Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Echoes of the past
"I am almost glad we have been bombed. Now I feel I can look the East End in the face."
~ Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (4 August 1900 – 30 March 2002) the Queen Consort of King George VI of the United Kingdom after Buckingham Palace was bombed by the Germans.~
The quote above from WWII pretty much sums up how I feel now. Even though I've spent most of my morning running in and out of the bomb shelter here at work in Beer Sheva, I am strangely relieved that I can finally 'look the people of Sderet in the face'.
Obviously each time I hear the nearby explosion of a landing Ketyusha I would much rather it had not come. But at least now there is a feeling of solidarity with others that can only come with sharing the experience of living under bombardment.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Filthy Jewish Blood
Here's a purely hypothetical scenario:
You are a soldier on a battlefield, and find yourself locked in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy soldier. During the struggle you manage to wound him badly, rendering him unconscious and in critical condition. Now that he is no longer a threat to you, his status changes such that you are now obligated to try to treat his wounds as you would any wounded soldier.
You and your comrades manage to stabilize him and carry him on a stretcher to a mobile surgical unit (think M.A.S.H.) where the triage team quickly determines that he needs emergency surgery if he is going to survive. But he has already lost a lot of blood and the surgery will require several units of his blood type. A glance at his dog tag reveals that he has AB negative blood; the rarest blood type in the world, and the surgical unit doesn't have any on hand.
A quick poll of the personnel in the area turns up an ironic surprise; you are the only person with the enemy soldier's blood type. So you do as you're told; even though less than an hour ago this man was trying to kill you (in fairness, you were trying to kill him too!), you sit down, roll up your sleeve and allow the nurse to start taking your blood to be used during the surgery.
Just as the nurse is is starting to fill the first bag of blood, the enemy soldier (who has been stretched out unconscious in the bed next to yours) wakes up, sees you hooked up to the blood transfusion equipment and begins screaming that he won't accept your blood. He calls your blood 'filthy' and 'unclean' and swears that he would "rather die than accept the blood of apes and pigs".
At this point you:
A) Stop the nurse from taking your blood and tell her that you want to grant the enemy's wish and let him die.
B) Yell back at the enemy soldier that he doesn't have a choice and that once he's under general anesthesia the doctors are going to replace all his blood with 'filthy' blood from you and your comrades!
C) Ignore the raving enemy soldier and let the medical staff knock him out and take your blood for the operation.
D) Ask the medical staff to try to stabilize him with fluids (if possible) long enough to make a request to the enemy troops to send over typed blood from one of his countrymen.
E) Offer another suggestion of your own.
I'm interested to know how you would act in this hypothetical situation... but I want to make it clear that this is far from hypothetical.
There have been many natural disasters in the Muslim world over the past few decades where Israel has offered to provide medical supplies, emergency personnel and... blood. This last bit has always been a sticking point. You see, Jewish blood is considered unacceptable by the people we are supposed to be trying to make peace with. It is, according to them, 'filthy'.
The New York times almost - but not quite - made reference to this seldom discussed fact in the 19th paragraph of an article. Here, read the following and tell me if you spot it:
"Israel sent in [to Gaza] some 40 trucks of humanitarian relief, including blood from Jordan and medicine. Egypt opened its border with Gaza to some similar aid and to allow some of the wounded through"
Did you catch it? Why would Israel need to send blood from Jordan? We never have a huge surplus of blood, but we always have some on hand! Is Jordan's medical establishment better prepared than Israel's??? And why would Egypt need to send 'similar aid'? If Israel is controlling everything going in and out of Gaza right now, why are we suddenly talking about sending trucks of our own humanitarian aid... but blood from Jordan and Egypt?
The truth is, just as Israel has had to come to terms with a Red Diamond as its medical symbol abroad (since the International Red Cross made it clear that the Red Star of David is offensive to too much of the world), we have also somehow had to make peace with the fact that even our blood is considered sub-human and filthy by the very people with whom we are supposed to be making peace!
So I'm asking you... what would you do if you were that hypothetical soldier in the scenario above? And what would you do if you were Israel today, being told that yes, we'll accept medical supplies and humanitarian aid from you... but not your filthy blood.
Would you really go to the Arab Red Crescent Society of Jordan and ask them to lend you some blood?
Seriously, how do you make peace with people who don't even consider you human?
Do some good
Several people have emailed and left comments asking what they can do to help.
First and foremost, if you are in Israel, the obvious thing to do is go find a mobile blood donation vehicle (or go to a hospital) and give blood. The blood supply is almost always critically low, so there is never a bad time to do this. You can donate every three months.
If you aren't in Israel, come. I know there are better vacation destinations this time of year (even under the best of circumstance), but Israel's life blood is tourism. Come to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem (or Eilat if you crave the sun) and show your solidarity in a safe, easy way. Nothing demonstrates your unwavering support like showing up and supporting the local economy.
Can't afford a fancy hotel? Email me and I'll put you up with us or any of a hundred other friends (including some of your favorite bloggers) who would be happy to make you feel at home. Really!
Another important task is to provide constant feedback to your elected representatives - no matter where you live - asking them to support Israel in any way possible. No need to get into a long drawn-out discussion of issues or of wrong & right. They know the issues. What they don't know is how their constituency feels about the issues.
The rule of thumb that many elected officials use is that every call, email or letter they receive represents 1000 people who feel the same way but didn't bother to make contact. Put that way, your short email or voice message can have a tremendous impact. Get a few friends and family to write or call in and you have a groundswell of support for Israel.
Next, monitor your local media (e.g. newspapers, radio and television) and let them know you are there. Let them know that you notice when they distort the news... and also tell them when they get it right. The media is in the business of supplying a product. They make no secret of their willingness to modify their product to suit their audience. What you have to do is make sure they know that their audience is firmly pro-Israel. Complaining to your newspaper does nothing. Complaining to the people who produce the news does everything!
Last but not least, if you have the resources to make even a small contribution to one of the following organizations, please do so. There are endless organizations that do good things, but the ones I've listed here have a proven track record of service along with a transparent financial stewardship that shows a very small overhead and the lion's share of the contributions going directly to benefit the end-user. This is in no way a criticism of any other organization. Feel free to recommend others in the comments.
