Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
בכל אופן, אני הייתי בבית כנסת, התפללתי (עם כוונה, דווקה!) את קבלת שבת ומעריב, השתתפתי בקידוש, הבדלתי בין חול לקודש ושאבתי הנאה מהשבת עצמה. אז גם הגשמתי את מצוות השבת. למרות שכתיבה וקלידה הם "דברים אסורים", אני מתלבט אם להתווכח סיכסוכי הארץ גם בראש וגם בכתיב באמת יעצבנו את אלוהים. אני ממש עירני על הפרושים, אבל פשוט לא חושב שהם חילולים
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Right after reading this article from professor and former Condoleeza Rice cabinet member (not to mention member of my mishpacha) on the Wall Street Journal website I saw this picture on the NYtimes.com:
Oh boy is right. The caption under the picture said, and I quote, "Iran showed new defiance Sunday by test-firing three short-range missiles near the city of Qum." Iran's case of classic showboating comes just after the U.S.-British-French joint statement announcing the location of the site. Meant perhaps to show that 'we know what you're up to and you won't get away with it,' Iran's response is a clear indication that is does not care what the West thinks. In fact, it has and will continue to ignore international pleas for talks and negotiations, will continue to train fighters for proxy terrorist wars abroad, and will continue to suppress its myriad oppositional dissidents at home. President Obama continue to push for economic sanctions that will force Iran back to the nuclear negotiation table. While some countries (a la France and England) have vocally supported the president, noticeable others (China and Russia who not surprisingly has vested economic interests with Iran) have not. Sanctions are useless unless everyone is on board.
Iran tested three missiles on Sunday and plans on testing out some longer range ones on Monday--not coincidentally on the Jewish holy day, Yom Kippur. Testing mid range missiles on the most important Jewish day of the year (a day in which Israel has already been surprise attacked in the past, lest we forget) is sure to goad the already fragile mindset of the Israeli people and government. This is exactly what Ahmadinejad and company want: a provocation that would not be large enough to be considered an outright act of war, but would prompt Israel to preemptively strike Iran. It is assumed that any Israeli military strike would provoke a larger, Middle East war--something that would be very costly and probably no Israeli wants.
Iran pushed dangerous buttons today, and barely anyone even blinked. It will do the same tomorrow, and will continue to do so on until it is stopped. Whether it is through sanctions that actually 'cripple the economy' or through a decisive military strike, who is going to step up and do something?
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Over the past couple of months, the Obama administration has asked neighboring Arab states to grant confidence building measures to Israel (like opening cultural attache offices in various Middle Eastern cities and granting Israel flyover airspace en route to other destinations). These requests were made so that Israel might back any concessions it makes to its hesitant constituency (specifically regarding the halt of settlement activity in the West Bank). The Arab states however have overwhelmingly rejected this notion and refused to cooperate with President Obama. It is noteworthy, then, to discuss why this specific measure--taken on jointly both by Israelis and Syrians, is not receiving greater publicity. Although the two governments aren't officially talking with each other, and the article does stress that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been shuttling back and forth figuring out the minutiae, surely there must be significant cooperation between the two governments (i.e. within their defense and interior ministries) to successfully pull off a stunt of this size. We're not talking about an individual family crossing the border and receiving special immunity, we're talking about hundreds of people with Israeli citizenship and full right, many of whom have served in the Israeli military, being bussed around for almost a week in what is officially enemy territory. Remember, Syria remains in a perpetual declared "state of war" with Israel. According to Post article, the Druze Member of Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Ayoub Kara helped orchestrate this diplomatic opening. In fact, it is part of his greater platform to organize border openings of these sorts once a month. If he were to succeed at opening the borders even bi-monthly, surely many would consider that a significant confidence building measure from which to build on.
For any sort of progress to be made, these sorts of steps must always be taken when made available: small tokens of cooperation now open up larger options down the road. In the case of Syrian-Israeli relations, this type of measure might eventually lead to bi or trilateral negotiations for peace. Israel conquered the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and Syria refuses to negotiate unless Israel completely evacuates the Golan and returns it to Syria. However, Israelis fear that giving back the region where much of Israel's natural, flowing water resources begin would be suicidal: not only would Syria be able to block the already scarce water sources from entering Israel, it could poison them, use them for sewage diversion etc. But, if you build trust through cooperative gestures, you get to negotiate on a serious level. If you solve the water disputes, you solve the Golan Heights (to grossly simplify this complicated topic, many, including me, believe that there is a way for Israel to give back almost all of the Golan to Syria and still leave its water security completely in tact). If you solve the Golan Heights, you get peace with Syria.
In a scene where prospects for peace are bleak, one has to believe that big things can happen when small steps are taken. A signal of cooperation between Israel and Syria is always a sign for optimism, but only if the two nations capitalize on the little thing to further the greater, underlying peace process will such signals have any meaning.
An edited version of this article can also be found on the online edition of the Columbia Spectator Newspaper here.
The Jerusalem Post article can be found here.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
MK Shalom is looking (per usual) to the religious Zionist leaders to help settle the periphery and Druckman, one such leader, laments (per usual) that a larger, religious U.S. aliyah never occurred to settle the north and south. While pledging to back job fairs, tax and housing incentives, and revamping of absorption centers are all important general steps, the bigger problem is finding work for everyone. People won't stay if there are no jobs. Thus, funds would probably be most well spent in areas surrounding job creation. That is to say, serious research analyzing what the demands are of the periphery environments needs to be done. This should be followed by developing ways to build up a market for skilled, young workers to come in, build new homes, and supply the workforce for the needed industries and firms. Finally, this all should go in conjunction with bolstering the nascent groups already in existence--both secular (a la the well-known-to-you-by-now NGO I was a part of this past semester, Ayalim) and religious (a la Or, see website: http://eng.or1.org.il/HTMLs/
Monday, July 27, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I catch her when she thinks no one is watching her
finally she is who she is, nervous and self conscious--real
but then she sees me, flashes a sneaky smile
and the game is back on
and I hate it.
