Joint voices

WELCOME! Looking for some intelligent dialog between nationalities - a place for anyone and everyone to speak their mind, and listen to other minds, and maybe some difference, no matter how small, will be made. Welcoming more contributors! the more the better!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Petition for the kidnapped soldiers

A petition organised by friends of Udi Goldwasser, who was abducted by Hizbullah.

Missiles on Tel Aviv?!?!?!

Well, actually, this is just my next door neighbours' reonvators' drill going through my bedroom wall this morning.. honestly, someone tell Hizbullah to stop wasting those expensive missiles, Israel can ruin its own houses all by itself!

they've really gone and done it now

I can't help but think. Why? why did they have to go and be so goddamn stupid? what on earth were they thinking?

About 6 months ago I cast my vote for Olmert and the Kadima party. I believed in them, well, at least more than in any other party. After last summer's succesful disengagement plan, led by PM Sharon and the newly born Kadima party, I thought - finally, someone is actually doing something different. Finally some sane people who bring promise of change, and may actually be able to deliver (this is not a given, not in Israeli politics). Finally someone who breaks from the old pride and ego-led policies, who sees beyond that. Who understands that in order to succeed we need to do things differently, and is willing to act on it.

Now they have disappointed me. I cannot see how any sane Israeli politician with any bit of common sense would allow another attack on a packed refugee camp, especially Qana - put aside the human aspects for a sec, its just plain politically dumb. The name Qana could never be disconnected from the colossal mistake that was Grapes of Wrath, and the phrase refugee camp - from Sabra and Shatila. The damage to Israel through public and Lebanese opinion will be far greater than any precision targeted military success. There's just no exit from that situation.

This is what makes me think, they really have no idea what their doing. It's our lives they are responsible for, and they are clueless. I guess they really don't think long term. All they see, like a raging bull, is Hizballah. I really cannot see what target could possibly outweigh the senseless damage to the Lebanese, the awful image we have created of ourselves, and the revenge that will be unleashed upon us, now much more legitimate in the eyes of the world. Don't care about the Lebanese? fine. But you are OUR leaders. Don't you care about what will happen to us? how could this possibly be considered as defending us?

And today I again heard the phrase Security Belt, after not hearing it for 6 years. It sent shivers down my back. All that word brings up are nightmares, the nightmares that were south Lebanon for Israeli soldiers and their families - which is almost all the Israelis, really. What could possibly be going through their minds? being in Lebanon was a failure, period. It cannot be an option.

You know, until now, I let myself hope and believe that maybe this was all for a good reason. One that was a secret, that could not be published, but in the end, this was all part of a plan that would eventually be for the greater good of everyone.
Now I just think they're some sort of idiots like the others.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

more pictures from the demonstration:

The Israeli character shows its ugly side: this woman, from the North herself (or was it only her friend that was with her?), was trying to argue with the demonstrators. She stood up to them alone, raising her voice to be heard above the shoutings, in favor of the war. The demonstrating women circled her and continued shouting, in her face.

Eventually she backed away, dejected. These two guys, seeing her distress, prompted a conversation with her. They were all making some good points and speaking intelligently (unforutnately it was the woman's friend who went a little mad, shouting at the policemen to arrest the demonstrators and claiming they should not be allowed to speak that way. Er, democracy?)

I will say this much of the demonstration. The messages, most of them, were in the right place. But unfortunately, they were delivered in the wrong way. This is my problem with the extreme left in Israel - their views are very pro-others, but their way of doing things is very much Israeli. Shouting, violence, aggressive attitude - they preach for peace, but they act it out militantly. In Israel this will get you nowhere. Israelis are proud people with quick tempers, and ego is the key word here. If you shout, defenses will go up immediately, and instead of listening people will fight back. More than that - one needs to understand the context in which one speaks. The waving of PLO flags and calls for Olmert to resign are not in place at a time of war, when the streets you use as your platform are filled with victims and refugees. Speaking only in favor of the other side, as Gush Shalom often do, only induces the feeling in most people that these guys are for the enemy and against Israel, and all this does is drive people away. They preach dialog and sensitivity, but they do not exercise this to their own brothers - the public they are appealing to.

