Blog # 39 How’s that for…
Opps. One of the ‘kosher’ Burger King outlets in Israel served a real cheeseburger. To a religious customer no less. The unwitting diner, sitting under a ‘Burger King Kosher Branch’ neon signa. Thought he was gorging (or should I say pigging out) on junk food within his halachic safe zone.
Indulging himself with a cheeseburger char broiled with a cheese substitute. Not so. As the branch manager had not yet removed the ‘kosher’ sign. Burger King is now being sued for wrongful food serving. How’s that for…. Well…. Carelessness.
Great going Loai Sakas. Israel’s new Arab Israeli kickboxing champ. Who took the gold at the world championship in Turkey. Sakas promptly and proudly draped himself in Israel’s flag as Hatikvah played in the background. As it happened, on his way to the gold, his Moroccan opponent refused to shake his hand. Alas winning being the best revenge. How’s that for kicking your way to victory!
And our little Shtetl. One of the smaller countries in the world. With only 20,770 square kilometers of land. Ranked way down the list as the 153rd largest country in the world (of 234 countries). Compared to Canada’s number two spot with 9,984,670 square kilometers. Just behind Russia, at almost twice Canada’s size. Anyway. According to the Visual Capitalist website, Israel is the eighth largest nuclear military power in the world. How’s that for punching above your weight.
And much more than just a pretty face. Or place. Eilat is looking to become a global food hub based on its unique location between the desert and the sea. In addition to being a global tourist destination showcasing a wonderful promenade with world class hotels, water sports, restaurants, and sandy beaches. In addition to having over 1.2 Kilometers of pristine coral reef, showcased by the world-class Eilat Underwater World Observatory. In addition to being home to the unique Dolphin Reef, where you can swim and interact with dolphins – how cool is that! Now our Agricultural Minister, Oded Forer, is promoting a long-term vision for the city to become an international center for sea and desert food research and development. Reminds me staying at the beautiful -if not too expensive- Royal Beach hotel and riding their glass elevator to the top floor. Look one way and an amazing view of the Red Sea. Look the other way and an amazing view of the Negev desert. But never associated food innovation with these two awesome sights. How’s that for being a visionary law maker; good going MK Forer!
And then there’s natural gas. And, unlike oil, its black gold cousin, Israel has plenty. Plenty! Our offshore gas supply coming largely from the ~2010 Tamar and Leviathan finds within Israel’s Eastern Mediterranean territorial waters. Apart from making Israel energy independent, these resources are a diplomatic tool -imagine refining in Egypt with pipelines running through Turkey, Cyprus or Greece – and, if planned well, will make Israel a very wealthy country. Optimistic forecasts of a Sovereign Wealth Fund, set to begin this year, are billions of shekels in potential government gas tax revenue. There are now serious discussions about Israel replacing Russia as Europe’s main natural gas provider. A conservative estimate -according to Gina Cohen, an internationally respected natural gas market expert, is of ….100,000,000,000 NIS in profit. That’s eleven zeroes! Trusting our talented triumvirate at the top – Prime Minister Bennett, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar- will manage the gas and opportunities well. How’s that for being the country of milk and honey. Now the country of milk, honey and natural gas.
Regards from Israel,
Blog # 38 (Posted May 8) Cousin Alex
It’s just over two months since war broke out in Ukraine. And Israel has absorbed about fifteen thousand immigrants from that part of the world. Amongst them Alex. A distant cousin from Mariupol. A refugee and his wife. Now living together in their daughter’s undersized Ashdod apartment.
Their daughter having moved to Israel many years ago and under more normative circumstances. Its only through the tenacity of a distant, Canadian family member -who fashions himself as our family genealogist and who worked with the good offices of Chabad in Ukraine- that we located our displaced Ukrainian cousin.
So while my mom was staying with me in Israel. She was visiting for three weeks over Pessach. We reached out and called Alex. The only common word being our family name. Sorokin. We managed a brief and somewhat fragmented conversation. On one side of the cellular line my mom spoke English to me. I translated to Hebrew for his daughter. And on the other side of the cellular line, she translated to Ukrainian for her bat’ko (father/abba in Ukrainian). Who replied back in Ukrainian. She then translated to me in Hebrew. And I back to English for my mama (right; mom/emma in Ukrainian). Quite the party line. Except it wasn’t. Alex lost everything during the Russian bombing of Mariupol. Left with no house. Left with no car. Left with no bank account. Left with no keepsakes. Left with no job. Left with no real hope. Although there is always some of that. He and his wife made it the border of Poland and ultimately Israel. During our brief call, Alex was not overly communicative. He was somewhat irritable. And impatient. Understandable as he was still suffering from his tragedy.
While Alex, like the other fifteen thousand Ukraine refuges in Israel, is eligible for immigrant benefits. An ulpan (intensive language classes). A generous stipend. Job assistance. Temporary living quarters. My Canadian family -well some of them- is pooling financial resources to help Alex. The least we can do. As its only by luck and good fortune that Hershel, my great grandfather -son of Shlomo Yitskhak, my Jewish namesake and great, great grandfather from Sladkoyodnaya Ukraine- decided to leave the shtetl and move west. To Canada. While Alex’s ancestors decided, for whatever reason, to remain in Ukraine.
Israel is celebrating its 74th year. According to The Central Bureau of Statistics, our little shtetl will reach just over eleven million people by 2030 and just over fifteen million by 2048. Yikes! Or great! Not sure as we’re already one of the most densely populated countries in the world. 400 persons per square kilometer! I digress. Per Worldometer, Israel’s exact population today stands at 8,888,534 persons. Or 8,903,534 persons including the 15,000 Ukrainian immigrants. Actually 8,903,535 including cousin Alex. Again, welcome to Israel.
And speaking of my mom’s visit. Yada. Yada. Yada. (Hello Seinfeld fans.) She tells an interesting anecdote about her plane-ride home. As it was, her flight extended over Israel’s Remembrance Day. And at the precise time in Israel when a siren is heard throughout the land. Ushering in this very solemn day. Where the country comes to a literal stand still. In memory of the 24,068 fallen soldiers and the 4,216 victims of terrorism. Somewhere over the Atlantic on flight ELAL31. The pilot announced that its now Remembrance Day in Israel. Requesting the passengers to stand for one minute of silence. Followed by Kaddish for our fallen. How moving is that. Only in Israel. Or more appropriately only when flying on ELAL. Kudos to the airline.
Had my mom been in the air twenty-four hours later. Would she have witnessed firecrackers set off in the cabin to usher in Independence Day. Or would the airline tolerate people running around bopping others on the head with oversized, plastic, blue & white hammers. Ha, I think not. But I am sure they acknowledge the day in their own unique, Israeli way. High above and far away from the country.
Regards from Israel,
Blog # 37 The Ten Commandments of Aliyah (Posted April 28)
Thought this an appropriate introspection at this time of year. Aliyah. Immigrating to Israel. As Israelis like to say, Aliyah is great except for the immigrants. And as immigrants like to say, Israel is great except for the Israelis. So with much love. With some wit. With a whole lot of experience, about thirty years. Hey…still here! And with Passover barely behind us and Shavout still ahead. I am confident in offering the Ten Commandments of Aliyah.
1 Thou Shalt Retain a Positive Attitude: As with most things. Stay positive. For sure in the first couple of years there will be many challenges. But with the inevitable lows of immigrating there are also many Aliyah highs. Focus on those.
2 Thou Shall be Determined: The key to long-term survival is not being overwhelmed in the short-term. And there are many challenges in those first few years. So keep an even, longer term perspective. Don’t give up. Rest assured. Living in Israel does get easier.
3 Thou Shall be Flexible: Aliyah requires compromises of many sorts and of varying degrees. Personal. Professional. Financial. As the they say in Israel, ‘lizrom’ (go with the flow).
4 Thou Shall Retain a Sense of Humor: The mistakes you’ll make. And the situations you’ll find yourself. Sometimes be bazar. Even embarrassing. But as the unexpected unfolds. Smile. Laugh. And for sure at yourself.
5 Thou Shall Find a Job: Don’t be too picky. Working is one of the best ways to integrate. Language. Culture. Friends. And financially. You may have to compromise at first. But with experience comes contacts. And in time the right job.
6 Thou Shall Learn Hebrew: Eventually. Broken Hebrew is okay. Sometimes even endearing. While the better your Hebrew the easier to integrate. But good Hebrew is not an immigration game changer. Hey, I’m still struggling…just ask my kids who still laugh from my all-to-frequent language bloopers. And don’t worry about the accent. It adds to your uniqueness.
7 Thou Shall Stop Thinking in Your Native Currency: Stop converting prices and salary to your ‘old country’ currency. It may only depress you. You are making New Israeli Shekels…think in them. And remember, Israel is one of the world’s strongest economies.
8 Thou Shall Make Israeli Friends: An Israeli ‘chevra’ (group of friends) certainly helps the integration process. Language. Culture. Contacts. And a local ‘chevra’ will still be here when friends from the ‘old country’ start drifting back home. Which sometimes happens. Only the determined few remain. Thinking of this Commandment with the previous one. Reminds me of a George Bernard Shaw -think it was him- joke; ‘The best way to learn a new language is in bed.’ Say no more….
9 Thou Shall Retain the Best of Your Native Culture: We may have come here to make some sort of difference. Positive change is always welcome. Although Israel has come a long way in developing a strong, western value system. Keep pushing for those wonderful beliefs you grew up with.
10 Thou Shall Adapt the Best of Your New Culture: Embrace the positives. A society driven to succeed. Which thrives outside the box. Which can be overly direct. And very informal. Which holds family dear. Which is inherently Jewish, sometimes too much so – check out Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. Which is inherently liberal, sometimes too much so – check out Tel Aviv. And which is one of the happiest countries in the world despite our many challenges. As Ehud Barak said, ‘Israel is a villa in the jungle’.
11 Thou Shall Remain a Zionist: Okay. Eleven commandments. If this is what brought you here. In some way or another. Keep the flame. It may wither and flicker. And sometimes dim. And may even transform itself. But as long as you remain a part of the story. So does the ideal. Today I define myself as a proud Israeli.
Regards from Israel,
Blog # 28 (Posted Jan. 7, 2022) The IDF Shirt Challenge
The IDF Shirt Challenge. The inspiration coming from Blake Zavadsky. The twenty-one year old New Yorker recently beaten on a busy Brooklyn street for wearing the infamous green sweatshirt emblazoned with the IDF symbol. Even after being sucker-punched twice in the face and threatened with more.Zavadsky refused to remove his hoodie as demanded by his violent attackers. K O L H A K A V O D / כ ל ה כ ב ו ד/ R E S P E C T ! There is now a challenge circulating on social media. Post a picture of yourself wearing a shirt with the IDF insignia.
Admittingly I am not as brave as Zavadsky. Fortunately my kids are bilingual and speak fluent English. So when taking family vacations overseas, my first rule is don’t speak Hebrew. Want to avoid any unnecessary confrontations. Pity.
I was actually accosted while walking along Toronto’s Yonge Street with my daughter when visiting a few years ago. From our of nowhere. A punk, wearing a dirty black sweatshirt not emblazoned with the IDF symbol and with the hood hanging over his unshaven and pockmarked face, sucker-shoved me against the wall. Not for being Jewish or Israeli. Rather, in his demented, drug-infused, homophobic rage, for being a fag. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld would say, “I am not. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.” And before my four years of martial arts training could kick in (pun intended) my poor-excuse-for-an-attacker ran off into the crowd. And that was that. The episode provided my daughter with a great story for her friends back in Israel. And, within my family, earned me the misnomer of Mr. Ninja. I digress.
