Saturday, April 26, 2003

Now I'm REALLY Glad I No Longer Work for a Newspaper

It seems that employers forbidding working journalist to blog is a new trend. Funny that free speech should apply to all except professional reporters.
Odd Desert Blogger Karma

My gosh, this is so, so weird. Yesterday, we had plans to go on a jeep trip and hike in the Negev desert with my hardy sister-in-law who is a nature guide and lives in the southern town of Yeroham. So with my parents who are in from the States and my two kids, I hit the road, braving a sandstorm to meet her in the tiny kibbutz enclave of Sde Boker and set off for the Ein Aqev spring. The roads were empty, visibility was zero, and we felt like the only insane people in the country who decided to travel south in that weather. So now I check the blogs only to find that not only did Imshin head south on the same day on her way to her weekend place in Mitzpe Ramon, but that she stopped at Sde Boker and she already blogged my sandstorm ?!? And the fact that the weather calmed down in the afternoon and it turned out to be a beautiful, if windy day !?! Maybe I saw her and didn't even know it....
Sounds Like the Syrians Have Gotten Their Own Hanan Ashrawi...

Syria has launched a public relations offensive designed to repair its image in the US in the wake of severe criticism by top Bush administration officials.

Damascus dispatched Boutheina Shaaban, director of media relations at the Syrian Foreign Ministry, to Washington and New York.

On Thursday, Shaaban appeared before the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington to defend Syrian support for Hizbullah, its sheltering of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Damascus and to insist that Syria had not provided shelter to Iraqi officials.

OK, so many of the Arabs seem to have figured out that cheerfully articulate youngish women who are truly fluent in English go over better in the international media than grumpy oldish men with accents. Now if only the Israeli government could get that message....
All Parents: Read This So You Can Feel Like Your Kids are Angels In Comparison....

Toddler Twins Go on Rampage, Shed Clothes

PARIS (Reuters) - Two three-year-old twin boys who disappeared from home then reappeared hours later without their clothes had been off wreaking havoc in a neighbor's empty house, French newspapers reported on Thursday.

Police initially feared an abduction by a pedophile when the missing boys were discovered late in the evening walking through their home town of Deols, western France, stark naked and holding a bedside lamp.

But a call from a neighbor to report a suspected burglary revealed the boys had broken into a nearby house and gone berserk, emptying out drawers, bouncing on beds, scribbling on walls and gobbling up orange-flavored vitamin pills.

The twins discarded their clothes after getting covered in shampoo and toothpaste after a rampage through the bathroom, squeezing out bottles and tubes.

They grabbed a bedside light and took it away with them thinking it would help them find their way home in the dark.

The boys' parents will compensate the house owners, daily Liberation said. It did not say how they would punish the twins.

Found the link from childless right-winger Rachel Lucas, who got lots of hate mail after the following comment on the last sentence,

"I don't know, how about some stupor-inducing narcotics? Cripes. Couple of little psychopaths if you ask me. I guess we'd all be calling it a Tragic Tragedy if they'd broken into a house with big mean dogs who proceeded to eat the little freaks. Personally, I'd call it natural selection," adding, "Note to self: Phone gynecologist and schedule tubal ligation procedure ASAP."

Well, even I could tell she was kidding.

I think I have a general blogosphere problem. Even though my basic sympathies lie with the left (the mushy gushy centrist left -- yes, even on matters concerning Israel) so many of the righty libertarian blogs, especially by women, are so sharp and funny, I can't resist them. Examples are Lucas, and Michele and Meryl Yourish. I'm new at the blog thing, so if anyone can point me to snappy, funny, lefty blogs by women, I'd love to check them out. Too many of them are just too overwroughtly earnest and angry, and in a word, annoying.

It leads me to wonder whether I am drifting politically, or whether righty libertarian chicks just naturally have more fun?

I have the guts to admit this in writing, after reading the following over at Wampum, where MB, who is a lefty goddess and a good friend despite very different political viewpoints in many areas, writes the following,

In my first semester in my doctoral program at a very, very, liberal university, all the new anthropology graduate students, regardless of their specialty, e.g., archaeology, cultural, medical, physical, had to participate in a group seminar. It was the first time I really noticed how white liberals could be even more annoying than conservatives. I've noticed some of the same behavior recently in the Lefty Blogosphere.

Since MB was the one who called my attention to the world of blogs in the first place, and helped me set mine up in the second place, my attraction to the righter side of the female blogosphere has made me feel like I have betrayed her somehow....after she wrote this, I feel slightly less guilty.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

A Bloggers Trip to Israel?

