Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An interesting synchronicity: yesterday two kassamim – Arab terrorist rockets – fired from Aza hit Ashkelon, the exquisite seaside city of 110,000 people just south of Tel Aviv. As it happened, neither of them hit anyone, but it was a signal that the rocket and missile deluge is only a hairbreadth away, anyplace in Israel. I took this picture of part of the Ashkelon beach a while ago. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

What also came to light yesterday was testimony from a gynecologist from Ashkelon, Dr. Mirela Siderer, to the infamous UN Human Rights Council – what a joke that name is. Dr. Siderer was stuck and seriously injured in May, 2008, when a rocket fired by Islamic terrorists struck the clinic where she was working.

But Dr. Siderer her tell her story herself. This is a slight abridgement of the testimony she offered in Geneva:

"Distinguished guests, permit me, distinguished panelists, please permit me to say something from the heart. I’ve come here to give you my personal story, my personal tragedy. I am not a politician. I don’t deal in politics. Just what happened to me.

I’m 53 years old. I was born in Romania. I studied medicine in Romania. That’s where I met my husband and I came to Israel to be with him. He too is a physician. I live in Ashkelon, and am known in my city by many patients, including women patients from Gaza who would come to me for treatment before the Intifada.

My life was quiet, like anywhere in the world with the usual day-to-day issues of ordinary life. I raised two children. My son is 16 and in high school, my daughter is attending Tel Aviv University where she’s studying international relations.

This whole quiet life that I had was altered in a split second in a moment when one day in May 2008 in the evening without any alert, without any prior warning a rocket landed in the clinic where I was working. I must say that at that time it was a very tense time. There were many rockets landing in the area, but for some reason I continued to work because I felt I was secure in my clinic. I knew that I’m in a hospital in a clinic and places like that where people are being treated nothing’s going to happen. It’s a protected place. And yet it happened.

Within a split second the place was utterly demolished. The clinic is situated at the upper story of one of the shopping malls in Ashkelon and I found myself under the debris. For a few seconds I lost consciousness, but then very quickly I became conscious again. I understood what was happening at that moment and I saw blood, a lot of blood coming out of my left arm, but I couldn’t do anything to stop the bleeding.

In the room with me was a patient. I was concerned to talk to her to tell her not to fall asleep, but to remain awake until someone comes to save us. The patient, too, was critically wounded. She got to the hospital with her abdomen open and her intestines exposed.

Instinctively I looked for my mobile phone and I called my husband who is also a physician and told him I had been very badly injured, and that he should come to save me. My worst injury was in the face. I felt like a ball of fire spinning inside my face. All of my teeth flew out.

The rescue team arrived and quickly transferred me to a hospital. From that moment my life changed radically. I heard that in that event there were over 100 people wounded in the shopping mall. Just people who were shoppers, nothing more.

Since then I’ve undergone six operations; five plastic operations and one in the mouth for my teeth. I have a piece of shrapnel almost 4 centimeters lodged on the left side of my back very close to the spine, but at the moment it cannot be removed. Perhaps it will never be removed so long as it doesn’t cause other complications. I have more operations to come, and I hope that I will look better. It’s very difficult for me to endure the way I look and it also impairs my breathing. I apologize.

But of course the worst is my psychological state. What was my sin? What was my crime? I’m a Jewish physician working in Ashkelon. I studied medicine to help people. I didn’t care if they were from Gaza, from anywhere in the world, from Israel, wherever. What was my crime? What did I do wrong? Why did I wind up in this situation? I just want to mention that I’m just an ordinary citizen.

I never played a role in any act of war. I never took part in any battles. I don’t even know what battles are about. I have no understanding of terrorism. I want you to understand that. I have no understanding of killing children, killing women, ordinary people, innocent people, but never the less I do have a great deal of sorrow for all of the victims, for the children and the women on the other side. They too are innocent. This has to stop. It has to stop.

I have a letter from the police, the Israeli police that says that the rocket that hit me was sent by the Islamic Jihad. This isn’t a state that’s at war with the state of Israel. It’s a terrorist organization. This has to stop. Enough of this bloodshed.

Enough of this suffering of everyone, of all innocent people on both sides. I - I apologize. This is my story. This is what I’m immersed in. Thank you very much."

When the 429 page Goldstone Report was issued, not one word of Dr. Siderer’s testimony was included, although Goldstone himself had invited her to appear and testify. Her name appeared once, in reference to a technical matter.

Nothing of Dr. Siderer's story appeared, but page after page detailed the suffering of the Arabs Goldstone finds so much more compelling.

When I was in seventh grade, I plastered a bumper sticker on the bumper of my dad’s car: “Get US out of the UN”.

That was right then, it’s right now – for both Israel and the US.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yom Kippur beings tonight at sunset.

For 25 hours, all of Israel is basically shut down – nothing is open. The airport is closed. No one drives a car or goes anywhere. Most people put on white clothing. We don’t eat, drink, cook, take showers or even wash our hands beyond what’s absolutely necessary.

And that’s not just the “religious”, either. It’s pretty much the standard behavior for everyone in the country. Even among those who call themselves ”secular”, observing Yom Kippur is a country-wide tradition.

One thing Israelis do on Yom Kippur is to walk in the streets. Since there’s no traffic, no cars of any kind, people love the opportunity to walk in the middle of the roads. Kids ride bicycles or skate. By sunset tonight, and all day tomorrow, the roads will be filled with people, whole families, dressed in white, walking, many with dogs on leashes or riding bikes.

It’s a scene that startles most of us newcomers. The first year I was here, I was walking across a pedestrian footbridge over one of Beersheba busiest streets, except that that night, there were no cars. Just throngs of people dressed in white, walking, talking and enjoying themselves. I was so astonished at the sight – it’s really amazing – that in my gawking, I forgot to watch where I was walking myself, and tripped and fell. I ended up with bruised knees and a sore foot, but nothing more serious. Now I try to pay a little bit of attention to where I’m going myself.

When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, this was the day in which the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, to offer the most profound prayer of the entire year. It must have been something – the most sacred moment of the year, conducted by the one single official designated to represent Israel, but not just Israel, but indeed the whole world.

So what would you think he would pray for, in that one single chance he had, to ask something of the Creator of the World?

Did he pray for peace? Success? Health? That the Temple not be destroyed?

No, none of those things were mentioned.

In the holiest moment of the whole year, the holiest man on earth prayed for ….. rain.

In addition, he included a couple of other thoughts. He prayed for the welfare of the King of Israel. He prayed for fruitfulness for the nation, that trees would bear fruit, that women would not suffer miscarriages.

And just in case G-d needed a little nudge, he also suggested that if there were travelers out on the roads who were praying for dry weather, that G-d should ignore those prayers. (Never hurts to ask!)

It wasn’t a long prayer – he was advised to keep it short. "And in the outer chamber he uttered a short prayer. He did not make the prayer long so as not to frighten Israel." (Yoma 5, Mishnah 1)

The photo above is one I took just outside of Arad, in the heat of the summer, just off the road to Yom HaMelach, the Dead Sea. You can see why we long for rain – and all the fruitfulness and productivity it represents.

May we all be written in the book of life for another year. Gmar hatima tova!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I haven't said anything about the infamous Goldstone Report to the UN on the Gaza War, first, because I believed it was too big a topic to cover, and second, because it's so unfair and infuriating it's hard to remain rational when discussing it.

Good thing I didn't say anything myself, because here is someone -- Prof. David Altman -- who said it far better than I ever could.

Read it, pass it along.

September 17, 2009
To: The Honourable Justice Richard Goldstone

Your Honour,

Through your conduct you remind all of us of the divine words in the book of Genesis, when God says to Cain, “The blood of Abel thy brother cries unto Me from the ground.”

