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Let the Interrailing Begin! Ricoh KR-10 Super Paris, France Tuesday, August 2nd, 1988.

All Aboard
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All Aboard iPhone SE 2020 Dieppe, France Saturday, February 17th, 2024.

Home is Where the Moka is
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Home is Where the Moka is iPhone 6S East Sussex, England Tuesday, July 28th, 2020.

Another Farewell to the Flowers
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Another Farewell to the Flowers iPhone 6S Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel Saturday, April 20th, 2019.

Girl on a Plane
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Girl on a Plane iPhone 6S Sunday, November 4th, 2018.

Exiled
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Exiled iPhone 6S Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel, Great Wall, China Sunday, November 4th, 2018.

Up the Hill
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Up the Hill iPhone 6S Rosh Hanikra, Israel Tuesday, October 30th, 2018.

If You Want You Can Build a City
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If You Want You Can Build a City iPhone 6S Tel Aviv, Israel Wednesday, April 19th, 2017.

On Me Way
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On Me Way iPhone 6S Brighton, East Sussex, England Monday, April 3rd, 2017.

Trips!
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Trips! iPhone 4S Gatwick Airport, Surrey, England Tuesday, April 1st, 2014.

Pure Erechtheum
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Pure Erechtheum iPhone 4S Acropolis, Athens, Greece Thursday, October 4th, 2012.

At the airport
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At the airport iPhone 4S Athens, Greece Thursday, September 13th, 2012.

A Visit to England
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A Visit to England Olympus C5050 Brighton, East Sussex, England Saturday, August 28th, 2010.

At Gate B6, Ben Gurion Airport
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At Gate B6, Ben Gurion Airport Nokia N95 8GB Israel Saturday, August 1st, 2009.

Pit Stop
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Pit Stop Pentax P30 Scotland Wednesday, June 27th, 1990.

Glasgwegian Backpackers at the Colosseum
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Glasgwegian Backpackers at the Colosseum iPhone 6S Rome, Lazio, Italy Monday, September 19th, 1988.

The Tedium of Group Travel
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The Tedium of Group Travel Ricoh KR-10 Super Italy Sunday, August 28th, 1988.

Let the Interrailing Begin!
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Let the Interrailing Begin! Ricoh KR-10 Super Paris, France Tuesday, August 2nd, 1988.

Artsy Fartsy #1
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Artsy Fartsy #1 Ricoh KR-10 Super Paris, France Wednesday, July 13th, 1988.

•••

About

Briefs

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion

Tom Segev

♦♦♦♦

Just as author Tom Segev relates that Ben-Gurion increasingly harked back to the episodes that shaped him in his earlier life, so too are these episodes more vivid to us than later ones. This would be fine and even impressive as a literary gambit, having the reader feel about Ben-Gurion’s life the way Ben-Gurion himself did, but at least for this reader it was somewhat disappointing in that it’s the later events — founding and leading the State of Israel — that we are reading for. But again, this too may be a literary achievement, suggesting that for the subject of this biography, it was the younger man’s experiences that were important — and that by extension this is the case for all lives. But I’m not sure that’s accurate; surely the ambitious younger Ben-Gurion would have been overjoyed at the eventual achievements of his later self.

It’s a strange complaint to make, but I feel this book wasn’t long enough; each of the many episodes, particularly the later more historic ones, I felt could have withstood more detail.

I was pleased to learn of Ben-Gurion’s erratic behavior and attitude towards his family, and of his penchant for travel and mild but somewhat constant womanizing, and his growing intellectualism alongside faddishness. Segev concludes that Ben-Gurion’s philosophical disposition is basically that of Anglo-American liberal; all to the good. Almost. The implication is that this temperate poise made him the wise indispensable man, but also open him to more exciting dead-end intellectual enthusiasms.

Friendships, sex, religious relations, despair — the richness of the subject matter’s life encourages in the reader a life in politics as it’s a life in full.

Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

The virtues involved in being a good driver —the mix of independence and cooperation, knowledge and responsibility — really are virtues well suited to citizenship in a sprawling and diverse republic.

Ross Douthat, “What Driving Means for America” by Ross Douthat in The New York Times

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

What a penetrating look at an earlier Israel by the recently-departed neoconservative scion Midge Decter. A paragraph chosen truly at random:

How was I to be prepared for the discovery that a kibbutz, salvation or damnation, transcendent new society or dustbin of failed transformations, was . . . a farm? I was, to be sure, quite aware that the kibbutzim engaged primarily in farming—that, too, was crucial to their ideology and mine—but from such awareness I had not even come near the image of those flat monotonous fields, unbroken by any visual mark of the drama that had created them, stretching to their termination at a dusty road or property line—the same as must be required anywhere in the world for the growing of cotton or corn or wheat. Degania Aleph, weeping Rachel of the whole movement, sits somnolently by the side of the road (for some reason, I can never envision History as taking place alongside an ordinary thoroughfare, accessible to any passing mortal; History must be climbed up to or stumbled down upon) near the Sea of Galilee, giving no physical hint of anything but a usually drab farm life—with neither marker nor monument to set her apart.

Tuesday, April 5th, 2022

Cool — Bloomberg’s Pret Index shows that coffee sales at UK airports are now higher than pre-pandemic.

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

The architect would surely be pleased that there is once again a Frank Lloyd Wright hotel in Japan — though he’d probably say: Just the one? (Actually it’s not by Wright but Arata Endo, who seems a tasteful and disciplined disciple.)

Monday, November 30th, 2020

What a perfect, impassioned argument by Scottish, sorry, British broadcaster Neil Oliver in praise of keeping Britain. For him it is, correctly, not a confused affair of the dismal science but a clear celebration of the happy heart.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

The Making of Prince of Persia

Jordan Mechner

♦♦♦

Video game maker Jordan Mechner wrote a rich diary of his life in the mid-1980s. This book covers the creation his second hit game, Prince of Persia, so we gain access of unique immediacy to the heroic tale of producing a universe-dent-making hit.

I wanted this book, which I discovered via Tyler Cowen’s most recent What I’ve been reading, as inspiration during a small lull in morale as I work on a digital product of my own.

Thirty years on there is some poignancy in that this early period of Mencher’s life was the peak: after graduating Yale, already dreamily successful, he shuttles between San Francisco and Hollywood creating video games and pushing screenplays, a digital Orson Welles (in his later game The Last Express, Mechner combines these passions, relying on cinema to produce an impressive commercial failure).

