Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009
- To be quite honest, the return of the "Organ Harvesting" row doesn't particularly interest me. It's quite obvious that tampering with dead bodies, without the permission of their nearest and dearest, is pretty appalling. However, as the AFP report makes quite clear, this is something quite distinct from the big stink over the summer, following the story in Swedish newspaper Afton-Bladet: "The Channel 2 report said that in the 1990s, forensic specialists at Abu Kabir harvested skin, cornea, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives." Couldn't be clearer: another case of medical arrogance, something not at all limited to this crazy little part of the world. As an illustration, this should be rather instructive
- Mind you - as a twit twitting on twitter pointed out last night: "If one's people have a blood libel hanging over one's head, one ought to think a little more carefully about what one does with the bodies of others..."
- This interests me far more: A story in the Yeshiva World News about a woman in Ashdod asking the authorities to prosecute the city's chief Rabbi for contempt of court. The woman had applied for a Hechsher - Kosher certification - for her restaurant: The Rabbinate declined. The woman sued in the High Court: The court found in her favour. But the Rabbinate still resisted. The problem, it seems, is that she is a Messianic Jew - a Jew for Jesus. Them lot are not terribly popular in this part of the world, for some odd reason. The talk backs for the article are quite illuminating, as well as entertaining. And that's something I rarely say, since I genuinely believe that the talkback facility is only good for keeping the clearly unwell off the streets. There is a bit more background to the story here: If this blows up - as I suspect it will, if the High Court sticks to its guns - it is going to provoke a very interesting debate about the muddled mix between synagogue and state in Israel.
- (For the record: I should say that I believe, firmly, in freedom of religion. I also believe in freedom from religion.)
- Didi Remez - whom, as far as I can tell, is the only person ever to work in PR with anything approximating a human conscience - runs an interesting blog called Coteret. His argument, essentially, is that the English speaking press in Israel - which many foreign journalists, as well as people living outside Israel and with an interest in Israel, rely upon - is scandalously limited. Ha'aretz's English language edition and Yediot's English language website only translate a small percentage of all their news stories; jpost has an editorial slant which means that a lot of juicy stories pass it by. (I should say that I have a soft spot for two of these three outlets, but I agree with this assessment). So, to redress the balance and educate the Hebrew-challenged public, he translates stories in the Hebrew Press - Ma'ariv, Yediot, Globes and more - that he thinks have a significant public interest quotient.
- At the moment, he is working on one man's campaign to overturn the traditional obfuscation of the IDF's spokesperson Unit. Matti Golan, a columnist with Globes, decided to take up the IDF on a classic example of saying very much without saying anything at all - the story of a politician clearing an enhanced Army pension, even though his actual service was seriously circumscribed - with surprising results. Remez, after his translation, makes an interesting editorial point: "For civilian deaths, even those of children, a common IDF reply is along the lines of 'the (soldiers) felt threatened and fired at suspects', and except for a few exceptions that prove the rule, that is the end of any investigative journalism. Imagine the change if every foreign bureau chief or Israeli defence correspondent, took the Golan approach and really looked into the death of even on of every fifty or a hundred dead children. That's how oversight works - even the slight chance of exposure causes a tremendous change in behaviour." And so it should be.
- An interesting story from the BBC, this time about organ donation. Apparently, a law has been passed (or is about to be: I should check, but I'm already de-mob happy and refuse to do anything else in the name of 'research') granting Israeli organ donor cards the right to priority medical treatment, should they require an organ transplant. Now, I've carried a Donor card all my adult life, and I always will: I accept that there is a very slim chance that any of my organs will be good for anything in the case of my untimely demise, but on the off chance...quite seriously though, whilst I think that organ donation is pretty important, I'm not sure that this is the way to coerce people into going about it. In England, I think they now have the 'presumed consent' approach, which is to assume that one is happy to donate one's organs to science in the case of ones death unless explicit instructions to the contrary are made. Whilst I'm still not entirely comfortable with that either, it seems a better path to take. Prioritising health care on the basis of criteria such as this seems inequitable, at best.
- In any case, organ donor card or not, who knows whether the Israeli medical authorities will want my innards, anyway? I'm not allowed to donate blood in Israel, a consequence of the BSE/Mad Cow diseases outbreaks in the UK in the mid-90s; aside from that, there are documented cases of medical professionals discarding blood donated by Ethiopians, because they worried - without any evidence - that it might be tainted by all sorts of unpleasant things.
- I was about to look up a link for the latter point, but I've just realised that Mrs Goy didn't pack for me. Her argument is that since she isn't going on holiday with me, she sees no reason why she should sort out my luggage. So she only did the Small Noisy One's suitcase, and now has swanned off to work. Wives! I tell you...
- As any Hebrew speaker would be able to tell you, the word for 'owner' and 'husband' are the same in the language. So, to say 'my husband' is the same as saying 'my owner'. A civilised position that I fully agree with. However, Mrs Goy, feminist that she is, seems to have other ideas.