Haunted by hatred and eaten up by a sense of inferiority, Cain put an end to Abel’s life because of jealousy and resentment. He was convinced that this action would avenge his sense of being spurned and forgotten. But then he heard a voice reverberating, a voice that henceforth he will always hear, wherever he goes, saying: “The blood of Abel thy brother cries from the ground.”

What was in your mind, Justice Goldstone, when you became the emissary of the world’s most intractable states? What were you thinking of when you became the representative of Sudan, Syria and Libya? Sudan – a country that on a daily basis commits genocide as the world stands by, silent. Libya – a country that has no democracy and no human rights, a country that sentences innocent people to death on trumped-up charges, that sends terrorists to blow up a plane carrying hundreds of passengers, that sends terrorist ships to attack cities and innocent people in Israel. And Syria, where people have been butchered extra-judicially and without trial, a state that supports terror and the murder of individuals, joins these two in an unholy alliance.

What was in your mind, when there is a deafening silence in the face of the slaughter in Darfur, in the face of the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Sri Lanka, in the face of those killing their brothers in Afghanistan and Iraq, without any reaction from the world? What were you thinking of when they gave you a remit to investigate crimes committed by a life-affirming democratic state?

What we wish to say to you, sir, is that you are a rebellious son of a great people. We are a life-affirming nation. We are people who love peace and hates war. We are a people who have proven that we are ready to do much for the sake of peace and to pay a heavy price, unlike all those who surround us and desire war.
Wars have always been imposed upon us, and when we have taken up arms, it has always been with tears in our eyes and out of concern for ourselves and our fellow man.
We respect the rules of war – both those that have been laid down by mankind, and those that have been dictated to us by the Creator.

Who is it that we are confronting? A Jihadist terrorist organization, that sanctifies death, that calls for the destruction of your brothers’ homeland, who massacre us, who fire their bombs at our homes and targets our children, our wives and our elderly, and celebrates when its bombs hit their targets.

Whom are you defending Your Honour when you point a falsely accusing finger at us, when an army goes out to defend homes and towns, and informs and asks its neighbours to move away, in order to prevent loss and anguish? We do not make use of human rights for public and international propaganda purposes. We believe in human rights and democracy.

Your job – to destroy the image of the State of Israel and each and every one of us – resembles those who collaborated with the Nazis, because they believed the Nazi propaganda that the Jews are guilty and hence must be dealt with through the Final Solution.

We despise you, Your Honour. Not because of your repudiation of your people, of your homeland and of your father’s home, but because of the evil and the absence of justice that you are serving beneath your judicial robes, when you lend a hand to baseless and unfounded blood libels.

This selfsame State of Israel, which withdrew at a heavy, heart-rending price from every single square inch of the Gaza area, which has no border disputes with this terrorist entity, an entity that has disengaged itself from its brothers in the West Bank and killed its opponents from its own ranks in cold blood – this selfsame authority has openly committed the war crime of abducting a soldier and isolating him from international institutions and his family. Not only that you defend these people – you have become their official spokesman and you try presenting us, who are fighting for our lives, in a light of evil and wickedness – completely unjustified in fact and in truth.

You were chosen to do a cover-up job, in order to prove that even one of our own sees our actions and our defence as a crime.

I must say: you are not one of our own. Go and graze in foreign pastures, join those ultra-Orthodox extremists who have joined forces with Ahmadinejad, who has declared a jihad on Israel and the Jewish people and needs such partners, who in the past were called kapos.

You are far from us, you do not belong to us, and you are not welcome among us. The blood of our brothers, who died because they fought with clean hands, who died because they were not prepared to put innocents at risk, the blood of my relatives who died when they turned their back on a woman who was breastfeeding, behind whom terrorists were hiding, who took them out as they used the woman and her baby as cover – the blood of these people cries out to you from the ground and calls you a modern Cain.

I am a proud Israeli, I love my homeland, and I long for peace.

The only democratic country in the Middle East – a country that is called Israel – represents our national collective. We believe in justice, in human rights, in humaneness, in love of one’s fellow man, and in the Jewish belief that says: every individual that was created in His image is important.

We are not killers, we are not blood-thirsty murderers, we do not wish to punish those who hate us, but to extend to them our hands in peace, in friendship, and in understanding.

You did not hear such words in the Hamas countries. They are not even prepared to recognize us. They desire our destruction. These people, who fire from inside schools, mosques, and ambulances, they need you in order to prove that we are harming their human rights.

I was a partner to those who devoted their lives during the operation to working in the humanitarian operations room which was involved with saving lives, providing food and fuel, caring for the other, and dealing with any breach, even an inadvertent one, of any human right, the sort of thing that can take place during wartime. Regrettably, our foes do not have such an operations room.

But you knowingly and deliberately ignored this, and became part of the well-oiled machinery that is designed to deprive us of any legitimacy. Some of this well-oiled machinery seeks to portray us as monsters, out of a desire ultimately to make possible the destruction of us and the State of Israel.

Cain is cursed, and those who follow his path shall be cursed too, since their crime reverberates ad infinitum, and because of them the blood of Abel, their brother, continues to cry out from the ground.

And I – from this beloved country, I cry out like this blood, and as I cry out, so I say, “Cry, the beloved country, cry out against the traitors, who have pounced on you like birds of prey and desecrated your honour.”

Sincerely, but not with kind regards,

Dr. David Altman
Senior Vice-President
Netanya Academic College

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The serious hype of the “tripartite” meeting headlines news reports this morning.

In spite of terrorist Abu Mazen’s (dolled up in his bespoke suit, he calls himself Mahmoud Abbas) much-repeated statement that he will not meet with Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu until there’s a total freeze in construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, he finally agreed to meet, so long as his lackey, the Community Organizer, was there to help.

The three – Bibi, Abu Mazen and the Community Organizer – met in Washington’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, accompanied by their various ‘seconds’: Missus Bubba, carrying the Community Organizer’s pistols. Bibi backed up by thank-goodness-for-loose-canons Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and by Israel’s own Pillsbury Dough Boy, Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Abu Mazen -- in addition to having the Community Organizer on his side -- was also accompanied by PA negotiator Saeb Erekat a man MK Benny Begin describes as a "wild beast of a man" – using the term from Genesis to describe Ishmael, the forerunner of the Arabs.

What a motley crew that was. I hope Bibi kept his back to the wall.

Israel’s leftist news media is proclaiming a sort-of victory for Bibi, based on the time he personally was able to bask in the presence of The One -- 40 minutes, for the tete-a-tete, from which Bibi emerged “acting like a scolded American clerk” said MK Michael Ben-Ari . Still, Bibi got 40 minutes of face time with The One, whereas the three-party meeting took only 15 minutes, hardly long enough for a grip and grin.

But now, listening to The Big Three tell us what took place in that meeting makes me wonder if they were in the same room.

Bibi reported, "There was general agreement, including on the part of the Palestinians, that the peace process has to be resumed as soon as possible with no preconditions."

The Community Organizer’s version was that both Bibi and Abu Mazen had “vowed” – get that! – “to move ahead with the diplomatic process” seeming to indicate, some dreamers believe, to be backing down from his previous calls for a total settlement freeze.

I doubt very much that Bibi “vowed” to do any such thing – we tend to take “vows” very seriously in these parts. But its Abu Mazen’s version that’s interesting.

In his statement released after the meeting, Abu Mazen said, "We also demanded that the Israeli side fulfill its commitments on settlements, including on natural growth.” Talks would only be renewed, he said, "based on our stated position" -- that is, the PA's insistence that Israel withdraw to the 1949 armistice line, also known as the Green Line, or the pre-1967 border.

