I'm a bit under the weather. Bad cold. Blogging to resume soon, hopefully.
why not a fish
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Monday, July 28, 2003
The Mount of Olives
A few years ago, the mother of a friend at work passed away following a prolonged illness. The funeral was on the Mount of Olives, although she had lived in Rishon Letzion. Apparently, although very ill, my friend's mother had schlepped up to Jerusalem and bought herself a plot. It had been very expensive and she had not been very well off, but it had been very important for her, as it has been for so many Jews down the ages, that she be buried overlooking Jerusalem, ready for the resurrection.
I understand that these days it's mainly Bukharan Jews who feel this way and are prepared to pay the price (that is besides extremely wealthy Jews from the Diaspora). My mother-in-law says she has many relations buried there, Jerusalemites from the Bukharan quarter. You won't be able to find any of their graves, though, because the ancient cemetery was completely ransacked during the Jordanian rule of Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967. After the Six Day War, gravestones from the cemetery were apparently discovered being used as bricks in the walls of houses. I read somewhere that they were found as far away as Hebron.
The cemetery is built on the slope facing the old city. We had to travel through East Jerusalem's car repair shops to get to it. And it was terribly rundown. There was this strange uneasy silence and an eerie feeling of desolation. We had to scale the mountain to get to the plot. It was probably the most surreal funeral I have ever been to, and I've been to a few.
Shortly after the funeral, the Terror War commenced. I hear my friend has never been to visit her mother's grave. For one thing, she spent the next year and a half nursing her sick father. But mainly, she has not felt it safe enough to go, although Jerusalemites may disagree.
Apparently the local Arabs have been desecrating the graves again. I hope they've left the grave of my friend's mother alone.
It is here! The official Notafish obsession site (Some people are so bored, I suggest they come over here and ride some buses, far more exciting: a. They get to feel like they are in a glass aquarium. b. Oh, never mind, there's a Hudna on). I'm on the links so I shouldn't bitch. Actually it's funny and sweet.
They're faking it, you know. Are a fish. Definitely. That's why this is all they write about. They're in DENIAL. It's quite obvious. Now, take me on the other hand. I ask you, have I ever, EVER written anything about fish?
See? Not a fish.
[This is on the links over there. Also not a fish. weirdish.]
When I was in the army I worked shifts, which meant I had to work most Shabbatot (Saturdays). I didn't get to see my friends at home very often, because I was working when they were on leave, so I was usually pretty desperate to get home, for at least some of the Shabbat. I would finish the Saturday shift at two and then I would set off from Jerusalem to home in Haifa by "trempim" (hitch hiking) with one or two other soldiers from my base. There were no buses, because of ultra-religious political stuff. The roads were usually deserted. Most cars were full of families on daytrips. Few stopped and it usually took me till evening to get home. By Netanya my fellow "trempistim" (hitch hikers) had usually all disappeared and I often found myself at Hadera on the road by myself.
One time I was standing on my own at Hadera junction. I had been there for about half an hour and hardly any cars had gone past. I nearly cried when a nearly empty car with army plates sailed by. The bastard had gotten his car from the army. Couldn't he stop for a girl soldier, alone on the road? Eventually, a car stopped in the distance in front of me. I started moving towards it, not sure it was meant for me. Then I noticed there were three men in the car, and they looked like Arabs. I was just starting to panic, when another car stopped and I climbed aboard thankfully. I remember finding myself in the back seat of a bashed up old car, squeezed in between an old lady and a crate of chickens or something equally strange. The driver was really crazy and it crossed my mind, not for the first time, that I had more chance of being killed in a car crash than of being abducted by terrorists.
The next Saturday, I felt very uneasy. I decided that was it. Last time. Something was in the air. At HaKfar HaYarok junction on the outskirts of Tel Aviv a woman at a bus stop told me something was happening. There were rumors that a girl soldier had gone missing on the roads. I still had quite a bit to go till Haifa.
Later the news broke. A hitch hiking girl soldier had been abducted by Arabs on the Thursday, two days before. Hadas Kedmi. Apparently I knew her, sort of. She had occupied the room opposite me in the barracks when I was in an army course. Her body was found a few weeks later (the second date on the link is a mistake). I remember the horrible details of what they did to her, but I won't go into that.
I stayed in my base after that.
Good thing my mum isn't around to read any of this. She would have had a fit.
I think they stopped girl soldiers hitch hiking on their own like that some time after I left the army.
Every so often a soldier goes missing and later turns up slaughtered. Today the body of another such soldier, Oleg Shaikhet, was found. They have been searching for him since last week.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Look what Gil has posted - nice photos of my home town. What a treat.
Believe it or not, you can see my living room window on the lower photo (I'm actually standing there waving but it's too small to see). I'm not telling which is my building. No amount of begging will change my mind. And flattery won't do any good either. Nor bribery (Hmm…)
HIA Vice President Rachel Zelon described the poor living conditions of Iraqi Jews, whose possessions were confiscated by the state during Saddam Hussein's regime: "Most of them live in bitter poverty in subhuman conditions...The small Jewish community has been living in a society that hates Israel and despises Jews. Most of them tried to hide their Jewish identities, telling only close friends."
Zelon said that the project received complete U.S. military support. "On Tuesday we met with the American commander of humanitarian aid in Baghdad. We told him that there was a group of elderly Jews who needed care and we wanted to take them to a safe country, to Israel. He answered emotionally: 'That's amazing, we'll do anything to help you.'"
A U.S. soldier stationed at the Baghdad airport while the group boarded the Jordanian plane that would bring them to Tel Aviv, stated, "You know, this is what makes the work that we're doing here worthwhile."
Unsent letter to a Dharma Sister
I have often wondered why you never answered my last e-mail. Was it too intense for you? Was it too harsh? Was it unacceptable because it had no message of peace and reconciliation, only despair and mistrust? It was an e-mail that begged for an answer. It was written by someone whose whole world of values and beliefs had just collapsed (and rightly so, true Buddhists would jeer, ever so gently). You're a psychologist. Did you have no words of hope and comfort to offer?
