Sunday, October 31, 2010
From nightmare to nightmare
RivkA's (A"H) funeral last night was as painful as I imagined it would be. People spoke beautifully about her as the rest of us stood around her wrapped body and wept.
I can't imagine what it must be like for a parent to have to bury a child, but IMHO, her father gave her the most moving tribute of all. After he finished telling her how much he loved her and how much he had learned from her... he concluded his eulogy by telling RivkA that even if she had not been his daughter, he would still have picked her from among strangers to be his friend.
Zahava, Ariella and I got home well after midnight from the burial, and realized that in our funk over Shabbat, we hadn't eaten very much. So we warmed up some left-over roast chicken and potato kugel, washed it down with cola, and sat around the dining room table sharing our memories of RivkA.
For the record, burying a close friend late at night, followed by the consumption of heavy, greasy food, is a sure-fire recipe for Frume Sarah nightmares (no offense intended to the excellent blogger by that name).
And when I woke up this morning, I experienced a waking nightmare in the form of the news from the Rabin memorial which was held last night.
It seems that our President, Shimon Peres, has once again forgotten that he is supposed to be the president of all Israelis... not just the president of the Labor party, Kadima and Meretz.
In an annual memorial event that is supposed to be an opportunity to encourage unity and help heal old wounds, Peres (as keynote speaker) got up and offered the following gems:
"In this square they killed Yitzhak [Rabin], they tried to kill peace...we are more determined than the enemies of peace and we will be victorious." [emphasis mine] ... “It is completely obvious that Rabin didn’t believe that a Jewish state must require discrimination against the Arab minority; or for the state to be controlled by the religious.” [emphasis mine]
In the first quote Peres willfully ignores the fact that Rabin was killed by a lone gunman... not the entire right wing of Israel's political spectrum. Then after dividing the country along political lines with his first quote, he goes on to neatly split the country again, this time along religious lines.
It was always my understanding that the president of Israel is supposed to unite the country, not dabble in party politics. But in our present state of war (what else can you call it when the only thing everyone agrees upon is the need for peace?), how dare he help the enemy by neatly dividing the country against itself?!
In his call for a two state solution as Rabin's legacy, Peres conveniently ignored the fact that in all the speeches delivered in the weeks before he was killed, Rabin made it crystal clear that he opposed the creation of a Palestinian State. When pressed to describe what he did envision for the Palestinians, Rabin used the words "something less than a state".
Every year when I make these points and ask people to remember that the religious right did not kill Rabin, somebody invariably responds that, yes, it was Yigal Amir who pulled the trigger, but that it was the violent rhetoric of the religious right which pushed him to do so. And every year I call bullsh*t on such tripe.
Ineternal Israeli political discourse - on all sides - has always been among the crudest and most disrespectful in the civilized world. Not a day goes by without words such as 'fascist' and 'nazi' being tossed around on the floor of the Knesset as ad hominem attacks on people and ideas with which the name caller disagrees. This is true of both the right and the left... religious and secular.
As president, Shimon Peres could single-handedly force a change in the tone of political discourse. But he hasn't... and he won't.
Whether Yigal Amir was influenced by such disgusting language is immaterial since it was only a matter of time before someone took such hateful words to heart.
Yesterday Shimon Peres woke up and was handed another opportunity to unite the Israeli people. But instead he decided to divide us against ourselves... reinforcing our enemies' deepest conviction that it will be far easier to conquer us than to try to make peace.
Only when Israel is led by real leaders who possess vision and a true love of all the people, will we be able to wake from our national nightmare... and emerge into the light.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Baruch Dayan HaEmet
Baruch Dayan HaEmet - Blessed is the True Judge.
This is the blessing said upon hearing the news of someone's death.
About 11:10 AM this morning (Friday), RivkA passed away.
Funeral plans are in the process, and we'll post them as soon as we know.
May RivkA's family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Please daven (or send happy thoughts) for the memory of RivkA bat Yishaya.
With love and optimism, RivkA's family
Thursday, October 28, 2010
This & That
I saw an interesting item in the news this morning. Over in the U.K. they are meticulous record keepers when it comes to family records, genealogy and such. I found this out several years ago while tracing a couple of stray branches on my own family tree back to Cardiff in Wales, and County Caven in Ireland.
Well, this penchant for meticulous record-keeping has provided an interesting factoid this morning:
According to the AFP, the most common first name given to boys born in England and Wales during the year 2009 was... no, not Oliver... not Jack... not Nigel... but rather, Muhammad.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. But it does give a hint of things to come in Merry Olde England.
On an unrelated note, a big shout out goes to my friend and fellow blogger Jameel for putting together an excellent demotivational poster inspired by the dream post I put up earlier this week. You rock!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Thoughts and Prayers
Back in the late Jurassic period when I was finishing my degree at Yeshiva University, I had a few different circles of friends which, to a very small extent, overlapped.
There were my YU friends... my musician friends... my Stern College friends (I used to go there frequently for shabbat)... and my Columbia/Barnard friends (I also spent many shabbatot there).
One of the people with whom I became very close at Barnard was a a pretty red haired girl (no, she was never one of those who bridled at not always being called a woman. She was a girl and I was a boy... and we were friends.).
I don't think we ever dated, but the two of us spent so much time together that I think many people assumed we were an item.
I have no clear recollection of when, how or why I lost touch with this charming red haired girl. More than likely it was shortly after I moved to Brooklyn... and I'm sure entirely due to my laziness about keeping up 'long-distance' friendships. Whatever the reason or timing, the end result was that by the time I had begun to work, make new friends, date, get married... this bright, energetic, pretty, red haired girl was no longer a regular part of my Brooklyn life.
Fast forward a couple of decades to a small party thrown by a fellow blogger in her apartment in Jerusalem. There, among the guests, was my old friend from Barnard... now married (with her red hair mostly concealed beneath a stylish hat), and raising a family in Jerusalem.
I don't know if we made the blog connection at that point, but we were both pleased to be back on each other's radar.
Fast forward a couple more years to an evening hosted by the high school where our daughter, Ariella, would eventually end up studying. We had been to several of these evenings for perspective students and their parents that week, and were thoroughly confused... and more than a little stressed.
There among the other parents and students was my old friend from Barnard with her husband and daughter in tow. The evening was a great success, with both families having hit it off, and also having decided that this was where we wanted to send our daughters for high school (heck, Zahava and I wanted to study there too!).
