Sunday, September 28, 2008
A simple wish...
... that this year should be a sweet one filled with health, happiness and prosperity.
Before I sign off for Rosh Hashanah, I'd like to share one of the most important lesson I've learned from my bees:
The best way to ensure a sweet future is to resist the urge to take every last drop of honey that life offers you. Make sure you leave some behind for those who provided you with the sweetness in the first place... and some for the stranger you may never meet.
L'Shannah Tova (wishing you and yours a good year), from all of us here at Chez Treppenwitz.
[bottom photo courtesy of my neighbor, Yehoshua Halevi]
Where, oh where, has the 'collective punishment crowd' gone?
In the past when I, or any commenters, have suggested employing broad measures to punish the Palestinians for their continued tolerance/support of terror, the group I have come to think of as the 'collective punishment crowd' invariably comes out of the woodwork wringing their collective hands over how unjust it would be to impose a collective punishment on all Palestinians for the bad acts of a very few.
So you can imagine my confusion and dismay when I see pretty much no negative reaction from the 'collective punishment crowd' in the wake of yesterday's announcement that the Israeli government (via the IDF) has decided to revoke Jewish access to Joseph's Tomb (one of Judaism's ancient holy sites) as a collective punishment upon the settlers for not having offered a strong enough condemnation of recent bad acts allegedly carried out by settlers.
Joseph's Tomb has been the site of countless acts of Arab vandalism (it was mostly destroyed by the Arabs during the second Intifada) as well as lethal attacks against Jewish civilians and soldiers. Yet few outside the religious settler community seem to notice or mind that while Arabs enjoy safe access (full autonomy, actually) to all of their holy sites... Jews must petition the authorities for special access to their holy sites because of the inherent danger.
Not only is removing access to Joseph's Tomb ridiculously unfair considering that Arabs worship at their beautifully maintained and safe holy places... but there is also the added issue of collective punishment being meted out against the settlers.
To begin with, those living outside the 'Green line' are not some monolithic population that thinks and/or acts in concert any more than those living within the green line. The cultural population of Jews living over the green line spans the entire gamut from secular to religious... and their political make-up extends from just left of center to as far right as you care to imagine. So to force this segment of Israel's population to be held responsible for a few bad actors in their midst is ludicrous.
Not only that, but the so-called 'leadership' of the settlers is not in any way shape or form in a position to speak for this population (as convenient as it might be if it were so). In fact, the 'leadership' is self-appointed and is viewed with heavy suspicion by much of the population of Judea and Samaria because of a consistent failure to act in the best interest of the people they claim to represent.
However, the most troubling thing (for me) is the fact that the government and it's appointed representatives (in this case, the IDF) see no problem in meting out collective punishment against the settler community (actually, mostly just the religious settlers) even though that group bears no collective responsibility for a few very isolated criminal acts.
To emphasize the extent to which ideology and agenda have entered into the government's decision-making processes, consider what kind of reaction the government has offered when mayors of various communities in the center of the country have been targeted by criminal elements with grenades and bombs.
Obviously most law-abiding citizens are outraged by that sort of thing. But it is safe to say that the President, Prime Minister and pretty much every cabinet member didn't come out on the same day to offer hysterical condemnations of those attacks, nor was it necessary for representatives of those communities to publicly condemn the acts in order to be perceived as being against them.
To be sure, in those criminal cases the police were given clear marching orders and extra resources to bring the perpetrators to justice. But there was little in the way of public outcry and grandstanding by government officials in the wake of the actual attacks. Why? Because being anti-mafia is a non-partisan position and offers no particular political advantage.
But when an opportunity arises for Peres, Olmert, Livni and others to publicly condemn the wicked sons (the settlers), there is suddenly a headlong rush to the podium to decry 'ideological attacks' in front of the eagerly waiting media.
Access to Jewish Holy sites should also be a completely non-partisan issue. Yet again and again we have seen how protection of, and access to, these ancient places has been used by our own secular elites as a carrot and stick (mostly stick) to punish those they view with both suspicion and hate.
I am disgusted by our cowardly government that holds our precious heritage in such disregard. But I am more disgusted with the 'collective punishment crowd' who now remain silent when it is Jews being collectively punished instead of Arabs.
Two oft-quoted sections of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 13) are the following:
"(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state."
This is most frequently employed to point out the injustice of denying Palestinians free movement within Israeli-controlled areas. Yet when the freedom of movement is denied to Jewish residents... that is somehow not a human rights issue. Strange, no?
"(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."
This is usually used to support the right of displaced Arabs (and their descendants) to return to what is now Israel after having left and/or been forced to leave. But there is no statute of limitations on this basic human right... so why is it that the Jews (who were exiled from this land almost two thousand years before anyone had heard of a 'Palestinian'), are not allowed to return to it? Very strange!
To my fellow Israelis who have no problem with these double standards, I can only reiterate what I have said many times before: Your right to live in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Hertzlia evaporates like so much smoke the moment you deny the most basic Jewish claim to our historic land, as well as to our ancient holy places in Hevron, Schechem and Bethlehem.
Without the legitimacy conferred upon the entire Zionist enterprise by the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Temple Mount and the tombs of Rachel and her son Joseph, those living comfortably in Israel's crowded center are nothing more than 'illegal occupiers'; an angry epithet that is routinely tossed at a diverse group of patriotic people whose only 'crime' is having followed their government's call to return the land to which we have the most ancient and legitimate claim.
Time is running out... have you registered to vote?
