26 December 2005


What happens when a man leaves the land of his birth - but his heart stays there?

When I was a young man living in Brooklyn, I knew a printer who showed me a letter http://www.csuohio.edu/tagar/city.htm. This was in the late 1960's. The letter was entitled "A Letter To the World From Jerusalem." That letter and knowledge that a Jewish army had conquered and liberated all of our country, fighting against three more powerful nations, as well as against the approval of the world, had stolen my heart home - here.

But I did not know that then. It took a nearly a quarter century for the Thief to carry the prize home.

Last night, I came to understand that fact - and why so many Israelis who immigrate from foreign nations have trouble with the idea that another country should not touch any of OUR land. I understood why they so easily accepted "realities" of world politics and so easily ignored what ought to have been the fire in their hearts burning to fight and defy the world and die, if need be..

Their hearts were not in Jerusalem. They were still in the "old country", whatever that old country was.

This all came about from a discussion I had had with the guys going out on patrol Sunday night, my fellows in the uniformed Police Volunteer Unit I belong to. Most of us who serve on Sunday nights are English speakers who came home from the States or other English speaking parts of the world, and the unit conducts most of its informal business in English (Shhhh.!!! Don't tell anybody that!) It was the standard discussion about politics, and we had all taken our standard positions.

Most of my colleagues have no trouble giving up this or that piece of land to the Arabs to feed the "peace" monster, and view me as an extremist because I stick stubbornly to the idea that you can't divide up the Land and live in peace with enemies who would sooner see you dead, than see you at all. They are "realists" and adhere firmly to the "reality" they read in the Wall Street Journal,. Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post or the Washington Post, whatever "reality" they happen to be peddling that week..

I believe in the eternal truths of the Torah and the Tana"kh.

One of these fine gentlemen went through the list of party leaders one by one, asking his colleagues if they would prefer this person, or that person or the other person, the big three running in the election. Like good realists, they all were prepared to hold their noses and vote for the "crime minister," Ariel Sharon. I couldn't understand where their sense of outrage, justice denied, contempt of a man who went back on his word - where all this had gone. It was standing at a bus station in the northern end of the city, in the quiet of the night, holding a flashlight and watching the people board and disembark from the various buses stopping there when the realization hit me.

For all the times I had listened to renditions of "Danny Boy" or "Romania Romania" or the tarantella at the immigrant weddings and bar mitzvahs I had gone to, I had never heard what was at the heart of all of them - the longing to be in the birth land, where childhood was, or at least was remembered as, sweet and kind.

My own father, who had starved as a refugee kid in Russia-Poland in the First World War, never forgot that the food tasted better in Poland. When we passed the Statue of Liberty driving along the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, he never neglected to point it out to me. But he also never neglected to mention that it was a Jewish woman, Emma Lazarus, who had penned the immortal lines on that statue.

For all the 55 years he had spent living in the United States, and as proud as he was of his citizenship papers - for all that - his heart had never left Russia-Poland where he had grown up. If he could have returned there knowing that he could live in peace and security in the world he had come from - I suspect he would have. But he couldn't - the world he had lived in was gone. It had disappeared not just in time, as most of our worlds do, but in its entirety. Poland is a Jewish graveyard. And so shall it remain.

The English speaking gentlemen with whom I argued Sunday night - and they are all gentlemen and intelligent people - do not have their hearts in Jerusalem, even though their bodies are here and they are willing to put their lives up for its defense.

This is not a condemnation or a criticism. Not at all. It is an observation, and the only reasonable answer to why they would be willing to, without protest, vote in a man willing to redivide their home city and bring the Arab enemy to within meters of them. If their hearts were here, their anger wouild be kindled against those who would rob THEIR patrimony for the political convenience of staying out of jail.

But alas, their hearts are not. They are in the home towns of their births. Ths does not just apply to those who arrived here less than a decade ago. One of these gentlemen has been here thirty years, has served in the IDF, served in the jail service and as a volunteer policeman for nearly the whole time he has lived here; he has raised a family here, with a son who bravely served in a combat unit in the IDF, copying hs father. He is a spit and polish professional with high standards, a man any service would be proud to have as an exemplary model of an officer. But like my own father, his heart has remained in the land of his birth. I doubt he realizes this at all.

