Friday, May 30, 2014

To the gym...

I usually try to go to the gym twice a week.  But, the second time my body doesn't want to go, it finds excuses to do something else.  I usually go for an hour's workout, using a series of fiendish machines that look as if they could tear your kishkes out. They usually render me in pain and semi-conscious, but I still go and submit my body to their mercies because I am told it is good for me.
When I joined I am sure they promised me that going there would make me younger and more handsome.  Neither of these things have happened, but when I complained to the management and asked for a refund, they refused.  They told me, with a smile, that if I try harder these things could happen, but they make no promises.  I see these muscle-bound young men  bouncing around at the gym, but, I have been unable to resemble them.  And I see these lithe young women throwing weights around that I cannot lift, its embarrassing, but they also keep me coming back.  Finally, as I leave they usually have a chocolate cake or something sweet to keep me alive after the work-out.  That's the main reason I go. 
There is one young woman who is outstanding.  I heard the women at the desk gossiping about her, in Hebrew of course.  So I asked them to translate and they said derisively "they are false, they are transplants."  I spend much of my time there trying to guess which ones are real and which are supplemented. It's hard telling the difference, but of course I can't ask, even if I could speak Hebrew or Russian. 
What else can you do when the object is to render you mindless, staring into space and counting out ...8, 9,10...I also do the ski elliptical machine for 10 mins and the treadmill for 10 mins.   I could be strolling somewhere nice instead of numbly staring at the TV screen and listening to loud rock music.  But, this is part of life too, as pointless as it gets. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Earthquake at the EU

The victory by the French Front National party in the European elections is considered to be a political "earthquake."  It puts the far right party not only ahead of the socialists, who they beat before, but also of the Christian Democrats.  The irony is that throughout western Europe, the anti-European forces have gained strength over the pro-EU forces.  In Britain, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) that is against the UK being in the EU, won many votes.  They also made gains in Greece, Hungary and Holland.  Whether these were just "protest" votes or whether the electorate really is against the EU is unclear, but what happens next is a mystery.  Can the representatives sent to the EU Parliament in Brussels actually dismantle the whole structure of European unity?
What has this move to the right in European politics have to do with the murder of two Israelis in Brussels, and the killing of two other locals at the Jewish Museum, as well as the attack on two men near Paris the following day.  This attack could have come from three possible sources: 1. Muslim terrorism, either a pro-Palestinian or simply anti-Semitic Muslim, either acting alone or as part of an organized group; 2. A right wing fascist, purely anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi; 3. An extreme leftist, expressing anti-Israel bias by shooting up a Jewish museum.   The fact is that apart from the political center anyone in Europe could have perpetrated these acts, and received tacit support or sympathy from the 25-35% of Europeans who both voted for the extreme right wing parties and expressed anti-Semitic views in the recent ADL international survey. 
The fact that the leaders of the European countries, Hollande from France, as well as the Italian and Belgian PMs all met at the Jewish Museum in Brussels for a prayer service in Hebrew does mean something.  They mean well, but they need to take the threat to public order by violent anti-Semitism much more seriously.  They need to be taking anti-terrorism steps to shut down all terrorist threats to public order, from the Muslims, from the far right and from the extreme left.  Until they do I suggest it is only natural that Israelis do not visit Europe and those Jews who live there should be making plans for aliyah.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


My grandson's graduation from basic training in the IDF is a small blip in the overall scheme of things, but for me personally it represents the culmination of a dream, and if you will know the rest.   When I once suggested to my daughter, when she was young and impressionable that at some point one of our generations must pluck up the courage to make aliyah, to go the whole way, I was of course hoping that she would take the hint.  But, I didn't want to put pressure on her, I let her make her own decision.  After a year spent in Israel she made up her mind to make aliyah and then she got married to a like-minded fellow, and here we are.  It was with a sense of fulfillment that I saw my grandson marching in line and receiving his colored beret. 
We are through with fighting other people's wars.  Yes, WWII was unfortunately our war, and millions of Jews died both fighting and passively.  But, everyone of those recruits last night knows why they are there, there is no question in their minds, it is clear.  Only yesterday an Israeli couple were murdered in Brussels while doing nothing more innocuous that visiting the Jewish museum there.  They won't let us live, so we know we have to defend ourselves, that is the evident reason why my grandson willingly dons the uniform and marches, and if called upon will fight.
The Israeli army is not the smartest marching formation in the world, but they certainly get the job done, and as far as advanced electronic measures are concerned they are far ahead of most armies.  We have quality rather than quantity, and in the modern world it's quality that counts.   I pray my grandson survives his stint of national service without danger or injury, but I go to bed each night knowing that he and his fellows are out there looking after our security and safety.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Netanyahu's policies

I agree with PM Netanyahu that Israel should be enshrined in law as the nation state of the Jewish people.  It seems that someone forgot to do this previously, assuming that it was obvious and incontrovertible.  But, nowadays, everything about Israel that can be contested is, so let's make it indisputable.  The fact that Israel was recognized as the Jewish State by the UN, does not make it binding under Israeli law.  It should be passed while we have a majority and in case of any future events that might compromise the Jewish majority.  
However, I part company with the PM when he proposes to abolish the Presidency.  Israel needs a President who can participate in honorary activities while the PM is too busy with other presumably more important things and who can provide stability between governments.  Unfortunately a suitable statesmanlike candidate has not so far been identified.  The competition over who should be selected as our next President after Pres. Peres retires at the end of his term (he is over 90) is hotting up.  We will see who is chosen.
I also disagree with the government policy of destroying the hilltop settlements.  One day we will need these locations to protect our hinterland and provide space for the continuation of the Zionist endeavor.  We must look ahead, not only in a year or two, but in 30, 50 and 100 years.  We need all of our Land, we need space to grow, and we need space in which to defend ourselves.  All else is sentiment.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Pope's visit

We welcome the Pope to Israel, even though he is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, which has a lot to answer for to the Jews.  Catholicism had a long terrible historic war against the Jews for 2,000 years, as part of its replacement theology, namely that Christianity had replaced Judaism as the chosen religion and if the Jews wouldn't give up they had to be murdered out of existence.  But, also their murderous war especially against those Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity, the New Christians or conversos.  This was clearly a racist as well as a religious war by the Inquisition, the Holy Order of the Church, that arrested, tortured and murdered conversos for 300 years whether they were sincere believing Christians or not. 
Now we are told that the Church has changed completely, that they recognize Jews as senior cousins, whose God they appropriated, whose Bible they adopted and whose demi-God was a practising Jew.  Now we must recognise that for the past 50 years the Popes have become civilized men, against murdering Jews, against killing heretics and against even rampant child sexual abuse in the priesthood. Mind you these changes have all been adopted quite recently and you'll excuse me if I feel that we need more concrete indicators of these changes than mere sentiment.  What about returning the millions of Jewish texts and art works and gold that they stole when they killed their Jewish owners to enrich the Church.  What about a public mea culpa for the devastation they caused in Jewish lives.  The King of Spain apologized for the expulsion after 500 years, and now they are giving back citizenships to the descendants.  What will the Church do, give us all vouchers to visit Rome?
The Church in its incarnation of Pope Francis has a loving, smiling face.  They do of course support the right to self-determination of the Palestinians, which does to some extent bring them into conflict with Israel.  After all their self-determination is being bought at the expense of death and destruction for Israeli citizens, especially when Pres. Abbas is in unity with the Hamas terrorist organization.  But, never mind, we'll still give Pope Francis a welcome, more than Jews received by the Vatican for a long, long time.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Another staged shooting

