Friday, July 29, 2005

More English and un peu francais

There are now reports filtering through that the unlucky Brazilian national did not in fact jump the barrier at the Tube station and was not wearing a heavy coat. The investigation may well come down to jittery police rather than silly behaviour by the man in question. UPDATE: He might well have run because his UK visa had expired.

In light of that whole story, I had this sad little photo (above) sent to me today. I'm just not too sure if it's real - you never can tell these days. Read what others are saying about it. (Make sure to find the comment that adds that there was a similar notice at Canary Wharf recently which read something like: "Do not leave bags unattended, especially if you are of Middle Eastern appearance".

I wanted to query you all about a related issue - that is, the footage being slowly released (or found) of the London bomb attacks on July 7th. Israel has had to do its own evaluation over the last 10 years or so about what 'bloody' footage and the like to show on TV (especially Israeli TV). Obviously (and sadly, but importantly) the blood and destruction does have its PR effect. The UK on the other hand, showed almost nothing of the train damage or injured people, people screaming, running etc. I understand that ABC (US) has now pubished some footage from inside the trains. UK Police are asking bloggers to stop republishing the photos (which include photos of the bombs found in cars) because of the interference it may have with their investigation. So you won't find a link from here at least... (what a good boy I am!)

Regardless, what do you think? Is there benefit from showing the dead, the injured, the body parts and the blood left behind? (Click 'Comments' below).

Et maintenant, un peu francais! The last few days of smiles and backslapping between Arik Sharon and President Chirac would make the world wake up and take notice - if only they could really believe that it was all with good intention. Frankly and frenchly, I am a big believer in maintaining and building strong allies and political friends even at the risk of sacrificing one's own priorities at home. I know how much some of you will be looking at me sideways right now. Maybe that's because we are talking about France who has been a traditional Arab ally for some time now and in that regard I can add my own scepticism.

It's fair to say though that Chirac is saying some very warming and comforting things. They come at a vital and testing time for Sharon. It feels good to hear it from the mouth of a European leader. And yet, I feel as do these analysts, that all this renewal of French-Israel relations has had a lot of sugar added to make it taste all sweet.

But why be cynical all the time? Israeli diplomatic achievements do continue to appear. After Israel's UN Ambassador was recently elected to position of Deputy Security-General of the UN General Assembly, it is very pleasing to see that another Israeli has been elected to an important UN position, this time to the deputy chairmanship of the United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC).

And that's a positive way to go into the weekend here in Israel. (Enjoy the Tri-Nations everyone).

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Double-Deckers & Deja Vu

As a public sign of what we have been seeing here for a while now, the double-decker Jerusalem tourist bus is back on the roads. This is the cherry on the cake of greatly improved tourism to Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular. I am not sure whether the return of tourists and students on programs has been simply due to the fairly step decline of SUCCESSFUL Palestinian terrorism. I prefer to believe (with some reason I think) that those truly supportive or intrigued by this Land have decided to stick with it and give it a go, in the knowledge that terrorism probably won't disappear for a while yet.

Regardless, it is a good sign that follows in the footsteps of new restaurants, ice cream parlours and clothes shops that seem to be popping up afresh around Ben Yehuda Street and so on.

Still, it's not all ice cream and smiles! I have had this peculiar deja vu feeling enveloping my thoughts lately. So often I've heard people greater than myself talking about how Israelis and Palestinians fail to make peace because they fail to understand eachother's cultures, electorates and expectations. Many commentators argue that this is indeed what ultimately led to the failure at Camp David in 2000.

Frankly, I do not think either side have learnt very much since then though it's not as if the 'classroom atmosphere' has been very conducive to learning.

But take a look at comments coming out this week and you begin to feel that the region's leaders barely understand their own electorate and its downfalls. President Abbas is demanding that Gaza's Disengagement be followed by others. And if not, Sharon will be to blame for any disturbances that occur subsequently in the region or worldwide. (Sounds like a badly hidden doomsday almost al-Qaida-like threat to me). And then there's PM Ahmed Qureia who has been keeping the people happy with "Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem. Disengagement is only the first stage of a longer battle". Sound familiar? UPDATE: Qureia also quoted as saying: "a state will not arise without our achieving all the rights of our Palestinian nation and the right of return". And what is that about freeing of the entire homeland?

