Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Life continues as normal, working in Lod, planning summer with friends here and abroad, and the mid week confusion whether to host or go to friends for Shabbat meals got thrown into the air when I realised four other people are counting on me for meals this weekend. Sometimes the open door policy gets hectic when I don't write down who's coming when!

As normal as life is right now, I did have my first glimpse of "the war" last night. My Mum's neighbour is hosting a family of 8 in his 2.5 room apartment. His guests are his brothers family from the north whose house was hit by a katushya. They fled south to Jerusalem with one bag and are spending their day glued to the television desperate to find out what will be. If anyone in the Baka neighbourhood has any toys suitable for 6, 9 and 12 year old children, drop me an email and I would be happy to pass them on. Two days after loosing their home, life is far from normal for them, and from a personal point of view, it bought this conflict to a new level. Hopefully the safety of the centre of the country will give them the chance they need to rebuild.

Some are anxious, others are calmer. I find it useful not to be glued to the news. I check every few hours, much less than I used to, and keep focused on the day to day. Some may argue that this technique is denial, but I imagine it's healthier than the constant worry every time you hear an irregular bump in the night.

Wait and see seems to be the game to play. What else is there to do?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Northern View

A friend of mine headed north last week to report from Haifa. You can watch his chilling piece here. It seems like the country is split on two fronts. Much of it carries on as normal while others have been forced to move away from their cities to the safer centre of the country.

Last night, Jerusalem city centre was full of youngsters enjoying the last night of the weekend, the contrast between this piece and the day to day life I am living is astounding.

Shavua Tov.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"The Situation"

It's about time I shared my views on the "situation", ten days in, I have had plenty time to think, aclimatise and adjust to the reality.

In moving to Israel, you know you're moving to a region that can kick of at any moment, and sure thing, it has. Overnight the boarder was transformed into a conflict. Families in the north are experiencing something we have never endured before, and a wave of fear shot through many people I know, but only for a short while. Israel is strong, not just militarily, but there is a strong morale, and in Jerusalem it is life as normal.

Over the last week I have had a number of phonecalls from friends due to visit the country. Some booked their trips six months ago, others were here two weeks ago and are heading back soon at the end of the month. If you were planning to move to Haifa, I would suggest relocating, other than that, get over here. If you have fear, don't be scared to show it, but don't be an armchair Zionist either. You can either worry about the tenth day of the violence, or be aware that this is the fifty-sixth year of the conflict, whatever puts you at ease. The centre of the country is functioning as normal, and the north needs our support.

The country is worried for their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and friends who are serving in the army, but the country is not worried about survival. It's the Israeli spirit that keeps the country going, it's a psychological strength that isn't destroyed by volatility. There are moments that make you gasp. I spoke to a friend who had been at Haifa train station the moment rockets hit and killed eight. On the flip side you have to be able to enjoy the amusing moments like Bush's brutal honesty.

Most importantly I would like to say thank you. Thank you to organisations such as Birthright, FZY, USY, NSY, Bnei Akiva and all the tours that have kept their participants in Israel. These names come to mind as they buses I drove past today. I am sure there are more, and this vote of thanks goes out to you all. Thank you for not canceling groups set to be coming over. On a personal level, thank you for making summer continue as usual. Thank you for not being scared by the media, and for supporting us when the we need it. Seeing the tour buses with their logo banners driving around Jerusalem made me feel the solidarity, and for that I am grateful.

May everyone stay safe, and enjoy a peaceful, restful shabbat.

Monday, July 10, 2006

This One's for Italy

The World Cup is one of those "must participate" events. For a month, conversation turns to football, and eyes to the host nation, as the best teams in the world, and some others, battle to become best at what they do. Pubs are full, schools and offices start late or finish early depending on match schedules to ensure no one misses out. Flags hang and a strange unity descends on the country as every Englishman remembers 1966.

That's the sort of World Cup fever I am used to. I recall the 2002 tournament fondly, one house party culminating with 7:00am kick comes to mind, but this time around, the World Cup was something different.

A large proportion of the country is focused on the games while others are complaining about the cost to purchase the package, and the pubs do fill up, but for a region with more important things to worry about, you can understand why the country doesn't stop.

Unfortunately I didn't make it to the final. As I arrived in town, I got a call from a friend who had been taken ill and found himself at the Emergency Room, so I jumped in a cab to keep him company and lighten his spirits while he was rehydrated.

On the way home I managed to catch extra time and penalties. I was one of sixteen, including the staff of the local Cafe Hillel who had slipped away to see the all important game, watching the Italian mondial victory in a makolet [corner shop] on Emek Refaim [a local high street].

It wasn't like nipping down to the local with a crowd of friends, nonetheless, Israelis love the football and the small store managed to build quite an atmosphere. The crowd I found myself was quite pleased to see Italy lift the trophy, except for the one French girl found to be sobbing by the chewing gum.

It's all over for another four years, I wonder where I will comment on the next one from.

Friday, July 7, 2006

One Year On

It's amazing how time can fly. As someone mentioned to me yesterday, we're no longer new in town. We have our locals, friends, and routines. It wasn't till I paid rent this week that I realised I have been living in my apartment for a year, but this time last year was a day that shook me.

Most of the time I can safely say I feel settled here. Yes, there is the occasional wave of "what if I was still in the UK", but it doesn't take too much to remind that I would find it very difficult to live on the Queen's homeland every again. I have even been heard to say that I miss the US more than I miss England and yet I never lived there, but at this hour last year, three hundred and fifty years of English blood in my veins made me identify with the country in a way I had never felt before.
FIRST there was New York, then Bali, then Madrid. But a year ago today London and the rest of Britain awoke to the awful realisation that Islamic terrorism was not a faraway phenomenon. (THE TIMES - full article)
Today the UK remembers the fifty two that died. Maybe this shook me so much because I was visiting England this time last year, and I heard the news as it came in. Stations across the country were evacuated and nerves were highly strung. Sure, the UK has felt terrorism, but this attack was new terror for a new, undefined cause. Terror against the West.

In a video released yesterday by one of the bombers, England's support and financial aid towards America and Israel was used to justify the attacks. Israel has become a political pawn, used by anyone with a problem, be they terrorists claiming to act in the name of religion, or left wing voters that want to solve the worlds problems with hugs and kisses.

Today Israel is mourning too. We mourn the loss of the Yehuda Bassel, killed yesterday to keep the rest of the country safe. Since the turn of the century there have been major terror attacks in America, Bali, Spain, England, Israel and throughout the world. Terrorism has become the norm. To preach for it to end would be unrealistic. Maybe the world has become a more dangerous place, or perhaps the media may just be better at carrying news faster and quicker.

I'm not going to start hanging a Union Jack or Cross of St. George alongside the Israel flag outside my apartment, but today's acts as a reminder as to where I came from, and who I am becoming.

Shabbat Shalom.