Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saved by Peter Pan
In Keeping with my annual Purim tradition, I spend the entire 25 hours of the holiday in my pajamas and bathrobe. That includes all trips to synagogue, parties, delivering Mishloach Manot with the kids, and any errands on which Zahava might send me.
This last one almost led to me feeling a little foolish.
We had some high school girls with us for Shabbat who had to be back in Jerusalem by 9:30 Sunday morning, so since I was driving them anyway, Zahava gave me a shopping list and asked me to stop off at the big supermarket after dropping off the girls.
As a last minute decision I decided to take Yonah along for the ride (in his Peter Pan costume). It wasn't until I was walking into the supermarket that I realized what a good thing it was that Yonah came along.
You see, Jerusalem is one of a small handful of cities that celebrate Purim a day later than everyone else (called Shushan Purim), and that means nobody is walking around in costume today there. I realized this as I was walking into the Supermarket in my pajamas and bathrobe... with crazy bed hair and a couple of days worth of beard stubble on my face.
As I walked around the grocery store I could see people giving me the once-over with their eyes and doing an alarmed double-take. It was only when they spotted Yonah that they understood I was in costume and not mentally ill.
Sometimes I send Yonah to pick things up and bring them back to wherever I am with the cart. He knows his way around the supermarket and it makes him feel like he's contributing. But today I kept him close, like a best friend who might walk behind you to shield your dignity after you've split your pants.
Note to self: Plan out Purim trips to Jerusalem so that there is someone else with an obvious costume within arms reach at all times.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Just bite me, OK?!
A few days ago the Israeli government published its list of 'Heritage Sites' that were slated for cleaning, refurbishment and improved access to the public.
Among the sites on the list are the Ma'arat Hamachpelah (the Cave of the Patriarchs; the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebbecca and Leah) in Hevron, and the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem.
These sites are among the holiest in Judaism, but are also important to Christianity and Islam because prominent figures in all of the three religions are buried there.
Needless to say, the Palestinians couldn't resist the opportunity to hold a riot, so they took Israel's announcement as a cause to burn tires, throw rocks and flaming bottles and attack soldiers and civilians.
Mahmoud Abbas, the so-called moderate leader of the Palestinian Authority announced that the Israeli move could embroil the entire region in holy war. This corrupt puppet is supposed to be our best hope for an eventual settlement with the Palestinians.
Then the President of France declared that Israel's announcement could spark a third Intifada, a statement which once again paints the Palestinians as emotional infants; incapable of expressing discontent in any but the most violent terms.
Now the U.S. State Department has weighed in with the following statement:
"The [US] administration views the move as provocative and unhelpful to the goal of getting the two sides back to the table."
This, to me, was even more galling than the French statement. At least the French seem to see the Palis for who they really are, a bunch of dangerous, violent children who are completely incapable of statecraft at any level.
But the U.S. seems to be completely ignoring the fact that Israel lacks a credible peace partner, and continues to insist that Israel unilaterally abandon any claims - territorial, political or religious - that might be at odds with the ever-changing Arab narrative.
Provocation?! What about the fact that Rachel's Tomb is now housed inside a concrete bunker and can be reached only by armored bus? What about the fact that nearly every week some Palestinian either attacks Jews near the Ma'arat Hamachpela, or is arrested with a weapon or explosive before he/she can do so? What about the fact that Joseph's tomb has been burned and vandalized several times in recent years, resulting in the death of 8 IDFsoldiers?
Why is it that we have to respect their holy places, but they don't have to respect anyone else's?
Natanyahu correctly (IMHO) called the latest sturm und drang over the heritage site list "hypocritical', and went on to point out that Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarch and Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem, were both “gravesites of the ancestors of the Jewish people” and as such were “certainly deserving of restoration and preservation.”
Where was France when lethal attacks near Jewish Holy sites became so common that a decision had to be made to place soldiers near them around the clock and allow access only by bullet proof vehicle? Where was the U.S. When Joseph's tomb was destroyed?
The entire world came down on Israel when our antiquities department performed a salvage excavation in the Western Wall plaza while making repairs on the ramp leading to the Temple Mount. They said that Israel was not showing enough sensitivity to Muslim concerns about its holy places and historical legacy.
