All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).
Wednesday, 31 December 2008
You haven't lived properly until you've seen the sunrise over the Dead Sea.
3D Tour of Masada
The problem is that I can't quite remember it all. Is it me, or do events that took place in the first half of the year (I mean, January 2008...when was that?) just seem to be lost in the haze?
Of course the main features of the year will no doubt be the Credit Crunch, the Olympics and the recent news concerning Israel beating the crap out of Hamas. Then again, maybe it's the more subtle points that I'll want to remember in the future.
For me, this hasn't been a particularly easy year. I suppose the high point was the fabulous result our school got after the Ofsted inspection in March, a fact that made me feel extremely proud. That said, I've struggled with my classes, experienced frustration with the amount of progress they've made, blamed myself for this and continued trying to achieve more. I don't recall ever working as hard as I have done over the last twelve months and I know that this year will be even more demanding than the last.
At home, the kids have continued to give me no end of pride and satisfaction. I am watching my girls grow up to be very fine young ladies. Hadassah is no longer the child she was in January. She is maturing into a wonderful young lady whose development is augmented by her remarkable confidence and poise. I couldn't wish for a more definitive example of an eldest daughter and I am extraordinarily proud of her, although I may not always show this to others., which is a fault that I have to rectify in the next few months.
Talia is no doubt one of the funniest people I've had the pleasure to know. She is also changing, carving out her own little niche in the micro-universe that we inhabit. As she grows, she continues to surprise me with her charmingly lopsided view of the world. Her quirkiness is only matched by her dedication to hard work and very strong position in the hierarchy of children. When she's on form, Tali is coruscating in her wit, sharp as a razor blade and well....simply Tali.
Michal is the person who has really benefited from growing up over the last year. She is really coming into her own, stepping out of the gigantic shadows sternly cast by her eldest sisters and evolving into a strong force to be reckoned with. She is the kooky one, whom I thought of as being the Annie Hall of the family. I can see her there with a waistcoat and bowler hat saying "la dee dah" till kingdom come. She is also the only one of the girls who will gladly sit on my lap or next to it, smiling contentedly, curled up as though she were never meant to be anywhere else.
And then there is Shira who defines any sort of description! The last year has seen her take on reading as though she were in the IDF fighting a war. Her language is extraordinary, not least because of the comments she comes out with (none of which I can sadly remember offhand) and she's definitely developing in a very humerous young lady (albeit with a different style than Tali). Shira can be likened to the whirlwind that hits the water. She's nothing short of a force of nature and I'm delighted I'm her father and not her husband! That said, she is adorable with a 10 foot "A".
For me, the last twelve months have consisted of my re-evaluating my life. I got a huge shock in the first half of the year when I went to the doctor and discovered for the first time that I had both high blood pressure and cholesterol. This resulted in an immediate call to action and drastic measures curbed to sort the problem out. Of course it couldn't last and I face the position of having to start the new year with a different dietary outlook. I'm determined to lose weight and in the process, do something about the problem.
Home life, as rewarding as it is, has never been easy and this year is no exception to the rule. Both Dana and I work our guts out and this has really shaped the year we're just concluding. The credit crunch can't have helped but thank G-d, we're not in as bad a position as many of our contemporaries. All in all, things could be far worse than they are.
Like everyone, I've had my share of fortunate and not so fortunate news. People around me have had babies and also lost loved ones. I've attended a funeral, which is never a good thing, but I've also attended more than one brit-milah (circumcision), which although painful for the baby has not been too emotionally heartbreaking on anyone else (particularly when the breakfasts we receive are so tasty....and then you wonder why I've got a problem with cholesterol!). Life is brought anew as it parts and this is the cyle we all have to live with.
On the material front, our house has been given a face lift and I have a new car which I am slowly starting to like. I entered the world of the iPod and haven't looked back and we finally have a microwave. Things are looking up!
2008 is nearly spent but I think that there's still life in the old dog. I don't know what the future holds over the next twelve months, but if I find myself writing a review of 2009 on the 31st December, I know that I'll have made it through. Let's hope that it's a slimmer version that enters 2010.
Happy new year to all of you, my faithful friends and thank you for visiting me here on my modest corner of the web. Since 2004, I've been scribbling away as much as for you, as for myself and even if only one other person reads these ramblings, I've achieved my aim of bringing a slightly different shade to the world. May the next twelve months bring you everything you wish for and make all the negative stuff worthwhile.
Signing off for 2008,
Tuesday, 30 December 2008
All of the following can be found at www.memri.com
Abu Mazen: We Told [Hamas] - "Don't End the Tahdiah"
In his visit to Egypt, PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) placed the responsibility for the Israeli attack on Hamas, saying, "We called the leaders of Hamas, and told them both directly and directly, through Arab parties and non-Arab parties. We talked with them on the phone. We told them, 'Please, do not end the tahdiah.'"(1)
Nimr Hammad, an advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, said: "The one responsible for the massacres is Hamas, and not the Zionist entity, which in its own view reacted to the firing of Palestinian missiles. Hamas needs to stop treating the blood of Palestinians lightly. They should not give the Israelis a pretext." He called upon the leaders of Hamas to stop carrying out "operations which reflect recklessness, such as the firing of missiles."(2)
Director of the Palestinian TV & Radio Authority: Hamas is In the Grips of Megalomania
Bassem Abu-Sumayyah, director of the Palestinian TV & Radio Authority and columnist for the PLO daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, reiterated the accusation that "Hamas blocked its ears… They should have had even a little bit of political and security sense, and not left the people wandering, and losing their way, getting killed and injured. It is clear that Hamas was struck by megalomania since they took over Gaza, which blinded them so they would not listen to any advice. Hamas behaved like a superpower, as if they have weapons and means like Hizbullah in Lebanon, and as if they can conduct a war like the July war [of 2006]. Hamas's people thought they have a number of missiles that can enable them to prevail in a war of such size."(3)
Palestinian Columnists: Hamas Could have Prevented the Bloodshed
Editor of the PLO daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida Hafez Al-Barghouthi criticized Hamas for not prolonging the tahdiah, and for kidnapping Gilad Shalit: "Prolonging the tahdiah was a supreme national interest. Why hasn't [Hamas] prevented the aggression and the massacre? How many times have we written, and President Abu Mazen has declared, that these missiles [that Hamas is firing at Israel] as ineffective and contrary to the supreme national interest. Even Hamas saw them as contrary to the supreme national interest at the time of the tahdiah. We said, also, that the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit cost us 500 casualties in one year."(4)
Columnist Muwaffaq Matar called for creating an internal Palestinian investigation committee, and blamed Hamas for being responsible for the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza: "Will we learn the lesson, or are our leaders going to run away from bearing responsibility, as they usually do? If we believe in the value of men and in humanity, we should establish a Palestinian investigative committee that will reveal to the Palestinian people what happened, and why over 200 people have lost their lives and 750 have been injured within one hour, even though the calls for war, the speeches and the statements [in Israel], were abundant a week before the tahdiah ended… What did the commanders in Gaza expect? That the commanders of the Israeli army will let them know what is the zero hour, so that they will remove their people from the military and security headquarters?... This bloodshed and horrible destruction of our national institutions could have been prevented. It only needed political courage, moral wisdom, and adherence to the aspirations of the Palestinian people to live securely and in freedom and independence."(5)
Hamas has to Choose Between Being a Government and Fighting Its Resistance Activities
Abdallah Awwad, columnist for the PA daily Al-Ayyam, argued against Hamas' attempt to be both a government as well as a fighting resistance: "The Israeli incursions after 2000 [during the Al-Aqsa Intifada] and the destruction of the PLO headquarters were enough [for the PLO] to see the incompatibility of being a government at the same time as fighting the resistance… We are paying the price of stupidity, and the maniacal love of being rulers, that has nothing in it except for hollow slogans. [A choice must be made to be] either a government or a resistance. When the two are combined, it gives the occupying power easy targets… The example of the destruction of the PLO headquarters in the West Bank during the Intifada should have sufficed… What happened in Gaza demonstrates that the lesson was not learned. Instead of disappearing under the ground, which is the basis for any resistance, Hamas personnel remained exposed in the open… This destructive formula contained within it a premise that the occupation will not dare to carry out a bloody attack on Gaza."(6)
(1) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PLO), December 29, 2008.
