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Friday, May 30, 2008

Take a look over there...

... at the OU web site for a piece I wrote for Yom Yerushalayim.  This year we celebrate the 1967 re-unification of Jerusalem starting on Sunday evening June 1st.

I tried to strike a balance between my usual sappiness over the miraculous events of the Six Day War... and  my current  dismay (to say the least) at how little many Israelis/Jews seem to value this precious gift that was placed in our hands.


Colonel Motta Gur gave the following speech to his soldier on the Temple Mount after it was captured:

" Paratroopers, conquerors of Jerusalem!

When the Temple Mount was conquered by the Greeks it was liberated by the Maccabbees.

The "Kanaim" and Bar Kochva fought against those that destroyed the Second Temple. For 2,000 years the Temple Mount was off limits to the Jews.

Until you, the paratroopers, came and returned it to the bosom of its people. The Western Wall, towards which every Jewish heart beats, is again in our hands. Many Jews risked their lives, over our very long history, to come to Jerusalem and to reside in it.

An infinite number of wistful poems have expressed the profound desire for Jerusalem that beats in every Jewish heart. During the War of Liberation incredible efforts were made to reclaim the heart of the people - the Old City and the Western Wall.

To you has fallen the great privilege to complete the circle, to give back to the people its eternal capital and its sacred center.

Many paratroopers, our finest and most veteran comrades, fell in this terrible battle.
It was a rapid and ferocious battle. In it you functioned as one body that crushed anything that stood in your way without concern for your own injuries. You did not gripe, you did not complain, you did not report, you just advanced and conquered.

Jerusalem is yours - forever."

Too many people... especially our leaders... conveniently forgoten these words and ignore the basic law passed in 1980 that clearly sates "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.".

Anyway, go on over and have a read... and Let me know what you think.

In the mean time, we've finished our pre-shabbat chores early so Zahava and I are taking the kids to Jerusalem for the day.  Because, y'know... we can!

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by David Bogner on May 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Have we really become that Israeli?

When we lived in the US I recall the pile of forms that would arrive home whenever the kids would be going on a class trip off of school grounds.  It might only be a short bus trip to a local museum or a visit to the old age home to cheer up the residents.  The packet of paper for such outings included detailed itineraries, permission slip, liability release forms, emergency contact information forms, etc. 

An overnight trip would (at a minimum) include all sorts of medical release forms (allowing someone else to make medical decisions in an emergency if we couldn't be reached), plus the name of the place(s) they would be staying and the contact information for all the adult chaperones.

I mention this because my daughter went on her 'Tiyul Sh'nati (annual class trip) this week. 

Some time ago I may have signed something giving her permission to go... but I don't really recall.  If so, it was a forgettable one-page thing. 

When I was helping her stuff her backpack with clothes and other essentials, I asked her where the trip was going and she didn't really know.  And I didn't give it a second thought.

When I kissed her good-bye in the morning I asked her to make sure she had her cell phone with her and told her to have a good time.

When she called that evening to say good night, I asked her if she was having fun (she was) but forgot to ask her where she was.  And again, I was totally OK with that.

The next day she phoned me from a cable car at Rosh Hanikra (on the Lebanese border) squealing with delight at having spotted one of the naval Boats my company designs and manufactures for the IDF, patrolling the coastal waters between Israel and Lebanon.  I was proud that she had recognized the boat and pleased she was getting to see the beautiful caves and grottoes at Rosh Hanikra... but again, I didn't have a moment's pause over the fact that she had turned up in a totally unexpected place on an enemy border.  She was having fun with her class and that was totally OK with me.

Last night she came home full of stories about her fabulous trip... but we weren't home.  Zahava and I were out with friends when she called to say she was back.  Of course she wanted to start telling me stories about all the places they had seen, but we were in a Jerusalem pub listening to the daughter of a friend perform a nice Carlebach repertoire.  So I whispered for her to get some sleep and told her that she could tell us all about it in the morning.

When I hung up the phone Zahava turned to me and casually whispered, "Oh, is Ariella home?  Good.".  And we both promptly went back to enjoying the performance.

Have we really become such laid-back Israeli parents?!

Posted by David Bogner on May 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How did we live without this?

OK, it isn't cold fusion in a juice glass... but I found this to be 'slap your forehead' incredible:

'Book of Joe', my frequent source for such nifty things, recently posted about a handy site called 'openstreetmap.org' where you can create maps for just about anywhere in the world and customize them for just about any use imaginable.

In their own words:

"OpenStreetMap creates and provides free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants them. The project was started because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive or unexpected ways."

OK, I know the legal restrictions probably weren't holding most of you back.  But still, it is nice to have a nice, public domain source for such things.

You can use place names, GPS points or just use your mouse to drag the world map until you zoom in on the place you want to map.  Once you have the desired area and resolution you can customize the map with place names and landmarks... add colored lines and symbols... just about anything that will make the map fit your needs.

I'm sure your imagination is already racing at the possibilities this powerful (and free!) tool can provide.  Directions to parties and events for inclusion in invitations... bike routes... newly discovered shortcuts you want to share with friends... accident reports... the possibilities are endless!

The best part is that people like my wife, who normally give directions like "turn left two miles before the red barn on the right", or "You'll want to make the first right after you pass the place where the 7-11 used to be", can now include those kind of 'special' landmarks on the map.

Here's a quick map of one of the places I'd like to be on a sunny day like today:


... and another one over which I could overlay meeting points (in case Jack wanted to meet me in Boston some day and hand over the sausages he owes me!).  :-)


I'd like to offer my standard 'Don't thank me... I'm a giver', but the truth is that Book of Joe did the giving this time.

Posted by David Bogner on May 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Vela Incident - The thorn in Jimmy Carter's side

After waking up yesterday to read about Dhimmy Carter telling The Times of London that Israel has 150 nuclear devices (see my post from yesterday), I decided to read up on some of the public domain information on Israel's alleged nuclear arsenal.