We've seen it all before, many times.  Young Palestinians acting for the cameras, staging a shooting that is then blamed on the IDF.  And not just a shooting, but of course, a shooting of innocent unarmed young men doing nothing, shot deliberately by bad Israeli soldiers!  And supposedly not the actual rioters in Bituniya on the West Bank, who may themselves have been firing at Israeli troops.
However, this time it's very clear, first, the IDF soldiers were not given an order to use live fire, they shot only rubber bullets according to the Commander in Chief, Benny Gantz (of course one may have disobeyed orders, but very unlikely); second, the youths shot were photographed by a camera a long way from where the action had been (why would the IDF shoot there?); third, the rioters were throwing Molotov cocktails, stones and also firing, so it could have been self-inflicted shooting; fourth I have seen the video (only 2 mins) and it is clear to me that the youths are throwing themselves onto the ground, not having been shot.  One of the boys can be seen literally throwing himself forward and saving his fall with his arms out in front of him, not how someone crumples when shot (I've seen many TV programs); the second youth falls sideways and rolls over several times, in a way that would require his own efforts, not what you would see if he was actually shot.  You might think, well he could have been shot, yes, he could have been, but it definitely looks staged, and given the many times that such staging has been done for the camera, we must be sceptical.
There is no evidence that the boys supposedly "shot" in the film are the same boys who were shot in reality at the riot that was taking place.  Calls for the rest of the video, as usual have not been responded to, otherwise we might see them practising, or even getting up after they were shot, as in the famous Mohammed Dura tape.  So without clear proof, don't believe it!

Friday, May 23, 2014

On USBs and LCDs

This all started because my friends Eddie and Elaine asked me if I had recorded the Homeland series 2 & 3 since they have become hooked on it.  I checked and found that ser 2 was on my desktop computer and ser 3 was on my laptop.  No problem there, I simply slipped a DVD into the disk drive of the laptop and voila in a few mins I had the whole of ser 3 downloaded onto two disks.
But, ser 2 on my desktop proved to be a problem, since my disk drive on that computer does not work.  So I had bought an external disk drive, that simply plugs into a USB socket (if you don't know what a USB - universal standard bus - socket is you probably don't want to read any further, but its an oblong socket into which almost any computer device can be plugged).  So I plugged the external disk drive into the USB socket on the desktop, but it wouldn't work.  I tried all of them, my USB hub (that has 4 such USB sockets) and even crawled under the desk to plug it into the back of the computer.  I even opened up the computer to repair the two sockets in the front, that had become loose after a technician replaced my power unit.  I found after taking the front off the computer that the screws were too short to fix it in place, so I found longer screws and that was quickly fixed.  But the disk drive still did not work.  Later my son called and he reminded me that there are two kinds of USB sockets, the old kind (mine) that do not have their own power, and the newer kind USB2 that do have their own power.  Since this disk drive does not have a separate power cord, it can only work with USB2.  Too bad!
But, then I thought well I have this hub and it can be connected to the electricity itself, and maybe that would boost the USBs to USB2s.  So I looked around and found two different power transformers that fitted the hub power connector.  Since I didn't know which one was the correct one (I looked up the hub on the internet and it gave all the specs, except the electrical input information).  So I chose the transformer with the lowest power and attached that.  As I was trying to run the disk drive unsuccessfully, I smelt burning.  So I quickly disconnected the hub, but could find no problem, until I tried to use my printer, that I had neglected to disconnect from the hub.  It would not even turn on.  So I took it to my printer guy and he had to replace its mother-board (but he charged me only NIS 100 because I said I would not pay more, otherwise I could buy a new printer).  As they say "no good deed goes unpunished." 
So then I tried to send the files by e-mail, but  the program rejected them because they are too big (3 mb each episode).  So then in desperation I decided to download them from the computer onto my external hard disk drive that I use to backup my data.  That worked fine, so I took the external hard disk drive to E&E's and plugged it into the USB on their computer and I could see the Homeland ser 2 episodes on their screen immediately.  Why didn't I think of that first.  Anyway, Eddie offered to buy me a cup of tea for my efforts.
I have also been having trouble with the LCD display on my desktop, the colors are distorted and the resolution is bad.  I thought it might be the screen itself, but I took it in to be checked and it worked perfectly there.  So its either the computer (graphics card) or maybe the cable.  I checked it with another cable and it was still distorted, so its not the cable.  Then  I Iooked it up on-line and they advise to de-gauss the screen.  But, that is nonsense, that is only for cathode ray tube screens, not the LCD screens.  De-gaussing removes the static electricity that can build up on the cathode ray tube and distort the picture by affecting the electron beam.  But, LCDs work in an entirely different way, LCD stands for liquid crystal display.  So what is a liquid crystal?
Many people think there are only three forms of matter, solid, liquid and gas.  But a liquid crystal is a form of matter somewhere between solid and liquid.  Crystals have all their atoms or molecules arranged in a specific array in space, but a liquid crystal is in effect solid in one direction and liquid in another.  This happens because the molecules that make up a LC are long elongated molecules that stack alongside each other and in one direction appear like a solid, but perpendicular to that they can slide alongside each other, like a liquid in that direction.  What makes them so useful is that if they are charged, say positive on one end and negative on the other, this affects not only their LC properties, but they can be switched from one orientation to another by changing the electrical field.  Also, since they are long complex molecules they can be made in different colors and their colors can change as the molecules flip in an electrical field.  So the LCD screen has millions of little electrical circuits with LCs around them and as the field is changed (depending on the picture) they change color.  But, I am still left with a distorted LCD screen.   

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Binational states?

