I'd say: slightly irritated at the media for giving this issue (a fringe phenomenon) such a lot of unnecessary exposure, better describes my feelings. I am referring to the so-called IAF pilots' letter, of course. It doesn't seem like a very serious endeavor. 27 ex-pilots and reservists aren't very impressive. What about the hundreds (I'm not aware of IAF data, and if I was I wouldn't be writing it here, but it could very well be thousands for all I know) who didn't sign? It seems one of them has already changed his mind (Hebrew link).
Bish has pointed out some interesting things with regard to the letter (they are all apparently ex-IAF pilots, a few of them still do reserve duty, although I've read that hardly any (Thank you, Allison for the link) were actually called to do any of the missions they are objecting to, so their refusal is actually academic). I still have to do some research, organize my thoughts about some of the information he has uncovered and find relevant links, but the one thing that stands out is that one of the ringleaders is none other than Yigal Shohat, husband of the infamous Orit Shohat, the far left wing pain in the neck that writes in Haaretz and its Tel Aviv local rag Ha'ir. I've discussed her before. Her husband is a known refusenik (Hebrew link, don't be sorry, it's a rather uninspiring and uninteresting speech given by him in Tel Aviv on 9th January 2002 about the merits of refusing). This couple's well-publicized sentiments emboldened Orit's mother, famous Israeli singer of old, eighty-something-year-old Yaffa Yarkoni, into making a fool of herself by taking a public stand in favor of the refuseniks a while ago. This provoked much mirth and merriment at the time, because Ms. Yarkoni is not famous for her brains or for her common sense. Or for her voice, for that matter. Every time I hear Shlomo Gronich sing Bab-el-Wad I cry. I just can't help it. Her rendition, on the other hand, (the original, sadly) makes me cringe. Oh well, they say she was pretty when she was young.
Yigal Shohat's F-4E Phantom II was apparently felled by an Egyptian SAM (scroll down and down and down) on 3rd August 1970 during the War of Attrition. The crew was taken prisoner and Shohat's co—pilot, Moshe Goldwasser, was killed in captivity. Bish says Shohat lost a leg, but I can't find a link.
why not a fish
Monday, September 29, 2003
Saturday, September 27, 2003
Friday, September 26, 2003
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Arafat – not exactly a self-made man
DogfightAtBankstown links to this article in WSJ about how the KGB invented Arafat. Riveting stuff. The Straightjacketed Saint over at Dogfight etc. attributes it to Andrew Sullivan for some reason, but I can't find anything about it on his blog and he didn't write it. The guy who wrote it is Ion Mihai Pacepa, a Rumanian who was the highest ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc, or so says WSJ.
Update: The Saint has rectified: Andrew Sullivan linked to this on the 23rd. His permalinks seem to be inaccurate (this can happen to big important bloggers and not just to us mere mortals?).
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Apropos the splendiferous festivities on the wondrous occasion of Shimon Peres' eightieth birthday, for which I paid but wasn't on the guest list:
Things are far worse now than they were before the Oslo Accords, for us and for the Palestinians. I am saying this as one who was once a staunch supporter of these accords. Things are not worse because terrorism takes its daily toll on ordinary Israelis and because life for the Palestinians is unbearable in the shadow of the Israeli tanks. Things are worse because where there was once hope for a better future for Israelis and the Palestinians living here alongside us, now there is none.
My belief in Oslo was based on my personal acquaintance with some of these local Palestinians. They wanted a bit of what we had. They wanted to be able to run their lives themselves. I wanted it for them too. So did most of my friends. But it never happened. What happened was that for various inner-Palestinian political reasons they couldn't accept a leadership other than that of Arafat and his cronies. And they got it. Some of them said, quietly, that what they got was far worse than what they had before. Israeli rule was exchanged for the rule of Palestinians who came from without ("Tunisians"), foreigners who knew nothing of Israel and the life the local Palestinians had been watching and wanted a piece of. They enforced their rule over the local Palestinians brutally. Their torture chambers made Israel's prisons seem like summer camps. Furthermore, they saw no need to learn from Israel's example of proper administration. And most of all, they hadn't internalized what the local Palestinians had: That Israel and the Israelis weren't going anywhere, and it would be better to get along with them and compromise, compromise.
They came, these outsiders, and commenced poisoning the few sweet water wells that they found. Palestinian society is a young society, and children are more susceptible to indoctrination. An old-new hope was fuelled, a completely unrealistic but very compelling and seductive hope, not of coexistence and peace with Israel, but of ridding this land of its usurpers.
Yes, I know, the failure of Oslo was not one sided. Israel wasn't lilywhite, either. But while support for a Palestinian state among regular Israelis increased steadily all through the Oslo years, with many of my right-wing friends, formerly opposed to Oslo, voting for Ehud Barak and his left-wing government in 1999, Palestinian leadership was just as steadily instilling among regular Palestinians the belief that Israel was weak and destructible.
It is a rather dreamlike belief of some in Israel that the deportation of Arafat, a completely justified action given that he broke every promise and agreement he made in order to get in, but maybe not very wise, will somehow turn back the wheel and obliterate the adverse results of Oslo. It won't, of course. The wells have been poisoned, their water no longer fit for human consumption. It will take years and years for the water in them to be clear and sweet again, if ever.
For the same reason, Israelis, who believe that talks can begin again where they stopped as if nothing has happened during the last three years, are just as deluded.