And while Israel is taking some steps in what many consider the right direction, I wonder what will come of Sharon's promises to Ariel this week, that it will always be a part of the State of Israel. Seeing as he said that about Gaza too, I question whether anyone on the left or the right would be moved by such comments. And yet, it might place expectations at a level which is unhealthy for Israel and its neighbors in the future.

At the end of the day, like in 2000, these comments - in particular those by Palestinian leaders who seem content on unfairly raising the expectations of their people - will come back to haunt us when such goals are not or can not be reached in one, two or ten years from now. We've seen the disappointment and incitement materialize into Palestinian terrorism and equally (but differently) we are now seeing how much damage misleading Israeli expectations can do to the unity of a people.

Whatever my political view and wherever you stand, we should be demanding a little more leadership and responsibility by the leadership. Abbas & Qureia will achieve nothing by providing false or at least difficult dreams. Sharon and friends too should learn to 'call a spade a spade' and not present reality to suit their political ends alone.

It's the way of the politician I know. Damn shame that!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Do You Speak English?

If it wasn't for al-Qaida, Livingston and friends, I would have thrown this spicy article at you a few weeks ago. Nonetheless, have a read now and and then come back here and keep KIC-ing on...

So I decided to present this article to the group at Ulpan Etzion last night to whom I facilitate a Current Affairs session each week. I was desperate to know whether it was just me, or whether this article is in fact incredibly out of place in a mainstream newspaper's website. Yediot is one of the big dailies in Israel. It is not a tabloid or a gossip magazine for sure, but this little piece makes it read like one.

Most of the olim at the Ulpan tended to agree with me - that such material should not be published in your local daily, taken home to millions of Israelis each day and that lies around for kids and teenagers to read. More than that, it is published in English on the Internet for everyone to say - "Hmmm that's the Israeli view on life then". Internet readers who would include the Jew looking for the latest Disengagement news, or the potential immigrant, the student doing research or the surfing anti-Semite.

There just seems to be something unhealthy and even unwholesome about the article. In a country where we hoped to be different and separate ourselves from Western society's fascination with sex and the like, I wonder whether we could at least let Israeli teenagers (and adults) discover temptations without providing provocative cheerleading from what is a respected news publication. Sure, it's a column on 'Singles' but still...

The English speaker might be gold according to Ram Gilboa but frankly his article fails to appear on my medal table of top opinion pieces.

Take a look at the feedback posted below his article and add a comment to this KICblog so we know what you think...

Away from picking up tourists, PM Sharon is off to President Chirac in Paris today for what is billed as more than a small warming of relations. As this article reports, Israel appears to be benefiting internationally as a result of Sharon's bold but controversial Disengagement Plan. The benefits were illustrated pointedly last week when the UN Security Council (including France!) rejected a Palestinian request to hold a session to discuss Israel's Security Fence. This was a very refreshing stance taken by 4 of the 5 permanent Council members who hold veto powers.

Yet, I am not convinved. We are all well aware that the Israeli media and world leaders are being 'kind' to Sharon's government right now in order to see off threats to the Disengagement Plan. We've unwillingly played this diplomatic game in the past and I imagine the rules of the game are going to return to normal come post-Disengagement. Israel will again be placed under pressure to concede and to surrender even in the face of terror even when other countries swear that they never will.

I'm never sure whether we should take too much notice of world leadership. Still, that leadership appears to hold great sway with Israel's leaders and therefore such a UN Security Council decision deserves some recognition (and sense of satisfaction) even if it might not be a sign of truly brighter diplomatic days ahead.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Orange Coincidence

"We are also against the expulsion" - obviously an imaginative
Israeli tourist on tiyul in Thailand making use of the locals
to boost orange morale back home.
Read the latest KICpost below...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Will they learn from Jean?

I prepared a non-terror related post for the KICblog last Thursday, only to have it placed on the backburner while the world continues its terrifying spiral towards who knows what. The families of Jean Charles de Menenez and 88 people in Sinai will tell you all about the spiral.

Jean became the lastest victim of terror on Friday morning when UK police shot him dead after he bolted and rushed for a train, having been followed from the residence he left in the morning. He was not the suicide bomber that they had assumed.

