Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Earlier this morning on Facebook I posted an article from Breitbart about “Fistgate III”: another truly disgusting revelation about the Community Organizer's Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings, outlining yet another way in which Jennings himself – yet again – proselytizes about the joys of the homosexual life, even for first graders. This man is so horrible none of us should ever have to be faced with his repulsive ideas, let alone having him serving as “Safe Schools Czar” -- which is laughable if it weren’t so sick.
So there Jennings is, doing it again, and I asked, “Why is nobody objecting?” This is hardly the first time Jennings has advocated such filthy for US school kids – the last time his organization was giving lessons in “fisting” and passing out ‘do it yourself’ kits to 14 year olds at a federally-sponsored educational conference.
Immediately there were emails and comments from several people saying, “I object!” --and in fact, I have no doubt that tens of millions -- hundreds of millions, maybe -- good Americans do object, seriously object. So why is Jennings still allowed to preach his perversions from his post as “Safe Schools Czar”?
I think we’re all suffering from objection fatigue. The energy it takes to object is most definitely limited. For most of us, there are only so many things we can stand against before we wear out.
In the US, the Community Organizer is remaking America on so many fronts, turning it into a socialized state, making people dependent on government for their every need, wiping out private businesses whenever possible, rewarding failure – especially when some of those “rewards” get plowed back into campaign contributions.
With a solid majority in the House and its 60 votes in the Senate, Democrats have raped the Constitution, ramming through every piece of legislation far-leftists have dreamed of for decades. “We have the votes,” they say. “The American people elected us.” Well, maybe. With the help of fraudulent ACORN registrations – not to mention campaigning on precisely the opposite platform. Yes, Democrats won. But I don’t think very many voters realized this was the kind of “change” they’d get.
Here in Israel, the same thing is happening – there’s so much to object to its hard to know where to start. We watch the leadership we elected – well, sort of. Israel isn’t quite a democracy, but indeed, we voted the Likud in, reasonably sure Bibi would become Prime Minister. But what’s happened? He too has changed – now kowtowing to the Community Organizer, viciously enforcing a deeply racist policy in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem no other nation in the world would tolerate. He seems on the brink of yet another expulsion, ripping Jews from their homes to turn them over to the terrorists. The tantalizing notion of “peace” with Syria, which means forfeiting our ability to defend ourselves militarily, is frequently dangled before our eyes, something most of us see as a threat, not a blessing.
Why aren’t we objecting? Well – we are. And Americans are, too. But there are so many issues, in so many places, on so many different topics, in so many different aspects of life, it’s just not possible to make your objections heard on so many fronts. And here, we can’t vote the bastards out – in the US, you can make your objections known in November of 2010 – just ten months from now.
We, the people of Israel, have no way to topple a government. We live by “government by demonstration” – we gather to protest something in some Tel Aviv street or park, and then the liberal press counts heads. Having no elected representatives who owe their jobs to any constituency or region, we the people in Israel are virtually powerless, with no voice of protest other than to show up at some demonstration.
The more I watch this in action – in both countries – the more I admire Ron Paul, the Congressman who represents Texas’ 14th Congressional District. Paul’s nickname is “Dr. No” – he’s a physician by profession -- because of his insistence on voting ‘no’ on any legislation that requires new government spending, initiatives or taxes.
It’s a courageous stance, one which has won him the loyalty of Texas voters – he’s been in Congress since 1979, although he previously served the 22nd District and lost two elections, which kept him out for a few years. Now, Paul says he spends as much time in his district as possible, reminding voters he consistently "violates almost every rule of political survival (they) can think of." He bring home no bacon to his district, there are no schools, federal buildings or highways named for him. No appropriation is too small to earn his “no” vote.
But he’s certainly not ineffective -- he authors more bills than the average Congressman. He regularly introduces legislation to impose term limits, abolish the Federal Reserve or the income tax. He’s had some victories – he wrote legislation that prevented the eminent domain seizure of a church in New York and a bill transferring ownership of the Lake Texana dam from the federal government to Texas.
He’s also credited with defeating a program to create national identification numbers for Americans, eliminated funding for federal teacher certification, and removed the threat of giving the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over the US military. He kept Americans from having to pay the UN’s “global tax” and prevented the government from surveillance of any peaceful First Amendment activities.
Ron Paul is comfortable standing alone. During the 1995-97, he alone cast two thirds of all the lone negative votes in the House. He never voted to approve a budget deficit. After a 2005 bill to "slash" government waste was introduced, Paul noted that it decreased spending by a fraction of one percent, adding that "Congress couldn't slash spending if the members' lives depended on it.” In one three year period alone, he voted against 700 bills intended to expand government.
How does he do it, and not wear out? Not get discouraged? How can he not, at some point, just throw his arms in the air and say ‘Oh to heck with it, do what you want. I’m tired of fighting”?
I have no idea, but I sure would like to know. I want some of that.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I’ve been a big fan of Old Time Radio since before it was “old time” and was what we listened to, night after night. Lacking television in our tiny North Dakota town – you could buy a TV set if you wanted to, but nobody was broadcasting close enough to receive the signal – so radio was our thing.
Radio’s popularity decreased for a time, but now the radio programs from the 1930’s –1950’s have become interesting and popular again. Today, one company advertises their CD’s of Old Time Radio programs as “the theater of the mind”. You have to make up the sets and “see” the actors yourself, via your imagination. That’s a pretty good advertising – and pretty true, even though I would never have thought of it that way, back in the days when the only thing we had was radio.
Back in the States, I bought CD’s with OTR programs, lots of them. But now, here, I really don’t have to. Today there are exhaustive lists of internet websites that offer OTR streaming – either endless programs, a total mix of genres, played one after the other – or else allowing you to select what you want to listen to at any given time.
Copyright isn’t a problem, they say. The vast majority of OTR programs that were broadcast during those years have been lost entirely. No one bothered to keep the tapes – no one believed they had any value. Others, which were recorded and which recordings still exist, were never copyrighted in the first place. Again, no one thought they had any value. In any event, even for those that were copyrighted, in most cases, they’re now in the public domain, so a plethora of websites invite you to tune in and listen.
I like the stories themselves – again I lack television, so the radio programs offer a bit of easy entertainment when I don’t feel like reading. But almost as much as I like the theater aspect, I like watching the cultural values that existed in times past, seeing how much things have changed. I don’t mean just the endless and ubiquitous cigarette ads, nor do I mean the occasional reference to “negroes”. It’s the bigger picture I get a kick out of.
“Dragnet”, the Jack Webb police procedural, played on radio from 1949 – 1957, and is an endless source for measuring cultural change. In one episode -- “Big Plant”—Sgt. Joe Friday was faced with a huge dilemma. The man they believed responsible for the crime had hired a lawyer, and no matter what they did, every time they tried to question the man, his lawyer would show up and advise him to not answer. So Friday and Ben, his partner, set about trying to outwit the lawyer, to keep him away from his client. They devised a whole complicated plan, going so far as to arrive at the man’s home before dawn, with piece of horse meat to distract the man’s guard dogs, thinking they’d be able to catch the man unawares, and get him to answer before he could summon the lawyer. Needless to say, trying to trick the suspect into talking without his lawyer present these days would get Sgt. Friday fired. But good.
Dragnet is set in Los Angeles, and in Dragnet’s day, a nine year old boy who’s an hour late coming home from playing with a friend, is enough to justify an all-out police search for the child after the mother called the police. I don’t think an hour’s delay for a kid coming home from play would inspire that kind of police action today.
Then too, in Dragnet’s world, when there was a burglary, however minor, both detectives and police not only showed up at the burgled house, but they sent fingerprint experts to take prints in their major effort to find the miscreant and bring him to justice. See if you get that kind of attention today.
The world of Old Time Radio is one in which husbands work all day, then come home for dinner. When they walk in the door, a hot meal is ready, and the whole family sits down to eat. That didn’t happen even in my own home, when I grew up -- but back then, the fact that wives cooked and served a family meal at the end of the day seemed normal to me, even if that wasn’t how we lived.
In one episode of “My Friend Irma”, a comedy series that ran in the 1940’s and 50’s, Irma’s lazy, ne’er-do-well boyfriend, Al, is trying to impress Irma with how much he loves her. “After we’re married,” he tells her, “I’ll even buy you your own car so you can drive to work!” The audience roars – to them, that’s hilarious. “Al” obviously expects Irma to keep working after they get married – an idea that strikes the audience as absurd. Married women stay home. They don’t work at jobs for which they’d need a car.
“Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons” was one of radio’s longest running shows, played weekly for 18 years beginning in 1937. The antics of Mr. Keen” – the “famous private investigator!” some character will say, every episode, as they recognize him – haven’t aged well. So rapacious are Mr. Keen and his sidekick, Mike Clancy, in their violations of contemporary standards that it’s sometimes painful to listen. A common antic is to have Mr. Keen and Mike breaking down the door into someone’s home in search of evidence. Mike will usually offer token resistance, “Do you think we should do this?” to which Mr. Keen will lustily reply, “Of course! If we find the evidence, we’ve found our culprit!” So they break in – all in the interests of justice, of course.
