Saturday, May 30, 2009

The NEW Israel, according to the Community Organizer

The holiday celebration is over, we’re back to reality – and a depressing reality it is.

The above map is what the Community Organizer is intent on foisting on Israel. Think that looks like a viable entity? When the surrounding areas are all openly repeating their long-standing intention to eliminate Israel entirely?

The Arab terrorist Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) scored a hit with the Community Organizer in their gab fest late last week. The Arabs were cheering mightily over the assurance they’d received that the Community Organizer will work to bring about the fall of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It will take a couple of years" for this American pressure to force Netanyahu from office, the Washington Post quoted one of Abbas's officials as saying. The President’s plan, apparently, is to force Bibi to accept the Final, Final solution of the Jewish problem by accepting a “two state” scenario.

Then, with Bibi gone, Israel can be forced to accept other elements of the Final Solution, like agreeing to “right of return” for all the Arabs -- plus their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who left back in 1948. About 600,000 Arabs left Israel during that first war – about the same number of Jews who were expelled from Arab countries, coincidentally.

The descendents of the Arabs who fled have been kept in permanent ‘refugee’ status by the Arabs for purely political reasons. They now number somewhere between 2.4 million and 5 million, depending on whose statistics you use. Obviously if Israel, with about 6 million Jews (and over a million Arabs already) were to accept as citizens another five million Arabs, it would cease to be what it was created to be – a safe haven for Jews around the world. It would become just another Arab state.

But here’s the thing: The fact that the Arabs look forward to dealing with a weaker Prime Minister than Bibi is one thing. What’s totally astonishing is that the ultra-chutzpadik American President plans to help depose the elected head of the only pro-western democracy in the Middle East!

Again, the good news is that at least we know where we stand. Not only is America not our ally anymore. Now America is openly committed to overthrowing our government in favor of America’s new friends, the Arab terrorist regimes.

And just in case there was any doubt, Missus Bubba went on the record to “clarify” the Community Organizer’s remarks, issuing a totally unprecedented statement in which she demanded – demanded! – that Israel stop all construction, of any kind, in established Jewish communities not only in Yesha (Judea and Samaria) but also in Jerusalem.

That’s beyond outrageous. Who do these two think they are? They set out to destroy the elected government of an ally. They “demand” that Israel, an independent nation not beholden to the US at all, follow their dictates on housing policy.

You gotta laugh, though. Israeli officials are furious, but even they can see the humor:

Israeli Government Press Director Daniel Seamen reacted by saying: “I have to admire the residents of Iroquois territory for assuming that they have a right to determine where Jews should live in Jerusalem.”

Here’s how Dry Bones sees it:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shavuot tov!

Tonight starts the holiday of Shavuot, the commemoration of the day the Torah was given to Moshe Avienu on Mount Sinai over 3300 years ago. Every year on this holiday, the Torah is given again, and we accept it again. Tonight, the tradition is that we stay up all night studying it.

In a much more plebian sense, lots of people think of this as the festival of cheesecake – why? Because we traditionally eat diary foods on this holiday, and when you think of dairy foods, there’s hardly any finer example than cheesecake.

(Okay – so why do we eat dairy foods? Several reasons, but one is that because from the moment the Torah was given, we became obliged to observe the laws of kashrut, the separation of meat and milk, including the proper slaughter of cattle. But the Torah was given on Shabbat, when no cattle could be slaughtered. That meant there was no meat to eat – so we ate dairy foods. Until today, the tradition remains: dairy foods on Shavuot.)

So cheesecake will be on the table in a lot of homes tonight – but for once I decided to try something different. A few weeks ago I ran across a fantastic old-fashioned Rice Pudding – a creamy, dreamy, rich dairy dessert that’s a whole lot easier to make than cheesecake, and is awfully good for a change.

Just in case you’d like to try it, here it is:

Shavuot Rice Pudding

¾ cup white rice, cooked in water
2 cups milk
1/3 cup white sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
2/3 cup raisins
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter

Combine the cooked rice, the milk, the sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes.

Beat the egg slightly, and stir it into the cooked rice/milk mixture, and cook for two minutes more.

Stir in the vanilla and the butter.

That’s it! Enjoy!
Shavuot tov, everyone!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Let the games begin...

The war games, that is.

Next week Israel starts “Turning Point Three”, billed as the ‘largest nationwide military exercise ever held in Israel”, designed to prepare every Israeli citizen for all-out war.

The five day war games will present a situation in which Israel is first attacked by Hamas from Aza on the west, then by Hezbollah from Lebanon in the north, with Syria joining in. Then Israel’s own Arabs will riot from within, all coupled with as many terror attacks as our ‘peace-making’ neighbors can muster. The anticipation is that we’ll be battling on several different fronts, all at the same time.

Also thrown in for good measure: a “natural disaster”, missiles hitting all over the Jewish state, an operational problem at the HazMat (hazardous materials) facility, plus an epidemic.

The Air Force is also using the occasion to practice for “challenges” presented by Iran, as they launch their Seji-2, the 2000 klm missile. (2000 klm is about 1262 miles. Jerusalem is 750 miles from Teheran.)

Tell me when we’re having fun.

It’s an Israeli thing, of course, to remember all the wars one has lived through. I’ve already got several under my belt – and that’s not even counting the Intifada, when I arrived in 2002, when cafes, buses and party halls were being blown up left and right.

My first experience with the horror or actual war came almost immediately, early in 2003, when we were all required to go to distribution centers and pick up our “protective kits”, better known as gas masks. Why? Because the US was starting its assault on Iraq, and the thinking at the time was that some of the interested parties would then attack Israel.

There were all kinds of precautions to be taken – people stood in line to buy plastic sheeting to staple over their windows. Water and food was being stored, ‘safe rooms’ cleared and ready for occupancy again.

All this was old hat, of course, to people who were here during the Gulf War, in 1991, when people actually did enter their sealed rooms and stayed there, waiting to be gassed. I missed that one, so it was all new to me.

In February, 2003, we all received mailed notices that set appointments to go pick up our gas masks, better known in officialdom as “protective kits”. My distribution center was in the basement of a shopping mall – and what a scene it was. Hundreds of people, men women and children, milled around, waiting for their designated time and location. Long tables, marked with letters of the alph-bet, were set up, each staffed by IDF soldiers. Behind each table stood mountains of ‘protective kits’.

The idea was to find the table where the list with your name was located, present your ID papers, and get your mask. It wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds, because there were different sizes of masks for adults and gear for children of various ages, but all in all, it went fairly smoothly. It took a couple of hours – which is considered fast, when you’re dealing with Israeli bureaucracy.

Here’s what the ‘protective kit’ looks like.

You’ll notice the strap – that was so you could carry it everywhere you went, which is precisely what you were supposed to do. Never be without it.

I took mine home and kept it there. Worse than that – as you can see -- I never even opened the box.

It wasn’t any sort of bravado – exactly the opposite. It was just too terrifying.

At the time, everyone was talking about the trauma of opening the kit. The masks had to be fitted individually, so the idea was that you’d first open it, get all the straps set to fit your own head, so then it would be ready the instant you needed it.

Someone in the Jerusalem Post wrote a gallows-humor piece at the time about how scary the situation was. “Before opening the kit,” he wrote, “it is advisable to begin by consuming at least one stiff drink.”

I probably did the “stiff drink” part, but never progressed beyond that.

To some degree, the whole hysteria reminded me of my early days in elementary school in Buxton, North Dakota. I was part of the ‘duck and cover’ generation, where we had Civil Defense drills in which we “ducked” under our school desks and “covered” our eyes, to save ourselves from sure death when Russia launched The Big One.

Even at the time, I think we kids thought it was a little silly – I’m not sure we grasped the situation as a whole, but lots of us – me included – already had fallout shelters at home. What we had was just an underground earthen potato cellar, but nevertheless, we’d stocked it with all the basics – food and water (not to mention dog and cat food) blankets, a first aid kit, flashlights and candles. I remember putting in a Monopoly game – sort of odd, considering that I’m an only child and my dog Penny never learned how to roll the dice, let alone stop chewing on the hotels. I guess I was thinking that maybe then, someone else would have time to play with me.

But the thing was, if we needed all that protection at home to withstand nuclear destruction, then how was crawling under our desks at school going to work?

Much of that reasoning stuck with me in Israel. Was I really going to sit in one of my rooms, gas mask on my face, plastic over the windows, and think I’d survive deadly gas all around me? No. I didn’t. So what was the point?

Bottom line: I deferred opening the kit. Day after day I put it off. I didn’t bother carrying it, either – but the truth is, not many people did. I suspect I wasn’t the only cynic out there.

In 2003, the anticipated confrontation lasted only a couple of weeks, and then everything went back to whatever passes for normal around here.

A couple of years ago, all the gas masks were supposed to have been recollected, but no one ever came to get mine, so I still have it.

We’re supposed to be issued new ones by the end of this year. So? Here we go again.

More next week about what the drill is like – for us in the South, it will probably feel familiar. The sirens will sound, my dogs will howl, some of us who have sheltered rooms will run for them. The rest of us will probably just keep on doing what we were doing.

This is, after all, just practice. I’ll worry about the real thing some other day.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Well, well. The Community Organizer is finding a little resistance out there in the world.

He succeeded pretty well in getting the banks, the automakers and the doctors to swallow the hemlock when he ordered them to, but he’s not having much luck with the rest of the world.

Can you imagine? All sorts of foreign leaders are simply refusing to lie down and assume room temperature when ordered to by the American President.

 Bibi said ‘no’ to the Bamster’s “two state” – the Final Final Solution – for Israel. As did the Arabs, for that matter.

