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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Righteous [Cyclist] Among The Nations

Every so often, the google search page features a graphic that is designed to draw your interest to someone or something of significance associated with the date.  A click usually tells you it is the 400th anniversary of so-and-so's birthday, etc.  Sometimes interesting... usually educational... almost never eye-opening.

That changed today.

Turns out that the Italian cyclist - Gino Bartali - whose 104th birthday it would have been today, was far more than just a champion cyclist.

Here's the relevant section of his Wikipedia page:

Rescues and Resistance role during World War II

Gino_Bartali

Bartali used bicycle training as a cover for secret efforts to rescue Jews.

Bartali earned respect for his work in helping Jews who were being persecuted by the Nazis during the time of the Italian Social Republic. It emerged in December 2010 that Bartali had hidden a Jewish family in his cellar and, according to one of the survivors, saved their lives in doing so.[15]

Bartali used his fame to carry messages and documents to the Italian Resistance.[16][17] Bartali cycled from Florence through Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, sometimes traveling as far afield as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name. Neither the Fascist police nor the German troops risked discontent by arresting him.

Giorgio Nissim, a Jewish accountant from Pisa,[16] was a member of DELASEM,[18] founded by the Union of the Israelitic Communities to help Jewish Italians escape persecution. The network in Tuscany was discovered in autumn 1943 and all members except Nissim sent to concentration camps. He met Pope Pius XII and, with the help of the Archbishop of Genoa, the Franciscan Friars and others he reorganized DELASEM and helped 800 escape.

Nissim died in 2000. His sons found from his diaries that Bartali had used his fame to help. Nissim and the Oblati Friars of Lucca forged documents and needed photographs of those they were helping. Bartali used to leave Florence in the morning, pretending to train, ride to a convent in which the Jews were hiding, collect their photographs and ride back to Nissim.[19][20]Bartali also used his position to learn about raids on safehouses.

Bartali was eventually taken to Villa Triste in Florence. The SD and the Italian RSS official Mario Carità questioned Bartali, threatening his life.[20] Bartali simply answered, "I do what I feel [in my heart]".

Bartali continued working with the Assisi Network. In 1943, he led Jewish refugees towards the Swiss Alps himself. He cycled, pulling a wagon with a secret compartment, telling patrols it was just part of his training. Bartali told his son Andrea only that "One does these things and then that's that".[20]

In June 2012, a book about Bartali's wartime activities, Road To Valor by Aili and Andres McConnon, was published.[21]

In 2013, Yad Vashem awarded Gino Bartali the honour Righteous Among the Nations.[22] He is a central figure in the 2014 documentary My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes.[4]

Posted by David Bogner on July 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Exhilarating

Winston Churchill once famously quipped, “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result”. 

While that may be technically true (having been shot at, I can provide my own affirmative data-point to the body of research), the famous quote doesn’t begin to address the fairly obvious question of what it feels like before you know the shot has missed you.

I can say with authority that glib media phrases such as ‘crude, home-made rockets’ and ‘the low odds of actually being hit’ don’t really mean much when the sirens are going off all around you, and you find yourself caught out in the open, doing the sick mental math that reveals that it will take you longer to reach shelter than it will take the incoming rocket to reach you.

And so you narrow your focus.

‘There’s a parked car over there that might offer some cover from shrapnel’.

‘There’s a low stone wall across the street that, if I crouch down next to it will protect me… at least from one direction’.  Which way is Gaza again?

‘The gutter and curb next to me will offer a snug place protected from two sides if I lie down really flat in the dirt collected there’.

And while these thoughts bang against each-other inside your head, the Red Alert siren wails on… and you know with absolute certainty that somewhere up in the sky is an inbound rocket packed with explosives and ball bearings, that has to land somewhere very soon.

True, statistically, the odds are extremely low that it will land on or near you.  But the odds are dead certain that it has to land somewhere (that pesky old ‘what goes up must come down’, thing).

It’s strange how gambling quickly ceases to be an enjoyable pastime when the stakes include your life.

Why am I telling you this?  Is it because the 200+ projectiles fired at Israel on July 14th didn't even make the international media needle twitch? 

Maybe.  Partially.

