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

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Honoured In Vilna

You may recall that I wrote a short blog last year on my return to my grandparents' flat in Antwerp after nearly thirty years.

The article was picked up by Daniel E. Levinson, the editor of a very prestigious website called "The New Vilna Review". He asked me to write a piece about my visit for his site which I duly submitted to him.

I'm very proud to report that the said article can now be found on the site at:
The New Vilna Review.

Whilst you're there, please have a look at the other articles, which represent the very best in contemporary Jewish writing. I am extraordinarily honoured to have a piece I have penned sitting there amongst such an impressive collection of writings. Thank you Daniel.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Monday, 23 February 2009

Fornication

One day Benjy comes home from school, goes straight to his
father and asks, "What is fornication, Dad?" He gets the answer
all Jewish fathers give:
"Why don't you ask your mother, Son?"

So Benjy goes into the kitchen and asks his mother,
"What is fornication Mom? Dad said you would know." His mother replies,
"I'm busy right now Benjy, why don't you go and ask your bubbe. She will tell you."

So Benjy goes upstairs to his bubbe's room, knocks on
her door and shouts,
"Please Bubbe, what is fornication? No one here seems to know." Bubbe says, "Come inside tatellah."

She then takes him to her closet, opens the door, takes out a beautiful
full-length pink, beaded evening dress and says, "This, tatellah, is
foranoccasion."


Bibi Netanyahu On Top Form

Even those who aren't particularly sympathetic to Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, could get a good measure of satisfaction from this interview with British Television this week. I guess it can be attributed to Minister Netanyahu's days studying history at Harvard.

The interviewer asked him: "How come so many more Palestinians have been
killed in this conflict than Israelis?" (A nasty question if there ever was
one!)

Netanyahu: "Are you sure that you want to start asking in that direction?"

Interviewer: (Falling into the trap) Why not?

Netanyahu: "Because in World War II more Germans were killed than British and Americans combined, but there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the war was caused by Germany's aggression.

And in response to the German blitz on London, the British wiped out the entire city of Dresden, burning to death more German civilians than the number of people killed in Hiroshima.

Moreover, I could remind you that in 1944, when the R.A.F. tried to bomb the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen, some of the bombs missed their target and fell on a Danish children's hospital, killing 83 little children. Perhaps you have another question?"

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Tali Turns Ten

Tali, I can't quite believe that in about half an hour, it will be the tenth anniversary of your first breath of the world you are now inhabiting.

Where have those years gone?
Where is the little girl I carried?

You are the one visual proof that exists of my ability to father children. If I were to vanish tomorrow, everyone would still know that you are my daughter, because you carry my face on yours.

Ten years Tali. Ten years and what an interesting time it's been. How have you managed to come into the world as though you'd never been anywhere else and stamped your indelible presence on it? How did you do it? How come the world hasn't quite caught up with you? What is it that ticks inside of you?

How many other children would get up there in front of everybody and play the piano at a school talent show - without knowing how to play that very instrument?

How many ten year olds would choose a lava lamp and radio as their birthday present?

How many ten year olds would look at the world through the same lens as you and come out with the kind of classic gems that you seem to utter as though they were part of the vernacular?

You are so refreshingly unique that I sometimes wonder what percentage of you I fully understand.

Tali, you've reached the grand old age of 10. Please continue being you without compromising your amazing character at the expense of trying to fit in with everyone else. You're a very very special little girl and your daddy sometimes stands in awe at having had any part in your make up. The face might be mine (so to speak), but you, my dearest, dearest Talia, are very much a person unto yourself.

Happy tenth birthday, Tal.
From your daddy who loves you so so much (and understands you so so little!)

Friday, 20 February 2009

Hasta Lavista Dickie

Argentina is kicking out Richard Williamson, the shmuck of a bishop who denies the Holocaust took place. Maybe Iran or Syria would like to take him in, I'm sure that he'd be a popular draw for the multitude of radical Arabs who buy his crap by the bucketload.