From that point on we were in touch directly... and through our daughters (who had become good friends), as well as through our respective blogs. But while we followed each other's lives via our blogs, I was less than thrilled about that aspect of our relationship. You see, my friend was, by this time, keeping a blog called 'Coffee and Chemo'; an apt description of her ongoing struggles with cancer... and of her many friends who came to drink coffee with her while she received her chemo treatments.
Anyone who has been following along with my friend RivkA's blog knows that she has had her ups and downs in her battle with cancer, but that she has remained an incredibly vibrant, positive person no matter what was being thrown at her.
The only tiny glimmer of vulnerability any of us were allowed to see, was the polite request with which she closed each of her blog posts:
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.With love and optimism, RivkA
That's it. Simple, 'tznuah'... unassuming. Typical RivkA. The way most of us might ask for a tissue or a stick of gum, RivkA was gently saying, "I'm in a fight for my life... and I believe with all my heart in the power of prayer and positive thinking. So won't you please share a little of yours with me?'.
I'm writing today because Rivka could use a few extra prayers directed her way... the more good thoughts and positive energy, the better. One of her friends posted the following last week, and I am re-posting it here for the benefit of those who might want to add their voice... and of course to benefit my friend RivkA:
As most of you know, RivkA has been hospitalized.
I would like to start an open-ended mishmeret tehillim for her. Participants would each take a chapter or chapters of tehillim to be said every day for up to 40 days. The mishmeret will start tomorrow (to give people time to sign up). Please forward this email!
Participants say 'bli neder I will say these tehillim every day as a zechut for a refua shleima for "RivkA bat Tirzel" and say their tehillim, the same chapters, every day.
It's recommended that you have a buddy, in case you cannot say your chapters or in case you forget.
Every day I will, bli neder, say the traditional prayer before reciting tehillim in the morning, and the prayer up on completion every night.
If, be'H, we can keep going after 40 days, we'll create a new page.
Please click this link and choose your tehillim.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
You can't make this stuff up!
Bet you didn't know that a swollen left middle finger is a tell-tale symptom of a 'hot' appendix in need of immediate surgical removal. I also bet you didn't know that if the end of that swollen middle digit is tingling, it means the appendix is about to rupture.
None of this is remotely true, by the way, and has no basis whatsoever in medical fact. It is simply the latest load of crap that my subconscious mind decided to try to sell me in my sleep last night.
Apparently I was buying.
I dreamt that I went to the doctor for a swollen middle finger, and almost immediately found myself being stripped down and prepped for an emergency appendectomy right there in the doctor's waiting room.
This was one of those nightmares where my mouth wouldn't work correctly, and I couldn't get people to stand still long enough to listen to me while I tried to tell them that I had no symptoms of appendicitis; no abdominal pain, no nausea... nothing. Just a seemingly unrelated swollen finger that had started tingling ominously.
[picture the mute, half-naked, patient... waving 'the finger' in the face of everyone who passes by!]
Eerily, even though the first incision seemed imminent, nobody was making any preparations to put me under. For all the world it looked like they were going to start cutting while I was still fully awake!
I tried desperately to get the doctor's attention, but he was busy deciding between two comically large scalpels. And the receptionist, who looked like the female football coach on Glee, just kept swabbing my belly endlessly with enormous cotton balls dripping with some yellowish iodine-based antiseptic.
And then I woke up and looked at the clock. It was 4:30 AM and the partially numb middle finger of my left hand was stuck between the pillow and the headboard, and our idiot Labrador mix, Lulu, was standing on our bed, licking my stomach.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
When the mercenary media perceives a kindred spirit
A few friends have tried to draw me into discussing issues surrounding the U.S. mid-term elections, and I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I have had to shrug and sit quietly on the sidelines. You see, not only do I not understand most of the core issues, but I am completely baffled by the vocabulary being used to discuss the issues.
I'm sure part of my confusion can be blamed on the fact that I've been away for so long. But I can't help but feel that people with a vested interested in having the public remain fuzzy on the issues are quite pleased with the obfuscating affect that their 'newspeak' has on public debate.
A good example of this is the term 'contractor' which has been all over the news recently.
I don't know about you, but when I see the term 'contractor', I think of a stubbly-faced guy in a plaid flannel shirt and hard hat who you hire to arrange for cement guys, framers, brick masons, electricians, sheet-rockers, roofers, painters, etc., to rotate through a job-site until the dust settles to reveal a new house. Doing some home improvement or adding on? The same guy and his crews will do the heavy lifting... you just write the checks.
But when I was reading an article in the Times over the weekend about 'Contractors' in Iraq and Afghanistan... I have to admit I was completely baffled. I couldn't understand how a bunch of guys who were hired to build stuff could be blamed for the ongoing chaos and bedlam holding sway in those places.
And then I started noticing that the word 'contractor' was frequently used interchangeably with the term 'Private Security Firm'... and I got even more confused.
Private security firms are rent-a-cops. They're the guys you see at shopping malls and universities. They have barely enough authority to hold a shoplifter or a rowdy teenager until the real cops arrive, so what the hell would a 'Private Security Firm' be doing in a war zone?
As I read more it finally dawned on me. 'Contractors' and 'Private Security Firms' are the current newspeak for 'mercenaries'.
Think I'm wrong?
Here's a working deinition of a mercenary:
A mercenary is a person who takes part in an armed conflict, who is not a national or a party to the conflict, and is "motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party". [the quoted text above is taken directly from Protocol I of the Geneva Convention]
According to the Times article, the U.S., U.K. and many other countries have (pretty much from the start) supplemented their armed presence in Iraq and Afghanistan with huge numbers of mercenaries; far more, in fact than their official military deployments.
What's worse, even though they are paying these mercenaries, the coalition governments and their official military forces have absolutely no control over the actions of these so-called 'contractors'. There is absolutely no enforcement of rules of engagement, no chain of command, and most importantly, no consequences for the countless atrocities that, if committed by one of the official uniformed forces, would quite correctly be labeled war crimes.
After reading about how these so-called 'contractors' had been allowed by the U.S. and U.K. (and their other coalition partners), to ride around Iraq and Afghanistan as an authority unto themselves, gunning down civilians and even killing members of the coalitions forces, all the while getting paid far more then even the most senior of the official military forces (see the definition above)... my blood began to boil.
How dare the American and European governments sit in judgement of Israel's military?
How dare they hire mercenaries and allow them to commit the most unspeakable war crimes... and then hold us responsible for the regrettable-but-justifiable civilian casualties in our defensive military operations?
How dare they lecture us about safeguarding civilians when they deploy unaccountable mercenaries in civilian areas who routinely shoot first and ask questions later (if at all).