I now think I understand why ol' Jimmy has such a bee in his bonnet over Israel's nuclear program.

While reading through the various revelations made by Mordechai Vanunu (an Israeli worker at Israel's Dimona nuclear facility who went to the British media with a lot of damaging inside information), I came across a reference to an event I had never heard of before; The Vela Incident.

Vela was the name of the satellites the U.S. launched during the 1960s to detect nuclear detonations anywhere in the world.  The U.S. was  the driving force behind non-proliferation, and as president, Jimmy was the non-proliferation sheriff!  Vela was his array of deputies that told him if anyone was making trouble... and one day, trouble there was. 

During his watch as president (on September 22nd 1979, to be exact), one of the older Vela satellites detected a signature double flash of a nuclear detonation from a remote area of the southern Indian or Atlantic Ocean.  This double flash - one very fast and bright and a second longer and less bright - is almost always an indication of an atmospheric nuclear detonation.

Since only one of the Vela satellites detected the flashes and there was much debate over whether it was, in fact, a detonation, President Carter set up a panel to look into the matter.  Jimmy was not happy about the possibility of someone conducting a nuclear test without the US's knowledge and approval... and by gum, he was going to get to the bottom of it.

The only problem was that the more information came to light, the less clear it was to Jimmy what, if anything, had happened.  The satellite was past it's life expectancy and no other satellite had spotted the event. Not only that, 25 planes sent by the U.S. to the area to check for radioactivity found nothing. 

Yet U.S. Navy hydrophones picked up a signal which was consistent with a small nuclear explosion on or slightly under the surface of the water in the area where the flash had been detected, and a radio telescope in Puerto Rico detected "an anomalous traveling ionospheric disturbance" at the same time. Another test in Western Australia conducted a few months later found increased radiation levels in the area and Australian sheep down range of the prevailing winds tested positive for an extremely short-lived iodine isotope associated with nuclear blasts.

As time has gone on, no conclusive evidence has ever come out to confirm or debunk the detonation supposedly detected by Vela in September of 1979.  The panel Carter set in motion in '79 concluded less than a year later that the event was probably not a nuclear detonation but couldn't rule it out.  But that seems odd considering that the assessment of the intelligence community immediately following the event was that it was 90% sure a detonation had occurred. 

It is worth noting that there has never been a false report  of a detonation from a Vela before or since.

Over the years some evidence has emerged that points to a possible South African nuclear test (it was, after all in their back yard) with a delivery vehicle allegedly provided by Israel.

In 2006, a retired CIA officer named Tyler Drumheller wrote the following about his 1983-1988 tour of duty in South Africa (in his book 'On the Brink'):

"We had operational successes, most importantly regarding Pretoria's nuclear capability. My sources collectively provided incontrovertible evidence that the apartheid government had in fact tested a nuclear bomb in the south Atlantic in 1979, and that they had developed a delivery system with assistance from the Israelis."

This would be just the sort of thing that would stick in Jimmy Carter's arrogant craw.  The idea that South Africa (a pariah state at the time) and Israel (considered by Carter to be a trouble-maker) could pull off a secret nuclear test and conspire to conceal it from the omniscient United States of America must have been quite a blow to his already damaged self-esteem once he'd left office in disgrace.

So it's no wonder (to me, anyway) that all these years later Carter would still be sore, and would absolutely delight in trying to take away Israel's nuclear opacity.

Note:  Much of the information for this post came (and/or was paraphrased) from here, here and here.  If you have some time they make excellent reading.

Posted by David Bogner on May 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Monday, May 26, 2008

Does that make me a bad person?

There are very few people alive today on whom I would wish something truly horrible.  I figure the really evil people in the world are amassing their own heavenly Din V'cheshbon (judgment and accounting)... Karma... or however you believe one's long-term reckoning is handled.

But former US president Dhimmy Carter is a special case. 

I just read with horror that not only has Carter gone on record with The Times of London regarding Israel's [alleged] nuclear arsenal (a bit of highly classified information that he no doubt gained access to in his role as US Commander in Chief), but he also told the Guardian (another UK daily) that Israel's embargo of Gaza is "one of the greatest human rights crimes on Earth."  He went on to say that "Most families in Gaza are eating only one meal per day. To see Europeans going along with this is embarrassing,"

OK, let's parse these two incredible moves:

1.  All US presidents are continually briefed on highly sensitive information about both allies and enemies.  As Commander in Chief of the US armed forces it is assumed he needs to know who is capable of what in case of war. 

But that information doesn't magically become declassified when he leaves office.  By revealing his knowledge of Israel's alleged nuclear arsenal, he has deliberately abused his position in order to strip Israel of one of its greatest strategic and diplomatic tools; nuclear ambiguity.   Worse still... he has done so in an effort to assure the world that Iran can't possibly have a secret nuclear weapons program since Israel's 'secret weapons' are common knowledge.

2.  The current situation in Gaza is 100% the doing of Hamas.  They are responsible for the daily rocket and mortar fire into Israel.  They are responsible for the daily attempts to infiltrate Israel and smuggle arms into Gaza by sea and from Egypt.  They are responsible for the frequent attacks on the Gaza crossings through which all humanitarian supplies (including fuel, food and medicine) must flow... effectively blocking Israel's (and the world's) best efforts to supply Gaza with its ongoing needs.  And lastly, they are responsible for creating artificial shortages of fuel, and for shutting down power generation to create the impression that Gaza has exhausted its last supplies.

The people of Gaza may very well be eating only one meal per day, but it isn't Israel's hand witholding the food... it is Hamas'.  They are cynically starving their own people in order to try to garner sympathy from useful idiots like Carter. 

Now, I don't get a daily briefing on world events the way Carter does from his staff.  And yet with no effort at all I can come up with several human rights crimes in Africa and Asia that make Gaza look downright prosperous by comparison! Carter's accusatory statement is nothing less than a deliberate attempt to blame Israel for the crimes Hamas is committing against its own people.

