Saturday, May 03, 2003

Stuff Your Face For Israel

If you live in a major U.S. city today, you can go pig out at a selected kosher restaurant (oops, somehow "pig out" sounds like the wrong slang term to use here) and know that 10 percent of the restaurant's proceeds are going to some worthy Israeli charities. As if Jews need an excuse to eat...

Here are the details -- Thanks, Kesher Talk

Better you all get the calories than I do (it's hot and sunny in Israel right now, bathing suit weather big-time. Everyone I know is on a post-Passover starvation regime. That is, until the Independence Day barbecues.)
The Biggest Online Soap Opera Ever

Boy Meets Girl in Real Life
Boy Falls For Girl, raves about her fabulousness on his Blog
Other Bloggers know this Girl: she is a lying dangerous sociopath
Other Bloggers Warn Boy
Boy Confronts Girl and Cleverly Exposes Her Lies
Boy Licks Wounds and Thanks Blogosphere ("Blogs Save Lives!")
Much more Info and Intrigue About This Nut Comes Out in the Voluminous Comments Section of His Blog Entry

What a story! Truth Beats Fiction Big-time.

Makes me wish the blogosphere was around when I was dating -- and more importantly, reminds me that not only men can be deceitful, lying wackos.

Found at Asparagirl

Friday, May 02, 2003

Tough Times in Ra'anana

Well, I knew this before I had to read about it in the newspaper. The economy is hurting many among the allegedly "rich Americans and South Africans" in Ra'anana. We're a very strange community in that way. There is a communal "everybody knows everyboyd and we're all in this together" feeling because we are all in Israel, we are all clustered together in Ra'anana, we are all English speakers. Yet, we've got people with family fortunes to cushion them in the same social circles as people who were living extremely modestly to begin with, and due to the economic crunch, are now truly struggling. And it's not so simple to pick up and move to a less expensive part of the country. When you've got no family in the country, this community is your family.

I'm personally sad, because there are wonderful families who are such an asset to Ra'anana (and to Israel,) who make it a better place to live for me and my kids, who are leaving the country. It has nothing to do with politics or security: they are willing to put up with all of the other difficulties of living in Israel, but have to go back to the "Old Country" because a decent job beckons there, they simply can't make ends meet here, and are digging themselves deeper into debt. For the record, I completely respect that choice.
The New Blog on the Block

Everyone seems to be discovering the Hasidic Rebel right now. I found him yesterday via Israeli Guy dropped him an E-mail, and he linked me. Now the Head Heeb has managed to call attention to him before I did.
Denial is More Than a River in Egypt

There's a detailed article on the backgrounds of the British suicide bombers in this Independent article (Thanks, Yourish)

You have to read to the end to catch the real gem of a quote by a pal of Asif Mohammed Hanif, who killed three people and wounded more at "Mike's Place" in Tel Aviv.

A friend of Hanif insisted: "He was a very gentle person. He just wanted to improve himself as a human being. He was quiet, not an extremist or anything like that. He didn't have a political agenda, he was more into the spiritual side of Islam."

No, no, not an extremist. Not at all.

The article says that there is debate among those who observed the second would-be bomber on the loose, Omar Khan Sharif, as to whether his explosive belt really malfunctioned, or if he had a sudden attack of common sense, and ditched the belt himself.

Meryl also links to the articles in the British press confirming that these guys had contact with the International Solidarity Movement of Rachel Corrie fame.

And....she links to this post on "The Top Ten More Appropriate Meanings of ISM" by Laurence Simon(I went back and forth as to whether to link to this one about a thousand times. Oy vey, what is a nice well-bred Jewish blogger to do about Amish Tech Support? So utterly tasteless, nasty, totally politically incorrect, over the top -- and yet....really, really sharp and funny.)

Should I Be Thrilled or Distressed?

I've just gotten some really good news. A bigtime blogger, John Hawkins, has named me his "Website of the Day."

The catch? His blog, while well-written and interesting (that's why it's a big-time blog) is Right Wing News (Conservative News and Views) This kind of wreaks havoc with my self-image. I'm Jewish. I'm from Rhode Island, the most Democratic state in the nation. I went to Wesleyan and Columbia Journalism School, both bastions of bleeding-heart liberalism. I've never voted for a Republican in my life (or a right-wing Israeli party since I've lived here.) When I lived in Washington, DC, I had a really awful blind date with John Podhoretz, who didn't want to have anything to do with me after five minutes of conversation revealed that I was not a neocon. After 12 years of devoted service, I was shown the door at The Jerusalem Post by the new conservative cabal that runs the place.

