Amsterdam was great. Holland was great. Eldest was great. We had the best hotel and the best weather. We had a great time hopping on trains and off trams and managed to do all the things we had set out to do (and to empty my bank account, as well. The Euro made things very expensive for us).
Because it was the Succot holiday (still is, actually), Holland was full (and I mean full) of Israeli tourists, but not full of other tourists, which was nice (although there were quite a few Japanese as well, but not enough to render the queues at tourist attractions in any way unpleasant). Eldest was very excited with all the Israeli tourists, quite a few of whom were also mothers (or mothers and fathers) with what looked like other twelve year-old daughters also on their Bat Mitzva trips. I'm such a snob. I tried to curb Eldest's enthusiasm about fellow countrymen for fear of being stuck with them ("Shshsh, they don't have to know we're Israeli, too!"). It didn't help. We obviously looked the part. We ended up spending one evening with a very nice Kibbutznik with her Bat Mitzva daughter searching for the shops her friend back home had promised her were open till nine o'clock at night, although I did try to convince her that from what we'd seen, and according to all our guide books, the shops closed at five, six at the latest.
We started our visit in Anne Frank's house, of course. I think I embarrassed Eldest because I got very emotional, but she made light of it by saying it didn’t matter because she didn't know anyone anyway. She's so sweet.
I like the way Amsterdam, unlike other places, hasn't tried to hide, ignore or bury its rich Jewish history or what happened to make the Jews disappear. In every tour guide, and tourist map you'll find the Portuguese Synagogue and the Jewish Historical Museum prominently pointed out. But that seems to be the thing with Amsterdam. It doesn't pretend to be something it's not. No games. You want sex for money? Over here, take your pick. You want "recreational" drugs? This way please.
Maybe this matter-of-fact openness is why Israelis love it there, besides the Dutch knowing how to make us feel really welcome. It was nice to receive pamphlets in Hebrew at quite a few tourist attractions (and not just at Jewish-y ones). How many cities in Western Europe can boast that, these days? Not anywhere in Britain, that's for sure. (Via Melanie Phillips. Thank you, again, Dad, for taking me away from that country before I was old enough to experience or understand any of that sort of stuff. )
One lady in the market I bought some clothes from, asked me if we were not scared, living in Israel. After answering (same sort of stuff you can read here), I pointed out that I found it strange to be going into crowded tourist attractions in Holland and no one was checking anyone's bags. Just the day before, we had been standing in a very long queue for a ride in the Efteling amusement park (I suffer from very bad motion sickness, this was not one of my best days in Holland. Luckily Eldest is as terrified of roller coasters as I am made nauseous by them, so I managed to get through the day without actually losing any of my meals before they were fully digested), when it suddenly crossed my mind how easy it would be to just come along with a machine gun, open fire and kill dozens of us. Then I realized that there was nothing to actually prevent anyone from entering the park armed with such a weapon. Not to mention an easy-to-conceal explosives belt, which could have killed hundreds in such a queue. Holland is so liberal, I doubt it would be a real problem to purchase such equipment locally. So I told the lady in the market I hoped they would never need to have to check people at the entrance to places. She said they already do, in discotheques, but that was because of the Moroccans, whom, she said, tend to be aggressive. You mean violent? I asked. She meant violent.
We didn't see or hear any news while we were there, and Eldest didn't allow me to go into any Internet cafes (She wouldn't let me go to the meditation room in Schiphol airport either. Meanie. I was very excited about there being a meditation room there).
So it was only on the plane, where they gave me Maariv to read, that I first heard about this Geneva Agreement thing. From what I've managed to work out, it's the Beilinim*, forgetting once again that they lost the elections by an extremely large margin and therefore represent only a small minority of Israelis, having the gall to cut deals with Palestinians, although they have no mandate to do so whatsoever. It seems I'm not the only one incensed by this. According to yesterday’s Yediot Aharonot, an opinion poll by Mina Tzemach and the Dahaf Institute reveals that 59% of Israelis are opposed to the Geneva agreement and 69% of Israelis feel that Israelis cannot negotiate an agreement with Palestinians without the approval of the government (Hebrew link).
* Beilinim = A group of people who happen to be on the left of the Israeli political map, one of them being, as always, MK (Dr.) Yossi Beilin, who believe, on the whole, that just because Arafat and his subordinates have lied and cheated repeatedly, and continue to do so, doesn't necessarily make them unsuitable negotiating partners.
Moreover, the Beilinim seem to believe that whoever doesn't see things as they do is probably either too deranged or too stupid to have a viewpoint. The democratic vote of such a person, therefore, doesn't mean much in their eyes, or so it seems. The Beilinim lost the support of the Israeli public following the colossal failure of Oslo and their rigid refusal to internalize or accept this. These people have no right to be cutting deals in our name. But that's not how they see things.
Still, it's nice to be home.
Update: OK, so I've read this post again three times and I fail to see any insightful observations. But thank you for saying so anyway, Jonathan.
Thursday, October 16, 2003