Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Indoctrination Generation

Beach on the border between Jaffo and Tel-Aviv.
Muslim Women co-existing with Jewish women
 in Bikini on the beach in summer.

Dear citizens of the world,

The past couple of weeks here in Israel have been stressful but not as bad as it is shown on the media:

First of all, the stabbing attacks have been in and around Jerusalem mostly. Secondly, most of the targets are police, military and Orthodox Jews. Living in Tel-Aviv means being in a bubble and immune to the crazy side; however is does not make you immune from the stress.

Life goes on but you second guess each choice to go out, you are more aware of your surroundings, any young Israeli Arabs are watched as if they could make you the next headline.  Plans for a Friday dinner in Jerusalem have been put off indefinitely and the last hike in the mountains near the city was cancelled as well.

All in all, these flare-ups of confrontation between Bibi and the Palestinians is not what worry me. The threat comes from the lack of a long-term plan to resolve the issues and work towards peace. There does not even appear to be hope of peace. Even worse is the feeling that things will get worse before they get better.

Short term: I am sure that the attacks will slowly become more organized, more deadly and more explosive. Random knife attacks will morph into bombings similar to past intifadas... thus fueling a larger cycle of reprisals that could spiral out of control. (Note: The day after writing this post Hamas has called for bombings "Hamas media outlets have started to call for the replacement of stabbing attacks with vehicular terror attacks." ynetnews)

Long term: The indoctrination of young people on both sides of the dispute means that we are doomed to see fighting continue for a long time. True lasting peace will only come when both sides (especially the extreme 10%) educate their children differently.

Both sides are guilty of indoctrinating the next generation, but in different ways. This video I took in the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem in August (2015) is a good example.


Temple Mount...Source of the conflict...or just an excuse?

The current unrest is supposedly connected to the fear that the status quo will change on the temple mount. However, tourist visits are limited to only a couple hours a day and many days the access is closed. Security, controlled by Israelis, is very, very tight. The actual day-to-day activities are controlled by Muslims. And, even though it is the number-one holy place for Jews, the Orthodox Jews are not usually allowed to visit. And if they do, there is usually only one or two and they are flanked by a huge team of police and security guards that make sure there are no incidents caused by the Jewish visitor.

Seeing in person the measures the Israeli authorities take to avoid conflict, I doubt that they would risk taking actions that would lead to war.

Jews visiting the temple mount, surrounded by security forces to avoid any conflicts.

Teaching the future...to love or to hate?

This conflict is so complex that anything written could go on forever, but the goal is to find one part of the problem and work on that.

My solution...have the kids go to school together...share classrooms, teachers, facilities and ideas. What do you think?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Petra - Weekend Escape - Part II

Dear Citizens of the World!

Today, I have decided to take a break from being the target in other people's target practice to post the second set of pics from our weekend in Petra. Seems fitting since Petra holds so much beauty....

This was my favourite spot in Petra. It is a very colourful tomb below and to the left of the Tomb of the Kings.

A detail of the area below the entrance of this tomb.

Ceiling detail...
As promissed I have some tips for your next visit to Petra:

First, choosing the correct time of year is crucial. Winter evening get quite cold at 1000m elevation in a desert. Summer days would be worse.

Second: when making the long treck up behind the tomb of the kings (some of the stairs in the pic above) to see the Treasury from the rim of the canyon, make sure you plan to be at top when you have the right lighting. I went quite early and it was still mostly in the shade.

Third: Plan to stay at least 1.5 to 2 days. There is plenty to visit and it is best to take your time and explore. It is a 5km round trip on foot just to get to the Treasury...

Plus, if you do not stay a night in the hotel, the entrance fee is almost double (100 eauros instead of 55)!

Lastly, don't forget to bring a good camera and a gift of balloons for all the kids asking for handouts.


- The United Statesian

Friday, March 02, 2012

Petra - Weekend Escape - Part I

Dear Citizens of the World,

Living in Israel means being disconnected with most of its neighbors, but Jordan and Israel have quite good relations. Lucky for us, it is possible to cross the border and visit Petra in one long weekend - one day there, 1.5 days to visit and then back to Tel Aviv.

Unfortuntely, our visit to Petra and Wadi Rum were at the end of January when it was very cold and cloudy... but I guess that it is better than 40 degrees (100F) in the summer.

A few shots from our first day at Petra...

Thanks to these two, we were able to get a nice hot tea with mint - great when you are in a desert and it is cloudy and cold!

A wider section of the canyon with fantastic light.

Fantastic texture that looks like dripping paint.