I get a Lior Raz/Avi Issacharoff (creators of the hit TV series, Fauda), geopolitical, suspense-filled headrush when matched against an opponent from Iran. I’m talking about my beloved Chess.com and the ten minute speed games. Where opponents from around the world are randomly paired by skill level. When that horizontally colored green, white and red flag with the tulip in the center shows up. Matched against my two stripes of blue on a white background with the blue Star of David in the center. The two stripes representing Israel’s territorial ambitions to grab the land between the Nile and Euphrates. Well, according to extremists within the PLO and Hamas. But more likely representing the two stripes of the Jewish tallit (prayer shawl). Let the adrenaline flow. Neither a vexillophile nor a particularly good player, I anyway enjoy a cerebrally challenging chess game. Even more so when its played against our good neighbor.
Then there’s the feeling of duel loyalty. When facing off against a fellow Canuck. With my six-pointed Star of David protected by the imperialistic blue stripes. Matched against -again claiming no love of vexillology- a beautifully framed, eleven-pointed, red maple leaf set against Canada’s national colors of red and white. Duel loyalty? Well yes. But in a positive sense as I love both my countries. And enjoy a friendly chess game. Don’t expect anything less from Canadians.
Speaking of sucker-punches and the such. While sleeping of the excitement (yawn) of New Year’s Eve. Without warning. Hamas sucker-fired two missiles towards Israel. Fortunately they landed harmlessly in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Tel Aviv. Then, fearing retaliation, Hamas claimed the missiles were unintentionally released due to bad weather. Seriously Ismail Haniyeh (the Hamas leader in Gaza). As expected, the IDF -the one whose emblem is emblazoned on Blake’s sweatshirt- bombed a Hamas production complex. All the while, we Israelis went about our business as usual. By the way Ismail, you can’t really use a bad weather excuse until you experience a Winnipeg winter.
I pass the IDF Shirt Challenge to you, dear reader. And of course to The Squad. American Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.
Blog # 27 (Posted Dec. 28) Of Inspiration -or not- and Pickles
Tel Aviv. Now the world’s most expensive city to live in. According to a survey by the Economist magazine, the ‘city that never sleeps’ moved up from number five in 2020 to overtake Paris in 2021. I’ll have to share this report with my daughter who’s considering moving there to enjoy a ‘Friends’ inspired, twenty-something experience in some funky Tel Aviv neighborhood. While the cheapest city to live in is Damascus. I’ll pay the Tel Aviv premium, thank you.
And if we’re talking cost-of-living. According to the Economist’s unique Big Mac Index, using the price of McDonald’s famous burger to measure purchasing power parity between nations, Israel has the 7th most expensive Big Mac at 5.16$. This is below Canada at 5.31$. And well below Switzerland, with the most expensive burger at 7.04$. While the cheapest Big Mac can be enjoyed in Lebanon at 1.68$. I’ll have mine in Tel Aviv, thank you.
Speaking of Tel Aviv and hamburgers. Went for burgers with the family the other night. To Vetrina in Tel Aviv. Our favorite hamburger joint. Not including Kelekis, when it was around. We’ve been going to Vetrina since it opened, back in 2011. Long considered the top patty in Tel Aviv. With superb sweet potato-potato-lemon peel sprinkled fries. Early on its owner was there to flip the patties, shmooze and give out chocolate chunks after the meal. Kind of like when Mary from Kelekis handed out caramels. Unfortunately that intimacy long since replaced by long waits and a bunch of twenty-somethings flipping burgers. But really. An unbeatable diner experience in overpriced, fast-paced Tel Aviv. As for diners in Damascus and Beirut….
Listen carefully. These words said by Mansour Abbas. Leader of Ra’am, the United Arab List and a key member of Israel’s ‘government of change’. Spoken at a major Israel business forum. In public. Unapologetically. Without waiver. In Arabic. “The State of Israel was born as a Jewish state. That’s the people’s decision and the question is not about the identity of the state. It was born that way and that’s how it will remain…the question is how we integrate Arab society into it.” How inspiring is that.
Then sometimes it’s better just to tune out. According to Issam Amira, Iman of the al-Asqua mosque. Or the Dome of The Rock. In the Old City. In the Arab Quarter. Overlooking the Kottel (Western Wall). Homosexuality and Israel are to blame for the spread of Omicron. Yep. Can’t make these things up. How ridiculous is that.
Around the same time. We had a much publicized skirmish between Itamar Ben Gvir, far-right opposition lawmaker, and two Arab security guards at a Tel Aviv parking lot. When Ben Gvir pulled a gun. The story still under investigation with versions ranging from Ben Gvir feeling threatened to his over-reaction to being advised his car was illegally parked. Sometimes feels like we are in Damascus or Beirut. We certainly expect more from our Knesset members. How embarrassing is that.
And we just learned. Hazza Al Mansouri, the United Arab Emirate’s first astronaut in space, took an Israeli flag on his 2019 International Space Station mission. Okay. He actually took the flags of all the countries participating in the 2020 Expo Dubai event; which runs from October 2021 to March 2022. His space trip was two months prior to Israeli-UAE normalization under the Abraham Accords. He recently presented that flag to the Israeli Expo Dubai delegation. Suggest this trail blazing Emirati astronaut receive the red carpet treatment during his planned visit to Israel. The Ilan Ramon Museum and Memorial the ideal location. Ilan being Israel’s first astronaut, who flew in the ill-fated 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster. Thank you Al Mansouri. How stirring is that.
On the lighter side. I’ve had a craving for a good, crunchy pickle. Homemade. With just the right amount of dill. And garlic. Not the store-bought ones. Which come in hermetically sealed cans. With an expiration date thirty years after Armageddon. Nope. Looking for a pickle like Herschel made in the recent movie An American Pickle. Or like those made by Sam, the pickle vendor who courted Amy Irving in the 1988 film Crossing Delancey. I tried making my own pickles; ‘nough about that. And then. Just down the road. At the corner grocer. On the countertop. A small tub of homemade pickles. Only 18nis (fortunately I live outside Tel Aviv). What a crunch! The dill! The garlic! Okay. Not the classic, kosher cucumber served alongside a corned beef sandwich at Oscar’s Deli. But it hit the spot. And no. I am not pregnant.
Wishing us all a healthier Gregorian new year. Regards from Israel,
Blog # 26 (Posted Dec. 19) Beautiful
The Miss Universe pageant is over with a beautiful bang. And the middle finger salute to all those Boycott, Divest and Sanction, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel naysayers. Congratulations to the beautiful, bright and charming Miss India. Our new Miss Universe. And thanks to the eighty beautiful ladies and their countries for joining us here.
Although, like the rest of the country, I actually slept through my 2AM alarm to watch the show. Broadcast at that hour to hit the more comfortable North American time zones. A boon to Israel in general. Where the beautiful contestants toured. Often photographed posing alongside the beautiful landscape or next to inspiring historical and biblical landmarks. And to Eilat in specific, where the extravaganza was held. Our beautiful dessert oasis stretching along the beautiful Red Sea coast, lined with rare and beautiful coral reefs. Bringing in hard needed tourist dollars (those beautiful greenbacks) and creating a positive buzz about the beauty; both of the contestants and Israel itself. As Mark Twain wrote in Innocents Abroad, “there is no beauty like the beauty of Jerusalem”. And this week that beauty was shared on the Miss Universe pageant’s cat walk in Eilat. Echoed by Steve Harvey, the show’s host, “we are in the beautiful country of Israel. This country has so much history…and this is one of the most beautiful stages I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on a lot of stages”. 600 million viewers in 172 countries saw images of Israel, the beautiful Israel, which the nightly news barely (hmmm, pun here?) broadcasts. Used beauty/beautiful eighteen shameless times!
Went with friends to Reshta, a restaurant serving classic Arab cuisine and located in the village of Ein Rafa. Not too far from Jerusalem. The food was pretty good, serving classic Arab dishes with lots of zaatar and sumac. The service was friendly if not a bit slow. The atmosphere was very authentic. And I’m not referring to the handsome minaret and mosque located next door. Rather the broken roads. The garbage strewn streets. The lack of real sidewalks. The aura of a decaying infrastructure and a struggling local economy. This, unfortunately, is the authentic atmosphere in our Arab villages and cities today. Time for the government of change, with the leadership of MK (Knesset Member) Mansour Abbas, leader of Ra’am – the United Arab List, to ensure some long needed investment in our Arab towns. Then, when referring to atmosphere the focus will be on the restaurant or the adjacent minarets. Not the broken streets. For dessert, I asked for some crème brulee. Was just being silly. For that need some pricey French restaurant in Tel Aviv. Parity now!
The Tehran Times recently published a map of Israel with dozens of red, pinpoint targets next to the headline “just one wrong move!” A direct threat to Israel in the very high stakes game of rhetorical one-upmanship. And in a neurotic, middle-child, sense of being left out. I was disappointed that my city was not on the map. Hey, we’re a major urban center in Israel. Not unlike the others marked for destruction. In the meantime I commend the Safed chief rabbi’s recent call to prayer for the destruction of Iran’s nuclear program. Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu…you got that right! As part my own family’s Friday evening shabbat prayers, we already include the blessings for Israel’s Defense Forces and the State of Israel. I should check with the good rabbi which specific prayer he is referring.
Speaking of sleeping through alarms. A few days later I also missed my 2AM alarm for the Grey Cup game. Congratulations to the Blue Bombers on a beautiful win.
Regards from Israel,
Blog #25 (Posted Dec. 11) Vote Shas
Amir Peretz was named CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israel’s largest defense company. Peretz certainly has an impressive career. Past leadership positions include Mayor of Sderot, Deputy Prime Minister and Labor Party head. He was also Defense Minister when he was caught looking through binoculars with the caps still on. Like in a Saturday morning Loony Tunes cartoon. He was also a proud socialist. Serving as chairperson of the Histadrut, Israel’s General Federation of Labor, in 1995 for six years. Now, as IAI CEO, Peretz is tasked with taking the company public. Good luck comrade.
Why do Israeli leaders tend to snub the rules. And often times the law. From the 1977 Dollar Account Affair when then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stepped down over the discovery of his wife’s U.S. bank account. To former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert serving jail time in 2016 for bribery and obstruction of justice during his earlier term as Mayor of Jerusalem. To previous President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu – currently standing trial for breaking some rules of law- hosting extended family members for their respective 2020 Passover seders during a mandated Covid 19 lockdown. To current Prime Minister Bennett’s family taking a blatantly, rule-breaking overseas vacation while he encouraged the nation to curtail foreign travel. Admittingly a big difference between breaking laws and transgressing rules. But in any case brings to mind Marie Antoinette’s famous admonition to ‘let them eat cake’ on the eve of the 1789 French Revolution. A quote often associated with the callousness of power.
Ze’ev Elkin, our Housing and Construction Minister, fulfilled his dream of playing chess against Grandmaster Garik Kimovich Weinstein, aka Garry Kasparov, when visiting here to participate in an ‘innovation’ conference. It’s very Israeli to burst with pride whenever a famous person visits. It’s like every Israeli is personally hosting the guest. With the game being played in their own house. While the match lasted an enjoyable hour, Elkin was no Deep Blue… the IBM computer that, in 1997, defeated Kasparov.
