5 things that happened in Israel recently that maybe you didn’t hear about

  1. Guatemala opened its embassy in Jerusalem
  2. Paraguay opened its embassy in Jerusalem
    Hardly a blip on the international radar. I wonder why that is.thinker-28741_1280
  3. Argentina canceled its pre-World Cup friendly match in Jerusalem. This one is complicated because there are unconfirmed stories everywhere. There seems to be agreement that protesters were encouraged to wave Messi jerseys smeared with fake blood. It’s been said that Messi and his family were threatened. Some are reporting that the cancellation is because the game was moved from Haifa to Jerusalem. The BBC, linked here, says it’s because of the Gaza violence (which no one has said except the BBC).
  4. Speaking of Gaza, I haven’t seen very much about Hamas’s incendiary kites. These are not the Mary Poppins version of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”; these are kites flown over the border to cause fires. So far a nature reserve has been damaged and 6,200 acres of agricultural land has been destroyed. (One wonders why somebody who wants to move back into a house he says is his would set it on fire.)
  5. But I’m gonna end on a high note. A quarter of a million people (250,000) came to Tel Aviv to participate in the 20th annual Gay Pride March. It’s one of the largest marches in the world. Jews, Arabs, Israelis, and foreigners. Even the British Embassy had a float – the only diplomatic mission participating in the parade! See video here, more pictures here.

There may be those who would say that Tel Aviv is cold-hearted for celebrating Gay Pride while there’s violence in Gaza and fields are on fire in the south.

I say screw ‘em: In Israel, we value life and we celebrate it at every opportunity. As human beings we have a right to laugh, to love, and to be joyful. But more than that, we have a right to live, to exist. We will not be broken by fear or swirl into the abyss of sorrow.

The glass, my friends, is half full!

It wouldn’t be Gay Pride without Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame reminding us that life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.

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.

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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!

Flash flood

Lots of stuff happened in the world this week, but the top story in Israel was the loss of 10 young people (9 girls and a boy) who were swept away in a flash flood in the Judean Desert.

When I read the names and locations, it seemed that they were from all over Israel – places I’d heard of, places I hadn’t heard of. It’s always hard to wrap your head around the idea that all the kids belong to everyone, but this is a case where I think it’s entirely true. All of these kids touched people in their communities and were together on a bonding trip before their pre-army academy.

The nation has responded for “our children.” The kids drowned on Wednesday and by Friday, the head of the academy and a teacher were arrested.

Flash floods are serious in Israel. The rain falls hard and fast in Jerusalem. A short time later all the water is gushing down wadis and into the Dead Sea.

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On Wednesday afternoon, I hopped on a bus to get home and within 30 seconds, the skies opened up and the rain started pounding. A few minutes later it was hailing.

By the time we got to Emek Refaim (it’s a valley and a water tends to back up), traffic slowed down because people weren’t sure if their cars could get through the puddles. All of us on the bus were, for the moment, enjoying the scene. We were dry and we didn’t have to drive.

My street is just slightly above the valley, so armed with the umbrella I knew to bring with me in the morning, I thought I’d get home relatively dryish. Nope.

The lower part of the street had water coming up past the rims on cars’ hubcaps. I got off the bus here and had to fight rain and ford puddles like they were rivers. I was WET.

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The source of the river was right here. I was getting too wet, so I put my camera away and just did my best to get home. The rest of the night was spent counting the seconds between the lightning and thunder.

***

These pictures were taken after 20-30 minutes of torrential rain in the city. Multiply this water, funnel it into a narrow canyon, and send it speeding down the mountain. And that’s a flash flood.

And for those 10 that were lost this week, may their memories be a blessing to all who knew them.

Marathon!

I’m extremely busy with my work projects and I was going to just go on hiatus this week.

And then –

Jerusalem Marathon!

It’s my favorite day of the year! I love the fact that the city shuts down for fun things. There were 35,000 people who came from all around the world to run up and down the hills of Jerusalem in what is considered to be one of the hardest marathons in the world.

This year the Jaffa Gate station was a bit more tame than previous years, but it’s still so inspiring to see people pushing themselves onward and striving to be just a little better than they were before.

Here is a 4-minute video from the Jaffa Gate observation station. Enjoy!

 

Center of the Universe

In my first year of graduate school, I lived in a house in town rather than on campus. We didn’t have cable and for some reason we couldn’t pick up local stations, but the Canadian stations came in clearly. I started watching the news from Canada and I noticed something that really surprised me: the 30-minute evening news spent 20-25 minutes on world news and 5-10 minutes on local news. (The other thing that surprised my poor puritanical ears was the use of the F-word in primetime, but that’s another story.)

