Saturday, October 30, 2004

Separated at birth III
Here's another one.

Suggested by someone. I said I wouldn't give names, but at first I did, because, I reckoned with myself, he is a blogger. Then I remembered that he isn't a blogger any more, so he counts as an ordinary reader, and, by managing to keep shtum for so long (how do you do it?), he has re-earned his right to anonymity.
Refusenik hypocrisy
I can find no difference between right-wing and left-wing refusal to serve. Both are just as unacceptable. This said, I am disappointed with Yishay Mor’s inability to be open enough to argue in favor of right-wing refusal. I would expect him, of all people, as a refusenik himself, to be, at least, understanding of the right-wing refuseniks.

And I am disappointed with the weakness of his argument against them.

He brings up Yigal Amir. I find it hard to see the relevancy. Yigal Amir is not a refusnik and no one, as far as I know, is calling him one, besides Yishay. Yigal Amir is a political assassin.

He brings up the rabbis inciting to refusal. Also a diversion, although more relevant, seeing as a religious Jew is expected to act as instructed by his rabbi. But when we talk of refusal, it is always a personal act - one man or one woman standing up and being prepared to pay a personal price for his or her convictions.

“I refused,” Yishay explains, “because I believed that my act was an extreme measure required to protect the existence of Israel as a just, democratic state.” But right-wing refuseniks may see their refusal as an extreme measure required to protect the existence of Israel, period. Moral equivalence? Democracy and Justice versus Self Defense and Physical Survival. Who is to judge between them?

It’s the occupation, silly, Yishay says, more or less. But right-wing refuseniks don’t think it’s the occupation at all. Right-wing refuseniks think it’s the village where they were born and where they grew up. It’s where their parents and brothers and sisters and cousins, and everyone they know, have all lived for thirty years.

I am disappointed with Yishay, who seems to be an intelligent, sensitive person. I am disappointed that he seems unable to see that not only has he no right to “object to their refusal on moral grounds”, but that if his own refusal, which he sees as justified and moral, is legitimate, it actually gives theirs a moral legitimacy too. That is the essence of the democracy that he claims he wishes to protect.
Live from Ramallah: “I’ve no idea what I’m talking about, but the BBC pays me a lot of money to say it.”

I love the way this Barbara Plett person solves the riddle of apparent Palestinian indifference to Arafat’s departure and why only the foreign correspondents were shedding tears of sadness.

But as he boarded the helicopter with faltering steps, he also stood for something else: for a people exhausted by war, bereft of hope, abandoned by their brothers, and fearful of the future.

Perhaps that is why so few Palestinians saw him off. In him, still, they see themselves.

Very touching, I'm sure. I even wiped a little tear from the corner of my eye while reading it*. But what does it mean?

[*Ooh you little fibber, Imshin]

I have some alternative suggestions:
How about - many of the Palestinians are relieved to be rid of him.

How about - many of them know only too well that it's his fault that their lives are in such a bloody mess.

How about - maybe you don't actually know what your talking about, you ***** ****** ***** (censored).

Enough said. Ehud Yaari has claimed all along that this has not been a popular uprising.

Thank you, John Williams, for pointing this out. Have I mentioned John’s new book?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Eldest’s much anticipated sleepover party with her girlfriends tonight was in danger of cancellation when the apartment flooded this morning.

This year we’re not going to be around for the big event. Last time, which was a few years ago, remains in our minds as a trauma. So the three of us, Bish, youngest, and I, are fleeing to the peace and quiet (we hope) of a modest hotel on the sea front - near enough to be called back if needed, far enough to get some sleep. Two birds in one swoop.

I know what you’re thinking. Don’t worry, they’re good kids. They won’t be wrecking the place.

We have really nice plumbers, amazingly enough. I can hardly believe it only took me nineteen years in Tel Aviv to find them. It’s an efficient little company, very un-Israeli. The boss guy actually rang, after the very nice, efficient workman (albeit a bit chatty) had left, to make sure we were happy. I thought I was dreaming. It’s the third time we’ve had them in and they’ve always been great.
Oh, but once I'm at it, I can't help saying something about Arafat. We watched the footage of him in his pajamas in disbelief. I love the bit where he tries to kiss the hand of the Egyptian doctor to his right, and when the doctor notices, he rapidly pulls Arafat's hand towards his own mouth. At first it embarrassed me, but after watching it a few times, it won me over.

