed a bit of air, and I fitted them with the lights I had bought, ready for the ritual Kol Nidrei night ride. Mine had another flat, on the other hand, so now we’re a bit low on spare inner tubes should we have any calamities (Erev Yom Kippur is not a good time to go anywhere near any bike shops - too packed).

Both girls have big plans and were on the phone all morning. I think Youngest is being a bit over-ambitious, her bike isn’t marvelous and she isn’t very strong, but now that I have my own bike, I’ll have no problem to come and save her, wherever she may find herself.


So there we are. Yesterday I was proud to receive my first sample of hate mail, from someone who completely misunderstood an old post of mine so much so that he actually understood it to mean the exact opposite (he obviously didn’t read it very carefully). The e-mail itself was very silly. Besides one unpleasant expression which was repeated throughout (the ‘f’ word and the ‘sh’ word) to describe me, I am apparently in possession of a ‘little graphomaniac blabber's mind’. I quite liked that. Maybe I’ll make it my blog description.

I’ve deleted the old post. It wasn’t that important. And although you had to be pretty dense to be offended by the particular detail that made my hate-filled correspondent froth at the mouth, I really don't want to upset anyone like that. It’s so sad that people are reduced to such language and such behavior. If he had written a polite e-mail saying that he was offended by it, I would have apologized and deleted it, so why the violence?

Update: Good description of Yom Kippur by Shai.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I’m not sure why, but I love this:
Be virtuous, and find yourselves a dragonslayer.

Via Alice in Texas (‘Is that a gun in my pocket, or is that a gun in my pocket?’).

Bish would probably say it was shtooyot*. Still, he didn't marry a cheerleader, did he?

And while we're on the subject, Mazal Tov to David and Zahava, my nominees for Nicest Couple of the Blogosphere (MidEast Chapter), on the occasion of their wedding anniversary.


*Shtooyot = nonsense

Another thought: I'm reading Alice and I'm thinking 'This must be the most un-cool, nerdy thing I have ever read in my life'. "The truth is that goodness is never boring, because it is creative and powerful and principled". You can't get more nerdy than that. Thing is, it's true, even if it does seem so unworldly and old-fashioned.

When did we become so cynical, so self-destructively sophisticated, that we automatically ridicule such sentiments, even as we see the wisdom in them? (Maybe because there aren't enough Darcy's to go round).

It's all Heathcliff's fault. The original incredibly-sexy-but-bad-news hero.

I confess, a long time ago I thought I was getting a Heathcliff, but he turned out to be a Darcy. No, even better than a Darcy. "Goodness is never boring, because it is creative and powerful and principled". Definitely. I am the luckiest person in the world.

Now see if you can beat that for uncool nerdy-ness, not to mention shameless mushy-ness.
Bish just received spam from someone using the address of Bish’s business website, something on the lines of –

He can’t even blacklist it, it’s his own address!

More about why

In an interview on Channel 10, Mohammed al Razak said he had been approached by Hamas terrorists in Gaza who asked him to carry out the attack and had received two payments of $200 but said he was not a member of the Hamas.

Razak - who lived for over thirty years in Jaffa and worked in Bat Yam, a Jaffa bakery and the central bus station in Tel Aviv - said that he was glad he had been caught, as he doubted he could have detonated the bomb when the time came.

Saw him being interviewed on channel 10 last night, such a nice, soft-spoken man.

Why would such a person put on underwear filled with explosives and come to blow up people?

Anger? Desperation?

According to the Jpost

He refused to divulge the reason why he agreed to go ahead with the plan but cited family reasons.

A fight with the wife? Not exactly. Channel 10’s Zvi Yehezkeli said that al Razak's son had apparently committed some sort of morality offense, I think it was, and that this was a deal that they had offered him if he wanted to save his son. Charming people.

On TV last night, al Razak was asked what he thought about the people who had sent him. He said that there was a God in Heaven. The interviewer then said that those who sent him were claiming that they were doing God’s will. He was silent for a moment and then again said that there was a God in Heaven.

Since last night, I have been worried about what they might do to his son now. And if I’m worried, can you imagine how he must be feeling? Poor guy.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Just got back from a parents’ meeting at Eldest’s school. Her class is a mixture of children from the relatively wealthy north and the less affluent south of the city (I say ‘relatively’ because Our Sis has just come back from a trip to New England, full of stories of real affluence).

This year, the municipality cancelled the special bus the kids from the south get to school, for lack of funds. The school is located in the north, about ten minutes walk from our apartment. The kids from the south are now being given bus tickets and are expected to get the public transport. It takes some of them about an hour and a half to get to school, poor things. The school administration is trying to negotiate a deal with ‘Dan’, the local bus company, so that they will allocate a special bus for these kids. They’ll pay with the bus tickets they’ve been given, but the bus won’t stop at any of the bus stops on the way, and will reach the school much quicker. I hope this solution works out.

During the meeting, while parents from the south were understandably letting off steam on the subject, some character at the back of the class kept making wisecracks about the discrimination of the south. It was uncomfortable.

Parents’ meetings in Middle School are truly horrible. We don’t know any of the parents, even those we suspect are parents of Eldest’s friends, unlike in elementary school where quite a few of the parents were our friends, and we knew all the others as well. Not that the parents’ meetings weren’t horrible in elementary too, just less so.

Tonight we couldn’t get away fast enough, and we certainly didn’t stick around for the lecture about dealing with drug abuse among adolescents.

The drugs issue has been a big joke in our household ever since Eldest confessed that she was very worried about some research she had read about somewhere that apparently had found that kids from families who didn’t have regular family meals together were more likely to deteriorate to drug abuse. We’re not very hot on formal family meals during the week, although we do manage a few every weekend. Bish expressed the view that maybe some families who don’t have family meals together could possibly have one or two problems besides the meal factor, and that maybe the lack of family meals was more of a symptom than a cause. She accepted the sense in this, but now we can’t help feigning mock distress every now and again, about Eldest’s imminent deterioration.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Once upon a time Imshin and Bish lived across the road from an ultra-Orthodox boys’ school and synagogue. Every morning Imshin would encounter the resident rabbi as she left home for work and as he arrived for the early morning prayers. Imshin was going through a pretty spiritual period at the time, so she thought maybe the rabbi was, like, her local spiritual leader. Once or twice she tried to catch the rabbi’s eye, to say good morning or nod. He usually ignored her. Sometimes he graced her with a hostile glare. ‘So much for a spiritual leader’, Imshin would think, as she hurried on her way down the road, away from the rabbi.