This is not the way to make people listen. The only people who would agree with demonstrators such as these are people who thought that way allready - and isn't the point to sway public opinion? to influence?

It is a shame that they choose these ways, because their messages are important and just but they are getting missed. A little more thought, and they could get people to listen, and agree.

And as for what's going on in Tel Aviv and how some Israelis are feeling about this war - here are some pictures from the anti-war demonstration that was held tonight. It was organised by several women's groups. It kicked off in Rabin Square and moved along the boulevards ending at the very center, near the Dizengoff shopping center - which is right near my house.

Sorry for the poor quality, it was dark and my camera was on ISO 1600 and in constant motion...
more pictures after the break and video with sound coming soon...

(translation of sign: "feminists refuse to be the strong home front")

I'm doing some referencing tonight to the Beirut Live blog.

The first is short:

Beirut Live: What war?

And the Israelis call Tel Aviv a disconnected bubble... those guys have more life on the weekend than me! :)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Meditation and Peace Prayer

Call this new age mumbo jumbo, call this hippy fluff, call it what you will. I'm not much of a spiritual person, but I do like meditation, and this is a nice idea if only for the good intentions it reflects:

Every evening, starting today (Thursday 27/7), a public meditation for peace will be held at 21:00 at Hodaya - Home of Love and Music, at 7 Ha'achim Masalvita st., Montifyori neighbourhood, Tel Aviv. Entrance is free, all are welcome. The meditation will be hosted by Efrat Shar-Shalom. Attendees are requested to be on time, as the meditation will begin exactly at 21:00.
The organisers invite even those who cannot attend, to sit alone or with friends, everyday at 21:00, and pray for peace and healing for the damaged places.

(apparently it is a worldwide custom to hold peace meditations at that hour)

"The enemy", "the enemy", "the enemy".

Having lived the vast majority of my life living in Arab countries, I've heard nothing about Israel except that they are "the enemy." Yet who are they? I know nothing about them except what i read in textbooks and newspapers, and clichés I've heard, namely all the negative things..

Yet I know that they are human beings, with human stories and human issues, just like us Arabs. I want to talk to them, get to know them, touch them, feel them... maybe this way we can realise that we're not SO different after all.

A big thanks to the internet that is making such a thing possible, to bridge the gaps between our sheltered peoples. Hopefully, if things like this keep springing up, we'll create connections that are crucial for peace, and we might eventually realise that we can even be warm friends.

A big cheers to Lilu, my first Israeli friend..

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I'll end the day with an optimistic note I cooked up:

personalised banners are available :)

Victim of the day

Da'a Abbas, 15, of the Galilee village of Maghar, Israel.
Da'a was sitting in her room reading a book when a Katyusha rocket directly struck her home in a Muslim neighborhood of the village. The rocket penetrated the roof and went through the living room into Da'a's room where it exploded. Her mother and brother were lightly injured. Her uncle, Dr. Mustafa Abbas, was attending an anti-war protest in Jerusalem at the time.
Da'a was an honor student. She dreamed of studying to become a doctor or pharmacist in Israel or overseas. "She was always the best student in the class and everyone loved her", told her classmates as they lay flowers on her grave.

So it would appear I'm on my way to finding out what an Iranian missile looks like up close and personal.

But before that happens, here's something from one of the Israeli papers, which runs a short daily column by Naftali From that analyses private names according to the Kabbalah. Translated from today's edition of Israeli:


May exhibit toughness or some violence. Has plenty of gentleness, but on the other hand, also alot of aggression. Should he know how to raise his confidence and belief in oneself and be decisive, will succeed better at balancing the two qualities, and will not have to resort to aggression to prove to himself he can get what he wants. Will learn that with gentleness, and possibly with the diplomacy within oneself, can achieve more.
A good father, strict, but also a great giver. Must be softer in his home. Many possibilities will open up if he learns to accept a view different to his own.

