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

Friday, 27 March 2009

The Knesset Election

Teacher:  Good morning.  Your parents. . .  invited me today. . . to give you a
private lesson in Israeli  . . .        citizenship.

Pupil:  Yeah, we made Aliah  from Vancouver last month and I 'm missing a lot of material in the Ezrahoot ('citizenship') course, though I did try to follow the news before we came.

Teacher: Not to worry.  Today we'll talk about,  'how the Israeli electoral system works."

Pupil:       That's great.  I'm really confused by what I read in the papers and blogs.

Teacher: Let's start with the results of last week's . . . elections. 

Pupil:     OK.  Who got the most votes?

Teacher: Tsipi Livni, head of the Kadima (=forward) party, with 28 seats.

Pupil:       So Ms. Livni won, right?

Teacher:  No, she lost.  It doesn't look like she'll be able to get enough partners to form a majority government.

Pupil:      What about Bibi Netanyahu?

Teacher: He got 27 seats.  As the leader of the right, he may form a coalition of 65 right wing party seats. 

Pupil:       Then he won, I guess..

Teacher: No, Avigdor Lieberman ( Israel is Our Home) won.

Pupil:      How many seats did he get?

Teacher:    15.

Pupil:     So how did he win?

Teacher:  That's the way politics in Israel works. 

Pupil:     It's confusing with three major parties! 

Teacher: What, three?  Who told you three?  There's also the labour party.  They once were the largest party in Israel , and ruled for the first 30 years.  Today they have 11 seats. 

Pupil: Four parties?  How do you ever get anyth- 

Teacher: Stop interrupting me!  Four?  Who told you four?  There's also Shas: 

Pupil:       What's Shas? 

Teacher: Ultra orthodox Moroccans.  They appeared on the scene some twenty years ago and they have around 12 seats today. 
Pupil: How bewildering.  What are  the main issues that divide the parties? 

Teacher: The crucial issue is the 'territories' that Israel gained during the war in 1967. If you believe that these areas are an integral part of Israel and that Jews should continue to live there, you are on the 'right.'  If you believe that Israel should withdraw from these territories,  or make some kind of compromise, then you are on the 'left.' 

Pupil: I read that Bibi supported the retreat from Gaza and the expulsion of   10,000 Jews .  His party must be really far left.  Right? 

Teacher: Right.  I mean, no, he 's on the right.   His Licud party has always been right. 

Pupil:      What about Lieberman?  

Teacher: He says that there's too much power in the hands of rabbis.  He wants secular marriage and religious freedom. 

Pupil:   So he's the extreme left.  Right? 

Teacher: Wrong!  Wrong!  Wrong  again!   He's way right.  Extreme left is "Meretz". Their slogan is "We won't compromise." 

Pupil: That makes them radical right, right? 

Teacher: You have snow for brains, I see.  Wrong; LEFT!  They refuse all compromise , unless, of course, it is with Arabs.   Some of them actually believe that the Jewish state should not exist. 

Pupil: I'm getting dizzy.  So, all 120 Knesset seats will be taken by these six parties. That's really a lot. 

Teacher: You're kidding me, right?  What, six?  Who told you six?  You've forgotten National Religious parties: The Jewish Home party, for Jewish settlement of Judah and Samaria , and the National Union, who are really really absolutely for Jewish settlement of Judah and Samaria . Then there are also ultra orthodox Ashkenazim.  Some of them actually believe that the Jewish state should not exist. 

Pupil: Like Meretz, correct? 

Teacher: Corr- what, are you crazy?  Stop blathering and let me finish:  There are also three parties exclusively for Arabs. 

Pupil: Let me guess:  Some of the Arabs   actually believe that the Jewish state should not exist. 

Teacher: Now you're catching on. 

Pupil: I can't catch on to anything.  I've had it! This is too much for me! No country has twelve separate parties! 

Teacher: What twelve?  Who told you twelve?  Where are you going?  We've just started.  There's the male rights party, so all those divorced men whose wives got custody can take their kids out of the house.  There's the pensioner's party, to help the elderly get more often out of the house. There's the handicapped party, who want to get out of the house and have a place to go, and there's  For the Kids' Sake, which is trying to put kids taken out of their non functional households back into the house.  Of course you can't overlook "Hadash." 

