Thursday, November 25, 2010

Full body cameras and voodoo

Since the horrible terrorist attack of 9/11, flying has gone from being a slight hassle to a rather big one. The latest chapter in the saga over ever stranger security measures is the installation in all larger US airports of "Full Body Cameras", basically a camera that strips you of your clothes and shows your naked body to the security official on duty. A lot has been said about these cameras. I personally believe they are thoroughly intrusive. If you don't agree with me, it's probably because mainstream media for some odd reason never bothered to publish the true images these machines make, and opted to publish tacitly redacted versions, where the naked bodies shown look like barbie dolls, and where any detailed body features have beed dimmed out. However, five minutes with Google will show you that these cameras take detailed images of your genitalia, including intimate piercings and,well..the form and size of your equipment, female or male, for lack of a more tzniut way of putting it. Including recognizable facial features. So after being forced to remove your shoes and being robbed of your chap stick and your after shave, you are now being expected to pose for nude photos. That is the clear cut truth. The elephant in the room is too obvious – when will exhausted, delayed and insulted airline commuters stand up and scream "Enough is enough!"?

Flying was always one of the safest activities you could experience. Even during the roaring 70's, when the PLO and other crazies hijacked anything they could lay their hands on, flying was still immensely more safe than driving your car to work, having a shower or simply taking a nice stroll in the local park. The risks of having to endure a highjacking was exceedingly low even in a time when getting a gun onto an airplane was a fairly easy thing to pull. So why is it that our security concerns surrounding air traffic is bordering on hysteria? Many reasons might be cited, such as the feeling of being out of control when on an airplane, as opposed to the decidedly false sense of security and control when driving your car. But the truth is, non of these reasons are rational.

There are hundreds of "soft" targets for terrorists to attack, even in a country like Israel, obsessed as it is with security. Trains, concert and sport venues, political gatherings such as demonstrations or sit-ins, company workshops, malls, the list is endless. And no matter what we do, this will always be the case. Because if we imposed the kind of security strictures on all human mass activity as we do on air traffic, the world as we know would come to a halt. And the terrorists would have won. Airports have become voodoo shrines where we sacrifice our personal integrity and honor to unknown deities, in a vain attempt to appease our fears and our sense of insecurity, caused by our being mortals in an insecure world. Rationality is thrown to the dogs when we install full body cameras that can only reasonably uncover hidden arms, something metal detectors have already been doing for 50 years. But the truth is, that any security we may hope for, lies in your fellow human beings. The overwhelming majority of the human race is not prepared to commit mass murder for any political goal, faith or idea, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or geographical background. And no matter how much security we put in place, this will always remain the main reason why terror attacks are so relatively rare.

Now, I'm not saying we should do away with airport security. I too feel safer knowing that all passengers have to pass metal detectors and that intelligence organizations are keeping tabs on crazies, political fanatics and self appointed world saviors . But I am saying enough is enough. I do not want pictures of my privates or those of my wife to be on display for some bored college drop-out, nor saved for posteriority together with millions of others in ever growing data archives (Yep, I know what they say. They are lying. Security organizations always save their finds, with or without the explicit consent of their governments. And if they didn't, from where do these pictures leak in the thousands?). These cameras are an insult. Period. Enough is enough.

the girl from the lost and found department

she comes to me in a dream
i hear the echoing whispers of her sneakers in the
old abandoned storage building

dusty cardboard boxes, coffins and long since forgotten luggage
destinations never reached in times since long ago committed to
memories in black and white

i find her by a desk going through an old ladies handbag in white leather
the black bakelite phone looks like it hasn't rung for eons

she lifts here gaze and asks: welcome to the lost and found department
of Long Lost Railroads, how can I help you?

when I don't answer, she turns back to the handbag, pulls out a handkerchief
i am about to ask her if she works here when she says: you shouldn't be here
this late

if you stay too long, you stay forever, it's time for you to leave
I say: what about you? she says: I lost me a long time ago, i already left
I want to ask her if she recognizes me, but as she dials a number on the phone

i hear the lower east side harbor din and distant christmas carols
the multicolored snowflakes swirling in the biting ellis island onshore wind
on Delancey Street, a bearded face, pointing toward the rusty bridgehead, he says:

that is where you're headed, see you on the other side

I see her still sometimes in lonely allies and in dreams
she's always in a rush, pushing the white handbag close to her
she never sees me

and we never speak

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The elephant herd in the room...

