Saturday, February 28, 2004

An Israeli couple was murdered yesterday by Palestinian terrorists 15 kilometers from Beer Sheva on the road leading to Hebron. It happened inside pre-1967 Israel. The couple left a two year old orphan.

Southern District police chief, Commander Moshe Caradi said: “We knew that once the security barrier was constructed in the North and Center, there would be terrorist attacks in the South. This is a very grave attack and one we had feared would happen”.

Further proof of the effectiveness of the fence.
Do as we say, not as we do
A few days ago a young lady of my acquaintance took a stand against her English teacher. Finding a minor assignment the teacher gave the third grade class tedious, the nine year old wrote something on a piece of paper and held it up. The piece of paper read "Strike". The teacher said it wouldn't make any difference. The young lady said "No, but it's fun".

But it did make a difference. That piece of paper caused a complete break down of discipline in the class, which ended in uproar, the whole class chanting "Strike! Strike!"

Were the young lady's parents upset by their daughter's actions? No, they were highly amused. They both thought the teachers deserved a bit of their own medicine.

Israeli teachers go on strike, or threaten to strike, at least three or four times a year. Their favorite strike times are the first days of the school year, after the summer vacation, and following the long Passover vacation in the springtime. This is, of course, putting cruel pressure on working parents.

Sometimes they make do with sanctions. These can go on for months. In protest against the government decision to cut the education budget, the high school teachers have recently decided not to take part in activities outside of school. This includes school trips. Of course, this is probably very popular with the teachers. Would you like to spend three days on the road, leaving your children at home, to sleep in nasty hostels, looking after a bunch of horrors? No, neither would I, but then I'm not getting paid to do it. It's not my job to teach children about knowing and loving their country, besides my own that is. The thing with these sanctions is that they don't just harm the kids. There is a whole industry that relies on these school trips: Bus companies, hostels, guides, and caterers, among others. These sanctions, thoughtlessly and selfishly, leave all these people without livelihoods. It's really very nasty of the high school teachers association, when you think about it.

Well, the school kids, bless 'em, are fighting back this time. And they know exactly how to do it - they've been taught by the best. The high school students in some schools held sanctions and strikes (Hebrew link) of their own last week, some even held demonstrations and burnt tires! From tomorrow it?s a nationwide strike. For a start, they're coming in an hour late tomorrow morning. This is one strike I support. Good for them! Enough is enough!
If I say that Christianity and Jesus make me feel uncomfortable, am I sounding racist or intolerant? It's fear, you know, not intolerance. I meant no offense to anyone.

I suppose that is why I can't think what I feel about a film that may or may not stir up Christian anti-Semitism. It's a bit scary to think about it. We've got enough on our plate.

John says that the modern dichotomy about football in Liverpool is only partially related to religion and much less than in times past. Well, that's good news.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Still no comment
Until a year or two ago, Bish used to correspond with a professional colleague in the States, I think from a small town in the MidWest, or in the South, I forget exactly. She was really nice. Single mother, daughter in the military. When she discovered Eldest played the flute (she doesn't any more), she wrote to her to tell her about her younger daughter, who played the flute too. When violence erupted here in the fall of 2000, she wrote to Bish and suggested we came over there. What a lovely person. She said she’d help us get settled and find work. We were very touched.

In the aftermath of 9/11,when people she knew were blaming Israel, she stood up for us, although she knew little about Israel. She said it can’t be a bad place if there are people like her friend Bish living there.

I’ve read stuff since, on blogs and in other places, suggesting relocating Israel’s Jewish inhabitants in some remote area of the States. A few American Jews have written about the USA being their refuge, their solution to the danger of another Holocaust, of Jews being without defense. Their safe, happy, and affluent lives prove that Israel is not necessary, and that, as a refuge for the Jews, Israel is superfluous, more trouble than it’s worth.

Are you opposed to Zionism? Do you think Israel is unnecessary?

My world is predominantly Jewish, what do I know about living as a minority among people who are not Jewish, besides faint, distant childhood memories, and stories my parents have told me?

I bought a CD of Gospel music. I like the sound, I like that it’s sort of happy soul, blues-less blues, positive about life and accepting of death. But I feel uncomfortable to be listening to songs that repeatedly promise me that Jesus loves me. I don’t feel particularly loved by Jesus. My upbringing has left me uneasy about Christianity, some sort of ingrained insecurity.

I know so very little about Christianity. I have no idea what a Gospel is.

