There was no black gown and scythe when we met.
Death is a man for sure, he is a man who looked just like me.
I saw him sitting there on a wooden chair, my mirror image save for one thing
He was smiling
Looking at me he spoke.
"I am the light at the end of the tunnel.
I am your ultimate destination.
You have made it this far and you can make it a little further
Come into my arms and I will save you."
"What is your name?" I cried
"My name is Marc" he answered
"For I am you and you are me,
The world is not a place for us, enough is enough, you have fought hard and well and you have lost your battle against me."
I lay in a ball on my bed.
The door was wide open and death was sitting on the other side.
"There are plenty of ways to reach me, I am sure you can think of some."
The window to the bedroom was open, thoughts of flight rushed to mind.
"Ah so you are not Death" I whispered,
"You have lied to me, you are not death!"
"Ahhh right you are he said,"
The smile never left his lips and his eyes never left mine and he looked just like me.
The confidence of a man who saw the future as easily as he saw the past,
The man knew what would happen and he looked just like me.
"You cannot defeat your fate" he muttered through his grin.
"You are not Death" I repeated, severely weakened by his confidence.
"I am his younger cousin"
"I know who you are" I thought curled up in my bed
"I know who you are...you are Suicide,
you are Suicide and you shall not have me!"
"Someday we will become one good fellow" he said in a good natured sort of way
"Not today" I retorted,
"Oh I know, this was just a little visit,
an introduction of sorts for one day you will come with me on a little journey."
"Perhaps, but not today"
He couldn't hear me, he had already drifted off to another day
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
A few days ago Simon Plosker, managing Editor for Honest Reporting published an opinion piece in Y-net, the focus of his argument is that by sailing in the convoy on Gaza the media presents :
A clear example of the symbiotic relationship between the media and anti-Israel agitators such as those behind the flotilla. After all, it wasn’t the violent actions of the passengers on board the Mavi Marmara that caused Israel so much damage – it was the diplomatic and public relations fallout from an incident that occupied the international press for days after the event.
Thing is that I am not really sure that he is right on this one. Or more precisely I wouldn't blame the media for the fallout that ensued from our navy commandos shooting down the IHH activists. I would blame the fact that we shot several IHH activists for the fallout that we suffered.
It's not that complicated. When I say I blame us for this I am not talking about the commandos themselves, I am talking about the machine that created the whole bloody mess in the first place. The Mavi Mamara was a piece of international theatre with Israel all set up to play the pantomime villain and a bunch of nutters all set to play the victims.Israel fell into her role not with hesitancy but with gusto, instead of thinking about how to prevent situations like this we were too busy flexing our military muscle. So busy in fact that we didn't bother collecting adequate intelligence about who was on the boats and what they planned to do. The fact is that the Mavi Mamara incident could have been much, much worse for us if the violent activists on the boat had been heavily armed terrorists out to kill as many of our commandos as possible rather than thugs interested in a fight.
So now another flotilla is on the way with much fanfare and what are we doing? Exactly the same thing all over again.
I have had the privilege of meeting several professional journalists since I have moved back here, as well as the privilege of working briefly as a journalist myself. All of the people I have met have impressed me as being consummate professionals. They aren't here with the intention of making Israel look bad, they are here to report the news. As long as we keep feeding them exciting stories they will keep reporting them. As long as we keep holding them up at checkpoints they will report on them. Commandos descending by rope from hovering helicopters onto a boat is a great image for a photojournalist and storming a ship is a great story for any media agency to want to cover. Since Israel has obliged in providing such theatrics then one must expect that the major news networks are going to want a piece of the action.
IT is very dangerous to blame the media for the fallout from our own actions. Blaming bad PR for the way Israel is viewed in the world in general or for the fallout from individual incidents is simply shirking the blame that we hold for creating them. No journalist forced Israel to storm those boats and no journalist is to blame for the collapse of the Israeli/Turkish strategic relationship, we have our own politicians and diplomats to blame for that.
"will the mere presence of the media act as an invitation for confrontation and potential violence as so-called “activists” play for the cameras? And what of the journalists themselves? While over the years, some reporters have been inadvertently killed or injured by the IDF, we cannot expect soldiers entering a potential warzone, as the Mavi Marmara became, to run the added gauntlet of avoiding media personnel who have purposely positioned themselves in the crossfire. It not only risks the lives of the journalists but also those of Israel’s soldiers."