(2) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 28, 2008.
(3) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 29, 2008.
(4) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 28, 2008.
(5) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 28, 2008.
(6) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 28, 2008.
(c) The Middle East Research Institute 2008
Sunday, 28 December 2008
After years of rockets, Israel has decided restraint is not an option anymore.
To support Israel in its war with Hamas, Giyus (Give Israel Your Unified Support) is stepping up its Facebook activities. GIYUS will be using their Facebook page to post Facebook related actions supporing Israel's actions against Hamas.
Please join them in this effort - if you're on Facebook you are invited to join the page -
to receive and participate in their call-to-actions and help Israel win the online public diplomacy battle.
Remember that the war is being fought both on and off the battelfield. If you care about Israel, please show your support and stand up proudly to be counted a true friend of the only democracy in the Middle East and the only Jewish country in the entire world.
When G-d destroyed the Egyptians at the Sea of Reeds, we didn't spend our time dancing around celebrating the end of that part of the Dynasty. Yes, we sang and praised G-d, but were very careful to make sure we were doing so in the spirit of salvation. In fact, we expressly don't say the full Hallel (praise) Prayer on Pesach precisely because G-d vanquished humans that He had created - just like us on the shores of the recently split sea.
I write this as I look at the results of Israel's actions yesterday. I believe in my heart of hearts that this was something that Israel had to do, to get the message to the Arabs that shelling our cities night and day was not in any way acceptable and that if one goes down that very dangerous path, one must expect an answer, however bloody it is.
Over 80 Kassam missiles were fired into Israel on a single day. The media would have believe that these are crude, almost toy-like devices that are wildly inaccurate. By minimising the impact (quite literally) of such devices on a community such as Sderot, those "friendly" journalists go out of their way to make us believe that any action Israel will take will be "excessive".
Well, I beg to differ.
Imagine you were living in Sderot. Picture having to spend your life or worse, the life of your child in a constant state of fear, knowing that if you were not 15 seconds away from a shelter, you could lose your life, your limbs or your house. Think about how much time you spend building your home, bringing up children under your roof and creating childhood memories that your progeny will carry with them throughout their lives. Then imagine the terror you must feel as 80 rockets come flying indiscriminately through the sky, crashing around you.
It's not just the rockets, its the psychological impact they are having on the people of Sderot and Netivot and any other village, town or city which happens to be in the vicinity of Gaza. Remember that Israel moved out of Gaza lock, stock and barrel three years ago.
Israel moved out.
Hamas, in its cynical ploy of firing from within civilian areas demonstrates a total lack of care for its people. Hamas knows that Israel will respond, because any country would act in entirely the same way, so although it is tragic that innocents have died, their deaths are entirely attributable to the people they elected to govern them. Israel cannot and must not put up with the attacks on her sovereignty and citizens and that's why yesterday's attacks and any future campaigns have to take place, if only to show the Palestinians that the consequences of their actions will do them no good whatsoever.
I frankly don't care whether the world agrees with Israel or not. When the journalists stop dumbing down the physical and psychological destruction caused by the Kassams and admit that people's lives are being ruined on an hourly basis, maybe we might get somewhere. If the result of Israel's military campaign is to silence the Kassams, then it will have been tragically worth it.
The rockets from Gaza have to stop permanently and as we've seen, Hamas can keep to a ceasefire if it realises the consequences of re-starting hostilities.
Thursday, 25 December 2008
Keeping this in mind, I have to say that I am shocked - and this is not a word I use lightly - at Channel Four's decision to let Ahmedinejad, the vile, anti-Semitic, nuclear-crazed President of Iran deliver it's alternative Xmas message. Maybe naively, it didn't cross my mind that anyone would think of pulling this sick Xmas joke (as it's being referred to in the Media) - which. by its very nature seems to go against everything that Xmas is meant to be about.
Not being a Christian, I was brought up to believe that this very day was one of peace and goodwill to all men. I cannot see how this piece of human garbage could be seen to promote these ideals when he continually calls for the destruction of Israel, denies the Holocaust and builds his nuclear warheads as eagerly as a beaver making a dam across a river.
I could go on, but I think that Damian Thompson in the Telegraph does a better job of describing how utterly revolting this invitation is:
"Channel 4's decision to invite Holocaust revisionist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to deliver its "alternative Christmas message" is more than a sick seasonal prank: it's further evidence of the Left's schoolgirl infatuation with Islamic bigots.
Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, justifies her decision as follows: "As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad’s views are enormously influential. As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."
Well, that's one way of describing a version of history in which the Jews are held responsible for most of the evil in the world.
The president of Iran is a Holocaust sceptic who, a couple of years ago, organised an academic conference on the subject at which a neo-Nazi produced models of a concentration camp (complete with toy train set) designed to show that Hitler's gas ovens did not exist.
His government's views on homosexuals are also robust, shall we say. Indeed, several Channel 4 executives would find themselves locked up if they followed their "degenerate lifestyle" in Iran.
But none of that matters to Channel 4 commissioning editors, because the Christians, Jews, gays and political dissidents being persecuted in the Islamic Republic are safely out of earshot: you can't hear their cries in Crouch End."
Oh yes, by the way, Happy Xmas everyone.
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
תשמור עליו מכל צרה ומכל פגע בבקשה אלוהים תחזיר אותו הביתה בריא ושלם
Our Father in Heaven, guard over Gilad Shalit, the captured soldier, for the beloved children that you (yourself) love. Guard over him (to protect him) from all suffering and from all attacks, please O Lord, return him home healthy and complete.
We, your children ask, please guard over him.
Monday, 22 December 2008
Can one think of the light emanating from a Chanukiah as being a "Jewish light"? It's definitely not the same type as the one you find glistening off a Christmas tree.
Don't misunderstand me. I don't have a problem with people buying trees. I don't have an issue at all if my fellow Gentile inhabitants of our little planet want to celebrate the birth of Christ. It's their right, nay duty to do so and merrily on may they continue.
Where I start to get nervous is when my Hebraic brethren start to do so as well. What's all the more worrying, particularly at this juncture of the season, is when they start to view Chanukah as being the Jewish Christmas.