I am interested in people’s reactions to Mel Gibson’s Passion. Everyone is talking about it. Could this be the most interesting thing that is happening at the moment? It's a Hollywood movie for goodness sake.

Here is my friend John Williams’ reaction. He was brought up Catholic, in a country where Catholics are a minority, in a city where there were still inter-religious street fights seventy years ago, and where even today people support the local soccer teams according to their religious affiliation. Here is something “Tom Paine” wrote (pointed to by Judith Weiss who has other interesting links). He was once a Christian (I assume) and twenty years ago, as a young adult, chose to become a Jew.

I have been struggling to work out how I feel about this film, and have come up with nothing. I feel nothing.

I don’t need to worry about these things. I live in Israel.

I live in Israel so that I won’t need to worry about these things.

Shabbat Shalom.

Update: Lynn has posted in full an editorial in the Jpost which says, more or less, that maybe I'm wrong. As an Israeli, I should have an opinion in this matter. This could be true, but I still can't think of one.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

We’re still apartment hunting. We saw the coolest place this afternoon. I’ll tell you about it if we get it. I don’t want to jinx it. So far every place we have seen as suitable has fallen through for the stupidest of reasons. This place, however, is just us.

(Our Sis, it reminds me a bit of the place you had before your current apartment.)

Monday, February 23, 2004

Jerusalem: A bus. 8 murdered. 66 wounded.

A message from one Israeli mother to the esteemed members of the International Court in the Hague:

We have every right to defend ourselves.

You have no right to tell us not to.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

A few months ago, a friend at work told me that they were making a film version of Cold Mountain, and if I hadn’t read it yet, I should do so before seeing the film. Even if it turned out to be an excellent production, he said, it could hardly be as good as the book. I’m afraid I revealed my ignorance by looking at him blankly. He gleefully looked down his longish nose at me, obviously satisfied that he was far better read than that Imshin person with all her airs and graces (It’s a lie, I tell you!). In his presence, I politely jotted down the names of book and author, meaning to look it up, and promptly forgot about it the moment he was no longer in the room. Don’t you hate it when people take pleasure in making you feel small, so they can look clever?

A week or two ago, he asked me if I’d read Cold Mountain yet, the hint of a sneer on his upper lip (or was I just imagining it?). By now I’d heard of Cold Mountain, those pretty blue eyes were already advertising the film on every street corner.

So I ordered it from It’s faster delivery. On Thursday, I went to the Post Office across the road to pick up the parcel. Parcels aren’t usually delivered to the door in Israel.

“You must hate us now,” a woman called Miryam said in English to a lovely looking woman, standing behind me in line. The other woman looked slightly familiar, petite, blonde, forty-ish. Where had I seen her before? Was she famous? “No! No! I don’t hate you!” She answered, obviously embarrassed, in a gentle German accent, and proceeded to tell her friend about moving back to Europe with her child and getting settled. Maybe the son was in school with Youngest last year? Miryam, who looked about sixty and should have known better, was not deterred. “Because I feel so ashamed about what we are doing…,” she pressed on. Thankfully, the familiar looking blonde woman refused to be sucked into a discussion about “the situation”, with the thoughtless Miryam, in such a public place. Queuing up in the Post Office is so boring, everyone was hanging on every word of this, the only diversion. I was ashamed too, but not of “us”, of Miryam.

Anyway, the book is wonderful. I am still at the beginning, third chapter, and feeling fortunate that I read so slowly. I can savor every word. Magnificent, it says on the cover. Indeed. Even though it is about the horrors of a terrible war, one that people of the same country waged against each other.

I am reminded of a night, many years ago, at a friend’s apartment. After having one two many, a young man with short fair hair, a strong, square shaped face, and gentle, sad eyes, began telling of his experiences from the battlefield; terrible, nightmarish recollections of face-to-face combat during the Lebanon war. I was young. I had never heard such graphic descriptions before. The young man was dating the friend’s pretty sister, at the time. She chucked him, a month later, for the longhaired, extremely cool, hippy type, she later married and headed off to India with. I would have stuck with Sad Eyes, if I were her. Longhair was fun, a real charmer, and I liked him, but Sad Eyes had soul. I never saw him again, and I wouldn't recognise him in the street, but, every so often, I find myself thinking of the things he said that night.
The basic problem
Excellent post by Shai. A must read. It is his reaction to an article by a mainstream Palestinian journalist, that appeared in the Jpost.

