Friday, December 31, 2004

Don't mind me
The truth is we really don't know what to do with the Gregorian New Year in this country. It is widely regarded with suspicion as a Christian religious holiday and is often confused with Christmas. It is called Sylvester here, apparently after the saint of the day, which is a bit off-putting seeing as rumor has it that he was even nastier to Jews than other people back then.

I have pointed out to friends on a number of occasions that no one calls it Sylvester in English speaking countries that I know of, well maybe very religous people do, and that although admittedly it isn't our calendar, most of us live by it, and not by the Jewish calendar. I've never celebrated it myself though.

Seeing as any religious meaning of this date is lost on us, besides symbolizing the start of some really bad times, it's difficult to get all worked up and excited about the change of a number, which for us is, at best, completely meaningless, and, if we think about it a little, can make us feel a bit squeamish.

All that is not to say that a lot of Israelis do not get swept up by celebrations, and that dealers in so-called recreational drugs don't have a field day in and around the Tel Aviv clubs, or so I've heard, but as far as most of the party-goers are concerned it’s just another 'Seeba le-Meseeba' (reason to party) with some hazy notion of trying to be like 'a normal country' (whatever that is).

So anyway, don't mind me. Now that I've finished putting my foot in it, I'll just say what I had been meaning to say from the start -

I hope you all have a great time in your New Year celebrations and may 2005 be a really good one.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


It looks so beautiful, doesn't it? Who would know that it left so much death and destruction in its wake?

Thank you, Our Sis.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

#5 bus, lunchtime, a bus full of acne-challenged school-kids and crotchety pensioners.

Meryl, when you finally get here, I beseech you (Beseech?! Where do I get these words from?), do not, whatever you do, I repeat (and I cannot stress this enough), do not take the #5 bus in Tel Aviv at lunchtime. You’ll be out of here like a shot. I suggest you carry out your very welcome and much appreciated ceremonious bus-ride-in-Israel-for-peace-and-solidarity-with-the-Israeli-people, should you be planning to do so, at some other time of the day and on another other bus line.

Surrounded by three strapping seventeen-year-old boys (or should I say men?) talking endlessly about which examinations they had failed for which elite army units and why, it was I, thirty-nine-year-old mother of one teenager and one pre-teen, who was singled out for a severe prodding in the back from one of the crotchety pensioners for not vacating my hard-fought-for-seat to another crotchety pensioner standing in the aisle.

Not that it was right of me to have not shot out of my seat at the first sighting, from the corner of my eye, of the said standing crotchety pensioner, although I confess I was daydreaming and truly didn’t notice her, but ever since I spent two pregnancies riding Tel Aviv buses, right up till a very fat, heavy, tired, and, yes, crotchety stage of both pregnancies, without once having anyone get up and offer me their seat, I have sadly lost my manners.

On second thoughts: I have suddenly realized that the prodder was paying me a compliment. He obviously couldn’t tell me apart from the kids. How nice. I take it all back. Meryl, ride the bus!

Monday, December 27, 2004

Much of my life has been a continuing struggle to try to grasp the Holocaust. Particular moments in time and certain events have been turning points in the gradual development of my understanding of the horror. I'm not sure why, but one of these events was back when I first heard that Serbs in Croatia were being given ten minutes to pack up and get out.

Colours in Black&White is a moving story about being both Serb and Croat.
And then, every so often, lest we forget, Nature, God, call it what you will, sends us a reminder.

An earthquake guy on Israeli radio station Reshet Bet commented that yesterday's earthquake created the energy of a hundred thousand Hiroshimas.

Makes you think.

Afterthought: The death toll rises and rises. So horrifying.

Some of the places hit worst are high on the list of both Israeli backpackers' and regular tourists' favorites. Around a hundred Israelis haven't checked in yet to say they are okay. At this point, we can only pray that it's just that communications are down, and not worse.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A very Merry Christmas to all Christians, everywhere.

Today we had lunch in a little restaurant in Yaffo. There was a christmas tree there, all decorated with balls and things, and colorful fairy lights going on and off. It was nice. There was an ice cream and Sahlab store next door, and they had a tree too.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

So much to say and so little inclination to say it.
I am not a very sociable person at the best of times, and at the moment, it appears, even less than usual. Blogging, a sort of sociable endeavor, even without a comment option, seems daunting, when the preferred pastime is lying in bed, staring at the ceiling.

Alisa sent me this intriguing essay a week or so ago. I read it in the Dead Sea. You should read it also. It brings up some very interesting points about the media. I have quite a lot to say about it, but I can't be bothered. I'll just say that: a. It's far too early, in my view, to write off the nation state. b. I think ordinary people are finally on to the mass media and their power over us could possibly actually be beginning to decline, otherwise how can you explain George W. Bush winning the elections in the US, and, even more inexplicable, Arik Sharon's continuing popularity in Israel?

In an attempt to blog while lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, I've availed myself of Bish's old laptop, and I'm actually lying in bed as I write this. I'm also listening to a very nice children's program on Galei Tzahal radio station. I bet you didn't know that Galei Tzahal had a children's program on Shabbat mornings. Neither did I. Between 8 and 9.

It is not to be confused with the popular 'Makhela Aleeza' ('Merry Choir') of childhood memories (if you are very old, like me). That was on Kol Yisrael, of course, also on Shabbat mornings. I only discovered this program because someone I know was interviewed on it.

Yesterday I made chicken soup for the girls. I haven't done that since Bish and I became vegetarian about eight years ago. So I haven't forgotten how to do it, which is nice to know. Youngest said it was very tasty. Eldest had to rush out to meet friends. "Just a little bowl of chicken soup, before you go," I tried, but she was gone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Putting Hannuka to good use (?)
Both my daughters have spent a large part of the Hannuka vacation studying!

Eldest has an exam on Thursday in which her knowledge on various 'Heritage' subjects will be checked. Heritage (Moreshet) is a silly name for Zionism, Judaism and Democracy studies, introduced in recent years because of apparent student ignorance on these subjects. Eldest has to learn 43 concepts for this exam. Not that there was any chance of her thinking Herzl was ever prime minister of Israel, but she's so conscientious, she's been in her room cramming away all week.

If she didn't have Mum's exact smile, I'd be sure they'd swapped her in the maternity ward. Neither Bish nor I were ever so studious - Bish because he was far too clever to ever need to cram, and me because I was far too lazy.

Youngest finally finished an overdue project on asteroids, only to move on to building a model of Jericho just before the walls came tumbling down.

[I know you don't believe a word of this. I wouldn't either if I were you, but it's true.]

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Once upon a time, Friday and Saturdays after lunch in the summer were spent in the 'Closed Beach' in Haifa. 'Closed' because you had to pay to get in. We were lucky enough to have a season ticket, and a cabin. After a few years on the waiting list we even managed to get a cabin with a shower.

They were a bit tatty, the cabins, crumbling green plaster, definitely no frills, but not cheap I seem to remember, although I've no idea how much it cost my parents.

The cabin was extremely useful for storing chairs, sunshade, and a bottle of neft and a hard bush for scrubbing your feet to get the tar off. (Whatever happened to all that tar?)

My parents used to meet all their gang. I used to wander off by myself and only come back when it started to get dark.

I used to spend the whole afternoon, bopping up and down on the waves, or climbing over the rocks looking for crabs and other little creatures. Occasionally I would go over to the big swimming pool over on the other side of the beach. I would go on my own, but I wouldn't be on my own for long.

I was always wooed by a little girl of around my age who would decide we were friends. She always had long dark hair, a dark thin body, and the same faded check swimsuit, blue or green or pink. All the little girls had the same swimsuit.

What made me so exotic, so desirable as swimming pool friend of the moment, was the inescapable fact that I had a different swimsuit.

So here I am this Hannuka weekend, sitting with my family at breakfast in a very nice hotel in the Dead Sea, surrounded by other Israeli middle class families. My stay at the hotel is heavily subsidized by my workplace, otherwise we wouldn't be there. I believe this is the case for many of the families around me. And I am thinking that this is lovely, and that thirty years ago things were so very different. Gone are those awful uniform swimsuits. The standard of living of ordinary Israelis has come a long way since those days.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Well, we came home and I had lots to say. But then I discovered they were showing the first three episodes of the Beeb's excellent Pride and Prejudice (which I must have seen at least five times) on TV, and that was that.