Cool, come on down! Drinks are on me...
Nicky, I Apologize in the Name of the Jewish People

I know and respect a journalist named Nicky Blackburn on a professional level. But I never knew any of this about her. It's an article she wrote for Ha'aretz, describing what it is like to be a non-Jew living in Jewish Israeli society, and how attempting to get an Orthodox conversion was so grueling and upsetting, she gave up. I swear, I think that if I had read this before the last elections, I would have voted for Shinui. Things have got to change around here in this department.

Oh, and I had no idea that she was not Jewish, none. I asked another colleague of hers who read the story if he had known, and neither did he. And it doesn't change how either of us feel about her at all.
I Laughed, I'll Admit It


Dear Lord, I pray for Wisdom to
understand my man, Love to forgive
him and Patience for his moods;
Because Lord if I pray for Strength
I'll beat him to death.

It was E-mailed to a mailing list I'm on, I don't know the original source.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The Definition of Heroism

Would you be willing to lose your life in the course of performing a low-prestige, minimum-wage no-benefits job? Well, that's what happened this morning in Cfar Saba -- a security guard stopped a suicide bomber from entering a shiny new train station and potentially killing a lot of people. The bomber detonated and the guard was killed. What is remarkable is that this isn't remarkable. He isn't the first guard and won't be the last to do this. We're not talking about policemen, or soldiers, or any other official job with a fancy uniform and a good pension. We're talking about someone who is likely doing this because they can't find a job in the profession they really want to work, and desperately need a paycheck. And yet, when push comes to shove, they put their lives on the line -- and often lose.

My appreciation and respect for these people knows no bounds.

I can't wait to see what the shiny new Palestinian cabinet has to say about this one to groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Here's a suggestion: "We condemn such actions in no uncertain terms. No matter how justified a cause, nothing -- we repeat, nothing -- justifies these means. Not simply because they target innocent Israeli civilians as victims, and destroy any possible chance at moving towards pece but because they degrade and exploit Palestinian youth. Encouraging your nation's young people to demonstrate their commitment to their national and religious cause by blowing themselves to bits is horrific and unforgivable."

This is Abu Mazen's chance. Now that U.S. and Egyptian pressure got him the leverage against Arafat that he wanted, let's see if it was worth anything. Let's see if Abu Mazen and his security chief Dahlan lift a finger to stop this kind of thing. If they don't -- well, then the vaunted Road Map is just going to be another road to nowhere.
They've Kissed and Made Up

That's Arafat and Abu Mazen, of course. Actually, they held hands and made up, according to Ha'aretz:

Arafat announced an end to the standoff at his headquarters, sitting at the cabinet table flanked by Suleiman and Abu Mazen, who had not met with Arafat since Saturday. The Palestinian leader, known for his theatrical gestures, held hands with the two men as he declared the argument had been put to rest.

Suleiman is Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian Intelligence, who brokered the deal. That is, he brokered Arafat's caving in and letting Mohammed Dahlan be the PA's head of security, which Yasser did not want to happen. By brokering, we probably mean that it was Suleiman who passed on the message that if he didn't let Abu Mazen go ahead and appoint a cabinet, he was going to be in big-time hot water with the Americans, who want to push full-steam ahead with the famous Road Map.

Too Beautiful Outside to Blog

I suppose I'll have to get a WiFi laptop so I can blog while out on the porch. We're having a glorious Passover vacation weatherwise. The kids are on vacation and my parents are visiting from the U.S. so we are partaking of the entrenched tradition of vacation daytripping. We went to Israel's latest attraction, "Mini-Israel" where you get to see the whole country in miniature. It was our second time and our kids were wild about it. The place was jammed: they put an announcement on the radio for people to stop coming there because they ran out of parking. Though the place was clearly dreamed up to attract foreign tourists, all of the visitors these days, obviously, are Israeli (with the exception of my parents who are part of the hard core of what I call "the last tourists" -- people who won't let terrorism stand in the way of quality time with their grandchildren.)

My parents enjoyed it but were a bit mystified as to why so many Israelis would want to see replicas of sites in their own small country that they could easily travel to see themselves. One can understand how Epcot Center saves people a lot of expense and flight miles by providing faux Paris and London and China. But much of the time, the Mini-Israel exhibits just save a few hours of driving time. Mini-Israel is in between Ra'anana and Jerusalem, so we continued on to Jerusalem for a Passover feast at my mother-in-law's house.

