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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Israel NGOs: Riding tigers down the road to hell

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A stabber got loose in Tel Aviv this week.  An 18-year-old man ran amok and stabbed some people and thank God, nobody died, but please don't think that's the point and the incident is over now because nobody died.  Four people were wounded, which is important to remember, but there's an even bigger lesson to be learned here.

The man - 18 is a man, I guess, technically - was a Palestinian man.  He was brought to Tel Aviv.  He was brought there by an NGO called "Natural Peace Tours," which honestly, I would have sworn was a made up name, it's so hokey.  It was their mission, apparently, to bring Palestinians to Israel for what this article calls "grassroots negotiations."

Grassroots negotiations?

First of all, let's be very clear:  "grassroots negotiations" is nothing, because anyone "grassroots" isn't in a position to either offer anything or give anything in return.  So through this NGO, let's face it, you're not negotiating.  At best, you're having coffee with someone, and that's very nice, I support that, but maybe - just  maybe - they could have thought about whether it was safe to do what they were doing.

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(“grassroots negotiation” in action)

When I mentioned this incident to a dear friend who lives outside of Israel, complaining about starry-eyed and idiotic NGOs, she said that at least they mean well.  Which I am absolutely sure they do.

But to be honest: I have less patience these days with people who mean well. 

The moral high road to hell

I always used to think the expression "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" meant that people were innocently trying their best and somehow missing the mark.  I thought it meant that nice people who had good intentions were sometimes ineffectual.  But how could you really blame them?  After all, they're NICE people.  And they mean well.

What I believe these days about the expression is different. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

And now for something (a little) different…

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One reasons I haven’t been blogging so much lately is that I went back to school last year to finally start working my way towards a master’s degree.  This winter, I did a course in Creative Nonfiction, and for the final project, I was supposed to write a narrative essay informed by the techniques of creative nonfiction, as a genre, as well as by graduate-level research into a subject of interest.

So I thought: “What could be more interesting than Israel?”  Obviously!

I have been sharing some thoughts here all along about the idea of politics, and what it means to get political when it comes to the situation here on the ground, and I figured I’d pull it all together into a sort of story of a nice Canadian who is reluctant to deal with politics but who has been forced to due to living in Israel.

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ll know that politics is not what I do naturally, or best. 

So much so, perhaps, that when I tried to write a serious post on Palestinian identity, one person nastily took it upon him/herself (I’m guessing HIMSELF, for some reason) to comment, “Better to stick with tips on a successful Aliyah than playing the political game.” 

Like I said,

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

5 failproof ways to enjoy chol hamoed in Israel

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If there's a downside to living in a Jewish country, it may be the fact that everybody celebrates the same holidays.  That means everyone is on vacation at the same time.  Which means, in turn, that every attraction, every highway, every bus route and train line, is going to be jam-packed if you're heading to the most popular destinations - and even some unpopular ones.

This Pesach was our (hmm...) eighth chol hamoed living in Israel (Sukkos / Pesach year 5774, Sukkos / Pesach 5775, Sukkos / Pesach 5776, Sukkos / Pesach 5777 - omg, I can't believe it.)

Our very first chol hamoed (Sukkos 5774), we headed to Yerushalayim, little suspecting that everybody else in the country had the exact same idea.  Public transportation in Yerushalayim isn't entirely reliable at the best of times, and this was NOT the best of times.  We spent a large chunk of the day stuck in traffic.  Very frustrating!

I'm not saying Jerusalem is out of the picture.  But based on our experience and some others over the years (!), I've come up with a few rules for planning chol hamoed activities with the least possible stress.

Here are five tips that will help you sail through chol hamoed with the greatest of ease:

1. Book ahead

Lots of attractions here let you pre-book a specific time slot.  We did that for a few activities this chol hamoed, including the Dialogue in the Dark exhibit at the Israel Children’s Museum in Holon, a jumping / bouncy castle attraction (also in Holon, we made a day of it), a local trampoline place, and the movie theatre.   Last year, I also bought tickets to a play at the Haifa Children’s Theatre Festival.  During previous chol hamoeds, we’ve done various circus things.  There are always choices like this, which allow you to plan ahead.

The movie theatre is a great example.  Sure, they charge something trivial like 5 shekels extra to pre-book, but you get to pick not only your movie time but also your seats.  Yet the throngs at the box office bely the fact that this is 2017 and such a thing as the Internet even exists.  People show up and then act surprised that there are so many other people; they get into the theatre and act surprised that the good seats are already taken.  Plan a good surprise – prebook and you can waltz right in anytime.  We had to kick people out of our seats, but I tell myself they could have booked online, too.

2. Show up on time

Monday, April 17, 2017

British media: Covering up murder, as usual

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It’s tragic when anyone dies in a terror attack.  But last week’s murder by a Palestinian attacker of a British student in Jerusalem provides an opportunity to view the “local angle” – the British take on what exactly happened.

We all know the truth isn’t pretty – at least, until the British start telling it.  These three media reports are typical in that they sidestep the truth, leaving huge gaps when talking about who exactly committed the murder.

First, we have The Guardian:

Headline:  “Jerusalem stabbing: British student, 20, killed close to Old City”

Paragraph 1:  “British victim of a fatal stabbing”  (who did it?)

Paragraph 2:  “killed on Friday” (by whom?)

Paragraph 3:  “The attack, which police said involved a Palestinian assailant with a history of mental health issues” (involved?  was there anyone ELSE involved?  who exactly did it???)

Later in the article:  “A wave of unrest that erupted in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 260 Palestinians, 41 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese...”  (erupted?)

Blah.

Next up is Sky News:

Headline:  “British student Hannah Bladon's family 'devastated' by her killing in Jerusalem”

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