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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Morning Flights

Shortly after I finish making the morning coffee and setting the table for breakfast, I go back downstairs to shower and dress.

Within moments, the morning quiet is shattered by the sound of Israeli fighter jets flying overhead... not at all a normal thing at this hour of the day.

One part of my sleepy mind observes that with Turkey now denying us use of their airspace for training, it is probably just a training exercise.  Probably.

But as I go back to the dining room 15 minutes later to distribute goodbye kisses, I can still hear the jets continuing to pass overhead.... one after another.

ONce outside, while warming up my scooter and putting on my helmet and gloves, I look up into the robbin's-egg blue sky overhead and can see them quite clearly - one F-16 after another, flying in single file - streaking due north.

I really hope this is just a training exercise.  But even if it turns out to be an operation over one of our northern neighbors, the news won't report it for at least a few hours.

Note to self:  Check the news sites at lunchtime.

UPDATE:  Seems like it was nothing (tfu, tfu tfu).

Posted by David Bogner on April 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What they didn't teach us in motorcycle safety school

The class where the instructor spent nearly half an hour discussing riding safety apparel (while we all sat looking longingly at the shiny scooters and motorcycles lined up behind him) seemed deliberately evil. 

As he droned on about riding jackets, gloves, helmet construction, full-face vs. 3/4, the improved visibility to be had from cleaning bug spatter off the face shield before each ride, and about flipping up the face shield when stopped at a light to avoid fogging it up with your breath... we all struggled with our impatience and nodded dutifully in all the right places.

All those obstacle course hours and endless slaloms/figure eights between orange cones prepared us well to deftly avoid potholes, roadkill, suicidal pedestrians, feral dogs, brainless partridges and scattered piles of sheep and donkey sh!t.

Those über-slow riding exercises, teetering on the verge of falling over, that we found so mind-crushingly boring have proven invaluable for riding in stopped traffic, lane splitting and balancing my scoot for those last few milliseconds before the light turns green.

The emergency braking drills that we did over and over and over again - on dry pavement, wet pavement and pavement soaked with motor oil - helped us understand, identify and experience the outer limits of traction... and also hammered home that there is an important difference in the use and function of the front and rear brakes.

The additional segment where they taught us not to panic in case of attacks with rocks or Molotov cocktails; the one where the instructors tossed water balloons at us and had us ride through puddles of burning gasoline, was an eye-opener (my wife had done that segment in a car a few years ago).  But in the back of my mind I felt it was like taking boxing or Judo lessons in preparation for a street fight.

But now that I am riding nearly every day, I am truly grateful for all those skills whose acquisition seemed so dull and impractical while I was yearning to get that motorcycle endorsement on my driver's license.  The safety course has certainly made me a better, safer driver than I otherwise would have been... and has prepared me to share the road with people who are anything but safe.

However, in light of recent experience, I'm just a little disappointed that the instructors didn't find a moment during all those theory and riding hours to mention - even once! - the strategy and mechanics of sneezing inside a full face helmet at highway speeds.  I feel that at some point they should have found the time to prepare us for the possibility that if we don't do it exactly right, we might end up riding for an indefinite period of time while squinting at the world through the freshly evacuated contents of our sinus cavities.

I'm just saying...

Posted by David Bogner on April 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A moment that only a few of you will fully understand/appreciate

One of the many hats I wear at work is that of liaison between my company and the many visiting military officers from countries with which we do business.  My fluency in english, previous service in the U.S. military, and current role in marketing/customer service make this both a natural assignment and a good fit.

However, (and here's where I will probably lose many of you who haven't served in the military), at some point whenever former / current military people get together, an informal exchange of personal information (also known as trading war/sea stories depending on what branch of the service you served in), takes place which is essential to helping size each other up.

This process of exchanging information becomes doubly important if one or both people is out of uniform, since the clues that would normally be gleaned at a glance (branch of service, rate/rank, qualifications, awards/medals, etc.) have to be given over long-hand.

For example, within five seconds of meeting someone in a military uniform, I can tell what country they are from, how senior they are, and can usually surmise from their ribbons and badges what kind of training/responsibilities they've had and how 'colorful' a career they've led so far.

In the military, anytime you are in uniform and meet a commissioned officer outside who is senior to you, you are required to salute them first... and then they will acknowledge your salute with one of their own.  As an enlisted man (I was honorably discharged after four years in the Navy as a Petty Officer Second Class), I pretty much had to salute all officers. 

