Saturday, March 15, 2003

Someone to Watch Over Me...

The Israeli press is full of reassuring-sounding stories like this one this morning, saying how the United States is making it a top priority to try to make sure that Iraq doesn't bring Israel into the war, and are already bombing and keeping a watchful eye on Western Iraq.

Personally, I could care less why they do it -- whether it's because they want to protect us because they love us, or because Israel attacking Iraq would give the U.S. big military and diplomatic headaches -- just as long as they do it.

On a completely different note, all of the Israeli kids looked darn cute on the streets this morning dressed up in their Purim costumes. My son is Buzz Lightyear.
A Sabbath Break from the News

Today was a spectacularly beautiful day, and it seemed that everyone in Israel who isn't Orthodox and can drive on Saturday got in the car and headed north to enjoy spring. Who knows what we'll be doing next weekend? We took the kids and headed to "The Orange Path" -- an orange grove in a moshav near Hadera that has been turned into a pastoral amusement site for kids among the citrus, with lots of things to climb and ride on. Here are some pictures of the place and a description of it in English. It's orange-picking season, so we filled a bag in about 5 minutes so we can squeeze our own juice. Again, the setting was simply so lovely and relaxed, I had to work hard to remind myself that this was all taking place in a war-torn region.
What's in a Name?
Yes, folks, a week or so into the blogging routine, I decided to change the name of my blog. The previous name was a big long and unwieldy, and not very catchy. I find myself more attracted to check out the blogs on the rolls with intriguing names, when you think, "well what in the world could THAT possibly be?" Apologies to those of you who have already blogrolled me under the old name.

Friday, March 14, 2003

What is "Safe?"

It's a beautiful warm sunny spring Friday morning in the Middle East. Iraq or no Iraq, I'd rather be here right now than shivering in my native New England, where my family reported to me yesterday that it was snowing AGAIN.

Of course, who knows whether I'll feel the same way in a week or so.

Here is the Fox News report that is officially freaking out those Israelis who are not yet numb and still capable of freaking out. According to Fox, U.S. intelligence reports that Scuds are being placed in western Iraq, in striking distance of Iraq and that Saddam is "mulling over" the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Israel if he's sure the U.S. is about to attack (how in the world does anyone know what Saddam is mulling over?)

So some of my fellow mothers of little kids are asking each other again, "Maybe we should get out of here for a while?" Their priority is to keep the kids safe and spare them the gas-mask wearing experience. It's all deja vu from January and February when we were asking each other the same question. I broke under the pressure and decided to take my kids to visit my family for three weeks in February when everyone was simply certain that the war would take place during that month (before the French started their antics.) I arrived just in time for two blizzards, the terrible fire in Rhode Island, and the national hysteria over the Orange Alert. During all this, I toted my kids through multiple airports, down major interstate highways and into unguarded shopping malls. They had a great time, but were pulled out of their familiar routines, away from their familiar surroundings.

Would doing that to them again now be the best thing for them? Is it really safer than taking our chances and staying here? I have no question in my mind regarding myself. If all of those American troops can put themselves in harm's way, not to mention the Israeli soldiers who do it on a daily basis, I'd absolutely stick it out, come what may. Besides, while I'm not working for a daily anymore, I'll always be a journalist and want to be where the story is.

But the kids....that makes everything so much more distressing and complicated.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Guess Where the Centrino (it sounds like pasta, but it's a computer chip) Was Developed?

Lots of hoopla in the media surrounding Intel's latest mobile technology that will presumably make everyone's computer infinitely more fabulous.

But not every media report takes note of the fact that the product was developed from start to finish in HAIFA. With all the bad news coming out of Israel, let's spread this good news around the Blogosphere, shall we? Taking note of the good stuff that comes out of Israel is the mission of the organization that employs me, Israel 21c -- we made it the lead story of our website this week.

We're a relatively young and new non-profit: we have the website, and we try to get stories that are newsworthy into the mainstream media as well. It's a different approach to what's known in Hebrew as "hasbara" : making Israel's case. We're not denying the existence of the conflict with the Palestinians, and we are staying out of the fray of whose fault everything is. What we are doing is pointing out that there is a whole lot more to the country than that, and that we bring the world a whole lot more than just strife. Which you would never know from watching CNN or just about any major television network.
He's Baaack

Yup, it's the guy who puts all other anti-Semites to shame, Pat Buchanan. My mouth was simply hanging open as I read this tirade , blaming the entire messy Iraq situation on ...... who else? That's right...the Jews!

Andrew Sullivan, on whose site I first learned of the Buchanan piece has some good responses to Pat's ravings, as always, but I have to add that this piece is just full of factual ridiculousness.

Take, for example, this gem:

"Though we have given Israel $20,000 for every Jewish citizen, Israel refuses to stop building the settlements that are the cause of the Palestinian intifada"

I thought the intifada broke out after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak put an offer on the table that would not just freeze, but ELIMINATE many of the settlements. Silly me.