 The Madman of Iran said ‘no’ to the Bamster’s polite suggestion that it freeze its nuclear building spree – and then added a ‘hell no’ by saying that he didn’t plan to talk about it anymore, either. And just to show they really mean business, the Madman dispatched six warships into international waters.

 Yesterday the British banks revolted against the Bamster’s orders to them to collect taxes on American citizens. Taking a page from Bartleby the Scrivener, they said they preferred not to, and instead, would simply refuse to accept American customers.

 To top it all off – no wonder the Bamster decided to skip any Memorial Day observation and play golf instead – North Korea exploded a nuclear bomb the size of the one that wiped out Hiroshima. Then the Madman of North Korea said that by the way, he’s also going to test short-fire missiles in the Yellow Sea. And he’s not interested in discussing it with the Bamster either.

Tsk tsk. Can it be that glib words – or even high falutin’ oratory read from a teleprompter – from the Community Organizer won’t be enough to convince the lions and the lambs to lie down together without one of them being dead?

During last fall’s debates, the most horrifying thing about this man so many of you seemed to worship was his naivety. As he stood there, spinning words to the effect that if we just sat down and talked with the world’s terrorists, reached out to them, showed them respect, they would turn into pussycats and take up needlepoint instead.

To any rational person, that was sheer insanity. It showed egregious ignorance of the world situation coupled with a total lack of understanding of the terrorist mind.

It demonstrated an almost-beyond-comprehension naivety, one that should have set off warning bells signaling that this man didn’t belong in the US Senate, let alone in the Oval Office.

Barry Rubin has written an absolutely brilliant piece on that kind of criminal innocence, called “Naivety Kills”, published today in Think-Israel,

Please. Read the whole piece. Rubin doesn’t mention the Community Organizer, but rather talks about how individuals, journalists and the American public as a whole have been duped by the despots of the world.

Terrorists, you see, don’t have any problem lying to get what they want.

Rubin shows how they invite foreign journalists in, wine and dine them – not to mention paying them. They flatter them, telling the journalists how unique they are, and how amazing it is that they understand their poor beleaguered country so well.

The journalists are duped – they see nicely-cleaned-up, wealthy men who speak well and appear perfectly reasonable and “moderate” in their opinions and ambitions.

They believe. Then they go back home and write about how misunderstood these terrorists are, how ‘moderate’ and ‘peace loving’ they really are... ta da, ta da… And then you believe.

Rubin’s final sentence: “People have a right to be foolish and naïve. But they have no right to misdirect national policies and risk — or cost — the lives of hundreds and possibly damage the lives of millions on the basis of their own stupidity.”

If that’s true for Joe Sixpack, how much more true it is for the President of the United States?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thank G-d for loose cannons...

The bad thing about loose cannons is their unpredictability – as they roll around on deck, you can’t be sure if, when or where they’re going to fire.

But there are good things about loose cannons, too. First of all, they sometimes fire when everyone else is shell shocked, sitting there with the thousand-yard stare. A shot fired by a loose cannon wakes everybody up.

Second, every now and then a loose cannon scores a direct hit, just when you need it most.

And third, whatever they do, loose cannons get a lot press – they get the message out. I guess Joe Biden would know as much about that as anyone.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, qualifies as the incarnation of a loose cannon – and that’s good.

Oh, sure, he’s said some things that probably didn’t need saying, I’m not about to repeat them here. Right now, I’ve come to praise Lieberman, not to bury him.

Suffice it to just quote Ha’aretz, a Hebrew-language daily, who called him “a strategic threat in its own right”, citing his “lack of restraint and unbridled tongue.” (To put that in context, however, Ha’aretz is, in the words of my friend Steve Plaut, “an Arab newspaper printed in Hebrew”.)

Lieberman, like so many of us, is an immigrant. He was born in the Moldova in 1950, came to Israel in 1978. He founded the ”Zionist Forum” and also the ”Yisrael Beiteinu” (Israel our Home) political party, and lead that party to an upset win in the last elections. He didn’t win the most mandates, but he did profoundly upset the status quo, and in the process made himself kingmaker. He decided who the next Prime Minister would be – and in throwing his support to Bibi, he wrote his own ticket in this administration.

Lieberman is the right man at the right time. That doesn’t mean I won’t howl about something he’ll say tomorrow or the next day. But right now, he’s hitting one bull’s eye after another.

This morning, he upended the Messianic applecart being pushed by the Community Organizer and his pit bull, Missus Bubba (no offense intended to the noble breed of Pit Bull) by a few direct words. Understand, Avigdor Lieberman doesn’t “send a message”. He speaks unequivocally.

This morning he set forth what Israel will and won’t do to fulfill the Community Organizer’s demands.

Most importantly, Lieberman – who is, remember Israel’s Foreign Minister -- said that Israel will not return to the 1967 borders. That is, will not permit an Arab state to be created there. "A return to the borders of '67 today, as we are being pressured to do, would not end the conflict, would not guarantee peace or security," he said. "It would simply move the conflict to within the '67 borders."

Yes! As any rational observer of recent history knows, that’s exactly right. Retreating to those borders would mean only that next, we’d be fighting about how much of the remaining territory we’d be allowed to keep. But has anyone in authority said that recently? With that kind of finality? No. It took a Lieberman.

He then went on to rule out any more unilateral efforts at peace-making. "This cannot be an individual initiative," he continued. "There is no point in unveiling another plan. The correct outline is the Road Map, in stages."

That was today. A few weeks ago, he also threw out the infamous ‘Rape of Israel’ – Condi Rice’s “Annapolis Process” -- arguing that the concessions Israel had made before had done no good whatever.

"Those who want peace should prepare for war and be strong," he said. "There is no country that made concessions like Israel. Since 1967 we gave up territory that is three times the size of Israel. We showed willingness. The Oslo process started back in 1993, and to this day I have not seen that we reached peace."

Ah, to have been a fly on the wall at that speech -- the AP described Lieberman’s audience as “a roomful of cringing diplomats”. Lieberman said things no other Israeli leader has dared say publically, probably since the days of Menachem Begin.

"The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis; nor did the Knesset," he said, promising only to honor President Bush’s “Roadmap” of 2002.

To top that off, on Sunday, he called for the arrest of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese terrorist gang Hezbollah. New evidence has come to light about Hezbollah’s involvement in the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, so Lieberman advocated an international arrest warrant for the terrorist gang leader. That’s roughly comparable, in scope, to demanding the arrest of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas)

And why not? Why should terrorist leaders remain above arrest for the murder of their victims? No reason – but it took Avigdor Lieberman to say it.

In coming days, Lieberman will most likely emerge as the fearless leader of the Israeli faction demanding a pre-emptive strike against Iran, too – something else calculated to give the Community Organizer heartburn.

If Obama’s naïve notion of “reaching out” to terrorist leaders doesn’t happen to work, watch out for Lieberman.

All that said, Lieberman’s enemies give him no rest. They’re constantly trying to convict him of corruption, which is the way the Israeli Left deals with politicians they can’t control in any other way.

Whatever. At the moment Avigdor Lieberman is performing yeoman service to Israel and to the Western World. He’s saying things that need to be said, and he’s saying them in a way that makes people listen.

Thank G-d for loose cannons.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

And they accuse Israel of chutzpah!

When Condi Rice was Secretary of State, she tried to mastermind a New Jerusalem by dictating her preferences in zoning laws and home construction plans.

Who did she think she was, anyway? Who on earth -- or anywhere else, for that matter – gave the little lady from Birmingham the idea she had the right to give orders in such inherently local matters to a sovereign foreign nation?

So Condi is gone – thank goodness – and now Missus Bubba is trying the same thing.

"We want to see a stop to settlement construction - additions, natural growth, any kind of settlement activity - that is what the president has called for," Missus Bubba told the Community Organizer’s favorite newspaper, Al-Jazeera.

So Missus Bubba and “the President” -- that’s the US President – think they can dictate what the sovereign government of Israel must do?

Think again, sweetheart. Israel is not the 51st State.

Even our Bibi – who’s not known for displaying much obstinacy – might be forced to pull a Nancy Reagan and just say ‘no’. Why? Because – for the first time in a long time – the elected government of Israel won’t allow him to do anything else.

During Israel’s election, when it became clear that Bibi would become Prime Minister, the one objective we right-wingers had was to elect enough MK’s (Members of the Knesset) from right wing parties who would serve to keep Bibi’s more liberal impulses in check. To provide the requisite backbone, should Bibi decide to waver, as he did before, when he was Prime Minister, in turning over most of Hebron to Yasser Arafat, the Arab’s Terrorist in Chief at the time.

The liberal media likes to call Bibi a ‘hardliner’ which -- unfortunately -- isn’t true. The good news is, though, hardliners do prevail in the Knesset, and they’re standing firm.

Even President Shimon Peres – noted more for his ability to smooze than to govern -- has seen the light. In discussing Israel’s need for construction to accommodate natural growth in Judea and Samaria, he told Washington reporters, "These children are not going to live on the roofs!"

The hardline faction will be even more important when it comes to the infamous “two state solution”, better known in these parts as “The Final Final Solution”.

Moshe Feiglin – a delightful hardliner if there ever was one – addressed the topic this week in his ‘Manhigut Yehudit’ (Jewish Leadership) newsletter.

“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would not be able to advance the formation of a Palestinian state, due to the wide majority against it in the Likud faction,” he wrote. “Unlike the fight against the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, only 15 MKs out of 40 dared challenge then-prime minister Ariel Sharon. This time around, two-thirds of the Likud faction would defy a potential effort by Netanyahu to withdraw from parts of Judea and Samaria.”