That said, perhaps it is no failure at all that one can point to the creative peak of a life — Mechner’s arguably was working within the memory constraints of the Apple II to create a foe, Shadow Man, based on the hero character. Here I’m reminded of Ken Kocienda’s not dissimilar Eureka moment when up against a constraint, that of using a dictionary to help create the iPhone keyboard.

Perhaps it would have been a better book if he had fleshed out the journal with an italicized retrospective written now, but count me a late-arrival Jordan Mechner fan. And don’t get the Kindle edition lacking the illustrations; I think I’m gonna need to buy the actual book.

Monday, March 9th, 2020

WorldOMeter has a handy COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak page that’s updated regularly, sortable and filterable.

Friday, February 21st, 2020

From Paul Graham’s essay “Having Kids”, December 2019:

I remember perfectly well what life was like before. Well enough to miss some things a lot, like the ability to take off for some other country at a moment’s notice. That was so great. Why did I never do that?

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

AutoCar drives the electric Jaguar I-Pace from London to Frankfurt. As recently as two years ago such a journey simply wasn’t feasible. Now, once you have the more expensive car, it’s much cheaper than driving diesel let alone petrol. That said, charging stops are an hour rather than five minutes, and every 200 miles rather than say every 500. But I think there is some good here. Travellers must get out and stretch their legs for a longer while. All in all our automotive future looks improved.

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

11 Brilliant Ways To Redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles by Spencer Howard at GodSaveThePoints. Most are not actually flying Virgin Atlantic but their partner airlines

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

September 25th, 2019, a Virgin Atlantic plane landed in Tel Aviv for the first time. Airplane travel writer Gilbert Ott was aboard.

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

The end of formal dining on Amtrak. The change is “driven by a desire to save money,” Amtrak said to The Washington Post, “and lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run, glued to their phones and not particularly keen on breaking bread with strangers at a communal table.” Sad!

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

“Please just leave me alone when I cross streets.” Richard Stallman’s terms of service for speaking engagements come to light [via The Register] surrounding his forced terminations. A couple of observations: for 66 his skin looks amazingly moist and smooth, like a healthy 25-year-old’s, which perhaps says something about his lifestyle and choices. And his exactingness regarding these terms is both ridiculous and admirable; few things are more important than knowing who we are and what we want and expressing these clearly.

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

The words that don’t quite translate tell you the most about another culture.

Colin Marshall, “Travel is Living: How Airbnb Ingeniously Markets to Korea”

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Of course they should do it, what are they waiting for? Venice mulls charging for day-trippers — again.

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

It’s Tim Ferriss’s most soulful interview yet: Jack Kornfield, a guru who talks the talk, walks the walk, sat the sit. With a great selection in the shownotes of links and people mentioned.

As these two leaders discuss morning practices, I’m struck by how many of the perspectives and attitudes they hope for are nicely handled by the Jewish morning prayers.

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Tyler Cowen’s work habits while traveling. “Go somewhere — perhaps somewhere dangerous or disgusting — and simply plan to spend your full, normal work/writing day there.” Because: “By the end of the trip it will feel like a full vacation anyway, that’s how silly your memory is.”

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

TechCrunch takes iPhone X to Disneyland. A great review of considered real-world use.

Monday, June 26th, 2017

“A wordy kind of Kardashian Instagram feed, without the self-awareness.” In this perfectly pitched skewering of Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman & Dave Eggers et al’s confrontation of the Occupation in the West Bank, Matti Friedman wonders what it’s all actually about. All this, plus: I don’t think I’ve ever seen such skilful use of the exclamation mark!

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

As an antidote to the borderline smarminess of Jason Horowitz’s New York Times article about returning to Rome, here is a more substantial, dignified, rewarding and useful guide to visiting the city by a blogger named Nan Quick: My Recipe for a Stress-Free Week in Rome. Warning: she takes a couple of paragraphs to warm up.

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

He had me with his first-paragraph mention of Trattoria Da Enzo, my favorite. I’ve forwarded to visitors this panegyric to Rome by the incoming New York Times’ bureau chief. A lot of attractive restaurants mentioned and described. [via Juan Carlos Bronstein, who was unimpressed by the tone, as are many others in the comments]

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

I’m wrestling with taking too many pictures these days, and why don’t I just stop, but not as well as does the author in “What We See When We Look at Travel Photography”.

Monday, September 5th, 2016

In this report on Ryanair’s service between Budapest and Eilat, anna.aero lists the low-cost airlines flying to Israel. All the others fly to Ben-Gurion. So that’s Eilat to Budapest in February roundtrip for 85€!!!

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Go out of the house to see the moon, and ’tis mere tinsel; it will not please as when its light shines upon your necessary journey.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

“Nation on the Move” is the magnificent second episode of the America Revealed PBS series. Interestingly, the show is British-made.

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

KLM presents Meet & Seat.
Use Facebook or LinkedIn to “find out about interesting
people who will be on board your KLM flight”.

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

John Malkovich on Charlie Rose.

John Malkovich: The world is in fact, well, if you’re anywhere near as lucky as I have been, but even if you’re just moderately lucky, the world is in fact an exquisitely beautiful, endlessly fascinating place filled often with spectacular people.

Charlie Rose: That’s exactly the way I feel.

JM: You know…

CR: Exactly!

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

On hotels and the delectable feeling of dépaysé.

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Brighton to Victoria on the train for £3. I’ve done it, though had to enjoy a veggie English Breakfast at Victoria’s Wetherspoone’s while waiting for London to open.

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Brief recent photo essay of North Korea by the brave Tomas van Houtryve.

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

“A very peculiar restless thing of the British, isn’t it,” relates travel writer Eric Newby’s widow.

index topics travel travel

Israel–Iran Proxy War, Day #50

Midway through the hostage deal and ceasefire are two concerns: will the ceasefire become permanent, letting Hamas remain in place? And on what basis does US support for the war rest and will it continue?

Simchat Torah War, Day #17

The US sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, Israel postponed its ground incursion, and the Western media acknowledged its erroneous reporting.

Arab Insanity Pull-up

What shame, to have degraded with one’s own madness such benevolent standards as civil aviation, human rights — even non-combatant status in war.