All of the programs run in serious violation of today’s rules of search and seizure. Virtually all police detectives and private eyes occasionally find themselves trying to convince a landlord to let them in to search a tenant’s apartment. Usually, the landlord offers little resistance – let alone demanding a search warrant. In one Philo Vance episode – a classic whodunit series that came on the air in 1926, based on books written by mystery writer S.S. Van Dine – Vance wants into a tenant’s rented rooms. The landlord does object, saying, “I don’t know about this, letting you peek into his room.” To which Vance replies, “You don’t have any choice! The charge is murder!” -- as if the seriousness of the crime had anything to do with it.
“Candy Matson, YUkon 2-8209” one of the more obnoxious programs, first came on the air in 1949. Candy was a sexy, wealthy, excessively egotistic private investigator who operated out of her apartment on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. What’s most notable about that series – other than that we were all supposed to feel envious of the high-spending, name-dropping Candy, I guess – was her erstwhile sidekick, named “Rembrandt Watson” who must have been one of the first homosexual characters to appear on mainstream radio. Not that it ever said he was homosexual – but if you took every stereotype ever applied to homosexuals, “Rembrandt” met and exceeded every standard. Whether that was intentional or not, I don’t know. Maybe the San Francisco locale had something to do with it.
The world has come a long way in this half-century-plus. It’s much harder to catch crooks now, the rules about search and seizure today would have been thought insane, back in those days. Every accused gets a lawyer now, no one bothers much about missing kids until much more time has passed, if someone breaks into your house, you’re lucky if you can get the police to answer the phone to give you a report number for your insurance company, let alone actually try to find the burglar. Father doesn’t know best anymore – in fact, in contemporary fiction, father doesn’t know much of anything. Instead, the idea is to make him, old fuddy-duddy that he is, the butt of all jokes.
I’m not sure the world is a better place now, even though cigarette ads disappeared.
The photo, above, is a stock photo and not personal, although it could have been. Our radio looked just like that, we had a floor lamp like the one pictured, and floral draperies, too. I suspect that picture could have come from millions of homes, back then, when the world seemed so much less complicated.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Ah, you gotta laugh. There’s just nothing else to do in the face of such horrendous farce.
So yesterday we noted that the Fatah terrorists who shot and killed Rabbi Meir Chai as he was driving home from work were in fact US-trained terrorists, serving as “peacekeepers” under Maj. Keith Dayton.
We also noted that the IDF retaliated, hunting down and killing the three who had murdered, in cold blood, this hardworking and innocent civilian father of seven. (Much better than the way the US handles terrorists, right? You think requiring soldiers to Mirandize terrorists on the battlefield, then provide them with high-powered lawyers when you put them on trial in New York is preferable?) Israel did it right.
So what happens today? “Senior Administration Officials” from the US are demanding “clarifications” from Israel, as to how the terrorist exterminations went down. The US government is concerned that Israel didn’t, in fact, extend all the legal rights to the terrorists it should have.
Well – I suppose that makes sense. After all, the terrorists were American supported, sponsored and trained. They were, in fact, acting as agents of the US government.
So I guess – in this upside-down world – even if American-trained terrorists plot, plan and then murder an Israeli civilian, the American government has a right to complain if their hired killer isn't granted all his legal rights. That makes some sense, in this ‘Alice in Wonderland’ world we’re inhabiting right now.
Now that’s the question: Is an American supported, sponsored and trained Arab terrorist equal to say, a US Marine?
Should Israel face the same consequences in eliminating an American-trained terrorist, as they would for shooting a US Infantryman or Marine?
America has become a terrorist state. What else can you say?
Several months ago, the Community Organizer bragged that the US was, in fact, one of the world’s biggest Moslem countries. Not true by any standard, of course, but truth was the first victim of the Obama administration.
So now, will the Community Organizer step up and claim the US is also, then, one of the world’s largest terrorist states?
(PS: What did Israel actually do, in killing the terrorists? When the IDF units pursuing the terrorists received accurate information as to where the three were hiding out, they spent three hours chasing them. One terrorist hid inside his home and sent his wife as a human shield to the front of the home.
"After the IDF operated on all required levels and using all means to arrest him,” the IDF spokesman said, “and when he did not respond to the loudspeaker, nor to the means of riot dispersal and additional means, and in the knowledge that the man was armed and dangerous, a decision was made to open fire.”)
Saturday, December 26, 2009
On December 24, Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, 40, father of seven, was murdered by Arabs in a drive-by shooting, killed while driving home from work. His wife and one child were in the car. Members of PA Chairman Abu Mazen’s Fatah party gleefully announced they had carried out the “successful” terror slaying.
Get that: The three Arabs who plotted, planned and then took Rabbi Chai’s were members of the very political party that the Community Organizer – and much of the rest of the world -- is forcing on Israel as our “peace partner”.
But even worse than that, the outrage is that the terrorist Fatah party is one of those now being trained by the US government under the supervision of Gen. Keith Dayton. Israel is complicit: Fatah receives the US military training with the full approval of our Defense Minister, our own Pillsbury Dough-Boy, Ehud Barak.
Wait – it gets better (or worse): The three murderers were previously convicted terrorists who had been released from Israeli prisons as one of Israel’s (stupid, but oh-so-gratifying to US officials) “gestures” of peace toward the Arabs.
(Well, those three won’t do it again. This time the IDF did what they should have done the first time: they hunted down the three and killed them. Good riddance. The world is now a better place, not to mention safer.)
So now we add Rabbi Chai’s name to the ever lengthening list of shame: as of today there are 177 Israelis who have been killed by Arabs who had (at least once) been arrested for terrorism, then released in some idiotic form of “gesture” for peace.
The question is no longer, “What’s wrong with these Arab terrorists, who refuse to give up their desire to kill?” Instead, the question is, what’s wrong with us, that we continue to release terrorists?
Why do we give in to US demands? With a track record like this – 177 dead and counting – don’t we have enough justification to just say no to the incessant demands of the Community Organizer, Missus Bubba – and indeed, George Bush, who also liked the idea of freeing terrorists?
I guess not. The exchange of 1000 of these same bad guys, many with blood on their hands, is still under consideration as an exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Once those evil men and women are released, what will Israel’s death toll then be?
Will it help the legions of orphaned children and bereaved parents if the US and Israeli officials say, “We meant well. We didn’t know they’d return to terrorism.”
It boggles the mind how the high and mighty officials -- judges and politicians -- around the world can be “mistaken” so frequently in their assessments of whether or not a terrorist can be trusted to have “reformed” or not to follow up on their terrorist threats. What’s wrong with these people? Are they so removed from normal life -- do they feel so secure with all their personal security -- that they can ignore the rest of us who live without our own armed guards?
It’s not just here, of course.
In Detroit, it was Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, a wealthy and privileged son of one of Nigeria’s most important families who tried to blow up an airliner. Six months ago, Abdulmutallab's father had informed the US embassy that his son had joined the roster of al-Qaida terrorists, saying that he was concerned about his son’s increasingly extreme religious views. For two years, Abdulmutallab had been on the FBI’s and Homeland Security’s list of people who were known to have ties to terrorist organizations. Yet he encountered no problems in boarding the aircraft.
When will the US wake up?
Before that, it was the “Palestinian” Nidal Malik Hasan who opened fire at the Fort Hood military base, shooting killing 13 and wounding 30 more. There, too, officials closed their eyes. On any number of occasions he’d openly expressed his radical views. The FBI knew he was in email contact with leading terrorists and notorious terror groups, but they did nothing.
In Israel, at least one elected official is calling for changes. Put the judges who released them on trial, one MK says.
“Ketzaleh” -- MK Yaakov Katz -- said strong action must be taken against the judges who turned these dangerous terrorists loose after their previous convictions. "The judges who freed the murderers of Rabbi Chai, must be put on trial, because they released them even though they were told that the terrorists would immediately return to terrorism.
"Only that will end the saga of the release of the terrorists who murder our people," MK Katz said. "It's time that someone took responsibility for the spilling of Jewish blood that takes place as a result of these releases, since they know the terrorists will go back to murdering."
The rest of us regular old common citizens understand that you can’t just keep releasing dedicated, cold blooded murderers, and trust them to stop their terrorist plans. If we can understand that, why can’t they?
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
There was a heck of a machloches – fight – at the post office today.
As usual, there were never fewer than 25 people standing in line in that tiny airless room. Slots for four clerks exist but only two were working, one of whom was “helping” a Beduin woman when I came in and continued helping her until I left 45minutes later.
The other clerk -- a flaming red haired lady who perpetually seems to be in over her head -- was ever so slowly helping everyone else, one by one. When the next man in line presented her with a gift box, paper and bow, and asked her to wrap the box for him, I couldn’t believe it. You’re kidding, right? The post office clerk is supposed to wrap your gift for you?
Apparently. That’s what she did. Ever so carefully. Then she put the wrapped gift into a mailing envelope, painstakingly addressed it in Russian and taped that shut. Finally she took the money for postage from the customer who walked out as stony-faced as he’d come in. What did it take? Ten minutes, maybe? Everyone else was going nuts.
That’s when the fight broke out.