All this leaves me sad but still extremely frustrated! You see I can fully understand the pressure that UK security services are under right now. Terrorists roaming London and any number of others working on future attacks. It does not excuse or justify the killing of the innocent in any way but it helps us to sympathize and understand.

What frustrates me is the world's inability or unwillingness to understand the constant pressure and threats that Israeli forces face. Take the case of Mohammed al-Dura, shot dead by either the IDF or Palestinians early in this 5-year conflict. The world assumed Israel shot him purposely and abused us without ever taking a breath to consider other possibilities.
Then there's the foreign cameraman who darted out of an alley in the middle of a battle between IDF forces and Palestinian terrorists. The IDF shot him dead thinking that the camera he held at his shoulder was in fact a grenade launcher or similar. Sounds very Jean-like to me. What about countless such cases in Iraq? What then with Rachel Corrie?

The death of Jean in London can be and should be equated with the countless instances of IDF mistakes under pressure and stress that have occurred over the years. In addition, when Israel tries to eliminate terror heads by helicopter etc, there should be an understanding on the part of the world that Israel makes mistakes and that some innocents are sadly injured in error. Though we arrest rather than kill when we can, walking in to Jenin or Gaza to arrest terrorists is not particularly easy or safe. The suburbs of London or Leeds are not quite the havens of terror and warfare that we face. Had they been, the UK Royal Airforce would also be adopting helicopter tactics to stop 'ticking bombs', like they have done in Falluja or Baghdad at the cost of thousands of lives. What about Egypt's response to this weekend's atrocities in Sinai? What human rights rules will they be following?

None of this means Israel shouldn't take all steps to avoid civilian loss and this does not condone reckless or illegal actions, but the five bullets fired at Jean should help the world to see our situation in a different light. We don't always have to compare ourselves to the good and bad that exists elsewhere, but it would be nice to be treated equally for once.

Lastly, I can not expect media miracles overnight but when 2 Jerusalem residents were murdered by terrorists last night while driving home from Shabbat with family in Gush Katif, I wonder why that is not covered fully on the world news. Besides, that terror attack killed 200% more people than Thursday's failed attempts in London and caused 500% more injuries. What about the subsequent attack on emergency services who responded to the attack? Maybe I'm kidding myself...

Kidding? You have got to be kidding! Check out the ridiculous (are they serious?) statement by Fatah's al-Aqsa Brigades and Islamic Jihad after last night's murders. "We are still committed to the calm". (Shaking my head in disbelief). Well someone sees the humor in it all...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Kfar Maimon to London - really!

Confused and wild reports coming in from London about more tube explosions, bus explosion and shooting in various areas of the city.

Awaiting further updates and hoping for only better news.

As much as I would like the British people to have more sympathy for Israel's terrorism experiences, sadly Britain seems to be becoming very similar to Israel in the worst way possible.

UPDATE: "He said that a man was carrying a rucksack and the rucksack suddenly exploded. It was a minor explosion but enough to blow open the rucksack," McCracken said. "The man then made an exclamation as if something had gone wrong. At that point everyone rushed from the carriage."

Reports like this and a further hunt for a man with wires protruding from his shirt suggest that London is now up to its Livingston (!) in an Islamic terror campaign to bring the city to its knees. I feel for British citizens because, like all Israelis, I know the fear & anger that such evil campaigns can create.

Like Israelis, (now VERY like Israelis, Mr Livingston), the British will have to quickly adjust and learn to be vigilant and yet remain committed to defeating these people - that is, if you can find them.

Without trying to appear overly confident of our own (somewhat unstable) safety here, it does not take a genius (or a KICblog) to realize that it is going to be a great deal more difficult for the UK, US and friends to track down al-Qaida terrorists than it is for Israel to act against the Palestinian terrorists.
You see, not only is Israel much smaller and easier to defend generally, but the IDF also knows where most Palestinian instigators drink their coffee and smoke their nargila.

It hurts most when the terrorists are your very own born and breed British subjects. So where does Tony Blair start? Which country or should I say, which British city?

I am glad the casualty total is low this time. To what extent do you think that calms the nerves at Downing Street and Scotland Yard?

