Monday, September 26, 2005

Suitless & Speechless

Having just been at a רמת כוסית (Raising of the Glasses - a toast) in the presence of Attorney-General Menny Mazuz and the Likud's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, I thought I would comment on a few personal observations.

In addition to the microphone ironically failing during Minister Livni's short address, I noticed the following:

1. Even if important figures are giving public speeches within two meters of you, it is still Israeli custom to answer your mobile phone and at least begin a conversation with the caller. Attempts at hiding one's voice behind a book or folder does not do the trick as clever as it might appear at first!

2. In New Zealand, people who paraded up and down main streets in their suits and ties were called 'the suits', not by their suit-wearing peers of course. At this function, there was barely a soul dressed like 'a suit' or even sporting a tie other than the Attorney-General of course. In Israel, one goes to work, to interviews and to synagogue in whatever you feel is respectful. It's normally something casual but appropriate. I don't know if it's a reflection on the 9-month hot summer we live in or rather just an illustration that to Israelis there is just so many bigger priorities and concerns than what you wear. What you say and do, and what kind of person you are means so much more.

3. Most strikingly, it felt refreshing to be at a toast for Rosh Hashanah rather than Xmas. What I mean is that while I have nothing against those Xmas season toasts and lunches in New Zealand, it is simply more pleasant to be able to eat and drink what is on offer and to actually identify with the religious festival that is approaching. I am all in favor of us being a light unto the nations though I'm not so sure if we're very good at that or whether the nations want our 'light'. Still, there's something sweet about the new year when your leaders wish you Shana Tova (A Good Year) rather than ask you to explain Chanukah, matzah, shofar, cholent and tefillin. All this just makes me satisfied to live in the Jewish state.

Explaining the advantages of 11am Saturday cholent may however be simple in comparison to finding the meaning behind the microphone debacle of last evening. There are more conspiracy theories floating around now than there are working microphones. In a country where corruption and dirty politics increases each year, it is not as simple as assuming that Bibi and Landau supporters pulled the plug. There are those who believe it might have been a perfectly executed sympathy and attention collecting stunt from Ariel Sharon's side of the Likud battle.

Microphones and conspiracies aside, today is truly a big day for the Likud and Israel as they vote in essence for or against Disengagement (bit late isn't it?) and Sharon. It might have been the perfect payback to the Prime Minister who turned off the microphones (and careers) of every Minister and MK who disagreed with him on Disengagement. Or it might constitute one of the most major dents in Israeli democracy for some time. You decide.

Of those who succeeded in speaking from the podium, many were surprised by this man. Having been taken from his home in Gaza, he argued that Sharon did not disengage alone. Ministers and Netanyahu stood by and watched it all happen.
Still the blame often falls heavily on a leader and hence the microphone troubles for Sharon only.

At midnight tonight we may know what all this really means, if anything. The Likud is looking like one big (40 MK) unhappy family that looks unlikely to avoid a split. Strange but true.

Never a dull moment here - even when the Palestinians are keeping us busy, we can also find something internal to add to the workload.

!אכן איזה שנה
What a year indeed!

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