And of course it’s not just the Likud faction that opposes the “two state solution”, either. So do several other right wing parties in the Knesset. Together they’ve managed to block Bibi in, which is a good thing indeed.

Not that any of this fazes the Community Organizer. “We are going to be pushing for a two-state solution,” Missus Bubba proclaimed. By its very name, she said, that “implies borders that have to be agreed to. We expect to see two states living side-by-side."

"We are starting this intensive engagement right now. We have consulted broadly already. George Mitchell and I have spoken with many Arab leaders and of course with the Palestinians and the Israelis and we are determined to forge ahead," she said.

If you let yourself enjoy the moment, that’s downright funny. They are “prepared to forge ahead” after “consulting broadly” – but with whom? Not with the two parties involved – Israel and the Arabs, both of whom insist they don’t want the “two state solution.”

Israel doesn’t, but the Arabs won’t agree either. Two weeks ago, the allegedly moderate PA leader Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) rejected the idea of a Jewish State. Holding up a map of “Palestine” which shows no Israel at all, he proclaimed, “I say this clearly: I do not accept the Jewish State, call it what you will." See my blog of May 13, below, for the photo.

Why is it that the empty-headed liberals keep insisting that “two states” can live side by side?

Even the Arab terrorists see what will result. Last week, Abbas Zaki, the PA’s ambassador to Lebanon, said on ANB TV, "With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made - just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward."

The “two state solution” is a recipe for creating one state, yet another Arab terrorist stronghold. How that would improve the world any, or make life simpler for the Community Organizer, is anybody’s guess.

So what would happen if Bibi defied the Community Organizer’s plans for the Middle East?

Presumably, it would mean that the US would stop foreign aid to Israel. Feiglin has something to say about that, too:

“If you think that the reason for Israel's sense of dependency on the US is pragmatic - to maintain US aid to Israel - then it is time that we refresh the facts. … We really don't need the pocket money that we get from (the US). Just for an example, Israel spent ten times the amount that it receives in annual US aid on the Expulsion from Gush Katif.”

In other words, we can go it alone if we have to. Sounds like the time has come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Of skinny dogs and flowering trees ...

Back in Monterey, the lady who cut my hair was a real animal activist – every year she scheduled her vacation at the same time as the Salinas Rodeo, so she could go out there and picket for the entire run of the rodeo.

She had stories – one day she told me about how she’d been driving in Carmel and spotted a man walking a seriously skinny dog. She stopped the car, jumped out and ran over to him.

“How can you mistreat your dog that way?” she shouted. “Can’t you feed him? How would you like to be starved like he is? I don’t know how people like you can live with yourselves when you’re so cruel to your pet! What’s your name? I’m going to call the SPCA!”

As you might assume, by this time people were gawking. Even so, the man calmly let her rant and rave for awhile, then smiled and gave the dog a pat. “Lady, this dog is a prize-winning Whippet. He’s not starving. This is just the way Whippets look.”


Yesterday I was wondering if I’d just done the same thing about a tree that’s in my yard.

When I moved into this house almost a year ago, most of the full-grown trees – lemon, pomegranate, date, olive, Cyprus and a few others I couldn’t identify – looked seriously neglected. Lack of water was clearly part of the problem, so even within the drought-level water use restrictions, I began saving every drop of water I could from the shower, from washing vegetables, rinsing dishes and even emptying the dogs water dish when they needed fresh water.

Every drop I could collect I poured unto the pomegranate and lemon tree, thinking they needed it the most. The date and olive tree seem to be very old and look healthy by comparison. The Cyprus is over 30’ tall, and must have learned to survive on its own long ago.

I also watered a tree I couldn’t – and still can’t – identify, even though it looked as though it was probably beyond saving. It’s a weird thing – it’s maybe 10’ tall, with a very slender -- 1.5” -- central trunk, with branches coming out at regular intervals. The odd thing, though, was that each branch was virtually bare of leaves until the very end, where there was a heavy cluster of dark green shiny leaves at the tip.

The tree responded to the water very slowly, hardly noticeable at first. But by mid-winter, I thought I could see that the leaves were beginning to grow a little bit better, moving ever so slightly up the branch toward the center of the tree. Still, it’s a pretty odd looking tree – not especially attractive because it still looks like it’s half-dead.

You can imagine how surprised I was, a few days ago, when I happened to walk by a house about three blocks away, with a very neat and obviously well cared for yard. There was a tree identical to my problem tree -- which also has leaves only at the tip of each branch. Wow – is that just the way the thing is supposed to look?

Another surprise came yesterday, I was out in the yard and happened to see the tree from another side – there was a glorious bright yellow flower! I couldn’t quite believe it – a flower? As I looked closer, I could see lots more buds – dozens of them – even though the tree looks as though it’s barely surviving. Apparently the flowers last only a day before turning dark and crumpling. Yesterday’s flower is gone – but this morning, many more had opened.

Maybe someone out there can tell me more about this tree. Aaron, are you out there? (Aaron is Beersheba’s wise man – whatever the question is, Aaron either knows the answer or knows where to find it. Maybe he’ll come through this time, too.)

Then – just because the pomegranate tree is doing so wonderfully – lots and lots of bright red flowers, each of which looks as though it’s turning into a teensy pomegranate. Here’s a picture of one of the flowers.

Of all of them, the pomegranate tree is the biggest success -- last fall, there were only two pieces of fruit, and one of which was small and malformed. Maybe this year, there’ll be more.

And the lemon tree? It’s still in trouble. It had only a half-dozen flowers, and now the leaves are curling. I think pests are the problem, not just lack of water. I see only two incipient lemons. Maybe someone has some suggestions for that one, too.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dovid vs. Goliath, Part II

There are some days when merely surviving means prevailing.

Yesterday we sent our contemporary Dovid in to do battle with the American Goliath. This time our David didn’t carry a single stone but otherwise the battle scene was much the same: Goliath appeared to have all the power. The two circled the battlefield, sniffed each other out, exchanged gifts, then held a press conference.

Good enough. Just fine, actually. Our contemporary Dovid didn’t set out to slay this Philistine, merely to live to fight another day.

Such are contemporary society’s modest goals.

First of all, Kol Hakavod to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He did it – he didn’t persuade the Community Organizer to his point of view -- that would have been impossible. But he did take a feisty stance, which in itself is worthy of serious praise. Bibi didn’t knuckle under. He didn’t even mouth the words, “two state solution” let alone use any mealy-mouthed verbiage that would allow him to say that he didn’t but he did.

The Community Organizer has brought lesser men to their knees with his threats, but not Bibi. You did good, Mr. Prime Minister. We’re proud.

Which is not to say that the Philistine is backing off on his threats or that the danger is over – Goliath made that absolutely clear. Using weasel words like “extraordinary relationship” – whatever that might mean – and referring to “historical” and “emotional” ties, he let our Prime Minister know that we’re in his cross hairs, and he’ll take care of us later.

Goliath put his bias on display. He made it clear he expects “serious movement” toward the “Annapolis process.” (You remember that one, don’t you? The Rape at Annapolis? Where Condi Rice made the Israelis enter the building through the back door, so as not to offend the Arabs by making them use the same door as the Jews?) And he criticized Israel for leaving the terrorists in Aza with “no hope” – as though it’s our fault they continue to terrorize us, imposing a kind of “Stop me before I kill again” obligation.

“Hope”, of course, is precisely what we don’t want to give the terrorists. What the terrorists ‘hope’ for is the end of Israel. That’s not change Israel needs.

But the big issue – obviously – was Iran. Keep in mind that Tehran is just 750 miles from Jerusalem. With the madman at the helm over there daily promising the world that Israel is a dead man walking, Iran’s nuclear threat is something we can’t ignore. I don’t know about my fellow Israelis, but for the most part, Iran comes most clearly to mind at about 2 am, when that final scene from Nevil Shute’s 1957 book “On the Beach” plays in my head.

The Community Organizer, with his naïve faith in talk, doesn’t get it. You know, and I know, that Iran and the world Islamist movement is a dire threat to the US too. We remember 9/11, even if he doesn’t. This is Hitler all over again, except that this time he has nuclear weapons, he hates everyone and he’s being completely open about his intentions.

What did the Community Organizer say about Iran? He applied a heavy dose of Bubba-speak, saying he was “reaching out” to Iran, planning to "persuade them that it is not in their interest to pursue a nuclear weapon and that they should change course."

Well, that should work. But if it doesn’t? "We are not foreclosing a range of steps, including much stronger international sanctions."

Beyond that, as Jerusalem Post Editor David Horowitz pointed out, the Community Organizer even appeared to equate Iran’s threats against Israel to Israel’s threat to wipe out Iran’s nuclear installation. "We want to achieve a situation where all countries in the region can pursue economic development, commercial ties and trade, and do so without the threat that populations are going to be subject to bombs and destruction."

Good grief. Who elected this idiot, anyway? It’s a wonder he doesn’t just sign his name with a smiley face and dot "i's" with a little heart.

And so it went. They exchanged gifts: Bibi’s gift was wildly interesting – offering just a tad of Israeli chutzpah. He gave Obama a copy of Mark Twain's 1867 travel memoir, "Pleasure Excursion to the Holy Land.”

You gotta laugh – Twain’s account offers up a dismal view of Israel under Moslem rule. “Jerusalem,” Twain wrote, “has become a pauper village… of fourteen thousand souls. … Rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt, those signs and symbols that indicate the presence of Moslem rule more surely than the crescent-flag itself, abound."