Your thoughts welcome below...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Kfar Maimon to London

How strange that a small yishuv like Kfar Maimon has suddenly become the center of world attention. London can I understand, even when there are no crocodiles displaying themselves there.

Things are moving so fast here in Israel. Politicians and national leaders have lots to say on the 10000-15000 orange protestors left in the company of a similar number of Israeli security forces. The Supreme Court (sitting as the High Court of Justice) will be sitting on the issue of 'bus blocking' that took place earlier and in the meantime the stand-off continues.

Now according to the media (Israeli and foreign), we are talking about right-wing folk who are getting involved in fisty-cuffs with their brothers and sisters in uniform. No doubt, there have been instances (and a few injuries so far) and there is a wide acceptance that some of the darker orange elements wish to (and do succeed to) promote or create confrontation.

But in essence, (as I type at least) there does seem to be a real sense of respect and brotherhood at Kfar Maimon. Sure it's tense and sure there's some verbal provocation and I can not condone tattooing ID numbers (Shoah-like) on one's arms and similar actions.
Still, the Yesha council is thinking and thinking hard as to the consequences of future actions. Many are now leaving but I understand other Anti-Disengagement crews are on the way.

It is all a little unclear and we will not know the intentions of the police, the government or the protest leaders until something significant happens. The orange crowd may try to march to Gush Katif tonight or they may go home for Shabbos to rebuild. Hard to know really.

What I do know is that we are not hearing it all through the mainstream media. People who were at the protest (you might judge them as lacking objectivity) report that some police and protestors prayed together this morning, that members of each side wish each other good night before bed and when orange teenage girls offered fruit and drink to the police and army staff, the reply was a simple "Lo Toda, Chamuda" - "No thanks, cutey".

You see, these stories re-emphasize the statements of Chief-of Staff Dan Halutz who maintains that we are not each other's enemies and we must not approach the protests and D-Day like that. I agree with him wholeheartedly and only wish all factions would follow that lead.

We have enemies however - some who are more obvious but are busy trying to miss another opportunity, and others who are clearly a few sandwiches short of a picnic or called Ken Livingston. His new statements (of yesterday) that equate Likud with Hamas and justify Palestinian suicide bombers are not so much horrendous as they are bemusing and hard to believe in light of the London attacks. He is clearly attracted to crocodiles and is speaking in complete contradiction to Prime Minister Blair, (although it also took him some time to recognize the Israel-London connection too).

Now that the Knesset has rejected a motion to delay the Disengagement, we should still continue to fulfil our collective responsibility. Let's keep our eye on the ball and not get distracted by placing the 'enemy tag' on our brothers and sisters.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Please Fasten Your Seatbelt

Things are moving so fast here that I'm not sure this KICblog will still be relevant by the time I've finished typing. Needless to say, we appear to be on the fast track to somewhere we may not like very much.

Today's actions by the government to stop the large anti-Disengagement protest threatens to boil over. Things have been boiling for a while now. But I'm talking about the pot falling off the stove and people getting badly burnt. That's not a threat (G-d forbid) - that's my fear!

I can sympathize with Sharon who is positioned between committed anti-Disengagement citizens and the new onslaught of terror rocket and suicide attacks. I appreciate his and the security establishment's desire to keep tens of thousands of protestors out of the range of Palestinian rockets. I understand the Sharon and colleagues wish to carry out these D-Days without the extra interference of thousands of non-resident Gaza dwellers. Some of the extreme right have done stupid and immoral things and democracy will deal with them.

And yet, maybe it's time for Democracy to stand up and shout: "Hey! Remember me?!!"

On an issue that possibly splits Israelis as close to 50-50 as possible, it does appear highly provocative to outlaw the orange people protest and then to take such measures as confiscating bus driver licenses, seizing buses and encircling the town of Netivot to stop the protest getting off the ground. I am therefore not surprised by the statements that are now appearing from Likud rebels and leaders of the anti-D team. It also does not come as a surprise to read in recent mintues of two female IDF soldiers refusing to block the roads to Netivot.

The Government and the Police/IDF on one side and the Orange team on the other - both need to take stock of themselves immediately and re-evaluate as to where they wish to lead their people and all of us for that matter.

