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Be Proud of Jerusalem

Human Narration on BNarrator.com

Yesterday the Chords Bridge was inaugurated in Jerusalem in a massive celebration that cost 2 million shekels.

Jerusalem Chords Bridge at Night

Many people think the new bridge doesn’t fit the local atmosphere and is actually an attempt to try and make Jerusalem seem more European. The local Haredi (ultra-orthodox) population had threatened to boycott the event when it was discovered that an all-girl dance group would perform in the ceremony, eventually forcing the dance group to dress their girls in long puffy clothes.

Jerusalem Chords Bridge at Daytime

The Gay Pride Parade is scheduled to take place in Jerusalem this evening, despite protests made by the Haredi population. Last year the protests threatened to go out of hand and the parade turned into a much smaller event, and three years ago a Haredi man stabbed and wounded one of the marchers.

Jerusalem Pride Parade

Jerusalem is indeed a city in internal conflict: Jews vs. Arabs, Secular folks vs. Orthodox population, Old-style architecture vs. Western monumental designs.

Photos by Ynet/Sason Tiram, and the Jerusalem Open House

Sarkozy Under Fire

Human Narration on BNarrator.com

Yesterday French president Nicolas Sarkozy was unexpectedly rushed into his airplane during the farewell ceremony, hosted for him by Israeli president Shimon Peres.

It was Mr. Sarkozy’s first visit to Israel, and he was accompanied by his beautiful third wife Carla Bruni

The reason for yesterday’s incident had been a soldier that apparently committed suicide, not far from Sarkozy’s plane.

After the incident, the French president did not agree to come back out of the plane, forcing the Israeli president to come aboard and say his goodbyes there.

2008 Elections – Israel should follow American example – Debate the issues

Tomorrow, unless something truly extraordinary happens, the Knesset will vote to disperse itself, setting the scene for November 2008 elections in Israel. As we all know, the American public is scheduled to go to the polls in November 4th, but unlike their Mid-Eastern counterparts, they’ll be doing it willingly.

It’s been said time and time again in the Israeli media over the past couple of weeks that no one in the political arena is truly interested in initiating such a dramatic move, especially at such a critical point in time. Nevertheless, it seems we’re heading there anyway.

Israel doesn
This isn’t debating


I think I’ve probably said it before: Whoever wins the American elections in November will be a better president, just by going through the elections process, than he could be if he was elected today. The political arena is the perfect training ground for any national leader — but only when this arena features the issues and not the backstage transactions.

Having to undergo 26(!) televised debates, the Democratic candidates had sufficient opportunities to clearly describe to the public their stance on all the major issues. In fact, candidates who had started this campaign with vague platforms and relatively little public experience, had to become savants in economics, foreign policy, and health care — naming just a few of the issues — if they wanted to survive the process of primary elections and to present themselves as viable and serious candidates. They also had to literally “go to the people”, hold local gatherings, tour the country, get to know their constituents first-hand. The American voters have come to know these people rather well, being acquainted with their style of behavior, type of personality — and most importantly — knowing exactly where these candidates stand when it comes to the issues, and how well they understand what they’re talking about.

Additionally, required to clearly state their platform time and time again, these candidates also demonstrate whether they hold an honest agenda or whether they constantly change their positions according to the recent opinion polls. This is crucial information for constituents.

This entire process happens before an American president enters office! He has plenty of time and opportunities to make noticeable mistakes and to learn from them before these mistakes have the potential to cause national instability. Here in Israel, the same process tends to happen after a Prime Minister has been put in office by his party.

In short, what I’m trying to say it this:
The Israeli public deserves to have a series of televised debates where all presumptive PM candidates face each other and publicly answer questions.

Americans do hold political debates
This is debating

It is frighteningly amazing how a man such as Ehud Barak can be chosen to lead a major political party in Israel without actually saying anything clear about the issues! Or how both he and Ehud Olmert allow themselves to go public with peremptory announcements every now and then — and then to never go through with their own promises! What’s even more regrettable is the fact that no one expects them to be clear or consistent anymore!

This is absurd. And I’d like to see both the Israeli public and the Israeli media pushing forth the notion that Israeli politicians must follow the example of their American counterparts and publicly clarify their positions during face-to-face televised debates — before they enter office.

Israeli Soldier Captive for 2 Years – Come and Protest

Israeli Captive Gilad ShalitTomorrow, Tuesday the 24th, will be 730 days Gilad Shalit is being held captive by the Hamas. If you do the quick math, that’s 2 years!