Maybe the presence of the media will encourage these activists to play to the camera, more likely they will be loathe to be seen to be initiating any kind of violent action, as, for that matter, will the IDF. For this reason the cameras could have the opposite affect to that described above. Even if they does not, this is our blockade and our operation, it is on us to make sure that our soldiers are prepared for any eventuality and able to deal with it in the correct fashion.
With regards to the firing line I presume that after Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya these journalists are more than used to being under fire, it goes with the job. If some of them get killed in the crossfire (if there is one) then yes it will look awful for Israel. This isn't the media's fault this is ours. For refusing to come up with a better policy than a constant blockade of Gaza, for refusing any kind of diplomacy or negotiation for simply drawing a line in the er sea? And as for our soldiers, they are the best in the world and can look after themselves.
Below the amount of passengers expected on each ship along with the number of journalists:
Sunday, 26 June 2011
Yesterday I posted a link to a story about the latest attempt by the Shalit family to bring some attention to the their son Gilad and the lack of progress made to bring him home. Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of his capture.
The nightmare for Gilad Shalit began when he was abducted from his army base near Gaza by Hamas commandos who had dug a tunnel underneath the base allowing them to emerge to launch their attack from the rear. The only really surprising thing is the fact that they haven't launched these kinds of attacks more often. There has been relatively sizeable level of activity around the fringes of Gaza which has usually resulted in the IDF putting down terrorists before they are able to get anywhere. There hasn't been anything on the level of the Shalit capture.
So 5 years have passed since then and now, the Shalit family have done everything that they can do to keep Gilad's name in the headlines and his fate on the government's agenda. They have launched a very effective campaign to remain in the public eye, though it doesn't appear that the current government is listening.
The case of Gilad Shalit is important on so many different levels. It tugs on the heart strings of a nation that has sent all of her sons and daughters to wear uniform and worried about them every step of the way. It is important in that it raises questions about the needs of the many as opposed to the individual. It is important as it raises moral and ethical questions which have no definite answer. It even makes us, as a nation, look in the mirror and wonder who we see.
The Shalit family have made themselves into public figures now but they are not politicians nor are they diplomats. They were thrown into the spotlight against their will and their only aim is to see Gilad returned to them. That aim is not my aim. I am concerned with the ongoing well being of myself and of Israel and I am not convinced that releasing 1,000 hardcore Hamas terrorists is the way for my security to be protected. Herein lies the problem for the Shalit family, whereas the whole nation can sympathise with them and make expressions of support, the lack of progress in freeing Gilad has not harmed the government in the Knesset, nor should it.
It's not hard to kidnap an Israeli soldier, they are all over the country and come in all shapes and sizes. The big fear is not simply that the released Hamas terrorists are going to go and start blowing things up again but that Hamas are simply going to grab another soldier (or citizen) and demand the same again thank you very much. The Shalit's aren't interested in this, they want Gilad back.
The thing is, when two morons are negotiating with one another you are going to get moronic results. A deal would probably be achievable, were it not for the usual zero sum game that exists between Israel (specifically when governed by the right wing) and the Palestinians.
Bibi and his supporters are likely to see any deal with Hamas as a political defeat that wounds the strategy of deterrence that they live (and send others to die) by. Hamas for their part are liable to look at Shalit and see their leverage over Israel. With Gilad they are on the agenda, with Gilad news agencies all over the world are talking about them, negotiators are rushing back and forth from Egypt and their leaders have a greater level of importance. Without Gilad what are they?
Without Gilad they will have to do some heavy duty shelling to get back the same level of 'respect'. So perhaps Hamas with Gilad think of themselves as better off than Hamas without Gilad and similarly the Israeli government thinks that perhaps the amount of flack they take for not doing a deal over Gilad is better than the amount of damage that might be done to their own prestige from actually doing a deal with Hamas.
The sun drenched the shore and the sea was the same mixture of blue and green that it had always been. The outline of a ship coming into Tel Aviv could clearly be seen by the assembled VIP's and soldiers who had arrived to greet it. None of them were smiling and the sweat trickling down their cheeks was as much from anticipation as from the heat of the blazing sun.