There are still a few precious days left before it will be too late for U.S. Citizens living abroad to register to vote in the up-coming election. I implore all Americans to register and exercise this civic duty. I don't care who you support. The more representative the election results are of the citizen's will, the better!
It is such an easy thing to do. Go here and get it done!
Vote From Israel is a non-partisan, nonprofit dedicated to getting Americans in Israel to Vote in the upcoming US elections for President.
To vote from overseas, you MUST be registered. If you aren’t registered, you can’t vote. Period.
Registration ends October 6, 2008 (in a week!!!).
Go to the website.
Enter your name.
Download the PDF form.
Print it out.
Fill it out and sign it.
Here is the most important part: It must be dropped off at one of the drop-off points around the country by October 6. The site has a list of all the drop off points. If it isn’t dropped off, you can’t vote!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Live by the sword...
I am horrified and disgusted by the pipe bomb attack last night that injured Professor Ze'ev Sternhell. I cannot, and will not, contemplate one single mitigating reason why a citizen of Israel should have his life threatened because of words and ideas he/she expresses, publicly or privately. Full stop.
I am, however, extremely disappointed by the way the media and the left are reporting this event, as if it were an inevitable result of words and ideas expressed by only one segment of Israeli society. That just doesn't work for me.
Here's a quote that caught my eye:
"Police speculated that the attack against Sternhell was "ideologically" motivated and was likely carried out by extreme Right wing activists."
Well done Clouseau! You win the Pulitzer for investigative journalism for that one. Of course it was carried out by right wing fanatics (why call them activists?). But why beat around the bush and besmirch a perfectly good word like 'ideaology'. Ideology is an inoffensive, 'pareve' concept that refers to any organized belief system or world view. Nazi-ism and Fascism are ideologies. So is pacifism... and veganism, for that matter.
Ideology isn't to blame here... extremism is. And extremism certainly isn't bound to any single ideology! It is, however, by definition the "actions or ideologies of individuals or groups outside the perceived political center of a society"... meaning not the mainstream. The fringe.
So why is it that the words and actions of fringe elements are routinely used to indict an entire law-abiding and moderate segment of society? The answer is that it is inconvenient to make such distinctions... especially if it suits one's agenda to ignore them.
I have had to remind several people lately that I have personally heard the words 'Nazi', 'fascist' and 'death to... (fill in the blank)' tossed around casually at both right and left wing demonstrations (and even at protests against university tuition hikes!), so the responsibility for watering down these, and other equally terrible words/expressions can be spread around liberally.
But while I completely share the justified sense of outrage surrounding this attempt on Professor Sternhell's life *, and hope that those who did this inexcusable thing are quickly brought to justice... I have no patience for anyone who pretends that incitement to violence in Israel is exclusively a right-wing problem.
To refute that theory, one need look no further than Professor Sternhell's own words, which appeared in Haaretz at a time when the Palestinians were demonstrating a troubling (for him) lack of regard for the political leanings of the Israelis whom they were murdering:
"Had the Palestinians the least bit of sense, they would have concentrated their struggle against the settlements and would not plant explosives on the western side of the Green Line. In this manner, the Palestinians would themselves draft the solution that will be reached in any case."
Professor Sternhell is doubtless more eloquent than the typical extreme right wing lunatic who calls for attacks against spokespeople of the far left. But his suggestion that the most expedient way for the Palestinians to achieve their goals would be to leave good Israelis living inside the green line alone, and concentrate their murderous attacks on the evil settlers, is an equally extreme and dangerous incitement to violence.
We may never know who left the pipe bomb at Professor Sternhell's home, or who left behind leaflets offering a huge reward for anyone who kills someone associated with Peace Now. But Professor Sternhell signed his name to the above piece of blatant incitement to murder... yet instead of being arrested, he was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize. What kind of a message does that send regarding hate speech and incitement?
It is easy to sit in judgment and latch onto criminal events like last night's and try to use them for partisan gain. And it is even easier to throw up one's hands and say 'a plague on both their houses'.
But what is hard is for the largest segment of Israeli society... the part that resides between the extremes of the far right and far left, to finally admit that dangerous hate speech and incitement are a systemic problem that knows no partisan loyalty. And we must come to terms with the reality that until we all refuse to continue living by this terrible sword, we will not have seen the last death by it.
* Warning: Anyone who suggests that last night's pipe bomb attack was 'only' intended to frighten the victim (or any equally ludicrous/unsubstantiated theories about cause/blame) will be immediately banned from this site forever. Think before you comment.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
While we were out at the Blood Sweat & Tears concert, Ariella and Gilad cleaned the house and did
all most of the dishes. Yonah's contribution, apparently, was simply staying out from under foot. As a reward, last night Zahava and I made the crew a rare treat; Diner Dinner.
There are few bribes (and fewer threats) a parent can offer their children that measure up to the raw motivating power of Diner Dinner.
Mind you, it isn't something one can offer too often because Child Protective Services is likely to cart the kids off to foster homes. But when used judiciously - such as to reward an extremely good job, or provide motivation for a particularly distasteful task - we've had excellent success with this bit of gastronomic graft.
During Spring, Summer and Fall, the Diner Dinner menu looks like this:
- Grilled Cheese sandwiches (heavy on the butter so the bread is nice and greasy)
- French Fries (ketchup pretends to be a vegetable in this 'meal')
- Chocolate Milkshakes (served in tall glasses with flexi-straws)
- Slice of Pie (optional)
During the winter Hot Cocoa replaces the milkshakes, and Tomato Soup is added for extra warmth.
