Thursday, July 30, 2009


For those of you who managed to escape the course in Legal Latin I got suckered into, that’s Cicero speaking, one of the foremost anti-Semites of ancient times.

Let’s let the Mikado, the Emperor of Japan, make the point instead.

“My object all sublime,” the Mikado sang, “I shall achieve in time: to let the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime!”

What’s the crime that bothering liberals at the moment? The lack of ‘proportionality’ in the arrest of the Community Organizer’s friend and colleague, Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr.

Two things quickly became apparent: First, the President scored his very own Gates-gate just six months into his presidency. Second, all this reminds us how well suited the POTUS was to previous job as a community organizer in Chicago. Now that he’s holding the US’s highest elective office, it proves again the deadly accuracy of the Peter Principle: that in a hierarchy, individuals tend to be promoted to the level of their incompetence. Barack Hussein Obama was apparently a pretty good community organizer.

What happened in Cambridge, MA, was this: a possible burglary had been reported to the Cambridge police by a 911 caller. The officers responded, saw that the door had been forced, and upon entering the house, found two black men. They asked for identification.

From this point on, accounts differ, but according to the officers, “Skip” Gates, who was living in the Harvard-owned house, became “unruly” and “non-cooperative”, refused to answer some questions, and was ultimately arrested. He spent a few hours in a jail cell before all charges were dropped.

All of this gave rise to an impromptu lecture from the self-proclaimed Ruler of the World, whereby he began by admitting he didn’t have all the facts, but nevertheless set out to castigate the Cambridge police for “acting stupidly”. As he pontificated for his world-wide audience, it appeared that the Community Organizer was certain the only reason Gates was arrested was because he was a black African-American.

“There is a long history of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement, disproportionately,” Obama instructed us, slipping into the racial advocacy cant of his previous profession.

So how would the Community Organizer have preferred the Cambridge police to have acted?

When the officers walked in and saw two black men standing inside the house, saw the forced door, what should they have done? Should they have dragged out their calculators and record sheets, entered the appropriate information, and then said, “Ah, excuse us. We had been informed that a burglary may have been in progress at this residence, but we’ll have to leave. Our records show we’ve already detained and arrested our quota of black men for this month. So? As you were, gentlemen. Carry on!”

I don’t know about you, but I suspect very few of us would like to see our tax money spent for that kind of law enforcement. (Geez, wouldn’t you think a resident would be pleased that the police responded so quickly to a report of a possible burglary?)

Quotas – “proportionality” – have no place in law enforcement. Citing crime statistics -- how blacks and Latinos ‘proportionately’ commit more crimes than other ethnic groups – is irrelevant. It really doesn’t matter.

When a home has been forcibly entered, when a car is dangerously exceeding the speed limit, when stores are being burned and looted, the only issue for police to address is who -- which individuals, right now -- appear to be engaged in an unlawful act. It’s ridiculous to suggest that they need consider the race of the individuals -- or check ‘detain and arrest’ statistics -- before taking action.

This insistence on “proportionality” in responding to law breakers or evil-doers isn’t limited to Cambridge, MA. Liberals and Israel haters all over the world hurled the “P” word -- “proportionality”-- at Israel recently, too.

What was Israel’s crime? After eight long years of terrorist rocket and missile attacks in the Negev, putting the lives of a million people -- Arabs and Jews – in jeopardy, Israel finally struck back last December.

What happened? The world went into a tailspin, claiming that Israel’s response was “disproportionate”. Everyone from Nikolas Sarkozy to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ran to the microphones to denounce Israel for using a “disproportionate” amount of force against the Hamas terrorists, who had been attacking Israel, killing civilians, inflicting tens of millions in property damage – not to mention incalculable infliction of pain and anxiety for everyone within range – for nearly a decade.

What did the world want? Passivity? Or is it as blogger Jonathan Mark suggested: What would have happened if after Pearl Harbor, the United States had been limited to bombing a few Japanese fishing boats, then calling it a day? Would the war have ended, just like that that?

(Read his whole blog on Jewish World Review. It’s excellent.

It’s not that I’m against all “proportionality” – in general, the Mikado’s admonition to let the punishment fit the crime is valid. For example, there’s a group of people in Israel who have suffered disproportionately – and who should be compensated.

To our everlasting shame, next week is the 4th anniversary of our infamous “Disengagement” from Aza. Forced out of their homes and businesses were 10,000 Jews, expelled from their land so Aza could be turned over to the Arabs in a magnificent and unilateral “land for peace” gesture.

Today, of course, we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that ‘land for peace’ means ‘land for terror’. In a heartbeat, Aza became a cesspool of terrorist activity, adding to the destabilization of the whole region. To a large extent, those displaced Jews still lack permanent homes and are still largely unemployed – many were in their 40’s and 50’s, and retraining and finding work at that age isn’t easy. They’re still suffering.

There’s no excuse for Ariel Sharon’s government having instigated the “Disengagement”, but it was the world as a whole that cheered him on. Yes! Land for peace! Give the land to the Arabs! Allow them to build their own homes and farms, and the finally this seemingly endless battle between the Arabs and Jews in the Middle East will end.

So Sharon forced the Jews out, gave the land to the terrorists, and look what happened. Of course, anyone who doesn’t hold a valid Certified Cockeyed Optimist credential couldn’t possibly have thought it would end any differently than it did.

But here is a case of legitimate disproportionality. There are 6 million Jews in Israel, over 7 million people, total. Assume a miracle had happened, and that great sociological experiment had succeeded: we all, Arab and Jew alike, would have benefited. So would the US, France, Great Britain, all 22 Arab countries – everyone, in fact, who feels the need to tell Israel how we should be solving this terrorist problem of ours.

If it had worked, the entire world would have benefited. But who paid the price for Sharon’s dangerous experiment? A mere 10,000 people who gave up their homes and livelihoods. The cost to them was disproportionate in the extreme -- and they’re still paying the price for the world’s foolish insistence on ‘land for peace’.

If there’s anyone suffering from the evils of ‘disproportionately”, it’s the displaced Jews of Gush Katif.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Three o’clock in the morning. October 6, 1946.

The Yom Kippur fast had ended joyously at sunset, and by 3:00 am the country was dark and deadly silent. About 400 young men and women, almost all of them new immigrants, were working feverishly. From several different locations, they piled equipment into a few aged and well-traveled pickups, filling them with a plow, basic building supplies, ready-made walls, mattresses and tanks of water. It’s cold in the desert on October nights, and many of them shivered as they climbed into the overloaded vehicles and headed out into the wilderness.

Their plan was simple and way beyond audacious: they were going to save the Negev Desert for Israel.

In all, eleven sets of pioneers set out that night – 30 to 40 to a group -- determined to build eleven new settlements in the vast unpopulated Negev. They all knew and appreciated the danger involved in openly flaunting the law. Great Britain had strictly forbidden any Jew to live in Israel’s south. They knew that they could be severely punished if caught.

It wasn’t Great Britain alone who wanted to keep Jews out of Israel. Worldwide, there was little support for a Jewish State at that time, and even less for including the Negev desert within the boundaries if such a state should at some time be granted. In fact, the July 1946 Morrison Grady plan for the division of Palestine took the Negev out of the borders of any proposed State, which is why the British were forbidding Jews from living there then. In anticipation that the Negev would be given to the Arabs, they wanted to keep out troublesome Jews.

But just like now, there were gutsy Jews then, Jews who knew and understood what was happening to their families all across Europe, and who, at this point, weren’t much interested in obeying foreign rulers of any variety.

