Monday, February 14, 2011


As everyone knows, we westerners have very short attention spans and we view history and events through narrow timeframes. Thus, we tend to like our wars to end in three to five years, we like to think that problems can be negotiated out and all sides made somewhat happy within reasonable periods of time, and we tend to like to move onto new issues and events quite quickly.

I think that is already happening in terms of our focus on Egypt. Now that most of the protesters are off the streets and back at work, and the military has seemingly committed itself to meaningful change, my guess is that all of us other than the real addicts will be turning our attention elsewhere. My survey of the news, a very scientific flipping of the channels for about 20 minutes, leads me to believe that we are quickly moving back to sports scores, car-racing in Europe, golf in the Emirates, President Obama's budget proposal, and the early take on possible Republican presidential candidates. Israel is a bit of an exception, what with having 80 million neighbors who, for the first time in 30 years, may be saying and doing what they really feel, and what they might be saying is not "we love the Jews."
If our behavior follows its usual pattern, Egypt will soon be off the radar screen. We'll only pay real attention again if things explode, and then we tend to like to re-focus and fit things into a story line that comports with our approach to world events: good guy, bad guy, dispute, oppressed people, support them, get out. The only thing I can imagine that would really cause this to change is if someone tried a coup in Egypt and fighting on a large scale broke out, or if the dominoes start falling one after another in the Arab world. Otherwise, western media and the western audience will be tuning out until the next big show.

Of course, Israel will have to be paying attention because what happens next door could really impact its security, Gaza, and the need to re-orient the Army. The Egyptian-Israeli border, and the possibility of an attack coming from that direction, have not required much attention for the last 30 years. Moreover, without Egypt, a threat of an effective attack by the Arab world has been substantially reduced, indeed, almost nullified. When all of that can change, you tend to pay attention.

But, one of the things that continues to amaze me about Israel, and something I find a lot of people who are not familiar with Israel find difficult to comprehend, is how people just keep on living normal-appearing lives despite living in this topsy-turvy, often unfriendly part of the world. Kids go to soccer practice, women go to hair salons (judging by the numbers, they do that frequently), women and men go to work, everybody goes out for coffee, and on and on. People do talk about politics and the situation, but not constantly. It is much like elsewhere, when they get together with friends and family, and once everybody gets caught up on who is doing what, what is happening with the economy, the prices in the market and at the gas pump, then Egypt, Jordan, and Iran, and what the U.S. is going to do about it all, tend to come up.

So, life goes on. And, my family is going over to Ra'ananna in a couple of hours for one of the best events in life, a wedding. Ra'ananna is across the country from Jerusalem and a little north of Tel Aviv. In other words, about 80 minutes away. It is worlds away from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is old, congested, often hectic, quaint, holy, crazy. Streets go every which way and change names by the block. Not that you can find a street sign on a consistent basis. You park on the sidewalks in Jerusalem and don't think a thing of it. Ra'ananna is calm, well laid out, maintained beautifully. You would not think of parking on the sidewalk unless directed to do so. In addition to street signs, the main intersections are numbered. "Turn left at intersection no. 6. We are on the left." Easy. The flowers along the streets are fresh and beautiful. Ra'ananna is often referred to as the best run city in Israel.

We recently spent a nice afternoon visiting some folks in Ra'ananna. I remarked how, after Jerusalem, it was so calm and pleasant. The husband said: "Yes, it is a really nice place. And a real bonus is that it is so close to Israel that we can go whenever we want to visit."

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