There are few bi-national states in the world that have successfully avoided conflict. Take for example: Ukraine, the large Russian minority is now manifesting its desire for secession; Cyprus, the Greek and Turkish inhabitants could not co-exist and so the island is divided; Yugoslavia, the Roman Catholic Croats, the Russian Orthodox Serbs and the Muslim Bosnians fought several wars until each became separate nations.  But, by contrast Czechoslovaks divided peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Very few countries are in fact homogeneous, perhaps Japan and Norway are examples.  But co-existence is possible, for example Canada, where the Anglos and the French Quebecois have managed to stay in one country, so far.   And the Brits have the Welsh, Irish and Scots all in one United Kingdom, until now.  Even the French have the Bretons and the Normans, the Spanish have the Catalans and the Basques, and the Swiss have the German, French and ltalien Cantons.  So it is for this reason that I argue that the "one-state" solution, as opposed to the widely supported "two-state" solution is possible, that Israel can be a Jewish State, but as a democracy have a significant minority of Muslim and Christian Arabs, as it does.

There is a move recently under the influence of Father Gabriel Nadaf of Nazareth, spiritual head of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, a body that encourages young Arabic-speaking Israelis (they prefer to not be labeled as “Arabs”) to join the Israeli army and fully integrate with Israeli Jewish society (Arabs citizens are not required to be drafted as Jews are).  Israel is the only country in the ME in which the number of Christians is growing, rather than decreasing as in Iraq, Syria and Egypt as a result of significant attacks, murders and Church burnings.  There have been "price tag" attacks on mosques, but these are relatively minor in comparison.  So, it is an advantage for Christian Arabs to be Israeli citizens. Druse Arab citizens and many Beduin serve in the IDF, so there is ample presendence, but the number of Muslim Arabs who volunteer is small. 

I am in favor of Israel annexing those areas of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) where there are large Jewish communities, and this will increase the percentage of Jews in Israel proper, and with few Arabs in these areas, will decrease the percentage of Arabs.  Then the Arabs there should be given the choice to become Israeli citizens.  If they don't want to then they can move to the nearby Palestinian areas. This seems the most pragmatic and simple step to take to ease the current situation.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I have been watching the series entitled "Out of Spain, 1492," an informal history of the Jews of Spain, narrated by Yitzhak Navon, the fifth President of Israel, while on a personal journey through Spain (scriptwriter and director Yitzhak Lossin).  This was produced in 1992, so it is a bit out-of-date now that so much more has been learned about the Jews of Spain and particularly the Marranos, or Secret Jews (known in Hebrew as Anusim).  I will focus only on those points that have currently taken my interest.
Navon visited the location of the famous Barcelona disputation that was held on July 20-24,1263, between Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman Girondi (Nachmanides), the leader of the Barcelona Jewish congregation and the representative of the Roman Catholic Church.  It was held in the Palace of King James I of Aragon at the request of his advisor.  Dominican Friar Pablo Christiani who was a convert to Christianity claimed that he could prove the superiority of Christianity from Jewish sources.  However, things did not go as well as the Christians expected.  They apparently expected the Jews to simply agree that they were wrong, that the Messiah had already come in the person of Jesus Christ and that Christianity was victorious as evidenced by the splendor and power of Christendom and that would be that. 
But, Nachmanides argued that the coming of the Messiah, as described in the "Old Testament" that Christians also consider sacred, was supposed to bring an era of total peace, "the lion  would sit down with the lamb," but as everyone knew, that was not the case, Spain was engulfed in  wars and violence.  Further, the coming of the Messiah was supposed to bring about the return of the Jewish people to its Holyland, and that had evidently not happened, so in that case Christianity must be wrong.  To argue this in front of an audience of thousands of Christians, including the King and his court, was a very brave and foolhardy thing to do.  The Jews felt that Nachmanides had won the disputation, and King James gave him a prize of 300 gold coins and afterwards visited the Synagogue of Barcelona.  
But the Christians, of course, believed they had won, and for his impudence in criticizing Christianity, Nachmanides was banished for life, leaving behind all his property that was of course confiscated by the Church and the Crown.  A complete record still exists of this disputation since the Church scribes took copious notes.  However, noone can vouch for their veracity, and at least one Spanish film has been made about this famous disputation.  Nachmanides settled in Jerusalem in 1267 where he founded a synagogue that still exists.
Another famous disputation took place in the Spanish city of Tortosa in 1413-1414, and Navon also visited this site.  This took place after the terrible massacres and pogroms of 1391 and was a much larger and longer affair than that of Barcelona.  While Nachmanides had obtained the prior approval of King James to be given full freedom of speech, this was not the case in Tortosa and the proceedings took the form of a virulent attack by the Christians on Judiasm, and they used the charge of heresy and intimidation of the Jewish representatives to censor their responses.  After the long and difficult disputation, the Pope ordered that copies of the Talmud be censored and many Jews were converted to Christianity.
However, this was not the end of their sufferings, because the Inquisition considered all conversos, or "New Christians," as suspect.  Not only were they discriminated against in general, but the Inquisition deemed them guilty as soon as they were arrested.  It was routine to take their testimony under torture.  The Inquisitors perfected the tools of torture, they had a rack that not only stretched the subject, but that had sharp spikes underneath to enter the person's body.  Navon read the account of one investigation, where a poor woman, who proclaimed she was a devout Christian agreed after three turns of the wheel to tell them whatever they wanted, but that was not enough for them, she had to admit to specific Jewish practices, and when she said she had never done any, the wheel of the rack was turned again.  She suffered through 19 turns of the rack and then died.  The Church and the Crown shared her confiscated property.  Navon points out that there is no museum of the Inquisition throughout Spain.  It is estimated that they arrested 300,000 people during their 300 year history, of whom ca. 30,000 mostly Jews were burnt at the stake in an auto-da-fe (admission of faith) and there are no memorials to these victims either.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Anti-Semitism today

You may have heard about the world-wide survey of anti-Semitism conducted by the US Anti-Defamation League, that canvassed over 50,000 people in 101 countries plus the Palestinian territories.  This is the largest such survey ever carried out, with results that are both unsurprising yet alarming.  Fully 26% of those polled, equivalent to 1 billion people, hold anti-Semitic views.  How was this determined?  Interviewees were asked a batch of 11 questions regarding their attitudes towards Jews, such as "do the Jews have too much power and influence?", "do the Jews control the media?", "do the Jews control the banks?" etc., if they answered affirmatively to 6 of these questions then it was deemed that they held anti-Semitic views.   
Not surprisingly the greatest concentration of anti-Semitism was found in the Muslim world with fully 49% holding anti-Semtiic views and this increased to an incredible 79% in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  The average of anti-Semitic stereotypes was 24% in western Europe and 34% in eastern Europe, but the country that stood out with the highest score in Europe was Greece with a score of 69%.  By contrast, Iran had the lowest anti-Semitism score of 56% among the MENA countries.  The scores in Asia (22%) and the Americas (19%) were correspondingly low.  Among all English-speaking countries the total score was 13%.  Most notably the Palestinians (West Bank and Gaza) had the highest anti-Semitic rating in the world (93%), western Jewish liberals please note!
Among questions that gave surprising results, fully 41% agreed that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the country they live in, 35% of respondents had never heard of the Holocaust and 48% (70 million people) think that Jews make up 1% of the world's population (actually it's 0.19%), but even more incredibly 18% believe that Jews make up 10% of the world's population and 9% (1.5 billion people)  think that Jews make up 20% of the world's population - amazing.  Although informative, my conclusion from this survey is that the world's populaton is first and foremost incredibly ignorant, and such ignorant people may be many in number, but are hardly worth listening to.  We Jews value quality rather than quantity.