Writing or speaking of Israel and it's conflict with it's Arab neighbors, about the "occupation" or occupation, the Palestinians or "palestinians", the territories or Judea and Samaria, and lately a more and more towards Israel hostile Western world – in short what in Israel is referred to as "Ha Matzav" (The Situation) – is to a large extent like walking on quick-sand wearing ice skates over the slippery slopes of the abyss of your choice. There are many reasons for this. First of all the topography of these processes actually is horribly complicated. Second, not one single piece of reality is considered an established fact by any of the parties involved, and every fact presented by one side will immediately be decried as a preposterous propagandistic lie by the other side, which brings us to the third problem: Irrespective of what droves of Anti-Israel thinkers, and unfortunately the current US administration, believes, this is not rational USA or UK, this is the Wild, Wild Middle East, where politicians, religious authorities and military spokespersons, down to the depressed Arab who rents an equally depressed camel for photos with visitors to the Olive Mount, will lie, lie, lie with out blinking. About everything. To themselves and to others.

And when it comes to Europe's and the US' lacking understanding of the Israeli position, another problem is deeply worrying - Israel's failure to explain to the world that the conflict is - at the very least - threefold:

1) First, we have the conflict between two peoples wishing to realize their nationalistic aspirations in the same, minuscular plot of overcrowded land. This is the European and US understanding of the problem, the understanding of Israel's far left, and the one who has given rise to the idea of the Two State Solution. The PLO has of late, at least in English, given lip service to this understanding as well. As have different Israeli leaders.

2) The conflict is also the Arab world's conflict with what they consider an insult to their honor – a Jewish state. One of the many ethnic minorities that for a thousand years had been living in the Arab world at the mercy of Arab whims, have had the gaul to break free and create a state right under their noses, a state that in only 60 years have become more successful than any modern Arab state.

3) The religious and cultural conflict where in the eyes of Islamic interpretation, a geographic part of the Islamic Dar-Al-Islam (House of Islam) has been converted into Dar-Al-Harb (House of War).

While European and US critics of Israel only recognize the existence of the first of these conflicts, where Israel to some extent can be considered the stronger party, Israelis – for reasons of self-preservation – tend to be more worried about the latter two. The Arab and Palestinian leaders are more difficult to understand. In English, they show most interest in the first conflict, but in Arabic as well as in action, they focus more on the latter two as well. This is the reason why Arafat told Clinton and Barack to "Go to hell!!" after Camp David II, and the reason why the Palestinian negotiators has turned down every offer since. It is also the reason why Abu Mazen runs to the Arab League to get every little detail in the negotiations approved – he sees himself primarily as negotiating for The Arab Nation, not for his Palestinian people.

There is a lovely American expression about something being "The elephant in the room", meaning the glaringly obvious thing that no one talks about. As for the current negotiations, or rather non-negotiations, there is a whole herd of elephants being tacitly ignored by left, right, Obama, Arabs and Israelis. I'm not certain that a negotiated peace will be forever impossible, but the already mentioned, as well as below elephants, make me absolutely certain the the current US sponsored pressure to resume negotiations is an absolute waste of time.

1) Nobody except Obama wants them. Benjamin Netanyahu is not Arik Sharon or Yitzchak Rabin. He does not have the inner strength to change his mind on the nature of the conflict, nor does he have the political strength to take on the rightist opposition in his own party, an even less to out-manouver Lieberman's ever more outrageous positioning to become the rights crown prince in the next elections. As for Abu Mazen, he ignored the build freeze in the territories for 9 whole months, in order to not have to go down in history as the Palestinian leader who compromised with the holy Right of Return and with Jerusalem. He then got on the bandwagon with one month left, knowing full well that the build freeze would not be renewed. He is currently doing everything he can to force the US into a version of a renewed build stop that Netanyahu will not be able to accept. Abu Mazen is working on his legacy, fully aware that he has almost no public support, and couldn't sell a peace deal to his people even if his life depended on it. This is why he consistently is doing everything he can to persuade the Israeli public of his lacking intentions, the latest prank was to send out one of his mouth pieces to claim that the Western Wall is a Muslim, and not a Jewish, shrine.

