Holocaust Day from the Perspective of a Sabra

Like many other Israelis, I try to stay away from the media on Yom Ha’Shoah – National Holocaust Day. I try very hard to avoid watching even a single documentary about the Holocaust. I’ve had enough and more then.

I’m a member of what they call the “third generation”.

Basically, for Israelis, this is how it goes –

First Generation – the people who went through the holocaust (or have had friends/family who have) and arrived in Israel. Most of them re-married and started new families.

Second Generation – their kids, who knew something horrible had happened, but didn’t get the details until much later. Their childhood was in the shadow of “that thing” which there parents never spoke of.

Third Generation – that’s us, who went through the crazy backlash of the 1970’s and 1980’s where schools were obsessed with the holocaust. As a kid, I’ve been through so many survivors’ testimonies, holocaust lessons, holocaust books (K. Zetnik anyone?) and movies, I think I have developed my own version of post traumatic stress syndrome from it all.

I vividly recall this one time where we were sent to a seminar in Kibbutz Lohamei Ha’Geta’ot – Fighters of the Ghettos. It was a nightmare. I’m not even sure how old we were – I suspect that in our early teens. We went through three days of constant “holocaust studies”. Evenings were dedicated to watching holocaust movies.

I don’t think it’s taking it too far, when I say I was scarred for life.

And the pendulum swings again. Myself, like many other parents of my generation, are far more cautious when it comes to telling our children about the holocaust. There will be a day when they will learn all the gory details. When they’re old enough, but not too soon.

I will share with them how their great grandmother was murdered. Under Nazi supervision, Polish workers poured barrels of acid over her and her family and friends, after having pushed them into the mass grave they were forced to dig in the woods. I will share the story of my grieving Grandmother and how she kept looking for her little brother and other family members, and gradually over the years discovered how they were murdered.

I want to give them time first. They need to grow up free from the fear which was instilled in us, free from the nightmares I still have occasionally, about life in the Warsaw Ghetto or in concentration camps.

That’s all I want to say today. I fully realize and am aware of how emotionally intense this day can be. I’m not trying to be controversial, just to share my personal perspective.

Posted in General, Holidays | 13 Comments

Regards from the Gulag

What? Haven’t you heard? Israel has turned into a police state. Censorship all over the place and people are afraid of talking about “the affair” lest they get thrown in jail. “The authorities” were considering renting out a Gulag in Siberia for offenders, but it’s almost summer here and spending July in a cooler place may be considered a reward by some.

Oh wait, it’s not everyone. The regular people don’t really know about it. It’s a conspiracy after all. So it’s only journalists, torn by their inner need to tell the truth and their fear of the Shin Bet’s infamous dungeons.

Give me a break.

Look, the court order to prevent publishing anything about this affair is probably not very smart. You can’t prevent anything from leaking out this time and age. We have the Internet and all that, ya know. More importantly, this is Israel. Everyone talks and everyone knows everyone else. Can anyone really think it’s possible to hide anything here for more than a few days at most?

And note I didn’t use the term “gag order”. I don’t know what the official term for it is in English, but here it’s simply about not publishing content. Nobody is being physically gagged, ball stuffed into their mouth as their bulging eyes try to convey the horrible truth.

As for our poor frightened journalists. Journalists who write about defense issues are usually very well connected. I don’t know about Mr Blau himself, but I can assure you the ones writing about the topic and grunting about the “gag order” are not afraid of the IDF or Shin Bet. After all, they are probably well acquainted with top officials in both organizations.

This isn’t to say they will not be interrogated if they defy the order, but it will probably be a routine police investigation. No Gulags or even jail cells. I suspect the only thing they may potentially stand to lose is personal connections (and I’m doubtful about that even).

As for the “journalist-in-exile” Mr Blau. It’s not like the poor guy has been turned into a fugitive for reporting something. As far as I can see, he’s chosen to avoid showing up for a perfectly legitimate investigation concerning the alleged leakage of classified documents from the IDF GHQ.

As it happens, I was once personally involved in a similar investigation concerning the “Shtauber document”. Yes, I had to go through a lie detector test and it wasn’t exactly fun per se. It wasn’t torture either and as far as I recall – the investigators were polite and professional. Unless Mr Blau actually did knowingly break the law by being involved in stealing classified documents, I really don’t know what he’s running away from.