These are men of substance, all of them. They could, were they willing to use their fertile imaginations, find a way to help change the terrible situation this land finds itself in. But they do not. In all truth, I do not think they even suspect the reason.

They differ from my father in that they can return to the lands of their birth and do so with relative frequency. Their ties are also kept up with that wonder of our age, e-mail. A few strokes of the keyboard, and a newspaper from Australia or northern Virginia appears in front of their eyes.

But for some reason that I have no way of fathoming, my heart is here. I mentioned this to the Hebrew speaking fellow I was patrolling with. His eyes brightened up and he said, "I was going to say exactly that!" He understood what I felt. His heart is also here, and like me he is disgusted with what he sees around him - and it angers him.

My hope is not extinguished - not yet.

Now, I, like Eliezer ben Yisrael who wrote "A Letter to the World From Jerusalem", am a Jerusalemite. I have a few things to get off my chest. Because I am not a diplomat, I do not need to mince words, I do not need to persuade you. I owe you nothing....

22 December 2005

The “first with the burst,” to quote “Stranger in a Strange Land,” was DEBKAfile at 12:42 12 December http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=1422, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/656781.html http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=94661.
At the time, the idea was floating around to attempt to form an “anyone but Sharon coalition.”

That was about ten days ago. The idea that the right wing of Israel’s political establishment was not ready to handle the Sharon juggernaut was raised to me by Shlomo Wollins at a Root & Branch meeting a few days earlier when the Hazit (Jewish National Front) party of Professor Paul Eidelberg conducted what amounted to a campaign rally at the Israel Center. He told me he believed the best alternative to going to elections in March was an alternative government with Netanyahu at its head.

Events seem to have proven him right so far.

Since 2 December when I published my last piece on Israel’s elections, events have appeared to move fast and furiously, but in truth, not much has happened. The battlefield has cleared a bit. That is all.

Two major members of the Likud party defected to Kadima, the brand spanking new creation of Ariel Sharon. One was Tzahi haNegbi, a corrupt politician under threat of indictment. He ran to get under Sharon’s political skirts, much the way a naughty child hides behind its mother’s apron. The other was Sha’ul Mofaz, the former Chief of Staff who left politics and became Security Minister even though he has no seat in the Knesset. Mofaz realized that without Sharon, he had no political base in the Likud.

The Likud race for head of the party (and for #1 spot on the Likud list for elections in March) http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/swissinfo.html?siteSect=143&sid=6311859&cKey=1134461113000
became an issue of whether former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would win the spot on the ballot in the Likud primaries on Monday, 19 December, or whether he would have to face a run-off contest with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom after the other two contestants, Moshe Feiglin and Yitzhak Katz, had been eliminated.

In the meantime, Sharon’s standing in the polls just grew and grew. http://www.infoisrael.net/cgi-local/text.pl?source=4/c/121220051
Even the Iranian president did what he could to help Sharon, demanding first that the Israelis leave Israel for Europe and then on 14 December, that they move to Alaska. http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&cat=7&id=358519
Sharon’s strength in the polls was beginning to match his girth, with 35 to 40 mandates polled to go to the new Kadima party.

Then, on Sunday evening, Sharon’s girth and his 78 years took a hand in the political horserace. I was on the bus, riding home when I heard the radio announcer repeatedly mentioning Sharon’s name along with the words, Hadassah ‘Ein Kerem. Hadassah ‘Ein Kerem is one of the country’s leading hospitals. I started to pay very close attention. In Hebrew I heard the announcer say this; “HaRósh haMemshalá, Ariél Sharón, nimtzá b’hakará b’Hadássa ‘Ein Kérem.” [“The Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, remains unconscious at Hadassah Ein Kerem” (Hospital)]. I turned to the lady next to me and asked what had happened and she described the term “irúa mohhí,” a brain event. In other words, a stroke.

It didn’t take much mental calculating to figure out that for a whole variety of reasons, the government would attempt to minimize this stroke. One was basic. You don’t want to cause a panic among the population. A second is national security. You don’t want to give the enemy (in Israel’s case, enemies) the impression that the country was without a leader. But there is a third issue. This issue comes in two forms – one, concern that Ehud Olmert not take over the government, and the other, that Kadima, an artificial construct if their ever was one, not collapse due to a collapse in Sharon’s health.