I smash the glass on my hardwood floor
and holler out my Broadway late night high up caged in window frame
Monday, July 20, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
- After landing at JFK Airport, it rained on and off for three weeks, something that has and will never happen anywhere in the Middle East.
- David Ortiz starting hitting the ball exactly when I came back. Case in point: Papi's first at bat I watched was a homer to deep right-center. Yes, I would like to try some of your new, mango salsa.
- My sister in law gave birth to a beautiful girl (named Ayelet Batya)! This was something that was not allowed to happen until I flew back.
- I have redeveloped my late night food purchasing habits in the city, something that simply was not available in my sleepy town of 10,000.
- I started hitting on girls in English again. In Israel, all of my Israeli guy friends told me I would have a much better success rate if I spoke to ladies in English or heavily accented Hebrew so it would be obvious I was an American, but as a matter of pride and principal I could never get myself to do that. Well, except for once or twice. Here I don't have the option.
- I can watch movies on Hulu, shows on NBC, and listen to Pandora!
- I celebrated July 4th by bbq'ing and then watching fire works on the Hudson. The last time I remember celebrating American Independence Day was when I was about six years old as a staff brat at Camp Ramah New England and I went with my dad, Hillel Konigsburg, and his parents (and maybe the Micah Tucker and fam, too?), to watch local-ish fireworks in a nearby town.
- I have to skype and gchat and facebook message my friends in Be'er Sheva and Yerucham. True, it's better than nothing, but I just wish I could take my Metropoline #58 back and forth from home to school and see my buds.
- Back in Natick, I would come back from hanging with home friends late at night, and there would be real food in the fridge. Like homecooked meals waiting for me to eat them. That was actually really awesome (and shortlived, as I've already been back in the city for a couple weeks).
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Soaring Underground: a Young Fugitive's Life in Nazi Berlin by Lary Orbach and Vivien Orbach-Smith.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.
The Stranger by Albert Camus.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway.
I was also reading a play a week for my Israeli Drama course and a couple of shorts stories in the original Hebrew the popular Israeli writer Etgar Keret. In short, it is always good to have a bit of literature in your life. I give credit to my mommy and Mr. DiNota for that.
Friday, May 29, 2009
I am broke.
I sometimes think I fall in love with someone new every day.
Related: women never cease to intrigue, disappoint, arouse, frustrate, and pleasantly surprise me.
I was at the supermarket buying wine and beer for a going away party and was carded for the first time in Israel since I was a 16 year old in Jerusalem. I wasn't really sure how to feel...
On the way back from the market Or, Josh, Elissa, Tali and I spotted 3 puny, newborn kittens lying in the street. Or decided to take them in, at least for now. Naturally, she went home for the holiday of שבועות, leaving me partly in charge of them. I just fed 3 baby cats--tiny, scrawny tufts of puny nothingness, milk out of a former contact lens solution bottle. I had to be careful not to crush the lil guys (or gals? not sure..) in my fingers.
I saw Danny DeVito's butt in the movie Big Fish today.
Tomorrow, as part of the holiday festivities, I will literally make homemade cheese! This is a first I am rather excited for.
I would like for Big Papi to start being a baseball player again. Waiting anxiously for that. Will it happen? Debatable...
It's been a long week of finals and parties, and I am VERY much in need of laundry, a shave, and a good night's shluff.
אז לילה טוב וחג שמח
Monday, May 18, 2009
Boys became men. After serving in the army, Saul as an officer in the Paratroopers and Eyal in the נ"חל (Nachal--a unit that combines combat service with Kibbutz volunteering), they both relocated to a neighboring kibbutz and began their careers in the agricultural field. Although they were no longer able to take daily hikes as they held steady jobs and even new families to attend to, there were still able to maintain their longstanding tradition by trekking every Friday on nearby trails and paths.
It was on one such Friday in February, 2007 that Saul and Eyal decided to drive up to one of their favorite trails, a full day hike on the mountainous ridges of "the Big Crater" (or המחתש הגדול). Armed with Camelbaks and apples, they set out. Now, they had not spend all of their lives hiking just to arrive at a point in their late 20's where they felt they needed to hike with professional boots and gear. Nay, open toed sandals and walking sticks were enough for them. The day was beautiful: sunny but not too hot as there were occasional clouds to provide sporadic, timely shade. The two men ascended the crater with relative ease, enjoying the sights and tackling the narrow and steep paths while barely breaking a sweat.
At around 1pm, they were walking along the top of the crater overlooking the vast canyon below them when they first saw coming the other way three hikers. They crossed paths and engaged in friendly conversation, soon finding out that the hikers were three 18/19 year old Americans doing the southern 40% of the national Israel trail (a trail that goes the length of the State of Israel, walkable in entirety by foot). The Americans, named Ari, Jonah, and Chachi (like Joanie Loves Chachi) were on the the third day of their respective trek and, although visibly sweaty and tired, seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.
They had enormous packs of their backs that seemed way too heavy on the Americans shoulders, the weight probably not spaced appropriately on their hips, but Saul and Eyal kept mum on these observations. Instead, they gave Jonah Eyal's cell phone number and offered to give the Americans a ride at the end of the day when they would inevitably meet up again at the end of the trails (after all, Saul pointed out, the trails were circular so they would surely cross paths gain) to Sde Boker, the kibbutz Ari, Jonah, and Chachi had planned on staying for the night. The boys were none too pleased to have secured this ride, as they were indeed exhausted. As they parted ways for their second half of the hike, Jonah remarked to his fellow hikers that the Israelis had the look of modern day prophets, if one could believe that such people still existed.
