Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Diary of a Move

I’m starting to believe that the worst problem with moving is that you can never get much satisfaction by telling anyone about it – no matter how horrendous your own move was, just about everyone you meet has a story that tops yours.

Good thing I have a blog!

Day 1 – Monday. Moving day
The movers arrived as scheduled at 6 am. The plan was for them to load the truck with my full house of furniture and appliances – plus something like 150 boxes of books. They would drive to my new address just a few kilometers away, unload, and be done no later than noon. What could be simpler? I think this is where that ‘Man plans and Gd laughs’ line came into being.

The loading of the truck went pretty much as scheduled. The problems cropped up when I used my key – first time – to open the door of the new apartment. The previous tenant had moved out – allegedly moved out – the day before, so neither I nor the agent had seen the apartment she left.

On opening the door, what did I find? She had taken all her personal items – but left an entire household of furniture.

In one bedroom there was a waterbed – a waterbed! -- a closet covering one whole wall, a chest-high dresser and two nightstands. The room was full to capacity.

In the other bedroom there was another large closet, plus a floor to ceiling cabinet/desk structure that pretty much filled that room.

In the living room stood a sofa and loveseat and a couple of other tables. “Where shall we unload?” Pinchas, my moving man, said, attempting to be serious. He was a flummoxed as I was. The only unoccupied space was about a third of the living room.

I started calling the owners agent – who, just the day before, had assured me I would find the empty apartment I had contracted for. Call after call went to his message service – and over the next hour, none of my panicky calls were returned. Fortunately I’d rented a car for the occasion, so I threw my two dogs into the back seat and we drove to his office. I walked in. “Hi, how’re you doing?” was his cheery greeting. “Not well,” I responded, and set about explaining. To start with, he flat out didn’t believe me. Then he called the tenant himself and asked her. Yes she’d left the furniture, she said. “I didn’t need it anymore, so I just left it.”

Now there were two of us with smoke coming out of our ears.

“Go back,” the agent told me. “Stall the movers. I’ll be there by noon. We’ll figure something out.” That was about an hour away, which seemed reasonable enough for a man who was obviously busy. I returned to the apartment, only to find that the movers had stopped snorting and pawing the ground, and were now deep into discussions among themselves as to just what extent our contract should be renegotiated. They’d planned on being done by noon – clearly that wasn't going to happen. But their tone was a little threatening: Which did I prefer? Renegotiate, or shall we unload right here on the sidewalk?

We renegotiated the contract.

I’ll spare you the litany of phone calls, excuses and prevarications that followed, but suffice it to say it was well after 3 pm when the agent finally arrived – but then I must say he redeemed himself. Taking a sledge hammer from his trunk, he went into the apartment and in a fit of Samson-like strength and fury, proceeded to simply break up all the furniture in pieces small enough to carry out by himself – all except the two sofas. The movers, desperately trying to salvage their day, had started moving whatever they could into the space available in the living room. The tenant’s sofa and loveseat were no longer visible.

“Don’t worry,” the agent said, “I’ll come back and take them out later, when you’re all settled.”

Now Gd and I were both laughing.

By 6:30 pm, the truck was empty, but the apartment was way beyond capacity. Boxes were piled to the ceiling in the living room – that’s about ten feet tall, for those of you in Rio Linda. They’d even completely filled the bathroom with stuff – the only open space was a tiny area around the shower. In what was to be my bedroom, I’d insisted that they put my bed and mattress on the floor – no matter what, I was going to have a place to sleep. So they did that, but then piled boxes and pieces of furniture high on all three sides around the bed.

They were ready to leave. I paid their renegotiated price, then tried to figure out what to do next. It was getting dark. It was right about then that I discovered that the previous tenant – who’d left the furniture – had taken all the light bulbs. She’s also left all the cupboards grimy and greasy condition, and hadn’t even tried to wipe out the crumbs.

Too exhausted to think straight, I made my way through the 20” wide path to the bathroom, where I took a very careful shower – trying to avoid the boxes. It didn’t work – they got wet, but I was too tired to care. I finally located my birds, parakeets, whose cage was sitting on top of a stack of stuff about two boxes in, right where the dining area would be. I lifted the cage out and at least put it on the edge of a stack. Poor things couldn’t exist with boxes on all four sides of their cage. Then, after taking the dogs out for a short walk, they and I dragged ourselves, single file, to the bed. With no sheets, no light, no fan, no AC, a rolled up towel for a pillow and no dinner for any of us – we slept.

Day two: Tuesday
Emerging from my bedroom cave the next morning was profoundly depressing. The situation was worse than I remembered. I couldn’t even imagine where to start – except that I’d be darned if I was going to go without light another night. Of course I had light bulbs – somewhere. The first course of business that day was to go on a basic shopping trip – bulbs and cleaning supplies of all kinds. I couldn’t start without that.

The other kicker for this whole episode was that Beersheba was in the hold of a totally ridiculous heat wave with temperatures exceeding 100 and humidity hovering in the 70% range – very unusual, but there it was. The heat and humidity made everything exhausting. By the time I got home with the carfull of stuff I’d bought, fed and walked the dogs again, I was wiped out. I still couldn’t think. So all I did for the last couple of hours that day was to sit and stare at the 50-60 pound boxes of books that were now hovering several feet over my head. How was I going to get them down? Especially when all the space I had was a narrow pathway to the bedroom and bath?

I put the entire situation on the ‘too tough to work’ shelf, and picked up a book. Much better.

Day three: Wednesday
This is when the miracles started. Even though my ancient cell phone hadn’t properly functioned for years – it doesn’t work at all unless it’s connected to a power source – now, by some miracle, it rang. The Chinese are famous for their notion that if you ever save someone’s life, you assume responsibility for them forever. I think there’s an Israeli corollary: if you ever rent an apartment to someone, you assume landlord responsibility for them forever. There on the phone, impossible though it was, was Cyril, my very first landlord in Israel. “How’s it going?” he said. “Is there anything I can do to help?”


Cyril came, managed to get the stove – which the moving apes had manhandled -- hooked up to the gas. He showed me how to restyle some of the electric plugs, which were the old type that accepted only rectangular plugs, not the newer rounder ones. Now I could connect a fan! And he fixed the washing machine – also seriously abused and battered – so it didn’t leak.

Amazing. Inspired by this bit of progress, I called a local charity that helps new immigrants. Within ten minutes, they arrived and hauled away my own sofa and loveseat. I really had no choice – I’ll have to use the tenants. But that helped. With those two enormous pieces of furniture blocking everything, I couldn’t even start unpacking. With them gone, I was in business.

I started in, box by box. I had no plan, except to unpack the next box. Whatever it was, wherever it went, I unpacked it and put it generally in the direction it was going to be. Books went almost randomly on shelves, kitchen stuff anywhere I could put it down. By the end of the day, I had cleared the bathroom – those boxes that had gotten wet held pots and pans, so no serious damage was done. I’d also cleared a small part of the living room. I felt pretty successful.

Day four: Thursday
At 9 am sharp, the door buzzed – there was the Bezeq man, just as I’d previously scheduled. The only problem was that in this new reality, I had no idea where to find either a phone or the computer for the internet hookup. I’d packed both in an old trunk, but I couldn’t even see the trunk under the mounds of everything else. I told him I’d have to reschedule.

All in all, that was probably my biggest mistake. From the day I moved until the day I had a ringing phone again, 21 days would pass. The thing is, August is the big moving month in Beersheba. The technicians are heavily booked, day after day. First I couldn’t get an appointment, then when I did, they couldn’t get anything to work.

I worked steadily all that day, eventually discovering that a box of books, toppled from a height of eight to ten feet, doesn’t really suffer all that much damage. The biggest frustration was, my cell phone had now given up almost completely – now it blinked “low battery” even when it was connected to the power. How long would it hold out?

Day five: Friday
The one thing different about this move was the psychology of it. Normally most of us humans seem to get depressed at the end of the day, whereas in the morning, everything tends to look better. For this move, it worked the exact opposite. At the end of each day, I’d be pleased with my progress, thinking I was doing pretty well. But when I’d walk out into the living room in the morning, I was depressed all over again. By Friday morning, the whole situation looked impossible. I was totally knackered, no reserve of energy left at all.

Quite frankly, I lost it. The months of stress, the weeks of packing, the trauma of the move itself were too much. I took the day off. I shopped a little, walked the dogs – who were getting increasingly frustrated at being confined in such tight quarters. I’d managed to build a path to a window and put the birds there, but by Friday they still were not chirping and now I was afraid they’d stopped eating, too. All five of us were all stressed beyond capacity. As I made minimal preparations for Shabbat, I simply chose not to see our living conditions at all. If I don’t see it, it’s not there.

Day seven: Sunday
Shabbat was restorative. The house was still in utter chaos, but Friday and Shabbat off helped. I started in with new vigor, working as fast – and as long – as possible. Without overplaying the ‘age’ card, I will merely note that there is a definite limit to how many hours a day I, well beyond retirement age, could struggle with boxes of books. Six hours was my maximum. After that I was dangerous to myself and everything else.

