Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Shutting Down

Just a short note to let everyone know that the forums we started on in the summer are about to be shut down completely. I sent out an email to all registered users, but thought I might as well post it here.

I found similar forums at
They are fairly active, whereas Metalks has been closed for public posting for a while now. So, seeing as there was no point in keeping it online, I'll be taking it offline permanently soon enough. If you want to take a final look before it disappears, head over today or tomorrow. It will probably not be with us come Saturday :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Keeping My Head Above the Water

Or rather, getting it into the water, actually.

I had my first swimming lesson today! I wasn't even sure if I could be taught how to swim. Actually, I'm still not sure! I am not very athletic and have some issues with multi-tasking different parts of my body... I decided to take up swimming, or try to, as part of an ongoing weight loss effort. IsraeliDad had this theory that swimming would be safer for me, and I would be less inclined to hurt myself while swimming. Well, that remains to be seen. So far, after one single lesson, I already feel pain all over!

I actually made some progress with making the right moves. I surprised myself by getting along fine with the whole "head under water" issue even. The main problem at this point is this: I manage to push myself into the pool and start my swim, get through the first set of moves, with my head still underwater.

Then comes the scary part. After you have performed one set of movements with your legs first and arms next, you're supposed to elegantly lift your head above the water surface, not too high, open your mouth in a swift burst of air to prevent water from dribbling in, then take in air and submerse your head again for the next set.

Well, by the time I get to the point when I'm allowed to take my head out of the water, I am very much in need of oxygen. I don't think I am looking very elegant at that moment either. My main focus is on getting some air in and I lift my head way too high for it. My body then responds by sinking lower into the water, and my head tends to follow (they are attached after all!). Of course, I had totally forgot bout that sophisticated mouth opening thing and have quite a lot of chlorine enriched water in my mouth by now. By the time my head sinks back in, I am choking and totally forget about my next set of movements anyway.... I usually just come to a halt, stopping in the middle of the pool, getting some precious air into the system while coughing some water out. I am not at all sure an objective observer would call my current style of swimming elegant, or even effective :p

My good friend Steve told me that the most important thing in swimming is not to panic. Well, I'm sorry, but when I can't breathe, I tend to panic, I guess. I'm not even sure if it's panic per se. I'm too busy thinking about oxygen to define my exact state of mind at that exact moment.

Anyway, my instructor has not given up hope. I think she thought I did well, and as I said, I think I did do fairly well, at least compared to what I had initially feared - that I wouldn't be able to keep my head under water and blow those bubbles.

Well, they say we all originated from swimming creatures and it's just a matter of allowing your body time to remember. I am counting on that and going for the full swimming adventure. We're about to get a membership to a good swimming pool in a nearby kibbutz and start practicing tomorrow morning!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Been a Busy Weekend and some more

Whew, lovely and busy weekend over here. Thursday evening we got a phone call from IsraeliDad's eldest brother. He was having a great time with guests from abroad who were heading south, and suggested that we meet them. We always like meeting new people from different countries, so we jumped at the offer.

The next day two lovely couples arrived - Karen and Graham from New Zealand and Tom and Liz from Canada. All four of them sailing around the world in their yachts, no less. They were on shore for a change, touring Israel by car and getting to see places. They had set anchor in the Ashkelon harbor, where they met another one of hubby's brothers - who lives on a boat himself, along with his Missus. He apparently told them that no tour of Israel would be complete without meeting our zany family ;)

We had a wonderful time with our guests. As they arrived on Friday, we sat by the bonfire and just talked for hours. Fascinating people, with cool tales from their travels around the world. They were interested in our take on "the situation" in the Middle East, but I have to say, it was certainly refreshing to talk to people who were very neutral all in all. Their interest was purely intellectual, and it was obvious that they were not emotionally invested in this conflict. Nice to see that our problems here are not the focus of every person on the globe :p

The next day, we had a nice Israeli breakfast outside, in the shade of our oak trees. Then out we went, with guests and kids and visited the beautiful Ceasaria. Beautifully reconstructed, the place is truly a gem, showing you the history of the place, and through it of the whole region.

Signing off for tonight, it has been a long day, away from home (had to go to Tel Aviv on business), and I very nearly had a migraine (have to blog about it in my migraine blog too!). Here are some pictures from the weekend -

Breakfast outdoors

The ancient harbor of Ceasaria (destroyed in earthquakes over a thousand years ago)

Walking in the ruined (and reconstructed Ceasaria)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Recipe of the Day - A Palestinian State within 3 years

Following my last post... I thought I'd be a good mom and add a recipe! It's real simple and contains only two stages - but it has a cooking time of probably 2-3 years.

Here's a recipe for an independent Palestinian State within 3 years:
1. Halt any violent activity towards Israel - terror attacks, qassam rockets, stone throwing, anything.

2. Arrange mass peaceful demonstrations. Send children to the borders, holding flowers and olive branches. Get the media to cover that. Do that en mass, constantly, repeatedly. Hold rallies with speakers calling out for peace. Smother Israelis with love, and show that to the world.

Within weeks, if not days, you'll have Israel at the negotiations table. You'll have to keep this up for months, even years. The non-violent part needs to remain forever, of course. You'll have your own State, prosperous and peaceful - within a few years.