If mainstream Palestinian thinking truly sees building a settlement outpost as equivalent to blowing up a bus, then there's no hope for progress. Settlements can be evacuated; the children murdered on the bus can never be brought back. If you can't see this essential difference then there's not much point talking to you.

And this brand of moral equivalence has led the Palestinians to shoot themselves in the foot. There is a majority -- albeit a slim one -- in Israel that supports withdrawing from the Territories. But this support has become eroded over the years by Palestinian suicide bombing. By supporting suicide bombings (and poll after poll indicate that the majority of Palestinians do), the Palestinians effectively undermined the Israelis who were sympathetic to their cause.

Worse, by sticking to this line that settlements=terror, the Palis ensure that their fears become self-fulfilling. Israeli support for the government's hard line against the Palestinians (and by extension in support of the settlements) is a direct result of the Palestinians' war of terror.

You really should read the lot.
No cause for alarm, but thanks for the concern.
Commenters on Asparagirl’s new site think we shouldn’t be in such a rush to give back our gas masks. Fear not, my friends, the army promises that even after they have recalled the seven million* gas masks, they will still be available for us, should we need them again in a hurry. It’s just that they won’t be cluttering up our usually smallish dwellingses**.

*I’ve been wondering about that – if there are six and a half million of us, and there are seven million gas masks (Hebrew link) out there, what happened to half a million gas masks? Were they all lost? Good grief! Actually, on a personal basis, this is quite an uplifting thought. It means that I am not the most irresponsible person in the country, after all. I never lost even one, and I’ve got four to look after. Some of them could have been sold to Palestinians (to be used in violent mass demonstrations, should tear gas be employed), or to foreign workers (who had to give a deposit for theirs). Still, half a million sounds a lot for that. Even Israel doesn't have that many crooks (although some might not see selling them as an ammoral act). No, far more likely people left them at the back of "boydems" when they moved apartment, didn't take them with them when they left home on reaching adulthood, or neglected to give them back posthumously (some people have such a nerve).

**More bloody foreigner-ness.

Friday, February 20, 2004

So the sun will become a gigantic diamond when it burns out in a few billion years' time. Sadly, no aging billionaires will be around to buy the love of any dumb blondes with it. What a waste. (Erm, excuse the un-PC stereotype. Make that: no dumb blondes will be around to buy the love of any aging billionaires with it. Is that better? Okay, how about rich brunettes? Highly-intelligent redheads? Destitute billionaires? I'm just making it worse, aren't I?).

Oh well, I hear diamonds are much overrated as an investment anyway.
Shabbat Shalom

What?! No shredding machine?! All my nightmares were in vain?! (The link is to an article the UK Spectator, which now requires registration. Grrrr).

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Big excitements in the Tennenbaum case.


They're not telling much (or they don't know much), but it sounds exciting. He seems to have failed a lie detector test, and isn't cooperating very well with his interrogators.

You'll remember Tennenbaum, he got exchanged a few weeks ago along with the bodies of three IDF soldiers, for a few hundred live prisoners Israel was holding. Well, he was immediately whisked off to hospital (he came back with all his teeth intact, except one, by the way), and then to interrogation, in a very comfortable police installation (usually used as a training center for police commanding officers or as a holiday camp for policepeople and their families), where he has been ever since, apparently lying through his (not torn out) teeth. It seems things were not exactly as they seemed (I can say things like that, you see, because I'm a bloody foreigner). It's looking like much more than a case of a greedy, stupid gambler-turned-drug trafficker, who bit off more than he could chew. Maybe real bad guy stuff. Real real bad guy stuff. Take-him-out-and-shoot-him bad guy stuff.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

I wonder how Haaretz’s new editor will effect this newspaper. Intriguing choice.
growabrain has a new address and has become very bloggy. I like the funny cartoon figure on top left. I have to admit I was asked my opinion of it before it was put there, so I feel a deep spiritual connection to it (Imshin, you're getting pathetic).
Many thanks to M and Joe who explained how to pronounce Columcille, which is apparently an Irish name. I like Irish names. Welsh names too. It's KOL-um-kil or Column-kill. Both the same actually, but interesting how different people thought of different ways to explain. M also contributed this article about the Passion film issue - a different perspective by Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The Shaister has moved!
I am extremely impressed.

It's getting quite roomy over here on the wrong side of the blogging tracks. I am sooooooo cool and un-bourgeois. Well, at least I think so.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Arafat's true identity revealed - a Moroccan Jew.

Tee hee.