Days eight, nine and ten
Lait, lait, we say, slowly, slowly. Box by box, room by room, order was being restored. While it’s true that everything takes longer than you think, progress seemed excruciatingly slow. I finally located the trunk with the computer and recalled Bezeq to come back, but now they were totally booked for the next full week. So still no telephone, still no internet.

Fortunately, a very kind lady called to say she’d had a message from my daughter on Facebook, asking if she knew me, and if she knew if I was okay. “I know she expected to be off line for awhile with the move,” my daughter in California wrote, “but this is taking too long. Is she okay?”

With my family overseas assured that I was okay -- just without phone or internet – I relaxed a little, which in retrospect wasn’t wise. That created another problem entirely, but not one relevant to the move.

In any event, both my bedroom and my office room were now almost clear of boxes. The only major problem was getting the closets reassembled, something the movers hadn’t been able to do the day we moved – there was no place to put them. Pinchas, my mover, promised he’d come back and do it later – and I was naïve enough to believe him. He agreed to come three separate times, but didn't show up. He was done, I guess. He’d been paid. He’d moved on.

There are times when one has to remember that the goal is not to prevail but merely to survive – this move was one of them.

Epilogue: It’s now three weeks since moving day. I have five boxes of books left to unpack – which will have to wait for a trip to Ikea. There are only three other boxes of miscellaneous stuff remaining – I suspect most of it will end up by the dumpster.

Yesterday I had another “free stuff” day, offering things for which I had no room to anyone who could use them. I found good homes for my dining room table, my beloved trunk, two kitchen stools, several chairs, lamps and a big closet I simply had no space for. It’s good – most of those things were items I’d acquired when I was a new immigrant. Now others – mostly new immigrants – can use them again.

The good news is, it’s over. The move is over. Period.

The bad news? There isn’t any. Not really. I like the new apartment, it’s just deliciously quiet. The neighbors – mostly Russian, except for energetic young Hugo upstairs, a very new immigrant from Argentina – are friendly. I like the neighborhood. The dogs are learning that life on a leash – as compared to running free in a yard – isn’t all that terrible. The birds are both singing and eating.

Life is good.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The birds are coming home to roost.

So to speak. For incumbents, many are starting to think that their futures are being designed by Alfred Hitchcock, not Rachel Carson.

For anyone who cares about Constitutional government in Washington DC, that’s barely-in-time good news. The runaway madness that’s inspired the Community Organizer and his minions in Congress must be stopped if the United States of America – as we know it – is to survive.

Yesterday was an especially delightly rout. There’s lots of good news, but let’s start with the victory of Sen. Sam Brownback in Kansas’ Gubernatorial race. As Senator, Rep. Brownback has been one of Israel’s strongest supporters, including being a very public and vocal backer of Benny Elon’s ‘Israel Initiative’ certainly the most sensible proposal for establishing whatever passes for ‘peace’ in these parts. http://www.israelinitiative.com/

While it’s admittedly a loss that Senator Brownback won’t be in Washington protecting our interests and promoting an actual viable peace plan for this part of the world, it’s good to have him in an influential position in politics. Brownback is a fearless leader and a powerful supporter of Israel – and he’s young enough to still have a solid career ahead of him.

Taking Sen. Brownback’s place in the US Senate will be – absent some kind of massive upset (you know, when the morning newspaper features a nominee coming out of a dark park at midnight with a small boy in one hand and a chicken in the other) – Rep. Jerry Moran, who toppled Rep. Todd Tiahrt for the Republican nomination.

Who’s the Democrat nominee? Probably doesn’t matter – Kansas voters, to their eternal credit, haven’t sent a Democrat to the US Senate since 1932, when Democrat George McGill was elected, only to be defeated by a Republican in 1938. Kansas voters hardly seem primed to start electing Democrats now. Personally, I might have preferred Todd Tiahrt, who had Sarah Palin’s backing, but Jerry Moran will be just fine.

In Michigan, Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick lost her bid for an eighth term – defeated in the Democrat primary. The party line excuse for her defeat is that she was bogged down by her son’s legal problems – her son Kwame, Detroit’s former mayor, is in prison for corruption. But it’s just as likely that voters were on a ‘Throw the bums out’ rampage. Kilpatrick had been following the Community Organizer so close that if he weren’t giving hand signals, she’d have plowed right into the back of him. Couldn’t it be that isn’t what the voters want right now?

After all, Kilpatrick is the sixth incumbent -- fourth in the House — to lose so far this year. They didn’t all have crooked sons in prison.

Republicans in Michigan also picked a newcomer -- Rick Snyder, who ran with the tagline, ‘One Tough Nerd’ (he’s the CEO of Gateway, Inc, computers) – as their nominee to succeed term-limited-out Governor Jennifer Granholm. Snyder is now the favorite to win over Democrat nominee Virg Bernero. Michigan boasts a 13.2% unemployment rate – just the sort of statistic that might encourage voters in November to sweep out the stables.

Come January, lots of all-too-familiar faces will be gone – although most likely, the defeated will secure lucrative lobbying jobs and remain in Washington. Already Sens. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and Arlen Specter, D-Pa. know they’re toast, defeated in their respective primaries. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., Parker Griffith, R-Ala., and Bob Inglis, R-S.C., all lost in their primaries.

Missouri voters also held forth on the desperate unpopularity of Obama care, with 75%voting for what they called ‘Proposition C’, which prohibits the government from requiring people to have health insurance or from penalizing them from paying for their own health care. Whap! Take that, Community Organizer!

It’s going to be an interesting November. Dingy Harry Reid is in deep doo-doo, too, although with the tens of millions of non-district money flowing into Nevada, we’ll see. I once heard a political consultant say, “Give me enough money, and I’ll elect Adolph Hitler”.

This may be a test of a similar kind. Can Nevada voters be bought off?

Although it doesn’t seem likely at the moment, it’s even possible that the Botox girl herself, Nancy Pelosi, will be spending more time with her family after November.

Even the cows are hoping…..

Monday, August 2, 2010

Aprons have been figuring prominently in my mind lately – I love aprons. Not the silly little ruffley things Lucy Ricardo used to tie around her waist, but real aprons, working aprons. The kind with a bib.

I guess I was thinking about it because my friend Sally posted a link to Beaver Lake Aprons on Facebook – I loved the one pictured above. Cows! What could be better for an apron featuring your basic Holstein? The only thing this otherwise perfect apron is missing is a pocket on the top of the apron as well as the big ones on the bottom. Why does it need a top pocket? So you have someplace to put your iPod!

Who cooks or cleans or does anything else sufficiently messy as to require an apron without listening to an iPod while you’re doing it? Certainly not me. I go through book after book from Audible.com when I’m doing any of those things – but that means I need a top pocket in the apron to hold the expensive little device.

Stupid, isn’t it? The iPod alone among contemporary listening devices lacks any means to attach it to your person. Any of us who want to listen while we do something else have to find some other place to tuck it -- modesty prevents me from disclosing where I occasionally do put the thing. Only when absolutely necessary, of course, times when I can’t be wearing an apron.

Anyway, the need to have a place to put my iPod is admittedly about half the reason I wear the apron.

Of course I didn’t realize that when I first got here and sewed up my first set of Israeli aprons – I hadn’t taken any with me, so one afternoon I sewed up a few using some scrap fabric I’d salvaged from other people’s cast offs, oddments thrown outside near the dumpster. I put big pockets on the bottom of most of them, but when I made that first set, I had a different MP3 player, one with a belt clip. It never occurred to me to sew in an additional pocket on top, to hold something like that. Then, after I graduated to an iPod, I had to go back and redesign the aprons. All the original fabric was gone, so I just cut up an old red pillowcase and sewed a bright red pocket on the top of each one. Some look pretty strange, others look better than they did before. It doesn’t really matter.

Or so I thought, yesterday, when I heard someone banging on my front gate. I’m still packing for the move and in this heat and humidity, I was way beyond filthy, but there I was, in my raggy hard-work clothes topped off with a pretty snazzy apron. Turned out it was my across-the-courtyard neighbor who wanted his mail. They’d been away for a few days and I’d been collecting the mail.

I opened the gate, and the look on his face when he saw me in the raggy clothes and the bright green apron with its classy red pocket was priceless. I didn’t know it, but apparently aprons in Israel – or some of them, anyway -- are items of serious cultural curiosity. My neighbor had never seen anyone – let alone a crazy Americaine – decked out that way.

Kol hakavod,” he laughed, throwing his arms in the air. “Look at you!” I thought he was referring to the filthy clothes. But no – it was my magnificent apron that caught his attention. “What is that you are wearing? You wear a dress over your dress?”

“No,” I explained, still a little befuddled over all this fuss. “It’s an apron. Just an apron. I used it to hold my iPod.”

“Turn around!” he insisted, absolutely fascinated. “Oh! It only covers your front?”

Well, yes.

“And you wear that all the time?”