Denver Met

My intent here is not only to participate in a conference but to suck up myriad Americana as a thirsty exile catapulted back in for a primer.

Yes

It’s a Somewhat Rauschenberg World

I don’t like this use of animals, like Damien Hirst’s. The artist could not have asked the goat for permission so should not have assumed it was granted.

Black Tracks the Presidents

The great virtue of Conrad Black’s Flight of the Eagle is its steady track across the entirety of the nation’s history, treating each president equally under its own law and order.

Homepage Design 2016

Even if a web site appears differently at different screen sizes, it should still feel like itself. On a larger canvas more expression abounds; distill this into the smaller screen and get more personality; do “mobile first” second.

Yes

From iPhone 4S to 6S: An Appreciation

The increased size, something I was so hesitant about, feels fine to me now. And because it’s thinner it feels less obtrusive in my pocket.

Spectreview

With the villain’s quasi-sibling bond to the hero, 2015’s 007 movie deflates to an incestuous Möbius Strip.

In Gaza, Israel Should Own its Terrible Tactic

Although such excoriating labels as “collective punishment” and “state terrorism” aren’t entirely wrong regarding Israel’s application of the Dahieh Doctrine in Gaza, history does suggest that the method is effective in fighting a fundamentally defensive war.

Go Deny Yourself

This four-letter little word undermines our modern values of tolerance and presumption of innocence.

Some Consumer Affairs

I’ve tried to enjoy schlepping water, thinking that it serves to keep us to some human roots.

Yes

From Nokia N95 to iPhone 4S

Annoyances and upsets with the iPhone 4S have been more than offset by its screen, the silkiness of its surfaces, the camera, and the third-party market for both software and hardware.

2001: A Space Odyssey: Dry, Juicy, Linear, Luminous

The dancers in the ape-suits; how they move is an incredibly energetic output for us. Contrast their physical reaction when witnessing the monolith to that of the astronauts in the newly-minted 21st century.

The Mouse and the Cantilever

Steve Jobs we lost at the age of 56; when Frank Lloyd Wright reached that age it was 1923, the time of merely his second comeback with Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel.

Friendship is for Weenies

It’s amazing, given the adulation he enjoyed elsewhere, that the Israeli public knew from the start not to trust US President Obama.

Before the Setup

It’s 1983: Go for the Apple IIe with 64k that could be opened up as a hobbyist machine? Or the smaller, sleeker and newer IIc with double the memory but a closed case?

At Modi’in Mall

There’s nothing else around here except empty desolate pretty hills. The Israel Trail passes by a bit to the west. The shops are mostly franchises, almost all homegrown: Super-Pharm, Aroma, Tzomet Sfarim, Cup O’ Joe’s, LaMetayel, Mega, Fox, Castro, H&O.

Yes

The Israel I Love, the Bad So Far

If the signage were a bit more effective, the staff’s diction and demeanor more professional, then we might have avoided this testy altercation.

Shanghai Europe

So, finally, we stopped yesterday; the Israeli assault on Gaza of late 2008/early 2009 is over. With it, Israel lost moral purity and made vital strategic gains.

Yes

Panning for MacBook Pro

Even if it did nothing, was just a prop in a futuristic movie, the MacBook Pro would be impressive; it’s like a sculpture of my previous computer, the MacBook, except it’s actually an improved computer!

Stop Yesterday

Is the goal of Israel’s current assault on Gaza to discourage Hamas from firing rockets or to render them incapable of doing so? These are two quite different projects.

Short-circuiting Place-based Longing

If there’s one tangible benefit to having lived in a variety of places it’s that it furnishes evidence of the futility of longing to be elsewhere.

A Crawl Across Crawley, Part 1

Irit, the Jam and I walk from Brighton to Gatwick Airport.

Clash of the Midgets

I was annoyed to have my sauna moments despoiled and dominated, reverberating with this old geezer’s most naff yap.

Yes

Israel’s Greatest Victory Since Osirak?

If Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was part of a masterplan to staunch the damage done by the victory of the Six Day War in 1967, then today we see another step in its unfolding.

The Small Adventures, Part 2

There in the empty restaurant by the water at Dieppe I had toast with foie gras, a carafe of red wine, a huge plate of mussels and chips, and finally a crème brûlée. Somehow, though I’ve eaten in restaurants hundreds of times, I felt grown up.

Yes

The Small Adventures

Late for the 11pm train to Milan, we enquired frantically among the taxis for one who’d accept the two dogs and take us to Termini Station so I could begin our journey to Britain.

Tony Blair and the Four-State Solution

Ariel Sharon’s disengagement policy reflected an understanding that ownership of the Palestinian issue is shared with Egypt and Jordan. If Tony Blair were to acquire this view, perhaps he really could help facilitate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Restoration and Return

There she was, sitting outside the apartment block! How did she do it? Dogs—or at least Jam—must have some sort of navigational sense we don’t understand.

Curs to Fate

Yesterday I lost Jam in Villa Borghese, the central park here in Rome, some five miles from Talenti, the neighborhood where we’re staying. She has not turned up since.

Yes

Jam and Bread, Jam and Bread!

My dog Jam has spent over a third of her time here in Italy as her fixtures have fallen away—first Maddie, then me. But now I’m back!

Yes

This Trip’s Last Day

I went to Astor Place Haircutters. I crossed Manhattan Bridge on foot. I walked west along Canal St, seeking a bamboo steamer.

I, Thou and Pastor Bob

At the Calvary Church here in Fort Lauderdale the Biblical locations feel so far away that they can be abstracted and spiritualized. There is religious energy here.

Yes

The Big and Easy

The American stage is grand, as are the achievements and ambitions, but daily life seems lamed by a compulsive denaturing.

A Drop in Time

The camera hit the ground lens first, bashing it in so that it would no longer wind in and out, and couldn’t switch on. Without it, my perception of an important personal era was degraded.

A Ride to Gatwick Airport

Airports. They’re so charged, so symbolic, and so empty once you’re at one; I dream of them so often.

Only the Rustle in the Trees

Grief, loss — these are the great teachers surely. What one has will pass.

A Cabaret, Old Chum

It’s a last bastion of civility, being allowed to drink at Penn Station, Brian mused ruefully as we carried our beers to his train home to Great Neck.

Fatahland and Hamastan

Now Israel has a dog in a real Palestinian fight: the nationalists rather than the Islamists.