Sad really that we are talking about "sides" when in fact we should be one. Whatever side you take, take your helmet with you and fasten your seatbelt.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Love, Hate & The Complete Jew

Olim (immigrants) to Israel often describe their new country as a place they hate to live in but could never bare living anywhere else. How many others can say the same thing about their own State?

Friday saw the continuing saga of our car (purchased 2001) that was in for its second full automatic gear replacement in the last 6 months. The car has been no end of trouble (and expense) since its purchase some 4 years ago. The well-respected (?) European car makers at first demanded we pay 13000 shekels for fixing the gear problem - that is, until we roped in a lawyer.

Anyway, two days ago we received our car back (with working gearbox) and a little extra gift - a ripped hole in the upholstery of the front passenger seat. Of course I immediately notified those in charge. Their reponse - "not our responsibility - of course it must have been there before - maybe your baby seat caused it - what do you want from me?"

Lovely! Just beautiful! What does one do with such people?

So why am I telling you this story? Well it's part of the KICview - that is, KIC sessions look at Israeli society as well as politics, disengagement and things that go bang in the night.
Tomorrow I am starting my weekly Current Affairs sessions with my fifth group of olim at Ulpan Etzion. In the past, I have raised these 'difficult Israeli experiences' with my students and it does help them integrate into society and to see Israel as it really is, outside the youth movement and the Aliyah brochure.

So what's the problem? The problem is that on Friday night I discovered the man from the car business sitting in front of me in shule. Having had a heated exchange 6 hours earlier, this raised some great discomfort.

This is Israel in its truest and most frightening reality! Israel does have a famous amount of opportunities for arguing and yelling at people in the street, in the government office, in your car, at the supermarket... everywhere! It's a horrific situation whereby the person you gave a quick abusive driving lesson to hours earlier, ends up being the mohel (person who circumcizes)at your nephew's brit milah (circumcision) or the man who runs the bakery down the street. And worst of all, the stresses and personalities in this country, lead you to unattractive and purely horrific confrontations with fellow Jews. (Not that confrontations with a non-Jew are any better but I'm sure you understand my feelings).

How do you separate between the man who is quite clearly misleading you at the car business and the man who sits with you in shule? I've always said that Israel might be a much better place if there were no Jews here. Ironic, crazy to say, but well...

I am not sure whether a solution to this dilemma exists but a recent article from A.B.Yehoshua gave me some direction and comfort. In essence he expressed his satisfaction with the fact that in Israel all Jews of all backgrounds are forced to interact one with the other. In his opinion, this positive phenomenon does not exist in the Diaspora.

That is, in most Diaspora comunities, Reform, Secular, Conservative, Orthodox and Chareidi communities barely ever interact. They have their shule, their families and their communities and that's where it stops. On the other hand, Yehoshua argues that Israel is brimful with such important interaction. Though the "most people are Jewish syndrome" can lead to absolute frustration (as I pointed out above), Israel allows for an opening of doors and a building of bridges. In light of this and the existence of a thorough Jewish reality here, he argues that the Israeli Jew is the "Complete Jew".

You see - in Israel (in most cases), the man giving you a parking ticket is Jewish and so is your dentist, your doctor, your optometrist, your lawyer, your accountant and your dog's vet. The policemen are Jewish, so are the local council representatives, the bank tellers, cafe waiters, taxi drivers, bus drivers and rubbish collectors. There is no avoiding interaction with Jews who identify differently with Judaism than you do. All those listed above come from all sectors of Jewish life - secular and religious (at all different levels), Ashkenazi & Sephardi (from all the different countries), left and right wing (in all different respects) and so on and so forth. Daily life makes Israeli Jews talk to one another and this helps to build a sense of acceptance and understanding.

Last week, I was in the Knesset for a Select Committee hearing on a new law. It was then that A.B. Yehoshua's words came flooding back to me. Here we had a Shinui MK chairing the meeting and around him sat Jews of all kinds - some with black or colored kippot and everything over and above and in-between. Only in Israel do Jews willingly come together every day to sit together, discuss and debate together and to enjoy humor together when it arises. At the end of the day, they make law together.

There is a great deal of tension in our homeland and alot of improvement to achieve yet. For sure, service (even of cars!) is lacking and at times unbearable. And yet, in Israel we do interact one with the other. We can not avoid the fellow Jew. He may not go to my shule (or any shule at all) but I'll still be interacting with him and talking to him. It's an Israeli fact to cherish and one well worth maintaining.

