I wanted to write about Eurovision, but this week (shakes head)

  • Israel won Eurovision with a goofy song and it’s a BIG DEAL
  • Jerusalem Day happened and I didn’t notice this year
  • The United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem and it’s a BIG DEAL
  • Beitar Jerusalem changed its name to Beitar “Trump” Jerusalem and that’s just DUMB
  • The violence on the Gaza border erupted and it’s a BIG DEAL
  • Guatemala opened its embassy in Jerusalem and nobody noticed
  • The Nakba was commemorated by the Palestinians and people mostly outside Israel noticed
  • Ramadan started on Thursday
  • Shavuot will be celebrated on Sunday

Like I said, I really wanted to write about Eurovision. People in the US have never heard of it, but I’m sure everyone has heard of ABBA, winners of the contest in the 1970s. For Israel, it’s a big deal. It brings us into the family of nations. Israel competing in European contests links us to Europe (Eurovision, European Champions League [soccer/football], European Championship [basketball]). Winning a competition means that the next finals competition will take place in the winner’s country and, for Israel, that means recognition and a chance to win over the Europeans to show them that Israel is not the vicious colonial oppressor perpetrating genocidal mania.

There is a lot of pride in Israel that we won and I so much wanted to like the song. To be honest, meh. It sounds dumb: “I’m not your toy, you stupid boy!” And chicken noises? I tell myself that it’s similar to beatboxing. But the message is strong and I’m glad that the winner, Netta Barzilai, is such a unique and amazing person. I saw this and I think it’s worth sharing. Take the two minutes:

Netta

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/entertainment-arts-44073911/netta-meet-eurovision-2018-s-metoo-voice

(Seriously, I could watch this video over and over. I love her!)

Fun fact: The last time Israel won Eurovision was in 1998 with a song called “Diva” sung by transgender artist Dana International.

This great achievement was overshadowed by the US embassy opening the day after Jerusalem Day. We had a lot of big names and it was very political. Most people I know were more concerned about not getting stuck in traffic.

Israel states very clearly that Jerusalem is the undivided eternal capital of the Jewish people. Even during the 19 years Jerusalem was divided, Israel yearned to unify it. The US moving its embassy to finally officially recognize the capital is important and more countries are moving to do the same. I’m glad about it, of course. Still, I’m left with the question: Why move it now? It’s a feather for Trump’s cap in the sense that he kept a campaign promise (though it’s actually a promise to another country). But I’m not sure what it does for the big picture in the Middle East. I’m not an analyst, so I’ll let you research it on your own. I haven’t found a good answer yet.

All of that was overshadowed by the violence in Gaza. Some media is reporting that the riots are because of the embassy move, but that’s not entirely true. It’s a convenient coincidence. Some foreign media are reporting it as peaceful protesters getting mowed down by oppressive military forces and that’s not true at all. It’s a short blog post and you can do your own research, but I will leave you with a few thoughts.

  1. The “protest” started on March 30 as The Great March of Return set to culminate on Nakba Day (May 15). The plan seemed to be to breach the fence, burn down border crossings where humanitarian aid comes through, burn tires, throw rocks, and plant explosive devices along the border. The Molotov cocktails are not for sipping poolside and bonus points apparently awarded for cutting people’s hearts out with cleavers. Source.
    hearts
  2. Salah Al-Bardawi tells an interviewer on Arabic TV
    Hamas members.PNG
    Source.
  3. A “protester” arrested at the border has had enough (of Hamas) and tells the truth
    womanchildren
    Source.

Israel is not always right and it’s definitely okay to criticize actions taken by the government. The job of the army is to defend the citizens of Israel (aka their families) and that is exactly what the IDF is doing in Gaza right now.

Honestly, I wish I could have just written about Eurovision.

Jerusalem scenes

Sunday, May 13, is Jerusalem Day marking 51 years since the city was reunified.  When I lived in the center of town, I could look over my balcony and enjoy the parade marching by.

Now that I’ve moved, I see a different Jerusalem, the one that real people live in day to day, not the one that is on the news or the politically charged one on the internet.

***

Cat-astrophe

Last week I didn’t write because I had a cat situation. Long story short: my vet makes house calls and came to my apartment at 2am. It was his last call of the day. He ended up doing oral surgery on my cat on the coffee table.

Sport disco

I returned home on Wednesday (aka the day after Trump announced he was pulling the US out of the Iran deal) to hear my neighbor getting psyched up for the Beitar Jerusalem soccer match that night. His method? Opening his window, placing the speaker on the ledge, and turning it up to 11 to play songs like this:

 

Ani ohev otach Betar – I love you Beitar!

He played other songs in a similar style. (Mizrachi music will have to get a separate blog post as I learn more. Though to be honest I closed all my windows to try to shut it out, but it didn’t help.)