Her religious friend at work said to her, ‘What do you want? He’s just a rabbi. He learnt some stuff and passed an exam. It doesn’t automatically elevate him to greatness.’ Her religious friend told this story about a rabbi in Bnei Brak he had gone to when his parents were dying of cancer. That guy sounded elevated to Imshin, but not the neighborhood rabbi from across the road.

One evening the gabbai of the synagogue across the road got hold of Bish, who was coming home from work. The gabbai was missing someone for his minyan (the ten Jewish men necessary for the prayer), and he was out in the street trying to grab someone. ‘You don’t want me,’ Bish told the gabbai, ‘I don’t believe’. The gabbai retorted that there was no such thing as a non-believing Jew. Bish answered, ‘Behold, before you - a non-believing Jew!’

Now it is not strictly true that Bish is a non-believer. He just didn’t believe in what the gabbai and his rabbi had to offer, and he wasn’t prepared to be coerced into participating in their prayer.

For eleven years Imshin and Bish lived across the road from that school and synagogue. Every four years, sometimes more, they ventured into the school to cast their vote for the national elections, every four years they cast their vote there for the municipal elections.

But they never set foot in the synagogue.

Some people, whose knowledge and experience of life and society in Israel is twenty years out of date, say that secular Judaism in Israel has no future. Some people seem not to have a clue what secular Judaism in Israel is, as opposed to secular Judaism, say, in the United States. But they are quite sure that it has no future. Bish says, ‘Some people are quite right’. Bish doesn't see 'The Future' as a very important concept. It’s the Buddhist in him speaking. You see - it is various types of Buddhism that are popular among secular Jews in Israel, including those who have spent time in India, not Hinduism, along with other popular types of supermarket spiritualism, many of them leading back to Judaism, Orthodox or otherwise. But some people wouldn’t know that, however brilliant they may be, however convinced they are that they know everything.

Secular Judaism in Israel cannot be seen solely as a religious affiliation, if at all. It’s a coincidence of birth (or choice); it's a state of being; an identity. It’s who and what we are. It has no future? What does that mean? A lot of people around the world are saying that the United States of America have no future either. What does that mean?

Some people are too judgmental. At least we have that in common.

[No link. Some people I don't link to any more.]
Dad wanted to know what an epikorsit was. Well it's a Hebraized female version of apikorus, heretic. Although as Dad points out, you actually have to have been religious and to have opted out, to be an apikorus, and that hasn't happened to me, although Mum did schlep me to shul, to be bored silly, on a regular basis, when we were living in England, and I used to fast on Yom Kippur till I met Bish , who is a real apikorus.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Epikorsit log: Real life
Thirteen-year-old Eldest volunteered to help prepare food parcels for Tel Aviv’s needy before Rosh Hashanna. She said she had vaguely envisioned the work as involving sitting in the shade of a tree on a nice grassy spot with a few friends, passing along packages of biscuits, or something.

Reality, as always, was a little less idyllic. She found herself in a hot, smelly, dirty street, in an industrial area of South Tel Aviv, opening out seemingly endless amounts of cardboard boxes, and sorting crates of moldy vegetables. She worked very hard. She came home exhausted. I was so proud of her.
Epikorsit log: The perspective of the terrorist
Hadn’t had time to translate this, but I held on to it, because I think other people should get to read it. It’s from Yediot Aharonot 10th September, just a little corner frame at the end of an article in the weekend magazine, about a new book (Hebrew link) discussing the current war with the Palestinians. While the article puts an emphasis on the implications of the targeted killing of Raed Karmi in 2002, this little passage gives us an insight into what is going on in the heads of our enemies:

The Head of the Hamas Prisoners: The Israeli Peace Camp pushed us to continue terrorist attacks.
“Your debate about the future of the settlements and their necessity in the territories just served to strengthen our resolve to continue with the terrorist attacks”, So says Sheikh Hassan Yussuf, head of the Hamas prisoners held in Israel, in a rare interview. Yussuf is regarded the head of the Hamas leadership in the West Bank and head of that organization’s West Bank political bureau. He was convicted of belonging to a terrorist organization.

The things that Yussuf said to the authors of “The Seventh War” (Hebrew link) will undoubtedly inflame many in Israel, but they expose something of the state of mind in Hamas. “The people of the Peace Camp in Israel”, he says, “those who spoke of ending the occupation and retreating, pushed us forward in our decision to continue with the suicide terrorist attacks. Ariel Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan is also a great accomplishment that is a result of our activities. The refusenik phenomenon was the best evidence of the breakdown in Israeli society as a result of the suicide terrorist attacks. We thought that we should further deepen this breakdown and the use of the weapon of suicide became a matter of consensus in the organization”.

Another Hamas leader imprisoned in Israel, Jamal Abu Il-Hijra, who was the head of Hamas in Jenin and was arrested in August 2002 under suspicion of involvement in the suicide terrorist attacks in Meron junction, Matza restaurant in Haifa, and Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem, also explains that the choice of suicide attacks was a combination of vengeful feelings with the wish “to change the perception of Israelis, who thought they could continue with the occupation indefinitely. The political negotiations didn’t bring forth any change. On the other hand, the terrorist attacks caused the Israelis to feel the pain we felt. We wanted them to pressure their government to stop its actions – and as far as we’re concerned the disengagement is proof that we have succeeded in changing the Israeli consciousness. More proof is to be found in statements of Israeli public figures, such as that if writer Batya Gur, who said that she understands the perpetrators of suicide terrorist attacks.”

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Epikorsit log: Listen to this, Shoosha - Someone comments on this Blog Full of Crap here that you are beautiful. I think someone needs their eyes examined. (We still love you though, especially since you haven't scratched us for about two weeks).

Eldest: 'Shoosha is beautiful'. Sorry, my mistake.
Epikorsit log: The view from here (forgive the plagiarism, Harry)
I must say I am enjoying following what’s being called Rathergate and its hilarious and informative coverage (not to mention creation) by bloggers.

The presidential elections in the US always seem such fun. They have this ‘The circus has come to town’ sort of quality, with fanfares, nice blue and red banners flapping, and people cheering, even as the mud gets slung.

Of course, I can say this because they aren’t my elections. For all I know, you might think the very same thing about our elections. Somehow I doubt it.

Afterthought: Mind you, the coverage of the US elections here is so clueless, what do I know?

The other day, channel 10 had on a giggly, fluffy blonde, who was apparently standing in for someone or other, telling us about Rathergate, among other things. The giggly, fluffy blonde version of Rathergate she shared with us, in a very pompous those-silly-Americans tone of voice, gave me the impression that Dan Rather himself had dictated it to her.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being fluffy and blonde. Fluffy and blonde is quite nice. But I really do prefer the supposedly serious news (well, some of it...) not to be giggled to me, especially if the giggler sounds so very full of herself when she obviously doesn’t have any inkling what she’s talking about.