“No. Only when I’m doing something really messy. Or when I need to put my iPod somewhere.”

He still couldn’t get his mind around this amazing garment. “Do all American women wear these – how you say? -- aprons?”

“I don’t think so. Actually, I think it’s only older women who do, but I could be wrong. You’ve never seen an apron before?”

The Iraqi-born, now-retired Israeli Army general howled with delight. “No, no, no. Never. I guess my mother just let her dress get dirty.”

“So where did she put her iPod?” I asked. He threw his head back and howled again, shaking his head as he walked away, marveling at the vast array of odd people who manage to make their way to Israel.

Well! As far as I can see, it’s a darn good thing there are some of us crazy Americaines around here – we sure do liven things up. What would they do without us?

All in all, it's probably a good thing I wasn’t wearing the ‘cow’ apron. That might have been too much for him to handle.

If Beaver Lake Aprons has a website, I can’t find it. But here’s a YouTube video with more information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ai0TtRs33RM

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What an odd book! I didn’t even know I had it, to be perfectly honest, but it’s probably a good thing no one claimed it at last Friday’s Free-Sale.

I don’t blame anyone for not being attracted to it – it’s a hardback, dates from 1993, but has a very uninspiring cover, just bland. Mostly white, blue lettering, nothing to attract anyone’s attention. It’s by Irma Kurtz – previously unknown author, to me anyway – and the title is, “The Great American Bus Ride”, subtitled, ‘An intrepid woman’s cross country adventure.’

I can’t imagine where I would have acquired such a book, although I suspect it might have come from one of Hebrew University’s Friends of the Library book sales, when I have been known to pick up almost anything in English, seeing as how on the last day, everything sells for about a shekel.

Unclaimed as it was at the Free-Sale, it should have been tossed out. That’s what I promised myself. But when it came to actually throwing this nice clean book away, I couldn’t do it. Instead, I put it aside, one of those “I’ll think about this later” moments. But then a few nights ago, I idly picked it up and started reading.

It’s a ‘road’ book. Kurtz, pictured above, is an American-born ex-pat living in London, who decided to return to the US to ride Greyhound buses all over the US, essentially marking a “Z” for Zorro slash across the map. She offers casual commentary about what she sees, the people she meets and the oddities her travels offer – a nice blend of things that are truly odd (like “Vera”, who attaches herself to Kurtz at the beginning of the journey, and has to be almost literally pried loose) as well as things that are just snapshots of Americana, old and familiar, fun to be realize someone else remembered the same thing.

This isn’t a ‘Travels with Charlie’ book by any means, but still, it’s seriously addicting. Several times I’ve kicked myself, ‘I should stop reading this thing – what’s the point?’, only to follow that up with a second thought, ‘I will quit reading it, but not quite yet. Just a few more chapters….’

There’s no index, no preface of chapter headings, so you can’t pick and choose which of the hundreds of destinations she passes through, but I did get a few giggles out of the several pages she wrote about Fargo, North Dakota, a city (probably about 70,000 people when she was there) I know very well. While still plotting her journey back in London, Kurtz chose it as one of her destinations, because, she says, “I thought it was one of the least likely places in which I would ever have found myself.” In fact, Fargo ranked as such an oddity in her mind that before she left, she actually promised her son, still in London, that she’d send him a postcard from there.

“And what makes you think there are any postcards in Fargo?” the son asked.

“Listen to your mother and learn,” she replied. “There is no place on earth with a view, a church or even just a population of 25 that does not consider itself worthy of a postcard.”

Except Fargo, as she eventually found out. She ended up mailing a postcard from Fargo that featured a picture of London Bridge.

Not that she didn’t like Fargo – quite the opposite. “From the moment I arrived in Fargo, I felt happy and at home,” she wrote. “I love Fargo, North Dakota. Who can explain it?”

One of the things she loved was Duane Johnson’s used book store – she seems to have sought out used book shops in each location she visited, which might well account for my newfound affection for her book. Johnson, who passed away just last year, was an iconoclastic local hero -- one wonders the Coen Brothers didn’t hunt him down and make a film. With his long white beard and philosophical outlook -- “I am a skeptic, a pacifist, and a liberal in the Great Western tradition. I regard myself as a sane man,” she quotes him as saying. Johnson became known as North Dakota’s “bookseller emeritus” even though his shop was repeatedly threatened with closure by the fire marshals because of the fire hazard. Books and magazines were stacked and piled haphazardly everywhere, spilling into the already narrow pathways among shelves, something Kurtz loved. “At first it seemed like chaos,” she wrote of his shop. “But then gradually order emerged, shaggy, as a garden gone a bit to seed.”

One of Kurtz’s funniest stories involves the village of Elwood, Indiana, where her mother, Minnie Kessler, grew up, and of which her mother had few fond memories. Still, Kurtz wanted to see it for herself, to check out the actual locale where some of her mother’s stories took place, to see if the scenes she’d imagined were anything close to the real thing. Kurtz even went so far as to brave the cemetery in a monsoon-like rainstorm to hunt down the grave of one of her mother’s teachers, Miss Small.

She recalled her mother’s tale of what took place during a 4th grade school day. “To be a good American,” Miss Small announced to her class, “a person must be Protestant, white, and born here.” Whereupon the teacher whirled around and pointed her finger at Kurtz’ then nine-year old mother. “And Minnie Kessler, you wipe that grin off your face!”

Kurtz braved the rainstorm and found Miss Small’s grave. “Seventy-odd years later, I stood at the foot of the former teacher’s grave, and with the mud sucking at my heels, I pointed to her gravestone and said aloud, “Miss Mary Small, Minnie’s girl has come all the way to Elwood, Indiana, to tell you: Wipe that grin off your face!”

Back in her motel room, doing her best to dry off and warm up, Kurtz decided to call her mother – who was then living in Southern California – and tell her of Miss Small’s posthumous comeuppance. “Remember the story you used to tell me about Miss Small, in your 4th grade civics class?” she asked her mother. “So you know what I did? I went to the cemetery and found her grave. I told her from you that she should wipe that grin off her face!”

Kurtz’ mother paused, then said, “Well, that was a very nice thought, Irm. And I don’t suppose it makes any difference, seeing as it’s all in a good cause. But that teacher I used to tell you about? Her name was Miss Little.’

There now – aren’t you all sorry you passed up this book? You just never know what wonders lie a book might hold, even if the cover art doesn't look very interesting.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I probably inherited my love for garage sales from my mother, who surely ranked as the queen of the art during her younger days. “Let’s just go see what they have,” she’d say, the gleam of cheap acquisition in her eyes. “I’m not going to buy anything – goodness knows, there isn’t anything I need. I just want to look.”

With that, we’d set out, only to return hours later with all sorts of things we certainly didn’t need but couldn’t resist anyway – it was such a deal!

She -- and my father, too, who eventually got into the spirit of the thing – later refined the art to a science when they were snowbirds in Palm Springs. Nothing is more fun than going to the yard sales of the rich and famous -- and if you think rich people don’t love to make a few bucks as much as anyone else you can think again. I used to laugh that their four-month sojourns to sunny Southern California were really nothing more than buying trips – they’d hit the Palm Springs garage sales, haul the loot back to their native North Dakota home and then sell off the treasures at garage sales. After all, who could resist a flower vase that Red Skelton had once owned? A velvet hat with feathers that had been worn to the Oscars? A brooch Doris Day once owned? Whether any of it was true was another question, of course – we’re talking Southern California, where imagination reigns supreme. It might have been true, and that was close enough for everyone involved.

I had my own first garage sale when I was in college, selling off stuff in front of the Alpha Phi house. A few of my sorority sisters thought I was nuts – until they saw how nice it was to get rid of that skirt that never fit or the shoes that pinched, and pick up a few quarters in exchange. Little by little, several of them decided to join me and then the sales became a social event as much as anything else.

Of course calling these things “garage sales” is usually a euphemism, since I haven’t always had a garage. Although one time in Sacramento, I literally did sell the garage, not to mention the house. I’d bought a new home and was getting rid of stuff prior to the move. My old house was for sale, and the people who eventually bought it saw it first the day of the garage sale.

Much of the fun is the social aspect. Selling stuff in the front yard is unbeatable in terms of meeting the neighbors, but even more fun when a bunch of friends do it together. Maybe the best sales I ever had were in Monterey, when my friends Theresa and Mary Alice and I would band together and have what we called “Pack Rat” sales – they lasted all day, and we made hundreds of dollars each. We all had our dogs there, and one year, my garden was really overproducing, and I sold fresh zucchini, carrots and cabbage right along with the old books. When one lady lamented that she’d buy my zucchini if only she knew how to make it into bread, I went to my freezer, took out a loaf of my own zucchini bread, and sold her that, too, then gave her the recipe. There’s no limit to what you can sell.