Let the Community Organizer put that in his pipe and smoke it.

News reports aren't forthcoming about what the Community Organizer gave Bibi, but when Israeli President Shimon Peres visited at the White House last week, he gave Peres a silver mezuzah case – the traditional way to fulfill the commandment in Deuteronomy 6: 4, which requires the words of Torah to be “written upon your doorposts”.

There might have been a message there, too. The Mezuzah is generally regarded as the Jewish home security system, protecting the inhabitants from evil. I guess the Community Organizer thinks that’s an appropriate gift – well, hey, it beats a DVD of his own speeches.

What’s the Israeli reaction to the whole thing? It’s still early, but comments seem to fall into the “Well, at least now we know. Israel stands alone” category.

Indeed, there’s something to be said about that. Better that we know we’re on our own, not trusting in the “extraordinary relationship” we’ve previously enjoyed with America. Sic transit Gloria mundi.

Which is not to say, of course, that Israel ever stands alone. Goliath might forget that, but we won’t.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Here's the image we want....

At this writing, Bibi and the entourage have landed in Washington ready for tomorrow’s session with the Community Organizer, who plans, apparently, to organize the Middle East as well.

A few hours ago several Israelis sent last minute messages to the Prime Minister. Knesset Member Ya’akov “Ketzaleh” Katz, chairman of the National Union party, reminded the Prime Minster of his election promises.

“You were elected by the majority of the Jewish public in Israel which trusts you not to stray from the promises you (made) to safeguard the Land of Israel for the Nation of Israel alone, and to end the discrimination against the pioneers who settle the land.

“Just as you stood firm against domestic pressures from those who tried to cajole you into declaring support for the ‘two state’ plan, so you will know how to stand firm in the face of the nations of the world, lest this evil plot be realized in our Holy Land.

“The Nation of Israel prays that you will succeed in your mission to stand resolute as the emissary of the Eternal Nation and its history, to build the Land and strengthen it.”

Rabbi Shalom Gold of the Union of Rabbis for the Nation of Israel asked the country to pray for the Prime Minister and for Israel. “We must pray that Hashem will give strength to Binyamin Netanyahu in this critical mission,” he said.

“(The Prime Minister) is now facing an entire array of people who want to force upon us the ‘final solution of the Jewish problem,’ – ‘two states for two peoples.’ This is a solution that began back in the days when Tzipi Livni (the Kadima candidate, Ehud Olmert’s party) believed she would be the midwife of the Palestinian State. Such a state is an existential danger to Israel.”

He must stand firm in front of his American counterpart, the Rabbi said, “Because one mistake by him could bring great sorrow to generations.”

Is this overreaction? Do we fear the Community Organizer too much?

I don’t think so – not if you’ve been paying attention to the way the way Obama has been threatening everybody else who lags behind in obeying his orders.

Remember how he threatened Thomas Lauria, attorney for one of the investment banks, that if they continued to oppose the administration’s Chrysler bankruptcy plan, the White House would use the press corps to destroy its reputation?

Remember how he threatened Great Britain? Saying that if a British court described (British citizen) Binyam Mohamed's torture, then the U.S. will no longer inform Britain of terrorist plots – which could very well result in the loss of life?

Remember how he threatened California just a few days ago? If the State – which is in dire financial straits – didn’t restore wage cuts to unionized home healthcare workers, he would rescind billions of dollars in stimulus money?

Remember how right now, Obama is threatening the internet and talk radio in order to silence critics and the growing number of people who oppose his Socialistic remake for America?

There’s just no reason at all to think that the Thugster in Chief – who from the start of his campaign rarely bothered to hide either his antipathy for Israel or his Muslim sympathies – won’t do whatever it takes to force Israel to obey his orders as well.

Still, the Netanyahu people seem confident they can stand up to whatever’s in store tomorrow.

According to a YNet report and Israel National News, one official from the delegation commented about the meeting saying that Israel would stand firm and assure its security.

“We think that the Israeli stance is clear. Israel will maintain its demands regarding its identity as a Jewish state, the importance of its security and its fear of having another army to deal with west of Jordan."

Of course that doesn’t say anything about rejecting the “Final Solution” of the “two state solution”. So only time will tell.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Poor, poor Porky

At this moment, PM Bibi Netanyahu is winging it to Washington to meet with the Community Organizer – and the rumors are flying faster than his plane. Educated guesses range from “No he won’t capitulate”, or “Yes, he’ll agree in principle” – with promises of a Likud rebellion against him at home, if he does.

Who knows?

We may as well relax – it’s too late for any more letters, pleas or protests.
So let’s think about something funnier. Like Porky Pig and his ancestors.

For several days running, the Internet was filled with horrific photos of Egyptians shooting all their pigs. You probably thought it was because they were worried about swine flu.

Not so. They were killing the pigs because they believe pigs are descended from Jews and therefore must be killed. Jews must be slaughtered, both those walking around now, on two legs, and those who are descended from Jews, who now live in the form of pigs.

Palestinian Media Watch issued a news story datelined Cairo. “Sheikh Ahmed Ali Othman, supervisor of the Da’awa of the Egyptian Waqf, issued a fatwa (ruling) which says that “pigs, in our time, have their origins in Jews who angered Allah, such that he turned them into monkeys, pigs and Satan worshippers. It is therefore mandatory to slaughter all the pigs.”

The sheikh based his ruling on a verse in the Koran, sura 5, verse 60: “Say [to the People of the Book - Jews and Christians] Come and I shall make known to you who receives the worst retribution of all from Allah: those whom Allah has cursed and upon whom He has poured His wrath, whom He has made into monkeys and pigs, and who have served abominations. Their place is worst of all, and their deviation is the greatest of all...`

The way it worked, the sheikh said, was that Allah became so angry at Moses and his followers that he transformed them all into pigs.

From this, two theories flow: first is that the new pigs remained pigs and died without reproducing any baby pigs. The second is that the Jews who were turned into pigs did reproduce – and their line continues today.

Sort of gives Charles Darwin a run for his money, huh? One has to wonder why ALL they Jews weren’t turned into pigs. Either that, or why, if the original new Jewish pigs did not reproduce, why any pigs remain today.

Anyway, poor Porky. This would not be a good time for a trip to the pyramids.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lessons from a life well lived....

A great lady passed away in late April, someone you may not have known. Joan Brauner Clark, wife of William P. Clark, “Bill” Clark to those of us who know him, succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Joan was 77 – and we know that her memory has already become a blessing for those of us who remain.

So ‘Joan Clark’ doesn’t ring a bell? You have to think back to the Good Ole Days, way back when Ronald Reagan was Governor of California. Those of us who worked with The Gipper in those days honored his Chief of Staff, Bill Clark, almost as much as we admired Ronald Reagan himself.

What I remember of his wife Joan is that she was a lovely, proper lady, always nicely dressed – even when the rest of us came casual to staff get-togethers on the banks of the Sacramento River, Joan was perfectly turned out in dress and heels. She was energetic and outgoing, and spoke with an accent I couldn’t quite place.
That tells you how little I knew about her.

The real story of her life came to light yesterday when a friend forwarded an appreciation written by Dr. Paul Kengor, political science professor and author of the definitive biography of Bill Clark, “The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand”.

Bill Clark was Governor Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff, but more importantly, he was our leader’s most devoted kindred spirit, his best friend as well as close advisor. After winning the Presidency, Pres. Reagan appointed him as National Security Advisor then as Secretary of the Interior.

Among the Reagan loyalists, it’s almost impossible to overstate his importance. To the world, he was even more. Dr. Kengor calls him “the quiet Catholic who changed the world.”

Thanks to Dr. Kengor, we now understand how large a role his wife Joan played in “changing of the world”.

Joan was born in Czechoslovakia in 1931 – which foreshadows the whole story. Her early life was peaceful and wonderful, she said, right up until 1938 when the Nazis arrived.

After the Anschluss in March, 1938, Hitler next looked to Czechoslovakia for annexation. What rationale did he use? That ethnic German populations living in the northern and western borders were suffering. It was a matter of justice that they be annexed, he claimed.

What did he really want? The whole thing. By incorporating the border areas, the Sudetenland, into Nazi Germany, the rest of the country would be rendered powerless to resist occupation. Then he’d grab that, too.

The Nazis came. Joan’s first memory of them was watching them set fire to a beautiful old synagogue.

Ultimately Hitler was defeated, although that didn’t end the suffering for the people of Czechoslovakia. The land mass was turned over to the Stalinists, and in the process, the Brauner family became “DP’s” – Displaced Persons. Political refugees, people driven out of their homes by force and fear, made to run for their lives even though they had no safe haven to run to.

In 1945, when Europe and America were celebrating V-E Day, the Brauner family lost everything. One day a Communist official showed up and said, “You have until tomorrow morning to pack all your bags and leave.”

Forced to walk over a mountain range into East Germany, with everything the family owned piled into a handcart, the Brauner's struggled. It’s not as though they had any choice.

The walk up the mountain was a nightmare, as Kengor recounts:

“(M)any collapsed from dehydration, and some died on the spot. The family took refuge in the home of relatives. That first night they encountered more cruelty from the Russians: drunken soldiers pounded the door demanding vodka. Joan, her mother, and the other girls quivered inside. “It was well known that Russian soldiers raped girls from 5 to 80 years of age,” recalled Joan. Her father pushed them to the roof.
Although the Russians didn’t find the girls, they discovered and seized their documents—their precious passports to freedom.

‘It was devastating, Joan said, 60 years later. ‘In Germany, if you stood in front of a government official with no birth certificate or official papers, you simply did not exist.’”

