Thursday, June 28, 2007

"That is that, The End."

Yesterday my mind was forced back in time to 1997. Princess Diana was still alive, Accommodation in UK was cheaper, Harry Potter was barely known, the second intifada was yet to be, Titanic was playing in Movie Theaters and Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister of the UK.

When I heard of Tony Blair's pending resignation, I joked that he should run as our next Prime Minister, here in Israel, not realizing how close to the truth that was to become. It has now been announced that he is to be Middle East Envoy to "The Quartet".

Tony Blair has been a friend to Israel, not a lassez faire friend like Bush, but an active advocate for Israel's right to exist and defend herself. Sure, he isn't "that guy" and doesn't back every move we make, but he's a pleasant change from the full on critic that so many other of friends are. Rather than being a Bush copycat in passive positivity, Blair seems to share the passion that he may have learned from the former US President that occupied the Oval Office when Tony secured his landslide victory. Whether you agree with the policies or not, both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair have been proactive players in trying to fix this mess.

Personally, I know that Blair was the best Prime Minister the British public had in my lifetime, and he's left very large shoes to fill. If his impact in the Middle East is anything close to the success he nourished in UK and international politics, then maybe, just maybe, we might reach a point where we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Despite my optimistic hope, the likely outcome will be the occasional high profile meeting, perhaps a front page headline every quarter, and business as usual for Israeli-Arab relations, but if the public and government can learn one thing from England's last decade, it is the lesson of change.

Thatcher and Major destroyed elements of the United Kingdom with their policies, and the public demanded change. We mustn't let Olmert and his party of opportunists let us sink lower than we are now, and when elections do come around, it will be time to rid ourselves of the apathy that is holding us back and bring about a change in direction.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Pride refers to a strong sense of self-respect, a refusal to be humiliated as well as joy in the accomplishments of oneself or a person, group, or object that one identifies with. [Wikipedia]

I am full of pride. I am proud to be a Zionist. I am proud to be a Jew. I am proud to live in Israel and be supporting myself fairly successfully. Pride is a good thing, but pissing off an entire city in the name of pride does no one any favors.

The Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade has become an annual event, but it's not just the parade that gets the attention. Political arguments, court sessions and a feeling of animosity falls over Jerusalem every year as the Gay community demands their right to march, and the Ultra Orthodox demand their right to sanctity in the holy city.

I am neither Gay nor Ultra Orthodox, yet I disagree with the behavior of both camps.

The Ultra Orthodox need to realize that we live in a diverse world. We don't live under messianic rule, and Israel is a modern, western state, who citizens are not obligated to follow Jewish law. Stabbings of Gay Pride participants is wrong - no matter how you look at it, and isn't in the spirit of "love your neighbor like yourself". People must accept that the country is broader than the limited, blinkered, horizon that many confine themselves too and let it be.

Sometimes an autopsy will need to be carried out, or a parade will take place; bin-burning and hostility is not the way to show your displeasure. Grow up. There is no genuine halachic authority that permits homosexuality, but you have to remember that not everyone follows Torah Law, and that is ok too.

The Gay community need to respect their surroundings. San Fransico in the US or Brighton in the UK are known for their vibrant homosexual cultures. Jerusalem is primarily known for being the holy city of several faiths. If you feel the need to parade your sexuality, respect the majority rule of democracy and don't go out of your way to antagonize the population of a city.

It's all about a little bit of tolerance.

Aside from the "not in Jerusalem" argument, I have one fundamental problem with Gay Pride Parades. I don't need to know about anyone else's sexuality. Sex should be a private act between two (or more) people, and should stay that way. Tonight, homophobia is fueled by angry people who can't drive their cars through the city to get home. Most people don't care if you're gay or straight, and that's the way it should be. Keep your sexuality to yourself.

Jerusalem has enough problems without different sects of our own people fighting each other and the international attention that Jerusalem gets when Gay Pride is mentioned makes it embarrassing to live in this city.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Contrasting View

When thinking of the shuk, most think of the crazy Friday vibe. Residents decend on the traders to get the best deals for the weekend and tourists head down to the market to see what all the fuss is about. The closer it gets to Shabbat, the crazier it gets as traders cut prices in order to sell their wares before sundown.

My new camera and I went for a test drive the other evening and I experiences that side of the shuk that I love more than the pre-shabbat vibe. Around 8pm, many stalls have closed for the night, and haunting peace dusts the air.

Baked Goods

Closing Time

Jerusalem is a city of balance, but this mundane contrast gives hope that at the end of the day, everything is going to be just right.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

12 to 12

Israel is in the press a lot at the moment, then again, that's nothing new, but this time, the world is not just wagging their accusatory finger and picking holes in this weeks big news story, they are casting their eyes back.

Just a few weeks ago, we marked Yom Yerushalaim. Forty years since the 2000 year exile from Jerusalem came one step closer to being truly over, and the Jewish nation gained access once again to our holy city. For some, this landmark is a true celebration, a time to thank whichever power, be it G-d or Man that they feel is responsible for this dream becoming a reality. Others will be marking forty years of the 'evil occupation'.

This morning I was tagged by in a meme/forward, started by Nefesh B'Nefesh is asking olim to list 12 things they love about Israel, 12 reasons they made aliya, and send them on to friends, family, and Jew's all around the world who have not yet made aliya... I'm going to have a go at mine.

1. Israel gives me an overwhelming sense of belonging. For as long as I can remember, I expressed my Judaism through my Zionism, and my lifestyle would be hypocritical on the streets of New York on London. From a pre-bar mitzvah age, I knew I would live in Israel one day - how could I deny myself my dream when it is so easy to accomplish.

