Monday, December 31, 2007

Girl Power

From a newspaper clipping in the New York Times, that has been in my wallet for close to 20 years:

Benazir Bhutto, the dismissed Pakistani prime minister, has given her three children advice in case they are ever teased in school about her downfall, reports Newsweek: "I told them to say, 'My Mummy has been prime minister twice. How many times has your mummy been prime minister?' "

Not just prime minister, but the first and only woman to be the leader of a Muslim country, and her murder represents a tragic blow for Pakistan, and for democracy everywhere.

Although I was encouraged by the news that her son and husband would be taking up her mantle, I can't help but wonder why a female blood-relative was not given that opportunity, based upon the late Benazir Bhutto's success.

That being said, I do not think that Hilary Clinton should be given the same opportunity in the American Presidential race. Despite the fact that the Times has given her a 3-in-1 chance of winning the overall election, I do not feel that she has the right stuff for bridge building, either within Washington and overseas. And it has nothing to do with her having a pair of breasts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Next King of Jerusalem

Arcadi Gaydamak - former arms dealer, sports fan and wealthy social activist - has officially declared himself running for Mayor of Jerusalem, and has positioned members of his 'social movement' to run for various government positions in 55 other places in Israel.

Nir Bareket - millionaire, leader of the opposition on the Jerusalem Municipal Board, and social activist - has also announced his candidacy for the Mayor of Jerusalem, representing the "last chance for Jerusalem to remain pluralistic."

Bareket refers of course to the assault and domination of Jerusalem by the Ultra-Orthodox, facilitated by PM Ehud Olmert and led by the current Mayor, Lupolianski. Uri Lupolianski and his cronies regularly ask their Rabbi for political guidance, and belong to a movement within Judaism that does not recognize the validity of a secular Jewish country.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem remains one of the poorest, dirtiest and most polluted cities in all of Israel; one has to wonder where our taxes have been re-allocated, perhaps to the seminaries that encourage perfectly healthy family men not to work and not to serve in the army. Communities which in their spare time burn public property, stone Israeli citizens and police men, and host anti-Semitic Iranian Presidents.

In Jewish tradition, wealth is one of the characteristics of a "good" King for Israel, because it will prevent the leader from being bribed or swayed by the allure of the bling. Both Gaydamak and Bareket fit that bill, Barakat has subtly bought votes while Gaydamak has taken the more direct approach: paying for busloads of Sderot children to go to an amusement park for the day, buying the flailing Jerusalem soccer team, or contributing NIS One Million for a playground at a yeshiva in Or Akiva.

Let's face it, charisma helps for a politician, but money makes you The Candidate. The same is true in the American presidential elections, where a candidate is judged only partially by their popularity and positions, but mostly by their war chest.

I voted for Nir Bareket last time and hope to have that chance again. Anything to stop the Ultra-Orthodox tyranny and restore the honor of the city that is holy to all religions, and just happens to be my home.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Did You Say?

Communication. Essential for any healthy and productive relationship, and certainly helpful when you have moved to a new country. When I moved to Israel in 1997, I studied in Ulpan, an intensive Hebrew language course. The Israeli government paid for my tuition and gave me a small monthly stipend for the period of time in which I studied and therefore, worked less.

The teachers' strike ended only last week, after close to two months, and many university professors are still on strike. Some genius in the government has decided that in order to remedy the mess in the elementary schools, all funding for Ulpan should be frozen indefinitely. Because in the choice between Israeli-born citizens, and immigrants who have given up so much to live here, the citizens come first.

Israelis always seem to come first. As soon as I open my mouth and speak my top flight Hebrew with my natural American accent, most Israelis will try to take advantage of me. If you move to Israel as an adult male, you cannot logistically serve the same army service as a 18 year old sabra; and yet, if you apply for a job and your resume indicates that you are not a "true" Israeli soldier, you are much less likely to get the position. Even if you serve more reserve duty than many Israelis who served the full three years.

