Sunday, February 26, 2012
Casting the first (and last) stone
I've written in the past about the dirty little secret behind those dramatic photos you see all over the world media showing the poor Palestinians bravely waging their impromptu resistance using whatever improvised weapons are at hand. If you haven't seen the short video I posted on the topic, It's worth a quick look:
What we learned from that is that the made for TV and newspaper resistance is neither spontaneous nor waged with stray objects which happen to be 'at hand'. In fact, as much preparation goes into these attacks as any well orchestrated military ambush.
The only difference is that the press is notified in advance and allowed to set up their equipment to capture the most advantageous and dramatic still and video shots.
Apparently, the only people not given advance notice of the ambush, and who are therefore unprepared, are the Israeli victims who happen to drive into the well planned traps.
This past week there were a lot of attacks on vehicles along the route I take to work. And when I passed the site of one of the more serious attacks, I noticed that the photographers had not finished packing up their gear. There was so much equipment and so many photographers that it looked like a location shoot for a Hollywood movie or TV series.
Here's a photo that appeared in the media after the ambush was wrapped completed for the day:
What the photo shows is an Israeli woman (a school teacher named Zahava Weiss who lives in a community not far from me), being attacked on her way home from work by a bunch of Arab teens. In the photo it is clear that she (like several of the cars before and after her) was attacked with large cut stones and bricks... not harmless pebbles as the apologists and useful idiots would have you believe.
What you don't see is the group of photographers who had received advance notice of the ambush, and who had set up their equipment on the opposite side of the street from the stone/brick throwers... far enough back from the street to avoid being hit by the overthrows and ricochets, but close enough that their high powered lenses could capture every detail of the repeated attacks.
Here's where my thinking goes sideways.
How can it be that any civilized society can grant actual or de facto immunity to a segment of the population from having to report foreknowledge of violent attacks that can reasonably be assumed will cause damage to property, serious injury and even loss of life?
Of course, many times I'm sure there isn't actual advance notice, but rather those throwing the stones and molotov cocktails see a group of photographers and manufacture a tailor made event for the audience. I view this scenario as somewhat akin to shouting fire in a crowded theater.
By this I mean that a person can shout fire all day long as they sit alone at home or walk along a sparsely traveled street. But the moment they find themselves in a crowd, it is incubate upon them to cease shouting fire.
By the same reasoning, journalists may come and go pretty much anywhere and anytime they wish. But the moment they see evidence that their presence is precipitating an imminent violent incident, they should be required to pack up their cameras and remove the primary cause of the impending disturbance; (themselves) from the scene.
I'm sure many of you legal scholars and accredited journalists can tell me why my thinking is wrong. But I can't help feeling that in addition to violating the above-mentioned prohibition against not reporting crimes about to be committed, joburnalists who show up in advance to cover these ambushes should be prosecuted as full accessories, and be subject to penalties as severe as for those who actually carry out the attack.
And to carry it one step further, just as embedded journalists traveling with a group of combatants are in danger of being targeted by enemy forces, I would say that those who find themselves in mortal danger from both impromptu and pre-organized ambushes should be held blameless if they accidentally hit journalists while trying to shoot at the actual attackers.
Now you tell me why I'm wrong.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Nice to be known
Because the snowy, sleety, icy, rainy stuff continued through yesterday morning, Zahava was nice enough to let me take the car into work on Sunday.
I have to say, as much as I love riding my Vespa on the 170km round trip through the Judaen Hills, it was kind of a treat to be inside a warm dry car for a change while the weather was
acting up doing exactly what it is supposed to do this time of year.
Near the end of my commute, I pulled up to the security checkpoint just north of Beer Sheva and gave my normal cheery good morning greeting to the young woman in the guard booth. But since she was used to seeing me on my scooter with a full face helmet, she didn't recognize me sitting in the car.
She started asking me all kinds of 'security questions'*; where I was from?, where I was going?, etc.
I just smiled at her and didn't answer... something that is likely to get the security personnel a bit on edge. When she started repeating her questions, I held up my hand and said, "You don't recognize me?"
Impatiently, she said, "We get hundreds of people coming through this checkpoint every day... do you really think I recognize everyone?"
I just smiled and said, "I bet you'd recognize me if I was on my scooter?"
Instantly she broke into a beautiful grin (I'll be honest, she was a little intimidating looking when she was glaring down at me and asking questions), and shouted, "Ahhh, you're the red Vespa guy!. We all talk about wanting a scooter like yours!"
I said, "Really? Everyone?"