Welcome back, Gil. You were missed.
So they’re taking back the gas masks. We’ve had them since the end of 1990, if I am not mistaken. My girls got their first ones on leaving the hospital, when they were a few days old. Every so often we would get an invitation to come have them “refreshened”. We’d go to the distribution center, which seemed to be somewhere else each time, waited in line, and eventually a young soldier girl would replace parts of the kit, and send us on our way. Just part of life, like going to the dentist. And now we don’t need them any more. Nice.

I don’t think anyone will be sorry to see them go. They’re bulky boxes, which you never wanted to bury too far back in your “boydem” (the Israeli equivalent of an attic – a storage space created by a lowered ceiling usually running along the corridor, with an opening in the bathroom, above the door), just in case you needed to get them out in a hurry.

* * * *

They’ve been feeding us horror stories about what Mordechai Vanunu has got in store for us when he gets out of prison, in two months time. A mate from inside, Yossi Harush, a shady character himself, has been telling Yediot Aharonot that Vanunu has got all sorts of new goodies to tell the world about Israel’s secrets. And that he hates Israel and celebrates every time there’s a terror attack, etc.

If you ask me, the guy’s a fruitcake (Vanunu, not Harush. Okay, maybe Harush too, how would I know?). They should have left him alone back then and it all would have fizzled out by itself. Enjoying the limelight, he would have gabbled on and on, until he finally would have tripped himself up, been caught in discrepancies and then would have swiftly been discredited and discarded (a lot of ‘dis’s for one sentence, don’t you think?). This tends to happen to fruitcakes. Everything shows he’s definitely become more of a fruitcake since he’s been inside, but from what I’ve seen, he doesn’t seem to have been too lucid beforehand, either. The real question is how he passed the personality test to get into Dimona in the first place.

So now he’s become this hero of Loonies International, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, no less. I’ve been trying to work that one out. I read on the Net that he’s Israel’s Nelson Mandela. Yeah, right. His contribution to peace has been what exactly? He certainly hasn’t contributed to peace in the hearts of Israelis, quite the contrary - he’s probably one of the most disliked people in the country.

Well, a nomination is all very well. Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated in1966, by Dr. Martin Luther King, and he didn’t get it. But these are Scandinavians on the committee, who knows what goes on in their minds? They might end up giving it to Dror Feiler; or to whatsername Jaradat.

I’m so fed up of all this double standard.

Listen to Thich Nhat Hanh read his wonderful poem "Call Me By My True Names" (click on bottom left of page). Here is a printed version of the poem. This is what peace is about.

Friday, February 13, 2004

As long as I’ve brought the subject up (Mel Gibson’s religious film, that is), you might like to read this article that Roger Simon links to.

Blogging is essentially an unregulated, free-agent activity, and that can drive people who prefer rules and regulations and decision-by-committee crazy. From its earliest days, I noticed a tone of disapproval towards bloggers that reminded me of school, what with all the carping from magazines like The Nation and The American Prospect about the blogging world's sorry lack of supervision. The tongue-clucking made me think of the teacher's pet constantly raising a hand to protest: "Miss Jones! Miss Jones! Johnny's reading ahead again! Unsupervised!"

(The strong emphasis at the beginning of the paragraph is mine).

Read the rest of it.
I think what I was trying to say, yesterday, was that because I live in Israel, I don’t have to be concerned about my being Jewish on a daily basis, because being Jewish is not being different. I don’t have to play down my Jewishness to get a job, I don’t feel the need to wear a Magen David (Star of David) to make a statement, or neatly tuck it inside my blouse when it would not be advisable for it to be seen. And I don’t have to worry about that Mel Gibson film, and about how it makes us look bad.

Besides the question of how religious I am, being Jewish is not an issue.

A friend said to me yesterday that her Post-Zionist husband wants to leave the country, claiming, among other things, that it is more dangerous to be a Jew in Israel, at the moment, than anywhere else in the world. Probably true.

But unlike in, say, France, this isn’t the personal problem of Imshin walking down the road in danger of being beaten up by Muslims. My daughters are not Jews at school (and they’re certainly not Dirty Jews). I don’t have to deal with being different in my everyday life. I can delegate the problem of looking after my personal safety, as a Jew, to my representatives in power, who will deal with it with the usual incompetence, but deal with it they will.