So I don't mind that I wasn't invited to Shimon Peres' egotistic celebrations. I wouldn't have gone even if I had been the guest of honor. His wonderful vision of the New Middle East, which I still yearn for, is further away than ever.
I still believe in compromise, compromise, but never in suicide, suicide.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
An admission of guilt
Okay, I can't stand it any more. I just have to come clean. I'm feeling guilty about what I wrote about the Shari Arison thing here and here (on the comments). Sometimes I get carried away.
Please don't hate me for it. I couldn't take it.
We-e-ell, you can hate me a little bit if it will make you really happy.
Traveling in a convoy
I didn't really explain the Hevr'e thing and a Canadian lady on Michael J. Totten's comments took offense. She also lives in a community, she said. But the Hevr'e is not a community. It's more of a clannishness of people who aren't necessarily related, a sort of sticky group mentality. It's blunt and intrusive and at times vulgar. It's loud and warm and protective. It's an often-overbearing familiarity that automatically makes every Yitzhak an Itzik, and every Avraham an Avi. It's often extremely embarrassing and must seem completely Neanderthal to the outsider. But it functions as a powerful support group when the going gets rough.
Many people here regularly meet up with their Hevr'e from high school, from the youth movement, and above all, of course, from the army unit. Even when everyone has long gone their different ways. Even after twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years. Some meet once a year, some once a month. People will come from all over the country and sometimes from abroad too. Parents, siblings, widows, widowers and children of those of the Hevr'e who were killed are often part of these meetings too.
The Israeli Hevr'e mentality, I'm told, is particularly noticeable to those traveling in the Far East. Israelis, who go there en masse after the army, apparently travel in large, noisy, rather badly behaved groups. These groups are created largely over there. The first thing the kids do when they land is look for other Israelis. A friend of mine told me that he was once spending the night in a remote village in the Himmalayas with four other non-Israeli hikers he had not previously met. "You can't be an Israeli," One of them asserted. "You're on your own." It is no coincidence that, out of the eight tourists kidnapped last week in Colombia, four were Israelis (you'll remember that another two Israelis were released) while the other four were of other nationalities (two Brits, a German and a Spaniard).
Even a natural loner like myself, who often stays at a safe distance from the happy-go-lucky rowdiness of the Hevr'e, finds herself feeling a little lonely in its absence.
A popular Israeli book for pre-schoolers by Lewin Kipnis tells the story of The Three Butterflies (It seems to be out of print. We had our copy passed down to us from Our Sis's boys). A butterfly goes out to play, fluttering about in the meadow. After a while another butterfly appears and they decide to play together. Then another one comes and all three are fluttering about together in the meadow. Suddenly it begins to rain and the three butterflies start looking for cover. They reach a flower and ask to take cover inside it. The flower agrees but says it only has room for one butterfly. The butterflies say indignantly that they are friends and they won't be separated, and they fly away. This happens twice more. Each time they reach a flower, which agrees to give refuge to just one butterfly, and they refuse to be parted. In the end, they manage to survive the rain. The sun comes out and they go back to fluttering happily around the meadow. They have survived the rain and have stuck together, without any one of them taking the opportunity to save itself by deserting its friends.
Notice that the butterflies' acquaintance is fleeting, but when the rain starts, they have a strong feeling of mutual responsibility. This is the essence of the Hevr'e.
There was a time when I was obliged to read this story to my girls on a daily basis. Back then the story's message used to annoy me. I reckoned that if each butterfly had just gone into one of the flowers all three would have been less endangered. Their chances of personal survival would have been greater. I disliked this herd mentality, and what I saw as preparing the kids for the army before they could read. Today I am more reconciled to this thinking. It is probably the survival tactic that has got us this far. Yes, there is sometimes something idiotic and obstinate in putting friendship first. But that is the Hevr'e. And it is an indispensable part of the Israeli way of life, like it or not.
Saturday, September 20, 2003
The bi-national state
In Friday's Yediot Aharonot, Shlomo Avineri explains why a bi-national state is not a feasible solution. We often hear this idea from people from outside of the region who have no idea what they're talking about. Avineri discusses the tiny percentage of Israelis who believe in this solution. I believe this issue is important enough for me to make the effort of translating the article myself. So here it is
The difficulties of renewing the peace process, as well as the stubbornness of the Palestinian opposition to reconciliation with Israel as a Jewish state, have of late brought some Israelis to again bring up the idea of a bi-national state as an alternative solution to the concept of "Two States for Two Peoples", that has been for many years the guideline of the Israeli left.
This is proven quack medicine. But before we turn to analyzing the issue itself, we should first say a few words about the ideological background of those who bring up such notions.
These belong mainly to two kinds: The first kind is made up of the remnants of the old anti-Zionist left: Veterans of the Communist Party, members of "Matzpen" and Trotskyite or Maoist cells. As far as they are concerned, the idea of a bi-national state is nothing new, because they have always disagreed with the right of Jewish self-definition, seeing Zionism as an extension of Western Imperialism and opposing the very existence of the State of Israel. The pathetic aspect of their viewpoint is that after their vision of a Communist Brotherhood of Nations descended into the Stalinist horror and the Soviet Union itself collapsed, all that remains of their old ideology is the opposition to the existence of the State of Israel. It can be said of them, just as Carl Marx said of the Bourbons, the former kings of France: They have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.