I have an even better idea. Let Hamas take him into Gaza, so Israel can include him on their next round of targeted assassinations. He could then try explaining his pathetic ideas to the six million souls waiting to rip him apart when he goes upstairs....or in his case,whilst making his way back to the Netherworlds.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Letting Others Say It For Me

Over the last few months, you will have no doubt noticed that I have used this blog to republish articles by a number of notable writers/journalists. The point of doing this is not to appear lazy, but to give more space to others whom I believe can express my feelings in a more professional or subtle way that I could ever aspire to do. I am but a simple writer who does not pen articles for a living, unlike the venerable individuals whom I wish to promote on this site.

In this spirit, I present a superb little piece by the incomparable Alan Dershowitz, which you can find here.

Put Hamas, Not Israel, on Trial
By Alan M. Dershowitz

For the Criminal Court to work, the worst must come first.

There are efforts now under way to try to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on charges of alleged war crimes. Neither Israel nor the United States has signed on to this court, primarily out of fear that its power would be used against democracies that try their best to avoid war crimes, rather than against dictatorships and terrorist nations that routinely engage in them. This has certainly been the experience with many United Nations organizations, even including the International Court of Justice, which is largely a sham when it comes to Israel and other democracies under attack.

There has been high hope among some human rights experts that the ICC would be different for two reasons: First and foremost it is not a United Nations court. It was established by the Rome Statute, a treaty adopted in 1998 after years of negotiations, and is largely independent of the United Nations, though not completely so. Cases can be referred to it by the UN Security Council under Article 13(b) of the treaty. The second reason the ICC has encouraged optimism is that the person appointed as the court's Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocompo, has a sterling reputation for objective law enforcement and basic fairness.

The ICC has rightly opened up investigations of genocide in Darfur, Sudan. (It is now under pressure to suspend any prosecution of President Omar al-Bashir). It has not opened investigations with regard to Russia's alleged war crimes in Chechnya and Georgia, where thousands of innocent civilians were killed. Nor has it opened investigations with regard to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, the Congo and other places where civilians are routinely targeted as part of military and terrorist campaigns. Nor — to its credit — has it opened an investigation of Great Britain and the United States, whose armed forces have inadvertently caused the deaths of thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Were it now to open an investigation of Israel, ICC would be violating the cardinal principle that must govern all international prosecutions: namely, that the worst must be prosecuted first. It would also be violating its own rules which mandate that the International Criminal Court will not become a substitute for domestic courts. If there are processes within the State of Israel to consider allegations against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), then those processes must be allowed to move forward unless Israel is "unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution," according to the Rome Statute. There is no country in the world — literally none — that has a judicial system that is more open to charges against its own government. Not the United States, not Great Britain, and certainly not Russia, Zimbabwe or Pakistan! Moreover, Israel has a completely open and very critical free press, which is constantly exposing Israeli imperfections and editorializing against them.

Third, the IDF has legal teams that must approve of every military action taken by the armed forces. There are obviously close questions, about which reasonable experts can disagree, but there is no country in the world that goes to greater lengths in its efforts to conform its military actions to international law. Listen to retired British Colonel Richard Kemp — a military expert who, based on his experience, concluded that there has been "no time in the history of warfare when an Army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties…than [the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza]."

Despite deliberate efforts by Hamas to maximize Palestinian civilian casualties by firing rockets from behind human shields, Israel has succeeded in its efforts to minimize civilian casualties. Hamas has a policy of exaggerating civilian casualties, both by inflating the total number of people killed and by reducing the number of its combatants included in that total. A recent study conducted by the Italian Newspaper Corriere della Sera disputed Hamas figures and put the total number of Palestinians killed, including Hamas terrorists, at less than 600. And this week, the UN withdrew claims made during the war that Israel had shelled a school run in Gaza by the UN Relief and Works Agency.

The same Rome Statute that established the ICC also describes many of Hamas's actions during the war, such as attacking Israeli civilians and using Palestinian civilians as human shields, as war crimes. Any fair investigation by the ICC would have to conclude that Israel's efforts to prevent civilian casualties, while seeking to protect its civilians from Hamas war crimes, rank it at the very top of nations in compliance with the rule of law. It would also conclude that efforts to brand Israel's actions as war crimes are crassly political, based on ideology and not law. If anything, Hamas belongs in the dock, not Israel.