Bish pointed out that, because she was a giggly, fluffy blonde, no one really cared what she was saying. (He's not very politically correct, my Bish, just one reason I'm so fond of him).

Important update: Bish says I misquoted him. What he said was even less PC than I thought. Never mind.
Epikorsit log: Two young female Palestinian students of economics who were planning to commit mass murder in Tel Aviv, by blowing themselves up, turned themselves in, after their operator, Hanni Akkad was killed by the Israeli army. According to Ynet (Hebrew link) the girls’ parents forced them to turn themselves in, following visits by Israeli soldiers who warned them of their daughters’ intentions. Apparently the parents weren’t too happy with the idea that their homes would be demolished should their daughters go ahead with their plan.

Maariv (Hebrew link) says that today security forces arrested another young lady, also a would-be suicide murderess.

Yesterday, Israeli soldiers killed nine Palestinian militants. Sadly, an 11 year-old Palestinian girl was killed as well, during a skirmish between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. Haaretz says that the IDF shot her, but Maariv (in Hebrew) says that the army said that there was no use of firearms by Israeli soldiers in that particular skirmish and that she must have been shot by Palestinians. The IDF is checking.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Shanna Tova
Wishing you all a very happy and fruitful year.

I got Shoosha to pose for me. She was surprisingly cooperative.

What now?

Shoosha with apple
Oh look! The large servant creature has given me a shiny green thing. Must investigate.

Shoosha sniffing apple
It rolls when nudged. Interesting.

German newspaper Die Welt apparently says Syria has been trying out chemical weapons on civilians in Darfur. Too horrible.

Is Die Welt a serious source of information?

Update: Jonathan says that "_Die Welt_ is one of the top five German newspapers and has an excellent reputation. If it says that Syria used chemical weapons in Darfur, then it's at least provisionally credible."
Clicking through to this 1961 IBM 72 SELECTRIC typewriter, on sale at eBay (hilarious – go read), pointed to by James Taranto, I realized, with a jolt, that these things were still in use in my current place of employment, when I first came to work there in 1989.

I don’t know about the US, but in Israel the public sector always seems to be the last to hear of any new inventions, although things have improved considerably. It took them a while more to discover computers in my workplace, and some people are still not convinced that it would be far better to computerize their card indexes, instead of writing them by hand (!!!).

Well, I will live in the Middle East. I sometimes find it hard to believe that such wonderful scientific research is going on in this country and amazing innovations are being developed, while money is so scarce at my place of work that they can hardly afford pens and paper (and isn’t that a good reason for computerization? A modern-ish version of ‘Let them eat cake’…).

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Before I go and make the soup (R.T. is making the chicken soup. I'm making some clear vegetable soup for Bish and I)

Here they are again, the High Holidays, the time of year we look into our souls.

We don’t have to be religious or observant to do this. Actually, we don’t even have to be Jewish, do we? It is an opportunity.

Last year I took this opportunity to approach someone with whom I share a complex, uncomfortable, and unpleasant relationship. I said I was sorry that our relationship was so aggressive; I suggested we made a fresh start; I offered peace, friendship.

It took me a few days to start to doubt the sincerity of his reaction to my words, but his behavior towards me, during the days, weeks, and months that followed, proved to me that he had manipulated me.

It is hard for us to believe that some people do not want peace. When someone doesn’t want peace, we automatically try to work out what we have been doing wrong to hurt them so. It is hard for us to grasp, or accept, that sometimes it has nothing to do with us, or our behavior; that they may have their own agenda and that they may not care who gets hurt, as long as they get what they want.

Many months later, I once again found myself in an opportunity to speak to this person about our ever-deteriorating relationship. This time I was less apologetic. I told him how very offended I was by his behavior. ‘Oh’, he said, ‘It’s not personal.’
I have never had so many interesting, wise, and thought-provoking e-mails in reaction to a post. I am so relieved.

I was not trying to tell anyone off. I was talking about the quality of public discussion in America, as reflected in blogs, now that the pain is not as sharp, now that Americans, who were not directly involved, have finished their mourning and are ripe for moving on.

This may be strange for you to hear, but my local equivalent of 9/11 is not suicide bombings. It’s not even the Park Hotel. We’ve always had terrorism here. I grew up with it. The difference now is the level of the threat, not the essence.

No, for some strange reason, although it is maybe wrong to make such a comparison and you have to remember that I'm talking about deep personal feelings here, and (mainly) about how we deal with loss, my equivalent of 9/11, as that one national occurrence that rocked my being and deeply changed my life, was the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

Although there are great differences, I feel there is some, slight similarity between this event and 9/11 that is worth mentioning. Like 9/11 it had a deep effect on the national psyche in Israel. And like 9/11, there were, and continue to be, deep disagreements in Israel about its meaning, and what’s to be done about it. Maybe this is why I felt so uneasy with bloggers’ reactions to 9/11 this year, or rather the lack of them.

I cried for a week when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. I cried on the first anniversary, and on the second, and on the third. Then I didn’t cry any more.

I’d finished mourning. And the commemoration of the day started to seem stale, insincere, even more so after Oslo finally collapsed altogether, in September 2000. Now the annual memorial of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in Israel has become the property of a certain political faction in Israel. It leaves me cold. No, it leaves me angry.

But it’s completely different, because this was something we did to ourselves. It wasn’t the work of a common enemy that we have to decide how to deal with.

When I started blogging in June 2002, 9/11 was still very fresh in the minds of people. It was part of blogging. It wasn’t the details, or the sadness of the loss. There was this spirit that bloggers seemed to have, this strength. On Saturday I found myself wondering if it had really worn down so soon.

I wasn’t trying to tell anyone off for not writing about 9/11, I know a lot of people did, and there were some excellent columns in some of the papers. And there was really nothing wrong with not writing anything at all.

My feeling was that the time was ripe to move on from reliving the day, the details, the pain felt. I didn’t mean moving on into forgetting, or ignoring, or discarding it like clothes we have outgrown. I meant using it, somehow, as a springboard for mature reflection, discussion. It worried me that this didn’t seem to be happening.

The authors of the e-mails I received discussed why they thought this was, each in a particular way, offering me some different perspectives. I’ve been wondering which of them to reproduce here, but I can’t decide. I will just summarize by saying that it seems that reflection is happening, and I shouldn’t be worried.

You’ll excuse me if I do anyway (worry that is).