Friday, 18 December 2009
Monday, 14 December 2009
On the other hand, they were fighting heroically for their traditions and the survival of their faith. If they found uncircumcised Jews, they performed forced circumcisions. They had no interest in religious liberty within the Jewish community...
I could be mean and point out some pretty obvious parallels with the situation today, but I won't. Not in keeping with the spirit of the season and all that...
Whilst on the topic of 'false' myths, I've just started reading Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People. To be honest, I didn't expect very much - I assumed that it would be either a book with a few kernels of interesting fact buried under a landside of academic drivel
(academics, as a general rule, can't write for shit: this, more than anything else, explains the enduring popularity of Malcolm Gladwell. But, as ever, I digress...
- but, so far (p40-ish) it has proven refreshingly readable. Dunno if his conclusions - which caused a bit of a stink here, when the book was published in Hebrew a year and a half ago - will stand up to scrutiny; I remember that one of the criticisms levelled against him was that he was a common-or-garden-variety political historian, and thus had no business loitering in the sacred halls of classical Jewish History. Still, a well written book means that at the very least I'll follow it through to the end, rather than chucking it aside in exasperation before I've cracked the spine properly. I'll try and remember to keep you, dear reader, posted in due course.
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
- When I lived in England, we used to run an ironic Christmas Tree Sweepstakes: the earliest confirmed date for spotting an erected Christmas Tree, indubitable evidence of the commercialisation of a sanctified family holiday (this bit always made me laugh - Christmas has always been commercial), cueing hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth in the petite bourgeois press, like The Mail. In Israel, I gather that the parallel cue is the sale of Sufganiot, Chanukah themed doughnuts. (I've talked about the link between fattening food and Chanukah before, here). For the record, I spotted my first Doughnut tray just after Sukkoth, a couple of months ago. Given the passage of time, I think the true miracle of Chanukah is that I still haven't had my first doughnut of the season. Mind you, it's a matter of necessity - If I'd started eating the wretched things in October, I'd look like one myself by now...
- Just for the record: The earliest I'd ever spotted a Christmas tree was on August the 27th, at Selfridges. Quite frankly, it's moments like that make me pleased that I don't live in the UK any more. The thought of enduring a four month run up to Christmas, fake cheer and over-priced tat, Wham's Last Christmas and talk about the Xmas No1, fills me with horror...
- Here, we don't have Christmas. Obviously. But there is Chanukah, and to get in the spirit, newspapers tend to look for some feel-good story to cheer the Jewish State up. Something that can be chalked up as a modern day Chanukah Miracle. Usually quite risible, but hey...
- This year, however, there is talk about a genuine Chanukah Miracle - the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured and held by Hamas for the last 3-odd years. There have been a lot of hopes raised and dashed since his capture; but talk about his imminent release have reached a crescendo in the last fortnight, with rumours that a deal has been arranged, that he's been moved to Egypt, that doctors have examined him to ensure that he is in good condition...hell, even Jonathan Pollard has got in on the act.
- But - and for once, I'm not being facetious - I don't think it is going to happen.
- Think about it this way; Hamas - as did Hezbollah, before them - kidnap Israeli soldiers for propaganda, rather than pragmatic purposes. Let's face it: in general terms, the capture of a few odd soldiers serves no strategic purpose whatsoever. But they do recognise the important psychological impact that it has on the Israel populace, of the capture of a soldier - or, as is more often the case, the holding over of the remains of a dead soldier.
- This psychological importance thing, I'm not sure I totally understand entirely. It seems an aggregation of all sorts of things. Perhaps I'll think about it another time. Anyway, the point is that it exists, and that Hamas recognises this state of mind. Thus, its efforts to exchange Corporal Shalit for about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. And the argument isn;t whether it is a fair swap in itself, but whether a very small minority of the prisoners should be freed because they have "blood on their hands."
- So, unless they have completely misjudged the Israeli public sentiment - and I doubt they have, even though Hamas tends to believe what it wants about the "Zionist entity", rather than what is true - there is no way on earth that they are going to award the Israeli public a genuine Chanukah miracle on a platter. It just ain't gonna happen.
- So, Shalit's poor parents will continue to wait and hope whilst their son continues to be used as a political football by all sorts of scum, pond life and career politicians. And the newspapers will find another Chanukah miracle.
- I've broken. I've just had my first doughnut. God, it tastes good.
- And there's this. Can't say I'm surprised.
- Time for another doughnut. I'll go back to running in the New Year. Hopefully.
Monday, 30 November 2009
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Why 1983? Because it is one year away from 1984, I suppose...
Elsewhere: Wired Magazine, via the blog of a young woman called Lily Sussman, report that the MacBook's hard drive is capable of withstanding gunshot damage. How do they know? Because the nice fellows in charge of the Israel's security decided that it was a security risk and put three bullets through it. Charming...(there's another report in The Marker)
Saturday, 28 November 2009
Friday, 27 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
It is an interview with Ada Yonath, Professor of Chemistry at Machon Weizmann, and who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry last month.