I wrote the following to fellow blogger here at Blog Critics in an e-mail a little past 22:00 Israel Standard Time.

“At 20:30, my time, Kol Yisrael Radio in Hebrew said that he suffered a stroke - a brain event - and remained unconscious. At 21:57, the Voice of Israel English news reported that the prime minister had suffered a ‘light stroke and that at no point he had lost consciousness, and that he was talking with family members.’”

Hillel Halkin, http://www.nysun.com/article/24714
in an article in the New York Sun, expanded on these concerns

Monday, was the Likud primary election. There were not that many people at the Jerusalem polling headquarters at Binyané haUmá, the national convention center, when we voted at 20:00.

We presented our ID cards and were not bombarded with loads of people trying to tell us how to vote. Feiglin's people were there in force. There was no way to avoid them. There was a tent for Silvan Shalom where drinks were being served, and there was a large sign in Hebrew - "Netanyahu, the real leader for the Likud". The only person who tried to tell us to vote for him was a rich Hassid type with a shifty face - you know the kind the Germans would parody in their Stürmer cartoons. Nobody was there for Katz.

Near the Central Bus Station, about a hundred meters or so from the Binyané haUmá were signs on the wall "Kadíma lakéleh!" (forward to jail!) with pictures of the Sharons in the Knesset, Ariel and Omri.

As we left the Binyané haUmá to catch the bus home, we saw the Jerusalem Gold Hotel - now the "home" of many from Nevé Dekalím, the main town of Gush Katif. A fitting reminder of the evil we have to face.

Exit polls released around 22:00 that night said that Netanyahu had won with 47% and that Feiglin had gotten 15%. It didn’t quite turn out that way. At Walla, a Hebrew site, this story appeared http://news.walla.co.il/?w=//827783

44.4% תוצאות אמת בליכוד: נתניהו ניצח עם
מספירת 98% מקולות המצביעים בבחירות לראשות הליכוד, עולה כי השר שלום במקום השני עם 33% . . בנאום הניצחון הודיע נתניהו כי יילך יחד עם שלום במערכת הבחירות


“True results in the Likud: Netanyahu succeeds with 44.4%.

With 98% of votes cast counted in the leadership election for the Likud, Minister Shalom rises to second place with 33%. In a victory speech Netanyahu served notice that he would go forward together with Shalom in the election campaign ….”

The possibility brought up by Shlomo Wollins for an alternative government that would not hold elections until November 2006 was dead in the water. This possibility would have killed Sharon’s party, Kadima, but Netanyahu decided to go head to head against Sharon anyway.

In addition, Netanyahu has decided to remove the “criminal” elements in the Likud party. This can be interpreted several ways – Sharon packed the party with crooks beholden to him, and not all left for the Kadima party. But it turns out that Netanyahu wants to oust Moshe Feiglin and his Jewish Leadership faction. The G-string covering this attempt is the fact that Feiglin was jailed for several months for opposing Oslo at its inception, and was later judged to have “moral turpitude.” Someone so adjudged is barred from running for office for seven years in Israel. For this reason Feiglin was kicked off the Likud list in 2003 – he had served his term during 1996, a period less than seven years from those elections.

Netanyahu wants to ban anyone who served three months or more in prison up to ten years back from the party. If passed by the Likud Central Committee, this rule would automatically kick out Feiglin and make it impossible for him to seek a seat on the party list. There is no “ex post facto” provision in Israeli law, as there is in the US and the UK. An interesting lesson in “democracy” in Israel. This has already brought about divisions in the Likud, with several Likud members of the Knesset opposing Netanyahu very publicly.

In the meantime, Sharon continues to pretend to be healthy and his support in the polls has grown http://www.upi.com/InternationalIntelligence/view.php?StoryID=20051220-114915-6608r.
It would be nice if Israel had a first class river, so that photos could be taken of the 78 year old prime minister swimming in it, much the way photos were taken 80 years ago of Mussolini swimming in rivers in Italy.