Together we learnt of non-judgment, J., and spent a week practicing it together in a peaceful place, far from the world's troubling realities. It was easy there, wasn't it? The sun was our Sangha.
But back home, peace was not so easily come by. And I felt so very judged by your silence.
This is not a love letter. I am no longer seeking acceptance. I am not interested in your understanding (I am not a very good liar, am I?). But the questions continue to haunt me. Why didn't you answer my e-mail? Why were you unable to sense my pain and respond to it? Was it because you ceased seeing me as Imshin and started seeing me as part of a collective of wickedness, based on my words, based on my unwillingness to automatically accept all blame in the name of my people, because that was how you saw things?
(Harsh accusations indeed from one who thinks of rejoining her Sangha weekly meetings. Things are usually more complex than they seem)
I should let it go. I should not blame and judge you. I really know nothing of why you didn't write. Maybe you felt inadequate to understand what I was going through and thought it wiser to be silent. Maybe your already shaky access to your e-mail box had become non-existent.
We had had our moment of closeness, and it was over. Time to let it go.
With some sadness,
Friday, July 25, 2003
I love Tel Aviv
The beach is definitely the place to be on summer evenings. Grab something to take for the girls' supper and head down to Tel Aviv's newly renovated (Hebrew link) "Metzitzim" beach (named after a popular Israel movie filmed there in the early seventies) at half five in the afternoon and you get to spend a lovely tranquil afternoon and early evening, watching the sun setting. During the week it's a Tel Avivi thing. At the weekends you'll find the rest of the country there. Less pleasant for us locals. Not being snobby, just too crowded, and it's near enough for us to go during the week, without getting stuck in traffic. "Metzitzim" beach is now connected by footpath to the newly renovated commercial and entertainment area of Tel Aviv's old port. It hasn't functioned as a port for years, since Ashdod port was built, and had become very rundown. Now it has restaurants, coffee shops, bars and nightclubs. We like going there in the winter and watching the waves break on the pier.
The port actually has an interesting history. It was built during the "Great Arab Uprising" in the thirties (yes, the British had their Intifada, too), when Jews were not able to use Jaffa port. Tel Aviv port was constructed as an alternative. There is a photo of Bish's grandfather at the grand opening. Bish's mother says she was there too. It was apparently a very joyous occasion. They also built a trade fair center there, the first in the Middle East, which has since been moved to another location in Tel Aviv. The story goes that one of the local Arab notables said that camels would fly before the Jews would be able to build a trade fair center in Tel Aviv. Therefore the symbol of the fair center was (and still is) a flying camel.
Well, we're off to Mitzpe Ramon for the weekend. I'm a bit back on my correspondences. My apologies to those who haven't received answers to e-mails.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Bish came home with my new cell phone. Blogging is on hold for the next ten years while I learn how to use it.
Points of Departure
I'm so glad Allison pointed out Dinesh's blog. I'm really enjoying it, and I love that he's in Sde Boqer in my beloved Negev. Lucky him. He gets to be there all the time.
For me, being Israeli, he is particularly intriguing because he tells of life in my country from different eyes. He notices and points out things that are obvious to me.
I'm taking for granted that he is a "he", based on what Allison wrote, but rereading the blog, I don't seem to see any proof of this. Is Dinesh a man's name? Please forgive, me if you are a "She", Dinesh.
I'm enjoying a day at home with the girls today. Things are a bit tense for me at work lately and it's nice not to have to go in and face the unpleasant atmosphere once in a while.
Youngest was reading in the paper about the timely deaths of the Hussein sons. Why didn't they kill Saddam first? She enquired. She also requested me to tell her what they had done that made them so horrible. She realized I mightn't be able to spell it out, so she asked for a "gentle version."
I didn't tell her about the shredding machine. It's enough I have nightmares.
Hudna log rambling
As a former euphoric, drooling-at-the-mouth Oslo supporter, one of the things that continues to infuriate me most, even at the advent of this cease-ish fire we are experiencing (and I'm not being cynical, well maybe a little bit. Cynical but hopeful), is the feeling that Palestinians and with them most of the world, refuse to recognize our deep historical, cultural, religious and emotional connections to this land and especially to places we will have to vacate, should this cease-ish fire eventually mature into peace and coexistence. This is probably one of the greatest changes in me. I now believe it is crucial that the Palestinians learn to understand and respect our deep connections to this land. If they continue to openly and unabashedly refuse to accept that we are something other than a foreign, unnatural entity here, I doubt I will be able to trust them, or support any peace initiative with my vote.
Before the Terror War, articles like this, written by a Jewish dweller of Hebron would have angered me. I wouldn't have been able to read it. Now I appreciate the sentiment expressed in it. I cannot agree with him. I certainly cannot accept the way this endeavor is carried out, and I am angered by the unnecessary price in human life for both sides caused by their actions, and by their often-criminal behavior towards their neighbors. I believe they will eventually have to be forcibly removed from there. I wish it had been done long ago. But I can better understand where they are coming from. I also feel the pain at the prospect of having to part with a place we see as an important part of our ancient heritage.
Regardless of how difficult it may be, however, I will gladly support such a development, if I feel the Palestinians are capable of appreciating what a great sacrifice this is for us, and of honoring us for it. I have little reason to believe this is the case right now.
Doesn't time fly when you're having fun?
It's Lynn B.'s first Blogiversary. It seems only yesterday that she was starting up. In Context remains one of my very favorite blogs.
Peace on Palestinian TV.
Just after I went to bed last night, Bish called me to see something on Channel One's late news. I missed most of it, but by the time I got to the living room they were showing what looked like a pro-peace broadcast that had apparently been aired on Palestinian TV. What I managed to see was children singing about peace in Arabic. You know, gooey stuff. Bish said that at the beginning they showed a child dressed up as a Jewish ultra-religious boy (with long side locks) singing a song about peace. Nice. I can't find any links to it.