So there you have it: three different versions. Talks will begin with no preconditions; everyone “vowed” to move ahead with the talks; and finally, that talks would only be renewed if Israel agreed to withdraw to the ‘Auschwitz borders’, the 1967 “green line” – which is a heck of a lot different, by the way, than just talking about halting construction in the “settlements”.

So once again, we leave it to thank-goodness-for-loose-canons Avigdor Lieberman to tell us what really happened:

Lieberman pointed out that what the Arabs say and what they do are two entirely different things. In fact, he said, "The other side is demanding all sorts of steps in Judea and Samaria." Israel "has been ready from day one to sit down and immediately talk with all the sides and all the neighbors, without preconditions."

Not so, the Arabs. They demand everything they want, upfront, as a precondition to negotiations.

Imagine going in to buy a new car and telling the dealer, “I’m open to negotiating the price of this car, but not until you agree to sell it to me for $30,000, provide a ten-year guarantee on all parts and service, throw in emergency road service, bi-monthly tune-ups, free tires every 60,000 miles, upgraded leather seats, CD and DVD player, and a new motorcycle for my kid.” See how far that gets you, in the real world.

It’s totally frustrating. Why do we bother with these silly meetings? It’s totally pointless.

And here’s the real kicker: for every one of these so-called agreements, or “accords”, or even “road maps”, what happens is that Israel, in good faith, agrees to this that and the other thing. But the Arabs refuse to agree to anything – sometimes they walk out, sometimes they appear to agree, but then just do what they want to do anyway.

But then, the world holds Israel responsible for doing everything the agreement required, anyway. The Arabs walked out, didn’t sign, refused to agree, did nothing, took none of the steps required of them, such as stopping terrorism and incitement. But still, Israel is held accountable by the world community for fully performing our side of the agreement.

We ought to just stay home. At one point, Bibi said something very profound: Until the Arabs agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, there’s no point in trying to negotiate anything.

That was absolutely correct. If they continue to refuse to recognize our legitimacy as a nation, what’s the point of talking?

Monday, September 21, 2009


That’s the Community Organizer’s version of the familiar Spanish words of welcome: My home is your home.

Except The One has changed it to suit himself: Your home is MY home.

At least that’s the way he regards Israeli homes. Not for himself, you understand. He already has that place at 1600 Pennsylvania. No, the Community Organizer has promised to give our homes in Israel to the “Palestinians” for them to live in.

If this yahoo in DC weren’t sitting on so much power it would be almost funny. I tried to think of some historical parallel where there’s a truly off-his-rocker leader ruling a country, but other than fiction and movie comedies, I can’t come up with one.

Suffice it to say, the Community Organizer has passed from mere megalomania into sheer insanity.

His blithe reassurance to the Arabs – “Palestinians” – that they shouldn’t be concerned about continued Jewish building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, because one day those houses will be theirs, is nothing short of breathtaking.

According to a report in World Net Daily, the Community Organizer is “fed up” with Israel. To be honest, I can’t say I blame him – when you’re trying to take over the world, and a bunch of chutzpadik Jews continue to make it tough, I guess most people would lose patience.

So fed-up Obama decided to take matters into his own hands. He assured top “Palestinian” officials that they will eventually be living in the homes that Jews are building now.

"We heard from the U.S. that no matter what Israel is building in the West Bank, it will not affect a final status agreement to create a Palestinian state," said the PA official. "The Americans told us (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu might construct in the West Bank for now but we (Palestinians) can enjoy these houses later. The evacuated homes will not be destroyed like some were when Israel pulled out of Gaza," the official said.

Worse yet, that same “top Palestinian” reported that the Community Organizer has now signed unto the plan offered by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: If within two years, Israel still hasn’t capitulated to the Community Organizers plans for us, then the Community Organizer and/or the United Nations – hey, in two years, that might be the same thing – will simply declare a “Palestinian” state, and order the Jews evicted from Judea, Samaria and all of Jerusalem.

Well, hmmmm. That’s food for thought. But the Community Organizer better be careful -- if the Iranians manage to wipe us out first, it will take all the fun out of it for him.

And this comes just the day after Zbigniew Brzezinski -- you remember him, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor – called on the Community Organizer to bomb Israeli planes if we try to protect ourselves from Iran.

“We have to be serious about denying them (Israel) that right,” Brzezinski said. “If they (Israeli planes) fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a 'Liberty' in reverse."

It’s starting to sound like the Community Organizer also bought into the notion articulated a few years ago by Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. He’s the one who said that creating Israel was a good idea. With all the Jews in one place, it would be that much easier to get rid of them.


Yesterday I was enjoying a lovely Rosh Hashanah lunch with friends and several other guests, when someone pointed out that the US Embassy in Israel penalized American Jews who came to work at the Israeli Embassy. Specifically, if the employees allow their children to attend an American-English school, the educational costs are paid. But if they choose to send their children to a local school — where the children could learn Hebrew and immerse themselves in the local culture – the employees must pay for it themselves.

Inappropriately, I admit, I laughed and said something like, “That sounds like Obama,” whereupon the person sitting next to me – another regular civilian who didn’t know any more about it than I did – nearly exploded. “That’s INSULTING! Obama had nothing to do with it!”

Well, the Community Organizer wasn't with us yesterday, so I'm not sure who would have been insulted, but the other guest was quite right: It wasn’t the time or place to argue politics, especially when it was obvious any such discussion would have been pointless. Only 4% of Israelis have a positive opinion of Barack Hussein Obama, and without doubt, the person sitting next to me was one of them.

For obvious reasons that person isn't likely to be reading this blog, but now I’m wondering how many other people still think the Community Organizer operates its Israeli embassy and “east Jerusalem” consulate with any positive regard for the local Jewish population or – apparently – toward its employees who happen to be Jews.

So here’s a few ways that things have changed – there’s that word again – since the Community Organizer began his reign. It was NOT this way under previous administrations.

First: The US consulate in “East Jerusalem” serves part of Jerusalem, plus French Hill and Gilo, as well as all the citizens of Judea and Samaria, 800,000 of them Jews. But its website – check it out yourself -- – is designed to help Arabs only. The only two languages offered are Arabic and English, not Hebrew (which happens to be the language the majority of the residents, of all ethnicities, speak). Workers at that Consulate speak only Arabic and English, and no Hebrew option is available on the voice mail system.

Second, take a look at what programs and ‘cultural opportunities’ the Consulate offers. On today’s menu, nothing at all relates to Jews or Judaism. There are many different sites in which Ramadan is prominent – and not a single one in which Rosh Hashanah, which took place on Shabbat and yesterday, is even mentioned. Nor is any other Jewish holiday. The only reference is to Muslim holidays, practices, celebrations and greetings.

When asked why this is, the US Consulate officials explain that it’s because east Jerusalem – including all of Jerusalem’s Old City as well as the Western Wall -- plus all of Judea and Samaria are regarded as “occupied territory”.

That's familiar nonsense of course, but the absurdity of their claiming Jerusalem's entire Old City for the Arabs is patently obvious.

For those of you in the US who haven’t yet wandered in the glory of Jerusalem’s Old City, it’s home to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, for Jews; the Church of the Sepulcher for Christians, the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims. The Old City itself is divided into four quarters, Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.

But now the US Consulate that serves all the residents of those areas operates only in English and Arabic.

Among today’s news offerings on the Consulate website is a story about how the Consulate is honoring “Fifty University Graduates” in an internship program. The ‘honor’ ceremony is being held in Ramallah, Yasser Arafat’s old stamping ground, where Jews are forbidden to enter.

Then there’s a gushing story about kicking off a “month of Ramadan outreach” by the Consulate, starting with a Ramadan Quiz Night.