So I will have to share my pleasure at watching other Israeli families eating breakfast in an Israeli hotel, some other time.

Oh, and I have more observations on the Zombified issue. This will also have to wait. You see, the thing that happens when I start watching P & P yet again, is that I always have to dig up my very tattered copy of the book (I bought it second hand about twenty years ago and it has had plenty of use since) and read it all over again.

And that's what I'm going to do right now.
Vote Meryl
So I tend to be with Laurence Simon on the Blog Awards thing (although I don't feel as fiercely about it), and not just because I don't stand a chance (you can go and vote for Allison or Dave or me here, and by the way, thank you so much for nominating me, Segacs, even though I've been so lazy lately), but because blogging is one big popularity test from beginning to end anyway, so what do we need blog awards for?

That said the person I would most like to get a blog award is Meryl Yourish. And not just because she's one of my very very favorites, my first stop every day, and not just because I may get a much coveted right-side-bar-link, but mainly because I break out in a cold sweat every time I think that she could finally visit Israel AND HATE IT!

I reckon that maybe if I shmooz her up enough before she gets around to coming, she won't notice the people cutting her in the queue, or the cab driver ripping her off, or people talking to her in Hebrew all the time (just kidding, I know she'll get a kick out of that one), or whatever particularly offensive unpleasantness she may happen to encounter here.

Go vote for her.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

We're off to the Dead Sea as promised. Back Saturday night. Don't come for Spaghetti tomorrow, R.T.
I think this morning's latkes were the best ever.
Here is Mum's basic recipe:
Grate four big potatoes. Let drain.
Mix two eggs, four tablespoons self-raising flour or four tablespoons plain flour and one teaspoon baking powder, salt and pepper.
Heat oil. Get Youngest to make the latkes. Fry till golden.

Here's what I added this morning, all grated:
One onion
One zucchini
One Jerusalem artichoke
A bunch of parsley
Two more eggs
More flour.

As I said, the best ever.
Loving the wrinkles
A reader comments:

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the word "zombified." And I do appreciate the fact that you had not one but two afterthoughts. Nevertheless I think that the word expressed something you really feel. And I'm sorry but I just have to disagree.

Don't judge the Jews by the Holocaust. The Jews of pre-war Europe were a pretty vibrant group. Didn't they think up Zionism? As well as anti-Zionism, and a bunch of other movements.

I totally agree.

He said something about drying the swamps causing ecological problems, as well. I agree with that too. Drying the swamps is this crazy Zionist symbol that people say with half a wink these days. Still it did help in combatting malaria and making the country inhabitable. The big big mistake was drying the Hula Lake. Anyway

Law number one for reading Not a Fish: Always remember that tomorrow I will probably say the direct opposite of what I have said today with much the same conviction.

Law number two for reading Not a Fish: Don't take me too seriously. I don't.

I don't think we should get stuck in ideas. In an argument, fr'instance, most people could (and should) probably argue vehemently for both sides. On this blog I usually make the case for Israel, but in other places, where it is called for, where it is lacking, or in different points in time, I could just as easily be making the case for the Palestinians (They kind of lost me, at some point, when I realized that their leadership was still out to get me in a big way, contrary to public declarations, but I'm still extremely sad that the ordinary people are paying such a high price as a result).

* * * *

I have always tried to steer clear from the subject of Hebrew because it is a divisive one: Israeli Jews speak Hebrew; Disapora Jews, on the whole, do not. But Hebrew is there, it plays a big part in Israeli culture, and ignoring that fact or belittling it won't change it. Actually, this even stresses my point. Israel is not just a place where a large number of Jews live together (That's New York).

Although Israel is very Jewish in spirit, its Jewishness is only part of the picture. Israel is home to a people called The Israelis, a large percentage of whom are Jews.

* * * *

When I started writing yesterday's post about Hebrew, I was thinking about a non-Zionist Jewish friend, who, last time I met him a few years ago, was embarking on a journey to reconnect with his roots. His roots were not Judaism, he said, but, as a Polish-born Jew who fled the Nazis to near-starvation in Siberia, and from there proceeded to Canada, he talked of something elusive that he called Yiddishkeit. This struck a nostalgic chord deep inside me and sent me running, along with a lot of other Israelis, I found, to study Yiddish and immerse myself in Yiddishkeit, and books about Polish Jewry. It was lovely, and warm, and sad, in a way - a path full of insights.

Yesterday's post was a rebellion, as was Zionism itself in its early days, against Yiddishkeit. It's lovely to bathe in the rich waters of nostalgia, and it has its place, but life is here and now. (Even my writing in English is a form of escapism).

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Happy second candle of Hannuka
Baruch boa'cha habayta, Azzam Azzam. Hikeenoo lecha*.

The bit I liked best about that Julie Burchill article was her reaction to the fact that they spoke to her in Hebrew on the plane.

Some people just have to be negative and so, of course, she was presented with the explanation that no one expects non-Israeli tourists to come to Israel anymore. Well, yes, but I can think of more reasons. One is that Israeli society is so diverse these days that even if you are a blonde Slavic beauty with high cheekbones, or a black African goddess with long plaits, colorful beads all the way down your back, and ethnic tattoos on you neck, you could still be just as likely to be fluent in Hebrew.

People will speak to you in Hebrew on an Israeli plane, on an Israeli street, in an Israeli queue to buy Israeli tickets in an Israeli cinema (to see an American film), because Hebrew is the language Israelis speak. This is what Burchill was experiencing on that El Al plane.

None of my friends read anything I write because all my friends are Hebrew speakers. I have a good friend who I would really like to share this story with. I think she would be highly amused by it. She knows all the characters. But I can't share it with her because her English isn't good enough, dammit. And Our Sis sends me all these great jokes by e-mail all the time, but I have to translate them all into Hebrew in order to forward them. This is very time consuming. Is it any wonder I've stopped blogging regularly?

People who think Israel is some temporary colonial experiment are missing a powerful point. There are about five and a half million of us Hebrew speaking Israelis round here. For the large majority of us (present company excluded), Hebrew is our mother tongue, and a large percentage of us can't communicate very well in ANY OTHER LANGUAGE! Hebrew is our whole world.

Why should Julie Burchill find that so surprising (even in a good way)?

Maybe people who speak widely spoken languages, like English, French, Russian, think languages spoken by just a few million people are superfluous. They could be right, but what they think doesn't really interest most Israelis. Hebrew is the language they dream in. And it doesn't interest them either that Hebrew was a dead language for thousands of years, used only for prayer and study, up till about a hundred or so years ago. It's alive and kicking now. And how.

And guess what? We get to be the favored few who can read THE biggest bestseller of all times as it originally appeared.

You may have read the Bible. You may have been reading it all your life. You may know large parts of it by heart. But, hey, it's like Shakespeare - you've never really read it until you've read the original (I've read Shakespeare in Hebrew. Believe me, it's not the same). The Bible is rich and witty and wise and many faceted in ways you cannot even begin to grasp, if all you're getting is a translation of a translation. And I say that without being such a Bible scholar, just from a taste here and there. What must the real experts be experiencing? The mind boggles.

And that's because Hebrew is this great language. Hey, I'd be learning Hebrew just to read Yehuda Amichai's poems if I were you.

The resuscitation of the Hebrew language IS the essence of Zionism, one of its greatest achievements, if not the very greatest. We brought a dead language to life. We rejuvenated a zombified group of people. We dried the swamps. We won the wars. And here we are. Not a colonial experiment. Not a foreign element in someone else's land.

Us. Here. Now. Speaking Hebrew.


* = Welcome home, Azzam Azzam. We've been waiting for you.

Afterthought: By zombified I didn't mean to knock the present day Jewish Diaspora. I believe the present day Jewish Diaspora doesn't resemble the Jewish Diaspora of the days before the State of Israel existed. I believe the State of Israel rejuvenated the Jewish Diaspora as well as its own inhabitants, Jewish and non-Jewish (and vice versa), in more ways than one.

Afterthought afterthought: So maybe zombified wasn't a very successful description even of pre-State of Israel Jewish Diaspora.

Okay, I confess. I liked the word and I wanted to use it. So launch a Kassam Rocket at me.

Afterthought afterthought afterthought:I was going to say 'So blow me up on a bus', but I thought that would be even more tasteless than 'zombified'.

This is the point where I know it's way past my bedtime.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Happy first candle of Hannuka!

Monday, December 06, 2004

New hope. Definitely. It is in the air. Now that the locusts have gone.