You have to admit he has charm, even critically ill, probably dying, ugly as sin, looking like one of Snow White's seven dwarfs.

Latest photo of Arafat

It gives an idea of the enormous cultural differences. Can you imagine any western leader, even on his or her deathbed, allowing anyone to film him or her dressed like Noddy*? They'd rather just die there and then. And no one would dream of taking his photo like that without his consent, even if he or she couldn't decide for himself. Pride seems to take on different manifestations for different peoples.

Then again, that's his thing, isn't it? Popular leader, close to his people. It's fitting that he should look like an Egyptian Fallah. That's why they love him.

Everyone here is talking about what will happen the day after. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we? I'll make do with my inner reaction to the physical image, which, it appears, has given me ample food for thought.


*Dave, Noddy/Arafat would be a good 'separated at birth', don't you think? But I'll leave that to you, dear. I'm trying hard to be reverant and respectful to my neighbors here.

Afterthought: Another one that comes to mind would be Suha and Yasser/Miss Piggy and Kermit. Teehee.
So many exciting things happening and I have no will to write about them. Does this mean I am on a blog break? Maybe I should officially announce a blog break. Every time I do, I suddenly have lots to write about.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Interesting evening in Israeli politics
The Knesset voted on disengagement. It was exciting.

Monday, October 25, 2004

I love John Williams' stories. They help me reconnect to a place that is so very familiar I can easily conjure up its sights, smells, and sounds in my mind at any moment, but at the same time a place that is so far away from the life I live that I sometimes feel that it is no more than a vague memory of a dream I dreamt long ago.

I love John Williams' stories, but not just because he tells of life in the town where I was born. I love his stories because they are funny and touching and insightful, in an unassuming, down-to-earth way.

I have been moved and inspired, more than once, by his open, sincere, and humorous descriptions of the challenges, big and small, some of them very big, that life has put in his path.

Now I’m proud to be one of the first to announce that John's stories are available in book form, so we can finally read them as they should be read - curled up in bed, on a Saturday afternoon.

Liverpool Tales from the Mersey Mouth
You can order your copy here.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Like a cat in a tree
Last night we had one of those ‘no-partners-invited’ workplace parties organized enthusiastically by co-workers who are having extra-marital affairs with each other and who need a legit excuse to meet up in the evening (God, I’m getting cynical). The rest of us would rather be at home with our families, of course, but we have to go too, otherwise we will be regarded as ‘Sotzyomatim’.

‘Sotzyomat’ is a derogatory term derived from the so-called socio-metric exams, which are extremely popular in this country, mainly in hierarchal organizations like the army. The lofty idea behind the ‘Sotzyo-metri’ is to provide a relatively impartial tool for evaluating the quality of workers, by making use of the knowledge of co-workers and immediate subordinates. It is regarded as a good way to check workers’ social skills and popularity. In practice it is mainly used for getting even.

So a ‘Sotzyomat’ is someone who would be given low marks should he be unfortunate enough to have his peers evaluate him. In a country where ‘the Hevre’ rules supreme, no one wants to be a ‘Sotzyomat’.

‘How was it?’ Bish asked when I got back. ‘Well’, I answered, ‘if we hadn’t become vegetarians eight years ago, you and I, we wouldn’t have been able to eat as much meat, during those eight years, as was roasted and devoured in one evening, by fifty, odd, people.’ They had some guy in to do an Argentinean barbeque. They all said it was delicious. I had some lettuce salad. I still had to pay the same seventy shekels as everyone else. I tired of arguing that point long ago.

I actually managed to be quite uncharacteristically sociable, except to certain unappreciative parties (Some of you might have been lucky enough to catch my Calimero post on the subject, written on Monday of this week, and deleted inadvertently on Tuesday).

But without a doubt, as far as I was concerned, the focal point of the evening, which took place in the garden of a co-worker’s moshav home near Ben Gurion airport, was the cat in the tree.

As I was stroking one of the numerous dogs that were wandering about enjoying the tidbits people were sneaking them, someone who knew I was partial to cats, asked me if I’d seen the cat in the tree yet.