My Palestinian friends, keep shooting the rockets and you are shooting them at yourself. You will bring only more devastation to your people both in the short term and long term. The Palestinians have one way of "beating" Israel in this game and getting their Palestinian State. You could have have your own Independent State several years ago and they can have it within a short number of years even now. The only road towards that is non-violent struggle.

Voices from Gaza

Deb left a comment here a few days ago with a link to a blog by Dr Mona El Farra. I have been reading her blog (and commenting! I can't keep my mouth shut, as some may have noticed...). I think that many Israelis, myself included, are hungry for communications with the people living in Gaza. Gaza has become this black hole for Israelis, from which rockets are being fired and no one understands why. For peace seeking Israelis, Gaza was supposed to be some sort of a test case to the mantra we kept chanting all these years. To borrow from singer David Broza: "It's going to be ok, just get out of the occupied territories". Well, we got out of part of the occupied territories and it's not really ok, is it? Sigh. A blow to the peace process, a blow to the Israeli left wing, and Israelis can't even see why.

Having spent a while discussing this with Arabs (mostly online), I can see some different perspectives now. None of them really explains to me why the Palestinians are lobbing rockets at us. I sense a lot of anger, born out of sheer despair, at the horrible living conditions of hundreds of thousands of civilians crowded together. They blame Israel with a blockade, while at the same time constantly striving and succeeding even, in importing arms into Gaza.

What bothers me most, is the implicit support of the Kassam attacks by ordinary Palestinians living in Gaza. I hope I'm wrong there and that they don't support it, but I don't see any outright condemnation either. The Kassams are bad for Palestinians - not for Israelis. True, only a few causalities in Israeli from over 4,500 rockets lobbed into our territory. Why throw them then? You get zero military achievement, in terms of causalities (if this is even a military acheivement in its own...). You won't get Israel to stop any undesired policy that way, will you? How is that going to convince Israel to lift the blockade? As an Israeli, a mother, a human being, shuddering at the living conditions in Gaza, let me tell you, I do not want my government to allow Gaza open borders and trade. Convince me first that you won't be using the first opportunity given to get yourselves armed to the teeth with much more advanced rockets that will cause my country much more damage.

Personally, I advocate carefully monitored shipments into Gaza, from any side. Yes, call me patronizing, but I want either the Israeli Navy or some very thorough and effective international force to monitor any shipment going into Gaza. Food and medicine should be allowed in but I want to keep long-range rockets out. Will the Palestinians accept that? or will we get jumped on for "humiliating" them again? Too many issues of national pride involved I'm afraid...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Celebrating Shavuot

IsraeliDad says that yesterday's post was way too long... So, not too much verbiage today, and more visuals. Sharing pictures from the celebration of Shavuot in kindergarten and then our visit to Netanya today where we encountered some armed militia fighters... armed to the teeth with water guns!

Dan and some friends there, checking out the "Tene"'s. Tene means basket, I think. It means a basket that you fill with fruit and vegetable and adorn with some greenery and bring to the Shavuot celebrations. These are supposed to be the first fruit and vegetables of the season. Well, our Tenne's had mainly avocados and lemons, and I can't say they were the first of the year. However, they were indeed from out own garden (ok, ok, backyard...).

The parents were pleasantly occupied with making nice head bands/crowns from straw with flowers strewn in. Very peaceful scene, with everyone wearing white and working away.

Ron and Dan with their flower crowns.

We had a nice time singing together. The kids did all they could not to totally ruin the party and some of them got into the singing nicely (not my kids though...)

These kids, armed to the teeth with water guns, were only a few of the water warriors swarming through the streets of Netanya when we got there today. The local custom is to have water wars. Looks like things have changed dramatically from our childhood water balloons (who had balloons even, we used plain old nylon bags :p) . These kids have the latest technology with huge rifles and ammunition tanks on their backs!

In a feat of true investigating journalism, I bravely went out of the car and asked a few of them to pose for the camera. We later got sprayed nicely, but fortunately while in the car with the windows rolled up!

So much for our Shavuot. It's been fun so far and we may continue tomorrow as well. Happy Shavuot to all who celebrate.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Parenting in Gaza

We were lying in bed last night, talking about this and that, about our kids mostly. A jet fighter came flying over hour house. Not unusual in Israel - jet fighters and helicopters fly over our house everyday, some days worse than others when they're running some exercise or whatever. Triggered some interesting conversation between IsraeliDad and myself.

Earlier that day we went to the gym together. We don't get to watch TV too much here at home. We only get one channel here (broke free from the cables about a year ago), and we don't have much time for it anyway. At the gym, they have screens in front of the treadmills, so this is our chance at catching some programs.

I think that the public TV channels are required by law to dedicate a certain number of hours a day for broadcasts in Arabic. These broadcasts are never on prime time though. I guess it could be argued that with the majority of viewers being Hebrew speakers, there's no point in placing these shows during prime time. Still, I think it creates a kind of a cultural ghetto, since no one really watches TV during the hours to which the Arabic programs have been relegated. Well, no one except us when we march on the treadmill! With my newly acquired political awareness, I am fascinated by these shows. I honestly do think that they should be moved to prime time. There are subtitles in Hebrew anyway, and it will do nobody no harm to listen to some Arabic, and more importantly, to listen to the point of view of Arab speakers.