Beitar Jerusalem publicity video (Is that music from Gladiator in the background?)

Later in the evening, I heard cheering from Teddy Stadium. I don’t live that close to the stadium, or at least I didn’t think I did. I’m not sure what was being cheered since Beitar lost to Haifa in a shocking upset (so say the news articles).

And Bruce Lee too?

As part of the International Writer’s Festival this week in Jerusalem, one of the writers was asked to speak and choose a movie that was meaningful to him. He chose Enter the Dragon. Before the film, he had a conversation with an Israeli writer and it was interesting – although not exactly what I had expected.

Enter the Dragon trailer

Anyway, try to imagine who might have been in the audience at a 9pm screening. Is your first thought little old ladies who bring snacks in small noisy bags?  One sat behind me making comments in Hebrew during the English conversation (loud enough to be heard on the stage) and then gasped and oohed and ahed during the movie. At some point her companion told her to be quiet because people were giving her looks. The guy sitting in front of me who had a bird’s nest hairstyle took his shoes off and put his feet on the seats in front. The rest of the audience seemed more or less normal from my observational post, but interestingly, it seemed that there were more women than men or perhaps more accurately, there were not as many men as I would have expected.

Sure, we heard news this week about attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. I saw that the door to the bomb shelter in my local park was open.

And yet.

People live here. They don’t cower in fear and pause their lives (unless they absolutely have to) here.

Next Sunday, Jerusalem will celebrate its reunification and the people of Jerusalem will dance in the streets because we choose life and freedom (and American Israelis will call their mothers. Happy Mother’s Day!).

And the day after that, Monday, May 14, we’ll open the US Embassy in Jerusalem. That should be exciting!

The Week that Was

Hmm, what happened last week?

Well, Mom is visiting.

Mike Huckabee came to the Begin Center (where I work), visited the museum, and gave an interview to Channel 2.

The new US Ambassador coincidentally met Steven Tyler at the Western Wall. Actually, that was the week before.

We spent the week celebrating Jerusalem Day, which this year marked 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem.  The parade went right by my house!

 

Oh, right!  The President of the United States visited Israel.

There’s plenty of analysis and deconstruction of his visit all over the internet, and I can’t really add anything very enlightening.  I can say that if my only view of him was how he presented himself to the Israeli media, I would say that he did pretty well.  He went to the Western Wall – the only sitting president to have done so – and that says a lot to us here in Israel.

Trump, I think, also gets points for taking such a difficult foreign trip.  Air Force One is the only plane that has gone from Saudi Arabia directly to Israel and our media took note of it.

Granted there were a few faux pas.  When Trump called terrorists “losers,” I thought back to my 11th grade English teacher who always reminded us to “elevate our vocabularies.”  I chuckled to myself when Trump mispronounced the name of the king of Saudi Arabia – he’s Salman, not Solomon.  I was more surprised that he mispronounced Elie Wiesel’s name.

While the US watched to make sure Trump didn’t misstep during such a potentially diplomatically dangerous trip, we here in Israel had our own problems.  We have a guy who is called “Israel’s Trump” and he wears the name with pride.  Somehow he ended up in the greeting line at the airport – it was a question as to how he got there since the government says he wasn’t invited and he says that he was.  And then he took a selfie with the president of the United States.  A SELFIE!  *FACE PALM*

trump-selfie-feature

It became an instant meme in Israel.
Hazan-with-Kotel-paratroopers

Paratroopers at the Western Wall in June 1967, which is a nice link to Jerusalem Day. Source.

Trump originally wanted to speak from Masada, but due to the heat and the fact that Marine One isn’t allowed to land in the middle of a UNESCO archaeological site – not to mention where would everyone sit? – he went Yad Vashem as most leaders do.  Strangely, his main speech was at the Israel Museum not the Knesset.  It turns out that Israel couldn’t guarantee respectful behavior of the members of Knesset, so they decided to have a select crowd at the Israel Museum instead.

The prime minister’s wife, Sarah Netanyahu, was quite chatty and seemed to be in everyone’s business, not to mention making her own little faux pas, but perhaps it was because Bibi Netanyahu wasn’t feeling very well.  A few days after the visit, Bibi went to the hospital for a little procedure to deal with some kidney stones.

With minefields of potential embarrassments and diplomatic danger zones at every turn on both sides, the trip to Israel went surprisingly well.  (I guess since then Trump’s trip has taken a turn for the worse, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.)

Final thought: As an outsider to politics, Trump isn’t doing things the way they’ve always been done.  He cares little for diplomatic protocol and seems to speak without a filter.  While I’m personally not a fan of Trump, I can see some benefit to flipping diplomacy on its head. It’s also pretty risky and has the potential to create diplomatic fiascoes.  But in Israel, this time, Trump’s variation from the norm seemed to work.