By the way, I notice the scaremongering newspapers have had nothing nice to say about the Ministry of Agriculture's apparent success in combatting the locust. And if that's not the case, where ARE they? They should be chewing up our humble city garden in Tel Aviv by now.
Hannuka used to be just Hannuka. Not that there is anything wrong with Hannuka, it's only my favorite festival, me being a closet pyromaniac and all. But now Hannuka is also Mum's festival, and always will be.

I'd decided not to write anything about Mum this year, to give her memory the silent treatment, as it were, but in a good way, like a meditative thing. I've written enough, I reckoned.

Still, words written or not, our relationship continues to evolve, Mum's and mine. During the year, I put all her photos away. I decided we both needed a rest. Or have I been hiding? The fact remains that often I miss her just as much, maybe more, and the memory of her passing is just as sharp and painful as right after it happened.

So I don't think about it. Only I see her when I look in the mirror. I hear her in my voice when I speak. And most of all, I see her in Eldest. I see the very best of her in Eldest. And then I know how fortunate I am.

There, I've written, and I didn't mean to.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Oh dear. Weblog Awards time again. I don't think I can take it. Well, luckily some Iraqi is winning so I won't have to get all stressed out this year. I'll just sum up that none of us Israelis will win because The Whole World is against us, and because of anti-Semitism, and Global Warming, and swarms of locust, yada yada yada.

(It's either the meditation or the orange-y liquid on the rocks in the nightclub, something hasn't worn off)

Talking about locust, I saw about five. They flew at the car windscreen on the Arava road. Very disappointing.
Well, you can't imagine two more different holidays just three days apart!

On Saturday I was on my knees in the meditation hall in a kibbutz up north, contemplating my breath, the rain, anger, and seeing things positively. The teacher was wonderful - an Israeli Buddhist monk, fresh out of the monastery in the South of France. I'll tell you more about him some other time.

I was completely silent for two and a half days, so much so that when my room mates rebelled and proceeded to hold a happy-go-lucky pajama party, complete with Tarot cards and stories about trips to India, I said not a word. I didn't even get annoyed. I just rolled up my duvet cover and slipped out. I bravely forged my way in the rain and the wind, to sleep in the nice warm, and, mainly, silent meditation hall. Nothing could disturb my peace.

And then, on Tuesday night I was I was hopping up and down, stomach full of bad beer, on a cruise on the Red Sea, along with similarly intoxicated coworkers, to the latest Mizrahi pop songs.

We were celebrating a big important project that had come to a successful conclusion just a few days before. It was as rowdy and out of control as the previous holiday had been quiet and calm (well, except for the rebels in my room).

The next night we all went to a local nightclub. I'd never been to a nightclub before. Well, besides once, in the late eighties, when a friend organized an African evening in a club in Tel Aviv, long before it was fashionable, and invited us. I think there were about three people there besides us.

The Eilat nightclub could have been quite the anthropological event had I not been completely sloshed. I could have written a thesis on the toilets alone. For one thing, the cubicles were big enough to have orgies in them, but there was a guard on the entrance. There have been a few rape cases lately, so club owners aren't taking any chances, apparently. The cubicles didn't lock and they soon became absolutely filthy, not very inviting for any hanky panky. Oh and the lights in there were so bright you could hardly see, especially coming from the darkened dance floor.

I'm not sure what it was I was drinking but it was much smoother than the beer on the boat, and far more lethal. At three in the morning, my faithful designated driver decided I was getting far too pally with two guys young enough to be… well never mind, grabbed me off the dance floor, hauled me out, stuffed me in a car, and took me safely back to my room. Oh well. No one lets me have any fun (I may have imagined all this. I'll know for sure when I see the photos).

I came home with a terrible cold. I think my body couldn't take the shock of three days of meditation followed by three days of partying in one week.

Next weekend I'm off to the Dead Sea with Bish and the girls for Hannuka.

I do work sometimes. Honest.

Update: I can't really believe I wrote the above, or that I actually published it. What must you be thinking? (I know what Bish is thinking, because he told me. But then, Bish knows me a bit better than you lot do)
It has happened!
Azzam Azzam is free at last!

I'm so happy and relieved. Azzam Azzam is an Israeli who was convicted in Egypt of spying for Israel. Israel has been adamant that he is innocent. Today, after eight years in an Egyptian prison, he was swapped for those six nutty Egyptian students arrested a few months ago for crossiing the border, planning to rob a bank and steal a tank.

(I knew it would take a momentous event to get me back to blogging. I've been completely stuck. Well, I'm so glad it is this event that has finally jumpstarted me)

Update: More about this.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

I have a new computer!
Well, actually it's Eldest's old one. She's the one with a new one. I'm lowest on the food chain round here. But at least I've finally got XP, oh and MSN Messenger. Up till now the whole family has been talking about me behind my back all the time. At last I can really feel part of the family.

Oh, by the way, we had another flood while I was away being peaceful in the cold and rain of the Galilee, a serious one this time. I'm so pleased I missed it. Even Bish was relieved I wasn't around. I tend to get hysterical when I see my extensive shoe collection under water. I can't believe our landlady came to help him bail out water. So she finally got to see how we really live. I usually tidy up a bit before she comes. Embarrassing.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

I’m off to a meditation retreat this weekend, in the north of the country. It will be very cold, it will be very rainy. Hopefully it will also be spiritually uplifting ;-)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Blog Break

Sunday, November 21, 2004

When I was a child I used to be terrified of locust. Not that I’d ever seen any, but I had this horror that they’d come and eat everything and there would be nothing left and we’d all starve to death. The idea of them all swarming everywhere and there being no escape was pretty scary as well. I had a very clear vision in my mind of The Ten Plagues in Egypt, when Pharaoh wouldn't let the People of Israel go.

Locust in the south of Israel

Well now they’re here. But now I know we can handle them and that, unlike the countries they came from, we’ll be able to get rid of them before they do too much damage.

I’m going to Eilat next week, a trip with work. I do hope they’re gone by then. If not, it will be an interesting experience. We could have a barbeque. I hear they’re kosher. They certainly look meaty. Oops, I forgot I was vegetarian!

I hope I didn't speak too soon. There are reports that some of the locust are as far north as the Dead Sea and there have even been sightings of one or two in Tel Aviv! The people from the Agriculture Ministry are still quite confident that they can handle this, so I'll just take their word for it. They know what they're talking about, unlike the reporters, who have been known to froth up a storm in a teacup over nothing :-P

Saturday, November 20, 2004

I must apologize for ignoring my blog for so long. I am completely and utterly uninterested in current affairs right now. This happens.

I have finally caved in to my daughters’ nagging and have started reading The Princess Diaries.

There is nothing quite as uplifting as reading children’s books. Anyway these are great fun. I’m on the second book right now.

What I can’t understand is how they managed to make such mediocre movies out of them. The first wasn’t bad, but not a patch on the books. The second movie was exceptionally atrocious. Really, it took the word atrocious to new heights. And now I’m reading the books I really can’t understand why she agreed to it, Meg Cabot, that is - the writer. Maybe she had gambling debts she had to pay off in a hurry.

A particularly good thing has come out of the Princess Diaries as far as Eldest is concerned. You see, we had the first three in Hebrew, but Bish bought the fourth in English, by mistake. Seeing as it hasn’t come out in Hebrew yet, Eldest deigned to read it! In English!! This is breaking new ground, you see. Her English is excellent, although she refuses to admit it and refuses to utter a word in English, or READ ANY BOOKS in English. (I know her English is excellent because she understands everything).

It’s slow going, but she’s actually enjoying reading it. She says she doesn’t understand all the words (Duh! Like I understand all the words), but she is reading fluently, and the fact that she’s reading it slowly is nice, because it’s lasting longer.


Monday, November 15, 2004

Happy Birthday, Meryl.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Lern yerself Yiddish
So a Goyisher Scouser sends me this. I ask you, what's the world coming to?
Allison has it right. No glee. Relief.

Relief and hope. There is a lot of talk of Egyptian presidents Nasser and Sadat. We are continually reminded that it took Sadat only four months after Nasser died to start making changes. He eventually went on to make peace with Israel. And he meant it, unlike Arafat.

But there’s something else that Uzi Benziman doesn’t mention in that article quoted by Allison. Something you must have noticed. A lot of the posters of Arafat being hoisted up and pasted up in the streets of Ramallah are not images of Arafat the so-called politician, but earlier photographs, of Arafat the terrorist. The Palestinians are giving a message.

