Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Let's just lay the BBC to rest

As part of this year's International Holocaust Day those ever-astute journalists at the BBC posed the question: "Is it time to lay the Holocaust to rest?" I had to go back and re-read the headline because I was absolutely sure I misread it the first time. Apparently I am a better reader than I originally suspected. So now, also in honour of International Holocaust Day, I have a question that I would like to pose to the BBC's international audience: "Is it time to accept, once and for all, that we will never be able to lay the Holocaust to rest as long as there are blatant anti-Semites like the BBC out there?"

I cannot even begin to imagine how this story made the BBC's editorial line-up. I've been a journalist; I know how the editorial pitch sessions work. Someone must have made a very compelling argument that ran contrary to the facts on the ground. Or, the more obvious choice: Britain is just sick of Jews and their problems. Why waste more ink or air time on that old subject? Been there. Done that.

I am sure they know that anti-Semitism in Europe is running at a 70-year-high. Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Manuel Valls have both said that something must be done to get anti-Semitism under control. Jews are being bullied on the streets of London, murdered in the grocery store in Paris and police escorted to synagogue in Antwerp. Yeah, I can see how the BBC could have come to the conclusion that it was time to draw a line in the human remains of the Holocaust and just shut down all that negative talk. I guess they need more ink and air for their love-affair with radical Islam.

And where is Ed Miliband, the leader of  the Labour Party who happens to be Jewish? I will tell you were he is. According to an article in the New Statesmen in 2012, here's what he had to say about his own Jewish identity: "Like many others from Holocaust families, I have a paradoxical relationship with history. One one level I feel intimately connected with it -- this happened to my parents and grandparents. On another, it feels like a totally different world." Pretty damn sad. He's probably on the BBC's Editorial Board.

For all those fools in British media, politics and society-at-large, let me answer the BBC's question.

No. It is not time to lay the Holocaust to rest. It may never be that time. What is happening to the Jews is a harbinger of what will happen to British society as a whole. Yes, even the monarchy. Do you honestly think that radical Islam will stop once it rids society of the Jews? If you do, you are sadly mistaken and you may well end up being a participant in a Holocaust that leaves the Final Solution of Adolf Hitler in the dust. The Jews are just a convenient excuse for everything wrong with anything anywhere. They are the canary in the mine.

Israelis don't have the luxury of even thinking about forgetting the Holocaust. We don't even get to take a day off. As recently as 12 hours ago we got a little reminder from Hezbollah, that there is always another Holocaust nipping at our feet. Two dead soldiers, seven wounded and Hamas couldn't congratulate them fast enough and warn that there was more to come. There's always more to come and if the world was smart it would take the Jews and Holocaust lesson more seriously. Because when they are finished with us they are coming for you. Now that will be a new story.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Je suis .... fatigue

En l'honneur des meurtres en France il ya deux semaines.

Serenity Prayer
GOD, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,  courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;  

So this is what it has come to. I am citing a non-Jewish prayer written -- probably -- in the 1930s and used by everyone and their dog, including the Federal Council of Churches, the US Armed Forces and yes, Alcoholics Anonymous. Based on what I can see, each one of these groups still has more problems than they can count, so I am not sure it actually works. But frankly, as an Israeli, it is about the most sound piece of advice I can find.

I am tired of jumping out of bed every morning and slowly making my way to my computer and in turn, Google News, just to read that today is worse than yesterday.

I am tired of being of hated by total strangers who -- if they were being honest -- don't even know why they hate "my kind" but do know that whatever the reason, we deserve it.

I am tired of hearing that an international cabal of Jews are running the world and all of the pillars of its foundation. And if so, they are doing a lousy job of protecting their own people.

I am tired of having friends say that maybe they should have stayed in the US because life was better there. Better is such a tricky word. More money? Yes. More culture? Yes. Better shopping? Yes. More of a life with meaning? No way.