My first Israeli garage sale was last Friday morning, and it was a blast. This time “garage sale” was pure fiction, since not only was there no garage, but also about 80% of the stuff wasn’t for sale at all, it was free. I have to move in a couple of weeks, and there were a lot of things I won’t have room for – or don’t need -- so I decided that since the primary objective was to simply get rid of stuff, I had two choices: I could haul it all out to the dumpster, and it would disappear in a heartbeat. Or I could make a social event out of it, put it all out, and invite my friends on the local email list, Anglobeersheba, to come and help themselves. That’s what I decided to do – one last hurrah at this house.

I did have a few bigger things for sale, but most of it was just freebies – which made it so much easier. Every other time I’ve hosted a garage sale, I’ve insisted that every item have a price on it, which takes an awful lot of time. With most everything free, I didn't have to do that.

The first people to come arrived just before the scheduled starting time of 8 am – they set the standard for the day. One of the things I was selling was my beloved Cocker Spaniel Guinness’ aliyah dog cage, the airline-approved crate where he spent the long hours in the belly of the airplane on the way to Israel. Since I have no plans whatever for making a return trip – at least with my dogs – there was no need to keep the big cage anymore.

It made my day that Guinness’ cage went to a new puppy -- “Tia” -- recently adopted from the “Beersheba Loves Animals” folks. “Tia’s” new human mom is in a wheelchair, and Tia is being trained as a service dog. Sometimes the puppy needs a safe place of her own to get some rest, and the airline crate was perfect. I was so delighted that the cage went for such a fine purpose and to such wonderful people. They also claimed some extra dog toys, eating bowls and other doggie accessories. Made my day!

My old bike – which I won’t have a safe place to keep – went to a second-year medical student at BGU, who recently had her bike stolen. Good deal! We were both happy with that exchange.

Other odds and ends: a whole bunch of extra cups and mugs (what do they do? Reproduce, when they get shoved into the back of the cupboard?) were claimed by a family where I’m frequently a Shabbat lunch guest. What could be more perfect than that?

That friend also claimed a black “Princess” telephone that had a great history: Many years before I made aliyah, I bought the phone from a ‘Dollar Store’ in California – that’s right. I paid $1.00 for it. I used it for several years, then, in a ‘Why not?’ moment, decided to take it with me on aliyah – and it worked perfectly here. But when my daughter bought a new phone system for her house, she shipped me her old cordless phone system, so I replaced the venerable black handset with her castoff cordless ones, which I’m still using. But the old black phone still worked perfectly – now someone else can use it for a few years.

A young man I hadn’t known before walked off with two bags full of ‘maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t’ cameras, electronic odds and ends and photographic equipment. I only need one working camera at a time – who has room to store more? He was giggling with delight.

The people who found books and tapes they wanted were the best – what fun to pass on good reading material to someone else.

And then of course there were the friends who came to help me – one family arrived, found a few things they could use, but then also carted off some of my plants I won’t be able to take. That was the ultimate mitzvah – throwing away growing plants is much more painful than throwing away other things. Their act of kindness meant a lot. And then there was the really good buddy who just came to help and keep me company all day – wow! A gift of time like that -- What great friends!

Nor can we forget the man who arrived with information – not that he intended to educate, probably, but as we were talking, I complained that as much as I like watermelon (watermelon in Israel is unbelievable, for you guys still in galut) I never have room in the fridge for it. So I rarely buy it, even though vendors drive around the neighborhoods with trucks, their loudspeakers barking, ‘Amatia! Amatia!’ selling the just-picked luscious things, two for NIS 10. “Why don’t you cube it and then put it in the fridge,” this genius suggested – DUH. How could I have not thought of that?

Then he went on to say that he’d seen an amazing way to cube watermelon: cut a slice off the top and bottom, stand it on end, then slice the rind off in strips, top to bottom, until you have a barrel-like piece of pure watermelon left. Then just make a few crosswise cuts to cube it perfectly. Wow! This afternoon I’m buying watermelon!
Nor was that all – he also told how he’d seen someone buttering hot corn on the cob: what you do is butter a piece of bread, then rub the hot corn on the bread, buttering it in the process – plus you can eat the bread! (Needless to say, corn is also on my shopping list.)

Amazing the things one learns at garage sales.

So for everyone who came, for everyone who helped me unload, thank you so much. It was fun – and you can be sure I’ll be doing it again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It used to be that people were ashamed to be caught in an act of hypocrisy – not anymore. Now, in some circles – like Jordan and BGU – it’s held out as a virtue.
Let’s be very clear about that word, hypocrisy: The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess.

Because she’s so much prettier than anybody at BGU, let’s start with Jordan’s Queen Rania – there she is, above, in all her royal glory.

What did she do? Taking a page out of the Protocols for American First Ladies, Queen Rania decided to write a book for children. She -- or rather Kelly DiPucchio, who’s listed as co-author -- wrote a warm, cuddly feel-good little book called, “The Sandwich Shop”, which someone described as “the kind of book that gives you goose bumps and motivates you go outside in the rain to kiss your neighbor then sing Kumbaya.” To one-up that, in the US, the book is published by Hyperion, part of the Walt Disney Company.

Even the idea is innovative: comparing a lunch sandwich of peanut butter and jelly – as contrasted to one of pita bread and hummus – the Queen uses the sandwiches to talk about the differences between two very different cultures. It’s all about how to get along with people who are different. It’s about multiculturalism. Tolerance.

Prime virtues to those of the liberal mind-set. Or to quote the US’s wife beater supreme, Rodney King, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’

Apparently not.

Israel’s left-wing rag, Ha’aretz, just published a story about the Queen’s real level of tolerance: Despite many offers to have the book translated into Hebrew for distribution in Israel, she’s rejected all offers.

There is, after all, a limit to tolerance – and having her golden words (or those of Ms. DiPucchio) translated into the infidel language of Hebrew, where it might delight Jewish children, too? Well, that’s beyond the pale. Tolerance, certainly. But not toward the Zionist Entity.

The funny thing about this is – well, we may as well laugh, because it beats crying –BGU, the famed Beersheba University named after the Zionist Supreme, David Ben Gurion, is doing pretty much the same thing. There’s no tolerance for Zionists there, either.

We’re back to Neve Gordon again, that bad penny that keeps popping up. Neve Gordon is the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel Jewish professor at BGU who keeps doing and saying dastardly things against Israel – and getting promoted by BGU every time.

Neve Gordon has made a career out of calling for the destruction of the Jewish state, the very state whose protection he enjoys and whose bounty pays his salary. Yet every time Gordon’s antics hit the front pages of newspapers around the world, BGU officials find a way to promote him.

After Gordon joined hands in solidarity with Yasser Arafat (as Arafat’s minions were blowing up Israeli cafes and buses) BGU granted him tenure.

After the Holocaust-denying Gordon denounced Israel as fascist, terrorist regime, one that “resembles Nazi Germany”, BGU President Rivka Carmi promoted him to chair the University’s Department of Politics and Government.

After Gordon called for a world-wide boycott of Israel -- a call on “foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel”, BGU promoted from ‘lecturer’ to ‘professor’.

In defense of all this, Prof. Carmi and her press agent, Faye Bitker, repeatedly resorted to heated press releases in which they insist they had no choice. It’s all about ‘academic freedom’, they declare. The standard line from BGU is: “Ben-Gurion University of the Negev supports freedom of expression, opinion and thought.” The consensus among BGU powerbrokers was best expressed by Isaac Nevo, a senior lecturer in philosophy at BGU who organized support for Gordon: “Dr. Gordon has the right to publish his views on any matter, has done nothing wrong and should not be censored or sanctioned.”

So from that, you’d figure that any professor would have the right to express his views, wouldn’t you? Whatever they are? Academic freedom must operate as a prospective cure-all. Say -- or teach – any darn thing you like, because BGU faculty members obviously enjoy absolute freedom of expression.

Well, if you thought that, you would be wrong. At BGU, academic freedom extends only to the haters of Israel. Not to anyone else.

Case in point: BGU just fired another professor for expressing his opinion on a completely different topic. Dr. Yerucham Leavitt, teaching a class in medical ethics, responded to a student’s question and in the process, expressed skepticism as to whether it was healthy for children to be raised by homosexuals. Certainly there are those who disagree with Dr. Leavitt on that point, but understand, too, there is credible scientific research that supports what he said – it wasn’t just a personal opinion.

Not that it should matter, according to BGU’s standards of ‘academic freedom’. Many professors found Neve Gordon’s remarks reprehensible – including President Carmi, who called his views “destructive”. But, in Neve Gordon’s case, even “destructive” views must be tolerated in the name of academic freedom.

But when it’s an opinion favored by a non-leftist? Ah, well. That’s different. Then the rules change.

It’s perfectly fine to call for a boycott of Israel, to denounce Israel as a ‘fascist apartheid entity’ and to call for its elimination. That’s all protected speech.

But heaven forbid you question whether it’s healthy for children to be raised by homosexual couples. That gets you fired.

So there you have it: the Queen of Jordan waxes eloquent about tolerance, multiculturalism, of loving one another – except when it comes to Jewish kids. That’s different.

At BGU, the faculty enjoys complete and absolute academic freedom to say anything at all – so long as they’re leftists and anti-Israel radicals. But it you’re not an Israel-hater, then forget it.

