Friday, November 25, 2005

I have finally moved. Come and see the new place.

Adjust your favorites, bookmarks, links, whatever. I've got my very own address now:

Friday, September 16, 2005

Text of Ariel Sharon's speech to the UN General Assembly, September 15, 2005

My friends and colleagues, heads and representatives of the UN member states, I arrived here from Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, and the undivided and eternal capital of the State of Israel.

At the outset, I would like to express the profound feelings of empathy of the people of Israel for the American nation, and our sincere condolences to the families who lost their loved ones. I wish to encourage my friend, President George Bush, and the American people, in their determined efforts to assist the victims of the hurricane and rebuild the ruins after the destruction. The State of Israel, which the United States stood beside at times of trial, is ready to extend any assistance at its disposal in this immense humanitarian mission.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I stand before you at the gate of nations as a Jew and as a citizen of the democratic, free and sovereign State of Israel, a proud representative of an ancient people, whose numbers are few, but whose contribution to civilization and to the values of ethics, justice and faith, surrounds the world and encompasses history. The Jewish people have a long memory, the memory which united the exiles of Israel for thousands of years: a memory which has its origin in G-d's commandment to our forefather Abraham: "Go forth!" and continued with the receiving of the Torah at the foot of Mount Sinai and the wanderings of the children of Israel in the desert, led by Moses on their journey to the promised land, the land of Israel.

I was born in the Land of Israel, the son of pioneers - people who tilled the land and sought no fights - who did not come to Israel to dispossess its residents. If the circumstances had not demanded it, I would not have become a soldier, but rather a farmer and agriculturist. My first love was, and remains, manual labor; sowing and harvesting, the pastures, the flock and the cattle.

I, as someone whose path of life led him to be a fighter and commander in all Israel's wars, reaches out today to our Palestinian neighbors in a call for reconciliation and compromise to end the bloody conflict, and embark on the path which leads to peace and understanding between our peoples. I view this as my calling and my primary mission for the coming years.

The land of Israel is precious to me, precious to us, the Jewish people, more than anything. Relinquishing any part of our forefathers' legacy is heartbreaking, as difficult as the parting of the Red Sea. Every inch of land, every hill and valley, every stream and rock, is saturated with Jewish history, replete with memories. The continuity of Jewish presence in the Land of Israel never ceased. Even those of us who were exiled from our land, against their will, to the ends of the earth - their souls, for all generations, remained connected to their homeland, by thousands of hidden threads of yearning and love, expressed three times a day in prayer and songs of longing.

The Land of Israel is the open Bible, the written testimony, the identity and right of the Jewish people. Under its skies, the prophets of Israel expressed their claims for social justice, and their eternal vision for alliances between peoples, in a world which would know no more war. Its cities, villages, vistas, ridges, deserts and plains preserve as loyal witnesses its ancient Hebrew names. Page after page, our unique land is unfurled, and at its heart is united Jerusalem, the city of the Temple upon Mount Moriah, the axis of the life of the Jewish people throughout all generations, and the seat of its yearnings and prayers for 3,000 years. The city to which we pledged an eternal vow of faithfulness, which forever beats in every Jewish heart: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning!"

I say these things to you because they are the essence of my Jewish consciousness, and of my belief in the eternal and unimpeachable right of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel. However, I say this here also to emphasize the immensity of the pain I feel deep in my heart at the recognition that we have to make concessions for the sake of peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors.

The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land. The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own.

This week, the last Israeli soldier left the Gaza Strip, and military law there was ended. The State of Israel proved that it is ready to make painful concessions in order to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. The decision to disengage was very difficult for me, and involves a heavy personal price. However, it is the absolute recognition that it is the right path for the future of Israel that guided me. Israeli society is undergoing a difficult crisis as a result of the Disengagement, and now needs to heal the rifts.

Now it is the Palestinians' turn to prove their desire for peace. The end of Israeli control over and responsibility for the Gaza Strip allows the Palestinians, if they so wish, to develop their economy and build a peace-seeking society, which is developed, free, law-abiding, transparent, and which adheres to democratic principles. The most important test the Palestinian leadership will face is in fulfilling their commitment to put an end to terror and its infrastructures, eliminate the anarchic regime of armed gangs, and cease the incitement and indoctrination of hatred towards Israel and the Jews.

Until they do so - Israel will know how to defend itself from the horrors of terrorism. This is why we built the security fence, and we will continue to build it until it is completed, as would any other country defending its citizens. The security fence prevents terrorists and murderers from arriving in city centers on a daily basis and targeting citizens on their way to work, children on their way to school and families sitting together in restaurants. This fence is vitally indispensable. This fence saves lives!

The successful implementation of the Disengagement Plan opens up a window of opportunity for advancing towards peace, in accordance with the sequence of the Roadmap. The State of Israel is committed to the Roadmap and to the implementation of the Sharm El-Sheikh understandings. And I hope that it will be possible, through them, to renew the political process.

I am among those who believe that it is possible to reach a fair compromise and coexistence in good neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs. However, I must emphasize one fact: there will be no compromise on the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, with defensible borders, in full security and without threats and terror.

I call on the Palestinian leadership to show determination and leadership, and to eliminate terror, violence and the culture of hatred from our relations. I am certain that it is in our power to present our peoples with a new and promising horizon, a horizon of hope.

Distinguished representatives,

As I mentioned, the Jewish people have a long memory. We remember events which took place thousands of years ago, and certainly remember events which took place in this hall during the last 60 years. The Jewish people remember the dramatic vote in the UN Assembly on November 29, 1947, when representatives of the nations recognized our right to national revival in our historic homeland. However, we also remember dozens of harsh and unjust decisions made by United Nations over the years. And we know that, even today, there are those who sit here as representatives of a country whose leadership calls to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, and no one speaks out.

The attempts of that country to arm itself with nuclear weapons must disturb the sleep of anyone who desires peace and stability in the Middle East and the entire world. The combination of murky fundamentalism and support of terrorist organizations creates a serious threat that every member nation in the UN must stand against.

I hope that the comprehensive reforms which the United Nations is undergoing in its 60th anniversary year will include a fundamental change and improvement in the approach of the United Nations, its organizations and institutions, towards the State of Israel.

My fellow colleagues and representatives,

Peace is a supreme value in the Jewish legacy, and is the desired goal of our policy. After the long journey of wanderings and the hardships of the Jewish people; after the Holocaust which obliterated one third of our people; after the long and arduous struggle for revival; after more than 57 consecutive years of war and terror which did not stop the development of the State of Israel; after all this - our heart's desire was and remains to achieve peace with our neighbors. Our desire for peace is strong enough to ensure that we will achieve it, only if our neighbors are genuine partners in this longed-for goal. If we succeed in working together, we can transform our plot of land, which is dear to both peoples, from a land of contention to a land of peace - for our children and grandchildren.

In a few days time on the Hebrew calendar, the New Year will begin, the 5,766th year since the Creation. According to Jewish belief, the fates of people and nations are determined at the New Year by the Creator - to be spared or to be doomed. May the Holy One, blessed be He, determine that this year, our fate and the fate of our neighbors is peace, mutual respect and good neighborly relations.

From this distinguished podium, on behalf of the people of Israel, I wish all the people of the world a happy New Year.

Shana Tova!

Monday, May 09, 2005

No, I'm not pregnant. That's not my secret. My secret is not nearly as exciting or important as that. Can't a person have a secret without everyone thinking they're pregnant, for goodness sake? Now you'll be disappointed when I tell you.
Gold in the Walls
New story. This time, something about Bish's family:

The stern looking man in the photograph with the short white beard was dressed in what I knew to be traditional Bukharan garb – a small fur hat and a richly embroidered kaftan. So this was the powerful Moshe Aharonoff that Chenya had told me about, my husband’s great grandfather. I had suspected as much when I had spied the photograph, leafing through the old book in a stall in the flea market in Jaffa.

You can read the rest here.
I have such a lovely family
A. Our Sis and Dad are worried because I'm not enjoying work.

B. Apparently they've all been wondering nervously what my secret is. I spilled the beans to our Sis. Don't want her thinking we're getting another cat now, do I? (Shall I tell you too?)

and C. They're embarrassed for me that I unashamedly revealed to the whole world just who reigns supreme in our happy home.

And here's me thinking Our Sis wanted to tell me off when she said she wanted a little chat with me.

A + B + C = Me basking in family care.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

I'll tell you about the secret soon. I promise. I'm too tired now.