It's true - at the moment I am more likely to die for being Jewish in Israel. But the difference is that here I have an army, a police force, and other security organizations, all working night and day to protect me, as a Jew. Sixty years ago, in Poland, my cousins didn't have that, and the descendants of the few of them who mananged to survive don't have it either, in France, today.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Bish touched Goldie Hawn. Really. Here in Israel. It was about twenty years ago, he was a waiter, and she was a customer. Me? I really like Goldie Hawn, but Bish would be the first to tell you I’d rather touch Mel Gibson than Goldie Hawn. And I don’t care if it wasn’t his real posterior in that film (or hers for that matter). By the way, did you know his full name is Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson? Columcille??? How do you pronounce that?

And that’s as deep I’m going to go in a discussion about a Hollywood actor (and director, nearly forgot). He’s an entertainer for goodness sake! The fuss made over these people, and everything they say and do, is so pathetic.

I suppose I should take an interest in that controversial film he made, but I can’t. I won’t go and see it because I don’t go to see any films. I wait for them to come to me. And I somehow doubt this one will be airing on Israeli television. So I don’t have an opinion, sorry.

But John does have an opinion. He says it reminds him of that old joke:

A Jew was walking down the street when he was attacked and beaten up by a Christian. The Jew asked why on earth he had been beaten. The man replied,

"The Jews killed Christ!"

"But that was 2000 years ago!"

"I know, but I only heard about it today!"

You see, that’s why I like living in Israel. The likelihood of being beaten up for being a Jew, while walking down the street, is slim. Blown up yes, but not beaten up.
Enough already! (updated)
I’m so fed up of the (was there any/wasn’t there any) WMD discussion. It wasn’t about WMD. It wasn’t even about Saddam being a very nasty tyrant. It was about the big picture. It was about 1991 and the U.S. not sticking around to win the war, and deserting the local opposition. It was about the U.S. and the West coming out of that war, in the eyes of the Arabs, as weak and decadent, and about the Arabs seeing themselves, at last, as a worthy adversary and serious threat to the new sole world leader, in the post-USSR era. And that is what led to the emergence of Islamic terrorism as a real threat to the world as we know it.

What’s Iraq got to do with al-Qaeda and terrorism, you ask? Well, as I see it, even if there were no direct connection, there is the connection of empowerment; of nationalistic pride; of saying “boo” to the big guy and watching him retreat, red-faced, with his tail between his legs; of understanding Western weaknesses and learning to effectively exploit them.

And that’s why taking out Saddam was so essential for the first stages of the global War on Terror (remember the War on Terror?). WMD really wasn’t the issue. So why did they go to such lengths to say that it was? Big mistake.

Haggai has posted the most intriguing comment on the subject. It’s got everything – Hitchcock, Kipling, lions in Scotland. I love it. I have a slight problem with the bottom line, because I personally really do think it was never about WMD. I just can’t understand (and couldn’t understand at the time) why anyone ever said it was. Still, Haggai’s idea is so creative and fascinating, you just have to read it.

Update: Haggai says

My bottom line is actually a lot more involved than what I put in that post. I do think the war was a good idea overall, partly for some of the reasons you specified. But for me, the ultimate success of the war, and the ultimate success of anything this big that the US attempts to do, depends very heavily on a phrase that became widely used during Vietnam: "the informed consent of the American people," with they key word being "informed." Everyone's gotta know what they're getting into. When it comes to the cost of the war in terms of money, the number of post-regime US casualties, the length of time for the reconstruction, etc., there's just no doubt for me that most people in the States were NOT informed about it by the administration ahead of time. There really is a lot of concern about how expensive it is, how messy and violent it is, how long it's taking, etc. I think these things are absolutely tied in with the credibility of the case that was made ahead of time for going to war, and they're very important in terms of how successful the whole thing ends up being in the long run.

With WMD, specifically, I don't think the lack of WMD means that one has to retract their support for the war in retrospect. But it's undoubtedly an important issue, for US credibility and for the future of dealing with these problems with other regimes. When people say things like, the war was a good idea even though we haven't found WMD, there were other reasons to care about more than WMD, etc., I think that's fine, and it's largely what I think anyway. But when people here in the US say that they NEVER cared about WMD AT ALL, that the obvious disconnect between what the administration said going in and what's happened since then doesn't matter at all, and that it doesn't raise serious questions about the specific way in which we went to war, then I really find that troubling. In a movie, OK, it's the MacGuffin, it doesn't matter, but this is real life!

As a mother of twelve years, four months, eleven days, four hours, and three minutes, I think I have enough experience to safely say that the truth, the whole truth (as far as possible), and nothing but the truth is always, yes always, the best policy for parents interacting with their children. It may not be easy, it may require courage at times (and I am eternally grateful to Bish for helping me daily with my considerable flaws in that department), but there is no alternative policy that works, not in the short run, not in the long run. Even at a very young age, kids can take far more than most people realize. How they react to the truth is mainly a result of the way they are told and the emotions their parents transmit to them.