So what do I wish on Dhimmy Carter?

In a perfect world I would like to see Carter tried on espionage charges in the US for revealing classified information, and have him spend his remaining days in prison.  But you and I know this isn't going to happen. 

I would also enjoy seeing Carter stripped of whatever protection former president's enjoy and have him targeted the way any of Israel's enemy militants, planners and agents are targeted.  But we all know this won't happen either as it might put a small crimp in US/Israel relations.

So my fall-back position is wishing for something truly horrible to befall this evil enemy of Israel. 

Ideally, I'd prefer that Carter's cosmic punishment be of biblical proportions... boils, wasting, being turned into a pillar of salt, etc..  But hey... I'm easy.  I'd settle for having him smitten (smited?  smoted? oh forget it, you know what I mean), by one of the old stand-bys; stroke or heart-attack. 

Does that make me a bad person?

Posted by David Bogner on May 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Sunday, May 25, 2008

This place would give my wife a heart-attack.

There is a limestone gorge in southern Spain called El Chorro which is home to some of the world’s best climbing. Within this gorge is a long, winding pathway that was built between 1901-1905, known as Caminito del Rey, “the kings pathway”.

The walkway has now gone years without maintenance and is in a highly deteriorated state. It is 3 feet in width (at optimum spots), and is over 700 feet above the river (and rocks).

Official access to the path was removed in 2000 after 4 people died trying to walk on it. However, a few adventurous souls still find their way onto the walkway.   Here’s video proof.

I'm so going to this place some day.  Hey, maybe that's what I'll do for my 50th birthday seeing as Zahava was such a good sport about my 40th!

Hat tip to Bayou

Posted by David Bogner on May 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Friday, May 23, 2008

A new take on an old song

A friend sent me a link to a music video produced and performed by a Parisian wedding band.  It is a fresh take on Israel's national anthem, Hatkva (thanks Drew). 

Don't get me wrong... I still prefer (or more correctly, tear up over) the traditional version they play at official ceremonies and such.  But I have to say I was impressed with the depth of feeling they put into this one.  Enjoy:

The background singers are a group called 'Broadway' and the lead is Francky Perez.

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by David Bogner on May 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I hate that this has to be done publicly, but... [sigh]

[Every year or two I find myself having to do this.  Apologies in advance for this departure from your regularly scheduled blog reading]

Dear treppenwitz reader/commenter (you know who you are),

After reading the many comments you've posted here and around the blogosphere over the past two or three years I have to make the following observations: 

When a comment is longer than the blog post that inspired it there is something wrong.  Also, you seem to go out of your way to pack as many unrelated topics and opinions into each comment as is humanly possible (please don't take that as a challenge).  This is (IMHO) an abuse of the commenting privilege.  It tires and annoys readers who are trying to follow the comment thread in order to possibly contribute something of their own to the topic at hand. 

By hijacking the thread with a wandering, unsubstantiated filibuster, you seem to be deliberately trying to derail all intelligent discussion. There are several sites offering the opportunity to set up your own personal blog for free.  Failing this, there are also plenty of blogs out there where people are encouraged to rant... but be assured that mine is not one of them.

We get that you think Bibi is a criminal, although you seem to be a tad light on evidence (again, not a challenge... just an observation).  You make reference to this in nearly every comment you leave here and elsewhere in the blogosphere... regardless of the topic at hand.  If this is your signature tag line please excuse me for cramping your creativity.  But if you are simply unable to focus on the current topic, I suggest you sit still for a few minutes and wait for the Tourette-like urge to type "BIBI TAKES BRIBES" in all caps, to pass.

Lastly, I can appreciate that you are happy over there in California, but in nearly every single comment and email you have sent you have criticized multiple aspects of Israel as compared to the US.  Treppenwitz is an Israel-based blog about life in Israel and all things related to Israeli culture, politics and society... warts and all.  Please try to be sensitive to the fact that many people have different priorities in their life than you do. 

I have written to you privately (multiple times) in the past about all of these issues in an effort not to embarrass you publicly with my comments or criticism.  You are a big girl and should not have to be subjected to public scolding.  But by the same token, I am a big boy and do not need to have my handiwork hijacked and/or derailed... which is precisely what you have been doing.

In conclusion, feel free to read and comment... you obviously have many interesting viewpoints.  But please wait until the topic of one of my posts actually coincides with one of your viewpoints before offering it up.  By showing this small courtesy you will avoid making the reading/commenting experience at treppenwitz unpleasant for others.

Thank you,

The Management

"Laying the groundwork for an insanity defense since 1961" © all rights reserved

Posted by David Bogner on May 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Don't be fooled again!

Pretty much everyone knew that once Olmert's legal woes painted him into a corner he would take a page from the Ariel Sharon playbook and do something - anything - dramatic to get the media and the leftist elites on his side (i.e. get them to offer him virtual immunity from prosecution).

Well, a couple of days ago when Olmert's people suddenly announced that the Prime Minister was going in for prostate cancer tests, I was pretty sure that was it... he was going to play the sympathy card instead of making a political end run to the left.  Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt for a moment that Ehud Olmert has prostate cancer if he says he does.  After all, considering where his head has been for most of his adult life, he should know better than anyone what's up there. 

But despite the timing of the whole cancer announcement just as he was running out of legal arguments in his latest scandal being a little too perfect to have been a coincidence, it seemed odd that Olmert wasn't going to offer some bold leftist initiative like Sharon in order to shoo off the circling vultures.

Well, guess what?  Olmert's government has just officially announced peace negotiations with Syria (brokered by Turkey).  Now this isn't terribly surprising since there have been rumors and trial balloons for months suggesting back-channel contact between Israel and Syria.  But the Israeli public support for giving up the Golan Heights (the Syrian pre-condition for any deal) is almost non-existent, so nobody paid much attention to the rumors.

But now the headlines of all the Israeli news outlets are trumpeting the peace negotiations in huge headlines, and I fear we may be on our way to having another disengagement shoved down our throats!