Rabin’s heritage was one of peace.

Arafat’s heritage is one of death and destruction.

Israel has not forgotten Munich, or Ma’alot, or Misgav Am. Israel has not forgotten Arafat the brutal baby killer, from the days before he started pretending to be anything else.

And neither, it seems, have the Palestinians. But still we’re hopeful.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Sail with Life
Once upon a time a group of Jews decided they were fed up of waiting for the ruling Turks to improve conditions in the ancient city of Yaffo,
and that the over-population, the bad hygiene, and the squalor were too much for them. They decided to move out.

They set about building the world’s first Hebrew city for two thousand years or so, Tel Aviv. This morning’s bike ride took us through the narrow alleyways of that first neighborhood, built on the outskirts of Yaffo.





These days it’s a trendy neigborhood right in the center of the business part of Tel Aviv.

We came back via the beach and the Yarkon River.
Cats on south bank of the Yarkon River

This is my all time favorite, a sign advertising boat hire on the Yarkon River.
‘Shootoo etzel Hayim, hahana’a kiflayim’ or in other words – ‘Sail with Hayim (a Hebrew name meaning life), twice the enjoyment’. In Hebrew it rhymes.

And that’s all I have to say right now about the passing of Arafat.

Afterthought: Thank you Mark.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Ooh ooh ooh, guess who I just saw on channel 1 news – Rinat! Our Rinat! She was in some room with a load of politicians, probably some Knesset committee or other (We were just in the middle of a minor family crisis so I wasn’t really listening).

Okay, I know she works for the Knesset Channel so I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’ve never watched the Knesset channel.

Rinat certainly stood out among all those balding inflated egos. You can’t mistake her fresh, bubbling personality.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

I know how you feel. I’ve been down that path
When I was young, I was often excited and intrigued by the strangeness of having experienced Israel both as a foreign visitor, a tourist, and then, by contrast, as an Israeli, as a local.

I visited Israel twice as a small child, before we made Aliya. The country left a deep impression on me. I had sensed something fresh and vibrant that I loved.

There was an apartment building that was being built as we drove up Sea Road in Haifa in the taxi. The sound of the workers hammering; the bright summer sun; the wind in my face through the open windows of the taxi, still with no air-conditioning back then; the strong smell of the natural Mount Carmel vegetation. I was intoxicated.

When we came to live in Haifa a few years later, I was already filled with love for the place. For years I tried to relive that first drive up the mountain, and identify the exact apartment building that I had witnessed being constructed.

What I was really trying to recapture was a moment filled with excitement and freshness and happiness. It was one of those rare magical moments, a moment of love and awareness.

* * * * * *

I recognize the sentiments expressed by those opposed to Bush, crushed by his success at the polls. I recognize the frustration, anger, and sadness they feel, faced as they are with the stupidity and ignorance of people for not voting for the right candidate. I’ve been there myself.

In our case, not only had they elected the wrong guy, they had done it just a few months after someone from their side had murdered our prime minister.

We couldn’t help thinking, like the prophet Elijah who said to King Ahab, all those years ago in this very same land, “Hast thou killed and also taken possession?” (Kings I, 21, 19)

They had murdered Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, they had murdered peace, and now they were electing into office the very man who had stood up on that balcony above Zion Square in Jerusalem, as the crowds below him held up banners of PM Rabin in an SS uniform.

Can you imagine the bitterness and bewilderment, not to mention the fear for the future?

It is a privilege to have been in the position to see things from more than one angle.

I have been a tourist in Israel, experiencing the country as a foreigner; and I have been as a native Israeli, the smells and sights so familiar, so ordinary, my previous life as a non-Israeli fading into a hazy memory.

I confess to having harbored a secret frustration that democracy gives the same vote to me as to ignoramuses and imbeciles who cannot be made to see sense; who are not controlled by the same moral values as I am.

And I have come to see how arrogant and foolish and narrow-minded I can be, thinking that I know better, thinking that I have the mandate on common sense and on knowing what's right.

“Are you sure”, Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh urges us to ask ourselves at all times.

I know that if I answer yes, I am lying to myself. It’s just that, far too often, I forget to ask.

Friday, November 05, 2004

I've been having some problems with my e-mail yesterday and today, so I may not have received your e-mails, if you sent any.
It’s not over till the fat lady sings

Suha Arafat

Word on the street in Israel is that Suha is keeping him alive till she can get her fleshy paws on every last cent.

According to that most excellent of Israeli daily publications, Yediot Aharonot, Suha and Muhammad Rashid, Arafat's financial advisor, are the only ones who know the numbers of the bank accounts where the dying ra'is keeps his fortune, at least three hundred million dollars, according to Forbes, much of it purloined from the Palestinian people.

That's why Suha rushed over to Ramallah, like a bat out of hell, to take over the handling of the dying husband she hasn't bothered visiting for three years, and swiftly had him moved to her territory, Paris. She wasn't taking any chances of him mumbling the account numbers to anyone else.

According to Yediot, Rashid and Suha each know about different bank accounts. Suha and Rashid don't like each other very much.

It's like American daytime TV, without the good-looking actors.

By the way, Ehud Ya'ari, top Israeli commentator on Arab affairs, said on Israeli TV channel 2 evening news tonight that Yassir Arafat died yesterday lunchtime, and that since then everything we've been hearing has been politics.

Update: Ah, a commenter on Silent Running enlightens us:

Accessing those swiss numbered accounts is a new ball game since the swiss had to change the rules a year or so ago. Even if you are co signatory you can no longer access without swiss inheritance documents. However whilst the holder is alive you can transfer pretty easily. So I guess the "coma" situation will assist the transfers. Otherwise the swiss banks will get another windfall like they did 60 years ago.

Kindly brought to my attention by Alisa.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Anti-Israel bias on BBC? Unheard of! Unthinkable!
A few days ago, John Williams wrote:

I have just watched the most anti Israeli programme I have ever seen on British television. It was on the BBC at prime time and goes by the title of 'Spooks'. The plot concerned the attempts of a right wing Israeli group who murdered a peace negotiator in order to stop any two state agreement. Although there were passing references to the idea that the right wing group, the November committee who advocated a greater Israel, were hated by the more liberal Israelis the whole script was an excuse to attack all Israelis who,

Deliberately murder peace activists who stand in the way of bulldozers

Cease to be human when they don IDF uniform, all except the refuseniks that is

The November committee employed a code when dealing with perceived enemies - Nablus stood for surveillance - Bethlehem stood for threats and intimidation - Jenin stood for assassination. I might have the order for the first two mixed up but Jenin = targeted murder.

I could barely believe the level of bias.

John suggested we check who was behind this episode and where they stood politically. He’ll make a serious writer of me yet. Didn't come up with much though.

Bish is much better than me at doing that. He would have found their whole life story down to what they wrote on the door of the loo (john) in high school.

So the writer was Ben Richards. I can only suppose it is the same person who wrote these books and who, according to this, was obsessed with Salvador Allende as a child. Okey dokey.

Creator of the series was one David Wolstencroft
Director Cilla Ware
Producer Andrew Woodhead

Executive Producer Jane Featherstone commented about the series: "We felt it was important to look at the use of intelligence as a political tool, at how politicians attempt to influence the security services.” Okey dokey.

How about the use of entertainment program(me)s on British state funded TV as a political tool?


How do I, as one of those nasty Israelis, feel about this?

Tired mainly.

Mind you, what can you expect? I mean, just look at this (not that one has anything to do with the other)

Mirror front page

These people are raving lunatics. It's just incredible, isn't it?

Via Harry's Place and Eric the Unread.

Still later:
An answer:

Why is it so hard to imagine that not everyone thinks like you? Are these people so arrogant, so self-smug that they truly believe their way is the only way?

US presidential elections
Well, it’s over. That’s a relief. Can we all be friends again now?

Obviously not.

BBC and Sky News reporters were so somber yesterday. I swear one Sky News reporter was near to tears.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The obligatory don’t-worry-I’m-still-here post
Three murdered in Shuk HaCarmel; about thirty wounded, that’s if you don’t include the sixteen year-old perpetrator. As I see it, his PFLP operators murdered him.