While searching I found this, though. Also nice. "Four Israelis and four Palestinians are to make a joint assault on a previously unclimbed mountain in the Antarctic Peninsula later this year". The project is being sponsored by an Israeli businessman who lives in Germany.
Hope we get more gooey stuff as times go by, and not more of the other stuff. One down. Next stop school textbooks and curricula.
Update: With reference to Pal TV, Micol tells me not so nice. Sigh.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Lately, I have no idea what other bloggers are talking about. Most of the time they seem to be talking about people and things I know nothing of. Maybe it's my brain tissue melting.
Nothing particularly interesting seems to be happening over here. The economy, the single parents' struggle, the crisis in the health system. Am I meant to have an opinion on these things? What for?
Is it a summer thing? Does everyone sink into lethargy on the first of July, to reemerge only on the first of September?
Or is it just me?
I have two little girls in the shower, Youngest and a friend. They were at the pool today in summer camp and they don't really shower there very well. So. Every two seconds I have to go and help out with soap in eyes or some other such calamity. Any minute now it'l be combing parade time.
This was their last day at summer camp. Now I'll have to start taking Youngest to the pool myself. Eldest goes with friends thankfully. I'm an embarrassment (At last!).
Showers finished they're going down to play goomi (a skipping game) under the building. The heat seems to affect kids differently.
Why is it all year I say "We'll do it in the summer" and then when summer comes I'm too exhausted to do anything?
New Israeli blog: Israellycool. Doesn't seem to be affected by summertime apathy. Maybe he's a fraud. A cool fraud. I will discuss this question further. In September. Anyway, he's the guy of the moment. Go see. And I wasn't the one who cut him on the Ayalon Freeway. Honest!
Monday, July 21, 2003
My apologies about the light blogging.
It's too damn hot and humid and even the air-conditioning doesn't help my energy levels very much.
Saturday, July 19, 2003
Strength in numbers
From Fiamma Nirenstein's essay, "How I became an 'unconscious fascist'" quoted by Ocean Guy: "One Palestinian told me that if I see things so differently from the majority, this plainly means that my brain doesn't work too well."
This gem reminded me of Bish, naturally. Bish was a bright kid in a national religious school. He asked a lot of questions that got him into a lot of trouble because his teachers didn't have any intelligent answers and therefore he was seen as a troublemaker. Luckily for him he was also regarded as a little "illui" and was a feather in the school's cap so they didn't chuck him out, even when he seriously p!&&ed them off by refusing to go to high school Yeshiva. One of the reasons he had the gall to regularly take on the whole school and later his commanders in the army was the support of his father, who always told him that "just because everyone else thinks differently from you doesn't mean that you are wrong." Did I mention he also got beaten up a lot?
Last year I was obsessed with opinion polls. I just had to know what percentage of lefties like me had adjusted their views according to the changing realities of our lives here in Israel. Bish used to find this amusing and ask what difference does it make what other people think? I found strength in numbers. The elections sort of settled it once and for all. I haven't checked the results of an opinion poll in months. I must have gotten over it.
I do tend to wander, don't I? All this has little to do with Nirensteins' interesting essay.
Friday, July 18, 2003
Right of return for ten million Germans
Shlomo Avineri in the Jerusalem Post:
The senior German minister listened attentively, and then said: "This is an issue with which we in Germany are familiar; may I ask my German colleagues in the audience to raise their hand if they, or their families, were refugees from Eastern Europe?"
There was a moment of silence - the issue is embarrassing in Germany, fraught with political and moral landmines. Slowly, hands were raised: by my count, more than half the Germans present (government officials, journalists, businessmen) raised a hand: they, or their families, had been Vertriebene, expelled from their ancestral homes in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia after World War II.
It is estimated that up to 10 million were expelled; with their descendants today they make up almost double that number - almost one in four Germans.
Amid the hush the German senior minister continued: He himself was born in Eastern Europe and his family was expelled in the wake of the anti-German atmosphere after 1945. "But," he added, "neither I nor any of my colleagues claim the right to go back.
"It is precisely because of that that I can now visit my ancestral hometown and talk to the people who live in the house in which I was born - because they do not feel threatened, because they know I don't want to displace them or take their house."
How very wise and sensitive of this senior German minister. We could further develop this, but I think it is an excellent example because it does not mention Jews and therefore is not emotionally loaded for the Arabs. Of course, the question to be asked is if the Arabs could give a damn about Israelis feeling threatened by their demands. If they don't, then, unlike the Germans with regard to Eastern Europe, they can't be very interested in making peace with Israel.
More: The Head Heeb discusses this. And Cookie, based on an unrelated article, thinks she deserves refugee status too.
I think Israelis who have not stopped fighting the Palestinians' fight, have held out a hand and have sought friendship, will ask questions that have no answer in quite a number of the poems in this book. He who addresses us in the name of his besieged and humiliated nation, wounded by gunfire, but cannot look directly at the crushed bodies of Israelis in hotels, shopping malls, buses and cafes. But something very human happens further on when the Palestinian father, who is looking at a picture of his son the shaheed, says: "How did we switch roles, my son, / And you led me behind you?" No, not the proud mourners' pavilions.
By the way, we have decided not to renew our subscription to the print version of Haaretz after all. We received it free of charge for a fortnight to make our decision. Then Bish received a phone call complaining that we had cancelled the direct debit (duh!). They hadn't bothered to check if we wanted to renew our subscription at the end of the fortnight, they had just attempted to resume collecting the money automatically, assuming that we would. Two newspapers really were too much. We couldn't handle the mounds of paper that descended on us daily. I can always read Haaretz on the net.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Meryl Yourish on British anti-Semitism. Strong words.
I have a confession.
I am Israeli. But a part of me will always be British as well. I find I do have quite a bit of affection for the old place, and its inhabitants, with all my misgivings and feelings of alienation. I do feel gratitude and quite a bit of amazement that the British should have taken in my ancestors. They couldn't have been very impressive, fresh off the boat with their pekalach (bundles). They had little to offer. They probably looked, sounded and acted very strange. Beats me why they let them in, in the first place, never mind allowing them to become naturalized British subjects of the crown, long before it was fashionable to be nice to poor minorities. If they hadn't, my ancestors or their children (or both) would probably have perished at the hands of the Nazis. I wouldn't even have been dreamt of *.