The prosecutor of the ICC must resist pressures — from the United Nations, from radical ideologues and from other biased sources — to apply a double standard to Israel by singling the Jewish state out from among law-abiding democracies for a war crimes investigation. No international court can retain its credibility if it inverts the principle of "the worst first" and instead goes after one of the best as one its first.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

I Am A Zionist

by Yair Lapid, Israeli Journalist

I am a Zionist.

I believe that the Jewish people established itself in the Land of Israel,
albeit somewhat late. Had it listened to the alarm clock, there would have
been no Holocaust, and my dead grandfather - the one I was named after -
would have been able to dance a last waltz with grandma on the shores of the
Yarkon River.

I am a Zionist.

Hebrew is the language I use to thank the Creator, and also to swear on the
road. The Bible does not only contain my history, but also my geography.
King Saul went to look for mules on what is today Highway 443, Jonah the
Prophet boarded his ship not too far from what is today a Jaffa restaurant,
and the balcony where David peeped on Bathsheba must have been bought by
some oligarch by now.

I am a Zionist.

The first time I saw my son wearing an IDF uniform I burst into tears, I
haven't missed the Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony for 20 years
now, and my television was made in Korea, but I taught it to cheer for our
national soccer team.

I am a Zionist.

I believe in our right for this land. The people who were persecuted for no
reason throughout history have a right to a state of their own plus a free
F-16 from the manufacturer. Every display of anti-Semitism from London to
Mumbai hurts me, yet deep inside I'm thinking that Jews who choose to live
abroad fail to understand something very basic about this world. The State
of Israel was not established so that the anti-Semites will disappear, but
rather, so we can tell them to get lost.

I am a Zionist.

I was fired at in Lebanon, a Katyusha rockets missed me by a few feet in
Kiryat Shmona, missiles landed near my home during the first Gulf War, I was
in Sderot when the Color Red anti-rocket alert system was activated,
terrorists blew themselves up not too far from my parents' house, and my
children stayed in a bomb shelter before they even knew how to pronounce
their own name, clinging to a grandmother who arrived here from Poland to
escape death. Yet nonetheless, I always felt fortunate to be living here,
and I don't really feel good anywhere else.

I am a Zionist.

I think that anyone who lives here should serve in the army, pay taxes, vote
in the elections, and be familiar with the lyrics of at least one Shalom
Hanoch song. I think that the State of Israel is not only a place, it is
also an idea, and I wholeheartedly believe in the three extra commandments
engraved on the wall of the Holocaust museum in Washington: "Thou shalt not
be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but above all, thou shalt not
be a bystander."

I am a Zionist.

I already laid down on my back to admire the Sistine Chapel, I bought a
postcard at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, and I was deeply impressed by
the emerald Buddha at the king's palace in Bangkok. Yet I still believe that
Tel Aviv is more entertaining, the Red Sea is greener, and the Western Wall
Tunnels provide for a much more powerful spiritual experience. It is true
that I'm not objective, but I'm also not objective in respect to my wife and
children.

I am a Zionist.

I am a man of tomorrow but I also live my past. My dynasty includes Moses,
Jesus, Maimonides, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Woody Allen,
Bobby Fischer, Bob Dylan, Franz Kafka, Herzl, and Ben-Gurion. I am part of a
tiny persecuted minority that influenced the world more than any other
nation. While others invested their energies in war, we had the sense to
invest in our minds.

I am a Zionist.

I sometimes look around me and become filled with pride, because I live
better than a billion Indians, 1.3 billion Chinese, the entire African
continent, more than 250 million Indonesians, and also better than the
Thais, the Filipinos, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the entire Muslim
world, with the exception of the Sultan of Brunei. I live in a country under
siege that has no natural resources, yet nonetheless the traffic lights
always work and we have high-speed connection to the Internet.


I am a Zionist.

My Zionism is natural, just like it is natural for me to be a father, a
husband, and a son. People who claim that they, and only they, represent the
"real Zionism" are ridiculous in my view. My Zionism is not measured by the
size of my kippa, by the neighborhood where I live, or by the party I will
be voting for. It was born a long time before me, on a snowy street in the
ghetto in Budapest where my father stood and attempted, in vain, to
understand why the entire world is trying to kill him.

I am a Zionist.

Every time an innocent victim dies, I bow my head because once upon a time I
was an innocent victim. I have no desire or intention to adopt the moral
standards of my enemies. I do not want to be like them. I do not live on my
sword; I merely keep it under my pillow.