When Eldest was little we used to take her to Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market) quite a lot. She used to love it. When Bish took her, she would ride high above everyone on his shoulders, looking at the stalls, at the busy shoppers rushing this way and that, at the people selling stuff, shouting and singing about their merchandise to attract buyers.

When she came with me, we used to finish the grocery part as quickly as possible and make our way through to the Nahlat Binyamin pedestrian whatsitcalled, where we would watch the vendors setting up their stalls for the popular Friday creative fair. We used to buy fresh pita with labane from the Bedouin women and find a nice spot on a bench, preferably near the Russian string quartet.

One time, Eldest was tired. She put her head on my lap and stretched out on the bench, not noticing that her legs were pushing at the scooter that was parked at the end of the bench. There was a great crash as the scooter toppled over. Thankfully, the rather rough-looking owner of the scooter, who was working in a nearby store and who rushed over, was nice about it.

Then there was a pigua (terror attack) in Shuk Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem, sometime in the mid-nineties, one of those ‘Victims of Peace’ piguim. We still believed in that back then. After that we never took Eldest to the shuk any more.

Now she’s older, she wants to go. She reckons she can get more clothes there for less. I have had bad experience with clothes from the shuk. You pay less, but the clothes don’t last long enough to be handed down to the next child, so not so cheap in the long run. But my daughter has a businesswoman streak in her (she didn’t get that from her parents, must have come down sideways from her Aunt Our Sis), and impressive organizational abilities (she is the only one who can get me off my behind to DO anything) so I suppose we’ll be going there some time soon.

We weren’t there this morning though, thank God.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Separated at birth III
Here's another one.

Suggested by someone. I said I wouldn't give names, but at first I did, because, I reckoned with myself, he is a blogger. Then I remembered that he isn't a blogger any more, so he counts as an ordinary reader, and, by managing to keep shtum for so long (how do you do it?), he has re-earned his right to anonymity.
Refusenik hypocrisy
I can find no difference between right-wing and left-wing refusal to serve. Both are just as unacceptable. This said, I am disappointed with Yishay Mor’s inability to be open enough to argue in favor of right-wing refusal. I would expect him, of all people, as a refusenik himself, to be, at least, understanding of the right-wing refuseniks.

And I am disappointed with the weakness of his argument against them.

He brings up Yigal Amir. I find it hard to see the relevancy. Yigal Amir is not a refusnik and no one, as far as I know, is calling him one, besides Yishay. Yigal Amir is a political assassin.

He brings up the rabbis inciting to refusal. Also a diversion, although more relevant, seeing as a religious Jew is expected to act as instructed by his rabbi. But when we talk of refusal, it is always a personal act - one man or one woman standing up and being prepared to pay a personal price for his or her convictions.

“I refused,” Yishay explains, “because I believed that my act was an extreme measure required to protect the existence of Israel as a just, democratic state.” But right-wing refuseniks may see their refusal as an extreme measure required to protect the existence of Israel, period. Moral equivalence? Democracy and Justice versus Self Defense and Physical Survival. Who is to judge between them?

It’s the occupation, silly, Yishay says, more or less. But right-wing refuseniks don’t think it’s the occupation at all. Right-wing refuseniks think it’s the village where they were born and where they grew up. It’s where their parents and brothers and sisters and cousins, and everyone they know, have all lived for thirty years.

I am disappointed with Yishay, who seems to be an intelligent, sensitive person. I am disappointed that he seems unable to see that not only has he no right to “object to their refusal on moral grounds”, but that if his own refusal, which he sees as justified and moral, is legitimate, it actually gives theirs a moral legitimacy too. That is the essence of the democracy that he claims he wishes to protect.
Live from Ramallah: “I’ve no idea what I’m talking about, but the BBC pays me a lot of money to say it.”

I love the way this Barbara Plett person solves the riddle of apparent Palestinian indifference to Arafat’s departure and why only the foreign correspondents were shedding tears of sadness.

But as he boarded the helicopter with faltering steps, he also stood for something else: for a people exhausted by war, bereft of hope, abandoned by their brothers, and fearful of the future.

Perhaps that is why so few Palestinians saw him off. In him, still, they see themselves.

Very touching, I'm sure. I even wiped a little tear from the corner of my eye while reading it*. But what does it mean?

[*Ooh you little fibber, Imshin]

I have some alternative suggestions:
How about - many of the Palestinians are relieved to be rid of him.

How about - many of them know only too well that it's his fault that their lives are in such a bloody mess.

How about - maybe you don't actually know what your talking about, you ***** ****** ***** (censored).

Enough said. Ehud Yaari has claimed all along that this has not been a popular uprising.

Thank you, John Williams, for pointing this out. Have I mentioned John’s new book?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Eldest’s much anticipated sleepover party with her girlfriends tonight was in danger of cancellation when the apartment flooded this morning.

This year we’re not going to be around for the big event. Last time, which was a few years ago, remains in our minds as a trauma. So the three of us, Bish, youngest, and I, are fleeing to the peace and quiet (we hope) of a modest hotel on the sea front - near enough to be called back if needed, far enough to get some sleep. Two birds in one swoop.

I know what you’re thinking. Don’t worry, they’re good kids. They won’t be wrecking the place.

We have really nice plumbers, amazingly enough. I can hardly believe it only took me nineteen years in Tel Aviv to find them. It’s an efficient little company, very un-Israeli. The boss guy actually rang, after the very nice, efficient workman (albeit a bit chatty) had left, to make sure we were happy. I thought I was dreaming. It’s the third time we’ve had them in and they’ve always been great.
Oh, but once I'm at it, I can't help saying something about Arafat. We watched the footage of him in his pajamas in disbelief. I love the bit where he tries to kiss the hand of the Egyptian doctor to his right, and when the doctor notices, he rapidly pulls Arafat's hand towards his own mouth. At first it embarrassed me, but after watching it a few times, it won me over.

You have to admit he has charm, even critically ill, probably dying, ugly as sin, looking like one of Snow White's seven dwarfs.

Latest photo of Arafat

It gives an idea of the enormous cultural differences. Can you imagine any western leader, even on his or her deathbed, allowing anyone to film him or her dressed like Noddy*? They'd rather just die there and then. And no one would dream of taking his photo like that without his consent, even if he or she couldn't decide for himself. Pride seems to take on different manifestations for different peoples.

Then again, that's his thing, isn't it? Popular leader, close to his people. It's fitting that he should look like an Egyptian Fallah. That's why they love him.

Everyone here is talking about what will happen the day after. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we? I'll make do with my inner reaction to the physical image, which, it appears, has given me ample food for thought.


*Dave, Noddy/Arafat would be a good 'separated at birth', don't you think? But I'll leave that to you, dear. I'm trying hard to be reverant and respectful to my neighbors here.

Afterthought: Another one that comes to mind would be Suha and Yasser/Miss Piggy and Kermit. Teehee.
So many exciting things happening and I have no will to write about them. Does this mean I am on a blog break? Maybe I should officially announce a blog break. Every time I do, I suddenly have lots to write about.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Interesting evening in Israeli politics
The Knesset voted on disengagement. It was exciting.

Monday, October 25, 2004

I love John Williams' stories. They help me reconnect to a place that is so very familiar I can easily conjure up its sights, smells, and sounds in my mind at any moment, but at the same time a place that is so far away from the life I live that I sometimes feel that it is no more than a vague memory of a dream I dreamt long ago.

I love John Williams' stories, but not just because he tells of life in the town where I was born. I love his stories because they are funny and touching and insightful, in an unassuming, down-to-earth way.

I have been moved and inspired, more than once, by his open, sincere, and humorous descriptions of the challenges, big and small, some of them very big, that life has put in his path.

Now I’m proud to be one of the first to announce that John's stories are available in book form, so we can finally read them as they should be read - curled up in bed, on a Saturday afternoon.

Liverpool Tales from the Mersey Mouth
You can order your copy here.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Like a cat in a tree
Last night we had one of those ‘no-partners-invited’ workplace parties organized enthusiastically by co-workers who are having extra-marital affairs with each other and who need a legit excuse to meet up in the evening (God, I’m getting cynical). The rest of us would rather be at home with our families, of course, but we have to go too, otherwise we will be regarded as ‘Sotzyomatim’.

‘Sotzyomat’ is a derogatory term derived from the so-called socio-metric exams, which are extremely popular in this country, mainly in hierarchal organizations like the army. The lofty idea behind the ‘Sotzyo-metri’ is to provide a relatively impartial tool for evaluating the quality of workers, by making use of the knowledge of co-workers and immediate subordinates. It is regarded as a good way to check workers’ social skills and popularity. In practice it is mainly used for getting even.