The ship before them was the Altalena, a former US Navy troop ship it now carried Jewish fighters and a cargo of weapons and ammunition. On board was a man who would shape the future of the state he had already sacrificed much to bring into existence, Menahem Begin.
Standing on the shore was a short, squat man with a white mane that was already known everywhere. A man who insisted on power and commanded obedience wherever he went. The man who was then and will forever be known as the father of the state of Israel, David Ben-Gurion.
He didn't know for sure what was happening and he didn't care. The negotiations between himself and his bitter political rival had gone nowhere over the use of the weapons on that boat and he would be damned if he was going to watch a coup take place before his very eyes. He gave the order to open fire to his dutiful subordinate Yigal Yadin who in turn passed the order on to the gunners. Whether they were warning shots that went astray or shooting at the Altalena with the intent of sinking her is irrelevant, for sink her they did.
The ship, some of the immigrant fighters and the arms on it went to the bottom of the shimmering sea. Later some were recovered and used in the fighting in the latter part of the War of Independence.
There were fears that the fledgling state would dissipate into civil war right up until the point at which Begin, in what was possibly his greatest moment of humility, insisted that there would be no war amongst brothers. The civil war never was and the fighting moved back to the battle field.
The contest between the two fathers of the country was the pivotal moment of our state. Rule by consensus or by force of arms. To be a part of the national army or to be an army in and of itself, the labor pains of the first Jewish country to exist in 2,000 years came to a swift end.
The Right had made their move, the dramatics of Begin who had insisted on having his units specially equipped over and above the needs of the army high command had tugged on the heart strings of men, women and children all around the country. At his behest many his supporters had deserted from their units in order to support him on Tel Aviv beach. He was sure that he would that his play would work, that the old man with the strong mane of white hair would back down rather than allow the contest to deteriorate but he had fatally underestimated his rival. Ben Gurion was a man with a truly iron will, a man who did not understand what it was to back down, a man who was more than a man, he was a leader, he was the father of an entire nation and his word was not to be taken lightly. He had insisted that the weapons were to be those of the army of the state of Israel and if the army weren't to have them then they would go to the sea.
One father on the shore, another on the ship, both facing each other, both standing at the brink. when it came down to it one of them had played his last card and the other had one left to lay down.
The guns fired and the ship burned, people died but the state survived. there were no more private armies, no more vested interest and changes in government were by will of the people not force of arms. Officially the State of Israel was born on Rothschild street in Tel Aviv but the real birth of our beautiful country was on that beach in Tel Aviv. The same beach that tens of thousands of hedonists flock to over the summer to roast is the place where Jew fired on Jew to ensure the future of us all. Tragic that few of them ever notice the memorials that have been erected to honour the dead and remind the people of how close we came to ruining all that we had fought so hard to build. When you are there, look out to the breakwater and imagine a ship on fire and the two fathers of our nation locked in a struggle that would determine our future.
Saturday, 25 June 2011
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Warren Kozak: What If Jews Had Followed the Palestinian Path? - WSJ.com
You can read the article in full underneath my post about it.
You can probably already gather where the article is going from the title alone. If Jews had been forced to sit in refugee camps rather than taking care of themselves and ensuring that the state of Israel came into being.
I enjoy reading these contrasts, for this is not the first and is certain not to be the last. I feel pride for the accomplishments of my people and for the way that we have risen above the shitty cards that the deck of life has dealt us.
Unfortunately though, once I have finished contemplating how great my forebears were I am still left with the knowledge that as much as all that Warren Kozak writes is true it is also utterly irrelevant.
We, the Jews, followed our path and they, the Palestinians, followed theirs. This is the world within which we live and these are the people with whom we must find an accommodation.
I was talking yesterday to a journalist (Israeli) from the Associated Press and it turns out that the general consensus for the future as Israel is exactly as gloomy, not to mention as tragic, as my own.
In 1967 we swallowed the Palestinians whole and it doesn't matter how correct and/or justified the arguments are about how brutal they are and how little they are interested in peace. there are a million and one reasons to never deal with the Palestinians and only one to deal with them WE HAVE TO.