Monday, May 19, 2014


The string quartet is a measure of the elevated level that western civilization has attained.  Last Monday, at our regular noon-time concert, we had a visit from a string quartet named "Amernet" that is based in Miami, Florida.  They are touring Israel and gave a performance at our little obscure Shearim concert hall for a reason.  The lead violinist, Misha Vitenson, was a new immigrant to Israel from the Soviet Union and as a child played one of his first public appearances at Shearim 25 years ago, just after it was founded by Rabbi Ervin Birnbaum.
He wanted to come back and express his gratitude.  He later went on to study at the Juilliard Music School in New York City, one of the best in the world, where he obtained a Masters degree in music and he and the other members of the quartet met and decided to form their ensemble.  They have since played all around the world and a recent review in The New York Times of a concert they gave said that they were "one of the finest quartets in the world."  So we were honoured to have them play for us in our little hall.
They played sublimely, they were magnificent.  They started with a late Mozart quartet, opus K549, the last but one composition that he made (for those who are not familiar with the notation, K stands for Koechel, the man who classified all Mozart's works roughly chronologically).  Then they played the two movement Rachmaninov quartet no. 1,  that was excellent, and they finished with two movements from a Debussy quartet that was out of this world.  I was disappointed that they did not have time to play the Ravel string quartet, one of my favorites, that was on the program.  Truly a wonderful musical experience. For more about the Amernet quartet see their web-site

Sunday, May 18, 2014

More disinformation

Part of the delegitimization program of Israel includes planting outrageous lies in the form of unattributed statements in the press, that receive large coverage because of the inherent liberal bias of the media against Israel.  Case in point, the recent article in Newsweek that stated that the Israeli secret service tried to bug the room of then VP Al Gore when he was visiting Israel and staying in a room at the King David Hotel.  Apparently according to this report a US secret service agent was in the room, heard someone in the air vent and coughed to let him know that he was there. What a ridiculous story.  Are the Mossad that stupid that they wouldn't check or know if someone was in the room, and in any case why would they need to have someone go thru the vent, when they can just open the door and plant a bug, even before Gore arrives.  And in any case what secrets did Gore have that were so valuable, all he ever talked about was the coming catastrophe due to global warming. 
Then the King David Hotel issued a statement that the vents in question are too small for a human, or even a cat (maybe it was a cat).  Why would a supposedly prestigious news magazine like Newsweek print this preposterous story without checking the facts, only out of anti-Israel bias!   Of course, the Israeli Government has denied the story thru many spokespeople, but in any case, everyone knows that the US spies on all its enemies and allies and presumably so does Israel.  Maybe Israel is a bit more circumspect about spying on the US after the Pollard case, but having someone go thru the air vent when there is someone in the room hardly qualifies.  In a follow-up story, to add insult to injury it was reported tht the FBI had complained that Israel is the most active country spying on the US.  US Secty of Defense Chuck Hagel who is visiting Israel now, declared that there is no basis to these charges that Israel is persistently spying on the US.
There are many examples of anti-Israel dis-information, the media is inclined to believe any negative story about Israel without checking the facts.  For example, it has been an article of faith among the leftist BDS movement that Israelis use much more water per capita (x 5) than Palestinians, and they do this by stealing water from the Palestinians on the West Bank.  This is simply not true, the published data show that Israelis consume about 20% more water per capita than Palestinians, and all of the Israeli water comes from within Israel.
Another example, the Security fence (not a "wall") built to surround the West Bank was not a "land grab" as characterized by the anti-Israel camp, but was intended to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from infiltrating Israel with ease and causing mass casualties - and it works!  The terrible bus bombings are a thing of the past, thanks to the fence and greater Israeli security.   These kinds of disinformation campaigns do nothing to promote peace, but show us in Israel that we must remain vigilant and self-reliant.  

Friday, May 16, 2014


You may have heard that WIndows XP, the computer operating system used by many, including myself, will no longer be supported by Microsoft.  I received a large notice to this effect from Bill Gates himself, well maybe not from him, with all sorts of dire warnings.  That means that if there is a problem with XP, you are on your own (scare tactics).  So I decided to upgrade to the next level, Windows 7, rather than the latest version Windows 8.1, which is being pushed by Microsoft, but many people have said they dislike Windows 8, since it is quite a departure from the previous versions of Windows.
I started the switching process by accessing a MS file entitled "How to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7."  This is a 17 page, 5 step process.  I managed to get to step 2, which is making a copy of all the contents of my hard disk onto an external disk drive using a program called Microsoft Easy Transfer.  The idea is that when you install Windows 7 you can then retrieve all your files and data. This seemed to work OK, and gave me a report consisting of 11 pages of virtually incomprehensible information.  But, they explained that this process save files, but does not save programs.  So when you make the transition to Windows 7, you have to individually reload all the programs that you were using before.  What a headache.
The next step is to load Windows 7 into your computer.  But, wait a minute, I don't have Windows 7, so I went to the Microsoft store to buy it.  But, lo and behold after much trying I discovered that they don't sell Windows 7 any more.  They only want you to upgrade to WIndows 8, which means buying that, even if you don't want to.  The alternative is to download Windows 7 from a web-site.  But, I checked and read an analysis that warned against doing that, it said that most versions of Windows 7 that are available on-line are either modified or corrupted.  So I spent a half a day trying to transfer to Windows 7 and then had to give up. Another friend suggested switching to a version of Linux called Ubuntu, a different operating system, that is freely available.  On my sons's advice I am sticking with XP for now, I think I'd rather do nothing and wait and see what happens.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Fatah-Hamas pact