Or two interviews with Prof. Yonath
As you'll see from the clip, Yonath was interviewed on Channel 10's evening news programme by Miki Haimovich. The interview was then lightly repackaged, and rebroadcast as new the next morning, making it seem that she was being interviewed anew by the breakfast show hosts, Haim Etgar and Sivan Cohen.
It might seem like a small thing. It is Channel 10's content, after all?
I disagree. Nothing would have been lost by re-broadcasting the original interview, Haimovitch and all, the next morning. Except the veneer of 'exclusivity'.
More to the point, I think that this is only a small step away from creating subtlely different questions to fit the answers that Prof. Yonath had helpfully provided earlier.
Which is only a short hop and skip away from creating radically different questions to fit Prof Yonath's answers - and misrepresenting her in the process, of course.
I don't think it is a small thing. If I'd wanted entertainment of this nature, I'd go take out a Woody Allen film. To be honest, I find it rather patronising. Perhaps the editors at Channel 10 rate their viewers so lowly as to think that they can only engage with the news if it is live and direct? It's that 24 Hour rolling news thing again...
Okay, I'm being a grouch this morning. I promise that my next post will be more positive.
Again, hat tip to frgdr.com for pointing out the chicanery on the part of Channel 10.and setting up the clip. I didn't notice it. I mean, it isn't like I'd be paying attention to the news in Hebrew...
Monday, 2 November 2009
(incidentally, I loathe rolling news channels...well, that's not entirely true. I have a love/hate/hate relationship with them, I suppose. I always come away from half an hour with Sky News or BBC feeling slightly less informed than I was previously. Maybe it's just me, grey cells corroding and all that...)
and for another, the wonders of the World Wide Web mean that I can get pretty much anything I want, gratis
(although Mr Murdoch seems determined to change that)
but this aside, the truth is that - in the news sections, at least - there is rarely anything worth reading. Straightforward news accounts are generally rather scanty, and more often than not are not followed up, leaving the curious reader with the duty to go get his detailed stuff elsewhere. Opinion and thinly-veiled partisan commentary generally trump sober analysis and fact; and, a lot of the time, new reports are plucked from the same general sources - Reuters, AP, AFP - and gently recycled and spun according to the whims and inclinations of the outlet.
(On the last point, it's worth reading Nick Davies' excellent Flat Earth News. You'll never look at a newspaper the same way again, I promise you...)
A couple of contemporary examples from Eretz Yisrael:
Goldstone: Has effectively become a football game, with the press merely keeping score. The fundamental questions have been lost beneath what is charmingly referred to as the PR War.
The Amnesty report on the (mis)use of Palestinian water resources: Even if one accepts every word to be true...it just ain't news. It hasn't been news for years. As proof, I recommend reading Bernard Wasserstein's Israel & Palestine, particularly pp 80 - 97. Covers pretty much the same ground, in cool and coherent language...and was published six years ago.
Maybe I'm just getting cantankerous and crochety as I ease belly first into middle-age...
Anyway, these days I get a paper just at the weekend, which keep me happy for the week. The supplements, thankfully, run to different deadline priorities; write ups tend to have more of a consistence and narration-al coherency to them, I think. It's pretty easy, I think, to bullshit with 500 words, but it becomes much more difficult with 2500.
And I subscribe to a couple of magazines...
There's an interesting piece in this weeks New Yorker about Gaza, Gilad Shalit and the Guys in Green. Long enough to remind us of the historical antecedents to the sorry state of affairs down south at the moment. No one comes out of it looking good. Worth reading.
On a completely unrelated note: Is there any chance of someone getting the rain to, like, stop? I know I sound ungrateful and all, but my clothes are all wet, I can't do the laundry and I have to dash out for a cigarette between breaks in the rain that's been thundering down since Friday. Most inconsiderate.
On the good side, the Sukkah has come down. Not quite sure how - perhaps the wind dismantled it - but frankly, I don't care. As someone said once, Mission Accomplished.
Somehow, I think I'm going to regret saying that.
Thursday, 29 October 2009
O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
|The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;|
|The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,|
|While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:|
|But O heart! heart! heart!||5|
|O the bleeding drops of red,|
|Where on the deck my Captain lies,|
|Fallen cold and dead.|
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
|Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;||10|
|For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;|
|For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;|
|Here Captain! dear father!|
|This arm beneath your head;|
|It is some dream that on the deck,||15|
|You’ve fallen cold and dead.|
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
|My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;|
|The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;|
|From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;||20|
|Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!|
|But I, with mournful tread,|
|Walk the deck my Captain lies,|
| Fallen cold and dead.|
Whitman wrote this poem after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln; it was translated into Hebrew by poet and songwriter Naomi Shemer; she dedicated it to the memory of Yitzhak Rabin after his assassination, 14 years ago tonight (following the Hebrew calender).
