Sunday, March 27, 2011

Things that make me angry

I'm going to change the tone of my political/historical/Jewish blog and talk about things that make me angry. I have been very angry lately, at the little things, and I really just need a forum to vent. Smart and intellectual readers may choose to stop reading now.

1. My Shabbat Komkom.
Many of you who keep Shabbat may be familiar with this komkom, it is usually white or black, and is verified for Shabbat use. You fill it up with water, and there is a big huge buttom at the top that you "press" and then hot water comes out. Why do many people have it? I am still trying to figure out. (Sidenote: why do i have it? I did not buy it, but it has been in my apartment since I moved him) I am very jealous of those who have those hot water things with the little simple easy sprout thing, all you do it push the tap and like magic water comes out. Nope not ours. You may have noticed the quotation marks surrounding the press... this is because when I say the word press, I really mean - use all your weight and multiple times you need to push and heave and work just to get a drip of water. You do this multiple times to fill up a mug with hot water. This is work. Rabbis should begin to ban this instrument of anger. I'm so angry just thinking about it.

2. My Dell Laptop.
There are many things that make me angry about my laptop. I can't even think properly about it, I'm already angry. While my hot water container only makes me angry on Shabbat, my laptop makes me angry everyday. Every since the hard drive decided to crash last year (point of anger #1) for some mysterious reason, the touch-pad decided it's going to be super sensitive, so whenever I type, it jumps all over the place, so i end up deleting passages I've already written(or the entire thing I've written), or sometimes it will jump me into a previous paragraph and I'll just start writing there. So much fun. Solution? I bought a mouse! Not really a solution, just a way to make me angrier... Because even if you have a mouse, you still can't disable to touchpad, so while you type you still get the pleasure of jumping all over your previous text. Next- my laptop decides when it wants to turn on, and when it wants to turn off. I'm sleeping on shabbat, and all of a sudden, I hear my laptop turning on.!! Yeah that's great!! I didn't turn it on, in fact I turned it off before Shabbat, but it doesn't care what I want. And then the heating on it will go off, and make that loud annoying sound (of the fan or whatever) all night while I try to heat, meanwhile the heating is probably burning my hard-drive (as it did last time) FUNNN!!! And last... when the hard drive crashed, my dell representative convinced me to buy more memory, promising me that if i had more memory, then my computer would be faster, and I'd never ever have a problem in the future with my computer freezing or being slow. He is a liar. Donations for a Mac are welcome.

3. The Jerusalem Train.
It's useless, it doesn't go anywhere, it has taken many many many (too many) years to build, Jaffa is now closed and all buses are rerouted to Agrippas, taking me twice as long to get to my desired location. and the worst part it won't even start till August- HOW MANY MONTHS DO YOU NEED TO TEST THE SILLY THING? All i ever see is the train go by with smirk workers on it, sitting in it, with their feet up on the chairs, enjoying their useless ride. I hate the train. and when it begins to run, if it ever begins to run, it goes nowhere, and i'll never end up taking it.

4. Humanity's inability to fly.
Are we not smarter than birds? How did they figure out how to grow wings and fly. Yes, we have airplanes, and jets, and blah blah blah, but those things do not help me get home to my apartment when I don't feel like walking. It's like you are close enough to walk home, but not enough to take a bus, and you are tired and cranky, and wouldn't it be so nice to just rise up in the air and fly home?? Moving sidewalks are also a good idea, someone smart should get on that.

5. Angry Bird Pigs.
If a piece of a building fell on my head, I would die... really why don't you? and a helmet is a stupid excuse.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A bomb explodes in Jerusalem.

busstationI was sitting in the Ministry of the Interior office in the center of town in Jerusalem, I was applying for my Israeli passport. I was sucked into a fairly successful game of angry birds on my ipod. I looked up, the “take a number” board listed 32, only 10 more numbers until it was my turn. Then, the piercing sound of an ambulance roared past the office. I thought nothing of it… there are always ambulances running around. But the sounds didn’t stop… it wasn’t one ambulance, it sounded like an army of sirens. Everyone in the office was looking around. People started crowding onto the balcony to see what was going on outside. The room became tense. Something was wrong- we all felt it. I quickly checked the news on my ipod. Nothing at 15:05. But the sirens grew louder… what was happening? 5 minutes later, I checked the news again. “Breaking news: The entrance to the city has been closed after an explosion was heard near the central bus station.” Cell phones began to ring. My phone rang, it my cousin.

“Where are you? Are you still at the Ministry of the Interior?”

“Yes I’m still here… what happened? There was a bomb? What’s going on? ”

She wasn’t sure… she replied, “I think it’s a bus bombing… it’s the 74.”

I had just taken the 74 to get to the office. My heart sank. I started to shake. Then, my number appeared… it was my turn.

As I left the office, I took a deep breath- perhaps it’s better to walk home.