I am a Zionist.

I do not only hold on to the rights of our forefathers, but also to the duty
of the sons. The people who established this state lived and worked under
much worse conditions than I have to face, yet nonetheless they did not make
do with mere survival. They also attempted to establish a better, wiser,
more humane, and more moral state here. They were willing to die for this
cause, and I try to live for its sake.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Sixty Four Years Too Late

PARIS, France (CNN) -- France bears responsibility for deporting Jews to their deaths in concentration camps during World War II, the country's highest court ruled Monday.

Jews and foreigners are rounded up in Paris in May 1941.

But, the Council of State said, "measures taken since the end of the Second World War have compensated for the damage."

Northern France was directly occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II while the south of the country was ruled by the Vichy government that collaborated with Adolf Hitler.

France's role in the deportation of its Jews was a taboo subject for decades after the war.

The trial of Maurice Papon, a civil servant in the collaborationist Vichy government, for deporting Jews, forced the country to confront its role in the Holocaust.

Papon was convicted in 1998 by a French court for complicity in crimes against humanity for his role in the deportation of 1,590 Jews from the city of Bordeaux.

Most of the deportees later perished at the concentration camp at Auschwitz in modern day Poland. Papon died in February 2007, aged 96, after serving part of his term and then being freed on health grounds.

There were approximately 350,000 Jews in France at the time of the country's defeat by Germany in 1940. At least half of those were refugees who had already fled Germany or countries already under Nazi occupation, according to the Web site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

At least 77,000 Jews were deported to their deaths from French transit camps between 1942 and the end of German occupation in December 1944. Of these, around a third were French citizens and more than 8,000 were children under 13.

(c) CNN 2009

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Me circa 2009

I'm 41 years old and I still haven't worked out what it is that makes me tick. This much I can tell you about myself:

My heart is in the right place. Sometimes, the right place might be the wrong place, but I hope you know what I mean.

I'm a passionate person. This manifests itself through the views I hold on just about everything and the vile temper that I wish would stay bottled up.

I like people. I find them fascinating, frustrating, divine and deplorable. Without people surrounding me, I am but a shadow of myself. My family is my life, even if I forget it sometimes.

I love kids. Not in any sort of sexual way in case you think I'm some sort of pervert, but in the old fashioned way of loving their presence, ideas and outlook on life. Kids speak so much wisdom and sense and even through the mischief, they are able to express themselves in a way that few adults can. I think we should all remember that we were once a child.

I'm mad about music. Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Gershwin, Mozart, Klezmer et al. My life revolves around music. To be frank, music has always been my saviour - the friend that never lets me down.

I love being Jewish. I absolutely adore it. My entire life is plugged into the Jewish experience, whatever that is. From the moment I wake up to that last conscious second, I'm a proud, in your face Jew.

Israel exists inside every pore of my being. I can't even come close to describing this feeling.

I have found my perfect profession. Teaching can be a pain in the arse at times, but when it works and when those kids get it - it's magical.

I'm obsessed with computers. I wish I could spend less than 2 hours a day on the Internet, but I think that it's a physical impossibility. My excuse though is that if I don't get to a PC and check my email at least once a day, I have to trawl through 100 the next day. Funnily enough, this philosophy works until Shabbat comes in, at which time I hate the damn machine.

I adore humour. The only people I cannot relate to are those without a sense of humour. I didn't think they existed until I met a few people over the years. If you can't laugh, you won't live. Period.

That's me done for now. I've blogged, let it all out and explained myself.
The problem is that I don't quite know why, because in doing so, I'm no closer to figuring out what it is that really makes me tick.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Ring Ring

**Rrriiiiinnnnggg, rrriiiinnnngg,**

**'Hello?'**


**'Hi honey.**

**This is Daddy.**

**Is Mommy near the phone?'*


**'No, Daddy.**

**She's upstairs in the bedroom with Uncle Paul.'**


**After a brief pause,**

**Daddy says,**

**'But honey, you haven't got an Uncle Paul.'**

**'Oh yes I do, and he's upstairs in the room with Mommy,**

**Right now.'**


Brief Pause.