So what are the implications of this endorsement? Will my environmentalist lawyer brother disown me? Will Wesleyan take back their diploma? Will MB never speak to me again?

Despite all this -- I have to admit, that I am quite flattered. Thanks, John.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Let's Clear this Up Now, Once and For All

According to the British Telegraph, these are the backgrounds of the "Mike's Place" suicide bombers, the British citizens who set out to murder U.S. citizens, French citizens, and -- oh, yeah -- some Israelis as well.

Sharif, 27, who is married with two children, was a pupil at Foremarke Hall, the prep school for Repton, before attending a state school in Derby. He became a devout Muslim while living in London, where he attended university, and returned to Derby five years ago following the death of his mother.

Hanif, 21, was a secondary school pupil at Cranford Community College, Hounslow, west London, where he achieved good results in business studies.

Can we establish, once and for all, that it is not the hopelessness, desperation and squalor of life in a refugee camp in Gaza and Jenin that is driving people to blow themselves into bits? That it is a strong, systematic, and dangerous religious ideaology?

This should scare the pants off of Western world. If these British Muslims can be talked into blowing up a Tel Aviv bar, there is no reason why they can't be talked into doing the same in Manhattan or Berlin or their hometown of London. A lot of people were trying to make this point about the September 11 bombers, who also did not grow up under occupation by Israel or anyone else, but I don't think it sank in.

I'm conflicted. In principle, there is nothing I would like better than to see the peace process move forward. But at the same time, I think that if Israel makes big concessions in the face of this kind of terror, it's going to send out a terrible message to the world that this stuff WORKS. And that's going to mean we are going to see more of it in the future, not less of it. Much as I'm loathe to stand with Sharon and co., I will support the government strongly in a stand refusing to make any kind of significant concessions until Abu Mazen and his new government not only condemn terror verbally, but back it up with some real action.

UPDATE: I just found out via Jeff Jarvis that suicide bomber Hanif worked at Heathrow Airport for two years. That makes us frequent fliers feel really secure....
Oh Happy Day!

The strike is suspended.

(If this Blog had audio, you'd hear the Halleluyah chorus playing in the background.)
Tragic Irony

Here is the story of Jack Baxter, 50, an American film-maker who was making a documentary about Mike's Place together with the help of two young filmmakers -- a couple, Josh Padam and his girlfriend, Pavla Fleischer.

"They decided to concentrate on a few main figures - Dominique, the waitress who came here from Paris, who died in yesterday morning's attack; Avi, the guard; a waitress from Finland called Sarah; owner Gal; and Louis, the Arab cook. "We wanted to show the melting-pot in the pub, the joie de vivre, the family atmosphere. Dominique talks about how it is to live in the shadow of terror in Israel and says she sometimes went to the site of an attack to feel how life goes on."

The three film-makers were at a table outside the pub on Tuesday night, taking occasional shots. The couple got up to dance. "The atmosphere was incredible. The band, most of whom we all knew, were playing Blues and people were dancing. It was great fun. Then we heard the blast. When we ran out, we found Jack lying wounded on the floor."

Fleischer is afraid but says she will remain in Israel to finish the film. "We are not sure which way to continue. Jack wanted a movie about how life is normal here and how people are not afraid. How can we show that message now? The camera filmed something else."

Jack Baxter is lying in intensive care in serious condition.

Here is the obituary of a 24-year-old musician who was killed in the bombing.

And here is more on Mike's Place.

On the news tonight, they said that the security forces caught FOUR suicide bombers trying to get into Israel today to carry out attacks.

All I can say is that if this crap doesn't stop, they are going to have to just fold up the Road Map and stick it in the glove compartment, because it will be totally useless.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Warning: Rant Ahead

I KNOW that I should be offering deep and important reflections on the Road Map, yesterday's suicide bombing, and today's violence in Gaza. I will. But I'm having trouble getting past how annoyed I am about this pointless, useless strike.

Obviously, my self-interest lies in the fact that there is no school. Not because it inconveniences me, but because it's not just any week in school, especially for young kids. While I'm not too crazy about teaching the Holocaust to 5-year-olds, I understand that it is part of the story of the creation of the country and fits into the bigger picture of the national history (or the national myth, if you're a lefty academic) -- they do the Holocaust, then they learn about the War of Independence and pay tribute to those who fell to create the country, then they get all happy and celebrate the fact that they have this state and dance around and wave flags.

