Wednesday, November 27, 2013

COMEDY CENTRAL, MRS. ARAFAT, AND THE RESURRECTION OF ANDY KAUFMAN


by Alan Edelstein

Israel doesn't have SNL.  It doesn't have Jon Stewart and the Daily Show.  Sadly, it doesn't have Colbert.  But, we've got something even better:  We've got the Middle East, and it doesn't get any more entertaining than in our very own neighborhood.  Think I'm kidding?  Try these:

According to Hamas and its allies, Israel and Jews are evil incarnate, to blame for virtually every wound, even those self-inflicted, suffered by the Arab world.  Hamas keeps calling for the Zionist entity's destruction.

Yet the Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, who is often the first in line to declare how murderous and mean the Israelis are, apparently had  no problem having his granddaughter transferred to the "Zionist entity" to be treated in an Israeli hospital for a life-threatening condition.

 In a clear case of "babywashing," Israeli doctors attempted to treat the one-year old for an infection of her digestive system. 

About two years ago Haniyeh's brother-in-law came to Israel for life-saving heart surgery. One wonders if the Haniyeh's health insurance has a provision that includes Zionist Entity/Occupier providers. 

Given that the Hamas government regularly pressures the tens of thousands of Gazans who cross the border to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals (often at no cost) to not go, one wonders what the public would think if word got out that his family seems to make a habit of the Israeli health care system. 

No worries there.  No press reports in Gaza.  The baby's father,  Haniyeh's oldest son, did post on  Facebook that the baby had "crossed the green line" to receive the treatment.  That post came down fast. Not sure how many "friends" he still has.

Monday, November 11, 2013

IT'S THE BOMB!


By Alan Edelstein

In my October 20 post, I wrote about how the latest thing amongst some in the American Jewish community is to spend inordinate amounts of time discussing and debating what it means to "support" Israel and, in the course of twisting and turning, to conclude that "support" can mean lots of things that are anything but.

It seems that the appetite for this seemingly endless discussion is unabated.  Even someone at my own hometown Sacramento synagogue, Mosaic Law Congregation, long a bastion of the unabashedly pro-Israel crowd, with a lot of smart people who always seemed to know what supporting Israel meant, now seems to think the congregants need assistance on figuring out what it means.

It's upcoming program is entitled "How Best to Support Israel," and its publicity invites one to an "intriguing discussion on how best to support Israel at this challenging time in its history."  The organizer sent out an e-mail saying "'No one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community.' So said Secretary of State John Carry [sic] in a speech to the American Jewish Committee, refereeing [sic] to the renewed peace negotiations." 

Really? Apparently Secretary Kerry and the organizer of the program forgot about the voices of the Israelis and Palestinians whose lives and futures are involved.

Just 15 minutes west in the university town of Davis, the Israel Matters Committee of the local Reform synagogue, Congregation Bet Haverim, seems to have figured the puzzle out with no discussion necessary.  They advertise that they are "beginning a year-long project to raise funds for portable bomb shelters in southern Israel--especially for kindergartens in Israeli communities along the Gaza border. In the last week alone, more than 15 rockets and mortars have been indiscriminately fired at southern Israeli men, women, and children."

How did the folks in Davis figure out this question of what "support" means so easily and quickly, while folks in Sacramento seem to be devoting countless hours to exploring the meaning of the word.  Could it be all of those PhD's? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

HERE, THERE. . . AND TRANSYLVANIA?


by Alan Edelstein

The garbage that is Jew-hatred is truly amazing.  It seems to be everywhere these days, and if the consequences of not taking it seriously had not proven so tragic over the centuries, it might actually be amusing.

First up is CNN International.  CNN International pretty much admits to being a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Arab world.  Many of its broadcasts announce up front that they are "in cooperation with" a company based in an Arab country, an Arab country's tourism or trade development office, or with the country directly.

The content of the network's broadcasts confirms the bonds.  The most glaring example is the weekly Marketplace Middle East program. Through this and other programs, CNN International focuses, or fixates, on the purportedly robust, free, creative, impressive, unbelievable businesses and business opportunities in the welcoming marketplace of the Middle East, particularly the Gulf States.

Somehow in all of the gushing regarding the Middle East's tremendous business environment, CNN International manages to completely ignore Israel.  This, despite the fact that Israel has become a hotbed of technology, start-ups, IPO's, and the like.  Think Waze and SodaStream.  Multiply by a lot.