As opposed to them, the other group that advocates the idea of a bi-national state comes from another background, from inside the Zionist left. What has happened to them is that they have simply been broken by the stubbornness and refusal of the Palestinians, as well as their willingness for sacrifice, and have reached the conclusion that, in the face of such determination, Zionism has no chance, and it would be better to give it up. It is painful to witness the process of some of this group being broken, for some of them surely are the salt of the earth. But such a process often takes place in nations facing dangers and difficult challenges.
But beyond that, the thing is that the proposed solution is not feasible.
Simply stated: There is no place in the world where a conflict between two national movements was solved by compressing the two national movements, each clutching at the other’s throat, into the one cauldron of a bi-national state. The main claim of those now bringing up the idea is that the vision of "Two States for Two Peoples" doesn’t work. It’s true – the difficulties are immense. But where has the idea of a bi-national state worked? The supporters of the idea have brought no example of the success of the solution they suggest, because there simply isn’t one. It is easy and elegant to suggest ideas that sound nice and even politically correct: But they can’t be taken seriously, when there is not one successful historical example.
Once the Communist oppression was gone, all the Eastern European attempts at creating bi-national or multi-national frameworks as solutions for national conflicts collapsed: Thus the Soviet Union collapsed, as did Yugoslavia (amid blood and fire), and Czechoslovakia. Even in Cyprus, our neighbor, the idea of a bi-national state was not a success. Canada and Belgium – two veteran bi-national states – are facing great difficulties, in which the last word has not yet been said, even though no one has been murdered or killed there for over 150 years.
The reason for the difficulties is simple – and this is what the supporters of the bi-national state are ignoring. If such a state should be established (assuming that it will be possible to agree on its name), the problems will just have begun:
* How will it be possible to run a state in which half of the population will see the fifteenth of May as a holiday, and the other half as a tragedy, a day of national mourning: What will be celebrated exactly?
* What will be taught in mixed state schools, for instance, about Herzl: Founder of a national movement or western colonialist? What will be taught about the Mufti (of Jerusalem in the period of the British Mandate – I.J.): National hero or collaborator with the Nazis? Or maybe one thing will be taught in the Jewish schools and another in the Arab schools?
* Will it be permitted to name streets after Hovevei Tzion (a group of ninteenth century Jewish settlers – I.J.), Herzl, Bialik (Israel’s national poet – I.J.), Ben Gurion or (heaven help us) Jabotinsky (founder of the right wing Revisionist Party, that provided the ideological basis for the Etzel and the Lehi Organizations – I.J.)? Will roads be named after Izzadin A-Kassam and Haj Amin al-Husseini? Will Zionism Bvd. in Haifa change its name to something "neutral" (Avineri obviously brings this example because this road used to be called UN Bvd. and its name was changed in 1975 when the UN passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism – I.J.)? Or will a parallel road be named "Hamas Bvd.", for the sake of balance?
* What will be taught about the Holocaust? A terrible crime or a Jewish "invention"?
* How will the history of the 1948 war be taught? What will be said in schools about the suicide bombers: Murderers or heroes of the War of Independence?
* If organizations, Jewish or Arab, threatening violent action, will be established, which police force exactly will deal with them?
*If the state has an army, what will it be called exactly? Or maybe there will be two armies, the IDF and the PLA?
The more we continue with these examples, it becomes more and more clear that the slogan "bi-national state" is an empty solution, and worse: A recipe for an internal civil war, maybe bloodier than any of the wars between Israel and Ishmael. Therefore it is no coincidence that the supporters of the bi-national state prefer to talk in slogans and avoid discussing the practical content of their suggestion.
There is room to criticize the policies of the current Israeli government. It is also understandable why there are those whose spirit has been broken. It is only human. But they shouldn't force-feed us with slogans that are both purposefully misleading and full of ignorance.
There's an ongoing discussion over at Michael J. Totten's about why Israelis are happier than Canadians, based on the results of different opinion polls. The deduction that Israelis are happier is not really scientifically viable in this instance, because the polls are not comparable, but it's interesting nonetheless.
Everyone in Israel is always amazed with the results of these "happiness" polls. Not just because of terrorism, and the worsening economic situation, but also because everyone's always complaining all the time about how awful everything is and how we've never had it so bad (even though this is not strictly true). And we're such a pressured society, always running around and talking on our cell phones. When do we have time to be happy?
Off the cuff, without really thinking, I wrote on the comments "We can sit on the rocks of the wave breaker on the far side of the pier in the ancient Jaffa Port, near Andromeda's Rock, and watch the sun setting into the sea. How can we not be happy?"
Roger took this to mean that I think Jaffa is particularly beautiful. I don't. I'm not sure why I wrote it. Bish says this is not the reason Israelis are happy, it's the reason Imshin is happy. Well, maybe not the reason - its more of a moment in time that has been forever burnt into my consciousness as what happiness feels like. Of course, I was sitting there on the rocks with my family.
So why are we happy? Don't try and romanticize us. We behave atrociously to each other, we are grasping and impatient and we are forever chasing after pleasures of the moment.
I asked Bish why he thought Israelis were happy and he said because of the Hevr'e. The Hevr'e is the gang, the network of friends. There's always someone to sit and complain with about how awful everything is. People don't need much, he said. A dry piece of bread in a prison cell is just fine if you're sharing it with a good friend.