And Assad may be a lot of things... but he isn't stupid.  He knows that the best chance he has of getting the Golan is from the hands of a desperate Israeli Prime Minister fighting for his political life.

Trust me... anyone who tries to oppose this is going to be labelled 'anti-peace'.

People, not only is the Golan Heights essential to Israeli security... it is ours by rights and by law! 

From atop the Golan Heights, Syria relentlessly bombarded the Galilee and held a  threatening position over all of northern and central Israel.   

In 1964, Eli Cohen, the greatest spy in the history of Israel, revealed how Syria was going to divert the head waters of the Jordan River in the Golan Heights... and how easily this could be accomplished.  He gave his life proving how vulnerable Israel was with Syria atop the Golan.

Land for peace is a flawed idea.  Peace for peace is all Israel owes any of its enemies at this point in history.  We were not the aggressors in the murderous wars waged against us.  We should not have to offer up a part of ourselves in order to sue for peace.  You tried to destroy us.  you failed.  No other country in the history of the world has won its wars and then had to offer up land in order to sue for peace!!!

This orgy of retreats and capitulations that Sharon and now Olmert use to woo the elitists on the left cannot be tolerated or allowed to continue.  Not because they are being used to shield criminals from prosecution... but because they are unethical and mortally dangerous to the State of Israel.


Posted by David Bogner on May 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Well, they didn't lie

[an incoherent rant written by a sleep-deprived parent of a child in pain]

After Yonah's tonsils and adenoids were removed the doctors told us that his pain would probably peak about a week after the surgery.  The sum total of the pain management tools they gave us was the kiddie version of Tylenol to be administered every four hours. 

Oh.   My.    G-d.

Almost immediately it became clear that the Tylenol (actually called Acamol here) was not coming close to dealing with Yonah's pain, so we asked for and got an additional prescription for Optalgin (Metamizole) which he had been given while he was in the hospital with good results.

For a couple of days that was keeping him comfortable, but each dose would wear off about an hour or so before it was time to give him more.  Zahava is a stickler about such things, where I am the kind of father who would go out and score my kid some heroin if I thought it would take away his pain!

Needless to say we've been following Zahava's lead on the whole dosing and scheduling of the pain medicine thing. 

But over the past couple of days (a week after the surgery, just like they promised!) the pain has increased exponentially.  Yonah has been flipping out every every two hours (day and night) and screaming:

"Ima!, Abba!... my ears hurt!... my throat hurts!... make it stop!!!

I'm not doing it justice here... but trust me, it's truly heartbreaking (especially the part where the room gets icy cold, his head spins around and he starts jabbering in Latin while vomiting green stuff!).   Add to that the fact that Zahava and I have had the equivalent of one full night's sleep each for the past two weeks, and you have two parents whose parenting (and coping) abilities are diminishing at an alarming rate.

He is drinking and very occasionally allowing us to give him some ice cream... but only when the meds are working, not for pain relief!

Zahava took Yonah to the hospital today to see if there is anything else we can do for him.  The surgeon looked him over and told us that everything looks fine... no infection and no bleeding.  However he noted that Yonah seems to be producing more scabbing than most kids, which probably accounts for the increased pain.

He gave us a new prescription for the Optalgin and increased the dosage and frequency ever so slightly.  But other than that, he said we'd just have to wait it out.

I'm giving this one more night and then I hit the streets looking for something stronger! 

(Home remedies are strongly invited.  Seriously!)

Posted by David Bogner on May 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Identifying with 'the enemy'

Few Israelis (or friends of Israel for that matter) would be foolish enough to suggest that Israel is not currently at war.  And being at war strongly suggests (one would think) the existence of an enemy, right?   Them.  Those people are our enemy.

Yet for some reason, when it comes to pointing a finger at an individual and saying 'that is my enemy', we seem to be trying too hard (IMHO) for moral clarity and political correctness.  For many, it is more important to identify with our enemy than to simply identify him.

What about that woman over there... trying to enter Israel for emergency medical treatment. Is she the enemy?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  Obviously she isn't wearing a uniform with rank or insignia.  But then none of our enemy's combatants identify themselves as such.

The 1907 Hague Regulations and the 1949 Geneva Conventions both state quite clearly that combatants not wearing a uniform, or some other badge or device visible at a distance that clearly distinguishes a combatant from the surrounding civilian population, need not be accorded the rights and privileges of soldiers.  More importantly, they are committing a war crime by impersonating a civilian!  Yet the onus remains on us to differentiate the good guys from the bad.  Funny how that works.

We 've read of numerous Gaza doctors providing bogus medical referrals to terrorists in order to allow them a better chance of crossing into Israel.  So is this woman at the checkpoint with the screaming family members and a horrifying medical diagnosis the enemy.  Yes or no?  Hurry up and decide.  It's a life and death decision where the life hanging in the balance may not be hers!

What about that handsome young man of 20 trying to get through the checkpoint.  He's removed several things from his pockets and yet is still setting off the metal detector.  He seems nervous and argumentative, but is that a result of being in close proximity to IDF troops or because he is up to no good?   And by 'no good' are we talking about an innocent pocket knife suddenly remembered... a bag of hashish... a gun... an explosive belt? 

Now what's he doing?  He's been ordered to remain still yet his hand is creeping towards his midsection.  Does he have an itch or is he reaching for a switch to trigger explosives.  If it turns out to be an itch and the soldiers shoot, they''ll spend a long time in prison.  If it's an explosive belt and they don't shoot, they'll spend the rest of their short lives contemplating this decision.   Bang!

What about the boy in yesterday's 'Healing the Enemy' article.  He was rushed to an IDF base by relatives with what turned out to be life-threatening injuries.  Is he the enemy?  Several commenters were outraged by the implication that a 14 year old boy was loosely identified as 'the enemy'.  But what of the 14 year old boys who have, on many occasions, been caught trying to smuggle guns and explosives through checkpoints, and even attack IDF installations?  What of them? 