Just about every hi-tech firm imaginable has bought an Israeli start-up or two or three and/or opened R&D centers here.  Think Google, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, and, just recently, Facebook.  Multiply. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

WORD GAMES


by Alan Edelstein
(originally published in The Times of Israel)

There are about 14 million Jews in the world.  My guess is that about nine or 10 million are not connected, not involved, or just otherwise busy, unless they are Israelis, in which case being Jewish means for most just living, paying taxes, working, raising kids, arguing about the country, and all the other mundane but important activities of daily life. 

So, by my figuring, that leaves about four or five million who are connected in some way or another.  For only four or five million people, we Jews seem to have more organizations, institutes, think tanks, museums, you-name-it, than anyone else in the world.  It wouldn't surprise me if every connected Jew could have his or her own organization. 

And we seem to study, think, discuss, and debate every angle of being Jewish that one can possibly imagine.  Just when I thought we had done all that are possible, a new one has popped up.  The latest craze in organizations and subjects is dedicated to discussing what you can discuss about Israel and still be "pro-Israel" or in "support" of Israel. That's right.  We Jews have to have a debate about what it is we are debating. 

My own hometown of Sacramento has gotten into the act.  First, there was a program on "Civil Discourse." Reports that I received indicate that it was basically a session stacked with anti-Israel folks saying that we should include them in our community conversations and that we should be nice when talking with them.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dear Bashar. . .From Barack


(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Dear Bashar:

Hi.  I hope the family is doing well, given the circumstances.  We're doing fine.  The girls are growing into fine young ladies and Michelle, well, I'm sure you've seen those pictures of her in sleeveless dresses (is there any other kind?).  She keeps pumping iron and sure has the results to show for it.  I'm not bragging.  Just sayin'. 

I won't even ask how you are doing.  I know this isn't easy. You have sure created a mess.  I mean, really.  This is not what we expected at all.

 You went to medical school in England and became an opthamologist.  My God, we all thought you wanted to keep people healthy.  You married an upper-crust, refined woman raised in England, the product of the finest schools.  She seemed so interested in keeping people healthy and happy.  She bled on-screen for those poor kids of Gaza suffering at the boot of the Zionist entity.  Ha, ha, I'm guessing Gaza is looking like Club Med to most Syrians these days. 

So, we all thought you would never do what you're doing.  I mean, take John Kerry.  When old John was a senator, he spent more time meeting and eating and drinking with you than just about anybody else.  I couldn't turn on the TV without him popping up coming out of a meeting with you and declaring what a reformer you are.  Boy, those days sure seem like a long time ago now, don't they, Bashar?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

BUSTIN' OUT

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

I have never had much sympathy for Jonathan Pollard. No matter that his actions were motivated by concern for Israel.  No matter that he leaked information to an American ally.  No matter that what he leaked should have been given to Israel in any event.

I don't generally feel that people who break pledges to their country deserve much sympathy or support and, despite the circumstances mentioned above, I have not felt that Pollard deserved the time and attention he has gotten from Israel and some leaders in world Jewry over the years.

However, in recent years it has become clear that Pollard has suffered a grave injustice of which Americans should be ashamed.  He made his plea based on assurances that were then disregarded by the judge.  We know that the Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, out to make an example of Pollard and perhaps reaching to put an exclamation point on his repudiation of his Jewish heritage, grossly misled the court as to the supposed damage done by Pollard.

In recent years, former secretaries of state and other former State Department figures, former Justice Department officials, and many more public and private leaders from both parties have taken on Pollard's cause, arguing that he has suffered a miscarriage of justice and that his 28 years of imprisonment is far beyond what others convicted of similar crimes have served.  Some have characterized his further imprisonment as inhumane.

So, I came around to thinking that Pollard should be released.  Still, I have argued that Israel should not have to deal for him, to put it crassly.  Israel should not have to give up bargaining chips for him.  His release should not be a debit on Israel's account.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ABSURDITIES AND OTHER EVERYDAY OCCURRENCES

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Life in the Middle East can truly be stranger than fiction.  Indeed, it often seems downright absurd.  Just a few recent examples:

Absurdity No. 1

The European Union is sinking in a mountain of debt and dysfunction.  It cannot bring itself to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization, despite years of blood and bodies that would seem to easily make the case.

But it had little trouble in mindlessly passing a directive that  its 28 member countries must boycott any part of Israel not within the 1949 armistice lines (often erroneously referred to as "1967 borders.") 