And I won’t even mention the female journalist involved by name. Not because of any court order, but because the lady in question has been sending out messages to bloggers and journalists in Israel to stay off her case. I’ll respect that – just wanted to clarify that AFAIK  this is the reason why posts about the topic have been disappearing (I know Shin Bet hackers would have been a more fun explanation).

So, with all due respect. One so-called “gag order” is not a reason to paint Israel as this fanatic police state where brave journalists fear for their life or freedom. It’s great to point out just how misguided and essentially ineffective the order is this day and age, but no need to turn what is a smelly little molehill into this a huge mountain.

Posted in In the News | 13 Comments

Beeeeep One Two Beeeeep One Two Beeeeep

That’s the soundtrack here over the past few nights. Extremely accurate, a very loud beeping sound every three seconds.

We’ve had guests over for the weekend who couldn’t sleep during the night because the sound was so loud by their window. We were more fortunate in our bedroom, but could still hear it clearly when going outside. You could time your watch by it. One two Beeeeeeeeeep One Two Beeeeeep…. for hours on end.

Everyone had their own theory (or not very educated guess).

My brother-in-law decided someone’s alarm was going on through the night.

IsraeliDad thought it must be a bird and insisted on having heard it before.

Myself, I thought it was Aliens broadcasting some sort of signal over our neighborhood, testing our nerves.

We tried to investigate. IsraeliDad took a torchlight and went out in the night to find the source of the sound. I stayed home,not in the mood for being abducted into the mother spaceship. He came back, unchanged, I think, and said that as soon as he got close, the sound stopped, so he couldn’t locate it.

Well, Google is your friend. I figured we can’t have been the only ones to have heard this. Indeed, searching in Hebrew for “night time bleeps every three seconds” gave me the result.

Tree Owls. “Yanshuf Etzim” in Hebrew.

Tree Owl Fledglings - Picture by Ruti Ram from the website of the Ministry of Environmental Issues

And there’s a good reason why none of us would recognize it. Apparently, tree owls are Olim Hadashim – new immigrants to Israel. They used to fly through during winter time, but about a decade ago, they began nesting here. Nests were observed in the 1970’s, but since 2000 they’ve been growing in numbers. No one is quite sure why. There are now hundreds of nests reported every year in Israel.

So, what’s with the strange sound? Apparently, the cute silly little owl fledglings get out of the nest when they’re a few weeks old, and start rambling around nearby branches. They still can’t hunt, so they call out to their parents for food. Every three seconds, like clockwork, until Mom or Dad bring them their meal. And I thought my kids nag me when they’re hungry.

Fortunately, the noise stops once they learn how to get their own food, which should be in a few weeks time.

So, if you live in Israel, or travel through, look for the sound of tree owls. Our feathered Olim Hadashim!

Speaking of Olim Hadashim, please take a minute to visit MakingAliyah.com, where my dear friend and brand new Olah Hadasha (new immigrant) shares her story of making Aliyah to Israel. You can also read there about our recent trip together, from the coast of the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee.

Posted in General, israel travel | 5 Comments

How about an Alternative Passover tradition?

Passover, or Pessach in Hebrew, is upon us. The Eve of Passover, aka the Seder, is on Monday Evening.

Passover Obsessions

Going into town today, it was Passover frenzy all over the place: streets jammed with cars and people everywhere doing their holiday shopping. Those hosting the family for the Seder shop for food, food and more food. Their guests on the other hand, are shopping for fancy gifts to give to their hosts and to everyone else attending.

The other Passover obsession is with cleaning. This is more than just spring cleaning for religious or observant Jews. They aim at eradicating every and any crumb of chametz from their home.

For the non-Jews reading this: originally, chametz was the pita bread dough that the Biblical People of Israel didn’t get a chance to wait out for it to ferment and rise. Literally, chametz is a take off on the word “sour”, as in sour dough (fermented dough).  So, the Bible tells us not to eat fermented dough products on Passover. Orthodox Jews have taken this a few steps further, as they’ve done with most things, and these days, pretty much anything that doesn’t have a “Kosher for Pessach” stamp on it is forbidden.

Religious Jews freak out over this Chametz business. Houses are pulled apart, cleaned and put together again, just to avoid even the tiniest of crumbs. God forbid.

Looking at all of this saddens me. I’m not religious, but I’m very Jewish, and have my own take on Passover, derived from the cultural and historical context of this holiday.