From a nutritional standpoint, Diner Dinner is a nightmare of fat, starch, cholesterol and sugar, so you'll want to use this bribe sparingly. But when your kids come through for you big time... it's nice to let them know you noticed.
Now all we need to do is install a Seeburg-O-Matic selector (Macgyvered via Bluetooth to my iTunes) next to the kitchen table, and we'll be all set.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Just another day in the Holy Land
Given the heavy topic of yesterday's post, you can well imagine that Zahava and I were in a bit of a funk. The afternoon news didn't help much, with a report of a female terrorist tossing acid into a soldier's face at a check-point. This animal had attempted the same thing two weeks ago at the same check-point, but had somehow managed to escape (because for some reason soldiers can't fire at fleeing terrorists). Thankfully, this time she was caught... but not before costing a young soldier one of his eyes.
So when a musician friend of mine with a personal connection to the drummer of 'Blood Sweat & Tears' emailed me yesterday to say he'd been comp-ed some tickets to their Tel Aviv concert that evening, we jumped at the opportunity to do something spontaneous and fun to raise our spirits.
Zahava and I both grew up listening to 'Blood, Sweat & Tears' at home and on the radio, and my music collection has always included a good sampling of their music; first on vinyl, then on cassette and CD (thankfully I dodged the 8-track bullet). In fact, one of the reasons I ended up being a professional trombonist (my night gig for almost 18 years) was a chance introduction to a catchy BS&T tune called 'Spinning Wheel' at a friend's house when I was in the 4th grade.
So as soon as I got home from work, Zahava and I jumped into the car, drove to Hashmonaim to pick up our friends, and headed into Tel Aviv for the concert at Hechal HaTarbut.
Free tickets are like free anything... meaning you take what you get and are happy for the gift. But these seats were primo; dead center about a third of the way back, in the front row of a slightly raised section that has nobody in front of it. Sweet! As we got settled and watched the stage crew making final adjustments to the mics, I made a mental note to kiss the drummer after the show for hooking us up! Just as I was having that thought, the drummer texted our friend telling him to bring everyone back stage after the show to say hello (a shame I wasn't thinking about Moshiach!)
The concert was everything we could have hoped for... and more. High energy, perfect sound, tight arrangements and pretty much every song for which BS&T had been famous over the years (plus a few covers of jazz and rock tunes from other artists).
I should point out at this point that there was only one original member of BS&T on stage; Steve Katz. You see, the band has undergone nearly constant personnel/line-up changes over the years while conitnuing to perform the band's core repertoire. If you are a 'Princess Bride' fan, picture the constantly changing 'Dread Pirate Roberts'... but with a killer jazz/rock band instead of a pirate ship full of 'scurvy dogs'. In short, BS&T is more than a band... it's an ongoing institution!
After one of the best shows I've seen in ages, (played to a full house of enthusiastic, appreciative fans), we made our way back stage and hung out with the band in the green room for a little while.
The guys in the band were really gracious, and the drummer, Andrea Valentini (not to be confused with the female fashion designer of the same name), gave us all big sweaty hugs and kisses (including a very surprised Zahava who didn't manage to duck in time) before offering us all a beer (I declined, being the designated driver). One of the trumpet players asked Zahava where she got her blouse (he wanted to go shopping for his wife the next day) and the bass player complimented her on her head scarf. All in all, a banner evening for Zahava! :-)
Thirty minutes later we were back in the car, full of great musical memories and the afterglow of a great evening. But just as we were getting onto the Ayalon highway, our friend's cell phone rang and I heard him telling his daughter to calm down... that he couldn't understand her through her tears.
Apparently, one of his young daughters had been with some classmates in Jerusalem's Old City during the evening and had been on a bus passing through Kikar Tzahal (a busy intersection outside and just up the street from the Jaffa Gate) just as an Arab terrorist decided to ram his BMW into a crowd of pedestrians (mostly off-duty IDF soldiers who had just been on a tour of the old city), injuring 15... several seriously. It had all unfolded right next to his daughter's bus (including the killing of the terrorist by an off-duty IDF officer who thankfully had the presence of mind to draw his pistol and fire as soon as the BMW jumped the curb and hit a wall).
Our friend managed to calm his daughter down somewhat and made sure she was safely on her way home before hanging up and calling to wake his sleeping wife at home (she hadn't attended the concert with us because she is in her year of mourning for her father). He wanted to make sure his wife knew about the terror attack, and that she would be awake to comfort their daughter when she arrived home.
After we dropped everyone off, Zahava and I continued on to our home in Efrat, riding quietly along in the early autumn coolness, lost in our thoughts and experiencing the emotional roller-coaster that is so familiar to most Israelis.
I know it is probably unseemly to contemplate the ruin of our perfect evening's outing when young soldiers have just been maimed by a terrorist. But everyone here in Israel experiences these tragic events through the prism of our everyday lives.
Just as Americans remember exactly what they were doing when JFK was shot or when the Twin Towers came crashing down... so too, Israelis have an endless catalog of mundane personal memories that are book-marked in time by murder and mayhem that amount to nothing more than CNN ticker crawls at the bottom of the TV screen elsewhere in the world.
In the midst of our happiest moments, our enemies like to remind us of their evil intent. When making celebrations or simply going out for a casual evening with friends, there is almost always someone present with a hole in their life thanks to the efforts of our enemies. Even at our weddings - at one of the happiest moment of our lives - we break a glass to remind us that, for the time being, our happiness can't be truly complete.