So a ‘Sotzyomat’ is someone who would be given low marks should he be unfortunate enough to have his peers evaluate him. In a country where ‘the Hevre’ rules supreme, no one wants to be a ‘Sotzyomat’.

‘How was it?’ Bish asked when I got back. ‘Well’, I answered, ‘if we hadn’t become vegetarians eight years ago, you and I, we wouldn’t have been able to eat as much meat, during those eight years, as was roasted and devoured in one evening, by fifty, odd, people.’ They had some guy in to do an Argentinean barbeque. They all said it was delicious. I had some lettuce salad. I still had to pay the same seventy shekels as everyone else. I tired of arguing that point long ago.

I actually managed to be quite uncharacteristically sociable, except to certain unappreciative parties (Some of you might have been lucky enough to catch my Calimero post on the subject, written on Monday of this week, and deleted inadvertently on Tuesday).

But without a doubt, as far as I was concerned, the focal point of the evening, which took place in the garden of a co-worker’s moshav home near Ben Gurion airport, was the cat in the tree.

As I was stroking one of the numerous dogs that were wandering about enjoying the tidbits people were sneaking them, someone who knew I was partial to cats, asked me if I’d seen the cat in the tree yet.

And there he was, perched contentedly on a spacious wooden shelf at about my shoulder level, under the leafy branches of a medium sized tree (by local standards). He seemed to have everything up there, shelter, various little toys hanging from a metal frame, food. ‘He never comes down, you know’, the younger sister of our Moshavnik co-worker explained, seeing I was looking at him. ‘What do you mean he never comes down?’ I asked. She explained that the dogs would tear him to bits, so he just stays up on his shelf. She said that they suspect he comes down in the middle of the night, when the dogs are asleep, but that no one has ever actually seen this happen.

I must admit I was appalled at this self-imposed imprisonment. I thought of Shoosha, a house cat that never goes out, having a more interesting life than this cat, even though he has in his close vicinity a cat’s paradise of endless fields and abundant prey. And then the thought dawned on me. I am not unlike this cat.

I sometimes find my job stifling and unsatisfying; once in a while a boss may come along who behaves in a way that upsets and offends me; because I am busy at work I don’t get the opportunity to fully explore other talents and capabilities.

But it’s all so comfortable. I just sit there on my tree and get my monthly salary on time, no matter how hard I worked that particular month. It’s always the same salary and not very big, but it always arrives. And I am safe. I know what is expected of me, and what I have to do to survive. It is a minimum danger situation.

I know I have the option to make a run for it. I can get past those dogs and make it to the excitements of the big wild world, but do I dare venture into the dangerous, unsure, insecure unknown? Can I handle jungle life? How do I know if I can survive out there?

I think I’ll just stay here, up in my safe, familiar little tree, thank you very much.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Talking about taking things for granted, could you believe that these are all just a short bike ride from my door?

Yarkon River

Tel Aviv Port

Tel Aviv beach

Bish made a lovely album of this morning’s bike ride.
Israel is not a country*
A turning point in my understanding of Jewishness and Zionism came a few years ago, while reading a chapter in a Hebrew book called “The Broken Chain – Polish Jewry through the ages, Part II. Society, Culture, Nationalism”, edited by Israel Bartal – Israel Gutman, published by the Zalman Shazar Center, Jerusalem in 2001. The chapter, written by Sabena Levine, was about efforts that were invested in developing Jewish secular education in Poland in the 19th century, as an alternative to the traditional Torah study.

The reality Ms. Levine described was familiar. It sounded very similar to the ongoing struggle, in Israel today, to modernize the education available to children in the ultra-Orthodox communities. It blew my mind to think it was happening in Poland well over a hundred and twenty years ago. The interest and involvement of the Polish authorities in Jewish education was also something completely new and intriguing for me.

It was a breaking down of a stereotype. The old black and white footage had always made it all look so primitive, so basic, reinforcing my tendency to think of Jewish Poland in terms of constrictive ‘Fiddler on the Roof’-ish shtetl life, with the community ‘parnass’ handling the tense, groveling relationship with the local landlord, and everyone near starvation level.

As always, stereotypes shrink things. The Jewish community of Poland was not only sizeable, it was also complex and diverse; it was a whole world. And it does not exist any more.

And that is what hit me head-on, like a freight train coming straight at me, as I read – it does not exist any more. It was totally destroyed, completely annihilated, and no one remembers, and no one cares. Poland lives on, without its Jews, the Jews that had been there for a thousand years, and it doesn’t make one bit of a difference to anyone. A whole world, and it’s like it was never there. The Jews were never there.

The idea many people in the west seem to have about Israel and Israelis is completely stereotypical too. Some flippantly say that Israel should not exist, that the Israelis should just go back to where they came from (Where they came from? Back to the communities they left? What are they talking about here? Poland? Iraq? Libya? Iran?). They don’t care enough to take two minutes to think about what that means.

Or, they suggest, they could all just live together like one big happy family, those Palestinians and Israelis. (Why such a fuss? Where’s the problem? They’re all just a bunch of hairy Neanderthal savages anyway). The Arabs may very well slaughter all the Jews? No great loss. Anyway, they had it coming.

I read on the comment section of a blog recently that Jews have no history in the Middle East. I was amazed that no one bothered to address this accusation. For even if you believe that the Bible is just a fairy story and that the Jews of today have no connection to the Jews of old (in spite of ample scientific evidence to the contrary), how is it possible to ignore the fact that about half of Israelis are the descendants of Jews that were pushed, squeezed, and bullied out of most Arab and Muslim countries, including those bordering with Israel? This isn’t ancient history; this is the history of the twentieth century. To ignore this fact, when discussing what’s to be done with the historic aberration that is modern Israel, is ignorant and inhumane.

Not unlike the ancient Jewish community of Poland, only far more so, Israel is also a whole world, complex, diverse, continually developing in different directions.

You'll have noticed I haven’t been writing much lately. This is because I have been very busy with my 'day job'. But then I woke up this morning, and it crossed my mind that, in a flick of an eyelid, my whole world could disappear, just like the Jewish world of Poland, leaving no trace. We’re all so busy with our little lives; petty workplace politics; worrying about balancing our accounts; getting angry about injustices; feeling offended by things people do or say. And tomorrow it could all very well be gone and forgotten.

This is true for anywhere and everywhere. Life is impermanence and change. Life is unexpected. Nothing should be taken for granted. But is it not exhausting to have to live every day with the frightening knowledge that hundreds of millions of people, in all five continents, believe most deeply that the particular little world that you happen to inhabit is the most obscene, wicked sin and should, by right, cease to be?


*Forgive me for appearing to ignore the fact that this extremely depressing article actually mainly discusses anti-American bias in Britain and not anti-Israel sentiment. I have been haunted by the assertion that “Israel is not a country”. Thank you, Alisa, for the link.

Update: I see the article made the Guardian. That's good. I hope their readers are listening, although I do fear they will think she's exaggerating. I know I do. Noticed by Harry.
Youngest is going on her first hike with the Scouts today. I wish Mum could see her in her Khaki.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Poor little Shoosh had her little operation today. She's feeling much better now.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bashar Assad with son Hafez

Now that’s a bike.

Update: Finally got round to looking it up. A Cannondale Gemini. Yup.
Found it!
Here's my old post about the sand storm in Sinai.


Found here (Hebrew link).

Afterthought: It is, of course, inconceivable that anyone should want to go in any direction other than Yaffo D, but just in case, it's nice to know.
Yesterday I was feeling upset all day. You probably noticed – Why else would I lash out at poor, defenseless Gideon Levy? When Alisa mentioned 3rd November I couldn’t for the life of me think what that date meant. I racked my brain. Rabin was murdered on the 4th; the Brits burn Guy Fawkes on the 5th. The 3rd? No, nothing.

I reckoned it must be something to do with Mr. Alisa. So I shamed myself by asking her ‘What happens on Nov 3?’ Oysh.

Now I know ;-)

Friday, October 08, 2004

My heroine

Shoosha the guardcat
Here is Shoosha guarding the kitchen window ledge that used to belong to those nasty, horrible pigeons.
Gideon Levy: More dangerous than Sinai
It’s not every day you get to expose someone for being a spiteful, manipulative bastard, even if you can clearly see that that is what he is. But there is no pleasure in pointing the finger at Gideon Levy this day, because today his hateful vitriol against the Israeli establishment may have cost lives. Today we get an idea of just how dangerous Gideon Levy can be.