When I was a child we used to have a steady stream of visitors from the 'Old Country' staying with us. I wasn't crazy about this, because sometimes I had to give up my bedroom. But it made life interesting. One time we were expecting two young ladies to come and stay, when word came that they had changed their minds at the last minute. Israel was too dangerous. They had decided to go to Cyprus instead. That summer war broke out in Cyprus, while they were there.
Last week four Israeli hikers were kidnapped in Colombia along with four more tourists. I hear Colombia is a beautiful country but didn't these people see that film with Meg Ryan and that Australian guy?
"I feel only history will tell," he said in an interview in the United States. "Terrorism is the worst kind of violence, so we have to check it, we have to take countermeasures."
A wise man indeed. I heard him speak in Tel Aviv once. He said then, talking about working things out non-violently, “Compromise, compromise”. And that just stuck in my head. Compromise, compromise.
This via DogfightAtBankstown (Isn’t this breathtaking?).
Friday, September 19, 2003
The Shark links to a fresh Salam Pax interview. He sounds nice.
I don't like that they call him the Anne Frank of the Iraq War. So they were both talented writers who wrote diaries during wars. Anne Frank was a child. She lived in hiding for years and died in a concentration camp because she was a Jew. I find the comparison thoughtless and insensitive.
I was so busy being moody this last week that I forgot to tell you the real scoop. Bish went out on a yacht last Friday morning with two of his seafaring friends (well, his only seafaring friends as a matter of fact). I couldn't go. Much as I love the sea, I'm sick as a dog in a boat. Anyway, they were a few kilometers out when they had some friends come to visit them. Three dolphins appeared and began jumping up and down, swimming alongside the yacht and playing with them.
It was Bish's first time sailing. Bish's friends sail quite a lot, they've both finished skipper courses, but they said this had never happened to them before. I know exactly why it happened, it was because of my Bish, naturally. He's quite irresistible to small children, animals and, er, women (unfortunately).
Gil has posted photos he took with his cell phone. Okay, now I've seen what he looks like from all sides, I wonder if I'd recognize him in the street, in the event of our paths crossing. Probably not. I didn't recognize my neighbor when we ran into her in Mitzpe Ramon last time we were there.
You've just got to read this. Tee hee.
Would it be presumptuous of me to talk of "writer's block"? Maybe blogger's block? Blocker's blog? It's not as if there has been nothing to write about. This week we had a parents meeting at Eldest’s new school. One of the fathers complained bitterly that the school doesn’t seem to have internalized the deterioration of the economic situation in the country. It's meant to be a free schooling system but the additional payments get quite heavy in North Tel Aviv schools competing between themselves to attract students. Calling it a North Tel Aviv school is misleading as it is completely integrated with an equal share of children from the southern, less affluent, neighborhoods.
So what else has been happening? Multi-billionairess marries obvious gold-digger who turns out to be habitual sexual harasser (There was a rape charge too but that was cancelled because it allegedly happened ten years ago). What does she do? Chuck the bastard? Not on your life! She gets terribly offended that everyone is being so unkind to her (everyone but the gold-digger, that is, who is charged with molesting a woman in the said multi-billionairess's home, with her in the next room) and does a bunk with him (Helping him elude justice? They're denying this, promising he'll show up for interrogation. We'll have to see about that). Oh, and did I mention her canceling her funding of hospital development programs and other good deeds on her way out? Might I say she's not the most popular of multi-billionairesses in Israel, these days'. This shouldn't have much of an effect on the other multi-billionairesses in Israel, though. She was the only one.
She had already amused Israelis when she started a campaign promoting the idea of peace beginning in ourselves, blah blah blah, sweet idea in itself, but straight afterwards she decided to fire 900 workers from the bank she owns. Peacefully, of course. Israelis considered this along with aerial photos of her impressive mansion and failed to be convinced with the peace stuff. Could you blame us for sniggering when it turned out that the Eilat playboy she hastily married was in the habit of, erm, not taking no for an answer?
I know, I know, I'm an ungrateful brat of an Israeli. Her father did so much for us; she did so much for us. I should be groveling at her feet. We have a saying here "Ba'al hame'a hoo ba'al hade'a". More or less: The one who has the money gets to have the opinion. That was Shari's big mistake. She should have bought up the newspapers and then she would never have heard a bad word about herself or her deviant spouse, although Bish says she must be invested in the press. I wouldn't know about that. Maybe we do have a free press after all.
What else have we got? Oh, yes. Shimon Peres is throwing a big bash for his 80th birthday with everyone who's anyone invited (I saw him on TV with my own eyes threatening to live till he was 500, oy vey). So who's paying for the splendiferous festivities? Why, we are of course, especially Tel Aviv taxpayers, according to one of Tel Aviv's local rags (It seems we're paying for the hall, aren't we nice?). So fortunate we're not in the middle of a terrible recession with harsh salary cuts, mass lay offs, welfare benefits being cut or cancelled, unprecedented unemployment, etc. Maybe that's why we parents have to fork out to pay for the Remembrance Day ceremony in Eldest's school next spring (among other things). You have a lovely day, Shimon. Don't mind us.
That's it. Strictly gossip today. I can't take the serious stuff right now.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Okay okay, don't take me too seriously. That's what I dislike about those prophets of doom. They freak you out and in the end it turns out not to have been all that bad. Humanity always seems to drag itself back up from the depths of depravity. The planet somehow manages to escape destruction at the last minute. The flowers continue to bloom and they really couldn't give a damn about what the prophets of doom have to say. Here's to the flowers.