I watch my government and my entire country collectively put their hands over their eyes and ears and shake their heads and insist that the Palestinians have no interest in peace and negotiations while they ignore the fundamental fact that if we continue to occupy Palestinians and if we continue to enmesh our population within theirs we have no hope of maintaining any kind of future for our state.
Perhaps if there is a Palestinian state the Qassam rockets will fly overhead, perhaps there will be more conflict. Perhaps there won't be any conflict and all will be laid to rest. The future is a blank canvas if we move forward with 2 states. If we do not move forward we know exactly what will happen, Israel will be a non democratic country, ruling over more people than it has citizens and will be utterly unable to part with the West Bank, guaranteeing the end to our free, Jewish, democratic state.
I blame unreservedly my leaders across the political spectrum, particularly Livni, Barak and Netanyahu, people more interested in political theatre than politics.
It's time to get to the END GAME
If Jews had Followed the Palestinian Path
It is doubtful that there has ever been a more miserable human refuse than Jewish survivors after World War II. Starving, emaciated, stateless—they were not welcomed back by countries where they had lived for generations as assimilated and educated citizens. Germany was no place to return to and in Kielce, Poland, 40 Jews who survived the Holocaust were killed in a pogrom one year after the war ended. The European Jew, circa 1945, quickly went from victim to international refugee disaster.
Yet within a very brief time, this epic calamity disappeared, so much so that few people today even remember the period. How did this happen in an era when Palestinian refugees have continued to be stateless for generations?
In 1945, there were hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors living in DP Camps (displaced persons) across Europe. They were fed and clothed by Jewish and international relief organizations. Had the world's Jewish population played this situation as the Arabs and Palestinians have, everything would look very different today.
To begin with, the Jews would all still be living in these DP camps, only now the camps would have become squalid ghettos throughout Europe. The refugees would continue to be fed and clothed by a committee similar to UNRWA—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (paid for mostly by the United States since 1948). Blessed with one of the world's highest birth rates, they would now number in the many millions. And 66 years later, new generations, fed on a mixture of hate and lies against the Europeans, would now seethe with anger.
Sometime in the early 1960s, the Jewish leadership of these refugee camps, having been trained in Moscow to wreak havoc on the West (as Yasser Arafat was) would have started to employ terrorism to shake down governments. Airplane hijackings in the 1970s would have been followed by passenger killings. There would have been attacks on high-profile targets as well—say, the German or Polish Olympic teams.
By the 1990s, the real mayhem would have begun. Raised on victimhood and used as cannon fodder by corrupt leaders, a generation of younger Jews would be blowing up buses, restaurants and themselves. The billions of dollars extorted from various governments would not have gone to the inhabitants of the camps. The money would be in the Swiss bank accounts of the refugees' famous and flamboyant leaders and their lackies.
So now it's the present, generations past the end of World War II, and the festering Jewish refugee problem throughout Europe has absolutely no end in sight. The worst part of this story would be the wasted lives of millions of human beings in the camps—inventions not invented, illnesses not cured, high-tech startups not started up, symphonies and books not written—a real cultural and spiritual desert.
None of this happened, of course. Instead, the Jewish refugees returned to their ancestral homeland. They left everything they had in Europe and turned their backs on the Continent—no "right of return" requested. They were welcomed by the 650,000 Jewish residents of Israel.
An additional 700,000 Jewish refugees flooded into the new state from Arab lands after they were summarily kicked out. Again losing everything after generations in one place; again welcomed in their new home.
In Israel, they did it all the hard way. They built a new country from scratch with roads, housing and schools. They created agricultural collectives to feed their people. They created a successful economy without domestic oil, and they built one of the world's most vibrant democracies in a region sadly devoid of free thought.
Yes, the Israelis did all this with the financial assistance of Jews around the world and others who helped get them on their feet so they could take care of themselves. These outsiders did not ignore them, or demean them, or use them as pawns in their own political schemes—as the Arab nations have done with the Palestinians.
I imagine the argument will be made that while the Jews may have achieved all this, they did not have their land stolen from them. This is, of course, a canard, another convenient lie. They did lose property all over Europe and the Mideast. And there was never an independent Palestine run by Palestinian Arabs. Ever. Jews and Arabs lived in this area controlled first by the Turks and then by the British. The U.N. offered the two-state solution that we hear so much about in 1947. The problem then, and now, is that it was accepted by only one party, Israel. No doubt, the situation of Arab residents of the Middle East back then may have been difficult, but it is incomprehensible that their lot was worse than that of the Jews at the end of World War II.
