Saturday, July 31, 2004

Allison’s Tamar is gorgeous (duh!). Oy, to eat her up. I forgot they were so small.

I was offered to hold her, by Allison’s mom, but I didn’t want to spoil her day (Tamar’s, not Allison’s mom’s). I’m one of those people who babies take one look at and scream their heads off. You would never believe I had somehow managed two of my own.

I suppose one reason that I haven't been able to write very much this week has been that the ministry clerks who are opposed to Bish's bill, managed to have it turned down by the government, and they apparently did it in a very nasty way (Gideon Levy style - half truths, taking things out of context, and unfair manipulations of the text). Bish isn't giving up though. He's great.

Anyway, please note the time. I am going out on my bike. The planned route includes the promenade along the beachfront. Can't go any later because it will be too hot. Also Shabbat morning early - not much traffic, besides people walking to shul (and sinners like me on bikes).

I'm getting better at riding. I find that while riding on the sidewalk may reduce the chances of my being killed in the heavy Tel Aviv traffic, it requires better biking skills, which I don't necessarily possess.

Oh oh, I've just put on sunscreen and Shoosha is licking it! LOL

Update: I’m back! I rode nearly all the way to Yaffo, then back again and home along the Yarkon River. It took me an hour and three quarters. Interesting discoveries: Seven o’clock on Shabbat morning is maybe not the best time for biking along the tayelet (promenade). Hundreds and hundreds of walkers! You’ve never seen so many people. In places, the pedestrian presence was so dense I could hardly get passed. On the other hand, the rest of the city was empty so I could just ride on the road.

I rode past the clubs in the old Tel Aviv port. Funny to see the youngsters staggering out after a night of dancing, drinking, and... er... other stuff (judging by the stories in the papers lately).

Main conclusion of the morning: I need to lower my handlebar.



From the morning’s pickings on my teeny camera: This is the Yarkon River. On the far bank you can see the gorgeous new boating center (I think that’s what it is, anyway). It’s shaped like an upside down boat. It looks really good at night, when it’s lit up.

In the foreground what you can see is two teenagers and their instructor just getting ready to go out for a row. I was pleased to notice that the kids were speaking Arabic. Behind them you can see a group of guys on their first rowing lesson (judging by the rather basic instructions the guy in blue at the back was yelling at them). Out of the frame, just behind me, sit the wife of one of the men and his two small children, watching excitedly as Dad rows away.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Gaza Gideon (updated)
Gideon Levy is not an example of a responsible, balanced journalist, Mick. He’s very good at what he does. This article is a compilation of distortions and half facts. It’s cleverly done, so it’s difficult to argue with.

But Gideon Levy never gives any other angle, as a responsible, balanced journalist would. He never bothers to point out why something happened. He never takes the time to mention the terrorist son or brother, for instance, hiding out in the building, or the weapons factory in the back room, or the sniper that forcibly took over the building, or that the building was booby-trapped, or the soldiers that called out their intentions on loud speakers a day in advance, giving ample time for the inhabitants of the building to evacuate. And why should he? No one demands journalistic integrity of him (if the words still hold any meaning, to rephrase you, Mick).

Gideon Levy will never bother to point out, just to balance things a bit, for instance, that the field of vision of the driver of an armored bulldozer (and they have to be armored bulldozers otherwise the drivers will be shot) is very narrow and that he can hear very little, probably not even the shrill, high pitched shrieks of a diminutive Palestinian elderly lady, besides the squeaky screeches of his heavy machinery.

He never gives any background for the sad stories he tells. They are always out of context, always. He always give a narrative of a situation that is so narrow, so very, very narrow, that it offers the reader a field of vision that even the driver of an armored bulldozer, used to being able to see very little, would complain about, and find unreasonable. He distorts and twists things so that all you can see is that very narrow field of vision he is offering you. And like that bulldozer driver, you can’t hear yourself think over the roar of his hate-filled accusations and his warped, clear-cut assertions. He turns that into the only reality, although that is never the case in real life, is it, Mick?

And sometimes the things he writes are just outright lies, but he lies so damn well that you can’t even see it.

I’m tired of Gideon Levy and his twisted and manipulative use of selective half-truths. I find it easier to see where and how he is b#$%&&*#ing me, because I can see the big picture, because I know the context out of which he is sneaking these ‘facts’. But you can’t, Mick. You are an innocent, a perfect target for Gideon Levy. Me, on the other hand, I’m immune by now. I wasn’t always, but I’ve been hearing his rhetoric for years and years. I’ve read about a hundred Gideon Levy articles too many, maybe more.