And there he was, perched contentedly on a spacious wooden shelf at about my shoulder level, under the leafy branches of a medium sized tree (by local standards). He seemed to have everything up there, shelter, various little toys hanging from a metal frame, food. ‘He never comes down, you know’, the younger sister of our Moshavnik co-worker explained, seeing I was looking at him. ‘What do you mean he never comes down?’ I asked. She explained that the dogs would tear him to bits, so he just stays up on his shelf. She said that they suspect he comes down in the middle of the night, when the dogs are asleep, but that no one has ever actually seen this happen.

I must admit I was appalled at this self-imposed imprisonment. I thought of Shoosha, a house cat that never goes out, having a more interesting life than this cat, even though he has in his close vicinity a cat’s paradise of endless fields and abundant prey. And then the thought dawned on me. I am not unlike this cat.

I sometimes find my job stifling and unsatisfying; once in a while a boss may come along who behaves in a way that upsets and offends me; because I am busy at work I don’t get the opportunity to fully explore other talents and capabilities.

But it’s all so comfortable. I just sit there on my tree and get my monthly salary on time, no matter how hard I worked that particular month. It’s always the same salary and not very big, but it always arrives. And I am safe. I know what is expected of me, and what I have to do to survive. It is a minimum danger situation.

I know I have the option to make a run for it. I can get past those dogs and make it to the excitements of the big wild world, but do I dare venture into the dangerous, unsure, insecure unknown? Can I handle jungle life? How do I know if I can survive out there?

I think I’ll just stay here, up in my safe, familiar little tree, thank you very much.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Talking about taking things for granted, could you believe that these are all just a short bike ride from my door?

Yarkon River

Tel Aviv Port

Tel Aviv beach

Bish made a lovely album of this morning’s bike ride.
Israel is not a country*
A turning point in my understanding of Jewishness and Zionism came a few years ago, while reading a chapter in a Hebrew book called “The Broken Chain – Polish Jewry through the ages, Part II. Society, Culture, Nationalism”, edited by Israel Bartal – Israel Gutman, published by the Zalman Shazar Center, Jerusalem in 2001. The chapter, written by Sabena Levine, was about efforts that were invested in developing Jewish secular education in Poland in the 19th century, as an alternative to the traditional Torah study.

The reality Ms. Levine described was familiar. It sounded very similar to the ongoing struggle, in Israel today, to modernize the education available to children in the ultra-Orthodox communities. It blew my mind to think it was happening in Poland well over a hundred and twenty years ago. The interest and involvement of the Polish authorities in Jewish education was also something completely new and intriguing for me.

It was a breaking down of a stereotype. The old black and white footage had always made it all look so primitive, so basic, reinforcing my tendency to think of Jewish Poland in terms of constrictive ‘Fiddler on the Roof’-ish shtetl life, with the community ‘parnass’ handling the tense, groveling relationship with the local landlord, and everyone near starvation level.

As always, stereotypes shrink things. The Jewish community of Poland was not only sizeable, it was also complex and diverse; it was a whole world. And it does not exist any more.

And that is what hit me head-on, like a freight train coming straight at me, as I read – it does not exist any more. It was totally destroyed, completely annihilated, and no one remembers, and no one cares. Poland lives on, without its Jews, the Jews that had been there for a thousand years, and it doesn’t make one bit of a difference to anyone. A whole world, and it’s like it was never there. The Jews were never there.

The idea many people in the west seem to have about Israel and Israelis is completely stereotypical too. Some flippantly say that Israel should not exist, that the Israelis should just go back to where they came from (Where they came from? Back to the communities they left? What are they talking about here? Poland? Iraq? Libya? Iran?). They don’t care enough to take two minutes to think about what that means.

Or, they suggest, they could all just live together like one big happy family, those Palestinians and Israelis. (Why such a fuss? Where’s the problem? They’re all just a bunch of hairy Neanderthal savages anyway). The Arabs may very well slaughter all the Jews? No great loss. Anyway, they had it coming.

I read on the comment section of a blog recently that Jews have no history in the Middle East. I was amazed that no one bothered to address this accusation. For even if you believe that the Bible is just a fairy story and that the Jews of today have no connection to the Jews of old (in spite of ample scientific evidence to the contrary), how is it possible to ignore the fact that about half of Israelis are the descendants of Jews that were pushed, squeezed, and bullied out of most Arab and Muslim countries, including those bordering with Israel? This isn’t ancient history; this is the history of the twentieth century. To ignore this fact, when discussing what’s to be done with the historic aberration that is modern Israel, is ignorant and inhumane.