But nobody seems to be disturbed by the fact that the Waqf (the Muslim trust that manages the Temple Mount) has been using back-hoes and bulldozers to rip up and discard priceless Jewish artifacts in the holiest spot in Judaism!
I rode the bus yesterday with three IDF officers who are Muslim Arabs. Show me an Arab/Muslim country with Jewish officers and soldiers in its army. We have Arab Members of Knesset. Show me an Arab/Muslim country which allows Jews in its governmental bodies. Arabs can live in Israeli towns and Cities but Jews can be arrested (or killed) for daring to enter Arab only towns and cities. Heck, our 'partners in peace' even have legislation that makes selling land or property to a Jew an offense punishable by death!
The Palestinians are constantly raving about what is owed to the refugees who were forced to flee their homes during the 1948 war of Independence. What about the approximately one million Jews who were forced to flee Muslim/Arab countries, leaving behind all of their land and property? Strange how that questions is always pushed aside.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. The Palestinians (and their supporters) don't want a Palestinian State alongside Israel, they want to destroy Israel by any means possible. There will never be an agreement with the Arabs for the simple reason that they can't agree among themselves what they really want, and are incapable of agreeing to anything less than our complete surrender and destruction.
Islam isn't a religion; it is an ideological weapon... a time bomb spitefully planted by the L. Ron Hubbard of the Seventh Century. Those who continue to make concessions to Islam's 'sensitivities' are only encouraging kleptocracies and thugocracies to become more brazen and dangerous.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The Hospital Shuffle
My Mom is still in the hospital.
The good news is that she has been prodded into taking a few short walks on her new hip, and the test drives have been promising. And for the most part the medical care has been excellent. But the communication (i.e. getting the staff to tell my parents what the hell is going on, and what to expect next) has been... how to say this diplomatically... unsatisfactory.
I've tried a few times to impress upon the nursing and social work staff that they need to do a better job of keeping my parents in the loop, since they don't speak Hebrew and don't have a clue about the Israeli medical system.
But so far, I might as well have been talking to the proverbial wall. With each new surprise, or when something anticipated doesn't materialize, the staff member du jour cocks his/her head like a confused Cocker Spaniel and answers my annoyed inquiries with "But of course that's the way it is, didn't they know that?!"
That there has been no violence so far is a testament to the efficacy of those meditation classes I took during my last trip to India. I suppose given a choice I prefer that the medical care be good and that the follow-up communication terrible than the other way around.
Anyway, the plan at this point is to release my mom (either today or tomorrow) to a rehab facility where she will spend a couple of weeks getting her strength and confidence back under the careful supervision of physical and occupational therapists.
On a lighter note, last night before I left the hospital I gave my mom my iPod Shuffle which I had filled with almost 300 songs I thought she'd enjoy. I'd loaded up everything from Glenn Miller to Ella Fitzgerald... Sinatra to Mancini... and nearly the complete Beatles oeuvre.
My thought was that she could have some entertainment over the next couple of days, or even weeks, when things got dull. Instead she stayed up all night listening to the whole collection! When I spoke with her this morning she sounded a little loopy.
Now I understand why my dad has to hide the chocolate from her at home. :-)
Monday, February 22, 2010
Fooling Barney Fife
I got pulled over on my way to work this morning. We're still in the winter period where we have to drive with our lights on... and apparently a cop driving behind me noticed that I had a tail light burned out.
Technically when you get such a ticket you have a finite amount of time to rectify the problem; and once you've fixed the problem you need to provide proof to the police. If you don't do this, the ticket becomes permanent.
But let's face it, who wants to waste time proving to the police that you fixed a broken tail light?
I'm certainly not in the habit of arguing with the local constabulary... but a friend had once told me that if you have a replacement bulb with you, some cops will let you change it on the spot without writing you a ticket. And something about this particular cop made me think I might be able to save myself some time.
So as soon as he told me my tail light was burned out, I made a big show of rooting around in my glove compartment and told him I had an extra bulb. Now, this wasn't actually a lie, since I do carry extra headlight bulbs there. But I knew full well I didn't have a tail light.