2) Elephant numero due - Gaza and Hamas. It is a truly fascinating fact that whether you choose to listen to the liberal Thomas Friedman in the New York Times or to rightists such as Moshe Arens in Haaretz, they are all speaking and analyzing about "The Peace Process" as if Hamas and Gaza didn't exist. But even if Abbas was Mandela and Netanyahu was King Samuel, what exactly would a peace deal with only the West Bank entail? Gaza would still be run by religious fascists, armed to the teeth, keeping 1.5 million palestinians hostage, and ready to shell Israel to make sure any peace deal wouldn't last. Which is really the incentive for Israel to give up land for peace when Israel would know for certain that it would not lead to peace?

2) And Hamas again....Hamas did not only win the last parliamentary elections with votes from Gaza. They also won in the West Bank, including in Jerusalem. The fact that Abu Mazen and Fatah is still in power there is a result of massive economic and military support from the US, not of popular support from the Palestinians. If a Palestinian state should be forced on the parties by the US, then this state would in all probability be taken over by Hamas within a year or two. And that would lead war, and most probably a re-occupation at a very steep price in human life and suffering.

Rabbi Menachem Froman, peace activist and settler Rabbi
As far as I see it, the current process has turned into nothing but a blame game, where both sides are maneuvering to make any real results impossible, while avoiding to draw the ire of the American President. And chances that such a game would yield anything but disappointment and possibly renewed rounds of violence are very, very limited. This is not to say that the situation is hopeless. Intellectuals both left and right, Jews and Arabs, are getting more and more clear that the other side is not going to disappear, and are thinking about new ways to understand the problem. And as usual, the people are often better than their leaders. So Arabs and Jews and Settlers and Palestinians keep rubbing against each other in Supermarkets, Shuks, NGO:s and settlements, and mostly refrain from killing each other, sometimes even becoming friends.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shabat Shalom...

Not much happening around here today. Fridays are off for most people in Israel nowadays, including for Ulpan students. Spent the day re-reading Too-Soon-Old-Late-Smart. You'd might call it Self-Hellp literature, but it's completely devoid of happy-go-lucky bullshit advice and self-centered shallowness, and it doesn't serv up any easy solutions to complex problems.. I hate Self Help literature. It's an account of 30 clearcut truths that a psychiatrist named Livingston has extracted over a life's experience of his patients and their therapy, as well as from it's own life, which has been really difficult in many aspects. First time I read it I got pretty upset with the author, because he kindly but firmly discard all our excuses for not leading better lives. The main thrust is that we can't wait around until we feel better to change our lives, because we can not intellectually think ourselves happier, feelings and thoughts and self-perceptions follow behavior, not the other way around. This means that in order to feel better, to get rid of unwanted thoughts and be happier, we need to act and we need to take risks. Our feelings will follow accordingly. Now if this sounds like self-help crap, it's because it's a short description. The book as such is bordering on plain wise, and I really recommend it, it's a worthwhile read.

Other than that The Vibe has moved into Benjys vacated room, this way we are avoiding the risk that some ham-consuming, vodka-drinking Russian 25-year old will be placed there. The Vibeman, if not very religous, knows what is kosher and what not. Both him and Quentin are away to TA and J-town respectively.

Speaking of action, it's time to shave, shower, light the Shabbes candles and head to shul. Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Benjy mystery

Haven't had time to report the daily do's and dont's in Beer Sheva lately, so here are a few assorted action shots...