We don't hear about any of this because giving human beings hope and purpose doesn't make great copy. Squalor, victimhood and terror are always more exciting. Perhaps in the end, the greatest crime of the Jews was that they quietly created something from nothing. And in the process, they transformed themselves.
Golda Meir is credited with having said that if the Jews had not fought back against the Arab armies and had been destroyed in 1948, they would have received the most beautiful eulogies throughout the world. Instead, they chose to stand their ground and defend themselves. And in winning, they received the world's condemnation. Meir said she would take the condemnation over the eulogies.
Wearing his now trademark white hat the man who changed the world through his music showed that he still has what it takes to put on a great show...kind of.
The truth is that you don't go to see Dylan perform at the age of 70 in order to hear the ultimate rendition of all of his anthems, you go in order to get a glimpse of the living legend performing and to say to your kids and grand kids "I was there when the great Bob Dylan came to Israel!"
This is the man covered by every major musical artist during a period when musical talent and creativity was at its best. Nobody cared in the 60's that he was unable to sing in key and no one cares now, for thousands of adoring Israeli fans can now say "I have heard Bob Dylan play All Along The Watchtower live!"
He started off with some unfamiliar tunes but when he broke into a rendition of Ballad of a Thin Man near the beginning he had the whole crowd singing along with him. One really had to pinch oneself in order to believe that this moment was, in fact, happening and that the great man was really there on the stage.
He went on to play renditions of All Along the Watchtower and Like a Rolling Stone, amongst others and although the 70 year old just can't quite pull them off in the same way as he used to no one cared, they just wanted to hear more.
It's a shame that he didn't turn to the crowd at any point and utter a single word, a Shalom at the outset would have gone down well and there was no encore, but...one can allow this musical poet his eccentricities and yes perhaps his arrogance, if he hasn't earned it then no one has!
You can't blame the guy for having had enough of adoring fans...
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Recently I linked to an article that appeared on the BBC website whose opening paragraph reads:
A Jerusalem rabbinical court recently sentenced a wandering dog to death by stoning. The cruel sentence stemmed from the suspicion that the hound was the reincarnation of a famous secular lawyer, who insulted the court's judges 20 years ago.
Now that is a cool opening to an article!
The story came from a piece in the popular English language, Israeli news website Ynet. That article begins like this:
A Jerusalem rabbinical court recently sentenced a wandering dog to death by stoning. The cruel sentence stemmed from the suspicion that the hound was the reincarnation of a famous secular lawyer, who insulted the court's judges 20 years ago.
You can read the article in full here
Skimming through the comments on the Ynet article I was surprised by just how many there were. This normally very calm, inoffensive site had generated in excess of 161 comments. For the Guardian this may not be very much but for Ynet, known as a news site rather than a talk back site it's humongous.
The story deepens, after posting the link to the BBC story on my Facebook page someone came back at me with the following article from a news site I had never heard of. Thea rticle begins with these words:
It started June 3 with a Maariv article titled “Meah Shearim: Beit Din Issued Instructions to Stone Dog.” Almost two weeks later, the newspaper retracted its claims of animal abuse against the av beit din.
This whole incident and the reception it received reminds me of Israel during the Oslo years in 1997. The threat of terrorism had died down only to be replaced by massive friction along the fault line not of religion but of Judaism.
The Wailing Wall became the focus of fighting between different strands of Judaism, particularly Reform and Ultra Orthodox. Jeffrey Goldberg vividly spoke about his experience as a secular Jew at these riots.
There are still battles between religious and secular in op-ed pages of various publications.
There are lots of fault lines here in the Holy Land and sometimes we are reminded of them in the most surprising of ways.
Friday, 17 June 2011
You have probably heard about the American-Israeli Ilan Grapel who has been arrested in Egypt on charges of espionage.
The other day I went out with some people who know him and they painted an interesting picture of the would be spy.
But first some background:
Ilan came to Israel to enlist in the IDF after graduating from Johns Hopkins. He was wounded in the shoulder during fighting with Hezbollah in the 2006 conflict, in or near to the town of Taibe. Here he is recovering in hospital when he was interviewed by Haaretz at the time:
And this is where the story takes a more interesting turn.