So go do some good (and encourage your friends and family to do likewise):
Monday, December 29, 2008
Revenge of the nerds
This morning I started counting all the on-line headlines that were along the lines of:
"[fill in country / organization name] ... calls on Israel to immediately halt attacks on Gaza"
I stopped counting after 17. Disgusting!
You'd think millions of Sudanese refugees were being butchered in the streets of Darfur. Oh wait, what am I thinking? That's not newsworthy!
No, it's just little Israel - the nerds of the global schoolyard - being taken to task for daring to step out of character and defend ourselves. For all our patents, scientific breakthroughs, high-tech start-ups and Nobel prizes, the world still finds it amusing when we're forced to take a break from running the world media and banks, to run for the bomb shelters.
There is a comforting familiarity to the international amnesia over cause & effect here in the middle east. It's an almost willful desire to transform a straight-forward Casus Belli and measured (not to mention legal) military response, into a murky chicken and egg scenario (i.e. the well-worn 'cycle of violence').
The worst part is that the world's tired excuse for the years of silence and neglect that has led to a good portion of Israel's population living in bomb shelters, is that they insist they can't impose the rule of international law on Gaza. Gaza is chaos, they say... a failed proto-state. The world wants order, of course... but they throw up their hands at the futility of asking Gaza to adhere to the rules of civilization.
I forget... while the Red Cross has been busy screaming for Israel to spare the poor Gazans, has anyone asked if they ever got around to demanding access to kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, even once? Oh right, no can do... that's Gaza. That's out of our jurisdiction!
In reality it's a simple case of the nerdy kid getting beaten up on the way to school for his lunch money - or for the sheer hell of it - isn't it? He's asked his friends for help. He's asked his teachers for protection. He's even gone to the principal's office a few times to see if there is something - anything! - that can be done to stop the beatings. But nobody wants to confront the bullies. Off school grounds there isn't much anyone can do!
So finally, on the last day of school, the nerdy kid - who has done nothing to the thugs to arouse their endless violence except continue to come to school and exist -- realizes that if he doesn't take a baseball bat to the thugs who've been torturing him all year long, next year they might actually kill him.
It's really that simple.
Yet as I've predicted in the past (before the 2nd Lebanon war), this one will almost certainly go according to a predictable trajectory. For new readers, it goes
something exactly like this:
Ever since Nasser accidentally discovered the trick in 1956, every subsequent Arab leader has stuck to this tried and true formula for military success:
- Instigate a war with whatever you have at hand; terror attacks, rocket fire or an actual invasion.
- Once the war is well underway and you are in the process of having your ass handed to you... get a few world powers or the UN to force your opponent into a cease fire.
- Whatever you do, don't surrender or submit to any terms dictated by your enemy. That would ruin everything! All you have to do is wait it out and eventually the world will become sickened at what is being done to your soldiers and civilian population... and will force a truce.
- Once a truce has been called, you can resume your intransigence (which probably caused the conflict in the first place), and even declare victory as your opponent leaves the field of battle.
This tactic has never failed. Not once!
In fact it worked so will for the Egyptians in 1973, that to this day they celebrate the Yom Kippur War - a crushing defeat at the hands of Israel's army - as a military victory! No kidding... it's a national holiday over there!
So why does anyone think this time will be different? Within hours of Israel beginning its surgical strikes against purely military targets in Gaza, all of Israel's detractors, and most of it's 'friends', began calling for 'calm', 'a cease fire', 'a return to the negotiating table', 'restraint'...
Not one of those things is in Israel's interest right now! The only thing that is in Israel's interest at this point is for the world to STFU (hint: that doesn't stand for Slice The Fudge, Ursula), and finally let an Arab government reap what it has been sowing for years.
You say that it's Israel's fault because we've been embargoing a democratically elected government in Gaza? You ask what choice did the poor Gazans have but to lash out?
I have news for you... democracy is about more than just elections. Democracy is what that an elected government says and does while it is campaigning, as well as what it says and does once it assumes power.
Without mentioning names (and thereby invoking Godwin's Law), suffice it to say that we don't have to look very far back to identify certified monsters who were swept into power on the crest of overwhelming democratically expressed popular support.
Hamas has stated publicly before, and since, their election (and it is written quite clearly in their charter) that their entire raison d'être is to destroy Israel. You take them at their word on absolutely everything else... except that. Why do you suppose that is?
Mark my words... the only way this ends well for Israel (and by 'well' I mean that it buys us more than a few weeks of relative calm), is if Hamas is forced to actually say the words "We surrender" in front of the whole world. Anyone want to give odds on that happening?
I honestly don't know how badly Israel has to demolish Gaza's infrastructure before someone over there waves a white flag. My guess is that so long as there is a single Hamas leader left breathing, nobody will dare step up and do the responsible thing for the people of Gaza.
That's okey-dokey with me. We know where pretty much all of their bunkers are at this point, and so long as we are able to resist calls to "immediately halt attacks on Gaza", I have no ethical problem with introducing every last democratically elected Hamas official to Allah.
Do you think for one moment that Hamas would hesitate to do the same to us if the tables were turned? No? So why are you demanding a higher standard of conduct from us?
We may indeed be the nerdy kid. But if our friends won't stand by us; if the teachers, and even the principal, refuse to protect us when we tried to play by the rules; well, as you've pointed out so many times before... your rules don't apply once we're off school grounds.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
300 Dead? 300 Dead what???!
Last night as I watched the various international news outlets, I was dismayed to see them relating to the rising death toll in Gaza as if Israel had indiscriminately mowed down a huge swath of unsuspecting innocents.
As the death toll went from 225 to nearly 275, Zahava and I watched with our mouths agape as a BBC interviewer (or maybe it was Sky News... I forget) asked an Israeli Government spokesperson "How do you respond to this enormous number of casualties... many of whom might be women and children?"
Did you get that? "Enormous"... "Might be". They might be women and children. They might also be, oh I don't know, terrorists...or angels or flying pigs! You don't have a friggin clue, do you? But that doesn't stop you from speculating, does it???!!! GAH!!!
Even Hamas itself, didn't say that "many" of the dead were women and children. In fact, Hamas had been reporting that most of the dead were, in fact, Hamas officials and security forces!