Speaking of Israeli leaders. MK Arye Deri, head of the ultra-orthodox Shas party and a former Interior Minister under Netanyahu’s government, recently said the ultra-orthodox are in a type of religious war against this government’s various reforms. He fears our much needed ‘government of change’ is seeking to separate religion and state. Really?! Well it certainly needs rightsizing – and with G-dspeed, Bennett and Lapid. He also said the Iranian threat is less dangerous to Israel then the danger of this de-coupling. Really?! Actually it’s a theocratic Israel that is a greater threat -possibly even existential- than missiles from the mullahs of Tehran. Theocracies -there are seven in the world- are an inherent danger to their society, including Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and of course – Iran. Well, maybe the Vatican City poses less of a threat. As for Deri. He is a provocateur extraordinaire. Sowing dissent between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi to suite his political ends. And now this. Deri also broke some rules of law. In 2000 he was convicted of bribery while serving as Netanyahu’s Interior Minister. And is again under indictment for taxation offenses; charges he denies. Vote Shas.
Regards from Israel,
Blog #24 (Posted Nov. 29) The Bundeit
I’ve steered away from writing about COVID. It’s not unique to Israel. Nor to Winnipeg. Nor to the Jewish people (don’t believe everything you read!). And we’ve definitely been saturated by COVID news and commentary over the last eighteen months. But I had to capture my dismay at this ridiculous ruling, apparently under the guise of halacha (Jewish law).
According to popular Israeli Rabbi Benjamin Hota, C19 vaccines recently received on a Saturday cannot be used. As their arrival date happened to violate Shabbos. Are these vaccines not associated with pikuah nefesh? Where savings a life overrides Jewish Law. Even Religious Zionist Party and far-right MK (Knesset member) Itamar Ben-Gvir, no stranger to meshugaas, dismissed Hota’s claim. With all due respect, Rabbi Hota: We are fighting a deadly, disruptive, worldwide pandemic. And these vaccines do save lives.
A new surtax recently levied on Israelis significantly increases the consumer retail price (hello Monty Hall) of plastic serving utensils. Forks. Knives. Plates. Cups. And the like. Apparently Israelis are amongst the world’s largest consumers of disposable plastic. Using twice as much compared to a decade ago and throwing away ~70,000 tons/year of these little plastic knives, forks and plates. That’s a lot of picnics and children’s birthday parties. But this has much less to do with picnics and children’s birthday parties. The main consumers are the ultra-orthodox. With very large families -I’m talking 6.7 children per family, keinehora- it’s just easier using plastics for meals then washing dishes. Really?! Let the kids do the dishes. Guess not as the ultra-orthodox political parties are trying to overturn this tax, claiming it discriminates against their constituency. Really?! Surely they understand the threat of landfill and oceanfill. About the Jewish value to help save the world. And now I need an alternative to plastic plates for our family’s annual Independence Day picnic next May. Stay tuned to see if I meet the challenge.
Hanukkah in Hebron. The first night’s candle lighting by President Herzog. With Hamas calling this a provocation and threating violence. Must everything we do -even something so simple as lighting a candle- have geopolitical consequences. I get this is more than just a candle. And that Hebron is highly contested territory. May the light of Hanukkah shine on the darkness around us.
Postscript. So far quite prevails. And I much prefer Tim Horton’s donuts to the neighborhood baker’s souvgonout.
Okay. One more COVID story. So I was driving to work the other day. Listening to my favorite talk radio show. When Razi Barkai referred to Omicron, the new COVID variant as a…. Wait for it…. A bundeit. Now my dad (ל’’ז) lovingly referred to my son as a bundeit. And I was often called a bundeit by my parents and grandparents. As I’m sure were most Jewish north enders at one time or another. And yes, south enders too. Lovingly. Fondly. And with some degree of frustration. But to hear it used on national talk radio in such a context (absent the love and fondness). I couldn’t help but smile. Only in our little shtetl.
Regards From Israel,
Blog #23 (Posted Nov. 20) Pop Tarts
Does Macy’s tell Gimbels? Did Eatons tell The Bay or Sears? Probably not. But in Israel Rami Levy tells Supersol, Israel’s two main grocery store chains. The authorities are investigating potential price fixing between these grocery stores.
Possibly together with Strauss, one of Israel’s largest food manufactures, and Diplomat Holdings, one of Israel’s largest food importers. And to add insult to injury, it was recently revealed that Supersol had a special website for the Ultra-Orthodox community – where prices were 10-20% cheaper than identical products sold on their mainstream website to us other ‘suckers’ (as Israelis love to refer to those getting the proverbial short end of the stick). It’s no wonder our food bill eats a major portion of our monthly budget. And not just because of my appetite for the good things like StarKist tuna, Heinz ketchup, Mars bars and Pringles. All imported by Diplomat Holdings.
Speaking of appetite, anyone for more ice cream? Ben & Jerry’s may now lose its Kof-K U.S. kashrut certificate for boycotting Israeli settlements. While I am against anything associated with the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel), I’m not sure this kashrut boycott makes sense… kind of BDS in reverse: sanctioning a company for not doing business – or pulling its business- from Israel or parts thereof. Sanctions beget sanctions. And Kof-K is linking Kashrut approval to Israeli borders. While I’m not an expert in Jewish dietary laws or Israeli borders and settlements, I’m pretty sure there is no connection between the two.
So much for encouraging tourism. Not that I was on my way to Turkey. But a young Israeli couple visiting Istanbul was recently arrested for…. Wait for it…. Taking a picture of the presidential palace. Apparently snapping Tayyip Erdogan’s thousand room castle is illegal. Yes. A thousand rooms. For which Natali and Mordy Oaknim were unaware and experienced their own brief, perverted twist of Midnight Express. Fortunately, the couple was released after only nine days of incarceration. And thanks to the quiet diplomacy of Bennett and Lapid, they are now safely back in Israel… just in time for a wintery weekend and cholent, our national ‘first rainy weekend’ meal. And I need to talk with my beautiful wife of Turkish origin. That trip to discover her Ottoman roots will have to wait. A nightmarish fantasy of taking an innocent picture of her parent’s modest homes and then being arrested….
I’m excited. The Miss Universe pageant is scheduled to take place on December 12. In Eilat! Great for Israel. Despite the detractors of such a ‘sexist’ event. This will provide much needed tourism, revenue and publicity for our little shtetl. And this blogger is not a detractor. No doubt my beautiful, boldly liberal and somewhat feminist daughter -whom my mom lovingly refers to as Miss Israel- will give me an earful.
Hello Lord Acton. The 18th century British historian who said power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It appears I’m reaching those in higher office… in my blog, An Open Letter To Naftali and Yair, Part 1 of 2 (June 14 2021) I recommended term limits for the prime minister. And a two term limit was recently approved by the cabinet. How prophetic is that. Not that much really – as it’s an obvious and much needed fix to our political system.
I’m off to the corner mom & pop shop. To buy myself a treat: Kellogg’s Pop Tarts. Strawberry flavor with icing. Only 32nis a box -do the math. Or better yet don’t. No doubt imported by Diplomat. Wonder if they’re certified kosher by Kof-K.
Regards from Israel,
Blog #22 (Posted Nov. 9) The Green Sandbox Innovators
Move aside Charles Duell, the long ago U.S. Commissioner of Patents. In 1899 he uninspiringly uttered “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Contrast to Prime Minister Bennett’s comments at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, “Behavioral change will only take us so far…and that is where new technologies that have not been invented will come in.” Bennett goes on. “As the country with the most start-ups per capita in the world….I say to our entrepreneurs and innovators: You can be the game changers. You can help save our planet.” Showing hope & trust in what has yet to be invented. Now how inspirational is that.
Israelis can breathe a collective sigh of relief. The 2021 national budget was passed. Most notable aspects include absence of over funding for the ultra-orthodox community. Allocation of ~30B NIS to the Arab sector. Monopoly-busting kashrut reforms. These paradigm shifts courtesy of Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Israel’s recent week long war games have ended. The IDF’s nationwide drill simulated missile attacks from all sides – north, south and east. Triple yikes! Practice makes perfect.
My daughter held a big Halloween bash. Pumpkins. Costumes. Green and orange decorations. And all the other party favorites of our ‘20ish’ crowd. As well as parents banished to a hotel for the night. The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Here in Israel? Don’t be surprised. While Purim is still the national holiday of ancient Persia, Esther, Haman, Jewish salvation…and costumes. Halloween has creeped (pun intended) into our cultural landscape. Along with other western oriented influences. Netflix. 180 McDonald’s and 91 Pizza Huts. Shopping malls with Saturday shopping & movie matinees. Pop concerts – seen Elton John, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Guns N’ Roses and ELO. Still waiting for Burton Cummings and Randy Backman. Our little shtetl no longer a ‘little shtetl’. The innocents abroad visiting in search of Tevya have the iconic neighborhoods of Mea Shearim, The Old City’s Jewish Quarter, Tzvat and Bnei Brak. Otherwise, as a macro-society, Israel is as culturally modern as New York, Paris, London, Sydney and Winnipeg. Although I still reserve the right to lovingly refer to Israel as our ‘little shtetl’.
Contrast Bennett’s optimism at the Glasgow climate conference to Israel lagging behind most OECD countries in mitigating climate change. Of failing to meet gas emission targets. Unfortunately Israel ranks 10th of the OECD’s 38 countries for highest emissions. And what’s with Israel sending one of the largest delegations to the conference -135 people. Way too much consumption of planes, trains and automobiles. Beware the wagging finger of Greta Thunberg.
On the bright side (pun intended). Israel is a world leader in solar energy – witness SolarEdge Technologies. Desert agriculture technology -witness cherry tomatoes, fish ponds and olive and date groves. And water technology – witness Na’an’s drip irrigation systems, desalination, desalination and more desalination. Triple sekiy! That’s yikes spelled backwards for the opposite effect.
At the conference, Israel set a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. The same target as Canada. And committed to phasing out coal by 2025. Israel will create a task force, called the Green Sandbox (love the name!), to provide climate change entrepreneurs with funding and support. Admittingly some self-interest here with Israel heating up about twice as fast as the rest of the world. How I miss those Winnipeg winters.
Bennet summed up his speech by contributing Israel’s most valuable energy sources against climate change, “the energy and brainpower of our people. This is what fuels our innovation and ingenuity. This is where Israel can make a real difference.” Attributing great added value to the inventor and the yet-to-be invented.
Regards from Israel
BruceBlog #21 (Posted Oct. 30) Narrow Lanes & Aisles
Apparently Winnipeg drivers are some of the best in the world – because of their abilities to drive under very challenging weather conditions: ice and sleet and low visibility nine months a year – and navigating pot holes during the other three months.
Israeli driving skills are different. While not the world’s best, we may be some of the most aggressive. We face challenges of a different sort: navigating extremely narrow lanes – on freeways and city streets. Sometimes the distance between cars is mere centimeters. Driving on Route 6, Israel’s cross-country freeway (partly financed by a Canadian consortium) can be particularly daunting, especially when it’s under repairs – where the space between lanes can quickly turns negative. And Israeli drivers tend not to yield. Reminiscent of Manisphere’s bumping car rides….
Then there’re parking lots. Parking in spaces so narrow Elastic Man would have difficulty getting out his car. Or squeezing back in. I pity the oversized. Not only are the white lined spaces barely the width of a car. But try parking when the other guy – who thrives outside the proverbial box or in this case parking spot – creatively makes his own parking space. And you’re stuck negotiating a 29-point parking maneuver.
Two hundred nude volunteer models posed naked along the banks of Israel’s Dead Sea. This is American photographer Spencer Tunick’s third such ‘climate’ shoot here – to emphasize the shrinking Dead Sea. Receding about one meter a year.