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
The full news report is here
The English website for the Knesset's Research and Information Centre is here: the report hasn't been translated into English - and probably won't be for a while - but the website is an interesting resource, and worth looking at regardless.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
I'm not sure if this is legal or not, and I certainly think that at the least, it raises issues about due process: but I'm pretty sure that most European countries would love to be able to behave the same way...
Also in Jpost: an article highlighting the concerns of residents in South Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighbourhood to the continued presence of the migrant workers and illegal immigrants (isn't it interesting, how hardly anyone bothers to distinguish between the one and the other?) in their 'hood.
I don't agree with their conclusions, but I sympathise with their predicament. For as long as the government refuses to instigate a comprehensive, coherent and fair policy on asylum, immigration and migration, tensions like these will continue to multiply.
In case you wondered: I think that there should be a consistent policy on migration (for non-Jews), including the right for long term migrants to remain as permanent residents; I think that there ought to be careful thought about the role of migrant workers in supporting the Israeli economy - it is no accident that farmers in the South protested yesterday about the difficulties that they face in employing staff to work on the fields, at wages that allow the farms to remain economically viable; and I think there should be a careful and thorough overhaul of the (non) process managing claims for asylum that exists at the moment.
It's pretty comfortable for unconscionable politicians to bundle all non-Jewish migrants into one amorphous mass, tar them all with the same brush and claim that they are an unwarranted burden on the state (not that the state spends much on asylum seekers, to start off with: in any case, migrant workers give far more back to the state than they can ever even dream of receiving); it is also convenient to claim that they are responsible for everything from the increase in crime rates and the spread of communicable diseases to the threat of intermarriage and the increase in unemployment amongst native-born Israelis.
But it doesn't take much imagination or intelligence to figure out that the reality is far more complicated than this nice fairy tale. It's time to take off the green tinted spectacles; it's time to implement a fair, transparent and just immigration policy.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
According to today's Ha'aretz, this cheerful - or, perhaps, cheerfully cynical - exercise in fermenting public approbation may be about to hit a new high - or low, depending upon your perspective - courtesy of the benighted Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
"According to Antonello Zappadu, an Italian photographer from Sardinia who took pictures of Berlusconi in the company of half-naked female guests at the billionaire politician's Villa Certosa on the island's Costa Smeralda, a "very large advertising firm" in Israel has asked to purchase the rights to the photographs."
The correct thing to do, I suppose, would be to deplore the invasion of Berlusconi's privacy and dignity. On the other hand, I can't help but remember that his soon-to-be ex-wife cited his proclivity for "consorting with minors" in her decision to leave him; or the fact that his media empire is largely built on the same level of titillating nonsense. And that isn't even without beginning to go into the avalanche of gaffes, misogyny and general misanthropy with which he has deluded us over the years.
So I'm just going to snigger.
(ps - I've seen some of the pictures; the description "in the company of half naked female guests", whilst factually correct, is perhaps on the more benign side. )
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
To be fair to MK and Interior Minister Yishai - and I never thought I'd find myself typing these words - the argument about the deportation of the children of foreign workers born in Israel is merely following the absurdity that passes for immigration policy in this country to its (il)logical conclusion.
Yishai says that it is necessary to deport the children because their continued presence "is liable to damage the state's Jewish identity, constitute a demographic threat and increase the danger of assimilation."
What on earth is the guy afraid of?
More to the point, I love the way he bandies about words like "Jewish Identity" whilst carefully avoiding the need to append any sort of actual definition to the phrase. He ought to try that sometime and see how far it gets him.
As it happens, I've always associated the phrase "Jewish Identity" with notions of charity, justice, Tikkun Olam and stuff. I'm a bit naive like that. This is not suggesting that the State of Israel should become overly charitable - or frierim, as some people may see it - and fling their borders open to the dispossessed whether they may be in the world. But it is about equity, fairness, an desire to actually engage with the complexities of a mess that was, not incidentally, created by previous Israeli governments.
Rather than - to appropriate a favourite quote - sticking one's head in the sand and exposing one's thinking parts.
(side issue - in other parts of the world, the argument against allowing children in similar circumstances to remain in their country of birth - if not nationality - normally revolves around the notion - spurious or not - that they are, or will be, a burden on the state. This isn't even part of the argument here. I hate to use words like this, but I think Yishai is a bigot. And the real problem is that he doesn't even realise it.)
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
And he was up there on the ramparts in Toronto, supporting a boycott of the Toronto International Film Festival because it had "become part of the Israeli propaganda machine". Busy man.
Loach is a talented, if at times somewhat erratic film-maker from the socialist realist tradition; Kes, and the television docu-drama Cathy Come Home are genuine classics, even if his output has become a tad predictable and clichéd of late.