Pupil: (glazed eyes):  That means 'new.' 

Teacher: Very good.  They want a new system:  Communism. 

Then we have 'The Strong Israel party.  They promise to fight organized crime. Unfortunately, Kadima is  organized crime.   There's also Tsomet-- 

Pupil: STOP! STOP! 

Teacher: Very good.  Stop for the Tsomet party.  The name means 'intersection.' 

Pupil: NO!  STOP STOP!!  I can't take any more.  

Teacher: You must listen!  What about 'Leader?' -- to curb the monopoly of the banks? 

The 'Light' Party?  The 'Responsibility Party?' the 'Noodleman Renewal Russian Party?' 

Pupil: (writhing on floor): No, this cannot be real.  Make it stop! 

Teacher: The Green Party to save the environment. 

Pupil: ( weaker) Nooooooooooooooooo. 

Teacher: The Leftist Religious Green Party, who are in favor of territorial compromise as long as we first separate the territory into glass, plastic and organic. 

Pupil:  Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! 

Teacher: The Green Leaf party fighting to legalize cannabis. 

Pupil: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! 

Teacher: And most important, The Green Leaf Senior/ Holocaust Survivor Merger Party, who will fight for the right to smoke their old cannabis and get more reparations at the same time. 

Pupil: ( is now lying motionless on the floor). 

Teacher: What's the matter with him.  We've only gone through the first 28! 

Twenty-eight?  Who told you twenty-eight!  Hey, get up!  There's a lot more to do! 

. . .            . . .              . . .        (sighs). . .What do you expect a Canadian kid to know about democracy!  

Note:  The above is based on a true political system.  In the Israeli elections held on Feb 10, there were THIRTY SEVEN separate lists!  While the above sketch is not conclusive, not one party mentioned above is made up; no matter how much they  look it.

Monday, 23 March 2009


Over the last few days, we have been regaled by the deaths of two very well known individuals, both in tragic circumstances.

Natasha Richardson, in all honesty, should have been waking up today, looking at the blue sky and hugging her two teenage children. Jade Goody, at 27 years of age, would of course do exactly the same. Instead, they are both looking down longingly on their lovers and offspring, wondering why life has dealt them such a cruel blow.

I'm not one of these people who buys into the "celebrity" circus. I do admit to getting starry eyed when I see a famous person, which isn't something I'm that used to doing - but I refuse to buy into the vapid and in my opinion time-wasting experience that is all the rage these days.

I did watch a couple of episodes of Big Brother but soon became bored with the whole concept. The only show I do follow religiously is The Apprentice and only because I see it as a fascinating insight into the way professional people work (or most of the time don't) as a group. There is also no better TV than watching Alan Sugar lose it with one of the contestants in the boardroom.

That's where, in my particular life, reality TV ends.

Natasha Richardson was a beautiful young woman with everything to live for. Then again, so is Joanne Smith or Mandy Jones. Whom, you may ask? I don't know but maybe somewhere in the world, one of them died after hitting their head on compacted snow.

At the same time that Natasha Richardson died, many many other people also bid farewell to their time on earth. We remember Natasha because she was famous, but it doesn't make her death any more important than anyone else's.

As crass as this sounds and I don't mean to insult anyone, I would like Natasha and Jade's deaths to mean more to me than they do. The way I can do this is wonder if something worthwhile can come out of the tragedies. You can probably see where I am going with this.

Natasha Richardson, aged 45 died as a result of hitting her uncovered head on a hard surface. I was therefore heartened to note yesterday that as a result of what has happened, it is virtually impossible to find ski helmets on sale in the shops that surround ski slopes around the world. They've all gone. Sold. After all, who wants to be the next "Natasha Richardson"?
It seems as though, ironic as it may seem, her death could save other lives.

Jade too has left a lasting legacy in a different way. Young women in their droves are signing up to get smear tests, so that they too can avoid becoming the next "Jade Goody".

Now I'm getting interested. At last, there seems to be something more important than "celebrity deaths" filling the void that so many people seem to feel is existent in their lives. They are looking to these people in a way that has a worthwhile impact (excuse the pun) on their lives.

Maybe Natasha and Jade will be remember for the right reasons.