Back them, it wasn’t just individual Jews who were involved in the settlement plan. It was all the nascent Jewish organizations – the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the Haganah Defense Forces, and the Mekorot Water Company. They all banded together and decided to do their best to extend Jewish settlement in the Negev as far as they could. The goal was to create facts on the ground, existing settlements, to the end that the Negev would become part of any new Jewish State.

Everything had to be done in secret, but needed materials were scrounged from wherever they could be found, and on that one night, October 6, 1946, the pioneers created eleven new kibbutzim, eleven “Points of the Negev” as they came to be called:

Kedmah and Galon in the Lakish area, north and east of Beersheba;
Shoval and Mishmar ha-Negev a little further south but still to the east;
Nevatim and Hatzerim near Beersheba;
Urim to the west, near Gevulot;
And finally, four "Points" bordering Aza: Tekuma, Be'eri, Kefar Darom, and Nirim

As each group of pioneers arrived at their designated area, the first thing they did -- even before setting up their tents -- was to plow a furrow. Turkish law, in effect at the time, required that land, to be owned, be not only purchased, but that it must also be plowed. So first of all, the settlers plowed a furrow, thus completing the requirements of ownership.

And yes, if there are any doubters out there, the land they claimed was already owned by the Jewish Fund. Not a single Arab was driven from his home. Remember, this was still in the days that when you said “Palestinian” you were talking about a Jew. This was Jewish land, not only bought and paid for, but now, with the arrival of the pioneers and their plowing a furrow, it was fully claimed.

The news of the new settlements spread like prairie fire. The sheer audacity of the plan – not to mention the total success – astonished Jews the world over. As the story spread, it provided a much needed boost to lagging Jewish spirits. October of 1946 was one of the darkest times in Jewish history. Rarely had the fate of the whole Jewish nation been more endangered than it was at that moment. The brash and courageous creation of the new settlements offered a feeling of pride and hope at the moment when it was most desperately needed.

In the ensuing months, very little actual construction was done in any of the new settlements. Shortly after, the War of Independence broke out and the new settlers found themselves serving as the first line of defense against the Egyptian army.

But today, not only are all eleven communities still active and thriving, but it was largely thanks to them that the Negev -- where I live, so I take this very personally – was included within the State of Israel.

Today, once again, Israel finds itself seriously imperiled. This time the major protagonist isn’t Great Britain – although they’re certainly in the cheering section. This time, it’s the President of the United States who’s posing the most serious threat to Israel.

Here’s the thing: Israel’s biggest problem isn’t the Arabs, terrorists or otherwise. Israel can handle its Arab enemies just fine. What causes trouble is when the US throws its weight and support behind the Arab terrorists and their supporters. That constitutes a significant problem for Israel.

When the US funds terrorists, when it grants concessions to the countries that harbor them --- and then, at the same time -- ties Israel’s hands, refusing to allow us to defend ourselves, that’s when trouble sets in.

Today it’s the US that’s intent on cutting Israel down to size – literally. This time it’s not the Negev where our foreign “rulers” are refusing to allow us to live – this time it’s in the north and west, in Judea and Samaria, not to mention Jerusalem. Now we’re told that it’s Yesha that must be Judenrein in order to keep the Arabs happy.

But once again -- thank goodness -- we’ve got some gutsy Jews. You’ve probably seen it on the news elsewhere, but in direct defiance to the Community Organizer, as of today ELEVEN new settlements have been established in areas where he’s trying to forbid us to live.

The eleven are:

Inbalim (“bells”) – next to Maaleh Michmash in Binyamin
Oz Yonatan (“Jonathan’s Might”)– near Kochav Yaakov in Binyamin
Givat Egoz (“nut hill”) – near Talmon in Binyamin
Tzurya (“the Rock of G-d”) – near Avnei Hefetz in Samaria
Mitzpe Avichai (“Avichai’s lookout”) – near Kiryat Arba/Hevron
Netzer (“stem”) – near Efrat in Gush Etzion
Reches Sela (“boulder cliff”) – south of Shechem in Samaria
Gat Yosef (“Joseph’s winepress) – south of Shechem in Samaria
Nofei Yarden (“Jordan horizons”) – near Shilo in Samaria
Maalot Hevron (“Hevron heights”) – near Hevron
Havat HaRo'im (“shepherds' farm”) – near Susya in Judea

Today’s new settlements aren’t quite the same as those of 1946. Today, there’s no need to plow a furrow, so instead what the new pioneers do is to construct a building – any kind of building – and then occupy it.

Then, too, today’s pioneers don’t have quite the unified support the earlier pioneers had. Apparently to pacify the Community Organizer, the government has ordered the new settlements to be dismantled. The IDF has already pulled down two of the new settlements, which were immediately rebuilt, of course.

Interestingly enough, however, in some of the others – Tzurya and Avnei Hefetz – news reports say the IDF was preset but did nothing to stop the construction. At Tzurya, some 200 people of all ages were there to help build.

A flyer telling about the new settlements is posted all over the country. It reads:

“Just as then, so it is now. Building new communities throughout Judea and Samaria is the only way we can return the State of Israel to being independent, flourishing and growing, protect our national interests, and stand up to international pressure.”

At the same time as the building is going on, thousands more are in Jerusalem protesting the Community Organizer’s attempt to make himself the ruler of Israel as well as the United States.

Nothing changes so much as it remains the same.

The photo from 1946, above, is from the Kibbutz Galon website. A couple of years ago I wrote a longer piece on the history of Kibbutz Galon. Check here for the full story.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

AH! At last! It had to happen sooner or later, like having infinity of monkeys picking away at typewriters, until eventually one of them types out ‘Hamlet’.

What happened? The Arab George Mitchell, the Community Organizer’s man in the Middle East, spoke the truth.

Here’s what he said: “The US is determined to forge an agreement between Israel and the Arab world.”

You got it, George! “Forge” is precisely the right word. In spite of yourself, you spoke the truth.

One meaning of the word ‘forge’ is to create or build. But ‘forge’ has another meaning, too: to falsify, counterfeit or fake.

Crooks ‘forge’ checks, cheaters ‘forge’ documents – they fake copies, trying to fool the gullible into believing they have the real thing.

There won’t be any ‘peace’ with Syria for a long time – unless it’s of the ‘forged’ variety.

Don’t forget that Syria directly attacked Israel three times -- 1948, 1967 and 1973 –each time doing their utmost to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

Between 1949 and 1967 – when Israel finally drove the Syrians out of the Golan -- Syria used the area to shoot and bomb civilian Jews going about their business farming and fishing. Since then, Syria has remained an active partner in the unholy triumvirate of Iran-Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas group of terrorists. Syria has never accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242 recognizing Israel’s existence.

So when the Community Organizer & Co. sets out to “forge” an agreement between Israel and its long-time nemesis, what do you think he has in mind?

Could it be that the Community Organizer plans to ‘falsify, counterfeit or fake’ a peace agreement – ‘peace’ in terms of the lack of opposition? The ‘peace’ of the grave for Israel?

Methinks George Mitchell speaketh with a forked tongue.

Friday, July 24, 2009

When the dateline reads ‘Phuket’ what can you expect?

But three funny – or not so funny – things happened to Big Bird – oops, we mean Missus Bubba – in Phuketland yesterday, as she set out to meet the allegedly “friendless” North Koreans. (People who live in glass dwellings as do Missus Bubba and the Community Organizer should be careful about throwing such stones, but we’ll let that one pass for a moment.)