Our enemy respects no age or gender limits in its cynical use of women and children in their armed 'resistance'.  They proudly use their civilian populations as human shields and have stated on many occasions that all Israelis - regardless of age, gender or civilian status - are legitimate targets.  Are we being foolish to make distinctions that our enemy does not?

And there's something interesting that only one commenter took the time to mention; the photo of that 14 year old boy taken months later in the hospital shows him wearing what appear to be camouflage army pants.  If he had arrive at the IDF base covered in blood and wearing those pants, a doctor would still probably be ethically compelled to treat him, but would be within his/her rights to wonder if this was a combatant and not just some hapless teenaged accident victim.

The author of the article quite vividly described the scene when the boy was brought to the base.  For obvious reasons they can't just throw open the gates of a military installation whenever a bunch of Arabs drive up yelling that someone has been hurt.  But by opting to treat the kid in the open, right there outside the gates (rather than telling the relatives to drive him to the hospital in nearby Ramallah), the docs exposed themselves to the risk of sniper fire from any of several nearby villages or even attack by the men who brought the injured boy to the IDF for treatment.

Again, there have been so many instances of Palestinians cynically exploiting Israeli ethical codes regarding medical/humanitarian 'emergencies' that these doctors quite literally took their lives in their hands by choosing to work there in the open on a member of an enemy population.

One of yesterday's commenters who took exception to the article's use of the word 'enemy' as it was tenuously linked to this injured 14 year old, is himself, a physician.  I have known him for almost half my life and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he were faced with the decision right this very minute, he would rush out of those gates and treat the boy without a thought to the potential danger to himself.  He and I grew up in the M.A.S.H. generation and probably have an overdeveloped 'Hawkeye' complex when it comes to a doctor's responsibilities to a civilian population in a combat zone. 

But I imagine if he lived here and had to do reserve duty as an army physician for several months per year under these difficult circumstances, he might better appreciate how remarkable and un-obvious that doctor's decision was.  I also imagine that if my friend were to discuss the potential dangers of such an action with his wife and children, they might have a thing or two to say about him playing Hawkeye Pierce and potentially depriving them of a husband/father on the basis of a well-intended whim.

Every interaction between Israeli and Palestinian these days is fraught with these kind of blurry decisions.  I drive past (and through) dozens of Arab villages each day on my way to and from work.  I know intellectually that 99.9 percent of the people I see during my commute may not love me (or what I stand for) but they would not harm me if I were to stop to fix a flat tire or buy a bag of groceries in their village. 

But I'm not a mind reader.  I can't tell the difference between those who want me to leave and those who want to kill me. 

As a result, when my wife calls me in the car and asks if I can pick up some milk or sugar on my way home, it would never occur to me to shop in an Arab store (as Israelis used to do all the time before the Intifada/Oslo war began).  Believe me, it would save me a lot of time if I could stop in one of these small village markets when Zahava is missing some crucial ingredient for dinner.  But it could also potentially cost me my life.

On the two occasions when I've gotten flat tires along my commute - once next to Hevron's industrial district and once in the south Hevron Hills - I was fortunate to; a) be armed; and b) have someone along figuratively and literally 'riding shotgun' who could stand guard while I changed the tire. 

I imagine this isn't the norm along the Jersey Turnpike (although it would probably be wise on the Cross Bronx Expressway or on seedier sections of the BQE).

My point is that Israelis are required to view 'Arabs' (them... those people over there) as 'the enemy' these days.  I say 'required' because without a doubt we are at war, and our enemy flatly refuses to differentiate between civilians and combatants.   

Is it sad?  Yes.  Is it fair?  No.  Does it offend the sensibilities of anyone with a shred of humanity?  Of course!  And when one of the trees walks out of the forest it doesn't make our decisions any easier.  An individual (man, woman, child) is almost certainly innocent... harmless.  Unless, of course it turns out he/she isn't. 

But is it newsworthy when someone puts themselves at risk in order to perform an extraordinary humanitarian act?  Absolutely!  It is newsworthy for the simple reason that the recipient of that act was 'the enemy'.  Maybe not him personally... but then again maybe yes, him personally. 

The Doctor had no way of knowing at the time.  Until they'd cut away his clothes and begun treating him they didn't know for sure.  And for all they knew, the day before his tragic fall, this boy could have been out throwing potentially deadly Molotov Cocktails and rocks at cars... or trying to smuggle an explosive belt through a checkpoint in order to blow up a cafe.

The point is we (and they) just don't know.  And that uncertainty isn't our fault. 

We are at war with an enemy who has deliberately blurred the lines between innocent civilian and dangerous combatant.  In such a war it is far more important that we clearly identify our enemy... than that we identify with him. 

Posted by David Bogner on May 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Monday, May 19, 2008

IDF Doctors Heal the Enemy

While home alone in his Ramallah village, Shadi had fallen from the railing-free 3rd floor of his home directly onto his head.  [A] cousin had found him lying on the ground unconscious and brought him to the army base because he had heard there was a doctor and medical facilities on the grounds.

“I decided to radio for a military helicopter and evacuate the child to an Israeli hospital,”  [Dr.] Poran continues.  “He had clearly suffered brain damage and needed the type of acute care he couldn’t get at Ramallah Hospital.  It was a risk - having a helicopter land there outside the gate. There’s vulnerability to sniper fire and attack from surrounding hillsides.  We were all at risk working on him out there in the open surrounded by Arab villages. ”

But the Orthodox Jewish physician made a life-saving medical decision based upon professionalism. “Yes, I am religious,” he quietly offers, eyes slightly clouding. “But if I see a wounded 14-year-old boy it doesn’t matter that he’s Palestinian.  I don’t ask questions.  It was as if he was my own son. You don’t not take care of a kid.”

Read the whole thing here.

This is a must read story by Stephanie L. Freid that is up over at Pajamas Media.  Sadly, the people who desperately need to see it probably won't. 