But none of that equals the headlined link to Hussein Obama’s way-beyond-disgusting September 11 memorial message – in which he switches the memorial from remembering those killed by Muslims on September 11 to a “Patriot Day and Day of National Service” instead.

All of this has been protested by the American Israeli Action Coalition (AIAC), which states that the Jerusalem Consulate website “totally denies the existence of Israel or Israelis.” AIAC chairman Harvey Schwartz commented. "The Obama administration`s continued efforts to marginalize Israel are becoming more evident daily. The U.S. Consulate`s efforts…demonstrate that those efforts are continuing unabated."

But it’s not just the US Consulate in “east Jerusalem” – it’s the main Embassy in Tel Aviv, too.

The Embassy website contains a link to their “Human Rights Report: Israel and the Occupied Territories” which criticizes Israel for being a Jewish state and laments the authority of rabbis who act according to traditional Jewish law.

Under the subtitle “Freedom of Religion,” the Embassy site states, “The Basic Law and Declaration of Independence recognize the country as a ‘Jewish and democratic state,’ while also providing for full social and political equality, regardless of religious affiliation. The government recognized only Orthodox Jewish religious authorities in personal and some civil status matters concerning Jewish persons. The government implemented policies including marriage, divorce, education, burial, and observance of the Sabbath based on Orthodox Jewish interpretation of religious law, and allocations of state resources favored Orthodox Jewish institutions.”

It charges that “many Jewish citizens objected to exclusive Orthodox control over aspects of their personal lives” -- all of this, without noting that traditional Judaism has been the basis of the Jewish people for 3,500 years.

The Embassy appears to complain that “legal missionaries faced harassment and discrimination by some haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish activists and organizations and certain local government officials.”

“Legal missionaries”?? What’s that? Missionary activity per se is illegal in Israel -- although the government is notoriously loose in enforcing the law.

In short, throughout, the Embassy website uses its authority to criticize the host state. I wonder how many other US Embassies around the world operate like that?

I did get a chuckle out of the fact that out of seven video links available, five feature Missus Bubba giving a speech or statement. I guess now we know that the website is being managed by her staff, not that of the Community Organizer. She's probably licking her chops, waiting for 2012 just like the rest of us.

Of course, none of this is much of a surprise for those of us who live here. Ask just about any American Israeli who’s had to visit the US Embassy for something – to register the birth of a child, renew passports, get help with Social Security benefits – and virtually everyone will tell you how nasty the US employees are, how rude and condescending. At times, it’s almost embarrassing to be an American in Israel, because almost everyone who had to contact the Embassy came out frothing at the mouth.

So. Do I know that the Embassy’s policy regarding education of Jewish children of American employees has changed recently? No. I don’t. And the link to “Embassy employment opportunities” on the website isn’t functioning at the moment.

But given what we do know about all the changes the Community Organizer has instituted the Embassy and the “east Jerusalem” Consulate, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

Oh, and thanks to reader Fred, who informs me that on September 25, there will be a national prayer gathering of Muslims on the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building. Some 50,000 Muslims plan to attend from mosques all across America, with prayers scheduled to run 15 consecutive hours, from 4:00 AM until 7:00 PM.

The site is where U.S. Presidents have been inaugurated since 1981, or as their website puts it, “Echoing off of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and other great edifices that surround Capitol Hill.”

If you have a strong stomach, check that website yourself: (Turn DOWN your speakers.)

Their final exhortation? “Our time has come.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Israel is alive with the sound of music.....

Napoleon Bonaparte came to tour the holy land in 1799. One night he slept Ramle, an Arab/Jewish city that today is virtually a suburb of Tel Aviv. For several nights, Napoleon slept in a hostel that wasn’t far from a Moslem minaret, tower. Several times a day – including just before dawn – a Muezzin would climb to the top of the tower and sing out the call to prayer.

Poor exhausted Napoleon was getting tired of being awaked so early every morning, day after day. The next time the Muezzin climbed the tower and started to sing, Napoleon got up, pulled out his gun and shot the guy dead.

That’s one way to handle it.

In recent weeks, Baruch Marzel of Hebron/Kiryat Arba has been facing the same problem. Saudi Arabia maliciously gave money to the local Arabs so they could buy a very powerful loudspeaker and broadcasting system, from which they now broadcast their prayers, five times a day. Just to be obnoxious.

Marzel – one of those pesky “settlers”, and therefore someone I admire hugely – was getting just as tired of it as Napoleon had. But he found another solution.
“I rented a powerful system and put on Carlebach (music) every hour of the day,” Marzel said. The IDF asked me to stop, I told them that when they stop I'll stop – and believe me, they'll stop,” Marzel said.

I wish Marzel well, but I’m not at all sure an awful lot of Arabs won’t -- secretly, if nothing else – find themselves enjoying the Carlebach concerts.

Most of you probably know of Reb Shlomo Carlebach -- that’s him, pictured. Here’s a video of one of his songs, singing at a “Hoshana Rabba” Sukkot service:

For you folks in Rio Linda, Shlomo Carlebach (1925-1994) was a charismatic singer/songwriter/holy man, whose songs and warm, Hasidic style inspired a whole new movement in Jewish rock n’ roll. No matter who you are, where you live, or what you do, chances are you’ve heard some of Reb Shlomo’s melodies, whether you recognize them or not.

So I not sure Marzel’s tactic will work.

Now that I think about it, back in 1993, when Bubba ‘I-never-had-sex-with-that-woman’ Clinton was President, he, too, found himself getting disgusted with the practices of a minority religious group.

Bubba took a far more lethal approach. When his federal agents - the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco – decided they could no longer tolerate the presence of the religious dissenters in Waco, Texas, they also tried obnoxious noises to harass the community. They played recordings of Buddhist chants, dental drills, and screaming, slaughtered rabbits.

When the BATF still couldn’t oust the dissenters from their home, Bubba’s Attorney General Janet Reno gave the order to saturate the compound with CS gas, even though she knew the community didn’t have gas masks to protect their children.

Not that it mattered – the gas caused the buildings to catch fire, and 86 men, women and children were burned to death.

Can you even imagine what would happen if anyone in Israel acted like either Napoleon or Janet Reno?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

There’s nothing like a good solidly-positive headline to make the day start out right.

Today’s was, “Mitchell, Netanyahu fail to agree on settlement halt.”

That’s unmitigated good news – which was essential to balance off the totally depressing headline down the page, “Hillary Clinton to visit Israel.”

Please. Just stay home. Leave us alone.

I’m not happy with Bibi’s partial or temporary -- or whatever it is today –“settlement freeze”, but he did say something that made sense. As you know, the Arabs in the form of Abu Mazen -- who, when he doffs the terrorist robes calls himself “Mahmoud Abbas” – continue to insist that they won’t sit down for “negotiations” until Israel imposes a total “settlement freeze”, including in Jerusalem.

So Bibi, in speaking to his cabinet said, “In any case, I will not agree to enter into talks whose results are defined and known in advance. That’s what negotiations are for and we are willing to begin right away.”

Right! The Arabs have gotten into the bad habit of demanding everything they want as a precondition to negotiations. “We won’t sit down to negotiate until Israel does x, y, and z”.

That’s hardly rational. Why would Israel agree to anything like that? Once Israel satisfies their growing list of pre-negotiation demands, what’s the point of negotiating anything else? It’s over – except as a man I was interviewing yesterday said, “All that would remain to be determined is who turns off the lights on the way out.”

The Community Organizer and most of Europe continue with their dangerous preoccupation with a “settlement freeze” which, as they all know, is nothing short of an end-run to bring about Israel’s demise, without having to come right out and say that’s what they want.