These shows cover a variety of topics. Many discuss social and cultural issues, revealing aspects in the culture of what we usually call "Israeli Arabs", or as they call it "Israeli Palestinians". The politics is always there, and for a good reason too. Yesterday, we watched two very interesting shows (think of all the exercise accomplished!)

The first show was an interview by leading journalist Rafik Halabi (he's a Druze and you'll find a lot by him and about him if you Google his name). This is a series really, of which I have been fortunate enough to watch more than one episode. He was interviewing Salem Jubran, an Arab intellectual, author and poet. Wonderful interview. I'd vote for him as for Prime Minister. Such a wonderfully balanced view of the world, addressing the shades of gray in both Arab and Jewish societies in Israel. Very critical of the Israeli government and regime, yet so positive about the country as a whole, and about the chances of peace here. Not overly optimistic, just positive. I found a few pages with his writing, or interviews with him. Posting them here for now - I hope to refer to some topics presented there in future posts -
A pleasant flight - for Arabs too

A Bridge For Happiness

The second show was about the current situation in Gaza. The Arab presenter had a panel of four - two of them Palestinians (from East Jerusalem and the West Bank) and two Israelis. The show was all in Arabic. There was a surprising consensus reached and a sad one at that. They all agreed that it's up to the Palestinians at this point to get a hold of themselves, stop the fighting among themselves and work towards strengthening their elected leadership. No one was very optimistic there. The Israelis (a journalist and a scholar) explained how the way things are going, Israel is more than likely to be dragged into Gaza, maybe even sooner or later. He said how the IDF would have no choice but to finally march into Gaza and re-occupy the place.

The Palestinian journalist (it was the well known journalist and human rights activist Bassem Eid) replied saying how this would be a grave mistake. That an Israeli invasion would only cause harm and make Palestinians escalate the struggle on their end. Well, not that we don't know that. It's just that, like the Israeli journalist explained to him, in the end of the day the IDF is committed to protecting Israel, and simply can't avoid action in response to the rockets.

If I may elaborate on that point. The IDF is called the Israeli Defense Forces for a reason. When rockets are lobbed at Israel, it's in the IDF's calling to stop the rockets from being fired. No one is saying that the IDF is inactive btw, only that things may come to the point, not very far from now where the IDF will have on other means of fighting the rockets other than walking into Gaza and disarming the Palestinians, house by house if necessary. It will be an ugly bloodshed for both sides. Nobody is looking forward to that, and everyone knows this will come at a heavy price to both Palestinians and Israelis.

What would be the price? To the Palestinians this could be a terrible terrible blow in terms of both civilian and armed militia casualties, the first simply because there will be heavy fighting going on on their territory in a heavily populated area. To Israel, the cost is likely to be in casualties on the part of the IDF. The Israeli public is very intolerant of IDF casualties. People call the soldiers "our children", which they are after all, in a society where you still have compulsory military service at the age of 18. However, they are soldiers, and when the choice is between civilians being bombed in Sderot or IDF soldiers killed while defending them, at some point, the government will opt for the second. It is what the army is there for, as tragic as it is for the families of the soldiers.

Most likely, the heaviest price will be shared by Israelis and Palestinians alike: the ultimate blow to the peace process in the form of the IDF re-conquering Gaza. The lesson of that in Israeli eyes, government and citizens alike, is likely to be that the Palestinians cannot be trusted with their own sovereignty. They are still too fragmented and still operating as tribes and "Hamulas", unable to form national institutions of their own. Obviously, fingers will be pointed at Israel for somehow "not allowing" these institutions to form. I wonder how many Arabs will have the courage to lay at least part of the blame on the Palestinians themselves?

So much for yesterday's time of relaxation at the gym... and as you can see ID and myself spent a while discussing this.

Fast forward to our night time, lying in bed, listening to the jet fighters. We talked about how awful it must be to be lying in one's bed in Gaza tonight, not too far away from where we live, with your children sleeping, just like ours, listening to jet fighters flying over your head. How unbearable it must be for those Palestinians mothers and fathers to have to raise their children with that constant fear for their very lives, and how awful for the children. Every now and again we are shown Palestinians mothers on the news, saying the most horrible things, about how they wish their children would die as "Shaeeds" in the struggle against Israel. I refuse to believe that there are no sane Palestinians in Gaza who just want their children to grow up, healthy and happy, same as we do here.

My heart goes out to these families over there. And yes, also to the Jewish parents in Sderot, who right now raise their children under the constant thread of Qassam rockets. It's terrible on both sides. I know that there are many initiatives right now within Israel to help the families of Sderot, in essence evacuate the children out of the war zone at least temporarily. I wish there was something similar done for the children of Gaza. There is something terrible about taking children away from their families, but I think that it would still be the right thing to do, to get them out and find them hosting families for now. Naive, I know, and not about to be performed by any organization. What a shame....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Holiday Preparations

We have way way too many holidays in Israel. Passover was a huge challenge with it's weeks of school holiday (we were fortunate to have to weather just one week, since our kids are still in kindergarten). Then Independence Day (which is almost two days of holiday, being preceded by Memorial Day). And now, within weeks, it's Shavuot...