The media may be willing to play along with the governments and avoid the distasteful term 'mercenary' in favor of the more polite 'Contractors' and 'Private Security Firms'. But that kind of window-dressing doesn't change the terrible facts on the ground or hide the hypocrisy.
If the US and European electorates/media aren't willing to hold their own governments responsible for countless honest-to-goodness war crimes being committed by their hired mercenaries, they had better get used to having us call bullsh*t on their kneejerk condemnations of the Israeli government and the the IDF.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
The Vespa Cowboy Rides Again
Those who read this previous post may recall that a Vespa is not entirely useless as a mule wrangling accessory. Well, I'm here today to tell you that it's not a bad shepherding tool either.
This morning on my way to work I passed the hapless teenaged Bedouin shepherd from that previous adventure... once again chasing after his donkey. This time I arrived on the scene right after the donkey had bolted (he was still in sight), and simply shook my head at the kid's misfortune. Either he was the worst shepherd in the history of the trade, or he had one of the more willful donkeys.
Unfortunately, I couldn't offer much assistance in rounding up the wayward jackass this time because instead of running off down the newly paved roadway (as he'd done last time), the donkey had instead headed up the rocky hillside to my right, following the track made in the soil by the run-off of last winter's rain, and the shepherd had run off after him
I probably wouldn't have stopped at all this time, but as I approached the scene of the escape, I couldn't help but notice that his large flock of sheep and goats was amiably wandering into the roadway, forcing me to swerve onto the opposite side of the smooth, two-lane blacktop in order to avoid hitting any of them.
Luckily I wasn't going very fast, and at that early hour there was no other traffic coming in either direction, so I was really more annoyed than alarmed at the woolly incursion into my lane. But as I slowly putt-putted over the center line to avoid the animals, I noticed something neat. Rather than getting spooked and bolting in all directions at the sight/sound of the scooter as I expected they'd do, they started moving in unison back out of the roadway just as casually as they had wandered into it.
I don't have much experiencing estimating the size of flocks, but I'd have to guess there were at least 50 animals in the mixed mass of shuffling, bleating (and smelly) sheep and goats. And as I slowly passed them, they moved agreeably back onto the shoulder just as smoothly as if an unseen hand had straightened out the edge of the flock to match the line of the dirt and gravel shoulder.
Glancing in my mirror I was so impressed with the effect of my passing that I had to stop and look around to see if the teen-aged shepherd had seen my nifty little trick. He hadn't. He'd just caught up with his donkey and was busy screaming Arabic obscenities at it and pulling it (none-too gently) back down the hillside by its head-rope.
I was a little disappointed that he hadn't seen me use my scoot to guide his flock back out of the roadway. But it wasn't like I'd discovered cold-fusion or anything... so I did a mental shrug and got ready to head on towards work.
Unfortunately, as I peeked back to ensure nobody was coming before pulling out, I saw that the flock was once again starting to swell into the roadway... and a couple of cars had come into view maybe a half kilometer behind me down the road. Seeing that the shepherd was not going to make it back in time to chase his charges out of the roadway, I turned around and slowly putt-putted back the way I'd come, hoping that it would have the same effect on the flock as before.
It worked like a charm. It was almost magical the way they flowed easily out of my way and back onto the shoulder. My children should be so manageable!
For the next ten minutes or so, I cruised slowly back and forth next to the flock, using the proximity of my shiny red Vespa to 'push' the woolly tide back onto the gravel whenever it started to flow onto the blacktop.
No other cars came by during that time, so strictly speaking, my mad herding skillz weren't essential to the occasion. But it was a little bit of an addictive power trip to be able to control all those animals so effortlessly with just my slow passage back and forth.
When the shepherd and his donkey finally made it back, he show me up with an even neater trick:
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of tiny pebbles which he proceeded to toss, one at a time, just beyond the periphery of the swelling flock. As each pebble landed with a soft' pop', the animals instinctively crowded together and moved back towards where he was standing. With only four or five of these casual tosses, he was able to re-establish control of the entire flock and start the whole group moving up the hillside and away from the road.
After seeing how effortlessly he was able to exert control over the animals, I felt a little less proud of my own herding chops. But I was still pleased to have added something to my scootering repertoire that few others have experienced.
Sadly, as I pulled away to continue my commute, my rear tire fish-tailed a little in some of the copious sheep and goat droppings scattered in the roadway, and for a horrible moment I thought I was going to lose control. Wouldn't that have been a hoot... in the course of trying to do my good deed for the day, I'd end up laying my scoot down in a humiliating glissando of sheep sh*t?
But almost instantly the rear wheel chirped back into traction and I headed off down the road in that stiff-necked, self-conscious manner familiar to anyone who has ever stumbled embarrassingly in a public place.
Oh well... just another chapter in the continuing saga of the Vespa Cowboy.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Someone once told me that if I got together with everyone I know, and we all threw our troubles into a big pile, giving everyone a chance to exchange their problems for someone else's... that after a quick glance at some of the horrors lying there on the ground, I'd happily take my own troubles back.
I didn't fully understand that parable until today.
[Yes, this is the second time I've used this post title. A similar gut punch inspired the first one.]
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Discussing two of the big three no-nos
There are three things which the rules of polite discourse dictate we refrain from discussing in a public setting: Religion, Sex and Money. Bring up any of these at a dinner party, and someone is likely to feel threatened.
Consider this fair warning that I'm going to violate two of these taboos today. So if you are the type who makes a show of being offended at dinner parties when one of these topics is raised, maybe this would be a good day to find your entertainment elsewhere.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a well known, somewhat controversial personality in the Orthodox Rabbinic world. The L.A. born Hassidic Rabbi is considered by some to be a star-struck publicity seeker, and by others to be a voice of reason and conciliation who chooses to reside in the glare of the spotlights where the disparate worlds of Hollywood and observant Judaism collide.
Personally, I don't know enough about him to decide who or what he is. I only know that he has made a name for himself publicly tackling topics that few other members of the rabbinate feel comfortable discussing in anything but the most private setting. Case in point is one of his books entitled 'Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy'; not the title or subject matter one would expect in a literary offering from a Hassidic Rabbi.
I don't want to talk specifically about Rabbi Boteach today, so much as I want to draw your attention to an essay he recently published in which he discusses homosexuality and religious observance.
This is not his first foray into these turbulent waters, but it is (IMHO) one of his most admirable offerings on the topic. Here are a few of what I consider to be the high points:
"People of faith insist that homosexuality is the most serious of sins because the Bible calls it an abomination.