Yes

Stars, Stripes & Superlatives

Here in Los Angeles I am bombarded with superlatives. Daniel’s record collection. The Bikram Yoga College of India world headquarters. Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. All mixed in with the most ravaging mediocrity.

Shite on Brighton

“Like many provincial towns,” the Private Eye reviewer stabs, “Brighton, as depicted in this hacked-together tribute, defines itself more by what it isn’t than by what it is. It’s not London, for one thing.”

Daily Yin

For my first test of the day as day, I open the back door and step outside to the little patio to see the sky and feel the air. I realize not everybody does this, so if people tell me I’m a miserable bastard then perhaps this little habit will correct their impression.

Mind the Dream

Dreaming about our passed companions as if they are alive requires tricks to the dreaming mind to overcome what it believes and knows to be true.

The Dharma Tits

Buddhism is the philosophy and psychology closest to Cognitive Therapy and vice versa.

Yes

Still Got the Jam

Jam was one of Maddie’s nine puppies, the one who remained after the others were all taken. That was always my plan, to keep the runt.

Such a Tramp

Maddie, who died 18 months ago today, was a mangy mutt and stank, but she was also among the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen and for me the longest, richest, widest, deepest streak of feeling lucky.

So You Noticed

I have had something very flattering: a request. Juan Carlos has asked me for comments on Casino Royale.

Reminds Me of Tel Aviv

You get to a stage in life where you are already formed by the past. Thoughts and dilemmas about place are either central questions or a distraction from real issues.

Fly the Blag

Ryanair has brought wretchedness to the skies. Rather than existing on a privileged plane, you stew in a poisoned atmosphere.

Approaching Infinite Justice

Immediately after 9/11, the burgeoning war on terror was named “Operation Infinite Justice”. Within days it was renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom”, but is the new name a mere cloaking of the first?

On the Seventh Day

The Mrs is skeptical of David Allen’s Getting Things Done self-management system because it eschews the rigors of time management in lieu of what feels right. But GTD is about informed feeling.

Don’t Panic!

An academic romp through Jewish American comedy starts out as a veritable rollercoaster ride, but grinds to halt with its obsession with one Bob Dylan.

Photographing a Handsome Old Man

I want to get people in my pics, but it’s tougher when you’re no longer a wide-eyed teenager, because people generally don’t like to think they are a spectacle.

The Beauty of Rain

Rain makes the rocks shine. It puts in motion things that are otherwise static. It illustrates gravity most prettily.

Ode to Salame

It’s supposed to be the arsehole of Tel Aviv, Salame Street, running east-west at its southern tip, but it always does me darn good.

I Love Laundry

How pleasing it is to have my own washing machine. If all isn’t right with the world, not even in my world, at least the laundry cycle is functioning.

Lovely Scenery, But Walks Getting Boring

Unless I drive somewhere new, it’s not much fun to just step out the door and wander. But driving to go for a walk seems a tad ridiculous.

For Love of Economy

It disturbs me to be driving a car that gets fewer kilometers to the shekel than did my previous.

Shinui and the Seven-Year Itch

How refreshing to see Asian faces out shopping in Tel Aviv, or Africans riding the bus to Ra’anana. With them Israel is given fresh wellsprings of culture.

Allah Help the Jackals

While it’s obvious that overplaying your power can result in a downfall, it’s less obvious that underplaying it also leads to trouble. America did this in the 1970s under Carter. Israel seems to have done it almost perennially.

Yes

For Tel Aviv, Better a Skylift Than a Subway

Rather than copycatting a transportation system from the 19th century, Israel could inject into its civic planning the same audacity and resourcefulness that it has historically brought to agriculture and defence.

Yes

Canada Obscura

There’s not a patch of water to be seen—the most liquid thing is the word “Coffee” on one of the low-slung strip-mall buildings. It’s a scene more artful than art itself.

Tour of Kitchen Duty

There was yelling and spray and I raced to keep up. One can enjoy, briefly, the company of men.

Shiny Bright Toadstool

In Israel’s case, burgernomics don’t add up because significant factors contribute to the 30%-odd surcharge on a Big Mac.

The Fresh Jewels of Spring Mound

Quality of life in Tel Aviv is fundamentally enhanced by two simple factors: trees are everywhere, and so are apartments.

Independence Park Up for Grabs?

To this day men of many ages walk these bushes, they delicately lurk these bushes, and stand in places odd to choose.

We Tri Harder

A land could be governed not only by the three separate arms of government, but by three sovereign states.

Yes

Tira Saunters

The one-lane road is empty; down below is the Sharon Plain, looking vast. Israel may be a small country but we’re still speaking here of land.

A Call to Thumbs

When you hitchhike it’s out of your hands, and that’s therapeutic. Paradoxically, you also see how much control you do have.

 

Briefs (cont’d)

Friday, May 24th, 2024

Yossi Klein-Halevi: We have to own the strangeness of our story. I’ve been having similar thoughts; there is no comparable nation to Israel. Right from the get go we endemically punch way above our weight — this small nation sandwiched between bigger empires declared its god to be the only one, negating everyone else’s! It’s a world religion that — unlike any other world religion — doesn’t proselytize because it’s the religion of a nation, so grows through the womb not the meme. Always being small in one’s arena means always being a target.

Thursday, May 23rd, 2024

The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board cuts through the miasma:

Though Israeli liberals won’t like to hear it, Israel probably will need to fill the vacuum in Gaza for a time. Though Israeli right-wingers won’t like to hear it, the purpose would be to make way for local governance. The politics, there and here, explain why it has been easier to pretend there’s no plan at all.

Monday, May 20th, 2024

“Helikopter, Helikopter”. As someone says in the comments, it’s the new Iranian anthem.

Saturday, May 18th, 2024

Sense from John Spencer as reported by CNN of all outlets.

By going slowly, I can argue through history and through metrics, it gives your enemy more time to defend, more time to prevent your plans, more time to prevent you from achieving surprise. We, as in the world, are also responsible for some of the destruction that’s happened in Gaza.

Friday, May 17th, 2024

We are at a moment where what’s morally indefensible is becoming socially acceptable.

