Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

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I LOVE This Country

May 11, 2008

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Warning: This post could make you vomit due to it’s elevated level of cheesiness.

I am completely in love with Israel and my friends right now. I’m sure it will pass within a few days when some idiot flicks me off on the freeway or calls me a puta (yes, that actually happens here too), but for the next few days, I will remain in an elevated state of elation, due to the amazing long weekend I just had.

Wednesday was Israel’s Memorial Day, and it was immediately followed by Israel’s 60th Independence Day. On Wednesday night, the entire country was out celebrating at numerous events around the country. I stayed in my town because an amazing band, Kaveret, was reuniting for the evening, and a couple of my friends came over (video of them singing Yoya is here). After the show we played TAKI until 330 am (basically the Israeli version of Uno) which you can play online here.

It doesn’t matter what incredible things I did over those 4 days, including almost fainting after donating blood (though I’d like to mention I attended the premiere of Fiddler on the Roof at the Cameri and it was incredible – y’all should go if you’re in Israel!).

Because of this corny state in which I am at the moment, I’d like to share with you why I love Israel so much.

I love that your friends have no problem picking up other friends of yours who they’ve never met, and by the time they reach your apartment, they are having deeper and more personal conversations than you’ve had with half your friends. They’ve probably added each other on Facebook before they even got out of the car.

I love that you can’t possibly go through a holiday without being invited to a million people’s houses for dinner/lunch/parties. Having one dinner/lunch/party is not an excuse to miss another one. You can’t eat too much food.

I love how I studied Spanish for years in Texas, but I only became fluent after moving to Israel and getting addicted to Argentinean telenovelas (soap operas).

I love how Israeli children are fluent in basic Spanish because of kiddie novelas from Argentina and Mexico like Chiquititas, Rebelde Way, Amy La Nina de la Mochila Azul, and Patito Feo.

I love that you don’t worry about not having Friday night plans on Friday afternoon – no one else has made them yet either. Just wait till 9 – you’ll be turning people down.

I love than if you try to plan ahead people yell at you “I don’t know what I’m doing the day after tomorrow – it’s too far away!”

I love that anywhere you go there is history. Even if you don’t know it.

I love that you can visit almost any place written in the Bible. Learn it and go there (props to Jerusalem class from Young Judaea Year Course 1996-1997!)

I love that you can walk through the Old City (during the quieter times) and see people and sites from all religions and forget there is a conflict going on.

I love the fact that sometimes Shuk Hacarmel feels like it’s been invaded by the US (and ditto for Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem).

I love that you can’t possibly meet an Israeli and not have mutual acquaintances. If you don’t figure it out when you meet, add each other on Facebook – you’ll be surprised. Read this hilarious post by my friend Benji about this.

I love how, regardless of how religious or secular you are, traffic literally stops on the freeway on Holocaust Memorial Day and Israeli Memorial Day to remember those who have fallen and perished.

I love seeing garbage men with Tzitziot hanging out.

I love how, when people come from overseas, you suddenly realize how much you know about the history of each little rock in the country.

I love how everyone recognizes the names of almost every terror victim and kidnapped soldier (older ones too).

I love how Israelis are so close to their families, and will do anything for their mom’s cooking.

I love how the way to a man’s heart is through his mother – not your cooking.

I love how I don’t feel the need to look over my shoulder when I’m walking down a dark street alone.

I love how my biggest fear is my car being towed in Tel Aviv.

I love how random acts of crime are barely existent.

I love how you can sit at a wedding at table with 12 people and everyone be from different countries.

I love that I don’t feel the need to be religious in order to feel Jewish.

I love the “Careful – Camels Crossing” signs on the way to the Dead Sea and Eilat.

I love how when people over the world say “Mi casa es su casa” (my home is you home), in Israel they mean it – and feel it, too.

I love how I can call a friend an hour away and tell her I’m coming to visit – when I’m already on the way.

I love how Israel is the size of New Jersey, and is #2 in hi tech in the world (and I’m part of it!) Per capita, Israel has the largest number of start-ups in the world.

I love how Israel has the highest per-capita number of scientific papers than any other country in the world – and by a large margin: 109 per 10,000 people.

I love how, outside of the US and Canada, Israel has the largest number of companies listed on NASDAQ.