Gideon Levy lost his ability to affect public opinion in Israel, long ago. The result of his persistently creative use of the facts is that he has very little credibility and is widely seen, at best, as a Palestinian propaganda tool. He is overbearing, pompous, and self-righteous.

In this article, Gideon Levy relates a number of unrelated events, giving a very selective and partial account of each, and cites them as proof of Israeli society’s inherent racism and hypocrisy.

But what stares out at me quite clearly from this article is not Israeli racism. Every example he gives is disgracefully out of context and a complete, unabashed distortion of the facts. Not that there is no racism in Israeli society, quite the contrary, we are no better than anywhere else in this respect, although I do believe we actually are better than quite a few places, and not only our neighbors in this region, whose racism is so prominent and unapologetic that the blindness of the west to it (even as they call Israelis Nazis) is quite incredible. No, I think the real message of his article is the moral corruption of the Israeli media.

It is true - Yediot Aharonot plays down Palestinian suffering. But this is not out of political bias or hypocrisy. Yediot Aharonot is in the business of selling papers. Yediot Aharonot thinks Palestinian suffering doesn’t sell papers, and it’s probably right. Scantily clad starlets sell papers; dubious ‘Man Bites Dog’ stories sell papers; questionable, titillating revelations about the private lives of celebrities sell papers. THE NEWS, sadly, does not sell papers, or, at least, that is how Yediot Aharonot appears to see it. Journalistic integrity doesn’t come into it. Even when they do run the news, they do it in a yellow, sensationalist manner, with little respect for the facts.

The rub is that Haaretz is no better, maybe even worse, morally speaking. While Yediot Aharonot makes no secret of putting its profits first, Haaretz vehemently and shamelessly pushes its political bias, while at the same time denying this and claiming to offer fair and honest reportage.

We were longtime readers of Haaretz, and bought into this claim of theirs for many years. It wasn’t Gideon Levy’s articles that eventually pushed us to cancel our subscription, or Amira Hass’s articles for that matter, it was the semi-disguised political slant in the news pages and in the so-called serious in-depth investigative stories that gradually disgusted us more and more, until we couldn’t and wouldn’t read it any more.

Gideon Levy, in this article, offers us a pile of hateful manipulative half-truths, at best, and one or two outright lies, all cleverly disguised. You asked for my reaction to this article, Mick, and I have been agonizing over it all week. It upsets me considerably to read all his twisted, devious manipulations. I should fisk it, I should go sentence by sentence and pull it to pieces. It is probably the most fiskable article ever written. Every out-of-context piece of poison in it is a complete distortion of the facts. I should fisk it, and I feel bad that I can’t. But I can’t, because that would make me just as petty and spiteful and hateful as he is. I cannot find the energy in me to stoop to his level, even if it is the right thing to do.

What can I say? We are at war with the Palestinians, I’m sorry that this is the situation. A personal aim of mine is to make an effort to continue seeing the humanity in the other side, to be aware of their considerable hardships and understand them, although they make no such effort to do the same with regard to me.

The nature of war is that people get hurt, innocent people. Unlike the Palestinians, we do not purposefully target non-combatants, but still it happens. Part of their war strategy is to bring the war zone into densely populated areas. This strategy, and its awful results, serves the Palestinian cause well. It gives people like Gideon Levy ample ammunition. For we are at war with the Palestinians, Mick, and Gideon Levy is not on our side.

Update: I've been writing and writing and deleting and starting over and getting anxious and gtting upset all week. And after all that John just says it so much better:


Gideon Levy doesn't make any analogies about suicide bombers...

'Imagine a scene where a Palestinian suicide bomber stands at the entrance of a restaurant crowded with children eating 'happy meals'...then imagine a situation where an Israeli suicide bomber stands at the entrance to a Palestinian cafe filled with children...ooops, one can't really imagine that can one?'

Thursday, July 29, 2004

I'M BLOCKED.

(But I got to see Allison's baby and mother today)

Someone has asked me to comment on a particularly insidious Gideon Levy article and I've freaked out. Bish to the rescue. Watch this spot.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Just got this through my mail box:


Dear sir or madam,

Petition to President Richard Brodhead to deny use of the Duke University Campus to Supporters of Terrorism.

