Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm growing my shoulders

I was going to grow my hair but difficult times call for difficult choices and I have decided that I should focus instead on my shoulders.

I have spent the last several days reading not only the news reports from Canada, the US and England, concerning last weeks Freedom (hahahahahah) Flotilla. But more informatively, I have been reading the readers comments section that follows every article.

Let me summarize a week's worth of comments for you: Generally speaking, and with very few exceptions, the world hates Jews. Even a lot of Jews hate Jews -- and they hate themselves for being Jews. And given the opportunity on a silver platter, that hatred is no longer brewing quietly just beneath the surface of human civility but rather it is bursting through and becoming de riguer conversation. "You hate Jews? Me too. It's so good to say that out loud!"

That's why I have decided to grow my shoulders. I think most Jews who still support Israel (the number is dwindling) are going to have to do the same. I have no intention of going back to Poland or Germany because I never came from there and I am willing to bet my last dollar that whatever my grandparents called home in Poland and Lithuania was quickly trampled by cossacks long before I was born. I am also not going back to Canada where I was born because a) I don't like the cold or the snow and b) after living in Israel, I can't even begin to imagine life there. For me, it wouldn't hold a candle to life here.

I am sad that the world sees us as they do. For the most part we are not much different from any other people in Western Society. We wake up every day. Go to school or work. Do laundry. Drive carpool. Try to raise our children to become decent adults. Eat. Play. But for whatever reasons (and there are many ... have you read "Constantine's Sword"?) the world has collectively decided that we are the root of all evil and deserve whatever we get.

Of course, it hasn't helped that the president of the United States has jumped on the "I Hate Jews" bandwagon.

And that is why, going forward, I am going to need very broad shoulders. It is totally naive to think that this wave of Jew hatred will subside any time soon -- I'm talking generations, not weeks. I just feel bad for the Jews who hate themselves -- hard to grow broad shoulders without the necessary convictions of your people.

Last week my mother told me about a sign that supposedly someone had painted on the side of the Israeli Embassy in Manilla on the occassion of Israel's 62nd birthday in May. It said (and this is hearsay because I have done some googling and I can't find it): 62 years old and everyone still wants to fuck her. Happy Birthday Israel!

Friday, June 4, 2010

A typical day at the Kotel

Earlier this week, before the world went to hell in a handbasket over the Flotilla incident, we went to Jerusalem for the Zeve Incident.

A month before a religious Jewish boy turns 13 and has his bar mitzvah, he puts on tfillin for the first time. I say "religious" boys because I have no idea what other Jewish people do. Tfillin, for those who don't know, are phylacteries -- taken from the Greek word phylacteron which means to guard or to protect -- compromised of two small leather cases containing texts from the Hebrew Scriptures (known collectively as tefillin); traditionally worn (on the forehead and the left arm) by Jewish men during morning prayer).

In the world of religious kids, this is a big deal. It is the first overt gesture that identifies them as one of the big kids and removes them once and for all, from the little kid camp. You could probably argue that a circumcision is a bigger deal but no one walks around showing off his modified penis so I am not counting that.

Enough theorizing. Back to the point. Last Monday we got in the car at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m. so that we could get to Jerusalem early enough to catch a group for morning prayers -- and before the sun started pelting down on the visitors at the Wall.

Many people who come from outside of Israel hold their bar mitzvahs at the Kotel, the Western Wall, as do some Israelis. Frankly I think it is crazy. First, it is so noisy and full of pandemonium in the morning that as far as I can tell there is no way to have any meaningful prayer there. Yes, the guys who get right up to the Wall and have the incredible ability to shut out any external noise, might not agree with me, but as someone who is easily distracted (as is Zeve) I wouldn't recommned it.

And second, as the mother of the bar mitzvah boy, you might as well stay home. You aren't going to be anywhere near the important activity. You are lucky if the kid agrees to keep his tfillin on long enough to leave the men's section after morning prayers to get his picture taken with you. That way, years later, you can look at the photographs and pretend that you actually played a role in what went down. You didn't, but you can always lie to yourself.

For the mother, the extension of this problem is that by putting on tfillin your son has left you for the world of men. He will no longer be able to pop over for a quick hello to the women's side of any religious prayer environment. And by default, you can never get to him either.

Which brings me to my beef. I almost always have a beef.

There we were at the Kotel -- the Holiest Place in Judiaism -- and the frantic activity of the women's side is comparable to having front row seats at Mardi Gras. Of course, don't try to leave your seat -- you have to drag it around with you -- because someone will take it as fast as you can get your butt off it.