Any thoughts? Add a comment below...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

When is a crocodile not a crocodile?

I wanted to fill the KICblog today with experiences from my first (and apparently last) trip to Gush Katif. Sadly, the Pale-croco-stinians have returned with a bang (or two or three or four) and so my trip report will have to go on hold.

Well, it does not surprise me. The Palestinians never lose an opportunity to lose an opportunity and it does appear they are willing to maintain that tradition, even at the risk of weakening their internationally sanctioned leader and further destroying their legitimacy. In addition, they will now be faced with blocked entry to Israel, extra checkpoints and some re-entry of the IDF to towns recently returned to PA control.

Whether the claim that Islamic Jihad, Hamas and others represent the Palestinian minority is correct or not, they do play a powerful role in the Palestinian mindset and in the education and direction of the people generally (and the youth in particular). Here's an updated reminder of the Hamas ideals and some broadcasted Palestinian satisfaction from the London attacks.

One would think (or dream, wish and hope, just maybe) that in the shadow of Islamic terrorism in London (now understood to be British suicide bombers), the world, led by Tony Blair and London Mayor Ken Livingston, would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel who did indeed fully back the UK last Thursday. Livingston has often tried to explain or justify Palestinian terror. On the other hand, he used all kinds of phrases to explain the London events as murder, terrorism and the like.

Like it or not, the murdered Israeli teenagers and women and the many injured (including toddlers) are as innocent as any London victim. When you start to decipher and distinguish one from the other, in any way, then you are simply begging the crocodiles to bite off your other hand too.

I'm not stupid though. I know the distinctions will be made. (Sky News is already calling the Middle East crocodiles 'militants' rather than the London terrorists and manage to forget about the Netanya Park Plaza massacre of Pesach 2002 when they list past Netanya bombings).
And the New Zealand media with the most misleading headline I've ever seen!
The Sun and other world newspapers clearly do not value their bodily parts. No Islamic terrorism in Israel?

The two sets of attacks are so similar and yet treated so very differently. It's horrifying that only when Western cities are hit does the world (almost) acknowledge the notion and danger of Islamic terror, financed by countries like Iran and spreading ever so steadily across Europe and the world.

So when is a crocodile not a crocodile? Leave your answer below...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Crocodiles in London

"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last." How relevant that quote of Winston Churchill remains to this day! As Israeli diplomats growl at PM Blair for partly blaming the Middle East conflict for Thursday's London attacks, there is a feeling of deja vu as we await (ala post-Sept 11) to see how the UK will react and how it's foreign policy will be affected.

Having read his comments, I am not convinved that Tony Blair quite intended to lay the blame with Israel. It is not entirely misleading for him to argue that our conflict causes distress and hatred among Moslems and others worldwide. At the same time, this distress is by no means Israel's responsibility alone.

The lesson to be taken from Thursday should be that if we do not deal with terrorism at its source then it will eventually (and has) come to our shores. The source was Arafat and friends and the world must cease to ignore that source.

Without a doubt, we must seek peace and deal with the problems that stir Moslems to such horrid acts. Nonetheless, these horrid acts need to be condemned and the instigators suitably dealt with if we are going to make progress. I am frankly quite aware of Palestinian suffering, but if the enlightened world even begins to use poverty or suffering as a whisker of justification or even understanding for such acts then we lose all possibility of stopping the rot.

You can not calm a killer and you will not stop the next attack on London by praising "the Moslem British community" and recognizing their innocence in the attacks. The majority might well be innocent (as I am sure they are!) but this civilian bombing syndrome, whether in Israel, UK, USA, Iraq and elsewhere) requires complete rejection because when you have no more meat to throw to the crocodiles, they will come for you.

If the British wish to discourage further attacks, they would do well to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel, the USA and others in these identical wars on terror and refrain from offering a hand to these people. Give a hand, they'll take an arm.

Sadly and ironically, we have an Israeli, Anat Rosenberg, who has lived in London for some years and who refrained from returning to Israel because she was frightened of bus bombings and the like. She was on the No 30 bus in London and has not been heard from since. She was on the phone to her boyfriend as the bomb denotated.