But the word [abomination] appears approximately 122 times in the Bible. Eating nonkosher food is an abomination (Deuteronomy 14:3). A woman returning to her first husband after being married in the interim is an abomination (Deut. 24:4). And bringing a blemished sacrifice on God’s altar is an abomination (Deut. 17:1.). Proverbs goes so far as to label envy, lying and gossip as that which “the Lord hates and are an abomination to Him” (3:32, 16:22).
As an Orthodox rabbi who reveres the Bible, I do not deny the biblical prohibition on male same-sex relationships. Rather, I simply place it in context.
There are 613 commandments in the Torah. One is to refrain from gay sex. Another is for men and women to marry and have children. So when Jewish gay couples come to me for counselling and tell me they have never been attracted to the opposite sex in their entire lives and are desperately alone, I tell them, “You have 611 commandments left. That should keep you busy. Now, go create a kosher home with a mezuza on the door. Turn off the TV on the Sabbath and share your festive meal with many guests. Put on tefillin and pray to God three times a day, for you are His beloved children. He desires you and seeks you out.”
And he's just getting started at that point!
Personally, I have never been even slightly tempted to 'take a few swings for the other team'. But by chance or Design, my life has bumped up against this issue almost constantly.
To mention just two instances; a former housemate and one of the most profound influences on my life's trajectory, turned out to be gay (I didn't realize it at the time), and one of my siblings revealed to me (a few years before I was equipped to process the news) that she was a lesbian.
In his essay, Rabbi Boteach was able to articulate something that has puzzled me for years. Whenever I hear about people protesting gay parades, gay marriage and such, who wouldn't dream of protesting any of the other Biblical violations which fill the world with injustice, violence and even death, I have to wonder why. Why this one sin? What is it about homosexuality that forces people to shake of an apathy that survives just about any other insult? With our limited time and means, why do so many ignore the wide spectrum of terrible things in the world, and yet set aside time and money to tilt at this particular rainbow?
In the essay Rabbi Boteach goes on to write:
"Once, I said to my friend Pat Robertson, whom I have always found engaging and open in our conversations, “Why can’t you simply announce to all gay men and women, ‘Come to church. Whatever relationship you’re in, God wants you to pray. He wants you to give charity. He wants you to lead a godly life.”
He answered to the effect that homosexuality is too important to overlook, seeing as it poses the most grave risk to the institution of marriage. Other Evangelical leaders have told me the same. Homosexuality is the single greatest threat to the family.
But with one of two heterosexual marriages failing, with 70 percent of the Internet dedicated to the degradation of women through pornography and with a culture that is materially insatiable even as it remains all-too spiritually content, can we straight people say with a straight face that gays are ruining our families? We’ve done a mighty fine job of it ourselves."
Aside from the fact that I find Rabbi Boteach to be a shameless name-dropper (ok, who in Hollywood isn't?), I find it hard to find fault with what he writes.
I encourage you to go read the whole essay, and to do so with as open a mind as you can manage. We all have our baggage and prejudices, many of which have served us well and allowed us to survive in our chosen environments.
You want to take offense at what he writes? Feel free. Respond with a well-reasoned rebuttal? By all means.
But just this once, in the privacy and safety of your home or office, read about these two of the big three taboo topics without feeling threatened. He isn't asking you to encourage your kids to go gay, or change anything about yourself... other than your perception of what is truly worthy of protest.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Smile! OK, see everyone in, say 65 years?
Yes. I you read that correctly. I actually used the words 'fascinating' and 'wedding tips' together in a grammatically correct sentence where absolutely no mocking was implied.
Hey, if I managd to read through all of Mighty Girl's wedding tips, they hadto be fascinating, since Zahava can attest that during our engagement (in the late Cretaceous era) I once asked her, "Um, what do you want me to wear, and should I show up milchig or fleishig?". *
That said, the first item in Maggie's latest list of tips to the would-be bride and groom for their big day is maybe only fascinating to those with a darker sense of humor:
"Take a group photo. Nearly all the people you love are here, in one place. This isn’t likely to happen again until your funeral."
Ouch. Talk about your buzz kill.
* Observant Jews wait several hours between consuming meat and milk products, so it is often necessary to plan ahead. For instance, one wouldn't want to show up for a festive dairy meal at, say, one's own wedding... only to not be able to partake due to having recently eaten meat.
It turns out I shouldn't have been concerned about this since we didn't get to eat at our wedding. My grandmother (A"H) snuck her dog into the reception in her purse and fed our meals to it. You can't make this stuff up.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Goodnight Mrs. Cleaver... and thank you!
Having been born during the Kennedy administration and raised on a steady diet of that era's TV fare, I think it is safe to say that I saw pretty much every episode of Leave It To Beaver... most of them multiple times in re-runs.
Some people make the mistake of criticizing that show for setting an impossibly high bar for parents through the characters of Ward and June Cleaver. But such criticism misses the entire premise of the show.
Leave It To Beaver was a children's show meant to portray family life from the vantage point of the children. Even a more mature viewer is supposed to consider the show's plot from the perspective of a seven (almost eight) year old.
Think about the fact that the audience is never shown any of the things which would (and should) normally be opaque to a child such as the relationship between the parents and the family's standing in the community.
Granted, the mores of the late '50s and early '60s would have precluded even the most chaste glimpse into the master bedroom of the Cleaver home. But to explain why the viewer was given only the vaguest sense of what Ward did for a living, what the family finances were like or the kind of friendships/relationships Ward & June had with their friends and family, one must accept that such things barely register in the navel-gazing worldview of a child.
Viewed objectively, not only were the Cleaver parents not perfect, but their kids had some pretty significant challenges to overcome as well:
For instance, Theodore 'Beaver' Cleaver was constantly getting into low-grade trouble, making bad judgement calls, and seemed to fall in with friends who were less than optimal influences. Not only that, but throughout the series he seemed a bit rudderless for a boy whose parent's moral compass always seemed to point due north.
Wally Cleaver (Beaver's older brother) was a good kid who was popular and reasonably successful in school and sports. But his choice in friends was even more questionable than Beaver's (most notably with the smarmy Eddie Haskell and obnoxious Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford). And if Ward & June were as wise and omniscient as many were led to believe, why was Wally forced to constantly act as translator/mediator between them and 'The Beaver'?
