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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cross-Pollinating Blogs

So Blogger has a new format and easier-to-use methodology, or so they say...

After commiserating with Emma S about boys and their foibles, and assuring her that they grow up to be kind, loving, faithful, helpful, caring young men, I forgot to tell her that they are also gadget-happy techno-freaks....my son encouraged me to switch to Blogger's new format. This, of course, requires a Google mail account and password. No Problem--I have one of those! So I happily and unsuspectingly switched to the new system, using my email address and password -- only to find myself in my son's blog.

ARGHHH! I am NOT a 16 year old Trekkie in the Teen Ulpan!!! (I'm, uh, a much OLDER Trekkie but that's another entry...)

So it turns out that in his eagerness to switch his own blog over to the new format, the Boy simply used my email address and password as he didn't have his own Google account. Without telling me. More to the point, without asking. There was trouble-in-River-City Friday afternoon. Fortunately, it WAS Friday afternoon, Erev Shabbat, and things needed to be done and Ima needed to unwind and set aside this frustration and upset in order to welcome Shabbat properly.

A good thing, because now in retrospect it's funny.......

And, no, there's no way to fix this at this point. I know this only because I spent WAYYY too much time perusing the Help section of Blogger. Any advice from the technically-inclined out there would be appreciated--including how to move to something other than Blogger.....

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Through The Time Warp To 1955

The argument I have over and over with friends unfamiliar with Middle East history covers a number of points, but two especially continue to come up:

(a) the 1948 Armistice Line (the "Green Line") is NOT the "recognized 1967 borders of Israel." In fact, due to Arab intrangigence, there is NO recognized border of Israel because the Arabs, Palestinian and otherwise, have consistently, historically, refused to agree to borders. See "Khartoum Conference" in any encyclopedia or history book.

(b) Arab terrorism is NOT the result of "The Occupation" (by which most of the historically illiterate mean the Israeli occupation, as opposed to the Jordanian or Egyptian occupations or what some Palestinian wags refer to as "the Tunisian Occupation" in reference to the late unlamented Arafat.

As an object lesson in (b), Elder of Ziyon was good enough to do the research, which I am copying, not plagiarizing, wholesale here because it is such a good read.

I strongly recommend his blog--full of good history that the world seems to like to forget, and current events that go unnoted in the MSM:

GAZA, 1955

In 1955, way before Fatah and Arafat and "occupation," Palestinian Arabs staged a series of terrorist raids from Gaza into Israel proper. Israel hit back, briefly but strongly.

Notice from this account in Time magazine how many parallels there are to today.Isr (Notice also that Time refers to the PalArab refugees as "Palestinian Arabs," not "Palestinians.")

The Gaza strip is a geographic absurdity perpetuated by hate and pride. Ever since Israel's warriors swept south in 1948 to the Negeb desert, Gaza has stood as a defiant outpost in which Egyptian soldiers held out against Zion to the day of armistice. All around the 5-by-25-mile sand strip, a stealthy border war has since been waged, and blood spilled almost nightly.

To the young Israeli farmers who labor, gun in hand, in nearby desert settlements, the Gaza strip is an intolerable threat to their lives and lands. To the Egyptians patrolling its long salient of indefensible dunes, it remains a symbol of Arab defiance against unconfessed defeat. Behind the 20-inch-wide furrow that passes for its frontier, 219,000 Arab refugees squat in sandy squalor, existing only on U.N. charity and staring balefully across the border at the slopes now green with Israeli corn.

The incident that touched off last week's Gaza flare-up might have happened any day. Israeli soldiers, their command cars stacked with small arms, sped on routine border patrol close to an Egyptian command post. Suddenly there was shooting. Caught in the open without cover, the Israelis, guns blazing, crossed the border and took the command post. When they retired, they left three Egyptians dead.

As usual in such cases, the U.N. mediator, Canada's Major General Edson L. M. Burns, respected as much for his toughness as for his patience, tried to get both sides together: the familiar rhythm in these flare-ups is violence met with violence and followed by quiet. But this time the rhythm was broken. Small groups of Arab raiders carried the fight deep into Israel. Known as Al Fedayeen (Self-Sacrificers), the sneaker-shod guerrillas are recruited from Palestinian Arab refugees, and are thus adventurers without a country who know Israel's landscape because it was once their own. Most of them are followers of the former Mufti of Jerusalem, who used to recruit men to fight both the British and the Jews. The Mufti has been living in exile in Cairo.