A boisterous gent had been getting increasingly antsy – he’d come in late himself, and put himself near the front of the line. No one seemed to object. He was holding a bill and some cash, so presumably all he wanted to do was to pay a bill, something that in any rational world would take about two minutes. Even so, as far up as he was in line, it was going to be a good half hour before he’d reach the clerk. What drove him nuts, I think, is that some line breakers were getting ahead of HIM. He’d broken into the line himself – and now others were breaking in ahead of him.
That, apparently, was intolerable. He started to challenge the other line-breakers, people who were also walking in off the street and talking places in line ahead of him.
How does this work? There’s a curious Israeli custom at play here. All that’s needed to hold one’s place in line is to make an appearance. You ask who’s at the end of the line, tell them that you come after them, and then you’re free to leave to go do other things. When you return, you expect to be able to resume your “held” place.
But what sometimes happens is that the absent errand-runner stays away too long. When he – or she – returns, the person he was behind is already gone. Does that mean that the returnee forfeits his preferred place? Absolutely not. He – or she – demands his right to take his place at the very head of the line -- even though no one else standing waiting has ever seen this person.
Obviously the system is ripe for abuse. Virtually anyone can walk in and insist they’d been there before, and were now entitled to be served next. So that’s what was happening this time -- maybe five or six people came into the post office and assumed their positions – or so they claimed – at the very head of the line, eclipsing everyone else who was standing there, including the gent and the 20 or so people behind him. That’s what set him off, I think.
Personally, I stopped fretting about this years ago. I have been shunted to the back of the line by crashers so many times I hardly notice it anymore. Yesterday I knew the clerks would lock the doors at 12:30. Even though I’d arrived at just after eleven, I knew the worst that could happen is that I’d be the very last one they helped – maybe at 1:00 or so. It couldn’t go longer than that.
It took me awhile to adjust to this cultural element, I admit that. I’m rarely passive in the face of injustice, but here in Israel, I just know there are some fights I can’t possibly win. For me, the combination of a California-a-nice-day mentality, coupled with inadequate knowledge of Hebrew curses, simply renders me incapable of going to war against these professional line-breakers. These are people who, for hundreds of years, managed to survive only because they could find ways to get to the head of any line without waiting. The mechanics of cheating in lines is embedded in their DNA. For those of us who have the ‘please and thank you’ gene instead, it’s utterly hopeless.
But what really was interesting was that yesterday, two of those industrial-strength, pro-level line-breakers were going head to head, a cheater trying to cheat another cheater – Godzilla meets King Kong, maybe. Or Hamas and Al Qaeda fighting for the right to kill you first.
For no reason other than coincidence, I don’t think, all of these late-arrival line breakers were men, except for one, a bleached blond grandmother, I’d guess, decked out in a gaily colored pants outfit, scarves flying, earrings dangling. Apparently all she wanted was just to pay a bill, too. In any event, she walked in and with total confidence, placed herself modestly about three people back from the head of the line.
Maybe the boisterous gent decided enough was enough. Maybe he thought a woman would be easier to pick off than the array of men who were also breaking in, maybe something else ticked him off, but the woman was the one he decided to challenge. Not that the woman wasn’t asking for it – instead of orderly “queuing up” as our British friends say, waiting neatly one behind the other, the woman was making everybody edgy by first standing alongside the next in line, appearing to edge up, little by little, ever so slightly. Was she going to make a break for it, and present herself to the clerk – if and when the clerk ever finished wrapping that damn gift? It looked like it – I admit it did. It looked like she was going to do an end-run around the two line-breakers ahead of her, and score the clerk herself first.
That’s what sent the boisterous gent off his rocker – not that it should have mattered. ALL the late-returnees were equally guilty. What did it matter what order the cheaters presented themselves? All of them had placed themselves ahead of the gent anyway. Why did he care?
I have no idea, but he did. He launched his verbal challenge, telling her that there’s a line – as though she could have missed it – and that she belonged at the end of it. She was incensed at his attack. Nose in the air, she announced, “ANI PO!!” – “I’m here!” -- over and over, apparently asserting a might makes right justification. The gent didn’t give up. He kept shouting, pointing to the end of the line even as she grimly kept asserting her place.
Then he finally lost his cool entirely and went overboard – he put his hand on her forearm, maybe trying to get her attention because indeed, she was quietly continuing her crocodile-creep, stealthily edging her way ahead, even as he yelled.
At his touch, SHE went berserk, throwing her arms up, backing away, shouting invectives in a language that wasn’t Hebrew but probably came from some old country where such curses had actual power.
Then everybody jumped in, some to restrain the boisterous gent, some to restrain the woman. Utter chaos ensued, as everyone else in line took to explaining to everyone else what needed to be done here, to stop whatever it was that was going on, to decry the lack of moral values in this country, where even cheaters have to fight for their right to cheat other cheaters.
A quiet and very dapper man was just behind me. Arms folded across his chest, he shook his head, then pushed his eyeglasses farther up his nose and pronounced, “Balagan!” a word for which there is no real translation – some combination of ‘chaos’, ‘farce’, ‘pointless insanity’.
Like a bunch of chickens who’d ruffled their feathers during a fight, then calm themselves and restore order to the feathers again, people gradually stopped shouting and settled down. The threat of an actual fist fight was over. The boisterous gent left his place in line and went to stand next to the Beduin woman, who was still silently continuing her endless transaction with the other clerk. Apparently the gent had decided that he’d likely be served quicker there, than remaining in line where he was. That’s against the rules, too, of course, but at this point, no one was inclined to point that out.
The woman, too, accomplished her goal. Once that blessed gift was wrapped, she’d maneuvered herself ahead of the other two male cheaters who’d actually been in line ahead of her. She paid her bill – indeed a two minute transaction – and walked out.
Actually, she got to the door, then in a fit of true esprit d’escalier, came back in. She walked up to her protagonist, the previously boisterous gent, leaned over to speak directly in his ear, and proceeded to chew him out in no uncertain terms. I got lost in it all, but clearly she ripped him a new one – and he, in silence, stood there and took it.
This machloches was in a sub-branch of the Beersheba post office, a tiny place in Old City, not worthy of note anywhere else in the world. It had no significance whatever.
But it’s pretty much the same thing that’s happening the world over, vicious fights over issues that do indeed have significance. We’re at each other’s throats, all of us, all over the world.
In Israel, we’re tearing each other apart over some very serious matters: Hamas still holds our captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, and we’re torn between two competing pleas. Hamas says they won’t release Shalit until Israel releases some 1000 imprisoned terrorists, Arabs who have already murdered Israelis. In past such releases, the tragedy is that 176 additional Israelis have been killed by these freed terrorists – men who swore, on their release, they’d stop their terrorist activities, but who apparently had their fingers crossed. On the other side is Shalit himself, and his family, who keep up the tearful public appeals for the safe return of their son, bolstered by Israel’s tradition of never abandoning a soldier, dead or alive.
It’s an issue that bitterly divides us. To release one captured soldier, we put thousands, maybe million, of other Israeli lives at risk, because there’s no doubt at all these freed terrorists will kill again.
Then, too, we’re battling a Prime Minister who appears -- once again! -- to have turned against the people who elected him, choosing instead to placate the tyrant in the White House. The “settlement freeze” is racist, there’s no other way to see it. If, in any other country in the world, a Jew was forbidden to build a house because he’s a Jew, it would rock the halls of justice. What? Anyone else can build a house but a Jew can’t? Stinks, right up there with the Nuremberg Laws.
To top that off, Ehud Barak, Israel’s Pillsbury-Dough-Boy leftist Defense Minister, shut down a popular hesder yeshiva after a political battle over whether Jewish soldiers should be called on to execute a war plan against Jewish residents of Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. It’s unthinkable – that Jewish soldiers are being trained to fight against Jews. The Rabbi of the hesder yeshiva pointed that out.
The Dough-Boy says that all the Jews of Judea and Samaria need to do is follow his orders and he won’t have the IDF kill them. That's supposed to be reasonable, I guess. How can anyone argue with that?
How could we have sunk so low? This was not the program Israelis voted for in the last election. Again, we’ve been swindled.
It’s not just here. In the US, tonight at midnight, the Community Organizer and his Merry Men gleefully plan to pound the final nail into the coffin of American democracy, installing in its place a socialistic state that not only guarantees economic devastation for the foreseeable future, but in the process, corrupts the moral values most Americans hold dear. It’s unconscionable – and try as the opponents have, it’s now unstoppable. The Democrats “public be damned, we know best” position is nothing short of a rape of democracy – but who can prevent it? No one at all.
The worst of it is, the citizen-against-citizen battles in the US won’t end with the Democrat “victory” tonight – it’s just starting. This massive government expansion of power will turn American against American, young against old, employed against jobless, rich against poor.
Rush summarized it best:
“This massive new entitlement is going to obliterate tolerance. This whole notion of live and let live, the way to summarize that is tolerance, and there isn't going to be any more of that. Every American is going to be looking at neighbors with jealousy, resentment, and anger at whatever medical care he or she receives because not everybody's gonna get the same. That's the way socialism works. There is never equality of outcome; there is never sameness even though that's the objective; there are going to be differences, and it's going to lead to big, big problems. Every American is gonna end up being extremely judgmental about the behavior of fellow citizens that would in any way be considered risky because the attitude will be you're taking money from my family's future medical care.”