But the energies he has devoted to promoting the cultural boycott of Eretz Yisrael are somewhat misguided, I fear. To be fair, he does argue that his efforts are intended at marginalising the Israeli government, rather than its artistes; in an open letter to Ms Shalom, he wrote that "To be crystal clear: as a film maker you will receive a warm welcome in Edinburgh. You are not censored or rejected." But in practice, I'm not sure that he is able to distinguish the one from the other.
(Vanessa Redgrave, no cheerleader for Israel, sums up the contradictions in his approach quite lucidly here.)
But this is all old hat; why return to it now?
Because, according to ynetnews.com, Loach's distributor in Israel has decided to donate all the profits from his current film and the next to the distribution of Israeli films abroad. "I believe the way to fight the silencing – and there is no other way to define Loach's actions other then attempts to silence – is to ensure that the Israeli voice, the Israeli creativity that is so diverse and fascinating, be heard load and clear, in Israel and in the world," Nurit Shani, CEO of Lev Films announced last week, before the première screening of Loach's film at the Haifa International Film Festival. (gosh, all these international film festivals...)
Loach - and anyone else who really cares to know - should appreciate that the creative community is frequently critical of Israeli government policy; and, to its credit, the Israeli government does not overtly attempt to shut down this source of dissent, marginal and timid as some may argue that they are. Without even thinking very hard, I can list off any number of Israeli films that are critical - directly, or subtly - of the myopia that so often stifles this country: Etz Limon, The Syrian Bride, Beaufort, Waltz With Bashir, Walk on Water, James' Journey to Jerusalem...if Mr Loach had his way, none of these films ought to be enjoyed by a wider audience, because they are "supported" by the Israeli government - either directly through grants, as was the case with Surrogate, or indirectly through the Israeli Film Fund, which sponsors many of the critical (in every sense of the word) successes that come out of the country.
And that would be a shame. A diversity of voices is essential for genuine public discourse. Loach, through his heavy-handedness, will stifle this if he has his way.
ps: I haven't included Golden Lion of Venice-winning Lebanon or Ajami, because I haven't gotten round to watching either yet. But I hear good things about both...
pps: Trailer for Ajami. I'm sorry it's in Hebrew and Arabic, without subtitles: I really need to get to work...the blurb reads: Different People: Different Worlds: Meet: In One Place. I gather that it is about social tensions in Jaffa, the underdevelopled multi-ethnic adjunct to Tel Aviv. I'm probably doing the film a disservice with this bland description, mind. It was filmed largely with non-professional actors, residents of the city; it won a special mention at Cannes. Despite all this (lol) I am told that it is very, very good indeed.
ppps: On a related note, I recommend taking a look at the blog Occupied, concerned with life in Jaffa, in the shadows of the glittering metropolis that is Tel Aviv. Very committed and thought provoking.
Right, now I am off. Good day, all.
Monday, 12 October 2009
(Actually, I tire generally of the responsibilities attached to being a parent, full stop. But that's neither here nor there.)
At the moment, the bane of my existence is the Sukkah in the backyard. Allow me to explain.
This is a Sukkah. We have one erected on our balcony at the moment, in commemoration of the Jewish festival of Sukkot, or Tabernacles, which ended the day before yesterday. Observant Jews - and quite a few non-observant ones, as you'll come to see in a moment - eat all their meals in one during the 8 days of the holiday, recalling the sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness.
So far, so good.
When Mrs Goy asked if we should put one up, for the benefit of the Small Noisy One, the only appropriate answer, obviously, was yes.
To elucidate: It's not that I have anything against the principle of the Sukkah. Indeed, I think that it is crucially important that we remember the sojourn of Moses and the Israelites - although 40 years does seem a bit steep. I guess they had a different concept of time back in the day... in any case, I quite enjoy dining al fresco. More to the point, Heaven forbid I become the one to lead my child away from his Jewish roots...
It's just that someone had to put the damned thing up. Guess who?
Actually, I received plenty of help, technical and physical, from Mrs Goy and the Small Noisy One. Allegedly, the structure was idiot-proof, sort of like an Ikea bookshelf with sacking to wrap around the frame and matting to chuck over the top.
But then, our flat is littered with the distended corpses of incompetently put-together Ikea bookshelves, courtesy of yours truly. I rather suspect that if Mrs Goy hadn't been at hand, to mop my fevered brow and to tell me which part went where, I'd still be struggling with the wretched thing today.
But I...we...they - with a little help from me - succeeded in the end. And a week of fun was had by all, eating under the stars and having little noisy friends of the Small Noisy One over for food fights and the like. But, as they say, what goes up must come down. Or be dismantled. And I do dismantling even worse than I do assembly.
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have worried at all about this. My usual tactic - tried and tested over several years with our Christmas Tree (now, since we live in Israel, masquerading as a sort of Hannukah Bush) is to ignore all requests to do the necessary until either the wretched thing falls down in its own time, or it mysteriously vanishes overnight (for this, read that the better half has tired of my procrastination and subterfuge and dealt with the matter herself).