As the afternoon hours rolled on, the day became more cloudy. At first the Americans were happy, as it made for cooler hiking, but soon enough the clouds became darker and ominous. There was a unanimous decision to pick up the pace and make it out as soon as possible. They were descending the the mountain ridges out of the crater through a river bed on the trail when the first rain drops fell. Jonah froze in his tracks. Seeing that they were in a wadi, and it was still winter so there was still water in some places, he nearly flipped. Rain drops and water beds in the desert do not mix well together. If the rain quickened, there would most likely be a flash flood and any human caught in the middle would face a serious risk of drowning. Knowing from reading the news every day that Israeli hikers die from exactly this sort of thing a couple times a year, the three hikers tried to get to higher ground. Jonah promptly slipped on the smooth, wet stone. Ari, Chachi, and Jonah decided to just keep going, as there was no "high ground," anyway.
This move proved to be important. As the panicked trio warily continued their descent out of the crater (death clouds still looming large), they realized a new, equally huge problem. They were quickly running out of daylight. At this point, it was sometime past 4 in the afternoon. The crew had been hiking since 8am. Again, this was the third day of their hike. And although for Saul and Eyal it was a casual, day stroll, for the Americans it had been an extremely long day of hellish, intense, steep, up and down, hiking. They had survived but not quite escaped a rain scare. They had roughly and hour and a half more of daylight. They were unsure of how much more they had to hike, because hiking through the wadi proved slow as they had to avoid pools of winter water. And they were simply exhausted. The thought of being stuck in the wadi over night was enough, however, to push them onward. Indeed, they remembered the words of Saul and Eyal, and they wanted now desperately to get that ride to Sde Boker.
Jonah and Eyal had previously agreed on the zenith to meet up at 4pm and hitch the ride then. It was now 4:30pm, and the end was still not in sight. Jonah was checking his phone every other minute, waiting and waiting and waiting for service, so that he could call Saul and Eyal and make sure they did not leave without them. The Americans' water was low. They needed that ride. Meanwhile, Chachi had taken a different route, straying off the path for several meters, and found himself facing a pool who-knew-how-deep. He had gone down a steep decline to get there so retracing his steps was impossible. Ari and Jonah were waiting for him on the other side of the pool. Time was running out. Ari and Jonah had a quick conference and decided a new plan of action. Knowing that Ari was the biggest, strongest, and fasted hiker of the three, Jonah gave Ari his cell phone and told him to go on ahead--to finish the trail and find a place with service so they could ensure a ride would still be there. Ari agreed and was off. Chachi, hiking with a backpack with broken straps, brand new boots and the conjoining blisters, and a body that quite cigarettes two days earlier, was near a breaking point. But he did not break. Calmly, he took off his boots and socks, rolled up his inappropriate-for-hiking dungarees, and began wading through the water, with Jonah watching with impatience and nervousness. It went as high as his waist, but for the most part his pack was spared. Quickly, Chach put his gear back on, and the two continued, every so often seeing Ari's small figure making headway in the distance.
How they did it, none of the hikers are quite sure. But they were out of the mountain wadi by dusk and back on low ground by the time the last remaining glimpses of light were extinguished by the starry Negev desert night. They found Ari once more and waited for no more than 2 minutes when they saw distant headlights getting closer and closer to their resting spot. It was Saul and Eyal in their jeep. Smiling, they got out of their car and said, "Hey boys, sorry we're late, the hike took us longer than we thought! No matter, though. Who wants a ride to Sde Boker? Also, we have lot's of water in the back of the truck, you look real thirsty!" The three hikers were so tired they could barely speak. So they smiled and drank the water. The ride passed mostly in silence, each one deep in his own thoughts of the day's events and occurrences.
Saul and Eyal dropped the trio at Sde Boker, smiled, and with a wave and a "Shabbat Shalom," were off on their way. Later that night, Ari, Jonah, and Chachi were talking about their day: how many hours they actually spent hiking, how challenging and rewarding it was, how they had experienced what they felt as a legitimate near death experience with the rain in the river bed, and how grateful they were that they just happened to meet Saul and Eyal on the mountain that day. Jonah couldn't help but think about his comment earlier in the afternoon, that he thought the two men were surely modern day prophets. Well, now he wanted to make a slight adjustment. These men, according to Jonah, were surely not prophets. Rather, they were guardian angels, sent down to protect the hikers that day. That is if of course, if one could believe such beings still existed. That night, the hikers most definitely believed.
Saul and Eyal--best friends from birth, Kibbutzniks, prophets, and angels, were never seen by the American hikers ever again.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Anyways, with our motley crew of taxi sharing riders (including an enormous, religious woman who knew the driver a little too intimately for my comfort), we set off out of Be'er Sheva to the sandy beaches of Ashkelon. Now, some of you might have heard of Ashkelon for its large Russian community. Others know it because of its dingy yet quaint mini-amusement park "Ashkeluna," a place I know Daniel holds dear in his heart. Finally, still another group might have heard of Ashkelon for its proximity to Gaza, and its subsequent site of Qassam rocket terror attacks over the past few years. The route our driver chose to take was the most direct path--passing north east on a parallel line with Gaza through the Jewish towns of Ofakim, Sderot and Netivot, i.e. Qassamvilles. Normally, I wouldn't even think twice about it, but I couldn't help but think how ironic it would be if Qassams actually did start falling while we were in the cab and if they did hit the car and killed most of the passengers with foreigners and West Bank Arabs alike included on the list of the deceased. How would the world's media react? Israel's media? The Arab world's? The Palestinian's? What were Ramzy and Assad thinking as we drove through these towns? As Christians in the West Bank, they were surely anti-Hamas...right? The whole situation kind of just tickled and intrigued and scared me all in one.
Well, I know it was a horrible way to think, but I thought it, and as I pointed out the signs to Sderot to Assad and Ramzy, hinting that we were in Gaza Qassam range, they laughed nervously and said they had just been discussing the same thing. I made sort of a nervous, half joking out-loud prayer in English, "In'sha'allah [God willing], they won't attack us while we are on our way to or hanging out at the beach, or for that matter, ever" to which they nervously laughed again and said, "Amen."