Monday, September 15, 2003
I read Igal Sarna in Yediot Aharonot this morning (Hebrew link). A prophet of doom, eloquent, poetic and compelling, he touched all the places in me that I am trying very hard not to notice. He touched my fear. He said things I do not want to believe but that I do not dare ignore.
So I decided to translate it and post it here. I'm afraid my translation doesn't do it justice.
Imagine that Ariel Sharon and Rabbi Ovadia Yossef were killed by Palestinians. Would this monstrous event cause an Israeli riot that would die down after a few weeks, and then we’d go back to our ordinary lives? Or would this double murder thrust the area into a hell that would last for years? It seems that the second option is the more realistic one. Such an event would not be forgotten and would not die down, but would rather submerge the area into a bloody whirlpool for many years to come.
Because after Arafat and Yassin have been killed, and the lava of the volcano has erupted, the personal security of Dichter and Mofaz (Defense Minister - I.J.), of Sharon and his sons will be stepped up immediately and all the rage and the hatred and the vengeance will be unleashed on us, the simple, defenseless citizens.
Omri Sharon (P.M. Arik Sharon's son and advisor and Member of Knesset – I.J.) is my neighbor in Tel Aviv. I like him personally because he is moderate and funny, but when he stands in the garden below my apartment, with his two little girls, he has with him a bodyguard, a sharp-eyed Shabak-nik, but my children and I, and your children, and our homes and lives are exposed and forsaken now that the fire is near to the keg of explosives. In Israel of 2003 only the suicidal decision-makers are protected. Only the killers are concealed from the eye. And we are standing in the strong blue light as live targets.
Israel is divided into
The manipulation had worked because I am scared. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to admit it. I don't know what's right or wrong anymore. Maybe I never did.
I'm scared of my kids blowing up, so I don't think about it. I'm scared of my home turning into a living hell, so I look the other way.
Once, years ago, I had a vision, a terrible vision. I was looking out of the window in the back of the living room of my apartment at the time. This window gave one quite a vista of Tel Aviv. Looking out, the whole of Tel Aviv was engulfed in orange flames; the sky was blackened with smoke. It scared the hell out of me, I tell you.
The memory of this vision comes to me when things are particularly bad, and I'm feeling a bit desperate in the face of the hopelessness of it all and I'm trying my best to be strong and brave and not give in to my fear of things to come.
Maybe it's time to hang out the flag again.
He really freaked me out, that Sarna guy, huh?
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Security forces have been foiling suicide attacks and other attacks on civilians, left, right and center. Somehow I am unmoved. It doesn't touch me. I am trying to muster up interest in the deporting Arafat question, so as to have something to blog about.
I'm rather fed up of all these clever people who get paid to write their opinions in newspapers but have never actually done anything to render their views worth anything. My dad always used to say that if learned professors of economy understood anything about economy they wouldn't be teaching about it, they'd be out there making money (Of course, one may argue that there has to be someone to see the bigger picture and that making money isn't everything, but then my dad's a capitalist). So if the columnists have all the answers, why aren't they bloody well running things instead of shooting their mouths off (or should that be "shooting off their mouths")?
I have no idea if throwing Arafat out would be good or bad. It doesn't seem like a good idea. Do we really want him gallivanting about, being received like a king by the Germans and the French, making speeches in his old hunting ground, the UN General Assembly? Of course, we could always deport him to Egypt. Mubarak just loves him and would know just what to do with him (whatever he says to the microphone).
If we're about killing terrorists, then Arafat's definitely number one (there's my good karma gone down the drain again). But is that a good idea? I don't know. I feel old fuzzy brain coming on. I really shouldn't attempt working things out in my head like this. It isn't good for me.
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Watching my mother die I realized that life has no meaning.
We are, and then we are not. That is all.
There is no meaning to death. There is no such thing as a needless death or an unnecessary death, just as there is no such thing as a meaningful death.
We live. We die.
How and when we die is not preordained or significant in any way. Death is just something that happens. Just like life itself. We're no different from ants running along the sidewalk carrying their heavy loads. Some get trodden on, others don't. Some manage to get their packages to their destinies, others don't. All the ants die, regardless.
This is not a religious or an anti-religious statement. It's just an observation.
Life is not something we deserve. We've just been lucky to have lasted this long, even if we are only one day old.
Am I writing this because yesterday two bombs strapped to two different people, seeking immortality, blew up and killed fifteen people and injured many others who were not seeking anything? Am I writing this because tomorrow is the second anniversary of a day on which a group of people, also seeking immortality, flew two planes into two tall buildings, killing thousands?
No I am not. I am writing it because it is the way of the world. We may try to escape this by creating theories and ideologies and belief systems, because it is very difficult to accept. But we are just deluding ourselves. It remains the way of the world regardless of what we believe. It is not sad or regrettable. It is just the way it is.
This is not to say that there is a God or there is not a God. This is to say that, in my view, God is not an overseer that sits up on a cloud above the little planet Earth, and decides every day which ant will be trodden on, and which antelope will be devoured by a lioness, and which human being will be stricken down by another human being. These are just chance occurrences. They are inconsequential to the bigger picture, even if, for us, they are the whole world.
Take a minute. Look up from your computer screen and look around you. Look at the people you love dearly and at the people you don't like and at the people you don't even know. Look at the sun and the sky and the clouds. Look at the trees and the flowers. Listen to the birds singing and to the sound of the city traffic, cars and buses and trams and trains, taking people from place to place. Look and listen and be thankful. We did nothing to deserve all of these things and we have no way of knowing when they, or our ability to enjoy them, will be gone.
