Sunday, March 27, 2016
Travel Diary of a Germaphobe
I totally get the idea behind placing a phone in the hotel bathroom within easy reach of the toilet. I mean, Murphy's Law dictates that no matter how long one has waited for that important call from the concierge confirming the arrival of a business associate, the phone in the hotel room will only ring once the plane is well on its way down the runway and aborting take-off is no longer an option (like the way I've kept the metaphor within the travel genre?).
With that said, I can't possibly be the only one who has considered the logistic difficulties of cleaning this convenient commode-side handset (that is, if they even try!), right? Right?!
Make no mistake, my company usually books me into the most posh (and secure) properties in whatever city I am visiting. But yesterday (Shabbat), I was stuck in the room with nothing to do but read and snack on complimentary hotel fruit and blueberry muffins that Zahave packed for me.
So when housekeeping showed up and asked if they could tidy up the room, I asked them if they minded if I stayed put on the comfy sofa in front of the window while they did the room.
They were very accommodating and even asked if they could order up an assortment of local newspapers for me (I accepted gratefully).
It was only once the two women began cleaning the bathroom that I decided to check if my suspicions were correct. This was accomplished via the full wall glass window that divided the bathroom from the sleeping and work areas (for the curious, there is a mechanized privacy shade that can be lowered in case more than one person is in residence and either of them possesses even a shred of shame).
Sure enough, the two women went about scrubbing, bleaching, disinfecting and polishing every last surface in the bathroom... except the telephone.
In fact, not only did they not make even a token effort to clean the phone, one of them noticed that a previous guest had left the cord a bit tangled, so she picked up the handset with the rubber glove she was wearing to protect her skin from whatever chemicals (and pathogens), were in the toilet bowl she had just been scrubbing, and carefully untwisted it and replaced the handset in the cradle so that the now-tangle-free cord was wrapped neatly around the rest of the phone body and well above the floor.
After the last of their chores was completed and fresh flowers and fruit had been placed in the vase and bowls (this time, thankfully without the rubber gloves), one of the women handed me the bundle of Indian newspapers that had been delivered at their request and asked if there was anything else they could help with.
I was tempted to ask about the phone, but I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get the question out past the spasm of dry-heaves that was now convulsing my body. I just smiled and shook my head.
Please tell me I'm not the only one who is skieved out by this.
As an afterthought, I'd also be curious to know if anyone else out there travels with a bottle of Purell alcohol hand sanitizer in their carry-on?
Monday, March 07, 2016
Finally Finding (And Crossing) The Left's Red Line
I've often wondered what, if any, red lines exist for the extreme left of Israel's political spectrum.
So far they have found a way to condone, and even embrace, such acts as:
- Draft Dodging (or encouraging widespread disobedience of orders after enlisting)
- Stealing and passing nuclear secrets to journalists (and by extension, the world)
- Stealing and passing military secrets to journalists (and by extension, the world)
- Denunciation of Israel as a racist, fascist apartheid state at academic and governmental forums abroad
- Supporting and encouraging the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in their efforts to isolate Israel
All of the above have not only been excused and explained away by Israel's extreme left and their flagship mouthpiece Haaretz, but in many cases have been openly sanctioned and encouraged.
So it came as somewhat of a surprise that this week something happened that finally reached a level of post-Zionist / self-hatred that those gathered at a 'Cultural Conference' sponsored by Haaretz were forced to declare a red line, beyond which, apparently, lies that terrible thing called 'disloyalty to the State':
It seems that the entertainment hired by Haaretz for the event - Israeli actor Ariel Bronz - was concluding his performance of a provocative one-man play entitled "Love the Juice: The Art of Squeezing the National Dream Into an Orange", when he suddenly produced an Israeli flag and proceeded to stuff it up his, er, posterior region. On stage. In full view of everyone.
Immediately the audience began booing, screaming 'enough' and 'stop', and even throwing squeezed oranges at the stage (which had previously been thrown at the audience as part of the play). But as the saying goes, 'the show must go on'.
It wasn't until Haaretz's senior management instructed the venue's security staff to forcibly remove the actor from the stage that it was clear to all “La commedia è finita” (“The comedy is over”)*.
Although I'm relieved to know that the left does, in fact, have at least one uncross-able 'red line', I find it sad that it is such a trivial, and entirely symbolic gesture they refuse to condone.
It seems that, for the extreme left, it has never really been about democracy or democratic values... it has been about appearances. You can actively work to destroy the State of Israel, but don't you dare besmirch its symbols.