In the time that followed the attack, everyone in Jerusalem was on the phone. As I walked through the center of town to get to my neighborhood, I didn’t pass one person who didn’t have a phone stuck to their ear. I was bombarded by calls and texts, making sure I was Ok. I was calling my friends… I just needed to know no one was there, no one was hurt. Networks began to fail as the lines were overloaded. As I spoke to people, more information began to be revealed… the bomb was not on the bus, no ones was killed, the bomb was detonated at Benyamin HaUma near a phone booth(beside the Central Bus Station). I was still shaking… honestly I was scared. I decided to call my mom, I wanted her to know about the attack and that I was fine before she saw it on CNN and started to freak out. The moment I heard her voice, I started to cry.

When you are living in Israel, and experiencing your day to day activities, it’s easy to get lulled into a sense of security. I had read earlier in the day that there had been Katyusha rockets fired at both Be’er Sheva and Ashdod. But that was in Be’er Sheva and Ashdod, I was in Jerusalem. Just last week, Israel suffered the tragedy of a family being slain in their sleep. But that was in Itamar, I was in Jerusalem. There hasn’t been a bombing in Jerusalem since 2004. I know that Jerusalem doesn’t feel as safe as my home town of Toronto… but it doesn’t feel so bad. Today, knocked me out of that feeling. I didn’t just read about it in Haaretz or J-post, or hear about it on TV. I was minutes away.

When I spoke to my mom, after we got through the shock, and the worry, she was angry. Angry that ’someone’ could detonate a bomb and try to kill innocent people. That’s the feeling now.. anger at that ’someone’. We all know who that ’someone’ is…it’s that “homogeneous group” we call Palestinians. They are the ones trying to blow up Jews at crowded bus stops, and they are the ones throwing rockets into our southern cities. But be warned our Prime Minister says, “Israel will act firmly”. Violence begets violence.

The truth is, when something like this happens, it’s natural to feel like that. We are scared, we are nervous, and we translate it to anger. We want to defend ourselves. We want to be strong. I don’t know what is going to happen in Israel in the next few days. I don’t know what acting firmly means. I do know that this city is going to feel a little different tomorrow. We’ll do the same things we did today, and we did the day before, and we’ll continue to do in the future. But something has changed… our quiet has been disturbed.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

As tragedy strikes again...

I blogged on September 1st, 2010 about the tragic terrorist attack that took the lives of four people. Last night, as I turned on my computer after Shabbat, I went straight to the news, wanting to find out about Japan's quake/tsunami. However, I was shocked by another piece of news: another terrorist attack that took the lives of 5 Jews in the settlement of Itamar. (A family- the parents and their 3 children, including a 3 month old baby)

This news, just like the last terrorist attack, has once more shaken the nation. The particularly brutal way in which the family was murdered, stabbed to death while they were sleeping on Shabbat, throws us back in disgust and deepens our sadness at the loss.

However, last time tragedy struck, it was on the cusp of hope: it was the night before direct peace talks between Abbas and Bibi in Washington. We were offered some kind of glimmer of hope: maybe up to today our path has been categorized by murder, terrorism and occupation, but the path to the future can be paved with peace. This was September 1st, 2010. While I am usually hopeful when it comes to peace, even then I was skeptical about any peace talks moving forward. I hated feeling like such an pessimist, but after so many failed attempts I believed that neither Bibi nor Abbas had it in them to make the necessary concessions to bring peace. 6 months later, I was right. (As was about everyone) It's therefore not surprising that there was another terrorist attack. Sad and despairing... yes, but surprising.. no. As long as there is no lasting and true peace, there will be terrorism.

What is most interesting, is what comes out of tragedy. Today, in response to the killings, the government has approved 500 new homes in the West Bank. Apparently a tragic brutal death is a good enough reason to dictate our policy vis-a-vis building in the West Bank. Another response, bombarded through my facebook newsfeed has been pointing the finger at terrorism: this is the only problem: why can't the world see that? This article, published in Ynet, by Assaf Wohl, points the finger at global leftists that accuse Israel of being an apartheid or racist state. Wohl claims, you are either just idiots (well useful idiots, helping the case of crazy Islamic radicals) or antisemitic. He uses this attack to explain to the world that it is "them" (His "them" is a little sketchy as I think he means to write about a proposed "thousands of blood thirsty Arabs") that are the bad guys, we (Israel) do nothing. We, just as we have always been (yes, he relies heavily on the Holocaust here, even writing, "I have no intention to again march into the gas chambers...") are the victims. We are the butchered.

I'll agree to this much: terrorism is a problem in Israel. But it's not the only problem. And if it was, 500 new settlements would not make it go away. (I have a feeling that these 500 settlements were going to be built, it was simply a matter of timing of when to publicize the approval.) When something so terrible happens like this, the blame clearly falls on those that held the knife and murdered the innocents. Unfortunately though, their deaths are not simply deaths. This is political, and everyone is using it one way or another. Rightists are using it as a springboard to support the settler movement, extreme leftists celebrate it as a an action of 'freedom fighting' against the evil occupier. Others will point the finger at the Jews themselves: they shouldn't have been in occupied land in the first place. But nothing can justify murder.