In this shoot, Tunick had his models covered with nothing more than white body paint to evoke a reference to the Biblical story of Lot’s wife. Who turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah as she and her family fled its destruction.
Of course there was the regular ruckus between Israel’s disparate lawmakers. Israel’s tourism ministry -run by the centrist Yesh Atid’s Yoel Razvozov- bankrolled part of the shoot. Arad’s Mayor Nisan Ben Hamo also supported the shoot, claiming it reconfirmed the liberal nature of his city, which neighbors the Dead Sea. Contrasted by the usual bunch of theocrats decrying the event as a ‘mass abomination’.
As for this centular (center-secular) blogger. While I would avoid such rhetoric, I can understand those who may not ‘get it’. And while I may not embrace Israel baring (pun intended) its ultra-liberal tendencies in a nouveau-central Tel Aviv, uber-creative, somewhat antagonistic way to save the world – how’s that for rhetoric. Or, more succinctly, to save the mineral rich Dead Sea from mismanagement and climate change. Well… in any case the cause is good. So maybe I too will let it all hang out in Tunick’s next nude shoot at the lowest place on earth.
Good luck Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s no-nonsense, secular Finance Minister. Working to pass Israel’s first national budget since 2018. With the religious parties no longer holding disproportionate influence over the national purse strings. Time for some real reform and daring economics. The budget needs to pass by Nov 14 or Israel goes to election. Again.
Talk about narrow lanes. How about Israeli grocery store aisles. Shoppers veering this way and that to avoid collision. Compare the width of grocery store aisles between Supersol and Loblaws (still around?). At least a 2:1 ratio. So lots of navigating during weekly grocery shopping trips. On the roads. In the parking lots. And in the grocery store aisles.
Regards from Israel
Blog 20 The Villa (Posted Oct. 19)
Kudos to my brother. He and thirty other cycling enthusiasts are in Israel with the Beit Halochem (House of Warriors) for their annual Courage in Motion cycleathon.
These Jewish Canucks will cycle around the Galilee and Golan Heights to raise money for Israel’s disabled war veterans. Thought of joining them but, to paraphrase a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ‘my hemorrhoids doth protest too much’. Donations can be made to Beit Halochem Canada. Keep on cylin’ big brother.
So we didn’t win a Nobel Peace Price for the Abraham Accords (Blog Oct 10: Live Long & Prosper). But we did win the Noble for economics. Well. Kind of. Israeli-American Joshua Angrist was awarded the distinction for pioneering the use of natural experiments to understand the casual effects of economic activity…. Yada. Yada. Yada. I have a B.A. in economics and don’t really get it.
This award is kind of bittersweet for Israel. Angrist was born in the US. Made Aliyah in 1982. Lived here for three years. Moved back to the States. Returned for five years in 1991. Then moved back to the States where he is presently living. The bitterness is Angrist’s falling victim to Israel’s brain drain – moving overseas for greener pastures. Ya. Not always easy in Israel. Economically. But its not always about the money. Says this B.A. in economics to a Nobel laureate.
BTW, Angrist shared the award with Canadian born David Card for empirical contributions to labor economics….Yada. Yada. Yada.
Back to ice cream (July 30 Blog: I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream). Check out the recent Axios interview with Ben & Jerry. SNL couldn’t have done it better. Particularly infuriating was Ben’s (or was it Jerry’s) comment, “I think it is fine to be involved in a country, be a citizen of a country and to protest some of the country’s actions, and that is essentially what we are doing in regards to Israel.” Ahhh… Ben. Or is it Jerry. You don’t live in Israel.
Now Ben. Or is it Jerry. The one without the beard. He looks just like Bernie Sanders. The Jewish, progressive democratic from Vermont. And the sometimes ‘Squad’ wannabe. Ben. Or Jerry. Even sat the way Sanders did at Biden’s inauguration. Check out that Sanders meme floating around since last November.
Guys. Stick to making ice cream.
Newsweek again rated the world’s best hospitals based on consistent excellence, distinguished physicians, top-notch nursing care and state-of-the-art technology. Israel had two hospitals in the top 100. Tel Aviv’s Sheba (in the top 10) and Sourasky. Canada had four hospitals in the top 100. Toronto General (in the top 10), Sunnybrook, Mount Sinai and North York.
Am consistently impressed how Israel is usually found in the top 100 of these ratings. Often times in or near the top 10. Whether hospitals, best cities (Tel Aviv ranked 8th. Blog Sept 17: The Palestinian Great Escape) or happiness (ranked 12th). Israel is doing just fine. On the flip side. Living in one of the world’s toughest neighborhoods (that would be an interesting list), we also make less savory lists such as being the most targeted country for cyberattacks. Fortunately we have Unit 8200, the IDF cyber defense unit, and are a world leader – another list topper- in cyber security. As former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said, Israel is a ‘villa in the jungle’.
Regards from Israel
Blog 19 Live Long & Prosper (Posted Oct. 10)
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As part of the global campaign we have pink ribbons in Canada a pink illuminated Timna Park in Israel.
William Shatner is going into space. Aboard Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin shuttle. Now how cool is that. Relevance to this blog – Shatner is Canadian and Jewish. And I’m a Trekkie with an octogenarian mother. Keep on truckin’ Captain Kirk.
Check out that new interactive video game. Or better yet. Don’t.
Fursan al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Talk about the Arab narrative. And glorifying violence and anti-Israel sentiment. Kind of meshes with U.S. V.P. Kamala Harris’s recent pathetic non-exchange at George Mason University with an outspoken student accusing Israel of ‘ethnic genocide’. Give me a break! In addition to praising this student for ‘speaking her truth’ (WTF!), Kamala should also have told her to check out this awesome new video game….
I’d be in big trouble had I lived some 2,700 years ago during the ‘Kings of Judah’ period. The Israel Antiquities Authority recently discovered a private toilet carved in smooth limestone from that time. Apparently only the rich could afford such luxuries back then.
Congratulations to Filipino journalist Maria Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov. Winners of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. For their “courageous fight for freedom of expression” in their respective countries. Important. For sure! I’d even say keep on truckin’ Maria and Dmitry.
But…. Think the Nobel Prize should have gone to the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement signatories. Then-U.S. President Trump, then-Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani. Fighting for freedoms of any sort is a noble act and should be recognized and rewarded. But the Accords brought real peace. Which has since snowballed (Canadianesque word choice). Hello Morocco. Hello Sudan.
My wife and I Spent a wonderful anniversary weekend in Tel Aviv. Stayed at the new Rachel Brown boutique hotel. The rooms were clean, bright and a wee bit small. Terrific service – I can be very demanding, a real nudnik (Israelesque word choice). Bring me more towels. Bring me more soap. Bring me more toilet paper; fortunately we’re not living in the Kings of Judah era. And kudos to the personable Front Desk Manager who efficiently and transparently solved an unforeseen issue. Now that was customer service!
Thank goodness for these alternative boutique hotels. Otherwise we’d be spending three times as much at the Isrotel Hotel chain. Outrageous!
We also enjoyed gourmet meals at two premier Tel Aviv restaurants – George & John and Claro. Actually they were much more to my wife’s taste; a culinary connoisseur who works in the hospitality industry. While I’m a food-simpleton; give me a good burger or pizza anytime. Hey. I still enjoy going to McDonalds for a Happy meal.
Back to Star Trek. Let’s not forget the origins of Dr. Spock’s Vulcan hand gesture greeting. Forming the Hebrew letter ‘shin’, it comes from the hand sign of the Jewish high priests during prayers. Still used today by Kohanim -Jewish descendants from the priestly class- preying under the canopy of their tallit or prayer shawl. And for sure Kirk and Spock should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their courageous five year mission. But they are not real people. Live Long and Prosper.
Regards from Israel,
Blog 18 Posted Sept. 29
Keep on Truckin’
Israeli popstar Sarit Hadad recently came out as a lesbian. Our Mizrahi diva whose audience is largely traditional and conservative. The news received with a national shrug of acceptance. Personally, not much of a fan. But hey, keep on truckin’ Sarit.
Congratulations to Canada’s new Prime Minister. As I judge all things geopolitical. Is this good for Israel? Anyway, keep on truckin’ Justin.
Quick update to my previous blog about the Palestinian Great Escape. The last two Gilboa prison escapees were recaptured in Jenin with barely a fight. Kudos to our security services – the Shin Bet and the IDF. Even the Palestinians reluctantly acknowledged the quality of our intelligence. Keep on truckin’ Israeli security services.
Talk about Murphy. But hopefully not. The day after my Pfizer booster shot. The FDA came out supporting third shots for seniors – over 65 years. Seven years to go. Now was Israel’s decision – further enhancing our reputation as the world’s vaccine nation- to approve boosters shots for all just a ‘shot in the dark’ (nice play on words…but not mine). Mmmm. Guess I’ll just continue putting my unflinching (that’s my word play) trust in Bennett and Horowitz. Keep on truckin’ guys (i.e. Bennet and Horowitz. Not Murphy).
A couple months ago one of our family’s favorite restaurants closed. After 29 years – yes I’ve been here that long but only discovered Pat Qua several years later- they simply closed their doors.
Started by Israeli celebrity chef Yisrael Ahroni. Somewhat pricey, it later relocated from funky Rothchild Street in Tel Aviv to the upscale city of Herzliya Petuach. Served by the same waitress every time, talk about consistency. The best Chinese I’ve ever eaten. Sorry Nanking.
Guess customer disappointment was strong enough that Ahroni rebooted his menu for a short time in partnership with another Chinese restaurant in Tel Aviv. Checked it out last weekend with my wife.
As with reboots. Left me wanting the original. Anyway, keep on truckin’ Ahroni.
Regarding Bennett’s maiden speech to the U.N. General Assembly. Now what’s with this word ‘woke’. As in, “And to those countries who chose to participate in this farce, I say: Attacking Israel doesn’t make you morally superior. Fighting the only democracy in the Middle East doesn’t make you ‘woke’….”
Watching the speech live, my wife looked to me for clarification. Couldn’t help. Never heard of the word, at least not in that context. Told her I’d get back to her. According to some online dictionary, it means being alert to injustice, especially racism. But why use such an obscure word. I can imagine all those U.N. translators stumbling with this one. Pausing in their translations. Shrugging their shoulders as ambassadors look for real-time meaning. “Umm, I’ll get back to you on that one Sir (or Madam)” reverberating around the world.
Hey. Keep on truckin’ Naftali.
How ‘bout those progressive dames -better known as ‘The Squad’- in the U.S. Democratic party. Ilhan Omar. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Rashida Tlaib. Ayanna Pressley. Fortunately their efforts to derail US financing for the Israeli military -specifically 1B$ to assist with the Iron Dome upkeep- was not successful. The money will arrive.
Ladies. Absence an Iron Dome shield, Israeli would need a much more aggressive response to the indiscriminate firing of missiles at her cities.
Is this a wake-up call? Should Israel be concerned about continued US funding? Unfortunately the Democratic party’s left leaning, progressives flank is gaining strength. Or at least momentum.
So what can you do, dear reader? Visit Israel – we’ll gladly accept your tourist dollars and we guarantee a great time. Invest in Israel – we have a financially healthy and robust stock exchange with world-class companies. And donate to your favorite Israeli charity – remember those little tin blue & white JNF boxes, pull ‘em out of the pantry.
Keep on truckin’ Omar, AOC, Tashida, Tlaib, Pressley. Not!
Regards from Israel
Blog 17 Posted Sept. 14
The Palestinian Great Escape
Israeli media compare it with the Shawshank Redemption movie. The Palestinian narrative can adapt it as their Great Escape. Or refer to their Acre moment. Or, if they share my sense of humor, laughingly compare it with an episode of Hogan’s Heroes.