If this is true for children, even very small children, why should anyone think it wouldn’t be true for adults? Governments should have more trust in the collective common sense of their people.

(There are, of course, things that are not for public consumption, for reasons of safety and security. A child should not know the combination of a safe containing weapons, for instance, but it is a good idea that he or she should be aware that there are weapons in that safe, and how to behave around those weapons to make sure that they are not harmed by them.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

You know, in the first split second you can't quite grasp it. Is my desk MOVING? And then you start to realize you aren't imagining things, and it's not the rabbi, in the office on the floor above you, moving furniture. Your desk really is moving. Moving?! Shaking like nobody's business! And your computer, and the walls, and the windows, and the floor. And shaking, and shaking, and shaking. They said it was only few seconds but it felt like about two minutes. It went on and on. I actually had time to ring Bish and discuss the situation with his secretary, before she got hysterical and dived under the table (they're on the twelfth floor). You suddenly know exactly what it's like to be living your whole life on the back of a sleeping monster that is just starting to wake up. I mean, if even the ground under your feet isn't stable any more, what the hell is?

And we're still waiting for the big one.

Experts say Israel is heading for a major earthquake in the next 50 years, due to tension along the African-Arabian fault line. The boundary between two tectonic plates runs the length of the country along the Jordan Valley.

Oh well, never a dull moment.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Now, my dad is really well-travelled. Hey Dad, you forgot South Africa and Spain. Fancy forgetting Spain - you had a holiday apartment there! And haven't you been to Taiwan? I'm sure you've been to Taiwan. (And you have technically been to Egypt, although Sinai wasn't Egypt when you were there).

As you can see, my dad has done enough travelling for ten people (and he really has been to Alaska), so I can stay at home.
Last night I dreamt I was humming a tune as I washed the dishes, some old shmaltzy Country and Western. In my dream I was really hit by the two lines of the song I could remember, real haunting tear-jerkers, so this morning when I awoke, I googled them. It seems they don’t exist, not as part of a popular song, anyway.

Maybe I wrote them. Now all I need is to find the rest of the song that goes with them.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Poetic Justice?
Remember Rim al-Riyashi, mother of two, who blew herself and four Israelis up, at the border crossing between Gaza and Israel, taking four Israelis with her? You may also remember that she was allegedly sent on this mission by her charming lover, in cahoots with her equally charming husband, because she had dishonored the family, by sleeping with the charming lover.

Well, according to Yesha News (this is a Hebrew link, read about this source here), Rim al-Riyashi’s lover (although maybe “lover” is the wrong term, how much love could there have been?) was none other than Abd el-Nasser Abu Shoka, Commander of the Hamas Central Command in Gaza, who was killed this weekend. Here’s an Arab source about his death.

Bish says that the story about Abu Shoka being al-Riyashy's infamous lover is all over Israeli current affair forums, posted by people who claim to be quoting Arab sources.

According to the forums, the details of Abu Shoka's killing were as follows: He was in contact with an Israeli Arab through whom he was purchasing uniforms for Hamas “militants”, but in addition to the uniforms he was also given a gift, a relief of the el-Aqza mosque. Unfortunately for him, it seems to have had a bomb in it, which was activated by an aircraft. Boom.

Yesha News also has the el-Aqza mosque relief story, but nothing about the uniforms, or the Israeli Arab. They also say this is from Arab sources, but fail to elaborate.

If all this is true, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Excuse my blood thirst, this doesn’t sound exactly like the-boy-next-door.

The killing of Abu Shoka has been mentioned in a few more places.

I'd like to point out that Abu Shoka's connection to al-Riyashy hasn't been confirmed by any major news sources, yet.

Afterthought: I forgot to point out that Israel denies any connection to Abu Shoka's death, so maybe the al-Aqza story is just that - a story.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Those pesky Jews, they even invented Tree Hugging (updated)
Today, besides celebrating the Shabbat, which we do every week, we also celebrate the New Year for the Trees, Tu b’Shvat. It’s a fun day, although better when it falls during the week. It’s time for planting trees, not a pastime observant Jews can engage in on a Shabbat. It’s also a time for eating dried fruits, and an interesting mixture always appears in the stores, in addition to the usual stuff. My all time favorite is dried quince, absolutely delicious, but horribly fattening. The smaller school kids have a field day on Tu b’Shvat, literally. They go out and plant trees. This year the reluctant teachers managed to weasel out of it, because it’s on a Shabbat. Youngest staggered home with three plants the other day. They were selling them at school. I’ve no idea how she managed to juggle three, but they arrived intact, a cyclamen, a violet and another one, Youngest said it’s called “primula”, but I can’t find that in the dictionary.

