Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Sixteenth Sheep

Given our dissimilar childhoods, Mrs Goy and I have the occasional argument about the best way to parent the Small Noisy One. I'm very much in favour of bunging him in front of the television and leaving him there until his sixteenth birthday; the better half is keener on "activities" and "enrichment" and other horrible things requiring commitment and participation from parents.

Mrs Goy argues that she is far better adjusted to everyday life than I am; of course, I dispute this hotly. At this point, she usually points out that I am picking my nose in public, or scratching myself, or doing something else antisocial...

But I digress.

HaKeves HaShisha-Asarah (The Sixteenth Sheep) was one of her childhood favourites; I must admit that anyone who had the opportunity to enjoy this as a child as opposed to the crap I sucked up on TV has a better chance of behaving like a well adjusted adult...

Originally a book of verse for children written by Yehonathan Geffen, it was set to music in 1978 by Yoni Rechter and recorded by some of Israel's best known musicians - David Broza, Gidi Gov, Yehudit Ravitz. It is truly delightful...

It has been adapted for the stage, and will be performed by the National Theatre for Youth as part of the on-going Israel Festival on the following dates:

Jerusalem, Beit Shmuel
May 30, 11 a.m.

Jerusalem, Rebecca Crown Auditorium
June 7, 6 p.m.

Modi'in-Maccabim-Reut Cultural Center
June 3, 5.30 p.m.

Here's a clip of the original performers singing HaGan Sagor (The Kindergarten is closed)

Translation (thanks to

Yesterday 5:00 in the afternoon,
I went with mom to the grocery shop,
And on the way we saw,

That our kindergarten is closed,

The swings are standing between the tall trees,
And the flowers are so short and without colors,
'Cause our kindergarten is closed,

Sleepy playing blocks,

Are arranged in the basket,
And there is no child there,
To make a tower out of them,

There is no kindergarten teacher,
To say what is allowed or what is not,
And all the books are arranged on the shelf,
'Cause there is no one to listen to a story

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Jerusalem Day

Despite - or perhaps because of - Bibi's rhetoric, one fact seems to have escaped quite a few people celebrating Yom Yerushalaim last Thursday: The city has actually been divided for quite a long time in everything but name, and despite the energetic efforts of the Ateret Cohanim.

I wouldn't be so presumptious as to expect anyone to take my word for it; but I do recommend reading this article.

"Possibly the most blatant example of this is the Shuafat refugee camp, which was included in Jerusalem's municipal boundaries. Here was an opportunity for Israel to set an example of how the Palestinian refugee problem should be dealt with. The whole area should have been rebuilt and proper housing should have been provided so as to obviate the need for UN services. But to Israel's shame the camp is still there after 41 years - a part of Israel. Like the Arab population in Jerusalem, it cannot be wished away."

The author, Moshe Arens, is still considered by many as the last of the original intellectual backbone of the Herut/Likud party; his views on Avigdor are not recorded...

Monday, 18 May 2009

Reading makes the world go round...

Rachel Shabi is a Tel Aviv based journalist and author of the recently published Not The Enemy: Israel's Jews from Arab Lands. As the title suggests, the book considers the complicated issue of the integration of Israel's Mizrachi population, arguing that there was, and remains, a latent undercurrent of discrimination, sometimes bordering on upon out-and-out racism, directed against the ethnic group.

There's a link to an interview with Ms Shabi on Radio 4 here (Episode for 13.5, starts at 16:02)

Whilst the book has generally been reviewed warmly in the United Kingdom and the United States, not everyone is in thrall to her argument - see here, for one example,

(True, he does hedge his bets by saying that he hasn't read the book; but then, who ever heard of a reviewer spoiling a carefully constructed argument on the merits of the book by actually reading the damned thing?).

...but it does sounds like an interesting contribution to the continuing argument about the state of the State of Israel, and I think I'll look for it the next time I'm abroad.

The next time I'm abroad?

Well, broadly speaking, I've given up on buying books in English here. It is such an infuriating experience...

For example: A little while ago, I went to the largest bookshop in Tel Aviv, to look for a copy of this. One would thought that they'd have it, or at least heard of it; I mean, she only won the Sapir Prize a couple of years ago, writes (wrote? not sure if she still does) a column for Ma'ariv and just happened to have a short story published in the New Yorker a fortnight ago?

Had they heard of it? No they hadn't. In Hebrew, perhaps?* (Ms Hareven has written six books, after all) A dim glimmer of light in the forest, a lengthy computer consultation..."ah! I didn't know it had been translated into English!"

Isn't that what bookshops are for?

And this is without getting started on the obscene prices that they charge, even with the appreciation of the Shekel against Sterling and the Dollar over the last couple of years...

Perhaps I should stop whining and do something practical about it...

Tov. Back to work. Aluta Continua...

*Of course I'm not going to read it in Hebrew. I can barely read the Small Noisy One's books in Hebrew. I just wondered...

** Too many hyperlinks. I know, I know...

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Things that have distressed me lately

(1) Eurovision. But then, the pan-European paean to the garish and the outlandish has always had that effect on me, so nothing new there.

Contrary to wide-spread anticipation (at least in Israel), Achinoam Nini and Mira Awad failed to win. Didn't even come close to it, actually. Of course, the song was rubbish - but then so were the others, so I suppose that can't be held against them. I won't be cynical about the Israeli Broadcasting Authority pulling out all the stops - singing in English, Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jew, etc etc - but somehow, I wonder whether the point may have been missed by the wider audience. Text I received half-way through the evening from a friend elsewhere in the world: "OK, Israel is on now...which one's which?"

Perhaps they should have gone down the traditional route and settled the Russians with bags of cash...

(2) Television News: Last Wednesday, this happened. A terrible thing to happen to any parent, regardless of the circumstances...

Next morning, Channel 10 report the story on the morning news. The report is accompanied by a clip. From a CCTV camera, of the moment when the mother finds her near-lifeless child in the car, rescues her and pleads for help from passers-by. The clip - which, helpfully, was repearted several times - profoundly disturbed me. Don't TV journalists get the whole issue of protecting the dignity and respecting the distress evoked by moments such as this? Can't they see the difference between reporting because it is in the public interest, and reporting because it is interesting to the public? The fundamental lack of humanity shocked me to the core.

Or perhaps I'm just being hysterical...

(3) Sri Lanka: The Sri Lankan Government's offensive against the Tamil Tiger Rebels/Seperatists/Terrorists has now reached end game, with the last few refugees trapped amidst the fighting desperately scrambling for safety and Tiger cadres apparently blowing themselves up.

The last few weeks have been particularly ugly, with claim and counter-claim about the numbers killed by indiscriminate Government shellings, whilst taking refuge in hospitals and supposed safe havens. The odd thing is, broadly speaking no-one really seems to give a flying fuck.

Example - the link above is from today's Guardian. The report has been compliled by two journalists; one, according to the byline, is based in Delhi, whilst the other usually writes for the Health Desk. Really high priority, no?

Actaully, this isn't intended to be a slag-off-the-Granuiad post. It's the same across the board. What distresses me is that really, no one seems to be bothered enough to actually find out what exactly is going on. I threw the question up in a previous post, in a slightly varied form: I appreciate the amount of interest that the shenanigans in this part of the world attract, but why here - Israel and the Territories - in particular, when there is so much similar shit elsewhere in the world? An acquaintance emailed me a lengthy reply, which included inter-alia a statement that chilled me to the bone: "At least they are killing their own people, it isn't at all like the situation in Palestine." i.e. They don't have a specific and evident factual difference to hang their differences upon, so we can't be bothered to pick sides this time.

Given that the Sri Lankan Government has gone so far as to deport journalists whom have failed to toe the party line - and I'm not even going to talk about journalists whom have been killed - I suppose it won't be long now before we get huge numbers of protesters and shoe-throwers outside the Sri Lankan High Commission in London.

Or perhaps not.

(Not directly related: I found this video on line the other day, featuring Gorgeous George, self proclaimed defender of the Palestinian people, making an arse of himself. Most unusual - he is usually full of articulate bluster. Anyway, it's worth watching, just for a laugh. As they say, with friends like these...)

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Child Vs The Fan

Plaintiff: The Small Noisy One, age two and a quarter. Parented (and I use the word loosely) by Goy (The first defendant, see below) and the Feminist Mrs Goy. (Goy strongly believes that it takes a village to raise a child. However Goy prefers to live in the city and to allow someone else's village to raise his child. Mrs Goy's views on this matter are not recorded).

Defendant: Goy - Delinquent parent and all round reprobate. Father to the Plaintiff. A big fan of popular music.

Causa Belli:

Plaintiff: Tonight, the popular British beat combo Depeche Mode will be performing in Tel Aviv. Goy, starved of decent (and affordable) live music performances since relocating to Israel, secured two tickets to said performance in November 2008, and has marked off every day since then on a little calender, salivating in eager anticipation...

Judge: Get on with it, what's the problem?

Plaintiff: Ah. The problem. Well, your Honour, tonight also happens to be the evening of the Small Noisy One's Lag B'Omer bonfire at his Kindergarten.

Judge: Mmm...I see

Plaintiff: The Small Noisy One has been looking forward to the bonfire for quite some time

Defendant: Objection! I've been looking forward to Depeche Mode for, like, forever!

Judge: Speak when spoken to, thank you very much

Plaintiff: This isn't the point. The Defendant's duty towards his first born should outweigh his desire to engage in an evening of shouting, singing and drunken cheering. If nothing else, he gets to sing and shout whilst drunk at home most evenings.

Defendant: That's slanderous. I don't sing...

Judge: What do you have to say in your defence, Goy?

Goy: Well, I have an established love for popular music, m'lud...

Judge: Evidence?

Defendant: Exhibit 2, m'lud, below...
(A cross section of Goy's CD collection)

(Shouting from the Gallery: Rabbits, they multiply like rabbits!)

Judge: Please step forward and address the Bench formally

Mrs Goy: They multiply like rabbits! I turn my back for a minute and he has bought 10 more! He doesn't even listen to them! He just stands and drools at them...he even spends the housekeeping money on them! We'll starve, I tell you, we'll starve...

Goy (calmly): Which establishes the fact that I am a committed devotee and patron of the arts, your Honour. Besides, Mrs Goy is coming with me to the concert...

Mrs Goy: He told me it was free, your Honour! I took pity on him, poor wretched Goy far away from home...

Judge: Thank you, Mrs Goy, You may return to the gallery...

Feminist Mrs Goy: Chauvinist!

Goy: To contine, your Honour, Israel is a cultural desert, as far as the arts are concerned. Visits by esteemed international acts, by fellow goyim held in such high esteem in this country, are few and far between...

Judge: Do you have any evidence to support this statement?

Goy: I refer m'lud to a report in the Ha'aretz newspaper of Friday May 8th. I quote: "For their first concert in Israel, the band requested that the the crew prepare a juice machine and peeled carrots for them. They also requested honey and vitamin C tablets, along with vodka, wine and beer.."

Judge: Your point being...?

Goy: My point being that such level of interest in the minutiae of the arrangements confirms the rarity of visits such as this.

Judge: I understand that this...popular beat combo...have visited Eretz Israel before. Is this correct?

Goy: erm...not quite, your Honour. They were due to visit a few years ago, but the concert was cancelled because of the War.

Judge: Which war?

Goy: I forget, your Honour. So many wars...

Judge: (Sharply) Continue!

Goy: So I must argue that it would be a gross dereliction of my duty to myself, and thus to my family, if I give a bonfire precedence over Depeche Mode this evening...

Judge: (Peering over glasses sternly) A bonfire? Bar Kochba? The revolt? You dismiss this as a mere bonfire?*

Goy: No, your Honour...I mean...proud history...Jewish people...HaTikva...would not dare besmirch...(hangs head and mumbles. Senses that he is losing the argument)

Feminist Mrs Goy: (Screeching from the balcony) He's seen them three times already, your Honour...

Judge: Is this true?

Goy: Well, Crystal Palace 1993 doesn't count. I don't remember anything...

Judge: This is most irregular. Under the circumstances, I must say that I think that the needs of the Small Noisy One...

Goy: (Desperately) Your Honour, the tickets cost NIS 600!

Mrs Goy: NIS 600? And we're eating Falafel twice a day?

Goy: And, of course, there's the Grandmother...

Judge, Mrs Goy and Small Noisy One together: Grandmother?

Goy: Yes, she has agreed to take the Small Noisy One to the Bonfire...

Small Noisy One: Grandma...Bamba?

Goy: Yes, my son, Grandmother will have Bamba

Small Noisy One: Me want Grandmother

Goy: And of course, it will be a rare opportunity for Goy and Mrs Goy to spend an evening of quality time together, in the company of 40,000 other like minded people...

Mrs Goy: sweet

Judge: You win. Enjoy Depeche Mode. But brush up on your Jewish History, ok?

Goy: Of course, your Honour...

*There are other competing theories about the origins of Lag B'Omer. But they are all religious, and I can't find anyone competent enough to explain them to me right now. And the Wikipedia entry is too long to read. So I'm sticking to the Roman Revolt...


Ths is just an elaborate ruse to get out of working at the moment. But, sadly, I'm going to have to go back to work now. To pay for the tickets...

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Tav Chevrati

This is the Tav Chevrati, brainwave of Jerusalem based charity Bema'aglei Tzedek (Circles of Justice). The self-styled 'socially Kosher' initiative works like this: Any restaurant that signs up to a uniform code of conduct gets one of these to hang in the shop-front. Essentially, they are promising to (1) treat their workers properly - pay them at least the national minimum wage, on time, and with everything else that the state says employers should give to their workers; and (2) offer reasonable access to people with disabilities.

The Kosher connection is that it is consciously modelled on the Kashrut system - one can make the decision whether or not to eat in a restaurant based upon whether or not they display the Tav. (Of course, you may want to consider the quality of the cuisine too, but that's not the point at the moment.) The system isn't perfect - yet - but has the potential to become a great way for individuals to exercise consumer power in a useful way, to influence important social issues.

Their website is, and there is information - as well as a partial list of subscribing restaurants - tucked away somewhere (English, as well as Hebrew). Try it out if you have a chance the next time you go out for a bite - even by simply asking whether a coffeeshop or restaurant is aware of the scheme. I think it's a good thing...

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Marriage and other momentary lapses of reason.

A headline in the news today:

Rabbis urge Israel to limit foreign wives.
This line in particular made me chuckle:

"The authorities should apply restrictions to guard the honour of Israel's daughters," wrote Rabbi Nahum Gortald, the head of the tribunal. "It is inconceivable that a man leaves a spouse whose beauty bears the traces of time for a younger foreign employee," he said.

The other point - that any issue from a marriage between a male Jew and a female non-Jew would result, technically, in Goyim - was delicately overlooked in the report. I mean, it isn't as if the Rabbinical courts have a great history in standing up for the rights of slighted women, after all...

Then I found this:

Rabbi: Older bachelors must leave Jerusalem.
According to Rabbi Ya'akov Yosef - son of Ovadia, Spiritual leader of Shas - "Only a Yeshiva student who studies Torah has an exceptional permission (sic) to postpone marriage, if he fears that marriage might distract him from his studies. But normally, one must not delay marriage till after 20, and those who do had better leave Jerusalem and go study somewhere else."

Like Tel Aviv, that licentious cesspit of bacchanalian delights?* Where, heaven forbid, they might end up marrying some Shiksa from the Phillipines? I think some Rabbinical co-ordination is in order here...

(hat-tip -

*I quite like Tel Aviv

Monday, 4 May 2009

DocAviv 2009

...the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival, starting this Thursday and running until the 16th of May.

