Thursday, 29 October 2009

Walt Whitman - O Captain! My Captain!


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

Quick follow up to my last post about immigration "policy".

From A report composed by the Knesset Research and Information Center accuses the government for having a failed enforcement policy, a conflict of interest and lacking implementation of decisions regarding the handling of foreign workers...the report determines that "the State of Israel has no immigration policy, no regulated policy towards foreign workers, asylum seekers, illegal aliens, and human trafficking victims (Emphasis mine). In each of these cases there are laws and regulations; however these are established as a response to certain events, and not as a result of a planned and organized discussion."

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

The Land of Oz

A Jpost article about the efficacy of Operation Oz: apparently, they've deported 700 illegal migrants, and consider themselves responsible for the voluntary repatriation of another 2400. One sentence in the report caught my eye: "As part of their daily routine, Oz inspectors have continued to patrol the country's migrant-worker concentrations, mainly in southern Tel Aviv, to pick up the illegal residents, arrest them and if possible, expel them from the country the same day." (Italics mine).

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

The Evil Genius of Israeli Advertising (again!)

Advertisements in Israel often seem like a masterclass in provocation - whether by shooting a catalogue for a high-end fashion chain by the Separation Wall, by giving the phrase "water-cooler moment" an entirely different meaning (courtesy of Bar Rafaeli), or by proposing the rescue of inter-married Jews as an act of charity. (Speaking from a personal experience, I consider my marriage an act of charity - in my favour, obviously.)

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

One for the Weekend

דפנה והעוגיות, or Daphna and the Cookies - or Daphna and the Biscuits, if you're a non-Yank like me. I wonder which translation they choose?

It matters not. Enjoy...

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Memo to Eli Yishai: Never pick a fight

...with defenceless women or small children: you can't come out of it looking good.

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

Ken Loach Vs Israeli Film

...isn't a big fan of Israeli cinema - or at least of Israeli film-makers, at least - as most of us know. Last summer, he forced the Edinburgh International Film Festival to return a grant of £300 - yup, a measly three digit grant - received from the Israeli Embassy in London as part sponsorship for the screening of Tali Shalom's film, Surrogate (the funds were made up elsewhere); he then withdrew his film, Looking For Eric, from the Melbourne International Film Festival because the curators refused to act likewise in respect of $9.99, adapted from Etgar Keret's short stories.

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, 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

The Sukkah

Every now and then, I tire of the responsibilities attached to being one part of a cool, trendy multi-culti, multi-ethni, multi-(agnostic)religious household...

(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

Football, Soccer, Cador Regel, Whatever

The internationl football qualifiers this weekend reminded me of that famous match 16 years ago when the Israeli National Team - defying the odds, logic and the rational order of things - managed to beat the French national side - Cantona et al - in Paris, and contribute to their eventual failure to qualify for the 94 Mundial.

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

The Holidays Are Over...

Thank goodness.

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.