Youngest had parent's night, you know, when you go to hear how she's been doing. Bish always comes too, but today was the Euroleague basketball championship final so he didn't come. Maccabi Tel Aviv won. Bish has been a Maccabi Tel Aviv fan, basketball and soccer, since before he was born. So he's pleased. I'm pleased because he's pleased, but I'm not really bothered.

Youngest wanted to know how come a team from a country not in Europe plays in a European championship.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I have a secret. Watch this spot for developments.
Daughters. Why?
It was all planned. Youngest was to have her birthday sleepover next Friday. I know, it’s Friday the thirteenth. I suggested they rent some horror movies. Youngest was not amused. Anyway, the big plus of having it on the thirteenth was that I wouldn’t be here. We have a ‘Man and the Desert’ trip that Friday, a good one – traveling the ancient Nabbatean spice route in an open command car (“Make sure to tie your hair back and dress warmly…”).

I had already spoken to Eldest about helping out and Bish would be there (He dropped out of ‘Man and the Desert’ ages ago - didn’t like the idea of getting up early on a free day). It was all set.

Then yesterday morning, I was in Nahalat Binyamin Street’s Friday craft fair with R.T., shopping for gifts for our imminent trip abroad, when I got a little phone call.

“N. can’t come next week. I’m not having it without N.! That’s out of the question. So we’ve all discussed it and we’ve decided to have it … tonight!”

“Oh no. Forget it. No way. Not possible. I’m going out all evening. Bish will be watching the Euroleague final four (and if he wasn’t, he’d be coming with me! He should have been coming with me anyway. Damn basketball!). Eldest is ill, she can’t help. I don’t have time to do any shopping. We haven’t planned any games. We’ve got to rent DVD’s. No. Not convenient. Can’t be done. We’ll find another date. How about the twentieth?”

“But, but, but…”

What do you think? Do you think we didn’t have the party last night (and this morning)? You bet we did. Youngest is not a force to be reckoned with, or to be fobbed off with minor details like no parents, no food, no games, no films.

I’m quite proud of her actually. Tired, I didn’t get much sleep last night, but proud. She and her little friends organized it all by themselves, food decorations, games, everything.

Youngest isn’t tired though. Right now she’s out buying goodies at Baba’s supermarket (open on Shabbat) for a surprise party she and her friends are throwing for… I’d better not say. Not that I think there is any fear of the relevant party reading this but still.

I got home at twelve thirty last night and Youngest’s party was in full swing. Well, besides a sweet little thing that had passed out on Youngest’s bed, and another that hadn’t felt well and had gone home.

I was at the fortieth birthday party of a childhood friend of mine, but that’s another story, a big one. I’ll tell it some day.

Right now, I’m going back to bed.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Not what you think.

The first time he ever glimpsed her was in a dream about a tiger. The tiger was jumping at him through a fiery cloud, but that was easily taken care of: he stopped the tiger in midair – it hung with red eyes and dripping mouth, growing larger but coming no closer. And there in the upper left corner was the woman, floating in the blue, an angel in a Renaissance landscape.

A story by Richard Lawrence Cohen.

Mum and Greta

“Yes, your mother was always fascinated by my story”, said Greta. I was taken aback. This wasn’t at all what I had expected.

I sat with her for a while, but all I managed to learn was that she was a retired teacher. You know how these things are, scores of people milling through the apartment, everyone wanting to make themselves known to you, to shake your hand, to wish you long life...

Continue reading.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

God is the tiny brown insect
crawling along my teaspoon.
If I am not very careful
I will drown him when I wash the dishes.

The insect crawls onto my finger and I place it
gently on the ground outside.
Easier to meet God
in a creature I need not fear.
Today was the memorial day for the Holocaust.

I don't seem to have anything to say. A relevant story of mine is to be published on Cafe Diverso tomorrow. I'll link.
It's a funny thing that every time I bitch about work on my blog, the very next day at work is an excellent one. Maybe I should do it more often.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Going back to work after a lovely nine days at home has not been a good experience. I dislike certain aspects of my life at work very much. I would like very much to let go of this dislike and just see the nice things, which are considerable. Unfortunately I can't seem to do this right now.

On the other hand, going back to my sangha (my Buddhist community) is proving extremely beneficial. Maybe some day I'll be able to let go of my wish to let go and then I'll know I really have let go. If you know what I mean.

A step in the right direction, I believe, was my decision today to cancel my participation in a three day trip with work to Eilat next week.

In the meantime, being at work wears me out and I seem to have little energy left to do any writing when I get home. I will try harder thought, because it has a soothing effect, whatever nonsense it is I'm writing (as you can see).
You know what I love about blogging? People answer you. You rant and rave about something most impolitely, and next thing you know the subject of your rudeness has sent you a very nice e-mail.

Stephen Howe:

Intrigued by your comments on my 'AUT boycott' piece.
There's really no need to speculate quite so vaguely about my sources - most (even Haifa U internal memos etc.) are publicly available. Check, especially,

I don't 'claim to be objective' - only that I try...

You say:
'For some reason he fails to point out that Haifa University does actually have a more than fair representation of Arabs on its student body, and in some faculties their percentage is even higher than in the general population.'
But I DO say exactly that in almost the same words!

As for not seeing the wood for the trees - when people disagree so violently about the shape of the wood, or even whether there is one, sometimes just enumerating the trees is the most useful thing to do.

Anyway, what do fish know from trees? And why 'Not a Fish'? I like fish. My only genuine, living hero is the TV weatherman Michael Fish...

With regards,

I'm probably one of the few non-academic bloggers who spent their Pesach holiday obsessing about the AUT boycott of two Israeli universities. This is very likely a result of a very large chip on my shoulder about all things British.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Last day of my holiday :-(
That AUT thing again
I’m continuing to turn over Stephen Howe’s article in my head. It seems to me that he is victim to that failing common to specialists, whether they are plumbers or nuclear physicists -- yes, he has “read many hundreds of articles, interviews and documents relating to the controversy;” and he has “talked in detail to many of those most closely involved at Haifa”; he has “even written a little about it” himself, but still, or maybe because of this, he is quite unable to see the wood for the trees.

NEW YORK, April 28 (AScribe Newswire) -- ”The Committee on Human Rights of Scientists of the New York Academy of Sciences has released the text of a letter to the Association of University Teachers (AUT) of the United Kingdom calling upon the organization to "rescind and withdraw its call for a boycott of Israeli universities, passed by AUT delegates on April 20, 2005."”

An excerpt of the letter:

We call attention to the "Commentary" in Nature (vol. 421, 23 January 2003) by four prominent UK academics: Colin Blakemore, Richard Dawkins, Denis Noble and Michael Yudkin entitled "Is a scientific boycott ever justified?" This commentary reaffirmed the importance of the UNESCO-ICSU protocols in the most emphatic manner. It points out, that short of preventing (sic) a nuclear war, even extreme circumstances do not support boycotts.

More specifically, Efraim Karsh puts the affair in perspective beautifully. (HT: Roger Simon)

Saad al-Din Ibrahim is one of Egypt's foremost sociologists and founder of the respected Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies at the American University of Cairo. He is also an outspoken pro-democracy activist ... Professor Ibrahim was peremptorily sentenced to seven years of hard labor and his center was shut down and ransacked. He was released three years later as a result of heavy American pressure.

Professor Hashem Aghajari is a prominent Iranian historian and political dissident. In 2002 he was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death for stating that people should not blindly follow the teaching of religious leaders...

As a longstanding member of the British Association for University Teachers (AUT), I cannot recall a single motion to boycott Egypt or Iran for these appalling human rights violations. Nor, for that matter, do I recall the AUT lifting a finger to ease the abysmal denial of academic freedoms and human rights in the Middle East, where repressive leaders supersede state institutions, where citizenship is largely synonymous with submission, and where physical force constitutes the main instrument of political discourse.

Need we say more?

Update: Yes, we need

To: Sally Hunt,
General Secretary, The Association of University Teachers
United Kingdom

Dear Sally Hunt,

Regarding the AUT recent decision to boycott Haifa University and Bar Ilan University in Israel, I am shocked to learn that, in addition to a call for boycott, the AUT is ready to offer a waiver to scholars on condition that they publicly state their willingness to conform to the political orthodoxy espoused by the academics who sponsored your motion.

Oaths of political loyalty do not belong to academia. They belong to illiberal minds and repressive regimes.

Based on this, the AUT's definition of academic freedom is the freedom to agree with its views only. Given the circumstances, I wish to express in no uncertain terms my unconditional and undivided solidarity with both universities and their faculties. I know many people, both at Haifa University and at Bar Ilan University, of different political persuasion and from different walks of life. The diversity of those faculties reflects the authentic spirit of academia. The AUT invitation to boycott them betrays that spirit because it advocates a uniformity of views, under pain of boycott.