When we arrived home and got ready for bed, Zahava and I talked briefly about the dichotomy of life here, where one moment you can be experiencing a perfect evening of music with friends, and the next, a ringing cell phone or the radio news breaks a glass in our ear... shattering the sense of normalcy we work so hard to create for ourselves.
As I drifted off to sleep last night, the thought that followed me down into the welcoming nothingness was "...just another day in the Holy Land". I really wish that meant something else.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Just no words
There is no good way to lose a child.
Zahava, Ariella and I just returned from being 'menachem avel' (comforting someone in mourning) at the home of some friends who are struggling to comprehend the gaping hole in their lives where their middle child - a bright, beautiful, talented teenaged daughter - used to be.
This popular, energetic young woman had struggled for some time with an eating disorder, but had been responding well to an intensive counseling program... or so everyone thought. In fact, she was able to conceal her pain and unhappiness (or whatever demons had blotted out all hope for the future) to the extent that she was scheduled to return to school... on what would turn out to be the last, abbreviated day of her life.
Instead of facing the possibilities of a new day... and another one after that... she opted for a permanent solution to what she couldn't comprehend was a temporary problem.
Her loving, concerned, involved parents... her adoring siblings... even her closest friends... had no hint of her private anguish. There is no blame anyone can level at those who loved this young woman that they won't be heaping upon themselves for the rest of their lives.
But the horror of it is that there is no room - or need - for blame. Except, perhaps, for the fashion industry and glossy magazines that conspire to convey the most negative body image possible on young women who don't conform to the skeletal exemplars that mock them from every news-stand and television screen. There is some blame there, to be sure.
But I can't help thinking that we sometimes miss the opportunity to give our children the full benefit of our experience on this mortal coil.
So I have a favor to ask:
Please... please... speak to your children and remind them a thousand times in a thousand ways that your love is unconditional, and that absolutely everything is fixable... everything! With the exception of one thing.
Tell them that among the (many) gifts of youth are the ability to see more vividly... taste more intensely... and feel more deeply.
But explain to them that along with these precious gifts... comes exquisite sensitivity to pain that is often magnified through the powerful lens of their youth. Remind them again and again that despite how hopeless things may seem at any particular moment in time, there is no problem so great ... no pain so terrible... no shame so deep, that the light of another dawn, and another after that, won't begin the inevitable process of healing.
There is no good way to lose a child. But each time I think there can't possibly be a worse way to lose one... it turns out I'm mistaken.
May they (and we) be comforted...
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Ancient wisdom on a modern topic
It has been a long time since Judea was a backwater province under the rule of Rome. But we would be guilty of the gravest error if we thought for a moment that all that remains to be remembered and studied from the Romans are the physical artifacts under our feet.
Take for example the following wisdom of Marcus Tullius Cicero (excerpted from an address he gave before the Roman Senate in 42 B.C.E.) on an issue that is, sadly, all too familiar to us today:
"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murder[er] is less to fear."
These are the words of a man who was, and still is, considered first and foremost a humanist. So it comes as a surprise that so many individuals (i.e. 'academics') and organizations who claim to carry the 'humanist' mantle in Israeli society speak out only in defense of those who openly call for our destruction. Of course there is no lack of 'ambitious fools' here in Israel... but don't they see how this quiet treason undercuts the narrow ledge on which we all stand?
I don't pretend for a moment that our government nor our military are free of abuse and corruption. In fact anyone who has read even a tiny fraction of my writing here knows how freely I criticize the state, it's functionaries and its various organs. But there is a yawning chasm that lies between being critical of our country's policies, and being a vocal advocate for those who would rejoice at the destruction of all we have created here.
If one is unsure or unaware of our (ancient and modern) legal / moral rights to Hevron and Jerusalem... it is a simple thing for 'sly whisperers rustling through alleys' to discredit our legal and moral claims to Tel Aviv and Haifa.
If we have learned nothing from our own history in Israel/Judea... and if we value nothing of our modern and ancient connections/claims to this place... perhaps the (religious and secular) humanists among us can at least accept something of worth from our former masters in Rome. Surely their wisdom can't also be suspect.
Hat tip to long-time reader, Howard L., who forwarded me an article that contained the Cicero quote.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Now if only I could get a piece in the Times Magazine 'Lives' segment.
Wept with laughter
I don't care what party you support... if this doesn't crack you up you don't have a pulse. Tina Fey nails Sarah Palin:
Hat tip Super Raizy
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Taking her pantsuit and going home
Of all the threats facing the middle east and the free world today, I think most people would rank Iran pretty high on the list. How and/or when to deal with that threat - whether through diplomacy, sanctions or military intervention - remains a hotly debated topic. But the fact of Iran as a clear and present danger to regional stability and world peace is a rare topic on which most sensible people agree.
Apparently the organizers of an anti-Iran rally in New York thought so too, and decided to invite both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin to participate. And, in fact, both accepted the invitation and were slated to be present... until, that is, Hillary found out that Sarah would be there... and promptly canceled her appearance.
Suddenly party politics became more important than the rare topic on which pretty much everyone was supposed to be in agreement.
In reports of the move, Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said, "[Gov. Palin's] attendance was news to us, and this was never billed to us as a partisan political event... Sen. Clinton will therefore not be attending."
Um, newsflash to Hillary. Having representatives of both major parities is supposed to make it NON-partisan!