You know, this alleged Semitic conspiracy has got to be pretty fast-moving. Before he ran for president, George W. didn't really know any Jews: he admitted that freely when he was running for president (there were Jews at Yale when he attended, but none of them belonged to Skull and Bones.) Now the Elders of Zion are already controlling him: that's speedy work.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

On Dual Loyalty

After 12 years of faithful service, I have to admit that I didn't part ways with "The Jerusalem Post" on the greatest terms (few of us in the vast Jerusalem Post Diaspora did so...)

So I'm not crazy about linking to them. But this essay, "Confessions of a Dual Loyalist" by Calev Ben-David is worth it. Check it out. Brilliant as usual, Calev.
Would you like Freedom Fries with That?

OK, this for sure qualifies as my favorite news story of the day:

French Fries Get New Name in Congress
By JIM ABRAMS
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON -- Show the flag and pass the ketchup was the order of the day in House cafeterias Tuesday. Lawmakers struck a lunchtime blow against the French and put "freedom fries" on the menu.

And for breakfast they'll now have "freedom toast."

The name changes follow similar actions by restaurants around the country protesting French opposition to the administration's Iraq war plans.

Here is the full story on the CNN site.

Well, here in Israel, there is no such semantic problem. The French are already pretty much cut out of our culinary vocabulary. Like the British, we refer to fries as "chips" (causing some confusion when you try to distinguish between fries and potato chips ordering food at a restaurant) And French toast, which isn't too popular here anyway, is merely called "fried bread."

One dish that might have had to have its name changed in these parts would be Belgian waffles, considering the extensive hassles Israel is currently having with Belgium trying to prosecute our prime minister for war crimes. But for some interesting reason, long ago, the first Israeli to make Belgian waffles here decided to call them "American waffles." Dubbing anything American around here has always proved a good marketing move: soft ice cream, for example is called "American ice cream."

OK, enough about food: here's my question for Congress -- what are we now supposed to call French kissing?
Another delay...

I know I've been on the record as to wanting to get this inevitable war over with so we can all get on with our lives. But I have to admit that I'm rather glad it doesn't look as if March 17 is the real deadline, and that a short extension of the ever-moving ultimatum seems certain.

Despite all of the Saddam/Haman Purim jokes I've been making, it would really be a shame if the kids didn't get to dress up in their costumes, have their parties and celebrations, etc. My children are so excited about it and looking forward to it, I wouldn't want them to have to spend the holiday at home with Mom glued to CNN.

Monday, March 10, 2003

U.S. to Israel: Shut Up

Both of the major Hebrew dailies -- Yediot and Ma'ariv -- today had headlines at how annoyed the United States government was with the constant public predictions by Israeli political and military figures as to precisely when the attack on Iraq would begin.

They even claimed that the U.S. was not going to give Israel the promised early warning when the attack is imminent, because the indiscreet Israelis don't seem to be able to seal their lips as well as they seal their rooms. U.S. ambassador Dan Kurtzer was all over the media today denying the reports and doing damage control. Even though I am no great believer in the integrity of the Hebrew press, I doubt the reports were utterly off-base, and the government seems to be taking some action in the aftermath of the reports.

While I fully understand the annoyance in American official-dom, they have to understand that we Israelis are darn jumpy these days after months of hearing that war will start any day now and are searching for some certainty. Along with the stories I mentioned above were reports of a leaked memo from the Israeli consulate in New York saying that the too-frequent Israeli predictions of impending war make it look like we're pushing for it to happen. Again, I understand how from a distance, it might look we're all rabidly pro-war cheerleaders, but it's not true. It's just that this thing seems inevitable, and we know that when it happens, our lives will be turned upside down. Can you blame us for wanting to get it over with?
Weighty Matters

I went to my Weight Watchers meeting this morning, and the leader gave the group a pep talk as to how not to turn to food as a way to cope with the stress of possible impending war. It's especially tough, as the Purim tradition is to exchange gift baskets crammed with cookies and chocolate -- so not only is there a reason to eat, there's lots of opportunity.

At a friend's apartment building, there was a sign up in the lobby, asking that people sign up for spots in the building's bomb shelter in case of war to make sure there would be enough room -- they had to note down how many family members would be using the shelters. One of their neighbors, sticklers for honesty, admitted on the list that they were "two fat adults."

Sunday, March 09, 2003

A Little Black Holiday Humor

A common coping mechanism Israelis have is making jokes about just about anything -- even the most tragic events are usually fodder for jokes (true, I never saw any Ilan Ramon jokes but I was told they existed)

Anyway, as it looks as if the Iraq war will be taking place around the time of the Jewish Holiday of Purim, when everyone gets dressed up in costumes Halloween style, the following joke is making the rounds:

Question: What's the difference between Haman and Saddam Hussein?

Answer: With Haman, our enemy was annihilated and then we wore masks to celebrate. With Saddam, we're going to have to wear the masks first, and see him get annihilated afterwards.

For those unfamiliar with the Purim story, and therefore don't get the joke, here's an abridged version of the biblical story.