Joan’s real liberation came in 1952, when the petite 21-year old took a train to East Berlin, managed to cross into West Berlin, then bluffed her way aboard a plane to Hamburg, West Germany. There, she eventually met and married a young GI, Bill Clark, on May 5, 1955 in Basel, Switzerland. They returned to Bill’s family home in Ventura, California.

For the Clarks, the connection with Ronald Reagan came in 1964. Bill and Joan went to a Goldwater rally at the LA Sports Coliseum where they heard Ronald Reagan’s electrifying speech. ‘This is it, this is the man,’” Joan said. If Reagan would run for office, they’d not only support him, but work in his campaign.

Goldwater lost, but Ronald Reagan ran for Governor and won. Bill Clark became Governor Reagan’s chief of staff, then served on the California Superior Court bench, then as Associate Justice of the California State Supreme Court. Later, as National Security Advisor, both he and Joan, she well in the background – were instrumental in laying out the plan that would shut down the Evil Empire and eliminate the threat of world-wide Communist domination.

"Joan's experience is what burned the hatred of communism into Bill Clark," wrote Sal Russo, also a close confidant at the time. "It was that shared feeling that helped create the bond with Reagan, and thus the two of them devised the strategy for destroying the Soviet Union and the threat from world communism. So Joan was a key component in our victory in the cold war."

After all, as Kengor points out, for Joan, totalitarianism, Communism, was not a theory. She had lived under it. No one knew better than she did what happened when totalitarians took control and bent civilian populations to their vicious will.
Read Dr. Kengor’s entire tribute here:

In thinking about Joan’s experiences in Czechoslovakia, it occurs to me that right now, we in Israel are hovering in much the same position as did Czechoslovakia did in 1938.

American and European policy toward Israel today – forcing us to permit a terrorist state to be created within our tiny borders – is eerily similar to that applied by the English and French, when they pressured Czechoslovakia to yield to German demands to give up the strategically important mountains of the Sudetenland.

‘Cede the territory’, they insisted back then, saying it was necessary to respond to the alleged grievances of ethnic residents.

‘Cede the territory’, we’re being told, even though it would leave the rest of the country militarily indefensible.

But we know what happened in Czechoslovakia – and then in Europe and then throughout the entire world. Force us to cede territory and the same thing will happen again, today. It will not stop the terrorists. It will only encourage them.

Fanatical leaders -- be they the old German and Soviet dictators or today’s Islamists – who are bent on world domination cannot be appeased. Throwing small countries at them, in an attempt to satisfy them, doesn’t work.

Quite the contrary – they sense weakness and are energized by it. They renew their resolve to take over the world, country by country, anywhere people are too weak – or too naïve – to resist.

We can only hope that as Prime Minister Netanyahu travels to the US to meet with the Community Organizer, that he will have the strength, courage and wisdom to stand firm against the pressure that will be applied.

You can’t appease a tyrant. That’s never worked, and it won’t work now. All that will happen is that Israel will become a 21st Century Czechoslovakia.

Joan Clark would have known that better than anyone else.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

There it is. The map of “Israel” as Abu Mazen, (Mahmoud Abbas) sees it.

As you can see, Israel is gone, and ’Palestine’ covers the entire area – as a grinning Abu Mazen looks on. (What is it, with these grinning world leaders?)

The Abu Mazen quote that accompanied this photo when it ran on the front pages of both PA newspapers on April 28, 2009-- with “Palestine” printed in English, by the way, just to make sure we all get the message – says. “I say this clearly. I do not accept the Jewish State, call it what you will.”

Some ‘peace partner’, huh? How can anyone possibly think that this is someone with whom the “Jewish State” should make a deal?

And yet that’s what the world says it wants. Well, why not? It sounds simple. You have two nations (let’s just assume for a moment that mishmash of Arab rabble from Syria, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states really constitutes a “nation”) who are arguing over territory. Surely the most expedient way to solve that is by just affecting a compromise. Put the boundary somewhere between what the two want, and the issue is settled. Why make such a big deal out of it?

As most of you probably know, the reason it’s a big deal – and the reason why a ‘compromise’ like that won’t work – is that this isn’t a dispute over boundaries or territory. It’s a religious war, a dispute over whether one nation state has the right to exist or not. Draw a boundary wherever you want – and the fight will continue. It will continue until one state – the one that tends to abide by international agreements -- ceases to exist. With one of the two states gone, then you have peace.

Of a sort.

Is that what the Western world wants? North America and Europe? Probably not. Some do, certainly, those who continue to believe that Hitler’s work was interrupted and completing it now would be just fine. But most people probably see a division of the land – two states for two peoples – as a “fair” resolution of the problem.

“Fair”. A word that ought to be banned from use by anyone over the age of nine.

“Fair” is a child’s word. It has to do with getting a cookie that’s just as big as your sisters, or with being able to stay up as late as Johnny across the street. It has nothing to do with reality in the adult world.

Moms can adjust Cookie-size easily enough, and staying up a bit later can be negotiated. But if one child were to insist that he had the right to kill the other – heaven forbid – unless he got ALL the cookies, ALL the time, then there’s no negotiation. When one party promises to annihilate of the other, there is no compromise. There can’t be.

There’s an absolutely excellent article out today by Arieh Eldad originally published in HaTikvah. Dr. Eldad is a physician and Member of the Knesset from the Moledet Party, part of National Union.

The whole piece ought to be required reading before anyone opens his or her mouth to voice an opinion on the Israel/’Palestinian’ conflict.

The key point Eldad makes is that the Arabs war against the Jewish State has nothing to do with territory, as such. It’s a religious war, one over whether or not Israel has a right to exist.

Religious wars have nothing to do with logic, being reasonable or finding a ‘fair’ solution. When one party to the conflict insists ‘my god says I have to kill you’ there’s no reasoning with that. No compromise.

As Abu Mazen so proudly proclaims, not now, not ever, will they accept the Jewish State. It must be wiped off the map.

Israel’s late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin had it right, too. “A Palestinian state can rise only on the ruins of the State of Israel.”

Monday, May 11, 2009

When the going gets tough, the tough....

... get going. We hope.

Boy oh boy, the pressure is on. The world as a whole is pretty much jumping on Israel, demanding that we accept their plans to bring “peace” to the Middle East – a “peace” that could only mean the end of Israel.

This isn’t to deny that the end of Israel wouldn’t bring ‘peace’. It would, of course -- there would be an end to the opposition to Arab/Islamist control of this part of the world. They would be free to use the region as terrorist training grounds to further the Islamist plan to wipe out Western democracies and impose Islamic law on the world.

Needless to say, that's not the kind of peace we have in mind.

It started yesterday, when PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas rejected any further talks with Israel. Abbas is better known locally by his nom de guerre, Abu Mazen, which was how he was known during the years when he didn’t dress like a Chicago businessman and carried out terrorist attacks much more openly.

In any event, Abu Mazen’s refusal to talk to Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu means he’s betting on the Community Organizer and the Pope to fight this battle for him – and unfortunately enough, it looks like that’s exactly what they’ll do.

Abu Mazen apparently expects the Community Organizer to pressure Israel into accepting the much-talked-about “two state solution” when the two meet for the first time next week.

Israel rejects the “two state solution” -- what THEY mean by the “two state solution” anyway. They intend to carve a terrorist state within the boundaries of contemporary Israel, taking about a third of Israel’s land mass.

We oppose that, because we know what will happen – exactly the same thing that happened when we (stupidly) turned Aza over to the terrorists. That said, there is a long-standing “two state solution” many of us would heartily endorse: It’s the recognition that there already ARE two states, one for Jews, one for Israeli Arabs. The existing State for the Israeli Arabs is called Jordan.

I laid out the whole history of the thing in one of the SacUnion columns – which is still there, believe it or not.

Simply stated, when Israel was created in 1948, a state for the Arabs was created, too. But they rejected it. They didn’t want just a part of the territory back then, they wanted it all.

So here we are again – 61 years later – and in spite of having rejected the State that was offered to them six decades ago, now they insist they must have a State. Not the State of Jordan, obviously – they already have that, in the sense that it’s Arab-controlled. Now they want a hunk of the land that was given to Israel, and which Israel accepted.

So Abu Mazen expects the Community Organizer to pull this deal off for him, to force Israel into agreeing to sacrifice our security in order to maintain some sort of relationship to the US.

That was strike one. The second strike came today when, as expected, the Pope stepped in to help.

According to an AP story datelined Jerusalem, immediately after arriving in Israel, Pope Benedict XVI called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian homeland.

"The hopes of countless men, women and children for a more secure and stable future depend on the outcome of negotiations for peace," the Pope said at an airport ceremony."In union with people of goodwill everywhere, I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own within secure and internationally recognized borders."

Well, if nothing else, it certainly proves that the Pope’s alleged infallibility is limited to issues of faith and morals. Obviously he doesn’t know beans about politics, history or what’s going on in the Middle East right now.

The third strike against Israel came this afternoon from the allegedly ‘moderate’ country of Jordan, when King Abdullah stepped into the fracas to issue his own threat.

The King told the London Times that he was giving Israel a moratorium – he’s giving us 18 months to accept the “Saudi Arabian 2002 Peace Plan” or else. Not surprisingly, the ‘Saudi Plan’ is the same plan the Community Organizer is pushing, probably because it means a relatively quick end to Israel.

What’s the “or else”? What happens if Israel does not accept the Saudi Plan within 18months? “Then the world will be suckered into another conflict in the Middle East.”