Not unlike the ancient Jewish community of Poland, only far more so, Israel is also a whole world, complex, diverse, continually developing in different directions.

You'll have noticed I haven’t been writing much lately. This is because I have been very busy with my 'day job'. But then I woke up this morning, and it crossed my mind that, in a flick of an eyelid, my whole world could disappear, just like the Jewish world of Poland, leaving no trace. We’re all so busy with our little lives; petty workplace politics; worrying about balancing our accounts; getting angry about injustices; feeling offended by things people do or say. And tomorrow it could all very well be gone and forgotten.

This is true for anywhere and everywhere. Life is impermanence and change. Life is unexpected. Nothing should be taken for granted. But is it not exhausting to have to live every day with the frightening knowledge that hundreds of millions of people, in all five continents, believe most deeply that the particular little world that you happen to inhabit is the most obscene, wicked sin and should, by right, cease to be?


*Forgive me for appearing to ignore the fact that this extremely depressing article actually mainly discusses anti-American bias in Britain and not anti-Israel sentiment. I have been haunted by the assertion that “Israel is not a country”. Thank you, Alisa, for the link.

Update: I see the article made the Guardian. That's good. I hope their readers are listening, although I do fear they will think she's exaggerating. I know I do. Noticed by Harry.
Youngest is going on her first hike with the Scouts today. I wish Mum could see her in her Khaki.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Poor little Shoosh had her little operation today. She's feeling much better now.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bashar Assad with son Hafez

Now that’s a bike.

Update: Finally got round to looking it up. A Cannondale Gemini. Yup.
Found it!
Here's my old post about the sand storm in Sinai.


Found here (Hebrew link).

Afterthought: It is, of course, inconceivable that anyone should want to go in any direction other than Yaffo D, but just in case, it's nice to know.
Yesterday I was feeling upset all day. You probably noticed – Why else would I lash out at poor, defenseless Gideon Levy? When Alisa mentioned 3rd November I couldn’t for the life of me think what that date meant. I racked my brain. Rabin was murdered on the 4th; the Brits burn Guy Fawkes on the 5th. The 3rd? No, nothing.

I reckoned it must be something to do with Mr. Alisa. So I shamed myself by asking her ‘What happens on Nov 3?’ Oysh.

Now I know ;-)

Friday, October 08, 2004

My heroine

Shoosha the guardcat
Here is Shoosha guarding the kitchen window ledge that used to belong to those nasty, horrible pigeons.
Gideon Levy: More dangerous than Sinai
It’s not every day you get to expose someone for being a spiteful, manipulative bastard, even if you can clearly see that that is what he is. But there is no pleasure in pointing the finger at Gideon Levy this day, because today his hateful vitriol against the Israeli establishment may have cost lives. Today we get an idea of just how dangerous Gideon Levy can be.

On 12th September 2004, Gideon levy unleashed his usual irresponsible venom, in the warm, receptive pages of Haaretz. This time he was attacking the security forces’ call to stay clear of Sinai during the holidays.

This is not the first time in the past four years that the anti-terrorism unit, with its panoply of officers, has issued similar warnings, though this time the warning is said to be "graver than usual." If Israelis decide nonetheless to spend the holiday in Sinai, as would indeed appear to be the case, it will mark the continuation of a very unusual phenomenon here: Israelis are ignoring the warnings of the defense establishment, casting doubt on its considerations and not being automatically persuaded by its rationale.


Even if the defense establishment has solid information about Sinai, the timing of its warnings is problematic, after four years of warnings in which not a hair of the tens of thousands of Israelis who went to Sinai was harmed. After all, it's always easier to frighten people, even if it's not certain that it's necessary - what's known popularly as "covering your ass." No one pays for false warnings here, not for the scare campaign about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons, and nor for the warnings about Sinai.

No one pays for false warnings here, says Gideon Levy. What about paying for questioning, belittling, and even ridiculing real warnings, with dire consequences? And Gideon Levy wasn’t the only one. The media was full of it.

On the 22nd September, Juliano Mer, local actor and Palestinian activist (he’s half Jewish and half Arab), called on Israelis (Hebrew link) to travel to Sinai, and launched a paranoid (and hallucinatory, in my view) attack on the fear and panic tactics of the Israeli establishment, aimed, according to Mer, at turning Israel into one big Jewish ghetto.

Among other things, he pointed out that the warnings were not even logical.