The ban, which takes effect on Friday, extends to “all funding, cooperation, and the granting of scholarships, research grants and prizes” to Israeli entities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

The directive also requires that any contracts between EU member countries and Israel include a clause stating that East Jerusalem and the West Bank are not part of the State of Israel.

Apparently, as far as the EU is concerned, there is no need for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations regarding borders, despite the fact that the Oslo Accords left borders to negotiations.  The EU has decided  the outcome of the main issue.

Questions highlighting the absurdity of the directive come to mind:

Does the EU realize it has declared that the Western Wall is not part of Israel?

Does Germany stop paying reparations to an elderly Holocaust survivor if the funds are channeled through a social welfare agency with an office beyond the '49 lines?   What if the survivor receives therapy from a therapist who works with a health clinic with branches in Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the lines? 

Does Holland stop funding a health clinic in those Arab neighborhoods because it is owned or operated by Israeli Jews?  How about if it is owned by Israeli Arab doctors who are trying to assist their Palestinian brothers and sisters?

Monday, July 1, 2013

FATHER OF THE YEAR

I've been pretty jealous of two of my kids lately.  My daughter is traveling in South America for three -and-a-half months and is currently enjoying herself at a small, charming fishing village on the coast of Columbia.  One of my sons has been exploring various parts of the globe while on a five month sojourn from his job and is currently enjoying the sites, sounds, and tastes of Ho Chi Minh City. 

Both kids are paying their own way so I have no complaints, but I do have a good dose of envy.  Traveling at their age comes with a sense of adventure that is just not quite the same when you are in your early sixties. 

I've always thought that my wife and I gave the two travelers and their older brother a pretty good shot at a pretty good life, and they are living it.  However, I just recently learned about what one father in the region gave to his son.

I'm talking, of course, about the Emir of Qatar.  Just when I was thinking what a generous, giving dad I've been, that Emir guy ups and gives his 33 year old son a whole country!  You read that right.  The 61 year-old Emir apparently just got up one morning and said something like: "I'm done.  I don't need this country anymore.  Here, Emir, Jr., you take it.  It's your country now.  Have fun!"

Talk about a slam-dunk for Father of the Year. Talk about making me feel like a minor leaguer.

Yes, I thought I had given my kids a heck of a start: good education, good values, great vacations, solid support, new clothes, lots of used Subaru's, skis (used again, sorry), you name it.  But giving your kid a country?  It just never occurred to me.  If it had, .. .um, maybe, but I doubt it.  I mean, where the heck do you buy a country to give your kid?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

GUNS AND NAILS, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, AND THE INCONGRUITIES OF LIFE


(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Right after writing a post about how the region and, in particular, the countries on Israel's north could blow up at any time, it might seem a bit absurd to head up that way for a few days of R&R. 

But one of our sons was here for a few weeks, the north is beautiful in May, and Israel has a way of seeming calm and secure even when there is turmoil all around.  We've become Israelis in the sense that we do not generally allow the outside noises to impact enjoying life to its fullest and with all of its richness. 
 
So we drove on up to Moshav Yuval, a little farming community near the northernmost city of Metulla.  Moshav Yuval, unlike the pioneering farming cooperatives cum rural commuter villages that many moshavs closer to the big cities have morphed into, still has a real farm feeling, down to the screeching chickens and the farm-fresh eggs frying in the pans.

Moshav Yuval was founded and is still largely populated by Cochin Jews, Jews from the Kingdom of Cochin in South India, now part of the state of Kerala.  We stayed in one of the four clean and cute little cottages owned by Sara and Yehuda, who came to Moshav Yuval from India with their families when they were very young kids.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN AND . . .

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Despite being named the eighth most redneck city in the U.S. as reported by that prestigious journal, ransackedmedia.com, I love my hometown of Sacramento.  It is a pleasant tree-lined city with blue rivers and greenery and good people, even if I occasionally think their self-worth depends a bit too much on keeping the NBA's Kings in town.

Despite my fondness for Sacramento, after three months back in the U.S., I was ready to leave the old hometown and head home to Israel. In addition to just needing my quotient of life in our Jewish-majority homeland, I was, frankly, getting a little weirded out. 

Sacramento was fine.  It was the rest of the U.S. that had me wondering.  Sandy Hook, Boston, a shopping mall here, a theater there.  A child knifed to death by her 12-year-old brother in the foothills above Sacramento, three women held for years by a Cleveland masochist, a five-year-old killing his two- year-old sister with a Davey Crickett My First Rifle.