This is one of the many reasons you didn't get the nod from your party. Iran is not a partisan issue. Perhaps how to deal with Iran is a matter on which the various parties disagree... but the reality of the Iranian threat? Non-partisan!
Yet, the moment it became clear Hillary wouldn't have the spotlight all to herself, she decided to take her pantsuit and go home. This is the sort of self-destructive partisan nonsense we would have been subjected to in a Hillary Clinton White House. [~shudder~]
I can live quite easily with the idea of either an Obama or McCain presidency... and even the possibility of a Biden or Palin presidency if (tfu, tfu, tfu) the need arose. But I am relieved beyond words that Hillary Clinton has been sidelined by her own party (and now by her own stupidity). Anyone who honestly thinks that Sarah Palin is a more immediate threat than Iran is not qualified to lead the free world.
Just my two cents.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
More fun with trolls
I've mentioned on a number of occasions that keeping a blog provides nearly limitless opportunities to be abused, and frequently forces one to endure missives from some of the truly unbalanced people in the world.
To be clear, I'm not talking about the people who strongly disagree with things I've written here, and who somehow manage to express their opinions in an intellectually honest manner (i.e. without resorting to personal attacks on me, or attacking me from behind the veil of presumed anonymity). No, I'm talking about trolls who, time and time again, prove the GIDT:
Last night I received such a splendid proof of the GIDT that, after initially deleting it from the comment thread, I decided that I just had to share it. The best part is that the author thinks she is anonymous. But I know who she is. 'Nuff said.
Anyway, here it is in all it's glory... with editorial comments added by your host (don't thank me... I'm a giver):
"Wow. First visit to your blog [ed: Um, no it's not... but nice head fake] and I can see you are far more of a racist than I ever imagined. I'm impressed! [Ed: Why would you imagine me to be a racist if you'd never visited my blog?]
You said: "I say that when an Arab terrorist is caught and killed within a yeshuv, the settlers should hold the body for ransom. And when it is finally returned, it should be liberally coated in pig fat and missing its private parts." Charming. [Ed: To be clear, I never said it would be charming. That was you.]
Treppenwitz [Ed: No need to be formal... we've had coffee together. You can call me trep!], you are but a squatter, living off someone else's land, effectively. Tell me, how can you sleep at night with the smell of blood? [Ed: Thank you! I'd been thinking we had a leak in the sewer line... and all along it was the smell of blood. Honey... mystery solved!]
Here is the real story [Ed: Ah, so have some insider information?], though, not the one you see through your squatter-goggles [Ed: Are those anything like beer goggles? Oh never mind.]:
Man wants to commit attack on settlers illegally occupying his land, eating his crops, harming his family and frightening his kids. During the attack - and here I quote the Israeli press "a 9-year-old boy was lightly wounded when he was stabbed in the hand." [Ed: Nice use of the passive, dis-associative form. So you are saying that the man wanted to carry out an attack for a long list of presumably valid reasons... and that a boy was lightly wounded when someone stabbed him in the hand. Any word on whether these two events are in any way related... or who might have stabbed the boy?]
A bunch of settler terrorists [Ed: Ah, there are the terrorists. I knew they were in this story somewhere.] decide to go on a rampage in the nearby village (without having any idea whether it is or not the village of the perpetrator). They shoot at people, burn houses. Destroy cars and private property. Randomly assault people - men, women, children, indiscriminately. They leave EIGHT [Ed: Oooooh Cap-lock!] victims behind, then retreat to their illegal squat they call a settlement [Ed: I checked 'The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage' and I'm pretty sure that even if a person is being referred to as a 'squatter' you can't call the place in which he/she has established unauthorized domicile as a 'squat'. Check me on that, though.] , where they will of course be patted on the back by likewise terrorists, and the government will shake its hand in disapproval. [Ed: I could be wrong, but I think you were going for 'head', since shaking ones hand would just come off looking odd... like a case of the DTs or maybe even Parkinson's]
And the only thing you can find, however, rather than condemn what happened, is to spew more of your hatred and attempt to justify settler terrorist activity to cover up for the first crime - settling in Occupied Palestine. [Ed: Actually, if you look closely, I used almost 600 words in my post (and G-d knows how many more in the comment thread) unequivocally condemning the retaliatory attack by the residents of Yitzhar. Strange how you missed that and instead zeroed in on the one hypothetical comment I made about what should be done with a terrorist's body if he/she were ever killed inside one of our towns.]
It's people like you who give Israel a bad name." [Ed: I can't come up with a suitable retort to that parting shot. Feel free to offer your own.]
And you thought being a blogger was all glory and adulation. Hah!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Another Public Service Announcement
I'm still interested in what you have to say on yesterday's post, so I'll be checking the comments there. But in the mean time, several people emailed me last week to ask about the whole ringtone thing (technical questions as well as the whole legal/ethical thing regarding using copyrighted music on your phone). I'm nothing if not a giver.
So here's the deal:
First and foremost, let me say for the record that I am neither a legal scholar nor a halachic authority on this subject so please realize I am simply thinking out loud and sharing my opinion.
There is no indication that any of the web sites out there selling ringtones have paid the copyright owners for the use of their music. This doesn't mean they haven't done so... maybe they have. But assuming that they have not, I actually have a big problem paying for something when none of the money is going to the artist and/or owner of the copyright.
Regarding the free ringtone sites, I have less of a problem with this since the ringtones are simply small snippets of songs that, assuming you think enough of one of them to have it as your 'ring', you probably own the song/album as well.