I am referring to last week’s escape of six Palestinian inmates from Israeli’s maximum security Gilboa Prison.
Need to give these escapees their due credit. As abhorrent as they may be. All high security prisoners serving life sentences for terrorist activity against Israel. They actually engineered…well. A great escape.
A huge PR coup for an embattled people. Under the watchful eye of the Israel prisons services. Brazen planning. Intimidated guards. Smuggled cellphones. Poor prison infrastructure. Tunnels dug with spoons. Lax cell inspections.
Although Zakaria Zubeidi, leader of the six and a symbol of the Second Palestinian Intifada, is certainly no Andy Defresne, Virgil Hilts, Eitan Livni or Colonel Hogan.
And Israel needs a huge overhaul in its prison security measures. No more of this Moe, Larry and Curly shtick.
Here’s a moral boost to both Israel and Canada. Time Out magazine voted Tel Aviv the 8th best city on the planet. Montreal the 6th. Hey…there are 10,000 cities out there.
Main considerations included the city’s nightlife, restaurants and cultural & environmental initiatives. As well as a sense of community and general friendliness (yes, us Israelis!)
Tel Aviv כל הכבוד
Mon gars Montreal.
Bravo Miri Regev. The purveyor of mind-numbing nonsense.
Potential successors to Bibi Netanyahu are beginning to raise their heads. Nir Barkat. Yuli Edelstein. Israel Katz. Avi Dichter. Tzachi Hanegbi. What do they have in common? According to the parochial worldview of the broad minded, modern and progressive successor-wannabe Miri Regev: They’re not Sephardi.
Naftali Bennett. Bibi Netanyahu. Ehud Olmert. Ariel Sharon. Ehud Barak. Bibi Netanyahu (first term). Shimon Peres. Yitzhak Rabin. Yitzhak Shamir. Shimon Peres (first term). Yitzhak Shamir (first term). Menachem Begin. Yitzhak Rabin (first term). Golda Meir (a woman!). David Ben Gurion. Moshe Sharett. David Ben Gurion (first term). Did I get them all? And in order.
Well, according to Miri Regev, they are all white, Ashkenazi, elitists. And, she continues: It’s time to have a Sephardi prime minister. Give me a break! Put that ethnic Jeannie back in the bottle lady! Israel has come way too far for such ridiculous rubbish.
With more than a 35% intermarriage rate between Ashkenazi and Sephardi, do we really need such bitter blarney? And from someone who wants to be Prime Minister? According to my beautiful, successful Sephardic wife: No.
Chess.com. Spent many hours playing the 1,500 year old game on my modern smart phone. Where I am identified with an Avatar and an Israeli flag.
Then it happened. My first experience with online harassment. Playing against an Indonesian. I was. Well…losing. Then my sport-minded opponent texted me. “F—k you Israel”. Now that threw my game. A good an excuse as any.
Revenge would have been a comeback win. But that wasn’t going to happen. He captured my queen and had my two rooks in a knight’s bind.
So I resigned the game. Even though that cost me ten points. Rather than giving my Southeast Asian opponent the pleasure of a real win. Then I reported the incident.
Indonesia. With a per capita annual GDP of 4K$. That was Israel in 1975. Today, Israel’s per capita income, like Canada’s, is more than 10x that of Indonesia’s. Chess is a fine game. But who is the real winner here?
As of this writing four of the Gilboa escapees were captured… including Zubeidi, who was found -inglorious, dirty, hungry and thirsty- hiding behind the wheel of a monster truck in some parking lot in northern Israel.
Regards from Israel,
Blog 16 Posted August 28
Just returned from a quick trip home. To Winnipeg. Beware! Some anecdotes and reflections ahead of you.
Went back to the house where I grew up.
Done this before. Like every time I return home. But this time it was a bit different. As the kindly homeowner noticed me wandering around ‘her’ home. “Excuse me, what are you doing outside my house”.
“Actually”, I brazenly responded. “It’s my home.” Still claiming ownership some thirty years later.
After explaining my snooping around her front and back yards, the latter missing the huge plum tree of my youth, she invited me in for a look. A blast-from-the-past. Nope. Totally redone. My bedroom no more. Our kitchen now part of the dining room. The downstairs partitioned into rooms which never existed. Our lovely furniture…where’d it go? The flowery-print wall paper scraped from the walls. And so few stairs to the basement. In fact, the whole house shrunk. Came out of there a bit deflated to be honest. Guess you can never really go back home.
So she was right. It’s definitely her home. My house remains a fond memory.
Also wondered around my old high school. Garden City Collegiate. Hallways to my past. Lost in memories. Mainly good ones. Of old friends. Of influential teachers. Of drama class – Glee & Fame and crazy cast parties. And learning, well kind of. As Paul Simon sings, “If you take all the crap I learned back in high schools, it’s a wonder I can think at all.”
Then one of the teachers stopped me. Not one I recognized. That was too long ago. And teachers are much younger now. Guess they were young then too. But seemed much older when you’re only 16. Anyway she snapped me out of my reverie.
“Are you looking for something”, she asked.
“Ahh ya”, I longingly replied. “My past.”
Speaking of high school. One of the most useful courses I took back then. Not math (calculus & trigonometry were killers). Not science (repeated grade 10 general science). Not really literature (still shudder at having to read Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina). Nor drama (where I flourished). It was typing.
Took the course for an easy credit. Sat in the back row. Flirting in an awkward, sixteen year old way with the two girls beside me.
Passed with a good mark. Had very nimble fingers. Still do. And then never touched a typewriter -or keyboard as its now referred- again for many years.
Until the onslaught of computers. When we became our own secretaries. I can type blind. No reference to my terrible eye sight. I simply don’t watch the keys as I tap. Often complimented on my ‘piano playing’ at the key board by work colleagues. Fingers precisely positioned. Never looking down. As we were trained during innumerable speed tests back in Typing class.
Who would have thought that going for an easy credit back in high school would have such an impact on my work life today. Multi-tasking as I type. Reports and emails typed out in no-time. Even these wonderful blogs…churned out in minutes.
I was shocked to hear of the real stories of antisemitism some of my family faces in Canada. Mezuzahs pulled from doorframes. Afraid to wear identifying jewelry. Yikes! I read the news but hearing personal stories of the kind. And my family thinks it dangerous for me living in Israel.
Canada. No honking at red lights or in traffic jams. Parking lanes not used for driving. Really moving over to let emergency vehicles pass. Quick to apologize when bumped into. Massive bottomless drinks at restaurants. Candy bars super-sized for more value. 1,438 McDonalds restaurants. Compared to 180 in Israel – three of them a short driving distance from home. Pleasant summer weather; you would never know bees were on the path to extinction. Compared to Israel’s 40C – sometimes feels like 400! Give me the bee swarms any day. You can literally feel the population density of 4 persons/sqkm. Compared to Israel’s 400 – sometimes feels like 4000! And the suburban green of Garden City and River Heights – love it.
Israel. An annual per capita GDP similar to Canada’s 46K$. An innovative, hi-tech economy. A showcase celluloid industry. C19 vaccination leadership. Massive military might. Culinary creativity. Reforestation responsibility – 250 million (!) trees planted during the 20th century, the only country ending the century with more trees then when it started. The fourth country to safely reach the moon. Well… almost. And a splendid showing at the 2020 Olympics with 4 medals (4.5% ratio to athletes). Compared to Canada’s 24 medals (6.5% ratio to athletes).
As Canadian-Israelis we often compare ourselves to our Canadian cousins. As I mused to my kids on the plane ride home, don’t think Israel is missing much these days. Well. Other than Jeanne’s cake. Salisbury House Nip ‘n Chips and Oscars corned beef sandwiches. Maybe our cousins should start benchmarking to their kin in Israel.
Back in Israel and Regards,
Blog 15 Posted Aug. 22
Inspired by. Well…. Conversations with my mom. Hi mom.
A bit zealous in nature. Written at the outset of the 2nd Iraq War in 2003 when Saddam again threatened Israel with chemical weapons. Reflective of the Israeli fight versus flight or freeze mentality. The classic Sabra ‘we ain’t goin’ nowhere’ steadfastness.
The style Influenced by Cat Steven’s (now Yusuf Islam) classic Father and Son.
A Conversation With Mom
It’s such a dangerous place…
The region so full of hate
How can I not worry about your fate!
It’ll be okay
You can leave before the next war starts
Before the next terrorist strikes
The situation is bad yet to reach its worst
Surely your safety must come first
I cannot leave at a time like this
While others covet what is dear
And want to chase me away with bombs and fear
Home is here and not so far away
Why take such chances?
Why must you stay?
It’s a stubbornness born from you
It’s a loyalty and commitment from deep within
I cradled and protected you
I bandaged your knees when you bled
Your tears I wiped when they shed
Now I want you near
Safe at home, close to here!
Your intentions are pure motherhood
If not for the values you bestowed
To leave such a place, I never could
I am home…
I want you here, where you’ll be far away from bombs and fear
…Let others worry about what is dear
My family, my life is here
Israel is where I must be – I have no intention to flee
What is right I must do
And be as good a parent as you
Regards from Israel,
Blog 14 I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice-cream
Posted July 30 15:17 I just want to enjoy my ice-cream. I am a vanilla and chocolate guy. Sometimes I’ll go wild with cookies and cream. But now. Eating ice-cream is political.
Ben & Jerry’s (owned by Unilever) joined the BDS movement. Arrgghh! The ice cream company -founded by two Jewish boys, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield – is now boycotting Ariel, Ma’ale Adumin, the Old City’s Jewish Quarter and other ‘settlements’ by refusing to sell ice-cream there.
Hey Ben. Hey Jerry. Its only ice-cream.
And I can still enjoy the wonderfully retro Dairybee in Winnipeg Beach (rainbow my favorite as a kid). Or, closer to home, the Golda Ice Cream chain’s many tasty flavors. Or I can let bygones be bygones and continue buying my pint of Ben & Jerry’s at the local supermarket. Despite the overt stupidity of this boycott. But I won’t.
What happened to the innocent pleasure of an extra thick milkshake or a double scoop cone.
Very impressive indeed. Israel is staying on top of global cybersecurity innovation. Prime Minister Bennett initiated a global cybersecurity network to fight cyper threats. Calling it a Global Cybernet Shield. Love the name! Love the idea!
FYI. Before entering politics, Naftali made his millions in cybersecurity. Founding and the selling an anti-fraud SW company. So he comes with some experience here.
Once again Israel remains at the forefront of high technology innovation.
Eilat. Enjoyed a great long weekend there in mid-July with the wife and kids. Yes, my grown kids agreed to spend the weekend with us.
As much as I enjoy our southern oasis. Vacationing there nearly every year when the kids were younger. This time I felt a bit like a פראיר (pronounced ‘frier’, or sucker in English). With really nowhere else to go. At least without going overseas and incurring the slings and errors of Covid 19. The covid related travel beaucracy can be a Kafkaesque nightmare. Well. While we soaked up the sun in Eilat. Eilat soaked us. Prices were incredible.
Not only at the hotel. Where I downgraded from our favorite 5 star delux to a 4 star located off the beachfront. Hey, there’s a limit to what I’ll spend for some R&R. Restaurants also way too pricey. Went to a great hamburger joint. The burgers were excellent. But just too expensive. I paid more than what a burger cost at my favorite Tel Aviv diner. And there’s no tax in Eilat. Go figure.