(I can hear someone asking already: what about analysing the name Israel..? will try to check ASAP)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

ok ok, an exchange of opinions with Bash has restored some of my optimism, good on ya Bash.

so instead of bloody katyusha photos I'll put up a different sort of katyusha photo which my dad emailed me today, from Haaretz:

this is Shaul Feldman, checking to see if his piano works after a rocket hit his home in Haifa on Sunday.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Oh the humanity. Oh, the depression.

I find myself shifting from optimism to numbness and then to severe depression.

I'm not sure what to do. I read Ramsay Short's blog and I see the gap between us is growing and growing. The hate is spiraling out of control. My own attempts at dialog are reciprocated by talkbackers, but not the blog's authors (whom I was trying to reach), it seems they ignore me and the other Israelis. I'm beginning to get frustrated. It is ok (and expected) of Israelis to speak of Lebanese victims, but it's ok for the Lebanese to ignore Israeli victims? innocent children are dying here too, you know. Who speaks for them?
And of course, there's the horror photos. It's a hard case to plea before photos like that. Should I start posting pictures of bodies decapitated by Hizballah katyusha rockets? we could do that, it's just that it has always seemed barbaric to do so.

It's not that I'm belittling the horrible destruction going on in Lebanon, that they have far greater numbers of casualties. But it doesn't mean there aren't senseless deaths here too, and I am against both. Everyone should be against both, otherwise it is a double standard - the lives of Lebanese children do not outweigh the lives of Israeli children and vice versa, this should be the focus - but it seems the grip is slipping on that focus.

Some call us devils, I can understand that. But at the very least - we are not the only devils here. Why do I find myself apologising all the time?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Yair Lapid is a journalist here in Israel. He has a weekly column in Yediot Aharonot's weekend newspaper. He's witty and talented and I love reading his commentary of the Israeli way of life. This includes, of course, politics and current events (because we're always in the middle of something). Below is my translation of this weekend's column. The accuracy of his facts is debatable, but his question is very much on key - I for one would love a true answer to it.

The Riddle of Hate / Yair Lapid

A hundred years of conflict, 6 and a half wars, milliards of dollars gone with the wind, tens of thousands dead, not including the kid that lay next to me on the rocky beach of lake Kiron in '82, both of us watching his guts spill out. The helicopter took him and to this day I don't know whether he died or was saved. All this, and you still can't understand.

And it's not just what happened, it's also everything that didn't - hospitals that weren't built, universities that never opened, roads that weren't paved, 3 years taken from the lives of millions of youngsters in favor of the uniform. And despite everything, we still haven't a single clue to the solution to the riddle from which it all began:
Why do they hate us so?

I'm not talking about the Palestinians this time. Their conflict with us is intimate, focused, it has a direct influence on their lives. Without getting into the question of who's right, obviously they have very personal reasons not to tolerate our presence here. We all also know that in the end, that is how it will be resolved: personally, between us and them, in blood, sweat and tears which will stain the pages the agreement will be printed on. Until then, this is a war you can at least understand, even if no sane person is willing to accept the means being used.

It's the others. You can't understand them. Why does Hassan Nasrallah, along with his tens of thousands of supporters, dedicate his life, his visible talents, the fate of his country, to fight a country he has never seen, people he has never met, an army he has no reason to battle?