But it is also because I want you to join me in something... something that will allow you to experience a tiny fraction of the reality we Israelis endure on a daily basis... something that will allow you to become a bit more 'woke':

I want you to download a free app called ‘Red Alert: Israel’. 

Once you have it on your phone or tablet, please go in and enable notifications and select ‘All Areas’ from the settings menu.  This will allow you to be notified each time a projectile (rocket or mortar) is fired at at any part of Israel by one of our ‘neighbors’.

Keep in mind that each and every time you hear an alert, somewhere in Israel (usually in multiple places simultaneously), thousands of innocent human beings have suddenly been given between 10 and 50 seconds to get themselves and their loved ones to shelter – any shelter – before the projectile lands. 

Looking at your watch that may seem like a fairly long time.  Trust me, when the sirens are blaring, it is an instant.

Be warned, this app will disturb you at inconvenient times.  And it will almost certainly wake you up in the middle of the night. 

But I think it is important for you to be aware of the rocket attacks in real time - not just read about them on the rare occasions that the foreign media outlets decide they are 'newsworthy'. 

I think it is essential that you know with absolute certainty, in real time, that thousands of innocent people just like you  - people with hopes, dreams, loved ones, plans, possessions, talents, aspirations - have suddenly been forced into survival mode, and are running for cover or laying in the dirt, trying desperately to make themselves smaller… as explosive tube(s) filed with death streak through the sky towards… something.

I can tell you from experience (although certainly not as extensive as those living in the Gaza periphery or Kiryat Shmona), ‘exhilarating’ is the last word that comes to mind during those precious seconds while you wait to find out if the shot has actually (hopefully, please G-d), missed.  This time.

Red 1

Red 2

Red 3

Red 4

Posted by David Bogner on July 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Really?! In 2018 We're Still Arguing About Breastfeeding?

I honestly don’t get the never-ending uproar about breastfeeding in public.

I was so confused by this that I googled “arguments against public breastfeeding’, and noted that the following three reasons (in one form or another), are consistently the top three results:

#1: Public Nursing is Indecent (naughty, provocative, sexual, etc.)

Okay, what you're saying is that boobs are first and foremost sexual things, best kept for private enjoyment.

Think about this scenario for a second: You and your wife/Significant Other are in the privacy of your bedroom ‘making whoopee’ (to borrow a chaste phrase from ‘The Newlywed Game'), when suddenly one or more of your young children crashes the party unannounced. I don’t know about you, but the arrival of a little kid on the scene is like a bucket of cold water that instantly takes romance off the table.

See how something sexual instantly lost it's sexuality based on context? 

I’m a healthy heterosexual man, so I'd clearly be lying if I were to suggest that I don’t find the female form attractive. What can I say... I'm hard-wired that way. And yes, I’d even go so far as to say that when a woman dresses in such a way as to accentuate or partially reveal her breasts, it is only through a conscious effort and mental review of baseball statistics, that I don’t resort to leering. I think I’m fairly typical in that respect.

And I'll go even further... I think it is safe to say that if I encountered a bare-breasted woman in the course of my busy day, I would almost certainly be powerless to look away (discipline, social taboos and batting averages be damned).

However, toss a nursing baby into the picture... and, splash!, all erotic thoughts are instantly extinguished, just like with the gate-crashing kids in the boudoir.

#2: Public Nursing Can Be Dangerous (i.e. could lead to sexual harassment or even attacks)

This seems to have been covered by explanation for #1 above, but let’s try it again using smaller words:

Boobs are sexy. Boobs with a baby attached are not. Either way, they are hers, not yours.

Of course, Rule #34 of 4chan’s rules of the internet posits that ‘absolutely every possible thing has porn of it. No exceptions’. Which would strongly suggest that 'breastfeeding moms' must be a serious turn-on to some segment of the general population, however small. If this seems to apply to you, then guess what? You may have your own personal kink that you’ll just have to figure out how to keep under control. Again, your problem, not hers.

Think of it this way:  If you aren’t allowed to touch or harass the girls at the strip club where they are deliberately trying to turn you on, I think it is safe to assume that, at a minimum, the same rules apply to non-erotic venues where erotic intentions can't safely be assumed.

#3: Public Nursing  Causes Awkward Social Interactions

Okay, here I have to kind, sorta give a grudging partial point to the haters. 

NOTICE: I am not in any way suggesting that this is a valid reason to prohibit breastfeed in public. Full stop!