I would be extremely grateful if you could make your readers aware of the following petition. Palestine Solidarity Movement--the American student wing of the International Solidarity Movement--is attempting to hold its National Conference at Duke University on October 15-17, 2004. We do not want this group, which supports destruction of Israel "by any means necessary," to be given the privilege of using our campus. We are therefore sending a petition to our new president, Richard Brodhead, asking him to keep ISM out.

Sincerely,
Andrew Gerst
Duke University junior
Newton, MA

I don't know if the ISM supports the destruction of the State of Israel, as this person says, but I feel that they are actively contributing towards this end in their actions. I feel very strongly that if they were truly interested in peace in this land, they would be doing something about stopping terrorism and promoting dialogue. Instead they are aggressively supporting one side of the conflict, and by doing so, they are encouraging that one side to continue pursuing violence, a large portion of which is aimed at non-combatants, some of them from their own side.

I would like to point out that I have not signed this petition. I am not an American and I feel that what happens in American campuses is really none of my business, even if it can cause harm to my people, my family, and myself. I thought it was important to bring the petition to your attention, that's all.

So here we have it:
I’m extremely busy doing fun things. I’m creating strange pieces of – ahum - art (Bish says that things that look like they’ve been dragged from the garbage can are not exactly, erm, his, erm ... oh never mind); I’m running; I’m spinning; I’m taking Youngest to swimming (I’m also a very bad poet it seems); I’m riding the wonderful, shiny new bike that R.T. helped me buy; I’m obsessing about things that are happening at work; and I’m trying to keep up with Bish’s new career as an interviewee on Israeli media (four interviews on radio, five on TV (one in Russian -not Israeli Russian, real Russian from Russia, would you believe it?), and quite a few mentions in newspapers, all in the last three weeks, but we reckon it’ll taper off now) – it’s not about the bill, it’s about an aspect of his profession (although not him personally) being connected to one of the big affairs happening in Israel lately, and the media people have discovered that Bish is intelligent, eloquent, and that he looks and sounds quite good (that's my Bish), so he’s being interviewed as a representative of his profession and as an expert, blah blah.

If all that isn’t enough, it is also hot and humid, and even with the air-conditioning it’s difficult to do anything that requires any sort of mental activity.

I have some great photos of Shoosha, but I can’t post them yet for technical reasons (Bish’s laptop died, it’s a long, sad story, I’ll spare you).

By the way, I was reading up about biking and came across this lady. Not only is she sporty, she is also a very witty and amusing writer, and I like her name.

Monday, July 19, 2004

You talking to me?!
Dave from Israellycool gives us some excellent examples of polite French diplomacy.

Swastika carved on Jewish girl / French urban legends
Yael has found the story I was talking about. She remembers it too. I’d begun to think I was hallucinating. This is from April 2004:


Also in Paris, a 12-year-old girl coming out of a Jewish school was attacked by two men. They beat her, held her down and slashed her face with a box cutter. They carved a swastika into her face and walked away. Her parents have filed a police report.

Yael says she tried to interest bloggers in this at the time, to no avail.

Four more years!
No not Bush - Arafat. That's what he got out of this Terror War.

I'm no expert, but I can distinctly remember a lot of rumbling and grumbling among Palestinians about Arafat's corrupt regime, just before hostilities "broke out" in the autumn of 2000, and I mean a lot. And there was talk of his days as despot nearing their end. But he showed them. Typical to local dictators, Arafat skillfully manuevered things so that growing disatisfaction and opposition to his regime was soon directed towards the nearest and most convenient common enemy - us - with disastrous consequences for his people.

Well, the rumbling and grumbling are getting louder again, much louder.

As the Arabs say: 'cool calb biji youmo'. Every dog's day comes. Only this dog’s day is a long time coming.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

According to the UN: Israel is the best place to live in this part of the world, while the Palestinian territories are not the worst! Un-effing believable.

Very well put by Yael.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

What does this mean?


Leaders of the Presbyterian Church in the US approved a divestment campaign against Israel in a series of annual resolutions that included a condemnation of Israel's security fence, a decision to continue funding churches aimed at converting Jews to Christianity and a disavowal of Christian Zionism as a legitimate theological stance.

In a vote of 431 to 62, the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA compared Israel's policies to those of South Africa and approved gathering data to support a selective divestment of holdings in multinational corporations doing business in Israel/ Palestine, a July 2 church release noted. The church's liaison to the Middle East, Rev. Victor Makari, noted after the vote that if nothing else seems to have changed the policy of Israel toward Palestinians, we need to send a clear and strong message.