None the less, after a few seconds I made a nice 'discovery sound', jumped out of the car and began opening up the tail light housing.
He was still on the other side of the car and didn't have a good view of what I was doing. If he had, he would have seen me take the bulb out of the reverse light fixture and exchange it with the burnt out one in the regular tail light.
When I'd reassembled the tail light housing, I made a big show of demonstrating that both sides were now nicely illuminated, and said a silent prayer that he wouldn't ask to see if my back-up lights were also working.
Satisfied, he put away his ticket book and waved me on my way.
Needless to say, I stopped at the garage on my way into the office and had them replace the back-up light. And I even bought a couple of spare bulbs... just in case the next cop who pulls me over is a bit more astute than the Barney Fife I encountered today.
[Note: In fairness, I know this cop was just doing his job. And the fact that he was less than zealous in observing my little trick probably speaks more to his trusting nature than to any implied ineptitude. I guess today's post was just me sharing a tiny slice of my day... as well as my relief at not having gotten a ticket.]
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Okay, I know I'm late to the discussion of Google's new social network offering called 'Buzz'; but as you can see from the last few posts, I've been a little busy. So à propos of this site's name, here are my 'afterthoughts' on the subject:
Last week I had the distinct pleasure of hanging out with my friend and fellow blogger Ben Chorin at two consecutive affairs. This in and of itself is not terribly surprising since our 'worlds' overlap on many levels. And seeing as our wives are walking and knitting buddies, and Ben and I share a more-than-academic appreciate for the distiller's art, meetings by chance or design are equally enjoyable.
At one of last week's affairs, Ben and I started talking about Buzz... first on a general level (as in "How could Google have done something this stupid?"), and then on a personal level (as in "How could Google have done something this stupid to me?").
On a general level, I think we can all agree that in its haste to dive into the deepest end of the social networking pool and start swimming with the big boys (Facebook et al), Google made an deeply flawed assumption about its gmail users: that nobody would mind having the people they email most frequently automatically set up as a ready-made social network.
If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Remember how lonely those first few days of Facebook membership were while you tried to populate your virtual clubhouse with friends (real and imagined)? Well Google figured since they know who you communicate with most frequently, those would be the obvious choices to kick off your new Buzz social network.
This by itself was not disastrous, since the basic assumption is sound. What set the barn afire was the subsequent assumption that you would want to make your new, ready-made Buzz world visible to the real world.
On a personal level, whoever made this deeply flawed inductive leap must have been some sort of Eagle Scout. It never occurred to him/her that, for a good portion of the Gmail world, email activity might be split fairly equally between 'legitimate' friends and family... and a mixed bag of mistresses, bookies, drug dealers and other 'unsavory' types.
While I'm certainly no Eagle Scout, I must lead a fairly chaste life since I was more annoyed by being automatically opted into the whole Buzz thing than by the possibility that my wife might find something/someone damning among my most frequent email correspondents.
But by the same token, to paraphrase George Costanza: Having 'world's collide' can be an extremely unsettling thing, even for someone with nothing unsavory to hide.
I know from my own experience that before I got married, my work, music and community lives almost never bumped up against one another... and it was only Zahava's entrance upon the scene that created bridges and tunnels between them where none had existed before. And I'd be lying if I said this was an entirely welcome and pleasant development.
I'm having trouble articulating why a person would want to keep business, social and family 'worlds' from touching one another (I think this may be more of a guy thing). But to some extent, their separateness allowed me to have a slightly different persona in each... a somewhat liberating experience that can only be duplicated by going alone to a foreign country. Once those worlds began colliding (thanks to my lovely wife, who had to be introduced to everyone), I heard more than once that someone was surprised to see me in a 'new light' (whatever that meant).
Now that I have spent nearly seven years airing my personal life here in the blogosphere, I can't fully recall what it was like having separate worlds that had no inkling of the other orbits in which I traveled. But I remember enough to know that - even for an Eagle Scout - having Google smash all of your worlds together must have been a tremendous buzz kill.
Note: For those who want to disable Buzz altogether, simply scroll down to the bottom of your Gmail screen and click the 'Turn Off Buzz' link.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Thank you to everyone who sent good wishes and kept my mom in their thoughts and prayers.