My First Rifle was described by the county coroner as a "little rifle for a kid."  Makes sense.  I suppose there was a little coffin for a little sister killed by a brother with a little rifle for a kid. 

80,000 NRA activists cheering on Sarah Palin and a cast of extremely strident people as they resist the idea of checking to see if a guy or girl who buys a gun at a trade show is a whack job.  Somehow the idea of registering a gun is a threat to the Republic and all it stands for. 

We register and license cars.  We register and license CPA's.  In California we register and license hairdressers and cosmetologists.  But somehow checking out buyers and registering and licensing guns is a threat to liberty. 

Some of these folks seem to think that their gun will stop the U.S. government, with its tanks, carriers, and missiles, from taking over the country.  They see their guns as the last line of defense against what they fear is a tyrannical government.  What they seem to have forgotten is that they, we the people, are the government, and those soldiers they will be defending against with their rifles and pistols and semi-automatics are their sons and daughters, nephews and nieces.

So, in the face of this insanity, it actually seemed calming to be returning to the security and peacefulness of Jerusalem. 

Then we arrived. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

SKIING, SUSHI, AND THE VOTE

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Last week was an interesting and eventful week for Israel, but, then, they all seem to fit that description.  It was also a fun and satisfying week for me. 

I was walking back from the post office last Monday.  One tends to go to the post office a lot more frequently in Israel because it is the place where one makes a variety of payments to the government, and at least this one seems to do that quite a bit. 

Between the post office and my apartment building is, among other things, the Israel Bar Association, which hosts seminars and  meetings for lawyers and law students.  Gathered on the steps for what appeared to be a break were about 30 young people,  Among them were young Arab women in fashionable head coverings and designer jeans, Orthodox Jews with men wearing kippot (head covers), and an assortment of other people in a variety of colors, sizes, and garb. 

I thought once again of the difference between the Israel I have come to know and the Israel portrayed in the world's mainstream media.  I thought the same thing a few days later as a young Arab woman, also wearing a fashionable head scarf, worked the cash register in my line at the supermarket and spoke Hebrew that was obviously a lot better than mine. 

 Tuesday of last week was an all-star day.  My daughter, her boyfriend, and I drove up to the north of the country on Monday night.  We were among the first in line Tuesday morning at Israel's only ski resort.  Mt. Hermon is on the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. One can only imagine what might be raining down from the Heights on Israel today had it returned the Heights to the Syrian regime.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Great Pepper Caper and Other Stories

(Originally Published in The Times of Israel))

In what could be the greatest Middle East debacle since I reported on the Saudi Arabian pencils and panties scandal at this time last year, it has now been disclosed by Challah Hu Akbar, writing in the Elder of Ziyon blog, that three kinds of Israeli peppers were discovered on the shelves of Spinneys, one of Lebanon's largest retailers.

Heads are sure to roll. Things do not get much more embarrassing in the Boycott Israel/Hate the Jews world than to have wholesome food from your neighboring Zionist entity show up on your shelves. God forbid, it could be a Zionist conspiracy to supply nutrition to your population.

Not to worry. The man who discovered the offending peppers on the shelves of the Spinneys in Sidon contacted local authorities, who called the Lebanese Army. Apparently things are so calm and under control in Lebanon that the Army was able to bring in military intelligence and the police to go to work on this high-priority case.

Friday, January 4, 2013

MIRACLES


Having just finished the season of miracles, I thought I would report on  a few miracles I experienced about a week or so ago.  I had lost my car registration, so I went to one of the Israeli Ministry of Transportation offices here in Jerusalem to see if I could get a replacement.  The Ministry of Transportation here provides the services of a Department of Motor Vehicles in the U.S.

Israel's bureaucracy is famous for being, well, bureaucratic.  Historically and sometimes still today it can be frustrating, seemingly uncaring, rude, and basically not easy.  Add in language challenges and impatient clerks, not to mention impatient citizens jockeying for position in line.  Speaking of lines, they weren't really part of Israeli culture until about 20 years ago.  Theoretically, yes.  In reality, no.

 Some wise advice I received as my wife and I started our path toward citizenship was to always consider your first visit to an office an exploratory, information-gathering expedition, not one likely to result in achieving your objective.  We were told to consider it an opportunity to get through some pages in your book. 

Truth be told, our experience has not been that bad.  At times, it has been surprisingly easy and pleasant.  Israeli bureaucracies, along with restaurants and service industries in general, have improved immensely in the last few years.  Still, given DMV's generally, this was an encounter I was not looking forward to.