A huge hat tip to Allison for pointing me to this.

Posted by David Bogner on May 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The bedside clock to top all bedside clocks

If I ever needed to wonder about the depth of my wife's love, all I would have to do is look at the way she has indulged my my gadget habit throughout our married life.  Oh sure, we've had to implement some guidelines on how much I can waste spend before requiring her informed consent... but her patience with my addiction has truly been admirable.

The latest bout of indulgent eye-rolling on her part came after I finally found the perfect replacement for my bedside alarm clock (which long time readers may recall was pitched across the bedroom after an unacceptable record of unreliability).

For many months I relied upon the tinny alarm on my cell phone and on our youngest child's frequent pre-dawn visits.  But there was always the sense that I would have to find something new for my bedside table.

I'm not sure exactly how the topic came up, but one day during my commute home from work, one of my regular carpool mates (known here on the blog as 'British Academic') mentioned in passing that once upon a time, many well-appointed English homes had a bedside contraption known as a 'Teasmade', manufactured by a company with the unlikely name of 'Goblin'.

Simply put, this was a bedside alarm clock that had an electric kettle for boiling water and a teapot into which the hot water would be sent... allowing the well-rested owners to wake at the hour they desire to a ready made 'cuppa' without having to venture out of their bedroom.

I have no idea why this concept appealed to me to the extent that it did... but within a few days I found myself searching the Internet for more information about this unlikely device.

As several commenters mentioned on Friday's post (which featured a picture of a Teasmade on my beside table), the Goblin Teasmade is a bit of an anachronism in today's busy world.  Once upon a time it was ubiquitous amongst English newlywed's presents, much as fondue pots were once all the rage for U.S. couples.  However, like fondue pots, people continued to give Teasmades as gifts long after they were truly appreciated by the recipients.

Sadly, the Goblin company ceased manufacturing these handy devices many years ago.  Some say it was the high speed electric kettle that did them in... while others say that better designed products like Mr. Coffee and other hot beverage devices with built-in clocks were to blame. 

Whatever the case, at some point a couple of decades ago, the very civilized idea of a drinking quiet, private cup of tea before leaving the comfort of one's bedroom gave way to frenzied morning routines, rushed tea or coffee in the kitchen and early commutes.

Of course, this didn't dissuade me from trying to find a Teasmade for myself.  If anything, it encouraged me!

After reading about them on a wonderful site devoted to these 'Tea Wakers', I realized that there must be literally thousands of these floating around on eBay (especially on the UK eBay) as people continued to mine their attics and garages for things to sell on-line.

Sure enough, there are plenty of these treasures still for sale at reasonable prices (i.e. well below my 'ask Zahava' threshold'.  I was lucky enough to find one which had been received as a wedding present back in the 1970s and promptly tossed into a storage room with the rest of the couple's unwanted gifts.  All I had to do was replace the UK plug for an Israeli one and 'Bob's your uncle', I was in business!

I knew that with our porcelain sinks and tile floors, the weak link would be the ceramic teapot (since breaking this relatively fragile item would render the entire enterprise moot).  So I ordered a few spare teapots from a reliable source in the UK that seems to have stocked up when the Goblin company stopped production.

Here on our windy hilltop in Gush Etzion, the mornings are still quite chilly.... even in mid May.  So I've enjoyed being awakened to the soft gurgle of the tea kettle and the aroma of blueberry tea at least once a week.  But soon the summer will be upon us and I will likely only use the robust (meaning; scary loud!) buzzer function to wake me up in the morning.

However, as sure as cool autumn is followed by frigid winter here in the rugged Judean hills, I know that my trusty Goblin Teasmade will be pressed into daily service once again. 

Let the cynics laugh at the anachronism sitting on my night table.  Let my lovely wife roll her eyes.  Come September I imagine she'll change her tune when she's handed a hot cup of tea while still nestled comfortably in bed... as illustrated in this fetching 1970's-era ad:


For more information about these quirky devices and their history, I highly recommend visiting www.teasmade.com

Posted by David Bogner on May 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Friday, May 16, 2008

Good Riddance

According to the Jerusalem Post, US President George 'Nucular' Bush (the man born with a silver foot in his mouth), wrapped up his visit to Israel by telling a bunch of Israeli youngsters that "just as the US changed its treatment of minorities, he hoped that Israeli society could also change the way it treats its minorities."

He then jetted off to see his investors friends in Riyadh and Cairo.

Anyone want to venture a guess whether he will be taking the Saudis and Egyptians to task about their treatment of minorities.

This imbecile can't possibly finish his useless term of office soon enough to suit me.

[Note:  Before anyone lets their heart bleed all over my comment board, let me state a few things for the record:  Israeli has a long way to go in terms of it's treatment of Arabs.  Heck, Israel has a lot to answer for in terms of its treatment of Ethiopian, Moroccan, Russian, Yemenite and Tunisian Jews!  But comparing Israel's treatment of Arabs to the U.S.' treatment of blacks and Hispanics is just wrong-headed... unless I missed the part of the civil rights movement where buses in Selma and Birmingham were bombed on a regular basis.]

Posted by David Bogner on May 16, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (48) | TrackBack

Hidden treasures on the shopping list

Friday morning typically finds me headed to the grocery store with shopping list in hand.  There are a few of us who seem to be on the same schedule, so as we walk up and down the aisles the usual friendly greetings are followed by casual "Hey, what's a leek?" or "where would you look for red food coloring?"

I look forward to these little forays, partly because I seem to always bump into my friend Ben Chorin... but also because I get a little glimpse of what Shabbat and the week beyond will look like from a culinary point of view.

Don't get me wrong, I do my share of the cooking... but I rarely plan ahead.  If I'm going to make something I generally look for the ingredients in the pantry or make a special trip to the store for exactly what I need.

Zahava, on the other hand, tends to stock up on more general ingredients that can be used in a lot of different ways.