**'Uh, okay then, this is what I want you to do.**

**Put the phone down on the table, run upstairs**

**And knock on the bedroom door and shout to Mommy**

**That Daddy's car just pulled into the driveway.'**

**'Okay, Daddy, Just a minute.'**

**A few minutes later**

**The little girl comes back to the phone.**


**'I did it, Daddy.'**

**'And what happened, honey?' **

'Well, Mommy got all scared, jumped out of bed with no clothes on and ran around screaming.**

**Then she tripped over the rug, hit her head on the dresser**

**And now she isn't moving at all!'**


**'Oh my God!!! What about your Uncle Paul?'**

**'He jumped out of the bed with no clothes on, too.**

**He was all scared and he jumped out of the back window**

**And into the swimming pool.**

**But I guess he didn't know that you took out the water**

**Last week to clean it..**


**He hit the bottom of the pool and I think he's dead.'**


*****Long Pause*****


*****Longer Pause*****


*****Even Longer Pause*****



**Then Daddy says,**



**'Swimming pool? ...........**



**Is this 486-5731?'*


**No, I think you have the wrong number.......*

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Israel Decides

I've spent the evening creating resources for my Wednesday Year 8 class whilst watching CNN's coverage of the elections.

A few observations:

The staff at CNN really need to get some training in how to pronounce Hebrew names and words. Some of their attempts are truly shocking.

It looks like the right are winning and as a result, the Palestinians they've spoken to are quite pissed off about this. This knowledge alone has brightened up my evening. Every time the Arabs express satisfaction with the results of an Israeli election, I get worried. Watching the pathetic Mustafa Bargouti in New York calling the Israeli public "spoiled" because they've voted for right wing candidates was particularly satisfying.

If that's the best word he can use to describe my people, who are using the democratic process to express their views, then I know that they've made the correct decision. There's nothing quite as wonderful as seeing a Palestinian official admitting that he's screwed.

I heard what Avigdor Liberman had to say and although I don't subscribe entirely to his views, the guy made a lot of sense. He certainly wasn't the "fascist" Bargouti called him. Then again, I'm not representing a people who get a buzz from sending their kids out to blow themselves up and kill people.

What's really great however is hearing Jewish politicians like Netanyahu on CNN talking about our people running our country, making it clear that, despite the world's antagonism towards us, we are voting in our leaders, running our country and speaking Hebrew on international television.

It makes me so damn proud to be a Jew right now.

Monday, 9 February 2009

OUR Chief Of Staff

Arutz7 News

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi paid a visit to the Western Wall on Sunday night to offer prayers of thanksgiving for the miracles and successes in the recent Cast Lead operation in Gaza.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, entrusted with rabbinical supervision of the holy sites on behalf of the government, hosted Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi and took part in the prayers. Afterwards, a festive thanksgiving meal was held in the Hashmonaim Hall, to the left (north) of the uncovered section of the Western Wall. Additional prayers and songs of thanksgiving and praise were recited there.

Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi also prayed for the speedy return of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza for 2.5 years.

It was noted that many prayers had been recited at the Western Wall by parents, soldiers, and Jews all over during the war, and that the time had now come to express thanks for the successes the offensive had reaped.

Ashkenazi stated that he was there as a representative of all of the soldiers of the IDF, “who fought so well and reached such blessed achievements.” Rabbi Rabinowitz agreed and said he was also a representative of the entire Jewish Nation, “which thanks G-d for His miracles during the war.” The rabbi noted the many expressions of faith expressed by the soldiers during the war.Rabbi Rabinowitz recounted a moving experience from when he met the soldiers of the Haruv Regiment upon their return from Gaza. “They came first to the Western Wall to offer their thanks, even before they returned home," he said. "Their commanders were there as well, proudly waving the banner of faith and Jewish tradition as they thanked G-d for His miracles.”


(c) Arutz Shevah 2009

Sunday, 8 February 2009

I Am A War Criminal (And Proud of It)

It appears that Lord Ahmed has a problem with British Jews going over to Israel and fighting in the IDF. Apparently, he considers them to be "war criminals". Well, I have a confession to make, I too am a war criminal.

Well, to be more exact, a wannabe war criminal.