The implications of a unified government consisting of Fatah and Hamas operatives (even if they call it a "technical" or "interim" government) in the West Bank and Gaza are serious and significant.  Israel cannot and will not deal with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas, which is universally recognized as a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction fo Israel and its Jewish citizens. 
There is a simple test that has been proposed to see if Hamas has in any way changed its positions.  If the new government states that it accepts the three conditions imposed by the Quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia, namely 1. that it accepts Israel's right to exist, 2. that it rejects the use of violence (terrorism) and 3. that it accepts all previous agreements between the two sides, then the situation might change. As former  Israeli Foreign  Minister Yigal Allon stated when the PLO was still controlled by Yasir Arafat, "if a leopard changes its spots, it's no longer a leopard."   But, absent such a statement and its implementation, the consequences will be very serious.
PM Netanyahu announced that if such a unity government is in place throughout the Palestinian territories, and rockets are fired from Gaza, then Israel will consider retaliation against the West Bank to be legitimate. The principle under international law is that a government is responsible for any attack from its territory, any part and all of its territory.  When Pres. Abbas chose to make peace with Hamas rather than with Israel, he made a wrong turn and sometimes a wrong turn can have disastrous consequences, it can lead you over a cliff. 
Part of this wrong turn was to initiate unilateral moves by the PA/Palestinians in many international fora, especially in relation to recognition of the PA as the Palestinian State.  Once again Israel cannot and will not accept such unilateral Palestinian actions, and will retaliate with actions of its own.  One such action might be the annexation of the areas of the West Bank that contain a majority of Israeli/Jewish inhabitants that would have been included in Israel in any case in any peace treaty.  There must be a price to pay for such Palestinian actions, a price that will be to their detriment.

It may be concluded that by closing the door to any recognition of Israel as a Jewish State and imposing impossible preconditions to the talks, the Palestinians have shown that they would rather destroy Israel than take the necessary steps to achieve a Palestinian State.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Deposit here

What is the hardest thing known to man?  Some of you might reply "diamond," but you'd be wrong, the hardest thing known to man is dried bird shit that has dried on the surface of your car and is impossible to remove.  It is certainly harder than concrete and will probably take a diamond drill to remove it, except that it's harder than diamond.
My parking spot in our car park is under a tree, and the birds gather there in order to target my car.  I hear them calling to each other, in bird-speak, "come one and all, come over here, and deposit your offerings on Jack's nice shiny car."  At least it used to be nice and shiny, but now its an amazing conglomeration of dark brown, light brown and white droppings.  They especially like to target the door handles and the windshield.  What have I ever done to them?
A helpful car cleaner told me that baby tissues, soaked with rubbing alcohol, are the best thing for taking them off.  Its true they do work wonders, but there are so many droppings and they are so hard, you find yourself wiping them vigorously for a half hour and getting nowhere.  I used to enjoy nature, now I've learned that bird do-do is a fun part of it.  
What is the hardest envelope to open, yes, the one that has perforations all around it.  Of course the perforations are added supposedly to make it easier to open.   But, in fact it works the other way.  A simple envelope that can be ripped open in a second is not good enough anymore.  You have to have perforations and then inside there is a kind of gum that cannot be separated, but that tears the paper so that the contents cannot be read or identified. 
What is the hardest thing to say, admit you were wrong.  Have I ever made mistakes?  Certainly I have, but to paraphrase Frank Sinatra in "I did it my way," "Mistakes I've made a few, but then again too few to mention."


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Indyk and his ilk

Martin Indyk recently made a speech blaming the breakdown of the recent so-called peace negotiations between Israel and the PA on Israel's construction policy in the West Bank.  He also blamed the Palestinians, but that was a minor comment and his criticism of Israel received all the coverage.  Indyk is a particular kind of Jewish political parasite that makes his career out of criticizing Israel.  Others in this category are Dennis Ross, Aaron David Miller, Daniel Kurtzer and Dan Shapiro.  They are all Jewish and all of them have prostituted their Jewishness as a representative of the US government to support positions that are popular with US Administrations. 
Indyk is a particularly unpleasant example of this Jewish Middle East expert (JMEE) syndrome, he came from Australia, and to become Pres. Clinton's JMEE he took US citizenship.  He was well-known for pandering to the Palestinians, in order to show that as a Jew he was not prejudiced towards Israel, in fact you could say that all JMEE's bend over backwards to become the "court Jews" of their time.  Dennis Ross in his autobiographical account, "The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace" (2004), about his time as the JMEE of the George W. Bush and Clinton Administrations admitted that he gave Yasir Arafat millions of US dollars and that Arafat used this money to fund his personal sycophants and to subsidize terrorism against Israel.  Yet at the time Ross took a decidedly anti-Israel stance to bring pressure on the Israeli government to make concessions to Arafat. 
Aaron David Miller has been a US JMEE for some years.  Like most of them, he criticizes Israel for acting in its own interests and not those of the US as perceived by him.  But, when out of office these JMEEs come to Israel and make statements to try to paste over their former criticisms.  On the other hand, the truly anti-Israel extremists in the US, such as Walt and Mearsheimer, see in the appointment of such JMEE's the insidious hand of international Zionism, the Jewish conspiracy.  Kurzer who was the US Ambassador to Israel and Shapiro who is the current Ambassador, take the position that they know what is best for Israel, because they represent the power of the US, and so they participate in pressuring the Israel Government into making concessions that not only are not in Israel's interests, but in the long run would also endanger the US, such as the release of Palestinian prisoners who are terrorists with blood on their hands and who are overtly anti-American as well as anti-Israel.  Will they accept the blame if Israeli and American citizens are murdered by these recidivists?


Sunday, May 11, 2014


Simon Petlyura was the leader of the Ukrainian nationalists in the early 20th century and Head of the Ukrainian National Republic in 1919.   During his reign in the Ukraine, before the Bolsheviks took over, his troops massacred ca. 50,000 Jews.  There are conflicting reports of whether or not Petlyura ordered this or he just let his troops get on with it.  On his orders one of the leaders of the pogroms was arrested and later executed, but this did not stop the massacres.

Later he was ousted by the Soviets and fled to Paris in 1924.  In Paris in 1925 he was assassinated by Sholom Schwartzbard, an anarchist, whose family had been massacred in Odessa by the Ukrainians under Petlyura. 

Schwartzbard led a very colorful life, he was born in Odessa in 1886 and as a young man became a socialist and fought in Jewish self-defence units.  He was arrested and imprisoned, but then released and was forced to flee Ukraine   He worked in Austria and elsewhere and ended up in France in 1910, where he married and joined the French Foreign Legion and fought in WWI and earned the Croix de Guerre in 1917.  He was a writer of Yiddish poetry under the pen name of "The Dreamer" and one of his books was called "Dreams and Reality." 
In 1917 he travelled to Russia and became part of an anarchist group that fought with the Red Guards against the Czar's forces in St. Petersburg, but was later denounced by the Bolsheviks and forced to flee back to Ukraine.  There in 1919 he saw first-hand the pogroms of the Petlyura regime.  He managed to escape and get a boat and returned to France.

When he heard that Petlyura had also arrived in Paris he plotted his assassination.  It is suspected that he was assisted by Bolshevik agents in this quest.  In 1925 he shot Petylura eight times on a street in Paris.  In the ensuing trial in 1927 his defence was that Petlyura had been responsible for the massacre of his family and many thousands of Jews, and he was acquitted in 1928.