My point is that somehow it took until I was 22 years old to really understand that there was a big wide world out there where things happen. It’s not like I lived a sheltered life. I’d traveled internationally with my family. I knew who the prime minister of Israel was. Many of my mom’s friends were from another country (like we were). It had just never really sunk in that there might actually be something happening outside the US. I mean, isn’t the US the Center of the Universe? (And isn’t its capital the neighborhood of Fremont?)

Fremont

But now I live in a different center of universe. Although sometimes when I travel it is made abundantly clear to me that a lot of people couldn’t care less about Jerusalem and some have never even heard of it.

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By Heinrich Bünting – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=698773

Given my recent posts, it may surprise you, dear reader, to know that I did not listen to a single word of the State of the Union speech. Honestly, it hardly made a ripple in the Israeli news. Over here we were dealing with something else entirely and my attention swerved from one center of the universe to another.

This week’s headlines in Israel were about Poland. On the eve of international Holocaust Remembrance Day the Polish Senate passed a law criminalizing any mention of the Polish nation as complicit in or as perpetrators of the Holocaust. It’s not clear to me how they plan on imposing this law internationally and how it will affect the vocabulary allowed to historians (the problematic phrase is “Polish death camps” or statements implying the nation of Poland was complicit) and it’s a backhanded insult to Israel and Jews around the world.

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Israeli 11th and 12th graders go to Poland for their class trip and visit concentration camps, say prayers over the dead, rebury remains, and remember the atrocities that were committed on Polish soil. Outside of Israel, thousands of people participate in the March of the Living trips to honor their lost family members and show that they survived. Will this law mean that if anyone says the phrase “Polish death camps” during the trip, they might be liable for a fine or up to 3 years imprisonment?

There is no doubt that there were Poles who rescued and protected Jews – Yad Vashem has documented proof – but there were plenty who did not. The question for me is: why is there is a need to criminalize any mention of Poland as a perpetrator? You can argue, debate, and present facts and witnesses. Why threaten jail?

Israel is angry about this law. Schools and Jewish groups are reconsidering their Poland trips. Poland is scrambling, but it doesn’t look like they’ll back down on the law.

Here’s a thought: Maybe this diplomatic wrinkle will give Jews the opportunity to reevaluate the purpose of Poland trips. The world and Jews especially should never forget the horrors of the Holocaust and the extinguished souls should be remembered forever. But maybe it’s time to also balance the history of victimhood and survivor guilt that color a large part of Jewish identity with the drive toward a future of strength and unapologetically doing good in the world (start-up nation, center of R&D in technology and medicine, etc.). If Israel is a phoenix rising from the ashes of the Holocaust, maybe all Jews would be better served with the more universal idea that while we will always remember where we came from, we can and must allow ourselves to fly and reach for the stars.

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Fluff!

There’s too much to process from the news about Jerusalem and Israel, so please enjoy another fluff piece!

Solstice

I like marking solstices and equinoxes.  It reminds me that our little blue planet continues to revolve around the sun and the problems in our day to day lives are minuscule when seen through the lens of the galaxy or the universe.  I like the winter solstice because starting now, the days are getting longer.  We’ve passed the darkest day and it will only get better from here.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like … oh, wait, no it isn’t

I enjoy seeing the Christmas tree in front of the YMCA.  I’ve even seen a picture of Santa riding through the Old City on a camel.  But Israel doesn’t do the commercial version of Christmas.  Black Friday is just a shopping day that has no relation to Christmas.  In fact, December 25 and January 1 are regular workdays.

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Santa

Issa Kassissieh, wearing a Santa Claus costume, rides a camel during the annual Christmas tree distribution by the Jerusalem municipality in Jerusalem’s Old City December 21, 2017. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS) SOURCE

Wishing you all a

Happy Holiday Season!!

December in Jerusalem

I took a walk this week and took in the sights of Jerusalem in December. It happened that it was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 C) and while that was a little warm for Jerusalem in December, it’s a nice feeling to get out into the sunshine on a pleasant day.

I’ve been passing this new statue on the street.  Part of me wishes it really was a talented street musician.  Maybe they can pipe some music in…

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There is an interesting photo exhibit on the walls of the Old City.  It seems to be reflective of the faces you see in the city.

And in the cool evenings, we are celebrating Chanukah by lighting candles, eating donuts and illuminating our best selves. We choose not to curse the darkness in the darkest days of the year (not to mention these “days of rage” lately, but that’s another story).