In solidarity with my colleagues and as a symbolic gesture to defend the spirit of a free academia, I wish to be added to the boycott blacklist. Please include me. I hope that other colleagues of all political persuasions will join me.


Dr Emanuele Ottolenghi
The Middle East Centre
St Antony's College
Oxford University

Friday, April 29, 2005

Howard Jacobson, who appears to be a regular contributor to the left wing UK publication, the Independent, if it’s the same guy, has written a very powerful piece about anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Via Harry’s Place.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Here is the full statement of Haifa University. I gave a few excerpts of this yesterday.

And here, if you are feeling openminded, is an interesting article about the AUT affair. Its author, Stephen Howe, claims to be impartial. I wouldn't know about that because I don't know who he is or what his connection to the affair is, although I suspect he is not nearly as impartial as he claims.

For instance, I fail to see the relevance of the details he gives about the percentage of Arabs and Druze in Israeli universities and among university teaching staff compared to their percentage in the general population to his discussion on the boycott (And if he brings it up, why are only Arabs worthy of a mention in this respect? Why not Ethiopian Jews? Why not women? Why not the descendants of Jews from Arab countries living in development towns in the South of the country? Are they not under-represented in Israeli universities?). He does point out that Haifa University does actually have a more than fair representation of Arabs on its student body, and in some faculties their percentage is even higher than in the general population.

I also fail to see the relevance to the discussion of the mention of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir having attended Bar Ilan University, other than as a snide underhanded attack on that university.

Howe supplies intricate details of the Ilan Pappe/Teddy Katz affair which are worth reading, albeit with a very critical eye. Although he doesn't say so, reading between the lines it looks like one of his sources of information is Katz’s MA thesis supervisor, who apparently was not Ilan Pappe after all, but Druze historian Kais Firro.

His description of the highly publicized Teddy Katz libel court case is short and low on detail, and again he links only to a questionable Palestinian information source. He cites the reason for Teddy Katz's signed apology in court for libeling Alexandroni soldiers in his MA thesis (by claiming they had committed a massacre in 1948) being Katz's poor health and the pressure he was apparently under from family and friends. I fail to see the relevance of this, although it is a popular explanation on pro-Palestinian websites. To even things out, he also cites the claim of political pressure as the reason for Katz’s subsequent retraction of the apology, which was not accepted by the court.

I refer again to Haifa University's official statement, this time on the Teddy Katz affair:

After a thorough examination, the committee members concluded that, in fact, the quotes in the written text did not match the taped comments of the interviews and that the text was grossly distorted. Therefore, they disqualified this MA thesis. This decision, it is important to note, matched a court decision given on the same matter.

Howe doesn’t deny any of this but the way he writes it is somehow misleading in my opinion. He plays it down. He takes great care, however, to minutely detail the treatment given to the amended version of the thesis, submitted in 2002, the grading process it received, and the politics of the graders.

Howe’s bottom line is this:

I have read many hundreds of articles, interviews and documents relating to the controversy; I have talked in detail to many of those most closely involved at Haifa; I have even written a little about it myself. Even now, I don’t feel I know for sure what happened – either at Tantura in 1948 or at Haifa University in 2000-2005. How can the members of the Association of University Teachers after just a few minutes’ hasty and apparently one-sided debate, seem so confident that they do know?

Alan Dershowitz puts it best:

It's a good thing Israel has only to make peace with its Palestinian neighbors and not European university professors.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I am enjoying the reactions to this decision by an organization of British lecturers to boycott two Israeli universities. The affair has created a lot of interesting reading material, much of it by people as much opposed to Israel’s policies as they are to the decision to boycott Israeli universities. I’m hoping that this is a good sign because it means is that there are still a few of intelligent, learned people in Britain who do not think Israel is an illegitimate state. I’m hoping it means that they really are interested in peace in this country, and not in smashing the Jewish state, unlike the people responsible for promoting the boycott seem to be. Perhaps one or two of the people who voted in favor of the boycott, without bothering to check the facts, are starting to feel like real idiots by now. Well, perhaps not.

Douglas Davis is amusing as always:

Pay attention, British professors. If you support the boycott of Israel proposed by some of your fellow academics -- and if you are to remain intellectually honest -- prepare for a radical lifestyle change. Firstly, unplug your computers. Good. Now switch off your interactive digital television sets. Well done. And now throw away your mobile phones. Excellent.

You see, Professors, these machines are not only the engine of the globalized, capitalist world but they also depend on technologies that have been produced by Israeli academics in the Zionist entity.

Also, I'm afraid you may not use the British Library because it has been computerized by Ex Libris, a Zionist company that was spawned by the odious Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

And if, God forbid, you develop problems of the small intestine, you may not pop the Zionist-invented "video capsule," which passes naturally through your body as it monitors this delicate piece of your anatomy.


Jpost offered some reactions by Haifa University among others:

"In lieu of evidence to support the singling out of Israeli academia, the authors of this campaign have chosen to adopt a three-year-old urban legend," the University of Haifa said in a statement. "We are astounded by the fact that the AUT never requested our response prior to adopting their resolution, and did not allow our position to be presented by members of the AUT who are familiar with the facts.

The case against Israeli academia, in general, and the University of Haifa in particular, is devoid of empirical evidence and violates the principle of due process. Driven by a prior and prejudicial assumption of guilt, the AUT has refused to confuse itself with facts."

And University of Haifa president Aaron Ben-Ze'ev also had something to say:

"I think that a person who calls to boycott his university should join the boycott and resign immediately from the university," Ben-Ze'ev said. "It is difficult to describe a greater moral injury to academic freedom than the behavior of someone who has been bullying his colleagues and calling to boycott them. It is bizarre that he has chosen to attack the very same university that has exercised such a policy of tolerance towards him."

During the past few years, according to members of the university's faculty and administration, the only measure taken against Pappe was a complaint lodged with the internal faculty disciplinary committee, which focused on Pappe's unethical behavior towards his peers and his efforts to disbar them from international forums for contradicting his views. Contrary to Pappe's claim, the university said it had made no attempt to expel him.

There’s more:

"I learned how to write history, including Middle Eastern history, from the British," Prof. Amatzia Baram, a University of Haifa faculty member in the department of Middle Eastern studies, told the Post on Monday. "They have first-class scholars. For them to vote on a matter like this without bothering to invite a single university representative, without checking the facts and listening to both sides before making up their minds – is the worst infringement of intellectual and academic integrity. I find it difficult to express in words the degree of my disappointment." Baram also wondered about The Guardian's decision to publish Pappe's letter, which contains factually false accusations, without checking them in advance.

Baram recalled how, in 2002, he received a letter from a prominent British scholar who turned to him to intervene against Pappe's expulsion from the university.

"I told him that no expulsion had ever been contemplated," Baram said. "Ilan had simply lied to him – nor was there any international campaign in his support, as he claimed there was in his letter to The Guardian."

Prof. Benny Morris, Israel's most prominent "new historian" (a historical movement questioning early Zionist narratives), also told the Post he found Pappe's call to boycott his own university "immoral." "If he doesn't want to be paid by a university subsidized by the state he is hostile to, he should resign and find another place to teach," Morris said.

In a review of Pappe's latest book, which was published in The New Republic last year, Morris pointed to a series of false statements it contained, ranging from basic facts and wrong dates based on careless research, to politically slanted mistakes meant to prove how evil Israelis are.

"It is a totally distorted book, it's badly written history," he said. "His entire campaign is illogical and immoral. He presents himself as a politically persecuted scholar, yet his contribution to Israel's 'new historiography' is pretty marginal."

Thank you to Harry for some of the links.

By the way, I was going to link to what I thought at first was a good editorial in Haaretz on the issue, until I got to the obligatory ‘However’ opening the last paragraph. They just couldn't help it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Old monkey mind, new monkey mind
Have I told you I’ve rejoined my meditation group? I came back from my weekend knowing for sure that if I want the feeling of wellbeing to remain with me I was going to have to keep at it. I find it difficult to meditate on a daily basis but once a week can also do me good.

So I managed to weasel out of a Bar Mitzva celebration one Tuesday and a ‘brita’ (celebration of the birth of a baby girl) the next, and I’ve asked the other participants of my art class, and the teacher, to move it permanently to another day. From now on, Tuesday evenings will be spent on my cushion on the floor, watching my breath.