Because the government has failed to release Gilad in the past two years, a large demonstration is scheduled to take place tomorrow in front of PM Olmert’s residence in Jerusalem, at 7pm. The exact address is corner of Gaza St. and Rambam St. (near the Square of France).

Come and be heard. Gilad needs to come back home, safe and sound, as soon as possible. It’s been too long.

For more details, visit the “Thy children shall come again to their own border” website, or their Facebook group.

The Naked Truth

Assi Dayan is a renowned Israeli actor, writer, and director. In recent years he is most associated with the character of Reuven Dagan, the therapist in the midst of the hit drama “Be’Tipul” — which has been adapted to the American audiences by HBO, titled “In Treatment”. Assi Dayan is a long-time drug addict and he doesn’t hide this fact. In fact, he likes to talk about it.

T ShirtLast week, Dayan was twice viciously exposed in the media: First, he gave an interview to Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s leading daily newspaper in the Hebrew language, and was featured naked on the weekend edition. In the interview, he compared his hairy belly to the state of Israel, saying they’re both in terrible shape. Then a few days later he made a phone call to channel 10’s entertainment correspondent Haim Etgar and invited him to come with a film crew to document his messy apartment and his messy life. The piece, aired on primetime TV during the evening news, bluntly exposed Dayan snorting white powder

These sensational interviews brought much outrage on the media affiliates that apparently weighted ratings over ethics, while Haim Etgar defended himself by saying that Dayan was pleading for help and that the primetime exposure was meant to divert public attention (and support) to his ill condition. Needless to say that Dayan granted full permission to both these interviews — He initiated the whole affair.

Dayan’s cousin, the author Yonatan Geffen (who was once a drug addict himself) published an article in Ma’ariv — the second largest Israeli daily newspaper — in which he blames the media for exploiting his cousin’s condition, and reminding us that Dayan’s so-called consent is morally and legally invalid, since he was not thinking clearly at the time. He accused the media of “tenderly” pushing Dayan towards his death, comparing his cousin to Britney Spears, who has also been suffering from intrusive media reports. Although perhaps an Amy Winehouse comparison is more fitting in this case.

We all have demons of self-destruction; they are not the sole property of celebrities. I wonder why the camera loves them so much.

Post Optimism

An Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire “sort of” began today; Iran agrees to discuss the West’s anti-nuclear incentives; Exchange of prisoners with Hezbollah is rumored to take place any day now; Bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance stand together with the Histadrut (the federation of labor) against the Minister’s plot to tax the Study Funds; It’s summer…

There are lots of things to be optimistic about, it seems.

Question Mark

Well, I don’t think anyone’s really excited about these news. It’s good that things start to roll, but it may be too little, too late.

1. The truce may enable Hamas to smuggle Gilad Shalit out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt, turning this tragedy into a much longer affair. In addition, there are no illusions about this cease fire. In the meantime, Hamas supplies itself with new ammunition and new rockets, and the flames could be back in a matter of days.

2. Iran stalls time. After all, Mr. Bush is about to leave office, and Ahmadinejad knows that while Bush is keen to attack, Obama (which polls project him to be the next US President) is keen to avoid any such confrontation. “So it’s Okay to show signs we’re ready to enter the diplomatic path. These things take months and years, and we only need to stall Mr. Bush for five months”.

3. Yes, after almost two years, we may finally know what happened to Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. However it’s highly estimated that they’re dead, and in exchange for their release, Israel will let go of Samir Kuntar, the last bargaining chip we have when it comes to extracting information from the Hezbollah regarding the missing pilot Ron Arad.

Sun4. It’s “common knowledge” in recent years that the state of Israel is actually controlled by the Ministery of Finance bureaucrats. The Ministers come and go every two-or-so years, but the bureaucrats are the ones who sign the papers and release the money, while having the chance to push forward their agenda over long periods of time. They have practically privatized any thing imaginable in the last decade, and make this country unbearable for more and more people: Students, the elderly, single moms, etc. Now they’ve done something truly exceptional — entirely out of character — and stood up against the Minister when he suggested striking another blow at the average citizen. Honestly, this is the only report that actually excites me.

5. Oh, and I’m also excited about the summer.

Picture by Lucky Oliver

Fundraising for our friends’ baby daughter

Noa YossefNoa Yossef is an amazing baby who is 9 months old. She is the eldest daughter of Galit and Oz.

Noa was born with a rare and complicated deformity in her digestive system. From the very start, her family has been fighting to ensure her a full recovery and a normal life.