Yesterday we stayed local, enjoying the fabulous park here in Ra'anana which would be the envy of any town of 65,000 in the United States -- tons of climbing toys, slides, bike paths, trampolines, a mini-zoo, a lake with a cafe beside it, an amphitheater, numerous sculptures, and a little train that takes you on a tour of the whole place. It's a bit controversial, as the current policy is to charge a users fee to those who enter who are not residents of the town, and residents of neighboring towns, together with environmental groups have taken Ra'anana to court, charging discrimination.

Today, we'll probably head up the coast to Caesaria, and on Friday we're going on a jeep trip in the Negev. Whenever my parents make it over here, I do this metamorphosis into Julie the Cruise Director. Never a dull moment.

Anyway, bottom line message to the wider world: it's lovely weather in Israel, everyone is outside enjoying themselves, forgetting about the lagging economy and the dicey diplomatic and security situation, glad to get have packed away the gas masks and dumped the plastic sheeting (my town has a place that you can bring it for recycling.)

And if we must bring up politics, our role is pretty much on the sidelines at the moment, watching Arafat and Abu Mazen grappling for power. Until that situation resolves itself, there's not a lot we can do. If Arafat can't reach an agreement with his own prime minister, how could he possibly reach one with us?

If Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are on some remote South Pacific island right now sipping mai tais, now would be a good time for Arafat to join them.

Update: Glorious, glorious day. Toured the Roman city of Caesaria, followed by hours of lounging on a beautiful Mediterranean beach. Yup, life is tough in a war zone.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Here's a Riddle....

Who is more sick and tired of Yasser Arafat at the moment, Israel or Abu Mazen?
The IDF Does Not Get a Passover Vacation

Security forces have arrested 10 would-be suicide bombers and their recruiters in the West Bank since the beginning of Pessah, thwarting a number of suicide bombings planned over the holiday. The country was on high alert over the holiday after authorities received 62 warnings of planned terrorist attacks in Israel.

This news story, of course, gets buried as the international media reports every detail of yesterday's raid into the Rafah refugee camp. So once again, the world will get the impression that we go into Gaza refugee camps just for the sport of it, because we love risking our soldier's lives and we are so evil and bloodthirsty, we think it's fun to raid Palestinian neighborhoods. At least CNN and company do bother to mention that caches of ammunition were found in the raid, as well as the tunnels being used to smuggle the arms in from Egypt. (Speaking of CNN, don't miss this great spoof as to how that network would have reported the story of Passover.)

Now, finally can someone please tell these throngs of suicide bombers that Tom Friedman has announced that the "terrorism bubble" has burst? It's over, he says. When the New York Times declares something is out of fashion, that's the final word. So let's stop these dangerous shenanigans, shall we? They're not cool anymore.

Blogging is Risky Business in Iran

Apparently, the Iranian authorities have recently arrested a popular blogger.
A Four-Year Old's Question...

My daughter has asked a question that I'm not sure how to answer. After being spoon-fed the stories of the two most recent Jewish holidays in her nursery school in a Reform Temple (in ISRAEL, folks...) she wants to know, "Who was more evil, Haman or Pharoah?" I'm apt to say Haman, after all, Pharoah inherited the job of oppressor from his dad, kind of like Uday and Qusay. Haman took the initiative in his plot to off the Jewish people. If any of you Biblical scholars out there have a strong opinion on the subject, I'd love to hear it.
I Have Nothing Clever to Say Today....

My brain cells seem to be fogged up from the ingestion of so many carbohydrates and fats in such a short amount of time, compounded by extended exposure to children on vacation. We spent Tuesday-Saturday in Jerusalem at my in-laws with extended family, which includes NINE children aged 11 and under. My ears are still ringing. My four-year-old daughter was traumatized by the concept of Elijah the Prophet for whom the door is opened during the Passover seder. For three days, everytime we opened the door of the apartment to go outside, she asked if Elijah had gone home or if he was still lurking in the hallway.

We had a great time day-tripping on Friday, the one non-holiday, non-Shabbat day we were all together. We went to the biggest sand dune in Israel, alongside Ashkelon, and the kids slid and rolled down the big mountain and had a great time. Then we had a picnic on the grass alongside the Ashkelon public beach. Next to us on the grass were a bunch of African-American kids doing breakdancing and acrobatics, mixed together with white Israeli kids, all speaking a mixture of English and Hebrew. The African-American kids were clearly from the Black Hebrew enclave in the southern town of Dimona. There also seemed to be some Ethiopian Jewish kids mixed in. All and all, a nice interracial salad of children having fun and getting along.

The kids are home from school till the end of the week, and my parents are flying in from the U.S. today for an impromptu week-long visit. Got back late last night and there is tons of laundry to do and household chores to catch up on. Needless to say, blogging will be intermittent this week.