The Bedouin in Sinai, a large percentage of whom make their living off the Israeli visitors, are the main smugglers of weapons and ammunition for the Palestinian Intifada. In many cases they smuggle raw material into the territories that the Palestinians use for their economy. Can anyone imagine that the Palestinians or any other factor would harm the delicate texture of the relationship with the Bedouin, or arouse the anger of the Egyptians, who take an important part today in the settlement of differences between the different resistance organizations?

What can I say? Not very bright this guy.

Juliano Mer is actually regarded as a bit of a nut. He’s been arrested a few times for beating people up, most notably, his leading lady, in a play in which he was starring, a few years ago, in Haifa.

The same antiquated 19th century colonialist ideology that negated the (Jewish) exile (= the Jewish Diaspora – IJ), that negated the reality in Palestine and saw it as a ‘Land without a people’, that negated the Arabness of some of the Jews – is returning again and wants to ruin our holiday in Sinai. So, Ladies and Gentlemen: Go to Sinai, and Paris, and Turkey. Don’t let them ruin your holidays. The Palestinians are under complete closure anyway and I presume they will stay that way until the Zionism sees them as a free people in their country. Or maybe the fear sown by the security establishment will serve as a boomerang and persuade many to give up the dream of ‘The Great Ghetto’.

At least 26 dead, more than 160 wounded, a further 20 feared buried under the rubble.

Update: Alisa thinks I'm exaggerating the influence of Gideon Levy and the rest of the Media on Israelis. She's probably right in this case. No one would really have decided if to go to Sinai based on Levy's recommendation, certainly not bsed on that of the unstable Juliano Mer. But I believe there is a cumulative effect of the hateful, manipulative way that Gideon Levy and his ilk write what they write, that is poisonous and harmful, and it does have a detrimental effect on society in Israel, and on the ability of the people to think clearly about what we face. I think that is dangerous.
I’ve been looking at some old photos we took in Sinai on our summer trips way back when. This one is Eldest in Nuweiba in 1998. She must be nearly seven. It always amazed me how happy she was to just hop on camels and horses there. She wouldn’t hear of going on them with a grownup. If you’ve ever been on a camel, you’ll know that the really scary bits are when the camel gets up and sits down. But even as they lunge along clumsily, they’re so tall, you feel like you’re a mile high, and Eldest was particularly teeny.
Eldest in Nuweiba 1998

And this is Youngest in Nuweiba, the following summer, 1999. She’ll be four and a half here. I’m taking the photo from our straw hut, just on the water’s edge.
Youngest in Nuweiba 1999
I think this was the time we got stuck in a sand storm. I remember telling you about it.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

First rambling thoughts of the day after
The only thing I could think about was that M, one of Eldest’s oldest and best friends, was in Sinai with her father. She’d come over for our snorkeling equipment just the week before. Her father’s girlfriend is a travel agent, so I reckoned they wouldn’t be staying in one of the beachfront straw huts we used to stay in. They’d be in a hotel.

I didn’t dare to ring J, M’s mother, till about an hour later. ‘She walked through the door half an hour ago,’ J reported, breathlessly. ‘They went through Taba five hours ago. I hadn’t heard about the terrorist attack, M told me herself. It’s a good thing. I would have had a heart attack on the spot.’ I was relieved I hadn’t rung before.

It had aggravated me that people had ignored the warnings not to go before Rosh Hashanna. People had said it was all just a scare by hoteliers in Eilat, so people would come to them instead (not that Eilat wasn’t just as packed). But the reporters in the know are saying that this is not the attack they were warning about; that one was foiled.

People did keep clear of Sinai for about two or three years after September 2000. And then gradually, they started going again. It’s safer there than in Israel, they’d say.

It’s heaven there, you see. It’s hard to keep away. I miss it very much, but I haven’t been since August 2000.

We used to go with the girls for a few days at the end of August every year. It wasn’t the most popular time and was usually quite empty. The sea breeze made it pleasant, even in the summer heat. There is a lovely sea breeze along the coast of Sinai that somehow disappears like magic as you reach the bay of Eilat. The air stands in Eilat in August.

I used to be a bit nervous going, it was a long drive, with or without the girls, and the border crossing was never comfortable. But once in, there was this freedom. I’ve never experienced a holiday quite like Sinai. It really was heaven there.