In recent years there has been an effort to get people to have a Tu b'Shvat Seder, like the Passover Seder. I think the idea is that it's something everyone can relate to - religious, secular, left, right and center - trees, nature, nice stuff. It’s apparently quite an ancient tradition, dating back to the elders of Tzfat (the town of Safed in the Upper Galilee) in the sixteenth century or something. I tried to do it with my family a few years ago, having edited out some of the Naomi Shemer songs. Even I have my limits. Well the table looked lovely, the fruit and nuts looked delectable, all organized on plates in three layers according to the Seder, but no one had any patience for reading and singing. They just ate and disappeared. So that was that. I should try it again now that Youngest is older. I think she’ll appreciate it. She's the only one who loves lighting the Shabbat candles with me.

Anyway, a belated Shabbat Shalom and I hope you are all enjoying Tu b'Shvat (even if you're not Jewish it's a good opportunity to look around and enjoy nature). And, of course, Hag Same'ach (a happy holiday) to all the trees.

Update: Ah, John to the rescue. Primula.

Update 2: Our Sis says I should be ashamed of myself - primula is the posh(=scientific) name for the primrose. Oh well, she was the one who took biology in high school. I am quite happy looking at a flower and saying "Isn't that a lovely flower?" I have no interest in knowing what it's called. I'm not completely ignorant though, I can tell the difference between an anemone and a poppy.

Lynn has a nice Tu b'Shvat post.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

This gives a rather distorted impression.
It's meant to be countries I've visited.

create your own visited country map
(Click for bigger image)

But if I’ve been to, like, three of the United States on the East Coast, during a fortnight when I was fourteen, it doesn't mean I’ve been to all of the United States, including Alaska. And what’s that group of islands north of Scandinavia? I’m pretty sure I've never been there.

I'd be interested in seeing Jonathan's map.

Via Silflay Hraka
Here we go.
Anti-Sharon Graffiti was painted last night on the glass windows of Habimah Theatre in Tel Aviv.

Ruminating further about the Gaza thing, I’m feeling a bit uneasy. Yes, we want to get out of that hellhole, but is this the time? Says Zev, on Allison’s comments:

Perhaps we should leave Gaza someday; I certainly have no brief for staying there. However, to leave under the present circumstances would be a disaster. It would signal to the Palestinians that terror works, and would encourage them to continue in their murderous ways.
What the government should be doing is hitting the terrorists with everything it has, without worrying about what the world will think and without worrying about so-called "innocents." A government's first duty is to defend its citizens; Israel has been remiss in this. They should stop retaliating, and get proactive. Once we've won the war, that will be the time to talk about pulling out of Gaza. Not before.

What can I say? He’s right too.

Think about the logistics, think about tearful soldier girls dragging screaming and struggling women out of their homes, while jubilant Palestinians celebrate on the surrounding sand dunes. Does this sound healthy to you?

Monday, February 02, 2004

Well, well, well!
While I was struggling to stay awake in those sleepy after-lunch hours during which work should not be allowed, things were happening. Luckily for us, Allison was wide awake and not missing a trick. So Sharon has announced that he intends to move most of the Jews out of the Gaza Strip. Seventeen settlements he says. He doesn’t say when this is going to happen and you have to ask yourself how long he’s going to last in power what with all these corruption allegations. Will he have time to do it?

I’m in favor, but only on the condition that they do it right, so it’s not seen as giving in to terror.

Have I ever told you about the time I did reserve duty in the Gaza Strip? I don’t think I have.

It was the summer of ’87, just a few months before the Intifada started. During my bout there, I finally got the demographic problem.

Rafah horrified me. I’d never seen so many people in my life, just standing about, hanging around, in the streets and alleyways. It looked like prison. And to make things worse, the town was cut in half by a border. Half the town was in Israel, the other half in Egypt. The Egyptian side didn’t look any better than the Israeli side, by the way. We drove along the border in a jeep. I believe you can’t do that today, unless you’re in a heavily armed vehicle, and even then it’s very dangerous. That’s the border they tunnel under to smuggle arms in.