On the one hand we have the serious pray-ers. Some sit along the far fence totally emersed in their prayer. Some are right up at the wall, crying, wailing and hitting it. Why they do this is beyond me -- but prayer isn't my strong suit so what do I know.

Next we have the visiting-from-outside-of-Israel Jews who are celebrating bar mitzvahs. The women sit right up against the dividing wall so that they can pretend to be participating in the bar mitzvah taking place on the other side of the divider. Of course, who knows for sure since it is too noisy to tell. These people yell back and forth over the wall to their men on the other side.

Then, there are the non-religious Israelis also holding bar mitzvahs. The women in these families don't even try to fake humility at the Wall. It often looks more like a Prostitutes Convention than a holy coming-of-age ceremony. Oh, and they bring a smorgasboard along to munch on while they wait for the boy to do his part. I don't think they even try to hear what's going on on the other side.

After that we have the religious tourists who march right up to the wall and start crossing themselves so that we all know there are Serious Christians in the area. Okay, call me oversensitive, but I don't think I would go to another religion's place of worship and start praying in hebrew. Even when I went to holy Moslem sites that Jews firmly believe belong to them, I didn't start up with any Jewish antics. First of all, it might get you imprisoned or maybe killed and secondly, it isn't nice.

So after the hyper-enthusiastic Christian Crossing Fanatics, there are the totally insensitive non-religious, curious tourists who are just looking for a good photograph. These chicks will stop at nothing to hang over onto the men's side of the wall with their cameras in tow. Now, while I do understand that this is a visual curiousity during the week, it never ceases to amaze me that these same insensitive types will continue photographing during the Sabbath prayers. And the fact that the Israeli authorities don't stop it bugs me even more. This isn't a freak show -- well, sometimes it is, but still, you shouldn't photograph it on the Sabbath.

The one good thing that came out of all this people watching was that Yael and I had lots to do for the almost hour that we sat on the women's side waiting for my men to finish. I tried to pray but frankly there was just too much going on.

I just had to wait until it was my turn for a picture with Zeve.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Israel stands alone"

Never go to bed. Because if you do, you will eventually have a day where you wake up, turn on your computer and get hit in the face with an onslaught of media reminders of Israel's reality. Today is such a day.

Rather than comment any further -- it's not that sort of posting -- I am going to publish what I believe are the FACTS of the story. All I can add is that after 20 odd years as a PR professional, this is an excellent example of where perception becomes reality. The truth is based on one's perspective and the expectations on Israel are different from those on the rest of the world.

Here is what I think is a worthwhile summary of the story:

* Israeli sailors, attempting to board one of the six ships of the protest flotilla en route to Gaza, were attacked by dozens of activists armed with knives, metal bars, and handguns. Fearing for their lives, the Israeli soldiers had no choice but to respond. At least four Israeli personnel were wounded by various means, including by gunfire from activists.

* Israel made every effort to provide the flotilla organizers with an opportunity to avoid a confrontation. Israel offered to bring the flotilla into the port of Ashdod, and to transfer their aid to Gaza following appropriate security checks. The organizers rejected this offer, stating clearly that "this mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege."

* Israel gave repeated warning of the maritime blockade in effect off the coast of Gaza and that the flotilla would be turned away and brought to an Israeli port to offload their cargo.

* The organizers of the protest deliberately invited a confrontation with Israeli sailors. This was not an aid mission, but a PR stunt designed to undermine Israel and bolster Hamas, internationally recognized as a terrorist organization. Among the protestors were a group of highly-trained extremists with links to the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadist groups in Afghanistan.

* There is no blockade on humanitarian aid to Gaza. In fact, Israel delivers 15,000 tons of humanitarian aid – including medical supplies, food, and water – to Gaza every week. The blockade exists to prevent unauthorized individuals and unknown cargo from entering Gaza and falling into the hands of its ruling Hamas regime.

* Hamas is presently smuggling in massive amounts of military supplies into Gaza to fortify its positions and continue its attacks. Under international law Israel has the right to intercept vehicles that are "believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture." (Section 67A of the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea).

I just read a great idea on another blog (http://supportisraelnow.blogspot.com/2010/05/monday-may-31-2010.html) and I like it. I am looking for a spot on the flotilla. Here it is:

"In the meantime, I am thinking of organizing a flotilla of my own. It will sail for Turkey. Its purpose will be to publicize the plight of the Kurds under the Turkish Government and speak for their immediate independence. And while we are there, we will hold some public discussions about the unquestioned Turkish genocide of the Armenians after World War I. But leave the clubs, knives, etc. at home - it will be a peaceful event. Let's see how the Turks handle this."

Oh, I just read this article and you should too: http://article.nationalreview.com/435253/flotillas-and-falsehoods/mona-charen?page=2