The problem with the Sukkah, however, is that we borrowed it from family who had no use for it this year. Family whom have used said Sukkah year after year without the need to replace missing or damaged parts. Family whom, quite reasonably, expect their property to be returned, promptly and in one piece.
So it seems that I'm going to have to deal with it now, rather than hope that a stiff wind might just blow it away one night.
Heavy(ish) metal poles + a hammer + me = lots of potty language.
Wish me luck
ps - just in case you wondered, the picture is not of our Sukkah. I mean, they have a tablecloth on the table! C'mon...I bet they use cutlery and all too :-)
Sunday, 11 October 2009
Strange match: the Israelis had nothing left to play for, even pride (a bit like this weekend, actually). But win they did.
Here's a clip from the glorious moment in injury time when Reuven Atar puts Israel 3-2 up. If anyone can identify the commentator who is quite clearly having a golden moment all of his own, I'd be very much obliged.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Here's how it goes:
July : Too hot to do anything
August: Too tired and irritable to do anything
September: Too busy eating to do anything.
In any case, there isn't any point in trying to do anything really constructive with anyone during the latter part of this period. One gets the same answer every time: After the Haggim...
Anyway, an interesting video I cam across the other day. Dress codes here fascinate me.
Creative credit etc. to Global Post.
Saturday, 19 September 2009
[To put it in context: I am one of the many people who were unable to get tickets for his Tel Aviv show. I did have the chance to pick up tickets after the fact, but for NIS 1000 ($250, more or less) each; no way on earth that was going to happen, "VIP" section or not. I'd have to go on baked beans on toast rations for the next year as a consequence.]
...I noticed that this sentence in the BBC report: "After Spain, Cohen is due to perform in Florida on 17 October."
As any fule kno, Mr Cohen is scheduled to entertain 47,000 people next Thursday. Which is quite some time before the 17th of October. Petty malevolence on the part of the BBC? Part of a creeping attempt to erase Israel from the cultural map?
No, actually (at worst), sloppy research. Because Mr Cohen's website skips the Tel Aviv gig too.
Odd that. Although, after all the palaver in setting it up, perhaps he'd rather forget about it too...
Friday, 18 September 2009
The bad thing about being a Goy in these parts is that I get to break my new year resolutions twice a year...
Never mind. Actually, things are looking up a bit; 5760 may turn out to be an...interesting year. More about this in due course.
To my Jewish friends: Shana Tovah; to everyone else: have a good weekend
ps - My new year resolution? To be more positive, of course. Pretty obvious, if you think about it. Oh, and to stop ranting from the sidelines, and actually try to make a difference about the stuff that I believe in...
Sunday, 13 September 2009
Over the last few weeks, a shadowy group called the English Defence League has been engaged in running street battles with Muslim activists. The general presumption is that the EDL is a offshoot of the British National Party; the Muslim, for their part, have joined forces with left leaning and anti fascist activists.
So far, so bad. But what's the Israel link?
Well, the Jewish Chronicle report that some of the nice fellows at the EDL have decided to adopt the Israeli flag as a standard to rally around at their demonstrations. Not one to miss a trick, a Muslime website has already reported the “connection between the EDL and Zionists”.
Today, there is a pro-Palestinian demonstration at Trafalgar Square in central London; according to today's Observer, police are on high alert for an expected confrontation between the pro-Palestinians and the EDL. "This is the terrorist-supporting 'we are the Hezbollah' mob. We need all our lads to turn out to let them know they aren't welcome here".
The first thing that comes to mind is that old chestnut about the enemy of my enemy being my friend. Which, of course is bollocks. It's nice to see that the Israeli Embassy spoke up quickly, condemning those using the country's flag as a tool to stir up tensions between communities.
The other is Pope's aphorism about setting precedence between a louse and a flea. A little unkind perhaps; I'm sure there are interesting, important arguments buried deep within the operational logic of both parties. But I fear that they both owe something to fascism, in wanting things their way and no other way at all. Which, of course, is a shame.
But it would be fun asking a couple of the 'lads' from the EDL what they think about, for example, the Balfour Declaration, no?
Have a good day.
Monday, 7 September 2009
So when I sense someone settling behind me (I am sitting with my shoulder to the bench's upright, all the better to see the passing human traffic), I do not feel the need to acknowledge my new companion.
The voice filters through the music. I ignore it. It can't be directed at me, after all..
"Boom!" More insistent. Apparently it is. I sigh and turn around.
She is in her mid sixties perhaps, solidly built but not stout, with hennaed hair and dressed in the vaguely shapeless flowery dresses favoured by women from a certain period. She is rummaging through a voluminous handbag on the bench by her side.
"Boom!" She slaps at her forearm with the open palm of her other hand. "All we hear these days...Boom! Boom!" She is speaking a mixture of Hebrew and English, for my benefit no doubt. I remove the headphones warily.