The Benjy mystery. After once again deciding to go back to South Africa, Benjy finally left his warmly hated Beer Sheva a week ago. The day after that he was back here again, telling people that he had managed to miss his flight by confusing AM and PM. The next night he managed to miss another flight due to Ethiopian Air demanding twice the ticket prize as when he did the booking The next night, and as far as is understood, he actually got on a plane tho South Africa. Or did he? Rumors that he is hiding out in Tel Aviv abound. Different theories are floated. Someone has managed to get hold of him on his Israeli number. The mystery thickens. Wherever you are Bru, I hope you are having a Joll. We miss you:-)

David Peru and Benjy having a joll...
Shabbes evening. Was spent with Jochanan, his wife and his three kids. Mayanan, his 2 year old daughter, refused to go to sleep and spent the evening as a heat seeking robot, set on serious balagan making. She managed to spill an interesting assortment of liquids, candy and foods on the floor, uncork a can of dill and pouring it out and making figures with it on the kitchen floor (out of sight, only 15 minutes she was very, very quiet), soil herself to the extent that she had to go through three different outfits during the evening like some Britney Spears (Shabbes dress, PJ 1 and PJ 2) and feeding me with different kinds of foods (she loves feeding people, I once had to eat half a pack of cheese doodles, I hate cheese doodles, just to keep her happy). But except for an attention junkie she is also horribly cute and playful, she looks like a bookmark angel with her curly blond hair and blue eyes. It was a fun night, and it made me long for a family of my own.

Shabbes evening 2. Coming back to the apartment I bumped into Quentin outside Davids apartment, where him and David Peru was drinking vodka and chilling. Quentin had spent the evening at the Rabbi and completely ignored my advice to stay off the booze. He was d-r-u-n-k beyond recognition,making strange sounds and communicating via shouts, very happy, no doubt. At one point he leaned over the loft railing to scream something unintelligible to a gan of you Russians passing in the street below. Fortunately they didn't notice it. Some of the Russian kids here has absolutely no sense of humor.  I managed after a while to lure him back home where he promptly went to bed. I then sat down in the kitchen to study some Torah in peace and quiet, but soon gave it up because of the haunting sound coming out through Quentin's locked door, of Quentin lying in bed pretending to be a Ferrari, running the engine and going up and down on the gears through some dreamt up Nürenberg Ring. Wether he was awake or not no one shall never know, as the following day would be one of amnesia. The morning after his room looked like a battlefield and he had a very bad bruise on his right knee and part of his desk was demolished. For reasons best left to the readers imagination he had apparently felt the need to clean his room in somewhere the middle of the night, with slightly disastrous results. Of this cleaning effort he had no recollection when he woke up, alert as a Zombie. Nor of the previously mentioned Ferrari related activities.

Grave-hopping. So yesterday the plan was to get to bed early, a plan that was shattered when the Rabbanit called and asked me and Quentin to come over to the Rabbi's house later to celebrate the latter's birthday. So around 8.30 we went there and I was introduced to a fantastic old Rabbi named Jochanan, who had spent most of his life business traveling, living all over the world, until he and his wife decided to retire in Israel. Born in Holland to a Yemenite father and a Moroccan mother sometime in the 20's. He once had spent 1 day in Stockholm, Lidingö to be exact, in 1957, and he still remembered a few phrases in perfect Swedish. He also remembered that you could take a street car to Lidingö. I informed him that the street cars had been shut down in the late 60's. So we had a really good time, eating and talking and drinking, and when it was time to leave, the Rabbi insisted that we had to go pray at the graves of some of the local Tzaddikim. So we packed into his Huyyndai mini bus and went to the cemetery and prayed at the grave sites of three different local Gdolim. Of course, when we finally got back to the apartment around 1 AM, I couldn't fall asleep. Tossed and turned. My brain was adamant, it kept trying to come up with a great idea for a shoestring budget zombie movie.... Meh! Anyone wants to switch brains with me?

You may well wonder..
Any way that's about it. Time for more Hebrew passive verbs. In hoveh, avar and atid...

Monday, November 15, 2010

A matter of elevation

When I arrived here almost 3 months ago, an elevator had just been installed in the building in a free standing shaft on the outside of the facade. Up until then, all the thousands of immigrants who had been coming and going had been forced to schlepp their kids, furniture and merchandise in the stairs, 4 floors. The news was detailed in an announcement in the office, and among other things it pointed out that no kids under the age of 14 were allowed to use the elevator on their own.

Last week, the elevator worked for a whole of 2 days. The main reason for this is the fact that as soon as one of the plentiful toddlers here learns to walk, the other kids take him to the elevator and show him how to play with it. You go up and down, you press the "open door" and "close door" buttons in random order and you shove something in the door when it's closing, forcing the doors sensor to reopen it. Again and again. If you are really brave you shove yourself in the closing door.