Related to my last point, the two sites I am about to tell you about actually have tools that allow you to use your own music collection (for which you've presumably already paid good money) to create ringtones in a variety of formats. If you buy the album from a store or iTunes, I feel like you should be able to listen to any part of it you want... including from your cell phone when it rings.
An excellent free site that includes tools for editing a song down to a ringtone is http://www.zedge.net/ . They don't charge for any of the ringtones people have already created there, and if you don't find what you are looking for you can use your own music collection to create that perfectly unique ringtone for your phone. They even have some neat sound-effect ringtones... one in particular is such a high fequency that it makes my dogs howl. BTW, they also have lots of free backgrounds, themes and screen-savers for your phone as well.
If your phone doesn't support MP3 ringtones (as mine doesn't), don't give up hope. Once you have found or created your perfect MP3 ringtone over at Zedge, simply save it to your computer and then go to http://www.free-ringtones.ie/ . This site is also a free ringtone site but is very poorly organized. The reason I've shared the link is that at the top of the page there are two very useful online tools which allow you to convert MP3 ringtones to either WAV or AMR formats (whichever your older phone supports). They also have a so-so tutorial for techno-Luddites like moi.
FYI, at present I am using the Beatles 'Twist and Shout' for my ringtone (I didn't feel like antagonizing Zahava with the Punjabi tune).
Oh, and like I said... feel free to weigh in on yesterday's post.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Like ships passing in the night...
I can't think of a better way to put it when two people unknowingly exchange points of view.
My friend Imshin has a very thoughtful post up about the terrorist attack on an Israeli 'settlement' this past weekend (in which a home was burned and a child stabbed), and of the subsequent retaliatory attack by some settlers on the neighboring Arab community.
Go read it. I'll wait.
Somewhere in the night, Imshin and I seem to have exchanged places.
You see, Imshin is a secular Tel Avivi who is angry at the Israeli media for downplaying the initial attack on the settlement and focusing entirely on the retaliatory 'rampage' by the settlers (as if their violent behavior occurred in a vacuum).
I, on the other hand, am a religious 'settler' who is angry at the settlers who decided to take the law into their own hands and attack the Arab village. I am especially appalled that they fired guns (albeit into the air and into water tanks on the roofs of the houses), in addition to roughing up some Arabs, trashing some cars and breaking windows.
Make no mistake, the town's anti-terror squad should have been called out and defensive perimeter set up to ward off further Arab attacks. But the IDF is the only force legally allowed to pursue anyone beyond the boundaries of the town. Full Stop. Once that rule is set aside anyone can attack anyone with or without just cause!
What's odd is that Imshin and I are probably in perfect agreement with the other's feelings overall. We are just more angry (as if relativity in anger is somehow relevant) about the aspect of the incident and subsequent coverage that got under our respective skin.
Imshin is tired of the media's attempts to manipulate public feelings against settlers.... even in the face of violence and impossible provocation. I'm tired of settlers being far more dangerous to their own interests than the Arabs could be on their 'best' day.
Yes, I feel it is reprehensible that the Israeli media talks only about the evil settler violence and typically waits several paragraphs before casually mentioning (and downplaying) whatever attack precipitated the settler response. But I am horrified that the settlers acted like, well, a bunch of Arabs (i.e. allowing emotion and violent impulses to override logic and the rule of law).
I can't think of a sufficiently dire punishment for journalists who attempt to sway public opinion with deliberate distortion of the truth. Sadly, there likely is no adequate punishment, nor the means of imposing one if it existed.
But IMHO anyone who uses a gun for anarchy... to terrorize, destroy property or instill fear instead of as a last resort to save a human life... deserves to lose his/her gun (and the right to carry it). Anyone who puts themselves in the place of the police and/or army is not deserving of protection from either of those forces.
I agree with Imshin when she vents at the media's willingness to relinquish the moral high ground in any and every case where Jews come into conflict with Arabs. But I am angrier at the victims in this scenario - the settlers - for willingly surrendering their own moral high ground and handing the media an easy club with which to bludgeon them (us).
If I forget thee...
Country music seems to be especially adept at illustrating the human failing of taking for granted the people and things that should mean the most to us.
This is perhaps best illustrated by the famous song "You were always on my mind" that belatedly attempts to reassure a neglected wife of her value... and another whose chorus goes, "It was always so easy to find an unhappy woman... till I started looking for mine", which elevates the theme of taking loved-ones for granted to an even more jarring extreme.
But just because our musical traditions don't typically dwell on this very human lapse, doesn't mean we aren't subject to the same levels of forgetfulness and ingratitude. Think about it... there are so many things we take for granted in the course of our busy, 'important' lives:
Despite all our flaws and shortcomings, Hashem sends us our helpmate/'Bashert' to complete us and elevate us to heretofore unknown heights of bliss. And then slowly but surely we come to view them as interlopers of closet space and usurpers of personal autonomy.
We are initially dazzled by the miracle of life when our children are born, and then gradually come to view these little shirkers of household chores and homework as co-conspirators in a plot to keep the family perpetually in debt.
So it should come as no surprise that some of the initial wonder we felt when the treppenwitz family was privileged to move to Israel five years ago, has begun to fade. There's no disillusionment or second thoughts, mind you... just a slow process of 'getting comfortable' that would have been impossible to imagine even two or three years ago.