I cannot forget this. It is a personal debt I owe. How do I repay? That's a tough one. I could say that I repay with a certain degree of loyalty, albeit limited, especially when it conflicts with stronger loyalties. Maybe by watching the odd royal wedding or funeral. But then, you don't have to be British to do that, do you? And maybe by being a reluctant, unwilling Anglophile (although I will deny it to the death).
Hopefully not the exception to the rule, John Williams is certainly no anti-Semite nor anti-Zionist. Quite the contrary.
* This could be an interesting plot for a Sliding Doors type movie. I wonder if it has been done.
I would like to invite Heidi to come and meet my four-year-old niece. She is the youngest of three and tends to be rather spoilt. Yesterday, her sister played beautifully at her end of year piano recital and the little one was so visibly jealous my heart went out to her. It's not easy being the youngest of three. I know from experience. Maybe that's why I stopped after two daughters and don't plan having any more. Anyway, she has this funny little impish face and soft brown hair that curls round the edges and a sweet little singsong voice.
If (God forbid) something bad should happen to her, her parents know they can dial 101 and a Magen David Adom ambulance will come to help. That is if there are enough of them and if they have enough staff and if they have supplies. In these days of people blowing themselves up in crowded public places, this is not something that can be taken for granted. There often just isn't enough to go round. Last year I told you (can't find the link) of my friend's brother who had the misfortune to suffer a heart attack at the same time as a bus blew up in his city of residence (Jerusalem). By the time an ambulance had arrived he was dead.
I fail to see why Heidi should think my little niece undeserving. She is not a bad person, even if she has been known to throw a tantrum or two or three. She is actually quite sweet. I would really like Heidi to come and meet her and look her in the eye (if the little one agrees to stand still long enough) and then tell her parents, who are not very well-off and could hardly be said to make more money than any average Western European or North American, as Heidi claims, that it is wrong to give money to an ambulatory service that may one day save her life.
It seems to me that Heidi is being rather thoughtless and hardhearted, don't you?
Via Meryl Yourish who also gives another angle about giving money to Magen David Adom.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Sometimes I'm so happy to be living in Israel, surrounded by other Jews, because (among other things) I don't have to deal directly with people like this Ingrams guy. Mind you, we have a lot of other unpleasant characters of various types.
The Ingrams person says
Thank you, Dad, once again, for liberating me at an early age from that land of darkness, where, it seems, I would have been forever forced to hide my roots and my identity had I wished that Mr. Ingrams and his ilk read my letters to the editor.
By the way, interesting debate developing on Ampersand's comments on this issue. One commenter, John Isbell, says "I guess I'll add, rather tendentiously: whenever I see a letter on black issues with a black signature, I tend not to read it.
Of course, black signatures are so much harder to spot. The way they blend in with the community. Jewish names you can spot a mile off."
The morning paper brings good news!
So often I open the door in the morning to bring in the newspaper and I am met with headlines telling me of a murderous attack that took place while I was sleeping. Today it was good news for a change. Israeli security forces had located and freed Eliyahu Gurel, the cab driver who had been abducted by Palestinians, apparently affiliated with Fatah.
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
I'm a bit late to link to this. Sorry guys. Laurence Simon, Meryl Yourish and Small Victory Michele are blogging for Magen David Adom in Blogathon 2003.
Allison has thrown down the gauntlet. I usually give blood, but I'm on a diet and they probably won't want my blood right now, so I've decided to follow Allison's lead. I have pledged $18 dollars each to all three. 18 in numerology of the Hebrew Alphabet stands for "Hai" (alive).
By the way, they asked for my legal name, whatever that means, and I felt a bit uncomfortable about it, so I've gone for the anonymous option. But you'll know it's me, hopefully, because of the amount. I've already told you I'm hopeless at these things.
This is 24 year old Amir Simhon, who was stabbed to death.
Monday, July 14, 2003
Yeah, I heard this on the radio, too. It was yesterday's amusing news item of the day. Today's was about the chairman in a Knesset committee meeting who broke his gavel while attempting to restore order. I think they air these stories in the sleepy early afternoon hours to amuse drowsy workers like me and prevent us from nodding off.
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Eliyahu Gurel, a 61 year-old taxi driver from Ramat Gan, has been kidnapped. It is believed he was abducted by Palestinians and is being held near Ramallah. Security forces apparently tracked him to the vicinity with the help of his cell phone. His taxi was abandoned near Jerusalem. I hope he is still alive.
Meditating on Mitzpe Ramon
Yesterday, in the early morning, I decided to go out for walking meditation along the path on the edge of the cliff. I haven't done any walking meditation for ages. It's a very calming practice. I can't do it in the city, but in Mitzpe Ramon I feel quite comfortable to walk along slowly, aware of my breathing and the feel and sound of my feet touching the ground underneath them with every step. I was quite alone, aside from a few people on their way to the nearby synagogue and one or two fellow walkers.
On my way up to the cliff's edge, I noticed a family of ibex further up. Later on I came parallel to them as I walked and brought my attention away from my breathing to look at them. While I was doing so, a car coming along the road, stopped abruptly with screeching brakes and a family of five or six tumbled noisily out, disturbing the early morning calm. They immediately began bustling around the ibex, posing for photographs and, horror of horrors, throwing them bread so they would come nearer to be photographed. I wondered if I should say something to explain to them that it was not a good idea to feed these wild animals, especially not with bread, but I decided it would not do any good. They did not look as if they would be capable of understanding and there would just be an unpleasant exchange, which would make us all miserable and bad tempered.
* * * *
People in Mitzpe Ramon are very excited about the prospect of a legal casino opening in the town. There has been talk of this for years, and they believe it is going to happen very soon. They see it as the answer to the severe unemployment problem in the town. It will bring gamblers and more tourists. They will have to sleep somewhere. They will have to eat.