And in my experience, fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel was frowned upon (although I counted a couple of officers among my friends, back in the day).

I mention all this background because almost all of the officers I deal with on a professional basis these days are field grade, or or even flag officers.  And once the informal exchange of information I described above takes place, there is the occasional 'coolness' that results from the revelation that I was not an officer.  It isn't rudeness or a deliberate snub, mind you.  There is just a certain camaraderie among brother officers... very much the way there is a similar kinship among senior non-coms.

In recent months I have had the privilege of working closely with several high ranking foreign naval officers who have been stationed in Israel on a joint project with us.  In addition to the work-day contact, I have also shown them around, hosted them in my home and spent a lot of time explaining our culture to them. 

For the most part the rapport between us has been excellent, and I have not felt any reserve on their part when, in the course of exchanging stories, they figure out I was an enlisted man.  But there is one officer who seemed a bit more aloof when he found out I was a petty officer... and I couldn't help noticing that he was decidedly cool towards me for a few days after we had first exchanged 'sea stories'.

After a while he must have come around (or I stopped noticing the distance), because our daily meetings and frequent contact became very natural and cordial.  But I couldn't help noticing that he didn't exchange any more sea stories with me either.

Yesterday was this particular officer's last day with us, and I had asked him to stop by my office on his way out so I could say goodbye.  But when the appointed time came and went without his arrival, I started to get concerned.  I didn't think he would snub me... but I was concerned that he'd miss the ride I'd arranged for him to the airport.

As I reached for my cell phone, it rang... and it was the departing officer.  He asked me if I would step outside for a moment. 

"Outside?"  I asked him.  "Where, outside?"

"Just out in front of your building", he replied.

I went to the door and saw him standing at rigid attention just in front of my building's entrance.  When I stepped outside he locked his eyes on me, snapped a formal salute, and held it.

I was a bit stunned.   First of all, this was a bit unorthodox since I wasn't in uniform.  But more importantly, he was a senior field grade officer... certainly not someone who should salute me first (if at all).   But after a long moment when I saw he wasn't going to release his salute until I reacted, I snapped a respectful salute in return....upon which he released his own and allowed his serious face to break into a broad grin.

He came forward and shook my hand warmly and then drew me into a bear hug.  After he had thanked me for all my help on the project, and for making him feel at home in Israel, he gave me a small gift and a slip of paper on which was written his home address and phone number... with what I'm certain was a sincere invitation to visit him and his family when I am next in his country.

The gift he gave me is still wrapped on my desk.  It does't really matter what it is.  The real gift was the respect that was exchanged between us outside... something intangible but priceless that will probably remain a complete mystery to anyone who has never served in uniform.

Posted by David Bogner on April 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Monday, April 26, 2010

No self-confidence issues here!

This morning at 5:45 AM when I was making the coffee and setting the table for breakfast, I was surprised to see Yonah come padding downstairs to join me.  He's a sleepy-head and is normally the last one to make an appearance in the morning.

I gave him a kiss and pointed his little pajamaed tushy to his place at the table.  But instead of sitting down and tucking into his breakfast, he decided to share something with me which he'd clearly been thinking about.

Yonah held up his hand and announced, "This is our family!"

Often, Yonah is frustrated at having to compete with his older siblings for our attention at the table, so because the two of us were alone... and because I wasn't in a hurry (for a change), I sat down and indulged him.  "Okay, Yonah... explain how that hand is our family".

Without missing a beat, he held up his middle finger at me and said, "This is you!"

I'm sure a day will come when he'll understand the significance of the gesture he was making, but for now I simply asked him "why".

He looked at me like I was an idiot.  "Because it's the tallest one!.  The tallest one is always the Abba!"

"Okay", I said.  "That makes sense.  But what about the others?".

Delighted to have an attentive audience for a change, Yonah continued, "This one (he pointed to the ring finger) is the Ima."

I stopped him here, because he'd violated his own logic.  "But Gilad and Ariella are both taller than Ima... shouldn't that finger be one of them?"

Yonah rolled his eyes and exhaled loudly, clearly feeling he was dealing with an idiot.  "No Abba, that one wears the rings and stands next to the Abba so it has to be the Ima.  This one (pointing now to the index finger) is Ariella... and this one (pointing to the pinkie) is Gilad".