On 12th September 2004, Gideon levy unleashed his usual irresponsible venom, in the warm, receptive pages of Haaretz. This time he was attacking the security forces’ call to stay clear of Sinai during the holidays.

This is not the first time in the past four years that the anti-terrorism unit, with its panoply of officers, has issued similar warnings, though this time the warning is said to be "graver than usual." If Israelis decide nonetheless to spend the holiday in Sinai, as would indeed appear to be the case, it will mark the continuation of a very unusual phenomenon here: Israelis are ignoring the warnings of the defense establishment, casting doubt on its considerations and not being automatically persuaded by its rationale.


Even if the defense establishment has solid information about Sinai, the timing of its warnings is problematic, after four years of warnings in which not a hair of the tens of thousands of Israelis who went to Sinai was harmed. After all, it's always easier to frighten people, even if it's not certain that it's necessary - what's known popularly as "covering your ass." No one pays for false warnings here, not for the scare campaign about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons, and nor for the warnings about Sinai.

No one pays for false warnings here, says Gideon Levy. What about paying for questioning, belittling, and even ridiculing real warnings, with dire consequences? And Gideon Levy wasn’t the only one. The media was full of it.

On the 22nd September, Juliano Mer, local actor and Palestinian activist (he’s half Jewish and half Arab), called on Israelis (Hebrew link) to travel to Sinai, and launched a paranoid (and hallucinatory, in my view) attack on the fear and panic tactics of the Israeli establishment, aimed, according to Mer, at turning Israel into one big Jewish ghetto.

Among other things, he pointed out that the warnings were not even logical.

The Bedouin in Sinai, a large percentage of whom make their living off the Israeli visitors, are the main smugglers of weapons and ammunition for the Palestinian Intifada. In many cases they smuggle raw material into the territories that the Palestinians use for their economy. Can anyone imagine that the Palestinians or any other factor would harm the delicate texture of the relationship with the Bedouin, or arouse the anger of the Egyptians, who take an important part today in the settlement of differences between the different resistance organizations?

What can I say? Not very bright this guy.

Juliano Mer is actually regarded as a bit of a nut. He’s been arrested a few times for beating people up, most notably, his leading lady, in a play in which he was starring, a few years ago, in Haifa.

The same antiquated 19th century colonialist ideology that negated the (Jewish) exile (= the Jewish Diaspora – IJ), that negated the reality in Palestine and saw it as a ‘Land without a people’, that negated the Arabness of some of the Jews – is returning again and wants to ruin our holiday in Sinai. So, Ladies and Gentlemen: Go to Sinai, and Paris, and Turkey. Don’t let them ruin your holidays. The Palestinians are under complete closure anyway and I presume they will stay that way until the Zionism sees them as a free people in their country. Or maybe the fear sown by the security establishment will serve as a boomerang and persuade many to give up the dream of ‘The Great Ghetto’.

At least 26 dead, more than 160 wounded, a further 20 feared buried under the rubble.

Update: Alisa thinks I'm exaggerating the influence of Gideon Levy and the rest of the Media on Israelis. She's probably right in this case. No one would really have decided if to go to Sinai based on Levy's recommendation, certainly not bsed on that of the unstable Juliano Mer. But I believe there is a cumulative effect of the hateful, manipulative way that Gideon Levy and his ilk write what they write, that is poisonous and harmful, and it does have a detrimental effect on society in Israel, and on the ability of the people to think clearly about what we face. I think that is dangerous.
I’ve been looking at some old photos we took in Sinai on our summer trips way back when. This one is Eldest in Nuweiba in 1998. She must be nearly seven. It always amazed me how happy she was to just hop on camels and horses there. She wouldn’t hear of going on them with a grownup. If you’ve ever been on a camel, you’ll know that the really scary bits are when the camel gets up and sits down. But even as they lunge along clumsily, they’re so tall, you feel like you’re a mile high, and Eldest was particularly teeny.
Eldest in Nuweiba 1998

And this is Youngest in Nuweiba, the following summer, 1999. She’ll be four and a half here. I’m taking the photo from our straw hut, just on the water’s edge.
Youngest in Nuweiba 1999
I think this was the time we got stuck in a sand storm. I remember telling you about it.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

First rambling thoughts of the day after
The only thing I could think about was that M, one of Eldest’s oldest and best friends, was in Sinai with her father. She’d come over for our snorkeling equipment just the week before. Her father’s girlfriend is a travel agent, so I reckoned they wouldn’t be staying in one of the beachfront straw huts we used to stay in. They’d be in a hotel.

I didn’t dare to ring J, M’s mother, till about an hour later. ‘She walked through the door half an hour ago,’ J reported, breathlessly. ‘They went through Taba five hours ago. I hadn’t heard about the terrorist attack, M told me herself. It’s a good thing. I would have had a heart attack on the spot.’ I was relieved I hadn’t rung before.

It had aggravated me that people had ignored the warnings not to go before Rosh Hashanna. People had said it was all just a scare by hoteliers in Eilat, so people would come to them instead (not that Eilat wasn’t just as packed). But the reporters in the know are saying that this is not the attack they were warning about; that one was foiled.

People did keep clear of Sinai for about two or three years after September 2000. And then gradually, they started going again. It’s safer there than in Israel, they’d say.

It’s heaven there, you see. It’s hard to keep away. I miss it very much, but I haven’t been since August 2000.

We used to go with the girls for a few days at the end of August every year. It wasn’t the most popular time and was usually quite empty. The sea breeze made it pleasant, even in the summer heat. There is a lovely sea breeze along the coast of Sinai that somehow disappears like magic as you reach the bay of Eilat. The air stands in Eilat in August.

I used to be a bit nervous going, it was a long drive, with or without the girls, and the border crossing was never comfortable. But once in, there was this freedom. I’ve never experienced a holiday quite like Sinai. It really was heaven there.

We used to drive down to the Nuweiba area, to find the hut nearest the water, preferably in a Bedouin resort. They were more laid back, the Bedouin, and their places were usually quieter. The Egyptian places often had loud Western pop music blaring out all day. Mind you, the Egyptians we met were all lovely people, generous, warm; incredibly friendly.

Not very efficient though. Bish once went to look for some eye drops or ear drops, or something, in the so-called hospital in Nuweiba. ‘Not a place you go to, if you’re expecting to get treatment for anything’, was his verdict. It was, like, three rooms. He doubted there was a doctor.

We used to half-joke about our contingency plans. If anything happened that needed emergency attention, we would load the girls into the car and race to Taba like bats out of hell, praying all the way they’d let us through the Egyptian side of the border without the queue.

Israel is complaining that they didn’t let Israeli emergency services through fast enough last night. But that’s just the way the Egyptians are. Slow. They don’t mean any harm. They just take their time about everything.

They let the first Israeli ambulances in to Taba after about an hour. That’s really fast by Egyptian standards, in my experience, especially considering the historic sensitivities about sovereignty in the area.

You have to go to Egypt to realize what an amazing accomplishment Israel is. We maybe don’t compare very well to Europe and the US, but we’re very impressive compared to our immediate neighbors. This is quite incredible when you take into consideration that about fifty percent of the Jewish population in Israel is made up of natives of Middle Eastern countries and their descendants.

Nu. Anyway. I digress, and with good reason.

Anyone who has been to Sinai will understand my ramblings. It is hard to envision such a place amid the chaos of a terrorist attack. Heaven and hell all mixed up together. It doesn’t connect.
A big blast in the Hilton in Taba, on the Egyptian side of the Israel-Egypt border. They don’t know if it’s a terrorist attack yet, or an accident, but security forces here have been warning Israelis again and again not to go to Sinai, for weeks now, and everyone was poo-pooing it and going for the Succot holiday anyway.

I know a lot of people who are in Sinai right now, but probably not at that particular hotel. There is a popular casino in the hotel, gambling is illegal in Israel, and it was probably full to bursting with Israeli gamblers, who cross the border just to gamble. And being Simchat Torah, the hotel was obviously full of families staying there as well.

The Egyptian health services in Sinai are atrocious and they reportedly only let four Israeli ambulances through a few minutes ago, to evacuate wounded. Not enough. Those who can walk have been walking over to Eilat. The border must be hell to get through. They’re dreadfully slow there at the best of times.