Gaza City shocked me. What a hole! I was used to the West Bank and was particularly partial to Ramallah, which I used to think was a very beautiful city. I haven’t been there for many years, so I don’t know what it looks like today, and I’m not going to check it out. I could very well get lynched. But in the old days, I used to love those big stone houses with their lovely big windows. There was a proud, affluent feel to Ramallah.

Gaza and Rafah looked nothing like that. Gaza and Rafah looked like what I imagined the poorest parts of Africa to be like. I came back a strong supporter of the Peace Now camp.

I also came back with a decided dislike for the Jewish religious settlers I encountered and for what I experienced as the weird, sterile, pretty little Jewish island they were trying to build there, right in the middle of a sea of wretchedness and intense hostility, as if it didn’t exist, as if the area was completely uninhabited, and not one of the most densely populated, miserable, poverty-stricken cesspools in the world.

One day, we had the afternoon off, and we went to the beach - a Jewish holiday resort that was being built at the time by Palestinian workers, near Neve Dekalim. It was very eerie. We were completely on our own there, a handful of soldiers, armed to the teeth. A strange kind of recreation indeed. It felt horrible.

Years later, I remember my satisfaction watching on TV about the development in Gaza City under the PA. They showed modern high-rise apartment buildings, they showed restaurants on the seafront, they showed families enjoying themselves on the beach. The people looked more satisfied. I thought it was great.

But apparently only rich American-Palestinian entrepreneurs and Arafat’s cronies could afford such luxuries. The rest of Gaza was just the same as always, poor and miserable, only now, unlike before, because of the crazy increase in terrorism coming out of PA areas, most of the men were no longer allowed to go to work inside Israel. So in fact, in spite of the appearance of an improvement, things were actually far worse. Ordinary Gazans certainly weren’t seeing any of the money that was being poured in.

* * * * *

As far as I know, we have no ancient historic connections to the Gaza Strip. In biblical times it was home to our archenemies, the Philistines. Even today, only about 7500 Jews want to live there, and as many soldiers have to risk their lives defending them.

Yes, I wholeheartedly support getting out of there. But not like we got out of Lebanon. Not in a way that could be interpreted as a reward for terrorism. Not if it is interpreted as weakness and serves to feed the sick Palestinian propensity for murder and mayhem. We have to be very careful how we go about this.

Update: More discussion about this - The Head Heeb, Segacs's, Brian Ulrich.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

I’m still reading the full report of recommendations of the Orr Commission that investigated the riots of Israeli Arabs in October 2000. I’m up to the part describing the social and economic background that is seen by the commission as one of the causes of the riots. It’s a pity I don’t have it in English, because I’m sure Jonathan and Diane would find it interesting. There is a very detailed and interesting rundown of the inequality of Israeli Arabs, but nothing about mixed marriages so far, Diane, although there is a passage about inequality in allocation of funds by the Ministry for Religious Affairs, that (until very, very recently) was responsible for marriages (don’t shoot, I’m only the messenger). Since I hear this ministry is currently being liquidated, and was widely regarded as mainly a funnel through which various religious politicians allocated handouts to non-productive ultra-religious groups affiliated to them, anyway, I rather see it as a good thing that there was inequality here. The Arabs can be proud of not taking part in that particular corrupt undertaking. I think that if anyone checked, they’d probably find that secular Jews were also discriminated against by this ministry. Good riddance to it.

But inequality there was and is. Some of it is unjustifiable; some is understandable, but still hard to accept. Reading about it is making me think more about the Turkish-Greek solution. Maybe in the long run there will be no solution besides separation of both peoples, a large segment of Israeli Arabs included. This could be made possible by swapping large Jewish settlement concentrations on the border between the Territories and pre-’67 Israel, with large Israeli Arab town concentrations (Taybeh, Tira, Umm el-Fahm, etc.) also near the Green Line. I don’t see how anything else can work. The problem, of course, is that Israeli Arabs don’t want to be part of the Palestinian entity, and who can blame them? They may have it bad compared to the Jews in Israel, but they still have it infinitely better than Arabs in any Arab countries, not to mention the PA. One can only dream that one day a decent Palestinian leadership will miraculously appear and lead its people to prosperity and happiness, and Israeli Arabs will actually want to be a part of that. Hopefully, this will come to pass before pigs learn to fly. Neither Arabs nor Jews eat pigs so maybe we have a chance.

Update: Jonathan has posted some very interesting thoughts about affirmative action in Israel.