So it’s good to see that the mainstream press is finally starting to print a few articles detailing the many and sundry ways the Community Organizer is screwing up the world.

Two such pieces on his Middle East policy appeared in the last couple of days –
In US News and World Report, Mort Zuckerman, ZOA, wrote, “Obama is Fumbling a Chance for Middle East Peace”

Zuckerman notes that by Obama’s promising the Arabs everything, without making demands for parallel concessions, meant only that the Arabs’ list of demands grew. They believed the Community Organizer would hand them Israel on a silver platter – he’s trying, he’s trying – so they feel no need to do anything to promote peace themselves. In Israel, what results from Obama’s policy is a energized population against him and his policies, of whom only 4% think Obama is good. We then become disinclined to agree to anything Obama wants and are much more willing to elect Israeli governments that will stand up to him.

The Arab response to Obama’s policies is to become more and more intransigent, unwilling to agree to anything, because they still believe victory (“victory” to the Arabs is the end of Israel, not an end to hostilities) will be handed to them without concessions on their part. Why compromise, when they’ll get it all anyway?

So exactly the opposite of what Obama intended – if you assume his drive for “peace” was the cessation of hostilities, as compared to the end of pesky little Israel – has happened.

In the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens wrote, “Obama Is Pushing Israel toward War”

In short, because it’s now completely obvious that the Community Organizer has no intention whatever of stopping Iran, we’ll be forced to do it ourselves. We don’t have any choice – so we’ll have to go it alone.

That’s dangerous to the world, of course, because we don’t have the resources – let alone the clout – to do it as well as the US does. But if the US prefers to court the Iranian madman and believe his lies, then we’ll have to go it alone.

That’s what Israel is for: to allow us to choose our own destiny, not to be herded into the ovens and crematoria like last time.

In short, as Daniel Pipes wrote today, “The Obama administration has established an alarmingly na├»ve and dangerous record on Arab-Israeli issues, leading me to worry about spectacular policy failures ahead,”

Another headline also caught my eye: “Americans losing faith in Obama” – it recounts how American voters are increasingly disappointed in Obama, because they voted for him, believing he’d bring “change”, and they aren’t getting it.

That’s not true, of course. They wanted “change” – they got it.

All during the campaign, we were warning people, “Not all change is for the better.”

As the old adage goes, you have to be careful what you wish for. You might get it.

Never let it be said that Israel isn’t the land of contradictions.

As noted in my last blog, the head of BGU's Department of Politics and Government Neve Gordon recently called on the world to boycott Israel, calling it “an apartheid state”, saying that it order for Israel to save itself, “all foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens (must) suspend cooperation with Israel”.

That was fine and dandy, as far as most officials were concerned – oh, sure, some BGU donors are howling, threatening to stop donating. Several traditional Zionists have come out forcefully against Gordon’s treasonous statements.

But certainly no one in the legal system or the courts, or the police, have suggested -- or even thought, apparently -- that Gordon should be arrested for his world-wide publication of treason, the granting of aid and comfort to those who would destroy Israel.

But then there’s another man, Noam Federman, who lives in Hebron. That's Noam and his wife Elishiva pictured above. While Neve Gordon (a self-hating Jew if there ever was one) has spent his life on an endless anti-Semitic, hate-Israel rant, Noam Federman of Hebron/Kiryat Arba has been a life-long defender of Israel. And darn near every time Federman opens his mouth, he’s endlessly and ceaselessly punished for his love of country.

The police couldn’t wait to arrest Noam Federman. He’s just been sentenced to four months of public service for his latest outburst.

What did Federman say? On Israel’s TV Channel 2 – the government channel – Federman was being interviewed. He said, "There are strange people who say we can live with the Arabs in coexistence. There are strange people who say I can coexist with cancer.”

Wham! For Federman, that’s four months of public service for “incitement to racism.”

So tell me, friends: When Neve Gordon publishes a plea in the Los Angeles Times, begging the world to punish Jews and the Jewish state, the Israeli legal system says that’s his right. We have free speech in Israel, they’d all chime in -- if anyone had asked for their opinion, which no one did, because it apparently never occured to anyone.

But let Noam Federman -- who’s probably spent more time in courts and prisons in his lifetime than in his own bed – suggest that co-existence with the people who refuse to even sit down to negotiate with Israel until Israel accomplishes most of what would be needed to kill the Jewish state? Ah, well, for that, you get prison.

So here's the deal: As long as you’re inciting hatred of Jews, that’s fine. That’s not a problem.

But heaven help you, if you “incite” against Arabs. Then it’s off to prison.

As I say, I sometimes think we’re getting just too civilized to survive.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


It’s been an interesting summer.

I’ve watched as two completely different groups of people arise from their slumber, take to the streets – and microphones, meeting halls, private conference centers not to mention internet sites – to protest something they find despicable.

Normally these two groups of people probably wouldn’t have much in common. Some of their issues might overlap, but it’s not a natural affiliation – and indeed they aren’t working in tandem. It “just happened” that they both came to life to demonstrate their power at the same time.

That said, I’m not much of a believer in coincidence. Usually there’s some common thread tying one thing to the other. One didn’t cause the other – don’t get me wrong. They’re just happening at the same time – and both are burning brighter by the day.

The first are the “Tea Party" people, the FreedomWorks folks – supported by former Rep. Dick Armey. (See my blog of August 16

Yesterday the truly massive demonstration at the Capitol did my heart good – over 2 million people turned out to demonstrate against almost everything the Community Organizer has done, is doing, and still promises/threatens to do – in spite of the fact that it’s obvious he no longer enjoys the support of the American people, let alone those who vote.

I told you how I hate August – but this year something fun was happening. I spent many evenings lurking and prowling on the Internet, watching the Town Hall Meetings American voters all across the country were having with their elected representatives. The demonstrations were powerful – totally amazing, as so many off-the-street citizens proved to their befuddled elected officials that they knew more about a Congressional bill than the people who were supposed to vote on it. And that they didn’t like it one bit.

I suspect many of us share a favorite YouTube segment – those unforgettable few lines spoken by former Marine David Hedick at Cong. Brian Baird’s Town Hall meeting. (Semper fi, David!) I’m sure you remember it – he began by noting that he was a Marine vet, adding that he had sworn to defend his country “against all enemies, foreign and domestic” – with just a slight emphasis on “domestic”. That brought a round of applause from the crowd.

Then he made his first point: “You stay away from my kids.”

That line had me standing and clapping every time, all by myself, especially as I thought of the clever speech the Community Organizer had planned to give to school children on the first day of school. (Not the speech he gave – the one he intended to give, the one he circulated, before the wave of protests forced him to change his strategy. That first speech was accompanied by teaching materials that asked the schoolchildren to list the things the President had done for them. And to list the things they could do to help “The President” – not help the country. Help the President.)

“You stay away from my kids,” Marine David Hedick said. You bet.

That was followed by Hedick saying that he had heard that Rep. Baird had called the town hall meeting protestors “brownshirts” and “Nazis”. Baird interrupted with “I didn’t say that”, leading to the conclusion that he had indeed said something similar.

“So I will speak to those who did (say that),” Hedick said, and proceeded to offer a profound and delightfully succinct lesson in history. “The Nazis were called the National Socialist Party,” he said. “They took over the country’s finances. They took over the car industry. They took over health care.”

“If Nancy Pelosi wonders where the swastikas are, I suggest she look at the sleeve of her own shirt.”

Whoa! What a speech! The applause went on and on, while Baird, the Congressman up there on the stage, looking down at the “little people” -- the vast unwashed, those who depended on him, the Great Brian Baird, to tell them how to live their lives – stood there with a grim look on his face. Look at the insufferable ignorance a Congressman has to put up with, his look said. ‘I don’t think they pay me enough to do this.’