Immediately after birth Noa passed her first surgery, then three months later she had another one, and two months ago she had her most recent one. During this last operation, there were new findings that entirely changed the picture, and currently Noa is in need of an additional and crucial operation to repair this rare deformity.

Due to its complexity, this operation cannot be conducted in Israel and requires many resources. The surgery and treatment will take place in the USA and cost approximately $80,000.

Due to her age and her medical condition, it is very important to conduct the operation as early as possible. Noa is currently functioning with a temporary fix, which is hurting her health, her lifestyle and her development.

We — her family and friends all over Israel — have come together to raise funds and support for Noa and her family. We are approaching each and every one of you; everyone who has a generous heart and will be willing to aid in collecting funds, and thus provide Noa with the hope to live a healthy life and to grow up happily.

“God willing may you always be on the giving end…”

Details for donations:

Direct transfers can be done to the following bank account:
Account No: 02647808, Leumi Bank, Branch: 954, Address: Ha’dekalim Street, Pardes Chanah

Donations by credit card can be done through the following phone number: +972 – 3 – 9250505
Please contact Anat and indicate that the donation is intended for Noa Yossef.

For anyone interested in their donation being noted as tax refundable, please write a check to the following organization: Amutat “Kav Lachayim” for Noa Yossef.

We greatly appreciate your response to this supreme and blessed purpose.

Phone numbers for additional details at any time of day:
Galit Yossef: +972 – 54 – 2280592
Liran Avidan: +972 – 52 – 8315145 or +972 – 50 – 3234390

Leonard Cohen will include Israel in his summer tour

If all goes well, and there are no last-minute cancellations (which we’re used to have), Leonard Cohen — the man and the famous blue raincoat — is set to perform in Ramat-Gan Stadium on September 18. Yes, he’ll be back after 35 years.

Leonard Cohen

…Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbor…

Right Wing Extremists pour boiling water over Meretz party representatives

The four Knesset members who currently represent Meretz (a left wing Israeli political party) paid a visit to the city of Hebron this morning, after the Supreme Court (Ba’Gatz) ordered that the city be made accessible again for organized tours. This privilege had been previously stripped from “Breaking the Silence” — a veterans’ organization that aims to draw public attention to the tense Jewish-Arab relations in Hebron — due to security concerns.

And indeed there were security concerns to be dealt with this morning. A wild demonstration by right wing extremists ended when they sprayed boiling water at the Meretz representatives, injuring the party spokesman, a foreign journalist, and a policeman.

Hebron

Source: Walla! News

Israeli Comics

Human Narration on BNarrator.com

A family visit to Berlin

Comic DrawingThe Third Ear (“Ha’Ozen Ha’Shlisheet”) is an icon of Israeli culture. For years, the record and video store offered Israelis what we needed most: rare vinyls, imported CDs, obscure films, the latest action flicks with Hebrew subtitles — In short, pure, wholesome, nourishing entertainment culture. The company has now taken another leap into the cultural foray by launching its own comic book and graphic novel imprint: Third Ear Comics.

The imprint’s first book represents a spellbinding introduction to Israeli pop art, inasmuch the author — Merav Salomon — heads the illustration department of Israel’s prestigious design and arts school, Bezalel. Salomon’s book, entitled “A Family Visit to Berlin,” documents and is in itself a journey to Berlin through the melancholy lanes of memory, anxiety and longing.

Third-Ear Comics has lined up a series of other high profile artists and young talent to provide an outlet for a group of artists who often fall between the cracks of the institutions of fine and commercial art. It’s an exciting breakthrough for Israeli culture since the company has decided to publish both local and international artists.
Talk to Third-Ear Comics to give your feedback or to suggest up-and-coming artists at books@third-ear.com

Israeli Export

Human Narration on BNarrator.com

King Solomon Legend exports Judaica items all over the world. Having more Jewish folks who live abroad than Jews in Israel, this business has a large potential of succeeding, while also strengthening foreigners’ affinity to the state of Israel. The web site announced its launch yesterday, and I wish it the best of luck.

Zim Container Ship
Picture by ZIM

Israeli Blogosphere

Human Narration on BNarrator.com

Israel DailyVoices Badge
Social Rank is a fascinating web venture, launched by Indonesian company MindValley. The company created an algorithm that scouts the web for interesting blogs, ranks them according to relevance and popularity, and features them on theme-centered portals.

For example, Journalism Daily centers top journalism-related blogs, while The Comic Watch is a blogging hub for comic strips lovers.