But let's leave the bias aside for a moment and talk about the 'enormous' numbers that really count:
Two waves of 60 aircraft each flew bombing sorties from approximately noon on Saturday through to the early hours of Sunday... and then resumed bombing runs throughout Sunday.
Considering that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have deliberately placed their entire command and control structure, as well as their munitions factories and training facilities, in the midst of densely populated civilian areas, it is nothing short of miraculous that after a day and a half of nearly non-stop bombing the result is only 300 deaths!
Think for a moment about how many people live in a typical apartment building. Now double that since our Gaza neighbors aren't particularly careful about zoning and fire regulations...and it isn't hard to imagine that even one poorly aimed bomb could result in a higher death toll than 300!
Unlike Hamas, which has been perpetrating ongoing war crimes against Israel by deliberately targeting civilian population centers with kassams, ketyushas and mortars (even as recently as ten minutes ago!), Israel has made an Herculean effort to make sure that only military targets are hit. Heck, we're even taking their wounded over the border and treating them in Israeli hospitals! Try that in the other direction and see if anyone comes back alive!
And another talking point that the international press never seems to miss is that the Kassams and Ketyushas are 'primitive weapons that rarely injure or kill anyone'. WTF?! That's like having a mean drunk for a neighbor who comes home from the pub every night and takes a few wild shots at your house with his old service revolver before passing out amongst the shrubs. What's the big deal? He almost never hits anyone, right? Why all the fuss??!
It's enough to make me want to grab them by their Balliol College ties and throttle them until their arrogant public school accents begin to sound suspiciously like East End cockney!
Will there be 'collateral damage' in the form of civilians injured and killed (including women and children) as a result of Israel's current military campaign? Without a doubt. But what I can't help but ask these affected idiots on my TV screen is 'where was your concern for civilian casualties when it was Jewish civilians being targeted?!'
[Update: On a similar note here on the home-front, Labor MK, Science, Culture, and Sport Minister Raleb Majadele (who is an Israeli Arab) boycotted Sunday's Cabinet meeting over Israel's military attacks on Gaza. Several MKs have asked aloud why he never bothered to use his cabinet post to raise so much as a public objection during all the time that Gazans have been bombarding Israel. I think the term we're looking for here is 'Fifth Column'. ]
Saturday, December 27, 2008
An open letter to...
... the U.N. Secretary General who is suddenly "deeply alarmed by the bloodshed..."
... the U.S. Secretary of State who is demanding an immediate cease fire...
... the European Union that is calling for "an immediate end to hostilities..."
... the Russians who are asking for all sides to return to the negotiating table.
I have just one question for all of you:
Where was your concern for human life when it was Israeli civilians being targeted all these years?!
Oh, and to the French who are condemning Israel's response to more than 10,000 rockets fired at her civilians as "disproportionate"... please just kiss my ass. The only possible contribution you can offer to this conflict is to give the Arabs the benefit of your one expertise in warfare; Please teach them how to surrender.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
My life before moving to Israel.
Well, pretty close, anyway.
Go read a well, written piece... and please try to feel what the writer is expressing, not what his words make you feel. Consider it an exercise in empathy. I'm sure you're up to the challenge. :-)
Hat tip Christopher Naze (one of the very first blogs I started reading!)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Words from beyond the grave
St. Yitzchak Rabin continues to be revered for his prescient insights into the mindset of his enemies... both real and political. And to date I have not heard one of his supporters come forward to say something like "Gee, maybe we were wrong about that."
I don't need to rub anyone's face in their mistakes. After all, everyone makes them. But the typical Israeli politician (of every stripe, BTW) has the memory - and conscience - of a goldfish!
Whenever I listen to the famous recording of Rabin calling the very notion of Israeli cities being shelled from Gaza nothing more than Likud scare-mongering, it makes my blood boil. It makes me want to see his political heirs and sycophants chained to lamp posts in every Gaza-belt community that is within Kassam and Ketyusha range. Certainly there are enough Meretz, Labor and Kadima MKs/supporters to go around. If not, there area plenty of journalists and bloggers who could make up the short-fall.
Oh, and while they are shackled to the lamp posts and people rush by on their way to the shelters, they should be forced to beg forgiveness from every passer-by for their arrogance, and for not allowing for the possibility - however small - that what the Palestinians in Gaza really wanted was not to be left in peace... but rather to be left to wage war.
Click here to listen: Rabin Peace Coward Speech
[Translation courtesy of Mich: "The horror stories of the Likud are familiar; indeed they promised us also Katyushas from Gaza. Already a year, the Gaza strip is mostly under the control of the Palestinian Authority, there has not yet been any Katyusha and there will be no Katyusha, et cetera et cetera et cetera. All the chattering; the Likud is deathly afraid of peace. The “peace cowards”, this is the Likud of today. This is not the Likud of Menachem Begin of blessed memory, who dared, and took initiatives, and was willing to pay a painful price to advance peace. The Likud of today is deathly afraid of peace, and therefore, it reacts in a way that is truly childish."]
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Where is the peace?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Ghosts of enemy soldiers, local heroes... and elephants
Sitting out on the Mirpesset (balcony) behind my house, I constantly see ghosts.
Okay, maybe not real ghosts.
But our part of the country (Gush Etzion) is so saturated with history - from the passing of Biblical figures past neighboring communities, to entire invading/defending armies marching quite literally past my doorstep - that the empty hillsides I see each day are always crowded with the ghosts of the past.
I see Bar Kochva's men running to the extensive cave system over the next hill where they hid out during the rebellion. I see Roman soldiers marching in formation to control their domain all along the length and breadth of my morning commute. I see Jewish pilgrims walking along the well-worn paths behind my house as they bring their festival sacrifices to the Holy Temple there.
But at this time of year when I stand behind my house and look across the valley, I see Judah Maccabbee's 20,000 Jewish Hasmonian warriors facing 50,000 Greek Seleucid troops, and the hillsides are awash in the deafening sound of marching feet, clanking armour and the occasional trumpet of the mounted war elephants.
Yes, elephants... right here in Gush Etzion!
