Monday, 16 July 2007

Hope For The Future

For six weeks now, Josh and I have been travelling round West Bank settlements in order to write a book on life behind the Green Line. Whilst the pieces that I've written for Cif have focused on the extremists and radicals that we've encountered along the way, the vast majority of people we've come across have been anything but fanatic... (read on at commentisfree)

A Dog's Life

Out pounding the streets of Efrat the other day, (my cousin and co-blogger) Josh and I walked past a building site where a few labourers toiled away in the afternoon sun.
As we turned the corner, we saw another of the workers sitting down in the shade of an olive tree eating his lunch, so we stopped and struck up a conversation with him. What we learned from the brief chat served to reaffirm to us the atrocious state of affairs that exists for Palestinians who are "lucky" enough to find employment with Israeli contractors... (read on at commentisfree)

Peace now... please... when you've got a minute

Peace Now's latest report into Israeli settlement activity might soothe the consciences of those who compiled and disseminated it, but it is cold comfort to those it seeks to assist...

Given the reaction to Peace Now's efforts - reaction which ranges from silent apathy to outright opposition, depending on the recipients' political leanings - it would appear that no stack of paperwork hurled at the electorate is either detailed enough nor damning enough to stir them out of their indifference. The settlers know this, which is why they continue to mill about like well-drilled Doozers, building wherever they see fit, safe in the knowledge that nothing of significance is likely to come of Peace Now's posturing... (read on at commentisfree)

Monday, 9 July 2007

According to Nadia, as well as to far too many others I've met lately, this is the opening salvo in "the war of Islam versus Judaism and Christianity. The Arabs have a saying - 'first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.' If we cave in, then the next step will be turning Europe into Eurabia." Explaining her family's presence in the salubrious West Bank settlement of Efrat, she told us proudly that "we're the bulletproof vest for the rest of Israel and, by extension, the world." (read on at commentisfree)

Yakov, a long-haired, post-army Israeli with dreams of India and Laos, is a student at the midrasha in Kfar Adumim where he has spent the last four months studying philosophy, religious texts and other material with a group of 15 others. He had no connection to the Shtachim before taking up his place at the school, yet is now seeking to extend his stay on the settlement well past July, when the study programme ends.

He spends most of his free time swimming with his dog down at the wadi (gorge) near the school and his love of nature, combined with the tranquillity of the surroundings, means that he can see himself spending another six months living and working in Kfar Adumim. Politics plays no part in his desire to stay and that is just what is so alarming about his decision to remain. (read on at commentisfree)

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

The Wailing Wall

What is your favourite wall? I know mine, do you know yours? Mine is the one that is called the Wailing Wall – but don’t worry, it doesn’t really wail! That would be funny, wouldn’t it? You know, if there was a wall that cried real tears and felt sorry for itself! In fact, I am laughing so hard at the thought of it that I just fell off the wall I was sitting on. Now I feel like wailing! Or at least having a little weep as I try to stop the blood pouring from my temple.

Speaking of temples, do you know that behind the Wailing Wall is a temple called the Dome of the Rock? It’s really beautiful, and it contains hundreds and thousands of things called Muslims inside. Muslims are a bit like Jews – but don’t make them angry! If you do, they might start an intifada. In-ti-fa-da. Can you say intifada? I can – but I don’t. Do you know why? Because intifada is a naughty word, like right-of-return and one-state-solution. If you say it, you might have to leave Israel – and not for a holiday!

Anyway, the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock are just two of the lovely things you can find in the Old City of Jerusalem. Two lovely things, for two lovely groups of people. Sometimes, when it’s very quiet and there are no stars in the sky, you can hear the sound of bullets hitting Muslims – but don’t be afraid! That’s just a little game that the Jews and the Muslims play between themselves, which helps them sort out their differences, and reminds the naughty Muslims to stop their intifada mischief!

Sometimes Muslims need reminding – like we all do, don’t we? So now let’s remind ourselves about the Old City. It has a Dome, and a? Yes, a Wall! So next time anyone tells you the Old City is just boring and plain, you can shout “No, no! It’s full of fun!”

Copyright MMVII - Independent Jewish Boyses (and Girlses)

Monday, 25 June 2007

We can pretend this is Texas

Nothing would sway the average Maaleh Adumim resident from believing they have every legal right to live in the city – at least, not whilst their own government continues to indulge them by turning the area into an idyllic retreat not a stone’s throw from Israel’s capital. This is the turning of dream into reality, as far as the expansionist plans of Israel’s leaders are concerned, or – from the Palestinian point of view – turning nightmare from fiction into fact. (Read on at commentisfree)

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Pistols and politics

The man on my right looked thoroughly bored. He had been cornered by a small, yapping man of 50, who was offloading half-baked conspiracy theories like an over-excited child, apparently driving his audience to distraction. The man on my right wore a blank, glazed expression and stared around the synagogue disinterestedly, as Yappy warmed to his theme, "I mean - the BBC actually apologised for calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel! Apologised! Can you believe it?" My right hand man barely blinked as he continued, "But seriously, like it won't belong till the UN vote Israel out. Yeah. Within 5 years, some Arab state will propose it, the UN will vote and bang! They'll dissolve Israel. Good bye."

This was the fourth time in as many hours that I had heard the yapman cram his three pet hates into one anecdote, and I was delighted finally to see another man as bored with his nonsense as I was. Or so I thought. But then the man to my right looked up at the yapper and fixed his gaze. He paused, heavy with solemnity, before finally speaking: "You ready for the war?" He asked. " ... It's gonna be big."