Now I'm not talking about Jews buying Christmas trees, which is about as logical as a vegetarian tucking into an overstuffed turkey, but explaining, between mouthfuls that he is a "proud veggie". I'm also not referring to the morons who buy Chanukah bushes - which is an oxymoron if ever there was one.
I'm referring to the Jews who think of Chanukah as being a Jewish Christmas. It's about as ridiculous as a Christian sticking a menorah on top of his tree instead of a star! If only it were that easy to categorize.
I've seen it with my own kids and with many others. They now see Chanukah more for the presents they receive than for the important festival it happens to be. What's more, I'd guarantee that most Christian kids feel exactly the same way about their festival. "Sod Jesus, I want a Wii" being a common thought amongst many.
Let's make this clear. Chanukah is Chanukah and Christmas is, well, Christmas. Never the twain should meet. Yes, we give presents as Chanukah because deep down, we don't want our kids to feel they are missing out on Christmas, but what have we really achieved in doing this to our kids?
If only it were as easy to stop the tradition of giving gifts on Chanukah? Would that mean an overnight cessation in the Jewish media ramming the Chanukah gifts market down our throat? Everywhere you go, it's there - "Win gifts for every day of the festival", "Special deals on this and that" etc. We have become prisoners of our weak desire to emulate Christmas.
Chanukah as a festival is a totally different entity to Christmas. It is not about the birth of the son of G-d, but about a battle for Jews to regain our religion from those who wished to rip if from us. It is about the power of Jewish unity rallying against the mighty Greek-Syrian army and recovering the Temple. In short, it is about fighting assimilation, a battle that we are still engaged in, long after that jar of oil gave up its precious cargo.
I know that I sound like that voice in the dark, or the flickering candle that lights up a cold, December night, but I know that tonight, a second light, a second voice will join my cause. I try to teach my children what Chanukah is really about but I wonder if they are really listening as their eyes get fixated on the wrapped item, sitting tantalizingly in the plastic bag.
In our house, the lights of the Chanukiah flicker with the pride of the Maccabees. I hope that my grandchildren witness the same light, somewhat untainted by the reflection of the Christmas trees glistening in the houses that surround us.
Maybe living in Israel is the only way to ensure this purity remains.
Happy Chanukah everyone.
Saturday, 20 December 2008
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Anyone who has visited the amazing country that we proudly call our own is all too aware of the reckless driving practised by many of the countries' citizens. That the crash was caused by coach drivers racing one another on a narrow stretch of road, makes the tragedy all the more heartbreaking.
The Transport Ministry in Israel has to do something to change the situation. More people die as a result of the appalling driving than through any terrorist attack. How many more shattered families does it need for effective measures to be introduced?
I've been on the road where the accident has happened and you have too probably as it is on the way to Eilat - a very popular destination. Need I add more?
It's the sinking feeling you get when you realise that yet another crooked member of our glorious tribe has been scamming people out of billions. Bernard Madoff is accused of a $50 billion fraud, yet you know that everyone will remember him as the "thieving Jew".
Working in a Gentile school, I have to field questions from kids about "Jews and money". It really doesn't help my case when I open up the paper and see articles about Madoff. His actions are a "chillul Hashem" - a desecration of G-d's name - and all he has achieved by ripping people off is to further cement in peoples' minds the unfortunate age-old connection between Jews and money.
I would like him to come to my school, face my students and tell them, without a hint of irony that he has amassed a recent fortune by conning his fellow human beings. Then he can answer questions like "why are the Jews so rich?" and "why do they live in such big houses" from teenagers whose antisemitic world-view is not surprisingly shaped by the likes of Bernie Madoff.
Then again, he probably didn't think of that when he set up his fraudulent scheme.
Monday, 15 December 2008
This makes me feel positively sick
Leaflet: Mumbai Chabad attack ‘God’s punishment’
December 15, 2008
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- The terror attack on the Mumbai Chabad House was a punishment from God, a leaflet said.
The leaflet distributed over the weekend in Jerusalem by the anti-Zionist, fervently Orthodox Neturei Karta group said the attack was God's punishment for Chabad's work with "Zionist" Israelis, the Israeli news site Ynet reported Monday.
The leaflet criticized Chabad for hosting both religious and secular Jews without distinguishing "between good and evil, right and wrong, pure and impure, a Jew and a convert, a believer and a heretic," Ynet reported.
The article also criticized Chabad for inviting the heads of state of Israel to the funeral of Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, two of six Jews killed last month during a terrorist siege of Mumbai that included the take-over of the Mumbai Chabad House.The writer warned Chabad that "the road you have taken is the road of death and it leads to doom, assimilation and the uprooting of the Torah."
(c) JTA 2008
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Maybe its the grey sky that I've been seeing all week, because at this moment, at the skewed junction of the last few hours of the weekend and the start of my final week of 2008 in school, I'm feeling particularly low.
If I were to use an adjective to describe my state of mind right now, it would be emotional saturation.
Now there's an apt term for a Sunday night.
It is the feeling that my capacity to deal with anything that hits me is so browbeaten that any additional sock-it-to-me-sucker-why-don't-you insult will only be internalised and added to the existing pile of broken-down slam-dunk punches.
Please don't think I'm writing this because I'm feeling sorry for myself. Far from it, I'm too exhausted to do that. Self-pity, as a modus vivendi is so tiring and pointless that I honestly can't be bothered to stroll down it's charred path.
Put simply, it's that old emotional saturation - if you can devine as to what I'm rambling on about. Emotional saturation.
Then again, my mood can't have been helped by just watching an extremely depressing film called A Mighty Heart, which recounts the horrific story of Daniel Pearl's kidnapping and murder in Pakistan in 2002. It's not exactly what you would call a feelgood movie. That's not to say it's a poor film. Far from it, but probably not a great choice, granted my current bleak mood.
The ever-depressing sky and the knowledge that I have a tough week ahead of me in school don't make a good shidduch either. And let us not forget the funeral I attended this afternoon, which I'm glad I went to but probably didn't register that positively in the desperately seeking happy cells of my brain.
There is only so much mire that one can swim around in at any one time. Maybe this time next week when the first Chanukah lights discharge their cheer into the ether, I'll be feeling more approachable.
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
"The Palestinian Authority recently took the unprecedented step of advertising the Arab Peace Initiative in Hebrew, in the Israeli press. Adverts also appeared throughout the international media, including this newspaper. Many Israelis welcomed it as a step in the right direction.
Yet before the world shouts "eureka", it is important to realise that the Arab initiative cannot be seen as a "take it or leave it" offer. It cannot serve as a diktat, or replace the need for bilateral negotiations, on both the Palestinian and Syrian tracks. The plan is an interesting starting point for negotiations, but the international community should be under no illusions. Elements of the text are a cause for grave concern as regards the survivability of the state of Israel.
The demand that Palestinians should be able to relocate to areas inside the borders of the state of Israel jeopardises Israel's very existence. Most Israelis understand and support the creation of a future Palestinian state. It is difficult, however, to understand why Palestinians, having created a state of their own, would subsequently insist on sending their own people to the Jewish state. Instead of demographically undermining the state of Israel, surely Palestinians would be better able to help build their own nation within their own state.