Throughout my life, I have wanted to make aliyah - to go to live in Israel. The fact that I haven't (yet) is more a testament to my refusing to leave my immediate family, than any wish to avoid living in Israel.

When I was 17, I was on kibbutz and I called my folks to tell them I wasn't coming home. A telephone battle ensued with my mother which I eventually lost (as usual), because my mother convinced me to go back to the UK and finish off my studies. Not an unreasonable argument, but one that cost me the chance to get to Israel.

Now, zillions of years later, I'm all ready to go but neither my wife or daughters are upstairs packing their bags. If I do make the plunge, I'll be going out there on my own, not the best recipe for someone who has finally found his profession, is progressing very nicely and knows that he has now planted roots in the veddy British soil - then again, that doesn't mean much because if the hostility towards the Jews in this country exacerbates, we might end up in Zion sooner than we bargained for.

So here I am, 41 years old and still pining for the Land.

Things could have been different if I'd stuck to my guns in '87. I might have enlisted in the IDF and....well, probably not achieved much because I would have been assigned a "Jobnik" role - i.e. desk job, granted my status as an only child. But I would have been a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces!

Notwithstanding all of the above, although my physical entity isn't exactly sitting in a troop carrier outside Rafah, my entire soul and thoughts are there with the boys and have been throughout every military escapade. I backed the recent war in Gaza 100% - including, tragically the requirement to the shell civilian areas from which rockets were fired - and I would have no compunction whatsoever to be part of a fighting force entering Gaza to protect my fellow Jews from the rockets. If doing so makes me a "war criminal" in Lord Ahmed's eyes, then so be it.

Were I alive in 1948, I would have been right there working against the British to get Jews into what was then Palestine. I guess, I'd also be a terrorist in his eyes.

My chief concern is to defend my fellow Jews in the land of the Israel, using whatever means possible. If that's Lord Ahmed's understanding of what a "war crime" is, then I suggest that he reads his history books and then makes considered statements that are worthy of his title.

In the opinion of many of us, he is nothing but a titled buffoon who really doesn't know what he's talking about.

Then again, he's is in good company.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Updated Playlist

I've updated the Seeqpod playlist that you can find in the right hand column, just below the Babel Fish translation feature. It has a bit of '80s bias (my era), although I've thrown in a few golden oldies to keep things balanced.

If you like to listen to music while you're browsing the site, why don't you head down there and press the play button. I must however warn you that the songs won't exactly match the gravity of some of the articles you will read as you are listening!

Open Letter To The Citizens of Gaza

An Open Letter To A Citizen Of Gaza: I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home

By: Yishai G (reserve soldier)

Hello,

While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away.

I am that someone.

I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.

I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.

I spent many days in your home. You and your family’s presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife’s perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children’s toys and their English language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.

I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and lay them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth. I tried to put back the clothes that fell when we moved the closet although not the same as you would have done, but at least in such a way that nothing would get lost.

I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me, us, and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places.

I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home.

I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated and there are those in your household that are university students. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you.

Therefore, I am sure you know that Quassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities.

How could you see these weekly launches and not think that one day we would say “enough”?! Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?

I can hear you saying “it’s not me, it’s Hamas”. My intuition tells me you are not their most avid supporter. If you look closely at the sad reality in which your people live, and you do not try to deceive yourself or make excuses about “occupation”, you must certainly reach the conclusion that the Hamas is your real enemy.

The reality is so simple, even a seven year old can understand: Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods (and this I know very well as during my reserve duty I guarded the border crossings more than once, and witnessed hundreds of trucks full of goods entering a blockade-free Gaza every day).

Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. For three years we clenched our teeth and restrained ourselves. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered the Gaza strip, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. A reality that is painful but very easy to explain.

As soon as you agree with me that Hamas is your enemy and because of them, your people are miserable, you will also understand that the change must come from within. I am acutely aware of the fact that what I say is easier to write than to do, but I do not see any other way. You, who are connected to the world and concerned about your children’s education, must lead, together with your friends, a civil uprising against Hamas.

I swear to you, that if the citizens of Gaza were busy paving roads, building schools, opening factories and cultural institutions instead of dwelling in self pity, arms smuggling and nurturing a hatred to your Israeli neighbors, your homes would not be in ruins right now. If your leaders were not corrupt and motivated by hatred, your home would not have been harmed. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.