I, for one, have no problem with the act for which Mr. Bronz was given the hook. In a democracy, what he did (no matter how distasteful), is called 'protected free speech'. And far from endangering the state, the fact that a citizen can get up on a stage and do such a thing here in Israel is actually an encouraging sign of our democracy's strength and health (albeit not its taste in entertainment).
Now you can congratulate me for the self-control required in not allowing myself a single butt joke.
[* dorky opera reference]
Thursday, March 03, 2016
Ax Grinding Masquerading As Balanced Reporting
One of the better kept secrets here in the Middle East is that Israel has long been the sanctuary of choice for gays and lesbians who are forced to flee for their lives from pretty much all of the surrounding Muslim countries.
By all rights this should be an open secret (or no secret at all!), except for a convenient alignment of the interests of the western media (which would rather close their doors than publish anything positive about Israel) and the countless future and current LGBT refugees who have not yet escaped the intolerant Muslim societies where they live in mortal fear (since a nearly certain formal or extra-judicial death penalties awaits any non-heterosexual who is discovered living in Muslim lands) or who still have vulnerable family living in peril back home.
So it was with considerable surprise that I saw that the New York Times was running a front page story this morning about a gay Iranian poet who had escaped from Iran and was seeking formal asylum while living comfortably in Tel Aviv.
I shouldn't have been surprised.
The New York Times does not publish anything about Israel that can be construed as even marginally positive, without also offering equal or greater negative commentary in the name of 'even-handedness'.
So as I read the article, the other shoe wasn't terribly long in dropping.
Read for yourselves what the editors at the New York Times felt was an acceptable bit of background information to this otherwise heart-warming article that should have painted Israel (and Israeli society) in a very flattering light:
"Israel has sometimes been accused of “pinkwashing,” or portraying itself as a progressive hub of tolerance, particularly toward gays, to detract attention from the government’s policies toward Palestinians. At Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's annual meeting with the international press this year, there was a performance by the Israeli transgender pop singer Dana International, who appealed to reporters to go easy on Israel."
Not only does the Times fail to give any clue as to who, exactly, has accused Israel of "Pinkwashing" (and whether that accusation is accurate), but it shamelessly tries to use the performance of Dana International, a very popular, and openly transgender, Israeli singer (who took first place at the Eurovision Song Festival as Israel's representative as far back as 1998), at a Netanyahu press event to suggest that it was a nefarious plot by Israel... as if Bibi had trotted out a token drag queen in order to bolster Israel's progressive cred and distract the world from our cruel policies towards the Palestinians.
And then, as if they hadn't dispensed enough even-handedness to banish any memory of the positive subject of the article, they went on to mention the tragic fatal stabbing of a teenager at last year's Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, as if gays (and their supporters) being attacked in the US and Europe is a thing of the distant past. Heck, the NY Times hasn't seen fit to give any coverage of the dozens of stabbings that the Palestinians have carried out in the past few moths, yet they were able to effortlessly summon a single stabbing that was carried out by a Jew last year in order to bolster their case against Israel.
For comparison's sake, in a New York Times article two days ago about a senior Hamas terrorist (of course the Times referred to him as a 'commander' and 'militant', not a terrorist), who was executed by his own organization, allegedly for being gay, they felt no such compunction to introduce even-handedness.
Not only did the Times fail to mention the glaringly obvious irony of an allegedly gay terrorist spendng his entire career launching deadly terror attacks against the only country in the middle east that has a vibrant and inclusive policy towards the LGBT community, being executed for his sexual orientation by his own people... but they spent the entire article describing him and his background in exclusively positive terms.
In the article, he is referred to as "Hamas royalty" from a "storied family"... who had tragically left behind not one, but two wives. They even ran a photo of his mother and one of his sisters crying next to a poster of him!
And the Times took pains to portray him as a wronged Palestinian patriot for having been executed despite bravely sheltering Mohammed Deif at considerable personal risk. At no time did the Times feel the need to offer contextual information, such as the fact that Deif was in hiding because he was/is being targeted by Israel for master-minding suicide attacks and bus bombings that have killed more than 50 innocent Israelis.
It is absolutely infuriating to see the lengths to which the Times will go to ensure that Israel is continually vilified, facts be damned.
The New York Times makes no secret of its editorial line regarding Israel's policies towards the Palestinians. I'm okay with that.
But the Times also has a huge number of writers, photographers, cameramen, technicians, stringers, fixers and visiting bureau chiefs stationed/living here in Israel who are perfectly aware of Israel's extremely progressive policies and welcoming stance towards the LGBT community.
So it boggles the mind that one should be used to negate, or assign sinister motives, to the other!