Israel's concern over the future of Jerusalem should also not be underestimated. From time immemorial, Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and will always remain so. Meanwhile, the final borders between Israel and a Palestinian state can only be determined bilaterally. The 1967 borders might provide a reference point for negotiations, but the demographic realities and security concerns of Israel's population must be taken into account.
Nevertheless, the revival of interest in the plan, first proposed by the Saudi king in 2002, met with interest in Israel. In contrast, the reception elsewhere in the Middle East ranged from sceptical to hostile. Several Arab papers refused to publish an advert with the Israeli flag. For many, the very notion of Israeli statehood, as represented by our national flag, is still taboo.
The Iranian embassy, in a letter to the Guardian, was desperate to clarify its abhorrence for any recognition of "the illegitimate and fabricated Israeli regime". Iran's objections should surprise no one. Tehran has long supported the most militant, most violent, least conciliatory elements within Arab populations, such as Hizbullah and Hamas. It is no coincidence the revival of interest in the Arab initiative comes at a time of increased Arab fears about the aggressive policies of the Iranian regime, its extreme ideology and nuclear ambitions.
The world must encourage the responsible leadership of the Arab world, which in turn should promote a new spirit of pragmatism and enlightened self-interest among their peoples. In a recent speech in Abu Dhabi, David Miliband pointed out that "Arab states can rein in the power of those groups which would seek to torpedo the process". He also argued that "the Palestinians simply do not have enough on their own to offer the Israelis to clinch a deal". Both Israel and the Palestinians will require a broad umbrella of regional support as they negotiate a settlement.
The Saudis, Kuwaitis and other Gulf states could do more to encourage the Palestinians towards compromise. Instead of perpetuating unattainable fantasies that have long held back the Palestinian cause, they should help their Palestinian brethren set realistic, attainable goals. The international community should persuade the oil-rich Gulf countries to make more effective use of surplus revenues. One of the ironies blighting the Palestinians is that they receive far more support from the EU than from their supposedly concerned Arab brothers and sisters. Saudi Arabia has proved better at pledging than paying.
Elsewhere in the Gulf, while flamboyant firework displays light up the skies above luxury resorts, precious little is done to prevent the rockets fired from Gaza. While petrol dollars boost the budget at Manchester City, it is time to spend more on the infrastructure of Ramallah than the wages of Robinho.
The Arab initiative envisages peace between Israel and all 22 states of the Arab League, from Mauritania to Oman. To move that vision from rhetoric to reality, the wealthier Arab states must do more, politically, diplomatically and economically, to steer their less fortunate counterparts towards the path of moderation and progress.
For too long the Middle East has been crippled, as Arab populations have been force-fed the lie that Israel's destruction is both desirable and imminent. Today, as Iran continues to inject these poisonous concepts into the body of the region, the Middle East must abandon the mindset of the 1967 Khartoum conference and its infamous three noes.
For the 21st century, three realities must instead be acknowledged: Israel exists, Israel belongs, and recognising Israel would be to the benefit of every Arab society. Everyone in the region with the ability to promote this understanding must be urged to do so."
Ron Prosor is the Israeli ambassador in London
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2008
Monday, 8 December 2008
I'm considering starting a new focus group with the acronym of "JFJP" or "Jews for Justice for Pork".
After all, if some of our misguided brethren feel the need to front the other JFJP (Jews for Justice for Palestinians) group to stand up for those poor, peace-loving Palestinians, why shouldn't the Ireland's pigs get our unified support too?
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
I would have had no hesitation in doing so about ten years ago.
These days, I'm too frightened to voice my opinions about the Government.
Welcome to Britain circa 2008.
How such a tragedy can strike a family is something that I (and I suspect most other people) find hard to rationalise. I only hope and pray that both the parents and their child will find the eternal peace in Heaven that so eluded them down here in this cesspit we call "life".
You can read more about the funeral here.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
But the problem with taking this approach is that eventually, as callous as it sounds, the attacks in Mumbai will distance themselves from our psyche, in the same way September 11th and July 7th have done. I don't mean this with any kind of disrespect, but time has an asynchronous way of cushioning the raw ferocity of emotions that we all feel when we hear about these atrocities and eventually, we find ourselves looking at the events if not with less horror, than with the anaesthetically numbed memory, if you can call it that.
I say this because in a week or two, when events will have taken over our minds, my problems - the ones I felt guilty about considering in the first paragraph - will still be there, as raw and fresh as when they they first burrowed their way into my thoughts.
In short, I've had a pretty crap day and it doesn't look as though things are getting better. I got really upset with a comment that a student made and I know that I shouldn't take these things to heart. In "teaching school", we are told how to biologically transform our bodies so that they grow a very thick epidermis, if you will, on top of the one we were born with. Kids can be callous at times, not realising how hurtful they can be and by and large, I take 99% of the comments I receive with a heavy duty pinch of salt.
However, every now and again, one of the barbs gets through and pierces the inner sanctum.
I've spent the day trying to rationalise the statement he made and understand why he made it. I'm becoming a pretty adept apologist for a student whom I don't think realises that he should be saying the "S" word. In his frame of reference, his argument was sound and although I understand why he said what he did, I feel hurt that he chose to attack me in such a way. I really have tried to assist him and respond to all his questions. I've been diligent with my feedback, ensuring he knew what to do to get a better grade.
At times, teaching can be a really crappy job. You spend hours preparing lessons, marking work and then turn up, only to face abuse from ungrateful teenagers. I think they forget that we are not automatons, but real people who can also bruise much more easily than we let on.
Then again, looking at the what's going on in the world, maybe I should be glad that I haven't got bigger problems to worry about - like finding a new job or Heaven Forbid, dodging a terrorist's bullets.
Perhaps, just being alive is the best way I can honour the people who weren't blessed to see the light of day last Thursday morning.
By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
All terrorism is monstrous, but the murder of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg by ‘religious Islamic extremists’ stands out for its unspeakable infamy. The deliberate targeting of a small Jewish center and its married young directors, whose only purpose it was to provide for the religious needs of a community and feed travelers, proves that those who perpetrated this crime are bereft not only of even a hint of humanity, but every shred of faith as well. The world’s most aggressive atheists are more religious than these spiritual charlatans and pious frauds. When Osama bin Laden, whose beard masks the face of the ultimate religious hypocrite, attacked the World Trade Center in New York, the target was purportedly chosen as the very symbol of American materialism and excess. But what could these ‘religious’ people have been thinking in exterminating a twenty-something couple with two babies who moved from the world’s richest country to India to provide religious services and faith to the poor and the needy? What blow against Western decadence were they striking by targeting a Chabad House whose entire purpose it is to spread spirituality to people whose lives lack it? Now is not only a time to remember the victims but to hate their killers. One cannot love the innocent without simultaneously loathing those who orphan their children.
I know how uncomfortable people feel about hatred. It smacks of revenge. It poisons the heart of those who hate. But this is true only if we hate the good, the innocent, or the neutral. Hating monsters, however, motivates us to fight them. Only if an act like this repulses us to our core will we summon the will to fight these devils so that they can never murder again.
I am well aware that my hero Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” But surely the great man never meant for this to apply to people like Hitler who was never going to be stopped by love but only by an eloquent loathing as articulated by Winston Churchill which summoned an allied campaign to carpet-bomb his war-making apparatus into oblivion. Indeed, had King’s non-violent movement not been protected, at crucial times, by Federal Marshalls and the National Guard, the terrorist thugs of the Ku Klux Klan might have killed every last one of them.
