Saturday, May 17, 2003

Bad Way to Start the Day..

It's only 7 in the morning here, I turn on my computer and read that there was a suicide bombing in Jerusalem, -- following the bombing in Hebron last night -- and that Sharon has postponed his trip to the U.S. . And we still haven't had time to process the attacks in Casablanca on Friday night. It's pretty clear what the mood of the day is going to be around these parts.

Can I go back to bed now?

Actually, there is one good thing about today -- it's the birthday of a very special guy, who has made a crucial contribution to the world, and without whom, this blog would not be possible.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Mike's Place Update

"The lyrics of the song "Ain't Found A Way to Kill Me Yet" took on special meaning at Mike's Place. There was electricity in the air. Aviv Tabib, the guard who stoped the suicide bomber two weeks ago, left the hospital for two hours, and climbed on the small stage of the pub. He and his friend on guitar, sang the words that Avi always liked, but now he was living. You could tell in his voice that the song was giving him strength.

The whole way from the hospital to the bar, Avi, 32, was afraid. But he was determined to see the place. "I have to got to Mike's Place before I go visit my parents and the rest of my family. This is something I want to do. I have to deal with it."

He got out of the car and looked at the place, a little shocked that everything looked the same. But then he noticed the memorial corner for the victims. The picture of the three wh were killed -- Dominique Hess, Yanai Weiss, and Ran Baron. His knees weakened as he touched the picture of Dominique. He choked with tears. Afterwards he rose and turned to his friends and hugged them."

These are translated excerpts from an article in today's Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot. Alongside it is an article reporting that Catherine, the sister of Dominique Hess is having trouble with the Israeli security services in getting permission to visit the country from France, becuae she is a member of an anti-globalization group that is pro-Palestinian. According to the Interior Ministry, which arranges visits by family members of terror victims, she was going to come on her trip accompanied by members of her group and they were worried about "provocation." According to the paper, they've given Catherine permission to come in, but not her group members -- subsequently the Hess family is postponing their trip.

There is no mention of an interesting if bizarre article that appeared yesterday in the competing daily Hebrew paper, Ma'ariv. That paper had a picture of a "Mike's Place" victim, David Ben-Elisha, who just became conscious, and lost his arm in the blast. He challenged the standard story that it was Avi the guard who prevented the British bomber from entering the pub. He says he remembers clearly noticing the two bombers sitting outside, and admiring the belt on one of them. He was going to ask the guy if he was willing to sell or trade his stylish belt. Ben-Elisha claims that he saw the men get up and head for the door to the club, and approached the belt-wearer, greeting him looking at his mid-section -- and the man detonated.

He says he has nothing against Avi the guard, who cannot remember the details preceding the blast -- but that this is what happened, and that it was his approach that stopped the bomber from detonating inside the club, not the guard's.

It's hard to believe he would make something like this up. Who would wake up in a hospital missing an arm, and begin concocting false stories in order to garner publicity? But stranger things have happened, I suppose.

If it's true, it is a pretty wild tale. What do you think would have gone through the suicide bombers' mind if the guy had actually managed to ask him, "Hey, wanna swap belts?"

Regarding the song that Avi sang with the words "Ain't Found a Way to Kill Me Yet," the paper says in Hebrew that the name of the song is "Rooster"..? I'm not up to speed on music so I'm not sure who sings it, or what all the lyrics are, but the article says that it's become Avi's theme song.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Hmmm....Holocaust Rap???

"Never again shall we walk like sheep to the slaughter/ Never again shall we sit and take orders/
Stripped of our culture, robbed of our names/ Raped of our freedom and thrown into the flames.

This is the work of a rapper named Remedy, who I'd never heard of (no surprise there) who is currently visiting Israel, along with his pal, Killah Priest, Ha'aretz reports.

"Killah Priest, a smiling black rapper who quotes from the Bible in almost every sentence, considers the visit a spiritual experience of the highest degree. He called his second album "A View from Masada," and is now very excited about his planned visit to the site. As a guest at the Army Radio studio this week, he bombarded all those present with trivia questions about Bible stories. Remedy is a Jewish rapper who writes words dealing with the Jewish tradition."