Death comes quickly and, more often than not, doesn't bother to call ahead to say it is on its way and give us a chance to prepare. And even if it does, how does one prepare?
* * * *
If you want to read about the terrorist attacks, go read Tal and Gil and Allison and Rinat or one of the other Israeli bloggers listed on the left side column. I have nothing to add.
Saturday, September 06, 2003
Gil, of Israeli Guy fame, is back with a new blog and a new address. It's really nicely designed. I especially like the retro Israeli poster he has on the left side at the top. It's a bit reminiscent of old Commie stuff but it says it all about, well, life as I see it, actually.
And another piece of interesting news is that my e-mail friend Alifa, has started her own blog. I'm very excited about this because her e-mails are always sagacious and insightful. Her blog is, too.
Today, I am going to spend a whole day of meditation somewhere out of town with my old Buddhist group. I haven't done this for over a year, and even then my contact with the group was already sporadic. I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and having a quiet peaceful day in a lovely place.
The tensions I left at work, when I went on my little holiday, were still there when I got back (surprise surprise). The first day was nice but on the second I could feel the poison creeping back and taking hold.
I have known for a long time that this is something I have to tackle face on, but I'm chicken. Maybe today will give me some tools to do so.
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Oh look, an Israeli blog I hadn't seen before, written by a former Belgian.
So I went back to work. It actually wasn't so bad. I must have really needed that vacation.
I won't be quitting just yet.
I think I'll just hang around until they give me a kitschy fake gold watch with an embarrassing inscription.
I feel like someone who just said, "Don't think about pink elephants". You must all be imagining Allison wielding a great big axe. How mean of me.
Allison is great. She's just my sort of person. I knew she would be. I'm rather introverted so I need nice outgoing people (like Bish). Allison is just my cup of tea (Or should that be coffee? She made me two excellent cups). She needn't have worried about tidying up, though. As I see it, you either blog OR have a neat and tidy home. You can't have both. Actually, I didn't have a neat and tidy home before I blogged, so I must be a natural (Isn't there a blogger out there who sells "Born to Blog" T-shirts? I should buy one).
Allison really does have a problem with her judgment of people, though. Me wise??! That will have Bish and the girls rolling about in hysterics. I'll never live it down.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Allison is not an axe murderer.
Eldest was rather worried about my going to meet someone I'd met through the Internet. "Isn't that a bit dangerous?" She asked me. This was one of those embarrassing moments parents find themselves in, when they are caught by their beloved children doing something they preach against. I fumbled through the situation somehow, feeling like an idiot.
I explained that I had been reading Allison's blog for a long time and I didn't think she could have kept it up so well, if she wasn't whom she said she was (Oh, really?). I told her that Allison had written for the Jerusalem Post for a long time and that a lot of people had heard of her, including Grandpa (So?). I said it was different for grown-ups because they had more experience in sussing people out (Yeah, right!).
By this point I was feeling rather uncomfortable.
Well, anyway, I lucked out. Allison turned out not to be a deranged serial killer. What a relief. It was fun to finally meet her in person.
I'm worried about Allison's survival instincts, though. I managed to get through the whole morning without her finding out the horrible truth about me.
Yesterday the Orr Judicial Commission of Inquiry gave its recommendations. The Commission's mission was to investigate the riots of Israeli Arabs in October 2000, and the killing of thirteen people by the Police, during these riots.
A lot has been said, since these events took place, about the discrimination of Israeli Arabs, about their feelings of alienation and their low socio-economic status in Israeli society. All these are serious matters that demand attention and solutions.
However, I've read very little that manages to convey the atmosphere among Jews in Israel at the time of the riots, or at least as experienced by this Israeli Jew. I'm not trying to judge, or say who was right and who was wrong. The Judicial Commission of Inquiry has had its say, based on all the relevant evidence. I respect its recommendations. I just thought I would like to write about how it felt for me at the time, as I remember it.
Through my eyes.
In October 2000, Israeli Arabs rose up in solidarity with their Palestinian brethren. Widespread riots were reported, with frenzied crowds throwing stones at Jewish passers-by and clashing violently with the Police, who were completely unprepared for this eventuality. Yaffo, the southern part of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, was cut off, for a day or two. You couldn't get to Bat-Yam via Yaffo, the shorter route, when coming from inner Tel Aviv. You had to go right round, through Holon. Even when the road was opened, people were afraid to drive that way.
The riots in the north of the country were the worst. Main roads leading to the north of the country were sporadically blocked by rioters, effectively cutting off the north from the rest of the country. People were scared to go home.
Jews living in secluded villages and small towns in the north were afraid that they were going to be attacked (Bish reminds me that people traveling on slip roads leading to secluded villages and small towns, such as Lotem and Misgav, in the Galilee, actually were attacked by their longtime Arab neighbors, who they had formerly seen as their friends, and the Jewish inhabitants were placed under protective curfew).
A man was killed (Hebrew link) from a stone thrown at his car, while he was driving along highway #2, the main road from Tel Aviv to Haifa, near the Arab village of Jisr a-Zarqa, a bit north of Hadera. Thus the road connecting the main Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa seemed to have become as dangerous as roads leading to remote West Bank settlements.