Again, I interrupted him; "But Gili is taller than Ari.  Shouldn't it be the other way around?"

The look on Yonah's face reminded me of how crestfallen my 10th grade algebra teacher used to look when he noticed the only person whose hand wasn't waving wildly in the air... me.  It was a combination of disappointment and disbelief that anyone could fail to grasp such a basic concept.

"No Abba.  Except for Ima, Ariella has known you the longest.  She always sits on your lap and she can make you do whatever she wants".

That made me giggle a little, but I tried not to let him see.  "Oh yeah?  So if the pointer finger is Ari, why is this little one Gili?  He's taller than everyone in the family but me... and he's really strong!  This is just a little tiny finger!"

The loud exhalation was repeated... this time with a slow, patient head shake. 

"Nooooo, Gilad is a Red Belt in Taekwondo.  He's the only one in the family who can break things."  And with this, Yonah made a few chopping motions with his hand that would probably not have passed muster at Gili's Taekwondo class, but which clearly demonstrated the pinkie as the one doing all the breaking.

"Okay, you've convinced me", I told him.  "But where's Yonah?

He grinned broadly, clearly pleased with himself that he was able to conceal this bit for last.

He held up his thumb and said "This is Yonah... I'm the thumb!"

I let him enjoy his moment of triumph and then asked, "Okay, but why are you the thumb?"

"Because", he exclaimed while making a fist and caressing each finger in turn with the thumb, "I'm the only one who can give everyone else in the family a hug.  And also... the other fingers can't do anything without me.  I'm the most important finger!"

With that, he started eating his Cheerios.  And before picking up his coffee-milk, he examined his hand again... secure in his primacy in the family hierarchy.

Posted by David Bogner on April 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How I'll be responding to all future inquiries on the subject

I always have to think twice (sometimes even three times) before answering the frequently asked question; 'why do you carry a gun?'

The reply I give varies slightly depending on the nationality, politics, and age of the asker.  But in my mind, the actual reason is pretty straight forward:  My daily commute takes me through areas that are potentially dangerous... so I figure better safe than sorry.

But I recently heard someone give a response to the question 'Why do you carry a gun?' which, from this day forward, will become my stock answer:

"Because carrying around a policeman would hurt my back."

Posted by David Bogner on April 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Friday, April 23, 2010

Vespa Cowboy

In many places along my daily commute I see Bedouin shepherds grazing their herds of sheep and goats on the rocky hillsides next to the road.  In Bedouin culture, it is more often than not the youngest boy in the family who is tasked with watching the family flocks... and although larger flocks might require two shepherds to manage, it is not uncommon to see boys as young as 8 or 10, alone in the Judaen hills with a few dozen grazing animals.

I guess bright red Vespas are not a common sight in this area, because shepherds who used to ignore me as I passed in my silver Peugeot station wagon now smile and wave as I ride by.  In the short time I've been riding the scooter I've started to recognize a few of the young shepherds, and I always return a wave when it is offered.

Yesterday on my way to work I passed a flock of sheep grazing contentedly on a hillside... with no shepherd in sight!  About a kilometer later I crested a hill and nearly ran over one of the young shepherds who always waves to me.   But instead of looking up at the sound of my engine and screeching tires, he seemed to be watching something further down the road with rapt attention.  When I looked down the other side of the hill, I could see a donkey who was trotting away in the distance with his head rope dragging along on the ground.

As I looked back at the shepherd, I realized that the kid I had assumed to be 15 or 16 was probably just tall for his age.   His youthful face, which was now streaked with sweat, looked no older than 10. 

I don't speak Arabic and he spoke only broken Hebrew, but judging by the desperate look on his sweaty face, and the distance between the boy and his flock, I guessed he'd been chasing the donkey for a while.

With a few words and gestures he asked if could take him down the road to retrieve his donkey.  But before I could get out my spare helmet from under the seat (just my luck I'd get a ticket trying to do a good deed!) he was running back towards his flock because they had started to wander into the road, forming a big woolly roadblock. 

It wasn't bad enough that the kid was going to have to explain to his father that he'd lost the family donkey... but now there was the possibility that he'd also have to explain a few squashed sheep (not to mention whatever damage the sheep did to any car unlucky enough to plow into them).

Now, I don't claim to have any rodeo experience (having grown up in the 'burbs), but I did spend time on a kibbutz during my University days, milking cows and working with horses, so I'm not a complete city slicker.