Friends say that after being wounded in combat Grapel went to the very left of the political spectrum (nothing wrong with that by the way).
After returning to the USA and beginning his studies at Emory law school in Atlanta, Georgia Ilan managed to wander all around the Middle East, including interning at the Israeli Supreme court for a summer.
Now that stuff is all from the news reports, what I 'heard' was that after he was a devoted Arabist who enjoyed Arab culture and language and tended to spend as much time as he could visiting various countries in the region, particularly Egypt.
He tended to spend a lot of time hopping from Israel to Egypt and back again, staying with friends who are studying at the Inter Disciplinary Centre in Herzaliya. Friends spoke of their surprise hearing his stories of spending time with Muslim Brotherhood figures, even more so when he admitted that they knew he had dual US/Israeli nationality and that he had served in the army since he had told them.
They believe Egyptian assertions that he was handing out money in Tahir Square during the revolution "that's probably the sort of crazy thing he would do" and that it was more than likely that he had been roused up by the events going on around him. They say it is incredibly unlikely that he was a spy for the Mossad given some of the very negative things that he was saying about the state and his obvious infatuation with Egypt.
Friends also say they were struck by the naivete of the former paratrooper in the way that he would happily tell all around him about his dual citizenship and military background.
The US embassy in Egypt are handling all attempts to get Ilan out of the country since he entered Egypt on his US passport.
The case continues...
Monday, 13 June 2011
Sunday, 12 June 2011
It's been a while since we heard anything from Hizb ut Tahrir, the guys who like to talk about such things as
"purifying the earth of Jewish filth"
Essentially Hizb ut Tahrir are a radical Muslim group who dream of creating one Muslim government ruling the Middle East and essentially the whole world. They call this mythical Muslim empire the Khilafate. Their followers dream of the day when the Muslim armies will somehow arise and rid the world of Israel then take everything else for Islam. Terrorists the world over have been linked to them and they recruit rigorously on British campuses.
Naturally the Guardian gave their spokesman a forum to convince people that they would never do anything wrong to anybody.
They have been profiled by many different experts and the Tories were toying with the idea of banning them for a long time, particularly before they were in power.
Hizb ut Tahrir have regularly held conferences and demonstrations talking about their hatred for Israel, hatred of the United States, hatred for just about anything that has to do with freedom. Here they are holding a public meeting to express their outrage at the conviction of one Aafia Siddiqui who was one the FBI's 7 most wanted terrorists at the time of her arrest.
Here they are demonstrating on the streets of London, note that there are quite a few of them:
Quite frankly they would be farcical if they weren't so fully integrated into the process of radicalising young Muslims.
They have announced that they will be holding an International Khilafah Conference on the 9th of July in London at the Water Lilly, 69-89 Mile End Road, London, E1 4TT. Looks like a nice place from their website I guess they don't realise that they are hosting the closest thing to Al Qaeda that is legal in a free and democratic country. Or perhaps, like the Quakers of Friends House, they do and they just don't care.
They haven't said who is speaking at the conference but it turns out that Hizb ut Tahrir Australia are holding a conference of their own today where they promise to have "prominent local and international speakers" talking on such subjects as:
The Muslim World in the 20th Century: Totalitarian Western Oppression,
Western Endeavours to frustrate Muslim Revival,
An Ummah (Muslim Nation) of resistance and revival.
Here is their flier:
Hizb ut Tahrir Australia are particularly vitriolic when it comes to talking about Jews here is a quote from the site:
How does this vitriol continue?
Sunday, 5 June 2011
Yuval turns up in his beatup, once navy blue Japanese wreck of a car.
Sleeping bags are in the boot and a bottle of water is on the floor. First stop is Modi'in, the music is playing the whole way through his ipod and a pair of speakers. The sun is drenching us in heat as we sail down an empty road towards Israel's brand spanking new, booming, planned city.
We arrive as families are out on the streets on their way to shul to bring in the shabbos bride. There is green everywhere and suburbia has truly arrived in Israel in the form of a planned city that has a mall, a train station and helluva lot of brand spanking new families looking for their slice of the white picket fence dream that comes straight out of the USA.