I particularly enjoyed the description of Remedy's dad, Menahem Filler.

"One moment he conducts tough talks with the Israeli organizers about performance conditions and payment, and immediately afterwards he adopts the image of an American senior citizen, who wants only to drink orange juice at the beach in the Land of Israel. He knows all the ins and outs of the American rap world, but explains that he does it only out of concern for his son, so that he won't work too hard. When Remedy mentions Eminem, his father is horrified: "Oy, I wouldn't let you enter the house if you sang like that about your mother. Disgraceful."

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Yes, Yes, I Thought the Same Thing!

LGF on the Saudi bombing:

"Is it just me, or is the media being incredibly blasé about this story? Shouldn’t this be major news? Why are the networks still dwelling on the Laci Peterson case?"

When I heard about the attack on the Israeli media, I turned on CNN, Fox News, etc, and expected Iraq-style blanket coverage. And there was nothing, it was just another news item. I didn't get it.
Does Supporting Israel Automatically Mean You Are Right-Wing?

That is a question that has been haunting me, since I started this blog, and found that the majority of the other bloggers who were attracted to my site and interested in what I had to say were right-wing Republicans, a category in which I have never put myself. Something that has helped me think it through is this Op-Ed titled "Builders and Defenders" by writer and blogger Michael Totten, which partially helped explain the phenomenon to me.

Here are some excerpts:

After September 11, I discovered an intellectual weakness on the left that I never noticed before. For some reason, perhaps for several reasons, liberals and leftists are bored by the outside world. Compared with conservative magazines, publications like The Nation and The American Prospect rarely feature articles about what happens in other countries. They'll do it occasionally, but almost always in the context of how it relates to America......This is a broad generalization and there are, of course, lots of exceptions. The New Republic and Dissent both publish excellent analyses of international relations and foreign policy. You can learn a lot about history and current events abroad by reading these magazines. And it isn't all filtered through a partisan lens. But look at other left magazines like The Nation. Foreign policy is unmentioned except as an excuse to whack the Bush administration. Read The Weekly Standard and National Review and you can easily find articles about, say, China or Iran. Many of these articles could easily have appeared in The Nation or other left magazines, and yet they didn't. Presumably the editors are bored with the subject, or their writers don't know enough to write about it....I am astonished and dismayed to discover this. I'm a lifelong liberal and I devour history like food. Not until after September 11 did I learn I'm a minority on the left...It's easy to find writers on both the left and the right who lack historical knowledge. But I find this far more often on the left. This is not a partisan point I'm making. I've been on the left forever, and I have no reason whatever to shill for the right. I have little interest in what National Review says about labor unions, taxes, abortion, the death penalty or the environment. I read those articles occasionally because I need balance, and sometimes the magazine makes good points. But I rarely agree as a whole no matter how well-written the article. The pieces on Iraq, though, are indispensable. The Nation has nothing informed or accurate to say on that subject. Its writers usually ignore it completely. And because they ignore it, because they don't study it, when they do pipe up they tend to get everything wrong.

Well, one can't exactly say that the left IGNORES Israel and the Palestinians. But they do tend to lay low and jump in only when Israel does something extreme, like last year's Jenin incursion, and screw up the facts as well as ignoring the entire background and context of the event.

Totten goes on to explain that:

Liberals are builders and conservatives are defenders. Liberals want to build a good and just society. Conservatives defend what is already built and established. This is what the left and the right are for. What draws a person to one or the other is more a matter of personality than anything else.

Israel, at the moment, is in the position of trying to defend what is built and established -- perhaps that's the source of all the conservative sympathy. The Palestinians are "struggling" to "build a good and just society" -- hence the identification of the left.

The fly in the ointment is, of course, that their first steps to building that society -- the Palestinian Authority -- hasn't been all that "good and just," both in how they are treating their own people, and their aid and support to terrorists.