So our elevator gets overworked and depressed and go on strike. Usually it's either stuck on the bottom with it's doors closed. Or it's stuck on the 1 floor, spastically opening and closing its doors. Forever. Days at a time. And obviously the peeps running this place – not even in the regular case a very ambitious crowd – get less and less interested in keeping the elevator running. After all, they don't live here. The single best explanation for how most things work in this place.

But the poor elevator has more problem than the kids. Adults are constantly using it as a cargo truck, hoisting furniture, garbage and all kinds of apparatus in it, cramming it full and pushing it to the limits. After only 2 weeks the fake bulging glass ceiling was cracked in a number of places, and the walls were scratched and dirty.

Finally the elevator itself needs to take some of the blame. If anyone with brains had ordered the elevator, they would have ordered a sturdy model, with a door that is closed manually, with no fake glass ceiling and no buttons to close or open the door. Basically the kind of elevator you usually put in a house that looks like a Soviet 1960's concrete suburb – a cargo elevator.

Instead however, they installed a fake 5 star hotel lobby elevator, complete with elevator music and a female and slightly suggestive voice calling out which floor you're on in grammatically incorrect Hebrew, as if you'd get lost among the 2 floors (It's actually 4 but it only stops at two...). Basically, the elevator of the world renowned brand Edunburg (yes....with a "U") is a hunk of garbage dressed up as a party crasher, dreaming it was installed in The Sheraton. The golden sign with the Edunburg logo used to have a bow of glass diamonds under it. It's indicative of the classiness of some of the peeps living here that only 2 of the diamonds are still up for stealing.

On the flip side, the constant maltreatment of the elevator first killed off the music, and after a few more bangs and bumps and schlepping in the stairs, the female voice with the bad Hebrew had called out her last floor, never to be heard from again. The chances I will outlive this elevator in Merkaz Yeelim are considerable...

Monday, November 8, 2010

No Sleep 'til Hammersmith... not just Motörheads legendary and masterful Live LP from their Short, Sharp Pain In The Neck tour (where funnily enough, they didn't gig the Hammersmith Odeon venue in London). It also fairly accurately describes how you feel after no sleep at all - like a blacksmith put you on his smoking anvil and slegdehammered you flat as a frying pan. All fun and games and I can't even blame it on insomnia this time. I simply got lost in the technical aspects of the blogoshere and the time ran away between RSS feeds and blocker cookies...until it was 4.30 AM and Quentin had a cough attack of outer-wordly proportions and staggered out of his room, a blueish-reddish tint on his face.  He has some kind of chest infection, poor man. And as if that wasnät enough he managed a backward swan-dive this past Shabbes, landing on the back of his head, and was knocked out cold. When he came about I after 15 seconds or so I had already started CPR....he scared the crap out of me. Dude needs to see a doctor.

Lemmy riffin' it....
Anyhow I gave up any ambitions to sleep, and while Mr Q went back to sleep, I took off for Shul, prayed and said Halel for the new month of Kislev - Chodesh tov peeps! Then a round to my French coffee lady on the plaza but there was nobody to talk to and the mornings are getting chilly in Beer Sheva so I went back to the dear apartment. And so here I am, trying to write something worth your time and focus, while at the same time pondering the Shidduch crisis. No, not the postmodern heep of junk that is frantically being debated among the frumsters in every corner of the Digital Highway (whatever happened to that expression??), but my own personal Shidduch crisis. My lack of female company, that is. Celibacy to be blunt. I guess having been single most of my adult life, you'd get used to it, and you do, no doubt. But sometimes it simply strikes you how incredibly boooooring single life actually is, even more so when you long since lost the taste for partying and club-hopping, if you ever had such a taste. All your friends are married with kids and incapable of talking about anything else than measles, kindergarten methodology and different poop qualities, and should you by any chance get a chance to meet them, they will get this blank facial expression as soon as the discussion doesn't orbit around their beloved offspring, and mid-sentence they will scramble and disappear to tell Lisa not to steal Anna's doll and well......should you venture to go to a disco just for a little company, the girls will look at you as were you a pathetic human being who should playa' within your own age-bracket and.....the'll be partly right. Not that I've been to a disco in this millennium, but still.