So while Sharon’s aides spin the news, and Netanyahu tries to get rid of Jews who dare present a Jewish vision for Israel, those of us who warned of what would happen if Gush Katif was evacuated are being proven right. Several Qassam missiles have already struck Ashkelon www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3188525,00.html, and it is only a matter of time before major damage is done by one of them. Ashkelon is a 60 minute ride by intercity bus and a 45 minute drive down the coast road from Tel Aviv. But the rich secular Israelis who go to the fancy Azrieli Mall on Sabbath don’t give a damn even as the danger of destruction creeps nearer and nearer.

A pity. Who will give a damn about them when missiles strike them and leave them and their homes in flames?

Since most of you reading this will be Christians, and Christmas appears to be upon you all, I thought I would include this column from Steven Plaut. I received it as an e-mail on one of the lists I belong to. Find it on his blog-site at http://www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com/ posted on 12/20 starting with a joke:

1. You remember that old joke about the guy with the cast on his arm,asking his MD, "Will I be able to play Mozart on the piano when this isremoved?." The MD says, of course. The patient says, "Great, cause Icould not play at all before I broke my arm."

You’ll have to read the entire piece to appreciate why it is included.

I’m not sure what to wish you all that will not offend you, so have a Happy Hanukkah, and if you like jelly doughnuts, have a few for me. My doctor said I can’t have them.

20 December 2005


Google Earth:

Imagine a computer program where you enter the location you want to look at on the planet and see it from above – or from a variety of different angles.


I have this program and can look at my childhood public school in Brooklyn from a height of 90 feet or so. I can look at the apartment building I used to live in there as a child and show my kids the back yard we played in, the streets where I walked to school, where I played punch ball, where we lined up to go to class after recess...

We can focus in on the street in St. Paul where we used to live and look at the house the boys grew up in, the house that my wife and I bought thinking we would live there till our old age; the house that we sold to come home. They can follow the route they used to take walking to school – the alleys, the shortcuts. It’s a great trip for them. And it doesn’t cost a dime.

I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to afford to travel to America again, and I’m not sure I ever want to, but we can all look at the highlights of our lives there with this cool program.

Google Earth.

Just recently the New York Times reported on this program and the discomfort that many governments feel with it. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/20/technology/20image.html?hp&ex=1135141200&en=511ace6173042ea4&ei=5094&partner=homepage

Governments with something to hide always feel nervous at people looking at them from above, and lots of governments have what to hide. That’s not news, though from reading the New York Times, you would think it was.

Truth is the governments with plenty to hide do not have that much to worry about – unless they’re trying to hide it in New York...

Now we come to the negatives in the program, if you’ll pardon the pun.

I should explain that what you see is not a live-cam picture. You see still photos from various satellites roaming above the planet. The photos may be as much as a year old. Some satellites give better resolution than others, and the best pictures generally are of the United States and Canada. The satellite resolutions of Israel, Ireland and India were lousy except at several thousand feet up.

I tried to see what I could with this program looking at my neighborhood in Jerusalem. Suffice it to say, that while I was able to get clear views of Brooklyn from 90 feet up, and clear views of St. Paul from 130 feet up, the clearest view of my part of town, or any part of Israel, for that matter, came at several thousand feet.

We were barely able to identify the buildings or streets in the neighborhood. I tried this with Tel Aviv, with Tzfat, and with Bet Shemesh. I got the same results. Identifying things at close range was a breeze in most parts of the United States. This was not just true with Israel. We have friends in Northern Ireland. I tried checking out their neighborhood, too. Same problem.

Google Earth comes with a data-base of restaurants, churches, hotels and stores. It’s really designed for a tourist who wants to get a lay of the land before he gets there. But the database has serious weaknesses. It’s old, outdated, and in many places non-existent. You can find Herzl Street in Brooklyn, a minor street in what was once a Jewish neighborhood. But you cannot find Herzl Boulevard, a main drag leading west in the northern part of the city in Jerusalem.

So while you will be able to find every hole in the wall that will give you salmonella in Coney Island or in Flatbush, you’re still going to have to board the plane and fly here to catch the salmonella personally from the restaurants of this lovely city.

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