The YouTube clip shows that Hedick finished his two-minute statement – most of the time was taken up by cheers and applause, then walked off to kiss his wife and child who were standing in the rear of the auditorium. Now there’s a Good American. (Watch it yourself:

Hedrick gave the world a classic demonstration of where the real power in America is vested – with We, the People.

So in the States, people are upset with the Community Organizer’s plan to supplant capitalism and freedom with socialism and bondage. But there’s another group of people in the US – mostly in Southern California – who are equally upset about a very different issue. These are people, wealthy Jews for the most part, who in the past have been big donors to Ben Gurion University of the Negev, a huge institution – one of Israel’s seven Universities – right here in my hometown, Beersheba. They’re also mad as hell, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.

The focus of their anger is the University’s insistence that a pod of Israel haters and “post-Zionists” – better known as the Department of Politics and Government – is allowed to flourish, unimpeded and with University support, within the University structure.

For many, the upheaval began with the head of that department, a serial-anti-Zionist and proven enemy of Israel named Neve Gordon, published an op-ed in the LA Times in which he called Israel an “apartheid country” and called for an international boycott of the very state that not only protects him, but also pays his salary.

Gordon called for “foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel”.

He did so under the guise of what he – and the University powers that be – calls “academic freedom”. To them, that means that any faculty member of any University can say absolutely anything at all, advocate any scheme, express support for anything or anyone, teach their students anything that comes into their minds – and still remain aloof from criticism, let alone any threat of losing their teaching positions. And their hefty salaries.

None of this is new for Neve Gordon. He’s been an Israel hater for years and years – you might even remember a classic photo of him and arch terrorist Yasser Arafat that appeared on the front pages of many publications, including in the US. It was taken in 2002, back when Arafat’s terrorist suicide bombers were blowing up Israeli cafes, buses and wedding celebrations. It showed Gordon and Arafat, hands joined and raised in solidarity, standing in Arafat’s blockaded compound there in Ramallah. Here’s a small clip.

Needless to say, Neve Gordon violated Israeli law in several ways – treason is still against the law in Israel, although it’s sometimes hard to believe it. And by going into Arafat’s terrorist compound, which was – and is – off limits to Israeli Jews, he violated the law again. Still – in spite of the fact that violating the law is grounds for termination of tenure – Gordon continues to teach and spread his venomous hatred of Israel.

Since then, Gordon went on to become a regular columnist in, the media apologist for the terrorist Hamas, from which he regularly rants and raves against Israel, saying Israel is opposed to peace and is plotting to steal Arab lands.

Calling Israel an “apartheid” state wasn’t a new element in his bag of tricks – he’s done that all along, just as he regularly calls for the “one state” – Final – solution, where Israel would become a non-Jewish “state for all its peoples”, which is to say, another Arab state.

Through all of this, the University authorities, the President, Rivka Carmi, apparently with the support of her Board of Directors – not to mention the support of the entire rotten Department of Politics and Government – has defended Gordon, praised his scholarship and even promoted him, deflecting all criticism. Their mantra, repeated again and again, is that since Gordon has tenure, he is free to say, and preach, anything he likes. They insist that he -- and all University professors in general – enjoy absolute freedom of speech. The unlimited right to advocate anything they wish.

(I’ve often wondered what would happen if an Israeli University professor were to teach that abortion is murder, or that Arabs were related to apes, that a prerequisite for accepting a salary from the Jewish state was that one had to live an Orthodox lifestyle, or that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was the greatest human to ever walk the earth. My guess is that the alleged absolute “freedom of speech” wouldn’t extend quite that far.)

So just like the Tea Party people marching against the Community Organizer, so the Big Bucks donors to BGU, the university decided to take action.

Neve Gordon – with the administrative approval from BGU – wants to boycott Israel? Fine. The donors – to their endless credit -- have decided to boycott the University. No more donations will be forthcoming.

This will be interesting. Watch this blog for updates on what happens, because BGU – like so many Israeli institutions of all kinds – absolutely needs and depends on cash flowing in from wealthy supporters around the world. Without outside cash infusions, they can’t build, they can’t support their research projects, they can’t expand. Cut out enough donors, and they can't pay salaries to existing employees. Now wouldn't that be interesting?

Who’ll blink first? The University? Or the donors – who simply refuse to support an anti-Israel teaching program at a University named for Israel’s Number One Zionist, David Ben Gurion?

As Drudge says, developing……

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It’s not only “regular” school that starting in Israel, but “Ulpan” – Hebrew school –classes for new immigrants have also kicked into gear.

At this time of the year, it’s common to hear some of the recently-arrived newcomers in Israel – olim – talk about their struggles with ulpan. For those of us who’ve been here awhile, it’s a trip down memory lane.

Ulpan, for new immigrants, is a rite of passage. Ulpan isn’t exactly required of new immigrants, but it’s strongly urged. The objective is not just to make sure that everyone speaks the local language, but – as someone else recently said – to make sure that newcomers learn to communicate with the rest of the country. Sometimes that takes more than mere language. So this week, all over the country, in cities, towns, villages and kibbutzim, ulpanim are welcoming newcomers.

Every Israeli remembers his first ulpan teacher. How could you forget? That’s the woman – invariably – who gave you the keys to the kingdom, the first lessons in how to survive over here. Love her or hate her, no one ever forgets her.

Everybody has ulpan stories -- I probably could write a book about what happened during my five or six months in ulpan. (Ulpan lasts, technically, six months, but because of the High Holidays in the fall, or Pesach in the spring, the actual period of instruction is closer to five months.)

In Beersheba, there really are only two ulpanim, one for “academics” – anyone with a college degree in anything – and the other for those without college degrees. Within each, there are innumerable classes, all held in a huge concrete-block building that looks very much like the kind of slightly-run-down school building you’d see anywhere.

When I arrived in July 2002, I was lucky enough to get into a “pre-ulpan” that started in early August. It was designed to give a few of us who were already here a little head start for when the real ulpan started in September.

So one extraordinarily hot August day, I found myself sitting in a classroom that looked very much like the one pictured above.

Because it was 2002, the height of the Intifada, when buses and cafes were regularly being blown up by our cousins, there were hardly any other Anglo, English-speaking, immigrants. People still came from the FSU, and people from South America poured in because of their economic crash -- just about exactly the same economic crisis the US is experiencing right now. There were many French and several couples from Cuba, who turned out to be my favorite ethnic group. The Cuban men wore white Stetsons, like cowboys – I loved it.

The only other English speakers I ever encountered in ulpan were people from India – and of course not all of them spoke English, either.

It started at 8:00 am, Israeli time, which means it started about 8:30. Our first teacher was “Shosh”, a pretty, motherly-looking woman in her 40's who sometimes spoke so softly it was hard to hear her.

We students, “academics” all, came from all over the world, so there were women dressed in saris, there were high-heeled, elegantly dressed ladies from Europe (European women always seem dressed up), the Cubans with their Stetsons, some people in extremely short shorts or slacks, Russians resplendent with their gold teeth. The age range was universal – some 20-somethings, all the way up to 60’s, with most probably in their mid-30’s or 40’s.

All of us were both nervous and excited. Some of us brought our own paper and pens, others hadn’t, but it didn’t seem to matter. Nothing like that was provided for those who didn’t have, nor were there any books or handouts. The total equipment consisted of a blackboard and chalk.

“Ani Shosh”, the teacher said, pointing to herself. “I am Shosh”. When we’d absorbed that bit of wisdom, Shosh turned to the blackboard and wrote the first letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet – “aleph” – on the blackboard.