The surgery took place last night, and by all indications went extremely well.
I was horrified to hear that they kept her awake throughout the operation. She had an epidural, so while she didn't feel a thing, she could hear the surgical team sawing and hammering away as they bantered pleasantly in Hebrew around her and overhead. She claims it didn't bother her... but yeef, what a thought!!!
The most important thing is that they managed - and continue to manage - the pain extremely well. My mom has already been able to sit up and move into a chair... and she is expected to take her first steps tomorrow!
Once they are sure she doesn't have any post-surgical complications (i.e. infection, etc.), they will transfer her to a rehabilitation facility and begin physical therapy... likely as early as Monday or Tuesday.
I'm just kicking myself that I didn't ask the surgeon to put her old hip in a jar for us. Forget bladder stones, how cool a souvenir would that have been?! [kidding]
Feel free to continue sending good vibes to 'Chana Bat Feigie'.
Shabbat Shalom everyone.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
"... a bit of a tumble"
As I was walking into a meeting at work yesterday, my cell phone started playing the theme to the Carol Burnett Show, telling me it was either my mom or dad calling.
I looked at the display and recognized my dad's number. As I am sometimes forced to do, I answered the phone with, "Hi dad, I'm kinda in the middle of something, is it anything urgent or can I get back to you later?"
My dad said, "Well, yes, a little bit... mom took a bit of a tumble."
I didn't have a clue what that meant, and my department head was glaring at me from inside the conference room, so I said, "Um, is she okay?" To which he responded, "Not really... she broke her hip."
With that, I made the pinkie-in-the-mouth-and-thumb-in-the-ear 'I'll call you' sign to my department head and headed back to my office to get the full story.
It turns out she and my dad were at their doctor's office and the rubber soles on my mom's new boots caught on the tile floors and she tripped.
I guess if you have to trip and break your hip, the medical center is as good a place as any to do it. Within seconds she was surrounded by medical personnel, assessed, immobilized, taken to have an X-Ray and told that an ambulance was on the way.
It turns out she'll need a full hip replacement (you can Google it if you like details) and has been admitted to Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus waiting for an operating room to open up.
Yes, she's been waiting for more than a day for the surgery... but since her condition isn't technically emergent, she is sandwiched between the life & death cases and the surgeries that were booked months in advance.
The good news is that the head of the department (the head of the Joint Replacement department, not mine!) is going to do her surgery, so I'm not inclined be a pest and complain about the wait.
For the time being, my mom is well medicated, has my dad to keep her company... and seems to be in good spirits (or as good as one's spirits can be while waiting to have major surgery).
Definition of major surgery: Any operation that you or a loved one has to undergo.
Definition of minor surgery: Any operation that someone else has to have.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I hate that
I can't think of too many things I hate more than preparing my expense report after a long business trip, knowing in advance I'm going to have to fight to justify every last cent.
It's like spending several hours carefully preparing a hand-painted, elaborately caligraphied 'kick me' sign... and then sticking it on your own @ss.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
The presumption of innocence
It's as if the UK can't do enough to prove the validity of the hypothesis I floated a few weeks ago. The latest in a series of such proofs is a member of the House of Lords - Baroness Jenny Tonge - who has come out in tacit support of yet another blood libel against the Jewish State and her citizens.
Let me start at the beginning:
It seems that a Boston blogger named Stephen Lendman (yes, a Jew!) recently claimed to have seen some youtube clips that support the idea that Israeli medical teams sent to Haiti had engaged in the harvesting of organs from earthquake victims and had engaged in the trafficking of these organs.
Ever eager to pass along such juicy stories, and unfettered by any semblance of journalistic ethics, the Gaza-based Web site, 'The Palestine Telegraph' (which I was shocked to find is financed largely by the generosity of the above-mentioned British Baroness) published the Haitian organ harvesting/trafficking story to a receptive audience who have yet to hear/read a blood libel about Jews or Israel that they deemed too implausible to trust.