You see, when most people think of the Hanukkah story, they only think of the Battle of Beit Zur where the Maccabees defeated the numerically superior Greeks and then went on to recapture /rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem.
What few recall is that even after the Temple was rededicated, the Seleucid Greeks (along with many Hellenized Jews... human shields, in modern terms!), still held a small fortress, called the Acra, inside Jerusalem's city walls facing the Temple.
The Maccabees laid siege to the Acra fortress, but before long they got word that a strong force of Greek troops were approaching from the south, and broke off the siege in order to face them before they reached Jerusalem:
[From the 1 Maccabees 6]
The Battle at Beth-Zechariah (which took place between present day Elazar, Alon Shvut and Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim... partly visible from my house)
"Then Yehuda marched away from the citadel and encamped at Beth-zechariah, opposite the camp of the king.
Early in the morning the king set out and took his army by a forced march along the road to Beth-zechariah, and his troops made ready for battle and sounded their trumpets.
They offered the elephants the juice of grapes and mulberries, to arouse them for battle.
They distributed the animals among the phalanxes; with each elephant they stationed a thousand men armed with coats of mail, and with brass helmets on their heads; and five hundred picked horsemen were assigned to each beast.
These took their position beforehand wherever the animal was; wherever it went, they went with it, and they never left it.
On the elephants were wooden towers, strong and covered; they were fastened on each animal by special harness, and on each were four armed men who fought from there, and also its Indian driver.
The rest of the cavalry were stationed on either side, on the two flanks of the army, to harass the enemy while being themselves protected by the phalanxes.
When the sun shone on the shields of gold and brass, the hills were ablaze with them and gleamed like flaming torches."
This is what I picture as I look out towards the hills behind my house that were once carpeted in soldiers and war animals!
"Now a part of the king's army was spread out on the high hills, and some troops were on the plain, and they advanced steadily and in good order.
All who heard the noise made by their multitude, by the marching of the multitude and the clanking of their arms, trembled, for the army was very large and strong.
But Yehuda and his army advanced to the battle, and six hundred of the king's army fell.
Now Eleazar, called Avaran, saw that one of the animals [elephants] was equipped with royal armor. It was taller than all the others, and he supposed that the king was on it.
So he gave his life to save his people and to win for himself an everlasting name.
He courageously ran into the midst of the phalanx to reach it; he killed men right and left, and they parted before him on both sides.
He got under the elephant, stabbed it from beneath, and killed it; but it fell to the ground upon him and he died.
[But] When the Jews saw the royal might and the fierce attack of the forces, they turned away in flight."
Present day Elazar, which is right across the narrow valley from us, is named for Judah Maccabee's son Elazar who died killing that war elephant. According to Josephus, Elazar's Son Jason had a son and grandson; Antipater I & II respectively. Antipater II's son was King Herod, the master builder who was responsible for building the Second Temple.
And just as an aside, to bring water to his Temple in Jerusalem, Herod built a complex aqueduct system that passed less than 50 meters behind my back house!
All this history... right behind my house! Can you blame me for seeing ghosts?
I hope everyone has a wonderful Hanukkah! Chag Urim Sameach!!!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Secret Identity Revealed
It's been bothering me for some time now, but I think I've finally figured it out:
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik The Joker
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
'Tis the season... to adjust your worldview
Most of you are tired of hearing me, a Jewish Israeli, talk about what I think is the root of the world's problems.
So, for a change, let an articulate Christian Lebanese woman tell you how the world looks through her eyes.
[Sent to me by a thoughtful reader. Thank you]
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
What kind of monster hangs up on a five year old?!
Um... that would be moi.
Many of you are familiar with the ritual phone call that Yonah makes to me (on Zahava's Cell Phone) from the bus stop every morning. For the first year, the content of the phone call didn't vary much. In fact it was pretty much formulaic.
However, Yonah's vocabulary and social skills have blossomed to such an extent since his surgery that he's become quite the chatterbox... on the phone and in person. He engages anyone within shouting distance in discussions of his clothing, his meals (the one just past or the next one anticipated), his pets, his friends, and pretty much anything else that pops into his head.
Clearly he is delighted to finally feel included in what's going on around him, and even more so that he has the tools to interact and express himself. But like most of us he sometimes wants to disconnect and be alone with his thoughts... but not really alone, if you know what I mean.
This trick of keeping loved ones close enough to touch but not actually directly interact with them is something that most of us would call 'a comfortable silence'. Unfortunately, Yonah doesn't yet have the social skills, confidence or nuanced vocabulary to be able to let us know when he isn't in the mood to talk... but that he still wants us accessible. He doesn't understand the concept of two people sitting silently together but engaged in their separate thoughts or activities. In his mind, in order to have the comfort of someone's company, there needs to be ongoing physical or verbal contact of some kind.
This has manifested itself in a really annoying habit of his where he will initiate contact (either in person or on the phone... toss out a few standard conversation starters... and then go about playing by himself or daydreaming while answering "What?" to anything and everything said to him from that point on... just to keep the lines of communication open.
In person, it's less of a problem because he can come sit next to one of us to get the physical contact he craves, while thumbing through a book or playing a game on his own. But on the phone he sometimes walks a tightrope between wanting to maintain the connection of a conversation with me... while not wanting to be distracted from whatever else he is doing. So a typical conversation can sometimes sound like this:
Me: Good morning sweetie boy... are you calling from the bus stop?
Me: Did Ima let you bring one of the dogs with you to wait for your bus?
Yonah [vaguely]: What?
Me: I said did you bring one of the dogs with you?
Me [trying a different tack]: Who else is there at the bus stop with you and Ima?
[Repeat until my head explodes.]
Mind you, this isn't always the case. Some mornings Yonah is completely focused on the conversation and will chat effortlessly about the weather, his clothes, the other people at the bus stop and the regular drivers who go by and wave to him.
But this past Sunday morning was not one of those mornings. After the 8th or 9th 'What?', I decided to teach Yonah a difficult lesson:
Me: Yonah, can you hear me?
[At this point I had a sudden mental flash of Samuel L. Jackson holding a pistol and screaming "Say "what" again. Say "what" again! I dare you! I double-dare you, mother***er! Say "what" one more g**damn time! ", but instead I calmly said...]