Were you in London? Anyone of you have interesting accounts of what Rabbis etc said in shule after the attacks? Let us know - give comments below...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

No News Links Required

"There were bodies everywhere. Heads and bits of bodies, heads and arms and legs all ripped away. There seemed to be kids lying around as well as adults. I'm just in shock, it's something I'll never forget."

It is all too shockingly familiar for Israelis. Those words coming from a British witness to the horrific terror campaign that took center stage in London today. As Gilly points out (and like 9-11), there is a real feeling of "Reverse Blast". Suddenly Israelis are worried about loved ones in the UK. A strange and uncomfortable feeling...

I am not in favor of comparisons because a nation and society suffers its own unique and heavy loss. At the same time, this kind of attack really is very much what we live through here daily - or at least the fear of such attacks. We are not talking now about hijacked planes killing 3000 people. Rather the random, smaller scale (no less disgusting) attacks on civilains crowded in public transport and the like.

If the world was an honest place, the headlines would scream "Welcome To Israel!"
Or maybe that is unfair. Nonetheless, it is just so very sad that the world rarely takes stock of itself and the terrorism with which Israelis live - that is, until it visits them at home.

Within minutes of the first blasts I sent a text message to a friend in London. His simple response: "Well mate, it looks like Arafat's legacy has finally come visiting".

He was indeed the founder and master of modern terrorism and his cohorts are making sure that his contributions to the world will remain for us to 'enjoy' for the forseeable future.

My blessings go out to the families of those murdered and to those who lie injured and maimed. And to those millions who are now quite simply but heavily bewildered...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Fences seem to be popping up regularly this week. Besides the famous fence being built to more or less separate two peoples who have proven that living together is no longer an option, there are also some less well-known fences that are going up and coming down in this land.

I was suitably astonished at an article in the Israeli press that outlines the legalizing of gambling machines that currently exist in places but are operated illegally. The argument is that by legalizing the ownership and public use of these sources of entertainment, Israel will be able to control their use and keep it 'above the table' where watchful official eyes can supervise.
But still not a casino shall dwell in the Land claim the proponents of machine legalization.

Entertainment - yes, at times. Addictive & destructive - yes, always! New Zealand is overflowing with such sources of 'entertainment', heartache and distress. The rates of crime, divorce, violence and bankruptcy have all been linked to gambling availability. It's the same the world over. Israel, as the National Lottery Corporation claims, may indeed win the battle against illegal gambling - but that's it - the war will be lost!

There used to a great advertisement on New Zealand radio stations warning about problem gambling. "First my time, then my job, the car, the boat, the house, then my kids, my wife, my life". Gambling is well-documented as leading people (poor and wealthy) down this track to disaster. In Australian casinos there is a very powerful sticker on each machine - "When it's no longer fun, walk away". Laws which demanded such warnings were not passed without good reason.

Amira Hass and Shulamit Aloni have both written articles, parts of which compared the evacuation of Gaza and West Bank Jews to other Israelis who have their houses taken when unable to pay bills, mortgages and the like. Not only is the big D not the only evacuation of Jewish homes they argue, but Disengagement will allow IDF expenses to be realloacated towards helping the poor and struggling Israeli instead.

I can not accept their comparisons in totality (and their animosity towards others worries me) but it does make me wonder why this country would consider taking down the fence around gambling and instead open up the can of worms, temptation and addiction that comes with gambling. So take the money from Gaza and the IDF if you like. With the Gaza fence up and the gambling gate wide open, the poor, the needy, the greedy and the desperate will find consolation with a drink and a machine rather than in the knowledge that no Jews now reside in Gush Katif.

Fences galore! What do you think about the fences that the IMF want Israel to build across the Negev to allow passage from Gaza to the PA territories in the West Bank? Israel wanted a train system. The IMF wants a multi-laned highway, 5 meters below the surface with high double fences to stop Palestinian infiltration. The highway they say is the cheaper option. It makes greater sense to allow Palestinian private vehicles to travel from side-to-side doesn't it? It's only fair, isn't it? On a road, public transport can travel too. There is some concern (rightly so) that this would cut Israel in two. But does that matter?