Sunday, May 10, 2009
לא קשור לכלום, אני קמתי והבנתי מיד שויויאן היתה בחלום שלי. היא לא היתה דמות מינית בחלום--היא רק ניסתה להביא לי עוגה או מתנות בשביל
Cinco de Mayo,
אלה זה עדייו היה סוף מוזר לחלום. באוטובוס בקשתי מנתן לבחור מוסיקה באיי-פוד שלי בשבילי, והוא בחר
Buena Vista Social Club,
החלטה דווקה טובה ומתאימה לאוטובוס בבוקר לדעתי, אבל המוסיקה הלטינית היזכירה לי שוב לויוי אז ישר החלפתי. שאלה: האם אנחנו תמיד נחשוב על הנשים האבודים שלנו? או האם חלומות גם עוברות עם זמן
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
So it's been awhile since I've made my voice heard, what better time than now, right? A lot has happened in the past few weeks, and I will try to give you some highlights/relevant updates. And I'll deliver em in numbered outline form. Cause that's how I'm feeling right now.
1. One night a couple of months ago I was drinking tea and playing shesh besh (backgammon) late night at my friend's Noa and Monique in the Be'er Sheva dorms. Noa was dj'ing with her i-pod and put on the one and only album by a band called HaKeves HaShisha Asar (the 16th Sheep--alluding to the 16th sheep you count when going to sleep at night). It is a children's album written by the famous Israeli poet, Yonatan Geffen, and the singers who sing his words are all famous Israeli musicians (David Broza, Yehudit Ravitz, Gidi Gov, and Yoni Rechter). Let me tell you now, when I heard these songs for the first time, התלהבתי, I immediately fell in love. Like, this album is amazing. I begged Noa for the album and when she came through with it a few weeks later, I was a very happy man. And a happy man I remain. Now, every morning I hop on my bus from home in Yerucham to class in Be'er Sheva and pop on some Keves, and my morning is brightened. I can't think of a better way to start my day. Yes, this album is for kids. And no, I do not care.
Here's a link, a sampler of one of my favorite songs:
The Prettiest Girl in the Pre-School
2. I am currently (finallllly) reading Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, and it is excellent. Parts of it remind me of what Daniel's facebook profile looks like (filled with 'facts' about himself that are simply false but still hilarious), while others remind me a little of the movie, Borat. I'm not done with it yet, but it's prettttty good so far.
3. I took part in a really great hike over Passover break in the North. We did the first four days of the national Israel Trail from the starting point in Tel Dan to the Miron Mountains (all in the Upper Galilee). Some of you may recall that a couple of years ago Chachi, Ari, and I did the lower 40ish percent of the Shvil (trail) in 11 days. I would say that was my formative, most intense, amazing experience of my gap year. This hike was much different. It was much easier, for one thing, on reason being my absolutely excellent backpack (my 21st birthday present from the rental units) that without a doubt made hiking much better on my back and body in general. Also, the hiking we did was less intensely mountainous (though there obviously were some ridiculous inclines), and more beautiful and scenic. I hiked with Adam, Bo, and Natan, all on my BGU program, and two days in we decided to continue with another group of Israelis who were doing the same plan we were and at more or less the same pace. Basically, the hiking was incredible, and I didn't totally destroy my body like last time. Pictures from this hike (as well as a couple shots from Seder at the Shilors) can be viewed here: Passover Israel Hike 2009
4. At the culmination of the hike, we all parted ways, with the Israelis and BGU boys heading to their respective homes, and me going to the historically mystical city of Tzfat. We finished hiking only 20-25 kilometers outside of Tzfat, so I knew it would be easy to get to. Plus, my camper, Palmer Basketball Captain '08 and good friend, Nadav Teplitz, and his family live right outside of Tzfat in a tiny village of 50 families. The village/settlement/tiny town is called Amooka, and is simply gorgeous. The Hebrew word for what kind of area they live in is not actually a village or town, but a מצפה (Mitzpeh), which means Lookout. Again, I cannot stress how gorgeous this Mitzpeh is. Each family gets twoish dunams of land, on which they can build a sweet house of any size, as well as a Bed and Breakfast. בקיצור, in short, I spent the night with Teplo's family, showered, did laundry, ate a heck of a good BBQ dinner, and slept like a baby. Not only was it amazing to see Teplo and finally visit him at his house, but it should also be noted here that I beat him in a free throw shooting contest, something that should never have happened (as he is in top bball form, and I most certainly am not), but did. And I'm very happy with that. Finally, this sort of home setup is exactly the sort of place I want to raise a family. In the Galil, everything scenic and green; a small, tight knit community; and just truly beautiful. So, after I spend my years working in the realm of Negev development, I will move to a Mitzpeh in the North, and it shall be glorious.
Ok. I think that should do it for now. Tomorrow my student village is throwing a street fair literally at our doorsteps, and I need to get some shluffy time so I can get up early and help set up.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Last night I slept in Be'er Sheva in Adam's room in the dorms, and as he had an early class this morning, he woke up before I did. As he was moving around in the room getting ready for school etc., he noticed my phone ringing and tossed it to me. Gadi was calling (for what I later saw was the 8th time in a very short span of minutes). His blurred words went something like this: "Jonah bro, sorry for waking you up, but this is really serious. Josh Guitelman passed away last night..." and the rest was just in one ear out the other. I asked him to repeat everything a couple of times just to make sure I understood correctly.
I have known Guitel since I was his age. My last summer as a camper at Camp Ramah in New England, summer 2004, my whole age group also did CIT work, and I CIT'ed for Guitel's bunk of crazy, lovable 12 year-olds. I knew I loved those kids then, and two summers later, as a junior counselor on staff in 2006, I was his counselor in bunk 57/58, the bunk of the "Bat Killers." That summer he was without a doubt one of my best and favorite campers. This past summer, in 2008, I was once again a counselor for his age group, with them now as the oldest campers in camp. Once again he proved to be an amazing camper. Easy going, a little attitude (but always listened when things got serious), the ladies loved him, an excellent Ultimate player, and most importantly, loved by all.