Baroness Tonge, has a long history of anti-Israel agitation including illegal (under British Law) meetings with Hamas, and the incredible statement about Palestinian suicide bombers that, "If I had to live in that situation - and I say that advisedly - I might just consider becoming one myself".
When called on the carpet about that statement she said, "I was just trying to say how, having seen the violence and the humiliation and the provocation that the Palestinian people live under every day and have done since their land was occupied by Israel, I could understand..." [emphasis mine]
And just so the reader doesn't think I'm trying to unfairly portay the Baroness as a racist based on an isolated remark or two taken out of context, in 2006 she made a statement that could well have come directly from her personal copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion: "The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they've probably got a grip on our party."
She has also participated in numerous anti-Israel demonstrations and calls for boycotts, and was aboard a 'blockade busting' boat that sailed to Gaza in November of 2008 with a bunch of other useful idiots. Apparently trying to isolate Israel is perfectly legal, but isolating a terrorist regime in Gaza is a war crime.
Several months after her little bit of maritime theater she made an impassioned speech to the House of Lords in which she said:
"Is the Minister aware that Mrs Pillay, the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has spoken of war crimes being committed in Gaza? Will the Government, therefore, show leadership and call for the immediate—and I mean immediate—establishment by the United Nations Security Council of an independent fact-finding commission to Palestine to investigate all breaches of international law?"
So while her latest slur against Israel and its citizens is not particularly surprising or out of character, it shows yet another example of how the demonization of the Jewish State has become mainstream in the UK... and why the Jewish Community in the UK might find it prudent to keep its collective head down.
Obviously some things are beyond the pale... even in the UK, so Tonge has suffered what amounts to a slap on the wrist for her 'imprudent' remarks. Even though she will remain a life Peer and a member in good standing of the House of Lords (with all privileges thereof), the Baroness has been dismissed - sacked, to use the local term - by Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg from her position as Health Spokesman for the House of Lords.
That must have come as a terrible blow. [ /sarcasm]
In her own defense, Tonge used the excuse preferred by most bigots; that she didn't believe or support the accusations, but rather that she thought it would be in Israel's interest to conduct a full internal investigation to be able to clear itself of suspicion.
By that logic, if I were to accuse the Baroness of being a cross-dressing victim of a botched gender correction operation (an accusation I categorically reject and would never dream of making, mind you!), it would be incumbent upon her 'ladyship' to bring proof to the contrary, right?
While not specifically found in the Magna Carta, the presumption of innocence is a cornerstone of British law, and it is an obscene miscarriage of justice that a former Member of Parliament and current member of the House of Lords should be allowed to conveniently 'forget' this whenever it fits her personal agenda, without suffering anything more serious than the forfeiture of a purely administrative assignment.
Over the past half-century, smarter people than I have cast about for a proper working definition of anti-Semitism... or at least for a litmus test that would help differentiate anti-Semitism from its more socially acceptable cousin; anti-Zionism. I honestly don't see why this has proven such a tough thing to work out.
Quite simply, an anti-Semite is anyone who deliberately withdraws or sets aside a Jew's - or Israel's - presumption of innocence in the face of libels and/or criminal charges.
To anti-Semite Baroness Jenny Tonge (and her ilk), I would paraphrase the words that former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli directed at Daniel O'Connell in 1835 in response to O'Connell's unflattering references to Disraeli's Jewish ancestry:
"Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honourable [Lady] were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were [present] in the temple of Solomon".
Note: The source for all quotes and background material not found in the news article I have linked above can be found here.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Which would you prefer?
I know I haven't written much about Yonah lately. For those new to this site, Yonah is our six year old son who has faced a few challenges in his short life.
I won't bore long-time readers with the details (since I've posted about this many times in the past), but thanks to a fairly routine surgery to remove his adenoids and tonsils (which allowed him to hear and breathe properly for the first time in his life), Yonah began speaking, responding to the world around him and basically developing as a normal healthy child should.
Yonah has spent a few years in special nurseries getting an incredible range of therapies (speech, occupational, play, music, etc.) thanks to the incredible educational / medical system here in Israel, but he has finally been 'mainstreamed' into a regular kindergarten... and is positively thriving there.