Yes, I'm sure many parents of that era - especially mothers - experienced a crisis of self-confidence if they made the mistake of using Ward & June as the benchmark against which their own performance as 'grown-ups' was measured. After all, the Cleaver house was always spotless, voices were never raised, mom cooked and even gardened in elegant dresses and pearls, and dad was of an impossibly even temperament that wouldn't be seen again until Fred Rogers arrived on TV sets a few years later.
But if you ask the typical seven year old to describe their homelife, it will sound similarly idylic... for the simple reason that they have little or no reference point or basis for comparison other than their own parents.
The way the viewer perceived Ward and June, along with the household they kept, was just that; a perception. It was intended to offer the perspective of the children; those in the Cleaver household, as well as those following along in family rooms and dens across the country.
The grown-ups who watched the show were expected to understand the trick of perspective being employed... but often missed this important point.
I don't know if my parents ever tried to hold themselves up to the standards set by Ward and June Cleaver. For their sake I hope not, because no parent could possibly live up to the way Wally and the Beaver perceived their home and family life (which is how the show was presented).
But as a child, I can say without hesitation that my parents kept me as blissfully insulated from real world worries and cares as Ward and June, and my memories of childhood were as filled with fun, cookies and milk as anything I saw on TV.
But the most important gift I received from June Cleaver and her television husband was that I went to bed throughout my childhood confident and reassured that all parents - on and off the small screen - love their children unconditionally; in spite of our weaknesses and failings of character. Kids are never perfect... but a parents love always is.
If I manage to make my own children feel this way, I will consider myself a successful father.
With the passing yesterday of Barbara Billingsley, the actress who played June Cleaver, I felt the need to offer my thanks today for that important lesson which is sorely lacking form any of today's chidren TV.
Goodnight Mrs. Cleaver... and thank you.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
[updated] A question of allegiance.. and of common sense
A 'loyalty oath' bill has recently passed an important hurdle in the Knesset on its way to becoming a law. Naturally, MKs of the Arab parties in the Knesset lost no time in losing their collective minds over the matter.
How dare the Israeli government demand that people becoming citizens declare an oath of loyalty?! After all, by word and deed, many of these same Arab MKs have demonstrated that they consider it their Allah-given right to be actively disloyal to the State of Israel while benefiting from its protections and largess.
Personally, I think the loyalty oath law could be written in a more universal and inclusive way so as to make it less potentially offensive to the Arabs.
For instance, as currently written, only those becoming citizens outside the framework of the Law of Return(i.e. non-Jews) would be required to take a loyalty oath. The assumption being that Jews making aliyah under the law of return are somehow already making a defacto pledge of loyalty. This assumption is flawed for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that there is currently no shortage of Jews around the world who are openly antagonistic to the goals and existence of the Jewish State.
So as far as I can see, there would be no downside to making the loyalty oath compulsary for all new citizens, not just non-Jews.
Also, I see no added value in including the idea of swearing allegiance to Israel as a Jewish State, since the Jewish nature of Israel is already embedded in the nation's laws. So by swearing to uphold the laws of the land you are already recognizing the state as a Jewish one.
[side note: The same can be said about this nonsense of demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State. All we should demand is that they recognizee the State of Israel. Once they do so, all that matters is how we define ourselves.]
But hey... those are just some of the many reasons I'm not in the Knesset.
But getting back to the Arab opposition to the very concept of a loyalty oath, what is confusing to me is the way the issue is presented in the media. To a casual, uninformed reader, it would appear that Israel is preparing to impose a fascist policy that is antithetical to modern democracies... as if no other country in the progressive western world requires such an oath. Hmmmmmm.
U.S. Oath of allegiance made by all naturalized citizens:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God
U.K. oath of allegiance taken by naturalized citizens
I _____ swear by Almighty God [alternate: do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm] that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law. I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.
[Note: The same oath is given in Canada with the exception that one may opt to say it in badly pronounced French]
Norwegian Oath of allegiance (translated)
As a citizen of Norway I pledge loyalty to my country Norway and to the Norwegian society, and I support democracy and human rights and will respect the laws of the country.
Australian Pledge of Commitment
From this time forward, under God,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.
I could go on, but you get the point. You want to sleep warm and comfy under the blanket of a country's laws and protections? You must swear to uphold and abide by those laws, and to be a loyal citizen.
But in the end, all this talk of oath-taking comes down to the central issue of what value the oath taker places on his/her 'word'. This was most recently highlighted in the sentencing of Times Square bomber Feisal Shahzad last week:
While speaking to the court about how how Islam would ultimately conquer the west, Shahzad was interrupted by the jusge who asked him if he had sworn allegiance to the U.S. when he became a naturalized citizen the previous year.
Shahzad responded, "I did swear, but I did not mean it".
And therein lies the problem of demanding that Muslims take an oath of loyalty (or of any sort, for that matter). According to Islam, a Muslim may tell a lie anytime that they perceive that their own well-being, or the well-being of Islam, is threatened. There is an excellent discussion of the status of lies and lying in Islamic law here that our lawmakers would do well to read.
In another recent trial of a Muslim accused of terrorism - this one in Virginia - the prosecutor made the following statement to the jury:
"The Qur'an says that "any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief - except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith - but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty" (16:106). So those who utter unbelief under compulsion are exempt from the dreadful penalty. How can someone who believes this be expected to honor an oath to tell the truth on the witness stand, when to do so could put him in jeopardy?"
Apparently the jury agreed, because the defendant was convicted [source]
This all comes down to something called 'Hudaibiya' which is the concept that gives Muslims the right - even the obligation - to lie to infidels.
The word 'Hudaibiya' itself refers to a truce Mohammad made with a certain Jewish tribe of Banu Quraizah, wherein Mohammad ordered Muslims to lie to the Jews and say they renounced Islam so they could infiltrate as spies, and setup an ambush to break the truce.
[Here is the source for that quoteas well as the history behind the practice of "Hudaibiya".]
Bottom line, IMHO, arguing over the implementation of a loyalty oath is an exercise in futility much like arguing over how many fairies can dance on the head of a pin... for the simple reason that it presupposes that fairies actually exist.
BTW, lest anyone think I'm simply a bigot, I hold no illusions about the oaths given and taken by non-Muslims either. In most legal systems witnesses and defendants are required to take an oath to tell the truth. Some systems provide protections against self incrimination under oath, but even that is a flimsy shield to hide behind since it reveals nearly as much as it obscures.
But in practice, most guilty people (and those with their own agenda and/or ulterior motive) lie under oath in order to achieve their own aims. And one would have to admit that there is little downside to doing so.