First of all, we weren’t the only ones to take exception to Big Bird’s perfectly dreadful outfit. Even the Nork’s Foreign Ministry – not noted for their sense of humor -- poked fun. "We cannot but regard Mrs. Clinton as a funny lady,” a spokesman said, adding some juicy tidbits about her lack of knowledge of international affairs before moving on to play the role of an Asian Mr. Blackwell.

"Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes like a pensioner going shopping."

Now I for one, on behalf of pensioners worldwide, take exception to that. Profound exception.

No ‘pensioner’ I know would consider even walking the dog in a Big Bird getup like Missus Bubba’s, let alone going shopping in it.

Draft a petition, someone! The North Koreans have egregiously insulted pensioners, and we demand an apology.

So Missus Bubba took a return swipe at the North Koreans, saying they were behaving like spoiled children or ‘unruly teenagers’, and she wasn’t going to give them the attention they wanted.

Y’know? Maybe Dr. Phil should have gone on this trip and let Missus Bubba stay home and tend to her elbow. We may have been better off if she had broken her larynx.

What on earth will this administration think of next? Fake barf? Whoopee cushions?

Eventually Missus Bubba decided that beating up on the North Koreans wasn’t all that much fun, so she moved on to a more interesting target. Israel.

Just a few minutes ago, Missus Bubba announced that the US is transferring $200 million tax dollars to “help ease the budget crisis in Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad's government”.

Prime Minister Salaam Fayad’s government, of course, is controlled by the terrorist Fatah party, so what’s happening is that not only have the Community Organizer and Missus Bubba decided that the Arab terrorists need your (our) tax dollars more than you do, but that they’re pleased to be able to contribute to the terrorists’ drive to eliminate the State of Israel.

It’s this issue of synchronicity: On that same day the US was filling the terrorist’s coffers with your hard earned tax dollars, the terrorists made their own announcement.

Senior members of Fatah announced that their terrorist gang will never recognize Israel, and will continue to call for war against Israel. “Fatah does not recognize Israel's right to exist, nor have we ever asked others to do so,” said senior Fatah member Rafik Natsheh, a close associate of PA chairman Abu Mazen, according to a report in Israel National News.

Not only will Fatah never recognize Israel, but it will never end its call for armed struggle against Israel, he said. “Let those who are deluding themselves hear: this will never happen,” he said.

So now this makes me wonder: As the Obama Administration continues to chew on Israel, issuing dictates forbidding the birth of Jewish babies and ultimatums regarding where Jews can live in Jerusalem, is the timing of this transfer of cash just a coincidence?

After all, think of all the dastardly things a band of terrorists can do with a cool $200 million.

On the other hand, think of all the things struggling families in the US could do with just a tiny part of that sum.

Change, we need. The sooner the better.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cinderella, Cinderella, Dressed in Yellow....

All together now. Go get your jump ropes!

Everybody ready??

Okay, here we go:

Cinderella Dressed in Yellow
Went to kiss a prince.
By mistake,
She kissed a snake!
How many doctors
Did it take?
Was it,

"The United States is back," Missus Bubba declared with glee as she arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday. .She immediately left for Phuket – a most appropriately named place for a confab put together by the Community Organizer.

Missus Bubba’s stated intention is to “underscore the US commitment to Asia” which includes – just in case it slipped your mind – North Korea, which, back on July 4, fired seven ballistic missiles off its eastern Coast, violating a host of UN Resolutions and raising its cumilative middle finger to the US on Independence Day.

The missiles traveled some 300 miles, which meant they were easily capable of hitting either South Korea or Japan.

Thus it would appear, to a casual observer, that Missus Bubba in her Cinderella role – definitely the ugly stepsister to the tres glam Michelle – intends to kiss a prince, probably in the form of the North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il.

But what if he turned out to be a snake?

How many doctors will it take?

Or better yet, how many years, and how much turmoil, will the US have to endure to undo the damage the Community Organizer and his Cinderella-dressed-in-yellow are perpetrating both at home and all around the world?

Cozying up to mad dictators in Iran, in Venezuela or in North Korea is not a good idea.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I’m feeling a little like the Bird Woman of Beersheba.

For the last two weeks, birds – wild birds, not Mario and Luciano, my two lustily-singing parakeets – have stolen my peace of mind, causing me to spend undue hours fretting about their well-being. Unlike the pesky wee mouse of previous posts, these are critters I’d like to see survive.

It all started when a momma bird – okay, all right, could have been a poppa bird, I personally can’t tell the difference – anyway this bird started building a nest on the inside wall of my outside room.

What kind of bird? I knew you’d ask. I have no idea, but it’s not a song bird or anything particularly interesting. These are very common birds, reddish-brown pigeon-like creatures you see all over the place. It’s about the size of a standard-size dove, but with an interestingly long and curved beak.

I thought it was rather cute, to tell the truth. Here’s this bird – I named her ‘Anna’, and if you love Nevada Barr’s books as much as I do, you’ll get the connection. Anyway, day by day, Anna carefully ferried bits of sticks or straw or whatever else she can find into my patio, and placed it on a teeny little ledge I’d hardly noticed before. The ledge is very small, four inches, tops, which is why I didn’t take seriously the idea that she was going to build a nest and actually lay eggs there. Anna herself is almost four inches wide. It looked too small for her to do much of anything with it.

Anna, apparently, didn’t think so. Open and notoriously, she set about building her nest. I’d be sitting on my loveseat, just below her, and she’d be working away, flying in and out of the room, completely oblivious of my presence. The ledge is maybe at the six foot level, so I can’t see into it, but I had no problem at all seeing the nest that was emerging.

The days passed, a couple weeks, even, and I’d become accustomed to Anna and her friends – maybe even a husband or best friend – flying in and out. Fine with me.
Then I began to notice that Anna was staying in her nest almost all the time. Oh, no. She hadn’t actually laid eggs there, had she?

I waited until Anna flew away, then put a stepping stool several feet from the nest, high enough to let me peek in – and indeed, there were at least four eggs nestled in the tiny abode.

Even then at that early moment, I knew Beersheba had a problem. Not because I didn’t want Anna and her children there – I rather liked them. But my other roommates, two sizeable dogs, love to play. Sooner or later Anna’s children would need to leave the nest – and if they did, and if my roommates found them on the ground, they were toast. Not that my roommates would set out to destroy, necessarily. They just like to play, and they aren’t really aware of their own strength.

Which is exactly what happened.

A few more weeks passed, and soon I could see tiny little heads peeking over the side of the nest. The heads grew and grew – at first I thought there were three, but now I think there’s only two. Whatever, the two birds in the nest had grown pretty big.

As of last Friday, they were big enough to stand up and to stretch and flap their wings – literally. Friday morning, I was just leaving to make a quick run for a newspaper and bread, when I saw one of the baby birds standing on the edge of the nest, spreading his wings. Oh no, I thought. He’s not going to try to fly, is he?

That’s not good – my dogs need to have the run of the house and yard when I’m gone. If the baby bird tried to fly, and didn’t quite make it to whatever other high point he might have in mind, he’d most likely fall into the clutches -- make that jaws – of one of the dogs.

I went back in the house, called the dogs inside, shut the doors and stayed home. Let the bird take his maiden flight in relative safety.

Except that he – or she – didn’t fly. I stayed in the house – croaking because of the heat that built up behind closed doors. We three waited for several hours. Every now and then I’d open the door a little and check, but both birds stayed in the nest, or at least on the ledge.

Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore – it was too hot. I opened the doors, the dogs ran out…… and nothing happened. The birds stayed in place. Not that my roommates were ignorant of what was going on. Rachel the mostly-Poodle took up a “watch” position with a big grin on her face, the kind that says, “Let’s play!” But nothing happened.