Guitel's Frisbee prowess had been growing over the years, and he had high hopes for excelling at the next level. Last night, life took a nasty turn. Josh was playing in a high school Frisbee match and mid game he apparently dropped to the ground, and just never got up.
When Gadi relayed this story to me this morning, I basically was in shock. I was hurt and frustrated, because I felt very aloof from my campers, my boys, whom I could not be near to console and be consoled. It has just been overall a pretty weird (in a bad sense) sort of day.
That Josh's body collapsed at such an early age is simply put, shitty.
There is no explanation. He was 16 years and 360 days old. I love Josh very much and find it hard and even partly inconceivable to think about my campers without him playing a dominant part in the picture.
We will all miss you, and already do.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Clive gave our class a recent personal example. He was at a meeting with Palestinian and Israeli water experts and authorities, and the topic came to the West Bank's growing sewage problem. As mentioned before, the Palestinians in the West Bank do not have the money or technology to handle their issues, and when the sewage in the West Bank is outdated and now overflowing into other water sources, there is nothing the Palestinian Authority can do about it. So the Israelis suggest they build new sewage treatment plants--bigger, better, new technology, that would solve all the problems. The funding would be mostly foreign (probably a combination of Israeli and U.S./European) and the plants would be built either by Russia, Japan maybe--countries that build large scale projects in sewage development. Well, it is in fact a great idea...until the Palestinians bring up the fact that Israeli settlers in the West Bank would also benefit from the new facilities. So what, you ask? The Palestinians are in dire need of this new infrastructure, who cares if Israelis also benefit from it? Well, if you are in the PWA, sitting in a meeting with Israeli counterparts, representing the Palestinian people and government, can you really accept this? No, because it is official Palestinian policy to reject all West Bank settlements. Disregard the extremist, illegal Jewish outposts for a moment, the Palestinian Authority reject any and all Jewish settlement in the West Bank. These new facilities, were Jewish settlements to benefit from them, would de facto support general Jewish settlement in the West Bank, something unacceptable on the Palestinian end.
As a matter of principal, the conversation ended right there, and the Palestinian representatives walked out. Put yourself in the Palestinian position: 'I know that my people is in dire need of these facilities. I want these facilities to be built. But as long as there are Jews living on my land, I simply cannot accept it.'
Thus, you have the Israeli side coming in and saying, 'listen, we can talk about settlements later (because our governments are clearly in disagreement about this topic and how it should be resolved). Right now, there is a sewage problem that is affecting your people and mine. So let's put our politics aside and get rid of the growing humanitarian crisis.' In other words, Israel attempts to depoliticize the issue, but can't. The talks stall, and nothing is accomplished.
This is just one example of the extremely delicate, sticky, and nearly impossible to solve Palestinian-Israeli water issues that we are now starting to delve into in class. Both sides are legitimate--what would you do?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Since Thursday morning (it's now Sunday afternoon), I've been going back and forth from my bed to the toilet. It was like deciding at the beginning of the month at the train station whether you think you'd take that commuter rail every day (meaning you should buy the monthly pass) or to opt for a couple of 10 passes on the assumption that your job is only a couple days a week so it would be pointless to go all out for the monthly. Well for me, the decision was obvious--I got the 'All Inclusive All You Can Use In Any Zone In Five Days' Pass. Without going into details, I can say that it was extremely unpleasant and I literally developed internal bruises on my thighs from my elbows leaning on them for so much time. But last night, for the first time in days, I slept through the night. And then through two classes and a meeting. And I took an almost-normal poop. Hooorah!
And now, I can just sit here, on what is truly a magnificent Spring afternoon, and breathe easy. I have some Vampire Weekend blasting (bringing me back to last year's awesome Spring Break Road Trip--here's a link to that fbook album: Spring Break '08 With Columbia Broskis) and all my worries are on hold for a bit.
Missing two days of class? Fuck it. No girlfriend? No matter. Summer housing? I'll figure it out. Severe lack of money? If I turn a trick, so be it. (Wait, what?) Classes for next semester? What about em? Etc. etc.
My day would probably be complete if I refreshed my nytimes.com tab and saw that John and George were alive. Yeah, that would rule.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
brought my journal. Forgot my pen. Shit. Oh well, here goes from memory:
Danny apologizes to Etty via phone, "Sor-ry, Etty, lousy connection on this train, see..."
A buxom woman, Michal, sits directly in front of me, juggling phone calls from lover(s) on one cell and workmates on the other. Her voice alternates from cooing to bitchy by the minute.
Nissim sits across the isle horizontally, taking up three of four seats in his compartment--two seats on his side, see, with one foot perched diagonally onto the third. Says to his Pops so loud that the whole car can hear him, "Pops, what d'you want from me? Next time you bring the goods to us!" All the while the Hareidi fellow sits cornered by the diagonal foot in the fourth seat of the compartment, none too pleased, just judging by the look on his face.
Michal and Nissim, when not on the phone, seem to be in a never ending duel of who can twiddle their fancy device faster than the other, though odds are they don't know it, as they never make eye contact with each other. A pity, as they probably would have hit it off. Or maybe not--everybody knows both parties in a relationship can't have too big a head, it leads to too much fight for space and podium, see.
All the while Sari's three children, God knows what their names are, have not stopped running down the isles, screaming, ducking, jumping, and crying. But mostly just screaming. It is, after all, Purim, and they are excited.
And the Thai foreign worker continues to shout what seem to be obscenities at someone on the other line, overshadowing the teenage soldier speaking quietly in Spanish to who knows who (a lover? a mother?), in an accent I try for 15 minutes to identify but in the end can only determine is not Colombian.