We used to drive down to the Nuweiba area, to find the hut nearest the water, preferably in a Bedouin resort. They were more laid back, the Bedouin, and their places were usually quieter. The Egyptian places often had loud Western pop music blaring out all day. Mind you, the Egyptians we met were all lovely people, generous, warm; incredibly friendly.

Not very efficient though. Bish once went to look for some eye drops or ear drops, or something, in the so-called hospital in Nuweiba. ‘Not a place you go to, if you’re expecting to get treatment for anything’, was his verdict. It was, like, three rooms. He doubted there was a doctor.

We used to half-joke about our contingency plans. If anything happened that needed emergency attention, we would load the girls into the car and race to Taba like bats out of hell, praying all the way they’d let us through the Egyptian side of the border without the queue.

Israel is complaining that they didn’t let Israeli emergency services through fast enough last night. But that’s just the way the Egyptians are. Slow. They don’t mean any harm. They just take their time about everything.

They let the first Israeli ambulances in to Taba after about an hour. That’s really fast by Egyptian standards, in my experience, especially considering the historic sensitivities about sovereignty in the area.

You have to go to Egypt to realize what an amazing accomplishment Israel is. We maybe don’t compare very well to Europe and the US, but we’re very impressive compared to our immediate neighbors. This is quite incredible when you take into consideration that about fifty percent of the Jewish population in Israel is made up of natives of Middle Eastern countries and their descendants.

Nu. Anyway. I digress, and with good reason.

Anyone who has been to Sinai will understand my ramblings. It is hard to envision such a place amid the chaos of a terrorist attack. Heaven and hell all mixed up together. It doesn’t connect.
A big blast in the Hilton in Taba, on the Egyptian side of the Israel-Egypt border. They don’t know if it’s a terrorist attack yet, or an accident, but security forces here have been warning Israelis again and again not to go to Sinai, for weeks now, and everyone was poo-pooing it and going for the Succot holiday anyway.

I know a lot of people who are in Sinai right now, but probably not at that particular hotel. There is a popular casino in the hotel, gambling is illegal in Israel, and it was probably full to bursting with Israeli gamblers, who cross the border just to gamble. And being Simchat Torah, the hotel was obviously full of families staying there as well.

The Egyptian health services in Sinai are atrocious and they reportedly only let four Israeli ambulances through a few minutes ago, to evacuate wounded. Not enough. Those who can walk have been walking over to Eilat. The border must be hell to get through. They’re dreadfully slow there at the best of times.

No news about numbers yet.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Another day, another Hag (and then we’re finished till Hannuka)

I can’t tell you how upset I am about that thirteen-year-old girl killed in Rafiah on her way to school. My Eldest is thirteen.

The Palestinians are saying that twenty bullets ripped through her body after she threw her school satchel, and the soldiers suspected it was rigged with explosives. Twenty bullets. Talk about overkill, literally.

Can we begin to imagine how terrified she must have been at the moment of death?

How could they do such a thing, I ask myself. How could they make such a terrible mistake? Twenty bullet holes. Horrible.

I suddenly think of a scene in a film I once saw. I didn’t see the rest of the film, I was just zapping. The scene didn’t make me want to stick around for more. I’m a bit vague about the details. It was Bosnia or Serbia, or somewhere round there. British soldiers (I think they were British or maybe American) were in control of a bridge. A young girl comes along (with a baby? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m mixing it up with something else) and wants to cross. I think they’re not meant to let anyone cross. She looks at them, they look at her, and then they nod her across. She walks along and when she gets near to them she blows up, or throws a grenade, or opens fire, or something. Can’t remember exactly, only that it was ‘och and vey’, as Mum used to say.

So how can I judge those soldiers? I understand that the circumstances were such that it could well have been like on that bridge in that film, which I didn’t really see and can’t remember very well. Not much consolation for her family though, is it?

I remember a time, not so very long ago, when I used to be really, really afraid to let the girls go out of the apartment. I used to sit at work all day, tense and fearful, until they rang to tell me they had arrived safely home from school. I used to ride the number five bus home from work with clenched teeth, listening to the guy at the back mumbling the prayer for traveling, over and over again. There always seemed to be a guy at the back.

During that period, a friend said that every day she would wait for the terrorist attack, for it was a daily event at that time, and, awful as this may sound, she would be relieved when it happened. She’d survived the game of Russian roulette they were playing with us, for another day.