Each portal has its own team of volunteers that nominate a bunch of community-leading blogs within the designated domain. Once an initial list of related blogs has been chosen, the Social Rank crawlers follow the links from these blogs to other domain-specific blogs and add them to the pool as well. Then the algorithm begins to assign these blogs — and the individual posts within these blogs — an SR (Social Rank) score, in a similar manner to how Google assigns each web page with a PR (Page Rank) score.

Israeli people, and Jewish people abroad, publish a vast range of stimulating and engaging blogs. This is why Social Rank designed a distinct portal specifically for Israel’s hottest blogs. It is called “Israel’s Daily Voices”, and One Jerusalem succeeds regularly in gaining a top position with their listings.

The web site is still in Beta phase, and sometimes the pages do not load properly. Nevertheless, I find it to be very useful and user-friendly, and it has helped me to discover other Israeli blogs which I enjoy reading, such as Dry Bones.

Desperate times bring about desperate spins

PM Ehud Olmert knows his time in office is coming to a close. He knows he doesn’t have a political backing to push forward any peace accord with the Palestinians. He knows he could end up in jail, or alternatively merely end up as the most-corrupted Israeli PM (to date) in tomorrow’s history books. This is a desperate period for Mr. Olmert, and he’s got nothing to lose.

DJ OlmertIn recent years, the Israeli media is steadily growing more and more cynical. Leading commentators (both on air and in print) have become accustomed to label practically any move by Israeli politicians as a “spin” — i.e., a statesman’s attempt to distract the public attention from his wrongdoings by generating an alternative “buzz”. As a result, the Israeli public now takes the regular use of “spinology” for granted. We’ve become indifferent, and many of us won’t bother to even cast our vote next time.

Yesterday it was published that Olmert’s delegates and Abu Alaa (the head of the Palestinian negotiation team) have begun to formulate a draft of the basic agreements made by both sides regarding the minor issues of the peace process. There is yet no discussion regarding the core issues, such as Jerusalem and the permanent borders. Nevertheless, many politicians, such as Avigdor Liberman, were quick to point out that this draft is meaningless, and wouldn’t gain the Knesset’s support. Most Israeli people clearly see this as a “spin” — But if so, why do the Palestinians play along… Abu Mazen certainly has his own reasons to spin the Palestinian public opinion.

If this wasn’t enough, Olmert made sure to issue a second spin: He offered Abu Mazen to send the IDF back into the Gaza Strip in order to conquer it again(!!) and remove the Hamas militants, who carried out a military coup against Abu Mazen’s Fatah movement exactly a year ago. Accepting such a move would obviously be a political suicide for Abu Mazen, and it has the potential of igniting an all-out civil war among the Palestinians. Olmert’s completely aware of this, of course, and still he suggested this outrageous offer — maybe as an attempt to court his right-wing opponents.

Nevertheless, Olmert wasn’t the first spin-doctor in modern history, nor will he be the last. For example, still another outrageous public statement made yesterday (that’s already three in one Shabbat) belongs to the Minister of Transportation, and former IDF Chief of Staff, Shaul Mofaz. He told the media that Israel will have no choice but to carry out a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Besides this statement being strategically stupid and diplomatically harmful, it was issued as if Mofaz’s opinion is the official Israeli stance. Could it be that both Olmert and Mofaz play “who has the biggest balls”?

Are we too cynical? Do our political representatives genuinely only care about their own survival? I’d like to think we live in a true democracy and not in a Spinacray… but in the meantime, I might just turn off the news and watch the Euro Cup.

Picture by Galatz

Why would anyone want to be a politician – Part 2

Barack Obama finally clinched the desired amount of delegates to win the Democratic Party nomination. I searched the internet and tried to locate a speech or a statement in which Obama declares why he decided to enter the presidential race. I couldn’t find it — and I’d thank the readers if they could refer me to such an instance. Yes, he’s constantly declaring why he’d be a better president than the other candidates, but it’s not the same as revealing your personal motives for hopping into the political swamp.

Yesterday I took upon myself to map the possible motives that drive people into the political arena, arranging these motives within three categories: Pragmatic Reasons, Psychological Deficiencies, and Moral Imperatives. Today I want to cover the remaining two categories….