Me: You know Yonah, if you don't want to have a real conversation with me I'm not going to stay on the phone.
Me: Bye! [and immediately press the 'end' button on the phone]
Within 30 seconds I received the expected phone call from Zahava... who sounded slightly annoyed:
Zahava: Did you just hang up on Yonah?
[in the background I could hear Yonah sobbing, "Yes, Abba hanged up on me!"]
Me: Yes. He was clearly more interested in whatever else was going on there at the bus stop than in talking to me... and I got tired of hearing him say "What?". He needed to learn that both people in a conversation have feelings.
Zahava pondered that for a moment, said okay, and said goodbye. But less than 15 seconds later the phone rang again and this time I heard the tear-stained voice of Yonah:
Yonah [sniffling]: Abba, why did you hanged [sic] up on me?
Me: Because you weren't listening, and you kept saying 'What?'. If you want to talk with someone on the phone you have to actually take turns talking. I can't be the only one talking while you ignore me. Do you want to talk to me now?
Yonah: Yes, but my bus is coming now.
Me: OK, then we can talk later, OK?
Yonah: OK [sniff]... goodbye-I-love-you-have-a-nice-day! [~click~]
I think he got the message. All of our phone conversations since then have been fairly two-sided, and he only said 'What?' once or twice when he genuinely didn't hear/understand what I'd said.
So yes, if you're wondering what kind of a monster hangs up on a five year old... it's the kind of monster who loves his kid enough to teach him how to be a Mensch. Guilty as charged.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Walk right in, it's around the back...
No, not Alice's Restaurant (if anyone still remembers Arlo Guthrie's well-loved anthem), but rather a tiny winery that is literally 15 minutes from our house.
This past Friday, one of Zahava's business contacts invited us to join him, his wife and a small group of friends at a winery located in Moshav Nes Harim. He knew that we enjoyed good wine (and spirits) and figured that despite Fridays being a crazy day for most people, that the close proximity to our home would offer enough of an enticement.
Little did he know that for a nice wine tasting, Zahava and I will gladly forgo most of the usual Friday routine.
This place is not the typical pretentious yuppy winery with polished wood and a carefully landscaped setting. It is a rough-hewn building on a tiny moshav. And if you miss the lone wooden sign pointing the way down a dirt track once you are inside the moshav... you'll miss it.
The meet-up at the winery was called for 10:00AM, so naturally when Zahava and I pulled up at the stroke of ten, nobody was there but the proprietor who was just opening the place and stoking the rustic wood-burning stove against the chill of the morning mountain air. He directed us to drive around the back and received us with the warmth and sincerity of someone who genuinely loves what he does and who wants to share his good fortune with others.
It was nearly 30 minutes before the rest of the group showed up, but it was long enough for us to have a leisurely espresso with the proprietor and to find some of the inevitable connections that exist between all Jews... provided they have enough time to talk, of course.
Once everyone was there (we were a small group of 7 or 8 couples) he set out a bunch of pristine wine glasses and proceeded to bring out one wine after another. Each wine was introduced with many apologies that it wasn't quite ready... or that it "really needs another year in the bottle to reach its peak". But IMHO, the wines were incredible. The Cabernet Savignon, in particular, was the best I've ever had!
Rather than allow himself to become the center of attention, the proprietor was happy to tell a bit about the grapes, the characteristics of the wine and maybe his own thoughts on the tonal accents... and then let us talk amongst ourselves. In short, he was the perfect host.
In addition to the unbelievable Cab, there was a really special Port-like wine that he brought out at the end almost as an afterthought. I had already told him which wines I wanted to buy, but when I tasted the label-less Port, I told him I wanted a case of that. He smiled and said he'd be happy to give me a bottle... but that he wasn't really selling it yet. When I pressed him, he asked me if I had children. When I said yes, he offered the following:
"Sometimes your children ask you for permission to do something that your life experience tells you is a big mistake. The more you try to explain to them the reason behind your refusal, the less they seem to understand. Finally you have to say "The answer is no. Some day you'll understand why I'm right and you're wrong... but right now you simply have to trust me because I'm your father". I'm not your father, but you're going to have to trust me about this wine. Right now it is pretty good, but in two or three years it will be incredible. If I sold you (and everyone else who wanted some) a case, there will be nothing left in a year, much less two. You can take a bottle home now... and you can even come back once in a while to pick up another. But you'll have to trust me when I tell you that you'll thank me in two years that there is still some of this stuff in the world."
As we left the little winery perched on the side of an evergreen dappled mountain, I was delighted to have been introduced to this little treasure so close to home. You won't see their wine here in Israel as they sell most of it in the US to the upscale wine crowd. But if you are under the mistaken impression that you have to go to the Golan heights or Zichron Yaakov to find decent wine in its natural habitat, you should set your sights a little closer to home:
Katlav Winery, Ltd.
Moshav Ness Harim
Tel: 972 2 570 1404
Ask for Yossi Yittach. He can open the place for you on a Friday morning for intimate private tastings... and if you can commit to a group of 25 adults, he opens the place a couple of times a week (maximum) to private wine and grill parties (all strictly kosher).
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Like sweet, deep-orange jewels. No... more like sunshine!
Every year about this time I go a little crazy for a little citrus fruit called a Clementine (Clementina in Hebrew).
For those who have never experienced these treats, a Clementina is a (
usually sometimes) seedless Mandarin orange that has a deep orange-red color and is as sweet as candy.
In Israel, early winter is prime Clementinot season, with every supermarket and produce stand bursting at the seams with these delicious fruits. I can't pass a store without picking up a dozen... and I have taken to keeping a basket of them on my desk at work to snack on throughout the day.
They practically peel themselves... and once the thin skin has been tossed aside, you are left with an easily sectioned fruit that reminds you of what oranges and tangerines tasted like when you were a kid.
Every office I go into these days has the heady aroma of recently peeled citrus... and everyone's fingertips seem to have little bits of rind around their cuticles. I even tossed a half a dozen clementinot in my parent's bag before they left on a three day tiyul up north this week... knowing that they would be a perfect snack for the bus.