Am I happy that tables are turned and now it is other mothers who are afraid? No, I am not. My heart goes out to the tearful mothers and fearful children we see every night on the TV (Do they show our tearful mothers and fearful children on their TV, as well?). I have no vengeful satisfaction. I’m just grateful it’s not so much me and mine at the moment. I’m only human.

A week or two ago, I heard a song on the car radio. I don’t hear much radio these days. I ride my bike to work and I’m too busy to listen to the radio there. I often only hear about important events of the day, when I get home in the afternoon. Anyway, this was one of those quiet, wistful songs, woman and guitar. The refrain included the words - ‘A bit of compassion never killed anyone’. And I thought, God, what a daft song. Compassion could very well turn out to be one of the big killers of our time.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Egg on face
Well it looked like one tube to me. Apparently it really could be two tubes with canvas in the middle – a stretcher. Even the IDF are saying so now. Someone was in too much of a rush to go public with this. Bad publicity mistake.

I admit I started to be a bit nervous about this when I saw this photo in yesterday’s Yediot Aharonot. Bish says he felt the same way.

It’s a UN paramedic showing what a folded stretcher looks like.

Now I feel uncomfortable because a few people linked to what I said. I apologise.

Monday, October 04, 2004

’I don't see that as a crime’

From the Hamas convenant (1988):

The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas is an abbreviation of this name - IJ) is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It goes back to 1939, to the emergence of the martyr Izz al-Din al Kissam and his brethren the fighters, members of Moslem Brotherhood. It goes on to reach out and become one with another chain that includes the struggle of the Palestinians and Moslem Brotherhood in the 1948 war and the Jihad operations of the Moslem Brotherhood in 1968 and after.

Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).


The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.

So the clearly stated goal of Hamas is to rid the Land of Palestine, in its entirety, of the Zionist invaders and kill the Jews. The Hamas has been declared a terror organization by the United States and by the European Union.

Can any of the above be seen as a reason that Hamas members should not be receiving a salary from the UN? Certainly not, according to Peter Hansen, head of UNRWA. Its all just a little, unimportant matter of political persuasion.

I am sure the Hamas members whose livelihoods are secured by the UN, so they can proceed to plan and carry out their clearly stated goal, are very grateful to the government of the United States, for its substantial monetary support of Hamas, via the UN.
'All that glisters is not gold.'

Ah, thank you, Dad. Nice to see you're feeling better.

Update: Joe says that's Shakespeare.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Guardian parodies itself in its sports pages (what else is new?)

Newcastle United fly out of Israel this morning having negotiated safe passage in a country where the phrase has connotations far beyond football.

On a day of extensive bloodshed 70 miles south of Tel Aviv, the Uefa Cup was of diminished importance, even to the minor miracle that is Bnei Sakhnin, but Newcastle still had a job to do.


As for Sakhnin, they and their 12,000 fans go back to the hills of Galilee and a life framed by violence. With no stadium and no money, theirs was a romantic tale of over-achievement, though the claims to Sakhnin demonstrating the power of Arab-Jew co-operation were left looking weak when the news came through shortly before kick-off that the Israeli military had killed 28 Palestinians near Gaza City.

The atmosphere was subdued and any chance that it might be aroused by Sakhnin staging one of the great upsets was removed when Kluivert collected a lovely back-heel from Jermaine Jenas and side-footed in the first.

I’m sure Guardian-reading sports fans (an oxymoron?) are very grateful for this highly politicized report of an international soccer game.

Scroll down to the photos of little Dorit and Yuval for balance.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

UN vehicle

Jerusalem Post: Footage shows terrorists using UN-marked vehicle.

Haaretz: IDF releases footage of militants loading rockets into 'UN' car.

Militants? MILITANTS?! Makes you wonder what side Haaretz is on.

Here is the Israel channel 1 newsreel during which this footage was aired. It’s the whole newsreel in Hebrew. Fast forward to minute 5:45 to view the relevant part. You’d better watch it soon, it probably won't stay there for long. Beats me why this isn’t on the IDF spokesman’s site.

What you will see are three short segments, filmed from an IDF drone. First you see ‘militants’ burying a bomb in the ground so if an IDF tank should come along they can blow it up. Next you see ‘militants’ loading a Kassam rocket into a UN vehicle. In the third segment you see ‘militants’ loading a Kassam rocket into a Palestinian Police vehicle. Then you see the vehicle driving along the road, and then you see it being blown to pieces by a missile launched from an IDF helicopter.