Shabbat morning, I was sure: This was the day the baby birds would fly. Again I kept the dogs in the house all through the early morning, time when we’re usually all outside, enjoying the cooler morning air. But this Shabbat we stayed inside.

The birds stayed put, too. Everything was peaceful. I even considered staying home from shul so I could keep the dogs in the house, but finally nixed that idea. I decided to let Ha Kadosh-Baruch-Hu take care of His birds. If today was the day – for whatever ending this story might have -- then so be it.

I came home from shul, but everything was quiet. In the early afternoon, I went to sit outside – again just a few feet from the nest, and – a baby bird flew!

I couldn’t believe it. I was sitting on the loveseat. Rachel was sound asleep at my feet, sweltering. And the baby bird flew – it landed about five feet from Rachel’s nose, but – miracle of all miracles -- Rachel didn’t wake up.

The bird looked around, decided to fly a little more, and this time perched up on the patio railing, again within easy reach of either dog. They paid no attention whatever. Rachel snored and Molly Goldberg, the mostly-Border Collie, was dreaming of chasing sheep or something worthy of the effort, certainly not birds.

The baby bird flew back to the nest.

As far as I know, the other bird hasn’t flown yet, although I wouldn’t necessarily know. There are still two heads in the nest, two baby birds that are now look like teenagers. I can’t figure it out – how are they eating? What are they eating? Or drinking? It’s very hot – don’t they need more water than they must be getting? I’ve put a pail of water out – within bird-reach, out of dog-reach, and the level goes down, but I don’t see any birds drinking.

Anna, dutiful mother that she is, still flies in and out, dozens of times a day. In fact, although it’s hard to tell, I think she has some help in caring for these babies. I could be wrong, but I think at least two different birds tend the nest.

Now I’m wondering if a family home has been created there, and multiple generations will come to consider this The Home Place.

That’s not ideal. I like the birds, but I’m too atzbonit – anxious and edgy – about the safety of the little ones. I’d like them to have a fair chance at life – and I can’t be around, watching, to guarantee it.

So there’s where we are. There’s no end to this story yet – except to tell you that this blog took four hours to write.

Why? Because I was searching all over the internet to find a picture of this specific bird – I tried all kinds of Google combinations, “Israeli pigeon”, “doves and pigeons”, “common Israeli birds”.

It was that last search – ‘common Israeli birds’ – that got me in trouble. I clicked on one site, and saw some amazingly naughty photos. Whew! Not birds – or not feathered ones, anyway.

I was sitting in awe, wondering what on earth I’d done, when a message flashed across my screen: WARNING! YOUR COMPUTER IS UNDER ATTACK!! YOUR EMAILS AND SECURE INFORMATION ARE BEING COPIED!!

Then another popup appeared, this one telling me that I “must” run this virus protector now, since “all my secure data is in the process of being copied.” Like most normal humans, I panicked – I almost hit the “run” box, but when I looked more closely, I saw it wasn’t a message from Norton, my protection system. Instead, I shut down the computer itself.

I turned it back on, then ran a complete virus scan – which took several hours. Norton found nothing at all. The warning was a scam.

Good grief.

I don’t know who lives in a more dangerous world: baby birds or na├»ve computer users. “Common Israeli birds”? Gimme a break.

Now at least you know why I haven’t included a photo of the actual birds who share my outside room.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A singular honor has been bestowed on the Community Organizer. A rebuilt Israeli village is being named after him.

A few days ago Hussein Obama, concerned about his image with American Jews, invited about a dozen “Jewish leaders” to a special White House briefing. It wasn’t much of a risk: he invited only people who already agreed with him -- left-wing pander-bears, Democrats, feminists, reform and conservative Jewish organizations, people who could be counted on to affirm their much-loved President’s good intentions afterward.

It appeared to have the desired effect. The liberal press reported that now American Jewry was satisfied with the Community Organizer’s ‘tough love’ stance toward Israel. It was just fine with them.

‘Taint so, not in Israel, anyway. Never has there been a greater divide between the Democrat, liberal assimilated Jews of America and the Jews in Israel. In Israel, the Community Organizer is reviled.

A popular joke going around the Prime Minister’s office goes like this:

What do Americans do when something breaks down in their home - when the sink is blocked up, the toilet overflows, a fuse burns out?
Answer: They ask Barack Obama to give a speech and then the problem is solved.

Here the Community Organizer is regarded as an empty suit, all the more dangerous for the fact that he believes himself to be omnipotent. He carries on like a king sitting on his throne, willy-nilly issuing edicts – with an “off with his head” mentality for anyone who dares to disagree.

Not everyone is fooled. El Rushbo, just the other day, had a riddle of his own: “What are the two most meaningless words in Washington?” Answer: “Obama says.”

A few blogs ago, when Obama issued an edict to the effect that henceforth he was forbidding Jews living in parts of Israel from having babies, I promised that from now on, all we would do is laugh at him. In the face of such insanity, what else can you do?

Today, a worthy group of “settlers” – make that ‘Israelis’ – is having some fun of their own. They’ve named the former community of Homesh (one of the four villages in Samaria made Judenrein in 2005 by the despicable Ariel Sharon) the “Obama Hilltop”.

If you think you’ve heard this story before, there’s some justification.

Back in June, just after the Community Organizers famous “Cairo Speech, a single-shack outpost previously called Oz Yehonatan was renamed as “Obama Hilltop”. Israel’s heroic ‘Hilltop Youth’ had courageously set up a little building and named it in honor of the US President.

It didn’t stand long. The Israeli Border Police tore it down pretty quickly. The kids didn't give up – they promptly rebuilt it, following which the Border Police knocked it down again. The kids rebuilt, etc, etc. I presume, although I don’t know, that the cat and mouse game continues.

Why do they do that? Persist, rebuilding, time after time, never giving up? MK Michael Ben-Ari, a National Union member of the Knesset, explained, "We can see here yet another healthy expression of the Jewish people’s return to our land, and we are not planning to leave. We have no other land; the Arabs have 22 countries – it’s too bad that Obama did not mention that in his speech. Giving them another country means an attempt to destroy the Jewish people in Israel – and we have no intention of being destroyed."

That was in June. This new ‘Obama Hilltop’ is being built on the site of one of the villages that Ariel Sharon, to his everlasting disgrace, turned over to Hamas. That said, Homesh is one of the cities most likely – eventually, may it be soon and in our time -- to be retaken by Israel, reclaimed from the Hamas terrorists, as essential for Israel’s security. Instead of being a base for terror operations, it will flourish as an agricultural community once again.

So this new ‘Homesh-Obama Hilltop’ is a far more serious issue than was the first attempt. This isn't a group of brave kids thumbing their noses at the Community Organizer, this is a honest effort by rank and file Israelis, supported by several major organizations.

In establishing the ‘Obama Hilltop’ the Israelis also sent a letter to the Community Organizer.

It began by saying, "Mr. President, your policy that aims to destroy the Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem will no longer go unchallenged."

The letter went on to call Obama's objection to Israeli construction "an affront" to history and the Jewish religion, and compared Obama to the Biblical Pharaoh of the book of Exodus who kept the Jewish people in bondage.

"Your objection to Jewish childbearing (natural growth) in these areas is reminiscent of Pharaoh's order to drown all the first-born children of Israel during the slavery in Egypt," the Israelis said.