Sunday, September 12, 2004

You’ll say I don’t know what I’m talking about. You’ll say I’m a foreigner and I can’t possibly understand, and how dare I presume, and what business is it of mine anyway?

I know I am a foreigner, I know I should just butt out, but blogging has made me a bit of a big mouth. I get this uncontrollable urge to speak when it would be wiser to shut up. It’s a wonder I still have a job.

So I’ll say what I want to say. What will happen? You won’t read me anymore? You’ll write nasty things about me? I can always just turn off my computer, you know, and not turn it on again for six months. This has happened before, not recently, but if I feel like it, who’s to stop me?

It’s just that I have a question for American bloggers this 12th of September:

Was that the best you could do?

I wanted to know how you were feeling this year, but you just sent me over to last years posts. Many of you didn’t even bother to do that (not even a ‘I’m shutting down for 9/11’). Some of you just continued business as usual, as if nothing had happened.

And if you did write something it was the same thing as you wrote last year - more memories, some prayers, a few flags. It stuck in my throat, like a sandwich made of last week’s bread. Is that it? No fresh revelations, insights? Anybody?

I got a very strong feeling that the anniversary of 9/11 was a bit of an annoyance this year, a nuisance. It crept up while everyone was busy with other things. It got in the way of much fun being had with some authentic historic forgeries, that will or will not make a difference to something or other, for some reason.

Oh no, I could hear you thinking, but not daring to say, Not 9/11 again, just when we’d managed to forget all about it!

There is a word I am thinking about today. The word is DENIAL.

Oh, I know all about denial. What happened to you is pretty heavy. We Israelis, we always knew we were a shitty little country. We’d rather French VIPs would have the good manners to refrain from saying it in public, but we don’t really blame them. We’re bluffing, see? We’re used to being slapped in the face, first on one cheek and then on the other, and then kicked in the gut for dessert.

But you guys, you’re on top of the world. Should you fall, well, you’ve got a long way down.

It’s quite simple really. Think about a guy with cancer. He knows something is wrong, but he can’t deal with it. It’s too big. But the thing is, if he doesn’t get checked, he won’t get diagnosed. If he doesn’t get diagnosed, he won’t get treatment in time. If he doesn’t get treatment in time, and the only treatment is harsh and violent, he will soon die a horrible death.

There is a price to be paid for denial.
A British policeman spied for the Saudis, and has admitted he supplied them with a large amount of information, from police databases, about people and organizations that interested them. The man was born in Yemen and immigrated to Britain as a young man. He did it for the money, apparently.

More encouraging news is that members of England’s football (soccer) team and their manager, visited Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland last Tuesday, while they were in Poland for a World Cup qualifying game against that county's national team. Apparently it was some of the players themselves that asked to visit there.

Thank you to Bish and John Williams, for reading the Guardian and the Independent for me.
An Israeli blogger experiences the Academic Boycott first hand. Quite incredible, considering the subject he was researching.

And from the same blogger, a settler's perspective on the Jewish civil war we are being led to expect come evacuation date.

[By the way, Jeffrey, I am actually Not a Fish, but seeing as its nearly Rosh Hashanna, I'm prepared to compromise and be a Gefilte Fish, till Yom Kippur.]

Saturday, September 11, 2004

I’ve been watching the history channel. Two films about 9/11 in a row. Details. Reliving the details.

Is this what happens when you can’t agree what something means, three years on you are still rehashing the details, over and over again, minute by minute, second by second, till you’re sick of them*?

I remember a detail. I am in the post office. I am in a hurry because Youngest is at her ballet lesson and I have to pick her up in about five minutes. And there is this big long queue. No one is saying anything. Do they know? I ask myself. Have they heard? No one seems tense or nervous, no one except me. I am hysterical. I know I am hysterical. I’m sorry I took Youngest to her ballet class. I’m sorry I didn’t keep her close to me at home. I want to have her near me, to hold her to me, and keep her safe. I am anxious to pick her up and hug her tight. I am terrified I may never see her again.

The queue moves slowly, I am going to be late. Finally I am next. A woman rushes in. Her mother is waiting in the car, could she please cut in front of me? And I open my mouth and I yell at her that I am late for picking up my child, no she can’t cut in front of me, she can wait in line like everyone else. She looks at me strangely. Everyone in the queue is looking at me. Who is this nutcase? I should be embarrassed but I am too agitated to care.

Am I the only one here who knows that the sky has just fallen in?


*Afterthought: I meant no disrespect to the memories of the victims when I talked about rehashing the details.

What bothered me was that the films I saw today didn't once mention that someone did this, that it didn't just happen.

If you had been fresh off the spaceship from Mars, and you had watched these films, you would have thought that 9/11 was probably a very unfortunate, freaky air traffic accident, and that the real culprits were the people who designed and built the Towers so shoddily (first film), or no one at all (second film). In the second film, a guy shouting enraged threats at 'the people in the Middle East' was regarded with patient compassion, something about not judging people on such a day and that his words were clearly just the result of his terrible fear. On the other hand we got to see a lot of people holding hands and singing 'Imagine'.
Not a natural disaster
An excerpt from Uri Elitzur’s column in the weekend edition of Yediot Aharonot (my translation):

No. The occupation is not the cause of terrorism, and the end of the occupation is not the goal of terrorism. This is all in our heads, but the mindset of terrorism is completely different. Palestinian terrorism isn’t interested in winning so as to create a state. It wants to create a state so as to win. Ehud Barak offered them a state without winning, and they turned it down in panic. They don’t want to create a state; they want to destroy a state. If a Palestinian state is necessary in order to destroy the State of Israel, so be it. But don’t confuse the means with the end. It is the same with Chechen terrorism, and of course the Muslim terrorism in America. Its purpose is not to end any occupation, or to create any state. Its purpose is to destroy and terrorize so as to destroy and terrorize.

This goal is so arousing and exciting, and seems so attainable, that young educated people are prepared to die for it. Fanatic Islam is not a new invention. It is a dormant volcano that has erupted in the past, but has been sleeping now for hundreds of years, till something in this time, in this decade, caused it to awaken and again spurt fire and smoke. What is it?

This question brings us back to Russia. The fall of the Soviet Union left a void that someone is going to fill. At the moment, temporarily, the United States is the sole world power. The slot of the second world power is empty, and this is an unnatural situation. Someone has to fill the part, and Islam is contending for it. This is an arousing and exciting goal, one worth dying for: the growth of the Islamic World Power, as an equal adversary of the American World Power. Not every youth that puts on a bomb belt is aware of this definition of his goal, but even subconsciously he senses that something huge is happening, and he is its servant. This is a deep, primitive gut feeling, rolling like the echo of tam-tam drums between the countries of Islam and the various focal points of terrorism. You have to be a bit primitive to pick this up and understand what is happening. This is why George Bush and Vladimir Putin understand. This is why most of the decision makers in Israel do not grasp it at all.