I don’t know. I don’t understand: what on earth is going on in this world?
If indeed this is the season of ‘peace on earth, good will to men’, I don’t see it. Not here. Not there. Not anywhere.
Monday, December 21, 2009
As many of you know, I moved to Beersheba because of a book – the old (published in 1976) “Shelanu: An Israel Journal” by the late Maggie Rennert.
Her book – where she turns all the travails of making an international move into laugh-till-you-cry funny stories – made it seem perfectly possible in the ‘if she can do it, so can I’ mode. For anyone considering the leap across the pond, Shelanu is indispensible. Maggie told the absolute truth: there’s plenty of frustration ahead – but the way she told it, it came out sounding like fun.
Now I’m here, and even though I’m not all that new anymore, I’m enjoying another “aliyah” book just as much. It’s Zahava Englard’s, “Settling for More: Jersey to Judea”, just published, hot off the press, from Urim Publications.
Like Maggie’s book, “Settling for More” has its hilarious moments. After all, any author who can write an aliyah line like, “You're never too old to start over and there's never a bad time to have an anxiety attack” definitely peaks my interest. Clearly, this is a woman who’s been there, done that.
One of the most interesting things about aliyah books in general – and certainly about Zahava’s book – is how we all seem to go through the same traumas. Our experiences – which is to say, the joys and frustrations – are much the same, even though we came from very different places and life situations.
For me, with Maggie’s book, that seemed natural. She and I were much alike – neither of us had ever been to Israel before we came to live here. We were nearly the same age, coming alone. We shared an almost total lack of ‘connections’ in Israel – not to mention that neither of us had any Hebrew. In spite of all of that, we both came with the same absolute knowledge that OF COURSE we’d love it here. This is Israel, for crying out loud. What’s not to like?
Zahava Englard's situation was different. Zahava is a long-time happily married lady with a husband who shared her passion for living here. They had children – teenagers, which admittedly isn’t always easy – who were coming along. Both had arranged work situations before they arrived, so neither of them was faced with the more common 2:00 am nightmare, ‘How in heck am I going to make a living over there?’ She and her husband both had lots of friends here, having visited many times for extended periods. In fact, they’d even built their own home here in Efrat, so when they arrived, their brand new house was ready, furnished, all the utilities turned on, with even a leased car parked in the driveway.
Needless to say, most of us new immigrants don’t have all those assets when we arrive. Most of us struggle over each and every one of those issues – to greater and lesser degrees. But finding a place to live, furnishing it and finding work are the things that cause the most pre-aliyah anxiety.
That being the case, you’d think my aliyah experience and Zahava’s would be very different, wouldn’t you? Not so. For every one of the stories Zahava tells about her first weeks here, I can match her with an almost identical story of my own – eerily so. Maybe it’s not the big issues -- work, a place to live, learning Hebrew – that confound us. Maybe it’s the little things we encounter along the way that stick in the mind as the most memorable.
“Day 19” of her book deals with Israeli supermarkets – a subject about which I’ve written several times – see my blog of August 7, 2009. So it’s understandable that when Zahava begins her tale of those same shopping marts – different stores in different cities, of course – I started to laugh from the very first sentence. She addresses her comments to “friends, family and any psychiatric professionals who may be listening.”
Perfect. The honest truth is, it’s not the government agencies that will do you in first – it’s the supermarkets.
Grocery shopping is such a radically different experience here, it’s frequently a new immigrant’s first big culture shock. Everyone needs to stock up on food right away, so few of us are prepared for supermarket shopping, which amounts to a battle to the death to acquire (not to mention pay for) basic foodstuffs, one that requires so much courage and strength of character that as you exit the supermarket, the inclination (even eight years later) is to do a ‘Rocky’ punch of the sky and shout, ‘YES!! I did it! I bought groceries!’
Zahava’s best line is, “On the 19th day of my aliyah I broke down and cried in the middle of the Rami Levi supermarket in Talpiot.”
Don’t worry – it’s a hilarious account, one which only someone who’s been here and shopped in one of these culturally challenging places will understand. My inclination is to include every hysterical word she wrote on the subject – it’s all so true, so anguishing and so funny at the same time that it’s just impossible to stop anywhere. But I restrain myself – if you’re even thinking of aliyah, or curious about the things that challenge us former Anglos over here in supermarkets, read her book instead.
Another experience she writes about is almost freakishly similar to one of mine – even though we were in search of very different things. Maybe everyone has a story like this, too.
Zahava's quest was for “Proof of Residence” in Efrat so she could have their car windows replaced with bullet-proof glass for free, something Efrat residents need. As exquisite as Efrat itself is, they have some nasty neighbors. So, she says, that should be simple, right? What could it take? “Provide a recent utility bill with the current address on the statement as proof of residence, right?”
Wrong. “Maybe in the good old apple pie USA, but here in Efrat-land, it’s a whole other story.”
Her problem wasn’t in getting the correct form itself – it was finding the place to apply for it in the first place. The requirement is that all Efrat residents have bullet proof glass on their cars. But to fulfill that requirement, they have to go to a special local ‘office of security’ in order to obtain a letter that would allow it to be installed. Her problem was she couldn’t find the right office of security.
First she tells about her rational attempts to apply for the illusive letter – the same path any of us who fled American would tread, faced with the same mandate. Utility bills? Forget it. That doesn’t work.
There was only one place on the face of the earth where she could secure the necessary form. Someone gave her directions and she found the right building, but once inside, when she followed the directions precisely, they ended up dumping her outside the building in a nasty alleyway filled with rotting debris from a fruit and vegetable stand.
She backed up, went inside and tried again. This time, someone added, “go downstairs”, but this was equally puzzling. No way was she able to locate any stairs, up, down or otherwise. Again she repeated the process, and once again found herself out in the alleyway, but then “I spotted out of the corner of my eye, just to the right of the produce stand, behind a tall pile of empty cartons, an obscure metal and glass door…. with no hint of any official-looking office inside.”
Like Alice, Zahava goes through the door, and finds – lo! – a staircase. Down. Lots of staircases down, as a matter of fact. She keeps going deeper and deeper into the earth, floor after floor. “It had the ambience of an abandoned musty cellar,” she writes. “It was downright creepy.” She follows a labyrinth, down and around, then down and around some more until she came to a “maze of endless doorways”. Finally, after just about deciding to give up, she found the right office. Bright, cheerful and full of people.
It’s a great suspenseful tale – one that mimics one I had myself. My quest wasn’t nearly as exotic as hers. I was simply trying to find the Beersheba Office of Tourism. It’s a city office, right? Presumably one that attracts a fair share of regular people – even people who don’t work for the city, I’d think. There must be a lot of people who have reasons to seek out the Office of Tourism. How tough could it be?
I had an appointment, and obsessive as I am, I arrived at the main city office building about 40 minutes early, wondering what I’d do with all that extra time. As it turned out, I ended up being 15 minutes late. Why? I couldn’t find it.
My mistake was essentially the same as Zahava’s. I assumed it would be simple and worse yet, I took the directions people gave me literally.
I started by going through security at the main city office building, and once inside the door, asked the resident clerk to direct me to the Tourism office. “Not through here,” he said, “Go around the building.”
Huh. Okay, must be a separate entrance. I went back out and headed “around the building”.
I’ll spare you all the details, but I walked around that enormous rambling administration building three separate times, looking for any kind of door that looked like as though it might offer access. None did. I encountered two men standing smoking outside one door, asked for directions, but they glared at me and made no response at all, just took another puff. Apparently their job descriptions didn’t include giving directions. I asked a couple of other people I encountered making my circuits, and got the standard Israeli answer, a wave, coupled by the word, “Yeshar!” – ‘straight ahead’.
That didn’t help. I went back into the building, through security again, back to the same clerk, and tried again. “Where is it??” Again, I got pretty much the same answer: “Just around the building”.
By the time I was frustrated beyond all belief, on my fourth circuit and within a hair of deciding the better part of valor lies in knowing when to admit defeat. Then one of the security guards – whose job description probably didn’t include giving directions, either, but who retained a shred of humanity – asked what I was looking for. Quite possibly, of course, it could be that my conduct was getting so suspicious some intervention seemed wise.
Anyway, “The Office of Tourism”, I said.
“Come with me,” he said. We walked to the corner of the main building, and he pointed to a totally different building, a smallish two or three-story building that could as easily have been an apartment building as anything else. Worst yet, it was set a half a block away, several hundred yards of open space between, behind a view-blocking mound of sand. There was no signage whatever – nothing to indicate it was an office building let alone a city office building. “See that little building over there? That’s where it is,” he said.
Good grief. I walked over there, and was still befuddled. There were no signs of anything that might indicate “tourism”. So do I just open the door and walk in? I did – I encountered an elevator and some stairs, nothing more. As I stood there weighing my options, a child appeared – a highly unlikely angel, I thought – how could a kid know? But I was in no position to quarrel with the personage sent to help me.