Therefore, "Mr. President, we hereby launch the "Homesh - Obama Hilltop Project," adding that their intent was to "rally the worldwide pro-Israel community to support the rebirth" of the evacuated village.

Here’s their website – in English.

There are pictures, videos – and best of all, if anybody in the US still has ten bucks to spare, a chance to thumb your nose at the Community Organizer, too. Donate $10 to the effort and the rebuilt community “will symbolically and defiantly be called ‘Homesh -Obama Hill’ until President Obama is out of power.”

Once you’ve made your donation, you can click again, and send an email to the Community Organizer, advising him of your donation.

If ever there was a time for Jews, Christians and Good Americans of all persuations to stand firm against their President, this is it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

When I was in Home Center the other day – Home Center is a ‘Home Depot’ knockoff, same colors, same logo, but quite different in terms of what they sell. Most notably, Home Center lacks Home Depot’s intoxicating aroma -- raw wood, machine oil and paint. There’s nothing like that in Home Center.

Anyway, I found myself standing in line behind a woman who was trying to explain a problem she was having with something she’d purchased. I blush to admit I was enjoying the whole thing enormously. The woman’s Hebrew wasn’t any better than mine and -- our mutual suffering aside – it was reassuring to know I’m not alone in struggling with this beastly difficult language. Misery loves company.

The clerk let her carry on for quite awhile. The woman kept trying one Hebrew word after another, looking for the magic phrase that would somehow make her problem understood. Finally the clerk got tired of it. “I haven’t the vaguest idea what you’re talking about,” she said, in perfect unaccented English. “Why don’t you just tell me in English?” Everybody burst into laughter.

So that clerk spoke perfect English – but not all Israelis do. And sometimes they say funny things in English, just as I obviously do when messing around with Hebrew. Several times I’ve found myself biting my tongue to keep from laughing out loud – which would not be nice at all, considering that -- goodness knows -- they have no obligation to speak my language.

The first incident I’ll never forget. I bought my aged Cocker Spaniel Guinness with me when I made Aliyah. Like many Cockers, Guinness had suffered from ear infections and assorted ear problems his whole life. As the vet explained, Cocker Spaniels have long ear flaps which prevent air from circulating. In that dark, warm, moist atmosphere in the inner ear, bacteria flourish.

I started preparing Guinness’ ears about six months before I knew I’d leave – we went through any number of antibiotics pills, liquids and ear treatments. At one point, the vet even removed a few of poor Guinness’ back teeth, because he thought they might be contributing to the ear problem.

Guinness was a perfect little trooper through the whole thing – quite a dog. He put up with the discomfort and I spent a small fortune, but finally Guinness was ready to fly -- without problems, the vet said.

At our last visit, he gave me a stack of papers to take to a vet in Israel. “Get him to a vet right away,” he said. “If they can monitor him closely there, he shouldn’t have any more problems.”

So I did. My first week here, I found a vet who had an office very close to where I was living. Nice doctor – good office. Dr. Barnea, for those of you who live here. I can’t recommend him highly enough.

But on one of our first visits, I saw one of Dr. Barnea’s assistants, a woman who was just out of veterinary school. She hadn’t seen Guinness before, so I was explaining some of the ear problems he’d had. I was lucky to be able to do that in English, because I hadn’t even started ulpan, Hebrew school, yet.

Her English was pretty good, but as I was telling her about the ear infections, she stopped me cold. “Those kinds of ear problems we treat differently in Israel,” she said. “We just cut off the ears.”

WHAT? I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. You’re going to cut off my dog’s ears?? I know I went pale, and I remember sinking into that chair they keep there for clients, when they explain that the cost of the procedure your pet needs is roughly about equal to two months’ salary.

“You want to cut off my dog’s ears??” I finally stammered.

“Sure. It’s not a big deal,” she said, with that brash Israeli confidence. “We just cut the ears off, and then the air can get in there.”

It was getting worse and worse. I was trying to picture my poor sweet Cocker Spaniel without ears. It didn’t take me more than another second to say, “Oh, no. We’re not cutting off his ears!”

“Look, it’s nothing,” she insisted. “He’s under anesthetic, and we just go in and scrape them out.”

“Wait a minute – what are you saying? You scrape out the ears?”

As it turned out – to my enormous relief – she was recommending some procedure whereby they surgically cleaned out the ears and straightened some of the ear canals. Simplistically speaking, she was confusing the words “out” and “off” – she meant, we “clean out” the ears, not that they “cut them off”.

Whew. She had me going there for a minute. “What did I say?” she finally asked. I was still shaking, but I tried to explain the difference. Not until I got home was I able to laugh about it.

Another funny one happened just the other day. I was interviewing a woman who’d started her own manufacturing company and was now selling her product – designer tote bags for babies – all around the world. She was explaining how she got her first New York contract.

“I went overboard to see the president of the company,” she said, while my mind raced to wonder what, exactly, she might have done that would constitute “going overboard” to get an appointment with someone.

She didn’t specify what it was, but later on, a pattern emerged. “Now every time I go overboard, I make it a point to see one new executive, someone else I think might be interested,” she said. Then again, “Overboard, they don’t have anything like this at all.”

By then I was starting to get it: she was confusing “overboard” with “overseas”.

That’s better. I was biting my tongue to keep from laughing out loud – of course I was picturing a well-dressed female executive taking a dive off the side of a passenger ship.

One good thing about living in a country where just about everyone is either an immigrant or the child of an immigrant is that we all fracture everybody else’s language. The only thing you can do is laugh.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This is one of those days in which you wish you’d done everything your enemies accuse you of doing.

Hamas terrorists are accusing Israel of having put aphrodisiacs into chewing gum, and then passing it out to the young people of Aza.

"We have discovered two types of stimulants that were introduced into the Gaza Strip from Israeli border crossings," Hamas police spokesman Islam Shahwan said, according to an AFP story. "The first type is presented in the form of chewing gum and the second in the form of drops."

Hamas terrorists “detained” members of a local Arab gang who helped bring in the products, and during the questioning – you can imagine what fun “questioning” by Hamas must be – the gang members accused “Zionist intelligence services" of being behind the plot.

One suspect told how he’d been given the gum by an Israeli at a cut-rate price, saying that the Israeli didn’t want money, he just “wanted the products distributed among the young people.”

"The Zionists are aiming to corrupt the young generation by distributing these products among students," Shahwan said.

I don’t know about ‘corrupting’ the terrorist youth. Seems to me they’re doing just fine on that score without our help. But it is, nonetheless, an interesting idea.

Maybe we can inspire them to make love, not war.

In any event, the IDF declined to comment, although one staffer called the allegation "absurd."

Up to now, I’d never really considered the linkage between love and chewing gum, although this did bring to mind a real incident, also involving chewing gum. It made me remember a shy young boy named Lynn Soholt who was in my high school graduating class.

Lynn was quiet and unassuming. He transferred in to our class -- 40 kids, total -- in our junior year, but no one paid much attention to him until some school event came along -- I don’t even remember what it was – and Lynn picked up his guitar and started to sing.

Here was one of the catchy country tunes he sang that night:

“Does your chewing gum lose its flavor
On the bedpost overnight
If your mother says don't chew it
Do you swallow it in spite?
Can you catch it on your tonsils?
Can you heave it left and right?
Does your chewing gum lose its flavor
On the bedpost overnight?

“Here comes a blushing bride
The groom is by her side
Up to the altar
Just as steady as Gibraltar
Why, the groom has got the ring
And it's such a pretty thing
But as he slips it on her finger
The choir begins to sing:

“Does your chewing gum lose its flavor
On the bedpost overnight”

Now thanks to Google, I see that the lyrics are attributed to someone named Lonnie Donegan, but it’s still Lynn I remember, this boy we really didn’t know, standing on the stage all by himself and sounding pretty darn good.