I gunned the little 250 engine on my Vespa and headed down the road to see if I could catch up with the escaped donkey. 

If it headed off into the hills I wasn't going to have any luck (scooters are not much use off-road).  But if he stayed on the road or shoulder I figured I could at least hold onto him until the kid sorted out his flock problems.

Within a few seconds I had caught up to the donkey as he trotted in that funny stiff-legged gait common to Equus africanus asinus.  He didn't even turn his head as I passed him.  But when I stopped the scooter about twenty meters past him and turned sideways to try to block his path, he came to a sudden halt and started looking right and left for a new escape route. 

Before he could head off in a new direction where I wouldn't be able to follow him, I turned the scooter  around and began rolling slowly towards him.   He backed up a few steps, but didn't show any signs of bolting. 

Finally after a few more seconds I rolled up next to him and was able to grab his head rope.  I thought for a second about tying the rope to the back luggage rack of the scooter, but I was afraid that if the donkey got spooked and ran to the side, he could pull me (and my shiny new scooter) over.  So I just held the rope in my hand and waited to see if the kid would come collect his donkey.

But after about five minutes of waiting I realized that he couldn't see me from where he was now chasing his flock, and he probably had no idea I'd caught up with his donkey.  So I slowly started rolling the scooter to see if the donkey would follow along.  When all the slack was out of the rope, the donkey started walking along agreeably behind me... the two of us going just slightly faster than walking speed.

When I got back to where the shepherd was, his dirty face split into a big grin and he ran over to take the rope out of my left hand.  After saying thank you to me, the boy turned his attention to the wayward donkey and launched into an unbroken torrent of what I assume were curses in Arabic towards the donkey. 

I was starting to worry about being late for work, so I left them alone to work out their relationship issues. 

As I headed down the road towards Beer Sheva, I could swear I heard the jingle jangle of spurs over the soft purring of the Vespa motor.  Too bad it was early morning... the only thing that could possibly have made the moment more perfect was if I could have ridden off into the sunset. 

Happy trails.  :-)

Posted by David Bogner on April 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Not in my name (redux)

Back in 2004 I wrote a post entitled 'Not in my name' in which I denounced violence perpetrated by right wing individuals /groups.

At the time I felt it was important to point out that, while the left-wing crowd may view all 'settlers' as a unified, monolithic block, we are every bit as fragmented / diverse as any other part of Israeli society... and that many (if not most) of us are anxious to disassociate ourselves from the tiny minority of settlers who are behaving badly/criminally.

Yesterday I was horrified to read about some residents of Yitzhar who decided that Israel Independence Day would be a good time to go over to the neighboring Arab village and hold an impromptu demonstration.

No permits, no planning, no coordination with the army... nothing.  Some idiot(s) just decided that if a bunch of Israelis went over to vent their spleen in the neighboring village on what they (the Arabs) consider Nabqa Day, it would all end well.  Idiots!

Thankfully a local army patrol (i.e. soldiers who risk their lives to keep all of the area safe and secure for both Jews and Arabs), showed up and tried to head them off... explaining that it was not only a closed military zone, but also a very bad idea.

Sadly, the small group of Yitzhar residents did not take the hint, turn around and go home, but rather summoned a much larger group from their town.  This mob [a word I use advisedly] of settlers began pelting the soldiers with rocks, fists, and anything else handy.  One enterprising young boy even found the means to slash the tires of several of the army vehicles. 

I have no words to describe how I hate hearing about something like this.  These are our soldiers... our sons and daughters... the people's army.  We pray for the safety of these holy men and women with the sefer Torah in our arms, and we rely on them to guard us from our enemies as we enjoy our incredible good fortune to live in this country they have secured for us.  How dare an Israeli of any stripe raise a hand against these soldiers?!

I have spoken out repeatedly here against the government's ill advised use of soldiers to remove illegal settlements and perform 'disengagement' duties for exactly this reason.  The people's army must never be used against the people.  But by the same token, the people must never raise a hand against their army.  Because the moment the IDF ceases to be the army of all the people... we are all lost.

Just as with leftist/anarchist criminals who attack IDF troops at protests over the security barrier, I strongly urge the police to arrest anyone linked with right-wing violence against soldiers... and I urge the Justice Ministry to see that such acts are prosecute to the fullest extent allowed by law without regard to the political affiliation of the perpetrators.