Bottom line, is that it's a lot of tough stuff for little kids to handle, followed by a "happy ending." But now, after they already hit them over the head with the Holocaust (my kid was playing fugitive Jews the other day with his friend and the babysitter. They didn't make the sitter a Nazi, they made her a good American soldier who liberated them.) the kids miss the rest of the story due to the strike. No fun, no flags, no celebration with their friends at school, not to mention actual learning

But, you know, it's not even the school aspect of the strike that has me the most pissed off. It's the airport. You've got one freaking international airport in a country. I don't care how justified your labor grievances, you don't shut it down. There are people here having weddings and bar mitzvahs and their relatives can't come. There are people with ill relatives abroad who can't get to them. Let's not even talk about the hundreds of schoolkids in Poland for "March of the Living" who may very well be stranded there. They had to make a special exception to be able to fly the relatives of one of the American's wounded in the "Mike's Place" bombing here.

I could go on -- about the flower merchants whose produce is wilting at the closed ports, about the sick people who can't get medical help, about the people on welfare who won't get their checks because the bureaucrats are striking.

Just in case you think this is one woman's opinion, I cannot find one single Israeli in my personal acquaintance -- left, right, or center -- who supports this strike. Even those who oppose the economic plan, don't like Bibi the Finance Minister, and have more than a modicum of sympathy for the government workers whose wages are being cut, or who are being laid off, believe that this strike is the WRONG move at the WRONG time.

It's all about the inflated egos of some of our so-called leaders.
What Will the Queen Say?


Last night's suicide bomber was British.
I've Just Been Accused of Child Abuse

Why? Because I have the audacity to complain about the schools being on strike on the heels of a 19-day vacation. (And it looks as if this strike could stretch beyond a week.) This leaves the majority of two-parent working families with the options of missing multiple work days, bringing kids into the office, or leaving them at home poorly supervised, unless there is a handy grandparent or babysitter, presuming they can afford one.

Elliot Temple left the following comment: Doesn't it seem a bit perverse for a parent to moan and groan that he or she "has to" (gets to!) spend more time with his or her children? And don't you know how much children tend to like breaks from school?

Now he has ceremoniously delinked me from his blog because of my "cruelty to children." (he also didn't like that I let my son go on a field trip without a gas mask after the fall of Baghdad, but before the official "all clear" sign was given.)

Anyone who would like to support me in the position that a month away from school is not something that a working parent who cares about their child's education should celebrate is welcome to do so....

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Mike's Place

"It is one convenience store away from the extremely well secured American embassy. It is owned by two Israeli/American brothers - Assaf and Gal and caters almost exclusively to American expats - tourists, long term residents, embassy staff and even American forces ages 18-80 (literally). Assaf plays the blues in a band called Southbound Train, a band that has given many of us who have spent time in Israel a desperately needed taste of home. He is also a consummate bartender in the "Sam Malone" style.

They throw one heck of a Fourth of July party.

Mike's Place started in Jerusalem where it was the bar of choice amongst a generation of American kids spending their junior year abroad at the Hebrew University. Mike's was one of the only bars to have survived the horrible blow that the Jerusalem (and Israeli) hospitality industry has encountered since the intifada started. Their expansion to a second Tel Aviv location on the beach at a time when there are almost no new bar openings defied conventional wisdom, but was a natural as many of us "seculars" find ourselves spending more time in Tel Aviv.

Do any of you out there know the Talking Heads song "Heaven"? - well that is Mike's Place...everyone knows you, they're always playing your favorite song, but in the end nothing really happens - and that's precisely what is so great.

I really don't know what to say - so many people I know (myself included) have had so many great times there. People have met their wives there. It's the only place where you can see a yeshiva student from LA, an African-American soldier, and an Israeli just back from Thailand sharing a stage belting the lyrics to Sweet Home Alabama "where the skies are so blue." Mike's had become a unique part of the thriving and important live music scene in Tel Aviv that keeps many of us grounded. Hebrew not spoken here, yet frequented by Israelis who love the Americans that hang out there and American culture.

I wish I could have waxed more eloquent, but at this point I'm still waiting to go through that inevitable wince we all get when we first see that the names of the victims have been released. I just hope my buddies are OK...they said something about the security guard having prevented him from going all the way in - but that guy is my buddy.