Actually, the King was just reiterating a warning he’d issued a month ago when he was the Community Organizer’s guest of honor in Washington. At that time, he warned the US that if the Jewish State did not accept Arab demands, Israel would face war.

What’s interesting about the Arabs is their candor. They tell the world over and over that their goal is to drive us into the sea. They make no bones about their continuing to use terror in order to accomplish that. They openly and repeatedly, and without any hint of embarrassment, call the Jewish State all kinds of names I’d rather not print here. They’re proud of being viciously racist.

So maybe it’s not surprising that King Abdullah was open and candid about the pressure being applied to Israel. Responding to a question about the American-led pressure against Israel and the visit of the Pope, the King openly admitted the strategy to the Times, “It is all part of one major effort,” he said.

So now it’s up to Bibi. He’s meeting with the Community Organizer next week. Can he stand up to the almost inhuman pressure being applied by Israel’s former ally, the US? Can he stand alone against the rest of the world? Will he tell the most powerful man in the world that while we appreciate the advice, we’ll make our own decisions?

Can he do that?

I haven’t a clue. But what I do know is that if he doesn’t, then the world as we know it will change. And not in the direction of peace, either.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Pope comes a-calling

News reports here are filled with commentary about the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. He arrives on Thursday, walking into parts of the world where on occasion, his welcome will be lukewarm, at best.

For example, he’s planning on visiting Nazaret in order to visit the Church of the Annunciation where he’ll celebrate the largest of three planned Masses. Nazaret enjoyed a majority Christian population during the period when Israel controlled the territory. Today, under Arab rule, the Christians have dwindled to a shaky 35% and falling. Not everyone is entirely happy about the visit.

In the large plaza outside the church, Muslims have hung large signs picturing the Dome of the Rock, with the message, ““And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers” in both English and Arabic.

That gave me the funeral giggles. A few days ago, someone emailed me a link to a Rowan Atkinson sketch. Check it out:

As you might expect, the Muslims aren’t the least bit bashful about their feelings.

Thousands of fliers are being distributed: “We announce from Nazareth that we are opposed to the Pope’s visit. A person who cursed the prophet, who stood at the head of the effort to convert Muslims in Darfur, Indonesia and the Muslim world, attacked Islam, praised America and drew near and fraternized with the butcher of Gaza is unwanted here,” the flyer reads.

Even though Israel has a lot more to lose from the Pope’s visit than do the Muslims, we tend to be a little more circumspect.

Officialdom will, of course, roll out the red carpet – literally. It’s just that many of us tend to mistrust anyone who comes saying they bring a message of ‘peace’. Foreign promoters of ‘peace’ are usually peddling some plan that involves Israel laying down its weapons and ceding more land, while asking nothing of our enemies.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all in favor of real peace. It’s just that I think we need a little victory before any kind of peace is possible.

Interesting that Israel’s former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau tends to be a little more hesitant about his welcome than are many of the elected officials.

While saying we should not “rebuff” the Pope’s visit, he also made a point of mentioning Benedict’s personal history. “The current pope was born in Germany and was a member of the Hitler Youth. I don’t know if he was in the German Army, but his background is totally different than that of his predecessor.”

Rabbi Lau, who’s a Holocaust survivor, also noted that the Pope had committed two grave mistakes in his relationship with Israel during the last year. First, he reinstated the Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson, who repeatedly insisted there had been no systematic murder of Jews. Then, when force of public opinion caused him to apologize, he apologized only for offending his friends in the Church, not for what he’d said.

Second, two weeks ago at the Durban II conference, the Pope’s representatives attended and blessed the participants, including Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who gave a virulently anti-Semitic, anti-Israel rant. Several countries boycotted the conference entirely, while others walked out during Ahmadinejad’s tirade. But not the Pope’s delegation. They remained throughout the whole speech.

Still, in Israel, the Pope will be welcomed with all the pomp and ceremony accorded any visiting dignitary.

But consider this: What do you think would happen if the Pope were to visit Mecca, and say that in the interests of peace, Mecca should be divided?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Charlie the Tuna and I

Nothing makes life more interesting than having a penchant for fresh tuna.

The hunt for the perfect ‘Charlie’ means you’re constantly on the lookout for tuna that taste good – never mind their lack of good taste.

My first experience with fresh tuna came in Seattle, when someone told me it was still possible to go down to the commercial fishing docks and buy fresh fish right off a fishing boat. It was Thursday, and since I was cooking the Friday night Shabbat meal for Chabad House, planning dinner for 40 on a really tight budget, buying a whole fish off a fishing boat sounded not only easier but more economical than messing around with lots of little cans.

Little did I know.

I found the fishing dock without much trouble, and even found a boat offloading tuna. I admit I had very little idea of what a fresh tuna looked like – I assumed it would look pretty much like ‘Charlie’ the mascot of the Star Kist brand who was something of a TV star at the time. Finally someone appeared on the deck of the boat and I hollered up to the craggy guy, asking if I could buy a fish.
“How big?” he hollered back.

“Big,” I said, thinking of the 40 adult mouths I planned to feed. “A really big one.”

Pretty soon he came down the gangplank, cigarette dangling from his lips, staggering slightly under the weight of something very long wrapped in brown paper. As he came closer, I could see this package was intended for me.

Oh wow. I had no idea a tuna was that big – how could it be? The cans are so small!
“You can’t carry this,” he said, talking around the cigarette. “I’ll put it right in your car.”

I was probably too stunned to say no, let alone change my mind. So he loaded the thing – which must have been a good four feet long, into the back of my hatchback. Based on what I paid for it, it must have weighed something over 40 pounds. As I drove off, the obvious thought occurred to me. Fine, he’d put it into my car. Who was going to take it out?

Well. I got back to Chabad House and of course there was only one person available to do that. Me. So I pulled up in the back alleyway, was lucky enough to find a reasonably close parking place and opened the hatchback. Looking at my passenger again, I was blown away. It was really a very big fish. Not only that, it wasn’t shaped like the TV star at all – TV Charlie had a big head tapering to a smaller body. My dinner guest was torpedo-shaped, very long and biggest around in the middle.

Looking at it, I decided the best plan was to go into the building first, punch in all the security codes and unlock all the doors, then come back and bring the fish in. I propped open the doors and came back for to the car.

By this time, my Charlie had thawed a bit. All fresh-caught fish are “cooled” in the boat at sea, I’ve learned since, and in this case “cooled” meant stiff as a board in the beginning. But by the time Charlie and I were ready to boogie, Charlie was sweating and was now quite limp.

Lifting him out of the hatchback was interesting, I’ll say that. By this time, Charlie’s thawing had pretty much disintegrated the brown paper, so it was pretty much me, wrestling with a nearly nude Charlie.

The only way I could handle him was by hugging him close, fins, wet body and all. It wasn’t so much Charlie’s weight that was the problem. I could lift him – barely – but the real trouble was how unwieldy he was, not to mention slippery. I finally just put my arms around him as though we were dancing – darn near lip to lip – and carried him in.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I was hoping no one was looking out the window to see this little escapade.

So. We made it into the building, Charlie was draped over the big commercial-sized counter. It was time to do a bit of butchery.

What I really needed, of course, was a saw, but all that was available were the relatively piddley little knives we had. Worse than that, Romeo – the handyman (with a name like that, could I possibly be making this up?) -- wasn’t to be found. Normally Romeo would sharpen all the knives to a razor’s edge, but he had gone AWOL on me – smart man that he was.

Staring at Charlie, there, on the counter, all I could think of was a Julia Child episode where she had a monk fish, I think it was, draped over her TV kitchen counter. The thing was so huge the head hung off one end, and the tail off the other, and Julia was showing us where the best parts were.

Charlie wasn’t quite that big – and if Julia could do it, then surely I could. Of course she would have started the process by pouring a glass of wine, which sounded like a terrific idea. I found some very nice Merlot. As usual, Julia was right.

The first loss was the menu. Struggling with the smallish, none-too-sharp knives meant that the tuna steaks I’d been envisioning were a pipe dream. There was no way I could carve nice steaks.

Tuna as the main course gave way to tuna as a first course, in the form of tuna teriyaki. I’d make a big batch of teriyaki sauce, cut the fish into small pieces, hunks that didn’t need to be uniform, and cook them lightly in the sauce. I’d use only a part of the fish and freeze the rest.

Which is exactly what I did. I have to tell you, that fish was absolutely wonderful. I’d never tasted anything that good. Fresh tuna, as compared to the stuff in the cans, is an entirely different food. I like canned tuna, too, but this was out of this world. Apparently the Friday night guests agreed. Every scrap disappeared – and I had enough left in the freezer to do it again.

After that I bought a lot of fresh fish directly from Seattle’s commercial fishermen – not just tuna but salmon, too. Never again, though, did I tell any of them I wanted a “big” fish. I specified pounds instead. No more waltzing with a Charlie.

Which brings us up to the present.

Yesterday, waiting in line at the fish mongers at the City Shuk, I decided it was time for some fresh tuna again. The fish in the Shuk are way beyond marvelous, exquisitely fresh and interesting. The only problem is, almost all of them are species I’ve never heard of, let alone seen. Not only do I not know anything about them, but I don’t even know what they’re called. So I’ve been playing it safe and sticking to salmon and carp, which I can identify. But yesterday it was time for tuna.

I told the fish monger I wanted six tuna steaks. Fine, he said. Which fish did I want?

“Tuna,” I said.

“But which tuna?” I finally got it. Here, too, I had to buy the whole fish. Then he would cut it any way I wanted.

As I stood there looking confused, he tried again: “How big a fish do you want?”

Before I could catch myself, I heard myself saying, “Big. Real big!”