Obama plays Superman

B. The Psychological Deficiencies that haunt politicians:

1) Frank (fictional name) had a difficult mom. She was always disappointed of him. Later in life, he felt intimidated around successful people. See, Frank has issues of self esteem. So he took an intimate oath to prove the world he’s worth more than it seems at first glance. No less important, he needs to prove to himself that he’s a man, that he can achieve something major in life. At night he dreams how he looks down at his former classmates and say to them “Look at me now! You didn’t believe I’d make it this far, did you?”. Well, what signifies success better than being a top-rank politician?

2) Margaret (Frank’s fictional colleague) dislikes uncertainty. In fact, she can’t stand it. She always has a pesky need to know “what’s happening”, and “who’s playing against whom”. In other words, Margaret is a control-freak. She doesn’t like to take directives from others, and she’d be infuriated if you leave her “out of the loop”. Her psychiatrist claims she has trust issues, but she doesn’t trust his diagnosis. She ventured into politics because everyone else is so inept, and it’s about time things would be done her way.

C. Finally, some politicians do what they do not because they want to, but because they feel obliged to help other people:

1) Obama (a fictional character?) looks around him and feels a great discontent with the way things are being done at the present. Many people are suffering, and he dreams of making a difference. He’s an idealist, and couldn’t be idly sitting by when action needs to be taken. He doesn’t like to get his hands dirty, but whenever he tried in the past to avoid being socially and politically involved, he quickly became restless and anguished with feelings of guilt. Can he turn his back to all these children, crying out his name for help?

…Nevertheless, his critics accuse him of having the same condition as Margaret. At least she doesn’t cover up her need for control with delusional thoughts.

2) Bush (a real-life phenomenon) has a calling. God sent him on a mission to save humanity. His church leaders urged him to spread their values across the country and in the lands of the infidels. He’s doing what he has to do, merely executing what’s been asked of him. Along the way, he’s also securing his place in heaven above.

Unfortunately, Moral Imperatives are the worst of the Psychological Deficiencies politicians can have.


Do I have a conclusion? Yes – Choose your candidate on the basis of his platform. Whatever drives him to put forth a certain platform doesn’t really matter, as long as his psychological/moral/financial needs go hand in hand with our political agenda.

Why would anyone want to be a politician – Part 1

As Israel stands on the verge of possible general elections, and America is nearing the end of its primary season, each of us — as private citizens — has to make up his mind, and pick his favourite candidate. How should we tackle this crucial task? Should I choose to vote solely on the basis of the candidate’s promises? Her past record? And what about personality? It’s a proven fact that personality plays a critical factor in this decision.

Hollow PoliticiansBut then, what aspects of personality should I take into account? His family status? Do I find it significant whether she displays herself as a warm and open character, or as a bold and intelligent person? And finally, what about his motives? Should I care why he made it into politics in the first place — Would it imply how good of a politician he might play out to be?

I want to list the major factors that drive different people into the violent fields of the political game. I don’t think we could ever really know what motivates a certain person — mostly, he doesn’t fully know it himself. Nevertheless, defining these possible motives is something I would like to attempt here today.

Please note that the human psyche is a very complex phenomena. Accordingly, each person may accommodate a range of different — and even opposite — motives at the same time, at different ratios. These ratios may change over time. Yes, (some) people do change.

Okay, enough with the chit-chat… let’s start: We can divide the factors that drive a certain person into politics to three distinctive categories: Pragmatic Reasons, Psychological Deficiencies, and Moral Imperatives.

A. What Pragmatic Reasons are there?

1) A person who isn’t especially good at anything discovers that the political arena doesn’t require special skills or a university diploma. He has to make money somehow, and it’s the only place where he could find a job.

2) Another person ventured into politics to make a change. He’s in the game for twenty-thirty years. He’s already lost the spark many years ago. Cynicism covers him as he lies in bed, and indifference walks beside him as he enters another lobbyist’s gathering. But it’s now a habit. It’s too late to change profession after so many years.

3) A third person tried to make money in the private sector. Then he realized that nepotism is the name of the game; that without publicity, you’re nothing in this world. So he offered himself as president… This way, he could befriend a lot of rich moguls, who would line up to invest in his new business when he resigns office. Or he’ll be invited to sit in a corporate board of directors. Or he’ll travel the world and charge $1,000,000 for a single lecture. There’s also a book deal around the corner… But seriously, even if he isn’t one of the lucky few who exit politics straight into the tight embrace of Capitalism, he can still arrange a nice job for his niece, or have the bureaucratic leverage to receive a delicious bribe or two. (In short: Politics is a way to develop business relations, and to earn a high Market Value for oneself.)

Tomorrow I will continue this post.

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