I am tired of belonging to a group of people who are apparently responsible for every last thing that is wrong on Earth. Poverty is Africa -- oh that was the Jews. Poor employment opportunities for uneducated immigrants in France -- that was definitely those pesky Jews. Sharks in the Red Sea (I am not kidding here) -- that was the Israelis (read: Jews). Genocide in Dafur -- you guessed it; the Jews. And my personal favourite ... earthquakes in Iran .... Jewish sorcerers! For those who don't know about the Jewish sorcerers, they are the same ones who turned the sea red in the story of Exodus. And despite all the finger pointing, some anti-Semite will then turn around and say that the Jews always want to turn the world narrative back to them. How can you suck and blow at the same time?

I am tired of having to worry about the men in my family wearing their kippot in places where kippot look more like archery targets than religious head coverings. I am sick of having to think about that, particularly in the middle of Canada. I expect it in Europe but Canada???

I am tired of being told by innocent (?) non-Jews that I am actually very nice and "not like other Jews".  I guess they are referring to the Jews who caused unemployment, initiated genocide, and trained sharks to kill Arabs.

I am tired of reading editorials that say Israel is pressuring French Jews to leave France and come to here. How can I say this nicely???? French Jews: stay where you are if you are feeling coerced to leave by Israel. If you cannot see the writing on the walls in your beloved France, asseyez-vous et fermer vos bouches. (How's that for sixth grade French?) But don't call us when the shit hits the fan and expect us to send our beloved soldiers to come and get you. If you didn't learn anything from Hitler, you surely won't learn it from Hyper Cacher.

I am tired of hearing that Jews are not better off in Israel. Granted it is not black and white -- because nothing with Jews is simple -- but it is overwhelming clear: we are.

I am tired of Israel not getting its due acknowledgement for all the decent things it does in this world. From emergency field hospitals in Haiti to under-the-radar life saving surgeries on Syrian casualties of war and family members of Hamas big-wigs.

You know I could go on here for a week, but I won't. Instead I am going to boil some water, make a cup of tea, find a cookie, stream a mindless comedy and recite the Serenity Prayer while I wait for the download to be completed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Great Deep Freeze of 2015

Most people have about a zillion more important things to do than follow the winter weather follies of Israel. Normally I am one of them. But not this year; in the 13 years since we arrived at  32* 11' 0" N/ 34* 52' 0" E (Ra'anana's normally desirable latitude and longitude) I never dreamed I could be so cold. Cold to the core of my being.

If one more person says to me: "You're a Canadian", with the additionally implied "I thought you could handle this weather", I am going to scream. If you look at the actual thermostat readings of the past week, they should -- for a Canadian or anyone from the northern third of the US -- be totally late Fall or early Spring acceptable.

So why is that all my Canadian friends in Israel, along with a gaggle of New Yorkers, New Englanders, Chicagoans and the like, have spent an exorbitant amount of time fantasizing about their old winter coats that they left behind and their inexplicable new found weather-wimpiness?

"I used to eat ice for breakfast before I went outside in -20*C to scrape the even thicker ice off my frozen car windshield with my bare hands."

What happened to all of us hearty types?

I'll tell you what happened.

First the science: Our body's ability to control temperature or thermo-regulate does involve blood circulation. In the cold, the small blood vessels on the surface of our bodies get smaller to keep warm blood deeper inside. Apparently, my body forgot how to recognize that it was time to shut down its small blood vessels to protect me. It has become more used to dilating to release heat. It is a scientific fact that if you live in a warm climate for a long time and return to a cold one (or in this case, freak cold weather comes to your warm climate), it takes longer for your circulation to adjust.

Now the reality: It has more to do with our perception of temperature than the actual temperature. Let me explain that more clearly. In our North American minds there is no reason to feel cold when the thermostat says that it is 10*C. Speaking as a Torontonian, 10*C represents a very nice Spring day -- particularly when accompanied by sun. It is surely not a day for a hat or gloves. And it is definitely NOT winter coat weather.

And finally, the facts on the ground: There are many of them including that houses here are built without insulation and are constructed with cement blocks and stone. Not the coziest of build materials. But the real reason that we are so cold when the temperature falls to single Celcius digits, after decades of preparation for months at a time of minus 10 and 20 (and sometimes minus 30) is that we are in denial.  We came all this way and left the winters behind us. It wasn't the reason we came but it was a lovely side effect. However, when we face an aberration in the weather it never dawns on us to change our thinking.