All of this makes things a bit complicated for someone who is trying to reconcile being pro-Palestinian in the traditionally politically correct sense of the word. And when a foreign policy issue becomes all mucky and complicated like that and not simplistically "good versus evil" -- then Totten is correct -- the left does tend to back away from the subject and decide to focus on domestic matters instead.

I still haven't completely thought this all through and I'm still not quite sure what the long-term implications are for Israel on this. I do know that it makes me very uneasy to think that supporting Israel is somehow evolving into a simplistic partisan position.
Have Some Hot "Coffee"

Laura is on a roll with some terrific posts -- here's one:

"So, how come we never hear stuff like this when it's Israelis being blown up?

Terrorist attacks in Riyadh draw swift condemnation from around the world

U.S. President George W. Bush vowed to "find the killers" and teach them "the meaning of American justice."

Funny. He didn't say that after American citizens were blown to pieces at Hebrew University. Instead, we got:

President Bush condemned the bombing "in the strongest possible terms," and said it was perpetrated by "killers who hate the thought of peace."
He condemned it. But he wasn't going to do anything about it.

"Those responsible for this horrible and barbaric act of terrorism should be prosecuted and brought to justice," the European Union said in an announcement issued in Athens.

Oh, the EU said that? Nothing about ending the cycle of violence? Nothing about how both sides need to work to reach a common agreement? Nothing about how Saudi Arabia should consider giving the terrorists - er, militants - some land, in exchange for "peace." Nothing about how the USA has to do anything to appease the bombers. Nothing about how they were provoked by poverty, hunger, homelessness, hopelessness, or even the heartbreak of ...never mind."

Go to her blog for the relevant links in this post. And check out this great rant as well.
Israel Has Mothers and Children....and Statistics, too, I Thought....

I was reading in Alas, A Blog about the Mother's Day survey by Save The Children on the state of mothers and children in various countries, and the left-right debate that it created in the blogosphere . I decided to go check out how Israel was doing, and -- surprise -- Israel was nowhere to be found on the list. Before crying anti-Israel bias, etc. etc. etc., I took a closer look and noticed that some other fairly high-profile countries were also not there: Great Britain, Germany, and Italy, just to name three.

The Save the Children FAQ said that "the only basis for excluding countries was insufficient or unavailable data." Presumably, if a country decides not to publish data regarding the health and mortality rates of their women and children they are not included. It seems pretty puzzling to me that such statistics were available from only 19 "developed nations," but were obtainable from 98 "in the developing world." If anyone thinks they know the reason, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003


Read the Hasidic Rebel talking about what it's like to live in a community in which you have to sneak around hiding the fact that you've rented a movie from Blockbuster, as if it's porn. The corrupt movie the guy wanted to watch? Ben-Hur. Starring that king of degradation, Charlton Heston. This blog is really fascinating stuff. I'm waiting for the first female Hasidic Rebel blogger to emerge.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Israel's New Ambassador of Babe-a-liciousness

MTV Europe has chosen its second VJ ever from Israel. Her name is Becky Griffin. If her name doesn't sound very Israeli, it's because she came here from the U.S. when she was 10, when her dad moved over here to play professional basketball.

She really is a gorgeous girl, and obviously speaks English well enough to master the cool MTV idle chatter. Here's a picture I found of her inserted in a Hebrew article --you can just ignore the writing and scroll down to the image.

Sorry, they didn't pick you, Harry. Better luck next time.

Just Some Bloggers Sitting Around Chatting About the Middle East

If you want to see me discuss the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Road Map with a group of bloggers, most to the right of me, and one way to the right of THEM, check out the special panel that John Hawkins of Right Wing News organized right here. One of the participants, Ben Shapiro, seems to believe that mass transfer of the Palestinians is the one and only solution to all of Israel's problems. This guy made Hawkins and Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs look moderate. He make me look like Rachel Corrie.