I love this time of year. I get to keep little round bits of sunshine right on my desk!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Some points worth making
First of all, if you haven't already done so... go watch the short video I posted yesterday. It is good... but perhaps not great. There are a few side-points in the film that seem to distract some viewers from the main point... but while it isn't a slam dunk, it certainly makes many excellent points.
The video is intended to be the opening salvo in what promises to be a very active grass-roots campaign designed to get people to begin thinking critically about the current conventional wisdom surrounding the proposed 2-state solution.
For those not in the loop, 'the 2- state solution' is short hand for what many presume to be a done deal; the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the current Jewish State. The conventional wisdom holds that while the final borders of this new state remain to be perfectly defined, they will most likely incorporate most or all of the west bank as well as Gaza (with some provision for continuity between them).
Here's a short list of questions that should occur to anyone thinking critically about 2-state:
Why is Israel - and only Israel - presumed to be 100% responsible for providing land to create a Palestinian State. Certainly, of all the countries that contributed to the creation of the Palestinian refugees (what some would call the creation of the Palestinian people), Israel is the least responsible... if for no other reason than that we accepted the UN Partition plan in 1947 while all the Arab countries did not. And they attacked us... and lost. So why is it that Israel is assumed to be the one that will pick up the check (i.e. pay war reparations in the form of land) to give these stateless people a state?
Again, why is it accepted by almost all people today that Israel must carve out a huge piece of itself in order to make room for this new Palestinian state? Why not Jordan? Why not Egypt? Why not Syria or Lebanon or Saudi Arabia? Why not Iraq? Why not some combination of them? Certainly they all have far more land reserves - not to mention a commonality of language, culture and religion - that would lend a far better long-term fit for a Palestinian State!
Many people answer preemptively with, "But the Arab countries will never agree to such a thing so why waste time even suggesting it". That right there should tell you something important about the justice of the proposed 2-state solution and the mindset of those who are pushing it. Israel is essentially being penalized because we don't have the wit, or the ability, to say no.
Why should Israel suffer because it is the only reasonable entity in the region? The Arab countries I named above attacked Israel and lost not one, but three different regional wars. And throughout all this time, these same countries have kept their Palestinians locked up in virtual prison camps so as not to have to take any responsibility for the refugees their armed aggression helped to create.
Seriously, what's the hurry. This sense of urgency to 'make peace' by creating a Palestinian state within some arbitrary time-frame is entirely artificial and can only work to the advantage of one party... not both. Let's assume that the Palestinians are 'entitled' to a state of their own (not a fact that anyone has been able to demonstrate to me). There was no urgency to create it when they were all living under Jordanian and Egyptian rule, respectively. So why the sudden rush? The obvious answer is that a ticking clock distracts the negotiating parties from looking too closely at the terms and conditions... and at the alternatives.
The Arabs have always used time as a negotiating tool. When something is demanded of them, time becomes endlessly elastic. But when they require something of us, yesterday is not soon enough.
I'm not against negotiating with anyone who wants to sit down at the table with us. But the terms and substance that each of the negotiating parties brings to the table are what matter... not how long anyone will agree to remain seated. That is extortion... and a U.S. administration that will sanction such extortion (even in the name of leaving a legacy) is no friend of Israel.
Why at all?
Again, the idea of 'The 18' campaign is not about voting for or against anything... or doing anything more than getting people to begin thinking critically about something that has been taken as political gospel up until now.
This may sound blunt... but if someone has a problem with taking a close, critical look at ANYTHING that - once done - will be both irreversible and will have long-lasting implications for an entire region... well, I question their interest in a just solution.
The world is full of failed or failing states that have sucked dry the resources and patience of their regional and global neighbors. Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Chad top the list... but there are plenty more that are continually in the news (and not to report Nobel laureates or medical breakthroughs).
What if the international community had had an opportunity to examine any of these failed states when they were still 'proto-states', and it was revealed that they had nothing to show for themselves but armed, warring factions, staggering corruption, negligible legal, legislative or fiscal transparency, and a complete lack of economic, educational, infrastructure or medical planning. Could the international community, in good conscience, support and recommend their graduation to full-fledged nationhood? Could it do so at the expense of any neighboring countries territory and/or security? If not... why are the Palestinians being vetted for nationhood?
Given a choice, would you accept Chad or Somalia as neighbors? Israel already has a failed proto-state cum Islamic terror base (Gaza) on our southern flank. Why are we being rushed to accept another on our eastern flank?
The essential appeal of the two state solution is that everyone is making the mistaken assumption that international Islamic terrorism is only about supporting Palestinian rights, and that it will evaporate the moment the Palestinians have their own state. That is demonstratively false. Islamic terrorism predates Israel's 'occupation' of the west bank and Gaza... and in fact predates the creation of the State of Israel.
Although Israel and Jews have been singled out for particularly harsh treatment at the hands of Muslim terrorists and their state sponsors, few countries/peoples in the world have been spared the sting of this poisonous, expansionist ideology. We only lack the common sense to take the Muslim world at their word when they say - quite plainly - that the entire planet belongs to them.
President-elect Obama has a clear mandate, with huge popularity and both houses of congress in the hands of his party. Few presidents have begin to govern with such an advantage. Without prejudice for or against this president, the real danger for Israel is that her strongest ally in the world has officially endorsed the 2-state solution and is the driving force behind both the artificial timetables and the need for Israel to make massive territorial concessions.
Where Presidents Clinton and Bush were both partially hamstrung into inaction by partisan politics and scandals, Obama can push forward with pretty much any popular initiative he chooses. And few initiative enjoy more popularity or bipartisan support than 2-state.
Therefore there is a pressing need to remove as much of that popular support as possible... for all of the reasons listed above. That's where 'The 18' comes into play.
Why The 18?
The goal of the campaign is to do nothing more or less than to get people to think critically about 2 state. Question it! Ask difficult (but obvious) questions about why Israel is being required to create such a state. 'The 18' demands that people begin to think critically about historical precedent for such a thing as well as what has happened in the wake of nearly every previous territorial concession Israel has made.
Saying that 'the current situation is untenable' is not a good enough reason to go ahead with 2 state. It simply means that other solutions must be found and examined.
As I wrote above, there are other countries with far more land and resources in this region who are far more responsible for the current plight (and existence) of the Palestinians than Israel. Why should it be accepted as gospel that a Palestinian state must be rushed into existence... and that only Israel need give birth to this new state out of its own loins?