As for my Christian brethren who regularly quote to me Jesus’ famous saying, ‘Love your enemies,’ my response is that our enemies and G-d’s enemies are different parties altogether. Jesus meant to love those who steal your girlfriend, cut you off on the road, or swindle you in a business deal. But to love those who indiscriminately murder G-d’s children is an abomination against all that is sacred. Is there a man who is human whose heart is not filled with moral revulsion against terrorists who target a Rabbi who feeds the hungry? Would G-d or Jesus ask me to extend even one morsel of my limited capacity for compassion to fiends rather than saving every last particle for their victims instead? Could G-d really be so unreasonable, could Jesus be so cruel, as to ask me to love baby-killers? And would such a G-d be moral if He did? Could I pray to a G-d who loves terrorists? Could I find comfort in Him knowing that He offers them comfort as well? No, such a god would be my enemy. He would abide in Hades rather than heaven. And I would be damned before I would worship him. I will accept an eternity in purgatory rather than a moment of celestial bliss shared with these beasts.
Now is the time for our Muslim cleric brethren to rise in chorus and condemn the repulsive assassins who use Islam to justify their hatred. One such courageous Imam, and one of the North America’s most prominent, is my friend Imam Shabir Ali of Toronto who courageously responded to my call with a public statement the day after the murders: “Such terrorist attacks are not justifiable on any grounds. Islam cannot condone such murder of innocent civilians. From what you have described, Rabbi and Mrs. Holtzberg are of great service to humanity. Our knowledge of their service adds to our sense of loss and grief that such bad things can happen to such good people. Islam is built on the monotheist foundations which the Jewish people struggled for many centuries to maintain in the face of much severe opposition. Muslims and Jews should work together for a better world in which the terrorist acts we have seen in Mumbai this week are a thing of the past. I pray that the perpetrators will be brought to justice, and that the Lord with compensate the victims with a handsome reward in this world and the next.”
But as the next world is reserved for G-d, who also has much to answer for as to how He can allow righteous people like the Holtzbergs and all the other Mumbai innocents to die, it is for us the living to recommit to their work. I suggest that best possible response by the world Jewish community to this travesty is to implement a program of a Jewish peace corps to Chabad Houses the world over. Young people, especially students age 16 to 30, should offer to spend two weeks of each summer volunteering for a Chabad House somewhere in the world to help the emissaries with their very difficult and important work. This past summer three of my teen children volunteered to work for Chabad in Cordova, Argentina and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives, as they shared in the isolation of a dedicated Chabad family who have lived there for 20 years to cater to the spiritual needs of the local community.
Finally, the world witnessed how the Holtzberg’s non-Jewish nanny, Sandra Samuels, saved their two-year-old Moshe’s life, running out with the child while risking being mowed down by machinegun fire. In that instant, we saw how the religious differences between pale beside the higher of us all being equally G-d’s children, Indian and Jew, Muslim and Christian, and how acts of courage and compassion are that which unite us. As I write these lines the State of Israel is being lobbied by the Hotlzberg’s remaining family to grant Ms. Samuels immediate citizenship. A hero of her caliber would be an honor to the Jewish State and the request should not be delayed by even a single day.
Monday, 1 December 2008
My daughters have been phenomenal. Dassi made me the most beautiful card, replete with "41" badge and I was given two gorgeous cards created by Tali and Michal/Shira. I love being a daddy!!!
Dana managed to get me the most amazing gift...and one that I will be eternally grateful for - a microwave oven. I say this because I've been begging her to get one since the day we got married (even before) but she steadfastly refused, preferring the good old methods (i.e oven) to heat food up.
This evening, instead of having to wait an agonising 25 minutes for my meal, my ravenous appetite was satisfied in less than 300 seconds, thanks to my new birthday present. I can think of no finer or more appreciated gift for a man than a way to get him receiving his hot dinner quickly. On behalf of my end-of-day-patience, my 6:00 pm grumpiness and general physical weakness (hey, I'm a man OK - this means something), I thank her from the very bottom of my gastric system.
When my hunger has been satisfied, I can sit back and listen to the songs I've added to the newly received iPod, courtesy of my wonderful parents.
What more can anyone ask for. I've been truly spoiled and the great thing is that I can enjoy my presents for a long, long time to come.
Anyone for 2 minute porridge tomorrow morning?
Sunday, 30 November 2008
By Paul Cashmere
The highlight if my media career was definitely having the chance to interview George Harrison. George was funny, informative and up for a chat. Today marks the 7th anniversary of the death of what we all called `the Quiet Beatle`. Here is a a candid chat with Beatle George.
Paul Cashmere: I'm going to start off by talking about movies. I don't know how many times I've see "Monty Python's Life of Brian," in which you have a cameo. I've searched for your part, even on freeze frame. The problem with that movie is that everyone in it looks like George Harrison. Put me out of my misery. Where are you in it?
George Harrison: Well if you're looking for me, then everybody's going to look like that. There's just one little shot, it's probably about 12 frames. Do you know the scene where he comes out of the room and there's crowds of people in the house and John Cleese is there saying, "Those people with gifts form a queue on the left. Those possessed by demons over to the right," and then he comes out and he says, "Brian, Mister Papadopolus has promised to loan us the mount for Monday." You have to go through it again and see that scene and it cuts across and I'm in the crowd. And I just say "Eh, hello, thank you or something ... hello". That's all it is!
Paul Cashmere: And you never got an Oscar for that, George?
George Harrison: No, no, but I'm still hoping. Well, actually they wanted me to do the part of Christ in there, you know, at the beginning where he's doing the sermon on the mount. That's what they tried to get me to do, but I thought that's a bit too controversial.
Paul Cashmere: Yes, for someone from Liverpool, England, that is a bit over the top, isn't it!
George Harrison: (Laughing) Yes, it is.
Paul Cashmere: You and Eric Clapton go back a long way. When did you first meet?
George Harrison: I think I met him ... I'm not sure which year ... it was probably '63. No, must have been after that ... must have been '64 or '65 at the Hammersmith Odeon. He was in the Yardbirds. We did a Christmas season there ... two or three weeks we played there. That's the first time I met him. Then, later I met him ... somehow Brian Epstein was managing the Cream and the Bee Gees, and I used to see him hanging around at that point. That was when that guy (Robert) Stigwood had come to work for Brian Epstein. That's when I really got to know him quite a bit. It must have been 1966, '67.
Paul Cashmere: Considering Eric ran off with your first wife Patti, how have you managed to remain friends?
George Harrison: Well, he didn't really run off with her, because we'd kind of finished with each other basically anyway. And, you know, for me, this is what I think is the main problem, not the fact that he got married to Patti. I think the fact that makes the problem is that I didn't get annoyed at him and I think that has always annoyed him. I think that deep down inside he wishes that it really pissed me off, but it didn't, because I was happy that she went off, because we'd finished together, and it made things easier for me. You see, because otherwise we'd have had to gone through all these big rows and divorces. And you know, she went off to live in the same style she became accustomed to and it was really very convenient for me. So there.