I suspect that both women would want this to be case, because at the end of the day, all our lives have to mean than just looking good or being super-rich. Both womens' desire to get on with their lives and do the best for their families makes me wonder whether the culture of celebrity is less of their making and more of ours.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Monday, 16 March 2009

Aeronautic Aquatics

You know what it's like. You think you've seen everything and then an event occurs, the likes of which you didn't think was possible.

A case in point.

Last night I was putting the kids to bed after a pretty stressful day. As I walked into the living room, I was greeted with the shocking sight of a goldfish lying on the parquet floor, obviously as dead as a dodo.

How the fish (one of two) had managed to get out of its bowl, atop of the piano, was pretty mysterious, but not as shocking as the realisation that it was still alive, despite having been on the floor for an unknown amount of time. Having scooped the poor thing up with the dust pan and brush, ready for the inevitable toilet flushing, I moved quickly to the kitchen and put the poor thing in a bowl of water.

My first worry was that it had lost a fin, but this proved unfounded as the second side fin suddenly reappeared and the goldfish came out of shock.

I changed the water in the fish bowl and put it back in. Soon enough it was swimming around as though nothing had occurred. I sat back on the coach, put a DVD on ("Dreamgirls", which I hadn't seen) and tried to get over my trauma at what had happened.

A short while later, out of the corner of my eye, I could hardly believe what I saw. Goldfish #2 , whose name I don't think we ever got around to declaring, jumped high into the air and landed in exactly the same spot as his/her friend.

I quickly got up, scooped the rather dazed creature in my hands and put it straight back in the water.

Mystery solved.

I went for a trawl (pun intended) on the Internet and to my surprise found out that for some reason or other, goldfish have a tendency to jump out of their water. Whether this is as a result of squabbling, boredom, distaste for their liquid life, a desire to try suicide as an alternative to swimming around all day, I do not know, but it explains why fish tanks should always be covered.

Suddenly, Shira's crime, as a tot seemed rather contrived. We had found a previous inhabitant of the tank dried up on the floor and naturally ascribed his/her fate to the experimenting fingers of a two year old. I'm not saying she didn't take the fish out, but now, her guilt seems a little less certain.

So there you have it. Fish really do fly. I've seen it with my own eyes and the very knowledge has given me just a little more humility.

I guess I don't know as much as I thought I did.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Letting The Cat Out Of The Bag

I know that 25th February is probably more recent than it sounds, granted that March started four days later, but I felt that it was time to re-engage my blogging-brain and update this site.

I actually blame my wife who complained that my blog was turning into a repository for other people's articles. She has a point, even though I still maintain that the purpose of this site is to inform, entertain and maybe even get someone thinking, irrespective of who is responsible for the content therein.

Her comment jolted me a little and although I could see her point of view, I decided that I'd take a little break from posting.

So here I am, back and raring to go.

In fact, I've been a little coy with you.

About a month ago, I saw an advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle for a new teaching post in a Jewish secondary school. After a little hesitation, I decided to go for the post, filled in the application form, went for the interview/observation and to my delight, got the job. I will be starting Please G-d in September.

It makes a lot of sense for me to work in Jewish school - even more so now, because I've managed to accumulate four years of really solid teaching experiences in a Gentile environment.

Working in Jewish school will afford me the luxury of being able to take Jewish holidays off without:
a) losing money - I had quite a bit docked for taking off four days of Sukkot/Simchat Torah
b) having to prepare cover lessons for these days and then having to get my classes back on track because kids don't generally work when they have a cover teacher.
c) worrying about how I am going to get around having to leave early on Friday afternoons in the winter-time.

All in all, it will be lovely to celebrate my festivals in an environment that is more familiar to me. I'll have to also deal with annoying Jewish parents (of which I am one too!), so that's not necessarily something I'm looking forward to...but it's part of the package.

That said, I'm very happy in my current school and will be sorry to leave. It is difficult to leave the teachers and kids, but as soon as the new term begins and they get engrossed in their work, I doubt they'll give me a second thought!

So here I am, waiting for Purim to arrive, not looking forward to the Fast of Esther tomorrow, but knowing that something new is awaiting me at the end of the summer.

It's good to be blogging again.