Why do children in Iran, who can't even locate Israel on a map (mainly because it is so small), burn its flag in the town square and offer to commit suicide for its demise?
Why do Egyptian and Jordanian intellectuals incite the innocent and helpless against the peace accords, though they know that calling them off will take them back 20 years? why are the Syrians willing to remain a miserable, depressed third world country, for the dubious right to fund terrorist organisations that will probably eventually threaten their existence? why do they hate us in Saudi Arabia? In Iraq? In Sudan? what have we done to them? how are we relevant to their lives at all? what do they know about us? and why do they hate us in Afghanistan? they have nothing to eat there, how do they have any strength left for hating?

So many answers to this question, and still it remains a mystery. It is true that it is a religious matter, but even religious people make their choices. The Koran (along with the Sha'aria - the Muslim equivalent of the Jewish Halacha) contains thousands of rules, why are we the ones that keep them so busy?

After all, there are more than a few countries that have given them far better reasons to be angry. We are not the ones that started the Crusades, we weren't the ones controlling them during the colonial period, we never tried to convert them to Judaism. The Mongolians, the Seljuks, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Ottomans and the British, they all conquered and wrecked and pillaged the entire region. We didn't even try, how is it that we are the enemy?

And if it is sympathy with their Palestinian brothers, where are the Saudi tractors building Gush Katif? what happened to the Indonesian delegation building a school in Gaza? where are the Kuwaiti doctors with the up-to-date surgical equipment? there are so many ways to love your brother, why do they prefer to help him hate?

Is it something we are doing? a thousand and five hundred years of anti-semitism have taught us - in the most painful way possible - that there is something about us that bugs the world. So we did what everyone wanted: we left. We made our own tiny country, where we could hound each other without bothering the others. We didn't even ask much for it. Israel spreads over less than 1% the size of Saudi Arabia, without oil, without minerals, without settling on the land of an existing state. Most of the cities bombed this week weren't robbed from anyone. Naharia, Afula and Carmiel didn't even exist until we founded them. The other Katyusha rockets hit places no one ever questioned our right to them. Jews were living in Haifa by 200 B.C. and Tiberias was the place where the last Sanhedrin sat, so you can't claim we stole them from anyone.

But the hate continues. Like there couldn't be a different fate. Active, toxic, never ending hate. Last Saturday the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, again called "to act for the disappearance of Israel", as if we were bacteria. We are so used to it, we don't even ask why.
Israel isn't hoping that Iran would disappear, it never has. As long as they wanted, we had diplomatic relations with them, we share no border or even bad memories. And still they are willing to confront the entire Western world, to face embargo, to damage their quality of life, to crush what little is left of their economy, and all this for the right to hate us with passion.

I am trying to recall and can't: have we done something to them? when? how? why did he say in his speech that "Israel is the main problem of the Muslim world"? over a milliard people live in the Muslim world, most of them in appalling conditions. They suffer from hunger, poverty, ignorance, bloody conflicts from Kashmir to Kurdistan, from dying Darfur to beaten Bangladesh. How are we the main problem? how exactly are we getting in their way?

I refuse to accept the argument that "this is how they are". They've said it of us so many times, that we have learned to suspect this phrase. There must be another reason, some dark secret which made the residents of southern Lebanon decide to set a quiet border on fire, to abduct the soldiers of an army that has retreated from their territory, to turn their country into a pile of rubble at the precise moment they have finally put 20 years of disaster behind them.

We are used to telling ourselves all sorts of educated statements- "it's the Iranian influence", or "Syria is stirring things up behind the scenes" - but that explanation is too easy. Because what about them? what about their thoughts? what about their hopes, loves, aspirations and dreams? and what about their children? when they destroy their children's lives and send them to die, are they satisfied with saying it was all worth while just because they hate us that much?

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's now July 21st. There's a fishy feeling in the air, here in Tel Aviv. Something's about to happen.

Here's the first post of this blog - don't know if there will be any more, but I hope there will, not just by me. I opened this blog after having a small conversation on Ramsay Short's blog,, under comments for his post Our People. I want more talk like that, but I don't think I should be taking advantage of Ramsay's blog, it's not what he intended for it - so I opened this.

Questions, anyone?