The Self-Sacrificers fanned out across Israel, mined roads, shot up army trucks, dynamited the Voice of Israel's radio tower, just 15 miles south of Tel Aviv. From the cover of citrus groves, they shot down four farmers. Two Yemenite Jews fell, attacked from behind as they bent over irrigation pipes. Another was killed by a burst of Sten-gun fire through the open door of a pumping station. A Jewish newcomer from Iraq was caught as he cycled home from work in a nearby orchard. Tracks showed that he had been dragged off his bicycle, stood up against a wall and shot. A grandfather was cut down as he walked, lantern in hand, with his family; his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandson were wounded.

This was something new in the border warfare, and its will-o'-the-wisp character unnerved many Israelis. In the Negeb communities, 50,000 farmers stood guard at their doorways. Troop patrols raced along roads from Dan to Beersheba. After one ambush, soldiers grabbed a wounded Self-Sacrificer trying to get back to Gaza, and learned that he had set out on patrol from the headquarters of his organization at Khan Yunis (Inn of Jonah), southwest of Gaza.

That night Israel struck back in reprisal. A strong armed force drove into Gaza. Arabs playing tricktrack and drinking a late cup of coffee at a cafe in the border village of Beni Sawil watched in silent horror as an entire company of Israeli halftracks rumbled through the streets. But the Israelis ignored them and made for their objective, the big concrete police fortress of Khan Yunis, one of the old "Taggart forts" built by the British. The Israelis were convinced that it was headquarters of Al Fedayeen. The raid was brief and bloody. The Egyptian commander reported 35 killed. The Israelis said they lost one man.

The Israelis sent a message to General Burns answering that they were now ready to accept his ceasefire. But before peace could be restored, two Israeli Meteors overtook two Egyptian Vampire jets as they swooped low over Israeli settlements north of Gaza. One of the Egyptian jets exploded in the air; both crashed well inside Israeli territory. All that farmers found of one pilot was his hair, ripped in one wiglike piece from his skull.

Underlying these skirmishes, and giving them special urgency, was an uncertainty on each side as to the intent of the other. The Israelis feared that Lieut. Colonel Nasser's military junta, anxious to distract attention from its failures in the Sudan (see below), might have decided to stir its people against Israel. Egyptians feared that the big vote for extremist parties in Israel's July elections reflected a popular demand for a more vigorous border policy. At this point, the U.S., the U.N. and Britain all got into the act. General Burns called for a special session of the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, West Pointer Henry Byroade, telephoned Washington that he was convinced of Egyptian good faith in wanting a ceasefire, and asked that Washington so inform the Israelis. Assistant Secretary of State George V. Allen telephoned Premier Moshe Sharett in Tel Aviv, and his message helped reassure the Israelis. Both sides agreed to talk ceasefire.

At week's end the continuing sound of gunfire was heard along the Gaza strip, in the way that constitutes normal relationships on the furrowed border. But there was hope now that only steadfast hostility, not open war, was the prospect once more.

Israelis making the desert bloom while Arabs sit and stew? Check.
Palestinian Arabs targeting and murdering Jewish civilians? Check.
Israel avoiding civilians and aiming for a military target? Check.
The world considering only occasional cross-border skirmishes to be a normal part of a "cease-fire"? Check.
The terrorists being led by a man who had no interest in ever accepting Israel? Check.

"There's Nothing To Do In Jerusalem"

One day, the Husband and I accompanied the Boy over to Derech Beit Lechem for his haircut. We were schmoozing with the owners of the shop when a man and woman paused and looked over the hair products displayed in the window. The woman came in and asked about the hair products in fluent Hebrew. Her husband followed her and engaged my husband in chat about sports--in English. Both of these folks were clearly our age or a bit older. The shop owner disclosed that we were recent olim, and the two newcomers fell silent. Somehow my husband turned the subject to living in Israel, and asked the man why they didn't move here?

"We've done that already," he said dismissively. "We come for a few months every year and visit her relatives then go home." He practically sniffed as he said this.

"Yes," she chimed in. "Jerusalem is dirty and there is absolutely nothing to do here!" Indignation informed every syllable of this speech.