You can read all about that holiday and its origins here. Today and tomorrow is time to work on the "Tene", a fancy basket for each one of the kids, nicely decorated with whatever, and filled with fruit and vegetable. If only the kids would eat the fruit and vegetables... but I guess keeping up with Jewish traditions is good enough ;)

So, leaving now to go buy some nice baskets, as well as fruit and vegetables to put inside... I'll post some pics when they're ready :)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Our Day in the Golan Heights

Almost sneaking out of the house in the morning for this one, we packed the kids in the car and drove to the demonstration in the Golan Heights. Of course, we can't really keep any secrets in the family, so we ended up telling my in-laws where we went later that evening. During the morning we still kept it hushed down though.

The kids were never told we're going to a demonstration, let alone about what. We feel they're too young for that, so to them this was just a day out.

We left earlier than needed, so on the way to the Golan Heights we made the mandatory stop at Golani Junction at their MacDonald's branch. Now, Golani junction isn't named after the Golan, but after one of the IDF's brigades. It's usually a place where soldiers gather, on the way back and from their deployments up in the North, and also families like ours traveling. It's also a local attraction for the region's locals, namely you see quite a few Druze and Arabs there as well. The staff is always mixed, as far as I can tell, with both Arabs and Jews serving in all positions.

We got a kiddie meal (with the toy!), and a bowl of the latest local dish served at the big M - a finely chopped, freshly prepared Mediterranean salad, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, mint and parsley - yummy and very healthy! The kids spent a while playing at the indoors playground there, while IsraeliDad and myself sat nearby reading the paper. So far, the day was proving to be a huge success ;)

We drove on northward, me looking at the view, thinking how sad this whole deal was. Such a beautiful place, populated by beautiful people, dreamers and visionaries that wanted to make a home for their family in a very special place. Unlike the West Bank (let alone Gaza), the Golan is sparsely populated and was so during 1967 as well.

At last, we reached the designated meeting point, at Ein Zivan junction. No less than six police cars and vans were waiting for us there, and seemed rather pleased to finally see someone looking for the demonstration. They weren't making a political statement, just bored, saying not too many other people had shown up. They told us the rally itself is held further along the road, in the tourist observation point located across the border from the Syrian town of Kuneitra.

The place itself is beautiful (as is the rest of the Golan Heights), with a great outlook on the views of Syria, right across from the UN camp in the demilitarized zone between the two countries. The weather was nice, and we spent a nice hour or so, listening to speeches. The two more prominent speakers were Israeli author Sami Michael and Israeli poet Roni Somek. Their heartfelt speeches addressed one simple point, which was the message of the rally: Let's respond to the Syrian signals and engage in a dialogue. At no point did anyone even mention the withdrawal from the Golan Heights directly. At most, there was a vague reference to the price of peace (mentioning that it was heavy, but not as heavy as the price of war).

I was slightly disappointed when one of the speakers tried some low scare tactics, saying that if we don't head towards peace with Syria now, we'll have war with Syria under a year. He went on to say that we won't be able to stand at that very place, because rockets will be falling on the Golan Heights. I thought this to be a very unlikely scenario... The point I would have made instead is that unless we enter negotiations with the Syrians, there is more than likely going to be another war with the Hezbulla.

As you can see from this picture, the demonstration wasn't exactly crowded. IsraeliDad is there, trying to get the boys to sit "in the shade" (there wasn't much of it, obviously). It was a very peaceful event - the bored policemen never even got close. There was quite a lot of press there, it almost looked like you had more journalists and photographers than actual participants. Then again, this demonstration wasn't advertised anywhere that we could see, and unless you happen to be on certain mailing lists, you wouldn't even know it took place. We are not actually ON those mailing lists either, but were forwarded a copy by friends. Funnily enough, the people on those lists were mostly the kind of people who won't come to such a demonstration because it's taking place "in occupied territory"...

We stayed there for about an hour, then headed south again as it was over. It felt strange, going past the Kibbutz where my brother-in-law lives, but we thought it would be way too awkward to visit under the circumstances. We never even told them we were going, as per the request of my parents-in-law. Sigh.

On the way back, we stopped for a nice lunch in a semi-famous Arab restaurant called "Yunes". We had a very good time there, with the hospitable staff generously talking us into buying less food, rather than more! Now, there's a refreshing approach in a restaurant!

The food itself was excellent. The parents kept to
Hummus and a selection of salads, while the kids had their all time favorite - meats on sticks aka Shish-kebab (aka locally as shishlik). They were taught a few Arab words by the kind waiter who really enjoyed them (and them him as well!) . All in all, we had a great time there, with a lovely "on the house" finale of black Arab coffee, sweet cakes, fresh apples and dates. As perfect as can be, and not very expensive either.

Sitting here typing and listening to the news... We focused on the north today, but Israel's hot front is down south today, with a constant barrage of rockets from Gaza into the town Sderot, along with constant IDF attacks into Gaza. Looks like things are escalating quickly. I did read today that Hammas is doing this intentionally, attempting to drag Israel into a direct conflict. I also read how Shimon Peres said this week that Israel will not have its policy dictated by the Hammas, meaning we won't attack just because they are provoking. Well, looks like attack we do, and I guess now it remains to see just how severely.

It seems pretty clear though, that unless the Palestinians come to their senses in Gaza, the government will have little choice but to increase the attack, maybe even going all the way with a ground attack, literally taking Gaza over again. It's a question of public opinion more than anything. People are too short sighted to see the outcome - they just want the government to do something - anything - to stop the rockets.

On a personal level, I am worried that IsraeliDad may be called in again, for who knows how long, in case things escalate on the Southern front. I sure hope things won't come to that... and not just for my own personal selfish motives either.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Peace Mongering Among "Pro-Israelis"

Thank for the term Peace Mongering Khaled! I sure felt like one these past few days lol. I get this urge to reach out, listen to others and debate things. I sometimes hope that the Internet may help bring people together, maybe help us listen, see other perspectives, get in touch with people with different points of view, learning from others. I still think that is possible, especially witn one-on-one encounters or on very well moderated boards. Otherwise, the other side of Internet discussions rises its ugly head.

I have experienced that only too well over the past 24 hours... I joined a board that declared itself to be "Pro-Israel" and "Pro-America". Now, some of the people posting there are good people, and there were a few posts in threads where I participated that were insightful and well written. I also got a nice PM from one of the moderators. That about ends the positive things I have to say about that board. It didn't take more than two or three members to make me physically ill at the extent of hatred. They reminded me of the fanatic Muslims on the Iranian boards. Calling out to make parking lots of Gaza and Lebanon... not much different than the Syrian poster on the Muslim board rejoicing over the mental image of a chemical attack on Tel Aviv.

The amazing thing is how extremists fail to see that they are mirror image of each other. A Jewish extremist is just like a Muslim one. The exact kind of distorted view of the world in black and white. The same de-humanization and demonization of the other side too. So similar and so blind to one another.

Similar style too, who would have guessed? Say something they disagree with and they go off a tangent right away, calling you every name in their book. I guess demonization becomes a habit after a while lol. It was actually quite funny to begin with. Check out this thread here. It struck me as funny, in the weird sense of the word, to have my support of Israel questioned, my contribution and willingness to "pay the cost" brought into this. Like I was some outsider looking into something that has nothing to do with it. Me, born and bred here, living here, serving this country in the military, raising my kids here...

There's a part of me that wants to move away from these kind of people (Jews or Arabs). Like IsraeliDad says, they're just nuts, so why deal with that? It's disgusting and not good for one's health. I keep telling him that we can't afford to ignore the extremists, because they are the ones who will end up dragging us all into more wars. In the end, it's us that pay the price, not just them (them as well, sometimes, but looks like they don't mind killing and dying like we do). I can and did put a couple of members there on "Ignore" - I'm just not sure we can all afford to do that irl.

Sigh, very frustrating indeed. And just in case there's anyone from "over there" reading this blog here... I doubt that I'll be back often. From time to time, maybe, but not too often. Too easy to get sucked in into that dark hole. Anyway, I wanted to say that my post here does not refer to everyone who posted there in threads where I participated. There are some sane people posting on that board as well... just too many psychos that are allowed to go on preaching their hatred. I can only stomach so much of that in any given period of time ;)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Finally, the Right Statement from Olmert

Olmert says he's ready to talk peace with Arab World

When I was growing up, seeking peace was supposed to be the standard Israeli policy, or so we were told. Common wisdom was that Israel was always reaching out to its enemies and calling for peace. Sadat is immensely popular in Israel to this day, for being the first Arab leader to finally "accept" our offers and show up to talk peace.

I'm not sure when the change took place. How come our government is so peace-shy these days that it takes a special declaration by the Prime Minister to just say that we are "willing" to talk? I expect my government to make clear at all times that Israel is not just "willing" to discuss peace, but is actively seeking peace. Of course, they do actually have to actively seek peace, not just by declarations but by initiating meetings, talks and confidence building measures. We can't afford to "be willing" (let alone to be unwilling!) - peace is in Israel's best interest, first and foremost. If we don't push towards peace, we'll be pushed into war. I know which I prefer.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Entering Dialogues Again

I have been browsing around yesterday and came across an Iranian board in English. The board is geared pretty much towards Iran's defense/military issues. Having read through a few threads, I couldn't help myself and had to sign up and join in the discussions. Well, as can be expected, I think I have close to 20 posts under my wings in under 24 hours :p

An interesting mix of people on that board, and an interesting mix of views. One thing that I found fascinating is something I already noted about before. Reading through people's perceptions of their country's perspective security issues, we are all so self-focused in the end. Looks like everyone feels they are surrounded by enemies - well and maybe they are. Everyone in this region seems to fear their neighbors.

Growing up in "Zionist" Israel the motto for us was "Israel is a small land surrounded by enemies". No one really discussed how these "enemies" see the world around them, but we had just always assumed that these enemies were all united, since they apparently had a common goal (destroying us, of course!) It is rather surprising to see that our "enemies" are far from being united. Not only do they have their own quarrels among themselves, it does seem to be like destroying us isn't always their top priority after all!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I'm an Auntie Again!

Introducing Noah, who was born two days ago to my brother. I absolutely adore this photo, where you can see his large hand and this sweet tiny sleeping baby. Welcome to the world Noah!

Thoughts about Parenthood

Sunday, the day of rest for so many people in the Western World... For us, the start of the new week, with the kids back in kindergarten.

We went out last night, IsraeliDad and myself. Nothing fancy, just coffee and a salad at a coffee shop, but a well needed talk too. We discussed the way our children are raised and finished with some very concrete resolutions. We actually have these talks every now and again, with us deciding to run a tighter ship around here. This time, the UN resolutions for our household include censorship of movies, taking violent Spiderman/Superman catroons off the DVD menu. They also include a general tighter limit on the number of TV hours the kids will be allowed. Now, the problem is that we would need to actually entertain the kids during the no-DVD hours. A daunting prospect, to be honest. A large part of our conversation dealt with ways in which we can keep them happy and pleasantly occupied without the DVD.

We later went over to my mom's to pick up the kids (she was minding them while we were out), and we talked to her about the subject. Funny, we feel, and my mom agrees, that when we were kids, there was less of an issue of "what to do with the kids". We were just there,growing up, doing our thing. When school/kindergarten was over, we would come back home and hang out with friends, or by ourselves. Television broadcasts were very limited in Israel of the 1970's. We had maybe 2-3 hours of boring black-and-white programs a day. We didn't even watch all of it, as most of it was rather boring and "educational". What we did watch can definitely be titled as "mostly harmless" (to borrow from the late Douglas Adams there). What did we do then? Well, as far as I can remember, I spent a lot of time just hanging outside in our backyard watching the snails lol. When I was a little bit older, I used to go to friends or they would come over. My parents never had to "drive" us anywhere. We didn't even own a car (my dad would get "half" a truck from the IDF, so we had a car half of the days).

IsraeliDad maintains that our life was simply boring back then. He says we shouldn't subject our kids to those levels of boredom lol. Me? I just want them out of harm's way and growing up safely and as happy as possible. I am not at all sure that the constant stream of stimuli thrown at them by life is that good. Then again, can we have children today grow up the same way we grew up in the '70's? With today's world around them, the TV, the computer, the overall noise level of gadgets, cars, shows, theme parks... can the innocence of those days possibly be regained?

We'll have to find the right balance I guess. Parenthood is such a huge responsiblity... sigh.

Makes me more politically aware too. I keep thinking how much energy we have to invest into rearing our offspring. Then they grow up, join the army, and their precious lives, into which you've poured so much, are at the hands of people like Peretz and Olmert. IsraeliDad has been reading the Vinograd Report in detail (that's the recently published report of the Vinograd Committee which analyzes the way Israel's leadership handled the war in Lebanon over the summer). Listening to him telling me about the lack of professionalism and sheer irresponsibility really makes me sad, frustrated and worried about my own babies who will be joining the army in under 15 years :(

Friday, May 11, 2007

Talking to the Elders of the Tribe

Let me start by noting that so far, we're still planning on joining the demonstration on the Golan Heights. Turns out we had the dates wrong, so it's next Friday (May 18th) and not this one. Hence, today's post is not related to the demonstration.

Have had a crowded second half to this week so far, topped with a lovely (or not so lovely) migraine last night. I think I'll start a new blog here on this account just to record my migraines, so as not to clutter up this space.

Three days ago, my mother came to visit us and brought my grandfather along with her. My grandpa is 78 years old and lives in Netanya. He was born in Tunisia, in a town called Gabes and came to Israel by himself as a teenager. He went on his journey back in 1947, out of pure old idealistic Zionism. He was a member of a Zionist youth member and came to Israel to build the State of the Jews where his religious family always said home was. He didn't make it in that year.

He was only 18 but had a nice girlfriend already! They planned on coming together on the same ship. A few weeks before their ship was supposed to leave, they were called to come help prepare another ship of Jewish immigrants (since they were both in the Zionist youth movement). My grandfather got busy helping settle the immigrants in the ship. Suddenly, local police forces appeared and the boat had to sail right away. His girlfriend managed to get off the boat, but it was too late for him, and so he sailed to "Palestine" a few weeks ahead of time.

As they approached the beaches of Palestina, they were surrounded by British boats. My grandfather loves telling that story of how four huge British Navy ships surrounded the tiny boat and almost crushed her. They were escorted to Cyprus and put in a refugee camp there. A few weeks later, his girlfriend arrived at Cyprus. Same story, different ship. A year later, still in Cyprus, they got married. Then the State of Israel was established and they came over, finally as legal immigrants. Shortly afterwards, my mother was born, while they were living in a local refugee camp (Ma'abara).

Well, I have heard this story more than once before. This time, sitting with my grandpa by our dining table, I asked him about other things. I asked what made them come to Israel to begin with. What made them leave Tunisia and what did they leave behind. My grandpa was only too happy to share his boyhood memories. For him, the reason for leaving Tunisia was simple. They had been living in fear and feeling persecuted. I have heard so often about how Jews and Arabs lived well together in Arab countries, that my grandfather's recollections surprised me a little.

He described in detail the day when his mother was attacked by Arabs in the marketplace (left with a huge scar on her leg where they knifed her). Then he talked about how as soon as the Nazis invaded, the Arabs would volunteer to walk with the Nazi soldiers and point out the Jews to them. The encounter would end with some humiliating public kicking only at that point (although later on, men in the family were already sent to camps set up by the Nazis in Tunisia).

In short, he explained, there was no question in the minds of the Jews living in his community that they had to leave, and the sooner the better. Even before the establishment of the State of Israel, many left and tried breaking into the then Palestina as illegal immigrants. During the 19'50s and 1960's most of the Jews left, about half of them to France and the other half to Israel.

Well, I asked, did your family have any property back there? Did they manage to sell it before they joined you here (in the early Fifties). Well, that got a nice laugh from my Grandpa... He said no one in their right mind would buy property off the Jews. People would say, "Why should we buy from you? You have to leave anyway, and you're going to leave it to us for free, so why should we pay?". So, they left it all behind. The house he grew up in, the whole neighborhood, was simply given up, as the Jews were driven out. Actually, what he lamented the most was the public buildings. I got to listen to a long description of the community synagogue, and other community buildings, where my Grandfather had spent many days as a child, being the son of a Rabbi.

Why bring up this story now? I'm not sure really. I guess Khaled's recent visit made me think more about those historical times. Learning more about the wrongdoings of Zionism, made me curious about our side as well. I always knew that my family, especially on my mother's side, lived in what was basically refugee camps for a few years before they were given proper housing. I never really bothered to ask why, and why didn't they have enough money to buy their own place right away.

This story, to me, isn't about pointing fingers or laying the blame on one side or another. To me it shows just how complicated history is and how the violent times of the previous century effected so many people adversely. Things we read about in history books, were life changing events for people a few generations before us, and I felt it was necessary for me to tell this tale here, while my grandfather is still with us.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Political Friday on the Horizon

Looks like we may be able to make it to the demonstration in the Golan Heights on Friday after all! Our nephew's Bar Mitzva party is going to be on Saturday and the demonstration is on Friday.

It's a huge deal for us here, frankly. I am not sure which of my family members are reading my blog, but I know that for some of them, the fact that we will be going to this demonstration is heartbreaking. You see, we will be calling for the government of Israel to launch peace talks with Syria. Such peace talks, in all likelihood, will involve discussions and at some point, if peace is achieved, implementation of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. ID's older brother lives there with his wife and four children. It's been their home ever since 1979. They live in a beautiful flourishing kibbutz there, which they have literally built with their own hands. They have turned their hill there from a barren pile of rocks and thorny weed into a gorgeous green and prosperous kibbutz, where social ideals still reign. Their four children were born there. Their oldest daughter is in her early twenties, their youngest is a teenager. For these kids, that is their home and there is no other. Should they be made to leave, it will literally devastate their lives. Unlike the settlers in the West Bank, they are not oppressing any local population. They live a peaceful life there, growing apples, cherries and cows and tending to their gardens and landscaping.

So, you see, we will not be telling them about going to this demonstration. For us to be supporting peace talks with Syria, in essence supporting a withdrawal from the Golan Heights would be too painful to discuss probably. I hope the kids won't talk too much, as we will be seeing them on the weekend, sigh. It won't be a happy demonstration for us, in that respect. The price to be paid is too close to home in this case.

And yet, we still believe whole heartedly, that as beautiful as the Golan is, and as admirable as the kibbutzim there are, preventing the next war with Lebanon is what really counts. I truly believe that a peace agreement with Syria is the only way to solve the Lebanon problem for Israel. Moreover, I believe that entering negotiations with Syria, in good faith on both sides, might be the only way to prevent the war currently looking on the regional horizon. Everyone talking about a war with Lebanon again, maybe in the summer. They're talking like it's inevitable, based on declaration constantly made by the heads of Hezbulla. I truly believe that negotiations with Syria may be the only thing that can stop this.

I confess, I don't care much for hummus in Damascus. A warm and mutually hospitable peace is not my agenda. Frankly, between my family's well being and hummus, I opt for the first. But this isn't what negotiations and peace with Syria is about. It's about stabilizing the region, in particularly defusing the threat by the HA. It will affect more than the north too. It will be a blow to extremists all over the region, showing them that Syria is leaving the "Axis of Evil" and joining forces with the moderates. It may pave the way later on for negotiations with the Hammas as well.

In short, this is about preventing war. Now and later. It's about preventing more soldiers and civilians from being killed in pointless wars, this year and in future years. That is the only thing that is worth uprooting people from their homes, if it comes down to that.

And it may not even come to that. Negotiations are just that - we can discuss the future of the settlers and the settlements. Negotiations in themselves will be a stabilizing factor, and as such should be entered into as soon as feasibly possible. Hope to be reporting from the demonstration on the weekend.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Back to Work

Gradually getting depoliticized again lol (thanks for the OD, Khaled!)

Been spending the last week trying to scrape out more work time. I have tons of online projects that I'm playing with atm, and they each require time. IsraeliDad plays an online RPG (Role play Game) called World of Warcraft (you may have heard of it, it's more or less the number one online game at the moment). While many wives complain that they have become World of Warcraft widows, I try not to complain too much, as I certainly understand his addiction. "I just have to play some, I have a new character I'm working on", or "Just half an hour more, I'm about to make it to the next level", are common quotes from him these days. In a sense my work is the same. I am addicted to creating websites for revenue, and all I need is just half an hour more to create another blog, or an hour to learn a new skill, and trying real hard to make it to the next level in daily revenue, or maybe even open up a new revenue channel. So many challenges, so little time!

At least I'm lucky in having ID take care of the boring aspects of managing the business. He's the one in charge of book keeping and other such tedious red tape tasks. He did try the web publishing roles too, but he just doesn't have the bug, I guess.

One of my latest tasks in my game is building a chain of hub pages over at I only did a few, but one of them might be of interest to anyone reading this and thinking, "hmmmm maybe I could do this too?" You don't need to have any web publishing skills, no need to buy domains or web hosting. All you need is to get your own hub pages, promote them and make some money. It won't make you rich, but if you like this kind of game, you could develop it later on. Check out my articles -

Home Business Recipe using Hub Pages

Choosing A Topic for your HubPage

By the way, I hope you like the new layout. The old one didn't show up properly on Firefox, and I felt like a change anyway. It was either a haircut or a new template to my blog ;)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Thoughts Following Khaled's Visit

It's been a bit of a weird day here so far. I got back into bed after sending the kids off to kindergarten. Woke up more or less on time to go pick them up. They're resting in their bedroom now (ok, ok, watching a DVD, sue me... it does mean they're in bed!) and I finally have a few minutes for coffee and reflections.

We stayed up late last night here, sitting around the table with Khaled, my dear father-in-law, our friends Arnon and Deb, and IsraeliDad and myself. We just talked and talked and talked, until it was time for Khaled to go catch his train and go to the airport. At some points, we reflected on the visit, at others, we discussed possible solutions for the future, and there were times (quite a few) where we dragged ourselves back to one of the historic debates that were so common along the visit.

I learned a lot during this visit. I have learned a lot from Khaled before the visit as well (as he put is so eloquently, "I have been exposed to his poison before..." ;)), but somehow going through the debates again along with others helped me see some things more clearly. The one thing that stuck on my mind the most relates to the historical aspects of the conflict but is very significant for understanding the current situation and coming up with solutions as well. It is the huge difference between the respective narratives of each side. There we are, facing an ocean of historical facts (and those are more than enough btw, no need to come up with tales and fantasies on top of that..), and each side seems to pick up their own pieces of the colorful rubble and create their own narrative from that. Every point of the conflict, as far back as we went, we discovered that we mostly agree on the facts, yet come up with different interpretations to them. A different story, or history, is created by each side.

What's more, these being such emotional issues at core, it is all too easy to get upset, shake your head in disbelief at the other's "fantastic and ludicrous tale", and give up on it. In many ways, it is so much easier to hold on to your familiar comfy fortress of views and just disregard the other side's perspective. Of course, by sticking to your own narrative, the only way to explain the other side's behavior is by saying that they are either stupid, cruel, out go get you/your land, or all of the above together. Any settlement you achieve within this mindset is going to be extremely fragile, obviously.

Well, I think we can be proud of not going that route during Khaled's visit. There was genuine interest in each other's perspectives and narratives. We spent hours talking and simply explaining the logic's behind each side's actions. When you're on that side, what you do seems only too clear. You know why you're doing it, and you assume that the other side (the stupid and evil side) understands your thinking as well. They only respond the way they do because, well, they are evil and stupid, duh. Explaining intentions and thoughts behind each side's actions went a long long way with us. Be it the Six-Day-War, the Wye Plantation Talks, the Intifada, the way the IDF treats Palestinians, the boycott on the peace with Israel by the Egyptian elites... the list goes on and on and on. Every topic we touched, I think we managed to cover some ground in dispelling the notions of "stupid and evil" and going on to actually understanding each side better. I hope Khaled feels something like that about Israel and its policies, I know we have made great progress when it comes to understanding the Arab positions on so many topics. The reason we were able to do that? because we became friends, I think. We shared meals, chit-chat, road trips. There was zero hostility, and it enabled us to move forward with this loaded dialogue and actually listen.

So... where do we take it from here? Is there something to be gained from this visit, other than a great friendship formed across borders? I believe so. It may take a while for things to sink between us. We need to ferment now, then we'll see, maybe. I am not delusional enough to think that the small circle here is going to break new grounds - we will probably not be the one to bring everlasting peace to the planet... There are many people around these parts making more serious efforts in that direction too (read Khaled's blog to find out more about them).

For me, the visit motivated me even further to reach out, learn more about our neighbors, talk to people, and maybe get active again with the concept of getting people from both sides to get to know each other. As human beings first, forming online friendships even, and then as representatives of a different narrative. One that can co-exist with ours, perhaps without the need to settle things through an armed conflict.