On the brighter side, water sports along the promenade were well priced and provided good value. Had great fun speedboating and parasailing. Shopping was great -just ask my wife- where the tax-free environment was real.
Eilat received lots of bad press this summer due to price gouging. Especially in light of government assistance -read ‘my tax shekels’- the hotels and restaurants received during the Covid crises. Understand this is a business and market driven. But where’s the humility and gratitude? This is not a rhetorical question.
If four rockets were fired at Brandon. Hard to imagine, eh. I can’t even identify a hypothetical threat. But let’s just say. Would Winnipeggers not take notice. Would Torontonians not take notice. Or Vancouverites. Or Iqalummiut. Or Brandonians. (Rhetorical so not using question marks.) And would Justin not take a strong stand and demand a global response against the threat. (Again rhetorical.)
Well. Four rockets were fired at Israel from Lebanon in late July. Think one fell in some field. Another shot down by our Iron Dome. The other two missed the country entirely – like how does that happen?
And our Ben & Jerry’s ice-creamgate made the headlines.
Regards from Israel,
Posted July 6 5:56 pm
Been going to synagogue the past thirty days for morning Kaddish. My dad recently passed way. May his memory be for a blessing.
Walked to synagogue – five minutes away- with a colorful, knitted kippa and a long, flowing tallis (prayer shall) flaying over my shoulders. And it felt so… normal.
Guess I’ve taken the inherent Jewish nature of Israel for granted. Given the rampant spread of anti-Semitism and random anti-Jewish violence. With Jewish communities issuing warnings against wearing Kippot, Tallit or jewelry with the Star of David. Less it be too provocative.
Our new Lapid-Bennett government coalition is very diverse. Jews. Arabs. Women. Right. Left. Handicapped. Orthodox. Secular.
To wit. The Arab & Druze ministers. Esawi Frej and Hamad Amar, respectively. The two handicapped ministers. Wheel chair bound Karin Elharrar who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy. And Shirley Pinto-Kadosh who is deaf. She took her oath of office in sign language. The next day my daughter started teaching herself sign language. Can you be more inspiring Shirley? Minister of Immigration, Pnina Tamano-Shata from Ethiopia. I made Aliyah on a comfortable El Al Boeing 767. Pnina trekked 7,000 miles from Sudan to Israel. Nine women Ministers. A huge contrast to our last government: characterized by the male-dominated Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. Also a big inspiration to my feminist daughter. And a Prime Minister of North American immigrant parents who is fully fluent in English. Further inspiration to the two kids of this Canadian-cum-Israeli blogger.
Amotz Asa-El, a favorite Israeli columnist, said it best. “Such is this…rainbow coalition, which besides being socially diverse is also a collection of political antagonists who set out to prove what they share is bigger than what they dispute, an aim which fills its detractors with fear, and the rest of us with hope.”
Time for a poem. Yes I’m a word nerd.
Originally written in 2003 during the 2nd Iraq War. When there was again fear that Saddam would fire chemical missiles at Israel. He didn’t. Instead he was found huddling in some underground cave and subsequently executed. With some minor tweaking it’s also relevant to our mini wars with Hamas. 2009. 2012. 2014. 2019 x 2. And 2021. Referring again to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’ (my blog: May 26, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr).
Don’t Panic…Uncertainty Does Prevail
Late at night, the kids tucked in
The war has started, our heads in a spin
We look to each other for comfort
The country told to keep its routine…
But open the shelters, stay close by
Don’t panic, keep cool you must try
Keeping abreast of the news with no avail
Uncertainty simply does prevail
Their missiles may fly quite high
But our Iron Dome knocks them from the sky
I will be on blogging on a Winnipeg Beach/Red sea footing this summer. Heading to the beach with juicy red watermelon, a few books and overpriced suntan lotion. Will be writing only once/month through August. Hope to reset in September. Enjoy the sunshine and fishflies.
Regards from Israel,
Posted Monday, June 28 at 10:49 am
Reports of another prisoner exchange in the works. Hamas has the Bowery Boys negotiating on their behalf. You know. 1 for you, 3 for me. 2 for you, 7 for me. 4 for you, 1,111 for me.
Yes. That’s the ratio Hamas expects. They want 1,111 prisoners in exchange for our 4 Israelis. Two mentally ill Israeli civilians who inadvertently crossed the border several years ago – Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. Plus the bodies of two solders – Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul – held since the 2014 conflict, Operation Protective Edge.
The Bowery Boys previously negotiated deals of similar splits. In 2011 IDF solder Gilad Shalit was released after five years in captivity. 1 for you, 1,027 for me. In 2008 Israel received the bodies of two Israeli soldiers -Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev captured in a 2006. 2 for you, 204 for me. This exchange included the controversial release of Samir al Kuntar. Convicted for the 1979 Nahariya terrorist attack where four Israeli’s were killed including a four year old girl. Kuntar -no Horace DeBussy Jones was he.
To close this story. Upon release Kuntar was awarded Syria’s highest military medal and honored by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was subsequently killed when the building he lived in was destroyed in an air strike. Israeli?
When leaving the house. I have this nagging feeling I forgot something. Like being slightly naked. Oh ya. It’s my mask. Given our vaccine-nation status and near-herd immunity (or something like that) we no longer need to wear masks. At all. I wish this same feeling to my Canadian family and friends and the other 37M Canucks.
Now that pleasure was short lived. Israel just rolled back our mask-freedom. Last Friday at noon. Given recent Covid spikes -hello variants- we again need to wear our masks. Just indoors for now. As Jackie Gleason would say, “how sweat it was!”
Now what’s with Netanyahu’s pass-down to Bennett. Twenty-five minutes? I remember my first entry-level professional job. At Bank Leumi, in Tel Aviv. 1989ish. It took my predecessor ~ two weeks to pass-down the intricacies of the job. And I was just a lowly clerk in the international banking division. And the PM gets 25 minutes?!
Move over Jaffa oranges. Israeli cherry season was terrific. Our Galilee cherries are fabulous.
Israeli archeologists unearthed a 1,000 year old chicken egg shell. Intact during an excavation of a vast 4th-7th century CE industrial area in the Yavne region. Go figure. I can barely manage to place a dozen eggs in our egg tray without cracking one. Now can you imagine the Bowery Boys working at the Israeli Antiquity Authority and responsible for this egg business. “Sach, be careful with that egg…!” Or with bowl and spatula in one hand. An egg -not just any egg- in the other. Sach innocently asks his pals, “Anyone for scrambled eggs.” Now that would be funny.
Regards from Israel,
An Open Letter to Naftali and Yair, Part 2 of 2
Posted June 21, 9:32 am
Dear Naftali and Yair.
Again congratulations! Hope my last blog-letter resonated with you both. Here are some additional thoughts from centular (from last letter, that’s center-secular) Israel.
Israel must be more in sync with the diaspora. Unfortunately there’s a growing disconnect. The younger ‘galut’ generation are less involved and more apathetic towards Israel. With growing antisemitism worldwide, these diaspora communities are suffering and at some risk. Whereas we centular Israelis either expect too much or are somewhat apathetic to their needs. But an interdependence exists and it must be clearly defined and better nurtured. And let’s not ignore the larger Evangelical base which should also be nurtured.
Peace. Unobtainable on so many levels for too many years. While no longer an existential threat. Unlike protecting the character of our state (from last letter – that’s democratic and Jewish) and ensuring we don’t become a theocracy. However we cannot live in a perpetual state of belligerency -cold, hot or lukewarm- with many of our neighbors. The Abrahamic Accords are a boon to regional peace and development. Now we need a deal with the Palestinians. Didn’t Trump offer them $ 50,000,000,000 (that’s billion!) to make peace. What happened to that idea? Heck, I’ll take it! Seriously, I don’t want to escort my grandchildren to the Tel Hashomer draft center when they turn eighteen. As for Iran. Be prepared to face down Kings and Queens and Presidents for our security. Iran cannot go nuclear. Period. Bibi was tireless in this regard. So must you.
Speaking of which. A bit about your predecessor. Benjamin Netanyahu. A lifelong servant to the state. Passionate. Devoted. Fearless. He may have taken a few cigars and bottles of pink champagne along the way. May have asked for a few positive headlines here and there. But compared to his dedication and achievements for Israel. Not that big a deal. We need to close this chapter. A pardon-with-honors. Let Bibi retire to write his memoirs from the comfort of his villa in Caesarea. He may not want that -looks like he’s preparing to be a tireless opposition leader- but he’s certainly deserving.
Gentlemen. As you begin your term. Remember the strength of our economy. The brilliance of our hi-tech, bio-tech, cyber-tech, fin-tech and other-tech sectors. The power and humanity of our military. The benefits of our natural gas & water desalination resources. The newfound glitter of our start up celluloid industry. The beauty and wisdom of our 5,000 year old heritage (you got this one Naftali). And the ongoing sweetness of our Jaffa oranges, Galilee cherries and cherry tomatoes. If the adage of old was ‘we never promised you a rose garden’. Well, today our garden is well tended and thriving. As you rotate the Prime Ministership please continue with its tending.
Naftali. I was impressed with how you -our first democratically elected, kippa wearing Prime Minister- ended your inaugural speech. With The Blessing for the State of Israel. Strongly mixing our need for democracy. With our need to remain a Jewish state.
Wishing you all the success in managing our little shtetel.
Regards from Rehovot
Dear Naftali and Yair:
It only took four undecisive elections over a two year period. But you finally formed your anti-Bibi coalition. Which was wisely transformed into the ‘government of change’. We all know you cannot rest on your ‘anyone but Bibi’ laurels once this goal is achieved concomitant to your swearing in ceremony. You now need to manage the ‘change’ element of your coalition.
So what needs to be changed. From my centular (center-secular) Israeli perch. Hmmm. Where to begin. Where to end.
The vision thing. 1) Israel must remain a democratic state. It must also remain a Jewish state. For all its people. Are these visions contradictory? Well, good luck with that. 2) Israel must not become a theocracy. Which is why I voted secular. Yes, you Yair. 3) Israel must have sectoral harmony. Arab, Jew, Orthodox, Secular. We cannot let the extremists amongst us prevail. 4) And of course. Our political system needs fixing. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, proportional representations is the best form of democracy except for all other forms. And Israel needs term limits for its Prime Minister. To quote John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (isn’t Google wonderful); “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Now you gents need to roll up your proverbial sleeves. Fix the State. 1) Pass a budget. Reflecting today’s reality. Then throw away the worn out 2018 budget we’ve been pro-rating the last couple of years. 2) Better distribute the tax burden. I am not talking socialism (Yikes!) but rather ensuring all sectors pay their dues. 3) Share the burden -or honor- of military service equitably amongst all citizens. Ben Gurion’s state-building compromise to exempt 400 Yeshiva students was relevant and politically expedient in 1948. Don’t think it was intended to morph into the massive draft-dodge fest it’s become today. 4) Make a real education mandatory. Every student has the right -whether they want it or not- to the three Rs. 5) Repair our national road infrastructure. I spend way too much time stuck in traffic. 6) Rehabilitate the Arab sector. Rampant crime and decaying infrastructure does not make good neighbors. I guess that’s where Ra’am comes in. Good luck Mansour Abbas. 6) Clean our streets. They are way too dirty. Okay this one is more municipal. Mayor Malul – are you listening?
Naftali, Yair. You showed great humility, respect and decorum during the swearing in ceremony. Thank you. Rising above the rif-raf of the Knesset. Noise which must fade away as you begin healing a nation bruised by the last two years of political deadlock and extreme rhetoric. Naftali. Your maiden speech was ‘hands-on’. Very Eshkolesq. Detailing the chores ahead. This is what’s needed as you and Yair begin the task of national repair. Gods Speed.