Tal Becker, “Call Me Back”, May 16th

Classy Abe Greenwald’s “Woke Jihad” in Commentary makes no bones about the commonality of social justice and Islamist movements: they both want to tear it all down. There are many quotable bits, here’s one paragraph:

The love between the two camps, however, is not reciprocal. Leftists love the jihadists. They love them for their ferocity and exoticism as much as for their bottomless self-pity. Those are the constituent elements of social justice. It’s why we see protesters trying to shape-shift into war-ravaged Palestinians, asking for humanitarian aid, claiming chemical attacks on students, grasping to bask in the reflective glow of the nobly oppressed. But no properly chauvinistic jihadist could feel anything but disgust for the unchecked females, sexual libertines, heathens, and even Jews he’s been forced to instrumentalize in the cause of Islamist domination.

It also dives into the source of their money, which I’m less interested in though it’s very important. Does Bill Gates actually support any of this? Why is he helping fund it if not?

A revolutionary cannot live on microaggressions alone.

Abe Greenwald, “Woke Jihad” in Commentary Magazine

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

David Wurmser at the Center for Security Policy, the first I’ve come across to synthesize Israel’s Eurovision popular vote win:

Israel seems to be casting some light that is shining onto populations and peoples far away, triggering in them a rediscovery of themselves and what made those distant lands and cultures great.

He notes the dichotomy between the popular vote and the judges:

Many of the nations in which Israel won the popular vote by wide margins had their judges award Israel zero points. Western European elites led the trend: the UK, Switzerland, Luxembourg, San Marino, Spain, Finland, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Andorra, Belgium, and Sweden all had been won by Israel with 12 points on the popular vote, but all had the judged award Israel zero points. Four of the five UK judges had ranked Israel as the worst song of the 35.

Eric Cohen’s Exodus project: American Jews need to contribute to renewal.

Monday, May 13th, 2024

Brendan O’Neill in The Telegraph:

[Green agitation and radical Islam], at root, represent a disgust with modernity. Both the privileged Western weepers over industrial society and the Islamist haters of Israel share an aversion to the modern world, to progress, to Enlightenment itself.

Climate Justice for Palestine! Mental. Though there’s precious little more in this piece linking the two deranged movements, both of which start from a place of ostensible decency yet veer almost immediately into the weeds of venality and beyond, I’ve been waiting for someone to at least touch on the shared ideational foundations. Here they fuse in one charismatic which might alone shed some light on their commonality. One thing they share is hate, demonstrating wilful disregard for actual causes and workable solutions in favor of vilification of the chosen villain and a desire to dismantle existing structures (modernity; Israel) which if ever actually successful would be imagined catastrophe.

John Bolton in The Telegraph:

Piling on publicly in the middle of a war is imprudent, even juvenile, damaging the respect and trust allies must sustain during times of crisis and tension. The propaganda opportunities handed to hostile powers are immeasurable. And if Biden is prepared to cut loose one of America’s most valued partners, what does that foretell for those more-distant, less-favoured than Israel? How does Ukraine feel? Or Taiwan?

A few days in to the announcement of withholding weapons and the Biden Administration is in contortions trying to walk it back a bit, at least rhetorically. Oh dear they are in a mess. And why? Venality. A belief in something, anything, could fortify them with the intestinal fortitude required to stay the course.

Sunday, May 12th, 2024

Just when you think Bidenite kindergarten diplomacy couldn’t get any worse, can it be true that they are withholding intelligence from Israel on Hamas leaders’ whereabouts? No, if I had to wager I’d say this Washington Post story is not true; it’s just too egregious.

The Daily Mail seems to cover all angles of Eurovision 2024 in this sprawling report. Politics aside, I thought the Irish entry was pretty amazingly performed. I missed the Swiss song as too many bland numbers had forced me away from the screen, and my faith in Eurovision songwriting is not up to searching for it to listen to it. But mainly: I was totally taken aback by the number of votes for Israel; I know there’d been a campaign to do so and supporters probably went out and bought extra SIMs — Jews vote — but surely not in enough numbers to achieve the level reached; the mostly-European public spoke and it was briefly intensely heartwarming. As was seeing Eden Golan’s return to Israel at Benny-G arrivals.

Tuesday, May 7th, 2024

Potholes are a great heuristic for evaluating national decline, and Britain’s here has been especially egregious. In this excellent bit of reporting in The Telegraph, the main culprit seems to be, like at least with one other major problem, legislation from the 90s:

Part of the issue is a little-known change in the law in 1991. Prior to this, companies had to pay highway authorities to repair roads after they’d been dug up. Westminster council charged £120 per square metre for this work. But under the New Roads and Street Work Act of 1991, utilities could reinstate their own openings. Costs dropped to an estimated £40 per square metre. In theory the savings should have resulted in lower bills (or fatter margins for the utility companies). But the change in the law clearly had a number of unintended consequences.

Hussein Aboubakr Mansour writes on Middle Eastern history, Arab intellectual life, philosophy, Jewish history, and Middle Eastern politics. He calls his Substack “The Abrahamic Critique”.

Monday, May 6th, 2024

The Wall Street Journal’s Letters Editor Elliot Kaufman lays out Biden’s series of errors regarding Gaza, in particular his lack of pressure on Egypt to step up.

How did the president get here? Mr. Biden isn’t “Genocide Joe” any more than he is “pro-Hamas.” He has been boxed in and brought low by his own mistakes.

To my mind it all stems from cowardice; leaning on reasonable friends is less scary than on iffy partners, let alone adversaries.

Sunday, May 5th, 2024

I cannot (yet) follow Lee Smith to his conclusion that the Biden Administrations’ goal is American decline and defeat (though there was a strong strain of this in its precursor Obama Administration); rather than conspiratorial and malevolent, it seems more likely due to the more common weaknesses of delusion and cowardice.

Moreover Israel shares some blame for being weak-willed enough in recent months to go along with the Administration’s tacit protection of Hamas.

Benny Morris, prescient in 2008:

Many Israelis feel that the walls — and history — are closing in on their 60-year-old state, much as they felt in early June 1967, just before Israel launched the Six-Day War.

Saturday, May 4th, 2024

Friday, May 3rd, 2024

In The Telegraph, Allister Heath spells it out:

West-hating pro-Palestinian protests are a harbinger of much worse to come.

Israel must stop faffing.

Wednesday, May 1st, 2024

How heartwarming is this exchange between Hugh Hewitt and Yossi Klein-Halevi. Who better to thank HH for his steadfastness and engagement since Oct 7.