She responded, "Well, the girls all want one. The guys all say they want motorcycles, but I see the way they look at your scooter and talk after you go by... they want one too."
We chatted for a little while longer about how far I ride each day and what kind of gear I wear to keep me warm, dry and safe. Finally another car came along behind me and beeped impatiently, so I waved and said goodbye.
I have to admit, it's kinda fun being 'the red Vespa guy'.
*'Security questions' are asked, not to get the answer, so much as to hear accents and/or observe the person's eyes and posture for signs of nervousness or deception. If you've ever flown out of Israel on a commercial flight, you'll notice the big difference between the security screening process here and in other airports around the world is that elsewhere they look at your carry on, your clothing, your shoes, your passport, your ticket, etc... but rarely look you in the eye. In Israel they check those other things, but before you get anywhere near the boarding gate, at least seven trained people have looked at your eyes and posture; at the entrance to the airport; at the curb as you unload; at the entrance to the airport building; before getting into the pre-check-in baggage screening line; in the pre-check-in baggage screening lane; at the check-in counter; and in the formal security screening area. And if any of those trained people isn't comfortable with the way you look or sound, you are going to meet a few more trained people before you get on the plane.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
The White Stuff?
The current weather forecast calls for a heavy snow storm this weekend in Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. Perhaps the biggest snowstorm in years!
If the meteorologists are to be believed, that is. Even though one of my neighbors is in the weather dodge, I'm still skeptical. I've been burned (soaked, actually) too many times now to count.
But Zahava and I will have our cross country skis out and ready for action... you know, just in case the opportunity should present itself.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Yesterday, the vehicles of two Israeli's connected with diplomatic missions abroad were targeted by terrorists suspected to be Iranian.
In the first attack, which occurred in New Delhi, India, a motorcyclist attached a bomb to the car of the wife of an Israeli diplomat. The Israeli woman saw the bomb being planted, and was exiting the vehicle when the bomb exploded. She was critically injured with shrapnel, but after surgery her condition is listed as critical, but stable.
In the other attack, explosives were found on a vehicle near the Israeli Embassy building in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. The device was neutralized safely.
While it is widely suspected that Iran is behind these apparently coordinated attacks on Israeli targets, the Iranian Foreign Minister floated a compelling theory; that Israel had carried out the attacks against its own diplomats in an attempt to discredit Iran!
Today, in Bangkok, an explosive device went off near or in the home of a terrorist, suspected of being Iranian. When Thai police tried to apprehend the terrorist, he attempted to throw another explosive device at them, but it detonated early and blew both of his legs off.
In addition to denying he was Iranian, the terrorist in the Thai incident has insisted that his legs were, in fact, not blown off... and that it was merely a flesh wound.
[~Cue Monty Python Theme Music~]
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
All's well that, ahem, ends well
A friend of mine who has been following along with the little drama of my colonoscopy preparations (and trepidations), made an interesting observation. He said that although it may have been therapeutic for me to share my fears, and make jokes on my blog about the whole colonoscopy thing... there was the obvious risk that I might inadvertently offer an excuse to people who were looking for a reason to put off (or ignore the need for) the test.
Yes, the preparations for this test are somewhat unpleasant, but by no means traumatic. With a sense of humor and supportive friends and family, it's really no big deal. Just don't plan any long drives on the day or two before your test.
In retrospect, if you ever wanted to host a movie marathon at your place... this is the perfect excuse.
The test itself is a non-issue. You won't know a thing about it (during or after). You are asleep for the whole thing, and wake up feeling like you've just had the best nap of your life. There are no lingering clues that you even had the test other than the relief at finally knowing your results.
So yeah... about the test results. While I got a clean bill of health from my doc, that is really almost beside the point. Getting tested and knowing one's health status - for good or bad - is the point.
If (G-d forbid) my doc had called me into the consultation room with the long face and sad eyes, that would have required an action plan. I wouldn't have said, "Damnit, I knew I shouldn't have had the test! Now I have cancer!!!"
I am aware that many people avoid having the test for fear of what it might find. To those people I would say that putting one's head in the sand is never a good way to deal with potentially scary personal health issues. Colo-rectal cancer is one of the more treatable types... if caught early. However, if caught late (or not at all), it can be a death sentence.
There should never be anything even remotely embarrassing about discussing this test (which was kinda the point of my bringing it up in so public a forum). On the contrary, not discussing it can allow people to ignore its importance.
Don't die of embarrassment. Get checked!
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
A little waiting room humor
Thanks for helping break the tension!
Sunday, February 05, 2012
Beer's a clear liquid, right?