What Passover is Really About

On his holiday, we celebrate something very special. Regardless of historical accuracy (or lack of it), it is a forming event in our national psyche. The main theme is freedom. More specifically:  the move from a state of enslavement towards national freedom.

The process was not an easy one, and took literally decades. It was a mental journey for these tribal people as much as a physical one – a forty years long hike in the desert.

So, yes, as they were leaving the place, they were in hurry and their pita bread didn’t rise. Is this really what we should pay so much attention to on this holiday? Honestly, I’d be pretty insulted, as a religious person, if I thought bread crumbs are what my God is obsessed with.

Not to mention the huge meals and gift exchanging, when the whole point of the process was to leave material comforts – in the form of the Biblical “pot of meat” behind, in the quest for freedom.

Thoughts About Alternative Passover Customs

In light of the real meaning of the holiday, I’d like to humbly suggest some alternative customs. Take a break from the shopping frenzy and bread crumbs chase (sounds like a great game for my new iPod Touch) and try these instead:

  1. Remember how we used to be “the foreign workers ” in Egypt? How about showing some compassion for the foreign workers in Israel these days? Things that come to mind: the government giving a period of grace for illegal workers and maybe even giving citizenship to their children who were born in Israel, as well as to the parents. On a more personal level, how about inviting these people over to your Seder? Share some Jewish traditions with them and make them feel welcome in this country?
  2. God really wanted the People of Israel to leave behind their “pot of meat” – so why not go for a vegetarian Seder meal? It will be kind to your bodies and to the environment, and will be very much in the spirit of the biblical story.
  3. The People of Israel had to walk to Israel. On foot. For forty years. That’s some hike. I suggest a long family hike as a new Passover tradition. We’re going to try this ourselves, packing up the kids and going on a long hike from the coast of the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee. On foot, camping out in tents for seven nights. Yes, we’ll be spending the Seder out camping!
  4. Finally, and I know, this one is a bit far fetched… but let’s keep cats in mind. The former  deities of Egypt sure could use your help, so care for feral cats is something I would try and push on this holiday as well. It’s a great time for a TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) project in your neighborhood, preventing unwanted litters of kittens in a couple of months time. For more information, please read my article about feral cats.

So, what do you think? How does your family spend the holiday and what do you think about my new suggestions?

Posted in Holidays | Tagged | 21 Comments

Don’t Sound the Alarm

Old alarm bell on display in Kibbutz Nir David

In Israel, it just isn’t effective.

A few weeks ago, we visited the Negev with the kids. On the way, we went through a kibbutz that theoretically is within kassam rocket range from Gaza. As we were sitting there, the kids playing in the playground, and us having a leisurely lunch under some trees, the air raid sirens started wailing.

I looked around.

Nothing.

People kept on walking, kids kept on playing. The sirens went through their 2 minutes long wail and that was it. About half an hour later, it happened again. I have no idea if a rocket launch had been detected in Gaza, or if someone was testing the sirens. Either case, nobody seemed bothered.

It’s not unique to air raid sirens either. I was visiting a new supermarket with my son yesterday and the fire alarm went off. The place was crowded, yet other than complaining about the noise, nobody reacted.

Now, I don’t know what it’s like in other places. From movies and TV Shows I’ve seen, people in the US appear to be more disciplined: fire alarm goes off and everyone calmly walks out of the shop, waiting outside for the all clear.

Never ever seen it happen in Israel.

I need to clarify something here – people aren’t careless. If you are in Sderot and the air raid sirens go off, you dive for shelter. Where the risk is real, people react. However, it’s the risk that people respond to – not the “instruction”. I think it’s yet another indication of the inherently anarchistic nature of Israelis – do what you think is right, not what the “powers to be” tell you to.

How do people where you live react to fire alarms (or air raid sirens if you have them)? Do they follow the official guidelines?

Posted in General | 5 Comments

The Scent of Passover

It’s two weeks away from Passover, or Pessach in Hebrew. For the past week, I can actually smell it in the air. It’s getting into the house too, but the worst (best?) is when you go outside and it hits you right in the nose.