Nothin' for old geezers....
So anyway I've got a blind date tomorrow. I'm heading up to Jerusalem to have a coffee with a Swiss lady, and even though I for different reasons don't believe in it at all, I'm looking forward to an opportunity to sharpen my social skills, and she sounded nice on the phone. After that a new acquaintance - Nicole - is picking me up for dinner in Jerusalem with her and her boyfriend, to which I must remember to buy some wine. Then she is going to have a Laughter Yoga Workshop that I'm going to photograph for her website. Mental note to self: REMEMBER TO CHECK BATTERY AND BRING CAMERA! OK, 8 AM, time for Ulpan class, so I'm leaving you with these tips for the day coach!

  • Listen to: Seether (Song, Veruca Salt), Time The Revelator (Song, Gillian Welsh), No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith (Live LP, Motörhead)
  • Read: The Plague (Novel, Albert Camus), Introducing...(Blog, Yours truly)
  • Watch: When Harry met Sally (movie), Love Actually (movie), Achmed The Dead Terrorist (YouTube clip)
  • Salute frase of the day: Chodesh Tov!
  • Do: Take care of yourselves and be nice to each other.
Lateööör, dudes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

”To feel shitty about yourself in Paris.. the same as feeling shitty 'bout yourself in Stockholm.”

The quote is from a song by Swedish Painter/Comedian/Singer-songwriter Robert Broberg and he should know, alternating successful shows and selling out sports venues, with periods of bad depressions. He has also spent large amount of time in exile, more specifically in Paris and New York City.

Robert Broberg, World champion of bad puns.
And basically it's just that simple. Wherever you go you take yourself with you, and the dream of becoming someone else by going to a new place remains a dream, and if you can't shake that dream and focus on reality, then changing city, work or country will eventually become a disappointing experience. I come to think of this when I bump into Ron at the laundromats. 3 out of 4 machines have big white notes on them with the text לא עובד!”, and my plan to finally get some washing done is immediately reduced to ashes. So Ron starts on a never ending litany of how he's been waiting in line for the 1 working machine for 1,5 hours and how the expletive people running this place are a bunch of incompetent bastards. But it doesn't stop there. He goes on to putting down everything and anything in Israel: The girls have their nose in the air, Israelis are shallow, they have no culture, they are close-minded and so on...all compared to his native USA. I try to interject some nice things about Israel, and he nods his head vaguely and say something like "sure I've met some nice people here, but they are one in a million" and "fine, there are some good ones I met but they are all trying to get out of this hell hole and leave for the US", and then he goes back to listing all the flaws of Israel as compared to The Land of the Free. There are 2* very typical species of Liberal Middle Class Americans, and Ron is typical of the kind that for some reason thinks it is impressive to speak very, very fast without ever taking a breath or giving pause to let someone else be a part of the conversation. It may have to do with The West Wing having been the cultural and political awakening of their lives. But while Aaron Sorkins master script was replete with people talking fast and using big words, the sentences they put together was also intelligent. Ron and his partners in crime were deep down in Mariguana heaven when the had their DVD box marathon evenings, and only caught on to the idea of speaking, really, really fast. And to whine about everything. So after 10 minutes in his company I'm starting to feel slightly suicidal...but I make a final effort to talk about something else, like his beloved USA:

”OK, so where are you from, Ron?"

”San Francisco"

”Aha, you said you had a college degree, what did you do in the US?"

"I grew weed, mostly. Yeah, and I was stoned for about 10 years and when you tell people here they're like ”Hey, that's so cool man!”

He lights up another fag on the but of the first one and I can't stand it any more so I tell him good buy mid sentence and run back to my Ulpan class. Reading dear ol' Ron is fairly straightforward. He hasn't had a great life. He is sort of good looking in an All-American way, but he doesn't have the social skills to match it, and comes off as a bit awkward. And when people around him decides it time to grow up, cut your hair and get a job he decides to go to Israel. And he ends up in a small desert town where nobody speaks English or understands his Claim-To-Cool....basically the man feels rejected and so he starts putting everything around him down, and nobody really takes his claims seriously because his critique rings shallow. And everyone who's been in Cali for more than a few days knows that it's everything he declares to hate about Israel.