“Aleph”, she said. “Aleph”, we repeated.

She went on, writing and pronouncing: “Bet” “Gimmel”. We dutifully repeated each letter.

Silly me, I was feeling extraordinarily confident. I could already read Hebrew – which is to say, I knew the letters and I could sound out the words. I didn’t have a clue as to what any of the words meant, of course, but at least I wasn’t struggling to distinguish between an “aleph” and a “hey”.

At about 10:00, we’d already gone through the aleph-bet and Shosh had taken to holding up various objects -- a pen, eyeglasses, a tote bag – and pronouncing the Hebrew word for each. It was way beyond exhilarating – I could hardly believe it. We were actually speaking Hebrew!

In my entire six months in ulpan, that was probably my best moment.

Suddenly there was a pounding on the classroom door. Shosh looked a little surprised – who would knock, and not just walk in? She walked over and opened the door.

There stood a whole crowd of people – maybe about 20 – behind some other person who appeared to be another teacher. She and Shosh held a quick discussion – I have no idea what was said – but in just a minute, Shosh stepped back and the 20 new people began to squeeze into the room.

Now understand, the room was already full. There were probably 30 people sitting in chairs already, just about exactly what the room seemed designed to hold. There might have been two or three extra chairs, but no more. It didn’t take long for this deficiency to be noted, and several of the men jumped up, went into a nearby classroom and began cannibalizing it for chairs. The chairs were the old wooden armchair things, with the right arm extended and flattened into a little writing table. Which is to say, the chairs were both big and heavy. Pretty soon there a convoy was in place, chairs being handed one to another until someone decided we had enough.

To this day, I can’t imagine how they got all those chairs into the room, but they did. It was now so packed with chairs and people no one could possibly get out unless someone else did first.

The whole process of absorbing people and chairs probably took 15 minutes, but the loss of time didn’t seem to bother anyone.

Personally, I was a little grateful for the newcomers. Surely now, I thought, she’ll start over again, and I can catch some of those words I’d already forgotten.

But she didn’t. Shosh picked up from exactly where she’d left off – which just totally blew me away. What about the people who just came in? They hadn’t heard or learned the aleph-bet! They hadn’t learned the words for pen, eyeglasses or tote bag! How could they be expected to start in the middle?

I don’t know – but they did. Or at least, no concession was made to the fact that they had just arrived. I suppose the thought was, they’ll pick up something. What else can we do?

Class ended, we all squeezed out, feeling supremely successful. We’d learned Hebrew!

The next morning I was prepared for a totally-packed classroom again, so I came a little early. Miraculously, all the extra chairs had disappeared and the room was back to normal.

People began filing in – but what puzzled me, and troubled me to some extent, was that it wasn’t exactly the same people I’d started with the day before. The one young lady I’d been talking to – from Argentina, in rusty Spanish – wasn’t there. Neither was the memorable elderly Russian man who’d sat ahead of me. They’d disappeared. I didn’t recognize anyone in this new class.

Except, Shosh, of course. She came in at her customary 8:30, and without preamble, began teaching. We were learning more words – nouns. No verbs. Then she had us playing a memory game, giving us lists of objects and we’d have to remember them in order or be called out. Everything was going swimmingly until….

You’re not going to believe this, but at right about 10:00 there was a knock on the door. Shosh opened it, and there they were – yet another group of about 20 newcomers. We went through the same “chair convoy” process, everyone got settled in, and Shosh picked up from where she’d left off. No backtracking. Not for anyone. Full steam ahead, understand it or not, learn what you can.

The pre-ulpan classes continued for about four weeks. It wasn’t every day that a group of newcomers arrived, but it happened several times a week. It was always different people, and the following day, the class seemed newly composed. So what happened to those who didn’t return?

Many things, probably. The younger ones were probably moved to kibbutzim, to study in that atmosphere instead. Some of the older ones were moved to a “senior’s” ulpan, which I wasn’t old enough for, at the time. Some probably moved to different cities, and of course some just quit. I don’t think there was any single reason.

As you can tell, I’ve spent some time thinking about the whole process.

The fact is, of course, that over our six decades of our existence here Israel has constantly been absorbing newcomers. From the very day of our founding – when the first of the 800,000 Jews who were running for their lives, fleeing from Arab lands began flooding in – we moved over, welcomed them, found them a place to live – even though at first, many lived in tents, in transit camps.

What I see now is that ulpan is the perfect metaphor for Israel itself.

The country is up and moving, full speed ahead. Newcomers arrive all the time, and when they do, everyone else moves over a little, makes space, squeezes in, finds a place for the newcomers to perch.

Newbies are welcomed, but not coddled. Everyone is expected to jump in, learn what they can as well as they can, and work hard to get themselves into the mainstream, so they can move along just as well as those who were here earlier, who have more background and experience.

As I’ve said so many times, you learn so much in ulpan. Sometimes you even learn a little bit of Hebrew.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Well, I can tell you one thing: here’s one Israeli who’s NOT guilty of the most recent Arab slur.

The newest accusation launched by our cousins is that we’re training attack snakes to go after them. Like the "Palestinian Viper" pictured above.

Hey-hey! Don't worry about me on this one. I have no desire to get close enough to a thing-with-no-shoulders to even SEE the darn thing, let alone train it.

Nevertheless, the ever-creative newspaper of our alleged “peace partner” Fatah, published an account accusing us dastardly Israelis of training snakes to attack “innocent” farmers. (“Innocent” of what, one might ask. Farming, perhaps.)

According to a news report in Fatah’s Bethlehem news rag Ma’an, what happened was this: a snake bit a woman outside the Jewish city of Ariel. Right after inflicting the bite, local Arabs said, the snake "escaped” toward Ariel.

So obviously, any rational Arab would see the truth: the snake – like a homing pigeon – had been trained to go back to its Jewish master.

Left to my imagination, I’d guess that the snake was going home to collect his reward for a job well done. A live mouse, maybe? Some little thing to take the taste of Arab out of its mouth?

But that wasn’t all. It isn’t only snakes we are supposedly inflicting on our nearest neighbors. We are also dumping -- ah, merde – on their soil, to ruin it.

Understand, one of the problems of buying Arab produce is precisely that – we don’t know what they used to fertilize it, but we can guess. But maybe they think that Arab merde is good for growing plants, whereas Jewish merde is harmful? Probably.

Whatever. There’s no more evidence of the merde dumping than there is of the snake training.

Although I must say, they are getting pretty creative over there on the other side of the ideological divide. Not too long ago Hamas accused Israel of lacing bubble gum with aphrodisiacs and giving them to young Arab men “to corrupt them.”

You have to wonder why they would think that Israelis would want to increase the number of Arabs, wouldn’t you?

Then, too, there was the accusation of our having trained attack pigs. That was near Ariel, too, and also reported by the Ma’an newspaper. Our alleged crime then was that we released wild boars into the fields in order to destroy Arab plants and crops.

But understand this: in that area, both Israelis and Arabs are farming. Do they really think we could train wild pigs to eat and crap on Arab fields only?

And then there was last summer’s highlight, when Israelis were supposedly bringing “super rats” into the Old City of Jerusalem. Here’s what Fatah’s newspaper reported back then:

"[Israeli] settlers have been bringing chests filled with rats and releasing them in the Old City's [Arab] neighborhoods; they breed and have become a major curse... the [Arab] residents' efforts to counter this infestation have failed, especially since cats run away from these rats because of their size and ferocity... All of the conventional efforts to kill them have not succeeded, because they seem to be immune to poison and they breed in the sewers. It is known that this female rat gives birth seven times a year, each time giving birth to 20 babies, which compels Jerusalem's [Arabs] today to face the dangers of settlement and the infestation of rats..."