I love how Israel, at 24% of the workforce, is only behind the USA and Holland in people who hold university degrees.

I love that Israel goes on humanitarian missions and offers aid to any country that has had a natural disaster (or unnatural…) – even if they refuse the help. Israel’s search and rescue teams are among the best in the world (and my dad was among them!)

I love that Israelis can think of stupid groups on Facebook like “The organization for the mercy killing of those who translate movie titles into Hebrew,” “The movement against those who eat tangerines on buses,” “Call the new 2 sheqel coin Shnekel” (which totally worked) and “I want an entire episode of Survivor Israel of Noam in his underwear.”

I love that Israelis also have important groups on Facebook, immortalizing celebs and non-celebs who have passed (Tair Rada and Poli Poliakov), helping each other find jobs, preserving correct grammar, and Demanding Holocaust victims live in dignity.”

I love that Israelis also have cultural groups on Facebook, such as the Kipi Ben Kipod group, the group for those who are here and want to be there (Sesame Street), the Benny Goren ruined my childhood group (he writes the math books), and chocolate milk in a bag (don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it!)

I love how, while having the qualifications for a job is an absolute necessity, knowing someone on the inside always helps – and is almost just as important. Israel has a Haver Mevi Haver mentality – a friend brings a friend.

I love that my 2.5 year old nephew says everything in Hebrew AND English just to make sure his point gets across (I want an egg. Beitza. I want cake. Uga.)

I love that people are going to make of me for writing this post, but they know they feel the same way.

I love that I didn’t want to move to Israel and did so because of family pressure – and I can’t imagine my life not being here.

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Israel Dispatches Help, Humanitarian Aid to Myanmar (Burma)

May 7, 2008

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Following last weekend’s deadly cyclone in Myanmar, which has left at least 22,500 dead, the IsrAid organization, which sends help to foreign countries in need, will be sending to Myanmar a highly trained search-and-rescue team and a 10-member team of doctors and nurses. The teams will bring with them crucial supplies, including plastic sheeting, food, household appliances and water filters.

The Foreign Ministry will be sending an initial $100,000 aid package comprising medicine and medical equipment to Myanmar in the next few days. The emergency aid relief is a combined effort with the Jewish Joint Organization. However, Israel is planning to send additional aid to Myanmar soon.

This is not the first time Israel has offered humanitarian aid to foreign countries. Israel always offers its help after natural disasters, even though, at time, its offer is declined. Other times, such as the Tsunami several years ago, earthquakes in Turkey, the Congo, and Vietnam.

Israel also takes medical care both of foreigners, such as Iraqis, and Palestinians.

To those of you who think Israel is taking care of everyone but the Palestinians, Israel has never stopped giving humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, even in light of the terrorist attacks that constantly occur at the crossings whose sole purposes are to pass humanitarian aid into Gaza.

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A Different Kind of Memorial Day

May 6, 2008

I knew it was going to happen. I predicted it last week. Just like on Holocaust Memorial Day, regardless of when I leave work or home, I am always on the freeway when the siren goes off.

Some background for those of you who don’t know about Israel’s memorial day. It couldn’t be more different than the American memorial day. While in the US, Memorial Day is actually a weekend for sales and movie premieres, in Israel Memorial Day is a very somber day.

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Gets Me Every Time – Holocast Memorial Day

May 1, 2008

Let me preface this post by saying that I have been here for almost 7 years this time around, and I lived in Israel for 6 years as a kid. Even though I’m used to it, and even though it’s nothing new, and even though I always know it’s coming, it never fails to get me every time.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel, a day commemorating the 6 million Jews (and 6 million others, such as gays, mentally ill, Gypsies, etc.) who were ruthlessly exterminated by the Nazis in WW2.

On the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day (last night), all businesses in the country are closed. EVERYTHING. No restaurants, no movie theaters, nothing. And I think it’s great. Sure, I would’ve liked to have my ballet class last night, but the fact the entire country shuts down in memory of those who were murdered to me is amazing.

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An Israeli Apartheid – Debunked. Part 2 – History of Israeli Equality Laws

April 28, 2008

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This is part 2 of my series debunking the myth of an Israeli apartheid.