That doesn't sound very nice at all. Shouldn't a Christian church be suggesting, clearly and strongly, that Palestinians change their policy of blowing up innocent Israelis?

Swastikas and hoaxes again
Thank you Mary and Mrs. Treppenwitz, for both taking the time to tell me about the Tawana Brawley hoax. Very kind of you, but this is not what I was thinking of.

I do remember reading somewhere quite recently about a Jewish girl in France who had had swastikas carved onto her.

But anyway, this latest hoax in France is particularly intriguing in light of the Tawana Brawley story, isn’t it?

Relevant party
Yes, I had noticed that Kiwi Bob had not supplied an e-mail address for the International Court of Injustice, but didn’t have the energy to deal with such a difficulty in seventy percent humidity. Anyway, now Adrian has sent it to me and I am nicely rested from my weekend in a less humid atmosphere, so I haven’t got any excuses.

Maybe we should all send the letter again, to the relevant party this time. mail@icj-cij.org - International Court of (In)Justice.

Adrian has a very nice new blog design, by the way. I’m dead jealous, although if my blog ever looks any less silly, I’ll have to start taking myself seriously and we can’t have that now, can we?

Lots of news.
Political stuff in Israel. On a personal note, this could turn out bad for Bish’s bill. We’ll have to see. The government still hasn’t voted on it.

Violence and chaos in the Palestinian Authority. They’re talking about the end of Arafat. We’ve heard that one before!

But I don’t want to talk about the yucky stuff, when we have such good news. Welcome, Tamar, our very own blog baby, and a big, big Mazal Tov to Allison.



A few years ago, I was staying with friends in Kiryat Tivon near Haifa. In the late afternoon a group of us walked down a path in the woods. After some time descending the hill we came to a clearing. It was twilight, the sun had just set and it wasn't dark yet.

There before us, already lit up for the evening, were three archways, carved into the rock at the foot of the hill. It was the tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, head of the Sanhedrin of old, and compiler and sealer of the Mishna, an important part of the Oral Torah.

I was overwhelmed. I hadn't been to the ancient Necropolis of Beit She’arim since childhood, and had completely forgotten that we used to drive through Kiryat Tivon on our way. My parents used to love Beit She’arim and would to take all our visitors there. I sometimes tagged along.

* * * *

We spent this last weekend in a lovely little place called Beit Lehem Haglilit, Galilean Bethlehem, in a quaint reverted barn, built by German Templars at the beginning of the Twentieth century (These people were all chucked out by the British at the beginning of World War Two, because of their open Nazi sympathies). Our rooms were on the second floor of what used to be the hen house. Our friends slept downstairs in the former stables. Dad made all sorts of cracks about the rooster and the chickens and watching out for the fox, when he rang to see how we were doing. I actually saw a fox, but not in the hen house. I saw him when I went for a little walk. He was at the end of the field, and when he saw me he scurried towards the safety of the trees.

And on Friday morning we went to nearby Beit She’arim . It must be cool in the burial caves, I told everyone, in my attempt to persuade them that it was preferable to the ancient ruins of Tzipori, which I have never seen. I wasn't sure about the coolness, I made a wild guess because I really wanted to see Beit She’arim properly again. But I was right - natural air-conditioning in the dark, damp caves.

And even the kids enjoyed themselves, and found it interesting, more than the usual ‘old stones site’. I think they appreciated the spookiness of being in caves full of graves and coffins, even if they no longer hold any skeletons (all stolen long ago by grave robbers). Us so-called grown-ups enjoyed the Hebrew inscriptions on the sarcophagi and on the walls, and the uncharacteristic use of ‘Goyishke’ symbolism in the carvings (we saw a couple of Roman goddesses, and even a mask of a face), seen as a sign tolerance and openness of the Judaism of the time.

We did something I never did with my parents, we took a guided tour, and our reward was to get in to see the tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi himself (and his wife and the rest of the clan, apparently). I'd only ever seen it from the outside, because it’s kept locked.

The other tombs were mainly the burial places of rich Jews of the era (Roman period – about 1800 years ago) who wished to be buried near to him and were transported from all over the Jewish Diaspora of the day.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to revisit Beit She’arim as an adult. I can now better understand why my parents were so drawn to it when they were relatively new to this country, and preferred bringing foreign visitors there than to the more obvious choices in the vicinity of their Haifa home, such as the rather kitschy Bahai Temple.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Tallrite: Palestinians deserve regime change. A positive commentary.