With that little ditty, we suddenly realized how cute Lynn was. In an instant, he became a high school heart-throb. Pretty hot stuff.

This story even has a dramatic teenage ending: Lynn was one of the first of our class to pass away. I was long gone by then, somewhere in California, but I do remember how sad I was to hear the news.

Standing on the school stage that night with his battered guitar, singing that funny little country song, Lynn became one of those unforgettable high school moments, the kind of thing you remember long after you’ve forgotten what a gerund is, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, or why either one makes any difference at all.

So aphrodisiacs in chewing gum? Not a bad idea, guys. I think we outta give it a try.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Having not thought about rhubarb for eons before finding some in a supermarket here a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see that today a related plant – “Desert Rhubarb” – is making the local news.

“Desert Rhubarb” -- Rumex hymenosepalus – pictured above, grows only here in the Negev. It's just been discovered that it's a water-harvesting plant.

Get that? It actually collects water and funnels it to its own roots. The plant has created its own natural irrigation system.

Glory be.

Researchers at the University of Haifa began studying the plant when they saw it wasn’t constructed like most desert plants. Most leafy plants that thrive here have tiny leaves, in order to reduce transpiration of precious moisture.

But not Desert Rhubarb – it has enormous waxy leaves that measure over two feet across, each one with a network of grooves. Each leaf grows on a ridged stem, so the way it works is that the leaves collect whatever rainwater – or dew – falls, then channels it via the ridges in the leaves and stems to the plant’s base to irrigate it. The researchers said that its natural irrigation system allow it to collect 16 times more water than it would get if it relied on surface water.

"When the annual rainfall is three inches, they see something like 17 inches of rainfall," said Simcha Lev-Yadun, one of the researchers. “Compared to the one inch of rain captured by other nearby desert plants, desert rhubarb captures between 16 and 17 times more water. This ‘leaf-made mini oasis’ creates a Mediterranean climate for the plant in the middle of the desert.”

Desert Rhubarb is different in another way, too. Instead of having very shallow roots, to quickly take up any rainfall on the surface, the Desert Rhubarb has very deep roots. Since it has its own irrigation system, it doesn’t need the shallow roots.

But here’s the question I’m sure you’re all wondering about: can you eat it?
The answer is yes – it sounds as though it’s much like regular rhubarb: Young leaves can be cooked in several changes of water to remove the bitter tannin. The stems are “crisp and tart” – no kidding –and are used in pies, cooked with sugar or baked. You can even eat the flowers, boiling them to make a drink.

“Children eat it raw in the early spring,” it says at the ‘Plants for the Future’ database.

Which children might be a logical question…. Only those who would eat crabapples, I presume. And no child will willingly eat a crabapple, either, unless it’s recently been liberated from a neighbor’s tree. Goodness knows there’s no other reason to eat the bitter little things.

Water -- and the conservation thereof – is on a lot of people’s minds in Israel. Draconian new water usage rates were originally scheduled to take effect starting today, but have been postponed for a week. Use more than your allotted share, and you’ll be charged one shekel for every liter over – a liter is about two pints, for you US readers. A shekel is worth about 25 cents. That could get real expensive really fast.

I’ve always used the bucket-in-the-shower routine to water plants, but several months ago I set up a Gunga Din Water Toting System (me) to collect wash and rinse water from the washing machine and ferry it to the roots of my precious trees. I wouldn’t put in on potted plants, but the in-ground trees seem to be thriving on it.

Now that I think of it, it might be simpler to just hire some Desert Rhubarb plants to harvest some water for me. Now that's an idea.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

One ringy-dingy. Two ringy-dingies....

“Good morning. This is the Barak Hussein Obama Family Assistance Center. How may I direct your call?”

“Shalom. I don’t really know who to talk to. Do you have someone who knows about, ah, babies?”

“Of course. The President’s Family Assistance Center works tirelessly to help all people live their lives in a manner that’s pleasing to the President. So, babies, yes? Well for babies and children, the School Lunch Monitoring Project might be able to help. Or the Dim the Lights Program, which requires the use of florescent light bulbs to save the planet, so the world will still exist when they grow up. Or of course any of the agencies working to see that every one of the 300 million Americans will have access to free health care for everything from the sniffles to brain death.….”

“No, you don’t understand. I’m calling from Israel. From Judea, as a matter of fact. And I’m wondering if the President is offering anything to help us stop having babies.”

“Oh, you’re Jewish? Why didn’t you say so? I’m sure the President will do everything he possibly can to prevent you from having babies. But where did you say you live again?”

“In Judea. Just north of Jerusalem.”

So which Congressional District is that? I’m checking my Blue State guide, here, and I don’t see that any of the areas that supported the President are named Judea. We may not have anything for you, but you’re free to move to a Red State, of course.”

“No, I’m calling you from Israel. You know, that country in the Middle East that the President frets about, morning, noon and night?”

“Oh, ISRAEL! You mean you’re calling from the Occupied Territories!”

Ah, well, that’s not how we see it, of course. But yes. From Israel, the 10,000 square miles west of Jordan.”

“I’m checking my map, here, and according to what I see, for the area in which you live, a Direct Presidential Edict has been issued, which – honestly -- makes it a little complicated. In the case of Direct Presidential Edicts, the Congress chose not to facilitate the President’s dream, and so therefore no established rules or regulations were ever debated or imposed. So I may not have as much detail as you might wish.”

“Well, does it say anything about babies at all?”

“Just that in your area, babies are absolutely forbidden. You are not permitted to have babies at all. Not even one. In fact, the President doesn’t want to see a single baby carriage anywhere in Judea or Samaria. He’s put an embargo on diaper imports and outlawed teething biscuits. Do you understand how serious he is about this?”

“Yes, I understand that’s what he wants. But what I don’t understand is how we’re supposed to do that.”

“Excuse me, sir! You Jews seem to have no problem at all figuring out how to have babies – surely you can figure out now NOT to have them!”

“In theory, yes. But it’s just that Shabbat starts tonight, and things gets a little complicated. What we usually do on Friday nights is that we have the whole family over for a nice, long relaxing dinner. Then, when the children are asleep, the table is cleared and the dishes stacked, my wife and I usually go sit on the porch where there’s a nice cool breeze. We talk about our own hopes and dreams. We have another glass of wine, and – well, you know. One thing usually leads to another…..”

“And you want the President of the United States to help you?”

“I understand it’s not a problem that he, personally, has ever faced. I mean, you take one look at Michelle and you can see that she’s your basic cajones-crusher, up on her hind feet, walking around. I mean, she’s one formidable toots. Ole Barry baby probably performs on command, and at no other time. But that’s not how it works, here.”

“So, excuse me. What exactly it is you want, sir?”

“The President has forbidden us to have any babies. I’m wondering if he’s arranged an appropriation or something that might help us get through this tough situation. ”

“Not that I know of, sir. You’ll just have to rely on will power. The President never said it was going to be easy. He told you that the change he envisions for the world would sometimes be painful….”

“Just one thing I was wondering about, though. Just a couple kilometers away from us there’s an Arab village. Arab men have multiple wives, and frequently father several families with 30 or more children. One Arab I work with sees it as his sacred duty to have at least two of his three wives pregnant at all times. Does the President have a plan to forbid Arabs in Judea from having babies, too?”