Fantastic. I was in a room full of idiots. (read on at commentisfree)

No one to counter the hate

"Yeah, we've got lots of famous NF leaders on the estate", said the mother of the household, bursting with pride. "He holds an annual dinner here, where he raises a lot of money from the neighbours to fund the NF Youth school over in Burnley." As we continued discussing the "Paki problem," as she so eloquently put it, she remarked: "me? I hate all them Pakis. Well, I say all, but not that friendly one at the corner shop - he's the nicest Paki I ever laid eyes on. But as for the rest of them ... " (read on at commentisfree)

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

The Jewish State

You can hear some strange opinions in Israel. Among the stranger that I’ve heard recently is the theory of the mixed multitude, as follows: When the Israelites fled Egypt, it is believed that certain Egyptians and others were amongst them. This “mixed multitude” thus contained non-Jews, and it is held by some that the descendents of these non-Jews are still living amongst the Jewish people – an infiltration of Goyim has polluted the purity of the Jewish nation. Which means that some of the world’s Jews are – God forbid! – not Jewish. Oi vay! Shame, shame, shame upon them...(read on here)

Monday, 18 June 2007

Hilltop Youth

Standing precariously close to the edge of the mountain, the two boys gazed down at the town below them as they waved their outsized flags with pride. But they weren’t a couple of valiant explorers who had successfully scaled a previously unconquered peak, and they weren’t inviting the villagers below to share their sense of jubilation. What they were, instead, were two religious settler youths who’d come back to the abandoned settlement of Homesh and were taunting the townspeople below with the Star of David. Why? To, in their words, “show them that we’re back – and that we’re not going anywhere”... (read on at commentisfree)

Jacob and Esau

“I feel we are part of the Bible. It’s a very spiritual experience.”

Daniella Weiss, the mayor of Kedumim, sees her West Bank settlement as central to the Jewish people’s return to the Holy Land. On the wall behind her hangs a familiar looking landscape, but I find myself disorientated as I gaze at the unrecognisable and rather bizarre marble structure in the foreground. After a few seconds I realise that this is the imagined Jerusalem of the future – complete with a rebuilt Temple where the Al-Aqsa Mosque now stands. It is an emphatic illustration of Daniella’s vision, which is apparently one step closer to being realised, now that the Jewish people have returned to Judea and Samaria...
(read on at commentisfree)

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Kind of Like a Shield

...He told us about his experiences of Diaspora youth, such as the five days he spent with a Birthright tour group from Montreal. “They were the same age as me, but they were like little children – all the cared about was booze, girls and clothes… I felt this very strongly when I was with them”, he said. I asked him if he didn’t lament the loss of innocence that Israeli youth suffer when growing up in the midst of a conflict, but he said that if anything, he felt the opposite. “I want my kids to know and care about more than just their immediate surroundings”, he replied. “I want my kids to go to the army and be fighters. I know that there’s a chance that they might die in battle, but that’s the way it is. I don’t know why I feel this way, but I do”. His words, to all intents and purposes, were as harrowing as those of the residents of refugee camps who resign themselves to their own children needing to give their lives to fight the Israelis... (read on here)

Friday, 8 June 2007

Pizza Now

...Upon hearing our plans for the book, he told us that he’d be shutting up shop shortly, and that he’d come outside and chat to us if we wanted as soon as he’d cleaned the place up. We retired outside to eat, then Yehiel – a stocky man with closely cropped hair in his mid thirties – came to sit with us and give us his views on settlements and Israeli politics. Wiping his oil-stained hands on his t-shirt, he launched straight into a vehement tirade against the Israeli public and the government who lead them... (read on here)

Settling off

Boarding the bus at Jerusalem’s tahanat merkazit felt much like the start of any journey through Israel. A typical mix of childlike soldiers, scholarly datim and swaggering hilonim jostled for space as they approached the steps to the coach that was to take us to the Israeli settlement of Ariel - deep inside the West Bank. The first thing that struck me as we took our seats towards the front of the bus was that the windows were reinforced with bullet proof glass, a pertinent reminder that the number 480 bus might be a standard route, but this was to be far from a routine journey... (read on here)

First Impressions

...Visiting an illegal hilltop settlement near Nablus, our guide turned to us and asked "is this hilltop illegal or not?". When we shrugged our shoulders in response, he replied "I don't know either. If it's legal, they should stop telling the settlers to leave. If it's not, why did they build a water tower for the residents, and why did they hook up the caravans to the national grid?" - pointing to the pylons on the hillside and the huge concrete water container perched atop the summit.

He wanted us to see the government as confused and indecisive in its West Bank policies, and - regardless of our conflicting political leanings - I agreed with him wholeheartedly. On reflection, however, I don't think they're confused at all. I think they're trying to dupe the public, and the rest of the world, into thinking that they're all about withdrawal-for-peace, but in reality are happy to bankroll and support the settlement juggernaut as it rolls deeper and deeper into the occupied territories.... (
read on at commentisfree)

Setting up camp

...Haya, one of the founding members of Gush Emunim and a pioneering settler in the West Bank since 1974, admits that at first the group were viewed as a bunch of lunatics. Thousands of settler activists came to the mountains of the West Bank in 1974 and 1975 and stayed in tents until the army evacuated them. Seven more times they did this and every time the rest of Israel looked on in disbelief. Who were these wailing rabbis and scarf-wearing women who brought their many long-haired children to live in the middle of these ancient olive groves? " 'Who are these strange, hallucinating people?' they asked," Haya recalls, smiling faintly... (Read on at commentisfree)