It’s amazing to see how flexible Yediot Aharonot is about reporting the facts, even when they later turn out not to have been the facts. According to Yediot, the most popular and widely read newspaper in the country (Haaretz’s readership is tiny, the Jerusalem Post’s - microscopic), the fate we had thought had befallen that most imaginative of girls on the train in Paris was far more horrible than any of you read in your national papers – the swastikas weren’t just written on her body, they were carved there; her hair wasn’t just cut, it was shaved off; and her baby’s stroller wasn’t pushed over, the baby was kicked.

That was a whole two days ago. Yediot apparently assumes that the entire body of their readership possesses the collective IQ of an ant and the memory of a rabbit. In this morning’s paper they write about it all being a hoax. Forgotten are the blaring headlines screaming of swastikas scraped on female flesh. ‘I drew them on my stomach myself’ they now quote her as saying. Do they think we can’t remember the accusations they bandied around at the beginning of the week?

What worries me is that they obviously really don’t care, and this is only one example among many.

--

I have noticed that habitual liars appear to feel no embarrassment on being caught. Everyone around can be visibly cringing, as if it were they who had just been exposed, while the person in question is quite untouched, oblivious of the ridicule or disgust felt by all present.

* * * *

The story of swastikas carved on the bare flesh of a young lady sounds familiar. I distinctively remember reading a similar story somewhere a while back (was it on a blog?) and remember thinking that if this was true it should have been front-page news. Could this messed up young lady have been living out a popular French urban legend? Creepy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

You can do something: You can tell them how you feel.
Kiwi Bob has kindly supplied the relevant e-mails and even a letter to cut and paste. Send away!

==========================

ecu@un.org - United Nations

civis@europarl.eu.int - EU Parliament

info@curia.eu.int - EU Court of Justice

Subject: The building of the Israeli security fence

To Whom It May Concern:

When Israel builds a fence to keep out terrorists, the UN and EU are
up in arms because it makes it difficult for terrorists to kill more Jews.

When terrorists shoot (point blank!) an 8-month-pregnant Jewish woman and her 4 little girls, there is absolute silence from your organizations.

The security fence is a temporary and nonviolent way to reduce terrorism. The fence is a proportional response to the ongoing Palestinian Campaign of terror. When the terrorism stops, the fence can be taken down.

The route of the fence was designed to save the lives of innocent people. Israel has the right and the duty to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks.

Since the erection of the security fence there has been a 90% decrease in the number of attacks against Israelis-from an average of 26 attacks per year before the fence to three attacks after the fence was built.

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that areas of the fence must be
adjusted in order to relieve Palestinian hardship. Unlike any other country in the region, Israel has an independent judiciary. Israel, a democracy committed to the rule of law, will comply with the Israeli Supreme Court's decision.

The security fence is not a wall, as the court states. The majority of the fence is constructed of barb wire-8.5 kilometers of the fence consists of concrete slabs, in order to prevent sniper fire.

There are many disputed security fences around the world-India has
constructed a fence in the contested area of Kashmir, and Saudi Arabia has constructed a barrier in an undefined area along the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border-yet only Israel's security fence has prompted an International Court of Justice ruling. See this website:
(www.washingtoninstitute.org/
distribution/PCE465.doc)

Israel is willing to make painful sacrifices for peace. Israel has
made peace with Jordan and Egypt, and gave up the entire Sinai-land
larger than the current state of Israel.

If you think your indifference goes unnoticed, count the number of messages you will receive world-wide in the next 48 to 72 hours on this subject.

Respectfully,

Monday, July 12, 2004

Oh goody!
Guess who got contractions and went off to the maternity ward this morning?

How exciting.

Update: I didn't read the comments. IT'S A GIRL! (I have this urge to go lululululululu, but I don't know how to)

Sunday, July 11, 2004


This is 19 year-old Ma'ayan Na'im. She was murdered today by Palestinian terrorists.

I should be making all sorts of informative and opinionated comments about the International Court of Injustice, about the security fence. Mind's a blank. Has been for a while, you'll have noticed, no doubt.

It’s such a joke, that decision of theirs, or opinion, or whatever they're calling it. A sick joke. And an especially sad joke for people like Avi Ohayoun, whose two small sons were shot in their beds in Kibbutz Metzer by a heartless savage desperate freedom fighter, while their mother was reading them a goodnight story.