“Do you know where the office of tourism is?” I asked. Without a word, she pointed to the stairs. I went up, and up, and up again -- and at last encountered humanity – a busy office with lots of people. Not to mention the Beersheba Office of Tourism.
My first question to the Director of the Beersheba Office of Tourism, a great guy named Gal Greenberg, who’s day by day changing the perception of the city of Beersheba all over the world, was, “How on earth does anyone find this place?”
He shrugged and grinned: “How can you miss it?”
That’s funny. That’s really funny.
Now go read Zahava Englard’s book for some more laughs. In Israeli bookstores, www.urimpublications.com or http://www.amazon.com/Settling-More-Jersey-Zehava-Englard/dp/1934440841/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261379631&sr=1-3
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Once again, we Israelis – or some of us, anyway – have worked ourselves into a tizzy because we think some foreign potentate isn’t giving us the verbal respect we deserve.
This time it’s the Queen of England. A recent article with the titillating title, “Queen blasted for not visiting Israel” chronicles the whole thing. It’s a long piece – a speech, actually – given by historian Andrew Roberts at an annual meeting of the Anglo Israel Association in London. It’s actually a scathing indictment of British foreign policy regarding Israel, past and present, the least important of which is that the Queen has never visited here.
The culprit behind her 57 years of boycott, Roberts claims, is the British Foreign Office which is heavily staffed by Arabs – which is interesting, because that same exact situation exists in the US. There, in the bowels of the State Department, the “Arab desk” has been in control almost as long.
I recommend reading the whole piece -- http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1260447430804&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull
The speech is important because of the richness of historical information about British policy vis a vis Jews and Israel, even though the inflammatory title is the least of it.
I almost skipped it myself – basically, I don’t care one whit if Betty Windsor never decides to put her dainty little foot on our holy land. If she were to come, it would just be a huge outlay of Israeli tax dollars to keep the ageing monarch safe and comfortable. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have any particular animus toward the Queen. It’s just that I don’t think that by forcing someone to be nice to us, to MAKE them say nice things about us, let alone pay a tributary visit – accomplishes anything.
Are we so insecure that we need to have people who basically don’t like us, pander to us anyway, wax poetic about how much they love and respect us? Why do we need false words emanating from the proverbial forked tongue to make us feel worthy?
Funny – this makes me remember one of my aunts. Her candor blew me away – she’d say, “If there’s some I don’t like, I’m always careful to be especially nice to them so they won’t know.” Of course that always left you in a quandary: when she was acting especially friendly, was it because she was feeling particularly loathsome toward you just then? It's unsettling -- probably precisely what she intended.
But that’s what many of us here seem intent on doing – forcing someone to be nice to us, when we know, and they know, they are not our friends. What’s to be gained? Now we’re carrying on because the Queen hasn’t visited us. I can’t imagine why any of us should care.
All that said, there's one paragraph in Robert’s speech that’s a treasure – simple truth, perfectly stated:
“It seems to me that there is an implicit racism going on here. Jews are expected to behave better, goes the FO thinking, because they are like us. Arabs must not be chastised because they are not. So in warfare, we constantly expect Israel to behave far better than her neighbors, and chastise her quite hypocritically when occasionally under the exigencies of national struggle, she cannot. The problem crosses political parties today, just as it always has. William Hague called for Israel to adopt a proportionate response in its struggle with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2007, as though proportionate responses ever won any victories against fascists.
In the Second World War, the Luftwaffe killed 50,000 Britons in the Blitz, and the Allied response was to kill 600,000 Germans -- twelve times the number and hardly a proportionate response, but one that contributed mightily to victory. Who are we therefore to lecture the Israelis on how proportionate their responses should be?”
There is it: the unequivocal truth behind all the Anglo ‘tough love’ (as the Community Organizer, may his name be erased, put it) toward Israel. Anglo countries like the US and Great Britain come down hard on Israel because we seem familiar to them. Arabs, who have more exotic personal attributes, are treated with greater sympathy.
That’s racism, pure and simple – what Roberts, whether he’s channeling Algore or not, calls, “an inconvenient truth”.
So let the Queen refuse to visit Israel – doesn’t bother me at all. What she could better spend her time doing is working to clean up the endemic racism in Britain's' Foreign Office. Just as someone should in the US State Department.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Let's start with Al Sharpton.
It isn’t true – it was Internet satire – that “The Reverend” (‘reverend’? What’s to revere?) Al Sharpton blasted Tiger Woods for having not chosen any African American women to cheat on his wife.
The funny email alleges that Sharpton, in a press conference, said that “the lack of diversity among his mistresses in Woods’ harem will have a negative effect on the black community, specifically young black girls.”
“Why is it that a man who calls himself black can’t bring himself to cheat on his wife with a black woman?” Sharpton is alleged to have said. “What does it say to young black girls everywhere when you pass them over? Shame on you, Tiger Woods. What would your daddy say?
The story continued: “Sharpton, who has long championed taking black women as mistresses, said that today's black athletes need to stop neglecting black women when it comes to extramarital affairs, and should follow the examples of positive black role models such as Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King, Jr., both of whom cheated on their wives with black women. Sharpton also stressed that cheating with African-American women would help the black community financially by giving black girls the chance to sell their stories to tabloids and gossip magazines.”
That kind of thing is funny, because it could be true. Wouldn’t be too surprising.
But on a comparable note – in a story that is, unfortunately, perfectly true – is what happened at Hebrew University almost exactly two years ago, Dec. 23, 2007.
There, a HU teacher’s committee awarded a prize to Tal Nitzan for her research paper, in which she alleged that IDF soldiers were racists because they did not rape Arab women.
Now THAT sounds too nuts to be true, but it is.
The lack of IDF rapes of Arab women, this (female) researcher found “is designed to serve a political purpose.”
"In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be seen that the lack of military rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic differences - just as organized military rape would have done."
Arab women are “dehumanized” she wrote, because they are seen as unworthy of being raped.
The paper was published by the Hebrew University's Shaine Center, based on the recommendation of a Hebrew University professors' committee headed by Dr. Zali Gurevitch.
"I do not have the entire text in front of me," Gurevitch said at the time. "I don't think we can jump to conclusions based on partial sentences, but I can say the following: This was a very serious paper that asked two important questions: Is the relative lack of IDF rapes a noteworthy phenomenon, and if so, why is it that there are so few IDF rapes when in similar situations around the world, rape is much more common?"
So a reporter asked, "Can't it just be that Israeli soldiers come from a culture that very much condemns rape? And why not mention the much-touted 'purity of arms,' i.e., the high moral conduct, of the Israeli Army?"
Oh, no. That sort of notion couldn’t be considered. “Observers do not have the right to demand a particular explanation to a given phenomenon,” Gurevitch said.
Nevertheless, Miss Nitzan did permit herself to make one such observation: Jewish soldiers don’t rape Arab women because they are afraid, she said. The “Jewish population is frightened of the growing Arab population, and in cases of wartime rape, the baby is generally assumed to be of the mother's nationality.”
Well, there you have it. The piece on Sharpton was fiction – but at Hebrew University, a similar observation passes as prize winning scholarship.
Woe is us.
No two Hanukkah celebrations could be more different than that in Seattle and that in Beersheba. If I’m going to be perfectly honest about it, I have to say that every year I get nostalgic about the Hanukkah celebrations Chabad in Seattle sponsored.
In the first place, in Seattle, it almost always rained on the first night of Hanukkah – the only variation in the pattern was whether it was a monsoon-like downpour or whether it was merely misting.
Rain in Beersheba is unusual at any time of the year, but that’s not the only difference. I think the big difference was the uniqueness of the event in Seattle.
By the time Hanukkah came around, everyone was already saturated with images of Santa, reindeer and elves. Music from that other holiday had seeped into your psyche -- not that any of that was bad, of course, but still, when, on a rainy December night, one of Seattle’s most glitzy shopping centers turned itself over to the holiday of Hanukkah instead, it was something special.
Many Seattle-area Chabad shuls had their own public Hanukkah menorah lightings, but the one sponsored by the original Chabad House and associated congregation, Sharei Tefillah Lubavitch in Seattle’s north end, was the biggest. It attracted Jews from all over Seattle, Chabadnik or not, not to mention a significant number of non-Jews who enjoyed coming for the festivities every year. It took place at University Plaza, which was also a little unusual. University Plaza was the closest big shopping center to all the Chabad north-end institutions, but because it was such an upscale place – one of those elegant spots where potted-plant-and-tree lined brick walkways wind among glittering shops and trendy cafes -- I doubt many of us shopped there very often.
Even so, on the first night of Hanukkah, it was ours – or so it seemed.
The Hanukkah menorah was huge – so tall that whoever lighted it had to climb a pretty good sized ladder – and stood in the center of the entrance to the Plaza. I often wondered what the view must be, from on top of that ladder – most years, I expect that all you’d see below is a sea of umbrellas.
Not that the rain dampened anyone spirits – there was always a lively klezmer band, plenty of Hanukkah songs and even in the hardest rain, there’s be someone dancing, getting wet. Some group or another was sure to use the occasion to make and sell latkes, so the aroma of frying potatoes and the warmth from the fry pans added to the atmosphere. It was definitely a family celebration, newborns on up.