An Israeli Apartheid – Debunked. Part 1 – Definitions and History

History of Israeli Equality Laws

Long before the State of Israel was established, Jewish leaders, among them David Ben Gurion who would become the first prime minister of Israel, consciously made the decision to try to avoid the situation in South Africa as much as possible. Ben Gurion told Palestinian nationalist Musa Alami in 1934:

We do not want to create a situation like that which exists in South Africa, where whites are the owners and rulers, and the blacks are the workers. If we do not do all kinds of work, easy and hard, skilled and unskilled, if we become merely landlords, then this will not be our homeland. (Shabtai Teveth, Ben Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs: From Peace to War.)

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An Israeli Aparheid – Debunked. Part 1 – Definitions and History

April 27, 2008

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There were quite a few comments on my recent post (most of which I could not allow to be posted, not because I disagree, but because of the language/ill-wishing in them). I actually posted a couple of replies to some of the comments I did allow, but there was so much to it I decided to write a post about it. Since there is a lot of ground to cover, I will post it in parts.

I am including some of what I wrote in the comments – feel free to read the comments in their entirety here.
I’d like to begin by saying that by NO means am I saying Israel is perfect and without its problems and faults. Neither is the US (Abu Gharib, anyone?)

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Are Palestinians Shooting Themselves in the Foot – Again?

April 19, 2008

About a week ago, I posted a commentary about the Palestinians’ inability to make up their minds. On the one hand, they yell and scream humanitarian crisis – even if it’s proven to be untrue – and on the other hand they can be blamed – at least partially – for their own situation, inasmuch as they insist on infiltrating Israel at border crossings that provide humanitarian aid and killing innocent Israelis.

Today they’re at it again. This morning, several terrorists blew up car bombs and began shooting at soldiers who serve at the crossing, in a failed attempt to kidnap more Israeli soldiers. Hamas took responsibility for this attack where 13 soldiers were injured.

Yes, Hamas – the government.

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Ethical Question: Let Pregnant Woman Through Border Crossings?

April 14, 2008

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In itself, the answer is yes. Why wouldn’t you let a pregnant woman go through your borders to a hospital? Imagine the following situation:

You are an 18-year-old soldier commanding a checkpoint in Israel. An ambulance arrives, and inside is a woman who is seemingly pregnant. The woman appears to be in pain and her husband is also highly anxious. But you have been warned about an ambulance bearing a pregnant woman who is not really pregnant.

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Palestinians Feign Humanitarian Crisis? Hamas Lies? Impossible!

April 13, 2008

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I SO saw this coming.

Following last week’s terrorist attack that left 2 Israelis dead at one of the crossings used by Israel to transfer humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, Israel shut down said crossing, at least temporarily. I already covered the ridiculousness of the whole attack – torpedoing your own people’s survival, so I won’t repeat it (feel free to read it though).

Now the Palestinians are yelling humanitarian crisis to whoever will listen. There are two levels to this statement. First – it is untrue. Second – can you honestly blame Israel for shutting down the crossing?

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Are Palestinians Against Receiving Aid? They’re Shooting Themselves in the Foot

April 10, 2008

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Yesterday’s terrorist attack was different than most. Not just because “only” two people were killed (talk to their families – see if they care that it was “only” two). In case you don’t know, 4 Palestinians snuck into Israel yesterday and murdered two Israelis who were working at a fuel terminal close to the border. It is believed that they were looking to kidnap Israelis.

The Palestinian gunmen took advantage of Israel’s eases on roadblocks. As part of an agreement made when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Israel, Israel eased many restrictions on the Palestinians, including opening up a checkpoint and removing 50 roadblocks.

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Losing My Identity (or Gaining One?)

April 4, 2008

A few days ago, I was asked by a few people to write more about my personal experiences in Israel, so people can know what it’s really like here. For the record, while I’ll be integrating these posts into my blog, I still see the main point of the blog to educate about Israel and show the world that there’s more to us than The Conflict.

As a preface, for those of you who don’t know, I am, what my friend Tilli calls, a hybrid Israeli-American. I grew up both in Texas and in Israel, so my personality is a mix of both. 6.5 years ago I moved back to Israel (as an adult), so most of my experiences are based on these years.

Since I moved to Israel, my name has changed. I still answer to my given name (albeit mispronounced by many anal Israelis who insist on trying to convince me that I am mispronouncing my own name), but I have been converted.