I fear that in their starry-eyed fantasizing they fail to see the downside of such a development. They ignore the fact that their quiet little town could change in such a way as to make it a far less pleasant place to live in.
Because gambling brings baggage with it, not just jobs for the locals. It brings a seedy side. Now it's not as if there isn't a seedy side to Mitzpe Ramon today. It is a poverty stricken place. It has its drugs and petty crime, but it still has a certain innocence. A casino, even a legal one, will bring with it some really unpleasant characters. It will bring the loan sharks with their violent collectors. It will bring a flourishing sex trade, with its imported whores from the Ukraine and the unsavory characters who enslave them. It will bring foreign workers who will do the work for starvation wages, with the locals finding it hard to compete. And it will bring with it far more people like that family that jumped out of their car yesterday morning and fed bread to the ibex.
I fear the price to the environment will be awful. I doubt the ibex could survive such a change. I fear for the crater.
Mitzpe Ramon may become more affluent, and it may grow and have more jobs to offer its inhabitants, if and when a casino is built. But if it becomes sleazy and crime infested, it will probably lose it's main source of income of today, the "nice" visitors like us (we are nice, and even if we are jailbirds, we're nice jailbirds ;-) ), and like the well-to-do tourists who come to stay at the lovely Ramon Inn and tour the crater, and the other natural and archeological attractions in the area. It could also lose its religious community, including a respected national religious high school Yeshiva and a flourishing Braslav community, which, I believe, are good influences on the town (even if Braslavs tend to be a bit nutty).
I hope I'm wrong. I hope that a legal casino really does save Mitzpe Ramon. I hope that, in the long run, the Mitzpa'im, as they call themselves, will find the casino worth the price. That is if it ever materializes.
Saturday, July 12, 2003
Israelis in Warsaw
Two interesting things:
a. I have readers in Poland. I find this quite exciting, being of Jewish Polish extract myself (besides a great-great-great grandmother, I think, from Holland and a great grandfather from the Ukraine and some others who I think must have been from Germany… Oh, never mind). I actually have a photo of my great grandparents, which according to the inscription on the back was taken in Warsaw in 1906. Great Grandma Zelda is wearing one of those long silk dresses with a corset, like in period films.
b. According to my Polish readers, the latest additions to Warsaw Zoo are elephants Yonni and Ninio, who arrived safely from Ramat Gan (must be from the "Safari") by El Al flight on Friday night. Judging by their names, at least Yonni must be a Sabra.
Hi there, we're back
We've decided to give up our apartment in Mitzpe Ramon (again). We're very sad. I'm too tired to explain right now.
The edge of the crater was full of wild ibex. You could walk right up to them. They are used to humans.
Here's one guy who was lunching on our garden as we left back for Tel Aviv.
Friday, July 11, 2003
We're off to Mitzpe Ramon for the weekend. Shabbat Shalom.
Maybe we'll pop into the latest national popular heroine, Vicki Knafo, although I believe she will be staying in Jerusalem for a while, campaigning for the rights of single parents. This week she walked all the way from her home in Mitzpe Ramon to Jerusalem to meet with Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
Are you Jewish?
Lisa Katz helps you settle the question once and for all, according to Orthodox Judaism.
The fat is in the pan.
According to Haaretz, Arafat is out to get Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). And according to Ynet (Hebrew link), the bodyguards of Palestinian Minister for Security Muhammad Dahlan, foiled an alleged attempt on his life last night in the streets of Gaza by Hamas operatives, following his meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. Haaretz has the story too, I see. The Palestinians are saying it was a misunderstanding. Yeah, right.
Oy, do we know how to pick our neighbors, or what?
Swapping goon stories, this is John's hilarious account of his run-in with the law.
In his case it was a matter of mistaken identity, or something like that. I'm the real jailbird. The parking fine issue is a painful one for all who dwell and work in Tel Aviv. I think it has sort of worked itself out in recent years, though. The parking fines in question are from the old days when the muncipality was particularly nasty. One of the fines is actually for parking in the street under my apartment, where I am supposed to be allowed to park. Incredible, isn't it? I don't remember getting it, but I can imagine myself taking it off my windscreen and stomping on it in anger.
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Is there something wrong with me?
I have no complaint with blogger. Everyone tells me I should have, but I don't. Everyone tries to lure me to better blogging thingemabobs, but I'm quite happy where I am. And I like my little puppies. I spent a few days blogsitting with MT. Allison had promised I would be hooked. I sat in front of my monitor day after day, excitedly waiting for it. Nothing happened. So I have come to the conclusion that I obviously don't get something very crucial about blogging. I am a blogging retard.
Lisa Katz's About Judaism has a lot of links and information about Israel and Judaism.
And now for some real news
The First Lady of Gotham is BACK!
This is actually quite scary. Should I see it as proof that blogging really is the modern day heroin? Will I never be free?
Look who's home. Hi there, I'm glad to hear you had a good time.
Imshin the jailbird
Have I had an exciting afternoon! I have just been the victim of Tel Aviv municipality's terror and extortion tactics. You wouldn't believe it. Those b@$%@&ds sent their goons round to intimidate the girls and me.
They claim that we owe them money for long forgotten car fines (from between the years 1996 - 1998, for a car I sold long ago and forgot all about). The first we heard of this was a couple of months ago when I received notice that my car was to be confiscated (I'm not sure what the legal term for this is in English). Understandably bewildered and dismayed, I rang Bish in hysterics. Lawyers were involved and negotiation commenced, initially to find out what exactly we owed them and why they hadn't bothered to notify us of this before taking such a drastic step. Later on we agreed to pay our debts, which amounted to something in the region of $1000 as a result of exorbitant interest. Then they informed us that, after we had paid this, they would have more surprises in store for us. Here we said "No no no! Please inform us now of all your monetary demands of us and let us settle our full debt right now." This, they seemed to think, was too much to ask for, and therefore - the goons.