Tonight the meeting is in Kfar Saba, a bit of a schlep, but I don’t want to miss it.

It’s a strange experience going back. I was a founding member of the group in 1998 and was very active for a time. Now there are a lot of new participants who aren’t really new -- they’re just new for me. And it’s all the same but very different. I know it is me that has changed.

The woman who is having the meeting at her apartment asked if I would like to facilitate. I thought this was a bit strange. I’m a newcomer, I said. And she said I wasn’t. But one is always a newcomer to meditation, I think, every time one sits down it is for the first time. Maybe that is why I stopped. It got stale because I was grasping at it.

I'll just make some matza brei before I leave.
It could have been me.
It could have been me keeping my Star of David hidden under my blouse, lying about why I couldn’t work on Seder Night, telling people I was going for a holiday to America when really I was going to visit my family in Israel. And if it had been me, I too, like them, wouldn’t even know I was doing it. I too would not be able to see that anything was wrong.
It's so nice being on holiday. I spent the morning strolling around the old Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv with a friend. It's so lovely there. Next time we want to do a guided tour. They have them all the time, but you have to book in advance.

Then we had a light lunch in a restaurant, under a tree.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The ultimate ‘Hevr’e-man’.
Ezer Weizman has died. The morning newspaper is full of eulogies, I leafed through them as I ate my bowl of matza and agristada, but I didn’t really feel like reading any of them.

Mum knew Ezer Weizman. She met him when she was giving some talks about Israel in England. He was guest speaker or something. I think it was shortly after we had moved to Israel. I was only small but I remember she found him very charming. She told him which school we kids were going to in Haifa and he recounted the tale of how he was expelled from that very same school when he was a lad. He was like that. He knew everyone, and everyone felt comfortable with him.

I think they kept up some sort of contact and, as former chief of the air force, he gave her advice when Our Sis was having a hard time in the army. Then he became a minister in Menahem Begin’s government and Mum didn’t like to keep in contact, she was too modest to feel comfortable. (How do you say ‘lo haya la na’im’ in English? Somehow it doesn’t sound the same).

He was dughri, was Ezer, straight-talking. He always spoke his mind, even when it got him into hot water, and it often did, especially when he was president. The archetype of the Israeli Sabra, he had that quality some people have -- you couldn’t dislike him, even right after he had just made the most outrageous comment. And now he’s gone, but he will continue to be part of Israel’s collective psyche.
There are two guys I see on a regular basis whom I assume are street dwellers but I can’t be sure. For a long time I thought they were the same person. Both are in their mid-thirties, I think, bearded, blue-eyed and always dressed similarly, with a sort of nerdy tidiness, only shabby and sad. They don’t smell bad, neither of lack of washing nor of drink. It crossed my mind recently that both are very good looking, but I doubt very much if women would find them attractive.

The reason I mix them up, I think, is because of something they transmit, or don’t transmit, something about the way they interact with the world. You can never catch their eye. They walk on the inner side of the sidewalk. They look down. I get the feeling that they don’t want people to notice them, that they are trying to be invisible.

On Seder Night, after the meal was over, I went round taking orders for coffee and tea. For some reason, everyone found it amusing that I wrote it all, like a waiter (okay, okay, I do know I’m not supposed to be writing on hag), so I wouldn’t forget who wanted what. Later when I brought Our Sis her tea before everyone else she said I shouldn’t bring hers first – FHB (Family Hold Back). But everyone in the room was family, close family, all nineteen of us (We were only nineteen in the end because our soldier had to stay on the base and our chef had to work – he is employed by one of the major Tel Aviv hotels).

And now I’m wondering where the two bearded men with the blue eyes spent Seder Night, and if they were surrounded by family, and if anyone asked them how many sugars they would like in their lemon tea.

Maybe this is why there is a tradition to invite a stranger to share the Seder. There is so much warmth and family feeling, not to mention food, it is only right to share it all with those who don’t have any of their own.

(Cross posted on Israelity)

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Our living room is currently a bit like a wild life film on the Discovery channel. Billy is gorgeous – tiny, skinny and lovable (by the way, it isn’t so much that Bish’s arm is so hairy, more that Billy is really really teeny). I’m so glad we took her in, poor little mite.

Shoosha has got over her shock at the entrance of a new feline scent into her territory. She also seems to have got over most of her jealousy. Now she is mainly left with her curiosity. It is fascinating to watch the first interactions between the two.

Billy rushes over to say hello when Shoosha regally enters the room, then stops dead as she realizes that Shoosha is not going to gush all over her like we do (regents don’t gush, you little squirt). Shoosha moves away. Billy starts feeling threatened and edges back carefully. And then the amazing thing happens – Shoosha starts following her, the famous Shooshy inquisitive look on her face. She follows her all around the room. Billy hides under a table and then under another table and then behind the couch. Finally she gets tired, climbs up onto the couch, and crawls into a blanket and goes to sleep.

Bish and I have become quite the zoologists, pretending we’re part of the furniture so as not to upset the balance.

Talking about zoology, this British academic boycott is also an interesting phenomenon. I must say their timing is particularly intriguing, not to mention their choice of institutes to boycott.

Karen Alkalay-Gut has some interesting observations on this issue, as always (second post on 24th April).
Pesach chores are over! Now I can start enjoying myself. But actually, the Seder was great fun. The reason I like having it at our place is because then we can invite both sides – my family and Bish’s. And they all get on great. Who would believe it?

This year I finally remembered to invite my cousin from the north and her family enough time in advance (in previous years I left it so late I was eventually too embarrassed to call her), and the best thing was having my aunt, Dad’s sister, who was over from England.

I don’t know how we always manage to have so much food. When it’s still in list form, it seems like there isn’t going to be enough. I made an extra zucchini pie, just in case, and I had contingency plans – extra stuff stashed in the freezer – for a starvation disaster. Even when everyone had arrived, and the food was all set out on the kitchen table (I remembered to clear space on the table this year – I’m getting better at this), it seemed like it couldn’t possibly feed everyone. It was only when it was all finally on the table and people were digging in that we realized, yet again, that there was an obscene amount.

The good thing is that there is plenty left over. I’m not going to have to do any cooking all week, which is a waste really, seeing as I’m home anyway.

I’m home anyway. Wow, I’m finding it hard to get used to that. This is the first Pesach I’ll be home all week for fifteen years, besides when I had Youngest, of course, and that doesn’t really count, because I spent most of hol hamoe’d (the ‘weekdays’ of Pesach, which are regarded as a sort of half holiday) in the maternity hospital worrying about matza-(unleavened bread)-induced constipation (as if childbirth-induced constipation wasn’t enough).

We always worked half days in Pesach so it was a waste to take time off. I’d have had to pay for a full day off, although if I worked I would only be working till twelve thirty every day, so it wasn’t worth it. This year they’ve sent us all home to save money and we only have to pay two and a half days of leave for the four work days we’ll be off. With Hag days, Shabbats and Fridays I’ll be home for a full nine days!

The only thing wrong with last night’s Seder is that we didn’t manage to get things back on track after the meal. I love the songs, and R.T., Our Sis and I always have a royal time with the food blessing and the songs. R.T. is hilarious after a glass of wine or two, or four, but it just didn’t happen this year. The kids got their afikoman pressies and that was that. Never mind. Next year.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Pesach!
New kitty update:
We've changed her name - Billy. (I tried for Matilda again, but no one took any notice). I'm quite happy with Billy.


She's a poor little street kitten, as you can see, only a few weeks old.

Shoosha is actually being quite wonderful, all things considered. She's cautious and mildly hostile (more than usual). She's sniffing around a lot (Shoosha) and is jumpy (again, more than usual). Bish reckons she realizes that this is only a tiny helpless kitten and not a real threat.

We've asked Eldest not to touch Billy at first, seeing as she's Shoosha's main human. She was a bit sad about this, Billy is so teeny and cute, but she understands. She shed quite a few tears yesterday when Shoosha hissed at her, but now they're best friends again.

Billy, on the other hand, is already showng signs of being friendlier than Shoosha. Eldest is a bit worried about this. She doesn't want everyone to love Billy and not Shoosha. She's so sweet is Eldest.

We've been encouraging Youngest to bond with Billy. She's always a bit jealous of Shoosha and Eldest's special relationship.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

News Flash!
Shoosha has a little sister. I've just adopted her at the pet shop. She hasn't got a name yet. Shoosha is sulking in the bedroom.

Eldest isn't home. She doesn't know.

Update: Shoosha isn't sulking anymore. She's just sleeping.