"What do you mean?" I ask, in Hebrew.
"All you hear nowadays, Murder, Murder, Murder. Boom!" She slaps at her forearm once again, before continuing the excavation of her handbag. I wonder what she is looking for.
But I don't ask her this. "What happened?"
"In Ramat Gan." She is sticking to Hebrew now. "A man goes into a shop, asks for the owner, pulls out a knife, then Boom! Owner is dead." She finally discovers the object of her quest; a Sphygmomanometer.
(I only know what they are called because once, many years ago, some recalcitrant rascal of my acquaintance gave me one - stolen from his father, a doctor, I believe - as part settlement for an old and mouldy debt. It sat in my wardrobe, in boarding school, for a year. Eventually, I recouped most of the debt by offering blood pressure checks to my classmates during our final school leaving examinations. Probably illegal, passing myself off as a qualified medical technician. Never mind...)
"In a shop?", I ask. I wonder if it is a protection racket gone wrong.
(It wasn't, as it happens. The full story is here)
"All you here in Israel these days is murder, murder, murder. A man walks on the beach...Boom! A small girl dumped in the Yarkon, wrapped in polythene...Boom! This country is awful."
"But stuff like this happens everywhere..." I start
"No!" She cuts across me. "Look, I was born here, grew up not ten minutes from here. It wasn't always like this." She is smiling, friendly even, belying her predictions of doom and gloom. "We have killed this country," she concludes sadly, shaking her head. No "Boom!" this time.
Occasionally, my old muckers in the Old Country(s) accuse me of going native when I try to tell them that Israel isn't quite as bad as it is made out to be by bored foreign correspondents presumably paid by the word or with one eye on the book deal where they explain what precisely, in their not terribly humble opinion, is wrong with the Jewish State. I can live with that. But I am scarcely equipped to defend Israel against the natives themselves..."It's the same everywhere..." I repeat lamely.
She shakes here head vigorously. "You put on the television every day, it is the same thing, Boom! So," she continues, strapping the sphygmomanometer to her forearm as she speaks, "I killed the television...Boom!" She cackles delightfully.
I smile. My telephone rings. It is Mrs Goy. She is running late (I know!) and asks if I can meet her outside her grandmother's, five minutes away, instead. I rise to my feet, a little reluctantly. "I'm sorry, I have to go..."
She peers up at me. "How do you know how to speak Hebrew so well?"
I blush (metaphorically, at least). My Hebrew is one small step away from appalling, as opposed to merely dreadful. Her comment is the nicest thing anyone has said to me in quite a while, true or not. "I've lived here for two and a half years..." She looks unconvinced. "I talk to my wife in Hebrew occasionally...she's Israeli."
She brightens. "Really? That's wonderful. Where are her family from?"
We go through the family tree, as I have done for absolute strangers many times before - here, for example.
(Digression - I often wonder why the British TV programme "Who Do You Think You Are?" has not been adapted for Israeli Television; it seems tailor made for this country...)
"And your family?" she asks. I tell her. "I hope you get to see them regularly..." she queries. I smile.
"Do you have any children?" I tell her I have one. I don't tell her that at the moment, he is convinced that he is a Lion, and wakes me up most mornings by pouncing on the bed and roaring as fiercely as he can manage - think Peter Sellers and Cato in the Pink Panther films, as below. I suppose this won't interest her.
"Is he beautiful?" (She uses the masculine adjective Yafeh, which literally translates as beautiful; in this context, it'll probably read better as good looking.)
I smile. "Well..."
"Is he more like you, Kushi?"
(If I'm correct, the word Kushi comes from is the Kush, an ancient race in North Africa - Sudan and Egypt, Wikipedia helpfully tells me. Generally, I had assumed that it was used in Israel in a vaguely pejorative manner, like Coloured in the UK. I'd be interested in exploring the etymology of the word in modern Hebrew now, after this conversation...)
"He is, yes. But he gets his good looks from his mother." (Mrs Goy, if you are reading this, this MUST be worth something...forgiveness for past misdemeanours on my part, perhaps?)
"Tov, you must be going, she'll be waiting for you."
She is right, and I bid her farewell.
Sunday, 6 September 2009
Exhibit A - Cite the Blood Libel
These was a bit of a fuss whilst I was on holiday in England, when The Voice, a small circulation (and even smaller impact) weekly serving the black Caribbean population of the United Kingdom, ran a less than kind assessment of the manner in which we darker skinned people are treated by the Israeli penal system. (Headline - Hundreds of Black People Being Held in Israeli Jails)
It should be pointed out that the story was the work of an obvious charlatan; the chap who was interviewed for the piece - a filmmaker accompanying the Gaza bound aid/propaganda boat intercepted by the Israeli Navy last June - wrote back the next week to deny pretty much everything that was said in his name. The editor of the newspaper, an even bigger charlatan, was quoted after the fact as saying that he "regretted the inaccuracies", but added that the "nature of journalism is to make things sensational". (Sadly, the piece is no longer on the newspaper's website. I wonder why?)