[I am 100% certain that this unambiguous statement will in no way inhibit someone from flaming me]

That said, I can totally recall countless times when I’ve had to study the ceiling or suddenly get very interested in my fingernails upon noticing that the woman I've been talking to had a baby attached to her by more than a snugly. 

But again, my problem, not hers.

Truth be told, I've had to avert my eyes and give the same kind of visual ‘pass’ in public to anyone  - male or female - who suddenly had the uncontrollable urge to scratch themselves in an intimate place (we’ve all been there!). And if you’ve ever encountered anyone a week or two after they’ve visited a waxing salon, you're familiar with ‘the dance’ (and hopefully have been polite enough to ignore it).

In fairness guys, women are forced to routinely put up with (and ignore) us ‘rearranging the troops’ when they fall out of ranks on hot, sweaty days. I'm confident that you can find something else to look at if she happens to be feeding her kid.  And if you can’t manage to maintain eye-contact with her, might I suggest an alternative destination for your eyes that, these days, is even more natural: your cellphone (while you’re there, you can check the baseball box scores).

Bottom line, forget all the crass boob jokes and Victorian-era prudishness. Breastfeeding is what they were designed to do.  All the other real or perceived visual/aesthetic considerations are, quite literally, in the eyes of (and therefore, the problem of), the beholder. 

We can’t suggest that women are full and equal (note I said, equal, not identical), participants in the business and social realms, while demanding that they don a Burka or go into forced hiding while doing one of the things that they were purpose-built to do.

Yes, many workplaces (and a few public venues) are providing lactation rooms; and that can be a comfortable option for women who wish to avail themselves of these conveniences.  But such places are the exception and not the rule.

And please don’t suggest that nursing moms should go into the bathroom in order to avoid offending your delicate sensibilities, since that’s where you go to do the private things that you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in public.

That’s a crap argument! [pun intended]

You wouldn’t think of eating in a bathroom. It is ludicrous to suggest that a baby should!

Posted by David Bogner on July 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Bring Home Karim Jumhour!!!

This is the defining moment when Israel can either demonstrate to its Arab sector that they are full and valued citizens, or hand ammunition to Hanin Zoabi and the rest of the ‘Joint List’ who constantly tell Arab Israelis that the State doesn’t care about them.

Tuesday evening, a 7-year-old boy named Karim Jumhour was videotaped being kidnapped from in front of his home in the Arab city of Qalansawe.

We know from bitter experience that when Jewish Israelis have been kidnapped, the police and defense establishment know how to pull out all the stops and make finding the kidnap victim(s) a top national priority.

Doing the same for a kidnap victim from Israel’s Arab sector, besides being absolutely the correct thing to do, would also go a long way towards demonstrating to a sector that has (legitimately) felt disenfranchised and under-supported, that they are full citizens; entitled to the same protections and resources as Jewish Israelis, and that their lives matter every bit as much!

In light of the 4 million shekel ransom demand, the motive for this kidnapping seems to be financial rather than nationalistic.  But when your son or daughter has been taken and their life hangs in the balance, does it really matter why?  

I hope that this event gets the full response that Israel is capable of providing; both from its government and from its media and public.

Bring home Karim Jumhour!!!

Posted by David Bogner on July 12, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Come On Out... The War's Over! [at least for now]

In the 1970s, the last four confirmed WWII-era Japanese soldiers (also called 'holdouts') - Corporal Shoichi Yokoi, Private 1st Class Kinshichi Kozuka, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda and Private Teruo Nakamura - were, captured, killed, successfully ordered to lay down arms and convinced to surrender (respectively, and in that order).  

Fascinating stories, all... and an afternoon passed reading about them would not be considered poorly spent.

Those four faithful soldiers had been hiding out for decades in caves and bunkers in remote locations on Pacific islands, either unaware or unconvinced that WWII was over; the outcome decided thirty-some-odd years before.

I mention this random factoid in order to convey a gentle hint to my online friends: 

If you find yourself suspiciously examining every single thing you see or read to test whether it seems to suggest support or or criticism of your preferred political party / office-holder / dogma / position / turf... guess what, you are a holdout.  You are behaving as though the war is still raging, and are hiding in a bunker (of your own making), ready to shoot at anyone and anything that moves.  