Update: Okay, we've probably made every mistake in the book about bringing a new cat into the home. The people in the pet shop should have told us, very naughty of them. We're learning. She's called Bilbee, that's Hebrew for Pipi Longstocking.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

It's not so much that I don't have anything to say, it's that everything I have to say is work related and far better left unsaid.

Never mind. I'm off work from Friday till the following Sunday. Nine whole days of NO WORK. As kids say in this corner of the globe: YESH!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Look what was stuffed in my letterbox.

HaYarkon River

They want me to buy some posh expensive apartment they’re building near the Yarkon River. Well, I would love to, if I could afford it. I think I’ll have to make do with the nice photo of the Yarkon on the leaflet.
A week before Seder Night
I’m starting to get panicky. A little voice in my head is yelling "Help! Help! I can’t take it! It’s too much!" This is an excuse to go and lie down and read my book about the meaning of street names in Tel Aviv. It's so boring I always fall asleep.

Organizing Seder Night is really not so difficult. I've done it before. There is a trick, you see. You delegate. Everyone brings something. If I play my cards right all I will have to do is make the hardboiled eggs and set the table.

Not that setting the table for Seder Night is such an easy thing. There is quite a lot to remember and prepare. And of course, you have to get your brother-in-law to bring over the spare folding table on time. You can’t really set the table if you haven’t got one...

But I’m still in denial. I should be making lists. I should be making phone calls and organizing things. Instead I’m moving between not thinking about it and panic. That book with the street names is getting a lot of use.

Mum would have had the table set by now. I can hear her in my head, "There’s only a week left till Seder Night and you haven’t set the table yet?!"


(Cross posted on Israelity)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Hearts growing strong

Naomi Remen, a physician who uses art, meditation and other spiritual practices in the healing of cancer patients, told me a moving story that illustrates the process of healing the heart, which accompanies a healing of the body. She described a young man who was twenty-four years old when he came to her after one of his legs had been amputated at the hip in order to save his life from bone cancer. When she began her work with him he had a great sense of injustice and hatred for all "healthy" people. It seemed bitterly unfair to him that he had suffered this terrible loss so early in life. His grief and rage were so great that it took several years of continuous work for him to begin to come out of himself and to heal. He had to heal not only his body but also his broken heart and wounded spirit.

He worked hard and deeply, telling his story, painting it, meditating, bringing his entire life into awareness. As he slowly healed, he developed a profound compassion for others in similar situations. He began to visit people in the hospital who had also suffered severe physical losses. On one occasion, told his physician, he visited a young singer who was so depressed about the loss of her breasts that she would not even look at him. The nurses had the radio playing, probably hoping to cheer her up. It was a hot day, and the young man had come in running shorts. Finally, desperate to get her attention, he unstrapped his artificial leg and began dancing around the room snapping his fingers to the music. She looked at him in amazement, and then burst out laughing and said, "Man, if you can dance, I can sing."

When this young man first began working with drawing, he made a crayon sketch of his own body in the form of a vase with a deep crack running through it. He redrew the crack over and over and over, grinding his teeth with rage. Several years later, to encourage him to complete his process, my friend showed him his early pictures again. He saw the image of the vase and said, "Oh this one isn’t finished." When she suggested he finish it then, he did. He ran his finger along the crack, saying, "You see here, this is where the light comes through." With a yellow crayon, he drew light streaming through the crack into the body of the vase and said, "Our hearts can grow strong at the broken places."

From Jack Kornfield’s book A Path with Heart, pg. 48.

Yesterday I stood in a queue for an hour and a quarter in Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv. Hundreds of people stood there in line along with me, quiet and orderly, some chatting to the people they had come with, others making new friends. And more and more were joining the queue all the time.

It moved forward very slowly, but no one pushed; no one tried to cut in; no one complained -- I didn’t hear even the faintest of grumbles.

For thirty years I’ve been standing in queues in this country. I have never experienced a queue quite like this one. So what was this, a flash mob of German tourists?

Not quite.

These were people who had come to give blood for the national pool of bone marrow donors, in the hope of helping to find a match for three year old Omri Raziel. These were people in the business of giving. It was an act of selflessness. They had come because of their compassion for this little boy and his terrible suffering, in the hope that maybe they could save his life.

They weren’t standing in queue for themselves, so it made no sense for them to be angry or impatient or grabbing. And so many of them came, all over the country, that by lunchtime there were no test tubes left anywhere for the blood samples.

Now all we can do is hope they find a match. To pay for testing all the blood samples little Omri's family needs to raise over a million dollars. You can help too.
I’m utterly fed up of, but I don’t have the time or the energy to create an alternative right now. Passover next week… 21 guests… nothing ready… no plan… aaaaahhhhhh… change the subject.

As you can see I’m in denial.

The day before yesterday my blog disappeared. Some bug, apparently. Luckily Bish the superhero saved the day. Yesterday I wrote an excellent post and erased it.


Monday, April 11, 2005

A reminder
For everyone in Israel, tomorrow is the donation day for little Omri Raziel. If you haven’t donated blood for the national bone marrow bank you will be able to do so in these blood donation stations (Hebrew). They need money too, because it is all very expensive.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

God is the tiny brown insect
crawling along my teaspoon.
If I am not very careful
I will drown it when I wash the dishes.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I’m not sure how this happened. I thought I’d be busy until Purim and then I would have more time to, you know, do my thing (= as little as possible). But Purim has been and gone and I’m busier than ever.

I don’t even have time to explain. Tomorrow I’m off for a much needed, and long planned and anticipated, meditation weekend, before coming back straight for my Caf? Diverso deadline, school trips, scout trips (big maybe, there’s a story there, but I have no time to tell it), Seder Night for twenty one hosted by little old scatter brain here, etc etc.
This is one of the best posts about cats, if not the best.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Very interesting post about the revival of Hebrew in modern times on Rishon Rishon.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Allison pointed out this post, by Laura at 11D. She says maybe blogging is not going in the direction we were expecting.
Karen Alkalay-Gut about living and creating in Tel Aviv. I especially love the poem at the end of April 1st.
Guess what? I made Story of the Month on Cafe Diverso for April. That means my story will be on the home page all month. Scroll down, it's at the bottom.

It's called Why was this night different?

An excerpt:

Why was this night different?

Mum sat quietly smiling at her place by the big, festive dining table Bish and I had set out in our living room for the evening. She was so tiny, so fragile, no more than a shadow of the plump bundle of energy we had always known. She had been diagnosed just three weeks before, and even though the chemotherapy she would be starting, after the Passover holiday, gave us hope, I think we all knew deep inside that it was the last Seder Night she would be with us. Little did we know that by the end of the evening, Seder Night would have changed forever, and not only for our family.

Every year in the spring, on Seder Night, the whole extended family gathered to retell an ancient story of how our ancestors were freed from slavery in Egypt, to embark on a journey into the desert that would eventually lead them to the land of the Fathers. Religious and secular alike, on the first night of Passover, Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora took part in telling the story to the next generation. The sages of old had bequeathed a memorable way of passing it on.

You can read the rest here.
Preparation for Yom HaShoah
My youngest’s class will be responsible for the Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Day) ceremony at their school this year. I personally think they are too young, it’s usually done by the fifth graders, who are a year older, but the teacher thinks it’s a good idea.

They began the preparations a few weeks ago with a trip to Yad Vashem’s branch in Givatayim, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. They were shown a film about Auschwitz and a writer came to talk to them. I asked Bish to go with them, because I know my little one is sensitive to the subject of the Holocaust and I just wanted one of us to be there.

Yesterday was the second stage of the preparations, a workshop at school with the parents. One of the parents, a history teacher, talked to the children about Nazi ideology. I thought this was a very wise choice, which helped the children put the Holocaust into some sort of historic and philosophic context. Children in this country are bombarded with difficult imagery and rhetoric from a very young age. It is important for them to understand that there was an idea and logic (however warped) behind the incomprehensible evil.

After this we split up into little groups of children and parents, and talked about how the Holocaust touched us personally. This we tried to express visually by making collages.

After breakfast, we were fortunate enough to be able to listen to a wonderful woman called Hannah Gofrit. Hannah has written a book for children about her experiences as a child in the Holocaust. The children had all read her book and the whole session was just her answering their questions. But what answers!

The children tended to ask very specific, technical questions about details that they hadn’t understood in her story, such as ‘How did you breathe when you were hiding in the cupboard and in the sack of potatoes?’ And out of these simple questions she conjured up for us a very powerful, compelling image of what her life was like – the deprivation, the helplessness, the fear, the mental exhaustion, the minute by minute struggle to survive, for years.