I will always have my unfortunate American accent when I speak Hebrew, but I gave up a salary four times what I make here, I gave up family and friends, because I wanted to fulfill my dream of living in the Jewish homeland and giving the best of myself to this country. I was one of the lucky immigrants, coming with solid Hebrew and a natural talent for languages. Others may not be so blessed, they may need to start at the ground floor, with the Aleph-Bet.

Israel should be encouraging new immigrants, rather than taking away their import rights, and taking away any chance of clear communication in Hebrew or integration into their new home.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Partners for Peace

Sunday Haaretz headline, front page: Hamas Vows to Never Recognize the Existence of Israel.

Summary: Over 20,000 participants in a rally celebrating the 20th anniversary of the founding of the extremist terror group, Hamas, chanted in unison, "We will never recognize the State of Israel." They then vowed to continue their war of terror until they had rid their supposed land of every last Jew, dead or alive.

Monday, Radio News: Reports from a terrorist website that over a year and a half ago, right after the three Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped, this Arab terrorist saw Gilad Shalit being led to a jeep by three Palestinians. At the time, the anonymous writer reports that Shalit was bloody and weak, and looked like he had at least several fractures, and not long to live.

Monday editorial piece by Moshe Arens, surprisingly printed by Haaretz, a usually left-wing newspaper: The Numbers Don't Lie

Summary: Arens, a respected right-wing Israeli politician presents the facts regarding Sderot and the Quassam missile strikes, pre and post Disengagement. The same Disengagement that was part of the continuing effort of Israel to treat the Arab population with consideration and kindness, to show that we honor our agreements.

Year, Quassam Strikes

2001, 4
2002, 36
2003, 155
2004, 281
2005, 179 (Year of the Disengagement)
2006, 946 (That would be a 529% increase!)
2007, 783 (so far...)

The numbers speak for themselves. Our so-called Arab peace partners will take advantage of our show of weakness and kindness, and the more we give, the more they will take.

And what is our Prime Minister Ehud Olmert doing about the situation? Trying to give away as much as he can, trying not to get arrested, and clinging desperately to his position of power.

Monday, Radio News: In what can be classified as the least surprising bombshell of the year, the Winograd Committee will sadly be unable to issue the report that would force Olmert to resign his position as Prime Minister. According to the news, the report is in the process of being "re-written," as it currently lists in excruciating detail all the failures and extreme mismanagement of Olmert and his cabinet during the war last year. Even the interim report will not be ready at least until after George Bush's visit to Israel in 2008, until such time as Olmert can damage his country and its citizens even more.

It should be noted that while many Israeli parents sent their sons to serve, and die, in Olmert's failed war, the Prime Minister's own children either fled the country, or proclaimed themselves Conscientious Objectors. No need for the leader of the country to potentially sacrifice his flesh and blood, let the plebeians suffer instead.

As Moshe Arens wrote, "No need to await the final [Winograd] report, the conclusion is clear...We are seeing daily a repetition of this failure in Sderot."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quitting by Example

The mayor of Sderot, the missile-ridden Israeli town, quit his position this week. The government has been absolutely unwilling to protect the citizens of this battered town, and has not provided funds to build protective areas, either for private homes or for the schools. Mayor Moyal could not live up to his basic campaign promise: to serve and protect the residents of Sderot.

Alon Davidi, Chairman of the Sderot security staff, responded with the following:
"We call upon the Prime Minister [Ehud Olmert] to follow in the footsteps of Eli Moyal and to resign from his position, because of his failure to ensure the security of the city's inhabitants."

Hear hear! Not only has PM Olmert failed to protect the citizens of Sderot; not only are the displaced Israeli citizens from Aza still homeless and unemployed, one and a half years later; but Olmert can't hold back his enthusiasm to displace the rest of the country's inhabitants. "Please," Olmert is practically begging the Arabs, "take the rest of our land. Make a Palestinian capital in the middle of West Jerusalem. Continue bombing our citizens and supporting terrorism until we have no where to live and no where to go." Pause. "I can always live in Paris with my wife and sons, and with my cigar collection."