And although I am initially frustrated by the raucous chatter on this late afternoon Direct from Be'er Sheva to Haifa, I don't hold it against any of my co-passengers. After all, it is Purim, and I am going to Haifa to see my old stomping grounds, to be with old friends, and to be right ole merry.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Tonight Josh, Tali, and I embarked on our first serious caravan decorating expedition.
We took a dope poster I picked up in Jerusalem with a sketch of David Ben Gurion and a quote, photographed it, put it on my computer, hooked it up to a projector, and sketched it on our bare common room-kitchen-chill area of our caravan. Let's be honest, it looks pretty sweet.
Next we need to fill the rest of the walls so we don't have a lonely sketch and nothing else...
Saturday, February 28, 2009
After initial greetings and normal catch up talk, we started getting into deeper conversation starting with issues with camp and then progressing into politics, university life, and war. Gadi commented that I was now the sole American he felt comfortable speaking freely with in Hebrew--everyone else his patient would run thin quickly and just revert to English, as he speaks a good English. This compliment was for sure in the top 3 presents I got for my bday. Anways, without going into complete detail of our conversation out of respect for Gadi's privacy, and with his permission, I would like to share a bit of what he said about his recent experience as an Israeli soldier in last month's Gaza fighting.
Gadi is a first year student of law at Tel Aviv University. He says it's basically the top law school and has a only a couple hundred students per class. Before being accepted to law school, he was an elite paratrooper in the Israeli army. It's a pretty intense unit, and if you're a normal paratrooper it's considered an honor, so kal v'chomer if you're סיירת (elite), you respect it. So, when the Gaza operation started in December, Gadi was immediately called up. One might think that since he was no longer an active soldier, he would not immediately have been called. I even asked, "But Gadi, I remember reading that it was only two weeks into the fighting that there was the massive reserves call-up," to which he told me that his unit, though reserve by title, goes in right away with the active combat soldiers because of their capabilities and competence. So, literally, one day he was in University, and the next day he was in Gaza, on the front line, fighting for his life. He said that in all of his previous three years of service, if you multiplied it by 10, you would have one day in Gaza. Gadi will tell you himself that he is not poltically on the Left. But the amount of sheer destruction he saw was terrifying. "Those people, literally, they have nothing. It's raining on this side of the border [where we're driving], and over there, they have nothing." I asked if he saw Hamas, how much close combat there was, and he said that he barely saw Hamas at all. They were cowards who fled, and when they weren't hiding, they were shooting rockets and guns down at the soldiers from civilian house tops. This is why the houses needed to be destroyed by Israeli airfire. I asked if he wanted to change the subject, if it was getting uncomfortable for him to talk about it. He told that that "in truth, for a couple of weeks after I came out, I was very reserved, very jumpy, very to myself. I didn't talk about it all at first, but eventually started to. But there are things there I saw that I have not told anyone, that I won't tell anyone. Now, though, I am more able to talk about it in general without problems." One of the hardest things for him, he told me, was the fact that "literally in one moment you are a normal citizen, a university student studying law with other normal people. You are living in a great apartment in Tel Aviv and going out to pubs. And then, in literally the next moment you are someone completely different. You are in Gaza. You are scared for your life at all times, you are in a place you do not want to be, all the time wishing it was over.
"For 31 days," he said, "I was in Gaza. And for 31 days, I dreamt of one moment. To be back in a classroom, learning and studying. My first day back in school, when the professor came into the room and started lecturing, Jonah, I broke down in tears."
The whole car ride, the whole time spent at Gadi's family's apartment--there were many hilarious and awesome stories that came out from those few hours. However, I chose to write about this particular conversation because I think it is of utmost importance to remember the pain they experience even when they don't tell us they're experiencing it. Whether they are your cousins in Kirkuk, Iraq or your family and friends in Israel. To remember that war is not good for anybody, and even if one returns from war physically unscathed, the things witnessed there are sometimes unspeakable. To remember that war is traumatic, and even though one returns to 'normal,' civilian life, there are things that will remain in a soldier's memory forever. And thus, most importantly, to support them. To listen to what they have to say, to talk things out, and simply to be there. I never seriously considered the post 9/11 popular American bumper stickers, "Support Our Troops," until now. Because even if one does not agree with all his or her government's foreign policies or military actions, the soldiers, the troops, are very much people just like you and me.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
15 פברואר, 2008
אני שונא שאני מחכה פה
ואפילו לא מבין למה אני מחכה.
אפילו אם היית באה עכשיו, מה היית תגידי לי?
שאת מצטערת, או גרוע יותר, שאת לא יודעת למה אני מתכוון?
אני מתוסכל, מאוכזב
קוותי לראות אותך הערב
אבל בסוף הלילה, פשוט, הייתי מת למלה ממך.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Yes, a breakthrough in Columbia's famed Core Curriculum! I learned about Bosch in my Art Humanities class last spring. Hurrah. I always fancied his work pretty trippy, and this passage, for me, confirmed just this notion.
In other news, tonight the village BBQ'ed for a couple of hours by a mini bonfire, apparently something that happens fourish nights a week. It was delish.
Tali and I also buzzed Josh's hair tonight. I am no longer a hair cutting virgin, mazal tov!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
An announcement: Yesterday I moved from my dorm in Be'er Sheva to a student village in the outskirts of Yerucham! An explanation is of course in order. It's not that I wasn't having fun in Be'er Sheva, in fact, I was having a lot of fun and definitely getting used to dorm life there. But then this lil opportunity just fell right into my lap. Check it. A few days ago, my program hopped on a bus for an afternoon trip to Yerucham, a development town set up in the early 50's in the middle of nowhere (Negev desert, 35 minutes from Be'er Sheva) that never really quite developed. Organizations for years have been sending youngsters to Yerucham to liven it up. For example, I think Daniel spent a summer there in high school volunteering, the gap year program many of my friends attended, called Nativ, also sends people there every year for five months to volunteer.