But I can't help thinking that Ron is mostly a caricature of what a lot of us 350 immigrants are feeling. 15 years ago I could have been a Swedish version of Ron. And even if all of us didn't come here expecting a personal catharsis, the girls to be more loving or the culture to be less shallow, all of us came here with one question at the core of our reasons to make Aliya: Can we please belong here? Can we play with you? Can you please welcome us, give us a little encouragement?

The author, 40 k:s younger....
And like all other places, Israel is tough to charm, and the lot of most immigrants is, among many other things, the sensation of alienation. You don't speak the language, and the vast majority of the natives will not have the patience to listen to you fumbling attempts at speaking Hebrew. All the things you take for granted, like friends who know who you are since you were that girl/guy with pimples and thick glasses you are trying to gorget, are suddenly all gone and you're in an environment where nobody knows of you times at the botten, or of the times when you shone brighter than the sun. It's a freedom of course, but also a very lonely freedom. So we are somehow all being Ron, and we are all the new kid in the class who on his first school break walk over to a group of children and asking: "What are you doing, can I play with you?" And as everyone knows, it's the scariest question of all.

Of course, there are many things that are wonderful about being here, and many things that can help all of us Ronses. One is being prepared for it to be hard, and expect it to take a lot of time to bit by bit expanding you personality to cover an Israeli one. And another is doing the exact opposite of Ron - concentrating on the new things we like, in my case the strange anarchy that is present in every Israeli situation, being able to daven in a Mizrachi Shul, having found a Rabbi who is treating me like a son, and also having met already several people I'm sure I'll know even better in ten years. To do that you need to be open enough to like that things are new, which in turn requires that you are satisfied with yourself enough to forgive you're inner Ron for the bullshit he produces to excuse that he's to scared to say: "Can I play with you?"

And mature enopugh to happily accept the fact that ”To feel shitty about yourself in Paris, is the same as feeling shitty 'bout yourself in Stockholm.”

*Ah....the other type? He is much alike the first type but is concentrating on speaking really slowly, trying to sound a little mysterious, and using even bigger words to trash the US. Common for both types is that they at the age of 30 still consider themselves "kids", and that they smoke way to much pot. And if you didn't know that: Pot in large quantities is a superb deppresant, which is the reason why so many potheads have such an incredibly gllomy outlook on life. So kids - one spliff a months maximum! And for all you US patriots out there, there is a large amount of European caricatures walking the earth:)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Time to shut down the UN?

This summer the civilized world has anxiously followed the case of Sakineh Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to be murdered by stoning on trumped up charges. Public pressure conducted by different NGO:s in July postponed the murder, but the last days we've been reached by information that her murder may once again be imminent. To participate in the online information campaign, please go here.

At the same time Fox News informs us (those of you who feel skeptical of Fox reporting can check up the original UN ECOSOC document here and search for Iran) that Iran has been elected into, and given 4 seats in, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, a Human Rights organization tasked with - you guessed it - worldwide improvement of the situation and status of women. If you so wish, a feminist organization. Now which part of stoning women or harassing them in the streets for being "immodest" does the UN organization perceive as feminist? The devil knows.

The UN was from a realpolitical perspective constructed to broker the public part of the terror balance created by The Yalta Conference and the outcome of WWII and it's rise to superpower status of the USA and the Soviet Union. It would also help with the dismantling of an outdated colonial system and it's more disastrous consequences, particularly in Africa. From an idealistic viewpoint it was also created to make this world a better place, although the value of having the most tyrannic dictatorships sign The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is questionable, even more so when it was fairly clear from the outset that both The US and The Soviets would support their own tyrannical states as they saw fit.

However, the bipolar terror balance is long since replaced by a monopolar world, where the US hegemon is slowly loosing in relative power to the ascending powers of China, Russia and India, most obviously in economical terms, but also militarily. And the UN has failed to find itself a new role, possibly with the exception of The Security Council, but then again, The Security Council is by no way a democratic institution, and could easily be lifted out of the UN framework.