Lastly, the leaders of Yitzhar, the regional council heads throughout Judea and Samaria, and anyone else with a public voice (i.e. bloggers, journalists, etc.), must speak out unequivocally against such violent acts.  Every such act that takes place without our immediate and complete condemnation lends credence to the countless fabricated, fraudulently reported complaints of settler wrong-doing. 

It is incumbent on those with a public voice to state loud and clear that criminals do not act in anyone's name but their own. 

Posted by David Bogner on April 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Monday, April 19, 2010

Alone on a bridge (with everyone else)

At 11:00 AM this morning I was on my way into Jerusalem to pick up my daughter.  I was driving my scooter across a bridge that spans a valley between two mountain tunnels when all around me the sound of air raid sirens filled the air. 

I wasn't alarmed, though.  I was expecting this.

It is Memorial Day here in Israel... the day before our independence day.   Today, all over the county people pause to remember and honor the men and women who have fallen in Israel's wars. 

In a country where everyone - men and women - gets a draft notice for military service after high school, everyone is related to someone. or knew someone who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

At exactly 11:00 AM a two minute siren sounds throughout the length and breadth of the country, and everywhere - in offices, in shopping malls, on highways, and of course, in cemeteries -  people stop whatever they are doing - even driving - stand at attention with head bowed, and remember.

When the sirens started, all the traffic around me stopped and the drivers and passengers got out and stood silently on the pavement beside their cars.  I got off my scooter, put it up on its stand, and took off my helmet.

For two minutes the only sound there on the bridge was the plaintive wail of the siren from the nearby neighborhood of Gilo... and the soft sobbing of a policeman who was standing next to his cruiser two cars in front of me.  His female partner on the opposite side of the car soon joined him, though her sobs were silent; given away only be the way her shoulders shook.

When the siren finally trailed off, everyone got back into (or onto) their vehicles, and the sound of cars and motorcycles starting filled the deck of the bridge.  And slowly the line of traffic began to move again towards Jerusalem.

Anyone who has ever ridden a scooter or motorcycle is familiar with the feeling of being alone... even in heavy traffic.  The cars are full of people, and even the single drivers have the company of the radio and four walls.  I'm not complaining, mind you... I like the two wheeled experience.  But I have to admit that it was a special moment there on the bridge this memorial day, having all those drivers step out into the fresh mountain air, and join me in my solitude.

Posted by David Bogner on April 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The absence of peace does not mean war

If you are contemplating entering into a binding transaction, and the other party (and all of his friends) starts pressuring you to close the deal by an arbitrary deadline... or else!... you have to ask yourself if that deadline - or the deal itself -  is in your best interest, right?

I mention this because in an interview this weekend, King Abdullah of Jordan (one of our so-called friends) echoed a very troubling sentiment that we've been hearing from most of our enemies in the Arab League; namely, that if we don't finalize a peace agreement quickly, war will 'break out'.

Think about that for a moment.  Considering the staggering cost in lives and infrastructure that wars usually engender, there are really only two reasons why a country would go to war: Because the potential gain outweighs the potential losses...  or to defend against the aggression of another state / non-state actor (i.e. there is no other choice).  So the idea that the Palestinians can't help but go to war is idiotic.

Don't get me wrong... I firmly believe that Israel should extend it's hand in peace wherever and whenever a real opportunity presents itself.  I'll even go so far as to say that we should make difficult concessions if it will bring about a real and lasting peace. 

But the idea of entering into a questionable peace under the threat of war is just nuts!  Yet that is exactly what everyone is demanding of us!  In support of the Palestinians, the Lebanese (government & Hezbollah), Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and now even our 'friendly neighbor' Jordan, have all expressed the same sentiment; that if Israel doesn't hurry up and agree to the Palestinian's peace terms, then we will have to fight a war.

How exactly does that work? 

Israel is faced with a divided Palestinian people... not just geographically divided between Gaza and the West Bank, but also politically divided between the democratically elected Hamas, (which has an unambiguous policy of wanting to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic Palestinian state), and the serially corrupt Fatah (which has seized total control of the Palestinian Authority but which is otherwise powerless to impose its decisions on the Palestinian people).

Simply put, Hamas won't talk to us (except about our unconditional surrender), and any agreement Israel would make with Fatah would be unenforceable.  We, of course, would be expected to bring large chunks of land to the signing ceremony, while they would be expected to bring... a pen. 