He was famous among Jews and known as "the avenger" (hanokem).  He emigrated to Palestine in 1928 and travelled to the US and South Africa to raise funds for various projects, including a Yiddish encyclopedia.  He died in Cape Town in 1938.  In accordance with his will, his remains were transported to Israel in 1967, where he is buried in Moshav Avihayil outside Netanya.  There are streets named after him (Rehov Hanokem) in several Israeli cities, including Jerusalem and Beersheva.

PS. Our family name in Ukraine was Schwartzbard, it was changed to Cohen when my grandparents emigrated to England.  I wonder if I am related to Hanokem, I will try to find out.

Boko Haram

The kidnapping of 250 girls from a girl's school at Chibok in north-eastern Nigeria by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has become international news.  Boko Haram means "westernization is forbidden" and it operates in the Hausa-speaking region of Nigeria.  They were founded in 2002 and are responsible for ca. 10,000 deaths in that region.  The group specifically targets girl's schools because they believe that girls should not be educated, and they target churches and even mosques.  It should be noted that Muslim sharia law is in effect throughout northern Nigeria.  In line with the medieval nature of their beliefs, the terrorists burnt down the school at Chibok and they treat the girls like slaves.  Their leader was filmed saying "if Allah wants me to I will sell them in the market."  In other words going back to slavery.  What kind of stupid, backward, primitive movement is this?
What has brought a lot of criticism is that not only did the Nigerian Government appear to do nothing for about a month after the kidnapping, but local police received prior warning of this attack and were completely unprepared.  It is as if this region of Nigeria is beyond the control of the central government.  Indeed the Nigerian authorities admitted they have no idea where the 250 girls are located.  And this is far from the first or last such attack.  Another attack occurred a few days ago in which another school was attacked and another12 girls were kidnapped.

The terrorists rape and murder some girls, the rest they either sell into slavery or use as their own slaves.  Needless to say this retrogressive movement has few sympathizers in Nigeria, yet they manage to obtain arms and to operate unopposed.  The UK, US and other western governments have sent experts to Nigeria to help the government locate the girls and try to rescue them.  It may be too late.  If they want to be considered seriously, moderate Muslims must explicitly reject the archaic aims and methods of this extremist terrorist group.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Ukrainian civil war

Ominous military actions and loss of life are projecting Ukraine into a civil war situation.  Pro-Russian militias, including heavily armed men with no insignias, but thought to be Russian paratroopers, are taking over and guarding many State buildings in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.  In Slavyansk near the border with Russia the pro-Russians have occupied the City Hall and all other important buildings, as in a coup d'etat, and have established a mini-independent state.  An attack on one of their road-blocks by newly activated Ukrainian army units caused three deaths and the burning of several cars.
Then a group of pro-Russians took over the Trade Unions Building in Odessa, and during the fighting it was set ablaze and ca. 40 or the occupiers were killed.  Then there was a large demonstration calling the pro-Ukrainians "Fascists" etc.  The Jewish Mayor of Kharkhiv was shot in an attempted assassination and was flown to Israel for safety where he is being treated.   The center of the fighting is Donetsk, where a Ukrainian helicopter was supposedly shot down by a missile from the pro-Russians and several people on both sides have been shot.  This is in effect a civil; war, and the Russian army is poised on the borders of Ukraine ready to invade.
In this unstable and dangerous situation, anti-Semitic elements are taking advantage of the instability to attack Jewish sites, including cemeteries and synagogues.  Both sides blame the other for these attacks, although no-one knows who is actually perpetrating them.   However, there is no doubt that the whole Jewish community, that has kept out of the actual conflict so far, is in danger.  Some 70 Jews have been transported from Ukraine to Israel, with financial support from the US Fellowship of Christians and Jews.  The Chabad have supposedly arranged a plan to remove the rest of the community, especially from Odessa and the eastern cities, by a convoy of buses.  But, the Jewish community leaders in Kiev have denied any such plan for leaving.  I think we can predict that things in Ukraine will get considerably worse before they get better, and the situation is trending towards just the kind of instability that Pres. Putin needs in order to justify an invasion in order to protect the pro-Russian elements and "restore order."  We've heard it all before.

In this situation Israel must remain neutral.  The Ukrainians are among the most anti-Semitic peoples on earth. Remember the Ukrainian leaders Chmielnicki and Petlyura, who each in their time committed terrible massacres of Jews, and during WWII the Germans used Ukrainians as concentration camp guards, they were pitiless.  So we Jews should not shed a tear over the civil war and suffering of the Ukrainians.  Pres. Putin of Russia has so far been quite positively disposed towards Jews, he even visited Netanya and publicly opened the monument here to the Russian soldiers killed in WWII.  While Russia is hardly a friend of Israel, there are many Jews still in Russia and we don't want to anger Putin.  So PM Netanyahu is playing it safe, it may be that taking over Crimea and supporting the pro-Russians in Eastern Ukraine is an un-diplomatic thing to do, but it's not in our backyard and Israel should take no side in this dispute.    

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The cranes are flying

Our daughter went on an AACI trip to Bulgaria as their representative.   She was impressed by the beauty of the country and the snow-capped mountains, etc.  But, the thing that struck her most compared to Israel was the lack of cranes!  Cranes?  Yes, everywhere you go in Israel you see the ubiquitous high cranes dotting the skyline.  Buildings are going up at an incredible rate.  In Netanya alone there are about 50 high rises and many more are being built.  One can usually see about 12 cranes from any location, and this is true of all the major cities in Israel.
These cranes represent the affluence and level of economic activity in Israel, compared to most European countries.  Israel is in fact a hive of economic activity compared to most other countries.  That's why Israel has the second largest number of start-ups in the world after the USA.  That's why Jews are immigrating, as well as due to anti-Semitism in the Diaspora and their Jewish or Zionist beliefs.  There is a huge apartment market in Israel.  This results from the million or so Russian immigrants who came in the past 30 years now being able to afford to buy their own apartments, and the many French immigrants who can also afford apartments.  There are also increases of immigration from Hungary, because of the increase of anti-Semitism there, from Ukraine, because of the uncertainty of the political situation there, and from S. America, where Jews are beginning to reassert their identity.  All this adds to the pressure on apartment prices.  
The Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) in Israel has just published its latest figures.  The current population of Israel is 8.2 million, with 75% Jews, 20% Arabs and 5% other (mostly non-Arab Christians).  There were over 157,000 immigrants, mostly from France, Russia and S. America, and 178,000 babies were born in the past year.  Israel is a growing vibrant society, so different from the surrounding Arab societies, including the Palestinians.  If they are not engulfed by violence they are stagnant, and their populations tend to decrease due to death and emigration.  These societies are not democratic, their elections are a farce, such as those taking place in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, where there are either military dictatorships or people vote according to their ethnic/religious groups, such as Sunni, Shia or Kurd.  In most Muslims societies differences lead to conflict, since the idea of compromise is absent, in fact someone said there is no word for compromise in Arabic.