You don’t have money, you tell me? You have more than you can imagine.

Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, during the time of Yasser Arafat, millions if not billions of dollars donated by the world community to the Palestinians was used for purchasing arms or taken directly to your leaders bank accounts. Gulf States, the emirates - your brothers, your flesh and blood, are some of the richest nations in the world. If there was even a small feeling of solidarity between Arab nations, if these nations had but the smallest interest in reconstructing the Palestinian people – your situation would be very different.

You must be familiar with Singapore. The land mass there is not much larger than the Gaza strip, it is considered the second most populated country in the world. Yet, Singapore is a successful, prospering, and well managed country. Why not the same for you?

My friend, I would like to call you by name, but I will not do so publicly. I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. However, I feel your pain. I am sorry for the destruction you are finding in your neighborhood at this moment. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible.

In my opinion, we have a lot more in common than you might imagine. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. I have no desire to be in your home wearing a uniform again and I would be more than happy to sit with you as a guest on your beautiful balcony, drinking sweet tea seasoned with the sage growing in your garden.

The only person who could make that dream a reality is you. Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your people, and start to take control of your destiny. How? I do not know. Maybe there is something to be learned from the Jewish people who rose up from the most destructive human tragedy of the 20th century, and instead of sinking into self-pity, built a flourishing and prospering country. It is possible, and it is in your hands. I am ready to be there to provide a shoulder of support and help to you.

But only you can move the wheels of history.

Regards,

Yishai (Reserve Soldier)


This letter originally appeared in the Maariv newspaper on 25th January 2009 and can be read at the Israel Project

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Monday, 2 February 2009

Yes Folks, It's A Snow Day

The kids' phone call came shortly after 06:00 and mine announced itself about an hour later. It was pretty obvious that the snow wasn't going anywhere and as far as I know, all schools in the vicinity are closed. The traffic person on LBC radio advised us to only go out if we felt like having a 5 hour journey into work.

So here we are. The kids have pretty much drenched theselves in the garden, Dana is watching a DVD and I'm wondering if I'm going to get any lesson preparation done. I look out of the window and huge flurries are whisking past the window as the white blanket on the hedge gets higher and higher.

It's definitely a snow day and none of us are going anywhere for the forseeable future.

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Sunday, 1 February 2009

Hugo Chavez - Our Newest And Oldest Foe

We Jews have unfortunately become attuned to being at the sharp end of numerous individuals' desires to blame someone for their misfortunes. Even before we got blamed for the Palestinian problem, we were still held responsible for just about every other catastrophe that happened in the world.

Jews are still being blamed by some for the death of Jesus. We were accused of spreading the Black Death in the Middle Ages and every time a child met his untimely death, this had to be as a result of our religious need to drink Christian blood or use the globules to add that special zesty taste to our matzos.

The latest incarnation of Antisemitic hate has just taken place in Venezuela where Hugo Chavez, who previously blamed us for the death of Christ, has decided that Israel, the demon state that it is must be cursed at every opportunity and shock horror, we Jews are less than honourable if we don't share in his psychotic worldview (he is mates with Ahmadinejad which tells you about whom you are dealing with) by condemning the Zionist Entity.

Well, not surprisingly, following their venerable President's lead in attacking the Jewish State (read that as "Jews"), a number of thugs have ransacked a Synagogue in Caracas and brought some very nasty memories back of the kind of damage we've all seen in those photos from Kristallnacht.

It won't be long till the Jewish community of 15,000 follows the example of many others through history and packs their bags, in order to move to less hostile waters. This is a case of history repeating itself once again.

I'm reminded of the comment at the end of Fiddler On The Roof for the reason why Jews always wear their hats. The reason is that (due to Anti Semitism), we don't stay long enough to take them off our heads. I can see that in the case of Venezuela, this is very much the case.

Watch the news, because in a short while, I perceive that the 50% or so of the community who haven't already emigrated will be doing so. This is sadly just another chapter in the ongoing story of the perennial Wandering Jew. Chavez may be using Israel's existence as a stick to beat us with, but we know exactly what that bastard is hoping for - a Judenrein (Jew Free) country.

Hugo, your mate Adolf would be so proud of you.