If Olmert fails to take his cue from Eli Moyal of Sderot, perhaps the unpopular, power addicted PM should note the recent response of American Presidential candidate, Fred "Law and Order" Dalton Thompson. When asked why he had such short stint in the US Congress, he replied that he felt that he could not achieve his goals and help his constituents. When asked what about the best thing he did in fact accomplish in his time there, Thompson answered, "I left."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Oprah and the Politics of Race

At a minimum personal worth of $40 billion a year, she sneezes near a book and it immediately becomes a best seller. Even if the author has plagiarized. She gives away cars and donates money for the unfortunate and uneducated all over the world. She is the poster child for "Who says you have to get married and have children?"

Pretty terrific for a woman who got her start in television on the local news, as an overweight, uncharismatic weather girl.

In the Democratic Presidential race, Oprah had a dilemma: does she support the token woman or the token black? And the winner is Barack Obama.

I give Obama credit for his drive and his dynamic speaking style. He and his young pretty wife make quite a photo opportunity, and Bill Cosby would be proud at the strides that a man of color has made in the White world. Even if it is the Democratic party.

However, what Barack Obama lacks is experience, particularly in the international realm. Just because he can excite an audience with his evangelical style, does not mean that he has enough bruises from politics to maneuver the complex relationships between the currently isolated United States, and the rest of the world, full of potential allies and enemies.

I appreciate Oprah taking a stand (because she can) and boosting Obama's coffers (because she can) and trying to make history with the 2008 elections. (Obama, the Broadway Show! Obama, the Best Selling Autobiography, as featured in the Oprah book club! Etc.) Barak Obama is not cooked and ready to be served, he should accumulate more friends in Washington, get his hands dirtier, and run in 2012.

This has nothing to do with his color, nor do I feel the need or obligation to pander to the feminist agenda.

I do not support Hilary Clinton, whom I feel lacks the personality that would inspire respect and cooperation, both from Washington insiders and from leaders abroad. Americans have had enough of the Bush and Clinton political dynasties, and deserve some fresh blood, someone who can begin to tidy up the mess that George W. Bush Jr has left as his legacy.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Playing the Numbers

Israel on 12/4/07

Temperature in Jerusalem: 16 degrees Celsius
Temperature in Eilat: 25 degrees Celsius
Shequel/Dollar Exchange Rate: 3.841

Number of Chanukah candles lit tonight: 1

Days of the Teachers' Strike and Student Delinquency: 48
International Rank of Israeli Elementary Students: 40/57

Arab Countries in the Middle East: 22
Arab Countries Willing to take in "Palestinian Refugees": 0
Arab Countries Supporting Palestinian Terrorists: 22

% Israelis Supporting the Annapolis proceedings: 23
% Israelis Supporting PM Ehud Olmert: 5 plus/minus 3
"Good Will" Prisoners released by Israel: Yet another 430
Projected Date of Return of the 3 Israeli MIAs: None

Harry "The Highlander", Chiropractic Cat

By Harry "The Highlander," with some scientific input from his Human

Although I have not officially graduated from Chiropractic school, I consider myself somewhat of an expert. I have extensively observed my Human taking care of clients. Starting when I was one month old, I would sit on the patients' hands to keep them warm, and even now, I can tell when a visitor is having a bad day and needs PT (Purr Therapy).

Like any new parent, the first time I had a cold, my mother called the veterinarian, and asked how to resolve this health issue. I was sneezing and lethargic, and my eyes were gunky and gross. Our doctor prescribes to a holistic approach to feline care, and told Mom to wait a few days, and clean out my eyes on a regular basis; he did not immediately believe that we should leap to the drug route. The prognosis was two or three days of suffering, "Even cats can get a cold," the doctor said.