I was completely flabbergasted when they turned up on my doorstep. Later our lawyer told us he had just received a letter listing the rest of our debts with an apology for it taking such a long time. This meant, in effect, that they had accepted our (quite reasonable) demands, and he really couldn't understand why they had resorted to such tactics. Of course, conveniently for them, the goons arrived after the municipality offices had closed for the evening, so we had no one to complain to.
Under duress, I was forced to write them a delayed check for the amount in question. The threat was if I didn't fork out, they would send over a policeman, who would break down my door. Needless to say, the goon stayed out in the corridor, on the other side of the chain, although I did pass him out a glass of water, a folding chair and today's newspaper (Yediot Aharonot, of course, not Haaretz which we have started to receive again as well, I'm not that cruel), while I tried to work things out. After gaining entry by violent means to my humble castle, I was informed gleefully by the goon, they would then proceed to liberate it of some of its clutter. The goon then dangled a piece of paper in my face (through the crack in the door), luring me with the enticing offer to just write him a check and he would immediately call off the hounds. Multiple phone calls to Bish and to the lawyer ensued, with Bish shouting, "Let them break down the door! Let them take the TV, see if I care! I will not be intimidated!"
Now, our TV just happens to be a 43", and it weighs 165 lbs. I visualized the goons having to schlep that thing out in this heat and I suddenly saw the humorous side of it all. From this point on I started to enjoy myself. After all, I don't watch much TV and last time it was being fixed we had a lovely time, listening to music, talking... The comical aspect peaked when Youngest's piano teacher arrived and the event developed, from this point on, to the gay sounds of Maykapar's Little Commander.
Egg on my face: Now I think on, I'm pretty sure it's a 34" not a 43" (I'm hopeless with these things). It's still heavy, anyway. (43" what was I thinking? Where would I stick a 43", exactly?).
Oh, and a reader informs me that while "confiscated" is fine, the correct term is "impounded". I had seen this word in the dictionary but I wasn't sure.
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Happy Blogiversary to Frank of IMAO. Doesn't time fly?
Because of the importance of the matter to Israel-USA relations, and because a lot of people seem to find it difficult to grasp, I will spell it out:
I-T W-A-S A M-I-S-T-A-K-E.
We're sorry. We didn't mean it. These things sometimes happen during wartime. It was very unfortunate and we feel for the families of those who were killed. But we didn't do it on purpose. We didn't know we were attacking an American ship (We may be crazy but we're not that crazy).
Now give it a rest. Please.
Lynn B. has this too.
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Last night a man infiltrated the home of sixty five year old Mazal Afari in Kfar Yavetz, an Israeli village near Netanya. He proceeded to blow himself up, killing Mazal, injuring her three grandchildren and another person, and causing serious damage to the house. The Jenin branch of the Islamic Jihad has proudly owned up to this act of barbarism.
Monday, July 07, 2003
Eldest and her friend brought home a Hugh Grant DVD. Not thinking, I foolishly told them what I thought of him. There was a stunned silence. "You can't stand Hugh Grant?! (What sort of weirdo are you?)"
"Well, erm, it's...not...exactly that I...er... can't stand him. It's more that I sort of... it's not ...well, it's just that he's not... really... my type, sort of thing." (Aaaaaagh! I'm turning into Hugh Grant in my old age. This is a nightmare).
Sunday, July 06, 2003
A belated response to the Berlusconi thing
I must admit I was quite shocked at Berlusconi's vulgar and ugly behavior (even if he could very well be the only friend we have among Western European leaders, whatever Tony Blair says). But Nelson Ascher seems to have been less embarrassed by it. He seems to have been especially incensed by what he refers to as the hypocritical reaction.
I know this was a very rude thing for Nelson to say. But when you think about it, it is far ruder for them to call us Nazis, all things considered, isn't it? Or maybe rude isn't the right word for it.
One day, when I was about eighteen, I was going up the steps that lead from Haifa's "Carmelit" underground station in the Central Carmel up to street level, when I saw a pair of strange looking sandals coming down the steps towards me. I now know that these were Birkenstocks. I have since been the owner of many a pair of the Israeli version of this unsightly but extremely comfortable style of footwear. But at the time I vaguely thought to myself "Must be German" and looked up to see what the rest of the owner of the whitish toes enclosed in the aforementioned sandals looked like. He looked German. Nice, though. I can't remember if he sported a goatee. Did they have goatees back then in the early eighties? Or am I wondering this because if this had happened today he definitely would have been the goatee type? Anyway he smiled, I smiled and we passed each other and continued on our separate ways. Me up, him down. Then I did something I still find hard to believe, as I was far more bashful in those days. I sat down on the bench just at the top of the steps and waited. And lo and behold, two minutes later, he came back up.
We sat and talked. He was nice. He was a pacifist. He had come to Israel as part of his national service, instead of going into the army. He was part of a project aimed at making peace between Jews and Arabs. He had been staying in an Arab village. In the Galilee I think it was. Now he was in Haifa. I don't recall why.
Something grated. I appreciated the sentiment behind his actions. I admired his wish to maybe do something to make amends. But something about it seemed wrong. I felt patronized. A German comes here with the presumption to make peace between Jews and Arabs. A German?
I felt guilty that this was going through my head. He really was nice. He believed in what he was doing. He was a good guy.
I didn't share any of this with him and we sat and chatted for quite a while. We even spoke on the phone later. But I knew I couldn't take it any further. There was too much invisible tension in the air between us. Maybe he didn't see it, or maybe he chose to ignore it, or overcome it, as part of his quest. But I could see it, wouldn't ignore it, and didn't want to overcome it.
And maybe it's just as well, because my parents probably would have killed me.