Hypocrisy thy name is Queen Rania -- and BGU.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Moving gives me way much too much time to think.

A lot of the preparation is mind-numbing. How much concentration does it take to tape the bottoms of a box and fill it with books? So as an attitude adjustment maneuver, I’ve tried seeing moving as an opportunity to indulge, darn near non-stop, in listening to audio books, downloaded from Audible.com.

I figure this will be about a seven-book move -- I’ve already gone through two.

But even at that rate, there’s extra time around the edges where one’s mind tends to wander. The last book I was listening to was one of the culinary mysteries – there’s an amateur detective, a caterer in this series, who finds a not-terribly-bloody murdered body somewhere in her work space, and then the game’s afoot.

These are nice tame little mysteries – usually more interesting because of the continuing saga of the characters than for the quality of the detecting involved, although admittedly some are better than others. Plus, of course, you get the recipes, some of which are pretty good.

Listening to this book, I first noticed that when the protagonist was preparing a luncheon salad, she’d referred to “the luscious nutty flavor of the creamy avocados.” That struck me as a little odd – nutty flavor? Avocados? I’m not a big fan of nuts – given a chance to take ‘em or leave ‘em, I’ll usually pass. But I really like avocados – it just never occurred to me they tasted “nutty”. Huh. How about that?!

The book continued. I kept listening. Another 20 boxes or so later and then there we were again, back to nuts. This time the protagonist was waxing eloquent about how delightfully the “nutty flavor” of the Kona coffee she was drinking blended with the chocolate cookie she was eating. Nutty flavor? Coffee tastes like nuts, too?

But then I started really thinking about it – lots of people say rice has a “nutty flavor”. I started to wonder how many other things people think taste like nuts.

I put down the boxes, wiped my hands and went to the computer. I googled “nutty flavor” and came up with the standard 3.6 million hits in roughly 2.03 seconds. In the first two pages of hits, here are some of the foods people have described as having a “nutty flavor”:

Cheddar cheese
Soy milk
Sesame seeds
Porcini mushrooms
White beans
Hemp seed – ho ho!
Gouda cheese
Burgundy wine
Whole cumin seeds
--- Not to mention actual nuts, of course – which presumably taste like nuts, too.

How can that be? How can foodstuffs as distinct as asparagus, Burgundy wine and Gouda cheese all taste like nuts?

Or maybe the better question is, what does a nut taste like? Well, let’s see: it takes like cheddar cheese, avocados, white beans, Kona coffee, dal…..

This was getting a little silly. What? Does everything taste like nuts?

Then it started to remind me of the days when my daughter JJ was little and obsessed with peanut butter – honestly, I think she existed mostly on a diet of peanut butter for the better part of one whole year.

But we were trying – so when we’d put a plate of something else in front of her and encourage her to take at least one bite, she’d always ask, “But what does it taste like?” To which there was only one unified parental response: “Peanut butter. It tastes like peanut butter.”

Listen to us, and you’d hear us insist that everything from poached salmon to broccoli to sliced apples tasted like peanut butter.

Maybe that’s what it is with nuts, too. It’s assumed, for whatever reason, that people like the flavor of nuts. So when asked what something tastes like – a question that’s clearly impossible to answer anyway – it’s easy to say, “Like nuts. It has a nutty flavor.”

Could that be it?

Okay, okay – obviously I’ve spent too much time on this issue. But oh – by the way – the caterer figured out that it was the boss’s secretary who bumped him off, right before he was going to expose her embezzlement to the world at the lunch the caterer was preparing.

I hope the caterer got paid for the lunch, that’s all I can say.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I don’t want ANY of what she’s having!

Word is out that the day after Israel defended itself against seafaring terrorists, Meg Ryan cancelled her appearance at the upcoming two-week long Jerusalem Film Festival.

So did Dustin Hoffman – he’d better stick to ‘plastics’ from now on.

Beyond that – not that anyone will notice – even though this year’s film festival was designed to honor American actress Grace Kelley, Prince Albert of Monaco, Kelley’s son, also cancelled.

Two thoughts occur. First, who cares? Second, when will we Israelis stop lusting after attention from these vacuous Hollywood ee-jits? If they can’t tolerate Israel’s right to self-defense, let them go sit on the Mahatma Gandhi bench of shame.

During WWII Gandhi published an open letter to the British people, urging them to surrender to the Nazis. After the War, when the true extent of the Shoah became known, Gandhi criticized Jews who’d tried to escape or fight for their lives. “The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife,” he said. “They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.”

Later, Louis Fisher, Gandhi’s biographer, wanted to make absolutely sure this is what Gandhi really said.

“You mean that the Jews should have committed collective suicide?” Fisher asked.

Gandhi responded, “Yes, that would have been heroism.”

There’s an old saying that had the Brits been Nazi’s, Gandhi would’ve been a lampshade.

The defection from the Jerusalem Film Festival – which, by itself, matters to me not one single agorot – underscores what’s happening in the world today. Once again, we’re entering into an era where world opinion swings in the direction of Mahatma Gandhi.

Even countries who verbally insist they are our steadfast allies seem to prefer that Israel should roll over and die – willingly “throw ourselves from the cliffs”. In their view, that’s the only way we’ll ever have the moral high ground.

The only lesson we should take from all this is that we need to stop bidding for the world’s approval, starting with these cowardly, empty-headed numb nuts like Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman.

We need to do the needful -- whatever it is -- to protect ourselves against all enemies. Unfortunately, in the not-too-distant future, it looks like Jews and Israel will have many more armed enemies intent on doing us in -- not just our Arab neighbors who are hunkered down on our borders at the moment.

On that cheery thought, Shabbat shalom, everyone!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

In a country known for its ‘never a dull moment’ status, try this: the best movie in town is now playing at Beersheba’s City Arnona offices.

Even if you don’t need to render unto Beersheba’s Caesar at the moment, it’s worth your while to go see the films. There’s no popcorn, but you can sit in reasonably air conditioned comfort and watch three amazing film shorts that truly are – no kidding – among the best I’ve ever seen.

Since the last time I darkened the doors of the Arnona office, the City has installed big LED screens on every wall. They’re playing films of Beersheba – three of them, I think. It might be just two, but I think there’s a third that’s part of one, then concludes with a different ending.

What’s so special? There’s been a lot of debate over what our energetic young Mayor has planned for the City of Abraham. Several of us have written about the plans, commented on them, or seen still photos or drawings of what the Mayor has in mind. But none of that brings the new City to life as do these films.

I’m not competent to comment on the technology beyond saying that it’s magnificent. Some of the shots show Beersheba’s attractions as they are now – the photography is incredible, especially some of the aerial shots that zoom into apartments and balconies. The streets, the buildings, the rest areas along city streets, the new apartments are absolutely gorgeous. The picture above is what the new city bus station will look like.

Which is the most fascinating part: the films show what Beersheba WILL look like, once the Mayor’s plan is completed. You wonder how ‘River Park’ – boats in Beersheba! -- will fit into the current topography? There it is, in all its glory. You can see it for yourself.

One of the more fascinating images is hard to describe, but imagine you’re flying in an airplane. Looking out, ahead of you, you see Beersheba as it is now. Then, as though the shadow of the airplane passes over the ground, you see Beersheba as it will be – a green, watery oasis filled with parks, recreational opportunities, the Sporteck, the new stadium, the amphitheater, all as they will look when completed. It doesn’t look like drawings – it looks real. The way it’s fitted into, around and among existing landmarks makes it appear to already exist.

Another favorite part was of the Promenade, that 3 kilometer walking, biking path that’s part of River Park. Today we see the sand and the rocks. Then we see it when the vegetation is grown and all the street furniture is in place – incredible.

I have no idea where else these little film masterpieces are playing – each is maybe three to four minutes long and they run on a continuous loop, with some other public announcements during the breaks. But how smart to start showing them in that dismal city dungeon, where I’ve always imagined that the sign that hung over Dante’s inferno would not be out of place: ‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’.

The problem is, of course, that no matter what day or time of day you go to do business with the City, you still end up spending the requisite three hours waiting to talk to a clerk. But what better captive audience could there be? All eyes are focused on those big screens. Everyone is watching.

When I lived in the US, every time I had to write a quarterly check to pay my taxes, I made myself picture the several magnificent Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC, some of my favorite places in the entire world. “That’s what I’m paying for,” I’d tell myself – not that it’s true, of course. But by convincing myself my hard earned tax dollars were going to the Museum of American History, I could get through the check-writing without fury.

So now I’m in Beersheba, regularly forced to write out a check to the City government. What better vision could there be, that this magnificent view of the Beersheba of the future?

Of course it would be nice if someone could do something about that three-hour wait, which has been absolutely consistent for the eight years I’ve been here. If they’d just keep the offices open for a full workday, the problem could be solved with no added facilities. Instead – on Tuesdays, for example – the office doesn’t open at all until 4:00 pm. That’s really nuts.