Modi'in will always be famous for the fact that it is the home of Haim Goslan, the man who is the reason Yuval and I have delayed our odyssey South. We arrive at his apartment and are greeted by a string of people on their way to shul, again reminding me of the reason that I'll probably never live there.
Bounding up the stairs Yuval insists that we leave quickly as we're late though I more forcefully insist that it would be rude to leave without playing at least one song on Guitar Hero. Haim picks up the guitar and I the drum sticks and we start to rock out. An hour later and now it's Haim on the drums and Yuval on the guitar and we agree it's probably time to leave. We have an 90 minute journey ahead of us and we're already 2 hours late to the stag do of one Oren Druker of Orev Tazanhanim fame.
The journey begins with the quest for a cash machine in a city that is locked down for Shabbat. Eventually we come across one and we are good to go. I sit in the front passenger seat of Haim's car grinning from ear to ear that I, along with my 2 best friends, am travelling towards a bachelor party that is being held in a field in the dust that lies at the northern end of the Negev. Haim turns onto route 4 and there isn't a traffic jam in sight as we spiral ever further South, past Rishon Lezion and on past Yavne towards Yad Mordechai and the Gaza border.
Light turns to dark and lamp posts give way to Cats Eyes as the shiny new subaru owned by Haim carries us further towards our destination which lies near to Moshav Dekel, closer to the Gaza border and is where Druker, the groom and the reason we have made the trip is waiting for us alongside the rest of Orev Paratroopers team August 2002 and another 10 guys, good friends of his coming together in the middle of nowhere to celebrate his last gasp of single life.
The signs are all pointing to Gaza, the Erez crossing and Rafah as we drive past Yad Mordechai. Buildings have long since given way to fields and we turn off the road when we see the landmark which is an antenna. Driving through the dirt track of a field close to Gaza we keep driving, kicking up a mass of dust in our wake. Yuval points out that we are driving in one of the fields that the Grads and Qassams keep landing in.
The pitch black on either side gives way to the flickering of a bonfire off to our left, we follow the path and arrive in an area that has been all set up for a party. The boys step out of the shadows to greet us. Only one person comes later than us and everyone is already there enjoying beef brought down from the Golan and lamb from somewhere around Tekoa. Druker is a classic outdoors man, he loves messing around with mechanical equipment, hunting and tracking he works with animals for a living.
His friends are of the same ilk and had rigged up a portable generator, a kiln, bonfire and mattresses and had set up a shaded canopy in preparation for the next day, there was booze aplenty and food to feed an army. We sat with each other and traded stories of our lives as we do each time we meet. Aviv's new wife is newly pregnant, Elad is worrying about his brand new mortgage and everyone keeps asking me when the book is going to be ready and how big a part they play in it.
Soon the guitars come out, Netanel and Iddo are playing all of the old camp fire songs and Aviv has his harmonica ready, Sofer taps the little drums Yuval brought with him, everyone's having a sing along interspersed with shots of vodka and toasts to the groom to be. The food keeps coming, Druker's moshav friends have a figurative conveyor belt of delicacies that they send through to us. The fire is going strong. Sahar has prepared a question and answer session for Druker on things his fiance said of him and turns what should have been a game lasting minutes into an hour long session by unsuccessfully attempting to silence the knots of people having their own conversations and joking with each other.
The game ends and the water pipes come out, huge multi pipe ones that would be more at home in the palace of a sultan of the Ottoman Empire, the coals that light them come straight from the bonfire. One by one the revellers fall down and stop talking, the drink and other things have taken their toll. Druker whips up coffee and those of us still awake sit around the fire sipping it out of small glass cups. I decide to hit the sack and move towards the car, almost tripping over an unconscious Yuval as I go. Druker turns off the generator signalling bedtime for all. I grab mine and Yuval's sleeping bags from the car and drape one over him as I find my own spot under the stars.
It's the first time in 7 years that I have slept out in the open and I have forgotten just how spectacular the view of the universe is when there is no other light to obscure it. I deliciously take in the stars, planets and galaxies above me revelling in the gift that is the vision of the universe before me. A shooting star bursts across the heavens, then another, then a star moves across the sky. I follow it with my eyes as all the others disappear. The darkness gives way to light, and the light gives way to dark.