Paul Cashmere: You've done a great version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with Eric on both "The Beatles" album and the live album. Let's set the record straight. Going back to the original version, there was a version recorded with John on lead guitar, one with yourself on lead guitar and one with Eric. Now which one was the one that actually made the (Beatles') White album?
George Harrison: Well, I don't know about one with John on guitar. There was one that just a kind of demo. When I wrote it, that was done with just an acoustic guitar. And then there's the version that was on the Beatle White album, the version with Eric Clapton. There's only ever really been the one's the Eric on it. Even the one I did on the Princes Trust album was still Eric playing on it.
Paul Cashmere: Who came up with the lead break for it?
George Harrison: Yeah, Eric just played that, you know, live as we were figuring out the song. Paul played piano on the original record in 1967. There was Ringo on drums. I don't believe John was there. I played acoustic guitar, Paul played piano, Ringo on drums and Eric played live with us, and then Paul overdubbed the bass later. So Eric just made up the guitar part spontaneously. So this is the thing ... when we went to rehearsal for the Live in Japan tour, he consciously listened to the old version and tried to re-learn, at least, to use the old version as the basis for where he started, and I guess sometimes you forget about good stuff you've already done. So he picked back up on what he'd done originally, but the solo on that one is brilliant, I think, on the live version now.
Paul Cashmere: Can you tell me about "Something". Now, you wrote that about Patti, is that right?
George Harrison: Well no, I didn't. I just wrote it, and then somebody put together a video. And what they did was they went out and got some footage of me and Patti, Paul and Linda, Ringo and Maureen, it was at that time, and John and Yoko and they just made up a little video to go with it. So then, everybody presumed I wrote it about Patti, but actually, when I wrote it, I was thinking of Ray Charles.
Paul Cashmere: He's not as good looking, but well, you know ...
George Harrison: Yeah, but he's a better singer. (Laughs) But that's what I was thinking of. I could hear in my head Ray Charles singing it.
Paul Cashmere: Were you frustrated by the fact that it took just about the entire career of the Beatles before you were granted the "A" side of single, and then the band broke up?
George Harrison: Well, it wasn't so much the "A" side of a single, but it was frustrating at times when we had to wade through millions of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer's" before we could get to one of mine, you know. Because I think now that when you look retrospectively, that there were a couple of my tunes that were good enough ? or better ? than ones that Paul or John had written occasionally. But you know, that's just how it was. It doesn't bother me, really. I was just on hold for a while.
Paul Cashmere: Which of your solo hits do you think would have made great Beatle songs?
George Harrison: This is the funny thing, isn't it? If the Beatles had continued making records, all of the solo stuff that we'd done would have been on Beatle albums. So "Cloud 9" would have been a Beatle record and all that stuff like that. So I don't know. Somebody just asked me about the songs on the "Live in Japan" record, saying did I worry about putting so many Beatle songs on. But so much time has elapsed. I don't even think of them as being Beatle songs so much, you know. When you go back to "I Want To Tell You" and "Taxman," they, to me, were just tunes I wrote, and they were recorded at that period, and it was the Beatles. And "Cloud 9" was a song that I wrote, but I recorded it with those other guys, and it was a solo album. Basically, the thread that binds it all together was that I wrote it, so I don't really see things as Beatles or solo. I just see it as a body of work that I've been involved with one way or another.
Paul Cashmere: What's the story with the Traveling Wilburys?
George Harrison: Well the story at the moment is that we've all been doing our day jobs, and the Wilburys being a kind of hobby has been just put on hold. So Tom Petty had just done an album, and he did a whole bunch of tours at the end of last year and going into this year. Bob Dylan, as you know, is continually on tour. And I did that live album and tour, so I'm not sure when we'll do a new record, because, you know, I'm planning to start planning and writing a new studio album ... although we all got together in New York for Bob Dylan's Madison Square Garden show, which was for 30 years of Bob Dylan kind of celebration. We all went on to do Bob Dylan songs.
Paul Cashmere: Have you heard Guns 'n' Roses "Knocking on Heaven's Door"?
George Harrison: Yeah, didn't even get the chords right, did they?
Paul Cashmere: So I take it you're not a big fan of that one, then?
George Harrison: There's only three chords in it, but they managed to get one of them wrong. (Laughs)
Paul Cashmere: Bob Dylan's been a great friend of yours over the years. Were you in awe of him when you first met him?
George Harrison: You know we'd had our first number one in America when we first met him, and I don't think he'd ever had a number one record. He just had two albums ... the first album didn't do that well and the second album, you know. He was definitely hot at the time. No, we weren't particularly in awe of him, but we really loved his album. We just heard his second album, "Freewheelin'." We'd just spent a month in Paris prior to going to do the Sullivan shows in 1964, February. We'd just spent a month listening to this album of his and it blew us away really. It was just something special about him obviously.
Paul Cashmere: You must have that same effect on new artists now when they meet you.
George Harrison: Yeah, I don't know. I don't know. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don't. But with Bob, he has proven to be special, you know, the words he wrote, the songs he's done. And I think one of the best things about him is that he's true to today to how he was back in 1963, and not a lot of people still believe in the same stuff they believed in then.
Paul Cashmere: Do you enjoy doing sessions, like when you played on albums by Belinda Carlisle and Jimmy Nail? How do you decide what you will or won't do?
George Harrison: I don't know. I'm not so sure now. The deal is usually I'll play on it if somebody just sends me the tape and they take whatever I do. I don't like having someone saying, "Do this, do that and no, can you make it sound like this?" Basically if they want me, they get what I am. Usually they want slide guitar parts. I don't know. Sometimes it works out good and sometimes I can't work out what to do with it when it's the type of song I normally wouldn't normally play myself.
Paul Cashmere: When your live album came out it ended with a nice touch, "Roll Over Beethoven". That was the "With the Beatles" track, the old Chuck Berry thing. That was the song you actually did the duet with yourself on originally.
George Harrison: Oh yeah. Well that's the kind of tune I would have forgotten totally about, but a friend of mine, who's into rock and roll, said, "You've got to do 'Roll Over Beethoven.'"And as it turned out, we went to do this press conference in Tokyo, and one of the questions, they said, "Mister Hallison, will you be playing Loll Over Beethoven?" (sic). And I said yes, and the whole room stood up and applauded. (Laughs) And I said, "It's a good job. We are doing it." The Japanese are very into "Roll Over Beethoven".
Paul Cashmere: The Apple catalogue, George, is slowly being re-released on CD. Why has that taken so long?
George Harrison: I would imagine because EMI, who have the original deals with the Beatles and Apple Records, you know, they went through years and years of re-negotiation. And it could have had something to do with that, you know, when they finally got it all cleared up, and also because it took a number of years when everybody started re-issuing everything back onto CD.
Paul Cashmere: I hear "Wonderwall Music" (George's first solo album) is coming up soon.
George Harrison: Oh good, because you can't find it on vinyl. If you've got a vinyl copy of that thing, it's really rare.
Paul Cashmere: I might head down the markets with mine if that's the case.
George Harrison: Yeah, you want to put it into one of them Beatle sales.
Paul Cashmere: Who are the bands you're most proud of from the Apple stable?