Nuts. I never learn.

The first tuna he pulled out was way too big -- not as big as Charlie, that’s for sure. But this time I had sense enough to say I wanted something smaller. So he found another one – it’s probably seven pounds or eight pounds. Modest by comparison.

And such a deal! He cleaned and gutted the fish, then cut it into lovely steaks. I’ll cook half for tonight – we’re talking tuna teriyaki again, why mess with perfection? I’ll freeze the rest. He even included the head and fins in the package, so if I’m not ambitious enough to make fish broth, the neighborhood cats will get a Shabbat treat, too.

What a really nice thing it is, having someone else clean and slice your fish!

Shabbat shalom, everyone. For those of you who have “weekends” have a good one!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Emperor may not be properly attired.

There’s an interesting article on Yahoo news this morning – interesting for two reasons.

First, it’s the second inside of a week to suggest that Barack Hussein Obama may not really know everything there is to know.

Second, the substance of the piece itself is interesting: “Analysis: Obama scrambles against militant threat”.

Why? It repeatedly uses words like “costly”, “expensive”, “difficult” and “far reaching” to refer to the Community Organizer’s approach to the ongoing terrorism.

You’ll note that it doesn’t go so far as to call the Taliban ‘terrorists’, of course. “Militants” it says, apparently because mere genocide isn’t enough to earn the “T” label.

Genocide? “The policy of the Taliban is to exterminate the Hazaras,” said Maulawi Mohammed Hanif, Taliban Commander, announcing their policy after killing 15,000 Hazaras people in a single day. “Hazaras are not Muslim. You can kill them. It is not a sin.”

So – by the media’s standard, the Taliban qualify only as ‘militants’. To be termed a “terrorist” you have to oppose abortion, chop down trees or be an Israeli.

In any event, Yahoo’s analysis suggests, in ever so oblique a fashion, that the Community Organizer is opening a heck of a can of worms and doesn’t seem to be aware of it.

First, it recounts how he permitted Missus Bubba to apologize for US air strikes that killed dozens of civilians, men, women and children, on Monday.

(What happened? The Taliban herded something over 120 civilians into 17 different houses, attempting to use them as human shields. When US war planes fired at the houses anyway, they were killed. Sound familiar? Of course when Hamas does that in Aza and the air strikes are made by Israeli planes, then it’s a different matter. Then it’s Israelis who are terrorists.)

All that said, when the US killed an awful lot of innocent Afghans, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai wasn’t amused.

But the Community Organizer didn't want to talk about it. Enough about war and death, he said, in effect. He preferred to talk about “nation building” and how to “make life better for the beleaguered people” in both nations.

"No matter what happens we will not be deterred," he piously proclaimed.

Well, here we go again. The Community Organizer is lapsing into Oval Office Speak.

That’s the very same line we heard from President Bush – not to mention Israel’s goofy former Prime Minister -- whenever there was a deadly terrorist attack in Israel.

As soon as the smoke from the bombed bus cleared, sometimes even before the bodies had been hauled away, officials on both sides of the pond scurried to the microphones to “assure people” that “This will not interrupt the peace process!”

Which is completely nuts. In any rational situation, terrorist attacks damn well should “interrupt” the “peace process”. How can you have a “peace process” when one side is still killing civilians?

Just so, when the “militants” you insist you’re trying to help respond by killing as many civilians as they can, the Community Organizer damn well should be “deterred”.

His line, “no matter what happens we will not be deterred” echoes that old gag about insanity. When you keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.

All that said, it is interesting that at least one news outlet has taken a wee baby step outside the box.

They’re not coming right out and saying that the President lacks clothing, of course, but they are suggesting the possibility that he may have forgotten his pants.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Become a terrorist and see the world


Strikes me as utterly insane – something that would appeal only to those who’ve been sipping the kool aide for a month of Sundays.

I’m talking, of course, about the Irish government’s plan to reform its country’s worst murderers and terrorists by giving them an all-expenses paid trip to Poland. Why? To tour Auschwitz, the most infamous of the Nazi death camps.

The idea is, said Frank Higgens of the Belfast Transition Training Center – who’s paying for the trip – was that they wanted the murderers to see what tragic results stem from racist hatred.

I dunno – seems to me they might just be giving them some good ideas, instead.

So far, a dozen of Ireland’s most dangerous terrorists have made the trip and another 50 are scheduled to go. In addition to touring Auschwitz, they enjoy cultural events so as to learn more about Poland. They visit Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow and sample traditional Polish food.

Hey – could I go?

But seriously, what is it about terrorists that the world refuses to believe? Why are these vicious killers coddled? Personally, I think a tour of the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville might be a better option. Especially those rooms outfitted only with a cot and an IV machine. And make that a one-way tour, by the way.

The Community Organizer is indulging in his own form of insanity on the issue. He wants to bring the al Qaeda-trained jihadists now being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the US and release them among the general population just like regular immigrants.

Did you get that? The US-captured terrorists, who dedicated their lives to killing Americans and destroying Western civilization, will be living free and easy on public assistance in the US – and they didn’t even get the benefit of the tour of Auschwitz!

If you wrote this stuff as fiction, of course, it would never sell. Way too far out.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Channeling Maggie...

“I woke up this morning with a headache – but neither the up-front sinus kind nor the wallop of a migraine – and a feeling that if I wasn’t exactly sick, I sure as hell was ailing.

“Did I leave the kerosene heater on? No.

“High blood pressure, then? That was supposed to give you headaches, I’d heard. But ‘high’ anything didn’t seem to fit, for when I first tried getting out of bed I discovered that someone had sneaked in during the night and untied all my muscle-strings.

"However, I decided as I stumbled around my room, my head didn’t really pound, and as headaches go, this one ranked well below a good-sized hangover.

“I finally declared myself formally not-sick. What I felt was ‘funny’ and that vague description was as close as I could get. Defeated on all fronts, I dragged my oddly heavy body off to ulpan (Hebrew school).

“But in school, I seemed to be an even duller Hebrew scholar than usual. I wasn’t walking through water, I was immobilized in thick air while new words, however conscientiously chanted, dropped soundlessly out of my mind the next second, and even words I knew failed to come when I rang for them.

“What was this all about? I finally learned that it was the hamsin, which is the Arabic word. In Hebrew, it’s called a sharav. It’s a strong hot wind that blows – more or less – in certain seasons, and does something odd with the ions in the air. The hamsin gives you a headache, tightens your nerves, sours your temper, and makes everyone seem at least a little hateful.

"It gives a lot of people that pinch-faced, drawn look. All in all, it’s a good day to stay at home if you can.”

That’s Maggie Rennert speaking, from her marvelous book, ‘Shelanu: An Israel Journal” published in 1979 and just as timely today as it was then.

Maggie left her native Boston and moved to Israel in 1973 – moved to Beersheba, actually – and then wrote this book about her first year here. It’s largely because of Maggie -- who tragically passed away in the early 1980’s – that I came to Beersheba myself.

Her book 'Shelanu’ although now seriously out of print, is delightful, funny, profound and deadly accurate in telling what it’s like for a woman of a certain age – she was in her late 50’s when she came – to move to a very foreign country and learn to survive. The tales she told about the Beersheba community – as it was in 1973 – sounded so interesting, so diverse, so wacky (truth be told) that I had to see for myself.

She was pretty much right on – even though I came to the city some 30 years after she did. Ever since I got here, though, I’ve been tracking Maggie. I’ve even found a few people who remember her, but they remember her by a different name, because as it turns out, she was married multiple times, and the name she used when she lived here wasn’t the name she published under.

Maggie was a successful writer – in fact, she was living off royalties earned for her book about the Kennedy administration, “A Moment in Camelot”, she being the first to dub those years “Camelot”. While living here, she wrote three thrillers – set in Boston, not here. I’ve tracked down two of them, but never finished either one – they may or may not have been good books back then, but they’re too dated to be very enjoyable now.

But her “Shelanu” is a masterpiece – the word “Shelanu” is Hebrew for ‘ours’.

“’Shelanu’ is more of a concept than a word,” she writes. “It’s the essence of Israel’s life and people, embodying in exact balance all the idiocy and all the glory that came of the original absurd, marvelous, wholly romantic notion that we could start a country of our own. A country that would be ‘ours’.

“There is a family feeling here, not because it’s so small everyone knows everyone else, but because it’s in a family that you see people loving each other the way Israelis love their country –ruefully, impatiently, davka, in despite. Wondering why they don’t take off for somewhere greener or safer or softer. Asking themselves why they put up with these bastards. And all the time, they know why: it’s because they may be bastards, but they’re ‘shelanu’. They’re our bastards.”

You can probably find Maggie’s book on eBay – what’s surprising is how many people have actually read it, although it’s been out of print for decades. Enjoy it. As for me, I’m taking a break – the wind is awesome and I’m feeling cranky.

(Thanks to Bob in Seattle for the idea to blog about the hamsin – I bit his head off this morning, and now I know why.)

Tit for tat -- then WHAP by the media

Here we go again with Bat Ayin. It’s such a classic case – it demonstrates such classic behavior on the part of Jews, Arabs and the media -- that the story is worth mentioning.

I’ve talked about Bat Ayin before. That’s where last month, 13- year old Shlomo Nativ was killed by an Arab terrorist wielding an axe while playing near the community center. Another child, seven year old Yair Gamliel was also injured. A third child escaped.

Yesterday, May 2, was Shabbat, a time when all work ceases – most especially in Bat Ayin, a highly Orthodox community. It’s also a time when Arab terrorists seem mostly likely to attack, sensing, maybe, that this would be a day when they could more easily prevail when their enemies are relaxing and may have their guard down. In any event, yesterday there was – as the media reported -- a “clash” between the Jews of Bat Ayin and the terrorists of nearby Arab village, Safa.