Whatever happens, we are destined to live in a military and political reality where fences will be needed because as they say, fences make good neighbors. At the same time, Israeli society itself needs to maintain and enhance fences where required in order to safeguard the few defenses that still exist and guard us from becoming just like any other Western state.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Ok what do you want to read first? The good or the bad news? Here we go...

When I read over my KICblog experience of the past two months, I am smothered by the negativity that often rules society. Therefore, I was so pleased to read a article this morning that gives real meaning to 'giving' and reflects the human face of the IDF. For many of us, we did not need reminding that IDF soldiers are, most of the time, simply you and me, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, lawyers, doctors, taxi drivers, lawyers, Rabbis, butchers and flower sellers. In a society that needs greater respect for its environment and increased care for its ever-problematic youth, these initiatives re-create those true Jewish and Zionist feelings that are sometimes tucked away or smothered by the 'other issues'.

Another bit of good, (better late than never), is a very clear and sensible release of an Orange Code for those who wish to protest disengagement. The stipulations against violence and hatred are clear. Let's hope this helps to direct people's concerns and beliefs sensibly and alienates those who wish to stir up undemocratic and unacceptable tension.

On to the bad! The bad is not as bad per se as it is frustrating and concerning. I'll leave it for yourselves to decipher. Can anyone work out which version of the 'lynching' last week is the correct one? While I do not doubt that such an event may have or may well occur at the hands of extreme Israeli citizens, I am also wary of the Palestinian and the media lust to paint the right-wing sector in a bad orange light. I condemned the 'lynch' in my last KICblog. Now take a look at this version of events from Arutz-7.

Finally, the ugly - Shulamit Aloni. Now obviously I am not referring to her looks. (You decide about that!) Rather her opinion piece on ynetnews that clearly incites and promotes disunity and hatred among Israelis. In a time of strained brotherhood and a deep struggle for understanding, tolerance and mutual respect, I find her opinions brimful with intolerance, incitement and lack of understanding.

I am open to freedom of speech and opinion but I find such one-sided, completely unsympathetic and misleading views to be unhelpful and a poor reflection on Shulamit (a former Meretz MK) and others who can not spare a moment to consider how others see the situation.

One can fly blue ribbons or paint yourself orange - that's your choice. That's democracy! However, extremism from either side is bad and ugly.When you seek to destroy the tolerant and open-minded essence of Israeli society (or what remains of it!) then I believe your opinion is no longer relevant.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Eye on the Ball

Shabbat meals were brimful with debate over the hotel evacuation and the near lynching of Palestinians late last week. This morning a poll has appeared that indicates an increase in support for Disengagement. Frankly I am not surprised after last week's attack on the Orange by its most loyal supporters.

Loyalty gets you nowhere when in fact you are causing damage to your goal. Whether for or against the Disengagement Plan, the reasonable, open-minded Israeli feels sympathy and even sadness for the plight of the Gaza Jewish communities who are set to lose their homes, businesses, communities and the like.

Tragically, you have the extreme right (Kach-niks etc) who have done great damage to the residents of Gush Katif and to others who live in settlements. One can not but deplore and condemn the Jewish attack on the Palestinian youths, as did the Israeli government in the strongest terms. The very fact however that one of the Palestinians says Neve Dekalim's security chief lay on him in order to protect him gives us at least some comfort that the reasonable settlement resident remains sane, humane and reasonable - I never doubted it!

Israeli soldiers protected them too and the IDF is repairing the house in question and have sent Army Officers to visit the family of the injured Palestinian.

The Yesha Council and all political streams have condemned the actions of those who seek to brighten the orange by crossing some very sacred red lines.

For those who have spent any time in settlements or with residents from those communities, know very well that the extremists paint a very misleading picture of the very warm and (in all respects) normal people who live there.

As difficult as it is to watch Jew manhandling Jew, we can express satisfaction that the first 'evacuation' (at the hotel) passed 'peacefully'. This for me illustrated some real hope, maturity and hinted that the majority of people still have their 'eye on the ball' and are looking at the bigger Zionist picture.

Today's Jerusalem Post editorial is a succinct summary of the thoughts of many and like other centre-right bodies takes a reasoned and responsible take on last week's events.

I would be pleased to read your comments... Shavua Tov!