I don't want to make any accusations about why this bomb went off here and why now. But whoever bombed it knew exactly what this place was and what kind of people were in it. It should give Americans pause to think."

This was posted on Israpundit last night after the place was attacked by a suicide bomber. Mike's Place also has a website.
Now Ruminate THIS

I read blogs that supported the war with Iraq. I read blogs who opposed the war. That's fine. That's freedom of speech.

But what truly bothered me was the dissemination of the disturbing theories underpinning the anti-war polemic, namely the "Jewish neo-cons serving their Likudnik masters by pulling Bush's puppet strings" theory.

Unfortunately, I did not feel equipped with the analytic skill to systematically debunk this one to my satisfaction. But now Georgetown University professor Robert Lieber has done so in a piece titled The Neoconservative-Conspiracy Theory: Pure Myth It was published in the "Chronicle of Higher Education," of all places. (via Israpundit)

The whole thing is well-written, but I'll just leave you with the conclusion:

Ultimately, the neocon-conspiracy theory misinterprets as a policy coup a reasoned shift in grand strategy that the Bush administration has adopted in responding to an ominous form of external threat. Whether that strategy and its component parts prove to be as robust and effective as containment of hostile Middle Eastern states linked to terrorism remains to be seen. But to characterize it in conspiratorial terms is not only a failure to weigh policy choices on their merits, but represents a detour into the fever swamps of political demagoguery.
How to Drive Parents Insane

Take a holiday like Passover that lasts for a week. Instead of giving kids a week off of school, stretch the thing into a two and a half week vacation. 19 days, not that anyone was counting. Then, after they are back in school for only three days, the nation's teachers go on strike. ACK!
Yom HaShoah

I was on the phone from my home office when the siren went off an hour ago. That is when all Israelis stand silent for a full minute in remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust. It always seems unsatisfying somehow, when I am alone when the siren sounds. It's a moment you want to share with the rest of the country. So I went to the window to check out the construction across the street (they are building a PARK!) All of the workers had climbed off of their equipment and stood quietly.

This is the first year that my son, who is six, really "gets" the Holocaust -- not the details -- there's plenty of time for that -- but the concept. So this was the first year we made the family connection for him. He already knew that his grandmother's father -- my husband's grandfather -- died when he was only 33 years old, but didn't know the circumstances. Yesterday, my husband explained to my son that his great-grandfather died in the Holocaust. He was taken from my mother-in-law's home in the middle of the night in Strasbourg, France, when she was a little girl, and she never saw him again.

The Holocaust is so much more tangible in Israel than it was growing up as an American Jew, and not just because the whole country recognizes it. My family, and the vast majority of the Jewish families around me in New England immigrated from Europe at least a decade before WWII. So the Holocaust was something that happened to "the Jews over in Europe," and while it COULD have happened to us, and maybe it did happen to great-granduncles and aunts we never met or knew about, there wasn't really a personal connection. When you meet a Holocaust survivor in the U.S. it is an event, something special and unique, as it was for me later in life when I made friends from New York whose parents were survivors.

Here, in Israel anyone could be a survivor and often is. Or if they are younger, they know that they, or their friend, or their next-door neighbor lost grandparents and great-grandparents in the Holocaust, people with faces and names. I think this makes the whole thing much more real for children at a younger age.

Here are links to Yad Vashem and to the Holocaust History Project.

Never Forget.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Making Some of You More Famous Than You Already Are....

Check out my article on Israeli blogging on the website that is my "real job," Israel 21c. My apologies to those Israeli bloggers who didn't get a mention due to space constraints. Israel is the focus of the website, but I'm really interested in writing a wider piece on Jewish life in the blogosphere. Maybe I will pitch it to one of the Jewish-interest magazines I write for. If you like what you see on Israel 21c and want to be updated weekly, don't forget to sign up for the newsletter.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Big Sandstorm in Middle East Blogland

It all started when a blogger named Aziz at a blog called Unmedia stated as fact the allegation that Israel was trying to develop a genocidal bioweapon that would kill Arabs and not Jews. Needless to say, many, many bloggers were out there saying that even if Israel were to wish to do such a thing, which it wouldn't, it is completely and utterly impossible.

Judith at Kesher Talk offers a good wrapup of the point and counterpoint. In all of the yakking, no one seems to be able to come up with the original London Sunday Times report cited as the source of the story.