George Harrison: Anybody who had a hit, probably ... like Badfinger was pretty good. It was a very sad story, though, because the guy, he ended up killing himself. Pete Ham, who was a lovely fellow, he was a good guitar player and a great singer. He wrote ... the most famous tune I would imagine is "Without You", you know, the Harry Nilsson record.
Paul Cashmere: Tell us about Anthology and what's happening at Apple?
George Harrison: There's a lot of activity going on in Apple at the moment. We made this series of films, nine or 10 hours of film, because we've virtually completed 1962 and it's 75 minutes long, and there's also one about the same length for 1963 and then it will go through each year, 1964, '65, and it will go through like that. It will be a bit like "The Civil War," (editor's note: the Ken Burns TV miniseries) you know. Hopefully, a whole box of video cassettes or a TV series. But it's really interesting because of the years that elapsed, everybody's put out Beatle footage or videos. They think they've just about told all the stories, but the real story is the one that only we can tell, from our point of view, and we know all of the little intimate details. So we've been compiling all this footage from our own cameras, and there's just tons and tons of material. It's really exciting. I was very pleased to see it, because it's got all of our influences. It's this finely woven web of intrigue.
Paul Cashmere: How do you feel about "My Sweet Lord" these days. How did the court case surrounding that song effect your songwriting?
George Harrison: It didn't really affect my songwriting. I did record "This Song," which was kind of a comment about the situation. The thing that really disappoints me is when you have a relationship with one person and they turn out to betray you. Because the whole story of "My Sweet Lord" is based upon this fellow, Allan Klein, who managed the Beatles from about 1968 or '69, through until 1973. When they issued a complaint about "My Sweet Lord", he was my business manager. He was the one who put out "My Sweet Lord" and collected 20 percent commission on the record. And he was the one who got the lawyers to defend me, and did an interview in Playboy where he talked about how the song was nothing like the other song. Later, when the judge in court told me to settle with them, because he didn't think I'd consciously stolen their song, they were doing a settlement deal with me when they suddenly stopped the settlement. Some time elapsed, and I found out that this guy Klein had gone around the back door. In the meantime, we'd fired him. He went round the back door and bought the rights to the one song, "He's So Fine," in order to continue a law suit against me. He, on one hand, was defending me, then he switched sides and continued the law suit. And every time the judge said what the result was, he'd appeal. And he kept appealing and appealing until it got to the Supreme Court. I mean this thing went on for 16 years or something ... 18 years. And finally, it's all over with, and the result of it is I own "My Sweet Lord," and I now own "He's So Fine," and Allan Klein owes me like three or four hundred thousand dollars 'cause he took all the money on both songs. It's really a joke. It's a total joke.
Paul Cashmere: There's a movie plot in there somewhere.
George Harrison: There's definitely a book, because, now with any kind of law pertaining to infringement of copyright, they always quote this case. It's become the precedent in all these law students' books.
Paul Cashmere: So we might be seeing George Harrison make a guest appearance on "LA Law."
George Harrison: (Laughs) I doubt it, but we did keep a lot of lawyers employed for years, and we still are in one way or another. There's always some kind of bullshit going on.
Paul Cashmere: You've already documented your own anthology. For the benefit of Aussies, tell us about "When We Was Fab".
George Harrison: Yeah, until I finalized the lyric on it, it was always called "Aussie Fab". That was it's working title. I hadn't figured out what the song was going to say ... what the lyrics would be about, but I knew it was definitely a Fab song. It was based on the Fabs, and as it was done up in Australia there, up in Queensland, then that's what we called it. As we developed the lyrics, it became "When We Was Fab". It's a difficult one to do live because of all the all the little overdubs and all the cellos and the weird noises and the backing voices. Who knows ... maybe next time, we'll attempt it. We'll try it in the rehearsal and see.
Paul Cashmere: What do you think of the Beatle sound alike bands, the bands that have drawn influence, not the copy bands, but bands like Crowded House, for instance?
George Harrison: I don't think I've heard that Crowded House ... is that the latest one? You know, it's good, because there were some really good sounds in the mid-'60's Beatle records. Thats's really why I wanted to do that "Fab" one as well, to recreate some of those sounds.
Paul Cashmere: Were you ever disappointed that the Beatles stopped performing live when they did?
George Harrison: Not really. I was disappointed retrospectively. I was disappointed that we got so famous, because as musicians, we were a really good band in the early days. And the more fame that we got, the more the audience screamed and the more that we did just 20 or 30 minute shows of our latest singles. The musicianship kind of went out the window. And when I hang out with somebody like Eric Clapton, who, on the other hand never stopped touring and never got into that situation, he always just changed bands, he really became so fluent on his instrument. You know, we pigeonholed ourselves by the mania that was going on and the inability to perform for longer periods at a time, because of the way it was.
Paul Cashmere: The works got so intricate. You could never have done "Sgt Pepper" or "Abbey Road" live, could you?
George Harrison: But then again, if we'd have kept touring, we might not have gone into the studio to do those kind of intricate works. But the last tour we did, I remember trying to do "Paperback Writer", which had a kind of double-tracked vocal and all that stuff, and it was a bit embarrassing at the time. I remember, "This isn't making it. This doesn't sound very good." So I don't know, but the Beatle tours were something else. You would have had to have been there to know how ridiculous it was. There was no way we could have continued under those circumstances.Copyright 1996-2008 Cashmere Media Pty Ltd
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Some of these kids seemed convinced that all Jews are rich (nothing new there then) and that the reason why Charedim/Hasidim wear large hats is solely because they need somewhere to hide their money under. This is obviously an idea that they will have heard from home or in the media or in their place of worship.
I ridiculed this suggestion by taking my kipah (skullcap) off in front of them and shaking it a few times to see if any money would come out. I then put my hands into my hair, ruffled it a little and waited for the notes to fall out. Unfortunately, I wasn't successful. My hair was definitely moneyless.
The kids then replied that they weren't talking about "you Sir", but the others who wear large hats.
Despite my protestations and evidence to the contrary, these young adults are already eagerly buying into the age old anti-Semitic lies that we have had to contend with since the days of Abraham. Nothing I could say or do could convince them that they were talking utter rubbish. I even told them that I had met a lot of Jews and had not once ever seen money leaking out of either a streimel, spodek or any type of headgear.
Of course they didn't believe me.
I had another student in a different class talk about "you lot", continuing with the usual crap about money, power etc. Unfortunately, it's not only the kids in the school who believe this hogwash, but that's another story that I'm not going to elucidate on.
I write about this with a clear image of what has just been happening in Mumbai clogging the arteries of both my heart and brain.
It was no accident that the terrorists (and not "militants" as the BBC, CNN and so forth call them - these people are terrorists. They terrorise and kill, so let's make sure we use the correct terminology instead of this watered down crap) specifically targeted the Chabad House and killed the Rabbi, Rebetzin and anyone else they could shoot. It was a blatant act of anti-Semites, irrespective of what any Palestine adoring left-winger will want to tell you.
Let's rewind five, ten years ago when these young terrorists were sitting in a classroom as teenage students. Did they also believe that the Jews were rich and powerful? Did they also come to lessons with their minds poisoned from what they heard at home, in the media or in their place of worship?
Thinking about the way this week has panned out, I feel a chill traverse it's way through my very being. The poisoned minds of today's children could, might or might not lead to the kinds of twisted logic those young men felt when they stormed into the hotels, restaurants and particularly the Chabad House and butchered innocents.