She spoke so wonderfully, with such strength and optimism, without even the tiniest hint of self pity, that it didn’t really register with me at first, the horror. Hers is a story of survival.

When it hit, it hit hard.

Her answer to how you breathe in a sack of potatoes – when you are a child hiding in a sack of potatoes, you become a potato. And potatoes don’t breathe.

Cross posted on Israelity)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Okay okay, so it’s not as bad as it sounded yesterday. A person is allowed to have a bad day.

Luckily my art class was great last night. My fellow students probably thought I was a raving lunatic, I was that weird (or maybe just silly). But I really didn’t care. I’m actually a bit embarrassed to say what I did. It sounds so silly. I’ll only say that I spent part of the lesson sitting on the floor completely wrapped in cardboard wrapping (I’m blushing just to be writing that).

If I was all artsy fartsy I could say it was the artist being the art or some rubbish like that. Our teacher said it was a pity she hadn’t brought a camera, but that wasn’t it at all. I wouldn’t have done it if there was a camera. I wasn’t acting. I wasn’t attention seeking. I was playing.

I think that as we grow older we forget about playing. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s like Picasso who, I have read, reached perfection at the age of twelve and spent the rest of his life learning how to draw as a child.

We have to learn how to play again. When we were children it came naturally, we just did it. But we have lost that natural ability, shed it like an old skin, and it was left discarded somewhere along the path, unwanted and unneeded, or so we thought.

When I say playing, I don’t mean pretending to be children and ingratiating ourselves on any kids we happen to know, although some people are good at playing with kids without any pretending, like my Bish. I’m not, but mind you I wasn’t much good at playing with kids when I was a kid myself. It’s not that.

And I don’t mean playing games, with set rules and teams and clearly stated goals. It’s not about winning or even about ‘participating’. I mean playing free, with no aim, with nothing to gain, just for the fun of it. Just because.

And that’s what I did last night in my art class. I couldn't understand why i was so happy, then I remember thinking to myself "Hey, I'm playing!"

So why did I keep wanting to apologize that I wasn’t sitting nicely by the table and creating something that could be seen and touched, something that I could take home to show Bish?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

More thoughts on the decision to not grant citizenship to the children of foreign workers.
Government policy is rarely unaffected by bureaucracy and the government finds it hard to get anything done if the bureaucrats are opposed. Remember that excellent BBC series ‘Yes, Minister’? It had us rolling on the floor in hysterics, but we could just have easily been crying and pulling out our hair in despair. It was so painfully realistic it was tragic.

When Bish was toting his law draft around the relevant government ministry, the elected policy makers were all for it. It was the “professional” bureaucrats that torpedoed it. One of them in particular had no problem at all to lie through his teeth to get it thrown out, simply because it made him look bad.

My strong feelings about this subject probably stem from a personal place. It's always personal.

Recently, I’ve been feeling disillusioned and depressed by my fifteen years in one particular corner of the public service. I don’t usually talk about this here, and I probably should just keep my mouth shut, but I am so utterly fed up. I used to believe my work meant something, that it was beneficial to society.

I’m not sure if things really have got so much worse or if it’s my eyes that have now opened wide enough to witness the general laziness and lack of interest, the ineptitude, the stupidity.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s all just (un)healthy (but) normal mediocrity. Maybe instead of lowering my expectations I’ve been raising them far too high, for reasons connected not to my workplace, but to blogging and to the insights it has presented me (so much for the joys of being aware). Maybe it is a new and perhaps misguided confidence in my abilities that is pushing me to demand more not only of myself but of those around me.

Whatever the reasons, these strong feelings of dissatisfaction have been stifling my ability to express myself lately. I’ve got to get out of this bitter little rut I’m stuck in and get on with things.

Maybe I need some of that bureaucratic indifference myself so I won't be upset by it all. There seems to be enough of it going round.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I spent the afternoon reading Nathan Alterman's play "The Ghosts' Inn". I haven't read it since high school. Powerful stuff. I didn't really understand it in high school, but even so I was very moved by it.

I'd like to say something about it right now, but I'm not sure what. I think I'll just go and wash my hair.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Horror of Bureaucratic Indifference.
Someone I know is privy to the inner workings of a ministerial committee that grants and revokes licenses to those wishing to work in a certain profession. On occasion he has commented on the arbitrary fashion in which the committee members vote to revoke licenses, unaware or uninterested in the fact that they are taking away these people’s livelihoods, sometimes unfairly, sometimes just on a technicality, destroying small businesses that have been painstakingly built up over years.

It’s not that they are bad people sitting on this committee, my friend explains to me. They are good and well meaning. It’s just that they never take the time to think of the implications of revoking a license. They don’t really regard these hard working professionals, struggling to make a living, as real people.

For many years the committee had no representative of the professionals it was discussing, and ultimately judging, among its members. They saw no need for such a representative; they were not really interested in the point of view of the people they were dealing with. In recent months, as a result of much lobbying, a representative has finally been appointed to the committee, revolutionizing its work purely by forcing its members to see the consequences of their bureaucratic indifference.

On Friday evening Youngest (at the ripe old age of nearly ten) observed that she didn’t like this country. She said she liked the way the country looked and this was home and she didn’t see herself living anywhere else, but she didn’t like the way the people behaved. I was unhappy about this observation, until Bish commented to me quietly that Youngest had been very upset by the item we had just been watching on the news about how the state had decided not to grant citizenship to a limited group of children of foreign workers, who had been born here, who had grown up here, and who were now between the ages of ten and eighteen. I must admit it had upset me as well. Maybe I too am not proud to live in a country that behaves in such an inhumane way.

Bish pointed out that the decision didn’t stem from racism or from wickedness. He said it was just indifference to the fact that these are real people, real children. Not numbers, not statistics.

It was apparently the Ministry of Finance (dear big hearted Bibi Netanyahu) that was opposed, fearing it would be costly, and the Ministry of Industry and Trade, who feared it would complicate things for them in some way. God help us.

Well, I don’t care why the decision to treat these children like human beings was turned down or by whom. I say it’s time to stop this and just do what's right. These kids have grown up Israeli and now they're our responsibility.

There are only a few hundred of them for goodness sake, a few thousand at the outside. And it's not as if they're only out to use the state. They will do their military service, they will work and pay income tax. They will raise families to love this country. They want to be here, not to ruin us or use us, but to be a part of it. They get dressed up in fancy dress in Purim, for goodness sake, even though they're not Jewish. So what if they don't qualify according to some law. They're just as Israeli as everyone else they grew up with.

Update: As always, Alisa has interesting observations:
Imshin, the two issues are not the same. Although there is very likely a considerable degree of bureaucratic indifference involved in the handling of the issue of foreign workers' children, we should not forget that the question whether to let them stay is a question of policy. I tend to agree with you (albeit very reluctantly) that they should be allowed to stay, but that is really for the politicians, not for the bureaucrats to decide.

Friday, March 25, 2005

We had such fun today! Dizengoff Street was very crowded. There were loads of people, many in fancy dress, but not enough. I don't see how you can go to a fancy dress carnival without even a symbolic silly hat or something. Any way, it was pretty hectic. There were stalls and things at the edges and Brazilian dancers. We managed to see some body painting going on before we fled. You know me and crowds, not good friends. And our visitors from England - we didn’t want them completely shell shocked.

We were a party of ten, our cousins, R.T., and us, and we’d come in two taxis and a scooter. But getting there turned out to be the easy part. The problem was leaving. No taxis to be found, we eventually got a bus to north Dizengoff, where we went for a hummus lunch at Hummus Assaf, our favorite.

It was a beautiful day, lovely and sunny. Not too cold, not too hot, just right, and most important - no rain. Amazingly, we’d managed to get everyone at least slightly dressed up. Even Bish had this horrible blond wig on. It went well with the stubble on his chin! He looked rather forbidding, but he still managed to get on like a house on fire with my cousin’s youngest daughter. There are three of them, and they all got rides on Bish’s scooter. Plucky parents!

The girls seemed to get on fine with my two, eventually, after the ice broke a bit. My girls started to discover what I have known all along – that their English is far better than they realize. Their problem was understanding their cousins’ London accents. Not quite the same as Hollywood sitcoms.

After lunch we went for a walk along the Yarkon River, which was hopping. Loads of people, walking, riding bikes, rowing. Hearing music from the other bank we made our way over towards the crowds we could see. They were selling Irish beer and they had bands playing Irish songs.