But sometimes there are ingredients on her shopping lists that give away what she has in mind.  For instance, when I saw buttermilk on the shopping list this morning, I knew that I could look forward to scones or muffins for my morning drive during the coming week.

Even an unpleasant chore like grocery shopping can be redeemed through the hidden treasures that give away the secret of future treats.

Posted by David Bogner on May 16, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Yonah's home in bed. Our bed.

OK, I'm just a big softy .  Even though it probably means Zahava and I will be up a few dozen times tonight, I don't have the heart to send Yonah up to his own bed on his first night home.

For a kid with sensory issues, sleeping in a hospital bed for two nights - complete with being poked and prodded every couple of hours - is probably a lot like what sleeping on an ant hill would be for the rest of us. That, plus The fact that we don't have a baby monitor anymore to know if he wakes up crying in the middle of the night... and, well, the end result is that Yonah gets a night of bunking in with mom & dad.

Here he is on my side of the bed surfing the Sesame Street site:
[obscure picture reference: A while back I lamented the fact that you can't find a decent bedside alarm clock anymore.  Well, thanks to one of my regular carpool mates (A.K.A. British Academic) I now have a uniquely English solution to the morning wake-up routine sitting in my night table.   More on that front soon.  Bonus points to anyone who can identify it by name.]

Posted by David Bogner on May 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The funniest thing yet

I say 'yet' because when dealing with culture and language issues there is always the chance of something funnier happening.

Here's the deal:

A religious woman I know heard that Yonah was going to be in the hospital and wished him a 'refu'ah shelaima' (full recovery).  It was obvious that she didn't want to pry, but it was equally obvious that she wanted to know what was wrong that required a hospital stay.

I should point out that my confidence in my medical Hebrew is not nearly has high as when I need to discuss more mundane topics.  Also, although this woman knows almost no English, she enjoys showing off the few English words she knows whenever an opportunity presents itself. 

I knew that 'adenoids' were pretty much the same in Hebrew (adenoidim), but the Hebrew word for 'tonsils' kept escaping me.  I now know that tonsils are 'shkedim' (the same word for 'almonds' in Hebrew) but at the time I couldn't come up with the word.

So rather than pantomime what kind of surgery Yonah was going to have I simply handed her the folded copy of the doctor's  admission instructions which I happened to have in my pocket.

This extremely religious woman scanned the sheet of printed Hebrew and exclaimed in heavily accented English, "Oh, he's having his nuts taken out!"

The look on my face must have been something special because her pride at having uttered an entire English sentence suddenly turned to rosy cheeked embarrassment.  But the real embarrassment came a few moments later when I delicately explained that 'having one's nuts out' meant something quite different than the relatively routine surgery we had scheduled for our son.

As I watched the red in her cheeks spread north and south until every bit of exposed skin was crimson, I felt kind of bad.  But in retrospect, I figure it is better that someone she give her a gentle correction in private than for her to continue using that horrifying expression every time she hears of someone having their tonsil's out.

I know if the table's were turned I'd want to be corrected.

Posted by David Bogner on May 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

A midnight report from the hospital

Actually, it's well after midnight here in Jerusalem, but after a long day here at Hadassah Ein Kerem and Yonah finally sleeping in his hospital bed next to where I am typing this, I feel like I need to put up a post for all of you who sent emails, left comments and generally sent good juju our way.

I'm not up to writing too much at the moment, so I'll let some pictures speak for themselves.

Zahava, Yonah and I arrived at the hospital around 1:00PM.  Since Yonah and I had done all the paperwork the previous day all we had to do today was show up and go right to the floor where Yonah would be staying.  The nurses there showed us to Yonah's room and he was clearly delighted:


Yonah really liked the room  The bed had wheels (as promised) and there was even a train on the ceiling!


It turns out Yonah wasn't going to be taken for surgery until after three so we took him down the hall to the play room where he was reunited with our friend and hero, Nurse Noa:


After Noa went back to work we took Yonah back to the room and decided to let him try on his snazzy hospital pajamas.  If they had these in my size I would so steal a pair!


And of course there is the whole ID bracelet thing. I briefly entertained the idea of asking for a different color... but in the end I decided Yonah's manhood was not threatened by the pinkness of the bracelet:


After the fun of high fashion wore off, Yonah and Zahava settled in for a little quality time in front of a DVD movie on the laptop:


No sooner had the movie gotten going when some volunteer clowns stopped by to play with Yonah and make some balloon animals with him:


Of course once the clowns were gone, there was the inevitable post-clown let-down.  I think Yonah got the idea that this hospital thing would be one long party.


Even Ima's lap can't make the waiting much fun.


But finally they came for Yonah and he got to try out the rolling bed he'd heard so much about:


And down the hall we went.


And into elevators...


Down yet another hallway...


Until we arrived at the holding area beyond which only one parent can continue.  Zahava was a very good sport and let me take Yonah to the O.R..  Here she is having a little fun with Yonah before she had to say goodbye:


From there Yonah and I went to a small hallway outside the O.R. where I had to gown up and Yonah had to put on a hair net over his kippah (only in Israel!).  I think this was the point where it suddenly hit him that this operation thing was actually going to happen:


The surgery before us went a bit long and then they had to clean up the O.R., so while we waited to go in, Yonah reviewed his charts:


Suddenly the doors were opened and I was told to carry Yonah in and place him on the table (actually a smaller bed).  This was the point when he decided he didn't want the operation after all.


Unfortunately, once you get to this point, there is no going back.  So with some gentle encouragement from me, the surgeon and anesthesiologist, the mask with the happy gas was put into place... and within seconds Yonah was out.


I was kinda hoping nobody would notice me and I could sort of hang out and watch the operation.  But it turns out there was a nurse there whose only job was to wait until the kid was out cold and then escort me out to the waiting room.  Rats!