And please bear with me as I prepare the second part of my letter for next week’s blog. As I said. Where to begin. Where to end.
Regards from Rehovot,
We still need to pay for Operation Guardian of the Wall. Israel suffered millions in damages from direct missile hits. Israeli businesses incurred over 370M$ in indirect losses. Every Iron Dome missile fired cost ~ 65KUS$ – another ~200MUS$ (do the math). Our re-arming – hundreds of millions. The list goes on.
Please donate now. To your favorite Israeli charity! Or come visit, tourist dollars are very welcome.
Our saferoom. Transformed back to our den. The same physical room. Didn’t change anything. The faded blue couch is still there. At least until my wife gets rid of it. Ya, right! The flat screen TV hasn’t moved. Still the same four re-enforced concrete walls. But with the mini-war behind us. It’s simply no longer thought of as the ‘saferoom’. Its once again the ‘TV room’. As it should be!
During those lovely eleven days of missile tag we would say; “Quick. Siren. Everyone into the saferoom”. Even when missiles weren’t falling -but they could- it was; “Hey, bring me the paper from the saferoom.”
Now it’s again called the TV room. Like; “Hey, bring me the paper from the TV room.”
Lights. Camera. Action. Movie theaters re-opened last week across Israel as the country leaves coronavirus behind. Think I’ll continue enjoying my Netflix & micro-waved popcorn a while longer.
Seismologists say an earthquake along the Syrian-African rift (i.e. my backyard) occurs every 130-150 years. Which is nowish…
Well. We can rest easy for another ~150 years. Israel just had its earthquake. Bibi Netanyahu was dethroned. Beaten at the polls. By the ‘Government of Change’.
A hodgepodge of rightwing, leftwing, centrist, Arab-Islamists and Jewish religious parties. Patched together. To be sworn in next week. Ousting the rightwing, Jewish orthodox block of Benjamin Netanyahu. Twelve years of uninterrupted rule.
Bibi’s legacy. Tricks and shticks and legal battles aside. He build Israel’s modern, capitalist, hi tech economy. He moved Israel into the OECD. He oversaw Israel’s per capital GDP grow to ~ 44KUS$. He kept us safe and secure (relatively, I guess). He’s challenged the world while holding Iran at bay. He vaccinated us. And he gave us the Abrahamic Accords. As Israel’s UN Ambassador (late ‘80’s), Netanyahu was an inspiration for my own Aliyah. I remember seeing him deliver a speech at some Toronto venue. Wow! A warrior-cum-stateman. And could he speak! I digress – that’s another blog.
Albeit it. The adage holds true. ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. And Netanyahu has been in power too long.
But…not eulogizing him yet. As with Israeli politics. And particularly with Netanyahu. There can be many tremors between now and the swearing in of our new government. Led by the religious, right wing, hi-tech millionaire Naftali Bennet and the centrist, former journalist and TV anchorman Yair Lapid. And even after. Stay tuned and hold on tight. In the meantime I am working on an open letter to these two gents for my next blog. Assuming tremors don’t topple them before they even begin.
Remember. Donate. Or start planning your visit. Now. Please.
Regards from Israel,
Entry # 8 – Posted May 31 7:29 am
Pictures & Words
If a picture tells a thousand words. Take a look at this.
I’m no expert in ethology but think our dog is suffering a kind of canine PTSD. During the war Poncho was also under stress. Running -mostly carried- to the saferoom during missile alerts. When we would dash to our balcony to watch -and even feel (yes, the earth shook at impact)- the Iron Dome shooting down missiles over neighboring cities he would bark like crazy. Am sure Poncho noticed an increase in his humans anxiety and excitement levels. He knew something was amiss. Now Poncho’s barking and pawing more usual – driving me nuts! Maybe a visit to Poncho’s vet is needed….
Speaking of pinpoint battle accuracy. Israel used sophisticated AI and Big Data analysis to strike at Hamas military targets -and avoid civilian casualties – throughout the 11 day operation. Complicated algorithms and code -developed by Israel’s famed army unit 8200- enabled precision strikes. To wit. A senior Hamas operative -hiding in a tunnel under a high-rise building neighboring schools and a medical clinic – was killed by a targeted missile strike with no collateral damage. The infamous Hamas Metro – a military tunnel network hundreds of kilometers long and largely built under residential areas – was heavily damaged (see previous blog: Security Insecurity) with minimum civilian deaths or damage. Israel’s fame as the Start Up Nation is not for nothin’.
So if Israel is known as the Start Up Nation. And more recently the Vaccine Nation. Think we should also be referred to as the Iron Dome Nation.
Unfortunately we can also be referred to as the Election Nation. Four elections in two years. While a ‘government of change’ -hello Lapid and Bennett – is on the way, a fifth election in the near term may still be brewing. Proportional Representation, the best form of democracy except for all others (to paraphrase Winston Churchill).
If words describe a thousand pictures. Read this. ‘Israel protects its population from rockets while Hamas protects its rockets with the population.’
Pulled from an article by Walter Bingham. At 97, Israel’s elder journalist and holder of the Guinness Word Record as oldest radio talk show host. With those credentials, he must have some insight and wisdom.
Regards From Israel,
Entry #7 – Posted May 26 10:45 am
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
Who said that the more things change the more they are the same? Well. Maybe things just haven’t changed. But they are certainly staying the same.
2009 Operation Cast lead. 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense. 2014 Operation Protective Edge. 2019 Operation Black Belt.
All with Gaza. All resulted in tremendous destruction to Gaza. All resulted with some damage to Israel. All resulted with some sort of cease-fire. All resulted in great praise of Israel’s Iron Dome. All resulted in great praise -in Israel anyway- for the IDF’s humane approach to warfare. All resulted in UN condemnation of Israel. All resulted in more World Court allegations of war crimes against Israel. All resulted in Hamas bellicose of how they won the war. All resulted in international efforts to rebuild Gaza. All resulted in best efforts to ensure the aid -cement and dollars- wouldn’t go to Hamas. All resulted in the aid going to Hamas. All resulted in Hamas rebuilding tunnels and missiles. All resulted in another war a few short years later.
And now 2021’s Guardians of the Wall. Been there. Done that.
Just me being very cynical.
Now what’s with that chess website. The one showing which country you’re from when randomly pairing you with a partner. Small little home country flags next to your name. Very proud of my blue & white. But seems it’s harder to find a partner these days. Attribute to the surge in worldwide anti-Semitism and anti-Israel feelings. Roger Waters. I challenge you to a game of chess.
Again a cynic!
BTW. It was the French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr who wrote (for our anglophone friends): ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’.
Monsieur Karr also said ‘Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses’. Now how close is that to the Israeli Aliyah poster of yesteryear – ‘We Don’t Promise You a Rose Garden’ (picture: a dessert. A bed of thorns. And one blossoming rose). It inspired me on some level. You see. I can also be a romantic idealist.
I can also be just a romantic. I re-proposed to my wife on our 23rd wedding anniversary. At our favorite pizzeria in Tel Aviv. With my kids, and even my mother-in-law, in tow. And she said yes. But I digress.
Regards From Israel,
Entry #6 – posted Tues., May 18, 10:55 am
The Current Normal
Hamas threatened Israel. Stop bombing us or we will attack Tel Aviv again. Then Clint Eastwood said, “Go ahead. Make my day”.
While Hamas has held true to their threats. Do they really think Israel will succumb to their bellicosity. And really. Who is attacking who anyway (rhetorical question).
It’s clear Hamas is the initiator. First firing rockets at Jerusalem last Monday due to tensions in the dang-what’s-that-neighborhood-called neighborhood. And remains the aggressor with its continued, indiscriminate missile firing into Israel. Attempting to maximize civilian damage. And ironically Israel gets called out on this.
Israel. Responds. Pin points their attacks at military targets. Unfortunately Hamas military is embedded within the civilian population. Israel takes every effort to minimize civilian casualties. Sending text messages or dropping leaflets or ‘knocking on the door’ (dropping noise bombs to alert inhabitants of pending incoming). It even calls off attacks if civilians are at risk. Possibly the most humane army in the world – this is not bellicose.
Just don’t get why the international community accuses Israel of targeting innocent civilians. Its clearly the other way around.
Uncertainty prevails. Hamas threatens retaliation at Tel Aviv, it hasn’t happened. Yet. Was a very violent weekend on both sides. Huge missile barrages at our south. Israel responded with attacks on Hamas and their military infrastructure (rocket launchers, rocket R&D centers, rocket production centers, banks, drones, the Metro, etc). Followed by a quite night with no bombings. Well six rockets were fired at Israel from Southern Lebanon. Please not a 2nd front. Musings of ceasefires. Israel’s Security Cabinet nixed that idea – it ain’t over yet. And this morning attacks fully resumed towards our Gaza periphery and beyond. But not yet the center of the country. And Israel responded with full force. It’s the fog of war.
The current normal:
When our kids go out we ask if there are shelters nearby
When we go out we check if there are shelters nearby
Conversation inevitably ends with “stay safe”.
Every Israeli has a ‘Code Red’ missile alert system downloaded. For real time missile attack data
We’re staying away from mixed cities
We drive with open windows, better to hear the Sirens
The Israeli stock market continues to rise (increased 1% today)
Our election blues are kind of forgotten – the psychology of shared goals
Corona long forgotten
Regards from Israel,
Entry #5 – posted 1:19 am Mon., May 17
A friend is currently visiting his daughter in Israel. Who unwittingly became caught up in this military madness. Who told me how thankful Israelis should be to the Obama administration for the Iron Dome and our safety. Really!!!! I need to barf and vent.
Thankful? To Barak Obama? And his administration? For the Iron Dome? For our safety? Wow! Double Wow!
I am thankful to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries for developing the Iron Dome. I am thankful to Brigadier General Daniel Gold, who initiated and managed development of the iron Dome. I am thankful to Defense Minister Amir Peretz -and all subsequent Israeli governments- who had the foresight to support development & operation of the Iron Dome. I am thankful to the Iron Dome solders-my daughter amongst them- who operate the Iron Dome.
I am proud of the 9M Israelis who go about their routines during these difficult times. Knowing they are protected by the Iron Dome.
If anything Obama, through his cavorting with the Iranians, has made the world -and specifically my little shtetl- a much more dangerous place. Thanks a lot Barack.
An exhausting and frightening six days. Anxiety waiting for the sirens. Then sitting in the safe room waiting for the ‘boom’. Contact between our Iron Dome anti-missile and the Hamas missile. Unnerving. Sometimes there’s no ‘boom’ and we need to wait at least 10 minutes before exiting. A type of silent ‘all clear’ signal. A barrage of missiles much more complicated. Booms and sirens and silence intermingling.
Our safe room doubles as our den. TV. Internet. Telephone. Comfortable couch. Colorful pictures and posters. Can be quite comfortable during normal times. Otherwise it’s a hermetically sealed concrete bunker in the middle of our condo. The ‘clack. of the steel door and ‘screeching’ of the metal window shields quite intimidating.
Over 2200 missiles fired at Israel. Reaching our center and beyond. Randomly and indiscriminately targeting civilians. Including us – hey leave us alone!. Eleven civilians and one soldier killed. Some damage to buildings, cars, farmland and city infrastructure. Thankful to the Iron Dome’s 90% accuracy. Thankful to the home front’s level of preparedness. Thankful to Hamas’s inability to target with accuracy.