There was a decided feeling of alarm and emergency. It felt like the terrible 1948 war was coming alive again before our eyes. Would we have to travel in armed convoys from now on, in the middle of the country, like we did back then? The whole country was in shock. Suddenly people realized how dangerous the Israeli Arabs could be if they chose, and it looked like they were choosing.
The riots seemed, at the time, to be an integral part of the awful violence that had erupted in the territories, with the full backing of the Palestinian Authority, if not actually initiated by the Palestinian Authority, as the more serious experts for Arab affairs believe. At the same time, there was real fear that the surrounding Arab countries would rally round their Palestinian brethren and attack Israel. Bish cancelled his long-awaited Vipassana meditation course in Kibbutz Hatzeva in the Arava desert that month. He didn't want the girls and I to be alone, should all-out war break out.
This was what was happening. It was very scary.
The Israeli Arabs ceased their rioting only after thirteen Arabs had been killed by police forces in the north, twelve Israeli and one Gazan.
Quiet returned, but everything had changed. The feeling of betrayal we Jews felt was overwhelming. Israeli Arabs had violently sided with the Palestinians against the rest of us.
Long after Arab Yaffo was quiet, the Jews didn't go back. The restaurants, the stores, the flea market, all remained deserted. The queue outside Abu-Lafiya's bakery on a Friday night disappeared. At first people were afraid. Then, when the fear subsided, they were angry. A lot of people told me they would not buy from Arabs any more, they would not eat at their restaurants or shop at their stores, even if it meant paying more elsewhere.
Three years on, you still don't need to queue up at Abu-Lafiya's bakery on a Friday night, although people are gradually coming back to Yaffo.
We were surprised to discover that the Israeli Arabs also felt betrayed. By the Israeli establishment, by Israeli Jews. They also experienced what had happened as a complete breakdown. They had never felt so alienated and angry. They were outraged that the police had opened fire on what they saw as peaceful demonstrators in legitimate demonstrations, in situations that were not threatening anyone. They were understandably heartbroken by the youngsters that were killed. I suppose they don't really understand, to this day, why their Jewish customers stopped coming.
* * * *
This is my personal recollection of that time. Maybe other people experienced it differently. I feel no anger towards ordinary Israeli Arabs, although I can't help feeling they have been led astray by their leadership. Israeli Arabs are my fellow citizens and as such I feel an affinity for them. I see no reason why they should have less opportunities than me, or why their towns and villages should not be allocated equal funding, if this is not the case. I believe they should be my equals in everything, rights and obligations alike. I see no reason why they cannot do national service, if they have a problem with military service. I pray we can put aside our differences and forgive each other for what happened.
Monday, September 01, 2003
A correspondent for Yediot Aharonot, Boaz Bissmuth, said he had overhead a conversation between Araud and two other veteran diplomats in the gardens of the French foreign ministry in Paris.
I see the London Telegraph has an opinion piece on this affair.
Oh, oh, oh! Diane says nice things about me in a post about blogfights, blogging groupthink and blogging versus journalism. It's a very interesting post, although I don't know most of the people she's talking about. Well, I have heard of Glenn Reynolds (although I rarely read him). You know what I mean.
But you know, even though I like reading what Diane has to say about them, blog politics are rather boring. I can't be bothered to follow all the big fights.
Blog politics are nearly as boring as the petty politics in my workplace. Not that I'd throw anyone out of my office if they came to tell me all the latest gossip, mind you.
Well, my mother-in-law came home from her trip to France. She had a wonderful time (grrrr). Not that I begrudge her, I am very happy for her, I just would have prefered she had a wonderful time somewhere else. The sad truth of the matter is that she is a Francophile and always has been. When she was a child they spoke French at home until her sisters and her came home from school and demanded to speak Hebrew. That's how they got people to speak Hebrew in those days, through the children, because everyone spoke different languages, German, Yiddish, Russian, French, Ladino, Arabic. This is actually one of the great wonders of the Jewish return to the Land of Israel, the way they resuscitated a dead language, regarded as holy but never spoken. My mother-in-law also has a lot of family in France. Anyway, she was over there for a family affair, somewhere in the country and she had a wonderful time.
She met a young Lebanese-born Palestinian while she was there. At first he was wary of her, and kept his distance. Then he tasted her ma'amouls. (Told you they were good, Diane, but I didn't realize they were our secret weapon for bringing the Palestinians to their knees). She said he came up to her and said they were better than his mother's (praise indeed from an Arab man). And from that point on they were the best of friends. Maybe he realized that he had a lot in common with her. That makes me sad, on one hand, but on the other, it gives me hope. She said to him that he sees himself as belonging here more than her, although he's never been here and was born in Lebanon. But she was born here, she told him (she's seventy), and so was her father.
10 things I'd like to do but don't dare
1. Quit my job. I'm coming to the end of a two and a half week vacation from work. It's been heaven. I really really don't fancy going back. Moreover, I think work is highly overrated.
2. Quit my job. Did I say that already?
3. Spend Shabbat Hayei Sara in Hebron with the nutty settlers there and their supporters. I am strongly opposed to these people and their behavior. I think they should be evacuated, the sooner the better. They are serious obstacles to any possibility of peace in this region. So why am I so fascinated with the idea of spending time there? Is it just an anthropological interest or is there something more?
4. Did I mention quit my job?
5. Quit my job and move to Mitzpe Ramon full time.
6. Become a foster parent.
7. Write a book. So far I've never got past the first page. I never know what language to write it in, for one thing. It's the split personality issue, you see. (Now she's started with the lame excuses again).