However: Ron Proser, Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, then weighed in mightily, stating that The Voice should be a "responsible, articulate voice for black Britons" (fair enough), and that "on this occasion it has chose to be the voice of slander, disinformation and lies."
So far, so good. Now, this would be the opportunity for Mr Proser to set the record straight; to discuss the mechanics of Operation Oz, and the intent at the time to deport foreign nationals willy-nilly, including children who were born here and know no other home than Israel.
(I accept that this is a truncated and biased assessment of Israeli immigration *policy*. On the other hand, the retards responsible for it don't seem terribly interested in rational discussion, and instead are happy to sleepwalk into the same problems experienced in Britain and elsewhere, cheerfully demonising migrants to score cheap points. So I don't particularly feel up to being 'fair and balanced' at the moment.)
But I digress. So does Mr Proser set the record straight, by exploring the challenges faced in managing a fair policy towards migrant workers? Hell, no! Rather, he continues by saying that "...this article is less in the spirit of being blood brothers and more in the spirit of a blood libel."
I see. Or, perhaps I don't. The Blood Libel is a particularly egregious allegation; it should only be wielded when absolutely justified by the facts. Here, in my humble opinion, it ain't. And it makes Proser look like the boy who cried wolf, irrespective of the shoddy partisanship exhibited by The Voice
Exhibit B - Cite the Blood Libel, with bells attached.
There isn't anything really to add to the palaver following the nonsense masquerading as investigative journalism (I am picking my words very carefully here, and I should say that this is a personal opinion) in Aftonbladet, other than to note that no one came out of this covered in glory. Especially dear Avigdor (whom I believe is actually visiting my native Nigeria today - hope he has fun!).
I read somewhere a very powerful argument, about the piece being a modern manifestation of the old stories about Jews murdering Christian children, one which I pretty much accept wholesale (unfortunately, I can't remember where. If anyone's interested, I can go look it up). It's also pretty clear that people whom are inclined to believe the worst of the Jewish people will lap up this abhorrence; that said, people like that probably go out of their way to find anything to confirm their worst prejudices.
Even so, I really don't think that bullying the Swedish Government into accepting responsibility for the nonsense spewed forth by its newspapers is the way to go. Think about it; should Bibi and company take responsibility for everything printed in the Israeli press? Would he want to? Nah, I don't think so either.
(Side issue - for the people whom are advocating for a boycott of IKEA, two things: Firstly, I think that IKEA is run in Israel by an Israeli-owned franchise, and in any case employs lots of nice Israeli people to sell their nice tchotkes. Do you really want to add to the unemployment figures in the country at the moment? And, more to the point, doesn't this legitimise the calls - which, no doubt, this same group of people vehemently oppose - to boycott Israeli goods? Think about it...)
Exhibit C - When everything else fails, shoot at the buggers
In relation to the clip below, I should say that I don't particularly warm to the journalist's editorial line. "Expropriation" and "Confiscation" of Palestinian land, I can live with, but words like "Theft" and "Stealing" - even if absolutely justified - are highly charged, and ought to be explored - or explained - further, rather than being chucked about like confetti. Anyway...
A few things to consider. It is reasonable to assume that TV crews 'coordinate' their positions with the IDF before they start filming. Which is to say, it is fair to assume that the soldiers ought to have known that they were shooting teargas near a TV crew, one - unfortunately for them - on a live feed
Also, it isn't the first time it has happened. A CNN correspondent had to scurry for cover in similar circumstances a couple of months ago.
And then people wonder why the foreign press *is* institutionally anti-Israel. Oh well, never mind...
As an aside: As far as the convoluted, complicated and generally bewildering events in this part of the world go, the Bil'in issue comes as close to a just cause as anything. The Supreme Court of Israel has ruled that the Security Fence/Separation Wall here illegally expropriated land from Palestinian nationals...two years ago. The Israeli army continues to ignore the ruling of the highest court in the land. As I understand it (I should say that I haven't been to any of the demonstrations, so this is all hearsay, albeit informed hearsay) the protesters are relatively non-violent; they chuck stones, but not Molotov cocktails, aren't trying to blow themselves - and others - up, and subscribe, at least in principle, to the notion of non-violent resistance.
At some point, the IDF is going to be dumb enough to badly hurt (or worse) someone on live TV (There has been at least one Palestinian death, and an American lies in critical condition in a hospital not very far away from me, after getting a teargas cannister in the head). If they are really dumb, they will manage to get a journalist. (No loss, some may argue. But one shouldn't be flippant...)
I actually do not think that army is deliberately going out of its way to scare, threaten or harm journalists, even if they are reporting for Al-Jazeera (boo, hiss). But I do think they are pretty reckless about their presence, something very worrying in itself. And at some point, it is only inevitable that something will happen that will drive home the point that facts will ultimately prevail over spin.