If you are acquitted based on perjured testimony, you still get to to go free. And if you are convicted, the court is unlikely to go to the time and expense of charging you with the additional count of perjury when they presumably have you on something more serious.
So where do I stand on all this oath-taking, finger-crossing, etc.?
I believe that all citizens of Israel - Jews and non-Jes alike... particularly those aspiring to hold public office - should be required to take a loyalty oath similar to those taken in the UK, US and other western democracies.
Does it matter whether those taking these oaths actually mean it? Of course not. But, it does give some teeth to the treason laws if/when, by word or deed, a citizen of the State of Israel is found to be acting against the interests and/or security of the State.
Now you say something.
Update: My friend Lynn, the owner and operator of the excellent 'In Context' blog offered the following correction (which I deeply appreciate):
First, greetings and best wishes.
And now a respectful correction. There is no "concept" or "practice" in Islam known as "Hudaibiya." That Live Leak page you link to is repeating a fallacy which has somehow started spreading on the internet that confuses the invocation of the Treaty of Hudaibiya (which it more or less correctly describes), with the concept and practice of "taqiyya," which refers to permissible or obligatory deception in the service of Islam. The latter is also the concept that was referred to (but mentioned by name only in the comments) in the Jihad Watch article you linked to. Robert Spencer has, however, posted a great deal specifically about the practice of taqiyya (here, for example), the existence of which, consistent with its own precept, is often denied by those who practice it.
There's also an excellent article about it here.
As for the Treaty of Hudaibiya and its use by Israel's enemies, Daniel Pipes published this fine exposition about it more than a decade ago. Again, it is often invoked as a sort of code, as it was by Arafat, to indicate to the Muslim audience that the words of "peace" one is speaking to a non-Muslim audience are only a matter of delay and deception.
In summary, it would probably be correct to say that the invocation of the Treaty of Hubaibiya is often used as a tool in the practice of taqiyya. But they are not and do not refer to the same thing. I hope this is helpful.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Back in the days when I spent my commute time safely ensconced inside a car, seeing a driver in front of me veer left... and then suddenly turn right was an annoyance. A potentially dangerous annoyance to be sure, but an annoyance just the same.
Now that I spend most of my time on two wheels and am required to be semi-clairvoyant in order to avoid being offed by driver stupidity, the whole 'farmer turn' thing has me at my wits end.
Trying to get past someone who has slowed down to a crawl and has performed the vehicular equivalent of a head fake is going to be the end of me. If the farmer turns themselves don't kill me, the resulting heart attack from seeing a car turning back in front of me as I accelerate into the recently vacated lane, will!
People, you are not towing a combine harvester with a John Deere tractor. You are driving a car. You do not need to swerve left in order to turn right (or vice versa).
That is all.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Some deals that seem too good to be true... aren't
One of the advertisers over there in my sidebar called Jerusalem 1st Class Phones (JFC Phones)recently started running an ad for a 'free phone', which, to my ears, sounded a little too good to be true.
So I got in touch with the ad coordinator, and it turns out it's actually on the up-and-up. Given that I thought it might be too good to be true... it stands to reason that others might feel the same way.
So let me put your minds at ease.
Here's how it works: If you plan on flying to Israel over the next month or so, and you would like the convenience of having an Israeli cell phone when you land (it is yours to keep... not a loaner!), then
1) The phone is free if you fly El Al from the US.
2) El Al Business and 1st Class get 1 phone per seat. Economy passengers get 1 phone per 2 seats purchased.
3) A second phone can be bought from El Al for $50 via your travel agent while the deal is being offered.
4) If you aren't flying El Al, a phone can be still bought directly from the company for $100, less a $25 discount (coupon on the landing page when you click on the ad) which ends up as $75 (for those of you who can't do higher math).
5) The phones come with 60 minutes of talk time. After that you can buy minutes at the prevailing rates.
6) The rates themselves are relatively cheap for a prepaid phone.
7) Offer ends sometime before the end of November, or whenever supplies run out. Of course, El Al may decide to extend it depending on the response. But do you really want to be the 'freyer' (sucker) who missed out because you waited too long?
What are you waiting for?
Sunday, October 10, 2010
What would you have done? [updated]
You buckle your young son into your car and drive away from your home to run the kind of errands that pretty much every parent on the planet runs as a part of their regular schedule of responsibilities.
As you are coming down a hill near your home, you round a corner and find the road blocked by a large group of masked teenagers who begin pelting your car with stones as soon as they spot you.
In a peripheral part of your brain you note that there are nearly as many video and still photographers as there are stone throwers... and even though these media personnel are 'adults', they are too busy recording the attack on you to exert any influence over the stone throwers or prevent their actions.
[In retrospect you realize that the presence of the photographers is likely an encouragement to the attack, or perhaps even the primary reason for it, but that dawns on you only much later when you are in police custody.]
In an instant several instincts begin fighting for control of the situation:
1. Your instincts as an experienced, licensed driver dictate that you must avoid hitting pedestrians at any cost. So upon seeing the road blocked with living, breathing people, you swerve towards the sidewalk.
2. Your Parental instincts trigger your fight or flight reflex and almost as soon as you swerve towards the sidewalk, you realize that once you hit the curb you will be trapped and will become an easy target for the stone throwers. Your only hope lies in keeping the car in motion and getting past the attackers... so you swerve back towards the center of the road and gun the engine.
3. The act of trying to escape the attack brings your car into violent contact with one of the attackers, and the impact throws him up over the hood of your car... and onto the ground. The experienced driver in you again cries out that this is one of the worst sins a driver can commit, and your foot goes from gas to brake.
4. Almost instantly the sound of rocks on your vehicle goes from a clatter to a roar as your semi-stationary vehicle becomes an easy target. Glass begins to break as the attackers find their range. Even though your mind still registers the teen you have hit as a pedestrian, your foot now goes back to the gas as you realize that any moment one of the softball-sized rocks will find your head, or the head of your son... at best injuring one or both of you. And at worst... well the mind can't abide that.
5. After you pull clear of the crowd of rock throwers and are out of range, your mind pops back out of the rabbit hole into which it had fallen and begins to wrestle again with the idea of the pedestrian who moments ago was sprawled across your hood and windshield. In the pantheon of driving infractions, the only sin as grave as hitting someone is leaving the scene of the accident. But the injured teen's accomplices are moving towards you again, yelling and gesturing threateningly with the rocks they have in their hands. In a moment they will certainly resume the attack... so you pull away.