Further, if we did sign a peace deal with Fatah, once we'd handed over sovereignty for whatever territory they demanded, Hamas would come in an take over, leaving us without peace... and even more troubling; without our territory.

Although the present tension is far from ideal, while we have been waiting for the Palestinians to speak and act with one voice, we have been living - thriving even - with the absence of peace.  While waiting for a real peace partner to emerge, Israel's economy has blossomed, our international academic standing has continued to improve, and by any measure, the number of start-ups and Nobel prizes is, on a per-capita basis, the envy of the world.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, have suffered terrible set-backs each and every time they have tried to use violence to win their state.  At a certain point even they must see that their efforts are moving them further away from their state, not closer.

Obviously it would be preferable to have peace - a real peace - at the earliest possible moment.  But for Israel to be dragged blindly into another Oslo accords-type agreement just because of an arbitrary and artificial time-table, is a recipe for disaster. 

Of course, by echoing the Lebanese, Syrians and Saudis, a disaster my be exactly what 'friends' like King Abdullah are hoping for.

Posted by David Bogner on April 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The only downside I've found (so far) to scootering to work

The other morning I was approaching an intersection a few blocks from my office.  The light had turned red and there were a few cars waiting in each lane.  Being a scooter, I did what scooters do; I threaded my way to the front of the line and waited next to the lead car for the light to change.

I'm not sure if it was because my scooter is so quiet or if this guy just didn't care... but being a tad higher than the four wheeled folks on the road, when I glanced over at the driver in the car next to me, I could clearly see he was about wrist deep in his right nostril, and scrabbling away so enthusiastically that I imagined I could hear fingernails scraping on cartilage through the open window.

I couldn't very well rev my engine because the automatic transmission on the Vespa would shoot me into the intersection, and clearing my throat wouldn't be heard through my full-face helmet.  I suppose I could have beeped my horn, but I was worried that startling him in flagrante decerpo might cause a sudden brain injury.

After what seemed like an eternity I finally turned to him, flipped up my helmet's face-screen and said (in Hebrew), "You know I can see you, right?"

The guy turned his head slowly towards me (without bothering to remove his digit from his nose) and simply stared.  No signs of embarrassment... no deft feign at scratching an itch... just a deadpan stare.

When the light finally changed I sped ahead of the other drivers, silently promising myself that I would try to avoid using my new, elevated vantage point to peek at the other drivers waiting with me at intersections.


Posted by David Bogner on April 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I think I've figured it out [please don't take this post seriously]

It has always bothered me that we see thousands of perfectly normal looking people at work and on the street every day, but when someone does something truly heinous, we wonder if we should have been able to spot some warning sign... some kind of 'tell' that would have tipped us off to their potential for wrong-doing.

Well, I'm happy to report that I think I'm onto something.

Please take a look at the following photos of Tali Fahima and Anat Kamm and you tell me if you see a common thread:

Fahima  Kamm 

Yup, that's right... there seems to be something about people who favor unusually clunky eyeglass frames which hints of a propensity for [allegedly] being disloyal citizens.

Now you know.  :-)

Posted by David Bogner on April 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jewish Anti-Semitism

There are many who use their nominal Jewishness as a shield against charges of anti-Semitism.  They insist that their Jewishness allows them to speak truths about their own people that others cannot for fear of being called racist.

As distasteful as it may be, today on Holocaust Remembrance Day I must point out this lie for what it is. 

Jews are often more dangerous enemies of their own people than the worst of the nations who have tried to destroy us.  Self-hate and internal divisiveness is like a cancer to our community, and our enemies latch onto these eager Capos knowing full well they can penetrate even our most carefully constructed social and legal bulwarks with the help of someone on the inside.

Take for example Shulamit Aloni.  This former Education Minister was the first of several far left aparatchiks to use that post to systematically purge the Israel education system of all but the the most vestigial traces of religious content.  This has led to subsequent generations of Israeli youth who have no idea why we are here on this inhospitable patch of land.  They scratch their heads and wonder what's so special about this place that it needs defending.

Aloni decided that today, of all days, would be a good day to compare all settlers to Nazis. 