This new campaign called 'The 18' is simply about getting people to start thinking critically about 2 state instead of automatically accepting it as the only solution. I can't imagine anyone would have a problem with a clarion call to simply think!
I hope I'm not wrong about that.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I'm one of the 18
Don't tell me why not. Tell me why.
Your words... not something you've heard.
Make your case... not theirs.
Time to move over and let someone else drive for awhile
Without being aware of it, most of us automatically label anyone driving faster than us 'a maniac'... and anyone driving slower than us is 'an idiot'.
The same is pretty much the case with religion. We file those who are even a little more religiously observant than us under the broad heading; 'fanatic', while those who are less observant are 'heretics'.
So, it should go without saying (although, naturally, I feel the need to say it) that politics are also subject to this involuntary, mental filing system. Those to the right of us are militaristic fascists while those to the left of us are communist surrender monkeys.
In advance of Likud's primaries yesterday, Bibi Natanyahu held a press conference to try to head off this kind of pigeon-holing and said unequivocally that not only would he not be giving any cabinet positions to those who he considered radical elements within Likud (e.g. supporters of Moshe Feiglin), but that the numeric standing in the Likud primary results would not have any affect whatsoever on his choices for top government positions.
He made it clear that the results of the primaries were important in that they demonstrated public support for a slate of candidates... but that he reserved the right to fill the top cabinet slots with the best qualified individual regardless of their post-primary standing.
In a rational world that should have been enough to silence much of the hysterical hair-pulling over the eventuality that many of the top primary spots would (and did) go to players from Likud's ideological right wing.
But rational behavior is, sadly, not in large supply in Israel's political circles.
Kadima's Livni is running scared and Labor's Barak is essentially a grease spot in the rear view mirror. The two of them know that their only chance of swaying precious undecided voters and winning back seats from Likud in the coming election is to cry wolf about how "Likud will begin implementing their extremist policies" the moment they come to power. Heck, Meretz (as reported in Ynet) has gone so far as to say that "Likud has formed a new anti-peace front!" .
Deep breaths everyone. It's not like Meretz, Labor and Kadima haven't had their turn at the wheel since the last election. It's not as though there was a disruptive opposition keeping them from carrying out their 'pro-peace' agenda.
Unfortunately, Kadima and Labor managed their plans for peace about as well as they did their plans for the last war. Meaning they had no clear plan at all, other than to make staggeringly stupid unilateral concessions to an assortment of enemies who have expressed no interest whatsoever in becoming our friends.
Israel is nominally a democracy... which means you can vote for whatever party floats your boat. And you should! I'm less frightened of a democracy with a strong, responsible opposition than of one where everyone marches in lockstep. But To ignore historical facts and expect the electorate to continue endorsing the same, clueless leadership (if you can even call what we've had to endure 'leadership'), is just lunacy.
Just in case some talking points are needed, let me be the first to offer a few:
You do not talk to people who are shooting at you. Not bullets... and certainly not missiles. And you certainly don't act as though they aren't shooting. Any other nation on earth would consider such belligerency an open act of war. Somehow we have gotten into the habit of treating it as if it were some inescapable, chronic problem like pollution. Abandoning any segment of the population to the bombs and missiles is to essentially give the land they are living on to your enemy. Any government that willingly does so is done. Move on.
Being against the particulars and/or timing of a peace initiative does not make one 'anti-peace'. It means that after a number of identical failures, it is time to try something else... or perhaps time to take a short break from trying in order to assess whether the other side actually is capable of (or interested in) making peace.
Kadima and Labor have no monopoly on talking with - and even assisting - our enemies. Bibi has made it clear that he will continue a responsible dialog with the Palestinian leadership. In fact, he has been saying for some time that the only way to create a viable peace partner is to bolster their economy to the point that they don't need Israel or International aid to survive.
Freeing terrorists from jail and returning them to the same handlers who sent them on their murderous missions in the first place will not promote peace. You can call them confidence-building gestures, but the only thing it does is erode the confidence of Israelis that the government has a clue how to stop the relentless attacks. Promoting responsible economic planning and enabling manageable economic growth for the Palestinians might give them something to think about other than killing us. I'm not sure, but I'm willing to give Bibi a chance to test that theory.
One of the primary criticisms leveled at Bibi from the right during his tenure as leader of the opposition is that he didn't make life difficult enough for the Kadima/Labor coalition government. During the war in Lebanon Bibi became the defacto spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, and afterward acted much more forcefully to to ride herd on the right than to hamstring the left. So it is funny to suddenly hear Meretz, Labor and Kadima screaming and maneuvering in the most irresponsible manor as though they are already in the opposition.
Labor arrogantly labeled Likud predictions of missiles falling on Ashkelon as 'scare mongering'. Yet the Grad Ketyushas that fell on Ashkelon last week (and the countless rockets that continue to fall on Sderot, Ashkelon and the western Negev) are apparently less important to Labor and Kadima than the number of Knesset seats they can coax from a balky electorate.
At a certain point, failed policies and failed regimes must be peacefully set aside and new ideas tried. Livni and Barak have demonstrated beyond all doubt that they don't have a new idea between them (other than how to attack the Likud). And that's okay. The job of the opposition is to be critical of those in power. So it is time to make sure that Kadima and Labor are placed firmly where they can carry on criticizing and do a minimum of harm (and a maximum of good); in the opposition.
I'll be the first to admit that Bibi is not the ideal candidate. But he is arguably the only one responsible for this country being well-positioned to weather the current global economic storm... and he has spent years demonstrating that he can and will act responsibly to place the good of the country before his own (ample) political aspirations.
The new Likud is full of promising new faces and ideas (as well as old party hacks), and Bibi has promised to look well down his party list... and also to the ranks of other political parties... to select the leaders most capable of helping him face Israel's current and future challenges. Personally, I can't ask more than that.
Say what you want about Bibi, but he is not anti-peace or an extremist on any account. Nor is he shackled to any militant extremists or radical political elements. Anyone who says either is either willfully ignorant or woefully unfamiliar with Israel's parliamentarian system.