This past week we had the pleasure of hosting a perfectly charming fellow blogger and her equally charming oldest son in our home. They were visiting Israel from a country far from ours, and this trip was the first fulfillment of a promise she had made to bring each of her children to Israel as part of their Bar Mitzvah celebrations.
While Zahava and I thoroughly enjoy sitting on our back 'Mirpesset' (balcony/porch) sipping coffee in the cool morning air, or a glass of whiskey in the cool of the evening... we only occasionally feel the sense of historic wonder we once experienced when looking out at the breathtaking landscape that was familiar to Abraham and his Biblical progeny.
Likewise, King Herod's vacation palace /fortress (Herodyon) in the nearby Judaen Desert, has become commonplace to us for its easy accessibility 15 minutes from our doorstep.
So it was a pleasant reminder to have our guests stare wide-eyed from our Mirpesset at the historic landscape below, and to hear them exclaim in wonder while standing atop the desert fortress that served as one of the last strongholds of the Bar Kochba rebellion.
At the end of their visit, our guests thanked us profusely for the insignificant gifts of food and (hopefully) comfortable beds we were able to offer them. But in our smug familiarity we forgot to thank them for the precious gift they had given us before they left... the gift of being able to see and appreciate the specialness of the place we live.
"If I forget thee... "
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Note to Self
Taking Zahava and Gilad to company-wide Bar/Bat Mitzvah party held in beautiful outdoor setting with tons of yummy picnic food (burgers, hot dogs, felafel, potatoes, corn on the cob, popcorn, watermelon, sodas, etc.), nice gifts for all the kids (Gilad received a handsome watch)... and a live performance by singer 'Roni Superstar' (don't feel bad if you haven't heard of her... I hadn't either) and her back-up
Deciding when you get home that the perfect thing to top off an evening of over-indulgence and loud music would be a big icy-cold Gin & Tonic before bed.
Please excuse me, I can't brain today... I have the dumb. Posting to resume when fur balls and gravel are removed from thinking place.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Another cell Phone Saga
My mobile phone has been acting hinky for a few weeks, so I finally took it in to be looked at. The nice folks at Celcom were nice enough to give me a new phone and even transferred all my numbers and messages over without having to be asked.
Unfortunately, I didn't realize that my ring-tones hadn't made the transition until I was almost home and my phone rang.
I've had the waltz from Amelie as my ring-tone for years now, and although I tried several of the pre-loaded ring-tones, nothing else felt right. In fact I kept getting cold stares from people when I didn't answer my phone. The truth is, I didn't realize it was my phone ringing!
So last night I went hunting for ring-tones on one of the free sites. I found several good versions of Amelie and put them on my phone. But while I was there I went a little crazy and downloaded half he Beatles songs ever written, Sweet Home Alabama and the intro to Freebird.
But I think the one that will probably get me thrown out of the house is this one:
You'll find it listed under 'Tunak' (thanks again Jack).
Monday, September 08, 2008
Somewhere pigs are flying
When Aryeh Eldad NU/NRP) a far right Knesset Member and Zehava Gal On (Meretz) a Knesset member from the far left, finally agree on something, I generally look out the window to see if pigs are flying. And this morning there is a high likelihood of porcine aviators outside.
After the Israeli police announced their recommendation that Prime Minister Olmert be indicted on bribery charges, these two lawmakers, who are normally on opposite sides of any given issue, both called for Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to move quickly to suspend the PM from office (a move that is well within his powers).
The reason for this odd confluence of interests is that it now appears that if an indictment is not issued before the Kadima primaries, we will be stuck with Olmert for the foreseeable future based on a combination of semantics and the laws governing transitional governments.
You see, once Kadima holds its internal elections, Olmert has pledged to quit. However, the moment he does this, he becomes the head of the transitional government until such time as his successor (or an MK from another party) is able to form a new government (which could take weeks, months or until new elections in the spring).
According to the law, no party or minister is allowed to quiet a transitional government... so once again we have all been outfoxed by Ehud Olmert. As MKs Eldad and Gal On have quite correctly pointed out, the only way out of this trap is for the Attorney General to step forward BEFORE the primaries and remove Olmert from office on the basis of the criminal indictment.
It appears to many observers that the reason the AG has not done so to this point is that he has wanted to spare the country the trauma of having the PM forcibly removed from office; preferring to wait until Olmert is a civilian to quietly deal with the legal consequences of his alleged actions. But at this point I can't imagine that Mazuz still views Olmert's removal as a potential public trauma. In fact, I imagine the public celebrations would rival Purim in many parts of the country.
Now we have to sit back and hope that these two disparate voices in the Knesset can rally enough pressure on the Attorney General to force him to act.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Have we forgotten how to weigh the issues on their own merits?
I have to say that as much as I enjoyed many of the comments on last week's post (the one with the text of Gov. Palin's convention speech), I was troubled by others... and not for the reasons you probably think.
I've made no secret of my admiration for Gov. Palin, and for Sen. McCain for selecting her as his running mate. And perhaps that's where the trouble started.
One commenter on a previous post seems to have confused the current presidential race with a Jr. High School Student Council election, remarking that in lieu of foreign policy experience, Gov. Palin could simple "make earrings and swizzle sticks out of moose poop" and then "pass them out as gifts as a diplomatic gesture, cross her beauty queen manicure[sic] fingers and say her prayers". The mind boggles. In one short comment this individual was able to ignore all relevant facts about the candidate, insult organized religion, set the women's movement back about 50 years and suggest the use of moose excrement as an art medium (which I have to admit was kinda funny).