Even so – to tell you how good these films were – when I’d finally finished doing bureaucracy, I went back, sat down, and watched the films again.

It’s that good.

As everyone knows, today, the 4th of July is celebrated as “Independence Day” in the US -- even though it really isn’t.

The actual legal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain took place on July 2, 1776. That’s when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a ‘resolution of independence’ a document written by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia.

In the two days that followed the vote, Congress drafted and revised and finally adopted a document that explained their previous decision, one that begins with those famous words, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another….”

That secondary explanatory document, known as the Declaration of Independence, was ultimately approved two days later, on July 4, 1776.

The fact that the 4th is observed as the holiday would have surprised just about everyone back in those days. On July 3, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

In Israel, July 4th is also a date many of us in Israel remember – and in our case, the event actually took place on July 4 – in the year 1976, precisely two hundred years after the American event.

It was our Operation Entebbe, one of Israel’s most astonishingly successful military operations, one which proved the greatness of the Israeli military establishment – not to mention the courage of its political leadership and the unbreakable will of the Israeli people. On July 4, 1976, the IDF carried out an almost impossible hostage rescue operation to free 105 Jewish passengers who had been taken hostage by Arab terrorists and flown to Entebbe in Idi Amin’s Uganda.

The drama started seven days earlier when on June 27, Air France flight 139, originating in Tel Aviv on its way to Paris, was hijacked by two Arab terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the 1967 parent group that today includes Fatah, the political party of Abu Mazen, also called Mahmoud Abbas, our alleged “peace partner”. The two Arabs terrorists were joined by two German nationals, Wilfried Bose and Brigitte Kuhlman.

At the direction of the hijackers, Flight 139 was diverted to Benghazi, in Libya, where it spent seven hours on the ground being refueled. One passenger who pretended to be having a miscarriage was released.

The flight then continued, taking off for Idi Amin’s anti-Israeli stronghold, Uganda, where it landed at Entebbe Airport at 3:15 pm. Here's what the terminal looked like.

The Arab terrorists were joined by four of Idi Amin’s hand-picked henchmen. One of their first acts was to separate the passengers into two groups, Jewish and non-Jewish. An elderly Holocaust survivor held up his arm to showed Wilfried Bose, one of the German terrorists, his tattooed concentration camp number. Bose roughly pushed the elderly man aside, saying “I am not a Nazi! I am an idealist!”

Good to know.

Shortly after, all the non-Jewish passengers were told that they would be released and that another Air France plane would fly them back home. But some refused to leave. The flight captain, a non-Jew named Michel Bacos refused. Insisting that the passengers on his airplane were his responsibility, he insisted on remaining with the Jews. He was joined by his entire flight crew who also insisted on staying, as did a French nun, who said she would remain, but that a Jew must be released in her place. The Arabs were having none of that, so the nun was forced into the Air France flight.

Overall, 85 Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish hostages remained, in addition to 20 others, mostly the flight crew.

The Arab terrorists made clear their demands: The release of 40 Arab terrorists held in Israeli prisons, plus an additional 13 other detainees imprisoned in Kenya, France, Switzerland, and West Germany. If these demands were not met, they would begin to kill hostages on July 1.

Yitzhak Rabin was Prime Minister then, and the Mossad was in charge. There was no question but that the hostages would be rescued. The question was how. Amin had already sent troops to bolster the hijackers, and the situation seemed almost impervious to attack – the airport terminal building was surrounded by armed forces, and even if the hostages were liberated from the building, how would they be flown out of Uganda?

Books have been written about all the nuances of what was called “Operation Thunderbolt” at the time, but later came to be called “Operation Yonatan”, in honor of the single Israeli soldier who fell, Yoni Netanyahu, younger brother of today’s Prime Minister.

The rescue operation was among Israel’s finest moments. It was a combination of meticulous planning, elaborate subterfuge and audacious daring – the kind of thing Israelis used to do every day of the week. Today, our political leaders seem too weak-kneed to allow our military to carry out such politically incorrect missions as rescuing captive Jews – witness Gilad Shalit, who has now languished for four years just a few kilometers from Israel.

It's a little hard, after all, to mount a hostage rescue operation to take back a captured Jew when he's being held by what the world insists is our 'peace partner'. Of course no one thinks to ask why a 'peace partner' would be holding another 'peace partner's soldier captive, much less while denying him legally mandated Red Cross visits or any other verification of his well being, but of course that's another matter.

But back in 1976, things were different. We were in a battle for our survival, and we knew it.

In any event, on July 4, just before midnight, Israeli transport planes carried 100 elite commandos 2,500 miles to Uganda where, in a 58 minute raid, they rescued 103 hostages.

Five Israeli commandos were wounded and only one, Bibi’s brother Yoni, fell. All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed. Eleven Russian-built MiG fighters of Uganda's air force were destroyed. One other hostage, Dora Bloch, a British-Israeli grandmother, had been released for medical treatment and was left behind. She was later murdered by Amin’s soldiers – as were 200 members of Amin’s own army, who by their failure to defeat the Israeli invaders had brought such shame on his mighty forces.

Among the anecdotal stories: Israeli forces were greatly helped because the airport terminal had been built by an Israeli company – and the company still had the blueprints. Another invaluable source of information was a French-Jewish passenger, traveling on a French passport, who’d been released. The man had military training plus what Israeli officials termed "a phenomenal memory". He was able to give important details about the number of arms and hostage takers.

The ruse was spectacular: Israeli forces landed at Entebbe with their cargo doors open. A black Mercedes and several Land Rovers drove out, giving the impression that the vehicles were some sort of escort for Amin himself, or some other officials. Two Ugandan sentries -- who knew Amin favored white Mercedes, not black –tried to stop the convoy and were shot.

Arriving at the terminal, the Israelis jumped out of the vehicles, shouting through megaphones, “Stay down! Stay down! We are Israeli soldiers." in both Hebrew and English. A 19-year-old Frenchman named Jean-Jacques Maimoni—who chose to identify himself as an Israeli Jew to the hijackers even though he had a French passport—stood up and was killed by the Israelis who mistook him for a hijacker. Another hostage, Pasco Cohen, 52, the manager of an Israeli medical insurance fund, was fatally wounded by gunfire – whether it was Israeli gunfire or Ugandan was never determined. A third hostage, 56-year-old Ida Borochovitch was also killed in the crossfire.

The hostages were loaded into the Israeli aircraft under fire from the Ugandan soldiers. During these last few seconds, the Ugandans fired from the airport control tower and managed to strike Yoni Netanyahu. His body was loaded onto the aircraft and flown out of Entebbe with 103 hostages whose lives he had been instrumental in saving.

Among Yoni’s most memorable words, these written in a letter to his brother Bibi: "I would rather opt for living here in continual battle than for becoming part of the wandering Jewish people. Any compromise will simply hasten the end."

For those of you who are Americans, by all means celebrate Independence Day – and look for a new ‘independence day’ on November 2.

But if you have just a minute, help us in Israel remember a hero who gave his life to make sure that Israel remained independent, too.

You can join Yoni’s Facebook page, “Remembering Yoni Netanyahu”


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

BGU - Ben Gurion University of the Negev – suffered parallel snake problems this week. On two separate occasions, they had to deal with serpents in their midst.

One of the critters they had captured, bagged and hauled away. But when confronted with the other snake, this one they wanted to keep right where he was -- in front of the classroom.

The first serpent – a black three-foot long species native to Israel – surprised the staff when it was spotted lurking behind a desk at the nanotechnology building on the University’s main campus. Officials called Beersheba’s official snake catcher who responded to the scene. “The snake wasn’t a poisonous variety,” the snake removal man said afterward. “It appeared to have gotten into the building through an improperly secured air vent. The snake was aggressive, but I caught it and later released it in a remote place where it won’t do any harm.”

The second, equally aggressive, snake is far more dangerous. This one, known as Neve Gordon, walks upright on his own two feet, although he, too, lurks behind a desk at BGU where he’s spent almost a decade bombarding students with his anti-Israel, anti-Semitic tirades. This snake in the grass is treated far differently by BGU officials. Not only was Neve Gordon not bagged and hauled away -- instead, the President of BGU, Rivka Carmi, promoted him.


Up to now, Neve Gordon had been merely a “lecturer” but this week, he was promoted to “Assistant Professor.” For an undistinguished academic, whose writings tend toward hysterical anti-Israel propaganda, how did they justify it? Officials assembled a panel of far-leftist evaluators, who requested letters from other far-leftist anti-Israel radicals, and that did it. Like promotes like.

It’s hardly the first time Gordon has been rewarded for his venomous attacks. Among his first treasonous deeds took place in 2002, when, as a matter of “solidarity” Gordon joined arch terrorist Yasser Arafat in Arafat’s barricaded compound during the “Siege of Ramallah” – in direct defiance of Israeli law. As Arafat’s minions went about murdering every Israeli they could reach – in cafes, buses, wedding halls and pizza parlors -- a photo of Gordon and Arafat, hands joined and raised high in brotherly solidarity, appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the globe.

