Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Who You Are

As a citizen of Israel for the past eleven years I have days where I wonder exactly where I fit in Israeli society. I'm not religious but I'm not secular. I'm defined as secular but I don't belong to the left. I don't always feel at home among the religious right either. So I've pretty much staked out my own identity under the umbrella of Israeli society. So I can understand that Arabs who live in Israel have problems when it comes to identity. After the war in 1948 to destroy Israel ended they found themselves on the Israeli side of the green line, through no fault of their own. Israel was still standing and the other guys were in the West Bank and Gaza. What to do?

Living in close proximity to Jews the Arabs quickly learned guilt. They had accepted citizenship in Israel along with all the rights that come with it. Financially they were better off than their West Bank counterparts. No refugee camps. They were not used as political pawns. While they enjoyed all this they knew their brothers were on the other side watching. How do you straddle that fence? The Israeli Arabs are living in a country who is having a major conflict with its people.

I can certainly tell you how not to handle it.Don't follow Arab Member of Knesset Zahalka. Okay lets start at the beginning. National service is an alternative to service to the military. Religious girls often choose it over serving in the army. Last year the number of Arabs volunteering to do national service doubled. Zahalka is upset and is threatening those who want to serve. He said they would be like lepers in the community. He accuses Israel of wanting to Israelify the Arab youth who volunteer. Imagine that? We are at fault for NOT shunning them. We are at fault for trying to let them be part of society.

People who volunteer for national service work in hospitals and schools for example. Its a year long program. Some opt to stay in it longer. It is a way to give back to society for those who do not serve in the armed forces. As citizens of a country you are granted rights and freedoms. Citizens of Israel receive health care, child allowances and national insurance. So if you are going to make use of these things then giving something back would seem to be a positive thing. Yet Zahalka said "It's our right as a national minority to safeguard our identity. Actually, we see volunteering for service as an attempt to Israelify our youths, and we have a major issue with that."

Somehow Zahalka and his supporters have twisted things to make national service part of the armed forces. It is not. It is an alternative to the army. He would make anyone who did national service a leper in Israeli Arab society. Thankfully the Arab kids doing national service don't give credence to his speech's. They are too busy living their lives in Israeli society. If they were in Italy would it not be okay to join in Italian society? As a Jew living in the States was I not a part of society yet with my Jewish identity very much intact? Yes I know Italy and the US are not in a conflict with the Palestinians.

Hopefully the day will come when Israeli Arabs can choose to live in Palestine and fulfill that part of their identity if they feel so inclined. I can understand that need. Its why as a Jew I moved to Israel. Those who choose to stay are welcome as well. What we cannot do and should not do is make our country not Israel. Its just like asking the Italians to be something else. Its not fair. Think of the gelato.

Submitted by Carol

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Our Kids Don't Count

The teachers' strike is now entering its third week. Again. Every year there's a strike. And every year, give or take an issue, it's about the same thing. It's disgusting. We're not talking about the salaries of teachers here. We're talking about the future of our country. The average person in Israel understands this, but like always, the average person in Israel is ignored.

Don't get me wrong. That problem is not "Israel specific". We all know that the average person in all countries is ignored. But, I live in Israel so I can only tell you what goes on here.

We need to give our teachers more money. We need to give our teachers enough money so the profession of teaching is not considered charitable or philanthropic work. We need to increase the hours in the school day. We need to do that now. Because of Israel's low salaries and high living expenses, our country is already experiencing a brain-drain of good people going elsewhere to make a living. That "Zionist thing" still works for me and keeps me here (along with Carol and my kids), but I guess that isn't true with everyone. So, if we've got a brain-drain, and we're not educating our kids...we're screwed.

Our Education Minister and our Finance Minister claim we don't have the funds. Well, yes we do. If we take away the money we're doling out to the ultra-orthodox yeshivas, we'd have the money. I'm talking about the huge amount of yeshivas that refuse to abide by the requirement of having a core curriculum. I'm talking about the huge amount of huge yeshivas that don't teach practical skills, and give sanctuary to draft dodgers. If we took away all that money and gave it to our secular school systems, including our universities, there would be no reason for a strike and the best and brightest minds in the world would be nurtured right here in Israel.

But that won't happen. And it won't happen for a very practical reason. You see, the teachers and the school system can only strike. They only have the power of depriving our children of their necessary education. The kids won't be ready for their matriculation exams, but so what? Very soon there will be a back to work order from the courts and that will be that. Until the next strike, and the children will suffer even more. But that's all they've got. A strike. Big deal. Olmert hasn't given this situation even a fleeting thought. He doesn't care. He doesn't need to care.

The ultra-orthodox situation is another story. We wouldn't dare touch their money for their school system. As a matter of fact, they'll get more if they ask for it even during the secular school strike! Because if they don't get their money...they'll bring down the government. That, my friends, is what counts.

Our kids don't have representatives in the government. Our kids don't have their own political party to protect them. All they have are a bunch of spineless, self-serving bureaucrats whose only ambition is to protect their own government position. Can you imagine if the Labor party stood up and said, "Hey! Take the money from the ultra-orthodox school systems that won't abide by the laws, and give it to the secular schools! Or we'll bring down this government!"

I smiled to myself as I just wrote that, because when I envision Labor party members in this government, the image of a cowering wimp always comes to mind. He (or she) is shivering in the corner mumbling, "Just don't take away my Volvo".