The day before, Al-Ayyam, a different newspaper, had reported:
"Large numbers of [Israeli] settlers have been bringing huge cages full of rats and releasing them onto the streets and alleys of the Old City... in order to turn the [Arab] residents' life into a living hell, forcing them to leave..."

So last summer we were using rats to attack, today it’s snakes. As Israel National News points out – tongue in cheek, I think:

“There is no scientific evidence indicating that rats or snakes can be trained as attack animals, or that either of the species can differentiate between Jews and Arabs.”

Now that I think about it, though, I do remember a certain wild bunny that braved the waters of a lake near Plains, Georgia, to attack then-President Jimmy Carter while he was out on a solo fishing trip.

Renenber? The bunny approached Carter’s boat, "hissing menacingly, its teeth flashing and nostrils flared and making straight “for the President’s rowboat, news accounts said at the time.

Back then, I was pulling for the bunny. And now I guess I’m pulling for our trained snakes, pig, rats or whatever other form of wildlife we can harness.

That was the command, was it not, when we were given this land?

'Be fertile and become many. Fill the land and conquer it. Dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every beast that walks the land.”

We’re doing our best.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

There go your dollars again!

In terms of micromanagement, it doesn’t get much worse than this. Micromanagement of Israel, by the Community Organizer, of course!

In furtherance of his intent to carve a “Palestinian” state out of about a third of Israel, the Community Organizer has allocated $20 million of your – our – tax dollars to pay for new road signs in rural Israel. These road signs won’t look like the existing signs, like the one above. The existing signs are written in all of Israel’s three legal languages: Hebrew, English and Arabic.

The new signs will be written only in English and Arabic.

Yup! As I write, the Arabs are out in force in Judea and Samaria, ripping out the existing signs, and replacing them with the US paid-for Hebrew-free version. Thanks to your generosity.

The Community Organizer is perfectly open about his intentions. Howard Sumka, the head of USAID (United States Agency for International Devemopment) a regular and generous contributor to terror organizations around the world, told the Arabic daily newspaper Al-Hayat, that the signs are intended to further “the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

It’s really a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face situation. Probably 99% of the residents and frequent travelers in Judea and Samaria speak Hebrew. A far smaller percentage speaks or read Arabic. Very few speak or read English. So eliminating the Hebrew doesn’t really help anyone – in fact it hurts.

The real impact may be on Hebrew-speaking fire and emergency workers, who might actually need to rely on a road sign to find their destination quickly.

They don’t seem to get it: Road and highway directional signs actually serve a purpose – it’s not just a matter of political policy or “because we can” childish taunts. Israeli road signs are currently printed in three languages in order to offer information to the widest possible audience.

In any event, can you imagine a more internal matter than the language in which a country’s road signs are printed? Why oh why does the Community Organizer think he should be dictating policy to Israel on this?

Can you imagine the furor if the Community Organizer were to order California or Texas to replace all English language road signs with signs in Spanish?

Why does he think he should have the ability to make that decision in Israel? And to force you to pay for it?

Now, is there anyone out there who still wonders why Obama's approval rating in Israel has falled to a previously-unheard of rate of 4%?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Finally! Sherlock Holmes for religious Jews!

Whooda thunk it? For all these years – presumably since 1887 when the first Conan Doyle stories featuring the idiosyncratic detective appeared – haredi Jews have been unable to enjoy them. But now, according to the BBC an American publishing company is releasing a kosher version of the stories “for the religious public.”

Publisher Bilson -- – states that haredi-religious rabbis have approved the content saying that now the stories “don’t contradict the spirit of Judaism.”

The books, with an accompanying CD, are written in English, and are intended to help Hebrew speakers “improve and enrich” their English vocabulary.

Well, that’s fine. Good news, no question about that. But here’s what I can’t figure out: What was objectionable about the Sherlock Holmes stories in the first place?

In all, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 stories and four novels about the British "consulting detective", famous for his intellect, his acute observation, deductive reasoning and his ability to solve cases no one else could.

From the first, Holmes, his sidekick and chronicler Dr. Watson, and assorted other characters, like Sherlock’s mysterious brother Mycroft, captivated the public’s imagination. Newsstand copies were snapped up the minute they hit the street, while subscriptions to the magazines that carried them – primarily The Strand -- soared.

For ten years, Doyle wrote Sherlock stories, andwith each, became more and more tired of his own creation. Doyle wanted to write what he considered to be more serious literature, historical novels. He didn’t want to be remembered for such commonplace fodder as his detective. “He (Sherlock) distracts my mind from better things,” Doyle wrote to his mother. He said he intended to end the series, “even if it means I must bury my pocketbook with him."

So Doyle killed off his own creation – or tried to, anyway. In “The Final Problem” he has Holmes and his arch enemy Moriarty fight and then presumably plunge together over Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland.

When "The Adventure of the Final Problem" appeared in December 1893 in The Strand, people were so upset that over twenty thousand cancelled their magazine subscriptions in protest.

Three years later -- probably with a highly significant monetary inducement from his publisher -- Doyle brought Holmes back. He started with a kind of return. In the ghostly “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, Dr. Watson writes it as a post-mortem tale. Holmes was still dead. Watson was just telling a story about something that had happened in the past.

It worked. Subscriptions to The Strand shot up by 30,000 overnight.

Finally, in ‘The Adventure of the Empty House”, the issue is settled. Watson learns that Holmes really is alive, that his death had been a ruse to trick Moriarty.

“I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me, “”Watson” writes. “When I turned again, Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that I must have fainted for the first and the last time in my life. Certainly a gray mist swirled before my eyes, and when it cleared I found my collar-ends undone and the tingling after-taste of brandy upon my lips. Holmes was bending over my chair, his flask in his hand.”

Doyle gave up. For the next 25 years, he wrote more Sherlock Holmes tales.

Okay, so what part of the Holmes canon could possibly have been offensive? As the stories go, Holmes certainly didn’t rise from the dead – it was a trick. He hadn’t been killed.

It wasn’t that Holmes was a womanizer. The only woman he took any serious interest in was Irene Adler, in “A Scandal in Bohemia”. Although Adler most probably appears in other stores, after that, Holmes refers to her only as “The Woman.”

Nor is there any real evidence that he was homosexual, although goodness knows, any number of spinoffs have tried to make it appear so. Throughout the entire 56 books and four novels, there’s no evidence of that. What does appear is that Holmes was too busy with other things to pay much attention to women. This caused the happily married Dr. Watson to suggest, "There is something positively inhuman in you at times."

Drugs? When Holmes was between cases and lacking mental stimulation, he did indeed use drugs – cocaine, in the infamous “Seven Percent Solution”, and also morphine. In turn of the century London, none of that was uncommon or illegal. When, in “The Man with the Twisted Lip” he visited an opium den as part of his investigation, he expressed great disapproval.

Language? Hardly. Holmes was the sole of propriety.

Interestingly enough, though, in 1929, the Soviet Union banned “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” as “occult”.

It seems more likely that it wasn’t the Holmes stories themselves that had any “occult” aspects, but rather that Conan Doyle himself was interested in “spiritualism”.

Doyle was a great fan of that Great Jew Harry Houdini, to the extent that while Houdini himself insisted that Spiritualist mediums were frauds and tricksters and worked to expose them, Conan Doyle insisted that Houdini himself possessed supernatural powers.

But again, that was Conan Doyle, the author. Not Sherlock Holmes, the fictional character.

So what exactly did the American publishers do to the Sherlock Holmes stories to make sure they could be enjoyed by “the religious public”?

I have no idea. If anyone knows, I’m interested.