Jonathan Edelstein and I have discussed the perils of the precarious centrist position on the conflict -- you get called a bleeding-heart self-hater by the right and a fascist occupying force by the left.

I rarely pull out the fact that I LIVE in Israel when debating the politics, but I was sorely tempted to when Ben Shapiro started vilifying all Israeli Arabs as hating Jews and the state and wanting to kill us all. I felt too dopey saying things like, "I know some really nice Israeli Arabs" in the middle of a heated political argument, so I let it drop.

But I thought of him today: I had a flat tire, and went to my local tire place where all of the workers are Israeli Arabs. My six-year-old son dropped his can of apple juice on the ground, and one of the workers didn't just pick it up and wipe it off, he walked across the parking lot and carefully washed it under a faucet. Then another one took out a box of cookies, opened it, and offered it to my kids.

I thought how intolerable my life would be if I truly believed as Shapiro did that this was all a big act, and that these young men were all harboring murderous thoughts and truly wanted to be banging my kids over the heads with their tools instead of handing them cookies.

It's so much easier to just throw up your hands, and take an extreme position -- right or left -- when you aren't actually living in the country. You can say, "Yup, all Arabs are scum, let's just kick them all out," or you can say, "Israel is a big failure, the Jews should just pack it in" and then go on with your life in New Jersey. We Israelis (and Palestinians) have to get up every morning and face the consequences of this stuff, it's not just fodder for blogging or material for the talking heads on the Today Show to debate.

The good thing about discussing this stuff via chat instead of live and in person is that you can't raise your voice or use an obnoxious or sarcastic tone when you are typing. And you can't really interrupt people. Everyone gets to finish their sentence, even if it's all read kind of simultaneously and out of sequence.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

The Re-Opening of "Mike's Place"

“Just a little more than a week after the terror attack, “Mike’s Place” on the Tel Aviv boardwalk is full of life. The sounds of the blues fill the place, the crowd moves to the beat on the new wooden floor, and a few girls get up to dance on top of the tables.

Eli Ben-Yosef, a 77-year-old character with a yarmulke on his head with dreadlocks hanging down, is dancing, as usual, on the walkway in front of the bar and is handing out colorful stickers.

“It gives me a good feeling,” he explains. Some of the people who were injured severely in the attack still have a mark on their arms on the spot where Eli put a sticker that night.

There are some places that never managed to come back to life after a terror attack. People simply didn’t come.

“Mikes’ Place” by contrast, was packed as it reopened just a week after it was hit. Many people returned there: bartenders who had not worked there in years but have come back to help out in a time of need.

One young man who frequented the club for the two years he lived in Israel, hopped on a plane from London after he heard the news and came to the bar to show his support. There are tourists who are coming to “Mike’s Place” straight from the airport. People who used to hang out there once a week are coming every night.

After sitting shiva at the home of the club’s owner, Gal Gunzman, the team that runs the place returned to work, minus Dominique Hess, the waitress who was killed, without the security guard who was injured, and without Yanai Weiss and Ran Baron, the musicians who were killed, and without many of the places’ regulars who are still hospitalized. Generally, the workers are the ones who create the cheerful atmosphere for the crowd, applauding the musicians. Tonight its the customers who try to offer encouragement to them.

At the entrance sits a new security guard, without a uniform, another veteran worker at the place, and dances to the music, just as Avi, the injured guard used to. “The sweetest revenge is for us to keep going out," he says, "to memorialize those who were killed with our smiles. To remember and never to forget them, but to keep the musical tradition alive.”

Despite the general desire to stay cheerful, sometimes the sadness can't be controlled. One young woman bursts out crying and heads for the memorial corner of the bar. She stands in front of the picture of Dominique and writes in the memory book. Her tears drop pages which are full of affectionate memories for the pretty waitress written in a variety of languages.”

These are excerpts of a long, descriptive article that appeared in today's Hebrew-language "Yediot Aharonot." The translation is mine. I thought it deserved to be translated, as it shows how the spirit of this country can be battered, but not broken. And it's a tribute to the power of music, especially the blues.