[Update 2024 May 7]: Hewitt is even reading out the names of the young Israeli fallen after the rocket attack on Keren Shalom. I hope when Hewitt gets over to Israel he is appropriately feted; how many people his erudite common sense must be reaching as they commute to and from mid-sized cities throughout the American heartland.

Tuesday, April 30th, 2024

This is how the Associated Press presents the US intifada encampments:

The outcry is forcing colleges to reckon with their financial ties to Israel, as well as their support for free speech. Some Jewish students say the protests have veered into antisemitism and made them afraid to set foot on campus.

What a topsy-turvy whitewash.

There is also:

The protests have even spread to Europe…

What’s interesting is why they haven’t mainly been in Europe.

Thursday, April 25th, 2024

In contrast with the Jonathan Freedland piece I linked to earlier, Armin Rosen’s survey “The Israel-Gaza war has changed everything: The norms of war are being rewritten in real-time” in Unherd is simultaneously more detailed yet more humble.

Much of what’s happened since October 7 is without any real precedent … we are deep into the unknown, and were there long before this past week. The sides have notched accomplishments that are both novel and gruesome enough to demand real analytic humility…

I just used the term “midwit” in a post, I’m pretty sure for the first time, but some tendril of editorial integrity made me look it up and it is discomfiting. One nice definition:

An internet term that ironically, is something only an actual midwit would try to use on in the internet to look vErY sMaRt.

Yes — there should be a term for a derogatory term the very use of which classifies you as an instance of it. At any rate, since I had to hold back from using it myself, I am inclined to think I am indeed a midwit, or if not one, only slightly not one.

Someone who is around average intelligence but is so opinionated and full of themselves that they think they’re some kind of genius.

And:

Generally found in the 105-120 IQ range. These are the people who are considered “gifted” in primary school and perhaps “honors” in high school.

I notice myself trying to think but cannot; I can merely react.

Jonathan Freedman, a Jewish columnist for The Guardian, which in itself tells a tale, pens a column “In this shadow war between Iran and Israel, the outline of a different future is visible”. I can understand Palestinians’ disgusting murderous thuggery better than I can understand such sickly magpies within the nest. And he may not even be wrong in his conclusions! It’s the myriad of little things that bug me, the Olympian chin-rubbing despite being Jewish himself. First, the subtitle, which perhaps he didn’t write, but nonetheless reflects his conclusion:

Both seem keen to limit hostilities, and key Arab states are ready to resist Tehran. But real change will require new Israeli leadership

Israel is required to change its government! (No need for any change in Iran.)

It doesn’t help that the leaderships in both Iran and Israel are under constant pressure from elements that are even more bellicose.

Some insane and insulting parallels are being drawn here.

The hitherto crypto-alliance of Israel and those Sunni states that fear Tehran more than they fear Tel Aviv has stepped into the light.

Fear Tel Aviv? Firstly, that’s Jerusalem to you bub, though given that The Guardian is a British publication, which still shamefully does not recognize Israel as Jerusalem’s capital — I mean Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — no doubt “Tel Aviv” is editorial policy, but you are complicit in this policy, your name is in the byline. Secondly: fear? Hate I would say is more accurate; the Arabs never feared that Israel was going to invade or overthrow them.

Israel would have to do what the US and others are asking: offer the Palestinians a political horizon, one that holds out the prospect of an eventual Palestinian state.

Which others are these? Westerners project their desire for a Palestinian state onto Middle Easterners, who only pay lip service to this notion, because they are close enough to know that Palestinians are part of the problem not the solution. Resolving to being just like the Ayatollahs where it matters, Palestinians’ modus operandi is mass murder and the destabilization and overthrow of any polity they can, so that responsible Middle Easterners prefer to see them contained not empowered.

Normally I would just skip over such pap as this, especially if in The Guardian, which I only look at occasionally for movie reviews and design inspiration. But Israel’s Channel 12 hosts the Unholy podcast with Freedland to which people I know listen to devotedly, and who know him personally slightly as he sends his kids to the same Jewish school in northwest London. Why oh why does he not know better.

Wednesday, April 24th, 2024

Every paragraph with its little bombshell: Edward Luttwak is in full elegant force in “Iran is weaker than we think” in Unherd. The opening paragraph:

It is only now, almost 16 years since Obama first entered the White House with the private determination to end Iran’s “death to America” hostility at all costs, that his Iran policy has achieved the exact opposite of what he had wanted: direct warfare, with US fighters intercepting Iran’s bombardment drones. All along, it was a policy that had two different faces: one perfectly reasonable, and the other perfectly delusional.

Such casual rhythm before the zing at paragraph’s end! Later we get a Luttwakian paradox of strategy:

The [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards finally failed strategically because their Arab recruitment policy was so successful that it overshot the culminating point of success: seeing the historic Sunni capital of Damascus under Shia domination, and Baghdad the very seat of the Sunni Arab Caliphate ruled by Iran’s agents, Sunni Arab states from Morocco to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which had repeatedly fought Israel from 1948, moved to abandon their hostility, openly or discreetly.

And we end with striking, real-world evidence that demonstrates the strategic theories posited within. I won’t quote this evidence so as not to spoil the end of this masterful op-ed.

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024

Monday, April 22nd, 2024

In The Wall Street Journal, this geopolitical news article on Finland is the first one I can recall reading anywhere. Swimming into focus are renewed tensions with the new Russia. Th

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Finland has ramped up its military spending, boosting its defense budget to above 2% and snapping up U.S. rocket systems, as well as Israeli antitank and air-defense systems. The country is preparing to base F-35 jet fighters it will receive from the U.S. just over 100 miles from its border with Russia.

I wish for Finland and Israel to explore each other much more.

Sunday, April 21st, 2024

War and warming. What are the chances this bonkers piece is a hoax designed to embarrass its publisher The Nation. People took time and effort to ensure it is written in full sentences and well copy-edited.

Friday, April 19th, 2024

Great lengthy interview with Giora Eiland, always with cogent orthogonal ideas on important Israeli geopolitical realities.