Anyways, the purpose of this trip was to see what this Israeli student organization called Ayelim (which means Deer) was up to in the said town. Ayelim is a group that aims to settle areas of Israel that are not in the majorly populated (and de facto most developed) triangle of land in between Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. They feel that the future of the State of Israel lies in developing regions in the North and in the South, i.e. areas where there just is not a lot going on i.e. peripheries. Thus, they encourage students to go to underdeveloped areas in commuting range to their universities in comfortable, highly subsidized housing, and live there throughout their university careers. The idea is that the students living in these villages will work to build up their living areas, volunteer in their respective nearby towns, and develop an attachment to their new homes and regions. After university, Ayelim helps them find jobs with their freshly minted degrees in the areas, and encourages the students to move there permanently, which thereby helps the towns develop further and bring in new job opportunities and even just new blood and energy to otherwise stagnant areas.
So we get a tour of this village. It was built last year, and houses 24 Israeli uni students all at Ben Gurion (conmigo) as well as 8 post high school teens who are doing a year of volunteer service before their compulsory military conscription. These people are right up my alley. We're talking chillmaster, idealistic, modern day Zionist dudes and ladies. Again, where I'm trying to be. We're walking around, and a girl named Tali who just got to Israel and is on our program starts unloading her bags and moving them into one of the 12 dope caravans. Tali has worked it out with the OSP program director ahead of time, and she'll be living here for the semester! Many of us kind of did a double take--there was sort of a jealous thing going on, sort of like a lil 'well how the hell did she hear about this place but we didn't?' Which is exactly why I went to my director's office the next morning and met with him. I called him out: "You know, I bet you if you had made this opportunity clear on the website or on the application or SOMETHING, a lot of people would probably have chosen to live there." So he was like, 'Well, are you interested?' Ummm. Was he being serious with me? "Yeah, very." And two days later I packed my bags and moved in!
To sum, Josh will also move in on Sunday so Tali, Josh, and I will fill the last available caravan and live there for the rest of the semester. I spent one night there (I am writing to you now in Jerusalem at my brother's), and I already love it. The people I met are awesome. I have a nice room, the shower is legit, wireless internet (strong enough to have a legit skype convo with both JMH via chat and Jody with video last night) is solid, and the crew seems to be awesome. The free buses offered from the village directly to Ben Gurion's campus back in Be'er Sheva are at 8am and 10am. The free buses back are at 6:15pm and 8:15pm. Otherwise there are buses from the central bus station throughout the day till 11pm. And if I wanna go out drinking in Be'er Sheva, a couple of friends are making me copies of their dorm keys and a real good friend of mine from camp, Dvir, who is at med school at BGU, also has opened the doors to his apartment.
Ok, this has been a long post.
Last thing. My parents, sisters, bro in-law, Grandma Honi, and ma's friend are all here visiting. Grandma Honi lives in Jersey, and my other Grandma, Tziporah, lives in Jerusalem. It's just really cool to be rolling with both Gma's in Israel at the same time.
Ok, Shabbat Shalom
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Peretz, or so I named him in my head, was a portly fellow of about 40 years. Immediately after handing him my 30 shekel fare, I noticed his far-off, dreamy gaze at the road ahead. I knew right then that I haaad to talk to him. After all, on my many bus rides over the years in this country, I had often contemplated what it would be like to be a bus driver. The thought always appealed to the Beatnik in me--the want to just say "Fuck it," drop everything, and road trip across the country. I always figured that being a bus driver (or, I confess, I also daydream about hauling weight on an 18-wheeler) would enable me to see the country and get paid! The best of both worlds. So, in my continually improving Hebrew, I struck up a conversation with Peretz. "Sir, if you don't mind my asking, do you prefer night driving or day?" Without even glancing at me, but smiling ever so slightly, he answered "I don't like either. But they both have their pros and cons." I was surprised, "But during the day, you can look out the window and admire this country's beauty, no?" This time, he did look at me, grin growing, and shrugged. "Maybe. It's a job, you know?" Unconvinced, I prodded further. "But surely you must have a favorite route, or do you travel the same line every day?" His dreamy look returned to his eyes, just for a moment, though. He hesitated, and answered, "Jerusalem." Finally, something to work with. "Alright, I love the Jerusalem buses, too. Always a diverse population from all over the world on those lines. And the streets, narrow and magnificent. Is that why you prefer the Jerusalem buses?" He shook his head, "No, that's not it."
"Well, then, why?" I asked.
"ככה, just because," he responded, eyes once more belying his concise answers. And then, with his biggest smile yet, he added in jest, "Jerusalem, the Holy City, no?"
I joined his laughter, and that was the end of it. I knew he was hiding something from me, that he hadn't shared with me all the secrets of bus driver lifers. I suppose that is reserved for the cadre of initiates. I shall meet Peretz again, I'm sure of it, and I will discover his wealth of knowledge. Until then, though, my daydreams will just have to hold me over.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Sunday Times Op-Ed
See, the problem with the P.A. right now is its notoriety for state corruption and ineptitude. Nation building does in fact need to occur from the bottom up, and a nation's constituency must believe that its government is competent and just. Security forces trained in things like riot control and human rights is a good start. What Friedman says specifically about the funding, that it soon runs out--if this were to happen it really would be a shame as this Dayton fellow seems to be doing quite important work, quite literally helping moderate Palestinians gain a powerful and protected voice.
The young man profusely sweating momentarily ceases his backbreaking work
Removes his large skullcap
And wipes his brow with a dank kerchief.
Two more hours, he thinks,
Then Shabbat--clean clothes and rest.
No matter, It is good to work God's land.
The other man--older, potbellied, wiser perhaps,
Also decides to break briefly.
He drops to his knees, and, admiring his groves, slips into meditation.
Engulfed by the sweet, tangy, fresh-citrus frankincense
He evokes the memory of the first time his tree bore fruit.
A thin smile escapes his pursed lips.