Almost 2 years later, we were sitting with Patty and several others at a table over brunch, and we asked her about a couple of very funny photographs that we'd had taken at a luau in Hawaii. Some very muscled guys in Hawaiian garb had picked her up - she's very thin and slight - and were holding her horizontally, like a rolled up rug. She's a lone woman in a very dignified job, and well, guess you had to be there, but it was funny. We had the pictures blown up to 8X10s and my husband and his partner presented them to her in her office a while later. We asked her about the pictures, without thinking. She got a funny look on her face, and said that they had been up on the wall in her office, and went down with the Towers.

It's the mundane that helps us grasp the horrific.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Shai writes about Efraim Kishon films.
This must be the cutest thing I have ever read. That Yonah, just have to eat him up. Don’t miss the matching photos (of the ‘I’m in a mess here, and what do those big people do? They take photos!’ variety).
Lisa, obviously far more savvy and worldly than me, has something to say about that Guardian article on the subject of Tel Aviv nightlife I discussed here and here (‘discussed’ makes what I wrote sound so much more intelligent, and less silly, than it really was, don’t you think?).

Lisa actually has a nightlife (in Tel Aviv), unlike me. Well, I do have a nightlife, I just spend most of it sleeping.

Anyway, she calls the Guardian reporter a hack. Precious.
Police State continued
It was great fun at first. We marched down the main road leading from Givat Ram to the government buildings. Givat Ram is the part of the Hebrew University constructed during the years the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus was an inapproachable enclave surrounded by Jordanian occupation (this is an interesting story in itself). Thousands of other students, all marching peacefully together, chanting, some holding banners, surrounded me. It felt really good, really together, you know?

I was completely unaware, of course, of the disruption our procession must have been creating for people who needed to use that particular piece of road. Maybe they needed to make it on time for their shift at work, or to attend an important business meeting, or maybe they really needed to get to the kindergarten on time to pick up the kids, whatever. But I didn’t think about that, or about the aggravation they must have been feeling. It was early afternoon, the middle of a working day, but still it just didn’t cross my mind.

I’d been to political protest demonstrations before, mainly peace rallies, in Kikar Rabin, Kikar Malkhei Yisrael as it was still called back then, but this was the first time I had actually got on a bus to Jerusalem to demonstrate in front of the government buildings. It didn’t cross my mind to ask who had chartered the bus, who was footing the bill, or if maybe I was being manipulated by bigger forces. I just got on the bus.

The thing that got me on that bus, more than anything else, was guilt. Most of my friends were rushing from job to horrible job to pay for their tuition, cleaning houses, schlepping in supermarkets, doing the nightshifts. And, if they were lucky, they got to scramble for the meager scholarships given out by strange organizations like the Association of Tunisian Jews, or the Fund to Aid Students from Afula. Me? I got a monthly allowance from generous parents, just enough to get by, hardly enough to go wild, but quite enough for me to realize how very lucky I was.

And so – bus to Jerusalem to demonstrate for lower university fees. I wanted to do my bit for my friends.

It was when our procession arrived at its goal - the government building - that I started to realize that this was more than a nice big happy picnic. A row of about twenty or thirty border police, maybe more, were waiting for us in the street, there were more on the hill. They had on helmets with plastic covering their faces, they were holding big plastic shields, and each one of them had a big, black baton hanging down from the side of his body. On each side of the row of armored border police stood more policemen with gas masks on and what looked like guns for shooting tear gas. I was shocked.

‘What do they think we are going to do?’ I thought to myself in horror. This was scary. My heart was beating so hard that I thought I could actually hear it, over the chanting. ‘What sort of Police State is this?’

Then we took our places on the hill across from the government building, I’m not sure which it was. I’m not very familiar with that part of Jerusalem. I reckoned if we behaved ourselves, the police would leave us alone. They’d soon see that their estimations of our potential danger had been exaggerated, that we were all just well behaved students, exercising our freedom of speech in a cultured, orderly manner.

And then it started. First there was a halfhearted attempt to march down off the hill, towards the ministry. Then some young men from the crowd started baiting the police, yelling obscenities, throwing stones at them, just four or five young men, in different corners of the crowd. ‘Where did they come from?’ And in a second the mounted policemen were on the hill, all around us, galloping after the troublemakers, grabbing hold of them. I think I remember one of them getting a taste of a baton. Really scary.

Boy, was I naive. It seems obvious to me now, eighteen or nineteen years later, that the demonstrators had to create a provocation, they had to clash with the police, otherwise a demonstration of that size would have gone unnoticed and unmentioned. The more violence, the more blood, the more arrests, the better. The organizers knew it; the police knew it. The behavior of these youngsters wasn’t a spontaneous emotional eruption. It was planned.

I was the innocent, manipulated into experiencing what felt like disproportionate police aggression, manipulated into thinking ‘This is a Police State’, my normal youthful feelings of alienation exploited, ripened for recruitment into a certain way of thinking.

Luckily for me, this didn’t happen. Even though I didn’t understand what was going on, I just turned and walked away in disgust, and never came back, ever.

This is not to say that the police don’t go overboard sometimes, even in this case, or that there could be a better way of dealing with inciting elements in a large gathering of people than bashing them with batons or spraying them with tear gas, but this all happened quite a while ago. I have read that police forces around the world have come a long way in crowd control technology since then.

In New York, during the demonstrations against the RNC, as in all demonstrations, the police were perhaps the only thing really standing between the demonstrators and chaos, violent riots, maybe even, God forbid, lynching. This may sound ridiculous to some who were there, but we have to remember that, as in all demonstrations, not everyone was there for the same purpose.

For the quiet well-behaved, law-abiding demonstrator, police reaction to any minor disruption of the peace will always seem like overkill, like senseless brutality, but the sad truth is that the line separating between a peaceful demonstration and an angry, violent, uncontrollable mob is very thin and easily crossed, and some want nothing more than for this to happen. Preventing it is a grave responsibility facing any police force. A skillful, experienced force must be able to sense a warming up of the atmosphere, even before most of the demonstrators are aware of it, and stem it in the bud, or bud it in the stem, or whatever the d@%n expression is.

I take off my hat to the NYPD, which seems to have done an excellent job of keeping the peace. Maybe some people got arrested, but I haven’t heard much about people actually being physically harmed. The orange net idea sounds excellent, unpleasant perhaps for those caught by it, but you have to admit it saves the police from using those terrible batons.