They would still be alive if there had been a fence at the time their murderer decided to steal into their home. Their bedroom was so close to the fence's much-discussed and disputed route. How painful for their father that their deaths should be brushed nonchalantly aside as inconsequential, irrelevant, by those great and wise judges in The Hague.

A sad, sick, cruel joke, but a joke nevertheless. One of the wounded in today’s attack was a young Arab man from Yaffo (Jaffa). He called for the Arab Knesset members to resign, because of their vocal opposition to the security fence. It seems his experience has brought him to the realization that the fence protects him just as much as it does his Jewish neighbors.

I never run for a bus. Matter of pride.

Slightly nervous this morning, laden with the fresh news of a ‘pigua’ in Tel Aviv, I made a run for the bus. It was just that I could clearly see the security guy on board, through the window, with his neat khaki safari jacket. ‘This is the bus for me this morning,’ I thought and kicked up my heels. They don’t have security guys on all the buses.

Just before leaving home, I had whispered to Bish that maybe Eldest shouldn’t get the bus to her art class this morning. Maybe she should walk. We thought about it for about a tenth of a second and both agreed that there was no reason to mention anything to her.

You see we’re not particularly scared or worried. I’m more concerned about accidents or perverts, if anything, with regard to Eldest roaming around on her own.

But for a few minutes after you start to realize that there are more ambulances than usual racing past the busy street corner on which you live, you get a little tiny bit jittery. Only for a minute and then life goes on. Two minutes into my spinning lesson I had forgotten all about the Pigua, and only discovered about the lovely young woman that had been murdered and the numbers of the injured, when I got to my office later on.

We hear ambulances. We put on the radio. A bomb, a bus or a bus stop in South Tel Aviv. But I have to go to work. By bus :-p

Friday, July 09, 2004

I’m so glad Karen Alkalay-Gut is back.

‘This International Court of Injustice will self-destruct in five seconds.’ Kerfoom. The International Court of Injustice is dead! Long live the right of nations to defend their civilians!

I’ve been trying to work out if there is a polite way of saying f--- off. There isn’t.

Update: Leif.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Still no news about the vote on Sunday. Bish reckons they didn't vote on it yet.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Note: If you haven’t seen the third film of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and haven’t read the book, and you mean to see or read one or tother, you might like giving this next post a pass.



The difficulty of letting go
We saw ‘The Return of the King’, the last chapter of the ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, on Friday evening. I am left with the image of Frodo Baggins standing in the heart of the volcano, over the furnace of lava, unable to let go of the ring, even though he has traveled for many months and endured terrible hardship in order to do just this, even though he knows the very future of his world depends on it. Everyone watching is silently shouting, ‘Let go of the ring! Let go of the ring already! What’s wrong with you?’ But the ring is so strong. It has such a hold on its possessor.

‘It’s only a film,’ Bish reminded Eldest when things got too scary for her, ‘It’s not real.’ But how many times have each and every one of us stood over the abyss and been unable to let go of the ring, just like Frodo? Our rings may not be golden and magical. They don’t even have to be ‘things’. In fact they’re usually not. They can be a person, a situation, an idea, a belief, or even a figment of our imagination. But their hold on us is just as firm, just as unrelenting. And we find it just as hard to release our grip, even when we know for sure that letting go will free us.

Sometimes we stand there on that spot over the abyss for months, sometimes for years; some rings we continue to clutch for eternity, pathetically murmuring over and over and over ‘my precioussss’, till the end of time, never to be free.

Even though Frodo’s ring had evil, magical powers that had a strong hold on him, our task is still far harder than his. He had to let a material object fall into a furnace that would destroy it forever, and at the same time destroy its hold on him. Our rings are imprinted in our minds; their hold is not really dependant on anything outside of us, even though we are certain it is.

Letting go of our rings means that we must not only accept change, it also means we must actually change ourselves, and no one can do that for us.

I have so many rings I don’t know where to start. That’s a good excuse now, isn’t it?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy Fourth of July to all Americans.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Bish goes to the Knesset and learns about how democracy works
On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will vote on Bish’s bill draft. No kidding. He has a bill draft, a suggestion for legislation he wrote and has been promoting.

I’m so proud of him. He saw something that was wrong, something that in his view needed changing and, unlike the rest of us who just whine and whine about injustice and do nothing, he set about making a difference.