Not just kids, either, but pets. A lot of us brought our four-legged companions, many wearing their own coats, on leashes. I remember the debate that was sparked one year when some woman defended her dog’s obligation to wear a kippa –no kidding, a wee little kippa pinned between the dog’s ears. “Of course Mikey is wearing a kippa,” she kept telling everyone. “He’s a boy.” I don’t recall any halachic ruling on the matter, but it was that kind of night: everyone from all strains of Judaism – including none at all – came, and had a great time.
Goodness knows, in Israel there are raucous holiday celebrations, too, including for Hanukkah. But the atmosphere is different here – every public building has a big Hanukkah menorah somewhere, usually on the roof. So does virtually every home – this is a celebration all Jews mark, not just those who consider themselves observant. Then, too, there’s not a single Santa Claus to be spotted anywhere, nor a note of seasonal music heard. So what’s missing is the sense of being a member of a tiny minority celebrating its own holiday among the much-larger community.
When everyone celebrates the same thing, it’s hard not to take it for granted.
Although Chabad “menorah” lightings are getting to be commonplace all over the US, too. (To be correct, it’s worth noting that the candleholder we light on Hanukkah, with nine places for candles, is a ‘chanukia’. A “menorah” is a seven-branched replica of the candelabra that once stood in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.)
This year, there was relatively little furor over Chabad’s legal right to erect their Hanukkah menorahs anywhere in the US, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Chairman of Lubavitch Educational and Social Services Divisions said. That’s partly because this is the 21st anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court ruling in Allegheny vs. ACLU, in which the Court ruled that placing Chabad-owned Hanukkah menorahs in public spaces did not violate the Constitution’s establishment clause.
Not that opposition doesn’t exist – in fact, in Seattle, in 2006, there was a major brouhaha over Chabad’s desire to erect a public Hanukkah menorah at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, along with the 14 Christmas trees that already decorated the airport. But rather than allow the Hanukkah menorah, the sullen SeaTac administration instead took down all the Christmas trees. You can only imagine the furor that resulted.
Due to the outcry, the artificial Christmas trees were replaced within a few days, but to this day – so far as I know -- a Hanukkah menorah has never been permitted.
Funny, isn’t it? There’s a huge Hanukkah menorah in Red Square, there’s one at the Great Wall of China, one in front of the Eiffel Tower, a Hanukkah menorah in the Gaza strip, for crying out loud – not to mention thousands of places all over the US. ‘SeaTac’ Airport remains as one of the very few places on earth to still reject the symbol.
Which is all to the good, the irrepressibly optimistic Chabadniks say. Whenever there’s opposition or publicity surrounding the erection of a Hanukkah menorah, news media cover it, and as a result, more and more people are educated about the history of the holiday, its meaning and observance. Even the landmark lawsuit -- Allegheny vs. ACLU – worked to Chabad’s benefit – the case is now part of the curriculum at many law schools. As the students study, the goal of publicizing the Chanukah miracle is achieved a thousand-fold. “What the Rebbe accomplished with his encouragement here is unbelievable,” said attorney Charles Saul who litigated the case.
Pictured above is the Hanukkah menorah that was lighted in Vienna, Austria on Saturday night, where a very different kind of opposition took place. A Muslim man attacked Rabbi Dov Gruzman, the Chabad Rabbi who was conducting the public lighting, first striking him with punches and blows.
Gruzman told Arutz Sheva that the Muslim raced towards the entrance at the beginning of the ceremony and began to curse the Jews who were there and the Jewish people in general. “I tried to hold him off, to keep him away from the entrance and he bit me really hard, and that’s how he injured me,” Gruzman said.
Not that it discouraged the good rabbi. It only strengthened his resolve. “We are glad that such an event occurred,” he said. “Today, because of what happened, we are planning [a much larger event]. We increased the number of sufganiot [Chanukah jelly doughnuts] from 50 to 700 – and this is our answer to the attack and to anti-Semitism.”
Hanukkah someach, everyone!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Yesterday was my mother’s 93rd birthday – when I called her early in the morning to wish her Happy Birthday, she said she was already all dressed up in a sweater I sent her from Israel, complete with makeup, polished fingernails and decked out in all her jewelry. Good for you, mom!
One of the funniest stories she tells on herself was when she spit on the Crown Prince of Norway. Not intentionally, of course, but when you do something like that, it would tend to linger in your memory.
She and my father had been at some sort of reception for the Crown Prince at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Finger food and drinks were being served, and when she came upon the Crown Prince at an unexpected moment, she’d just taken a bite of something. It caught in her throat – haven’t we all done that – and when she tried to speak, she spewed whatever it was all over the Crown Prince.
The Crown Prince, she said, was very gracious. He just kept smiling and nodding, acting as though nothing had happened -- although as he moved away, he unobtrusively brushed the debris from his suit and the banner with all the ribbons and medals. “He was a real gentleman,” my mother said.
Maybe he was used to being spit on.
One would hope so, since that’s what the Community Organizer did yesterday, too. He spit on Norway, the very country that -- in terms of unmitigated humor -- had just awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize, which, among other benefits, also gives him, personally, $1.4 million. (That’s not all honoring the Community Organizer cost – the Norwegian government also earmarked 92 million kroner, $16 million to cover his security during his visit.)
Now Norway is wondering if they got their money’s worth.
Not just that after dithering for months, their Peace Prize winner had finally decided to send an additional 30,000 young men and women to Afghanistan to put their lives on the line for his photo ops – his word – and to heal a rift in the Democrat party. That was offensive enough to the “peace” loving Norwegians.
What they’re really ticked about is that the Community Organizer refused to play the game. He refused to take part in all the hoopla that the Nobel Committee assumes it’s buying when they give millions of dollars away with no strings attached. Nobel Prize recipients can spend the cash anyway they wish, but the Nobel Committee expects to be able to extract their pound of flesh by making the recipients socialize with Norwegians when they come to pick up the check.
I dunno – I guess if someone wanted to give me $1.4 million and pay another $16 million to make sure no one offed me while I was in their country, I guess I’d agree to a tea party or two without much fuss.
Not so the Community Organizer. Among other social slights, he refused to lunch with the King of Norway. No one said they were serving lutefisk and lefse, either, so it probably wasn’t the abundance of white food he found offensive. He just didn’t want to waste his valuable time hanging out with the King, who might possibly regale him with Ole & Lena jokes, straight through the dravla they’d offer up for dessert.
Beyond that, the most ungracious Community Organizer also refused to attend a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, appearances at a children's event promoting peace and a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honor at the Nobel peace centre.
Tsk, tsk. Not a very gracious guest, is he?
If nothing else, Norwegians are exquisitely polite, so Siv Jensen, of Norway’s populist Progress party, was one of the few who’d comment on the extraordinary rude behavior of the US President. “He should respect the monarchy,” Jensen said.
Of course if the Nobel Committee – not to mention Norway itself – had studied the character of the Community Organizer a little more closely, they wouldn’t have been surprised. As far as the Community Organizer is concerned, he is the King of the World, not to mention the Universe.
Why would he stoop to pay any kind of respect for such lesser beings as other pretenders to his throne? As The One, the most perfect human ever to walk the earth, surely he has the right to just grab the cash and run.
No one in the world could even suggest that he utter a ‘Mange tusen tukk.’
One can only dream of the day when the American people will rise up and say, “Sayonara, Big O! Hasta la Vista, baby -- write when you get work.”
Oh-oh. The mice have taken over, figuratively speaking. The cats are in trouble.
There’s bad news from the National Security Cabinet that met today.
What was the topic? The PA’s refusal to agree to enter negotiations with Israel.
During the session, Bibi said, “It seems as though the PA has adopted a strategy of rejecting negotiations with Israel in order to avoid demands made by Israel and the international community that necessitate compromise on their part. This is a mistaken approach.”
With all due respect, Mr. Prime Minister, what the Arabs are doing is NOT a mistake. In fact, it you had any sense, it’s exactly what you'd be doing, too.
The Arabs have indeed refused to enter negotiations, make “gestures” of peace to Israel contrary to their own best interests, or to soften their demands in any way. Quite the contrary, they have stepped up their demands.
And what’s happened? As Bibi says, they have avoided any demands being placed on them by either Israel or the “international community.”
Israel, on the other hand, is beset with demands everywhere we turn. Why? Because we've been signaling “weakness” in every possible way.
We’re willing to compromise, we say. We’re willing to give. Just tell us what you want, and we’ll do our best.
And what’s happened to Israel? We’re inundated with demands, which -- should we give in -- would weaken us still even more.
Sorry, Mr. Prime Minister. What the Arabs are doing is smart.
Maybe if we said "no", too, the "international community" would find some other place in the world to tinker. The Arabs have made it clear they're not playing the game. If we made it clear that we're not playing either, maybe the spectators would give up and go home.
I wish with all my heart that Bibi would do what the Arabs are doing. Maybe then we could move closer to a real peace, on terms we could live with.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
For the record -- just in case there's anyone out there who cares (other than me) -- the 'Blogspot' program operates on US time, not Israel time.