“Goodness no! What do you think we are, anyway? That would be racist! Why would the President want to prevent more little Muslim babies from coming into the world? We would never think of meddling in a culture like that! I’m shocked you would even suggest such a thing!”

“But you’re forbidding Jews to have babies. I just thought…”

“It’s clear you don’t have a solid grasp of history, sir. The Palestinian people have been oppressed for thousands of years. You Jews have robbed them, tormented them, starved them and denied them basic human rights. You stole their land and killed them at every opportunity. The obligation of the United States, as the President sees it, is to help these struggling, peace loving people regain their lost country and reassume their leadership role in the Middle East. In order to do that, we have to help them repopulate, rebuild their population base by replacing all the Arabs you Jews have killed.”

“So you don’t see a ‘two state solution’ here?”

“In the beginning, perhaps. But our goal is, obviously, to have one single state for all its citizens, under the direct control of Allah.”

“Well, okay then. I just thought I’d ask.”

“It was a stupid question, anyway. Just two days ago, Vice President Biden made it clear you Jews can’t expect any help from us. Didn’t you hear what he said? “Israel is a sovereign nation,” the Vice President told the world. “They can do whatever is in their best interest. We would never dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do…”

“Oh! So we’re really free to do as we wish? Have as many babies as we want?”

“No, of course not. The Vice President wasn’t talking about babies. He was talking about Iran. But I’m getting tired of this conversation. We have nothing to offer you, except this admonition: Every nooky-free night you Jews all over the world observe will be one more step in helping the President of the United States bring about his dream of world peace.”

Monday, July 6, 2009

ME? I'm a threat to world peace?

Ah! Thank goodness! Now we know.

The Community Organizer has been frothing at the mouth over the “settlements”, which is what he calls parts of Israel known as Judea and Samaria. He wants those parts of Israel to be Judenrein, free of all Jews.

To get that ball rolling, he insists that now, even before negotiations begin, Israel must “freeze” all “growth and construction”, that Israeli families be forbidden from building extra rooms on their existing homes, and certainly not be allowed to build any new ones.

He even insists on no “natural growth” in all these communities, which equals about half the size of the territory that constitutes the State of Israel.

But what does that mean? Any idea? To say that a community – any community – not be allowed to “grow naturally”, is a bit vague, wouldn’t you say?

So at a press conference in late June, some reporters quizzed George Mitchell, Hussein Obama’s Arab envoy to the Middle East.

Here’s how the question and answer session went:

QUESTION: . . . can you give us just a definition of what the United States considers natural growth? What does that phrase mean in your mind?

MR. MITCHELL: There’s been no change in our policy. And there have been - there have been discussions on every aspect of the issue.

QUESTION: Well, what does natural growth mean? I mean, can you just use it in…

MR. MITCHELL: I’m constantly asked by editors, you know, please give a plain explanation of what natural growth is.

QUESTION: If it’s for your editor. (Laughter.)

MR. MITCHELL: Well, of course, one of the issues is that there is no universally used and accepted definition. The most common definition is by the number of births, but there are many variations of that. I’ve had numerous discussions with many Israeli and other officials, and there are almost as many definitions as there are people speaking. But I think the most commonly used measure is the number of births.

So let’s get this straight. When the Community Organizer says “no natural growth”, he means they can’t have babies? That even if they were willing to let the baby sleep in a closet or in the bathroom, they still aren’t permitted to have a child?

Does it occur to you that this is an awesome dictate for a foreign leader to make to a -- previously, anyway -- democratic ally? No babies?

Does it occur to you that the whole crowd in Washington is completely nuts?

I’m beginning to think that the proper response to anything the Community Organizer says is laughter. He's either let his megalomania reach the point of insanity, or else he's kidding. He can’t seriously think he can dictate a "no babies" policy to some other country.

Can he?

(Thanks to Doris Wise Montrose of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors for the quote )

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My computer’s photo editing program has a feature called “enhance”. Click on it, and the image is improved. The darks become darker, the lights lighter, the edges more pronounced. Everything looks a little clearer.

I’m starting to think there’s a human tendency to use an “enhance” feature on our memories, too. We tell stories of how it was when we were young – and then, just to make the point, we enhance it a little -- we make the edges a little sharper, just to make sure the story is clear.

I remember tales my parents told me about prairie life in North Dakota where my father, z”l was born, and northern Minnesota which was my mother’s home. My father was born in 1910, my mother in 1916, so I have no doubt at all that things in those years were not only primitive but downright grim.

When I was very little, I accepted without question the tales of their walking “three miles” to school every day, through snow drifts so high they could hardly see over them. But when I got a little older, I knew very well where my father’s house was, where he grew up. It was a mile, exactly, outside of town. So where did the “three miles” come from?

Or I’d hear my mother’s tales about how they’d carry hot baked potatoes in their pockets when they left to walk to school in the icy pre-dawn, using the potatoes to keep their hands warm on the long walk. Fair enough. But once they got to school, what happened to all those potatoes? Surely in those times of scarcity and frugality, they wouldn’t have thrown them away? Two potatoes for every kid every morning would pretty quickly add up. Then, too, what did they use to keep their fingers warm on the way home?

The one question that really stumped me was, how could it possibly have been uphill in both directions?

There was a little “enhancement” going on – memories being clarified, edges made sharper, just to make sure the point was made: “Times were tough. We had horses not cars, because cars would have been useless in those kinds of winters. You’re lucky you only have to walk five blocks to school. Don’t even think of asking for a ride.”

I’m not beyond a bit of enhancement myself – in fact, in that blog on Rhubarb, I slathered it on a little thick about how visually unappealing Scandinavian foods are. It isn’t really quite that bad – but to make the point, I used what my father would have called ‘exaggeration for emphasis.’ With good intentions, of course.

This morning on the local community email list – ‘Anglobeersheba’, which is a Yahoo group where all (or many) of the English speakers in Beersheba come to ask questions or give advice – I ran across some awesome ‘enhancement’.

It started when a lady still living in the States wrote to the list, asking for advice about moving to Beersheba. Should they come? she was wondering. How do you think we’d adjust in Beersheba?

In answering her question, some of us laid it on a little thick about how difficult life is here.

One said, “Aliyah to anywhere in Israel is not easy, let alone to a place in the middle of the desert where nobody speaks English.”


For the record, Beersheba isn’t “in the middle of the desert.” At best, it’s at the northern edge of the Negev. But more importantly, Beersheba is an hour-plus train ride from Tel Aviv, or a little longer bus ride to Jerusalem.

Beyond that, Beersheba now has over 200,000 people – it’s a fully-stocked, modern, all-amenities-available metropolitan enclave. To suggest that we’re barely clinging to life “in the middle of the desert” is enhancement, pure and simple.

But it’s the line “where nobody speaks English” that threw me for a loop. First of all, remember that English is one of three legal languages in Israel, in addition to Hebrew and Arabic. Many government websites have an “English” option. It’s perfectly fine to speak English in Israel. Millions of Israelis do.

To suggest that in Beersheba “nobody speaks English” verges on the silly – if nothing else, all high school students study English and have to pass an English test. Do all of Beersheba’s high school students flunk that course? Nonsense.

The truth is, of course, that an awful lot -- most, maybe – of Beersheba’s residents speak some English, and a reasonable number are completely fluent, probably because they enjoy US movies and television.

What the person who posted that was probably trying to say is, ‘You might find it harder to move to Beersheba than to the population center of the country, because on a comparative basis, more English speakers decide to live in the center than in Beersheba.”