Here are two year old Dorit and four year old Yuval, may they rest in peace, the babes killed as they played by their home in Sderot last week, by one of these Kassam rockets, launched by ‘militants’. Sderot is a town in pre-1967 Israel, not far from the border with Gaza.

Update: Here is the footage. It’s been edited differently than on last night’s channel 1 newsreel. First section, you see a Kassam rocket being launched. Second section, you see something being buried in the middle of the road, men standing around watching. Third section, you see men walking along a wall, one of them carrying something, then the men pass through a gate in the wall and load the thing onto a UN vehicle, and close the back doors.

I've seen it on TV a few times more. It is far clearer on TV, much better quality. It is quite clear that what the man is carrying and loading into the vehicle is a long metal tube.

Israel is demanding the resignation of Peter Hansen, the head of UNRWA, who is trying to wriggle out of it all by saying it couldn’t have been a Kassam rocket because “the object looks more like a folded-up stretcher than anything else. Especially since it was being carried with one hand. A Kassam rocket would be too heavy for a man to carry with one hand”. The Jerusalem Post points out that “According to the IDF website, the Kassam rocket is about 2 meters long and weighs on average 5.5 KG (about 12 pounds)”.

By the way, the car that was seen blowing up, on the channel 1 footage that I linked to before, was apparently unrelated to the police car shown just before.
Some things give you a jolt however often you see them.

I remember the first time I saw a number tattooed on someone’s arm. I must have been about ten. I was on the bus home from school, the number thirty-three.

She was sitting across from me, a large woman who seemed to me to be in her fifties, wearing a sleeveless cotton print dress. Little flowers, I think the pattern was, although the colors were faded from age and use. She had one of those awful pale green plastic baskets everyone used for carrying groceries from the store in those days. And there, on the inner side of her flabby white forearm was a little blue tattoo, a row of hardly distinguishable numbers.

I remember being surprised that the numbers were so blurred.

There were a lot of people with those tattoos back then. You don’t see them as often nowadays.
The Age of Tinsel
"A celebrity is a person who is well-known for their well-knownness".

Precious. Found link (sort of) in rebecca's pocket (what she’s reading).

What happens is this: An Israeli model gets a little part in a soap on cable. For about a week, she is happy just to manage to learn the lines reasonably well (thank God there are no three syllable words). Then things start getting frantic. She’s continually on the front pages of the newspapers and gets invited to all the best chat shows; thirteen year-old girls scream when they see her on the street and crowd around her for autographs. She soon comes to the realization that she is a very talented actress.

Now this is where she gets it wrong. Instead of continuing to milk the local cow till everyone is sick of her (including herself), she gets greedy. And so, off she trots to Hollywood to find fame and fortune. Being so wonderfully talented and beautiful, she must share herself with the rest of the world, it’s only fair.

But (gasp!) no one is waiting. After about three years of hustling, she gets a tiny part (‘woman in store’) in some obscure TV mini-series, by pulling every last string she has (it’s a Haim Saban production). No one ever actually gets to see it, but she is hailed all over Israeli media as an international star, as the one who finally made it. When she comes home for a visit, after yet another year of waiting tables, she appears on all the chat shows as ‘our very own success story in Hollywood’, and lands an advertising campaign, selling a new fad diet. Three years later she marries a rich American Jew in his seventies, thus managing to save face at home.

(Don’t try and work out who I’m talking about, I’m not. I just threw that together using details from the stories of various local egomaniacs, and not only female ones)

I have a new motto (translation from the Hebrew): ‘Not Everything That Sparkles Is Gold’.

I find it, along with ‘Istra Belagina Kish Kish Karya’, extremely consoling. Helps me handle the loud, shallow, lazy, silicone-and-buttox, stupidity-is-beautiful, atmosphere that has overrun a certain place where I am paid to spend a large part of every day.


On the other hand, sometimes glitz is good. I really have to get one of those garish cycling t-shirts - all the better to SEE me with. Oh oh, I forgot to tell you the best news ever – Bish got a bike, just like mine (a Giant Sedona hybrid) but bigger. Thank you, R.T., for all your help. We’ve just got back from our first ride together. He’s all aches and pains, but he had a good time. I am suddenly aware of how very fit I am. Yippee.