No news about numbers yet.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Another day, another Hag (and then we’re finished till Hannuka)

I can’t tell you how upset I am about that thirteen-year-old girl killed in Rafiah on her way to school. My Eldest is thirteen.

The Palestinians are saying that twenty bullets ripped through her body after she threw her school satchel, and the soldiers suspected it was rigged with explosives. Twenty bullets. Talk about overkill, literally.

Can we begin to imagine how terrified she must have been at the moment of death?

How could they do such a thing, I ask myself. How could they make such a terrible mistake? Twenty bullet holes. Horrible.

I suddenly think of a scene in a film I once saw. I didn’t see the rest of the film, I was just zapping. The scene didn’t make me want to stick around for more. I’m a bit vague about the details. It was Bosnia or Serbia, or somewhere round there. British soldiers (I think they were British or maybe American) were in control of a bridge. A young girl comes along (with a baby? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m mixing it up with something else) and wants to cross. I think they’re not meant to let anyone cross. She looks at them, they look at her, and then they nod her across. She walks along and when she gets near to them she blows up, or throws a grenade, or opens fire, or something. Can’t remember exactly, only that it was ‘och and vey’, as Mum used to say.

So how can I judge those soldiers? I understand that the circumstances were such that it could well have been like on that bridge in that film, which I didn’t really see and can’t remember very well. Not much consolation for her family though, is it?

I remember a time, not so very long ago, when I used to be really, really afraid to let the girls go out of the apartment. I used to sit at work all day, tense and fearful, until they rang to tell me they had arrived safely home from school. I used to ride the number five bus home from work with clenched teeth, listening to the guy at the back mumbling the prayer for traveling, over and over again. There always seemed to be a guy at the back.

During that period, a friend said that every day she would wait for the terrorist attack, for it was a daily event at that time, and, awful as this may sound, she would be relieved when it happened. She’d survived the game of Russian roulette they were playing with us, for another day.

Am I happy that tables are turned and now it is other mothers who are afraid? No, I am not. My heart goes out to the tearful mothers and fearful children we see every night on the TV (Do they show our tearful mothers and fearful children on their TV, as well?). I have no vengeful satisfaction. I’m just grateful it’s not so much me and mine at the moment. I’m only human.

A week or two ago, I heard a song on the car radio. I don’t hear much radio these days. I ride my bike to work and I’m too busy to listen to the radio there. I often only hear about important events of the day, when I get home in the afternoon. Anyway, this was one of those quiet, wistful songs, woman and guitar. The refrain included the words - ‘A bit of compassion never killed anyone’. And I thought, God, what a daft song. Compassion could very well turn out to be one of the big killers of our time.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Egg on face
Well it looked like one tube to me. Apparently it really could be two tubes with canvas in the middle – a stretcher. Even the IDF are saying so now. Someone was in too much of a rush to go public with this. Bad publicity mistake.

I admit I started to be a bit nervous about this when I saw this photo in yesterday’s Yediot Aharonot. Bish says he felt the same way.

It’s a UN paramedic showing what a folded stretcher looks like.

Now I feel uncomfortable because a few people linked to what I said. I apologise.

Monday, October 04, 2004

’I don't see that as a crime’

From the Hamas convenant (1988):

The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas is an abbreviation of this name - IJ) is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It goes back to 1939, to the emergence of the martyr Izz al-Din al Kissam and his brethren the fighters, members of Moslem Brotherhood. It goes on to reach out and become one with another chain that includes the struggle of the Palestinians and Moslem Brotherhood in the 1948 war and the Jihad operations of the Moslem Brotherhood in 1968 and after.

Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).


The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.

So the clearly stated goal of Hamas is to rid the Land of Palestine, in its entirety, of the Zionist invaders and kill the Jews. The Hamas has been declared a terror organization by the United States and by the European Union.

Can any of the above be seen as a reason that Hamas members should not be receiving a salary from the UN? Certainly not, according to Peter Hansen, head of UNRWA. Its all just a little, unimportant matter of political persuasion.

I am sure the Hamas members whose livelihoods are secured by the UN, so they can proceed to plan and carry out their clearly stated goal, are very grateful to the government of the United States, for its substantial monetary support of Hamas, via the UN.
'All that glisters is not gold.'

Ah, thank you, Dad. Nice to see you're feeling better.

Update: Joe says that's Shakespeare.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Guardian parodies itself in its sports pages (what else is new?)

Newcastle United fly out of Israel this morning having negotiated safe passage in a country where the phrase has connotations far beyond football.

On a day of extensive bloodshed 70 miles south of Tel Aviv, the Uefa Cup was of diminished importance, even to the minor miracle that is Bnei Sakhnin, but Newcastle still had a job to do.


As for Sakhnin, they and their 12,000 fans go back to the hills of Galilee and a life framed by violence. With no stadium and no money, theirs was a romantic tale of over-achievement, though the claims to Sakhnin demonstrating the power of Arab-Jew co-operation were left looking weak when the news came through shortly before kick-off that the Israeli military had killed 28 Palestinians near Gaza City.

The atmosphere was subdued and any chance that it might be aroused by Sakhnin staging one of the great upsets was removed when Kluivert collected a lovely back-heel from Jermaine Jenas and side-footed in the first.

I’m sure Guardian-reading sports fans (an oxymoron?) are very grateful for this highly politicized report of an international soccer game.

Scroll down to the photos of little Dorit and Yuval for balance.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

UN vehicle

Jerusalem Post: Footage shows terrorists using UN-marked vehicle.

Haaretz: IDF releases footage of militants loading rockets into 'UN' car.

Militants? MILITANTS?! Makes you wonder what side Haaretz is on.

Here is the Israel channel 1 newsreel during which this footage was aired. It’s the whole newsreel in Hebrew. Fast forward to minute 5:45 to view the relevant part. You’d better watch it soon, it probably won't stay there for long. Beats me why this isn’t on the IDF spokesman’s site.

What you will see are three short segments, filmed from an IDF drone. First you see ‘militants’ burying a bomb in the ground so if an IDF tank should come along they can blow it up. Next you see ‘militants’ loading a Kassam rocket into a UN vehicle. In the third segment you see ‘militants’ loading a Kassam rocket into a Palestinian Police vehicle. Then you see the vehicle driving along the road, and then you see it being blown to pieces by a missile launched from an IDF helicopter.

Here are two year old Dorit and four year old Yuval, may they rest in peace, the babes killed as they played by their home in Sderot last week, by one of these Kassam rockets, launched by ‘militants’. Sderot is a town in pre-1967 Israel, not far from the border with Gaza.

Update: Here is the footage. It’s been edited differently than on last night’s channel 1 newsreel. First section, you see a Kassam rocket being launched. Second section, you see something being buried in the middle of the road, men standing around watching. Third section, you see men walking along a wall, one of them carrying something, then the men pass through a gate in the wall and load the thing onto a UN vehicle, and close the back doors.

I've seen it on TV a few times more. It is far clearer on TV, much better quality. It is quite clear that what the man is carrying and loading into the vehicle is a long metal tube.

Israel is demanding the resignation of Peter Hansen, the head of UNRWA, who is trying to wriggle out of it all by saying it couldn’t have been a Kassam rocket because “the object looks more like a folded-up stretcher than anything else. Especially since it was being carried with one hand. A Kassam rocket would be too heavy for a man to carry with one hand”. The Jerusalem Post points out that “According to the IDF website, the Kassam rocket is about 2 meters long and weighs on average 5.5 KG (about 12 pounds)”.

By the way, the car that was seen blowing up, on the channel 1 footage that I linked to before, was apparently unrelated to the police car shown just before.
Some things give you a jolt however often you see them.

I remember the first time I saw a number tattooed on someone’s arm. I must have been about ten. I was on the bus home from school, the number thirty-three.

She was sitting across from me, a large woman who seemed to me to be in her fifties, wearing a sleeveless cotton print dress. Little flowers, I think the pattern was, although the colors were faded from age and use. She had one of those awful pale green plastic baskets everyone used for carrying groceries from the store in those days. And there, on the inner side of her flabby white forearm was a little blue tattoo, a row of hardly distinguishable numbers.

I remember being surprised that the numbers were so blurred.

There were a lot of people with those tattoos back then. You don’t see them as often nowadays.