At the end of the day, all I can do is step back into my position of an idealist. I can hope that one day we can create a peace that will provide self determination and stability to one nation, and that we can ensure safety and statehood for another nation, that has always felt oppressed. There will always be extremists, those on both sides of the spectrum that believe that murder and violence is a justified tool to bring about results. My hope is that through the majority we can bring peace and justice to a land that so badly needs it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The slaughtered Jewish people speaks...

On New Year’s eve January 1st, 1942, 150 members of the HeHalutz youth movements gathered in the public soup-kitchen in Vilna at 2 Straszuna Street. At this meeting, Abba Kovner, a Jewish Hebrew poet, writer and partisan leader, read the following manifesto:

“Let us not be led like sheep to the slaughter”: Jewish Youth! Do not place your trust in those who deceive you. Of 80000 Jews in “Yerushalayim de Lita” only 20000 are left. Our parents, brothers and sisters were torn from us before our eyes. Where are the hundreds of men who were seized for labor? Where are the naked women and the children seized from us on the night of fear? Where were the Jews sent on the Day of Atonement? And where are our brethren of the second ghetto? No one returned of those marched through the gates of the ghetto. All the roads of Gestapo lead to Ponar. And Ponar means death. Those who waver, put aside all illusion. You children, our wives, and husbands are no more. Ponar is no concentration camp. All were shot dead there. Hitler conspires to kill all the Jews of Europe, and the Jews of Lithuania have been picked at the first line. Let us not be led as sheep to the slaughter! True, we are weak and defenceless. But the only answer to the murderer is: To rise up with arms! Brethren! Better fall as free fighters than to live at the mercy of murders. Rise up! Rise up until you last break.”

And so there you have it... the beginning of the popular phrase that Jews were like "sheep to the slaughter". This is the first time this saying is said in the context of the Holocaust, but certainly not the last. What is most interesting is at the time Kovner stated this speech, most of European Jewry was still alive. The height of Hitler's furnace raged most fiercely in the later half of 1942 and 1943: Kovner accurately foresaw their future.

For those unfamiliar with Kovner, he was a socialist Zionist in Lithuania and during World War II was part of the FPO- the official resistance group in the Vilna ghetto. Here he organized young Jews to fight as partisans in the surrounding forests, where he himself fled to with the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto. Kovner eventually settled in Israel, where he lived the rest of his life. Upon his arrival in Israel, Kovner was considered a hero. He was the representation of a Jew during the Holocaust that had not been like sheep to the slaughter, but rather had fought against the Nazi's. Israel society after Holocaust can be described as embarrassed of Jewish inaction in the Holocaust. There was an unofficial silence on Holocaust stories. No one wanted to hear about them. Holocaust survivors were meant to assimilate quickly and become "Israelis". Therefore, Kovner stood in opposition to most Jews, as an advocate of fighting and resistance. However, in the 60's Israeli society began to slowly change, and so did their attitude on the Holocaust. Thanks in part to the Eichmann trial, Holocaust survivors, many for the first time, were sharing their stories: and Israeli society listened. The young were fascinated by a narrative they had never heard. Soon, the idea of "hero" began to shift. It no longer was someone who fought, or resisted with arms. A hero was someone who survived, in the face of death. Someone who kept their morality, in the face of evil. Even Kovner himself questioned what it meant to be a hero. He said later in Israel, “Am I this Abba Kovner, the hero? Or am I Abba Kovner the man who betrayed his mother, who left her behind to go to the forests to fight?” Those that stayed behind, with their parents, with their sisters, with their brothers, with their family- they too were strong.

Today this idea seems obvious. The Jewish people today have taken it upon themselves to remember all the Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust- each one was brave, even the most frightened. The Holocaust has woven itself into our collective memory: it is part of our identity. I would like to end this post with one of my favorite poems. The poem was written by Kovner, and it can be found at the beginning of his book, “Scrolls of fire”, (a sort of glossary/testimony on the Holocaust, set up like Talmud.) This is the real reason I made this post, I really wanted to share this poem. And the poem is written for us.

"The Slaughtered Jewish people speaks,
in silence and in words,
to the living Jewish people:
You who were unable to save us,
listen now with all your heart to our testimony;
it is all that remains of our lives.

Do not regard this testimony as an inspiration for hatred.
By the rivers we sat down and wept when our turn came to be murdered.
By the chimneys of the crematorium
even there
we preserved scraps of
incinerated time and we pondered the future as we thought of you...
Do you have a spare moment to think of us
innocent of crime and unashamed?"
-- Abba Kovner