The Israeli story was, Hamas is like ISIS, and ISIS is like Hamas. No! That’s not the case. ISIS was a bunch of crazies from Baghdad who, unopposed, gained control of western Iraq and those who lived there. But it didn’t represent the people, not in Mosul or elsewhere. Gaza more resembles 1930s Germany, where an extremist party won elections, with the support of most of the people, and quickly unified the military and civil government into one entity. What happened on October 7 is that the State of Gaza went to war against the State of Israel. State against state. Now, the state of Gaza does have vulnerabilities. It doesn’t have sufficient fuel, food and water of its own. You can impose a legitimate boycott on that state until the state returns all of your hostages. Humanitarian for humanitarian.

I’m not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved that Eiland is granted the levers of power.

Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Cool, calm, collected, and with casually brilliant staging. IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi provides the official Israeli miltary speech in response to the massive Iranian missile attack.

Amidst all this it’s a happy thought that Germany sold Israel a doomsday device (Dolphin subs) and a couple of decades later Israel is selling Germany an anti-doomsday device. Ben-Gurion and Adenhauer.

Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

OK I need to stop reading the news, but one more, this diatribe in Arutz7:

To me, the word “State” has demeaning connotations in the English speaking world. What other country on this planet is referred to and refers to itself as the State of…….? To be referred to as a “State” implies a not quite equal status with other nations, implying some benevolent authority has graciously bestowed a degree of autonomy to Israel. It is time that Israelis and Diaspora Jews refer to Israel as Israel, period.

I see no need to take issue with the term “state”; we are in good company with the United States of America. Like them we explicitly acknowledge the legalistic framework within which the American and Israeli peoples live at liberty. There may even be some positive connotations; we live now in a state of Israel, as opposed to the previous state. At any rate, many nationstates have political prefixes that are ignored and shortened to their national names: République française is just France, for example, and the State of Israel is usually referred to as just Israel.

Giora Eiland’s commentary on Channel 12 last night warranted its own story this morning on Arutz7, with him arguing that the response to Iran’s attack should be to focus on Lebanon.

Israel does not need to attack in Iran. There is no reason for it, and it has the potential to become complicated militarily, as well as regionally and with all of our friends – and the achievement will not be significant, regardless. If you want to put Iranians in their place and maybe even test them – there are two other arenas: One is in Syria.

There is merit here, though I think his suggested mechanism, to announce Israel’s return to the North for the school year, is fatuous. Both the low- and the high-level attacks from Hamas and Iran respectively point to a response aginst the mid-level main threat from Lebanon. Even if it doesn’t happen visibly — Bibi’s response seems to be to keep things simple and retaliate against actual perpetrators — it does feel like the appropriate true focus.

Kudos to Britain’s Daily Mail for publishing the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ piece “Why Israel’s failure to strike back at Iran could lead to NUCLEAR WAR by FDD’s chief exec Mark Dubowitz and senior fellow Jacob Nagel.

Israel was acting well within the rules of its dangerous neighborhood by taking out [Mohammad Reza Zahedi, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon]. But the Ayatollah responded with a potentially catastrophic barrage on Israeli civilians, military bases and government facilities. If Iran walks away from this moment without paying a severe price, Tehran may be emboldened to deploy its weapons again. And the next time, these drones and missiles may be armed with nuclear or chemical payloads.

Their conclusion is indisputable and anything else is either appeasement or overthinking.

Monday, April 15th, 2024

Wonderful piece in Commentary by Seth Cropsey (I jumped to the family name and he is indeed the son of University of Chicago scion Joseph Cropsey) ““American Strategy on the Brink” that really gets to the heart of the matter”: The United States is shirking its responsibilities on the world stage:

All three instances of ongoing violence [Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan] stem fundamentally from a crisis in American power. These theaters are afire because Washington refuses to recognize what it is—the center of a loosely democratic system that spans Eurasia and the Americas. Culturally and strategically, the Rimland is being punished for the blindness at its core.

From “Israel’s Splendid Isolation” by John Podhoretz in Commentary:

Jews literally did not have the means or the ability to defend themselves for more than two millennia. Now we do. And when we do, we become unnerving. The very phrase “Jewish army” was, since 70 C.E.., the definition of an oxymoron. Now it conjures up something powerful, and the fact that it’s powerful at all means for many that it’s far too powerful. When Israel acts in its own defense, it alienates these people and these nations. And thereby “isolates” itself.

I can say it with confidence: I love you jpod.

Writing brief essays now on X, Victor Davis Hanson lists Ten Ways to Guarantee a Theater-wide War:

Vapid “Don’t!” … Abruptly pull out of Afghanistan … Chinese spy balloon … [okay a] “minor” invasion [of Ukraine] … Seem eager to resume the Iran Deal …

Etc.

Monday, April 8th, 2024

This Dearborn crowd musters up a “Death to America” chant (though the speaker to his credit doesn’t say it). Stupid fucks.

Rice cultures around the world do tend to exhibit similar cultural characteristics, including less focus on self, more relational or holistic thinking and greater in-group favoritism than wheat cultures.

The last time I came across this sort of diet-based sociology was in Nietzsche, where it struck me as both significant and true while feeling outlandish and ridiculous when repeated. So it’s nice to see it treated academically. Here’s one bit in Nietzsche, Aphorism #134 in La Gaya Scienza (he probably mentions it elsewhere too):

Pessimists as Victims. When a profound dislike of existence gets the upper hand, the after-effect of a great error in diet of which a people has been long guilty comes to light. The spread of Buddhism (not its origin) is thus to a considerable extent dependent on the excessive and almost exclusive rice-fare of the Indians, and on the universal enervation that results therefrom.

I enjoyed this very nice primer on editing by Eva Parish. Of her 9 recommendations, the one I fall down on most in my own occasional scribblings is “Be aware of your tone”, which is actually quite an expansive, non-technical problem. I guess I try to mix up the high and low due to insecurity that I’m a bore and aim to jolt and amuse the reader awake — but Eva argues that the mix is confusing and distracting.

I think however she is wrong to restore commas after prefixing subordinate clauses. Her examples:

Example: If you’re looking for me I’ll be in my office.
Revision: If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in my office.
Example: Due to the fog our flight was delayed.
Revision: Due to the fog, our flight was delayed.

My take instead: if the sentence is unambiguous without the comma then lean towards omitting it. Especially with the second example, with the clause being only four syllables long, the comma slows down the reader so much that the music of the sentence is broken. “Fog our flight” cannot be misinterpreted — nobody thinks of fogging a flight. Indeed the lack of a comma foretells to the reader they can confidently plow ahead through a well-tended sentence.