In her words:

“It is Holocaust Memorial Day today, and what did they [the Nazis] do during the Holocaust? Destroyed houses and burned books. They did not like Jews, and the settlers do not like those who think differently from them. "  [source]

This from the same woman who enthusiastically defended U.S. President Jimmy Carter's use of the word "apartheid" in the title of his book, 'Palestine Peace Not Apartheid' [source], and who famously accused her own country of War Crimes at the height of the 2nd Intifada stating, "the terror utilized by Israel in the territories is worse than Palestinian terrorism". [source]

But Aloni is far from a lone anti-Semitic voice in the forest of self-hatred.

The publication this past week of a Facebook chat held between assistant editor of Ha'Aretz Magazine Section, Uri Tuval and other Ha'Aretz journalists, was beyond anything I thought possible.  These icons of Israeli intellectualism were discussing the death of IDF officer Eliraz Peretz who was killed leading a unit of Golani special forces soldiers into an apparent Hamas Ambush on the Gaza border last week.

Tuval wrote the following:

“I don’t want to live in the country of Captain Eliraz Peretz or his mother. My consolations to the family…a family of Jihadist Fascists, and don’t dare let anyone say he was killed for my sake.”

“I can’t bear that "People of Israel- Land of Israel- Defense Forces of Israel-Israel’s children-Sanctification of G-d’s name" mantra. His mother said she is sure that G-d loves the Golani Brigade’s Egoz special forces unit. I don’t want an army that G-d loves. For that I may as well move to Iran.”

“What keeps this mother alive is what sent and keeps on sending too many people to their deaths. I don’t like using grief for one-sided ends. She was given ten minutes of live coverage on three different TV stations to expound on her nationalistic worldview and no one is allowed to respond?”

“The family’s suffering is real, but the nationalistic 'righteous ones' who allow her to deal with it in this way encourage people who are still alive to go to their soldiers’ deaths, including her other son. I do believe that ‘it is good to die for our land [a quote from the Zionist hero Joseph Trumpeldor, ed.]’, but the question is what land and what worldview.”

“The officer who was killed had built his home in an illegal outpost. Is that rational? The religious Zionists have turned the IDF into a tool for their political goals, they endanger all of us, and also cause more of their group to be killed. And when they are killed, they talk about it. When they do that, we are allowed to think about it and respond.”  [source]

I have never advocated Israel being a theocracy.  On the contrary, I love that my country is a pluralistic, modern society with a vibrant Jewish character; albeit one with a religious / non-religious status quothat requires constant tweaking. But that line between having a Jewish character and impinging on personal freedoms is not-unlike the constant tug-o-war between civil liberties and national security.  Meaning, there is no perfect solution... only the constant need to adjust (one way or the other) the location of the line where they meet. 

What we are seeing today with countless home-grown Israeli NGOs actively abetting the interests of foreign powers dedicated to undermining Israel's legitimacy is, IMHO, a direct result of purging Judaism from the educational system of the Jewish State.  

Once upon a time there were as many (or more) secular contestants in the annual Israeli Bible quizzes as there were religious.  Secular Israelis once proudly hiked the length and breadth of this country secure in their knowledge of how and where modern and ancient history overlapped. 

Now it has become fashionable for radical leftists to arrange 'outings' to religious communities on Shabbat, and have female 'activists' disrobe on the main streets in hopes of inciting a newsworthy reaction. [source]  Apparently it isn't enough for religious Jews not to impose their views on the secular.  Even when they go off and live by themselves, their very existence is an affront to the anti-Semitic among us.

If I take anything from this Holocaust Remembrance Day tinged with hate from the likes of Aloni and Tuval, it is that we must work harder to preserve the Jewish character of our country so it can survive the relentless onslaught of self-hating, anti-Semitic Jews... and the foreign agents whose agendas they shamelessly champion.

Posted by David Bogner on April 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Sunday, April 11, 2010

NG does it again

Every few years I come very close to canceling the family subscription to National Geographic.  This is almost always a result of a deliberate and unnecessary slamming of Israel.

I know I'm probably overly sensitive, but I'd like to share a couple of things from the latest issue... one devoted entirely to the global issue of water.

First is the following statement (with my emphasis added):

"Accompanied by military escort, three scientists - an Israeli, a Palestinian, and a Jordanian - are standing knee-deep in the Jordan River. They are nearly 40 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, under the precarious ruins of a bridge that was bombed during the Six Day War of June 1967."

Strange how in one short paragraph about a cooperative scientific survey of the Jordan River, the author manages to make two not-so-subtle allusions to militarism.