* * * *

There is another thing that I don’t think the protesters in New York were aware of, and I pray they never will have to be, something that everyone who goes to a demonstration in Israel these days is aware of, I think, no matter what the matter at hand. A large demonstration in the streets is an excellent target for terrorists.

Imagine what a bomb, even a relatively small one, could do to a large crowd like that. The police were also there for the demonstrators’ own safety, yet another issue that they must have been very aware of, but the demonstrators could not see from where they were standing, yelling ‘pigs’.

[This post has been my reaction to a commenter here.]
Look, Dad, I'm in the paper. Sarah Bronson wrote about our Blog Meet in Haaretz.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

How would you like to die today, Abd?
There are two options for a dog like you, who cooperates with the Yahood.

We can drag you through the streets and then string you up in the square in pieces, your memory forever blackened, your family ostracized.

Or you can die killing Jews and become a Shaheed, forever honored and celebrated, your family looked after.

15 terrorist attacks thwarted in August.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The need to be uniform
When I was three, I was sent to Miss Mc___’s kindergarten and elementary school for the dramatic arts, or something on those lines. I wore a grey skirt and blazer, a white shirt, a tie, and on my head I wore a grey felt hat. I’m sure I looked very cute. The uniform must have cost a fortune.

I was very happy at Miss Mc___’s. There was a spaceship in the yard, a proper one you could go inside, all covered in tin foil. It was 1969 - space travel was all the rage among pre-schoolers. We had ballet on the curriculum. I regarded myself very poor because I couldn’t do what I think was known as ‘The Splits’ (for my Hebrew speaking readers, this is what we call ‘shpagat’), but I absolutely adored tap dancing classes, because we wore old-fashioned royal blue cotton dresses and red tap shoes.

I often tell incredulous Israeli audiences, as an anecdote of my weird English upbringing in early childhood, that I could tie a tie-knot when I was three, or maybe it was four. They find it hard to grasp the concept of sending children to kindergarten in something akin to ‘madei aleph’ (army dress uniform), but far more restraining and strict. So do I.

To wrap up the story of Miss Mc___’s excellent establishment, where I participated in two grandiose dramatic productions (one of them was called, I believe, ‘Rocket to the Stars’, proof of my previous point about the era we were living in), I was just getting to feel at home there, and nearing the elusive life goal of managing to do ‘The Splits’, however painful, when I was unceremoniously yanked out, and moved to the local Jewish school. New uniform, just as grey and severe. No spaceship.

The world lost a tap dancing phenomenon (not).

My personal experience of the, at first painful but eventually liberating, switch to the inventive world of Israeli school un-uniforms, a few years later, will perhaps be the subject of another, longer, post. Or maybe I’ll write a book about it. Anyway…

… a few days before school started last week, Youngest mentioned that her friend ‘Wave’ (Just checking to see if you remember what that is in Hebrew. Hint: Gold medal…) has already got her new school uniform. Panic. What school uniform? ‘Oh, didn’t I tell you?’


Not to worry, though. No felt hats, no blazers, no ties (no navy blue knickers, no white or grey socks only). The new uniform consists of a T-shirt, in whatever color you want, as long as it has the school emblem on it. I rushed to the store, which was like a madhouse (mine obviously wasn’t the only child to forget to tell), and grabbed one pink one and one purple one to tide me over. I’m going to get a few more this morning.

It’s the new fad in Israeli schooling. T-shirt equality. They seem to reckon that if all the kids wear more or less the same T-shirt, then they won’t notice that some have expensive NIKE sneakers, and some…er… don’t. Silly, but they mean well.

It crosses my mind that school uniforms are antithetic to learning, to creativity, to individualism, especially in the guise of the crazed, enforced uniformity of my toddlerhood in the North West of England. But then, so are schools (antithetic to learning, to creativity, etc).

School uniforms could be conducive to discipline and order, but strictly enforced discipline and order, as opposed to discipline and order that come from within (how do we create that non-violently?), are also antithetic to learning, to creativity, and to individualism, in my mind.

In short, I’ve no idea, and I’ve spent far too long on the subject. Time to wash the dishes.
Shoosha seems to have emerged from her little illness last week a new cat. She now quite likes being handled. Perhaps she enjoyed the pampering she got and wants more of it.
The great American Police State.

Monday, September 06, 2004

I know you won't be reading this, you're far too busy having a good time before the IDF whisks you away into manhood, but Happy Birthday, Our Sis's Eldest.
A woman was stabbed to death in broad daylight in Manchester, England, by a man who was seen reading a Koran. Another woman was critically injured.

That's how it started here. Then they progressed to bomb belts.

Care of Yael.
Shoosha wasn’t well last week. Eldest was the first to notice something was wrong. “Ima, you can see she’s not happy. She's not smiling at all.” What? She never smiles.

She just lay on the kitchen table with her head on a kitchen towel for two days. Even the pigeons in the window didn’t interest her.

I am ashamed to say I took the worst kind of advantage of her pitiful condition. For two days she received an abundance of TLC, all the strokes and hugs she usually wouldn’t hear of. She wasn’t actually unhappy about it. She may be a tough little Israeli street cat, but when one is ill one needs ones Ima.

She’s better now. Must have been one of those 48 hour things. No doubt my TLC did the trick.

Look at that face only an Ima could love.
Shoosha again
People who have met her actually say she is better looking in real life. Not very photogenic, like her old lady.

Dear imshin,

I've just read the guardian article about Tel Aviv nightlife you linked in your 5th September entry and I can't find most of the quotes you highlighted there.

Nowhere does it contain the words 'military regime' - which I agree would have been idiotic. Maybe the guardian decided to clean up the text a bit after you'd got hold of it, but now it just reads like a pretty straight piece about some spirited partying and I can't really see the harm in it to be honest.

best wishes


Thank you for your comment, J. Curiously, I can still see the passages I quoted when I access the article, 'military regime' included.

I agree that there is really nothing actually wrong with the article. What annoys me is that a publication like the Guardian refuses to write anything about Israel without mentioning the oppression of the Palestinians, no matter how frivolous the subject.

Imagine if everything you ever read about Russia, say about the Bolshoy Ballet, or a new book, always mentioned Russian cruelty to the Chechens, or everything written about China, like touring the Great Wall or the latest hairstyles of Shanghai women, included a snide comment about China occupying Tibet. It sounds absurd, doesn't it? But this is exactly what the Guardian is doing here.

Can you understand how frustrating it is for us, to be forever perceived as far far worse than those vast and powerful nations?

I actually think the OTC recreation drug mentioned is interesting enough in itself, without the tedious mandatory moralizing.