I don't know what happened... at age 49 I was Mr. Suave & Debonaire. Then the moment I turned 50 my doctor handed me a list of tests I needed to undergo... and suddenly I was transformed into the uncoolest of all Superheros; Captain Overshare; "Unable to read even the most blatant social cues, and incapable of keeping myself from oversharing intimate details of my life with total strangers".
I'm guessing the reason people often overshare is that they are nervous... or downright terrified. Turns out that just about everything that falls into the emotional range between nervous and terrified is the mortal enemy of casual coolness and genteel aplomb.
After needlessly rescheduling my colonoscopy a couple of times, my number is finally coming up this Tuesday. I'm not going to be a baby about it or anything. But I feel I'm entitled to at least a little sympathy seeing as the test is falling out less than 36 hours after the Superbowl!
Seriously... how big an idiot am I???
Do the math. I managed to schedule the damned test in that window of time that I will have already had to stop eating pretty much everything that is likely to be present at a Superbowl party.
Wait... beer's a clear liquid, right?
Thursday, February 02, 2012
Forgotten Volkswagen Unearthed in Idaho
I can't say exactly why, but this YouTube video made me so happy this morning.
Maybe it's because it combines two things which hold a special place in my heart; archeology and old VWs.
The quote says:
"Took the syncro for a Sunday drive and spotted an old single cab in the foothills outside Idaho Falls. This is nine hours worth of digging condensed into a 15 minute video. It had been sitting in a wash since 1967. It was buried under two feet of dirt but it's extremely rust free given the circumstances. The drop gates hadn't seen the light of day for 45 years."
You can skip through the video a bit to get a sense of the project... but watch the whole thing for a smile that will last all day.
Hat tip: Book of Joe
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Risking a big 'Evil Eye' (tfu, tfu, tfu)
There's a saying among certain Native American tribes that the secret to a successful rain dance can be summed up in one word: Timing.
Okay, that's totally made up and has nothing to do with Native Americans. But the idea is intriguing, no? Do a rain dance on a day when no rain shows up and you end up being demoted to cleaning up after the horses. Do a rain dance on a day when it happens to rain and you're the tribe's new medicine man!
In Judaism we have our own version of a rain dance. From the holiday of Sukkot in the fall until the holiday of Passover in the spring, observant Jews pray for rain three times a day. And those who like to offer 'proofs' of the efficacy of prayer are quick to point out that, amazingly, the first rains of the season often arrive just as we start praying for it!
Now, an atheist or someone with a secular bent might argue that adding a plea for rain to our daily prayers at exactly the time of year when the traditional rainy season hits Israel is, shall we say, stacking the deck heavily in favor of the supplicant. One could almost make a case for such prayers having a whiff of cynicism… kind of like praying for sunrise just before dawn.
But if we've learned anything from nearly a decade of drought, it is that the daily prayers for rain at this time of year are not meant as some sort of well-timed rain dance, or a Public Relations stunt to somehow 'prove' the existence of G-d. Rather, they are meant to demonstrate in some tangible way that we do not take the annual rains for granted… and that we know all too well that they can be withheld at any time.
I've been thinking about this subject quite a bit lately as I find myself riding my scooter an hour each way in the pouring rain.
On the one hand, I'm human and would be the worst kind of liar if I were to say that riding a scooter through an icy cold downpour is more fun than, say, riding on a warm sunny day.
But on the other hand, having lived here through years of terrible drought, a part of me loves watching the rain soak into the parched landscape… knowing it will make its way to the depleted underground aquifers. I can almost hear the ground sighing with satisfaction, like a man who has stumbled out of the desert and into a lush oasis.
There is a concept in both Judaism and baseball that one doesn't speak of good things in too loud a voice. And one certainly doesn't mention a good thing while the good thing has not yet been fully realized.
A no-hitter in the top of the 7th inning is as worthy of studied silence on the part of those observing it as a rainy December or January in Israel. The 'game' is far from over, and speaking too soon of a good thing is considered a portent of the worst sort of luck.
But at the risk of a big 'Ayin Harah' (evil eye), I can't stop myself from wishing that I could find one of those cute animated web graphics that used to be ubiquitous during the drought years… you know, the ones that gave a real-time indication of the Kinneret's (Sea of Galilee) level with a little yellow duck floating on the surface of the level indicator.
We all watched that little animated graphic day by day as the water level dropped… first past the 'Red Line' (below which pumping water is not recommended), and approaching the 'Black Line' (below which irreversible damage would be done to the lake). It seems only fair that we should be able to watch it now as it is slowly replenished by the winter rains.
Tfu, Tfu, Tfu.