Don't believe a word of what the treasury or the education ministry says. The money is there. They just won't take it.

Submitted by Charley

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

And Then What

Abbas makes it more and more clear what he plans to bring to the proverbial table at the end of November. None of it surprises me because I've never given him much credit anyway. I could probably stop this little blog right here and many, if not most, of you would agree with me and we could go on our merry way.

But for the sake of clarification, I'll go into a little more specifics. What the heck. I'm not doing anything right now anyway.

Yesterday he told Condi (as in Rice) that he demanded all settlements to be removed. Oh, and the checkpoints be moved back to the 2000 border before the most recent Intifada (my count has it as Intifada LXXXVIII....there have been more Intifadas than Super Bowls, and I think there's something wrong with that). He also wants all prisoners released, control of the Old City, and assorted other goodies that we've all heard before.

This is all good. And in the essence of diplomacy, who could blame him. However, nobody is letting the man finish his sentence. At least, I hope he hasn't finished his sentence. You see, what's missing from the above list is the necessary adjunctive words, "...and in return we will..." Because that, my friends, is what we call "negotiation". As we all know from when we were trading baseball cards, that if I want Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris; I'm going to have to offer you Ernie Banks, Glenn Beckert, and Roy Campanella. I can't very well demand Musial, Mantle, and Maris and offer nothing substantive in return. Sure, I suppose I could use the Palestinian tactic of "give me Musial, Mantle, and Maris and I won't kick your ass". But I would hardly call that negotiations, would you?

If I were a smart Olmert (yes, that does seem to be an oxymoron for a complete moron), and Abbas approached me with these statements, I would just stand there quietly, patiently, and with a smile on my face. When asked what I was waiting for, I'd simply reply, "I'm waiting for you to finish your sentence."

Submitted by Charley

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Before November

November is approaching and people here on both sides of "The fence" are nervously wondering what will happen. Or for that matter there are those who aren't even curious because they believe nothing will happen. Who the hell knows. On the chance that something might happen I want to give my two cents.

As part of this joint declaration of fill in the blank the PA wants Israel to recognize the suffering it caused the Palestinian refugees and it wants compensation for said refugees. I would change the wording of this recognition to reflect the fact that there are refugees due to a war we did not want. I think the statement should also reflect that the continued state of war on the Arabs part intensified or lengthened the suffering of the refugees. The fact that the Palestinians were not encouraged to set up their own state on part of the land affected the refugees as well. Lastly the fact that the refugees living in other Arab countries are kept in camps and some have no civil rights should be acknowledged. Then I can recognize that the war for our independence created a refugee problem and because we did what you do in a war there are refugees from villages that no longer exist. The monetary compensation could come from Arab countries in payment to the 700,000- 900,000 Jews that had to flee Arab countries due to persecution. Lets get it all out there.

While we are at it we should have the PA clarify some things. Or is the phrase declare? Lets start with them acknowledging that we have a history that ties us to this land just as they have a history here. In addition our temple stood on the Temple Mount and therefore we should be able to share the area. The same should go for the cave of the patriarchs. Why should we not have any control over it? Yosef's tomb in Nablus could be administered by a Jewish religious trust just like the waqf.

All I'm saying is it cuts both ways. We do not constantly need to give and not get in return. My fear is that Olmert once again is stumbling around, happy that he still has a job. God knows what he will get us into. Hamas however could squash it all if it unleashes the longer range rockets that Egypt let them smuggle into Gaza. Hopefully that scenario will not happen and we are able to take some baby steps forward. I only hope someone on the negotiating team reads this blog so that both sides get to move forward.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Professional Jealousy

Do you think evil gets jealous? Ahmadinejad has been stealing the spotlight lately. His latest headline grabber was to say that the zionists should be sent to Europe, Canada or Alaska. Why no place warm? What did we ever do to him? In any case the other evil doers are getting jealous. What if he gets his own show? So Nasrallah who is no shrinking violet has stepped up to the plate. The leader of Hezbollah shall not be out down.

He spoke at celebrations for Jerusalem Day in Lebanon. He wished that the Arab armies would invade Israel. Basically do what they failed to do in 1967 which was to destroy Israel. Nasrallah is a guy who refuses to give up the spotlight. The sole purpose of his group was to get Israel out of Lebanon. When the Israeli government decided to leave Lebanon and did so he should have been out of a job. But he stayed. In the same speech Nasrallah blamed Israel for the killings of anti Syrian members of parliament in Lebanon. The lack of logic does not escape me. Why would we want to help Syria get a hold in Lebanon? Yet I guess he can do it by once again painting Israeli's as hungry to kill Arabs. People brought up on hatred of Israel will believe him.

Its easy to dismiss all of these truly evil people as crazy. That they are. Ahmadinejad takes the cake followed closely by Chavez of Venezuela. However we should not dismiss them because it is the crazy people who act. Hitler should never have been ignored. The slaughter in Darfur is not committed by sane people but rather the crazies. The camps in North Korea which imprison their own people were built by a crazy man. Add to the mix a few countries like China and Russia that are willing to let the insane thrive because it suits them. Possibly they see a little of themselves in the crazy evil ones. We cannot afford to close our eyes and turn away from the evil. We need our eyes wide open and we need to be prepared for the gathering storm.

Submitted by Carol