So this plea is directed to my fellow Anglo immigrants in Beersheba: I think we have to be careful about how we portray life here. ‘Enhancing’ the difficulties makes us feel good – we did it, after all. We overcame the hardships. It’s only human to want proper respect for that achievement. So we exaggerate a bit about how tough it really is.

That’s a dangerous thing to do. Just a couple of weeks ago, we read Parashat Shelach (Numbers, Chapter 13) in which Moses, as the Israelites approached the Promised Land, sent a dozen “spies” ahead to see how conditions were. Ten came back with terrifying stories – all about giants who lived here, tales of a land that killed its inhabitants. Unfortunately, the Israelite nation believed these horrifying reports – and as a result, was forced to wander for 40 years, enough time to allow that generation to die out before entering the Promised Land.

Those of us who live in Israel today are just like the ‘spies’. We’re telling everyone behind us, those who are thinking of coming, what it’s like. We have to be very careful. Obviously we shouldn’t be assuring anyone that moving to Israel is no different than moving to Monsey or Pico-Robertson, but we can’t allow ourselves to exaggerate how hard it is, either.

What we olim hadashim and vatakim (new and old immigrants) need to do is encourage people to come, in every way we can. Of course moving anywhere is tough -- moving ranks right up there with the death of a spouse in terms of the level of stress. But no one thinks of moving to Israel without knowing that it will be very different, in many ways, than living in whatever community they are, right now.

What we can’t afford to do is to validate all their fears – to increase their anxiety. To set false standards, making it seem that it’s much more difficult than it really is. That’s profoundly wrong.

As a community, we need to be more encouraging. After all, if we did it, then there’s no reason they can’t, too.

Of course not all stories are “enhancement”.

For a long time, I didn’t believe the one my mother told, about how, every year in the fall, her father would string a rope between the house and the barn. During winter snowstorms, they’d need the rope, she said, so they could make their way safely to and from the barn. Without it, and with visibility at absolute zero, they could easily become disoriented in the blowing snow, get lost and freeze to death.

I thought that was a tall tale too, until one September when I saw my grandfather stringing that rope himself. “It could storm any day now,” he said.

How about that?! Not an ‘enhancement’ at all!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

 July 2, BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted “concessions” from Israel are needed on the issue of “settlements”. “I am convinced that there must be a stop to this, otherwise we will not arrive at a two-state solution that we need urgently,” she said.

 June 25, PARIS: French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to impose a "total freeze" on Jewish settlements.

 Endlessly, WASHINGTON: “… (U)nder Annapolis there’s a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements, that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That’s a difficult thing to recognize, but it’s an important one. And it has to be addressed.” Hussein Obama

And what does Israel say? In the manner of Bartleby the Scrivener, we're saying thanks anyway, but we prefer not to.

That was more or less what Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said at the beginning.

As the demands to “freeze settlements” continued, however, he got a little more pointed, saying that the Community Organizer was wasting everyone’s time. "I think that the more we spend time arguing about this, the more we waste time instead of moving towards peace," Bibi said, adding that Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of the Jewish nation forever.

Yesterday the final answer came from thank-goodness-for-loose cannons Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman, who couldn’t mince a word even if he wanted to.

“People love us when we make concessions,” Lieberman said. “But past Israeli concessions in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority have not had positive results.

"North Korea is firing missiles and we are continuing to deal with that little house in Judea and Samaria?" Lieberman asked. "Against the backdrop of events in Tehran, should this be the top priority of the global community?"

So no, he said. Israel will not “smother the normal lives of Jews living in Judea and Samaria.” We will not freeze construction.

Interestingly enough, there’s one group of our neighbors who side with Lieberman and Bibi completely on this issue of Jewish building in Judea and Samaria. Who? ‘Palestinian’ Arabs.

You read that right. Who doesn’t want the building in Judea and Samaria halted? The 12,000 Israeli Arabs who live in Judea and Samaria and who work in the construction business.

"We come here (to Judea and Samaria) because our Palestinian and Arab governments haven't done anything to provide us with better jobs,” one Arab construction worker told the Jerusalem Post.

According to the report, Arabs employed by Israeli companies earn almost three times what they would earn working for Arab companies.

Never a dull moment around here. Never a day without interesting developments.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy July 4th, America! Israel is staying home

US Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham is throwing the US’s annual 4th of July celebration at his home in Herzliya, one of Israel’s most elite communities.

Traditionally, Israeli politicians vie for invitations to this shindig – the food is great, the atmosphere rank with power and it’s a prime chance to rub shoulders with the movers and shakers.

But not this year. This year, most Israeli politicians are turning down the invite.
“There’s a certain mood and style in Washington that makes it hard to go and celebrate,” said Likud MK Danny Danon, who called on his fellow Members of the Knesset to boycott the event.

“American independence is the model for western nations, including for Israel,” Danon said.”As the Americans would rise up against any attempt of outside involvement in their internal affairs, so too will Israel ignore all types of involvement on the part of America and others."

In other words, Israel is getting more than a little iicked off with the constant meddling of the Community Organizer and his henchmen.

What specifically is sticking in our craw? Danon’s list includes:

First, America’s attempt to force Israel to stop building in Judea and Samaria. It is highly objectionable for the US to attempt to dictate housing restrictions to a sovereign nation, let alone a democracy who for many decades has been a stalwart ally of the US. “America is trying to call into question the State of Israel's independence,” he says.

Second, US Envoy George Mitchell’s nasty remark, that Israeli 'doesn't stop lying', seriously damages Israel’s honor,” Danon says. Although we should hardly be surprised. Mitchell is, after all, an Arab. And that’s been their line for generations.

Third, the publication of that totally non-essential, gratuitously offensive, picture of President Obama with his shoes up on the table while he spoke with the prime minister. That one picture spoke volumes about what the Community Organizer thinks about Israel.

Danon, who’s both an effective and respected member of Likud, was one of the more outspoken critics of the Community Organizer’s Cairo speech. “The president has crossed all lines. His implied comparison between the Israeli government and the Nazi regime said everything. He has made a covenant with the Arab world and rewarded it for more than 60 years of aggression.”

So Danon set out to organize a boycott of America’s Independence Day celebration. “I call upon MKs to boycott the event at the ambassador's house, to deliver to the American administration a clear message - that the State of Israel is independent and not President Obama's pet."

The party is being held tonight, Wednesday, because July 4th falls on Shabbat this year. As of this morning, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu will attend the event, but according to Danon, “the majority of coalition members will not attend."

Danon said he was certain most of his fellow Likud members would be absent, as would representatives from Shas. A number of MKs from his own party, he said, already approached him in the hours after the letter was sent to tell him they would not attend.

Personally, I’d be delighted to hear that a solid majority of Israel’s elected officials would indeed stay away. But I know the political beast too well. Whether they’re Israeli or American politicians, the compulsion to be there, to be seen at events attended by power brokers, frequently proves too strong for mere mortals to withstand.

It is without question, in any event, that the Community Organizer has seriously damaged US – Israeli ties. Whether Israeli politicians do boycott this social event or not, the breach is clear.

That may be for the good – Israel is indeed a sovereign nation, and it’s time we started acting like one. The unseemly pandering of Israeli politicians to US interests over the last several years hasn’t done us any good at all. In fact, we’ve suffered from trying to carry far too much of the US’s burden in the Middle East, as each succeeding American President comes into office and decides that he will be the one to finally create “peace” in these parts.

I’d be perfectly happy if the rest of the world would just ignore us for awhile. Let us get on with it, coping with our murderous neighbors as we see fit.

And if that means that Ambassador Cunningham is going to have a lot of food left his little party, so be it.