Despite all this wonderful news and the sense of incredible euphoria and relief it has caused in our family, there are still a few lingering issues.
First of all, there are still some sensory issues that Yonah will likely have to contend with for the rest of his life. If you can picture the way an itchy tag inside the neck of a new shirt might drive you a little crazy... there will always be certain things (certain noises, touches and other stimuli) that will put Yonah on edge (to say the least) and for which he will have to find a way to soothe himself.
All kids/people have these kinds of things on a small scale, but kids with sensory issues have them in bigger doses, and have a harder time keeping them from taking over their lives.
The best way I ever heard this explained was when someone described a simple sensory stimulus as holding a glass of water out at arms length. This is something that most people can easily do for up to a minute without too much trouble. After 5 minutes the muscles start to tremble. After half an hour the pain is almost unbearable. An hour would hospitalize most people. A whole day would be unthinkable.
People with sensory issues often have to carry around such 'glasses of water' throughout their days that the rest of the world can put down after a few minutes. This is where the self-soothing comes into play... and sometimes it can just become too much.
Here's where my question comes in.
Up to this point we've noticed that, with the exception of the occasional fairly age-appropriate temper tantrums, Yonah is able to maintain exemplary behavior in public (i.e. in school, restaurants, at his grandparents, shopping, etc.), and can usually wait until he gets home to really 'melt down'.
On the one hand, this shows us that he is making conscious, mature decisions throughout his day to be on his best behavior, and to some extent has found coping mechanisms for filtering most of the stuff that bothers him. That's a good thing.
But on the other hand, it's frustrating to know that he is capable of good behavior, but see it reserved mostly for his time outside the house and with 'company'.
Given a choice, I personally would rather have things this way than have an angel at home and get reports from school, grandparents and neighbors that he is evil incarnate. But I'm curious which some of you would prefer (not that we have a choice in the matter).
The comment board is open.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
For my next trick...
Okay, you've seen my disappearing act, and judging by the emails you didn't think much of it.
I've had some foreign visitors in at work for the past few days and the combination of leaving at the crack of dawn for meetings and wining and dining late into the evening has meant precious little 'puter time. So if you think I've been neglecting my blog, think for a moment how my wife and kids must feel.
So, now that I'm back to a somewhat normal routine (plus making up all the work that piled up on my desk while I was entertaining the guests), things should pick up around here.
Thanks for checking in, and for offering words of 'encouragement'. :-)
Sunday, February 07, 2010
If you are an American and/or a Jew, there is something about meeting and being around Americans and/or Jews abroad that makes you feel immediately at home... among friends.
I have been in Israeli and American Embassies and Consulates in more than half a dozen countries around the world. In nearly every case, once I was through security and inside, I felt like I was on home soil... among acquaintances, if not friends.
In nearly every case, that is, except in the American Embassy and Consulate facilities in Israel.
Zahava and I had to visit the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem (don't get me started on the fact that the U.S doesn't have its embassy in our capital) on Friday to renew Yonah's American passport.
The security to get inside is understandably tight. Much tighter than boarding a plane for an international flight.
When you arrive, you present your proof of appointment and are allowed to go into a holding area where they search your bags, take away your cell phone (and any other electronic devices), empty your pockets and finally have you walk through a metal detector.
Once that is done you are allowed to enter. But not really.
You are only allowed into a covered courtyard which is open to the elements; not a pleasant place to wait on a rainy, windy winter day. There you wait for G-d knows what. But after 20 minutes or so we were invited inside (one at a time) to be searched again, and for our bags to be fed through an X-ray machine, and finally for another walk through a metal detector before being shown through an armored door to the inside. But not really.
At this time you are technically inside the building, but all of the people you need to see are on the other side of a reinforced concrete walls and bullet proof glass.
First you check in at one bullet proof window and give them all your paperwork. Then you take a seat and wait.
Finally you are called to another bullet proof window and have your private details squawked over a tinny speaker for everyone in the waiting room to hear. Then you are sent to buy a mailing envelope upstairs and you wait to be called to another bullet proof window where you will be quizzed on the details of your application (again over a loud tinny speaker) to make sure you are who you say you are.