Update: Apparently J was subconsciously blanking out the bits of Guardian idiocy his mind didn't like :-)

'military regime' - still there.

I wish I could do that.

Update update: Now J is feeling rather silly, but he shouldn't really. I'm happy. Anything that gets me to write :-~
Sad irony

“We decided to make Aliya because of our daughter. Beslan is a small town and we wanted to give her a good education ... that decision saved the life of our only child. If we hadn’t come to live in Israel, our whole family would have been there on the first of September, at the festive ceremony, like in previous years. It was a big holiday in Beslan. Not only pupils and their parents came. Our grandmother used to come... and so did former pupils...

It was always a very moving ceremony, when a first grade pupil was carried on the arms of the older pupils, everyone with flowers and smiles. My brother and I both graduated from that school. And then the terrorists came. We don’t care if they were Chechens or anything else, these are not human beings; these are wild animals. For three days we have been glued to the TV, and we know most of those harmed. It is a small town, everyone knows everyone else.”

Thus Igor Chaldayev, who left Beslan for a new life in Israel, with wife Natalya and ten year old daughter, Vilena, just four months ago. One of those buried yesterday was Rosa, Vilena’s teacher.

“…We are trying to protect the child, not tell her what happened. She thinks it ended well, she doesn’t know that some of her friends... were killed there.”

From this morning’s Yediot Aharonot.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

I’m so out of it.
Or am I?

As Tuesday's suicide bomb attack in Beersheba demonstrated, the conflict continues; Palestinian frustration is boiling less than a 20-minute drive from Tel Aviv. Yet the party goes on, driven by a desire to escape the grim realities of Israeli life.

In the past four years of the intifada, Tel Aviv's nightlife has gone from strength to strength. Larger and better bars, and clubs that would put London, New York and Paris to shame, open and close regularly to satisfy fickle tastes.

Such idiots at the Guardian. I know I’m over the hill, but I actually don’t know anyone who takes the drugs described or goes to these places. And I'm as Tel Avivi as they come. They talk about it as if it’s like this all-encompassing thing. Ho hum, I know more people who go to public sing-a-longs (ugh!) and belly-dancing lessons, how uncool of me.

But don’t you just love the oh-so deep dime-psychology? – it’s the Intifada you see. It’s not just a bunch of kids having a good time. They don't seem to be able to see Israel or Israelis (or Palestinians for that matter) in any other context. Hey, we're human beings, you Bozo!

When drawn on the subject, most Tel Aviv residents favour compromise to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

And he learns this from chatting to random clubbers, just as likely to be residents of Tel Aviv’s diverse satellite towns, while in various states of drug abuse?

But on the whole they try to block out the military regime

Huh? They declared a military regime in Tel Aviv and I didn’t notice?

and the oppression of Palestinians

I’m sure these kids are thinking of nothing else, before they down their little white capsules of a Friday night

I actually think the club owner guy handled the reporter’s inherent twerpiness quite well - a certain polite cynicism in his answer seems lost on our intense Guardian idiot:

"I can appreciate it isn't much fun living in a refugee camp, or in the West Bank," Mr Bar Yitzhak said. "But I think it is hard for people elsewhere to imagine what it is like for someone to come to your favourite bar or cafe and blow themselves up.

"We are in the middle of the barrel of a gun, yet everything is still so alive."

Thank you Bish, for the link. Hmmm, do you think he was hinting that he'd like us to finally be cool in our old age and try this stuff out? Naaaah. He's an Israeli man. He never hints. He just comes right out with it.
Unmasked: The Mystery Man
I have often wondered if I would recognize Gil on the street, having seen his photo. He seemed to be the blogger (now ex-blogger) I had most chance of running into. After Thursday I can say for sure that no way would I have recognized him on the street. Unless we were both on our way to a Blog Meet, that is.

Walking along towards the Blog Meet on Thursday, I spied David (Treppenwitz) and Zahava getting out of their car with Yonah and two ladies who turned out to be Mich (Tonecluster) and Sarah (Chayyei Sarah). I recognized David and Zahava immediately - couldn’t not have actually, David’s blog offers an extensive family album, which I have perused at great length, on a number of occasions. They all look so nice (for Settlers!!! ;-)).

So now I had to decide if to surreptitiously pass them by in the shadows, and introduce myself later, or make myself known right away, and thus A. enjoy the advantage of not arriving alone B. get another chance to practice my very subtle introduction line (‘Hi, I’m Imshin. Who are you?’). C. be able to pretend to be a normal non-shy person.

I think I was very brave to just walk up to them, like that. What if I’d been mistaken, and in fact they had been the local chapter of one of the Israeli crime syndicates? I hear their octopus-like tentacles are far-reaching these days. Yonah in his stroller could easily have really been the Godfather in a wheelchair, in disguise. And a very devious disguise too. Even hardened criminals would immediately have been disarmed by that happy little chuckle of his.

Anyway, enough beating about the bush. On to the business in hand:

Thank you Rahel and David for filling me in. I knew you would. Mystery man was apparently David of Rishon Rishon, whom I have only recently discovered. I was convinced he was from the town of Rishon Letzion, because of the name, but apparently there is a far more interesting and thought-provoking explanation.

For some reason his link isn’t working on my browser right now (maybe it’s because of all the traffic from his Instalanche, lucky fella!), so you’ll just have to look for the explanation yourself.

Update: Link to explanation is working now.
We didn’t want to let the girls read the morning paper today. The photographs of the dead and injured children were just too awful. Youngest rebelled, demanding to read the articles, but promising not to look at the pictures.
Surprise surprise
Ali Abdullah, an Islamic scholar in Bahrain who follows the ultra-conservative Salafi stream of Islam, on the bloodthirsty massacre of hundreds of children in a school in Southern Russia: 'I have no doubt that this is the work of the Israelis, who want to tarnish the image of Muslims.'

Brought to my attention by John Williams, whose new address seems not to be working, although yesterday it was fine. John?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

I enjoyed Benjamin's account of the radical change in his politics. Very readable, despite it's length, and very illuminating.
The Lesson and the Responsibility

Imshin, I was reading your views about the pornographic nature of the photos from Russia and normally I would agree with you 100% but I have just seen a horrific scene where a grieving mother was weeping over the bodies of her dead children. My wife and I were incensed but then it transpired that the local people had asked the cameraman to expose the murderous nature of Islamic fundamentalism!

It was then I remembered one of the most enduring images of horror of the 20th century...the little girl running down a road in Vietnam with her skin hanging from her scorched body. That image did more to galvanise anti war sentiment than all the mortality statistics combined. I think the fundamentalist bastards have shot themselves in the foot big style.