8. If I say quit my job again, will you hit me?
9. Shave all my hair off. (And cut off my ear?)
10. Smuggle drugs in Turkey. Just kidding, I needed a number ten.
Sunday, August 31, 2003
I can imagine that a lot of people who wander onto this page probably leave in a hurry, disgusted with this Israeli's preoccupation with Israeli issues (How provincial!), and with the fact that she ignores the Palestinian side of things, and that she seems indifferent to the suffering just a few kilometers to her East. Oh, yes, they probably say, it's all very well for her, worrying about sending her kids to nice schools in wealthy Tel Aviv, but what about the Palestinian children? What about their schooling? What about their miserable lives?
The first thing I have to say about that is that I am living my life, not theirs. If I write about their suffering it will mainly be the fruit of my imagination or things I have read. Before the first Intifada and before the wave of terrorist attacks that hit Tel Aviv in the mid-90's I was in regular contact with Palestinians. Not any more and not as a result of anything I did.
The second thing I have to say is that I am well aware that what happens to the Palestinians, how they live, what they learn in school, if they learn in school, and what their lives are like, has a real affect on my life. I know this, I live my life in awareness of this fact. And I worry about it. I worry about it no less than I worry about the lives and schooling of Israeli children from lower socio-economic strata than myself. There is no getting away from the fact that the lives of our two peoples are intertwined.
A lot of people who don't live in this region are very critical about Israel and its policies, although these things have no affect whatsoever on their personal lives. Some of these people are rather ignorant about some of the basic facts of the conflict. This doesn't bother them particularly or stop them from judging harshly.
Contrary to popular belief, Israel is not to blame for the situation ordinary Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza strip find themselves in. I know we are all in this together and Israel has certainly made many mistakes and done cruel things. Many things were done (and are still being done), that could be avoided, or maybe done in a more humane fashion. This is regrettable and should be seriously looked into and fixed. But these things are not representative of the whole picture. When seen out of context they look horrific, but this is not all there is to this.
A lot of people are forgetting something that is central to the conflict, or maybe they never knew, and that is that the Palestinians had a wonderful opportunity, a real, sincere opportunity offered to them by Israel, with the backing of the western world, to build a nation and a state alongside Israel. This was a time when the Left in Israel was strong, creative, persuasive. Something wonderful was happening, we were building the future of this land together. Many Right Wing friends of mine decided to vote with me for the Left, so persuaded were so many of us that we were going in a good direction.
And then buses started blowing up. One of the buses that blew up in the mid-90's was a busy Tel Aviv no. 5 bus, on one of the most central lines in the city. Parking and traffic being what they are in the city, I often prefer to get the no. 5 bus to more or less anywhere I want to go in Tel Aviv. There is a stop right across from my apartment, another by my workplace.
That murderous attack completely shattered my feeling of security in the place I live my life.
But do you know what? It didn't change my belief in the Oslo Accords. Not one little bit. It maybe even strengthened it. So did the many murderous attacks that followed. The change didn't come until September 2000.
So what changed?
What changed was that the Palestinians refused an offer of a lifetime and then ATTACKED us! What changed was the shock of the realization that our yearning for peace and coexistence, and our willingness to compromise and share this land, with joint research and development in education, agriculture, technology, with Israelis shopping in Bidya and Palestinians working in Petach Tikva and holidaying in Herzliya, with this land developing towards becoming an economic heaven for both peoples, was not being reciprocated.
The leadership on the other side was just biding its time, we discovered, waiting for more and more concessions. They had never given up their determination to rule the whole of the Land of Israel, although they had said they had. They had promised that they would never again take up arms against us as a way of solving their differences with us. And we had believed them. And then we offered them to end it all, once and for all. A historic finish to the conflic for all time. They weren't interested. They didn't even ask to think about it. It was just NO.
Because instead of using those years to build a nation, a society, a state, the Palestinian leadership, fresh from their privileged exile in Tunisia, had used them to build a culture of hate. They had sowed, not seeds of understanding and coexistence among the young generation of Palestinians in schools, but seeds of hope that it would not be necessary to make compromises with the hated Zionists after all. They had taught them that the day when they would all be back in Haifa and in Jaffa, and that the Jews would be gone, was getting nearer and nearer with every concession made by the weak, spoilt Israelis.
It's easy to judge from the other side of the world, where the chance of your kid getting blown to smithereens in the local mall are still extremely slim, even in these days of planes being flown into tall buildings as part of a sick game of terror (but for how long?). It's easy to decide who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, when it doesn't touch you, when it makes no difference to your life, when you don't really know all the facts and don't really care to know them.
I don't know how we can resolve this conflict anymore. I thought I knew. This knowledge was such a deep belief for me that it shaped and defined most of my adult life. It was who I was.
It turned out I was a naive, trusting fool. Now, it seems, this conflict can only be solved if my people and I cease to exist. Well, I have no intention of doing anything that would further that end. My only alternative is to be strong, refrain from spending too much time worrying about the situation and just live my life.
So forgive me for not agonizing about the Palestinians all day, every day. I am sorry for them. They have terrible leaders who have been holding them down and leading them astray, and they have no way of getting rid of them. I can't change that. I have my say every four years, sometimes more often than that. I'm sorry the Palestinians don't have the same privilege. On second thoughts, maybe I'm not. They probably wouldn't elect anyone who would want to make peace with us.