Next comes the following:

"Armed confrontations over the Jordan date to the founding of Israel in 1948 and the recognition that sources of the country's needed water supply lay outside its borders. Its survival depended on the Jordan River, with its headwaters in Syria and Lebanon, its waters stored in the Sea of Galilee, and the tributaries that flow into it from neighboring countries."

Ah yes, all the region's woes can be traced to that upstart Israel casting a greedy eye outside its borders for the things it wants.

"In the 1960s Israeli air strikes after Syria attempted to divert the Baniyas River (one of the Jordan's headwaters in the Golan Heights), together with Arab attacks on Israel's National Water Carrier project, lit fuses for the Six Day War. Israel and Jordan nearly came to blows over a sandbar in the Yarmuk River in 1979. And in 2002 Israel threatened to shell agricultural pumping stations on the Hasbani, another of the headwaters in southern Lebanon."

Now we're getting to the root of the problem.  Israel threatens or actually carries out military actions whenever it's neighbors do anything related to water management.

"According to a 2009 World Bank report, Israelis use four times as much water per capita as Palestinians, much of it for agriculture. Israel disputes this, arguing that its citizens use only twice as much water and are better at conserving it. In any case, Israel's West Bank settlements get enough water to fill their swimming pools, water their lawns, and irrigate miles of fields and greenhouses."

This is a common theme in Israel-bashing from Europe and the U.S.  They like to juxtapose the poor Palestinians living in squalor with no landscaping and sub-standard sanitary provisions, against Israeli settlers living in comfortable suburban neighborhoods filled with tree-lined streets and green lawns.  What they never talk about is that the respective communities are responsible for their own urban planning and Israel has no way to impose first world standards or aesthetics on what is essentially a third world population.  This leaves aside the fact that there are many, many Palestinians living in homes far bigger/nicer than mine who drive BMWs. Mercedes and other luxury cars I could never dream of affording.

But by far the thing that offended me the most was a picture caption (which doesn't appear in the on-line edition) stating that since 1967 Israel has been denying Syria access to the easter shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).  No context, just that incredible statement as if Israel woke up one day and decided to block a peaceful neighbor's access to a vital water source.

This may be the one that finally gets me to cancel that subscription.

Posted by David Bogner on April 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Words to live by:

"I have no problem serving as a cautionary tale... so long as I'm still around to tell it."

Posted by David Bogner on April 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Bread Run

Even though we tend to dismiss bread as little more than the frame within which we display our artfully assembled sandwiches, or a lowly tool with which to sop up the stray dribbles gravy at the end of a good meal, going without the stuff for a full week is a potent reminder of why it is referred to as 'the staff of life'. 

There is something so vitally important about bread that the mere smell of it baking can turn a house into a home... and the smallest taste of it can turn an odd assortment of unrelated foodstuffs into a meal.

Over the past few years I have started a tradition surrounding bread.  The moment the Passover holiday is finished, I leave Zahava and the kids to 'turn over' the kitchen to the year-round dishes and utensils, and I make the 'bread run' to Jerusalem  (there are no bakeries in our town that open right after the holiday). 

Once there, I wait on line at one of the bakeries with an appreciative crowd of like-minded people while the bakery staff turns out the first batch of hot baguettes and rolls, and load up the car with enough bread for our family... as well as some extra to drop off with friends in our neighborhood.

The ride home is always a challenge since the big load of fresh warm bread tends to fog up the windows, and the intoxicating smell of yeasty goodness is enough to set my stomach rumbling.

At the check-point I pass on the way home I always hand over a couple of warm baguettes to the surprised soldiers, and I watch with delight in my rear view mirror as they tuck into their first post-Pesach bread.

Once back in Efrat, I make the rounds of a few close friends' houses, and hand over more of the warm bread. 

Finally, when I get home, Zahava and the kids take the last of the bread from me and we settle in with butter, cheese and assorted spreads to enjoy a pleasant reminder of why this simple staple, in all of its variations, is so vital and central to our very existence.

We call Matzoh - the unleavened Passover cracker - 'the bread of affliction'.  But the truth is, with a little butter and jam it's actually pretty good.   Which is why I'm convinced that without that first post-Pesach bread run, we wouldn't sufficiently appreciate the hardship our ancestors in Egypt took upon themselves.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday as much as we did.

Posted by David Bogner on April 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack