Saturday, 11 July 2009

Le Tour de Israel?

I'm spending a lot of my time these days - too much, one might argue - in front of the television, feeding my obsession with professional cycling and specifically Le Tour de France.

Watching the race wend its way through the rolling, verdant landscape of the Pyreenes, a couple of questions come to mind:

(1) Given the popularity of road cycling in Israel: I wonder why aren't there any Israeli professional cyclists on any of the major teams? (Astana's Levi Leipheimer doesn't count. For one thing, he's American. And then, there's this)

(There is a team on this year's Le Tour called Katusha. Give or take an additional Y, one could...nah, best to leave that where it is.)

(2) Given Israel's varied landscape, I wonder why isn't there a Tour Of Israel? It could start with a prologue round the Old City of Jerusalem, head south to the Dead Sea, have two or three flat stages, starting in Be'er Sheva, then passing through Tel Aviv and Netanya up north, then two mountain stages in the Galilee. Perhaps a mountain top finish in the Golan, even? (Or perhaps not. The next door neighbours might take umbrage...)

There's a great history of Le Tour, written by a contrarian British journalist called Geoffrey Wheatcroft. Wheatcroft also wrote, a while ago, an interesting book called The Controversy of Zion, which won the American National Jewish Book Award.

Former literary editor of London's Spectator, Wheatcroft describes himself as "a genuine neutral or agnostic" on the Arab-Israeli conflict, seeing right and wrong on both sides. In this dispassionate yet opinionated history, which sweeps from Theodore Herzl's Zionist dream to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995, Wheatcroft condemns the 1975 United Nations resolution equating Zionism with racism as gravely malicious, a reflection of the Arab states' malignancy. While praising Israel as "a unique island of constitutional government in the Levant," he echoes the observation of U.S. journalist I.F. Stone that Zionism involved a psychological act of denial along with a physical act of displacement of Palestine's Arab population. A richly detailed chronicle of Jewish nationalist aspirations and of Diaspora Jewry's shifting relationship with Israel, Wheatcroft's study is crammed with incisive profiles of such Jewish figures as Disraeli, Heinrich Heine, Martin Buber, Karl Kraus, Isaac Deutscher, Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi and Robert Maxwell; "self-hating Jews" Karl Marx and Walter Lippmann; part-Jewish Marcel Proust; and Jew-haters Richard Wagner, Hilaire Belloc and Hitler.

Worth reading...

OK, back to the TV. I'm rooting for the young Spanish rider, Alberto Contador. He seems less full of perfomance-enhancing naughtiness than most of the other riders.

Have a good week.


Adam E. said...

"Dispassionate yet opinionated"...
What exactly does that even mean?

Goy said...

It means that the person writing the publisher's piffle ran out of suitable adjectives :-)

I've had to do them myself occasionally - I know the feeling...