I suppose it didn't occur to this commenter that as Chief Executive of the only U.S. State that borders two foreign countries (Canada and Russia), and which supplies our country with a sizable chunk of its fuel (some estimates as high as 20%), Sarah Palin has more foreign policy experience than Senator Obama... and more leadership experience than either Obama or Biden! In fact, of all the current candidates, only McCain, with his 22 years as a Naval Officer, has more leadership experience than Sarah Palin. That, in itself, is rather sad in an election year. But if one side has real world leadership experience on their resumes and the other doesn't... well, expect it to become a campaign issue.
I made it clear at the outset that I was encouraging the intelligent readers of this site to agree or disagree with the content of Sarah Palin's speech, but that I wanted everyone to read it before weighing in. I (mistakenly assumed) that this one line introduction would make it clear that the content of the speech was the topic, not the person who had posted it (i.e. me).
But clearly some of you felt that my posting the text of her speech so quickly on the heels of endorsing the Republican ticket was simply a partisan expression of my approval, and that I needed to be taken to task over it. It apparently never occurred to some that by putting Palin's actual words down in black and white I was inviting - challenging, actually - readers to set aside rumors and innuendo and deal with what actually came out of a candidate's mouth.
Sadly, some of you ignored my challenge and launched unsubstantiated / ad hominem attacks on me, and by extension anyone foolish enough to have admired any part of her speech. I actually would have put up with a lot of rhetoric in the comment board had it been connected to parts of the speech or specifics of the campaign platforms. But even that seems to have been too much to hope for.
In the end I opted to stay out of the comments altogether after a close friend, with whom I have enjoyed (seriously!) many political disagreements, offered the following:
The mind boggles that you think [Gov. Palin's speech] was anything other than a shallow, jingoistic, snide and cynical low brow political attack. If you think her speech was anything resembling great political oratory, you ought to have your head examined.
Here's the deal. Even if I'd introduced the text of her speech with a favorable comparison to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King's 'I have a Dream' speech, the onus was on the commenter to point out what in her speech was 'shallow, jingoistic, snide, cynical and low brow'. Instead, this gentleman (and I assure you, he is normally the quintessential gentleman), offered a classic fallacious argument that 'I' was flawed if I didn't agree with his assessment, and that 'I' needed to have my head examined if I considered Gov. Palin's speech to be 'great oratory'... even though I'd never offered an opinion on the speech.
I will now, though.
I did not think it rose to the level of the speeches I mentioned above. To be clear, I hesitate to even refer to them in the same thought. I don't even think her speech was particularly graceful (that's the writer in me talking). But it was fantastically effective and exactly what was required under the circumstances. And the fact that she didn't write it herself is neither bad nor unique in a presidential election. Once they came out of Governor Palin's mouth, they were her words... and those words were placed before you so that you could easily address them (for good or for bad). Most of you simply didn't bother.
For months the Obama campaign had been playing up the Democratic Senator's experience... and these claims had gone largely unanswered. They had also offered endless criticism of various aspects of the Republican platform, to which McCain had deferred his response. The timing of the primaries and conventions made the Republican Convention the first time that the McCain team could respond fully to the Democrats and give full voice to their own agenda. Quite simply, until both sides had named VPs, only half the story could be told.
In her convention Speech, Sarah Palin was finally able to respond on behalf of the Republican ticket to claims made by Obama, and accusations leveled by the Democratic campaign. So it is not surprising that much of her speech did just that (lowbrow and cynical as that may seem to some). However, I thought she did it with remarkable good humor, and was pleased to see that she limited her negative remarks to people and issues that had already been placed before the public by her opponents. If anyone wants to call that snide and cynical, be my guest. But be honest and hold all the candidates to the same standard.
As to the accusation of jingoism, let's be clear about exactly what that means: Jingoism is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "extreme chauvinism or nationalism marked especially by a belligerent foreign policy". In practice, it refers to the advocation of the use of threats of or actual force against other countries in order to safeguard what they perceive as their country's national interests, and colloquially to excessive bias in judging one's own country as superior to others. [source]
Other than ending her speech with the words "G-d bless the United States of America" (which, to some, might suggest an unseemly desire that G-d not bless any other country), the only reference to America's national interests I heard was a reasonable reference to her unwillingness to abandon America's interests in Iraq when our hard-fought objectives were in sight. Personally, I consider that patriotism... but that was actually one of the points she made. The small town Americans with whom she most closely identifies, are always patriotic ('proud' in her words) about their country's standing in the world... not just when it is popular or expedient to be so.
Another remark she made about small town Americans was, in my humble opinion, a well-deserved slap at the facility with which the Democratic candidates seem to change tone and content depending on the audience they are addressing. She said that "in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening. As far as I was concerned she earned my vote right there. Say what you want about either of the Republican candidates, but they sound the same in Scranton as they do in San Francisco. The only difference is the reception they get in those places.
I will end by quoting her speech when I say "there is much to like and admire about" Senators Obama and Biden. There is also much to admire about both Senator McCain and Gov. Palin. After years of lopsided match-ups where one side or the other could barely put together a coherent sentence, I would think that everyone would be excited by an election season filled with the prospect of issues discussed and positions argued by four eloquent candidates.
Now that we finally have two major parties with candidates that are able and willing to discuss the issues, why is the public resorting to ugly politicking? Have we been denied quality candidates for so long that we've forgotten how to weigh the issues on their own merits?