You see, tomorrow night there’s a big soccer game in Tel Aviv between Israel and Ireland. Tel Aviv is apparently full of Irish fans. We even spotted a few at the happening in the park. They got them up to sing ‘It’s a long way to Tiperrary’ and have a drinking contest.

So there were stalls and things there. We particularly liked the mock sumo wrestling. It’s good – two people from the crowd put on suits that make them look (and weigh) like sumo wrestlers and then they have a go at each other.

I’m so glad we took them out. We usually steer clear from crowded events and today really was fun, even Dizengoff.

No photos. I forgot the camera, as usual.

Our Sis had our cousins over for dinner this evening. I'm afraid we must have worn them out, because she rang to tell us that the girls were passed out on the couch. Serves her right for not inviting us!

Cross posted on Israelity.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

My best friend at work is going away for two months and I'm feeling lonely.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dolphins in Haifa Port!
I just saw them on TV. Spectacular.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Purim costumes are ready! I’m particularly proud of the Little Red Riding Hood one I made for my eldest daughter because I made it from scratch. I love that – bringing home a piece of material, folded up, lifeless, and making it into a garment that someone can wear and enjoy.

Eldest has been treated to a great cape and hood, even if I do say so myself. The material, bought in Nahalat Binaymin Street next to Carmel Market, is wonderful – I don’t know what its called, but it’s a lovely deep red and it’s heavier than satin, which is the obvious choice for costumes. I’m glad I didn’t use satin. Satin always looks flimsy and cheap. The skirt underneath is satin, red with white dots, but somehow it works.

I bought the basket (eggs and bread for grandma, wasn’t it?) in Jerusalem a fortnight ago. We went from work to visit a friend who was sitting Shiva for his father (the seven days of mourning). Riding along in the car on the way back, I suddenly spied a wicker shop, and shouted, “Stop! Stop!” So everyone had to wait while I went to buy a basket for Eldest’s costume. I was very popular, you can imagine. Oh well, they’re used to me by now.

The weather has been very sunny and nice lately so I hardly gave any thought to the fact that Youngest’s costume was a spruced up summer dress, until I heard on the news that it was going to rain on Wednesday. Wednesday is the day the kids go to school for their Purim carnivals before the Purim vacation. It always rains. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it.

So this afternoon on the way home from work I searched the children’s clothes shops in the area for some sort of suitable little cardigan. Naturally, they’re stocked for summer. No little cardigans in white or pink to be found anywhere. Eventually at home I managed to find a little pink jacket that just fits, although it’s a bit tight. Not marvelous, but it will have to do.

I’ll be going out on the town with my girls this Purim. I never do that because I dislike crowds, but my cousin is coming from England with his family and we’ll be doing Dizengoff Street with them on Friday morning. The paper says there will be things going on there. I fancy the Adloyada (Purim parade) in Hatiqva Market, but everyone agrees that this will be a bit of a culture shock for our visitors’ young daughters. Hatiqva neighborhood is a poor neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv. The market there is not as impressive as the famous Carmel Market (in fact, it can be a bit depressing at times), although the amba on sale there is reputedly the best you can get.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Still sewing fancy dress costumes for Purim. Youngest's is ready. She's a doll. Eldest's is nearly ready. She's Little Red Riding Hood. I'm particularly pleased with the red cloak. I've got to make her skirt now. A bit tricky.
Still sewing fancy dress costumes for Purim. Details soon.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ooh look
Tel Aviv on Cafe Diverso. Taken by Merav.

Here's another one.

Actually Merav is a friend of mine.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Important message to all visitors from World Arms Forces Forum: You are very welcome, but please be advised that this blog has absolutely nothing to do with Imshin-Y#%' (Login Negev-Warrior) who has been posting on your forum in embarrassingly bad English. I have no idea who he is and I have nothing to do with the strange things he’s been posting on your forum.

And to my usual readers: Yes!! Someone is pretending to be me! Finally! A real live imposter!

Does that mean I’m, like, somebody?

Monday, March 14, 2005

No time to post. Busy making fancy dress costumes for Purim. Details some other time. I can't believe I've left it this late.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Tel Aviv
From the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive – a film made about Tel Aviv in 1947 (you have to be patient if you want to watch this). 19 minutes of unabashed Zionist propaganda, probably aimed at opening the hearts and the wallets of wealthy American Jews. Parts of the narration are more than a bit embarrassing.

But the pictures are so magical for me. Tel Aviv as it used to be. Clean, sweet, optimistic. My mother-in-law says it breaks her heart to see how Tel Aviv has aged since her childhood in the young city of the nineteen thirties and forties.

Today I had lunch on Dizengoff Street with an old friend. We grew up together in Haifa and in our early twenties we shared a little apartment just off Dizengoff. Sitting together in the sun brought back such memories. Ein ma la’asot (nothing you can do about it), noisy, dirty, busy -- Tel Aviv still has its magic.

Cross posted on Israelity.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Translation, Tschernichovsky used to say (stealing it from Tolstoy?) is like a woman. If it is beautiful it is not faithful and if it is faithful it is not beautiful.

The wonderful Karen Alkalay-Gut, March 9th. So true, this always upsets me. But Karen is probably the person whose translations from Hebrew to English I most trust. She manages to be both faithful and beautiful.

Talking about translations, Bish has finally found a good translation for Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’. There are about fifteen really bad ones, including Yair Lapid’s which is particularly annoying. Un-beautiful and unfaithful.

No, this is the best yet. Bish found it on an Israeli forum where it had been posted anonymously, by someone who said that he had no idea who translated it, but that he had found it in handwriting on a piece of paper in a drawer in his home. Very intriguing.

By the way, the photograph of the wall on March 8th (Karen's diary again) is just by my workplace. The front is the little watchmaker store I visited to have the links removed from Mum’s wristwatch after she died so I could wear it. The watchmaker was old and his hands shook and he was sooooo slow.

אם / רודיארד

אם תוכל לשמור על שקט וקור-רוח
עת מסביב לך שוררת מבוכה,
אם בין מפקפקים תוסיף להיות בטוח
אבל גם לספק תדע לתת לבך;

אם להמתין תוכל בלא להתייגע,
אם ממרמה תרחק עת היא אותך תיסוב
אם בשנאה תוקף ובה לא תינגע
מבלי להראות חכם מדי או טוב.

אם כל חלומותיך לך יהיו לעבד
אם מחשבות לך - כאמצעי בלבד
אם נצחון תפגוש או מפלה נוקבת
ובשניהם - בני בלע - תנהג מנהג אחד;

אם תוכל לסבול דברים אשר השמעת
בהיסלפם להיות מלכודת לבורים,
אם את מפעל חייך תראה שוקע מטה
ושוב תחל לבנות אותו מן השברים.

אם לאסוף תוכל את כל דברי הערך
אשר לך לערמה - ולסכנם
ולהפסידם ושוב לצעוד מראש הדרך
בלא להפטיר מלה על שאבד חינם;

אם לבבך יוסיף לפעום ללא מנוח
וגם בכבד העול, בעול יהי מושך
ולא יחדל גם עת אבד ממך כל כוח
כל עוד זה רצונך קורא אליו: המשך!

אם בין ההמונים תחזיק במידותיך
ובחצר מלכות תדע לנהוג פשטות
אם לא יוכלו לך אויביך או רעיך
אם כל אדם תוקיר כיאה וכיאות;

אם למלא תוכל כל רגע לא סולח
במלוא שישים שניות של יזע ושל דם,
לך תהיה הארץ וכל אשר עליה,
ועוד יותר מזה, בני - תהיה אדם!
Harry got stoned on the way to Jerusalem. Not that sort of stoned. Stoned as in had a stone thrown at him, by Palestinian kids.
Lovely post by SavtaDotty, about seeing Tel Aviv through the eyes of her visitors.
Can someone please explain this to me?

It's not me, in case you were wondering.

Afterthought: I don't know what to make of it at all. Should I be flattered or aggravated or what? I think I'll stick to amused.
A little story for Shabbat

Avraham’s Honor

The walls of the staircase leading up from Sergio’s apartment to Avraham’s were decorated with posters of popular Rabbis. Others promoted a political party - one not popular with ‘Tsfonim’ (North Tel Avivis) like us - and then there were a few well-endowed women, and some romantic sunsets. I’m sure the Crying Boy was up there somewhere too. The door to Avraham’s apartment was always open and the sound of loud Mizrahi (Eastern) music usually came wafting down through the stairwell. It clashed with Sergio’s jazz.