Sooner or later people have to realise that even if Israel had never existed the fundamentalists would still be killing in the Philippines, Kashmir [which kicked off in 1948 before Israel existed], Indonesia and East Timor, Russia and Sudan...Israel is the front line of our defence against these child murderers.

But why show over and over again, out of all the pictures, on all the channels, the bare breast of a young adolescent girl? Shameful.

I fear most people in the west will not learn anything from this horror. This is seen as a local matter, the direct result of Russian cruelty towards the Chechens.

Not till something on this scale happens in Paris, John, will people begin to grasp what is happening, maybe not even then.

The BBC kept saying last night something about Russian authorities seeing the hostage takers as responsible for most of the deaths. This drove me crazy.

THE HOSTAGE TAKERS WERE ONE HUNDRED PERCENT RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERY LAST DEATH IN AND AROUND THAT SCHOOL. Even if every child that had died there had been shot in the head by Russian soldiers, something that clearly didn’t happen of course, their blood would still have been on the hands of the hostage takers. Is this not clear? Is this not obvious? What is this sickness, this perverseness, to blame the deaths of these children on anyone but those murderous fiends who created this horror?

Update: More gems from the BBC:

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels offered their condolences, but said the EU would ask Russia to explain how such a tragedy could have been allowed to happen.

BBC world affairs correspondent William Horsley says the EU statement implies concern not only about the behaviour of Russian security forces at the siege, but also about Moscow's reliance on harsh military force in Chechnya.

As I was saying...

Update update: And that isn't even the worst. Here's more about BBC nastiness.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Why did you come, tonight?
Asked the intriguing Expat Egghead (Where’s Cathy? Where’s Cathy? I kept wanting to ask him. Silly me.*). And I said, “Curiosity”, without thinking, not quite happy with my answer, even as I gave it.

There was a sense of community last night. This was clear, after the initial weirdness of fitting real people to what were previously just words on a screen. It has been there all the time, of course, this camaraderie. We are a community. And everyone who came knew this, and that is why we came – to meet old friends, at last.

*What I really wanted to ask the Expat (Adrian) was the big why (‘Are you mad?’) question. I wanted to ask a lot of people a lot of questions, but I’m not very big on mingling and asking questions. Just introducing myself, and demanding to know who you were, and then remembering this data amid the sea of new faces, was effort enough. Easier to just plonk myself down next to someone friendly and familiar and stay there.

So I came away with a feeling of not being completely satisfied. More ! More! Maybe next time we can do that thing I hear they do in singles parties – when you have to switch places every five minutes so you get to speak to everyone.

But how can I complain? Even if I didn’t get into serious deep discussions with everyone (with anyone?) I can now add to my memory storeroom - Rev. Huatou’s sweet, soft eyes; Rinat’s freshness and amazing smile (great Hebrew!); Allison’s ability to make me feel at ease (and then make me want to dive for cover by saying nice things about me to other people :-P ); Rebecca’s brightness and energy (Glad she was there, managed to get something off my heart - just in time for Yom Kippur); David, Zahava, and Yonah’s extreme heimisher-ness (Oh Yonah, to eat him up. What a smile, kein ein hora); Mich’s surprising familiar-ness, considering she lives in Canada (...actually went to Youngest’s Matilda school, would you believe it? Small world. I hope it’s okay to divulge this); Rahel's gentleness (watch out for those elm roots, you've got me worried now); Harry’s knocking me over by saying he had worked out who Bish was (clever clever clever); Brian Blum’s… wow - Brian Blum!; Dave’s not so ozziness (He doesn’t look anything like that koala bear); Civax’s deeeeeep greeeeen eyes; Shai not being at all what I expected; Jennifer being exactly what I expected (not fair, I’d seen her photo); Gil Ben Mori being so very English (the real thing, clipped BBC accent with just a hint of London); Lisa’s interesting story, oops… erm… never mind, (fun fun fun); Noa’s lovely red hair, warm smile, and oh, that gorgeous green top, I couldn’t tear my eyes off it (where did you get it?); Sarah cracking me up by introducing herself to everyone as Chayyei Sarah – a Torah portion (‘Hi, I’m Chayyei Sarah’) (and I so wanted to ask her about the fencing…);

Alisa, at last, finally we meet, dear Alisa;

and Gil, Gil, Gil. How I miss his clear voice.

There was just one person I didn’t get round to, and the curiosity was just killing me. By the time I had noticed him, I had finished most of my beer, and somehow couldn’t find it in me to go and butt into the conversation he was having and demand to know who he was. My bad, as Meryl says, I think.

Now, who have I forgotten? Who will never link to me again? I beg forgiveness. I'm amazed I've remembered this many. Anyway, Adrian promises to publish the list, so I'll soon know how well I've done.

I loved meeting you all. I had a wonderful time, thank you all, and special thanks to whoever came up with the location. Excellent choice.

Update: Here's the list. I did very well.

He's not on the list, my mystery man. So who was he? Beard, blue shirt, yarmulka, slim, medium height, could have been wearing specs, I'm not sure, came with wife and baby. Anyone?
I am very upset, no, I am extremely angry, about the gleeful coverage of the Russian hostage situation, by the cable news channels. Again and again, they are showing unedited footage of naked children coming out of that school. This is pornography.

It’s not as if they care two figs about those poor kids. If they cared they wouldn’t show it, like they stopped showing the people jumping out of the WTC.

I will not supply a link. No news service deserves it.

I’ll write about last night when I’ve cooled down. I’m too agitated right now.

Update: ‘Hostage situations going very wrong have happened in the West too’, says the expert on Sky News, citing Waco, among others.

I try to think of any hostage situation that did not go very wrong, besides Entebbe, that is. Terrorist hostage situation I mean, not your random, fruitcake seeking attention hostage situation.

I am sickened by this awful story, sickened and saddened beyond words.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Blog Meet tonight. Oh dear, all those people. And Bish has a meeting so I can't take him to hide behind.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Benjamin was there. Here is what he saw.
I know.

Via Eric the Unread (I read you, dear)
Every Israeli mother’s nightmare. Probably not just Israeli mothers. This makes me feel weak in the knees.
What about the democratic right to hold different views?
I accept that American elections are really none of my business, even though their outcome will probably have more impact on my life than on many American lives, moreover, I really understand very little about American politics, but I just don’t get certain aspects of these demonstrations in New York.

The impression I am receiving is that the people demonstrating, some violently, don’t want a political party and its supporters to hold a convention in New York… erm… because they see things differently?

Whatever happened to “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”?