He’s no politician, my Bish. He’s not even a lawyer. He had no previous connections to politicians, no funding, and no backing, besides the small non profit organization he was recently elected to chair, which represents a few hundred of his professional peers.

He sat up nights at the computer, working out the details, then he sat with the NPO’s legal advisor and they worked on the draft. The legal advisor thought it would never work. He’s a nice guy, even if he did write our marriage agreement and later, much later, confessed to Bish that he hadn't thought we’d stay married for more than a year (he very perceptively thought the bride was a nutcase). It's just that he doesn’t seem to have much fighting spirit in him.

Then Bish started meeting with Knesset members and government ministers to try and get them interested in the bill (‘I’m going up to the Knesset again today, dear’). A few members of the NPO helped him get appointments with politicians they knew or knew people who knew.

Bish’s initial idea was to suggest that the relevant ministry use his bill draft, or their own draft based on its ideas, as a government bill. But the ministry clerks in question proved extremely hostile and refused to even read it. Their minister, on the other hand, did read it and liked it, and suggested Bish found Knesset members who would promote it as a private member’s bill.

Imagine our amazement and excitement when Knesset members from the coalition recognized the bill’s potential and took it up. It is going to be brought before the Knesset as a private bill, hopefully with government backing.

On Sunday, the government will vote if to give it such backing, the government that is in the form of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. That means, among others, Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu (Bish couldn’t get a meeting); Justice Minister Tommy Lapid (‘He was very nice, very impressive, but he looked so tired’); Minister for the Diaspora Natan Sharansky (‘What a lovely man, smiling eyes’ – smiling eyes is a big compliment in Bish’s book, maybe the biggest).

For years you feel like you are hitting your head against the wall every time you come in contact with government bureaucracy. It is so amazing to think that a private citizen like Bish can try to make a difference like this, if he sets his mind to do so, and can get this far. This has been an uplifting experience, an experience of what democracy means.

Even if the government decides not to back the bill, it will still be put before the Knesset, but it has a far better chance with government backing. I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, the bill still has a long way to go even if the government decides to back it. The bill that will eventually become law, God willing, will probably be much changed from Bish’s draft, maybe unrecognizable. You can read about the legislation process for a private member’s bill in Israel in the Knesset site.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The good news
I really don’t see how I could possibly leave the girls and Bish for more than a week at a time. Sigh.

One of my friends in my Tuesday evening art class is going to India in August. Her daughter is there, you know the ritual Israeli after-the-army trip, and she’s going over to visit her (To make sure she’s not overdoing the mushrooms and so on and so forth). In our last lesson, she was telling us about her plans. I suddenly realized I wanted to go too. I hadn’t been aware of this before.

And then yesterday there was an article in Yediot Aharonot about these two girls who organize spiritual trips for women to India. It sounds a bit too fluffy for me, but maybe I’ll give them a ring, get more details. Don’t hold your breath though.

Back to real life, the good news is that they’re not canceling Youngest’s special bus to school, next school year, after all, but we’ll have to participate in paying for it. Phew! Youngest was very nervous about this, because if the bus had been canceled she would have had to start taking the public transport. This in itself is no tragedy, I was getting the bus to school when I was her age, but then I didn’t live in the busy, hectic center of Tel Aviv. My bus line served a quiet neighborhood.

I can’t complain about having to pay, we can afford it. But it does seem unfair for those who are less fortunate than us. One of the mothers suggested that the canceling-the-bus exercise was a “Door in Face” manipulation, so we wouldn’t kick up a fuss about having to pay. If so it worked beautifully, but someone else reckons the real reason was that the parents managed to get an article about it in a local newspaper, so the powers that be backed down to avoid more fuss.

For those of you who have just switched on, Youngest doesn’t go to our neighborhood school, but to a school a bit further away with a class for what I call ‘Budding Matildas’. Youngest wasn’t very happy in her previous class and she’s really having a good time now. She has far more friends, and the teachers seem better equipped to deal with her temperament (which tends to be on the stormy side, bless her).

From today she joins Eldest on vacation. A whole two months to go. Summer vacation tends to be a strain on working mothers, although far less for me now that they are both quite big (Eldest is nearly 13 and Youngest is 9). (Aren’t I the cool collected one? Don’t believe it for a minute, it’s an act. By the end of August I promise you I’ll be a nervous wreck, even more than usual).