I've been meaning to link to these guys for a while. Avraham promises to discuss Harry Potter when he finishes it. I hope he doesn't say who dies. If he does I'll probably have to ferret him out and SHOOT HIM. He's half way through. I'm only on page 95. Somehow I've been too busy to really get into it, what with Eldest's big bash last night and things. I hear the party was great, by the way. I didn't go. I know when I'm not welcome. I sent Bish down once an hour just to see they were all still alive. There was a full size D.J. (luckily she had a co-host so it wasn't all that expensive), so I guess if things were getting really out of hand I would have heard about it. Bish says the low point was when the boys started stuffing lemon flavor wafers into the fans, which we had borrowed from all and sundry (Not your fan, Our Sis, lucky you. For some reason they didn't touch yours).
Talking about Harry Potter and who's up to which page, R.T. was on a train in England a few days ago and he said the whole train was reading guess what? And I mean everyone, old, young, middle aged. Even a few children. And the only discussions going on where about what page everyone was on.
Is this a crazy story or what?
Saturday, July 05, 2003
Ya Habibi, Ya Eini (his words not mine)
Guess who is back.
The latest on Professor Wilkie
His case has been referred to his university's disciplinary panel. "Professor Wilkie now has 28 days to give a written response to the allegations. He is charged with bringing the university into disrepute."
I do think it is unfair to expect him to give a written response, seeing as up till now he puts his foot in it every time he attempts to write anything.
Andrew dear, in the unlikely chance of your reading this, please take a little advice from a brusque, obnoxious female Israeli army veteran (which according to you automatically means I am also a violent and morally deficient person): Whatever you do, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO WRITE IT YOURSELF!
At one period, before this Terror War, known as the second Intifada, a name that is unacceptable to me, I used to visit the West Bank settlement of Elqana on a regular basis. This is a very lovely village just on the other side of the Green Line, near the town of Rosh Ha'Ayin, the unofficial capital of Yemenite Jews in Israel (which is on "our" side of the Green line). Funnily enough, my regular visits were part of my Buddhist meditation practice. We had what's known as a "Floating Sangha", a Sangha being basically a community of practice (It's actually much more than that, but I won't get into that right now). This meant that we met each week at someone else’s home.
Yossi was our only religious member. The Jerusalem group had many religious members, but Tel Aviv had one. It may sound strange to you that a Buddhist group should have Jewish religious members, but this particular stream was low on ritual. Yossi said the practice enriched his Jewish religious practice.
The first time Yossi suggested we meet at his home in Elqana, he was met with polite, but uneasy and embarrassed opposition. People told him that they were worried about traveling through the West Bank at night. I wondered how much of their unease was political, not wanting to go to a settlement, however mainstream. I confess part of my unease was political. But this was a Buddhist group. We practiced acceptance and understanding. The next meeting was not in Elqana, but Yossi persisted and eventually I found myself one dark evening uneasily driving my car along the high road that leads to the Jewish West Bank town of Ariel. After Rosh Ha'Ayin I came to a checkpoint. The soldiers glanced at me and waved me on. Now I knew I was in the Israeli controlled part of the West Bank. When I was a child, we used to travel the West bank freely. I had heard of the green Line but I was never sure exactly where it was and what it meant until I was well into my teens. Nowadays you know when you are in the West Bank, even where there are no checkpoints.
Further on I came to a bend in the road. There seemed to be an Arab village there and scores of young Arab men were lining the road for some reason. It was very scary, but I just drove on, praying I didn't run anyone over and was soon relieved to see the signposts for Elqana.
Yossi's home was lovely. It was a very Jewish home, full of beautiful Judaica and artwork depicting Jewish life. I always especially enjoyed the many meetings we held in Yossi's home after that first one. From Yossi I learnt to not be so judgmental of people whose views I oppose. On one occasion he shared with us his feelings of being deserted and betrayed by PM Yitzhak Rabin, during the early Oslo years leading up to the assassination of PM Rabin. In my euphoria at the outbreak of peace with the Palestinians at the time, I personally had chosen to take little notice of Rabin's impatient and rather harsh treatment of the settlers.
Sometime later, Yossi drifted away from our little group, as I did myself soon after. I doubt anyone of us Tel Avivis would have traveled to Elqana at night after September 2000.
* * * *
I once discovered that someone had linked to me, calling me sassy. Being a very shy person in "real life" I found this amusing. I have now noticed that this same person finds me "irritatingly provincial". I guess this is because I make no attempt at offering any solutions as far as the big picture is concerned and have no use for grand theories. All I have to offer is the world as it passes by my window. I have never seen, with my own eyes, Israeli soldiers beating up Palestinians at checkpoints. My eyes have never witnessed the sight of human bodies strewn all over the street after being blow up by a suicide bomber. All the grand theories that I have ever believed in have been proved wrong, including the paradoxical grand theory that grand theories are inherently a waste of time and should be avoided. Life has proved to be too complex to tidily organize into neat ideologies.
Of course, provinciality is always relative. Calling someone provincial can be interpreted as the ultimate defense against an outlook that differs from your own, a more polite version of the Israeli left’s common claim that Israelis who vote for right wing parties are either halfwits, or certifiable.
I don't write about Palestinians, or how they feel or what they are experiencing. How can I write about these things when I have no opportunity of learning about them first hand? I read about what is happening to the Palestinians in the paper, just like you. I don't write about Jewish settlers in the territories either, although I have more opportunity to meet them. I only know what's happening to me. If this is provincial I am quite happy to be provincial, even irritatingly provincial. I'll take it as a compliment.
Avoiding dealing with Holocaust denial
John Williams has been discussing the question of Holocaust denial with me. I find myself at a loss to react. How do I feel about Holocaust denial? I'm not very good at putting over a philosophical point at the best of times, but now that I'm on a diet I think my brain has completely shut down. This is obviously why emaciated fashion models are often regarded as (How can I put this in the least offensive way?) not very bright. It's obviously the lack of sufficient carbohydrates reaching the uppermost part of their bodies (and now mine too). Gives you a sort of airy, fluffy feeling. Not unpleasant, but not conducive to developing complex philosophical theory, either.
But I digress (I love writing that).