Right after that, BGU granted Gordon tenure – which basically means he can’t be fired. With that one stroke, the possibility of bagging Gordon and relocating him suddenly became far more difficult. But that was the intent -- BGU wanted to make sure Gordon stayed right where he was: at BGU, behind his desk, in front of the classroom, where he could best spew his vicious views.

No doubt Gordon met and exceeded the standards set for him. During Operation Cast Lead, when Israel finally responded to nine long years of Hamas rocket and mortar fire on citizens of Israel’s south, Gordon captured the headlines again. As missiles and mortars rained down on Israel – including several that hit the BGU campus – Gordon stepped up to comment. What did he say? He denounced Israel, not Hamas.

When, about a year ago, Gordon became a regular columnist for the Hamas media apologist, Aljazerra.com and began to denounce Israel from that bully pulpit, BGU rewarded him again. They saw to it that he was named Chairman of BGU’s Department of Politics and Government.

Politics and Government! Can you imagine a more dangerous habitat for a snake than that? To appoint a vicious hater of Israel into a position where he gets to set the University’s agenda as it relates to teaching Israeli politics and government?

But it was last summer’s escapade that proved mind-boggling, even for Neve Gordon.

This time he grabbed world headlines again when he published an Op-ed in the LA Times pleading for a world-wide boycott of Israel. What Gordon demanded was for “all foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel”.
“Nothing else has worked,” he lamented. “The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state.”

What happened as a result of that tirade? Not much. There was a furor in the press. A few of BGU’s major donors created a minor stink but probably kept the dollars flowing. Nothing at all happened to Gordon himself.

Even so, there was a silver lining. As a result of that brouhaha, a long-standing situation at BGU burrowed its way into the mind of the body public. It was revealed and understood, finally, that Gordon was not alone in his anti-Israel views. In fact, BGU’s entire Department of Politics and Government endorsed what Neve Gordon had written. Another professor within Gordon’s department, Fred Lazin, recounted how, before Gordon submitted his LA Times article, he told his department what he was going to say. He offered to step down as chair if they thought his words would prove too embarrassing. "There was a unanimous decision not to let him do that," Lazin said.

The whole Department agreed with him – which isn’t all that surprising, when you think of it. You get a nest of vipers running the department, and of course they’re going to be supportive to others of the same species. They’d already made sure anyone who didn’t agree with them was eliminated – within the Department of Politics and Government, there was zero tolerance for any professor who supported Israel.

As any news hounds knows, BGU is not alone in harboring anti-Israel, anti-Semitic professors on their teaching staffs. Indeed, virtually all of Israel’s Universities suffer one or more of these serpents, professors who work from within to discredit Israel, persuading students to their dangerous points of view. But in virtually all of these other Universities, their Presidents and administration treat the Israel-haters among them with disdain. “What can we do?” they ask. “They’re tenured professors. As the law is now, there’s nothing we can do about it.”

But not BGU. At BGU these professors are nurtured, defended and supported – not to mention promoted.

Throughout each of Neve Gordon’s messes – each time he grabbed world headlines by some denouncement of Israel -- BGU’s President Carmi jumped in to defend him, endorse him, support him and take his side. Then, when the furor died down, she’d promote him or see that he was promoted within his department. Yes, on occasion -- when donations to BGU seemed to be in jeopardy – Carmi characterized Gordon’s views as “destructive” – but that didn’t stop her from continuing to insist that Gordon’s vicious hate propaganda constituted "serious and distinguished research into human rights."

But that’s the bad news. There’s good news on the horizon, too -- a new dawn seems about to break through. If BGU won’t do anything to clean out the nest of vipers in their midst, someone else will – starting with Israel’s Minister of Education.

On June 21, in a front page story in leftist Haaretz, of all places, it’s reported that Gideon Sa'ar, Israel’s Minister of Education, plans to take action against radical faculty members who call for boycotts against Israel – BGU’s Neve Gordon tops the list on that score.

But that’s not all. In another news story, this one appearing on the NANA news service, comes a report that the District Attorney of the Negev is opening a criminal investigation against BGU for conducting anti-Israel political activities.

How did that come about? According to the website, parents of several BGU students filed a complaint about the ‘preaching of treason’ in BGU classrooms. They filed it with Pres. Carmi, with Gideon Sa’ar, and sent it to the Knesset. Someone in that crowd listened up.

Now perhaps the victimized students at BGU -- students who want to study government or politics – will find some relief. Up to this point, if they wanted to pass those courses, they had to parrot the anti-Israel venom spewed by the entire department.

Any change won’t come about overnight, but there is at least hope looming that Israel-hating professors – just like their no-shoulders cousins – can be removed and relocated to some place where their venom won’t infect the young and vulnerable minds entrusted to their care.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

If nothing else, the hullabaloo that’s going on in Arizona right now sounds the death knell for that time-worn adage, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Not anymore. At least not when national borders are concerned.

To the horror of some of my ideological fellow-travelers, I admit I’m not a ‘fence’ person myself. I oppose Israel’s continued building of fences to protect our borders and I oppose the US’s construction of fences between the US and Mexico.

Why? They’re ridiculously expensive – in monetary terms not to mention public opinion – but worse than that, they don’t work.

If you need any further proof of that, take a look at the video I just posted on Facebook. Here’s the link:

See that? Illegal aliens freely crawling over a fence in Arizona – a very costly fence, from the look of it. And absolutely worthless.

That’s the biggest problem with fences: people who want to get past them can do so. They can climb over. Or they can dig under. Or they can go around – there’s no such thing as an endless fence. As has been proven time and time again, they’ll just find somewhere without a fence to cross over.

It’s even more pointless in Israel – build any kind of a fence any engineer can design, and our Arab cousins have no trouble shooting their rockets and missiles right over them. A fence is worthless – and totally disastrous in terms of PR. Apartheid state, indeed!

No fence is going to be effective unless you have the will – and the cash – to put soldiers with rifles all along the way, with orders to shoot (as Egypt does, at least on occasion). If you can’t – or won’t – do that, there’s not much point in building a fence. And if you’re going to put armed soldiers on the border with the authority to stop invaders by force, then you don’t need the expensive fence. Some more normalized border-marking device will do just fine.

For obvious reasons, I doubt the US – let alone poor persecuted Israel – has the moral will to actually shoot invaders, although you have to admit it wouldn’t take very long to make the point. Word travels quickly about that kind of thing. A couple of days of concentrated effort would probably do it, but as I say, I don’t think either country has the stomach for that. Not even for a few days.

What would work, then? It’s so simple: you have to take away the rewards for people who enter a country illegally. Remove the incentives that come with breaking the law. Punish those who commit this crime just as we punish people who commit other crimes. Deport them. Immediately.

I’ve compared illegal immigration to the childhood game of ‘Red Rover, Red Rover’ before. That’s precisely the game both Israel and the US are playing. We erect our barriers, then shout, ‘Red Rover, Red Rover, let anyone come over!’ – and when someone does, when someone breaks through the barrier, they get rewarded. They win!

In the US, successful illegal immigrants get citizenship for any child born on US soil – which entitles the entire extended family to welfare benefits as well. They get education, medical care and work opportunities far beyond what their home countries provide.

In Israel, taxpayers supply all manner of ‘humanitarian aid’ -- food, housing, education, counseling, and jobs. Israel is a haven compared to where they came from – and don’t think they don’t know it.

What you have to do is take away the rewards linked to entering a country illegally –any country. If an illegal immigrant would find that the moment he’s discovered, he was actually going to be shipped back where he came from, that would change things.

If no one would hire them, that would help. If their newborns didn’t automatically receive citizenship -- with all the benefits that entails – but were also shipped back, pregnant women would stop trying to have their babies in the US.

If there weren’t a host of government programs – not to mention charities -- eager to feed, clothe, house and otherwise cater to the needs of illegal immigrants, it would profoundly decrease the incentive to break the law and come.

All that said – at least in the US – both Republicans and Democrats like illegal immigrants. They erect pretend-fences to keep them out, but there’s no will to actually punish the crime of illegal entry. Democrats see a massive number of dedicated new voters who will become the next generation of welfare clients, determined to keep the Dems in office. Republicans like illegals because Big Agriculture likes cheap labor, because they’re afraid to offend what’s already a formidable voting bloc, and because it might seem racist to take a stand.

So we build fences – at enormous cost – that serve as nothing but attractive nuisances, tempting would-be freeloaders to break through. Get past the fence, and you’re not only home free, but you can pick up your $200 every time you pass go.

What a crazy system.

Here’s a really excellent summary from Janet Levy from Los Angeles.

The media is rife with accusations of an Israeli perpetuated Holocaust in Gaza. Israelis are routinely characterized as Nazis and Gaza as a concentration camp or even the Warsaw ghetto.

Consider this:

Facts about Gaza

FACT: Israel left Gaza 5 years ago displacing 11,000 of its own people. Gazans elected Hamas as their legitimate government. Why is Israel still responsible for the conditions in Gaza?