It’s the smell of Spring, it’s the smell of Passover, and it’s made of so many little cues and hints that I think I can detect in the air. I figured I’ll try and break it up a little, to see where my scent associations take me. So, here are some of the things I think can sniff in the air this time of year –

  • The yellow flowers of the Garland chrysanthemum. They are in full bloom now and cover huge areas of wild vegetation.
  • Orange flowers – orchards are also in bloom with those white flowers spreading their scent.
  • Flowers – enough of breaking it down – there are flowers all over.
  • Cleaning – is it only in my mind, or does the air actually reek various cleaning solutions as houses get cleaned up for Passover?
  • Air conditioners – you know how they smell sort of stale after a long winer of disuse?
  • Matzot – this one has got to be my imagination, maybe my association of the other smells with it, but I can really sense the scent of matza in the air.
  • Dry heat – ok, so it’s not a smell technically, but it gives the air a unique dry quality, effecting all other scents.

If you live in Israel, which of those do you smell around you? Actually, wherever you live, what scents are around this time of year?

Posted in General, Holidays | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Mass Nude Art in Israel?

Looks like Israel is about to join the list of places where American photographer Spencer Tunick has taken one of his mass nude photographs. You can see his previous work here.

Screenshot of Tunick's Website

Personally, I find his pictures somewhat disturbing. In my world, masses of naked bodies, especially when lying down like in this picture, are automatically associated with pictures of the holocaust. That said, some of his art is more optimistic than that, when using specific layouts for the bodies (people?).

Whatever you think about Tunick’s work, looks like he’s about to do at least two shoots here in Israel: one in Tel  Aviv harbor and the other in the Dead Sea (good luck to him getting hundreds of people to get there for the shootout). According to this article, the Ministry of Tourism has approved both shoots, and Tel Aviv welcomes it even.

Judging from the comments, some people are offended. They mention the “holiness” of the country as their main objection, which makes me in favor of the initiative 😉 Anything to make this country a bit more secular and less holy is fine by me.

That said, makes me wonder about the locations… Imagine if he wanted to do this in Jerusalem… He could have brought together religious Muslims and Jews for a one of a kind furious demonstration against him! World peace (or Jerusalem Peace) through nude pictures!

What do you think about a mass nude shoot in Israel? Any suggestions for locations?

Posted in In the News, peace | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Would You Try Human Milk Dairy Products?

It’s almost ten months now since we went vegan for ethical/moral reasons.

Our choice has nothing to do with the concept of “animal rights” and everything to do with “animal welfare”. We refuse to cooperate with the appalling ways in which farm animals are raised and butchered, simply so the big agricultural corporates can increase their profits. If it’s something we wouldn’t have done to our cats and dogs, then it shouldn’t be done to other animals either.

Dairy products can be even worse than actual meat when it comes to the amount of suffering involved in production. Just look at the latest report about Willet Factory (if you can stomach it – and if you can’t, how can you stomach the produce?).

With that in mind, I sometimes wonder about why nobody produces human milk dairy products. After all, it’s bound to be better suited to our systems, health-wise and there’s a better chance of ethical production, as the women can actually have a say about this. Also, there would be no need for tail docking, de-horning and the rest of these evil practices. Not to mention, no males will have to be castrated with no anesthesia – I hope.

Well, maybe it is happening.

Chef Daniel Angerer has Mommy milk cheese offered in his restaurant!

I think it’s an awesome idea. Not for its culinary value, which apparently was the motivator in this case, but because it may just make more people consider the source of milk and what it means.

So, how about you? Would you consider human milk dairy products? Do you find it appealing, disgusting, or just weird?

Posted in General | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Ein Avdat National Park in Israel

Having posted my 100 Places to Visit in Israel page, I decided to follow it up with occasional “spotlight” posts, sharing some information about each place, personal impressions and pictures from our visits. I’ll start with one of the places we visited fairly recently: Ein Avdat in the Negev desert.

What Is Ein Avdat?

Ein in Hebrew means spring, so Ein Avdat is “Avdat Spring”. It can also be spelled as “En Avdat” or “Ein Ovdat”.  The main attraction is a relatively short trail through a natural canyon created by the flowing water. Water in this dry area is precious, and Ein Avdat is like a small oasis with trees and shrubs. Ein Avdat is a carefully maintained small National Park (national parks in Israel are usually pretty small).

Location and Times

Ein Avdat is located in the middle of the Negev desert – the southern part of Israel. It’s right off road no. 40 which connects Be’er Sheva with Eilat. It takes approximately two and a half hours to reach from either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. It can be a stop on the way to Eilat, or part of a few days of touring the Negev desert and its many attractions.

It can get very hot here during the summer, so if you can, visit during fall, winter or spring and avoid hot days. If you’re here during the summer, be at the gates as soon as the park is open, so that you finish the hike before it gets too hot. Make sure everyone is wearing a hat and drinking lots of water.

