Israeli Spring 1

Cactus flower VHGFrom the balcony of my “suite” in downtown Jerusalem, I see the tattered stripes of an Israeli flag seized by a strong wind, a huge McDonald’s with intact golden arches, and an almost empty street with caged-up stores in advance of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. The Jerusalem Post showed a man in a black kippa—meaning religious but not too—harvesting sheaves in a gold field of wheat. He’ll make matzoh when the time comes. That the flag fragment is allowed to stay where it is may reflect the current level of nationalism here. Continue reading

Forverts

Forverts front pageBack in October, not long after I’d begun subscribing to the great old Yiddish-language newspaper, Forverts—no, this is not the English-language newspaper Forward, which I like to read and occasionally even write for—there was a photo above the fold on the front page that stunned and stayed with me.

The photo shows a pretty middle-aged woman reading from a Torah scroll,   Continue reading

Was All This About Egypt?

It’s not that I think this is really over. Cairo’s streets are filled with angry people, and Egypt may lurch again toward democracy. But back on the Gaza border a lull in the missile exchanges began Wednesday, and the last 48 hours have been mostly quiet. The citizens of Southern Israel will not be satisfied with this, since however degraded Hamas might be, it was still firing rockets a-plenty when the cease-fire started. One beefy middle-aged guy said that if Netanyahu doesn’t actually stop the attacks from Gaza he will “pay the price” at the polls in January.

But Hillary Clinton dropped by on her way back from Southeast Asia—she and her boss do have other things to think about—and spent some political capital in Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Cairo. She wants this to be her closing scene as Secretary of State, and something to brag about if she runs for the Oval Office. That meant some serious arm-twisting for both Israel’s Prime Minister and Egypt’s President Morsy. You could almost hear them say “Ouch.”

And now Morsy has overreached, making a power grab that could cost him his palace. Still, despite demonstrations in Cairo, it looks possible that one of Israel’s main goals in this operation has been reached, and it has nothing directly to do with rockets raining down on Ashdod: the new Egypt’s pivot toward the West. Continue reading

Gaza Again

“After a long night of air strikes that Israel says hit up to a hundred and fifty targets across the Palestinian territories, remarkably, there appear to have been few casualties.” A reporter in a flak jacked walked through the rubble of a large building. “This was a Hamas Interior Ministry building. Like a lot of the targets hit overnight, it was deserted. Nobody was hurt here. But what local people are saying is that these air raids were designed to spread fear and panic. There’s a lot of residential buildings in this neighborhood, and right next door, a United Nations school.” A Palestinian man shown with his family, who spent the night in a shelter, says, “My children are afraid and crying.”

“Israeli civilians have also been suffering,” the narrator says, over pictures of rocketed homes. “Hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza since Wednesday. People have been leaving their homes to seek refuge in shelters.

Even hospitals have been moving their patients.” This is the BBC this morning, being uncharacteristically balanced. But they don’t mention that continuously, for years, the people of southern Israel have been running to shelters to hide from the rockets that have never stopped. During those years, people in Gaza have rarely had to hide from Israeli attacks.

Continue reading

Forgiveness?

I wrote last time that I had a song in my head—Ani Ma’amin—that I didn’t want to be cured of. But I was cured, after the Atlanta performance of Defiant Requiem conducted by Murry Sidlin, who with Verdi’s (and Rafael Schächter’s) help created ityet I was not cured by Verdi, much as I love him. I’ll explain, but first: Continue reading

Defiant Requiem

Late in Sukkot, I find myself still haunted by Yom Kippur melodies. It’s that “song-in-your-head” phenomenon that psychologists say can only be treated by replacing it with another song—the disease itself, they say, is the only cure. But I don’t want to be cured.

The song in my head is just a line: Ani ma’amin, ani ma’amin, ani ma’a-amin . . . b’viat . . . ha’Moshiach . . . b’viat ha’Moshiach ani ma’amin. Utterly simple: I believe, I believe, I believe . . . in the coming . . . of the Messiah . . . in the coming of the Messiah I believe. “Ani Ma’amin” as a whole is longer, based on Maimonides’ Thirteen Articles of the Faith. It is indeed a haunting melody and a pivotal prayer for Jews. Of all thirteen, this is the one I believe in least, yet this one plays in my head continually. Continue reading

Misogyny, Sexism, Chauvinism, or What?

When I wrote recently about a question that had been put to me—under the title “Is Misogyny Maladaptive?”—I was taken to task (at PsychologyToday.com, where it also appeared) for misusing the word misogyny. I was trying to use it to mean “anti-woman.” Strictly, it comes from Greek roots meaning “hate” and “woman,” and some dictionaries define it as simply hatred or dislike of women or girls, although occasionally the word contempt is included. This matters because you can easily have contempt for someone you also in some way like or love. Continue reading

Bibi, Obama, and the Incendiary Summer

This is a pivotal moment for Israel.

The cool breeze of the Arab Spring, about which many of us were hopeful but skeptical, is now an Incendiary Summer. This ominous anger over a trashy film has caused riots and replaced the Stars and Stripes with Islamist flags in many places. Our embassies are threatened in at least twelve Muslim capitals. In addition, a planned terrorist attack killed a U.S. ambassador and other Americans in Libya.

The eruption come against the background of Bibi Netanyahu turning up the rhetoric Continue reading

Is Misogyny Maladaptive?

Part of Prof. Blumenthal’s question that I didn’t answer last time was about misogyny, which he hopefully speculated is now maladaptive. I deferred this because from an evolutionary viewpoint it is in a different category from xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. Let me state clearly at the outset, as I did about the other categories of prejudice: I think we are gradually creating conditions in which misogyny is maladaptive, and we must continue to do that.

However, it has to be recognized that for the long span of human evolution some aspects of misogyny were adaptive—not for women, but for men. As with xenophobia and racism, Continue reading

Is Genocide Now Maladaptive?

David Blumenthal, a good and wise friend who is a Jewish studies professor and a rabbi wrote me recently asking about the former adaptiveness and present maladaptiveness of xenophobia. The operative passage in his letter was, “In the global world, however, survival requires the cooperation of varying and different groups. Humanity, in its groups, cannot survive without the quintessential other. Xenophobia has ceased to be adaptive. So has antisemitism, racism, orientalism, and misogyny.”

I have little trouble agreeing that at some times in the past these behaviors were adaptive for the perpetrators. Continue reading