2. I can wear a kippa with pride. I have a sense of security on the street. Sure, there are different threats, but I don't worry about getting mugged. I can walk the streets of Jerusalem at night. The police and security forces are my brothers, not foreigners.

3. G-d said so. We were given back the land, and the torah commands Jews to live in the land. Abraham "lech lecha"ed to an unknown land, and if I can't have even a little bit of faith, there would be a void in my life. I am far from being the best Jew in the world, the term modern othordox probably fits loosely, but my heart is in the right place.

4. Ancient and modern history is documented with almost single step I take. Be they plaques on street corners, or living remains of a time that once was. I can live history.

5. Pre-aliya, I would make toast, perhaps fry an egg if I wanted an easy meal - but that changed in Israel. No quick meal is complete without a Pitta. Everything and anything goes well, be it peanut butter, baked beans or shwarma. No meal is complete without!

6. In comparison to the level of care I know from before, I can not complete this list without mentioning medical care in Israel. It's something I haven't needed a great deal of, but from my limited experience, have definitely come to appreciate.

7. The care for one another. If you drop your wallet in town, you really might get it back. On a larger scale, during last summer's war, the entire country rallied round and opened their home, gave their clothes and volunteered to support the victims of the war. We see the same now in Sderot.

8. Jewish life is all around. I can easily to identify as a Jew, and when chagim come around, the entire country knows it. No need to explain to a boss why you need a day off mid-week just before a crucial deadline, because the deadline probably wont exist!

9. Speaking Hebrew.... it's not just a language, it's a language resurrected by pioneers of the land. Just as we have developed the state, we have developed our native tongue, and the efforts of those like Eliezer Ben Yehuda are alive today.

10. My social life is comprised of scores of people from around the globe. Together, we have our own community and support network. Sharing our previous experiences and upbringing is an education in it's own. After time, our friendships grow stronger, and now we can share our own "remember when..." stories from the early steps of our klita [absorption].

11. Our land may be small, but that's a great advantage. I can wake up camping on the coast, and by lunchtime be jeeping in the dessert or hiking through woodland. A vacation doesn't need to be two weeks in a foreign land (although that's nice sometimes too), there is so much beauty to discover and experience here, and all you need is an overnight bag.

12. Family isn't just blood - it's a phenomena that runs much deeper, and even throughout the passage of time. Personally, my Mum living in the same city is a blessing I would never change, but for everyone making aliya "on their own", there is an extended family waiting to take you in.

Sure, it might be harder to save up for that second home or dream vacation, but why do I need a lavish vacation or luxury car when every single second, every moment of my day, I am living the ultimate dream.

"If you will it, it is no dream."

Now it's time to hear your's - I tag Valley of Ghosts, Lizrael, Gila, Dot co Dot il and Calev.

The original message text is here:
Today I received an email from Dudy Stark of Nefesh B'Nefesh:

This coming Shabbat, the Torah portion , Shelach, that recalls the sin of the spies, is read. These were the 12 men that Moshe sent to scout out the Land of Israel before entering. When they returned, their reports were distorted and negative and caused a 40 year delay before the Children of Israel could enter.

Today despite the challenges that come with living in Israel, we are witness to all that is good and special about living here and it is in our ability to tell our family, friends and neighbors abroad what those things are.

Nefesh B'Nefesh is initiating a simple project this week called "12 to 12". We are asking every Oleh to compose a list of 12 great things you appreciate and love about living in Israel and email your message to 12 (or more) friends abroad.

If you send this out to your friends, please CC when you send it out

Friday, June 1, 2007


The general feeling in "the circle" this week, is exhaustion. When I woke up on Sunday morning, I was shattered, dreaming of Shabbat before I had even reached the office. In less than four hours, I'll be there, and I am ready to embrace 25 hours in the spiritual realm.

Perhaps Shavuot threw the body clock off, a mini Shabbat, just before the real thing, and now we're in the home stretch to Ellul and repentance. It was also a week of celebration, and partying. Two close friends married each other on Sunday night. On the other side of the emotional spectrum, there were "leaving parties" for other friends.

Dancing at a wedding makes me happy, the joy set the tone for a great week, but there is something wrong the words "leaving" and "party" in the same sentence. There should never be a celebration when someone is leaving Israel - and unfortunately, I know three people packing up and going back to the US in the coming weeks.

This weeks parsha will continue to relay the travels of the Jewish people through the desert. The levi'im start to serve in the miskan as G-d protective clouds sheild the nation from the risks of the wilderness. At the end of the sedra, we see this protection isn't enough, we wanted the meat to eat - so G-d sent it.

G-d kept us alive, back in the days of the t'nach [bible] when our leadership was strong, and later in history when things weren't so great. For generations people prayed for the return to Zion, the ability to live in Jerusalem, lhiyot chofshi b'artzenu, and just like G-d did in the wilderness, he answered our prayers and gave us the state of Israel.

Everyone's journey is different, no one can tell you what is best, or how you need to reach it. I can't say "don't go" - but I can say "don't forget".

I want to wish my friends that are leaving a successful journey in America. I hope the hiatus from Israel is short, and you accomplish your goals quickly, but at the same time, I want to remind you not to get too comfortable there. Don't get swept up in the lifestyle in the US, and keep the ultimate goal in mind.

You will be missed here, by your friends, and by the land. Be blessed with happiness, success, and may all your dreams come true, but don't lose site of the destination. Destination Israel.