This little scenario illustrates my point:

Scene: Walking from the parking lot of the Country Club to the club the other day with my Toronto-born and bred friend Iris. Both of us in our exercise clothes -- tights and long-sleeve, quick-dry shirts.

Me: I am so bloody cold. I can't believe it.
Iris: The last time I felt this cold was in winter in Toronto.
Iris: My backside (I am using creative licence here with her language) is frozen.
Me: My legs are too.
Both of us: laughing at how ridiculous we know we sound.
Iris: Of course, I guess we could have worn coats.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The disconnected white elephant in the room

There's been a lot written during the past few months about the Israel-Diaspora disconnect. I see it all the time but it wasn't until this past weekend that it really struck me in a concrete manner.

Last Saturday night many of my friends were celebrating the recent engagement of a lovely neighbourhood girl. I know I should call her a young woman -- which she is, sort of -- but she is 19 years old and I am sticking with "girl" until her 20th birthday. Some day she will be glad to hear such a moniker in reference to her.

Her parents' home was packed with well-wishers coming in, having a bite to eat, a shot of something or other, a few words with the people-of-the-hour, and then heading out again. It was a friendly mob scene and I thought I would head to the kitchen for a little respite. However, when I finally made my way through the crowd and into the kitchen, I found many of the 19- and 20-year-olds that my own son has grown up with.

There were about 40 of them all told. They were all standing around laughing and drinking. It is immediately obvious that they have easy, familiar relationships with each other as many of them have been friends since they were born or shortly afterwards.

As I looked at these kids -- to me, they are all still kids -- all I could think was how happy I would be if they would all just marry each other. Needless to say, they overwhelmingly disagree with that idea; "That's gross," said one of the girls when I mentioned my great idea, "we're like brothers and sisters."

Maybe they are; maybe they aren't. But that quickly became the secondary reason.

Every one of them is finished high school. Most of the boys and some of the girls, have a year of additional Torah learning under their belts. Some of them have already begun their minimum two- or three-year compulsory army/national service stint. Some of them are committed to the Israel Defence Forces for even more years.

In other words, very few -- if any -- are in a position to really think about themselves or their life plans. Before they can even begin to think about their personal futures, they have an obligation to the State of Israel.

Now, in the event that you readers perceive a negative message in the lines above, let me clarify: NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. I am sure that there are some young people in Israel who are only doing their military service under duress and will do anything they can to get out of it. Don't bother writing me about those people -- there are haters everywhere and Israel is no different.

I am talking about a group of young people who were either born here to immigrant parents or are immigrants themselves. In the case of the English-speaking immigrants, they could have easily grown up where being 19 meant that they were sophomores in college whose biggest concern was which beer bash to attend after a night in the library. They could be living in dorms and participating in a four-year-long party with a few hours of study mingled in for good measure. Don't tell me it isn't like that -- I did it and it is.

But that is not the case with these kids. Very few of them will even begin considering college until they are 21 -- many of them will be still older. And in the interim, they are either going to carry guns and go into battle -- or support those who do -- for an idea that is much bigger than themselves. For some it will be dangerous; for others it will be incredibly stressful; but for all of them it will be truly fulfilling to know that they played their part in protecting their country and in turn, kept the world safer for Jews everywhere.

What is sad is that many of those Jews in other parts of the world -- particularly their peers -- won't give a rat's ass about the sacrifice these Israeli kids are making. Lots of them will be out protesting against Israel and joining the BDS movement. They will be too busy partying, planning their Spring Breaks and living completely narcissistic, self-indulged existences. And at the end of the day, the disconnect between Israelis and Diaspora Jews will grow even larger. The joke is that when the day of reckoning comes (and it will come for each and every one of us), the Diaspora Jews will be the net losers.

Sure, the Diaspora Jews may end up making more money and living in bigger houses; they may raise some money for an Israeli cause here and there, and they may march in the Annual Israel Day Parade, but they will have missed the greatest opportunity to be part of the remarkable history of their people.