Most worrying is this wave of civil unrest. Between Israeli Jews and Arabs. The former nothing more than extreme, right wing, hooligans. Our mixed cities -some just a short drive away- becoming characterized by ethnic rioting and violence. Just not sure how to read this. What it means for long term harmony. Or at least a return to the peaceful status quo of just six days ago.
Saddened by the death and destruction in Gaza. 136 dead. 830 injured. Mainly combatants. But not all. Targets are military. Rocket launching sites. Terror cells. The Metro (Blog – Security Insecurity, May 14 2021). When Israel targets (and hits) civilian structures its because Hamas is hiding there. Embedded amongst banks, hospitals, foreign media outlets and civilian dwellings. Israel prefers not to bomb refugee camps and hi rise apartments. But when Hamas hides there. Embedding military infrastructure amongst private housing, hospitals and mosques. We have little choice. Our first priority is to defend ourselves.
Rocket sirens continued to blare down south throughout the weekend. Hard hit cities include Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon and even Beersheba. The center remaining quite.
Our area had a just-past-midnight dash to our saferooms on Sunday. Otherwise pretty quiet here. Although we often see and hear the missile and anti-missile dance in the distance from our living room window. Hey…it’s a small country.
There are now talks of ceasefires. While missiles continue to rock our country. And Gaza. Truth and clarity remain foggy.
Regards from Israel,
Entry # 4 – posted 11:00 am CDT Sat., May 15
Don’t Answer That Call
My wife received a call on her cell the other day. Caller ID’d it as ‘Suspected Hamas Affiliate’. Now how does that work? Who is screening these calls? And whatever happened to privacy?
Looking for a Pulitzer Price winning blog I asked her to answer. Aghast at my recurring ignorance, Miriam (and the sales clerk – we were buying fabric for an antique rocking chair we bought at the Jaffa flea market and are refurbishing. I digress) gave me a totally condescending look. “Bruce”, she said. “It says it’s probably Hamas. Why would I answer it? They are bombing us and could be using a GPS technology to target locations. Or maybe encrypt phones with viruses. Why take the chance? Do we have nothing better to do?”
Hmmm. She has a point.
Woke up to another missile attack. 3AM and was having an amazing dream. I mean this girl was beautiful (fortunately my wife doesn’t read my blogs). Anyway we all made our customary mad dash to the safe room. According to home front instructions we have 90 seconds to reach cover. In Sderot they have 15 seconds. In the room, we had some debate. As much as you can coherently debate at 3 AM with missiles flying overhead. About the safest place to sit. Our concern fueled by the missile which penetrated a safe room in Sderot the other day. Talk of angles and trajectories made no sense at that hour. Actually they never really make sense to me….
Here’s a selfie in the safe room. My hair standing on end because I went to sleep with wet hair or because I was, well, scared?
Then midafternoon a barrage of missiles across central Israel. Now that’s scary. Ongoing sirens. Constant booms. Sometimes can feel the house shaking. Apparently in retaliation for our downing of a 13 story high rise in central gaza – a high priority target housing enemies of both Israel… and the people of Gaza.
I keep bemoaning the lost opportunity Gazans had in turning their prime beach-front real estate into a worldwide tourist spot. Instead Hamas is forcing the Gazans to suffer the sad reality of war, poverty, decay and despair. Another basic economic question of butter or guns.
Former Prime Minister Golda Meir said it best, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us”.
Or as Sting crooned in 1985: “We share the same biology, regardless of ideology // Believe me when I say to you // I hope the Russians love their children too”
A few rockets were fired from Lebanon and Syria into Israel. No damage. Most fell into the sea. Or didn’t make it over the border. Like can these guys hit the broad side of a barn?
Should another front be opened? Pray not. Israel must level both countries’ infrastructure. There would be no cries of asymmetrical warfare here.
Disclaimer to speling and, grammer errors. This was never my strong point (yet I stil write). Even my autocorrect has “speling” and “grammer” errors. So enjoy the blogs and get over it!
Israel calls this Operation ‘Guardians of the Wall’. Hamas calls it ‘Sword of Jerusalem’. I prefer the Hamas name. More militant with a better ring to it. Speaking of which, a reminder to myself. Don’t answer calls from Hamas
Regards from Israel,
Entry #3 – posted Friday, May 14 at 9:26 am CDT
My wife brought her mother to stay over a few nights. At least until some semblance of calm prevails. Yay!!
Maybe this is a creative Hamas tactic. Create enough security insecurity (great phraseology) that mothers-in-law stay overnight. This will weaken the home front by driving the Israeli husband batty.
Fortunately I can write these things cause my wife doesn’t read my blogs; “אין לי זמן לשטויות שלך!”
Was a quiet night. At least in Rehovot. No missile and mad dashes to our safe room. Anyway it’s difficult to get a full night sleep. I waking up just thinking I’ll get woken by a missile attack. And then I can’t fall asleep because I’m worried about thinking that I may think about being woken by a missile attack which will wake me up.
A bit more about Abu-Ubaida’s inane comment about drinking water (Blog – View From the Throne, May 13 2021). Hamas is diverting fuel earmarked for Gaza’s desalination plant -which provides water for Gazans- for rocket use instead. According to an IDF spokesperson, “Now 250,000 residents of Beit Lahiya do not have water because of Hamas’s priorities.” Sort of like that butter or guns trade off we learned in first year economics.
Just returned from Tel Aviv. Would never know a war-of-sorts was going on less than 90KM away. Spent a few hours on wonderful Shenkin Street where my cousin has a long term rental apartment. He and his husband just made Aliyah and had a ‘We’ve Arrived’ party. Great timing, eh? Missiles and riots and Red Alerts and Hamas and the such were certainly part of the small talk but it was a very relaxing few hours with no missiles flying overhead.
Here’s a slightly unfocused picture of nearby Ben Tzion Blvd. Lots of people just hangin’ and enjoying Friday afternoon respite.
How ‘bout them Jets. Er I mean ‘how ‘bout that IDF’. A brilliant military deception led them to Hamas underground tunnels and weapons storehouses -called ‘The Metro’ – which was destroyed.
Briefly. The IDF International spokesperson led the foreign media to believe a ground invasion was taking place. Hamas fighters quickly entered The Metro where they lay in wait for our infantry. This enabled our intelligence to locate these tunnels and bunkers and storehouses. And our IAF to unleash a massive bombing campaign of 160 fighter planes attacking over a 40 minute period.
Which explains why earlier in the day my mom asked me about our ground invasion….
While writing this entry there were more than sixty missiles fired into Israel, hitting as far North as Ashkelon. Only 40KM from my home office. Hmmm. Talk about “security insecurity”.
Regards from Israel,
Here’s Bruce’s second entry – posted Thursday, May 13, at 6:51 am CDT:
View From the Throne
‘Dad, hurry up and finish in there.” My son told me at 5:50 PM. The ‘there’ was the washroom where I was sitting comfortably with my new book. The concern. Hamas threatened another missile salvo towards central Israel at 6PM. They held true to their word yesterday and were even quite punctual. Today less so as the barrage came an hour later.
I find it very difficult to watch the news or read the morning papers. Is this really happening in my little shtetel?
1,200 rockets pounded Israel since this ‘thing’ started on Monday. Damage takings its toll. Is the Iron Dome being overwhelmed? My daughter ,doing her service in that unit but not telling me much, says not.
A 6-yr old boy killed in Sderot through a direct missile hit on his apartment. St. Sgt Omer Tabib killed in the line of duty; a month before his discharge.
Went to the local medical center with my wife yesterday. She was suffering from a pain in her back (no it wasn’t me!). Just as we arrived Hamas honored their pledge -albeit an hour late- and the sirens went off. Incoming! About twenty people were ushered into the stairwell. And to my wife’s total shock my impulsive, patriotic experiment began. Hoping to create a flash mob, I started singing Hatikvah. Kinda’ seemed right. War atmosphere. Missiles flying overhead. Hunkering down in a stairwell. Well. Hate to crack anyone’s rose colored glasse. Including mine. But it didn’t go over too well. The flash mob was a flash person – me. An off tune baritone with a thick Canadian accent killing the words not so softly. Most people just ignored me. My wife; she sauntered over to the other side of the stairwell, head down in total embarrassment. Oh well.
Missiles be damned. I am confident Israel will overcome this. Will again be victorious. Even if short-lived until the next round.
What really worries me. And saddens me. Is this terrible rioting and violent confrontations between Israeli Jews and Arabs. In our mixed cities. In the center of the country for crying out loud. Lod. Acre. Bat Yam Ramle. This unleashing of hatred between neighbors. This viral animosity will take years to repair.
We would frequently drive to the Arab bakers in Ramle on Saturdays to buy fresh pita. To enjoy a hearty lunch of hummus and salads. Heck! I ain’t going back there too soon.
So Abu-Ubaida -a Hamas military leader- said “The decision to bomb Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Dimona, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba…is easier for us than drinking water.” Time for Israel to turn off the faucets or cut the electricity or something. Make it a bit harder for them to drink.
To be honest. Since my son’s friendly advise yesterday evening I am unable to get that laid back, comfortable feeling on the throne. Okay…. too much information.
Regards from Israel
BruceHere’s his first entry, received at 9:22 am, Wednesday, May 12. Keep checking here for Bruce’s blog.
Many dry tinders were lying around the fire. Jerusalem Day. Ramadan. Palestinian electioneering. All this led to some extreme tensions including missile and antimissile foreplay.
Yada Yada Yada. Hamas threatened that if Israel hits a Gazan high rise they will shoot at Israel’s center by 9PM.
Sure enough the IDF brought down a 13 story hi-rise in Gaza. One in which certain Hamas nerve centers we located. As usual embedded amongst the civilian population; poor Gazans!
At 9:01 PM the country came under attack. Really the worst I’ve ever seen. Over 300 missiles fired at the country’s heart within a ~30 minute span. The noise of missiles and sirens and shaking buildings was…. Well…. Unnerving.
We – Miriam, Dor and Roni. Okay Poncho too. Ran to our safe room. I turned back to the kitchen to shut off the toaster oven. Was warming up yesterday’s pizza and didn’t know how long we’d be would be. Seconds later I returned to the room. And hey, the door was closed. Like hello in there. Aren’t you missin’ someone. Hey. Open up!
For the rest of the evening we were in a type of shock. Watching the news casts. Israel under attack. Very frightening images indeed. Not knowing where this will lead but sure we were in for a sleepless nite.
Sure enough we were awoken with a Siren. 3AM. Incoming. We all ran to our safe room and huddled together for about 10 minutes waiting for the all clear sign. This time I was close behind my brood, wanting to avoid running into a steel door again.
There were several other missile attacks throughout the night. Unable to get back to sleep. Around 5AM and after maybe the 5th siren I started feeling somewhat disoriented. Instead of calling out my daughter’s name (i.e. “Roni, lets move it, into the safe room!”). I called out for Lisa, my sister. Who lives in Vancouver and would definitely not make it into the room in our allotted 45 seconds.
By the time we went back to sleep (if you can call it that) it was morning. And sure enough I could hear the birds chirping outside my bedroom window.
We all worked from home today. Except my brave wife who went into the office for most of the day. Another 100+ missiles fired at Israel – mainly the south. Although as far north as Ashkelon and Ashdod. With our IDF firing back.
Actually with red lines crossed -like missiles landing in Deizengoff Square- and our deterrence being shattered. Israel took the military initiative. We need a new reality. There’s no way we can accept this current Hamus madness or the threat of it repeating.
Not to mention the Arab riots going on in our mixed cities. That is really scary. I mean these are our neighbors. Need some good fences (aka Robert Frost).
Regards from Israel.