My name is now Texas.

When I worked in TV, mostly at the news station that I still work at sometimes and a huge late-night show that the entire country watched, people started calling me Texas. I’m not sure why – I guess it seems like a cool place to be from (I am very proud to be Texan). I know that on the late-night show, the way you knew if the host liked you was if you had a nickname.

I was scared to DEATH of this guy, but one day, maybe 2 months after I got there and he didn’t know my name yet (mainly because I would generally run in the opposite direction of where he was headed for out of fear), he overheard me speaking English on the phone. He was SHOCKED. I mean, the guy was floored (it must be the small number of native English speakers in Israel. NOT.)

He asked me why I spoke English like an American.

I puked.

Then I answered I was from Texas.

And that was it. I worked with him for 4 seasons, but I don’t think he ever knew my name. When I say worked I mean he would sit with me at least 20 minutes every day to edit stuff – so it’s not like we didn’t have one-on-one time. (He’d also ask me what I thought about stuff, so if I didn’t like something and didn’t want to wet my clean pants, I would blame it on my only being in Israel for 6 months/1/2/3/4 years).

I actually had the best nickname, for the record. One of the guys was called Annoying Romanian Guy, another extremely thin girl was called The Pencil and Leaf Blowing in the Wind (עלה נידף ברוח). So I was actually well off.

By the way, while he knew my name if someone else said it (Who’s in the VTR? (My name here.) Texas?! What are you doing?!), I know for a fact he doesn’t know it on his own. In fact, one day, about 3 or so seasons in, I asked him if he knew my name. He said yes. I asked what it is. He said: Brenda. Donna. Kelly. (I think he watched too much 90210). For the record, I have an Israeli name.

It IS probably my fault. While I am living in Israel because I love it and I want to (I DO have a choice – I am, after all, a US citizen), I think it’s probably my fault. I mean, this is what my office looks like.

My Office

(I got the Woody doll for my birthday this year from my friend who said it’s the closest thing to a cowboy he could find for me in Israel, and the Taco Bell Chihuaua… Well, I needed something from home. 🙂 )

Since you’re out there already, what else should I decorate my office with? A friend suggested a stuffed armadillo (none of those in Israel). Anything else?

By the way, did y’all know that they are remaking 90210? I kid you not!

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I DON’T Know JR, I DON’T Own Spurs, and I DON’T Have an Accent

April 3, 2008

Being an Israeli Texan has it’s pluses. #1 has to be the misconceptions Israelis have about Texas. When I visited my cousin back in high school, she was teaching at a middle school somewhere in Israel, so she brought me to class with her (not sure why).

She introduced me to her students (thankfully she was a popular teacher so it made me cool by association) and told them I was from Texas. They had never met someone from Texas before, so they had a lot of questions.

I think the coolest question they asked me was if Texans milk their cows into their cereal bowls for breakfast (I couldn’t’ve made that up if I wanted to). The second most popular, which I get to this day, is if Texans ride their horses to school.

I tell them no, Texans aren’t primitive – they have horse-ridden carriages!

The reason I am telling you this is because the best experiences I have had in Israel is meeting new people. It’s not because I like meeting new people – I am actually quite shy in social situations where I know few or no people. It’s just that I LOVE the questions I get from people.

I’d like to share with you a typical conversation I have with people when they find out I am American. For the record, I have an Israeli accent. Most of the time, you can’t tell I’m not a native Israeli. Unless someone introduces me as being American, this conversation usually happens when someone says a word in Hebrew I don’t know or makes a cultural reference I don’t get, at which point I have to explain that I am not an idiot, it’s just that I am not a native. So here we go:

Them: You’re from America*? Where are you from? New York?

Me: Nope!

Them: Los Angeles?

Me: Nope!

Them: Miami?

Me: Nope!

Them: (Long awkward pause with confused look) Chicago?

Me: Nope!

Them: What else is there?

Me: Texas! (Note: I say Texas because is sounds WAY cooler than Houston.)

Them: There are Jews in Texas?! I didn’t know that!

Me: Not many. Only around 131,000.

Them: Are you from Dallas? Do you know J.R. Ewing?

Me: I’m from Houston. J.R was from Dallas, the actor himself, Larry Hagman, while born in Fort Worth, right by Dallas, actually lives in California.