The park opens daily at 8AM and closes at 4-5 PM (depending on the time of year). There is an entry fee and the park is regulated by park keepers. You can’t go into the water. In fact, you’re asked to avoid as much as touching the water, as they are reserved for the animals.

You’re not allowed to eat inside the park so no need to carry much other than lots of drinking water and your camera.

See the park’s official web page for detailed hours, current prices and phone numbers.

How to Tour Ein Avdat

There are two ways in which you can experience this little park. The first is to walk the circular trail which takes you to the main pool and waterfall and then returns towards your point of entry. It’s a fairly easy hike and quite short (under a mile for the entire walk), but take the time to take in the view. Once back in your car, you can drive to the upper parking lot and enjoy the view from that side of the canyon.

Alternatively, you can walk past the waterfall, reach the upper pools and there climb up and out of the canyon. The climb is regulated with steps carved into the rock and metal ladders. It’s not very difficult and kids can manage it fairly easily. The only problem is that this is a one-way path, mostly for safety reasons. Once you reach the top, you arrive at the upper parking lot and you need a car to get back to the entry point. You can’t walk it back above – or rather you can, but it’s a very long hike on the high-traffic road in the desert sun, so not recommended at all. You have to either have one of your group members do the circular path and bring the car over to the upper parking lot, or use two cars.

Ein Avdat Highlights

  • A beautiful deep canyon.
  • The clear water stream along your path.
  • The big waterfall – a unique feature in the desert.
  • Ibyx watching along the canyon (look for them on the other side of the canyon, as they shy away from people.
  • The view from the upper viewpoint, as you finish your climb.

Personal Experience

We’ve visited this park in February 2010 and had a great time. I did the circular path and got the car to the upper parking lot and the rest of the family climbed up. We all had a great time and the climb was very enjoyable and not too difficult for the kids (aged 6 and 8).

We were lucky to get the post-floods views and the streams were full of water. Everything was very clean and the park people were friendly yet very clear about their “no food on park grounds” policies.

Special Notes

Do not confuse the Ein Avdat National Park with Avdat National Park. They’re fairly close by but still separate. Avdat National Park is an Unesco National Heritage Site that focuses on the remains of an ancient Nabatean city.

Ein Avdat Pictures

You can view more pictures of this place in the En Avdat album on my Facebook fan page. You don’t have to be my Facebook friend to see them – everything on the fan page is public. Do become a fan to get all of my Facebook public updates!

Posted in israel travel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

February 2010 Post Roundup

A short month has passed, but a month all the same and I like wrapping up my monthly blogging here. This is a good place for me to do my summation and hopefully entice some of my readers here to hop over to one of my niche blogs and check out my posts there.

Cat Blogs

Ok, I just realized I never got around to posting on CatsGoShopping.com 🙁 At least I did manage to stick to my resolution and posted pictures of cats throughout the month on the CatPicsBlog.com.

There were also three posts on TheCatSite.com’s Blog: A tribute to a cat lover who sacrificed her life for rescuing a feline, a piece about understanding cat behavior and a useful piece about how to choose a username for our cat forums. I’ve also linked all of my cat blogs to the Facebook fan page of TheCatSite.com so become a fan there for constant purry updates.

For Bloggers

I managed to write ten new posts on my blogging/web publishing blog!

Managing Content on Multiple Blogs

Five Ways I Make Money from My Blogs and Sites

The Thesis Theme – First Impressions

Google PageRank Soon Gone?

Eight Reasons Why You Need to Start Buzzing

I’m Not Posting Today

Would You Have (Semi) Nekkid People on Your Blog?

Web News & Views #7

Are You a Blogger or Webmaster?

My Fast and Dirty Fix for Coming Up with a Good Post Topic

This and That

Rather than include all of the other posts in my blogs (some written by me, others by a hired writer), I decided to bring forward just a few favorite ones. I have added a feed box in one of the sidebars on this blog, so you can check out the post titles as they show up there.

My favorites for this month would be –

UGG Boots For Kids

Tips for Taking a Break from the Computer

Slug Bread and Beheaded Thistles – Organic Pest Control Humor

Amazing Ferro Fluids

Most Dangerous Job Ever??

Thank you in advance for visiting these pages, and this blog right here. Your comments and feedback are always hugely appreciated!

Posted in General | 4 Comments