FACT: Over 1 million tons of aid has entered Gaza in the last 18 months. This is equivalent to 1 ton for every man, woman and child.

FACT: The average life expectancy in Gaza is 73.7 years. In Turkey, it is 72 years. Infant mortality in Gaza is 17.7 per 1,000. In Turkey, it is 24.8 per 1,000.

FACT: Israel has suffered a barrage of over 10,000 rockets from Gaza in the last 8 years.

Facts about the Blockade

FACT: In 2002, Israel intercepted 50 tons (100,000 lbs.) of weapons on the Palestinian Authority freighter Karine-A

FACT: In 2009, hundreds of tons of arms from Iran to Hezbollah were uncovered in a raid off the Israeli coast.

FACT: The PURPOSE of the blockade is to stop Hamas from getting weapons and building smuggling tunnels and bunkers to KILL Israelis.

Facts about the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto

FACT: Gazans are NOT being sent to the gas chambers by Israelis. They are not stripped naked in front of their children, neighbors, soldiers and strangers and made to place their garments in neat piles. Their hair is not being shaved off to be used as mattress filler. The gold is not being extracted from their teeth. They are not being injected with deadly diseases and subjected to cruel psychological tests. Their children are not being taken from them and having their skulls smashed against rocks or shot in front of them. They are not being forced into slavery until they die of disease, malnutrition, exhaustion, a bullet to the head or the breathing in of poisonous gas.

FACT: Unlike the Warsaw Ghetto, Gazans were not rounded up and forcibly herded into Gaza. They were not surrounded by a wall topped with barbed wire and controlled by armed guards who could shoot at will. Gazan food rations do NOT average 186 calories per day and 25% of its inhabitants have not died of disease and starvation within the last two years.

The photo above was taken recently at a shuk – open market – in Gaza. Gazans aren't starving, either.

Thanks, Janet!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It’s a heartbreaker.

Einav Bloom, finance of Shuki Sofer, the Beersheba police officer who was murdered by terrorists yesterday, asked the universal question: "How is it fair?" she said, shortly after she’d been told that her future husband had been killed when Arab terrorists launched an ambush attack on a police car – a car that was doing nothing more sinister than carrying other officers to their stations in Hebron.

Sofer was buried in Beersheba last night. The two other officers are still hospitalized.

It’s a story every family in Israel has heard at least once. Shuki’s father, Yosef, said his son was "an outstanding policeman who loved the police force with all his heart. He was never concerned about the location of his job, but we were scared and worried."

His mother, Dalia, told Haaretz, a Hebrew-language daily, that the morning her son died was like any other. "I spoke to him," she said, "I made him something to drink before he left, and like every other day he kissed me goodbye before he headed out."

Shortly after, at 8:30 A.M. the worst happened. “Police officers knocked on our door and told us that Yehoshua was seriously injured in traffic accident and that he had been transferred to the hospital, “ Yosef Sofer said. “When we got there we were met by senior police officers and the Police commander. Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke to us on the phone. Several hours later he died."

Of course not everyone is heartbroken. Some are rejoicing. Arab terrorists started by being delighted with their kill, then launched a verbal attack against Israel. Shuki’s death was our fault, they say.

Fatah – the party of Abu Mazen, our alleged “peace partner”, who calls himself Mahmoud Abbas when he gets cleaned up – started out by claimed responsibility.

Fatah’s Imad Mughinyeh cell said they had fired at a police car, killing Sofer and wounding two other policemen near the community of Beit Haggai, just across the highway from Hebron. Praising the attack, they announced that it "proved Palestinian fighters are keen on 'resistance'” which is the Arab code word for terror.

“All Palestinians have the right to resist and the right to reject negotiations," the spokesperson added. Interesting comment from a group with whom the world insists Israel must ‘negotiate’ a peace agreement.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – Abu Mazen’s deputy – began by ignoring the terror attack completely. Instead, in a press conference yesterday, he denounced Israel's killing of an Arab terrorist who’d aimed his car at three policemen on Friday in Jerusalem.

Remember how that event played out on Friday: In Jerusalem, near the Wadi Joz neighborhood very near the Old City walls, a terrorist tried to run over the policemen with his vehicle. Three Border Police were injured, but other Border Police on the scene shot and critically wounded the terrorist as he pulled a gun and began to fire. That’s the death Fayyad denounced, apparently on the theory that Israel is not permitted to interrupt a terrorist while he’s going about his work.

In any event, as the story of Shuki’s death built, later in the day, Fatah officials seemed to reconsider this silence. Or maybe they decided to take a page out of the Community Organizer’s book, and not let this crisis go to waste.

In any event, another PA bigwig joined the debate – with a weakened Abbas, everyone is jockeying for position. PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki decided this was the moment to jump in and blame Israel for Shuki’s killing.

“The murder is Israel’s fault because it took place in an area under Israel's responsibility where Israel does not allow PA police forces to operate,” Al-Maliki reasoned. He added that Israel "is paying the price" for not surrendering Judea and Samaria to the PA.

Ah well, there you go. Another legalistic ‘It’s not my dog. It didn’t bite you. And besides, you hit the dog first anyway’ argument from the terrorists. Actually I liked it better when they took credit for their murders. It was more honest.

Not that it’s over. Several hours after the terrorist attack, the IDF discovered five explosive devices in the possession of a PA Arab who turned himself in to the authorities at the Hawara checkpoint near Shechem, in Samaria.

The man said he was forced by terrorists to carry out an attack. Sappers neutralized the devices, and the would-be terrorist was taken into custody for questioning.

So far, Israel’s mild response has been heartbreaking all by itself. Following the shooting, the head of the Civil Administration, the Israeli military authority that governs the West Bank, accused PA leaders of “not doing enough to prevent violence.”

Excuse me. Not doing enough to prevent violence? How about doing everything they can to commit violence?

Anyway, Brig-Gen. Yoav Mordechai went on to say that the attack was a "serious incident" that could not be overlooked.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Baruch Dayan haEmet, Blessed is the True Judge.

Thanks to our terrorist “peace partners”, this evening, Shuki Sofer, 39, one of Beersheba’s finest young men, will be buried instead of making wedding plans.

Just before noon, Arab terrorists ambushed three police officers along Route 60, south of Hebron. Shuki was murdered, another officer suffered serious wounds and the third escaped with lighter wounds.

Shuki, a veteran officer who had served in the Hebron hotspot for over 14 years, lived in Beersheba. He and his finance had set their wedding date for two months hence. A friend remarked, “Shuki was a lovely man, a good soul, he liked to help. He would have married in two months and was very excited, but instead of a wedding he was murdered.”

Why did this happen? The underlying cause is Arab hatred toward Israel and Jews. Terrorism. But the precipitating cause was the removal of a critical terrorist checkpoint just three weeks ago.

In one of Israel’s silly, inane, stupid and idiotic “gestures” to the Community Organizer, to appease His Royal Highness in Washington, Israel began removing checkpoints – stopped checking passing traffic for terrorists who plan to murder Israelis. This particular checkpoint, the Dayariya Crossing, was particularly critical. It was located about three kilometers (just under two miles) from the site of the attack.

Unfortunately, Shuki’s murder wasn’t the only tragedy due to a checkpoint closing.

Last night, Sunday, a resident of Alei Zahav in Samaria was also ambushed and attacked by terrorist Arabs while driving. Zahav, who is physically handicapped, noticed a car with police lights signaling him to stop. He pulled over, and the Arabs dragged him from the car, beat him and stole his vehicle. He was left to die by the side of the road – fortunately he was found and treated.

The Arab terrorists in this case had just passed through yet another now-closed checkpoint – another “gesture” to the Community Organizer.

On Friday, still another Arab terrorist rammed two Border Police with his car in Jerusalem, wounding the two officers inside. In this case, the wounded officers managed to shoot and kill the terrorist driver as he attempted to escape. As a particularly gruesome touch, the terrorist’s family managed to steal his body from the hospital, intending to bury it near the Temple Mount.

Want still one more? Also on Friday, a woman and her three children were ambushed to a rock throwing mob in the same area of Jerusalem. The woman was hit in the head with one of the rocks, but managed to step on the gas and escape.

We’ve had enough. Enough meaningless gestures, enough capitulations to the naïve despot in Washington who demands concessions from Israel that result in nothing but more deadly terrorist attacks.

Women for Israel's Tomorrow (Women in Green) and Judea Action Committees released a statement:

Every capitulation invites more terror!

*When we capitulated from Gaza- we received Hamas

* When we fight terrorists with paintball guns - the world is against us and demands a commission of inquiry

*When we take down army checkpoints-the Arabs enjoy and the Jews pay with their lives

*When Jews are forbidden to build and expand –the Arabs take over our land

*When the IDF abandoned the Adurayim army camp near southern Hevron - it enabled the Arabs to attack Jews

We MUST go back to our strong stand on our natural right to Eretz Israel and start behaving like a sovereign people in its homeland.

The government and the prime Minister must draw strength from the people of Israel who have shown to be strong and patriotic.