Indeed, It is good to work Israel's land.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Check it out:
And yes, Salsa was awesome.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Situations like this happened to me not that infrequently two years ago (where I also saw and consequently met other favorite artists in intimate settings), so it was not so surprising when I saw a posting on campus yesterday that Eric Berman would be coming to the Student Center today at noon for a free, anyone can join, sit down lunch-time interview and mini-set. Eric Berman's first album came out and skyrocketed two years ago while I was in Haifa, with four of the songs becoming significant radio hits. So yes, I was pretty psyched. I got out of my intensive Hebrew lesson at 11:15, darted back to my dorm, grabbed my camera, made a quick turkey/hummus sandwich, and hustled back to the Student Center. Perfect timing. Just as I grabbed a chair from the dining hall next door and sat down, Berman showed up on the makeshift stage. He sat and talked for about an hour, discussing his old songs, modestly reminding us that his new one came out yesterday (which was news to me--I will buy it asap), and playing a song here and there. Probably pretty similar to a Mix 98.5 "Mix Lounge" sort of thing.
בקיצור, in short, it was awesome. An afternoon delight of sorts. And of course I met him after the show and chitchatted for a solid minute.
Tonight (and every Tuesday night) there is Salsa on campus, so I'm gonna check it out in hopes of minglin with the locals yeh.
Also, election fever is high in Israel, as election day quickly approaches. More on that another time.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Riding into Jerusalem this evening, I couldn't help but get an emotional sense of nostalgia for my first Israeli city. I spent four months here in the 10th grade and I gotta say it's nice to be back. If J-town was my first, post high school Haifa was my teenage romance, maybe Be'er Sheva will be my 'mature' run at things?
So I'm writing to you from Micah, Deborah and Dov's beautiful apartment in a cozy neighborhood here, and here I will remain till Saturday evening when I head back to Be'er Sheva (I moved in on Tuesday, by the way...the dorms are solid and the campus is surprisingly modern and pretty. Also, the hype about this uni is right on: BGU definitely seems to have the best student life. After two days I can already point to the oft boisterous student center and the daily bustle of thousands of students on campus as legit examples of just this claim).
And now, precious sleep (before baby Dov inevitably wakes me up in the middle of the night)...
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Sometimes with Russians in Israel you can easily see the disdain on their faces--many (spanning every age group) simply aren't happy here. But with Igor the case was less clear. I couldn't tell if he had a sort of "Fuck this country I'm tired of it all and to top it off I'm stuck working a shitty security night job" look, or if he was simply more of a simpleton enjoying his far off pretend never-never land before returning to earth. Based on his continual humming and physical similarity to Neville, I decided on the latter.
Suddenly, Igor's eyes for the first time focused on something specific--a supermarket and then a street sign. The bus slowed and stopped, and Igor, stumbling to his feet, hopped off.
As he exited, I couldn't help but be glad that my new Hufflepuffed busmate wasn't off to guard my building tonight.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Well, that's basically what I felt on the bus ride this morning passing through the verdant pastures and communities in and around Gedera.
In other news, I brought Josh (Warren, who went to high school with me) and Adam with me to my cousins, the Shilors, in Hod HaSharon, where we are presently chillen and will remain through the end of שבת.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Time will tell...
In the meantime I'm chillen with my group at the international field school at Sde Boker. They do some fascinating work here a la water research, anti-desertification etc. Down the road from us is the Sde Boker Kibbutz, famous because it was the one Ben Gurion himself chose to become a member of back in 1953 (abruptly resigning from politics one day and moving to the then tiny kibbutz of 12 people for a year or so before returning to politics and then finally retiring from politics for good and settling down here till his death in 1973). I've been here several times over the years, and although the views are breathtaking and the stars are gorgeous, one can't help but think it will get boring if we stay here too long.
My Hebrew class is too easy. Will complain tomorrow (I'm in the highest one, so we'll see what fruit this bears...).
Dinner now, Inauguration in an hour! ObamaMania hits the Israeli desert!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
We took a bus straight to Ein Gedi, where we've been chillen since. I passed out at 10pm last night and got up on my own accord at 7:45am. Not too shabby. We had a full day of south Judean Desert hiking (all with spectacular views of the Dead Sea), so I figure to sleep real well tonight, too. Tomorrow will be a restful Shabbat and Sunday morning we're off to a satellite Ben Gurion Uni campus at Sde Boker, where our Ulpan (language intensive Hebrew courses will be held for one to two weeks). I dunno if the other 13 Ulpan students (the other 32 will be joining after Ulpan when Uni classes begin) feel this way, but I can't help but have this nagging thought of War in the back of my head even while we're on our nice, easygoing hikes. Especially when a seven year old was seriously injured yesterday when a Grad rocket packed with shrapnel penetrated his skull in Be'er Sheva, the city where I still very much hope to spend my semester.
On a less serious note, the Ulpan crew is 14 people including me, with 12 Americans, one Finlandian who goes to college in Sweden, and one Dutchman. Dude from Sweden is named Bo. That's awesome. In English and in Hebrew. 'Bo, bro, whattup. How you doin.' and in Hebrew, 'Bo, bo l'po,' or just 'Bo, bo.' (Bo = come/come here)
We're going to go to the Kibbutz pub tonight. It is Shabbat, so there is no bus service, but it's open, because Friday night in non-religious Israel is a bar night (equivalent to a Saturday night in the states). So we will uphold the Sabbath by walking to the bar, and then break Her prohibitory words by purchasing beer. Listen, religion is a struggle. Don't worry, pops, I'm working on it. Don't worry, ma, I won't drink too much.
Until next time,
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
For now, a recent ditty from finals week:
You sit across from me,
A couple of tables away.
Twirling your curls,
You suddenly catch my gaze
And flash that grin.
Oh, you can’t put me in that sort of daze!
And at this hour? I’ll never win,
Don’t you know, it’s too late at night for these games,
A real shame.
I try to steal your stare once more,
But you’re too sly for that.
Back to studying, you’ve gone.
Hahhh. The 4am Flirt.