I awake around 6:00 to the sight of a bunch of guys adding water to flour to make dough and then adding jam to the stretched out dough before rolling it up, sticking it in silver foil and burying the jammy dough deep into the embers of the still glowing fire. There are flies everywhere, feasting on the bits and pieces left over from the night before. The newly baked bread is pulled out of the fire. Labane with olive oil and Zattar quickly joins it alongside freshly made pittot. The breakfast feast begins amid some snap crackle and pop coming from Gaza.
The sun really hits me around 9 and it's time to get moving. We come together to clean up, plastic bottles are collected and placed alongside the empty beer bottles for recycling, water melon is chopped up and distributed as we go. Water to all, all the time, I have forgotten my hat, seems all this time away has made me sloppy. With everything packed up we say our goodbyes, knowing that we will back in the same place on Thursday for the wedding.
We drive back, through the fields and up the interior of my adopted country. I fall asleep in the back and dream of star filled skies and an endless desert. One day I'll walk the length of this country and write about all that I see but for now I will have to content myself with a single night in the desert.
Friday, 3 June 2011
I just read this op-ed piece by Jeremy Ben-Ami the executive director of J-Street.
I like J Street.
I was impressed by the speed with which J Street built up a huge following and found a voice for itself.
Every major policy they have I agree with.
J Street is not now, nor will it ever be a lobby.
Allow me to explain by comparing them with AIPAC.
AIPAC is a lobby. AIPAC supports Israel no matter what and calls on policy makers in the United States to support Israel too. If Israel makes peace AIPAC will support her, if Israel makes war Israel will support her.
Go to the AIPAC website and they are able to sum up who they are and what they do in a single line:
"As America's leading pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC works with both Democratic and Republican political leaders to enact public policy that strengthens the vital U.S.-Israel relationship."
Now that is a lobby.
Contrast this with what J Street has to say about itself on its website:
"The organization gives political voice to mainstream American Jews and other supporters of Israel who, informed by their Jewish values, believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel’s survival as the national home of the Jewish people and as a vibrant democracy. J Street’s mission is two-fold: first, to advocate for urgent American diplomatic leadership to achieve a two-state solution and a broader regional, comprehensive peace and, second, to ensure a broad debate on Israel and the Middle East in national politics and the American Jewish community."
So J Street is in fact lobbying for something that is already happening as well as lobbying to ensure a broad debate.
Everything (and I really mean pretty much everything) that J Street says seems to me to be incredibly sensible and ultimately their positions set the course that Israel needs to be taking. Having policy positions on what they want to see Israel doing is not particularly conducive to producing results. Mainly because they are in the USA, sitting in the USA and lobbying Israel? Sitting in the USA and lobbying the US government to get Israel to accept the 2 state solution and make peace? Eh? It's all getting a bit complicated really.
Essentially J Street is providing a voice to those Jews who feel that Israel is doing the wrong thing, it is giving Jews the option of saying that they are Zionist, while at the same time allowing them to vent their frustrations with some of the nonsensical policies Israel has.
But there is no lobbying fuel in all that.
J Street's only real mistake is also the most fundamental, they are not a lobby.
Yes they are a mouthpiece but they are calling on Israel to change her policies from the USA.
Israel, where the politicians who are able to put into practise the policies they are calling for is too far away to be influenced. Especially since it is not their own electorate who are lobbying them.
AIPAC got it right, support Israel or don't. that's the only way a lobby can go. Although I am sympathetic to the vision possessed by the organisation they strike me as being incredibly unsure of themselves. They have loads of pointless policy positions but who on earth are they lobbying to make those positions happen?
They strike me more as a movement that enjoys politics. A group of people who want in on the debate about the future of the Middle East. That's fine, but lets not mistake them for an organisation that will be able to bring any power to bare on the US or Israeli governments.
Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Well in case none of you had noticed I have just gotten myself started on Twitter and though I had my doubts I have to say that the more I use it the more impressed I am becoming.
I have been following someone called Sooriya_Hooriya, a Syrian citizen who is twittering the demonstrations blow by blow and somehow the minimalism of it is utterly riveting, terrifying even.
I was unsure how to use it until someone said to me to just follow what I am interested in and not worry about followers (unlike the constant quest for friends in Facebook).
anyway I'm convinced.