All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Amazing 3D Tour of Masada

This website is quite extraordinary, even more so if you've made the journey up the snake path, which I have done on numerous occasions. It's really the only way to get up there...and using the cable car is cheating!

You haven't lived properly until you've seen the sunrise over the Dead Sea.

3D Tour of Masada

Israel's actions in Gaza is an act of self-defence

The Scribbler's Review of 2008

Well folks, we are on the cusp of a new Gregorian year and looking back, there's been quite a bit that's occupied my thoughts.

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,

The Scribbler
31st December.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Whilst the world's media is automatically demonising Israel, without bothering to get the facts right (which is nothing new), a number of illuminating statements have appeared in the Palestinian Media. I want to share this with you, because you won't find this on CNN or Sky or the BBC. YOu certainly won't see it in a "quality" newspaper like The Guardian.

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)


Endnotes:
(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

Hamas Military Targets Hit by Israeli Air Force

What can you do in 15 seconds?

Stand Up And Be Counted As A Friend Of Israel

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 -

http://www.facebook.com/pages/GIYUS/40831469053

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.

The Campaign That Has To Take Place

Unlike our Palestinians neighbours, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to know that Arabs have been killed. I won't go around handing out sweets "celebrating" the deaths of women and children. I'm Jewish and we don't do that kind of thing.

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.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Merry Christmas, Israel

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Channel Four's Unfunny "Joke"

I've come to sadly expect pretty much anything when I switch on TV. From watching a man commit suicide in Switzerland to seeing a pig being pleasured (I kid you not), broadcasters pretty much know no bounds. I could get rid of the TV, but that wouldn't stop the programmes being shown and what's worse, people actually watching them.

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

A Prayer for Gilad


אבינו שבשמים תשמור על גלעד שליט החייל החטוף למען ילדיך אהובים שאתה אוהב.
תשמור עליו מכל צרה ומכל פגע בבקשה אלוהים תחזיר אותו הביתה בריא ושלם
אנחנו בניך מבקשים ,תשמור עליו

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.

Sex In The Dark

There was this couple that had been married for 20 years. Every time they made love the husband always insisted on shutting off the light. Well, after 20 years the wife felt this was ridiculous. She figures she would break him of this crazy habit. So one night, while they were in the middle of a wild, screaming, romantic session, she turned on the lights. She looked down and saw her husband was holding a battery-operated leisure device... A vibrator! Soft, wonderful and larger than a real one. She went completely ballistic. "You impotent bastard," She screamed at him, "How could you be lying to me all of these years? You better explain yourself!" The husband looks her straight in the eyes and says calmly: "I'll explain the toy . . You explain the kids."

How True!

Your House As Seen By:

You...


Your Buyer....

Your Lender...


Your Mortgage Valuer...

Your Council Tax Assessor...

Monday, 22 December 2008

De-Christmatizing Chanukah

I'd like to start by wishing all of my Jewish visitors a Chanukah Sameach, a happy, joyous Chanukah. May the lights of the Chanukiah, the eight branched candelabra, bring some very special light into your life - and the lives of your families.

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

Shameful

The deaths of 25 Russian travel agents (and the injuries of another 33) in yet another horrific crash on Israel roads is sadly something that doesn't surprise most of us anymore.

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

Sickening

This makes me feel positively sick

Leaflet: Mumbai Chabad attack ‘God’s punishment’

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

Emotional Saturation

It is an old cliche but I'm reminded of the famous phrase, "the darkest hour is before dawn" at this particular moment.

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.

Saturated.
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.

Enough.

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.

Here's hoping.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

A Gulf Worth Bridging

By Ron Prosor

"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

JFJP (Jews for Justice For Pork)

As an Orthodox Jew, I am very worried about the tainted Irish pork. I mean, these poor animals come in for such a bad press from our people and now this?

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

A Self-Censored Posting

I would very much like to post a blog which describes my anger at the Government and Police's despicable actions towards Damian Green.

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.

It's Enough To Make You Weep

I've just been reading about the funeral of Chabad Rabbi Gavi Holtzberg and his wife in Israel. It turns out that the couple's oldest son died of Tay Sachs, a terrible terrible genetic disease that affects Jewish kids in particular, whilst his middle brother is currently hospitalized by the condition. As far as I know, the baby who was rescued from Nariman House in Mumbai is not similarly afflicted.

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

Guilt By Disassociation

I sometimes wonder whether I am being either extraordinarily selfish or just petty when I think about all the issues in my own life that aren't working out. Looking at the kind of devastation caused in Mumbai, I really do feel that my problems aren't worth too much.

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.

Love the Victims, Loathe their Killers

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

Mr Birthday Boy

I can't believe how many people have wished me happy birthday. The advent of Facebook has really hit home today as I looked through the good wishes, which I was really touched by.

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?

Happy Birthday To Me

I am now 41 years old and 9 minutes.

I had better get to bed before I turn 42.