As you do so you do a mental check of your own status and that of your son. Have we been hit? Did any of the broken glass cut us? Is the car still functional enough to take us to safety? Are there more attackers up ahead?!
After these immediate issues are resolved you report the incident to the police (as it has surely been reported by others) and in short order you find yourself in police custody... unsure of where you stand in the eyes of the law.
While this is exactly the kind of thought problem that many Israelis go through in preparation for driving anywhere near Arab populations, what I've written here is not some hypothetical scenario. It actually happened exactly as I've described it.
Want to see for yourself? Here is how it played out (courtesy of one of the media cameramen who was at the scene in Jerusalem's City of David neighborhood):
So I ask you; after reading this post and viewing the video... and given that you have the benefit of unlimited hindsight and time to ponder all the variables... what would you have done?
Afterthought: It occurs to me that many people reading this will have no idea about the status of the East Jerusalem Arabs who perpetrated this attack. Therefore I offer the following, plus a link to a source of not-entirely biased information:
"Following the 1967 war, Israel conducted a census in East Jerusalem and granted permanent Israeli residency to those Arab Jerusalemites present at the time of the census. Those not present lost the right to reside in Jerusalem. Jerusalem Palestinians were permitted to apply for Israeli citizenship [emphasis mine], provided they met the requirements for naturalization such as swearing allegiance to Israel and renouncing all other citizenships which most of them refused to do. At the end of 2005, 93% of the Arab population of East Jerusalem had permanent residency and 5% had Israeli citizenship.
As residents, East Jerusalemites rejecting Israeli citizenship have the right to vote in municipal elections and play a role in the administration of the city. Residents pay taxes, and following a 1988 Israeli Supreme Court ruling, East Jerusalem residents are guaranteed the right to social security benefits and state health care.[emphasis mine]" [source]
Of course, just to prove that there is always another way to view just about any incident, here is a decidedly different conclusion drawn from the same set of facts I presented. I guess it all depends on your agenda.
Thursday, October 07, 2010
An apology and a thank you
First of all, my apologies to anyone using Google Reader or the Google Chrome browser who received the following scary warning when trying to access my blog over the past few weeks.
Apparently there is some suspicious malware embedded somewhere in the blogrolling link I had in my sidebar (the one that listed all the other blogs), which was triggering the warning message.
I'd also like to thank the many people who emailed me to let me know about the problem. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to say/do nothing and click over to the next site on your daily reading list.
I really appreciate that you took the time to tell me about the problem.
For the time being I've deleted the blogroll from my site in hopes that doing so will resolve the problem. In truth, more than half of the blogs listed on that old blogroll were abandoned flotsam, adrift on the oily waters of the interwebs. But because of all the fond memories I have of those sites in their heyday, I couldn't bring myself to delete them.
I guess I'll have to rebuild my blogroll from scratch using a different tool, one of these days... one that won't trigger dire warnings of a coming apocalypse on your hard drive.
Thanks again, and sorry for the scare.
[An afterthought: Needless to say, if anyone still gets the warning message when they access treppenwitz, please leave a comment on this post and let me know.]
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Rapidly shifting priorities
Have you ever been driving the speed limit in a nice new car, on a nice smooth highway, behind a big truck loaded with gravel... only to notice too late that here and there small pebbles are leaking from the bed of the truck, and bouncing in loooooong, aaaaaaarching leaps and bounds... towards you?
If so, you've probably gone through the series of panicked calculations... 'Can I change lanes in time to get out of the way without running into someone else?'... 'Will that pebble bounce over me or will it ding my car?'... 'Oh sh*t, will it hit my windshield?!'
Like a gunshot, you suddenly have a nice shiny asterisk in the middle of your windshield. And over the next few days, shiny lines begin to spread from the starred glass and form a network of cracks across the entire piece of double-laminated glass.
Well, picture that scenario, exactly as I've described it; smooth highway, speed limit, gravel truck, bouncing pebbles, and you following blithely behind... on a shiny new scooter.
In the blink of an eye you go from, "Oh sh*t, I hope that rock doesn't bounce up and hit my shiny new scooter", to "Oh sh*t, I hope that rock doesn't bounce up and hit my Helmet's face shield", ... and finally to [*THWACK*} "Ouch! Sh*t, I wish it had hit my scooter or my helmet instead of my shoulder!"
Amazing how fast your priorities can change.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Um... thanks for the advice.
Every once in awhile I get a little cocky about how computer savvy I am, and the Powers that be decide I need to be slapped down a few notches... you know, taught some humility.
Nothing teaches humility like using the 'cut' or 'copy' command to place a huge chunk of richly formatted text onto your computer's clipboard in preparation for pasting it somewhere else in a few minutes... only to get momentarily distracted during the intervening few minutes and accidentally copy something else (usually something inconsequential) onto the clipboard; effectively wiping out the previously saved clipboard data.
Yes, I know there are plenty of utilities I can buy or download for free that will allow me to save multiple items to the clipboard and have access to the clipboard history whenever I do something bone-headed like this. But that only works if I actually buy or download one and install it on my computer.
After getting slapped down again this morning, I went and did a desperate search on the web to see if anyone had some nifty trick for gaining access to items that had been overwritten on the clipboard.
Needless to say almost all of the answers to such inquiries were of the , "No, sorry... you're out of luck. It won't help you this time, but you should download a free utility called... ", variety.
But my favorite reply to the question went as follows:
"Oh that's simple. Just get into your time machine and set the destination dials for right before you did the 2nd cut/copy command."
Nice to know I'm not the only giver.
Monday, October 04, 2010
One of the primary tasks of a competent parent is to embarrass his/her children at regular intervals. Such embarrassment can come in many forms, including (but not limited to):
- kissing them in public
- describing their childhood exploits to strangers
- showing pictures of them as babies (preferably in the bathtub)
- attempting to use teen slang in a public setting
- acknowledging their existence at the mall
You get the idea.
But for raw blockbuster mortification potential, almost nothing beats having dad walk around the house (or worse, in public!) wearing a skirt.
It all started way back in the early eighties while I was in the Navy, when I spent some time in Berbera Somalia at the height of a blistering summer heat wave.
While my shipmates and I sweated through our clothing and could barely drink enough bottled water to keep up with the loss of body fluids, the local men were walking around cool as cucumbers wearing tattered tee-shirts and light, wrap around cotton man-skirts.
[ed note: The Somali women were bundled in impossibly hot clothing so I have no idea how they survive the summers. Maybe they don't.]