Zahava  and I had missed lunch so we ran down to the food court for a quick dinner of quiche (hers was artichoke and mine was mushroom), salads and coffee.  By the time we got back the surgeon had just come out and we were escorted to the recovery room where Yonah was just starting to thrash about as the anesthesia wore off.

As soon as he opened his eyes, the doc asked me to put Yonah on my lap so that he would feel more secure:


After a bit, they had to give him some more pain meds so I put him back onto the bed.


He was mostly sleeping at this point, so all Zahava and I could do was hold his hand...


And look at his pitiful face


... until finally our little boy woke up for real.


It is now almost 2:00AM and I have Yonah snuggled in next to me.  The nurse has come in twice to adjust his IV and check on him... but at this point I'm going to have to get some sleep or I'll be useless in the morning.

Some time during the day they will evaluate Yonah and let us know if he can go home or if he needs to stay another night.  I hope we can take him home as soon as possible so we can all sleep in our own beds.

Good night.

Posted by David Bogner on May 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (36) | TrackBack

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The scavenger hunt

I've mentioned on several occasions that I absolutely LOVE the Israeli socialized medicine set-up.  It has been good to us and our kids.  It has been good to my parents.  It has been good to pretty much everyone I know.

Oh sure, you can occasionally get a stinker of a doctor or a nurse who is having a bad day (week, year, etc.).  But compared with what we left behind, it is a wonderfully streamlined way of dealing with stuff that pretty much everyone has to go through in life.

There's no stress about pre-existing conditions, changing jobs, COBRA, etc.  Even homeless people (yes we have them here too) are covered!

Socialized medicine is on my mind today because I spent the day in the hospital.  Don't worry, nothing serious... and actually, nothing to do with me.  Our youngest, Yonah, is having his tonsils and adenoids removed tomorrow and today was the pre-surgery scavenger hunt where we got to spend the day running from office to office, meeting with surgeons, anesthesiologists, clerks, nurses, etc.  We even had a meeting with a child-specialist who explained the whole procedure to Yonah using pictures, drawings and an incredibly realistic set of toy operating room figures.

Of course, the day didn't start out as nicely as I would have liked. When we arrived at Hadassah Ein Kerem at 8:00AM (as requested) we were sent to the wrong department by the unhelpful guy sitting at the information booth. The second time I went back to him he seemed not to remember me and happily tried to send me to the same wrong place. I told him what had happened and he said, "Oh yeah, you have to go to ..." sending me to another level of hell where nobody had ever heard of us.

The third time I went back to him I said, "Let's try something different.  Let's pretend you want to help me instead of screwing me."  He got a very disgruntled look and sent me to an entirely wrong building in the hospital complex.  Rather than go back and beat him with a borrowed crutch, I did what I swore I would only do in case of an emergency:  I called in my protexia.

For you non Israelis out there, protexia is knowing someone who is positioned to be able to help you get something - anything - done faster or easier than would normally be possible to the general public. In this case it was calling my friend Noa who is a nurse at the hospital.

Noa quickly came down and brought me to the right place. When it turned out we had been given the wrong form by our town clinic, she gave me her office fax number and told me to have them fax the correct form there.  She got us settled with the first of our many stops, and while we were waiting to be seen, she ran down and got us the first (!) appointment with the anesthesiologist.

Once Noa had sorted us out and gotten us pointed in the right direction she went back to her regularly scheduled work-day. As we were headed for our last quick appointment on the Pediatric Surgery floor, we bumped into Noa in the elevator and thanked her again for getting us back on track.

Sometimes you just can't thank people enough. But I'm sure gonna try!

Anyway, tomorrow is the surgery, so if you want to send good vibes towards a certain 4 year old Israeli boy named Yonah* sometime tomorrow afternoon, feel free.

Expect a full update (with pictures) since I'll be staying over with him in the hospital tomorrow night, and they have WiFi!

*Those wishing to include Yonah in their daily תפילות (Tefilot/prayers) can use the name  יונה זאב בן זלתא/Yonah Ze'ev ben Zlata (ed. note from Zahava - go ahead and laugh! - it's my actual given name).

Posted by David Bogner on May 11, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Friday, May 09, 2008

Photo Friday - Pina Chama Edition

As in past years, we all went to over to the Pina Chama to make a big mangal (BBQ) for all the soldiers who are on duty on Yom Hatzma'ut (Israel Independence Day) and serving in our area.  People from all over the Gush Etzion region donated food and paper goods, and a bunch of us cooked it all up and served it to these young heroes.

First let me give you some long overdue pictures of some of the things your generous donations purchased this past year when the Pina Chama was robbed):

A new water fountain and punch dispenser:


A popcorn machine and hot water urn:


A fridge...


... and freezer.


There is also a 'slushy' machine but since it wasn't big enough to keep up with the huge crowd we normally get on Yom Hatzma'ut, we put it away for safe keeping.

We did the first shift from about 11:00AM until 1:30 or 2:00PM.  The meant getting the grills going for the lunch rush:


Here's me pre-sunstroke  :-)


Other volunteers unpacked salads and sides as they were delivered from around the Gush:


And meals were assembled to be picked up and delivered to soldiers who couldn't leave their positions around the area:


Here's Ariella getting the kitchen ready for the rush:


Even the soldiers manning the position at the nearby intersection (Tzomet HaGush) couldn't leave for lunch so their lunch was brought to them.  Hundreds of meals were delivered to soldiers all over the region.  Here are some soldiers unpacking crates of meals:


Around noon the soldiers started arriving at the Pina Chama


And the  tables inside and out began to fill up



And of course where there are soldiers, there are bound to be officers


Yonah, whose job was loosely defined as 'greeting and saying goodbye to the soldiers', escorted one of the officers to his Jeep and got a photo op for his scrap book


Afterward we all went home and had a mangal of our own with friends from Hashmonaim.  These friends adopted Lulu's sister, Izzy, and they brought her along for the visit.  The two puppies had a great reunion and a good time was had by all.  But those pictures will have to wait for next week.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by David Bogner on May 9, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack