Tag Archives: Israel

I was unfriended by a (Jewish) American Journalist

A few days ago I discovered that I had been unfriended by a Facebook friend, who is also a journalist living in the US (of course I won’t mention names).

In the first week of the war, this person, who lives on the West Coast, posted a few articles that were slanted against Israel. I was surprised as I knew her from the days she lived here and she always struck me as a balanced person. The first article that made me pause was the article placing some of the blame for the killing of lone soldier Max Steinberg in the fighting in Gaza on the Birthright program. I was shocked by this awful bit of low blow journalism, but I didn’t comment.

When she posted an article that blasted Israel solely for the suffering of Gazans, and took not one line of space in her preamble to point to any wrongdoing on the part of Hamas, I decided to comment. I would cut and paste my comment but for reasons mentioned above, I no longer have to access to it, so I’ll just have to reconstruct as best I can. What I wrote, and not in a rant (but you’ll have to take my word for that), was that the parents of children in Israel who are running to the shelters with their kids every day, several times a day, are entitled to be defended, and that it’s easy when you’re in the safety and security of the West Coast of the USA to criticize Israel’s attempts to protect its innocent citizens.

A couple of weeks later, I remembered my comment and was surprised that there’d been no further comments popping up on my page in response. When I checked, I saw why – I was no longer her “friend”. The loss of this particular Facebook friend gave me no cause for a pity party. But what got my Middle Eastern goat was the fact that this person, who is an esteemed member of the press, and I would like to think supports the notion that different people have different opinions based on their particular life experience, found my personal point of view about innocent Israelis’ suffering so offensive that she couldn’t bear having me as a Facebook friend.

It’s one thing to read articles written by journalists I don’t know who are too blind, to biased or too scared to try to show both sides of the situation. But when I know the person, and know that they know what it’s like living in Israel, it turns my stomach to think that they worship at the altar of Jodi Rudoren and her ilk, hiding behind an outmoded concept of journalistic “objectivity” so they can conform to a new PC approach to Israel that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with reality.

Was she too chicken to challenge me on my opinion? Maybe it didn’t suit her to stoop down to the level of an average Israeli Joe and debate the issue with a pleb like me. Maybe she didn’t want to engage with a person who in fact supports a two-state solution and isn’t a right-winger she can so easily dismiss to herself.

Whatever the reason, this trivial action took my already shaky opinion of journalists in general (and I used to be one at one point, and I know some brilliant journalists who I will always respect) and tarnished it even further. Give me a blogger any day, who doesn’t cower behind a large organization and offers opinions that you can take or leave, but that you know are their own.

This journalist taught me one thing: Just because you’re a journalist doesn’t mean that you are incapable of putting on blinkers and being as closed minded as the next guy. The media ivory tower is clearly a lot closer to the ground than we thought, and maybe that’s just where it should be so that people know that their news often comes from fallible people.

With Facebook friends like this….

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Looking Forward

Israeli-flagMurmurs in the media are talking of a real cease fire. As an optimistic person by nature, and somewhat of a pragmatist, my mind quickly turns to all the things I am looking forward to in the days “after”.

Not having to give my kids a long, neurotic lecture before they leave the house: “Do you know where there are shelters where you’re going?”; “You know not to be wandering around anywhere too far from a shelter”; “Make sure your phone is charged”; “Be careful, be careful, be careful.”

Not having to drive in a panic from my little rural town through what we know in Israel now as “open areas”, as those are the areas into which the Iron Dome allows missiles to fall because the risk is low of hitting anything. And not having to rethink my car journeys to make sure I don’t drive through open areas I can actually avoid, and rather take the longer routes through traffic.

Not jumping every time I hear a lawnmower start or a truck drive down the street, because they sound like sirens.

Not spending endless hours glued to the TV news, hanging on every word of every commentator, and hoping for some good news for a change, that doesn’t come. And not waking up in the morning and reaching for my phone to find out if anything has changed, before I’ve had my first cup of tea.

Not feeling compelled to read every Protective Edge-related article posted on Facebook, and getting irritated with the obnoxious, inflammatory comments posted by ignorant idiots from all over the world who know nothing from nothing. And not feeling mildly jealous when I see posts from friends on Facebook in other countries who get to complain about bad service, inclement weather and annoying neighbors. I also want to be able to complain about boring shit again on Facebook.

Not rationalizing that 43 missiles fired at Israel in one day is “better” than the 60 fired the previous day.

Not feeling deeply guilty that I live in a relatively quiet area of Israel while others live in virtual hell, rushing to shelters several times a day and night.

Not looking around for signs that point to shelters in every place I go to.

Not hearing airplanes flying over my house, which is under the current safe flight path from Ben Gurion Airport, and not experiencing the irrational fear of flying in our skies these days, on top of to my existing irrational fears of flying.

Not having my thoughts unduly occupied by the Hamas, the UN, the anti-Semites worldwide, Qatar, Kerry, and the moronic celebrities who for some reason think they’re as smart as they look.

But most importantly, I truly, and from the depths of my heart, look forward to not feeling the constant dread that more of our precious soldiers are losing their lives and that more families in Israel are joining the ranks of the bereaved; and to not be holding my breath for all my friends and family whose loved ones are serving our country and risking their lives to make Israel a safer place to live in.

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From Terror to Complacency in Five Short Days

Smoke from a downed missle

Smoke from the downed missile

Some more thoughts from our war zone…

It amazes me how Israelis, especially the youngest ones, adapt so quickly to situations and normalize them so fast. Once again, while we were on the baseball field somewhere in central Israel, at 16:30 today the sirens went off. Because we are in an open area, the sound of the siren isn’t very loud. I heard it and immediately ordered the kids near me (10-11-year-olds) to move into the safe rooms near the field. None of them looked very concerned. One quickly said: “But it sounds so far away. Why do we have to go?” My response was short and to the point (to say the least), and they all got up and hustled over the bases, past the dug outs, into the safe room.

Some claimed to have heard the booms, signifying that a missile  has been intercepted by the Iron Dome (may it be blessed). Just a couple of minutes into being the the safe room, the kiddies were restless and ready to leave. These situations create a short learning curve – within hours of the first missiles being fired last week, we understood that the danger comes in the minutes after the Iron Dome intercepts the missile, because that’s when the hot metal fragments come plummeting down to earth. So once again I had to exert my motherly authority and use my “strict” voice to keep them from scuttling back to the field prematurely. The players from the older team (14-15-year-olds) rolled their eyes at me. But I stood firm.

Glad I did. When we emerged, I noticed that not too far away, there was a significant display of billowing white smoke. Then the emergency services sirens started blaring from all directions. A brother of one of the players showed up with news – a missile had in fact been shot down and its fiery remains lay smoldering in a field not too far from us.

On the way home, with my 15-year-old son and two of his team mates in the car, I got a little jumpy when I heard a song that had siren-like sounds in the background. I quickly turned off the radio to check if the sound was coming from outside the car. And more eye rolling – this time from my son. “Mom, you’re being paranoid,” he said in his droll teenage monotone, without lifting his eyes from the What’s App screen on his phone. I confess that I am a little envious of this state of youthful complacency in the face of all this terror we are enduring. Oh to be 15 again!

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‎25 years of Israel – the inexplicable and the great

January 23, 1989 - Day 1 of my ulpan at Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael. Me on the left with my friend Lara

January 23, 1989 – Day 1 of ulpan at Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael. Me on the left with my friend Lara

Today 25 years ago I arrived in Israel. It’s a lifetime ago. At the time, I wasn’t even sure I was going to stay, but the fact that I’m sitting here a quarter of a century (eek!) later tells the story.

To say that Israel is a quirky little country is probably the understatement of the quarter century. After so many years, it amazes me that there are still things that I cannot get used to (and it’s official – I probably never will), but some I wouldn’t give up for anything. So at this auspicious time in my immigrant history, it’s time for a “brief” list of some of the inexplicable as well as the “won’t give up for anything” quirks (and sometimes the intersection of the two) that make living here a unique experience.

The inexplicable

  • The list has to start with driving habits– 25 years later, and some of the scenes on the roads here still amaze and horrify me – red lights optional; parking in the middle of the road; driving down the wrong side of the road, etc., etc., etc., etc…. The upside: When you drive in Italy, you have no idea why people say Italians are the worst drivers. Compared to our roads, theirs are a pleasure.
  • I have yet to meet an Israeli who isn’t disgusted by the combination of chocolate and mint! Adding copious clumps of mint leaves to sweet tea is a national passion, but that same flavor with anything chocolate is met with total revulsion.

    Bamba

    Bamba

  • Bamba as one of the four main food groups for children! ‘Nuff said.
  • Israel has evolved into a sophisticated country, with Tel Aviv known as one of the most cosmopolitan hot spots in the world, overflowing with happening clubs, bars, restaurants, high culture, innovation…and yet we still love that high priest of musical kitsch, the Eurovision Song Contest. How? Why? Oy!
  • Hebrew spelling… after all these years I still make mistakes. The upside: It amuses my Israeli friends and colleagues, but nope, that doesn’t make me feel better.
  • The phenomenon of the Israeli line/queue… a cultural icon and the cause of much public strife. I’ve never understood why people would rather argue about their place in the line for 10 minutes instead of just waiting patiently; why they have to insist that “they had been there and just went to do who knows what” and are claiming their rightful place; why they cannot help themselves from peering over your shoulder as you punch in your ATM code… Confession: When I’m abroad, I have been known to employ local tactics to get ahead in lines of very polite and patient locals. Why wait? I’m an Israeli.

Won’t give up for anything

  • Living in Israel means being surrounded by technology, and being connected all the time (even if it does mean that 9 out of 10 people constantly have their heads in a phone). As a nation, our lack of patience with each other is only surpassed by our lack of patience with slow connections!I feel this most when I’m in another country and there’s minimal wi-fi, the connections are painfully slow and mobile phone reception is spotty, and I get to say how spoiled I am back home because we’re so advanced – score 1 for Israel.
  • The salad country

    The salad country

    Salad! No country in the world offers main course salads like Israel does. Our national obsession with fresh vegetables is a great habit we should be proud of. For years now I’ve never understood why you can’t get fresh vegetables for breakfast abroad or a big main course salad. Learn something from us, people!

  • Instant conversations: Everyone’s up for a chat, whether you’re standing in line at the meat counter, or buying shoes or in a taxi (less fun). You’re never alone and you’re never going to have to wonder what someone’s REAL opinions are (also sometimes not too much fun). On the downside – be prepared to reveal what you’ve paid for everything you own.
  • Our weather…we have a lot of tzurres here in our corner of the Middle East, that’s for sure, but one thing we can boast about is our weather. Years ago, a fellow oleh from the UK told me that he made not Zionist, but meteorological Aliyah – makes sense. Yes, it’s rather hot in the summer, but let’s face it, when our friends and family in the US are being battered by hurricanes, tornadoes, and snow storms, we can be a little smug about our reliable 8 months of sunshine and our relatively calm winters that every 10 years or so give rise to a conversation-worthy storm.
  • Applause on landing is one of those corny yet irresistible Israeli quirks. After 25 years of flying to and from Israel, it still makes me smile.

    That mushy feeling of coming home

    That mushy feeling of coming home

  • And then… coming home… no matter where I go, landing in Israel IS coming home, and there’s no place like this one.

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Multi-tasking the Peace Process

A recent spate of articles that characterize Israelis as being indifferent to the prospects of peace in the Middle East make me wonder: What exactly does the rest of the world expect Israelis to be doing during yet another round of negotiations?

The recent Time cover story by Karl Vick “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” and Roger Cohen’s op-ed piece in the New York Times “Peace Talks? What’s on TV?” each express bewilderment about how Israelis obliviously go about their daily business – developing software, following the latest season of Israel’s version of American Idol, getting their kids off to school, etc. – while Netanyahu and Abbas have it out over the lofty issues of Middle East peace.

Considering that the rest of the world thinks that life in Israel is “as seen on TV” – a militaristic nation of people who, when they aren’t serving in the army, are all either building illegal homes or ducking rockets, it’s not surprising that they also think that its citizens only think, talk and breathe politics. At the discovery that we don’t, they seem to think we should all turn off our TVs, cancel our gym memberships, close our businesses, and most certainly avoid going to the beach, eating in restaurants or traveling abroad, and instead gather in the town squares to wrangle over political issues until the day there is peace in the Middle East. (And I’m wondering here if Americans abandoned their TV sets when the US invaded Afghanistan or Iraq. I suspect that prime time ratings didn’t drop too much.)

Well, strangely enough, Israelis DO have lives and can multi-task the peace process. Contrary to this latest buzz about blasé Israelis, we do care. It’s just that we’ve been caring for 17 long years. After 17 years the magic fades. Indifference sets in as we exercise our democratic right to be skeptical and only listen with half an ear to the proceedings in their “same squabbles; different year” formats. We switch from the news to CSI quicker than we did when we were transfixed by the historic pictures of Rabin, Arafat and Clinton on the White House lawn in 1993.

But if and when peace does come, Israelis will embrace it with a far longer attention span than the international media, and at the same time, we’ll continue sending our kids to school, peddling apartments and, of course, watching TV.

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Israel, wake up and smell the information age

The first news report I heard on Israeli Army radio yesterday morning announced that Navy Seals had killed nine of the peace activists aboard the ships attempting to sail to Gaza to bring relief to its citizens.

The Israeli newscasters were floundering around with the news, stating over and over that neither the government nor the army had made any statements to the press. The message being broadcast inside of Israel was as simple as the message to the rest of the world: Armed Israeli soldiers killed innocent activists who were on a mission of peace. Not good. Not good at all, no matter what side of the political spectrum you support. I was mortified.

As the news continued, still no word from the government: Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Canada because why would he possibly think that this event, which was fully anticipated, to the point that the police set up detention tents with rows of plastic chairs ready to receive arrested activists, would cause problems…? His genius lackeys certainly aren’t capable of putting two words together for the world to hear.

Where was the PR? Where was the footage of Israeli soldiers being attacked that started emerging 24 hours later? Where was the message that maybe the expedition wasn’t quite what the world (and Israel) thought it was?

In the age of YouTube, where nothing is true until a 2:30 minute clip appears on the Internet, why is the Israeli government still stuck in a rut of 1970s secrecy and paranoia? Why are there no embedded journalists accompanying our soldiers on the missions and releasing the footage to the world instantly?

I deeply believe that Israel should not be killing innocent civilians. I also deeply believe that Israel has the right to defend its citizens and its borders. But most of all, I deeply believe that our government has absolutely no clue about how to be open and transparent.

If the soldiers really did kill innocent civilians, then shame on us and shame on the government for taking their lives and in the process dragging Israel into yet another international fiasco that should have been avoided. If the victims weren’t as innocent as many would have the world believe, then shame on the government for not getting that information out there in real time, and letting the world know. If the ruling Israeli hand wringers would wake up and realize that we live in the information age, maybe Israel would stand half a chance of surviving the war of public opinion.

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I’m so proud

Occasionally I have an excuse to get patriotic…here I go…

Life isn’t always about the biggest and the best, but sometimes it is. So here’s a question: Which country has set up the biggest field hospital to tend to the Haitian victims of the recent earthquake? It’s Israel.

There isn’t a single Israeli missing in Haiti and there are only about 25 Jews living in Haiti out of a total population of 9 million, and still, without hesitation, 220 Israeli medical and search and rescue staff packed their bags and left their families behind to help out in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

We’re always happy to quote our “per capita” statistics – Israel has the highest number of startups per capita, Israel has the highest number of home computers per capita, Israel has the highest number of patents filed per capita, etc., etc.  I am sure that anyone doing a quick calculation will come up with a similar statistic about Israeli relief workers in Haiti – after all, our field hospital already takes a “top” spot. But whether or not we can add a new “per capita” stat to our long list is immaterial. What’s more important here is pride. It’s that old fashioned pride that we have when our tiny little nation steps up to the global plate and makes a difference, ahead of so many bigger, richer and more influential counties who are conspicuous by their absence. It’s the smile that it brings to our faces when we hear about the Israeli soldiers rescuing the Haitian government official after he was trapped in the rubble for four days.

It’s our Israel values at their very best – we care, we help, and we use our expertise for the good of humanity. We can be proud to live where this type of behavior is a given. This is the biggest and best a country can give to its citizens.

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