My computer shows the right time in Israel -- Blogspot continues to operate on US time.
That means you should know I'm not posting on Shabbat. I know, I know, you wouldn't think I would. But every time I see it, I cringe. It looks as though I'm putting a stumbling block in front of the blind, and all that.
I tried a few simple things to try to correct it, and failed.
If there's any guru out there who knows how to correct this pervasive little issue, let me know. I'd be grateful.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Today is December 7, “a date that will live in infamy”, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt said – and indeed it does, although in most of the major media, it’s been forgotten. If any stories on the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, appear, I haven’t seen them.
For those of you in Berkeley who eschew such memories, on this day, 68 years ago, 2,402 Americans were killed and another 1,282 wounded as 235 Japanese aircraft, in two separate waves, swooped down on a US Naval base in Hawaii in an allegedly surprise attack. Not as many as 9/11, true. But hardly a day to be forgotten.
The ‘what did he know, and when did he know it?’ question about FDR’s knowledge about the attack remains lost in history. Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t. In any event, the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the US into WWII, which made possible the summary defeat of both Hitler and Japan. Books, stories and film recount how the greatest generation fought that war, ended the twin tyrannies, and ushered in a far less deadly cold war instead. The various countries of the world still didn’t like or respect each other, but for a respectable number of years, none of them set about trying to conquer the world again. They saw the consequences of taking on America, bolstered by the combined forces of Europe – minus Germany – and were deterred by the threat. In short, attacking the US had lost its luster as a viable battle strategy.
Up until the Islamists came into the picture, that is.
Muslim Arabs had been close confederates and allies of Hitler. At the end of WWII, they didn’t have the resources or technology to plot out their own plan to conquer the world, but with the world demand for their only natural resource – oil – rose, they came to take their place at the world table, albeit mostly as a spoiler. Because they controlled by default – mess with them, they turn off the spigot – a new era arrived in which the Middle Eastern Arabs played a pivotal role.
Then came terrorism.
The Arabs, unwilling or perhaps unable to develop military strategies of their own, they found a new banner under which to fight: for Allah they fought, dedicated themselves to defeating the world through jihad and to save it for Allah, through terror.
(Either that, or else it’s just a nasty bunch of fellows who like to rape, rob, pillage, burn and destroy, anyway, and saying they’re doing it the name of Allah gives them more latitude.)
What did the world do this time? Facing Islamists, the world tread softly. A “war on terror”, Bush said. Not a war on the enemies who killed 3,000 Americans in a single horrifying day.
Too afraid of offending someone’s ‘religious’ sensitivities, the countries of the world cowered, praised Islam as a “religion of peace” and assured Muslims we meant no harm, all we wanted to do was douse the flame of terrorism that burned in their midst. We did it for their sake, we assured ourselves and them, over and over. To this day, we refuse to recognize a proven and openly bloodthirsty “religion” as an enemy.
So where are we today? We’re waffling, all of us. Still unable to denounce Islam for what it is, for what it has become, we appease, we threaten sanctions, we backtrack, we compromise.
In the last two weeks, leaders of Israel and the United States both committed two totally ridiculous errors – no other word works, except maybe ‘insane’ and that’s not quite right, because they know full well what they’re doing, both of them.
In the US, the Community Organizer, after months of trying to pull off a Bubba-like ‘triangulation’ between his Democrats who want to flee from Afghanistan, and those who worried about our soldiers still over there, he placed term limits on the war, pre-announcing an end to the US effort. In essence, he said, “We’ll fight you for another year, and then we’ll quit, pull out and come home.”
How nuts is that? When do you ever tell an enemy that as far as you’re concerned, the war will end in a year? Before, in the entire history of the world, people who did that were called ‘traitors’ and they were shot at sunrise.
And then in Israel, Bibi did much the same thing when faced with a different issue. As the criminally naïve Community Organizer continued to put the screws to Israel, Bibi caved. Even though everyone on the face of the planet – excepting those who inhabit the White House – knows that “settlements” are not now nor have they ever been the issue, Bibi succumbed to White House pressure and announced a 10 month construction freeze in Judea, Samaria and – apparently -- Jerusalem.
How nuts is that? Assume for a moment that the “settlements” – Judea and Samaria – really did have something to do with Arab aggression. Of what possible negotiating value would a ten month freeze in construction have? None.
Absolutely none – as was instantly obvious. The Arabs, the Community Organizer and most of Europe instantly knee-jerked, “That’s not enough!” – and indeed, if the goal is to get rid of Israel as a whole, it isn’t. A ten month construction freeze accomplishes not one single thing – except imposing financial and quality of life penalties on the brave Zionists of Judea and Samaria.
(Assuming they go along with it -- at the moment, there are excellent signs of rebellion, and as much as I value unity, I applaud them for just saying no. It is never necessary to be complicit with your enemies in engineering your own death.)
So the Community Organizer pre-announces the end to the war, signaling that he’ll accept defeat in a year’s time or so, after thousands more American soldiers have died, fighting for what, exactly? Giving their lives to prevent a rift in the Democrat party? Is that what the American military is for? Photo ops and political cover?
While in Israel, Bibi announces a time-limited construction freeze, which has absolutely zero value, not only because “settlements” aren’t a real issue at all, but also because of course the whole world won’t accept it as enough anyway. It’s an insane action that serves only to damage Israeli citizens – all of us – not to mention further stalling any possible “peace” agreement that could be had.
Why isn’t there someone in the US or Israel who could have merely quoted one of Winston Churchill’s most magnificent speeches? True, their own speech writers can’t top Churchill, but still they could have quoted The Statesman.
Here’s what Winston Churchill said on June 4, 1940, when faced with Hitler’s threat to conquer the world:
“The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.
“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.
“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in G-d's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."
Now there’s a leader.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
On Shabbat, I walk a long way to shul – couple miles, maybe, although I don’t have any good way of knowing exactly how far it is. Through trial and error I’ve found a route that’s the shortest and has the fewest hills – not that there are very many real ‘hills’ in Beersheba, but on excruciatingly hot summer days, every little up-and- down mound I can avoid makes it easier.
Going – as compared to coming back – is usually a nice morning walk. It’s not terribly hot, there are no cars at all so I can walk in the street, and there’s rarely anyone else around at all, at least until I pass through another neighborhood where there are several Hassidic shuls. Then there are lots of people on the street -- mostly men with their little kids tagging along -- all heading in the opposite direction.
One of the things I pass is what must be a group home for mentally disabled adults. Hard to tell exactly who lives there, or why, but usually on Shabbat morning I’ll see one or two of the residents, sometimes walking very very slowly on the sidewalk. More commonly, they’ll just be standing in their yard, looking out into the street. The whole place is absolutely silent. I’ve never heard anyone, inside or out, say anything or indeed make any kind of a sound at all.
There’s one man there that I’ve been seeing every week for virtually the entire time I’ve lived in the Old City, going on five years. It’s impossible to tell how old he is – anywhere from 40 to 70, I’d say, although if I had to guess, probably closer to the younger range. He’s looks seriously unwell and is excruciatingly thin. He seems hardly able to take a single shambling step, although he does leave the yard and make it to the street where he walks a few yards.
Week after week, as he sees or hears me coming, he turns his head and stares at me, and watches every step of my progress walking past him. From the first time I saw him, and saw how intently he was looking at me, I couldn’t simply ignore him – I’d be passing him within just a few feet. Normally a woman wouldn’t speak first to an unfamiliar man, but there was no way I was going to ignore him, walking so close. So every morning I’d say, “Shabbat shalom!” and walk on.
There was never any acknowledgement. Never any sign he’d even heard me. His vacant expression never changed.
Everything was as usual. He stood in the street, just off the sidewalk outside the home. I passed by, said ‘Shabbat shalom!’ and walked on. His expression didn’t change, he didn’t make a sound.
Not until I was maybe 20 feet farther along. Then I heard him say, “Geveret!” – something comparable to “Hey, lady”, but that’s the standard Israeli phrase, not an insult.
At first, I couldn’t believe it was him, talking -- but there wasn’t anyone else around at all. I turned around, and there he stood, with one hand raised in a sort of wave. “Shabbat shalom!” he said, and there was something like a smile on his face.
I said, “Shabbat shalom!” again, then had to turn and walk on quickly. I didn’t want him to see my tears.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
News stories today remind me of an encounter I had with an anti-gun demonstrator back in Sacramento.
Those were the days when gun ownership was under attack – still is, probably, but more so then. A group of demonstrators were marching outside the Capitol, many of them carrying signs. One woman’s sign read, “COLLECT ALL HANDGUNS NOW! GUN OWNERSHIP SHOULD BE ILLEGAL!”
Which strikes me as utter insanity. Obviously the only people who would comply with such an edict would be honest, law-abiding, tax-paying, honorable people. The criminal class would laugh – they’d love it. Confiscation of handguns and outlawing all guns for private citizens would render everyone helpless against their thievery, burglary, mugging and worse.