I can't handle Holocaust denial. It's too big, too scary. Moreover I don't know any Holocaust deniers personally, which makes me feel a bit removed from the whole issue. Of course, I do know plenty of Holocaust survivors. I grew up with the second generation, the offspring of the survivors.
Lately I've been noticing things about this second generation, my contemporaries. Maybe it's because we've got to the age in which our life experiences begin to affect our facial expressions, the shape of wrinkles appearing on our faces serving as windows into our soul. Or maybe it’s because writing forces me to look more deeply at things I've been seeing for years.
Is my childhood friend's cancer an inheritance of her parent's suffering in Poland in the war? Why does my tough, no nonsense friend at work never seem to get round to translating that letter in Polish she has in her possession, written by her grandparents to her father, before they sent him out the back way, to an unknown destiny, when the Nazis came knocking on their door (although she professes a sincere interest in learning about the letter's content)? Will my forty-year-old acquaintance and his older brothers ever be able to break away from their domineering (Holocaust survivor) mother, and begin families of their own?
Maybe these thoughts mean nothing. Maybe these are just anecdotes, coincidences. Maybe most second generation are just the same as everyone else and I'm just looking at them differently because I know something about them and look for the effect.
The Holocaust is central to life in Israel. Some (such as Professor Wilkie) seem to see Israel's preoccupation with the Holocaust as some sort of manipulation. They are apparently unaware that people in Israel, and, I believe, throughout the Jewish world, are still trying to come to terms, to grasp, to understand the meaning, or the lack of it, and to learn to live with the feeling of loss that somehow persists. This task of ours is surely hard enough. On top of it all, how can we possibly cope with people who, we are told, are denying it ever happened, or are diminishing its scale?
Update: More on this by Nelson Ascher.
Friday, July 04, 2003
Happy Fourth of July to all American readers of Not a Fish. And thank you, United States of America, for being a friend to Israel.
By the way, I'll be throwing a Fourth of July party over at Allison's. You're all invited. (Don't worry, she'll never know. She's in VENICE and she's left me to look after the place. How naive these American Israelis are...)
Update: Maybe not so naive. She didn't leave me a password. Party's off. Tomorrow night Eldest is having a party (unrelated to US Independence Day) in our air raid shelter, though. If you don't mind mixing with a few dozen twelve-year-olds (who also happen to be brusque, obnoxious Israelis) you could crash that (Masochist).
Update update: Got the password from Matt of Blogmosis. Let the festivities commence!
Thursday, July 03, 2003
Can we start feeling optimistic yet?
Mohammad Dahlan was interviewed on Israeli channel 1 (TV) this evening. He said that the Palestinians were committed (Hebrew link) to not returning to the routine of violence that we've been seeing. So why are we hearing about almost continuous attacks on Israeli cars and settlements in the territories? And why was the Sharon region subjected to a standstill traffic jam for hours yesterday while security forces searched for terrorists?
Channel 1 also reported this evening that the Lebanese radio station "Nur" has announced that the bodies of three Israeli soldiers have been dug up near the Lebanese village of Hamra, near Sultan Yaakoub, and will be sent for DNA testing. You know what everyone is thinking, don't you? Everyone is thinking that these could be the bodies of the three soldiers taken captive in the Sultan Yaakoub battle, Yehuda Katz, Tzvi Feldman and Zecharia Baumel, in 1982, during the Lebanon war. You can read more about these MIA's here. Of course, there are also Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Suwad who were abducted by the Hezbollah in October 2000. Their fate is also unknown.
This is good.
Tel Aviv's impressive Bauhaus collection has been added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. I hope this will mean they have to make more of an effort to look after these buildings. I'm very fond of them and proud of Tel Aviv being the first and only Bauhaus city in the world (if I am not mistaken). They do get run down though. Do you think UNESCO will fork out for their upkeep and renovation?
Free Azam Azam!
There is talk (at least according to one of the Israeli TV newsreels this evening) that Egypt may possibly be releasing Azam Azam at long last. Azam Azam is an Israeli Druze who was working in Egypt in an Israeli company when he was arrested in 1996 or 1997, I think, on charges of espionage for Israel and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor, although Israel has continued to deny he was being operated as a spy. I hope he is freed soon. Poor guy. His brother was saying on the radio this morning that he is currently refusing to accept any visits (Hebrew link), even from family members, as a protest at what he perceives as the lack of action by Israel on his behalf.
I know someone who once spent a few days in an Egyptian prison. His story was so horrifying I can't imagine anyone surviving seven years in such a hellhole.
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
It has arrived!
Now please be quiet, all of you. I'm trying to read here.
Thank you, R.T., the best brother in the world, for sending it to me.
Jewsweek's Benyamin Cohen on the Professor Wilkie drama.
And a New York Mama reader sent me this additional w-mail she got from the Prof:
"- Additional comments by Andrew Wilkie (not part of the "official" statement from OU)
Can I please make it clear that Amit Duvshani was not an applicant for a funded post but contacted me as a preliminary enquiry. My stance was based on his service in the Israeli army and the violence that potentially entails. I would feel uncomfortable working closely with someone who had been through that, which you may not respect but I hope you can understand. The same would apply (to a greater extent, actually) for a palestinian terrorist (although I haven't heard of one applying for a PhD). But my email was hastily written (clearly entirely my fault), and has been widely misinterpreted as a lot of worse things. I am deeply sorry about this and retract what I said, which was caused by too personal and emotional a response to the terrible situation in Israel.
In addition to the official statement (above) issued by Oxford University, I understand that Amit's application will be taken forward if he so wishes. I have been in contact with him to apologise, not just for my original email but also for causing his name to become so publicly prominent.
I hope you can forgive me. My stance (which I do not retract) is anti-violence, whether by jewish, palestinian or any other people.
Please pass this message on if appropriate.
I would like to point out that I did my mandatory army service as well, for two horrible years, and I wasn't violent to anyone. I sat in an office. Honest. Maybe he'll take me (Please, Mr. Professor Sir?). I don't know anything about mollecular what-nots but surely that is of no concern seeing as it's the army thing that seems to matter most.