There is plenty of information on visiting Petra, however, in my next post, I will give some tips that I did not find in any of the on-line guides.

- The United Statesian

A parting shot...

Cloudy day in the city at the gates to Petra.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tel Aviv -- Your Beauti-fool!

Father and over-dressed son play on the beach

Dear Citizens of the world!

It has been a rainy January here in Tel Aviv, but February has started out sunny and warm! While friends and family are digging out from snow and sliding down icy roads, we spent Saturday walking along the beaches of Tel Aviv.

Hi Beauti-Fool!

There are plenty of nice beach scenes along the Israeli coast, but I focused on some of the details where city meets the beach. A good example is some of the best grafiti that is simple and too the point.

This grafiti is part of a massive, abandoned...least-taken-advantage-of section of the Tel Aviv coast. How could such valuable terrain go to waste?

Luckily there are some picturesque parts of the city to leave you with a warmer more positive feeling.

Jaffa at sunset...

Main street in Jaffa at twilight just at the end of Shabbat

I hope I have succeeded in making you snow-bunnies jealous ;-)

-The United Statesian


A parting shot...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Don't Look Down!

Dear Citizens of the world!

Don't look down! Unless you are blind, then you are fine.... or not.

On our way to Petra we stopped in Mitspe Ramon to have a look at Israel's mini-Grand Canyon crater and the fantastic views of the desert from it's edges. To our surprise there was a group of blind people rappelling down the side of the cliff.

OK, They had the help of monitors and volunteers, but still.... rappelling down a cliff has got to be an experience when you don't see where you are going and when you have no idea how far you would fall if you messed up.

Watch that next step...it's a doozy!

The experiment reminded me of my rock climbing class at university in the Alps. The instructor had us climbing up with a blindfold, feeling for the holds and balancing ourselves without being able to see. It was quite a good way to learn to get a "feel" for rock climbing.

I hope to back in that area soon for a hike...who's up for a walk through the Negev Desert? I will leave the rappelling for the experts.

-The United Statesian

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Desert Hike - Ein Avdat

Dear Citizens of the World!

After a heavy subject in my last post, I have decided to turn towards the brighter side of living in Israel as an expat... Escaping from Tel Aviv on weekends and seeing the country.

This weekend was rainy and cold in TA... perfect time to drive down to the Negev desert and go for a hike.

We chose to go down to the area where the first Prime Minister of Israel started a Kibutz after his first stint in office. Our destination was an oasis at the end of a narrow canyon called En Avdat or... depending on the spelling, Ein Avdat.

This shady oasis in the desert guarantees pictures of wildlife. There are plenty of birds for bird watchers.

If you want to go... the link for the GPX file is below.

Happy trails!

-The United Statesian.

Israel at War -- Outlook

Dear Citizens of the World!

The outlook is bleak!

Israel is at war, but not with another country. It is at war with its own brand of extremism.

Many believe that the Arab Spring will unleash the extremists in the Arab world, long held down by dictators, causing Israel to be more at danger. Thus far, this has not been the trend. I personally believe that the Arab Spring will be a positive thing for the region and Israel.

The threat, as I see it, comes more from a homegrown extremism. Although small, it is quite vocal.

Being Jewish is more a race than a religion. Only about 20 percent of Jewish Israelis consider themselves religious. And, the extremists are only about one percent of that 20 percent.

That one percent of the 20 percent gets many of the headlines inside...and outside of Israel.


The 0ne-percent have many privileged here in Israel. Most do not work or do the three-year mandatory military service. They are paid to study the Tora. Many people I have met here have admitted that the can not stand the one percent and feel quite cheated.

Now, the one percent increasingly wants to impose their beliefs on the rest of Israel... to the point that they have kosher public buses, kosher electricity, etc.

Part of the 20 percent waiting for a flight in Ben Gurion Airport

To deal with this issue, the idea of "Ghettos" reminiscent of WWII has been floated around to create ultra-orthodox zones... which have been met by more protests.

Israel is stuck with a tough problem. Do they let the extremists keep pushing for laws and actions that cause friction and get bad press? Or, do they "oppress" those extremists in hope that they will get better press that shows the truly democratic/Shining light for the rest of the region to follow?

Unfortunately, the extremists are becoming more extreme... at the same time that Israel's majority is growing more secular. This is compounded by many outside pressures. The internal extremist pressure must be dealt with first.... only then can the will of the many push for a positive, long-term peace.

As Obama mentioned in last years address on this issue... Peace can not wait forever and time is not on Israel's side.

Who will win this war? The one percent? Or the many?

-The United Statesian