Once everything has been checked and verified, you are told that your passport (or whatever you came for) will be mailed in a couple of weeks.
The interview (and your visit) is over. You leave through a different guarded door and collect your confiscated phones and assorted electronics via another bullet proof window and armored slot.
Stepping out onto the street I realized that there wasn't a single moment during the entire time I was inside that I felt like I was on U.S. soil. All of the guards I encountered were Arabs (presumably from east Jerusalem), and all of the staff inside were either Arabs or Americans, both of whom seemed to be relating to me as a foreigner.
I can't say that anyone was rude or openly hostile. On the contrary there was a distinct politeness that prevailed. But there was a certain air of unfriendliness and suspicion that surrounded the entire experience, and as I said, at no time did I feel as though I was among people with whom I shared so much as a spec of commonality.
I've had to visit other countries' Embassies to apply for visas and such, and have never felt the kind of cold distance that has been the hallmark of every visit to the U.S. facilities in Israel.
Of course, maybe it's me.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Some random political thoughts
I should really know better, but I allowed myself to be drawn into a political 'discussion' with a lefty from the center of the country this week. [face palm] I've used scare quotes around the term 'discussion' advisedly since there was very little real exchange of ideas... just broadcasting of firmly held views.
It never ceases to amaze me that such people often espouse hypocritical, and even racist views in the context of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that they would consider extremely politically incorrect, and even offensive in any other context.
For example, if I were to suggest to this person that Arabs are essentially infants, incapable of controlling their emotions and of reacting to non-violent acts they find objectionable with non-violent responses, they would call me a racist (BTW, I do not hold this view). Yet, when confronted with endless acts of Arab violence (i.e. terror), they will invariably blame only the settlers or the Israeli government for enabling/sustaining them, while excusing the Arab terror as inevitable.
Another example that comes to mind is the extreme deference shown to Arab sensibilities and claims made on the basis of their Islamic beliefs (such as the absolute and inalienable right to Jerusalem as their capital), and the lengths to which many will go to avoid giving offense to Muslims (e.g. non-Muslim female journalists wearing head-scarves when meeting with Muslim leaders or visiting Muslim areas). But claims based on Jewish texts / history are dismissed with the easy slur; 'Messianism' (and much eye-rolling), and requests to cover knees and shoulders when visiting Jewish holy places are considered offensive and antediluvian.
On an unrelated topic, I saw a great quote over at one of my regular reads which perfectly sums up Israeli politics (and likely the political landscape in most places in the world):
“If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side.”
Orson Scott Card *
* It is worth noting that Mr. Card (the source of the quote... not the site-owner of my regular read), and I see eye to eye on very little... yet I heard the ring of truth in this bit of wisdom.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
... but don't take my word for it
Some of you may recall that after my trip to Limmud in the U.K., I wrote a less-than-sunny post about my impressions of Jewish life in England.
Nearly all the commenters on that post who agreed with me were either former British Jews or had never lived there. When I pointed out that I found it odd that no Jews currently living in the U.K. had commented, several people weighed in with one or both of the following objections:
1) That as an American / Israeli I couldn't possible know what life is like for Jews living in the U.K.. I conceded this point in my post, but it shouldn't have completely invalidated the value of my observations.
2) That I was only in the UK for a week... not nearly enough time to make a valid assessment of the subject(s) about which I had written. I also admitted this point, but tempered it by pointing out that the Limmud experience offered a unique opportunity to observe an unusually large representative sampling of the U.K. Jewish community... so again, some of my opinions were not entirely unworthy.
I accepted the criticisms that had been offered and went on with my life. But deep down I was convinced that my first impressions about life for Jews in the U.K. had been largely correct... even if my observation methodology had not been exactly scientific.
Then last night a long-time treppenwitz reader (Hi Drew!) emailed me a link ot a piece entitled "The Outsiders", written by a Jewish attorney (who had represented Princess Dianna in her widely publicized divorce from Prince Charles), about his own experiences with British anti-Semitism.
Not only did his well-written essay completely support the hypotheses I had espoused in my post, but he spoke from the depths of several generations that his family had lived as Jews in the U.K.
I strongly recommend that you take a moment and go read this excellent piece.