On the television news one evening, they showed the funeral of an old mobster, the kingpin of the sixties and seventies, who had not long returned from years in prison in Holland or somewhere, only to be murdered by old adversaries from the past. And there, filling the screen in our living room, was none other than Avraham, yes, Sergio’s Avraham, throwing himself on the fresh grave, crying out, “Sage! Sage!” for that was the dead kingpin’s nickname, “Why have you left us, Sage?”

I was always scared of Avraham, to the point that I used to be nervous about going to see Sergio, even though I always went with Dudi. More often than not, Avraham was lurking around the dirty old staircase, which reeked of urine when he wasn’t around and alcohol when he was. He’d suddenly appear from around a corner, or from behind a pillar – unshaven, sinister-looking, and shouting obscenities, frightening me half to death. Or he’d be sitting on an old aluminum chair in the entrance, with one of his unpleasant dogs and a bottle.

Dudi said he was just a poor, harmless old drunk who liked to scare people to make himself feel important. But then he and his eldest son took the old aluminum chair over to the vacant lot next to their building and started coercing people into paying them to park on it. That really freaked me out, although Avraham let us park for free. He seemed to respect Dudi for some reason I couldn’t fathom, calling him ‘Ba’al Habayit’* - Hebrew for ‘Guv’nor’.

He never spoke to me, Avraham, not one word, beyond greeting me with ‘Shalom’. He could talk for ages with Dudi, a lively twinkle in his eye, always seasoning his words with old Jewish sayings. He had that raw wisdom that is the result of a life of hardship. But he never looked at me while he spoke.

One time we were on our way up the stairs and he came down dressed only in his underwear. He didn’t see me at first, but when he did he amazed me by apologizing, not to me, but to Dudi, “I’m sorry, Ba’al Habayit. I didn’t know, I didn’t mean any disrespect. You’re not angry, Ba’al Habayit?…” And that’s when it dawned on me.

I was Dudi’s woman. By talking to me, or worse – revealing himself undressed before me, Avraham was infringing on Dudi’s rights. Maybe he thought Dudi would even be justified in harming him for such impropriety.

I wasn’t afraid of him after that. I even started going to Sergio with our little girl on a Shabbat. afternoon without Dudi. We’d go to the beach across the road first, and then go up to Sergio’s for a shower and a bite to eat.

I never once saw Avraham when I came without Dudi.


* Literally – Owner of the House.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Ynetnews reads Not a Fish!
From my mail box:

Are you looking for a personal invitation before you mention us/link to us? OK, here it is....

Alan D. Abbey | Managing Director | | Israel's best news website - now in English.

You see, this is why I keep my site meter private. So people will actually think I have a large enough readership to be consequential.

If you were in any doubt, I am very pleased about Ynet having an English version. It’s about time too. I’m even pleaseder now that the managing director has sent me an e-mail, like I'm somebody.

Now how about some links to Israeli-Anglo blogs, Hevr'e? (Besides your own, that is)

Talking about mail, Bish made me a Gmail account. You can mail me at imshinj at gmail dot com

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I have another story up on Cafe Diverso. It’s the other sample story I sent them. Actually it was up yesterday already, but I am a bit shy about it. It’s not light and trivial like Sponja, and it touches a delicate place.

It’s called ‘The Birthday Boy’. It was maybe not the wisest story to be published there so early, but stories I've sent in since will hopefully even out the impression somewhat.

On Sunday evening I sent in my next batch of stories, and have been busy rewriting stories I sent in February, according to the editors’ requests. I tell you this Cafe Diverso thing is proving to be better writing experience than any creative writing course, or even blogging. I think blogging spoils us, actually, because we have such freedom.

Writing to order, more or less, is completely different. Having to align with certain objectives; having to keep the stories to a certain length, to certain subjects; having to work out what they will find acceptable without compromising myself -- it is all very challenging. (Don't worry, John. I'm not compromising myself).

Some of you have commented on the fact that Cafe Diverso lists Israel and Palestine together on their list of countries, and on the fact there is actually no sovereign state called Palestine right now.

When they first approached me I was also struck by this, so I wrote them the following:

I find it difficult to accept that Israel and Palestine are listed on the site together. It feels to me a lack of respect for both peoples. My hope and dream is for a free and independent Palestinian state alongside a free and independent Israel, in which we two peoples who share this land will each be able to live in peace and coexistence according to our different values and beliefs. Is it not possible for there to be a separate category for Palestine and for Israel?

The answer I received from Boris Matijas, the blogs and connections editor who had contacted me (and has recently left Caf? Diverso), was this:

We acknowledge our impact yet this was certainly not our intention. This is a very delicate issue and one that resulted in much debate amongst the team. In fact we would offend someone no matter what route we took. In the end we decided to choose Israel and Palestine, with separate country profiles, and to make a concerted effort to find a Storyteller from Israel. This is why we have contacted you. Please try and understand that all of the members of our team share your vision of a solution to the problems. However we cannot change our decision at this point. We believe that our choice is the one that is most consistent with the objectives of our project. We respect very much your opinion however. Please be assured that we will create separate country categories as soon as the political powers make it a reality, even though we wholly acknowledge that many people in your countries already believe in this reality.

While I wasn’t very happy with this answer, I decided to overlook the matter. I see Caf? Diverso as an opportunity to reach people who would not otherwise be exposed to a moderate ‘middle Israel’ point of view (as someone once called it).

When I asked Killian, founder of Cafe Diverso and a really nice guy, if I could post this exchange on my blog, he asked to add that ‘our objective is to 'bridge cultural divides' and that this forms the basis of our decision.’

So I just wanted you to know.

My comments on the matter seem to have struck a chord. Cafe Diverso’s Palestinian storyteller also seems to have remarked on the issue, and now they are rethinking the policy. I’ll keep you updated.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Man and the Desert - the fun begins!
We finally went on our first real excursion with Avner Goren yesterday, in our Man and the Desert course, after it was cancelled last month due to rain. Bish chickened out at the last minute. I reckoned it was the early wake-up that broke him. So it was just R.T. and me. And a bunch of other people of course.

Listen, if any of you ever get an opportunity to listen to this person speak, in a language you can understand, do not hesitate. He’s wonderful. He brings the distant past to life in such a vivid, exciting way.

We visited two sites on the edge of the desert. One was a hole in the ground called Beer Tzafad on the outskirts of Beer Sheva.

Beer Tzafad

It’s an interesting archeological site dug in the 1950’s that sadly has been neglected over the years.

The other was Tel Arad, which is desert today, but is believed to have had more rain 5000 years ago and therefore was on the edge of the desert.

Tel Arad city wall

See how green it all is. Hard to believe it will all dry up soon, and if you visit there in the summer all you’ll see is yellowy-brown land. The white stuff is flowers, by the way.

Naturally, the batteries of my camera finished just after I took this and before we had actually entered the site. So I’ve googled. There are plenty of photographs, although everyone seems more interested in the Israelite fortress with its temple, than in the Canaanite city which absolutely blew me away.

For one thing this was a big place, considering how long ago it was built (3100 BC).

reconstruction of Canaanite Arad by L. Ritmeyer

A planned city with a great city wall, complete with watchtowers, some rounded and some square. The communal area includes buildings believed to have been a palace and a temple area. The roads were planned and there was even a primitive water system (Not the well you can see in some of the photos. That was from the Israelite period, 1400 years later). In Tel Arad you can see the typical Canaanite dwelling of the time, which is called the Arad house by archeologists.

reconstruction of a Canaanite house by L. Ritmeyer
(The reconstructions are by L. Ritmeyer, from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority leaflets. I hope Mr. Ritmeyer will not mind my use of his drawings here. They're too small to be copied and used elsewhere)

After Arad was abandoned and ruined between 2000 – 2400 BC probably as a result of economic changes that were going on in Egypt, Arad’s main market, it wasn’t built again as a city. The Israelites later built the fortress, as I’ve said, on one corner of it. This apparently made it an interesting dig, because the findings from that period were not buried under generations of later constructions.

Contrary to popular belief, Avner says that Jericho was not the oldest city in the world. The wall, dating back to 5000 BC, that had thought to have been a city wall turned out to have been a protective barrier to stop the water from the Jordan River from flooding the village that was there. The town came much later. Even the archeologist who had made the original claim accepted her mistake. The Palestinians continue to market Jericho as the oldest city though, for tourism reasons, and who can blame them?

Arad was one of the earliest cities though, and the site is very impressive, especially when consumed along with Avner’s explanations, and even though only a small part of it has been excavated.

I must say I’m looking forward to an evening lecture we’re having with Avner as part of the course, the week after next.