Chiropractic, based upon a holistic neurological view of the body, believes that the brain and central nervous system have an innate mechanism for correction in times of physical and emotional stress. The spine (the so-called central computer chip) controls all functions of the body, with the nerves starting from the head and continuing all the way into the tail. That's why my tail reacts immediately to our mood by standing upright (happy, secure), swishing back and forth (curious or slightly insecure), or thumping loudly (extremely annoyed). If there is interference in that essential flow of information, a human or feline will get ill.

Inspired by one of her mentors, whose specialty involves re-aligning the spines of race horses, Mom thought, "If I can help humans every day with my treatment, why not try it on Harry?"

Thankfully it worked, and within a half a day, I returned to my active healthy self, forgoing drugs and the trauma of an office visit. It doesn't work every time, and Mom respects and cooperates with conventional medicine, but I prefer the holistic approach.

[The Chiropractor/Human taking dictation adds: Once a client brought his hyperactive dog to the office, and after one session the dog was so much better behaved, a different animal. I have often treated pets with Chiropractic, they respond well. Last year, when Harry sprained his hip from a mis-timed jump and had to be immobile for a week, Chiropractic treatment helped speed his recovery.]

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

Growing up in America, Chanukah (the Jewish holiday of lights) and Christmas (the cultural holiday of Capitalism) walked hand-in-hand. My non-Jewish friends envied me because I had eight days in which to receive gifts, as opposed to a one-time bonanza under the tree. I envied my non-Jewish friends because I loved the carols, and the spirit of giving, even if it only occurred one day a year.

Especially after living in New York City, the Christmas season has been indelibly imprinted upon my brain. The awe inspiring raising of the tree at Rockefeller Center, and skating beneath its lights on the Rockefeller Center rink. The artistic arrangement of the windows at Macy's, all white and sparkling. The Nutcracker ballet live and sitting in the second row with my grandparents, and the numerous holiday programming on television: Frosty the Snowman, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the original Grinch cartoon, and who can forget the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life. " (Broadcasted 24 hours a day for several weeks, until you want to kill yourself.)

Usually known for their aggressive behaviour, New Yorkers become more kind and gentle, smiling and wishing each other a "Happy Holiday," while they sprint to work or shop for presents. Of course as soon as the drunken orgy takes place in Times Square on New Year's eve, all that generosity of spirit disappears faster than you can say "Ho ho ho."

I moved to Jerusalem, Israel in 1997, and there are essentially three things that I miss about the United States: one, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my second home since childhood; two, fall foliage; and three, a true holiday spirit in December. Chanukah, unlike for example other Jewish holidays of Pesach or Succot, passes by without too much notice; most adults I know work at least part of the time if not overtime, rather than taking vacation with their family. Other than the appearance of jelly doughnuts and bad children's musicals, you would be hard pressed to find the true meaning of the Festival of Lights: a feeling of joy, family and salvation from an historical enemy of the Jews.

Several years ago, I saw the Nutcracker Ballet performed in Jerusalem. Cow-towing to the various religions, the stage in the first act lacked both a Christmas tree and a Menorah, and instead had an odd pile of presents in the corner. The music was pre-recorded. Towards the end of the second act, the Sugar Plum Fairy slipped and sprained her ankle during her solo, because the stage hand had not properly swept up the fake snow.

Two years ago, some friends and I went to the Jerusalem Theatre, for Handel's Messiah. My friend's husband slept through the first part, had an allergic attack (to culture?) in the second part and left with his wife, while I stayed until the end. The tonal quality of the voices were just OK, both the men and women had trouble hitting the highest and lowest notes.

Last year I attended a Christmas carol concert at the YMCA - I knew all the words - and many of my Jewish friends attend Midnight Mass, though they don't participate in the pure ritual. One of my Chiropractic patients reported to me that last year, 3/4 of the audience at the church were Jewish, and mostly Anglo-Saxon.

This year, the firebug in me made the conscious decision to end work earlier than usual, so that I could light the Menorah on time, and sit and enjoy the experience of family. The inner child in me will seek out another concert and maybe even buy myself a present or two.

Dear Santa...