I'm not saying that the children I teach will ever carry out such actions, but the fact that they are already poisoned with the vitriol of antisemitism makes me wonder how many others of their age, who also believe the same lies, will move on from ridiculing our people, to despising them and wanting to make the next logical bloodthirsty move.
It's a downright depressing thought but then again, if you're the one person reading this who has taught his or her child or student that all Jews are rich and powerful, you've got some real explaining to do.
And I wouldn't leave it for too long either.
Thursday, 27 November 2008
Why is one human being spending his/her time planning the murder of countless others? Why is this person not working in a decent job, trying to make a living, just like the rest of us?
I went to school today, interacted with the kids, showed them that I gave a damn about their futures and came home. This evening, I sat there for three hours, planning lessons, wondering how I would teach them tomorrow and how they might react to my methods.
At no single moment did I think about how I could harm them. It didn't occur to me that maybe tomorrow, Heaven forbid, someone would be sitting in a room planning to kill either them, their friends, relatives or neighbours. For me, the amount of time I spend awake is given over to fanning a different sort of fire, the kind that encourages young adults to go out there and make their existence on earth worthwhile.
I looked at the coverage on TV with feelings of despair, frustration and anger.
Tomorrow, I will go to school and plant some seeds. I only hope that out of the hundred I sow, at least one will go out into the world and add a little light to the very frightening darkness.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
A few months after I got it, some shitty little teenagers decided to go joy-riding down my street and inflicted on my little Fordy what would turn out to be one of the first in a long line of serious attacks.
If that weren't enough, another little teenage angel ran his key along the bonnet and driver's side, adding more hurt and shame to this long suffering automobile. I was definitely starting to worry about leaving my Fordy alone in a street or school car park.
I really felt her pain (but not enough to shell out money to relieve it).
Then, I get to my new school and someone backs into Fordy - again in the car park. If that weren't enough, another little darling took out his anger and smashed the driver's mirror, but a few yards away from the previous misdemeanour.
Now you'd think that my Fordy would have had enough pain to last a lifetime of cars. However, it was not to be because on Sunday, whilst driving the car, Dana had someone smash into the back bumper as she waiting on a roundabout (or as you Americans like to call it, a ro-ta-ry).
Battered, bruised and pretty much pissed off (we're talking about me now), I looked at the remains of my car and thoroughly frustrated, wondered as to what on earth it could have been in a former life, to deserve such hate. I even toyed with buying a personalised numberplate bearing the legend "WTF", but as I said, I'm not as financially attached to Fordy as I should be - or rather as she deserved her own to be.
Fordy is being taken away tomorrow to be looked at, assessed and probably written off by the insurance company- the last ignominious detail in a pretty sad history. I only hope that if and when I get a new car, people will treat it with a little more respect.
I can honestly say that I've never driven such a battered car in my life. Even worse, not one single dent was caused as a result of my driving.
Poor little Fordy, I could only protect you so much - it looks like you didn't do very well on your own. Ironically, I had an "All You Need Is Love" sticker on the back window.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
CNN) -- Things didn't go quite according to plan for astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper during her spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Tuesday.
Astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper maneuvers by the tail of the docked space shuttle Endeavour.
Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen were outside the space station on the scheduled six-hour spacewalk, the first of the space shuttle Endeavour's stay at the station.
After completing a few preliminary tasks, Stefanyshyn-Piper was beginning the job of cleaning and lubricating the gears of the station's malfunctioning starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, or SARJ, when she discovered the grease gun leak and then lost the bag.
Cleaning and lubricating the starboard SARJ is a time-consuming job, and will take several spacewalks to complete. When finished, the joint should be partially functional again. More extensive repairs are planned for the future.
Stefanyshyn-Piper was able to share tools with Bowen, and NASA mission controllers expressed confidence that the lost tool bag would not be too much of a problem for the duration of the spacewalk.
Mission controllers were also tracking the lost bag, which they say is floating well clear of the station and drifting further away.
Stefanyshyn-Piper is a member of the crew of the Endeavour shuttle that docked at the ISS Sunday to help install more living areas and upgrade amenities at the station(c) CNN 2008
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Dana came home with some photos of our, taken when they were babies. Whilst looking through the photos, it occurred to me as to how our little have changed over what is a very short amount of time in my life.
Only 8 years ago, my eldest daughter was just three; Talia was 1, Michal was just about something and Shira....well, she wasn't!
We live with the same people day in and day out and we don't realise how they've changed over time. A chance look at some photographs suddenly brings it all home.
Ten years ago, I remember what was happening to me. The same can't be said about 80% of the people living in this house!
You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbour.
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk.
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk.
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and shoots you.
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away...
You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.
You have two female giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons
AN AMERICAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.
ENRON VENTURE CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit
opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with
an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax
exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman
Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights
to all seven cows back to your listed company
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.
You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States , leaving you with
No balance sheet provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.
A FRENCH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three
A JAPANESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce
twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it
A GERMAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk
AN ITALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows, but you don't know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.
A RUSSIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
You count them again and learn you have 2 cows.
You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.
A SWISS CORPORATION
You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.
A CHINESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.
AN INDIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You worship them.
A BRITISH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Both are mad.
AN IRAQI CORPORATION
Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they bomb the **** out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of Democracy....
AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.
A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION
You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive.
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Having been to Jerusalem more times than I can remember, I have seen with deep alacrity the taking over of the city by the Ultra Orthodox Jews - with the result being the flight of moderates like myself and our secular brethren from the city we so adore.
I didn't like Teddy Kolleck but respected what he had done over the years. I didn't like Olmert (I still don't) as Mayor and was indifferent to the incumbent, although apparently, he was far less bothersome that I'd imagined.
Nir Barkat is a "new" face with a young, fresh approach - a man whom I believe can do a lot of good in the city, if only to re-balance the population and make the city attractive to non-Charedis.
We have enough of a problem with the Arabs trying to divide our city - we don't need to do this by ourselves.
Mazel Tov to Nir Barkat and good luck.
Your victory is hailed by the moderates amongst us, who still see Jerusalem as the capital of the whole Jewish nation.
Green pepper walls and water ice
Tables of paper wood, windows of light
And everything emptying into White.
Those lines from the beautiful Cat Stevens song really describe what has been happened at our abode over the last fortnight.
When we moved here, nearly a decade ago, we were faced with pepper(mint) green lined walls that frankly looked vile. We lived with these because re-papering/re-painting the walls was out of the question, not least because my DIY skills aren't what they used to be - i.e. they were never too hot and now...they're abysmal - and money wasn't exactly flowing.
Fast forward to the last two weeks and, as Dylan puts it, things have changed. Our walls are now a gleaming shade of white and the house has been transformed into a place that I am happy to show off to friends - as well as to come home to after a day at work.
The chief architect behind this endeavour was my good lady who found a fantastic decorator, the kind that I would have no hesitation recommending were he to have the time to do any more jobs. Yes, he's that good. Between her resolve and his skills, we have our very own White House.
Our green pepper(mint) walls are indeed no more and it definitely feels as if the hallway, landing, first floor and upstairs toilet have definitely been emptying into white.