I immediately bought a couple of these sarong-like man-skirts, and aaaaahhhhh... from that point on I was hooked on the idea of airing out my 'junk' when the weather turned hot.
The problem is, outside of Africa and Asia, a man can't really get away with wearing a skirt (unless he is Scottish, of course). A speedo yes. But a skirt? No. Go figure!
Anyway, a few years ago I stumbled on a casual adaptation of the scottish kilt called the Utilikilt:
This seemed to be the perfect solution. A casual summer-time clothing option that offered unlimited ventilation to 'the crew', but which didn't scream "ah-five-six-seven-eight... look at me as a go swish!" to passers-by. I think I wrote about it here.
Sadly, I'm not nearly brave enough to be a trend-setter, and no matter how tempting those ulitlikilts might be, unless they became ubiquitous, there was no way I was buying one, much less venturing out in one.
Then I started traveling to India frequently for business. And once again I was confronted with sweltering hot weather, and a native population of sensible skirt-wearing men. In their case it was called either a Lungi or a Dhoti (depending on color, length and style of wrapping it).
This past July I traveled to the southern India state of Tamil Nadu, and found myself looking longingly at the cool, dry men walking around in their Lungis and Dhotis, while I sweated through three or four changes of western clothes per day. After a particularly scorching afternoon I finally went to the local shopping district and bought myself a few Lungis.
[cue angels singing]
Three words: Oh. My. G-d.
But outside the office in 110 degree heat and 100% humidity? Swaddle me, baby!
When I got home to Israel and started unpacking my suitcase, the family gathered around in anticipation (justified) of being showered with gifts. But once they'd gotten their loot, they noticed me taking out a few big folded pieces of fabric and asked me what they were.
I'm just sorry I didn't have the forethought to capture their faces on digital film. My wife simply acted as though I'd lost my mind and went back to organizing the bathroom swag.
But the kids... oh my, the kids. Written across their horrified faces was the awful realization that their father was going to humiliate them beyond anything any child in the history of the world had ever had to endure.
After a little negotiation, Ari and Gili were able to extract a vague promise from me not to wear the Lungis out of the house. But near the end I reserved the right to wear a lungi at the beach or near a pool. They weren't happy, but it was better than what they were probably imagining.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks to our trip to the US. My younger sister invited us to her club in Westchester where she liked to take her kids to swim. It was a plush place with multiple pools, carefully manicured lawns and people who sounded like Thurston Howel III ("Look Lovey... someone let riff raff into the club.").
When we arrived and got changed, my kids began looking for places to hide when I emerged from the locker room wearing a tee shirt... and a faded orange cotton lungi.
Zahava simply shook her head and wandered off to swim. But my little sister actually loved the thing. So much so, that by the end of the afternoon she asked me to pick her up a couple of Lungis on my next trip to India. As a reward for her compliments I gave her the Lungi I'd been wearing (Relax! I had swim trunks on underneath. Sheesh, I'm not a barbarian!!!).
Anyhoo, since we've been back home, Israel has been experiencing a record heat wave, and summer has continued on through the Sukkot holiday and into October.
So, whenever I have to do heavy lifting around the house such as cooking or 'sponga' (think really sloppy mopping with a rag and a squeegee) I now routinely wear a Lungi. Occasionally, if it is really hot around the house, I'll put on a Lungi just for lounging around.
Strangely, the kids have been inviting their friends over less and less. I wonder why that is?!
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Not knowing what to think
Who knew... me... without an opinion. Go know!
Having moved to a somewhat contentious part of Israel while the 2nd Intifada was still raging, I tend to take the nostalgic reminiscing of my neighbors for 'the good old days' with a pinch of salt.
Because even as our Arab neighbors were busy trying to kill us just about everywhere/anywhere we gathered (buses, cafes, night clubs, stores, etc.), many of my neighbors were pining for the good old days when they used to be able to ride on Arab buses, shop in Arab stores and hire Arab workers... all without a second thought or worry.
But what I've only recently been able to internalize is the fact that the goal of the Intifada was not to kill Jews (although it accomplished that quite ably), but rather to drive a wedge between the Arab and Jewish communities of the region... a goal that they accomplished even more thoroughly.
The status quo today is that there is now so much distance and suspicion between Arabs and Jews, the propaganda machines on both sides can work virtually unopposed. After all, it is far easier to vilify someone if they exist only in theory... 'those people over there'... than if you see them up close on a daily basis.
This isn't to say that Jews and Arabs don't see one another or interact within Israel. They do... to a limited extent. If I go to the hospital or to a Jerusalem Supermarket, chances are that many of the people I see there (workers and visitors) will be Arabs.
But this is mainly the Israeli Arabs and Jews... not the P.A. Arabs.
But because the 'West Bank' (Judea and Samaria) is made up of insulated/insular pockets of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, and because there are both physical and legal constraints to where each group can go, there is almost no opportunity for the typical Jew and Arab to find themselves close enough to interact.
Then along came Rami Levi.
Rami Levi is a very successful chain of supermarkets that have popped like mushrooms after a flood. Their prices are very competitive, and both their clientele and workers tend to be a mix of Arab and Jew.
Recently Rami Levi opened a store at the Gush Etzion junction about five minutes from my house. The selection of this site for the store is interesting for its central location outside of any town or municipality boundaries, which makes it accessible to both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs.
Add to that the fact that the store employees are also a mix of Arabs and Jews, and it makes the shopping experience somewhat eye-opening for people who may have forgotten that 'those people' at whom we've/they've been so angry, and of whom we've/they've been so frightened, also need diapers, milk, apples, shampoo, etc..
For me, it is especially jarring to have a near miss with a deadly terror attack, and then on the same day, find myself squeezing melons or ordering chicken cutlets next to someone in Arab garb who, for all I know, could be related to the terrorist (if not the terrorist hem/herself.
Personally, I find it reassuring to see Arab families at the store (and to let them see me with my family), because on some level, once you see the human side of 'those people' it becomes harder to hate/fear them.
But what worries me is that if too many people come to feel as I do, it won't be long before the terrorists will step in and create a new reason for fear and hate (i.e. another terror attack).
I guess what I'm trying to say is that (for a change) I really don't know what to think.
However, if there are any sociologists out there at a loss for a good PHD dissertation topic, the interactions between Jews and Arabs at the Gush Etzion Rami Levi store would be make excellent subject for study.
BTW, lest anyone think this is a new topic or that the Gush Etzion Rami Levi is the only one with this mix of people, a couple of my neighbors, as well as my friend Jameel have already brought his own unique worldview to the topic.