Historically, people in bunkers (and those with a bunker mentality), are notoriously difficult to dislodge for the simple reason that they remain willfully ignorant of the changing reality outside their bunkers.

I completely get it.  The outcome of the last 'war' was not to your liking.  In fact, even some of the people who crossed party lines and tipped the scales are experiencing a bit of 'buyer's remorse' just now. That has to be especially frustrating in such a closely fought contest.

But guess what?  You (and your country) survived.  There is no shame in having been a loyal soldier on the losing side.  But your current behavior - your fixation on, or denial of, the outcome -  is neither helpful nor liable to garner the results you seek.

The good news is that, unlike in real a war, there is a new political 'war' to 'fight' every four years in the US ; a 'do-over', in playground parlance. 

That's the beauty of living in a strong, vibrant democracy with a proven mechanism for periodically facilitating the peaceful transfer of power.  A peek at a history book should go a long way towards allaying your fears, and assuring you that the pendulum inevitably swings back.. and never, ever, stops moving.

The bad news is that it's hard to influence the current regime, and harder still to have a hand in picking the next one, if you are still holding out in your bunker, shooting blindly at anything that moves... engaged in a conflict whose outcome was decided years ago!

Come on out, the 'war' is over (at least for the next couple of years).  

Posted by David Bogner on July 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, July 09, 2018

Go Ahead and Bring Up Paris...

There’s a powerful line in the classic film, Casablanca' where Rick drunkenly chides Ilsa, saying “I wouldn't bring up Paris if I were you. It's poor salesmanship".

Image result for "I wouldn't bring up paris if I were you"

The line is powerful, not because Rick is right and Ilsa is wrong… but because we, the viewer, are aware that to broach the subject of Paris will lead to a painful discussion ... and that some hard truths are inevitably going to be shared.

Over the last couple of days we’ve been reading a lot about the genuine national disgrace of immigrants to the US who were actively recruited to serve in the US military with the promise of a path to citizenship, now being quietly (ok, not so quietly anymore), discharged… and told that the previously offered path is actually a dead end.

That's 'Paris'.  That's the uncomfortable linchpin of a discussion that nobody seems prepared to have.

Specifically, what nobody seems prepared to discuss is the far greater national disgrace that the US Military is so strapped for man-power that it had to stoop to recruiting non-citizens to do the heavy lifting of defending the freedoms and liberties of the very citizens who routinely  ignore and shun them.

Well, America... I wouldn't bring up 'Paris' if I were you... it's truly bad salesmanship!

Are the freedoms and rights you shout and carry on about on college campuses, in editorials and in town hall meetings, so cheap and meaningless that you (and your children), can’t be bothered to take a short turn standing watch to protect and defend them? 

Is uniformed service something that only the children of ‘other people’ – that great invisible, unwashed underclass – are expected to do, while your kids are left free and unencumbered to pursue their important, charmed, successful lives?

Is patriotism a costume you take out of the closet and put on for parades once or twice a year to make yourself feel part of something worthy and good, while the rest of the year you and your families support and idolize an elitist movie industry that consistently and deliberately portrays the military as evil, and veterans as irreparably damaged, drug-addled, ticking time-bombs?

Yes, it is a terrible thing that these immigrants who volunteered for military service in exchange for a path to citizenship are now being told ‘thanks, but no thanks’.  But that issue can’t be discussed in a vacuum. 

If you want to bring up 'Paris', you’d damned well better be prepared for a bunch of larger, broader discussions; discussions that, so far, aren't taking place:

The discussion about what exactly it means to be an American.

The discussion about what responsibilities and obligations come with that privilege.

The discussion of how despicable it is to ignore the very existence of dishwashers, bus-boys, lawn-mowers, home care-attendants, house-cleaners and other immigrant laborers who make your comfortable lives possible, while expecting these same invisible human beings (and their children), to fight and die for you… all while your precious children attend expensive colleges, and grow up to run things and write policy checks on an account to which they never made a single deposit!

So, yeah… go ahead and ‘bring up Paris’.  It’s a legitimate discussion; no matter how potentially divisive and painful.  

But don’t think you can broach such a fraught subject and not be expected to confront all the unpleasant truths attached to it.

Posted by David Bogner on July 9, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (3)