"Nothing to do?" my husband exclaimed. Just for fun, we sit on the couch at the end of every weeks' getting-ready-for-Shabbat-Marathon and peruse the seemingly endless list of things-to-do in Jerusalem that we would like to attend. We're right up the hill from the Restaurant Row of Emek Refaim, and haven't even begun to explore the downtown restaurant options. The Friday Edition Jerusalem Post lists concerts (rock, Irish, New Age, classical, Middle Eastern, folk, etc.), lectures (Hebrew, French and English), classes, movies, theatre productions, art and museum displays, walking tours by historical societies or by the Society for the Protection of Nature, as well as specialty items like the Oud Festival, the Harp Festival, the Irish Festival, or updates on archeological digs, or new learning classes for those who want to study almost any aspect of any religion here, and so on.....

Jerusalem is chock full of things to do at just about all hours of the day or night. There is no closing time for the bars so you can grab a Guiness at 4:30 am if you wish.

"Reaaaaally," I drawled, claws curling. "And where do you live now?" Anyone who knows me knows I'm dangerous in this mood.

"Oh, we live (drum-roll, firecrackers, cannon going off here) in New York!" the woman declared with only the slightest superciliousness. "City" was a given, I could tell. Remember, she's Israeli. Married to an older Yank. I thought New York City parochialism was confined to folks in that city, but apparently she's gone native.

"Ah, how nice," I purred, "My cousin lives in New York--we were just there to see her last spring. Uh, where exactly in the city do you live?"

Lots of fluster here. They hadn't expected two yokels from California to know anything about New York.

"We live in Queens," the man finally got out.


Nobody from Queens can talk about a town being "dirty" and having nothing to do. Queens is a pit, and was one as late as last spring when I taxied through it on the way to Manhattan. Boarded up windows, bullet holes in various walls, drug dealers dealing, the recent addition of more and more Arabic on run-down storefront mosques and businesses, filthy streets full of garbage, homeless panhandling on the corners drug dealers didn't control. I'm sure there are nicer areas of Queens, but it's hardly in a position to compete with Jerusalem. Hey, I've got problems with my hometown, San Francisco, sliding rapidly downhill for the last couple of decades--but I'd take San Francisco over Queens any day of the week!

Queens can't hold a candle to Jerusalem. And by the way, there's not a thing to do in Queens. People in Queens have to drive to Manhattan to find something to do.

Jerusalem is far from the Heavenly City imagined by mystics and poets of the ages, but it's got a lot more to offer than Queens....so what was this all about?

The Husband and I howled about this parochial folie-a-deux for the rest of the month. Every time we were faced with a decision about where to eat, what to do, one of us would put on a snotty face and intone, "But there's NOTHING to do in Jerusalem," and then we'd crack up laughing.

I feel sorry for that woman's family. I'm sure they're subjected to this annual pilgrimage from their wanna-be sophisticate female relative who never lets a moment pass wherein she doesn't talk down to them from her perch of New York City know-it-all-ness. Queens! If only they knew!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Id al Adha

When we first moved to Jerusalem, my son was outraged that people drove on Shabbat.

"Why are Jews driving on Shabbat?" he asked with some indignation.

"What makes you think they're all Jews?" I asked. "Christians and Moslems live here also." Long silence. I had sort of tossed off that answer, well aware that a sizable portion of Israeli society is secular, and even among the masorti, some drive on Shabbat. Frankly, I thought most of the Saturday drivers were Jews.

I was wrong.

December 30, 2006 was a Saturday. Shabbat. It was also Id al Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, one of the holiest days of the Moslem calendar. I walked outside in the early morning to a silence I hadn't seen since Yom Kippur. The streets were virtually empty. An occassional car went by, but otherwise the silence in the Baka/Talpiot area was profound. It was quiet enough that I could hear the voices of the imams and their congregations rising in exaltation from the basin of the valley south of the Old City.

The sound of Moslem prayer and sermon frightens many -- and often with good reason. MEMRI has carried absolutely blood-curdling sermons from the Territories that would equal those of any medieval religious fanatic. However, one advantage of being "on the ground" here is that one cannot deal in stereotypes, however tempting. What I could hear from the mosques in the adjacent valley was not anger, not hate, but joy and praise, and in that, Moslems are like Christians and Jews: we share a love of HaShem, seek to praise him and celebrate such holidays with joy and with family. And with food!

Id al Adha is a feast. Food and charity play a prominent role in this festival, as does worship, family, new clothes, and sweets for the children...somewhat like Christmas....somewhat like Rosh HaShanah...

That's not to say that peace and brotherhood are going to break out imminently, but I think that despite generations of enmity, what we have in common may someday serve as the foundation for something other than war.