Is Bibi perfect? Not by a long shot. But is it long past time to push aside the architects of years of fecklessness and failure in order to try an entirely different approach to domestic and foreign policy? In my humble opinion; Yes.
You are entitled to your own opinion and vote (that's why it's called a democracy), but stop telling me why not to vote for the Likud/Bibi, and start telling me what your party has to offer this country that hasn't already been proven a dismal failure.
Update: I just saw the following quote from Livni in which she is trying to sound strong by advocating a token military response to continued rocket fire from Gaza (I swear, you can't make this stuff up!):
"A [military] response is important; even if it doesn't automatically end the Palestinian rocket fire, there is something important in the impression, and Israel's deterrence ability. The strategic goal in my eyes is to prevent the establishment of an extremist Islamic terror state along Israel's southern border." [emphasis mine]
Um, news flash for Livni... that ship sailed. Maybe you missed the meeting where it was discussed, but Israel already has an extremist Islamic terror state along its southern border. What's your next big plan?
Yet another update (my lunchtime reading was chock full of shameless sound bites):
Disgraced Kadima Prime minister Ehud Olmert said today:
"The Likud ...is...a right-wing party that will isolate Israel in a corner..."
Correct me if I'm mistaken, but isn't this the same person who carried water for Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan by repeatedly assuring us that withdrawal from Gaza would improve Israel's international standing and make us the darling of the international community?
That worked out well, didn't it? Even failed states and remorseless despots still shun Israel, and our 'friends' still try to arrest our generals for war crimes!
Monday, December 08, 2008
Seems I’ve been tagged [~grumble~]
postmeme by Zahava]
5 Things I was doing 10 years ago:
1) Parenting two small people (and loving it!).
2) Enjoying living in close proximity to family.
3) Participating in a Young Leadership course through UJA/Jewish Federation.
5) Sewing Shabbat dresses for Ariella.
5 Things on my to-do list today:
1) Drink coffee.
2) Be more patient with my family.
3) Organize the studio.
4) Deposit a check.
5) Fold the laundry.
5 snacks I love:
4) Chocolate. (sensing a theme here?!)
5) Chocolate covered dried cherries.
5 Things I'd do if I were a millionaire:
1) Pay off the mortgage.
2) Pick a worthy non-profit and donate a design project (would do this once a month).
3) Establish trust funds for the kids.
4) Write a large check for ovarian cancer research.
5) Enjoy not having to worry about finances.
5 places I have lived:
1) Malden, MA.
2) Schenectady, NY.
3) St. Louis, MO.
4) Corning, NY.
5) NYC, NY.
5 jobs I have had:
2) Camp Counselor.
3) Canoeing Instructor.
4) Graphic Designer.
5) Design Instructor.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
A date that will live in infamy...
Back in the early 80s I was stationed on board two different frigates (not at the same time, obviously) in Pearl Harbor Hawaii.
The 'Bravo' piers, where the frigates and destroyers typically tied up, directly faced the side of Ford Island that had once been called 'Battleship Row'. The last visible remnant of 'Battleship Row' is the white memorial that sits astride the bridge of the sunken Battleship USS Arizona:
The only way to reach the memorial is by a ferry boat (visible on the left of the picture) which departed from a section of the harbor that was not always easy for tourists to find.
Now, hatred is not-unlike a few hundred dominoes lined up in a row. By this I mean that there is something in the soul of men that wants desperately to be the one to push over the dominoes... and to not be the last domino to be pushed.
Take for example the native Hawaiians.
Their dislike for white Ha'oles (people from the mainland) was, at best, a simmering contempt... and often boiled over into outright assault. After all, the mainlanders (specifically the U.S. government and ultimately the Marines) had come along and essentially toppled a peaceful monarchy (of Queen Liliuokalani ), and put in place a foreign constitution that set minimum income and property requirements for voters, essentially limiting the electorate to wealthy Americans, Europeans and a tiny handful of their allied native Hawaiian partners.
Then you have the indigenous non-native population (as much as one can call any of the Ha'ole's indigenous).
These locals adopted the basic dislike/distrust of mainlanders from their pure-blood Hawaiian neighbors and added an extra layer of hate due their own insecurity and guilt over being partly descended from those who toppled the Island's monarchy.
The U.S. Military (of which there is a very large representation in the islands) is the next domino down the line of enmity.
As with most things subject to gravity, sh*t rolls mostly downhill. And the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen of the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in Hawaii were (and to some extent, still are) often singled out for a healthy dose of suspicion and outright enmity by both the Native and non-native Hawaiians, alike.
Tourists, being the bearers of Hawaii's life blood (money) are mostly exempted from this downhill rush of hatred... but being at the bottom of the dung hill, the military is not above seeking someone even lower on the pecking order of prejudice and hatred... and the Japanese tourists who flock to Hawaii are an easy target... especially for ignorant young sailors with a hazy sense of history.
I recall one particular December 7th when some of my shipmates and I were walking near the gate to the Navy Base when a group of Japanese tourists accosted us with an urgent need, expressed in clear but heavily accented English:
"Excuse prease... where is USS Arizona"
This was too good to be true. Representatives of the very nation that had made this date infamous were handing us the set-up to the best punch line any of us had ever heard. This was like being in New York CIty and having a tourist ask you how to get to Carnagie Hall!
Without hesitating, the senior petty officer in our group replied, "Right where you left it".
I have to admit that, as much as I was momentarily delighted that this well-used joke had actually found a real-life outlet, I was deeply embarrassed at the stricken look that spread across the faces of the Japanese tourists (none of whom was old enough to have participated in the war effort) when their tour guide translated the insulting rejoinder.
And even though, all these years later I now harbor much more animosity towards the Japanese than even the Germans, due to their brutal, murderous actions during the WWII (Google 'Japanese Slave Labor WWII' and 'Rape of Nanking' if you need a starting place), I am personally sorry to have participated in embarrassing these blameless Japanese tourists.
So yes, this date will continue to live in infamy because of the terrible Japanese sneak attack perpetrated against a neutral country which cost many thousands of innocent lives. But it is also a personal day of infamy... an anniversary which marks a line of delineation between my carefree childish irresponsibility with words and my first steps towards learning the cruel weight which words can carry.