It’s important to understand how unique Bat Ayin is. It’s located outside the “green line” – that mythical line that allegedly demarks the border between “Israel” and the “disputed territories” – what the world media insists on calling “occupied territories”. (As far as I’m concerned, the name “Israel” applies just fine to the whole thing.)

Anyway, Bat Ayin is one of those idyllic, idealistic, wholesome places that reminds you of everything the youth of America dreamed of in the 1960’s, before the ‘hippie’ movement got involved with drugs, filth and pernicious lifestyles. Bat Ayin is big on holistic medicine, organic food, music and meditation, all of which lead to a joyous lifestyle – all within the strict bounds of Jewish orthodoxy. Guns and weapons just don’t seem to fit in that scenario, but of course they’ve become necessary when you live in such a dangerous neighborhood. Bat Ayin is about halfway between Jerusalem and Hebron, just south of Bethlehem.

Bat Ayin is unique in another way – unlike most other Jewish villages in the area, the residents have consistently refused to build a security fence around their community. It would be a sign of “weakness”, they say, so the community is easy to access.

So it’s Shabbat morning in Bat Ayin, and a small group of local residents are walking to a place where they’ve traditionally gone to pray on Shabbat, an outdoor spot high on a hill. Need I add that the land is legally owned by Jews? Probably. So here’s the disclaimer: Jews bought and paid for the land. They hold legal title. Surely they have a right to go there to pray if they want to.

Daily, for the last several weeks, Arabs have taken to harassing the residents by throwing rocks and in general doing everything they can to disrupt the group and drive them away. The spot is also used by Arabs whenever they can, because it’s an excellent lookout point, from which they can look down into Bat Ayin. Their use is, of course, illegal, because again, the property is owned by Jews. In fact, since the murder of Shlomo Nativ, the Jews have begun building a synagogue there, in his memory.

Yesterday, for whatever reason, the Arabs became more aggressive and in addition to throwing rocks, a large unruly mob began to surround the small group of Jews. Hoping to disperse them, two armed Bat Ayin residents fired their weapons into the air.

At this point, the always-present IDF, Israeli Army, entered the fracas. They brought in reinforcements to which the Arabs responded with a massive rock attack. Bottom line: A clash, and two Arabs were moderately wounded.

All that is classic behavior all over Israel. Arabs attack, Jews put up with it for a time, then finally are forced to take some action to inspire the Arabs to stop. Sometimes it amounts to nothing more than firing weapons into the air. Sometimes it ends up as something called the Chanukah War. It’s the same thing that happens when a child keeps poking his brother. Sooner or later, the brother gets tired of it and hits back. There’s nothing new or unique about the sequence of events.

Unfortunately there’s nothing new or unique about the way the media reported the event, either. They responded in their own classic way – including, alas, the Jerusalem Post. What was their headline? “Two injured as Bat Ayin settlers open fire on Palestinian village”

What? “Settlers” – a loaded word, if there ever was one – “opened fire” on a “Palestinian” village?

How did we get to that, based on the facts? The two residents of Bat Ayin – call them “settlers” if you wish, because we’re all “settlers”. (A friend of mine who lives in the heart of Jerusalem has a sign on her door, “I am a settler in Jerusalem”) -- fired into the air from a spot high on a hill, that they themselves owned. The shots that wounded the Arabs were fired by the IDF. “Opened fire on a Palestinian village” ?? Whoa.

Nowhere in the story was the fact of the rock throwing, or of the threatening mob mentioned. In fact, the JPost, I’m ashamed to say, went so far as to call the shooting “unprovoked”.

Good grief.

(Wow – here’s a ‘How about that?’ addendum: I just checked the link, to make sure the JPost article was still there – and it’s not. It’s been taken down. The headline is still there – as are 47 comments. I highly recommend reading the comments. As usual, regular readers show much more common sense than do those writing the news....)

The photo is courtesy of Bat Ayin,

Friday, May 1, 2009

Random thoughts on Friday morning....

 It’s fun when a stack of old New Yorker magazines becomes available. Sometimes a short stack will appear in the local library, sometimes someone has them, and passes them on, other times I’ve happily paid for them – there’s a guy in Jerusalem who routinely sells old American magazines for about a dollar a copy. One time I went all the way to Jerusalem just to pick up twenty old New Yorkers – I regarded it as a total bonanza. Good deal!

So this week I’m leafing through one from about a year ago, and not finding much of interest. There’s nothing less interesting than old campaign analysis when the election is done and over. It’s especially not interesting when the magazine in question is open and notorious in its support for the candidate I knew would be a total disaster.

In this particular issue, the New Yorker tried to embarrass Republicans by printing a long story on Roger Stone, more or less the bad boy of the Republican Party. Stone was a Nixionite, he has a colorful slightly dissolute lifestyle, and he’s been on the wrong side of the law a few times, dating back from the days when as a teenager he played a minor role in Watergate.

What’s funny is that the New Yorker is trying to make us all see how outrageous and ridiculous Stone is by quoting many of the things he’s said over the years. It makes me laugh – I agree with Stone every time. I think he’s exactly right.

My, my. How out of touch can you get? I mean the New Yorker, of course. Not me.

 Speaking of embarrassment, watching this Cheshire cat of a US President traipse around the world, humiliating America wherever he goes, I find myself wondering how America likes it. That’s what we’ve put up with here in Israel with the last few Prime Ministers – not with Bibi. Or not yet, anyway. It’s not fun.

When the Community Organizer bows to a Saudi King, starts reading the Irish President’s speech from the teleprompter instead of his own, presents a tacky toy to the Russians and a CD of his own speeches as a State Gift to Queen Elizabeth, I find myself cringing. How can he be so crass? This guy is so way beyond awful it’s almost fun to read it, at least in the ‘I told you so’ sense.

So how does it feel, America? You’ve got this loose cannon running around representing you, and for another 3.8 years, there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it. You’re stuck.

That’s the way it always is, here. We the People of Israel don’t pick the Prime Minister. We can’t remove him. So our top official can do pretty much whatever he feels like, because the truth is, he has more to fear from international scorn than he does from the people of his own country.

It’s not fun to feel powerless, is it?

 And speaking of powerlessness, here’s something else. One of the character-enhancing elements in moving to Israel -- a benefit I never anticipated – is how much you learn by living as a member of a minority population.

Seriously, painful as it occasionally is, it’s good for the character. Everyone ought to try it at least once in their lives.

Anglos, native English speakers, in Israel are a tiny percent of the population, even tinier in Beersheba, where I live – like 2500 native English speakers in a city population of 200,000. It might surprise you to hear this, but former Americans – or English, Australian, or whatever – aren’t highly respected by the native population. I wouldn’t say we’re discriminated against, exactly, but we are pre-judged. Natives assume we are all wealthy, for one thing. “Rich American” is the usual description, which means that a lot of less-scrupulous people will find ways to take financial advantage of us on the theory that we can afford it. So we pay more for a lot of things – and yes, there are other reasons for that, too, including our inability to master the fine points of bargaining. Even so, some of it results from an assumption that we’re all rolling in money, so relieving us of some of it is almost an honorable duty.

Parallel to that is the belief that we all moved to Israel on a lark – for fun. Certainly there’s an element of truth in that, too – as least compared to those who arrived because they were being persecuted in their Old Countries. We weren’t – we came for other less life-threatening reasons. Yet, there’s a trace of disrespect when our motives for wanting to live here are judged.

There’s also an underlying disrespect for the US because of its sheer power. No one likes to be told what to do, and in fact, too many times, under several presidents, the US has tried – and way too often succeeded – to dictate policy to Israel. So we, here, are sometimes in the uncomfortable position of being seen as supporters of US policy, even when we hate it as much as anyone else.

All that said, for my first few months here, in ulpan – mandatory Hebrew school, where new immigrants from all over the world come together to learn basic Hebrew – the one question people asked me, over and over, is, “Do you have the telephone number for the US Embassy?”

I didn’t. It never occurred to me I’d need it. So why were Russians – former FSU citizens – wanting it? Because many of them came to Israel, intending to start here and then move somewhere else. What they wanted wasn’t so much to move to Israel, but to get out of the former Soviet Union. Israel was a good option – if they could find (or manufacture) some evidence that a grandparent had been Jewish, they could get an all-expenses-paid move to Israel, and State support, here, while they regrouped and found a way to move somewhere else. So they came, but they regarded Israel as a stepping stone, hoping to find a way to get to the US.

One of the most laughed-at “jokes” in my ulpan class came from a young guy named Igor, an off-the-cuff remark that won him high points among the Russians. “My grandfather had Jewish blood,” he said, dramatically pausing before adding, “on his hands.” Pretty funny, huh? The Russians thought so.

(Disclaimer: this attitude is certainly not true of all former FSU immigrants. Many – most, even – are highly loyal to the State of Israel. But there’s enough of the ‘others’ to be noteworthy.)

All that said, learning to live, survive, prevail and -- on a good day, even succeed a little -- in this highly charged, intense and extremely diverse population is an opportunity I highly recommend to everyone. It’s one of those “WHAP! Thanks! I needed that!” experiences.

It’s always a good thing to have a realistic view of your place in the world. And there’s no better way to do that than by living as a member of a minority population.

 That’s it for today! It’s only 9:30 on Friday morning, but already someone in the neighborhood is grilling something delicious. The aroma is out of this world. Time to get busy, myself.