I'm too old and much to cynical to believe much of the political "peace process" touted by our leaders, their leaders and EU/UN/US leadership. It has failed too often, and has too often been more of a dog-and-pony-show played for political advantage. But I have also witnessed kindnesses between people on an individual basis who are supposed to be deadly enemies; I have also seen the recent publication of a survey which shows that Jews, Christians and Moslems in Jerusalem know next to nothing about each other's beliefs. Everyone seems to think that The Other Guy's belief is that the Other Guy wants us dead. Moslems who were shown videos of individual Jews at prayer were astonished to see how much it was akin to Moslem prayer; Jews who viewed videos of individual Moslems praying were equally astonished at the similarities.

Living next to the Tayelet with its view over the valley, I have often found myself reminded of Shacharit and Mincha by the Moslem call-to-prayer, as we share approximate prayer times.

But prayer and family is what we have most in common. And on Id al Adha, prayers ascended to Heaven from mosques and synagoges in tandem. Whatever else our differences, we were united in praise of our Maker. Perhaps such unity of purpose found favor in the eyes of Heaven.

It certainly cleared the streets of traffic.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Shalom Bayit and Blogging

Married? Have a Significant Other? Then you'll understand the dilemna.

I have something of an aversion to television. Always have. Even as a teen, I could only take about 2 hours, max, to sit and watch television. It's not a snob thing -- I don't think watching television is "low-brow" or something. I just don't enjoy it much, and find most of what's on television inane at best. It's not sitting still, either -- I can sit for hours over a good book. I suspect that my aversion has something to do with the nature of television: one can't "put down" the program to go make a cup of tea; one can't "bookmark" the show and come back to it later. Also, after working all day in a setting where the noise of people working is a constant, coming home to the irritating noise of television, with its blaring commercials, over-amped sports announcers and constant voice of false urgency used in every news announcement or dandruff shampoo pitch, drives me right up the wall.

The Husband LOVES television. He finds it relaxing.

This was never a problem in a medium-sized house when we were both working full time. By the time the television came on in the evening, I could stomach an hour or so of it while conversing during commercial breaks and consoling myself with a book if I found the program uninteresting. It didn't bother me that the television was on much of the day while the Husband worked out of our home office -- after all, I wasn't there to hear it.

However, one of my caveats about aliyah was my saying to the Husband that I would go starkers if we had to live together in a small Jerusalem apartment and the television was on ALL THE TIME. He assured me that it would not be....

Always define your terms in any discussion of importance, whether marital or business. I should know this--after, all, I'm the lawyer, right?

I found myself coming home from ulpan in the early afternoons to television on from 1:00 pm until bedtime.

Now, I love the Husband dearly, and I know that aliyah is a tough transition, and it seems a little silly to get bent out of shape over something as stupid as the television, and I don't want to pick a fight or even bring up the subject because he is in all other respects the Perfect Husband. How many women have husbands who clean the house daily for them and fold the laundry and make (truly excellent) dinners?

But the television drives me up the wall--like fingernails on a blackboard. So after an attempt at desultory conversation, I would retreat to the Boy's bedroom and do homework, work on bills, catch up on emails, read Other People's Blogs, read the online newspapers, and write my own blogs....etc.

Usually after an hour or two, my absence is noted and the Husband comes to inquire what I'm doing -- at which point I tell him I'm doing one or all of the above.

It seems we had extremely different definitions of what constitutes "all the time."

The fact that the television is turned off for an hour while the Husband goes to the grocery store while I'm at ulpan means the television is not on "all the time."

"I meant when I'm at home!" I pointed out.

Well, reasonably enough, since he finds television "relaxing" he doesn't want to live in a noiseless void, especially in an apartment in winter which echoes....

We have a sort of Gift of the Magi problem in reverse: I don't want to seem witchy and complaining, so I absent myself; he doesn't want to intrude on what I'm doing in the back room, so he leaves me alone. As a result, we are spending less, rather than more, time together in retirement suddenly. Cold weather is a factor as well--when the days were warmer, we were out and about more...

So, as reasonable people, we figured out a solution. He was genuinely surprised to find that my absence was due to television-avoidance (since he likes it, it just doesn't register that others abhor it) so he agreed to turn it off in the afternoons. I don't require silence, so we thought having the stereo on would be a good guard against echoing silence. So I may not be in the Blogosphere as often as before, as I now seem to be spending more time in conversation, reading, listening to music and otherwise 'smelling the roses.'

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