The most significant statistic about any country is its population.  On that score Israel is larger than many other countries in the world, such as Bulgaria (7.9 m), Ireland (5 m), Denmark (5.6 m), Norway (4.3 m), New Zealand (5 m), Georgia (4.2 m), Lebanon (4.2 m), Lithuania (3.4 m) and so on.  Israel also has very active military and high-tech industries. For a small, relatively young country, Israel is quite a significant player on the world scene. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The smart phone owner

My smart phone had been charging erratically, sometimes overnight it charged fully, but sometimes it only goes to a few percent.  I asked a fellow at a kiosk in the Mall that sells phones what was the problem and he (as expected) said "you need a new battery," and he offered to sell me one for NIS 150 ($43). I declined and decided to take it to the place where I bought it, Cellcom.
When I entered the Cellcom office in Netanya the computer that gives out numbers was not working, not a good sign.  So they sent me to a guy who was obviously not interested in me, he took my phone and the charger and said they would test them.  Then he continued doing his own work.  When the person next to me left he said "why don't you go to her" indicating the girl in the next position.  I moved over, she was very nice and asked me what the problem was, I told ther that they were checking my battery and charger.  So she told me a story that the smart phone I have charges slowly and sometimes its not possible to tell what the problem is.  Then she said "wait a minute," and she got up, walked across the room and went out of the front door.
I sat there for 5 mins, time went by and then I got angry and I went to the clerk at the front desk and asked for the manager (in Hebrew and English).  He tried to ignore me, but I persisted, so he indicated a woman standing on the side, who was clearly the cashier.  Anyway I went to her and complained and she said "don't worry, she'll be back soon."  I said "that's not good enough," and then the fellow from the front desk came over and said, "she's talking to the expert (momchet), he's outside smoking," and he took me to the door to see.  When she saw me the girl stopped chatting with the guys there and came back and told me, "the expert says that he can't tell what is wrong, so we'll have to send your smart phone to the laboratory."  How this "expert" could know this is a mystery. 
When we got back to her desk she retrieved my phone and charger and told me that to send it to the laboratory for testing would cost NIS 275 ($79) and would take 2-3 days and it would wipe out all the information on my phone. So I asked was it the battery, and she said no, it does work but they are not sure why the phone is not charging.  If it did need a new battery though, it would cost a further NIS 150, a total of NIS 425 ($122).  I said thank you very much and I retrieved the smart phone and charger.  As I was leaving she said, "well, you could take it to the private dealer next door to have him check it."

So I went next door to the small cell-phone store, and asked the man, who was totally bored with his job, if he could tell me was it the battery or the charger that was wrong, and I told him that Cellcom had said the battery actually works.  So he connected my phone and charger to the electricity and he told me "it's not charging."  I said "I told you that."  So then he connected my phone to his charger, and immediately it began charging!  He said you need a new charger, cost NIS 50 ($14).  So I bought a new charger and it has been charging fine ever since.  Moral of this story, Cellcom was totally incompetent and/or dishonest.  I wasted about 30 mins there and if I had trusted them it would probably have cost me $122, instead in 5 mins I solved my problem for $14.  Conclusion, if you want to own a smart phone, be smart. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


For Israel's 66th Independence Day, choose your interpretation:
Fact: The Israelis are rich while the Palestinians are poor.
Liberal interpretation: The Israelis are exploiting the Palestinians
Conservative interpretation: The Israelis work hard while the Palestinians are lazy
Analysis: The Israelis are innovative and have developed many industries, while the Palestinians are content to live off the donations of the USA and EU while their leaders skim money off the top.
Fact: Part of the West Bank is occupied by the IDF
Liberal interpretation: The Israelis occupy Palestinian Arab land
Conservative interpretation: The occupation continues because the Palestinians refuse to make peace with Israel
Analysis: The West Bank is disputed territory and a resolution of its status cannot be made until there is a peace agreement.  Until then Israel is within its rights to continue to build there, just as the Arabs do.
Fact: Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel
Liberal interpretation: Jerusalem should be divided between Jews and Arabs
Conservative interpretation: Jerusalem is holy only to the Jews, not to the Muslims
Analysis: It would be suicidal for Israel to give up the Arab suburbs of Jerusalem to a hostile terrorist entity,
Fact: There are many Palestinian refugees who continue to suffer
Liberal interpretation: There are ca. 5 million refugees and Israel should accept them back under the "right of return."
Conservative interpretation: There are ca. 30,000 genuine refugees who left Palestine, their descendents are not refugees.
Analysis: There is no such thing as a "right of return" and Israel will never allow 5 million hostile Palestinians to return.
Fact: Israel holds Palestinian prisoners
Liberal interpretation: Israel is oppressing the Palestinians and imprisoning their leaders
Conservative interpretation: Israel holds many prisoners because they are captured terrorists
Analysis: The Palestinian prisoners held by Israel were all taken to court with a lawyer to defend them and tried and given a legal sentence.  Very few of them are leaders, most are rank and file terrorists who have "blood on their hands."
Fact: The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is unequal
Liberal interpretation: Israel is the stronger power and uses disproportionate force against Palestinian civilians
Conservative interpretation: The Palestinians will not give up their fight to destroy Israel, so Israel must respond militarily
Analysis: Until the Palestinians recognise Israel's right to exist no resolution of the conflict is possible
Fact: The Arab world is in turmoil
Liberal interpretation: Israel should not use this as an excuse to prevent a peace agreement
Conservative interpretation: No Palestinian leader will make peace with Israel while the Arab world is in turmoil
Analysis: The Palestinians are part of the Arab world and they are also split.  The latest attempt at a reconciliation between the PLO/Fatah and Hamas in Gaza is unlikely to succeed.  But, the formation of a unity government of the PA with Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, precludes any further negotiations.
Fact: Israel is the only stable democracy in the Middle East 
Liberal interpretation: Israel is actually an apartheid state in which Arabs are discriminated against
Conservative interpretation: The Arabs in Israel have more freedom than those in any of the Arab countries.
Analysis: Israel is a liberal democracy and the accusation that Israel is an "apartheid state" is absurd propaganda. 
Fact: The negotiations between Israel and the PA under US auspices have failed to produce any agreement
Liberal interpretation: The Netanyahu government had no real intention of making any agreement
Conservative interpretation: The Palestinians will never recognise Israel as the Jewish State
Analysis: The sides are too far apart for any negotiated agreement, a fact that US Secty of State Kerry failed to grasp.
Fact: The Palestinian leader Abbas is initiating a series of applications to UN agencies for unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood
Liberal interpretation:  The Palestinians deserve to have an independent state without Israeli permission.
Conservative interpretation: All UN resolutions and agreements so far require a negotiated agreement between Israel and the Palestinian representatives.
Analysis: If the Palestinians choose to take unilateral actions without consultation with Israel, then Israel can do the same, and it is likely that in response Israel will annex the large Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut

Since 1860 when records began to be kept, Israel has lost 23,169 casualties to war and terrorism.  These people fell defending the State or were victims of the attacks of Arab terrorists on civilians.  On Sunday evening begins Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembrance of the fallen in Israel's fight for independence and survival.   At 8 pm a siren will sound and then again at 11 am on Monday when ceremonies will be held at all memorials and cemeteries dotted around the country.  Family members, soldiers and citizens will stand in silence to remember their fallen relatives and comrades.  This will be the prelude to the celebration of Yom Ha'atzmaut, the Day of Independence on Mon night and Tues.
I know it doesn't seem fitting to compare, but defending a nation in the armed forces and taking civilian casualties as we have been doing all the time is much less lethal for the Jewish people than being left undefended, given the many ruthless enemies we have.  For example, 23,000 as a percentage of 6 million is only 0.4%, and while the 23,000 died over a period of 154 years,  the 6 million were killed in just 6 years during WWII (1939-45).  This is worth remembering when we send our young men into harm's way.
In the past year, 57 newly fallen were added to the list, not including the latest, a beautiful young woman named Sheli Daddon who was abducted in the north and stabbed to death by a group of Arab men in a nationalistic attack.  It continues all the time, but at least as a country we are surviving and thriving. 
Yom Ha'atzmaut, commemorating 66 years of the Jewish State, starts immediately after Yom Hazikaron and is celebrated with fireworks and parties... enjoy!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

A trip to Jerusalem

I have driven to Jerusalem thousands of times.  It used to excite me, but now its just a road journey, full of traffic and best avoided if possible.  As everyone knows the road from the entrance to the canyon at Sha'ar Hagai (Bab el Wad in Arabic) is windy and slow.  Since there are only two lanes, a convoy of slow moving trucks blocks one of the lanes, so all of the rest of the traffic uses one lane, totally insufficient for the main road to the capital.
I am pleased to report that they are making great strides at widening and straightening the road, from Sha'ar Hagai to the entrance to Jerusalem.  Great chunks of hillsides have been sliced off and replaced by receding steps of smoothed surfaces, leaving wide expanses of flat areas that in the future will be ashphalted and on which many lanes of cars will drive smoothly and quietly.  There are also huge mountains of stones of various sizes for the building of said roads. 
Just before Jerusalem they are building a massive concrete bridge over the valley near Matza (yes, there is a place called Matza and they do eat bread there).  This will remove one of the most dangerous, time-consuming and ridiculous parts of the road that descends precipitously from the Harel Bridge at the entrance to Mevasseret Zion down to Matza, then takes a sharp left ninety degree turn and climbs all the way back up to the Sakharov Gardens.  All of these improvements will make the drive to Jerusalem shorter and easier, although it certainly will be at the expense of its scenic beauty.  But, that's progress.
Perched above the Harel Bridge is the remains of Castel, a small ancient fortress that overlooks the road to Jerusalem and that played a pivotal role in the War of Independence in 1948.  The Arabs who held this position easily cut off access to Jerusalem, which was besieged for a year.  When this position was captured by the Haganah in 1948, local Arab resistance collapsed and Jerusalem was liberated.  Now it's significance seems over-shadowed by the massive roadworks progressing nearby. 
Also, the remnants of the old armoured cars that were used to try to relieve the sige on Jerusalem, that have been kept as memorials to the many Jewish fighters who died trying to reach Jerusalem, are now repainted and lined up in straight convoys for tourists to see.  Diminishing, yet inevitable.  
It took me 2 hr 35 mins to reach my destination in Jerusalem, a drive that used to be about 1.5 hrs.  I once drove from Herzliya to the Knesset in 1 hr, although I must admit that I exceeded the speed limit.  On the recent return journey, outside the rush hour, the same drive took 1 hr 45 min.  I look forward to the day when I can drive to Jerusalem in an hour again, without exceeding the speed limit.  Yes, I am a dreamer.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Price tag attacks

"Price tag" (tag machir) attacks by right-wing Jewish extremists on Islamic sites are completely unacceptable - but they are not terrorism.  In the recent attack on a mosque in Fureidis, where the door was burnt, some books desecrated and some tires punctured, no one was hurt.  A similar attack happened in Uhm-al Fahm recently and today a Jewish couple were arrested for that incident.  There were no suicide bombings, no Molotov cocktails thrown at cars or people and no deaths or injuries.  The perpetrators are in fact "militants," what the international media call Arabs when they actually are "terrorists."
I deplore this kind of attack in Israel against Arab Israeli sites.  Fureidis is an Arab town adjcent to the Jewish city of Zichron Yaakov.  Its inhabitants are the descendents of the Arabs who were recruited to build Zichron Yaakov, founded in 1882.  As far as I know they have always been friendly to the Jews and I have never heard of any anti-Israel activities emanating from Fureidis.  In fact the name is Arabic for "Paradise", which is what the Arabs named it, so it must not have been so bad for them (note that the word paradise comes from the Hebrew pardess, meaning "orchard").  
It might not be surprising that Jewish militants carry out revenge attacks against the Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank who attack them and kill their neighbors.  But, taking these revenge attacks to innocent Israeli Arab civilians is completely unacceptable.  As PM Netanyahu said, it goes against our moral values.  But, the idiots who carry out these attracks are not only attacking the Arabs, they are in effect attacking the Israeli state that they blame for sending the Army and Police in to stop their illegal building activities.  All construction on the West Bank must be approved by a lengthy process that includes the Housing Ministry, etc.  All illegal building, Arab and Jewish, can be destroyed on the authority of the security administration. 
Note that both Defense Minister Ya'alon and the US State Dept. has labelled these price tag attacks "terrorism."  Once again, let me repeat that they are wrong.  These attacks are criminal, wrong and unjustified, but they have so far not used any vioence against civlians.  For example, did you know that five Arab men from the village of Isawiya near Jerusalem were arrested by the police and Shin Bet for carrying out attacks against Jewish civilians in theFrench Hill area, including throwing firebombs and Molotov cocktails at a synagogue, an apartment and a night club when all were fuill of people as well as throwing stones and firebombs at cars being driven in the neighborhood.  It is noteworthy that this item was a very small one in the "News in Brief " section of the Jerusalem Post, while the Price Tag attack on Fureidis was on the front page.Terrorism by Arabs is not news, but criminal attacks by Jewish militants is news.