So I walked up to the lady as she marched in the circle, shouting, over and over, “NO GUNS!” I asked if I could speak with her. We stepped aside, and I explained what I thought about her desire to make all gun ownership illegal, and for the government to confiscate handguns. Didn’t she know what would happen? That then only criminals would have guns, and that citizens – good citizens – would be helpless against them?
She admitted she knew that, and she understood that’s what would happen. She agreed it wasn’t good, and that in fact was dangerous. “I know it won’t work,” she said, regarding the sign she herself was carrying. “I realize that disarming good citizens will cause a lot of problems because people wouldn’t be able to protect themselves.”
So why was she demanding that it be done, then? “Because we have to do something. I know this won’t work, but it’s better than doing nothing.”
Well, that left me flummoxed. What can you say in the face of such irrationality?
But here we go again – on two separate issues, the Community Organizer is demanding laws be passed, even though he – not to mention countless millions of other Americans – know and admit that not only will it not work, but it will actually prove harmful.
First is ObamaCare. The analysis of the Congressional Budget Office is that under both plans now in the House and Senate, some 24 million people will still remain uninsured – up from the alleged 17 million uninsured right now.
But worse than that, the Democrat plan will raise every family’s annual insurance bill by about $2100. Think of it: an EXTRA -- on top of whatever they’re paying right now -- an EXTRA $250 a month, for a plan that will not only not solve the alleged problem of uninsured Americans, but will also make it far more expensive for regular people to buy it. And that doesn’t even mention the rationing of health care, which will hit everyone across the board.
But does that stop the Democrats? Not at all. The Community Organizer and his loyal henchmen still insist it needs to be done. Failure to enact this legislation is not an option, they say. Yes, it won’t work. Yes, it will make matters worse. Yes, we know all that, but we desperately need to do it anyway. It's better than doing nothing.
Then comes the infamous “Global Warming” -- renamed “Climate Change” after three years of record breaking cold and snow the world over.
As an aside, I want those of you with whom I’ve argued about this over the years to know how charitable I’m being. You insisted that “Global Warming” was real, that I was just ignorant when I said it was nothing but a Democrat hoax designed to force taxes and lifestyle changes on Americans they wouldn’t otherwise accept. I refused to believe the sky was falling, and you styled yourselves as valiant “Chicken Littles”, struggling to save the world. Now that the truth is out, and we know that the “scientific” studies were cooked, that none of it was true – I’m being kind. I have NOT forwarded a single news item to you, bearing those painful words, “I was right.” Trust me, my fingers have been itching to gloat at you, but I think I've restrained myself rather admirably.
So anyway, now the truth is out. The science was faked. None of it was real. Scientists changed and altered data and imposed professional harem – exile and ostrasization -- on any of their colleagues who dared disagree. So it’s not true. There is no “Global Warming”, no “Climate Change” – or at least no studies at all that prove such a thing.
But what is the Community Organizer doing? Going right ahead with his plans. Pushing for “Climate Change” plans for the “global community” – allegedly to combat this terrible menace. Setting off for Copenhagen, again “putting his credibility on the line”, as several reporters phrase it. ‘What credibility?’ some of us might be asking, but nonetheless, he’s off and running. He’s going to press for punitive world conformance to solve a problem that doesn’t exist – and that he knows doesn’t exist.
Back home, he’s continuing to push his killer economic legislation, ‘cap and trade’ -- read that ‘cap and TAX’ – that represents the largest tax increase on American citizens in history. His legislation imposes a tax on energy everywhere it is consumed on everything it is used to make or provide.
Will it work? No – of course not. It doesn’t need to “work” – the problem they’re trying to solve doesn’t exist.
Will it do actual harm? I don’t even have to tell you what all these tax increases are doing to the American – not to mention world – economy.
Will any of that stop them? No, of course not. Just because their ideas won’t help anyone, and will actually make matters considerably worse, is no reason not to implement them, anyway. After all, “We have to do something”.
Tell you what: The one thing we really do need is “regime change”. In America.
“Ill Omen – Girl in the East Wind with Ravens Crossing the Moon”
Above is a painting by a British artist, Francis MacNair (1874 – 1921)
It’s daytime here, so there’s no moon at the moment, but there are plenty of ravens –which is to say crows. Crows – birds of the Corvid family – are plentiful in Israel. They rarely fly so artistically against the moon, but they are, nonetheless, clever little beasts. Israeli crows have actually been observed using breadcrumbs to go fishing. People feed them little pieces of bread in the park, and then watch as the crows pick up the bread, fly over to the pond, drop the bread in, and thus lure an even better meal: fish!
But it’s that blasted east wind, not crows, that’s the topic under discussion today. Today’s weather forecast was for a strong east wind – and the moment I went outside this morning, I noticed it. The wind came from an unusual direction, although at daybreak, it wasn’t all that strong.
Now, however, it’s really ripping out there – systematically knocking all my plants off their perches, where they were previously standing so serenely on the railing of the outside-room. I’m still considering what to do about it. Putting them back on the railing seems pointless. Better to go take them all down, I guess.
Normally an east wind in Israel blows hot and sandy, carrying the heat and sand of the eastern deserts into every nook and cranny of every house, no matter how carefully you try to shut it out. After a sand storm here, I literally shovel sand out of the corners. Nothing at all prevents it from coming in.
But today the east wind isn’t hot. In fact, it’s quite chilly. That makes it even more unusual.
No matter what, I always think of an east wind with a certain amount of trepidation. In the first place, it’s odd, coming from a different place as it does. It’s something odd that you sense, even if there’s no rational basis to it.
Secondly, however, from time immemorial, an east wind has been used as an omen – not for good but for evil.
In the Chumash (Hebrew Bible) the east wind is mentioned 17 different times. In Genesis, when Yosef interprets Pharaoh’s dream, he specifies that it’s the east wind that blasted away at the corn, destroying it seven years in a row. Later, in Exodus, Moshe summons the east wind to bring the locusts into Egypt, and then later, uses it to part the Sea of Reeds to permit the Israelites to escape – and drowning Pharaoh’s armies in the process. Most usually, the east wind is depicted as destructive.
Literature followed the same pattern:
The Greeks, who lived and wrote not that far from Israel, preferred to leave the east wind out of things. They named the east wind Eurus, but refused to associate it with any of the three Greek seasons. (Sensible of the Greeks to have only three seasons – live in these parts awhile, and it starts to make sense.)
Later, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’, the characters sing incantations to the three winds, and just as did the Greeks, they left out the east wind.
“ "You left the East Wind to me," said Gimli, "but I will say naught of it."
"That is as it should be," said Aragorn. "In Minas Tirith they endure the East Wind, but they do not ask it for tidings. ..."
All that said, good old Sherlock Holmes, as usual, refused to bow to convention.
In Conan Doyle’s story “His Last Bow”, Sherlock and Dr. Watson chat while their prisoner struggles with his bound hands. Sherlock points to the moonlit sea and says, "There's an East wind coming, Watson."
"I think not, Holmes. It is very warm,” Watson replies.
"Good old Watson!” Sherlock replies. “You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's G-d's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared."
Today, Israel suffers under the blast of the east wind. But it's not just today, it's ongoing, covering the last several weeks.
Will it blow through, leaving a better stronger land, once the storm has cleared?
We can only hope.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I’m heading on down to Sderot early this morning, to interview a French Holocaust survivor who’s opened a candle factory in that much-beleaguered village.
If you think that sounds like a pretty darn good Chanukah story, you’re right – the light of Chanukah, coming from Sderot, started by a survivor of the worst darkness the world ever knew.
All that said, I still get a few butterflies when I set off for Sderot. Yes, yes, I know very well I could get hit by a truck here – crosswalk or not. But most of the world now thinks that things are quiet in Sderot, and unfortunately that’s not true. Sderot is still under bombardment.
Since January of 2009 – when the Arab terrorists agreed to a “ceasefire” (that’s ‘you cease, we fire’ in Arab parlance), there have been 771 Kassam rockets, mortar shells and Grad missiles fired into Israel, most but not all near the Aza border, which means Sderot.
Do the math, and that come to just a fraction over two rockets a day, on average. Are things better, since Israel retaliated with last year’s Chanukah war? Yes, certainly. But two a day is still significant. All it takes is one.
On Friday, the IDF retaliated and attacked a group of terrorists on their way to fire rockets. This terrorist group is relatively new – they belonged to the Jaljalatt terror organization, a Salafist movement working within Aza, and getting their support from Al- Qaeda.
The terrorists were killed, the rocket launching pad was destroyed, and we know one thing for sure: those terrorists won’t be bedeviling Israel any more.
Israel dealt with these terrorists exactly as they deserved – and precisely as was required for our own safety and security.
Israel was smart enough not to bring them into Jerusalem to stand trial.
As the new book, “Start-up Nation” says, Israel is a country on the upswing – we’re moving from a socialistic state into a free market economy. Our economy is relatively good. We're cutting taxes and privatizing formerly government owned businesses. Some of it is painful, but it's working to free up capitol for investment. Not only that, but we’re dealing with our terrorists as terrorists.
My ‘Old Country’ – the US – much to its everlasting shame, is doing precisely the opposite, on all counts.
That's terrible. It makes me both sad and furious. But what can any of us do?