At the same time, it's very obvious that The General Assembly, The UNHSCR and now the UNCSW, is becoming a propaganda tool and publicity stunts arena for Theocratic Fascists, Tyrants and Political Charlatans. The UNHSCR currently contains the following Human Rights loving regimes: Saudi Arabia, Libya, Turkey and China. We are basically seeing a development where UN member countries with the worst Human Rights records imaginable are trying to set the agenda (usually that everything is Israel's fault) within the UN:s human rights organizations. It would seem then that any idealistic reasons for keeping this massive machine going is deeply flawed. An hence the question arises: Is it time to dismantle The United Nations?

Monday, November 1, 2010


Listening to Susanne Vega and conjugating Hebrew future tense I'm reminded of Infidels. Not as in the kind that gets blown up by crazy Islamists, but as in the record released by Bob Dylan in 1983. I remember when it came out, these were the days of LP's, and the cover had a portrait of a melancholic looking Dylan, with a scroungy, short beard and Ray Ban Wayfarers, no doubt the coolest sun glasses of the time. A very different time, and I was 13 years old and I was looking at the record where it stood in it's stand. It cost like 10 bucks which to me at the time was a lot of money. It was the day before my father's 43rd birthday. I decided to buy it for him. As far as I remember he liked it, but as with many other of the musicians he liked, I ended up listening to it a lot more than he did. The music matched the cover; melancholic, sharp, distinct, sometimes bordering on angry.

The record would follow me when I left home and it would follow my ups and downs, drunken bouts, smashed up relationships (Jokerman, License to kill), spiritual searches and moves from one second-hand apartment to the next. Until my last vinyl player decided to cash out about 5 years ago, and eventually ended up in a garbage container with all other plastic hearts of my childhood and youth.

I'm not sure why I came to think of it right now. Maybe because I'm feeling a bit melancholic. I'm in Israel and I guess the first layer of novelty is wearing off with the knowledge that I have to decide what is next after Ulpan ends in a month. Or maybe because I'm in Israel which, absurdly enough, seems to be the most hated country in the world at presently, and Infidels contain one of the most eloquent, and angry, defenses for this Jewish homeland that remains an invisible speck on a world map - 'Neighborhood bully':

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully

It's a long and brilliant text you can find it in it's entirety here. Or maybe it's just what we all are in this country: Infidels. Infidels to the crushing universalistic demands of Christianity, Infidels to the conqueror push of Islam, Infidels to the age-old view of the Jew as a weakling, forever doomed to wander the hostile and "settled" earth, with no roots and no loyalties. Or maybe it's me, and Infidel to the country that I left, a country who mistakenly sees itself as the Consciousness of the World.

Infidels was also the first "Jewish" record after Dylan had penned three Born-Again Christian records. He said in an Interview that he wasn't sad he had "tried to save a few souls"....Me I'm happy he gave it up, there are enough crazy missionaries in the world as it is and Bob Dylan's Christian period wasn't much to be inspired by anyway.

Me? Guess it's back to Beauty and Crime and Hebrew verb conjugations. I don't have time to be melancholic, and even less to write about the complete mess that is Israel, peace process, Arabs and Europe's pathological mix of ignorance, paternalism and fixation when it comes these shennanigans.

By the way, if you still haven't discovered that Susan Vega is far more than the one-hit wonders 'Luka' and 'Tom's Diner', her 2007 album ¨Beauty and Crime' is a fantastic place to start. It's a very personal trip through her native NYC in the shade of the Twin Tower bombings of 2001, and a masterpiece no less. 'Ludlow Street', about song about her younger brother Tim who drank himself to death, is enough to make a grown man cry.

Completely off topic can be told that the apartment has been calm and without invasion of potheads, and that the weather is getting colder every day. Or rather, I've gotten used to feeling cold whenever the mercury drops under 25 celsius. Which it does every night nowadays. For you poor sods who are languishing under the harsh rule of Swedish falls, you may find comfort in the world of Gaming. An old friend of mine, since childhood seller extraordinaire of console and computer games, is about to start up a budget Web Shop where you can buy all your hearts desires:

And I find it infinitely hard to understand that I'm only three years younger than my father was when I was standing at that record store stand, deciding wether I had the money to buy him Infidels for his 43rd birthday. In a very different time.