Her admonition to avoid the vague “this” — is new to me or else I’d forgotten it from The Little Red Schoolhouse, even though it fits very much into the Schoolhouse’s insistence of chaining sentences together nicely, and I will keep it in mind.

Via Hacker News, this Chrome for Developers post dives into browser colors beyond RGB.

Saturday, April 6th, 2024

He’s very good, is Brendan O’Neill, and I’m glad The Spectator is publishing him. “The Truth About Friendly Fire”:

Across social media, the cry goes up: Israel did this on purpose. It seems Israel is the only state not allowed to make mistakes. Where us decent Westerners kill friends in error, Israel does it intentionally, with malice at its heart.

Who would have thought this would be published in such a well-known British magazine. There is hope.

It seems that some in the West are seeking to launder their reputations through attacking Israel. From Cameron to Biden, powerful men who have been involved in wars far more horrific and far less justified than Israel’s war on Hamas, are now pontificating against the Jewish State.

But their finger-wagging attempt at rehabilitating their own reputations by slighting others’ — and hang the risk even unto civilization itself — does burnish at least one aspect of their respective reputations, ie being a sleazeball.

Thursday, April 4th, 2024

How gratifying, the plethora of common-sense comments reacting to this rather less-than-sensible Telegraph story “How international law could force Britain to stop arms sales to Israel” which furthers the tradition of latching on to that weird and mealy-mouthed “plausible” ruling by the ICJ.

Was this the Court’s intent, to say something with plausible deniability so that the very many people who want it to have said a thing can act as if it did? I in turn am latching on to that possibility to accuse it all of being quite transparent, truly despicable, and dangerously corrosive.

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

In Mosaic Magazine, a sweeping history of Israel v. Lebanon by Raphael BenLevi.

Israel’s geography currently provides it with reasonably defensible borders on three sides: the Mediterranean to the west, the Sinai Desert to the south, and the Jordan Valley to the east. Israel’s northern border, however, is not defined by a sea, a vast desert, or even a major river. Rather it is a man-made line that cuts through mountains, valleys, farms, and forests. This has been the case since antiquity, making the northern border of ancient Israel the hardest to defend.

The article mirrors one that I linked to from exactly three months ago on Gaza by Jean-Pierre Filiu in Foreign Affairs.

We all know that if these tattooed trustafarians who think men can breastfeed went anywhere near Gaza their pronouns would be was / were quicker than you could say ‘Free Palestine!’.

Brendan O’Neill, “The unbearable sanctimony of the ‘pro-Palestine’ set”

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

In an interview with Israeli radio station 103fm, Yarden Pivko, daughter of Hamas hostage Itzik Gelertner, denounces the Kaplanistas hijacking the hostage crisis. Kudos to 103fm for airing this despite their and all media-luvvy institutional sympathy for Kaplanism.

Sunday, March 31st, 2024

Good ep of Mike Doran and Gadi Taub’s allcaps ISRAEL UPDATE podcast “Is the US Stabbing Israel in the Back?”

It’s in The Guardian so you know what’s coming in this restaurant review of Freddie’s, a New York-style non-kosher Jewish deli, plus they telegraph it in the title, so that in falling for the clickbait I skip the whole salt-beef bit to the predictable meat of the thing:

For all my lack of faith or observance these dishes, kept alive by a vestigial memory of the shtetl, root me. Then I hesitated. Could I really write about a Jewish restaurant given the current political turmoil? Would I get abuse for doing so? Surely better to keep shtum. At which point I knew I had no choice: I had to write about it. The horrendous campaign of the government and armed forces of Israel in Gaza cannot be allowed to make being Jewish a source of shame. When Hamas mounted their 7 October attack on Israel, they committed both an atrocity and a provocation. With so many hostages taken, there were no good options for the Israeli government. Nevertheless, they managed to choose the very worst one. They have killed thousands, starved many more, destroyed homes and turned their country into a pariah. As it happens, they have also made life for Jews who live outside Israel and have no responsibility for the decisions its government takes, so very much harder. I deplore what Israel is doing. But that doesn’t mean I can “refute” my Jewishness. That is a surrender to antisemitism. And so I sit here with my terrific salt beef sandwich and my chocolate mousse, indulging that bit of my Jewish identity which makes sense to me. It’s not much, but it’s all I have.

As a British Israeli my reaction to this sort of thing is always a multi-level “ugh”. But having returned recently to my native Glasgow for a Jewish funeral, I was reminded of what I would likely have been if my parents hadn’t made Aliyah to Israel when I was a child — and moreover since I have now lived in the UK again for a long time is arguably what I have reverted back to being. (Noooooo!)

Nonetheless it’s hard for me to feel anything but contempt for people who stroke the tiger in the hope it will eat them last.

And yet I must understand that as people who are primarily Britons their prism is the BBC, and as right-thinking people it’s likely The Guardian and its ilk, so this is what they may actually believe. But is the reviewer truly speaking in good faith? He says Israel chose the very worst course of action but does not articulate what other better ones might have been. Write a very stroppy letter?

Also, if a sandwich is the extent of his Jewish identity, he’d probably do better shucking it off altogether and embracing something else more all-encompassingly. I don’t mean that disparagingly, but men are meaning machines and if he’s not getting much out of Judaism then it is occupying a space in his soul that could perhaps otherwise be more fruitfully filled.

Levantine Israel is such a monumental and cosmic gift — especially for the rain-soaked British Jew who must otherwise seek any anthropological depth in Druidism and sun in other countries such as Spain (a pretty fabulous alternative it’s true). So I think it is folly for a British Jew to not embrace that mainline connection to Israel; Britons have a passion for the Middle East and now Jewish Britons have their own ancient piece of it again.

But that is all very well when it was done for you as a child or if you are wealthy enough to maintain an additional home and travel frequently. But for most of us, as I was reminded at the funeral, we grow up and get up and go to work, lifelong dalliances with distant exotic countries way beyond reach. And even for those who have the means to have additional homes, the center of gravity of their psyche and viewpoint is British. I need to understand that about British Jews who did not make Aliyah, which is most of them.

On one hand, I can see how the current war unites Jews in their fate, while on the other I can see how the cleavage in the West between appeasement and struggle runs right down the middle of Diaspora Jewry.

 
 

•••

Newsroll

A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.

Where the design community meets.

experiments in refactored perception

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