A few (anticipated) highlights:

New York 1977: The Coolest Year in Hell.
A city seemingly on the verge of economic and social collapse, but a fertile breeding ground for the rise of disco, punk and hip hop.
..In 1977 New York City seemed to be on the verge of an economic and social collapse – nearly broke, plagued by violence and decay, terrorized by a serial killer. But in lofts, parks and dive bars, a new generation was exploring new styles and creating new sounds that would reshape popular culture everywhere. It was the year of Studio 54 and CBGB, b-boys and Talking Heads...

Say My Name.
In a hip hop and R’n’B world dominated by men and noted for misogyny, the unstoppable female lyricists of Say My Name speak candidly about class, race, and gender in pursuing their passions as female MCs. This worldwide documentary takes viewers on vibrant tour of urban culture and musical movement: from hip hop’s birthplace in the Bronx, to grime on London’s Eastside...

"I think the most beautiful music comes from pain..."

Pete Seeger: Power of Song
At 88 (he actually turned 90 yesterday) in his home on the Hudson, Pete Seeger, the idealist and peaceful warrior who aroused many around the world through his songs and political struggle, remains as modest as ever. In the 1950s he was the victim of exclusion and persecution for his pro-communist stance, and for 17 years he was blacklisted by the US commercial television networks, but stood fast by his views, continuing to preach about them and spread his message: peace, social justice and hope, by way of the tremendous power of the melody and the words...

Forgetting Dad
When father, Richard Minnich, suddenly and completely loses his memory after a harmless road accident at age 46 – his family of five children is destroyed. A body without a soul is in their midst, and doesn’t really make any attempt to find his former self. When his eldest son, the director, tries to find out what really happened to him, he gets all his immediate family and his father's co-workers to talk, and discovers to his surprise that the amnesia might not be an illness. If so, what about the psychological damage of those for whom Richard was dear? Does he remain the father when he isn't a father?

Long Distance
On the street corners of south Tel Aviv, stand, forgotten, public telephones, a reminder of the pre-cellular days. Every weekend, the phones come to life as migrant workers gather around them, taking advantage of the weekly day off to phone home...


A 'blue and white' Troubadour, an anarchistic poet whose life was intertwined with the history of the state. Yebi despised materialism and focused on the love of fellow man and country, and all out war on injustice. In a thunderous voice he shook all those around him who wanted, or didn’t want, to listen to his cries...

At The Death House Door
The difficulty of being with someone about to be executed, in their last hours, made the Reverend Carroll Pickett secretly record on tape, his feelings and his conversations with the condemned. He accompanied 95 prisoners to their death, and in a slow process full of misgivings, he changed his mind, and became opposed to the death penalty. The dramatic change came about after the execution of a prisoner who Pickett believed was innocent; twenty years later, two journalists from the "Chicago Tribune" proved he was...

...but there's something for everyone, not just superannuated ex-lefties and incurable optimists like me. Full programme here.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Flag Protocol

This is the flag of Israel. Pretty, isn't it?

Below, I shall attempt to describe a curious local custom, the ritualistic abuse of the Flag of Israel, which commmences right about now and lasts until just before Yom Kipur.

(1) Acquire a flag. This is easy. Most newspapers give one away just before Independence Day. One does not actually purchase a flag unless one is both an Olim and a Frier.

(2) Hang said flag from most visible upstairs window, balcony or other ultra-observable spot. Visible patriotism is the point behind this, after all. (Discount Johnson's aphorism about patriotism and scoundrels; this only applies to those who find the need to fly flags indoors, and to pose for photographs with said flag fluttering in the background. Here's one example:)

(3) Forget about the flag. Allow it to be browned by the bonfires of Lag B'Omer and barbeques of the long hot summer, bleached by the sun and buffeted by the Khamseen winds. It matters not. The Flag of Israel was designed to withstand all forms of abuse.

(4) In early September, realise that the line between passive-agressive patriotism and ritual desecration has not only been crossed, but obliterated. Remove rag-formerly-known-as-the-Flag-of-Israel under cover of darkness, wrap in an opaque bag and bury at the bottom of the communal dustbin. Curse the government and all its agencies (no reason - that's the great thing about freedom of speech). Vow to emmigrate to Canada or New Zealand.

(4) Repeat next year and ad nauseum, or until the Messiah arrives.