Them: Houston? You’re from Houston? Houston – we have a problem! (Insert cheesy chuckle here.)

* Note to my Mexican friends (they’re actually FROM Mexico so I’m allowed to call them that!): I have been conditioned throughout my years working with you at camp. I personally say the US and not America – I know Central and South America are, in fact, America.

From there, each conversation goes in a different direction, but they usually come back to horses, cowboy hats, and spurs (ownership status update: I wish, yes, and no respectively).

I realize this sounds funny and uneducated, but I am telling you this for a reason: As uneducated as Israelis can be about Texas, non-Israelis can have many misconceptions about Israel as well. Next week I will post a bunch of the misconceptions I’ve heard about Israel in an attempt to educate.

Have any of you had weird questions asked of you when you moved countries? Do you have any questions about Israel that you need answered? Such as why do Israelis like to spread chocolate on their bread? Leave them in the comments!

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A Beautiful Murderer

March 30, 2008

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I received this by email. I Googled it and found out that it has been published several times on different blogs, but I feel the topic is important enough to publish again. Hopefully others will do the same. This letter was written by the family of Malki Roth.

[Several months ago,] the New York Times carried a review of a film called “Hot House” that goes inside Israeli prisons and examines the lives of Palestinian prisoners. We’re not recommending the film or the review. But we do want to share our feelings with you about the beaming female face that adorns the article.

Murderer

The film is produced by HBO. So it’s presumably HBO’s publicity department that was responsible for creating and distributing a glamor-style photograph of a smiling, contented-looking young woman in her twenties to promote the movie.

That female is our child’s murderer.

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Israel is the Silicon Valley of the Mediterranean

March 16, 2008

In other words: Israel’s Technology Creates an Investment Goliath

Yes, ladies and gents, as many of us here in Israel know (and few of us outside of it know), Israel is a powerhouse when it comes to technology and medicine. It is third only to the US and Canada in terms of number of companies listed on Nasdaq (75!!!), well ahead of England, China, and Germany.

For those of you who don’t know (again, probably most of you), Israelis have invented much of the technology used today such as instant messaging (ICQ), firewall security software, Intel wireless computer chips, numerous medicines, and miniature video camera capsules to examine internal organs. Other Israeli inventions: the cell phone (invented by Motorola, with it’s largest R&D center being in Israel), most of the Windows NT operating system, voice mail technology, and VOIP technology.

More Israeli patents are registered in the US than from Russia, India, and China combined, despite the enormous population disadvantage (about 7 million in Israel vs. 2.5 billion combined in the other 3).

Click here to read about Israel’s robust economy in this great Fox Business article.

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The Mystery of Hate, by Yair Lapid

March 10, 2008

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A while back, Yair Lapid, an Israeli journalist (and now news anchor) wrote this column. I’m not sure who translated it, so if someone knows, please let me know. For those of you who aren’t Israeli, this sheds quite a bit of light on how we feel.

The Mystery of Hate

by Yair Lapid

Hundreds of years of fighting, six and a half wars, billions of dollars gone with the wind, tens of thousands of victims, not including the boy who laid down next to me on the rocky beach of lake Karon in 1982 and we both watched his guts spilling out. The helicopter took him and until this day I do not know whether he is dead or survived. All this, and one cannot figure it out.

And its not only what happened but all that did not happen – hospitals that were never built, universities that were never opened, roads that were never paved, the three years that were taken from millions of teenagers for the sake of the army. And despite all the above, we still do not have the beginning of a clue to the mystery of where it all started: Why do they hate us so much?

I am not talking about the Palestinians this time Their dispute with us is intimate, focused, and it has a direct effect on their lives. Without getting into the “which side is right” question, it is obvious that they have very personal reasons not to stand our presence here. We all know that eventually this is how it will be solved: in a personal way, between them and us, with blood sweat and tears that will stain the pages of the agreement. Until then, it is a war that could at least be understood, even if no sane person is willing to accept the means that are used to run it by.

It is the others. Those I cannot understand. Why does Hassan Nasralla, along with tens of thousands of his supporters, dedicate his life, his visible talents, his country’s destiny, to fight a country he has never even seen, people he has never really met and an army that he has no reason to fight?

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